Thursday, February 13, 2020

My (training) Diary

Sometimes I have to take a step back look at just what happened to me and my life(style) over the last ten years, because I started drafting this post ‘right now my training routine is…’. It’s a whole other post to talk about how much sport, movement and exercise has not so much changed my life (although it has), but changed with my life.

ANYWAY…

I’m currently unemployed (you can read more about that little surprise right here…), and I’m also project managing what is pretty much the final phase of our current house renovation project(s), and whilst that might seem irrelevant, my daily routine is hugely impactful on how I choose to move my body and engage with exercise.

No regular commute means less cycling because at the moment riding my bike albeit a joyful way, is a way of getting around. But no long days or overrunning meetings mean I’m limited in excuses to miss Monday and Wednesday evening sessions with Adidas Runners. Trying to prevent a current niggle turning into a full blown injury means a return to the gym, and there’s a lot to be said for the lack of other people in a gym in the middle of the day.

So what does that a current week of my training look like…

MONDAY RUNDAY
Monday night is the regular slot for the Adidas Runners signature sessions- bring on the intervals, the hills, the tough sessions that I would struggle to do on my own, in a space where everyone is welcome and we all work as hard as we need to.
This running session is always the most intense of the week and it’s the one that helps me build a bit of extra power and speed. It doesn’t do any harm that it’s also a chance to catch friends.

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Credit: The Midnight Club

TUESDAY is all about the gym
Operation strong core and injury prevention is ON. I got lucky with a deal at the Gym Group (there are 3 within a 2 mile cycle of home…) making it £9.50 for a month. A typical workout looks a bit like this:
Warm up with a quick run on the treadmill to get my heart rate going
A round of body weight squats, glute bridges and shoulder openers and roll outs to get everything engaged and active.
6 x goblet squat
6 x deadlift
6 x dumbell lunges (each side)
(3 rounds)
6 x dumbell shoulder press
6 x bent over row
(3 rounds)
And a cheeky core finisher of russian twists, plank shoulder taps, deadbugs and v-sits

WEDNESDAY is ladies night…
For a little over a year, Wednesday has been my night to run with the Adidas Runners ladies. I went along at a time when I was struggling to find a good fit for me and my running and I’ve rarely looked back. These days I’m privileged enough to not just catch a couple of hours with some of the most incredible women I know, but also to support those runs as a crew runner and make sure everyone who comes along is welcomed and looked after. Epic.

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THURSDAY & FRIDAY rest and stretch and repeat
Depending on what else is going on with the house or other meetings and projects I’m looking at, the second gym session of the week happens on either Thursday or Friday and I’m making a concerted effort to spend more quality time with my foam roller and stretching on the other day. Because having a lovely, but very pointy person dig her elbow into your glutes and tell you your muscles feel like bricks, and paying £40 for the joy is a keen reminder to MAKE time to work on mobility and stretching.

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Runners NOT running!

SATURDAY is no longer about sleeping in
I’m not sure when voluntarily getting out of bed to travel into central London to go for a run became a thing I did on the weekend. Saturdays used to be about coffee in bed, brunch and slow starts. And I wouldn’t change it. Do I still groan when my alarm goes off on Saturday morning? Yes I do. Do I always leave feeling on top of the world and surrounded by powerhouse women? YES I DO! Saturdays can be anything from hill training to a steadier, slightly longer run. I’m not training for distance in 2020, so the Long Runs (yes, those capitals belong there!) of this time last year are not a factor at the moment. Oh, and brunch is still a thing. It just happens with my girls when we’re done running instead of in bed.

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SUNDAY is for SLEEPING
And decorating. Sunday is a day where I don’t tend to do any conventional ‘exercise’. Since we’re *STILL* in the midst of house reno hell, Sundays tend to be about whatever needs doing and just right now, it’s all about painting. I’m kind of fed up of having paint on my eyelashes or in my hair and have I ever told you how much I hate cutting in?!

I could keep writing about why I train even though I’m not training for anything and I’m certainly no *athlete*, but that’s a whole new post, or even a series. What I will say about training, exercise, sport or whatever you want to call your dose of movement, is make time for it. Prioritising moving my body for the sake of moving has given me a sense of self worth in a time where I previously wouldn’t have had the tools to hold myself up. Movement is powerful, own your power.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2020

You're Fired...

My name is Chloe, and I am unemployed…

Yeah, those are still tricky words for me. I normally quite like the month of January, it’s kind of like opening the fresh pages of a notebook, but unfortunately for me, I returned to work after the break and was made redundant due to a lack of investment funding. Happy New Year and all that…

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My first thought was job hunting- finding a new role to get stuck into and minimising the amount time left empty on my (now newly brushed up) CV, getting in touch with recruiters and other connections who might be able to help. What I hadn’t reckoned with, is the rollercoaster of things that would spring to mind as the first days turned into a few weeks.

So here’s a few things I’ve learned- the good, the tricky and things that might help if you’re also navigating time between jobs for whatever reason.

Not all redundancy comes with pay….
If you are still in a probationary period as I was, the company are unlikely to be obliged to pay you for any more than the actual days worked and any accrued holiday. It took me a while to work out why people might think I was glad to have been let go from my job, until I realised that most people assume that all redundancies come with a big payout and lots of paid time off.

There are a million things you could use all this new found time for…
But you might not want to do any one of them.
And that’s ok.

But it is good to have an action plan…
A wise person once said to me of another set of life issues ‘treat it like a training plan’. In that moment, I wondered why I’d never made the connection between the joy I take in laying out and scheduling a training plan for running, and how I approach most things in my life. And so it is that my planner doesn’t, at first glance, look any different to when I was working full time. It might not be planning meetings or reports filling my time as it once was, but allocating time to not just job searches, but keeping active, keeping in touch with friends, researching new opportunities and also getting some ahead on some of the house renovation jobs that have been taking up for more of the weekend than I’d like.
Ticking things off and keeping some semblance of routine to the days and weeks helps me maintain a sense of direction and purpose, and stops me dwelling too hard on less positive times.

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Self-care comes in many forms…
And for me it was creating a financial plan as well as an action plan. It might not be quite the IG-friendly image of pretty candles in a glorious bathroom (this makes me laugh a bit because my bathroom dates to 1979… no… really…) but instead it might be a case of combing through regular outgoings to see if any need trimming, re-activating a Monzo account and setting up regular payment from my main account to it, to keep a closer eye on those £5.60 a time travel charges. You can’t read a book whilst riding a bike, but cycling to/from zone 1 doesn't cost £5.60. Feeling in control of my finances whilst facing some uncertainty has been a key factor in maintaining a positive outlook at a tricky time.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch…
But there are lots of options when it comes to keeping active for free. If classes are your thing then organisations like Our Parks offer free classes in local parks, Let’s Ride by British Cycling (which includes the Breeze network for women’s only) offers free bike rides all over the country with qualified Ride Leaders, British Athletics have a number of beginner initiatives for runners and if you are based in London, there are a number of free run clubs as well as promotions on trial classes- I’ve been running with Adidas Runners London for over a year which is free, gives me a reason to leave the house and to see friends and has introduced me to other opportunities like classes and events along the way.

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2020 hasn’t started in the blaze of glory I had hoped, it’s true. It hasn’t been easy, but another wise person also reminded me that time is a gift. I’ve been able to book appointments that are normally minor scheduling miracles and often end up overdue (dental check-up, I’m looking at you….), I’ve been able to see and support friends I wouldn’t normally be able to around my office hours, and to get creative with problem solving and the opportunities in the world.

I’ve never been known for my happy sunshine smiley positivity, but I have come to appreciate over the last couple of years the power of finding silver linings and finding solutions. It’s helped me overcome a whole host of challenges, and made sure I’ve not pushed away those people I’m lucky enough to be supported by.

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Thursday, October 10, 2019

Month in Review: September 2019

September has been a busy one all things said and done...

- Herzo
There are times when opportunities cross my path, and I have to pinch myself a little bit to make sure what I’m seeing is real, before I grab those opportunities with both hands and grip onto them for dear life. When I put in a submission to showcase what AR means to me to be considered as part of a creative project, I never truly believed a couple of weeks later I would be flying to Germany to spend 2 days in the Adidas headquarters with 7 other runners from Global AR communities. But that’s exactly what happened.
I can’t go into loads of detail about the trip, due to the nature of the project, but I can tell you that I’ve never been anywhere quite like the Adidas HQ. The site is referred to as a campus and that’s the closest approximation I can think of, the facilities there are better than most universities- they have a climbing wall, an athletics track, tennis courts and all weather pitches and a gym that is way better than anything I’ve ever paid for. Yeah, that. Oh, and they have their own Adidas Runners community- we had an awesome track session with them and although I couldn’t join thanks to a niggly knee and a flight to catch.

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Squad Goals

- Classics
September was also time to turn 2 events into 3 when it comes to endurance sport with Swim Serpentine. I wrote a bit more about it here [link insert]. I’m officially not signed up for any more endurance events this year, having completed all of the Classics in 2019- how people survive an Ironman, I’m yet to work out, but I need a REST!

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- House wreckage
We started destroying our house this month to make way for some renovation. I want to be excited by the end result, at the moment I’m mostly just fed up with having to make decisions and spending my weekend visiting the local recycling centre. We’re trying really hard to blitz through the ground floor which did have a kitchen older than us (fitted 1980, the joy), a corridor living/dining space and will have a kitchen, larder, small cloakroom and separate dining and living spaces, new windows, flooring, replastering and rewiring. Yeah…. That.

- Autumn training
Now that Swim Serpentine is done and there’s no monster cycling or marathons to run, my training has calmed down a bit. I’ve decided I still really enjoy getting in the water, and already have made a date to hit Serpentine Lido up (you can join Serpentine Swim club for £20 per year, and you can access the lido area 0530-0930 daily, all year round). I’m also still very much running, I’m enjoying sexy pace with my AR family and the only event I’ve got eyes on for the year is now the Fulham 10k. It would be nice to see a sneaky PB after a year of pushing myself, but there again, the exhaustion has been real so I’m here to see how the next few weeks treat me before I go too hard.

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And now it’s October. There have been a lot of milestones to mark the passing of 2019, from big sporting achievements to big birthdays, and October is also the end of an era as I move jobs again, but before my next challenge kicks in I have a long weekend in Munich to look forward to. It was my birthday present to Tom as it has a personal connection for him, and I’m already looking forward to Bierkeller, Bretzeln and a little visit to an international AR Crew, bring on all the German goodness Munich can throw at me.

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Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Classics

It’s no secret that on 21st September I completed the London Classics this year and it’s been one hell of a ride. Although I’ve talk about the network of people who helped make it possible on social media, I felt it also needed it’s own post. After all, this will only ever happen once. It doesn’t matter how many more times I complete the 3 events that make up the Classics, there will only ever be one Classics medal.

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So back to the beginning. If you complete the London Marathon, RideLondon 100 mile cycle and Swim Serpentine 2 mile events (you spread them out over as many years as you like….), you can be awarded an extra, very big very shiny London Classics medal and be inducted into the London Classics Hall of Fame (a list on a website, let’s not get too fancy here…).

So, in 2018 I had a deferred RideLondon ballot place ready to go for 2019 and when I got my ballot rejection magazine for the London Marathon in October, I stumbled across the Dementia Revolution campaign offering charity places. I’ve always been a bit wary of taking a marathon place for a charity as I know the fundraising is hardcore, but having lost yet more family members to dementia earlier in the year, I decided to apply as I felt it was a cause I could connect with. A few weeks later I received a call to confirm I’d been offered a place to run, and fundraising began in earnest.

It wasn’t for another month or two that I started to apply my thoughts to the Classics, I was vaguely aware of them but a monster swim had never been that appealing, but with my 30th birthday coming at me in 2019, I thought it was worth a try. And that my friends, is how the madness started.

The Run
I can safely say this is the event I had the most experience in training for. I’d completed a marathon a couple of years back (albeit horrendous) and I’m used to and quite enjoy a good training plan. In Jan I joined my now much loved Adidas Runners community to give me some support and by some miracle, I managed to keep my training on track all the way through the trauma of moving out of our flat, temporary accommodation and moving into our new place the week before. Because that’s what everyone does on taper week right? Haul boxes?

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I smashed my stretched target time for the marathon and finished feeling a justified sense of achievement that had been lacking last time. Seeing friends and supporters all the way round was a huge boost and although for me, running 26.2 miles was physically more challenging than cycling 100 or swimming 2, it remains my favourite event.
VMLM 2019: 04:57 – PB

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The Ride
Rarely have I trained for something less than I did for Ride 100 2019. I’m ashamed to admit that in a world where it seems to be a badge of honour to battle through injury or chance your arm without training. My longest ride of 2019 was a 25 mile trundle through the Herefordshire countryside in May. I’m fortunate to know how my body behaves on longer distance cycling and I’ve completed long rides in similar circumstances but it’s poor show and disrespectful to all those who pour their heart and soul into prepping for events like these to be proud of the complete lack of effort I put in before the day.

As July kicked in, I struggled to stay positive about the event and failed miserably, seriously considering abandoning the whole idea as much as the night before. It’s the first time I’ve ever declined to have Tom come and meet me at a finish line because I just couldn’t face celebrating. But I completed. I spent almost 8 hours on my bike, it was a glorious day and whilst I didn’t have the joy factor or any major clarity or revelation, those 8 hours spent alone, albeit surrounded by other people turned out to be exactly what I needed to attack August and feel on top of things.

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Of all the events, this is the one I am near certain I won't repeat. I completed 92 miles of it in 2016 due to a accident cut off, and felt the route was overcrowded and found the waiting around and stretches of walking due to narrow roads frustrating. None of these issues have gone away and the event feels a bit greedy, a drastic reduction in the number of participants is needed in my humble opinion.

Ride London 100 2019: 07:50 – PB

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2 down... And that just leaves….

The Swim
I can swim. In fact I used to think I was a reasonable swimmer. It’s something I picked up and put down a bit at Uni, but it has been TIME since I entered a pool for anything more than the benefit of temperature reduction on holiday. I also actively avoid swimming freestyle because thought I wasn’t fit enough to swim it.

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Armed with enthusiasm and no idea what I was doing, I made the pool a regular fixture in my week in June and by July I’d signed myself up for swimming lessons with a coach, because 2 miles is a bloody long way to swim inefficiently. Learning something new has been so much fun, but the very nature of swimming and being exposed really raised some questions on body image, especially when coupled with trying to do something that I don’t perceive myself to be especially good at. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last 3 months repeating and explaining the idea that sometimes, you have to feel the fear, and do it anyway. Especially when you see the horror on people’s faces when you tell them that your sole experience with open water is a quick 45 mins on the Thursday before the event on Saturday.

But swim I did. The 2 mile stint of the event is 2 laps of the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park, and as has been true for both of my other 2 events (hashtag blessed?), I was exceptionally lucky that they day dawned with perfect weather conditions- warm, dry, still-ish. I felt like I could have kept swimming when I reached the finish, although my second lap coincided with another wave starting which was a bit washing- machine-esque.


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I’m not in a hurry to repeat the swim next year, but I’m already planning more sunrise Serpentine adventures with some amazing people who have supported me through 6 months of endurance sport.
Swim Serpentine 2 mile 2019: 01:33 PB (1st time)

And now with a little over a quarter of the year left, a medal as big as my face in my possession, here endeth the endurance madness for 2019.

And what madness it has been, but instructive:
- Feel the fear and do it anyway- it’s ok to be scared
Accept it so you can own it

- Trust the process, because if you’ve put the work into your training, that one rubbish session doesn’t mean you’re not ready

- Surround yourself with people who understand that competition isn’t always about others, it’s about proving to yourself that you are capable of more

- Feel the joy factor, because at the end of it all, what else is there?

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Saturday, September 21, 2019

On The Families We Choose Ourselves

Families and communities are funny things. There’s the traditional notions of both which we belong to by virtue of our existence, but sometimes it’s the ones we choose for ourselves that can make the most impact on a point in our lives.

We all have families and communities that we choose for ourselves. Some of those have a more permanent presence in our lives such as partners, extra parents or your favourite 'aunty'. Some are more transient like work colleagues, friends associated with a particular time or place, or the people who make up the fabric of an activity. For me, running has been a lot like that.

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I joined a running group back in 2015 in Cambridgeshire and shifted to a running club in a similar area in 2016. I still have friends from the first group who I see (and travel to ridiculous race challenges with- HI JO!) now, but the time of that community is now passed for me. My running home in March Athletics Club gave me a sense of home for my running with a family supporting every person in it and creating a network of amazing people from diverse backgrounds, joined with a common goal. And it’s in running that I’ve found a most recent community with a global family.

I’ve been running with AR (Adidas Runners) London since January. Having already have a flavour of how good it can be to join with other runners, but also how awful it can be having tried a few London groups and clubs out, AR has been an important part of a year that’s been full of highs and also full of challenges. It’s been a space in which to meet people who pick me up and make me smile after a rough day in the office. It’s a space in which I’ve been able to push myself without fear of ridicule or questioning of my motivation. It’s a space in which I’m able to support others, and in which I hope even one person has left feeling just a bit more like the superhero they are. It’s a tricky one to explain to those who aren’t involved in the community, not least because we bare the name of a brand, which comes with amazing opportunities but it also often leads to the misconception that we’re only there for the potential of free stuff.

I have to admire Adidas for something that is a bit of a genius marketing concept to create running communities across the world that carry their name, but into which they have limited input and so we are so much more than a handy offshoot for the brand, which brings me to last week…

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My Instagram stories were a bit mad with pictures and reposts of 8 people (including me) and some pretty spectacular offices- who has an athletics track, football pitch, climbing wall, volleyball nets, hockey pitches and tennis courts at their offices? Yeah, thought not. But Adidas do. I was invited to Adidas HQ, a massive campus just outside N├╝rnberg, Germany with 7 other runners from 6 different AR communities from around the world for a rebranding collaboration to make sure we, as the AR community, put out there into the world an image that represents us and our values to perfection. Quite aside the idea that the Brand Identity team for a huge global brand invited us to come and tell them who we are, as opposed to having a brand dictate that to us, I have to talk about the additional dimension that my global AR family gives to the whole experience because let me tell you, it has been an INTENSE week full of all the feels!

For me, the simple 2D version of a running family is having a place to go, a sense of purpose and accountability to my training and running. And you can find that in pretty much any running club or group. Show up, run, don’t be a dick. It’s pretty simple.

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What makes the community 3D is the friendships. It’s remembering you speak a tony bit of French because you got talking to the person who’s living and working here from Bordeaux and has become the friend you look for in the crowd. It’s the person who lifts you up off the floor in a hug when you walk in the door. It’s the people we get to cheer for when they complete their very first run, ever , with a massive smile on their happy, strong, empowered faces. It’s still being in my running kit 12 hours after we finished a run, and went for a ‘coffee’.

That three dimensional community spirit is something I know and love. I’ve been so fortunate to have it more than once, and especially so in sports. It’s an amazing feeling to know you have a varied community of people who are united with you in common joys and values, but what happens when you take that and make it 4D?

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The experience of meeting AR runners from Paris, LA, Athens, Shanghai, Milan and Berlin has suddenly leaves me realising just how epic this whole concept is. Knowing that I have my London AR family is important, but globally, it’s the realisation that wherever there is an AR community, I have cousins who share the same values and we all pride ourselves on those, and that means welcoming our brothers and sisters and far flung cousins with open arms, and probably using it as an excuse to have a bit of a party! It’s coming together with people who are complete strangers and by the simple virtue of a t-shirt, knowing we share in something bigger than us, and bigger than our home communities. It’s laughing until you cry over mint leaves with Paris. It’s running for a flight connection with Milan. It’s trading stories about chocolate with LA. It’s working out if we can share a full set of clean clothes for Athens because their baggage went missing. It’s comparing Berlin to your best friend because the look like brothers. It’s trading t-shirts for chilli sauce. It’s working out when and how we can meet again, because the idea of not being together makes us all a little bit (more) emotional.

Last week, a major global brand opened up their doors, their Maker Lab and their Brand Identity team to 8 runners from 7 cities and asked us: what do you share, who are you, what does it feel like, how can we represent all this for you.

Yup, sometimes I wonder if they made a mistake when they picked me too, but I don’t think I’ve ever pinched myself and been grateful for this amazing privilege as many times as I have done during and since.






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