So, a quiet enough running week after the races of the past couple of weeks. On Wednesday night, I headed to my local athletics club, Le Cheile, for our regular training session. The previous week I’d had to pull out during the warm up as I felt a ‘ping’ in my right quad. But, having immediately applied the RICE principles (rest, ice, compression and elevation) it quickly healed and I was good to go. However, I knew that I’d better not overdo it, or I’d be looking for trouble. All of my leg muscles are tight and I feel I’m a hamstring injury waiting to happen. I’ve had two hamstring injuries in the past, both really down to not stretching properly. The injuries usually occur if I sprint, so I’m always conscious of minding the muscles at training.

Our Le Cheile training session is for a mixed group of Fit4Lifers and Seniors – there is no distinction made – we just all follow the coach’s instruction according to our own abilities. On Wednesday, THE John O’Regan, (Ultramarathoner who has represented Ireland internationally and has a list of extreme marathons to his name), was our coach on the night. We began with a warm-up jog and drills (lunges, high knees, kick butts, soldiers etc) with detailed information as to why these are important. Then we set off on a session of sprint intervals, all timed by John. When John blew the whistle, we were to run fast, when he blew it again, we were to run slowly. These intervals were anything from 90 seconds to 30 seconds and the secret was to ensure that that you have a very distinct change in speed between the fast and the slow intervals. This really meant that I ran the fast intervals and walked the slow ones. To be honest, I stopped worrying about how long each interval was and just listened for the whistle – I hadn’t the energy for any more than that. Now, there’s a whole lot of science that goes with these sessions, and it’s been explained to me often enough, but I went to training on Wednesday night more for my head space than anything else. I’d had a really busy full-on shift in work, all day spent on my feet and my head was full of work stuff, so I was really not too bothered about the science. I had a great evening, I minded the muscles and ran off the angst. As John said, “there’s something to blog about”.

I absolutely love being part of the athletics club. I am as welcome there as any of the top athletes and I can find myself on the track alongside Olympians and world champions. I find that going to training once a week adds a discipline to my running week. If I hadn’t had training on Wednesday night, I would most likely not have gone running at all. Let’s face it, I had a couple of good excuses; I’d been on my feet all day and I was recovering from injury. But I feel I get so much from training, both for my head space and my running. Wednesday night training is non-negotiable for me. I actually wear my running gear in to work (I work in an operating theatre so I change my gear for the working day). When my work is done, I change out of my theatre gear into my running clothes and I’m ready for training. This way I’m much less likely to opt out of going to the track.

At these training sessions I’m put through paces that I would find very difficult to do on my own. Certainly, before joining the club I’d followed plans that introduced intervals and hill repeats, and I’d gone out on my own and done these sessions. But there’s no way I’d have pushed myself as hard as I do under the coach’s watchful eye. Not just because he’s watching to see that you’re working your butt off, but also because I feel safer doing these hard sessions under an expert eye. I’m much more cautious on my own in case I’m ‘overtraining’ or risking injury. I’m also given great instruction on my running ‘form’ i.e. how I hold myself when I run. This has really helped me over time, though I know I still have a lot of work to do. Whenever I see a running photo, I see that I’m hunching my shoulders and stooping forward instead of “hips forward, shoulders back”. I gotta work on that. As long as I stay injury-free, I definitely improve my fitness and my speed if I go to regular training.

And there’s a lovely bunch of people at the athletics club. I’m certainly one of the elder lemons, but I love that running gets me to hang out with all these young people. I always have the feeling that they’re keeping an eye out for me, that they’re glad to see me there. That’s how welcome I feel. And the coaching is absolutely great. They call me an ‘athlete’! Every member of the club is an athlete, that’s just how it is. And I love the club singlet. I wear it with pride whenever I run a race. Indeed, I had a dilemma during the Lord Mayor’s Challenge as I needed to wear the 5-Alive T-shirt. So I brought my Le Cheile singlet with me for the photos. For every other race it’s the Le Cheile singlet for me.
It’s just over 3 years since I started my tentative ‘get running’ plan and only last year that I joined the athletics club. I’m so glad that I have this great club close by, with an excellent all-weather track, great coaches and lovely club members. We also have a wealth of hills in the area that we can be seen tackling, puffing and panting in all our hi-viz glory. It has got to be one of the best value fitness clubs to be a part of, working out at a couple of euro per week. While I generally only attend on Wednesday nights, I also have access to track and field training on Monday nights, there’s a hill-running group that I can join whenever I wish, and there are social runs on Monday evenings or at the weekends. Being part of the club has brought more diversity to my running schedule, so that I’m not just pounding the pavement on my own, doing the same thing over and over again. To quote John O’Regan again, “If you keep doing the same thing, you keep getting the same results”.

My only other run this week was my beloved parkrun. Tired legs bought me to Castletown parkrun in Celbridge, my 78th parkrun and my 6th at Castletown. My lovely friend, Michaela, offered to run with me and she paced me to a Castletown PB, knocking 58 seconds off my previous Castletown best. I came in 102nd, was the 42nd female home and, wait for it, was 2nd in my age category! You see the benefits of turning 54 last Sunday? – there aren’t too many women my age turning out for parkrun on a Saturday morning.

Happy running everyone

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