I can’t believe it’s over a month since I blogged. That time flew in. My last blog was all about cheering for my family members and running friends at the Terenure 5 Mile because I was unable to exercise due to illness. After 5 weeks from couch to bed, my second mode of treatment kicked in and everything has changed, changed utterly.
As soon as I could catch my breath, I devised a ‘Back to Running’ plan. This began with gentle stretches three times a day. After a week, my condition continued to improve and I started a muscle strengthening programme. It was a 10 -12 minute workout, which I had to spread over the day, doing one element in the morning, one in the afternoon and one at night. The time came when I could do all elements in one go – signs of progress.
I remember the day that I left the house to go for a walk. My husband knew where I was going and how long it should take me. I was heading to our local service station, where I knew the owner and if necessary could rest there before returning home. I also had my phone with me just in case of emergency. It all seems over the top now, but I had really no idea how I would be after being so completely inactive. The walk went great, so I picked up my distances and speeds gradually over the following week, getting to walking briskly for 3-4k. Now it was time to start my running.
As always, my go-to for running plans is Mary Jennings’ programme. I put all of the workouts into Runkeeper on my phone and used it to time all the intervals. I follow it religiously, including the 5 minute warm up and cool down, and follow each workout with my stretches. I struggled with every single workout, having difficulty running for a minute initially, wondering why running minutes are so much longer than walking ones! I tick off each workout as I do it, and see the progress I’m making over time – I’m now on workout number 16 and running for 15 mins non-stop. I also note that my first workouts were all on the flat of the canal or the athletics track. Now I’m happy to add the gentle inclines. That’s progress.
I have lots of tricks to keep me motivated as I try to get back to fitness. Firstly, having the plan is a big motivator. I make each workout pretty much non-negotiable. I look at the plan, that’s what I’m scheduled to do, and I do just do it. I have to have that level of commitment if I’m going to improve.
It might sound mad, but another way of motivating myself is to choose my running T-shirt wisely. For example, I might wear my Dublin Half Marathon T to remind myself that I have actually gone from couch to running non stop for a half marathon before, so I can do this now. My Lust for Life T reminds me of the huge support there is out there for everyone who makes an effort to exercise for fitness. (It also reminds me that it’s about Lust for Life, not Lust for Chocolate). And my Lord Mayor’s Challenge T reminds me that I completed the challenge when I was struggling big time, and was greatly supported by like-minded individuals (and, of course, I won the Spirit of the Lord Mayor’s Challenge award. I know, I’ve said this before, but I have to mention it as one of my motivators – that award is a really big deal for me).
All hot and sweaty after a run – the T-shirt matters (Photo by Chantelle McCarthy)
Another motivator for me was that starting at the beginning again gave me the opportunity to train my dog to run with me. Isaac came to us in January and I’m glad to gradually build up his running distances with me. He’d be well able for longer distances and greater speeds, so I mostly needed to train him to listen and stay close to me, not get distracted. He loves it and gets very excited when he sees me in my running gear. He was a bit miffed that I didn’t bring him to run the Kilcock 5k, though.
Training Isaac to stick with me (Photo by David McCarthy)
Of course, as soon as I could manage to run/walk a 5k, I returned to parkrun. And a big motivator for me is the difference in my times since I started back. Two weeks ago I ran/walked Castletown in over 44 mins, last week I ran/walked Griffeen in 40:30, and on Saturday last I ran/walked Waterstown (with its gentle, undulating landscape) in 39 – all progress. At Waterstown, the wonderful Ian Dutton, Pacer Extraordinaire, got me to run my longest running interval since last March. At Griffeen, I had the added, greatly unexpected surprise of being awarded the Silver Medal for the number of times I volunteered there in the past year – how’s that for motivation to keep parkrunning! I get tremendous support from everyone at parkrun, no matter which one I attend. My plan is to do a bit of parkrun tourism over the coming weeks to add some variety to my routes. parkrun number 85 done – progress towards the big 100.
Receiving my Silver medal for volunteering. I’m on the right, pictured with Amanda Bruce, the gold medallist, and Paul Richardson, Griffeen Event Director. Don’t I look happy?! (Photo by Anne Smith)
Finally, I use races to motivate me. I had signed up to the Women’s Mini Marathon months ago and hummed and hawed for weeks as to whether it would be madness to attempt it. To cut a long story short, my lovely friend Sharon did everything in her power to offer any and every support I might need, even offering to walk the whole way with me. At the starting line, I had no idea whether this was the right thing to do, but I really am very sensible and I told myself that this is probably one of the safest places to be. If I got into any difficulty, I would walk to the nearest ambulance and ask for a lift back to the finish line. There was no need! I sent Sharon on her own run with her wonderful daughter Alicia (doing her first ever 10k) and I walked probably 8 out of the 10k. I used my watch to speed up my walking pace so that I used it as another workout in my return to lung and limb fitness. I had such a lovely day, got myself a medal and a promise that we would absolutely make this an annual event.
After the Women’s Mini Marathon with my lovely running friends from Castletown parkrun (Photo by some kind stranger whom we hijacked on the street)
I also signed up at the last minute for the Kilcock 5k. I emailed them in advance explaining that it was taking me 45ish minutes to complete a 5k and asking if this would cause a problem as I know they close roads for the race. They said that they would be delighted to have me, that some of their own athletes would be doing their own Couch to 5k programmes, and all were welcome. So I headed out with my Le Cheile comrades and managed to complete it in 36 minutes. How’s that for progress! I ran 5 minutes, walked 2 minutes as part of my Back to Running plan, and was so delighted with my result. Now I’m planning the Clonee 10k on Thursday night. Their ad welcomes ‘runners, joggers, walkers’ – always music to my ears as there won’t be a cut-off time that’s out of my reach.
I’ve started back at my athletics club, and am almost managing the hill sprints and the Fartlek sessions. I had to pull out of the Fartlek session on Wednesday night, but not before I’d given myself a right good workout. I actually find I’m listening to my body so much better than before, as I have to determine safe limits for my heart, lungs and muscles.
So, my return to fitness continues apace. I’m not quite out of the woods regarding my illness, as my blood levels will drop over the next 4-6 weeks and it might be difficult to get out of the bed again! But at least I know what it is now and the signs to look out for, so that I can start my new meds straightaway. An unpredictable few months ahead, but in a year’s time I’ll look back on this time as a glitch, nothing more. In the meantime, I’m getting massive support from my parkrun friends, club colleagues, Lust for Lifers and fellow race-goers, thank you all. I’m having so much fun again, just getting out there, getting fresh air and exercise. I’ts great to be able to do it.
PS. Sorry it’s such a long blog, but it’s 5 weeks since my last one. I didn’t want to leave anything out