Have baby, will run (for brunch)

One invaluable lesson I have learned over the past decade or so masquerading as an adult, is that you cannot do this life shit on your own. Finding your tribe is, at different stages of your life, is imperative to staying sane. This goes for moving countries, learning a new skill, or entering motherhood. There are many many ways to skin a cat, and many many people who probably do it just the way you’d like to and can show you how.

There have been a few pivotal periods in my life where this has come to bear, the first when I quit drinking (finding mates that are awake on a Sunday morning is a good place to start), the second when I took up running and found the inimitable Run Dem Crew and the third when I became a Mother. Thankfully there were a few awesome people in both sets of previous tribes that by the time mamadom hit, I had a pretty great collection of babes and their bubs to add to my village.

But as with all good things, you have to keep at it, your priorities and abilities change, you may find yourself in a different place, your kids get bigger, your circumstances change (for better, for worse) and as such the tribe needs to evolve to include more people, maybe a few drop by the wayside, some grow with you some grow out of you (and you them).

I find myself at one of these crossroads, with a three month old son, creaking hips and a desperate need to let off steam. As mentioned, any hitting of any bottles (even tiny ones) is a no-go, there’s only so much Netflix any one mushy brain can take, and the lethal combination of caffeine and sugar, while it got me through the first foggy months, is a sure fire cocktail to whip up my anxiety levels, screw with my sleep and my waistline. So I need something else, and Baby Yoga ain’t going to cut it.

My go-to quick fix for the past 5 years or so has been a run. A quick one, a long one, a run with mates, the solo run, the ‘I’m just taking the dog around the park’ run, the training in the rain run, the run that has random obstacles in it, the ‘why-the-fuck-am-I-doing-this’ run and the ‘thank god I went for a run’ run.

I am no speedster, my race times are not enviable, but that was never the point. I run to keep sane. I have met some of the best people through running, it’s opened doors in other areas of my life creatively – I started writing again,  took up photography – it’s taken me travelling to run in mad cities with mad people, got me fit, made me brave, and ultimately saved my ass on more occasions that I can count. It’s the thing I do on a Sunday morning when I would have been nursing a hangover in bed. It’s built my confidence and shown me the heroic in others. Putting on a pair of running shoes for me was as transformative as alchemy.

But my pregnancy and running didn’t really get on, with the aforementioned creaking hips, and a core that is still recovering from accommodating a baby, I have not run more than 3 miles in the best part of a year.

I’m basically back to being a newbie. No fitness to speak of, and a deep seated fear that I won’t bounce back, given walking a mile has me wishing I was being pushed in the pram.

Now I know that’s unfounded. I will bounce back. In what form is still yet to be seen. But in the spirit of reaching out, if I have any hope of reclaiming my nikes, and my beating my 10K PB, I’ll need help. I’ll need a new tribe. Or a patchwork venn diagram of the tribes that have gone before. Mates that run and happen to have kids. Or freelance mates who don’t run but would like to give it a bash and don’t mind a few babies tagging along

So I have downloaded my trusty Couch to 5K app from days of yore, dug out the lycra and I’ll be hitting the parks of London, building up the all important base line, with pram and changing bag to boot.

Here’s the ask, I’d love company, its motivating and makes schlepping a sleep deprived body and niggly baby around all that much easier to manage.  If you’re new to running, haven’t run for ages and you’re free on a week day morning, or just fancy a (slow) jaunt around some of the best parks in the world, drop me a line here. I don’t bite, I won’t (can’t!) run fast so please don’t be intimidated and it should be a great way of getting out and about, blowing off the cobwebs and seeing more of the brilliant city. Hopefully getting the babies to sleep too.

And nothing beats a banging brunch post run. I need brunch back in my life






Let Go & Make Space



I started yoga about 6 weeks ago. This is my third attempt at getting into yoga. I really want to like it, I know it will be good for me and god dammit I like all the sexy yoga kit. But I have yet to ‘get’  it. Feeling irritable and bored rather than inspired. I’m not really into the woo woo ‘ohming’ and the third eye banter. I have been in classes where we have had to ‘become the tortoise on which the earth is balanced’ and I had to break out into a coughing fit to hide my scoffing. I am a cynical, sarcastic fitness fanatic and I need a whole heap of endorphins before I can start picturing tortoises. Or terrapins even.

But I think I’ve found The One in Vinyasa Flow Yoga. I love the movement and the breathing and they way I feel… light. Both mentally and physically. And no turtles in sight.

It was in one of my classes over the past few weeks that I heard a phrase which keeps ringing true for me. In the context of the class this was about relaxing into the pose and breathing through it. Let Go and Make Space. Breathe in and exhale, allow the muscles to relax and open, make more space.

But it got me thinking about all the stuff that we hang onto. All the stuff that takes up room. The physical stuff and more importantly the excess emotional baggage. And we complain we don’t have time, ‘no space in the diary’, no breaks in the week, no time to ‘catch our breath’.

Our time is not renewable. It is scarce. So how do we make precious space in the limited time we have? Simple. We let go..

So I get that. But of what? And when? And how much? And once I have let go how do I make sure I don’t grab back on?

I am having to get really honest to answer those questions, as ultimately its about sacrifice. I came across this article via the amazing Bangs and a Bun (if you’re not already following her, do it now) . This sums it up:

If you want the benefits of something in life, you have to also want the costs. If you want the six pack, you have to want the sweat, the soreness, the early mornings, and the hunger pangs. If you want the yacht, you have to also want the late nights, the risky business moves, and the possibility of pissing off a person or ten’

So if you want the space, you can’t have it all. If you get your head around letting go, you’ll have to get used to FOMO every now and again or risk getting stuck back in. It helps if you avoid the rabbit hole that is social media too.

This is where I am right now. Saying no. Not over-committing (to every race, every invite, every challenge etc…). The people-pleasing, overly needful behaviour of trying to be everywhere seeing everyone, all of the time while trying to over-achieve at work and maintain a beautiful marriage just ends up pissing people off and leaving me resentful.  When I am knackered and frazzled  inevitably I end up letting people or more importantly, myself down. And the GUILT. Yeah well fuck that. Let. It. Go. Embrace the Boundaries

Embracing Boundaries – street art stylee



So what sacrifices  am I comfortable with? What costs am I happy to pay?

On a small scale, it turns out I am not happy to sacrifice my sleep on week days (funny that). I have been setting my alarm for 6am every day for MONTHS and then practically throwing my phone across the room EVERY SINGLE DAY.  So for now I am giving up on pre-dawn training and saying goodbye to berating myself for snoozing through the 6am alarm. So this is not the kind of pain I want.But I much prefer evening sessions., and that means I sacrifice a fair few social engagements. Or I combine them and get creative. See where this is going?  I had a joke with a mate who cancelled on me twice that she’s on strike two. Now of course I’m not randomly cutting people out of my life (yet), but you get the sentiment. Playing diary ping pong is exhausting.

On a larger scale, I am re-examining my goals for how I am investing my time in the same way I have looked at managing my money. What needs more investment, what gives the most return on investment  and what needs to be cut back or paid off and then budgeted out?

Definitely upping the fitness, but with more of a focus on enjoyment than obsessing with gadgets. If I can feel like THIS (see below) at least once a month a may have discovered the path the enlightenment. Put that in your Namaste and smoke it.


Photo Credit: Ash Narod http://www.ashnarod.co.uk/







Rory and I escaped the big smoke for some much needed R&R up in Scotland for a week. Perfect time of year to go, crisp cool air and a surprising amount of sunshine. We couldn’t be further away from chocked west London, delayed tubes and clogged inboxes.
It’s been just over a year since I’ve been up to this part of the world, pretty special place for me as reminds me how far I’ve come with my fitness and running, this is pretty much where it all started.
I raced my first 10K up here in Glasgow back in 2011, supported by my two Aunts, one running with me and the other handing out much needed encouragement and bananas. Having just completed the couch to 5K program, Val suggested I get registered for a 10K, and Lyn chimed in recommending her local – the Glasgow Women’s 10K – beautiful course complete with half naked bagpipe players. What more motivation do you need?
I had coped with running around 5K a couple of times a week, plodding around W10 and letting Stella run circles around me – surely 10K would be doable. Which it was. I hadn’t checked the course before (which it turned out was a good thing – I would have panicked) and had no idea there were a few pretty killer hills, one in particular stretching from 6k to about 8k and having done no hill training in my life, it was a shock. Thankfully, the semi nude bag pipe boys where there to help me through though. Kilts and all. God bless Scotland.
One hour and twelve minutes later I had run my first race, thrilled with my blingtastic medal and flabbergasted I hadn’t died or at least had a minor heart attack. I had quit smoking a year before and was still reeling from the fact I didn’t cough every five minutes, huff and puff up stairs or come down with every cold going. I felt like superwoman.
2011 First Race (10K)
And that was that, I was hooked and promptly signed up for my first half marathon that September, keeping with the Scottish theme and registering for the Great Scottish Run.
Two years, three half marathons, five 10Ks, two ITB injuries and untold hill sessions later, it’s wonderful to be back in Pollok park going over a few of the ‘killer’ hills I remember and catching up with the local wildlife. Unfortunately, no bag pipe boys to be found this particular morning, but we can’t have everything. I settled for the astonishing lack of rain and pretty mild temperatures. 
You cannot beat Scotland when the sun shines, eat your heart out Hyde Park!

Motivation and The Mean Girl

Well into Week 8 of injury down time here at Conquest Towers. Initially I like to think I took my second ITB injury in my stride. I knew what to expect, and I hit the physio exercises hard, only throwing one or two full on diva temper tantrums. I got on the spin bike regularly and gave it 110%, and made peace with the Foam Roller Of Spiteful Death. It was going well. I even started climbing to keep me distracted

Climbing Heroes
What running injury?

This burst of positivity didn’t last for long. I was hit with a fairly brutal summer cold, combined with a manically busy period at work and a very serious case of all consuming ‘meh’. Typically my nutritional planning then went out the window as I reached for chocolate, sugar and caffeine to save the day, instant fixes and serious sugar comedowns. Add in a dash of ‘I-just-can’t-be-arsed’ for good measure and you’ve got a very unmotivated and pretty pissed off person.

But it wasn’t just the stressed out immune system to blame – officially giving up the Royal Parks place sucked. This was going to be the Half that I delivered a decent PB, and I’d wipe out the memory of literally sobbing through mile 8 last year, when the first ITB injury flared up in all its agonising glory. It was the race that would kick off a new season of ‘proper running’. You know the stuff, training that is synchronised in perfect harmony with your schedule, where you cross train as often as you know you should, where PBs are beaten every month. I had a very clear idea that this would herald in some new era in fitness, and in turn I would finally become a ‘Proper Runner’ too. But I had to say no thanks. I’m on  the bench, I need to recover and rebuild recondition. And in my head I hear this:  I’m obviously just not cut out for this. My body is just rubbish, just stop. Its too hard

So here’s the thing. I am still trying to convince that surly cynical sulking inner teenager of my youth that I’m actually capable of doing this. Every slower than expected mile, every ache, every twist, every injury  I can hear her sniggering from behind a fog of Marlborough, snapping gum and smirking, ‘You don’t really think you can do this do you? Making an arse of yourself out there wearing STUPID shorts and UGLY trainers, and you look a right sweaty mess, wheezing through a 15 minute run. What a JOKE’ 

She’s a total bitch.

I should know, I was her for a damn sight longer than I like to admit.

It’s this long standing fiercely personal fight that’s the hardest one. I’ve conquered my fears about running outdoors in broad daylight wearing VERY short shorts. I’m deliriously happy when I look in the mirror and I’m practically puce – I can laugh at the fact that I forget to take my mascara off and I look like Alice Cooper on a spin bike. I really couldn’t give a flying fuck about what the blokes at the pub are shouting after me as I ran past. But if I spend too much time in my own head, I’ll find a reason why I shouldn’t bother. That insecure, bullying, spiteful voice gets a little louder and picks tiny holes in all my hard earned esteem.

Hence the climbing, the roller blading, the cycling. I suspect I may take up motorbiking too, that might shut up the Mean Girl in my head. Scare the shit out of her. I’ve also noticed making a total fool of myself and laughing about it, keeps her pretty quiet too – so there was this:

Harley Nerd

Combine the two, fear and being ridiculous and I give you Survival of the Fittest  in November. If that doesn’t shut her up, it may just convert her. Get her to give up the snark and take up the pom poms. I need to become my own biggest cheer leader. Thankfully I’ve got a few awesome people around me, doing that job well. You guys rock (you know who you are!)

Long suffering spouse

Stella. Coach Almighty

New Season, New Look

Spring has not sprung. It’s mid April and we still have the heating on, I am making full use of all my coats and and the electric blanket. Because its freezing. And with it being April, everyone is marathon obsessed, and out pounding pavements all over London. Inspiring stuff bearing in mind the horrendous weather.

Joining in the ‘spring’ spirit, I have also started training, albeit mostly on the treadmill because I have totally wimped out, but training nonetheless. I have signed up to We Own The Night in Victoria Park on May 18th, which will be my first race since the disaster that was the Royal Parks.

Following advice from my physio, I’m combing the running with two spinning sessions a week, and that combined with the eating plan means I have bought myself my first pair of size 8 jeans since I was about sixteen! The bad news is I have to get my wedding ring resized, and my credit card has taken a serious beating.

It’s been hugely satisfying watching all the hard work pay off, eating healthier, getting my form right and as a result, achieving my goal weight. But that does require a new wardrobe full of clothes that actually fit, rather than shirts that bunch up in the wrong places because they’re just a bit too big. That includes new belts, new bras (slightly gutted), new running kit (that doesn’t fall down), and of course, new jeans!

So thought I’d dig out an old snap from my training last year (right)  prior to the eating/coaching plan, and a snap of me a few weeks ago (left). Eighteen pounds down (circa 8kgs) and four to go! That sub 1 hour 10K race in May, could just be doable

Zen and the Art of (Not) Running

If you’ve been following the blog you’ll know I’m currently out of action on the running front. It’s been over a month since I last ran, and around 8 weeks since the injury made its (omni)presence known. About seven sessions of physiotherapy, a few sports massages and endless, endless exercises to strengthen my glutes, calves and core, and I’m still no closer to being run ready, ‘another two weeks’. I heard that four weeks ago. Going slightly mad.

The problem, they say, with ITB injuries is that its difficult to pin point just one cause.  It turns out I’m pretty riddled with all sorts of odd habits, badly aligned hips, little flexibility in my ankles, etc etc, the list goes on and on. Just as one thing gets sorted, something else flares up. If I’m to run again safely, I need to impact-proof my joints, by building up the *right* muscles.

I am now torn between ignoring all good advice (they’re just quacks) and just tearing off regardless, OR quitting running altogether (I’m not cut out for this sporting malarky). Because anything in-between requires frustrating, tears inducing, mind numbing work.

I have never been the patient sort. If I am not able to do something perfectly immediately I lose interest fast. This happened with my ‘passion’ for guitar when I was 16, my flirtation with Kung Fu when I was 19, Kick Boxing at 22 and then Wing Chung at 25. There was even a 6 month period when I was obsessed with Krav Maga. Nothing stuck. I told myself, I was too uncoordinated, unfit, too short or too old. I also told myself I wasn’t the ‘sporty type’ to justify my lack of perseverance, which in reality, was just a lack of discipline and more than a bit of plain old fashioned laziness. But I had done a really good job of convincing myself otherwise.

So when I found I could actually finish a 5K run without keeling over, I was astonished. Here was something I could do. Just by putting in a bit of extra work every few days, I built myself up to running 10K, then a half marathon. And just to prove it wasn’t fluke, I ran another one. I had finally broken through that warped image I had of myself as ‘unsporty’. I could do this!

Other mad things happened; people started asking my advice, ‘you’re really into fitness what do you think?’ or ‘I’ve just started running, how long before I can run your kind of distances?’. I had never dreamed I’d ever be referred to as a ‘fitness freak’ or ‘running nerd’. I was over the moon, regardless of whether they were compliments or otherwise.

Then this happened. I literally limped through the Royal Parks. It wasn’t fun anymore. My body stopped doing what I wanted it to. It hurt. A lot. I’ve had to stop and recover properly. My confidence has taken a pretty serious knock, and it was pretty fledgling to begin with. I now find myself contending with all the old mantras. ‘What did you expect?’, this old voice says, ‘you’re not sporty. Who are you kidding? You’re not built for this. Stop pretending. Sit on the sofa and just give up. Maybe try aqua aerobics instead’. Full on pity-party going on in my head.

Luckily, I have a very positive physiotherapist, who is patient when I am throwing a strop, and a few great running friends who can’t wait to get out there again, no matter if I have to take it very slowly.  Come Christmas I am crossing my fingers I should be clocking up the mileage. In the meantime, there’s aqua (!)

A gem of wisdom captured on the Portobello Market

Suffering: Optional

With the 2012 Olympic spirit blazing through London at the moment its hard not to get completely engulfed in it and then attempt some huge personal record breaking feats. And why not? Mo winning double gold in particular, and emphasising, “its all hard work and grafting, then anything is possible” inspired me to get out there and train. No more excuses. 
I’ve also found inspiration in another form, as I am finally reading one of the definitive running autobiographies by the brilliant Murakami; What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. He writes about the idea that pain is inevitable, but that suffering is optional. This was a philosophy he read an ultra-marathon runner discussing when coping with huge physical stress over a prolonged period of time without giving up, and its an idea he’s taken to heart with his training. 
So yes, basically it is going to hurt. Potentially a lot. There’s no getting round that, but it’s whether or not you give into your doubt or fear of coping with that pain that makes all the difference. There’s a choice there, which seems so obvious and simple. But when I’m breaking new ground, be it that extra kilometre, faster pace or steeper hill, its a choice I have to keep making, sometimes over and over again while running. 
Thankfully though I am not training for an ultramarathon, so let’s be frank and do away with my drama queen antics, the pain won’t be gut-wrenching (we hope!). 
It’s all in the eyebrow
Nevertheless, my training run today of 7 miles (11.3kms) was not off to a great start and I was feeling pretty lack lustre. That pain in the hip started niggling again and then a nasty stitch developed around the 3 mile mark (that will be that apple danish, more fool me!). But with a few well chosen mantras, some old school Chemical Brothers (Dig your Own Hole, ironically fitting) and consistently making the choice to push on through, in the end I managed a decent pace and finished the required mileage. 
Even if I did end up looking a bit like this. Ouch. 
This snapshot doesn’t quite show you how red in the face I actually go (crimson). Having pushed through the discomfort, and locked another training session in the bank, I do love those endorphins and the red face, dry mouth, salt in the eyes, burning muscles that they bring. Pretty fantastic after all. 
Plus I get to demolish a huge guilt free seared beef and mustard BOSS sandwich. Full credit to Mr R for making sure there was delicious post run food in the fridge. Gold!

The Good Run

Running and I did not get off to a good start this week. Still recovering from my Sunday long run, I wasn’t feeling very clever on Monday morning. With an early start looming, and the bus rounding the corner faster than I could walk it, so I made a run for it, thinking I could clear the distance Usain Bolt style. Forgot I was wearing heels, forgot I am not, in fact, an Olympic gold medal sprinter. Forgot to look out for misplaced dustbins. And predictably, found myself upended on the pavement, flat on my face on Ladbroke Grove with the contents of my handbag strewn far and wide. Thankfully I was wearing trousers.

A very sweet 10 year old boy stopped to help me collect my oyster card, mascara and notebook, while three very able young men pretended not to laugh. No cut lips, but my blood was boiling nonetheless. I think my pride was more hurt than my scuffed hands and knees but Ouch (capital O). Oh and I missed the bus.

Tuesday’s rolled around and I’m still feeling a bit battered from the fall (no blood it did some kind of mischief to my shoulder and I’m playing up the drama). But the training schedule is what it is. And there’s less than 9 weeks to go to the Royal Parks half marathon. No more excuses.

Recently I’ve been trying to incorporate the tips on form that I was given a few weeks back during one of the Run Britannia sessions, and its beginning to really make a difference. I’ve picked up a few bad habits over the past 18 months that I have been running, which they say is very normal, the hardest thing is just getting out a doing it in the first place. But now that I’m trying to increase speed and pick up the distance, I need to start looking at being more energy efficient. Which isn’t as hard has it looks.

So I’m trying to unpick the habit of heel striking and shifting to mid foot running which means I’m dragging my feet less and using stronger muscles (activate the hamstrings – OUCH). I’m straightening my back and pulling my shoulder blades back rather than up, so less slumping forward and less tension. And lastly I’m relaxing. Yes really. Just going with it.

And what a run it was! Not overly quick, or long, but I felt pretty goddamn amazing. A few aches and pains as per normal, but less fatigued, much lighter. And the niggling hip pain seems to be easing. Even in the pouring rain. YES!

Hardcore. Oh Yes. 
New Route! 

The Groove


It’s SPRING! Time to get motivated again.

I don’t bounce back after a long race. Something in my psyche tells me I deserve a break, time to recover, relax and generally not do any exercise. So, three weeks after the last big event, it really should not be a surprise that I’m flagging after 5K and can’t find the motivation to get back into the groove. But I am surprised. I’m outraged and pissed off and generally berating myself for not being able to run 15km at the drop of a hat.

And therein lies the rub. The first thing I am learning, (and it is all new to me as I was the antithesis of sporty at school) is that its all about consistency for me. Fitness is a fickle beast, you have to catch her and she’ll elude you. Turn your back for a few weeks and she’s out of sight, having a bit of a laugh as you huff and puff up a pathetically small hill. The training has to be consistent.

This became really clear for me on my run this evening with Stella in tow. She’s not been out as much as I would like due to the fact she’s approaching 7 and the dog gurus suggest you start winding down the mileage as they approach ‘middle age’.  She’s usually very well trained on the lead when we run. But, given a few weeks off the lead, she’s not having any of it. Wrapping herself (and me) around lampposts, tugging at the lead – it look a good 4km to get her back into that groove. She remembers, it just takes a good bit of discipline and metaphorical kick up the ass to jolt back in.

The second thing that struck me today around 5km is, that voice, that one that says, ‘stay on the sofa, you’re really tired and you have had a long day’ is not your friend. Its the same voice that says things like, ‘have another piece of cake’ when you’ve had three. I remember this voice well when I was trying to quit smoking. ‘Stop tomorrow, you’re really stressed at the moment’ or ‘one cigarette won’t kill you, you’ve really cut down recently, you deserve another lung full of tar’. Not. Your. Friend.

Quite the opposite. That voice wants you sluggish, tired, depressed and alone on your sofa watching reruns of QVC. Don’t get me wrong, we all have our nasty habits, after all vices are just virtues taken to the extreme.We all need a good dose of a vice like anger to tell us when we’ve had a boundary crossed. Otherwise we’d be doormats. Its when it turns to Rage that its dangerous. Or the occasional over indulgence, keeps us from being too smug or self righteous. Abusing it is a different story. And equally a bit of lazing around on rest days IS good for you. Its getting the balance that’s tricky.

To do that, the other voice has to get louder. You know the one. The one that says, in the case of my battle with the smoking, ‘enough is enough’. The one that says, ‘I can do one more mile’ and the one that says ‘I’m going to go out in my lycra and rock this route’ . It doesn’t listen to the paranoid self deprecating nitpicking telling you your ass is maybe a bit too large for those shorts. So it is. So what. Take that. I’m going anyway.

My guess is that listening to that other voice, no matter how much you want the extra hour lie in, that extra piece of cheesecake, or the opportunity to just spend three hours on Twitter (guilty!) and then consistently acting on it, some how starts to balance out the negative one. And something magic happens, it stops being so hard. You look forward to those few hours a week when its just you and the pavement, rather than a chore, you start upping the anti, you achieve a few goals, you complete a few races. And you’re hooked. But this habit is building you up, not breaking you down.

And the dog gets a good work out too. Even if her owner is a new-age zen hippy. Winners all round.

Coach Stella Post Run AKA my own personal feet heater