I love running. There, I have said it: I am out of the closet and the world knows. Running is one of the few activities that gives me freedom. No email, no phone calls, no distractions and other than the occasional dog barking at me or crowd of youngsters shouting abuse (those are just my kids), I am in my own bubble. I solve problems, create tender responses, think of witty jokes, and plan my life, my nights out and my holidays when I am running. However, I am a slow runner, built for distance and not for speed. I amble along the highways and byways of Newcastle, leaving a trail like a snail, nodding to passing three toed sloths and engaging in conversation with giant tortoises until they, too, speed off into the distance.
To try and make myself a better, faster, stronger more able runner, I go to the gym. This presents a little bit of a problem. Going to the gym and building up upper body and core strength is great for running: it makes you faster and stronger and reduces injuries, no doubts at all. Lifting weights also builds muscle, muscle is heavy, and weight is the runner’s enemy. Weight slows you down and makes you breathless, chips away at your running times and puts undue stress on your joints. So, I am caught between my two mistresses like the window cleaner in a Carry On film! Which do I choose? Do I have to choose?
Well I am hoping not. The context is this: I run on five or six days per week and go to the gym six times a week, too. It can be a punishing schedule but I love it, and alternating my weight training with core, back, chest, arm and leg workouts makes sure I get a whole body workout during any given week, while running ensures that I am training specifically for my sport. My mistresses do squabble, though. If I am tired and want to drop a workout, what do I do? Simple: I listen to my body and drop the one that will do me the least good or do the exercise that is needed for some part that has been neglected. Only time will tell whether my two mistresses can be maintained effectively. Running can burn muscle but you need muscle to run well, it is a fine line that I am walking (running) but early results seem to show that I can have my cake and eat it. I can work out in the gym, build muscle, lose weight and become a faster runner. The key is to build lean muscle and not to bulk up and to ensure that I keep exercising my whole body so that I do not cannibalise some part in sacrifice for another through running so many miles. It is not easy, and I do not always get the balance exactly right, but overall it does appear that I can maintain the two. I am sure some of the guys in the gym wonder who the little ginger bloke in the corner is. He attends every day and works hard, but never seems to get any bigger!
This month has been much better in terms of quality of training. January’s training was dogged with poor weather and missed training sessions, but February has been very different. I have had some great speed sessions with Tyne Bridge Harriers, my long runs have increased in distance and my overall weekly mileage has increased without too many injuries and niggles.
This month I have;
- Run over 131 miles
- Achieved a new PB for the 5k
- Managed to run 17 miles in one session
- Trained consistently in the gym
- Received four sports massages
- Successfully obtained a place for the Great North Run
- Entered the Kielder Marathon
- Reduced my overall body fat percentage
- Bought several items for my trip to the Himalayas and booked my flights for it
- Ran at 6 ½ minute mile pace for the first time in my life
- Started to train my legs in the gym
Progress overall has been good: staying injury free is the main aim, whilst building stamina for the big race in October. In the meantime, though, I also have to try and build a little bit of speed in preparation for the Sunderland Marathon in April. On marathon day, it will be a year exactly since I decided to get fit again, and I would love to beat my previous PB, set 12 years ago when I was just a slip of a lad. I have entered the Northumberland Half Marathon, which is on the 10th of March and had hoped to push myself to a new PB in that, too.
Looking at the elevation profile, though, that is not going to happen. I will write up a blog post on my experience though – it may involve a lot of swear words!!
Keep an eye out for my next blog. Follow us on Twitter for the latest updates using #writerontherun
Sponsor Neil via our JustGiving Page