One thing is for sure, lockdown has definitely meant that I have had to explore what lies around my local area. That means anywhere I can go running, without requiring to get in the car and drive anywhere. For someone who has lived in the same place for about 20 years, I have near enough run the same two or three routes for all these years! Sounds dull, but I never really thought about exploring. I don’t know why!
However, with the arrival of lockdown, the shutting of tracks, and the inability to drive to where I would usually do grass and hill sessions, I was forced to explore the options near to my house. So, after 20 years, I was actually forced to explore, and something that surprised me was how much there actually is on my doorstep running wise!
Regular run routes- off road
Lockdown has most definitely made me appreciate living in the countryside. I now know for sure I would never want to live permanently in the city. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by fields upon fields, as well as some good roads. As soon as lockdown was announced, my first panic was that I would have to do all my running on the road, both sessions and easy runs. Ever since my injury, I have done my best to run at least half of my runs off road. I used to just head to some grass football/rugby pitches and tick off the laps there, however I don’t have anything like that near to my house. Therefore, I decided to be adventurous (not a trait I am known to possess!) and explore around the fields and footpaths. I was so shocked that I hadn’t done this sooner, as there are loads of footpaths that I can follow to complete an entire run with only the first minute being on the road. Whilst I didn’t mind running laps and laps of a sports pitch, I don’t really have to do this. There are plenty of ways to run off-road without having to sanction myself to that level of boredom. Exploring has actually meant that only two of my weekly runs have been on the road. So, lockdown has actually made me do something I should’ve done a long time ago: find more interesting off-road routes.
Grass sessions have also been a key part of my training since I returned from my injury back in 2018. At uni, I am blessed with the amazing Surrey Sports Park pitches, which are any runner who does grass sessions' dream. They are flat with short, perfectly mown grass, but the only downside is they are always windy! But it's all good training! They have meant that I have always been able to jump out of bed and imminently be at the perfect session location. At home, the opportunities for grass places to run that aren't ridden with rabbit or badger holes are very limited. I can find a few places to go, but they all require me to drive there. So,once again, I had to do a bit of exploring. I always knew that just outside my village was an old airfield which was used by the RAF and the US airforce, which is now grassed over as a runway for gliders, but I never thought I could run there. By simply asking if I could run on it, i found out that it is a public space and anyone can walk/exercise on it! Some of it is slightly uneven, but there is a grass strip at the side which is perfect for speed sessions. These grass sessions have replaced my track sessions, and what were my grass sessions I now do on a shut off road. The grass is quite long, but if cross country is the next race, it’s perfect training!
My longer, endurance sessions, tend to be done on a shut off road within warm up distance from my house. The road is about 1.5km long, so for longer reps I have to turn around mid rep, but this happens in road races too, so again I guess I'm taking something from it. This is one of my favourite places to train as it is an avenue, surrounded by trees and horses fields.
My home is on the Essex/ Suffolk/ Cambridgeshire border, neither of which are particularly known for being hilly, but if you know where to go, you will find some gems of hills. When I am at home, all of my hill sessions are done just South of Cambridge. If you are local, you will know the exact place I am referring to. When I am at uni they are done at the Chantries in Guildford, which is full of unrelenting hills, including sand hills! However, yet again, when lockdown arrived and you weren't allowed to drive to places to exercise, my usual hill locations were off the cards. It has been difficult to replicate the same intensity of hill session, off-road, that I usually do, but I have managed to get by. There are a few steep road hills nearby, but I wanted to stick off-road. I managed to find a few hills which are on grass, and whilst they aren't as steep, I can still work hard to get a decent session banked.
Now the more recent government guidelines allow you to travel to exercise, I am able to venture to my usual locations, however I haven't really wanted to. I have returned to driving to hills, but my grass sessions and off-road runs, I am still doing from home. Why drive if I don't need to?
When it comes to warming up, every athlete has their own routine of what they know works for them and prepares them for the session ahead. The warmup I do may not work for you or it may be completely different from yours, but it gets me physically and mentally ready for a tough session.
For me, my warmup is always split into three parts. I do a warmup jog, followed by drills, and I always finish with a few strides.
Warm up jog
My warmup jog is usually a couple of kilometres. I find this is the ideal distance for me as it loosens my legs up, but it doesn’t add any tiredness to them as it isn’t long enough to do so. This short jog wakes my body up and gets into the running flow, but it is also time for my mind to relax and switch off from the madness of the world before I embark on my session. I find the warmup jog the perfect time to separate my mind from the worries outside of running and just focus on the task ahead. Therefore, it isn’t only a body warmup, but also a mind warmup.
The next part of my warmup is drills. Drills are so important to do before sessions and can also be done outside of sessions in your garden! They help to improve the communication between your brain and your legs, allowing you to become more efficient. They also strengthen your muscles and wake them up for your upcoming session.
I always start my drills with some slower, more movement focused exercises to get my body working through different ranges of movement. This also helps work on my coordination and balance, preparing me for the fast-paced running to come.
I start with:
After these I then progress to some slightly faster moving drills. By now, my body has got used to working a little bit more and I have a bigger range of movement.
These are followed by leg swings in all directions. I tend to just balance myself on a tree or hold the shoulder of someone else. I do them to the front, side and back, and then the full motion from the front to back and sideways. I usually repeat each swing 6-10 times.
The final drill I do is fast-moving, forward and side knee lifts. I don’t know what these are actually called so I have attached a video. I find these good to again get my legs moving quickly through different movements.
Strides are the perfect way to prepare you for running at a faster, more intense pace. Whilst my body has usually warmed up by this point, I have only done slow running, therefore my body is not yet prepared for what is to come. I usually do up to four strides, and gradually ease off once I have got to decent pace rather than after a set distance. This gives my body a taste of the pace I am going to be running at, so it isn’t a complete shock when I start my first rep.
I have recently started incorporating strides at the end of my easy runs. Again, only up to four of them, but this loosens my legs up slightly after they have been monotonously turning around and around at the same pace for an extended period of time. I also really enjoy these strides, so it is something to look forward to when my run is over.
Ultimately, everyone’s warmup is slightly different. This may depend on what your coach has taught you, what works for you, and what different drills you have picked up over the years. I have developed mine to what it is currently by picking up different bits of information through the years.
Time trials have been implemented as part of an athletes training programme for a while, commonly in the form of a Parkrun. However, as times of isolation have arrived and racing has gone out the window, they have been used a lot more.
Many people have been desperate to find out where they are fitness wise and how training has been going by hitting the 5k or 10k distance hard, and recording themselves a time. This is made slightly easier by the competitive edge added by the emergence of virtual races. Whilst you are running a solo time trial, you are trying to beat others in the ‘virtual event’.
So, why might a time trial be a good thing to do?
Where you are at.
Time trials are the perfect way to see where your fitness is at. There is no hiding from the time you clock. Whilst doing it solo will more often than not mean that you won’t be able to push yourself quite as much as you would in a race, even without realising, you can still give it your all and get a good indication of how you fitness is fairing. This will allow you to check whether you are where your thought or not, helping you structure your training going forward.
Are changes working?
Over the lockdown period you may have been trying a few new things in relation to your training. This may have included incorporating more cross training over running, changing the way you structure your week, or experimenting with different sessions. Whatever changes you have made, running a time trial will allow you to see if these have been benefitting or hindering your progression. Either way it will have a productive effect. You don’t want to spend the entirety of lockdown doing something new, only to find out when you can finally race that it hasn’t been working for you at all.
Echo a race.
If you’re desperate to race, a time trial can partially fulfil that desire to race. Whilst the atmosphere isn’t the same, getting your legs spinning as you would in a race can leave you feeling knackered, but great, afterwards. If you want to prepare for it and give it your all, you could even ease into it from the beginning of the week as you would in a normal race situation.
That being said, time trials aren’t for everyone and they aren’t the be all and end all.
Why not to time trial?
Time trials aren’t for everyone, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Time trials can be extremely frustrating. They will either go as or better than you hoped, or a lot worse, and you can’t help but get frustrated. If you do a time trial and it goes extremely well and shows you are in really good shape, that’s great, but there are no races. You might be in the shape of our life, but you can’t smash a race and get a PB put down on paper. You may feel frustrated as you have a long time to sustain your prime position of fitness and get impatient.
Vice versa, it might not go quite as you hoped. This may consequently cause you to put too much pressure on yourself and reduce the amount of enjoyment you are getting from your training. At this uncertain time, enjoyment is key. If a time trial causes you to stress that you aren’t progressing how you would want to, don’t do it. Currently, training is so important to help boost your mood and allow you to escape from the chaos of the world, it isn’t worth taking this relaxing effect away. Additionally, the majority of us haven’t been able to train completely as normal. Whether that be having no gym, or no track, we can’t help how this may have impacted our training. Once again, a time trial may only build your frustration at the current situation.
Nothing quite like racing.
If you can’t do it properly, why do it? This may be your thought at the moment. Without the entire package of a race, including the atmosphere, the pre-race build up, the adrenaline of running among other people and the post-race excitement, is it really going to be the same doing a solo time trial? Probably not. If you aren’t going to enjoy it and you aren’t going to get the same buzz as you would from a regular race, don’t force yourself to do a time trial just because everyone else you see on Instagram is.
Time trials aren’t essential to your progression. Now is the perfect time to get in a solid, long blast of consistent training. Many of us have key sessions that indicate where we are at fitness wise and how training is going. Whether this be a 1k repeat session or a long tempo, it is quite easy to gage where you are at without doing a time trial.
So, what am I doing?
For me personally, I don’t feel that a time trial would be beneficial for me. Whilst I am desperate to be in a race environment, a time trial is ultimately not a race, and would only frustrate me. If it went well, I would be impatient to race, and if it didn’t go as hoped it would cause me to put pressure on myself. I have really begun to enjoy training fully recently and I don’t want to ruin this. I feel I will benefit more from training consistently, enjoying what I am doing, and containing that race energy until it can properly be released.
Whilst I don’t know if the training I am doing now is working, I can get a clear sense from how sessions are going whether I am heading in the right direction or not. Ultimately, you know what works best for you, so you know if they are right for you or not.
Are you time trialling, or are you enjoying training for what it is?
I’ve had a lot of messages recently asking about what trainers I wear and what ones I would recommend. Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to do a post about this. Nearly all of the shoes I wear are Mizuno, but it has been this way for a long time! I can barely remember ever wearing a different brand trainer.
Everyday, versatile trainer.
First of all, I’ll start off with the everyday running trainer that I wear for everything from easy runs, to sessions on the road or track (not at the moment), to long runs. This is the Mizuno Wave Rider. The Wave Rider is a comfortable, cushioned shoe that offers just the right amount of support whilst still being lightweight. The cushioning makes it a great everyday running choice, as I know the impact to my legs is being softened, but the lightweight feel means I can also wear it when I want to run fast. I have worn the Wave Rider for as long as I can remember. I think I only had one pair of running trainers before it when I was about 6 years old!! Since then, the Wave Rider has fulfilled all my needs. I also wear Wave Rider's when I'm on the cross trainer.
On the track, Mizuno once again comes to the rescue. I wear the GeoSplash spikes which suit me really well. Just like all track spikes, there isn’t much of them, but this is perfect for racing. Due to the lack of support, I rarely train in my spikes, except the occasional speed session. This is purely because of past injuries, so I prefer to have extra cushioning and protection when pounding the track in sessions.
You may think all my trainers are Mizuno, and you would nearly be right, but my cross country spikes are actually Adidas. For running through the mud, I have always worn the Adidas XCS spikes. These are perfect for me as they are slightly more robust than some other spikes and have a thicker sole, but they also weigh next to nothing. This is ideal for when the heavy, thick mud is weighing you down. If you haven’t done cross country before and are thinking of giving it a go when it comes back around, spikes are an essential. You can’t get through a wet muddy winter of cross country just with trail shoes.
Long run/ more supportive
The Mizuno Wave Sky and Skyrise are two shoes I would definitely recommend to someone looking for a little bit more cushioning. The shoe is slightly heavier, therefore I wouldn’t wear it for speed work, but the foam technology makes it feel like you’re floating when you are out on a longer run. This is also great for when your legs are taking more pounding and you want to reduce the impact.
Previously, I was completely against wearing trainers as casual shoes, but I can’t help it when they are the comfiest shoes I own! As a result, I frequently wear my black knit Wave rider’s when I am out and about, or more commonly now, going to the supermarket. Whatever the trainer, it can be worn for walking too!
I hope this has given you a little bit of insight into what shoes work for me and those I recommend! Stay safe and sane!
We live in a time and society where weight gain is seen as a bad thing. If you put on weight you’re heading in the ‘wrong direction’. Such a stigma can have a negative impact on everyone, whether you are a runner or not, but it can be even more dangerous to a runner, especially when some very fast athletes are still clearly underweight. I thought now would be a good time to post this blog, as being stuck at home, possibly being more sedentary than usual, may be affecting people's mindsets. Believing you have done less so you haven't 'earned' your food, should not make you think you need be eating any less.
There is this belief that eating less and being lighter makes you faster, therefore if you are being less active, you need to eat less, but this couldn't be more wrong, you still need to fuel your body to recover, repair, and grow. Under-fuelling is especially dangerous when you are already relatively light. Gaining weight will probably only benefit you in the long run, so don’t be afraid to do it. So, if you are struggling to see why gaining weight may not be such a bad thing, here is how gaining weight benefited me.
When I reflect on my progression from being severely underweight and weak to being much healthier and stronger, there is no element of me that regrets the changes I made. At the time, the last thing I wanted to do was eat more and put on weight. Even though I did want to be healthy so I could run better, I didn’t want to do the eating I needed to do to get there. I didn’t know how to eat without feeling massive regret or wishing I hadn’t done it. But, I want to tell you that you can get past this and you will, it just takes a lot of time and determination.
Gaining weight doesn’t just happen by eating more, it also requires you to do less activity. When I started trying to put on weight I also reduced the amount of exercise I did. This mostly meant running less, reducing other cardio activities I did and instead doing body weight strength work or core exercises if I wanted to move my body in some way.
Benefits I saw
When gaining weight, I won’t deny that I didn’t enjoy the process, but there were a lot of benefits that came out of it and very few, if no, negatives. Starting to gain weight was one of the best things I have ever done, and I would never have earned an England vest if I hadn’t done it. Here are a few things that I found changed for the better:
How I perceive weight gain now.
As a healthy and very active individual, I try not to focus on my bodyweight. Obviously, I am only human, so at times of course I do worry whether I have eaten too much, or I’ve put on too much weight, but I never act upon this because I know it is the irrational Hannah trying to control me. She is wrong. I know look at the potential of weight gain in a different light.
So, if you are struggling with the prospect of gaining weight, even if you know you need to, I hope this little insight will help you. These difficult times doesn’t make it any easier. Please don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend or family member, or call a helpline if you need to chat. Please also don’t hesitate to send me a message!
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!