Curves and learning curves: #jigglingjugs

It’s been almost four months since I started my quest to learn how to run so I thought it was time to look back at the highs, lows and surprises along the way.

When I started the unofficial Quest to 5k, I always thought when I finally reached it I’d write a blog which flashed and whooped sirens and announced to the world “Hurrah – WE HAVE REACHED 5K”

But it’s not really happened like that. I have reached 5k – yay! But it’s still rare, it’s very difficult and more often than not I have to walk for a few minutes (so technically, if I’m being pedantic, I’ve probably not actually run it completely).

I assumed once I’d run 5k that would be it. I’d be running it with ease, I’d never do less than that distance and I’d easily progress on to a 10k.

Oh how wrong I was. As Aimee wrote in her blog about hormones, I’ve found there’s a whole load of reasons why hitting 5k still feels elusive. A bout of Norovirus a few weeks ago seems to have really set me back, not to mention the days when I generally feel a bit sluggish, bloated or wine-soaked.

So I’ve lowered my sights and now I aim for 3k. It’ll never win me a Park Run position but it still feels an achievement and more importantly, is still really good exercise. There are odd days when I can push past 3k on to the glorious 5k but if not, I’ll settle for less.

I’ve also learnt a few things about my body when it runs. I always want to give up in the first 10 minutes – as though I literally haven’t hit my stride yet. If I need to stop and walk, it’s more likely to be in the first 20 minutes rather than the last 20 minutes.

I’ve learned how to regulate my breathing, I know when I need to drop my pace or push through a pain barrier (more commonly known as a hill).

As for my #jigglingjugs – well I’d like to say running has made them firmer and more perky but sadly, only plastic surgery will work those miracles. What is true, is that my back and arm muscles are more toned and more importantly, behind those boobs are a healthier pair of lungs and heart.

And, while there have been many reasons why I don’t fancy a jog on certain days, I can honestly say my boobs have never been one of them.

Love #jigglingjugs


Hormones: #jigglingjugs

Hormones 

It’s been a game of two halves this week, as these football pundits like to say. This blog was going to be about my breathtaking achievement of running over 4k without a break.

I’m so glad I didn’t boast about this glory as when I went back to the gym two days later, I crashed and burned. What the hell happened? I couldn’t do more than two or three minutes without stopping for a walk. I couldn’t get into any kind of rhythm or pace. How could I possibly go from running 25 minutes to not even running five minutes?

After 10 minutes of misery, I came off the treadmill and thought right, I’m obviously not feeling it today so I’ll just do weights instead. But I couldn’t settle doing weights as I was so annoyed with myself.

So I got back on the treadmill and managed another five pathetic, half-walking, half-jogging, half-limping minutes.

I stormed home in a temper and burst into tears with my husband, who was having a lie-in and thought we’d been burgled. I stood there covered in sweat and tears and snot raging about the randomness of running and the fact I’d gone back to square one. And my poor husband hugged me and said, “Bloody hell love, you’re talking like Jessica Ennis. Do you think you’re hormonal because you’re being irrationally hard on yourself?”

And it’s true, I was indeed hormonal. Instead of focusing on my major achievement earlier in the week, all I could do was beat myself up. Okay, it hadn’t been a great run but I’d still run and a few weeks ago, any kind of running was unimaginable.

I am truly my own worst enemy but I’ve learnt a good lesson that no one is judging me apart from myself. I need to be kinder to myself, I need to be my own cheerleader. Go girl go! Just make sure this rubbish running doesn’t happen again for another 28 days!

Love #jigglingjugs x

Go with the flow

The Scientific Bit

In the first part of the menstrual cycle, the follicular stage, training should be focused on high intensity and heavy lifting. In this phase oestrogen is the dominant hormone meaning a higher pain threshold and increased insulin sensitivity leading to better muscle building capacity and reduced fat storage ability (2).

In the second phase, the luteal stage, progesterone takes over the role of dominant hormone, thereby reversing everything mentioned above. Strength training is still beneficial but you may find that you aren’t able to perform or lift what you usually do or can during the follicular stage. Focus on relaxing and restorative exercises including foam rolling and stretching during this part of the menstrual cycle. Also shift the focus from short intense sessions to longer, endurance based, fat burning sessions (2).

tumblr_inline_ojd6w8qfel1sst5on_1280

Image from Clue Blog (1)

If you are using a form of hormone contraceptive, your cycle will look different to this and therefore you might not experience the same effects on your training and body as mentioned above (1).

The Reality Bit

Basically every woman is different and you are all training for different reasons, at different intensity levels, all while dealing with varying levels of stress. Plus every one of you will experience your own personal menstrual cycle and individual symptoms, as Heather Watson knows all too well, putting her poor performance on the tennis court down to “girl problems”(3).

It’s important to know your own body. Use the above section as a guideline but listen to your body and trust your instincts. If you feel like lifting some heavy weights, brilliant, but if you feel more like a chilled out yoga based stretching session at home in your comfy pants, do it! Don’t get too bogged down with what part of your cycle you are in and don’t beat yourself up.

I use a really good period tracking app called Clue. It lets me add in additional information so I can keep a log of what my body is doing, how I feel and what training I’ve done. Start using it and see if you can see a pattern developing.

This also seems like an appropriate place to mention about reusable sanitary protection products. They are great so i’m on a mission to make sure everyone knows about them! There are loads to pick from, from cloth pads and panty liners to menstrual cups. I use a Mooncup but there is lots of different versions available now. Not only are they a healthier option for you and your vajaja, you also save money and the planet – boom! I have exercised and ran with my Mooncup in and never had any bad experiences. It can take a bit of getting used to at first so I would recommend using a pad as well the first few times you try it.

The Take Home Bit

Just keep moving and exercising whatever stage or time of the month you are in. Find something that you enjoy doing and just keep doing it. Listen to your body, love it lots and go with the flow!

References

(1) http://blog.helloclue.com/post/155486134861/cycle-science-hormonal-contraception-and-your

(2) https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2015/03/planning-your-exercise-around-your-menstruation-cycle/

(3) http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/fitness/how-the-menstrual-cycle-influences-athletic-performance/article22989539/

I Heart Running: #jigglingjugs

I Heart Running

As it’s St Valentine’s week, I thought we’d make this blog all about love. Love of running that is.


I’m still in those heady early days of passion where running consumes my thoughts. I talk about it with awe, marvel at people’s long term affairs with marathons and share knowing smiles with other equally-smitten joggers.


But I had a sharp jolt the other day when I met an old friend who used to run every week in all weathers. When I asked how it was going, she just shrugged and said: “I haven’t run for ages. I fell out of love with it really.”


Gasp! How can this be? She always seemed so secure and happy in her running relationship. If it happened to her, can it happen to me? How can I nurture this blooming romance without burning out and binning it?


I know, as with any new hobby, there comes a point where you do lose the all-consuming first flush of enthusiasm. My ex-loves include swimming and pilates and I have been dumped by aerobics and step classes, no longer in fashion.


This week, without realising, I hardly ran. I’d gone from making it my number one priority in a morning, to letting things slide. Normal life crept in, swallowed up my time and before I knew it, it felt a bit of an effort to give my trainers a workout.


Much as I’m evangelical about running, I do find it hard. Sometimes I feel as though I’m not making any progress, it can be painful and it would be really easy to have my head turned by a packet of Jammy Dodgers.


So how do you keep the love alive? Do you spice things up by varying your routes? Are there times when you’re not in the mood and just have to hit the road and think of England?


For me, my real-life loves keep me going. When my husband jokes about my Bruce Willis muscles, when my children teach me their racing techniques and when I have shopping chats with Aimee about new trainers. All those little comments add up 

and make me think, yeah, I do like this. Let’s carry on a bit longer and see what happens. No pressure, just feel the love.


Love #jigglingjugs

The Secret: #jigglingjugs

Shhh… let me share a secret with you. No one knows I’m doing this running lark apart from you dear reader. Well you, Aimee, my husband and two friends.

I’ve been training for weeks now and haven’t told anyone. Like Batman, #jigglingjugs is my alter ego which unfortunately makes poor Aimee my Alfred. Not only does she have to devise all my training plans, she also has to listen to my ramblings and endless questions at all times of night and day.


I’ve been wondering why I’ve kept this such a secret? I mean, it’s really not a big deal. I have several friends who have just started running and happily post photos of themselves at Park Run on Facebook. Why do I find it so hard to tell anyone?

I think the main reason is fear of failure. If this running lark comes to a sudden end, no one will be any the wiser. Tried it, didn’t manage it, move on. Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies about how I almost cracked the half marathon.

And the other reason is I’m worried people will suddenly think I’m super fit. I haven’t lost any weight running so I don’t look any different. If I tell anyone, I’m sure they’ll look me up and down and think “yeah right love, running to eat more pies”.

The day I tell someone that I run is the day I’ll have to jog across a road, trip up and be hit by a bus. As I’m carted off to A&E that person will be shaking their head saying to the paramedics “Poor thing, she reckoned she was a runner but it was all pretend.”

But, as in any good comic, my secret is about to be exposed. A friend has signed me up for bloody Park Run. My name will be on the list and no doubt there will be Facebook photos.

If you see someone running in a Batman mask, that’ll be me…

Love #jigglingjugs

The Great Outdoors: #jigglingjugs

So class, when is a runner not a runner? Discuss.

This is a conversation I have with Aimee quite a lot. She says, quite rightly, that anyone who isn’t walking is running. There are no rules, it’s not cheating to walk part of the way and there is no such thing as the fitness police to tell you off.

But I still can’t convince myself that I am a runner. I’m training regularly now, I’m hitting the 4k mark without needing to stop and walk but I still don’t feel as though I’ve earned my place on that mythical podium with the other Lycra-clad joggers.

Up until now, all my training has been on the treadmill so maybe if I jog outside, it will feel like proper running? 

Husband is a frequent jogger so he very kindly offers to come with me on my first foray outdoors. And the first thing I notice is – in his words – the “gentle slope”. It doesn’t look gentle. It looks like a whacking great hill.

And that’s my problem with running outdoors. In Sheffield, you live on a permanent semi-horizontal tilt. Hills look daunting and bloody hard work and then there’s ice, and crappy patched-up pavements and dog poo to negotiate.

My second issue with running outside is all of a sudden I have to think about what to wear. Do I wear a bodywarmer, fleece or thin jacket? What about a hat and gloves? Do I carry a water bottle? If I felt self-conscious at the gym, I feel even more so chugging along a road with a steady stream of motorists.

And finally, where do you wee?? Ok, so I can quite comfortably run 4k without needing the loo but that’s because I have the reassurance of the gym toilet. What do I do if I get caught short while running outdoors?!

With all these thoughts whirling around, we set off. And it’s really tough. I knew it would be simply because of the hills and the weather but I’m struggling. I manage to do 4k but it hasn’t been enjoyable.

I miss my flat treadmill and the warmth of the gym and I miss being able to see how far, how fast and how long I’ve run. If I never ran outdoors again, and only ever ran on a treadmill, would that mean I’m not a proper runner? Answers on a postcard please (or leave me a comment below….)

Love #jigglingjugs

Blade runner: #jigglingjugs

Bladerunner

We’re in Manchester on a Saturday night and we’re late for the theatre. We have shopping bags, three children and 10 minutes to make it to a show that has cost an arm and a leg.

The city centre is heaving and there are road closures everywhere. “Let’s get a taxi,” I tell my husband, but traffic is crawling.

Then my voice says, “We could run. I can run now.”

And there is a fundamental turning point in this whole story. For the first time since being a kid, I feel I can run in public, without being embarrassed and without the fear of collapsing after a few yards. I’ve gone from doing everything possible to avoid even the slightest jog to actively suggesting a run.

It’s all well and good doing the treadmill but this is the first time I’ve had to put my running into practice in real life and I’m amazed that I feel ready for it.

So, we grab bags and children and we run. Immediately I realise my rooky mistake – I’m not wearing my sports bra and my #jigglingjugs are in their element. Luckily, my big winter coat maintains my modesty.

My kids are fantastic little runners so I explain it’s just like cross country but with human obstacles (namely drunken blokes and one man laid out in a gutter in full fancy dress). We duck and dive through the Bladerunner streets of Manchester and I feel a little smug that not only am I running, I’m also carrying extra weight (through shopping bags) and manouvering in different directions.

We approach a group of tipsy men and I shout ahead in that awfully polite English manner, “excuse me please, could we possibly pass?” The group parts as we run through and a few of the men shout encouraging comments along the lines of “Go on love, let the lady through, keep it up.”

We arrive at the theatre in time and I’m a bit breathless but not bent double with stitch and not gasping for air. My seven- year-old gives me a high five.

My husband raises his eyebrows and says, “We didn’t need to run, we’d have made it in time walking. You just wanted to run because you’ve gone all Rocky since doing your training.”

He’s right. Bring it on!

Love #jigglingjugs x

Demoralised: #jigglingjugs

Demoralised (week three)

It’s January and the gym is heaving. It’s full of fit people. Fit people in wisps of Lycra barely covering flat stomachs who look like they’re rehearsing for the Royal Ballet. 


Why are all these fit people in the gym? Surely they’ve reached their NHS England health targets and have earned the right to slump in front of Homes Under the Hammer with a pork pie? 


As soon as I walk into the gym, I want to turn around and go home. I’m fat and middle-aged and unfit. Who am I kidding with this running lark? I feel like Morrissey under a grey gloomy cloud amid the endorphins of the perfect people.


I skulk onto a treadmill between a woman dressed like Black Widow from the Avengers and a man who I expect to start backflipping across the room. 


I desperately don’t want to be here. My Mega 80s Mix comes on my ipod, reminding me again of just how old I am. This is embarrassing, how can I “run” next to people who are skipping through 10k without breaking into a sweat?


As I start plodding, I think what encouraging words Aimee would say and try to recall inspiring quotes from Pinterest but none of it is working. There is an elephant in the room and it is me. 


I glance at Black Widow who is gracefully gliding along, her feet making little fairy taps as they land softly on the treadmill. She doesn’t look up. 


And backflipping guy, now grunting in the weights section, doesn’t catch my eye either. 


And that’s when I realise, they don’t care. Not in a bad, sociopathic-I-want-to-boil-you-alive way, they don’t care because they areconcentrating on their own training. 


They don’t care if I go home and stuff my face with a Chocolate Orange. They don’t care if I keel over with a heart attack in 10 years time or enter the New York marathon. 


But I care. I care enough about my health to be here. I care that I watched a Panorama programme about diabetes that scared me witless. I care that I have children and I needto get healthy for them. I care that when I’m 80, I want to be like one of the Golden Girls out jogging with my grandkids.


And then I realise I’ve run several minutes without stopping thanks to my self-criticism diverting my attention.


I leave the gym happier and notice on the way out that backflipping guy is struggling with lighter weights than I can lift. Not that I care (I do really, hurrah, I am fit after all!) 


Love #jigglingjugs 

Cheerleaders: #jigglingjugs 

Cheerleaders (week 2)

I am a runner. Tra-laa!

Ok, I use the word “runner” loosely, what I really mean is that I jog a bit, walk a bit and wonder how people can blithely skip through 5k races without needing oxygen tanks.  

But I am definitely running at a speed of 7.5 on the treadmill. There’s no rhyme or reason to my training, I basically run for as long as I can then when my lungs feel about to burst, I walk for a bit.

After chatting with Aimee about the Couch to 5k app, we decided I was doing ok by myself. I run for about two and a half minutes at 7.5 then walk for 30 seconds at 4.5. I repeat this for about 10 minutes. Knowing it’s a bite size chunk of really helps get through the pain barrier.

I’m still getting to grips with the treadmill mechanics. I’ve realised that I can’t run while reading subtitles on BBC News (it has the same effect of drinking cider while spinning on a Waltzer). I find myself gazing at the treadmill screen, not quite knowing where to look or what to think about and I don’t know whether I’m more concerned about having a cardiac arrest or tripping and breaking my nose.

What is fantastic is the support I’m getting. There are two lovely old boys at the gym in their 60s who often whoop across the room at me yelling “Go on my girl, you’re doing great!” I daren’t look around for fear of falling over so I simply grin and do a thumbs-up.

Learning to run is daunting so having your own cheerleader, whether it’s your mum, partner, mate or gym instructor, makes all the difference. Aimee is great, a brilliant blend of a highly trained profession who also makes you laugh and enjoys the craic.

If Aimee’s not there, the on-duty gym instructors will often give words of encouragement and plenty of thumbs up. Never be afraid to talk to them – they’re very chatty, friendly and advising you on techniques is all part of their job.

Strangers can also be very supportive. One lovely lady commented on my running and when I joked about my beetroot face and sweat, she said: “But that shows you’re really working, I hate these women who come to the gym with a full face of make- up as it intimidates me.”

And my husband is my biggest fan. During a romantic cuddle, he whispered: “Your back is getting muscular, like Bruce Willis in Die Hard.” I’ll take that as a compliment.

love #jigglingjugs x

The Start: #jigglingjugs 

The Start (week one)

When I was a kid I used to run. I’d play British Bulldog endlessly, do laps on the school field in PE and sprint for the bus without a second thought. Then I turned 13 and grew boobs.

All of a sudden, running was like a scene from Carry On. Sports bras weren’t common in the 1980s and the flimsy underwear from Chelsea Girl really didn’t do the job. My teenage self-consciousness, coupled with a few jeers and leers from pubescent lads, stopped me in my tracks.

Since then, I’ve stuck to exercise where my curves can be covered and contained, such as swimming. I have several lovely friends who run but are so slim they’re like woodland nymphs gambolling gracefully in pink lyrca.

My Facebook timeline is full of Map My Run achievements, the Couch to 5k app is a constant conversation topic with other friends while Park Run and Percy Pud should be phrases in the New Oxford English Dictionary.

But none of this ever inspired me. In fact, if a mad axeman was chasing me I’d probably stand and give bare knuckle fighting a go rather than breaking into a trot.

Then two things happened. First of all, I bumped into Aimee at the gym and as I was studiously avoiding the treadmill, I casually mentioned my hatred of running. I joked about the danger of getting two black eyes and that I wasn’t built for jogging with my #jigglingjugs Aimee raised an eyebrow and in that wonderful lilting Middlesbrough accent said: “Give over. Get on the treadmill and stop making excuses girl.” Or words to that effect.

Then a couple of days later, I was talking to a male friend about jogging and he said: “Yes, I never saw you as the running type.” There was no malice behind his comment but it had a resounding effect. I stood there thinking: “Oooh, I’m allowed to say I don’t run, but I don’t want you thinking that of me.”

So I went to the gym and I ran. Now this wasn’t some Chariots of Fire moment, when I say “ran” I mean I jogged a bit, walked a bit, panted, went bright red and sweated all over my husband’s t-shirt which I’d worn to cover my figure. I managed 10 minutes, one minute walking and two minutes jogging. The evidence is below!


But the #jigglingjugs behaved themselves impeccably in my sports bra. No one laughed, commented or even glanced in my direction. The added bonus was I didn’t keel over and die either.

So that’s how it all began. Next time, I’ll fill you in on my progress, how I’ve acquired some fab cheerleaders and why I’m definitely getting a t-shirt saying: “I know my face is red….”

Love #JigglingJugs x