5 important lessons I learned from a running injury

Hello!

It’s taken me a while to get here, but I’ve finally written a new post for the blog – on my 28th birthday!

I will be honest…I have had a few challenges over the past few months, and I think it made me feel a bit down. However, I feel like I have come out the other side, and things are starting to improve again!

If at first you don't succeed...

If at first you don’t succeed…

I was training at full throttle for the Gold Coast Airport marathon (which is this weekend in fact!) and unfortunately right at the start of May I got injured. I couldn’t run for a few weeks and subsequently fell too far behind on my training and had to pull out.

I enjoyed taking a few weeks off from training properly, and it gave me a chance to reflect on what I should have done differently. I did find that I felt worse about myself and life in general when I did less exercise though, which is a big motivator for me to get back into it.

A few things I learned from my injury:

  1. If you try and compensate for missing periods of training, you will likely overtrain and get injured!
  2. One session of cross training per week is not enough.
  3. If you get injured mid-run, STOP immediately.
  4. Swimming is your friend during knee/foot injury – low impact, relaxing and a great way to start the day.
  5. If you stop training, don’t continue eating the same as you were before (I have gained about 3kg/6-7lbs).

I have started running a few times a week, just short distances of 5-6km to let my body get used to it again. And we’ve moved to Manly, living right by the beach so it’s quite nice getting outdoors and seeing the sunrise while I run.

Tomorrow I have an assessment with a new personal trainer who I will be working with for the next 6 months to prepare for the wedding! It’s only 5 months and 3 weeks until the big day now so I have to get cracking. And I think the added strength training will help me become a better runner. I will do a marathon, eventually. But I’m going to take it slow and train properly.

We’re still going up to the Gold Coast this weekend…we had already booked our flights and hotel so we’re off to visit some theme parks and have fun.

Despite a few setbacks over the past few months, I am genuinely feeling a lot more positive and happy – I didn’t think I would but it just took some patience and reflection…

I’ll try not to leave it so long next time and post an update on my training!

Coco xoxo

5 tips for surviving (and enjoying) your first hike

Despite living in the land of swimming, surfing and sharks, and try as I might to fight it, I much prefer land activities to watersports – unlike my fiancé who is a complete water baby.

I have become more appreciative of the outdoors since living in a warm climate. It helps that it is easier to get up and about when the sun shines more often than not, and you rarely have to wear a jacket.

Over Christmas, Ben and I decided to take our first non-Europe/Australia holiday to New Zealand. Just a short three hour flight; I expected it to be similar to Australia but boy, was I wrong.

My first ever (proper) hike – The Milford Track

The biggest achievement from our two weeks in New Zealand was completing the Milford Track – a four day hike, carrying 10+kg backpacks, combatting relentless sandflies, staying in basic huts and preparing our own food – mostly freeze dried – that we carried with us in our packs.

Me on the boat from Te anau downs to the start of the Milford track

Me on the boat from Te anau downs to the start of the Milford track

The Milford Track is one of New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks’ of which there are nine. It covers 53.5 km in Fiordland National Park, which is situated in the south-west of New Zealand’s South Island. You are in the middle of nowhere, and have to take a two hour boat journey from the nearest town, Te Anau to get to the start of the track.

There are two options to complete the route: a guided walk and an unguided walk. We did the unguided – which takes a day less, but is very basic and requires a reasonable amount of preparation including ensuring you are fit enough to carry a heavy pack for several days.

Ben and I at the start of the Milford Track

Ben and I at the start of the Milford Track

You begin the hike in groups of around forty, and have a day to reach each hut, but you can walk at your own speed. There is sufficient time to stop along the way – for a snack, a swim or even spend a few hours reading if you find somewhere scenic to relax.

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At one of the highest parts of the track – snow in December in the southern hemisphere!

 

The hike was absolutely beautiful, and I often had to pinch myself to check I wasn’t dreaming.

It evokes a real sense of freedom to be far from civilisation on an enforced digital detox! There were moments where I wanted to give up (although that’s not an option, unless you want to pay the extortionate chopper fee!), but the sense of achievement at the end was totally worth it.

There were some unexpected parts along the way, and things I wish I’d known beforehand – so I thought I’d share some advice to any newbies like I was.

Five tips for surviving and enjoying your first hike

…from absolute firsthand experience!

1. Do your research on bugs

It sounds like it wouldn’t be a huge deal – I mean, I live in Australia, there are mozzies here – no big deal, right? WRONG! One of the most challenging parts of the Milford Track was dealing with the sandflies. Trust me – even this guy agrees: ‘Sandflies are almost more annoying than mosquitoes, they are smaller but their bites itch even more than mosquito bites.’

At some of the huts I felt like I was going crazy! If I had known before, I would have bought industrial strength bug spray, but I only had some natural eucalyptus stuff which didn’t do a thing. One time I was in bed and they were flying around my face and I had a small hissy fit, a guy leant me his bushman repellent, two sprays and they left me alone. Lesson learnt!

So my advice to you, do some thorough research on any creatures – bugs or animals that may impact your experience and be fully prepared 🙂

2. Bring books and activities to pass the time

If you finish the track several hours faster than expected (which we did a few times) – you have quite a lot of time to kill in the huts. And you can’t go onto the next hut as everyone must stay in a group – there is also a group ahead of you, and behind. I was really glad to have a book with me, and we wish we’d also bought cards.

3. Chat with an experienced hiker before you go

We’re lucky because Ben’s mum is a seasoned hiker (or tramper as they call them in NZ). She goes on many trips – usually solo – all around the world and has done the Milford Track several times. She lent us cooking utensils, clothing, packs, waterproofs – she was a lifesaver.

She also advised us the best frozen packets of food to buy and other things we would never have known! I’m certain if not for her guidance beforehand, we would have forgotten several important things.

An example of the culinary delights available for pack hikers.

An example of the culinary delights available for pack hikers.

If you don’t have someone to check in with for advice, there are quite a few guides online and the Great Walks have a packing list here which is a good place to start.

4. Don’t underestimate the weather

Prepare for the worst – the weather took a turn for the worse on our last day. There was flooding on the track and more rain headed our way!

Being told the bad weather news.

Being told the bad weather news.

The ranger came and told us that we might not be able to leave as planned, which we were quite disappointed about given it was new year’s eve and we were looking forward to partying in Queenstown.

The track ahead of us was closed, so there was literally no way out!

There's no way you're getting past this piece of string...

There’s no way you’re getting past this piece of string…

At 6am on new year’s eve we were awoken by a ranger and ushered into the communal kitchen. We were you must pack and we must leave in 30 MINUTES or you won’t be able to leave the track and may have to pay to be choppered out!

So, we all packed and got ready to leave. In single file we were told to follow the ranger – and we did so for around 3 hours out of the final 6. We had to wade through flood water up to our waist, in the pouring rain. It’s one of those situations where at first you’re squeamish and uncomfortable – but you get to the point where you accept your fate and just focus on getting to the end.

Without wearing waterproofs and having sensible footwear, we might not have made it out in such good shape. We were wet, like everyone else, but thankfully we had our waterproof pack covers and waterproof jackets so it could have been a lot worse!

5. Be mindful and slow down

I found myself drifting off and focusing on the track ahead rather than my surroundings – especially after a few hours – I had to drag myself back into the present so I was able to look around, reflect and appreciate the beauty.

Being aware of how much better life is when you practice mindfulness is essential to being able to do it. Check out this guide from Zenhabits for some useful tips if you are not familiar with the concept.

And it’s not just a tip for hiking, it’s probably worth another blog post altogether because it is easy to underestimate the effect that being present in each moment has on the enjoyment of everyday life.

I look forward to returning to New Zealand sometime and tackling a different walk – it’s a wonderful place and so easy to get to from Australia.

Have you been hiking before? Where did you go? What advice would you give to a first timer?

Coco xo

2015 so far: sunshine, beaches & a PR

After a two month hiatus, I’m back!

I have had a busy few months – Ben & I went to New Zealand in December, and I unexpectedly had to return to the UK in January as unfortunately my grandmother passed away over Christmas.

I’m really glad I was given the opportunity to head back to England in September to spend some time with her, when she was almost fully aware, and able to recognise me. Dementia is an extremely difficult and upsetting illness for both the sufferer and the sufferer’s family. I would not wish it on anyone, but my grandma passed peacefully surrounded by family, which I am very thankful for.

Sarah-Nanny-Me

RIP Nanny Miriam, you were a very special lady who will be sorely missed.

On to some happier news from the past weekend, where I entered into my first 10K race for some time, as I begin to train for the Gold Coast Airport Marathon in July.

The Sun Run is a fairly challenging course, beginning at Dee Why Beach and ending at Manly Beach with a few hills along the way. There are two course distances – 7K and 10K – I entered into the latter with my father-in-law-to-be, Kim who is always up for a challenge.

Me & Kim before the race

Me & Kim before the race

The beautiful 10K coastal course is as follows:


10k

And with perfect conditions of 16-18 degrees and bright sunshine allowing optimum performance, I actually ended up running my fastest ever 10K at 55.40 – despite a serious lack of training! I was enjoying the scenery and keeping a faster than usual pace with the other runners which allowed me to maintain a 5.34/km average page vs my usual 5.50 or so.

It goes to show that (good weather,) attitude and determination make a huge difference. I was in a such a good mood – see the below pic at the start for proof of that!


happyrunner

I’m considering trying out some trail running next, as it really helps when you are absorbed in your surroundings rather than stopping at traffic lights every 5 minutes. I’ll keep you posted what happens with that!

My training schedule for the next 5 months looks something like this..

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 2.45.27 pm

However, I have some horrible blisters at the moment because my trainers have been rubbing, so I am going to spin and swim while they heal this week. And I think it might be time for a new pair.

I also need to incorporate some strength training into my schedule, so I think I will either add in some extra evening sessions or add some weights before or after my runs. Any advice would be appreciated, so please let me know in the comments 🙂

Until next time!

Coco xo

The importance of setting ‘unachievable’ goals

This week saw the start of the Aussie summer! And as it’s almost the end of the year, which got me reminiscing about the past twelve months.

It’s been an eventful 12 months full of good news, bad news and hard work, both in and out of the office. The past few weeks have been particularly intense, as I have been supporting my fiancé Ben with a 6 days a week training schedule – partly dragging him out of bed in the mornings, partly keeping temptations away from him.

Ben and I set ourselves the “unachievable” target of completing one half marathon in 2014. Well, as we near the end of this year Ben has completed three and I have completed two. So we exceeded our goal. And how great that feels!

Not content with completing Blackmore’s Half Marathon, four months ago Ben decided to sign up for one of the greatest challenges out there, the Ironman 70.3.

The Ironman 70.3 is a long distance triathlon organised by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC). The “70.3” number refers to the total distance in miles (113.0 km) covered in the race. It begins with a 1.9km swim, then a 90km cycle and finally a half marathon (21.1km) – one after the other with no breaks!

Well, after finding a 16-week, extremely ambitious training schedule, Ben signed up and the training began. The early mornings and anti-social weekends were a challenge, not to mention having to give up his McDonalds habit (read back on some of his thoughts on the experience here). But 16 weeks later, and a fair few kilograms lighter, the day finally arrived and last weekend we travelled to Penrith for the big race!

High spirits during the run

High spirits during the run

Ben was spectacular and we were all immensely proud of his finishing time, 6 hours and 6 minutes. That’s a huge feat – particularly in 35 degree heat – and a brilliant finishing time for a triathlon virgin! Not to mention he raised over $1500 for the Redkite charity which supports young people suffering from cancer and their families.

For those not quite ready for a solo 70.3, there is also a team option where one person takes part in each stage. I think this could be quite a fun taster, and we’ve discussed entering as a team next year. I think I could handle the run, and maybe the cycle but my swimming isn’t really up to scratch as the cut off is 1 hour and I think I’d need double that :).

Ben cycling

Ben cycling

Beyond the Ironman 70.3, or a half Ironman as it is otherwise known, there is a full Ironman, which is double (!) the distances of the 70.3. Ben has spoken about doing this event sometime in the future, but I think for now he needs to allow his feet to heal as he suffered from Plantar Fasciitis throughout his training, and despite multiple warnings from the physiotherapist, he decided to continue training. Not exactly advisable, but he is stubborn 🙂

The lesson learnt for 2014, is that you shouldn’t shy away from setting yourself a seemingly unachievable goal.

You can and will prove your expectations wrong. It’s a new mind-set. It’s uncomfortable. It’s scary, stressful and hard work but believe me, the high you get from crossing the finish line of an event you never thought you could complete beats any other. And it’s not just the physical finish line after an event like this, I think the same principle can be applied to a challenge in any area of your life.

I’m feeling a bit anxious about attempting a full marathon next year, but that will be my ‘unachievable’ goal for 2015 🙂

We’re off to New Zealand over Christmas and New Year, travelling around the south island. So I’ll definitely have some adventures to report back on in the new year too (including a four day pack walk, staying in huts!).

Ironman!

Ironman!

And of course, many congratulations to Ben, you are my inspiration and I’m so incredibly proud of the strength of character you’ve shown over the past few weeks and months.

Coco xo

Top tips for the beginner Spinner

Spin/spinning/indoor cycling is a popular cardio group workout that involves cycling to music on a stationary bike, usually in the dark. Your bike has a manual dial to alter the bike’s resistance (simulating an uphill ride) depending on how challenging you want it to be, and what the instructor asks you to do.

Photo credit: @theglobalpanorama on Flickr

Photo credit: @theglobalpanorama on Flickr

Only certified Spinning instructors are permitted to teach the “Spinning” class but other group cycling classes exist with different names – cycle, ride etc. Most classes are between 40 and 60 minutes. Some places may offer beginners classes which are shorter, or “pro” classes which are longer.

I recently got back into Spinning and I even managed to hit a 9.15am class today – a Sunday of all days! I was introduced to it back in 2011 when Ben and I started dating. I’d always wanted to try it – but being a gym-phobic, slightly overweight couch potato – it wasn’t something I’d ever seriously considered. Ben inspired me to start swimming a few months prior, and that gave me the confidence to sign up for the gym. I’m a big believer in attending classes, especially when you begin working out since it’s harder to back out of your workout halfway through a class full of people.

The first class was really difficult but I felt tingly and happy afterwards which I find is the sign of a good workout (hello endorphins!). I really ached the first few times, but you should expect that if you are suitably challenged.

Spinning is great for all abilities due to self-managed intensity. It’s also great for those who want to look after their joints as it’s low impact compared to running for example.

What to expect in the class

It’s important to arrive early and let the instructor know you’re new so they can fit you to your bike. There are several parts that need adjusting, and you can do some serious damage to your body if you work out in the wrong position.

Your instructor acts as a guide, and trust me when I say some instructors are better than others which you will figure out quite quickly. You’ll be told to adjust your dial and how fast to “spin”, often to the beat of the music playing. You’ll also be asked to stand up for parts and sit in slightly different positions on the bike. Unlike classes such as Zumba, which I am terrible at, you don’t need to replicate complicated moves and no one can tell if you get it totally wrong!

It’s up to you to work out at your own level and adjust depending on how you feel and how hard you want to work.

The more effort you put in, the more you get out of spin classes – it’s been found that calorie burn can vary from 358 to 715 for a 45-minute class – however I think it could be even lower if you don’t increase your dial enough, so if you’re going to go to the class, you should make the most of it! No pain no gain!

Going it alone

I use the solo spinning bikes at Fitness First sometimes – if I want to do a bit of an extra workout after a treadmill run or elliptical i might do 15-30 minutes on the spin bike.

They look something like this: spinning

I wouldn’t recommend starting on this, but I find it more challenging than the standard exercise bike. You can set the program as if you’re either really cycling on the road or in a class.

Feel like you want to try? Ask yourself these questions.

  • Do you prefer working out in a group setting?
  • Do you enjoy working out to loud music?
  • Do you want a high intensity workout?
  • Are you looking for a low impact exercise?
  • Do you want some control over the intensity of your workout?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, I’d give spinning a go!

You can read more about Spinning on their website here.

Do you enjoy spinning? Why do you prefer it over other exercises? Let me know in the comments!

Coco xo

The quantified self & how I lost 13kg/28lbs in 2013

We live in an age of the quantified self.

That is – tracking devices and pedometers, fitness apps. We’re in a constant state of yearning to improve ourselves and to know as much as we can about what’s going on in our bodies.

My experience with the all-popular Fitbit is not a very lengthy one. I have had four fitbits. I have lost three Fitbits (and one broke).

Fitbit

Once in a club, once on a run and once again in a club. Anyway, I took it as a sign that the Fitbit and I were never meant to be. The Fitbit is a wearable device (clip on or wristband – see above) that essentially tracks all of your activity throughout the day, calories burnt and some devices will also track your sleep. In theory it’s a great idea but for not for someone like me. It may work for you though – I’ve also heard that the Jawbone Up is a good alternative although I haven’t used this one myself.

But this leads me to what I actually want to talk about and that is MyFitnessPal, “the world’s leading health and fitness platform” – a smartphone app that I used to sync with the Fitbit to include my exact steps and activity throughout the day.

MyFitnessPal is a simple concept – you log all the food you eat (you can even scan barcodes) and log your exercise.

Adding food to MFP

Logging food is a scientifically proven way to successfully lose weight as a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found “the more participants recorded what they ate, the more weight they lost in the end. Participants who did not keep a food diary lost about 9 pounds over the course of the study, while those who recorded their food intake six or more days per week lost 18 pounds—twice as much as those who didn’t track any food!”

The MFP food database includes almost everything – I think I have only ever had to manually enter food once or twice. You can even scan barcodes and the app will automatically recognise the nutritional information.

When you begin, the app prompts you set your weight goals and activity levels and it will tailor a calorie plan for you to stick to on a daily basis. I successfully lost 13KG/28lbs using the app last year, and have kept it off so far.

Here's my home screen today.

Here’s my home screen today.

 

I formed a really good gym/exercise relationship as I was using the app – I was really enjoying exercise because entering the calories I had burnt into MFP meant I still had some left for a dessert, or a snack. I still ate chocolate almost every day but we got into the habit of an evening walk that would blitz the extra calories on top of a morning workout 5-6 days per week. We’re planning to continue the evening walks now as it’s starting to get a bit warmer in Sydney 🙂

Chocolate Cake copy

Losing weight is basic mathematics. You need an overall deficit of around 3500 calories for 1lb or .5KG and if you move more, you can eat more. My diet consisted of 1200 calories + exercise for 8 weeks to reach my goal. I think the essential ingredient is willpower (and a dash of patience!).

It also helped me to form some good habits, and I researched the food I eat and the nutrition content which allows me to make better choices now. I think it also helped me to get to know my body better and what works for me.

I still use MFP now, but more as a guide to see how much I’m eating and how much I’m moving each day – I never go without but if I eat badly one day I try and eat less and move more the following day.

MFP also has a message board for users to keep each other motivated and discuss everything food and exercise related. I also highly recommend following their fantastic blog called Hello Healthy full of healthy recipes and exercise related articles and insights – you can read that here.

There is no magic pill help you lose weight unfortunately, but with a bit of exercise and willpower you will get there!

MyFitnessPal is certainly a helping hand to get you started 🙂

You can download MyFitnessPal online for free here.

Coco xo

My first half marathon. And my inner struggle.

Hello!

I took a little break from blogging over the past few weeks. And what a few weeks it has been!

I entered the month of September feeling really off. I didn’t feel motivated at all which isn’t like me. I spent a few days thinking about why that could be, and realised I was longing to see my family back in England. My grandma has dementia, and recently entered a care home which has been a stressful experience for both my grandma and the rest of my family. I think it tipped me over the edge. I decided – at the last minute that I needed to go home for a week and be with them. I actually booked my flight one hour before I had to leave for the airport!

It was really exciting and I had a brilliant whirlwind visit – seeing my grandma and other family members plus my best friends was just the thing I needed and I came back feeling a lot happier for it! However, I do NOT recommend travelling 24 hours in both directions with only eight days there – it was about half the time I’d have liked but I feel so lucky I had the opportunity to do it. Sometimes you have to trust your gut instinct, because 99% of the time it can tell you what you want to know. Here’s a picture of me & my grandma enjoying a glass of sherry at the care home.

Me and Nanny

Me and Nanny

I even managed to keep up my running training while I was overseas. I actually think it reset my body clock as my jetlag was barely noticeable. I landed in London at 6AM, went home, put on my trainers and just ran. It was really therapeutic to run through the english countryside and I really felt “in the moment” as I absorbed my very different surroundings!

When I came back to Sydney it kind of worked the other way, I only felt jetlagged for one or two days. And then I had less than a week until the Blackmores Half Marathon.

I’m pleased to say we ran the whole 21.1KM this weekend with a time of 2.12 (aiming for sub 2.15 so we were pleased with this!) Here’s a picture of me during my sprint finish where I just beat Ben by 1 second. He was trying really hard to catch me, but you know I was determined 😉

The Blackmores Sydney Running Festival Half Marathon

The Blackmores Sydney Running Festival Half Marathon

The course is fantastic – there are similarities with the Sydney Harbour 10K – but you actually run over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and through the Sydney CBD and Botanic Gardens which is a nice change. There were so many drinks stations and it was really well organised (except for a few strangely placed KM signs – it’s not that inspiring to see the 16KM mark at 13KM – so you think you only have 5KM to go, when in fact you have 8!). I’ll definitely be doing either the half or full marathon next year.

Course Maps

Course Maps

Not ready for marathoning? Well that’s the great thing about this event – there is a family fun run of 4KM and a 9KM “bridge run” for those who fancy something a bit shorter. It was nice to see whole families doing the fun run, and I hope that one day I can do stuff like that with my kids too.

Now I’m really contemplating what my next challenge will be, and I think whilst aiming for a quicker half marathon time is on the cards, I want to complete a full marathon. As positive as this blog is, I also want it to be real. And to be honest I struggle with all the things that go on in life and where I want to go with it all. I want to go out with friends – drink, socialise but I also really want to live a healthy lifestyle and achieve my fitness goals. It’s a bit of a constant battle in my head and my heart, but I know what the answer is and I’ve come to realise that I will have to make some sacrifices to be able to do the things I REALLY want to do in this life i.e. run a full marathon and keep a consistent training schedule where I am feeling my best. I know I’m not alone in this struggle being young and wanting to have fun – but I think it’s important to get your priorities straight and envisage your long term goals so you can make the right decisions in the short term.

That being said, you have to enjoy life so the occasional day/night off isn’t going to hurt. The other thing I realised from the half marathon is that life happens and no one is going to stick to their training schedule exactly, so you need to be flexible but committed. I like the fact that throughout my running “career” I’m learning all the time, I read as much as I can and always ask more experienced people for tips because they are the ones that know the truth!

I have my sights on the Cadbury Marathon in Hobart, Tasmania which is in January – only four months away but since we’re on a training roll I think it could be a good motivator to continue on this path. The registrations haven’t yet opened, so we’ll see. I cannot imagine doing a marathon, but then again I couldn’t even imagine running a half this time last year.

So – my advice is sign up for that race – 5KM, 10KM or whatever distance and just go for it. You only live once.

Coco xo