Back in the saddle just weeks after appendectomy

British cycling star Lizzie Deignan is taking part in a championship today in Norway today – four weeks after her training was disrupted by emergency surgery to remove her appendix.

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The 28-year-old had to pull out of an event in Holland to undergo the operation on 30 August.

Lizzie, who won Britain’s first medal – a silver – at London’s 2012 Olympics under her maiden name Armitstead, has shown Olympian-style determination in securing her place in the starting line-up – admitting she needed to take to her bed following training sessions for the Norway event.

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Lizzie posted this picture on social media after her operation

In an interview with BBC Sport the reigning Commonwealth road race champion admitted it came as a shock – but she couldn’t stop thinking ahead.

She said, “It’s quite bizarre to be in such form, in such fine form – I was really going quite well – to wake up the next day in a hospital bed and think ‘right, that’s it, it’s over’.

“And I just had this small bit of hope that I could make it here and it wasn’t something that I was ready to give up on.

“Every day I was analysing how I was feeling, which isn’t probably the best thing for your recovery – I should’ve just let it go for a little bit, but I didn’t and I fought on and I’m here.”

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Lizzie at the 2012 London Olympics where she won Britain’s first medal (Photo: Cycling Weekly)

After around 13 days of bed rest, she realised she’d lost around two kilogrammes of muscle – something she admits was frustrating given the fact her training regime involved “sacrificing other races” in order to build up her strength.

Subsequent training resulted in Lizzie “being in my bed every hour after each bike ride just thinking ‘oh, that was painful!'”

But her motivation to line up as part of the seven-strong women’s team remained strong.

Lizzie told the BBC it was partly the enthusiasm of the Norwegian fans that made today’s event attractive, plus the fact did a recon of the circuit back in May and reckoned it would be “perfect” for her.

She added “My career is coming slowly to an end – there’s a few more years in me yet – but I know that if I look back in a few years I would definitely regret not giving it a go.”

THE UPDATE..

Predictably, Lizzie wasn’t victorious, finishing 41st in the event, after “fading” in the final lap.

In a Guardian article, she reflected, “My team-mates kept me going. If I wasn’t in a team as strong as that I would have been tempted to pull out. But I thought: ‘I can’t let these girls down, I have to be there as long as I can’.”

The surprise winner was Dutch cyclist Chantal Blaak, whose “day job” involves working as a domestique for for Deignan in the Boels-Dolmans squad.

Now obviously as an outsider to cycling I thought “domestique” meant something like “domestic” so I had visions of Ms Blaak on her hands and knees scrubbing floors but no, the term apparently means being something like a pace-maker for other, higher-profile cyclists.

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Winner Chantal Blaak weeps (Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Image

 

The Dutch woman’s victory came despite a heavy crash earlier in the event which drew blood on her right shoulder, and which she feared would put her out of the race altogether.

Lizzie Deignan said: “I am so pleased for Chantal…

“She had such a hard crash we heard that she was out. And yet there she was!”

Both women evidently will not let illness or injury stand in the way of their sport.

 

 

When you can’t run the London Marathon

I’m one of the many runners who won’t be taking part in today’s London Marathon – but that’s for the simple and shockingly straightforward reason that I haven’t entered it!London Marathon - Eddie Keogh Reuters

Consider then, the poor individuals who have – but who’ve had to pull out through injury or illness.

One of my former work colleagues says on FaceBook he’s “gutted” he’s had to sit this one out, but urges other runners “have a great race and soak up the atmosphere”.

But the good news – for those who got in via the ballot – is if you had to withdraw your entry through illness or injury the organisers say they will guarantee you an entry for the 2018 event – as long as you follow these guidelines, that is!

Good Luck to everyone taking part today.

 

We’re still not doing enough – apparently!

Women are 36 per cent less likely than men to be physically active.

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Are we stretching ourselves enough?

That’s according to new research by the British Heart Foundation which claims this lack of physical inactivity in both sexes is likely to cause as many deaths as smoking.

And the study goes on to say a third of British people are at risk of heart disease because of a lack of exercise.

Now if you look at the date my last blog post you’ll see I’m guilty of a lack of blogging activity!

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Feline fine  – I have no exercise statistics for cats

My observations would simply be that if you don’t really like exercise then it’s hardly going to be a regular part of your life (just like the “strict diet” we’ve all announced we’re going on at some stage and which usually lasts the best part of one morning).

We are told two million Brits are apparently not meeting government targets of how physically active we should be.

Government targets? Yes, apparently they do exist for fitness. (Take a look at the NHS-recommended ones here.)

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Nobody LIKES burpees

The idea of the government telling us to get fit and healthy (almost Orwellian!) – once inspired me to write an article for BBC News on how MPs get fit. Do they practice what their employers preach?

Of course I’m going to come back to why it’s women who are taking significantly less exercise.

I don’t see a marked lack of females when I do my Guerrilla training. If anything the men are outnumbered, especially in the morning classes and at weekends.

So what’s happening?

After all, this report has highlighted the fact that even “active” people are at risk if they don’t do vigorous exercise.

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No it’s  the other way round

Now while I’ve yet to meet anyone who actually enjoys doing things like star jumps and burpees – it’s stuff like that that can really make the difference – and, as many women will testify, gives them more body confidence when they hit the town or get into their bikinis!

Of course it goes beyond worrying about your appearance – Thank God – and I’d like to think we’re past the idea of exercise being unladylike or unfeminine.

Women’s sport is getting more coverage – just look at the Oxford/Cambridge boat race coverage at the weekend.

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We know, we know

But then I’m looking more at exercise being a lifestyle thing rather than something competitive.

Adele’s gone on the record saying she hates exercise.

And speaking as somebody who heartily loathed P.E. and sports days at school, I don’t think anybody should be forced into it.

So I’m wondering – could this element of feeling one is being coerced be the reason one GP-referral programme of council-funded fitness classes was recently axed?

South Tyneside Council said only 17% of participants completed it and less than 10% became more active.

But whatever the reason, I’m pretty sure it had nothing to do with gender!

 

 

It’s That Time of (New) Year Again

A long, long time ago I used to dread Thursday nights at the gym.

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Because that was Boring Couples night.

The protagonists would dress up in gym gear (so far so good) – and sometimes they’d even use the equipment! But most of the time they’d just sit on it chatting.

The whole impression was that of a Cocktail Hour in Lycra.

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Had any one of these wretched single units that comprised the whole entity of the Thursday night invasion at any one point thought for itself and formulated the dreaded New Year Resolution?

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I’ll never know. But I’m pretty sure that now, yes right now* – years later at the very start of 2017 – gyms, keep-fit classes and the like across the UK will be simply bulging with the predictable influx of people who simply wouldn’t be interested at any other time.

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I am fully expecting to be struck down in the most Karma-like way imaginable for what I’m about to say next.

But in January my aim is always to avoid these New Year Resolution types if at all possible – if only to protect my sanity.

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Anyone who reads this blog knows fitness is one of my coping strategies,  a way of controlling the bits of my body I’m no so keen on.

And those wobbly bits  need tackling 365 days a year – they don’t just suddenly appear on New Year’s Day like a late delivery from Santa!pejo3hh7nq2dsjlkgmhpImagine then, what it’s like to suddenly have to compete for time/space in what’s often a very personal fight.

So let’s say you do normally do an evening class and you rock up as usual….

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Welllll, in January  suddenly you can’t because it’s full – OR you’ve wised-up to the fact that too many sets of flailing arms in a limited space where you’re all holding hand-weights is just a tad dangerous.

(Trust me I have experience of both – and I hope the latter stays back in the nineties!)

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As already said, I expect to be sent blazing to Hell for my arguably uncharitable opinions regarding what almost feels like a fight for territory but if YOU exercise regularly here are some tips to handle the New Year Resolution brigade:

10 New Year’s Resolution-ers To Avoid At The Gym including “Smart phone dummies”, “wannabe fitness models”, my pet-hate “the couples” and the inevitable “temps” (though hopefully all these characters will be temporary!)zoolander-the_look_you_have

And then there’s Men’s Health’s Crowded Gym Survival Guide – maybe a bit more brutal than I’d be but then hey, I’m not a body-builder…

I have no problems with anyone wanting to get fit (and I’m pretty sure the vast majority are not stereotypical pains-in-the-backside)  but, when it’s a significant amount of people at the same time, then – well, I’m just going to have to shut up, aren’t I?!

My tactics?this-guy-at-the-gym-just-did-four-sets-of-selfies

Remember that, for most, the keep fit good intentions are as seasonal – and as short-lived, as the Festive Period itself

Plan around it – go to the earlier, less popular classes. Do more solo running

Be philosophical – it’s not that bad

Remember the reason I started this blog in the first place – I broke my foot. It’s mended!

For any people trying to avoid the gym hoards in the Bronx, NY, there’s GoJimgo on Twitter – which states: “Know before you go. We tell you how many machines are available at your gym. In real time.”

I’d love to know if this can work in practice – or in the UK!

*”Now”? Yes now! There are gyms that open 24/7!

Halloween – who’s scared of a PB?

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Don’t you just love an Autumn run?

I can’t say my Hanley Park Run antics today were in any way worthy of the Halloween theme – unless you count the most tenuous of links with the urge to throw up.

Pushing myself running tends to push certain bodily functions into the equation but thankfully that didn’t happen and another Personal Best was achieved!

The nausea kicked in after one zealously-tackled hill and again after finishing (I always feel compelled to redeem my slow self with a sprint at the end).

The Park Run I go to deploys pacers on the last Saturday of every month – so I’d got in the mind-set of following one.

Alas, there were none in my exact target range! (Though that’s a future plan..)

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Pacers are deployed once a month

So I picked a trio of women from Stoke F.I.T. (Friends In Training) who did finish about 45 seconds ahead of me in the end.

Two of them kept up a steady babble of conversation which, when I was close enough to hear it, I tried to use to take my mind off my exertions!

We were overtaken by a family in fancy dress – now being overtaken always feels crap anyway, but when they’re in fancy dress?

A former colleague remembers the humiliation of being overtaken by Batman in the London Marathon and I myself have been bettered by Mr Potato Head in the Robin Hood Half in Nottingham, a race in which Scooby Doo regularly provides an indicator as to when it’s time to dig deep!

Back to Park Run and I watched the receding skeleton wings on the boy, with dad in a cloak – I also knew he was wearing a mask (reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s “Scream”) which made him sound like he was talking through a snorkel when, previously, he loomed behind us en famille

Image courtesy of ajround.com

 

I had some hunch I’d done a good time when one of the organisers at the finish shouted “C’mon Emma?” – and looked a bit surprised to see me.

My Guerrilla training has contributed not only to a couple of personal bests in the last few weeks but also knocking a good couple of minutes off my previous time, so it would appear I have discovered the alchemy necessary to produce Personal Best “gold”.

I caught up with the Stoke F.I.T. trio and said I’d used them as pacemakers, hoped they didn’t mind and thanked them.

I felt I’d somehow “gate-crashed” their run  but Laura, the first woman I spoke to, said that was fine – and to be honest, I don’t think they’d been too aware of my presence.

She said the chat, between two of them, had been aimed at taking the silent third one’s mind of her running (I think she had a bit of hip pain or something).

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Stoke F.I.T. members (seen here at a summer event!) have a brilliant club ethos

Laura added something like if you could speak about seven words a sentence without gasping whilst running then that’s a fair indicator your breathing’s okay.

Despite the fact that I normally talk a lot, I couldn’t have uttered one word at that pace!

Another of the trio, Kirsty, emphasised the point was to be helpful and nobody is ever left alone on a Stoke F.I.T. training run – they’ll come back for you if need be.

This generosity of spirit is not just confined to team-mates, it extends to other runners too.

“It’s the club ethos. You can always tell if someone’s a ‘Fitter’ ‘cos that’s what we do”.

Once I’d fuelled up with tea and hot buttered toast at the Park Run Café, I joined another “Fitter” on the walk home, and got more running advice.

Lee advised me to “push from my glutes” (buttock muscles!) when running up hills (“it’s easier to push than pull”).

Isn’t it amazing? Slow or not, I’ve loved running since I was a teenager and I’m still learning!

 

 

 

Hats Off To Larry

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Larry’s mission was to shrink obesity worldwide – starting with himself

A man who inspired many people on FaceBook with his weight loss journey died earlier this morning.

 

Larry Evans, from St Louis, US, once weighed 800lbs (just over 57 stone) but his work-out videos on social media offered hope to many who, arguably, couldn’t be reached any other way.

His passing was confirmed by family on FaceBook. Subsequent press reports said Larry had died aged 40, and friends relatives confirmed he had been battling pneumonia.

Larry founded Let’s Shrink Obesity/Team Larry and charted his progress, and his exercise regime, via short videos. Some were watched as many as 27,837,900 times!

In doing this, his mission was to inspire everyone to GET UP, GET OUT & DO SOMETHING. He wanted to shrink obesity around the world – starting with himself.

Avoiding fad diets and weight-loss surgery, he managed to lose 11 stone over a two-year period through sensible diet and exercise alone.

All Larry asked was that nobody judge him.

In an earlier post, where I described how he inspired meI mentioned how I hoped to interview him for this blog at some point. Sadly this will never happen.

RIP Larry.

And let’s remember him how, I imagine, he’d like to be remembered – working out!

 

 

 

Choice – or is it?

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Yes I do remember when all the above applied.

And you know what?

None of this was directly down to an unhealthy choice, it was down to a supposedly healthy necessity – I’d broken a bone in my foot and doctors advised me not to do any exercise that involved putting weight on it (in other words my normal exercise routine!)

Admittedly I could have been more creative in how I adapted my workouts but in practice this didn’t happen.

One of the many results was a limited choice for work outfits for summer.  A big bust, flabby upper arms and a slight belly are better off hidden under baggy black tops. The Guerrilla training I was forbidden to do would’ve sorted the issue.

Now, of course, that’s in the past. And I’m very, very grateful I can run today – I’m in my running gear as I type this and the sun is shining outside! Am I procrastinating?

Good Luck to everyone who likes working out but who’s still recovering from injury. It won’t happen overnight but it will happen! Hang on in there.

Anonymous Running

“I’m slow. I know. Get used to it”.

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Should a slow runner go undercover?

Trouble is – I can’t. 

When I did my first 10k (in Derby) I just knew a particular woman had “targeted” me to overtake. And in my second Robin Hood Half Marathon (Nottingham) I was almost ground down by the tapping behind me of a senior walker’s poles – just like the ticking of Captain Hook’s crocodile!

While I accept there’ll always be an element of competition when you’re in a race – and my challenge is not to finish last – it becomes even worse when you’re out running and minding your own business.

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I didn’t come last

It isn’t even always another runner – for some reason, I’ve had the odd man in his street clothes accidentally-on-purpose breaking into a run and overtaking me (on one occasion on a Nottingham towpath after taking an ostentatious drag of his cigarette). Like the presence a running woman is a threat to his virility?

Like, do I really need all this during what is often a coping strategy?

Suddenly you’re singled-out to be overtaken – and feel like a loser.

I have always been a bad loser!

So what gambits can I deploy to avoid this? Here are some:

  • Suddenly stopping to tie-up a perfectly tied shoelace
  • Abruptly remembering I have to check my mobile (however, I have yet to pretend I’m answering a call!)
  • Changing direction (not always possible)
  • Shock tactics – maybe sliding a hand down my leggings and scratching my groin/bum-crack (actually I haven’t tried this one yet)
  • Maybe I should get a T-shirt printed with a more pithy version of “For Christ’s sake yes I know I’m slow just b****r off!”
  • Simply yelling expletives at the offender (only the once, mind – as I did with the guy on the Nottingham towpath)

turtles-through-peanut-butter“Anonymous Running” is something I’m no stranger to – if only through covering my hair up with a baseball cap and hoping nobody will recognise me!

The cover of darkness is another option – but then of course I have to wear high vis clothing to ensure I don’t get run over, so I’m still conspicuous.  And I prefer daylight.

The great wilds of a remotely rural landscape are not a solution – I’m an urban runner through and through.

Maybe it’s my mental attitude that needs a work-out too?

After all, it takes a certain mind-set to always be a Good Sport.

Many thanks to IronFat and Hysterical Runner for inspiring this post. Rock on, sisters!

 

 

 

 

To Yell or Not To Yell

Is it acceptable to grunt or even yell during a workout?

Rebel yell - but is it necessary?
Rebel yell – but is it necessary?

I know there’s some controversy over whether or not letting out some vocal response actually helps during exercise.

I think we British are a bit restrained – although I have, in my time, welcomed an outbreak of whooping when an aerobics class got particularly tough.

And I plead guilty, Your Honour, to vocal venting.

Meg Ryan lets go in the deli
Meg Ryan lets go in the deli

Just today during a particularly arduous abs session following “insane” Guerrillas I let out a yowl which had the instructor turning round and commenting “I wondered what what was going on there for a moment!”

Had I left my inhibitions at the door?

It reminded me of that notorious deli scene in the late 80’s romcom “When Harry Met Sally”.e27e543cea0754ca1e834665d9a0f2d60bdcd3c35e288bf8346098172d7b7227

Again, I’m going to apply some British restraint here and suffice it to say the female lead “fakes” a response arguably more appropriate to the bedroom than in a busy restaurant – to prove a point.

She “finishes” – and resumes eating her lunch, whereupon an older woman on the next table tells the waiter “I’ll have what she’s having”.

Did Monica Seles invent the 'tennis grunt'?
Did Monica Seles invent the ‘tennis grunt’?

Apparently it took several takes to film that scene.

Was Meg Ryan, then, as mortified as I?

Let’s get out of the New York deli – and back into the gym.

Or the dojo, and even the tennis court.

Everyone’s familiar with Miss Piggy’s “Hi-yah!” as she wallops Kermit.

Kiai is the Japanese term for the yell or shout used during an attacking move – but in addition to the impact on your opponent, it’s also thought to teach a proper breathing technique.

Miss Piggy is familiar with the Kiai
Miss Piggy is familiar with the Kiai

Nine-time Gland Slam winner Monica Seles has been dubbed the creator of the “tennis grunt” (and you can see her in action here).

Yet Russia’s Maria Sharapova topped a Daily Telegraph grunting poll in 2011 – deploying a climactic shriek of the blue-movie variety at 101 decibels.

There have been calls for a crackdown regarding on-court grunting – but leading pundits point out that, just as in martial arts, it can help players focus on their performance.

But if you’re not a world class athlete and just working-out, there’s always going to be the idea that there’s simply no need to make a noise and if you do, well, then you’re simply showing off.

At this point I decided I needed a bl**dy good laugh – and courtesy of BroScienceLife, I found it.

In the YouTube video There Will Be Grunts, our guide explains: “Your grunt explains who you are. It’s your identity at the gym.

“Grunting is in our nature, it was the first language – followed shortly after by Emojis”

He then goes on to analyse variations ranging from the “lion-breath” to the “squirt-bottle”. Take a look below, but be advised – there’s swearing (“oooh language!”) .

“Grunting should be reserved for weight that’s impossible to move silently”.

A concept an English woman can relate to – my friend trained perfectly happily amid body-builders but a switch to another gym got her disapproving looks from other female gym users – for her “unladylike” grunting.

Yet as a trained fitness instructor she found this helped her achieve her targets “especially with the leg press”.

So whether you yell, scream or grunt – it would appear you’re in good company.

Just pick your moment wisely!