Last weekend was my birthday weekend and also my little brother’s 21st birthday, so I’m playing catch up this week and doings weeks 2 and 3 of my training plan. Last week went like this:

Sunday: 4  miles, easy
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 4 miles, easy
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 4 miles, easy
Friday: 4 miles, easy
Saturday: 4 miles, easy

I ran 4 miles a lot, as you can see. Although the mileage isn’t pretty high, I run more regularly following this plan than I did before I started marathon training, and I have already started noticing the difference in my fitness levels and stamina. I feel a lot more relaxed on my runs now and, after the first few miles, have stared really settling in to them rather than getting weaker.

I ran home and my hair tie fell out, so I had to run with my hair down. It felt pretty good not to have it all scraped back, but it was disastrously knotty by the time I got home!

I ran home and my hair tie fell out. Felt free but knotty.

This week was slightly different:

Sunday: Rest
Monday: 5 miles that I was supposed to have done on Sunday
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: 5 miles that I was supposed to have done on Tuesday
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Rest

I was meant to run 3 miles on Thursday, 3 miles on Friday and 5 miles on Saturday. However, I am going to be completely honest; I skipped them deliberately because I’d had a bikini wax! I have really sensitive skin and have to avoid exercise for a good few days after I’ve had a wax to avoid inflammation. So I took the hit on the training  miles. However, the runs I did do continued to feel really good and I am feeling a lot more confident.

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Grand Union Canal. So boring.

Other than those I missed deliberately, I have been really strict on finding time to do all of the runs prescribed by the plan, even if it means a brain numbing treadmill run at 10:30pm after work or a 5am alarm. It’s definitely playing off, which is really encouraging and motivating.

So far so good! This coming week is another week with rest days before I hit the big training weeks; running 6 days a week and working in resistance and body weight training too. I feel a bit daunted by it all but I’m looking forward to the challenge.

If you’re also training for an autumn race – let me know how you’re getting along!

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Training has begun!

First up: a confession. I miscalculated my dates and thought that my training plan was meant to start last Sunday on 29 May. When I went to write out my plan at the weekend I realised that it was actually meant to start the week before and I was already a week behind! Bad start. Luckily week one was very low mileage and wasn’t actually too far off what I had actually run that week, so limited damage done. Annoying though!

My week in training looked like this:

Sunday: Rest
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 2 easy mile
Wednesday: Rest (but I did a Rumble class at 1Rebel)
Thursday: 3 easy miles
Friday: 3 easy miles
Saturday: 3 easy miles
Total mileage: 11 miles

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When I say “easy miles” I mean easy miles

This week was easy and manageable, but it did feel good to make running a priority again. Without a training plan I find it very easy to convince myself that I am too busy/too tired to find time to exercise, and having a plan helps to bring it to the forefront of my mind. I also forgot how amazing running is for my mood, and I am feeling so positive after just one week of running regularly again. That is a huge motivator.

I’ve been getting up early to fit my runs in before work, with the exception of Friday where I ended up squeezing it in at 10:30pm at the end of a busy day. I think morning workouts are going to be key to making sure I fit in my training around my work commitments, especially as my mileage increases, and this week had been good for adjusting to earlier alarms! Now if I could also adjust to earlier bedtimes, that would be great…!

So that’s week one done! I am documenting the journey mainly on instagram, so make sure you follow me there for (almost) daily updates!

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I’m personally a big fan of compression wear and use it a lot in my training. However, it can be pretty pricey – so, is it worth it?

The idea behind compression wear is that compressing the muscles increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscles, aiding performance and also recovery, shortening the time needed for warm-up and cool down. I have definitely noticed improvements in my performance and recovery when I wear compression leggings, although more on the recovery side than in performance I think.

Another personal bonus of wearing compression gear is that it is so tight it is (a) insanely flattering and (b) makes you feel like a ninja. I always feel so professional when I go out running in compression tights! Which in turn makes me feel more motivated. I know it sounds silly but I think that the way you feel when you’re wearing something definitely has an impact on your whole approach to training.

I’ve been testing out a couple of pairs for a while now – a pair of 2XU Elite MCS tights* and A200 long tights* from Skins (now on sale!) – and have been pretty impressed with both.

Skins A200

These are full length compression tights from Skins. I wear a size 10 and these are a small, and I’d say they were a good tight fit without being too tight or uncomfortable – definitely tight enough to get compression benefits! I find them really flattering and comfortable, although I do get a wee bit of ankle pudge after a while…(I am so beautiful). In an ideal world I’d go for a plain pair as I’m not too keen on the neon pink, but the pink is quite cute and subtle.

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I appreciate that all my photos look like they’ve been in taken in a warehouse. It’s because they have.

I’ve worn these out running and out to the gym and they’ve been great in both situations. I really like the fact that they have a slightly higher waistband – low rise and tight is not a flattering or comfortable combination! Despite being skin tight they’re really stretchy and you still have a full range of movement.

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They have a small pocket for keys/money/oyster on the inside of the waistband – pockets are good, but a larger back pocket would be better for running. That’s the only real improvement I can think of though – otherwise they’re great!

2XU Elite MCS 

The more expensive of the two, MCS stands for Muscle Containment Stamping – it’s basically special compression technology that is mapped to your muscles. This means that the compression is targeted to your muscles, increasing the compression effects and benefits. The tights have these targeted compression panels on the quads and on the calf – definitely the key areas that get hit when you’re running, so they’re perfect for runners!

This is the mapping on the inside of the leggings

I have these in a medium and I’d say they were a good fit for me, but I do have relatively thick legs. The ankle pudge is definitely less pronounced in these than in the A200s though, which is a bonus. However, they’re quite low rise and so can cause a wee bit of muffin top. I generally have to wear a loose fitting top and I can’t hang out in them for more than a few hours because they can quite uncomfortable. This is annoying, because I really notice the difference in my recovery (huge reduction in muscle soreness) in these, and I wish I could live in them after tough sessions!

Like the A200s, the 2XU tights have a small pocket on the inside waistband which will fit keys or card or cash, but not big enough for a phone. Again, a larger back pocket would be a huge improvement, but I’m not sure how feasible it is given the seam free super slick ninja design.

Gold is always a winner

On balance, I think the 2XU nudges it for me, because I personally feel greater benefits from the mapped MCS technology. They’re pretty expensive, but worth the investment if you’re regularly doing hard sessions and need to recover quickly. However, I personally haven’t seen a huge improvement in my performance in either pair, so if you’re looking for performance benefits I’d probably save your pennies.

What do you think of compression gear? Worth the money, or all hype?

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It’s confirmed! I’ll be heading back to Berlin in September to run the marathon. Hopefully, this time, I will actually run it.

Regular readers will know that I deferred my place from last year’s trip with adidas due to a niggling knee injury, but you may not know that I also had a ballot place for the Berlin marathon in 2014 too. I entered while I was out in Dubai but, having injured my knee (sense a theme here?) during VLM 2014, I wasn’t in a state to be running another marathon in the following autumn.

Berlin marathon is now a bit of a thorn in my side and, being stubborn, I just can’t let it drop.

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To be completely honest with you, marathon running isn’t really for me. I work long hours and struggle to fit in the training. I always seem to get injuries and niggles with the longer miles and struggle to fit in the massages and strength training and yoga and sleep that it takes for my body to be ready. The thing with marathon training is that it is so much more than just running the miles. It’s an entire lifestyle change and requires a huge amount of commitment to do properly.

Soph, if you’re not in to marathons, why do you keep running marathons?” – you might ask. I don’t blame you, as I often ask myself this too. I run for fun and I don’t really find marathon training fun. As I’ve mentioned, I am pretty stubborn. I know, deep down, that these little legs are capable of a sub-4 hour marathon. I know that, for a lot of runners on the world wide web, that might not be a big deal, but I’ve run three marathons now and a sub-4 still eludes me. At present I have no ambitions to qualify for Boston or run all the majors, but I really do want to run a sub-4. I’d like to think that, once I’ve run a sub-4, I can put marathon running to bed and focus on doing the type of running I really enjoy (lovely trails and half marathons!).

So, 2016 is the year of the marathon. I made a promise to myself in January to do everything I can in order to achieve a sub-4 run in Berlin in September.

I started off by signing up for technique lessons at The Running School, to sort out my sore calf muscles and over striding issues. I’ve been working in the gym to build up strength in my legs and core (something I personally find necessary to prevent injuries) and I’ve also been working on my glutes on the instructions of coach Nick at the City branch of the Running School! Hopefully this will provide me with a strong base to start my training plan.

I’ve also been looking in to different training methods and, having followed Cathy and Sarah on their training journeys, have ordered the Hansons Marathon Method to read more about the Hansons method of training. Hansons looks like a really interesting way of training and, from previous experience, I know I am going to have to shake up my approach if I am going to make real progress. Cathy’s blog on the Hansons method is a really good overview.

I figured the next step in making this happen is to put it out there so, for the record, I will be running the Berlin marathon on 25 September 2016 and I am aiming to finish in under 4 hours. It’s on!

 

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I’m sure you haven’t managed to escape the hype about the latest shoe release from adidas, the Pure Boost X. This is the first shoe designed for women, by women. The thinking here is that, to date, all women’s running shoes have just been smaller versions of the men’s shoes, without any specific thought going in to any particular needs of women. Thus, the Pure Boost X was born. 

Now, my initial reaction to this launch was, shall we say, cynical. With the recent(ish) upsurge in the popularity of women’s fitness, it’s easy to presume that fitness products targeted at women are jumping on a bandwagon to cash in on an trend. With the success of amazing programmes like This Girl Can and the work of the Women’s Sport Trust, it’s easy (and a bit lazy) for brands to summon up a girl power campaign and use it for commercial gain.

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This isn’t to say that (a) I don’t approve of brands using their power to promote female participation in sport (I do) and (b) I wasn’t excited about the shoes themselves. I love new kit, am a huge adidas shoe fan (especially Boost technology) and was intrigued by the concept of the floating arch (more on that later). I just can’t say I’m immediately sold on female specific versions of products that aren’t gendered (like body glide or bic pens). 

I couldn’t find many specifics in the press materials about what elements of the design were female specific, and what female specific issues they were looking to address. I know that a lot of other runners and bloggers were asking similar questions, including my own readers and followers, and I found it frustrating that I didn’t know and couldn’t give an answer. Having visited adidas HQ, including their incredible innovation lab and bespoke athlete services, I felt like it wasn’t very ‘adidas’ to come up with empty claims, so I did some research!

I contacted adidas and they put me in touch with the VP of Design for adidas running, Ben Herath. From his explanation, it appears to me that the “women specific” angle is much broader than just physiological requirements, and also relates to female preferences for design, feel and performance. On the physical side, adidas’ research has found that women’s foot shapes vary wildly, as compared to men’s but also from woman to woman. Building in inherent flexibility (primarily evidenced by the new floating arch) allows the shoe to adapt to these varied female foot shapes, providing a snug “personalised fit”.

Further, adidas worked with hundreds of female athletes to listen to their preferences for design and feel of a shoe. They found that most female athletes undertake a varied fitness routine with running at the core (familiar!) and so versatility was important. The flexibility of the Pure Boost X allows it to be worn in a variety of different situations, and to provide a comfortable fit in all of them. Design wise, adidas found in their research that women like their trainers to look streamlined and preferred trainers that made their feet look petite (so, the opposite of ‘traditional’ support trainers!), so this was the focus with the aesthetic. I personally have very wide feet, and I like the way the floating arch wraps around the arch of my foot and makes them look a bit less like cuboids. Vain maybe, but I can’t deny that I like it!   

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Also, I was very kindly invited by adidas to appear on a panel at their Oxford Circus flagship store to talk about ‘Positive Energy’ in celebration of the Pure Boost X launch. Also on this panel was Jo Knight (editor of Women’s Fitness magazine and also We Heart Living), who mentioned some research that had come across her desk that showed that the length of a woman’s plantar fascia changed according to her monthly cycle. This prompted me to do some further digging, and I did find (for example, here, here, here) that there seems to be a link between increased oestrogen levels and the risk of ligament injuries. I am in no way professing to be an expert (and would love to talk to someone who does actually know something – drop me a line if that’s you!), but if the ligaments in your foot are changing on a weekly basis, a super adaptive flexible shoe might make sense? 

Anyway – do I actually like them?

In short, yes. They look nice and they’re ridiculously comfortable, genuinely like walking on clouds. I know that some others have had issues with the high back rubbing their heels, but I haven’t had any issues like this. 

The floating arch is weird at first, but I really like the snug fit. When I say “floating arch”, the arch of the shoes is actually suspended – it isn’t attached to the sole – and instead it’s like a cradle. When you put your foot on the ground the gap closes up under your foot, which means that the fit adapts to your foot shape. Weirdly, I have actually had cramp in the sole of my foot when wearing them for a particularly intense workout (the Zanna van Dijk bootcamp at The X being one of those times!), which I’ve put down to having to get used to the floating arch. 

Floating arch

I’d personally say the Pure Boost X were more suited to workouts rather than running. adidas say they’re for running up to 10km in, and you need to work up to that, so the Pure Boost X are probably better suited to workouts involving running rather than being purely running trainers. I actually wear them a lot for walking too! So, if that’s what you’re looking for, it’s worth giving the Pure Boost X a go.

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Thanks to adidas for giving me a sample of the Pure Boost X for review. All views and dodgy research my own!