Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Facing the Reality

So here we are 12 weeks down the line post the birth of our sweetest little girl. We wont go into the gory details, but the birth was, as is my forte, pretty horrendous (why do I keep doing this?!). The consultant sat by my bed after Evie had been safely delivered and made me promise not to have any more babies....though we didn't plan to have anymore I am kind of sad that there is a finality of this new born stage, every day my little baby gets a bit bigger and thats it then, no more newborns in our house. But there is so much to look forward to as they get older and I am loving the boys as they get wilder, chattier and really are becoming their own little people (or he - devils as I call them post 5pm).

Due to the blood loss I experienced and the fact the baby tried to break through my womb I was really battered after the birth. For the first 3-4 weeks I felt absolutely exhausted, weak, emotional and just like an enormous lumbering cow. Coping with the boys and feeding the baby took all my mental and physical strength and trying to find the energy to get through the day took every ounce of my mental fortitude and courage. But day by day it has got easier. My body has and is recovering. We are now getting into a routine as school and pre school has started and this gives me 2-3hrs every morning with just the baby and a little head space to work with my clients and get a bit of light training in round feeds and house wifely chores. I will never regret having baby no 3, but I wouldn't do it again, 3 babies in 4 years has put a strain on both my body and also my poor husband who has to deal with a sleep deprived wife every evening!

I started back running about 4-6 weeks post baby. I worked up to walking 10km most days tying it in with dogs walks and the nursery run and then one day i just decided to try a little jog....i managed about 50m before having to walk. The next day I tried again and this time managed about a 1km and a few days later did a 2 mile run/jog. It wasn't easy, but it didn't hurt, just felt really strange, like I had lost all my coordination and the effort it took to move my legs forward and get them up hills was huge. Slowly, slowly, like anything thats really worth having it has got easier. So much so that I haven't even really noticed that 2 miles run have become 3 then 4 and now 5 has become my daily run.  The hills I had to walk I can run, the loops that took me 30 mins now take me 20 mins. Sometimes I would come home and lie on the floor, weeping, 'its just too hard' ' i have such a long way to go till Im back to fitness' and a little voice in my head said 'it would be so much easier to just stay at home,'  'this is too hard, ' ' you can't do it,.' Looking in the mirror in my sports bra and shorts I would be appalled by what I saw, my body really just a wrinkly shell of what is was this time last year. I preach and preach strength and core work to clients and I felt like a fraud as I could hardly hold a plank for 10 secs. You have just had a baby my husband kept saying to me, but I want my body back now, dreading the hours and hours of strength work it was going to take to get back to fighting form. It all just seemed too much of an enormous task, not to mention that it all had to be fitted between feeds and looking after the boys. Patience is not a virtue I possess, but this post natal period has shown me I do possess it. I have been forced to accept reality, this is your body now, this is your fitness, work with what you have, stop comparing yourself to your previous self. That self is gone. Time to rebuild a new Eddie. One who has three children, one who shows clients that you can fit, strong and manage a family and work.

People have kept asking me, when are you racing again, what have you entered? You must be desperate to be racing again to show clients you still go it! Initially I had hopes of a winter ultra or marathon this year, but thats not going to happen. Not because I can't, but because I realise have nothing to prove to anyone by turning up at a race and running on pure base fitness and brute force. My current clients respect me for the coach I am and I think will be much more impressed if I can come back next year with a strong body and mind and show the world what you can do postnatal if you follow a sensible and progressive programme. I like to think that people will be more inspired by the way I juggle my day to day life and fit running into our family schedule rather than how quickly I can get back to racing post baby. I want to be in this running game for the rest of my days now not just the next few months.

Facing reality I am. I HATE the way the media and society expect women as soon as they have had their babies to banish all evidence of it from their bodies. Dare it take you a few extra months or even years to get back into shape or perhaps you never will, but somehow I feel ashamed that three months down the line I'm still not sporting a six pack. But I know if I was it wouldn't be made out of happiness and strength, but rather heavy dieting and strict control. There is a time and a place for dedication and I don't believe that having just had a baby you should force your body into doing anything, but rather coax it back into your way of thinking! Remind it daily of what it used to do, nurture it and I do believe it will respond and work with you rather than against you. Our bodies were made to be used not to be preserved, but quick fixes and intensive programmes without a proper build up and base are a disaster waiting to happen.  So, no I am not racing yet, I'm catching my breath, Im making myself strong so firstly I can cope with the daily demands I place on my body and slowly slowly I'm adding to my mileage and increasing the speeds of my twice weekly interval sessions. As a result  my body is beginning to look strong again; I am truly happy and content with a wonderful family and learning how to fit training in with three kids, a busy husband, a dog and school life.

Whether I'll ever be the same runner again we will have to see, but I will be giving it my absolute best shot, facing the reality that is given to me, letting my running come back to me rather than forcing it and whatever happens and whenever that next finish line is I know I will  have 4 of the best friends cheering me on a girl could ever have. Thank you Bryn for the last three months, I hope to make you and the family proud in 2016 x

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Pregnancy, running, the truth and all

Are you still running? Has been the question most people have asked me throughout this pregnancy. I have felt the pressure to keep fit and to stay in shape, mainly because I want to get back racing as soon as possible, but after pushing myself to run for 36 weeks I am looking back now wondering if it was my most sensible decision. We will see!

Black is very forgiving 
After the first 4 months of morning sickness this pregnancy has really been relatively easy, as easy as a third pregnancy can be. I have pushed through a few barriers to carry on 'training' (mainly to match  Debs  who told me she ran to 36 weeks and she is my idol ). At 36 weeks I was having to wear pregnancy running leggings, plus a band and a supportive vest to try and keep my bump stable and was spending more time squatting in the bushes needing a pee than running so decided to call it a day. I also noticed my feet and ankles were getting really sore, which was probably from the slight increase in weight (ahem!) and the fact I was running funny and epically slow. So I packed away my running kit and have since then just walked the dog a couple of times a day and generally kept moving by looking after the boys. I would have liked to have swam, but getting to a pool, changed, doing a session etc in the evening was never going to happen, once bath time is over this big mamma needs to eat and watch Made in Chelsea reruns.

In the first week I didn't run I really beat myself up over being lazy and not sticking with it. Ridiculous really, my end goal of this pregnancy was always to get to full term fit, healthy and with a vague recollection of what my toes looked like.  Being able to run again a few months after the birth with two functioning feet and a healthy core and pelvic floor would be a mark of this.  Forcing my body into carrying on running when every muscle and fibre was hurting was not wise, but I still tried a few times. I did feel pressure to be the mum that could carry on running till her due date. But us mums need to be realistic.  I have been so lucky to have come out of having two children and be able to run well again.  Its NOT easy, you want those abs back, you want to have control of your bodily functions , but man alive do you have to work hard. Losing the baby weight, for me, is the easy bit, its getting the muscles and legs back working again which takes time and patience. No one tells you that or is interested in that though. As long as you are back in your jeans that is all that matters in our society, but that is so just half the story.

The 'Kate' effect  has done us Mums no favours..having just packed my hospital bag with my stretchiest tracksuit bottoms, comfiest nursing t shirt, biggest pants and flip flops ready for my 'going home' outfit, knowing no one will give the slightest notice of what I am wearing, no one will care, all anyone will be interested in will be that the baby and I are healthy and safely at home. The pressure that poor girl must have been under to make a glamorous appearance hours after giving birth makes me mad. I wish, wish she had appeared in her slack pants, then I know we would have been friends for life. So the last few weeks I have been asking myself why should I feel guilty for feeling too sore, too heavy, too tired to run when I am just about to give birth? I do though and that is just the madness of the world and the pressure on women right now. We applaud those who win races 3 months post birth, who ping back into shape, who go straight back to work. Just like everything portrayed in social media nowadays no one looks at what is going on behind scenes, just at the glossy images and text that are thrown our way and projected as the 'ideal.' Take a look a little closer and I wonder if Kate cried the minute she got home or the 'mum' who is back running straight away really knows the damage she could be doing to her body?

Being dropped by the kids
So I REFUSE to be one of those women to lie to you about being pregnant, exercising, having kids, training with kids. Its bloody hard work. Being pregnant and running sucks. You want to do it, do. But do it on your time frame and on your own agenda. You want to sit on your butt for 9 months and eat cookies. Do.
Heres my technical advice - running  and exercise will make you feel better and keep you clinging on to that last scrap of fitness and muscle tone, but it will hurt, you will heavy breathe, you will pee yourself, people will make comments. It wont however stop you getting fat arms, fat legs, a fat bum. There is nothing you can do about that. There is no point fighting nature. It is the only time in life when we really can't do anything about the 'experience' apart from to sit back and enjoy the ride! I am only wishing now I had slightly sat back a little more and given myself a bit more slack for being 'pregnant' not just 'fat and unfit.'

Though I paint rather a gloomy picture of my past 9 months I can guarantee by keeping active it will mean coming back to fitness and strength post baby is easier (in my experience). I am not sure about making the labour any quicker, I am perhaps not the pin up girl of giving birth, neither so far have been my finest hour! But I know the trauma of childbirth and the consequent few days have been greatly helped by my ability to cope with pain, my endurance and determination to get up and moving again and the amazing gift from nature that you forget all the pain and swearing and are willing to do it all again!

So the last few weeks, instead of worrying about my current size or pace I have concentrated on what I can control. Feeding my body well, resting (ha ha!!), enjoying my time with just 2 children, trying to embrace slowing down rather than fighting my way through it (as is my way in most things in life!)  , watching my runners and triathletes come into some great shape ready for lots of upcoming races and generally just letting everything 'loosen' up. I know the road back to where I was and beyond will be hard, but I have a great support network in my husband and Team CR. Both I know will be pushing me out the door, but also holding my hand should the journey back prove a little steep and rocky,

So thats my story of this pregnancy; I have run longer than in the previous two, did I enjoy it? Not really, but I hope that by stopping before I have done myself any long term damage I will be good to get back in a bit of shape this year. Has it been hard? Yes, incredibly. More fatigue, more aches, epic sickness, but never ever have I regretted my decision to both keep running and have a third baby. I cannot wait to be a family of 5. I cannot wait to see my children continue to grow, get stronger and develop their love for the outside and running. I cannot wait to get back into my yellow t shirt and smash up those trails with my buddies. I am very very lucky I know that, cankles and all.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

When The Going Gets Tough

All jokes till we actually have to start trying! 
Paul Navesey, Rick Ashton and I have something we laugh about called the 5km opt out...whatever race we are doing, the longer and the harder it is possibly the earlier the 5km opt out comes in. We run for about 3 miles then decide this is way too much effort and we convince ourselves that we will just 'jog it in' due to a sudden injury, leg falling off, nasty case of sudden ebola. Of course we don't, but the doubts hit pretty early, even for super sonic runners like Rick and Paul. But thats part of running, doesn't matter the pace, doesnt even matter the distance, most of the race is a battle with our mind rather than our bodies and 99% of the time its the mind that will win.

I have 2 fantastic clients who have set themselves a challenge to cover 500km in 5 days on their bikes and running to raise money for cancer research after both losing loved ones to this terrible disease. We have been training together for a while, starting off with a basic strength programme and lots of easy miles and have built up their distances both on bike and feet and they are currently now undertaking their 'dress rehearsal' of three days covering almost 300km. I asked for some daily feedback of a few simple questions and 3 words to describe how they were feeling. One of them, who is physically very strong,  was seriously doubting her ability to complete the challenge..where had this come from? Why was she suddenly full of nerves?  What could I do? Of course we have all been there, the week before a big event or a practice half ironman, suddenly the challenge ahead seems too big, our bodies too weak and our negative mindset too strong. Her monkey (see The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters for better details! ) had well and truly jumped onto her shoulder and was being given full reign to shout 'you can't do this, ' 'this is too far' and 'you are too busy!' (They both work and have families). The questions started and they both felt tired and perhaps the challenge became bigger than it actually is...a direct e mail was sent back to said lovely lady, saying in no short terms, ....get that monkey out of its cage...think of everything negative you can, sit and just let your worries be and then, feed the monkey a banana, thank him for his opinion, lock his cage and put the key in your back pocket (or words to that effect!)  I got a smiley reply back and just now as I type, they are half way through day 2, a text saying 'the monkey is ass up, flat out of the scene!'
What happened? How had she turned this round overnight? Well of course nothing to with physical strength, but..  Belief. She needed her mental strength to come alongside her now physical strength. This takes practice and thats why we train, not just the body, but our brain too. Never under estimate the power of your mind. So the ladies have found their belief. Its always about belief and sometimes you need someone else to believe in you firstly before you can do so yourself.

As the UK ultra season is getting under way and I am reaching a number of 'red boxes' of races on clients plans I have been thinking what I can give them to put the final icing on their training cakes....then I heard this great piece of advice that Bear Grylllis was dishing out to a load of celebrities pretending to be tough in the jungle. Apologies to Bear for adapting his wise words, but this is how I interpreted it and after some thought adapted.

There are three parts to racing, any distance, any sport. Use the following three statements in THIS order and see if you can turn negative sessions or races around. 3 simple key words, to set you back on the straight and narrow - Think, use your Determination and then your Fitness.  Don't be mistaken by thinking pure fitness will get you anywhere in life, without careful thought and even more determination you will (I promise- I have been there!) be found weeping by a trail...


Facing a challenge, any challenge use your brain; take a deep breath, assess the situation, ask yourself what would (insert HERO here- whose yours? Mine is someone very close to me, very handsome, very long suffering and mentally tougher than anyone I know.) do?
Focus on the goal and work or rework out your strategy. In a race if things start going wrong, instead of reaching for the panic button, take a moment, even stop, press refresh and reformulate the plan. Take your time. The goal is still going to have the same finish line, you might just need to take a different route. This is when decisions need to made using your mind, not your ego. And after doing this eat food, always.


Brain, determination then fitness
Secondly use your determination and strength. As runners, parents and athletes we are blessed in this department, there is not one person I coach who isn't innately determined to achieve. USE THIS. Relax your shoulders, pull in your core, turn off that monkey rattling its cage in your mind and let your strength and determination do the work for you. Its a lot less tiring than fighting your mind. You have a plan, now use your strength. Determination-it's free and limitless...just make sure to keep feeding it or it will tire.


Finally use your fitness. How many times have you seen a field of athletes racing off over the distance at a crazy pace when they have 100 miles to run?  How many people use all their fitness up in the first stages of race and rather than using their brains and holding back, plough on only to suffer like a dog in the final stages. Use your fitness wisely, imagine it as a bucket you have filled up during training...every session putting a scoop in, sometimes two. On race day you only have so many scoops to use..dont pick it up and empty it all out leading for the first 30km only to find when you really need it there is nothing left in the can! Keep your powder dry...knowing how strong you are and then when the going starts to get tough, the brain has worked, the determination is in place allow your fitness to show through and ENJOY the race rather than fighting the monkey and a tired body the whole way!

Brain first, determination next and then allow the fitness to flow. I believe that is the biggest lesson any athlete can learn and something I hope to teach my athletes both in training and racing.

I hope everyones races go to plan, if anything all the hard training you have put in is reflected in the results, be that a CR, a PB or crossing the finish line. And if all fails, you are alone out in the rain, the cold, you are hungry and tired, you are contemplating the 5km opt strategy and all you want to do is lie down and sleep -  use your brain, eat something, reach into that fitness bucket, take out a scoop of training and determination, pour it all over the trails and put a massive grin on your face....you are alive, you are achieving and you are amazing! Be so proud of all you have done and when you look back on this adventure with a rye smile, only you will know how hard it was and how you and only you achieved that dream. And that is something no one can ever take away.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Trail Outlaws Podcast

I recently spoke to Tim at www.trailoutlaws.com  about training and racing with kids and pregnancy. The link can be found here:


Enjoy, its quite long, you may need a cup of tea (and a snack!)

Staying Positive Throughout The Journey

How often do you come back from a run and are happy with your progress? How many times do you think, yes I nailed that session or that was a great run everything is working in the right direction? I have access to 25 athletes inner thoughts and feelings about their running or triathlon training everyday. It has struck me how negative the majority of them are towards their bodies, their sessions, their performances. Unless its a PB they are not happy, if they have a niggle or need an extra rest. life is over and they might as well quit running now.  (Thats a slight exaggeration, but you get the gist!) The ability to look at the whole jigsaw rather than a single piece seems a very tough lesson to learn and one even as grown adults we find very hard. If we don't hit the exact figures in training we have failed, if we don't win a race or perform exceptionally, we have failed. The endless questions start, what have I done wrong, why does my body not do what I want it to do. Of course, as a coach, it is so much easier to take a step back, find the positives in sessions, races and every day training. To give reasons for tiredness, niggles and prescribe rest. To assure athletes that it is the consistency of training combined with quality sessions and adequate rest that will make them stronger, not constantly racing or bashing their head against the training wall session after session.

We cannot roll out perfect session after perfect session, but that is not the point of training. In my opinion if the session was perfect you weren't working hard enough or you are 5-7 days out from your A race and in fine tune for a cracking performance! Every session you do should come with both some negative and positive feedback, what went well, what didn't, how did you feel and what can you do to recover before the next session. If things didn't go to plan give yourself time to reflect, but not to punish, learn from it, reassess and move on. Make yourself a better athlete very simply by believing you are a better athlete. Expect good performances from yourself, but only what you are currently capable of, don't limit your dreams, but know that the stepping stones towards them may go up and down.

Competing in my last 'race' at 16 weeks 
Now at 6 months pregnant I have had to take a big step back in my progression towards becoming a really quality ultra runner. I thought this year I would be hopefully racing for GB, having a crack at some international mountain races, qualifying for some exciting races. Building on my strength I gained from the beginning of 2015. However a long term injury and then deciding to have our third child has put a halt on all this. A huge mass of disappointment fell on my shoulders as I spent 4 months suffering from hyperemeis gravidarum. Alongside epic sickness came quite a lot of depression as my body changed from the strong runner it had become to a home for our third. Delighted to be having another baby of course, but I did find the first months tough as I saw my fitness ebb away. I have some perspective now. I cannot wait to be a mum of 3, it will in no way stop me getting back to running, if anything I am more than motivated to get back racing in 2016. I am also aware (and of course slightly bitter!) that most of the women I compete against don't have kids. They have more time to train, more opportunities to travel and most importantly more rest. But nothing fuels me more than my family. I have one big dream to try and complete in 2016 and the thought of doing it with 3 young kids at the finish line totally inspires me. I want to show other mums (and Dads) that having a family doesn't and shouldn't stop you from doing what you love, yes it may take a little longer, you may have to be patient, take a step back, cope with higher hurdles, spend mrs time looking at the bigger picture, but it is possible.

So now when I read my athletes daily reports from their sessions I try and get them to constantly think of the sky rather than focus on the minutiae of each rep or interval. So you fell off the pace on the final rep, or you didn't hit the target time when you got tired. As long as you did the best you could thats all you or I can ask, reflect, be negative if you need to be and then take a positive, hold onto this into the next session and progress. And that is what I am doing for the next 3 months whilst I jog around the fields with the dog.  Getting slower and fatter rather than faster and stronger, but I am looking it all now as a positive. Every step is for my baby and my future, for a healthy delivery, for my dreams that I am chasing and to inspire my fellow mums and my children, that they too will never be scared to challenge themselves beyond their limits, to not be scared to look at the sky and constantly challenge their place in this world.