Phil don't stop for santa

How's this for dedication - off to Kent for chrimbo and am taking my running gear so I can try to get back on track after my back buggered up!

Not sure if there'll be an xmas day run (guessing streets will be quiet!) but if the bodies willing....

In case I don't get a chance to post again, merry christmas to the almost dozens of you who check in on my ramblings every now and then.

May your turkey be tasty and your roast spuds lovely!

Have a good one!

Core Strength III

Work it boy

So, like some kind of strange healthy person, I've now got an exercise routine to follow, on top of the running.

What has happened to my life...

Here, for your delectation, are the strange things I've got to do:

Bridge with Leg Lift

I have to lie on the floor facing up with knees bent, and push my body into a bridge position. To me a “bridge position” means spanning a river/railway line/road, but as I'm only short and doubt my ability to support much traffic traversing me, in this case it means supporting your weight on your feet and arms.

I believe it used to be call “the crab” at school, until its unfortunate name became synonymous with pubic lice.

There are worse reasons to change a name I guess – inadvertently calling a child “Adolf” for instance.

From here I have to straighten one leg, with pointing toes and lower it out to the side a bit without moving the rest of my body, using my abs to stabilize my body and without holding my breath.

Now I don't know about you, but when I'm attempting something physically impossible (self-propelled flight, ovulating etc) I still breathe. It's kinda second nature to me, but apparently some people need reminding of this, which is reassuring as it means there'll always be people more stupid than me, so I should always be ok getting a job.

I then have to do a load of these (reps?) on one leg, then the other.

Sideways sit up

This starts by lying on my side and pushing up so that my right arm is supporting my body. Then I have to straighten my left arm and balance for a bit, then lower the left arm down and twist the body, turning it towards the floor while keeping the rest of the body in place.

Then I have to squeeze my abs (I'm assuming not with my hand) and hold for a couple of seconds, then go back to starting position and repeat.

I imagine this will be the one that makes me look most like a tit.


This involves me lying face up with lower back pressed to the floor, or as it is probably better known - lying down.

With my hands my on head, elbows out, I then bend my right knee and pull it towards my chest while touching the knee with the left elbow.

Then I do a slow pedalling motion and touching opposite elbow to opposite knee, keeping my abs pulled in and again remembering to breathe.

I take back my earlier comment, this will probably be the most ridiculous looking one.


For this I need to hold a dumbbell in front of my thighs, with my feet hip-width apart (hip muscle or hip bone?) and abs pulled in. Leaning from the hips and keeping the weight close my my legs, I lower the weight to mid-shin whilst keeping the legs straight (but not locked).

Then I lift back to starting position and make sure the abs are pulled tight throughout the movement.

As this involves weights, and the prefix “dead” this is probably the most manly of them.

Back Extensions

I hate this one.

With the passion usually only reserved for “celebrities”.

This time I lie face down with my hands behind my back. I then lift my upper body off the ground a few inches, keeping my head and neck in line. Not sure how I couldn't have them in line, as the two are directly connected and there will always be a line between any two points, but what do I know?

If I fancy making it even more uncomfortable, then I lift my feet off the ground, keeping both legs straight, hold for a bit then lower them.

The whole thing

I have to do this workout 3-4 times a week on non-consecutive days

  • Each exercise has to be done for 1-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions
  • I have to keep my body stabilized throughout the movement
  • I can't swing or use momentum
  • Each repetition should take 4-6 seconds
  • Make sure abs are pulled in tight throughout each movement
This is gonna be hell...

Core strength II

Machines sent from the future to destroy me

After a bit more research into how to strengthen my core, I'm more enlightened.

I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm an expert, as anyone who's met me knows I'm not the expert type – I extract sufficient information to get whatever it is I need the info for, then throw it away again. Like the RAM in your PC.

On the plus side, this means I can quickly learn complicated things, on the downside, I forget them almost straight away so after a short period of time they're gone and I've learned nothing.

I used to worry about it, but then I got my degree so figured it seems to do the trick and wasn't worth fretting about.

Anyway, I digress (unusual, no?).

As mentioned before, core strength exercises work on your abdominals, hips (again, still not sure they're muscles...) lower back (yay!!), and gluteal muscles.

Yes, gluteal means bum. Get the tittering over with, and lets move on.

These all act as a fixed base for your legs to work as levers to propel you forward. This is where it started to make more sense to me – “levers” give the impression of some kind of machine, and being a man, I like that kind of thing.

If the core muscles are weak, they can't keep your body positioned in the best way for running, so you knacker out quickly.

I imagine it's like having dodgy tracking on a wheel – if it's not level, then one edge of the tyre wears quicker than elsewhere, meaning the tyre won't last as long (see how machine metaphors help!).

So improving the core muscles is like getting the wheels balanced properly so they don't wear out too quickly.

This means helping prevent your stride length from shortening as you get more tired (if it's shorter, you need to take more strides to go the same distance).

Also, weak abdominals mean you lean forward so the hamstrings have to stretch even further, which can mess up your back.

Sound familiar? *cough*

I'm gonna have a look for some exercises and try to build them into my training for when I'm feeling less invalid-like, as if I tried even getting into the starting point of a sit-up, I'd cry like John Connor when Arnie gets lowered into the molten iron at the end of Terminator 2.

Nice threads – aren't you freezing?

I recently posted on the benefits of good trainers, but I have to say that the local plod don't look kindly on people who think that's all they need to wear in a public place.

So, to avoid an unpleasant brush with the law, I recommend wearing other items of clothing.

Last time round, I managed with one t-shirt, one long sleeved running top, a pair of shorts, few pairs of socks and a hi-viz vest. I also got pretty good at quickly doing a load in the washer.

Having finished the marathon, I now own two t-shirts, as they give you one that says “finisher” on it. Not the sexiest thing in the world, and it would be better to have “running god” or “I told you I fecking did it!” on there, but you can't have everything.

I've also invested in some trackie bottoms this time around, as I still see the look of horror on a cyclist's face as she saw me running past in the snow wearing shorts. Her cry of “your legs!” was full of anguish, concern and bewilderment which at the time I quite enjoyed, but probably best not to repeat it again as I don't want something falling off.

All my gear is “wicking”. No, that's not some new yoof colloquiall, it just means it draws the sweat away from you. It's also the lightweight, breathable stuff, so it doesn't rub and give you weird rashes.

Imagine rubbing one part of your body with a cotton t-shirt, thousands of times. That's essentially what happens when you run.
With each stride, bits of your clothing rub against your skin, so you want to make sure it's not going to chafe if you want to the horrific to see “marathon nipple”. This is where someone hasn't used the vaseline and has two bloodstains running down their chest. Not nice to see, not nice to experience!

Now, I dropped the vaseline bomb then, without really explaining. It's another little essential.

Before long runs, you need to put it everywhere your clothes could rub.
One thing they don't show you on the tv coverage is the marquees where people get changed, and the hundreds of men smearing vaseline down their shorts. Hadn't done that before, but when in Rome...

Glad I did, as there were a few guys who had blood streaming down their legs, and I hate to think how they felt for the next week or so.

Lessons? Get stuff for running – it doesn't have to be expensive – look on some of the Runners World forums as they often have reviews of stuff from places like Aldi and Lidl that 'll get you through the winter! I've never tried them myself, but they seem to sell out quick, so they must be doing something right!

Core strength I

Core what now?

Now I've messed up my back so that running is off the menu for a while, I now have more time than is healthy. For instance, it lets me do things like this.

It also means I need to both adjust my training, and work out how I can avoid doing any more damage.

I've always had back problems of one sort or another, but for some reason last year it wasn't really a problem.

Obviously, that's no longer the case, so as well as getting it fixed, I need to make sure it is up to the hundreds of miles I've got ahead of me.

According to the quack, I need to work on my “core strength”. That sounded a bit like tree-hugging zen chi nonsense to me, then google put me right.

So this is the first of three posts on the joys of core strength training.

The gist is: core strength training makes your core muscles stronger.

Wow - I could have guessed that much myself.

Further reading revealed they're important to provide a base for running. To me “base” means bottom. Not bum, but lowest part i.e. feet. In this instance it's base as in the solid platform for running.

Also, stronger core muscles mean better running economy, speed and power. I think that means I'll be able to run faster with less effort.


Only thing is, as you could probably have guessed, I've got no idea what my core muscles are.

Thank god for Google.

Basically the “core” includes muscles of the torso, back, and abdominal, hip and thigh muscles.

I always believed the hip was a bone, but I did spend most of biology trying to hide stuff from the teachers desk, so I may have missed some of the salient details.

So, it looks I need to do lots of boring sit ups etc, as well as weird legs things to both strengthen and take pressure off the bit of my back that keeps messing up.

Oh joy.

Given I can barely stand at the mo, the prospect of sitting up like that is about as appealing as cheese-grating my face.

No doubt, once I can actually walk more than three yards, I'll try it out, and soon have a ripped six pack. Ideally, it will be ripped in the “easy on they eye” way, rather than the “what I've just done to me back” way, otherwise this could all go so horribly wrong.

Best foot forward - getting the right trainers

Since my back's buggered so there's no running on the cards in the near future, I thought I'd spend some time sharing a few thoughts I'm hoping to take on board for the 09 race.

If there's one thing running the London Marathon teaches you, beyond the fact a leg shouldn't hurt that much, it's that pretty much anyone can do it.

Old, young, whatever. All you need is time to prepare, and stuff to wear.

Yes the preparation is a pain in the ass, but the kit you need to get round is pretty straightforward – t-shirt, shorts, sock and trainers.

Obviously you add some more layers to this when you're training in January, but that's essentially all the kit you need to run 26.2 miles.

The most important, and - rightly - the most expensive, item you need are a decent pair of trainers.

These are trainers in the literal sense - training shoes. None of the playground showing off and taking the piss out of the poor kid whose parents can only afford a pair of cheap knock-off's from the market.

When I started training for the 08 marathon, I had a pair of off-road Reeboks, that were fine for a bit. But I soon realised that off-roading wasn't gonna be ideal training for a 26.2 mile road run. My legs wouldn't be used to the stiffer surface, and my shins would get completely sh***ed.

So, I thought it might be an idea to get some proper running shoes and got myself some Asics 1120's.

These seemed groovy to me, but they're coming to the end of their life, so I'm in the market for another pair.

I've been doing some research using this interweb thing and there seems to be more to trainers than the pretty colours.

There's durability, weight and support for the different ways you run. The first two seem pretty straightforward, but, apparently, not everyone runs with one leg moving in front of the other!

It would seem that how your foot strikes the ground dictates the type of trainer you need. It depends if you over-pronate, supinate (under-pronate) or are a neutral runner.

Now I recognise some of the words in that last sentence, but I'll be honest, there's some new ones in there for me. I like to think I'm a pretty fair-minded chap, and not likely to declare war on anyone, so my gut tells me I'm neutral. Sort of like a more fun Switzerland – I do like Toblerones, but cuckoo clocks get on my tits.

Sadly, according to people who know stuff about running, that's not the right kind of test.

To find out what kind you are, the best way is to go to a proper running shop and get tested by the staff there who will tell you the right type for you. Sadly, I don't live near a proper running shop, and when I mentioned pronation in JD sports, the girl said she'd heard his stuff, but liked those fellas on X-factor better.

So, the DIY test involves:

  1. Looking at your current trainers and seeing where on the sole has worn down most
  2. Stepping with a wet foot onto a clean surface and looking at the impression your foot makes. has a good guide to what you're looking for, and according to this, I'm an supinator.

Upon further investigation, this means I trained for hundreds of miles, and ran/hobbled around the last marathon exactly the wrong trainers.

This may explain the blisters and severe pain.

So, I've bought a cheapy pair of neutral cushioned
Asics to keep me going, but come the new year I'll be in the market for something like the Nimbus range. Ideally they'll have a new model out so the older one, which still works, will be massively cheaper as they're not exactly cheap when compared to food etc.

I'll also probably need to get a couple of pairs as with five and a bit months to go, I don't want to have them fall apart the week before the race, and have to run it in brand-spankers.

So, if you're a rich person who wants to make a benevolent gesture, or work for a sports company who want to give stuff away – email me!

Ow! Bum! and other profanities

I'm beginning to get the feeling I'm not meant to be a marathon runner.

An not just because I despise running.

With the place to myself on Sunday aft, I thought I would indulge my manly needs and proceeded to my man-cave (the garage). I emerged armed with wheelbarrow, various garden tools, and the grin of a man who knew he had at last got time to get on with some manly pursuits.

After a couple of hours digging, hoeing (*schoolboy titter*) and generally being manly, I'd given the front garden a much needed tidy up, and had avoided killing many of the plants I usually inadvertently destroy when weeding.

I put the bag of weeds/garden waste in the wheelbarrow and wheeled it back around to the garage, and put things away in a manly way.

With the place to myself for another couple of hours I thought it'd be the perfect time to get going on an 8-miler I'd been promising myself - just to show I could get round it.

So I went in, got changed and bent to put my trainers on.

Then my back exploded.

Not in the "incendiaries-aplenty-on-Normandy-beaches" way, but in the "oh-christ-I-think-a-vertebrae-just-tried-to-climb-out-of-me" way. Which is still not nice.

I tried not to move as my brain was reliving bits from tv shows where the patient needs a spinal board to avoid further injury. Then I remembered I was still bending over to put on a shoe, so even if I could remain in this pose until someone found me it would be pointless as the paramedics would need a C-shaped spinal board. I don't watch much Casualty, but I think I'd have remembered seeing one like that.

So, I rolled sideways onto the bed and inwardly cursed at the pain.

I also outwardly cursed as it f***ing killed, but I was also doing it inwardly.

I went to the quacks yesterday morning, who after bending me painfully into a variety of poses (not for medical reasons, I just think she liked the control) has got me taking it easy and has prescribed diclofenac and diazepam.

So I got home, took them, and got comfortable. I then realised I'd taken too many of the painkillers, which, when combined withe the diazepam, led to some strange results involving a camera, a soft toy, and a drug-induced imagination.

Needless to say, the training is on hold until I can, you know, walk properly again.

Would be easy to say "screw it" and drop out, but the fact I've got so much against me makes me just want to do it even more. It was always gonna be hard, just now it's gonna be harder.

Deal with it

This aint no walk in the park

Just been out for a 4-miler and I'm still struggling to get going properly.

I've not forgotten how to start running - it's essentially walking, but your legs move quicker - but I'm jsut not getting into the running properly, and it's a real chore, even though it's not actually tiring.

When I first found out I'd got into the marathon next year I got up to 5 miles again relatively quickly, but after a bit of a break, I've completely lost it.

Not in the "committed to asylum, stir up inmates, end up smothered to death by a pillow attached to the end of a massive Indian" way, more a "can't find my running mojo" way.

Which is probably preferable, once you think about it.

I don't know if it's new trainers, running in trackie bottoms, or the fact I've only got one song to listen to on m phone*, but I just can't seem to get the consistent pace at low miles.

It's prob more likely my general unfitness and lack of motivation, but blaming other things is much easier on my fragile ego.

Just gotta try powering through, and hope it picks up again soon, otherwise, these next 20 odd weeks are gonna be even more hellish than they would be anyway.

So, rest tomorrow, then try again on Friday.

*Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger - I know that puppy word for word now. It's deep...

Worst run ever

Went out for a nice simple run last night as I've at last got some new trainers that don't injure me.

It was horrible - couldn't get into a rhythm, legs just didn't seem to be interested, and my form was lousy.

Kept trying to tweak little bits to make a difference - find different tempo etc - but it didn't make a difference.

Even my usualy berating of myself for being pathetic didn't work - and that's normally a wonderful motivator for me.

Perhaps I'm mellowing with age?

After fuming to myself for a bit I'm now motivating myself for another go tonight. With any luck someone will piss me off at work today so I can channel my anger.