Imagery is key

I decided to purchase a new pair of trainers the other week. After my decision to not take part in the Warwick half marathon and hitting my 5 mile barrier I realised that the shoes I was currently sporting needed to be retired. After 4 faithful years which included two trips in the River Great Ouse (one boat capsize and one slide down the bank), numerous times left out in the rain while training on the river and a year of attempting to run, I felt they deserved a break.

While waiting for the trainers to arrive I used my ‘day to day’ trainers for a run. Slightly bigger and very strange to wear, I found myself completing a PB of 6 miles. Although the nausea I experienced afterwards was a lot worse than anything I ever felt when I used to row. Even the Vets HORR didn’t leave me feeling that bad!

When the new trainers arrived, I took to them instantly. Breaking them in and posting a comfortable (in many ways!) 6 mile run.

Now, the area I run usually is very hilly. It’s the edge of the Chilterns and the scenery is amazing. But it’s also offered me the chance to create my biggest asset. The imagery I require to keep myself motivated.

Running, like everything in my life is at risk when I get bored. I like a bit of spice, variety, anything to keep my mind (and body) on its toes. But when it comes to running, I have been struggling. My mind occupied with every muscle twinge and footfall.

During that 6 miler though, I suddenly thought back to PT session I had a few weeks ago. I was struggling, tired and losing focus. My PT started counting down the last 4 in the set and it clicked. I imagined I was in a boat and completing the last 250m of a regatta. I realised if I was ever going to make my goal of completing a marathon this year a reality, I had to draw on the best experience I have of pushing myself to the limit.

So it started. On the flat I would ‘push for 10’. Imaging I was in my single, on a warm Thursday evening, rowing down the Ouse at St Neots. With a fellow rower alongside me and every now and then ‘leap frogging’ to make sure we did some work.

Uphill was the start of a head race. Pushing off the footplate (pavement), getting into a rhythm and feeling my legs start to work.

Downhill, the recovery of the slide. A chance to catch my breath. Ok, you get longer to recover running downhill than you do at R32, but you get the idea.

The main thing is that I imagine I am in a crew when I start to struggle. I hear and see those I used to push through that pain barrier with. I know how far I can push myself. The winter Ergo sessions taught me that and I’ve not gone anywhere near that yet.

Although it may sound crazy, it’s working. The best bit? Employing this tactic, changing my diet (and in-training snacks) have turned my training around. I posted a PB of 8 miles today. Yes, my legs and feet ache, but I finished feeling good. Not exhausted, bright red and breathless, which has been the result of so many training sessions until now.

I don’t know how long this will work for me, but for now, in my head, each run will be a rowing outing. Just without the possibility of ending up in a river. Unless I lose my footing and am extremely unlucky.


I am little over 4 weeks away from taking part in one of the hardest challenges I have ever attempted.  The Warwick Half Marathon in aid of the British Heart Foundation ( It seemed like a good goal to have and has helped me really move on with my running, but I have hit a wall in my training. I have yet to run further than 5 miles and I am struggling to move past that.

I have been working with a PT ( who has been brilliant at not only focusing me on my training, but also helping me remain positive and even managing to make me laugh when I feel like I want to die! The most impressive thing is that I actually listen to him. Those who know me well, know I don’t take kindly to ‘advice’. Certainly not straight away. Unless those people have come recommended from a friend or I have seen what they can do, I ignore them. Yeh, I know… I’m working on changing that.

Anyway, my hope is that the sessions will help not only my running and general fitness but also pull my body out of the slump it’s been in since my virus two years ago. Despite the fact that I haven’t been going to regular sessions, it seems my body is happy with even a little bit of advice and my running feels easier. I have also noticed I no longer have the pain in my legs, which used to stop me running and render me useless for a day or two.

So what is the problem?

Well there are two. Firstly, my chest is still recovering from flu over Christmas/New Year, leaving me with a nasty cough and a bit of reliability on my inhaler. Getting into a rhythm with my breathing is taking a lot longer and I’m not breaking through my initial wall until well past mile 1.

The second? I’m getting bored. This is the most difficult one to fix. Music isn’t helping and even the information from Runkeeper about how I’m doing, annoys me.

I’m not sure if this isn’t just down to the fact that I am used to team sports. In particular, I’m used to being in a boat with at least 3 other people and all of us helping to keep the other going. The best bit? We were all stuck in the same place so one person couldn’t go off and leave the rest behind even if they wanted to! Well, not without getting wet.

A few people have suggested joining a running club, but this isn’t what I want. I don’t want to be running with other people where I realise just how slow I am and how much work I have to do! At this point, I will acknowledge that yes, most runners are supportive and would help me… blah blah blah… but I’m not into that kind of help. I’m a competitive person. I need to feel I’m competitive, not that I’m there for everyone to pour pity on. I know that getting help from a club works for a lot of people, but I’m just not that person.

Taking part in the running events this year is about raising money and awareness of my chosen charities not how fast I can complete them. I just want to get round the course (before they close it) and prove to myself and the doubters, that I can come back from that virus and be fit again.

The morning after…

Tuesday ended on a bit of a ‘downer’. I’ve not been feeling like myself for the last couple of days, feeling alone and more than a bit doubtful on whether my life is going in the right direction. I guess seeing the stress that my family is under due to the illness of my Grandfather, is probably the cause. I hate feeling useless and in this situation, that’s exactly what I am. Other than providing support, I can do nothing.

For the last four months, I have felt the same helplessness about my own health. I originally started feeling ill in May and ignoring it cost me four months of rowing training, the entire winter head racing season and could have cost me my long term health.

Last Thursday, I was given the support from my doctor that I had been dreaming of. Despite not having the test results from a hospital visit a few days before, the doctor said, with a smile on his face, that he was happy for me to start some graduated training. I couldn’t believe my ears. Ok, so I have to wait another couple of weeks for the all clear, but this was the best news I’d had in a long time.

I got home that evening on top of the world and immediately started the plan for light/recovery training, from Monday. My plan consisted of swimming, a gentle jog, light ergo (rowing machine) or dancing with at least one ‘recovery’ day in between which is to be completed for the next 4 weeks.

With Monday’s early start I abandoned the plan for Monday and instead decided to start on Tuesday night.

Heading home last night and talking about it with a friend on the train, I realised I was incredibly nervous about doing any exercise. Don’t get me wrong, I walk to the train station most days and at speed, so it’s not completely alien to me, but this was different.

The plan for Tuesday was a 10 minute jog. One minute walking, one minute jogging. In order to do this I had to take my pulse first thing in the morning, when I got home from work and then at intervals during the training. This was to ensure that my body was in the right state to be able to cope with exercise. I had already established that if my resting heart rate in the morning was above 55 or above 65 after work, then I wont train. With my pulse at 52 in the morning and 59 after work, I decided to go for it. I set out and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

My illness over the summer had resulted in some concerns over my heart and it scared me to death. Everyone around me keeps commenting on how I must ensure that I don’t overtrain. To those people, I ask if they think I have a death wish. One Wednesday in July I was left not sure whether I’d see Thursday. I’m not saying that for effect. It’s true. I found myself unable to speak, slurring my words and in a lot of pain, it’s something that I will remember for a long time to come. Maybe this gives an insight to why I was nervous about a bit of a jog.

I had planned for the exercise to be in my cardio zone and after 5 minutes, my pulse was just a little over my target.

When I got home I wanted to cry. I’d never found 10 minutes work so hard. This was the first time I realised just how unwell I’d been and how much work would be involved in getting me back to competition fitness. I just wanted someone to hug me and tell me it would be ok. I’m a strong person, but maybe the summer took more of my strength than I realised.

This morning, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Part of me thought that I would wake with a headache, as I’d been doing before I got sick, or maybe even feeling like I had flu – a good indication that I’d done too much.

As the alarm went off I felt groggy. But after 15 minutes or so, it passed and although there was the feeling that I may develop a headache during the day, I couldn’t believe how much better I felt. And I was so hungry it was ridiculous!

I know the road ahead is going to be one of the hardest of my life, but standing on the train platform this morning, I felt that buzz coming back.

Yesterday may have ended feeling down and unsure of my abilities. But I have definitely come back fighting today!