Jillian Michaels – Beginner Shred

A review, because it’s ever too late to get into fitness.

Today is National Fitness Day, or so social media tells me. I’m late to the party. I rarely know about these things until I go on Twitter and see that ‘National XYZ Day’ is trending.

I was late to the party when it comes to exercise in general, too. I was the chubby kid who was very bad at sport and I dreaded PE lessons with every fibre of my being. I was in my 20s before I ever came to enjoy exercise.

It was Jillian Michaels who got me into fitness, and I fondly remember the pain of trying to walk upstairs the day after doing 30 Day Shred for the first time. Wow!
Not only did 30 Day Shred teach me that I’m stronger than I ever thought and that once you find the right exercise it can actually be fun, I also learned that it’s never too late to get into fitness.

Last year, in response to growing requests from fans, Jillian released Beginner Shred. At the time, I was just getting back into fitness after a long break, and had injured myself. Discovering Beginner Shred was great; it really helped get me back on track and working out regularly.
So, in the spirit of National Fitness Day, I’d like to share with you the review that I wrote for Lizitivity‘s blog.

Jillian Michaels – Beginner Shred

This review was first posted here, 06.06.2015

Beginner Shred
Jillian Michaels – Beginner Shred on Amazon

Following a knee injury last year (I’m apparently the clumsy kind of person who can hurt themselves just by getting out of bed), I found that my favourite Jillian Michaels workouts had too much impact and too many moves that aggravated it. I started looking for modifications that would allow me to keep going, and stumbled across Beginner Shred. It’s aimed not just at beginners, but people who may have taken time off exercising and are looking to get back into it gently, and people who may have had injuries and need a lower impact workout. Perfect!

Beginner Shred is, as Jillian says in the intro to the DVD, something that many people have requested. The structure is similar to the 30 Day Shred. It’s a series of three 20-minute workouts (25 minutes including the warmup and cooldown) that progress in difficulty. Each workout is broken down into three circuits, and you go through each circuit twice. You do each workout for 10 days, then move to the next level of difficulty. I had planned to have a rest day every 3 days, but I ended up taking more. To be honest, having more rest days isn’t a bad thing. Especially if you’re a beginner, it will allow your muscles to recover and grow stronger. I notice that after a 3-day break I’m stronger than after just one rest day.

For those of you who’ve done 30DS, you’ll recognise Natalie and Anita – they’re back to demonstrate the moves in Beginner Shred. If you’re looking to do the easier version, follow Natalie. If you want a harder modification, follow Anita. I wasn’t in the greatest shape, having only returned to working out a few weeks before my injury, but also not a beginner, so for most exercises I did the modified versions. Whichever you choose to do, this is still a tough workout. Because it’s only 20 minutes, Jillian works you hard. No rest, no giving up.

‘…everyone must start somewhere and there is no shame in doing the easier versions of the exercises, but the way we improve and get stronger is to try the harder modifications.’

Throughout the workouts, Jillian explains the moves, which muscles you’re working and what you’re going to achieve. She seems to know when things are getting tough and she encourages you to think about why you started, what you want from your workout, and why you matter. If you’re familiar with other Jillian Michaels DVDs, you may find that she’s shockingly gentle and nice when you start this. Don’t worry – by Workout 3 she’s promising to jump through the TV and kick your butt.

The other thing I love about Beginner Shred is that Jillian encourages you to try the harder modifications, even for one or two reps, or a few seconds at a time. She stresses that everyone must start somewhere and there is no shame in doing the easier versions of the exercises, but that the way we improve and get stronger is to try the harder modifications. ‘You are not fragile.’ It’s a great message and very motivational.

You don’t need a huge amount of space to work out in, and the moves themselves are not complicated. Amongst others you’ll do squats with shoulder presses, push-ups, donkey kicks, deadlifts with rows, mountain climbers… And yes, burpees make an appearance. You didn’t think you’d get away without doing some burpees, did you? Some of the moves require more balance than others. Anyone watching me try to do a backward lunge with a shoulder press would probably have wet themselves laughing. I’ve no balance. But after doing it for a few days I didn’t wobble as much and didn’t fall as often.

Workouts 1 and 2 are more strength-focused, with only a little cardio to keep your heart rate up. If you were looking for a modified jumping jack when you did 30DS, look no further. Jillian gives you step-out jacks in Workout 1. I preferred the moves in Workout 2 (with the exception of those backward lunges) and by the time the more cardio-intense Workout 3 arrived I felt considerably stronger. Not once did any of the moves aggravate my knee, and if I felt there was any chance of that happening I swapped to the easier version.

In all, I think this is an excellent DVD for just about anyone. Jillian is a great motivator; the moves are demonstrated and explained well. You can modify this to make it as easy or difficult as you need, and if you take your time, stick with it and push through the discomfort, it’ll have you feeling strong and energised in no time.

What did I do for National Fitness Day? Well, it was my day off so, as I usually do on days off, I took my borrowed dog for a walk. We ended up getting a little lost and finding a couple more hills than usual, and I cut the walk short because we were both getting hot and bothered. I took him home and we played football for a while.

Later in the day I jumped on the exercise bike, which has been my main form of exercise lately, since it doesn’t aggravate any of the pains and health problems I’ve been having. I’d hoped to do a little yoga session as well, but my body was having none of it.

Did you do anything special for National Fitness Day, or just stick with your usual routine?
Have you tried any Jillian Michaels workouts? What’s your favourite?

Severn Bridge Half Marathon

A volunteer’s race recap

I’m not a fan of 6:30 alarms, but Sunday’s was surprisingly easy to get up for. Hooray – Severn Bridge Half day!

This time last year I had just marshalled the 2015 Severn Bridge Half Marathon, and I was raring to get training and run the 2016 race. Yes, despite the fact that I was suffering with a prolonged chest infection, I firmly believed I was going to kick that and get my running back on track so that I could enter.
No. Life and my body had other plans.

There was no way I was going to miss the race though. 2016 is the 50th anniversary of the bridge’s opening, and the half marathon was going to be something special. So what if I couldn’t run it? I could have just as much fun marshalling and supporting the runners.

So for this notorious night owl, Sunday’s early alarm wasn’t so bad. I quickly got ready, being as quiet as possible so I didn’t wake my sleeping fiancé, and I was out of the door and programming the satnav by 6:50.

A travel mug of coffee was very, very necessary.

Of course, I didn’t have enough petrol, so had to stop off. The first garage wasn’t open and the second had no unleaded. Third time lucky…

Despite the stops and a bit of congestion on the slip road to the car park, I made it to the St David’s Hospice Care marshall meeting point on time and met up with some familiar faces. I’ve volunteered for a few local(ish) races over the last year, as well as parkrun, so it’s always nice to see people and have a chat. Volunteers for this race are usually from the charities that the race supports, and as St David’s means a lot to me personally, I love to help out on their team.

We were given our assigned spots, maps and contact numbers, then myself and four others set out for the 10-mile point at Pwllmeyric. I don’t know the area, so I was relieved that someone else was driving. With an hour to go before we expected the first runners through, we settled down to wait.

The two ladies I was sharing a stretch of road with were from Fairwater running club, and we chatted for a while. Several people in cars and on foot stopped to ask what time runners were coming through so they could see friends and loved ones, and it was lovely to see support from the local community who came out of their houses to watch, too.

The first runners came through shortly before 10 o’clock. By that time I’d moved to my corner, where I was directing runners to turn for the loop. The Loop. The one where they had a camera set up to make sure no one avoided running it and check that people were adhering to the strict ‘no headphones’ rule. As a side note: I don’t understand why you would miss out part of a course. You’re cheating yourself. Surely you can’t be proud of your time or achievement.

The views from my little corner:

Anyhow, the lane was closed to vehicles, so there was a young guy from the traffic management company also stationed at that corner, which was nice. I had some company and also didn’t have to deal with any irate drivers who weren’t happy about the road closures. That was the only thing I had been dreading, after some verbal abuse when I marshalled the Newport Half back in the spring. Big credit to the people who stopped to ask about the closure on our corner yesterday, they found alternate routes without a single complaint.
I didn’t catch the traffic guy’s name, but we had a bit of a talk and I think he enjoyed watching the race. I know I did!

Once the main body of runners started to come through, I clapped and cheered them on. Some were chatty, some struggling but still smiling. They had just come from a water station and I could see a lot had poured water over themselves. It was warm, and apparently the course was tough this year, due to some changes that had to be made to the route.

I cheered especially loudly for the runners I knew or recognised. Every time I saw a vest from a local club I shouted for them – Pont-y-Pŵl, Parc Bryn Bach, Fairwater, Lliswerry, Islwyn. There were several Vegan Runners, and I recognised two Cornelly Striders who had run the Sospan 10k earlier in the summer. I also saw two UKRunChat vests – I’d love to know who those runners were!

The minion’s guide runners did a great job of guiding – I doubt s/he could see much in that suit!

A few people came to stand on that corner and cheer at various points throughout the morning. One runner stopped to see her supporter, before carrying on.

By the time the last people came through, my hands were aching from clapping. Can’t complain though, these people had completed a tough 10+ miles and had just under 3 left to go!

Once the road was open again and the empty water bottles and gel packets picked up from the road (thank you to the water station volunteers from Winston’s Wish), we all got back in the car to drive to the finish. We walked about 400 metres of the course from the car park, and sympathised with the runners who, after 13 miles, had one final incline before the finish line. That’s cruel!

Things were winding down at the finish when we got there. Runners were sitting on the grass, clad in their new bright red 2016 race shirts, eating and drinking and freshening up. Some were getting well-deserved massages. The volunteers were given race shirts and there was a tent set up for us to have tea/coffee, sandwiches and cake. Oh, that was good cake!

I stuck around for a bit to see the last few finishers, and chatted with a couple of people, then as it started to spit with rain I walked back to my car with one of the other volunteers.
It was a fun day, and being a part of it so that those 4000 people could run was so rewarding. The cake was a nice bonus! Thank you to the organisers for making it an enjoyable event to marshal, and for making us feel welcome and valued.

Afterwards I checked out the #SevernBridgeHalf hashtag on Twitter and saw people raving about how much they’d enjoyed the run. Congratulations to you all for getting out there, and for all your personal achievements on Sunday!

The only problem is that it’s given me runner’s envy (and some definite clothing envy – so many gorgeous leggings whizzed past me!) and now I can’t wait to get my body sorted so I can run again.

Maybe this time next year I’ll be lining up at the start of the 2017 Severn Bridge Half Marathon…


Did you run it this year? How did you find it? I’d especially love to know how the new route compares to last year’s course. Leave me a comment – or if you’ve blogged about it leave the link, I’d love to read it!

Feel the fear

Resuming my personal trainer diploma

feel the fearBack in February I made the decision to put my personal trainer diploma on hold. My health was shocking – I’d been unable to exercise for months because of breathing problems. I was stressed to the teeth, and I just couldn’t see myself being able to complete the course.

If I’m honest, my health is still not great (for different reasons now) and I’m only slightly less stressed at the moment. But the course can only stay on hold for so long, and knowing that it’s hanging there unfinished has been weighing on my mind.

On Tuesday I took the plunge and booked onto my 2-day Exercise for Older Adults course. I’m hoping that it’ll ease me back into the whole thing while I find a solution to my back/pelvic pain and regain some fitness.

There are a couple of options for the 4-day personal training attendance course, so I have either until the end of October or the beginning of December to get myself sorted and feeling able to do that.

In all honesty, I’m very anxious about the attendance courses. Having been unable to maintain the level of fitness I’d like over the past year, I feel as though I’ll be the most unfit person there and not taken seriously. As an introvert, I don’t do well in large groups and really have to psych myself up for that kind of environment. The good news is that I won’t be going alone to the first one – Liz will also be there, as she’s also signed up for the course. We’ll be the naughty kids at the back of the room…

What I need to remember going forward is that I have a sound knowledge of this stuff. I’ve been learning about fitness for years. So many years. I already hold a fitness instructor qualification. It’s confidence that I lack, and the ability to follow the training plans that I put together. That’s really something I need to work on.

For now, I’m taking the exercise easy until my doctors appointment (only 5 days to go!). Yoga is pretty much out of the question with my current pain and niggles, but I can get in a good 25-30 minute session on the exercise bike.

Following our squat challenge, The Hardcore Four are taking on an ab challenge – I’m modifying mine heavily so that it doesn’t aggravate my back. So far, so good.

I’m getting a couple of good walks in every week, and short lunchtime walks are really helping to ease the pain I get from sitting down for too long at work.
I only have half an hour for lunch, but yesterday I found a circular route that takes me from the office, along the canal and back.

The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

Yesterday was very hot and sunny, but the canal bank was beautifully shady. It was lovely to get out in the fresh air, see the ducks and moorhens, and just relax for a while. I’m going to try to make a habit of going out every lunchtime – I think it’s good for my mental wellbeing as well as for my back.

UKRunChat Squat Challenge – Week 4



I'm out

For those of you who’ve been following my posts about the 30 Day Squat and Lunge Challenge I’ve been doing with a group of UKRunChat Twitter users, you’ll know that I’ve been struggling. If you haven’t been following but want to read about  it, the saga starts here.

The final week was a wind-down week, but I’ve been suffering with back and pelvic pain on and off for a couple of months, and it was obvious that I just couldn’t manage the squats, let alone the lunges and high impact moves.

I’m annoyed with myself, and with my body. As I mentioned last week, I’ve never managed to complete any kind of training plan or challenge. However, there is a lot going on in my life right now, and I just don’t have the energy to beat myself up about not finishing this challenge. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal. I gave it a shot, and maybe one day I’ll come back to it and make it through all four weeks.

At the moment I’ll have to continue with the limited exercise I can do, which is pretty much just walking, and hope that when I finally get to see a doctor (only 10 days to go now…) they can offer some insight and help to fix whatever is causing the pain.

I want to end on a positive note with a shout-out to the three people I did this challenge with – thank you Amy, Lucy, and Martin for your encouragement, and well done on making it to the end!

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3

UKRunChat Squat Challenge – Week 3

Falling behind, but not giving up

If you’ve been reading my blog recently, you’ll have seen my previous posts about the 30 Day Squat and Lunge Challenge that a group of UKRunChat tweeters decided to take on a couple of weeks ago.
If you want to catch up, you can read about the first week here and the second week here.

UKRunChat Squat & Lunge ChallengeBut what about the third week? I’ll admit it hasn’t been good; my body has thrown all kinds of spanners in the works. Here’s the recap of days 15-21:

Monday – 35 squat jumps, 35 lunges. I really had to force myself to do these. I bribed myself with the promise that afterwards I could watch the first two episodes of Star Trek: TNG on Netflix. But I felt good afterwards.

Tuesday – Unplanned rest day. My calves were in knots.

Wednesday – Another rest day, because of the cramping in my calves.

Thursday – Yet another day skipped.

Friday – 40 squats, 60 seconds high knees. With the pain eased enough to get back to the challenge, I decided to miss out Tuesday’s catch-up since squat jumps and lunges would aggravate my calves. This was Thursday’s catch-up.

Saturday – 45 squats. I didn’t do the 75 seconds high knees on the plan because of back pain. If I were a horse, they’d shoot me…

Sunday – 45 squats (instead of squat jumps). Broken down into small sets with long rests between. No lunges, and high impact is definitely off the menu for a while, and I woke up with the start of a cold. Not a fun day.

I think it’s safe to say I haven’t enjoyed this week much. I don’t know where the calf cramps came from, but I could barely walk on Tuesday and Wednesday. I had my usual negative thoughts: ‘well, I haven’t stuck to it so I may as well give up‘, but I squashed them. I always give up. I’ve never completed a training plan of any kind. But I’m determined not to give up on this one, so I’m going to modify it and get to the end.

The last week kicks off with a rest day tomorrow, which is nice…

My goal for next week, as well as continuing to pay attention to form and range of movement, is to just modify it to suit me and stick with it. Secondary goal is to try to enjoy it – it’s the last week, after all!

You can find me on Bloglovin’ or follow me on Twitter (@MaxSlothBlog) and find out how the fourth and final week shapes up, as well as how I’m getting along with my newfound desire to try yoga.

Week 1
Week 2
Week 4

UKRunChat Squat Challenge – Week 2


14 days ago, a small group of UKRunChatters decided we were going to do the 30 Day Squat and Lunge Challenge to strengthen our legs and glutes, and hopefully help with our running.

As I said earlier this week, I’m not running at the moment. For the benefit of my health (physical and mental) I’ve taken things right back to basics. I’ve continued with the challenge because I know that the squats and lunges, even with the introduction of a little cardio from week 2, aren’t going to negatively impact my energy, and building a strong foundation will help immeasurably when I do start running again.

UKRunChat Squat & Lunge Challenge

So, days 8-14. Here’s how they went:

Monday – 20 squat jumps, 30 seconds high knees. I choose to believe the floorboards only rattle and groan when I do this because they’re old and tired.

Tuesday – Accidental rest day. I didn’t feel well most of the day, and in the evening opted for a ‘date night’ short walk in the sun and meal out.

Wednesday – 30 squats, 45 seconds high knees. This was what I should’ve done on Tuesday. Nice and easy, despite the heat, but I do wish my knees would stop crunching. Straight after, I brought myself up to date with 25 squat jumps, 30 lunges. Hello again, lunges. Jolly good to see you… Not.

Thursday – Rest day.

Friday – Another unscheduled rest day. Inner thighs were still aching and I just couldn’t face the high knees.

Saturday – 30 squats. The first part of Friday. 30 lunges. The second part of Saturday. I didn’t do the high knees from Friday or the squat jumps from Saturday, because I still couldn’t face it and didn’t want to put on a sports bra for the sake of a couple of minutes.

Sunday – 60 seconds high knees, the second part of Friday. Followed by 30 squat jumps that should’ve been done Saturday. Then 35 squats, 60 seconds high knees. Up to date again. I hate high knees. Probably even more than I hate lunges.

Not the best week. I didn’t stick to the plan and ended up doing two double days. Part of it is that I’ve not been feeling 100% and I’ve needed extra rest. Part of it is just not committing. I’ll work on it and try to stick to the plan for the next 7 days.

This week I’ve been concentrating hard on maintaining good form. Next week I’d like to increase my range of movement as well.

Week 1
Week 3
Week 4

Taking my exercise back to basics for some R&R

The great yoga experiment begins…

This is it. I’ve given in. Years after first trying yoga and finding I didn’t like it, I have downloaded a yoga app.

My body is currently very unhappy with me (fatigue, pain, migraines), and there’s no chance of me being able to do intense exercise at the moment. No running, no exercise bike, no kettlebells. Instead of having an ‘oh sh*t I’m going to lose all my fitness again’ meltdown, I’m giving in to it. My body needs rest. But from past experience I know that my body also needs exercise to be able to recover well.

After two days stuck in bed with a migraine last week, I knew that I needed to exercise to get rid of my aches and pains. I took my border collie pal for a short walk on Friday afternoon, which helped to stretch out my legs, but the rest of me still ached.

In the past, Pilates was what did the trick for me when I couldn’t do anything too intense. Reformer Pilates is one of my favourite things. Strengthening, stretching, and taking half an hour or so to just focus on the movement of my body is so peaceful. But with no space in the house to lay out my reformer, let alone alone flail my arms and legs around, I haven’t done it in a long time.
Wait, did I say ‘flail’? I meant ‘make smooth and controlled motions’…

Anyway. I’m not a big fan of mat-based Pilates, but I needed to do something, so I decided to give it a go again. Typically, with my house being mid-renovation, I couldn’t find the one non-reformer Pilates DVD I own, nor the Pilates for Dummies book I snagged years ago from my library’s discarded books shelf. I made space in the living room and found some Pilates videos on YouTube.

I dismissed quite a lot based on their titles (cardio Pilates? No thanks, not what I’m after) and stopped a few after finding the instructor’s voice annoying.

I finally settled on a Fitness Blender video. I liked that they had a man demonstrating the moves (I don’t think I’d ever seen a Pilates video with a man in before) and the voiceover was pleasant to listen to.
Unfortunately, the workout didn’t do it for me. I abandoned it halfway through, bored to tears. I found another on the same channel, but found that again, I was bored.
The moves were challenging, but I just couldn’t get interested. I find reformer Pilates soothing, but this was just dull and frustrating.

So this is it. I’ve given in. Years after first trying yoga and finding I didn’t like it, I have downloaded a yoga app.

Image credit: fitstar.com

Out of sheer desperation to find something that would give me a good stretch and a bit of ‘me time’, I downloaded the FitStar Yoga app. I’ve used the FitStar Personal Trainer app on and off for a year or so, and I really enjoy the strength/cardio sessions. Knowing the yoga app would be set up in a similar way, I decided to try it. No lovely Tony Gonzalez offering encouragement this time; the yoga app has Tara Stiles guiding you through the sessions.

I started (sensibly enough) with the introductory session, which is about 18 minutes long and designed to give the user a taste of what the workouts are like.

I did struggle at first to see what I was supposed to be doing for each pose. I’m not the most co-ordinated person, so figuring out where my arms and legs were supposed to go to get into some positions wasn’t particularly easy.
I’m also hideously inflexible. For someone who used to do Pilates five days a week and could do the splits, this is slightly embarrassing. It meant that I couldn’t flow from one pose to the next and had to figure out my own ways of getting into them.

Some poses were just not going to happen. I lacked the flexibility for some, and the strength and balance for others.

I like that the app gives the option to mark a pose as ‘too hard’ (you can also mark them as ‘too easy’ or ‘just right’) during the workout, and also asks you to rate them at the end. This means that the next workout will be more tailored to your level of fitness and flexibility.
Out of 44 poses, I marked 10 as being too difficult and one as too easy.

Savasana is pretty nice, though!

I really surprised myself by sort of enjoying the session. Only ‘sort of’ because the first half of it was where all my ‘too hard’ ratings came in. Once it moved on to poses I could do, I started to like it more. I also liked that there wasn’t a focus on the spiritual/meditation side. I think that’s one of the things that has put me off yoga so much over the years.

I decided to stick with it. Since Friday I’ve done 2 more sessions from my free plan. Sunday was ‘hips and core’, Monday was ‘twists and psoas’. I had a sneaky look at the poses included before I started, and watched the demonstrations, so I felt better prepared for these two sessions than I was for the intro.

Do I feel better for it? I can’t tell yet. I’m somewhat concerned that my average heart rate during the sessions seems to be quite high. I seem to have fewer aches and pains, although some are persisting. I’m hoping that if I keep going it will help with my aches, and improve my strength and flexibility. I also hope that once I don’t have to try so hard just to get into the poses, yoga might help to relieve some of my stress.

Stay tuned to find out how this yoga experiment goes…

If you’re a Bloglovin’ user you can follow me here to see new posts.

I should say that this post is in no way affiliated with or sponsored by FitStar. I know how difficult it can be to wade through the volume of YouTube videos and mobile apps to find a workout you enjoy, so I just wanted to share my experience of using the FitStar Yoga app. All opinions are entirely my own.

UKRunChat Squat Challenge – Week 1

Working to get stronger

It’s been a year, maybe longer, since I discovered UKRunChat on Twitter. It’s a wonderful thing. A community of runners, from all walks of life and all ability levels, who share experiences, advice and motivate each other. No bitching, no drama, just people encouraging and raising each other up.

During last Sunday’s UKRunChat hour (8-9pm, come and join us tonight using #ukrunchat), the discussion turned to strength training to help with running. A small group of us decided to start the 30 Day Squat and Lunge Challenge.

UKRunChat Squat & Lunge Challenge

Alright, I’m not currently running very much because my health is all over the place, but it can’t hurt to do a few squats and lunges to tune up ready for when I can run regularly again.

I set a recurring alarm on my phone for the evenings so that I would remember to do it. I need reminders for everything.

It’s 7 days since the challenge began, and here’s how my week went:

Monday – 15 squats, 10 forward lunges (each leg). Easy peasy. I didn’t go too deep into the movements and focused more on form. Lunges were wobbly, because my balance is terrible.

Tuesday – 20 squats, 15 lunges. Easy again. This time I went deeper. Somehow managed to not fall over doing the lunges.

Wednesday – Enforced rest day due to migraine.

Thursday – Ditto.

Friday – 10 squat jumps, 20 lunges. Urgh. A day behind the plan, and still not on form thanks to two days being ill. But the squat jumps were surprisingly fun.

Saturday – 20 squats, 25 lunges. They were fine. The lunges were tedious – 25 on each leg takes a while. Later in the day I did my catch-up to bring me up to date with the schedule: 15 squat jumps, 25 lunges. Again, squat jumps fun but lunges not so much, even though I was a lot steadier.

Sunday – 25 squats, 30 lunges. I was feeling the effects of a double day, but loosened up beforehand and got the exercises done.

Thanks to the others doing the challenge for being so encouraging and motivating!

Bring on the next week!

Week 2
Week 3
Week 4

Sospan 10k

A full fortnight late, but finally written!

I meant to write this sooner. Ideally, I would’ve written it the day after, but since the race was in Llanelli, Alex and I decided to make a weekend of it and have a mini holiday.

The race was on a Saturday, so we drove over to Llanelli on the Friday morning. I’d had to borrow my mum’s Mazda 2 because my blue baby was in the garage having emergency work done on it, so because I was nervous and desperate to not prang the car, it wasn’t the quickest of journeys. I think Alex enjoyed not having to drive for once, though.

We got to Llanelli around lunchtime, but couldn’t check in to our luxury accommodation (Travelodge) until 3 o’clock, so we went in search of food. One seafood platter and one veggie burger later and we still had an hour to go. We decided to explore the town. I dragged Alex into a health food shop, where for the sake of my overdraft I resisted buying just about everything. I walked out with just a Panda red liquorice bar, because I hadn’t had one since I was in school.

We wandered around the market and found a gaming shop with arcade machines. Alex spotted Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and had a go. He did pretty well, too!

Sospan 10k

The Travelodge was exactly as I expected, but it came as a surprise to me that Alex had never stayed in one before. I don’t think he was impressed. I could’ve done with it being several degrees cooler in the building and many degrees cooler in the room, but they did provide a fan, which helped a little.

We spent the afternoon with Liz (Lizitivity), her husband and their almost-7-month-old daughter (our goddaughter). I’d been warned that she would probably cry when she saw me, but she didn’t. I’m not good with babies, but Tabitha seemed happy enough to sit on my lap and we had quite a long raspberry blowing competition. She won. I’m rubbish at raspberries.

Since Liz and I had the 10k the following morning, we chilled out, ordered pizza and had a nice evening catching up. I say that as if we don’t speak every day…

Did I sleep well that night? No. I had difficulty getting to sleep and then staying asleep.

The morning came around, and as usual, I couldn’t get it together. I don’t do mornings. I’m rubbish at mornings. I’d taken breakfast supplies with me, so I forced down a cup of green tea, some strawberries, and a cereal bar. I panicked that I’d forgotten my trainers, when they were beside the bed all along.

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I don’t know what’s up with the time in those screenshots but it definitely wasn’t midnight. More like 8am.

Liz came to pick us up, and since the race started within walking distance of her house we used the loo ‘one last time’ at her house – anything to not use the portaloos – and then walked over to the start.

Being on the Millennium Costal Path in Llanelli, we knew it was going to be a breezy run. The plan had been for Liz and her husband to take turns pushing the baby in the buggy. Unfortunately, her husband had to work, so it was just the two of us running. I was happy to give pushing a go, but when we got to the race venue and it was so flipping windy, Alex volunteered to babysit so we could have an easier time of it for the 10k.

We registered, dutifully pinned on our race numbers and clipped the timing chips around our left ankles. I dithered over whether I wanted to join the portaloo queue, or whether it was just my brain playing tricks. I did not join the queue. I feel as though I’ve missed out on the full race experience really, having never used a portaloo before.

We lined up at the start, towards the back of the pack because we knew we would be doing run/walk intervals (remember how I didn’t train for this?) and I had time for one more wistful glance back at the portaloos before we were off and running.

We’d barely got around the first corner from the start line before the rain started. Freezing cold, driving rain. All I could do was laugh. It was a brief shower and stopped quite quickly, which I think everyone on the course was pleased about. We ran at a quickish pace (for me) and I felt good. I don’t know how far we ran before our first walk break. I wasn’t in it for a time, just to complete the distance. We walked for a bit, ran for a bit. Liz got a stitch, and despite having read a dozen articles over the years about how to run through and get past a stitch, I couldn’t remember a single one!

The sun came out, and on our walking breaks, I took some photos. It’s an absolutely stunning out and back route – I’m very jealous of the people who live nearby and get to run that path often!



The leaders began coming past, and we played ‘spot the running club’ and ‘spot the race t-shirt’. As well as lots of clubs local to the area, I spotted a lot of runners from Parc Bryn Bach, which is near where I live. I also saw a few Liswerry and a couple of Islwyn vests, a familiar face or two, but no Pont-y-Pŵl runners. Lots of people proudly sported their Swansea Half Marathon shirts from the previous weekend, but I don’t remember any other race t-shirts standing out.
What? I like t-shirt spotting!

The runners heading back towards us cheered us slower runners on, and that was a great boost, although I felt I should have been the one saying ‘well done’ to them!

I was in a fantastic mood, and my positivity probably made Liz want to kill me. All the way through, I kept setting us goals and landmarks to run to, then suggesting we go a little further. I used terrible phrases like ‘we can do it’ and ‘not much further’. I said we should imagine Jillian Michaels was yelling at us to keep running.

At the hill (it’s not a big one, in comparison to where I run, but on a flat course and with no training it felt like a bloomin’ big one!) there were Teletubbies cheering for us all. Liz and I were very tempted to stop for a photo with them, but we carried on.

By about 3k, the chip timer around my ankle had really started to chafe. That’s my one and only gripe about this race, especially as I’m still sporting a scab from it. Had I known the chips were anklets, I would have worn ankle socks or wrapped a buff around to prevent the possibility of chafing. Alas, I didn’t find out until the day, when I was buff-less and wearing trainer socks.

The course turned around at about 4k, where there was a water station. Little bottles with sports caps – perfect! We stopped to walk for a bit after grabbing water, because I cannot run and drink at the same time.

After 5k, we did a lot more walking than running. A couple of times Liz suggested I go on ahead, as she was having some hip pain, but I refused. We signed up to do it together, so I wasn’t going to leave her. There was a photographer midway along the route, and we posed for him (“Look happy, he’s got a camera! Look like we’re having fun!”) but although he had looked like an official photographer, his photos didn’t seem to make it onto the website with the others.


Honestly, the whole 10k seemed to me to take no time at all. I loved it. The walking breaks meant that I could take in the scenery, and it was so nice to just be out there together. We spoke to a few of the others who were at the back of the pack with us, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

Around 2k from the finish, we saw Alex standing at the side of the path to cheer us on. We stopped for Liz to say hello to Tabitha and give her a kiss before we pressed on to the end. One more little out and back section, and we were almost there. I suggested we run from the top of the last rise down to the finish line, but Liz was hurting and urged me to go on ahead. I still felt as though I had energy, so this time I went for it despite the guilt of leaving her behind. As it turns out, I thought I had more in me than I did and went too fast. By the time I rounded the corner to the finish, I realised my mistake. Too late. People were cheering. A man with a microphone was announcing that I was just coming to the finish. Never mind that he misread my race number and thought I was someone called Nadine… There was a photographer. Couldn’t stop with all that going on.

I crossed the line, and a very nice lady put a medal around my neck. “Run into the medal!”
I pushed ‘stop’ on my watch, but the damn thing didn’t stop. I didn’t find that out until about 6 minutes later…
I accepted a bottle of water and a banana, then turned around to cheer Liz on as she came across the line. We drank our water, Liz ate my banana (I’m not a fan unless they’re in smoothies or cake) and we lay on the grass to take photos with our medals. I was a good girl and stretched because I didn’t want to be driving home the next day in pain.

Fabulous medal!

Alex and I headed back to the hotel so I could shower and change. We drove over to meet up with Liz and her husband again and opted for a meal at the baby-friendly Brewer’s Fayre nearby. For the life of me I can’t remember what I had to eat, but I do remember the lovely glass of rosé that went with it.

The following day I looked up my chip time (nothing to get excited about, but nice to know, and an automatic PB since it was my first 10k) and looked at the official photos.

My finish line photos are awful. Worst photos ever. Not even the funny kind of bad.

Anyway. It was a great day, superbly organised by the Sospan Road Runners. The support from the marshals and spectators along the course was great. I will be back next year to run the whole distance.

Liz has also blogged about this and the Kolor Dash we did a few weeks ago – you can read her post and see her photos here.

Thinking Out Loud #2

migraines / bizarre goings on / horror films / pilates / finishing the living room

Disclaimer: this has taken me all day to write, from my bed, using my phone, thanks to day two of a migraine. I’ve read it through this evening now I’m feeling better, but I’m still a bit wibbly, so apologies for any errors or things that just plain don’t make sense!

Since I haven’t been able to do much of anything except sleep, I’ve had plenty of time to think. So I’m linking up with Amanda from Running With Spoons for another Thinking Out Loud Thursday.

  • I suppose the biggest thing on my mind today, and in my head, is migraines. This is my second one since last Wednesday. The first was mostly just visual, with a bit of a fizzy (not a typo) head. It’s been so long since I last had a migraine that it took me a while to twig what was happening. The current one is worse. No light show, but all the pain and nausea. And the dreams… Such bizarre, twisted dreams when I doze off! It’s a bit upsetting to have to shut out the bright sunlight today when we don’t see enough of it in this part of the world. I have my suspicions about what’s caused the migraines to come back, so hopefully I can get them sorted.
  • A funny thing happened outside my house the other day. Alex and I had just got home and parked the car. When he got out and said “****”, my first reaction was to wonder whether the rattly exhaust had just fallen off my car. But no.
    Thinking Out Loud #2
    “There’s a turkey”

    Not what you expect to find on the verge of a car park, but there was indeed a turkey. She was in the bushes, which lead down a slope into a bit of a thicket before breaking out onto the main road. She didn’t look like she had plans to go anywhere, but we were concerned in case she did run into the road.
    There’s a smallholding behind our house, so Alex phoned the owner to ask if it was his bird. No, he doesn’t keep turkeys. Our neighbours have chickens, so we thought we’d ask them just in case she was theirs. They weren’t home, so we kept an eye on the turkey from our window, and when the neighbours came home Alex knocked on their door. Not their turkey. But they went out and caught her, and took her home to look after until the owner could be found.
    That was a few days ago, and we still don’t know whose bird she is or how she came to be there.

  • I really want to work on the look of my blog a bit more. I can’t justify paying to upgrade/host it, so I want to see what I can do to make it a bit funkier and more visually pleasing. I need to work on my banner image, because the current one isn’t doing it for me. Doesn’t really represent what I want it to show, but it’s a good placeholder for now.
  • Another funny thing happened yesterday. A house two doors up from us is for sale. Who did we spot yesterday evening, just coming out from a viewing, but one of Alex’s ex-colleagues. Turns out he likes the house a lot and was going to put in an offer today.
    It would be so cool if he gets it. Not only would it be great for Alex to have a friend living close by (all our friends live miles away), but we’d also know we were getting a good neighbour move into the street. My fingers are firmly crossed that his offer is accepted!
  • It FollowsWe watched It Follows the other night. Oh, such a good film! Best horror I’ve seen in ages. I’m surprised the IMDb user rating isn’t higher because so many people recommended it to us. The creep factor was high; I’m glad I didn’t have to sleep alone after watching that! Less really is more with horror films. If you like a good, suspenseful film, check it out.
  • While I’m on the subject of horror films, I see they’ve released the first image of Pennywise from the new film of Stephen King’s It. If you have coulrophobia, maybe don’t click through to see it here…
    I think Bill Skarsgård looks suitably menacing. I’ve vowed not to compare this film to my beloved mini-series, so I will not compare him to Tim Curry’s Pennywise.
    I am disappointed to read that it’s now set in the ’80s instead of the ’50s, but I can understand wanting the adults’ story to be set in the current day, so I suppose it had to change.
  • I need to start doing Pilates again. I know my body hurts at the moment because of the migraine and because I’ve been lying down too long, but I’ve had general aches and pains for a while and Pilates was always my go-to for sorting those out. I can’t wait until the spare bedroom is finished (plasterer is coming next month!) so we can move clothes and boxes out of the gym room and make some space for proper workouts.
  • And talking of rooms being finished – our living room pretty much is!
    It’s taken a lot of time and work, and we couldn’t have done it without help from our families, but at last we have a proper floor, skirting boards, and everything is neat! Alex still wants to make a cupboard to hide the fugly gas meter (not visible in these photos but thanks, previous owner, for having it put in the living room instead of the utility area or outside). We’re also going to paint the window frames and make some floating shelves for the alcoves. We’ve bought some frames to turn the fireplace wall into a picture wall, and enjoyed choosing the photos we want printed to go in them. Just need to actually get them printed and framed. This is the fun part of renovating a house!


    Thinking Out Loud #2
    Photo from estate agent’s website


    Thinking Out Loud #2
    Ninja snuck into the photo there

    Thinking Out Loud #2

Talk to me…

Do you experience migraines? If so, do you know what triggers yours?
Has anything strange happened to you recently?
What was the last really good movie you watched?