Slow and steady

Moving slowly through the UK countryside


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New Year’s baseline and floods

Back again after the Christmas break. Quite a few stair circuits done over the last couple of weeks, but barely any running, until today.

I got out and did a mile at a very gentle jog (15 min 36 s) and about a mile walking. Then I redid the 3-minute step test, but got a much less impressive recovery rate than last time – 102 instead of the seventies. But when I looked at the graph, I realised that I’d started at a much higher heart-rate rate (not long after I’d finished the mile run) so hardly surprising it was a slower recovery. Anyway, that’s my baseline for this year. It shouldn’t be too hard to improve on this.  And, just for the record, my resting heart-rate is about 68 first thing in the morning.

Step test

3 minute step test and one minute recovery

A quick edit (after reading this blog by fitfor365 ) – my Garmin-recorded runs for 2013 came to 68 runs, 116 miles in 28 hr 48 min, average speed 4 mph, average heart rate 147.  Which isn’t much by most runners standards, but is probably a lot more than most mid-50s women’s standards, so it’ll do me fine.  I wonder if I’ll manage more this year?  Plus, no injuries beyond occasional aches.  It would be good to do a Parkrun or two, but I’ll see how I go.  For now, improving my mile run pace will do, with the intention of upping my exercise time towards 30 minutes per day by the time the 5×50 challenge begins at the end of March.

Everywhere in England has had a lot of rain recently – here’s what our nearest stream looks like at the moment.  It’s usually only a metre or two wide.  Fortunately it hasn’t got high enough to get into anyone’s house this time.

Flooding under the bridge

Flooding under the bridge


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Stairs for fitness – or – I love graphs

I love playing with data.  This is a self-indulgent number-crunching post with graphs.  I’ve just been looking at some older Excel files from a while ago, and was really pleased to see how they show that doing all the running – even though it has been very much on/off over the last few months – has improved my health.

Doing stair circuits is pretty tedious, but a good way to do some exercise when you don’t want anyone to see you, because you’re embarrassed about how unfit you are.  I started doing ten minutes of stair circuits four years ago, when I was working more or less full-time and on my feet all day, but doing little other exercise.  One circuit is thirteen steps up, then a corner-step, across the landing, up one more and then all the way back down.  I used my phone to time each circuit.  The novelty rapidly wore off though, and I went back to doing very little exercise.

A year or so later, and I was working part-time, sitting down all the time, so I had another go.  The difference in my fitness showed.  After five circuits, I couldn’t manage to get up and down in less than 30 seconds.  That persuaded me to practise, and a month later it had improved quite a bit.

Then I forgot all about it again.  A year ago, I started running with the c25k programme, mixed in with yoga, more walking and Tai Chi.  I thought I’d see how I’d do with the stair circuits again, and was pleasantly surprised to see how much faster I was.  (28 circuits in ten minutes instead of about 20).

Stair circuit graph

Improving my stair circuits

I also found a ‘three minute step test’ a while ago on the sparkpeople website.  I signed up to track my diet, after I was diagnosed as coeliac, because the blood-tests also showed that I was low in iron and folate, and they are quite difficult to get enough of, if you don’t eat fortified cereals/bread.  (I ended up taking supplements as I struggled to get enough of them from my diet.)  I knew I wasn’t very fit, so I decided to use some of the sparkpeople trackers, so I could see if I got better at anything.

The step test involves stepping up and down for three minutes at a steady pace, then sitting and counting heartbeats for a complete minute after you stop.  To compare with the ratings chart, it should be a 12 inch step, but I just use the 9 inch bottom stair.  Cheating, but convenient, and it still shows me that I’ve got healthier.

Step test ratings

Women’s ratings for 3 minute step test on 12 inch step

When I first did it back in August last year (before I started running, and before I’d started taking iron and folate supplements) my recovery minute’s pulse was 117.  Today it was 75 – which is less than my resting heart rate was eighteen months ago!  So something is working, even if I don’t run fast or often.  This is the Garmin heart-rate monitor graph from today’s 3 minutes.  (I didn’t use the Garmin for the one minute count – I just liked the look of that steep drop back down to resting heart rate.)

Step test graph

Three minute step test and one minute recovery

I had thought it was down to the exercise, but looking at the sparkpeople tracker for the step test, maybe it is as much to do with having enough iron and folate in my blood, because there was a significant improvement before I began the running in December last year.  All good fun, anyway.  🙂

Step test graph

Three minute step test progress (US-style dates, month-day-year)


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Four lots of four minutes

Last night, I went to collect my younger daughter from the station, and while I was waiting, I did a bit of jogging, including a couple of bursts of speed (for all of thirty seconds or so).  I really rather enjoyed the fast bits, even though my shins ached afterwards – served me right for not warming up enough.

One of my online running buddies, Oldgirl, has joined a running group, Jog Scotland, and they’ve been doing training sessions of 4 minute runs with 2 minutes recovery.  Sounded like I could manage that, and it would make a change for running a mile.  Another NHS couch to 5k ‘graduate’, Aftabs, has also been using intervals to build pace, and walking breaks have recently been mentioned on  Fit for a Year but it isn’t something I’ve really tried before.  So, time to try something new.

It was raining this morning – a good opportunity for some faster running.  It’s been a while since I’ve run in the rain – it was lovely.  Even when a car went through a puddle and splashed me – I just laughed!

I did a longer warm up walk than usual, and then off I went, really running as fast as I could, heart-rate going up higher than usual.  Four minutes seemed longer than I’d expected it to!  The first run was along pavements, with a couple of blind corners, so I was happy with the 11:37 min/mile pace.

Two minutes walking did feel just about enough to bring my heart rate back down to a comfortable level, then off I went again.  I did three more lots of four minutes –  10:35 , 11:05 and 11:27 min/mile (the mile I ran yesterday took 12:16).  I nearly didn’t do the last one, as I had to turn round and head back away from home again, and I’d nearly had enough, but I’m glad I did, as it wasn’t as slow as I’d thought it would be.

pace and heart-rate

Pace and heart-rate on the second 4 minute run

It’s reassuring to see my heart rate recovery during the walks.

Heart rate recovery

Heart rate recovery during walk

This seems a good way to edge up the pace that my legs expect to run at – in total I ran 1.45 miles, but faster than when I run a mile.

Well, after all that, I decided I deserved a reward – a Mrs Crimble’s jam coconut ring.  Yummy.

Oh. just checked the packet:  Jam coconut ring – 723 calories.  My running and walking (according to Garmin) – 243 calories.  Hey ho – I’d better not have too much lunch!


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The inner gazelle

Now I do realise that these aren’t gazelles, but it’s the nearest photo I’ve got – taken on holiday in Norfolk last week.

Fallow deer

Fallow deer at Holkham Hall, Norfolk

Well, yesterday on the NHS Couch to 5k site there was a brief discussion about running like gazelles or hippos. And on Red Hen’s blog she was debating whether she felt like a supermodel when she was running – and on how long it takes before a run stops feeling ghastly.

So, in the interests of research, I went out BEFORE BREAKFAST to run. Partly because I’d told three people online that I was going to run today, and I wanted to make sure I actually did it. I think I’ve only once gone out before breakfast to run before – my hubby was a bit worried about me.

I ran 5k – woo hoo! My last 5k was way back at the end of June (Race for Life), and I’ve only run more than a mile a couple of times since then, so I wasn’t sure I’d manage to keep going. But I did, and at not too bad a time either, for me, 43 min 20 s. I nearly stopped after 30 minutes, but it was a downhill bit then, so decided to keep going and imagine my inner gazelle/supermodel. Nice feeling, going faster and with heart rate a bit lower, sailing along. Mmmmmmm!

It then goes up a steep bit of hill, which felt much more hippoish, but I managed to speed up again for the last kilometer, which is flat. I wore my heart-rate monitor, just to see what it was like after several weeks of not much running, and that last bit was pushing it a bit. Anything over 160 tends to feel a bit uncomfortable. I don’t need a HRM to tell me when it’s got that high, as I can feel it – it’s just interesting to look at the record afterwards.

Heart rate graph

5k run heart rate

I was also keeping an eye on the time, to see how things were feeling as I went along, following up the discussion on Red Hen’s blog. At 2 minutes in, it was horrible (though surprising to see that I was actually going at my fastest then, as I thought I’d started off slowly). Still horrible at 5 and 7 minutes. A bit better by 10, but, ugh, 11 minutes and I wanted to stop – but probably that’s because it was a bit uphill then and in full sun, and the slight breeze had dropped. It’s also where my heart-rate jumped up from 140 to 160 in less than a minute – maybe it was an adrenalin surge at the thought of keeping going! After that it was pretty much ok, other than feeling pretty drained for that last km.

Maybe one day I’ll find out if it gets even easier after the first 5 miles? 😀