Blog Posts

How I (tried to) stay motivated in the snow

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This week has been a complete write off in our area.  From Monday night it has snowed on and off until today and we have had weather warning after weather warning.  As beautiful it has been to look at it and as ‘prepared’ as we should have been for it considering it is Scotland and it is winter, it has really got in the way of my routine and the routines of others.  It has been harder to get outside, the pavements have been laden with snow and slippy, and gyms in the area have been shutting early due to the snow fall. I have also been off work for two days as the school was shut, and we got sent home early today.  When things change in our routines, we can find it hard to stay on track or find it easy to make excuses, but I have tried as hard as I could to stay as motivated and as on track as I could and thought I’d share some of the things I have tried with you.

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1. Make a plan

Check the forecast for the week ahead or for the next few days and write down what you would like to achieve for the week accordingly and realistically.   If you have a plan of what you would like to achieve and when, then you are more likely to stick to it. If you know the weather is going to be bad can you plan to do some workouts earlier in the week or wait until the bad weather passes?  A plan can help to keep you motivated and focused when the weather turns bad and setting goals for the week can help give you a purpose to get up and go, particuarly when the weather turns.  Be realistic in your goal setting and be kind to yourself.  This week, I know I might not manage to get in my long run due to the weather, but I will do what I can realistically and try not to be too hard on myself if I don’t manage.

2. Workout at home

Travelling in the snow can be scary and disruptive and so it can be difficult to get to your gym during times of bad weather.  In this case, try to include some home workouts into your plan for the week.  There are loads on YouTube to choose from, from strength workouts to yoga to HIIT sessions.  Some that I really enjoy are Insanity, Body Beast and The BodyCoach 20 minute workouts.  I also love stretching to Yoga with Adriene.  These videos are useful as well as it’s similar to being at a gym class as there is someone telling you what to do and keep you on track.

3. Eat wholesome, comfort foods

One thing I have found very difficult this week has been not eating myself out of house and home, especially on the days where I have been off from work.  On the days the school was shut, I was working from home and it was becoming all too easy to reach for another biscuit with a cup of tea or to eat more for lunch than I usually would.  Luckily, I am following a nutrition plan from The Fitness Chef, which has helped me to stick to my calories and macros and this is something that has really helped me to stay on track this week. But, if you don’t have a plan to follow, try to keep yourself eating wholesome, nutritious foods.  One of my favourites for this time of year is soup.  I love to make big pots of the stuff full of vegetables and proteins like lentils or chicken.  The other bonus about soup is that it is relatively cheap to make and you can chuck all your left overs right in there.  I also love slow cooking big crock pots of casseroles and chillis.  All of these homemade foods should fill you up enough to stop you reaching for the biscuit cupboard and make you feel all cosy inside.

4. Use the treadmill

If you are a runner and just need to run, or if you are training for a particular event, the snow, wind and rain can play havoc with your training and sometimes it is necessary to jump on the dreadmill.  I am lucky enough to have one in the house for now, but I would go use the one at the gym too if I needed to.  I find the treadmill really boring at times, so I have to make sure I workout in a way to keep it interesting.  I try to do interval sessions or challenge myself in different ways, for instance, run a mile at one particular pace, then up it for the next. Or, I will run at my top speed for around 400m, then slow down to recover.  I find that setting these short aims helps to make the time go faster on the treadmill and, if all else fails, I can put on Netflix on the iPad!!

5. Get out and play!

My absolute favourite thing to do this week has been to get outside and play in the snow.  I’ve wrapped up warm, donned my walking boots or trail running shoes (these actually have better grip than my boots and are better for walking!) and have got out there with the dog.  On Tuesday, it was beautiful to walk around in the freshly fallen snow, soaking up the quiet of the world that the snow always seems to bring.  The rest of the week, I have loved crunching my feet into the snow and heading out and about.  Get out in bad weather and soak up the elements – it can be very cathartic!

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Murphy has been loving the snow and has been a great companion for playing!

If you have snow or bad weather, I hope you can stay motivated throughout it and hopefully it clears up for you soon! Not long now until Spring!

Aly x

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Conic Hill

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As well setting my running resolutions for this year (My Goals for 2018) I have also made a small aim for myself to explore more walks and hills throughout this year.  So, at the weekend, Martin and I along with Murphy and our pals headed up to Loch Lomond to climb Conic Hill.

Conic Hill is located on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, near the small town of Balmaha.  On the drive up, you can see the landscape of Conic Hill and the hills surrounding it rising dramatically which should quicken your heart rate with anticipation a little if you are anything like me.  Sitting at 350m and around a 2.5 mile round trip if you follow the main route, it looks a lot higher than it is.  It is a relatively short walk, but, the climb is steep and pretty instantaneous as soon as you start the walk.  The hill sits along the Highland Boundary Line, the fault line which separates two distinct terrains in Scotland: the Highlands and Lowlands and offers stunning views of Loch Lomond and its islands.

To climb Conic Hill, you should park in the car park at Balmaha.  This is about 40 – 50 minutes drive outside of Glasgow.  You can head out through Bearsden or along the motorway and across the Erskine Bridge.  The Erskine Bridge route is my favourite because this is the route that I would be driven when I was younger and we would go on holidays up north, so crossing that bridge is an indication of adventure and good times to me.  The car park is pretty big, with plenty of spaces, however even on the miserable January day that we chose to climb the hill, the car park was still full of walkers and runners, so if you were going in summer, I’d perhaps advise getting there early.

Head out of the car park towards the forest and an information board and turn right.  The climb begins quite steadily from here, but the trail is gorgeous.  The trees tower above you and I began to feel very small against nature.  Follow this trail (marked with the thistle symbol of the West Highland Way) for around half a mile and you will come to a little kissing gate, which when you pass through, will give you a view of Conic Hill.

Stay on the main path and it curves around between two hills. Keep looking back because as you climb, the views become more and more rewarding.  Eventually the path will swing right to climb the far side of Conic Hill.  By now, you should have some amazing views of Loch Lomond and the hills on the other side, which I found quite breathtaking even though our day was pretty murky.

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On your way up this trail, there is a short grassy path that leads up to the ridge line of Conic Hill, which is on the exact line of the Highland Boundary Fault.  I didn’t go up here unfortunately, as I was keen to get to the top!  However, my friend Matt did and I am assured the views are even more spectacular!

As you continue up the main route, you might be fooled by a false summit, but don’t worry, the top is not too far!  Ascend the final climb and be rewarded with what you came for – views across Loch Lomond, including the Arrochar Alps and Ben Lomond.  The view is quite astounding and you feel like you can see for miles.

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The views from the summit – brilliant, even on a cloudy day!
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Murphy feeling pretty pleased with himself at the summit!

From there, you can head back down and retrace your steps I believe, however we headed across the ridges behind the view to explore some more of the peaks.  These were quite easy to traverse and we were able to find slight paths in the grass underfoot in order to ascend and descend.  Even in the rain and wind, it was too slippy or boggy and I recommend having a wee explore if you can!

We descended the last peak and joined onto the West Highland Way.  You can come off the hill and follow the route to the right which will take you on a circular route.  We chose to turn left and head for the route we had come due to time and the lack of daylight, but I am sure I will explore the other route in due course.  Coming down the way you have climbed is no real hardship however as you can look for as long as you please at the wonderful views.

When you reach the bottom, you can of course head straight back to your car, or you can head to St Mocha’s for a well earned coffee and a cake.  Might I recommend the cappucinos which are lovely and are served with a nice piece of tablet.  The cafe is great, although pretty small so I can only imagine the queue on a hot summer day!

Overall, Conic Hill is a fantastic walk and I highly recommend it if you are looking for a shorter, easier hill walk in Scotland or even if you have young children who you would like to introduce to hiking. It’s a great day out and for us, resulted in one happy, sleepy pup.

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My Goals for 2018

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Good morning/afternoon/evening etc and Happy New Year. Yes, I am a little (a lot?) belated on this, in fact, I’m not even sure that it’s still ‘okay’ to say “Happy New Year”. I’m sure I’m not the only one to wonder when the cut off point is. Is it still ok in mid January? What about February? I assume March onwards is off the table…but who decides?

Similarly, I know lots of people who don’t conform to the “New Year, New Me” ideology that usually floats around at this time of year. I do agree that you shouldn’t need to wait for a new year/new week/new day to start making changes to your life, or to set new goals for yourself. I find that I am always trying to change, to better myself and my mindset. In my running, I am always looking ahead to set new targets, run another race, or just see how far I can run by a certain date.

However, there is something nice about a new year. Something fresh and clean about turning that calendar page, starting a fresh diary, putting your life and times of the year gone by behind you and looking ahead. I guess because January to December is a nice even 12 months, it’s easy to track, easy to say “I’ll make this one mine!”. Easier, I suppose than starting mid July and then wondering 11 and a half months later when it was you started and what you actually started to begin with!

With that in mind, I’m going to set myself some goals for the coming year. Some I’m hoping I’ll achieve sooner than others and can then update or improve upon. Others may take longer and might be a struggle or a challenge. Either way, I’m looking forward to what I can goals I can reach this year.

1. Run a 5k race

I’ve been running for a while now. On and off for around 7 years and have only really taken it seriously in the last 4 or so. But in all that time, I have never actually taken part in a 5k race. I’ve ran plenty of 5ks as training, so I know roughly in my head what I can do, but I’ve never actually competed. So I’d like to do that and then chip away at the PB.

2. Run at least 5 park runs

While we are on the subject of 5ks and my never having ran one, I’d like to take the chance to admit that I have never ran a park run either (I’m not sure I’m even a real runner). The nearest one to me is 20/25 minutes away and although that’s not that far, on Saturdays I can be quite lazy! So another target for me is to run at least 5 park runs and build from there.

3. Beat my 10k and half marathon PBs

Last year I took part in my first 10k race and I finished it in 43:47 which was a massive PB and I totally surprised myself with it. This year I’d love to smash that again, and get it under 42/43 minutes. Also last year, I took part in a couple of trail half marathons, where my times were well over two hours. This year I’d simply like to compete in more of those types of races. But! I would like to take part in a road half marathon this year and try to beat my PB of 1:48:34.

4. To run another marathon

I’ve only ever finished the one marathon – Edinburgh in 2015 – and I would love to do another one.  I have my eye on Stirling at the moment at the end of April, or Loch Ness in September.

5. To run an unltra marathon

This is something that I have wanted to do for a long time and something has always gotten in the way – life, work, an excuse etc.  But, this year I would really like to put my mind to it and run an ultra.

6. To compete in at least 10 races

Like I mentioned, I have been running for a while, however I never really took racing seriously until about a year and a half ago.  Last year I ran in more races than I have in any year before and this year I would like to up that again.

7. To use my running to see more of Scotland

Last year, I really started to see and use my running as something different.  Before, it was a method of keeping fit, burning calories and keeping myself thin.  Now, while it still keeps me fit and is a good way to counteract all the stuff I like to eat, I see it as something more.  Last year I got to see some amazing places while running in races or just out and about and this year I would like to build on that.  I’d like to run up a couple of Munros and maybe take in some of the West Highland Way, just as some ideas.

8. To become a JogScotland leader and start my own running group

Quite often I have people telling me they wish they could run, or motivate themselves to run like I do.  I quite often find it difficult to get up and go, but I have found so much joy through running that I am able to keep going and want to achieve more.  I’d like to pass this on to others, because I know how much there is to be gained. So, this year I would like to become a jog leader with JogScotland and start up a running club to spread the running love!

And there you go, my goals, aims, ambitions, dreams etc etc for this coming year.  I hope that I can look back on these and say that I really did it and more, or I see that some of them have changed for the better.  Either way, I am excited about this year of running coming up as I am ready for it to be awesome.

Glentress Half Marathon – Race Report

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So I have finally got around to writing my review of the Glentress Trail Half Marathon which I ran almost a month ago! Not a good blogger!

The Glentress race was on Saturday 25th February and it was my first trail half marathon as I have recently started to transition from running continuously on roads to more and more on trails and hills.  It’s an interesting transition as I am seeing my longed for 7 odd minute miles disappear and become 10 and 11 minute miles at times as I traipse through mud, dirt, hills and try to keep my balance, but it is a transition I am loving none the less.  My step dad Johnnie has also recently taken up trail running and as he decided to enter this race, I decided to go along with him. We put in some good miles on the trails in the lead up to the race, and I had managed two 13 mile long runs in the month prior to the race.  I was aiming for around 2 hours-2:15, which is a little slower than my usual half marathon time of around 1:50 at the moment, but I was trying to factor in hills, mud and nerves!

Johnnie and I got up early on the Saturday morning and I fuelled up with porridge before we left.  I was feeling excited and ready for the race and to be honest, the day out!  I always get nervous when I packing for something incase I have left anything behind, so after packing and re-packing my bag, we set off for Peebles.

On arrival at the race, the grounds were fairly busy with people getting ready to go sign in or people warming up.  I’ve not competed in too many races and when I arrived, I started to remember why.  I get really anxious with all the people around and the build up of the pressure to well.  I started telling myself that I didn’t need to worry about time and that I was just there to experience the run, but my brain didn’t listen.

Johnnie and I queued up to sign in, and I would say this was the only bit of the race I didn’t like.  There were three distancs that day – 10k, 21k and 42k, but all competitors had to sign in at the same set of tables, which meant a gigantic queue – not ideal.  However, after waiting for aroun 20-30 minutes, we got signed in, got our t-shirts and headed back to the car to get ready.

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JJ and I ready to go

We arrived back at the sign in area ready for the pre race talk and then headed up to the starting line.  I was really nervous – worried about pacing, setting off to fast and to be honest, I hadn’t researched the course enough so I was really heading out into the unknown!

We set off at a pretty slow pace as there were lots of runners which meant there was a bit of a back log, but once the race got going (although this was around 1.5 miles in), everyone spread out a bit and I was able to get up to a pretty good rhythm.  So much so that my third mile was completed in 7:43.  But there ended the fast miles and the course got very tricky, steep and technical from there.

Around mile three I met a man running from Glasgow, we talked for a while about some different races we had entered and he chatted about his son and how he can’t wait to get out running with him.  I passed him quite a few times through the race and got talking to him again at the end, along with a few other people throughout the race and it was so nice to actually meet and talk to runners.  Everyone was very friendly, courteous if you wanted to speed ahead a little and was really just there to have a good laugh and a good time.

As the race continued the path got steeper and at points running was simply impossible.  But with these steep inclines came rewards – the views.  There was a moment just around mile 5, where the view was so spectacular that I had to stop and take it in.  I didn’t take a photo of it as I felt like I just wanted to be there in that moment – proud of what I was achieving and happy to be there.

There were more amazing views as the race continued and this one was my absolute favourite around mile 10(ish).

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Simply stunning – what it’s all about!

As the run climbed up and up, the weather became less favourable.  What started as a relatively mild, cloudy Scottish day cooled quickly and began to get wetter and windier.  At points you were running uphill through burns of ice water and melting snow (Storm Doris having played a part in this just a couple of days previously).  My dreams of finishing in around 2 hours or even around 2:15 slowly were slipping away from me.  But, I was surprised at how ‘not bothered’ about this I was at all.  I was having so much fun and really felt like I was pushing myself to achieve something difficult.  That was what was really keeping me going.  That and the thought of peanut butter snadwiches waiting for me at the end (I had taken a nakd bar with me as fuel, but didn’t delve in!).

As the run started to slowly descend (and by slowly I mean, tiny bits of descent followed by more steep uphills – how we ended up back at the bottom I’ll never fathom…) the trail started to become more technical and was very soggy from the rain and snow.  I fell right on my bum more than once but got back up and kept going, the only thing bruised being my pride.

Just as I thought it couldn’t get any longer, steeper or (by this point) sorer on my legs, I approached the finish line, which being true to the rest of the race was at the top of a small hill.  I ran through it glad to be finished and stopped my Garmin – final time of 2:28:21, which given the type of run it was, I was pretty pleased with.  I got a drink (dying of thirst as during my falls I dropped my water bottle into lots of mud meaning I couldn’t take a drink from it) and chatted to some of the people I had been running with at points and who had finished around 5-10 minutes before me.  They were so nice and it made me feel even better about my time as I realised that these people were proper runners, more seasoned than me to races like this and even they found it particularly difficult.  After around 10 minutes chatting I went back to the finish line to wait on Johnnie coming through.  He finished around 20 minutes behind me and I couldn’t have been prouder of him!

We headed back to the car, got changed, laughed about how sore we were and I went to get us both a hot cup of tea and coffee, which I enjoyed along with my peanut butter sandwiches.

Overall, I would say that this was an excellent event.  It was fairly well organised, well sign posted throughout the race and full of wonderful runners.  The course itself was hard, technical and stunning and it alone would make me go back and do it again.