Category Archives: Fit & ready?

Tough 10 training starts

On a whim I have signed my boyfriend and me up to do Cancer Research’s Tough 10 challenge. Tough 10 is a brand new series of epic 10k runs. There are no obstacles but they take place on some of the UK’s toughest terrain. As we live in York, we’ve picked to do the course at Roundhay Park in Leeds. It’s lucky really as this is one of the easier routes. I’m not trying to shy away from a challenge but this is the first 10k event I’ve ever done; I don’t want to run before I can walk, so to speak.

For the past six years I’ve taken part in the 5k Race for Life. I usually do the York Racecourse one but, due to clashes with holidays, I have completed the course at Herrington Country Park in Sunderland twice. A much harder route, full of hills. I once did Pretty Muddy there as well, which was so much fun but ruins your trainers.

I love doing Race for Life every year
I love doing Race for Life every year

As I’ve roped my boyfriend into doing this with me, he is adamant that we will train for it. He is much fitter than me and can easily run this 10k course without stopping. I have the lungs of a 5-year-old so struggle running any distance without stopping.

We started our training on Wednesday. We’re currently dog/house sitting in Seaton Ross and are surrounded by off track routes and fields; a much better training ground than pavements and treadmills. We grabbed the younger dog, Mille, who sped off with her boundless energy and we followed. But I soon found myself stopping.

Millie had no problem keeping up with me
Millie had no problem keeping up with me

I really struggle with my breathing. I try to follow the mantra of breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. But I end up gasping for breath and getting a stitch. If I don’t get my breathing under control, I will never be much of a runner.

As a kid I was sport mad and took part in everything at school: cross country, athletics, netball, hockey, tennis, etc. To be honest I wasn’t brilliant at sports but I was keen, enthusiastic and I really tried. I was good at games like rounders and I was ace at netball. In my last sports day at secondary school I came second in high jump (my best event), beating one of the better girls. I took part in 1500m, 800m and cross country races but I never won. I never came close. I’ve never learnt how to control my breathing. Sometimes I‘d be gasping so hard I’d burst blood vessels in the back of my throat and end up spitting blood. What the hell, right?

Getting older I started dancing and found it easier to control my breath. Then I had knee surgery so avoided exercising for a while as I was scared I’d hurt myself again.

Now I’m back into fitness. I’m a gym member, going three to four times a week. I go to dance class and have started Pilates. And now I’m training for this 10k run. Dating a guy who’s into fitness helps me maintain my own fitness goals. We can keep each other motivated and push each other to be better. Today we’re both hobbling around with serious DOMs after gruelling leg and arm workouts.

I want to get better at running but I’ll never be a runner. Just like I’ll never be a dancer again. Getting old sucks. Not being sporty and able to do the things I used to do sucks. The trick is to find new loves and not getting stuck in a rut. I can still strut my stuff on the dance floor and I am becoming stronger than I have ever been thanks to my gym workouts. So that’s something I guess. My advice? Keep going.

At the end of every rainbow...
At the end of every rainbow…

Why I love leg day

I am relatively fit. At least I think I am. I can’t run marathons and I can get out of breath after the 3rd flight of stairs. But I do have a gym membership. And I do use it. Usually.

I recently spent 3 weeks in Australia with the aim of working out at least 3 times a week; I packed my trainers and sports bra.  I was good to go. But, honestly, I was in AUSTRALIA and it was AWESOME. Screw working out. There were so many things to see, do… and eat. Delicious, bad for you, wonderful things. Least it meant I had less washing to do.

I mean, how could I not eat this?
I mean, how could I not eat this?

Anyway I got back and was jet lagged for a week and then it was Easter (I was sort of good; I got no Easter eggs so ate popcorn. And steak. And chips… Oops). So I have only recently trudged back to the gym. And it hurts. Soo much.

Now I actually like having DOMs. It makes me feel smug. It makes me feel like I actually did something worthy of a potentially gorgeous body, which I will have. Eventually.

I work out specific muscle groups on different days: Mon – cardio, Tues – chest, shoulders & triceps, Wed – rest day or dance class, Thu – leg day and Fri – back & biceps. Weekends are rest/eating/drinking days. So last Thursday was my first leg day. In 6 weeks. I was chuffed to find I haven’t lost much of my strength. But it was hard. And tiring. And difficult. Friday I woke up with DOMs and spent the day walking like I had a stick up my butt. And today, if I sit too long, my hamstrings seize and I have to hobble until they relax.

But I love it. I truly do love working out and going to the gym. I don’t care if I’m a sweaty mess, grunting and panting and looking an absolute state. At the gym I can accomplish something. I can work towards a bigger goal. And that is worth all the muscle ache it can throw at me.

Getting back on the bike

I can’t ride a bike. I mean I can as in I can keep my balance and push the pedals round but that’s about it. As a kid, getting on a bike meant freedom and I’d cycle for miles and miles around the countryside every weekend. But as an adult my thighs burn,  my lungs burn and I really struggle to go that far.

I include a cardio day at the gym each week and I usually choose the stationery bike. At the moment I cycle on “random” and can get about 16 km in 45 minutes. And I can manage this. I am sweating buckets and I am usually watching an episode of Bates Motel on Netflix to help get me through. But I manage it. And each week I get further in less time.

So why can’t I translate this onto my bicycle? I’m not even going up hills. Today I went for my first bike ride of the year and managed 6.4 miles on flat, countryside roads. I was originally supposed to go 9.1 miles but I cut it short. The wind was biting cold and the seat hurts my bike bones AKA my butt. Excuses indeed and now I’m home and sat at my computer, I reckon I could have made those last few miles.

At least the scenery is lush
At least the scenery is lush

It’s worse for my boyfriend; he doesn’t get much of a workout if he cycles with me, although today he went off on his own for a bit so I got to enjoy the peace and quiet (and some Hollywood Undead) and he got in an extra couple of miles.

I am so slow, he's able to stop and take sly photos
I am so slow, he’s able to stop and take sly photos

I need to stop making excuses. I need to try harder. I need stronger thighs and lungs and spirit. And the only way to do that is to get back on the horse. I mean bike.

New Year, New You?

It’s January. It’s cold, windy and pretty miserable actually. Everyone has ran out of money, there are no more cheery Christmas songs, films or decorations, everyone is back at work and it feels like a lifetime till we’ll be putting on our flip flops and suntan lotion. However, there is something to look forward to. The bombardment of adverts for gym discounts, exercise equipment, juice diets, Dry January, nicotine patches and so on. Hands up how many of you made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, diet or radically change your lifestyle i.e. quit smoking, give up chocolate, etc.? Don’t be shy, hands up… hmm, just as I expected… nearly all of you.

Now I am not bashing on resolutions. If they actually work for you then I say go ahead and resolution away. But, for the most part, resolutions put unexpected pressure on people to change too much of themselves too quickly. I have made them before. Even more ridiculous ones if you can believe it. Like, by the end of this year I will be a famous actress living and working in Los Angeles. Yeah, I know, ridiculous!

Cat Hollywood I have started this year by working out like a man. Yup, my boyfriend has taken me under his wing (metaphorically of course, that boy is already in better shape than I could ever be… grrr) and is teaching me the ways of bench pressing, free weights and lower back workouts. Gone are the days of spending an hour on the cross trainer, treadmill and bike. I am feeling a difference (I have never been in so much pain!) and am eager to get to the gym (our rather drafty garage) when I pull into our driveway after work.

girl lifting weights(image:

Yet, for me, this is not a resolution. Yes I have started this at the beginning of January but I only stopped working out last year due to a knee injury at the advice of my physiotherapist. I am going on holiday at the end of February, which is giving me a push to exercise more and eat less crap but this is not due to a resolution, this is due to the fact that many, many people are going to see me in a bikini and, like most of you out there, I wanna look good.

I guess my point is that if you are going to make a resolution each year, think about what would make you happy, not what you think you should resolve to give up/start doing. If you smoke, it would be great if you stopped. You would reduce your risk of getting a variety of different cancers, you would smell better, have whiter teeth and, probably, have more money in your pocket. However, if you are not ready to give up, promising from January onwards you are going to be a non-smoker, throwing away your last pack and sticking on a nicotine patch, I’m sorry to say, it won’t work. You have to be ready to do the hard work because that’s what resolutions are, hard work. If they were easy, why would we make them?

Try something small, manageable and, if all else fails, take your last cigarette out of the pack, light up and smoke it. Nobody asked or expected you to change so enjoy it, savour it and relax. After all, the next New Year is only 11 months away. You’ve got time.