WIN! A place on the Summer Up & Running 5K, 10K or 21K Course

Would you like to come over and hang out? I mean, would you like to win a place on an Up & Running e-course?

Bologna

High fives at the JJ Running Festival. Photo by Olivia Innocenti.

Okay, serious face on first. I only pimp things on this blog that I truly, passionately believe in. Our e-courses are a fab way to run – you get access to the world class Coach Julia, kickarse training plans, a blog full of helpful content and inspiring interviews to get you running like the wind, and we will support and cheer you on like crazy ladies all the way to your finish line.

But I reckon the very best bit is being part of a team of ladies all going through the same thing at the same time. Exercise can be a lonely thing, and not everyone has real life exercise buds around. Knowing your Forum comrades are in the same boat is great motivation. There's always someone to talk to; someone who just gets it. And after four rounds of Courses, I've got an international rollidex of inspiration to flip through when I don't wanna go for my walk. Example: Paula P is out there in 40'C Dubai heat. Julia K got chased by stray dogs in Guinea. Alex is running in Melbourne with a toddler in a stroller and a dog attached to said stroller… so come ON, missy! It's so inspiring and motivating to feel part of something.

Our next 5K Beginners Course starts on Monday 11 June and the 10K Course starts on Thursday 14 June, each running for eight weeks. Our Half Marathon course runs for 12 weeks and is self-paced, so you can begin at any time that suits you.

Are you up for a summer of run? To celebrate Round 5 of Up & Running I'm giving away five free places, on the course of the winners' chosing.

There are three easy ways you can enter the draw:

…then leave a comment here to let me know you've entered, with a valid email address so we can contact you if you win!

If you already follow us just tell me in the comments. You can enter on all three sites if you are totally mad for the social media and each will count as a seperate entry.

  • Entries close 9PM GMT Tuesday 5 June.
  • There will be five winners and they have their choice of 5K, 10K or Half Marathon course
  • As always the winner can gift the prize to a friend, so you can enter if you choose not to run but know someone who would like to!
  • Winners will be randomly selected.
  • Winners can be from anywhere in the world. Remember the Courses are for women only.
  • Winners will be announced Wednesday 6 June..

Update: Please include a valid email address in your comment so we can contact you if you win!

Best of luck!

Garmin

Coach Julia can also help you programme your Garmin, nae bother. Photo by Sara Lando.

Up & Running

Trees and cake

A slightly early Monthly Check In: May 2012

image from farm6.staticflickr.com
I found this tree on my walk in the woods the other day. It’s the kind of tree a kid dreams of, perfect to hide in while reading books and/or plotting the demise of parental overlords. It’s got a touch of Enid Blyton Magic Faraway tree about it, don’t you reckon? We tended to have scrabbly old gum trees that weren’t really made for climbing, let alone housing cake-bearing fairies…

“Silky was pleased. She sat there brushing her beautiful, golden hair and ate sandwiches with them. She brought out a tin of Pop Cakes, which were lovely. As soon as you bit into them they went pop! and you suddenly found your mouth filled with new honey from the middle of the little cakes. Frannie* took seven, one after the other, for she was rather greedy.”

– from The Magic Faraway Tree, as spotted on the sadly defunct Literary Food Porn blog 

Speaking of cake, I reckon I’m getting back at the place where I can have my cake and not go crazy with it. There was that one tasty wedge of Nutella pizza. Then a visit with the Edinburgh Cake Ladies that didn’t result in a week-long a sugar bender. This past weekend there was an outstanding wodge of blueberry and white chocolate cake but I got right back into the healthy groove. Progress at last!

That’s how I used to do it back in the day, before I let it all unravel – being really choosy with the treats, taking a sensible portion, then savouring the heck out of ’em. This is what my maintenance heroes seem to do too. I could cut cake out completely and get things moving faster, but I need to learn from the past and be sensible here and remember what works long term. I am done swinging between denial and deprivation. So here at the end of May, I’m down two pounds and rolling along on the trusty old plan with the occasional bit of cake thrown (mindfully) in. Bring on June.

* The LFP blog had “Frannie” in the quote as per the modern editions of the book but she’ll always be Fanny to me, dagnabbit.

Wafer Thin is IN!

Why does chopped up fruit taste so much better than whole fruit? This question has puzzled philosophers throughout the ages, or at least my sister and I since childhood. Our stepmum Julie would slice up apples, bananas and oranges and arrange them on a plate for a snack.

"Why does this taste so good?" we'd ponder, "It's the same fruit… only chopped up?". But tastier it was, even more so when shaped into a smiley face.

So I bought a mandoline. Not a mandolin a la Losing My Religion; this is the contraption that chops things up into wafer thin slices. I got the OXO Good Grips Handheld one and it's the best £11 I've spent in yonks. I've been digging through the fridge slicing up everything remotely sliceable.

Oxo

Image from amazon.co.uk

I sliced up carrot, fennel, pepper, cucumber, avocado and tomato for a salad. It was like vegetable confetti! And it tasted so much better than my normal hacked up salad, that same mysterious happiness as the fruit plate days.

Perhaps it's the tidiness of the shapes, or the layers of flavour you get in each mouthful. All I know is from now on I want all my salads to be transparent when held up to the light.

Carrots

Another revelation: wafer thin APPLES. Holy communion apple, Batman!

Apple

Walking in Bologna

Walking is boring. "There, I said it", as the kids say these days. I fancied it up my training sessions with nice scenery, hilarious podcasts, Julia's fabulous schedule, and the post-it note reward scheme… but still I grumbled every time, a bike would be so much faster, dammit. As would a Ferrari.

I'm glad I kept plodding along though, because on Race Day in Bologna the rewards became clear…

1. Races RULE!
I felt like a donut signing up to walk the race when the Up & Runners were running it, but Julia insisted that races were best thing to keep my motivation blazin'. She was right. WHY is that woman always bloody right?

I loved the whole shebang. Laying out my gear the night before. The jangle of nerves at breakfast time. Walking to the race with all the Up & Runners, down a cobbled cliche of an Italian street. I gracelessly jumped in the air and yelled, "WOOHOO!".

At the start line, bouncing up and down in a sea of hot pink, I finally got it. THIS IS WHY YOU DO THE TRAINING. To get the other side. The race! The fun part! The people! The new places, new sights, new smells.

Race gear, ready to rock!

2. It's okay to fake it
It didn't matter that I'd not loved the training – the important thing was that I did the training. My legs didn't know that my mind wasn't entirely into it, they got fitter and stronger regardless. So often when things are boring/uncomfortable/scary/unfamiliar that voice pipes up, "maybe this isn't meant to be" and/or "let's run away!". I'm glad I went through the motions anyway, week after week. This can be applied to so many things in life, right?

3. There's an BEAST lurking within!
As soon as the starting siren went off my brain flipped from "let's go for a nice Sunday stroll" to "let's walk this f*cker as fast as possible GO GO GO!". The halfhearted stroll became an all-out charge! Out of my way, Italians with umbrellas!

(Did I mention it was raining on race day? It wouldn't pass for rain in the UK – twas "like being misted with Evian" as Paula called it – but many locals were ducking for cover!)

I think I've been trying to convince myself ever since I first hurt my knee that I didn't really care about running or races. Oh I'm just happy doing my workout DVDs! I'm happy to hold the bags while everyone else races. Don't mind me! But as much as I love my solitary DVDs and my classes, I also love getting competitive with myself. So I'll keep indulging that side with more events. In time, hopefully my body will be able to keep up with my brain's ambitions.

4. Lipstick adds a sense of occasion
At the start line I met the lovely Erica, an American living in Italy whose blog I've read for years. She'd come to run the 6k and is doing the 10K Course in June, so she got a sneak peak at the lady who'll be bossing her around for 8 weeks! Anyway, Erica was wearing RED LIPSTICK. With her hot pink race t-shirt she looked so foxy and ready to rock. My new years resolution was to wear lipstick more often, you may recall, so I've added a sub-clause: wear red lipstick in a race. My foxy pal LBTEPA does that all time too. I have lips, I have sticks, so why the hell not?

5. My granny knee is thankful
The more I walk the better it feels. I pine for Zumba and kickboxing but taking the sensible route is paying off. It doesn't lock up so much and the "burning" sensation happens less frequently. Same goes for the sciatic pain. The race topped up my resolve to keep moving and eating well. 

Race-start

6. Everything's more fun with friends
I walked the race with Honor, Clare and Julia who are recovering from injuries. Their company really made me savour every Holy Crap We're Walking In Italy moment. Races are a great excuse to hang out with awesome people. We need to do this stuff more often!

Walking-wounded
7. BLING!
Cop a load of this race medal! Sure it says Run when I Walked but that's faster than snoring in bed on a Sunday morning. I'll take it.

Medal

Up & Running LIVE in Italy – Good times and Nutella pizza

Thank you so much for your comments on the Elephant post! You all rawk and I feel about 237% less loony now! 🙂

Last summer Julia and I became possessed with the idea of an Up & Running retreat. We'd just enjoyed a brekkie in Brussels with Cels, a lovely Up & Runner, and discovered that meeting the woman behind the 90 x 90 pixel forum avatar was bloody amazing. We had do it again. En masse! With running! And yoga! And goody bags! And wine!

We settled on a cosy gathering in Bologna, Italy in order to align with Julia's very own Running Festival race. We held our breath when we announced it on the Forum (you know that throw your own birthday party will-they won't-they feeling!?), but we ended up with Up & Runners travelling from England, France, Germany, Guinea, Italy, Netherlands, Scotland, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates with Australian Jo scoring the prize for furthest travelled!

We took over a bed & breakfast in central Bologna. Julia had done a brilliant job scouting it, and when I saw the sun-dappled foyer with Fiat lurking in the background I sighed happily, "Ahhh… Italian as f*ck!"

Casa
The most gleeful part of organising was the goody bags. What's the point of going to meet a bunch of internet people if you don't get a goody bag, I ask you!? The goods included snacks, a hand-made Up & Running headband, STICKERS! and nail polish in the perfect shade of Up & Running pink.

Goody bags, full of goodness

Goody bags, full of goodness

My spewy nerves dissolved the minute the first runner came through the door. Cate, an expat Aussie in Switzerland, had a smile even more dazzling than her avatar and it hit me, "Holy crap these people are REAL! This is going to rock!".

After that initial weirdness of connecting real bodies to internet voices, soon the room buzzed with exotic accents and laughter. There was wine and delicious pizzas, those amazing wood fired ones that I will be dreaming about for months to come. Especially this baby for afters…

Nutella pizza. If this is wrong I don't want to be right.

Nutella pizza. If this is wrong I don't want to be right.

Friday morning began with Coach Julia's Boot Camp. She didn't bring her whistle or megaphone but I insisted on calling it a Boot Camp just to mess with everyone's heads.

Coach Julia pretty in pink

Coach Julia pretty in pink

I shed a few tears at the sight of our runners taking off for their warm-up run with Coach J out in front. Okay, it was a lot of tears. Not even a year after our very first 5K Course ended, here was a group of women from all over the world, zooming along together. Behind the international keyboards had lurked real life runners, after all!

I'd hoped I wasn't alone in feeling a sense of community and deep connection on the Forum right from the start, but oh man, it was so real. They were such a genuine, funny, warm and beautiful bunch of women. I was totally overcome with emotion all weekend long. Apologies to everyone I blubbed on!

Anyway… after the running came a runner-friendly yoga cool down.

Post-BootCamp yoga

 

Yoga

Love that smile!

 On Friday night we had a pasta demonstration at the B&B from a handsome young Pasta Man.

Pasta Man

He rolled it paper thin… amazing

 

Pasta lessons

Tessa gives it a go, sporting her official headband with the wee Italian flag on it! Swoon.

 

Julia shows the dough who's boss

Julia shows the dough who's boss

As well as the most light and tasty pasta ever, there was a mega load of antipasti. I particularly loved the artichokes, the hunks of Parmesan, the local soft cheese whose name I forget and the garlicky bruschetta. And another hunk of Parmesan for good measure, yes please…

Just part of our Friday night feast

Tiramisu

And homemade tiramisu for pudding. Oh my stars.

Saturday was a free day to explore Bologna (or in my case, fall deeper in love with coffee, eat gelato and chit chat endlessly). That evening our resident runner/photographer Sara set up a photobooth for us to play with.

Photobooth
There was a minor incident when some espresso-fuelled loon wondered aloud if one could be photographed mid-air by diving onto the bed, and then kinda almost broke the bed attempting it *whistles*. Thank goodness the camera did not catch that moment.

Julia and I attempted yet again to get a serious photo for our About page.

Trying and failing to get a professional team photo

This is where I suggested we do cheesy poses like the opening credits of The Young & the Restless

My buddy :)

My buddy 🙂

Now all we had left to do was Sunday's race…

Thanks Sara for pasta pics and photo booth and Cate for tiramisu and Pasta Man.

The elephant in the blog

You'd think missing three Monthly Check-Ins in a row meant I was splashing around in a gigantic pile of Twix wrappers. But all is well – I've been busy taking a long hard look at myself.

This past month been incredible and I am so full of the joys I could spew! But before I get to the fun stuff, I wanted to fill in the gaps.

. . .

It's a bizarre thing to write about your weight in a public place for eleven years. Kinda ridiculous, let's be honest. But I love this nerdy habit and have met so many amazing people as a result. The trick is not to let it mess with your head. Unfortunately, I'd begun to do just that.

Despite working on the mindfulness and self-acceptance stuff, the old "You Suck" voice had reared its grotty head these past couple of months. I'd start writing then feel completely bowled over by shame, anxiety and dread, stemming from both the regained weight and my failure thus far to re-lose it.

Sometimes the shame was sparked from within, other times triggered by external stuff. I've developed a tougher skin over the years but when you're already feeling low it's hard not to crumble a little when you receive opinions ranging from friendly curiosity, concern, to apparent disappointment over the size of your body.

Anyway, there I was feeling like a stinking fraud and like nothing I wrote would ever be worthy until the day I could report, Hey folks, you can come back now. I'm normal again! I match the After photo!

Suddenly it was all about the lard again. If I wasn't scheming ways to worm out of all social plans for the rest of the year, I was doing frantic maths to figure out how to lose X kilos in Y weeks by cutting down to Z calories so I'd look halfway "acceptable" again.

But then I had an epiphany in early April, at my friend Sarah's wedding. All night I sat on the sidelines, too self-conscious to get on the dance floor with my friends. Dancing is one of my favourite things in the world, but I was frozen to my chair. I could not stop thinking about how much space I took up. The thoughts came so dark and fast; I felt like I was growing wider by the second.

The déjà vu was a smack in the chops – the last time I'd felt like that was a night out with my friends back in Australia, eleven years earlier.

Shauna, this officially SUCKS, I thought. Are you really going back here again? You know you want more than this.

It was time, as mentioned earlier, to take a looooong hard look at myself. This is what I figured out:

1. Focusing on external stuff doesn't work
It must be the 357th time I've relearned this lesson, ahem. But fear of public events, disappointed strangers, holiday snaps, not being liked and/or increasingly enormous undies are not lasting incentives to get me on the spinning bike. When I'm home alone with the kitchen cupboard doors flung open, they're not compelling enough reasons. Shame only takes me so far forward, then it leads me straight back to the biscuit tin.

2. I need to focus on what I want
… rather than what I think I should want, do or be. I asked the flaming obvious question, "This is your life, what the heck do you want out of it?". I wrote a dorky list of stuff and I've been reading it every morning. It took a few weeks, but now it pops into my mind when I'm working out or staring down a cake. A gazillion times more effective than, "I shouldn't eat that or I'll look crap at Fitbloggin" or "Must do training walk otherwise I'm a shite example for Up & Running."

3. I'm a bloody boring person when I fixate on weight
Dude. There's more to me than my size. I have a wonderful, kickarse life. But for awhile there I couldn't see the forest for the flab. I was hiding away from my friends, being a moody git, not being very present. Which leads me to…

4. Fun first, fat second
Because there's too much good stuff happening! I had to get out of my head and back into the world. First on the agenda was finally going indoor climbing with my friend Tor, the awesome one who persuaded me to do the Santa Run and Loony Dook. She'd asked me yonks ago but I made all sorts of excuses, including "I'm Too Fat for climbing". Yes, I was back there again!

But thankfully I came to my senses and Tor very patiently showed me the ropes, HAW HAW. There was a hilarious moment when I could not let go of the wall… top metaphor! But awhile later I lost my grip and fell off and instead of being shitscared I was just annoyed and wanted to do it over… an even better metaphor. It was an awesome, awesome day (thanks Tor!) and made me feel rebooted and refocused on what's important.

Here I am in my post-climb squinty sweaty glory!

Let's climb

Since then the momentum has been building. And whaddya know… the scale is going down again.

Well, you deserve a medal if you got through this post. Next time I need to tell you all about ITALY and the Up & Running retreat and the big race and the Nutella.

Vote Heather!

I have a ginormous new post coming later today, but in the meantime I had to tell you about the amazing Heather Wajer. She's an Ironman triathlete from northern California. She happened to lose half her body weight and along the way became a triathlete and Ironwoman!

Heather is vying to win a slot into the Kona Ironman World Championships in October. The Ironman folks are giving away eight slots to inspirational athletes who best embody their mantra "Anything is Possible".

You can check out her 90 second Kona Inspired video here – her story made me blub and really did make me believe anything is possible. If she inspires you too, be sure to vote! 🙂

Go Heather!