Spring is in the air..

I forgot item six on my list of things that I like about the gym.

6. My programme card tells me to run between 6-7mph – this is clearly evidence that I WON the argument about 6mph being 10min/mile. Ha.

Despite the benefits of walls and a roof, the gym certainly doesn’t compare to the glory of being outdoors when spring is in the air. On Sunday morning, I did a relaxed six miles around the village and down to the lodge, taking in the warmth of the sunshine and the bone-chilling cold of the shady bits. I can only apologise to any passing drivers who saw me squatting in the undergrowth, trying to take photos of snowdrops – I dread to think what that looked like…

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Things I like about the gym

Having been to the gym properly this morning, I can counterbalance my last post with some things that I like about the gym.

  1. The gym is open 24 hours – I’m never going to go in the middle of the night, but it does mean that I can go nice and early and not miss the best part of the day.
  2. The loud young people’s music – this gives me much scope for me asking questions like “do they play this on the light programme?” and “will I have heard it on Desert Island Discs?” like a befuddled retired colonel (I enjoy this far more than I should).
  3. Using the treadmill to do intervals reduces my capacity to skive – if I don’t keep up the pace, I will fall off.
  4. I will have all sorts of newly aching body parts in the morning.
  5. There are toilet facilities on hand – without going into too much detail, if I need to go then my insides are activated after about a mile or so. If I reach two miles, then I can run as far as I can without needing the loo. Today was no different, except that I could nip downstairs and then carry on (unlike Wednesday when I mightily narked to get up at half five and have my run cut short at 1.5 miles).

I’ve only gone and joined a gym

If you want to make me cantankerous, take me to a gym. It’s not that I dislike them, in fact I’ve had spells of regular gym bunnying in the past and can get quite into the whole thing, it’s just that turn me a bit grumpy. All of a sudden I turn Spartan – I don’t want fuss or frills, I don’t want any concessions for being a girl, I don’t want to be told stuff that is clearly bollocks. The last gym that I looked round was a big chain place with a smoothie bar, indoor tennis courts, outdoor pool and hi-tech gizmos in the fitness bit. Actually, scrub that – it wasn’t just ‘a gym’ it was a ‘lifestyle centre’. What’s more, it wasn’t just a lifestyle centre, it was a lifestyle centre ‘for people like you’. People like me? Really? I wouldn’t want to go to a place full of people like me. And anyway, Mr Show People Round, if you’d looked at my mucky little Clio lowering the tone of the car park full of Audis, Mercs and BMWs, you’d realised that I’m probably not the aspirational type that you’re looking for.

My sexism/nonsense heckles were raised when we went to look round the new gym (where I was actually a member until a few years ago and I will say now that the staff and facilities are lovely) and we peered in the room that contains the toning tables. Toning tables. I ask you. Luckily we didn’t dwell too long, so the poor lad avoided a series of increasingly incredulous questions asking why on earth I would want to do a non-cardio, non-stretching, pointlessly passive activity that isn’t doesn’t even have the benefits of being weight-bearing.

There is also a small ladies-only section of the gym, which as far as I can see is occupied by the two extremes of under-confident baggy t-shirted ladies and the over-confident fake tan and false eye-lashed crowd. Either way, it’s not really me. The main gym does have a fairly high ratio of grunting men (though there are other gyms in town that cater for the more meat-headed end of the spectrum) and I will admit that there were a few gathered around the exercise mats like some kind of primate lounging on the rocks at the zoo, but I’m looking forward to the entertainment of people watching.

Ginge and I did a shared induction where we weighed, measured and not found to be too badly wanting –  I wasn’t quite as lard-based as I expected and I already knew that if I loose half a stone, I would sneak into the normal BMI range. I also know that I’m not too fussed about that for any number of reasons and was pleased that it wasn’t assumed that I wanted to use the gym to lose weight. When it came to goal setting, I waffled about using the gym to improve my running and do something to improve my pathetically weak upper body strength (I will manage a successful yoga crocodile one day). We went on the despised rowing machines and climbed ¼ of the Great Pyramids (on the Famous Steps programme) and all was fine until we started on the treadmill…

We walked, yes we feel fine. We increased the speed a bit, yes we feel fine. We made the gradient steeper, we feel fine. We lowered the gradient and upped the speed, yes we feel fine. When I say upped the speed, I think it was 5mph… I announced that I wanted to get my pace down to being more regularly less than 10 minutes/mile. So that’s about 5.5mph he said. No I said. There followed some tooing and froing which ended with me going “10 minute miles are 6mph. I can run a 10k in an hour”. I know that I know quite a bit of running theory (even if I don’t put it into practice) and I hang around on twitter with runners who are absolute founts of knowledge, so I don’t expect him to know too much, but as I muttered darkly to Ginge “that’s not running knowledge, it’s just basic bloody maths”.

Everything else went fairly smoothly (apart from two potential flashpoints when he referred to the chest being “a large muscle” – I gave him the benefit of the doubt for that one – and being asked to do variations of straight leg raises, of which I am highly sceptical for both their effectiveness for improving core stability and the strain that they place on the lumber spine) and now I’m all signed up. Crikey.

I know that my grumpiness will subside and I will end up becoming focused and competitive (with Ginge and myself) and hopefully I will see some improvement in my running. I’m looking forward to working on my strength and learning to love the rowing machine. If nothing else, I’ve got to love a gym that offers Ferrero Rocher in exchange for racking up 60 visits…

Contains penguin – I am proud of this in a very unseemly way

If you come here for the insightful running commentary, it’s probably best if you move along, there’s nothing to see here. I have run post-Janathon, and may even blog about the start of February, however I am excited about my latest crafty project and want to show off share.

During January, I retweeted a link from SW Craft Club in order to try to win a cross stitch iPhone cover. And would you believe it, I only went and won one of them!

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I spent ages trying not to fear the blank and scary potential of it (realising that my indecision is one reason why I’m unlikely to ever get a tattoo). I had aspirations of doing something, you know, a bit arty and classy like, but that soon went out of the window. It seemed apt to use my twitter name (@knittingpenguin) for inspiration so I eventually plumped for designing something around that. Like a penguin doing some knitting maybe.

I have a difficult relationship with cross stitch, I like it at times, but the basic skills it requires (paying attention, counting, not stabbing yourself with a needle) are not high on my list of strengths. With a bit of focus though (Ginge can vouch for the Sunday afternoon of virtual silence he enjoyed) I can get very into the designing and making.

First up, the designing. Lots of graph paper, lots of counting and double checking, lots of googling for penguins.

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I think you can see how he evolved, mainly getting shorter and rounder (but his feet stayed the same throughout). After that came the stitching and this was the end result.

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Did I mention that I’m very proud? I really enjoyed making this – it’s been nice to do something a bit different and create something from scratch. My only criticism of the silicone case is that it’s bowed slightly, despite me trying my best not to pull my stitches too tight.

I’m a few hundred miles too far north to be considered SW Craft Club’s target audience, but if you’re in their neck of the woods take a look at their blog and events calendar (which just gives me craft envy!) and see if there’s something to inspire you!

The post-Janathon non-running knitting blog

Post-Janathon, there’s normally a bit of a hiatus on the blogging front. We all get on with our training and racing, but don’t have the pressure of having to blog our every step (never mind the jogging or logging, the blogging bit is the toughest part of any Athon). I haven’t run since the 31st, I did my usual yoga class on Wednesday night and decided to treat myself to a few rest days before seeing how my legs feel on Sunday.

This gives me chance to venture down to London for the Janathon meet up (de-railed train services and weather permitting) and get a bit crafty. Since I finished my wibbly wobbly scarf (handed over to my sister in time for the cold snap), I have nothing on my needles (well nothing except the works in progress that live in bags around the house).

The wibbly wobbly scarf

The official name for the wibbly wobbly scarf is Just Enough Ruffles and is available on Ravelry (caution – Ravelry will steal time from you if you like anything woolly). It’s my first attempt at knitting anything long on circular needles (I’m a proper convert to knitting on Knit-Pro needles) – I’ve knitted shorter things on them, but have always been intimidated by a pattern that starts “cast on 200…”.This scarf is knitted lengthways and starts with the words “cast on 200”.

Cast on edge (at the top)

After the cast on, the ends are shaped by wrapping stitches and turning at each end of the row…

Shaping the ends

Before knitting front and back and in each stitch until you end up with SIX HUNDRED stitches on there. Phew.

The next thing on the craft agenda is a bit of cross stitch courtesy of a competition prize courtest of SW Craft Club.