Positively Unstoppable Challenge Update

So the six month positively unstoppable challenge has come to an end. You can read more about what the challenge is and why I signed up to it in my first post on this topic.

I set myself two challenges. The first was to run a half marathon. Admittedly I was confident I could achieve this goal because I’ve run many a half marathon and although it had been a four year absence, I knew the exact steps to take to get race fit. I completed this goal in April by running the Star Wars Virtual half-marathon, which you can read about here.

The second challenge I set myself was to be able to do the side splits. There are benefits to flexibility and the side splits just looks cool. This challenge was the harder of the two. I’ve never been able to do a side split. I failed to hit this goal, but I saw small progress none the less. I used the length of my yoga mat to measure progress. My yoga mat is 216cm long and with my left foot at one end, my right foot was 40cm away from the other end in January. By February my foot was 31cm away from the edge of the mat, so a quick improvement initially. By June, I was 27cm away from the edge of the mat, my progress has slowed considerably. The lesson I learned is that my plan was relatively sound, but the timescale I set was wrong, 6 months was enough for me. I’m resetting my expectations to 12 months and carrying on independently of the Unstoppable Challenge. The goal itself has become more important to me than the Unstoppable Challenge. Maybe thats the point of challenge, set a goal, pursue it for 6 months, and its borderline impossible to not see progress. Once you’ve seen that slow and steady progress you’ll likely carry on and see what the next 6 months bring.

27cm away from the edge of the mat, down from 40cm in January

The plan now is to keep my running fitness at a high enough level that it won’t be such a challenge to get race fit again, and to carry on with my side splits training and measure progress again after another 6 months.

Race Review: Star Wars Rival Run

2016 was the last time I ran a half marathon, it was in Disneyland Paris and you can read about it here. I wanted to run one last year but the pandemic hit and nearly everything was cancelled so I decided to wait until the pandemic passed. Here we are in 2021 still in the pandemic and I couldn’t wait anymore. Many races have switched to a virtual model anyway so it was just a matter of picking one to lock in a date, and start training for that goal.

Completing another half-marathon after a 4 year absence is also part of my DDPY Positively Unstoppable Challenge which you can read more about here.

I picked the Star Wars Rival Run. I thought it sounded fun because its Star Wars and its non location specific. I’ve see virtual runs advertised for actual cities, for example, run the virtual London / Copenhagen / Paris marathon, and get a medal posted to you for said run with the cities landmarks on it. If I’m going to get a medal with city landmarks on it, I want to have run in that city. Star Wars seemed like a better alternative.

In 2012 I ran my first ever half-marathon and I did it in a time of 2 hours and 5 seconds. I’ve only once completed a half-marathon in under 2 hours. This time around, based on my training, I thought father time was catching up with me. A half marathon is 13.1 miles. While training I had run 12.5 miles in 2 hours and 23 minutes and I ran 14 miles in 2 hours and 35 minutes. I was sure that come race day I’d finish roughly around 2 hours and 30 minutes, my slowest ever time.

But no. The week of the race I made some changes to see if I could improve my time. And the changes worked. I ran the Star Wars Rival Run on April 18th, in a time of 2 hours, 5 mins and 33 seconds. I’m pretty pleased with that time. I trained for 15 weeks, following the same training pattern I have for all the half-marathons I’ve run. Two 30min runs during the week, and a gradually increasing distance run at the weekend. What changes did I make that could have me cross the finish line 25mins sooner than expected? Heres what I did:

More Rest

I normally exercise 7 times a week across 6 days, with one rest day. On race week, I had two rest days in the two days before the race to allow myself to fully recover.

Change the time

I usually run late at night after the kids are in bed. On race day I set off earlier, at 1.30pm.

Change the location

I normally run in the areas surrounding my house. I ran the actual race in the much more scenic and enjoyable Phoenix Park in Dublin.

Virtual Water Breaks

It occurred to me that on my long training runs, I ran the entire time. In a normal race, I’d walk through the water stations, which gives you a short bit of recuperation time. So I decided to walk for 60 seconds every 3 miles, as if I were at a water station.

All of the above made a huge impact. Its crazy how a few variables, none of them running related as such, could so drastically change my finish time. In sum, it was a fun race to do and it was nice to have a specific date to aim for to help keep focus. I did miss the excitement of a “live” race and I look forward to the day we can do those again. Now all I have to do is wait for my Yoda medal to arrive in the post. “Do or do not, there is no try”

Positively Unstoppable Challenge Update

Short blog post this time. I’m doing a six month Positively Unstoppable Challenge with the goals to run a half marathon, and to do the side splits. Part of the challenge is not just to think it, but ink it. The founder of the challenge, DDP, attributes some of his own success to writing down his goals (ink it). Something about the process of writing it down holds you accountable, and makes you more likely to succeed. I’m using this blog to “ink it.”

The half marathon prep is coming along nicely. Two 30 minute runs during the week and a gradually increasing distance run at the weekend. I’m up to 8miles now.

My other goal, to do the side splits, is also progressing in the right direction. As a starting point I tried to do the splits and made a chalk outline of where the edge of my foot was, which you can see below. That serves as a base to measure against. I’ve had to adjust the way I measure because my feet seem to turn outwards the lower I get so for my update I just drew a chalk outline around my foot and measured from the middle of my foot instead of the outside. I was 40cm away from the edge of the mat, I’m now 31cm away from the edge of the mat.

What goals have you set for yourself. Have you inked it, are you measuring it, are you holding yourself accountable?

Positively Unstoppable Challenge

I’ve decided to enter the DDPY Positively Unstoppable Challenge. Its a six month challenge to achieve a self selected fitness and wellness goal. And a chance to win prizes, who doesn’t love a prize.

For me the Positively Unstoppable Challenge is helping to provide focus, and enthusiasm. Towards the second half of 2020 I lost a bit of my passion for exercising. I’m disciplined enough that I still exercised, but I hit a bit of a funk where I was going through the motions and wasn’t committing everything I could. I reduced my workouts from 6 days a week to 5 days a week, and used the excuse of age/time/covid/whatever to tell myself this was a good idea. I found myself looking for the shorter and/or easier workouts on days when I’d had a “long day”. Then Christmas hit and I stopped training altogether as I do like to take a break over Christmas. And my Christmas eating habits were not good, and the bad eating habits lasted longer than they should have. I entered a mode of, “I’ll just eat all the crap, and then it won’t be in the house anymore, problem solved!”

As stories go, its not really that sad, throughout all of the above (Christmas excluded) I still exercised 5 days a week and ate well so I was in good shape throughout. January 1st rolled around and Ireland went into Level 5 lockdown, gyms and fitness studios closed, travel restricted to within 5km of your house. A depressing start to 2021 to say the least, which made it hard to be enthused about returning to exercise after Christmas.

The Positively Unstoppable Challenge is something to get enthusiastic about. I’ve set myself 2 goals. The first goal is to run a half marathon. The last half marathon I ran was in 2016, after which my first child was born and running didn’t continue to the same extent. I did sign up for a half-marathon in 2018 but my training was a disaster so I pulled out. I’m determined to get race fit and run a half-marathon in 2021. I’ve signed up for a virtual race on April 18th and so far 5miles is the furthest I’ve gone in my training.

Longest run so far of 2021

The second goal is to be able to do the side splits. For no other reason than I think they look cool. Flexibility, when pursued correctly, is good for you but I don’t know the in’s and out’s of the benefits of the side splits, thats one for Google. My yoga mat is 216cm long and with my left foot at one end, my right foot is 40cm away from the other, a long way to go to the splits.

That white chalk line is where my foot is now trying to do the splits. The goal is to get to the DDP logo

At the end of the six months I’ll probably look the exact same because my goals are cardiovascular endurance and flexibility, both of which or internal changes. If the monotony of life under covid is sapping you of energy and enthusiasm, I’d suggest finding something like the Positively Unstoppable Challenge to help get you going again. I certainly feel I need something specific to train for, having spend all of 2020 training for its own sake. I’ll post regular updates to this blog to hold myself accountable. Whats your 2021 goal?

Training when the gym is closed

With the restrictions in place under covid-19 my gym is closed. I use the gym for the odd free-weights session and the pull up bar. The office I work in has a studio, and this is also closed. The studio is a big empty space that I use for bodyweight exercises and handstand drills.

Staying at home to prevent the spread of covid-19 does not mean the end of exercise. Long ago I started moving much of my exercise into my own house. If you’re looking for ideas on how to exercise at home, the links below to some of my previous blog posts could be useful.

Below I’ve linked my most recent review of Rushfit, a home fitness DVD. Don’t think that a home fitness DVD is any less beneficial than a gym membership. Rushfit was so intensive and the benefits so great that I quit the gym when I did it as it made the gym redundant:

Blog post revisited: Rushfit

And if DVDs are too old school for you, there are loads of fitness apps that you can download to your phone or tablet. I use a yoga app called DDPY which is one such fitness app, you can read more about it in the link below:

DDP Yoga – a review

Home equipment doesn’t need to be a bench press or chin-up bar, which can either be big and bulky or difficult to set up. The parallettes are a simple and effective tool, they don’t take up much space, and require zero installation:

Parallettes Pt.2

There are so many options to train at home, and they are so effective, that once the gyms re-open, you might even be reluctant to return. Forcing yourself to be more creative with home workouts might just broaden your training horizons beyond what the standard gym can offer.

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The complete home gym

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