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Pregnant Walking Club

I’m in (hopefully) the last 2-3 weeks of my pregnancy. I feel at times like a balloon; you could hang a basket off my feet, gas me up and I could take you on a lovely trip over the Moselle valley in Luxembourg and Germany. Other times I feel like a walrus, struggling to turn over in bed or get out of the bath; cumbersome and heavy. I have put on roughly 13kg during this pregnancy and I seriously can’t understand how people permanently live with this kind of extra weight, and more.

The most important thing to me during this time is that, as well as getting enough rest, I have also kept active. Don’t get me wrong, there are some afternoons where I don’t feel guilty at all about two hours on the couch watching BBC iPlayer. But I also need to move and do things and stretch.

My main activity has been power-walking. I’ve had some great company on many of these walks from a pregnant friend who  lives just down the river – another runner like me. She’s due this week, so has paused the power-walking, but I am still heading out every other day. It helps me sleep better, keeps my appetite up, allows ‘Plum’ and I to enjoy the remaining days of summer. I also think it has contributed to the fact that my legs haven’t swollen and my ankles haven’t disappeared.

Last week I also did some yoga, which I hadn’t done for a while. I followed a 20-minute routine from my book. It felt slow compared to swimming and power-walking, but it was calming and relaxing, opening out my body in a way that my other forms of exercise don’t. “I am connected to the circle of life.” As Plum continues to kick his/her way out, I can only agree with that!


The first 5 miles

Happy New Year Runners, Readers, Adventurers! May 2014 be the best running year ever!

Today I went for my first 5 miles of 2014. No biggie, except I’ve only really been running 4, 4-and-a-bit miles over the last few months as I persuaded my legs and feet to not be injured or hurt (if you run, you know that that ‘bit’ is very important). So, actually, it was quite big for me.

You can tell it was on my mind because I planned it in a way I haven’t been planning my runs. For a start, I mapped it out last night. Secondly, I took a timer with me. Since last summer I haven’t timed any of my runs. I have ideas on how runs have gone based on my own very scientific methods. These include:

  • Number of songs which have played on my iPod during the run
  • How many other runners/dog walkers/people sitting on benches I have overtaken
  • If I am beating a boat on the river or not
  • Whether I am really knackered at the end of it
  • If I feel like I am running backwards with concrete legs or not
  • The thought, once inside of course, of if I could possibly have continued for another 22 miles

The sun was shining, the swans were swimming. I know there’s supposed to be ice all over northern America and people in Florida are wearing jumpers, but over here it’s been delightful. I ran in a gorgeous 13 degrees today. I had to remind myself it was January.

My route was a there-and-back affair along the Sauer river. This is the smaller river with no boats on it, so good job, really, I took a timing device with me. I overtook an old man running as we went up the ramp to the bridge section. He ran with straight arms by his sides, and this distracted me enough (I tried it for a few strides to crap effect) to get me to mile one. I checked the timer. 8 minutes 20 seconds. I frowned. I couldn’t be going that fast.

The next three miles were all about the bends. The river snakes and curves and the path follows, meandering through vineyards. A strong breeze blew from the east in this section. There was a burning smell in the air. The sun beat down and I opened my jacket half way. Another woman runner passed me going the other way. I passed another up ahead. So many runners out and about! I reminded myself it was January. There are always lots of runners on the streets in January.

At the turn I checked the timer again. 21 minutes 40 seconds. I had had 45 minutes in my mind (scientific mind) and this looked good. I felt good. Maybe the timer was working after all. Maybe my legs were working after all. I forgot how many songs I was on.

Michael Jackson’s Dirty Diana came on. I love running to this song. There’s something about it. I love the ultimate verse when Diana shouts to his girlfriend, “Because he’s sleeping with me!” It just makes me forget running and imagine the situation. Mile four was mainly taken up by Michael Jackson. Which is fine with me and my legs.

At the last mile marker, I checked it again. 34 minutes 40 seconds. The number 43 started to become a possibility. But only in my head. My legs were thinking 50. They were tired from all the squats I’d done the previous day. They were saying to me, “Hey, we usually stop about now.” I understood, I did, but I willed them on. I passed two more runners in that final mile. Luckily, they got me through it as they seemed to be January-Runners-Who-Suffer-Because-They-Don’t-Run-For-The-Other-Eleven-Months-Of-The-Year (scientific term). And I passed them scoffing and hoping they didn’t notice it was bravado.

I rounded the corner onto my street. People were standing in the sun watching the ferry. Ducks were hovering, hoping for food. I dug in. It hurt. My legs hurt. My lungs could have gone all day, but my legs were tired. I dived for my finishing lamp-post and clicked off the timer. 43 minutes 3 seconds. Hoorah.

I like surprises. I like good tunes that play on shuffle when you’re running and give you a boost. I like warm weather when you’re expecting frostiness. I like remembering I have lucky orange running socks to wear.

And I love surprising myself by running faster than I thought I was. Scientifically speaking, of course.

The boat race

It was my mid-week run: an early Wednesday morning, mist already rising over the river, still icy cold out.

Gloves and woolly ear-warmer a given.

That day I decided to follow the Moselle river which leads to Trier in Germany, instead of the smaller, swan-filled Sauer river that usually keeps me company. I marked out two miles to do a there-and-back route. I would get to the next village, spin on my heels and try to burn it back slightly faster into the biting wind.

The walking (or in this case, running) and biking path is right next to the river. That morning traffic was high, lots of boats shifting their wares from Germany to Luxembourg and France and back. Barges piled with scrap metal, what looked like coal; others with their goods hidden.

Watching the boats meander the water’s bends took my mind off running. It was easy, striding out, breathing out my own personal fog, ignoring the cold. Just me, the boats and the river.

I turned at two miles to head back. Ahead of me on the river was now a boat that had just passed me. I focused on my music and stride. On my right over the fields I had cars burning past me. But if I looked to my left, well, the boat was getting closer.

Was I running faster than the boat? Eyes on the path, I stepped it up a little. I didn’t want to keep glancing towards the river, the barge was long, but wait… yes, I was winning this race!

As one song finished and another started, that short, silent pause was filled with metal clanging against metal and shouts. I turned. I was the only one on the path. Then I saw them: two men on the control deck of the barge cheering me on. I waved. The music started again and I was off. I had a slight detour getting back to Luxembourg and crossing the other river to get home – could I keep in front of the boat?

I dug in, hoping they wouldn’t up their speed or let me win. This was a real race, man against machine. Who would win?

I sprinted my ‘home straight’ and turned to see the barge coming up behind me. The sun was trying to poke out and I stood stretching, watching its length pass me by as the sun tried to poke out from its grey morning blanket. When those rays hit the side of the boat I saw it. Gotcha.

The boat’s name. Don’t tell me how fast they go. I don’t care. My boat race. My win. Gotcha.


Autumn running

Zumba, it’s good for you

Firstly, apologies for my last post. Barry Manilow. What was I thinking? I shouldn’t do that to you, dear, faithful readers. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.


So, back to the point of the blog. Health, fitness, the ups and downs of life on the run. I mean, running. Last Thursday I had an appointment with a leg specialist. I finally got around to seeing her after my GP had described the inside of my leg as “a mess” after that scan I had. Great. I had been running with no pain or discomfort (honest!) and then he told me he wouldn’t run with my “war zone” leg. (Yes, this is my lovely Audrey Hepburn doctor. I don’t think even she saves him now.)

Leg Specialist Lady has ordered an x-ray to make sure there’s no fractures in my foot which are impeding and biting into my tendons. I have some tendons on the point of collapse. Actually, the other way round. I know I should be grateful that all these doctors and clinics are properly wanting to get to the root of the problem, and I can see someone, like, the next day. But all I really want is a dodgy doctor from Buenos Aires* who would make something up to make me feel better and let me run. Gently, but run none-the-less.

Anyway, I had already decided I was going to try out my local Zumba class that night. I have never done Zumba. I thought: Zumba isn’t running and if it hurts, I’ll stop.

Let me explain something here. I HATE aerobics classes. I think they are silly and boring. But, part of me wanted to check out something in my new town of Wasserbillig, test my language abilities (would the class be in Luxembourgish, German or French?) and do something to mix up my fitness.

Turns out I didn’t have to worry about the language issue. The teacher didn’t even speak. There were Chinese, Portuguese, German, Luxembourgish there (plus me), so I don’t think any one language would have worked. Instead, she cranked the music up and flung herself about the place with such gusto, we just had to follow.

Zumba was created in the 1990s by a Colombian aerobics instructor, Alberto Perez, who had forgotten his workout tapes and had to use other music he had with him, which consisted of salsa and merengue tunes. This totally worked out and people loved it. He then went to the States, hooked up with a partner, sold it to the world and (I imagine) became loaded. Good for Alberto.

And good for me. Zumba is a lot of fun. Firstly, the music is the type I prefer on a night out, and being able to listen to tunes I danced to in my favourite Cuban club in Buenos Aires is a massive bonus. Secondly, it’s not like an aerobics class. It’s more like a dance floor and doing your own thing is totally cool. I tried to follow the teacher to the step, but you know, if I didn’t move my arms in the right direction, who cares? I was moving my arms. One little lady in front of me was completely hopeless, but she kept moving the whole time, dancing on her toes and swaying her hips. So what if all her steps were the same? When we twizzled, she did too. Just the wrong way round.

Lastly, Zumba is knackering. I was wondering after 20 minutes if I was going to make the full hour without turning into a sweaty mess on the floor. But then there’s the one good thing about a class: you look around you and see older, fatter, redder people and think If they can keep going, I can too. It’s stupid aerobics pride. But it keeps you going.

I have signed up for the year. 80 Euros for a year’s worth of classes is a bargain. Those darker, longer winter nights are going to be upon us soon, and I think some fun, high tempo exercise is the tonic to that. It doesn’t mean running goes out the window, of course. You’ve got to mix it up. This way I get the Zumba beat and the running buzz. And you can’t beat that.

Zumba: Highly recommended. Good for: Everyone.

Doesn’t matter if: You have zero rhythm. Helps to: Love Latino music.

*For the record, no doctor in Buenos Aires ever did that. Unfortunately.

Slugs, snails and little training partners

First run today without walking intervals. I’m not going to lie (sorry other injured people being patient – keep being so), IT FELT GREAT.

It was just a 3-mile foray over the bridge into Germany (my runs are going to get very international living here), along the Sure River, back into Luxembourg over another bridge and along the river path back. I had worn my Nike running rain jacket, but it wasn’t raining and for the last half mile I was sweating like someone overdressed and under-prepared.

I didn’t care. It was bliss. For the last half mile I pumped my arms and every so often I said out loud, “I can run. I can run.” I kid you not. I was a grinning running loony, let out of the Home of the Injured to be free and run in the real world again.

HeronSo why the strange title? Well, here are my observations of this running route this week. Firstly, the path has been covered in slugs and snails. Two days ago I was walking the path and spotted a slug with a snake-like pattern on its back. I wish I had had my camera with me, I’d never seen a patterned slug before. There are obviously exotic slugs in these parts. So, running today, I looked out for them. It’s like a sluggish safari that path at the moment. And in the river there are swans and geese and ducks swimming by. Herons, too. Tell you, I won’t get bored running here with all this wildlife going on. It certainly beats buses and mosquitoes.

The same day as the Snake Skin Slug Spot I also got passed twice by a dad running and his (maybe eight-year-old?) daughter on her bike. There she was, babbling away to him as he bounced alongside her. I didn’t understand what she was saying, but it struck me as a genius ploy. Get trained by your kids: they get exercise on their bikes, you get distraction and to keep up with their news while getting a run in, and when your knees pack in and they are older, you can swap around and still keep each other company. Genius.

So anyway, here’s to being back. I am not gloating. But, for once, my leg is not hurting. I can run.