Kinetic Revolution Train Smarter Podcast – Interview

Last month I was interviewed by Kinetic Revolution for their Train Smarter podcast. They wanted to know more about what makes me tick, why I am running in all these silly costumes and what I am doing for charity. I had fun doing it, but I’m too embarrassed to listen to it. If you fancy a listen then you can find it here: http://www.kinetic-revolution.com/train-smarter-podcast/interview-with-richard-lander-stow/

Or you can get it on iTunes.

Happy listening. Do let me know if it is any good or not ūüėÄ

Oh, and if you haven’t yet listened to the Kinetic Revolution Train Smarter Podcast then I can recommend it as it is full of useful free information for all levels of runner.

Why Yoga? WHY?

Bob had perfected the corpse pose

Bob had perfected the corpse pose

I attended a yoga class last night for the second time in nine months. I tried it at the end of last year, but I decided that it hurt too much and I whussed¬†out. You see, like many a triathlete¬†I am about as flexible as a dry ice lolly¬†stick and just as prone to something snapping when I over stretch. For the first thirty six years of my life I have followed a strict plan that can pretty much be summed up as “exercise and be damned” with nary a thought to the consequences (yes, I said nary, now get over it and read on!)

As I now get closer and closer to being considered old, over the hill and near to death I have found that I am getting more than the occasional niggle. My bike fit has to account for very little hip flexion, my running form is compromised by¬†short hamstrings and my hydrodynamics while swimming¬†are hampered¬†by tight shoulders. I finally decided that it was time to do something about this before it becomes a serious problem. I looked at yoga classes and a local instructor was recommended to me, however I simply couldn’t justify the spend of ¬£360 for a term of yoga instruction (¬£180 each for my wife and I) so I had to look to alternatives. I am fortunate in that I am a member of a fantastic triathlon club (www.plymouthtriclub.co.uk) that has a very active committee that love to organise useful sessions for their members. One of those¬†session is a weekly yoga¬†class at a subsidised price that is aimed at triathletes, which means that you aren’t expected to be a human pretzel.

Oh, before going to the lesson we did look at the option of getting some kind of yoga DVD or book, but we got totally befuddled by the different forms and varieties of yoga. I even looked to Youtube¬†where there are some free videos, but I couldn’t watch¬†them for more than a few seconds without getting annoyed by the instructor. In the end I settled on “Yoga for Athletes” by Sage Rountree, which comes recommended by Joe Friel, one of the best triathlon coaches of all time. It hasn’t arrived yet, but I figure that it may help me do some homework between the weekly club sessions to help build my strength and flexibility more easily.

My wife and I pitched up for our first yoga session last night.  There were only a few of us there, so there was plenty of space. I recognised all of the faces from other tri club sessions and the whole atmosphere was very welcoming and relaxed. There were spare yoga matts around, so my wife picked one up and we were ready to go. Eleanora worked us pretty hard through the session, but her instructions were detailed, patient and helpful. We spent a lot of time working through various poses that for me felt like they stretched and tested nearly every muscle in my body. There was a continuous focus on posture and correct form to ensure that we were doing the poses correctly. I particularly liked the shoulder flexibility work that we did, if only because I could actually do it. I was surprised at the massive difference in flexibility between my shoulders though. My right side needs work!

Eleonora would occasionally walk around the room and help¬†people¬†into the correct form. I did suffer a brief moment of panic when she “helped” me into a more correct “downward facing dog,” but I soon relaxed once I realised that I could still breath and nothing had actually snapped. Eleonora also showed us how to use the wall for support in the more difficult poses and that made a big difference in what we were able to achieve. During the whole session I didn’t once feel¬†out of place. I was pleased to see that most of the other people weren’t super bendy and it was also satisfying to hear the occasional grunt followed by what sounded like a dropped a sack of potatoes, as someone else couldn’t hold the pose any more and crumpled to the mat. Eleonora even let out a chuckle when we were doing something resembling a squat while balancing on our toes as our knees popped and cracked as we went down.

Today I can feel the effect of the stretching in my shoulders, legs and lower back and I feel satisfied that I survived my first yoga session. It really helps that I have identified a¬†good reason for going and can see that¬†the yoga¬†will provide me with a massive long term benefit.¬†I¬†genuinely¬†now believe that yoga has a place in my training plan and I believe that it will help me to become more efficient at every triathlon discipline while also having the added bonuses¬†of making me less likely to¬†pick up an injury and providing extra relaxation. The 10 to 15 minutes a the end while lying in¬†a darkened room in child’s pose and corpse pose are simply pure bliss.

The session could use a few more regulars as it is in constant danger of being axed by the club due to low attendance, so if you are a member and are reading this then do come and give it a try.

If you are worried about showing yourself up then don’t be. My starting point is about as bad as they come and my wife, Sam,¬†had just finished 5 months of chemotherapy and had very little physical strength as well as extremely low blood counts. She even joined in with the track based running session before the Yoga. She walked while we all ran, but she will be up there with us in no time. Unless you have a genuine physical disability then there is no way that you are either less flexible than me, or weaker than Sam was in that first session. What are you waiting for?

If you are interested then you can read the interview where Joe Friel spoke to Sage Rountree here: http://www.trainingbible.com/joesblog/2008/02/yoga.html

The original source for the image at the beginning of this article can be found here: http://www.globalpost.com/photo-galleries/5682650/mexicos-zombie-walk

If you know of anyone or any company that can help with my latest announced challenge then please do share this link with them so that they can find out more about the 160 mile Ocean Floor Race that I will be competing in later in the year. I still need to gather at least one more corporate sponsor and it is a great PR opportunity for anyone that helps out. Here is the link: Ocean Floor Race.

Why? For the perfect moment of course!

 

South HamsOk, so why do you exercise? Is it to keep fit, to compete, or for some other reason entirely? Personally I don’t think my reason is anywhere near as healthy as that. Most of the time I run and I cycle because I am absolutely, wholeheartedly addicted to them. I also swim, but¬†it took me a long time to figure out why.

Ultimately all of these things put the miserable grumpy me back in the box. They also shut my brain up, so that it stops worrying about all of that other stuff. For the one, two or more hours when I am exercising all of my fears and troubles vanish and my brain enters a sort of holding pattern. The more demanding the exercise the more serene my thoughts become. Off road running is a great example. There is simply no room for other thoughts when you are hurtling down a stoney track, placing each foot quickly and with care. There are four occasions when my mind has wandered during such activity and between them they resulted in two sprains and one break. I was lucky on the fourth one, nothing was damaged but I did a spectacular Superman impression and slid down the track on my chest, narrowly missing a large rock. Nobody saw it and unfortunately nobody caught it on camera. Since then I have learnt to walk downhill if I want to admire the view or ponder the meaning of life.

Of course, there is also “the perfect moment.” Anyone that exercises regularly will know what this is, although if you run exclusively on the city streets or get all of your fitness from the gym then you possibly don’t know what I am talking about. In the last two weeks I am lucky enough to have encountered a “perfect moment” on three occasions, one in each discipline.

The perfect moment is different for each and every one of us. Runners will often call it the “purple patch.” Which makes it sound like a villain from Inspector Gadget. The purple patch is associated with that feeling of running effortlessly at a speed which is¬†usually higher than you could normally sustain. The world slows down, the endorphins make your skin tingle and your face breaks into a grin.¬†You simply fly down the trail, leaping over rocks and swerving around bewildered pedestrians without a care in the world. The feeling of that moment hangs with you for hours afterwards, lifting your mood for the rest of the day.

Around the Burgh

Around the Burgh

My first of the three perfect moments came when I was swimming around Burgh Island. It was my first ever expedition style swim and you can read about it here. The perfect moment came when we were swimming around the back of the island and came with a massive sense of disbelief. When I breathed to my left there were the cliffs on the back of the Island, standing tall, grey and spectacular. When I breathed to my right there were the endless sea and blue skies. I simply couldn’t believe where I was. I giggled as I breathed out, and sea water washed around my mouth as I grinned while I swam. I didn’t want this to end. Of course that also had other connotations, but you can read about those in the full article.

My second perfect moment came while cycling the Etape¬†Caledonia. I was over halfway around the course and I had just pedaled¬†over the top of Schehallion, the biggest hill of the day. I had flown up the hill and I was ploughing my way down the other side, into a headwind. As the road descended and we entered the shelter of some woods I started to string together the bends. As I left one bend I would sprint up to speed and my gaze would move onto the next. I entered¬†each bend wide, with my gaze locked on the apex, assessing the severity of the bend and adjusting my speed accordingly. Release the brakes, lift the inside pedal, lean¬†into the apex and¬†drift outwards as the bend opens up.¬†Stomp on the pedals and repeat. The bends all¬†flowed together, my concentration was 100% and it all just flowed. The familiar rush came and I couldn’t resist whooping as I descended. You can read the full account here.

My third perfect moment came this morning. I felt so weary. I am only 8 days from having done the Etape¬†Caledonia, and ahead of me I have my biggest ever running challenge. In 6 days I will be running my first ultra marathon. It will be 36 miles long and features over 7000m of climbing. I’m not recovered from the EC yet, but I need to start reminding my leg muscles how to run. They have barely run a step in four weeks while I was preparing for the Etape, and if I tried to run 36 hilly miles without a little bit of conditioning in them¬†it would be utterly horrendous. I walked the kids to school wearing my running kit. Evie¬†screamed most of the way. She had forgotten Bunny and we didn’t have time to go back and get her. I felt knackered by the time I had dropped them off, worn down by the screaming, but I needed the run. No really. I NEEDED the run.

Etape Caledonia StartI fastened my bum bag and started to jog up the 1 in 4 hill in the direction of the moors. This would only be a steady run, staying within heart rate zone 2 for the sports geeks among you, but I wanted to get up onto the hill so that I could put my legs through a long steep descent and the extra impact that it causes. This is a route that I know well as it has provided the majority of base work for my current running fitness. I plodded upwards. My left foot hurt due to a sofa injury, more on that later, and I was probably running like Frankenstein but I shuffled on. I passed the secondary school, and carried on upwards, finally turning off onto the rocky track that would take me up onto the moorland. If my heart rate went too high then I walked, and soon I was through the gate at the top of the track. The moorland opened up in front of me and I plodded on, starting to feel better emotionally as much as anything else. Just then the wind stopped, the birds sang and I lifted my gaze. The visibility was good for that brief moment and the South Hams spread out in front of me, all the way to the south coast and the shimmering sea. I shivered, not through the cold, but through the rush of emotion and I grinned. Oh yes. This was exactly what I needed. I paused again at the top and turned in a full circle, admiring 360 degrees of amazing views. Emotionally and mentally I felt cleansed. Why doesn’t everyone do this?

So, after a winter of challenges (7 marathons, cycle sportives, swimming etc) why do I keep at it. Why do I keep pushing myself? For me I think that it is most likely about control. There are so many hard things about life, most of which we have no control over. On these challenges I can clear my mind, grab the bull by the horns and give it everything that I’ve got. I rarely think about my placing while doing a race, that doesn’t matter. What matters is finishing, simply beating my inner demons back and pushing through to get to the finish line. Those demons come out in full every time. At the start they ask me why am I doing this and keep telling me that I’ll never make it. They gleefully cry that I haven’t prepared properly and that my legs will be nothing but bloody stumps when I crawl to a marshal¬†at some remote checkpoint, begging to be taken back to¬†my car. I tell them to shut up and I mentally check off the things that I need. Food, drink, tools, spare clothes etc. As the race goes on the voices highlight every little niggle¬†and pain, and tell me to quit if I know what is good for me. This may all sound overly dramatic, however our brain is actually wired to make us stop if it perceives the exertion as too great. If we were still living in caves and we tired¬†ourselves out this much then we wouldn’t have the energy to catch our next meal or fight off predators. In this modern-day and age those thoughts have no place in my head.

So, back to the question: Why will I be lining up to run in an Ultra marathon come Sunday morning, especially with everything else that I have pushed through and been through in the last six months? I am doing it:

  • For my wife who is in hospital battling with Leukaemia
  • For my Mum who is going above and beyond to help me with the kids while simultaneously missing her husband and being made redundant from her job of 27 years
  • For my sister who is having issues of her own with her own young family
  • For my Dad who is 61 and is currently riding by himself through Kazakhstan on his way around the world by motorbike
  • For my children who fill me with more love and more terror than I could ever have imagined

In my own selfish way, that is why I will be running and finishing my first ultra marathon on Sunday 26th May 2013.

 

My Protein Special Offers

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How much difference does weight make?

scalesMost of us moan that we are overweight, but how is that actually affecting you when it comes to exercise? An experiment¬†that is worth doing is to get a comfortable rucksack and fill it with 2 stone (approx. 13kg) of stuff. My rucksack currently contains a large book, one litre of water, and a bag of gravel (really, it does!), that makes up the 2 stone of weight. It is pretty hard to lift, especially if I pick it up using the small handle on top,¬†it cuts into my fingers straight away and I have to adjust my grip. In fact it is surprisingly heavy. I used to carry this around my body. I strap it on and step on the scales. I am back at my old weight. Time to go out.¬†I start to run. How does it feel? [Read more…]