It’s good to be busy. I’m sure I’m no different to most other folks out there. We just function better when we’re busy, and when we’re busy, we get energetic. Energy begets energy. Or something. It’s a variation on the old adage of ‘If you want anything done, ask a busy man to do it‘. Which is my roundabout way of saying I have been pulled away from normal duties of late.
My Dad is back in hospital once more. His own reluctance to accept his lack of mobility keeps landing him in trouble. He had yet another fall at home which meant another trip to hospital where they found a hairline fracture in his hip, but whilst there, he had another fall and broke his left leg. I’ve made the joke about him finagling his way into the wards to avail of free sponge baths from lovely nurses, but in truth, it’s wearing a bit thin, that gag, and the hardest part of visits to see him (which are hard to come by due to restrictions; about one a week is what you get) is that at the end of our chat, when I get up to leave, he looks me in the eye, forlorn and lost, and asks me to bring him home.
It’s enough to put you straight into the cardiac unit.
In terms of pure time, the job that has eaten into my days is a renovation project. My folks own a couple of small cottages. It’s part of the terrace where we built our home. They are charming houses, in their way. They have pedigree, in the sense that they were built in the 1760s as mill workers homes (we do, after all, live on Mill Lane). But that also means they are structurally not terribly sound. My Dad did a lot of work on them over the years, mostly by adding on a kitchen out the back. Worth bearing in mind that when I was a youngster, the last three cottages on an original row of ten were occupied, and they had no running water or toilets. I’ve touched on this history a little before, in this post. And if my Dad was here, peering over my shoulder, he would ask me to remind you all of the day he plumbed in the mains water into Mary Cunningham’s kitchen (mother of three great kids; a family of five in a two-roomed cottage). She burst into tears when he turned on the tap. No more fetching water in a pail from the pump across the road; no more dry toilet. Such luxury.
Last month, long-term tenants moved out, and the place needed a complete overhaul. Well, to be fair, I didn’t realise that. I actually naively thought I could pop down and give it all a quick lick of paint and be done in a few days. Turns out there were quite a lot of problems when we lifted up the lino. And so I have drafted in my good mate Jim – an excellent all-round handy man (which doesn’t really do him justice) – and the two of us have been stuck into the work for the last couple of weeks. The kitchen and bathroom in particular were in an awful state, and to be honest, I feel guilty that the previous tenants didn’t have the place managed in better order. It certainly looks well now, and we’re nearly finished. It’s been great to get back to some physical handiwork. I do my own decorating and running repairs around the house anyway, but this is like a proper job: up and at it in the morning, and working on into the evening.
And so the few hours that bookend the working day are given over to a little bit of training. The programme calls for five runs a week. The gym, for now, has taken a back seat, but that will kick in again once the cottage is done. At the weekend, Gary and I got out for a half on the canal. We kept it modest, at just over the two hour mark.
All in all, the projections are positive. In February, I clocked up about 128k, and March was about 158k. Less than halfway through April, and we’re at 75k. So things are on track, more or less.
I also found a nice piece online the other day, which is worth sharing. It’s from the Running Shoes Guru website, and in fairness, if you are in the market for new shoes, you could do a lot worse than check out this guy’s site. He does all sorts of gear reviews related to running, but shoes are the main thing. Here’s the article. It’s a piece from a runner/coach called James Dunne.
The article is called Top Five Habits to Develop For Efficient Running Form, and it is just that. No. 1 is Feel Every Step, which makes sense. It’s a form of physical mindfulness, which does, I admit, sound like an oxymoron.
Secondly; swing those arms! Nothing stranger than seeing someone out running who looks like they’ve stepped off the stage of Riverdance. Those arms can really help move you along. He goes on to mention the importance of posture, which is a nod towards Chi Running, but explained in a sensible way. He throws in cadence too, which I have to say is one area I fall down on; I need to increase my turnover a little, and shorten my stride a tad. And finally… breathe! It’s one area I have focussed on a lot of late when out running. You don’t want to slavishly follow a pattern of breaths to strides, but you will find that your typical training pace will demand a certain ratio of breathing. If you can force yourself to slow down your breathing rate a little, you can also adapt your respiration to be more efficient. You don’t have to aim for sucking in massive lungfuls of air, per se, but you can train your body to be more economical with the air you do inhale. And you might find you can match the number of steps you take neatly with the number of paces. For example, breathe in for four paces, breathe out for four, etc. This can also be a useful tool for making you stick to a certain pace on longer runs.
It’s a well-written piece, and I would recommend it for runners like me. Id est; better than just starting out, and but not good enough to have a coach who has already beaten this stuff into you over countless sessions on the track. Though in fairness, if you are just starting out, it’s still excellent advice, and sage wisdom I would have benefited from twenty years ago.