Lessons learned from the Bum Belly Blast! programme

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This week marks the end of the Bum Belly Blast training programme, used to improve my speed and stamina after hitting a performance plateau and staying in my comfort zone for too long. It was a success in many ways because it helped me set numerous PR’s (Personal Records):

– new unofficial 5km PR of 26:42 at the Montrose 10km, shaving a minute off my previous Dunecht Dash PR.

– new unofficial 10 km PR of 56:04, again at the Montrose 10km, shaving 1:53 off my PR. I call this one ‘unofficial’ because the race distance has been disputed.

– many consistent sub-9 minute miles, both in training and races

– longest distance run: 9.63 miles

All these PR’s clearly indicate the programme was a success. Regardless of stats, I feel I’ve become a much stronger and faster runner, and I’ve noticed an improvement in my fitness and ability to recover from hills during runs and just keep going, rather than previously slowing down at the top of the hill to recover before picking up the pace again. It has also given me more confidence in my ability, and has given me reassurance that I can in fact do the difficult intervals, tempo runs and long runs that other, more serious runners do, (does this mean I’ve also become a more serious runner?). Not to mention the fact that others have noticed a change to my body; apparently, I’ve lost weight? A nice bonus.

My sucess wasn’t completely perfect though: I admit to stopping the supplementary interval exercises once studying for my Life in the UK test became more intense, and also because I found my legs were often heavy when doing intervals and tempo runs, meaning they were probably not fully recovered. Although I could manage the exercises and noticed an improvement in my stamina during them, I found them difficult to schedule in to also allow for rest and running on more rested legs. I also admit to not doing all the prescribed interval and tempo run distances and time; I still did intervals and tempos, but for shorter periods of time instead. In this respect, I confess to fearing the pain and difficulty that comes with interval and tempo running, and this is something I know I need to work on. I do think it’s a small success to still have stuck to speed training though, and will continue to work towards sticking to the programme in this respect.

Before I give you my list of lessons learned, can I just say how much I love long runs???!?!?! If I had to rank the different types of runs I did during this programme, I would have to say long runs were my favourite, then tempo runs, with interval running last. Before I started this training programme, the longest I’d run was a stiff 7 miles. I used to think that my body couldn’t take long runs, that it was too tough on my knees and ankles, so I stayed away from them. I also feared the distance; again, this programme totally took me out of my comfort zone, but due to continued success, I saw the results of continually being challenged, so I continued to follow. I would wake up Sunday mornings, excited for my long run, and my friends and I would find new routes in the countryside to keep things fresh. It was also a great bonding time for my friends and I as we had serious girl talks during this time. I’ve read that you get to know your running friends quite well because of the time you spend together, and the fact you see each other when you’re always dishevelled; it’s like the act of running is barrier-free. This long run practice is something I could definitely get used to.

I’m linking up with Hyedi‘s post, Here we go again: what I learned from marathon training, to give you:

Lessons learned from the Bum Belly Blast training programme

1. Everything revolves around the long run: your breakfast that day, hydration and diet the day before, your activities the day before, your activities the days leading up to the long run, and everything that happens after the long run until two days later. Or at least this is how I feel. I found that my long runs went really well when I wasn’t physically active the day before, but if I’d done the interval exercises, or heaven forbid, one Saturday I went out on my Stand-up and Paddleboard (SUP), my long runs were difficult and the post-SUP one was a disaster.

The lesson here was to have at least one day’s rest before the long run.


2. When doing new routes for a long run, drive the route first and map it out: twice during this programme, we got surprises along our routes. My first long run with my friend Wendy, we ran a route her husband suggested, thinking it would be the 8 miles he thought it was. After stopping a mile out of town after 1:35:xx of running, I was pretty sure the route was longer than 8 miles. I went home and mapped it out on Map My Run to discover it was 10 miles instead! Another shock was the 9.63 mile run: I knew we’d have to run up two big hills, but not the THREE big hills we encountered! This was on very tired, post-SUP legs, so needless to say, the last two miles consisted of run-walking. Hence one reason why it was a disaster.

The lesson here was to know your route, don’t discover it!

The elevation chart for the very tough 9.63 miles

3. Heart Rate Monitors should only be used for speed training runs: and not long runs at a slow pace. I made the mistake of wearing my HRM on my first long run, and got some pretty bad chafing just below my sternum, which resulted in some discomfort and stinging in the shower.

The lesson here was HRM’s are for speed only! (for me anyway). A visual representation of one of my speed workouts, 10 x 30 second hill reps:

4. Runger is a real thing and sometimes it sucks! I’ve never been so hungry so often until I did this programme! I blame long runs and interval sessions. Long runs played with my appetite in the sense that I thought I would be able to eat a ton post-run, only to eat half of what I would normally be able to eat, then feel hungry again an hour later. I would have to graze all day just to feel normal, but this was good because it allowed me to get on with my day rather than remaining horizontal because I was so tired. Interval running apparently boosts your metabolism, which creates hungry muscles during and after running, resulting in again, more hunger pangs at abnormal times for me: between breakfast and morning snack, and right before bed. To relieve the runger, I ate, but only a small amount to get rid of the hunger feeling.
The lesson here was that my body was burning more fuel so it needed more fuel.

5. Intense cravings after long runs should be indulged: after my first 8+ mile run, I had the biggest craving for a cheeseburger known to man. I had eaten lunch and a snack after my run, then spent the rest of the day on the couch tired from the physical activity. Around 4pm that afternoon, I started craving the burger. I thought I’d done well to not cave in, but it turns out, I should’ve. My unofficial running coach later told me that long runs do damage to your muscles, and your body craving certain foods is its way of saying (or screaming!) ‘I need this food (or nutrient) now!’Β  Clearly that day, I needed more protein and probably iron. After this one day of craving, I made sure to have meat after every long run, and to graze throughout the day to help ease the cravings.

The lesson here was that I should’ve had that burger!

6. Running does some ugly things to your feet: When my dad ran, I could never understand why his feet weren’t so pretty, and even after seeing Rachel’s numerous feet shots of affected nails and purple toes, I never understood why this happens to runners. I’m even more perplexed now that I have my own purple toe! I can only attribute this to it rubbing against the tip of my sneaker, which actually became quite painful at one point. It’s now calmed down, and I guess will just grow out? Hopefully? I also have a nice, painless blister on the tip of another toe, which I guess I’ll have to pick off sooner or later. So ladylike!

The lesson here was….. ? I don’t know.

A gross photo of my toes on the internet. Was this a good idea?

7. Cold showers/baths are uncomfortable but totally worth it: they help speed up recovery and make your legs feel better after a long run. At the end of my post-run shower, I turn the temperature to cold and run the shower head up and down both legs, front and back. It’s shocking and unpleasant, but invigorating at the same time. I do cold baths after long runs, which elicit the same result, and make my legs feel better afterwards. I even used our neighbour’s daughter’s pool to soak my tired legs after my hard 9.63 miles, still in my running clothes.

The lesson here is that the cold water makes you shriek but does a wonder on your legs.

This connects to the next lesson:

8. Take your mobile phone out of the back pocket of your tights before submerging your entire bottom half in your neighbour’s daughter’s pool: pretty much self-explanatory. I sat in that pool for 15-20 minutes, making sure my legs were submerged. I got out, dried myself off a bit, walked into my house and began to disrobe for my shower. It was only at this point that I wondered where my phone was, then realised it was in the pocket of my soaked tights!!!!!! Needless to say, after days spent in dried rice, my phone was dead. I’ve since replaced it, but also learned this lesson the hardest way one can.

The lesson here is that carrying your phone is a good safety precaution during a run, just make sure you remove it from your tights immediately upon arriving home!

And finally 9. Running never gets easy: Nope, it never does, and will always be a challenge, either physically or mentally. But we still do it, we persevere and come out the other end better for it.

The lesson here is to just keep going!

With that said, I want to continue to grow in this newfound journey, so I’ve signed myself up for a few out-of-my-comfort-zone challenges. Tomorrow, I’m running the Innaugural RunnersKnees #virtual10miler with Rachel, up in Aberdeen. We will be Tweeting and Instagramming mid-run (hopefully?), so you can follow us. Hyedi will also be doing the run, this will be our first race together, kinda. This is officially the longest distance I’ve ever run, so I’m going to take it easy, hoping for a comfortable 10:30 pace.

My husband and I have also entered the Aviemore Half Marathon, taking place this October, in you guessed it, Aviemore! I’ve been told it’s a flat race with beautiful scenery, plus you get a t-shirt, so I’m excited. We’ll also get to dine at some of our favourite restaurants in Scotland, the Old Bridge Inn and the Mountain Cafe! I’ll be following a 12-week training programme, beginning at the end of July.

And finally, I’m a happy teacher, I’m officially on my summer holiday!!!!!

We’re off for a camping, surfing and touring holiday in a rented VW campervan to the Outer Hebrides of Scotland next week! Woo!!!!! Happy running all!

2 thoughts on “Lessons learned from the Bum Belly Blast! programme

  1. Thanks again for telling me about the #virtual10miler – it was cool to finally run the same race “together!”

    Great post — the cold showers/baths and the runger is a real thing really hold true for me too.

  2. Pingback: 2013: The Year that Was | I Eat Therefore I Run

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