Walk yourself fit classes in Swindon and Chippenham

I’m excited to announce that our first Walk yourself fit classes start in Swindon on 27 January and Chippenham on 31 January. Power walking is where my passion for walking really started and I can’t wait to share my knowledge and experience with more people.

Power walking (or fitness walking) is a great way to boost your health and wellbeing and it can help reduce your risk of dementia and cancer. The classes will also give you the chance to meet new people in your area.

The classes will be action packed 1 hour sessions that will help you improve your fitness levels and gain results fast. I will show you how we can turn motivating drills and exercises into a fast paced (and fun!) walk.

No fitness walking experience is necessary and all levels of fitness and speed are catered for.

Sign up today

Lydiard Park, Swindon classes http://bit.ly/2BemNio

Chippenham classes http://bit.ly/2FP9EQg

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Paris Marathon 2016 – 6 months to go…

Paris Marathon 5km Breakfast Run 2015

So, in flash of craziness, I have signed up to do next year’s Paris Marathon. Why crazy, you may ask? After all I regularly do marathons. Indeed, I’ve done three this year alone. And yes, I have no issue with completing the 26.2 miles, especially around the beautiful streets of Paris. My problem is the 36mins 14 secs I need to knock off my PB to come in under the cut-off time of 6hrs!

Over the last couple of years me and Mr Chafing Thighs have competed in some races together, and others, perhaps because they are walking only or the cut-off time was too quick, we have done separately. And one of those races, for the latter reason, is the Paris Marathon. Every year as I wave him off at the start line I feel the little green monster welling up inside. Last year I took part in the 5km Breakfast Run, which finished under the Eiffel Tower. It was truely amazing to walk around the streets of Paris and the support in France is always fantastic (allez, allez, allez). But rather than fulfill my desire to race in Paris it just fuelled it further.

But then something fantastic happened. In previous years the cut-off has been 5hrs 40mins, way too quick for my current abilities. But this year they have increased it to 6hrs. Only 20 minutes, but that’s nearly an extra minute a mile, and in the world of marathoning, that makes a huge difference.

Paris Marathon 2015 map

As you can see the course is stunning. It starts on the Champs-Élysées, loops around the Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes, going past the Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame, finishing just shy of the Arc de Triomphe. What better motivation could a walker ask for! And of course, I will spend most of the course thinking of the giant éclairs and crêpes I will devour when I finish.

So with six months, or more precisely, 154 days, 20 hrs 24mins and 52secs (according to the Schneider Electric Paris Marathon page), the training begins. I will be working with a much longer training plan than my usual 12-16 week one to ensure I knock off the required 36mins 14 secs on the day. I will also be sharing regular updates on my progress and I’m sure you’ll be hearing lots about HIIT (high-intensity interval training), hill work and cross training in the coming months.

Unfortunately registration is now closed for the marathon, with 57,000 people having signed up. However there is still the option of walking the Breakfast 5km. Details haven’t been released yet for 2016, but keep an eye on the marathon website in the coming months.

Walking running events

When me and my husband head out for our long training sessions on a Sunday morning, I know that even though we are doing the same distance, that he will be home, showered and relaxing long before me. That’s the joy of living with a runner. It’s the same at events. When we did the LA Marathon he had finished and was sat in the sun on Santa Monica beach while I was still pounding down Rodeo Drive. But despite our time differences we still take part in many of the same events each year. Just because an event is advertised as a ‘run’ doesn’t mean that as a walker you can’t take part. Obviously, if you are a very fast walker, this opens up the number of events even more.

Tips for walking running events

  • Check out the race rules or contact the organisers to find out what the cut-off time for the event is.
  • Work out your pace – can you finish the race comfortably in the allotted time? Allow yourself 15-30 minutes extra in case of loo breaks, blister stops or congestion at water stations.
  • Some events will set a time when the roads will re-open, after that you can still take part but you will have to walk on the pavements and contend with traffic.
  • On race day plan to start near the back. This means that you won’t get pushed and bashed by runners who think they are Usain Bolt when the race starts.
  • Watch out for crazy French men who will scoop you up under your arms and carry you along shouting ‘Allez, allez, allez,’ (not an every day occurrence, but this did happen to me at the 2014 Medoc Marathon).
  • Enjoy all the support from the crowd. Walkers always seem to get extra support and the crowd are quite often amazed at how fast you are walking.
  • Try not to look to smug when you over-take all the Usain Bolt wannabes who ran out of puff at mile four and are now shuffling along, wheezing like they smoke forty a day.

Events suitable for walkers

  • Great South Run
    • 10 miles
    • Suitable for anyone who walks 18 minute miles or quicker.
  • LA Marathon
    • 6.5hr cut-off
    • LA is home to a lot of powerwalkers so you will feel quite at home in this event.
  • Paris Marathon
    • 6hr cut-off so only suitable for very quick walkers (12-13 minute mile pace).
    • There is a 5km race the day before which starts just off the Champs Élysées and finishes under the Eiffel Tower. This event is suitable for slower walkers and you still get to see the amazing sights. For under €10 you get a sports t-shirt, croissants, coffee, water and other nibbles – cheaper than a hotel breakfast.
  • Rome Marathon
    • 7hr cut-off
  • Race for Life events
    • Suitable for walkers, joggers and runners.
    • Events include 5km, 10km, marathon and 5km Pretty Muddy obstacle course.

Feel free to share in the comments any other running races suitable for walkers. Or your experience of walking a running event. 

Safety first: Take care when walking

Safety first sign

I’ve been fairly lucky when I’ve been out walking, with the exception of the odd child on a bike or grown-up child in a car heckling me, I’ve had no negative experiences. However, even though I’ve been lucky, I don’t take my personal safety for granted and I hope you won’t take yours for granted either.

So I’m going to use this post to get bossy and give you some advice to help you stay safe while you’re out there pounding the streets.

My top safety tips

  • Tell someone you trust where you are going and when you will be back.
  • Always take your mobile phone with you, no matter how short the distance (and make sure it’s fully charged).
    • Programme your phone with an ICE (In Case of Emergency) number. The emergency services are trained to look for these numbers on phones.
    • If you don’t want to carry your expensive iPhone or oversized Samsung buy a ‘walking’ phone. I bought a £10 pay as you go phone, topped it up with £10 credit and added a couple of emergency contacts (including a trusted taxi company).
  • Shine bright – wear bright clothes with reflected strips. Most running clothing comes with reflective strips, however you can also top up with some reflective arm/leg bands.
    • In low light wear running lights – these can be bands that you wrap around your arms and legs or small devices that you can clip on your cap or trainers.
  • Go where you know. Walking the same streets can get a bit repetitive but before you change your route check out the new route first. Drive the route or check it out on Google Street View – are there any areas that don’t look safe? If so, pick another route. Also, think about when you will be walking. The park might be bright and open during the day, but would you want to walk through it in the early hours or at dusk?
    • Mix it up: have a couple of different routes in your repertoire so you avoid using the same route every time.
    • Avoid badly lit areas and danger spots such as subways, alleyways and isolated car parks.
  • Take some money with you – just enough to buy a drink if you run out of water or get a taxi if you can’t make it home.
  • If you don’t feel safe at any time walk straight to a public place or building. Don’t be worried about dialling 999. The emergency services would rather you called and it turned out to be nothing than have to deal with something more serious.
  • Look confident – make brief eye contact with people who are walking towards you – this shows them that you are aware they are there and displays confidence.
  • Save your headphones for the gym. Wearing headphones is a distraction and means you are not fully aware of your surroundings.
  • If you are walking on the road, walk so you are facing the oncoming traffic.
  • Consider carrying a personal alarm – an alarm could distract an attacker long enough for you to get away as well as attracting help.
  • Safety in numbers – find a walking buddy or group and look after each other.

Safety first sign

I’ve got the power

Walking sign

Five years ago I decided I wanted to run a marathon, you know, tick it off the bucket list. So I found a plan for beginners and I started training. I trained hard for 14 weeks then two weeks before the marathon something went pop in my knee and I ended up in a knee brace with no chance of running to the end of the garden path let alone 26.2 miles. I mopped for a while then I saw an advert for the Moonwalk. It was still 26.2 miles but instead of running I would be able to walk it. So I signed up and started training. The distances covered were the same, the times I took were longer, but I was still getting out there and exercising. And several months later I had completed my first marathon.

So what is the difference between running and walking? Well firstly walking is lower impact, you always have one foot in contact with the floor, which means it is easier on your joints. Speed can be a difference, although once you work on your technique you may find you are out pacing runners (always worth it for the look on their face). The average speed for walking is 3mph (20 minute mile pace); this is the pace you would bimble into town at. Power walking takes it up a notch to nearer 5mph (12 minute mile). I tend to train between 4.4-4.75mph, with a race pace of nearer the 5mph mark. Race walkers, those people with the hypnotic hips and impossibly bendy legs walk at 9mph plus, but this takes serious training and learning the technique.

There are also several similarities between walking and running. They both:

  • condition the same leg muscles
  • build bone density
  • build muscular endurance
  • strengthen ligaments and tendons
  • burn calories – dependent on speed, power walking can burn a similar number to running
  • help manage body weight and reduce body fat
  • provide cardiovascular benefits.

So how do you decide which one is for you? Well this is entirely up to you but I prefer power walking for many reasons:

  • My knees prefer it.
  • It is more social – many of your friends will believe that they are too unfit to run, but suggest going for a walk and they’ll be squeezing into their lycra and lacing up their laces. I trained for my second Moonwalk with my mum and we shared some great experiences together.
  • I can take in more of my surroundings – this is particularly great when I’m doing events in new cities.
  • I can enter a wider variety of races (walking and running events).
  • It is a great stress buster – concentrating on how your body feels and your technique means there’s no room for any other crap in you head.
  • If you’re big ‘up top’, as I am, there’s definitely less bouncing going on.

But, even though power walking is lower impact (and can be slower), it shouldn’t be thought of as an easy option. You will still ache after long distances, you will get sweaty and red-faced and out of breath. It may be that you start walking to build your fitness before moving onto running (several beginner running plans mix walking and running). Or it may be that like me you stick with power walking, building your distances and working on your speed and technique. Whichever you decide, power walking will help you achieve goals that will improve your fitness, health and confidence.