I'm an avid reader. Snaffling 3 novels a week sometimes. It helps to be an insomniac. Whenever I read a book that fully grabs my attention I think 'this is it! This is exactly how I want to write' until I read the next novel, written in a completely different style and feel the same. And so it goes on. Or the gremlins start scratching away at my writery soul while chanting 'you'll never be able to write like this you know, never, ever, so what's the point stupid?'
The point is, gremlin gagmaster, I love reading and I love writing (and yes, of course I love running and Pilates too...) Writing has always been a part of my life. If I could earn a living from writing, I would. As I child, I wrote rather odd plays. Later in my teenage years I filled notebooks with angst ridden poetry. I still have those spiral bound, tear-stained notebooks and they make for disturbing reading!
Into adulthood, my love of writing didn't wane, I continued to put pen to paper and had some success with magazine features - a notable one for 'Dogs Weekly' about my hyperactive Jack Russel cross who has long since vaulted the Rainbow Bridge! Less said about that one the better. Later, I completed an OU Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing.
Having written two non-fiction books 'Pilates for Runners' and 'Pilates for Living' both published by Bloomsbury, my current goal is to write a decent novel (as opposed to an indecent one) and to get it published. And to exorcise those gremlins. I have 3 nearly-novels sitting in a file on my Desktop. All works in progress and going nowhere fast. With those in mind I took a look at all the amazing 'write your novel' courses available out there from the likes of Curtis Brown, Penguin and Faber and Faber and considered them all. Breaking out in a sweat as I did so. Instead, after a lot of procrastination, I applied to do an MA in Novel Writing and was accepted. Which is just too exciting.
So hopefully, dear reader, I will get that novel finished.
Let's see what happens next.
My author page: http://harriangell.com
Writers' Workshops: http://writersworkshops.co.uk
Some recent blogs:
- Writing and reading
- #18in18 – Running challenge for 2018
- Miracle cure for very stinky trainers!
- Mapledurham 10 race report
- Use it or lose it!
- Friday’s Pilates move for runners
- a weekend of nutty cheese and mediterranean tarts…
- The joy of trail running
- Age is just a number…get out and run!
- Running as therapy for depression
- Running workshop
- Could running help you get a job?
- Pilates is for men too! Sylvester, David and Andy do it…
- Simple, effective Shoulder Bridge exercise to ease an achy back…
- Bad back? Try Pilates…
- Running can change your life…if you let it
- Pilates for Runners – have you pre-ordered your copy?
- Virtual racing to get you running in 2017…and to keep you running!
- Should you run on Christmas day?
- ‘Twas the night before Christmas and all was a muddle…
Sometimes you feel like it’s the most freeing, most wonderful life-enhancing activity on this earth and at other times you want to throw yourself face down in the mud and cry because everything hurts including your boredom threshold. Well, that’s my experience anyway.
I’ve fallen deeply, madly in love with running and deeply, madly out of love with running. Turned psychotic and impossible to live with because I can’t run due to injury (we’ve all been there) and morphed into a zombie insomniac from running too much and overdoing it. When the balance is right my spirits are lifted and mainly, I LOVE IT!
So it’s time for a challenge.
I am well known among my running friends for not being a fan of racing. But I am going to change all that in 2018 and set myself a ludicrous amount of races (funds permitting) to raise money for an important charity. Usually my affiliation lies with animal charities but this year it’s time for displaced human beings, namely Refugees. We have a wonderful organisation in our town called Marlow Refugee Action Group. So along with raising funds for them, I am going to raise funds for the charity Help Refugees and run 18 races in 2018. I would love to make it 18 marathons in 2018 but at this time in my life, with other commitments and work that keeps me on my feet all day, I think I would be setting myself up for failure…But one day maybe! So, it’s going to be #18in18 – 2 marathons and 1 Ultra booked so far, many half-marathons sorted, 10k’s and anything else I can find to raise funds for, and highlight the plight of Refugees.
I have no idea what it must feel like to lose everything, have nowhere to live, to be constantly looking over my shoulder, my identity and world snatched away from me and my family through no fault of my own. To be freezing cold, hungry, frightened and not sure what the future, if indeed there is one, holds… So please help me raise funds for Help Refugees and if you’re local please support Marlow Refugee Action Group – more about their work and events that are raising funds for them in future blogs.
I have set up a fundraising page here: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/harriangell1
So, I shall start my challenge on January 1st 2018 with the Serpentine 10k in London’s Hyde Park, followed by Richmond Park 10k on 27th January. Great way to start the New Year and not too taxing to begin with! The rest of the races are listed on my fundraising page. Come and join me!
I own both Brooks and Saucony trainers. Saucony are my favourite. But their recent version/style has produced the kind of smell I can only describe as tomcat spray – and not just one cat, several hundred! But worse. Far worse. I had to remove my trainers from the house because the odour was so bad. And when I wore them, I could smell my feet. The final straw came when I was standing, post-run in a queue in M&S waiting to pay for something when I started to wonder what the dreadful smell was. It was me and my feet! My Brooks trainers don’t smell and I’ve never had this problem before with Saucony trainers. So why these ones?
Anyway, I invested in expensive odour eating, vile chemical sprays that promised me they would make my shoes sweet smelling once again. None of them worked. I still gagged every time I went near the trainers which were now condemned to the garden as far away as possible from the house. I’d concluded that all I could do was chuck them in the bin (and apologise to the bin men!) And then I came across these:I placed them in my whiffy trainers as per instructions. Two weeks later (yes, had to wait that long) the smell had gone. Completely. A miracle. And so far, the smell hasn’t come back. So if you suffer from pongy trainers do try these amazing ecowhiff inserts. £7.99 from Amazon. They contain activated charcoal – that’s all. Brilliant.
- ✅ Ecowhiff inserts are environmentally friendly – once they have reached the end of their life cycle, you can cut open the bag and put it into the soil in your garden. This will help plants absorb nutrients from the soil.
- ✅ They can be recharged – just place them in the sun once per month for 1-2 hours. Difficult at this time of year!
- ✅ All you do is place the pouches inside your shoes after usage and leave them until there no longer is a pong.
- ✅ The charcoal removes moisture from your trainers, preventing nasty bacteria from growing inside of them.
Actually I haven’t run a race for over a year. Because I hate running races.
But I am trying to change. And will.
The usual ridiculous pre-race nerves clicked in as soon as I woke on Sunday morning. Will I be the oldest runner? Will I be last? Will I face-plant in the mud? Will I need a poo mid-race/feel sick/have a race tantrum/give up and go home…the usual totally pathetic race-gremlin doing its bit.
And yet, I love running! Should any of that happen, so what? It’s only a bloody running race.
The Mapledurham 10 miler is a popular off-road December race that I have known about for some years, just haven’t plucked up courage to give it a go. But I did this year. It’s set in the grounds of the Mapledurham Estate in Oxfordshire. The drive there took me through places I used to cycle around as a child – I hadn’t looked at the route beforehand relying on Tom-Tom to do its bit. So I was a tad surprised to find myself passing through familiar childhood territory en-route.
Parking was easy, the layout of race-event tents and loos good – the usual long queues for the loos though…It was cold and drizzly and grey. Perfect weather for an trail run. Not.
Once we were off though, the drizzle abated, the beautiful countryside and farmyard smells greeted us along with a stampede of cows in the field beside us who obviously thought they’d join in. 3 miles in and I’m thinking, this is great, love off-road running, legs feel okay, head has shut up its tedious negative nonsense and all is well with the world.
Then there were hills and more hills and mud that we needed to walk tentatively through having been churned up by all the speedy lot and the 10k’ers who had gone before us. At one point I managed to eject myself into a thorny bush to avoid a face-plant in the mud. Probably a silly decision as the said thorny bush drew blood – it would have been a gentler landing in the mud!
My legs felt like jelly, my blood sugar felt low – I really must sort out my race nutrition…Anyway, I chucked a Clif-Blok in the gob and downed some water containing my RAW Sport electoryte blend which I’m experimenting with and hoped for the best – that’s all my race nutrition consists off at the moment. Surely that has to be enough for a 10 miler? So up hills, down muddy tracks, across mucky fields, through damp woodland and a few farm tracks with happy volunteers and big yellow arrows guiding us along the way. And by mile 8 I was feeling better – note to self, eat Clif-Blok earlier in race and down more RAW Sport water. I know all this really, so why don’t I do it? I dunno.
Anyway, managed the 10 miles in 1.49, so not too shabby as there was a fair amount of walking in order to stay upright. That brought me in as 4th woman in my age group which sounds good, until you know that there were only 10 women in my age group running! However, that result made me momentarily race-happy. Fab bling and I just might be back again next year. Highly recommended race if you like off-road running and mud.
And in 2018 I’m going to run 18 races for charity… with, or hopefully without, my gremlin. More news soon.
Those of you who know me are aware that I am a fierce advocate of the ‘use it or lose it’ adage. As we age it is vital to keep on doing what we’ve always done (and more) with an awareness that we lose a whopping 30% of muscle mass between the ages of 20 and 80. Lifting weights and resistance work (like the TRX sessions I teach in my studio and Power Pilates) are perfect workouts for the ageing body. And of course Mat Pilates is excellent too. My next book Pilates for Living (out next April) is all about keeping the body moving and strong, avoiding frailty and embracing our later life.
Ageing is a fact of life. It happens to us all. We can pretend we are younger, ignore the signs of ageing, risk plastic surgery, botox or whatever, to allegedly stop time, help us look younger. Or we can embrace ageing and get on with it. Because we do have a choice, whatever level of fitness or ability your starting point is, it’s never too late to start moving and to improve your fitness and health. But if you choose not to move, to sit in front of the tv, drive everywhere, never walk, start tomorrow instead of today, ignore the reality of ageing, then don’t be surprised if your joints stiffen up, or you get out breath more easily. It’s not rocket science.
So here’s a Pilates exercise from Pilates for Runners where you use your own body weight as resistance. It’s the roll down into press up – beginners’ version – and will strengthen those arms, back and chest muscles. Have a go. Click on the pictures below to enlarge:
Crikey I haven’t written a post for months – so much going on, so little time…But here’s one now!
There has been a wonderful feature on ‘Pilates for Runners’ in the Dec/Jan Trailrunning magazine and as you can see from the excerpt on the left, the editor Paul Larkin is a definite convert!
I’m often asked what the best Pilates exercises are for runners. There isn’t just one. There are many and once familiar with Pilates and the exercises on offer, you can find and practise the ones that best suit your own individual running needs. Everything you need to know is in my book ‘Pilates for Runners’.
One of things that often occurs when we run, especially when we’re tired, is twisting from the torso. This is a terrible waste of precious energy. So the Side Kick is a good exercise to counteract this as it works the oblique (waist) muscles. The stronger the oblique muscles the less likelihood of this twisting, or pelvis and hip problems too. The Side Kick will also strengthen and lengthen the tensor fasciae latae (TFL) and the Iliotibial band (ITB). The TFL sits at the top of the ITB to the front, by the side of your hip – it’s the muscle that stabilises the knee and flexes, abducts and rotates the hip joint, so we runners need to keep it very happy.
Here you go – an excerpt from ‘Pilates for Runners’ – try this simple exercise and see what you think. During the exercise, if you place your hand on your waist/side muscles as you lift your legs you’ll feel them tensing and working. If you click on to the page below it will grow in size so that you can read the instructions…
So this weekend me and masterchef decided to have a go at making vegan cheese. I am incredibly curious about these recipes and as I was given Jenny Peppiat’s book ‘this cheese is nuts’ for my birthday, we thought it was time to stop looking at the pictures and attempt the first recipe in the book – which described itself as a ‘spread’ and an ‘all time favourite quick cheese’.
I like quick.
Apart from soaking the almonds overnight which requires forward planning – forgetting this rather vital part of the recipe means you are scuppered, it was indeed very straightforward and tasted fabulous. Does it taste like cheese though? Not really. But very good nonetheless. I actually think it would make a good pasta sauce as well. Here’s the recipe – give it a go!
Our mediterranean tarts were another simple discovery, the original recipe courtesy of BOSH who you can access via Facebook here:https://www.facebook.com/bosh.tv/videos/1372055449539618/?hc_ref=ARTZ1yJBTq8wD9g6UWcCZjSluMQvjxiJIKUA5E-3zf5CaQ9GXr7-BM8YetUC106o1nM&fref=nf
I altered the recipe slightly adding raw garlic to the base (as I’m a garlic addict and crave strong tastes) and pimientos (left over from the cheese recipe above) to the topping. Again these tarts could be made even smaller, or a huge one for the whole family. Either way, good, simple, delicious vegan food. The base is puff pastry which you can buy in the supermarket (just make sure it is the vegan variety) and that you roll it thin. Then the tomato puree is mixed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and spread on top. Add a selection of veg like courgettes, tomatoes, olives, capers, red onion and anything else that takes your fancy. In the oven for 20 mins at 180 degrees. And Bosh, you’re done!
Meanwhile I need to improve my food photography!
If you’re interested in plant based eating you can join me on Facebook on my page Not Just a Load of Old Lentils https://www.facebook.com/nomnomplants/
I’m not a fan of pounding the streets or roads when I run, give me a woodland trail or towpath any day. The air is cleaner (usually), the vista preferable and all those tree roots, muddy puddles, twists and turns keep me on my toes. Literally. Nature is everywhere, whether it’s the ducks and swans on the river or the starlings and red kites in the sky. In addition there’s the changing seasons that feed the senses every step of the way – bluebell scent, or freshly rained-on foliage, cut grass or just good old ‘country smells’ – it’s all preferable to carbon monoxide and the constant growl of traffic. Not to mention how trail running can have less impact on the joints.
Of course, if you’re training for a road race, then road running is what you need to do. And running, in my experience is an absolutely wonderful way to discover a new town or city (and to get lost), either here or abroad, as long as you stay alert and safe when running alone. But running off-road, amongst nature, accompanied ideally by a silent, calm world with only your own thoughts and bird song, is definitely my favourite form of running both mentally and physically…
Fi says: ‘Trail running? My favourite. Apart from the obvious benefits of no traffic or pedestrians, the sheer joy of being in the middle of quiet surroundings, and the multiple opportunities to stop and appreciate where you are with a quick photo opportunity? Getting off concrete is good for your achy bits, the bits that get pounded by your feet hitting the ground the same way, thousands of times, navigating rougher and uneven ground seems to ease the kinks. Cheap physio! Actually, it’s free physio. I like getting lost too, following paths just to see where they go.’
Carol says: ‘I love trail running – it’s magical. It provides a visual feast which makes running SO much easier. The beauty of the woods and our English countryside makes me feel happy and I’m in awe every time I run these routes. It’s without doubt my favourite kind of running. The change in colours week on week in the woods, the wildlife, the twists and turns just make it so special. It never gets boring and that’s the magic. It slows you down and makes you take in your environment.’
It’s the best.
Last week at the Virgin London Marathon, according to an article in the Sunday Times, many runners aged between 55 and 64 ran as fast as those in the younger age bracket of 25 – 34.
This is wonderful news for us older runners who always imagine we get slower as we age – if we train well then there is absolutely no reason why our running endurance should diminish. It was Strava who examined the stats of those runners using their tracker app at the London Marathon and they discovered that the 55 – 64 age group ran an average marathon race of 4 hours, 4 minutes and 17 seconds JUST 15 seconds behind the average pace of the 25 – 34 year olds!
I’ll have some of that!
It’s well documented that running increases longevity (according to a study in the Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases Journal) a single hour of running can add seven hours to a person’s life…Crikey! And boosts our cognitive function…There are loads of studies out there that demonstrates this fact – one such from the University of Eastern Finland found that ‘participants who engaged in physical activity at least twice a week had a lower risk of dementia than those who were less active. The research also showed that it’s never too late to start. Becoming more physically active after midlife was shown to lower dementia risk.https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201404/physical-activity-improves-cognitive-function
So, as I hurtle alarmingly towards a rather big and shocking birthday, this gives me hope and gets me out that door on rainy, cold days. It reminds me too that we’ve just got to keep on keeping on. Which I will certainly be doing.
Age is just a number and it’s never too late to start running…or run a marathon!
Come and join our Running workshop here in Marlow on the 17th June for inspiration – http://www.pilatesandrunning.co.uk/?page_id=438
There is no doubt in my mind that running can alleviate and improve many things. I’m talking mental health rather than physical here. If you suffer from depression, going for a run or brisk walk can feel impossible. Hiding under the duvet is way more preferable.
But research shows that walking – and particularly running – can be immensely curative and make a huge difference to how you feel. Getting out the door, as usual, is the hardest part. But once you’re out, the world, for a wonderful short while, can feel like a better place.
To me it’s the hypnotic rhythm of my feet hitting the ground, the one-two-one-two, simple, even primal beat. The focus on breathing can take me out of myself and gives me a huge sense of freedom – meditative running, which I’ve written about before in this blog is something I love. I become revitalised by the fresh air, exposure to nature and being aware of my immediate environment, that keeps me in the present moment.
Running or run/walking can be healing. If you’re lucky enough to run or walk in a relaxing, natural environment, then that too adds to the wellbeing.
Matt Haig in his wise and wonderful book ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ talks of how running helped with his panic attacks, he called running ‘his depression-beating power.’ And if you do suffer from depression I urge you to read it, it’s a life-changer…actually, even if you don’t suffer from depression, read it, it’s a very positive, moving and inspiring book.
When we run or exercise, our bodies release endorphins. These are our natural antidepressants. But there’s more… running can be a social activity, it can provide purpose, a goal, improve confidence both mentally and physically and even sleep. I’ve seen it magically transform people who have been going through really difficult, stressful times in their lives, watched them come alive when they’ve claimed to be dead inside, I’ve been privileged to hear and be part of so many life-changing stories. And it’s all down to running.
On a personal level I know that if I don’t run for a while I begin to feel ‘low’ – I crave those endorphins. Which could of course be seen as verging on addiction. It probably is. But I would rather be craving a naturally caused endorphin rush than a bottle of whisky, a cigarette or pill, wouldn’t you?
Incidentally, these pictures were from my magical, meditative run the other morning. Nothing beats it.