Friday, 1 June 2012

Lunchtime fun with Kangoo Jumps

Have you ever heard of Kangoo Jumps?  My colleague Waldemar and I are wearing them in the photo on the left.  You may think they look a bit strange.  Basically though, they consist of a giant spring-like device attached to the bottom of a rigid boot.

Today was the opening of a new fitness centre not far from work, and I persuaded Waldemar to join me in making a trip there, so that I could get the chance to try out the Kangoo Jumps.  I first came across them in the Zurich Writers Workshop a few weeks back.  One of the other participants had a pair of boots that appeared as though they had been beamed down from outer space, and I had to ask her to explain what on earth they were.  As soon as she told me they were called Kangoo Jumps I went on the web and started googling them.  Kangoo Jumps were in fact invented by a Swiss man and have been around for more than 20 years now.  It seems that they are being marketed a lot better overseas than they are here, as no-one that I have talked to here has heard of them before.

I emailed the Kangoo Jumps franchise in Switzerland and asked them if they would be willing to give me a pair to try out for free.  I got a reply saying that they would like to meet me in person to discuss my proposal, but there was also a chance to try them out at the opening of today or tomorrow if I was interested.

The fitness store is located about 10 minutes away from work by tram, so Waldemar and I popped by at lunchtime today.  There were lots of children wearing the Kangoo Jumps and as soon as we arrived we asked if we could try them out too.  Putting them on was simple and they have similar fastenings to a roller blade type boot.  Next was the standing up part.  The Kangoo Jumps instructor gave me her hand to help me up, but I reckon it would have been easy enough to do by myself too.  Once on my feet I felt ever so slightly unsteady, kind of like balancing on a bike at a traffic light.  The instructor told me it was much easier to balance if you keep on the move, so in this way it fits with the bike analogy I gave above.

It was very easy to get the hang of them, and after just a few steps on the spot we started our boing boinging like a kangaroo (hence the name Kangaroo Jumps) around the car park.  Waldemar was very adventurous and started jumping on and off the pavement and going up inclines and all over the place, but I was trying to talk to the instructor and find out what they are good for.

The instructor only spoke German (and Hungarian) so my understanding was somewhat limited, but the main point I picked up from her was that they are a really good rehabilitation tool if you have knee or joint problems.  I went online to get more info, and on the Kangoo Jumps website it says that they can reduce the impact of normal jogging by up to 80% whilst still providing a fantastic cardio workout.  On top of that they were really fun to run in.  Waldemar enjoyed his experience so much that he has already gone out and bought a pair.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

The last 2 days - hill training and shorter faster runs

Ready to head out for tonight's run with Negrita
Tuesday, having arrived back late the previous evening from a long weekend in Madrid I decided was to be a rest day from running.  I was too tired to face yoga at lunchtime as well, and as it turned out the class was cancelled anyway.  However, when you are training for an ultra like the Ticino Trail you can't afford too many rest days like that, so I decided to kick start things again as of yesterday.

My training yesterday was split between a lunchtime 3k timed run and the group coaching session with Jeff in the evening.

At lunchtime I got confused by the fact that my Garmin was reading in miles instead of kilometres, and ended up going off way to fast, before I realised what had happened.  Then I didn't know how far I should run in miles in order to have run 3k, and didn't want to play around with the settings whilst running, so in the end I did just over 3k.  To be precise I did 3.13k in 12:24.

Then yesterday evening was my weekly coached session with Jeff Grant.  It was the first lesson of Series 4, and Jeff decided to focus on hill training.  After a short warmup we did a benchmark test that he will use at the end of Series 4 to see if we have improved.  It was a short run around part of the field that is next to the Saalsporthalle and then at the end there was an uphill section.  The final section was steep enough that if you hadn't paced yourself well till that point and left some reserves, you were a little bit screwed.  I completed the test in 6:04 and at the end of Series 4 I will post my new time so you can see my improvement (or not as the case may be).  There were 3 people who beat me in the benchmark test.  Two of them I thought might beat me and then there was a new guy that turned up.  He was a short Mexican guy and he ran like Speedy Gonzales.  I bet he had consumed a few handfuls of Chia seeds before starting.

After the benchmark test and a huge hailstorm (the weather is so unpredictable at the moment), we started with hill sprints using a series of cones laid out on 3 spokes.  One of the "spokes" was actually downhill and it may surprise some of you, but downhill running can actually be a valuable tool in your training repertoire.  For a start, running downhill makes you good at running downhill.  This can be important if you are going to do a race that includes some downhill sections (which the Ticino Trail will in copious amounts).  Running downhill also helps to increase your leg turnover speed (which is why it is often used by sprinters), and last but not least it makes your muscles stronger and so you are less likely to suffer from DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).  Like any new element of training it must be added gradually to your schedule to avoid risk of injury.  Too much too soon can be a very bad idea.

Upon completing the hill sprints we headed back to the Saalsporthalle to do a few stretches (even more important than usual after hill training) and then the lesson was over and we dispersed as quickly as we had come together one hour earlier.

Todays training also consisted of 2 parts.  At lunchtime I ran 7k with 3 of my colleagues (if you recall I have a lot of colleagues who have taken up running in the last half year or so).  Then tonight I went out for a 6k run with Negrita - why walk your dog when you can run with your dog I say.  Negrita has had a new haircut as you can see in the photo above, and looks ever so smart and cute.  I am sure it is also better for her to run like this, as she won't get so hot as before.  It also shows off how lean she is.  A lean mean running machine.  Both runs were down in my Vibram Fivefingers.

What will tomorrow's training include?  I am not sure yet, but most likely I will run to work and then I have my one to one Pilates class in the evening.  There is also a fitness store opening near work, and they are giving people the chance to try out Kangoo Jumps, so I may go there at lunchtime to try them out, and drag along one or two of my sporty colleagues.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

My protege completes her first running race

As I mentioned in various posts as of late, Anny is now a runner too.  She has become my running protege.

Anny came from a completely non-sporting background, so she has done really well to build up the frequency and duration of her runs without suffering any injuries.  Unlike myself she is rather sensible and doesn't tend to overstep her limits.  She knows when enough is enough.

She decided to enter herself in a race whilst we were in Madrid last weekend.  Originally she wanted to do a 10k race, as she has been following some 10k race training plans for some months now (back to back), but the 10k race she wanted to enter was full, so she registered for a 5k race instead.

The race she entered took place on Saturday 26th May in a small village about 40 minutes drive out of Madrid called Cerceda.  There were about 300 people running in the race, and most of them were women, since the race was held in aid of an organisation called "mujeres en accion contra la violencia de genero" (women in action against domestic violence).  The weather was pretty hot, and it was over 30 Celsius for sure.  Even walking around I was sweating a lot, and there was no breeze at all.  The conditions were not ideal for running a race, and it probably would have been better to schedule the race in the morning when it was cooler, but c'est la vie as they say in French.

We arrived in Cerceda one hour before the start as Anny had to collect her race number.  The race was only 6 EUR or so to enter, so it was not that surprising that the organisers did not give out any timing chips.  Basically it was down to each runner to record their own time.

We (the Anny Pinto supporters consisting of her mum, myself, Negrita our dog and Punkita who is the mother of Negrita) went to a cafe whilst we were waiting for the start, and I had a little talk with Anny about what it is like to run in a race and the importance of pacing and not going off to fast because of the adrenalin factor etc.  With ten minutes to go we headed over to the start, and Anny found a good spot in the pack, ready for the off.

The start consisted of a piece of cordon tape held up by 2 officials, and after a 10 second countdown the runners were sent on their way.  I watched her for the first few hundred metres and then she went out of sight.  After that we tried to find a place about 350 metres away from the finish so that we could cheer her on in the final stages of the race.  I had anticipated she would finish in between 25 and 30 minutes, but I was hoping for closer to 25 minutes as she has run under 30 minutes in training with me before.

I kept looking nervously at my watch as the elapsed time passed 25 minutes.  Shortly afterwards I saw her coming over the brow of the hill and her mum and I gave her a huge round of applause.  She looked strong.  I started running alongside her with Negrita, trying to get her to push as hard as she could for the final few hundred metres.  I was wearing my formal work shoes so not the ideal running footwear, but as the distance was short it didn't really matter.  Anny was basically sprinting the final hundred metres and she overtook quite a few tired runners on the home straight.

Her final time was 27 minutes, plus or minus a few seconds.  She was in the top quarter or so of the field, and the course apparently was not that easy.  On top of being very hot, she told me that there were quite a few hills and also an off road section.  Everything considered it was a fantastic result for her first ever race.

Anny really enjoyed the experience and now wants to do a 10k race, followed possibly by a half marathon at the end of this year.  Keep it up Anny!!!!

Are you a runner?  Can you remember your first race and how it felt?  Or maybe you are planning to do your first race soon?  On the other hand perhaps races don't interest you?