Stylist Challenge 2012, Lisa Smosarski - Fitness - Stylist Magazine

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The end of the line

A break on the runway

April 23 - The end of the line

It is with a heavy heart that I have to announce the end of my running aspirations.

One clue might have been my lack of blog update (sorry about that) but frankly I couldn't quite bring myself to admit that I've had to hang up my running shoes.

In short, my hip just isn't up to running. And although it's finally feeling better, the minute I put on my pretty trainers and head out the door, it starts to play up again. Running just isn't for me.

I'm genuinely gutted by this. For the first time I had the all-important motivation and was making real progress, and I just hadn't considered that an injury would stop my stubborn persistence. I'm also quite ashamed as it follows the completion of the marathon last weekend by FIVE of my friends... Not being able to run 10k seems a bit pathetic in comparison.

But stubbornness and pride (or lack of it) aside, health comes first, and if running's not my sport then something else will be. I've learnt that I can have the motivation, I can even have cardiovascular power... And if I can't have running I'll just have to keep trying until I find something I CAN do. I may not have managed the 10k but I have revolutionised my attitude to exercise... and that's something I'm not giving up on.

March 14 - Running in heels

Sorry for the radio silence. I'm freshly returned from a short holiday after weeks sat in the front row.

Instead of training or running I've been putting my feet through their paces in a variety of heels at London, Milan and Paris fashion weeks. Not exactly 10k training.

Following my recent running ban I'm confident that starting any sort of training again is going to be like starting from scratch - wheezy. Not least because I've spent the past month being driven around and hobbling over cobbled streets in 5inch heels. So today's blog entry is to allow me to vicariously run through by encouraging YOU to sign up to a 10k... And to try and raise some money for brilliant causes whilst you face the challenge. Here's five of the best runs - and causes - that you can sign up for.

1. May 30: The Bupa 10,000 (my race - London). Sign up through Diabetes UK, the nominated charity partner for Bupa’s Run series, which includes the London 10k. Money raised by our runners from all the Bupa Runs will go towards research into Diabetes, which affects almost 3million people in the UK. OR run for an amazing charity called Together For Short Lives. This is the only charity representing the 23.500 children and young people across the UK who are unlikely to reach adulthood..

2. 20 October: Run Richmond Riverside 10k. (Richmond, London) Start training now and raise money for Action Against Hunger - a charity dedicated to ending child hunger across the world through emergency intervention AND long term malnutrition prevention.

3. May 20: Bupa Great Manchester Run (Manchester). Support Mind - a charity that helps people take control of their mental health with advice, training, grants and services to make it possible for those who experience mental distress to live full lives. Mental health issues are still afflicted by a ludicrous taboo, so run to help raise money and awareness for the importance of the work Mind do.

4. May 13: The Ignis Asst Management Women's 10k (Glasgow). Run for Breakthrough Breast Cancer, a pioneering charity dedicated to the prevention, treatment and ultimate eradication of breast cancer. With 125 women and one man being diagnosed with breast cancer every day in the UK, there is always the need for more support.

5. Race For Life 10ks (various dates throughout the country). Run with like-minded in women in a fun, non-competitive environment and help raise money for Cancer Research UK.

February 13 - Wedges

Behold this lovely pair of red wedges... Admittedly not the type of wedge I'd usually find myself writing about, but they're lovely all the same. This tiny pair of red foam wedges fit inside the heel of my shoes (well, they allege to, I had quite a big problem with a pair of Mulberry boots...) and are courtesy of my Bupa physio Russell. He handed these over at the end of a rather painful session along with instructions to do a 15 minute step exercise on my left leg everyday (a bit like an old school Reebok step class) and to continue the stretches.

Through a series of seemingly innocuous moves and stretches Russell could see that my hip had started to move in a dysfunctional way - possibly after years of compensating for the original injury. Instead of helping me, my body's slight adjustments were causing me pain. He could see that I was in less discomfort when extending my leg muscles which meant my hip was less angry when it had the support of a heel or a wedge. I was also told not to wear flats - hurrah - and to be vigilant with my prescribed exercises.

These wedges will make a runner out of me one day. Hopefully.

February 9 - Living vicariously

I may be out of action temporarily... but you don't have to be. Sonja - master trainer of all trainers - sent me through a little reminder of exactly what I (and you for that matter) should be doing to build up your core strength for running.

Here it is...

1) Squat on a single leg - like a normal squat but with one leg in the air - facing the mirror and holding on to the bar (or chair/wall/unsuspecting gym buddy). 12 reps each leg

2) Hip lift double leg (12reps) and single leg (6-12 reps). This is the one where you lie on your back, then left your hips up clenching your bottom muscles VERY tight. 1

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Nike master trainer Sonja has plenty of training tips to try even if you can't go running

3) Plank - elbows close with the weight back into your heels and on one leg to mix it up (30 seconds). It's the plank... What can I say.

4) Side plank - 30 seconds each. Fun. Every day 1-3 times.

5) Hip swings for warm up and cool down - this is basically 'moving' stretches so the muscles don't suddenly stop and freeze up.

I may be sat on my sofa eating a Lindt easter bunny that is, yes, left over from last year, but I can lounge in the knowledge that someone, somewhere, is doing a little run right now... Sigh.

February 6 - Physio-oh-no

Last night I wrote an entirely different blog entry which I was going to post first thing today. To be honest, it was a lot more fun than this one is about to be..., but after an appointment at Bupa's musculoskeletal centre this morning that blog entry - and my running aspirations - are on ice.

Let's start at the beginning. Bupa booked me in with one of their physios after my hip started playing up earlier this month. My diary was a bit hectic so I only managed to make the first appointment yesterday. Typically I went to this appointment feeling much better - not totally cured, but walking without wincing, which in my book is better.

My appointment was with Russell Stocker, a physio at Bupa's Barbican Wellness Centre. I had to start by telling Russell how I first hurt my hip. It's mildly embarrassing so I'll tell you quickly - it was a party, I was dressed as Cher, I was spun quite fiercely by an enthusiastic dancer and suddenly something 'exploded' inside my hip. I doubled in pain and couldn't walk at all for a couple of days... And was hobbling for weeks.

That was six years ago - SIX - and although I've never sought help for it before it has troubled me on and off over those years. I'm now feeling a bit foolish for not doing anything earlier...

Russell started off by saying it would be unusual for it to be anything like a pulled muscle because that would have healed long ago... And ended by saying that he thought it could well be a torn muscle that's healed and left scar tissue that's aggravating the area or a problem with the hip joint that is creating muscle pain as a by product of the problem. He explained it would be trial and error to work out how best to treat it and booked me in for another physio session two days later so he could investigate a few options.

In the midst of this he tried lots of stretches and unexplainable manipulations to see if he could reduce the pain. Between each stretch he'd ask me to hop or squat on my left leg which is always really painful. The interesting thing was that some of these had an immediate benefit - so I'm holding out hope for my old joints yet.

There was one very specific thing he did which left me wimpering in pain and it involved what felt like poking my glutes (yes, my bum muscles) very, very hard. It brings tears to my eyes just remembering it. Not quite on a par with childbirth, but had it gone on for 12 hours too I think it might well have been...

I left with a stretch to do at home, my left foot covered in Elastoplast to support it (which felt VERY odd all day), and instructions not to run at all for the time being. Cycling is fine. Rowing is fine. But running is out. Oh dear. Still, my plan is to try and keep up the small fitness gains I've made with other cardio work until my hip is fixed. Fingers crossed.

Oh 10k... How will I ever manage to run you?

January 30 - Tip of the day

My husband is super sporty and insists on buying every gadget / book / magazine / item of clothing for his current obsession. This year's project is to run the Brighton marathon (how? HOW?!) and with this pact came a copy of Runner's World Coach magazine.

It turns out this mag is actually pretty good - don't tell him I said that - and full of useful stuff. The tip I've taken on board is to set the treadmill to 1.5 degrees to have a truer road experience (rather than flat which is a bit too easy).

I discovered tonight this DOES feel harder, but I did manage 4.5k tonight (admittedly with two breaks of one minute walking) which is a huge improvement even with the increase.

I'm very happy that I'm almost at 5k one month in. Although I am aching a bit now...

January 28 - Stitch

Unusually for someone who's just been to see a personal trainer, my motivation has been at an all time low this week. A combination of sleepless nights due to teething toddler, workload in the evenings and general January coldness has left me running to the sofa, not to the gym.

So on Saturday I decided to sort that out and headed to the gym for a little treadmill session... Now, I have mixed feelings about the success of this run. On one hand, it was a disaster - I got a stitch after two minutes and really struggled with speed which meant I had to combine running and walking intervals, rather than Sonja's fast-paced version.

On the other hand, I managed 4k in 30 minutes, which means I'm almost halfway there (and even walking that wasn't too disappointing a speed). Admittedly that was because I sprinted - well, in my world sprinted - the last 90 seconds (12.5kph), as per Sonja's instructions. My God, that almost finished me off.

I finished off with Sonja's drills, and left feeling a lot happier than I'd imagined when that stitch kicked in.

So now I need to work out why I got a stitch (no food beforehand?) and how to battle it if I do. I kept imagining training to 10k level then failing because I got a silly stitch. Need to find out how to prevent that now!

Running report!

Weather: Indoors

Location: Virgin active treadmill, 0.5 degrees Distance 'run': 4k Average km speed: not sure, accidentally turned the Nike app off whilst running Comfort level: -4 (stitch) Hip pain: 1 (so much better but still niggly)

Breathing: Panting Pug

JANUARY 19: SONJA

Last week I finally got to meet the Nike Master Trainer. Her name was Sonja Moses and the woman was AMAZING. Before I tell you the useful stuff, I have to take a moment to tell you about Sonja herself because – frankly – the woman was made of steel.

1. She wore sportswear REALLY well.

2. She’s nice and petite. I was like her slightly awkward gigantor friend.

3. She had the kind of legs women would kill for. Beautiful skin tone, super smooth and nothing but perfectly toned muscle.

4. She had great hair and nails YET SHE’S A BLACK BELT IN TANG SOU DOU AND HAS PROPER FIGHTS.

5. She could probably run for about 1000k without breaking a sweat or gasping for air.

I realise I might be being a teensy bit weird now...

Anyway, Sonja. Her session involved teaching me a number of drills to improve my core strength, which she explained would ultimately help improve my running position and help protect the joints that take a bit of a hammering whilst you run (ankles, knees and yes, my friend the hip). Then she popped me on the treadmill and gave me a number of tips in order to improve my running style.

Now, the ‘drills’. A truly terrifying name for what is, to be honest, a terrifying set of hardcore exercises. Sonja spoke of the tremble of truth – the point where your muscles start trembling so violently that you know your muscles are working. Gah. These included the plank, single leg squats and a hip thrusty thing. Now I would at this point tell you how to do these for yourself, but Sonja has promised to email me to say how to do them properly so when that arrives I shall cut and paste her email and share with the class. She did however say I should do these daily because I’ve got a long way to go in a short time... I have to confess that three days later I’d only just stopped hurting from the first set so I promise I’ll start when her email arrives. *guilty face*

On the treadmill she got me to walk for one minute, then run at 8k per hour for a minute, then at 10k per hour for a minute, switching between the two intervals. This was a much more full on pace than I’ve previously been doing. When I started to moan a bit she asked me to rank my discomfort between one and 10 – 10 being childbirth. I was slightly annoyed by this comparison because childbirth REALLY hurt so I said five, which was a lie, because on the childbirth scale it was probably a one or two. Sorry Sonja. In total she asked me to run for 10 minutes and then, instead of a nice cool down, made me run the last minute faster than the rest – I guess this is the equivalent of a sprint finish. 11 minutes later she’d finished with me (bar the stretches of course) and I was left feeling pretty good. Hip twinging, but nevertheless good.

I’ll update you on her exercises but here are the things that Sonja told me that most stick in my head:

1. The first 10 minutes of any run – for anyone unless you’re going really slowly – are pretty uncomfortable. That’s because your body goes into oxygen debt. It takes it 10 minutes to realise that you’ve changed your oxygen needs and to catch up with providing you enough. To me, this is pretty big news and actually will really encourage me to plough on as I know it’s not just me being lame. It also explains why I’ve often stopped around the 10 minute mark.

2. When you’re running, imagine a bit of string pulling your shoulder blades together – this makes you more upright and creates a better running position (and also makes you lead with your boobs, so wear a nice running bra).

3. If you can, exercise before 4pm in the afternoon or you’ll start to release cortisol that can really mess with your sleeping patterns. But exercising later is better than not exercising at all. Just have a Horlicks afterwards (I made that last bit up).

4. For a beginner like me, the best way to get started is just to start running and not obsess over time or distance. She recommends interval training, but at much greater speed than my couch potato app. I guess the clue is in the name of that app.

And I think that’s it for now. I’ll share Sonja’s exercises with you when they arrive. And I’m sorry for being slightly obsessed – especially to you Sonja should you read this - but she was AMAZING. Here’s her website... be nice to her. sonjamoses.co.uk

January 18 - Back in the saddle

Last night I decided to give running another go. My hip was feeling loads better so I thought I'd hit the treadmill instead of the road - warmer, cushioned and, frankly, a tiny bit easier!

Well, it turns out it's A LOT easier in a lovely controlled environment with a treadmill helping you out. I ran the furthest to date with a .5k walk warm up, 2k run at 10k p/h, .5k walk, another 1 k run and then a cool down .5k. Hurrah hurrah. 4.5k in total and it took me about 35 minutes so I felt smug compared to my last efforts. Plus I wasn't left panting like a poorly dog.

My hip held out too and, although it's a bit creaky this morning, it was nowhere near as bad as last time.

I'm not sure if this means I should only run in the gym / only run at night / ignore the training app, but whatever it means it's done my motivation and confidence a whole lot of good.

In other news I've signed up to my first 10k... *scared face*. It's the Bupa 10000 and it's on May 27. The run is through London's royal parks and is likely to follow some of the route of the Olympic marathon - well, if you're going to do it you've got to do it properly! london10000.co.uk

January 14 - still out of action

Almost a week on and I'm still out of action. I went for a power walk just to get out but was left feeling completely gutted - it was a beautiful morning and the joggers were out in force. I found myself jealously watching them all and panicking about how I'll ever be fit enough to run a 10k.

January 9 - Hip shaped disaster

Bad news. Two runs in and I'm already an invalid. I'm moving like a 90 year old. Had planned to squeeze a run in before my work trip but throughout the day my hip has got progressively worse - I imagine the heels haven't helped.

A 10 minute hypochondria google search suggests a pulled muscle / tendon or burstitis. Frankly, I have no idea what it is but they all suggest the same thing: rest until it stops hurting. Gutting.

January 8 - Found a human

I've made an appointment with an actual human to help me train. Terrifyingly this person is called the Nike master trainer. Meeting the master on January 19 as I'm in Paris this week. Lots of time to get nervous.

January 7 - getting tougher

So run number two... It's hard to quite understand why, but that run seemed a lot harder than the last. I decided to kick off at 8.30 on Saturday morning so it wouldn't be hanging over me all day, but my God it was tough. I don't know whether it was the early start, curry and wine the night before or the lack of breakfast (or possibly all three) but even though I followed exactly the same plan as last time (60 seconds running followed by 90 seconds walking for 30 minutes) , this was significantly harder.

Admittedly I did try a different route. I'd tried to go the scenic way in the grounds of a local, pretty hilly park, but had to abandon the plan when I encountered a running club absolutely pegging it up hills - my walk/run strategy felt a bit lame in comparison...

Anyway, tough or not, I did it! And I'm motivated enough to track down some answers to my ever expanding list of questions...

- is it possible to be more of an evening runner than morning?

- what should you eat before a run?

- why do I get a sore throat running in cold weather?

- what can I do to help my hip?

I'm slowly realising that as charming as my couch-to-5k app is, she's not going to be able to answer these questions.

Time to find a human!

Running report!

Weather: Bright, sunny, chilly

Location: local park and the posher neighbouring streets

Distance 'run': 2.99k

Average km speed: 7.15 minutes (better)

Comfort level: -4

Hip pain: +6

Breathing: Darth Vader with a cold

January 5 - My First Run

Tonight I completed my first run! Woo-hoo! Not only am I patting myself on my back for actually getting out there, but also for running after work, in the dark and IN THE RAIN...

No part of me ever thought this would happen... And it was as hideous as I could have predicted. My feet - and lovely new trainers - were soaked in puddles, the wind kept blowing my hood off (until 5 minutes from the end when I realised I could tighten it) and I really struggled with my breathing. I must have sounded like Darth Vader thudding down the road. Plus - and this is something I need advice on - the cold air KILLS the back of my throat.

My plan this week is to use the couch potato app. For week one it recommends walking for 90 seconds then running for 60 seconds over a 30 minute period - presumably to build up your cardiovascular stamina. Over the wet half hour I ran just over 3k (this is information from the Nike app - which incidentally has a lovely little message from Paula Radcliffe when you run your best distance). It's not continuous running but it's still a fair distance for me so I'm pretty happy.

There is one other problem though - my old hip injury (that's a story for another day) is starting to play up and for the last five minutes my left hip kills every time my left foot hits the ground. Fingers crossed it pops back into place...

Running report!

Weather: Very wet and windy

Location: north London streets - a bit hilly

Distance 'run': 3.08km

Average km speed: 8.03minutes (slooow)

Comfort level: -3

Hip pain: +5

Breathing: Darth Vader

January 4

When starting any new sporting challenge it's important to look the part. Which is probably why I have a drawer full of unused (well unused for sport, but well used for lounging) yoga pants, swimsuits and running gear. That aside, I've decided to kit myself out with a new outfit. After all, if I look the part I'll feel the part, hopefully.

The highlights are these lovely Nike trainers - fluro laces, nice, bit too nice to run in really- and a silver, hooded rainproof running jacket. My husband says I look like a hologram in it - which we both agree is a good look.

I've also decided I need a little help (running until you can't breathe doesn't seem to be the best strategy.) So I've downloaded two new apps for my iPhone. Nike+GPS, which tracks your route, pace, time and speed and Get Running (Couch to 5k) which is a step by step running trainer that, in the space of 9 weeks, promises to have you running constantly for 30 mins. It uses interval training - running then walking for short intervals to build up stamina - but says you need to run three times a week. I've also worked out how to run two apps at the same time on my iPhone (two quick taps on the home button... Does everyone know that already??) so I'll be able to use both.

I'm all bought up which means the only thing I can do now is start running...

January 3

Tom the trainer (personal not footwear) from Fitness First came into the office today to test our health levels. Let it be known that having a young, muscly man pinch the fat on your bingo wings in a meeting room made of glass walls is, frankly, a mildly humiliating experience. But there was good news as well as bad... Body fat ratio overall = surprisingly ok. Body fat ratio on wings = upsettingly bad. BMI good, resting heart rate appalling (although I had just necked a Diet Coke and was feeling a little anxious so let's just hope I was a little hyped up). I now know the physical goals I want to focus on alongside the challenge - toning, heart rate and stamina. Easy.

Here were the headlines:

BMI: 20.6 (18.5 to 24.9 is healthy)

Resting heart rate: 88 bpm (much too high)

Blood pressure: 126/89 (too high)

Body fat ratio: 26.8% (25-31% is normal, so I'm pretty pleased, although he did suggest my arms were pushing this % up ).

January 2

For as long as I can remember my January resolution has been to start running. I see people pounding the pavement and feel genuinely jealous - their commitment, focus, lithe bodies and incredible puff power are attributes I've long wanted.

Unfortunately I've never quite fulfilled this ambition. The closest I got was committing to a Race For Life 5k with the Stylist girls which I then had to walk because I'd discovered I was pregnant 6 weeks before.

But this year I'm not going to fail - even my dodgy gran hip won't stop me - because I've made a public commitment to do it. And when my natural laziness tries to emerge my desire to save face will be stronger than my desire to sit on the sofa.

So, this is my situation now. I have NEVER - repeat NEVER - been able to run further than 2k on a treadmill in the gym. And that's at my fittest. On January 2 I ran around my local park to see what state I was in. I managed just under 2k in 13 minutes but had to walk three times and it REALLY hurt. So I am committing to run 10k - in a decent time - by the time the Olympics arrive.

I appreciate this isn't a hard task for lots of people. My husband is running the Brighton marathon this year, my colleague Lauren is going to do a triathlon and my best friend just revealed she regularly runs 5k and is doing our local (rather hilly) 10k in May despite never telling me she's been for a jog in her life! But for me this will be a major, life-defining achievement.

This blog will chart my progress, the tips and advice I receive along the way, and hopefully inspire others to get off the sofa too.

Wish me luck!

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