29 August 2014

Wollaton Hall and Park

There was a brief glorious return to summer-like temps yesterday...sadly today is back to being chilly and drizzly but we took advantage of Sol's visit and I played hooky from the Thursday night club run with a short road trip over to Wayne Manor*, aka Wollaton Hall.  

From our December 2013 visit

Because it was a spur of the moment trip we didn't bother with packing the big camera, it was just us and the mutts. I think there was a bit of regret with the no camera decision because some of the deer in the park were striking quite impressive poses.  It was so blissful and relaxing strolling about the grounds and the park and we only covered about half of it.  

Sneaky phone pic :-)

We've yet to visit the Industrial Museum, Natural History Museum, or the interior of the Secret Garden but we need to save something for another visit without the mutts along.  One thing the UK does exceedingly well are war memorials and you will see ones honouring other countries' contributions in various locales--the one  below can be found on the grounds of Wollaton Park.  

US war memorial

*Wollaton Hall was the exterior of Wayne Manor in "The Dark Knight Rises"


Ah perceptions, they can be a double-edged sword at times.  Yesterday there were two new people in the Thursday morning Nordic Walk session, a very lovely couple who had seen us walking about the park a few times who finally decided to see about joining us.  I had a chance to chat with them towards the end of the class and we discussed how walking with the poles was fun but there was more to learning it than expected.  The subject then got around to how going to the gym was intimidating when you were older, heavier, and seemingly less fit than everyone else in there and I got the "but you're slim" comment.  The thing is for a few years I wasn't slim, I weighed over 2 stone (34 pounds) more than I do now when I began the Couch to 5k program in 2007 and I was a truck driver so most of my runs started and ended with an audience.  That amount of weight might not sound like much but I am 5'3" and smallish boned so for me it was quite a bit and knowing that yes you are being stared and talked about makes you VERY self-conscious.

Not quite my heaviest but close

It took about a year before I got over the worry of being scrutinised and realising that yes, the other drivers were watching but they were going to do so anyway because a huge part of the job is staring out the window so anything new broke up the monotony of the day.  I just hope that seeing me climb out of the truck in my running gear inspired a few others to get out of the drivers seat and start exercising as well.  As far as the gym goes, most people there are too involved with their own workouts and body issues to pay attention to anyone else--and if you find yourself in one where the employees/personal trainers are being rude, go to another one ASAP, that place is not deserving of your patronage and it's YOUR money paying their wages!

With THE Marathon Trucker, 7 years after the first photo

Anyway, a bit of a rant at end of the last paragraph but I did want to share this Psychology Today article that a friend posted on facebook about exercise embarrassment.  Talk about great timing, eh and hopefully it shows that most of us have a lot of the same issues that we are self-conscious about. Get out, have fun, try something new, and don't be afraid to make an idiot of yourself occasionally--that philosophy has created lots of memories and introduced me to people I wouldn't have met otherwise.

Pic via Pinterest

27 August 2014

Words, oh so many words

It will probably be years before my British English versus American English differences of pronunciation, spelling, and meanings are exhausted but my does it result in some interesting conversations in the meantime.  I got caught out on the pants/trousers thing again earlier this week but thankfully it was in a messaging context as opposed to being out in a group of people--it's always good for a giggle though :-)

Today's Nordic Walking session resulted in another "Huh, what is that?" moment. Part of our after-walk stretching was "writing" out the alphabet using our feet (13 letters with one foot, the remainder on the other) and I joked that I was alternating block letters and cursive and was met with blank faces...in the UK it is called joined-up writing so they had no idea what I was talking about.  It was decided that cursive is a more elegant way of describing the script, score one for the American expat! 

25 August 2014

Weather, walking, and running

It's official, summer has abandoned us in England.  We gave up and turned the heat on for an hour in an attempt to take the edge off the chill and yes we are bundled up in hoodies and socks.  Out of curiosity I checked the weather back in Arkansas and it is currently 34C(94F) with a real feel of 42C(108F)...here? Slightly cooler at 13C(55F) with rain and wind.  I'd settle for something halfway between that :-)

A running friend spotted this not long ago, wonder how it ended up in the middle of England

The temps are nice for running however, a small group of us headed out for a mid-morning run yesterday and I wore a long sleeve shirt for the beginning of it although it ended up tied around my waist mid-way through. Except for the nearly mile long uphill to get to the meeting point it was a great route. The leader yesterday knows the area quite well so we went on some trails I hadn't ran before and it was all mostly spontaneous "Should we go left or right?" decisions, my favourite sort of run.  

We didn't stop here though

I'm sure you've noticed the frequency I've been mentioning Nordic Walking lately, it's something I decided to learn on the spur of the moment last January and I absolutely adore it. I've gotten to meet some fantastic people and it's amazing cross-training that's low impact.  If you're a new ex-pat that's looking to get to know the area you have moved to it can be an invaluable source of information for things like the best butcher, shops etc--little but important things like for me yesterday, where to buy fresh okra.  The British Nordic Walking site has some great information and you can search for groups and instructors nearby.  Running clubs and Ramblers groups are also excellent for meeting up with like-minded people that you wouldn't necessarily have a chance to get acquainted with otherwise.  

Don't we look like a fun group to hang out with? 

24 August 2014

Products and the expat

This time last year I was wondering if I was ever going to be able to live in the UK at all with the visa nightmare that drug on for so long but I was still creating a small stockpile of my tried and true products that I either wouldn't be able to get at all once I moved, at least not without begging friends and family to send replacements or paying exorbitant customs fees.  As I've begun to slowly empty out the bottles and tubes of those products I decided that instead of pining away for what I had on the other side of the pond I would find equivalent potions here.  However because of space restrictions and of course needing to watch the £££ outflow I couldn't fall back into my hoarding ways. If I bought something then it had to be used up or tossed immediately, preferably the former.  Fortunately my hair seems to thrive on the water here so I'm not having to use the 2 or 3 products required to tame my it in the states, I can get away with a good conditioner and a leave-in balm.

This is the current rotation 

Yes there are three conditioners there but the Tesco one is used for the days when I condish-wash rather than using shampoo.  The Garnier Ultimate Blends isn't exactly curly-girl friendly but it smells amazing and doesn't strip or coat my hair.  The Aussie Beach Mate conditioner is one I'm trying to finish up but I REALLY do not like the scent of it at all, to me it smells like bug repellent spray.  The naked style gorgeous curls leave-in balm is okay but not exactly a holy grail, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated because I'm not sure what to replace it with once I've finished it off.  

The Along Came Betty Foaming Lovely face wash is the one I absolutely wish would be empty already.  Obviously I'm not a fan of it, I don't feel like it cleanses well and it broke me out terribly.  To top it off it has the blue coloured plastic micro-beads that are supposed to exfoliate and have been found to not break down and end up in the waterways.  Not cool.  I do still have a bottle of my preferred facial cleanser so can go back to it while I look for something different.  

The one thing I was tempted to give up and buy from Amazon has been Secret Clinical Strength deodorant/antiperspirant.  It is simply not available here for some reason but at least it's not as hot and humid as it is back in Arkansas so I can get away with not having the industrial armpit de-stinkifier--at least I hope I am ;-) 

It seems most expats bring back suitcases full of food but I think mine would be stuffed with running gear, deodorant, and hair products! 

21 August 2014

Adding resistance

So what happens when you mention to your Nordic Walking instructor that you think you have reached your maximum walking speed?  In my case you get introduced to "Terry the Tyre" and pointed towards some hills.

One of the few "flat" sections on the route...and yes I heard all the related jokes afterwards from my partner.  It is certainly a conversation starter and during yesterday's session I had a huge dog pick the tyre up twice and try to go in the opposite direction with it! The gym equivalent to this would be the stairmill, you work up a sweat within moments.

With the next British Nordic Walking Challenge event coming up 2 November, I've increased my number of NW workouts from the usual 2 or 3 to at least four per week. Two of the walks are fairly laid back because I'm a walk leader assisting with them so I generally focus on technique but I'm trying to get in one hard walk per week to get my speed and endurance up and hopefully that will help my running as well.

Speaking of running, Tuesday's club run was awesome! It was a mostly off road, mystery route where the leader even had us running backwards at one point.  There were a few nettles and brambles and quite a few shouts of "Watch your head!" which quickly got shortened to "Head!" to avoid the low tree limbs. I still managed to get slapped in the face once with a ricocheting branch though. I played it smart and ran slow for the first 1/3, hard on the 2nd third, then easy again on the final bit. I also didn't get hung up on the pace and didn't bother with pausing my garmin at the re-grouping points or when we had to walk through a field with thick overgrowth and thistles so the stats looked a bit willy-nilly once down-loaded.  The only part I can't say I enjoyed was our tempo run around the lake, towards the end of that section I swallowed wrong and couldn't breathe and almost lost my lunch.  Afterwards I was so exhausted I barely made it through our tea before falling asleep on the couch.

See how all over the place the pace was? Loving some of the best pace times though

Back to a track session tonight but it's short intervals which I quite enjoy (once they're done).  Run happy y'all and try something crazy with your workouts every now and then.  

18 August 2014


My memory. This summer.  Two things that fit the fleeting descriptor right now.  I have had so many blog ideas but didn't bother to sit down to put the words to screen or even ink to paper to remind myself.  Or I get busy with other things and while I remember the subject I no longer have the desire to right about it.  As far as summer goes, I think it has disappeared.  It never truly got HOT at night but over the past couple of weeks it's gotten steadily cooler and now in mid-August there is a distinct autumnal bite to the air even during the middle of the day.  Time to pack away the summer clothing, most of which didn't get a single wear at all.  I made a joke on facebook that it was a good thing I don't buy trendy because whenever I made my return to the states in a few years most of my shorts, sundresses, and vests would still be in nearly new condition.  And no, it's not just me as an expat grumbling, everyone is commenting on how chilly it's been and then laughing and saying welcome to British summer ;-)


In fitness news, my speed and endurance seems to be gradually returning, emphasis on gradually.  Most Sundays I'm getting in a 10ish miler although the weekend ex Hurricane Bertha made her visit I kept it at 7.5 because of trying to avoid the rain and wind. I managed to get confused on the August handicap course again (blue arrows on the trail pointed in a different direction than what our route is) so ended up waiting for the next runner coming up to get me headed the right way.  It still wouldn't have been a pb but it would have been closer than the time I ended up with.  Unfortunately my Garmin 610 also decided to have a malfunction by freezing up and then refusing to download that day's data because the file was corrupted so I don't know exactly how much time I lost.

The final BDL of the summer also went better than expected, 5.19 miles in 40:52 and second in my age category.  Last Saturday's parkrun was a bit of a success with a time of 23:26, 4th female overall, and 2nd in my age.  Gives me hope I can start whittling that time down if I can keep from getting injured again.  I also managed to spot the photographer in time to smile and not look like I was on the verge of passing out or having a seizure. 

I look like I'm going so slow and the guy behind me has both feet off the ground.

Speaking of parkrun, I had made plans to attend a Nordic Walking class on Saturday so that meant I had to leave just as soon as I got my barcodes scanned but I did get to see a couple of Nordic walkers that were doing the 5k as well.  Such a great sight spying the poles and the red British Nordic Walking shirts! Once I get over this chasing a personal best business I need to do that as well but I think I would prefer a not so flat course, it's great for running but I prefer hills for the walking.