Category Archives: Couch to 5K

My early exercise log

Hiking Tips

I like the auld bit of hiking. The whole thing of getting outdoors and pushing yourself. It’s a great mix of nature and exercise. When you’re doing it you’ll often see other hill-walkers and climbers and you’ll exchange a pleasant hello and maybe a bit of banter. Then you encounter the people who don’t do it as much and you’d almost have to pay them to talk to you.

The first group are grand. They’re friendly and welcoming and usually share the same interests. Mainly being the love of getting out. They’ll also have a common look about them. They’ve got the gear and they genuinely look happy about being out. If you’re planning on getting into hill-walking or climbing the bigger mountains there are a couple of things you should put on a checklist;

  • Clothing: Wear appropriate clothing for the conditions. Head to any of the many outdoors shops around Ireland and you’re sure to pick up proper pants, t-shirts, jumpers, jackets and socks. They’ll make a big difference to your morale and indeed your safety. In winter time and in cooler weather warm and appropriate clothing could be the difference between a successful climb and an accident. Hats, gloves, scarves should all be in your bag. Bring spares as well. Spare socks and tops are the big ones, but try fit some spare pants in there too.
  • Footwear: Invest in decent boots. Decent boots will pay dividends in protecting your feet and keeping you steady on the rocks. Don’t just buy the cheapest or indeed the most expensive pair. Try them on, see if they support your ankle and the sole of your foot. These two things will be most likely to bother you on a hike. Also, try and make sure they’re waterproof. Mountains and hills tend to have rivers, bogs, large ponds. Soggy socks will ruin your day. Gators are handy too.
  • Equipment: Walking poles are extremely handy. Especially on windy days and on longer hikes. They are very effective in helping you climb and keep your balance. Know how to use them. When you should keep them shorter and when they should be longer. They’ll also make for handy splints if you or one of your party hurts something in a fall or slip. Bring a compass and map and do your best to keep orientated on your hike. Electronic GPS devices are cool and all but can be absolutely useless. Try and do a bit of research on your route as well. Do not rely on your phone for anything but calling for help.
  • First Aid: Bring a basic first aid kit. Plasters, scissors, bandages, that kind of thing. You may not need them but somebody else who is injured may need them. They weigh very little so why not bring them.
  • Supplies: Food and water are the big ones, especially the liquids part. For the longer hikes you will sweat and need hydration so try bring between 1.5 and 3 litres of water. Some lucozade can also be a good pick me up. Soft drinks though are mostly useless and work against your energy levels and hydration. Brings snacks and a main snack for when you reach your peak. Fruit, sandwiches, tins of tuna are all good choices. A hot drink in a flask can also boost you on the trip. Toilet paper. Bring toilet paper. You never know when you’ll need it, but surely it’s one of those things you’d rather not miss having.
  • Talk: Tell people where you’re going and roughly how long you’ll be. That way if you get injured or stranded you shouldn’t be missing for too long. If you’re driving try not to hide your car when you park it, that way people will have a good indication as to where you started.
  • Bag: why bring all that nice dry stuff and then bring a bag that will soak up the water like a sponge. A good waterproof bag will cost you between €30-€50 and will come with a cover for when (WHEN) it rains. Try go for a 33/35 litre bag, they’re the perfect size. Lots of places to put all your stuff.
  • The Weather: The weather rules, you will not beat it. Look at the forecast. If it’s not too bad you’re good to go. If it’s to be particularly poor then maybe choose a different hike or less challenging route.
  • Plan: Have a plan (at least a rough one). Know where you’re going, what to expect, when the sun goes down, the basics really. Plan to bring what you need. Don’t go crazy though, there’s no point lugging a massive pack around if you’re only out for a relaxing hike.

The last time I went hiking with a small group there was a wind warning in effect and on a mountain or a hill you really feel that. I was fine. I was snug in my ski pants, jacket and 2 layers underneath with my hat, gloves and scarf. I was astounded and shocked by the people I saw coming up as I headed back down, the second group of people you encounter on days out. There was one group of ladies with no jacket between them all wearing a t-shirt and yoga pants with flat runners. It was a recipe for disaster and on the way down I could hear it in them.

One lady complained that she couldn’t feel her hands and nearly started crying. I don’t blame her. As she was saying that her friends where leaving her there. Which was in particularly poor form as the one lady with a small bottle of water had passed me already. They were clearly not prepared for the day that was in it and the climb ahead. I also once encountered two hikers who had relied on their GPS, which failed them. They went a long way in the wrong direction. Luckily for them it wasn’t too late to correct their mistake.

In not preparing in even the slightest way they were putting themselves at risk. In doing that they were putting others in harms way. If we’ve seen anything over the past few months it is that there is a network of brave volunteers out there who are prepared and ready to go rescue and help people who get stuck or injured. Yes, sometimes the shit just hits the fan and you need to get help. However, I can’t help but get the feeling that they wouldn’t have to go out so much if people just got the basics right.

So…KISS. Keep it simple stupid. Plan ahead and try avoid the hassle of making the news. Try not to go beyond your abilities. Over time you will be able to do more, but take it easy. Most importantly, get out there and enjoy yourself. Take in the fresh air, the sights and the relaxing feeling that comes with putting your boots on the ground.

Please do share your own tips in the comments below. What would you add in?

The Tank was Empty

Myself and the wife have been fairly good at keeping up the Couch to 5K, although for the sake of honesty I’ll say that the good lady has been a lot better at it than I. But hey, it’s not a race, thankfully.

This morning was odd, I just wasn’t feeling it at all. The Tank was Empty. I had no get up and go and I most definitely had that familiar anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach and it was not nice. I have gotten this in the past and I’ve just kept going and it usually went away. However, this morning was different and difficult. The anxious feeling I had affected my legs and I literally had no energy. Into my third lap I just had to stop. There was nothing there and I just had to stop.

Today is also my counselling day. The day when I head up to Navan and talk through the issues which have been taking their toll on me and indeed on the people around me. Today I felt bad, last Monday I didn’t, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

Today I could talk about what was going on and see what bubbled to the service. Christmas 2012 was when I lost an important person in my life, my father died. It’s half the reason I’m going to counselling now, so I can be around for my daughter for as long as possible. Not long after going in did I start to talk about that and I did something I haven’t done in a long time.

I cried.

I cried about missing him, about what’s gone on since he died and about what he’s missing in my beautiful daughter. It hurt to bring it out, but it felt a lot better. It was like a weight was lifted from me and I felt energised. It’s amazing how what was primarily a mental block had manifested itself in such a strong physical way. I wasn’t feeling what was going on up top so my body decided to make me listen.

That’s ok though, I should listen to my body, to what it tells me. Some days you just need to stop and take it easy or you’ll be made to.

It was nice to have that revelation and to not feel crazy for still going through the grieving process even this far down the road. But then that doesn’t hold much water either. Grief doesn’t care for my time schedule. It could be twenty years later and I’d still miss him.

It’s all about watching out for the little things and giving yourself a break every now and then.

Couch to 5K – Day 4

Well, that was hard. My good lady did an early run yesterday so I was flying solo on this brisk and foggy night. My word, that made a difference, the whole not having someone to chat with. I didn’t think it would make a difference, but I guess it’s a mental thing.

The rounds were upped tonight and the whole time I had a thought in the back of my head! The next time the whistle blows I’m throwing in the towel. Funnily enough I think that made it slightly easier to get through each one.

Another thought recurring in my head was my little 11 week old daughter. It’s not fair on her to have a Dad who risks his health by not exercising his body. I want to be around for her for a good long time.

You see, earlier I scared the crap out of myself and weighed in. The grand total was a very worrying 17 stone. What I have now is a combination fit for disaster. My fitness is the lowest it has ever been while my weight is the highest. That situation needs to be reversed. Hopefully this couch to 5k will set me on the right path for a long and healthy life.

I did get through in the end. The legs were still sore and the back still ached. It’s for the greater good though, right? The greater good. I have to keep remembering that no matter how slow I jog, I’m still going faster than I would be on the couch.

Ireland may not be ready to face up to its health problem, but I am. All you can do is watch this space for more info. Hopefully this might spur someone on to make the change they need to.

Couch to 5K – Day 3

Ok, so day 3 was on Tuesday, but I’ve been busy so here’s a quick update before day 4 tonight!

It was cold, wet, windy and the track was waterlogged and filthy so day 3 wasn’t easy. Add to that the fact that my shin splints kicked in and you have a proper combo to knock the motivation out of you. Basically day 3 was hard and probably my tipping point. Ya know, the point at which you either stop or persevere.

It was hard. The runs were longer and we hadn’t a clue what way it was working. There must’ve been a busy schedule that night as the instructions were rushed and the instructors all had a different view of what was happening on the night. My good lady’s knee was also at her.

So, to sum up again. Cold, wet, filthy and sore, we weren’t loving it.

Then I noticed one of the guys there. Now, you have many different types of runners and joggers and walkers there. The more seasoned people fly past you, the ladies who have been doing this for years saunter on by while having their weekly chats and people like me just try to get better each time. Then I saw this big guy who was really putting his all into it. He motivated me. I thought to myself that as hard as I was finding it, how hard was he finding it? So I shut myself up with the moaning and just kept trying.

I’ll go back tonight and see how I do. But I do know one thing. If I don’t put the effort in now then it will only ever get harder.

Couch to 5K – Day 2

So it’s only day 2, still early days, but I’m still feeling optimistic about the whole thing. Just to make this a little clearer, I have done a few 10km and 5km runs in the past. The problem was that I hate running, as I said. I have very little knowledge of running techniques or best practice so always just end up hurting myself and feeling it for weeks after. That’s always put a dampener on the whole thing for me. It was never any fun, I didn’t really enjoy it. I enjoyed the medals but always felt I was doing it wrong.

So this is where the couch to 5k will shine for me. Hopefully I’ll learn a lot more than I knew and make this form of exercise a life long thing for me. I figure that I owe it to my daughter, my wife and yes even myself.

I know, you’re all dying to know how we got on tonight, right? It was good. The important thing is that it’s broken down into manageable sections and we just go at our own pace. The people there are all there for the same thing and that feels good. There’s no pressure, it’s structured and there is support there for you.

In the past I only really liked to exercise alone, but I have to say that it is nice having the little lady there. We have a laugh, we talk, we joke and we support each other. That’s nice at the end of the day.

My advice at this stage is that if you’re thinking of taking a positive step like this then do it, what’s the worst that can happen? You go at your own comfortable pace and just get on with it. So grab some comfy runners and get out there.

The hardest step in this was getting started, that first night going up. But even now this early in I’m definitely glad I’ve started!