Sunday, 23 November 2014

How not running has made me a better runner

Back in June, I fell out of love with running.
Almost a year to the day since I started Couch to 5K with the goal of being able to run a 10K.
Instead, I ran three 10Ks and a half marathon.
But running had become a chore.
I was running the same runs methodically. I wasn't getting any faster, I was getting better. I was bored.
In June I decided to take a two-month break from running in order to finally complete the Insanity programme which I had received for Christmas but hadn't had time to commit to with a half marathon looming.
I absolutely loved it and didn't miss running for a second.
However, in the last week of the programme I sprained my foot.
It was tough.
I was excited to finally finish the programme after eight weeks. And I was finally ready to start running again.
For weeks, I could hardly walk.
After about a month, I slowly started exercising again.
Pilates, then weights, then slowly into cardio with T25.
I wanted to start running again in October, but with a holiday coming up that was bound to be heavy on walking I decided to wait.
I stuck to T25 and weights with Chalean Extreme, exercising 5-6 times a week. I persevered and counted down the days to being able to run again.
Four weeks ago I went on my first run in 6 months.
I decided not to put pressure on myself and just do two miles, as slow as I needed.
It was a breeze. It was 20 seconds faster than my average pace. But importantly, it reminded me why I loved to run.
I decided weeks ago that with the dark nights I was only going to run at the weekends. I don't like running in the dark, and I also really enjoy my early morning workouts when I don't need to leave the house. So I decided to do two days of Chalean Extreme a week, and two days of T25 per week. Which meant, unfortunately, weekends were my only time for run. 
Two weeks after my first run I decided to try three miles. The first mile was okay, but half way through the second mile I was tired. But then something clicked. I started to reduce my stride into shorter, faster steps. Suddenly I was running faster, but it didn't feel more effort. By the time I finished my third mile I had run it a minute faster than my second. It was a revelation.
Yesterday I went to park run for the first time in 6 months. I was nervous but also excited given my recent experiences.
The first mile felt great. Usually my plan is to keep up with "the red flag man" (who paces the race just under a 10-minute-mile for people who want to run the race in 30 minutes) as much as possible. After half a mile I hadn't seen him. But then as I ran past the announcer I heard him say "oh and here is the red flag man." Confused, I looked around me. Where is he? Then it clicked, he was behind me. I kept ahead of him for nearly the entire first mile (he overtook me just before the mile point) and clocked my first mile at 10:43. My third fastest mile ever. I was tired after this exertion and slowed down for my second mile. But then my watch flashed up, 11:07. I hadn't slowed down at all. I pushed through for my third mile. My PB is 32:28 and that was over a year ago. I had only gotten below 35 minutes a few times in over a year of park run (I average about a 12-minute-mile and have been stuck at that pace for a long time). I was going to have one of my best ever times! I was tired but I kept pushing. I moved my feet faster, not longer. I was tired but I felt fitter. I could push through. I crossed the finish line in 33:28. My third fastest park run.

Today I was still high on my park run success and didn't want to wait a week to run again. My plan for the winter is Saturday park run and a long, slow run on a Sunday of 4-6 miles, so I decided to give four miles a go. I was in a grumpy mood and it was a real push to get myself out. But I decided this was a "bonus run" so if it sucked it didn't count. What mattered was that I was giving it a go.
I did four miles. In 44 minutes. My last mile was in 10:30 and I averaged as pace of 10:57. That's a minute faster than my usual average. 
I've turned a corner, by not running.
By doing Insanity for 2 months. By swapping my mid-week runs for two days of HIIT and two days of strength training.
My fitness is better. My cardio is better. My turnover is better.
I'm a better runner.
A much better runner than I was when I was half marathon training. A much better runner than when I was running three or four times a week.
I am so excited to reach my speed goals and beyond. By running twice a week, but focusing on cross training the rest of the time.
Running isn't just about running.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Yellow Rebel

I like the idea of winter. I like the idea of cosy jumpers and warm coats and hats and scarves and hot drinks in gloved hands. I like the idea of the early darkness and the sparkling lights on my way home from work. The Christmas markets and mulled wine.
But in reality, winter sucks.
And this is coming from a girl who spent a winter in Minnesota where minus 30 Celsius was a regular occurrence. Believe me, I can handle the cold. I just don't like it.
Some of my best outfits on my blog have been during the winter. In fact I'd probably say almost all of them. Through the sweaty summer and rainy spring I've been waiting with baited breath to wear new creative winter combinations. Dresses over shirts under jumpers. Mustard and maroon and red and navy.
Instead, I've basically just worn jeans and a rotation of a couple of jumpers.
This year my one piece of winter clothing advice is: buy some jumpers you really like. Wear them every day. Rotate them enough so that nobody notices.
I know I should be excited. But when you wake up at 5am, drag yourself out of bed for a workout, drag yourself into the shower and slowly get yourself dressed in the cold, comfort seems to reign supreme. As does convenience. And the most convenient thing to grab is whatever I wore the day before.
I am the worst fashion blogger ever.
But the idea of just wearing jumpers and jeans did justify this jumper. That and the fact that I think there was a sign that I should buy it. 
I was on the train home from work last week and I saw a girl wearing the brightest jumper I had ever seen. It had a gorgeous jewelled neckline and she was wearing it with a tartan scarf. I swooned over it for a while and then forgot about it. Until the next day when I was in Primark buying boring things like tights, bobbles and hair grips. I was on my way out and THERE IT WAS. The yellow jumper of my dreams. It was clearly meant to be. 
It's also blindingly yellow in real life and it's perfect. (And I wish I'd remembered to photograph it with my tartan scarf).
Two other things are new. First, my lipstick. I only found out about Back to MAC a few months ago and mourned the loss of at least half a dozen bottles of foundation that I threw away not knowing I could exchange their empty shells for a new lipstick. But over the past few weeks I've been collecting all my MAC empties to exchange them. I finally had six last week and I'd had my eye on Rebel lipstick for months. My boss, Karen, has it, and I was starting to ask her every day what lipstick she had on. It's one of those colours that looks completely different on everyone. I've seen it look very dark or very purple, but on me it's like a slightly magenta pink. I can't stop wearing it.
The other thing is my amazing Scrabble earrings! I love nerdy kitschy pieces like this, especially if it's Scrabble related (I already have a Scrabble tile necklace and a Scrabble mug). They're part of a collection of three things Punky Pins sent over to me last week. I remember asking for a plastic "Carrie" imitation necklace from Punky Pins when I was 19 and I absolutely loved it. I actually got some compliments from my optician on these earrings on Saturday, who said "they're so unique. I've never seen anything like them" (he's a guy too). I have a few other items to show you soon (see above) - I'm wearing the lightning bolt necklace today.
jumper- Primark
jeans- Topshop
boots- New Look
earrings- c/o Punky Pins
I'm gonna have a look through my autumn/winter Pinterest board for some cold-weather inspiration, but I can't promise this will be my last jeans-and-jumper outfit. At least I have garish taste in jumpers!

Have a great evening.

Charlotte x

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

All I Want for Christmas is You

I've accidentally posted the three cheesiest posts I've ever written on my blog all in one go. I bet my colleague Natalie is hating this. Sorry not sorry. Except maybe for this post title. I might have gone too far.
Anyway, this is Phil's first proper experience of being on my blog. Matalan got in touch a few weeks ago and wanted to send me not one, but two Christmas jumpers - one for me and one for a friend or partner! Now Phil, like me, loves a good Christmas jumper - these aren't our first Christmas-jumper-themed photos - so I knew he was the guy for the job. I also trusted him to pick the cheesiest jumper of them all. Which he did. 
I am completely and utterly in love with these photos. Holiday cards aren't really a thing in the UK but I think we're missing a trick by not sending one out with these photos. I did ask Phil and then pretended I was joking when he looked at me with disgust.
christmas jumpers- c/o Matalan
I've already told you about the wonderful day we had for our anniversary on Saturday, but we also had a really lovely day on Sunday. We dressed up in our Christmas jumpers to take these photos, watched Peaky Blinders (we're two episodes away from finishing season 2!) and then went to the IMAX to see Interstellar (which is really good, by the way!). After a year of convincing, I finally joined Phil in the Cineworld Unlimited card club so I'm trying to see as many films as possible at the moment. We also saw Nightcrawler last week which I highly recommend and we're off to see Mr Turner this weekend. 
Sorry for all the cheese. Kind of.

Have a lovely week!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 9 November 2014


Thank you all for your lovely comments on yesterday's post about mine and Phil's one year anniversary! We had such a lovely day yesterday that I thought I would share it with you!
We had a table booked at Artisan in Manchester at 7pm, so Phil came over before to do presents! My Mum decorated the living room for us with candles, and set up a little table for us with some bubbly, chocolates and rose petals. How lovely is that? I've been planning Phil's anniversary present for absolutely months and I've been so excited slash nervous about giving it to him! I've been keeping what we call "The Date Book" since we first started dating and I've basically been writing down every day we've been on since the start! So a few months ago I decided for our anniversary to get a print made for Phil with some of the special dates we've had together this year for in our bedroom when we get our flat. It's pretty cheesy so I was worried it would be too cheesy but Phil loved it! I also got him some fridge magnets of photos of us that I got from Sticky9.
Phil came to the door with a bunch of flowers (unpictured, but they're lilies and roses and they're gorgeous) and he got me a homemade card (!), a bag from the place where we had our first date and an "anniversary journal" which I'm pretty sure he got from Pinterest! He's written "8th November 2014" and given me lots of cinema tickets, theatre tickets and all other bits that he's saved from this year for me to stick in, and then the idea is that you write about the year you've had every year on your anniversary. It's such a great idea. And of course, my main present, a gorgeous diamond and silver bracelet. I can't stop staring at it.
I was going to buy a new dress for our anniversary, but then I remembered this dress and honestly I never wear it because it's rarely appropriate. But I think for our anniversary it was perfect. Phil scrubbed up pretty well too! This photo of us is my new favourite.
We headed into Manchester for our meal at Artisan. Spinningfield looked absolutely gorgeous with all the excitement and Christmas lights. Artisan is absolutely amazing too and was a really great place for our anniversary. We really splashed out on a lovely meal and while I dithered over whether to get the tuna steak, it was totally worth it. It was one of the best tuna steaks I've ever had! 
Oh and there was a photobooth! Phil and I love stuff like that so we had to get our photos taken. However it didn't warn you when it was going to take so we weren't quite ready in the first photo as you can see...
After dinner we went to the Hilton for cocktails. I've never been to Cloud 23 so I was really excited. The view was incredible and I was really chuffed that we saw some fireworks. Even though we were higher up than them!
It's been the best weekend I could have asked for and the perfect celebration of a year together. 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

One Year

Phil and I started out as a joke.

I went for a meal with my auntie, uncle and cousin, Laura, last September, and Laura joked that she had nearly invited a guy from work to the meal because he had no plans that weekend. What started out as a bit of a joke suddenly turned into her showing me photos of him and asking "would you go on a date with him, then?". I was about 6 months out of a not-so-great relationship at that point and my logic was, well I have nothing to lose, so I said I'd give it a go.
After a few weeks of emails and some organisation, a blind date was arranged for the 4th October. Phil was to meet me in Manchester on a Friday night and we would go out for food and some drinks.
I don't think anybody expected it to work out.
Least of all Phil and I.
We joke about the funny way we met, because there was absolutely no planning on Laura's part. She didn't think about what we had in common or if our personalities would work. It was all just spontaneous.
But it worked. We clicked.
And today we're celebrating our one year anniversary.
Phil makes me happier than I ever thought I could be.
He makes me laugh every single day and every day I find more and more reasons to fall in love with him.
It's been a year and it still feels like our honeymoon period. And I think it will always feel like that.
He makes me proud every day and he makes me want to be a better person.
He teases me when I get sulky and has successfully made it through a fair few Charlotte meltdowns.
I tell him everything and we're never afraid to have difficult conversations.
I get excited when I see him and I miss him when he's gone.

In the last year we've had our first holiday together.
We had our first holiday with his family and our first holiday with mine.
We ran a half marathon.
We've supported each other at races.
We've travelled around the country.
We've had good days and oh man have we had bad days.
We've had redundancies and promotions and family members and friends in hospitals.
We've had car crashes and stolen phones.
We've laughed, we've cried and I cannot wait for the future with him.
We've had the relationship I never thought was possible, I never thought was real.
We've had happiness and we've had each other.
Happy Anniversary, Phil. I love you.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Don't Know What's Down This Road, I'm Just Walking

One of the only good things about getting back from holiday is that I can now wear this skirt. I impulsively bought it before I went away on the premise that it would go with everything. It has been worn three times this week, as I wore it on Wednesday with a maroon jumper and Thursday exactly as you can see here. It's just way too dark to photograph outfits before or after work now so I waited until today to rewear this and photograph it. I was going to take photos outside for the first time in ages, but my neighbour was outside doing his garden so I chickened out. I love this outfit. I don't even know how it came together but I just had the image of this skirt with brown boots and a chunky jumper. You'll definitely be seeing this skirt a lot over the next few months! I'm trying not to buy more clothes at the moment with Phil and I getting our own place after Christmas. One to save money, but two because I don't think all my clothes will fit in our flat!
jumper- Forever 21
skirt- Warehouse
boots- c/o New Look
necklace- Accessorize 
This weekend has been lovely, but it's gone way too fast and I'm very tired. Yesterday I was up at 6am for Phil to come get me at half 7. A few weeks ago he signed up to do Hellrunner Up North for Christie's hospital who have been doing some great work for his best friend, and yesterday was the big day. Phil was super nervous because he's had problems with his knee for almost a year now and it was especially bad when we ran the half marathon earlier in the year and as a result he hadn't really trained. If you don't know much about it, it's basically a horrible run through bogs and up hills and through mud for 10 to 12 miles of pure hell. I went down with his parents and sister to support him and his friend Mike who was doing it with him. It was actually a really nice day but the race just sounded horrible. The bogs were neck-high in some places and the hills were apparently just awful. Phil's sister Suzie and I were stood right by the "bog of doom" and one guy got up to it (bearing in mind it was about half a mile from the end), looked at it and went "nope not doing it" and climbed under the rope and out of the race! Phil did incredibly well and was absolutely covered in mud by the end. I'm so proud of him but he has told me that I had to promise to never let him do it again! He had done another Hellrunner before in the midlands but said this was way worse! After he was all cleaned up we headed back and had a curry with his family which was lovely. 
And today I went on my first run since June! If you remember I had a break for 2 months to do Insanity but then got injured and was out for a few weeks, so I've just been doing T25 and Chalean Extreme for the last few weeks, but now I'm back from holiday I'm going back to running at the weekends (I've decided it's too dark to be going out running at 5am). I was worried that getting back into running was going to be a long slog of run/walking, stopping and generally rubbish fitness, but today I went out and nailed 2 miles. No stops, no walks and I did it about 20 seconds a mile faster than my usual pace. I was absolutely over the moon! So hopefully in a couple of weeks I'll be back doing Park Run on a Saturday and doing my long runs on a Sunday. I'm going to write a post soon on my winter running plan, but I'm basically going to be doing workout dvds 3 or 4 days a week (T25 and Chalean Extreme) in the morning at 5am before work, and then doing two runs at the weekend and focusing on my speed. I am ready to nail that 30 minute 5K then hopefully a 60 minute 10K. I have no races signed up for at the moment but I want to stick to 10Ks for a while and maybe leave it a year before I do another half. I need some time to get back into enjoying running again and not just running because I have to.
The rest of today has been spent food shopping, cooking and visiting family as usual! My cousin Laura has just bought a house, and her sister in law (my cousin's wife), Sarah, is due to have a baby boy any day now so it's really exciting times in the Crowley family!

Well it's Sunday night so it's time to paint my nails and watch Parks and Rec!

Charlotte x

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A Week in Spain

Until last year, I had never really experienced the "need" for a holiday.
Of course, I had had holidays, but they had just been pleasant interludes in the musical of life. A change of scenery. A change of pace.
Last year, not at all coincidentally a year after starting to work full time, I experienced my first aching need for a holiday. And last year I tagged myself, last minute, onto my parents' trip to our apartment in Spain.
If you remember, it was just a few months before I left my job. I was tired, I was stressed and I had no idea where I was going in my life.
That holiday was an absolute dream. 
After a few days of getting my head around the whole "relaxing" thing and understanding that we didn't need to be up and out of the apartment by 9.30am, I got it. I was here to relax.
I read five books, went on loads of walks and avoided the internet for a week.
I finally felt refreshed when I came back, and vowed to make the weekly trip to Spain every year.
So this year I started asking my parents about the trip months and months ago, but this time with an extra addition.
My boyfriend Phil.
It wasn't our first holiday together (we went to Prague in June) but bringing him on our holiday to our place was a big thing.
It turned out it was the only extra ingredient this holiday needed. The cherry on top.
I had the most lovely week, the only downside is it feels like a million year ago.
Now I'm not going to bore you with everything I did (other people's holiday photos are boring- right?) but I'm gonna show you some of my photos and like this post, just tell you a few things I got up to. Because I love having these posts to look back on. When I was tired and stressed at work on Monday I would glance at some holiday photos and instantly feel better.
These photos are all different sizes, some are great, some are rubbish but these are my memories and they make me smile.
  • I ate 90% bread, patatas bravas, crisps and ice cream. And I am totally okay with that.
  • I actually ate patatas bravas four times. I was craving them the whole trip and had several meals of pure potato.
  • Discovered my favourite ever restaurant ever (see below) - it was like a tapas buffet and they came around with hot food when it was ready, and then counted your cocktail sticks at the end. We are there twice. It's going to be a regular feature on the Crowley family holiday I think.
  • Went on a lot of really nice long walks
  • And took lots of photos of Phil with nice views
  • Actually got a couple of nice photos of Phil and I where neither of us are pulling stupid faces.
  • Got bitten five hundred million times by mosquitos. Including on my face. Twice.
  • Watched a LOT of football. In a good way.
  • Actually had fun on the beach (I hate the beach, but I might be converted)
  • Wore my favourite bikini
  • Discovered I am pretty good at boules
  • But shocking at Connect 4
  • Played on the swings and seesaw in every. single. playground we found on the holiday (there were at least 3)
  • Finished 5 books (Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, Horns by Joe Hill, Mindy Kaling's book, Tina Fey's book and Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn)
  • Avoided the internet for over a week
  • Went on a toy train tour of the town
  • And waved to every person we went past 
  • Some of them waved back
  • Did pretty badly in a pub quiz. Phil is convinced the winners cheated.
  • Brought way too many clothes
  • Finished the first season of Peaky Blinders
  • Made quesadillas twice
  • Bought a completely unneccessary big thick scarf. In Spain. From Primark.
  • Didn't paint my nails for a week. Mostly out of laziness.
  • Nearly went in the pool, but then decided it was way too cold.
  • However it was in the high 20s every day we were there and we didn't have one day of bad weather
  • Accidentally took a photo of Phil that is identical to the first photo I ever saw of him
  • Tried some calamari. Still freaks me out.
  • Ate a LOT of tapas
  • Had breakfast on our balcony every day
  • Went for ice cream three times. 
  • Discovered that one scoop of yoghurt flavour and one scoop of lemon sorbet is the way forward
  • Had a really lovely, relaxing time with my absolute favourite people
  • Possibly had the best holiday ever