Working with Function360- one year on

Friday, September 28, 2018

I can't believe it has been 1 year since I started working with Function360.  For this that don't know, this performance innovation centre is based near Moorgate Station in Central London and offer many different types of services (osteopathy, physiotherapy, sports therapy, corrective exercise, dry needling, myofascial release etc).  They fully supported my two year plan of a Boston Qualifying (BQ) time from day one.  Now that we are halfway to that goal (eek!), here is how they have helped me over the last year:

Phase One: Gait analysis, initial strength/movement assessment then prescribed corrective exercise




My first appointment at Function360 was to have a gait analysis.  Last summer, I really struggled with pain in my feet and Achilles.  The BQ goal was delayed by a year because of this.  The info gathered during this appointment fed into my runner-focused strength training plan.  There were a few imbalances identified that if addressed could reduce my risk of injury given my activity levels.

Nearly every Thursday morning from October to December 2017, I would work with a corrective exercise specialist team member from Function360 to strengthen my key running muscles- glutes, hamstrings, and core.  When we started, I was unable to do a 'bird dog' but was soon progressing to a more challenging posture.  We also worked on improving my squat technique and hip mobility.  My Achilles needed this more than anything as I was just recovering from a bad flair up of tendinopathy during the summer of 2017.

Bird dog in my garden

I tried my best to complete my exercise regimes at home in addition to our weekly sessions.  Once I was stronger, we cut back to meeting once every other week while I completed two to three more sessions on my own. The exercises were chosen based on what my body needed to improve strength, in addition to what kit I had available at home (exercise bands, dumbbells, steps, and a yoga mat).  I could tell they wanted me to succeed by working with kit and time limitations.

Doing my stretches at work on a break

Phase Two: More core. 
At the start of the 2018, I was assigned to Ben (a physio and rehab specialist) who did another assessment to monitor my progress.  I told him about the niggles I was still getting in my hips and glutes and he prescribed a new set of exercises.  I met with him monthly to receive a new program and to check in on any issues I was having.  I was already in the habit of setting aside 30 minutes a few times a week for my exercises, so this worked for me and my schedule.

Psoas march

Phase Three: Maintenance and recovery

This summer, as my marathon training started up, my sessions with Ben were mostly sports massages.  We had discussed previously how I would manage the strength training alongside weekly mileage requirements.  There just isn't enough time in the day!  He was confident that I had a good baseline level of strength to work off of.

One thing I had missed in my previously marathon training cycles was the regular rest and recovery.  I tended to only get sports massages after I couldn't stand the pain in my periformis anymore.   It is so important to maintain your body with rest and recovery, not just blast it with HIIT sessions all the time.  This lesson has taken my years to learn.

Sports massage with Ben.
Sports massages are necessarily 'relaxing' (I have zeo pain tolerance) but chatting with Ben is a good distraction as he works on tense muscles in my legs and back.

Phase Four:  Life after the marathon
After the NYC Marathon in November, I plan on taking a step back from cardio and looking at my body imbalances again. I now have a gym membership and will focus on weight training in addition to revisiting the Function360 programs I have.  Ben and I haven't talked about what approach to take yet but I am sure we will come up with something achievable that will produce my desired BQ in 2019.



Bonus appointments: Emergencies
Function360 has been fantastic at getting me in when I am panicking about a new pain weeks before a race.  For example, I had developed a (what I thought was) random hip pain in late January.  I was training for Mount Kilimanjaro and had a 10K race coming up.  Jordan, the company director and physio therapist, kept me calm as we went through a thorough medical history and assessment of the pain and my posture.  She decided I needed some dry needling only to discover a huge bruise on my hip from a fall I had while camping.  We concluded that fall probably knocked my body out alignment temporarily.  Ben is easy to reach via email or Instagram if I have questions about my exercises or a little niggle.  Most recently, I was starting to develop 'maranoia' when my neck hurt during a spin class.  An osteo appointment with Victor made me feel much better because he didn't find any serious issues and he did a few manipulations to release some joints in my neck and back.

Dry needling

The proof is in the pudding really.  Is all this hard work paying off?  Since I began working with Function360 a year ago, I have:

  • run a sub 25 minute 5K in May
  • improved my 400m time from 2:00 to 1:40
  • increased flexibility in my hips and hamstrings
  • reduced my Achilles pain
  • become a more confident runner

Are you ready to achieve these things too?  I wish I knew this could happen for me years ago.  I would have started much sooner (and stuck with it!).  If you have committed to putting in the miles, I can tell you targeted strength training will make a world of difference to your  running performance.

Function360 is kindly offering my readers 15% discount on their first visit with code #F360MM15.  If you pay them a visit, please let me know how it goes in the comments below.  Everyone on the team is fantastic.  You will be in good hands no matter who you see.

Thanks to Function360 for the complimentary services.  All opinions are honest and my own.

Race review: Marathon du Medoc

Thursday, September 20, 2018

What you will see most of the race- runners and grapevines.
Have you ever heard of the Marathon du Medoc?  This no-pressure race was the first in my 4x4 challenge.  It is quite famous in France, as well as among the international running community, for its unique format.  Fancy dress (costumes) are mandatory and wine it offered alongside water at all the refreshment stations.  Many of my London running friends have done it before.  A group of them had a spare place which gave me the opportunity to run the race this year.  I love to explore new places by taking part in running events.  This trip was no exception.

It seems a bit odd to be running on these gorgeous estates, but hey ho.

Race entries and fees: This is by no means a cheap race.  Registration was about €80, which included a really nice technical running t-shirt (women- size up as the women's cuts is extremely form fitting), small branded drawstring bag, food and wine along course, "lucky dip" bottle of wine from one of the wineries along the course in a really nice wooden box, a cooler bag, finishing line rose for female finishers, a plastic cup for the after party, medal, and more food and drinks after the finish.  Add on top to the cost of the registration fee the transportation and accommodation costs, especially if you decide to stay in Bordeaux rather than Pauillac.


Line for the loos
Course and bogs:  The course starts along the Pauillac riverside and winds through the vineyards of the Medoc region.  Some of the course is paved and some on loose gravel and dirt.  The start is a bit conjested due to the narrow town streets and plenty of runners but people start to spread out after the first and second wine stops.  Of course, the scenery along the scenery is a very pretty due to the surrounding vineyards.  We were spoiled by blue skies and sunshine too.

There are plenty of toilets in the start area compared to the number of entrants.  I was really disappointed at the number of port-a-loos along the course through.  There was a lot of peeing on the vineyards, which looked funny when several men dressed the same lined up adjacent rows.

The bag drop was a bit of a faff as all bags were searched, then a label was handwritten by someone else and attached before the bag was placed in a big trolley.  Later, you collect your bag, they look at your bib for your number, then asked you in French 'what color your bag was' (I think) and dug through a large pile of bags.

Few members of Team FOOD!
Location:  Pauillac France, about an hour drive north of Bordeaux.  You can fly direct to Bordeaux or take a train to Paris, then another to Bordeaux. From Bordeaux, there are occasional trains, a local coach (bus) service or the marathon has a private shuttle service organized too.  Each option runs at a specific timetable which you should check before booking.  Half of our group took trains via Paris and the other fly to Bordeaux.

Refreshment station
Atmosphere:  Was absolutely amazing!  Everyone at the start line was happy and relaxed with the goal of having a good time.  So many people from the local community were out too, both cheering us on and volunteering at the numerous refreshments stations.  Many people put picnic tables out along the road and were enjoying meals as we ran by.

Goody bag was ace!
Race bling and goody bag:  Last year's medal was in the shape of a guitar because the theme for the race was music.  This year's theme was amusement parks.  The medal was round and had the roller coaster logo in the center.

Race 1 of my 4x4 challenge done!
After you get your medal and bottle of wine, you can enter the after party tent, where there is more wine, beer, and snacks.  We were a bit rushed for time at the end because we wanted to make the shuttle bus back to Bordeaux.  Thirty minutes was enough time to have a few drinks before hopping on a hot bus and getting stuck in traffic.  At least no one from our group got sick, unless some of the other passengers.

Team FOOD finishing hand-in-hand.


Tips if you want to take part next time (from me and my teammates):

  • Plan ahead.  Accommodation is very limited in Pauillac.  There are shuttle buses and trains but you need to book in advance.  Pay attention to the booking cut off dates!
  • Add a day or two on to your trip and enjoy Paris (especially if you have never been).

Matt and Pippa ended up slowly cutting off bits of their costume along the way.

  • Consider how hot and heavy your costume will be.  If you are running with friends, matching costumes might make it easier to spot each other in the crowds.  I was surprised to see that not all costumes were related to this year's theme.  There were lots of minions and Disney characters. You can be as creative as you want.
  • Don't forget you will be running a marathon.  It is easy to get caught up in the other details for this event but you will be on your feet for about 6 hours if you enjoy the refreshment stations.  You can take it at a party pace but it is still a lot of time on your foot.

Oysters, steak and ice cream are available at the last few refreshment stations.

  • The race website is extremely hard to navigate.  The translations are poor which can be frustrating when you are trying to find the answer to something (like when the shuttle buses are).
  • Pack medication for tummy troubles.  Basically, we broke all of the normal pre-race rules by drinking the night before the race, staying up late the night before the race, and eating different foods  like rich cheese and wine.  I was suffering a bit from stomach issues on the course and wasn't able to find an open pharmacy over the weekend until 11pm on Sunday night in Paris.  It was not ideal.

Cheers!

  • Bring your friends and make some new ones along the way.  There is plenty of time to  meet other runners at the pasta party, race, and after party.
  • Stay hydrated!  We had unseasonable temps this year.  Although you only get a few shots of wine at each refreshment station (I wasn't even buzzing at the end of the race), keep drinking water along the way.
Have you ever completed Marathon du Medoc or something similar?  Let me know in the comments below.

Post script: My teammate, Melanie, says she likes the little quirks of the race (website, bag drop, transport) and thinks is what makes it more of an adventure.  I say there is a race out there for everybody!

One of the large ducks we had to avoid being run over by.

Thanks to Simplyhealth for sponsoring my 4x4 challenge.  If you enjoy living an active lifestyle, check out their new Active Plan.

Thank you Simplyhealth

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

As I hinted on social media, I have a big announcement to make this week.  I am thrilled to say Simplyhealth is sponsoring my 4x4 challenge for the next five months.  Be on the lookout for some great posts and vlogs about my upcoming races and the preparation that goes along with it. My challenge offically started over weekend with a wine tasting/fancy dress marathon near Bordeaux, France. I left London Friday morning on a crisp morning but the weather was lush on race day. Some of my team were wearing proper costumes during the run whereas I had a t-shirt with tulle sewn all over it (see my Instagram for some pictures of the day).  Thankfully, no one suffered from heat exhaustion as we made our way around 20 wineries in the sunny French countryside.  We were able to sip wine along the way to stay cool and eat local cuisine to refuel.  It is a pretty famous marathon and I am had an amazing time running with my Advent Running friends.



Included in my sponsorship with Simplyhealth is a year-long membership to their new Active Plan.  If you are physically active like me, you might put off seeking treatment or professional advice due to the expense.  Simplyhealth wants you to stay healthy and the Active Plan can reimburse for: sports massages, osteopath treatment, prescriptions, dental cleaning, trips to the optician and more.  There are four levels of cover to select from, helping you to choose a rate that’s affordable to you. I know I will be taking full advantage.  Having a big birthday coming up in February (eek) made me realize I need to start sorting out my health, like how I sometimes have blurry vision and how I need to see a dental hygienist on a regular basis.


Over the next five months, I will be sharing my story through each of the challenges along with my experience using the Active Plan to help me keep my body in tiptop shape.  Luckily, the plan can also be used internationally if need be (touch wood).  If something happens before or after a race abroad, I don't have to worry about waiting until I come home to the UK to seek treatment. Some of my posts will also be shared by Simplyhealth meaning you can also track my running and health adventures through them as well.

Follow me on social media (click on pink buttons to the right) so you don't miss the links when I share them.


Big thanks to Simplyhealth for believing in me and my lifestyle choice to remain healthy and active.  I really appreciate their support.