Keeping my hands busy

I recently took up crochet. Besides recognizing the joy it was bringing to my circle of friends, I was keen to learn a new skill. My coloring books were gathering dust and I was picking up in conversations that crochet was becoming quite trendy.

What? Was this old-fashioned hobby making a comeback?

As a newbie, I was advised to start at the wool shop at Northlands Deco Park where “everyone goes.” They were right, the place was a hive of activity! People were scanning through books of both knitting and crochet patterns laid out on a table. Squeals were heard when a new delightful wool was discovered. Others hovered at the shelves as if they were in a library choosing a new book to read.

I strolled through the many layers of coloured balls of wool shelves along the wall. Stroking. Squeezing. Brushing my fingers lightly over the knitting needles like a feather. Acting like I knew exactly what I was looking for. Crochet hooks of different styles and sizes hung on the wall. OMG, where do I even start?

After mustering up enough courage to ask for assistance and revealing that I was a total newbie to this world, I walked out the shop with a crochet hook and x9 balls of wool, smiling.

I couldn’t contain my excitement!

Crochet is one of the easiest hobbies to grasp. With a basic understanding of the simplest of stitch I started crocheting a large square to finally stitch together a lap blanket.

The wool looks pretty but is a pain to work with!

If only my Granny could see me now!

Here’s what my new hobby has taught me:

  • My hands are too busy to hold my phone. This is the biggest plus! For a change, crochet allows me to take a break from social media. Everybody needs to do this.
  • You listen to TV shows, rather than watching. I find it almost impossible to look away when I’m crocheting meaning I can’t watch TV at the same time. Some shows can be listened to, like Will & Grace, others not. Good Girls needed my full attention.
  • I bought wool that was on sale. I realize now just why it was on sale. It’s fluffy, hard to work with. Grrr! Hobbies take time and practice to hone the skill. You don’t get it right the first time. Lessons learnt.

The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that, just like running, you have to make time to do it. If it’s 10 minutes while supper cooks or being the passenger in the car on a trip. I’ve also set aside time on weekends to just sit and crochet. No disturbances.

With so much else going on, and with so much I want to do – reading, running, walking Emma – prioritizing my time and what I spend it on has been an eye opener for me.

Crochet makes me look down and zone out. It’s actually quite similar to running in fact. But less sweaty. 🙂

My very first square done!

Okay, hands up! Who wants a crochet blanket for Christmas?

Jump on the bus

You can hear the bus coming down the road. The rhythmic shuffle. The feet pounding in unison. Sometimes a whistle. Other times a tambourine. The leader shouting out to the runners behind them.

If there’s one thing I love about road races, it’s the buses that pace runners! These angels ensure we run the time we’ve set out to run but also to get us to that finish line. I encountered my first bus during my first Two Oceans half marathon.

That’s me in the red top, next to Dave, coming up University Drive.

A newbie to races and unsure how to pace myself in those final few kilometers, pacesetter Dave took all that stress away and helped me walk and run when I needed to in order to save my energy. He sang songs, told stories and made me believe that the race was in his hands and I didn’t need to worry.

Those last few meters coming up University Drive are still imprinted in my memory when he shouted out to me and others, “You’ve done it! Run like horses to the stables!” LOL

He was right. I have the medal to prove it too.

Hanging with someone who has your back, who only wants you to succeed and gives you the right guidance along the way is something special. In the races, these buses have flags so you can see them.

But it’s worth looking for those “flags” in other areas of your life too. Find those buses in your life, not just on the road.

Find them at work where it’s particularly tough and you need the extra support to reach your goals. Ignore toxic people who have their own agendas.

Find them among your friends, the ones who lift you up and tell you what you need to hear, rather than what you want to hear.

Running this race called life is tough. Jump on those buses and finish your race!

Letting the dogs out

I’ve always loved dogs. We grew up surrounded by dogs, especially the larger breeds such as Great Danes and Boerboels. In my teenage years, my sister and I worked at the SPCA on weekends. So when my Junkie friends, Brenda and Erica, asked if I’d like to join them to walk the dogs at a local dog shelter, I immediately said yes.

We arrived at the dog shelter and were taken on a short tour of the kennels. My heart stopped. Most of the dogs were big. Very big! They were magnificent! I guess I had grown accustomed to being around Annie & Emma, my little Brussels Griffon breeds and had not spent time with any large dogs in a very long time.

We were paired up in two’s and shown how to hold the dogs on the lead. It was a case of taking turns to walk the dogs down the street, then return to the two different enclosures for the dogs to be able to run freely, which they did. And in the one enclosure, there was a pool which they loved!

I won’t lie, I was scared. The very first dog I took was difficult to hold, strong and heavy. I was relieved that the young girl I was paired up with was a regular dog walker to that shelter and while I panicked in my head, she told me the background story to each and every one of the dogs we walked. Their names, where they came from, their personalities. She clearly had favourites. I was relieved she could “read” each dog well.

While we walked the dogs, another bunch of volunteers cleaned the kennels and provided bowls of food and fresh water. Their blankets were laid out in the sun to dry. That smell of wet kennels and jik permeated the air and brought up many memories of those SPCA days.

We all thought it would be a quick and easy morning. But it was hard work! My hands were broken and it felt as if I had been hit by a bus. Tucking into Steers burgers on the way home, we all acknowledged that it was harder than we had initially imagined.

When we left the shelter, the dogs were fed, walked, clean and happy. There are special people who commit to making sure this happens each and every day. They dedicate their lives to not only looking after these amazing animals, but to finding homes for them. But they cannot do it alone.

You can find more information on their Facebook page. We all promised to be back to do it all again. It’s so rewarding!

Okay heart, let’s try stop the beating

A few weeks ago, my personal trainer SuperStacey noticed that every time I ran, my heart rate would skyrocket above 190bpm. It’s never bugged me and I wouldn’t be faint or out of breath when I ran. But it didn’t look right.

Heart rate

This is what my heart rate usually looks like. I start running & it shoots up!

In typical Stacey fashion, she did some research to understand the issues and came up with a mini programme to train my heart. In her words, “…it makes no sense to only strengthen your hamstrings, glutes and core while your heart is what’s letting you down on the runs.” I did also occur to me that with all the running that I was doing, my aerobic fitness was terribly low. Not good.

Running Junkie Francis recognized my new running program on my Strava update as the “Maffetone” method. The what?

*Created by Phil Maffetone, the Maffetone Method is a style of training that focuses exclusively on aerobic running. Using a heart rate formula of 180 – your age (plus several corrections for injury, fitness level, health, etc.) you come up with an “aerobic maximum heart rate.”

In a nutshell, the low heart rate based Maffetone training method is meant to build up my aerobic base and keep my runs in the fat burning zone. Sounds good!

Talk about frustration, but the last couple of runs have been dreadful! Just when I get going, my watch beeps warning me that my heart rate is over the limit into what Garmin calls “Threshold” and a little red heart flashes on the watch face. I’m meant to slow down a bit until the heart turns to green indicating that my heart rate is down to aerobic levels.

Lower heart rate

Forcing myself to stop and bring down the heart rate – so far so good. It’s a big difference.

I run a few meters, hear the beep, slow down and then come to a crawl before I can run again, hear the beep, come to a crawl… a few times I’ve even had to stop to bring it down as it hovers in the 170’s!

This morning’s run felt a bit easier and it is something I’m keen to get right. It’s the patience I’m not so good with!

This is a run in March vs. May. Notice the difference in running zones.

I’ve discovered with running that there’s always something new to learn about my body and to shape my training around a new challenge.

Speed sessions. Strength training. Breathing techniques. Building my core. Leg work. When it comes to running, the training programs are endless.

I must also confess that I’m not the biggest fan of running in winter. This “maffetone phase” of mine suits me because it means I can focus on a few shorter runs, even run at the gym and not have any long distance training runs to focus on during the colder days. I might as well give it a go.

Have you ever tried it? Has it worked?

* Source: https://strengthrunning.com/2015/02/maffetone-method-and-base-training/