An adventure to the heart of the Lanarkshire

I need to improvise a bit recently without a van to make dogs happy but also to have something to do at the weekends myself. Last weekend we were invited to my friend Lee to meet their new addition. Roger stayed in Edinburgh on his own adventure with his previous owners. They sometimes help me to look after dogs.

Travelling

I never knew that travelling with a dog by train in Scotland is so easy and actually enjoyable. We walked to Waverly Train Station in Edinburgh, it was very busy but Laferra is good walking near my heel.

It was super busy inside too, so we needed to wait in queue to get our ticket (next time I will buy it online for sure), however princess just sat and waited patiently for our turn. You can have up to two dogs with you on a train. We have managed to get the train without any changes. An hour ride by train was very nice as Lafie settled in no problem sitting on my laps as she was tired after parkrun. She was catching some energy for later.

Carluke

We went to see our friend Lee as she had a new dog coming all the way from Greece (same rescue place as Laferra). I was spamming a bit my page and wall with two puppies from Greece and two of them found home in Scotland. Both arrived Saturday morning and settling in well. However this black dog is special to me, as it looks totally like Laferra when she was younger. They could be easy half sisters??

They were actually very happy to see each other like they knew each other, or maybe Laferra could smell Greece? Ghini the black pointer was delighted to see Laferra. Hopefully one day Lafie could show Ghini how to get into sport 😉

Equitots Lanarkshire Community

My friend Lee has few horses, goats, rabbits, cat and other doggies too. It is like heaven for animals and children. Laferra even chased her cat (oops), loved watching the horses and goats. They organised a lot of cool things: ridding horses, creative activities (I cant wait to join them next time)- like painting the stones and some fun time for kids in forest. Lovely afternoon with dogs and friends just chilling. If you ever looking for something to do with kids have a look at their page!

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Feeling lucky to have an amazing friend like this. I also got a beautiful painted stones as a thank you for helping them out with Ghini and a beautiful bookmark which looks like Laferra. Thank you soooo much! You are so talented.

Return to Edinburgh

Unfortunately the train we were planning to catch has been cancelled so we needed to wait an hour for next one. Had a wee walk around and then Lafie just sat on my laps watching birds. Finally train arrived and we were on the way home. Lafie just fall asleep in the middle of a train and noone said anything to move her. Everyone was carefully passing her. Love how dog-friendly everyone and trains are. Absolutely amazing. I feel very lucky with Laferra being such an easy dog and coping with the world so well.

We have picked up Roger on the way and he was on mission to stop everyone on the way home (3.5km walking took us forever).

Roger the Explorer- What to do when you lose your dog?

Recently I lost Roger in the place I thought I had control over him. There are few factors to this and I don’t blame him but only myself. Here’s a short post with some advice that I have learnt from this experience.

Why he got lost?

Few factors to that:

  • routine has changed as my van broke down, so we took a bus to our usual hilly run.
  • I stopped using ball to keep him occupied.
  • He ran away after bunnies and I let him stay behind us.
  • I whistled but thought he knows where he is and where we were.

What did I do wrong?

So when I realised we lost him, I started searching for him (finally realising it was wrong direction). I whistled and whistled. Laferra kept with me and she really tried to help but she kept running with me. Someone said to me he ran the other way (which eventually I realised wasnt right and that how we missed Roger half way through). I moved from the place we lost him rather than staying as I started to panic.

What happen to Roger?

On the map below there is yellow mark at the bottom where we lost Roger. Roger overthink stuff and only he could thought of running all the way to top yellow mark (bus stop where we got off from the bus) to check if we are there. When he realised we werent there, he ran back to the park, but by that time I started thinking like him, so we met where the heart is on photo. Only Roger could remember a way that he only walked once. Only Roger would think to go and check if we are there. Eventually when we found him, he didnt look stressed, he look way chuffed with himself that he found us. Bless him.

What should I do when I lost him?

  • go to place where I lost him.
  • stay there and whistle and call him cheerfully (I thought I was going to kill him).
  • try to listen for him.
  • don’t panic.
  • don’t stress.
  • if I decided to move around, I should have left my jacket at the place I lost him (friend’s advice).
  • asked around few people rather than one who really had no clue.
  • when Roger was found I cried but I really should have greet him warmly (I gave him massive cuddle).

Happy ending

I was lucky that it was just Roger and I believe as a staffie x border collie he is super smart and just doesn’t think as ordinary dog. Roger is a dog who overthinks and remembers things that were showed to him once. I love him to bits and yes it was scary but I wasn’t stressed however was worried that something would happen to him as you can see he really went to explore Edinburgh. Now I ordered him a gift tho so no more missing Roger: tractive gps. I will let you know how we are getting on with it.

How not to lose motivation?

Recently my training programme is very high volume, which makes me tired and sometimes frustrated. Yesterday during my sessions, I keep saying in my head I need to write about this. So a short note on how to keep motivated on my own experience. It has been almost 15 weeks that I am doing Ben’s training programme and I haven’t missed a single session.

What exactly keeps me motivated? Here are few points.

Identify your goal

Dream big right? So before you start your hard training sessions, have a think what exactly you want to achieve by doing them. Firstly make a short-term goal, but also think about long-term goal and have a wider perspective to see your goals. The results of these perspective could be such as: feeling more confident, better health, happiness and better fitness.

Monitor your progress

Ok, I use Strava, but I also keep my diary after each session. I like to write down how I felt and come back to it, as it shows me that I do progress in all my training. I have three different diaries, one is for canicross (and really dogs’ training), second for my core body exercises, third is for my dogless running and progress there.

Be flexible

Be flexible with your goals, do some changes and make it a bit more challenging specially the short-term one. Remember the small steps will really keep you going if you will see the progress.

Nothing happens without hard work

Some folks think, progress can happen without hard training. Well you are wrong, you really need to put effort to achieve your goals. So remember there are no miracles in this! You need to work hard.

Timeline

Identify your timeline, when do you want to achieve your small goals, but also big goals.

Be happy

You need to work hard but remember have fun during the session too, and if it was bad sessions, remember tomorrow is a new day and it will be better.

Find a partner

Sounds so romantic, but I dont mean it this way! I found that having my dogs off lead is the best thing ever, and I treat them as my running buddies who keep me going.

Stick to your plan and good luck.

 

Cannock Chase Fur Nations weekend

To finish our season we have went all the way down to England to Cannock Chase for Fur Nations races at the weekend. 5h drive on a nice motorway feels like nothing compering to my trip to Poland. Services on the way are super dog-friendly! I tried to stop on different ones and already have few my favourites as some of them are fenced and you can dogs let off lead for a proper stretch.

Weekend away

Have a look at our post how to prepare for your camping with dogs: http://dogxplorescotland.com/camping/. This was our first time to Cannock Chase. Cannock Chase Country Park is one of the largest country parks in England. It is a local government district in England and it covers a large part of Cannock Chase forest and the towns of Cannock, Rugeley and Hednesford.

Unlucky this time the weather wasn’t the best. It was raining a bit and during night there were thunderstorms which was a bit scary even for myself.

As always dogs had a blast.

Surrounding

Cannock Chase is located between Cannock, Lichfield, Rugeley and Stafford. It comprises a mixture of natural deciduous woodland, coniferous plantations, open heathland and the remains of early industry, such as coal mining. The landscape owes much to the underlying Triassic bunter formations. Cannock Chase was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) on 16 September 1958 and is the smallest area so designated in mainland Britain, covering 68 km2 (26 sq mi). Much of the area is also designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Despite being relatively small in area, the chase provides a remarkable range of landscape and wildlife, including a herd of around 800 fallow deer and a number of rare and endangered birds, including migrant nightjars. A feeding station at the Marquis Drive Visitors’ Centre, sponsored by the West Midland Bird Club, attracts many species, including brambling, yellowhammer and bullfinch.

 

Efforts are underway to increase the amount of heathland on the chase, reintroducing shrubs such as heather in some areas where bracken and birch forest have crowded out most other plants. The local flora also includes several species of Vaccinium, including the eponymous Cannock Chase berry (Vaccinium ×intermedium Ruthe). In January 2009, an outbreak of the plant pathogen Phytophthora ramorum was discovered on the chase, at Brocton Coppice. Various restrictions were put in place in an attempt to prevent its spread.

Races

So once again we had two days of racing, great finish to Laferra’s first season. The trails were just under 5km but surprisingly very tough (elevation only 91m). My greek rescue girl was very strong all around and did well by overtaking more people this time than being overtaken. Lovely mix terrain full of grass and forest trails made her go even more. It is very challenging to start in mass and then meet a lot of people out on trails. At the end of the day she is still very young dog and took it all without any problem. 3 weeks after Glamis, I felt once again stronger and really worked hard. Looking forward to part 2 of my programme with Ben Robinson. Time for summer and work even harder for next season. Fur Nations races are joining the list of race must attend next season.

 

My 12 weeks adventure with running programme

Hopefully you had a look at my previous post including some insights into the programme I am doing with Ben Robinson. Why Ben’s programme? Well he is the best in the World, Europe and UK. I think that’s good enough answer. If it isnt enough well here you go more information about Ben:

– BTEC in Sport & Exercise Science.

– Degree in Sports Strength & Conditioning.

– Over 6 years working within the fitness Industry.

– Running at a high level for over 15 years (As well as Canicross since 2014).

– Multiple county titles on the Track, Road & Cross-Country during Junior & Senior years.

– Sub 02:00 800m, Sub 04:00 1500m, Sub 15:00 5km.

– Three-time British Champion of Canicross (2015, 2016, 2017).

– European Champion of Canicross (2017).

– World Champion of Canicross (2017).

– World Record Holder (Canicross 5km) of 12:24 (2017).

– Self-coached Athlete who also coaches Matthew Robinson (Robbo Snr/Ben’s Dad) & Elaine Sherwin (A previous British & European Canicross Champion & current World Record Holder for the Women’s “assisted” parkrun).

The adventure begun

I have never known what to do to improve my running skills. I always stick to good healthy food, which probably somehow helps, but nothing really changed much in the performance. There was maybe slow progress but nothing major. The 12 weeks programme changed the game for me. At the beginning it was to understand the different wording used in “athletics world” and the pacing terminology. Surprisingly I really struggled with it. I literally needed to learn from start. Week by week and it was getting easier to know the paces and what to do.

Firstly I have learnt that recovery runs are very important, and rest days not as much. It is all about different running, not just same session all the time just faster. Variety is the key! I probably don’t make it easy for myself choosing the terrains that aren’t the easiest but I really want to work hard, and push myself!

What has changed?

As I am planning to stay on Ben’s programme for some time (approx 2 years 😀 haha- he cant get rid of me now), it wasn’t all about results. I needed to build strength and my head around all that running. I don’t know how that happened but I felt super excited about every single training session. Half way through the programme I had a break down, but got an amazing support from Ben which really help me to pass that tough time. Back on track and week 9 and 11 proved that hard work pays off. I improved my times, but what is more important I really enjoyed racing with my girl! I felt like running, not trotting anymore. I felt strong and love every step out on trails!

Week 12 just finished and I can’t believe how much it changed. My body is stronger, my head is loving and buzzing for all the running (even hills) but also legs just goes themselves (it feels I started running lighter-not so heavy anymore), my strava keeps saying trending faster. Yeah I just love the running! I even managed to skip my healthy diet, and slipped to have some bad habits for a bit! It didnt affect it all. Everyone deserve a small treat from time to time, right? No more skipping it tho 🙂 and I have added some additional restrictions.

New thinking

I also discover that if I follow the same patterns for pre-race and post-race my body prepares and recovers much better. I felt I was always good, but Ben really changed my thinking on small things, for example to leave my chilli behind if I know I have races coming. I love my chilli and never thought it can affect my running.

I used to be dreading for hills training and my legs would be very tired. Now I understand that the hard work and the tiredness after training is worth, and eventually it will pay back. I also unexpected gain few kgs, but I blame all the muscles, as I see my legs getting stronger. Despite the extra kgs, my legs are feeling lighter and faster, my body looks stronger and tighter during running.

Time to start part two- next 12 weeks programme

I am so looking forward to next programme. Now we are just training, no more races as season finished. My next stop is Trophee des Montagnes in August in France. This event is more about holidays: fun and meeting friends. My next major stop is Canicross Midlands and ICF in Poland. It will be challenging, but I hope to enjoy it and tick it off my bucket list than race it as fast as I can. Keep smiling, keep training and results will come!

 

 

Dog-friendly places to spend fantastic day out with your mutts

Another few place we visited during our holidays were less dog-friendly but still I was very impressed how dog-friendly they were actually.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is a world famous icon of Scotland and part of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site. It was recently voted top UK Heritage Attraction in the British Travel Awards and is Scotland’s number one paid-for tourist attraction.

Explorer pass- Historic Scotland- an amazing historic tour with dogs

Last week was a bit different than usual as I was on holidays and we had a visitor. We have decided on explorer pass which gets you to over 70 attractions and therefore fast track to Edinburgh and Stirling Castles. We have bought 3 days pass which needed to be used within a 5 day period. Most of the attractions are apparently dog-friendly, so we tried to see what it is like to go and visit Castles with dogs.

Tantallon Castle, North Berwick

Set on the edge of the cliffs, looking out to the Bass Rock, this formidable castle was a stronghold of the Douglas family. Ascend Tantallon’s towers for spectacular views of the Bass Rock and to watch gannets plunge into the North Sea. Then descend into the depths of a particularly grim pit prison. The castle was home to the powerful Red Douglas dynasty, which often clashed with the Crown. It was besieged by both James IV and James V but was ultimately destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s troops in a siege of 1651. Tickets: 6 GBP.

Amazing thing about this castle is that you can bring your dog (leashed) and explore the castle. Massive massive respect for being dog-friendly. Love that there were a lot of grass around to walk. Not many tourists too and a lot of place to stop and have a break with stunning views.

Dirleton Castle, Dirleton

A romantic castle often in the forefront of Scottish history since it was built in the 12th century. The renowned gardens include an Arts and Crafts herbaceous border and Victorian garden. The herbaceous border has been authenticated by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s longest. The two gardens and grounds are accessible to those using wheelchairs. Two steps lead to the inner courtyard. The castle interior is restricted for visitors using wheelchairs as are the gazebo and dovecote. Surfaces on all garden paths and those leading to the grounds are suitable for wheelchairs. The main garden has a selection of scented flowers and plants. Tickets: 6 GBP.

I think this one was my favourite, it had lovely garden to walk around the castle but also dogs were allowed inside. It was very quiet with tourists so we could enjoy it just to ourselves. The staff offered us the water for dogs and welcome them too. We even stood in a shop and Roger was taking all the teddy bears! Oops.

We could walk around the castle, but also inside the building in the Great Hall and so on. Dogs loved all the livestock around, we saw goats, cows and horses while walking in the gardens. Dogs were really keen on sniffing around and we could also take an amazing photos out and in. Loved it! I was very impressed with my first castle tour!

Linlithgow Palace

Inside one of the most spectacular ruins in Scotland you cannot help but walk in the footsteps of royalty. This royal pleasure palace was the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots and an iconic filming location in hit TV show Outlander.

Visit the great hall where monarchs hosted banquets, tour James IV’s suite of chambers or say a prayer in the private oratory of James V. Outlander fans will recognise the Palace gates and corridors as being those used in the scenes when Jamie was imprisoned.  You can see the elaborate, restored fountain in action every Sunday in July and August – it reputedly flowed with wine when Bonnie Prince Charlie visited.The high towers look down over the palace’s grounds –the Peel – and Linlithgow Loch, an important refuge for wildlife. You can explore both on well-surfaced paths. Tickets: 6 GBP.

Maybe actually this one is my favourite one?! You can walk around the Palace which has a Loch (dogs ran into it for a cool down), but also an amazing palace’s ground full of ground for playing fetch. A lot of walking around inside the Palace once again brought a lot of interesting smells for my two mutts. Laferra was in love with birds inside the castle as they were really teasing her.

Cragiemillar Castle

The castle of Craigmillar is one of the most perfectly preserved castles in Scotland. Even today, the castle retains the character of a medieval stronghold. Building began in the early 15th century, and over the next 250 years the castle became a comfortable residence surrounded by fine gardens and pastureland. The castles history is not only closely involved with the city of Edinburgh, but plays an important part in the story of Mary Queen of Scots who fled to Craigmillar Castle following the murder of Rizzio. It was in the castle where the plot was hatched to murder Marys husband, Lord Darnley. Built round an L-plan tower house of the early 15th Century, Craigmillar was much expanded in the 15th and 16th Centuries. It is a handsome ruin, including a range of private rooms linked to the hall of the old tower. Tickets: 6 GBP.

Once again a very quiet place to visit with friendly staff and a “make it yourself” wheel trolley so we made ourselves crowns! So much laugh as we knew it was just for kids. A cat welcome us which probably would be funny if Roger would spot it. Apart from that a nice building to walk in and out and literally noone there apart from the staff.

Blackness Castle

One of Scotland’s most impressive strongholds, Blackness Castle was built in the 15th century by one of Scotland’s most powerful families, the Crichtons.

This Castle is close to the beach so dogs could have a deep in the sea, but also on the other side there is grass grounds for them to run around and play. [Note: I actually realised this was a part of our training grounds, but from other side]. Absolutely lovely and tiny castle. Dogs are not permitted in roofed buildings.

Absolutely amazing time exploring! I would defo recommend a dog-friendly tour around Scottish Castles.

Hiker Belt Hurtta review

Hiker Belt description

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Flexible waist adjustment and leg straps keep the belt in place and support the body when pulling.

The flexi section decreases stress when your dog suddenly pulls on the leash, ensuring comfortable movement. The product is equipped with pockets for a water bottle and mobile phone. Bright 3M reflectors improve safety in the dark. The product can be combined with any Hurtta leash. Because the panic lock enables the quick release of the lead, it is also suitable for use in competitions (in my opinion something like dog trekking).

• Versatile padded belt for hiking, trekking, skiing and skating with your dog.
• Separate pockets for water bottle and mobile phone
• Sturdy and comfortable belt
• Gives way if your dog suddenly pulls on the leash
• The panic lock enables the quick release of the lead

Size: One Size

Waistline cm / inch: 75-120 cm / 30-47 inch

Review

Firstly I was surprised with fast delivery from Hurtta. Massive plus for that, but at the same time I was a bit confused as it was heavy parcel. Once opened I realised it was the hiker belt. At first glance looks bulky and big. However once I tried it on it felt better and very comfy. I was excited to try it out for my hiking adventure with the dogs.

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The belt is easy to wear, few changes to make it fit to my body and it is on. Clipping leads on the panic lock was simple and I really liked it. I tried only with one dog, and it was great. However with two dogs it was moving around my body even tho it had two leg straps.

I really like the zip pocket which was perfect size for my car keys and holder for water as it wouldn’t fall. We hike uphill and downhill and it was great with pullying dog (while my belt sat on my hips), when attaching Laferra belt felt a bit uncomfy an moved around a lot.  It is great to make your hands dog-free so I could take photos.

 

This is not recommended for canicross (even tho Hurtta is trying to promote it for canicross) due to its weight but also with it easy movement it would hurt your back with a pullying dog. This is great belt for hiking and walking with your dogs.

 

 

Glamis Castle Fur Nations weekend

Last weekend was very spontaneous, after few chats with friends, I have decided to sign for Fur Nations races at Glamis Castle as it wasn’t really far away from home. Oh boy! It was one of the best weekends.

Weekend away

We love the weekends away with dogs and even better with couple friends and their dogs too! Have a look at our post how to prepare for your camping with dogs: http://dogxplorescotland.com/camping/

Luckily for us the weather was just amazing! We now have much bigger tent, so there is a lot of space for everything really. Although dogs discovered how to escape from it!

Surroundings

Glamis Castle is a living, breathing monument to Scottish heritage, hospitality and enjoyment for all. The family home of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne, Glamis Castle is the legendary setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the childhood home of HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother and the birthplace of Princess Margaret.

Glamis Castle has evolved over the years to create a stunning architectural treasure that is full of vitality to this day. Once inside, every room has its own story and the evolution of the castle and its legendary tales and secrets are brought to life by your own enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guides.

Every painting, every piece of furniture, every little detail along the way is a sharp reminder that this is not a museum but an incredible family home that has witnessed everything from Royal births to being the setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

The gardens surrounding Glamis Castle are beautiful all year round. Walks have been created to take in a mixture of habitats ranging from park land and policies in the immediate vicinity of the castle to the formal Italian Garden, mixed woodland and Pinetum to the North East.

Unfortunately I couldn’t take any photos of inside while we did our tour around the castle. However the staff was lovely saying hi to my dogs asking their stories.

Races

So we had two days of races, it was Laferra turn as Roger still building up for running in the harness. The trails were 5.2km and the start was at the small incline and then via water to then through the woods. Absolutely lovely soft and nice trails.

A lot of overtaking and being overtaken as the categories started in mass start and we were in 4th wave. Laferra loved the mass start and all the dogs around. We worked well together finishing 7th overall in our category (out of 42 runners). 9 weeks training with Ben Robinson proves it works, it made me stronger runner in head but also physically! Ben also supported me with preparation prior to the races (nutrition). We loved it so much I have decided we are going for English leg to Cannock chase in two weeks time!

I know Roger would have loved a run and he is very good with his commands, so he ran with our friend’s little girl (6) and loved it. I think she loved it too.

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Amazing time to be out with our dogs and friends. Chilling all days outside. Absolutely lovely atmosphere and zero politics. That what racing should be all about… fun with dogs 🙂 Looking forward to Cannock Chase!

 

 

“You have to fight to reach your dream. You have to sacrifice and work hard for it.”- Training regime

Coming from a sport background didn’t really help me to know what to do with my running sessions. I definitely needed some guidance on how to improve and put the right programme out there. I have improved my running in 2 years quite well starting at 32minutes and being down to sub 20 (all with a dog). However now it is the time that I will work harder and get the right training. I have signed for Canicross Robinson Online Programme Coaching. If you ever wonder how it looks like and what mentally you go through here is my adventure over 6 weeks.

Week 1

I haven’t felt so excited about running in some time! Actually felt like back to those days where I want or needed to train every day. Ben discussed with me my goals and what I have been doing so far. He really tried to understand my idea of running. Week 0 we have done some testing (I had no clue what results they brought, but nevermind!) Finally my week 1 landed in my inbox. Super excited to see only one day rest! Training session really varied from what I have done before, so I was even more excited. I have hit all the sessions no problem but felt thankful for my recovery run session on Sunday. I also managed to discover that I use a lot of my shoulders during running (they are so sore). Week 1 accomplished without any problems, just feeling a bit tired which means I worked hard.

Week 2

I have made mistake this week and decided to do a session in the afternoon after work. Oh, never ever again. So many dog walkers out there and all those dogs that wanted to join me and dogs running around the park. I will defo stick to morning sessions. This week was a struggle, my legs felt tired and my body felt not well. I didn’t have a rest day in the programme, just recovery runs, which I am loving now. I am glad this week has passed now.

Week 3

Week 3 was way easier than before, I felt shit during sessions, but afterward, it looked like my runs are getting stronger and better. A week has been going better than last week, I can feel stronger, but my body suffers every week. Noone said it will be easy right. My recovery runs feel great and legs aren’t feeling like stones anymore. My running buddies are brilliant every time.

Week 4

Week 4 was tough, I was away for a business trip, which means training without dogs- my best running buddies. Ben planned session so I could fit it with my travels. Saturday canicross was mentally tough, as my legs were very tired. Overall I thought this week will be tougher than it actually was. I survived! Looking forward to next week already.

Week 5

It is already over a month I am doing the training, I feel the legs are stronger, splits shows I am getting a bit faster, but I don’t feel like it. This week is a race week, so training programme has been adjusted so I have some rest prior… To finish up the week 5 Laferra and I had fantastic run at SDAS Ford races. Two very consistent runs. Super happy.

Week 6

Halfway through the programme and I really managed to surprise myself this week as I could feel that I am getting stronger as sessions feel like I am doing better and more. I also manage to do 2 hilly loops instead of only one, and still feel strong and breath in! (yes I pushed and work hard). Never thought I will look forward as much to my recovery runs.

 

I always run around, but this tailored programme really builds my strength not only in body but also in my head! I never ever thought I will go out there in the morning and do hills runs! The whole morning training keeps me buzzing for the day but also it makes my dogs very happy as they run with me, and pretty much do the same training! 🙂 well makes them snoring dogs.

 

Happy traning everyone. If you missed my post about early starts have a read here.