Curse of the Jelly Babies

Last week I learned an old athlete's lesson the hard way: don't do anything on a race day that you haven't done in training.

I ran my first half marathon and, even though I never usually eat when I do that distance, for some strange reason I got it into my head that it would be a good idea to.

I packed up my jelly babies and off I went. It was all going well up until the eighth mile. I had a steady pace, I was overtaking people, I was even (dare I say) enjoying it, but then I ate the jelly babies and everything changed.

Now I have heard time and time again that jelly babies are a runner's best friend, so I didn't even consider that they might have a negative affect. Within three minutes of eating said sugary people though, I had a panic attack: my chest seized up, my heart started racing and it was impossible to keep running.

If I'd known no better I would have thought I was having a heart attack. The only reason I knew I wasn't is because this had happened to me before, on another occasion that I ate jelly sweets while running. Those are the only times I've eaten sweets while running and they're the only times I've had those panic attacks: it's got to be more than a coincidence.

For the last four miles I was doing a mixture of running and walking, because every time I started running again the panic attack came on again. And the weirdest thing of all was that my heart kept racing for a good few hours after the race, and it made me very sick.

I have been asking running experts what they think happened and nobody seems to know, although I have found some other people who have experienced the same thing and gone to hospital. They said the doctor's couldn't explain it. I'm going to see my doctor in a few weeks so hopefully I'll get some answers then. If any of you have any ideas please do let me know.

I'm really disappointed that after months of training, and knowing that I could easily manage the distance, I messed it up for myself. So my message once again is this: DON'T TRY ANYTHING ON A RACE DAY THAT YOU HAVEN'T DONE IN TRAINING.

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It's fun to work out at the YMCA

This week I'm going to big up the gym I talked about signing up to last week. Having moved quite a lot in the last few years I have been to quite a number of gyms. I have to say though that I have never been quite as impressed as I am with my new one.

It is a YMCA gym and so far beats all the university, hotel and leisure centre gyms I have ever been a member of. Why? Because it didn't patronize me with an induction ("So stand on the treadmill, press menu..." - purrlease), but instead they spent two hours devising me a personlised programme at no extra cost.

Before we signed up to this gym myself and the boy went round a few to price them up. This was the only one that didn't want a joining fee, would allow us to leave whenever we wanted without charging us and that offered a free programme on top of all of this. Fitness First wanted a huge £50 a month and a £70 joining fee if you wanted a programme. 70 whole pounds! And we would have had to have signed up for a minimum of 12 months.

YMCA spent an hour doing various tests including peak flow, stretch tests, cardiovascular tests and then made a note of all my measurements. A few days later my instructor called me back in to take me through the programme she had written for me, with my running in mind. At the end of the month she'll reassess my goals and then in two months she'll do all the tests again to see how I'm progressing.

If there is a YMCA gym near you I strongly advise checking it out. The decor and gimicks may not be as snazzy as at some other well-known chain gyms, but that is made up for with specific advice more than makes up for it. Who really wants to pay an extra £15 a month for the occasional glass of orange squash anyway?

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