Beginner Note 29 September 2012

Hello runners,

I missed you on Thursday!  I heard the run went very well.  I can’t believe we are already doing 3 minute intervals – that’s huge.  Everyone is doing well with the program.  Our next few weeks look about the same but those running intervals just keep getting a little bit longer.  As the intervals lengthen, some of you may start to struggle.  Please don’t worry about that!  It’s normal.  If that happens, do everything you can to keep jogging.  Slow it down to a crawl if you must but DON’T WALK.  Jog so slow that you could definitely walk faster than you’re jogging, but don’t walk (until the walking interval starts).  This is very important.  We are trying to get our bodies used to  running and trying to improve our cardio fitness to a point where running long distances is possible.  For those of you who don’t normally do a lot of sport, your heart will be stressed by this program.  It should be.  The heart is just like any other muscle in the body; it has to be taxed/pushed to become stronger.  So, if you are struggling, don’t be downtrodden by that.  It means you are stressing your cardio system and you’ll be stronger in the end for it.

Now….  onto the half-marathon in Bratislava.  Several of you have already committed to the trip and arranged your airline tickets.  That’s fabulous!!!!  If you are unsure about the trip, please don’t worry.  There is no pressure to commit right now.  In terms of motivation, there seems to be two types of women.  Some people commit immediately to a challenge, tell all their friends and family what they’re doing, post that program on the frig and this incentivises them to keep training.  Others tell no one that they are attempting to run, don’t commit to the trip until the very last minute, don’t look at the program but keep showing up to run each week.  Believe me, I understand both of these approaches!!!  I’ve tried them both.  I will continue to update the group on plans for the half-marathon weekend, but those of you who are sitting back waiting to decide, please feel no pressure!!!!  On the other hand, if you have any questions/concerns or just want to sit down and ask me if this is really possible, I’m happy to help you, answer your emails or meet you for a coffee anytime.  

New info on the Bratislava weekend!!!  The contract with the Sheraton Hotel is finalised and we have been offered the following rates:

        €100 per room per night for a single

        €110 per room per night for a double

These rates include breakfast and all taxes except for a €1.65 per person per night city tax.  What a deal!  I’ve heard that the airline prices are quickly increasing (particularly on the 2:40pm BA flight into Vienna).  Hopefully the very reasonable hotel prices will offset the expense of the airline tickets.  Several women have opted for the earlier BA flight (around 11:00am in Vienna).  Because of that, I will probably be organising a coach to meet each of those flights.  And remember, you always have the option of flying on EasyJet or Ryan Air – those may be less expensive tickets.  For the hotel, do not book directly – just tell me that you want a room and I will arrange it.

Lastly, thank you so much for organizing yourselves into groups when the Tues/Thurs time slot doesn’t work for you.  This is brilliant.  It is so much more fun (and easier) to run with a friend than to go it alone.  Thanks a million!

I look forward to seeing you on Thursday.  Please, please, please – email or call me if you have any questions.  You are not bothering me!!!!



Beginner Note 22 September 2012

Hello Everyone,

I’m so excited that I can hardly stand it!  We have such a fabulous group this year.  You are all doing so well.  I’m thrilled with our progress.  We do have a few additions to our group since my last email so I’ll give a brief recap of what we’re doing.  If you been running since the beginning, just skip down to the next paragraph.  We are all beginner runners who are trying to learn to run.  We will be following a walk/jog interval schedule which gradually builds over the weeks (see the attached interval schedule).  The program is designed to have us ready to run a half-marathon in the spring.  Everyone is welcome in the group whether or not they are aiming to do the half-marathon.  Some ladies want to learn to run but have no interest in running long distances.  That’s fine!  Everyone is welcome.  That being said, our group is huge.  I can’t turn anyone away – I don’t have it in me!  But there is definitely no need to continue “recruiting” for our group.  If we get too big, it’s hard to run through the city.  I will be leading the runs on Thursdays with help from Bonnie, Betsy and Syma.  I hope you have all meet our coaches.  They are a fabulous resource for you.  Each of them have come through the beginner group in some form or fashion.  The group meets without the coaches on Tuesday mornings to repeat the run we did together the previous Thursday.  It is important that you get that second run in each week.  If you are not able to meet the group, email everyone and see if you can find someone to run with you at a different time.  On Tuesdays (or whenever you do your second weekly run), it’s critical to keep the pace slow.  

In one of the first emails to the group, I asked you to wait (if possible) to go buy running shoes until you had settled into a running style.  Now’s the time – you have STYLE!  We have an arrangement with Runners Need (they have several locations around London) for a 10% discount on most merchandise.  Just tell them you run in the group with Paula Mitchell and they will honour that deal.  At Runners Need, they will watch you run on a treadmill and recommend a shoe that would be good for your running style/gait.  If you already have running shoes but aren’t sure they are right for you, go to Runners Need.  They’ll watch you run and let you know.  They are very helpful.  Just a FYI – running shoes last about 400 miles (more if you are lighter and possibly less if you are heavier).  I usually write the date of purchase on the insole so I can keep track of how old my shoes are.  Experts recommend that you buy a running shoe 1/2 – 1 sizes bigger than your street shoe size.  Our feet swell while we’re running so they need some space and you never want your toes bumping into the end of the shoe.  If you do buy a shoe a bit larger, let one of us know so we can show you how to tie the laces.  There’s a little trick to it.  Some other products you might consider buying are good socks (I use double-layer anti-blister socks but ask around – everyone seems to have a favourite) and a rain-jacket.  We will run rain or shine, snow or hail so you’ll need something weatherproof.  I’ve had better luck finding rain-jackets at Field and Trek, Black’s, North Face, Snow and Rock, etc.  Runners Need usually only has a couple of styles in stock.  The rain-jacket needs to be breathable.  For running clothes, dri-fit products are always the best.  I wear a lot of layers during the winter so I can peel off while I’m running and put them back on post-run.  For now I would recommend tying extra clothes around your waist and NOT buying a backpack.  I’ll explain why sometime when we’re running.  Little running belts can be very helpful to hold Oyster card/cash/keys/etc.  Those are great, just avoid running with a backpack for now.

For the first 8 weeks of the program, we will stay local and always loop back to St. John’s Wood.  Beginning on Thursday, 18 October, we mix it up and do some loop routes and some destination runs.  On that Thursday (18 Oct), we will do our first destination run to Big Ben.  We will take take the tube home from Westminster so bring your Oyster card and some cash.  Most of you are running now without carrying water which is fine.  Most people can exercise in moderate temperatures for 45-60 minutes without water, but some of you may really need water (which is also fine!!!).  As our runs get longer, everyone will need to carry water so in November, we will do a group run down to the Holborn Runners Need to look at hydration belts/bottles/packs/etc.  If you’re a big drinker, let me know and I’ll recommend something for you.  For now it’s fine to just carry a water bottle if you don’t want to buy a belt yet – no problem!

Plans are coming together for our trip to Slovakia for the half-marathon.  I’ll send out more information in the next few weeks as we finalize everything.  For the trip, I book the hotel, transport to/from the hotel, and most of the activities for the weekend.  All you have to do is book your flights (once we decide which flight to take) and register for the race (opens 10 January).  For now, you don’t even have to think about any of that.  There is a race website: but there’s not much English on the site.  As I get information from the race director I’ll send that out to you.

A couple of other things…..  I won’t be there next Thursday but Syma, Bonnie and Betsy will take good care of you!  Also, we will begin to stretch after we run starting in two weeks.  We’ll finish in the park at the end of the high street to stretch.  For now, consider stretching at Starbucks at the end of the run or at home after we run.  If you have any injuries or particular tightness, let me know – I’ll give you some specific stretches to address those areas.  

Some of you haven’t been able to open the program files.  I’ve attached the program in a pdf format and I will try to remember to bring some hard-copies next time I see you.  I’ll also post this email on our website –  – under the “Beginners” tab later tonight.  Congratulations on a job well done so far!!!

Happy Running,


Beginner Note 7 September 2012

Hello everyone,

We are off to a great start!  I think we’re going to have a very strong group this year.  You are all making it look easy.  I promise you can start complaining any time now.  You don’t have to be so quiet and agreeable!!!  I’ve attached our program in two separate files for those of you who haven’t received a hard copy yet.  One is more of a weekly view of what we’re doing and the other file breaks down week by week our running and walking intervals.  There are some notes on the program that explain a bit about how things work.  For those of you who are just joining us, don’t worry!  You’ll be fine.  Our routine is this:  on Thursdays I run with the group and we also have Bonnie, Syma and Betsy running with us to help out.  The following Tuesday, the group will meet at Starbucks at the same time (always 8:15am) and repeat what we did the prior Thursday.  Bonnie, Syma and Betsy run with our more advanced groups which meet on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  They have all come through some version of our beginner group so they can definitely relate to what you’re going through.  They are all fabulous runners and are a great source of information about training and fitness.  

Quite a few of you have asked why we’re running so slow and/or why do we have walking breaks.  I’ll try to explain some of that philosophy.  Most of us have tried to run at some point in our lives or we had to do it in school.  Usually we have less-than-wonderful memories about running.  In my opinion, most people trying to learn to run go too fast.  They head out the front door like a rocket, chest pounding, lungs gasping for air, legs screaming, etc.  No wonder we don’t stick with it.  It’s horrible.  From my experience, if we start very slowly, run at a very gentle pace and don’t get our heart-rates too high, then we’re OK to keep at it.  When we finish running as a group, you should be feeling like you did something but you shouldn’t be exhausted.  That is the psychological side of it.  From a physiological viewpoint, if you are new to running then your body isn’t necessarily ready to support that activity.  By starting the program very gently we give our bodies time to catch up.  Over the first few weeks, there are small changes happening within your muscular system.  The small stabilizer muscles surrounding joints will strengthen.  The larger muscles which drive movement will start to “wake up”.  Most likely you will not notice these changes in the mirror, but they are happening.  By beginning a new training regime gradually, we can hopefully keep injuries at bay.  This is one of the reasons we definitely need to keep our pace slow on Tuesdays.  Reign each other in!!!  Try to replicate the pace we do together on Thursdays.  If you run too fast, it can lead to injury or make you very frustrated with running.  I’ll repeat this because it’s critical……  keep the Tuesday run SLOW, very SLOW!!!

During the first few weeks of our program, we’ll continue to have additions to the group and start to see some attrition.  Usually by October, the group settles into a pack and running becomes part of your weekly routine.  For those of you who have some running experience, please consider moving up to our Mon/Wed/Fri groups.  We have another 100-110 runners who run a wide range of pace and distance.  You will have people to run with and you will be able to keep up.  Believe me, you’ll be happier in the end.  The beginner group progresses very slowly and I will continue to keep the group running at a very slow pace.  It’s part of the master plan!!!  One last thing here….  if you are already a runner (therefore have a natural pace/gait), running this slow can actually hurt.  I’m happy to explain the physics of a more up and down motion on your hips/knees.  If you’re new to running, this is exactly what you should be doing… developing a gait.  If you already are a runner then that slow pace will create an unhealthy amount of impact on your joints.  Is there anything else I can say to encourage you to move up????  Let me know if you want to discuss this – I’m happy to sit down with any of you individually and talk about how you could transition to the next level in our running group.  Lastly on this topic, if you are already a runner, after a few weeks you’ll be running circles around our true “newbies”.  It’s depressing for them to feel that they are working SOOOOOOO hard and you’re flitting around as though it’s a gentle stroll in the park.  

Let’s talk a bit about more fun things such as shoes and clothes.  We have a deal with Runners Need (there are stores all over London) for 10% off merchandise with them.  Just tell them you are running with me and they will honor that deal.  I would recommend that you wait 3-4 weeks before going in there to buy shoes.  Once you’re ready, they will ask you to run on a treadmill in the store, they will analyse your gait and recommend the appropriate type of shoe.  They don’t always go for the most expensive shoe.  They will give you some options.  Why the wait?  In my opinion, as you start running each person develops a gait and it actually improves (or becomes more efficient) over time.  This happens without us doing anything to “work on” your style.  If you go in now for shoes, they may fit you in shoes that are appropriate for your current gait.  That gait may very well change in the next few weeks so hold off if you can make yourself wait!  If you don’t believe me, read the article in the NY Times from last week.  There is some new research out which suggests this exact concept is true.  It’s an interesting article anyway.  I’ll try to find a way to get you a copy.  Some of you have asked about kit for bad weather.  First of all, we WILL run no matter the weather!  The only time we cancel runs would be for icy conditions which are dangerous.  Otherwise, we run in rain, sleet, snow, hail, etc.  That being said, you might consider buying a good running rain-jacket.  It needs to be lightweight and breathable.  Runners Need sells them as does most of the outdoor shops.  Stanfords on Long Acre sells a great jacket that folds up into a little bag.  It also comes in about 10 different colors so that’s kind of fun.  You might be surprised that we don’t usually have to run in rain.  I’m serious.  Ask Betsy, Syma or Bonnie.  Usually if it’s raining it passes over.  It’s rare we run in heavy rain.  

Congratulations if you’ve made it down this far in the email!!!  It’s getting boring…..  I know!!!  This is the last bit.  Our running group has a website:  I’ll post this email under “Notes from Paula” so if you’re suffering from insomnia sometime in the coming weeks you can go back, read this email and fall straight to sleep!!!  Seriously, there is a lot of information on that website that pertains to more experienced runners.  Please don’t worry too much about the information out there.  Most of it doesn’t apply to new runners.  Once our half-marathon trip starts to firm up, I’ll be posting a lot of information about the trip on the website.  Our program will also be out there as well as some route information if you’re interested.  So the website could be helpful but don’t worry too much about it now.  There are things out there about physios/osteopaths/functional movement specialists/etc.  For the most part, this applies to women who are already runners.  I would suggest that you run for awhile before thinking about seeking specialist advice.  In fact, there is every chance that you’ll make it all the way until the spring and not need any of those special “treatments”.  

That’s it for now.  Ladies, I’m serious here….  you’re doing great.  We are going to be a fabulous group.  Hang in there, keeping coming out to run and you’ll get there.  I’ll do whatever I can to help you through this.  I’ll hold your hand, I’ll piggy-back you if need be.  Just keep showing up and it will happen.  By the spring we’ll all be uber-runners!!!  

I’ll look forward to seeing you next Thursday hearing about how SLOW you ran on Tuesday!

Happy Running,


7 September Note

Hello Beginners!

This is your page!  You’ll find below the series of emails from me and your program that we are following together.  As we progress I’ll be sending you information on nutrition, hydration, training, etc.  You’ll be able to go to this page to access any of that information.  To your left is a photo of some of last year’s beginner runners running the half-marathon in Lisbon.  Look at them go!  This can DEFINITELY be you next spring in Bratislava!

                                Let me know how I can help,


7 September Note