Friday, 27 March 2015

I Went To Iceland

As my twitter feed will confirm, I have spent most of this week in Iceland on a bit of a holiday with my mum. It was equal parts tiring and relaxing. Tiring because in order to see the Northern Lights you have to stay up quite late and relaxing because we spent a whole afternoon at The Blue Lagoon and really did very little else apart from meandering around Reykjavik, eating and drinking. I didn't have a hundred things competing for brain space. I didn't need to be anywhere at a particular time. I nice change of pace for me.
At the Blue Lagoon
My training was naturally much lighter in the past seven days but I'm in taper for Brighton anyway so I'm cool with that. I landed very late last night so missed my swimming lesson and the session that my coach had scheduled, but I'm going out to do that later and switch out Sunday's rest day for a catch up day. It's nothing too arduous so I figure I can cope. The weekend before I left was great in terms of running though. I ran a total of 17.5 miles, broken down into a half hour recovery run and a long run in 4 parts... Woodley parkrun (where I PB'd), running to the test Bracknell parkrun, running said test parkrun and running home again the long way round.
Getting ready for the Norther Lights trip.
It was really fun to be part of the test team and to check out the course before the inaugural event on April 4th. It reminded me of Basingstoke a little, a twisty 3 laps with a long incline through the woods and some sharper climbs over grassy banks that will test the legs a bit.
The mountain we could see from our hotel
On the Sunday, the day before I flew out I had my assessment for my Exercise Referral module. It was a long old day, as not only did I have to teach my circuit and defend my portfolio but I also had to take part in all the other candidates' circuits which amounted to around 4 hours activity. It was a long day but ultimately a good one as I passed and have now completely finished my diploma. The sense of relief was huge!
The other view from the hotel: Concert Hall and Harbour.
So that's what I've been up to over the last week. It's full steam ahead again now though as I'm straight back into training, PT-ing and event work. So for now I'll leave you with wishes for a lovely and relaxing weekend. Have fun!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Should You Exercise When Sick?

I have followed the Precision Nutrition blog for some time. They're a good resource for anyone with an interest in health and fitness with a fine line in infographics. I wanted to share this one in particular because I know I often struggle to decide whether I should work out when I'm feeling under the weather and there really are times when it pays not to try and be superhuman.

When you're training for something it's easy to convince yourself that working out and pushing through is better for you than resting up. Every missed session can feel like a disaster but you need to recover. Maybe you switch the session for something lighter to help the immune system but don't go out and do a hill set. That ain't gonna do you any favours.

There's a full article on working out when sick, as well as the info graphic below and another accompanying infographic on what to eat when sick.
Source: Precision Nutrition
Stay healthy!

Monday, 23 March 2015

A Week in the Life

I did a day in the life post a few months ago but life's changed so much since then and although I put a lot into my Friday Round Up posts there's so much that doesn't make it in there too. So I thought I'd give you a sense of what my weeks look like at the moment. Get a cuppa and a biscuit.

Monday : I'm up and out around 8am for the day job. I usually have some interval or hill work to do as my training and if I can be faffed with showering at lunchtime I'll try and do it then. After work I PT a friend, stay for some food and then head home to chill or do my own work out.

Tuesday : I'm often sent to Newbury for the day job on a Tuesday. This makes my commute significantly longer so dinner time ends up being traffic-dependent. I lead my RunFitUK group at 7:30 and often follow this up with my own training session in the gym. Then it's home to shower, eat and write next week's session whilst listening to my dad's radio show on
Wednesday : I start the day job early on Wednesdays so that I can leave early and head over to BoxBellFit to teach metafit, HIIT and Kettlebells. This is one of my favourite parts of the week. I'll do some strength training after classes then head home for a late dinner and an early night.
Thursday : Up at 5:35am to teach Kettlebells at BBF at 6:30am then at my desk just after 8am. Despite the early start I love it. We're getting some gorgeous sunrises at the moment. Coffee is a big feature of the day.  I PT straight after work, then train and use any time left between then and my swimming lesson at 9:30pm to study/session plan and just catch up on stuff. I'll try and cook a batch of something so I don't have to worry too much about lunches. Home. Shower. Sleep.
Friday : WFH! Lie in day! I'll sneak my training in before work or at lunchtime so I have a clear evening for fun things. If I'm in I'll do some "proper" cooking and might be sociable by having a friend over to chat and watch a film but sometimes Friday night is gig night which is also fun.

Saturday : parkrun day! After parkrun I PT and then tackle a bike session if it's been scheduled. I try and get all the activity out of the way early on so I have the afternoon to myself. I don't get many big chunks of time in my week any more so allotmenting, sewing, cooking, all my other occasional hobbies, happen here. General rule of thumb seems to be that if I've not been out on Friday I'll have something going on on Saturday.
Sunday : Long Slow Run day with occasional dog walking unless I'm marshaling for Barnes Fitness, in which case I'll do my LSR on Saturday and skip parkrun. Sunday evenings are for chilling out. Always.
I'm just about keeping things balanced but it'll probably all change again in a few weeks. Until then I'm just keeping on keeping on.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Funk, Soul and R&B (Running and Bananas!)

This week I seem to have mostly been eating bananas. Bananas in porridge, with yogurt and granola, mashed and heated through with a square of chocolate, in pancakes, with nut butter and on their own. And I still have a curry recipe I want to try. I came away with a stack of left overs from the race last weekend and my freezer only has so much space. Any more banana recipe suggestions (apart from cake, smoothies and ice-cream) are welcome.
And I already had some in the fruit bowl!
So back to last weekend. I had a bit of an unplanned rest day on Friday. I'd gone to my swim class against better judgement on Thursday, having suffered with a streaming cold all day, and felt better for it but woke up on Friday morning feeling congested and achy. My first thought, as it was 5:30am, was that it was early enough to get a gym session or run in before work. My second thought was that I'd be far better off staying in bed with a cup of tea and some Breaking Bad. I had a chat with my coach scheduled that day and he agreed it was better to take the time off and moved my schedule around so I wasn't tempted to try and play catch up. Better to set something achievable than destroy any confidence gained in the race simulation session the week before.

By Saturday I was feeling up to the day ahead: parkrun, PT client, dog walking and study. A productive day. I had a whale of a time helping out at Cholsey Chase on the Sunday and even managed to drag myself out mid afternoon for a 10 mile training run. I find it so hard to go out at that time but it was a good, solid run and I rewarded myself by spending the rest of the day in my PJs and an over-sized hoodie I've had since Uni.
My "not leaving the house again today" outfit
So apart from Friday, this week's training has been pretty good. Admittedly I skipped my bike session due to lack of time but I managed everything else scheduled. A reasonable strength session, 27 miles run and an early morning swim today. I was so late home and knackered after PT and my run last night that I decided to skip swim class. I know, I know, but running is the bigger priority but actually I got more crawl practice done this morning than I would have done in class.

And the week in general has been fun. We did a beer race at RunFit this week which everyone seemed to enjoy and I've seen some lovely sunrises. I got some new music and a new book through he post, both of which I'd forgotten I'd ordered. Oh and I got asked to be Godmother for my cousin's little girl! I'm so excited about this I only gave a small thought to the race I'll miss for the Christening. That's very unlike me.
This weekend I'm testing out the course for the brand new parkrun that's due to start in Bracknell in April and I'm back at UEL Sports Dock on Sunday for my assessment for my Exercise Referral module, the last in my PT diploma. I'm crossing fingers and toes that I pass because on Monday I'm off on a much anticipated break to Iceland with my mum for a few days, and I'd really rather not have a re-sit hanging over me. With everything else that I've been busy with in the past few weeks I keep forgetting it's so soon. I've not packed yet!

But before all that I'm having a Night Out tonight with Craig Charles as he brings his funk and soul DJ set to Reading! I'm not sure I'm built for nights out anymore but I'll sure as hell be throwing some shapes on that dance floor, for better or worse.

What was your last big Night Out? Has your social life suffered as much as mine thanks to training?

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Behind the Scenes at Cholsey Chase

Ever wondered just what goes on behind the scenes on race day? As a participant you'll likely have arrived to see the start and finish areas set up, water stations in place, timing boards and photographers ready to go and the registration area buzzing. If you've ever given up some of your time to be a marshal at an event you might have helped to set up aid stations, put out signs and helped to set up the registration area. But even then there's so much else that has to happen to make races the success that they are.

This year I'm helping out behind the scenes at all but one of the Barnes Fitness events and gaining a huge amount of insight into and appreciation for just how many things have to come together in the lead up to the day and indeed on the day itself. The first event of the season was Cholsey Chase, a 9 mile event that is mostly off road, with some stunning views at the top of some tough climbs.

The race was due to start at 10:30am, but by the time I arrived at 8am it was clear that Ellie and a handful of others had already been on site for a while, marking out the course and setting up the registration area inside the sports pavilion. I set about helping to inflate the finishing arch, mark the parking areas, fill water containers, collect bananas and set up the finish area.
By 9am we had a full compliment of marshals including some familiar faces from Woodley parkrun who were not only manning registration desks but running as well... dedication! There was some mild concern that the timing chips hadn't arrived but just before the runners started to turn up they appeared. I just had time to avail myself of possibly the largest piece of bakewell slice I've ever seen from the cafe before helping out with registration. At just £1 a piece I'm amazed that they make any money but the cafe was buzzing all morning with runners, spectators and marshals, hardly surprising with such a wonderful array of cakes, rolls, pancakes and pizza slices.
I was surprised by the amount of on the day entries we had but this is part of the joy of these smaller, more local races... you can look out of the window in the morning before deciding. By all accounts it was extremely wet and muddy last year, so much so that the lead bike had to stop after a mile! It was clear from the finishing times that the conditions made a difference. Three minutes were knocked off of the course record with the first man finishing in a time of just 53:02... that's speed I just can't quite comprehend!
Shortly after 10am Ellie gave the race briefing and at 10:30 on the dot the airhorn sounded and they were off! Race HQ may not have been playing host to runners any more but there were still things to do. Getting a head start on clearing away registration, setting up the trophy table, locating the finishing tape and ensuring goody bags and a box for the timing chips to be put into were near the finish funnel. There was time to enjoy a cup of tea and some chat before readying ourselves for the runners return.
Awaiting the race briefing
The distance between the course entrance onto the field and the finishing line gave us plenty of time to get into position and ready our cheering voices. I also learnt about the magic that is the commentator mat, which uses the timing chip technology to let you know who's approaching the finish line so you can name check them. I've always loved getting a name check at events, it makes you feel quite special! It's definitely a skill to judge the mood of an incoming runner, who needs some time before having a goody bag foisted upon them and who's happy to have their timing tag whipped off right away and learning the best places to stand so as not to get in their or the photographer's way.

Once everyone was over the line, trophies handed out and people had started to dissipate it was time for operation clear up. Tape, stakes, signs, banners and flags all had to be collected up and stowed away. Taking down the gazebo was a 4 person job. The highlight of the clear up has to be Ellie's dad rolling up and sprawling on the finishing arch in a bid to deflate it more quickly. And "suddenly" it was all over and I was heading home with a large piece of brownie and a couple of bunches of left over bananas. In reality it'd been 5 hours but the time just flew by. In a couple of weeks time I'll get to see how preparation for and running of a duathlon differs. It's the day the clocks spring forwards... I wonder how many people will be caught out!

It takes a lot of hard work and good will to put on a race and it can't happen without help. There's always a minimum number of people needed to marshal the course, man water stations and the finish line. Local and small events depend on volunteers and tend to look after them well so if you can't participate or your have a friend or loved one running in a race, consider offering to help out. Your help will always be appreciated and you can still support your runner.

Monday, 16 March 2015

REPs : Who, What and Why?

If you work in the Health and Fitness sector you're probably familiar with REPs but if you're a gym-goer or have a PT you may only have heard of it in passing. So what is it and why should you be bothered about it?
REPs is the Register of Exercise Professionals (not repetitions in this instance). It's been around since 2002 and is an independent, public register where you can find the details of exercise instructors in the UK and their qualifications.
What's the point of it? Well it provides a means of regulating instructors and trainers, to ensure that they hold the qualifications they say they do, and that those qualifications meet particular standards. As someone on the receiving end of these services it provides peace of mind that your PT or instructor:
  • has met nationally agreed occupational standards
  • holds recognised and approved qualifications
  • is independently verified as being competent in the work place
  • is committed to ongoing professional development, and
  • is legally covered to practice by appropriate insurance
It also gives you a way to complain about the professional conduct of a member through the complaints form. Just as you might ensure your gas man is registered with CORGI, you might want to make sure that your PT or pilates instructor (for instance) is a member of REPs.

It's not compulsory for you to be a member of REPs as a fitness professional but it's an easy way to get your skills recognised and to ensure you have appropriate insurance (if you choose to take it out through REPs). It gives employers, whether that be an individual or a company, confidence that you are appropriately qualified and have the knowledge, competence and skills to perform your role effectively.

Via the REPS website you can also find details of training courses that you can use to build up your CPD (Continuing Professional Development) points. REPs members have to obtain 24 points every two years in order to remain members. This means that your knowledge is more likely to be current and you'll be able to offer more to your clients. 

So there we have it, a beginners guide to REPs. It's not sexy, but it is useful.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Cake, Concerns and Case Studies

It's less than a month to go until the Brighton Marathon and so last weekend I did my longest run to date in this set of training; 3 hour run at marathon pace. I wasn't looking forward to it and although I managed to keep the average pace I had aimed for I'm still nervous that my longest run has only been 16 miles and that I have to maintain that for another 10 miles. If I'd designed my own training programme I'd have run further. My longest runs were 18 and 20 miles respectively in my previous marathon training. But I'm trying to keep the faith.

As if 3 hours of running wasn't enough I also took Jasper The Dog for an hours walk that day. Dogs don't care that you've run 16 miles. They tend to want to bound around for as long as you'll let them. I've grown very fond of Jasper very quickly and might try a bit of a jog with him next time.

The highlight of the weekend though was joining my friend Debbie for her 100th park run. As is customary there was cake. A huge Victoria sponge that was demolished in the cafe over talk of the Barcelona marathon and lashings of tea. Perfect.

I started the week feeling rather fatigued and ended up skipping my workout on Monday. I could feel that I needed the down time and so after PTing a friend and staying a while for dinner and a much-needed chat I ended up in bed around 9:30pm, falling asleep to an episode of Breaking Bad. I had the best nights sleep in around two weeks. I did Monday's workout on Tuesday after RunFit but still struggled. Despite feeling as though I was working hard I couldn't get my heart rate into the zone I was meant to. But I moved my body and slept well again. I developed a streaming nose on Thursday for no apparent reason and started to fret about my training again. Twitter gave me all the advice about rest that I'd have given others which I tried to take. I've done what I can and am trying not to worry about what I couldn't. Sum total of this week's training amounts to one strength session including a 200kg prowler pull (which I'm pretty pleased with - so sue me), one swimming lesson and 27.5 miles run.
Lunch in the garden, topping up the iron and vitamin D levels
I had a blood test to check that my vitamins and minerals were all in balance as although I've not changed the supplements I'm taking, my lifestyle has changed a bit and I'd been feeling more up-and-down. Glad to report that all levels are normal apart from my cholesterol which has apparently gone up since my last test in September but as I wasn't told whether my HDL or LDL was high it's not a very helpful reading. So sleep, good food, rest and less worry is the order of the day I think.

This weekend I've got to get my head back into the books one more time to finish off my case study and draw up some session plans. I'll also be helping out at Cholsey Chase and walking Jasper again. All this productivity is nicely book-ended by extra fun in the form of a gig and an evening of The Walking Dead viewing, both of which I'm looking forward to A LOT.
Papers, papers everywhere
Have you managed to get out in the sunshine this week? Just why is it that running and cake seem to go hand in hand?