Friday, 3 July 2015

Berkshire Fitness Scene : SUP

Ok this isn't strictly in Berkshire but it's close enough that I'm going to include it. Stand Up Paddleboarding, or SUP as it's known, has become pretty trendy lately. You may be familiar with Dave Cornthwaite's adventure or perhaps seen a SUP Yoga advertised in London. Crewroom host a paddleboard club every Saturday in Putney, which I've longed to try but never quite managed to. 

A couple at the centre I teach at were enthusiastically discussing their recent foray into the world of SUP and later that same evening I was forwarded a link to a Groupon voucher to try it for myself. Quays is based in Mychett in Surrey but it's only 20 minutes from my part of Berkshire so it seemed a bit of a no-brainer. 
The deal was £11.50 for two 60-minute paddleboard sessions, all kit included. It's important to note here that these were not lessons. I got only very basic instructions before being pushed out onto the lake: "Start on your knees, use the paddle, try and stay in this area, if you fall in the water's quite nice today".
And so I was off, in my borrowed shortie wetsuit. Well, sort of. After ten minutes of struggling to get to where I wanted to go and an awful lot of going in circles someone came out to me in a boat to inform me I was standing on it back to front. Sigh. But things got a lot easier after that.

I'm sure there's a lot of technique to learn, an optimum way to paddle, to stand, length of paddle, but it all eluded me and I can't say I suffered as a result. I had the lake entirely to myself for the first half hour or so. I was able to paddle up and down in front of the restaurant that over looks one end (only slightly self conscious) and terrorise the waterfowl to my hearts content. After that one of the speedboats came out with a wake boarder so I learnt to deal with the wash and miraculously stayed dry. I may have returned to the stability of my knees once or twice but it all felt second nature by the time I eventually made it back to land.
It took a good few hours for my legs to feel solid again. It didn't feel strenuous at the time but my legs and core had been constantly working to keep me balanced and upright and they ached a bit the following day. But the more lasting effect was on my mood; I felt pretty zen for the rest of the weekend!
I'm returning for my second session in a few weeks time, hopefully with a friend, and am looking forward to it a lot. I can imagine this would be a lot of fun in a group, maybe on a river trip, something I've been told other venues sometimes arrange.

If you're in Berkshire you can also try SUP at Bray Lake or Berkshire Sailing in addition to Quays.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Event Review : Samaritans 10k 2015

For the second year in a row I took part in the Bracknell Samaritans Run, held at Wellington College in Crowthorne. This was the 34th year that the run had been held and once again it was a triumph. It costs £23,000 a year to run the Bracknell branch of the Samaritans, a small price to pay for all the wonderful work they do but not an insignificant sum. This run helps to raise these vital funds not only through entry fees but also the raffle and cake stall.

There's the option of 10k and 5k distances and under 16s are also encouraged to enter the shorter distance. The most expensive entry fee is £18 and for that you get a medal, tech t-shirt and goody bag. Parking is free and plentiful, there's bag storage, changing facilities, a warm up and chip timing. Frankly I don't know how they do it!
Watching some of the finishers coming in.
It was marginally cooler this year thanks to an overcast morning and we did yet some light rain towards the end of the event which made for decent running conditions. I'd entered the 10k distance, which was two laps of the off-road route around the college grounds. The gently undulating terrain sapped my legs of energy, as did the dry wood chip in places, but I wouldn't really change it.
There was a fantastic turn out again this year and lots of friendly faces. I was happy enough with my efforts given my mojo has taken a holiday lately and very impressed with the goody bag... water, banana (scoffed by the time I took the picture), cereal bar and a wash bag as well as the t-shirt. Unfortunately I didn't win anything in the raffle but I did buy a piece of the most amazing salted caramel brownie from the cake stand.
If at all possible I'll sign up again next year, it is for a good cause after all. Hope to see you there.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Internet Findings : June

I've not posted one of these round ups for a little while but that doesn't mean there hasn't been a whole host of articles that have piqued my interest. Here's a selection...

Chrissie Wellington writes about body image in triathlon and sports. This sparked a lot of conversation in Team Bear!

As a vegetarian and consumer of soy I found this article on soy and it's health implications, especially with regards to cancer and whether it's preventative or not. A well balanced article, although not definitive. Moderation and quality seem to be key here. There's plenty of further reading to be found at the bottom of the article too.

This list of What I Promise To Teach My Daughter about body image made my heart ache a bit. Aspirational, certainly.

Need a pick me up? Shia LaBeouf gives an intense motivational speech!

Very interesting article from Runner's World about Fatigue in Men & Women. It seems that we do fatigue differently but we're a long way from understanding these differences.

Did you read any of these articles? Any other related articles I should read?

Friday, 26 June 2015

On Becoming A Boxercise Instructor

Last weekend I spent a day at Brunel University taking my Boxercise Instructor qualification. It was a full but fun day and I learnt an awful lot! I'd been to Brunel University some years ago when I was trying to decide which ones to apply to so it was fun to be back on campus. It's somewhat smarter than when I was last there but felt familiar all the same.
After class. I thought I was smiling. I was apparently too tired!

So what is Boxercise?

Boxercise is a boxing based form of exercise. It doesn't involved getting hit (unless you're unlucky) and isn't promoted as a "pure" sport so is a fun, stress busting activity to suit anyone who wants to enjoy boxing training. There are over Boxercise Classes up and down the country and many Personal Trainers use the principles too. It's an effective form of cross-training as it combines both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems and helps to improve hand-eye co-ordination, balance and timing.

What's involved in becoming an instructor?

The basic course is 8 hours long. You are taught the stance, how to move and the eight punches. Teaching points and coaching methods are introduced and then it's time to understand how to hold pads to receive punches. There's a lot of time to practice instructing each other and different combinations. We learnt about the different types of gloves, pads and wraps. My wraps turned my hands yellow! Around the middle of the afternoon you're assessed and the last hour or so is spent trying out different styles of classes. I ended up seriously hot and sweaty but giggling from the last exercise involving We Will Rock you and burpees.

Do you need experience to become an instructor or to take part in a class?

No. Absolutely not. I had next to no experience of boxing before I attended the class but there were people with a solid background in boxing or MMA. It allows for all sorts and many different styles of classes. 
If you want to attend a class, likewise, you don't need previous experience. your instructor will be able to teach you the basics and you can build on this week on week. Some training centres may ask you to attend an induction session before taking part in Boxercise classes so you can learn the basics in a more relaxed environment.

So what are you going to do with these new skills?

Firstly I'm going to practice! I'm new to this myself so I've still got to improve my technique, but I have the skills and resources with which to do this. I'm taking part in a few more classes at Box Bell Fit and in a couple of months I will start to pick up classes to teach. I'm also looking forward to using Boxercise with some of my PT clients, if appropriate.
A host of newly-qualified Boxercise Instructors
Have you ever done a Boxercise class? Was it more aerobic or boot camp in style? Any evil drills you remember?

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Vik's Picks : June 2015

I really enjoyed putting together my "picks" list last month so I've decided to make it a more regular feature here. Once again I'm highlighting a selection of products that I've used and loved in the past month. Something for everyone I think!
1. I've been aware of the brand Tribesports for sometime and lusted after the kit. I finally got to try some on at the Brighton Marathon expo and bought two pairs of the double-layer shorts and a t-shirt but only this month have I been wearing them to work out in. I love the understated but quality design, cuts and colours.

2. My go-to cook book this month has been Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Light & Easy. I'm a fan of simple but delicious recipes and at this time of year I'm craving lighter dishes. The breakfast section is well-thumbed now with the rhubarb and orange smoothies, honey baked rhubarb and morning tea slices being firm favourites already. I'll be diving into the lunch section a little more next month I think.

3. Yes I featured a nut butter last month but Pip & Nut's Coconut Almond Butter has stormed into the top spot here. The coconut makes this extra special and is runny enough to be drizzled on strawberries and muesli or porridge at breakfast (my current favourite combo). It's not the cheapest but it's worth it!

4. As the weather's warmed up the item I grab for all my runs, after my trainers and Garmin, is my Halo Sweatband. It keeps my hair out of my face and diverts the sweat away from my eyes. The Running Bug are holding a competition to win two of them so try your luck!

5. You may think it's the time for iced lemonades and Pimms but I'm still in a chai mood. Specifically, teapigs chilli chai. the hint of chilli in this gives me a real pick me up and I've been turning to this instead of coffee on my early mornings.

What new products have you tried this month? Have you rediscovered an old favourite?

Friday, 19 June 2015

Recovering and Refocusing

Welcome to another weekend! I think I'm still slightly on a high from Endure24... or it might just be all the sugar I've eaten this week. Oops.
Marvellous cakes from one of my RunFitUK group
The effect that Endure24 had on me wasn't quite what I expected. I found myself needing a lot more sleep and to be significantly hungrier than I had been after Equinox24, even though my eating and sleeping pattern was essentially the same. I guess that's just how it goes sometimes.

But I didn't suffer aches and pains thanks to Georgina's wonderful massages so I was able to crack on with teaching on Monday. Needless to say I didn't see anyone from the weekend in class on Monday! I did get to teach an additional circuits class for Barnes Fitness though which I really enjoyed. A different vibe from Box Bell Fit but still great fun.

I've only run twice this week since Endure24, once for hill reps and one longer easy paced run, a total of 34.5 miles if you add in Endure24, so overall a good volume. I was meant to do a bike set too but technical difficulties meant I missed the opportunity. I've not fallen out of love with running by any means but I'll confess I've been having a minor internal battle about what my goals and motivations are now and whether to continue with external coaching. I think I'm close to a resolution.
Just some of the 3.5kg of strawberries I picked from the allotment.
Hoping they'll offset the cake...
I've still got lots of events still to come this year but unfortunately one less than planned as next week's Dinton Aquathlon has been cancelled. Only nine people entered so cancelling it was really the only sensible option. It wouldn't have felt like much of an event. It is a pity though. The moral is, don't leave it to the last minute to sign up to events, especially local ones. Support local sports!

This weekend I'm taking a Boxercise Instructor course and doing some event planning; both things I'm very excited about. I'll hopefully be able to share more about the event next week but it has spurred me to get some branded t-shirts made up. I feel so smart in these!

Looking the part?
Have you ever entered an event that then got cancelled? How did you refocus? Have a great weekend all!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Event Review : Endure24

There seems to be a growing trend towards 12 or 24 hour races, popular with those who want to test themselves individually and those who fancy an excuse for a slightly healthier version of a pyjama party.
Endure24 has been in my diary for sometime. I read great reports of it last year (despite the mud) and so when I was asked to captain a team for Box Bell Fit, how could I possibly say no? In total we entered four teams of eight; one all men, two all girls and one mixed. We were all set to take it in turns to run laps of 5 miles for a total of 24 hours in rain, shine, day and night.
We woz 'ere!
Those who could, congregated at BBF HQ on Friday morning, loaded up with tents and made our way in convoy to Aldermaston, to set up camp in the rain. It was the fourth year in a row that BBF had entered teams so a favourite spot was located that allowed us a great view of the course as it wound it's way back towards the start/finish line. 
A small selection of the cake on offer...
After set up we kicked back with some ciders, beers and cards and enjoyed the evening. By 10am the next morning the last few people who hadn't been able to come up on Friday had joined us and there was a fairly steady stream of kettles being boiled for porridge pots and hot drinks. Costumes were donned, race kit prepped and it was off to the start for the briefing.
Arthur!
I took the first lap for the team and despite a bit of jostling at the start found it utterly glorious. It wasn't a sunny day but it was good running conditions and I loved the course. I didn't love *that* hill but the feeling of flying through the woods in the second half was amazing. That was my favourite part; chasing a couple of guys down on the second lap, seeing the trees wound with fairy lights and actual fairies (ok, ladies dressed as fairies) at night and discovering that my legs could still tackle it on my fourth and fifth laps on Sunday morning.
The Box Belles before
Heading out on the first lap
Everyone on the team did what they could whether that was 2 laps or 5. We had not particular expectations and so I think we were all delighted to discover that we came 7th out of 30 teams in our category (Female 6-8) with 30 laps in a time of 24:20:26. And everyone was still smiling at the end of it. Our men's team did especially well by earning third place with 39 laps in a time of 24:12:41!
Running the last leg together
Victorious boys!
One of my enduring memories of the event will be the huge variety of runners who took part. All shapes, sizes and abilities. Special mentions to the RMR group who had never met each other before, the Woodley parkrunners and the runners I'd met at Dinton Pastures 10k earlier in the week. Every single person deserved their medal.
The RMR "Total strangers"
It was a fantastic event and I loved every minute of it. I hadn't gone with a goal in mind but I was really pleased to have managed 5 laps, including my last two back-to-back, in times that I felt were perfectly respectable.
Done? Done in!
But it wouldn't have been half as good without our wonderful support crew. This included friends and family, some of whom kept us on the straight and narrow with by tracking who was out on the course and who was due next and where we all were. This seemed to consist of equal parts black magic and walkie talkies. We also had the lovely Georgina from Wellbeing Treatments on hand to provide treatment for our aches and pains in the form of massage, an endurance event in it's own right.
Sneaky Sloe Gin to celebrate World Gin Day
The site as a whole was really well organised. registration was easy, there were plenty of loos and (hot) showers, the cafe had a good menu for all at reasonable prices, the change over area was large enough to avoid too much jostling and the course was clearly marked and very well marshaled.
The Box Belles after
Finally I want to say a few thank you's; to Hayley for the amazing brownies and Sian for the almond biscuits, and to everyone who brought baked goods for the collective, to Georgina for the massages, to the support crew for getting us up, ordering us, keeping track of where we all were, for and the cheering and photo taking, and to Anna for arranging it all in the first place.

The BBF Collective
Have you done Endure24 or similar? Could you be tempted? Which event of this kind do you think is the best? Do you prefer team or solo participation?