Friday, 29 May 2015

Skipping A Training Session Does Not Equal Failure

The mentality around training can be a tricky thing. I'm all for planning, putting sessions in the diary like any other appointment, and coming up with alternatives when circumstances change. I'm comfortable with the idea of resting when sick and not trying to play catch-up afterwards. One thing I rarely do, and wouldn't go so far as to advocate, is purposefully skipping a session. Yet last weekend, over the Bank Holiday, that's exactly what I did.

In my diary, on Sunday, I had written in a 2.5hr training run. And I chose not to do it. It wasn't because I didn't feel up to it, or that plans had changed, but that I chose to spend my time differently. And that's fine. For at last two months it had been arranged that my mum would come to visit for the weekend. We had no fixed plans as such and I'd set the expectation that on Saturday I would need to work for an hour and that I had some training to do. I did my work, and we did parkrun together but for the majority of the weekend I decided to prioritise relaxation over my training. Juggling the last weeks of my day job with training and ramping up my PT business means I'm usually always in work mode, thinking about what else I can do towards building my business and so being able to disconnect and be frivolous was a true joy. It felt as though I'd had a holiday!
We had fizz and chips by the lake, went to the cinema and ate breakfast al fresco each day. We made use of our National Trust memberships by visiting Mottisfont, Greys Court and Cliveden, wandered around the grounds, took a boat trip on the Thames and indulged in cakes and ice creams. I bought an early Jamie Oliver cook book in one of the second hand shops and cooked from it that same night. We took a picnic to Virginia Water and walked around the lake afterwards. Frankly, it was delightful.
And it's not as though I've been sitting around. I've run 13 miles this week including the parkrun with mum. The Virgina Water walk was 4 miles and we covered several more miles in purposeful walks and finding our way through mazes. I took part in a circuits class with Barnes Fitness on Monday and got in a bike set before work on Wednesday. Apart from Sunday I've hit every training session this week.
So I'm still taking it seriously but "training the soul", as someone put it, is also important. Constantly thinking about work and training can be exhausting and counter productive and there's truth in the adage "everything in moderation". Sure I agonised a bit over skipping the run but ultimately I'm glad I did. It's not a regular occurrence and does not equal failure. I just picked up from the next session.

One of the pieces of advice I've been given as I move further into the PT world is that just as you would block out time for appointments and work, block out time for relaxation, because it's very easy for things to take over. Taking that advice I made time to go to the UK Fitness Bloggers meet up on Wednesday night (such a fun evening) and watched a film with a friend over skype last night. Ain't technology great?

Was your Bank Holiday weekend more training or relaxation? Do you find it hard to get real downtime?

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Vik's Picks : May 2015

I've done much in the way of product of kit reviews of late but that doesn't mean that there haven't been things that I think are worthy of a mention. So without further ado, here's a round up of products that I've been enjoying this month.
1. USA Pro Leggings
One of my RunFitUK group sported a fantastically loud pair of leggings to a session some weeks ago and as someone with a bit of a thing for a funky legging, I immediately asked her where they were from and was delighted to find them in the Sports Direct sale. I bought two different pairs and have been mightily impressed with them. They have decent sized zip pockets, don't ride up nor fall down despite lack of drawstring, and don't go thin when you bend over.

2. Gym Boss miniMax
I won this little device some time ago and it's become invaluable. I use it at RunFitUK, on my classes, during my PT sessions and also used it to time my team mate's miles during 2Swim4Life. That's around 6 hours of timing in one day alone! It's easy to use (once you get the hang of the menu), stores multiple interval programmes and stays put when clipped to clothing.

3. Nakd Nibbles
These have been promoted on twitter quote a bit recently and as I'm such a fan of the bars I ordered a selection box pronto. Even smaller than the Nakd Bits, these little nuggets of deliciousness are far more versatile than the other products. Sprinkle them on cereal, add them to trail mix or devour as they are. The coconut ones are my favourites so far, but I've been restrained and not tried all seven flavours yet.

4. MyProtein Nut Butters
I never thought I'd be someone who would eat spoonfuls of nut butter straight from the tub but it appears that is what I have become. To be fair I use these in lots of other ways too, in porridge, on toast, in soups, smoothies and salad dressings. I've even added them to hot chocolate once or twice. There are plenty of other brands who offer these varieties and more but these are the ones I've been using and I'm soon going to be putting in a repeat order.

5. Cocofina Macaroon Bars
I was delighted to win a box of coconut macaroon bars from Cocofina recently and they've been a constant in my handbag and desk drawer as a snack. They're not the lowest calorie snack around but I'm a fan of the texture and flavour. Think a slightly gooier bounty bar but without the chocolate coating.

Have you tried any of these products? What's your verdict? Any alternatives you think I should check out?

Monday, 25 May 2015

I Quit!

At the end of April I made a Big Decision. I resigned from my day job. I have quit my steady, well paid office job to become a full time Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor. And it's scary as hell.
I fretted over this for months, telling myself I'd do it after appraisals, after performance ratings were out, when I had X amount in savings, after this race or that. Eventually I realised I was making excuses not to act. I've been working towards this for a long time and there was never going to be a perfect time to make the change. So I confirmed a "safety net" of regular classes at the training centre I've been working at, arranged a call with my boss at 5pm on a Wednesday and handed in my notice. I think it's fair to say she was a little shocked.

One or two people who only know me through the fitness side of things were surprised I wasn't already a full time PT, which I took as a compliment, and the colleagues I'm close to understand that this is a passion for me and have been hugely supportive. As have my friends and family, despite any worries they may have.

I have a three month notice period so I've still got a while to go but it's spurred me into action. I've polished up my website, made greater efforts with promoting myself and looked at more revenue stream possibilities. I'll be teaching classes and continuing my involvement with RunFitUK and BarnesFitness for as long as they'll have me but I'll also have time to offer more in the way of 1-2-1 sessions and personalised training plans. Full details are available on my website and I welcome questions and enquiries via email. If you could mention me to any interested parties I'd be very grateful.
This isn't going to be an easy move to make. I know there will be some tougher times ahead and days when I'll wonder what on earth I've done. If it doesn't work out, so be it, but it won't be for lack of trying. There have been days when I've left the office feeling drained and demoralised only to come out of the other side of teaching feeling uplifted and enthused. That's how I know I'm doing the right thing. So expect to see a few more posts about this particular phase of my life and the things I learn along the way in addition to the usual training updates, event reviews and so on.

If you've got a similar story to share, please do get in touch, it would be great to hear from you.

Friday, 22 May 2015

A Christening, Eye Candy and Character Building

Last weekend should have been the weekend that I attempted a PB and the Royal Berkshire 10k. Or maybe even gone out for my own 10k virtual race. However in the end neither of these things happened. Instead I became Godmother to this beautiful and happy little girl and ate far more sandwiches, spring rolls and cupcakes than I reasonably should have. It was marvelous. And my friend Debbie smashed out a new PB for herself at the Royal Berks 10k which is fantastic.
In fact, I didn't run at all at the weekend. I spent Friday and Saturday in London with a good friend of mine. There was wine, late night chit chat, brunch, a restorative stomp across Hampstead Heath and an indulgent couple of hours in an art house cinema. I met my mum at the Peacock theatre on Saturday evening to see Titanium - a modern mix of Hip Hop, Breakdancing and Flamenco with a real wow factor (and some serious eye candy).
The running I have done has been surprisingly enjoyable. The weather gods may smile on us for the RunFitUK sessions but they certainly took their wrath out on me before hand as I squeezed in a 4 miler. I was soaked and battered with rain and hail the moment I stepped out of the front door. It would let up, I'd almost dry out, and then it would start again. Character building, I think it's called... On Wednesday evening I met up with some of the Box Bell Fit Endure24 team runners for another training run. We ran our usual 4.5 mile route through the woods taking in some hills and I ran there and back too, giving me a nice 8 miles in the bank. I'm pants at uphill running but give me a downhill and I'm away, something that was commented on more than once! 

It was a Good Post week with the arrival of new trail shoes, my Team Bear tri suit and a stack of laces and samples (plans afoot!) A pre-work off-road run with another Endure24 team member through dewy fields was the perfect opportunity to test them out. I was wrecked by the end but my toes were dry and my ankles unsprained. It was a hard run but I'd expected it to be and that was part of the point. My running partner, despite having already tackled a kettlebells class, is much speedier and I was running on empty after the 8 miles the night before. Without her I would have quit after one lap but I couldn't face dropping out so 4 miles it was! Excellent practice for Endure24 in terms of levels of tiredness and terrain, and a reminder that my usual fueling strategies do work. It was also a lesson in pacing for us both!
In addition to the running I went to a new class and tackled the latest Metafit release. I've got a fairly heft session to tackle over the Bank Holiday weekend but there'll be plenty of relaxation too. A day trip to one of my favourite National Trust properties, Mottisfont, and a local beer and wine festival are planned. Should be a good one!

What types of running do you find hardest? What fun plans do you have for the Bank Holiday weekend?

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Berkshire Fitness Scene : Just Jhoom!

It's been some time since I've tried a new activity locally but Just Jhoom! has been on my list for some time. Just Jhoom! (meaning "just dance" in Hindi) is a Bollywood-inspired dance fitness class, which brings together aerobics and mindful movement, drawing on a range of dance styles from Indian classical dance to Bhangra. I would say that it is to Indian dance what Zumba is to Latin styles - a fun and friendly class that makes a dance style accessible.

I love the dance scenes in Bollywood movies and have even had a go at dancing at the wedding celebrations of a friend of mine in India. I certainly felt the part on that occasion in my bangles and henna. On this occasion though, I dusted off my dance trainers and took myself to Yateley School for a Just Jhoom! taster session.
Been a while since I got to wear these!
Annabel, our teacher, gave us a little background info on the class and what to expect before showing us some of the hand positions that we would use in the routines. Arm and hand movements are part of what give the Bollywood dancing it's elegance and help to tell the story, so we were encouraged to try to incorporate these if we felt we could.

After a gentle warm up we started to learn some routines. We covered around seven routines during the class, each set to a different Bollywood track and none too complicated. Annabel would show us the movements we'd be using before each one and gave us the opportunity to practice before we put moves to music for real. The most memorable track and routine was probably a sort of Indian version of the Macarena! It's very hard not to smile when you're dancing to the music, even if you're mixing up "lotus" and "bee" hands, it's so uplifting!

The class was friendly, low impact and a lot of fun. You certainly don't need to have any dance experience to get involved, just some comfy clothes and footwear that you can move about in. I could have put a bit more effort in if I'd wanted to but I just enjoyed moving my body and trying a new dance style.
The Jhoomers demonstrating "bee" hands
Annabel runs the classes as courses of six, other instructors run them as blocks of ten and some locations offer pay as you go. There are plenty around so if this is something you would like to try then just head to the Class Finder section of the Just Jhoom website to find your nearest class.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Get My Mojo Working : Run Or Dye

In the interests of disclosure, in return for sharing a discount code and writing this post to promote the event I will be given a free place in a Run or Dye event this year. Thank you.

I've been looking over my race calendar for the remainder of the year and I've realised that I've got four fairly significant events in as many weekends in September. I never intended for that but Things Happened. Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to each and every one but I know that I'll need to be something fun and relaxed afterwards to get my mojo working again.
Which is exactly why I've got my eye on the Run or Dye series. Back in 2013 (no way! really?) I took part in The Colour Run and LOVED it but this year I'm going to sign up for Run or Dye instead. In essence the events are very similar; you run/walk/dance around the 5k course, get covered in eco-friendly, plant-based powdered dye every kilometer and get to party on down at the Finish Festival.
I know from experience that these events are not races, not really even runs, they are experiences and very inclusive ones at that. It's all about having fun so it's a great event to do with friends or family regardless of fitness level. There are numerous events across the UK throughout the year so there's bound to be one near you. Visit to see where the parties are! Entry is £27.50 (kids 6 and under are FREE!), but you can get £3 off your entry fee by using the code KISDISCOUNT.
You could argue that this is pricey for a 5k but consider the organisation involved and that Run or Dye is also an event with a heart. The organisers have been inviting the public to nominate worthwhile causes that are in need of some colour; whether that’s repainting the local playground, creating a bright and exciting mural for a community space or simply arranging for a bunch of blooms to be delivered to someone in need. Unfortunately, nominations are now closed but Run or Dye will be selecting a number of those in need close to the UK Run or Dye event locations so keep a look out for extra colour in your locality.

If you're still not sure just how much fun these events can be, check out the video below! Maybe I'll see you there...

Friday, 15 May 2015

All I Can Remember Is Running And Lunching

I'm writing this at 10:30pm on Thursday night. I'm both tired and mildly hyped up on hot chocolate and mochas. Last weekend feels like a very long time ago!

But what a great weekend it was. I spent Saturday marshalling the Uber Swim at Dinton Pastures and then having a long lunch with a friend. The day was rounded off with a lovely late evening run in the sunshine and then staying up far too late looking at race entries. I was half hoping that Bracknell Half Marathon had on-the-day entries but thankfully they didn't. I'd have been a mess and I wouldn't have been able to have cheered everyone on in the final mile. There were so many people I knew! Several people from BoxBellFit where I teach and also Dean, my nearest Team Bear member, who I'd never met before. I gave him a big cheer and an unintentionally stinging high five. I got quite a lot of race envy, not least because the medal was wonderful.

Cheering duties done I met my ex-housemate, Anita, for a run followed by lunch and then headed out for a second run around the woods near home, sussing out a route with a view to leading a group around there later in the week.
Sunday Lunch
Wednesday and Thursday have been my longest days by far, up at 5:30 both mornings and busy until late in the evening. Wednesday started with teaching and finished with the woodland run in the evening. A hilly route made manageable with good company and some lovely warm sunshine. By contrast I was joined by no one on the 6:30am run I'd arranged on Thursday, possibly because it clashed with a kettle bell class rather than the time in general. Still, I ran anyway, to practice running on tired legs, and was at my desk by 7:30am. After a day in the office I spent the evening marshalling for the first in the Dinton 5 & 10k series. It was a rather rainy evening but there was still a huge turn out and lots of on-the-day entrants. I've enjoyed taking part in these in previous years and it's a joy to be involved whether I'm running or not. It was a busy sort of evening though hence making it through until 10pm on coffee and chocolate.

Somehow I've managed to clock up just shy of 25 miles of running this week including some very purposeful sessions. It's not been exactly what I was meant to do, according to my coach's prescription, but as my plan to attempt a 10k PB at a race this weekend has changed I suppose it doesn't matter. I will try and attempt the distance on my own and see what I can manage. No swimming for me this week as my course of lessons finished and I've not gone of my own accord but I'm planning to go back to the Tri Club sessions next Friday, other plans permitting.

I may not be awake when this post goes live... forgive me, but I'm going to take the opportunity to have a lie in!