Friday, 27 February 2015

What is a "Weekend"?

I spent last weekend at the University of East London, specifically it's Sports Dock, taking part in the workshop for my Exercise Referral course. Three full days in a place designed for sports and study? Bliss! I've been to UEL previously for my Kettlebells course and it was a joy to be back there. I find it a pretty inspiring place and there's always something going on. Thanks to good flow of traffic I arrived an hour early on Friday and spent some of that time watching Basketball practice. Other days featured badminton, volleyball and the cricket team hovering around. There was even a gospel choir about the place on Sunday.
Two of the days were fairly book heavy, (re)learning about numerous medical conditions and the benefits of exercise for both prevention and as part treatment as well as the considerations for designing exercise or activity programmes. It could have been really dry but my tutor was engaging, enthused and entertaining so it was fun. Apart from the fact he got so carried away we didn't always get a break mid morning or afternoon. Cue low blood sugar levels! The third day was mostly spent in the studio, designing and delivering circuits designed with different groups in mind. I got a bit dizzy from walking around in circles as part of the warm up but again, it was a good group and we had a bit of a giggle in the process.
As such I had precious little time for my own training. I've had to cut short or skip one or two sessions so in the last seven days I have only managed one swim, one strength session, 5 miles running and 24 miles on the bike. Gosh I can't remember the last time I only run 5 miles in a week! I've yet to run my session today and I'm running both days this weekend too so next week's numbers will be much higher. Sometimes life just happens.
Speaking of which I get to actually experience a weekend this week (yay!). I'm being all sociable tonight, seeing family for dinner tomorrow and taking my godson to the cinema on Sunday. Loverly.

RunFit Bracknell was extra special this week as we got a visit from HQ. Cassie had only ever seen our location in photos and knew my group only via Facebook so it was lovely to show her how we do things. Apparently I've got a bit of a reputation for the use of themes and foodstuffs in my sessions so she was a bit disappointed to have missed pancake week but it was suggested that she comes back for St Patrick's Day or Easter. We also got to have a bit of a chat about things like RunFit's involvement in the forthcoming RMR retreat (very excited about that) and other developments. I'm really proud of my group and it's a joy to be involved in RunFit so it was big thumbs up and enthusiasm all round.
Aside from RunFit, training and the day job, the next couple of weeks are going to feature a fair bit of writing. In four weeks time I'm back at UEL for my assessment so I'll be working on my portfolio for that in the next week or two while it's all still fresh in my mind. In addition I'm writing a couple of articles and trying to get ahead on session plans. Although all this keeps me busy it doesn't really feel like work, which is wonderful.

Is there anything you do that should feel like work but doesn't? When did you last go "back to school"?

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

What Value Do You Put On Health?

I spent a lot of time over the weekend becoming familiar with a range of medical conditions, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), diabetes, arthritis and depression, and the considerations that I would need to have when designing a workout for people with these conditions. What became clear very quickly was that exercise was beneficial to just about everyone but more importantly was terribly important as part of prevention measures as well. It's medically proven that people who do regular physical activity have:
  • up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke 
  • up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes 
  • up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer 
  • up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer 
  • a 30% lower risk of early death 
  • up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis 
  • up to a 68% lower risk of hip fracture 
  • a 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults) 
  • up to a 30% lower risk of depression 
  • up to a 30% lower risk of dementia
The NHS website gives some fantastic information on how much exercise we should be taking as a minimum and there are some great initiatives like Change 4 Life.

There are so many reasons why we, as a nation, move less than we used to. We have more sedentary work and an abundance of labour saving devices but many people quote lack of money as a reason not to exercise. I completely understand this. There are huge financial demands on many of us these days and coughing up money for a gym membership, classes or a personal trainer can feel like an unnecessary luxury.

I'd like to try and re-frame that a little. Now what I'm going to say next will not apply to everyone. Some people genuinely do not have money to spare; this does not preclude them from exercise but they may need to be a bit canny about it. I'll likely write another post on that sometime. However there are people who will think nothing of spending a few hundred pounds on a handbag, a pair of boots, games consoles or on a nice suit. There might be a little thought before handing over the credit card but probably not too much. Ask someone to spend that same money on a personal trainer, a gym membership, a piece of exercise equipment and it's a different story, usually "I can't afford that".

In reality it's a matter of priorities. These purchases are sometimes seen as investments, there's something tangible in return for your money. Spending that sort of money on a gym membership, a PT, club membership or the like can feel very different as there's little to show for it. But spending that sort of money on your health is far more of an investment than buying that handbag. It seems ludicrous that we should put a higher value on material things (within reason) than on our own health. What point is there in having the flash car when your back hurts too much to drive it?

I'm not suggesting that you should stop all frivolous spending but maybe consider spending in a different way occasionally; put your chocolate spend towards a class for one week perhaps. That £200 you could spend on something material or frivolous could perhaps get you half a dozen PT sessions or a few months gym membership, depending on your location. Perhaps a couple of pairs of trainers or new sports kit. A handful of exercise DVDs (self-motivation not included) and a few pieces of basic kit, all available to order online and delivered to your door, which perhaps isn't quite in keeping with what I'm trying to encourage but you get the idea.

So my point is this. Moving is good for us. It doesn't have to be expensive but it should be a priority.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Bracknell parkrun

It's official, parkrun is coming to Bracknell! 
Parkrun is going from strength to strength with new locations launching just about every week, or so it seems, in the UK and overseas alike. Some parts of the country have a higher density of events than others and I'm inclined to think that I'm in one of the luckier areas with my two nearest parkruns being 20 minutes drive away and another two or three within 30-40 minutes drive. 

I'd heard a rumour that work was in progress to bring two parkruns to the area, one in Ascot and one in Bracknell. I've yet to hear anything more about Ascot but I've heard that although the Bracknell event is yet to appear on the events page it will be launching on April 4th. Even better it's going to be less than two miles from my front door! 

There's a "test" parkrun on Saturday 21st March at 1pm which I hope to attend but nothing will stop me from being at the inaugural event either as a runner or a volunteer. I'd also like to get a few of the RunFitUK  Bracknell Team together and use it as a way to show them just how much they're improving (insert proud face emoticon here).

If you're local to the area or just fancy a bit of parkrun tourism, keep an eye out for the Bracknell parkrun and indeed other new events wherever you are.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Puddings, Pancakes and Lessons Learned

It's difficult to remember whether I'm coming or going at the moment. A week of working from home followed by a four day weekend and a two day work week with a few 6am starts will do that to a person I suppose.
Beautiful sunrises make up for early mornings
As a result, when I totted up my training for the past seven days I was astonished to discover that I'd run approximately 32 miles and managed one metafit class and my swim lesson (helped by the fact I remembered my swim suit this week). Not bad for someone who feels as though they've done nothing for ages.

Or rather for someone who feels as though all they did at the weekend was sit around and eat pudding and chips. Actually I did do a fair bit of that. I had a couple of days break at the home of The Pudding Club in the Cotswolds. I wasn't there for club night but I did sample some of the puds, stayed in the Summer Pudding themed room and had some very enjoyable time out. I also met a man who commutes an hour and a half from London every day to sell fudge. And blimmin' lovely fudge it was too!

I probably felt more inclined to ensure I was "properly fueled" whilst away after a rather poorly fueled 13 mile run on the Saturday that resulted in me feeling rather spaced out and inhaling smoothies, bagels and protein bars when I fell in the front door. You see I'd been lulled into a false sense of security. I've done a lot of around-two-hour runs lately but they've been quite slow. As a result I've been using less energy and using it in a different way to when I'm running at race effort. It was an important lesson to re-learn just seven weeks (SEVEN!) out from the Brighton Marathon. Gels/bars will now be carried on all two-hour-ish runs.

The foodie theme continued on Tuesday with it being pancake day of course. It was also Mardi Gras but I couldn't find any beads on short notice, nor any feathered costumes or marching bands so my RunFit group got off lightly with a pancake relay race. Much hilarity ensued.

Today I'm on the first day of a three day Exercise Referral workshop at UEL Sports Dock. I've been there once before and find it one of those facilities that really make you feel like part of something bigger. I'm not too sure how it's going to pan out, but I do know that after this I have four weeks to get ready for assessment. If I pass, that's my whole diploma done!

There's one more thing I've been up to this week that I've mentioned in passing on social media. I want to tell you about in more detail but I'll save it for a post next week...

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Race Organisation : Getting Involved with Barnes Fitness

If you are a runner, cyclist or triathlete in the Berkshire area, chances are you will be familiar with Barnes Fitness. Wife and husband duo, Ellie and Ian, are the force behind the wonderfully organised events such as Dinton Pastures 10k series and Dinton Duathlon as training clubs and group exercise sessions.

I've been curious about what is involved in organising events such as the Dinton 10k series and I'm about to become somewhat wiser. Ellie and Ian have kindly taken me under their wind somewhat and are giving me some insight into just what goes on behind the scenes. They have 12 events in the calendar this year and I will be helping out at all of them, save for the aquathlon, which I'll actually be taking part in. I'll get involved in set up, registration and anything else I can render myself useful for, both on the day and in preparation.

The first event I'll be at is the Cholsey Chase on the 15th of March, a 9 mile race located between Reading and Oxford. It's only £18 so if you're not busy, in the area and fancy a challenge, why not sign up? Come and say hi! I'll give you a hug and a high five.
Or perhaps if you want to be involved but aren't up to that sort of mileage why not volunteer yourself! Ellie and Ian look after their volunteers well and it's fantastic fun cheering people on as a marshal. If you've only ever been on the participant side of the fence it's well worth seeing what it's like on the other side of the fence, at least once. I speak from experience.

If you're interested to learn a bit more about what goes into making an event great then look out for other posts in this series further down the line. I won't be sharing a step-by-step or "how to" guide but I will share my experiences from time to time.

Have you ever marshaled or volunteered at a race? What did you do and did it give you a different take on your own race days?

Monday, 16 February 2015

Internet Findings : February

I thought it might be fun to do an occasional post on bits and pieces from around the internet that I've been drawn to recently. So here's a little round up of blogs, articles, podcasts and links to things I'm coveting. Enjoy!

Runner's World posted a really good article on dividing and conquering your long runs - a strategy I've used myself in the past to good effect.

Chrissie Wellington writes about juggling training and life. The take away from this, for me, was not to compare myself to others. I don't live the same lives so I won't have the same training plans. There are also some great tips on involving the family, ensuring you don't end up relying on convenience foods and making the most of the time you do have.

"focus on what you CAN do in the context of your life"

Finisterre have got some gorgeous lines at the moment. I had to retire my previous merino base layer but still don a pair of their merino pants for cold weather running. I'm lusting after the zephyr range at the moment, specifically this hoodie, but while we're at it I'll have the pants, vest, leggings and an Eddy long line too please!

I'm not the only one getting to grips with becoming a cyclist at the moment. Kimberley is also learning about repairs and maintenance. Check out her blog here.

The ever-fabulous Bangs and a Bun wrote a great piece about dealing with overwhelm, something that is quite relevant to me at the moment. She also does a wicked podcast, the latest of which is all about dealing with those things that weigh on you.

Found any cool articles lately? Link me up!

Friday, 13 February 2015

Burning The Candle At Both Ends

Little bit of catching up to do this week... I didn't post my usual "Friday Roundup" post last week because I was away at a wedding which not only separated me from my technology but also resulted in a light week in terms of training.

In the seven days up to and including Friday the 6th February I run just 15.5 miles and did one metafit class. I was scheduled to do an additional hours run and my swim class, both of which I had to skip. I did miss it, although the wedding was tiring enough, spread, as it was, over two days. We ate, drank, danced and laughed a lot; utterly marvelous. And I got a voucher for a monster truck ride as a thank you for being bridesmaid - how cool is that?!

This week I've been more on track with 26 miles of running, 19 miles of cycling, HIIT and kettle bells. By rights I should have done an additional bike session but for the sake of body and mind I ditched it in favour of study and rest. I have absolutely no regrets about this whatsoever, especially as the extra time allowed me to complete and submit the assignments required prior to my Exercise Referral workshop next weekend.

Next week is going to be a bit of an odd one. I've got a couple of days off for a get-away which throws my training out of kilter again and the sessions I have scheduled are vying for time with classes and general life. You know, cooking, working, sleeping... that sort of thing. I had to give myself a talking to the other day when I started to feel overwhelmed. I often put my head down and just plug away at everything, ticking off training sessions and commitments, not getting much downtime until I fall into bed. On realising I'd forgotten a family member's birthday I knew I wasn't coping quite as well as I thought I was and it was time to reassess the priorities. Something had to give.

A short-term priority is study, just until the end of March, with the longer term priority being work in all it's forms and the planning that goes with it. If I need to make time and space for rest and life then any volunteer duties will be first to go followed by training. Whilst my training can be almost meditative at times, if I'm regularly stressing about how I'm going to fit it in then that's not right. I'm serious about putting as much as I can into my performance this year, but if I need to ditch a session once in a while, as long as I'm being wise about it, then I'll be healthier in the long run. Case in point... I'm writing this at 4am thanks to my mind being busy with all the things I have to do and am apprehensive about.

So on that note, I'm going to try and grab a couple more hours sleep.