Monday, 30 September 2013

Gym Instructor : Part 1

This weekend just gone I went back to school. School on a weekend? Yep, in a sense. From Friday morning until Sunday afternoon I was at my local sport centre taking my Anatomy and Physiology exams and my Gym Instructor workshop with Future Fit Training.

Back in the summer I enrolled on the Specialist Diploma in Personal Training with a specialism in Pre and Post Natal Training. There are 16 modules to take in total with a mix of online learning, workshops and assessments. So far I've completed the Client Motivation and Psychology module and am really enjoying the course. I've found it relatively easy to fit into my busy schedule as and when but this weekend was a welcome chance to dedicate some time to it and get immersed in the material and meet some other people in the area taking this or a variation of the course.

By a happy coincidence it was held at my local gym, of which I'm a member, so I was able to catch up with my PT and his latest Ironman shenanigans. He texted me over the course of the weekend too, wishing my luck and offering to help me practice for my practical, which I thought was really sweet. It was a great group, nine of us in total, of all ages and backgrounds. Our tutor was fantastic too. She gave us loads of recommendations for books, blogs and websites to look at for more information on various aspects of health and fitness at the end of the course, which I'm really looking forward to getting stuck into.

Friday and Saturday featured two Anatomy and Physiology exams apiece and in between we were taught how to put together a gym programme for a beginner or intermediate client, draw up session plans and how to demonstrate all the equipment and stretches that we might use as part of a programme. It was a lot of fun but a lot to take in over three days. The exams were a bit nerve wracking. The order of the exams was switched from what we'd been expecting from the pre-course information, something that really threw a few of us and left us expecting to have to resit at least one exam but I'm absolutely delighted to say that I passed every single one, and the one I expected to fail was my second highest score - go figure!
The next step is the practical assessment where I have to draw up a programme for a real live person and teach it to them in front of an assessor. My lovely friend Joanne is going to be my "client" and I've got 4 weeks to prepare for it. I'll be down the gym a few times in between now and then practising my "spiel" for each of the machines. looking a bit mad, talking to myself. I' really looking forward to the assessment because if/when I pass I'll be a REPS Level 2 fitness instructor and I'll feel as though I'm really on the way towards becoming a PT (although I'm still not sure whether I'll do it ad hoc, part-time or think more seriously... all in good time).

The next course will start in November and is one of the nutrition modules, which I'm really interested in. This is such an exciting journey for me. It's another dimension to my love of health and fitness and extension of my love of learning. I am a perpetual student! I'll keep you updated as to my progress over the rest of the course.

Have you ever thought about taking a course to qualify in some aspect of fitness?

Sunday, 29 September 2013

London Marathon 2014 Ballot Result

So I’m a glutton for punishment and entered the London Marathon ballot just a week after completing it for the first time. I got in on a gold bond place last time and as such had fundraising commitments that were as much of a challenge as the training itself. I vowed that I would only run it again if I got in through the ballot (there’s no way I’d qualify for Good For Age). Although I have run for charity, I prefer not to unless it’s part of a bigger challenge. I run a lot and feel I need to be stretching myself before I ask people to hand over their hard earned pennies and only like to do something big every 2-3 years.

Anyway, I digress. There’s been many a-rumbling on Twitter as people have been getting their ballot result magazines through the post, some jubilant, some disappointed and some relieved. I got my magazine today and am in the disappointed but relieved category. I didn't get in. It's definitely a case of mixed emotions. I'd have loved to have been taken part again, especially alongside some of my friends who got in, but I don't have to put in the training again, on the dark nights and cold mornings.

I've got the Bournemouth marathon at the end of this week and training for it has been hard, mainly due to having to juggle other commitments, and although right now I don't want to contemplate running the distance again I know I'll get that feeling of invincibility afterwards. In fact I've already looked to see if I can get in to Brighton non-charity (a friend is running that too). I know I could get in to Edinburgh but I don't fancy that one somehow.

So, anyway, le sigh. Now seems like a good time to give some thought to what my new fitness goals are. Keep half marathon fit? Improve my speed? Try for a sub 25 minute 5km? Food for thought. Ultra running can keep for now... What I do want to do is get involved in volunteering at the VLM next year. Anyone got any leads on how to do that?

Friday, 27 September 2013

An end to the madness is in sight

It's been a little while since I've written a "weekly update" post what with all the events I've had going on. There's been race reviews coming out of my ears, which is cool because I love taking part in events but I won't lie, it's nice to have a breather... comparatively speaking anyway.

Although the mammoth five-events-in-two-weekends is over my race schedule still has a little way to go. My last biggie of the year is the Bournemouth Marathon on October 6th. Although I had a carefully crafted training plan that worked towards this and the previous triathlons, it's all gone a bit pear-shaped in the last month or so as I overestimated how much I'd be able to accomplish in between holidays and events. As it is, even though I've dropped swimming and cycling and I'm technically into my taper, Monday found me still not having managed to have run anything over 16 miles and having serious doubts about whether or not to even attempt the marathon.
I remember how much it hurt last time
Thankfully I found some welcome advice and motivation on twitter and from friends. I'd read that breaking your long run into two sections over the course of a day was just as effective as doing it all in one go and as that was realistically the only way I'd get one in I got up bright and early on Tuesday, cranked out 8 miles before breakfast and another 12 miles straight from the office after work. This had the benefit of tricking my mind and body into thinking I was actually doing less than I was, and getting a change of scenery, but even after a few hours my body was leaving me in no doubt as to whether it had been effective... oh my the DOMS! So with a 20 miler under my belt I feel much more prepared. I'd done a light PT workout and a pyramid intervals session on Monday so was able to have a couple of days break.

This weekend I have my first workshop for my Personal Training qualification - Gym Instructor! It starts with the exams for the Anatomy and Physiology module so it's been a fine balancing act between training and revision. I'd say I'm just about ready. I'm really looking forward to it (back to school!) and by a happy chance the course has been moved from Reading to my local gym in Wokingham, of which I am a member - huzzah! It runs Friday through to Sunday but as it's so close to home I'll have time to do a taper run as well as my homework.

Next week I'm on leave and planning to go to Norfolk for a few days. I'll have coursework to start and plan to do a couple of short taper runs before the big day. I've never felt the need for so much time off before, I've pushed myself quite hard this year. It's unfortunate in a way that everything's condensed into such a short space of time, it wasn't planned that way! 

After the marathon I'm looking forward to having a break from training and doing some things for fun. I'll be trying out land yachting (weather permitting), a Fitness Playground session and tackling The Major Series with Anita. I plan to get back to parkruns (let's start working towards that 100 t-shirt) and readdress my fitness/training goals with my PT. I think winter might be a good time to work on speed.
Doing parkrun back in the day when I was part of a club
The London Marathon ballot results are likely to be coming out soon and at the moment I think I'd be fine if I didn't get a place. The thought of starting training *again* and over the winter is just a bit miserable. Focusing on my study would be a good thing. My mum's suggested I cap the number of events I enter next year to around 8. I already have 2 booked and around 5 in mind, excluding the local summer series, so it'll be tough to choose but ultimately sensible. I love the atmosphere and sense of occasion at events but doing less will mean I stand a better chance of prepping properly and maybe busting out some new PBs. Maybe 2014 will be the year of the sub 25 minute 5k!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Treasure Hunting with Fitness Playground

A couple of weeks back, at the Lunges & Lycra social event, I took part in a Fitness Playground event. Fitness Playground already run a variety of sessions in the South Bank and Canary Wharf areas of London but this was a bit different to their usual group training sessions... this was a treasure hunt!

We were split into teams of 3-4 people with a nominated leader who was in charge of receiving the clues on their phone from a member of the FP team and sending answers/proof back. The aim of the game was to solve a number of clues to get to various locations in London, complete a challenge at each and get back to the start location within 45 minutes. This was a competition and the rules were thus:
  • First team back gets a number of points, the second back gets less and so on.
  • Any team back after the deadline is deducted points for each minute they are late
  • Extra points are awarded for completing the challenges as each location
  • Bonus points are awarded for completing bonus challenges that we were given a web link to
So you could still lose the competition, even if you're first back. This makes for a very interesting playing field! 
I think these girls made his day
It was a mad dash to exit the hotel we started from. Some of us may have gotten lost within the hotel... Once outside phones started beeping, announcing the arrival of the first clue and it was very much a race to the first location but as the first challenge could only be completed by one person at a time we were soon all travelling at different paces, balancing speed with completing other challenges en route. Our treasure hunt took us to Soho Square, Phoenix Garden, Seven Dials, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, The Mall and Piccadilly Circus before a mad dash back to the hotel.
I'm not sure he really understood what was going on, bless him.
We did prove to be quite a spectacle as we legged it round central London. 20-odd girls in vibrantly coloured lycra and multi-coloured war stripes... we were bound to draw some attention. It didn't take long for people to cotton on to what we were up to and my favourite moment of the whole event was probably a group of burly men in hi-viz jackets hollering "It's this way girls, the rest of them went that way!" at us as my team tried to find the next landmark.
Peace and tranquility on a busy pavement
On our travels we tried to cram in as many of the bonus challenges as possible. These broadly fall into "photo" and "collect" categories. We left many a bemused tourist and policeman in our wake, got told off my the Trafalgar Square Security Guards for assaulting the lions and busted out some yoga poses in the middle of busy pavements. And that only scratches the surface... do you know how hard it is to get business cards from people these days, or a copy of yesterday's paper?! Our site challenges included table tennis, races, climbing, deciphering roman numerals and finding out bits of local history. We were tested physically and mentally! 
You're not allowed to sit on the lions anymore, apparently...

Fitness Playground are hoping to start running these more often so do look out for them. It's fantastic fun, a great way to explore London and a real giggle. These sessions would be great to do with a group of friends as an alternative birthday or hen/stag event or perhaps as a corporate event, if there's an active culture. Connect with Fitness Playground on twitter or facebook to make sure you don't miss out, and check out their current set of group sessions if you haven't already... they're all fantastic.

This is not a sponsored post and all opinions are my own.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Purition : Wholefood Super-Shake

If you like shakes or smoothies for breakfast and are keen to find something to help you skip those mid morning snacks then you may be interested in Purition. Purition is a shake mix made with real foods, i.e. ones that won't dissolve into liquid. Each serving contains around 20g of protein which comes from whey protein,  nuts and seeds. It can be used as a supplement or a meal replacement, helps to moderate your carb intake, stabilise blood sugar, reduce cravings and ultimately lose weight. There are four varieties (BodyPro, BodySculpt, Superseed and Superseed Smoothie), three flavours (chocolate, pistachio and coconut) it's made in the UK, low GI, gluten free and suitable for vegetarians. Sounds pretty good and the ingredients list consist entirely of things I can identify - even better!
Serving suggestions
I'm currently taking part in the 6 day Purition challenge which involves having Purition for breakfast for 6 consecutive days. One of the claims it makes is that it will keep you full and satisfied for 4-5 hours so I was keen to test this. I received 6 sachets of BodySculpt to try, two of each flavour and this is how I got on. 

Day 1: I have a peach languishing in the fruit bowl so I decide to try the coconut flavour with skimmed milk and peach. I'm not a fan of coconut things generally. Coconut milk and water are fine but dessicated... ick. However, the flavour was very subtle and the combination worked well. You need to bear in mind that the mix is not designed to dissolve so this is not a smooth smoothie but it was delicious and it really did keep me going until a late lunch and I ate sensible all day.
Coconut blended with milk and peach
Day 2: I read that you can mix this with greek yogurt so I decide to try the chocolate flavour in this way. I used about 150-200g of greek yogurt as it was fairly stiff with less and really enjoyed it. Again I didn't feel the need to snack all morning, but I did have a large lunch which gave me cravings in the afternoon. It's nice to be able to use the mix in different ways, rather than just having it as a drink and I reckon this would work just as well with thinner yogurt.
Chocolate with greek yogurt
Day 3: I decide the way to go with coconut is blended with fruit so I try the second one with half milk, half water and a handful of frozen tropical fruit. This is awesome! I get a little hungry around 11am but a coffee helps and I eat a healthy lunch.
Coconut with milk and tropical fruit
Day 4: Today is a pistachio day. I love pistachio. I just stocked up on a load of pistachio chocolate in France and buy pistachio ice cream whenever I see it as it's not abundant. Anyway, breakfast today is a healthier option of pistachio flavour mixed with 150g of greek yogurt. It is absolutely gorgeous. I could eat it forever. But that would rather defeat the point.

Pistachio and greek yogurt
Day 5: I am up and out way before my usual breakfast time this morning so it's Pistachio Shake on the go. I mix it up in my protein shaker with 250ml semi-skimmed milk but it just doesn't hit the spot today. I think it would have thickened up a bit if I'd had time to leave it standing for a while but in reality I ending drinking a thin milky drink with lots of bits in it. It wasn't at all satisfying and I was snacking by 10am. And I forgot to take a photo - doh!

Day 6: I'm off on holiday today. An early start to catch the Eurostar necessitates another breakfast on the move. I mix up my last sachet of chocolate Purition with 250ml skimmed milk and a pureed apple to have on the train. I'll save the coffee and croissant for another day. This was really tasty and satisfying. It thickened up nicely in the time it took me to get from home to Lille and I didn't eat again until lunchtime.
Chocolate with milk and apple puree. Excuse the photo quality; it was early.
I wasn't aiming to lose any weight with this trial as I'm mid-training and looking to maintain it but I really enjoyed this product and would definitely consider getting some more to have with yogurt now and again. Personally, I think that unless you have time to leave this to thicken or have time to blend it then there are other products that work better as a shake but in general I found it satisfying and delicious, especially with yogurt. My energy levels didn't suffer and I felt a little flatter around the stomach than usual.

Disclaimer: I received 6 sachets of Purition free of charge as part of the challenge in return for blogging about my experience but all opinions are my own.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Gloanna Yoga Run

One of the best ways I can think of to start a weekend is with a run in a park with friends, some lovely food and some prosecco. It just so happens that I spent last Saturday morning doing exactly that at the Gloanna Yoga Run in Battersea Park. Just a heads up, I will be using the word "lovely" quite a lot in this post.

Gloanna was set up by a chap called Paul in order to provide a community experience type of event for people like his girlfriend, who would go run, do a yoga class and grab something healthy to eat every Saturday without fail but with more human interaction. And a very fine job he's done of it too. I'd heard such great things about the first event, I signed up for second event as soon as I heard about it, and then talked Anita into joining me.
It's too early for all this
When you sign up to the event you get to choose a start time. I think there were three starts at 9am, 9:30am and 10am. As I am not a London dweller I chose 9:30 as that didn't mean getting up too horrifically early. A coffee on the train was very welcome though. On arrival at the park there are little signs to guide you in to the event village. It all felt very intimate and lovely with lots of ladies milling around chatting and the first group of runners going through a warm up. The event was female-dominated, unsurprisingly given the activities on offer, but I did spot a few fellas there too. 

We queued up to collect our race packs, consisting of a lovely and tasteful pale grey (cotton) event t-shirt and our running bib which featured our names (in the form GLOVIKKI or GLOANITA) instead of a number. This was not a timed event, the idea was to have fun and be sociable. Bags deposited and we were free to explore. The village was set up under a thick tree canopy which helped to shelter us from the persistent drizzle and there were two large gazebos set up a little way off to house the yoga classes (beginners and intermediates), one either side of a DJ tent. I don't actually remember hearing much of the music but it was lovely to know it was there. 
After trying our hands at some hula hooping we did our warm up, toasted each other with a shot of prosecco (or two) and set off on our run. It was a two lap course around the park, with super-cheery marshals who high fived us at every opportunity. Anita even got a full on hug from one chap! We didn't time ourselves but ran at the limits of "the speed of chat" and were grateful for the vitacoco at the finish line. The previous yoga class was still going on so we took the opportunity to grab a goody bag with water, banana and pot of watermelon, a bounce ball, a full sized glass of fizz and a tub of Whey Hey protein ice cream which was delicious when I finally got it to thaw enough to get a spoon into it! We both opted to have a free head neck and back massage and in doing so missed the start of the yoga class. It was a pity because it looked great, and we probably could have joined in but we were getting cold and I had another event to get to so we picked up a sushi pack (seriously everything was gorgeous and delicious and lovely) and headed off. 
Relaxing with a massage
It was the most enjoyable event I've done in ages. Ok the baggage area could have done with being a little more organised, a few more hands to dish out the race packs would have negated the need for the 9:30 starters to be pulled to the front of the queue and a hot drinks stand would have been welcome given the weather but we both agreed it was fab and I'm keeping my eyes out for the next one. Paul sent out a lovely email yesterday with a couple of discount codes, a survey and an apology the the things he felt hasn't gone so well, which just added to the personal tone of the event really. The next one won't be until 2014 but you can bet I'll be signing up again.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

HSBC Triathlon

This year the HSBC Triathlon and Duathlons were held on Sunday 15th September at Eton Dorney Lake and I was entered in the sprint distance triathlon. This would be the third time I'd swum in Dorney lake this year, my second triathlon there and in fact the second triathlon of the weekend. By contrast it was to be my friend Anita's first open water swim and first triathlon.

The event was run by Human Race, a company I've grown to favour for sporting events as they tend to do them rather well. My first triathlon was run at the same location by Human Race so I was fairly sure what to expect. There's always plenty of parking but I always seem to be parked as far away from the registration tent as I can possibly get so there's a bit of a walk to the event village. Registration was very easy, collecting my stickers, timing chip, event t-shirt and some energy gels took moments and finding my spot for transition a breeze, especially when compared with the previous day.

The event village had plenty of loos, places to grab a snack and a bouncy castle for the kids. On this occasion the race village was at the boat house end of the lake, providing extra shelter for spectators from the elements. Keeping the day family friendly, it started off with a kiddies Scootathlon (scooting, biking and running) which I wasn't there to see but if it was anything like the one I'd watched before it was very cute indeed and a great way to involve the children.
Ready for the off
The temperature of the water was around 16 degrees so wetsuits were compulsory, thank goodness. My wave started at 2pm and we were summoned down to the water's edge for our briefing. This wasn't the best place to hold it as we were within the transition area and had to make way for competing triathletes. But that's really the only logistical element I would change about the day. The briefing was clear and before long we were all in the water, shrieking and floundering for the duration of the 30 seconds before the air horn went off. The field was fairly well spread which reduced the number of people swimming over each other and the number of times I got kicked. One well marshalled lap of 750m later and I emerged ready for bike transition.

And that's when it started to fall apart for me. The bike leg is 4 laps of the path that goes around the lake. It's pretty open but flat and I had been quite looking forward to it. But as with the day before I had bike issues, which lead to me sobbing at the side of the track at the lap/finish point after two laps with a concerned marshall trying to console me. I hurt. Everyone was overtaking me. The rain and headwinds, sidewinds and rubbish-ness of my bike, combined with the fatigue from the day before left me extremely close to pulling out of the race altogether. But I managed to gather myself together and kept on going. All credit to the marshal who turned my "only halfway" into "halfway already!"
I've not seen that amount of concentration on my face in a race for years.
 I have never been so pleased to get off a bike in my life. The run leg was two "laps" on another footpath by the side of the lake, which was more of an "up and back", not terribly inspiring but easy and flat with a water station at the starting end giving you two opportunities to get hydrated. I started to overtake some people as my legs settled into autopilot. Not another PB but very close indeed to the day before and in the 27 minute bracket - woo hoo! I saw a guy running in a wedding dress... kudos to him... but was otherwise in the zone and concentrating on the finish line.

Pure relief
Getting through the finishing funnel was smooth, I collected my medal and large carton of Vitacoco with a huge smile which I managed to hold until I saw my parents at which point I burst into tears. No issues collecting my kit from transition or getting out of the car park. Personal race issues aside this was a superbly run event and I still highly recommend all Human Race events. Not all events give technical t-shirts (this didn't) and not all give medals (my first didn't) and you won't get a goody bag as such but they are affordable, well run and cater for all levels.

Monday, 16 September 2013

PruHealth World Triathlon Grand Final London

This weekend I was lucky enough to have the chance to take part in the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in London's Hyde Park. I won a place through a competition in Runner's World magazine and although I already had an events on both the Saturday and the Sunday that same weekend I worked out that logistical I could manage it, if not physically, so why on earth not... yeah...

This is perhaps the best I've ever looked in a wetsuit. That's the only reason this picture is being included.
This was probably the biggest event I've ever been involved in, a multi day event encompassing elites and beginners. In light of that it was very well organised. The site felt HUGE! There were marshalls everywhere ensuring people could navigate the park while not impeding the athletes. Everyone I spoke to was able to direct me accurately but a few signs would have been nice. I didn't look around the expo but I wish I had. Aside from the indoor section there were lots of sponsor and brand tents outside as well as food vendors galore. Plenty of loos and a sizeable grandstand that enabled you to watch the swim start and the run finish at the same time. Collecting my race pack was easy and I had time enough to sit down, have a sandwich and watch all the competitors millig around, looking far more professional than me.
Transition was vast and not very well signposted. I ended up heading the wrong way out of T1 at first but I got the hang of it in the end. Because transition was so big my T times were longer than expected. Because there were so many announcements going on you had to keep your wits about you to ensure you got to the swim start on time. This was a deep water start, in a row, from a pontoon on the Serpentine. The water was 16 degrees so it was compulsory wetsuits. Not too much pushing and shoving at the off and I managed to keep up with the slower front crawl swimmers with breaststroke. One lap, up the ramp and a hike into T1 avoiding cyclists.
The bike route was 3 flattish laps within Hyde Park featuring a couple of tight turns. I ambled round at something approximating a snails pace, but I made it. I hated most of it with the exception of the lovely spectators and the fellow cyclist who encouraged me by name (it was printed on my bib). I wobbled into T2, barely able to do anything except smile and staggered out onto the run course, a 2 lap route around the serpentine. Somehow my legs were moving faster than I thought they were, I overtook some people and was roughly 10 seconds away from beating my 5k PB... quite incredible after the swim and bike.
A triumphant finish.
The final straight of the run takes you right past the front of the grandstand and with all the spectators cheering (if not you then someone close to you) you feel like a true star. I even managed to pick up the pace for the last 100m. Into the finishers funnel, medal hung around neck, timing chip removed and official photos take, I had an emotional moment by the water table before heading out into the throng of people to collect myself and my belongings before a very long journey home.
So pleased!
It really was an amazing event to be part of. I'm so glad I took the opportunity, even if I didn't see a Brownlee brother.If you get the chance, I'd recommend it. I can't compare it to the London Triathlon but I'd like to be able to so maybe I'll give that a go next year. After all, I've got a time to beat now, because I KNOW I can do so much better.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Breakfast Smoothie : Peach, Banana & Avocado

I've been trying to ring the changes with breakfast. I've had a long phase of yogurt-with-fruit-and-muesli-or-granola and dabbled with herby scrambled eggs, breakfast tortilla wraps and jam on toast when I'm at home but wanted an alternative for when I have to eat breakfast at the office. I had a few avocados and peaches that needed using as well as a big sack of whey protein powder that has been intimidating me for a while so I came up with this breakfast smoothie. Don't be put off by the avocado, it provides some good fats and doesn't detract from the fresh taste of this smoothie at all.

Peach, Banana & Avocado Protein Smoothie

1 peach, peeled and roughly chopped
1 banana, chopped and frozen
Half an avocado
25g whey protein powder
100 ml apple juice
100-200 ml water

Just through all of the ingredients into a blender and blitz until smooth. Add more water if it looks a bit thick. Because of the tendency of banana and avocado to go brown once exposed to the air it's better to make this just before you want it. If you make it the night before for breakfast it might go a bit off colour although it will still taste delicious.
Things taste better in wine glasses...
This comes in at approximately 400 kcals with a good hit of protein making it a great post-work out drink. If you try it, let me know what you think.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Frame Rave - Week 2

Did you check out my post on Sweaty Betty and Frame Rave last week? Did you manage to get to a boutique and do it for real or did you try the online class? I'm envious of anyone who managed to get to a class... I can only IMAGINE how much fun that would have been. There was no way I was going to miss out on this altogether so I did the online class and you know what? It was AM-AZ-ING!

I tried the first one last Friday in my mum's lounge using my laptop. The videos start with a demo of some of the moves and then you're into a warm up followed by cardio, whatever the focus is that week (first week abs, second week legs) then a warm down and stretches. Synchronising the music track with the video took a couple of tries but I think I got there in the end. The video is obviously cut and pieced together in places and sections are repeated week to week but no matter, it's still great.

It was a lot of fun and I definitely got a work out. I really felt it in my abs but I have to confess I put a little less into the legs work out so didn't feel that as much. The instruction is clear and there's a big focus on freestyling so you don't have to be any good at following a routine. You can also work out as hard as you like. I'd invited my mum to try it with me but she declined, thinking it would be too hard for her. In the end she was watching in a slightly wistful manner and saying she reckoned she could do it after all.  I'm not sure how long the videos will be online for after September so try them while you can. It would be brilliant if a DVD was put out with this collection on it.
Sporting my gorgeous new Sweaty Betty vest

Thursday, 12 September 2013

A Mile In Her Shoes

The lovely Nicola gave a talk at the social this week about a new social initiative that she is setting up to inspire homeless women to find their feet through running. A Mile In Her Shoes is looking to pilot the scheme by providing the opportunity for homeless women to run at sessions with a qualified group leader. If you're a runner yourself you'll know just how empowering and beneficial to both body and mind running can be. It's no different for these women. It can be the only time they get to really be themselves, without the worries of food and shelter. Some of the insight Nicola gave into why some women want to run but can't or don't was heart breaking. Imagine the reason you didn't want to run was because you didn't want to get hungry because you couldn't afford more food!
A Mile in Her Shoes

Of course another barrier is kit, specifically shoes. These can be expensive but are ultimately necessary so Nicola is collecting second hand shoes to distribute to the women in the project. I donated a pair on Wednesday and am now reaching out to you to ask if you could consider doing the same. 

If you have a pair of sports trainers you don't wear or need anymore, perhaps that pair that you use at the gym since they wore out for running, please get in touch with either myself or Nicola and we can help you get them to her.

Alternatively, perhaps if you are a sports company or have a connection with a sports company, you would consider donating some brand new pairs? I think this is really great project that deserves our support.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Run to the Beat Half Marathon 2013

I never stop finding cool events to take part in so even back when I was doing my Charity Challenge I was keeping an eye out for races to do later in the year. I’d seen the Run to the Beat half marathon around for a couple of years but it had always clashed with something else. This year it didn’t and as a thank you for all my fundraising efforts my lovely Aunt paid for me to enter… so I did! This was my second race of the weekend and very different to the Women's Running 10k.

As part of the race pack everyone was issued with an event t-shirt with their race number printed in a colour that corresponded to their estimated finishing time. I quite like this idea from a souvenir and "feeling like part of something" point of view but it does make it very difficult for spectators to spot you!
Where's Wally?
Getting to the event was easy by public transport, being a short, well sign posted, walk from a number of stations. The race village was large and although it supposedly featured 250 toilets there were still massive queues. I had to wait about 15 minutes to use one which would have caused me to miss the start had it not been delayed by at least 20 minutes. There were stalls from all the major charities who had people running in support of them, a huge stage where Jessie J headlined in the afternoon, plenty of food stalls, a VIP area and quite a lot of picnic tables with umbrellas, which encouraged people to spend the day there.
I just did it...
Despite the fact that one of the main selling points of the race is that music plays a big part, I couldn't hear much in the start pens and although there were around 18 stages on the course you only heard music for a few seconds at each one as you ran past. Some had DJs but many were just vans playing music. One lady had brought her stereo into the front garden which I thought was sweet.

There were loads of spectators on the course which was lovely, and I saw lots of people I knew. I remember one old lady in her front garden waving at us all and prompting huge cheers from just about everyone who ran past. Spirits were generally good, atmosphere friendly and everyone out to have some fun.
The first part of the course was pretty much identical to the start of the London Marathon so I was on familiar ground. It was a crowded start and in fact it didn't really get any better until the final couple of miles. It was hard to find space and in jostling for position after a rather severe bottleneck around miles 4/5 I tripped and fell in quite spectacular fashion. And I wasn't the only one. This particular bottleneck was caused by a small entrance to a switchback at some barracks where there was a water point. Somehow, in the confusion, I got swept past the entrance, thus missing out part of the course and the water/vitacoco station. In fact the course featured quite a number of switchbacks and each turning point was crowded and prone to cut corners. The most disheartening one was at the top of Maze Hill, as we approached the finish line, only to be turned a corner to run about another half mile out and back again. Generally the course was flat with a long hill approaching mile 4 and the steepest one at mile 12. Not fun.
The finish line itself wasn't too crowded but there was over crowding to collect water, vitacoco and medals. We had been advised to thread our timing chips onto our laces so there was a huge crowd at the point at which we were meant to hand them back. I'd attached mine with a twisty tie as I use elastic laces and wasn't prepared to unlace them. Usually you would be asked to attach them with a paper strip or twisty tie so I think that was somewhat bad planning.

Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy the race, I was happy with my time and the music was fun but there are certainly things that could be improved. I thought that the entry fee (£49.50) could have included a goody bag, or at least a post-race snack. The course needs to be improved to reduce over crowding and in my opinion doesn't lend itself to PBs. And there could have been more stages or more speakers on the course. Do it for the experience but be prepared for the odd frustration.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Women’s Running 10k - London

This weekend I ran two races, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. The first was a 10k in Finsbury Park organised by Women's Running magazine. This was the last in a series of three that had taken place across the country in Bristol, Nottingham and London. It cost £25 to enter, which could be considered a little pricey for a 10k, but as it included a goody bag, medal, technical t-shirt and tea and cake for all runners after the event I think it was worth it. If three of you entered together you got your entry fee discounted to about £20.80

The weather was nigh on perfect for the event, alternately sunny and overcast but with the rain holding off for the run itself. The event was easy to get to on public transport although the lack of signs to the park from the tube station saw many runners wandering the streets with smart phones in hand. The race village was quite small with just a baggage tent, tea/coffee van, loos and a couple of stalls but there wasn't a long queue to use the toilets and there was a nice big area for the warm up. I think a stall selling food would have been nice, my dad missed his usual bacon butty. There were a few interviews with members of the Women's Running magazine including Nell McAndrew, and with two ladies from 9bar before a warm up and an introduction to the pacers.
The race started pretty much on time and I didn't experience any over crowding at the start. The course was well marked and marshalled with plenty of points for spectators to cheer the runners on and official photographers at several points. It was a two lap, lightly undulating course which lent itself to possible PBs. I didn't manage one myself but was really pleased to come 178 out of 621 with a time of 58:14.
A nice touch was having our names called out as we came into the finish, that made me smile :) As well as the medal we were handed a bottle of water and a goody bag in a Women's Running branded drawstring bag. All runners could claim a tea or coffee and a delicious banana cake - a lovely touch which made for excellent post-race fuel. The medal was lovely, with the location and date on the ribbon, t-shirts were sized (although I think they come up a little small around the neck) and the goody bag was particularly good containing:
  • Copy of the latest Women's Running magazine
  • 9bar
  • EQ8 drink
  • Halo deoderising wipes
  • Shampoo and conditioner samples from the Body Shop
  • Facial moisturiser
  • Feroglobin iron supplement
  • Pocket pack of tissues
As a first 10k, one for fun, or one to try and get a PB on, I'd recommend looking out for this next year. It's friendly, fun and well organised.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Courgette and Tomato Gratin

Years ago, when I visited France, it was a bit of a challenge sticking to a vegetarian diet. If you wanted to eat out you were often limited to cheese and mushroom omelets, which is fine but they can get a bit boring. I remember one time, New Years 2002, I think it was, resorting to picking the bacon bits out of a McDonalds salad as I couldn't find anything else to eat. Most times that I visit France these days I stay with family but this too can cause a flurry of uncertainty and a great deal of teasing about meals. Vegetarians are still a rarity.

Having grown up as a vegetarian, by choice, I developed a slightly different relationship and approach to food. I compose meals differently; there's not always a focus to a meal as there would be in a meat-and-two-veg situation. Therefore when I'm being catered for I am most impressed when I'm given a delicious meal where vegetables, and not meat substitutes, are the star of the show.

On my last voyage I was served up delicious rice and pasta salads as well as this courgette and tomato gratin. It was so tasty and so simple I felt the need to recreate it when I got home and then share it with you. The recipe that is, although if you are ever passing I'm sure I could make one for you... As it's tomato and courgette season I felt this was especially timely. This is easily scaled to accommodate different sized appetites and numbers of mouths.
I should have taken the picture before
serving it up but you get the idea.

Courgette and Tomato Gratin
Serves 2 

1-2 courgettes
6-8 medium sized tomatoes (a mix of red and yellow is pretty)
1 tsp dried herbs OR 1 tbsp fresh herbs (I used fresh marjoram but oregano and basil will work well too)
50g hard cheese, grated (cheddar and/or parmesan work well)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

  1. Lightly oil a oven proof dish and preheat your oven to 180C
  2. Slice the courgettes and tomatoes and build up alternate rows of tomatoes and courgette slices in the dish, overlapping slightly. 
  3. Drizzle with a little olive oil (a chilli or red pepper infused oil would be delicious). Season with salt, pepper and the herbs, then top with the cheese. 
  4. Bake in the over for around 25 minutes until the vegetables are soft and the cheese golden
Serve with salad, some nice bread, or along side a meat dish, depending on how hungry you are. A glass of white wine is also a fine accompaniment.
You can add breadcrumbs to the topping if you like a bit more crunch. 
Get creative with the oils, herbs and cheeses to put your own stamp on this.

Friday, 6 September 2013

A Week of Over-Excitement

This week has been considerably better than last week. In fact it's been off the scale.Firstly I took and passed my Client Psychology and Motivation module for my PT qualification! I'm really chuffed. I've been studying a couple of modules simultaneously but this is the first one I've taken an exam for so now it feels I'm really making progress.

I started the week with a mini triathlon in the gym before work consisting of 24 lengths in the pool (in my new cozzie and GOGGLES THAT DON'T LEAK!), 25 minutes on the bike and 10 minutes on the treadmill. It was good practice for the Weekend Of Race Madness next weekend.

Anita got herself a fancy-pants new bike for the triathlon we're doing on said weekend and also in anticipation of signing up for the Etape de Tour next year but had yet to take it out on the road. I've not ridden my bike since I moved house a few months ago so we decided to brave it together. After battling with my bike to get it in the car without removing the back wheel, Anita's struggle to get to grips with clip in pedals, subsequent falling off the bike twice (resulting in a bruised wrist) and a change of shoes we managed a 7.5 mile ride at a leisurely pace around some fairly quite roads and cycle paths. We both enjoyed it immensely and were full of resolutions to "do this again sometime". It was so much fun just riding, without real purpose, building some confidence again. We discovered a field of falabella ponies and that it gets dark much more quickly than we anticipated. Lights need to be purchased!

Wednesday was undoubtedly the highlight of my week, having been invited to the Lunges and Lycra late summer social event at the Soho Hotel. I was so nervous about going but it was the best fun. I got to put real names and faces to twitter handles, had some great chats and came away buzzing with inspiration and intent. Fitness Playground put on a brand new kind of session for us, a sort of scavenger hunt around central London with clues being texted to our team leader on where to head next. Fueled by innocent smoothies and nakd bars, war paint duly applied, we headed out to cause chaos. My team, the Pink Ladies, came in second :) I think the best part was being cheered on in very enthusiastic fashion by a bunch of workmen near Leicester Square.
The Pink Ladies
Back to the hotel for amazing food provided by Honestly Healthy, lashings of champagne, talks, fun, games and prizes. I had a great chat with the Fitness Playground boys where I lamented the fact I didn't live in London and so couldn't do their sessions. Hopefully they'll be expanding soon. I came nowhere near to winning the wall-squat challenge (kudos to the ladies who did - legs of STEEL!) but we did all get to go home with a fantastic goody-bag with treats from Sweaty Betty, SmartShake, nuun, Purition and Nakd to mention a few.
Chilling, chatting and drinking after terrorizing the streets of London.
Amazing goody bag!
I don't think I got to sleep before 1:30am so my PT session at 7:30am was challenging, especially as we started with stair runs! Ever the glutton for punishment I then gave J her PT session after work before dashing off to my first Scouts meeting and then driving back to my parents in Kent where I'm spending the weekend. J is making sterling progress and I'm so proud of her. She's been seeing dramatic changes and I'm so pleased I've been able to help get her there. Don't know about her but I'm certainly aching today.

I'm happily not doing ANYTHING today (oh well ok I might try the Sweaty Betty online Frame Rave class) in order to have a fighting chance of a good performance at the Women's 10k and Run to the Beat half marathon over the weekend. Frankly it's going to to be brilliant fun, whatever, and I'm mega excited.

This post has been brought to you by adrenaline, excess enthusiasm and caffeine. How's your week been? What's gotten you fired up this week?

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Get Fit 4 Free with Sweaty Betty and Frame

I'm a fan of Sweaty Betty. They turn out some of the most amazing kit and they also turn their stores into after-hours studios and hold free work out sessions. This autumn, in association with Frame, Sweaty Betty are adding to their classes and helping us to #getfit4free with Frame Rave: "a high-intensity 45-minute workout inspired by 80s rave culture, complete with glowsticks and a high-BPM playlist".
Get Fit for Free
Copyright Sweaty Betty
Sounds awesome right? You can search out your nearest Frame Rave class or if, like me, you're not conveniently near a boutique, you can hop on over to the website and join in by using the online video workouts. A new one will be put up every Wednesday.  

There are lots of other online classes you can try as well like BoxingYoga, a 5 minute high intensity workout,

Now where did I put the glowsticks from last week...?

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The 30-Minute, No-Gym Bodyweight Workout [Infographic]

The following infographic was created by The Greatist team and featured on their blog. What an easy way to work out when you're on holiday or at home... I think I'll be using this myself and trying it out with J in one of her PT sessions further down the line.

Get health and fitness tips at

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Blackberries, Glowsticks and Failings

Ah, another week whooshes past... My break in France was lovely although I ate and drank FAR too much (to the point I felt uncomfortable) and probably didn't run enough. That said I did do some running; a 4.5 miler plus two interval sessions on a cycle path that ran between a stream and the sweetcorn fields in the beautiful rural area in the Loire Valley I was staying in. It helped. Much as I enjoyed it out there it's been lovely to be home, eating a little less and coming up with new ways to use my fresh herbs. I had a lovely gratin in France which I may share with you soon. I forgot to take a picture when I made it during the week. I'm currently helping mum deal with a surplus of tomatoes and apples and I seem unable to stop picking blackberries...
A productive lunchbreak
I got back on Tuesday night but had Wednesday off as I was due to have a JetLev experience in the afternoon. There was a bit of a mix up in that the company stopped operating in my local area and now only run in London, but no one had bothered to let me know so I have to sort out a refund/reschedule in the coming week. Annoying as I was really looking forward to it, but it's just one of those things. I got rid of any frustration during a PT session at the gym.

It's actually been a really lovely week of seeing people. I saw J for a PT session on Wednesday (yes double PT - roar!) and a friend I used to work with dropped by for tea on Thursday before I headed out on a 6 mile run. I'd dropped the hard edge of my bosu ball on my foot on Wednesday night and was limping all day Thursday so wasn't sure I'd be able to run. Thankfully it cleared up and I managed a great fast run without music.

Friday morning I managed a brick session of half hour swim and half hour cycle before work which was ace. I saw a lot of Anita this week, having had lunch on Wednesday then having her over for dinner on Friday before going glowstick paddling at Dinton Pastures with @amerbob and another friend. It was so much fun! We got kitted out with glowsticks before being set adrift in canoes on the lake after dark for a 90 minute semi-guided paddle. There was a fair bit of drifting, looking for bats and stars and a great deal of hilarity at the expense of the fishermen who kept shining lights at us and shouting at us to get away. Best Friday night I'd had in ages.
Bit of a late one and I was up again bright and early on Saturday to join @amerbob again for a 10 mile run with some friends. It was a lovely scenic run, featuring views, fields, planking and pilfered blackberries. I'd intended to tack another 8 miles on afterwards but my mojo got lost between there and home. I've not made up the miles and I'm burying the guilt. Yes I know, I'm only cheating myself. I will achieve all my sessions next week and I WILL get an 18 and a 20 miler in before the marathon. If it kills me. Which it might.
Haybale planking
This coming week I've got the Lunges and Lycra social to look forward to as well as the Women's Running 10k and Run to the Beat half marathon. Lots of logistics to plan but I'm exceedingly excited. There's a whole host of race reports in the pipeline!