SLEEP LIKE AN EXCEPTIONAL ATHLETE

This post is in conjunction with TEMPUR®  but all thoughts are my own.

Anyone who knows me will know that my bed is probably my favourite place on earth and sleeping is of the utmost importance to me. I find that the sweet spot is around 8 hours per night for me, particularly as I’m a light sleeper and I’m very unlikely to sleep solidly through the night.

This optimum sleep time will increase or decrease depending on the level of physical activity that I’m doing at any given time and I definitely notice my physical performance taking a hit if I don’t sleep well as my muscles don’t repair themselves fully. But what do the professionals have to say about sleep and its relation to athletic performance?

One of my idols is Serena Williams (did I ever tell you about the time I played tennis with her?) and she has been sleeping on a Tempur mattress for the last 10 years. She credits the mattress and pillows for relieving pressure points while she sleeps allowing her to get up and hit the court in top condition. More recently she has been loving her mattress to increase her sleep during pregnancy as she went from around 5 hours per night up to around 8.

Cheri Mah of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory authored a study in 2009 that followed the Stanford University women’s tennis team as they attempted to get 10 hours of sleep every night for 5 weeks. She found that they sprinted faster and hit a higher number of accurate shots than when they were getting their normal amount of sleep.

The one aspect that comes up over and over again is how athletes at the top of their game are prioritising sleep in their training schedules. Simone Biles, Roger Federer and Michael Phelps all look at their sleep in the run up to big competitions and make sure that they are achieving the optimum amount of sleep for them and their bodies. This even goes as far as readjusting their sleep patterns well in advance of competing abroad to align their times of being awake with the competition times.

So although it’s shown that one bad night’s sleep won’t hugely affect your athletic ability, it’s clear that consistently appropriate amounts of sleep for you and your body will keep you performing at the top of your game. How does that apply to those of us who aren’t olympic athletes though?

 

Here are my top tips on how to get the most out of your night’s sleep:

1) Have a set bedtime routine: I can’t go to bed without having a shower, no matter how late it is or how tired I am. That shower is the signal to my body to start slowing down and I’m typically asleep within half an hour of getting out of the shower.

2) Limit screen time: We live in a hyper-connected world and sometimes it’s difficult to switch off, literally and figuratively. Try reading before bed to limit the amount of blue light shining in your eyes and to slowly switch off your brain.

3) Essential oils: Recently I’ve been putting lavender oil into my humidifier at night and it’s helping me to drift off to a familiar smell each night. Alternatively you can buy pillow mists or even just keep a bag of dried lavender next to your bed and give it a scrunch each night as you get into bed.

4) Write out your to-do list: Every night I try to write out my urgent to-do list for the following day so that I don’t wake up at 3am panicking that I’ve forgotten something. It means that I can get up with a clear head and attack each day from the start.

5) Don’t be afraid to reset: If you do wake up in the night, which I do nearly every night, I find it useful to get out of bed and reset my brain rather than stressing about the fact that I’m awake. That could include going to the loo, getting a glass of water or reading a book for a little while.

 

My sleep patterns have been getting increasingly erratic as I progress through this pregnancy to the point where, at 8.5 months pregnant, I now sleep in about 45 minute bursts, punctuated with all sorts of pain in my back and hips, acid reflux and countless trips to the loo. With only a couple of weeks left until we get to meet our little one I’m trying to think ahead to when I start working out again and how I can optimise my sleep with a baby.

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Tired eyes, bed hair, stretch marks and the bump

Serena Williams prioritised her sleep after the birth of her daughter and she says that’s how she was able to make it to yet another Wimbledon final a mere 10 months after giving birth. While I’m not aiming to make it to Centre Court, I will be taking her tips on trying to get as much sleep as possible to let the body recover and work at an athletic level again. Watch this space!

 

3 INGREDIENT BANANA FLAPJACK RECIPE

Ok, I’m not going to lie, this isn’t really a recipe because there is no skill involved in it at all but they taste delicious and I’m rubbish at baking so there we go.

At the moment I’m all about convenience food because my interest in cooking has completely gone out of the window along with my desire to eat meat, cooked vegetables or basically anything that isn’t a carb. Therefore, having some delicious snacks in the kitchen that contain at least some micronutrients is a bonus in my book.

This is where these easy flapjacks come in. They were inspired by having a large number of bananas that had gone past the point of decency with their ripeness. I made 3 of them into a sugar and butter-laden banana bread (which was perfectly delicious) but the rest of them became these flapjacks so that I could eat them mid-afternoon without getting a massive sugar buzz and crash.

 

 

Ingredients:

3 x very ripe bananas

1.5 cups oats

1 large tablespoon crunchy peanut butter

 

Method:

– Mash the bananas in a bowl

– Mix in the oats and peanut butter until fully combined

– Shape into 12 vaguely round shapes

– Bake at 180 degrees (fan) for 15 minutes until they’re a little bit crispy on top but not burnt

– Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days (if they last that long)

 

 

These are high in carbohydrates so they’d be perfect to eat around your workouts as an energy boost or to replenish the glycogen in your muscles after a heavy session if that’s what you’re into. Alternatively, just eat one whenever your peckish. They would be great as fuel on a long run or cycle because those gels do get tiresome after a while and can play havoc with your digestion if you take too many. I’ve also discovered that dogs love them so if you’re making them for your furry friend then just make sure that you use a peanut butter that is 100% nuts and doesn’t contain any xylitol which is poisonous to dogs.

 

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You could add in a number of things too including:

– cinnamon

– chocolate chips

– raisins or dried cranberries

– matcha powder for a caffeine boost

 

Give them a go!

THE UPS AND DOWNS OF MY FIRST TRIMESTER

I’m starting a series on this blog based around my own experiences as an expectant mum (HOW GROWN UP) and as a pre-& post-natal qualified personal trainer.

This first post is more about my own experiences in the first trimester but coming up are my tips on how to exercise in your first 3 months of pregnancy as well as some workouts you can do yourself.

With all the early pregnancy tests that are about now, women are finding out earlier and earlier that they’re pregnant which isn’t necessarily a good thing as it can prolong the first trimester worrying. I found out I was pregnant about 10 days before my period was due which meant that I couldn’t relax until I was over that first mini obstacle of actually missing a period.

Unfortunately I’d had a devastating miscarriage towards the end of last year which started a few days after my missed period so once I got past that point with this pregnancy I definitely breathed a big sigh of relief.

Weeks 4 -6 were a doddle to be honest, I was just ravenously hungry 24 hours a day and bursting with this big secret that I was sharing with just the hubby. I had to have pre-lunch sandwiches as well as constant snacks but apart from that I felt pretty good. I was just about managing to keep up my exercise schedule with 2-3 sessions each week plus a swim and some lengthy dog walks. I did notice that my bedtime was creeping earlier and earlier (which was great because bed = life). At the end of week 6 we had an early scan to put my mind at rest after the miscarriage. There is nothing quite as life-changing as seeing a little heartbeat on the screen and knowing that it’s growing inside your body. There were many tears from both of us.

The day that I turned 7 weeks was when it all went a bit tits up. For 2 weeks I could hardly eat as I felt horribly sick all day everyday. Any food that I thought I might have fancied turned my stomach after a few bites so I survived on water, melon and plain tortilla chips. A delightful side-effect of pregnancy is the incessant bloating, even when your stomach is completely empty. Needless to say exercise was very limited to Pip’s local daily walk and that took everything out of me. Along with daily naps I was in bed asleep by 8:30pm every night and sleeping solidly until 7am the following morning.

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At 9 weeks, having lost half a stone in weight, with the help of some Sea Band acupressure bracelets I started to come round and began to eat again which was a welcome boost of energy. However, my taste buds have changed and food is still a bit of a constant battle. Here’s a current list of everything that I’ve gone off that I previously loved:

Chocolate

Ice cream

Anything with onions in

Gravy

Red meat

Green vegetables, particularly broccoli

 

In week 10 I started some early morning shifts at the local gym which meant getting up at 5:15am a few mornings a week. Needless to say, by 1pm I was often asleep on the sofa and still going to bed at 8pm. First trimester exhaustion is like no other tiredness I’ve ever experienced (yet. I know when the little one arrives it’ll be on another level). I did manage to start working out again which felt brilliant. However, I limited it to some light weights and plenty of stretching and pelvic floor & core strengthening. Whilst you can continue exercising as you used to during your early pregnancy, I hadn’t worked out in over a month so I didn’t want to cripple myself straight away. Also, my heart rate increased much quicker than normal during a workout so I kept my rest periods long and weights light.

Weeks 11 and 12 continued in much the same way, sometimes feeling nauseous, sometimes being ravenously hungry but always being exhausted. My 12 week scan however was a huge high point as we got to see the little bubba doing somersaults and waving at us. Obviously, there were a lot more tears.

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So all in all, the first trimester has been a bit up and down and my body is slowly starting to feel like it doesn’t belong to me anymore (I’m looking at you boobs, why couldn’t you have grown like this when I was a teenager?!). Now that I’m nearly at week 15 my energy is coming back in fits and starts so I’ve started to work out again but I’m being sensible and listening to my body.

Despite the moaning, I feel incredibly lucky and privileged to be able to go through this journey as I know many women can’t who want to. I also know how life-changing a miscarriage can be and how no one really speaks about their experiences of it until you mention that you’ve gone through it.

The little bean that I lost will always be in my heart. If you’ve been through or are going through something similar and want to talk to someone then please feel free to reach out to me. It really helped me to talk to people who’d been through the same experience as I felt that they understood so thank you to everyone who listened to me through that tough time and shared their own heart-breaking stories with me.

 

 

 

GYM HOPPING WITH ESQUARED

There’s plenty of articles floating around at the moment about what people think the 2018 fitness trends are going to be but from what I can see, I think it’s going to be all about convenience.

As fitness has become mainstream (everyone and their nan knows what a burpee is), convenience is the name of the game. People like to be able to fit a workout into their day whether they’re working, chilling out, travelling or staying with friends. With a traditional gym membership this kind of working out isn’t possible and with a lot of the other options on the market, it’s only possible to go to classes. But what happens if it’s leg day and you need to get under that barbell and squat?!

Well, there’s options like PayAsUGym but I tried one out called Esquared. It’s an app that you top up with credit to spend at gyms. You can book into any classes that the gyms offer or you can book a slot on the gym floor to do your own workout.

 

 

The app, once downloaded, is easy enough to use although there’s a lot of options for central London so you need to zoom right into the map to get any visibility of what’s around you. At the moment it’s largely based in zones 1-2 in London. The closest gym floor slot to where I live now in Hertfordshire is about 8 miles away, a perfect distance on the bike to get my cardio in too!

I tried the app out by booking into Energie Fitness in Bethnal Green just before Christmas and before I moved house. It just takes a couple of clicks to book your session once you’re topped up with credit. When I turned up the guy at reception was clued up on the app, buzzed us through the gate and gave us a short tour of the gym. Once we’d warmed up I put together a 25 minute circuit with all the fun equipment they had there and finished with a good stretch. That 2-hour session cost £8 worth of credit, much cheaper than a lot of day passes for gyms.

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Would I use Esquared past the trial? Well, the short answer is yes but probably not as the sole provider of my fitness access. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I think convenience is important so I would combine Esquared with something like the 5 class option on Classpass, especially as the credit on Esquared doesn’t seem to expire. I’d also be more likely to use it if they extended their reach out beyond London.

Have you tried out something similar to Esquared? What did you think?

 

 

I was paid for my time to write this blogpost & provided with credit on Esquared but all opinions are my own

ALL ABOUT F45

There’s something about getting to the end of a tough class and feeling the vibe in the room where everyone is half amazed that they got through the class and half absolutely loving it. Know what I’m talking about? Then you must have been to F45.

I tried out a class at F45 Farringdon, a small space in a basement close to Farringdon Station that has a large studio, bright reception area and small but well-stocked changing rooms. The welcome that I got at 07:30 in the morning before the Panthers class was friendly and set me up perfectly for the class.

Panthers consists of 14 stations with a mix of cardio and strength exercises including burpees, chest press and deadlifts. One of the things that sets F45 apart from other studios is how accessible it is because all of the exercises are shown on screens around the room as well as the work and rest periods (60 seconds of work and 20 seconds of rest for this particular class).

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There were two instructors in the room who were running around making sure that everyone’s technique was on point which was the best attention I’ve ever seen in a large class format. Once one of the instructors knew about my lower back issues he kept coming over and suggesting ways that I could modify certain exercises. He also spotted me when I got a bit cocky on the chest press and helped me push through to the end of the work period.

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For me, as a personal trainer and group exercise instructor, one of the hardest things when I’m teaching a big group is how tricky it is to make sure everyone is doing the exercise correctly and not putting themselves at risk of injury. In other studios I’ve seen participants doing things that make me wince but because the instructor has so many other people to watch (or because the studio is so dark…) they often miss technique cues. At F45 the focus is not on putting people in a dark room with flashing lights and giving them the transcendental experience like other studios, it’s just about giving people a bloody good workout and looking after their bodies.

Overall it’s one of the best classes I’ve been to because of the mix of strength and cardio exercises, the accessibility and the personal attention that the instructors gave to all of the participants. I’m just gutted that after that first class I became ill and couldn’t use the rest of my two week trial! There are F45 studios all over London with two new ones opening up in Old Street and Stratford any day now. You can get your own 2-week trial on their website, I’d highly recommend giving it a go and let me know how you get on.

5 TOP TIPS WHEN YOU’RE STRUGGLING IN A RACE

You know that moment in a race where you want to cry, stamp your feet and throw a strop because you can’t possibly continue even another inch? Everything hurts and you’re tired (and possibly hungry) and the finish line is SO FAR AWAY.

Well, I had that for the first time in a long time during l’Etape London, a 49 mile cycle event that I did a few weeks ago. The background of this event is that I did it in it’s inaugural year, 3 years ago, and loved every gloriously sunny second of it. I flew round, indulged in salty potatoes at the feed station and only bonked hard once. I also knew nothing about fuelling and was coming off the back of a triathlon season that included lots of cycle training and generally higher levels of cardiovascular fitness.

When the opportunity arose to take part again in the event I jumped at the chance. It came a gentle 9 weeks after our epic cycling trip from London to Paris (you can read about that here) so I thought ‘great, my residual fitness will carry me over as well as regular training rides every weekend’. In reality, life and a health blip got in the way and I hadn’t cycled properly in about a month by the time l’Etape London came round. Whoops.

Luckily I was doing it with two other friends who are both badass cyclists and I knew I’d be able to make it. I just didn’t know how close to not making it I would get.

The event itself was relatively well-organised. The race village at the Olympic Park Velodrome was bigger than last time with some tasty-looking food trucks, a huge water tank for refills and various other brands who had some cool kit on show. We were registered for the Cycletta wave, a women’s only wave, which when it came down to it consisted of 6 women. Yep, 6 women. Apparently a lot of the Cycletta wave had gone off with earlier waves to cycle with their male friends which kind of defeats the point. I know once you’re out on the course it doesn’t matter so much but we did see those 3 other women out on the course and it felt good knowing that we were kind of like a little team. Next year, they either need to cut that wave altogether or publicise it more so it becomes more special.

The first 30 miles of the race flew by, mostly because Elle and I were nattering away the whole time as we had a lot to catch up on. The hills that forced me to walk last time seemed much more insignificant this time for both of us and although they were tough they weren’t world-endingly tough. The course volunteers were (in the most part) really helpful and they cheered us on the whole way.

It was after the (delicious) feed station that things started to unravel. My legs felt heavy, my hips and glutes hurt and I could feel the tell-tale start of chafe on my undercarriage. From that point it was a slog to the end of the course. 20 miles of slog. To put that into perspective, that’s about 2.5 hours of struggling.

Elle kept pushing me and we took it in turns to go in front and lead the pace. Her constant support and energy kept me going despite wanting to stop with every fibre of my body. With about 3 miles to go she zoomed off for a strong finish and I tried to follow suit. It didn’t really happen but I did get across that finish line in one piece. Just.

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So here are my top tips on getting through a race when you’re struggling:

1) The world isn’t ending

This is something that I always have to remind myself. There was life before this struggle and there will be life after it and looking back on it, it’s never as bad as you think it is in the moment

2) Take your mind off it

Most of the struggle in these situations is mental. I mean, yes it hurts physically, but it’s your brain that wants you to give in to the pain and quit. So do what I do and think your pain away. My favourite game to play is daydreaming about what I would do if I won the lottery. Honestly, before you know it you’ve spent millions of pounds and you’re another 30 minutes down the road

3) Remind yourself you’ve done it before

If you haven’t actually done the exact race before, you’ve definitely hit tough moments in training and pushed through them. You’ve done it once, you can do it again

4) Think about crossing the line

This works for me every time. The draw of adding another medal to my lineup really helps to keep me moving forward. If you don’t finish, you don’t get a medal and if you don’t get a medal then what are you going to post on Instagram that evening?

5) Set mini goals

One of my favourite games to play in the closing stages of a race is to pick out individuals and make it my mission to overtake them. If they overtake you then you have to work harder to get back in front. Yes, it’s petty but my god it keeps you moving

 

Of course, all of these tips are to be used within reason. If you’re injured (including dangerous levels of dehydration) then my advice would be to stop, seek medical attention and come back next year for that medal. It’ll still be there.

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Thank you to Human Race for giving me a space in l’Etape London in return for this review. All opinions are my own

TOP 10 TIPS TO CYCLE FROM LONDON TO PARIS

Cycling from London to Paris was a massive learning curve for me because I’d never done any long-distance cycling before, let alone any kind of long-distance endurance event. So for those of you looking to take the challenge on here are my top 10 tips that I learned along the way.

1) Practice packing and carry your bags on training rides

I ended up strapping my backpack onto a luggage rack over my back wheel using bungee cords and the full bag added on considerable weight. It changed the handling of my bike and made going uphill considerably more hard-going, especially on the first day while my legs got used to it. I trained with a half-full bag which in hindsight was a bit pointless

2) Train with your buddies

Cycling as part of a group can be tricky and the more you can practice the easier it will be on the day. Learn and get used to all of the hand signals that you can use to indicate potholes, broken glass, parked cars and traffic lights to the riders behind you. By pointing these things out you’ll make it a safer ride for everyone

3) Decide on lunch stops and dinner locations in advance

We ended up having lengthy discussions most nights about where we were going to eat while we all got increasingly hangry. We managed to all stay friends but if you want to protect your friendships I’d highly recommend doing the research before you leave and agree on places in advance

4) Take it in turns to go at the front

For all of us there were moments where our bodies and/or minds wanted to give up and at these points drafting really came into its own. Drafting is when you tuck into the slipstream of the cyclist in front and it allows you to put in less effort because there’s less air resistance. However, if one person is always in front they will quickly get exhausted so take it in turns

5) Pack as little as possibly

Remember, halfway up a hill your 6kg bag will suddenly feel about 20kg so pack the bare minimum. Everyone will smell by day 3 so just embrace it and stop apologising. You can check out my packing list here and I can say that I packed light and used every single thing that I took

6) Stretch, stretch, stretch

Everything will hurt so take every opportunity you can to stretch out whatever feels tight. My back, bum and quads ended up feeling particularly tight so I tried to give them a good stretch each morning, evening and at rest stops

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7) Pack plenty of snacks

Not all french villages have a shop and the ones that do sometimes close at odd times so make sure that you’ve always got enough fuel with you to keep you going to the next village. My favourite bits of fuel were haribo fizzy cola bottles and the peanut butter and jam sandwich that I carried with me on the first day

8) Remember that after the Eiffel Tower you have to get back on your bike

We went straight to the Gare du Nord after the Eiffel Tower to drop our bikes at EuroDespatch to be taken back to London and this was another 5.5 miles across Paris which none of us had really thought about. Plan in your route and stay mentally ready for more cycling

9) Keep hydrating

While we’re all pretty good at hydrating on the bike, it’s worth remembering that you need to keep up with the electrolytes throughout the evenings and the day after your ride too. As tempting as it is to have some alcohol also bear in mind that it can be dehydrating so drink plenty of water on the side to avoid having to cycle on a hangover the next morning

10) The recovery will be tough

I’ve never known exhaustion like when I returned home from Paris. Everyday that week I had to nap in the afternoon and the idea of getting back on my bike or even doing any exercise was nearly enough to make me cry. But you will get back there and you will get back on your bike because it wasn’t actually that bad. Was it?

 

What tips would you add to the list?

CYCLING LONDON TO PARIS

Here it is, the post you’ve all been waiting for, my round-up of how I got from London to Paris on two wheels. To get up to date you can have a read of how training went here, a list of all the kit I took here and my nutrition plan for the ride here.

 

Day 1

Stratford, London -> Dieppe

73.5 miles

4,042ft elevation

Pain-factor: 4/10

We met bright and early at the Velodrome at the Olympic Park in Stratford because that’s where all our training rides had started and ended and it felt right that the real thing started from there too. By 06:45 we were on the road with very little fanfare and by 08:30 we were heading out of London towards the south coast (with a 45 minute stop for a pesky puncture/coffee/wees in Clapham).

All smiles before we set off from Stratford

All smiles before we set off from Stratford

The weather was perfect for cycling with gorgeous sunshine, a lovely breeze and the most beautiful views as we pedalled through the Surrey and Sussex countryside. We’d cycled from London to Brighton a few weeks before to recce the route and see what was ahead of us. That practice ride was one of the hardest we did in training as I felt nauseous the whole way and ended up walking up nearly every hill trying not to vom into the hedges. In complete contrast our ride on the actual day felt much easier and nearly pleasant.

Taking in the Sussex countryside

Taking in the Sussex countryside

I managed to cycle up every single hill (with a couple of stops to catch my breath and let the lactic acid out of my legs) which gave me such a confidence boost. The peanut butter and jam sandwich that I’d packed to eat at the top of Turners Hill (if you know, you know) really helped to keep me moving too. Before we knew it we were approaching Newhaven in plenty of time. The ferry was booked for 17:30 and we made it to the port by 14:30, leaving us time to gorge on burgers and chips before locking our bikes up on the ferry and claiming a table next to the bar.

A couple of beers down and my stomach started to rebel. By the time we got off the ferry I was so bloated that all I wanted to do was curl up in bed but we still had a couple of miles to ride to the hotel, all uphill. We put our heads down and trudged up the hill before showering and collapsing in bed. Day one, done.

Feeling very bloody happy that day one was done

Feeling very bloody happy that day one was done

 

Day 2

Dieppe -> Beauvais

66 miles

1,525ft elevation

Pain factor: 6.5/10

Day 2 started with a massive breakfast buffet consisting of all the pastries, plenty of nutella and fresh French baguettes. We made some nutella sandwiches to take on the road and set off by 09:30. Overshare warning: I ended up being on my period by this point and all I’m going to say about that is THE CHAFING, THINK OF THE CHAFING. Ugh.

The first 3 hours of day 2 were along the Avenue Verte, a paved ex-railway that carved its way through the French countryside in a very straight line. We’d been looking forward to this as a car-free cycle path and it did end up being that but it felt tough from the first metre. We only realised when we stopped for lunch that those first 30 miles had been steadily uphill, sapping our legs of all energy without us being aware that we were actually climbing. There’s nothing like a sneaky hill to destroy all confidence in your cycling ability.

Travelling at warp speed (not)

Travelling at warp speed (not)

After a lunch of croque madames and chips we were back on the road to some rolling hills along the French roads. In general the French drivers were much more courteous than the English ones, passing us with plenty of room. One even stopped to check we were ok when I was lying on the ground by the side of the road trying to stretch out my back. He thought I was dead… Luckily I wasn’t. At this point we had a few more mechanical problems with a couple of the bikes so the mood was a little low. I put on some music on my phone which was easy to do as it was right in front of me thanks to my Quadlock.

Grooving away on the bike

Grooving away on the bike

Eventually we turned off the roads onto the Trans’Oise, another car-free cycle path, and everyone put their own music on. To this point we’d be cruising at around 12mph but as soon as the music hit us our speed went up to 15mph as we all thought we were in a spin class. In fact, there was so much dancing going on on the bikes that my triceps were sore the next day. We flew along the final 20 miles and made it to Beauvais and bed, after stuffing our faces with sushi. Day two, done.

Multitasking - checking Instagram whilst stretching

Multitasking – checking Instagram whilst stretching

 

Day 3

Beauvais -> Paris

51 miles

2,444ft elevation

Pain factor: 9/10

Getting back on the bikes in the morning of the third day was painful. My quads were really tight, my wrists were sore from the pressure on the handlebars, my fingers were numb and my lady bits were chafed and sore. You can see where this day 3 round-up is going.

From the start I struggled. We hit a hill pretty early on, at around mile 10, and I pushed my way up it, refusing to walk even an inch. Once we’d conquered that hill my quads seemed to ease a bit and for the next 20 miles we cruised along. If I’m totally honest, a lot of day 3 has become a blur of stopping to stretch, shaking out my hands and ramming food down my throat to keep my body fuelled. All I wanted to do was arrive in Paris and not have to get back on my bike again.

The final 20 miles or so, we cycled through increasingly bigger towns as we approached Paris so even the cycling itself wasn’t fun. As we hit the outskirts of Paris we had to deal with the French taxi drivers who were the most dangerous road-users that we encountered. All of us at one point or another got cut up and had to gesticulate angrily, which they completely ignored. The final 5 miles were hell as road after road was closed and we were all exhausted and grouchy. Even the arrival at the Eiffel Tower was an anti-climax because I was so done with the whole experience.

Giant grumpy face at the Eiffel Tower

Giant grumpy face at the Eiffel Tower

After the obligatory photos at the Eiffel Tower with plastered on fake smiles, we had to cycle another 6 miles back across Paris to drop our bikes off at the Eurostar luggage office at Gare du Nord. About 2 hours after reaching the Eiffel Tower we eventually reached the hotel where it started to sink in, with the help of some beer.

Job done

Job done

The next day we’d planned to take it easy and mainly sit in coffee shops eating cake but we ended up walking miles across Paris in the blazing sunshine because it would have been a shame to miss out on the weather and not make the most of being in Paris. The Eurostar home was a very quiet affair with baguettes, snoozing and quiet contemplation of what we’d achieved.

Feeling every bit the warrior

Feeling every bit the warrior

Watch out next week for a post containing all of the details of trip, including which hotels we stayed in, where we ate and the actual routes that we took as well as some tips and lessons for anyone else thinking of doing the same ride.

 

KIT LIST: WHAT I’M TAKING TO CYCLE FROM LONDON TO PARIS

The one conversation that Elle, Mollie and I have had the most throughout this whole training period is what kit we’ll be taking with us. Yes, we all wear a lot of lycra anyway but none of us have done a multi-day cycle trip before so it’s taken a while to settle on this final kit list. Settle in, it’s a long one…

First off, what am I actually going to wear? Well, if I’m honest, as little as possible. I’m a sweaty person anyway and cycling up hills makes me sweat probably more than any other form of exercise. Therefore, my outfit of choice each day will be a pair of bib shorts and a sports bra so I can stay as breezy as possible.

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DHB Bib shorts

I prefer bib shorts to regular shorts because there’s no pesky waist band digging in but the problem comes when you need to go to the loo because everything has to come off, including your jersey, so you can get the straps down. The DHB bib shorts are a halterneck design which means that with a bit of flexibility you don’t actually have to remove your jersey to go to the loo. For a lazy person like me that’s the dream. However, the chamois (the pad that goes between your legs and saves your lady garden), isn’t as padded as I would like so I’ll probably be saving these for the first or second day while I’m still fresh.

Decathlon B’TWIN bib shorts *

These are my favourite piece of kit because not only do they look cool but the chamois is perfectly padded and the bib part of the shorts provides a little bit more coverage and therefore protection from the sun if you’re not wearing a jersey. If these came in a halter neck bib like the DHB ones they’d by a 10/10, as it is they’re a 9.5/10.

Decathlon B’TWIN sleeveless jersey *

As I said, I’m not a fan of wearing too many clothes when it’s hot and I’m exercising so I was on the lookout for a sleeveless jersey (also, optimal tanning opportunity). This one from B’TWIN is super thin with the standard pockets in the back including a zipped pocket. The only issue is that it rides up because I have quite a high waist. I’m sure if I went up a size to a large I wouldn’t have the same issue.

Decathlon B’TWIN rainproof jacket *

I’ve got everything crossed that we don’t meet any rain but you never know! This jacket is so light and will fold up into nothing so it’s the perfect ‘just in case’ jacket.

Altura Peloton jersey *

I love the brightness of this jersey and when you’re wearing it it’s light, soft and comfortable. Again, the pockets are great with a zipped one for essentials and it stays down over my waist, which is a bonus.

Shock Absorber sports bra  *

Being on the smaller-side up top I’ve never really bothered with a proper sports bra before, just picking up crop top style bras that I like the print of. This shock absorber bra has a zip-up the front which is a godsend when you’re sweaty and tired, no more struggling out of a sweaty bra! It fits really well (I’m a 36C), cradles my boobs well and looks great too.

Nike Indy sports bra

This is the kind of sports bra that I normally wear as it’s non-padded, non-underwired and doesn’t get in the way of anything. It’s comfortable enough to wear all day and will dry overnight if I want to wash it.

1000 Mile Breeze Lite socks *

I’ve never paid much attention to socks when cycling but I’ve realized that on the longer rides, you need something comfortable that will prevent blisters and keep the swat wicking away from your feet. These double-layered socks, whilst designed for running, do a great job and have really looked after my feet on some of the longer training rides.

Shimano WM64 SPD shoes

I have a love-hate relationship with these clip-in shoes. In training I’ve fallen off my bike because of them three times, each time because I’ve been going so slow that when I go to stop I can’t get my foot out in time before I start to topple over. The falls aren’t spectacular but they are embarrassing. On the plus side they’re helping me work on my hill climbing technique by teaching me the pedaling movement of wiping gum off the bottom of your shoe, rather than just pushing down all the time.

Decathlon B’TWIN 500 road cycling helmet *

The ideal scenario with a bike helmet is that it’s light enough and fits well enough that you aren’t aware of it. I’ve found that in the BTWIN helmet. Worn with a cycling cap underneath to pick up al the sweat it’s perfect.

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Now, what about all the other stuff? Well, luggage-wise I’m just going to take my old Berghaus rucksack that was a hand-me-down from my husband because on our final day in Paris I want something that’s easy to carry around. For the cycling days it’s going to be strapped onto my pannier rack using a variety of bungee cords. I have a little bag under my saddle for spare inner tubes and my allan keys.

Science in Sport water bottles

I’ll have two of these on my bike and they carry 800ml each which is perfect for me. I tend to get through a lot of liquid on the bike so I need as much as possible with me. I’ll refill these as and when I can. I’ll also be taking a BRITA fill&go bottle * for the evenings as it makes any water taste deliciously filtered.

Restrap handlebar bag

As my main bag won’t be that accessible while I’m riding I’ve also opted for a small handlebar bag to contain the essentials. I’ll be keeping bits of food and my phone charger in there so it’s all to hand. The design of this one is really smart and it’s also fully waterproof with an inner sealable pocket. Hopefully I won’t need to test that feature out.

Quadlock phone holder *

I’m forever getting lost when cycling round London so the idea of cycling to Paris without a sat nav was slightly nerve-wracking. The Quadlock holder simply straps on to your handlebars with a couple of bands, you put the case onto your phone and the two click together. Simple! It’s been really useful to navigate around London, check the time and see what my husband is thinking for dinner. While we’ll be mostly navigating to Paris using a Garmin bike computer, my phone in the Quadlock will be a good back up.

 

As well as all the stuff above I’ll also be carrying underwear (although not for when I’m actually cycling because the girls have taught me that cycling commando is 100% the way to go), spare socks and the bare minimum of toiletries including a toothbrush, mini toothpaste, face moisturizer, and nurofen. I’m also packing a pair of 3/4 length leggings and a t-shirt for the evenings and our day in Paris as well as a t-shirt to sleep in because the girls don’t need to see the girls. I’m keeping tech to a minimum and will only be taking my phone along with a portable charger and a plug in charger for overnight. Unfortunately my proper camera is just too heavy and bulky to take.

Last, and possibly most importantly, I’ll be taking Ride suncream *, the ultra water-proof and sweat-proof suncream that will last a lot longer than a conventional one. I’ve tried this out on training rides and it really does stay on all day and protect from sunburn! Just don’t do what I did one ride and forget to put any on at all… That hurt. A lot.

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That’s about it for kit so well done for reading this far! I’ve got a separate post on how I’m planning on fuelling the ride, which will be up in the next couple of days.

If you want to follow our trip you can check out my Instagram where I should be posting on Stories fairly regularly from the road.

 

All items marked with a * were provided for free in return for a review, thank you to all of the brands for supporting us on this amazing trip

 

HOW I LEARNT TO SWIM HAPPY

Last week was my final session of one-on-one swimming lessons with Swimming Nature and I’m so sad it’s over! You can read all about my first lesson here.

I went into these sessions knowing that I’m a fairly confident swimmer and I’m very comfortable in the water so I was excited to work on my technique and have my first swimming lessons as an adult.

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In my second lesson we worked further on my front crawl technique by trying to slow down my arms, the result of which is that I felt a lot less panicked when swimming front crawl. I’ve mentioned before that I felt I could swim breakstroke for hours and now my front crawl is approaching the same calmness and sustainability as breastroke. Mark also tweaked my breasktroke technique, encouraging me to look at Adam Peaty’s body position in the water to find a more streamlined way of moving. The best part of that session was learning how to tumble turn properly! I’ve only ever done them on my own before as a kid so it was great to be taught the proper technique using Fergus the toy monkey (not as weird as that sounds, trust me).

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In the third session we continued working on my arm position for front crawl to get the coveted ‘high elbow’ which creates an efficient and beautiful stroke. I’m not sure I felt so beautiful as I swam but I could definitely feel the advantage in the efficiency. We tested it by timing the tempo of my stroke (2.6 seconds per cycle) and then playing with the speed of the length by just adjusting the technique and body position. My front crawl length time dropped from 21 seconds down to 16 seconds, a huge difference!

My final session was focused on learning the butterfly stroke, something that I’ve never been taught before. Mark broke it down to its parts before we put it all together and suddenly it didn’t seem quite so scary or difficult. My butterfly certainly needs a lot of work but the basics are there. We finished off by swimming a medley, one length each of butterfly, back stroke, breastroke and front crawl. I finished on a massive high feeling really proud with how much I’ve learned and how much happier I feel in my front crawl.

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I would highly recommend Swimming Nature and specifically Mark at Fitness First Highbury for the simple teaching methods, confidence-boosting feedback and in-water demonstrations that I haven’t seen other places offering. The focus with Swimming Nature is learning how to swim beautifully and while I’m not sure my strokes are beautiful quite yet, I definitely feel happy doing them. I came away from each session feeling positive and full of energy and if there’s one suggestion I’d make, it’s that if you book a session, splash out (sorry) for the full 60 minute session. 30 minutes flies by too quickly and I was left wanting more each time.

Prices for the 60 minute one-on-one sessions are £64 which is on a par with personal training sessions, essentially what you’re getting but just in the water!

You can find out more info on Swimming Nature and book sessions here

#3PTsToParis – Training Update

Remember when I said that I was going to cycle from London to Paris? Well it’s now only 4.5 weeks ago and it’s all getting a bit real.

This is what happens when you let Google Maps take you down ‘cycle paths’

We’ve written up our kit lists, we’ve received some amazing kit to train in and for the trip (more on that in another post before we leave) and we’ve been getting out on the bikes as much as possible. So how’s that all been going?

Here are some stats and things I’ve learnt from training so far:

  • Well over 245 miles clocked up so far
  • 5 long rides
  • Countless mini rides (less than 5 miles each)
  • 3 MyProtein blackcurrant gels swallowed
  • 1 portion of fish and chips on Southend Pier
  • 2.5 cans of diet coke
  • 0 punctures (I know, I’ve just jinxed it)
  • 54 billion hills (accurate stat, honest)
  • 1 stolen bike
  • 1 new bike
  • My uphill technique needs work. My downhill technique needs to be given a sense of mortality and I need to use my brakes more often
  • All food tastes better after 4 hours in the saddle
  • I need to fuel better and more often so I don’t bonk (hit the wall)
  • The foam roller is my quads’ best friend
  • Long-distance cycling creates exhaustion like nothing else I’ve ever experienced
  • Cycling tan lines are ridiculous and suncream must be worn even if it’s not sunny
Post fish and chips feast in Southend

Post fish and chips feast in Southend

The plan for the next 4 weeks is 3 more long rides including one to Brighton and another one to Southend. The midweek rides will also be upped that I’m riding on consecutive days to get my legs used to working a few days in a row. I’ll also be experimenting a bit more with my fuelling and trying to get food in more often to keep my energy up.

Do you have any tips on fuelling for endurance challenges where you’re working out for 6+ hours at a time?

 

 

3 PT’S TO PARIS

You know when you make a decision because you get over-excited and then sit back and think ‘oops’? Well yeah, I’ve done that. Except that oops isn’t a misjudged outfit or one drink too many, it’s a cycle trip to Paris. From London. On a bike. Without a support vehicle.

Together with Elle, Mollie (both also personal trainers – hence 3 PTs to Paris) and a few others I’m taking on a challenge that I’ll be using to celebrate my 30th birthday as we’ll arrive back in London about 3 hours before I hit the big 3-0. After succumbing to a back injury a couple of months ago I’ve found that cycling is one of the few forms of exercise that doesn’t stress out my back muscles. The triathlon I had in mind for the end of July is out of the picture because with the injury I just haven’t been able to train for it. So Paris it is!

(L-R) Mollie, Elle & Me

We’ll be doing the 164 (or so) miles over 3 days, leaving London on Friday morning and arriving at the Eiffel Tower on Sunday afternoon. The first day will see us cycling to Newhaven which is just to the east of Brighton to cover about 56 miles. A ferry will then deliver us in Dieppe late Friday night where we’ll stay in a little hotel. On Saturday we’ll tackle our longest day of 62 miles from Dieppe to Beauvais and then cover an easy 45 miles from Beauvais to Paris on the Sunday.

London2Paris map

In panniers we’ll be carrying all of our kit and tools but hopefully in mid-July the weather should be good enough that we can get away with minimal clothes! The biggest dilemma at the moment is how to fit in additional shoes so we don’t have to walk around Paris on the Monday in our cycling shoes. Important stuff.

The plan for training is to complete 2 x 1 hour cycle sessions during the week followed by a 2-4 hour cycle at the weekend. I’ll also be doing plenty of foam-rolling and some yoga to help my tight hips and quads and I’ll hopefully be continuing my weekly PT sessions to maintain some strength. Training started well last weekend with a 20 mile cycle swiftly followed by my beloved bike being stolen from inside my apartment block. Yep, they sawed through the bannisters to get it out. As gutting as that was the challenge is getting closer so I had to dig deep and shell out for a new bike which is a beauty.

Keep an eye out for more blogs in the 3 PTs to Paris series to cover how training is going and what kit we’ll be taking with us.

WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I DRANK 2 LITRES OF WATER EVERY DAY

I’m a self-confessed hydraphobe (if that’s a real word…). As a kid, teenager and young adult I struggled to drink plain water and all I’d drink was juice or squash. A lot of squash.

Since getting back into fitness a few years ago I’ve trained myself to drink plain water because I know how much my body needed it. I started by using less squash and then switching to fresh fruit and mint until eventually plain water didn’t taste too bad.

Still, I struggled to drink more than about a litre each day because I wasn’t in the habit, even when I permanently had a water bottle on my desk. Over the last month I’ve not been able to exercise like I used to because of a low-key back injury so I’ve been making sure that my nutrition is on point to keep me feeling my best. Part of that has been my water consumption and I’ve been drinking at least 2 litres of water every day, sometimes more.

So, how have I felt?

Well, the first thing I noticed is that I’m peeing a whole lot more, at least every hour, maybe more. It’s fine when I’m at home but there’s been a few times where I’ve been out walking the dog and had to hotfoot it to the nearest cafe or pub. I thought my body might get used to it but so far it hasn’t and I live in fear of getting caught out and having to have a wild wee.

The second is that I’ve found it much easier to exercise self-control when it comes to how I eat because I feel full most of the time. If I feel hungry I try and have a drink to see if I’m actually just thirsty. Sometimes I am but if not then I eat something! I’ve also managed to go through my period without cramming all the sugar I can find into my face and the only thing I can pin it down to is my increased water consumption.

Thirdly, I got off a very late flight a couple of weeks ago after drinking close to 3 litres of water during the day. Having napped on the plane I would normally expect to walk off with my eyes stuck together, a dry mouth and feeling like death. This time however my eyes felt fresh, my skin didn’t feel dry and I felt awake and full of energy. Again, the water consumption was the only difference to other late flights I’d taken.

The last benefit I’ve noticed is that I feel like I have more energy overall. I’m not getting a mid-afternoon slump and I’m more focused when I sit down in front of my computer. I often struggle with getting distracted when I’m working but my brain seems to be more able to focus on one thing at a time.

Here are my top tips for increasing your water consumption, all of which have helped me!

1) If you don’t like the taste of water use fruit or herbs (lime & mint is my fave combo) to freshen up the taste

2) Keep a refillable water bottle on you at all times and as soon as it’s empty refill it

3) If you work at a desk keep the water bottle in clear view and every time your eyes settle on it have a drink

4) Don’t just sip at it, gulp a load down each time. You’ll soon find that if you do this then you might be able to drain a litre in 4-5 goes

5) If you’re in a restaurant always ask for tap water alongside any other drink you order and drain a couple of glasses before you start on your other drink

6) If someone offers you a drink while you wait for an appointment, ask for water and drink it there and then

7) Treat yourself to a water bottle that you like to drink out of and looks good. For example, I find it hard to gulp water from a standard water bottle. I prefer bottles with a cap or inbuilt straw so that’s what I always look for when I need a new one

What are your top tips on how to drink more water?

HOW TO BECOME A PERSONAL TRAINER

Contrary to what you might see on Instagram, having abs and being a bikini competitor does not automatically make you a personal trainer. You can definitely have abs, be a bikini competitor AND be a personal trainer but there are actual qualifications that you need to complete to be able to call yourself a PT.

What a lot of people don’t realise is the amount of work and studying that goes into becoming a personal trainer. After all, you need to know how the human body works to be able to manipulate it to get the results that your client has come to you to achieve.

I studied for my qualification over 6 months whilst working 4 days a week, carving out every minute of free time in the evenings, weekends and on Fridays to study, practice and get my head around changing my profession after 5 years of sitting at a desk.

The components you have to cover to gain your qualification are:

– Anatomy & Physiology Level 2

– Anatomy & Physiology Level 3

– Principles of exercise, fitness and health

– Know how to support clients who take part in exercise and physical activity

– Health & safety in a fitness environment

– Nutrition principles for physical activity

Each unit requires varying amounts of time for studying and for me the anatomy & physiology modules were the hardest. I’ve always been an arts students and I studied English at university so learning all about muscles, tendons, the nervous system and every other human process was tricky to get my head around. With a set of flashcards, lots of printouts with blanks to fill in and many hours in the library I got through it all.

I felt that 6 months was a good amount of time to set aside for the course if you’re studying part-time because you can do all of the theory learning in your own time. The classroom time is invaluable as you learn so much off the other students and instructors so giving up 4-5 weekends in a row doesn’t feel like a hardship. It’s intense to do it while working but the bills have got to be paid and as long as you’re disciplined and organised then it’s fine.

By the time you qualify you’re ready to go into a gym, take on a client and create programmes for them to help them to hit their goals but remember it’s only the beginning. Qualifying as a PT is a bit like learning to drive, you learn so much more once you’re actually doing it without an instructor hovering over your shoulder.

Since I’ve qualified I’ve honed my own style of teaching classes and clients, I’ve learnt how to use whatever is in the outdoor environment, I’ve come to realise what people actually mean when they tell you their goals and I’m still learning all the time.

One word of warning; loving fitness is not necessarily enough motivation to become a personal trainer because you’ve got to be prepared for the dark early mornings, the late nights, working in the rain, snow and wind and dealing with clients who might frustrate you. But if you want to help change people’s lives, give people confidence and get supreme job satisfaction then it might be career for you!

There are lots of suppliers who provide courses but check out Lifetime Training who offer a variety of fitness courses including the level 3 personal training course, exercise to music and Les Mills. They also created this infographic about how much you could potentially earn as a personal trainer.

 

 

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post paid for by Lifetime Training but all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

BEING A DAWNBREAKER & TRYING PARKOUR

Every so often I get the opportunity to try something new that fills me with excitement (and just a tiny bit of nerves) and last weekend was one of them. I was invited by Up&Go UK to the start of their dawn breakers series to celebrate what you can do when you can grab your breakfast to go.

I’ve never done parkour before so when I saw that we’d be trying it I was far too excited, I’ve always wanted to give it a go. We went to the Chainstore Gym which is in a little wharf directly over the river from the O2 arena (or Millennium Dome if you remember when it was called that). With lovely views over the river and a cute little cafe it was a gem in a confusing area of dual carriageways.

After an introduction to Up&Go and parkour we got stuck into a warm-up consisting of stretches, movement and learning how to jump with soft landings on the balls of our feet. We then moved into some of the fundamental moves of parkour such as how to vault over and through boxes and rails in all sorts of different ways.

All of these moves got strung together at the end for a ‘route’ or ‘flow’ which was totally exhilarating! You almost forget that it’s a workout until you’re dripping in sweat because you’re constantly looking for the next obstacle. The hardest thing for me to get into my brain was not to put my knees down on any surface. Apparently the secret to Parkour is to use areas of your body that have plenty of padding and shock-absorption i.e. your feet, hands, bum and back if needed.

We then headed outside to try some wall runs (yes, literally trying to run up a 9 foot wall) and learn some new vaults over some raised railings.  After a good stretch and some photo opps I headed for lunch with Carly (Project Hot B*tch) and we compared our bruises, scrapes and scratches whilst absolutely buzzing about what we’d just learnt.

The idea of Up&Go is that it’s a carbohydrate-filled (from wholegrain oat flour) breakfast drink to fuel your morning workout if you don’t have time to make something. With just over 200 calories per 330ml carton it’s definitely a pre-breakfast snack to keep you going until after a workout but with 28.5g of carbs it’s perfect to fuel your muscles. The 12.8g of protein from skimmed milk is also a useful boost for your muscles to help maintain them during your workout. It comes in 3 flavours, banana & honey, chocolate and vanilla (my fave because it tastes like custard) so there’s something for everyone. You can try them at Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsburys, Asda, Co-op, WH Smith, One Stop and Ocado.

 

Disclaimer: I was invited to this event for free but all opinions are my own as always

27 THOUGHTS EVERY WOMAN HAS WHILE EXERCISING ON HER PERIOD

No one talks about periods in relation to fitness so when professionals mention it the press seems to be shocked and it becomes front-page news. But what about the hundreds of thousands of women who take a local fitness class when they’re on their periods? This post is for me, you and all of the thoughts that fly through your head during a class, because it’s an amazing biological process and we should all talk about it more

  1. A tampon and a pad is enough isn’t it?
  2. Maybe I should have put 2 pads in
  3. I’m going to wear the black leggings because then if there is a leak no one will be able to tell
  4. But the Nike ones or the Gap ones? The Nike ones can sometimes go see-through and I don’t want anyone to see the wings through my leggings
  5. Ok, the Gap ones it is
  6. Time to warm up. Ugh, star jumps, I think everything is about to fall out
  7. Every time she tells me to brace my core it squeezes a bit more blood out
  8. Squats? Really?!
  9. Oh god, am I leaking? Or was that just sweat?
  10. Come on, focus. You’re 29, you’ve had a period pretty much every month since you were 14
  11. How many times have you actually leaked? Maybe twice when they first started but not for years!
  12. Ooooo is that a cramp in my uterus or is it just my core switching on?
  13. Uterus, definitely uterus
  14. Time to take a breather, pretend you’ve got a stitch and wait for the cramp to pass
  15. Hang on, why am I pretending it’s a stitch? My womb is shedding its lining. ITS LINING
  16. Actual flesh
  17. Right, back in. Burpees
  18. It doesn’t matter how much you clench or engage your pelvic floor, that blood is coming out
  19. Ugh, that felt like a lot
  20. Phew, time for the cool down
  21. Please don’t ask me to split my legs to stretch. I’m convinced I’ve leaked
  22. Just take a quick surreptitious look in the mirror. It’s ok, there’s nothing there, must have been sweat
  23. And breathe. You did it
  24. Don’t mind me legging it out of the class, I need to get home and shower
  25. But you know what, I feel a hell of a lot better
  26. In fact I feel on top of the world!
  27. Now get me home and get a hot water bottle on my womb

GOING FOR A DIP

It’s been a funny one with my attitude towards swimming recently because I’ve always been a water baby but I’ve been psyching myself out with how much work I’ve got to do before my triathlon in the summer.

I learnt to swim when I was really young and I’ve always loved being in swimming pools although deep open water has proved tricky. Two summers ago a week of triathlon training in the South of France helped kick that fear to the kerb and I’ve since learned to scuba dive which has helped even more. So the fear has nothing to do with being in the water, it’s all about how much work I’ve got to do on my technique and how I need to work on my cardio fitness, my least favourite thing to do.

Last week I took all of the pressure off and just took myself for a swim. The aim was to complete 20 lengths (1,000 metres) at a leisurely pace, all at breast stroke. Once I actually got into the water and out of the freezing air it was simple. One stroke at a time, count down the lengths and before I knew it I was done. I could have carried on but I decided to quit while I was ahead and still feeling fresh.

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Normally when I get out of the water I have to jump around on one foot to get all the water out of my ears, a problem I’ve always had. Family holidays used to end with me screaming in pain from ear infections after spending every day underwater perfecting my handstands and dolphin impression.

However, this time I tried SwimSeal, a product that protects the ear canal with a waterproof coating. It acts like the natural earwax that protects our ears on an everyday basis. After exposure to water that earwax can be washed away, which leaves the ear open for water to get in. SwimSeal stays put for 2-3 hours unlike the earwax so the protection is long-lasting.

I put a few drops in each ear before I got in the pool and although a bit leaked out down onto my neck my ears didn’t feel greasy at all after the swim. It contains tea tree oil, which makes it smell lovely as well as giving it an antiseptic quality to make sure no bacteria get into the ears. I didn’t have to do any one-footed jumping this time and my ears feel as good as always.

I’m going to keep using Swim Seal throughout my triathlon training because ear infections? I ain’t got time for that.

Disclaimer: I was sent a bottle of Swim Seal to try out but as always all opinions are my own

 

 

HOW TO EAT ON HOLIDAY

Why did I want to write this post? Well, holidays for me from the age of about 11 have been surrounded by weeks of worrying on either side. Before the holiday there’s all the stress about being on a diet so you look good in your swimwear (or as a kid so I didn’t feel as fat as I thought I was in front of the other kids) and then after the holiday you feel like a beach ball and want to diet back down to how you looked when you started the holiday.

With all that stress it’s a wonder why holidays used to be a fun thing at all. Now that my relationship with food and my body has changed so has my attitude towards holidays. In the weeks leading up to this trip, my honeymoon, I’ve been catching up with lots of friends and eating plenty of delicious food. With the mouthfuls of the tastiest morsels I’ve been declaring that ‘I’m on my beach body diet’ because my beach body is my body on a beach, nothing more, nothing less.

Holidays for me are about experiencing everything that place has to offer, especially once in a lifetime trips like this one. That means that we’re doing lots of sightseeing, lots of walking, lots of watching the world go by and lots of eating and drinking.

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My biggest tip I can give you on how to eat on holiday is to eat according to your goals. For example, if you have a bikini competition 3 weeks after you get back from holiday then you’re going to need to stick strictly to your nutrition plan while you’re away (which begs the question why you’d be going on holiday at that particular time). Alternatively, if you’re in training for a strongman or strongwoman competition and you need to be in a calorie surplus to continue gaining strength while you train then you’re going to need to eat plenty of food but track it too to make sure you’re hitting your macros.

However, I am not currently in training for anything so my goal while I’m on holiday is to enjoy everything edible that Argentina and Mexico have to offer. I don’t want to come back having missed out on the dish of the trip because I thought I should probably eat the chicken salad with the dressing on the side.

So far, eating for this goal has meant that I’ve enjoyed the most incredible steak I’ve ever had in a local meat market, I’ve drunk far too much of the Argentinian Malbec and sampled plenty of empanadas with a variety of fillings. Then in Mexico I’ve eaten my fill of tacos, ceviche and sampled every guacamole I can get my hands on. Oh and the ice cream but don’t get me started on the ice cream.

Most of the hotels we’re staying in include breakfast so we’ve been eating a big breakfast each day of cereal, scrambled eggs, meat, cheese and pastries (with dulce de leche, obviously). Lunch has generally just been a small snack as we’re still full from breakfast and then dinner each night has created a lengthy debate about which of the amazing restaurants we should sample in each town.

We’ve also been quite active with some total relaxation days thrown in because #balance. We’ve been hiking through the jungle, bike riding to Mayan ruins, scuba diving, SUP yoga, horse-riding, kayaking and I’ve even managed to squeeze in a couple of gym sessions. For me the key to enjoying a holiday is to sample everything there is to offer, stay active and eliminate the feelings of guilt. Just enjoy it.

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When I get home I’ll be starting a 6-month training plan to get my fitness back up so that I can take on the Olympic distance at the London Triathlon at the end of July, 5 days after my 30th birthday. My body composition will very likely change with the increase in cardiovascular workouts but this will be a by-product of my training, not the main goal. My goals for 2017 are about performance, not aesthetics and I can’t wait to get started. Right after I finish this margarita…

 

 

14 THINGS I’VE LEARNT BEING A PT

Well, that has crept up on me! 2 years ago, at the beginning of 2015, I qualified as a Personal Trainer through YMCAfit after questioning my career in advertising. Whilst I enjoyed most of the jobs I had over the 5 years I’d worked in advertising I had a definite sense of unease that I was encouraging people to spend money that they didn’t have on things that they didn’t need. I know that this is a cynical view of advertising because there are plenty of companies to work for that focus more on charity and humanitarian campaigns rather than flogging yet another mobile phone, but it just wasn’t the right world for me to focus all of my efforts on. It was also sapping who I was as a person, I needed more control over my days and my career progression. In the past 2 years I’ve set up a PT business, under the umbrella of which I also take on paid social media management work for clients that mean something to me, currently a global anti-rabies charity and a London-based gym chain.

Seeing as my life has changed so much after the last couple of years I thought I’d round up some of the stats and what I’ve learnt.

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Number of PT clients trained: 34

Longest standing client: 2 years

Parks trained in: London Fields, Victoria Park, Millfields Park, Finsbury Park, Clissold Park, Stoke Newington Common, Laycock Open Space, Highbury Fields

Classes taught: 183

Types of classes taught: boxing, hiit, circuits, tabata, mum’s and babies, over-50’s cardio

Earliest session: 5:30am

Favourite exercise for clients: lunges (and all the varieties and progressions)

Most said phrase: ‘Just 2 more, I promise’

Most heard phrase: ‘I hate you’

Number of sessions done in the rain: 7 (surprisingly few!)

Number of sessions done in the snow: 2

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Now, what have I learnt?

I’ve learnt that I am more efficient in the afternoons and evenings than I am in the mornings. I’ve learnt that I really am an early bird and that going to bed at 9pm is necessary when you’re getting up at 6am or earlier every morning. I’ve learnt that the more you believe in your clients the more they will believe in themselves and what they can achieve. I’ve learnt that not everyone is ready to make the changes in their life to get the results that they want. I’ve learnt that you can have a work/life balance that allows you to have some time to yourself during the day and still make the same money that you would doing a 9-5 job. I’ve learnt that some clients require the stick and others require the carrot to get them going. I’ve learnt that clients’ goals change as they change (and normally when they discover weight lifting). I’ve learnt that teaching a good exercise class has everything to do with your own energy and a little bit to do with the music that you choose. I’ve learnt that it never gets old seeing clients hit their goals and stand that little bit taller because of their achievement. I’ve learnt that it’s ok to discuss people paying you when you’re providing a service. I’ve learnt the importance of tracking my accounts as I go, not just at the end of the year. I’ve learnt that people will always look you up and down and judge your physique when you tell them you’re a PT, whether they mean to or not. I’ve learnt that being honest and real with my clients will put them at ease and give them confidence to be honest and open with me. I’ve learnt the value of my time and not to undersell myself.

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Looking back 2 years ago I couldn’t have imagined that I’d be where I am today and I am so excited to see where the next 2, 5 or 10 years takes me. Bring it on I say, bring it on.

CLASS REVIEW: ROCK CYCLE, BUENOS AIRES

What’s the first thing you think of when going on holiday, especially when you’re going on your honeymoon? Bikinis, suncream, local food, spinning…. Ok, so maybe you’re not quite like me but when I travel I like to sample the fitness scene, mostly to try and make more room for all of the delicious food that I know I’ll be eating.

The only spin studio in Buenos Aires I could find (and incidentally, it seemed, the only spin studio in Buenos Aires) was Rock Cycle so I booked in for a class on our second morning in Argentina and hoped for the best.

It’s situated in Palermo Hollywood, a delightfully sunny 8 minute walk from where we were staying so off I trotted, leaving long-suffering new-husband in bed. The studio is bright and inviting and very much reminiscent of the Soul Cycle studio I visited in New York. The welcome was friendly and between us we spoke just enough English and Spanish to get me set up.

The studio itself was dark with about 40 bikes in, all facing the instructor who was raised up on a stage. Along the front of the stage were candles similar to those you might find in Boom Cycle in London. The facilities were lovely and clean with lockers to live all of your valuables in. They also sell a cool range of clothing and I might have fallen in love with a vest that found its way into my already full suitcase.

The instructor spoke no English (nor did I expect her to) but from the moment the lights went down in the studio it didn’t matter. Her energy and demonstrations went through any language barrier and I found myself swept along with the music.

The style of class was very much like Soul Cycle or Psycle in London so there was a lot of moving around on the bike including plenty of press ups which meant my triceps were suitable sore the next day. Over the course of 45 minutes we went through a number of Latin-inspired tracks with banging beats so even though I didn’t know the music the energy was infectious. We did a lot of sprints and double time cycling with only a couple of heavy resistance tracks which was a bit of a shame because I do like to crank the resistance up and let my legs burn in a spin class.

The penultimate track was one with hand weights to work out our shoulders, backs, biceps and triceps and a Latin remix of the Pink Panther theme tune did wonders to take my mind off the crazy muscle burn that I had going on.

As the class ended there was much whooping and deep breathing going on as we all caught our breath and stretched out. All in all, it was a really good class and if you’re used to spinning studios such as the few that I’ve mentioned above then you won’t have any problems not speaking Spanish as it’s very similar to those. Definitely go and try it if you’re in that part of the world!

 

*Disclaimer: I was offered a free class in return for a review. As always, views are my own and I was not paid for this review*