Looking good whilst working hard

So Thursday morning I tweeted something with regards to ‘active makeup’ (Primark’s finest!) now being an actual thing and my thoughts on that – and I’ve been bombarded with responses on both sides of the fence (by bombarded, I mean like, 10 replies) Unfortunately, Twitter has a habit of being a bad place to get into a discussion because 140 characters is literally NOT ENOUGH! So I’m here because I want to open up the conversation and share some of my broader thoughts on the subject.

The Metro article in question seemed to be along my line of thought, specifically that makeup designed for being ‘active’ (however we define that) are a bit ridiculous (and don’t get me into the world of gym selfies and social media, whole dissertation possible on that), but some people disagreed with me agreeing.

No, what others choose to do at the gym (whether that’s wear make up, take selfies, do cardio, do weights, lie down, whatever) does not affect me. People are free to do what they wish and my opinion is not gospel. However, I do have an opinion and that is fine. There will be plenty of people that judge ME for often not wearing makeup, or looking a sweaty mess (where whatever makeup I still had on from during the day is nowhere to be seen) – and the internet is a great place for opinions.

What I do have a problem with though is the potential expectation that we need to be looking 100% perfect at all times – and for some of us, the gym is one of the only places where we don’t have to worry about how we look. A safe haven. “Body confidence” has been a term mentioned a lot (often when people have been disagreeing with my original comment) and I would like to throw it out there the other way.

Some people have low body confidence and make up gives them the nudge they need to get into the gym. However, I’ve gone on a fairly long journey to now feel body confident enough in my own skin that I don’t have to wear make up all the time. Particularly not at the gym. And the fact that there is now make up designed specifically for this purpose alludes to the idea that I *should* be wearing make up at the gym. Body confidence chat works both ways – and what empowers one person can have the opposite impact on another.

Hands up if you’ve ever got to the end of a session, looked over at someone else and thought “hang on, I don’t look like that after I’ve exercised, how does she/he do it?” Or asked yourself why you don’t look like that person in their instagram picture in your #postworkoutselfie? Right, you’ve now just lost all focus you had on congratulating yourself for a great session and focusing on your achievements. Looking perfect after every session IS NOT HUMANLY POSSIBLE. And if you’re not putting your all in because you’re worried that your make up will smudge, or you’ll get a hair out of place – there are bigger things to worry about it life and that upsets me.

Maybe my problem is that I’m just never going to be one of those people who look 100% – and if I wore ‘active makeup’ then I will still end up red in the face, sweating, just with additional smudged make up. But, hang on, that girl over there looks great doesn’t she? Why don’t I look like that? Sod it, I’m never coming back, everyone else looks amazing and I look a mess. And before anyone jumps on me for this – I defy you to find anyone who has never had one single fleeting thought about someone else’s appearance when working out. Body shaming at the gym has been high on the agenda recently, but it’s human nature that we will at some times construct opinions based purely on appearance, and anyone who says they have never ever done that is lying.

One of the responses interested me, comparing wearing make up to like wearing clothes – to be respectable, presentable and confident. So flipping that round – do we now need make up to be respectable and presentable? Will I not be taken seriously in life, my career, my relationships if I’m not wearing make up? According to some, maybe. And that saddens me. 

Yes we have an obesity crisis, and yes we need more people exercising – but if wearing make up and looking pretty goes from a healthy confidence boost to a crutch that stops you putting effort in because you’re worried how you’ll look after – we’re scuppered. 

I think the positive feelings that stem from a good workout are a million times more valuable than just seeing that your hair is still in place at the end of it. But, hey, some people don’t. Appearance is a thorny topic and everyone is going to have different thoughts and experiences. All I can say is you do you, keep your opinions quiet if they’re directed at a specific person and definitely do not going to go around taking and publishing pictures of people specifically to point out what you disagree with – but I’d prefer it if the media and brands weren’t perpetuating the expectations that women have to look presentable to succeed in every single situation. 

Over and out – let me know your thoughts! 

 

International Women’s Day – a #womeninsport wrap up

As International Women’s Day draws to a close, I thought I would share some of the headlines specifically around women in sport that have caught my eye over the past few weeks. I had hopes of writing a clever, opinionated article, but truth be told, I was poorly prepared and ran out of time, so thought that this was a suitable alternative!

I’d love to know some of your thoughts on these articles –  I’m still not sure on my thoughts on a lot of them, particularly around gender quotas in management so apologies if my arguments aren’t always as structured as they could be…but hopefully you’ll enjoy a read! 

FA, RFU and ECB risk cuts after Women in Sport reveals lack of boardroom diversity

Ah, the quota argument. I still don’t know what I think about quotas, preferring to be there on merit rather than because of my gender ticking a box. But maybe that’s something that we have to suck up and deal with for a while to make it the new normal. We shouldn’t have to, and we shouldn’t have to use funding as a punishment – especially when those most likely to get their funding cut don’t really need the additional funding in the first place…

It also brings the question of representation matching that seen in the sport in general – should we now be getting a quota into female-dominated sports such as netball to get more men in its management? The Women In Sport board (they produced this report) is 100% female…how long until we have people clamouring that this shouldn’t be the case.

However, the more and more women we see in sport, the more we are exposed to it as the new norm – giving young girls and those early in their careers aspiration that gender shouldn’t be a barrier to getting the job they want.

#thisgirlcan? I much prefer #thiswomandoes

We linked to this article earlier via Twitter. An interesting spin by an older journalist discussing the relevance of the word ‘girls’ in this context. It’s hard to find a word that can be used without someone feeling marginalised – I had a discussion about this in the office today as to whether to use ladies, women or girls in email copy about the England cricket team. I’ve written about This Girl Can before – and my problem wasn’t over the semantics, but more about the lack of general campaigns, media and publications designed for those who already do. #thisgirlcan rolls off the tongue and seems to have hit the nail on the head for most – but is it restricting it to a younger audience?

Which ties in nicely to…

An Open Letter From the Women’s Over 40 MTB Brigade

This is basically my mum in a nutshell! There are so many women out there doing things that some wouldn’t think of as “age appropriate” – and they are a huge target market. So why aren’t brands catering towards them? My mum is a zillion times better on a singletrack than I am, has a bike that makes teenage boys swoon and is frequently challenging herself so much she falls off in bushes.

And never have I seen so many netball articles in a short space of time! Driven off the back of increased Sport England funding, lots of people have had something to say about netball (I’ve picked two, but you could find plenty more)

Why you couldn’t pay me £17m to put my netball kit back on

I fundamentally disagree. I LOVE getting back on court – currently restricted to mixed leagues with my work team because I just don’t have time to add another sport to my repertoire, but maybe that’s because I’ve always loved netball. I’ve got great memories of the school team, tours abroad and playing all my way through university. But maybe that’s because I was the “ruthless teenage girl” that apparently a lot of netballers are.

Netball is on a popularity drive. I already play – but even I know it’s not cool

Again, I fundamentally disagree. Or maybe we just disagree on what’s cool. Showing speed, agility, perception and great skill is apparently not cool. How are we ever going to grow the game if those playing it are sabotaging its appeal? Look at the game down under – a huge following, a professional league and crowds that often rival rugby. Why aren’t we focusing on talking about the incredible skill in the Australia v England game in the recent Quad Series – rather than spending time writing articles about how netball is uncool and then others having to defend their corner? P.S on another note, THERE WAS NETBALL ON THE BBC! WIN!

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A weight off my mind

I recently (hmmm a month ago) posted something on Instagram that took a longer decision to make about posting than it should have. No, it wasn’t whether my smoothie looked too much like grey sludge (thanks chocolate almond milk) or whether someone had spotted me trying to take a surreptitious gym selfie. No, it was this.

I AM POSTING MY ACTUAL WEIGHT ON THE INTERNET. It's incredible what a taboo weight still is (despite the whole #strongnotskinny movement) & how much of a HUGE step this felt. Normally I would probably only ever tell my mum. Weight (and BMI for that flipping matter) ain't nothing but a number and the fat % is what I am really keeping an eye on 🎯 (and it's in a good place RN) I've basically floated around around this weight (ish….) for the last 5 years or so and only really accepted it in the last 12 months as I've learnt it's where I naturally settle – I'm never going to weigh 9 stone something #sorrynotsorry Blog post to follow at some point soon on this – lots of love Katie xoxo🏃🏼‍♀️🏋🏼‍♀️🤸🏼‍♀️⚖️#epiphany #training #weight #taboo #istilleatloadsofpizza #scales #trainhard #healthyliving

A post shared by These Girls Do (@thesegirlsdo) on

There you go people of the world, colleagues, friends, family, strangers…HERE IS HOW MUCH I WEIGH.

It was an odd feeling. Strangely liberating. And yet for something that’s just a number, why did it take so much of a leap of faith to do it? Was I suddenly going to have people think less of me? Would people I don’t even know be judging me?

You know what, who cares.

I weigh 70kg. That, for those who still like to deal in imperial terms, is 11 stones or 154lb. SHOCK. To be quite honest, I’ve just got back from a week’s skiing and my body cheese % is probably higher than ever so it is probably more.

I also however fluctuate around 19% body fat, have the metabolic age of a teenager and my visceral fat rating is the lowest it can be. So why was I happy to shout about those numbers freely, where my weight was such a tricky decision? I’ve spent far too long in my life thinking along the lines of “if I could just lose half a stone then….” I don’t know why I magically thought that be the ticket to eternal happiness or that things would suddenly start happening differently. Hundreds of times has the “<70kg” been a goal of mine.

And you know what, I have realised now that, not only do I now not need to set my sights on a single number, but I’m happy enough about no longer doing this to tell you all about it. Which I feel is quite a big step in the right direction.

I’ve had countless people over the last year or so tell me I look like I’ve lost more weight. And you know what, I actually haven’t. Not significantly. Maybe a pound here or there which if I eat too much pizza it just goes back on again. But my weight hasn’t significantly changed, yet apparently I’m giving it the illusion that it has. And that all goes back to why weight shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all and that a broader range of factors need to be considered for health. You’ll all have heard the old adage about the majority of rugby players being classed as obese due to the differences in density between muscle and fat – and it’s true. My BMI is waaaay towards the high end of acceptable (I’m 5’7″) , but if you look at the rest of my vital stats, everything is ticking along just fine. Apparently my “ideal weight” is about a stone less than I currently am. Ideal to who?!

I’ve started tracking on myfitnesspal in January not in an attempt to lose weight, but just to have a better appreciation of what’s going in and out of my body. I train a lot and always seem to be hungry – but I’ve never really taken enough time to understand the exact nutrients and energy I’m giving myself, tending to take a more rough rule of thumb like “that was too many Doritos Katie, should probably not have a pizza for dinner AND a bag of giant chocolate buttons, leave them for tomorrow” I’m not going to start harking on about using exercise to reward yourself with food, but having a better idea of my calorie expenditure has allowed me to be more realistic – and not beat myself up for feeling hungry and wanting to snack between meals.

According to my history on myfitnesspal, I’ve tried tracking before.  However, to my point above, it will have been primarily to lose weight. And this is apparently my weight history:

  • 69.4kg on August 20th 2011
  • 76kg 18th May 2015.
  • 74.5kg 15th June 2015.
  • 70kg on the 4th May 2016.

So really, it has come full circle and I’m literally no different to what I was 6 years ago and I think I’ve settled at my happy weight and come to accept that. Yes, there have been fluctuation. Guess it’s also interesting to point out that I ran a 3.33 marathon 3 weeks before weighing in at 76kg…so I wasn’t exactly slacking. I was still training hard and doing a lot – but something wasn’t clicking. Although I wouldn’t have considered myself a cardio bunny as I was still doing 2-3 weights sessions a week…technically I was. I would have been running 30-35 mile weeks, a 12 mile round commute on the bike 3 or 4 times a week. And I reckon my body just wasn’t handling it particularly well. But you know what – my clothes have fitted me all the way through (and yes, I do have clothes that have been with me those full 6 years). Maybe a bit tighter here, looser there, but never a “omg I need to make a conscious effort to change this”

(Also boo sucks to you if there is any judgement on my 76kg or any inbuilt assumptions around what different weights look like on different people)

Something I remember spending a lot of time doing was playing with “how much faster would you be if you lost x?” type calculators. I wanted to know how much faster I would be if I lost 3lb, 4lb, 7lb. You know what, I’ve just accepted now that actually, my body probably isn’t the ideal build for running marathons drastically faster than I probably can now. It does a decent job, and I’m mighty proud of having done 4 with a PB of 3.27 and a max of 3.41 (#humblebrag), but ultimately, just due to the laws of science, someone who has a smaller build than me will expend less energy to keep themselves moving over the 26 miles. So really, the marathon will never be my best distance and that’s why my 5k time predicts me being able to run it about 15 minutes faster than I currently do!

So that, my dear friends, is a rather long ramble, but it’s helped me get it off my chest. This also probably won’t be the last you hear from me on this, as somewhere in the back of my mind is still a little saying “imagine if you were 10 stone something” – so I’m not claiming to be totally Joe Wicks “throw away the sad scale” yet, but I’m feeling a damn lot better about it than I ever have previously!

And you know what my goals are for this year?

  • Sub 20 min 5k
  • Deadlift 100kg
  • Be able to do a pull up, not just chin ups (I’ve done it already! Now to aim for 5)
  • Seriously think about AG duathlon qualifiers

Note, for the first time in about 6 years, the distinct lack of <70kg on that list. My goals are purely strength, speed and ability based. And that’s what defines me. Not the number. 

All thoughts of yours welcomed as always!

Strength In Depth – just what is fitness racing?

At the beginning of November (yes, I know I’m late!) I was invited by European Fitness League to get an understanding of their flagship event “Strength in Depth”. I literally had ZERO idea what to expect, so I was keen to see how what I described to my mum as “competitive tyre flipping” shaped up.

I met with Harry, Managing Director, for a behind the scenes look at what was going on. This basically meant I got to understand the practicalities and logistics behind an event like this, as well as sneaking down “competitor-only” corridors, meeting some of the event and media crew and basically getting an all-access pass.

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The Format

I was there on Day 1 of the Finals weekend. Teams had been competing in qualifiers for a good few months beforehand, culminating in the end event for the top 40 over the period. As a team, you basically divide and conquer the numerous events over the weekend. There are various rules about which combination you can compete in, but basically, not everyone is good at everything, and this is the opportunity for each individual to play to their strengths. There’s a live leaderboard on display as teams go through the rounds – which means it is super easy to find out how you (and your competition!) are getting on.

The Events

At first, I couldn’t quite work out what was going on or where we were in the schedule – but was directed out to the outdoor spectator balcony where you could see people starting to get ready for event #2 – the Spartan Race. I’ve heard rumours of huffing and puffing about the amount of running that was needed for this event, but it says something when the teams start in reverse qualifying order and the first-placed still managed to take a couple of minutes off second!

The whole team has to complete the event, which led to some impressive shows of sportsmanship– carrying team members round, giving a helping hand over obstacles, leaving no man (or woman) behind. There were a couple of the expected mishaps (the usual rolled ankles on landing) but the fact that the guys got 40 teams off at 2 minute intervals timed to the second is a huge credit to the organisation skills of this event.

Next up, they moved back inside. There was a lot of waiting around as a spectator, because as you can imagine, getting 40 teams around the muddy course – and then through showers – is quite a feat. However, they were already setting up for event 3, and passed the time with a demonstration from two Rio medal winning rowers and then Crossfit Kids. This was frankly terrifying and inspiring in equal measures (mainly because they can do proper pull ups and lots of functional moves that I can’t). I was also able to peruse the stands (lots of supps, stash and foam rollers) and contemplate getting my hair braided. Oh, and watch some of the Wales Australia game on TV.

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Events 3 and 4 took place concurrently, with 3 in the main hall and 4 being a pool-based event (who knew swimming would be involved?!)

I mainly watched Event 3 – which was a mind boggling displaying of skipping skills, lifting and some VERY strong bar muscle ups…which I can only dream of. And things like 50 toes to bar…where I can do about 5 before I get tired. It worked well having a male team, a female team AND a mixed team that all had to get through it (a sub-team doesn’t start until the previous has finished their workout, which means maximum support and pressure to get it done within the rules so you can move on)

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For full details of each of the events that took place when I was there – click here

The Teams

Teams HAVE to have 7 male and 5 female, plus one from each gender has to be over 40, which means it really promotes a blend of abilities, ages and genders, which you need when you start to understand the varied activities that the teams have to participate in. People had travelled from overseas and all around the UK – which shows what a pinnacle event this has become.

The team spirit works well across a lot of the events i.e. if you need to get 15 bar muscle ups, you can work out between you who is going to deliver what rather than expecting each individual to have the same ability. Big cheering teams are very much the centrepoint of this competition, with lots of supporting children and families!

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The Venue

As a Loughborough girl, I have a slight inbuilt hatred for Bath, but you can’t deny what fabulous facilities they have! There is tons of space, both indoor and outdoor, and it is set up well for a multi-sport event, without having to make people traipse between venues all day. The warm-up area was particularly impressive, with enough space for all the competitors to have their own little corner and adequate space to warm up with a range of equipment.

Also note – the café is pretty top notch if you are looking for a decently balanced meal.

The Experience

As a first time spectator of this kind of event, I was wowed. Any sense you have of weightlifting events being individual is quickly thrown out of the window and there are some true tales of battle to get there. It’s also incredibly inspiring to see what people are able to do with their bodies…I left late afternoon and, I have to say…I actually went to the gym that evening! There’s something about watching people throwing their bodies around that makes you feel like you need to get training.

Strength in Depth ISN’T just for Crossfit fanatics – in fact, they aren’t affiliated, although a vast proportion of athletes and teams will come from a Crossfit background, because it’s the type of thing they are used to. It’s a real show of determination, team spirit and an absolute bucketload of pure physical ability which can’t help but get you thinking….could I do that?

A big thanks to European Fitness League for inviting me down and providing me with some of their fabulous imagery!

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2016, where did you go?!?

So, the end of December is typically time to look back at the year, what has happened, what ridiculous resolutions or goals I will set myself for 2017 etc etc. Rather than going at it month by month…I’m going to dip around a bit between sports just to confuse you all!

TLDR – fewer miles, more PBs, less frantic exercising because I felt I had to, more rest days, few niggles, still don’t like swimming, must go cycling more.

Swimming

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Swimming was basically a necessary evil this year. I did the Henley Swim Club to Pub in July and that is basically the only reason I did any swim training at all. However, I did it in just over 30 minutes, dropping 4 off my time at Hever 9 months previously. They gave me a beer 10 seconds after I exited the water and that was brilliant.  I did quite a lot of open water practice with my boyfriend (we also ate a lot of cake) and can safely say, my confidence has improved massively, as has my breathing and ability to not have to stop and tread water. I’m probably going to enter at least one swim and one triathlon this year, so it makes sense to keep it on my agenda. But I don’t think it will ever be “the one”

There is a lot of talk about doing the Henley Marathon next summer in the office, but quite frankly, I think 14km is probably a bit too far when I don’t even really like swimming that much. I swam in a lake in the Pyrenees where I survived some super weedy patches (I basically didn’t bother with the swimming area and just hopped in, leaving some bemused looking fishermen…but it got a good photo). A year previously, I would never have even considered doing this – and the weeds would have probably drowned me in panic (and don’t even mention what creatures probably lived in there)

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Cycling

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No real big rides this year at all actually. To be brutally honest with myself, 90% of my bike miles were commuting, which isn’t great. But this was partially planned when I realised that to do my marathon training justice, I needed to drop back on the extra miles I was putting in my legs elsewhere. I tailed off my commuting at the end of 2015, and there was a noticeable change – I PB’d at pretty much every distance –  as well as jumping up around 100 places in my usual Surrey XC league standings. So as much as I hate to admit it, cycling all the time and a “running + cross-training = OK” formula doesn’t always work.

A few noticeable exceptions – my trip to Brighton in November and an un-Garminned 2k stretch as part of the RBC V Series but to be quite honest, A VERY BORING YEAR ON THE BIKE. Must do better. Must do more MTB.

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Running

I look back to 2012 and 2013 and wonder WTF I was doing with 180 mile months. This year I managed to run a much more consistent pattern over the first 4 months of the year, and as you can see, there have been no zero miles months so far this year.

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This year was a year for PBs and most of them came just from a byproduct of more miles.  I started with the Winter Run in April – which, unfortunately as a non UKA licensed course, doesn’t quite count…but it was a 10k PB anyway (41:32), especially in horrendous rain and being the day after a cross-country mudbath at Parliament Hill.

Another PB came about at the Watford Half the following weekend which was totally unexpected. If you’ve run Watford, you will know it ain’t flat. I think my half PB is currently pretty soft, and to be perfectly honest, the last time I trained for a half itself that wasn’t during a marathon block was Maidenhead in 2012…which is flat. In an ideal world, I reckon I should be running around a 1:31/1:32. So maybe one for this year.

I would love to say that VLM was dreamy, but it wasn’t. It was a cold hard slog for the last 6 miles, and the reason for that is well…I never really did much over 20. So I don’t know what I expected. But, I broke the magical 3.30, got another GFA & BQ and all in all, happy days.

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Had a week off and then decided to just “see how it went” at a local 5 miler the following Bank Holiday weekend, and it went swimmingly.  I placed 2nd at my first duathlon of the season…and 1st at my second. I won a 2 mile ran in Battersea Park (and I won a mango!) and my team placed 3rd ladies in the 3 x 1 mile relay. We won the cross country league. I spent 4 days running and napping by the pool in the Pyrenees (altitude training and cheese for the win)

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I ran along the beach on the Basque coast. We came 2nd in the Great Team Relay (I got to finish in the Olympic Stadium) I ran up the Madeloc…again. I got another trophy for a 2nd place in a 10k trail race. I ran over the Millau Bridge in May with my parents & uncles. It was spectacular (and breezy as anything!)

I did a few more parkruns – and was 1st woman 4 times out of 4 at Colchester #humblebrag. Tooting Common became an easy “1 mile run to the start line” option. I amassed many, many contributions to the “ugly running photos” album.

I took a bit of a break from running in November because of a niggly Achilles – I’m still not 100% “in the zone” but I’m getting there. More rest days, more chill out time, more sleep and a few more reality checks from the important people in my life have contributed to a bit more balance and mental stability…and I’ve learnt a lot about myself, my attitude and what my body and mind respond best to. I understand why people say peak years come during your 30s – a solid base and appreciation of training, focus and what makes you tick only come with time, so don’t rush it.

…and all the other stuff

I got back down to City Strongman classes at The Foundry (which, if you haven’t been to, you need to) I played in 2 7s tournaments this summer, getting tries AND scoring a conversion (highlight of the year). I practised line-outs in the back garden.

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I went skiing twice. I’ve been back playing netball – and we won our league. I’ve been doing a hell of a lot more lifting and I don’t know the last time I went to a class at the gym or used a treadmill, spin bike or cross-trainer. I realised I like hanging upside down on rings and ropes. I feel pretty happy in my body right now (well, not after 7 days of solid Christmas eating and wine) but this year has finally seen me settle down in myself and relax a bit more. I know what my happy weight is and where it is easy to maintain it without setting restrictions. My clothes still fit me. I’m still breaking belt loops on jeans because they aren’t designed for quads and glutes that match my waist size. I’ve bought 3 pairs of trainers and I don’t want to count how many pairs of leggings and new tops I acquired without throwing anything out :/

I don’t know what 2017 is going to bring and I haven’t really set my goals yet. I’ve got a rough idea, but I would prefer to see how January goes before making any big claims. But you’ll hear about them…

And with that, over and out 2016! Have a good one!!

 

London to Brighton bike ride

A few weeks ago, I had a day off.  And, like any normal person would, I chose to cycle down to Brighton (cue eye roll) so I thought I would tell you lovely people aaaaaallllll about it plus some top tips!

The route

I pretty much followed the route that the official BHF ride takes – which I found on Bikely by Googling it. It practically goes past my front door so I cut a couple of miles off #winningbeforeievenstarted

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It is nice basically once you are out of zone 6!  And fairly quiet really until you get to Brighton, bar a busy fast stretch round where you cross the M25. If anyone tells you it is flat, it is not. Just FYI, just because you are cycling “down to the coast” does not mean you are cycling downhill, but in general, it is nothing horrendous.

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Couple to point out if you like to know what you are getting yourself in for.

  • How Lane, Chipstead. Here, I got caught up by a man on an electric bike who said “I wish I was as fit as you”. Note, at this point, I was practically cycling backwards so I don’t really think I was giving off a great impression of the benefits of cycling up hills.
  • Church Hill, Nutfield – that’s the little spike at 15 miles!
  • Turners Hill. Less of a spike but just a long, continual drag (aka about 7 miles of drag!)
  • And the final one, Ditchling Beacon. It’s actually not *that* bad if you had fresh legs, and probably would be easier if it didn’t come 45 miles into the ride. It is also very windy at the top, but, you know once you are there, you can see the sea and it is basically all downhill.

Navigation

I did not use any GPS. My iPhone has diabolical battery life (it’s over 2 years old, which we all know is the turning point) so I didn’t want to risk relying on it, and I haven’t got a bike computer, just my trusty 920XT, which is great for telling you how far you’ve gone, but less so if it’s in the right direction.

So, I WROTE IT ON A PIECE OF PAPER. I know, daring! Actually, it’s not really that hard a route – there is lots of “keep going along the road for ages until you hit a t-junction” and I just used Google maps every so often when I thought I had missed a turning. And I didn’t miss any.

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Food and nutrition

I realised I should probably take some snacks with me rather than just rely on breakfast getting me through. And like the true pro I am, I took a cereal bar and 4 gels taken from my “gel supply”. Point here is that lots of things in my “gel supply” are probably (definitely) out of date, lots of them have been race freebies and lots of them I know I don’t like the taste of but I keep them anyway.

  • I like Go ahead cereal bars (but not as much as the yoghurt coated Eat Natural ones)
  • Putting a gel that you thought was just an empty wrapper in your back pocket is risky
  • I had a REALLY gross French apple flavoured gel (can’t remember where I acquired it), it was bleurgh so never again.
  • I can actually only handle two gels in a period of about 3 hours because the taste is just too sickly
  • I should probably put more than one bottle holder on this bike because I definitely ran out of water

Kit

I decided to ride the Liv, mainly because it won’t get much use during the winter (because white winter bikes are not a good idea) plus, it’s lighter and a stiffer frame. This is the furthest I’ve ridden on it and I have to admit I was a bit worried about the long distance on an aero frame when I’m not reeeeeally used to it…but it was super comfy!

Wore some bog standard full length Shimano tights, my NEW SHOES (also Liv, colour scheme matches my bike – may have been on purpose), overshoes, Canterbury base layer, jersey (from Lidl and still going strong), buff, headband and Sealskinz gloves. I took a jacket with me if I needed it, but it was generally not too windy, nor too cold, which was a relief because it would have been a misery. Unfortunately i have no “outfit of the day” photo, mainly because I was so wrapped up you could only really see my eyes, plus, I just couldn’t be bothered.

Safety, niceness of roads & traffic

It is relatively traffic free once you get out of London (and obviously, it picks up again when you get into Brighton). Yes, lots of country lanes, but wasn’t harassed by many 60mph+ drivers which is great. The roads typically were in pretty good condition (I can imagine having a regular charity bike ride on this route helps with this) and it is always a good change to get away from traffic and traffic lights and loads of other cyclists.

On the negative side, if you get into trouble (in my case, this would be something more than a puncture) you would be a long, lonely walk from any train stations. Which isn’t ideal. When I rang my dad on Brighton beach to tell him I had arrived, his first instinct was that he was going to have to come and pick me up!

Have to say,  one of the best things was the cycle lane when I picked up the A270 through Brighton – mainly because at bus stops, they took the cycle lane behind the bus stop (i.e. the bus stop is on its own little island) rather than it spitting you back out into traffic whenever there is a bus in the way. London take note! (although don’t think there is enough space)

Post-ride recovery

I wish I had a great story about having fish and chips on Brighton beach but…I didn’t. I sat down,  rang my dad and boyfriend, cycled to the station, got paranoid about locking up my bike with only one lock, bought my ticket and went to M&S whilst ice-skating my way round in my cycling shoes (not quite yet used to cleats that aren’t recessed like MTB ones)

I bought apple juice, a cheese & onion sandwich, chocolate flapjack (my favourite) and chocolate milk (which I didn’t even drink until I was in bed that evening)

I got back to Clapham J, cycled (slowly) back to mine and had a bath. I was then so tired that I bought a pizza, and drank 2 small (large) glasses of red (maybe in the bath and/or in bed) and watched rubbish tv all evening before falling asleep at about 9pm. #trainlikeanathlete

Now I’ve ticked that off the list, my next thought is to do the offroad route...which looks incredible (75 miles of fun)

Ever cycled down to Brighton?

Where should I aim for next?

l2b-stats

10 things that unnecessarily annoy me at the gym

Yes, I know gyms are inclusive and anyone is allowed to do what they want, wear what they want and enjoy their workout sessions doing their own thang, but there are certain things that really wind me up. So here is a short and sweet list (note, about 10 things on the list and, I’m not actually being that sweet about anyone or anything, don’t say I didn’t warn you)

  • Anyone who is wearing a vest  WITH A HOOD. I mean, when was this ever cool. Literally never is the answer so please don’t do it again.
  • Anyone who spends more time looking in the mirror than they do actually doing any work. Or sitting on their phone. There is ‘using a phone for looking at your workouts’ and then there is ‘you could just do that in your living room don’t take up my space’. Same with ‘using the mirror to check form’ and ‘I think I am absolutely bangin’, don’t you agree?’
  • Floppy fringes. There was a guy yesterday who literally spent the entire time swishing his hair around.I don’t even know how he could see anything. Wear a flipping headband if it’s getting in your face.Or get a hair cut.  GAH. (Sub-point here…girls who exercise with their hair down. How do you even do that?!)
  • People who put the treadmills on really high inclines and then hold onto the handrails the.whole.time. You are literally doing half the work you think you are doing.
  • Facial expressions. I mean, I know people can’t really help what they look like when at the gym, but sometimes people should just calm it down. No-one needs to see you gurn (but now I’ve noticed I can’t stop looking)
  • People who cheat. Yes, I mean you who is on the leg press with his mate “spotting” (aka pushing) and also pushing your thighs with your hands. NO THAT DOES NOT COUNT as 200KG. You are as bad as people holding onto the handrails of a treadmill. Do it properly. You’re only kidding yourself (eyeroll)
  • Ladies only sections. Basically, I know I’m toeing the line here, people will disagree and this (and gender-specific races) merits its own post, but if I was suddenly not allowed in a specific section of the gym that was always quieter than the rest, I’d probably kick off. Also, why can’t we have the ladies only section full of squat racks and benches so we can use them to our hearts content, rather than just treadmill after treadmill. Riddle me that.
  • Really low gym ceilings. Basically, at Virgin Active at Barbican there is nowhere you can do box jumps because you are in danger of hitting your head. Sort it out. Oh, whilst I’m on it, those Grid classes that basically take up the only free floor space there really is in the gym and use about 15 kettlebells and all the TRXs. I get that the class needs to take place, but everyone is trying to work out at 7.30am and I can’t wait 30 minutes please thank you.
  • People who have really bad form but think they don’t. I’m all for giving things a go, getting some help and braving things like weights for the first time – everyone has to start somewhere and no one is perfect. But what really bugs me is people who think they are super pro, are doing things appallingly (ridiculously swinging your arms during bicep curls is cheating, duh) and it’s like nah bro calm down. (Note, these people would also probably refer to themselves as ‘bro; so it is totally legit for me to do so)
  • People who bring their entire makeup kit and have time to put hair extensions in after working out in the morning. I mean I literally blow dry the sweat out of my hair and do my make up in about 2 minutes. It’s less that these people irritate me, more that they just make me realise I am really not putting much effort into life.

I would like to open this up – what’s your personal gym bugbear?

(Note – I am not a mean person in real life, just intolerant xoxo)

REVIEW: The Castle Centre – Everyone Active

The good people at Everyone Active have recently taken over the running of several local authority leisure centres in London, including The Castle Centre, Marshal Street Leisure Centre, Seymour Sports Centre and Porchester Centre & Spa. We’re pretty fond of their mission: to encourage more people to participate in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, five times a week, and were totally delighted when they asked us to come and check out their newly renovated centres and their facilities.

The Castle Centre is handily located a 10min cycle from my office and on my way home, so I had literally no excuse not to go for a snoop around, and by jingo am I glad I did. I hadn’t been to The Castle Centre before the renovation, but I have no doubt that it has entirely transformed since reopening – the way it is designed means it is full of light and absorbs a huge number of people without it feeling overcrowded, which is handy if you are heading in during the post-work crush.

As you approach the centre, the thing that strikes you immediately is the super-cool, fluorescent sign that sits, human-height, in the floor-to-ceiling window on the first floor, above the front door. It’s the first glimpse of the vibe I think they’re going for in their gym. It’s erring towards a Gym-boxy sort of funkiness, but without being enormously overpriced and full of meatheads. Head up to the first floor and you’ll find the brilliantly kitted out gym – all the cardio and free weights you could ask for an resistance machines for everything, including muscles I didn’t even know I had. My only criticism of the resistance machines is that they aren’t truly weighted, rather you set the resistance by pushing a button that taughtens the cable which you have to push or pull against – so how are you supposed to know how much you’re lifting? Equally though, everything is well maintained and pristinely clean and tidy.

This leisure centre is truly inclusive and appealing to everyone, as evidenced by the packed, shriek-filled swimming pool during family friendly swimming times. This also makes for a chilled out gym – there’s people of all different shapes, sizes, levels of fitness and sporting interests. Sure, there are occasionally a couple of blokes gurning in the mirror whilst lifting with questionable form, but there’s nothing of the uber-lad about this place. I felt just as comfortable swinging a kettle about on a mat as I would have done in the privacy of my own bedroom.

As well as a fab gym, there is a good-sized spinning studio, thought the number and selection of spinning classes is a tad limited currently, with only two pre-work sessions a week currently. Being so close to the City, it seems a shame they don’t take advantage of the current wellbeing trend and offer more lunchtime sessions. Next door to the cycling studio is the large general studio where they have piles of equipment including boxing gloves,pads and bags; assorted dumbells, kettlebells and medicine balls; mats; steps and exercise balls. It’s a fitness class fan’s sweetshop. Which leads me to my main criticism of the Centre.

On seeing the plethora of kettlebells in the studio, I was intrigued. I love a good kettlebelling, me. So, on my way out I stopped at the reception desk to ask for their guidance on what classes I could book in order to use them. Unfortunately, I was met with a look of beffudlement. In fact, when I probed them on the Group Exercise more broadly, they weren’t able to give me much detail on any of the classes and couldn’t tell me what any of them entailed, other than that a step is used in Step. This was a problem I found when attending the Body Conditioning class, which you can read about here – though it has to be said, the class itself was enjoyable. In an attempt to be all things to all people, I think Everyone Active has written some seriously generic copy in their class descriptions, which is pretty unhelpful.

In all, I think the facilities at the Castle Centre easily rival the likes of Virgin Active and LA Fitness but the classes and their availability have got a bit of a way to go. If you live or work in that neck of the woods, give it a whirl.

 

A winter workout rut? Not here!

It’s flipping freezing. It’s also flipping dark. No one wants to go out, beds are comfy and warm, the heating is on and I’m not going to lie, I’m far more tempted by beef bourguignon, potatoes and a glass of red wine (lol, bottle) than I am dragging myself around Tooting Common for a tempo run. But I get out and do it anyway (most of the time)

So here are some tips on how to stay active when it’s less than desirable outside. Some of these are practical and some are safety-related. Some relate to running, some are general exercise.

Stay safe

Even more relevant now following the sad news from Aldershot this week, which really made me think. It could have been any of us. Running outside in the dark = potential dangers, even if you’re on the pavement and think you’re safe. Don’t take risks down unlit alleyways in dodgy estates, don’t wear your headphones, watch out for things laying in wait to trip you up and stick to places where there are more lights and people. I know this isn’t always the case – but your tripping over danger/dodgy person danger ratio will probably flex depending on where you live, so adjust accordingly. Wear high viz, run towards oncoming traffic if you have no pavement option – basically don’t take risks. Unfortunately, some things are out of our control, but make sure that you change the things you can.

Time it right

Pick your poison. Are you a morning or an evening exerciser? I tend to find at this point in the year, it’s much harder to go out again in the evening once it’s dark so I tend to pick the mornings. This means I’ve set my heating to come on earlier and I don’t often leave the house when it’s light, but it is worth it knowing that I can get home and crash after a long day.

To combat this – I do try and run at lunchtime. Or gym at 3pm (it’s super quiet!). Luckily, I work somewhere where this is possible. More sleep, more light, more motivation – and a safer run in the daytime.

Make it social

Pick a team sport. My current thing is Monday night netball – and when I complain  about the cold with other people, it’s more bearable. If you aren’t a team sport person, pick a workout buddy or sign up for a class that you can’t cancel. Also, a 2 mile run to netball is a good warmup AND means you add another run to the week.

 

Prepare prepare prepare

This is the case for any time of day, any time of year – get everything ready so you have no excuses. Lay out all your clothes. Make your lunch. Get all your layers ready. Always have a raincoat in your bag for when it starts raining and you’ve got to cycle home…also take spare socks. I also go to work in my running stuff (again, #perks) so it forces me to feel like I wore it for a purpose.

Prepare for after

Don’t go swimming and then come out and catch pneumonia. Have enough layers for before and after (i.e. don’t stay in sweaty kit too long), grab a hot drink, make your boyfriend run a bath for you in preparation…

Food is key – I HATE going out to buy food if I’ve already been for a run and have come back. Make life easy for yourself – come back, eat dinner, shower, bed. WIN.

Dress for the weather

Layers, gloves, hats, scarves, everything. Being under or overdressed can make a significant different to your enjoyment, and I would always err on the over-dressed side. You can always take layers off, you can’t add them when you’re 10km from home!

Keep it simple

Sometimes it’s harder to train in the cold. It takes longer to warm up, it’s icy, you are mentally checked out and back home in bed already…so don’t push it every time, don’t stress if you miss one workout and don’t take risks just to fit it in. A warm up becomes more and more important when your body temperature is going to be lower – don’t skip it and risk an injury.

Enjoy it!

There is something exceptionally exciting about running outside in the cold, running in the snow, feeling the cold air filling your lungs. The scenery can be great at this time of year – think crisp frosts, autumn leaves and clear sunny wintery skies. (Or rain, dark, cold and miserable, but lets not focus on that). Then you are free to snuggle up in something cosy for the rest of the day and truly feel you deserved it!

Anything we’ve missed?

Who said South London isn't pretty? #run #running #tooting #morning #redsky

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London marathon ballot…also known as ‘why does everyone think London is the only marathon?’

Ahhh it’s that time of year again when everyone is impatiently waiting for their ballot result – whether it’s a magazine and compensation in form of a top that EVERYONE knows is because you didn’t get in…or this year it appears they are resorting to just sending emails.

I’ve run London 3 times (here and here are the most recent recaps) and I’ve got my place for 2017 sorted (except I think I’m going to defer)  And something I often hear is  “Oh you must have been really lucky to get a place in the ballot 1/2/3/4 times”.

Nope. I didn’t get into the ballot. I have NEVER got a place in the ballot. I entered the ballot once for the 2012 race. I didn’t get in. I didn’t then sit around for 10 years, entering again and again and complaining about not getting in whilst being not so secretly jealous about those who are running. When I didn’t get in, I entered another marathon (Paris), managed to run a Good for Age time and therefore could get into London automatically, avoiding the ballot. And then repeated this process.

I just DON’T understand why London seems to be the be all and end all, the defining moment, the one event that everyone seems to see (well I mean I do get this, the media hype is a big player) but people – moreso in the non running community – need to understand that any marathon is as good as any other.  “Is the Paris marathon the same distance as the London one?” Why yes, a marathon is a marathon is a marathon. YOU’RE RUNNING A FREAKING MARATHON, THIS IS GOOD ENOUGH IN ITSELF.

If you’re complaining about not making it in, ask yourself a question – what do you really want from this race? Why is London such a big deal? Is it really? There are plenty of other big city marathons with great support and a great course. They might not be as iconic, but they are still doing the job of being a marathon. There are also plenty of nice non-city marathons…

Also, while we are on it – why does the marathon seem to be the defining race length? Do it justice. A sub 20 5k is equally (if not moreso) impressive than a 4 hour marathon. Or a 3.30 marathon as I can do that but not sub 20.  Get better at running shorter, build your experience and THEN try the marathon – attempting it too early is pretty much going to fail and you’ll enjoy it a lot more as a seasoned runner.

And if you do really want to do it, put some effort in and get a place based on your ability (see above – get better at shorter distances, build your speed and stamina and then take it up a notch) I am sure MANY will disagree, but I actually don’t think running 3.45 or under is that unachievable for a lot of women in the senior age bracket. It is definitely harder for men – 3.05 takes some significant training, even with some genetic advantage (hmmm) but 3.45 is hardly the New York extremes for automatic entry. Or join a club, do your time and volunteering, then try and get a club place. Plus, you’ve then got a club full of experienced people to help you with your training…

I mean, I’m not slamming London by any means – it’s a great course, the atmosphere and supporters are amazing, there’s something spine-tingling about being on that start line, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You’re probably thinking “well why have you done London multiple times and continue to enter…?” Which is a fair question! I didn’t have much intention to do another marathon after Paris…but thought I may as well take up the opportunity to give London a go as I just had to fill in a form, have my time validated and pay some money.

However London is also VERY convenient for me. I don’t need a hotel, I don’t need to pay ridiculous travel costs, I know where I’m going, I can practice on the route, I know loads of people running and I know loads of people supporting. I’ve literally just become lazy about marathonning.

If you want to understand all the numbers, some solutions and general goings on of the ballot, take a look at this article by Dan here.

And for all of you who have been lucky to get a place – treasure it and don’t waste it. Rocking up on the start line with zero training and doing a poor job of it is unfair on those who would have embraced it, put in the hours and done a fabulous event justice. So take pride in your bib.

Thoughts? Alternative ballot ideas? Better-marathons-than-London suggestions? Better-distances-than-marathon suggestions?