People who shouldn’t be allowed on cycle superhighways in London…

London has been a hive of bike lane related activity recently and I have to say, it’s made a difference now that things are finally up and running and the roadworks are out of the way. I regularly use the now (nearly!) fully segregated lanes that have been built into CS7  and its offshoots (that’s the main drag from Clapham to the City), especially around Stockwell and on Blackfriars Road, and I have to say, for someone who was fed up of weaving in and out of traffic and getting everywhere at a snail’s pace, I now don’t have to! It’s also made it a heck of a lot safer for less confident riders and as long as people use them properly, they will (hopefully) continue to flourish and encourage more people to get on their bikes.

But as with all these things, there are people who still don’t use them correctly and it is time for me to have a bit of a rant about who should get out of my bike lane!

(Note I’m mainly talking about the completely separate bits of the superhighways but a lot of these apply equally well to those annoying shiny blue sections of the road that drivers seem to forget exist)

1. People on scooters. YOU ARE AN ADULT BEHAVE LIKE ONE. Even worse is that you can now get scooters with a mini suitcase attached (eyeroll). Go scoot on the pavement or something.

2. Pedestrians. IT’S NOT A FOOTPATH. IT HAS PICTURES OF LITTLE BIKES ON IT! Also stop stepping out into it without looking as it will hurt if and when I crash into you. It’s like a road but for vehicles you can’t hear as well. And please stop being permanently attached to your phones.

3. Runners. But only when it’s prime commuter time and you are acting like a fool and wearing headphones and oblivious to cyclists around you. People like me who use it nicely at lunchtime when it’s quiet and run towards the flow of traffic and get back onto the pavement should totally be allowed.

4. People who are bad at cycling. Before you all get grumpy, I don’t mean slow, I mean genuinely incompetent i.e. unable to cycle in a straight line, don’t indicate, indicate but pull out in front of you  without looking, overtake 3 abreast when there are people coming the other way etc etc. Just because we have a special lane doesn’t mean you can be a moron.

5. People on weird contraptions holding umbrellas. Like a Segway minus the stick part. It probably has a name. I jsut googled “moving wheel commute” and apparently it is called a solowheel (don’t worry, not affiliate linking you to these mad contraptions, I just wanted to show you what I meant…)

6. People cycling the wrong way !!!!

7. People who don’t obey rules. These were put in to make cycling safer – jumping red lights DOESNT MAKE IT SAFER YOU HAVE JUST CREATED THE PROBLEM AGAIN.

8. Deliveroo cyclists who cycle in the middle of the entire lane whilst on their phones and their boxes of food make them really wide loads and hard to get around and make me feel hungry. (I’ve realised the main point to this one is that it’s because they make me hungry that I don’t like them there, they aren’t all annoying)

9. Men who get really annoyed when I overtake them. Le sigh.

10. Drivers who cut across them without looking. I thought I was safe from you! Unfortunately not all of the intersecting roads have traffic light control, so you just need to pay attention to the odd madman…but that is better than having to deal with hundreds of them!

So there you have it. A quick rant over and done with and I’ve got a few of today’s stresses of my chest. Only to go back to it again tomorrow. Happy cycling!

Sweating it out – are you replacing your minerals?

The sun is finally out and I (and everyone else, don’t lie) am SWEATING a lot. Especially if you are doing any kind of sport. I sacked off track partway through the session last night because a) it was the hardest sessions EVER (6 x 1 mile) and b) it was the hottest day ever.

Now, I obviously know when you sweat, you lose electrolytes and that is a bad thing. You don’t perform as well, you don’t recover as well, you get cramp. That is why companies are constantly peddling electrolyte drinks, vitamin water (I drink it because I like the taste rather than any nutritional benefits), protein coconut water (still tastes as bad as normal coconut water vom) to get you to replace lost salts and minerals.

So that is a form of supplementation – but supplements as a whole, I’ve never really felt the need to delve into…It’s a combination of

  1. thinking I don’t need to (and I know best obviously)
  2. remembering a nutrition module in my degree with the conclusion of you don’t really need to if your diet is sufficient
  3. every study showing the benefits having an opposite study that refukes the claim (again, side effects of a sports science degree)
  4. I always forget to take them.

Pharma Nord got in contact a few months back to ask if we would like to try out their Bio-Magnesium tablets, and I have to say, I was easily convinced by the claims of magnesium in reducing DOMS and aiding recovery. I rarely feel like I’m not in a state of DOMS (to the point that my legs always hurt walking up stairs.end of) so this was a BRILLIANT way of convincing me.

What role does magnesium play in the body?

Magnesium regulates A LOT of reactions in the body (over 300 enzymatic reactions!), from protein synthesis to blood pressure regulation. It is also probably fairly low in the list of “top things you would think about supplementing” – with iron and sodium tending to be near the top of the list for endurance athletes, but its role must not be ignored.

Continue reading

10 Problems Sporty Girls Will Understand

RE-POST! 10 Problems Sporty Girls Will Understand #sportygirlproblems

These Girls Do

Here’s a popular one from the archives for you peeps – still as true as ever! We’d love to hear your #sportygirlproblems in the comments below or on Twitter

1. Your bedroom is perpetually in need of hoovering.

Especially if you play anything that involves wearing studded or moulded boots… Why is it so damn hard to get rid of every last bit of mud / grass / dirt? Or worst of all, these little blighters:

artificial turf

Whoever thought 3G pitches were a good idea has CLEARLY never spent entire weeks, post-training session, picking rubber pellets out of crevasses they hadn’t realised they had.

View original post 624 more words

Ditch the matchsticks. Get some sleep.

I love my sleep. I mean I really love my sleep. This isn’t even the first time I’ve blogged about it. The only problem is that I’m not very good at it.

Once, when on an expedition trip to Borneo as a wide-eyed fifteen year old, I was told off by our tour leader for falling asleep on a bus ride through a city – “You’re missing out on all the sights!”. I turned my head and went right on sleeping. We’d been in the jungle for a week, ‘sleeping’ on hideously uncomfortable canvass hammocks and hiking for miles every day. I was exhausted.

Sure, I probably missed a couple of spectacular buildings and some exotic goods being touted on street-side market stalls, but frankly I’m not one of those people who subscribes to the idea that “you can sleep when your dead”. Rather, if I’m operating in a sleep deprived state, I feel dead. I can’t concentrate. I feel unwell. I can’t function. And that just won’t do.

We all know that a lack of sleep is bad for us – at best we end up grouchy and at worst a regular lack of sleep can lead to heightened risk of serious medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes – so how can we make sure that we’re getting more of this precious luxury?

Our friends at Casper have sent us simple but effective tips and set us the challenge of pledging to make a change to our bedtime habits for a month to see how much of a difference it makes. Casper knows first hand that a lot goes into your sleep & your sleep routine but something as simple as heading to be 30 mins early or even looking into a new bed, can drastically benefit your nights rest (and wellbeing)!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For me the problem is no longer the discomfort of rainforest sleeping arrangements, but rather having a lot of thoughts buzzing around in my head, so I am pledging to put my phone down an hour before going to sleep and reading, rather than looking at a screen, before bed.

We’d love to hear any more tips you guys have for getting a good night sleep too – leave us comment below.

Good night!

10 things j’adore about Le Tour

It’s every cyclist’s (and wannabee’s) favourite 3 weeks of the year again…Le Tour is back in full swing and we are all trying our best to be in the breakaway group on London’s cycle superhighways and wondering why the person on a Boris bike (sorry, Santander cycle) behind you isn’t responding to when you flick your elbow to get them to take the lead (just me then?)

Today is the first rest day (and by rest day, I mean they will just go out and do a casual 1-2 hour ride rather than say, 5 or 6 hours) and we have already have TONNES of drama. From Cavendish becoming the 2nd highest stage winner of all time, to Steve Cumming’s second solo breakaway win in as many years (WHY is he not in the Olympic team?), to Froome’s mental descending technique (that did the job) and the loss of Contador yesterday, it’s been a rollercoaster thus far. THREE BRITS IN JERSEYS!

So, without much further ado, here are some reasons why I love it…

  1. How easy it is to go and watch! I’ve been brought up taking little excursions to random locations in France where you can literally turn up at the side of the road and see them all go past…which is a brilliant (and free) introduction to cycling as you can just sense the speed. Obviously, the more popular locations such as the big climbs such as Alpe D’Huez have people turning up days in advance, but if you know there is a stage near you, you can pretty much always find somewhere to watch it. Key tip – take a radio or stand next to someone who has one to keep up with what is happening.

Tour De France London 2014

  1. The commentary. Watching it live is often up there with TMS in that commentators like to go a bit off topic…chateaus being top of the list of distractions. The ITV commentary team has changed up a bit though, which means probably less chateaus but more actual insight into what the peloton is going to do (thanks David Millar)
  1. The cliches. Seriously, if you pay attention to the Tour for any period of time, you quickly learn which rider does what, and key commentary terms to describe them. You can then start doing impressions (Chris Froome looking at stems is probably one of my favourite Tumblrs) and talking knowledgeably about Contador ‘dancing on the pedals’.
  1. The characters. I’m not just talking about the riders, but the people who come to watch. In particular, the man below. Didi is a long term fan favourite at both the Tour and the Giro d’Italia since 1993 and even has his own Wikipedia page. 

Didi the Devil Tour de France

  1. The welcome from any town/village/hamlet/field that the riders pass through. There have been some amazing spectacles at the side of the road and artwork in fields. “Tour de France field art” is a legit Google search term.
  1. The DRAMA! See my point above. People fall off, favourites give up, people attack when others have mechanicals, it rains, it hails, it’s sunny, there are cobbles, spectators get punched in the face, people do drugs, people cycle across fields, people crash into telegraph poles and break their favourite sunglasses…this happens
  1. The speed of technical changes. If, whenever I got a puncture, someone could just get me a new wheel and change it in 10 seconds, it would be great. I tried to put a wheel back on without turning the bike upside down the other day and it was the most frustrating thing in the world! (I add to this that I would really like a support car to follow me on any bike ride from now on because it would save me a whooooole lot of trouble)
  1. The ability of the riders to ride on through pretty much anything. There are some hard crashes in the Tour. There is a lot of skin lost. Yet people manage to get back up, continue on and have their wounds cleaned by a doctor hanging out of the team car WHILST STILL CYCLING. Take that footballers. People GET THROWN INTO BARBED WIRE BECAUSE OF BAD DRIVING.
  1. The speed and distance. The speed is something you truly appreciate when you see it in person, because on TV they actually look kind of casual. I did Mt Ventoux a few years ago and it was absolutely exhausting and I only did the 21km climb…they are starting in Montpellier and finishing at the top of Ventoux, a total of 185km. Mental. They probably won’t stop for chips and sweets at the top either. Imagine averaging 30mph whilst being within an elbow distance of over a hundred people…or hitting 122kph on a downhill…actually, is that even possible?
  1. My final reason for loving the Tour is how much my family love it…This is what we have done (list non exhaustive…)
  • Made Top Trumps cards (the categories were dubious, as were the answers, but the pictures were great and we should probably trademark them)
  • Nicknamed a lot of riders
  • Had the ITV coverage theme song as ring tones
  • Sung the theme song multiple times
  • Made up our own TdF song
  • Done impressions of the majority of cyclists whilst riding
  • Held intermediate sprints in the middle of our rides
  • Played TdF drinking games
  • Got upset when we’ve seen the result before the highlights show
  • Been to watch it in numerous places
  • Caught water bottles from riders
  • Read literally every cycling autobiography
  • Seen the caravane on the autoroute going the opposite way around France
  • Cycled the wrong way around a XC MTB trail to get caught in torrential rain, hide in a cow shed and give up trying to get to our viewing location and stop to eat chips instead…
  • …to then go and watch the time trial the next day

So, closet cycling fans….what do you love about it? Any weird TdF traditions in your family?

Open Water Swimming for Beginners – Hints & Tips

As I have previously testified, swimming is not one of my favourite activities, HOWEVER, sensible me decided giving into peer pressure at work to take part in the Henley Swim Club to Pub in July was a good idea.

Which meant one thing…I had to get back in the water. For me, swimming in a pool is a bit like running on a treadmill – boredom factor 100. Plus, the event is in the Thames, which is not a pool…therefore, I should not do all my training in the pool. Go figure.

Initial reservations about open water swimming often include “it’s not that easy to get to”, “it’s more difficult” and “it’s less safe than a pool”…and I can imagine “open water swimming for beginners” is a heavily Googled term! So, this post is here to quash some of those fears and streamline your introduction – it was written with the help of Henley Swim who have years of experience in this sort of thing, unlike my relative newbiness.

  1. Find a good location for your ability

There are a large number of lakes that run managed open water swimming sessions. These are safe places to start your open water career, and learn the basic skills, before becoming more adventurous and heading off into the rivers and sea. This list on 220 seems fairly up to date, but lakes have a tendency to open and close (!) so make sure you check the website before turning up.

IMG_2221.JPG

Shepperton (above) is convenient if you are in SW London but it is also often very busy and can be full of people who seem very fast – but one of best things about OW is how friendly and willing to help people are. The majority of reputable lakes will give a full safety briefing before allowing you to swim, as well as making you do a small demonstration that you won’t drown (typically a short swim, plus that you are able to perform the safety signal.

It’s often better to find somewhere that is fully focused on swimming (rather than also offering wakeboarding etc), simply because it means there are less obstacles (e.g. buoys) to worry about when you are on your swim, and you’re more likely to get dedicated attention. If you can’t get to a lake, you could always start with a lido – Tooting Bec (one of my despised locations) is 90m long. So it’s practically the same as being in a lake (feels like it anyway) but you don’t have to go as far.

NB Make sure you take into account whether they have cake. I would highly recommend the Victoria sponge at Trifarm.

  1. Never open water swim alone

This applies to both lake swimming (i.e. go during supervised sessions and flag if you are new/less confident) as well as when you are braving it in the more wild locations. There are a number of elements outside your control. Even the most experienced of swimmers can get into trouble, and being on your own can quickly make a bad situation worse.

These days there a large number of open water clubs springing up who can help new open water swimmers and offer coaching sessions which will help you build both your confidence and technique. Most lakes will link to sessions they hold on their websites or social accounts.

  1. Prepare for your open water swim – before and after

Standard kit would include wetsuit, goggles, high visibility swim hat, flip flops, towel, changing mat, and (waterproof!) watch.

After your swim the important thing is to get dry and warm as quickly as possible. A good post swim routine is key, for example: 1 – wetsuit off (and rinse it), 2 – flip flops on, 3 – get dry, 4 – layers on (hats are very welcome early in the season), 5 – hot drink. All fairly self-explanatory, but it’s amazing how many people get it wrong. If you have driven to your swim; get the heating on full blast on your feet (lovely!!)

As mentioned previously, also look for cake (but make sure you wash your hands…) Coke is good for killing pond bugs (true fact – that I don’t have a reference for) and bin-bags are handy to pop your wetsuit in until you can actually dry it out, just don’t leave it in there to go mouldy…Also, embrace pond hair. Gives it nice waves.

  1. Be ready for the temperature

Often, the biggest barrier is the temperature. It’s colder, pure and simple! Most swimming pools have a temperature of between 27-31 degrees centigrade. The warmest water you could hope to swim in (in the UK) would be about 20 degrees, so there is a big difference. When you first experience cold water your body will have a mild shock response and you will gasp. Gradually your body will adapt and you will become more comfortable – but it’s therefore advisable not to start your open water career in March. Most lakes will post the temperature on their website; 15 degrees is generally a good starting point.

Specially designed swimming wetsuits are readily available and not only keep you warm but also afford swimmers greater buoyancy, allowing you to achieve a better position in the water and have a faster and more comfortable swim.

You don’t need to buy a wetsuit to get started – most places allow you to hire them for a fee. Obviously, if you get into it, that fee per session generally warrants buying your own, but it isn’t a necessity. The best thing about wetsuits is the buoyancy – I’m wondering if I can use this as a technique to float 1100m downstream (although I might not finish within the hour unless the Severn Bore transplants itself to the Thames at that specific time)

IMG_8743

Spot Katie (I am the green hat on the left…trying not to drown)

  1. Remember that a lake is not a pool

There are no sides to push off, no steps to get in (well, in most cases!) and you can’t always feel the bottom. Or see it. Or see anything.

Go in prepared for this – don’t suddenly act surprised that a lake is murky. Some lakes will flag themselves as ‘not having weeds’, which is often something people don’t like, but rest assured, there isn’t much in a lake in the UK that you really need to be afraid of – it’s not Florida! Man up and get in! Supervised lakes will have a lifeguard and/or rescue boat (often a kayak), so you won’t be totally left to your own devices, but this is why it’s key to learn the safety sign. And practice treading water; often, the panic is quickly alleviated with some deep breaths. But this is why you should swim with others and not over-estimate your ability, which moves nicely on to…

  1. Don’t push yourself too early

Always have a plan of what you will be doing, and make sure that it is safe and within your capabilities. Getting tired, cold and cramping are not pleasant if you still have a long swim back to safety.  Most lakes will have both short (200-400m) and long (750+) loops to cater for all, so you don’t have to push further than you are willing – no-one else is counting how far or how long you swim for!

  1. Practise sighting

One of the (if not the) most important skills in open water swimming is sighting (seeing where you are going). Forgetting to regularly check and correct your course can add considerable distance to your swim. This is isn’t just a racing issue, where athletes need to swim the shortest possible distance, but also a safety issue, as it is important to ensure you know where you are and that you are swimming in a safe section of water. A good rule of thumb is to sight your course every 8 strokes. Poor visibility in the lake is also a common initial fear – but rest assured, you aren’t going to come across anything in a lake in the UK that will cause you that much fear.

(NB Sighting is equally important for staying on course and not crashing into buoys as it is for avoiding swans and ducks. Watch out – you have been warned!)

Be aware of who you are sharing the water with if you choose to swim outside supervised lakes (rowers and swimmers do not mix well) Joining a club or contacting the environment agency is a good place to start.

4d99e9ef-849e-4302-ac6c-ea01d81327e5-620x320

  1. Relax and enjoy it!

For the first few sessions you will probably be quite tense; for this reason try and keep these sessions short (or even get out and get back in again, a few times). Once you are in, focus on getting a good breathing cycle going. Generally if your breathing is working well, your body will relax.

One of my favourite things about being in the lake is having the sun scatter through the water – or the feeling of being rained on whilst being wet already, such is the weather. For me, it’s like trail running – I can totally tune out and enjoy being outside rather than focusing on hitting times and distances and proving something to myself. Also, you don’t smell of chlorine afterwards…just…nature.

If you’re keen to get involved in an open water event without having to cycle and run afterwards, then Henley Swim offer a multitude of distances, as well as having many resources available like these training plans to help you prepare. (I should probably now start actually preparing as opposed to ‘making up swim sets each time I go’)

And with that, I’m off to don my new goggles and hope they don’t leak!

bbeadb28-44c5-4b0f-a0e7-d1143df48e72-1

 

What I learnt playing rugby for the SECOND time

As some of you will know, last year I ventured out of the safety of touch rugby and into 7s, taking a trip down to Brighton with some of the girls from work for our FIRST EVER WORK FEMALE RUGBY TEAM (yeap, we are all over gender equality) and you know what, it wasn’t that bad, I didn’t break any bones and I think I kind of enjoyed it. It was sunny, there was beer and I learnt a lot of things – which you can read about here

Well, moving on a year, I’m no longer in the same job, but because I am therefore ‘alumni’, I am allowed to come back and play (plus, there still aren’t really quite enough girls…so I sort of had to)…but this year we kept it closer to home, opting for Summer Social in Richmond instead, which has grown from being a rugby festival to a ‘loads and loads of different sports’ festival. Kate O’C was gutted she couldn’t make it. So I will try not to rub in how much fun it was.
As Summer Social is of a pretty decent size (and because it started as a rugby tournament), there are several levels catering for all – Elite (men’s) , Open, Social and Ultra Social (men’s and women’s). Not entirely sure why the Women’s Open wasn’t just classed as elite, considering it included Scotland, Wales and a GB side…but oh well. On the plus side, this means that for a novice women’s team, you aren’t lumped against people who have been playing for years, which is the case for some tournaments where you can only get enough for one level (or so you think anyway)

Winding back a few hours…an early start was had as we had been at a rugby club ball the night before – surprisingly, my boyfriend choosing not to drink because he had to drive me to a 7s tournament the next morning. I however, did drink, despite having a 7s tournament the next morning. And moving swiftly on…

We arrived at Richmond, parked up and waited for the girls and SHINY NEW KIT! This was fairly exciting considering last year we just used our touch kit, which isn’t actually ideal for contact. Also, an extra gem – it matched my boots!

IMG_2171

Our first game was against Windsor. We lost.But we went in with not much structure or plan, hoping to use it as a warm up and then talk tactics afterwards. Which we kind of did. It was a learning curve – I remembered that tackling isn’t that difficult and falling over doesn’t hurt that much. And that it’s hard to talk with a gumshield!

The problem with there being so many games and general popularity of the tournament (men’s elite, open and the three women’s tournaments are at Richmond Athletic Ground, with men’s social being at Old Deer Park) means that there is a bit of waiting around between games – especially if the opposition never turns up. So our next game (Kingston) wasn’t for a good 3 hours! We took the time out here to indulge in healthy intra-game snacks (chips, pizza and the like) and actually run through some moves, covering the breakdown, defending as a line and a couple of set pieces.

Our next game was against Kingston rugby club and our practice showed! I don’t know what the score was…but we won! Boyfriend was also at this point promoted to subs manager, which took a layer of pressure off us from trying to think about playing and subbing.

Our third game was against the Pink Rinses (one of the well-known Pink Ba-Bas team, who are regularly on the 7s circuit) These women knew their rugby. Discovered afterwards that there were several ladies with MULTIPLE national caps in there, which explains a lot. This game was less ultra social and more stressful. I mean we lost by a chunk, but we played a cracking game considering their level of experience (lots) against ours (not quite as much) – and their coach said we stuck up for ourselves well.

IMG_2178

We finished up against Roehampton Uni, which was a nailbiter, finishing 26-22. Unfortunately to them. But it was a cracker, we won scrums (probably why my neck hurts so much) and everyone really put their all into it.

There is so much offside in this it's unbelievable

There is so much offside in this it’s unbelievable

So then a quick shower and onto the evening! Because we didn’t finish until far gone 6, it was clear the other sports had been at the bar for a good few hours, so we played catch up and ended up in Infernos. Win. Summer Social has a real festival atmosphere, the DJs are awesome and anywhere with a live saxophonist has my vote. Plus, despite the crowds, the bar queues were totally acceptable.

So, what did I learn as an experienced (ha!) 7s player?

  • The fear before a game is much worse than the actual game. I DREADED the 10 minutes pre-match, especially being told I was starting (because #experience), but as soon as I was on…it was OK
  • Do not be intimidated by size. We aren’t a particularly big team, and some of the others were. It’s fine. It’s easier to predict direction. You can run round them.
  • National level players drop the ball – you can watch the women’s elite and there are still dropped catches, bad passes and the odd missed tackle. So if the pros do it, it doesn’t matter so much if you do it.
  • There will be bruises. The bruises will grow and grow and grow. And be blue (coordinated with boots/kit)
  • Accidents happen – having an air ambulance land on the pitch next to you is less than ideal, especially when you are already a tiny bit stressed. But, the majority of rugby games do not result in air ambulances, so do not worry. (Side note – it appears the guy who it was for is recovering well)
  • Being first on the score sheet is a nice little buzz. You will also surprise yourself by backing yourself to score. And then worry EXTENSIVELY about not dropping the ball over the line!
  • No matter how hard you try, your parents will want to come and watch. Your mother may not actually watch that much though due to the stress of watching tackles, despite having put up with it on a weekly basis for 31 years already…also note, your parents will manage to know LOADS of people there.
  • Bank Holiday BBQ line out practice will pay off. This was literally our best moment of the game when it a) worked b) no-one dropped it and c) we scored off it. I am gutted we have no evidence so you will just have to believe me!
  • You will hurt a lot afterwards. Going open water swimming the next day is not advisable. Nor a duathlon 3 days later.
  • You may end up eating 3 portions of chips in one day. And little else. And accidentally forgetting the calories in cider.
  • It is physically possible to get home, have two people showered and dressed within 15 minutes and then be in an Uber.
  • You will ache for days later. To a point where all you can physically do is nap on Wimbledon Common. This is totally acceptable. Apparently ‘you get used to it’
  • 7S IS INCREDIBLY FUN AND YOU SHOULD ALL GO AND PLAY IT!

IMG_2172

Now I know how Hannibal would feel during burpees… – Skinny Rebel review

A few months back, Kate & I received an opportunity to test out “Skinny Rebel“, a class offered by the guys at Train Dirty…which is described as “a personal training workout with a difference”…

A myriad of things (think building leaks, illness and general work/life balance being the wrong way round) set out to try and prevent it happening, but a few weeks ago I was able to try my hand at the sort of thing that typically happens when you live in say, Colombia or the Rift Valley – hypoxic training…or for those of you who don’t recall this from your sports science degree – reducing the oxygen available to the body. In this case, it’s all down to a clever little mask.  Which makes you look either like Bane or Hannibal. And sound a bit like Darth Vader.

*Disclaimer – the session was provided free of charge, however all opinions are my own*

A nice and leisurely 8am session was a great idea, meaning I didn’t have to leave my flat until 7.20 to get to the gym, WIN.The Conrad St James is super easy to find – bang opposite St James’ tube (although I walked from Victoria, which took about 10 minutes) and very close to Met Police HQ. It is, as you’d expect, a gorgeous location, with the kind of reception staff you would expect from a high standard hotel. (also meaning there are gym towels, lockers, a fridge full of still and sparkling water and the ever-present hotel gym green apple offering!)

The gym is tucked away downstairs and upon entering, my initial worry was confirmed – it was a typical hotel gym aka about 4 square foot, with a weird “this can do everything” weights bench and your usual limited cardio and weights equipment.Ugh.


However, don’t judge a book by its cover Katie.

I was welcomed in by James and we had a chat about the class, the team, the locations (think luxury hotels in St Tropez and Lisbon….much more appealing destinations than London on a dreary Wednesday morning!) and what was coming. I went along with the naive feeling that, being a fair few months into a marathon training programme, I was in pretty decent shape, but was promised that this would really help to test where I wasn’t in shape. And where I needed to focus.

Circuit 1 went something like this:

Bear crawls, ropes, more ropes, duck walks, boxing, burpees. BURPEES. I hate burpees. However I have a real respect for anyone who puts them in a circuit though as I know they do their job.

Circuit 2 was similar, a few changes in exercise, but of note was that BURPEES were in there again! At this point I was pretty glad I didn’t have the mask on yet, purely because the feeling of burpees couldn’t possibly be made any worse…

However, after this, out came the mask. And yes, I looked like Hannibal. If Hannibal had blonde hair.  I found the biggest challenge was learning not to panic when you couldn’t breathe. It’s like swimming, or anything where you need to focus on your breathing – the more you panic, the harder it is. I have a feeling if you do yoga and are good at controlling your breathing, you will do this a heck of a lot better than me…


The choice is yours whether to wear the mask or not – and I’m not going to lie, it was a pretty tough session even without the mask on! I wonder whether I would have pushed myself more not wearing it – I was struggling so much with getting used to it and worrying that I couldn’t breathe that I probably put less intensity into the exercises themselves (i.e. burpees) I think thought that after a couple of sessions you would easily crack it and begin to reap the benefits. There’s a whole host of studies about the impact of continued oxygen deficiency on the body (it boils down basically to being able to do a better job of transporting and using the oxygen you have available when you limit it) – and this is a legit way to do it rather than a) becoming a pro cyclist and going the short way round or b) spending months living up and training down mountains.

Fail #1 is misplacing my HR monitor. I have no idea where it is (probably under my bed) – and I wish I had had it for this session to see the impact that putting on the mask actually had. Claims are big – up to 1000kcal in a 45 minute session.

Fail #2 is thinking ‘I’m sure I will be fine wearing a mask’. Nope, it’s less fine than you think it will be – it took me a good circuit and a half to feel comfortable wearing it and less like I was going to have a full scale panic attack. But once it’s on and you’ve got used to it – you begin to forget it’s there. Until you realise how much harder it is making things feel!

Fail #3 is doing an arms session the day before. NO! This made my press up ability very limited – and meant my planks suffered as well. I get to the point now where I just think I am in a permanent state of DOMS.

In summary:

  • It’s new, exciting and different
  • You don’t HAVE to wear the mask – you’ll get a decent workout whatever you choose, but it’s a great little thing to try
  • You also won’t be FORCED to wear the mask – I whipped it off a couple of times mid circuit for a few quick breaths and then popped it back on again, it’s amazing what a bit of calm and reassurance can do to you
  • You can do A LOT in a hotel gym with minimal space. This I think is down to great planning and a trainer who knows what gets results – big thumbs up to this approach
  • Always trust a PT who can judge you early on – the best ones can read through the lines and push you to do what you can, rather than what you think you are a bit too tired to do

I then popped to work with a spring in my step – I showered at the office so didn’t get a chance to see if you were able to use any changing facilities – and was buzzing to tell people what it had felt like!

Skinny Rebel workouts run at Conrad London St. James for guests and your regular selves. The workout is priced at £40 for one 45 minute session, with block booking offers available. For more information and to make a reservation, email: info@traindirtylondon.com – or they’re also on Classpass.  The team also offer a range of PT options – visit the website for more information.

 

10 ways to have the perfect race

Having just come off the back of a PB at the London Marathon, but a slight longing feeling of “I could probably have done that better”, the best thing to do is have booked in another race, right? (For all those coaches out there who are reading this and groaning at me, I promise I won’t complain when I get injured, but this is one of my favourite races so I HAD to do it)

The Pednor 5 is a low key local race on a looped course, originally named “The Pednor Loop”…which just happens to be bang on 5 miles long!  It’s put on by Chiltern Harriers and it’s one as a family we’ve been doing for a good few years now – and it’s always on May Day Bank Holiday, 7pm start.

Seriously, every year I run this race I spend about 90% of the day wishing I hadn’t signed up for it or that it was a 10am, rather than a 7pm, start. And this year was no different – which meant I wasn’t expecting anything great to take place when 7pm finally rolled around…

However, I came out of it with a new 5 mile PB, and a 4th female position – and a smile on my face. AND I WAS HAPPY! At no point had i felt I was really struggling or that I had judged it wrong – the total opposite to mile 20 of the marathon, or indeed mile 1.5 of Tooting parkrun on Saturday…

  • As it’s an evening race, throw all caution to the wind the day before – drink as much cider as you want, practice rugby in the back garden and just generally forget that you have a race the next day

  • Pick a nice distance. 5 miles is fun! It’s less painful than a 5k where I have a tendency to go all out too early on, but it’s not as long as a 10k meaning that you can push to the right degree.ish.
  • Fuel well during the day, including sausage sandwiches and scones the size of your face. And flapjack (remember you are still in marathon recovery phase so can still eat a lot and justify it)

  • Know the course. I’ve run it multiple times and we went out and recce’d it again on the bikes on Sunday because Dave hasn’t done it before. I think the hills actually felt harder on the bike…(actually maybe don’t know the course. My legs felt shattered on the bike the day before and I was already dreading the big hill…)

  • Find a race friend. Mine was this man in yellow. We ran together from about 2.5 miles, had a bit of a chat, gave each other some encouragement and generally helped each other stay on track.

  • Trust yourself on the hills. I am RUBBISH at hills currently because I’m not running them very much, but I found myself catching people which gave me a new found confidence. Also helps here knowing the length of the hill (see point earlier) which meant I pushed harder than I probably would normally plod.
  • Make it look like you are finding it easy. This was interesting – most of the people I passed in the first 2 miles sounded like they were about to keel over and die – which made me focus more on my breathing and not sound like them. And it worked!  Secondary to this – smile at cameras!

  • Be the hunter, not the hunted. Pick people off and breeze past them. Put on your best “I’m finding this easy” face as you go past and make people scared of trying to catch you. I was mainly picking out the women – and when I passed the last I could see at mile 4, I made a pact to myself that I wouldn’t let her back past me (so this, + man in yellow, made me have a pretty fast last mile, despite the uphill)
  • Don’t make it your A-race! I was putting minimal pressure on myself for this run and it showed. Have a race you tell everyone about, then have a secret squirrel race that you are secretly going to ace. As a sub-bullet here, pick a course that you don’t expect to do well on. Pednor has a couple of hills, but also some quad-bashing downs.
  • Actually listen to advice about keeping it steady in the first half before then pushing on. Then you will do things like run negative splits, nice mile times and LOADS OF CRs ON STRAVA!!

  

All race photos by Barry Cornelius – available at http://www.oxonraces.com

VLM 2016 – aka the one where the wheels fell off!

So, it’s that time of year again! The one day of the year where everyone gets inspired, and plans to run a marathon next year. And also the one marathon of the year that most people seem to think is the ONLY MARATHON EVER. And I always get shocked watching the highlights at the amount of people willing to talk to Denise Lewis rather than tell her to naff off because you’re trying to PB (sorry Denise!) So here is my London Marathon review.

I’ve been pretty restless the last few weeks or so – a busy month at work combined with some missed sessions, a niggly Achilles, knee and hamstring (YUP I’m getting the excuses in early here!) has meant my expectations were rapidly rapidly going downhill.But IT’S LONDON AND THEREFORE YOU HAVE TO BE EXCITED!

Anyone who has asked recently about my goal has been told “3.20 – 3.30”. Truth be told, I didn’t even back myself to get that. I’ve never really felt that I’ve ‘got’ how to run a marathon properly. I’ve had people telling me I should have been pushing more towards the 3.15 end of things, but to be quite frank, the thought terrifies me. And if the thought terrifies me, then there is very little likelihood I’m going to get anywhere near it.

My taper was a real taper – and by that I mean I hardly ran at all. Instead, I spent a lot of time acquainting myself with my foam roller, a lacrosse ball and some kinesiology tape (applying this to your own hamstring is quite hard) and hoping for the best…

I got uber excited picking up my number at the expo on Friday evening – the buzz is incredible and it’s such a special event. I think I wrote something imaginative like “I love running” on the wall.

IMG_1334[1]

Managed actually not to purchase anything – wasn’t quite sold on the tshirt this year so no snazzy memorabilia.

All good to go! #vlm2016 #ukrunchat #vlmexpo #boost #running #londonmarathon #race 😵😵😵😵

A photo posted by These Girls Do (@thesegirlsdo) on

Saturday was spent at the rugby before coming home to a pre race dinner of a jacket potato with beans and some chocolate and some ice cream. Dinner of champions!

The usual wake up, get ready activities took place. It was raining when I woke up. (Didn’t really have contingency plans for clothing)

Boyfriend taped up my Achilles and told me it was all going to be OK. I told him I did not believe him, I didn’t want to run and I was going to be rubbish. We then had a ‘fine then I won’t try and be motivational if you’re going to be like that’ type disagreement. (He is learning every time how to get better at this, basically by either ignoring me or agreeing with everything I say) I got on the tube (rain had stopped) and headed to London Bridge, no real wait for a train to Maze Hill and then the usual trudge up the hill to the Green Start whilst eating a bagel with PB.

 

This is when you start to realise exactly the scale of the operation – and green is only a handful of people compared to red and blue!  It’s incredible seeing the sheer volume of people heading in one direction.

I took a gamble that I would be OK wearing just a bin bag. Despite the fact the organisers had specifically sent an email saying it would be cold.It was cold. Ended up finding some fellow Chaser ladies huddled in the changing tents.  We had a bit of a chat around times and worked out a few pairs – Cat has a trail marathon next weekend so her and Jas were going to be hitting the 3.40ish mark, and Korkoi is “IM training but not doing as much running as she should be so not really in marathon shape” so we decided to go out together. Plan was hit a 3.25 pace and just see what happened.


Greenwich was fairly quiet as usual from a supporter side, lots of people warning you about humps in the road, and it felt fairly cluttered with runners as the first 10 miles or so always do! We eventually got caught up by ANOTHER Chaser, Leanne – we had set a fairly similar goal (to be entered into the very very accurate cheer squad spreadsheet tracker) so we decided to push on as a three – and it was great to have a little bunch together, especially all in club vests. There was lots of “Come on Chasers” support all across the course, and this was such a nice little boost. I’ve also realised I quite like not having my name on my vest – this means that anyone who shouts Katie is someone I actually know, which is quite a nice feeling.

Here are some ugly pictures of me running, courtesy of Darren Tanner.

img_1374img_1373

Knee gave a little bit of a niggle around mile 8, which wasn’t ideal…but surprisingly, my Achilles and hamstring felt GLORIOUS (well as much as they could!) At mile 9, my little support crew were ready and waiting. This time, the cow bell had been remembered (we always forget the cowbell for races…) I think I remember thinking at this point that the pace was probably quite optimistic…(we were running solid 7.30-7.40 splits)

We lost Leanne at around 11, but Korkoi & I continued on, over the amazing sight (and sound) that is Tower Bridge with thousands of people either side, before hunkering down on the Highway and spotting the leading men coming the other way (with a fair old gap between them and anyone else) The Chaser cheer brigade were in full force around mile 14, covering both sides of the road, including Ingrid the mascot (inflatable doll…don’t ask) and a few pints in hand.

The gloves were eventually thrown around mile 15, round about the same time I decided I wanted to put my headphones in – I was beginning to feel the strain. Korkoi and I kept pretty close together round the Isle of Dogs, which is always a bit of a drag for me, but spruced up by my support crew being ready and waiting around mile 18, which is roundabout where she started to pull away. Had gel #3 probably around Mile 16. Citrus flavour this time.

I hate Canary Wharf. Some people think the buzz is amazing, but for me, this is where it starts to hurt. I think it’s the slight incline up to the roundabout that does it – my legs just didn’t feel the same afterwards.

I hate Poplar High St. And the drag back to 21 (despite Run Dem Crew being brilliant – we’re taking some tips for the Chaser squad next year!)  Basically my least favourite bit of the London Marathon is mile 20-22. I say this every year. And I don’t learn.

I hate coming back along the Highway. Everything seems so much further away than it normally does. And everyone is so cheery and all I wanted to do was listen to my music and zone out but the crowd were too loud. (I think you get where I’m going with this – I had a pretty bad time over the last 10k. There was a tiny bit of walking – the ‘having a drink’ technique – but everything was starting to feel the force of the fast 20)

(I’ve been having a discussion with a guy at work about this – my love for the crowd was waning at this point. I don’t want to sound like a brat, or ungrateful, but seriously, if you’re in a bad place, the crowd are actually incredibly frustrating. I wanted to zone out and listen to my music – but I couldn’t hear it. I wanted to slow down – but they kept shouting at me. I wanted to not be experiencing some severe pain surrounded by 000s of people. I wanted to cry. Maybe in a way this is good, because it stopped a lot of these things – but at the time, all I could think was JUST GO AWAY. Especially anyone who says “you’re nearly there” at mile 20. THAT IS A LIE)

Stole Haribo from a small child (same as last year) but didn’t have another gel – and looking back, I wish I had,  because it was just sitting in my belt… Saw my friend Hannah at Old Billingsgate and then mildly perked up going into the tunnel because I knew that once I was through that and up the slight (MASSIVE) incline under Blackfriars Bridge, it was simply a case of the longest two miles in the world. Apparently I missed Colin Jackson here but ain’t nobody got time for that, I’ve got a PB to hit!

When I realised the wheels were falling off (i.e., mile 20) , I was doing lots of mental calculations. “It’s OK, I can still get under 3.30, I just have to run 5 x 9 minute miles” and so on. Switching from 9 minute miles to 5 minute km to 8.30 minute miles to 6 minute kms. Round and round and round.  I think this kept my brain busy. And everyone I notched around the 8.30 pace, the more I realised the goal was back in sight. At mile 24, the clock said bang on 3.10. That meant 2 x 10 minute miles, plus the little bit extra, minus the little bit I had in hand from getting over the start line and I WOULD BE THERE. Simply a case of gritting teeth and hanging on in there – I wasn’t having this pain for nothing.

 

My family said they knew I was struggling/had tried harder than last year because I looked a lot less happy (see above photos). I nearly missed them on Embankment, but luckily fishwife mother was on form with her shouting. My stride was off, I was just plodding. But plodding at a just about OK speed to get me there. The Houses of Parliament actually came up sooner than I was expecting them to – considering I run this route on a regular basis, I think I just switched off.

Running up Birdcage Walk, I had THE WORST wave of nausea ever. I mean I have never come that close to throwing up from running, but somehow managed to convince myself if I was going to vom, I wasn’t going to do it until I had crossed the line. I also had a really self-conscious thought of not wanting to go to the side and accidentally vom on a spectator’s foot or something. I got overtaken here by a Roman Soldier. And then by Elvis as we rounded the corner – and then suddenly the finish line was in sight! And it was saying 3.28! I had no idea about what my time over the line was, but knew I had done it as long as I could shift my backside down that last straight within a minute. And I have never felt so happy to do so.

3.27.32. A new PB, 817th female and 524th AG. 6 minutes off last year.

I didn’t really know what to do when I had finished. Whether to cry, to be happy, to stop, to walk. It’s a weird feeling, finishing a marathon – fairly overwhelming. I was also overwhelmed by the amount of support I had when I checked my phone – from people tracking, to congratulating – it really made it worthwhile.

Bit of post-race analysis..

  • My splits were horrible I mean truly, this was a beautiful example of ‘pushing hard early on and it catching up with you’. I was probably on for a low 3.20 until mile 20, and then I dropped straight from 7.38s down to 8.20s. And there was nothing I could do about it!
  • However, I am 99% sure it would have caught up with me even if I was slower – so was the banking time strategy a success? Who knows?
  • I am also very happy about how evenly I ran the first ¾ of the race. I truly wouldn’t have done this without Korkoi & Leanne to push me through it. And to be quite honest, it felt comfortable until then.
  • Here is a PERFECT example of ‘a marathon is a 20 mile run with a 10k race at the end’  done badly, or ‘here is a wall, do you want to run into it?’

Look out for a future post entitled “What I learn most years when I run a marathon and really should remember for the next training cycle rather than saying at the start I’m going to do it and then not doing it at all”

(Well done for reading this far!)