Age is nothing but a number

I’m running the Boudavida 10k TOMORROW. My mum is also running it. She’s at the higher end of mid 50s (she’ll hate me for saying that) Is that a big deal that she’s running?  Is it a big deal that she’s out at boot camp three times a week? Or mountain biking, horse riding or skiing? Some people think it is…purely because of her age.

My parents being active is very much the norm in my family. I think how you grow up and your family have a significant influence on your attitudes towards health, fitness and exercise in later life (as well as on your life in general, obviously!) and I’m lucky that mine have always been pretty positive. To be perfectly honest, I feel like my parents have got MORE active as they’ve got older – which often isn’t the case.

To that point, they chose to spend their 3 week summer holiday this year on 1) a week in the south of France where we basically went running and cycling every day 2) a week of guided MTB in Italy (and I’m not talking just pootling along trails, I’ve been on bikes with these two and it’s quite frankly terrifying) and 3) a week in Chamonix where they chose not to do the vertical kilometre (because they did it last year) and instead just did more cycling and running. They didn’t suddenly get to 50 and resign themselves to churches and historical monuments.


So what am I trying to say?

I believe age is an excuse that is far too easily dropped in when people aren’t really that old and the root of the problem is something different. Obviously “old” is subjective and I’m not expecting every 85 year old to be cycling every day, but I think far too many people are using cut offs as young as their late 20s to prevent them doing a sport or particular type of activity, where they should be trying their best to extend it as long as possible until they truly can’t do it.

Yes, there are many factors that come with ageing that may impact your ability to exercise (life changes, body changes, career changes) but for a lot of them, there are ways around them. Being “older” does not stop you being able to do whatever sport you want (unless obviously, because of underlying health issues) and it doesn’t mean you suddenly have to stop skiing, weightlifting or doing “young people stuff” – there isn’t a sudden ban on it once you hit the next birthday!

I have limited tolerance for example, for anyone who tells me they are too old for rugby. I think my main problem here is that my dad is still playing rugby and he is 57. Therefore I think saying at 29 you are too old is quite frankly, a shit excuse. Find the real source of the problem. Did anyone watch The Pacemakers on BBC? It was fantastic – a group of men well into their 90s who were still getting out, keeping their bodies and minds active and not letting their age get in the way. If I’m lucky enough to keep running into my 90s, why wouldn’t I try and become a world champion in my age group? What a great idea if you’re lucky enough to be able to do it! And have you seen some of the 5k times of the V70s in Battersea Park?!

Think you are getting the picture now. Gone are the days where the only options were “nifty fifties” and aerobics and gone are the days of growing old gracefully and confining yourself to “old-people activities” – but I think more people need to embrace it. There are sports now that our grandparents could only have dreamt of playing or participating in and the choice is huge. Hitting a milestone doesn’t mean you can’t keep doing what you were doing before.

Keeping active for as long as possible is a real treat and if you’re lucky enough to be able to (and there are so many people who unfortunately can’t) then you should, and do away with all of those who make you think you’re too old to do something. Want to get to 70 and wish you had continued on with a sport more than you did? Not me.


Maybe I’m just in my own world. Maybe it’s because I’m surrounded by parents and family members (and not just my own) who are still running, cycling, skiing, playing rugby, circuit training, tyre flipping, horse riding and doing god knows what else – although my grandma is now down to aqua aerobics rather than badminton. I’ve taken my mum to 10ks with my Chasers crew, I’ve taken her to The Foundry, I play touch with my dad on the regular. Has this distorted my view on the subject? Most probably. But it’s given me the inspiration to do the same.

At the 10k, they’re running a “Generation Game” competition – where you aim to get the lowest combined time between the two of you. So we shall see how that goes (!) but I reckon we could have a decent go at it – my mum is far far better at sticking to a training plan than I am, and to be honest, she probably does more than I do. She has been giving herself smiley faces at the end of each week and has literally done each session to the detail. I love seeing parent and child combinations – ever watched the junior runners at parkrun? Especially the ones outsprinting their parents to the finish. We are basically just a version of that + 20 years.

I however, wrote multiple plans, didn’t do multiple things and I’m just hoping to go on a wing and a prayer and try to remember not to go out hell for leather. (Because, after I had booked this into my diary, I then found out we have Southern road relays on Sunday. So this will very much be a test of me being able to stay sensible, maybe pick it up a bit but not sacrifice the big one. A big night of foam rolling ahead on Saturday! )

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Guest Post: Recovering from major sports injury

We’ve been doing a fair bit of yoga recently, which along with our own personal, physical niggles, has gotten us to thinking seriously about recovery, and moreover what happens when you sustain an injury that puts you out of action for an extended period of time?

Our good friend and all-round sporting badass, Stacey Coffin, recently had to deal with just that. We asked her to share her experience of  tearing her anterior cruciate ligament earlier this year,  how she’s dealing with it and what advice she has for anyone going through something similar.

Stacey
When my boyfriend and I were sitting on the couch a few days into January and began talking about our goals and resolutions for the year, tearing my right knee’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) 4 weeks later did not fit into the plan. I play a fair amount of sport, mainly touch rugby 4-5 times per week, which is not a sport you are likely to manage without an ACL. Continue reading

What did you just say??

So, I am finally on the bandwagon of reading Eat Sweat Play about a year later than most people, and it’s making me think all the things about everything and I could probably write a post on each chapter (!)

 

….finally on the bandwagon! 👌🏼#eatsweatplay #womeninsport

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Firstly and quickly (because this opens up an entirely new kettle of fish) something that reminded me of an earlier piece I wrote, was Tammi Grey-Thompson questioning why children are allowed to skive PE if they don’t like it, but this wouldn’t be accepted in any other subject. THIS IS SO TRUE. You have to do maths, so you do it. Why isn’t PE afforded the same level of respect?

Secondly – read the book!

However, neither of these points are the subject of this post, so here we go.

I was sitting having lunch a few weeks ago when I overheard a little girl with her grandmother – the girl was probably around 4 or 5, and she asked her “Granny, why aren’t you going to have a scone as well” – and the response was “I’m not going to have a scone because it will make me fat”

Cue smoke coming out of my ears. NO WONDER there is a continual struggle with eating, body image and this general health fad if we are hearing that kind of comment from such a young age. A throwaway sentence that can kick start a lifetime of worry. That’s now a simple link between what should be the enjoyment of something delicious and “the fat dread”.

The problem is, it’s a hard habit to break. I call your bluff if you are evangelical about this and say you have never uttered something similar. But at the age of 5, that’s a fairly strong association between food and being fat starting to be imprinted in your mind. Kids aren’t on my horizon in the super immediate future (wondering how much I can wind up my boyfriend here) but it’s really making me think about how I talk about myself, my body and my eating habits to others around me. I want to raise children who understand the difference between food you should eat a lot of vs food that should be more occasional – but not to see it all as “bad” food.

Similarly, as someone who loves to exercise for the sheer fun of it –  the buzz, the views, the mental strength, the camaraderie, the challenge, the competition, the sense of achievement…THAT’S what I want anyone growing up with me to see it as. Exercise isn’t purely a weight management tool, and if you see it that way, you’ll never appreciate all its intricacies. I was raised on cycling on holiday and horse riding and playing badminton with no net and running round the garden just because – and I never want that to change. It’s about fun, enjoyment and the trillions of other benefits, and shouldn’t feel like a constant chore just to justify what you put in your mouth.

I mean, it’s harder than you think – I’d question anyone who says they have never finished a decent ride, run or gym session thinking about pizza and how it’s now that bit more justifiable, but it’s all about balance. See the below picture for example – this was mid way between two fairly tough mountain bike loops last week, but it wasn’t just “because I have exercised I can eat this” it was more “I AM REALLY HUNGRY AND NEED SOMETHING TO KEEP ME GOING”. So I ate it and got on with it. And to be fair, even if I hadn’t been cycling, I probably would have eaten it anyway because it sounded yum. And I’m past caring about it.


So, I implore you – next time you have an inkling of the thought “I’m not going to have it because it will make me fat” – don’t verbalise it in exactly those words. Even “I’m just trying to eat a bit more healthily right now” or “because my body doesn’t do as well as it should if i eat too much cake” or simply “I just don’t fancy it”.

I don’t care if you’re saying it near a 5 year old, a 12 year old or a 59 year old – take some time to think about your words. Eating disorders in any shape or form are often below the surface and you probably have zero idea how your throwaway comment will impact anyone in the vicinity. It’s the same as commenting on what someone else is eating, or if they’ve made a request to order something slightly off menu – 99% of the time it’s really none of your business.

Yes, eating too many scones will make you fat. Eventually. But one scone won’t (and hey, there are worse ways to die than death by scones)

If you’ve got children – ever had to tackle these kinds of subjects? Am I (in my current childless state) picking out something way more easy in theory than in practice?

REVIEW: Yoga Hive – Where Art & Vinyasa Flow Collide

As you will probably have seen on Instagram, we recently attended a Vinyasa Flow session with Robyn from yogahive , which took place at the Curious Duke gallery near Old Street/Barbican. As “people who don’t do much yoga but understand it is really important”, we jumped at the opportunity!

Kate

I know that I should stretch more. I should stretch more before I work out. I should stretch more after I work out. I should stretch first thing in the morning and I should stretch to aid recovery. And yet, I don’t. I always manage to convince myself that somehow it’s a waste of time, and that attitude only changes when I tweak something and berate myself for not having warmed up properly. So, when Katie and I were asked by the lovely (and pretty inspiring!) Robyn at Yoga Hive to pop along to check out a class in their amazing gallery space, I was delighted to have the excuse to give yoga a try again. Continue reading

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.

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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

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

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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!!

 

I’m stuck in a rut…

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 and your sleep routine but something as simple as heading to bed 30 mins early or even looking into a new bed, can drastically benefit your nights rest (and wellbeing)!

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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!

Paying for parkrun?

Unless you live under a rock, or have absolutely zero interest in running, health or fitness (in which case, I’m impressed you are reading this!), you’ll know the big ticket news item this week has been the decision of Stoke Gifford Parish Council to levy a charge for the use of the park for parkrun.

People use parkrun for different reasons. I for one have never needed parkrun as a motivator to get me out of the door and go for a run, but it has helped countless other people do just that, without having any barriers around gym fees or paying to use facilities. And surely that’s what we need to continue to do?

There was a decision recently that the NHS would be funding overweight and diabetic patients to receive PT sessions and nutritional advice free of charge – surely the need for this can only go up and up if we start to put BACK the barriers to exercise such as cost, location and the intimidation of entering an unknown world that parkrun have worked so hard to bring down.

Thing is, you take any paid for 5k race – the standard is bound to be much higher as people who are more committed to running are more willing to pay. So, if you do take that jump into a more traditional 5k race and you are that bit slower or less experienced, where does that leave you? Feeling chided for being at the back or demotivated for being slow? The beauty of parkrun is that it’s open to everyone – the annoying people like me who are there mainly so that can keep banging on the door of 20 minutes, right the way through to someone who is walking it with their friends because it gives them an organised time and place that they can’t back out of. If you are lacking confidence or need that regular weekly slot to get you motivated to get out the door, how likely are you to search out a 5k race, pay a fee and turn up – especially if you aren’t even sure if running is for you! Entering a ‘race’ sounds intimidating – whereas a run is much more open.

But when you can get to something free and local, come rain or shine, where you have an incredibly friendly reception (I mean come on, when was the last time you were clapped and heartily welcomed for it being your first time going to the gym, or visiting a pool that wasn’t your local), plenty of knowledgable people on hand for any questions AND an incredibly straightforward way of being able to see your improvement – why would you want anything else?

Counter argument state that sports clubs and personal trainers have to pay for use of the park, so why shouldn’t parkrun for runners? Where does the line stop where I have to start paying every time I dare to run around Clapham Common, let alone when we have it on our regular running club routes? I recently posted about the true cost of running, and one of the best things is that it can be done anytime, anywhere, without having to pay entrance fees. Yes, organisations like BMF are levied with hefty charges for park usage, but have you seen the prices of their classes? Same with football clubs – yes there are some membership fees, but there are goalposts to maintain and white lines to paint. I pay to be a member of a running club, but so many people would never consider themselves able to join a running club. parkrun means they don’t have to.

Parkrun was set up as a not for profit organisation designed to help reverse the current trend of inactivity that is sweeping our country. It’s spiralling and growing in so many countries around the world – my uncle was delighted when the first Parisian parkrun was launched earlier this year, having attended several events whenever he is in the UK. There are countless people taking to social media to talk about how parkrun was the trigger to change their inactivity and improve their health. Yes, parkrun has some paid employees and yes, they do attract sponsors, but that is all funneled back into running the events we know and love.

The decision is that parkrun should have to contribute to funding (rather than the initial £1 per runner), however, if other councils started to take this on board, there would be no other choice than to start charging runners to participate, because how else would they be able to raise sufficient money to fund over 850 events? The beauty of parkrun is its diversity and accessibility. Without it, there would be hundreds of people whose usual activity on a Saturday morning is lying in bed…and so far, there are over two million registered runners who have started to buck the trend.

Apparently it’s unfair for non-running residents to have to pay to cover upkeep of the paths. If you continued in that matter with regards to any sort of tax or public funding, it’s ridiculous. Do we then stop any ‘non-runner’ from using the path because it was funded by runners? Do parks then stop becoming public? I haven’t been to the doctors this year but I’m still paying for it because it’s there when I need it (lighting the touchpaper here!)

Obviously yes, some areas will take more wear and tear (e.g. anything run on grass in the mud can get a bit battered), but there was probably a more strategic way to go about asking for support. If the other councils can cope, why is this one so different? At Tring, there was support from the local council to get things set up, and the Woodland Trust contributed to kilometre markers- and both organisations continue to do so. The council decided it was a worthy cause for a grant – so why don’t others think the same?

You take away parkrun and you take away support for the local community – local cafes get an influx of people at 10am on a Saturday morning, and plenty of councils gain a little bit extra from parking charges.  It’s great to see support from some high profile athletes and government support – but it’s a story I will be keeping a close eye on.

So, tomorrow’s Little Stoke parkrun has been cancelled, however I have a feeling it won’t stop people rallying for support. So I urge you to get down to your local run tomorrow and just appreciate what it is there for – even if you’ve never run before. It takes 5 minutes to register and print out a barcode. Take some time to appreciate what the volunteers do week in week out. Take some time about the benefit it brings to the community and all those whose journey to health started with parkrun.