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.

Knowing your limits – how ill is too ill to race?

So, a couple of days ago I had my first DNS. Well, apart from a deferred VLM entry a few years ago because of a stress reaction/fracture, but by the by – I don’t miss races.

I’d booked in to run the Berkhamsted Half a few months ago as it’s my home half and therefore one of my favourites. Not an easy one by half (haha, good joke Katie) but a beautiful route with a couple of challenging hills. And nice scenery.

But, I just didn’t feel up to it. It wasn’t an actual injury, it was just a cold. A stupid flipping cold. I’m fairly hardy and tend to run through anything, and this is the first time it’s actually made me decide not to participate. And that was a big step. So I had a think about knowing when not to race – not necessarily just run, but race – and particularly when it’s due to illness rather than injury as I think it’s often harder to judge.

**Disclaimer – I am not a medical professional; please consult your doctor if you’re concerned about an illness impacting your ability to run and train**

This has annoyingly been a two week cold – I was pretty stuffy a couple of weeks back when I did a 19 miler, but also put this down partly to several G&Ts the night before. I then spent the next few days sneezing and spluttering, but able to train and had cleared it by the Thursday.

However, I then went away skiing for a week and it sneakily crept back in. A couple of missed nights out, a couple of mornings waking up like I was swallowing razor blades and a ton of paracetemol meant I realised my delightful cold had not quite left. Add to that a 3.30am resort – airport transfer and absolutely zero sleep in Grenoble airport, I was already debating by Saturday evening whether I should run or not. I managed a solid 9 and a half hours of sleep and when I woke up…the first thing I did was cough.

After being forced to actually think about it properly by my mother and boyfriend (dad’s response was along the lines of  ‘man up I’m sure you’ll be fine’), I decided the best thing to do would be to sack it off. And I’m glad I did.

So what are some of the things you need to consider if you’re not feeling 100%?

  • Will you actually gain anything from doing the race?

It wasn’t my goal race.It never was. It was merely a nice marker, a tune up and a route I enjoy. It wasn’t going to be a PB, I didn’t have to prove anything.I mean something around a 1.36/1.37 would have been lovely, but just that really (I mean also, looking at the results I could have been round about top 15 on current form, but not dwelling on that).

  • What knock on effects will it have?

Prevention is better than cure. I guarantee 13.1 miles probably would have delayed my recovery by a couple of days and then I would have missed more training and got more grumpy. Even if I’d switched down to the 5 miles (that felt doable more than 13.1), I know I would have tried to race it and it probably wouldn’t have ended pretty. For at least a week (again, checked the results and would have been challenging for 3rd. No way I wouldn’t have been pushing myself hard for that if I’d been out there)

  • Where’s the illness?

The general rule of thumb is ‘above the neck, you can probably get away with it’. I had a lot above the neck, but also a pretty hacking cough which wasn’t getting any better. It was also pretty flipping cold out, which I tried to claim would clear me out, but was promptly told would have the opposite effect. If it’s a fever, fatigue, aching muscles – definitely don’t run! You know your body well enough by now to distinguish between the symptoms and what you can cope with – but make sure you listen to it.

  • Is it really going to impact your fitness?

No is the answer. A couple of days off is far, far better in the long run for your overall fitness. One missed run doesn’t suddenly take you back to square one (take note y’all)

  • Race or run?

I mean yes, you might be able to run, but doesn’t mean you can race. And it doesn’t mean you can run the set distance. Like I said, I could have probably boshed out a few easy miles. So this all depends on how you feel, how competitive you are, and back to point 1, what does the race mean to you? Take it down a notch and go out for a few easy miles if you have to, but I wouldn’t really race anything above a 5k…

  • What did entry cost/take?

I didn’t pay much for entry so it wasn’t a big deal, but I can understand if you’ve put in a lot of cash and/or qualifying hard work for a goal race, the decision isn’t as easy. HOWEVER, there is 99% always going to be another opportunity. Can you defer?

There are some serious risks associated with training through illness – take heed and listen to your body; if you don’t feel like it’s a good idea, it probably isn’t. It’s also not a good idea if people specifically tell you NOT to run after spending 12 hours listening to you being a bit snotty and coughy (potentially not a word). They might also say things such as “I can’t tell you what to do but you probably shouldn’t run”. The main reason for this is so that you don’t blame them if you then get upset about not running, or, so that you don’t blame them if you do run and then get pneumonia or something.

On the plus side, I was a much better spectator this year. 3 years ago I cried watching this half when I couldn’t participate. This year I ate a sausage sandwich and cheered on everyone. Mightily impressed by the small children storming the 5 miler.

PS HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY. She had a great run. I had a great scone. My dad did a fairly decent job as well after a rugby match in a quagmire the previous day.


An unabashed listicle: 5 Motivational Quotes from Women in Sport

A short post today, written more for my own benefit than anyone else…

I’m flagging. I’m having a bit of a wobble. Nothing major, just a bit of a wall, and as I’m sure all you runners can attest, a wall can be overcome with determination and the willingness to feel the burn. And boy is it burning. No, I’ve not run my first marathon, I’m knackered because of life in general. Masters Degrees are hard work – who knew??

So, in an effort to motivate myself, I’ve turned to our beloved world of Women in Sport for some motivation, inspiration and perspiration. Time to keep my chin up and power though. I hope they might bring a bit of light to anyone else who might be in need of it too 🙂

1. “Whoever said, ‘It’s not whether you win or lose that counts,’ probably lost.” – Martina Navratilova

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The New Year Bandwagon – Ditch the detox and kick-start healthy habits instead

It’s January. I had a hectic December and, much like everyone else, ate and drank waaaaay too much. On top of that, I am four months in to a significant change of lifestyle, i.e. student life, and playing a lot less sport as a result. Things were beginning to look grim. Not to mention wobbly. Something had to give, so here I am shamelessly piggybacking off Katie’s recent post about Dry January and friendly sabotage to talk about the January Bandwagon.

It’s still one of the most popular New Year’s resolution in the UK – “I will lose weight”, so people up and down the country part with wodges of cash to join gyms (a lot of Twitter angst was felt towards this by regular gym bunnies) and slimming clubs. Now, I’m not in dire straits by any stretch, so paying to have someone weigh me once a week and talk about ‘syns’ or ‘points’ wasn’t something I felt I needed to do, and as someone who already hits the gym of my own accord I felt fairly well equipped to take myself in hand, but having stood on the scale on New Year’s Eve morning to be faced with 69kgs it was clear I needed to do something. Now.

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Dry January and friendly sabotage

OK OK I’m putting my hands up. I’m on the wagon. I do not plan falling off it as I have not done so in previous years. It really isn’t that hard. No, I’m not doing it for charity because frankly, I don’t think giving up alcohol is the right thing to do to raise money. No, I’m not doing it because I want to lose weight. No, I’m not doing it because everyone else is doing it. And no to whatever other reason you think I’m doing it for.

I’m doing it because I know it makes me feel better, sleep better and train better (and, very handily, save money) However, as per previous years, comments are already cropping up left right and centre about why I’m doing it, if I’m drinking on certain occasions, why in preaching about it to everyone (I’m not, but if you ask, I will tell you) and I feel like I am CONSTANTLY having to defend my corner and my decision.

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Rip Van Winkle’s guide to working out: Sleep, exercise and holding off on the gin

I’m not a great sleeper. I love to sleep, I’m just not very good at it. At the weekend, I can easily sleep for 12 hours if I don’t set an alarm and as a teenager I took teenage lie-ins to whole new levels of concerning. I used to sleepwalk as a child and grind my teeth and I still toss and turn and talk, but apparently I don’t snore (thank goodness for small mercies…).


Working in the City means I find myself in stressful situations from time-to-time and, by my own confession, I am a bit of a worrier, which doesn’t help matters. But I’ve never been a great sleeper, so stress can’t be the only factor at play. The only thing I know for sure that helps with these nocturnal niggles is exercise.

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Dr. Weight Loss; or, How I Learned to Start Writing and Love the Pen

I have to admit, this post has no intention of cleverly satirizing the fad diet by drawing comparisons between burning belly fat and the Cold War… I’m just a massive nerd and have been wanting to crow-bar a blog post into Dr Strangelove’s title for some time. And now I have.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve lost about half a stone in weight (just over 3kgs, for those of you who deal in non-anachronistic units of measurement). I haven’t gone out of my way to do so – I haven’t gone on a calorie controlled diet, or gone mad in the exercise stakes, but I have started blogging. I am almost certain that there is a direct correlation between these facts.

Yes, I'm a nerd. No shame.

Yes, I’m a nerd. No shame.

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She May Look Healthy But…Why Fitness Models Aren’t Models of Health

A really interesting look at the other end of the modelling scale to my post on plus sized models (https://thesegirlsdo.com/2015/01/30/weighty-issues-loving-the-skin-youre-in/).

Time to strike the balance and promote health and happiness in fashion, sport and the media!


ShayAs our regular readers will know already, both Sam and I prefer athletic values and performance goals to aesthetic goals, even when the aesthetic goals include “looking fit” instead of the old ideal of being stick thin.  It’s not because there isn’t something admirable about looking fit, not even because there is no accomplishment in looking that way. It’s because we distinguish between looking fit and actually being fit. And there’s a real range of body types among those who count as fit and healthy.

One less well known fact is that fitness models and people who compete in the figure category in fitness competitions aren’t actually at the height of healthy when they compete. By the time “game day” comes, they’ve followed a regime that no one recommending a healthy approach to fitness and diet would recommend.  They’ve eaten too few calories for the intensity of workouts they’ve been…

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Laughter: The best medicine

I totally subscribe to the notion that exercise is a ‘miracle cure’ or, more accurately, a miracle preventative. It’s well documented and widely reported that the NHS would save millions of pounds annually if we all just got off our wobbly bottoms for a saunter more often (and if we PUT DOWN THAT NUTELLA SANDWICH, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STEP AWAY FROM THE REFINED CARBS, but that’s a different story). I love the way exercise makes me feel – maybe not at the time or immediately afterwards, but within half an hour there’s a real, physical warmth, along with a sprinkling of smugness, that tells me I’ll sleep well tonight. And god knows a good night’s sleep does wonders for one’s state of mind.

One of the big draws for Girls, and Boys, that ‘do’ is the sense of wellbeing that exercise brings. Levels of ‘happy chemicals’ like serotonin rise and a sort of non-awkward post-coital glow envelopes you. Who doesn’t love feeling good? There’s a hedonist in us all, it’s just that some of us get out kicks in our trainers rather than under the sheets or through a hypodermic needle. Each to their own though, of course. Here, I will make my confession. I have another love. One that pulls my attention away from sporting endeavours by tempting me with feel-good factors that even Mr Grey’s Red Room could only fantasise about. The name of my mistress? Laughter. Continue reading