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The not so elitist side of cycling …

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So in the aftermath of Pru100 – if you didn’t know this was quite a big cycling event that happened in London last weekend where participants could either take part in a 46 or 100 mile traffic free ride – I thought I would write a little something about my own recent experience in a big ride, courtesy of Specialized UK.

I only discovered cycling in April last year.  Frustrated that a naughty hamstring prevented me from even walking without pain, never mind running, I found that I could just about manage cycling – freeing me from the central line day in day out!  I started to really enjoy cycling, somehow stumbled into my first triathlon that summer and then all of a sudden I started training for my first 70.3.  When I was training for my 70.3, bar a couple of really lovely early morning laps with some pretty inspiring women cyclists, most of my cycling was a solo affair.  This was partly because I knew I would be racing on my own so I needed to get used to being out on my bike but also because, if I was totally honest, I was a little terrified of joining an actual cycling group.

So I know I am not the slowest on the bike, I am pretty stubborn so that helps, but cycling and me did not click like running.  I didn’t notice a steady progression in my skill, my comfort, my speed and my lack of confidence in my ability meant that the idea of joining a group of fellow cyclists and being totally overwhelmed by how good everyone else would be just put me off.

However, one of my lovely cycling friends had found the opposite, she had grown from strength to strength through joining a cycling group and her enthusiasm was infectious so when she invited to me to join Specialized  in celebrating women’s cycling by taking part in an exclusive ride honouring La Course, I signed up immediately and was pleasantly surprised!

I stood in Brixton Cycles with over 50 other women, some with very fancy looking kit, others in every day wear all just excited to be munching on HUGE croissants chatting about the day ahead – so far so good.  Once on the road people were really chatty, sharing stories & experiences and generally just being lovely and welcoming.  Granted this was a very social ride but it totally changed my impression of what cycling in large numbers could be like.  Most were from various cycling groups/clubs around London and explained how going out in big groups meant their confidence grew rapidly not only when it came to riding, but with bike maintenance (much needed in my case) and plotting routes!

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Specialized have another free event coming up in October so I will be stalking their facebook for registration details.  In meantime however I am hoping to go out with some of the groups I met and enjoy a more social, less scary, side of cycling :D!

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Images courtesy of Chris Lanaway – http://www.christopherlanaway.com 

 

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Xtend Barre

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So this week let’s talk about Xtend Barre.

I loved everything about my Xtend Barre experience.  Located towards the top end of Marylebone High Street their new studio is bright, fresh and successfully manages to give the impression of being somewhere “fancy” without the attitude (we have all been to those studios where your leggings which you actually work out and sweat in are just not fresh/fashionable enough).

Greeted by super friendly staff who were more than happy to show me around I course spotted a fridge full of incredibly yummy looking food (good granola) and a tempting smoothie list first followed by a nice little area to relax before and after a class.

What about the class itself?  I went along to the 7am Xtend Barre class taught by the lovely Elisha who took us through a series of seemingly simple movements which left my legs and arms trembling!  This is what I love about these sorts of classes – I go to the gym, I lift heavy to build and strengthen my muscles – Elisha got us doing exercises with 1kg weights in each hand and my arms were screaming by the end of set and don’t even get me talking about the legs section – the burn is real my friends!

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Photo by Rory Gardinger

After the class I was offered a towel, a towel that was as big as me, super white and super fluffy – heaven.  The changing rooms on first glance were not that big but then you open the doors to the showers and find a huge cubicle with a drench shower and Aesop products, as well as ample space to get changed in.

All in all I could not fault any part of my experience at Xtend Barre, the class was fun and my days I got worked, the surroundings were dreamy and the staff were extremely welcoming.  Now, I was lucky enough to be offered my first class for free but I plan to pay the £49 which they are offering to all new members entitling you to 2 weeks of unlimited classes!!

Thanks again to the Xtend Barre team, see you soon!

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Speedflex

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So now that I am not sticking to a training plan I figured it would be great time to go and try some of the various classes that have been on my list for a while and share my thoughts on them  …

This weeks class focus  Speedflex

Based deep in the city Speedflex offers a unique type of circuit-based training using some pretty interesting machines.  I use the term interesting because unlike conventional gym machines that we are all know and “love”, the Speedflex machines are smart, automatically responding to and creating resistance levels based on the force you place on them.  So what this means is regardless of your strength/fitness levels everyone in the class can get a serious workout without the faff of adding or decreasing weights each time!  Snazzy hey!

WhatsApp-Image-20160707 (1)So my experience?

I tried a couple of the core classes at the Speedflex studio both in the early hours of the morning (as we all know by now that I am an early bird) and the classes were busy but not rammed which I very much prefer.  Before you start you are given a heart rate monitor which allows you to track how hard you are working throughout the class and how you are doing compared to others (if you are that way inclined).

The introductory session that you have to take before you sign onto any of the classes, that demonstrates how the machines work, is hugely helpful as the classes start pretty sharpish and you are told to just get going.  You get the sense that everyone in the class comes very regularly and actually this gives a nice community feel to them.  What I also noticed was how mixed the classes were in terms of gender, age, build etc.  Due to the machines offering anyone a good workout it’s nice to see such a variety attending!

During the class you are given a circuit to follow which can include movements such as squats, shoulder press, step ups, clean and press, upright rows etc etc and then there are kettlebells, sandbags and boxes around the room for mat based exercises (there are only so many machines in each studio).

After the class I made my way into what felt like a huge changing room with more lockers, benches and towels than I knew what to do with.  You really get the impression that these studios are used by people who need a quick workout – they come in, they get the class done, speed shower and leave.

I genuinely enjoyed the 30 minute core sessions that I tried.  I was looking to keep up my strength work whilst not impacting on my 70.3 training and they did exactly that.  The studio explains due to the low impact nature of the machines there should be minimal to no post-exercise pain and they were most certainly right and yet you still get incredibly sweaty during the sessions themselves.

However, I did feel that even with the induction you do literally get thrown into a session.  Unlike many classes I have experienced where the instructor would demonstrate and then you would follow these classes are about getting the most out of the time you have and so you find yourself following your workout buddies for guidance – pros and cons there.

Simply put if you are looking for a short and sharp work out with minimal impact, maybe you are in recovery from an injury or already do enough high impact activity, then Speedflex is most definitely for you.  Not to mention their changing rooms are screaming out to by used and enjoyed.  However, if you are someone who likes a little more guidance to understand more about each exercise performed I fear this might feel a little too rushed for you.

Thank you again Speedflex for letting me try out the sessions.  As I mentioned I took part whilst doing my 70.3 training to add more strength training to my week and it worked perfectly.  Having no DOMS but still feeling like you have done a thorough strength session is huge win for me!

Click here if you fancy a free session

Finishing a 70.3

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Three weeks ago, after 16+ weeks of dedicated training, alongside a marathon, finishing a Level 2 and 3 personal training course and coping with general life , I finally became a 70.3 finisher.

Now don’t get me wrong it was hard, nothing about it was was “hey this is just a rainy day out”, BUT I genuinely loved it.  I smiled throughout the bike course (well about 95% of it) and chatted away to other runners during the 3 laps around the lakes.  I just adored the whole experience and could not have wished for a better finish, crossing the line almost an hour sooner than I thought!

Crossing the line was one of the most exciting parts of this race and not because it meant I had done my exercise for the day, though obviously it was nice to finish ;D.  It was exciting because I had worked so extremely hard and it had paid off.  All those mornings of getting up at stupid o’clock to fit various sessions in whilst not wanting it to impact on my social life too much, all the beautifully colour coordinated spreadsheets making sure I was dedicating enough time to each discipline, the huge amounts of reading on training methods and talking to everyone and anyone who was going through/had done anything to do with a 70.3, it all paid off.  I wanted to complete a 70.3 and enjoy it and that is exactly what happened.

I could give you a blow by blow account of the race, how horrendous the weather was, how incredible the marshals were etc but instead I thought I would share a few important things that I learnt on this journey … just in case you were tempted to take up the challenge …

– Really think why you are doing it.  Ok yes so there individuals in this world that can just rock up to things and get incredible results – I am sadly not one of these people.  A 70.3 is a LONG event, it takes a lot of dedication and training and if you go into something like this half hearted it is going to be a long and hard old slog! Now don’t get me wrong I definitely had my moments – tired, wet, cold etc – but I genuinely love training, I love being outdoors and I love how my body always surprises me!
– Surround yourself with incredible people who are both interested and totally couldn’t care less in what you are doing (to bring you back to reality)  I could not have done this without the love and support of my friends and family.
– Enjoy the increased appetite and take of advantage of all the fueling practice on the bike.  You need to eat LOTS to fuel the ride but also get you prepped for the run.  Use your training to experiment, this is a great excuse to try every flavour of bars out there.  I am now OBSESSED with CLIF bars.
– KEEP CALM – I have now become a total yogi.  Granted I only do between 5-20 minutes a night but every little helps and I am pretty sure it helped no end with my daily recovery.
– Just keeping remembering why you are doing it.  A couple of weeks before race day I had a bit of a panic about the whole thing and a good friend turned round and reminded how much I had loved the training, explaining “this is just training with a medal at the end”.  YEP 🙂

The way I see it 2 years ago I finished my first marathon, one year ago I learnt how to ride a bike, 8 months ago I did my first super sprint triathlon.  If I can do it anyone can it just takes a bit of hard work and determination (and if you are like me a multicoloured pen 😉)

Thank you again to everyone at Events113 for putting on a truly wonderfully event and giving me a day I will never forget.

 

Wanting a bit of relaxation? Try reflexology…

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As you might have heard currently I am training a lot.  I am training for a marathon and a half ironman so as you can imagine my body is under quite a bit of pressure.  Since I started training for what feels like everything I have become a keen “yogi”, paying more attention to post run stretches and just ensuring I am doing everything possible to aid recovery and keep my body in good working order.

Recently I was contacted by the Association of Reflexologists asking whether I would be interested in receiving a free reflexology treatment in return for an honest review, I thought why on earth not “every little helps”, right? 

I didn’t know much about reflexology, just that it was something to do with your feet and that it was meant to be relaxing and my experience proved that this was most definitely the case.

So aside from something to do with feet what really is it? Reflexology is a non-intrusive health therapy based on the idea that different points on the feet, leg, hands, face or ears correspond with difference areas of the body.  Reflexologists believe that working these points/areas can aid in relaxation and improve general wellbeing.  Sounds good right?

I met with Felicity Bevell at The Hale Centre, just off Regent’s Park (so fancy), who kindly explained a bit about the treatment and what to expect then asked me to remove my socks and shoes and lie on the bed.  With soft lighting, a comfy bed and relaxing music Felicity explained that it was completely normal for people to fall asleep during the treatment and not to worry if that happens.  Initially, it was very strange to have someone being so close to my feet, the poor woman, but I was surprised to find that I wasn’t as ticklish as I usually am and it did not take me long to relax.  During the treatment I do remember being intrigued that random areas of my body were reacting when different points of my feet were being touched but if I am completely honest I don’t remember much else – I think I went to sleep!?!

After the treatment Felicity talked me through what she found through working with my feet.  Surprisingly, I am obviously under a bit of stress (I wonder why) and she noticed that my tummy was a little under the weather (yep I do have stomach issues from time to time and this is often brought on by stress) but aside from this she also noticed other things that completely baffled and impressed me (how did she know)!  I left The Hale Centre feeling totally relaxed and calm if not a little bit dopey and ready for bed.

A few days later I did notice that my back and shoulders were extremely heavy and when speaking to Felicity regarding this she explained that I was extremely stressed in these areas and so this might be caused by all the toxins being released and flushed out of my system.  However, she kindly provided me with a “DIY” reflexology sheet to help continue to target these areas until the heaviness lifted.

All in all my experience of reflexology was a wonderful one.  Felicity was calming and most certainly made me feel at ease and the treatment itself felt fantastically indulgent and relaxing.  So if you are looking for something a little different, and a little less painful than a sports massage (?!?!), to relax those hard working muscles of yours then maybe reflexology is worth a try!

 

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And relax …. 

 

 

Please note that I was extremely lucky to be offered a free treatment but the thoughts and opinions are completely my own.

Week 7

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Week 7

4 runs – 3 short (including a lovely run home!), 1 long

2 rides – 1 road, 1 turbo

1 swim

1 brick session – bike / run

3 short and sweet core sessions and of course more yoga

Things I have learnt this week? 

When talking to my cycling / tri friends the benefits of having a “bike fit” were mentioned just a few times (!?!) and after doing some research I could see why.  A bike fit looks to help you be as efficient and comfortable as possible whilst in the saddle, improving your overall riding experience.  However, it would appear that in most places this comes at quite the price!

I bought my bike at Evans, I have had it serviced at Evans, I have been to maintenance classes run by them and so I was delighted to see that they are now offering bike fits for as little as £45.  I have had nothing but great service from these guys and the bike fit was no exception.  After having a few measurements taken, including sitting on a special pad to give a bum imprint (!?) I was asked to hop on my bike (clipped into a turbo) so I could be filmed.  Rhys (my bike fit man) showed me the video highlighting the various lines my body was creating and how, if adjusted, I could be a lot more efficient in the saddle and hopefully a little more comfortable.  So, with small adjustments to my saddle, handlebars etc I then hopped back on the bike to be filmed again.  Straightaway I could feel the difference and looking at the film was quite shocking, the tiny changes to the height etc made a huge difference to how I sat in the saddle!

 

The fit lasted an hour and I came away extremely excited to get on the saddle and sail home.  Obviously I am sure the more expensive fits are fantastic and offer a lot more in terms of analysis but if like me you are new to this whole cycling / triathlon thing and don’t want to spend £100s then I could not recommend the Evans service enough!!

Week 5 & 6

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Sorry I missed a week … I blame the chocolate induced coma that happened over Easter … whoops.

Week 5 

3 runs – 2 short, 1 long

2 rides – 1 road, 1 turbo

1 swim

1 strength session, plus all the yoga and walks along the seafront (thanks to the Easter Break back up North :D)

Week 6 

3 runs – 2 short, 1 LOONNNGGG

3 rides – 1 road, 1 turbo, 1 watt bike session

2 swims – 1 long, 1 recovery

1 strength session and then a day of kettlebells and a day of TRX training (thanks to my PT course! My arms are still struggling to go above my head!)

So what have I learnt over these last two weeks?  People, people are super important to have around you when you are trying something crazy.

Going into this I knew it was not going to be easy.  I am not the sort of person to do things by half, I write plans and I stick to them, even if that means getting up at stupid o’clock or squeezing things into every last minute of the day.  I am stubborn, I mean “determined”, like that.  This current juggling act of marathon training, half ironman training, PT training, general life, work etc etc is pretty tricky and I am just so extremely lucky to have such a great bunch of friends and family who so far have been nothing short of amazing whilst I attempt to do it all.

I am lucky to have people who have no interest in 70.3, they keep me sane and remind me there are other things out there to get just as excited about.  I have friends who love running and/or cycling/swimming who will join me in my training, combining socialising and training, I mean who doesn’t love a natter whilst jogging along the river :D.  I have friends who are extremely into and super knowledgeable about all things about ironman and talking to them, sharing concerns, experiences, excitement reminds me that I am not alone in this (and that I am not completely crazy).  There are the people who I talk to through various social media channels (yep, internet friends) who are going through all this for the first time too, offering the opportunity to talk about training highs and lows.  And there is my other half who cooks epic dinners for me after long days, puts up with my routine and sleepy self when it comes past 10pm!

All in all I would say that without the people around me this experience would be a very different one!  My advice would be to make sure, even though I appreciate that trying to fit everything in is frustratingly difficult, that you always make time to see/speak to your friends and family 😀

THANK YOU FRIENDS

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Pictures from runs with friends, walks with friends, breakfasts with friends and a spot of therapy with friends 😀 

Do you do yoga

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Do you do yoga?  Janelle Monáe once asked …

Yes Janelle I most certainly do!  I am extremely inflexible (touching my toes was a serious goal last year – which I achieved ;D), I am not really into the spiritual side of things and I genuinely doubt that I will ever be able to do a headstand due to total fear of falling BUT I am loving yoga at the moment so I thought I would share some of my favourite teachers / classes.

 

FBY was actually the first yoga session I went to when I first moved to London. Taught by the beautiful Jess, her sessions are usually in super funky spaces – imagine fairy lit workspaces or roof gardens – with a really good soundtrack (in my opinion) offering the perfect balance of spirtualness and stretchiness (yes I think I just made up a word).  My runners legs seem to love the poses she talks you through and her smooth voice always calms my 100 mile an hour mind down!

 

Yin yang yoga
Introduced by the wonderful Harry Capps from OFTR!  Yotopia offer a 90 minute yin yoga class on a Thursday night, 30 minutes of yang to get your muscles nice and warm followed by 45 minutes of luxurious yin yoga. For those who don’t know yin yoga is a practice where the poses are held from anything between 3 – 5 minutes allowing you to really get deep into the stretch .  You will feel every tight muscle release, this is of course once you learn to relax ha!  This is by far my favourite type of yoga as it really feels like I am getting the stretch my body is craving!

 

I met the lovely Erin of Jasyoga last year when a few of the girls I run with were raving about her “athlete specific” sessions. Erin, once an athlete herself, has an online portal for a very small price, where you can access all sorts of short yoga videos specifically designed for runners/cyclists etc.  If there is a specific body part/group you would like to go work on I guarantee there is a video for you as well as pre and post workout routines and meditation videos.  I really feel that Erin understands what people who are extremely active need and my body agrees too!   Plus you can do these sessions anywhere!  At home, in the gym, outside … the possibilities are endless!

 

So there you go, there are some of my favourites!  Are there any classes in London that you could recommend ??

 

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Perfecting “Happy Baby” pose

Week 4

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Week 4 looked like this …

Swim: 1 x 2km swim session (more swimming is needed!)

Bike: 1 road cycle / 1 spin session / 1 turbo session

Run: 1 tempo run / 1 lonnnggg run

1 x strength session and all the yoga 

 

Things I have learnt this week? 

Training the mind is just an important is training the body.

Last week was a really tough week.  As well as trying to train for a marathon and a half ironman I am also studying to become a qualified Personal Trainer – because obviously I don’t have enough to do?!? The course means that every other weekend I spend Saturday and Sunday 9-5 in a gym (not ideal when your weekends are usually the time you would get your long runs/cycles in) and last weekend was one of those weekends plus it was exam time.

So, knowing that I had a massive week of studying, training and the attempt of a very long week before work ahead it was time to find a way of stopping my brain from exploding!

Some people read, some people take a bath, for me, doing just a little bit of stretching/yoga each night before bed seemed to the perfect solution.  By focusing on stretching out my tight muscles instead of the 101 things I needed to do meant I instantly felt calmer and was ready for some much needed sleep, another discipline important to perfect when attempting a TRI!   So yes it’s totally important to get all those training sessions in but it would appear it is also totally important to keep calm!  Train you mind to as they say “Keep Calm and Carry On”

 

 

Shake it off! 

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Unfortunately T-Swizzle isn’t quite correct on this one.  With long runs, cycles and lanes upon lanes in the pool I know my body is feeling a little less spritely of late and as much as “shaking it off” / jumping round to a great pop song might help some I thought I would just share some of my home “remedies” to relieve sore muscles …

Compression gear – now I genuinely don’t know if it works, I honestly have no idea. For me it could be all in my head but what I do know for sure is that I suffer from tight calves so as you can imagine I was, sadly, delighted when one birthday I was given a turquoise pair of calf compression guards.  Anytime I’m home I pop these guys on and I do think it helps … but honestly who’s to know.

 

Hot muscle rubs – I got introduced to Natural Hero Hot Muscle Rub a long time ago and I still love it!  It is still my go to if there are any specific areas that are shouting at me.  Just imagine a hot water bottle hugging the exact area of achiness or soreness, even if it’s an obsecure area – like your bum … Yep, squats hurt.

 

The STK – we all know about rolling and yes I most certainly roll but the stick is something new in my active stuff collection. Perfect for those hard to get to areas, I blast my hamstrings and calves with this thing and try to really find those “sweet spots”.  I find the stick is really good if there is a serious problem area!  That, followed by some muscle rub, oh so good!!!

 

Legs up the wall – yep literally legs up the wall. This nugget of invaluable information was passed onto me from another running buddy and I swear by it!  Most evenings, just before bed, you will find me with my bum as close to the wall as possible with my legs up it until my feet turn a slightly unnervingly grey. I think it is the single most important aspect of my very own sports therapy centre and I advise everyone and anyone to give it a go. It’s also the perfect way to switch off before bed as we all know how important a good nights sleep is for recovery too!

 

So there you have it!  A few things that I do to try and help my body get used to half Ironman training…