20 December 2013

The calm before the storm

imagesTomorrow night I fight for a European kickboxing title. I feel apprehensive having been out of the ring competitively for a while, my last fight was for a British title 8 years ago. But I have nothing to lose and everything to gain so feel peaceful in equal amounts. I have an audience full of friends – I have been touched by their support, especially the ones who have to travel to get there.

Challenge keeps life fresh and makes me feel alive, challenging myself is the hardest fight so this should be easy in comparison. I will of course write up the night here asap…

1 December 2013

Not bad for an old bird

running-blogSo its done! Overall I came 15th out of 41 females and in my best race (10km run) I came 12th. I came 4th in my age category overall. My overriding feeling is that I am pleased with my results but wanted to do a lot better. I am less fussed about the ranking against the other runners and more bothered by my times.

The first day was a 6 km time trial which was a quick hot run in the afternoon on tarmac. They set us off at 10 second intervals and basically we pegged it around the course trying to gauge our pace without getting confused or distracted by the runners out in front or behind!

The second day was an 11 km hill climb with a 600 metre ascent. I arrived 10 mins late to the start line due to getting lost en route and they were kind enough to keep the start open for me. Psychologically being the last and only person climbing worked well for me. I realised on day 1 that what I dislike about racing is the sound of thumping feet and heavy breathing right behind me. So again I pegged it up the mountain as fast as I could without stopping. At 3km I came across the stragglers who were walking the route and that gave me more incentive to keep going and try and catch more and more of them, which indeed I was able to do and in fact by the end I even managed a sprint over the finish – a truely enjoyable race finished in 1hr 18mins.

Day 3 was the half marathon and I felt a little achy! As you know i was hoping for a 90 min time. I was way off, in fact the winner was only 98 mins (her PB is 78 mins)and I realise that this was not the event to choose a PB half marathon as a goal. Firstly it starts with a 10 km ascent of 300 metres, secondly it the descent is treacherous with gravelly, rocky sections of dry earth covered in huge pits and cracks making it very tricky to pick a path out down once you have slogged it out to the top! Anyway excuses aside it took me 2 blooming hours!

Day 4 was a 10 km flat run, I ran well coming in at 47 mins and considering I had done the whole 4 days with a chest infection I felt totally relieved it was finally over as my body was KNACKERED!  This is a great event well organised and really friendly, I will definitely be coming back with even more training under my belt to try and smash some of my times and do better overall in the rankings.

6 November 2013

Flight and fight


OK a brief (I’m sure you are not that interested in my personal training life?!) update:

Running speed is up for longer distances now – knocking out 8-10miles @ 7min 15sec averages this would give me a 1hr 35min half marathon if I ran it today. I would be pleased with the time, however I still have a couple of weeks of training left and think I may be able to do better and get closer to my 7 min mile pace for that distance.

In the meantime an opportunity to pursue my kickboxing training has materialised. I am planning on fighting for the vacant WKMA European women’s kickboxing title on the 21st December – with only 2 months to train for a 7 round full contact fight and a week away racing in Cyprus right in the middle I wasn’t sure if this was wise. However much consideration and discussion has gone into this and I am game on with nothing to loose!

So….without further finger tapping I am back off to the gym now – see ya

15 October 2013

Faster, but is it enough?

speedI feel training this week hasn’t really been what I wanted. I’ve missed a couple of runs that I wanted to get in and have felt like my sleep has been poor quality which has had an effect on the sessions I have done.

On the plus side I finally hit 7 mins per mile this week – it feels fast for me! I was only able to hold it for 4 miles, the idea of running 13 miles at this pace currently seems a little unrealistic, however I may just have time to work on that!

I need to do some more roadwork as I have been mainly training off road which I prefer, however the event is on hard ground rather than the soft ground I’ve been running on. It is easier to get better speed on road although I dislike the impact and unnatural environment.

The dogs featured a bit this week – on a tempo run and a hill session. They are amusing on the hills, it takes them about 30 mins before they realise that you are only going up and coming down again so they don’t need to follow you each time and can stand in the middle of the hill and still not lose sight of you!

Focus next week is on getting some longer distances in


9 October 2013

Training update


Training has gone so-so this week. I have started to worry on two counts; Firstly that the half marathon is the day after an 11km hill run and secondly that my half marathon time goal was only achieved by one female runner in this event last year and she was a Common wealth champion!

I managed to kick out a 1hr 20min 10 miler yesterday which although isn’t fast enough was entirely uphill for the first half and still would have given me a 1hr 45min half marathon time assuming an average pace of 8min miles….It’s 7min miles I need to be running so I’m remaining optimistic with 6 weeks training left!

Unfortunately my running companions (2 dogs) are unable to accompany me anymore, the older one who has featured heavily in the “running with wolves” blog series (see much earlier entries) is now 12 and arthritic so despite a huge desire on his part is unable to keep up for more than about 20mins. The other, a 5 year old collie cross who very often is perfect company for these sorts of sessions doesn’t cope well near traffic nor on a lead and I have started to run off AND on road to imitate the race route.

I don’t mind soul searching running, in fact I quite like it, but yesterday I somehow managed to set my Adidas mi coach to report my stats every 1 minute instead of every 10mins. As you can imagine, any thought process and or music track being interrupted every minute by a shrill voice telling you your speed and distance covered would become very annoying, especially as she seemed to take ages to report the info and there was hardly a gap between the end of one report and the start of the next. I practically dreamed in numbers last night!


1 October 2013

Cyprus International 4 day challenge


Training in earnest has begun now for November’s Cyprus international 4 day challenge. The race is in it’s 9th year and looks really cool. You run 4 different races on each of the days; day 1 is a 6km time trial, day 2 is an 11km hill race, day 3 is a half marathon and day 4 is a 10km city run.

I am looking forward to some bright weather there – the event seems to be blessed with sunshine historically and I’m pretty sure ill be sick of the mud and clouds in here by then!

Training is going well; I’m feeling pretty fit and just want to work on my speeds. I’ve got my eye on a sub 1hr 30min half marathon time, however as many of you who know me already are aware, despite running practically for a living I rarely race. What this means on race day is that I will need to be very careful my mental state isn’t affected too adversely by my nerves.

I have run a 1hr 47min half marathon without any training before so I don’t feel the goal is unrealistic, however the course was a flat road race and this one undulates with an overall climb of 400 metres.
Currently I am lifting weights using compound movements, running 4 x week mixing up intervals, hills and tempo runs with longer ones and am just building up some mileage to get into my stride a little. And I have been kickboxing again after nearly 10 years out of the ring for the past 6 months which is totally unrelated but muchous fun and partly attributing to my current fitness levels.

So im feeling good and aim to keep a log here of how things are going over the next couple of months until race day on the 21st Nov…..watch this space!

4 September 2013

Will lifting heavy weights (as a woman) will make me too muscular? I just want to tone up.

Dont worry, the weights you will be lifting probably wont make you TOO muscular unless you are lifting them every day for years and years. We may ask you to include them in your training as part of a metabolic conditioning program to increase the rate at which you burn FAT as well as:

  • Increased bone density
  • Increased lean muscle mass
  • Injury prevention
  • Enhanced performance in activity generally
  • Lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease
  • Boosts confidence
  • Improves balance
  • Fights depression

Take a look at these 3 photos:

Weight lifting for women


Model  1 will live at the gym, be taking some kind form of steroid drug, will eat huge amounts of food daily and consume various supplements. She will endure enormous mood swings, possess a rare set of genetics and probably exhibit some typically male traits ranging from a large adams apple and excessive hair growth through to an out of control libido. She will be a competitive bodybuilder training on a periodised program and have spent years and years sculpting the physique you see today. You will not wake up one day having done some strength work and look anything like this! 

Model  2 Won’t be on steroids, yet will also have to be military with her training and nutrition. She will also be on a periodised training program and will have also had to make huge sacrifices in her life to gain the amount of muscle she has whilst stripping her frame of fat. Women have only 10% of the testosterone (muscle building hormone) that men do, and so to even build this physique would have taken years of dedication and understanding of her body’s metabolism, adaptation rate, water holding fluxuations not to mention monumental mental strength. You will not wake up one day having done some strength work and look anything like this!

Model 3 Depicts most of the rest of us. It is very difficult to build a well muscled physique. Men have much more testosterone than women and often still find it difficult to build a well muscled physique. Ask yourself this: How many of your male friends want to bulk up and pack on some muscle? The answer would be higher than you may imagine. In summary, you don’t need to worry about bulking up through strength training, in order to do this you would have to embark on a hardcore program of muscle gain, revamping your entire nutritional vocabulary, and employ a set of lifestyle rules so strict a sergeant major would whimper!

29 August 2013

Tour de Champsaur



Arguably one of the most beautiful ways to see the valley of Champsaur in the southern French Alps is by bicycle. We decided to ride a slightly condensed version of the “tour de Champsaur” towards the end of August.

The weather has been perfect – almost cool for the time of year we’ve been told at around 25 degrees max and much cooler throughout the mornings until late lunch time.

So with little expectation we hopped on our hired bikes yesterday to start our day combining stages 1 and 2 of the traditional route meaning that we were embarking on a 50km ride with a 1600 metre ascent. I think that we didnt really understand quite what this meant – firstly as women on male cycle saddles, and secondly the challenge of ascending on alpine paths.

After about 2 hours we had covered 15km, which in itself was quite demoralising. But what was perhaps harder to swallow was the fact that it was really hard ascending chipped stone single track sometimes with inclines of 20 degrees – but having ascended we were often insulted with a descent on the other side – which almost made our lung burning, leg busting efforts seem in vein. Of course we knew that all metres up were chipping off the 1600 that we had to do that day.

By lunchtime we had covered 25km, we felt pleased to have cycled half of our journey given the challenges that we were presented. Our saddles were splitting us in half, this was a complete oversight and so we were unprepared with padding or vaseline either of which would have probably saved us. The terrain was undulating – stunning but none the less extremely undulating – I’m not even sure if this was actually what was so draining physically or whether it was the shards of rock that constituted a lot of the paths, but the combination made for tough cycling. As I pedalled madly in low gear up and up and up drive after drive of bumpy track I tried to remember what it had said in the brochure. I admit to reading “intermediate to advanced” in the brochure for the 6 day route and then asking them to join days together so that we could do the route in 3! I also remembered her suggesting it may be tough and then the bike hire man laughing at us and shaking our hands as he wished us “bon chance” when we told him what we were planning on our first day. And realised that I had no one but myself to blame for the fact that my bottom was now so raw I couldn’t even allow air to change pressure underneath it as I rose out of my saddle and into it, or that my shoulders felt like someone was tugging my upper arm out of my shoulder joint.

And so it was with great relief that we arrived at lunch where I proceeded to order and consume 2 main courses, much to the amusement of the hotel staff. Fortunately our afternoon was not as arduous as our morning cycle and after a puncture and a few choice words we ended up at our auberge just in time for dinner.

When we looked back at our long day we realised that the cycle although very challenging was totally perfect for us. It was stunning, jaw droppingly stunning. And the scenery changed constantly – so one minute we were cycling through grassy prairies and the next we were flying down crazy slate cliffs – people we passed were mountain folk, walkers we brushed shoulders with while we filled water bottles at mountain springs and other lovers of the outdoors – all a delight to exchange pleasantries with and often we would bump into them as our paths crissed and crossed.

Evening meals here are to die for, volumes are huge as they seem to understand the work you have done in order to arrive at the table, and of course it helps that we are in France where everything is full of butter and cream calories. Not.

Overall 10/10



16 July 2013

How weight watchers and slimming world changed my view on dieting.


I’ve lost track of the number of clients who walk through my doors telling or asking me about the latest fad diet. Or the ones who think food is the enemy, and the ones who think that once they’ve eaten badly once in the day that’s it! They get frustrated at falling off the wagon so continue to eat badly for the rest of the day because they have messed up and feel there is no point in sticking to the plan as they’ve screwed up already and tomorrow they will start again and be “good”

What weight watchers and slimming world do is fantastic as they focus on our psychology and incorporate them into their plans rather than just telling you what you can and can’t eat. The first thing they do is accommodate for the aforementioned my providing allowances (syns or points) for these occasions. This means that you can fall off the wagon but that it is OK. This encourages people to not beat themselves up and to not spiral into a self destruct mode wrt food. You simply tot up your mistakes and make sure you don’t go over a certain amount. The focus is very much on being a realistic nutritional plan that includes margin for error.

The second is to eat healthy foods plentifully. There are plenty of “free” foods in these approaches and this often comes as a surprise to people when they feel that food is the enemy. In fact re-educating people that food is necessary for healthy bodily function and development is incorporated in these approaches. It helps demonstrate that losing weight doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable, calorie restricting starvation process and that actually longer lasting easier to achieve results can be gained by eating lots of healthy fresh and varied foods.

And finally they tap into the social nature of human beings – group psychology can motivate people and generate a sense of camaraderie and “team”. Going to weekly weigh-ins and listening to other people’s success and disappointments each week can boost people enormously. Often it can make the difference between making a success of the plans or not. Having someone next to you bearing their soul and sharing how and why they saw a weight change can make you think “well if they can do it so can I”

So although the plans themselves are simply good eating guidelines based on minimising fat especially ones of a saturated nature and making sure you get a good balance of complex low GI carbs and clean proteins, where they stand head and shoulders above the rest is their inclusion of how our brains work. I really like the no nonsense clear and healthy approach message they give to eating and how they suggest you are in it for the long term gain not a short fix. I know lots and lots of people who have tried these “diets” and had huge results that last.



28 June 2013

In my humble opinion yoga alone doesn’t cut it……

yoga for weight loss

Firstly let us assume that we are talking about the people, women predominantly, who want to lose some weight-perhaps as much as a couple of stone. Next let’s assume that they go to one or two yoga classes a week but otherwise don’t do much in the way of physical activity.

Is this you? Do you drive the kids to school before driving yourself to work where you spend most of the day sitting (i.e not expending calories nor using muscles) before reversing the process and finishing up on the sofa each evening?

Of the 168 hours per week, if you are anything like the nations average you probably sleep for 49 of those hours leaving 119, sit behind a desk for 56 more leaving 63, watch TV and/or sit in front of the computer at home for 24.5 leaving 38.5 hours, drive your car for around 14 more leaving 24.5 hours.

If you read my last post you will know that being active for a minimum of 21 hours a week is a good starting point in order to begin chipping away at musculoskeletal and metabolic change. So you have the time its just that somehow you only find a poultry 2 of those 24.5 hours to exercise!

If you spent those 2 hours doing 6 x 20min HIIT (high intensity interval training) sessions per week you could almost be forgiven because at least you would be using the time you were able to find intelligently. But yoga? Seriously, this should be an addition not your sole pursuit. Yes it can facilitate introspection, steady and calm you, no it won’t burn off 2 stone of adipose tissue on your bum and thighs “like Madonna and Sting” And the reason is that it isn’t physically challenging enough.

Now if you overhauled your kitchen cupboards and stopped eating anything that came out of a packet, contained more than 20% fat by calorific volume and enough to boost your metabolism out of its sluggish state AS WELL as spent 24.5hours a week doing yoga then you could expect to see some of the changes you want.

The yogis who sell what they preach will often practice for hours and hours each day, they eat a clean pure well balanced diet devoid of preservatives and additives generally, often they won’t drink alcohol or meat and they drink plenty of water. Their cortisol levels are usually healthy as their day to day stresses are well managed, they wont binge and select low GI and low fat foods.

The actual yoga practice when done at high intensity with great form in most of the styles can be tough but the average overweight female in a UK yoga class isn’t this person and their class probably wont even get them into their aerobic training zone. Added to which there are very many repeated muscle group recruitments in some of these classes at the beginning level.

As a final warning spinal compression, torsion and hyper extension at both lumbar and cervical level seems crazy to us fitness professionals-who take a joint health approach-but there’s who whole nother can of worms to discuss next time….