Marathon runner “Hey it’s ok…”

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  1. To spend longer thinking about (and putting off) going for a run than actually running.
  2. To spend the whole run thinking about what you are going to eat afterwards and then be disappointed when it doesn’t live up to expectations (not that I’m bitter about the soggy chips I’d thought about for 16 miles on a cold dark Friday night run).
  3. To buy a super fancy running watch but have no idea how to turn it on/find GPS so end up using your usual phone app every time.
  4. To Instagram the hell out of your training runs. You can never have too many gratuitous trainer pictures.
  5. To run round the block numerous times to get to your exact mileage but when you hit that mileage miles away from home to stop running immediately and walk home.
  6. To spend more money on new kit than your monthly rent/mortgage payment.
  7. To constantly declare you are never running another marathon again then start googling “exotic marathons” immediately after you cross the finishing line. Everest or the Galapagos anyone?
  8. To buy a new pair of ridiculously expensive trainers but then decide they are too pretty to wear outside (Nike Flyknits are not designed for mud).
  9. If you know exactly how far one mile is from your house. In any direction. And what gradient it is.
  10. To pack your trainers on holiday, declare to everyone that you will be getting up early each day for a run and never get your trainers out the suitcase.
  11. To up your pace to overtake the runner in front then spend the next 10 minutes in a silent game of cat and mouse.
  12. To actually hate the whole thing and think anyone who runs these for fun is mad!

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Boot camp – definitely not Slipper Camp


I recently spent a week in Ibiza. However there was no cocktails, clubs or champagne involved. Instead it was a week of HIIT, hikes and hunger.

Where?

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No 1 Bootcamp in Ibiza. Based at a beautiful villa in the middle of the island, it felt a million miles away from the typical images of Ibiza. The villa had everything you needed for a fitness camp with a beautiful (but freezing) swimming pool, a big courtyard for early morning circuits (with a perfect height fountain for tricep dips and incline press-ups), a shaded yoga area and lots of steps for running up and down.

Why?

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I’ve wanted to try a Bootcamp for ages to improve my general fitness but the thought of crawling through mud in freezing wet England didn’t really appeal so I optimistically thought I’d combine exercising with getting a tan. The tanning didn’t really happen though as it was cloudy most of the week which in hindsight was probably a good thing as working out in 30 degree heat wouldn’t have been pretty! I also liked the idea of being in a bubble for a week without any temptations around.

The best bits
1. The group. I was luckily there were only seven of us which made a big difference in the amount of individual attention you got and made it much easier to get to know everyone. We were all there for different reasons. Some people hadn’t exercised for years and wanted to lose weight, others wanted a boost in fitness and a couple were regular boot campers. I was amazed though at how quickly we bonded (sweating together for 6 hours a day does that!) and how encouraging everyone was as there were inevitably sessions which different people found easier or harder.

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2. The variety. Each day involved 4 or 5 hour long sessions including HIIT circuits, swimming drills, TRX, weight training, boxing, running and hiking. You never quite knew what was coming next with workouts nicknamed “The Monster”, “Escalating Density” and “EMOM (every minute on the minute)” and usually just as you thought you’d reached your limit the session was nearly over.

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3. The satisfaction. There were definitely a few moments where I wondered why on earth I’d thought it was a good idea to spend a week being tortured when I could be sipping a cocktail on a beach but the post-workout endorphins prevailed (as well as the thought of food after most sessions). It felt very indulgent to have nothing to worry about other than finishing 30 sit-ups and any thoughts of work stresses disappeared almost instantly.

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The hardest bits
1. The food (or lack of it). This was the bit I was dreading most as I’m usually ravenous after a workout and have no concept of portion control. All meals at bootcamp are carefully measured out to give you just enough calories (about 1000-1200 a day for girls and a bit more for guys) and nutrients to get you through the workouts but no more so a lot of time was spent talking about and fantasising about food. The meals were generally pretty good though and regular snacks meant you never got too hungry.

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2. Swimming drills – these were my nemesis as I’m not a natural swimmer and haven’t stepped foot in a pool in years. Treading water for 5 minutes definitely brought back memories of being in the school swimming pool in pyjamas!

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Would I do it again?
Definitely. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it and the satisfaction of completing the week made all the sweat (and occasional swearing) worth it. It also helped me realise that my body is capable of much more than I thought and it has given me more confidence in putting together my own workouts now. Whilst I didn’t go specifically for weight loss I was surprised by how much weight I lost in a week (8lbs) and although I have put it all back on in the last month (I’ve been marathon training so haven’t been sticking to a diet or doing much HIIT/circuits) it is a great way to kickstart a more healthy lifestyle.

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My tips
If you are thinking about trying a Bootcamp:
1. Do your research – there are lots of options out there depending on your budget, goals (weight loss, fitness, relaxing) and preferred exercise type (yoga, hiking, running, water sports etc) so make sure you know what you are signing up to at it’s pretty intense and definitely not your typical “holiday”.

2. Ask lots of questions – it’s not often you’ll have so much access to a personal trainer or chef so make use of their expertise. I learnt more in a week than I’ve learnt in years about different training techniques and improved my form massively on squats and press-ups (they will spot your bad habits!).

3. Just do it! I was so nervous before I went about whether I’d be the most unfit, would everyone else come in groups, would I survive/cry/starve! However as soon as I arrived I realised that everyone else felt exactly the same and we all helped each other during the inevitable occasional low points.

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Class review: 1Rebel London

I had a couple of hours to spare in London on Saturday so decided to be a fitness tourist and try the Double Shot class at 1Rebel. Billed as 30 minutes of Reshape followed by 30 minutes of Ride I arrived wondering what I was letting myself in for and why I hadn’t just gone for a sneaky coffee instead!

As soon as I arrived though I was put an ease by the reception staff who made a real effort to explain the class format as they handed me a fluffy towel, bottle of water and a pair of cleats for Ride.

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Heading downstairs the sleek operation continued with the changing rooms definitely living up to my expectations. With an industrial feel, an assortment of beauty products, GHDs and heated seats it felt more like a spa than your standard gym changing room. The infamous chilled towel fridge was also well stocked.

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With nearly 40 people in the class the group was split into two groups with half starting on the treadmill and the other half starting on the floor. Esmee gave a quick run through of how the treadmills worked and what was in the box at each station before we started. It was then straight into it.

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I started on the floor section and with the instruction to pick up your weights (you can chose from 6 different weights between 4kg and 14kg and each person has an individual box of equipment at their station) we were soon doing bicep curls, fly curls, press ups against the bench, squat jumps, mountain climbers and a couple of others I can’t remember! Each exercise was about a minute long and it was then straight on to the next with no breaks. After about 7 minutes it was time to swap with the runners and jump on the treadmill. The treadmill felt like welcome relief for about a minute before it was time to crank up the speed for some sprints. Esmee gave three options each time for speed and I went for the 15k for the sprints (I wasn’t brave enough (or fit enough) to try 18k!). After a couple of sprints we did a few short hill before the shout to switch over onto the floor again.

The second floor session followed a similar format including weighted twists, elbow/knee crunches and the dreaded burpees. It was then back on the treadmill for another 7 minutes including hill sprints. Despite the number of people in the class Esmee didn’t miss anything so there was no slacking and her regular shouts of “do it for that glass of wine/pizza/cake/satisfaction” definitely helped.

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After 30 minutes of Reshape, a quick dash upstairs to the spin room and it was on to the bikes. There were lots of first timers but the staff were really quick at helping everyone set up their bikes and clip in their cleats. Within a couple of minutes we were all cranking up the resistance. The next 20 minutes flew by with a mix of sprints, standing sprints and climbs and a lot of upper body work. Singing along to the soundtrack was definitely encouraged. Esmee’s enthusiasm was infectious and by the last track we were all waving our towels in the air as our legs span round.

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I was pretty apprehensive before I started but loved the class. The pace is so quick that there is no time to get bored and each exercise is the right length to allow you to push yourself but not over do it. I found the treadmill sections a welcome change from the weights and by constantly working different muscles worked much harder than I do in classes where you have more breaks between exercises. It was definitely one of the toughest classes I’ve done for a while but also the most fun. Working up a sweat was compulsory and if the chilled towel fridge had been bigger I could quite happily have stepped straight into it to cool down.

At £20 a class it is pretty expensive, although your first class is £10 and there are discounts for bulk booking. I would give it another go (possibly trying a 45 minute Reshape class) next time I’m in London. Booking is via their website at http://www.1rebel.co.uk.

If you are ever opening another branch 1Rebel how about one in Bristol?!

The post class hot chocolate at the Renaissance Hotel definitely tasted good as well.

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P.s. The cookies aren’t mine sadly!

Free (or nearly free) fitness activities in Bristol – April

So it is officially spring (umm maybe don’t look out the window), the clocks have gone forward and the evenings are getting longer (hello evening runs) so why not try one of these free (or nearly free) fitness events in April.

1. The Road & The Sky talk by Emily Chappell – 15th April 7.30pm at Ellis Brigham (£8)

If you want to hear about Emily’s cycling adventures (including riding across Alaska in the middle of winter) she’s giving talks at Ellis Brigham (London, Bristol, Manchester and Cambridge)l. Tickets are available on their website.

2. UK Handmade Bicycle Show – 17th-19th April all day at Brunel’s Old Station and Arnolfini (Free/tickets required for Brunel) 

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If you appreciate a good bike then head to the handmade bicycle show and find yourself a new customised beauty. More details on their website.

3. Run Bristol training session – 18th April 9am at Ashton Court (Free)

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Run Bristol (organisers of the Bristol 10k and Bristol half) are hosting their annual training sessions at Ashton Court. The April session focuses on preparing for the 10k on 31st May and includes talks on using a training plan, core strength and conditioning and race day strategy. You can also get a short session with a physio for any niggles. I went a couple of years ago and would recommend it for picking up lots of helpful tips. Book via the Run Bristol website. They are also running sessions in July and August before the half marathon.

4. Aerial Circus Taster Session – 19th April 3pm at Pink Kitten Dance School (Free) 

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If like me you’ve always wanted to run away and join the circus try out Pink Kitten’s aerial taster session which includes aerial hoop and aerial yoga. Check out my review and if you are inspired you can book via their website.

5. Ladies Breakfast Ride – 25th April 8am starting at Mud Dock (Free) 

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Dust off your bike and try out Le Sportif’s breakfast ride starting at Mud Dock. The route is 40-60km so a perfect distance to work up an appetite for that post ride coffee and breakfast (or sneaky cake). There are also regular rides during spring/summer for different levels. Check out their website for details.

6. BUMS on the run – 29th April 5.30pm (beginners) or 6.30pm (intermediate) (Free)

Fellow blogger Laureen and Liv start their next 6 weeks of running sessions on 29th April. They run great sessions for both beginners who want to run 5k and intermediate runners. Expect intervals, sprints and lots more! Details are on their Twitter page.

Let me know of any other events happening in Bristol. Happy Easter!

Images/logos are taken from the relevant organisations/company’s websites so are not my own.  

Running Buddy Bristol

If you live in Bristol and like running you may have heard about Running Buddy Bristol. If not or you aren’t sure what it’s all about then read on….

What is it?
Running Buddy Bristol is a Facebook group for runners and aspiring runners in Bristol. With more and more people lacing their trainers up, it’s a great way to find other runners to run with, to share tips or ask for advice.

Do I have to be Mo Farah speed to use it?
No! Running Buddy is used by all levels of runner looking for others who run a similar distance and pace. With over 250 members there is a level for everyone. Recent requests include looking for couch to 5k support, a walk/jog interval partner and a 10+ mile buddy at a super speedy pace.

It’s particularly popular with beginners trying to get into running who perhaps don’t want to join a running club yet or for those who can’t make scheduled running clubs due to other commitments.

Where do people run?
All over Bristol. Recent posts have included looking for buddies in Clifton, Frenchay, Stokes Croft, Easton, Longwell Green and Totterdown so all postcodes are covered!

Who’s behind it?
Alex Hamlin set up the group after finding that when he was looking for a running buddy, there were no good local resources doing what Running Buddy Bristol does so he set up his own. Thanks Alex!

How do I join?
Go to http://www.facebook.com/groups/runningbuddybristol and send a join request to Alex.

Why I like it?

1. I made a running buddy! – a comment on someone’s leggings in a picture they’d posted on their blog via RBB resulted in one of my first Bristol running buddies.
2. It’s about more than finding a running buddy – it’s a great way of hearing about local races, in particular smaller races which aren’t so well promoted. I saw the Varsity 10k on it which I then marshalled at.
3. It’s not commercial – Alex has done a great job of keeping the group about what’s it meant to be. There is a no selling products/advertising rule so you aren’t bombarded with adverts. It’s all about the local running.

My tip
Join today and post your message! My experiences are that it is a super-friendly and helpful group so there is no need to feel intimidated or nervous about taking your first steps into running or finding a buddy.

Picking a new gym

Choosing a new gym

I’m about to move house so have had to cancel my gym membership. It got me thinking about how little I’ve used it recently and whether it is worth joining a new gym. I hate treadmills so will always run outside and prefer classes to grinding away on the cross trainer. However I also like having the option of the gym if I want a quick spin class or workout. Before committing to another expensive monthly subscription though, here’s what I think about when choosing a gym.

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1. The closer the better – where is it?
I was lucky that my old gym was less than 5 minutes walk from my old flat. Being able to roll out of bed at 5.45am and be on my spinning bike for the 6am class definitely made getting up easier (complete with pillow creases on my face). My motto is that if it’s not super easy to get to then I’m not going to go. For me, a gym en-route to work is perfect as having to walk past it every day guilts me into going more.

2. Ready for the early risers – when is it open?
I work slightly erratic hours so prefer workouts before work. A gym which is open at 6am is perfect and luckily becoming more common with the 24 hour gyms springing up everywhere. I’ll also avoid a gym with restricted weekend hours as I like flexibility about when I can go.

3. Motivate me please – what classes are there?
90% of the workouts I do at the gym are group classes (usually spin or circuits). I look at what classes are on and more importantly when are they on. For me daytime or early evening classes don’t work so somewhere offering early morning classes wins every time.

4. Are you an expert – who takes the classes?
I’ve found that at some gyms the same instructors take spin, body pump, pilates, circuits and every other class. Maybe they are an expert in (and love) all of them but it can feel like they are just spinning the wheels. I don’t envy an instructor having to be so enthusiastic at 6am but having someone who knows what they are doing and mixes it up makes a big difference.

5. The showers – are they prudish friendly?
Ok I’m a bit of a prude so avoid communal showers. I like a bit of privacy when showering please! Finding a gym with the right balance of having enough cubicles so that you aren’t queuing for 20 minutes and then having to resort to baby wipes when your patience runs out is a difficult one though.

6. I’m bored of the gym – what are the other facilities?
I once joined a gym with a swimming pool (and a hefty membership) so that I could start swimming again. I even bought a swimming costume and thought about signing up to a triathlon. However, number of swims in 12 months = zero. Now I try to be a bit more realistic and look at which facilities I will actually use.

7. The important one – what is the cost?
I’ve varied between joining gyms that cost £10 a month to £90 a month. Which did I use more? The £10 one as it was more convenient and had better classes. The trade off was no TVs screens or plush changing rooms but I can live with that for the massive cost saving.

Let me know if you’ve got any recommendations for gyms in Bristol! I’ll be trying a few out in Bristol soon so will let you know what I think.

Get outdoors and get fit in Bristol

I’m very excited to have written a guest blog post for No.4 Clifton Village about outdoor activities which will help you get fit in Bristol this spring. Check it out here.

No.4 is a lovely restaurant based in Clifton Village with a secret garden perfect for hosting a private yoga class or special event. It also has a great menu to treat yourself to afterwards! Check out their website at http://www.no4cliftonvillage.co.uk.

My favourite Bristol routes: River Avon Trail

Last Saturday felt like spring had finally arrived so I took advantage of the sun and headed out on one of my favourite routes for the first time this year….

The River Avon Trail towards Pill

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Where and how far is it?

Hidden away on the opposite side of the river from the Portway is the towpath to Pill. I usually start by Millennium Square, run round the harbour and join the path by the Create Centre. From there it’s about 6 miles to Pill and the same back. You can make the route as long or short as you like though as the River Avon Trail goes all the way from Pill to Bath. 23 mile run to Bath anyone?

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Why I love it

1. Getting out of the city

Within five minutes of joining the path you are surrounded by trees, trees and more trees. As much as I love Bristol sometimes it’s nice to escape the city and get some green space. With no traffic and barely any other people on the path (although watch out for the mountain bikers), it feels like you’ve found your own secret bit of Bristol to explore. The further you go, the better it gets as the path opens out onto beautiful green fields which seem to stretch for miles.

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2. The river

I love running alongside the river as it winds away from the floating harbour. One minute you are running past the Matthew (I may have upped my pace a bit to make sure I was quicker than it) and before you know it, it seems like the river is totally deserted.

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3. A bit of mud

Warning – this is not the route to try out your brand new trainers on! The path is used by cyclists so it can get a bit muddy. As I run about 95% of the time on city streets it’s a novelty to run through some mud and pretend I’m a trail runner (for a few miles at least).

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4. The miles fly by

The views definitely distract me from staring at my watch wishing the miles away. As the route twists round the river you don’t know what’s coming up round the corner so I barely notice the inclines compared to when I run along city streets. The route is relatively flat with a few small hills to stop you getting bored. There are also lots of photo opportunities/excuses to stop for a breather. If you want some more inclines, you can always de-tour into Leigh Woods.

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5. Running under the bridge 

I never get bored of running under the Suspension Bridge and the view from this side of the river definitely beats the Portway view. It also marks the start of the home straight on the way back from a long run so is usually a very welcome sight!

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The route 

Start at the Create Centre and cross the blue bridge at the back over the river. Then turn right and follow the river as far as you like! It is an out and back route so you can choose how far you want to go. Finish at one of the many Harbourside pubs (The Pump House, Grain Barge, the Cottage Inn or by the Floating Harbour) for a well deserved post run drink.

The route is also great for walking and cycling. Check out http://www.riveravontrail.org.uk for more details.

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My favourite Bristol routes: Harbourside run

As the days are getting slightly warmer and brighter, I thought I’d share some of my running routes around Bristol to hopefully inspire you to get outside. First up….

The classic harbour 5k loop

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Where and how far is it? 

It’s an obvious one but one of my favourite routes is a loop or two around Bristol harbour starting at Millennium Square. At 5k it’s the perfect distance if you are just starting out or if you want to increase the miles you can do 2 laps without getting bored (a detailed route is at the bottom of this post).

Why I love it

1. It’s flat

As anyone living in Bristol will know, Bristol is full of hills. Sometimes it’s nice to run on a flat route to test out your speed or to recover from a longer/hilly run.

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2. The sights

You see more Bristol sights than on a sightseeing tour. Ok I’ve not checked if this is actually true but the route takes you past some of Bristol’s finest including the SS Great Britain, MShed and the floating harbour. If you are lucky you might also spot The Matthew.

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3. The river

I love running by the river as there is always something happening on the water to distract me from plodding along. There are usually rowers, canoeists, paddle boarders or the odd pub crawl boat to keep me entertained.

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4. The photo opportunities

The river looks different every time I run along it and I love stopping to take pictures (any excuse to stop for breath). I’ll let the photos do the talking.

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5. Sunrises

My favourite time of day to run here is early morning as the sun is coming up on a clear day. Views like this make the early alarm worth it.

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6. The coffee/food stops

If you can make it round without getting distracted by the early morning coffee and bacon roll aroma coming from Brunel’s Buttery you are a better person than me! If you fancy a pit stop, there are numerous options including the Arnolfini, the Crepe and Coffee Cabin, Brigstow Lounge, the Pump House and Grain Barge.

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The route

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Start at Millennium Square and run past the Slug and Lettuce down to the Brigstow Lounge. Turn right and follow the path round and up the steps. From here it is straight along the path with the river on your left until you get to the Pump House. If you can resist a sneaky drink, turn left over the bridge and along past the Nova Scotia pub. A left down the driveway and a quick right will take you into the boatyard. Through the boatyard it’s then straight on passing the Cottage Inn on your right and round past the rowing club. A quick left through the alley and a left again will take you back to the water. From here turn right and it’s another straight stretch until you’ve past the M Shed. Turn left across the bridge and another left by the Arnolfini onto the cobbles. Then follow the path round to the right by the floating harbour towards the fountains. Once you are past Under the Stars loop round and back down the other side of the river past the Watershed until you get to the Ampitheatre.  Keep going round with the river on your left past Cafe Gusto and then follow the wooden walkway down to the water. A final right and you are back at the Brigstow Lounge ready for a coffee.

If in doubt, just keep the river on your left and run anti-clockwise! If you want to run 2 laps, how about doing the 2nd lap in reverse and go clockwise.

What are your favourite Bristol routes?

Race review: Bath half marathon

On Sunday I finally got my first bit of 2015 race bling. It’s taken me a while but it was worth it.

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But more importantly how was the race?

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To be honest it was hard work but I managed to just sneak in sub 1.45 (1:44:55 to be precise!) and get a new PB. However it’s not all about the time so here are my thoughts on the Bath Half 2015.

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1. I’m a no music convert

Whenever I run on my own I always stick my headphones in and crank up the cheese (Abba does wonders for getting me up Bristol’s hills). However I decided to run without music to see if I would still enjoy a run without getting bored of listening to my own breath. There were times I found it hard, particularly between miles 3-4 and 8-9 where there were less crowds, but overall I enjoyed it more than running with music. It was nice to listen to the cheers and support (“keep running and you’ll finish in time for the rugby” seemed to be a winner) and also to the great bands that were playing along the route (weirdly the only song I can remember hearing now is Sweet Home Alabama!).

2. I’m a slave to my Garmin

I hate to admit it but I check my pace so often I’m amazed I see the mile markers or road sometimes. It made me realise how inconsistent my pace was (partly due to how congested the course was) but checking my pace didn’t actually make me run any quicker so time to bite the bullet and try running watch-less.

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3. We are too hard on ourselves

No matter how well I run I always have doubts about whether I’m fit enough/could I have run quicker/everyone else is a better runner than me. I’m luckily enough to have hung out with some great girls on Sunday and whilst it was reassuring to know that I’m not the only one who has these feelings, it also made me realise that we are way too hard on ourselves. We all ran 13.1 miles in pretty speedy times which is an awesome achievement! Yes I need to work on my leg and core strength, stretch a lot more (my hamstrings did not love their outing) and try to keep a more consistent pace but my legs survived so what am I moaning about.

4. I prefer smaller races

Bath is probably the best half marathon I’ve done for crowd support as the two lap course means that most of the course is well supported. However with so many runners and parts of the course being pretty narrow I felt like I spent the whole race weaving round people, getting elbowed and trying to find a consistent pace. One of my friends also got knocked over near the start by any overly keen runner. Not my kind of race style.

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5. Missing a run isn’t the end of the world

My training has been pretty inconsistent. I’ve loved running with the #hillkillergirls but have struggled with anything over 10k on my own. I definitely paid for it from mile 8 onwards when each mile felt like an eternity. However I realised that missing one long run isn’t the end of the world. However missing 5 probably isn’t so good!

6. Lunch afterwards makes it all worth it

The best bit of the day – lunch with fellow runners Steph, Laureen and Liv (with super supporters Claire, James and David) at Yak Yeti Yak. Thinking about this yummy Nepalese food definitely got me through the last few miles (as did the thought of Laureen’s flapjack!).

Photo belongs to @amagpieinthesky
Photo belongs to @amagpieinthesky

7. The supporters and volunteers were amazing

The Bath Half is super well organised. Bag drop is quick, there are hundreds of portaloos, the t-shirt is nice (although a women’s small would have been good) and the route has lots of friendly marshals. Having realised how hard marshalling is when it is cold and wet a massive thank you to everyone who volunteered.

So after 3 attempts at the Bath Half I think we may be parting ways in favour of smaller races but it’s a good run for anyone looking for a big race with lots of crowd support and entertainment round the course to get you motivated.

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Running, fitness and a bit of Bristol