Back with my beloved barbell

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know that I’ve developed quite a love for lifting heavy weights. It all started when I discovered Julia Buckley’s Fat Burn Revolution programme and realised that I was reasonably strong. Over the last 18 months I’ve been improving that base level of strength, in the main with dumbbells in my own home.

In January this year I did a four week Ladies Who Lift course run by Strength Ambassadors, which taught me the basic barbell lifts – squats, deadlift and bench press. I loved it and surprised myself with the weights that I could manage after just four weeks of training. Realising how beneficial strength training could be to my marathon training I signed up for personal training sessions with Sally Moss, the founder of Strength Ambassadors. We did a lot of barbell work in those sessions which saw me to a strong marathon finish, despite carrying a hip/glute injury pretty much the whole way around.

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Since the marathon and while I’ve been recovering from that hip injury I’ve not been doing a lot of very heavy lifting. Julia’s Extreme Inferno programme has been my main focus as I’ve turned my attention back to fat loss, and while I use weights a lot during EI it’s all work that I can do in my own home with dumbbells – no barbell required.

Recently my glute/hip has been feeling a lot better and I’ve been hankering to get back to some barbell work. So for the past 3 weeks I’ve been having a once a week PT session with Jess Wolny, who I also met on the Ladies Who Lift course. We’ve worked our way through the ‘big lifts’ and it’s felt great to be back with the barbell again.

I’ve been really pleased to see how much my strength has improved since I last tried these lifts out. I’m relatively comfortable ‘working’ at a 50kg squat, 60kg deadlift and was particularly pleased with a 50kg bench press. Jess has also introduced me to the military press – a move that’s gone straight to the top of my favourites list. I’m excited to see where my numbers get to as I carry on training with Jess.

Last weekend I was back with Strength Ambassadors at one of their free Olympic Lifting workshops. In the two hour session we were taken through a series of drills that culminated in being able to perform both the snatch and the clean and press. There’s an awful lot going on in each of those lifts but Sally and Alex broke the moves down so that they were easy to understand and the drills progressed quickly so that before you knew it there you were Olympic Lifting.

I thoroughly enjoyed the session. While the weights were relatively light the Olympic Lifts are incredibly dynamic and involve explosive movements so by the end of the session I was exhausted. That kind of post swimming all over tiredness when you know you’ve worked your entire body.

I wouldn’t say I was a natural at the lifts at all. I have a lot to work on in terms of mobility in my squats and my form in the clean. I got some excellent cues from Alex that really helped me improve in particular aspects of the lifts during the course of the session. I really enjoyed myself and absolutely loved the jerk part of the clean and jerk.

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I’m hoping to sign up for a beginners course in the New Year so that I can learn some more.

It’s safe to say that I’m loving having the barbell back in my life!

Dirty weekends

Warning – if you’ve come to this post on the basis of the title expecting a *particular* kind of content you may be disappointed.

I haven’t really run more than a couple of miles at a time since May. Mainly due to my hip taking a really long time to heal up but also because I’ve been busy doing other kinds of training. But since my hip is now pretty much better and I’m thinking about a spring half marathon next year I thought it was about time to lace up the trainers and get back to the running.

To ease myself back in again I’ve taken part in two completely different types of events over the last two weekends. Different but with a similar outcome –  I got very very dirty!

Last Saturday saw me take part in the 5K Run or Dye at Excel in London Docklands. Billed as the most colourful event on the planet the 5K course had a number of dye stations on route where we runners had different coloured dyes thrown on us as we ran. I had mixed feelings on my way to the event bright and early on a Saturday morning. I was hoping for a carnival of colour but was slightly concerned that I’d paid a reasonable amount of money to get up very very early on a Saturday to just get covered in paint.

The reality was somewhere in between. Having met Mollie, Bethan and Tessa at the DLR stop we made our way to pick up our race packs. As well as a white T-shirt and temporary tattoo we were also given two bags of dye each. Once we’d all changed into our race tops the fun began as we chucked the paint around and got suitably covered in colour. I’m not going to deny that it was pretty fun.

 

Once the run started I was a bit disappointed if I’m honest. I’d expected music and atmosphere as well as the advertised dye stations but what we got in reality was a 5K run around the Excel with a couple of areas where volunteers chucked paint over us. I don’t know why but I’d expected paint cannons and sound systems –  a party of paint. The reality was people scooping handfuls of dye and chucking them in our faces. It was a laugh overall but I couldn’t help feeling a bit ‘was that it then?’ and I don’t know that I’d pay to do it again.

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Yesterday Buckley’s Battalion re-formed to take on the Major Series South in Tunbridge Wells. The team made up of Julia’s fat loss clients was a of a different line up to last year but the team spirit and camaraderie were just as strong as we made our way around the 10K cross country course.

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It took us nearly three hours to complete the course which included mud, muddy water, bogs, ice pits, electric fences, barbed wire, mud, more mud and just when you thought you couldn’t get any more dirty a bit more mud thrown in for good measure. Teammates were essential to lend a hand getting out of ditches or freeing people who had literally got stuck in the mud.

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The atmosphere here was brilliant – friend or stranger if you saw someone in need of a push or a pull that’s what happened.  There was a fair bit of queuing for some of the obstacles but no-one seemed to care – it wasn’t the sort of event you ran for time – it was all about the taking part and getting round as a team. Oh and the mud.

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This was always going to be a bit of a test for me. 5K is one thing but 10K of hilly cross country on no real running training is somewhat more of a challenge. My hip behaved itself impeccably but my calves had other ideas and at just over halfway I started to get cramps. It was pretty frustrating but I kept going, walking when I needed to stretch them out. It meant that I started lagging behind the rest of the team a bit but in true Battalion style someone was always there with me making sure I was OK and the team stopped and waited for us back markers to catch up at regular intervals.

I’ve got to be honest and admit that I was glad once we’d finished – happy to have done it but a wake up call that my running fitness is pretty much shot to bits and needs to be built back up again. If I’m serious about doing Tough Mudder next year I will need to get this sorted!

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Of my two dirty weekends the mud won hands down, even if I did go home with some bruises and scrapes alongside my dog tag style medal and loads of mud. There’s something about getting absolutely soaked to the skin and covered in mud that I really quite enjoy!

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National Fitness Day

10407471_10152250528691012_4587385522592345905_nIt was National Fitness Day on Friday. Hundreds of venues across the country opened their doors to allow people to try out classes for free.

I went to a Body Combat class in Covent Garden. It was run by Les Mills and I absolutely loved it. Inspired by mixed martial arts it featured moves from a wide array of disciplines such as karate, boxing, taekwondo, tai chi and muay thai. I got a proper sweat on in the 30 minute high intensity session. 48 hours later I still have DOMS to talk about. Great fun!

 

National Fitness Day was all about getting involved and trying something new. I’m really glad I did – it’s made me interested in trying out other boxing or martial arts based fitness sessions. I don’t want to get into fighting but the moves are tough and the guys running the class looked super fit!!

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I spent the whole session next to this guy trying for the life of me to place him as I thought he looked really familiar. Only afterwards did I realise that he was Greg Whyte - the man that completed Davina McCall’s Sport Relief challenge with her this year and National Fitness Day expert. Wish I’d realised earlier – I would have asked him to post for a selfie with me! 20140926_122107~2

Did you get involved in National Fitness day? What did you do?

Fit enough for the Army?

My fitness levels have come on in leaps and bounds in the last 18 months – I’m without a doubt stronger, faster and more agile than I was. Workouts that I used to find challenging I can now complete with relative ease and the weights that I’m lifting are considerably more heavy.

But I haven’t really had an opportunity to benchmark my fitness levels against any particular standard. Until last week that was.

Army

I work with a number of men who used to be in the military. One of the first things that springs to mind when I think about people in the army is their fitness levels. I recently watched the Channel 4 series on Royal Marines Commando training which illustrated exactly the levels of fitness that are required. This programme showed one of the toughest basic military training programmes in the world, so it was a somewhat extreme example, but having chatted to the people I work with they recognised similarities to the training that they went through themselves.

So when one of them suggested that we start up a team challenge to see who was fit enough to meet the basic standards for the Army I was intrigued. The test sounded straightforward enough. As many push ups as possible in two minutes, then as many sit ups as possible in two minutes followed by a one and a half mile run as fast as possible. There are targets to meet which are adjusted for gender and age. In ice bucket challenge style the person who completes the challenge gets to nominate the next person to do it. So on Thursday morning this week I found myself jogging down to St James’ Park to start my Army Basic Fitness Test challenge.

I’d been given my targets to pass the test but also a more challenging set of numbers that would see me score maximum points. I could score a maximum of 100 points for each exercise but needed a minimum of 70 in each to pass. So I couldn’t make up for a slow run by doing extra sit ups – I needed to meet the minimum score for each.

As a 40 year old woman my targets were:

  • 13 Press Ups
  • 37 Sit Ups
  • 14:30 run

We started with press ups – I got to 20 without really breaking to much of a sweat and by the time I’d got to 30 I was being told ‘3 more and you’ve scored maximum marks’. 33 press ups it was! All those press ups I did on Extreme Inferno obviously paid off.

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Sit ups were more challenging. I do a lot of core work but hadn’t done military style sit ups for some time. I got to 40 in around 90 seconds and decided that I’d had enough. My lower abs were screaming, I’d met my minimum target and that would do me.

I though I was going to die on the run. Or be sick. Or expel my lungs through my mouth. It was awful, I felt terrible and kept having to stop to recover and get my breath back. Despite feeling slow and decidedly unfit, thanks to some ace Army style coaching from my colleague I kept going. “I’m going to be sick” I panted “you can do that once you’re finished” he replied as he kept one pace ahead of me pushing me to run as fast as I could. I finished the 1.5 miles and literally couldn’t speak for 5 minutes afterwards. He wouldn’t tell me my time and I assumed that I’d failed.

Back in the office the scores were revealed and it transpired that I’d completed the run in 13:58 – well under my target. It meant that I’d passed the test. When the scores were added up I was at the top of the leader board – well above a woman nearly 20 years my junior and also ahead of someone who actually used to be in the army! My performance on press ups was hailed as “one of the best I’ve ever seen from a woman”.

So I’m really quite pleased to have been deemed fit enough to join the Army. Not that I’m going to, but it’s fantastic to know that at the age of 40 I’ve passed test that I would have struggled with in my 20s!

 

National Fitness Day

cb975cd2d5b63edb7790e9a2f7fc3f6eFriday 26th September 2014 is National Fitness Day and I’m excited and proud to have been asked to be an official Ambassador!

You all know how much fitness has done for me and I imagine that many of you reading this will also have stories to tell about how fitness has changed your life for the better. But that’s not the case for everyone.

The largest celebration of physical activity in the UK, run by not-for-profit health body ukactive, National Fitness Day sees the health and active lifestyle community unite to raise awareness of the benefits of physical activity, inspire people to get active and make it easy and fun to try something new with free taster sessions.

The National Fitness Day ‘Power Half Hour’ is a great place to start. Venues across the country are hosting free ‘Power Half Hour’ events on National Fitness Day – just 30 minutes out of your day, and you don’t even have to be a member to take part.

With brands such as Better Gyms, British Military Fitness, Club Company, Energie, Everyone Active, Fitness First, Gym Group, Pure Gym and Spirit Health Clubs on board offering a variety of free sessions from indoor cycling and bootcamp to yoga and pilates – there’s bound to be something that appeals. Find an event local to you here.

And if you live in London, Birmingham or Bristol then you have the chance to get involved in National Fitness Day – live through mass participation exercise events to be held at 12:30pm in London’s Covent Garden, Birmingham’s Victoria Square and Centre Promenade, Bristol city centre.

Get updates from National Fitness Day on Twitter (@FitnessDayUK), tweet them using the hashtag #fitnessday and connect with them on Facebook (National Fitness Day).

I think it’s a fantastic initiative to encourage people to be more active, or to try something new. Leave me a comment to let me know if you’re going to get involved and what session you choose to take part in. And perhaps I’ll bump into some of you in Covent Garden?!

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Extreme Inferno – the results are in

The current round of Extreme Inferno finished yesterday – another 12 weeks of intense, fat busting exercises in the bag and I feel pretty good for it. The last time I posted I talked about the fact that I’d reached a bit of a fat loss plateau and had realised that I needed to take a good look at my diet. I’m pleased to report that a few weeks of back to basics clean eating has seen the fat start to shift again.

10606064_10152227749651012_5081924124179590766_nSo what have I achieved in 12 weeks? My measurements aren’t dramatically different to be honest. A few centimetres here and there. But my photos tell a slightly different story and one that I’m happy with.

Left – ‘before’ June 2014

Right – ‘after’ September 2014

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There’s definitely some shrinkage around my tummy area and I’m starting to get a bit of ab definition. The camera doesn’t show it that well but my arms and legs are much firmer than they were 3 months ago as well.

And as for the scales – well I’ve given up relying on them for my BF% – I’ll go back and have another BodPod analysis done at the end of the year for that. But in terms of weight? I’m 2lbs heavier in the photos on the right. Go figure (and throw away your scales at the same time…)

In some ways the changes that have been most remarkable for me during these 12 weeks are the mental ones rather than the physical. Admitting that my diet needed tightening up again, starting to prepare my own lunches rather than relying on shop bought food, finding ways to deal with social occasions so that I kept my alcohol consumption in check, keeping going with the exercise even when the fat seemed to be determined to stick to my body. I’ve proved to myself that I’m not only strong physically, but I’m also pretty strong and resilient mentally. The support from the fantastic EI community has also made a massive difference and for me is one of the best things about the programme.

And now that I’ve found a way to move past the plateau I’m really excited to see what the next round of EI will bring for me. Yep that’s right I’ve enjoyed it so much that I’m going to do it all over again. Julia’s going to be running the next programme, which starts on Monday 22nd September, from her brand new members website. Having worked with her for the last 18 months I’m really excited to see her transition onto her own website and I’m looking forward to reaching my 41st birthday in December in the best shape of my life.

If you want to find out more about Extreme Inferno and how to sign up then head over to Julia’s website here. There’s an early bird discount running until the end of today (September 15th) but even after that at £10 a week it’s fantastic value for money.

 

 

 

 

 

Back to basics

“You can’t out train a bad diet”.

You’ve probably heard that phrase before. I certainly have and know it to be true. There’s another saying that fat loss is 30% exercise 70% diet. I have no way of knowing whether those figures are accurate but it sounds in the right ball park to me.

Recently my fat loss feels like it’s stalled a bit. Especially around my middle which is my ‘problem’ area. I’m seeing some nice definition appearing in my shoulders, arms and legs, so changes are happening. But the fat that’s sitting around my tummy just doesn’t seem to want to move.

I know that it can’t be exercise. I am following Julia Buckley’s Extreme Inferno programme and working out 6 days out of 7 most weeks. The type of exercise I’m doing is designed for fat loss – so I think I can safely rule that out as an issue.

imagesI don’t think that my diet is all that bad. I eat clean most of the time – lots of protein, plenty of vegetables and fruit and I keep processed carbohydrate, dairy and alcohol to a minimum.

Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

The reality is more like this:

During the week I cook breakfast at home – eggs and veg, sometimes with a bit of meat. I grab a flat white on the way to work and buy lunch, which is usually a salad. Most days I have a spicy chicken salad – it’s got tortilla chips and a bit of cheese in it, but it’s only a small amount. Snacks are fruit or yoghurt topped with a bit of granola that I buy at the same place I get my lunch. Sometimes some dried fruit and nuts. Sometimes crisps if I’m desperate because they’re in the vending machine or even chocolate or cake because there’s always some in the office.

I am lucky to come home and have my dinner cooked for me at home. That’s almost always clean. Sometimes after dinner I’ll snack on some dark chocolate or have an apple and peanut butter. I might go to the pub after work once during the week and have a couple of glasses of wine. That might lead me to have a sneaky packet of crisps to tide me over until I get home for dinner. The weekends are usually a bit different, I cook breakfast usually bacon and eggs and we often eat out on a Saturday. I generally choose well but there’s usually alcohol involved, and it’s usually more than a couple of glasses of wine.

Hm. When I write it out like that it’s not quite as clean as I’d have myself believe.  I’ve been eating this way for around 18 months now and following the ‘mostly mostly’ approach that Julia advocates. I aim for something like 80/20 and if I’m honest I’ve probably been achieving perhaps 70/30 or at times 65/35.

The thing is when you’ve been doing something for a while it’s easy to become complacent. The chicken salad which has tortilla chips and cheese in it used to be a one a week ‘treat’. It’s now become a daily thing. Same with the flat white. Where once I was a master of avoiding cake and chocolate at work I’ve been having bits here and there more regularly than I used to. Alcohol has always been my biggest ‘risk area’ when it comes to fat loss. I do like a glass of wine, and there’s no reason why I can’t have a few drinks and still lose fat – I know this to be true! But a few glasses a week means just that and I’ve definitely got back into the habit of having a bit more than that.

Time for some changes!

This week Julia challenged us to a no alcohol week. I’ve done this on her programmes a couple of times before and always found it helpful. I decided to also use this week to kick my daily flat white habit and to take my food ‘back to basics’. I invested in some new storage containers and have been making my own lunches and taking in my own snacks all week. Big hearty salads for lunch with a good chunk of protein and then fresh fruit and a handful of nuts as snacks.

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I’ve actually quite enjoyed the variety in the lunches and the discipline of getting everything prepared the night before – all it takes is a bit of planning and I’ve probably saved some money too.

And in just a week of doing this my body has started to react. My stomach is noticeably flatter and I’ve lost a centimetre off my tummy. The fat is on the move again and I am happy :-)

Do you eat clean and make your own lunches for work? I’d love to hear about your favourite lunch box meals.