Missing marathon training?

MarathonEverywhere I look people are marathon training. My Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds are absolutely full of it. Post long run selfies, tales of furthest ever runs and pictures of recovery brunches. It’s everywhere.

Part of me is a bit jealous. I’m not part of marathon training club this year, and am unlikely to be for a while, perhaps ever. Most of the time I’m fine with that, I know it’s the right decision for me and my body. And I also know that marathon training wouldn’t be conducive to achieving my current fat loss goals. But still, every now and again I kind of wish that I too was in marathon training.

 

 

 

 

There’s something special about working towards a really big goal, and 26.2 miles is a pretty big goal in my book. But there’s also something amazing about training towards that goal with hundreds of other people, most of who you’ll never meet, on social media – cheering each other along one training run after another. Something about ticking off the mileage on your training plan getting one run closer to the big day. Yep, that’s the magic of marathon training and I kind of miss it.

20150125_123446But then I think about all the plus sides of not training for a marathon. First up is all the time that I have to do other things. Marathon training takes up a lot of time, especially when you run as slow as me, and not doing it has freed up loads of time in my diary. Time to really commit to my fat loss and strength training rather than trying to fit it around all the running. Time to learn how to Olympic Lift (more on that in another post). Time to relax.

I’m also a lot less tired and hungry than I am when I’m marathon training – both of which are a good thing!

Plus since I won’t be running a marathon I get to do the next best thing – support. I’m already getting excited about London Marathon day and my opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ for all the amazing support that I’ve had from the crowds on the two occasions that I’ve taken part. I know exactly how important those cheers and encouragement are and I intend to be out on the streets shouting and clapping until my hands hurt and I’ve lost my voice.

I may not be running a marathon but I can still be involved in the magic that is London Marathon day and I fully intend to be. And to be honest, all things considered I’m not really missing the training overall.

 

This Girl Can

Many of you will have seen the new campaign This Girl Can from Sport England – if you haven’t then take a look

This Girl Can celebrates the women who are doing their thing no matter how well they do it, how they look or even how sweaty they get. They’re here to inspire us to wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgement is a barrier that can be overcome. It’s a celebration of active women.

untitledApparently fear of judgment puts many women off taking part in exercise and this campaign is aiming to show them that it really needn’t.

At last a fitness campaign featuring real women. Women who jiggle when they run, women who sweat and pull weird faces when they workout, women who puff and pant and look anything but glamorous when they are doing their thing. Women like me!

I love this campaign and everything about it and it seems to have captured the attention of many women that I know. Despite The Guardian trying to find something negative where there really isn’t (you can read the article here and then a brilliant rant about it from adventurer and fellow blogger Laraine Wyn Jones here) every other girl and woman I’ve heard speak about this has done so positively.

Much is made in The Guardian article of the use of the word ‘girl’. Apparently this will put off ‘older women’ and mean that the campaign won’t appeal to them. Well, I’m 41 and can tell you that just yesterday someone called me ‘girl’ and I had absolutely no issue with it whatsoever – in fact I quite like it, it makes me feel young. And if it’s good enough for The Golden Girls who are significantly older then, enough said!

10802036_10152436261531507_3361557819450479516_nThis Girl Can has struck a particular chord with me in the week that it was launched. In this last week the two fitness videos that I recorded with Julia back in December have been featured in her Challenge XXX workout and people from across the world have been working out with me!

 

The feedback has been lovely with people saying that they’ve learned a lot about lifting weights from watching the sessions or that they’ve been inspired to pick up heavier weights and really dig in,  which is just fantastic.

CaptureI’ve got to admit that watching the upper body video back for the first time was a bit uncomfortable – it’s pretty difficult to disguise the layer of fat on my belly when I’m in a push up position and there was one move right at the end of the session that I really struggled with – I could barely move at all.

But then someone on Julia’s site said that it was exactly that which appealed to them so much. The video is honest, it shows me, a women with a less than ‘perfect’ figure, who is strong in some moves (I did somewhere in the region of 75 push ups on my toes in that session), struggling with others but just getting on with it to the best of her ability and not worrying about what other people think.

That’s real fitness, that’s real life and I think the essence of This Girl Can.

And if this girl can, then so can you.

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90DaySSSplan – first impressions

I wasn’t going to post about this again until the end of Cycle One but a few people have asked how I’m doing and were interested in finding out more about the plan so here’s a brief update at the end of my first week.

I think the first thing to say is that this week was always going to feel different – back to work after Christmas and New Year, back to a full exercise schedule and back to healthy eating. Gone were the excuses for treating cheese and biscuits as a meal, no more picking at chocolate after dinner and no more excuses for another cheeky tipple. Yep, the party was over and even if I’d gone back to my general ‘healthy eating’ of before Christmas then I think I’d have noticed some changes. So I’m not going to read too much into how I’ve felt this week.

One of my main reasons for doing the 90DaySSSplan was to educate myself. To learn more about macronutrients, portion sizes and the best kind of things to eat for fat loss. From that perspective I’m delighted with how this first week has gone. It’s already become very clear that I was snacking a LOT before. That in itself could well account for my stalling fat loss. The other big difference to how I was eating before is the timing of carbohydrate intake. In Cycle One of the plan you only eat carbs after training and not at any other time. Although I was eating what I thought was a low carbohydrate diet I’d never paid any attention to when I was taken the carbs that I was eating on board.

IMG_20150108_222238The food on the plan that I’ve tried so far has been tasty and satisfying. The meals are generous and I’m always full up when I’ve finished them. I have however experienced a bit of hunger in the afternoon, so after an e-mail exchange with Joe I’ve moved both my snacks into the afternoon – rather than forcing one down in the morning. I’ve had a good variety of food this week – my favourite meal so far is this lean muscle mince with kale and a fried egg. A new combination for me and one that I really enjoyed.

20150107_064032Planning is absolutely key. You need to make sure that you’ve got the ingredients you need for meals for the next few days ahead. I’ve also found it important to have a contingency so that I can switch meals if I need to. I had planned to train on Thursday, but ended up taking a rest day instead and that meant switching the post workout breakfast that I’d planned for a low carbohydrate option instead. Luckily eggs saved the day.

 

 

20150104_170847I’m also embracing batch cooking in a big way. It’s time efficient and also means that I can build up a small store of meals in the freezer so that if my plans change I have different things to choose from. Sunday afternoons are now dedicated to cooking up a storm in the kitchen – last week it was a big batch of beef stew (which tastes much better than it looks) – this week I’ve just made some chicken and cashew curry and some Cajun turkey mince.

 

 

So is it working? Well it’s obviously early days but I do feel better – but that’s obviously compared to how I felt after two weeks of festive indulgence. My post Christmas ‘bloat’ has gone and I’m sleeping better. I had some headaches earlier in the week which I attributed to the change in diet, but I think I’ve also been fighting off a cold so it could have been that. The only other ‘side effect’ that I’ve noticed is that I’m constantly needing the loo – 3 and a half litres of water a day is a LOT of liquid!

It’s definitely too early to be taking new measurements or photos but I’m feeling quietly confident that at the end of Cycle One there are going to be some noticeable changes.

 

 

 

 

The 90 day SSS plan

The what? I hear you say. Or maybe you know exactly what I’m talking about if you’ve come across Joe Wicks aka The Body Coach on Twitter or Instagram. If you have then you can’t fail to have been impressed with the many photos of his ‘lean winner’ clients who transform themselves in the course of 90 days by following Joe’s nutrition plan.

The-Body-CoachI’ve been following Joe for some time and have always been intrigued by his 90 day Shift, Shape, Sustain plan – it seems to get incredible results for people in a really short space of time. Up until recently I’ve never been tempted to do it myself because as well as an eating plan, it also set out an exercise plan as well. I’ve already got one of those, and I’m happy with it.

 

Then late last year I was browsing his site and noticed that he offered an option where he would create an eating plan based around your current exercise schedule. Obviously he’d prefer you to follow his, he believes you’ll get better results that way, but if you wanted to stick to your plan then he’d base your personalised eating plan on that. The seed was sown.

I’d been thinking for some time that I needed to take a look at my diet again. My fat loss progress feels like it’s been quite slow despite training hard, in the right way for fat loss for 5 or 6 days a week. I know that diet is more than half of the fat loss equation and felt that I could do with a back to basics look at what was going on my plate and in my mouth. And then I thought, why not take the guess work out of it – why not sign up for the 90 day SSS plan and get my hands on a personalised plan that had clearly worked for lots of other people.

So I did, and I start tomorrow.

The plan is split into three 30 day cycles and you receive one Cycle at a time. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I got a very detailed pdf file outlining what I’d be eating and more importantly why. One of the aspects of the plan that I’m already enjoying is that its educational as well as instructional. Joe wants his clients to understand why he’s recommending that they eat what they do. So very importantly, what will I be eating?

3 meals and day and two snacks. On days when I train I’ll refuel after the training session with a meal that contains carbohydrate and protein. My other meals will be low in carbohydrate and higher in fat. On rest days all three meals will be low carb, high protein, high fat. Snacks are things like nuts, apples, boiled eggs.

Breakfast and lunch for tomorrow - overnight protein oats and paprika chicken

Breakfast and lunch for tomorrow – overnight protein oats and paprika chicken

I’ll be cooking everything from scratch and that means I’m going to need to plan well and be organised. It feels like that really is going to be the key to success. The food looks tasty and plentiful but I need to plan my week out in advance and make sure that I’ve got everything prepared. So this weekend I’ve shopped, chopped and cooked and now have meals ready for most of next week. I’ll do a bit more cooking during the week too. Everything needs to be weighed and measured as Joe has worked out my energy and macronutrient requirements based on the information that I sent to him as part of the sign up process. That felt like a bit of a faff to begin with but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it.

20141124_202051There’s also quite a lot of supplements that Joe recommends. These aren’t essential but can help progress so I decided that I may as well give it a go. I’ve got everything I need from MyProtein. They contacted me before Christmas and asked if I wanted to try out some supplements from their extensive range.

 

Luckily for me I chose some of the things which Joe has recommended, such as Omega 3 and some coconut oil - not a supplement but something with features a lot in Joe’s recipes. I also bought everything else that I needed from the site. It seems really good value and the delivery was really quick.

So I’m all set of Week 1 of Cycle 1 and feeling positive. January is a good time to be doing this as there’s generally less going on socially so I won’t be eating out as much and the temptation to drink will be far lower!

I’ll report back at the end of the month with the results of Cycle 1.

 

New Year – new challenge!

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I hope that the start of 2015 has been good for you and that you’re not feeling the after effects of last night’s celebrations too much!

It’s inevitable that at the start of a new year people make resolutions – things they want to start or give up, goals for the year, things they want to achieve. I’m no different – the start of a year with 12 clear months stretching out ahead is a great time to pause and think about what I really want to focus on.

IMG_20141231_092721In my last post I talked about my strength training and how far I’d come in 2014. That’s something I definitely want to continue with in 2015 for sure. But I’m wanting to make fat loss a priority again for myself for the first few months of 2015. During 2014 I gained fat and weight during my marathon training and although much of that is now gone I’m still carrying more fat than I’d like to be.

 

I want to get back to running again – I’ve got a place for the Hackney Half in May. I know that the extra fat that I’m carrying will slow me down so getting rid of it is my immediate priority before I start to think about running any serious miles.

There are two parts to the fat loss equation – exercise and nutrition. The exercise part is no issue for me these days at all. Working out 5 or 6 days a week is now normal for me and I miss it if I don’t do it. I’m excited that my online PT Julia Buckley is launching her new fitness programme Challenge XXX on Monday. A 30 day online programme with a different workout on each training day it promises to be her most effective programme to date, and having got great results from both The Fat Burn Revolution and Extreme Inferno I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in. I think we’re going to be doing 3 rounds of it so with my weekly in person PT session and a four week Olympic Lifting course that’s January – March sorted exercise wise!

Nutrition wise I’m about to embark on something a bit different for me. I’ve made huge changes to my diet in the last two years but in the last few months my fat loss progress feels like it’s slowed down. I’ve tried tweaking things in my diet here and there, I don’t think I’ve got anything majorly ‘wrong’ but I feel like things just aren’t moving as quickly as they could be. I want to take the guess work out of it and eat in a way that’s going to guarantee fat loss, so after a lot of deliberation I’ve signed up for a personalised fat loss nutrition plan.

Coming from a background of numerous failed diets this is not a decision that I’ve taken lightly, but I really do feel that something structured, personalised to me and my energy requirements will be a good thing. I really want to accelerate my fat loss again and I hope that this is going to help do that. I’m also hoping that as an added bonus I’ll learn more about nutrition and what my body needs after training and on rest days.

untitledI’ll post more about this in the coming weeks – at the moment I’ve got quite a lot to get my head around and quite a lot of shopping and then cooking to do! I’ve got to say the food on the plan all looks delicious with lots of choice and flexibility and there appears to be plenty of it. It’s not wildly different to how I usually each but there are some subtleties which may well be where the answer lies for me.

So there we go – no major resolutions for me but some new challenges for the first three months of the year which should hopefully see a much leaner Becca by the end of March.

I’ll let you know how I get on!

2014 – the year I ‘found my strong’….

…..and the amazing women who helped me find it!

We’re coming towards the end of the year and it’s the traditional time for reflection, before looking ahead to the New Year. When I look back on 2014 I’ll remember it as the year that I ran my second marathon. I’ll also remember it as the year where I was injured for what felt like a really long time both in the run up to, during and after the marathon. The year that, looking back, I really shouldn’t have run a marathon at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no regrets – I had the runners golden ticket – a London Marathon ballot place. Having deferred from 2013 I had to run in 2014 or lose my place. Injured or not – I was going to make it around that course. And make it around I did in a huge personal best time.

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The fact that I was able to complete the second half of the race stronger than the first, smiling and enjoying myself as most other runners flagged, I credit entirely to my strength training. Perhaps more than the marathon itself I think I’ll remember 2014 as the year when I fell head over heels with strength training and started to realise just what my body might be capable of.

Back in January I attended the four week Ladies Who Lift course run by Strength Ambassadors. At that course, I met two women who would come to play a big part in my strength training during the year, Sally Moss and Jess Wolny.

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Over the course of four weeks, Sally (bottom right) and Jess (to the left of Sally) taught me how to perform the main big lifts safely and with confidence. I’d previously done a lot of work with dumbbells but I’d never used a barbell to squat or bench press. I loved the course and wanted more, but was also mindful of the fact that I was marathon training and needed to focus on that.

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So following the course I signed up with Sally for some one-to-one sessions focussed entirely on building strength for marathon running. We met twice a week and did countless deadlifts, overhead squats, pull ups, lunges and hip raises all aimed at making me strong for the marathon. The sessions were intense and hard work but they did their job!

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One of the things that Sally introduced me to was the concept of throwing the barbell around – my first taste of the Olympic Lifts. This was quite daunting, definitely tougher mentally than physically to begin with. But with Sally’s encouragement I got the hang of it and really enjoyed it – there’s something pretty cool about powering the bar up over your head! Later in the year I went along to a beginners taster session that Sally held, which I loved and, thanks to Santa, am now signed up for the four week beginners course in the New Year. Can’t wait.

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After I’d recovered from the marathon I realised that I was missing the barbell work and decided to contact Jess about some weekly one to one coaching. I’d got on really well with Jess at the Ladies Who Lift course – she’s been on a similar fat loss journey to me which I always find inspiring and I thought it would be fun to try out training with her. She recently got into amazing shape for her wedding – have a look at this to see how

So for the last couple of months Jess and I have met once a week for a PT session. Mainly focussed on the barbell, but with some other strength or metabolic work added in as Jess decides. During that time I’ve set some pleasing personal bests. My bench press PB stands at 50kg, back squat at 75kg and deadlift at 100kg. Each of these has been achieved after a good few sets of ‘working’ at a slightly lower weight and Jess thinks I’ve probably got heavier weights in me. 2015 will tell!

No post about my strength training would be complete without a mention for the woman who got me started out with all this – Julia Buckley. I’ve been training with Julia for nearly two years now and during 2014 I’ve completed one round of her best selling The Fat Burn Revolution: Boost your metabolism and burn fat fast
and two rounds of her Extreme Inferno programme which have helped me to shift the fat that I gained during marathon training.

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It was Julia who first encouraged me to lift heavy, who gave me the confidence to work to failure and who has completely changed my approach to my fitness and my diet.

On January 5th Julia launches her new programme Challenge XXX, a 30 day fitness challenge which is available to members of her fitness website. And in a turn of events that I could not possibly have imagined two years ago – I am featuring in the videos for two strength based sessions for the programme!

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I was incredibly pleased when Julia asked me to go and film the sessions with her but to be honest a little bit daunted. Standing next to Julia and her amazingly sculpted body on screen concerned me a bit but I soon put that to the back of my mind and focussed on what a fantastic marker of my progress it would be. To have not just the physical strength and fitness but also the confidence to appear in a fitness video – that’s a little bit amazing for me and something that I will always be grateful to Julia for.

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Sally, Jess and Julia have each played a different part in my strength training successes this year. I’m grateful to have been able to work with these three fantastic and inspiring women and I’m really looking forward to doing so again in 2015!

What a week!

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a weekly ’round up’ post on here but last week so many exciting things happened that I wanted to share – so here goes.

untitledMonday saw the launch of the 2014 Zero Calorie Advent Calendar. It’s a project that I work on each year with my co-founders Mollie and Christine. Each day we feature a free workout, a healthy recipe and an offer from a health and fitness related business. If you’ve not had a peak yet you really should!

We’ve had a great reaction to the calendar again this year and there’s still a lot to come.

 

Monday also saw me join a new gym. I’ve not been a member of a gym for a very long time. But I’ve watched Limehouse Marina Elite take shape directly across from my flat for the last couple of years and have been itching to get inside to check out the facilities. Last weekend I got my chance when it opened its doors and wow, just wow. It’s an amazing space with fantastic kit and I just knew I needed to become a member. Capture

On Monday night I joined up and became one of the first people to use the gym. I went in on Wednesday and was the only person there! So far I’ve been in for a HiiT session on a spin bike and for an induction session that turned into a PT session on the TRX. I’m really looking forward to trying out more of the kit including the weights section and the large array of punch bags!

 

On Wednesday I also found out that my first ever article had been published somewhere other than this blog. I became a member of the Merrell pack when they featured a piece titled ‘Mud Glorious Mud’. Such an exciting moment for me.

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And then yesterday the week ended on the biggest high. As you’ll know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I’ve been training with Julia Buckley for nearly two years now. I was super excited and proud when Julia asked me to feature in a couple of videos that she was recording for her new fitness programme Challenge XXX which starts in January.

At first I was a bit apprehensive – Julia has a body to die for, I am still most definitely a work in progress and I worried that I was going to look enormous on the screen next to her. But I also realised what a huge milestone this would be for me. Having not just the fitness levels but also the confidence to do it.

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We had a fab morning and filmed two full on strength sessions. I am super sore today, but also super proud of just how far I’ve come in the last couple of years.

Only members of Julia’s website will get to see the videos in full – but here’s a few photos as a taster.

What a week!

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