Running for fun – Run or Dye giveaway

I’ve not posted about running for ages. Truth is I’m not running much at the moment at all. Since the London Marathon back in April and the resultant injury I’ve run one 10K race and some sprint sessions as part of Extreme Inferno. That’s it.

Am I missing it? A bit, although the hot weather in London at the moment is making me thankful for the fact that I don’t have any big races on the horizon. I have dropped out of Tough Mudder (more about the reasons why in another post) and while I’m focussing on fat loss and 100% committed to EI I’ve decided to keep any running I do to 5K maximum for the foreseeable future.

One thing I do miss is having an event to look forward to and prepare for. Since I can run a timed 5K for free every Saturday morning with parkrun I find it hard to justify shelling out cash to run a 5K race. But this summer I’ve found a couple of events that are a bit different which will give me something to look forward to.

Tomorrow I’m taking part in Pretty Muddy a 5K muddy obstacle course organised by the people behind Race for Life. Having done Tough Mudder and The Major Series I’m not expecting it to be too intense, it’s designed for women of all abilities to complete, but as I’m doing it with a group I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Then on September 27th I’ll be taking part in Run or Dye - a new event which claims to be the worlds most colourful 5K. I’ve not done one of these kinds of events before but it looks like it’s going to be messy! Check out the promo video and see for yourself.

Again, I’m taking part with a group of people which will make it even more enjoyable. And you can join in the fun if you want to.

My friend, PT and blogger Danielle has a discount for the race where you can get £3 off the entry fee when registering and using the code SIMPELLE. The code is valid for any of the events across the UK.

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Even better than that I have two free places worth £27.99 each for any of Run or Dye UK event to give away. If you’d like to win these for you and a friend all you need to do is leave me a comment and I’ll pick a winner at random ( i.e. I’ll put the names of everyone that’s entered into a bowl and get Mr J to pick one out).

The competition is open for two weeks and I’ll announce the winner on this page on Sunday 9th August.

Good luck!

 

 

 

GrooveCycle

A few weeks back I was invited to attend a GrooveCycle spinning class at the Reebok Sports Club in Canary Wharf. Spinning isn’t something I do on a regular basis. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that with the other exercise I do I don’t have extra time for this kind of class. However, when I do go along to a class I always enjoy it. Since the country was in the grip of Tour De France fever I thought I’d get in on the cycling thing and signed up to go along.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I doubt very much that Team Sky would have a GrooveCycle class featured on their training plan. It’s an indoor class that combines fitness and dance and involves cycling to the beat. Yes, we were on spin bikes, but a GrooveCycle class is about more than just cycling. Groove Cycle creator and Instructor, Sarah-Jane Aboboto developed GrooveCycle through her love and passion for music, dance, fitness and feeling good. As I walked into the spin studio to the sounds of SL2 ‘On a Ragga Tip’ I realised that this wasn’t going to be your regular spin class.

GrooveCycle _1!Super friendly and high energy from the moment she introduced herself, Sarah-Jane made sure that we were all set up correctly on the bikes before getting us started on the warm up. If she hadn’t have told us otherwise I would have assumed that we were straight into the main part of the class – it was intense!

Cycling to the beat of the music combined with moves to work the core and arms – I had soon worked up an impressive sweat. The music was really good – a variety of tunes, all of which had a really good beat and we were encouraged to match our leg speed to the rhythm of the music throughout the class. This isn’t a new concept – I’ve seen it done elsewhere – but the bit that was new to me was the ‘freestyle’ sections where we were encouraged to ‘groove’ – i.e. have a bit of a dance on our bikes! To begin with I felt a bit awkward and inhibited but by the end of the class I’d relaxed and enjoyed these sections.

Sarah has rhythm and its obvious that she’s a dancer. The choreography to each track was well thought out – during the course of the session we ‘raved’ (read pedal hell for leather while out of the seat) to the crazy breaks in The Prodigy’s ‘No Good’ and punched the air in time with the ‘yeah yeahs’ in Michael Jackson’s ‘Wanna be Starting Something’. It was fun.

By the end of the class I was exhausted. Personally I think a 45min class might be better than a 60 minute one. There was a section towards the end where we used hand weights for some ‘strength work’ but for me that was pretty pointless – the weights were 1.25kg each – barely worth picking up – and I’d have rather skipped this bit and had a shorter class.

Overall I really enjoyed the class – it was fun and a bit different and I worked up a real sweat. The only downside for me, apart from the weights section, was that there were metal bits on the pedals of the spin bike that kept digging into my feet – I could feel them through my trainers and it made it quite uncomfortable to pedal each time we were out of the saddle – which was a lot. I’m sure that would be different if you were wearing clip in cycling shoes, but unless you’re a keen cyclist that’s not something you’re likely to invest in. At other spin studios I’ve been to there’s been an option to hire clip in shoes and had that been available here then I would have taken up the option.

So would I recommend GrooveCycle? Yes – it was fun and I enjoyed it. Classes are £10 each which is very reasonable for London and the Reebok Sports Club has great changing facilities and free lockers. GrooveCycle classes are held at 6:25pm on a Thursday and 11:30am on a Saturday. If you’re already a member of the Reebok Sports Club then you can attend classes as part of your membership and everyone is entitled to a free first class. What’s not to like?

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Talking burpees, ice baths and goals with Dame Kelly Holmes

Last week I got the opportunity to meet and have a chat with Dame Kelly Holmes, double Olympic gold medalist, as you do._2018534

I had been invited to an event at the GSK Human Performance Lab in Brentford by MaxiNutrition. It was an opportunity to find out more about the impressive facility, the research done there and how that is translated into the development of MaxiNutrition products. I may not have mentioned this before but I have a background in biochemistry so I jumped at the opportunity to get a bit ‘science geeky’ for the night. Obviously the chance to meet a middle distance Olympian was a bit of a draw as well!

I’ve got to admit to being a bit nervous about the whole ‘interview with an  Olympian’ thing. I’ve never really met anyone ‘properly’ famous and was a bit concerned that I’d get tongue-tied or ask really dull questions or that she’d wonder what on earth little old me was doing there talking to her. I needn’t have been concerned. From the moment we met she was relaxed and chatty and I felt totally at ease.

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The first thing I noticed from a distance was how tiny she is. Really small. Although she’s also got guns of steel and definitely a look of someone that I wouldn’t mess with. Up close it was clear that she is still in amazing shape, 10 years on from her Olympic triumphs in Athens.

 

I asked her about what her training regime had been like as an international athlete and particularly how much strength training had played a part. I was quite surprised when she told me that an awful lot of her training was strength related. On reflection I probably shouldn’t have been. To run 800 or 1500 meters quickly, you’re going to need strength and speed and my own experience over the last year or so should have told me that this would play a major part in a middle distance runners training.

With up to three sessions a day Dame Kelly’s training included sprint sessions, fartleks, weights work and good old bodyweight HIIT, including burpees. I may have to change my opinion on my least favourite move – if it’s good enough for an Olympian then it’s got to me good enough for me!

She told me that she thought more runners should pay attention to strength training to help them improve. Too many people in her opinion start running and do nothing else to support their training and then get frustrated when they stop making progress or start getting injured. Strength training in her opinion complements running well and it’s definitely something she’d encourage runners to do.

We moved on to talk about recovery. Training up to three times a day is pretty hard-core and it’s going to take its toll on the body so maximising recovery would surely be important? Dame Kelly let me into a little secret – contrast bathing. I’d asked her whether she thought that ice baths worked and she said that she definitely did but that the most effective type of recovery in her opinion was switching between cold and warm. So 10 minutes in a ice bath – a dustbin full of it in her case, followed by a warm shower or brisk massage of the muscles and then back into the ice. I’ve always been a bit sceptical about whether or not ice baths actually make a difference. I’ve used them during marathon training and they’re not a lot of fun but now that I know they have the Dame Kelly seal of approval I’ll try to embrace them a little more.

I asked Dame Kelly about how she trains these days and how she keeps herself motivated. She told me that to mark her 10 year anniversary she decided to set herself a challenge to take part in one duathlon every month. Cycling, she said, was quite difficult for her, it uses totally different muscles to running and she’d had to train really hard to become proficient in it. To keep herself motivated she sets herself small achievable goals, like taking 20 seconds off her bike time. She told me that she gets a real buzz out of competing in the events, from watching the elites whizzing past to staying around to support the tail enders come home.

My time with Dame Kelly was soon at an end and I asked if we could have a photo taken, expecting to pose for a regular shot. As quick as you like she was up out of her chair saying “come on lets pose doing squats”. And before I knew it there I was with a barbell on my back, squatting next to a double Olympic champion. Excuse my poor form, I was a bit overexcited!

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Project Barbados – Week Six – we’re here

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So my six week pre holiday fat loss project is over and I’m typing this from the veranda of our hotel room in Barbados. We’ve been here since Saturday afternoon and it’s beautiful – the view from our room really isn’t that different to the photo above. Stunning.

In reality my fat loss project doesn’t finish here – I’m only 3 weeks into Extreme Inferno and there’s another 9 weeks to go, including this one. I’ve packed plenty of workout clothes and a resistance band and have already done two workouts. It’s really humid here so I really worked up a sweat but luckily the pool is just steps away from our room –  the perfect way to cool down.

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I’ll update with my progress through the rest of EI at the end of each phase. There’s already progress for sure – I’m lifting heavier weights, achieving more reps and I feel stronger. I’ll do some weights and measures next week – although the after effects of a week’s holiday might mean that it’s a few more weeks until there’s any significant change there.

It’s going to be pretty easy to eat well here – loads of fresh fruit, meat and fish on offer. On the other hand alcohol is also in plentiful supply –  champagne at breakfast and lots of lovely cocktails and the local beer is also pretty nice. I’m going to relax and enjoy myself for the week – I’m on holiday after all!

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Project Barbados – Week Five

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This time next week we’ll be on the plane to Barbados. I am very excited indeed. The fifth week of my pre holiday fat loss project has gone very well and I’m feeling a lot more confident about the idea of stepping onto the beach in my swimwear than I was a couple of weeks ago.

This week has also been the second week of Extreme Inferno – Julia Buckley’s fat loss and fitness programme. After an exciting first week of getting to grips with new workouts and meeting my virtual training buddies the second week has been all about digging in and getting the absolute most out of the workouts. In some ways the second week has been more challenging than the first – I’ve upped my weights for pretty much all the moves where we’re using them. Because I now have a benchmark for what I’m able to do, I’m now challenging myself to achieve more in every session. It’s been sweaty and tough but a lot of fun and my body has definitely noticed!

20140704_071741Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while will know that I’ve been doing pull up and chin up training on and off over the last year or so. My progress with these has at times felt frustratingly slow, partly because I’ve been inconsistent and partly because they’re bloody difficult. I was incredibly pleased this week when I managed to do not one, but two chin ups with the medium resistance band. Massive progress from where I was just a few weeks ago and it just shows that persistence and practice will pay off in the end. You can see how pleased I was from the big cheesy grin in the photo.

 

10447862_10152088179216012_6166793378333910656_nThis week I also discovered that our balcony is an amazing place for a cool down and post workout stretch. London has been bathed in sunshine, not so much so today, but the early mornings here this week have been beautiful and I’ve enjoyed lying on my mat with the sun on my face while I stretch out my legs. Bliss!

My thoughts have now turned to how I’m going to keep up with EI while we’re away. The hotel has a gym but I don’t know how well it will be equipped but as long as it has a few free weights and a gym ball I’ll be fine.

We’ve got free Wifi in our room so I should be able to log on and run Julia’s videos just fine from there. So absolutely no excuses not to keep up with the programme while I’m away. Not that I need any really. I’m loving it, and can feel the difference in my body after only two weeks so I’m actually looking forward to carrying on while we’re on holiday.

I took my measurements this week and am very pleased to say that I’ve shrunk. My tummy and hip measurements have come down by a little bit which makes me very happy indeed. The hard work is paying off. There’s more to come but it’s so much easier to stay motivated when you can see results.

Bring on the final week!

 

 

What this lady lifts


I’ve been strength training for over 18 months now and the large majority of it has been done in my own home. I loved the Ladies Who Lift sessions that I had in the gym with Sally Moss back at the start of 2014 and the strength training that I did as part of my marathon training, but overall I love the convenience of working out in my lounge even more.

In the time that I’ve been using weights I’ve built up a bit of a collection of equipment and I’ve often been asked for advice on what kind of weights someone looking to start out would be best to get. So here in one handy post is a run down of what this lady lifts!

YorkI started out with this York 20kg Cast Iron Dumbbell Set. These are a great beginner set which allow you to take on and off the plates to vary the weight you are lifting for different moves. For example, most people will be able to lift far more weight in a move like bent over row than they will in a bicep curl.

Once you’ve got a set of spinlock bars you can also then buy additional weight plates to add onto it if you need. I’ve got some extra York Standard Cast Iron Disc X4 plates too.

BarbellSoon things between me and weights were getting serious and I found I could lift quite a lot in some of the big moves. It was time to invest in a barbell. I went for this 6ft York Spinlock Bar. All the weight plates that I already owned fitted onto it and it meant that I could set up the bar with heavy weights for moves like bent over row and Romanian deadlifts and leave the dumbbells set up with lighter weights for different moves. Less faffing around, quicker workout, happy Becca.

I should point out (in the interests of health and safety) that I don’t do back squats with this bar at home. For that I’d need a squat stand or rack and preferably someone to spot me to. There’s not enough room in our flat for that type of equipment and I generally workout in the morning when my OH doesn’t have time to be standing around spotting me!

My next set of weights were a bit of a splurge, a present to myself for the progress that I’d made. They’re not by any means an essential piece of kit but for the ultimate in convenience and space saving they are fantastic.

Bodymax Selectabell Dumbbells are basically 12 sets of dumbbells in one. Each one of these can be anything from 5kg to 32.5kg. To change the weight you simply rotate a dial and hey presto – more or less weight added in seconds. Very clever engineering and no more faffing about with changing plates – the ultimate in convenience. I love these very much indeed.

 

In fact the only things that aren’t totally perfect about these is the fact that the weight goes up in 2.5kg increments. That’s OK for moves that involve large muscle groups, say squats or lunges. But for upper body moves 2.5kg is quite a jump and so I find that I have to have a pair of spinlock dumbbells set up for the intermediate weights as well.

tuff_tech_bellsThere is one other small downside to the selectabells too, and that’s their shape. There are a couple of moves that I do where I need dumbbells with a flat edge, or I need to swing the dumbbell around like a kettlebell. I’m sure that the plates wouldn’t ever come off the selectabells but I never feel totally confident about trying out that theory. And that’s where the latest addition to my collection comes in.

These little beauties from a company called Savage Strength are perfect for swinging around with confidence. They are the only fixed weight dumbbells that I have and the only rubber ones too but I really like them. They are  great for one of my favourite moves, the renegade row.

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You start in a plank position with weights in both hands and the raise one of the weights while keeping your core tight and hips level. Then you return the weight to the floor. As you can see it’s not the sort of move where you want round dumbbells wobbling around underneath you so the hexagonal Tufftech weights are perfect. And I generally wear a top when I’m doing mine. I know I’m in my own home but I just generally feel a bit more comfortable that way!

squat_press_stand_Looking around the rest of the Savage Strength site has me drooling. While I might never have enough space to fit in an entire Power Rack, I’d like to think that one day I might be able to fit in a squat stand so that I could work on back squats and bench press safely in my own home.

 

But for now I’m doing fine with my trusty dumbbells and barbell. I’ve managed to make significant strength gains and lose fat without ever having to step foot into a gym. Even with the expense of the swanky adjustable set I’ve still spent less in 18 months than I would have done on gym membership in Central London and its mine to keep forever!

Disclosure – the people at Savage Strength were kind enough to send me the Tufftech weights for free. However, all opinions are my own.

 

 

Project Barbados – Week Four!

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Time is flying. Just two weeks until we’ll be sunning ourselves in Barbados. I suddenly feel a bit panicked that I’ve got loads of stuff to organise and not much time left to do it in!

This week saw the start of Extreme Inferno – the new fat loss fitness programme from Julia Buckley that I piloted last year. I have really been looking forward to getting stuck into this. I’ve been following Julia’s workouts for some time but there’s nothing like being part of a structured programme with lots of other people for getting me focussed. This first week has seen us get off to a great start. There’s been an amazing buzz among everyone taking part – Julia is administering everything through a secret Facebook group – and it’s fantastic to have so many ‘virtual’ training buddies.

The really great thing from my perspective is that Julia has developed some new sessions. It means that even though I took part in the pilot it still feels really fresh and like a brand new challenge. This week has seen me do two weights sessions, a bodyweight circuit, two HIIT sessions and an ‘active’ rest session focussed on mobility.

This video mash up gives you an idea of what I’ve been up to. Not all of the exercises are from this first phase but it will give you an idea of what my week has involved.

Despite having done some of the sessions before it’s been a real challenge and there have been satisfying aches in various parts of my body that let me know that it’s working. Next week I’m going to focus on upping my weights for some of the sessions and making sure that I do the most advanced version of the move that I can in the other sessions. I know that the best results will come when I really challenge myself to stay outside my comfort zone – however tough that might feel.

Even after just one week I can feel the difference in my body. Muscles feel tighter and my stomach is definitely flatter – it helps that I’ve kept my diet quite tight for most of the week. Alcohol is the only thing that’s really tripped me up – a couple of nights out have meant my wine intake has been higher than ideal so that’s the thing for me to focus on over the next couple of weeks.

And with just two weeks to go until we fly my mind has turned to packing and making sure that I have everything I need. I was really excited to find that the Sweaty Betty summer sale started this week and meant that I’ve been able to bag some of their fab summery pieces at nearly half price!

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I love the turquoise and purple colours on these pieces which will mix and match nicely. I also like the fact that they’re all designed for the beach so I can go for a run along the sand and then jump straight into the sea to cool down!

Just two weeks to go – it’s starting to feel quite exciting!