Sunny parkrun and I’m long running again!

This weekend was nice and chilled. Sometimes you need a weekend that you don’t do much and catch up on life, you know?

I headed to Netley Abbey parkrun on Saturday morning. I got there early, as usual, to help set-up the course. The chapel is being renovated for the next 18 months so the course has to change due to where the construction is going on. This meant a bit of confusion and rushing around as it wasn’t our standard set-up. Both the start and the finish were in different places and though the general route remains largely the same (still have that hill we have to do three times) it is a bit different and meant that we had to put our 1k markets, cones and arrows in different places.

IMG_3521Photo credit: Ken Grist

I’d brought Alfie with me as I knew my friend Mike wasn’t going to be running and said he was happy to look after him while I ran. I always feel mean if I leave Alfie behind when the weather is so lovely. So it was nice to bring him and give him chance to race around when we set up.

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It was quite warm so the run wasn’t that easy and there seemed to be a lot more exposure to the sun on the new route.

Netley July parkrun 3Photo credit: Ken Grist

I listened to some music for once, which I haven’t done in ages but as I had my Aftershokz headphones I thought it might be a nice change. They still let me hear my surroundings so I don’t feel as ‘locked in’ when I run.

Netley July parkrunPhoto credit: Ken Grist

Each lap I waved to Mike and Alfie. Alfie at first didn’t really notice me and then when he saw me his little face just looked like “where are you going? Come back!”.

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My time was 23:10 which I was chuffed with as I did put some effort in (it was about a minute quicker than I’ve been doing recently). I think the course is a bit easier than it used to be though as it has less turns but I’ll take it!

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Then I headed back to Mike and Alfie to cheer some of the others in. The weather was just beautiful but I was a sweaty mess!

There were some great milestones achieved this parkrun: a few 50s and a 250th! And course that meant cake…

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Very tasty! Then we headed to the cafe for a drink. I had an ice cold sparkling water instead of my peppermint tea as it was far too warm and I treated Alfie to some dog ice cream!

IMG_3503Whoops, upside down sorry!

Basically it’s frozen fruit puree with a few other relatively normal and human-safe ingredients so we all tried a bit. Not especially creamy but nice enough. Alfie certainly liked it (though I had to ‘mush’ it up for him as he couldn’t be pigged to spend his time licking away it).

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Then it was back home to have some breakfast, shower and then head to my parent’s house. They’re currently on holiday and had asked me to check in on the house and water their plants. As I was also meeting up with some friends that evening who lived in the area I planned on spending the night as well. It also meant my run the next day could be along my favourite coastal route.

I took Alfie down the beach for a nice long walk and it was just bliss.

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I bought an ice cold Fanta Zero from the ice cream van and was in heaven. The walk took about an hour and I listened to a podcast and might have played some Pokémon Go Winking smile Though this absolutely rinsed my battery.

I went to my friend’s house a bit later on and we ordered in some takeaway and had a very nice chilled evening watching the old classic, Wall Street. It was a lovely relaxed evening.

The next morning I got up and headed out for my first longish run in a while. I planned to do eight miles as I’d run five miles previously and if I’m planning on doing Chester marathon in the beginning of October I need to be increasing my mileage. I didn’t want too big a jump but I felt eight would be good.

Though it was overcast the run was still hot. I felt fairly comfortable though and the miles ticked by. I briefly thought about a tap that I knew was at the beach and would be at mile 6ish. I probably could have survived the run without water but I couldn’t get it out of my head. When I got there I couldn’t see anywhere that it said drinking water (nor that it wasn’t drinking water). But I knew people used the water for their beach huts – though I wasn’t sure if they boiled it first or not. In the end the desire for water was too much and I decided to risk it. It was nice and cold. Finger’s crossed I’m OK!

Somehow I’d gotten my route wrong (how do I always manage this?) and ended up going passed 8 miles. I decided to continue on to 8.5 miles then walk home. But then when I reached 8.5 I still felt good so pushed to 9. Then I stopped and walked home, which was about less than half a mile. I felt good though definitely like I’d run 9 miles, of which I haven’t done in a good few weeks!

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It was so nice to have a run that felt good. My hamstring is pretty much back to normal. After seeing my physio a couple of times and, as I’ve said before, he didn’t think it was my actual hamstring that was the issue. He worked on loosening my back (which was probably tweaking my sciatic nerve) and realigned my pelvis. So things have been a lot better. I’m back to squatting and deadlifting at the gym again (though not stiff-legged deadlifts just yet).

The rest of the day was life admin and chores. I also had a wonderful nap in the afternoon, perfect Sunday chill time. So basically my weekend was quiet but lovely Smile

Did you go to parkrun this weekend?

Would you drink from a suspect tap if you were thirsty?

BTN Fitness Retreat–part 2

In part 1 I had just finished recapping the second and, in my opinion, physically hardest day. The run and insane obstacle course circuits almost ruined me (in a good way I think!). It meant that the next day I wasn’t feeling as fresh as I’d hoped for the actual obstacle course.

But I was going to give it my best shot. We’d planned to do it just before lunch but after popular demand it was brought forward to 7am before breakfast when it was cooler. We were organised into waves so the course wouldn’t get crowded. I kind of wish I’d have gotten to go in a wave with the boys (it was about 3-4 people per wave) but ended up in a bigger group with all the girls. This annoyed me a tiny bit (though to be fair I could have easily spoken up and voiced my opinion) because it meant a fair bit of waiting around for the obstacles as there were usually only one or two female-specific weights/versions of the obstacle. It also had the feel of “we’re just going to survive” rather than being competitive and really going for it, which I wanted to do. Also being in a group of six girls meant I couldn’t go as fast as I wanted. OK I’m not saying I was significantly held back or that the other girls were slow but I know I could have gone faster if I hadn’t had to have waited – this is purely my competitive personality coming out now.

Anyway, it is what it is. The obstacle course was ridiculously fun. A couple of things I didn’t do (and had to do 50 burpees instead – yes 50) like the hang tough purely because of where they came in the course. You were already knackered and your hands almost destroyed by ropes and holding heavy things. I didn’t fancy falling great heights because I couldn’t maintain a good grip.

I finished the course in about one hour and ten minutes and was happy with that (if not slightly disgruntled at having to wait for different obstacles…OK I’ll stop moaning about that now!).

Obstacle Course victory

We survived and felt amazing at the end. And incredibly I only sustained one injury.

Shot put injury

I managed to drop a 12kg stone shot put on myself. I thought I had it balanced ready to throw over the net (you had to throw it over eight times each side) but it rolled back off my hand and onto my lower back. Ouch.

After breakfast we then had a nutrition session with Ben Coomber himself. He gave a very thorough and good talk about general health (including the mind, sleep and recovery) and a detailed chat about nutrition. It was very informative!

Ben Coomber

At this point I was fully shattered and had to keep my eyes open. I didn’t want to fall asleep though obviously because a) it would be rude and b) I wanted to hear the talk!

Ben Coomber 2

Ben was really knowledgeable and answered all our questions. He has a very down to earth approach with a “take no rubbish” attitude. One of his points I remember was “if you don’t succeed at your goals, they’re not your goals”. Harsh I suppose but realistic. Don’t aim for something that you don’t fully believe in or want to commit to. Success isn’t handed to you; it’s hard work, sacrifice and realism. He also stressed that you should have your own goals rather than see something on social media and think that’s what you should be wanting/looking like/eating like/etc.

I really respect Ben, on many levels, but mainly because you know he’s not trying to simply sell you an idea. He was a great guy as well in general, exactly like his is on the podcast. Such a cool guy to spend time with.

After the nutrition chat, the majority of us headed off to a water park for a bit of fun.

Aqualand, Marbella

I actually didn’t realise how scared I can get on water slides. I don’t think I’ve been to a water park in a good while and some of the rides really frightened me. There was one ridiculously tall one and I freaked out. We had to walk up all these rickety stairs and I wasn’t sure I could do it. It’s different to a rollercoaster where you’re strapped in and have no control over the situation. With a water slide you literally have to push yourself off and then it’s free falling (well, going down a slide). Ben was such a nice guy and waited for the others to go and stayed with me to encourage me. I really appreciated it as no one else seemed to struggle!

The rest of our time at the retreat was doing some really good workshops like learning some boxing.

BTN workshop - boxingI didn’t realise you had to wrap your hands before putting them in gloves!

Which I found out I’m rubbish at! There’s a lot of footwork and coordination involved which really isn’t my strong point. At the end we did get one minute in the ring to fully pummel Simon (who’s a very adept kick-boxer) to pieces (well, attempt to) which was good fun. Especially watching one of the guys who is a trained boxer!BTN workshop - boxing 2

Simon and him had a proper fight rather than let him beat him to a pulp. It was amazing to watch them move!

The next day we had the morning free and everyone was planning what they were going to do as we had free reign of the gym. The girls had decided they were going to do a “Victoria’s Secret workout” (aka legs, bums and tums). This is really not my thing. No offence to anyone who loves that sort of thing but it’s just not something I’d be keen to do. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good glute workout but it’s rather more running-specific. Anyway I found out that some of the guys were going down to the obstacle course to do some circuits on the combat zone and they invited me to join them. Now THIS was far more my thing.

Combat zone - Hang tough

So the next morning at 7am we headed down to the combat zone and basically just did whatever we fancied using the different obstacles. I had fun on the hang tough section (see above photo), the sledge hammer…

Combat zone - Sledge hammer

Lifting tyres…

Combat zone - tires

This looks a lot smaller than it was in reality! Though there were actually three sizes, I could only just about manage the medium size – the large one I had no chance.

Combat zone 2

This was pulling a rope down that was attached to a set of weights (the tyre and wood stacked in the photo). Basically we spent a good hour down there doing crazy things that didn’t feel like exercise. This has really opened my eyes to trying out an obstacle race at some point. It was really good fun and felt like proper functional strength training – actually lifting and moving things for a purpose.

Combat zone 3

The rest of the day we did some more workshops looking at pull ups, hypertrophy (which is essentially using lighter weights for more reps in order to big builder muscles – bodybuilding basically. But the exercises are usually accessory exercises rather than big compound moves like squats and deadlifts).

The food in the retreat was really good. We had a buffet style breakfast (everything from porridge and cereal to eggs, ham and cheese – and lots of gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian options as there was a vegan and people with certain intolerances). For lunch and dinner we had a good sized carb and protein balanced meal.

BTN Retreat mealsL-R: sausages in a lentil casserole-style dish; chicken with chickpeas and couscous

There was always lots of salad to add to your meal too. The funny thing was that most people left a good portion of their carbs. For example, there was a pasta meal one night and most people left the majority of the pasta and loaded up on salad instead. The meals were big enough that this didn’t mean you were hungry but it was an interesting trend. When I went to the running camp earlier in the year, all the runners loaded up on garlic bread, potatoes AND rice. They were like “give me ALL the carbs”. Whereas here it was a completely different story. It was like carbs were the devil.

BTN retreat group 2The kitchen and dining area

I will say that the one thing that did make me a little sad was when we went out for dinner on the last night (and then out clubbing – urghhh I did not enjoy this – a post for another time). You know I like my food and will often have something rather extravagant or ‘naughty’ over the weekend while eating generally quite healthily during the week (#balance Winking smile).

So I was looking forward to splashing out on something non-healthy and possibly pudding depending on what others were thinking. We had worked hard after all! But we got there and people started making comments like “I bet that has cream in it” or “’I might just order two small starters rather than a main”. I felt quite inhibited by the vibe of everyone else. I had spotted ribs on the menu and after hearing everyone else I immediately shrunk away from them and chose a salad instead. Looking back I’m annoyed at myself for not allowing myself to be “Anna the girl who enjoys her food” and instead just going with the crowd. The salad was good but I felt a bit deflated. And of course no one had pudding. God forbid they allow those macros into their bodies…

Anyway, aside from this minor blip the whole week was fantastic. I learnt so so much and realised I’m stronger than I think. My body can do amazing things when it wants to! It made me grateful for all the time I’d spent in the gym and I could kind of show off (to myself) what I could do. I’d definitely look to do something similar again. Huge thanks to the Body Type Nutrition guys and to Ben Coomber!

Have you ever done an obstacle course?

What’s your ideal workout?

What kind of fitness retreat, if you were to ever go on one, would you like to do?

Pomphrey parkrun and my favourite foods

One of my favourite things about parkrun is the fact that you can do it all over the UK (and many other countries!). Two of my friends, Kate and Jamie, have recently taken up running and came down from Bristol and did their first parkrun with me. Nothing makes me more proud and happy than when my ‘non-running’ friends get excited about running.

So it made sense for me to go to Bristol to do their local parkrun, Pomphrey Hill, with them. It would be their second and the first time I’d ever done this particular one. I’ve done Little Stoke which would have been super local for them (being a five minute drive away) but unfortunately we all know what happened to that parkrun Sad smile 

Anyway I drove up after work on Friday and Jamie cooked us all dinner. Jamie and me have very similar tastes and appetites, so I felt very happy to let him decide what we were having!

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Amazingly he had slow-cooked three turkey legs with a BBQ glaze for us each and also a beef brisket…because, why not? They also had lots of dips and salads (bless them, they know carbs aren’t big in my world!). It was delicious needless to say. Afterwards we had a slice of red velvet cake (carbs I can easily get on board with) and watched some telly. A perfect Friday night!
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In the morning we got up and got ready to pick up another of Kate’s friends and headed to Pomphrey Hill, which was about 20 minutes away.

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We didn’t really know much about the course other than it didn’t have a huge mammoth hill that the other Bristolian parkrun, Ashton Court, had. But we overheard a few people discussing the route and found that it definitely wasn’t flat.

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We did some warm-ups and then heard the first timer briefing. It was so friendly (isn’t it always?) and the lady who instructed us was very charismatic and funny. She then asked for any tourists to line up for a photo.

Pomphrey parkrunPhoto credit: Adrian Grimshaw

I kind of wish I’d worn my Netley parkrun top now but hey ho. I saw someone wearing a Little Stock one and it made me a little sad for that lost parkrun. The cafe near the start was cooking bacon and the smell was amazing but not really welcome considering none of us had had breakfast nor had money for post-parkrun food!

We then headed to line-up. It’s funny because since Kate and Jamie have started parkrun they highlighted something to me that I hadn’t really noticed before. Us runners just love being self-congratulatory. We clap for anything and everything: “any first timers?” *clap*, “well done to the volunteers” *clap*, “any 50ths?” *clap*, “any tourists?” *clap*. Though they agree that it’s a nice thing and adds to the friendliness and all-inclusivity.

IMG_3290Jamie and Kate have done so well to lose so much weight – check them out in this old post for a comparison!

The run director then gave us a quick briefing where we heard a bit more about the course. He left a pause after he said “and then you go…” and everyone shouted “up Pomphrey Hill!”. Uh oh. If there’s a motto for the hill you know it’s going to be bad.

It was three laps which included a small hill/incline going past the finish and then relatively flat swinging around the field and near a lake and then “up Pomphrey Hill!” which was horrifically steep but thankfully wasn’t that long. It did require a battle of wills though to not walk it. Then happily it was flat and then a lovely downhill round the corner back towards the finish again for another two laps.

IMG_3321Photo credit: Adrian Grimshaw

I found it really tough, I won’t lie. The hill was knackering but the down hills were nice. It was just hard to keep a good pace going seen as how I’m so unfit (in running terms). But it was an enjoyable run with lots of smiling marshals cheering us on and lots of people (338!) running to keep you motivated.

I felt stronger as the run progressed and didn’t walk the hill which I was pleased about. Towards the last lap I kept overtaking and being overtaken by one guy. At the end I managed to burn away from him and get to the finish just before him. I turned around and jokingly said “you almost had me!” and he completely blanked me. Like he heard what I said and chose to ignore me. It was just a bit of gentle banter – I was going to say that given 10 more seconds he’d have overtaken me again but clearly he didn’t want to talk. I chatted away to someone else instead.

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I finished in 24:01, 4th female and first in my age category. Damn those two seconds! But I was really pleased with that as I’ve been sitting around 24 minutes for most of my parkruns lately.

I know how tough I found that parkrun so I wasn’t sure how Kate and Jamie would find it as they don’t often run hills. Lee on Solent parkrun was dead flat so I hoped they were OK. Kate’s sister had come down with their parent’s 14 week old puppy to watch and cheer so I headed over to her to cheer Jamie and Kate in.

They both finished almost two minutes faster than Lee on Solent! Clearly their running is coming on in leaps and bounds. They found it very tough though (as did I) and we were all pretty shattered afterwards.

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But we were all really pleased with ourselves. Jamie and Kate were over the moon. It made my day to see them so happy!

IMG_3300Lola, the puppy, enjoying the attention

Kate’s friend, Catherine, finished just after them and, it being her first parkrun and 5k, did a stellar job. What a parkrun to do as your first though!

We then headed back to shower. Now I will fully admit that I am a Pokémon Go convert. I’m a nerd at heart and used to play Pokémon (both on the Gameboy and as the collectable cards) when I was younger so this is right up my street. Thankfully Jamie is also into it so the two of us were like little kids playing on our phones while Kate looked at us in exasperation. Happily we went on a walk with their adorable pug, Doug, to a Starbucks to grab a coffee and Jamie and me got our Pokémon fix. We could see a lot of other people walking around doing exactly the same, both old and young which was quite amusing. I think it’s a great idea to get people out and about (though the less said about idiots taking ridiculous risks the better…).

For lunch we’d planned on going to Spitfire again but the centre of Bristol was quite busy with a harbour festival going on so we went somewhere else instead. Jamie had found a pub, called Upton Inn, that had an “add on” smokehouse (Voodoo Q). We were intrigued.

IMG_3303The smokers

It was just a regular pub but out at the back there was a little sheltered outhouse thing being manned by a single guy. There was a separate menu for the BBQ food. We questioned him a bit about the different foods and he definitely knew his stuff (says the BBQ connoisseur, ha!). On the menu it said a rack of ribs was to share between two people. Jamie and me were sceptical – don’t they know of our rib eating prowess? Was it really a sharing thing? But after informing us that 1.2kg of ribs was probably a bit much for one person we were inclined to agree!

In the end we ordered one and half racks of ribs, beef brisket and 10 chicken wings. J also ordered some bean and chilli sides for him and Kate. The guy was amazing. He’d hosted a chilli party the night before and had a few “leftovers” that he said he’d chuck in as well for our eating pleasure. Amazing!

Upton Inn Voodoo Q

Everything was indeed amazing. The ribs were insanely huge and had a really smoky taste which was nice. The chicken wings were really good – best I’ve had in a good while. I didn’t manage any of the brisket (choose your battles). He’d given us four different home-made sauces as well to try. As we munched along, the guy then brought out some pork loin and sausages for us to try! It was never ending I tell you. But it was so good. The guy (I wish I’d gotten his name) wants to go into competing and just really loves people enjoying his food and that really shone with his service. If you’re in Bristol it’s definitely worth a visit!

On the way back to Kate and J’s (all feeling very full but content) we stopped by Kate’s parent’s house to pick up Lola, the puppy. Such a adorable dog.

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Really cute.

Then it was time for me to head back to Southampton. Needless to say a brilliant weekend. I know my BBQ food obsession has got a bit out of control lately but I just love it!

What’s your latest food obsession?

Do you enjoy BBQ food?

What attracts you to different parkruns? The course? The locality? The people who’ll be there?

Body Type Nutrition Fitness Retreat–part 1

So a couple of weeks ago I went on a Body Type Nutrition fitness retreat in Marbella in Spain. BTN is run by a very cool guy called Ben Coomber. He’s basically a coach (and BTN is his online coaching company) and he also owns a few different health-related businesses. I first heard about him through his podcast Ben Coomber Radio which if you’re into keeping fit and healthy, both mind and body, it’s worth checking out as it’s very good. Anyway, I signed myself up to the retreat as soon as I heard about it as I knew it was exactly the kind of thing I’d enjoy doing: learning about strength training, techniques in the gym, nutrition, mobility and also there was an epic obstacle course (the biggest in Europe) which we would get to have a go on.

The retreat was based at a gym/training facility which also had a set of cabins, a swimming pool, a kitchen (where we had three meals a day cooked for us) onsite and the obstacle course nearby.Mikes Gym, Marbella

The gym was insane. It pretty much had everything. It was very CrossFit focused but also had a boxing ring with boxing equipment, machines squat racks and weights, kettle bells, Bosu balls, resistance bands, monkey bars…just everything really. The guy that owned the gym (Mike) is a 51 unbelievably fit legend. He runs a CrossFit class most mornings at the gym (which by the way is just outside our cabins so we heard it going on every morning – it was like our alarm), has done triathlons and cycling events and is basically a machine. Originally from the UK, he’s been in Marbella for 11 years and has never looked back. But it was Ben that was running the show and planning the week (we were all grateful for this as Mike was literally the drill sergeant from hell).

Along with Ben, there was Simon Herbert and Carl Greenslade, two coaches who work for Ben who took us through several workshops and gave us great advice through the week.

BTN RetreatFrom L-R: Ben, Simon, me and Carl

There were, in total, about 16 of us. So a nice small group of like-minded people. Some people were personal trainers hoping to further their knowledge and coaching abilities and some were like me, just interested in fitness. It was not a beginner’s retreat though – everyone was fit, strong and knew their stuff. I was the only runner though.

BTN Retreat groupEveryone together – Mike is the guy without a top on

Unfortunately when I arrived in Spain around midday I was still feeling so very hung-over from the wedding the night before (having had only 3 hours sleep). I felt very unwell and actually really cold despite the 30 degrees C temperature. After meeting everyone I pretty much just went to bed to, for want of a better description, sweat it out. I missed dinner (you know I’m not well when I miss meal times) but honestly I felt so ill I just had to sleep. I was so worried I wouldn’t be up for anything the next day so prayed a good long sleep would help. Thankfully when I woke up the next morning I felt almost fully better.

Obstacle course - Mikes Gym

For our first proper day we checked out the obstacle course. The obstacle course is split into two sections: an endurance section and a combat section. The endurance section included things like climbing over walls, swinging across ditches, balancing across beams, running with a heavy sandbag on your shoulder across floats on water…etc. The combat section was basically a strength based area – one huge circuits set. You had to go from exercise to exercise completing the necessary reps. The weights were different for females and males and there was a ‘step down’ weight if you couldn’t do the proper one – but this was more reps.

Mikes Gym Obstacle Course

There were sit-ups, pull-ups, pushing and pulling weights, battle ropes, climbing a rope, sledge hammering a tyre, flipping a huge tyre, pressing logs, tossing atlas stones over your shoulder, bench pressing logs, monkey bars… Honestly it went on and on. So we got to go through each of the combat zone exercises to get familiar with them. We were going to do the obstacle course for real on Wednesday so we could practice before then.

Combat zone - Battle ropesHaving a battle rope battle against Simon (surprisingly I won lasting the longest as he started way to fast and aggressively, burning out quickly)

I loved doing all of this. It was just so much fun doing really random strength-based exercises that I’d never done before. Getting dusty and sweaty in the sun chucking heavy things around didn’t feel like exercise to me.

Combat zone 5

Later on we also did a mobility workshop which was really interesting. Simon and Carl showed us some great ways to warm up before lifting weights in the gym. Normally I just go on a machine for 4-5 minutes and then start lifting weights, but they showed us some great simple exercises to get us limbered up and ready in a more functional and specific way.

BTN Workshop 3

We did most of the workshops in the studio and then could practise the different techniques. Both Carl and Simon were great teachers and clearly knew their stuff. You never felt stupid either for asking what seemed like basic questions. They were very ‘hands on’ as well – helping us get into the correct positions and guiding each of to good technique.

Mobility workshop

After this we did a shoulder press session. This was so good as it’s an exercise I often do in the gym so to have some eyeball my technique and give me specific cues was fantastic! I also found I could lift heavier than I had kept to at the gym as I felt safer having spotters around me. But it’s given me confidence now to be more bold in the gym.

That evening Mike mentioned that he was going to be doing a run in the morning if anyone fancied joining. Well obviously my ears pricked up! A few of us were keen so we were told to meet at 7am to be ready to go in the morning. The next morning at 7am he took the small group of us from Ben’s group and Mike’s usual group down to the obstacle course for a ‘warm-up’.

Now when Mike said warm-up what he really meant was a 45 minute circuit session of the combat zone. We paired off and had to do each exercise for about 2 minutes before moving on. I paired with the only other woman, who was a regular of Mike’s classes. She was a MACHINE. I like to think I held my own – farmer walking two 30kg weights up through a slalom of hanging tyres (three times!), climbing up a rope to the top, pulling down weights on a pull system etc. I felt very comfortable pushing myself – a competitive element had also sparked off in me and a fear that Mike and his gang would think we were weak. My hands were destroyed though by the end as so many of the exercises required pulling or holding heavy things that tore into your skin.

Combat zone - Farmers walkFarmer’s walk holding heavy weighted wood – from a different day

Then we packed into a car and headed to some Spanish hills for the “10-12k run”. I say run but really it was run to every steep hill Mike could find, then struggle up it and carry on running. Luckily the sun wasn’t quite out to burn down on us. I had stupidly left my water in the car, not thinking I would need it as it wasn’t that hot yet. So I was very much dependent on one of Mike’s crew who had a Camelbak. He was lovely though and kept me nicely hydrated. The run though was INSANE.

Epic run through Spanish hills

Two guys from our group really struggled and we had to keep waiting for them. They hadn’t run more than 5k in a few years and the elevation gains were relentless. I relatively comfortable (well, I was dying but in a manageable way) as this was my territory being a runner. Mike was unforgiving and would yell at the slower runners to hurry up “you slugs!”.

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By 3 miles I wondered how we could really do 12k and prayed that Mike was just giving a rough estimate. In the end though it was 6.6 miles. Luckily the last mile was pretty much downhill so I could pick up some speed and open my stride but I could feel my body weakening and tiring. When I saw the cars I couldn’t have been more happy.

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But we survived! We felt like champions at the end, though exhausted and a little broken.

Post Spanish run

When we got back to the gym at around 10am (we had started at 7am!) we went straight for breakfast. It was fairly amusing that everyone else was just out sunbathing and hanging around while we came back covered in dust and sweat and completely destroyed. For breakfast I wolfed down porridge and boiled eggs – I was starving.

And the day had barely begun! For the rest of the day we tested out the endurance section of the obstacle course which I found a bit more tricky. Not necessarily in terms of physically doing it but in terms of genuine fear. One of the obstacles was climbing up a high rope wall and clambering over it to the other side to climb back down. I found this really nerve-wracking and when I got to the top I just basically lay clinging to the narrow beam not being able to get my leg to swing over for fear of losing my grip and falling. After lots of encouragement from the group though I was able to get over it and down. Another tough obstacle was using a rope to swing over a ditch and landing on the other side. I wouldn’t have been scared until I saw a couple of people either let go too early and fall awkwardly into the ditch or hit the side as they swung. Luckily though I made it across.

After finishing we then had lunch and got ready for some more workshops. This time it was squats and deadlifts.

BTN workshop - Weights session

I was really looking forward to this but I was also feeling quite fatigued now! Eating lots of food did help though of course. And we did have some down time between sessions where we could nap or sit in the sun.

Simon was really helpful during the squats session as he watched my technique and advised I raise my heels slightly to help with my form. This felt so much better! Deadlifts were good too. It was just so handy to have qualified trainers to watch and help you. It was like having a personal trainer for the week.

I’ll leave my recap there as I still have a lot to talk about. Hope you’re enjoying it so far – it was a fantastically varied and tough week Smile

Have you ever been to a fitness retreat?

Have you heard of Ben Coomber?

Have you ever done an obstacle course?

What I’m loving lately

Over the past few weeks there have been a few new things that I’ve discovered and have been loving. Some of them I have been sent to review, and others are items that I’ve bought myself.

Ab Roller

I’ve seen these all over the place at the gym and online. Though at the gym people just use barbells to roll out with (my gym’s not that fancy). I’ve tried the barbell method and it’s alright but a bit awkward, especially as the bar tends not to be very smooth and quite hard so can hurt the hands a bit (yes, I’m a pansy).

Ab roller

I’ve been tempted to buy one online but never got round to it. Then I was in Whiteley the other day in a quirky Scandinavian shop, Tiger, and found one of £5 – bargain! It’s a great core workout – from the shoulders to the abdominals, helping increase stability and strength. So far I’m doing it from my knees and it is tough.

Grip Strengthener

I also found, in the Tiger shop, a grip strengthener, which you basically just squeeze open and close with your hand.

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There were different strengths and I chose the 25kg one (not entirely sure what that means – but the bigger the weight the harder it was to close the grip). I’m not sure how effectively this is going to be but I can use it when I’m watching TV or in traffic. It was only £2 so it’s not breaking the bank.

Grip strengthener

Anything to make lifting weights, pull ups and bouldering easier!

Resistance Band

I’m a big fan of resistance bands. I currently have one that I use to go around my ankles to do monster walks to help increase my glute strength and activation. It’s more of a ribbon-style band though. When I was at the fitness retreat they showed us a lot of mobility work that you should do before you lift weights. They used a thin, longer and very strong resistance bands. So I picked one up from Amazon very cheaply so I could continue on my own at my gym.

Resistance band

It’s great for shoulder mobility work as it loosens up your muscles and yours joints before you start lifting.

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It’s very simple and really only takes 5 minutes but it works wonders. My lifting afterwards felt a lot more smooth and in control – less clunky. As I work out in the morning this is super helpful as I haven’t had chance to fully get my body into gear. Normally I would just get on a machine for 3-4 minutes as my warm-up but now I’m trying to do more mobility work like this and some dynamic warm-ups, like eagles, some yoga moves and glute activation – it just depends what I’m going to be doing for my workout. This way I get a more focused warm-up.

 Benefit Eyebrow Pencil

OK I don’t really wear make-up. If I go on a night out or somewhere fancy I might put on some eye liner and mascara. Anything else seems like suffocating my skin or too much effort. However, my friend did do my make up for me before the wedding the other week and it looked really good. I still looked like my, just an enhanced version. It was a Bare Minerals powder set. I was very tempted to buy it but in the end didn’t as I wasn’t sure when I’d wear it. I wouldn’t wear it for work or just a regular day so it seemed a bit expensive. But my interests have been raised for make up in general. I’d love to be able to know how to use it. And let’s be honest, I ain’t getting any younger nor any less single!!

I went out shopping with my mum the other day and we went to Boots to have a mosey at the make up. The pair of us are ridiculous as we have no idea what different make ups do (concealer? Foundation? BB cream? Tinted moisturiser? Powder? Clueless!). Anyway we found a few products and asked the lady (not caked in make up – she looked like an normal human being for once! A rarity for the Boots make up people…) to help.

I saw the eyebrow pencil and was intrigued. I have very dark eyebrows and I pluck them regularly. But there are a few gaps…The lady applied the eyebrow brush and my eyebrows suddenly looked super neat and tidy. Sold!

Benefit Eyebrow pencil

It doesn’t make me look like my eyebrows are drawn on or vastly different, just a bit more consistent. It didn’t look like I was wearing anything but it did make my eyebrows look better. As I have such dark features, it worked well to enhance the features I already have. So I treated myself Smile One baby step at a time!

Protein Cheese

I’m still persevering with eggs for breakfast. I like the protein in the morning and have found I can last a lot longer past midday without needing to EAT LUNCH IMMEDIATELY. My jam so far has been three eggs, kale and some sort of fish but I recently found a new cheese in Tesco called EatLean Protein Cheese. Yes, sounds weird I give you that. Basically it’s low in fat but higher in protein and it seems to be like regular cheddar. So I had some of that with some black olives and it was delicious!

Protein cheese scrambled eggs

I do love my protein and having something so filling in the morning is important to me, especially after doing a workout at the gym (muscle repair and all that jazz). Don’t get me wrong though, porridge will always be my first love and when my running gets back on track and into marathon training I will most likely be back on it.

Red Kooga – review

I was recently sent a herbal product called Red Kooga. It’s apparently supposed to enhance energy and sports performance because of the herbs it contains. These include Panax ginseng (a herb that has been used for thousands of years to promote vitality and maintain mental alertness) and Guarana (which helps provide a natural source of caffeine). It also contains a daily allowance of B Complex Vitamins, which helps maintain a healthy nervous system and helps release energy from food. And furthermore it has no artificial flavours or preservatives and is suitable for vegetarians or vegans.

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I was obviously a bit dubious and sceptical about this. I’m not a natural remedy type person. I started taking two a day with breakfast and, hand on heart, I genuinely think it made me feel a bit more awake. Perhaps this was entirely a placebo effect – who knows, but I honestly did feel like it helped. Not in a huge “WOW I have so much energy, let’s run a marathon immediately” type ways, but in a subtle “I’m yawning a bit less and not feeling so sleepy in my morning meetings”.

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It’s available in Boots for £7.99 and I would actually purchase some to help me through days I know I need to concentrate a bit more. I’d definitely have used these during my revision and exams at university! I didn’t feel any difference in the gym or running though but then for me I don’t think that’s a problem area.

Enerton Full Insoles – review

I’ve also been sent some Enerton Performance Full Insoles. They’re to put into your trainers in place of your regular insoles in order to help reduce injury and support your feet when running. They apparently give a good “energy rebound”, which over long distances can be invaluable. They are made up of “D3O technology”, which is basically a special substance that’s putty soft when you’re not moving, but hardens as you put more pressure on it and produces a higher energy return.

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I have recently started using them when running so will do a full review shortly, but so far they’re very comfortable. For someone who is super injury prone and often uses insoles, these are definitely right up my street!

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So keep your eyes open for a full review on these bad boys soon!

Do you use any energy boosting supplements?

Do you like a carb-based breakfast or a protein-based breakfast?

How do you warm-up at the gym or for running?

**Full Disclosure: I was sent the Red Kooga and Enerton Insoles for free to review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**