XRunner Wild Mud Run recap

So this weekend I was back up in Bristol again. As standard procedure, I stayed with Kate and Jamie and they cooked me another very tasty meal of make-your-own burritos.

I’m only just realising how much I enjoy Mexican (or at least, Tex-Mex) food. Tortillas, turkey mince, refried beans, guacamole, rice and salad… heavenly. I brought pudding. I was aiming for healthy without fruit, but that fell flat as I gave up and just went for lemon meringue pie with lemon meringue ice cream (yes, this is an actual thing).Biscuit flavoured ice cream (biscuit!!) with lemon curd and meringue pieces. I mean, you might have thought that that was a bit too much lemon meringue in one bowl but you’d be wrong.

So we were nicely fuelled for our next day’s adventure, the X-Runner Wild Mud Run 10k. Now this obviously isn’t great for marathon training but it is great for general fun and happiness. We were in the 11.30am wave (200-400 runners set off in half an hour waves) and had to be there an hour before. This meant leaving at about 8am as it was just north of Birmingham. The team consisted of Kate, Jay, Jay’s friend Alex, the lovely Katherine (who has done a lot of parkruns and the escape room with us), Kate’s sister Becky and me.Parking was easy (and £5) and it was a short walk down to the race village. As we got closer and closer we could see a lake and lots of obstacles. We also saw people who had already finished the race from earlier waves trudging past us, soaked and muddy. *Gulp*We picked up our numbers (not a bib, but a wristband – bibs apparently wouldn’t survive), our t-shirts (which we’d be wearing to run in – something I’d never do for a running race but strangely acceptable for an obstacle race) and signed a disclaimer. Then we wrote our numbers on our forehead.This was advised so that the photographers could identify us easily. Plus it made us look bad ass. Sort of. The race village had lots of food trucks (ahh the smell of food you can’t eat…), a bag drop and fire pits. Let me tell you, more races need fire pits. It was fairly chilly that morning and standing next to a fire pit while we were waiting to go to our wave was AMAZING.Then we were off. We weren’t aiming for a time, we just wanted fun. Obstacle races are never about finish times really because you want to “enjoy” them and there’s always a little wait for each obstacle anyway. There’s also a camaraderie element where everyone helps each other, roots people on and you wait for your team mates (or they wait for you). It’s just a fun thing to do and the running is far down the list of what it’s actually about.

The first few obstacles were things like hay bales and climbing over walls, which were good fun. Then we had to run up a bloody big hill which really separated the people in the wave. The beginning was probably where most of the running happened, from running up hills to running through trees, fields and woodlands. After a few minutes of running you’d hit another obstacle.

One thing that concerned me was the organiser’s stress of DO NOT DRINK THE WATER or get it in your mouth. This was due to bacteria within the water that could potentially make you ill. So every time we came near a water section or splashed through large puddles I held my mouth firmly closed.

The first water experience wasn’t too bad as we were quite warm by this point. It was up to your bum (quite a shock to the nether regions I must say!). We had to duck under barbed wire which was good fun and not that difficult.This was just as we were coming out of the water. I was feeling all happy and chippy. Barely a speck of mud on me!

A few more obstacles, a couple more stretches of running and then we hit some trenches of very muddy water. It was tough because you couldn’t see where you were putting your feet and I consequently ended up falling down a hole within the water so I was quickly up to my chest in water. My friends laughed and I found it very funny, though shockingly cold. Little did we know what was to come.

As we came round the corner there were long stretches of mud. A bit like a really muddy cross country route that had been run on several times over, churning up the mud. Running through seemed better as we were less likely to sink to our ankles. But as we got further through the mud we caught up with more and more people and realised why there was a bottleneck.The mud that was up to our ankles was now up to our knees. It was very thick and required a lot of strength to wade through. And as we wading through we got deeper and deeper. It was such a bizarre experience. I’ve never been in so much mud in my life. I was using my hands to comb through it and no longer cared about how muddy I was getting.

What was unnerving the most though was not knowing where to put your feet because some parts were a lot deeper than others. Some people decided not to follow the queue of people and headed out around them only to find themselves up to their chests in the thick mud and getting stuck.

I’m not exaggerating when I say it took like 30 minutes to get across about 15m of mud. It was just impossible. Lots of people had decided to skip the section by going under the course partition to avoid it because it was getting to be a bit ridiculous. I had to use the help of several people around me to pull myself out at times. And often having to use my arms to tug my legs out of the mud to keep moving. You could find yourself panicking a bit because it was rather scary being so stuck in the mud and sinking.

Several people lost trainers. After we finished the mud section (sorry, the swamp section), a girl was stood holding both her trainers (well, what looked like trainers anyway…they were completely coated in mud and looked like two muddy boulders) standing in her socks.

Eventually we made it to the part I was most dreading. The swimming part. This involved going up a ladder to a platform to then slide down into a body of water. I was quite cold by this point as the mud part had taken so long and I had lost the warmth I’d gained from all the exertion bits before. I was really not wanting to do this. But as my team were doing it so I had to man up.That there is the face of someone who has accepted her fate but is not one bit happy.The shock of the water took my breath away as we all slid down together and were fully submerged. And I couldn’t get out fast enough. A few swear words might have been said, I won’t lie.

Getting out of the water I was more numb than cold now. It was quite a strange feeling. But as we got running again I started to get very cold. Our next obstacle were monkey bars across more water. I gave it a good go and think I managed three before my slippery hands gave up on me and I dropped myself into the water. AGAIN.

Then we had to get across some floating yellow square things. It was tricky to balance.Then back into the water again. Enjoyment factor now was slightly lower as the cold was really hitting me. A large hill awaited us and I charged up it as fast as I could to get warm again.

We were then faced with a GIANT slippy slide which was just awesome. I slid down on my tummy all the way down a 50m slide-y mat thing and it was just brilliant.

We then had a few more obstacles to get through. The water had cleaned off most of the mud so that was somewhat of a plus!At this point we were nearing the end of the first lap (5k). I was starting to shake with col. It had taken us almost an hour and a half at this point. The thought of going round again (but this time now soaking wet and cold) wasn’t appealing to me at all.

We had a little team meeting as we ran to the next obstacle and decided to just do the one lap. It would take us probably almost four hours in total otherwise (imaging it would be about two hours for another lap as it had already taken 1:30 hours and we weren’t finished yet). This made me feel a lot better knowing we were almost finished!We climbed over things, jumped over some fire (as you do) and then had the final obstacle: jumping off a tower platform thing into a giant mattress. I was like, “pfft! This is fine”. Until I got up there.In the photo above you can see me turn away basically saying “I can’t do this”. Kate was lovely and gave me lots of encouragement but I was really quite scared. This surprised and annoyed me. The marshals told us we needed to land bum first rather than feet first and I was worried I’d cock up and then injure myself.

After having a word with myself, I went for it (after about four false starts). I screamed all the way down but it was actually good fun and the landing ridiculously soft. I felt really chuffed with myself! I thought I was made of stronger stuff, but this really tested me.

And then we were finished, whew!! Even though we didn’t do the two laps and only did 5k, it was the hardest 5k I’ve ever done. I thought this would be fairly easy – a few hay bales to clamber over, a few muddy bits to get a bit mucky in and la di da. But this was really hard work. The mud swamp was crazy, the hills so steep and the water FREEZING.

But that said, it was bloody good fun! Though I did get very cold at the end I don’t regret doing it and would do it again for definite. It was just a good laugh and a challenging day. I’m disappointed with myself that we didn’t do another lap but I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have enjoyed it, knowing I had to do the water bit all again.We were given our medals, a hot soup and the foil blankets. I have never been so glad to see foil in my life.

Then we headed to the cold showers (otherwise known as hoses) and showered off as best as we could. The worst part was trying to find my bag. It was not an easy process and their bag drop system needs some serious rethinking. I was on the point of freezing despair when I finally found it.

We trudged back to the car and then had the almost impossible task of getting dried and changed without exposing ourselves to the world. We’d brought towels and a spare set of clothes…the process was not fun. I was so cold. But eventually we were in the car, heating on full and heading for food. Bliss.

We stopped at a services and, with our foreheads still branded and us all looking disgusting and dishevelled, we each grabbed our respective food choice. It was now 3pm and we were all VERY hungry. I went for a foot-long turkey Subway with a Starbucks. Oh that Starbucks tasted SO good. Life was good again.Then we headed home. I was staying the night again with Kate and Jamie and she kindly washed my clothes for me. Though we had to do a bit of hosing down beforehand…And then relax! Obstacle and mud runs are really nothing like road races. Or running races in general. No one cares about time (well, most people don’t) and you run as a group. It’s about having a laugh, getting muddy and helping each other out.It’s also about not underestimating how tough it’s going to be. I thought I was going to be absolutely fine because I can run faster than most of my team. But it’s 100% not about the speed you can run, or how many marathons you’ve done. It’s about grit, mental strength and the ability to keep going despite all your sense being assaulted at once. I was definitely tested and my ego took a beating – something which I think regularly needs to happen!

Have you ever done a mud/obstacle race?

What really challenges you?

If you had to choose what would you rather: be really cold, be really hungry or really tired? I think it’s the cold for me. Though I can become a right moody so and so when I haven’t eaten, I can survive. But a cold Anna is not a happy Anna at all.

Chepstow Stampede 10k (Obstacle Mud Run) and foodie fun

I’ve never done a proper obstacle mud race before and honestly I was fairly nervous. I had signed up to run the Chepstow Stampede 10k with my friends, Kate and Jamie, a while ago and now it was suddenly here.

I drove to Bristol to stay with them on Friday night. Because I’m such an intelligent savvy pro at life (*cough*) I winged it with their address in my sat nav with what I thought it was and then found out later I was actually going to the wrong place. In all fairness I was very close with the address; it was in Bristol at least. I haven’t driven to their house in the dark before is my excuse… It just set me back 15 minutes, whoops. Lesson learnt once again never to trust my own (questionable) intelligence in anything.

We had a delicious chicken salad for dinner. Who even are these friends anymore?? They would laugh at me for eating salad in America and now they’re completely converted! They’re like new people. And then we had an early night ready to get up the next morning to drive to Chepstow. We also picked up Kate’s friend, Katherine, en route who I’d met when we’d all done parkrun together a few times a few months ago.

chepstow-stampedeRandom guy in the right photo at the bib pick-up tent…

It was really fun going to the race and picking up our bibs because the three of them had never done a race before. What was a fairly normal and mundane process for me was new and exciting to Kate, Jamie and Katherine. They’d never had a bib number before, had the usual struggles and gripes about where to pin it and getting it straight… it was just really refreshing to go through the process with them (without sounding ridiculously patronising – we were all new to this once after all!).img_6040That said, I was actually really nervous about this race as it was something I’ve never really done before. I’ve done obstacle courses before but never an actual race. I was really glad it wasn’t raining, though it was very chilly. We’d agreed to run it as a team and help each other where needed. Right, let’s do this.img_6041The race started off on road at the Chepstow Racecourse and on a sharp downhill. The running for me was generally fairly easy as I’m a bit faster normally to the others but it was nice to run with them. We didn’t know what to expect in terms of obstacles but we did know at some point we’d be getting wet, so that weighed heavily on all our minds as the temperature was far from ideal.

The first obstacle was climbing over a wooden wall thing. It had very narrow ‘steps’ to use but it was really slippy. I ambitious threw myself at it and slipped almost immediately. More time and care required! It was quite high up but I just didn’t look down and got over it, literally. Kate was very cautious and nervous because she hates heights but she bossed it like a pro!

The first mile flew by. It was crazy how quickly it was going, despite having to wait a good few times for obstacles as there gets to be a bit of a build up while you wait for people. I don’t have a huge amount of obstacle racing experience but I think if you’re expecting to get really good times it will be hard because, from speaking to other people who’ve done similar races, you usually do have to wait a bit. But you can use that time to see (and judge!) other people’s strategies for getting over…and what not to do!

There were lots of obstacles in each mile, things like hay bales to climb over, tunnels to wriggle through, more walls to get over and tires to climb through – things like that basically. Nothing too difficult but also not easy per se, especially after you’ve been running. One of my favourites was climbing up a steep muddy wall using a rope. That was good fun. For each obstacle you didn’t have to do it and normally there was an easier option to choose from as well.

On the last mile there was the dreaded full body submerging into cold muddy water. There were a load of logs held above a stretch of water and you had to crawl under them, your head just above the water, to get through. It was FREEZING. But you just got in there and got it done. The more you think about it the worse it’ll be.

I got out the other side in shock of just how cold it was. It was that weird feeling that I knew I was cold but I hadn’t registered it yet as my body numb. It was only after we continued to run and the wind whipped at us that we really felt it. But we survived! We had to run up that bastard hill that we ran down at the start and crossed the finish line holding hands feeling like warriors.10k-stampedeWe did it in 1:44:33. We were aiming for sub 2 hours so that was perfect. Actually we think it would have been closer to 1.5 hours had we not had to wait so much (1.5 hours was our A Goal ;-)). It was such a fun race. It didn’t feel like any race I’ve done before. I certainly wouldn’t do it on my own – I think the appeal of these races are that you do them with friends and help each other, rather than try and get a speedy time. I didn’t care that I was running (and walking at times) a lot slower than I normally would. It was just such a fun experience.img_6045You weren’t just getting through the miles: you never knew what was coming round the corner, what massive hill would turn up next or crazy obstacle you’d have to get past. The race flew by! I fully recommend it – and for someone who hates being cold and wet, that is good praise indeed! I’m grateful it wasn’t raining though as the course had the potential to get very muddy so we weren’t quite as dirty as we could have been!img_6051

Just a few tips that I thought I’d share for an obstacle/mud run:

  • Don’t go with a time ambition.
  • Wear trail shoes that you don’t really care about.
  • Wear running clothes you’re not bothered about ruining but equally if you’re doing the race in colder temperatures, wear long sleeves and leggings but nothing that if it gets wet will really weigh you down.
  • Possibly wear gloves with grips – I found my hands got very cold and torn around a bit on the obstacles.
  • Bring a towel and a spare set of clothes.

img_6053

  • Bring bin bags to either sit on in the car or put your clothes into afterwards.
  • Help anyone and everyone; there’s such a camaraderie feeling between everyone, whether you know them or not.

img_6054After we’d all had lovely hot showers we headed out for the real prize: FOOD. We went to Spitfire in Bristol which I’ve been to before. Katherine ordered a steak but the rest of us ordered the St. Louis ribs. When I ordered the waiter said, “This is usually shared between two people – it’s quite a lot of food” and Kate was like, “you don’t know Jamie and Anna”. We ordered some chicken wings to share as well. I won’t lie, our stomachs were doing the talking.img_6056We were all in heaven. The ribs were delicious. Up there with the best. The chicken wings were good too.img_6063Jamie and me had no issues polishing off our ribs, though we were defeated by the wings.

Despite being very full we decided to head to a gelato cafe for some pudding. Ooof. I decided to not go quite as decadent as I could have been and had three scoops: Mint Aero, Toffee Crisp and Malteaser. Delicious!img_6065

Then I needed a nap…but I had to drive home. It was a fantastic weekend of the best kind: running and food 😉

What’s your favourite ice cream flavours?

What would be your worst obstacle?

Have you ever done a mud race before?

Good things making me happy

Apart from the dark mornings and evenings, the cold and rain, things are quite happy in my neck of the woods! It’s always nice to take stock of a few things that are making me a happy Anna.

The ‘C’ word: What is this madness? Christmas stuff already out in supermarkets. This photo was actually take two or three weeks ago as well.img_4888Christmas cakes, mince pies, stollen… yep. It’s October. That said, I love all things Christmas, especially food-related items) so I’m happy with this state of affairs. More mince pies in my life can only be a good thing.

Tesco encouraging kids to eat more fruit: They’re offering a free piece of fruit to children coming into the supermarket. img_3917So they can chomp on something healthy as they walk round with their parents. What a great idea! Nice one, Tesco. We’ll let you off for your Christmas products 😉

New shoes: I bought some new shoes. They were really cheap as they’re of an older seasons but I really needed a pair of simple comfy shoes I could easily slip into and wear for quick errands or walking Alfie. img_5954I tend to have a lot of trainers, pumps, boots and then my gym shoes (Vans & Converses – ideal because they have flat soles for squatting and deadlifting which help me be more “in tune” with the ground and lifting) but nothing that I’d be happy to get a bit mucky. I had a previous pair of Skechers and I wore them to the ground. These were only £25 which I thought was a steal.

Unusual gel flavours: A lovely friend of mine (a triathlon legend it must be said – his training cycles make mine look very amateur indeed) sent me some gels as a good luck present for my marathon (though with strict instruction NOT to use them during the marathon if I hadn’t tried them first).img_5972Maple Bacon flavoured gels!! I know some (many?) of you will be thinking “that’s so gross” but I’m genuinely looking forward to trying them out. I quite like the GU gels (I still remember that salted caramel one I had once…so good. And the lemon flavoured one that tasted like a zesty pudding) so I expect good things 😉

Protein Porridge: I got a packet of this Mornflake Go! High Portein Porridge in my goodie bag from the Chester Marathon. Normally I will never use porridge packets because they always contain some form of sugar or flavouring and I can’t stand sweet porridge. For me the only sweetness I like is from the milk, so it’s very subtle.fullsizerenderBut this was different. It’s a pack of oats containing soya protein isolate and (other than a stabiliser) that’s it. No sugar, no fruit, no seeds…just oats and protein. One packet though wouldn’t be enough for me for breakfast as it was around 130 calories. So I used two with almond milk and it tasted almost identical to my normal porridge.img_5953Basically the same texture and it was really filling. I’m still regularly having scrambled eggs (with cheese, kale and olives – love it) for breakfast but I miss my porridge. The reason I swapped was because the porridge was quite low in protein but this is a great compromise. Though it is more expensive, so I’m looking into getting some unflavoured protein powder and playing around with that.

Woofins: These are adorable…even if I was disappointed when I first saw them as I thought “oooh cake” and then realised they’re actually for dogs.img_5987

Alfie isn’t a huge treat lover or chewer. For example, if I give him a dentist stick to chew on he puts it in his mouth then wanders around whimpering until I take it off him and cut it into four pieces for him (what a princess…). Although he will easily eat them normally when he’s around my parent’s dogs – but I think this is due to the fear that if he doesn’t they’ll eat it for him. Anyway, I digress, he wolfed down this mini cake – he loved it!

New car: OK it’s pretty much identical to my old car, just new.img_5968I love the Fiat 500 and wanted to stay with them. Unfortunately I did want a different colour (I quite like the mint) but they didn’t have it in stock for when I wanted it so I had red again. As someone who is rubbish with adulting, having a brand new car with no MOT or service to worry about for a while is a huge weight off my mind (especially as I was late with my last service by about 10,000 miles as I got confused <– story of my life).

But things making me nervous: A 10k obstacle course race (Chepstow Stampede) with my friends, Kate and Jamie, that’s happening Saturday. I did that obstacle course in Spain but I don’t think it can quite compare to a muddy obstacle course race in Britain during a rather wet autumn. I’m stressing a bit with what to wear as I don’t really have anything I’d happy to never see again if it got ruined… and I’m scared about being really cold and wet. But other than that, it should be a laugh. We’ll see…

Have you ever done an obstacle course race?

What kind of car do you have?

What non-workout shoes do you normally wear?

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?

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?