Fitness and Lifestyle

The Training Diaries #IM703: Duston Sprint and MK Half Marathon

It's T-minus 114 days until Ironman 70.3 Zell-am-See and I can honestly say I'm starting to feel excited about seeing what I can do - rather than crapping my pants about the distance! So that's a good start. Training has been going really well and I feel like I've made some good improvements over the last few months - not just in terms of fitness but mentally too. My bike FTP is up and I'm running faster than I've ever been able to, but the biggest change is that I've actually started to believe that "I can". Self-belief is something that I've struggled with a lot in the past, but I feel like I've finally found my mental toughness again and I'm ready to take on anything (yep, even the climb on the Zell am See bike course!)

My triathlon season kicked off with Duston Sprint Triathlon up in Northampton on 23rd April. This was my first ever triathlon last year so I was really looking forward to seeing what I could do compared to last year me. When I raced it last year I'd only just about set arse on a road bike for the first time a month before and had graduated up to my big girl clip in pedals just one week before the race. I can remember just being so relieved that I'd made it to the end of the bike split without falling off! This year was a completely different story - the bike has been a big focus in my training and I'm definitely feeling the benefits. My other half, Graham, treated us both to power metres earlier in the year which I've found so useful in terms of knowing when to push and managing my effort so I don't turn into little miss jelly legs on the run. Combined with some great 1-1 sessions with Campbell from Re-leaf I'm really enjoying cycling - who'd have known! The course at Duston is slightly undulating with a little stinger up towards a church (I'd love to tell you where but I can barely navigate my way around a cardboard box, let alone the Northampton countryside). I felt good the whole way round and completed the bike split 7 minutes quicker than last year. After getting a little bit overexcited and nearly running straight past my area in transition (what a muppet), I headed out on to the run course. I'd picked up a little niggly lower leg issue the week before the race so I wasn't entirely sure whether my run legs were going to make an appearance but thankfully they were ready and raring! After a nice downhill start to the run route I just decided to dig in and see what pace I could hold until the end. I finished in 1hr 17 minutes 57 seconds (compared to 1hr 30 in 2016) and somehow managed to win my age category too so I got to bring home a shiny thing! This was a great start to the season and the fact that it is only the start has got me feeling so excited and motivated to keep pushing with the training - there's still lots to work on (especially speeding up transitions!) so hopefully the best is yet to come!

The next week it was time to turn my attention to the Milton Keynes Half Marathon on 1st May. Other than the odd park run, this was my first non-triathlon race since 2015 and it felt so weird not to have my bike and a million other bits and pieces with me! It was a pretty big race (I think the commentator guy was saying there were around 4000 people racing!) but it was really well organised and a wave start system meant there weren't any fisticuffs or tripping up on the start line. The course went up through central MK, where there was some great support, and then down the ouzel valley through some parks to finish up with a lap round the stadium. I've only done a half marathon once before so I'm not that experienced in racing the distance but I had a pace plan and felt in control throughout. My aim was to get round in less than 2 hours and I finished in 1hr 53 mins so I'm pretty happy with that! Now to just get my head round doing that after 56 miles on the bike...

Graham has been smashing it with shiny new PBs both for the sprint triathlon and the half marathon - I'm determined to catch him one day! ;) It's so exciting to be working towards the half ironman together - especially as it was Graham's double Ironman effort back in 2015 that got me into the sport in the first place. It definitely helps that we both 'get it' in terms of all the training, galloping around in lycra and the very early nights!

Next stop is our Majorca training camp early next month and I am so ready to get some sunshine on my pasty little legs. Sea swims, mountains and Tolos beckon!

Check out my previous 'Training Diaries' posts here.

How to Find Motivation to Train (When You Really Can't Be Arsed)

Motivation is a fickle beast. Some days it's right where you need it and you're chomping at the bit to get sh*t done. But then there's the other days - the days where you wake up and just the thought of dragging yourself out of bed and putting some clean underpants on seems like way too much effort. The good news is it's totally normal for your motivation to take itself off on a little unannounced holiday every now and then. Despite what social media might fool you into thinking, nobody is 100% motivated 100% of the time. The important thing to remember is that when it comes to achieving your goals, it's how you deal with these little dips in motivation that's going to determine your success. Particularly in relation to fitness, it's the harder days that are going to make you stronger. Your mind is being trained as much as your body and if you can overcome these little hurdles you'll develop that mental strength which is just as important as your physical fitness.  So how do you find some motivation to train when you really can't be arsed? As a self-confessed lazygirl, I've had to master a few methods to keep me going:

1) Remember your goal
That thing you want to have achieved in 6 months time? What you choose to do today will determine whether you get there or not. Keep your goals in sight, picture yourself achieving them, imagine how great you'll feel. That feeling is what's going to get you up and out the door today. I keep a printed copy of my half ironman training plan on the side in our bedroom so that it's one of the first things I see when I wake up - it's a great reminder of what I'm working towards. Every time I start feeling demotivated, I just picture myself crossing that finish line come race day and it's enough to get me excited and ready to go. This is where having a goal you really care about is super important.

2) Just turn up
When you're struggling to get motivated just task yourself with completing one small thing that's going to help you towards your goal in some way. Make it something manageable  - often just getting started on something small unlocks that energy you need to complete what you had planned in the first place. And if not - something is still better than nothing. Be kind to yourself and start again with a fresh perspective the next day.

3) Two's company
Training with a friend or partner (or hiring a personal trainer) can be a bit of a lifeline when your drive disappears. Plan your training sessions in advance and get them in the diary - it's a lot harder to cancel when your best mate is waiting for you on poolside at 6am or you've got to phone up your PT and tell them that you just can't really be bothered today.

4) Self-care and tough love: know the difference between 'I can't be arsed' and 'I actually just can't...'
Self-care is always a priority and sometimes you've just got to listen to your body, not your training plan. Particularly when you're training for an event, there will be times when you just need to give your body the rest it needs - whether it's due to illness or just pure fatigue. It's fine to take time out when you need it - that's how your body repairs and gets stronger. But, sometimes you've got to practice a bit of tough love. At the risk of sounding like an annoying toddler, "why?" is the magic question here. Why am I not feeling motivated? Is there a genuine reason or am I just having a bit of a lazy day? Self-discipline and being honest with yourself is a huge learning curve and an important part of your training. Sometimes you've got to give yourself a little kick up the bum and just get on with it (and you'll feel really good afterwards, promise!)

5) Hard work deserves rewards
All stick and no carrot makes Jenny a grumpy, demotivated girl. Don't forget to give yourself a pat on the back every now and again. Sometimes just reflecting on how far you've come can be enough to get you going again. And if not, plan something nice for the end of your training session. It might be breakfast with a friend after your early morning session or stopping somewhere with really good coffee halfway through a long bike ride. Giving yourself something to look forward to is a great way to get started.

So there we have it, a few little tips and tricks to help you get going when your motivation sods off to Santorini without your permission. How do you stay motivated?

Feel Good for Summer: The Number on the Scales Does Not Define You

So according to a well-respected source *ahem, facebook*, yesterday was the vernal equinox marking the official start of Spring. Finally! Naturally, the Great British weather is treating us to a deceptively chilly day to honour the occasion (I'm typing to you from the depths of my turtle neck), but hopefully this means warmer weather and sunnier days are on the horizon.

It's also around this time of year that all the magazines are going to start telling you that you need to 'lose weight for summer'. For the small price of ~£3.50 you can turn to p. 67 and find out how to lose an arbitrary amount of weight in an unrealistic amount of time (it usually involves doing something weird like spiralizing sheep bogeys or sleeping with a pineapple under your left butt cheek). The front page of one particular glossy I came across the other day had 'how to love your body' on one side, beautifully contradicted with 'how to lose 7lbs' splashed across the other. And that's where the issue lies. First up - where did 7lbs come from? Why not 6lbs? Or 10lbs? And secondly, what's wrong with my body right now - 7lbs and all?

Weight loss as a goal is totally fine. For some people, losing weight is essential to improving their health. For others, having a specific target is a big help in staying motivated. But what we're really talking about is fat loss and how much your body weighs is only one part of the picture. It's important to look at weight in context with other indicating factors - body composition, blood pressure, fitness, energy levels. What your body can do and how you feel. The number on the scale does not define you. When we focus solely on weight, we're ignoring all the other awesome things your body can do, in favour of a number (which let's face it can fluctuate so often depending on things like how hydrated you are or when you last pooped!) Your weight doesn't determine your self worth.

The point I'm trying to make is that wherever you are in your fitness journey - however much you weigh - you are already good enough. You deserve to feel good about yourself right now - not 7lbs from now.

This summer, instead of focusing on how many pounds and ounces the magazines have told us we should lose before we can strut our stuff in swimwear, let's focus instead on how we want to feel. I'm guessing for most of us the answer would be something along the lines of healthy, happy and confident. So let's start making realistic, empowering plans to get us there. Let's make a commitment to our health and wellbeing now, instead of faffing around with sheep bogeys 1 week before a holiday because a glossy has told us it's the new *thing* for instant weight loss. Let's strut around with the sass and confidence of the little girl in that BBC interview this summer, regardless of what the scales say. Let's stop agonising over numbers and turn our attention to fitness, to good food and to the amazing things our bodies can do. Because that is where the magic happens, and that is when you'll feel awesome.

The Training Diaries #IM703

I guess you could say the inevitable has happened. Less than 2 years ago, whilst supporting my other half at a middle distance triathlon, I told my mum that I would 'never be caught dead' doing a triathlon. In my defence, we were standing by a pretty murky, duck poo filled lake, I'd been hauled out of bed at 4am and at this point I hadn't set foot (or should that be arse!?) on a bike for a good 10 years. A lot has changed since then, and after taking on a couple of sprint distance triathlons last summer, I'm all signed up to do my first half Ironman this year.

So, lobotomy aside - what happened to change my mind? Really my boyfriend is to blame for my now ongoing love affair with triathlon. I first spectated an Ironman when he raced Bolton in 2015. It's so hard to explain, but watching all of those people push themselves and overcome so much to cross that finish line woke something up in my brain that made me say 'I've got to do this.' (I can only imagine it's the same 'something' that made me follow my parents around yelling 'I want to do ballet' incessantly at the age of 2.) I think it's important to me to see what my body can do, to see how far I can push myself. Plus, it turns out open water swimming is amazing (which makes up for the stinky lake water and the duck poo), riding a road bike can actually be kind of fun and once you get over the jelly legs situation, the post-ride run isn't so bad. There's something special about triathlon; the training, the community and really getting to see what your body is capable of. It's an opportunity to test your limits - plus you get to gallivant around in lycra and spend most of your time smelling like chlorine, what's not to love!?

On to the race. A half Ironman involves a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike followed by a 13.1 mile run. I figured if I'm going to swim, bike and run my through a 70.3 mile race course I may as well go somewhere with decent scenery so at the end of August we'll be making our way to Zell-Am-See, Austria. Mountains, good food and an excuse to belt out 'the hills are alive' at the top of the climb on the bike course - I'm so excited!

Training is well underway - today marks the start of my phase 3 training plan. So far it's been all about building a base of strength and endurance ready to start working on power, speed and performance. As always with this kind of thing, there's been a few hiccups along the way - a niggly little shoulder injury, busy weekends rushing into London for my Pilates instructor training course and most recently a lovely cold that really kicked my butt. All of this aside, I'm definitely feeling stronger already and I'm genuinely looking forward to ramping up my training to see what I can achieve.

I'll be documenting my Ironman 70.3 journey here so stay tuned!

*stock image from pixabay - I can't wait to take some photographs of my own come August!

Your Body is Not The Enemy

It's Valentine's Day and, to quote Hugh Grant, love actually is all around. It seems like this year so many people have taken today as an opportunity to show their love and appreciation of friends and loved ones, as well as partners. All this love stuff has got me thinking about self-love - and the lack of it (not in that way, cheeky.)

Working in the fitness industry, I come across a lot of people who hate their bodies. Who see their health and fitness journey as a means of waging a war on their body. 'If I could just get rid of this'... 'Ugh, look at that'... I think we can all be guilty of looking in the mirror and saying things about ourselves that we wouldn't dream of saying about a friend/loved one. (I honestly say the most horrible things about myself sometimes, so this is as much a note to self as it is to anyone who might happen to be reading!) Think about the last thing your inner critic told you about yourself. Now imagine looking someone you care about in the eye, and saying it about them - to them. It would feel awful and you probably wouldn't want to. It's time we prioritise treating ourselves with the same respect and kindness that, most of us, extend to others.

So what does this mean in terms of health and fitness? It means taking a moment to be proud of what your body can do. Reflecting on what your body is capable of - and what it could be capable of - rather than focusing solely on how much your body weighs, or what dress size you take. Self-love doesn't mean not implementing positive change. It means caring for your body and giving it what it needs. Getting to a healthy weight because you deserve to feel good. Eating well, because your body works hard and it needs the right fuel. Exercising, because there's nothing better than setting yourself a challenge and seeing what your body can do.

This love and kindness towards others that we throw around like confetti come Valentine's Day? We should be grabbing a great big bucket of it, throwing it over our heads and having a roll around in the stuff on the daily. Because us and our bodies - we're pretty damn amazing.

Your body is not the enemy. So stop treating it like one. Love it, care for it, respect it. Find that positive motivation, because it'll make that process of getting fitter, healthier and stronger so much more enjoyable.

Need some support? For more information about what I can offer - from personal training to beginners run coaching and ballet fitness classes - in and around Hitchin, Herts contact me at:

My 2017 Self-Care Resolutions

As we make our way into the second working week of the year, I've been reflecting on what I want to get out of 2017. There's so much I want to do and so much I want to achieve this year. I've got so many plans and it's exciting, but it's also completely overwhelming. I'm taking on a half ironman triathlon, studying to qualify as a pilates instructor, attempting to write a children's book, growing my own little PT business... the list goes on. But I've realised that if I'm going to achieve all of these things, I need to take better care of myself. In a recent post I suggested that we all "make a resolution this January to be kind to ourselves [...] To take things one step at a time. To invest time into ourselves and to believe in ourselves." In the name of taking my own advice, I've decided to set myself a few self-care resolutions to try and live by this year.

1) To be less hard on myself
This is going to be a tough one. My inner critic likes to shout pretty loudly and I'm a perfectionist at heart. In 2017 I want to spend less time beating myself up and more time doing the things I love.

2) To take things one step at a time
This is advice I dole out all the time but struggle to actually do myself. I need to stop worrying about the bigger picture so much, because it quickly starts looking pretty vast and overwhelming. This year I'm going to do my best to break everything down into small steps so I can get sh*t done.

3) To doubt myself less
Oh hi inner critic, not-so-nice to see you again. I want this to be the year that I stop letting doubt and fear hold me back. Time to take a big spoonful of self-belief and go for it. *puts on superwoman costume*

4) To make more time for dance, books and music
Do more of what you love, and happiness will follow. Wise words from my better half there (who deserves so much credit for how ridiculously supportive he's been over the last 2 and a bit years). This year I'm going to read more, make time to play the piano/guitar more often and - the big one - I really want to fully qualify as a dance teacher. Anyone want to buy my liver so I can finance the training fees? ;)

5) To stop comparing myself to others
Basically, I need to scroll less and do more. Social media is great but it's also a bugger for making us all compare ourselves with snippets of others people's carefully curated lives. It's easy to spend so much time looking sideways that you lose sight of where you're headed and what you're working towards. 

6) To learn how to cope better with anxiety (and to be less afraid of talking about it)
I suffer from anxiety. And that's okay. I just need to get better at dealing with it rather than ostriching around (yep that's a real verb, honest...) pretending I'm okay 100% of the time, when sometimes that's not the case. Other than a couple of not so productive GP visits a few years ago, I've never really done anything to battle this particular demon. 2017 is going to be the year that changes.

What are your self-care resolutions? 

How to Set Yourself Up for a Successful 2017

Happy New Year! Hope everyone had a lovely festive season and you're all feeling ready to take on 2017 (after the surreal calamity that was 2016, it can only get better right!?).  Now is a great time to think about what you really want to achieve over the coming months, and to start making plans to make things happen. Read on for my top tips on setting goals and laying the groundwork for a successful year.

1) Set yourself achievable goals
When it comes to setting goals, it's important to strike a balance between aspiration and achievability.  Tasking yourself with something huge and unattainable sets you up to fail before you've even started. Take a minute to think about your lifestyle, figure out what's manageable and how it's going to fit in with your current commitments. You're far more likely to stick at something if you can slot it nicely into your routine.

2) Break it down and celebrate the little victories
Break your end goal down into stages, focusing on what you want to achieve in the short, medium and long term. Your overall goal might be to run your first 10k, but in the short term you just want to get into a routine of running a couple of times a week. Celebrate these milestones along the way and reflect on what you've achieved so far. It's a great way to stay focused and motivated.

3) Get excited!
In order to really achieve something, you need to be passionate and excited about it. There will be times when achieving your goal feels really tough and it's that passion that will get you through. Think about why you want to achieve your particular goal, and how achieving it will make you feel. If the excitement isn't there, it's fine to have a rethink. Life is way too short to waste time doing stuff you hate.

4) Step away from the fads! Forgo the detox teas! Eschew the dodgy supplements!
Some of the most common New Year's resolutions involve losing weight, toning up and getting fitter. Unfortunately, there's no magic pill (or teabag) that can truly get you long term results. And living off baked kale and nothing else for 6 week will just make you hangry and leave you reaching for the chocolate buttons the minute your sentence - sorry, diet - is over. The bottom line is, to really achieve a fitter, healthier version of yourself - and to maintain it - takes long-term, sustainable lifestyle changes. And as hard as it may be at times, that's awesome! Because you'll feel awesome when you can look back at how far you've come and celebrate everything you've achieved knowing that you didn't have to give yourself the runs with some questionable herbal tea in the process.

5) Don't give up the stuff you love
Hands up who swore off the booze for all eternity this morning!? But seriously, following on from my previous point, the changes you decide to make need to be sustainable for life if you want to see results. The minute you ban something, you'll crave it even more. Inevitably you'll crack (because, hello, a life without chocolate is a life that sucks) and end up bingeing on said banned thing - having more of it in one go than you would have if you'd allowed yourself to have it every now and then. It's all about balance.

6) Ask for help
Whether it's from family, friends or a professional, get yourself the support you need to achieve your goal. This is particularly relevant if your goal is fitness related - seek advice from a fitness professional to make sure your training is safe and appropriate for your aims. You'll get more out of your workouts, avoid injury and enjoy exercise way more! I've got personal training and beginners run coaching slots available so if you're based near Hitchin (Herts) feel free to drop me a line to see how I can help:

Wishing you all a happy, healthy 2017. With everything that's going on in the world, it's important now more than ever that we all show kindness, generosity, tolerance and unity. Spread the love and enjoy life!

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