Category Archives: fitness classes

consistency

I take a yoga class every Friday from 1-2pm. I started because it is £5 a class, located 2 floors below my office, and is in the most beautiful faith centre with soft wooden floors and glorious natural light streaming through a stained glass window.  I’m nothing if not about convenient & cheap yoga in a room that matches my leggings.

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It is an Ashtanga class taught by the wonderful Dimitris who is equally a funny (“Smile, it wont make you fall over”) and conscious teacher, and it follows the Ashtanga same flow every week.  When I first started doing it I was sure I’d be bored in a few weeks and stop going.

That didn’t happen.

I had the most to learn in the class by a mile. With very few people in each class (even a few 1:1 classes!) there is no hiding and the teacher always wants to make sure you are doing each pose to the best of your ability and not compensating or cheating. Each class I would be adjusted or told something new to work on that felt impossible to do without the helpful hands of the teacher.

After about 12 weeks the teacher started to communicate the poses only with their Sanskrit names.  After weeks of doing the same flow I had to listen to my body to know what was next and was surprised it remembered the flow more than my ears. Five Surya Namaskara As, Four Surya Namaskara Bs, Standing postures, Utthita Trikonasana then  Parivritta Trikonasana, and on and on…

Marathons came and went, and there was no longer a big YOGA on my Friday calendar, but I continued to go. Some classes I looked forward to the Prasarita Padottanasana where the weight of hunching my shoulders all week would fall out the top of my head. Other weeks the Utthita Trikonasana would feel near impossible as my hips refused to open wide enough. Some classes we’d work on our breathing for what felt like hours of just sitting up straight and breathing. Other week’s we’d spend more time on our back bends getting our breathing and neck posture just right.

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One year later I’m no cover model yogi. I still look like a (slightly less) bent runner with tight hamstrings and minimal hip mobility but through this consistency I have seen improvements.

  • It took 6 months but I finally got into a proper upward dog and not just a glorified cobra.
  • Just last week I did my first “hop” back during Surya Namaskara A (and B).

I’m not moving up to any harder yoga classes, or thinking about entering any yoga competitions (are there any?) just enjoying going to each class. Which brings me back to consistency. During today’s shavassana I was thinking about my running. If I brought some of this consistency to my running and didn’t first think about getting faster and running farther, but about running consistently… what improvements would I see over a year?

So there you go, it took going to a cheap and convenient yoga class for a year to teach me that consistency is important.

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see&do

I went to a talk by Chris McDougall at the running store Run and Become last Friday (top tip: get on their mailing list – they have amazing speakers come in for free talks) and as it turned out he didn’t talk at all.  While he has spent a lot of time conditioning his body to more natural movements, seems his throat hasn’t had the same luck and he came down with a bad case of laryngitis.

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The upside to this was that Tara Wood from Wild Fitness did the talk (with some whispering by Chris) and no offence to Chris, but I enjoyed hearing Tara speak a lot as she brought a different perspective to Chris’ stories about natural movement.  I’m not going to review the talk or the book (go buy it if you like good storytelling about our history as runners & movers) but I do want to draw your attention to Julie Angel and her See & Do project.

The thing about natural movement is that we are all built to do it.  Modern fitness has almost nothing to do with our natural movements, and Tara said that, “”Modern fitness makes our body stupid and weird shapes.” The modern fitness trends have also created an artificial separation between men’s fitness and women’s fitness.  While I do think there are some benefits to targeting men & women differently, the current divide is absolutely bonkers.  I asked Tara & Chris if they see natural movement & natural fitness as being the ‘great equalizer’ and both couldn’t agree more. When you go to a climbing wall or watch parkour, women are often equal or stronger than the men.  In ultra distance running, one of the most natural activities we as humans are built to do, women are winning races overall and the performance difference between genders is less and less.

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So, what is stopping women from being strong and naturally fit? Julie Angel thinks it’s because we don’t see any other women doing it. By normalising images of women being active, Julie hopes to encourage more women to get involved and get doing.  It’s such a simple premise there are people who criticise her for not doing enough, but I think it’s perfect.  We live in such a visual world now with social media and images being thrown at us every day, why not do this?

Personally, I look at project’s like WMN RUN 100, and even things done by my friends like Laura’s ironperson, and am lucky to see women not only participating but winning and breaking boundaries. I think see&do is another great addition to my world of inspiration and hope it gets more women do-ing.

I was luck enough to see some amazing Women do on Saturday at the Highgate Harriers Night of 10,000 PB’s.  Getting to watch world class athletics ( the England Athletics 10,000m championship race was incorporated) for free from lane 3 on the track was amazing. The cheering and atmosphere on the back straight put all cheering squads I’ve ever seen to shame. With a pub behind us, a DJ, and a dancing Knight, Flash & Pimp, the atmosphere was so amazing and I can only imagine how great it was for the athletes to run past.

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Watching women run 32 minute 10ks only improved my confidence in my abilities to run fast and perform at my peak. I saw, now I’m going to do.

a frustrating week

I’ve been frustrated this week. It’s been another one of those weeks where it seems like everywhere I look there is another sexist advertisement or insulting image.

I have a pretty basic test. If a normal person looks at a statement or image and their immediate reaction is “WHAT?” or “That seems unfair” then it probably is. Yes, there might be a reason why it is unfair (status quo, marketing pressure, sponsorship demands, etc) but the fact that it is unfair means it is something that should be noted.

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1. Anna drew my attention to this race that is awarding prizes to the top 10 males and top 6 females. People are saying it is because based on last year’s entries both are equal to 0.007% of the gender’s entry field, but I don’t agree with that. First, there is no cap on entries, so who knows how many Men/Women will enter this year. Second, at first glance it just seems unfair. Why is the 0.007% chosen? Why not 0.009%? Third, if it is a matter of funding, ie. the sponsor only has x amount of money to award prizes, shouldn’t it be split evenly?

2. I was emailed by a PR to try a new fitness class put on by a big UK gym & international fitness apparel brand. This was in the description of the class.

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In no way do I think fitness or exercise should be negatively motivated and it really grinds my gears (lol) when people emphasise this. Not to mention that it is dangerous to associate mental and physical breaking points with fitness as it could actually encourage people to put themselves into dangerous situations. I’ve seen it with the #fitspo community and disordered eating. The intent of the message may not be harmful, but the audience might take it as such.

You might not agree with me that these are issues (a lot of people on Twitter sure told me I was insane for even thinking they were) but I hope that at least by bringing them up and discussing them we’re moving away from the oh well it’s what’s always been done common place and towards thinking before we act.

skateboarding

My first ever do-organised-exercise-in-London was going to the Nike Training Club event in the London Eye. I saw it on Facebook, put my name in the form and got a spot. I didn’t really realise at the time how much would come from that but since then I’ve gone on to test out Nike shoes, unknowingly show up for a Nike photoshoot with an Olympian, and run 10k PBs at their races.

Everyone has their opinions on brands & bloggers, but I really do appreciate how Nike works with us and I think it does a lot to promote running & fitness to Women specifically. Every time I come back from an event I get a tongue-in-cheek “reverse sexism” talk from Alex (who really just wants some nice kit too).

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Last week I was invited to the annual NTC Week and was so excited to get a spot in the yoga-skate night which looked like one of the best classes they were offering all week. I have a little bit of a “what if” with skateboarding and was never cool enough to try it when I was young (but I still think I’d be really good at longboarding) so relished the chance to learn how from some of the best female skateboarders in London.

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We showed up to a hotpod set up right in the middle of the skatepark and settled in for 30 minutes of pre-skate yoga. I found it super cool finding zen in the middle of a busy skate park with the tube thundering by every few minutes. It actually was super calming in a chaos kinda way. After yoga we grabbed some boards and jumped in a quick lesson where we were jumping on the board with our two feet. Finding balance on a wobbly board is pretty much step 1 and it’s all core & bending your knees. You can’t really cheat or else you’re going to go flying!

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After mastering standing on a board, we moved on to.. moving. A few tips on feet placement on the board (point the front foot in the direction you want to go and keep all your weight over its so you don’t fly backwards. Push push with the back food and you’ll be going (slowly) in no time.

Jen & I did a few laps back and forth (not knowing how to turn limited us to our exploring) and picked up a fair bit of speed. Conquering the flat & straight we decided to call it a night before anything broke and headed home with the idea of coming back to the Bay Sixty6  ladies night’s on the first Friday of every month.

Thanks Nike for an experience I wouldn’t have tried without your suggestion!

kit review: Fitbug orb

Guest post time! The lovely Charlie Brown has been wearing a Fitbug orb around for the past few weeks and agreed to review how well it stands up to her very active lifestyle. Don’t believe me? Follow her on Twitter @ziggy_brown and you’ll see she’s doing sprint sets before you’ve even removed your duvet. 

So the Fitbug orb is built to track your every move, day and night, giving you the motivation to “move more, eat better and feel great”.

I was asked to test this little “bug” (my nickname for it) and this is what I found.

First Impressions

So as almost all my friends will tell you I am always busy.  When this lovely little box was delivered I, of course, had to set it up on the move.  Within minutes, whilst working to work(!?), I had registered my bug, set up an online account, linked it to my phone and had starting tracking my movements.  So big thumbs up there for ease!

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Over the next few weeks the bug never left my wrist and I was constantly complimented on my new “watch”.  Now sadly the bug does not have a watch face and this is definitely something I would suggest it adds (obviously I don’t know how easy this would be but it would definitely be a plus point).  So once again another thumbs up for the aesthetically pleasing production of this item, literally complimented everywhere I went!?

The Tracking

So this bug “uses an advanced 3-axis accelerometer to accurately measure your every step and move” this then (when you tell it to) sends your stats via Bluetooth to your phone, or you can login online to see your data.  Now I know I walk a lot, I walk to work most days which is 4 miles, plus everything else that I get up to as the day progresses, but it was quite interesting to see all my details being logged every day.  It did confirm I cover A LOT of ground!

As well as walking I also run, lift weights, take part in various fitness classes, do circuits and during the time period I tested this I also took part in a pretty extreme obstacle race.  The bug, like I said, came everywhere with me and I was extremely impressed that it even survived the Spartan Race, which included A LOT of swimming!   However, the Spartan Race also highlighted the pros and cons of a calorie counter.

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The bug asks you a variety of questions when you set it up, including your age, height and weight and I assume this is the information it uses to estimate the calories you burn.  Personally I don’t count calories I do a lot of exercise, I eat a lot of food!  However, it is interesting to see what you burn on average during the day.  However, during the Spartan Race, a 13 mile obstacle race which had me taking part in physical activity for over 4 hours, the Fitbug told me I had only burnt around 1100 calories.  To me this seems like a ridiculously small amount knowing that on average I burn roughly 100 calories every 10 minutes of running, but then if it is only tracking steps maybe this would be correct ….

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Coming out of the water you can see a bump in the middle of my chest, yep that’s the bug!

The Fitbug also tracks the amount of hours slept.  With three pushes of a button you let it know you are off to sleep and then it logs the hours slept, turning itself off after logging 50 steps taken.  It also tells you the quality of your sleep.  Now I don’t understand how it knows the quality of my sleep but I certainly found it interesting to see how little hours I actually do get per night!

Overall I was impressed with the Fitbug, for the ease of setting it up, how it looked and how quickly you could access all your stats and track your progress.  Personally, I don’t think this product would be for me.   I already know I am active and I don’t really have an interest in seeing how many calories I have burnt as I am always sceptical on how these things are worked out!  HOWEVER, I do think this would be a great little device for someone just starting to get into the world of fitness.  I can definitely see how this would motivate you to get more active.  I mean seeing your stats everyday and seeing if you could beat them is a definite incentive and maybe the calorie counter could be used as a good starter point in understanding how many calories you burn during a long walk for instance.

All in all I think the Fitbug would make a great little present and who knows maybe it would be the start of a collection of technical tracking devices as your love for fitness grows!

Thanks to Fitbug for sending Charlie the orb to test out. All opinions are obviously Charlie’s and neither of us were compensated financially for this post. 

your face is saggy

I expect this from publications like the Daily Mail and frankly can’t be bothered to get angry any more about their disgusting approach to women in general.

When Laura tweeted some images of what the Stylist had published in their most recent issue I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here was a publication that dedicated a whole issue to Feminism and usually does a good job of balancing their beauty/style recommendations (aka advertising sales) with good articles by knowledgeable writers.

Photo via @lazygirlrunning

Photo via @lazygirlrunning

Then they wrote an article about the made up and frankly insulting term ‘runner’s face’ and dry swimmers’ skin. I’m not a doctor or qualified in any way to speak about human physiology (and doubt the author is either) but this is absolute bullshit. It’s not even worth my time explaining why because it’s clearly just a way to sell expensive skin products to women who are again being told to worry about false beauty standards over health.

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Photo via @lazygirlrunning

This article brought up two major issues I’ve been trying to work over in my brain. First, articles like this perpetuate the problem of women being told that not only do they have to look good to exercise, but the only goal of exercises is to look pretty. Why are you running? It better be to lose weight. Yoga class? Long and lean limbs. Weights? Toned arms.  This shouldn’t be the message that the media puts out to women. I exercise because it’s fun. 99.9% of my running is done with friends, at an event with beer at the end, or with my husband on our way to brunch.

Second, it again tells us that we need more stuff and professional advice to ‘do running’ properly. Going on to say that you should change your running technique to save your skin from the dreaded ‘runner’s face’ is another step too far.  The Running Industrial Complex is insane enough trying to convince you to avoid weak glutes, run in shoes that are more supportive, run in shoes that are less supportive, kick your heels like Mo, run at this pace, and dance around like a monkey in compression gear (you get the point) to add changing your running form to avoid a saggy face. Seriously. Fuck. This.

On our flight to Berlin I found a great article in the BA Flight Magazine by Richard Askwith about Running Free and it reminded me that all this garbage about running better (or prettier according to the stylist) is rubbish and not at all applicable to why we run.

 

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Look, I go to the “leading manufactures” events, help lead a run club with a running apparel store, and accept products to be reviewed on my blog as much as the next person so I’m not trying to say we should all strip down and run naked in the hills, but I am saying we should all be responsible to remember why we run and not be influenced by people/blogs/magazines telling you something because they are trying to make money.

The next day, after more than a few people tweeting at the Stylist asking what their response was to the criticism of this article – I was contacted and asked to email the editor with my concerns and I took the time to do so. Her response is below, which to me does a lot of explaining but not enough recognizing the problem of “troubleshooting ways of looking after your skin” in an article about fitness. It’s fine though – I’ve just added the Stylist to my pool of Daily Mail type publications and hope you do to.

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#NTCWeek & community

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This week Nike is hosting #NTCWeek, it’s 7 days of different Nike Training Club fitness activities, nutrition talks and fashion shows hosted all over the world.

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Unlike the standard NTC classes each week that are lead by Nike Master Trainers, these classes are hosted by community groups so it’s a chance to try out something new.  I was lucky enough to get into 3 classes this week (the sign up is always super competitive with hundreds of women refreshing Facebook trying to get spots!) and have tried out a Get Lean! dance class at Frame, Barrecore at their new Mayfair studio, and the Secret Yoga & Supper Club in Shoreditch.  The classes have been top quality and in typical Nike fashion we’ve received lovely tote bags, workout vests, and even a Fuelband SE at one event. The best part though, and the reason I keep signing up to NTC classes, is the community of really fun and nice women I meet at every single event.

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Last night we did a 1 hour Jivamukti class with the Secret Yoga Club and it was everything I love about yoga. There were two instructors, one to demonstrate the poses at the front of the room, and another walking around helping everyone adjust as necessary.  The light was low and there was a musician there playing music to keep our flow on track.  During the savasana we were even treated to a de-stressing neck massage with cocoa butter. HEAVEN! After we headed up stairs to the showroom and were treated to a 3 course supper club (vegan!) for the full Secret Yoga Club experience.  As I sat around a table with 30 strangers, we actually had loads to talk about and I was so grateful to have had such another amazing community experience

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It’s safe to say I wouldn’t have half the friends in London if it were not for the doors that NTC has opened and I gratefully walked through.  I’ve found an supportive community that extends beyond the stretchy and colourful Nike lycra and into a group of women who like getting active, meeting new people, and taking on new challenges.  Through NTC I met Leah and the awesome Team Naturally Run ladies who I’m travelling to Geneva with this year on a Running Holiday.  There is a special bond you create when you spend a Saturday morning together running up a muddy hill several dozen times.  NTC has also given me more confidence in my own fitness to take on new challenges from speedy Parkruns, reformer Pilates challenges, and even joining a real running club. And to think, it all started with a trip up the London eye

NTC Train to Run Saturday hill sessions

NTC Train to Run Saturday hill sessions

edit: I’ve had a lot of predictable responses of people saying they wish Nike did events outside of London. I totally get that, and understand we are very lucky here in the Capital. But the point I was trying to get across here was that it’s the doors Nike opened, that I walked through to find the community. Everywhere has local events and activities, yes they might be harder to find and require a leap-of-faith on your part to join, but they’re there and will be what you make of them. Get out there and find your community! One of my favourite pieces of advice from Liz & Laura of Write this Run was that if there isn’t something – make it. Start the community you want to be in!