#IGAcademy15 - never stop learning

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Are you a perpetual student like me?  Ever since I graduated from Boston University, I have almost always been enrolled in a course.  Scuba diving, veterinary school prerequisites (study hard during undergrad people!), my masters degree and my fitness journey started in 2009 and hasn't stopped since.  This includes personal training, Spinning certification, numerous CPDs, Coach in Running Fitness and my year-long certification course with Institute of Integrative Nutrition.

I call myself a jack of trades, master of none.  But this won't get you very far when you own your own business.

When the opportunity to enroll in an Instagram Academy came up through Fitfluential, I jumped at the chance.  Not only will it help me gain skills and strategy with social media, but I also helps me zero in on who my readers are.  Of course you know who you are and I would love to get to know you better.  With Instagram being a very popular tool right now, I can't wait to interact with you while sharing a few moments from my day- from what I am eating, where I am exercising, and an occasional photo of my Staffie for a dose of cute.

My guide for the next 30 days will be fellow New Yorker and personal trainer, Amanda Tress.  She is a lovely lady and said a lot of things that made sense to me on our one-to-one call.  I encourage you to start following me on Instagram if you don't yet and see what happens over the next month.  It is going to be awesome.

What do you love about Instagram? Let me know your favorite hashtags to search on the comments below.

Activity trackers- tried, tested, and selection tips

Monday, August 31, 2015

Recently there was a conversation on Twitter with #ukrunchat about which activity tracker to purchase. My husband jokes that my forearm, from wrist to elbow, will soon be filled as I am lucky enough to test a fair few. At the Spitfire Scramble, my team and I spent a good half hour comparing toys (I had trouble getting the slap bracelet on because I had my Mio Alpha Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) on one wrist and my Garmin Forerunner 10 GPS Running Watch on the other.).  It is always good to hear feedback from a person who had been able to try it out in the field to learn pros and cons.

My current assortment of trackers
I have been lucky enough to try a fair few, each with a different purpose- heart rate monitor, pedometer, GPS, point accumulator, sleep monitor.  Keep in mind, I am not the most competent/confident person when it comes to technology, so there is a good chance I am not using these gadgets to their full potential.  Activity trackers are a great way to monitor just how active (or inactive) you are which might be the kick you need to get up off the couch.  Here are a few of the trackers I have tried over the years.  Leave a comment below on which activity trackers you have used and what you thought of them.

My first investment was in a Polar HRM when I became a Spinning instructor in 2009. I would wear it religiously in class to keep an eye on how hard I could push myself and how many calories I had burned. I only wore it for spinning though and it has been in my drawer for nearly two years as I don't teach anymore.

Back when I was working at Frame, Nike was kind enough to give all the instructors a Nike Fuel Band. I really liked the simplicity of it and the simple design. The battery lasted at least a week and as it was water resistant (you could wear in shower but not the pool) I hardly ever took it off.  Every day I was monitoring how many steps I took and trying to beat it. My goal was 15,000 and a few times I would be a 100 or so steps short so I would shake my wrist just before getting in bed, much to the amusement of my husband. However, I did have to replace it several times due to software problems in the bracelet. By the 3rd time, I had had enough and was on the hunt for something new. I did like the community aspect built into the Nike app and even the cheesy graphical displays when I reached a milestone.  But I needed something that worked.

The next activity tracker I tried was a Fitbug Air, which I wore on my hip rather than my wrist.  It captured my data differently than the Fuelband.  For example, when cycling, the Air would capture my movement or when washing dishes, the Fuelband would record that.  I couldn't wear the Air for yoga which was a bummer but it was simple to use.  It didn't need charging every day and the display was easy to navigate.

Strava app then became a staple on my runs so I could track my distance on my phone, which helped my training. I would also wear either the Fuelband or Air to keep track of steps as I didn't want to loose track of them.

Mio Fuse with the charger
At the beginning of the year, I tested the Mio Fuse Heart Rate Monitor.  It looks similar in its design to the Fuelband- a simple black bracelet with digital display. However it is able to monitor my heart rate on my wrist (no chest strap needed- yay!), in addition to counting my steps as a pedometer.  The battery lasted at least a month and the devise was water proof so I didn't need to take it off to shower or wash dishes.  Mio offers an app on your phone for loading your steps and workouts, as well as keeping track of the HR training zones during each fitness session.

Soon, I found carrying my phone on runs a bit burdensome (well, I still get lost easily in London, so sometimes it is handy to have) as it was hard to check my distance without having to dig my phone out of my bumbag. For my birthday, my mom sent me a Garmin Forerunner10 watch. And I love it. It is freeing to be able to go out the door and not have to carry anything (when I go on routes I am familiar with of course). It tracks runs, dog walks, cycle rides, and even outdoor swimming sessions when I have it turned on. I can still upload the files to Strava so I have an overall online training log. The watch keeps records of my PBs, sending me instant feedback if I am particularly speedy that day.

What's on my wrist currently? Another Mio HRM, the Alpha, which is bigger than Fuse but still amazing technology for monitoring HR from your wrist.  The display is easy to read when running and I like the chunky style on my dainty wrists with a fun splash of hot pink.  I am still having a play with it, and will let you know how I get on.
Out of the package now!

Right now, I am charging my Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity Tracker and Sleep Wristband.  I invested in the Flex to maximize my Bounts points collection and to monitor my sleep patterns.  I might be too excited to sleep the first few nights I wear it to bed.  

If you are considering investing in an activity tracker, be sure to think about:
  • What activities you do? Does it need to be waterproof for swimming? Have GPS for cycling? Is there a large display to make it easier to read when you are running?
  • How often you need to charge it?  When I started using my Forerunner10, I was surprised how often I needed to charge it.  I am now more conscious of the battery display and charge it every few days.
  • Do you want it do to? Count steps, display your heart rate and monitor your sleep with same device?  Are you good with gadgets to take advantage of all the functions?
  • What apps you want to link to? Bounts only works with some devices.  Strava can upload GPS files and auto-syncs a few different brands.  Does it have its own app?
  • Durability.  Do your research by reading reviews and talking to friends to see what they have tried and if it was able to take a beating (not literally, of course).
  • Price.  This one is last on the list, not because it isn't important (you should live within your means) but I want you to consider your health as an investment.  It is worth it to select a tracker that will help you move more, sleep better, run farther, etc.  Aim to find a balance in budget and functionality before you make your purchase.  
I will write a follow up in a month or two once I am able to use my Alpha and Flex a bit more.  As I mentioned above, feel free to leave a comment below and which tracker is your favorite and why.

Fitbug Air, Mio Fuse, and Mio Alpha were kindly given to me to test and review.  All opinions are honest and my own.

This post was sponsored by Legal and General.

National Fitness Day 2015

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Last year, I was a lucky enough to be a National Fitness Day ambassador.  I was thrilled when they contacted me again this year.  The goal is to make it the most active day of the year for UK residents.  Of course, working out with friends makes it a bit more fun and adds accountability (you can't stand up your friends).  There will be 100s of events taking place across the UK.  You can search for a free event near you- from boot camps, to dance classes, to pick up footie to swim classes.

It's not long now until National Fitness Day 2015 is here.  On 9th September, join me and Fat Girl's Guide to Running, Julie Creffield, as we lead you on a free 5K run though Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, East London.  The route will pass the Olympic Stadium, Velodrome, Aquatics Centre and also go along the water front for a bit.

Join the Facebook event to stay up to date on what is happening with the event.

We will meet at 8:50am outside the East Twenty Cafe (neat the Orbit sculpture) for a 9am departure.  Please travel light as you will have to carry all of your personal belongings with you.  Download the RunGoApp and search for the 'National Fitness Day 2015' route to see where we will be running in the park.  All abilities and ages are welcome.  We will be taking it at a social pace, as the day is about encouraging activity rather than breaking world records.  Hopefully the weather will cooperate too.

If you can't join us, set aside time to do something to be active.  Tweet me and let me know what you get up to.  How are you getting your sweat on?  Did you encourage others to be active too?

Active travel: 6 Boston tips

Friday, August 28, 2015

1st #BostonStrong London run
My university days were spent in Boston, along the Charles River. Boston University (BU) has a long and skinny campus, that ends near Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.  My senior year, I spent a semester "abroad" in Woods Hole, which is about a 2 hour drive from Boston on Cape Cod. I was lucky enough to move back to the 'Hole after graduation where I worked in my field (marine biology).  Perhaps now you understand why I have lead London's #Bostonstrong runs the last 3 years. The city holds a special place in my heart.

I go back to Boston every chance I get and have made my husband (a devout Detroit Tigers fan) tour Fenway with me.  Of course, it helps that a few of my uni friends still live nearby and can offer us a place to crash.  If you ever find yourself in Boston, here are my top six activities to keep you active on holiday. 

1. Walk or run the Freedom Trail- Less than 3 miles long, the Freedom Trail connects many of the historical buildings and American Revolution sights in Boston with a brick path on the pavement (making it hard to get lost).  You don't need to know too much history as there are signs and plaques along the way to let you know what happened where.  If you want to grab a refreshment, I highly recommend the North End, Boston's Italian neighbourhood, for delicious pastries.
Fenway Park

2. Catch a game- As I have already mentioned, I am a Red Sox fan, but Boston also has basketball (Boston Celtics) and hockey (Boston Bruins).  Catch a game and cheer on the home team.  You can also take a tour of Fenway, just as James and I did. It is an important part of baseball's history and features the Green Monster (big wall in left field as the field is small due to central urban location).

3. Catch a ferry to the barrier islands for hiking and camping- if you have kids with you (or just want a day out of the city), let them loose on one of the barrier islands. Take a ferry over (don't forget to bring a timetable with you for the return journey) and then explore. Grape Island has lots of wooded trails, while Peddock Island offers yurt camping, 10 miles of trails for walking or running, and military ruins to explore. 

Boston Harbor
4. Private sailing lesson- Sailing and boating are large parts of New England culture. The Boston Sailing Center offers private lessons on Boston Harbor for those up for learning a new skill and seeing Boston Harbor from a different point of view.

5. Whale watch with New England Aquarium- My work-study positions were at the New England Aquarium. At first, I worked in the education department developing training materials for a new exhibit.  I then assisted with a research project on green sea turtle hearing and helped in Rescue and Rehab with stranded animals. But I would say my summers on the boats were my favourite.  In fact, if money didn't matter, I would work on the whale watch for the rest of my life. It is incredible to observe these majestic animals in their natural habitat and see them curiously look back at you on the boat.

6. St Patrick’s Day 5K in South BostonFinally, if you time your trip right, you may find yourself in Boston for St Patrick's Day. Boston prides itself on Irish heritage, particularly in South Boston.  if you happened to pack your trainers, sign up for the St Patrick's day 5K which benefits the Boys and Girls Club of South Boston.

If you are looking for more ideas on what to do when visiting Boston, check out BestBoston.com for more ideas. 

This post was sponsored by Best Boston.

#WinItWednesday Grand Prizes!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Can you believe August is nearly over?  I have really enjoyed thanking my readers with all the giveaways and am so excited for our final one.

There is not one, but TWO, prize packs available.  The first one is:
  • Complimentary entry for you and friend to Sure's Run to the Beat (RTTB) on 13th September 2015 at Wembley Park, London.
  • Two TomTom water bottles
  • Two Brooks tech t-shirts
  • Two cans of Sure deodorant
  • Two canvas bags to keep all of your goodies in
All participants receive a finisher's medal & Festival Finish Party invite (with Marvin Humes, Jameela Jamil & Danny Howard).  The route has multiple music stations along the way.  Think of it as a mobile street party.  Not a bad way to spend a Sunday, eh?

Please note this giveaway is only open until midnight tonight.  The winner will be contacted Thursday morning so they can be fully registered for RTTB by Friday (not my deadline, sorry).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The next prize pack includes:

I have my own pair of the Xscream 3Ds and have been using them for quick 5K runs while at work, as well as for adding a little color to my outfits.  They are lighter than my marathon training shoes and I love the Salomon Quickstyle laces (no tying, just tighten and go).  These are part of the CityTrail line, boosting dynamic cushioning, adaptive fit, and ample grip for a wee bit of trail.  For example, I took these shoes with me to Ireland a few weekends ago.  The local Parkrun was on various terrain (pavement, crushed shale, dirt, and a bridge) and my Xscream 3Ds handled it all. They still look bright too!  I am never disappointed with my Salomon shoes and can't wait for one of my lovely readers to try them too.

My marathon training was fueled by MyProtein products and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do while out exploring in your new Salomons.  The gels are great for fueling during training runs, as well as races. The Malodextrin is energy-boosting carbs, so you can use before, during, or after a workout.  Because it doesn't take like anything (honest) you can mix with other drinks or protein powders to get your desired affect.

You can enter this giveaway over the next seven days, but don't delay!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway
So what are you waiting for?  Enter now.  Good luck and thanks for visiting my blog.  Also, a HUGE thanks to all the brands for their generosity and working with me.

Salomon graciously sent me a pair of the Xscream 3Ds to review.  MyProtein kindly sent me the Malodextrin and Ener:Gels for reviews too.  All opinions are honest and my own. 

7 best exercises to lose weight fast

Monday, August 24, 2015

There are no quick-fixes when it comes to losing weight fast - and keeping it off. As well as eating a healthy, balanced diet, you will need to make exercise part of your life. But if you're keen to see results in a matter of days, there are some exercises that you should give priority. Performing these exercises regularly and at a rigorous pace will usually enable you to drop excess pounds quickly.

1. Swimming
Swimming is a low-impact activity that is very easy on the joints. Certain swimming strokes also work muscles groups that seldom get used during gym workouts or running sessions. Swimming at a fast pace can burn up to 650 calories per hour, which makes it one of the most effective types of exercise around. Try to swim to the limit of your physical ability for ten minutes at a time, and work up from there.

2. Cycling
Cycling is one of the most easily accessible and effective forms of exercise you can integrate into your daily life. Get on your bike instead of in your car, and you'll be burning calories while going about your daily business. A lot of people have achieved fast and permanent weight loss through cycling, as it can be integrated into daily routines with ease. Rigorous cycling can burn more than 500 calories per hour, which should greatly accelerate any weight loss programme.

3. Running
Running often strikes fear into people with weight problems, but if it is approached in the right way, it can be used to lose weight fast. According to your current fitness levels, you should gradually increase the distances you cover and the speed at which you run. This form of aerobic activity boosts your metabolic rate, increases muscle mass and burns fat at a rate of more than 430 calories per hour.
In order to gradually work on your aerobic fitness, the Fitbug exercise tracker can be used to monitor your progress and drive you on to better your best times and distances. The tracker records every step you take, and provides you with detailed statistics and advice via a mobile app. This provides both the motivation and information you need to use running as an effective way to lose weight quickly.

4. Weight training
The benefits of weight training are numerous. An effective session of resistance training increases the body's metabolic rate for several hours after exercise has ended. As well as the initial calories burned, weight training also increases muscle mass, which improves the effectiveness of aerobic activity such as cycling. Although you'll burn up to 350 calories per hour by weight training, you can burn even more as a result of increasing your muscle density.

5. Aerobic exercises
Aerobics has been one of the many fitness classes offered by gyms up and down the country over the years. More recently, different takes on aerobic exercise - such as Zumba - have been introduced in order to make things more fun. A rigorous session of aerobic exercise can burn up to 400 calories per hour.

6. Walking
A lot of people believe that fast weight loss requires lengthy periods of intense activity, but this is simply not the case. Walking is a highly effective way of getting the exercise you need to lose weight fast, and it is something that can be done as part of your everyday activities. For instance, instead of using your car every time you need to get somewhere, think to yourself: 'Can I walk?'
Whether you're fell walking, hiking in the mountains or simply getting off your bus a few stops early, walking at a quickened pace can burn more than 150 calories per hour.

7. Dancing
Who says that exercise and losing weight can't be fun? Whether you join a dancing class or like to trip the light fantastic at a club, dancing is a great way to get aerobic exercise. Some high-energy dancing can burn up to 254 calories per hour.

If you need to lose weight fast, the facts are simple: Burn significantly more calories than you consume, and success is guaranteed.

This post was provided/sponsored by Kiqplan and FitBug.  

24 hours in a Spitfire Scramble Relay Race

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Last weekend, I was lucky enough to be part of the UK Fitness Bloggers Spitfire Scramble relay team.  There is so much to talk about in regards to the whole experience, so expect a few more blog posts on the topic.  For now, here is a break down of the race, which takes place just over 24 hours.

7.30am: Carrying a load of stuff I leave my house, headed for Hornchurch County Park, which is just outside London in Essex.

9am: Arrive at campsite and meet my teammates who didn't go to a nearby Parkrun (as if what we were about to do wasn't going to be hard!).

11:30am: Race briefing from the organizers, followed by team meeting.  James and Oldland arrive for a short visit as my first lap isn't until later in day.  My team is very excited for the race to begin!

11:55am: One minute silence to honour RAF veterans.

12pm: Race begins with our fearless leader, Helen, setting off in the sunshine.

1:09pm: Helen is back. Cassie sets off, and we are briefed on the course from Helen, who has been sunburned.

I sit around and eat continuously it seems.

6.30pm: Kat hands off to me and I set out on 5.9 mile route with a full tummy. (Note: Need to learn self control when it comes to having a full buffet of food sitting in front of me). It takes me just under an hour to run the course. I get back to the start/finish line and I hand off that baton (aka slap bracelet) to Andrew.

8.30pm: Head to bed as my next run is at 3.30am. I want to get up 2 hours ahead of time to fuel, use the loo, and wake up.  I have trouble falling asleep because the rest of campsite is still buzzing after midnight. It is also so cold I am shivering in my sleeping bag* while trying to figure out how to use the hood without suffocating myself. Doze on and off

1.30am: I get up, use the now smelly port-a-loos and order a bacon and egg buttie.  After walking back to camp, I also have a banana. No one else on my team is awake and it is still so cold out, I can almost see my breath. As I have such a long time before my run and no blanket to keep my legs warm, I go back to sleep for an hour.

3.30am: Kat returns to handover the baton after her 2 laps (half marathon) in the dark. I am worried 1) if I will be warm enough in just my leggings and a merino wool Icebreaker top, 2) how I will be able to see where I am going in the pitch black even though I have a head torch, and 3) if strangers will jump out of the bushes and attack me.

It is actually a relief that the stars are out and the woods are peacefully still. I see occasional walkers, most of whom are recovering solo runners. After the water station, I roll my ankle in a field and walk for a bit to make sure I am ok. It scared me more than anything else so after a minute I start running again but try to keep a light and eye on the path.  Luckily, I have the Trespass Flasher head torch in my hand so I can direct it on the path in front of me.  

The last mile is in the woods is incredibly dark as the head torch I bright from home has decided to fade (due to old battery) and I now have 0 depth perception. I again slow down and take it easy. When I return to the last bit around the campsite, I try to pick up pace but am met by undulating grounds which throws off my stride.  I hand off to Andrew, have a baby wipe bath and go back to bed.

9.30am: I emerge from my tent and into the sunshine. My pillow was crap, I am still cold and camp started to stir hours ago,so I am not really well-rested. My legs feel surprisingly ok and I change back into the clothes from my first run.  This was a t-shirt from Trespass (Recover Women's Quick Dry Active t-shirt), my BU lacrosse shorts, and Salomon trail shoes. I had hung these to dry overnight and they didn't smell too bad.  The shirt was still soft and I found the zippered pocket a great place to stash a gel for emergencies.  The day is starting to warm up so I reluctantly skip compression socks and get myself another buttie and banana.

On our first set of laps, we were a bit ahead from estimated finish times. However, night running plus a few mishaps (wrong turns, forgetting race bibs) slowed us down. We didn't know if there would be time for both Andrew and I to do our 3rd laps. We were on edge as each team member went out, recalculating estimated finish times in our heads.

10am: Andrew kindly offers to pace me for the last lap as an unofficial runner. Sabine is due back about 11am. If she is back by 11:05am, Andrew could probably run the lap fast enough to get me out on the course by midday cutoff. Sabine is limping a bit as she crosses the finish line at 11:10am. Andrew and I head off.

Midday we are in a cornfield as the Spitfire plane flies overhead.  It is pretty cool to see it fly by.

12.05pm: My team (except Andrew as he is still wearing his timing chip) jump into the finishing pen and cross the finish line with me. I turn in my chip and proudly receive my medal which is shaped like an airplane. Race done!

I hope you enjoyed the look into what the racing part of the weekend was like.  Lots of hurry up and waiting, and of course, eating.

Here is a breakdown of the 24+ hours by runner and lap.  I am so proud of my team for being dedicated and amazing.

*On Monday, James and I looked up what the temperature was and it was only 16 degrees but I thought it felt much colder.  James pointed out I am always cold in our heated bedroom with extra blankets so I should have known better and brought my RODS hoodie.  Will post an amended packing list in a later post.

Trespass kindly gave each of our team members a complimentary Flasher head torch and Dry Active t-shirt for review.  All opinions are honest and my own.