Active Travel: Cape Town

Monday, May 22, 2017

Our bikes from iRide South Africa
On my recent trip to South Africa, I wanted to take advantage of the good weather and be outdoors and active as much as possible.   My running and cycling kit were the first things to go in my suitcase, followed by my swimsuit and sunscreen.  I knew it was going to be warm and sunny, but I didn't know the water was going to be so cold.  My hotel was a lovely walk along the promenade to the V&A Waterfront and I saw many other outdoor activities going on- paragliding, sea kayaking, scuba diving, speed boats, sail boats and surfing.  I also heard there was horseback riding in one of the nearby towns.  Although Cape Town wasn't expensive, doing all these extra curricular activities would had added up so I only chose a few. I need to go back to try the rest!

Cycling
Part of the fun of traveling for me is seeing new places by foot or wheels.  My husband is more of a cyclist than I am but we were both keen to cycle while in Cape Town.  Last year, he hired a bike through iRide South Africa so we did the same for this trip.  The service was great as they dropped off and picked up the bikes at the flat where we were staying.  You could also hire helmets and shoes which leaves more room for other things.  One water bottle per bike was provided and we brought extras.  This was important as it was 26 degrees Celsius and more while we were in Cape Town.

We made it.

We are both comfortable cycling in a city (James more so than me because he cycle commutes every day) which was important as Cape Town doesn't have many bike lanes.  It took about 20 minutes to get into the fancier suburbs and passed everyone headed to work.  South Africa for the most part has wide shoulders on their roads for passing traffic which many of the cyclists we saw used.  We were headed south to Chapman's Peak, which included an 850 m climb in bright sunshine with HUGE winds.  I, of course, was nervous of needing the toilet along the way but made it through without incident.  It was great to get back on the bike (it had been since Fitbit Fifty) but I did feel bad for my husband as I am a very slow cyclist.  He is fantastic at climbing hills!  Slow and steady is how I aim to do it.  I get there in the end.

We had plenty of fuel and water with us because it was so hot in Cape Town.  I used additional saline drops in my water bottles to ensure I was hydrated, plus nuun and Powerade.  I had heat exhaustion once in Texas and it was not fun!

What a view!
When we did make it to the top, the view was amazing.  There were other cyclists there too and several cars pulled over.  Everyone was taking photos and looking out over the water.  We were told that over and down the peak there was a cafe, but I didn't want to climb up the hill twice.  We headed back down the way we came and stopped for a 2nd breakfast near the beach.  It was really lovely to be outside, in the sunshine, and see the ocean just across the road.  We made it back to the flat without any problems and relaxed the rest of the day.  James climbed to the top of Chapman's Peak again the next day and found a cafe on the other side of the hill.  I was due to run 13 miles for my marathon training and did that instead.

Running
I found there were plenty of opportunities to run in Cape Town.  Although many books and websites said not to go out by yourself in Cape Town, I felt safe running along the Sea Point Promenade, as well as running from my hotel to the promenade.  There wasn't much shade along the path but the ocean breeze helped keep me cool.  You will definitely need sunscreen!

Adidas Runners Cape Town

Representing London
With marathon training in full swing, I ran most days but had to run very early in the morning or late in the evening because of the heat.  I managed to join Adidas Runners Cape Town for a run along the Promenade and through Greenpoint Park were we crossed paths with Park Run which had a large amount of people taking park (FYI- parkrun starts at 8am in Cape Town!).

The other running I was able to due was a trail run in Stellenbosch.  I was lucky enough to take part in a Dirtopia race on Valentine's Day.  A more detailed review will be up soon.  It was hard to find a comprehensive race calendar, but I think this was due to it being such a hot time of the year.  If you know of one for Cape Town or South Africa, please let me know!

Sea kayaking
I went out on two trips with Kaskazi Kayaks in Cape Town.  The only other time I have been sea kayaking was a on-off in Seward, Alaska, USA when I lived there for a summer.  For those that don't know, kayaking is a sport where you sit in a small boat close to the surface of the water and use a double-sided paddle to propel yourself.  Here are a few things I learned on my trip that you might find useful for your first sea kayaking trip.

All the gear ready for us

Do you need to be fit to sea kayak? Not necessarily, but you do need to be willing to dig in and paddle against the current and waves.  We were put into kayaks with others, so you can share the burden a bit.  Double kayaks are more stable too.  You will wear a life jacket during your trip but you may have to go a ways offshore to go around reefs or rocks under the water.  If you are afraid of the water or are not a confident swimmer, this might be unnerving.  Speak to your instructor before getting into your kayak to discuss your fears and what the trip will be like.  I love being on the water but a few people in my group were either scared to be on the water or didn't realize how much physical activity was involved.

If you want to see local wildlife, ask the company which time is the best to go out. I was told the early morning trips are when animals local to Cape Town are most active and picked the second trip of the day so I could sleep a bit.  We saw a fur seal and some dolphins during my second trip, which was pretty neat!

Everyone is ready to go. Photo by Kaskazi Kayaks

There were a few things I brought with me that were important for this kind of activity- sunscreen (my legs got very burned), bottle of water, sunglasses, hat, swimsuit bottoms (no matter what they say, you will get wet), and shoes for water sports (I wore my Keens sandals).  A towel and change of clothes will not go amiss either.  Basically, it is sunny in Cape Town and even brighter on the water.  You don't want to waste any days of your holiday with a sunburn, so protect your skin.

Just look at that view.  Photo by Kaskazi Kayaks.

I hope to one day return to Cape Town.  What would you recommend we put on our activity list for the next time?  We managed to squeeze in a short safari and cage diving, which I will post about soon.  But I know there is so much more to do and see.

#3PTsToParis- my next challenge

Monday, May 15, 2017


I am so excited to share with you my next big fitness challenge.  It started off as a plan to meet for social laps in the park (ending with cake) between a few fitness blogging friends and evolved into an international trip on two wheels.  For most of my crazy adventures (World Marathon Majors, cage diving with sharks) I end up participating alone.  Sharing this journey with close friends is going to be ace!  Plus it corporates several of  my favorite things- travel, exercise, exploring new cultures, and eating cake.

Elle, of Keep It SimpElle
Departing on 14 July, 2017, Sophie, Elle, and I will be cycling from London to Paris unsupported.  These ladies are also both personal trainers and fitness bloggers with a similar attitude towards health and fitness as me.  We all live very busy lives between working and training but super exited for this challenge.  

My husband will be joining us as the official #InstagramHusband of the trip.  He loves cycling and I am happy to be doing something he enjoys too.  His tolerance for running is limited to Parkrun so I know I will never see him train for a marathon with me.  We trained for Ride London together in the past but I know I slow him down (and I would slow him down for running too).  We have each completed Ride London three times but rode the course at our own pace.  Two years ago we rode to Brighton with some other blogging friends and it was a great day out.

In total, our ride to Paris will be 164 miles (265 km) over three days.  On Day 1, we ride from the Velodrome to New Haven where we hop the evening ferry to Dieppe.  After spending the night in a bike-friendly Dieppe hotel, we spend Day 2 cycling to Beauvais, which will be our longest leg at 65 miles.  Day 3 takes us right into Paris, ending under the Eiffel Tower for a ton of celebratory photos.  There is a courier service who will transport our bikes back to London while we celebrate in the evening with good wine, yummy cheese, and probably a hot shower.  Monday we have the day set aside to do some sightseeing before taking the Eurostar home in the evening.

Sophie, of The Fitology Way
How am I going to prepare?  I am continuing with Julia B Fit's home workout videos twice a week and aim to get out on the bike for a long ride on the weekends with James.  Gradually, I will increase the weight of my saddlebags on the weekend training rides. Monday nights, I teach spining and #tracktuesdays with Advent Running will also stay in my diary.  This ride will take me right into the start of Chicago Marathon training, which is perfect to avoid oversue injuries but keep my cardio fitness up. Win win!


Me!

I am confident I can make it to Paris based on my experience with the #FitbitFifty.  But this trip will require me to make my own way on open roads while carrying everything I need and probably change my own tire.  Travelling with friends under an extreme phsyical challenge should be interesting too.  Having this date in the diary is a great motivator too.  There is even  discussion if this trip goes well, we will plan a longer excursion in 2018.  

Fingers crossed, I hoping in the next few weeks there will be more opportunities for me to share with you that involve traveling and cycling.  Keep checking back for updates.

Have you ever ridden from London to Paris?  Leave your tips for us on what to pack in the comments below and watch for #3PTsToParis on social media as we make our final preparations.  If you are a brand that would like to support us on this epic adventure, please get in touch.


#getraceready with Get The Label

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Spring is here and it is time to #getraceready.  Get The Label is an online boutique that offers a variety of clothes for men, women, and children.  They also have a strong fitness collection that includes tops, bottoms, trainers, and sports bras.  All the top brands are there too- Adidas, Nike, Under Amour, Reebok, Asics and more, but at a fraction of the price.  Seriously- a lot of the fitness stuff is about 40% off RRP (inlcuding trainers!).  Get The Label generously let me pick out a few pieces which I thought would be great in this transitional spring weather (chilly mornings and cool evenings) as training season ramps up again for summer races.

My new outfit

Cold Gear leggings
After my spill. So sad.















The bottoms are Under Armour Cold Gear leggings which are lined with a warm material but also wicks away moisture.  The leg panels are water repellent, which is helpful in misty weather.  The waistband is high and elastic, which makes it very flattering on my body (and stays in place when I run).

These became an instant favorite during the last weeks of my marathon training. I tend to have trouble managing my body temperature during workouts but these always kept it just right.  Can you believe I tripped and fell during an Adidas Runners morning session and ripped them?  Absolutely gutted and I am going to try to mend them.  If I can't, I will be ordering a new pair soon.

As I mentioned before, I am trying to replace my old sports bras that are sad and ragged.  The description of the Reebok WorkOut Ready bra sold me- ultimate support and moisture wicking (are you seeing a theme here?).  I have worn it for both spin classes and run sessions and been happy with the suport it gives my chest.


Finally, the Nike Air Drape Hoody looked so bright and cosy, I had to have it.  I love wearing something around my neck to keep warm when there is a breeze, and the cowl neck hoody allows me to bundle up or cool off a bit.  There are a few design details, such as the pointed cuff, printed hood and zippered pockets, that add to the unique design. The material is 96% cotton and soft.  I wear this top on the way to morning sessions but also when I am home on the couch at the weekends.

I am really happy with the quality of items I was sent from Get The Label.  As I mentioned, I will be reordering the Under Amour leggings (only £29.99) if I can't find a way to patch the stretchy fabric.  I will be checking back every month to see what new products they have added to their shop.



Get The Label generously sent me these items to review.  As always, all opinions are honest and my own.

National Walking Month

Monday, May 8, 2017


Did you know that May is National Walking Month?  Set up by Living Streets, the UK charity for everday walking, the aim is to create a nation where everyone enjoys the simple act of walking.  People often overlook walking as a form of exercise, but it is a great one.  The impact to the joints is less than running and it can still raise the heartbeat.  According to the NHS, walking has even been shown to reduce the risk for chronic illnesses if done at a moderate intensity.  Walking can be done anytime, anywhere.  It is free and just about anyone can do it.

We chose our flat as it is near a large park and I get in at least one walk a day by taking our dog for a romp.  I leave my phone at home to unplug for a bit too and just enjoy being out in nature.  But if you don't have a dog or a nearby park, there are plenty of ways to get your steps in.

The easiest way to accumulate steps is to walk for part of your commute.  Walk to the next bus or subway stop or get off one stop early.  You could also make your tea break or lunch hour a time to leave the office and walk around the block a few times.  When you get back to the office, rack up a few more steps by taking the stairs instead of lift.

In the evening, why not create a new family tradition of going on a walk with the family rather than relaxing in front of the TV?  Your children will learn from your example and benefit from being unplugged for a while too.

The Cinnamon Trust is a great way to get involved with your local community and walk more.  With this organization, you volunteer to walk elderly or disabled neighbor's dogs (there are other pets available to care for too if dogs are not your thing).  Not only will you get your steps in, but the doggies will be happy too.  When we lived in Mill Hill, I walked a dog on Sundays that I was paired with through the Cinnamon Trust.  Now, we have Oldland so he gets us outside at least twice a day, if not three.


On our dog walks over the weekend, I tried out the new Keen Terradora mid-walking boot.  I had heard of Keen before (I have a pair of their sandals which are great for casual cycling and water sports) and knew the boots would be comfortable as soon as I put them on.  The boots have a wide toe box (a signature design aspect of all Keen footwear) and a cushioned panel to support the Achilles.  This cushioning really appeals to me, as my Achilles are very tender and I find some shoes irritate them more.

The Terradoras also have a heel lock linked to the laces which can give extra support if needed, depending on the activity you are going to take part in.  I have a narrow foot and this ability to tighten the shoe to fit my foot is great.  The tread is good for fields, city streets and icey conditions, but the footbed support isn't designed for use with heavy rucksacks.  The shoes are superlight, so for me it is a fair tradeoff as I don't do any serious backpacking.

My style is a bit more 'function over fashion' or sporty, but I think the Terradoras would also work with a bootcut jean if you were travelling on a walking holiday and wanted to head to the pub.  Or if you spent a day exploring the town rather than the mountains, you could wear these boots and still have comfy feet.

Being waterproof boots, I know Oldland and I can walk in the park no matter what the weather.  On the weekend, we go as a family with my husband too.  With our close friends starting to have children, we have found that walks to the playground with the kids are a nice way to spend the afternoon too.  We also take walks with the in-laws when we visit them.  Walking is a bit harder to do when we go back to America to visit my family.  America is designed for driving, not walking!

When do you find time to go for a walk?  Try to aim to get 10,000 steps a day or more this May in honor of National Walking Month.  Just remember to carry water with you if you go out for a long walk, just in case you get thirsty (or lost!).  If you need some inspiration, check out these sites:

John Harris' Walking in England- links to free downloadable maps

The National Trails- explore the diverse landscapes of Britian (has info on horse riding trails and cycling paths too)

Walking For Health- search for a health walk scheme near you.  Over 1,800 free short lead walks are offered a week.

London For Free- 12 free self-guided walks of London.

Free Tours By Foot- another bunch of free walking tours of London


The boots were given to me for a review.  All opinons are honest and my own.

Post-Marathon Blues

Friday, May 5, 2017

At the London Marathon red start
As you read on Monday, the London Marathon has come and gone.  It has been my sole focus since mid-December, so to have it gone is a bit unsettling.  I still have my long term goal of qualifying to run the Boston Marathon in 2019, but it seems so far away and I am not really happy with my London Marathon performance.  Yes, I got a PB, but deep down I feel it is because I didn't stop and use the bathroom as many times as I did in Berlin.  I also didn't stick with my goal of 9:30min/miles.  Friends warned me not to start off the London Marathon too fast.  I did though (the cheers are infectious!) and tried to rein myself in.  Near the start of the race, my splits were estimating I would finish in 4:15:00.  But my body just wasn't strong enough.  Hips and legs started to hurt at mile 16, which was 10 long miles from the finish line.

This has always been my problem during a marathon and I know how to solve it. Is it fear that keeps me from strength training?  Lack of time?  Self-sabotage?  I have all the kit I need, the knowledge of the exercises, free access to a small gym, a membership to an online gym with tons of video resources yet there is a mental block.

After every marathon (or usually 2 weeks before), I swear I will lift for the next race.  My butt shouldn't be lazy.  My heels should come up to my bum when I run not barely lift off the ground, right?

It comes down to how badly do I want it?  How much am I willing to give to reach Boston, to finish a marathon feeling strong rather than limping around for the following week, to fit the expected aesthetics of a personal trainer (another one of my insecurities)?

To bring things into focus, I have set myself three SMART goals:
  • Complete 2 strength sessions a week for the next eight weeks
  • Three rounds of 10 kegals and clams six days a week
  • Run Chicago Marathon in 4:15:00 (8 October 2017)

As a #fitnessrockstar in Julia B Fit's online gym (where a free basic membership is available), I am fortunate enough to have access to most of her videos.  There are a dozen programs or you can mix and match videos as you see fit.  Julia recommended a few specific workouts for me that fit in my two sessions/week goal, as well as getting my body into better running shape.  She has introductory videos for all the programs to give you specific instructions on each move.  This allows you to 'hit the ground running' when you watch the workout.  As a personal trainer, I find her combinations of movements refreshing.  The body is continually challenged, no matter which video you watch.  A lot of the workout can be done without any equipment or simply dumbbells and a yoga mat.

Working out in my narrow flat
Don't worry, I will keep busy on the other five days of the week.  I have a few spin classes that I am taking at the Velodrome and RUNch sessions mixed in too.  In June, I am taking part in the London 10 Mile race in Richmond Park (anyone up for brunch?) so I need to keep logging miles.  Something else is planned for July too but I will share more about that soon.

After the eight weeks of strength training, it will be time for me to start marathon training properly again.  I am considering hiring a run coach to give me a bit more structure to improve my speed.  If you have ever worked with a running coach, please leave a comment below on any advice you have for selecting one.  Or if you have any tips on getting over the post-marathon blues, I would love to hear about them.

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La Redoute 2017 fitness guide collaboration

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Towards the end of last year, the lovely ladies behind La Redoute UK contacted me to try out some of the kit in their sportswear shop, as well as offer my advice to their customers about how to stay fit and healthy.  You can check out their 2017 fitness guide here, which includes a few interviews with other fitness blogging friends too.

Dip in the pool at Champney's
I hadn't heard of this site before they got in touch.  The selection of sportswear is huge and includes many big brands, such as Nike, Adidas, Puma, Rebook, and R Essential.  Every time I have a browse, I see their selection has a lot of classic pieces that will always be in style, as well as a few items that are brighter and bolder.  There is so much selection that I had trouble picking out which clothing items to try.

In the end, I went with a one-piece Arena swimsuit with pink fish on it for my trip to Cape Town. Unfortunately, I only wore it under a wet suit on my cage dive because the water there is too cold for beach swimming.  I hadn't heard of Arena before but the product is meant to be chlorine resistant.  I tried it out at my Champneys Spa break in early Febraury.  It fits well but I knew to go order a few sizes up with my apple body shape.

Next I got a new sports bra to replace some of my Shock Absorbers that look a bit dingy.  Have you heard you are supposed to replace your sports bras every 6 months?  I struggle to find bras that are supportive enough for me, so I tend to stick to one brand and style. On the La Redoute site, The Z Sport Virtuosity bra claimed level 5 support and the color was bright so I though I would give it a try.  I have worn it spinning and it did the job pretty well.  It also supported my 'kids' well on a few Sunday long runs so I was able to discard my saddest looking Shock Absorber.

Way outside my comfort zone here with a 'topless' photo. At least my bra matched the Overground decor.
Photo by Chloe Knott
Finally, I gravitated towards the print of grey Puma capris, which fit really well and have a supportive waistband.  To complete the outfit, I also ordered the grey branded Puma shirt to match.  The bottom of the shirt flares out a bit, which would cover my bum.  The shirt is made of cotton (I tend to prefer technical fabrics) but it is still really comfortable and fits me well.

Photo by Chloe Knott

The clothes are high quality and the prices on La Redoute are really reasonable for the brands and selection they offer.  They have street wear as well so it might be you new go-to site for one stop online shopping.  The collections are constantly being updated (which is why I cannot link to all of the kit I tried), so set it to your favorites and have a look around every once in a while.

Big thanks to La Redoute for the complimentary clothes and including me in their fitness guide.  All opinions and body image concerns are my own.  

Race Review: London Marathon 2017

Monday, May 1, 2017

I am very happy to share with you my thoughts on the Virgin Money London Marathon (VMLM) my first Abbott World Marathon Major of 2017. It has been a challenging four months of prep for one race, but it was worth it.  Thank you to everyone who reached out to me with best wishes in the week leading up to the race and then congratulations after.  It meant a lot to feel the love.

Race entry and fees: Hugely popular with runners worldwide, VMLM has a 1 in 19 chance of winning the ballot.  Most people opt for charity places or if you are fast enough, a'good for age' entry.  I ran with Plantlife who asked me to raise £1000 this year (it might change for 2018) after paying £50 registration fee.  I probably ended up spending £200 of my own money across the several fundraising events I organized.


Course and bogs: I was in the red start in corral 8 and bumped into Haydy walking to the same start zone so we chatted a bit along the way.  It was very organized and sign posted for bag drop in large trucks and starting pens in the main road.  Before checking my bag, I popped a handul of EnergyBits and pulled out a Bounce ball for a last minute snack.  The port-a-loos were arranged in little U shapes along the edge of the park, which made cueing much more organised.  Charlie and Tom came over to say hi and to alert us to the shortest loo queue on the world. Score! I ended up leaving my corral after the start of the race to use the loo last minute anyways and was really glad I did.

Queues for the loos
I wore my new Kalenji bum bag from Decathlon which fit four MyProtein energels, my phone, and a 500ml water bottle with Tailwind. There was plenty of water stations along the course at every mile from mile 3 to mile 25.  Lucazade, one of the major sponsors, provided sports drink  at miles 5, 10, 15, 19 and 23, as well as gels at two points along the way.  Port-a-loos were stationed at several points along the way.  I stopped at mile 8 for a quick pee (unlike Berlin when I stopped several times in a variety of locations).

Location:  The race starts in South East London in Greenwich and ends on The Mall by Buckingham Palace.  The 26+ miles winds it was through many of the streets north and south of the Thames.

Course map at the expo









Atmosphere:  This day has to be the one day of the year that everyone in London is happy.  People are friendly, chatting with strangers along the side of the road and on the Tube.  The  majority of the course is well-stocked with people cheering for friends and strangers alike.  Many spectators carry homemade signs and others hand out jelly babies to the runners.  It is truly an amazing day to be in London, whether you are running or cheering.  I am so grategul to have had James at Mile 20, my Team Naturally Run girls at Mile 22, and Advent Running at mile 24.  It made all the different to get to the finish line.
Crossing Tower Bridge. Nearly 1/2 way!
Goody bags and bling: The medal is substantial with good weight.  I might have missed a chance from Princes Harry and William giving me my medal, but I didn't think they would still be around by that point. My goody bag contained an apple, sweet and salty snacks, a few flyers about Virgin companies, plus a few drinks (water, coconut water, and a guava Lucazade).  The finisher shirt that came in the goody bag was a bit odd because it has an ice cream cone on it saying 'I licked it'.  I really don't get the reference.

New PB of 4:30:07
Snack attack! Oldland was more interested
in the snack than my presence.
Things to know if you want to take part next time:  I would say not to bother carrying water with you as there are stations nearly every mile.  But see how you do on your training runs to see if this is appropriate for you.  I noticed with this training cycle, I became really hungry on long runs and craved real food.  Next time, instead of gels, I would carry Clif bars or Bounce balls over the spare two gels.  Sabine suggested I have James hold a snack for me, and I am so glad I listened to her!  I would also encourage my supporters to carry a balloon or inflatable something so they stand out in the crowd.  I tried to convince James of this this year but he didn't believe me.  He does agree with me now that it is best to leave the dog at home at home because of the packed crowds and all the sugary candy on the ground.

Feeling like you are up for the challenge?  The Virgin Money London Marathon ballot opens 1 May 2017 and closes on 5 May 2017.  Magazines are posted in the autumn to let you know if you have won an entry.  Let me know if you are lucky!