Revving up over the next 3 months

Friday, October 30, 2015

Just a quick post to share some community initiatives to help keep you on track from now 'til February. I really embrace these sort of genuine campaigns because with more free offerings for physical activity in local communities, I hope it results in better health.


British sport brand, Ashmei, wants you to run 1 mile or ride 5 miles every day in November, which they have dubbed GO-vember.  I wrote a review of their socks over on the H2 Life Blog.  Over the course of November, I will post reviews on their women's capris and running jacket, along with a review from James on the men's cycling jacket.  Hopefully our info will help you figure out how to spend your 35% discount in December.  


Last last 3 years, I have brought you the Zero Calorie Advent Calendar (ZCAC) with Becca and Christine.  We announced over the summer that the calendar wouldn't be continuing as our lives have changed quite a bit since we started ZCAC.  That doesn't mean December won't be fun.  Some new kids came on the advent scene last year and have remained strong ever since.

AdventRunning, which has grown into AR Collective, are people who love to run. Near, far, city, trail, if you can run it, they want to be there.  James and Claudia feel like old friends as I have watched their love of running infect much of London's running scene over the last year.  The advent bit is simple- run 30 minutes every day from 1-25th December.  Any pace, any place.  Just run.

If you can't wait until 1st December, Advent Collective have track sessions on Tuesdays, Beigel Runs on Friday mornings, and long runs on Sundays.  


There are 2 virtual runs you can sign up now for (no time like the present).  If you are a beginner, UK Fitness Bloggers are offering a 5K race for £10 (£3.50 of which goes to RODS Racing).  We recomend using the NHS Couch to 5K (C25K) program as training over the course of the month.  Stay tuned as I will the hosting a 5K to help people earn their medals at the end of January.

Run Mummy Run is a online community of 16,000 women (you don't have to be a mom) who are thinking about running, used to run but want to start again, just started running, or are old pro's.  Their community challenge in January has an awesome roulette medal and will aim to accumulate as many miles as they can from all participants.

Let me know if there are any other local programs that encourage physical activity I should know about in the comments below.

Don't let the dark get you down

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Yes our clocks have turned back, which means it is a light out in the morning on the way to work.  But what about on the way home?  It is dark out there and I don't want this to discourage you from training outdoors.  I am pleased to say I am teaming up with Nathan Sports to bring you one heck of a run club.  They will have a few of their visibility products for you to try to ensure motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians can see you after dark.

Starting Tuesday 3rd November and running (see what I did there?) through 15th December, meet me at Action PR's office on Tabernacle Street near Old Street Tube Station for a guided run at 18:30 for 18:45 departure.  Week 1 will be a 5K route passed London's landmarks.  Even weeks will be technique and speed session in a nearby park.

Bags can be left in the office and there is a shower if you have a hot date after the run.  Each session is £2 and we will use the money after our final session for pints in the pub.

Take a sneak peek at the 5K route by downloading the RunGo App.  This handy app gives verbal cues as you run so you won't be distracted by looking at a map on your phone (much safer!).  You also won't need to worry about getting lost as the app will guide you back if you take a wrong turn.

All abilities welcome as we will have front, middle, and tail runners.  No excuses now so bring your running kit to work with you on Tuesdays. Big thanks to Nathan Sports for keeping us active this winter.

Race Review: Inagural North London Half

Monday, October 26, 2015

A half marathon who's start line was less than 2 miles from my house?  Yes please!  Back in March, I was marathon training with 17 miles in the books for that day.  The North London Half seemed to be a perfect solution.  All I had to do to get my miles in was run to/from the course with a bit extra on the way home to hit my target.  Plus I could sleep a bit later as there wasn't too far to travel to get to the start.

Upscale port-a-loos but they still have a queue
Registration process & fees: Registration was online but as I received a media place, I am unsure of how much it cost.  For my media spot, it was very confusing to get id bracket in one spot, drop bag on completely other side of stadium (across security and the track), and the start line was a far bit from the stadium.  All these factors meant I left my bag in the regular bag check and run to the start in the hopes that I didn't miss my start pen.  There didn't seem to be good communication of information between security, staff, and organizers when I had questions on where things were.  The layout of the stadium played a large factor in this I think.

Location: The start line was a bit up the road from Saracens Allianz Park in Mill Hill (NW4) with bag drop and the finish line in the park behind the stands. Allianz was hard to access via public transport if you didn't know the area, although they did have shuttle buses running from Mill Hill East station.  I was a local and was quite happy with the location.

Mo at the start
Course & bogs:  The stadium had limited toilets available for women and everything was spread out around track with different sponsor stands, food trucks, and loos. The queue to pick up my bag after the race was terrible (I think I was in one line for 2 sections as it made no sense why the line was so long). I ended up eating all the food in my goodie bag (chocolate bar and chips) while I waited for at least 20 min in the cold rain.

My fab pacer, Lenka, and I inside Wembley
Along the course, I was lucky enough to be paced by Lenka (check out her blog, Runista) and it was great having a chance to catch up with her.  The course was essentially flat for a while, but then had some unexpected hills (right after I commented on how flat it was to Lenka).  It was cool to run by some sights in my neighbourhood, like the RAF Museum. Running inside Wembley was pretty awesome. I stopped to get a photo with Lenka and rumour has it we made it up on the Jumbotron. Wembley Stadium was the turnaround point, so you felt pretty good when you started seeing familiar landmarks on the way back.

Route map
James and Oldland walked down to see me near the finish at mile 11. I even got O to run with me for a very short distance and got a cheeky pro shot with him (but I won't share in case of copyright issues).  However, this wave of excitement drained the last bit out of me and I couldn't kick at the end for a strong finish.

The bling
Stormy skies as we approached Wembley

Atmosphere: The cold rainy weather wasn't the best (kinda spitting but not too windy), but people were excited to see Mo Farah blow the starting horn so the start pens were buzzing.  After the race, people were excited to have their medals but the cold rainy weather meant people quickly departed.

Bling/goody bags:  Everyone got a medal and a black tech t-shirt at the end. My friend and former client, Kiera, volunteered to hand out medals to the finishers.  It was lovely to see a familiar face at the end of a tiresome 2 hours.

Tips if you decide to take part next time: My feedback would have been about setting aside lots of time to get to the start line,  There must have been a lot of feedback about location though as they have switched the route this year to start and end in Wembley Stadium.

Want to sign up for the race on 20th March, 2016?  Registration is on offer for only £35 until 2nd November, so sign up now to take part in next year's race.  For 2016, all runners will receive a free finishers technical t-shirt from race partner, Brooks, a fantastic medal, premium goody bag and post-race massage on race day.

I was lucky enough to attend a
press event with Mo Farah
after the race. Awesome.

Thank you to Vitality North London for the complimentary race entry and the opportunity to have a photo snapped with Mo Farah.  All opinions are honest and my own.

What do you think about Brits & physical activity?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

There is an upcoming UK Active National Summit entitled 'Building An Active Britain' taking place in early November here in London. Attendees will look at the new government's approach to promoting physical activity; explore best-practice based on real world examples; examine the latest evidence and practical guidance in terms of physical activity.

I would like to better understand what the barriers against physical activity are for the general UK public and then relay your ideas and concerns to the 500+ senior delegates from the physical activity sector so we can take action & get people moving more.

Would you mind filling in this survey with your views by 31/10/15? With your help, we can make a difference. Feel free to share the link too.  

 After the conference,I will be reporting back to you on what I learned and how we can change the amount of exercise Britains get. 

The no pressure marathon

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

And it spins!
Unexpectedly, I have signed up for the Mill Hill Marathon (MHM) in March 2016.  Up until May, I lived in Mill Hill, but I still work there every day.  Last year was the first MHM, and I only found out about it the day after.  I was super-bummed to have missed it but the organizer said she kept it small (50 entrants) on purpose.  The second is open to 100 people, and I have recruited a few colleagues to join me.  The run will be 5 hilly laps on trails and bridleways.  I know I won't PB.  I also know I will be able to train on lunch breaks with my friends, which will be easier than fitting it in before or after my commute.  As a small new race, none of my fellow blogging and running friends have run this course so I don't need to worry about being competitive with their running talent (but I do welcome them to join me!).  These factors make me excited and ready to embrace this race, rather than fear it, as I did Prague, or ignore, as I did Berlin.

I have selected an 18 week novice training program from Hal Higdon and all my runs are in the diary. Training starts 2nd November. My friend, Lucy, prefers Sam Murphy's Marathon from Start to Finish for her 16 week marathon training programs.  These are awesome because they have 2 fitness levels and Ideal, Real, and Bare Minimum options.  That way, you have some options if life starts to get in the way of training.  These also have speed work, hills, fartleks, etc where the plan I choice just focuses on the miles.  Between the two regimes, we should be ready for the MHM.  Running n Mill Hill will also prepare my body for the hilly bits of the course as there are lots to choose from when setting out for a training run.
My first 3 pairs of 16's. #4 is waiting in the box under my bed.

Longtime readers will know that in the past, I have struggled with plantar fasciitis (PF) and Achilles tendinitis (AT) on and off for many years. Because of this, and the amount of running that I do, I invest in good sneakers (aka trainers) and usually get fancy insoles too. My running shoes are only for running. I don't wear them to work or out for a meal.  The miles they travel are precious, and I want to ration them out.

Over the summer, I bought 2 pairs of Asics Gel Nimbus 16s online because they are increasingly hard to find as the new version is now on store shelves. These were going to see me through Berlin marathon training and eventually, the race itself. However, I decided not to run Berlin and instead have been squeezing in 5ks when I can.  I have a few pairs of more fashionable trainers that I feel comfortable running 5ks in, as the distance isn't too great, I don't have fancy insoles in them all.  But I definitely feel a bit stiff and achy the following day after a short run.

In my proper running shoes, I have been testing out the Sole Softec Response footbeds.  The benefits of these footbeds include:
  • Custom orthopedic support (by warming them up in the oven, then moulding to your feet)
  • Equalized pressure distribution
  • Reduced plantar fascia strain (exactly what I need!)
  • Increased balance and feel
  • Improved natural heel cushioning
According to Sole, the Softec Response footbeds also "gently lift your arch into its optimal position, allowing your foot to function properly, preventing over-pronation which can lead to a range of conditions such as shin splints, knee pain and plantar fasciitis.  The deep heel cup stabilizes your foot in the shoe and reinforces your heel’s natural shock-absorbing quality."  Sounds good to me!

Sole footbed
Original insoles

I have noticed less pain when I run in my Asics with these footbeds and I am not as stiff the following day. You can see in the photos that the insole is firmer than the one that came in the shoe. I am a neutral runner, so I am not sure what it is about firmer insoles that helps my foot stay in place along the way but it helps. Usually I wear Superfeet Green Premium Insoles (designed for high profile feet with high impact activities), but I have to say I am really loving the Sole footbeds too.  They were not a brand I had heard of before this trial but one I will recommend to other athletes with PF and AT.

Thank you to SOLE for graciously giving me their footbeds to try during marathon training.  All reviews are honest and my own.

Good to know!

3 R words every runner should know

Monday, October 19, 2015

If you are new to running, or a seasoned veteran, there are a few new words that might not be in your vocabulary yet. As you meet more and more runners, and don your trainers in different post codes, you will pick up on the local verbiage.  The words I am about to share are so awesome, you need it to start using them right away.

RUNch- using your lunch break as a time to go running.  Usually enjoyed best with friends or co-workers. That way everyone is sharing common goals in the office and you will all return to work after lunch with wet hair.  You will outside meet people from outside your department which might be useful in the future if you have to push something through with a tight deadline.  Plus 'El deskco' will be the norm, so people won't mind that spot of dressing in your shirt.  It is a great way to reset your day and energize your brain for the afternoon too.

RUNcation- a vacation to another location with the primary purpose of taking part in a running event. This has to be one of my favourite activities of the year.  Many friends recommend the Geneva Harmony marathon, which  travels along the roads and lakefront in Geneva, Switzerland yet can be run by a relay team.  I hope to recruit people to the challenge next year.  Other options include a 2 person half marathon Relay (a 4th R word!) at Rock’N’Roll Marathon San Diego, USA or River Run 100km relay in Brisbane, Australia.

John Lennon wall in Prague

This year, I traveled to Edinburgh for a half marathon and a weekend of whiskey tasting.  Of course, we cannot forget my first marathon in Prague! 

Hang out with friends and relax!
Recovery- to let your body rest and heal after vigorous or intense training.  This word you should already know but not many people observe.  At least 1 day per week you should relax and not train.  Your muscles work very hard during each fitness session throughout the week.  Allowing them time off will help your physical performance improve more rapidly.  Recovery also includes eating well and keep hydrated to keep body in good shape. And don’t forget the importance of a good night’s sleep.  Be sure to schedule that in too. Others ways to facilitate recovery include compression clothes, heat or ice packs, and/or massage therapy.  

Those are the 3 R words I think you should add to your vocabulary as a fitness enthusiast and runner.  What other words would you add?

Azul Fit Retreat (Part 2)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

At the end of September, I spent a few days at Azul Fit, a rural fitness retreat on the Spanish island of Fuerteventura.  Check out how the first part of my stay was before continuing on with today's post recapping my last 2 days.

Day 4
One of the delicious breakfasts
I went off on a solo 3.8 mile run while the rest of the guests attended the second meditation with Frauke.  With a looming half marathon, I thought it would be best to get more miles in.  It seemed to be very freeing, as many said they had a release of tears during the class, but could not explain why. Nicola was back to teach another Pilates class, but this time we made use of small ball.  The ball was only half inflated, and really helped focus the muscle groups you were working hard by keeping up the muscle engagement.  It is a luxury to have 1.5 hours to work on each move without rushing through the class.   After class, we had breakfast with Nicola and she was available to answer any questions with had about Pilates- the founder, the theory behind it, anatomy, etc.  She brought some books with her that we were able to look at while we talked about Joseph Pilates.  After I finish eating, I decided to head to pool for dip in the chilly water (I am such a wuss!) and then I laid by the pool for about a half hour.

The next thing on the agenda was a nutrition workshop with Jo Dombernowsky.  She follows Ayurvedic principles and sets all the menus at the retreat.  Her recipes aim to be simple, with less than 5 ingredients.  Jo also likes to incorporate whole grains in her cooking and use fresh local produce.  Over 2 hours, we learned a bit about how each person will fall into the vata, pitta, or kapha doshas (or an overlap of the two).  We took a short quiz to be sorted into our doshas, and I found out I am a Vata-Pitta.  Armed with this information, I can now start choosing foods that compliment by body rather than take it out of balance.    
Vegetarian dinner

The entire time I was at Azul Fit, I never that the sugar rush or energy crash.  I didn't feel bloated and enjoyed the sourdough bread at every meal, and rice with dinner.  After completing Whole30, I thought I would need to stay off grains and rice forever. But armed with this new philosophy, I can start choosing foods that work better with my doshas. When I start to have certain symptoms, I will know my doshas are out of alignment and I need to work on re-centering myself.

After the nutrition workshop, we have a few hours to ourselves so a few of us walked to pick up food from a shop on the main road. As it is a Monday, a few of the local restaurants are closed.  We kept it simple with a quick stop to the grocers where I pick up a Spanish version of Laughing Cow cheese, Coke Zero, and fresh roll-all for €2.39 (and completely against much of what I just learned in the nutrition workshop).  Sabine and I have a little picnic at the villa in sun.  We also do a mini photo shoot to capture our happier selves in the gorgeous oasis.  

Next on the agenda was the first yoga class of the week, taught by Valentina.  She is from Italy and very passionate about her yoga, which shines through in the 1.5 hour class, as well as the question and answer session afterward.  She started yoga 10 years ago while involved in Muay Thai but has since given that up. She started and ended the class with chanting as she played a Bina organ, which is something I have never experienced before.  I was sitting towards the front of the class and seemed to feel a pulsating energy during the chants, which was pretty cool!  I am not sure if it was from out group or Valentina herself.  Perhaps it was a bringing together of spirit and focus.

After class, everyone was very relaxed.  We had a free evening and we changed out of our activewear and started towards the main road for dinner at a local restaurant, El Horno.  The menu had so many choices, and the prices were very reasonable.  We shared some wine and starters, and then everyone had a large main dish.  Some people, myself included, got dessert as well.  Sabine and I split a mojito gelato and a local dessert that is a cream base with biscuit crumble.  I can't remember what it was called but it was delicious!  With bellies full of good food and minds and hearts full of great conversation, we made our way back to the villa.

Day 5
Sweatie selfie!
I was incredibly sad it was my last day.  I felt like I had only experienced the tip of the iceberg in terms of recharging and refocusing my body and mind but knew I need to get back to work.  I started off the day with a run accompanied by Gina, Dirk and Karen (I recruited them last night after dinner). The sun was barely up when we started off at 7.30am but they were keen to head out. They enjoyed the open landscape of running through a dessert and said it was good to get some cardio in.  There was a nice cool breeze on the way back which was refreshing.  We got back to villa with 20 minutes to spare before our yoga class with Valentina.  Our class focused on our lower body and hips, which was just what I needed after my run and before travelling all day.

My final meal was another gorgeous meal prepared by Jo herself.  I was going to miss all the fresh food and second helpings, as I don't have time for that at home.  Unfortunately, I had to stop eating so I could have time to shower and finish packing.

Frauke and Lisa gave me a warm send off (as if we have known each other for years) as Gillian put my case in the car.  We had another lovely chat on the long drive to the airport.  This time I paid more attention to the changing landscape and the different types of buildings along the drive.  I discovered a big cichlid tank in the airport before security and Gillian told me about the outdoor patio beyond security for a few last minutes of warm sunshine. The airport also offered 30 minutes free wifi, which I took advantage of before boarding my plane.

Overall impressions
Everyone who works for Azul Fit, or is associated with them, loves their job and believes in what Azul Fit offers.  The retreat certainly does restore calm and balance, as well as introduce you to new friends with similar interests from around the world.  The rural location allows you to switch off from a metropolitan hustle and just let go.  A few people developed sniffles during their stay and I believe it was from letting go of their normal day-to-day stress.

The lounge, photo courtesy of Azul Fit
You can do, or not do, anything you like during your stay.  The team is able to find you additional excursions should you wish.  Or if you'd rather sleep in and skip a Pilates class, that is ok too.  I plan on returning next year with my husband and his bike.  He won't be signed up for the classes but can enjoy the rural setting, volcanic landscapes (he is a geographer), and the amazing food.

In terms of weather for late September, the days started out sunny but the clouds tended to roll in by midday.  Not sure if this was due to the change in seasons or just a bit of bad luck.  The overall temperature was warm, but not oppressively hot, this time of year. The evenings were a bit chilly (long sleeves and long trousers required for someone who is always cold like me) but I slept without socks which is a big deal!

Azul Fit is a holiday that you can mould into your own depending on what helps you switch off and relax.  They have all of the tools to help you do it (physically, mentally, nutritionally), you simply have to choose which will work best and let it all go.  

Check back in a few days and I will have a link to a photo album so you can take a peek at what the world of Azul Fit looks like.  You can also visit their website for photos of accommodation options.

Product Review: Next phase of fitness tracker- Mio Fuse

Monday, October 12, 2015

Nearly everyone I know has a fitness tracker (even my parents). They come in all shapes and sizes, each with its own monitoring capabilities. Pedometers were probably one of the earliest trackers, and the models offered today can do so much more. Not only do they count steps, but they will calculate calories burned, how well you slept, and the distance you have traveled. One feature that many lack is the ability to accurately monitor your heart rate. If they do make that claim, usually design has been deemed more important causing the technology to suffer.  When Liz Dickinson, founder of Mio Global, set out designing the Mio Fuse, her number one priority was to create the most accurate heart rate monitor that didn't require a chest strap to track an athlete’s fitness and recovery as well as their performance. Mio Global sets out to empower athletes through innovation and be compatible with many apps and training devices.

Digital display is easy to read

The Mio Fuse comes in black with crimson or aqua accents and is made of durable silicone which means even the most sensitive skin will not react  the constant contact.  The band fits a variety of sizes as there are holes all the way along the strap.  From far away, it looks like a chunky black bracelet as the display only turns on when the band is in a horizontal position and you press a button to scroll through the available information.  The data is shown with LED red block letters/numbers and rotates between time, goal, steps, calories, and distance. When you decide to activate workout mode, a little vibration tells you it is looking for your heart rate on the dorsal side of your wrist.  The workout function is fantastic at monitoring your activities if you were going to a fitness session but not moving your arms (such as cycling or even walking with a pram). Once you start your workout, your varying heart rate will demonstrate how hard you worked and be recorded on your app.

The green light is what scans for your pulse on the
dorsal side of your wrist.
Two of my favourite things of the Mio Fuse is the battery life and the fact it is waterproof up to 30 meters.  I only need to charge my Fuse once a month but Mio reports the battery will last a week with workout mode used for an hour each day.  I have had other activity trackers which you could wear in the shower or to do dishes but none that I can wear when I am doing laps at the local pool.  

The Mio Fuse has a handy app to log your workouts and monitor your daily progress to your goal (which is default set to 10,000 steps a day).  It is compatible with many phones, tablets, GPS watches, and bike computers which allows you to stay in touch socially with your active friends and keep your training records in one place.

Since I received my Mio Fuse, I have worn it every day, even bed sometimes.  It is a lot of fun too as everyone wanted to learn what their resting rate was.  Heart rate training is an efficient way to train smarter and will help you make great gains in a shorter period of time. The Mio Fuse is also more comfortable as there is no need for a chest strap, which can sometimes be cumbersome if you are also wearing a sports bra.  Chest strap-free is definitely the way to go as you continue to work towards your next race.

Mio Fuse with the charger. Simply connect via USB cord.
Mio Global graciously gave me a Fuse to try for this review. All opinions are honest and my own.

Announcing VTG 2.0

Monday, October 5, 2015

I am very happy to reveal VTG2.0.  It starts Monday 12th October and we will finish by mid-December. The investment is £149 for 9 weeks.  Earn £10 off for each referral that signs up. It is open to anyone in the world who has internet access and wants to:
  • Loose weight
  • Feel stronger
  • Eat better
  • Balance work, life and fitness

We are limited to 10 members so I hope to hear from you soon.  

See photo below for info on the new aspects of the program.  Please join me!

Azul Fit- lovely little fitness holiday (Part 1)

Friday, October 2, 2015

As I mentioned in a previous post, last week I travelled to the Spanish island of Fuerteventura to Azul Fit, a yoga and pilates retreat.  Overall, the villa and staff were warm and welcoming during my stay. I instantly felt at ease. The food was fresh, vegetarian, delicious and filling (more info on the in-house nutritionist and menu-designer, Jo, in my Part 2 post).  We had sun in the mornings, with clouds in the afternoon, but what can you do?  It was refreshing to meet people from all over the world (Ireland, Belgium, Russia, Germany, Norway, Sweden) who had a common interest.  We laughed, ate, explored, ran, and ohmmmed together.

Azul Fit was founded by Jamie Issac and his wife Karissa. The philosophy of the retreat is 'Seva' (selfless service)- doing things with love and finding peace through yoga and Pilates practice.  It is a place to rest and recharge, which is exactly what I needed. You can 'do whatever you like' while you are there- attend all the classes, add one-to-one tuition with their amazing instructors, attend workshops on nutrition and/or chakras, schedule treatments with an osteopath, book a facial or manicure and don't forget a one hour massage is included with your stay. It is set far from the hustle and bustle of city living, putting you in a location that looks and sounds very different from home. 

With a staff to guest ratio of nearly one-to-one, the Azul Fit team is extremely accommodating (and obviously love what they do with ) as they strive to provide everything you might need during your stay.  Their focus is on their guest's health and well-being with fresh nutritious vegetarian food, excellent instruction for all levels, and plenty of downtime to recharge in the sun and by the sea. While What'sApp'ing with my husband, I told him my plans for the day and he called it a 'personal trainer's paradise' and it was for me.  But I think those new to yoga and pilates would enjoy their stay as much as I did.  The instructors take time to explain the philosophies behind the instruction, which you don't get in a busy London studio.  At Azul Fit, there is time for a conversation between students and teacher as there isn't another class waiting outside the studio door.  

Azul Fit usually runs their program from Saturday afternoon to Saturday morning.  I was lucky enough to be accommodated on Friday night and but had to leave on Tuesday due to work commitments.  It was cool to meet two groups of guests and see how the week finished for everyone.  I highly recommend staying for the Saturday to Saturday program to get the full benefits of the program.  Here is a daily recap of my stay:

Day 1 (Friday)
My tent the first night. The rest of the time, I was in the other
tent but with a single bed. Looked the same otherwise.
Gillian, a friend of Azul Fit, picked me up at airport.  To get to the villa by public transport, it takes 3 different buses, so I opted for a lift.  The landscape is brown and rocky, which seems fitting for a desert but wasn't what I had expected.  It made for terrific sunrises and sunsets, however.  When I arrived, Lisa and Frauke welcomed me to the villa and went through the paperwork, offered me chocolate brought by a guest, and then showed me to my tent, which was kind of Moroccan in it's style. My toilet is up a flight of stairs in the main house and I share it with 2 other guests.  There are many styles of accommodation to suite a variety of needs and budgets.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to see any of the other bedrooms but you can have a look on their site.  A few guests are headed out on an island tour but I declined so I could relax before our evening class. I put on my swimsuit and read by the pool in the sun (glorious sunshine!). I flipped over and took a nap. 

Sunbathing by the pool.
A wee bit later, I woke up and washed my face. The wifi is only available in the villa to allow for a digital detox should you wish. I know I should, but I log on to quickly check email and then head to Pilates. Nicola is the instructor and used Swiss balls to make the class more challenging as it is the last class for the current guests.  Nicola is lovely and warm, with amazing verbal descriptions of the exercises, making the class easy to follow.  She has a sense of humor about it all too.

I head back to my tent and read after class, something I don't have much time for at home. Dinner smells amazing as soon as I step into the villa.  Turns out it was the dessert tempting me- simple apple crisp (almond flour, ghee, apples, cinnamon) after our filling veggie dinner.  I chatted with the current guests but head to bed at 9.45pm since the taxi picked me up at 3:30am.  Plus, I really need 9 hours of sleep a night but usually get 6-7 so I planned on taking advantage of early nights as much as possible.

Day 2 (Saturday)
I had set my alarm for 7am but dozed until 8.15am because I can.  Being on holiday is great! I set out for run at 8.35am and say I will be back in 30 min. Running off-road on  the cyclocross tracks was very hard for me, making my pace much slower than usual. I had hoped to do 5K but it was getting close to breakfast time so I thought 2.6 miles would be enough. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the way back, so I turned on the internet on my phone and ended up clocking a very slow 3.8 miles in total (Remind me to tell you about the time I got lost in New Zealand while on a run and had to call 999 for help).

1st run, before I got lost. Note volcano in the background.
It was a lovely and delicious breakfast with homemade granola, marmalade, and sourdough bread. I showered and read a bit more before hopping on the bus at 11.15am (had to run to bus stop as it was a bit farther than I thought) to El Cortillo. It is a sleepy fishing town with lots of oceanfront but not much to do from what I saw, aside from visit cafes. Perhaps if I had been other other people, it would have been the perfect setting for deep conversation by the sea.  On the recommendation of Lisa, I had lunch at the Vaca Azul (Blue Cow) (a deal at £15, including 2 glasses of wine and terrific view of the sea) and then read/napped on white sandy beach. Of course, I got a wee bit of a sunburn as I didn't bring my sunscreen with me.  To cool off, I took a quick dip in the sea before heading back to the bus stop. The bus ride back was on-time and comfortable as the bus is a 'coach' rather than city-style bus. It is super-affordable, costing only only €1.75 each way.

View from Vaca Azul.  You can walk on this platform if you want.

Sabine is the fellow blogger who introduced me to Azul Fit.  She had arrived while I was gone so we talked a bit before the first Pilates class of the new week with Nicola. It was a similar format to yesterday's class but no props this time (just as challenging however!).  She spent lots of time walking around the studio assessing everyone's ability and form. Over dinner, the new group got to know each other better, discussing why they came to Azul Fit and what they did for a living. There were a few people from Ireland and also a few men, which surprised me as most group exercise classes in London are attended by only women.  Turns out one man was sent by his wife as a way to relax, while another was a journalist who was writing a story about the resort.  There was also a lecturer in dance, a banker and another gentleman who was travelling with his partner.

Although it was meant to be a relaxing week, my head was buzzing on how to fit in a run, yoga, massage and a bus trip to Correlajo the next day(#firstworldproblems).  Since I wasn't staying the whole week, I didn't want to miss anything.  The buses only run once per hour, which meant my timing was very important.  I fell asleep by 10:30pm after reading a bit more of my book.

Day 3 (Sunday)
Sabine and I
I skipped the run and instead attended Pilates with Nicola which also included some goal-setting for the week.  The group had brunch and were able to ask Nicola more about the theory of Pilates.  I went to the bus stop with Sabine, Dirk (husband meant to relax) and Duncan (lecturer). We explored the streets as I was told by another guest there was a market on Sundays. Turns out, she was mistaken (the market is on Mondays and Thursdays) but it was an interesting town to explore once you passed the touristy bit near the bus stop.  We walked to the harbor and admired the view of the sea and watched people building sandcastles. Lunch was tapas and wine, and I took the bus back for my massage, which was included in the week's program.  The massage was in a small building near the bus stop on the main road. It was a little difficult to find as all the buildings looked like private residences, but I made it in the end after I bumped into fellow guests who were able to reassure me I was in the right place.  I had fun chatting with my masseuse  (Adele) about marathons and life on the island. As she was also a runner, she understood my painful piriformis and worked on that a bit. 
Correlajo harbour

Because my massage went to 5pm, I was 15 minutes late to meditation and yoga with Frauke. The meditation involved chanting and it was interesting to learn the mantras and philosophy about the 'inner eye'.  The yoga was Kundalini, based on the 'Breathe of Fire', and was new to me.  It was tough to get the breathing right. I definitely need more practice! Dinner was right after class and finished with a well-deserved chocolate cake. Some people stayed up for lunar eclipse, which I was told peaked at 3am.  I chose sleep, of course (funny how the only time I find to exercise and sleep is while on holiday). There were dogs barking off in the distance, so next time I will bring ear plugs as I am a very light sleeper (you'd think I would have learned my lesson by now).  About 6am, the local roosters start (again, a bit in the distance), which is another good reason to bring ear plugs if you stay in the tent.  No one in the villa noticed these sounds during the night as I asked at breakfast.  If the location was in a city, I am sure the traffic would have woke me up too.  My husband and I usually take urban holidays, so this was my first rural retreat, making some of the experiences new.

You will notice I don't have any photos of the classes.  I wanted to respect all the guests who were on a relaxing holiday.  I do have a few photos of the studio that I will share next week in Part 2 of my stay at Azul Fit.

Thank you to Azul Fit for hosting me.  All opinions are honest and my own.