My mojo is back! And so is my DOMS

Friday, May 20, 2016

With the increased sunshine and daylight hours, I seem to have had a boost in my energy levels.  I wanted to let you know what I have been up in recent months.

First off, I went on a week's holiday at the end of April to Egypt and Turkey. My girlfriends from uni met me in Cairo for a few days.  For the second half of the trip, I met my husband in Istanbul for a few days by the sea.  It was really nice to get away from work for a few days. I will be sharing my Active Travel tips for both cities soon.  Since then, I have been trying to get out and do more.  The time off really helped me refocus and find my motivation to be fit again.  With that has come more runs at lunchtime and more workout classes after work, such as Best's Bootcamp, Studio Lagree, and Fierce Yoga (review coming soon!).

Inside Studio Lagree
After watching The Runner Beans video, I had a better idea of what to expect at Studio Lagree. The name, better known in big cities like Toronto, doesn't offer much insight into what the workout will be like.  The founder is a reformer Pilates instructor, which explains the basic design behind their M3 Megaformer machine. But these have many more bells and whistles- straps, handles, loops, and two stationary platforms- than a regular Pilates reformer. Nadine, one of the master trainers for the London studio, took myself and the other new clients through the names of each feature to help us understand instructions during class. Instructors don't lead the class by demonstrating on a machine, but instead giving verbal instructions continuously throughout class. Lagree method is big on slow and steady.  Each in and out movement should happen over four counts. Nadine circled the studio to give one-to-one instructions for those (myself included) who needed help with their form.

Working my inner thighs
I have done a few reformer classes before, but that didn't make sliding on these machines any easier. I lost my balance several times and even stumbled off. Every muscle, partially the core, is challenged during this class, due to the design of the machine.  No matter when you turn up, you will experience something a little different as every class is full body, but the instructor can choose which routine to lead.  This will help to continually challenge your body in new ways no matter what your schedule is during the week.

The biggest struggle for me was remembering all the names for the different parts of the machines and then knowing which move I was supposed to do.  Some had common names (lunge) some were trickier (Mermaid, Dancing Bear).  The instructor will say to watch so and so but it can be confusing if you don't know anyone's names or simply can't see them in the dimly lit room.

The studio holds 12 machines and there are changing facilities. Lockers have a keypad and showers are available. Towels can be hired for £1 and there is a small range of fitness clothing available from lululemon, Michi, and Toe Socks.  (Studio Lagree recommends you wear grippy socks rather than go barefoot in the class). The staff was super friendly and helpful during my visits so far.  I even brought a friend who hadn't been to the gym in a while.  She enjoyed it but also found it challenging- in a good way!  We both moaned about our DOMS the next day over text messages.

Thanks to Studio Lagree for gifting me a few class passes. All opinions are honest and my own.

Product Review: My Zone MZ-3 heart rate monitor

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

MZ-3 shown without the chest strap
Heart rate monitoring is thought to be another tool athletes can use to tailor their training to their individual needs.  Depending on your session goals, the program design will be to get the heart to beat at a certain rate.  In order to monitor this, you will need to wear a heart rate monitor (HRM).  My Zone recently released the MZ-3, which is a Bluetooth chest strap that works with an app in your phone that gives you real time feedback and logs your session info for future reference.

The HMR charges with a USB plug and the Bluetooth capability turns on when you are wearing the device.  In order to prolong battery life, it is recommended to keep the transmitter detached from the strap when not in use so you need to be careful to keep the transmitter and chest strap in the same place so they are not lost.  I had to wet the connector bit before wearing in order for my heart beat to be connected (I can assure you I am alive) which is often the case with HRMs.  The app then displays your heart rate continuously throughout your session to help you stay on target. Usually, I prefer a wrist HRM, but I wore the strap below my sports bra on my chest and wasn’t bothered by it during my run or indoor cycling classes.

My heart rate profile during my trail marathon

Wearing the strap on your chest (rather than wrist) captures your heart rate more accurately which will in turn help you make a more informed decision about effort levels during a training session.
I keep my phone out of sight when I exercise, so I downloaded my workouts after I got home from the gym. To do this, you need to put the strap on and sync via Bluetooth to the app.  The app keeps a training log for you and has a social aspect that allows you to link with friends.  Another fab feature is a food log, which I have yet to try.

All the cool features of the app

If your gym uses My Zone equipment, you can earn Bounts ( points too (my referral code mmillin1695). Unfortunately, you cannot sync My Zone to Bounts as an individual.

The MZ-3 is a small piece of kit that you can keep in your gym bag in expedite your results in the gym.  Your heartbeat tells you a lot about your body's reaction to a workout so use the MZ-3 to take note and help you monitor your progress.

If you are interested in receiving a free MZ-3, contact Health Rewards about their amazing insurance plans and quote PTMollie for more info.  Health Rewards offer you a free activity tracker (from selected list) when you sign up, which also earns you additional benefits with each healthy action you take, such as free cinema tickets, Starbucks, discounts on travel and more.

I was given this product to try out.  All opinions are honest and my own.

Active Travel- London Part II

Thursday, May 12, 2016

School holidays are rapidly approaching.  If you are headed to London, here are some ideas on how to stay active during your trip.

Up at the O2- Thanks to Simply Health, my husband and I were recently invited to climb the O2 Arena in Greenwich. It isn't for the faint-hearted, although there are many safety precautions put into place. The ascent is 28 degree climb, while the decent is even steeper- 30 degrees! You are given trainers with good grip and are locked on to a wire, so you can't fall off or knock too many people over.

Ready to climb on s sunny day
Photos before the climb starts
Capturing the view

My descent

James and I went on a sunny day down to Greenwich. The entire experience takes about 90 minutes as there is a safety briefing, each visitor is then given proper shoes and climbing gear, and then there is a 10 min break once you reach the top of the O2. James and I climbed the O2 three years ago but it was a cloudy day, thus making the view unimpressive at the time. We had gorgeous weather this visit around, but a new hotel and flat tower now block the views across the river to Canary Wharf.

I walked about 22,819 steps that day with climbing the O2 after parkrun (see next point) in the morning, burned 2,673 calories, and had 118 active minutes according to my Fitbit Flex. Even though I have been running and riding a bit more lately, I still felt an increased heart rate during the climb (stairs always get me, so this is no surprise). As you are strapped onto a safety cable, the whole group has to stay together because no one can pass each other.  There is no pressure to rush as people are enjoying the view with every step.  Unfortunately, it isn't something I can afford to do every day, but between Up at O2 and parkrun I walked many more steps that day than I usually do (I aim for 10,000. 14,000 if I want Bounts points).

parkrun- Admittedly, I only started going to parkrun when we moved to Forest Gate as there weren't any locations close to our previous two flats. I am happy to say I even have turned James into a regular attendee (I think he has been more times than me). It is a free timed run on a Saturday morning, not a race as everyone is a finisher. You can find a one here on a global map if you are not based in London as there are several international locations. If you are visiting London, it is a good way to meet the locals and discover a new park while sweating a bit too.

Oliver, one of the kids at my parktun

#Stancerun = socks + run
East London art run with Stance- True, this evening itself was a one off, but you can reach out to Alternative London to arrange another street art running tour. Stance socks launched their European Street Art (#Stancerun) tour last week.  We were treated to a four mile run around East London (follow me of Strava and you should be able to see the route). We stopped often to learn about the art work and the artists behind them.  It was amazing to me that the art ranged from Banksy in Tower Hamlets to miniatures on pieces of gum by Ben Wilson, to huge black & white murals by Phlegm, to bronze statues atop light poles by Jonesy. Big thanks to Gary, our tour guide, for spontaneously adding in a woman artist  (can't remember her name) to our route (wooden blocks on a lamp post) after I inquired about the lack of women street artists mentioned so far on the tour.

Wee bit of gum that is also art
After, we were able to watch a live street artist make a mural on Stance boxes and we were then able to take a box (aka a piece of the art) home.  I have box #33.  Stance socks are super comfy and range in design and functionality (I am going to find a pair of Olympic USA socks if it kills me!).  They also have high-vis reflectors to keep you safe when running in low light conditions near cars.

Street artist making art for us to share
There are lots more active things in London to try if you visiting.  I will post a part III in a few months.  What attractions in London do you visit to keep active when travelling?

This post was sponsored by Simply Health.

Strava Global Cycle To Work Day

Monday, May 9, 2016

Tuesday is Strava's Global Cycle to Work day.  So hop on your bike, log on to Strava, and help take part in this massive global data connection project to make your #CommutesCount.

Strava Metro will share the data with urban planners to help design infrastructure that benefits cyclists and pedestrians.

Unfortunately, I can't ride to work on Tuesday because I am working at multiple sites, but you can check out where I am running and cycling any other day of the week by clicking on the pink Strava button in the upper right hand column.

Please remember to ride safely, wear a helmet, and be aware of your surroundings.  Oh, and have fun!

Brand new bootcamp in town

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Waiting for the studio doors to open.
Bootcamps are great because they offer you a kick *ss workout that includes both strength and cardiovascular fitness via running.  Whether they are 30 minutes or an hour, the constant switch between weights and treadmill offer your body a constant challenge while letting also letting it 'rest'.

Pressing up on the custom Best's Box, photo by Marcel G.
There is a new bootcamp on the London fitness scene. Strategically located next to Charing Cross station, I recently attended a preview of Best's Bootcamp.  The studio's official launch is 9th May and they will be offering classes from 6am to the last class at 7:30pm. I rocketed through a 50 minute class with many of my fitness blogger friends, with 3 sets on the treadmill and 3 sets on the gym floor with weights and body exercises.

Best's offers a unique 3D experience as they have TV screens for the Trainer Cam to help participants see what the instructor is doing. The room is an L-shape with 21 treadmills and another 21 Best Blocks (custom soft ploy boxes). During our world preview session, Lee lead the class while 3 other trainers walked around to help us with form.  I hope when the classes start, at least 1 extra instructor will be in the class in the initial  months.  It was really helpful to have a bit more help figuring out what moves you were supposed to be doing and with picking out equipment.

Treadmill Army, photo by Marcel G.
In the Best's Bootcamp classes, intervals are one minute long and Lee demonstrated each new move for the 'Worker Bees' for 15 seconds. He also had to keep track of the 'Treadmill Army' who were sprinting, hill climbing, and eventually sprint descending.  The treadmills are a special design from America that allow you to run both uphill and downhill, which I was a little apprehensive about.  However, when I ran downhill, it didn't feel steep and I was ale to remain in control as I picked up speed.

Worker Bees, photo by Marcel G.
After our sweat fest, we were each rewarded with a protein shake as a DJ spun some tunes.  The women's changing room as a cool down blast chamber (I don't know what else to call it) in the corner which will help you cool off after a tough session.  There are lockers with keypads and also some where you can use your own padlock.  A few of the lockers also have a USB charger so you can leave your phone charging during class.  There are plenty of showers, toilets, hair dyers, and straightners.

Time to refuel with a protein shake
Aside from the Bootcamp studio, there is also a cycling studio.  It wasn't kitted out yet when I was there, but I look forward to returning to see what it looks like.  As a spinning instructor, I am always excited for a new studio to open up in London.

Will I see you there soon?  First class is free, so no excuses.

The awesome mural in the studio. Look for
#itsalondonthing on social media.
Photos are mine, except for those marked Marcel G Photography.

Black's + The North Face launch Mountain Athletics

Friday, May 6, 2016

On 6th April, the Holbourn Black's store held an event with The North Face (TNF), highlighting their new Mountain Athletics range.  TNF athlete, James Pearson, told his story about becoming a professional climber.  It was sweet, because it was basically the story of how he met his wife and she trained him to become a stellar rock climber.
James telling us about his journey
After hearing James, we headed out with TNF trainers to run the streets of London and get an effective workout with just our body weight.  Unfortunately, both parks were closed so we ended up on the pavement on the north bank of the Thames along the Embankment.  It was tough being only one of three girls, with tons of guys, but I held my own (aside from the press ups).  It was fun racing through 5-6 exercises per set doing as many rounds as we could in a few minutes.  It was a great workout, followed by a recovery run back to the store.

I was lucky enough to get Pulse leggings, Graphic Play Hard vest top, Motivation 1/4 zip top, which are 3 of the 9 pieces from The North Face's new Mountain Leisure line.  The idea behind the line is to get outdoors and train for something.  I found the Motivation top to be really soft and breathable during my workout with the TNF trainer. There was a bit of wind along the river and the sun had set by the time we started moving.  I am going to wear the pieces a few more times before I give a proper review so check back next month for the scoop.  On my trip to Cairo and Istanbul, I ended up wearing the Motivation top nearly every day, as the nights were quite cool.

It was very kind of The North Face and Black't to invite me to this fun evening.  I look forward to exploring more of the outdoors in and around London in my new Mountain Athletics kit.  Luckily, high elevations are not required to have fun.

The Motivation top I have been enjoying