Making sport accessible for all

Monday, October 30, 2017

A big part of the blog is letting my readers know about different sports, new fitness trends, and encouraging you to be more active in your daily life.  Last month, I was thrilled when Decathlon invited me to be a part of the newly established Decathlon Blogger Community (DBC).  There are 25 of us so far who will be testing out some of the kit offered at Decathlon while we try new sports.

Some of the DBC gang
I have been familar with Decathlon since arriving in the UK.  I was lucky when I first arrived in London because there was a Decathlon near me.  Any time I tried a new sport (like ballet, open water swimming, cycling) I knew I could purchase quality kit at affordable prices from the store. In fact, my road bike is a BTwin. They offer equipment and supplies for over 70 sports, all under one roof.  That was back in 2011 when there was only one Decathlon store in London.  There are now 28 stores throughout the UK and the plan is for there to be a total of 300 by 2027.  Perhaps after that world domination?  Decathlon can currently be found on four different continents.

Finding out what more about the circuits

As a way to meet the other bloggers, we met up at the Decathlon London office for some fun and games.  We started off with a circuit set outside in the car park.  Charlotte, Bethan, and Stephen were on my team and we dominated! The stations were chest press, battle ropes, walking lunges, and slam balls.  I am pretty sure it helped that we had four people on our team rather than three as your earned points for each completed rep.

Teams at the ready.  Turns out most of us don't know much about European sports teams and stats.

There was also a pub quiz which was so difficult because I don't know too much about professional sports. I would rather play any that sit around and watch it, which seemed to be a general consensus. My husband would have dominated at this quiz.  Luckily, Stephen knew a fair bit and Charlotte is up to date with her footballer wife gossip.  It was close, but I am happy to say Team Yellow won.

Team selfie!
We will be learning more about the program in the coming months.  With over 20 Decathlon brands to choose from, I don't think we will run out of activities to try. If you would like me to highlight a specific sport or want to learn about a Decathlon product, leave a comment below and I will see what I can do.

We are the champions. 
Thank you to Decathlon for believing in what what this blog is all about and my mission to get more people active by discovering new fun ways to move more.

Capturing all the action. Bethan was committed to the cause in her weighted vest

Clothes for every workout as the season changes

Monday, October 23, 2017

Mammut shorts on the move
About a third of  my wardrobe is activewear.  I tend to prefer technical fabrics over cotton because I have trouble regulating my body temperature and prefer to wash things after wearing a few times to reduce my impact on the environment.  As I have mentioned before, I like to trial test products a few times before I let you know what I think.  Here are a few pieces I have been trying over the last few months.

The first are Mammut MTR 71 Shorts, which I found to be super versatile. I used them for marathon training, indoor cycling, dog walks, and plain old home workouts.  Having the inner shorts helped prevent chafing between my thighs when I had longer runs planned.  There is a small zippered pocket in the back on the waist and a key pocket on the inside front.  The fabric is breathable and very stretchy due to the spandex component.  The large was a little big on my thighs so I found the inner shorts would sometimes ride up.  I think if I had the mediums, it would have been fine.  There is also an antimicrobial treatment to the fabric to reduce odor, which means you can pack light on a camping trip without having to worry about worrying about the smell.

Mammut shorts and my OgiYogi hoody

My OgiYogi hoody and leggings came to me in May.  We had such a fantastic summer, I haven't had a chance to wear these until recently.  I am so sad because they are truly amazing!  The leggings fit perfectly and are great at balancing my body temperature when I start sweating.  I also found the print flattering event though I normally avoid horizontal stripes.  The merino and bamboo hoody is super soft and warm, with a concealed zip and thumbholes (check it out in the above photos).  It has pockets and a longer length torso.  I do wish the zipper would open from the bottom because the longer length has to fit over my hips which it does but I don't think it is super flattering.   I guarantee I will be living in these pieces this autumn for running, spinning, and lifting.  And sitting on the couch while I write blog posts.

Blindfolded yoga with The Private Yogi

You might not know that Hunkemoller sells more than lingerie.  They recently started offering sportswear in a variety of styles (including a Blogger line).   I received a black Hunkemoller top with a mesh back panel in early 2017 and have found a ton is uses for it.  The front is a solid piece of black fabric with a normal crew neck.  When we went to Cape Town, it was a beach cover up and a cute top to wear to the bar. 

Breakfast on the deck before swim time
The back really is the fun bit.  In London, I use it as a layer to go to the gym over a bright sports bra.  Unfortunately, this particular top isn't available any more but there are new lines offered several times a year.

Ready for a night out
If you have any questions about these pieces, leave a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Thank you to all of the brands for providing me with samples to try. All opinions are honest and my own.

Active Travel: Chicago

Friday, October 20, 2017

When travelling, I love to use my free time to prioritise fitness and try new things.  I spent a lot of time researching different fitness trends in Chicago that were not commonly seen in the United Kingdom.  Unfortunately, I didn't have time to try them all.  Here is what I suggest you do next time you visit The Windy City.

AIR® class in River North

This studio offers beginner/foundation to advanced aerial exercise classes, such as Flow and Core.  The fabric, called a hammock, hangs from the ceiling and can be twisted together for additional strength or extended to fully suspend your entire body.  Don't worry, it really is strong enough to support you while laying horizontal a few feet off of the ground.  Alexis taught my class and was very good at explaining which ways we were to flip our bodies up and around in the fabric.  The two other women in the class had been to the studio before and were much more confident with their ability, while I had never done anything like this.  (I did a cocoon class at Gymbox once but that was just for relaxation).  Within the first few minutes of class, I was already hanging upside-down during the warm up.  It was such a strange sensation to feel the pressure of the hammock on my lower back as the blood started to rush to my head.  It took me some time to learn to trust the hammock and relax into each movement.  Alexis, a former dancer, taught us a few  separate sequences to build a one minute routine, which we tried at the end of our 50 minute class (click here to watch a video of Alexis demonstrating).  Unfortunately, my lack of upper body strength hindered my ability to do several of the moves.  I was sweating profusely throughout the class, had to take a few breaks, and definitely felt the session in my arms the next day.  Classes can hold up to 22 people at the River North location.  The studio has recently launched Floor Lab too, which is a barre-inspired workout session that covers plyometrics, planks, and push ups.

My most advanced move


Lovely mermaids before we plunged in the pool

Learning to float
What woman didn't dream of being a mermaid when she was a little girl (or even now)?  Splash was one of my favourite movies growing up. I used to swim like Madison in all my friends' pools. When I saw I could do this as an adult with a real tail, I knew I had to try it.  AquaMermaid Chicago offers classes on Sunday mornings at UIC Sports and Fitness Center.   The classes can also be arranged for birthday or bachelorette parties.  I roped two of my good friends, Lisa and Pattie, to try it out with me at the Hilton Chicago pool.  All I can say is that I was smiling from ear to ear from the moment the tails were pulled out of the bag.  Our swim instructor, Cora, was very friendly and patient as she taught us how to float with the tails on, swim from one end of the pool to the other, and how to do a somersault.  She also tried to teach us how to do a dolphin circle (not sure if that is exactly what is was called.  We had to do a backwards somersault while keeping our legs straight) towards the end of our session. But by this point, we were getting tired and water kept going up our noses.  A few moves were challenging for us to do because we only had one lane of the lap pool available to move about.  We made it work though, as you can see from the photos.  We all got a few foot cramps from the monofin so make sure you eat a banana earlier in the day and take the time to warm up before the class. Overall, this was an absolute blast!

Explore the 606
Unfortunately, I didn't make it to The 606 but I absolutely love the idea of it.  It is an abandoned railway line that now provide 2.7 miles of trails for walkers, runners, and cyclists.  Along the way there are art installations and green space.  You can have a look at all the maps here.

Divvy, Chicago's version of Boris Bikes
OK, yes you can rent bikes in London, but I didn't realize Chicago offered this too until my last few days.  I would have much rather ridden a bike around town that taking the subway.  You can see things from a pace riding through neighbourhoods rather than from the train line.  Prices start at about $10/day (or $99 for the year), where a one way ticket on the L train is $2.25 and a one day L pass is $10.  In Oak Park, the suburb where I was staying, I saw several commuting cyclist and numerous cycle lanes. The only downside to the bike rentals is there isn't a helmet included, but you could probably rent one of those too from a local bike shop.  If you are confident on a bike and up for exploration, I highly recommend trying these out.

There were many more things I wanted to try, like a kayak architecture tour and indoor surfing class, but I just ran out of time.  If you have a suggestion on other active travel for Chicago, please leave a comment below.

The next chapter

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

At Chicago start line
On Sunday, I returned from 11 days in the USA which included 3 races, an aerial dance class, and a mermaid swim session.  My brain and body are still confused as to what time it is but I am trying to think ahead to my next challenge.  Currently, the only races I have booked in are 18 November for A Day at the Movies for a shark medal (think Jaws and remember I am a fish nerd) and London Winter Run 10k.  To be honest, I am looking forward to a break from marathon training.  I have completed three World Marathon Major (WMM) marathons in the last 13 months (Berlin, London and Chicago).  It is all consuming, from scheduled runs to cross training, arranging travel and carb loading, even if you are injured like I was over the summer.

A full review of Chicago marathon (my 3rd WMM) will be up soon, but I can tell you my body just wasn't strong enough per usual.  To help correct my weaknesses (and hopefully increase my speed) I am working with Function360, who provided me with a gait analysis at the end of the summer.  Their team is confident that they can get my lazy bum in gear and optimise my running form.  I will also be returning to Julia B Fit's online gym for overall strength and conditioning and working with Shannon S Nutrition to get my portion sizes under control (something that went a bit crazy in the USA). This is a big focus now because my next big challenge is in March and I want you to join me.

I am climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in 2018!

Yes, you read that right. I am working with Eco Africa Climbing to bring a wonderful group of ladies up the Machame route.  We will summit on International Women's Day for a trek totalling seven days.  Here are some important details if you are thinking "yes, this is the adventure for me":
  • The trip is 2-11 March 2018, with an optional safari through 14 March 2018.
  • The route has a >90% success rate and Eco Africa Climbing tests blood oxygen twice a day to monitor your body's response to the altitude.
  • Cost is $2469 (~£1800) which covers 10 days (7 days trekking + 3 night hotel, 1 night before climb and 2 nights after climb), including 3 meals a day and tent accommodation on the mountain.
  • Free gift worth £30 from me to the first 10 people who pay in full and give my name as a referral.
  • Surprise at the summit for those who register by 1 December 2017.
  • Facebook group to get to know one another before we meet in person.
  • 3 months of fitness guidance from me, worth £450
  • Exclusive shopping event with discount at Ellis Brigham to help you kit up for the trip. Date for London shopping event TBD.

You can register here and be sure to tell them you heard about this from me to ensure you get your free gifts.  The more women who come along, the more I can offer you in the lead up to the trip.  There is no time like the present so if this is on your bucket like, please get in touch.  Personally, I cannot wait.

Please note, I am not liable for any cancellations or issues with the trip. All transactions with Eco Africa Climbing are between you and the company.  I highly recommend investing in travel insurance to protect your trip and health on this adventure.

Disclaimer: For each person who registers as a referral by me, I receive a small discount on my trip.

Back to school with Future Fit Training

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Learning new things is one of my passions.  Very rarely am I not enrolled in a course.  After university it was scuba diving.  Then I took chemistry classes part-time to apply for vet school.  I also did a nursing nutrition course when working at a hospital followed by a master degree in Zoo and Aquarium Management.  Since 2009 I have gained over a dozen health and fitness qualifications while maintaining my first aid certification.  I even did marketing and Instagram courses to learn how I can promote my business.

Over the last two years, my day job has been so full on that my in-person personal training and continued professional development want have had to take a back seat for a while.  My no-longer-new neighbourhood doesn't have the demand for personal trainers like my old one did.  My work over the last year was a bit unpredictable as to when I would leave at the end of the day, but now things have calmed down a bit.  Plus I don't have any specific marathons booked in (just working on my pace to get a BQ).

What am I going to do with all my free time? Never one to sit around and twiddle my thumbs, I have just signed up for Future Fit Training's Advanced Nutrition and Weight Management diploma (don't tell my husband) which is certified by the Association for Nutrition.  It is an online program that covers the following modules:
  • Behavior Change Coaching
  • Childhood Nutrition and Obesity Prevention
  • Nutrition and Weight Management
  • Nutrition for Sport and Exercise
  • Pre and Postnatal Nutrition
My aim is to finish in one year.  Hopefully my coursework with Institute for Integrative Nutrition will give me a solid foundation of knowledge.  I have started with Nutrition and Weight Management, the longest module, which will have me doing a six week case study after I complete the lectures.  The course starts every Monday, so you can join at any time of year and make it work around your schedule.

When I complete the course, I will:

  • Become a specialist qualified Nutrition Adviser
  • Gain an in-depth understanding of nutrition and weight management
  • Have knowledge and insight into the role psychology plays when trying to change a client's behaviour or habits
  • The skills and confidence to run your own weight management clinic, or offer individual consultations
  • An in-depth understanding of sports nutrition and the ability to provide appropriate nutrition advice to those with sport or exercise related goals
  • Specialised knowledge of how the principles of nutrition relate to women who are pregnant or breast-feeding

Also, with the new qualification, I will be able to take on more remote and digital coaching clients, as well as keep myself fit(ter).  Eating is the biggest thing that influences your body shape.  Sure, exercise is important, but it is much easier not to consume extra calories that to burn it off later.  I will be updating you about my studies over the next year so keep checking back to see how I am doing.  If you are interested in receiving nutritional advice, please fill out this form and I will get in touch.

Thanks to Future Fit Training for allowing me to enroll in their course.  All opinions and experiences are honest and my own.