Friday, 31 May 2013

Membership vs Non-member prices : Part 2

In my Membership vs Non-member prices : Part 1 post I looked at how much I'd saved by taking out a gym membership over 4 months whilst training for my Charity Challenges. At my new sports centre, over the past month, I carried out a similar exercise.

First month = £28
18 month Contract Membership = £29.95
Members deal on PT session = £10 (50% saving on a block of 10 @ £200)

PT sessions = 4
Gym sessions = 1
Swim sessions = 2
Total = 7

The cost of my first month's membership in May was £28 in May. I only used the facilities 7 times during the month, far less than I used my previous gym each month (an average of 13 times) but I have had more events in the calendar, I ran and cycled outside and I've been moving house too, so actually that's not bad.

If I'd paid full price for each of the sessions I'd have spent £109 so to date I've saved £81! The saving is so large because I've been having personal training sessions which are usually £30 a pop and I got a great members discount on a block of 10. I've decided to stick to using the gym. Even if I only go twice a week I'll save money by paying £29.95 a month and I get access to so many facilities and benefits.

Even if you're not training for events, or prefer exercising outside a gym membership is still a great investment but it's worth taking a little time to find one to suit you. Not all gyms are created equal.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Start of a New Adventure

For some time, almost a year in fact, I’ve been thinking about taking my love of and enthusiasm for fitness further and taking a qualification in Personal Training. As my charity challenge drew to a close I started to think about what to do next ("taking a break" didn't really get a look in), and there were a few signs that made me think it might be the right time. I thought a lot about the pros and cons, asked existing PTs about their experiences and for advice and researched different courses and institutions.

Pros: Learn more about something I enjoy, get a recognised qualification, potentially make some money, help others realise their potential, help my nearest and dearest with confidence.

Cons: Fair financial and time commitment in order to “do it right”, not remotely related to anything else I’ve studied (although I could argue that as a pro too).

After some deliberation I’ve signed up to the Advanced Diploma in Personal Training with FutureFit, specialising in Pre and Post natal exercise and nutrition. I chose FutureFit as their prices and course content were better than any others in the area, you can work through at your own pace and a large proportion of the study is online rather than class room based, although there are workshops and face-to-face assessments. I’ll be studying alongside my full time job and so the format of FutureFit’s course works perfectly for me. I’m used to distance learning with the OU and this course will be a lot like that.
Premier were cited as another top notch provider but not only were they significantly more expensive but required a commitment to workshops that I simply wasn’t able to make. FutureFit have been around for as long, are similarly recognised and include business skills that Premier doesn’t offer.

I’m really excited to get started. I know it’s a popular market to get into and it’s likely to be hard to build up clientele. I may never make this work as a career or business but I’m so looking forward to learning again and of course you can look forward to a new series of posts as I work my way through the qualification.

Oh and I also get an NUS card again as I'm a student :)

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Eton Open Water Swim 2013

Yesterday I took part in the Eton Open Water Swim run once again by Human Race at Dorney Lake. It was only a week since I was last there and it's already my favourite place to compete, at any discipline on offer!
Being silly in front of the event van
The start times weren't as staggered as for last week's triathlon so there was more of a queue to get into the car park and registration was alarmingly packed but it was dealt with well by virtue of the organisers prioritising those with earlier start times, delaying the start by 15-20 minutes and everyone being just a bit sensible. At registration I collected my race number, cap with timing chip, energy gel and a back issue of H2Open which I'm reading with interest.

There were 5 distances being swum on the day; 750m, 1500m (mine), 3k, 5k and 10k. I can't begin to imagine swimming 10k... it's enough effort running the distance! The start times were at 15-20 minute intervals with a deep water start and in-water briefing. Somehow the water didn't seem as cold as the previous week but that may have been due to wearing wetsuit boots on this occasion. I deliberately placed myself at the back of the pack as I intended to do breaststroke, so was going to be slower and hoped to avoid the melee. There were only a handful of us swimming this stroke (although I did spot one girl doing backstroke) but it was good to know I wasn't the only one.
Prepping for the off
The problem with being at the back of the pack was that I got lapped, a lot. The 1500m was made up of 2 laps of the short course while the 3k, which started just 15 minutes after us was 4 laps. I found the sound of the next wave coming up behind me quite nerve-wracking but not nearly as scary as as having people swimming over me whilst overtaking. I think I kicked a fair few people, got hit a few times, and almost choked on water sent up my nose by the wake of other swimmers - this is what open water mass start swimming is really like.
Spectators view
At the finish there were plenty of marshalls to help us out of the waterm encouraging us to take our time and get our "land legs" back. Once up the gantry we collected a carton of cocovita, a cereal bar and a very smart medal, an improvement on the fare from the triathlon. I came 243 out of 255 finishers with a time of 47:59 which I was perfectly happy with. There were 6 DNF and 3 DNS.
Showing off my new medal. Lovely one it is too.
Once again the event was held at a wonderful location, it was well marshalled with good clear instructions, and a high standard of organisation generally. I really recommend these swim events. They make me want to be a keen swimmer and take lessons so I'm not the one at the back doing breaststroke but the one in the middle doing front crawl.

It was a gorgeous bright sunny day but breezy so we didn't stick around for a picnic as planned but did find a sheltered spot to have a celebratory drink.
Celebrating the end of my charity challenges

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Guest Posting about Skincare for Fitness

There's a lot to be said for the benefits of running. Sure you can get injured and lose a few toenails if you're not careful, but don't believe all the claims that it knackers your knees. But I love what running has done for my body and complexion. When you work out it's as important to look after your body on the outside as it is on the inside, especially if most of your work out is outside.

I'm guest posting today (first time ever!) on Missy in the Mirror on the subject of skincare for fitness and my routine so do hop on over there and check it out.


Thursday, 23 May 2013

In which I wish for DOMS

This week's training: 1200m swim, PT session, 1000m swim, 4 mile run

I realised this morning that I've now completed all the training sessions I'd set myself for the charity challenge. There is nothing left to tick off apart from the final challenge, the swim, and the drinking session afterwards. It's taken me a bit by surprise. I feel a little sad but also really chuffed, and you know there'll be another training plan on the horizon before too long!

On Tuesday I used the pool at one of the sister centres for the first time. The pool was lovely and warm and was marked into slow, medium and fast lanes, none of which were over crowded. The only downsides are that there are no enclosed/private showers and the cleaners seem to insist on cleaning the changing area while everyone's using it instead of before or after hours. This meant having to walk through whatever product they were cleaning the floor with, getting sprayed with the hose under the door of the changing cubicle as they rinsed and having them scrubbing and hosing *around* us as we used the mirrors and hairdryers! I mean seriously - DO IT AFTER HOURS! I don't appreciate having my work clothes sprayed with god knows what! I added to the list of complaints others had left with reception and hope it's taken on board. I used the pool again this morning, same thing.

Yesterday I had my first paid-for Personal Training session. I was going to use one of my membership pack vouchers to get the session for £12 rather than £30 but had a call from the centre during the afternoon touting 50% discounts on PT sessions "for the next hour only" so I booked up a block of ten (which I was going to do anyway) for £100 - bargain! Dave was very enthusiastic about the fact I'd booked up a whole ten... This time I’d opted to have a circuits-based session rather than Dave just supervise my programme. He promised to work me hard I have no DOMS today so I've asked that he work me harder next time. At this point I think he's still getting to know my preferences and limits. Next session arranged for next Friday.

Finally, this evening I met up with @amerbob for a run along the river. I was a bit nervous as it was the first time I'd met up with a twitter friend in real life but I decided to be brave. We escaped the rain and hail and chatted about all sorts. I think the first thing she said to me was about how tall I was... I guess I seem shorter on twitter :) She's lovely and chatty and fun and I'm sorry I'm moving away but hope we can still meet up for more runs.

So a fab week ahead of what promises to be a fun swim on Monday.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Fundraising Update - May

It's been a while since I gave a proper update on my fundraising and given I've just completed my fourth event I think this post is due.

To date I have raised almost £1,400 towards my £3,000 target. I've had a few donations by text and cheque but the total hasn't moved dramatically since the marathon. This is entirely my fault. I've been on a bit of a come down since the marathon and even more so since Tough Mudder, feeling as though my last two challenges are easier, which of course they're not, they're just different, so I haven't been promoting my self or the cause quite so often. This needs to change!

I've vowed to promote myself through facebook and twitter more in the final couple of weeks and ask for retweets where I can. I've had articles in the local papers but not a lot ever comes from these. I've yet to go door-to-door in my neighbourhood so I shall be doing that and I have a collection day booked at the local supermarket which I hope will be as effective as they have been in the past. A couple more bake sales at work won't go amiss either.

I could have perhaps gotten a few more supermarket slots but they're hard to come by these days, and I'd have loved to have run a quiz night with a raffle/auction but I didn't get organised early enough which I regret. There's still the possibility of "topping up " my total by running one of these after the events, when I potentially have more time to organise it but unfortunately I don't expect I'll hit the £3,000 mark.

If anyone has some suggestions for fundraising or can promote me a little on the social networks I'd be very grateful. You'll be helping to raise vital funds; £3,000 runs the support line for an entire year! They're a very small concern and any amount makes a big difference to this charity.

Thank you, as ever for all your support.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Eton Sprint Triathlon 2013

On this weekend just passed the Eton SuperSprint Triathlon was held at Dorney Lake near Windsor. The events, which ran on Saturday and Sunday, are organised by HumanRace who not only run triathlons throughout the year (many at Dorney Lake) but a vast array or other events including open water swimming, duathlon, cycling and running (including trail/cross country). This event cost £62 which I think is fairly comparable to others I've looked at.

I've taken part in HumanRace events before and have always found the organisation to be top notch. This was no exception. All race information held on the website and you're emailed links a couple of weeks before hand. No race packs are sent out in advance, everything is collected on the day, which means less to forget on the day.

The event was well sign posted, car parking plentiful and the event village well laid out. The grounds were really beautiful and most people seemed to have brought their families and picnics, ready to enjoy a full day by the lake. It was easy for spectators to move around and find spots to watch their competitors. The atmosphere seemed far more laid back than at many of the running events I've been to. It felt friendly and inclusive and family oriented.

At registration you collect your set of race numbers and event t-shirt as well as pay your one-day membership fee for Triathlon England if you're not already a member. Before the main event kicked off there was a kiddies scootathon for 4-8 year olds (scooting, cycling and running). It was possibly the cutest thing I've ever seen and was a fantastic way for children to feel part of the day.
Contemplating the temperature of the water
Triathlon can be a little overwhelming but everyone was really helpful and kind to newbies such as myself. There's a lot of kit involved, labels need to be in the right places and for a novice, finding your place in transition can feel a bit like the first day at school. Thankfully there were plenty of people on hand to guide you. Male and female changing areas and showers were provided and toilets in ample supply.
I was entered in Mates Wave 1, the first wave to start at 10am on the Sunday. I didn't have any mates taking part with me but the mates waves contain a higher percentage of first-timers then the age and gender based waves that start later in the day. Starting in waves means that you're not too crowded on any section of the course and I never felt as though I was at the back of the pack, a huge mental advantage! Each wave has a different coloured swim cap so you don't get mixed up and it's easy to call a group to the start.

Final leg!
The water was around 14 degrees, making wetsuits compulsory but I don't think anyone was brave enough to go without. The swim/race brief is given IN the water as it's a deep water start, prompting a fair bit of squealing. The 400m swim was just one lap of the markers but the water marshalls were still very encouraging to those of us at the back. 21km of cycling was made up of 4 laps of the lake on a beautiful flat course and the 5km run was two laps on a section of a path between the cycle route and the lake. Everything was very clearly marked but you are responsible for counting your own laps. There is chip timing but you only cross the mats at the start and end of each section. At the finish everyone got some water and a carton of cocovita.
Me and mum at the finish
I didn't expect to enjoy the event nearly as much as I did. I grinned most of the way round, and made some of the marshalls laugh when I shouted gleefully each time a completed a lap on the bike. The bike ended up being my favourite part. I couldn't feel my legs once I got off so found the run challenging but still achieved a good pace. The weather was so lovely we had a little post-race picnic by the car, watching later wave cyclists zooming past. It was a wonderful event, a great day out and I would love to do another. I think the only thing I was slightly dispointed with was that you don't get a medal.

Commemorative t-shirt
Results were up by mid afternoon and I was thrilled to achieved a fairly respectable time of 1:39:12.
I was not first, I was 515th

Saturday, 18 May 2013

The Imminent Tri, Climbing and Dinton Pastures 10k Race Review

This week's training: PT session, 1km swim, 10k run, 30 mins bike ride

Seeing it written down, my schedule looks a bit light this week. I will confess, I did skip a run and two others I combined into the 10k. That said I hurt A LOT! I'm hoping I ache slightly less by the time Sunday rolls around and I tackle my first Triathlon. I'm feeling slightly underprepared now!

I've already written about my PT session on Monday and there's not much to say about the swimming and cycling but I did do something different this week and not on my plan (which is sort of why I skipped a run) which was indoor climbing. I took a beginners course on climbing a few years ago and absolutely loved it but haven't really had the opportunity (or made enough  effort perhaps) to go since. So on Wednesday my mate C met me a Reading climbing centre and very patiently literally taught me the ropes again and we enjoyed almost 2 hours of climbing. I skinned my knee but managed a 4+ and an overhang, which I'm pretty pleased with. My hands ached after but it's only two days later that I'm feeling the effects in the rest of my body. Last night's run (see below) probably didn't help, but I can feel all the muscles in my upper arms and across my shoulder blades more than I ever have in my life. It's a great feeling.

So on Thursday I ran the Dinton Pastures 10k... I know it's a bit close to the triathlon but I couldn't resist this local three month series, the chance to see myself improve over the same course and get some more bling. I ran the Yateley 10k series last year and saw a 5 minute improvement between June and July but none at all, not even a second, between July and August. Let's see if this year is different.

This is a small, local race on very well maintained trail paths around Dinton Pastures near Reading. The course is advertised on Runner's World as "pancake flat"... They need to eat more pancakes. Ok ok it is almost entirely flat, and rather pleasant to run around. There was plenty of free parking and plenty of very friendly marshalls on hand to guide you. The start area was small but functional with a bike shelter we reappropriated to shelter from the rain shower before the start. There was only one toilet for each gender but there wasn't much of a queue. Numbers and timing tags were given out on arrival, hot drinks and biscuits available before and after for a small fee, music, and an enthusiastic MC/organiser. There was a warm up, given as we had been herded to the start line, but there wasn't enough room to take part in it.

A 5k and 10k are run on the same course each month, with the 5k runners doing one lap 5 minutes after the 10k start. This worked really well. The course was well signed with km markers every km, water at the finish/lap point and a good number of marshalls. The course isn't closed to public access so we encountered some scouts and dog walkers but everyone was considerate. There were lots of midges too who were somewhat less considerate. I'm amazed I didn't inhale any. On finishing we got a medal, cup of water, banana and sweatshop voucher. There was also a nifty little machine that you could tap your race number into which printed out your gun and chip times... I got a new PB!

The 10k races work out to be £14 each if you book all three and aren't affiliated, which I think is pretty reasonable, or one race will set you back £16. The 5k races are £10 each if you book all three and on will cost £12, however if you're only running 5k, unless you really want to run somewhere different or to get race bling, parkruns are free and serve a similar purpose. I think they 10ks are good value for money, a great way to test yourself over a number of months and I'd highly recommend that you look out races like this in your area if you can't take advantage of this one.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Membership vs Non-member prices : Part 1

In my first Gym for the Win post I mentioned that I'd geekily tracked how much I spent on membership and parking against what I'd have paid to use the facilities in the same way as a non member at the sport center I was a member of before the start of the campaign.

The results are thus:
First month = £20.12
Corporate membership = £35.70
(Standard membership = £42.00)
Gym sessions = 19
Classes = 19
Spin = 3
Swim sessions = 10
Total = 51

To date I've saved a whopping £178 by being a member over 4 months and 51 classes/sessions as opposed to paying by session.

It's worth pointing out, I think, that I most likely wouldn't have used the centre in the same way if I hadn't been a member. Most of my swim sessions were less than 30 minutes and my gym sessions only 30-45 on most occasions and I really think £8 is far too steep for less than an hour in the gym. So I'd have likely done more in one go in order to get value for money. Given I prefer to run outside I only used the gym for the bike, an occasional short run on the treadmill before class and the rare free weights session. But having a membership gave me the flexibility to just do half an hour in the pool or 20 minutes hard on the bike before a Body Pump class, which was great.

I'll be using my new centre(s) in a slightly different way and so I'll be tracking my savings again and I'll post the findings later in the month with my thoughts on the new centre vs the old and what I've found to be value for money, if anything!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Second date with Dave

Last night I had my follow up session with my PT, Dave. In our first session we'd gone through my stats and measurements to get a baseline and then spoken about my preferences and goals but not done a proper workout so this session was all about finding out what programme he'd dreamed up for me and trying it out.

My programme looks a little like this:
Warm up - Bike, 5 mins, level 5, 80 RPM
Speed - Treadmill, Intervals, 10 mins, level 7
Glutes - Cross trainer, Reverse programme, 10 minutes, level 5

Hip rotators
Double crunches with medicine ball
Dynamic lunges (with weights)

Seated chest press
Tricep pull down
Lateral pull down
Leg extensions

It's designed to strengthen my glutes and core for running whilst improving my speed and build muscles that will help with my swimming. It would normally take no more than hour but took a little longer on this occasion as he talked me through the machines and settings. Most of the exercises felt a little easy so will be increased next time. I felt a little self conscious being watched while I worked out but we chatted quite a bit which was fun and I took the opportunity to quiz him about how he got into Personal Training. He's a real sweetie (and a bit of a flirt) and I really like him as a trainer and a person. He'd also printed off a beginners training plan for Sprint Triathlon to help shape my training outside of the gym (I didn't tell him it was this weekend).

I enjoyed the session and time passed very quickly but I finished feeling I hadn't really worked very hard, maybe because none of the components take very long or maybe because the settings were a little light/easy but I don't ache anywhere today. I would have stayed on and done some more but I'm aware the rest of my week is fairly active so thought better of it. Hopefully the adjustments will resolve that for next time. Now I know the routine I don't feel I need someone watching me do it so while I'm looking forward to working to the programme I'm going to use my next PT session (heavily discounted as part of my membership) to do something completely different and more circuit based where he can push me hard. Now THAT I'm looking forward to!

Once again I was impressed by how friendly all the staff are there. The guy who signed me up asked how Tough Mudder had gone - I hadn't expected him to remember - so I showed him my bruises. I've probably scared him off now...

Friday, 10 May 2013

I have a Personal Trainer. His name is Dave.

This week's training: 2 x swim (750m & 900m), 2 x run (4.8 miles & 1 mile), 2 x 30 minute bike, PT session

I feel on a bit of a plateau at the moment. Even though I'm probably doing almost as many sessions as I was pre-marathon and Tough Mudder it all feels a lot more manageable, so much so I almost feel as though I'm not trying! But I'm not complaining, this is far preferable to how I was feeling two weeks back; fed up with it all.

I had a lovely jog with my mum on Bank Holiday Monday in the morning sunshine, encouraging her and my battered legs through 4.8 miles. I was really looking forward to a swim on Tuesday night but misread the pool timetable so got there too late so went early on Wednesday and Thursday instead. I've said it before and I'll say it again: love my morning swims.

I finally got my bike out on the road at the tail end of the week. It's been sat, in bits, in the shed for, oooo, about 6 weeks! I've learnt how to remove and refit the wheels, fretted over not being able to adjust the seat height, then made friends with WD40, and finally got out on the road. There's a few cycle paths around here but the only real cycle routes are interim, hilly and wiggly. Put it this way, I'm not much of an explorer when it comes to running and even less so when cycling. It wasn't as scary as I thought it would be and it's quelled a few fears about the triathlon.

The highlight of my week though, was my first session at my my new gym, one of the Harper's Fitness group, which I joined as part of the Gym for the Win campaign. I went in last Friday to pick up my membership pack and was immediately taken with how friendly the staff were. My membership includes unlimited access to the gym and classes at my "home" centre, unlimited access to the pools and facilities at other centres in the area as well as a number of "personal training" sessions. I had a great chat with the guy who'd signed me up about what we were up to at the weekend and after determining I was doing my first triathlon in a couple of weeks he booked me in with a trainer who is a triathlete, in order to give me more tailored advice.

I really enjoyed the session. My PT, Dave, is smiley, friendly, capable and older than me (my fear was it would be some 20-something muscle boy. Nothing against them but I took a real shine to Dave). We spent over half an hour talking, taking basic stats, discussion my aims and working out what my likes and dislikes are when it comes to workouts. I was a bit disappointed with my Body Fat %, although Dave said it wasn't anything to be concerned about. A few less cakes and a little more focused training should bring it down to "fitness" level as opposed to "acceptable" level. Initially, over the next 6 weeks I'll be working towards:
  • Strengthening my glutes
  • Firming up my thighs and bum
  • Improving my running speed to get new PBs of sub 25 minute 5k or sub 2 hour half marathon.
Dave was infinitely encouraging and said there was no reason I couldn't achieve this fairly quickly; in fact he commented that given how lean I looked, he was surprised I wasn't there already... a sentiment I've heard many times before. He recommended a couple of websites for triathlon training plans and will draw up my plan over the weekend. My next session is on Monday which will be a proper "hands on" PT session. After that I can choose to pay for further sessions, making use of some vouchers I was given in my membership pack (one £12 session or 10 £17.50 sessions), or opt for 6-weekly review sessions at £30 each. After our chat he showed me how to make use of the interval setting on the treadmill, something I've never used before, and I added on a half hour bike session. I really enjoyed the session. It felt professional yet friendly so I didn't feel like just another client and I left looking forward to chatting to him next time and seeing what he's thought up for me.

So all in all I'm feeling very positive about my training and the events I've got coming up and just to prove the point my latest addition to my list of upcoming events is The Colour Run which I entered on today. A more fun event you will not find - I can't wait!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Tough Mudder - Event Review

Yesterday I took part in Tough Mudder (London North). If you're not familiar with what this event entails then take a look at the website for a full understanding, but in essence it's a 10-12 mile route containing around 25 obstacles and a lot of mud which you're encouraged to complete as part of a team in return for a head band, t-shirt, pint and bragging rights. There are several held across the UK during the year and entry costs between £50 and £120 depending on how far in advance you sign up and whether you go for Saturday or Sunday. The event yesterday was held at Boughton House and Estate in Kettering, Northamptonshire, was about 11.5 miles long and contained 22 obstacles.

I'd opted to travel up on the morning by car with my mum and dad, rather than stay over the night before as my start times wasn't until 11am and I didn't really have a team to speak of (my old boss had talked me into it and although we had the same start time we hadn't made any arrangements to run together). If you travel by train there's a shuttle bus to take you to and from the station but if you travel by car and there's less than 4 of you in the vehicle be prepared to stump up an extra £10 to park. The other cost you may encounter is that of spectator tickets. If you are organised and register online before the day you'll pay £10 per person (plus booking fees) otherwise it's £20 each on the day.

The event was well signposted from the main roads and the car park was big, well manned and well organised with row numbers. It was about a half mile walk to the "base area" where both spectators and participants collect packs and wrist bands. Toilets were plentiful and I didn't have to queue. There was a shower and change area as well as the usual bag drop. The base area also featured a bar, food outlets, a merchandise tent and lots of games to keep spectators and kids entertained.

The map that came in the race pack set out not only the course but routes that spectators could take to see various obstacles as well as the estimated time it would take participants to get there. Spectators could see maybe a third of obstacles which wasn't bad.

Participants are set off in waves of around 100 every 20 minutes, which may explain why queues never really built up anywhere. The vast majority of entrants are male so there's a lot of testosterone around, but fancy dress is encouraged so you'll see some pretty funny sights too (ballerinas, hot dogs, gladiators).You're summoned to a warm up where you get to bond with your fellow Mudders and then it's a climb over a wall to the start line where an MC (with boundless enthusiasm) tells you the rules and regulations (help your fellow Mudder), leads you in the Tough Mudder pledge and gets you psyched up for the start. You are assured that there is no shame in opting out of any obstacles and if you have any metal in your body you should avoid those involving electricity (there are two).

A group of male entrants in "fancy dress"...
The course terrain is a mix of fields and woodland, with a fair few hills. Obstacles are fairly well spread out but the first, Ice Enema, comes after a half a mile and gets you nicely cold and wet straight away. From then on it's a relentless mix of crawling in mud, submergence in water, climbing, scrambling and cross country running. I thought it was a good mix, although some are only really manageable if you're in a team or have some helpful Mudders nearby. The distance is made manageable by virtue of having to pause at each obstacle, usually for less than 5 minutes but in some cases it was around 10. Another reason for the staggered start times. It was during these times that you run the risk of getting really cold.

There were 5 water stations on the course where you could take a cup and help yourself from the water towers set up, which helped to reduce litter and crowds. At at least two of these were bananas for the taking. All the way around the course are signs telling you what's coming up, how far you've come and a confusing mix of slogans such as "My grandmother just passed you" and "Take a rest if you're feeling unwell". There were also a number of speakers pumping out music around the course, and photographers at strategic points.

After obstacle number 2... cold, wet and muddy and still 11 miles to go.
On finishing the event you get your headband, a pint of Strongbow, a technical t-shirt (in an impressive array of sizes for men and women) and a foil blanket. You can then choose to enjoy the base area a while or just head home to nurse the cuts, bruises and sprains. Although people are coming through fairly constantly the finish area didn't feel all that crowded as you have plenty of space to spread into.

I thought the event was really well organised. An awful lot goes into the design, preparation and running of the event so I can understand the hefty sign up fee to an extent but thought that charging for spectators and parking was a bit cheeky. I did feel as though I was being fleeced at every turn.

I would really recommend getting a team together. I ended up tagging along with a group for a which made it a lot easier at the start but beware that if you're in a big group you will spend a lot of time standing around, waiting to regroup and getting cold. We had rain and hail yesterday so I ended up splitting away from the group just because I needed to keep moving. But everyone does help each other out and it's totally possible to do this alone; you'll just need a bit more mental toughness (or a swig from your hip flask before setting off - ahem).

These events are not timed; the focus is on the challenge, not as a race, so if you're interested in times, make sure you or someone else takes not of the time you cross the finish line. On the subject of th finish line, as I have metal plates in my jaw I avoided the last obstacle which was electricity based, which meant my finish felt something of an anti-climax... maybe something to think about for course designs next year?

On a personal note I found it exactly as hellish as I'd anticipated. I am not adverse to muddy runs, or that sort of distance but I have discovered I don't really enjoy the obstacle aspect, certainly not on my own. Some I simply could not attempt as I didn't have a team or any spare people around at the time (Hero Carry) and some I didn't have the mental or physical ability to complete (Everest and Walk the Plank). I probably skipped a quarter of the obstacles, but loved the mud miles and the plain running. I passed lots of people who were cramping up, clearly not used to running that far, and in those instances I felt pretty fit. I finished in 3 hours 15 minutes (which I understand is quite respectable) with more mud in my shoes than I have ever had, a LOT of bruises and grazes and a smile, but absolutely no desire to do anything like this again. I think I'll stick to my Brutal's and Grim's thank you.


Saturday, 4 May 2013

Gym For The Win

As you will all know, I've been using my local gym A LOT! I was lucky to get a good deal by combining a January deal with a corporate membership that I get by virtue of being part of the local running club and it's worked out really well. Being a bit of a geek I actually kept a spreadsheet tracking how much I spent on membership (and parking) against how much I would have spent as a non-member. It's all too easy to sign up to a gym with good intentions and not bother going, especially if you're not actually training for something specific, and this works out expensive!

I've just had to cancel my membership at my local sports centre (sob - I adore my centre) as I'm moving to a new area at the end of the month and need to find a new gym. But it just so happens that are offering bloggers the opportunity to try out their local gym for a whole month for free, in order to see whether or not it's worth the money and whether they'd be interested in keeping it up after the thirty days are over - in return for writing about their experiences! This is a perfect opportunity for me and it's also open to other bloggers.

So if you want to get involved, then click the image above or simply email - it's dead easy, and the window to sign up lasts all the way through May. The first 200 people are guaranteed to get their month's membership paid for - so don't delay!

If you're not a blogger I'd encourage you to still get involved by making use of some of the guest pass and summer offers at the gyms at the moment and posting comments about your experiences here. Lots of gyms do rolling monthly contracts and let you switch to cheaper tariffs if you find you get on with it. Or maybe take the opportunity to join that local running club, dance class or ramblers group you've been meaning to. If nothing else I'll try to write some interesting and useful posts in relation to the campaign for you.

I'm joining my local Harpers gym for the month to see if it's worth the money. It'll be a good test as some of my membership will be during the tail end of my training and some while I'm not training.

For now, let me leave you with some food for thought from Emma Walker, Head of Protection at - "The health benefits of joining and using a gym can help with the cost of life insurance premiums. It's worth bearing in mind there are life insurance and critical illness policies that reward a healthy lifestyle by offering discounted gym membership."

Friday, 3 May 2013

Beating the Training Blues

This week's training: Body Pump, 3 x run (30, 10 and 40 mins), 30 min bike, 2 x 600m swim.

Well my prediction of feeling "at a loss" hasn't exactly come true but I ended last Sunday feeling bloated and lethargic. I guess this is the post-marathon depression people talk about. I've still got three events to go in my charity series but I'm not feeling very motivated to train this week. When I think about my next session I start to feel a bit stressed about fitting it in and tired at the thought of it. I think I've just felt as though I've been "in training" for too long and I'd quite like it to stop. I've been feeling under pressure to fit everything in and I never do a run or a class just for the enjoyment of it. I feel great physically, I do love exercising, really and I know I'm fitter than maybe ever, but it's become a chore. Body Pump this week felt tougher than it should have done, for instance.

I had a bit of a break over the weekend, visiting friends in Wales, walking dogs, exploring castles, eating lovely food, drinking wine and not beating myself up about. It was just what I needed. I'm not tracking my calories this week but I'm confident I'm eating properly. Fruit and granola in the mornings, salads and pastas for lunch, fruit and nut snacks, herbal teas throughout the day (using up all those samples I've acquired) and omlettes, curries, stir frys and chillis for dinner. The bloat has gone!

I started reading Iona's Runing Blog this week. I've followed her on twitter for a while but realised I wasn't following or reading her blog so I recitified that and spent a happy while catching up on her posts to date. I've been really impressed with both her writing style and the content so far but also with her determination and drive. Her stories of tackling beasty hills, running with a friend regularly and getting new PBs have been a real inspiration to me, making me want to work towards some new PBs of my own and getting excited about exercising again, somehow.

I'll be moving house at the end of the month which coincides with the end of my current gym membership so it's a perfect opportunity to find a new gym to suit me and find a new running club to help me with my speed work. I'll make more of an effort this time, in terms of making friends; I never felt I was really part of the gang before, lovely as they all were. I'll have the forest close to me again so I can find brand new routes to run and ride... it should be a lot of fun, and I can gradually start to work on those new PBs with track and hill work.

So I have been trying to get into a new and more positive mindset over the course of this week as I enter a slightly different phase of my training, with runs measured by duration not distance and geared more towards triathlon. I have more new kit in the form of bright leggings which I am excited to take out for a test run and an entry into the Brighton Marathon in October that I may live to regret. I've also entered the ballot for a place in next year's London Marathon. With the exception of the marathon all the events after May are really fun, and relatively easy if I can maintain my fitness level. Let's get the fun back for a while before I dive into the next challenge!