18.9.17

GUEST POST: Exercise For The Body. Volunteering For The Soul.

Time. There isn’t enough. Not enough hours in the day to cram in everything we need to get done. Work stuff, dealing with the kids, keeping home in order, not to mention squeezing in a run or a class around commitments...it’s never ending.


I feel lucky when I get some exercise into my day, and I know I am not alone. For that hour or so, it’s all about you and your goals, your feelings, how much you can push your body and mind to achieve great things.

But what about using some of that sacred time to give something back?

I’ve written in the past about how the social aspect of running has enabled me to maintain my running mojo, but recently I’ve found that volunteering has done as much for my mental wellbeing as the physical, and I spoke to some likeminded friends to get their opinion too.

Paul Saunders was on the organising committee, and is part of the core volunteer team of Rugby Parkrun, a fledgling event which welcomes around 200 runners and walkers each week and boasts one of the most welcoming and inclusive communities around.

Paul told me: “I got involved with volunteering at Rugby parkrun, because I wanted there to be a parkrun in my hometown so I could run there with friends and family. I also wanted it to be an event I could be proud of, so thought the best way to do that would be part of the organising committee.”

“I'm not a particularly good runner, but volunteering makes a significant impact on so many people… We have 200+ people every week who are (mostly) delighted to see you. You don't have that impact even as a sub-17 minute runner.”

Paul and Lisa -Parkrun volunteers (Brian Dainty Photography)
“I get people (who I don't really know) thanking me in Sainsburys. I don't get that level of gratitude and respect at work and I certainly don't get that at home.”

“Parkrun is a challenge for everybody: whether you are a sub-elite or recovering from an event in your life and fighting to get round in an hour, you get out of Parkrun what you bring with you. When someone has a positive outcome from going sub-20 or sub-30 or just doing it for the first time - I've helped make that happen. I've lowered some sort of barrier to that person's journey and 99% of the time I don't know that person's story, but just knowing I've made 'a difference' to somebody gives me a massive sense of fulfillment.”

Lisa Jay, also on the organising committee at Rugby Parkrun and a regular Run Director there also said: “Volunteering gives you a connection beyond the physical act of running, it gives you the opportunity to be part of a community, inspire and socialise with other runners. Much as I love running alone, racing or training with my Massey club mates there's something very special about a community coming together on a Saturday morning - long may it continue!”

It’s not just Parkrun volunteering which can deliver similar feel-good vibes. Another of my Massey club pals Lisa Kenny recently had a ball volunteering at the IAAF London 2017 World Championships. As she sees it, the experience was “Win win for myself and the community. I was given a lot of encouragement at the start of my running journey, so I really want to give something back. Free kit is of course a bonus!”

Lisa Kenny
So, as I continue to work towards self imposed goals in terms of running and fitness, it’s definitely important to me that volunteering stays on the agenda, too. It’s good for my mojo and when googling about on the subject, I found that volunteering can have a really positive effect on a person’s physical and mental health too.

As my fellow Parkrun volunteer buddy, Kim Wakefield puts it: “For me parkrun is about camaraderie, I’m a serial volunteer! I run with some of the other volunteers away from parkrun and even have a trekking holiday booked with one of them. I get more from volunteering at parkrun than running it! It still amazes me that these runs take place across the world every week, because of volunteers; what a great movement to be part of!”

Lou

About TheRunnerBird: My name is Lou and I want to talk about running... I have been running just over two years and am an average bird and an even more average runner! Running helps me manage various aspects of my life, including post natal depression, grief, a busy job and keeping weight down (sometimes). I have a tiny little boy named Alex, a bearded husband named Dave, and a fluffy little cat called Stanley. I am a tall, mancunian copywriter who loves to run, spin, bend and breathe. My blog talks about health, mind and fitness topics. Everything on my blog is written from a place of honesty. Blog | Twitter | Instagram

13.9.17

Long Ride Sunday || Barbados Cycling Festival 10.9.17

Just a couple of weeks ago I shared with you my intentions of riding in the inaugural Barbados Cycling Festival Sportive on Sunday 10th September. At that point it was looking highly unlikely that I would be able to take part as it was proving difficult to find a bike on the island to hire and bringing my own bike would be costly. In the end though, the rental company I was in contact with - Bike Caribbean - managed to sort me out an entry level road bike for the day so I promptly packed my cycling kit ready to take on the 63km of the Silver Course.

I arrived in Barbados in the late afternoon of Friday 8th so by the time I got out of the airport, had some (decent) food and got home I was ready for bed. I managed to get in touch with Bike Caribbean on Saturday afternoon and arranged for Randy to pop over so we could check my cleats fit and get the bike set up ready for the 6am set off time the next morning.

Waking up at 4am Barbados time was a breeze for me as it was 9am London time. A twenty minute drive down to the Esplanade on Bay Street in the islands capital of Bridgetown and I was at the start line. It was an easy process to sign in (we preregistered), collect our timing chips and wait for start time as just over 100 riders were taking part in the event.



At the start line with beautiful views of Browns Beach on our right, and the sun rising quickly I managed to position myself at the front ready to see what this ride had in store for me. In my mind, Barbados was flat; but driving around the island the day before I realised that it has plenty of rolling hills with the steep ones mostly being short and sharp so it wasn't too much of a shock when we crossed the start line and hit our first few smaller inclines.

I tracked my pace and distance using the Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR as I didn't want to travel with my Garmin (it'd be one more valuable thing to have to look after) and the Spartan Trainer also doubles as a waterproof watch. I have a full review coming shortly of this watch which was only released at the start of September so keep an eye out for that.

After cycling the Peak District, the kms seemed to tick by steadily. It was my first time using the Spartan Trainer though so I wasn't sure how accurate it was. However, both the Gold and Silver Courses followed the same route for the first 36km so that was my main marker. The course was marked out by yellow (and then white) arrows spray painted on the roads and to be honest, these were confusing at times which made me take wrong turns on at least three occasions. For most of the major junctions though there were either marshals in place or the police kindly stopped the traffic for me as we passed through. The police escort was probably one of the best bits about the event; we certainly don't get that in the UK!

With the majority of riders doing the Gold Course, there were not that many of us on the Silver Course so I spent the majority of the ride pretty much on my own. Every now and again I would catch up to those in front of me or pass somebody but not often. The route took us from Bridgetown, via Oistins along the south of the island. I managed to miss the marked sprint section before the airport (prizes were available) and I probably wouldn't have bothered anyway as it was too early in the route for me to use up too much energy. After we passed the airport we took a "scenic" route to Ruby which is where my Dad lives and where I was staying. The course took me directly to my Dads shop before bearing left so I had to stop to say hello and good morning to him, get a hug and some encouragement!

After this we hit some "country" and I can't explain to you how liberating it felt to be on two wheels in such beautiful surroundings. I stuck to my usual strategy of taking on SiS energy gels / soreen mini banana loaves every 45 minutes along with as much water as I could fathom. My dehydration headache hit me pretty much from the start line but I think that's down to my race prep the day before where I started drinking from 11am through to 6pm before heading home to eat and sleep by 9pm. There were three water stations on our route which were stocked with water, Powerade and bananas. I took water from the first two stations along with a banana from station one and I managed with what I had. Luckily the headache subsided after a while even as the sun got hotter and hotter during the morning.

Passing through Ruby meant that we were now headed north and fast approaching half way. I managed to catch up with some riders I'd been chatting to on the start line as we climbed some hills. They informed me that there was only one big hill to go and the majority of the hard work would be done. And they were right; Coach Hill was my ride nemesis! I managed to cycle up the first part but when I got to the second and saw that it seemed to be never ending along with other riders getting off their bikes to walk I decided I would do the same. After walking the steepest part and also catching my breath, I again followed those in front of me and got back on to finish it on the bike. And that was also the last time I saw those riders on the course after I passed them. It was shortly after this climb that the two routes split and I just prayed I did not end up on the longer route!

We were blessed with a fair bit of downhill after Coach Hill and although I'm not a fan of downhill on roads that I do not know I managed to let go after a police lady rode by (on a motorcycle) and told me to get moving! The road at this point was wide and quiet, and allowed me to see far enough ahead to be comfortable not holding onto the brakes. I was so grateful every time we took a turning away from a hill but one particular part of the downhill was so bumpy I was worried for the pressure going through my wrists!

Before I knew it we had crossed the island again and were back on the west coast covering the 10km between 40-50km in around 21 minutes; my fastest 10km for the whole ride. At this point I tried to pick up the pace but it was difficult when we hit the town centre and the route was unclear to me as we navigated a one way system with no marshals or police that I could spot. At one point I literally threw my arm up in confusion and a member of the public shouted telling me to go straight ahead. Thank you to that guy cos without him I dunno where I would've ended up! It was a sharp left turn back onto Bay Street for the finishing straight up the Esplanade and in true sportive form I mustered up my last bit of energy for a sprint finish, which saw me pass a lady on that straight and come in as third lady home on the Silver Course!
....


I'm just gonna bask in that for a moment before I explain that there probably weren't more than 5/6 women on my route anyway, but all the same, I'm proud of doing so well under conditions that I am not used to riding in. Once the course was complete, we picked up our medals along with a goody bag, t-shirt and food / drink voucher. My next stop was for some ice cold water before signing up for a complimentary massage which honestly was the perfect end to the mornings ride before hitting up the carb-fest provided for us in the proportion of 50% savoury and 50% sweet!


Picture Credit: Hamish from Sponge PR
While we waited for the final riders to come in (they arrived just before midday) I took the opportunity to go on the beach to cool down my legs in the sea and take a few photos. They then had a presentation for the winners of the Gold Course along with the winners of the sprint section and KOM / QOM for an epic hill climb - Cherry Tree Hill - on the Gold Course. The female winner of the Gold Course also won the female sprint section and QOM so I'm kinda glad I didn't even notice the sprint section and saved my energy.

Think I'll have to come back in 2018... I might even consider the 100km of the Gold Route. Who knows! ...this was my first ever cycling event outside of the UK and I couldn't be happier to have gotten to do it at home in Barbados! ...but now, my holiday officially starts...

So who is coming with me next year for the 2018 Barbados Cycling Festival?!

Elle :)


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11.9.17

How I Fell In Love With Running By Emma Allen


I absolutely adore running. I was never into fitness in my teen years and the very thought of P.E on a weekly basis used to fill me with dread. The only time I found it fun was when we were in Year 11 and allowed to use the gym attached to the school. This was great as I could work alone, at my own pace and decide what I wanted to work on each session.

I’ve gone through life being able to eat exactly what I want, when I want, staying a size 6 with no sight of putting any weight on. No matter how much I tried. Then 2016 rolls around and decides that I hadn’t had enough bad luck over the years. It throws the worst at me. A surprise illness in my immediate family sends my head and life into a whirlwind and a dramatic life changing experience unfolds before me.

This is where my new favourite hobby running comes in. It’s exactly that right now, a hobby. I’d love to get good enough to take it professional but right now, I want to enjoy it a little more. I’ve consciously taken a step back and stopped trying too hard to beat unrealistic goals, let’s just kick back, relax and run at my own pace.


I started running in June 2016. I say started, I attempted it a few times and then thought I was clever and entered a 10K race for Cancer Research in the November. I had also now signed myself up to a 25K walk for the British Heart Foundation after the support from them when my husband suffered his second heart attack in 3 months. Some serious training and concentration was needed on my part, and I did it!

I fell in love with running during this time. The peace, the solitude, the fresh air and the exercise. All things that I haven’t felt completely in a long, long time had all come together simply by throwing on some trainers and hitting the road. I can’t describe the feeling. I just feel free.

I’ve taken on several races, challenges and activities since I took on my first 10K race last year and can honestly say that I have loved every minute. No matter how hard I have found them I’ve always felt such a great sense of achievement, whether it’s conquering a trail run to taking part in my local 5K charity fun run. It’s not been easy and I’ve been plagued with injuries, particularly my shins.

There are a few things I would go back and tell myself before I began running my heart out. I thought it may be a good idea to write these tips down now for anyone else who is thinking of tackling the tarmac.

Do your research
Honestly, it may seem simple enough. Put on trainers and run. It’s not. I seriously underestimated the strength we need to run a good distance. It’s nothing like it was when you were a kid running laps on sports day I can tell you. Investing in a great beginner program like the C25K is definitely a good way to go.

Stretch it out
I was the worst for skipping out at the beginning. I thought a short walk would be all I needed and soon enough my shins were in agony and I’d pulled a muscle. A quick search on Google or Pinterest will throw up some quick, easy yet effective leg and body stretches perfect for before a run. Do it. You won’t regret it.

Stay hydrated
I didn’t realise how thirsty I was going to get whilst running. It probably didn’t help that I began running in mid-Summer but even looking back to my first 10K, I had a large bottle of water with me and I ran out of water well before the end. You can also get great little energy gels for longer races so that you can alternate those with fluid and keep hydrated.

Fuel your body correctly
I used to see a lot of people on social media going on about things before long runs. Don’t listen to everything people suggest as sometimes these things can do more bad then good. Listen to your body, learn what works and make sure you plan your meals in advance to get yourself ready. I tend to stick with porridge with honey or yoghurt, granola and protein shakes as well as mid-morning snacks to make sure I’ve got enough fuel to last the run.

Prepare for anything
Seriously, take everything into account. Weather, road conditions, your route, fully charge your phone, take headphones if allowed. There is nothing worse than getting halfway through a good run and disaster striking. Whether it’s falling, straining, getting lost, bad weather. Always think a little health and safety before you leave the house for your run, race, event. I really hope you find my post useful and I’d LOVE to hear your running stories. What motivates you? Why did you start running?

Emma x 

About Emma: Emma is mother of two from Cheshire blogging about health and fitness after a life changing event and trying to enjoy getting fit, eating cake and raising money for charities. You can find her on FB, Twitter and IG all with @emmalizallen

6.9.17

Riding The Peak District In A Day With Anna's Legs


Apparently when you get together a group of awesome women it proves difficult to find one day that suits everyone to meet up for a ride. But Anna Glowinski, of Anna's Legs got it nailed and we put Wednesday 30th August in our diaries.

Three of us were chosen a few months back in conjunction with VeloVixen (who sell Anna's awesome designs) to be Ambassadors for the brand. With us being located in various parts of the country Anna chose the Peak District in Derbyshire as our location for the day. I set my alarm for 6am to give me half an hour to get out of the house and make it across town for my 07:58 train from St. Pancras International. The two hour journey to Sheffield wasn't too bad - I was sat at a table in the window seat and had a plug to charge my phone - winning. As we got further and further north though the sky got darker, the day got duller and it began to rain. I switched trains at Sheffield for my final hour journey to Chinley where Anna and her Mom picked me up to take me to our meeting point - The Old Hall Inn.

We (Joanna, Di, Anna, Mummy G and I) all got to sit down and have a little chat over tea, coffee and cake before settling off to leave and realising it was bucketing down with rain again after the sun had poked its head back out for a while. By this point (early lunchtime) I was hungry again anyway as I'd only had breakfast since waking up we decided to wait out the rain and have some lunch. I had a ham and cheese sandwich with apple chutney (a non vegan / vegetarian day); the name doesn't do it justice as the bread was thick and fresh, the ham was off the bone and the cheese and chutney just complemented everything perfectly.

Anyway, we eventually got Lycra-ed up in our awesome Annas Legs 3/4 length tights of course and hit the road... straight into a hill.


...and the climbing just kept on coming and coming, and coming. I remember being early into the ride and wondering how far we'd gone only to look down at my gps and see we'd only gotten 258 metres into it! I wasn't sure I was gonna survive the Peak District. Our planned route was a round trip to Buxton via a cafe for more coffee and cake (obviously). When it took us one and a half hours to get the first 10km done, the constant maths in my mind of distances, speed and time were starting to worry me. But the views kinda took my mind off things and stopping for photos (rest) was great! No point me travelling 9 hours not to enjoy it and take a few pictures!

It felt like we got some respite as we approached the lake but looking at Strava I think this was in my imagination and my mind just gave up processing the fact we were still climbing. Passing by sheep, hikers, cycling along cliff edges with grass and hills as far as the eye could see was truly aesthetically breathtaking. And the hills were physically breathtaking!



After what seemed like FOREVER (it was actually 2.5 hours) we were a short distance away from Buxton and Anna promised me that it was all downhill back to the start point. The maths in my head told me that if I stopped in Buxton and waited for Anna to come back and collect me I might not make it back in time for my train to get me home to london to bed ready for my 5am work alarm the next day. It would also mean that if I somehow didn't miss my train, I would certainly miss dinner and the massage that had been booked and you know me, I'm not one to miss a meal! So my only option was to keep going...

...and keep going I did! At one point, I really was close to losing the will to live but I hung in there and just kept pedalling. I also knew that when I finished I'd be so happy to have done it and all my rides in the near future would seem p*ss easy in comparison!




The ride back to The Old Hall Inn from Buxton literally took half the time that it did to get to get there in the first place! It really was mostly downhill which I actually enjoyed. Of course. Once we arrived I hopped straight off my bike and onto the massage table for a 30 minute shoulder and back massage which was just perfect for me as I carry all my tension in those spots. The massage was set up in the dining room of one of the cottages The Old Hall Inn rents out to visitors and the whole place was beautifully decorated.

Having already made my dinner order before running in for my massage it was ready and waiting for me when I returned to the pub along with the pint of Diet Coke. In the end I had to pack up my dinner (a buttermilk chicken burger with chunky chips) and head to the train station but it still tasted amazing. The staff at The Old Hall Inn* were so accommodating to us for the day with one girl from behind the bar dropping me off to the station as Anna wasn't back from picking Dianne up in Buxton. If you ever find yourself up in Chinley then you have to check out this pub (and their super cute accommodation).

A huge thank you also to Anna for looking after us so well for the day! Chatting to Anna, Joanna, Diane and Mummy G was so inspiring to hear about all the amazing adventures they get up to both on and off their set of wheels! 

Who's been out riding in the Peak District before?! Any other areas worth checking out?! 

Elle :) 

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4.9.17

A Little Life Update / Summer '17



One minute it was Spring and now Summer is on it's way out... Thought I'd kick the month of September off with a little update post mainly because it helps me remember the highlights that have gone or are coming up!

First and foremost, I'm off on vacation... and it's a well earned rest. I haven't been away properly for around 15 months which is a long long time for me! I had no idea where I wanted to go or who with but everything worked out in the end to see me heading back home to Barbados for around ten days. I'm excited that for the last 7 days of my trip I'll be joined by Georgina of Fitcetera (who will be flying in from Las Vegas!). I've already looked up activities like SUP and checked out if they have any decent crossfit boxes on the island so in between lounging on the beach and eating lots of good food, I guess we'll get a sweat on.

Barbados Cycling Festival coincides with my trip now... When I chose my dates to fly out and come home, Mollie reached out and asked if I was attending the Barbados Cycling festival which we had come across earlier in the year. When I looked it up I realised it was just before I planned to fly out but I also realised that it was cheaper for me to go a little earlier than planned and catch the last few days of the inaugural festival. My ideal situation would be to ride the Silver Route on Sunday 10th September (it's about 65km) but it's looking highly unlikely that there will be a bike available for me to hire and I just don't have enough time (or the budget right now) to take my own bike (what with hiring a bike box, taxi to the airport both ways, extra baggage charges both ways and oversized baggage charges both ways). But riding or not I will be there and who knows, maybe next year? I'll have 365 days to get organised!

I've been enjoying shopping for normal clothes... If you watched my last YouTube video you would've seen me swing by Topshop for a Personal Shopping appointment to pick up a few bits for holiday. I've since picked up a few more bits which are featured below...



The fit kit I've been loving the most over the past few weeks has got to be the pieces picked out for me from the #UnlikeAny launch. The Unlike Any campaign from Under Armour came about after the continual comparison of female Olympic athletes to male athletes and features 6 of the most inspiring women you could possibly put together. But the point of featuring these athletes is to remind us that we are all beyond comparison.



My favourite piece out of the set is hands down the Crossback Debossed Sports Bra. I love the print and it is one of the comfiest and most flattering that I own. I've worn it as many days as I can without it starting to look weird that I'm wearing the same outfit everyday on Instagram! The top (Threadborne Fashion Tank) is perfect for those who like a little extra coverage over the bum as it's really long and doesn't hug your hips. It comes in a few other colour options too in case fluorescent yellow isn't for you. The leggings (Favourite Engineered Leggings) are a great fit, made from a soft fabric so they're probably best for classes where you don't get tooooo sweaty although I've worn them for everything including Bootcamp (running on the treadmill / weights) to teaching my regular Lift class at Frame on Thursday mornings. Last but not least, the trainers are perfect for classes like HIIT / weights as they have a low profile and feel like they have the added lateral support you don't get from a running shoe.

Check out the range here:




Talking of being #UnlikeAny... I've been busy at the Best Bootcamp academy and figuring out who I am as an instructor and what I would bring to the team. I taught my trial class at Bests Bootcamp on Saturday 2nd September. It's felt like a long time coming but I'm glad I made it to that stage of the academy (catch up with the start of my journey here). Part of me was nervous but I focused on channeling my nerves into excitement. I had some friendly faces in the room for class (huge thank you to Finola, Chi-Chi, Katherine, Rosie and Derek) which really helped; it's always nice to have a recognisable smile in the room! The studio sends out a survey to everyone who attended to get their feedback on my session and then we go from there so peeps, fingers crossed for me!

And incase you hadn't noticed (or seen my IG post) I joined RewardStyle via my relationship with Pinterest UK. I've been on Affiliate Window for a couple of years now and while they are the best all round platform I've found to date reward Style trumps them for a number of reasons. Firstly, you don't have to request to join a certain advertiser, the fee's are higher and it also integrates with Instagram via their LikeToKnow.it app. As with all other affiliate programmes, you're never charged anything for shopping via the link and in fact affiliates are sometimes the first to know about discount codes or have their own codes to save you a little moola. So nothing has changed other than I now have access to really awesome ways to share all my fit kit (and more!) inspiration with you!

That's all for now! ...what's coming up for you in the next couple of months?!

Elle :)

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