Something for the weekend: Cross country skiing

This weekend, we drove north west to the ski resort, Levi, where I got to try my hand at cross country skiing. I'm pretty sure I didn't even know that this sport existed until I visited Levi in February of 2012 for a downhill skiing holiday. It is defined by Wikipedia like this: Cross-country skiing (or XC skiing) is a form of ski touring in which participants propel themselves across snow-covered terrain using skis and poles

Before we headed out, we got kitted out. I did know the skis were different, but so were the boots too. The boots are much more akin to regular shoes and attach to the skis at the toe only, whilst the skis are much slimmer than downhill skis. The poles...they have always been my security blanket in downhill skiing!

Our skis :)
I then received a crash course from my fiancé Mika. It went a little like this..."left then right"..."use your poles"..."left foot, right pole"... and we were off!

It was all about getting in a rhythm! We followed a prepared trail as we were using the classic / traditional style of cross country skiing; parallel groves were already cut into the snow for us to follow. In no time at all, I was sweating. The classic technique uses every major muscle group in the body as with running, rowing and swimming! The first trail we took was 3km; there was a mix of terrain; flat, some small uphill sections and what goes up must come down, so a few downhill areas! We then completed 2km of the second trail; by which time I was feeling the effects of this workout! I had to stop a few times in the last 2km to catch my breath and rest my legs! There was a stunning view to keep me occupied anyway...snow, sunshine and scenery...

Classic trails with skater style in the centre
The views from the trail
With 5km under my belt, I had worked up an appetite too! We brought along some sausages which we cooked on an open fire located in a hut next to the trail! ...lathered in mustard (a Finnish sort which tastes so different to English  / French) that I love!...oh and mustard is a much more waist friendly option than tomato ketchup and other condiments!

The open fire

The hut with the fire

I'm so happy I have come to love outdoor workouts! A year ago, I would never choose to go outside over indoors...now I appreciate the fresh air, the scenery and the freedom...Set your workouts free ;) ...I also firmly believe that "exercise" is more enjoyable when it's a part of your lifestyle...it shouldn't be a chore :)

Me :) 
How do you keep your workouts fresh?! What did you get up to at the weekend to stay active?!

Elle :) x


How hot is hot Pilates?!

A few weeks ago, my friend and previous guest blogger, Lex invited me to attend a Hot Pilates class with her whilst back in London. I've always enjoyed Pilates but it is quite an expensive activity to keep up. So we booked ourselves into the class and I basically thought no more of it...

It came to the day of the class and I was trying to decide what to wear. With half my wardrobe in London and the other half in Finland, coordination was just not feasible. I chucked on some leggings and a vest, just about to leave the house when it suddenly occurred to me that "hot" might actually mean Bikram hot! Could it?! Just in case, I threw a spare t shirt in my bag. On the way to class now, I message Lex asking her if she had considered how hot the class might be...

If you've been to Bikram you know that it is basically a sweat fest. I usually kit myself out in teeny tiny shorts and a sports bra. I then take the biggest bag possible to fit my yoga towel (with extra grip), my bath towel (showering is not an option), a huge bottle of water and all the other exercise essentials.

We arrived at the studio in central London. It was a very bright and airy venue - full of peace and tranquillity (how cheesy is that?!). Shoes were taken off in the reception and stored in boxes under the seats (customary in many yoga studios). We were signposted upstairs to the changing rooms and directed to the studio our class would be taking place in.

As we got changed, it became apparent that we were not prepared! Note that the studio never informed or offered us padlocks for the lockers (rookie mistake) so we had to take our bags into the studio which is when we realised just how hot, hot Pilates is! We grabbed our equipment; some ankle / wrist weights, a block and a Pilates strap and found mats right up the front of the class to position ourselves. Oooooh yes, I forgot to say that the class was actually titled "Hot Pilates with weights". That's right, 'with weights' presented a challenge that Lex and I would never shy away from!

If I'm honest, I was expecting a lot of laying on the mat doing core exercises. How wrong could I be?! We began with some standing stretches, poses and exercises. In no time at all, I had a sweat on. I looked at Lex, Lex looked at me...it was H.O.T! (The class is performed in 32 degree heat to boost your body's detoxification capacity and kick start your weight loss).

The studio was pretty packed but with lots of windows and a bright (light) décor it didn't feel stuffy at all. We did plenty of stretches, toning exercises and the obligatory core work. Any time we felt we needed to be challenged we could add the weights. There were times though that I needed to stop, remove the weights and wonder if I would survive the class!

It was a great 75 minutes. A challenging 75 minutes. It was perfect for stretching out tight muscles and the heat is a great way to increase flexibility. I would describe the class as warm...I think it felt so hot because I hadn't even considered that I would be caused to sweat. Next time I would wear less clothes, as I do in Bikram and I would also take my yoga towel, a change of clothes and my lotions and potions to shower afterwards!

The class definitely challenged me from head to toe!

Have you ever tried hot Pilates?! Or would you consider complimenting your current schedule with a class here and there?!

Elle ;)

N.b the class I attended was 6.15pm on a Friday at Yotopia. It cost me £15 for a one off booking (I did say pilates was an expensive hobby!)


Vietnamese Fish Curry

Recently, I saw someone tweet about how cooking for one can be a chore. I get where they are coming from, but having predominantly lived on my own for the last 5 years I can honestly say I think I learnt ways and means to make cooking more interesting! I think the best way, is to become a feeder; taking cakes and all sorts into work or to friends and family and making them eat it all so food never went to waste!

I recently came across this recipe on BBC Good Food and thought I would share it. This Vietnamese Fish Curry can be used to serve 4 as a (very) light meal, or serve 2 as a main meal.

So here is what you need and how you whip this up!

400g white fish fillet, cut into big chunks
1 green chilli (or more if you like a good kick!)
1cm piece ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
200ml chicken or fish stock
2 limes, 1 juiced, 1 halved
big bunch of coriander, chopped
fish sauce, to season
150g rice vermicelli, cooked according to packet instructions

1. Put the fish cubes with the chilli, ginger and garlic in a large pan.
note: I used frozen fish, so the fillets were whole, but broke up whilst cooking.

2. Add the stock and bring gently to a simmer then add the juice of 1 lime. Allow sufficient time for the fish to cook (until it becomes opaque). Stir in the coriander (I used a dash of ground coriander) and season with fish sauce.
note: I cannot stress enough how imperative the fish sauce (or you can use soy sauce) is to this recipe! Without it, it is very bland as I learnt when I forgot the first time to add it.

3. Spoon over bowls of rice noodles and serve extra lime to squeeze over!

Ta dah! ...A meal in 15 minutes! I dished up both servings, ate one and out the other in the fridge! A home cooked ready meal for the next day!

I sourced the vermicelli noodles in my local supermarket. They can be found in specialist food stores and even health food stores! Thankfully I worked out how to cook them with the aid of Google as no instructions were on the packet! I soaked them in warm water for 15 minutes then boiled them for 2-3 minutes!

Nutrition per serving (when serving 4): 112 kcals, 19.9g protein, 5.8g carbohydrate, 12g fat, 0.1g sat fat, 0.3g fibre, 1.03g salt


Elle :) x


Serena's Core Power NTC Workout

Coming down from the high of my race last week, it's time to get back to business! A strong runner isn't just someone who runs for miles and miles...you need your conditioning too! And with summer coming up, there is no better area to work on than your core!

For those of you who either a) haven't yet downloaded the Nike Training Club (NTC) app b) Can't download the NTC app as you don't have an iPhone or android c) Didn't want to download the FREE NTC app...here is what you are missing!

This is the entire NTC Serena Core Power Workout! Grab a stability ball, a resistance band (read on to win one courtesy of Zico Coconut Water) and get the music on (you can even download a soundtrack right here on Keep it simpElle)

There are five exercises in total all explained below in the images (images owned by Nike, taken from Pinterest). Repeat the sequence 3 times to complete the 15 minute workout!

Okay! Now here is the best bit (saved it till last!)...WIN yourself one of 5 Zico Coconut Water resistance bands! I think you have about 7 days to enter...
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck with the workout and let me know what you think!

Elle ;) x

p.s huge thanks to Zico for providing me with the resistance bands when I asked nicely :) You can find out more about them on Facebook (UK) / Other and Twitter (UK) / Other :)


Ten minutes with Nicola Adams

Did you have a read of the Energizer Night Run #MyMoments post?! Did you know then that my next post would be my interview with Olympic Gold Medallist and Energizer Night Run Ambassador Nicola Adams?! ...wait no more!

I had ten minutes...scarier than the race itself but I was assured that Nicola was lovely. I racked my brains about what to ask her...I didn't want to come with the same questions she has surely been asked a million times before. Then I was confused...she's a boxer...we're at a running event...which direction should I go?! ...This is it!

Nicola and I :)
"Hi Nicola. My name is Elle, of Keep it SimpElle; it's a pleasure to meet you! ....Before I begin, I would like to congratulate you on your Olympic success of 2012.

What was behind your decision to be an Ambassador for the Energizer Night Run? Is this a part of your legacy from the Olympics?"

Yes! I'm aiming to inspire the next generation to take up sport; do this run and keep fit! It's not all about winning, it's about getting involved and all the positive energy that comes from that!

"There has been a lot of focus on the female drop out rate in sport - what was it that kept you committed through your teenage years and into adult life?"

I've always had a passion for sport and boxing in particular. It all started when mum took us to the club with her as she had no babysitter. I absolutely loved it. Opportunities like tonight's run are great to get people back into sport.

"What advice would you give to anyone considering getting back into sport?"

Go for it! Don't let anything stop you! Just find the energy to keep going!

"Talking of energy, I've been struggling through my run training - what gets you out of bed on a really difficult morning?"

I have to dig deep for that extra energy and stay focused. If I'm having a lazy day, I remind myself that my opponent could be out there training....

"So what is your 'Power Song'?"

Awww, Jay Z and Kanye West - Ni**as in Paris

"What other sports / activities do you enjoy?"

Snowboarding and archery...

"What's your favourite outfit to workout in?"

I definitely wear whatever is comfortable! Usually a t-shirt and shorts or skins and shorts!

"How do you stay hydrated when working out?"

I use electrolyte drinks to stay hydrated; mostly a drink called SiS.

...time is running short so I have just a few quick fire questions...

Nike or Adidas?! ....Nike

Running or walking?...running

Morning or evening?...morning

Night in on the sofa or out at a club?....in on the sofa

2012 London or 2016 Rio?...2016 Rio

Sunshine or rain?...sunshine

Energizer or Duracell? ...Energizer

Right or left?...left

Powerseal or Powerboost?...Powerseal

Beach holiday or skiing?...beach holiday

Indoors or outdoors?...indoors

5km run or 10km run?...10km run

and finally...


...girl after my own heart!

Elle :) x


Energizer Night Run #MyMoments

At 20:00 Saturday 13th April I set off on my first official run of 2013; the Energizer Night Run. It had been billed as a fun filled event...yet I was pretty apprehensive as I hadn't been out running for nearly 3 weeks (Train to Run #7 was my last update)! So here is how it went down...

The Good:
Well this is definitely going to be the predominant section of my race recap! I think the most successful part of this race was my time; my official time was recorded as 58:18 which see's me meet my goal of running a 10km race under 60 minutes way ahead of my scheduled race in July. Couldn't get much better than this, could it?! ...

This had to be the best organised event I've ever been to! I was lucky enough to be in the VIP area but the entire event seemed to run like clockwork. The venue was spectacularly dressed with a bar and food available for purchase. Upon arrival, we picked up our T-shirt, headlamp and glow sticks...the final touches to ensure we lit up the night!

The Venue: Battersea Evolution
Race night arm candy :)
After relaxing for a while in the VIP area, we headed over to the Boutique Sport area to catch up with friends before the race. From the venue to the start line took about 2.5 minutes and we were off! I could hardly believe it! For Run To The Beat last year we stood outside in sub zero temperatures for almost an hour before we could set off!

Me ready to run!

Start line
The after party was decent! Great music and great atmosphere! Most likely due to plenty of people celebrating PB's including myself! ...I dined on popchips and drank plenty of red wine...a recipe for an early night!

The Bad:
I ran using Nike+ so this didn't really affect me but I found the distance markers were not very clear! I guess I'm used to half dressed men on podiums which we had at the Boutique Run in the summer of 2010 and 2011!

Although it was a fun run, it seemed a lot of people were taking it very seriously and there were a number of discourteous runners! Around one bend early on in the race I had one guy cut me up; I've seen the damage falling flat on your face can do and there was no way I was gonna be put out of the game by an inconsiderate guy! That doesn't seem to happen at the female only events so I guess it's something I may (but shouldn't) have to get used to if I run in mixed events in the future.

And guess what?! ...it rained! even though the weather forecast was for a dry evening the great British heavens opened up and down poured on us! It wasn't so bad though (especially when compared to the 2012 British 10km) it was actually quite refreshing!

The biggest thing that bugged me, was the link to social media. I ran through the Power Seal tunnel at around the 2 or 3km mark (not where I was expecting it) and then through the Power Boost tunnel during the second half of my race. It seemed though that the messages only posted on FB and twitter about 3 hours AFTER I had actually run through the tunnels and didn't distinguish between Power Seal and Power Boost! Hmmmm...Thanks to everyone that did comment, "like" or RT the posts...I'm just grateful for Nike+ and the cheers I received via that app which actually helped keep me going through the race!

Water was available at the 5km mark...great...we had plenty already albeit unbottled! ...At the end there were tables with carrots, water and medals. Being excited to have finished the race I kinda ran straight past the medal table then spent 10 minutes trying to get back and grab one! ...Erm, where were the people handing them out?! It was just self service! ...the after party made up for this though!

The Ugly:
There was nothing ugly about the event...so I'm just going to give you my commentary here! ...the detail, how I felt and all that...

The first 3km I ran with my friend Alicia. We were supposed to run the whole 10km together but she decided she was just gonna run 5km and told me to go on without her. Having been a bit stop starty in the first 3km trying to encourage Alicia I think this made it more difficult for me. Between 5km and 6km I was seriously considering giving up. Then I found my stride again until about 7.5km when it started getting difficult again. I think I was running a bit too fast, which made me have to slow down when I should have been running a more constant pace. At that point I saw Leah (of Naturally, Leah) who seemed to be running a constant pace so I stuck behind her for the last 2.5km which worked well even though it felt like a struggle!

Throughout the run I tried to focus on technique and my breathing which I think really helped! I am VERY happy with my time of 58:18. I think it kind of takes the pressure off for July which I am now very excited for!

Alicia and I post race
All in all, I had a fantastic time! ...I'm hoping I can be in town again for 2014 (you can already register your interest!)!

But that is not all! ...I had the pleasure of doing an interview with the Energizer Night Run Ambassador (and 2012 Olympic Gold Medallist!!) Nicola Adams on the night! I think I was more nervous about that than the actual run! Come back soon to read the full interview....

Nicola and I ;)

Elle ;) x


Journey to the Games: 13.5 with Gemma

Here we are at 13.5 - the final WOD for the 2013 CrossFit Opens! Lets remind ourselves of what was required for 13.5:

Over to Gemma for her update on the workout...

Wow – we knew the final workout would be tough but what a workout to end with. Two very challenging exercises; especially for those of us that are unable to complete 15 pull ups in one go. I knew I’d split the pull ups into 3 sets of 5, drop down and repeat. I have not fully mastered the butterfly pull up yet, so I would need to kip the pull ups. If you watch Camille Leblanc-Bazinet (US number 1) complete 13.5 she completes full butterfly pull ups, which is a very fast movement, giving her time to move quickly through each set. Whereas, Sam Briggs (Europe’s number 1) is unable to butterfly pull, so she kips her pull ups - this takes more time and energy meaning Sam dropped quickly behind Camille in the open 13.5. The butterfly pull up requires great co-ordination, timing and technique.

With Thrusters, lifting 30KG overhead is light for me, so I knew that my speed needed to be worked here to save time for my pull ups.

Now what didn't help was that I developed a bacterial infection on the Friday, a day after the workout was released. Gutted I wasn't feeling 100% and knew my strength wasn't at its best. However athletes can’t make excuses and a job needed to be done. I restricted my training to only coaching Friday and allowed myself to rest, I drank plenty of water and ate lots of fresh clean food.

Sunday I attempted 13.5. I completed 2 rounds and managed 5 pull ups into my 3rd round. Not a bad attempt but my hands definitely felt the pain!

Where did I finish up? Well the results are still being finalised but it looks like I will finish within 900th place in Europe and within the top 50% worldwide. I am proud of my efforts for this year, it has helped me understand my weaknesses which I need to work on and the biggest part of this journey has been getting the right technique to complete exercises at pace. This is what I tell all my clients when I coach, getting correct form and technique is so important before you are looking to increase your workout load or repetition. Not only is form a big part of my improvement, flexibility is also a key factor and like any athlete, investing in alternative training to improve your flexibility will aid your sporting perforance.

One of the most exciting parts about this week’s journey was introducing myself to my new club Crossfit South London. Philly Brennan put me through an intense fit test;

400m row,
40 air squats,
30 butterfly sit ups,
20 press ups (chest to floor),
10 pulls ups 

I completed in 4 mins 10 seconds – I'm so excited about having a coach to help me jump that leader board for 2014 games and the London Throwdown.

Bring on the training, may the pain and success begin!

...It certainly has been a great five weeks following Gemma's progress and learning about the CrossFit way of training. I'm sure we haven't seen the last of Gemma...

You can get in touch with Gemma and continue to follow her journey on Twitter @GoodtoTone or Facebook.  

Elle ;) x


Progress Your Plank #2

I think we are all after the "perfect flat stomach". I personally am more interested in what my core can do rather than how it looks, but hopefully both come hand in hand ;). In March, I shared with you some of my favourite progressions for the basic plank exercise (Progress Your Plank) which followed on from Perfect Form: Plank! There were so many great progressions that I needed to write a second post to cover a few more...

Beginner - 10-15 seconds on each side
Intermediate / Advanced - 30 seconds on each side

Begin by laying on your side, placing your elbow on the floor just under your shoulder. Lift up on that elbow, lift yours hips and keep your body stiff with a line running from head to toe. For this drill, keep your bottom leg bent to 90 degrees at the knee and your top leg straight. Pulse your top leg, bringing it off the floor and back down just above the floor. The movements should be small and at a moderate pace. Keep pulsing the top leg for the designated time.

Beginner - 15 seconds on each side / 6 reps on each side
Intermediate / Advanced - 30 seconds on each side / 10-12 reps on each side

Start in plank position with hands directly under shoulders. Clench one hand as if holding a dumbbell; bend your arm at the elbow, then straighten the arm, keeping it in line with your body. Bend the elbow, and repeat for the designated time or number of repetitions. To make this more challenging you can use dumbbells.

Beginner - 15 second son each side / 6 reps on each side
Intermediate / Advanced - 30 seconds on each side / 10-12 reps on each side

Begin in plank position with hands directly under shoulders and feet together. Clench one hand as if holding a dumbbell. Complete one row (1); bend at the elbow then drive the elbow upwards whilst keeping it tucked in to the body. From there, straighten the arm as you rotate your body into a side plank (2). Return through the same positions. Repeat for the designated time or number of repetitions. To make this more challenging, use dumbbells.

Beginner - 30 secs, alternating sides
Intermediate / Advanced - 60 - 90 secs, alternating sides

Begin in plank position (1) with hands directly under shoulders and feet together. One side at a time, replace your hand with our elbow (2) bringing yourself into a forearm plank position (3) with elbows directly under shoulders. Try to keep your core engaged and not to swing your hips too much. Then return to a full plank position by replacing your elbows with you hands.

So, give these drills a go and let me know what you think! You will also find these drills included in workouts on the Nike Training Club app which is available on iPhone (or iPod) and android.

I reckon I will write a 'Power Plank' workout combining the exercises in these posts and set us a challenge ..what do you think!?

Elle :) x


Journey to the Games: 13.4 with Gemma

We're now into week 4 of the CrossFit Opens with just one more workout to go after this! We've witnessed exercises that we thought were not possible (but now we know they are) and we've learnt a lot haven't we?!

So here we go! Here's a reminder of what the 13.4 workout had in store:

Read on to see how Gemma did...

28th March;
I knew my clean and jerk would be ok as I am strong in lifting but I felt that my toes to bar would need some technical improvement. I planned and practised single toes to bar and multiple toes to bar, realising I needed to use my knees to tuck in and flick up the toes to bar to save energy rather that using a full scissor action.

29th March;
I made my first attempt today. I had it through to rep 12 and completed 5 reps at the clean & jerk.

30th March;
Attempt 2 at Gym Box with Rusty coaching (@motiv8rusty). Completed a 5k sprint warm up and mobility exercises before completing a warm up and some tactical advice from Rusty. I completed 8 reps into the 12 rep round and very pleased with my score of 44. Looking at the leader board, most ladies were getting between 40 and 43 with only the elite scoring above 50 so I was super happy with myself!

31st March;
Knowing I had completed 13.4 my athlete within was unleashed and I put myself up against another to complete Fran & Cindy which are two challenging CrossFit WOD's. Read more about each of them here: http://www.crossfit.com/cf-info/excercise.html#Girls. My weakness being the pull ups in Cindy I knew I wouldn't win this WOD but I knew I didn't want to drop more than one round behind. I kept a steady pace and stayed on the heels of my opponent throughout. Both completing 24 rounds - we even added in a deadlift at the end of each round for 3 reps.

Three rounds, 21-15- and 9 reps, of:
95 pound Thruster

5 Pull-ups
10 Push-ups
15 Squats

1st April;
Round 2 of competition - I knew that both Diane and Nancy would be strong workouts for me. Deadlifting is one of my favourite exercises which uses every muscle in your body and more recently I lifted 100KG which is double my body weight and my personal best. Squatting is a strong exercise for me and weaker for my opponent, so I knew I could use this to my advantage even though I would drop behind in the pull ups and hand stand press ups. I completed 3 rounds of Nancy in 11min 15 sec taking first place by a 4 minutes. Next Diane, only just making it through first but need to work on hand stand press ups and the depth of my press.

21-15-9 reps of:
225 pound Deadlift
Handstand push-ups

400 meter run
95 pound Overhead squat, 15 reps
Pull ups, 12 reps

There we have it! 13.4 in the bag with one more workout to go...13.5! What will CrossFit have in store?!

Elle ;) x
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