Commuter to Competitor; The Basics of Cycle Training

How do you go from not being a cyclist, to spinning classes, to cycle commuting ...to racing?! For the last 6 months, cycle commuting has been impossible for me due to moving house but I compensated with spinning classes. Somehow though, I don't feel that commuting or spinning can fully get you ready for taking part in a cycling event or triathlon even. So what do I do?! I speak to the most cycle-ey person I know... meet Ellie...

Ellie is amidst a degree course in Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Bath whilst currently on work placement at The Altitude Centre in London. Since learning to ride a bike at the age of 4 Ellie spent the vast majority of her spare time on two wheels. She had her first session at Calshot velodrome aged 9, where she ‘got the bug’.

Ellie continued practicing her track riding skills till she reached the age of 12 and began training more seriously, spending many hours out riding around the Dorset lanes with her Dad (A.K.A her guide, bodyguard and mechanic), and Ellie also started to compete at this time. As a youth and a junior Ellie has competed in road and track disciplines at a National Level with Primera Race Team (part of Primera Sports), often racing against some of the worlds best female cyclists such as Dame Sarah Storey, Laura Trott and Elinor Barker to name but a few. As well as this, Ellie recently gained her Level 2 Cycling Coach qualification with the aim to complete higher levels of coaching qualification in order to help others achieve their cycling goals. 

I sat down with Ellie and had a little chat to come up with some tips if you're looking to take your riding skills from commuter to competitor.

1/ Invest In Cleats and Clip-In Pedals 
Using cleats and clip in pedals allows you to work on your pedalling efficiency; you can pull up as well as push down. Watt bikes are great for the visual representation of this so are great to use in training if you can't get outdoors on your own bike. If you're on your bike though, you're looking for consistent tyre noise to identify pedal efficiency. Keep an eye on your bottom bounce; this shouldn't happen until you're at a really high cadence, or even not at all if your pedalling technique is really smooth. When pedalling, make sure you "pedal in circles (from the hips) rather than pedalling in squares by pushing down". Focus on drawing a circle with your foot for each revolution.

2/ Get A Bike Fitting 
Now this one I argued due to the cost but Ellie insisted it was a must do. In any case, you should check that your saddle is not too high nor too low which can usually be spotted through hip movement. When sat on your bike with the pedal at the bottom, drop your heel and there should be a slight bend in the knee. When cycling, your hips should not be rocking; if you need to, get a friend to look at you while you cycle. Also, when in drops (on the low handlebars - I did have to ask Ellie to clarify this, lol) - when you look down your axel should be hidden behind the handlebars.

3/ Vary Your Training 
I first put it to Ellie to give me an overview of what your training should look like on 3 sessions per week. She told me to get in 1 long ride (at a steady pace), 1 hard interval session (e.g 3 minute intervals, this will help with hills) and 1 "sweet spot" training session. I hear you. What is sweet spot training?!? This is a longish ride with tempo efforts. E.g 2 x 20min effort with a 5 min recovery in between. Progressing to 3 x 10m efforts at a higher tempo. Add on 10 min warm up and cool down. 

Then I thought, actually, realistically, what if we could only fit in one session per week?! Which of these is the must do session?! It's that sweet spot session of course. With some sprint work added in. 

4/ How Do I Make My Bike Go Faster
...like, is that possible?! Ellie suggested checking that your brakes are not rubbing and are running smoothly. Get the best tyres you can afford and ensure you keep them pumped up. Check your tyres regularly for flints and other debris that can cause punctures. 

5/ How Do I Look Extra Cool 
After attending the London Bike Show earlier this year and riding with some people who were too cool for school, I had to ask Ellie if some of the tips I picked up were considered cool. Did you know there is no need to have / keep your caps on your valves?! No, me neither. Oh and those reflectors?! I guess they're not needed in a race (and Ellie says they're just extra weight!!). No bell. You're racing now, not commuting. Always carry a puncture repair kit. carbon dioxide canisters; always have rear lights and keep them on; always wear a helmet (but you don't need the visor thing, this is more cool wisdom). Get a good saddle (some store will lend you saddles to try before you buy) and a good pair of padded shorts.

6/ Feeding Yourself While Cycling 
Ellie recommends Nutrigrain bars Nature Valley bars; have one of these every 45 minutes to keep energy levels up. You don't need gels, she says. We don't need gels, people. Drink 500ml per hour (of water or watered down fruit juice with a pinch of salt - to make your own electrolyte drink).

Voila people! Voila! ....Feel like a pro?! 

What training tips do you have to share for cycling?! Planning on or taken part in a cycle sportive (is that what they are called?!)??

Elle :) 

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Working in Fitness: If I Knew Then What I Know Now...

A few months ago, I shared with you {My Running Journey}; all the struggles and the honest truth about how I came to call myself a runner.

Professionally though, there are a lot of gaps to be filled. I've been in "the industry" now for 10 years (since my first job out of University). Talking of University, and with everyone just starting back, I thought I'd share with you my thoughts.

1/ Will You Be Happy At Your Second Choice University 
I saw a newspaper article with a similar title on twitter today. I never bothered to read the article but it did make me realise, for the first time, that I did actually go to my second choice University. I applied for Sports Science courses at (1) Loughborough, (2) Brighton and (3) Manchester. I got rejected from Loughborough but accepted for Brighton and Manchester. I though Manchester was too far from home so I went to visit Brighton (Eastbourne campus) and was more than happy to spend the next 3 years of my life here. As an aside, Loughborough wrote to me offering me a place on their Sports Science with Chemistry course to which I stuck my middle finger up at! I was aware that I could start on that course then drop chemistry but I really wasn't gonna be that easy! haha!

I had 3 of the best years at the University of Brighton and really wouldn't change anything for the world.

2/ Is University For Me
It certainly was for me; but it may not be for everyone. Working in fitness doesn't have a prerequisite of a degree but other associated careers (such as mine in Sport Development), do. At the time I studied, Sport Science was still a relatively new course and it didn't fully equip those of us who took the course to work in fitness. Nowadays now though, the courses come with all the practical skills you need and you come out of your degree with your fitness qualifications too.

If University is not for you though, you can just complete your Level 2 and / or 3 qualifications in what seems like no time at all these days. I used a Career Development Loan to fund my first Level 2 qualification and then used Prior Learning from my degree in addition to a few short courses to achieve my Level 3 Personal Training Qualification. If you're young (like maybe under 20), there are a few funding opportunities out there for you so make sure to look out for those!

3/ The Fitness Industry Doesn't Pay Well 
Working as an actual Instructor or on the gym floor doesn't pay all that well. When I started as a Level 2 Instructor, wages we about £6-7 per hour; I'm sure they've improved since then but by how much?! I remember I had a part time office job (in Sport Development) which paid me £12 per hour!

Working as an Instructor delivering classes, I've earned anything between £25 - £100 per 45 mins / hour. This may sound like an excellent wage ...if you could teach 8 hours of classes in a row! These kind of gigs come up as a one hour per week situation. Then you need to find other classes, in all sorts of locations to supplement your income. Factor in travel and expenses; how much are you left with?!

e.g £25 for a 45 minute class (-£5 travel each way, -£5 to pay tax = £15 expenses) = £10 in my pocket

Teaching also comes with a few more expenses such as the purchase of a mic belt, different batteries for different pics at different studios, battery charger, music, insurance...

I currently teach two classes per week which luckily fit in with my work schedule meaning I don't pay explicit travel costs for them. In another job, I taught a class on my lunch break which was great as a dual use of time.

4/ You Don't Earn When You Don't Work
Since being self employed, holidays have been few and far between. When I don't work, I don't make money. Add going on holiday to that and I'm paying twice; once for the holiday and expenses and through loss of earnings.

It also means that you have to be extra careful not to get injured which would result in you not being able to work.

Being self employed also means you are responsible for paying your own taxes. Each month when I receive my pay, I automatically transfer 20% of that to a separate bank account to ensure I'm not left searching for cash at the end of the year!

5/ Just Because You Love To Keep Fit Doesn't Mean You Should Become A Personal Trainer 
...and just because you are a Personal Trainer doesn't mean you live in the gym. Well, not me anyway. I love teaching and training people; for me it's like being on stage (I used to go to theatre school!) ...I get to almost be a different person. My heart is full to the brim of motivation for others, for supporting other people to workout and achieve their goals yet when it comes to me working out, I find it hard to make the first move. I too, need someone to push me, support me and guide me to reach my goals.

I do feel like the industry is saturated right now and it's hard to know who to listen to. Everyone, and anyone is a Personal Trainer. But just because they know how to reach their goals doesn't mean they know how to help you reach yours. Have a read of my post {10 Reasons To Love Your Instructor / PT}.

But Again, I Wouldn't Change It For The World...

If I knew then, what I know now, I would certainly have made the same choices I made back then! I don't have the energy to teach endless classes each week. Teaching what I do, means that the passion is always there every time I put on the microphone! It means I get to work on other ways of applying my knowledge such as writing this blog and learning from my own training and experiences.

People often ask me, "how many people do you train?" and I always respond saying I don't have the time to take on clients. This is true. I also don't work, nor want to work as a full time personal trainer. I hate selling to people; I'd rather just help people because I want to, not because I need to pay my bills. I'd rather (as my own personal choice) use my knowledge to create other ways of helping people to transform their lives.

Some of my career goals are to complete my Masters in Business Administration, polish up my spinning and consider teaching a class or two as well as securing ambassadorship with a brand who supports my goals and vice versa. I'm just gonna work real hard to bring all my ideas to life!

What are your thoughts on working in the industry?! 

Or do you have plans to gain some fitness qualifications? What do you hope to do with them?

Elle :) 

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Fitness 4 Mamas


Behind The Screen: 6 Quick Tips For Sharing Affiliate Links

Almost two years ago, I was approached by MyProtein to review some of their products! I was happy enough with a big bag of protein powder, a huge tup of almond butter and another huge tub of cashew butter. When my post went live, I sent through the link to my contact. He responded to say they were really happy with the post and would I be interested in joining their affiliate scheme! I really had no idea what one was but I said yes and followed all their instructions to sign up with Affiliate Window.

Fast forward about 12 or more months and I'd done nothing with this. I started to notice though how many offers I was getting to join affiliate schemes and realised that there must be something in this. I turn down about 95% of affiliate scheme offers and if you read my Behind The Screen posts you'll know how much money I do / do not make but I have been making a concerted effort the last few months to share the links.

Firstly, let me start by saying that if you think making money through affiliate links is easy, then you are wrong (if it is really easy for you, then congratulations and please share your tips in the comments?!)!

Here are a few of my tips and how I've been working with them: 

Be Authentic || Stick To Your Niche and Brands You Would Shop With 
Top of my list is be authentic. I only join the programmes of brands I love, use and believe in. I'm currently signed up to 7 advertisers on Affiliate Window (AW) in addition to Amazon Affiliates and the Kayla Itsines Scheme. I'm really keen on working with each of the brands to help create content so I'm not just sharing links repeatedly. Some brands have been more accommodating than others which then impacts my shopping behaviours and which brands I promote / share most.

I have run a few competitions with Simply Supplements which have been great for increasing awareness around the brand and giving reader an opportunity to try products they may not have considered before.

I stick to sharing links for the topics covered on my blog (with the exception of twitter where I share anything and everything I love on Amazon!).

Shop Your Own Links 
If you wouldn't shop with the brands why should anyone else?! Shopping your own links works well with AW but never counts with Amazon. I recently topped up my mums supplements from Simply Supplements and filled up my superfood cupboard from Planet Organic. I'd much rather shop with the brands that will help me create an income over any other brand. Makes sense?!

Leverage Social Media To Work For You 
Use Facebook and Twitter to share ad hoc offers from brands. Most of the advertisers on AW send through a weekly email with their best offers. When they send through the links already with your id it makes it super quick to copy, paste and share with everyone, everywhere. Keep a stock of photos to use for these instances too as the ones they send you can be repetitive or may just not fit in with your branding.

Instagram doesn't work so well for affiliate links as you can't click through to links in the text of images; the only clickable link is the ONE in your profile.

Be On Top Of The Best Offers With Fresh Content 
In addition to the weekly emails, keep an eye on the advertiser accounts on social media to see what they are sharing and then retire yourself. If they are sharing it, then it must be popular / a good deal / something interesting?! That is my thinking anyway!

Utilise Plug Ins That Do The Work For You 
Affiliate Window comes with a bit of code that automatically creates affiliate links from your site wherever applicable without you having to do anything over or above finding the link on the advertiser website. It also signs you up to any affiliate programs as a result of a link being created and a purchase being made. I randomly got signed up for a US advertiser the other day; I'm not sure if it was an AW error or not! It wasn't a good fit for my blog though so I promptly unjoined!

Quality Over Quantity 
Oversharing is never good right and I'm sure some people do unfollow you if they get fed up of seeing too many advertisements per say. Or maybe they just don't like my passive aggressive tweets?! haha!

If there is a particularly good deal going on for a period of time, I'll set up a few scheduled tweets to go out during that time so it can reach the maximum amount of people.

How do you feel about affiliate links, either as a reader or fellow blogger?! 

Anymore other tips that you have?! 

Elle :) 

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Life with Baby Kicks


In Slow Motion at #Bestival15

A couple of weekends ago I headed over to Bestival on the Isle of Wight to check out their new area Slow Motion which focussed on health and wellbeing, re-centering the soul and reinvigorating the mind.

Think decadent all natural hot tubs overlooking the Bestival site, whole-food, juice and raw food bars, adventure opportunities off site including paddle boarding and sea kayaking from Rapanui. On top of this, there were daily yoga classes, uplifting aerobics and for the first time ever, euphoric spinning classes.

All of this was set away from the hustle and bustle of the main festival and overtime we headed over to Slow Motion, I just felt so at home! Here's a little lowdown of what I did (and didn't) get up to over the 3 days we were at the festival...

On our first evening, we used the time to get our bearings and figure out where everything was. We stayed in the quiet campsite which was a very long walk away from the main festival (and all the noise). I would've LOVED if there was a campsite just off Slow Motion; that would've made my entire weekend!

We checked out the yoga timetable to see what we wanted to do over the next couple of days then headed off to check out some of the festival and find something to eat for dinner (pie and chips if you're wondering!).

We spent the morning of Day 2 (Friday) on a full tour of Slow Motion which included an impromptu spin class at Revolution Ride. I have to say, spinning in wellington boots wasn't as much an issue as I thought it would be! I totally rocked out, and I'm so glad I did as that was the only real opportunity that I had! The timetable seemed to be a little unpredictable with advertised  DJ's not turning up and the session I actually went to ended up not lasting as long as I had hoped. I figure not everyone at the festival is as serious about their workout as me, right?! 

After a fair bit of walking, it was time to grab some refreshments. 

Peanut butter on toast and coffee?! Practically my dream snack! Pip and Nut provided us with the food (I tried out their coconut almond butter as well as their regular almond butter on sourdough bread) washed down with an almond latte from The Coffee Camper.

After this, we chilled on the hill in Slow Motion soaking up the sunshine and watching the goings on at The Kaleidoscope Stage including Pip an Eugene of AcroYogaDance...

...then I may just have got on stage to have a go myself! I kid you not, I was nervous, shaking even but it was so much fun we decided to pop along to their acro yoga class later that afternoon!

After dinner, we hit up Bestiversity for some comedy which included the carnival passing by with some pretty interesting costumes and characters! ...By this time, we were ready for bed and our final day.

We spent our final day mostly laying in the sun! Alicia and I took it in turns to get our astrological charts done whilst our Bestival Buddies Franny & Fenton collected and unwrapped their tie dye t-shirts they made with The New Craft Society (I did want to do this but they ran out of t-shirts and I DO NOT need another tote bag). Food, sunshine, ice cream, cider, dancing ...was the rest of our Saturday and final day at Bestival before we made our way back to mainland England and home!

Would I go again?! ..I'd go to Slow Motion again, but I've never been the festival type of girl who's really into music. A huge thank you to Bestival for invite and access though! It was something I would never have thought to do off my own back but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience!

Are you into music festivals?! Do you like the sound of Slow Motion?! 

Elle :) 

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Elle About Town, August & September 2015

I'm back, eventing, as you might like to call it! I've been up to some fun stuff in the last couple of months when training was a little more relaxed! 

Here's what I've been up to or plan on getting up to in and about London Town! 

Events: Relaunch of 9BAR

Last month, I got to attend an awesome Pilates class and nutrition talk to celebrate the relaunch of 9BAR. I've loved these bars since I first came across them some years ago and it was great to see them going from strength to strength.

I love their campaign with SolarAid too where for every 9BAR that is bought, a child in Africa receives a nightlight. It' gives me a real feel good factor when I'm snacking on these super - seeded energy bars! Check out their website for more information on the campaign as well as all of their products!

And, I'm not (very) selfish so I have a selection of 9BARs to share with one of my just as amazing readers! Entries are via the Rafflecopter widget just below the competition image here...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Events: GynaeHealth launch of GynaeCheck 

As you will have read, September is Gynaecological Cancer Awareness month. I shared a post with you about the 9 need to knows for cervical screening, and the launch of Target 100,000.

We had previously been along to an event at Tanya's Cafe in Chelsea and I took a few pictures I wanted to share as the (all raw) food was amazing!

Classes: Jasyoga with Brooks Running 

So I wrote up the whole event with Brooks Running and somehow forgot to mention one of the most valuable parts of the evening; the post run yoga session with Jasyoga! It was basically everything that I needed after a run. She made sure we stretched in all the right places but didn't make it too strenuous!

Events: #SoundsofSennheiser 

This week I attended an evening with Currys PC World​ and Sennheiser​ at NoirW1​; #SOUNDSOFSENNHEISER

It was such an informative evening! As a fitness instructor, music plays a huge role in what I do so learning a little more about what goes into the sound industry was eye opening!

I got to try my hand at DJ'ing with John the Baptist​, learnt all about Vinyl with Juno Records and then got to hear all about the range from Sennheiser including the Momentum 2!

I was also lucky enough to win 'Best Instagram Picture' from the event and am looking forward to receiving a pair of Sennheiser Momentum 2 headphones!

Check out the post on the Currys PC World website {here}; Lisa of Girl At The Rock Show wrote such a comprehensive post {here} as well, so go and have a read of that too!

Events: Launch of Limited Edition Withing's Activite Pop Watch

I got to start a Friday with a Ballet Barre class looking over the River Thames in London. Can't really ask for more. We also got gifted the watch which I adore (so far because it is pink, I can swim in it, I don't need to charge it, I can control it via my phone) and I'm sure as I get to grips with it I will share my full thoughts with you!

Coming Up....

Yoga with Madelaine Shaw  
Popular blogger and nutritionist Madelaine is leading a yoga class with RED magazine and I figured I'd pop along, get my stretch on and meet the lady herself! There's a Q&A after the session so I'd better start thinking up one I can ask. If you have any though, pop them in the comments section at the end of the post!

Hever Castle Triathlon 
As if you don't know; my final triathlon this month. It's a teeny tiny starter distance so it should be nice and chilled meaning I can have lots of fun!! Keep an eye out for my post with #MyMoments!

Pop Brixton Wellbeing Week 
I'm off to sample a yoga class at this week long event later in September!

Brooks SS16 Preview 
After being a little bit in love with the Fall / Winter kit I'm excited to see what Brooks have for SS16! Follow me on Instagram to get a little cheek preview yourself (I'm not into snapchat yet! hmm, actually I should maybe get on that! Stay tuned!)!

And you can wait for the rest, right?!

What fun stuff is coming up for you in the next month or so?! 

Elle :) x

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In My Skin || Part II, I Wear Make Up In The Gym

You might not even have noticed, but I started this series on part two. Part one is half written in my drafts. It's been like that for weeks, and weeks. And until I can find the right words to put down, I won't publish it. As a result of that post though, there were topics that I wanted to cover because although I'm not certain, I think I'm not alone.

In My Skin || Over the past couple of months, I've noticed a few blog posts come out about how to cure acne / blemish prone skin. As someone who has suffered with spots for as long as I can remember (i.e since primary school) I always eagerly click the link to learn what is new. The last couple of posts have said the same thing... I took this drug, with so many side effects but it cured my skin. I'm so happy it's worked for those individuals but I don't think that's for me.

I spent over 6 months on antibiotics at one stage. Then I spent, I can't remember how long, using a cream that needed to be refrigerated and basically made the skin on my face fall off. Both methods worked well until I stopped.

The best period of clear skin I can remember was when I did a five day juice cleanse. But the moment I started eating again, the spots came back. Thinking about this makes me feel that my skin issues are linked to the food that I eat but I really don't eat that badly; I'm lactose intolerant so I avoid dairy as much as possible and my diet is in no way similar to that of me as a 7 year old, a 15 year old, or even me at 25 years of age.

I've tried every single spot product on the market I think. I came to the conclusion that products for spots actually give you spots. I mean, if they truly did clear up your skin then they would be putting themselves out of business, huh?! And we all know, a turkey never votes for Christmas!

My Skin Commandments 

1. Use the Oil Cleansing Method each morning and evening to cleanse my skin 

I came across this randomly {via this article} and instantly started doing it using organic extra virgin olive oil. I then added some tea tree oil and a blending oil mix I picked up. Within a couple of days, I ordered a specific oil mix for cleansing your face made from all natural oils. I instantly felt like this method made a world of difference to my face. I use a flannel to wipe my face and wash it after each use. I recently got my hands on a muslin cloth for oil cleansing and it felt great the first time I used it as it gently exfoliates my skin at the same time. I still use a moisturiser but eventually I'm hoping to find a more natural product that I can use after cleansing.

2. Keep my hands away from my face

When you think about all the things you touch in a d ay ...then you touch your face. I feel this contributes somewhat to any skin issues we have. I read somewhere years ago that if you must touch your face, use the back of your hand as that has had less contact with areas of bacteria etc. Makes sense.

3. Drink as much water as I can...

To hydrate my skin from the inside out. I put a glass of water on my bedside table each night and usually drink it when I wake up the next morning. I tried drinking apple cider vinegar for a couple of weeks but I wasn't too fond of the taste and I didn't really feel like I could see any huge benefits.

4. Use mineral based make up

I recently switched all my make up for mineral based products. I previously used an oil based foundation but from what I've read it seems this can block your pores. Mineral based makeup is supposed to be unable to get into your pores which is better for your skin.

These days, I rarely go anywhere without putting on foundation and mascara. If I have the time, I'll add eyebrow pencil and blusher, sometimes lipstick if I'm going out, out! In my younger years, I wore much more make up but then I also exercised a lot less too!

My name is Elle and I wear make up in the gym. 

What's your confession?! What products do you swear by for your face and skin?! 

Elle :) 

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Supporting #Target100,000

Last week, I shared with you 9 need to knows about cervical cancer screening; I hope you had a good read and even if you took away just one small piece of information then it was worth my time writing!

September is officially gynaecological cancer awareness month (image above is me wearing the sweater for the #ladygardencampaign).

This month also saw the launch of GynaeCheck (a new, at home, self sampling device) after research showed that 5 million women are not up to date with their smear tests, and the average woman is 672 days late for her smear test appointment.

Why are women missing their appointments?!
- 75% have had a bad experience
- 69% do not like their lady garden being touched
- 50% struggle to get an appointment
- 14% struggle to get the time off work
- 1 in 4 feel anxious getting undressed
- 80% of women find smear tests painful or uncomfortable

Target 100,000 campaign hopes that the new at home test will help thousands of women to re-engage in cervical screening. After all, 1.1 million women admit that they have NEVER had a smear test! If just 10% of those women use GynaeCheck that will be 100,000 women more engaged in cervical screening' hence the campaign name, Target 100,000.

If you have time, here's a short video with some questions and answers from a session I attended with Dr Pixie in August.

Finally, as a follow up to my 9 things you need to know post where I myself tried out the GynaeCheck kit; I sent off my sample on Tuesday 1st September. Today, whilst on the tube to work I got a phone call. When I answered it, the person on the other end of the line told me their name and that they were calling from GynaeHealth. Immediately my mind played back to the talk I'd been at where they said "if there is anything in your results that needs following up, they will call". She asked if this was a good time to chat and I had to say no as I was on the train about to go underground and I also only had 5% battery. She said she would email me my results and if I needed to talk a telephone number would be in the email.

Well, of course, I started to panic. I got the email but I couldn't open it. Then my phone battery died. Once I got to work, I whipped out my laptop and downloaded my results (which were sent in a password protected zip file). My results were:

Abnormal, High Risk HPV Subtypes Detected
HPV Type 18 Absent
HPV Type 45 Absent 

HPV Type 16 Absent 
Other High Risk HPV Type(s) Present 

The letter then said: As a consequence we suggest that you need additional specialist advice for the best way to proceed. This will be based around your particular circumstances. We would suggest that you take advice, ideally from a Consultant Gynaecologist, or your GP. If needed we can help you with a list of suitably qualified Gynaecologists.
So I got straight on the phone and booked a smear test at my GP's for a couple days time. My actual smear test was due in December anyway and due to the results of GynaeCheck they are happy to see me early.

At this stage, I'm just not worrying. There's no point. But it does feel a little surreal. When I agreed to take part in this campaign, I never for one moment considered how I would feel / what I would do or say should the result actually come back as positive.

So, ladies. When was your last smear test? or have you never been? 

Early detection saves lives. 

Elle :) 

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Elle Loves... #Bestival15 Product Picks

Last week(end) I headed over to Bestival on the Isle of Wight to check out their new area Slow Motion which focussed on health and wellbeing, re-centering the soul and reinvigorating the mind.

Think decadent all natural hot tubs overlooking the Bestival site, whole-food, juice and raw food bars, adventure opportunities off site including paddle boarding and sea kayaking from Rapanui. On top of this, there were daily yoga classes, uplifting aerobics and for the first time ever, euphoric spinning classes.

All of this was set away from the hustle and bustle of the main festival but it didn't mean I could escape all of that! I still had to camp; something I haven't done since secondary school! In the words of my mum ..."but you like your creature comforts" ...I had to take along a few things to help me take care of myself and feel comfortable...

1. Hand Chemistry | Intense Youth Complex* - I go nowhere without hand cream so a weekend away at Bestival would be no different. As hand washing is minimal when camping / at festivals, this one was perfect as it was to be applied twice a day, morning and evening.

As an award winning product, I kinda had faith in it. It's supposed to visibly improve firmness, elasticity, density, evenness, brightness, texture, smoothness and hydration. At 100ml per tube, I feel like it will last me a long time which helps to justify the price tag. 

Use code SIMPELLE15 to get 15% off all DECIEM products including Hand Chemistry and Fountain. Currently valid until the end of October 2015

2. Hand Chemistry | Heel Hydration Complex* - You'll learn a little more about my journey to Bestival below but when I arrived, my feet needed some love. I used this cream each night before bed and each morning when I got ready for the day ahead. It made my feet look and feel less dry and uncomfortable (not sure if you know, but I have a THING about my feet feeling dry! It has even been known to wake me up at night!).

This cream can also be used on hands, elbows ...all those places where we suffer from extreme dry skin! Hand Chemistry say: Our heel cream contains no acids, no urea and no peeling. Our product solely focuses on repairing the cracked skin, to keep feet and other areas happy. 

3. Fountain | The Energy Molecule* - I take vitamin supplements everyday in tablet form; I didn't want to carry three separate bottles and I didn't wanna take the tablets loose to a festival so this supplement from Fountain was a perfect alternative. In a nutshell, Fountain - The Energy Molecule is a beauty and lifestyle supplement with a concentrated energy complex of Creatine, Vitamin B12 and our Hyaluronic Acid matrix to provide sustainable lasting energy.

The ingredients put together would help to keep my joints feeling good, provide energy to my muscles and reduce that tired, lack of energy we all sometimes get. 

The dosage is 5ml per day which I swigged each morning with my breakfast. They call it the feel good molecule and I think it really did help! Although I didn't go crazy at Bestival, sleeping in a tent on the ground (essentially), walking miles (I kid you not) each day plus adding in spinning, yoga etc really did take it's toll on me! I woke up early, went to bed late and I'm sure this played a part in allowing me to stay well! I'm not sure how I would describe the taste; it was certainly interesting but totally doable! You can also add your 5ml to smoothies and juices if you don't want to take it on its own!

4. Rolson Tools LED Camping Light - I actually bought this light a couple months ago to use as lighting when taking photographs. At the time, I had no idea how useful it would be should I actually go camping. It has a foldaway hook which meant we could hook it to the top of the tent. It takes 4 aa batteries (and comes with them included) and at around £5, you really can't go wrong!

5. Juice Weekender | Portable Phone Charger - Since smartphones were invented, I've needed a portable charger but have just never wanted to part with the money. I don't understand my own logic sometimes. Being away at Bestival for 3 days meant I either a) ran out of battery b) relied on what would be provided at the festival or c) purchased a portable charger. I chose c, as you will have gathered! And I made a good choice (erm, hiring a portable charger at the festival for the weekend cost £20 plus a £20 deposit - so add another £10 - 15 and you have your own one to use forever! no-brainer?!)

I charged it up via my laptop at home and then it was ready to go! For my iPhone 5s it provides FOUR FULL CHARGES. So that was just over one per day for me at Bestival (I went Thurs - Sat). It charges just as quickly as a plug and is the same size (just a little thicker) than my iPhone.

6. SOLE | Sport Flips* - I read in a festival survival guide that flip flops are a no-no at festivals. I'm glad I read this after the event because I couldn't imagine having not taken along these flip flops! After spending 9 hours travelling (and mostly queuing) to get into Bestival, wearing (brand new - I know, rookie mistake) hi top converse, my feet needed some tender loving care! The straps are cushioned and the footbed is mouldable which means it adapts to my foot. There was no rain or mud in sight when we arrived so these were just perfect for me to wear to explore the festival grounds. They were also useful for slipping on at the end of the day to allow my feet to get some air as well as for chilling on the campsite.

I tested these out before the festival during an eight hour shift on my feet. They were the first flip flops I'd worn all summer and I was surprised how comfortable they felt on their first wear.

I now have to dust them off a little post festival but they're definitely a firm favourite in my footwear collection right now!

What are the products that help you to survive festivals / camping?! 

Elle :) 

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TRI | CHECK | DO: Nutrition and Training

The end of the triathlon season is fast approaching, and so is my third and final triathlon for 2015. I've been on a crazy journey this year having learnt to swim so I could take part in a triathlon and I couldn't be anymore proud of my achievements so far. I'm kinda doing things back to front though and ending the season completing the shortest distance to date for me - a starter triathlon.

I made this decision based on the fact that I knew I needed some time out over July and August; I wanted to be able to complete the event comfortably and to have a little more cycle training under my belt.

So I teamed up with Predator Nutrition to help me nail my nutrition and training. They supplied me with a selection of Quest Bars and three weeks supply of Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Pre-workout.

The pre workout, as its name suggests, was to be taken before my training to provide focus, energy and drive. Having moved back to Essex (the outskirts of London) recently I haven't been on my bike much but I've been trying to hit up a spin class every now and then. No matter when I go to spin though, I never seem to be able to keep up or get my legs to move as fast as I need to! I thought this would be the perfect time and place to try out the pre-workout. I added half a sachet (11g, 1 serving) to 500ml (they recommend 350ml but I found it to be too sweet) of cold water which I started drinking 15 minutes before class, then up to 15 minutes before the end of the class.

This was my first time ever taking pre-working. Mission accomplished. My legs have never moved so fast, I've never smiled so much, I've never worked so hard in spin and I've never felt that I've gotten a as much of a workout from spin as I did that afternoon!

Having spoken to fitness friends about using pre-workout, I've chosen to use it only once per week so that the effects of it don't wear off. It basically is a supplement which contains amino acids, high dose caffeine and vitamins. We all know that if you drink lots of coffee, eventually the caffeine stops having an effect on you so using the pre-workout once a week will ensure it works to its highest capacity for longer and I get the best out of using that much caffeine (175mg per serving compared to 95mg in a cup of coffee).

As for the Quest Bars; they basically saved me from myself on a number of occasions! They were part of the package as they would make an ideal post-workout snack, as protein is used to feed muscles and aid recovery after exercise. However, I found many uses for them.

Sometimes I would find I was hungry before my workout and a Quest Bar would be enough to get me through the workout and then to my next (sensible) meal! They also make great mid morning / mid afternoon snacks on the days that I plan on training. I personally have enjoyed all the flavours I've tried. I think the all time favourite (from what I gather) may be cookies and cream?! In the past, I only used the bars which were sweetened naturally but this time round I had a mix of both and I honestly couldn't tell the difference!

The Quest Bars would also be awesome to pack for my triathlon (if I were doing a longer distance than a starter) to eat after the swim / during the bike ride and / or after the run!

Predator Nutrition say - Whether you’re a casual exerciser or a professional athlete, proper nutrition and training should always be the two main pillars on which you build your success. We stress that supplementation alone can never achieve this, there really are no ‘miracle pills’. However, we believe that quality supplements, properly administered, can be of enormous help to supporting you and aiding you in both these areas, whoever you are. Really, it’s why we do what we do.

And I definitely agree! I'm not keen on taking supplements and the pre-workout is something that I probably would never had considered as I've never really known about it! Makes me wonder what else is out there for me to find... but I guess that's why I'm here... always willing to learn!

What are your favourite products to supplement your training?!

Elle :)

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