GONE.DARK || Sweat Before Social #RuleYourself

You may have noticed over the last week that I've been MIA from social media. I took up the challenge from Under Armour to join a legion of athletes who were putting "sweat before social" for the #RuleYourself campaign.

The campaign is all about focusing on your training; how athletes put in hours, days, months, years of sweat and endurance for a few seconds of performance. So basically, it's what you do in the dark that will put you in the light.

This couldn't have come at a better time for me in my training and life in general. This very week was the start of my half marathon training. Something that I should have done 3 months ago to be ready to run Brighton Half this weekend gone. Last year, I reached a PB at that very race... all the training I had put in came to fruition. I got to celebrate the sweat, nutrition, sleep. rest, recovery and effort that went into getting me there.

Before I tell you what I got up to, I just wanna share that this week wasn't easy. Being off social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc) was tough. I literally never knew how much I "think in tweets". When I bought new trainers and wanted to share them with you all... or wanted to share my frustration through a FB status... or FB message someone to find out something (instead having to dig out their telephone number to text them)... Social media is a modern day drug! And it's one that can keep me occupied for hours on end... putting off everything else that I know deep down is important to me, but is hard work.

HIIT TRAINING || on day one, I opted for a Hight Intensity Interval Training session at home. I've been keen to train at home recently yet hadn't found the motivation. I printed out my session, rolled out my mat, got the music pumping and got my sweat on. The feeling of satisfaction afterwards was epic! It reinvigorated me for the evening and instead of laying about on the sofa for the rest of the evening I ended up doing some cleaning and tidying up (tidy home, tidy mind, right?!)

MEDITATION || day two, I was a little sore so I started the day with some meditation. I literally have never ever meditated before, so I dug out my copy of The Daily Greatness Yoga Journal and did what they told me... find a comfortable seat, clear your mind and focus on your breathing. I found some meditation music on Spotify and literally chilled out for ten minutes (there was fair bit of fighting with my mind when it tried to remind me of things I needed to do for the day). I followed up my meditation with 25 minutes of self practice yoga and stretching to aid my recovery yet keep my body active and moving.

RUNNING || Later on day 2, I was feeling so good, I got in my half marathon training run (5 mins brisk walk, 25 mins tempo run, 5 mins brisk walk) at The Altitude Centre (so less oxygen, harder work). I recorded the session on my Polar A360 and using my Heart Rate it confirmed that it was a steady state / tempo session which would improve my ability to sustain high intensity effort for longer. The session would also develop my aerobic fitness and endurance of my muscles. I ended the evening by teaching my regular HIIT class in the evening (which I surprisingly still had so much energy for!).

RECOVERY || day 3 was time to recover a little. I don't think my body really knew what had hit it! Walking was tough, sitting was tougher! But the satisfaction I felt from knowing that the work I was putting in was paying off. When I would be fully recovered, I'd be stronger. I used my rest day to focus on my nutrition for recovery. Any excuse for almond butter, creamy (greek yoghurt) smoothies or dark chocolate! 

Check out Instagram for the full story using the #RuleYourself, #IWILL or #UAelle tags! 

So, what are YOU training for?! or what recent achievements have you made?! 

Elle :) 

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For 3 days, I'm putting sweat before social. 

Stay tuned to find out what I've gotten up to.

Elle :) 

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Next Level: Spinning to Sportive

This year, I'm excited to be taking on my first ever Sportive. I get to jump on my bike and ride in my first mass event in September at L'Etape London by le Tour de France. The route takes in parts of Stage Three of the 2014 Tour de France route and ends with a lap of honour around the Lee Valley VeloPark at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. I missed out in 2015 (I was supposed to be running a half marathon on the same day) but I'm ready to take on the challenge for 2016!

To launch the opening of entries for the 2016 Sportive Series with Human Race earlier this month, I went along to Nuffield Health City for a indoor cycling session and chance to meet cyclist,  Dani King for some tips and advice. 

The session was short and sweet; it was the first time I got to "see" the infamous Box Hill with my own eyes and kinda experience what it might be like to cycle it. I think I used the opportunity to take some photos and take in the Box Hill scenery! ...I had to save some energy to teach that lunch time after all!

After our ride (or during for most of the other attendees) we got a quick opportunity to get some tips from Dani on how to train for a Sportive. I explained my situation, in that I don't want to just cycle when it comes to training. Dani assured me that I could get fit enough to finish on just 3 x 30 minute sessions per week which could even just amount to one long ride on the weekend! I shared this with a cycling pro buddy of mine and she laughed... but, I reminded her that I had no time goals here, I just wanted to complete the distance of 42 miles / 74km

Before race day, I'd love to try training with an indoor turbo trainer (anyone ever tried one?!), get a bike fit / ensure my bike is as comfortable as can be on race day and sign up for a shorter / smaller race to get the experience of riding in an event with other people (I can imagine it's much like learning to swim with other people around you too?!). 

So it's time to think about taking my spin classes to the next level to get ready for my first sportive! Apparently, there is research out there which shows that sportive riders take part in over five events per year! ...maybe that will be me in 2017?! 

If you'd live to take on L'Etape with me this September you can get yourself 20% off your entry with the code 'ELLE'. There are three distances to choose from so if you're a more accomplished cyclist than me you can take on a distance up to 117 miles / 185km (a good substitute if you didn't get a place in Ride London?!) ...sign up at www.humanrace.co.uk/cycling and then let me know you're in!! 

Anyone taken part in a sportive for me?! Have any need to know tips?! 

Elle :) 

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Planning Your Race Schedule 12 Months In Advance

"My Half Marathon Training Plan Started Yesterday. I Didn't Get The Memo."

That was my Facebook status update last night, when I realised I had less than 12 weeks until Hackney Half Marathon. That probably isn't the biggest fish I have to fry at the moment though...

This very time last year, I was about to run my half marathon personal best at Brighton Half Marathon. I'm scheduled to run this race again in just under two weeks, having signed up again due to the euphoria of 2015. You know though, that running has taken a back seat for me over the past 6 months, and I only just ran my first 10km at the end of January. This is what happens when you plan your race schedule 12 months in advance. You just don't know how you're going to feel! Let me work this backwards...

I Decided I Would Like To PB At Hackney Half Marathon On Sunday 8th May 2016
The only reason for this decision was that it was the race with the most time left to train in my calendar. Now I have just less than 12 weeks so really, I need to start training yesterday. I did start training last year November, then life happened. 

Action: I've downloaded a 16 week plan I like the look of, will scrap weeks 1-4 and start asap in week 5.  

Then There Is North London Half Marathon On Sunday 20th March 2016 
This will now be known as an off plan training run. Being just 4 and a half weeks away, it'll be a chance to test my endurance with a slow and steady 13.1 miles. I'm running this race again after not having enjoyed it too much last year mostly due to being untrained and the route wasn't quite right being year one of the event. I'm keen to experience the changes to the route and use it as a benchmark for my progress on the road back to being a runner. 

Action: Work out a pace I would like to run at North London Half to work on, and benchmark my progress. 

Should I Even Mention Brighton Half Marathon on Sunday 28th February 2016 
With less than two weeks to go, I'm not even 100% certain I will make it to the start line. I'm on a workshop the day before which doesn't finish until 11pm, then I have to make my 1.25 hour journey home. That'll equate to minimal sleep, and early start, long journey, and 13.1 miles untrained. But I haven't lost all hope. I have time to figure out a plan. To check the transportation route, potentially find somewhere to stay the night before and even see if I can leave my workshop early the night before. 

Action: Make this happen. 

There we have it. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders now I've gotten that off my chest, out of head and shared it with you! Let's see what happens now...

Have you ever signed up to races way in advance and then not make it?! 

Elle :) 

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3 Basic Social Media Hacks For Bloggers

Since starting my new business (Borrow My // Blender), I've been trying to find ways to streamline my social media usage. I spend enough time online tweeting, instagram-ing, writing... just for this blog here. How would I make this work for an additional business blog without doubling the time I spend on it?!

Last week, I spent one half day (no exaggeration) working out a formula in excel and thought, I need to save someone else from this. So I'm sharing a few of my basic social media hacks with you...

1. Get Organised 
Until about two weeks ago, I kept all my blog ideas in notes on my iPhone. Then, through chatting with my fellow London Bloggers, I found Trello. I think it's changed my life. The simplest way to describe it is as a project management tool. I've taken my blog and turned it into a project. I can easily distinguish between ideas, drafts, scheduled posts and those published. 

If you want to know more, you have to read this post from Elle & co. about getting organised with Trello. 

You're Welcome. 

...and Thanks to Charlotte of Lunges & Lycra for shoving me in the trello direction. 

BONUS:  Use Analytics To Schedule When To Post 
If you register your social media accounts as business accounts, you get access to all the analytics about when your followers are online, who they are and probably what they are into. Twitter is great for this, Pinterest and Facebook. You can also use services such as Buffer or Hootsuite who automatically schedule your posts for the times that will have most impact. 

2. Re-sharing Old Posts - A Treat For Us Die Hard Blogger Bloggers 
If you're on Blogger (like me), you'll know how simple it is to use. This does however come with some constraints; one of them being when it comes to sharing old posts. But, behold Blogger bloggers! I found a good solution. I just need to try to explain it to you coherently. 

Using an excel spreadsheet, you can type in a formula which imports your blog posts, and links then allowing you to schedule and share them all over again on social media. Please don't ask me any technical questions about this. Ever. Just follow the instructions and cross your fingers. 

Step 1. Locate the URL of your RSS feed (google it if you need to) and place that URL in cell A1

Step 2. In cell A2 type this formula: =IMPORTFEED(A1, "items title", false, 30)

n.b: I had to physically type it to make it work - until I worked this out, I spent half a day on this one point 

This formula imports the titles of your last 30 blog posts (you can just change the number in the formula if you want less / more). Then when you press enter, the cells will populate with your post titles.

Step 3. In cell B2 type this formula: =IMPORTFEED(A1, "items url", false, 30)

This formula imports the urls of those post titles. And now this, is the source of your sharing for old posts. 

BONUS: Content Sharing Tracker 
I then use a spreadsheet to compose tweets and track what I share. Think of different ways to paraphrase what you want to say; here's an example of one I wrote and scheduled for my recent post about my Olympus PEN E-PL7:

 3. Make Instagram Work For You 
Okay. So we love Instagram. And even now they are owned by Facebook, it's difficult to share images of others without using an external app. I recently downloaded Repost so I could share when customers tried a recipe I created on the Borrow My // Blender Instagram

Then I found this epic blog post on Popsugar Tech about How To Save Instagram Images. I use it mostly to save my own images when I want to repost them on other social channels.  Hello Gramfeed.

Do you have any timesaving, social media hacks that work wonders for you?! 

Elle :) 

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Olympus PEN E-PL7 For Fitness Bloggers #LoveMyPen

Last year (September I believe) I decided to purchase the Olympus PEN E-PL7 - it was being heavily touted as THE go to camera for (fashion) bloggers mainly due to the capability of the screen being able to slip for the perfect selfie. I feel I start a lot of posts saying this, but, as you know, I'm not a fashion blogger, but I did see something in this PEN that could be for me. 

My love of photography started from a very young age though. My first camera was a chunky Canon which took film in those days. I have stacks and stacks of photo albums documenting me growing up due to always owning a camera. When phones came out with cameras it just meant I got to carry one less thing yet document even more. I always had a point and shoot for holidays though...

Previously, photography was not an art in my eyes though. It was just a way to remember things that had happened in the past. Then along came the likes of Instagram and I saw pictures in a different way. I started to see a different perspective. I (invested and) updated my blog design then realised that my photos didn't live up to my new outlook...

Here's how I've been working with the PEN for my (Health, Food and) Fitness Blog...

1. Don't Waste Your Money If You Won't Get Out Of Auto 
When I first got the PEN, I used auto mode and thought my images were stunning. Then I realised that I had no control over how my images were turning out and had no idea how to get the images that I could see in my minds eye. So I took things into my own hands and started by organising #ThePhoto101 workshop which took place in August 2015. Led by Eulanda Shead, we spent a few hours learning about how our cameras worked outside of auto mode...

I then signed up for a foundation course in photography (leading to Diploma in Photography, should I choose) with the institute of photography. It's online, so I can dip in and out when I like, brush up the skills I have already gained and also learn a few new ones! 

2. Don't Forget All Your Equipment 
Shortly after purchasing the PEN, I bought the 45mm lens. This lens creates the most stunning images with all the bokeh (background blur) a girl (or guy... most likely just blogger) could desire! 

I also have / would love:
- a tripod 
- a bracket (so I can use the flip down screen on the tripod and see myself when recording videos / taking photos) 
- a padded (and stylish) camera pouch / lens pouch 

 3. Pancake Lens vs Standard Lens
When the conversation comes up in groups about the PEN, this question is asked a lot. Should you buy the (cheaper) standard kit lens or get the (more expensive) pancake lens?? Well, for the real fashion bloggers in the house, it seems the pancake lens wins as it makes the camera fit in your handbag perfectly. I tried the whole tiny handbag thing and erm, well, it doesn't work for me in a day to day reality. I can usually be found lugging around a huge bag. But still, I love the pancake lens purely for aesthetics. 

4. Taking Action Shots 
I found this epic setting on the PEN where the camera takes a series of shots in a row allowing you to take great action shots and capture just. the. right. moment. you do end up with a lot of images but just refer back to my point about getting a large capacity SD card. 

5. Keep Learning 
Check out the stylonylon blog for heaps of photography posts specifically for the Olympus PEN. I recently followed her 15 tips & tricks and have been loving the Super Control Panel which allows me quicker access to all the settings when I'm in the moment! 

6. My Favourites 
I love the 1:1 image aspect which is perfect for instagram. The flip down screen for selfies. The removable flash (which I barely use due to knowing how to use the camera settings). The stylish accessories available. And the fact there is still so much more to discover (i.e the PEN has an array of built in filters which look epic! Just need to find time to play around with them...) 

What camera do you use for blogging?! Are you considering purchasing the Olympus PEN E-PL7?! ...any questions you'd like ask?!

Elle :)

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p.s this post contains affiliate links in line with my privacy policy. When you use these links, I get a small amount for referring you, it costs you nothing but it helps me to fund this little corner of the internet ;) 


Keep This Mantra In Mind To Get The Most From Every Workout

Each week when I teach, someone comes to me before we start class to share that this is their first time attending. I reassure them that they will survive, based on my past experience! I find that during my Friday evening class, this comes us the most. I talk to them, and tell them that the hardest part was done - showing up - and all they now need to do is...

Grey Tech Full Leggings, £24 || Khaki Tech Vest, £10 || both from NX Sport at Next 

In my classes, we usually use time as a basis for drills. This allows the super "fit" to surge ahead at their own speed and allows the less familiar to find the right form and do as much as they can. Sometimes, your head is telling you that you can't finish the last 20 seconds. But you tell your head right back that you can. My mantra is class is that no matter how slow you need to go, or if you need to hold a static position (i.e plank instead of burpees, squat hold instead of squat jumps) ...this has far more benefit than sinking to your knees and doing nothing... 

I think I always get worried about the results people are after - at the end of the day, their results are actually down to how hard they work when they train, what training they do and what they eat. As opposed to the 45 minutes they spend working up a sweat with me once a week! 


Kit To Hit The Gym In

Onto more glamorous things; my workout / gym outfit! These pieces are part of the new range for 2016 from NX Sport (check out my NX Sport running outfit here). This get up I use for teaching when I wanna look smart but not wear black and also not pretend like Spring is anywhere in sight!). 

One thing I also have to bear in mind when I choose an outfit to teach in, is that for a lot of the time, all eyes are on me. When I do demonstrations of every single move my dignity is literally put on the line!! So leggings with a waist that stays up, flattering lines and vests long enough to keep me covered are winners. Therefore, this outfit is a winner. 

Both are made from moisture wicking fabrics and the leggings comes with essential features such as the zipped back pocket, high vis detailing (for wearing outdoors / running in low light). The vest is long enough to pull down over your hips but will also stay in place if you like it a little higher. 

Looking for some gym inspiration?!

So, before you go, I'm keen to know what mantra's you use to get yourself through your workouts?!

Elle :) 

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p.s incase you're wondering, this post is not sponsored / I was not paid but I was provided with the kit. But you know me, all opinions are my very own ;) 

p.p.s Before I go, just wanna say thank you to Georgina of Fitcetera who took all the awesome photo's in this post! 


Behind The Screen: January 2016 Report

Somehow, we're already into February, so it's my opportunity to take you Behind The Screen to see what tools I use to create my content and what's been going on during the month preceding this report.

I'm also using this post as an opportunity to discus a topical issue in blogging each month and this month, I'm talking about bloggers being offered "exposure" as payment!

January 2016

Advertising Income: £7.07 

Affiliate Income: £5.92 

Collaborative & Sponsored Posts: £0 

Other Work & Consulting: £80 

Costs / Outgoings: £unrecorded 

Total January Page Views: 4784

Yay for January! Although I was in a crazy place re exercise (read: Dear 2016), I managed to keep up with the blog posting 13 times and hitting my goal of 3x per week. I put a lot of thought into what I wanted to share, the imagery I was using and the added value of my posts.

All of my stats and total page views saw an increase from December (see Decembers report here) which I think may be due to social sharing and the value of the posts. 

One post I shared was Your 6 Day Countdown Guide To Pre Race Preparation - which is actually a post I wrote a couple years back but I changed the format and updated the imagery. I also posted it just in time for the London Winter Run and it's a post that is applicable for any and every race in our calendars. This post gave me content to share each an every day with the related tasks and I myself really enjoyed the format! 

I was lucky enough in January to be able to collaborate with Next for the launch of their new sportswear range (read: Sport'n Style: New Year, New Gear with NX Sport) which they kindly shared on Twitter and Instagram. They also shared my post of tips for starting a new blog on their bloggers network. 

The top post for the month had to be my review of The Body Coach's new Book - Lean in 15. I picked up the book on Amazon and loved it! I shared a quick and easy read round up of my thoughts on his recipes and at just £7 for the book I think (and hope?!) I helped a few people to make a decision either way! 

Topical: Is "exposure" a fair payment for bloggers?

Probably once per day, an email lands in my inbox which asks me to write a blog post about "X" in return for "Y" brand sharing my post on their social media channels. These people, then demand to know the stats of my blog (which are actually available through my media kit or these monthly posts if they bothered to check) and never actually disclose what they are offering me! ...I saw an image recently about dancers being asked to work for free so I adapted it for bloggers...

I'm currently (technically) a full time personal trainer / blogger so my time is precious! It seems that sometimes it's even difficult to get travel expenses out of those who want you to travel in, around and out of London to events. Over the past months, I've learnt to say no when what I'm being offered is not acceptable - 2 spin classes for a ton of IG posts, tweets and a blog post?! No siree! 

This was one of the reasons I started the London Bloggers Community - to allow us to be able to communicate with each other, share opportunities and openly know whats going on to help keep things fair and ensure we are valued (and know our own value!). 

What's your take on "exposure" as payment?! 

So... anything I've missed that you'd be interested to know?! 

Do you track your stats monthly?! 

Elle :) 

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3 Lessons I Learnt Again During The London Winter Run 2016 #MyMoments

The London Winter Run has been in my diary for the best part of 12 months. Yet, somehow, I have failed to run outdoors for over 6 months, haven't run the distance in longer and none of this once spurred me on (enough) to get training. 

On the morning of Sunday 31st January, I woke up around 6am and had all the best reasons to stay in bed. My tubes were not working so travel consisted of rail replacement buses, trains and multiple tubes. I had a sore throat. My feet were tired after 8 hours standing on them for work the previous day. I was tired. But you know what, I made a commitment, and I'm a woman of my word (or at last trying to be!). 

Lesson 1: The Long Term Reward Is Much Greater Than Instant Gratification 

In this case, my instant gratification came each time I chose not to run outdoors and enjoyed an evening tucked up warm indoors. Those moments felt great when they took place but they didn't benefit me on race day. I've been here so many times, where I spend a lot of time in the moment (of the race) kicking myself about not having put the training in. I know how good it feels to run with weeks or months of training behind me...

The Solution: Put your training schedule in your diary. Even if you don't stick to it 100% do something. Something could be just 1km or a run round the block ...then chances are you'll continue for longer seeing as you're in the swing of things. Results will come after you practice just "showing up". 

Lesson 2: Mind Over Matter 

It's so cliche, but oh so true! I put mind over matter for the race and opted to go GPS free and follow how my body felt. I used the mantra "one foot in front of the other" to keep myself going. I walked when I needed to, I sped up when I could. 

The Solution: Remember why you are running. If you're aiming for a PB, write down your target pace for each milestone and track yourself using a GPS. If you're running for fun, make sure you do just that! Ditch the music, ditch the GPS and soak up the atmosphere! 

Lesson 3: The Power Of The People 

I ran the first 3km or so with Lily of Lily Lipstick; then I felt I had a little more in the tank so I picked up the pace as much as I could. Once I got to 7km though, it was feeling tough (expectedly so, huh, with no training!). At that point, a guy ran up next to me (I'm walking) and said "keep going, we've only got 3km to go!" ...he literally was all I needed! I got back into my stride and ended up next to him... I liked his pace too, so I stuck with him. Then he said to me "I like your pace!" and I said "I'm sticking to your pace!" ...so we realised we were sticking together to the end! Chatting to Richard (don't quote me on his name!) for the next 3km was enough to take my mind off the challenge of finishing the race... We talked about everything - previous running, races, future races, travelling to the races, training, not training, friends... and before I knew it, WE WERE DONE!! 

The Solution: There's always that one person who seems to hold a steady pace so just stick to them! ...or as I've done in the past, get a friend (miss you Bethan!) to pace you to a particular time! 

The Finer Details: The route changed significantly from 2015; they most definitely would've mentioned it, I just didn't read any of the pre race bumph. The route no longer took in the river Thames (which I kinda missed) and instead went through the City after starting at Trafalgar Square. No idea how the waves worked in reality - I started in wave two I think and this may have affected the amount of "snow" on the course. Supporter numbers were low, but who would wanna be out there when it was cold and raining?! The supporters that were on the route were full of energy though and I high fived numerous tiny people! 

One water station at approx 4km ...another would've been just perfect (as per last year). I didn't need the toilet but I didn't notice any queues at the portaloos on the route. Everyone running was super friendly, not a moany sod in sight! Lots of extra polar bears and penguins on the course and at the finish ...but not enough snow, snow zones... nothing that stood out. I did however see pictures of photo op areas etc which I missed!

The end lacked countdown signs, bar one 500m to go sign which felt like a mile! 

But eventually, after crossing the finish line, I got my bling... (and some water / coconut water but not a banana or snack in sight?!) ...oh and then the walk from the finish line to the bag drop area... it was so long, I became disorientated and couldn't even work out where I was!! 

Did you run the London Winter Run?! How did you find it?! 

Elle :) 

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p.s Huge Thanks to Human Race for my place in the London Winter Run. Also a shout out to to Nuffield Health Covent Garden for putting us up before and after the race.  All opinions are my own :) some photos though are not - they are from SportCam! 
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