New: CBD Olive Oil – What’s It All About?

Yes, you read right. CBD-infused olive oil for your kitchen cupboard and dinner table. You’ve probably heard of CBD products ranging from oral tinctures, topical salves and muscles rubs, and now introducing CBD Extra Virgin Olive Oil by Drops of Heal.

Firstly, what is CBD? It’s short for cannabidiol, which is the chemical extracted from the marijuana plant (through distillation) and does not contain the psychoactive ingredient, THC – so you cannot get high off CBD products.

Continue reading “New: CBD Olive Oil – What’s It All About?”

14 Reasons Why I Decided to Do a Personal Trainer Course

no1 fitness education pt course

I started my career as a beauty and wellness writer for print and online magazines but fitness has always been part of my life, ever since early school years. So it feels fitting to be on a personal trainer course now, a Level 3 qualification with No.1 Fitness Education (one of the leading providers in the industry), which I’m so excited about.

I’m currently two weeks into the course, so here’s why I decided to do it and the journey that brought me here… Maybe it’ll inspire you, too.

I started young… I remember going to the library aged 13 and getting books out on diet and fitness – one was on food combining (it was all the rage in the 80s) and another on callisthenics (another 80s throwback). I ran and did athletics for my school and, after a boozy stint at university, I started running again and doing races in my mid 20s and early 30s. I spent the next ten years dedicated to running, marathons and track training, all of which I loved.

The fitness journey took a new turn… Then I started CrossFit in my mid-30s after meeting another editor who looked super strong, lean and fit. I discovered a whole new way of training and learnt how to move my body in new and better ways. I gradually started building total body strength, something I’d not considered enough before, and this helped me become a much stronger runner, too.

I learnt new skills… What I loved most, though, was learning the new skills in Olympic lifting and gymnastics, which is part of CrossFit, as this engaged me mentally not just physically. There was also all the functional training (that other gyms do, too), that help future-proof your body for everyday life.

Things got serious… What started off as a twice weekly workout is now, five years later, a full time hobby; Last year I did two weightlifting competitions and I’m training for my third. I also do the occasional CrossFit comp. I train six days a week (three-four specifically for Olympic lifts and two CrossFit) and I’ve learnt so much about mind and body strength. You can read more about my weightlifting journey here.

My mindset changed too… What’s also changed is that I no longer kill myself with cardio to keep my weight down, but train for strength and performance goals instead. I’ve found the strong, lean body is a happy by-product of that and it’s 100% changed my mindset into something a lot healthier (and happier).

It was all about goals… There’s nothing wrong with aesthetic goals, and I’ve certainly had them in the past, but in my experience I’ve found working towards challenge or physical goals (like an 80kg back squat or doing pull-ups) is more meaningful and I’m more likely to stick to them, almost effortlessly.

The right expertise is inspiring… All of these experiences have helped me gain a deeper understanding of the training world, what real athlete training is like, and it’s introduced me to some amazing coaches and trainers, whose wisdom has inspired me endlessly. I’m hoping all of this will be genuinely valuable in my own PT training. Last year, I was inspired (mainly by others around me) to take my British Weightlifting Level 1 course; you can read my review here.

My 9 – 5 will benefit… I’m lucky for health and fitness to be part of my job and career and while I’m not planning to pack up my job at Women’s Health, Men’s Health, NetDoctor and Runner’s World at Hearst, this qualification will simply feed into my work as a health and fitness editor there.

I create commercial content for clients ranging from Nike and adidas to Deep Heat and Imodium across print, digital, video and social, and fitness features heavily in this. Whether I’m shooting a workout video or interviewing experts, having a formal training in fitness will amplify my work and give me more credibility as an editor.

Being qualified matters outside of work, too… I know I won’t be any kind of expert overnight but having a formal qualification is so important when it comes to sharing content or advice on my own channels and circles. These days people are too easily self-appointed experts without the right backing, so having credentials from somewhere reputable (another important difference) makes a huge difference.

I might have clients one day… Just because I have no plans to leave my job and become a full-time PT doesn’t mean I can’t be open to possibilities of having PT clients in the future. I absolutely love sharing knowledge, experiences and inspiration so it seems fitting that I might have a client or two one day. In the meantime, I’ll be using my knowledge as an editor.

Choosing the right course is important… Finding an education provider for any kind of course is without a doubt, a minefield. There are so many options, and so many shortcuts. PT or yoga teacher training in four weeks online, without ever having to train a real human? Sure, that’s possible. But how good a professional will you be in the real world?

I choose No.1 Fitness as they came highly recommended from several people I know and their 10-year reputation in the industry is strong. Secondly, they’re one of the only remaining educators with classroom teaching; others have moved entirely online, which seems wrong for something so practical and physical.

It’s comprehensive… My Level 3 course involves a group learning session every Saturday for 12 weeks and on-going e-learning (mainly anatomy) that’s done in your own time throughout. The weekly group sessions are mixture of classroom and gym floor where we are shown how to use and instruct the gym resistance machines, cardio machines, free weights, dynamic stretches and five barbell lifts: deadlift, squat, bench press, overhead press and barbell row. Other providers may not have this level of real-life coaching so we’re so so lucky to have this.

There’s real pride… It’s not just the face to face structure I like but the calibre of the teachers and trainers leading each session is impressive, each one a leader in their field and proud to be working with No.1. There’s also a huge focus, communicated from day one, that this course (unlike others) prepares you fully for the realities of working in the fitness industry, whichever path you choose to take. All the trainers are highly connected and come with decades of experiences and backstories so they are keen to guide, advice and help as much as possible.

I’m obviously excited… having spent most of last year thinking about doing this, I’m so pleased I’ve actually made it happen. I’m the kind of person slightly obsessed with learning and growth anyway, so progressing in an area I’m already passionate about makes it even more valuable and worthwhile; I’m even enjoying the anatomy (although I’ll admit it’s not easy trying to remember it!). I’m looking forward to more knowledge over the next 12 weeks and then finally waving a bit of paper and shouting out that I’m a qualified PT.

If you fancy finding out more about the fitness instructor and personal trainer courses at No.1 Fitness check them out at no1fitnesseducation.co.uk and @no1fitnesseducation

How I lost weight for a weightlifting competition by eating more carbs

When I signed up for Southern Masters WL competition (at Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club) I had six weeks to lose 3kg. Olympic lifting is a weight-class sport and in my first competition in May, I competed in the 55kg category and I intended to do the same this time. 

On the one hand 3kg doesn’t sound like very much but on the other, I didn’t want to crash diet or do any potentially dangerous dehydration methods that would my jeopardise my lifting performance, both on the day and in the run up in training.

In the months after May’s comp (Essex Weightlifting Club Open Series) my weight had crept up, mainly through a habit of unlimited portions of peanut butter and nuts (seemed so healthy and innocent at the time!) so by August I was a clear 58kg, and now that meant a 3kg cut.  

A weightlifting meet (official word for competition) isn’t a bikini or bodybuilding comp where you just stand and flex on stage. I have to be in great mental and physical shape to nail highly technical lifts at heavy weights (in front of a room full of people). Feeling weak from fasting would be catastrophic.

So I sought professional help. I’d met recently Dr. Sinead Roberts, PhD of Feed.Fuel.Perform at a CrossFit competition a few months prior and she was recommended by several people who I train with. One look at her Instagram and I knew she knew her stuff. 

We spoke on the phone and discussed my weekly training schedule so she could work out my fuel and refuel needs for my training load. She then calculated my macros accordingly, which means exactly the amount of carbohydrates, protein and fat I should consume daily to achieve the desired weight loss without affecting training or performance.

sinead roberts nutritionist

My personalised nutrition plan…

This was the fun bit. My daily calories were in a slight deficit (1732 total) but my carb count was higher than I was used to (198g), whereas my fat intake had to be much lower (52g) and protein as high as I expected (122g). So, fewer calories but made up of more carbs and less fat, so that I could fuel and refuel my sport while leaning out 3kg and keeping energy levels up.

So no cutting carbs! What a delight. A weight loss programme where I had to eat more carbs than usual? Awesome. Sinead presented me with comprehensive doc detailing the nutritional breakdown for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and post-workout fuel so I knew exactly how to structure my meals. As a vegan, I’ve always been unsure how to hit high protein counts but read on and you’ll see how I did it.

Higher carbs were scheduled for pre and post-workout and breakfast so I could fuel and refuel sufficiently and then medium/lower carb count for lunch and dinner (36g each). Bedtime snack was low carb but higher in fat to help stabilise sugar levels overnight. 

What a relief to have scientifically backed nutritional breakdown calculated personally for me, to achieve specific goals. No more guesswork, no more trying to figure it out myself, and no fluffing my way through six weeks of attempted weight loss, not knowing if I’d actually get there or not.

Having a professional do the work they’re trained to do is absolutely the best way, for peace of mind if nothing else. 

No more guesswork, no more trying to figure it out myself – having a professional do the work is the way to go

Here’s how I got on and what I learnt… 

  • The first couple of weeks were definitely adjustment phases as I had to get used to a completely different nutritional intakes. Turns out carbs are not the enemy! 
  • I used MyFitnessPal to track my food and with the premium option I was able to see all the nutritional values and meal breakdowns. This was a game-changer as I could instantly see the effect certain foods (and portions!) were having on my daily goals. 
  • I quickly released how my nut habit had contributed to my weight gain – I was probably overeating about 4-600 calories a day over the last few months just through nuts and peanut butter!
  • I put away the kg-tub of peanut butter, stopped free-pouring olive oil over my food (a little bit is fine but my previous habits were out of control!) and found new snacks to buy instead of my go-to brazil and walnuts. 
  • I rediscovered the joys of fruit – previously (for the last 18 months or so) I’d favoured fat for fuel so my fruit intake was quite low. I started stewing plums and apples for my porridge oats and having a banana in my post-workout shake to help aid recovery. Sinead explained that without post-workout carbs the body will dip into muscle mass to take energy from there. For strength building, this would be a disaster. So now my post-workout shake had approx 30g carbs and 20g protein.
  • I surprised myself by hitting the 122g protein target quite easily almost every day. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be as all the little foods, like veggie sides and oats, contain protein too, so it all adds up quite quickly. I made sure to have about 100g tofu or other type of meat substitute daily, a protein shake straight after training then protein poured over my breakfast oats, and maybe a protein shake before bed.
  • Food prep became my daily norm as it was the only way to get all the macro nutrients I needed in the quantities I needed. I became very diligent at prepping my breakfast and lunch every night for the following day, and I still am.
  • I learnt that no/low fat in my post-workout shake was important – as fat is the slowest of the three macros to digest so to get fast energy to muscles, then best to leave the fat until later. 
  • I started eating simple carbs again – because my vegan diet is already high in fibre, Sinead recommended simple carbs like pasta, white rice and bread to add less strain on my digestive system and for fast-release energy rather than high fibre wholewheat options.
  • I had a low-carb, high protein and high fat snack in the evening before bed was often soya or coconut yoghurt with a small dollop of peanut butter and protein powder – this would help regulate blood sugar levels overnight, give muscles something to feed on and help with muscle repair.
  • I thought I’d hate tracking my food (I’ve previously thought it creates a bad, fixated relationship with it) but I actually enjoyed the process and found it quite educational. I think if there are specific goals to reach then tracking can shed a lot of light and insight.
  • Having professional support is really helpful, whether it’s checking what type of snack to have or voicing worries big or small, having someone to call on through the process, especially towards the end, was invaluable. It also helped that Sinead is just so nice to work with – nothing was ever too much trouble for her and all her instructions were simple and effective, which is why I’ll be working with her again for my next weightlifting competition. Can’t wait!

There were loads of other interesting details I learnt – another benefit of working with an expert – and in exactly five weeks I was 56kg on the scales again. Whoop! I’m still so pleasantly surprised that increasing carbs was the secret to losing weight.

Happy to have made weight on competition day

Competition week…

The last kg was lost in the final week / few days before the competition (which is typical for athletes of a weight-class sport to do) and that’s done through a combination of reducing high fibre foods, taking long walks, stopping eating earlier in the evening, fasting the evening before the weigh-in and no food or fluids before the weigh-in. 

I won’t lie, it’s a stressful few days trying to lose that last kg before the competition as some days the scales don’t move at all and you wonder how on earth it will happen. But success finally came the night before!

When walked into the weigh-in room at Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club at 8AM that day, I was 54.6kg, which was just perfect! It’s a fine art getting just below the 55kg threshold but not too low to affect performance, so we nailed it.

Thank you Sinead for helping me get there!

Once the competition was over I had ALL the treats, fat and carbs I could get my hands on. All well deserved and well worth the wait!

If you’re reading this and compete in a weight-class sport I highly recommend getting a nutritional expert to do your macros and help you get there on the day.  Would love to hear your experiences.

Please note: the nutritional macros in this article are individual and specifically calculated for my starting body composition, timeline, training history and lifestyle so readers shouldn’t assume they will be appropriate or healthy for them. Always seek professional advice.

Review: British Weightlifting Level 1 in Coaching

Getting my British Weightlifting (BWL) Level 1 Award in Coaching was not something I ever expected to do. In fact, when one of my friends Sophia Smith suggested joining her course earlier this year, I immediately thought no, I’m not experienced enough.

But, through a coincidental twist of events a few months later, I was invited by BWL itself (the UK governing body) to attend the course at Third Space in Canary Wharf. Spoiler: I found it really useful, had a great time, and passed!

I’m now so pleased to have done it as it’s been so useful and relevant for my training. So even if, like me, you have no plans or intention to coach, you’re still likely to get something out of it.  

Here’s what the course was like, what I learnt and what you need to know if you’re considering it, or if you’re just intrigued to find out more. Maybe you can surprise yourself by getting qualified too.

British Weightlifting  Level 1 in Coaching review

What is BWL Level 1?

A two-day face to face course in a small group environment with highly experienced Olympic lifting coaches alongside comprehensive e-learning modules.

It’s an opportunity to build your knowledge of the two Olympic lifts: the snatch and the clean & jerk, and learn how to apply that knowledge to a class and coaching setting. You’ll also go through supporting lifts such as back squat and front squat.

The Level 1 qualifies you to assist a more experienced coach who is already qualified at Level 2 or higher. 

Who is it for?

You don’t need to be a coach or PT to do this course, in fact it’s designed for people with no coaching experience.

Experience in the lifts isn’t even a prerequisite although it’s advisable. (I couldn’t imagine attending a course to learn how to coach the snatch if you’ve never snatched before.) 

You’ll be introduced to the principles behind how a weightlifting class is put together, how to deliver it so students are safe and how to evaluate the outcomes and experiences. 

Even if you don’t plan to become a coach, it’s a great opportunity to deepen your knowledge of the lifts, which will help in training and progressing. 

What we learnt

>> The key components and cues for each of the three Olympic lifts – the snatch, clean and jerk – as well as accessory lifts such as back squat and front squat.

>> How to teach with minimal talking time – turns out coaching isn’t a continuous stream of instructions. You have to master the art of observation followed by selective, efficient and concise language to cue only the most important thing so not to overwhelm or confuse the student. Less is more.

>> How to plan, deliver and evaluate a weightlifting class and how to effectively assist more qualified coaches (level 2 and above).

>> We even learnt non-verbal instruction eg for the hard of hearing, which was an interesting twist.

>> We had access to the e-learning hub with lots of great video tutorials. The hub also covered off: roles and responsibilities of a coach, safety in the sport, basic rules of the sport, technicalities of the lifts and supporting exercises.

Few things that pleasantly surprised me

I have no sports coaching experience but I didn’t feel out of my depth. I think the years doing these lifts in a group and one to one setting have meant I’m familiar with the cues and instructions, which definitely helped me absorb and apply all the information received. 

Don’t be scared of the assessment – everyone wants you to do well so there’s lots of practice and the teacher breaks down each element so you’re fully prepared. At the end of day one the thought of being assessed the next day felt terrifying and daunting but once you get there it’s actually totally doable and ok.

You don’t need to worry about being perfect at the moves yourself. The most important thing is understand the key points and safety cues and this will help better your understanding of them.

I started applying the knowledge straight away – in the training sessions immediately after the course. I’m now so aware of my positioning and movement through the lifts and mentally use the cues I learnt every time I lift, which is great, a testament to how useful the course was.

Before you book…

Even though it’s not a prerequisite, knowing the moves will help. As mentioned, you don’t have to be a pro Olympic lifter but at least know what a snatch and clean and jerk  is and have some experience of them.

Allocate some time before the course starts to do the pre course e-learning. You’ll need at least two or three evenings to work through it without rushing. 

Don’t make plans on the night after day one as you’ll have day two’s assessment to prepare for. There’s a lot to take in so it’s not worth rushing, panicking and not feeling prepared for the assessment.


If you think this could be for you, let me know! A limited number of exclusive discount codes are available through me, so message for details if you’re keen.

My Story On Metro.co.uk

yanar alkayat weighlifting

I was so excited to be interviewed my Metro recently for an article on the importance of weight training for women: Weight training should be an essential part of your workout routine.

Journalist Natalie Morris asked me to share my fitness journey, how I got into weightlifting, what I love about it, what it adds to my life and why more people, particularly women, should give it a try.

It’s a fantastic article – full of quotes from me! – and some expert tips from others. Hopefully it will inspire more people to pick up a barbell and feel the benefits for themselves.

If you’re still feeling hesitant, maybe intimidated or scared about weights, and unsure how to start improving your strength, then have a read and let me know what you think.

Here’s an extract – my top tips on why you should start weightlifting

Confidence

There is no better feeling than doing something you previously couldn’t or imagined you could do. It will send your confidence soaring.

Coming from zero strength means I’m super proud of my body and my journey –  it still amazes me today that I can do these things. I never forget where I started.

Progress sometimes feels slow and gradual but there are many small wins and milestones along the way.

A huge mental shift in how I view my body

When my fitness journey became about what my body can do, not what it looked like, it became more than just a workout. My mental attitude towards my body is so much healthier now.

The focus is no longer to stay slim and it’s not about achieving a certain aesthetic. My goals and objectives are all related to performance now.

Future-proofing

I decided I had to lay stronger foundations for the future, especially with a family history of osteoporosis and knowing women’s muscle mass shrinks with age.  I was determined to go into my 40s with a stronger physique.

The quest to build all-over body strength led me to CrossFit where I learnt how to move well with weight bearing and bodyweight exercises.

So while I work on my fitness goals, I’m also building a body for everyday life so I can lift, push and pull things without hurting myself, and building stronger bones for later years.

It’s a lot of fun!

Having a purpose is one of the best ways to enjoy exercise so it never feels like a chore. It’s never an effort getting up early or training after a hard day at work when you have goals in mind. And once you’ve finished a great barbell workout, the endorphins are through the roof.

Mental focus

I always have short term and long term goals – whether it’s hitting a certain weight on a lift or working towards a competition – and these keep me locked in and committed.

The people

Being surrounded by people who are also working towards various fitness goals is hugely motivating and that kind of positive, determined, can-do attitude is contagious.

So the cliche of surrounding yourself with the right people is not just a saying, it’s very true.

You’ll break down barriers

I also want women to breakdown their own perceptions of what they think can do and achieve.

What is heavy or seems impossible one day, will be normal some day in the future if you keep at it so don’t get too frustrated with what you can’t do. Focus on learning how to improve it. 

Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2019/07/21/weight-training-should-be-an-essential-part-of-your-workout-routine-10136518/?ito=cbshare 

Follow more of my fitness and weightlifting journey at @yanarfitness

My journey into weightlifting and what it’s like to be a beginner weightlifter

vintage split jerk

I never set out to do weightlifting. A few years ago I didn’t even know what Olympic lifting was, but I’d started CrossFit and a whole new world of fitness had opened up. The killer combinations of Olympic lifts (snatch, clean & jerk, power clean, etc), gymnastic / bodyweight moves and functional training challenged me physically and mentally.

I was hooked on the adrenaline and intensity of the workouts – heavy weights, fast paced and fierce. Plus, I was learning all these new barbell and gymnastic skills so the journey didn’t stop there…

 

The prequel

During the first few years of CrossFit training I was still running marathons.

The deadlifts, back squats and cleans and functional training such as box jumps and kettle bell swings, all helped me to develop more strength and more power through my hips, glutes and core, which translated really well to stronger running. I could run faster and for longer, and without any sight of injury.

I ran Snowdon Marathon in July 2018, coming in the top half of women (I’m usually trailing at the bottom of the pack) and felt elated not be defeated by a mountain.

However, I decided to park marathon running for a while and spend the next 12 months focusing on bodyweight and barbell skills, particularly pull-ups, toes-to-bar and the snatch, as I was still lagging behind in these. And you know how the saying goes, work your weaknesses, so now was the time.

I found a great weightlifting coach – John McComish, an ex-national champion (for England and Ireland) in Olympic lifting – at Peacock’s boxing and weightlifting gym, which is a local community place but known for its competition training, and I immediately felt in good company.

 

Being a newbie all over again

When I started having weekly one-to-one session with John, in October 2018, all I wanted was to improve my snatch and gain more confidence getting under the bar. At that point, I hadn’t even heard of a weightlifting competition, but by February 2019 my numbers were all going up and John started seeding the idea of entering one ‘some time this year’, which of course, sounded ridiculous to me.

Entering a comp was a bit like how running a marathon feels like something impossibly out of reach for a new runner. The distance feels enormous and you have no concept of what the training or the event is like.

Because I still remember those days, all those years ago as a beginner runner, and also as a beginner CrossFitter, I can recall that feeling of being new to something and how it can feel a bit intimidating at times.

That’s why I always like to remember my journey and where I’ve come from – from super slim, no-upper body strength, serial runner in my 20s and early 30s, to now being able to deadlift 100kg and clean and jerk 55kg (my body weight). It makes me feel super proud.

So I try to cut myself some slack when I’m frustrated that I’m not performing or improving, as I’d like to. It takes a while to build strength and technical skill and I respect that I’ve only been focusing on this for six months.

 

When it sparks joy (and when it doesn’t)

There’s no better feeling than hitting PBs (or PRs if you’re reading from the US). I felt mighty high and floated around with a new confidence when I hit a 40kg snatch (which I used to think was a far-off distant goal) followed unexpectedly by a 42.5kg snatch the following week, and felt totally euphoric for hours that evening.

I’d never experienced the bar riding up so smoothly before, and then catching the weight within seconds and standing up with it strong above my head, and I just wanted to do it again and again.

But of course those big weight PBs don’t come all the time so with the highs there are also lows. I’m currently missing a lot of lifts and it’s hard not to feel like I’m doing something wrong or that maybe, I’m just not right for this. Imposter syndrome definitely springs to mind!

My inner critic might occasionally try and whisper that I’m not a natural lifter and that I’m forcing myself into this sport but I just have to gently shut that voice down and get on with my training. At the end of the day, even if I don’t make huge gains, I’m doing it because it’s fun and hugely rewarding.

Learning something tough that pushes your limits toughens you up, and the confidence and strength I’ve gained has carried over into other parts of my life, so the joy it all ‘sparks’ as had a domino effect.

 

Sharpening the tools

In my mind, I regularly visualise each lift and each part of it and sometimes fall asleep replaying the sequence over and over. It’s great to have something so positive to focus on but it’s also frustrating when the lifts don’t happen in reality.

Powerlifting, which is made up of the deadlift, back squat and bench, is different as the bar doesn’t have to travel overhead or fast so the skillset needed is quite different.

Olympic lifting, particularly the snatch, is highly technical – you need mobility, strength and speed, as well as the mental focus to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. I think the combination of mental and physical skill really appeals to me.

The snatch is performed fairly fast but to make it happen several tiny adjustments have to come together perfectly, and if or when, one tiny element is out of synch then the lift just doesn’t happen. Failing lifts is part of the practice, which is why training can be really frustrating.

I surround myself with a gang of super positive fitness friends who motivate me to work hard and stick to it. And, for all its faults, Instagram can be a motivating place too – I follow small but mighty women, such as 55kg weightlifter Allie Rose (@livlaflift58) and CrossFit queen Jamie Greene (@jgreenewod) as well as CrossFit athlete turned weightlifter Jocelyn Forest (@jocelynforest).

 

What next

I absolutely love spending time, effort (and money) on this new fitness goal. While it can take over your life (in the same way CrossFit or any other sports training can), I’m trying to see it as just a very healthy hobby. I love seeing myself get stronger, not just physically but mentally too, and love learning and drilling the skills.

I still run – little and often, although no long distance this year – and I still do one or two CrossFit classes a week as I have a lot of friends there, and I enjoy it, so I haven’t given up the fast and furious workouts just yet.

I have no idea where this weightlifting journey will take me – just like how I had no idea that starting CrossFit four years ago would lead me here – so I’m excited by that unknown too. I trust I’m on a road that’s positive and empowering so I have no worries of what may come.

 


 

Are you a beginner, or experienced weightlifter? Have you nuggets of experience or wisdom to share? Have you also transitioned from CrossFit or maybe you just want to give it a go? If so, let me know! Keen to hear more on this topic…

What’s Your Why? Inspiring Video All Runners Need To Watch

It’s that time of year again – marathon season – with biggies such as Paris, Brighton and London all within a few weeks of each other. I know marathons happen up and down the UK and worldwide all year round but April always feels more like marathon-month than others so now’s a great time to share this great video, The Why: Running 100 Miles.

I watched this last year when I was training for Snowdonia Trail Marathon and grappling with training that was mentally, emotionally and physically challenging. It was my sixth marathon but my first mountain event (where we would summit Snowdon at mile 23) and throughout the six month training block I was riddled with self-doubt, worry and lack of confidence.

Living in flatter-than-flat east London was not conducive to mountain training, and my inner critic was having a ball by putting me down through every training run and prep-race. I was losing motivation, finding all the training sessions so hard, not enjoying myself and couldn’t understand why.

Exploring why

Luckily, my running coach Luke Tyburski is a phenomenal ultra athlete who has done some crazy big events (such as Morocco to Monaco 12-day triathlon, an event he created himself) so he was great at helping me get to grips with the mental side of things.

I’d ran several marathons before so I was used to the long distance training but CrossFit had come into my life a few years earlier and this had definitely become flavour of the day. So I was fighting conflicting desires and needs and I had to reevaluate my relationship with running. That’s when I wrote Help, I’ve Fallen Out Of Love With Running post.

Like any relationship, dynamics change and evolve over time and that’s part of the joys. And there’s no better time to explore your relationship with a sport, activity or hobby then when you have to tick off big miles on a Sunday morning.

I also kept in mind one of my favourite quote from Luke: ‘It’s only at reaching your limits where you’ll catch a glimpse of your true potential’.

Digging deeper

With long distance events such marathons, 50km, 100km and 100 milers becoming more popular, it makes sense to dig deep and find the sticky or meaningful reasons why we run.

I started reading more about mental side of athletes and sports performance – I had How Bad Do You Want It? on my bedside table – and stumbled on this mini docu film by Billy Yang on why ultra runners do ultramarathon events. Why do they put themselves through so much physically, mentally, emotionally? What’s the pull, the lure and enjoyment in something so seemingly gruelling?

Billy also goes beyond commonly cited reasons such as self-improvement and challenge to bigger questions about our need to seek out situations where we’re challenged to the point of extreme, in a way our modern day lives don’t require us to.

Not only is The Why beautiful and humbling to watch but it helped me see things in a new, fresh light. Suddenly I realised others also suffered in similar ways (with anxieties, self-doubt, fear) so it no longer felt like there was something wrong with me as a runner or that I was failing.

‘When reaching your limits, it’s only there you’ll catch a glimpse of your true potential’.

I realised the conversation of why is one all long distance runners, endurance athletes and probably all athletes have to answer, not just to others but really deep down to themselves. After all, it’s the why that feeds the endless drive and determination needed to smash through these incredible feats.

Watch the film

I watched it a few times before my race as it was so inspiring. I hope you enjoy it and get something out of it too, whether it’s your first marathon or you’re a regular on the ultra trails. It might fire up your own why to help you power through your next event or inspire you to book one. And if you’re running London next week, good luck and enjoy it!

Would love to hear what you think!

3 Yoga Moves to Help with Running

wanderlust festival london yoga
wanderlust festival london yoga

 

Anyone sticking to just one form of exercise may soon experience the impact of over-training the same muscle groups and the potential risk of injury.

 

I only became a stronger runner after taking up CrossFit (almost ten years after I’d first laced up) and I quickly discovered how functional workouts and barbell training improved all-round body strength and cardio fitness. Not only that, the Crossfit workouts also helped build a strong midline and core – essential for running – and propelled my hip power and mobility, particularly useful for the trail and hill-races I’ve been doing recently.

 

In a similar way, integrating yoga into a weekly routine can be just as beneficial. Runners are notoriously stiff and this can cause strain on joints, muscles and tissues. Flexibility and mobility can help prevent injury and help runners perform better.

 

I’ve also valued my weekly yoga class for the last gazillion years for its deeply calming effects. It’s the one time in the week I can stop and let my breath, mind and body settle, which work its own kind of magic too.

 

Here are three tips from yoga teacher, Jaime Tully, on how yoga can help runners with a few tips from my own experience:

jaime tully yoga teacher

1.

‘Just five to ten minutes of yoga before and after your run will improve both your mobility and recovery.’
TRY: sun salutation to warm up your whole body and loosen all the key muscle groups before you run.

 

2.

‘Spinal poses such as twists are a great way to ease the lower back which gets impacted by tight hamstrings and glutes.’
TRY: A simple pose such as Meru Wakrasana (spinal twist) can help relax the spine. With eyes closed and breath awareness in the spinal pathway for five rounds of breath can enhance the practice.

 

3.

‘Swap a run for a Vinyasa class. It’s the best style for those who crave movement and can still have the intensity of a run. You’ll burn calories, get lost in the movement and restore the areas of your body that could be perhaps damaged by repetitive strain.’
TRY: For an alternative to a Vinyasa flow class, you can incorporate a more gentle and relaxing yoga session into your weekly routine as I have done. This can help calm the nervous system and act as an antidote to any high energy workouts you do.

 

Jaime Tully is one of the many leading yoga teachers and fitness experts at Wanderlust Festival in London on Saturday 15th September. A day festival of running, yoga and meditation – three of my favourite things!  Check it out – tickets still available.

I’ve fallen out of love with running – here’s how I’m going to fix it

homer_running falling out of love with running

It happens. There I was, not so long ago, running like nothing in the world compared to the freedom and joy of hitting the road on a run and bam! It couldn’t be more different now. Legs feel like they’re wading through mud, ankles like they’re strapped with lead and the mind split in two having the most almighty wrestling match. One half wishing it could be anywhere else but out there on a Saturday morning and the other half willing and coercing it to keep going.

It’s been a mental and physical battle like this every time I’ve run for the last few months, so me and running are currently going through a bad patch.

sports running giphy

This change of head and heart has been a little untimely to be honest as I’m exactly half way through a six-month training block for Scott Snowdon Marathon on July 15th. So with just three months to go before I am literally on a mountain and having to run up it, I have to sort my head out, fast.

So what do you do when you no longer want to run (but you have shit loads of training to do before a big race)?

What do you do when you’re half way through an 18 miler and there’s an overwhelming feeling to just stop and call it a day.

What if something else is flavour of the day? In my case weightlifting and Crossfit? I find these two activities waaaay more fun right now but I have this mountain race looming over me so now is not the time to spend Sunday afternoons at my Crossfit gym perfecting my snatches.

In the last few weeks and months I’ve been riddled with non-stop negativity, before, during and after the trainers go on. This negative mind-set became so bad and loud that on my last 20-miler I gave up at mile 11, sat down at the top of Greenwich Park (not a bad place to pack it all in) and refused to get up and get going again. My head wasn’t in it and no mind game or visualisation trick was going to work this time. I had officially fallen out of love with the run.

I’d been trying to deal with this alone for several weeks with no progress so I finally consulted my coach Luke Tyburski. (Big plug here for Luke as he’s so much more than just a running coach but super experienced in the mental side of challenges too).

‘It happens. And it happens to more of us than you realise,’ he says over our Skype consultation. From what I understand from Luke and reading about others, running without joy happens to everyone from elite athletes to novices. It happens to people who have been running and racing for over ten years like myself and to people like Luke who run phenomenally long ultra races around the world. But there are ways around it.

So he gave me three bits of good advice:

> Grab a cup of tea and have a long serious chat with yourself. Really ask yourself why you’re doing it. What’s your motivation, why do you want to run this race? And even once you’ve answered it dig deeper and find out more. If you say you love trail running ask why, what does it do for you? What will completing this event mean?

> Look ahead into the future and see how this fits into longer-term goals. Will this race be a stepping-stone to other challenges? Will it make you stronger for other goals in mind?

> Find your happy place again. Take the weekend off long runs and go out for a casual run instead: no watch, no time, no pressure or expectations and run for as long or little as you want (say, up to one hour) to regain your confidence and find your happy place again.

So I’m working on the above.

To combat negative periods when out on the ground, ultra runner Debbie Martin-Consani, who I met on a press trip for Montane and Polygeine (which is a clever anti-odour technology used sports clothing) and she recommend counting while running to help calm the mind.

‘Count to 10 over and over again. It’s like a temporary distraction.’ It sounds a bit nuts but I’ve been doing this and it genuinely works. I just keep counting 1-10 in time with my strides, a bit like an insomniac, and eventually find a quiet place in my mind again. A bit like falling asleep.

Luke also recommends switching the point of focus when we are in a whirl of negative thoughts during a run.

‘When you’re being internally negative (e.g. thoughts about painful muscles or discomfort) focus on the external e.g. the weather, the scenery (enjoy its beauty), or the fact that you can run/train/lift etc, and there are millions of people who cannot.

– this has actually been very useful as I realised running the same route for months on end has been slowly feeding my boredom. As soon as I changed routes last week I started externalising and not internalising. The run was so much better. Sounds obvious but sticking to a route we know usually helps with getting the miles in without too much thought but after some time it seems like this familiar route has a counterproductive effect.  

‘When focussing on the external (bad weather, hard hills, heavy weights etc) move your focus internally. Do you feel strong, have you done this before? Did you survive it last time? Positive self talk is a cliché but it goes a long way.

‘Finally when you’re on a tough part of a race or run and it’s physically demanding, accept this is your ‘new norm’. Don’t fight it. Acknowledge the negative thoughts and say I hear you but you are not helping me. I will not let you drag me down.’

This is not the first time running has lost its spark for me – after my second marathon I didn’t run for two years and hung up my trainers again for another year when I started Crossfit in 2015, but then had a comeback with two marathons 2017 – so I know we’ll get through this; like any relationship we will reconnect again. Let’s just hope I find my happy running place before I’m on the side of that mountain.

Would love to hear if you’ve been through the same and any of your negative-fighting tips and tricks please!

X

Are your long runs making you fat?

marathon-training-tips-stressfree-marathon-healthista1

Next weekend I’m running London Marathon, which I’m really looking forward to. It will be my third marathon but my first in London (Brighton and Edinburgh previously). I had never planned to run but was offered a last minute place by Lucozade Sport via Health & Fitness magazine who I write for, and seeing as London is so difficult to get into (oversubscribed ballot entry and expensive charity places) of course I said yes quicker than I can send the email reply. But I had just under three months to train so it’s been tight to say the least – a bit like cramming before a huge exam.

Interestingly, a year and a half of weight training and CrossFit has made me stronger than I was for my previous marathons so I’ve been able to tackle the long distances without too much risk of injury. All those deadlifts have luckily come in handy!

But long steady runs have had a surprising effect on my body. At the start of the training when I was building up from eight, nine miles to 15 and more I got leaner and noticed some excess weight fall off pretty quickly. However, during the weeks where I was running 18, 19, 20 and 21 miles I noticed things change – I was no longer feeling light or lean but quite the contrary, I felt like I’d filled out a bit despite doing big mileage every weekend.

I’d cut back on CrossFit (from four sessions a week to three) but I didn’t think that was the cause. Could I be imagining it? A quick step on the weights at my parent’s house confirmed I was right as I’d gone up a kilo but endurance training requires good fuel so I put it down to the extra calories I’d been consuming.

Turns out there’s more to it than that. When I saw my sports massage therapist – the brilliant Uju Eze, who is actually a movement specialist because she’s definitely more than just a sports masseuse – she confirmed there is science behind the gain.

“When you run at around 65% of your maximum heart rate for a long, sustained period the body goes into a catabolic state (muscle-wasting) which means it adapts and starts to store fat and use muscle as as fuel instead because it thinks something is wrong and it needs to get ready to survive.”

This, and a number of other reasons are why low intensity steady cardio (otherwise known as LISS which is the opposite of HIIT – high intensity interval training) can actually be the wrong choice of exercise if fat loss is your goal. Here are a few reasons why the body is not in a fat burning state:

  • the body adapts to low intensity steady state cardio and eventually doesn’t need as much oxygen or energy to do the workout so it becomes easier and consequently less effective. To keep reaping benefits you’d have to increase the intensity e.g. by either training faster or increasing distance.
  • Increasing volume however, could have a detrimental effect in the long run because of a loss of muscle mass (the catabolic effect) which in turn leads to fewer calories burned by the body at rest (the metabolic rate) because muscle burns more calories than fat, and if there’s no change in diet it will eventually lead to fat gain.
  • too much cardio can also lead to increased hunger and additionally, fuelling for long runs can often involve high glycemic foods before, during and after the workout which actually suppress fat loss and fat burn.
  • long steady state cardio only burns calories during the activity rather and doesn’t change your metabolism. To make changes to your metabolism and experience calories burn up to 24 hours after exercise, studies show HIIT training works because it produces mitochondria (cells where respiration happens) and increases mitochondria activity so your body increases its oxidative capacity.

So it wasn’t all in my head, I was indeed actually holding onto weight. There are more explanations and studies shared about this in this article, Does Cardio Make You Fat and following that, check out this article which compares HIIT vs LISS and explains why high intensity interval training is a better option for fat loss and toning up than low state cardio.

I’m now looking forward to the end of this marathon when I can go back to short, sharp and strength based interval training. However, research shows that some steady state cardio can be good as a means of recovery from high intensity strength training so I won’t be giving up on the steady state cardio just yet – it just won’t be as long as it is now.

And I almost forgot! For those friends and family wishing to donate here’s my marathon Just Giving page which a friend kindly set up for me. Even though I don’t have to raise any money for my entry we thought it was only fair to put a few pounds in the pot as a show of gratitude for my place – I’ll be donating to Parkinson’s UK. Thanks all!

x