29 Aug 2013

Get Fit Or Die Trying - A Month At Barry's Bootcamp

Before I started Barry's Bootcamp I thought I was pretty fit...running marathons faster than your average Joe, finishing 63rd out of 3386 in a London 10k, cycling 100 miles for fun and actually passing the press up test for the Royal Marines Fitness test (60 press ups in 2 minutes). Yeah, pretty fit.... But when I did my first Barry's class back in June I struggled. A lot. I left feeling tired and unfit, which for me is the equivalent of a red cape shown to a bull - I decided I simply had to conquer this bootcamp malarky. I set my sights on doing one of the month long membership options as a sort of 30 day challenge and August was the month it was going to happen.
I went into the membership feeling unconfident as a runner, after my slightly 'disastrous' July halfmarathon, but not too unfit after Ride London relay. I would now like to write that 'the first week it was hard, but then I could feel myself getting stronger...' etc., and while I do notice some good improvements in my fitness it hasn't gotten any easier! This is mainly to do with the fact that the fitter you get, the more you push yourself. Or rather, the more the instructors push you.... I've done a lot of cursing and complaining but the truth is that I've enjoyed myself a lot more this month than I previously have in a gym - this has well and truly been right up my alley. Do I like people shouting at me? I actually do, or rather I enjoy knowing that they care enough about improving my fitness to go round and push me. This has been a challenging month (it's a challenging workout!) but that's what's made it good, there's always been a goal to work towards and no stagnation
So what are the biggest improvements?
Core strength. I've never had a core of steel, and I probably never will, but this month-long residency at Barry's has really improved my core strength! I still have some major weaknesses but at least there are fewer of them than there used to be....
Sprint speed. When I first started Barry's my top sprint speed was probably 10.5mph, and even that made me think I was either gonna fall off the treadmill or die (probably both). But in the third week I managed to reach that elusive 12.5mph and now I can honestly say that 12.5mph is my top sprint speed....big achievement from your resident Captain Slow! I've also regained some of my lost confidence, big thanks to the Barry's crew for that.
Working when fatigued. I've done a fair amount of classes these last few weeks, in addition to my ultra marathon training, and some days I've felt tired, with legs like lead. Despite being tired I've worked through the fatigue and I now feel that my body now responds better to hard work despite being tired.
Challenging myself: I've gotten better at working until failure. Barry's have challenged me to try more reps, faster speeds, bigger weights - and occasionally I've failed or come up short. BUT, it's okay to not be able to do every single rep, or every single increase in speed on the treadmill, as long as you've worked as hard as you can.
A lot of people have asked me if I've lost weight but that's hard to know as I never weigh myself. My clothes fit better (or so I want to tell myself...) but since improvement in fitness and not weightloss was the goal I can honestly say I don't really care. Let's just say that I think the non-existant weightloss has got more to do with my love of cold beer in the sunshine than Barry's not being effective enough..... Would I do the 30 day challenge again? In a heartbeat! Despite all the classes following a similar format no two classes are exactly the same, you work different body parts on different days and you've got a plethora of great instructors that will give their all to make you give your all. If you go to an 'off peak' class you sometimes get pretty close to having a personal trainer.
Do I still think I'm pretty fit? Ask me in the middle of a Barry's class and I'll say no, but I do know I'm at least a little bit fitter than I was before I started....!

26 Aug 2013

Keep Moving Forward

Today I did it again. I went home from the gym mad with myself for not performing as well as I wanted to.  I went home mad because I couldn't sprint as fast as I wanted. I went home mad because I wasn't feeling strong enough. Mad, mad, mad.

But you know what?! No more of this belittling myself, no more of belittling yourself. Today I was as disappointed with myself as I was after my half marathon in July, when I almost wanted to cry because I felt like I'd let myself down, but today I tried to stay and think logical. You can't be strong and fast everyday. Some days you'll feel tired, your legs will be heavy and your arms weak - and that's OK. Don't lose focus of where you're going because you had a bad day. Learn from it and then move forward, and progress!

22 Aug 2013

That Elusive 12.5

So, this month I've been hitting Barry's Bootcamp hard (and done very little actual blogging). Sure, I've done a few longs runs in preparation for the Royal Parks Ultra I'm doing in October and a few good, hard spin sessions, but mainly I've been at Barry's getting whipped into shape by mainly the two  gentlemen Sandy and Shane. For someone who considers herself pretty fit it's been hard going, not to mention slightly shameful to realise that I seemingly only have one speed that I run at...slow. I mean don't get me wrong,  I've always known I'm no Usain Bolt, but I didn't think I was as firmly stuck in a comfort zone as I am(was?!).

It's been great having the people at Barry's pushing me on, getting me to challenge myself and try and break out of that comfort cage (as I've started referring to it as), as my next marathon goal is to try and qualify for Boston Marathon (eeeeek!)..... Having done three marathons with 4.10 - 3.59 - 3.44 as finishing times I know that I can improve, but knowing I've got to cut at least NINE minutes on my last finish time  feels daunting. I ran a half marathon in June at the Boston qualifying race pace in July but I don't know if that made me feel any better as I knew that to qualify I'd have to keep that pace for yet another 13.1 miles. Gulp.

Yesterday a glimmer of hope was lit though. Having done my normal morning class at Barry's I decided to go to another class in the afternoon when I got let out of work early. I felt a bit tired leaving work so I silently hoped that it would be a busy class where I could hide behind legions of other people - but no such luck! It was five other people there and Shane was not going to let anyone off easy, he made that clear early on. I decided to just go for it as much as I could and hope for the best (my standard survival strategy at Barry's...) and in all honesty I was doing fairly well considering it was my second class of the day. When we were on our last treadmill sessions and were doing the dreaded 90 seconds runs with sprint finishes Shane jumped up on my treadmill for the second to last and resolutely cranked up my speed to 11.5. Upon seeing my terrified face he just said 'I know you, I know you can run at this speed' and quite correctly I did manage to run at 11.5mph. For the last one I myself turned the speed up to 11.5 only to have Shane turn it up to 12.5  - and you know what, I managed that 30 second run too! It might have only been a short amount of time but at least I for that time I got out of my comfort zone, challenged myself and properly sprinted. For those 30 seconds I did feel like I would be able to reach that qualifying time and I left the class tired but with a big grin on my face. 12.5 mph has always seemed like an elusive speed and I've never believed that I'd be able to reach it but apparently Shane believed I could. Sometimes you need to have someone that believes you can do it, and you will be able to do it!

15 Aug 2013

Bring Sally Up, Bring Sally Down!

This morning Shane at Barry's Bootcamp was in his most sadistic mood. After a hardcore abs and core class he let us believe we were done for 30 or so seconds before he introduced us to Sally....Sally is the main character in a cruel, cruel push up challenge, a full three and a half minutes of pain. Moby's song Flower takes you through it, and on paper it's easy enough - when the lyrics go 'Bring Sally Up' you hold a high plank, when the lyrics 'Bring Sally Down' you drop down low and hold.....in reality it's not so easy. I am pretty sure the whole room was in absolute agony about halfway through and I don't think anyone managed to do the full 3.5 minutes....

If you've not heard of it before, look at this video  and take the challenge!

11 Aug 2013

What I Did This Week

The lack of blogging might suggest otherwise, but I have actually had a good training week. I did my first week with the Silver Membership at Barry's Bootcamp, fitting in 5 bootcamp classes this week and on Wednesday I also managed to attend Mark's freaking amazing class at BOOM! Cycle.  Yesterday I managed to fit in a rest day and today I was meant to do a ong run with my friend Zoe but life wanted differently and instead I ended up running home from central London via the South bank and Wapping after watching the hurling with my irish friend Claire. It was one of those run that made me fall in love with London all over again and running wise I easily ran the 10k with an average pace of 5.20min/k. Life's pretty good at the moment.

5 Aug 2013

Race Report: Ride London 100 Relay

So, yesterday was the big day, the day where Team BOOM! were to dominate the streets of London. I was to do the third leg, meaning that I'd climb Box and Leith Hill, starting at Guildford and ending in Leatherhead. I was up at 5am to cycle down to Waterloo and arrived a whole hour too early....hence having to wait on the station with all the lads and drunks before finally being able to board that train. I was quite nervous about not getting to the start on time as our first rider started the race at 6am, and it would so turn out that my worries would be true....

I got to Guildford at 8.15am and met Rob from Team BOOM! Cycle's mens team and we were to ride out to hub three together and take over from Keith and Hilary. None of us had any local knowledge of Guildford and had only maps to guide us, since no one at the station knew anything about it and there weren't a single sign showing us the way to the start. Rob put in the location on Google maps and off we went. Almost straight away we had to climb this ginormous hill, which in hindsight not only acted as a warmup hill but might have been the hardest hill of the whole day. Once we'd gotten to the top of the hill Google Maps wanted us to go through a wooded area via footpath(!) which we reluctantly did with out narrow road tyres. From there it only got worse. After a little while we  realised that it was most definitely not the right way to the hub but we'd been going too far to turn back - we just had to make the best of it. We found a local who gave us some quick directions, meaning that the last bit up to the hub we were crossing fields, barbed wire fences and mostly carrying our bikes as we had to go up the hill to Newlands corner but couldn't use the road as that would've meant going against the flow of the cyclists! Eventually we got up, and Hilary and Keith had been waiting for a while by that point.

I set off on my own down the same hill I'd just carried by bike up and hit some really decent speeds going down, while I kept thinking that it would be a miracle if I didn't end up with a flat tyre after crossing those thorny fields earlier (in the end my tyres were fine but Rob had apuncture 30 seconds after starting....). The first few miles were just gently rolling Surrey Hills and I'd done that stretch of road before on our training/recon ride. I kept a good pace on the flat and going up but I quickly realised that people would overtake me en masse going downhill - I'm a chicken going downhill, and not embarassed about it! When we turned off down to Leith Hill I got a bit nervous although the first few miles were pretty easy. Once I saw the KOM sign (King of the Mountain-sign for the professionals that were riding the Classic after us) I knew we were in business and I was right.... I quickly got into a good rhythm climbing and was climbing strongly up hill, passing loads of people without anyone passing me, when my chain came off! This has never happened before but I quickly got it back on and could carry on. On top of Leith Hill I heard people calling it 'Lethal Hll' but I honestly didn't think it was that bad...hard yes, lethal no.

Going down Leith Hill is a bit of a blurr....partly because of the speed and partly because of all the cyclists passing me - it was a flurry of lycra! I did come down though, albeit a bit slower than some, and could get back into the flow on the rolling hills again en route to Box Hill. Passing through Dorking there were loads of people cheering you on and I knew that Box Hill was just around the corner. When I hit Box Hill I was on familiar ground and I had my strategy clear for me, get onto a good gear, find my rhythm and just 'tap it out' as Coach Mark always tells us at BOOM!. I did just that but when I was changing gears to go through a hairpin curve (that IS what you call them, right?!) my chain came off again! This time I noticed a little branch from a tree stuck to my chain, probably a remainant from our earlier attempt at Cyclocross, and once that was gone I practically flew up Box Hill. Even when we got on the top I had so much  power left in my legs that I just kept overtaking people for miles despite the rolling hills. Downhill to Leatherhead I got overtaken by some of them, again, but the last few miles to the hub I kept a great pace and just before the hub I saw my friends cheering me on and was wearing the most goofey smile evern when I entered the hub. When I got there it turned out that Rob had sent Daz and Mark going without chaging over properly as Rob was so much behind schedule with his puncture. I chatted with my friends for about half an hour before I decided to get on my bike again and ride back to London along the route.

I was first thinking that I should do the last 25 miles at a leisurely pace but then realised that I could use it as a solid training session and did just that. I kept my pace up as good as I could, hanging on to peoples' wheels and then passing them if they were too slow. I only got tired with about 10 miles to go but then I saw my friend Zoe walking down the road in Wimbledon and her shouts of encouragement gave me enough energy to keep going quite hard until I hit The Mall where I just gave it my all! After crossing the finish line and getting my medal I met up with Team BOOM! and we had a bit of a picnic and beers in the park for a few hours before going our separate ways again. All in all it was a great day out, and it turned out that I'd done almost 120k cycling to do on 25 miles leg of the relay! Next year I'm definitely doing the full race, cycling on closed off London roads with 20000 cycling enthusiasts is simply as good as it gets!

'My' hills! 
My cheerleaders! Love them all! 
This is how your legs look after an impromptu cyclocross session... 
At the 'finish' at the hub in Leatherhead (photo by Max Raymond
It's pretty great finishing in front of Buckingham Palace....! 
Team BOOM! in all it's glory! Photo by Rob at BOOM! Cycle

'How Do I Get Fit?'

Ah, if I had a pound for everytime a friend or colleague asked me that I'd be able to buy myself many pints of Ben and Jerry's. It would appear that just because I do a lot of sports and exercising I would be able to tell these people how to, overnight, become fit - and of course without them having to do much work. Eh, riiiiight.... The thing is, a lot of people that ask me that don't want to get fit and healthy, they want to get thin. They want an easy fix, not a lifestyle change.  I'm the first one to say it's not easy to get fit. There is blood, sweat and tears involved and you have to put in some effort.

BUT if you do want to get fit and not thin (although you probably will slim down, too)  then I do have some pointers.....:

1. Get Active!
Yup, start exercising. If you find it boring to run in the park, do something else - spinning, bootcamp, swimming, you name it. Just do it. Not tomorrow or next week, right now. Get into the habit of exercising regularly, but don't overdo it  - remember that this is something you should be able to keep up for life.
2. Prioritize Fitness.
Make it your hobby or interest, or at least something that take top priority on your list of 'boring things I have to do'. If you constantly skip exercising to do other things you'll never get fit. Simple as.
3. Eat to Achieve.
As you might have noticed, I love things like Ben and Jerry's and I'm a firm believer that you can eat everything in moderation. But if you want to boost your fitness you need to start eating well so that your body can achieve more. Your body needs proper fuel to keep going and build its strength, and it needs it in decent quantities.
4. Cut Down on Alcohol
Especially if drinking means you'll skip your exercise. I love a pint of cider, or a cold beer in the sunshine, but your body will thank you for cutting down on your alcohol intake. Keep it to a day a week and don't binge. Alcohol contains a lot of alcohol and increases your appetite - what do you think that does to your fitness?
5. Lift Weights
Now, I'm a cardio fanatic - I looooove running and cycling - but weights will boost your fitness to no end. It will make you run and cycle faster, it'll make your working life easier.  More muscle will also burn more calories if your thus inclined.

Now that wasn't so hard now, was it?!

3 Aug 2013

All Set

Or at least I hope I am. Washed my bike today. Put on the stickers. Did my laundry. Located all my gear. Sorted out my train journey to Guildford. Carb loaded with Ben and Jerry's. Yeah, I think I'm all set.

The Magic Mile

If you're interested in sports in general, and a runner in particular, then you'll know who Roger Bannister is. Heck, you should know it even without being a jock because Roger was (is!) the first dude ever to run a sub  4 minute mile, which he did in 1954 whilst pracitising as a junior doctor. A few days ago I was reading The Guardian's running blog and came across an article about Marathon Talk's Magic Mile Challenge. In short it's about running a single mile as fast as you can between August 24th and September 8th. Now running a mile isn't normally something I'd do, especially since being Swedish means that I'd never used miles as a measurement unit until relocating to the UK, but I like the idea of challenging myself to speed up over a shorter distance so I'm on it like a car bonnet.

In my head I'd already started to plan my mile challenge when I yesterday hit Barry's Bootcamp for a full body Friday - and a fitness test! It so turns out that they do a little fitness test every Friday - press ups, sit ups and running one mile! Coach Olly told us what kind of pace we needed to keep to run a 7 minute mile (and also a 6 and an 8 minute mile) and off we went. My legs felt heavy and tired so I settled on running slightly faster than a 7 minute mile but with a vision that over the coming few weeks I'd try and run a little faster every Friday. Having treated myself to a Silver membership at Barry's Bootcamp in August (like The Academy, but you don't have to settle on the same specific time every day which would be hard for me with my working pattern). I know that I'll be hitting those Woodway treadmills at least 5 times a week and I'm planning to make the most of it. Watch out Roger Bannister, I'm hitting the mile too!

1 Aug 2013

It's Getting Close!

Yesterday myself and the BOOM! Cycle boys were out for one last ride before the Ride London relay on Sunday. We did some laps of Regent's Park and today I picked up my race pack. Today I also met my two big enemies that I'll tackle on the third leg...Box and Leith Hill! Wish me luck....
I also met Sir Bradley Wiggins Olympic time trial bike!