Runners Connect: An online running coach

When I joined the Clapham Chasers five years ago, I quickly developed a network of friends who love running, and talking about running, as much as I do, and who know the science bit behind making you a faster and more efficient runner.  They also like a drink (or seven) so it worked out rather well really.

I’ve been lucky to have people around me who have been incredibly supportive through the highs and the lows, by putting training plans together for me and pacing me to PB’s.  However, I can’t help but feel like a burden and, more often than not, I feel like I let them down when I miss my goals (which happens A LOT).

rOpd6

Recently, I’ve been introduced to Runners Connect who offer runners bespoke online coaching programmes within a community of people who simply love to run.  Based on the principle that runners tend to do their best when supported by others, they created a community that connects people with other runners across the globe, to motivate and inspire, however you may be feeling.

logo-e97f10dbc53cac0cf21bfb34280ee77f2e29bd1741b3c03cb153794645040e9f

How does it work?

Founded in 2011, Runners Connect have a team of expert coaches that help you to train smarter, stay healthy and run faster based on your current running ability and your goals.

There are three options you can choose to get you started:

  1. Just a schedule
    • This is the basic package that gives you a customised training schedule without the coaching support, or community access
  2. Team coaching
    • The next level up, this offers a custom training plan, plus access to a supportive community and team of coaches to get feedback, answer questions, and help you adjust your schedule
  3. 1 on 1 coaching
    • This is the premium and most comprehensive package that allows you to work exclusively with one of the coaches. Your coach will write your training plan in 3-4 week blocks which is adjusted based on your feedback

Once you’ve chosen your package, you’re asked to give as much information as possible about your running history, experience, current level of fitness and your goals.  The more you can tell them, the better your experience will be.  I’ve already learned it’s best to be honest about your current training if you want to get the most out of it, they really don’t judge you at all!

Basically, don’t claim to be like this…

giphy-downsized

…if you’re currently running more like this….like me

tumblr_oojaguHw7O1qdtqago1_400

Your training plan is built around your preferences, lifestyle, and other commitments.  So, if you prefer your long run on a Friday, and you always do weight training on a Monday, your coach will build this into your plan.  This is my favourite aspect because my life doesn’t always work to a schedule and I really need that flexibility without feeling like I’m having to compromise.

When you log into your account you’re taken to your dashboard where you’re given your training plan for the week and can upload your activity either manually, or by linking to Strava.  You also have the option to add comments if you were feeling good/tired/strong etc which gives the coaches some added insight into how your training is going.

Capture

There’s clear guidance on the pace you should be targeting depending on what type of run is scheduled for the day such as ‘easy’ or general’, and why you should be running at that pace.  You also get regular contact from your coach and they soon get in touch if you haven’t been logging your runs to make sure everything is OK (so, no hiding…)

Depending on your membership, you also get access to a ‘newsfeed’ which allows you to see what your fellow runners are up to and what they’re thinking & feeling so you can share your experiences and support each other.

It’s worth having a good look round the site too as there are lots of blog articles and podcasts to listen to on all things running!

capture1

If you’ve found yourself in a bit of a training rut, or are unsure as to how to get fitter or faster or achieve your goals, I can recommend giving this a try.  I always find that a good motivational technique for me is to tell other people what my goals are, that way I’m more accountable, and Runners Connect is a great way to do this within a supportive environment.

No matter what your current fitness level is or what you want to achieve, they have the right people to help you get there.  I’ve been impressed!

I was invited to try Runners Connect as a guest, as always, all views are my own.

Advertisements

Review: Sole Footbeds

I’ve never worn insoles in my running shoes before, I’ve always been a bit wary of anything that interferes with the running shoes I know and love, but when I was given the opportunity to try out some Sole Footbeds (they’re a Canadian company, I think that’s what they call insoles…) I was intrigued to find out more.

Sole are a peformance footwear specialist and claim they can help minimise your risk of injury.  Given I’ve had a fair few injuries over the last 12 months, I thought they would definitely be worth trying out.

The footbeds I tried are the Active Medium, which is part of their signature range, and they’re quite unique in that they’re heat moulded to your feet to give a bespoke fit.   After trimming them to fit your trainers (which may not be needed as they come in standard shoe sizes), you pop them in the oven for a couple of minutes and then immediately position them in your trainers and put them on your feet.  It’s dead cosy!

In the oven!

IMG_1701

The science bit:

The mouldable base layer is orthopaedic and adapts to your foot to give a customised fit.  This means the foodbeds can:

  • Reduce plantar fascia strain
  • Encourage good alignment of the feet and lower legs
  • Improve balance and provide natural, shock-absorbing heel support (ideal for someone who literally falls over their own feet, ahem)
  • Gently lift your arch into its optimal position

These ones are perfect for active types because they have the added benefit of Polygiene odor control technology (no smelly feet), Softec shock-absorbing cushioning (a bouncy feel) and a moisture-wicking topsheet (dry tootsies).

IMG_1699

My thoughts:

So far I’ve been impressed with these insoles, my feet have quite high arches so I’ve really noticed the additional support and they’re really comfy.  There was a brief moment of panic when I realised I had the oven on wayyyyy too high (watch that cause it’s inadvisable to set your house on fire), but after successfully heating and installing them into my trainers they really do fit like a glove.  It’s a bit soon to tell if they will offer added protection against injury but I really them, they gave my trainers a new lease of life, and will be getting another pair when they wear out.

I was kindly given a pair of Sole Footbeds to try out, all views are my own

 

Review: Flyte Energy Drink

It’s no secret that I’m pretty passionate about healthy living.  I don’t believe in diets, they’re not good for you physically or mentally, (as a general rule) and, in any case, life’s too short.   However, I do believe in balance, about making sensible, wholesome, choices most of the time and having the freggin pizza and cider (or four) when you want to, just not everyday.

As part of those healthy choices I make a conscious effort to ‘eat clean’ most (not all) of the time.  Fresh, whole foods bursting with vitamins, minerals and flavour genuinely make you feel much better and energetic than heavily processed convenience foods (plus it makes much better Instagram pictures, yes I do that).

When I was approached by Flyte, who describe themselves as a ‘clean energy drink’, I admit I was skeptical.  Energy drinks have a reputation for being highly processed and full of sugar and chemicals, so much so that some brands have been a source of controversy on a global level…I’m really not keen.  However, after being promised it was 100% natural I was willing to give it a go!

What is it?

Flyte is a lightly carbonated energy drink that contains only natural ingredients. Its energy comes from 100mg of caffeine which is extracted from green coffee, rather than being synthetically produced, and is sweetened with extract from the Stevia leaf rather than sugar (a South American plant don’t you know).

In addition, the drink contains what they call ‘natural actives’ such as:

  • Schizandra Berry extract for vitality
  • Griffonia Seed extract for alertness
  • Maca root extract for focus
  • Vitamin B complex for energy
  • A touch of vitamin C – an antioxidant 

It comes in four flavours, Red Berries, Green Mango, Citrus Lemon, Orange Clemantine and each bottle contains less than 60Kcals.

Capture

I have now tried all four flavours and put them to the test, these are my thoughts:

  • Fresh ‘clean’ tasting flavours that aren’t super sweet or overly powerful
  • I’m not a big fizzy drink fan but this is only lightly carbonated and pleasant to drink
  • I often suffer from the typical mid-afternoon slump at work, which isn’t ideal when I have a post-work run planned, so I’ve been drinking these when I need an extra energy hit.  They definitely help me feel much perkier and ready to tackle my workout.
  • Sleek packaging, I love that they come in a recyclable glass bottle so no horrid ring pulls or nasty plastics
  • This is a new brand that is genuinely committed, not only to being healthy and natural, but also to the environment (they are a carbon positive company)
  • My favourite flavour is Green Mango!

IMG_1458

Overall I was impressed with these drinks, they did what they said they would and gave me a pretty instant energy hit, and I love the natural approach.  If you’re keen to give them a try, you can purchase them in packs of six on the website here.

Obviously, if you’re sensitive to caffeine these may not be for you, but if you’re looking for an energy drink without all the usual sugar and chemical crap, keep an eye out for this new kid on the block! Green Mango people, Green Mango…

I was kindly given some Flyte drinks to try out. All views are unbiased and my own.

IMG_1468

Reading Half Training Day

Saturday morning was COLD, the kind of cold that made me ignore the offensively early weekend alarm and roll over.  But it was also the morning of the Reading Half Training Day so I  HAD to get up.  Unfortunately my unscheduled alarm-ignoring meant I didn’t have time for porridge and had to make do with breakfast in the car…

IMG_1669

We started the morning off with an overview of the day ahead and the race itself, which will be on the 18th March.  The Reading Half has been going since 1983 and has since evolved to a rather prestigious race that attracts a wide field of athletes with a pretty magnificent finish in the Madejski Stadium.  I haven’t run this one before so I’m really excited to be part of it this year, especially now I know about the secret wine and beer  hydration’ station at 8.5 miles (unofficial, obvs).  Hey, I ran a marathon drunk so a swig or two of wine will do me no harm whatsoever!

Selfie with the Townsend Twins

IMG_1670

Then came the fun bit, a 30 minute strength and cardio workout with the Townsend Twins, who are the official warm up partners for the Reading Half.  After loosening up, we were put through our paces with several rounds of exercises including squat jumps, lunges, ski jumps, dead lifts, planks, V sit-ups (yes, ouch), glute bridges, cycle sit-ups and back extensions.  It actually got pretty sweaty…and we hadn’t even been for a run yet.

Glute Bridges

IMG_4466

After re-hydrating, we then had a session with Ali, one of the official Reading Half pacers, who took us through all the key elements of pacing your perfect race.  He had lots of top tips to remember on the day:

  • Plan ahead and be prepared, especially on race day.  You don’t want to turn up late and not know where the toilets are (for the record, it’s unacceptable to pee in the bushes…)
  • Don’t panic at the start off the race and let adrenaline take over, you’ll only bonk before you finish.  Easier said than done that one!
  • Don’t weave in and out of people, it just wastes energy.  I’m definitely guilty of this and it makes a real difference when I have the self control not to do it.
  • Break the race down into bite-size chunks, instead of thinking of it as one long 13.1 mile run, think of it in sections
    • Miles 1-3 – get yourself settled into the race
    • Miles 3-11 – keep checking in on yourself to see how you’re feeling and adjust your pace and/or goal accordingly
    • Miles 11-13.1 – take it home and bask in the glory

If you’re interested, Reading will be offering pacers at 5 minute intervals from 1:20 all the way up to 2:30 so make sure you latch on to one of them and let them do all the hard work for you (OK, almost all of the hard work, I mean, they don’t offer piggybacks).

Cold, cold cold!

IMG_4452

Then it was time to run!  After a warm up in the very chilly but sunny air, we were off on a 3 mile loop that took us through the start of the race course in Green Park, and round to the Madejski Stadium where we would be finishing on the track.  Unfortunately it was match day, so we couldn’t go in, but we could loiter suspiciously and peak through the gates imagining ourselves crossing the finish line to the roar of the crowds in the stadium!

Blue skies at the Madejski Stadium

IMG_1674

Back at base, it was onto the serious business of warm up exercises and post-run stretching.  You know, all the things we know we should do but tend to skimp on, or is that just me??  There were a few key things I took from this session:

Before you run:

  • Loosen tight hamstrings with The Slump Test (a new one on me!):
    • Sit on the edge of a table with your legs hanging off and hands behind your back
    • Slump your back so you fall slightly forwards with your head down
    • With a flexed foot, kick your leg vigorously upwards
    • Keep going until they feel looser!

Looks a little odd but it works!

Capture

  • Another one for the hammys –  Heel Kicks.  A good way to do this is to stand arms length from a wall and kick vigourously towards the bum with your knees in line
  • Activate the glutes, yes, every time.  Donkey kicks are great for this

After you run:

  • Make sure you stretch the calves, hamstrings and quads!

IMG_4470

We finished with a Q&A and more info on the day itself.  In addition to the unofficial beer stop, there will be water stations supplied in pouches every 3 miles.  I LOVE the pouches because they are much easier to carry and are less of an injury risk if you accidentally step on one.

Green Park’s Foudry Brook

 

IMG_1675

I thought the Reading Half Training Day was brilliant for both new and experienced runners and I definitely learnt a thing or two about warming up properly!

The Reading Half Marathon is on 18th March and there are still spaces available here if you would like to come and join us.  There’s also a January competition to win some running goodies, including some wireless headphones, a foam roller, a Ron Hill LED light High 5 recovery pack, so make sure you enter!

Note: I will be taking part in the Reading Half as a race ambassador, all views are my own.

 

 

 

WeTRAIN: A New Fitness Concept in London

It was hot, muggy and humid at a sweaty Brixton warehouse, in a stifling 31 degree London, when WeTRAIN hosted their WePLAY Launch Party.  I wasn’t entirely sure what was in-store, but I was promised an evening of HIIT, Barre and Yoga so I was prepared for a tough workout!

image

WeTRAIN is a new fitness concept to launch in Clapham and Brixton that brings you a range of classes, from Insanity and HIIT, to Sunrise Vinyasa Flow, Rocket Yoga and even ballet inspired Barre, in small groups of 8.  They call it ‘The Shared Personal Training Co’.

The idea is that you mix socialising with your workout to give you a personal training experience, without the extravagant cost or commitment of a series of sessions.  You’re free to go to any session you fancy, when you fancy, and just pay as you go. Just make sure you book first as I have a feeling this is about to take off!

image

When we arrived we were greeted with Strawberry Serotonin Smoothies and Energy Chickpea Blondies courtesy of  The Thinking Kitchen which was just the kickstart we needed (and both tasted AMAZING, I need that blondie recipe!)

I started off with a Power Yoga session and quickly realised my stiff limbs have been missing their weekly downward dogs and pigeons!  We went through a series of postures and stretches, with hip openers and strength poses, before a very welcome savasana.

image

This was followed by a Barre class. What’s Barre?  Well, I didn’t know either, but it’s a mix of ballet, pilates and yoga, all set to a hip hop soundtrack, I loved it!  The class was made even better by the instructor, Hillary Cannon, who has a refreshing approach to teaching where twerking midway through Fiddy’s Candy Shop is not only acceptable, but actively encouraged…

It challenges you by working each muscle to the point of exhaustion, in a full body workout, to build tone, core stability and strength.  Think push ups, planks, tricep dips, plies, clam shells, and everything else that hurts like hell.

There were actually quite a few exercises I was ordered to do by my physio last time I was injured with my lazy arse (true story), so I really think it’s the perfect session for a runner. Don’t expect not to wake up the next day in a world of pain though, as Hilary says ‘pulses hurt like a mother f**ker!’

thumbnail_image1 (1)

As the classes were small, it was easy to follow what was going on and the instructors could make sure we were doing the moves correctly, always helpful when muscles start to tire and form drops (and, err, what’s a plie again?!)

After the oh-so sweaty workouts, we re-hydrated with (ahem) prosecco and re-fueled with salad tubs from Gym Bites whilst WeTRAIN CEO, Adrian Mooney, explained to us a little more about how WeTRAIN works.

Finally, GB triple jumper Julien Allwood talked to us about how WeTRAIN donate a percentage of their fees to the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, a charity that empowers disadvantaged young people, so you can be sure your workout is doing more more than just keeping you fit!

image

I genuinely think WeTRAIN is a great concept and a welcome addition to the London fitness scene, there are even plans to expand their offering into other areas of London next year.

For people who are looking for a bit of flexibility, and some bang-on-trend classes, without the monthly spend commitments, this is definitely for you.  I’ve already done another Yoga and Barre class and I’m booked into Fit for Function (with the lovely Elle from Keep it simpELLE) and, yep, more Barre!

image

Classes are just £12 a session and with only 8 people (max) per class, you can be sure you’re getting a much more personal experience than in a gym.

I was invited to the WeTRAIN launch party to try out some of the sessions on offer.  All views are my own.

Review: Best’s Bootcamp

I always have good intentions of giving my tired limbs a whole week off exercise after running a marathon, but I’m shamelessly addicted to sweat drenched workouts so, when I was invited to be one of the very first people to try out London’s hottest new bootcamp since Barry’s on Thursday, I really couldn’t say no!

image

When I turned up to Best’s Bootcamp’s brand new swanky studio in Charing Cross, it was clear this was going to be a tough workout, the trainer’s were all ripped and the studio, complete with DJ, looked serious…perhaps not the gentle return to exercise my body had in mind!

The dimmed room is lined with 22 treadmills facing floor length mirrors, with each having a workout station behind it so you can switch between running, and strength based exercises throughout the class.  I was given a treadmill (a treadmill complete with a personal fan no less) to start on, so my legs would just have to deal with what ever was coming their way!

image

Named ‘Tread Army’, we were given the choice of starting on 8, 10 or 12 kph which steadily increased by increments of 2 throughout the 7 minute warmup, before I knew it I was up to 14 and hoping I wouldn’t fly off!

We then switched to the floor station where we were now the ‘WorkerBs’ for 7 minutes of squats, lunges and jumps on a soft box which, handily, you can flip over for a choice of 2 heights, I took the lower option, don’t judge me!

The studio has a unique Trainer Cam on the wall so, wherever you are in the room, you can always see what you’re supposed to be doing and focus on form rather than straining your neck to see what’s going on.  I though this was a great addition because, with just 60 seconds or so per exercise, you don’t want to waste any time.

image

Already exhausted, I was back in the Tread Army again, increasing both speed and incline for some lung busting hill work and speed intervals, the legs were coping well.  Back on the floor we performed various kettlebell moves to  work on the arms, back and glutes, I’m not used to kettlebells so this was hard!

The final sweat session on the treadmill involved more speedwork and hills, but also involved some downhill running (who knew treadmills could go downhill?!)  This felt really odd to me and I couldn’t quite get used to it so I went back to zero (I kept the speed the same though, I promise!).  We then moved on to the last section of floor work to attack the abs, and attack we did with a mix of weighted sit ups and planks.

image

Aaaandd finally the 50 minute workout was over, the very first Best’s Bootcamp class complete – ouch!  On leaving the studio we were treated to a post workout shake from the Blend Bar.  I chose the Berry Blast which was a mix of strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, almond milk and vanilla whey, perfect recovery, it was delicious!

The face says it all!image

I thought Best’s Bootcamp was a pretty fantastic workout, intense, tough, sweaty and a good mix of cardio, strength training and HIIT.  To make the most of it, I would recommend having a good base level of fitness beforehand or you might struggle, but otherwise it’s a workout that delivers on everything you could want from a bootcamp, with some pretty top notch equipment, in a stylish studio, and changing rooms stocked with Kiehls, hair dryers and GHDs.  And how did I feel the next day?  Errr, it hurt, but that’s the only way I would have it!

Best’s Bootcamp is just a 2 minute walk from both Charing Cross and Embankment station and opens on 9th May, with individual classes priced at £20.  I highly recommended you check it out, I have a feeling it’s going to be very popular very soon! #BeYourBest

Many thanks to Marcel Grabowski Photography for all the great photos and Best’s and Action PR for having me. I was invited as a guest to try out Best’s Bootcamp. As always, all opinions are my own.

image

 

image

F45 Training. I’ll be Batman

So, I’m on a little running ban.  No running, no Strava, not even a peek.  Most people might take the opportunity to put their feet up for a while but I’ve never been good at keeping still, so I’ve been looking for some new challenges to keep me out of trouble this week.

This morning I went to an F45 class at a new studio in London Bridge.  I had no idea what F45 was, but apparently it’s the latest fitness craze in Australia which launched in the UK a couple of months ago.  The celebs love it (obvs) and  a quick google search told me the guys look like this…so I thought it was worth getting up at 6am for.

Capture

They describe F45 as ‘the most innovative, challenging and systemised team training workout in the world’, what that means is you get a high intensity workout combing strength and conditioning, as well as cardio.  There are 10 different styles of programmes which they mix up so each workout is unique.

Turning up at the studio, I was greeted by a friendly lady who checked me in and set me up with a heart rate monitor.  When you become a member you get your own, but as a guest I was to be Batman for the morning (seriously, I was Batman, best morning ever).  The monitors link to screens in the studio so you can see what everyone’s heart rate is and %max, I thought this was great as you can see exactly how hard you’re working and whether you’re slacking compared to everyone else!

The classes are quite small, there were 7 in mine, and with 2 instructors on the floor they can give everyone individual attention and even remember your name (sadly, they didn’t call me Batman to my face), it made a refreshing change to the usual packed classes you can get.

image

There were 9 stations in total, you spend 2 minutes at each station doing 45 minutes work and 15 seconds rest before having a 2 minute break and doing the circuit again.  We started with a quick demo of each station and a warm up then got started.

I started on the rowing machine, which I was happy about because I’m an expert at those, then moved on to reverse burpees with plyometric jumps, errr, what was that again?  Luckily each exercise is demonstrated on the screen in front so you don’t look stupid in case you forget, didn’t make me any better at it though!

Next was hills on the bike, followed by some kind forward leaning squat which made 45 seconds feel a lot longer, the 15 second break was very welcome…

Next up was weighted lunges with shoulder bags, floor ladders with kettle bells at the end and then wheelbarrows, the ultimate team exercise that makes you feel like you’re back at school sports day.  I was always rubbish at school sports day, today was no different!

Finally we had some bunny hops over benches (high benches, more like hare hops…) and weighted sit ups.  Then we got a full 2 minute break before going round again, yayyyy!

The screens round the studio show a countdown clock so you know how long you’ve got left of work or rest and you can keep an eye on your heart rate. By the end I was pretty exhausted and my Batman heart rate percentage indicated I was still alive and worked hard.

I was genuinely impressed with everything, the workout, the studio and the team were all fantastic and, whilst I’m sure some of the other classes are much busier, I enjoyed being in a small team.  The instructors took the time to help you, and modify the exercises for your needs, which was really helpful for my runner limbs that don’t always do what I tell them to.

This morning I was at an Athletica class, which is slightly more cardio focused, but you can also go to a Romans class with more weights based exercises, or a Hollywood class which I’m sure is full of surprises!

Currently there’s a studio at London Bridge but I believe there will be another opening in Clapham soon which is perfect for me!  You can get a 7 day free trial on their website so it’s definitely worth a go, I’ll be heading back for a Romans class when I’ve recovered, I just hope I can be Batman again.

image