Reflections on a challenging year

It’s been an unusual year for me.  Unusual in that I haven’t run a single marathon…or even a half.  I do realise that makes me sound a little unusual, the irony isn’t lost on me.

I tried.  I was full of good intentions, and training plans, and I had my sights set high for a post-foot-surgery comeback… but it wasn’t to be.  Instead I didn’t even start the last three marathons I entered.

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My running kinda went downhill after missing my goal in 2016’s London Marathon.  I lost faith.  Then I ended up having surgery to correct a painful ongoing foot problem which wiped me out.  It took longer to get back to running than anticipated and then I got the fear every time I put my trainers on.  You know, the fear that makes you want to do absolutely ANYTHING else other than what you’re supposed to do.

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Sometimes I gave into the fear.  Sometimes I didn’t.  They say things fall apart so that better things can come together.  I guess we’ll see about that.  However, 2017 is coming to an end and it’s time to find some positivity in the things I have done rather than dwelling on those I haven’t, so I tried to find some.

1. I got back on my feet

OK, so I haven’t run all that much this year, but I have run.  I have picked myself up and started the journey back to my usual runner-bean self.  It’s been hard. It’s been physically hard because I felt like I had to teach myself how to run again and it’s been mentally hard because running scared me.  But I got back on my feet.

2. I bought me a bike and cycled almost 3 times as many miles as I ran this year

Yep, me, a bright new shiny pretty blue bike!  And I quickly had to learn how to ride it in cleats, on London roads, because I gave myself just two short months to prepare for Ride 100.

FYI, 2 months is probably, PROBABLY not long enough to go from semi-regular gym spinner to lycra clad 100 mile road cyclist…probably.

First time in cleats on Wimbledon Common

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3. I took that bike and rode 100 flippin’ miles

Which was HARD.  Why didn’t anyone tell me??  Why does everyone have to make cycling look so damn easy?!  Still, I completed my first ever cycling sportive in one piece, and I even started to enjoy it once I remembered to feed myself.  It actually turned out to be 120 miles after I had got myself there and back.  I did not leave my bed for the rest of the day (to be fair there wasn’t much day left by the time I’d finished…)

I cycled 100 miles to the Queens house…I went the long way

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4. I got stronger

Every time I gave into my running fear I found myself at the gym instead.  A lot.  And I had forgotten how much I loved it.  I swapped runs for sweaty spin sessions and went to classes called ‘Broken’ and ‘Insanity’ and ‘Core Wheel’ – you name it, I was there.

I also started lifting/pushing/squatting heavy things again and fell in love with Body Pump once more.  It gives you a different kind of post-workout buzz – and a different type of post-workout ouch (big ouch).

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5. I officially became a Barre Babe (as Nesse calls us)

I’ve been a regular at my Monday night Barre class for about 18 months now and I’ve seen a real improvement in my strength.  Barre is a ballet inspired isometric strength class that works by holding your body still while you work a particular set of muscles to the point of exhaustion.  It hurts, but we do it to hardcore gangster rap (seriously), and have the occasional glass of prosecco after to numb the pain (also seriously).

I absolutely bloody love it and if you fancy it I can promise you that Nesse is the best (and most glamorous) Barre teacher in London – catch her on her website here or on Instagram here.

Nesse on the left…and us trying to be like Nesse on the right.  Photo credit: Instagram @nesseinlondon

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6. I went boxing at the Ministry of Sound

I mean, COME ON!

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So, it’s been an unusual year.  And I didn’t run a marathon. So what?

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Barry’s Bootcamp – London East

I’d heard of Barry’s Bootcamp, they call it ‘The Best Workout in the World’.  I’d heard it was popular with the A Listers over in Hollywood and New York.  I’d also heard it was pretty tough.  But hey, I ran 37 miles round the Lake District, I ran down a fell mountain in high winds and rain, I’ve pulled myself out of the darkest places just to cross a finish line – I’m tougher than anything Barry and his Bootcamp could throw at me.  Aren’t I?!  I thought it was time to give it a try.

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On Tuesday I headed over to the London East studio with a couple of girls from work, we I was really looking forward to it!  I have to admit, I didn’t really know what would be involved but, checking out the website beforehand, I was a little concerned that the first question on the FAQ’s was ‘Will I die?’ but, really, how hard can a 60 minute workout be?!

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When we got there (an hour early, we were a little keen!) so had plenty of time to have a look around and check out the selection of post-workout protein drinks available from the Fuel Bar.

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There’s only one room, it’s not a gym, it’s just one room where the bootcamp takes place with a row of 20 treadmills and 20 floor stations.  When you book your place (which you have to do pretty fast!) you choose to start on the treadmill, or on the floor, we chose the treadmill.

It looks swanky.  The lights are low with floor to ceiling mirrors on each wall, the trainers are all ripped and the other fitness fanatics all look like they know what they’re doing.  Still, I know how to work a treadmill and I remembered to pack my favourite lycra so I didn’t feel too intimidated!  Our trainer was Sandy, Sandy is is responsible for bringing Barry’s to London, so he must be good…

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You’re assigned a workstation at reception so there’s no fighting over your spot.  I hopped on treadmill 2 and waited for instructions.  We started with a warm up and were given 3 different choices for beginners, intermediates and advanced.  It’s running on a treadmill, clearly I’m an intermediate verging on advanced, right?!

Barry’s treadmills are set at miles per hour rather than the usual kilometer per hour and we were given the choice to start on 6, 7, or 8.  7 mph is 8.30mm (not that I could do that kind of maths at the time but I started on that pace anyway!).  Over the course of the next 8-9 minutes Sandy had me working up to 9 mph (errr, 6.40mm) on an incline.  I wasn’t sure I was intermediate anymore. Warm up over then…

We then moved onto our floor spot – Tuesday is ‘leg and butt’ day so we were in for 8-9 minutes of weighted lunges and squats.  This wouldn’t be so bad but the lightest weights they had left were 7.5kg, and I needed 2 of them!  Jess managed to get some 6kg ones, I didn’t like her anymore.

We were then straight back on the treadmill for another round of fast paced running, with the incline going up to 10% my pace dropped to somewhere inbetween the beginner and intermediate pace.  It was 8 minutes of solid hard work and I only made it up to 8.5 mph this time.  Back on the floor we did some weighted side lunges and box jumps before jumping back on the treadmill for round 3 (where I managed 9.3 mph without falling off!)

By the end we had done 3 sets on the treadmill and 3 sets of leg and bum floor work.  Honestly? I was knackered.  When we headed back upstairs our pre-ordered protein shakes were waiting for us, I went for Cool Runnings, a blend of pineapple juice, coconut milk and vanilla whey, it tasted pretty damn good.

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So, it turns out Barry’s Bootcamp is actually a bloody tough workout, the runs are pretty fast paced and the floor work is brutal.  As with everything, you get out what you put in, but I think you would struggle without a good level of fitness beforehand.  When I woke up on Wednesday I was quite pleased not to ache as much as I thought I would but, after a morning sat at my desk I quickly changed my mind…my legs were suffering post-Barry’s depression.  However, I loved it and I want to go back!

Whilst it’s pretty swanky, unsurprisingly, it also has a pretty swanky price tag.  For a one off class it’s £20.  There are savings to be made by buying packs of 10 if you have a spare £170, you can even buy a pack of 50 for £700 but, either way, it’s quite pricey.  Throw in a fiver for a post workout protein shake and you’ve easily spent £25 before walking out the door.

Is it worth it?  I’m definitely going to give it another go, maybe on abs day…

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I went to Barry’s Bootcamp as a paying customer.  All views are my own.