RideLondon: 100 miles on 2 wheels

At 2am on Sunday morning I was staring out of the window watching the rain come down in sheets.  It was so loud it woke me up.  It was the worst rain I had seen in a very long time and it was far from ideal.

Just two hours later my alarm went off, but my heavy heart subsided with a quick glance outside.  The rain had stopped and it looked fairly promising.  It was going to be a good day.


Just before 5am, after forcing some porridge down, I hopped on my bike and set off into the sunrise towards the Olympic Park.  I didn’t really know where I was going but I soon saw plenty of other cyclists heading the same way.  Following everyone else, I made the 12 mile journey to the start line taking in an eerily quiet Rotherhithe tunnel which was closed to cars.

Getting into the start area was easy, there were loads of signs, loads of toilets and plenty of space.  Luckily I bumped into my friend Laura so I had a pal to share my last minute worries with.  She had sandwiches and chicken nuggets…I did not.  Our start time was 7:24am and, although we still had an hour to go, it flew by.

Early Risers


With credit to the organisers, the start was a military operation with each wave going off bang on time, I don’t know how many waves there were, but c.30,000 riders left the park at roughly 6 minute intervals over 4 hours.  It was an impressive set up.

Stage 1: Miles 1-25: The Jolly Bit

For the first 25 miles I felt great.  The air was cool and dry, everyone was in great spirits and I was pleasantly surprised that, not only was there more space around me than I was expecting, people were (mostly) riding considerately.  There were even some Rider Safety Captains.

After riding through London, I got a big cheer from Darren in Richmond Park, and we headed to the first ‘hub’ near Hampton Court.  As I’m really bad at drinking and riding at the same time, let alone eating, I took the opportunity to stop.

The hubs exceeded my expectations, there were tables and tables piled with bananas, Cliff Bars, gels, Shot Bloks and Graze snack boxes, as well as loads of water and electrolyte tablets.  There were toilets aplenty, and medical and mechanical help if needed.  The volunteers were all super friendly and happy, especially given the fact they had an earlier start than me!


Stage 2: Miles 26-48: The Learning Curve Bit

The next section posed some challenges.  I hadn’t been eating anywhere near enough and I was feeling it.  Ruth had told me repeatedly that I needed to constantly scoff my face but I didn’t realise that meant literally.  A Cliff bar at the start line and a gel at the hub just wasn’t enough.  Somewhere around 40 miles I was feeling ropey and decided that if I had to stop every few miles to make sure I ate something, that was what needed to happen.

The Surrey countryside, with its beautiful views, was upon us now, and just before the second hub at mile 48 there was a fairly short, but fairly steep climb.  I was glad I had taken on some extra fuel (GU Stroopwafles for the win by the way).

At the hub at Newlands Corner, I took a longer time out, ate some proper food and had a little sit down with views over Surrey.  I was feeling much better. Onwards.


Stage 3: Miles 48-75. The Hilly Bit

The next section brought the dreaded Surrey Hills.  Leith Hill came first, it was new to me, it was the the steepest on the course, and it was bloody hard.  People were getting a little narky with each other as the course narrowed and I eventually caved somewhere near(ish) the top and got off the bike.  I was far from the only one.

Finally at the top, with 58 miles on the clock, I got back on my bike and enjoyed some downhill rolling towards Dorking.  Soon after, we were at the bottom of Box Hill, I had already conquered this one recently and I have to say I quite enjoyed it!  There were some signs every 250m or so telling you how far you had come and some motivational words of wisdom such as ‘don’t fear the granny gear‘ and, of course, ‘shut up legs‘.

I had stuck to my new fueling plan but, as we neared the third hub at Leatherhead, I was looking forward to another break.

Thanks Buxton!


Stage 4: Miles 75-86. The Blurry Bit

The next few miles rolled by in a bit of a blur.  I was tired, my quads were complaining, and my hands were sore.  I didn’t really know where I was and I couldn’t tell you what I saw, but we were heading back to London and that was all I could focus on.

Just as I was planning to pull over for more food, I saw a sign for hub 4.  There was a HUB 4??

Pulling into the stop at Kingston I have never been so happy to see a bag of salt & vinegar crisps.  I was less happy to see yet another banana, but I ate it anyway.  After a short mental battle with myself I got back on the bike again and set off on the last 14 miles. Shut up legs.

Stage 5: Miles 86-100. The Bloody Awesome Bit

The last section was the best.  The crowds were thicker, the roads were flatter, we were back in London and the finish was near.  I found a new lease of life and powered through the last few miles, not even Wimbledon Hill could get me down now.

The miles were ticking down quickly, I got a cheer from Jen at Parsons Green, and we were soon riding along the Embankment.  It wasn’t long before we were heading up Whitehall and swinging round for a pretty spectacular finish on The Mall.  The 100 mile finish line was in sight!!

I couldn’t help but grin like a lunatic as I flew down the final few metres and over the finish line, I even made it on the telly!

I’m in the background, I’m not the man being interviewed:


And that was that, I had completed 100 miles on two wheels and I loved it!  It actually turned out to be 119 miles in total what with cycling there and back, no wonder I was a little sleepy…

The Reflection Bit

In my opinion, Ride London was organised pretty flawlessly.  Sure, there will always be some hiccups with the complexities of an event so big, but I was really impressed with everything, it couldn’t have been easy.


I’m aware, although disappointed, that cycling generally, and this event in particular, attracts a lot of haters, especially from those who live along the route.  Sure, it’s an inconvenience, but it’s just one weekend a year.  One weekend that not only brings a lot of positivity towards sport and fitness and inspires people to get active, but keeps the legacy of the London Olympics alive and raises millions for charity.

The Best Bits:

  • Riding on closed roads. A privilege
  • The atmosphere. Electric
  • The cheery volunteers. Incredible
  • Box Hill. It’s Fun
  • Hitting a new max speed of 38.3 mph. Weeeeee
  • The Mile 86 salt and vinegar crisps. Godsend
  • The last 5 miles. Unreal
  • The finish along the Mall towards Buckingham Palace. Epic
  • In fact, almost everything. Fan-flippin-tastic


The Worst Bits:

  • The 4 o’clock alarm. Zzzzzz
  • Having to stop to eat and drink. Such a newb
  • Leith Hill. Ouch
  • The dude who overtook me on a Boris Bike. Really
  • My sore hands. Hurty
  • Cycling through London traffic to get home. Wobbly

The Thank Yous:

  • Thank you to all the volunteers that made it possible, there were a lot of you, your constant enthusiasm and kind words gave me strength
  • Thank you to the emergency services who responded quickly to incidents
  • Thank you to the roadside angels who were offering mechanical help to those in need, you made me worry less
  • And thank you to everyone who wholeheartedly embraced the event and lined the streets in thousands to cheer and shout at us, you made the dark times brighter

Like the London Marathon, Ride London is a true testament to the spirit of this City and I can’t wait to be part of it again.  It was tough, it was challenging, it was rewarding, and it was a whole lot of fun!





The Graceful Art of Aerial Fitness…

If you’ve ever been to a Pink gig you’ll be familiar with her spellbinding ability to combine flawless vocals whilst hanging from the ceiling twisted up in aerial silks and effortlessly flying through hoops.  More than just entertaining, it’s a little bit spectacular and a little bit magical.


On Saturday, Bloggers that Slay invited me to an Aerial Fitness taster session at Skylab Studios, a small but perfectly formed dance studio in the heart of Camden.  I was excited to find my inner gymnast and learn how to gracefully glide through the air (ahem…)

The mirrored studio is fully kitted out with hoops, silks and hammocks that hang from the ceiling, and enough crash mats to make you feel pretty safe.  After a 10 minute warm up, our instructor, Astra, took us through the 4 key poses we needed to learn; tuck, straddle, pike and needle.  I was familiar with these from yoga, and they’re all quite simple…at least they’re quite simple with the security of the floor beneath you and gravity in your favour…


We started on the hammocks, they’re a bit like silks but instead of 2 separate pieces of silk hanging down, they form a loop to help support your weight – perfect for beginners right?! ‘Sitting’ in the hammock the trick was to bend your legs like a frog and use your core to flip yourself upside down in a straddle position.  It sounds easy, Astra made in LOOK easy…but it wasn’t easy.  In fact it was really bloody hard!

With a little help I finally managed to get myself upside down so once there, I thought I would just hang out for a bit…


We swiftly moved on to the silks where Astra showed us how to hang from them (again, a lot of upper body strength required) and hook your feet through to a pike position then hang upside down in a needle shape.  Soooo I got little further than this…


Finally it was time to give the hoops a try.  I had high hopes that these would be easier than the silks but I was wrong, so very wrong…  There’s a particular method of getting up onto the hoop (of which I fell at the first hurdle, quite literally) which involves more upside-down-ness before flipping yourself up into the hoop and doing the ‘showgirl pose’.  So we’ll call that the plan for lesson 2 shall we?!

It’s safe to say that nothing about aerial fitness is simple or easy.  It requires a lot of core and upper body strength and it will definitely hurt to laugh or sneeze the next day (I suggest surrounding yourself with adequately dull people to limit the pain).  Despite its challenges, aerial fitness really is SO MUCH FUN and clearly has many fitness benefits to help improve strength and flexibility, I’m definitely keen to give it another go.

Many thanks to both Skylab Studios and Bloggers that Slay for having me, it was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon!  If you’re keen to give aerial fitness a try, the guys down at Skylab are super friendly, super patient and welcome beginners.  You can find out more here.




Suck it up Princess

Running is hard.  Running is harder than it’s ever been (if you can actually call it running at all) and  I’m really struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel (there’s going to be a light isn’t there…please tell me there’s going to be a light??)

I’ve moved on from the run/walk strategy.  It was good while it lasted, mostly because it took the huge pressure off hitting a pace I was vaguely happy with rather than my foot, but it had to end at some point.  In all honesty I hadn’t planned to end it quite as soon as I did but it was actually snowing in London and my blood is 100% southern so, you know, I get cold and running is quicker than walking.  I didn’t dare look at my watch.

Of course after I had transitioned to continuous running there was no way back, you don’t make progress by taking steps backwards, and so for the last 2 weeks I’ve been shuffling around London trying to remember how to be a runner again.  It was hard and it was scary and it wasn’t particularly enjoyable.  I didn’t know why I was doing it.


The last two Saturdays I’ve made an appearance at my local Parkrun on Tooting Common.  Running with other people helps me to forget that I’m running and that I’m finding it hard, Parkrun is the perfect place to learn to run again.  It feels kinda safe.

The only problem was trying to run a Parkrun without running as fast as I could, that was another new one on me.  Being much slower than I usually am is difficult to deal with, but I have been enjoying running again and that was the whole point.  You’re ace Parkrun, thank you!

You can’t be at the top of your game all the time, there will always be times when you’re just a little bit rubbish.  But you don’t make progress by hiding away and doing nothing about it, you have to get out the door, suck it up and do it.  So that’s what I’m doing.  I’ve also never got as much Strava kudos for so many rubbish runs so THANK YOU for making me feel better about it, it really does help.

I will get faster and I will get back to the top of my game but, for now, I need to suck it up and plod on.  Joy.




3 Peaks Challenge!

The 3 Peaks Challenge needs little introduction, the goal is to climb the three highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales within a 24 hour period.  It’s been on my list for a while so when the opportunity came up at work to join a 3 Peaks team and raise money for mental health charity Mind, I volunteered without a second thought.

About a week ago I thought I should do some proper research on the challenge and started to worry about by distinct lack of mountain-climbing-specific training, I hadn’t done any.  I was working off the (possibly naive) assumption that my marathon fitness and strong legs would carry me through, but everything I read about the challenge made me doubt that.  In any case, it was too late to do anything about it now…

As with any event like this, it’s truly the people you share it with that can make or break your experience and I was fortunate to be with the best bunch I could ask for.  The team was made up of myself, Hannah, Tara, Ellen, Pippa, Carmen and Jack (who became an excellent not-gay-gay-best-friend, GBF).  Jack wanted to be the alpha male, but unfortunately that was firmly taken by our mountain guide Jake, he was also after the beta male role, but was pipped to the post by our laugh-a-minute drive Wayne, so GBF it was…


I only really knew Hannah when we all met at Euston for our 8.10 train to Chester, but by the end of the weekend, we were pretty well acquainted!  We were picked up from Chester by Jake, our leader, and Wayne who would be our driver for most of the trip.  We quickly established the banter would be plentiful and we couldn’t take anything Wayne said seriously, but, together with DJ MC Willy (Hannah) blaring out the tunes, and some laser light action, the 8.5 hour trip to Fort William was quite a lot of fun!

Fort William is a lot further away from absolutely everything than I thought, but the views driving through Scotland were worth it.  We made it to our bunkhouse, Bank St Lodge, just after 8pm and headed out for a pre-climb dinner.  After a fairly short and broken sleep (we had a snorer in the group…), the alarm went off at 5 and we were ready to go!


Ben Nevis

We were dropped off at the base of Ben Nevis at 6.20 am which meant we technically had until 7.50am the next morning to officially complete the challenge (due to driving regulations the time has been extended to 25.5 hours).

Ben is not only the tallest mountain of the challenge, and the highest peak in the UK at 1,344m (4,409ft), it’s also dubbed the toughest of the 3 so I was glad we were tackling this one first, on fresh legs and the most sleep we were going to get all weekend.  We started off at a faster pace than I was expecting but I didn’t mind, apparently we were making good time!  We got warm quickly so it wasn’t long before we were taking layers off.

There is one main route up and down the mountain, the Mountain Track, but I was surprised by how many people we encountered coming down at this time of day, it meant they must have climbed up in the dark, I definitely wouldn’t fancy that!  Nearly everyone we met along the way wished us a good morning, mountain climbers are pleasant folk!


The path zig-zagged upwards and the terrain was a mix of rocky steps, pebbly slopes and loose scree which would later be covered in a thick layer of snow.  I was enjoying the climb, it was early in the morning and there were some beautiful views as we made our way up.  About half way there was a waterfall to cross over and we stopped for a photo!

The mountain got steeper the higher we went and it started to get really cold.  It wasn’t until we stopped to layer up that I realised how wet we all were from the damp atmosphere.  We came across a couple of patches of snow, which turned into may be a solid half mile of quite deep snow we had to trudge through all the way to the summit.  Everything was pure white in the middle of June!

After just under 3 hours of climbing we reached the top, it was cold, windy, and snowy but amazing to reach the first peak.  We stopped for a snack, a hug and a summit selfie (obviously).


The next challenge was to get down the bloody thing, or GTFD (get the f**k down) as we called it.  This was not my favourite thing at all and I quickly learned that I was very, very bad at it.  I got my walking poles out for the descent but still found myself at the back of the group sliding all over the place on the snow.  We were warned to stick to the path or we could easily veer towards the edge where there was a big crack in the snow, errrr, noted!


When we reached the rubble I seemed to get slower, in hindsight I was relying too much on the poles than my own balance and leg strength, which I would later learn was much more reliable.  My slow descent wasn’t helped by the volume of people who were now coming up the mountain, the path was quite narrow so everytime I picked out my route someone would be coming into it the other way.


I found getting myself down the mountain stressful, mentally exhausting, and frustrating, I was holding the group back and I didn’t want to be the reason we would fail, it wasn’t enjoyable at all.  We got to the bottom at 11.50am after a 5.5 hour trek.  They estimate 5-6 hours so we were well within that, but we were aiming for 5 so had already lost half an hour, I felt like I had let the team down already.

Getting to the car park I had never been so happy to see another person than Wayne, with a silly hat and a flask of hot water ready to make us coffee.  We were back on the road for the 256 mile journey to Scafell Pike with the highest mountain already under our belt.  Onwards!

We stopped a couple of times to make sure Wayne had his allocated breaks and took the opportunity to enjoy the sunshine.  We didn’t have any problems on the road and together with Wayne’s, errr, efficient shall we say, driving, we got to Scafell Pike at 18:50 and we were ready to go again.

Our only photo with Wayne!


Scafell Pike

There are a couple of routes up Scafell but we went for Wasdale Head, the steeper but shorter option, which should take about 4 hours.  This mountain was definitely my favourite.  It had been a gloriously sunny day and the views on the way up were beautiful, it was also very warm so we were grateful we weren’t climbing in the middle of the day.

Scafell Pike is the shortest mountain at 978m (3,209ft) but is the highest in England.  I was determined not to be so rubbish on this one so I went for it on the ascent and really enjoyed the climb. There were some large boulders to navigate but there was also a lot of grass either side of the path which I thought would be useful on the way down.


It was also a lot quieter on this mountain, just a few other hikers and a lot of sheep (and lovely black slugs), the sun was setting as we made our way up and it got chilly again as we hit the cloud.  As the view disappeared, all we could really see was lots of loose rubble, it flattened out as we reached the top and I felt a bit like I was on the moon.  However, the flat did not mean we were at the top and it was another 15 minutes or so before we actually reached the summit.

It was now 9pm so it had taken us 2 hours 10 to reach the top, time for another hug and a summit selfie but no time for snacks because we needed to GTFD before it got dark!  Luckily, we had picked Summer Solstice weekend so it wouldn’t get properly dark until near 11, hopefully we would make it…


At this point Jake literally confiscated my walking poles.  He told me I didn’t need them and I’d be much quicker without them…errrr, really??  Turns out he was right, relying on my own balance and strength gave me much more momentum so I progressed a lot quicker than descending Ben.

Tara was in quite a lot of pain with her knees so we stuck together at the back.  With the sun going down, darkness was closing in and visibility was starting to get poor so it was time to get my pink head torch out!  Jake gave Tara a piggyback the rest of the way down to save her knees for Snowdon and we finally made it to the bottom at 11pm.  It was dark.  All in all it had taken 4 hours 10, not far off target.


Back in the laser light party bus we were back on the road to Snowdon which was 211 miles away.  We all fell asleep on this part of the journey and woke briefly to say goodbye to Wayne who handed over the driving Derek at around 2.30am at a service station somewhere along the way.


We arrived at Snowdon at around 4.30am.  Having all been asleep, the last thing we really wanted to do was drag ourselves up another mountain but it needed to be done.  It was very windy, but it was light again and spirits lifted when we realised we were actually on our way up the last mountain!  To complete the task on time we would only have around 3 hours 10 to get up and back down again, it was going to be unlikely but none of us cared by this point, we would still have completed the 3 Peaks!

Snowdon is 1,085 m (3560 ft) high and we were led to believe this was the easiest mountain to climb…I’m really not sure it was!  It’s difficult to pull apart how much of the inevitable tiredness and accumulation of mountain-miles in the legs affected the climb but I didn’t feel particularly tired so I think it was just the mountain!


It started off pretty easy with solid stone steps but they got a lot steeper as we went up.  This was much more of a clambering up with hands type of climb, but I was grateful there wasn’t as many loose stoney areas as there were on the other 2.

There were some nice flat areas along a ridge with some awesome views of the lake below, but at some points the stones were very jagged and steep and I didn’t really want  to look down!  I was a little concerned about how the hell I was going to get down again…I might just have to live on the top of Snowdon.

When we reached the ridge at the top the wind was really, really strong.  We kept going until we reached the final steps up to the summit where there was a big brass dial.  Jack jumped on top of it and we had to cling onto him to stay steady!  After more hugs and summit selfies I decided I didn’t want to live there so we had to GTFD before we blew away!


The poles came back out for this one, my left knee was hurting from twisting it on Scafell so I wanted the extra support.  Jake decided to take us a different path back down, this would be a longer route but it would involve a much shorter, sharper decent so we could get back to the lake quicker and then the rest would be pretty flat.  I liked the sound of that!

Clambering down, we all made it to the lake and took some time out to appreciate the view, it was stunning.  It was fairly non eventful from that point and we all enjoyed being on the flat even if it did seem to go on forever as we curved round the mountain.  Tara was still struggling with her knees so she had another piggyback for the last section…we think she had a little crush on Jake!

Seeing car park and cafe come into view at the end was the best thing I’ve ever seen, I couldn’t wait to take my boots off!  Arriving at 10am, literally as it started to rain, we had completed the 3 Peaks Challenge in around 27.5 hours which we were all happy with, we’d bloody done it!!


It was then time for breakfast at Pete’s cafe where Hannah was devastated to have ordered a burger and became slightly deranged with jealously over everyone else’s food, the amusement never stopped!

Heading back to Chester we all fell asleep immediately, but we were greeted by a cheery Wayne on arrival to bid a fond farewell.  Finally we were back on the train to London, we were all a little sad our victorious adventure was over but happy and completely exhausted.

The 3 Peaks Challenge is an epic experience which I would recommend to anyone, but don’t underestimate the challenge.  It’s tough, mentally and physically, you need to be prepared for a lack of sleep and changeable weather and I would recommend going with someone who knows the mountains well.  Situations can change fast and you need to be prepared for anything.  Thanks so much to my fellow hikers, Jake and Wayne (and Derek!) for making my experience the best it could’ve been, I couldn’t have done it without any of you!


3 Peaks: In Summary

  • 7 adventurers
  • 3 Mountains
  • 3 Countries
  • 26 miles walked
  • 9,800 feet of ascent
  • 1 expert Mountain Guide (thanks Jake!)
  • 1 minibus complete with disco lights
  • 2 drivers (we love you Wayne)
  • 880 miles traveled on the road
  • 334 miles traveled by train
  • 15 hours walking up and down mountains
  • Nearly 26 hours travelling
  • Snow, sunshine, wind & rain
  • Excessive amount of mountain selfies (80% by Jack)
  • 67 little sheeps (approx)
  • 167 strange black slugs (approx)
  • 1 case of severe personality disorder (Hannah / Helen…)
  • Too much sugar to quantify
  • Challenge complete!

Post challenge, post breakfast team shot


Men. Women. What’s the Difference?

Women are not physiologically capable of running the marathon distance. At least that’s what the race director of the Boston Marathon told Bobbi Gibb in 1966, she was categorically not allowed to compete. Because she was a woman.

On 19th April that year Bobbi did something that would change everything in womens running forever…she went and ran the Boston Marathon anyway.

We let out a roar that day, sensing that this woman had done more than just break the gender barrier in a famous race…

Diana Chapman Walsh – 1966 Boston Marathon spectator

The race official tries to pull Bobbi off the course but, in a move of solidarity, her fellow runners wouldn’t let him.


That day, Bobbi successfully challenged archaic gender stereotypes and prejudice and proved that women were more than capable of competing it long distance running alongside men.  She finished in 03:21:40 with two thirds of the pack still behind her.  What a woman.

Of course, change didn’t happen overnight, it took 30 years for Boston to officially recognise Bobbi’s 1966 (and subsequent 67 & 68) wins, but today, women compete in all distances, and indeed all sports, at both a professional and amateur level.

However, it begs the question, do physiological differences between men and women affect athletic performance?

Arguably, yes.  Paula’s 02:15:25 marathon world record is over 12 minutes slower than Kimetto’s 02:02:57 and no one has even come close to taking that record from her which was set in 2003…

Recognising that women are different to men, Cat arranged an evening of female-specific training, nutrition, performance & recovery advice for the Chaser ladies.  It was a great excuse for a cocktail and a catch up!


Whether you’re male or female doesn’t always determine who will be the fastest runner (hey, I beat 58% men in the Brighton Marathon…just saying), but men do have some physiological advantages over women that give them greater capacity to go faster and this is evidenced across all distances at a high level.  Amy and Laura, physiotherapists from Body Logic, explained to us what these differences are.

Body composition

Firstly, women naturally carry more fat than men simply because that is the way we are meant to be, women need more fat to be healthy.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t do us any favours when it comes to running…  Not only this, but men also have a greater percentage of muscle mass than women making them naturally bulkier, stronger and often leaner.

So we’re a little bit fatter and a little bit weaker, not a great start.  However, we can help to combat this by increasing the amount of strength training we do, this is especially important as we get older because apparently after the age of 40 we lose 1/3 lb of muscle every year!

Amy suggests 2-3 sessions per week strengthening the arms, legs and core and you only need 8-12 reps once or twice per exercise to make a difference.

Aerobic capacity (using oxygen to produce energy)

Men have larger hearts than women which mean they can pump more blood round the body with each beat.  Within this blood, they also have 10% more hemoglobin than we do (science bit: hemoglobin is the protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to body tissue).  So, women are getting less blood and less oxygen being pumped round the body with each heartbeat.

The good news is we can help improve this through interval training.  The bad news is we have to do interval training…


Skeletal / Muscle Structure

Skeletal structures differ between men and women and our structure makes us more prone to knee, hip and foot injuries.

Men are stiffer round the hips making them more quad dominant and overactive on the hamstrings.  Women tend to be weaker in the hips which can lead to crossing when running, a bit like trying to run on a tightrope, and cause ITB issues.

Unfortunately, wearing high heels has a negative impact too and can contribute to an increased arch in the back which leads to a weaker core.  Sadly, pretty shoes always come at a cost.

So, strengthen the hips and do some planks, and if you love your heels…double plank work!


The Mind

Men tend to have an advantage of the mind – they often believe they can do something much more than women can and I think there are many, many reasons for this.

In the workplace, I was once told that men put their hand up 6 months before they’re ready, whilst women put their hand up 6 months after they’re ready.  Ever since I heard that, and realised it was in fact true, I’ve forced myself to be much more confident in my abilities because it was the only way my career was going to move forwards.

That confidence doesn’t transpire into my running.  I often don’t believe I can do something, sometimes I genuinely know I can’t, but more often than not I just don’t believe it.  I know the reasons why I think a certain way but it doesn’t help me change them.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re standing on the start line or turning up to a job interview, if you don’t believe you can achieve the goal, you’re already at a huge disadvantage.


The Body – Conclusion

So, women are a little bit fatter, a little bit weaker, working with less oxygen, having to do double core work just so we can look good on a Friday night and struggling to believe in ourselves…that’s quite the challenge, doesn’t that just make chicking someone all the more sweeter?!

It’s not alllll bad news for us ladies because we’re able to burn more fat than men, very useful in the tough stages of a marathon – hurrah!

The night didn’t end there, there’s more to follow later, but MASSIVE thanks to Cat for arranging such an informative and useful evening (especially when you chose a venue with 241 cocktails…)!

The Power of Music in Sport

Haile Gebrselassie is one of the greatest and most successful runners of all time. In 1998 Haile took the Indoor World Record for 2,000 metres…whilst ‘I’m the scatman, ski bi dibby dib yo da’ boomed into the Birmingham arena.  At Haile’s request.

I’ve always enjoyed running with music, not only does it help me switch off and drift into my own thoughts, but it can also be a powerful motivator through the tough miles.  My Dad always says running with music is for wimps. Well, I guess me and Haile have something in common…because apparently we’re both wimps!

But what is it about this rather odd track that Haile likes?

It’s nice music, it’s fast written, that’s why I could break a world record, by that music…’I’m a Scatman! Dum dum’ and then you know the timing and at the same time your style changes immediately.


Are there performance gains to be had from running with music?  If so, why do you see so many faster runners listening to the sounds of their own bodies rather than their favourite tunes?  Most importantly, could my Dad be wrong??

Last weekend, Currys invited me to a workshop that would help me find the answers to these very questions.  With the rise of events such as Run to the Beat and the increasing frequency of live music along race routes, there must be some science behind the power of music?

I met some other fitness bloggers, and Dr Costas Karageorghis (who has spent years researching the psychological effects of music on running), for a fun afternoon learning how it can be beneficial to athletic performance.

A little warm up game!


There have been strong links between music and sport for a long time – the National Anthem is always played during international competitions, the All Blacks perform an intimidating Haka before playing rugby, and who doesn’t feel energetic as soon as they hear the theme tune from Rocky?!


So, everyone loves music but what exactly does music do during exercise?  After explaining the different constituents, tempo, rhythm, melody etc, Dr Karageorghis revealed that listening to your favourite tunes on the run can have the following benefits:

  • Lowers perception of effort
  • Can trick your mind into feeling less tired
  • Encourages positive thoughts and mood
  • Can increase endurance by 20% if you sync your body to the music (that’s a BIG claim!)

Whilst the beat is important, and syncing your movements to the music has the most positive impact, the lyrics can also be very powerful. Words can carry strong personal messages that help to motivate and focus.  I was surprised that several very successful athletes listen to specific tracks before they go into competition to help mentally prime them:

  • Michael Phelps got in the zone at London 2012 with Lil’ Wayne’s ‘I Am Me’ before taking home 6 medals
    • “Ain’t nobody f**king with me man…I know the game is crazy, it’s more crazy than it’s ever been”
  • Iwan Thomas uses music as part of his pre-run routine on the start line with Prodigy, ‘Firestarter’
    • “I’m the trouble starter, punking instigator, I’m the fear addicted, danger illustrated”
  • James Cracknell – favours Red Hot Chili Peppers, ‘Get on Top’
    • Get on top, get on top, hit me, come get me, I bite but she bit me”

These are all very stimulating tracks and, generally, the more stimulating the music, the more active you feel.  However, sedative music can also have a very beneficial & calming effect.

Before the 2004 Athens Olympics, Dame Kelly Holmes had been feeling very anxious following a period of injury.  She used music to help control her pre-race anxiety and block everything out by listening to the soulful Alicia Keys.

Kelly Holmes Athens 2004

Interestingly, Olympic gold medalist, Audley Harrison combated pre-fight nerves by listening to Japanese classical music to induce relaxation & focus, and Whitney Houston’s ‘One Moment in Time’ has been cited as the track used to calm the GB Bobsleigh team whilst still being mentally stimulating through the lyrics:

I want one moment in time
When I’m more than I thought I could be
When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away
And the answers are all up to me

It’s not just before and during sport where music can be helpful.  There are also gains to be had from listening to slow, sedated music post exercise which can help slow the heart rate and reduce stress. I’m definitely going to be giving that a try!

By the end of the session I was left with no doubt in my mind that music is a very powerful tool and I’m absolutely convinced of the benefits (sorry Dad!)

We were then introduced to Monster headphones.  Monster make a range of sports specific headphones, iSport, that are designed to stay in the ear, be sweat proof, shock proof and comfortable. There are several models available but they were keen to show us their wireless SuperSlim which are fairly new to the UK.

The iSport SuperSlim are a bluetooth headphone that claim to deliver exceptional sound quality and stay in the ear with a unique SportClip no matter activity your doing, despite being so small.  We were all lucky enough to be given a pair to try!  I’ll give these a full review when I’ve had a chance to try them properly after the London Marathon – no matter how powerful music is, it will never be as powerful as a London Marathon crowd!

Monster iSport SuperSlim

There’s nothing I love more than an easy run in the sunshine with some upbeat tunes in my ear – here are my top 10 running tracks:

  • Til I Collapse – Eminem
  • Paris – Jay Z & Kanye
  • Party Right – Lethal Bizzle
  • Berzerk – Eminem
  • Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
  • What a Feeling – The Hughes Corporation
  • Not Giving In – Rudimental
  • Keep Your Head Up – Ben Howard
  • Don’t You Know who I Think I Am? – Fall Out Boy
  • Hitz – Chase & Status

I guess number 11 should probably be Scatman…!

I would like to thank Currys for the opportunity to attend this workshop, all views are my own.

Thanks for the awesome goody bag!