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Can you believe the heatwave we have been having in England?  It has been a real treat to have so much sunshine, but I will say it is impacting my marathon training plan and the quality of sleep I am getting.  I thought I would give you a training update and a few of my tips on how to cope with the heat.

Training update
I am on week eight of my marathon training plan in preparation for Marathon du Medoc and more importantly NYC marathon.  The runs up until now have been endurance building.  Saturday I was meant to do a 90 minute progressive run where every 30 minutes I increase my pace.  In an ideal world, I would have left the house just before 8am, got 60 minutes of solid running in before parkrun and finished with a big effort and new course PB. However, I slept much later than my alarm because the hot weather is making it very hard to sleep. We have an oscillating fan but Friday night it was just blowing hot air around the room.  I don't sleep soundly on a good day so the combination of worse sleep and increased mileage is making me feel exhausted when I get up.  I read a quote the other day that said the snooze button is the ultimate form of procrastination.  It is so true.  I am going to see if I can turn off the option to have snooze on my phone alarm as a way to get me out of bed once and for all.

But I digress.  On Saturday, I did 20 minute slow pace (10 min/mile) before parkrun with my Opsrey running vest. I didn't wear it during parkrun and took a different approach in terms of effort.  I started off in the front and run just under threshold for the entire route.  My average pace was 8:30/mile which is very speedy for me.  I did have to take my top off towards the end of the 2nd lap because the sun was intense even though it was only 9:15am.  I was the 4th female finisher and 2nd in my age group.  This demonstrated to me that my hard work is paying off and I am indeed becoming speedier, as well as more confident in my abilities. 

I need to work on my tummy tan
Last week I also managed a 200 meter and 400 meter PB at track.  I joined group 3 and hung on for dear life.  This is another testament to running and strengthening work I have been doing.  Here is a brief summary.

Sports massages
Taking advice from Charlie at the Runner Beans, I have been scheduling regular sports massages at Function 360*.  In the past, I only had sports massages when my periformis had acted up.  Hopefully, this  preventative work will help keep my leg muscles in tip top form.  Ben has also been working on my crunchy back to loosing up the musculature keeping me upright.  He worked on it on Wednesday and taped it up as a reminder for me to stand up straight. Camping outside this weekend will hopefully not make my back any worse.



Strengthening
Ben is also giving me new bum strengthening routines every six to eight weeks.  Now that I have a training plan to follow, there isn't as much time to commit to this.  After working on my back, he said I am to focus on core work only until I see him again. Up until now, I have gone to the gym Monday nights after spinning for leg curls and hip ad/abductors.  At home, I use my fitness bands for clams, squats and hip extentions.  These are tried and true and seem to be paying up with my newfound speed.
Hip extensions in my messy dining room

Stretching
Stretching is something I do after every exercise session, be it track, spinning, or run commute.  I start with downward dog, move into pigeon pose, then child's pose.  Then I foam roll my calves.  Hamstring stretch next, then butterfly.  I will also roll my feet over a spikey ball to loosen my fascia.  All of these stretches should help reduce the risk of a repeat Achilles issue and/or periformis pain.

The thing I haven't been doing, and 100% should be, are eccentric heel raises.  These are so important to stretch and strengthen my Achilles.  This weekend at Love Trails Festival, I will probably be kicking myself for not doing them these past eight weeks. I find the uneven terrain while trail running really set off the discomfort.

And now the bit you have been waiting for......

How to cope with the heat

1.  Get up early or go to bed late.  Yes, I know this isn't ideal but if your work is flexible it is a good way to get the miles in without too much disruption.  Don't forget to embrace napping when following this tip or break up your runs into smaller distances for a morning and an evening run.

2.  Cross train.  I ended up doing abdominal work when I couldn't finish my progressive run last weekend.  You could also try swimming or using cardio equipment at the air-conditioned gym (elliptical, indoor bike, treadmill) to continue to build endurance.  Pay As You Gym offers reasonable drop-in rates or monthly memberships if you just need to get by until the autumn weather kicks in.

3.  Slow it down.  Marathon training is really about time on your feet.  Slow down your training runs and don't worry too much about your pace.  If you are sticking to your training plan the best you can, you shouldn't get too far behind.  Don't forget that race day might be really hot too, in which case you will also have to let go of your dreams for a PB.  Try to stay on the shady side of the road for a noticeable temperature difference.

4.  Stay hydrated.  When you are not out on a training run, don't forget to keep drinking water.  You can also start adding a wee bit more salt to your foods to keep your electrolytes in balance.  Or continue to drink nuun or Lucazade to replace the lost salts.  Remember your urine should be nearly clear when you are properly hydrated.

5.  Dress for the weather.  Choose technical fabrics that are breathable and moisture-wicking.  Cotton is not always the best to wear in the heat.  I found myself removing my top to reveal my sports bra on a few runs this month. It isn't something I normally do but I was really struggling in the heat.  Wearing a light baseball hat or visor will also keep some of the sun off of your face.

What I am doing differently from your marathon training? Leave a comment below and let me know.

*If you would like to work with the team at Function 360, I highly recommend them.  Their staff's skill set is diverse so you just need to go to one clinic to receive many services (corrective exercise, massage, dry needling, physiotherapy, etc).  Use code #F360MM15 for a 15% discount and let me know how you get on.

Night of two PBs
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I know what you are thinking.  #woolinsummer? Am I crazy?  I assure you, I am not.  In previous blog posts, I have waxed lyrical about the benefits of merino wool.  I wear merino socks all year round and merino base layers in the winter.  When we went to New Zealand a few years ago, we visited the Ice Breaker outlet four times and stocked up on cycling gear, socks, running tops, and base layers. 


Icebreaker recently contacted me about their Cool-lite(TM) range. It helps make their clothes more comfortable and breathable in hot and humid temps (exactly what we have been experiencing in London).  Aside from the other benefits of merino (no smell build up and moisture wicking), Cool-lite(TM) also is made from sustainably-sourced eucalyptus.  Nearly 100% of the solvent used to make up one of the components of Cool-lite(TM) is recycled too.  Sounds good to me!


This long heatwave has given me ample opportunity to put Cool-lite(TM) to the test.  I wore the Cool-Lite(TM) Sphere Short Sleeve Low Crewe Cook Reflected shirt (130g for those that know their base layers) a few days when we had some time scheduled outdoors with dog walks and meeting friends in the park.  The short sleeves, rather than a vest, were nice as it prevented my shoulders from burning.  My husband didn't report any smell issues by the third day of wear. Although I was warm in the direct sunlight, it wasn't unbearably hot in my t-shirt.  The sizing of the shirt seems a little big. I usually wear a medium in shirts (large if it is a womens cut).  The shirt I am wearing is a medium and felt a bit roomy.  On the other hand, maybe all of my calorie counting is paying off!  If you decide to order one, you might want to double check the sizing guide first.

Based on this trial run, my Icebreaker shirt is already packing in my duffle bag for Love Trails Festival this weekend.  It will be perfect for wearing around camp in between runs.  It will dry fast on my clothes line and shouldn't smell too bad by the time I get back to London.  I am also bringing:
  • Camping clothes lines to dry out wet gear
  • Swim suit for run/swim
  • Sunscreen
  • Bagels and peanut butter for easy portable snack
  • Luchodillitos for energy on a run
  • Headlamp to pitch tent in the dark
  • Mermaid bunting to hang on the outside of my tent to make it easier to find
  • Kindle for reading and writing
  • Spiky ball for massaging
  • Sunglasses
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Quick drying towel for swimming and 3 min showers
  • Flip flops for camp
  • Antihistamines and nasal spray
  • Solar charger power pack
  • Cash and card for food and drink vendors (fingers crossed they stock Diet Coke)



I have never been to Love Trails (or any kind of festival, really) and would appreciate any and all advice you have about what to pack and what to leave at home.  I am hoping my packing list for a 24 hour relay race will be a good starting point.  The tricky thing will be carrying everything on the Tube to get on the coach to the festival site in Wales.  Hopefully my 90L duffel bag from Kilimanjaro can hold everything, including my tent and sleeping bag.  We shall soon see.

Thanks to Icebreaker for gifting me this shirt for review.  All opinions are honest and my own.
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First outdoor campout in the UK was with Adventure Queens along North Downs Way

I am fairly certain my body struggles to regulate its temperature.  When I get cold, I tend to stay that way.  Sleeping as a child, I would have 10-15 blankets on my bed.  To this day, I always sleep with socks on and religiously wear merino wool during the winter.  On the flip side, such as this Wednesday, London was so hot I couldn't cool down on my midday run.  I was so desperate to cool off I took my shirt off and ran in my sports bra.




Staying warm was one of my big concerns for Kilimanjaro.  We climbed on the cusp of the rainy season which meant the weather would be unpredictable and probably wet.  I religiously use an electric blanket in the winter back home and wasn't confident a hot water bottle would be sufficient on the mountain.  Luckily, the good people at Polartec sent me the Norrona Lofoten Alpha Raw zip made with Polartec Alpha to test out.  The hoodie is bright orange, which is very handy when I need to find in a dark tent.  It also makes me easy to spot at a busy campsite.  It has a insulating hood, integrated hand gaiters, and warming pockets.  It is also very light and packs down small in a vacuum bag when travelling.

How I slept during my Kilimanjaro trek

With my luggage weight on Kili limited to 15 kg, I wanted to test out the hoodie before my trip.  In January, I joined the Adventure Queens for an overnight wild campout along the North Downs Way.  I chose to bring my two person tent rather than sleep outside under the stars.  It was due to rain a bit that weekend and being mid-winter, the temperatures were already low.  I packed the hoodie in my rucksack and put it on once the sun started to set.  The cold damp was starting to creep into my bones as we sat around the campfire telling stories and roasting marshmallows.  I ended up sleeping in the hoodie and stayed fairly warm overnight.  As I emerged from my tent the next morning, I found the air to be crisp so kept all of my upper layers but swapped my thermal tights for jeans.

Post-breakfast hike with new friends
After breakfast, we broke into groups and too a very low-key hike through the local woods.  There were a few hills which took some effort due to mud and warmed me right up.  I had to tie the hoody around my waist to prevent overheating in my two other layers.

Along the way to the top of Kilimanjaro with the hoodie under my rain jacket

The Lofoten Alpha Raw zip passed the test for me after this campout and made it onto my packing list for Kilimanjaro.  I used the same approach on Kili as I did on the January camp out, sleeping in the hoody every night but also used it as one of my eight layers on summit night. The guides recommended seven layers but I get cold so I added an extra.  It turned out that seven would have been the correct number!  We summited at 8:30am and were so hot by the time we got to the top.  I stripped most of my layers off at that point and carried them down in my rucksack.  If I had a choice, I would always choose to be a little bit warm over a little bit cold so I didn't mind carrying the extra weight.

At the top with eight layers on top and four on the bottom

The Polartec Alpha fabric was originally designed for U.S Special Forces to be used in both dynamic and static situations.  It is extremely breathable, lightweight, and dries fast.  This means you don't need to stop mid-activity and add or remove layers.  It washes well and the hoodie didn't leave fuzz everywhere even though the texture is fluffy.


Polartec Alpha is a fabric I will be sure to lookout for in the future when I am investing in new pieces for future outdoor adventures.  Being lightweight, packable and versatile for layering makes it a good staple to keep in your rucksack.

How do you keep warm on your outdoor adventures?  Leave a comment below and let me know.

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One of the things I love about London is how people pour their heart and soul into their community.  Whether their passion is cycling, singing, the environment, their local neighborhood, rescued animals, or bee keeping, you can find your tribe somewhere within the M25.  Experts come together to teach the novice.  The group may host an open day event in the hopes to spark.the interests of others.  These hobbies offer a commonality that might not be found at work or at home.  A release.  A kinship.

I was lucky when I moved to London from the USA to find a Glee-esque show choir with Starling Arts.  Much like my drama club friends from high school, I knew I could burst into song at any time with my choir mates without any strange looks.  Starlings tend to love theatre, sing-a-long cinema showings, and Pitch Perfect.  Coming from all walks of life, we had a love of singing (not as much with dancing)  that we bonded over every Tuesday night in Pimlico.

Starling Arts' FORTE at our summer fete

Unfortunately, when I moved out to North London to be closer to work, I would get home very late on a work night after choir.  When we moved to East London, my commute was super long and the dog needed to be let out.  I am still sad that I don't go to choir anymore (because of #tracktuesday).  Many of my choir mates are still rehearsing with Starling Arts and I keep tabs on them via Facebook.  I am proud to see the founders, Anna and Emily, have built a successful company and made Starling Arts their full-time gigs.

Whole Foods/Boutique Sport run club from Piccadilly Circus

My other passion, aside from theatre, is- you guessed it- sport.  When I started my blog in 2012, I didn't think I would ever be able to run a marathon.  Over the years, my love for running has slowly developed due to the people I have met through the sport.   Now I hate missing #tracktuesday with Advent Running and most of my holidays have a race on the itinerary.  I have also become a Leader in Running Fitness with England Athletics, followed by Coach In Running Fitness, due to this inspiring and supportive community.  Both of these certifications mean I am qualified to lead run clubs, amongst other things.  I have been invited to many one-off run events for brand launches and attended ones put on by running stores.  This month, I am volunteering to be one of the run leaders at the Love Trails Festival.  Being a run leader is not as easy as it looks so here are my top five tips on how to be a fantastic run club leader.

1.  Stay with the last runner.  No one wants to be the last person to cross the finish line.  Slower runners (and remember each person percieves 'slow' differently) might be nervous when attending run clubs that they will be judged for their pace and get left behind.  Even worse, they might be worried they will get lost if they fall too far behind the group.  A good run club leader will realize the workout is for other people and not worry about the pace.  Staying with the last runner gives them confidence and makes sure that no one is lost along the way.

2.  Review the safety rules before you head out and follow them.   When I lead a run clun, my rules are to always stay on pavement; be aware of pedestrians, cyclists and cars in the road, especially at junctions;  follow the green man rather than blindly crossing the road because someone else did.  I make sure I do the same to follow a good example. I have also beenknown to use my "mom arm" once in a while to keep people from running out into the road.


Whole Foods/Boutique Sport run club from Kensington

3.  Encourage everyone to cheer each other on. This is probable the American in me, but I always encourage runners in the group (good job, well done, keep going!) and ask others to do the same.  I can't be everywhere at once and it is also a good way to break the ice.  My runs end in mandatory high fives too, which are typically followed by a smile.

4.  If you don't have many leaders, try to keep the group together with fartleks or exercises at stop lights.  It is difficult to predict how many runners will turn up at a run club.  At a miniumum, I prefer two leaders, one for the front and one for the back (see tip #1).  The person in front can confidently lead the way (which can be challenging in London where the streets tend to wind) while the other leader makes sure no one is left behind.  However, if there is only one of you, ask the faster runners to either stop at specific junctions to meet up or have them run back to you as fast as they can when they can't see you any more to regroup.  If you want them to stop at a light, they can do squats, burpees or star jumps (jumping jacks) until you catch up.

5.  Introduce yourself every week. Ask new people if they have any injuries you need to know about.  This is important, espcially if you are not wearing a uniform to distinguish yourself from the other runners.  You can ask who is new, but some people might be too self-consicous to raise their hand.  A good practice is to ask everyone who has injuries and then offer to speak to them privately about it.  Learning names is hard for me, but if I can learn a few a week, I know people will appreiciate it.

If you have things your love or hate about run club leaders, leave a comment below and let me know.  It would be interesting to hear what you think is important.

Track Tuesday Group 4, that I often pace with Advent Running
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Run To The Deep was a last minute sign up.  There had been an email to the run club at work but I totally forgot about it.  The reminder email (with a photo of the octopus medal) was just the nudge I needed to register.  Put on by the British Science Association, who smartly hired The Race Organizer to execute the race, it was a lovely Friday evening run around Hyde Park.  The weather was perfect for running- just a bit cool with a slight breeze.  About 200 people came out, although the race could have allowed 500 runners to take part.

Race pack

Race entry and fees:  Registration was £25 through Eventbrite.  You could also register on the day.  Rather than mailing out the race packets, we had on hour before the race started where we coud collect our bibs at the start line.  I got there 30 minutes early so had time to say hi to some friends (a pleasant surpise to see them!) and warm up.

Limbering up

Course and bogs: The course was a 5 km loop through Hyde Park that you had to do twice.  It was really well marshalled with a person in high-vis at every turn cheering us on, as well as large bright signs.  There weren't any mile markers so I was glad I had my Fitbit on to help me keep track of  my distance.  The paths were open to the public but it wasn't too crowded. 

Park toilets, which normally cost 20p but for some reason were free that night, were right across from the start line and there was never a queue.  The water station was at the start line, rather than out mid-course, and sufficient in size for the weather, number of people and course length. 

If you have been living under a rock, you may not have heard about how much plastic rubbish ends up in the ocean.  The Run To The Deep organizers made a few simple decisons to help reduce the amount of plastic produced by the race.  The water cups were biodegradable and compostable.  The water itself was brought in in large carboys rather than small water bottles you would get at a store.

Group warm up

Location: 
As I have mentioned, the race was in Hyde Park, London, after work on a Friday evening.  It was really easy to get to.  I actually took a bus over from Oxford Circus. I don't make it over there too often so it was nice to see a different part of London.  The park is the largest of the four Royal Parks, so it was fairly peaceful in terms of traffic noise and not very crowded with people.  I imagine if it was a wee bit warmer, the park would have been more crowded.  The course took us by the Serpentine too.

I had to stop and take a picture.  You don't see this on city runs very often.

Atmosphere:   With only 200 runners in a very large park, there wasn't much atmosphere in terms of cheering or running alongside other people.  One of the cool aspects of the race was the Run To The Deep app that used GPS to narrate your trip to the bottom of the ocean.  It was really strange to run a race that encouraged you to wear headphones, especially where there were so many scientists together in a semi-social setting (well, I went because I am a scientist but I am sure some people were not).  I opted to enjoy running in the park rather than listening to the app.  My friends who used the app said it was pretty cool so I need to download it asap and give it a try.

Race bling and goody bags: The race medal design was what convinced me to do the race.  There is an octopus on it and I am a marine biologist by training.  Therefore, it was a no-brainer.  Another eco-friednly choise was using a ribbon that was 100% cotton so it didn't contain any plastic.  Hurray!

The paper goody bags contained the medal, a banana (no wrapper!) and a collapsible stainless steel cup on a key chain (#genius).  That is going in my camping gear as I always carry a resusable water bottle with me anyways.

Goody bag and back of medal

Tips if you want to take part next time:  If you had been listening to the app, you would know how far you have gone along the route.  If you run without the app, I would suggest having a running app or watch to let you know the distance covered.  As I mentioned above, I was keeping tabs of my mile splits with my Fitbit so this wasn't an issue for me.  Make sure you bring a few 20p coins in case you have to use the loo.

Unfortunatelt, I am not sure they will have another Run To The Deep race next year, but I heard they did a solar system run last summer and want to do a series of four races altogether.  I highly recommend it if they do. #nerdsunite

Me and my bling
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I have been lucky enough to visit seven countries in the last six months.  Holidays are a great time to explore an alternative side to the local culture and see how they stay active and healthy.  In Thailand, the sun was shining every day, which instantly made me feel a bit more cheery.  Although it was way too hot and humid to run, I was able to use a few hotel fitness rooms to complete my corrective exercise homework from Function360.  But I really wanted to spend time doing activities that I couldn't do at home (when in Rome and all that!) so I booked in for several unique Thai experiences.

Feeling tough and super sweaty

Muay Thai
The first was Muay Thai boxing, of course.  Via Trip Advisor and Google, I found Master Toddy's Muay Thai Academy which is Bangkok.  The location didn't seem too far from our hotel but the public transport and traffic in Bangkok is a bit nuts so I took a taxi there and back.  When I arrived, I was greeted by a gym member who was originally from America.  He asked me what my experience in Muay Thai was and if I spoke Thai.  I replied I have none with either.  My instructor's name was Korn, and my new friend told me Korn didn't speak much English.  I expected this and wasn't too worried. As long as I could copy the movements he made, I thought I would be able to learn the technique.  After changing into my workout clothes, I grabbed my water bottle and headed into the ring with Korn.

Perfecting those pesky front kicks

We started off with a warm up and stretching.  Korn could count to 10 in English which was really handy.  The lesson was private, which meant I always had a clear view of him and he was watching what I was doing.   After the warm up, we went through basic punching and kicking positions in slow motion and without pads.  Finally, he go out the long pieces of cloth, wrapped my hands and chose my gloves.  I was ready to fight.

Playing in the background was a recording of about 20 three minute rounds.  My guess is that there was about 60 seconds rest between bouts.  We started off by working on the basic punches and getting power into the pads Korn was holding.  Then we worked on the kicks and sorting out what my natural range of motion was. Once he was happy with the my technique, he designed various kicking and  punching combinations for me to complete during the bouts.  The gym was a large fenced in garage so the temperature and humidity was the same in the ring as it was outside.  I had brought 2L of water with me and made sure to take sips when I could.  Korn had to help a bit because the boxing gloves limited my ability to open and handle the bottle.

Korn and I in the ring

Front kicks were probably my worst skill as I just couldn't get any power behind them.  I was pretty good at a side kick though and my hook is killer.  The session was two hours long which was probably better suited for a couple or group.  Towards the end, Korn took me out of the ring and had me practice on punching bags in the workout area.  The humidity made them a little slick but I was able to work repeatedly on one move at a time.  I think I would have preferred to start with the bags and then build my way up to the rings. Although I have a certificate saying I now know the fundamental basics of Muay Thai, I didn't feel very confident after my lesson.   I am really glad I had my first lesson where Muay Thai originated though.  If you are interested in taking lessons, Master Toddy offers accomidation for those registere in his intensive training program.

Selfie while wearing my Subea mask

Snorkeling
I am lucky enough to be able to called myself a marine biologist (yes I have seen the Sinfield episode). I spent as much time as I could in the water while in Thailand.  True, there are many places off over the world where you can snorkel, but rarely do we visit those places.  James and I did a full day snorkeling trip from Kkao Lak, and then I did a separate excursion to Coral Island on my own.  We snorkeled a few times at the Khao Lak hotel, and the bride and groom arranged a day-long boat trip with the wedding guests too.  My bum totally got sunburned and my hair was salty but my heart was oh-so-happy.   Using the Decathlon Subea face mask, it so easy to see everything around us and not have to worry about clearing the snorkel.  Our masks didn't fog up and were easy to fit without any leaks (James and I had different sizes).

These fish were everywhere and would swim right over to you.

My G-Eye 900 action camera accompanied me on every dive.  I took both photos and videos to help me remember what we saw.  There is so much video to go through! I am not very good with Latin names but could pick out general groups of fish (such as trigger, damsel, parrot, etc).  Sadly, the guides on our trips didn't know what any of the fish were so I couldn't ask them too many questions.  I was thrilled to see a puffer fish and some small cuttlefish.  Sadly, we didn't see any turtles in the wild but did visit a rescue and rehabilitation facility near Khao Lak.  If I go back, I will try to go when the sea turtle nest on the beach.  How cool would that be?

If you go to Thailand, bring your bathing suit, cover up, water shoes and lots of sunscreen.  Being on the water totally calms me.  You don't have to get in but something about being on a boat is so relaxing.  The fish come right over to you so you will see lots of different critters while you are in the shallow water.  Try not to step on the rocks and coral because you could injury yourself and the coral is very delicate.  I wore my Keen sandals the entire time, which were a bit heavy but really helpful when I got caught in a current and needed to swim to shore for a rest.

Parrotfish in the center.

Thai Massage
My brother-in-law's wife (now my sister-in-law?) invited me to a spa day with the bridal party.  I booked myself in for a Thai massage and honestly had no idea what to expect. Every massage I have ever had, you undress, lay flat on a table and are rubbbed with oil or lotion.  But for a Thai massage, you put on these pajama-like scrubs and have your feet washed before you start.  You then lay on a table and the fun begins.

All treatments start with a foot bath, even the manicures!

Thai massage combines pressing on the body (rather than rubbing) with yoga-like body positions. My massage did have some traditional massage movements, but also a lot of stretching, pulling and body movement. I tried to stay as relaxed as possible as the women bent me in all sorts of directions. I even had to sit up at the end while she stood behind me to crack my back somehow.

I was more bemused than anything by the end but also felt a little lighter and taller.  There were massage parlors everywhere in Thailand so if you want one, it isn't hard to find.  I even got a foot massage in the international terminal in the Bangkok airport before we left for home.  It was really peaceful and relaxing, which helped me sleep on the overnight flight back to London.

Bride-to-be and I had our treatments in the same room.  That was another first for me.

If you have been to Thailand, what other activities would you recomend?  Leave a comment below and let me know.


All the photos in this post were taken with my G-Eye 900.  Some were actual photos and the others are screenshots of videos.  Anyone have tips on how to make videos into photos?  I would greatly appreciate some advice.

Decathlon graciously gave me the Subea masks and G-Eye 900 to review.  All opinions are honest and my own.
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A few weeks ago, I was invited to a product launch by the Spanish brand, Bkool.  They manufacture three different types of turbo trainers for indoor cycle training and provide an online platform where you can select virtual rides to follow.  This year, they are focusing on folks who, for whatever reason, need to workout at home by adding an indoor cycling SMART bike to their product line. And it is awesome.

Let's talk about their online simulator first.  Here are some fun facts about Bkool and their platform.


  • As they train, riders can view a virtual race course, a specific route, or velodrome track session.
  • Some routes have a video if a member has submitted one to share.
  • There are over 60,000 users on the platform.
  • Bkool holds almost 40% of marketshare.
  • More than 3.5 million real routes are available so far and it is growing every day
If you have a Bkool product, it can monitor your activities through your profile to look for improved performance over time.

Now, let's discuss their new indoor cycling fitness bike.  Pretty, isn't it?


  • The bike links through an app on your phone to automatically adjust resistance based on your functional threhold power (FTP) test and what the class requires.
  • You can use your phone to the control ride and your laptop or tablet to better view the route.
  • The bike weighs only 45 kg, meaning it is easy to move around your home.
  • ANT+ and Bluetooth connections available
  • Provides magnetic resistance for a smooth, quiet ride.
  • Easy to assemble (or pay a bit more for home assembly)
  • Affordable price point

So far, the platform offers over 100 pre-recorded fitness classes.  During their time in London, Bkool were also looking for new instructors to record new fitness classes in English.  I am excited to announce that I was one of the successful applicants!  Next weekend, I am traveling to Bilao, Spain for a weekend of training and to visit the filming studio.  In July, I will head back to record eight to ten classes, each 30-45 minutes long.  I have about 30 classes ready to go but need to still upload them into the teleprompting software.  Me and technology sometimes don't get along, which is why I am relieved that we will cover this during our training. In addition, half of my music is with Apple and the other half is somewhere on my laptop.  This fantastic opportunity is a good motivator to sit down and organize everything into one place.


I am also looking forward to discovering new music that will suit the different types of workouts.  The right song can change a participant's outlook on the class.  When I went through my initial training nearly a decade ago (yikes!), the course leader warned against themed-rides.  She explained that if a person hates 80s music, they will mentally check out from the first note.  I can confirm this as my Monday night class hates my 80s mix.  I can see it on their faces.  Now, my rides have a variety genres to bring everyone together.  That is what I love about indoor cycling- choosing motivational music that makes exercise fun rather than a chore.  One of my personal mantras is 'If it's not fun, why do it?' When coaching new clients, and here on my blog, I aim to share new fitness concepts to help people discover something they love and want to do over and over again.  I am a firm believer that being active should be fun.

What songs makes you want to jump up and dance? Run faster? Go for a swim? Leave a comment below so I can check it out. I will let you know when my first class is available to view.
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Today, I am starting the third week of marathon training for Marathon du Medoc.  This race is a bit low pressure as we will be sampling the wine of the region along the 26.2 mile route.  But I want to work towards a marathon PB, so I need to committ to the process.  I will be practicing drinking wine from Bordeaux at my local wine bar too, don't worry!

One of the most popular things runners talk about is what to eat when running.  As spring marathon season is out in full force, I thought I wouls share a few things that I have tried.  Leave a comment below if you have any other suggestions.

When Powerbar first came out back in the day, I remember my dad getting them for windsurfing.  They didn't taste that great back then and were really hard to chew. The first time I tried Gatorade at school, I got an upset stomach during a football (soccer) game.  Over the years, my race distances started to increase and I was a little weary about all the latest and greatest stuff I would need to try for a full marathon.  Following a training plan, I usually have three to four months to figure out a fuelling strategy.  It depends on what I anticipate the weather to be like during training and on the day of the race.  I also take into account what drinks and food (if any) will be available on the course.  My stomach is vey sensitive, so I am always looking for something easy to digest.


Energy Bits were the first thing I tried. I was completing my 2nd attempt at Whole30 and searching for a product that met the rules. These 'bits' are 100% spirulina algae and are vegan, paleo, caffeine-free, soy-free and gluten-free.  Spirulina is the richest source of protein in the world at 64%, and rich in vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes too. You swallow 30 before or during physical activity, and away you go!   I definitely notice my energy feels a bit off when I don’t take them before my longer runs.  As they only contain the algae, my stomach doesn’t have any problem digesting them on short or long runs.  I will take them before a fasted run to make sure I don't bonk. 


Over the last 3 years, I have stuck with nuun and Lucozade Sport Lite for electrolyte replacement.  Nuun is so simple to transport because you just need water and a tablet.  There are many different flavours and some even provide caffeine.  Unforuntaltely, nuun isn't easily available in the UK anymore which is a bummer.  Gatorade doesn’t bother my stomach any more but also isn’t available in the UK as it is an American product.  Luckily, we are able to get Lucozade from our home delivery grocery service.  I dilute the Lucozade Lite drink because it is a bit syrupy for me.









For a gel, I was looking for something that wasn't too sugary or heavy. My Protein had an amazing Blackcurrent gel that was mostly water so it was more like drinking juice rather than goo (note it is still sticky if it gets on your hands).  It also was available with caffeine as an ingrediant, which has been shown to improve athletic performance (new post with more info coming soon!) and added electrolytes to keep you hydrated.  My Protein stopped making my gel but have a similar Blackcurrent option that tastes a little different.  I need to try it a few more times on runs over 60 minutes to see if I can cope.


Gummy snacks, such as Haribos vs Clif Shot Bloks. Who can say which is better? I compared the nutritional values and the difference was negliable. Cliff Shot Bloks do have caffeine which is an added bonus and they are much easier to chew as you are breathing hard and your nose is stuffed up. However, they are also many times the price and a bit harder to find than Haribos when prepping last minute for a race. Both provide a shot of energy (sugar!) to your body quick, which is what you are really after.  Tailwind Nutrition is another easy way to get carbs quick.  It is a powder you add to your water, providing you with electrolytes and energy.  My friends use it for 100 mile races and don't eat any solid food during those events.  They just use Tailwind.  I have used it too and haven't had any tummy issues.


Real food is something I don't have much room for in my bum bag or hydration pack. I prefer flapjacks, fig rolls, or nuts with raisins as these are all salty and available in most small shops (always carry cash for fueling emergencies). If bananas didn't get schmooshed so easily, I would probably carry those too.  A few of my friends either make their own baby food or use Ella's Kitchen pouches, Try out a few different types of food on your long runs and see what your body tolerates.

Carbohydrate loading is probably the best part of marathon training.  Using Benjamin Rapoport’s endurance formula, I calculated that I needed 550g of carbs each day in the lead up to race day.  Unfortunately, the calculator is no longer available online, but you can read the paper it was based on here.  In the end I aimed for 500g/day for 7 days instead of 5.  I ate a lot of pizza, porridge, and potatoes. Although carb-loading sounds like it will be fun, 500g of filling food is really hard to do on a daily basis. I was also avoiding fibrous foods (like salad) to decrease my chances of runner's tummy on race day which seemed weird because usually I go for a colourful plate at each meal.


How did I fuel during my first marathon?

• Carried 400ml water plus High 5 single tablets (husband used all the nuun!). Used 1/2 tablet and took 2 electrolyte cups at fuelling stations along the way.
• Took water at every station and refilled 1 of my bottles at every station from miles 10 on
• My Protein gels at miles 5,10,15, 20, 25
• 3 Shot Blocks at miles 7, 13, 18, 23

Amazingly, I never hit a wall. The only thing that failed me where my hips as they were filled with pain miles 20+. Eight marathons later, I now know how important strength training is, which is why I am working with Function360 to prepare my legs and hips for my next big race.  You can get your bum in shape too with 15% off their services with code #F360MM15.

If you have any fueling tips, I would love to hear them.  Leave a comment below.
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Let me let you in on a little secret.  I turn 40 next year.  I don't feel anywhere near this old, but I can't help to wonder if this milestone is influencing my need for extreme challenges lately.  It started with climbing Kilimanjaro, then skydiving, I signed up for a Ragnar Relay race in September, and who knows what else.  Long ago, I declared my 40th birthday party would be in Las Vegas but now I am thinkin Ibiza would be a bit closer.  Plus I have never been there.

Why am I starting to signup to things that scare me a little bit? Have I matured enough not to be afraid anymore?  Am I bold and brave, like my new vest top from Boudavida says?  What else do I want to accomplish in my life?



I thought now would be a good time to put together a list.  Not necessarily a bucket list but some things that I would like to do.  Once it is on paper, that is the first step of making it happen.  I put my wish out into the universe and hopefully it can begin to manifest.

There are two things that are definitely within my reach.  One is learning (sooner rather than later) to cycle in my cleats.  This keeps coming up again and again with me.  I don't feel like a proper cyclist, no matter how many places I have ridden to (Edinburgh, Paris, various 100 mile sportives).  I had some accidents while learning that shook me up though, and I don't know of I will ever excel at staying focused enough to clip and out when I should.  My mind tends to wander when I am on my bike.

Mountain biking is the other, and also seems pretty scary. I did one trail ride in the Adirondack Mountains once with my ex and all I kept thinking about was whether or not I would end up flying over the handle bars and hitting my sternum with a bike handle.  Gravel, rocks, trees, and sand are all dangerous obstacles to me when road cycling but make it fun for some when  mountain biking.  My husband has decided he wants to get into mountain biking, so now would be a good time for me to learn too.  Halfords recently released a beginner's guide to mountain biking which includes terminology, basic skills, and my favourite section, trail etiquette.  It also covers how to choose a bike, what gear you need, and suggests some trails in the UK to try.


I have found this post really helpful and now want to book in for a proper mountain biking lesson at the Velopark to develop my skills and gain confidence (Sunday mornings at 9am if you would like to join me).  These lessons could transfer across to my road cycling too and allow my to spend more time with my husband outdoors if we end up investing in mountain bikes (and another shed to store them in).  My Achilles don't like running on trails so much any more so I would love to find an activity to substitute it with.  Mountain biking just may be it.


What else do I want to do?  Some I have talked about before but as I was writing this post, a few more came to mind.
  • See Northern Lights
  • Cycle across Cuba
  • Go to Antarctica
  • Visit Galapagos Islands
  • Run Tokyo (2020) and Boston (2021) marathons
  • Run a race in very us state (5 down!?)
  • Ski in Japan (hopefully in 2020 after Tokyo Marathon)
  • Cycle London to Amsterdam
  • Hike in South America
  • Take my husband to Alaska
  • Apply for Space for Humanity (maybe)
  • Half Marathon du Sables  (this is also a maybe)
  • Attend a fitness retreat
  • Proper sky dive
  • Write my two e-books (weekend challenges and tips for Kili)



Don't forget that some of the above require hard work and discipline. You can't always sit back and wait for things to happen. You need to work toward your goals, whatever they might be.  I am sure there are many sports, tours, races, countries, etc I don't even know about that would appeal to me.  The key is to be open to new experiences when they come along. Being brave.  I have also found asking for opportunities can lead amazing memories, like Fitbit FiftyBeing bold.

This post was sponsored by Halfords.
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Often times when I dream, I am able to fly or bounce really high.  I am taking this as a sign that flying should be my superhero power.  Teleporting would be a close second but I only think this when I am wide awake.  Other choices could be invincible, massive strength, running really fast, but for me flying would it.  I have never really considered sky diving as an activity because it is just too scary for me.  Jumping out of a plane, depending on parachutes, just seemed a bit risky, even if your first jump is tandem.

As you read last week, I recently made a trip out to Milton Keynes to ski at Snozone, an indoor snowsports facility.  While I was looking at a map how to get there, I noticed that next door was iFly, an indoor skydiving facility.  iFly is a worldwide company with three locations in the UK, who also operate wind tunnels all over the world.



What is indoor skydiving?
Indoor sky diving using a vertical wind tunnel to create the forces needed for you to be elevated off of the 'ground'.  The bottom of the tunnel wire mesh so the wind can travel through it yet provide a place to stand on.  It simulates what it would feel like should you be fall through the sky, but gives you peace of mind because you are never more than 2 stories up in the air.  The Milton Keynes tunnel is a wee bit smaller, but the other UK locations have the following stats:
  • Max air speed of 180 mph
  • Average flying height of 6 feet
  • Maximum flying height of 39 feet
  • Flight chamber diameter of 14 feet
My experience 
I booked in last minute as there was a cancellation. Of course, I was super excited. The facility often books up ahead of time so you need to do a bit of planning if you want to go.  iFly ask that you arrive an hour before your flight time to go through the safety process.  First, you need to read and sign a declaration saying you release iFly of liability and that you have never has a shoulder dislocation or injury. After I did this, I then checked in at the reception desk, where I was again asked if I had a previous shoulder injury or dislocation.  Thirty minutes before flight time, our instructor, Emma, gathered our small group of six flyers and took us into a separate room to watch a safety and instructional video.  The video showed us the three important hand signals we would be using in the wind tunnel (chin up, straighten your legs, and relax)) and stated that if you have had a shoulder injury or dis locational,you need to tell the instructor. (See the theme here?). Emma came back in and went through the hand signals again and asked if we had any questions. Half the group were young boys with their moms there to watch.  Then it was me and two men about my age.


Emma explained there would be an opportunity for two additional flight options while we are in the wind tunnel for additional cost. The first is spinning up to nearly the top of the tunnel with the instructor holding on to you.   This would be in your second fly if you successfully demonstrate control and listening skills in your first fly.  On a Saturday afternoon, this was £6.  The other option was an additional flight (one minute) in the tunnel for £12.  This is only available if there is time left at the end of the session and a pretty steep discount if instead you were to come.back for another visit.

After the video, we got suited up with goggles, helmet, and ear plugs.  We also got a jumpsuit.  Everything had to be locked up- rings, watches, earrings, so nothing could potentially fall off in the wind tunnel.  You are required to wear shoes that tie, like a trainer (sneaker).  I had my hiking boots on because of sledging next door which they said would be fine.  Guess they are worries that shoes might fall off during your experience.


Once we were suited and booted, we climbed a flight of stairs to the viewing platform.  There was a few benches and chairs for people who are with friends and family but not flying.  We saw the end of the session before us.  Before the group left, the instuctor had two minutes to literally fly all over the tunnel -spiralling down head first, swooping up at the last minute, hovering over the ground.  It looked like CGI- the moves he made and the quick changes.  It was amazing!

Finally, it was our turn.  As a beginner, you get 2 one minute flights.  The young boys went first and showed zero fear. At times, they struggled to understand that when Emma corrected one arm position, that meant they should do the same on the other side.  As they were small and light, Emma was able to easily move them around so mom could get a good photo and they could try staying afloat near to her.

Then it was my go.  I was able to float up well above Emma on my own.  I tried to listen as best I could to her feedback and smile for the official camera at the same time.  I did wish I had someone there to take photos of videos of me from the viewing platform but i knew i coukd buy the photos and videos that ifly take.  Each minute does seems like a long time, especially when your body is bent in a way it isn't used to and you are trying to stay relaxed as you go higher and higher.  I felt like Charlie after he drank the Fizzy Lifting Drink at the Wonka Chocolate Factory.



Of course, I opted to go the top for the bonus spin. It was really fast, which kinda made me dizzy.  We went up and down twice and I even drooled (hopefully just due to the force and not my old age).

The young boys each got an extra fly after mom's approved from across the viewing platform.  We were treated to Emma's flying performance at the end which was spectacular.  It really inspired me to develop this as an actual skill.  We were told before leaving the tunnel waiting area that we could purchase additional flight packages at a discount that day as a "returning flyer". I got a really good deal for my next visit which gives me six minutes of flight time.  It was emailed to me and expires in three months. I need to book in soon so I don't miss out!

We walked back down to the ground floor where we turned in our goggles, helmets and jumpsuits.  Emma quickly processed our personalalized certification.  You get rated on the essential manoeuvres to document how well you did in case you return.  Emma told me I was a natural when I started asking her about the physics of the flying- how to turn your hands to start spinning or using leg position to go up and down.  I observed her coaching the guy who was a returner, trying to figure some of these things out (the wind is way too loud to hear anything so  you mostly rely on hand signals and exaggerated movements).  I don't know if I am really a naturual or just able to follow instructions.  If I lived closer, I would consider making this a regular activity.  Milton Keynes is just a wee bit far from where I live in London though to train on a regular basis.



All of the iFly staff was super nice.  When booking in, I was on my phone on the train so I kept dropping in and out.  The team was incredibly patient.  Emma impressed me so much that I want to tell the manager.  The person at reception said to leave a review on Trip Advisor and mentioned her.  Of I did that, she would get a little treat at the end of the month.  So I did.

Be sure to tell the truth about previous injuries
The most important thing I would say is to disclose any shoulder injuries you have ever had to your instructor.  One of the guys in my group only told Emma about his shoulder dislocation at the age of 15 when we were turning in our equipment.  I am a health and safety nut, but I think the fact they ask 3-4 times would clue participants in that this is a big deal.

In short, I loved it so much I bought another jump.  If you are curious about skydiving and live in the UK, definitely check out iFly.  And ask for Emma.


Thank you to IFly for having me out to try their facility.  All opinions and stories of drooling are honest and my own.
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