enCORE by Sweaty Betty and Getting a Glow with Madeleine Shaw and Origins

I was a lucky girl last week. Not only did I snag a place on the first class of Sweaty Betty’s latest #GetFit4Free class enCORE, but I also managed to get a ticket to Origins’ book signing with wellness blogger Madeleine Shaw.

So, first up on Tuesday evening was the enCORE class, a ballet bootcamp class with a focus on – you got it – the core. This class was being taught by Jo Hopkins, one of my favourite local instructors and an SB Ambassador. I first met Jo when she taught the Fly, Flex, Flow class in January 2015, which is still my favourite #GetFit4Free class to date. She is one of those people who seems to be like Energiser Bunny hocked up on caffeine and sugar – pretty much a walking advert for the power of exercise induced endorphins. So I knew that if nothing else, this class was going to be a laugh.

At 39 minutes long (Jo was VERY precise!) the class is ideal if you don’t have bags of time (take a look at the video here). You  also don’t need loads of room so it’s perfect for trying out at home (or in a small store!). This workout is demanding on your core yes, but it also requires balance. Generally I consider my balance to be pretty good, but my coordination was severely lacking as I continued to go left as the rest of the class went right and then wondered why I was consistently on the wrong leg. I also found out that under pressure to attempt elegance I squeak like an irate mouse whose cheese has just been stolen, and I have hands like melted spatulas. Not pretty. Good to know those ballet classes when I was a kid weren’t wasted. Watch your back Darcy.

For me, it was when we got on to the mats that this class really came into its own. A glute bridge sequence had my legs seriously burning, and this alone would be enough to make me do this video regularly at home, as I’m always looking to find ways to strengthen my glutes. If I could I would go to all four of the classes at the SB store, but Tuesday night is my regular night with Ely Runners. However, if you fancy giving the class a go, bookings for next week will open at midnight tonight. As the name suggests it’s totally free. You’ll just need to set up an SB account if you don’t already have one and then book here. Oh, and top tip – it doesn’t hurt to give Jo a homemade cinnamon bun. The Energiser Bunny needs fuel you know.

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Photo courtesy of Sweaty Betty Cambridge

After my butt and quads had recovered from this class, I got up bright and early (for me anyway) on Saturday to head into Cambridge to the recently opened Origins store on Rose Crescent to meet Madeleine Shaw, get some healthy treats courtesy of Novi Cambridge and generally try lots of lovely products. I had actually changed my booking to the earlier time slot so that I could meet up with fellow Cambridge blogger Sophiekateblogs and I’m so glad I did – she’s an awesome bundle of enthusiastic energy with a gorgeous blog to boot. Go check her out (and watch her vlog of the event too).

Now I’ve been an Origins customer for some time, dipping into their serums and staying pretty loyal to the Vita Zing Energy Boosting Moisturiser, which is like a tinted moisturiser which gives every skin type a really lovely glow. So I was super pleased when I heard that they were opening a store in my favourite shopping area in the city (Rose Crescent and Trinity Street – SB is about a 5 second walk away). The store itself is stunning – really light and airy with a massive spa like sink in the middle to test their scrubs and masks and gorgeous views of the University buildings from the windows at the back of the store. It was a lovely place for a book signing with the company’s 2016 Glow Girl.

For those of you who don’t know much about Madeleine, she’s a a nutritional health coach, yoga instructor and bestselling cookery author, with a social media following of 55.5k followers on Twitter and 254k on Instagram. If I’m being honest, I didn’t know a huge amount about her before the event, other than that she has a really attractive Instagram profile. A look at her website tells me that she is currently studying Naturopathic Nutrition at CNM, but from what I could see the majority of her knowledge comes from her own personal experience of IBS and other health issues that forced her to take a look at her diet and to make lifestyle changes.

A lot of what Madeleine writes about is good old common sense and sensible eating (although despite what she says about beige food I’m still going to eat pizza and cake when I feel like it, but I may try this cake recipe of hers to mix things up a bit!). If nothing else she’s giving people attractive, healthy meal ideas without a plethora of insane ingredients (and if I’m honest I know I could do with adding some more vegetables into my diet). I also liked that she pressed home the point of how she chooses to have meat in her diet for the iron it gives her (18% of women between 16 and 64 years are iron deficient), and she also extolled the virtues of eggs. Like I said – sensible, but there will be people with more nutritional qualifications out there who don’t have the pull of a huge social media following who would also be worth listening to.It’s always a good idea to keep that in mind and to do your research if you’re looking to make changes to your diet.

In person, Madeleine was incredibly friendly and smiley, and seemed genuinely interested in everyone who had turned out, asking questions in return and getting stuck into the conversation. She’s a good fit for the Origins brand, and talked about her favourite products including the Super Spot Remover (which her boyfriend also uses) and the GinZing Eye Cream. Her skin did look really good, and I especially noticed how the staff member who I spoke with, Jiayan, had the most amazing skin I have ever seen on a real human being, something she fully credited to Origins products. She was also extremely knowledgeable on the product range, despite having only worked for the company for 3 weeks, so it showed me how passionate she was about the brand. She was able to answer all of my questions and give advice, and I left with a RitualiTea Comforting Cleansing Body Mask with Rooibos Tea and Rose, and the much talked about GinZing Peel Off Mask (because I’m a sucker for anything that you can peel off!) plus a couple of samples. I’ve already tried both of them and they’re as good as I hoped, although each will need a few more uses before I get the full benefits.

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I like the Goldfinger vibe

So two thumbs up for Cambridge, continuing to provide loads of fitness and beauty opportunities out there to keep me busy! I love my city.

Anxiety and Self-Sabotage -A Runner’s Curse

I am a good runner.

I am a good runner.

I am a good runner.

Seriously, if I say it enough do you think I might actually start to believe it? Because something has GOT to change. I am driving myself (and everyone around me) crazy each and every time I race because the nerves and self doubt flood my system and fill me to the absolute brim with IRRITATING SMALL PERSON JUICE. Honestly I cannot believe I haven’t been punched in the face yet. BY MYSELF.

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Let me set the scene. On Thursday evening I arrived at the site of the Saffron Striders’ hosted Kevin Henry League race. Pete, Rach and I probably arrived at about 6:40 with a race start time of 7:30, so there was a decent amount of time to kill. Cue 45 minutes of peeing (three times), pacing, nail biting and being the most annoying person in a 20 mile radius (you can keep your “no change there then” jokes to yourself, smart arse). Phrases uttered to me over the course of the evening included:

“Get a grip Lauren!”

“You need to sort your f*cking head out.” (Thanks coach)

“What is wrong with you?”

Being like this is exhausting, and I dread to think how much energy I’m wasting that I could be putting to good use during the actual run. I’m actually embarrassed by my behaviour and after each run I go home and do an actual facepalm, vowing to change something, anything to stop myself from being such a fool, but inevitably this bad behaviour cycles round and presents itself again next time I find myself on a start line.

But something has to change. Despite everything I managed a 20:51 5k last week,just 3 seconds off my best time this season and this was after a self-enforced 2 week rest because of my confusingly grumpy leg. So I know that the sub 20 5k is in my grasp if only I could make my mind be quiet.

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I’ve tried the Headspace app but I’ve struggled to really get on with it. I tried to apply their breathing technique at the race last week but it kept slipping from my grasp, like that dream you try and remember as you start to wake up but which fades away as you gain full consciousness. Just as I thought my mind was starting to empty those thoughts began jostling their way in again, all elbows and negativity.

So I did what any rational person would do – I asked the brilliant ukrunchat community on Twitter for advice. A lot of them recommended yoga and meditation (yoga is a big part of my life already), and I’ve been given the opportunity to try a new app that applies different relaxation techniques to meditation. I was also given a new mantra to try, and gin was suggested. I think I’m going to start with that.

Something needs to change. I don’t like this version of myself when I run, and since running helps me deal with the stresses of my life, getting this wound up before a run is so counter productive and self-sabotaging. I never thought when I started running that so much of my ability would be affected by what was in my head rather that what was in my legs. Wish me luck.

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All gifs from Giphy

 

 

A Weekend of Firsts – Yoga at Ethos and the Wings for Life World Run

Blimey – last weekend was a bit of a scorcher wasn’t it? Just the ticket for a yoga class on the third floor of a building in the centre of Cambridge with no air con on Saturday and an endurance run at midday on the Sunday. Wait, what?

Yes, that’s how I spent the hottest weekend of the year so far. So let’s start with Ethos shall we? Based in St Andrew’s House right near Drummer Street, Ethos is tucked away in what at first glance looks like little more than an unremarkable building made up of small offices. As you walk up the stairs though (my sister doesn’t do lifts!) you start to feel a hum of activity and our first introduction to Ethos was a couple of people who had clearly worked up a sweat stretching against a wall in the corridor in a way that meant we had to squeeze past them.

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The interior reception area of Ethos

The reason why Stacy and I had rocked up at Ethos was for a free Myofascial Release class courtesy of – you guessed it – Sweaty Betty. They were hosting a takeover of the studios, securing free spaces for their customers in around 20 classes across the weekend. As a “fan” of the foam roller (we have a love/hate relationship), I was intrigued at the idea of a class dedicated to serious muscle massage. After paying £1 to rent a mat each, we both got changed in the curtained off changing area (if you like your privacy this set up may not be for you), left our less valuable belongings on the shelves (ditto if you’re hot on security and like a proper locker) and headed into the class with Ellie and Hannah from SB.

When I saw some class members in very little clothing lying down in awkward positions with bean bags on their eyes, I did wonder what I had gotten myself into. But as soon as our instructor Mark got going I quickly relaxed into the class. And boy did I learn a lot. I got tips on how to better foam roll my calves (sit on your knees and tuck the foam roller under your thighs with it resting on your calves and then lean back as much as you can bear. Inch the roller down and repeat), how to ease my hips (once I had finally jammed my thumb in the right place) and how to use tennis balls to seriously massage my spine. I admit that resting my forehead on a tennis ball at the end felt more than a little weird and left me with a hard to explain mark on my face, but on the whole this was a brilliant class.

If I’m completely honest, I’m not sure if I really gelled with the vibe of Ethos as a whole. I think my personality is generally a bit too highly strung (I like my sports places to have proper changing rooms and showers and can be a bit OCD on hygiene stuff) but it’s clear to me what the main draw of Ethos is – and that’s the instructors. Mark was absolutely brilliant, cracking jokes all through the class and putting everyone at ease, but also showing that he really knew his stuff. He took the time to make sure everyone was getting the most from each move, correcting and advising where necessary. Stacy and I both left the class armed with tips, raving about Mark, and feeling lighter in the legs. Which would bode well for the Wings for Life World Run which I was due to do at midday the following day…….

Official runs make me nervous. Everyone knows this. Running in the heat makes me even MORE nervous. So you can imagine what a mess I was in when I arrived at Parker’s Piece on Sunday morning at around 10:30am, ready to register before the race started at midday. The car had told us it was already 27 degrees, so with 90 minutes to go there was plenty of time for it to get even hotter. I’m really fair, so I had slathered myself in factor 50 ALL OVER (you can never be too sure!) before getting dressed, but as I queued twice (once to sign a disclaimer, again to get my race number) I could feel myself already starting to get a bit too much sun.

After bumping into my friend Jen (another fan of the legend that is Alan Baldock), I quickly lost her again when I went to The Regal pub to pee (much more sensible than joining an enormous queue for the portaloos which are less than pleasant in that heat).  As I started to panic that I would have to face this behemoth of a run on my own, I found Miranda and Ros from Ely Runners sensibly sitting in the shade, and from then on in I stuck to the poor sods like glue. I would like to say now that I owe the pair of them a debt of gratitude, from Ros making me feel ok to be a nervous run pee-er, to the pair of them deciding that I was in fact 12 years old and deploying a running theme of jokes around the subject for the duration of the run. They didn’t even rip into me too much when I walked into a pole. Yup.

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All smiles at the start. Thanks to Nigel for the photo! 

As we settled halfway into the crowd waiting at the start line, the nerves began to give way to excitement. The feeling for this race is SO different to say a half marathon, where I always think about my PB and whether or not I’m going to beat it. With this run, you don’t really know how far you’re going to get, and any plans I had (a half marathon would have been lovely) went out the window once the mercury started edging 30 degrees. So it was a case of just start running, and see what happens.

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And that’s just what we did. Setting off and weaving through the city, going past the colleges and being cheered on by the frankly awesome folk of Cambridge, we headed up and out towards Girton, hitting Oakington and finally Cottenham. I cannot begin to thank the brilliant people of these villages who handed out sweets, drinks and who hosed us down with water. Oh the blessed relief of those hosepipes. It really was the best thing ever. And the WFL organisers did an absolutely bang up job of making sure the refreshment stations were regular. I grabbed water at every one, and finished the bottle nearly every time, pouring it on my legs (a brilliant tip from Miranda) and gulping huge mouthfuls. Normally if someone was to chuck a load of water at my back I would be somewhat annoyed at them but when Ros did it I could have kissed her. I swear my skin sizzled.

When we got to around the 13k mark, we adopted something of a run/walk strategy, taking maybe 20 – 30 seconds to catch our breath before setting off again (a strategy even the male winner, Steve Way, had to adopt towards the end of his incredible 63.75km run – read his race report, it’s brilliant). The heat really had started to push our resilience by this point, but when we hit Cottenham and saw Miranda and Ros’ other halves it gave us such a boost to keep going, and we made it out of the village and into the next stretch of quiet farmland. Wilburton was never realistically on the cards for us, but when we heard that the catcher car was in the distance, we did our utmost to hit the 11 mile mark, finally making 11.12 (17.89km) before a grinning David Coulthard passed us by, waving as he went.

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Helloooooo Cottenham!

Suddenly it was over, and we had something like a 10 minute walk to reach the buses that were waiting every 5k to take runners back to Parker’s Piece. It was such a lovely walk, mooching through the quiet countryside as we reflected on what we’d achieved and chatting to our fellow runners. But then sitting on that bus, waiting for it to leave, was probably the hottest we’d been all day – it was like a sauna with lots of people who had been sweating for a copious amount of time. Imagine that if you’re so inclined. But when it set off and the breeze started coming through the window it was utter bliss.

Back on Parker’s Piece we picked up our frankly awesome goodie bags (containing our medal, a high vis technical tee, microfibre towel, sweatband, pack of nuts and a beer token),  grabbed our beers and headed over to Trumpington Road to meet our ride home (my OH). We couldn’t stop raving about what a brilliant race it had been and mild sunburn aside (only patches on my arm where the factor 50 had been hosed off – worth it!), I think this was the funnest race I’ve ever done. So much so that I’ve already signed up for next year, which is so unlike me.

So if you’re looking for a race with a twist, this is the one for you. 100% of the entry fee goes to spinal cord research and the current early bird price is only £25, which I think is a brilliant price now that I’ve seen just how much effort goes into this run. So what are you waiting for? Go sign up. I’m sure it’ll be cooler next year……

Yoga for Runners with Sweaty Betty

This Monday I was lucky enough to bag a place at Sweaty Betty’s latest one-off free class, Yoga for Runners, after someone else cancelled (sucker)! Having made a commitment to myself to try and make time for more Yoga and Pilates to deal with my stress levels, this couldn’t have come at a better time.

Now I’ve probably spent something like 0.5% of my life in the Sweaty Betty Cambridge shop. Without doubt I have more SB stuff than any other label in my wardrobe, and I love how the staff greet me like an old friend whenever I walk in, and they always have time for a chat about how I’m getting on with my training and which events I have lined up. If you’re new to fitness but are slightly daunted about setting yourself up with some new workout kit, I can’t recommend Hannah and her team enough (and just LOOK at the new season)!

When I turned up for the class, I didn’t know who would be teaching it. I’ve been to a couple of yoga classes with SB and both instructors have been really brilliant – you can tell that they choose who they work with really carefully. The class was led by Emma, who I hadn’t met before, but who was utterly brilliant. She managed to cram so much into an hour long class and some of the sequences were challenging without being overwhelming for any runners in the group who might not have known their savasana from their elbow.

One particular flow towards the end of the class seriously put us through our paces where we had to go into Warrior 3. This involves standing on one leg with the other leg straight out behind you and your arms in front so that you’re basically making a T shape. It’s a fairly advanced pose, but Emma made it seem really accessible as we had slowly worked our way up to it. It felt awesome to manage a pose like that (with only the smallest of wobbles)!

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Emma in the new SB Palm Print Urdhva Reversible Yoga Leggings

All in all it was a great class and I felt so relaxed afterwards. I just wish I didn’t undo all of the good work within 5 minutes by having to jump on my bike and pedal off for a train! The point of this class though, was not only to provide some of the runners of Cambridge with some hip opening and ankle strengthening moves to try at home, but also to raise funds for SB staff member Libby, who is running the Virgin London Marathon this weekend for VICTA, a charity that supports children and young people who are blind or partially sighted and their families across the UK. This is Libby’s first marathon, and even though her training was interrupted by a couple of weeks out through sickness, she has to be one of the most laid back first time marathoners I’ve ever seen! All Libby wants is to finish the race, and I have no doubt that she’ll manage it. If you’d like to sponsor Libby and this brilliant charity, you can do so here.

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I really hope some more one off classes appear on the SB schedule soon. I always enjoy mixing up my training and adding variety to my workout schedule. In the meantime, you can find their regular class timetable here. Now if only they’ll hurry up and get those floral shorts in store…..!

 

Resolution Substitution

I hate new year’s resolutions, and only partly because I’m terrible at sticking to them. Past failures have included doing a sun salutation every morning (I lasted around 11 days), writing a novel (something of a work in progress), and getting at least 7 hours sleep a night (ooh cat videos you say? It’s 11:43pm but let’s watch 20 in a row!).

The fact is, why are we all setting ourselves up for failure at the very beginning of the year when we’re all full of chocolate fudge brownie Wensleydale cheese (yes, that is actually a thing) and missing Prosecco being a socially acceptable breakfast? We’re out of money, it’s cold, and the sparkle of Christmas has pretty much gone. That’s hardly a recipe for a good time to make successful life changes.

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Apparently, you have to do something every day for 66 days before it becomes a habit. If you start on January 1st that’s March 7th people. I don’t know about you, but that seems like a really long time. And this is coming from someone who already has plans with Theemiddlesis for March 2017. In a nutshell, this is why I think new year resolutions suck. Why do you want to limit bettering yourself to just one day of the year, and a potentially hungover one at that?

It was on the 13th January 2015 that I signed up for my first ever triathlon. Back in April I decided to start taking my running more seriously by getting a coach in the form of Alan “Baldrick” Baldock and starting this blog. In August I joined Ely Runners. Around this time I also wanted to try adding more yoga and foam rolling into my regime. But rather than say “I will do this daily!” and feel crap when I failed, I decided to aim for two times a week. And sometimes I do it twice, sometimes five times, or sometimes not at all when life gets a bit busy. But the point is I didn’t set myself unrealistic targets, and by doing even a little bit it’s an improvement on what I was doing before. I’m now a whizz at doing crow pose to headstand and then back to crow pose, and I’m even managing a wobbly one legged wheel pose on a good day. By not setting myself a whole bunch of ridiculous (unreachable) targets all at once, I’m getting stronger and faster, bit by bit.

I guess the point I want to make is that we shouldn’t be so strict with ourselves. If you want to make a change, don’t wait until one day out of 365 to do it. Just do it when the time feels right for you. And don’t set yourself such rigid boundaries either – often it’s the small increments that matter in the longer term.

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(But if you fancy taking up running and want a buddy to come with, give me a shout!).

 

Flow and Glow at Sweaty Betty Cambridge

“All that really matters is the moment you’re in right now.”

When I heard yoga instructor Rachael Moore say that at the start of the Flow and Glow class I attended at the Cambridge Sweaty Betty store on Trinity Street this morning, I knew I was going to like her style of teaching.

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I didn’t quite look like this

For those of you who don’t know about the mighty Sweaty Betty, it’s a women’s activewear brand that was founded in 1998 by Tamara and Simon Hill-Norton, with the aim to “inspire women to find empowerment through fitness”. Now that’s a brand message that I can get on board with – take note Protein World. I’m a workout clothes junkie, but I go back to Sweaty Betty time and time again, stocking up on their longline athlete vests and swooning over their fabulous fabrics and flattering cuts. I would hazard a guess that 50% of my workout wardrobe carries the distinctive SB logo.

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Such a lovely location for a class

Now I know that SB is a higher-end activewear brand and that not everyone can afford to spend what I can on fitness gear (although their sales are always excellent), but the thing I love about Sweaty Betty more than anything else is the community they’ve created. They have developed a legion of dedicated followers not only because they sell lovely, fashionable fitness gear (something that was a rarity back in 1998) but also because they understand their customers and provide them with so much more than slightly pricier-than-average leggings. One brilliant example of this is their “Get Fit 4 Free” campaign.

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Those butterfly leggings. Those.

Every week SB holds over 70 classes in their boutiques around the world. In Cambridge alone they have weekly yoga and Pilates classes and a running club. In addition to this they have special events with guest instructors or their Sweaty Betty ambassadors, such as this morning’s Flow Glow yoga class. Earlier this year they launched Fly, Flex, Flow, an hour long class with their ambassador Jo Hopkins, an insane mix of 20 minutes of intense cardio (sprints, star jumps and skipping – fly) on the market square, 20 minutes of weights work back in the store (flex) followed by 20 minutes of yoga (flow). I thought it was complete and utter crazy genius and I loved it. And the best thing of all? These classes are all completely free. Did you get that? FREE. To me, any company that does that is pure awesomeness bottled.

So when I heard that they were doing a Bank Holiday Monday one-off Flow and Glow yoga class I signed up immediately (this can be done on their website if you have a SB account). The promise of a free raspberry, orange, purple kale and vanilla smoothie from the newly established Espresso Library also helped! As soon as Rachael started the “twisting-based” class I knew I would be challenged to push myself, and this was proven by a selection of chest-opening twists and one-legged balances. The good thing is, Rachael took the time to give helpful adjustments and also to give a range of options to suit different flexibility levels. As for one of the last poses where she somehow managed to make us untwist our legs and twist them the other way round in one quick turn – that was pure sorcery! It was a fantastic class, and I wish I could start every Monday like that.

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So flipping tasty.

So if you fancy trying one of SB’s classes, take a look at the availability here. In my experience the women who attend these classes are always so vibrant and friendly, and I have nothing but good things to say about the staff at SB – they always take their time to ask me how my running is going and to just chat about fitness and fashion in general. Plus if you’ve run a marathon this year, turn up with your medal and you’ll get an extra 20% off!

The only bad thing about all of this as far as my endlessly patient other half is concerned? My SB wishlist is now off the scale.

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The fabulous Rachael.

My Running Beginnings

Because we need another running/fitness blog right?

My name is Lauren, and I got into running a little later in life than normal (Girl Running Late – geddit?). I was never a naturally sporty child, although I tried really, really hard at everything the PE teachers threw at me. I think the only thing I ever won at school was a skipping race:

SkippingI mean, just look at that focus. And that outfit. 

Then I entered the secondary school wilderness years, where unless you were one of the top notch, super athletic sport stars, the PE teachers didn’t really show an interest in you. Many years then passed in half-arsed gym memberships with the conviction that my dancing in clubs was probably enough exercise.

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Not a fit child right there. I remember that t-shirt though.

Then in 2010, I was on a business trip and I couldn’t get on my preferred cross trainer at the hotel gym as they were all full of women reading magazines as they barely got their heart rates above resting pace. So, I looked at the daunting, shiny treadmills, and thought I’d give one of them a bash instead. Finding I enjoyed it far more than I expected, and that I didn’t fall off and make a total idiot of myself, I took up road plodding/running when I got back to the UK. It wasn’t long after that when I heard that a friend of a friend – who was only a couple of years older than me – had been diagnosed with breast cancer at the same time that the mighty CoppaFeel!, a charity I’d supported for a while, was looking for runners for their team at the Bath Half. It felt like it was meant to be. So, just 11 months after that fateful day with a treadmill, I ran my first half marathon in a time of 1:53:26, and I’ve been running ever since.

So there you have it. I am now a fully paid up member of the fitness loving crew, and alongside running I love yoga, zumba and metabolic conditioning amongst other things. I’m a complete endorphin junkie, and I hope you enjoy reading about the fitness shenanigans I get up to. Plus there will be much bright fitness gear. I don’t do boring workout clothes. You’ll soon find this out.

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