Getting Ready to Rumble with Sweaty Betty

Any regular readers of this blog will know I’m a huge Sweaty Betty fan. It’s not unusual for me to basically be a walking billboard for the brand and I dread to think what percentage of my salary I’ve spent on their gear in the last 12 months.

So when Grazia magazine ran a competition to win a place at the launch of their latest #GetFit4Free campaign “Rumble” in London, of course I jumped at it. The spec for the class promised that “the 45-minute high-intensity calorie-burning workout combines shadow-boxing techniques, adrenaline-pumping cardio and core-sculpting conditioning”, which sounded like a pretty winning combination to me! I mean, just check out Sweaty Betty’s official video:

When I received the email saying I had won a place I was utterly giddy. That is until I realised that for a second weekend running there was a bus replacement service for the trains between Ely and Cambridge and engineering work happening on the London Liverpool Street line, which meant my relatively straightforward hop on the train had become a bus-train-tube scenario. I ummed and ahhed about whether or not I could face the hassle of the journey and decided it was just too good an opportunity to miss.

The journey was not without its stresses. An accident in Ely (where thankfully it seems everyone was ok) meant that we got stuck in the city and had to take a long detour to make our way to Cambridge. As the minutes ticked away it was looking less and less likely that I’d make my connecting train. The bus arrived with 90 seconds until the train was due to leave so I sprinted to the platform (NOT easy after an 8.2 mile half marathon training run that morning), and made it with about 5 seconds to go until they closed the doors. When I finally made it to London Liverpool St I used Google Maps on my phone to find my way to 1Rebel, triumphantly texting my other half to let him know I’d made it. Imagine my frustration when it turned out that there were TWO 1Rebel gyms about half a mile from each other, and of course I had gone to the wrong one. I then managed to get fantastically lost trying to find the other gym, meeting a sea of blank faces whenever I asked for directions and stressing out that I was going to fail to make the class at the last minute after a shocker of a journey. Finally a security guard in an office pointed me in the right direction and I arrived with 10 minutes to spare, out of breath and red-faced (a sign of things to come).

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The wrong 1Rebel

The words I would use to describe my first impression of 1Rebel are “urban hipster”. It was all exposed pipework and bricks, with glossy concrete floors and copper accents everywhere. However, it wasn’t remotely pretentious – just effortlessly cool and functional. I wish I could have had more time to look around, but I had to quickly get changed, get help with the lockers(!) and haul arse into their amazing boxing studio, filled with slimline boxing bags, nightclub lighting and an incredible sound system. And standing in the middle of it all, was our instructor for the next 45 minutes, Mila.

After jogging around the studio to warm up, Mila explained the structure of the class – we’d do a boxing section followed by a cardio section, repeated 3 times. We were taught a range of boxing combinations, including jabs, hooks and kicks, and other than the odd opportunity where I mis-timed my kicks and battered my shin, it was brilliant! The cardio sections involved star jumps, mountain climbers, burpees, press ups (why oh why did I decide to do an arms session the day before?!) and a killer abs section. My absolute favourite move was when we did side planks and kicked the bag with the top leg, although that may have been because I was just so grateful that I didn’t have to use my arms in that moment. Mila (the Machine) was a seriously hard task master, ploughing through the class with no breaks although I had to pause occasionally to use my sweat towel and have sips of water, neither of which were easy to do when wearing boxing gloves!

The 45 minutes absolutely flew by, and I had worked so incredibly hard. The endorphin rush was huge and at the end Mila talked about the mental health benefits of the class, discussing how good boxing is for relieving stress. I’m always so happy when people talk about that side of exercise, as all too often the focus is just on the physical benefits.

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Goody bag photo courtesy of Sweaty Betty’s Twitter account

After the class we were given an awesome goody bag, and I got to use 1Rebel’s great showers, all of which had fantastic quality shampoo, shower gels, cleansers and conditioners. They even had deodorants, hair straighteners and feminine hygiene products in the changing rooms, which made me think that 1Rebel have really thought about the whole customer experience when creating their gyms. They even had a flipping Smeg fridge for cold towels! Seriously, I need that in my life. How utterly BRILLIANT! On top of all of that their staff were really lovely and friendly too. If you’re lucky enough to live near a 1Rebel gym and are looking for a new place to work out they should be seriously considered.

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The right 1Rebel

I had such a brilliant time and if you get the opportunity to try this new class at your local Sweaty Betty boutique you should definitely sign up. The classes will be running every Tuesday from the 26th January to the 16th February. And best of all? They’re free of course!

Sweaty Betty – the epitome of fitness awesomeness. A huge thank you to them, Grazia and 1Rebel for making my 2 1/2 hour journey each way totally worth it.

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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!).

 

Coming Back from Christmas

It’s the last day of my Christmas leave today, and I’m wondering how my body is going to react to that first early (for me anyway) alarm and that 50 minute cycle-train-cycle commute into work tomorrow morning. I’ve become way too comfortable with lying in until 10am. But luckily, I did my utmost to stay active over the Christmas break, because really it’s just a natural way for me to be.

Recently, my other half and I have started playing badminton together. At first I was super cocky, convinced that my weekly session with my office bestie meant that I was the superior opponent. Oh how wrong I was. It turns out that the OH coached badminton to beginners as part of his Duke of Edinburgh award. Brilliant. Now my competitive side does not enjoy losing. It enjoys being thrashed even less. But this is what is happening to me repeatedly every time we play. My best score has been 9-15, and the worst 0-15. On average I manage 4 or 5. Mortifying. But with the extra sessions we enjoyed over our fortnight break, I’m making the OH work a little harder for his wins if nothing else.

The other thing I kept up with over the break was (surprise, surprise) running. On the 20th December I took part in the annual Ely Runners Christmas Run for the first time (wearing one of my Sweaty Betty sale bargains!). Unfortunately my work Christmas party was the night before so – um – dehydration was always likely to be an issue. And although I found it tough, I really enjoyed it. Pete and I, being complete newbies, found ourselves at the back of the group, and as the first couple of miles are single file your position is pretty much set from the get go. The terrain is muddy and undulating with a fair few short, sharp inclines (and the inevitable declines) but being out in the quiet countryside with just the odd dog walker to give you a tip of the hat was awesome. After the first mile or so Pete and I were mostly on our own, but we kept each other going (he had to work harder than me on that count) and after the first 7.5 miles we debated whether or not to do the next 5, but in the end we stuck to our original plan and got the coach back to Ely with the promise that we’d do the longer distance next year. Who knows – maybe we’ll even be convinced to do the full 18.5! If that happens I think I’ll be the designated driver at the 2016 work Christmas party.

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On the coach home

On Christmas Day itself I went for a quick little 5k around Ely. Now I know that doing this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and I totally get it. But the OH and I always spend Christmas Day just the two of us, and Boxing Day is usually our day for seeing family. So I like nothing more than just doing a really quick run around my lovely quiet city on the big day, and seeing all the houses lit up and full of people just enjoying being with their families. Yes I’m nosey. What of it?!

And finally on New Year’s Eve it was time for the Ely Runners’ NYE 10k. I last ran this in 2013, where I finished in a time of 48:38 (you can read all about it my friend James’ great blog here). I found it pretty tough mainly due to the fact it’s so flipping exposed. It’s just a loop around the Fens so as you can imagine there is no hiding from the wind. So I was pretty nervous last Thursday, which was not helped by a terrible night’s sleep thanks to a health issue I’m currently trying to get a handle on (I won’t bore you with it here – it’s frustrating rather than serious and just proving tricky to get to the bottom of).

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NYE 10k Team 2013

Luckily I had my friends to calm me down (mostly through laughing at me with a bit of reassurance thrown in), and after a final pee stop (yes I’m a nervous runner) we set off.

To  be honest, I found it tough. Really tough. I set off too fast and after that I lost count of the times I wanted to stop and walk from the 2k point onwards. At one point I nearly burst into tears. I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep, the nerves, the cold, the wind, or the fact that the runners became so spread out that I was on my own for nearly all of it. It was probably a combination of all of those things. But the thing that kept me going was the brilliant support of all of the Ely Runner marshals. Quite simply, I didn’t want to let them down by stopping. So I battled on, and I finally finished in a time of 44:38, exactly 4 minutes off my time from 2 years ago but nearly 2 minutes off my PB.

At first I was pretty emotional. I don’t like it when a run is that hard. It’s not so much the time I finished in (although I was a bit disappointed with it), just how difficult it was to get there. But then I got a bit of perspective. I had done a tough interval session with Ely Runners on the Tuesday, I’d had a terrible night’s sleep, and I’d run a 10k without a water bottle for the first time (a big deal for me). And 2015 has been an incredible year for my running, so how can I really be disappointed?  Yes it’s always nice to end things on a high, but there are always going to be tough runs. You can’t control everything when it comes to running. It’s just the nature of the beast. I just need to try and learn from the experience and come back stronger. And the celebratory glass of wine I had afterwards certainly helped with the more positive attitude.

NYE 10k Team 2015

Part of NYE 10k Team 2015  

So my Christmas break was pretty busy, and I was constantly inspired to stay active by those around me – Pete and Rach who played doubles badminton with us (I don’t think Rach and I will be a team any time soon), Lucy who ran her first ever 10k in an astonishing time of 52:06, and my friend Emma who completed the advent run streak, covering 66k in 24 days and who is now a fully paid up member of the running bug club. It’s hard to sit on your backside when all that is going on around you.

I’m not sure any of it is going to help with that alarm clock tomorrow though.