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…..!

 

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Pennies for parkrun or The Story of how Stoke Gifford Parish Council got it so Horribly Wrong

Ah parkrun. You all know how much I love it. Starting in Bushy Park in 2004 with just 13 runners, it has since grown to  850 parkruns worldwide in 12 different countries. So far there have been 14,858,757 runs, covering 73,255,862km worldwide. I don’t know about you but I think this is pretty incredible.

On their website they say “parkrun is all about inclusiveness and wellbeing. We want as many people as possible to feel part of a real local community brought together by our events”. The founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt says “no-one should ever have to pay to go running in their community regularly, safely and for fun.”

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And this is the key to what makes parkrun so utterly brilliant. There is no barrier to getting involved. You just need to throw on a pair of trainers, get to the home of your nearest parkrun and then walk, jog or run the 5k. It’s timed, so each week you can run against yourself, feeling utterly motivated when you shave off another couple of seconds and feel like maybe – just maybe – it felt a little easier this week compared to last week. It’s all run by volunteers (of which there have been 179,475 so far) and you do not have to pay to run. At a time when I’ve seen a lot of runners balking at the cost of their local 10k race on Twitter, the parkrun movement is a glorious antidote to that. The lack of cost is fundamental to its global success.

There are so many wonderful success stories of people who have become involved in parkrun who say that they probably wouldn’t be exercising without it. I saw Alyssa Willis on Twitter talking about how her local parkrun changed her life. The convenience of it made her feel like she had no excuse but to go and try it, and she lost 4 stone as a result. She is now training for her 2nd 10k.

So imagine her dismay when her local parkrun – Little Stoke parkrun – became the first to be told they need to charge runners £1 each by the local Parish Council so that they can contribute towards the upkeep of the paths. As this goes against the entire ethos of parkrun, they have no option but to close the run.

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Ok, but am I walking on glue here or do people already pay council tax for things like this? And why penalise a specific group of runners? If a random group of runners use it, or a group of mothers with pushchairs go walking there, or a wheelchair racing group use it, would they be charged as well? Or do the council feel more able to charge parkrunners simply because it’s a known organisation that regularly attracts up to 300 runners?

At a time when adult obesity is rising and the government is taxing sugary drinks and telling us that we need to move more because our NHS is struggling under the strain of obesity-related illnesses, why on earth would any council put up a barrier to fitness? It seems so unbelievably short sighted when you look into the longer term economic impact. If people stop exercising they open themselves up to physical and mental health problems, which then puts more strain on services within the community. For a brilliant breakdown on the value of parkrun, take a look at this excellent post by Professor Mike Weed.

At the Cambridge parkrun, if you drive you are charged a fee for the car park. No one quibbles this at all. When I go I car share or I get a train to Waterbeach and cycle the rest of the way. The Milton Country Park cafe also gets a HUGE amount of custom because of the parkrun. The queue is always enormous and personally I’ve been known to spend a decent amount getting coffee and the obligatory flapjack for Pete and a kale kick smoothie for myself (don’t be fooled – it’s usually followed by a pain au chocolat chaser when I get home). parkrun enhances a community on so many levels, but when you start charging people to run it, it can no longer fulfill its promise.

Parkrun Forever Free

The dismay in the parkrun community when the decision was passed by the Parish Council was clear to see. There were tears from people who were losing what has become a big part of their life, enhancing their health as well as their social circle. I desperately hope that parkrun successfully appeal this wretched decision and that the Council thinks about the good of their community rather than trying to make a short term profit with a long term negative impact. In the meantime, if you believe the folk of Stoke Gifford should be able to continue running for free, you can sign the petition here.

 

 

New Month, New Inspiration – My April Heroes

So far, I think 2016 has been more than a bit crummy. But rather than wallow and consume my body weight in Easter chocolate (it was one time ok?) I thought I’d highlight some amazing people that have grabbed my attention in the last couple of weeks for all of the right reasons. Here they are in no particular order. Bugger off negativity – you’re not welcome here.

Serena Williams

When Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore decided to open his trap and tell the world that “if I were a lady player, I would go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were born. They have carried the sport”, he rightfully incurred the wrath of Serena Williams, one of my favourite ever sportswomen. When asked her thoughts on the dinosaur’s comments she replied “those remarks are very much mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate… Obviously I don’t think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that.”

Whenever Serena has the audacity to speak up on things like this, there will always be some “clever” type who calls her a man (threatened by a strong woman much?) or who makes vile comments around what she could be doing on her knees (ditto) but somehow I doubt they’d have the guts to say any of this to her face. Although I’d like to see them try. I called out Eurosport on these comments on one of their articles and some have since been removed, although whether this was down to my tweet or not I can’t say:

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Moore has since quit.

Milla Bizzotto

Milla Bizzotto is an incredible girl who recently completed a 24 hour obstacle race designed by Navy Seals. She raced 36 miles, swam eight kilometers and completed 25 obstacles.

And did I mention that she’s only 9 years old?

Milla has said that she got into fitness because she was being bullied at school. In an interview she said “People would call me names and say I wasn’t a good player. I didn’t want anyone else to go through what I did. I want to set an example and show other kids that they can do or be anything they want.”

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Source: Instagram

She says that she wants to inspire a generation – I don’t know about you, but I think she’s going to be inspiring every generation. I know she makes me want to push that little bit harder. Now go climb that rope.

Eddie Izzard

I feel almost silly saying this because everyone knows Eddie and the incredible challenge he’s just completed, and I think everyone sees him as a bit of a hero right now. But in case you’ve been living under a social-media deflecting rock for the last month, Eddie ran 27 marathons in 27 days in South Africa in temperatures in excess of 40 degrees. Why 27? Because that was how many years Nelson Mandela spent in prison.

Eddie Izzard

Eddie did all of this in the name of Sport Relief, and so far he’s raised a staggering £2,219,412. And if you think he’s incredibly awesome, you can still sponsor him.

Lindsay Hilton

You probably know that I’m a big fan of strong girls. I love watching videos of Ninja Warrior women like Katie McDonnell and Jessie Graff. So when I saw the video of adaptive CrossFitter Lindsay Hilton doing the rounds, I was instantly hooked on seeing more. Chucking out weighted lunges, burpees and pull ups, Lindsay gives serious workout goals (and glute goals for that matter).

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She also plays and coaches rugby and won a burpee competition where she managed 34 in 60 seconds(!).  The thing I like most about Lindsay is that it’s clear from her instagram that she’s a woman after my own heart – up for giving everything a go, and a fan of a pain au chocolat.

Elise Downing

Right now, there is a woman running 5000 miles around the coast of the UK. Yep, you read that right. Over 10 months, Elise plans to run around our “little” island with her belongings on her back, all in the name of charidee. In this case it’s for  Young Minds and Beyond Food. Ultimately, Elise is running in the name of happiness. Is that not a beautiful concept? Running is her happy. She’s just doing it to the extreme.

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Credit – Elise Downing, Twitter

Elise is currently in Wales. You can follow her on Twitter for terrifying sock updates and sponsor her here.

Also, she loves cake. This doesn’t guarantee that I’ll think you’re awesome, but I’ll be honest – it helps.