Pilates with Pink Lady Core

Strength and conditioning is something I will openly admit to being very bad at being bothered to do. When I’m short of time, I end up prioritising fitting the miles in over keeping myself strong for the miles, and tend to avoid injuries more by luck and rest than good management!

That needs to change with the Lakesman on the horizon, but I want to make sure what I’m doing is tailored to, and appropriate for me, so when Pink Lady, official apple of the London Marathon, got in touch and offered me a one-to-one Pilates class as part of their Pink Lady Core project (I love a good pun, me), I snatched their hand off.

My class was held at the swanky L1 Performance in Leeds, where I was paired up with the lovely Ria. To get the most out of my session, I filled in a questionnaire before the class, so it could be prepared personally for me, with me hoping it would be a good way to learn how to work on my postural stability and functional core strength without adding unnecessary bulk to my frame.

Pink Lady CoreAfter some initial mobility exercises so Ria could assess my body’s patterns of movement, we went through some Pilates exercises that were most likely to be relevant to me, with a focus on how they would be useful for triathlon, and focusing on performing the exercises with correct posture and muscle engagement- a focus that I’ve never had in group classes, and something I really liked about having a one-to-one class.

Pink Lady Core

I then received my ‘homework’ from Ria- a really detailed set of exercises, with personal cues for how to keep my form correct. I’m hoping that by incorporating a regular Pilates session in my routine during training, I’ll see my functional and core strength improve, as well as my posture during long days on my feet at work- I’m keen to develop better posture and protect my back, as well as develop strength for sport.

Pink Lady CoreIf you’re keen to do some Pilates for yourself that might help your running, Pink Lady Core have a Youtube channel with easy videos to do at home.

Pink Lady Core provided me with my one-to-one class with Ria free of charge and reimbursed me for my time in attending the class and writing this post. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

Race recap: Sundowner Middle triathlon 2016

It’s apparently widely acknowledged in life that the two things you should try out before your race are your kit and nutrition. I inadvertently broke both of those rules for my longest tri to date, the Sundowner Middle distance on Saturday, and not only did I surprisingly survive, but this happened!IMG_4158

Swim
Owing to being a bit chubby hench for my beloved wetsuit, it sadly sustained a big rip to the shoulder. Wetsuits are bloody expensive, so I was over the moon when blogger babe Sophie pretty much saved the day by sending me her wetsuit that she no longer uses. I didn’t end up with time to swim in it before the race, but I tried to stay chilled and not worry too much about it.

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Extra lolz for when the lake mud gives you a beard.

By some bizarre happening, I got put in the fastest wave of the day for the 4 lap swim course in Allerthorpe’s dinky little lake, so the swim leg kind of felt like being beaten up in a washing machine, with one bloke deciding to pick me up by the shoulders and throw me out of the way. I tried to stay relaxed through it though, and put into practice the work I’ve done on my swim lately, and despite feeling like it was going EXTREMELY badly surrounded by speedsters, I overtook two blokes on the finishing straight and came out quicker than I did for last year’s Olympic swim leg at Castle Howard. Progress!

46:01 (although 43 minutes on my Garmin!)

T1
Putting on arm warmers, it has to be said, is not easy when you’re soaked, they’re soaked from the heavy rain, and your hands aren’t working particularly well. Neither is posting your Stoats bars for on the bike into the pockets of your trisuit. Otherwise, without incident, I was safely out onto the bike leg!

2:17

Bike
I set off really optimistic on the bike, feeling great. The course is a super flat, 2 loop course, which was well marshalled. I soon realised a few things, however:

  1. The week before your race, however nice they feel on a quick spin, is not the time for TT bars you’ve barely ridden on or a new saddle that alters the fit of your bike.
  2. A flat course in a headwind and heavy rain is one of the most miserable cycling experiences known to human kind.
  3. Stoats bars may be delicious but they are bloody hard to open when your hands are no longer working.
  4. A driver offering you a can of Coke is a kind gesture, unless he tries to pass it out of the passenger side window and nearly kills you.
  5. Blokes will take almost any excuse to draft and cheat when people aren’t there to see them.

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After a freezing, miserable grind of a ride in which I saw my vague bike target go out of the window, my shoulders seize up completely and my feet go completely numb, it was finally time to get off the bike. AT LAST.

3:19:36

T2
If I thought putting arm warmers on whilst cold and wet was difficult, I clearly hadn’t contemplated the practicalities of removing my helmet and putting on my running shoes. Much to James’s amusement, I had to get a marshall to do them for me. NOT my finest hour.

4:24

Run
Wow, I thought I’d run through wobbly legs before, but nothing quite prepared me for how they’d feel on the run leg. I staggered out of T2 and despite feeling pretty terrible, set a reasonably good pace and rhythm for the first two laps, picking off runners in front of me, and hitting my pace target.

The 3rd lap was somewhat different.

Now, I’m loathed to criticise the organisers for doing a largely brilliant job in difficult weather, BUT, on a 3 lap run course for the half marathon, with a mostly out and back route, by the 3rd lap as a slower racer of the final wave, I ended up pretty much alone, with only a handful of other runners out on the course.

Every time I passed a marshal, they were radio’ing about how the ‘last competitor had gone through’ or ‘slowest woman (!) was on the way’. How utterly demoralising. Between that and the route signs being taken down around me, it was really tough to find any motivation to keep going, and I’m ashamed to say, I pretty much gave up. The walks through the water stations got longer, the bounce went from my step and it was a death shuffle to the finish, despite the fact I was still on to break 6 hours 20.

2:05:19
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I crossed the line with mixed emotions. I’d tried so, so hard for most of the race, but missed the 6 hour target I’d secretly had in mind. That was mixed with pride at having completed my longest race to date, a strong swim and a run where I had wanted to sack it off a few times.

The best bit?
Upon crossing the line, and receiving a gorgeous medal, I printed out my results to learn that I’d come top (out of 3) in the 20-24 age group and won a trophy! Which nearly made up for the fact that despite ordering a small on entry, all the small race shirts had been taken and I was gruffly handed a medium with a shrug. Us women can dream, eh?

All in all, after seeing the saga of the Rubicon Middle unfold the following day in Yorkshire, I had a good time at the Sundowner Middle, which was well-organised, and aside from the few small niggles about morale on the last lap (don’t diss someone that’s actually busy winning a trophy guys!) and the shirt, I couldn’t be happier to have a solid 70.3 in the bank, a raft of lessons learned and things to work on over winter, and a big ol’ confidence boost ahead of the Lakesman!

The one bit of kit I was really glad I wore was my new Threo trisuit- again, not tested before the race but it was perfect (and I paid for it!). It was comfortable, and solved so many trisuit problems I’ve had before- no sausage leg, pockets for snacks, and a well-designed race belt that doesn’t constantly jiggle around. Full marks!

 

 

 

Summer adventures and Ironboy prep

My mum rightly asked me the other day if an iron-distance triathlon was an Ironman, was a 70.3 an Ironboy and shorter races Ironbabies? I still don’t fully know the answer, but since running the relay at The Lakesman, I’ve been enjoying the summer sunshine, chipping away at training for my Ironboy on September 3rd- so here’s what I’ve been up to…

Becoming an FY2

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One unavoidable part of summer as a doctor is the chaos of August changeover. For me that meant stepping up in seniority, and my August has featured two weekends at work, one on long days and one on nights. I love the new hospital I’m working in, but the step up in responsibility is a challenge, and the hospital being smaller doesn’t make it less busy on call- about 20 minutes after taking this selfie, a patient very much tried to bleed to death on me- though fortunately didn’t manage it!

Swimming
It’s no secret that swimming is by far my weakest triathlon discipline, but I feel like I’ve made huge leaps in progress with it, just by doing the work this summer. I’ve sought feedback on my stroke from coach Rach and at club swimming sessions (a special kind of arm-deadening hell), and really got comfortable in open water, with gorgeous swims at Salford Quays with pals in the sunshine, and, the highlight of swimming to date, swimming in this gorgoeous loch (Loch an Eilein) at the foot of the Cairngorms- having an entire loch to myself was pretty special!

I still might not be the fastest by a long chalk, but I’m swimming faster and more confidently than before, and feel happy in open water now, which I’m hoping will all add up to a smooth swim and a time I can be proud of in my Ironboy.

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Biking
When you live within a stone’s throw of the Yorkshire Dales, motivating yourself to go cycling is something you very rarely need to do, but I’d got all too comfortable with just going on my club’s Sunday C ride, pootling out for coffee and cake, and not really pushing myself. So this summer, I’ve done what can only be described as heat training with some short, sharp turbo sessions, gone on a fair few solo rides into the Dales, spun round the beautiful Scottish coast in the sunshine with James on holiday, and my personal favourite, ridden my first century ride, from Ilkley to Scarborough. I’ve not followed a set plan on the bike, but I’ve tried, like with swimming, to do things in training that will boost my confidence for race day and leave me feeling mentally strong- which I’m discovering is most of the battle with long-distance racing!

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Running

Of the three disciplines, this is probably the one I’ve worked on the least, but whilst I know I’m lacking in speed at the moment, I’ve got a big endurance base, and the two marathons I’ve run this year have 100% taught me how to suffer through when the going gets tough. That said, as my last brick session for the race, I did a tough turbo session into a 10 mile run with the first 5 miles of it at target race pace, and was pleasantly surprised to find that whilst I still have a suspiciously high heart rate, my running legs are very much still there!

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Holidaying

I couldn’t post up a summer recap without mentioning our gorgeous little trip to Scotland. Time off together is pretty hard come by, so we were happy to get a week off together, and not just that, a week in Scotland during a heatwave!

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We kicked off the week by heading up to Fort William and after a stay at the Ben Nevis Inn bunkhouse, did the wonderfully scenic but very tough hike up Ben Nevis- an experience we both underestimated and which left our legs ruined for days! We had absolutely beautiful weather for it, so could see for miles from the top- and even got sunburnt…

From there we headed up into Moray, better known as the whisky country, and stayed in one of Braehead Glamping‘s super cute camping pods. We went for the deluxe one and it was perfect, with a proper comfy bed, an all important kettle and a TV so at the end of the day’s adventures, we could watch the Olympics action from the day.

podThe pod was a perfect base for a week’s adventures. We went cycling together around parts of the beautiful coastline, James went on the attack cycling up Cairngorm Mountain whilst I explored some of the lush running trails, and I went loch swimming whilst some of the locals pondered whether or not to try and rescue the mad English girl diving into a secluded loch.

Despite all that activity, it was a wonderfully relaxing week away. James and I are both hugely guilty of spending time glued to our phones and Strava, so staying somewhere with no 4G coverage was the dream- we actually spent proper time together and appreciated each other, away from the usual cycle at home of work-eat-train-eat-sleep-laundry that can dominate our household. We enjoyed a BBQ and toasted marshmallows over our campfire, al fresco breakfasts and a few wee drams on a tour of the Glenfiddich whisky distillery and, I think it would be fair to say, generally fell in love with Scotland just a little bit!

whiskey cycling firePhoto credits: other than those taken by myself, James took a lot of these, and I borrowed the phrase about keeping going from Oiselle.

 

One year on

Exactly this time a year ago, I was one hour into my first shift as a doctor- a night shift looking after surgical patients in a massive teaching hospital. I cannot believe time has flown so quickly, but I’m now a year down the line- and what a year it’s been!Badge

On Monday, as I was desperately trying to reassure the incoming brand new doctors that actually, they would be just fine, it struck me all of a sudden how far I’ve come in a year. How much I’ve learned from the brilliant mentors and supportive seniors I’ve had at times this year. How many times I’ve felt blind fear at how ill a patient is, but had to put on a calm face because they need me to, and get on with the job.

Sport and medicine go hand in hand for me, in terms of helping each other, but these days I’m not sure which helps more- in the moments of nerves and having to put on a calm face and get on with it, I’m immensely grateful for sport having taught me to harness nerves and channel them into performances I can be proud of. On the other hand, the last year has toughened me up immensely, and I can’t wait to see how that mental strength can be nurtured through next year’s busy race calendar!

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I’ve struggled hugely at times over the past year with balance, and looking after myself when the balance has gone awry, work has taken over, and I’ve dug myself into a hole of exhaustion and misery. But I’m proud to say that I’ve given my first year my all, and tried my best to give my patients the care they deserve, and to be a thoughtful and helpful colleague. And, towards the end of the year, I’m proud that I feel as though I’m getting there with balance, and taking better care of myself.

So what’s next? After the chaos of a huge teaching hospital, I’m off to a tiny district hospital in Harrogate, which I think will be a very different experience, whilst I decide what to do next in my career, hopefully be a good mentor to the FY1 I’ll be working with on his first job, and oh yeah, train for the small matter of the Lakesman!

Out with the old; in with the new. Here’s to another year and the challenges it brings.

5 goals for the next 5 months

I read a great post this week from one of my favourite new blogs, The Life Degree, which (somewhat scarily) pointed out that the Monday just gone marked 5 months until Christmas, which for me also means 5 months until I’ll be into focused ironman training for the Lakesman, and setting 5 goals for that time.

So, here are mine- some sport, some personal and some professional!

1. Spread a little kindness every day. Whether it’s taking newbies in my cycling club out for rides and showing them how beautiful West Yorkshire is by bike, little human touches like fetching patients blankets and cups of tea to help comfort them when they’re at their lowest, or doing my best to be a helpful, kind mentor to the new FY1 doctor I’ll be working with for the next 4 months as he takes his first, petrified, steps into being a great doctor.

2. Enjoy the process of triathlon training rather than just the outcomes. Last Sunday I did a beautiful ride out into the Yorkshire Dales on my own. With no goal in mind other than to enjoy it, I barely looked at my Garmin screen, and instead looked around me, taking lungfuls of beautiful fresh air and absorbing the sights and smells of a gorgeous, rainy day in the Dales surrounded by breathtaking views of the Wharfe Valley. I am so, so privileged to live and train where I do, so I’m going to seek out the enjoyment in training and the experiences that will give me confidence, alongside the plain old hard work.IMG_2721

3. Take better care of myself, not just the people I look after at work. I like to think I’m a thorough, kind doctor, but at times this year it’s come at the expense of looking after myself- so between now and Christmas I’ll be trying to make sure I drink more water and a little less coffee, get good quality sleep and continue packing balanced, healthy food for my workdays to power me through.

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4. Try to set aside a little time a week for writing this blog- because I love writing about my experiences juggling work and training, and the eternal quest for balance, and hope it shows other busy women it can be done.

5. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. The past few weeks of really working on my swimming have been, frankly, bloody hard work, and have involved a lot of time outside my comfort zone. However, they’ve been fun, and have reminded me that being uncomfortable tends to be when breakthroughs happen!

If you were to set 5 goals for between now and Christmas, what would they be?

Doing the work

The few triathlons I’ve done so far, and in fact, races in general, have taught me that knowing the theory of how they should work isn’t enough. Endless time spent poring over footage of elite athletes, reading endless articles and blogs, and spending money on lovely new kit and gadgets are all very well, but they won’t necessarily make me perform better.

CastleTriSwim

There’s a lot of talk around how we should only do exercise and training sessions that we actually want to do. To an extent, I agree. The thing is though, I really love the feeling of swimming quickly, gliding smoothly through the water. Without putting in the work though, it doesn’t happen and I’m left aimlessly windmilling my arms, tiring myself out and going absolutely nowhere. If I relied purely on motivation to improve my performance in sport, I wouldn’t get very far: I’m only human, and motivation waxes and wanes like the weather varies throughout a British summer.

So what’s more reliable than motivation? Discipline.

The friends I have who succeed in sport (looking at you, Cat and Cathy) aren’t necessarily the most motivated ones: they’re the most disciplined ones. Whether or not they want to do the session that day, they are disciplined enough to know that it’s necessary to produce the performance they’d like.

So that’s how I’m working on my swimming at the moment. I want to be gliding smoothly and quickly through the water in my next race. I currently do swim like an arthritic frog with panicky arms. So I’m being disciplined and doing the things I don’t always want to- doing the work.

WharfeSwim

I assumed swimming club sessions wouldn’t be for me, that I’d be laughed out of there, but I’ve been to two now, amongst a lot of solo sets to work on my weaknesses and I’ve loved them; they’ve been jovial and welcoming, but seriously hard work, with technically challenging drills, all-out sprints and long sets to push me right out of my comfort zone. And you know what? It works. I’ve made bigger leaps in the past month with my swimming than I have done in a couple of years, and it’s not down to reading about technique or buying new kit.

It’s about consistently doing the work. Food for thought there.

 

Running legs & Iffley Road shorts

I’ve written about it before here, but I don’t think marathon recovery is something to be rushed; I think the impact on both your legs and body can’t be overestimated, and recovery looks different to everybody. Before The Lakesman relay, I received some Iffley Road shorts to test, and it took great patience not to run a marathon in them despite some promising test runs, and then not to rush my recovery just so I could run in them!Iffley Road Shorts

Once my running legs came back to me, I’ve carried on testing the Holly shorts from Iffley Road in Gravel Black, and despite them being pretty far from what I normally choose in shorts, I actually kinda like them! My norm is tight-fitting, stretchy, slightly longer cycling-style shorts, so these short, looser-fit shorts are a little bit different. Designed in Britain, they’re made from technical fabric in a flat-fronted, quite minimalist style- quite traditional in design. Iffley Road Shorts

I tested a size small, and found them to be really comfortable for my shorter runs, though those prone to the chub rub may want to give them a miss, as the looser fit and short length could make these a chafe-prone short. They stayed lovely and cool to run in though, even in the warmer weather, and I barely noticed them, apart from a quiet ‘swish’ to the fabric which even James noticed! The design is subtle but classy, and compared to the more garish Lycra in my wardrobe, I really like them for a more subtle piece of kit.Iffley Road shorts

So what’s next for these running legs now I’m all recovered from the Lakesman and I have new kit to play in? I spent a very interesting session with Tom at Trimechanics this week, where after getting over the horror of watching myself run in slow motion, I learned a few things about the way I run and why I get tired when I do, and get the niggles I do, and most importantly, picked up some homework for before my runs. This mainly revolves around’switching on’ the right muscles before my runs, and harnessing good natural posture to run in the most efficient way possible- got to be pretty handy with an ironman coming up!

Disclaimer: Iffley Road sent me the Holly shorts to run in and try out in exchange for my honest opinions about them after a decent period of testing.