Why I Had A Medichecks Blood Test (And What I Discovered)

July 6, 2018

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know I’ve done a few years competitive bodybuilding. In fact, I “prepped” (trained and dieted for) competitive bodybuilding shows in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016, doing several shows a year.

That’s a lot for the human body to take.

Two years on from my last comp, and I still sometimes feel a bit tired. I have no idea if all the dieting has left me with any wonkiness as regards hormones, digestion, or nutrient levels.

I haven’t dieted for ages, but I know it can take a long time for things to return to normal. Especially when you’re a 40+ drug-free female. If I tell you that I used to have just one period a year (in my competing years), you’ll get an idea of what the body goes through.

All this is to say that I’ve been idly curious about how my body is doing, now I’m settling into a post-competitive-bodybuilding phase of life. Not curious enough to go to the GP or anything. But when my friends at Medichecks had an offer on their Well Woman Ultravit test, I decided to go for it.

The Medichecks Well Woman Ultravit test looks at health markers for red and white blood cells, liver health, kidney function, bone health, gout, iron status, and diabetes, measures of iron storage, thyroid function and key vitamins and hormones. Also ferritin, vitamin B12, folate, vitamin D, thyroid function and magnesium, female hormones FSH, LH and oestradiol, menopause and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Things I Was Worried/Curious/Catastrophising About

  • tiredness. I’m sometimes so tired, and there doesn’t seem to be a pattern to it. But then again, I stay up far too late watching Netflix, I scroll Facebook on my phone in bed, and generally do all those things I tell other people not to do when I write content for clients.
  • gout (bloody gout!) I’ve had a painful big toe for about 2 years. I just can’t work out what’s wrong with it. I went to the GP when it was really bad, and he told me it was “probably gout” – which made me feel like Henry VIII or something. I don’t think it’s gout, but the GP said it “probably” was so… y’know.
  • menopause. For a few months, I convinced myself I was in the early stages of menopause. This was based on the sum total of zero. But I’m 40, and I know the pre-menopause “things starting to wind down” phase can start up to 10 years before menopause. So, anyway, I was curious about that.
  • general hormone levels. I’ve always assumed my hormone levels are bomb-diggity, because I seem to be able to put on muscle easily, and my hair grows fast, stuff like that. But it would be interesting to know for sure.
  • nutrient deficiencies. I haven’t dieted in any way since I last prepped for a show, and I eat a pretty varied diet. But there’s always a chance I’m missing something, or that my years of harsh bodybuilding dieting is still affecting me.
  • I am a generally nosy/curious person.

How It Works

The test I had needed a venous blood sample (blood drawn by a medical professional). Some you can do yourself with a fingertip pinprick test at home. All I had to do was go along to one of the partner clinics (a local hospital in my case), wait for a bit, get the nurse to take my blood, and pop the test in the post. The actual blood part took about 2 minutes. It didn’t hurt. I felt absolutely fine after.

The Results

Medichecks get your results to you very quickly – I think it was 24 or 48 hours after I posted the test. It’s all confidential and done online so you can log in and view all the results. They give recommendations and explain all the results clearly.

You get a comprehensive PDF, but there’s no point me putting screenshots here as it’s all very detailed and medical!

Fortunately, there’s nothing wrong with me at all. No gout. No menopause. No wonky hormones or gaping holes in my nutrition. Just low iron (as explained below).

Unfortunately, this means I have no excuse for my “tiredness” other than watching Netflix too late into the night. (But the new season of GLOW has just started!)

Expert Comment

My friend and yours, all-round legend Dr Emil “Goliath” Hodzovic actually works for Medichecks. Emil is a medical Doctor (BSc Sports & Exercise Science, MBBCh Medicine & ISSN Applied Nutrition Student if you please) and a coach. He didn’t do my test, but I asked him to comment on the results from the point of view of someone who trains, has competed, and also knows the medical side of things.

Over to Emil:

Your creatinine is raised and actually a little high. This could easily be through muscle mass, having done a big workout, or dehydration (or use of creatine). But it is probably worth confirming that is usually normal for you. (FYI – eGFR above 60 is acceptable).

eGFR looks at the rate of filtration in the kidneys and uses creatinine as a marker. The factors above cause increased production rather than decreased kidney function but below a certain level, it’s worth making sure there is nothing else going on.

Your aspartate transferase is up a bit. This is entirely unsurprising in someone who exercises. Likewise with CK – creatine kinase.

Your transferrin is low and, actually, your ferritin is at the lower end of normal. This is definitely worth addressing via dietary changes and/or iron supplements. You are not anaemic yet (your Hb is normal) but I imagine if you continued it would likely go that way.

Your HDL and cholesterol ratio (Total Chol to HDL) are both great, reflecting both good genetics, exercise, and likely a good lifestyle.

Your magnesium levels are great, which suggests you are getting some from your diet as people who train hard can be deficient

Your thyroid hormones, thyroid stimulating hormone, and sex hormones are great.

Your Vit b12 is a bit raised. But this isn’t surprising as many supplements and energy drinks contain it, plus you are not vegan any more (!) so you’re getting plenty from diet too

And your Vitamin D is also great. This is another area where people can easily be deficient.

Your levels suggest possible supplementation (or just a lot of sunshine and being outdoors with all your dog walking!)

Thanks Emil. Not much for me to do really – except pay attention to my iron levels. I am terrible with supplements, by which I mean I just don’t remember to take them. I go in fits and starts with creatine, and I remember to take a multivit maybe 4 days out of the month. So I’ll take my multivit (which has iron in) every day. I know iron deficiency can make you feel tired, so perhaps this will address that issue. Or maybe I need to go to bed earlier and not take my phone into the bedroom… !

Everyday Health Is More Important Than #Beastmode

It’s good to know that simple everyday habits (like spending time outside every day, walking a lot, low stress levels, having a healthy and varied diet, and training) do pay off.

It’s worth noting I am definitely not a “fitspo” type person these days! I tran in the gym 2-3 times per week. I do yoga. I walk a lot. I don’t count macros or calories. I drink a lot of water. My point here is that I don’t think you have to be an uber hardcore fitness junkie to be healthy. Simple daily habits, done consistently, as part of a happy lifestyle, are the important thing.

Have you had a Medichecks test? Thinking about it? Feel free to comment – if I can’t answer your question, I’m sure Emil would pop back on with his expert hat on.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist with 14 years experience in writing content and direct response copy for the fitness industry. Get in touch via Facebook, by sending a message here.

My Olympics: day 11, triathlon (again)

August 7, 2012

In this blog series, I take inspiration from one of the day’s Olympic events. Today: triathlon.

Sort of! You see, I haven’t said anything about it on the blog but I’ve got a photoshoot tomorrow, so today I’m doing depletion workouts and playing around with carbohydrates and all that kind of thing. Plus, I have a lot of work to do (I do actually do paid work as well as blog and bodybuild, crazy as it might seem… !)

So, today’s blog post is less active and more informative. 😉

I know I’ve already covered triathlon (when the women’s race was on) but today, inspired by the men’s race (go Brownlee! and go Brownlee!) I thought I’d do a fun little jargon-buster, so those of you who are watching the race feel a bit more at home with some of the commentary.

The world of triathlon is full of confusing words, shiny kit and new jargon. Let this handy guide help you tell your transitions from your turbo sessions…

Olympic-distance: not just because it’s the one they’re doing in the Olympic Games. Olympic-distance is the name for the standard distance of triathlon (as opposed to Sprint, middle distance, long-distance at al). What is it? 1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run.

Ironman: Chrissie Wellington is in the commentary box at the Beeb today. She’s an Ironman champion. Have you ever told people you’re doing a marathon, only to be asked “how long is that?” Ironman is a bit like that: Ironman is a brand which owns some long-distance triathlon races, but you can do an ‘ironman-distance race’ without taking part in an actual Ironman race.

Transition: the part of a triathlon race between the swim and bike, or bike and run. Used for changing kit, getting your bike (or putting it away again), grabbing a drink.

Racking: bikes are usually held on ‘racks’ in transition. Racking means putting your bike in transition before the race and is part of registration

Turbo sessions: a turbo trainer is like a treadmill for your bike. It holds your bike steady so that you can carry out bike training sessions in your garage (or front room!) if the weather’s bad or you want to do an intense session

Open water: triathlons always start with the swim, but some are held in a pool (pool-swims) and some in open water (open water, or OW swims). Open water can mean rivers, lakes, the sea or man-made bodies of water.

Buoyancy: the degree of extra floatation a good triathlon wetsuit will give you.

Zip cord: the long tie attached to your zip, which you grab in order to start undoing your wetsuit

Drafting: the technique of tucking yourself in behind someone else on the bike (can also be done on the swim) in order to conserve energy and therefore go faster. Pro triathletes are allowed to draft o the bike. Us mortals are not and it’s punishable by time-penalties or disqualification.

Aero: aero bars, aero position… what the what? Aero means getting into a tucked, aerodynamic position on the bike so you go faster. Aero bars (or tri bars) – the sticky outy bits on the front of the handlebars – help achieve this. Aero helmets help too. As does a good aero position.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten loads of bits of triathlon jargon! If anything is confusing you as you watch, ask and I’ll try to answer 🙂

How have the London 2012 Olympic Games inspired you today?

My Olympics: day 11, triathlon (again) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

My Olympics: day eight, triathlon

August 4, 2012

In this blog series, I take inspiration from one of the day’s Olympic events. Today: triathlon.

It had to be done, really. I used to do triathlon (surely there’s a more eloquent way of putting it… “I used to compete in triathlons at amateur level), coach triathlon (the open-water swim part of it), write about triathlon (mainly for 220 Triathlon magazine and Triathlete’s World magazine, but also for British Triathlon‘s Tri News and other industry/trade publications) and have even been interviewed on BBC Radio about triathlon. Oh, and I wrote the non-newsy content for British Triathlon’s media site.

So, yeah, after following the progress of Helen Jenkins, Vicky Holland and Lucy Hall on TVs and radios as I went about my day, it was clear that today’s blog post had to be “triathlon”.

However, I have neither the energy nor the resources to actually do an entire triathlon today! The bike and run bits are easy (in that you can ride and run from anywhere and use your own house as “transition”). But for the swim, you need a body of open-water. I don’t have one. So, I decided to do a (very!) short bike/run “brick” (the official name for a training session which runs two of the triathlon disciplines together – a swim/bike brick or the more common bike/run brick).

I even put on a tri-suit. Yes, to cycle round local roads and to run round the block. See how dedicated I am to this blog!

Here are two videos, of me talking you through T1 and T2 – the transitions between swim-to-bike and then bike-to-run. If you watched the Olympic triathlon today you’ll have noticed how quickly the athletes transition from each bit of the race. That’s the key: get your transition area set up and organised, know what needs to be done and then practice endlessly until you’ve got it down to a fine art. Transition is often called the “4th discipline” of triathlon because it can make or break your race, just as the swim, bike or run can.

Here’s transition in a nutshell. This assumes that you’ve already “walked it through”, noting where you come into transition from the swim and how you’ll find your bike from there, where the bike exit is, where the bike “in” is and where you’ll find your (empty) bike racking space from there, then where “run out” is. It also assumes you’ve set your transition area up however you need it to be so you can lay your hands on everything just as you need them without getting flustered or losing time.

Transition one
– Finish the swim
– Wetsuit off (unzip, arms out, down to the waist) as you run into transition.
– Find your bike, wetsuit fully off, swimcap and goggles off
– Bike helmet on and done up (do this now before you even touch your bike to avoid getting penalised)
– Sunnies on, race belt on, bike shoes on (unless you have them clipped to your bike and opt to get into them whilst on the go – yes this can be done, not by me though!)
– Grab your bike, head for “bike out”
– Get on at the “mount” line, start pedalling (you will, of course, have racked your bike in a low gear so you’ll be able to get going easily)

Transition two
– Dismount your bike at the dismount line
– Run into transition, find your racking area, rack the bike
– Helmet off, bike shoes off, run shoes on (elastic laces and lace locks make this very quick to do)
– Grab any energy gels/visor/hat etc and get running
– Run through “run out” and go for Gold

Transition two in particular is lightening fast, often taking the Pros just a matter of seconds! Amazing to watch.

There you have it. Did you watch the Olympic triathlon today? Did you notice the speed and efficiency of the transitions? If you watch the men’s race on Tuesday, look out for the bits between the swim/bike and bike/run – and get prepared to be amazed!

How have the London 2012 Olympic Games inspired you today?

My Olympics: day eight, triathlon is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

The Conditioning Chronicles: Barnes Fitness

August 2, 2012

With 6 weeks to go until my first bodybuilding competition of the year, it’s time to step up the conditioning and get shredded! I’ve called in various favours and asked some people in the biz to blast me, beast me and generally put me through my paces.

Today’s installment of the Conditioning Chronicles needs a bit of background.

I used to be a swimmer. I wasn’t much of a speed-demon in the pool but I could grit it out through hell and high water – and did, swimming the English Channel twice (and the length of Windermere once, and round the Channel island of Jersey) with all the long, long training such swims demand.

So, when I approached my good friend Ellie Barnes of Barnes Fitness with the familiar plea of “get me lean!” (the battle-cry of every Conditioning Chronicle), I did so with a heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach (nothing to do with my fibre supplements). Because I knew that Ellie would either put me on a turbo trainer, make me sprint round a track or – worst of all – pop me in a pool.

Ellie is a Personal Trainer at Reading-based Barnes Fitness, and a very accomplished athlete in her own right. In fact, she has been selected to represent Great Britain as an age-grouper at this year’s World triathlon championships in New Zealand. You can support her here, and I urge you to do so if you can.

I met Ellie at a local pool (outdoors – lovely!) and I’m not joking when I say I was really apprehensive. It was a fear and dread which ran much deeper than “this is going to hurt” or “I’m not sure I can even do this sport”. In fact quite the opposite – I know I can do it, and I know because I’ve done so, so much of it. Hours and hours of training in the cold sea (I’m talking 7 hours on Saturdays and then 6 hours on Sundays) does build up a kind of trepidation on a cellular level. It wasn’t just my brain which was nervous. It was my body. Don’t get me wrong, I love swimming and will always adore it. We just have a tempestuous history and needed a bit of time apart. We haven’t spoken for a while and it was going to be… awkward.

I also had no idea if I could even swim any more. I haven’t done it in ages. I sometimes have anxiety dreams where I’m swimming through glue, or can’t lift my hands out of the water for the recovery phase of the stroke.

Hopefully by now you have some idea of the frame of mind I was in before today’s conditioning session! 😉

Ellie is a great coach and a good friend and put me at ease in no time. We did some mobility work before I lowered myself into the water and set off on a 200m freestyle warm up. My arms worked! My hands didn’t get stuck in the water! I was actually moving. This was OK. I could even tumbleturn still (well, sometimes).

After that I did:
– 100m for time (more on that later)
– 1x200m (this was meant to be 4x200m but I wasn’t feeling the love and asked if we could do shorter intervals instead) – 3:38. We did this using paddles and fins (flippers) to work on power.
– 4x50m – 44s, 47s, 50s (oops), 47s
– a kick set (100m with fins/flippers, 50m without)
– 100m backstroke cool down (ahhhh)

For the amazing, earth-shattering, flabbergasting total of… 1150m. Haha!

Here’s me during the 200m with fins and paddles

And me barely moving during the bit of kickset where I wasn’t wearing fins! This was truly agony (I did a very heavy squat session yesterday).

Ellie said:

“When you asked me to help you with a conditioning session, I wondered whether you’d feel more comfortable with longer intervals of 3-4 minutes (aerobic) or shorter bursts which would call on your anaerobic energy system. I think we can see from today’s set that you find anaerobic efforts easier, hence cutting the planned 4×200 short and turning it into 50m repeats instead. This isn’t really surprising since your weights work is probably quite explosive and, even though you might do a lot of volume and several sets, you’ll be taking a recovery after every set. So you don’t often ask your body to work at a relatively high level for 4+ minutes.”

This is definitely true – even my longest weights set might only be 20 reps (even when I sometimes do a very high rep squat set of 40 reps, it certainly doesn’t take me 3 or 4 minutes to complete the set) so most of my “intervals” or work periods are short, with a recovery. Even when I head out for long cardio, on my road bike for instance, there are still long periods of recovery between efforts like hill climbs.

I was interested in the effects of a short swim session on “pump” so did a bit of posing (I have no shame, bodybuilding has seen to that!), here we go:

Verdict: tough during the intervals but I recovered quickly. Will be interested to see effect on metabolism (hunger?) later today…

Thank you, Ellie at Barnes Fitness! 🙂

The Conditioning Chronicles: Barnes Fitness is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Story of a GB age-group triathlete: Ellie Barnes Q&A

April 17, 2012

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to represent your country at your chosen sport? Or even at one you can’t do, but dream of being good at? Olympic athletes aren’t the only ones who get to pull on a GB vest. What does it take to compete at international level as an age-grouper? I asked my friend Ellie Barnes, a Personal Trainer, to tell us her story – just before she sets of to compete at the European Triathlon Championships this Saturday.

thefitwriter: Ellie, massive congrats on making the GB team for the Europeans. So exciting! Can you give readers some background on your own sporting journey and history?

Ellie Barnes: Sport has always been high on my agenda (not surprising with a mother as a PE Teacher and a father who cycled from London to Paris for fun!) I was a keen netballer but it wasn’t until I moved to Reading in 2006 that I started to get into competitive running. My first race was the Shinfield 10km. My partner at the time put money on me not completing it in under 60 minutes (tfw: Ha ha, I have a similar story behind my first running race!) Much to his wallet’s dismay, I finished in 43 minutes!

I then did the London Marathon in 2007, training with Reading Roadrunners and finishing in 3hrs 38minutes. Marathons became my mainstay for a few years with my PB a few years later in Amsterdam: 3hrs 07minutes. Whilst training for the London Marathon 2010 I got a stress fracture in my metatarsal, which taught my body a lesson about cross training and I mixed my running up with some cycling and swimming.

I was introduced to a competent triathlete and triathlon coach in 2010 (Jo Lewis of Tri50), who has nurtured me to become the GB Age-Group triathlete I am now!

tfw: For how long have you been doing triathlon?

EB: My very first triathlon was whilst marathon training was very much still my main focus so I really didn’t know what I was doing. So much so, that when I was in transition from swim to bike, I put my cycle helmet on first and then tried to get my t-shirt on over the top. Top tip: this doesn’t work!

My next encounter with triathlon was in May 2011 at Dorney Lake. I still didn’t really know what I was doing, swimming in open water with a wetsuit was rather an alien experience and trying to keep track of how many laps I had cycled proved a challenge! Much to my amazement, I actually was the first lady to cross this line, I really wasn’t expecting that at all! That success gave me the bug to learn more about triathlon and do more races.

tfw: When did you realise you might be good enough to challenge for a GB place?

EB: Once I competed in the London Triathlon in August 2011, I realised I may have potential to go further. I finished 6th in my age group (25-30) at this event and really wasn’t that far behind the winning women. I actually had the fastest run time of the whole day. I spoke to my coach, Jo, about trying to qualify for the GB Age Group Squad and she suggested we look at last year’s results from the European Championships to see whether we thought it was realistic. We did, and I decided “why not?”

tfw: What was the process like? How did you have to qualify?

EB: There are three events per year which are “qualifying races” for the GB Age Group Squad, and there was only one left in the season, so I had no choice but to enter “Newbiggin-by-the-Sea Triathlon” on 11 September 2011. I had no idea where Newbiggin was before I entered it. Turns out it is 325 miles from Reading, yes, this is commitment! And the swim was in the North Sea in September. What was I thinking??

tfw: How did your training, nutrition, recovery and general preparation change once you knew you were going for qualification?

EB: Once I knew I was going for qualification I read up a lot about triathlon specific training and sought expert advice from Jo. I trained with the David Lloyd Triathlon Club that Jo coached as well as the Tri20 Club in Reading. I also learnt that I needed to work on my swimming to increase my chances of qualification, so this became my main focus for the next six weeks, swimming 4-5 times per week including a 6am session on a Friday morning!

tfw: Tell us about the qualifying race.

EB: Five hours in a car is not my idea of fun, however my Mum, Dad, brother and partner all came along for the ride. Arriving in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea was like walking back in time: a quintessentially British seaside town, with the traditional fish and chips shops and beach huts.. and what felt like Force 10 gale winds. Just walking through the car-park to registration was a challenge as the wind was howling. The sea was choppy with seven lifeboats on the course, the bike was a two-lap course with some great headwind sections as well as tailwinds downhill, so not all bad. Then the run, where I usually feel strongest, but not today. It was along the sea wall and back and I couldn’t feel my feet by this point. I actually had one of the quickest run times of the day, though.

When I crossed the line I didn’t know where I had finished in my age-group. I knew I had to finish in the top four and, by the time I went to get my results print-out it was confirmed, I had finished 3rd in my age group, and therefore I had qualified! Woohoo!

tfw: What then – how long between qualifier and GB event, and how did things change for you?

EB: Since that race, the date 21 April 2012 has been engraved on my brain! The remainder of 2011 was spent maintaining base level fitness and primarily working on swim technique. On 1 January 2012 it was time to start SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Timed) training – I could not have done this without the amazing guidance and support from coach Jo Lewis: our weekly meeting to review my progress from the previous week and look at the next few weeks training has been invaluable. I also sought expert nutrition advice from Janie Perry of Relax to Revive, Strength and Conditioning advice from Aynsley Fry of Gecko Fitness and regular Sports Massage from Diksha of FixMe.

Training became more intense with two sessions most days, six days a week. A lighter week was welcomed every five weeks. A very intense week training in Lanzarote was thrown in the mix as well as various races to test my fitness including the Green Park Triathlon (1st Lady), Oulton Park Duathlon (1st Lady) and monthly parkrun 5km run timetrials.

tfw: How does it feel to be racing with a GB vest? Is it a dream come true? Does it live up to expectations? Is it different to imagined?

EB: When I received my GB trisuit with BARNES, GBR emblazoned across it it seemed a little surreal. Is this really for me? Then when I put it on for the first time I was a little stunned… yes this is me, I have worked hard for this but need to keep focused on 21 April 2012 when the training will be really put to the test.

tfw: What’s next for you and how can readers look out for you/support you?

EB: Saturday 21 April 2012, 7am in Eilat, Israel, the ETU Triathlon European Championships (2hrs ahead of GMT). I will be updating my Facebook and Twitter, but you should also be able to find results here (select 25 – 29 Female AG Sprint).

tfw: Finally, what advice do you have for any amateur triathletes wanting to one day qualify for GB kit?

EB: Do it! Don’t think about it, get yourself entered and believe in yourself….look here for more info.

Best of luck, Ellie! Perhaps you’ll come back and tell us about the race?

Story of a GB age-group triathlete: Ellie Barnes Q&A is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: SOLE Sport Flips shoes

March 4, 2012

Today’s fitness kit I’ve reviewed this week is for my runner friends. With marathon season fast-approaching, no doubt you’re all racking up the mileage and spending a lot of time on your feet. Here is something I’ve tried out recently which might be right up your alley, plus a few expert tips to help keep your feet happy before you start your taper.

SOLE Sport Flips

I’ve reviewed a SOLE product before (in this post) – the Exhale recovery shoes, which I still wear around the house. This time, I was sent SOLE‘s Sport Flips, which look like flip flops but offer a lot more support and comfort to tired hard-working feet.

They’re great! I’ve been wearing them round the house and actually even wore them out and about yesterday (that was before it started snowing…!) They’re extremely comfortable (even the bit which goes between your toes isn’t annoying or painful) and very good for you feet. And that, of course, is the point – slippers and socks are all well and good but they don’t help your feet recovery whilst you’re slouching about. In fact, they’re likely to encourage the arch of the foot to flatten out, making the muscles work hard to keep you balanced. By putting their orthopaedic mouldable footbeds into shoes, SOLE give you a couple of great recovery options (these flip flops or – if you want a cosier option – the Exhale shoes I reviewed before) for more cushioning and support.

I don’t do long runs any more but I imagine these would be ideal to pop on after your Saturday or Sunday run, so your poor feet can slowly recover. And they’ll be great for wearing during the days and weeks after your marathon! The Sport Flips come in loads of colourways, too, so you’re not stuck with one choice. They are £50 and you can get them from the SOLE website, Runners Need and other selected sport stores.

An expert note on recovery time between runs: Andrew Stanley, Podiatrist and running Biomechanics Specialist at The Rebound Clinic, says it can be difficult to know how to help your legs and feet recover between sessions when you’re trying to peak for a long race. “Traditional flip flops, slippers and slouch socks create a very unstable platform”. he says. “This instability can lead to excessive foot motion resulting in foot, leg and even back pain – not helpful when you’re trying to recover between runs.

“These SOLE Flips and the SOLE Exhales mentioned prevously are scientifically designed to support the heel and arch of the foot which stabilise the walking motion. They keep the feet and legs in a more neutral position reducing the stresses of walking, resulting in less stiffness, pain and tiredness after running,” he says.

How is your marathon training going? Did it snow on your long run today?

Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: SOLE Sport Flips shoes is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

A cautionary tale (why runners and bikers should always carry emergency ID)

February 17, 2012

Just one day after he was merrily giving you his opinion on rye bread, my husband came off his bike on a busy town-centre roundabout.

He’s (relatively) OK and in one piece. We’re both shocked, he’s in huge amounts of pain, but the main thing is – of course – that he is still here to tell the tale. He has one dislocated shoulder and several torn ligaments, but things could have been so much worse.

So, today’s blog post is a short but serious one. If you run, or ride a road or mountain bike, whether it’s every day to and from work like my husband or whether it’s once in a blue moon, my question to you is:

Do you wear some kind of emergency ID?

Happily, my husband was still conscious and just about with it enough to remember our phone number. And the person in the car behind him, who stopped to help, was a qualified First Aider. And he was (ironically) just moments from his work building. What if all of this hadn’t have been the case?

Who would emergency services – or that good Samaritan – call, if you slipped or were knocked down whilst biking or running? How would they know who to call?

Please, get some kind of ID tag which carries emergency contact details and other important information. It’s easy. Just click here for Road ID, or here for Cram Alert. Make it your Friday Thing To Do.

Happily, sandwiches can be eaten one-handed, so I think my husband will survive this latest scrape. But next time he gets on that bike, he’ll be wearing emergency ID. I’ll insist on it.

A cautionary tale (why runners and bikers should always carry emergency ID) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Story of a first-time triathlete: Auntie Rose’s race report

August 31, 2011

Remember my Auntie Rose’s foray into triathlon (and her training update post?) She did it! And I’m very proud of her. Here’s her recap of her first triathlon – the Dextro Energy London Triathlon earlier this month:

Race day dawned (it couldn’t come soon enough!) At last, all the training was to be put to the test. Hyde Park was ready for us… and us for it! Since this race was being used as a try-out for the London 2012 Olympic triathlon, we were surrounded by all levels of athleticism, and a massive crowd, too. It was quite daunting really, but what a buzz! I felt so honoured to be part of it all.

As we were not due to start until 16.30, we had a nerve-wracking couple of hours marvelling at the super-fit youngsters and going over the race in our heads. We were all very calm, given the size of the event. Bikes racked, cycling and running gear laid out, we were all ready.

As the water temperature was 21*C, the option of wetsuits was ours. I opted to keep mine on, concerned that today was not the day to try without (all our training had been done in wetsuits). I was glad I did as the Serpentine was cold and pretty murky.

The swim was a pontoon start and turned out not to be the washing-machine I’d anticipated. I made the dubious choice to try and support my two friends, neither of whom were confident in the water. That turned out to be a mistake, and I eventually had to leave them to support one another. I swam the second 400m way faster than the first, but felt really mixed emotions as I glanced back to see Sue and Nikki’s furrowed brows as they got further and further behind.

T1 was immensely long and by the time I reached my bike I felt like I had already run the 5k. In fact it took me a whopping 7 minutes from swim to bike, way longer than I wanted it to be.

The cycle was exhilarating and I actually found myself passing quite a few people. My trusty little Giant did me proud and was a joy to ride.

Three loops later I was back at T2 for my very least favourite part: the run. As it turned out, the training we had put in paid off as I didn’t feel as leaden-limbed as I anticipated starting the run.

It was very heartening to be cheered on by friends and family, and the supporters of my four fellow “triathloonies”, too. It seemed that no more that five minutes would pass before someone would spur me on by name.

All too soon I was approaching the blue finishing strip, but not before I was passed by several of next year’s Olympic hopefuls vying for selection for the Aquathon event. They were gazelles as they breezed passed me as I lumbered along for my final kilometre. I admit to having a chuckle at my own expense as I compared my performance to theirs. But the overriding thought I had was pride in myself at having actually finished.

My finish time? I managed 2 hours exactly, and know that when I do my next Sprint Triathlon, I will definitely be faster. I know I can do the swim faster, I’m sure I can negotiate T1 way faster, I think I can knock at least five minutes off the cycle, and shave 3 minutes or so off the swim. So my next target is sub 2 hours, and I can’t wait to do it all again!

Mid life crisis? Maybe. But if being fit and cheerful means pushing yourself to succeed, does age matter?

Story of a first-time triathlete: Auntie Rose tells all is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

thefitwriter on BBC Radio 4

August 17, 2011

Hi all! Just a very quick one – remember when I was interviewed by the BBC about triathlon, whilst coaching open-water swimming down at Dorney?

The interview finally aired last night as part of BBC Radio 4’s World Tonight show. You can listen again here I believe. (Tuesday 16th August) I think it’s towards the end of the programme – I haven’t had a chance to listen yet myself!

Here’s the relevant section of the show http://www.webfilehost.com/?mode=viewupload&id=9997435

thefitwriter on BBC Radio 4 is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Story of a first-time triathlete: my Auntie Rose tells all

July 20, 2011

Remember back in February, I told you how my Auntie Rose was about to embark on an adventure? Well, here we are just a few weeks away from her very first triathlon.

I thought it might interest some readers to hear exactly how she’s found training for her first triathlon. What’s been toughest, and easiest? What were the highest highs… and the lowest lows? What are her hopes for the race, and will she do another?

Over to Auntie Rose!

December 31st 2010. It seemed a really good idea to challenge myself physically in 2011. I’d reached my mid 50s and – as ever – was conscious of how my own mother had died at age 63. Because of that, I’ve always been determined to keep fit and active. My latest decision, however, promised to take my activities to a higher level.

What was my starting point prior to triathlon training?

Throughout 2010, my weekly activity had included two swims (usually a mile each time), a trip to the gym, a couple of games of tennis, a twice daily dog walk and the odd cycle. So, although I was far from a couch potato, I was not exercising seriously. Just enough to keep my weight stable and feel fit.

So, when challenged by my exercise buddy Clare to make 2011 the year that I entered a triathlon (something she – at four years my junior – has done twice in the past four years), my resistance weakened. I can swim, I can cycle, I have two strong legs and therefore should be able to run. So, why not, I thought!

We entered the Dextro Hyde Park Sprint Triathlon (London, 6th August 2011) and started to train.

What does the race involve?

First of all, there’s a 750m swim in the Hyde Park Serpentine (“piece of cake”), then a 22km cycle round Hyde Park (“pips”), then a 5km run. Ah, the 5km run. Now we have a problem!

The last time I tried to run was not pretty. Hampered by boobs that risk giving me black eyes, and a feeling that my brain rattles around inside my head when I start to jog, running is something to avoid. Suddenly, however, it became something I had to improve.

I contacted my niece Nic, an accomplished endurance swimmer and triathlete, to ask her for advice, and she came up trumps. One visit to her house later and I was armed with wetsuits to try on, triathlon tips galore, diet advice as well as a swimming session to tweak my stroke. I felt ready to roll.

My husband proved very enthusiastic and lent me his lovely Boardman bike to train on. The only snag was that our heights are massively different (his 6ft to my 5′ 5”). I realised that the frame was too big and my back was taking the strain. So we researched and I got my own Giant Defy road bike.

I’d never ridden drop handlebars before but after 10 seconds I felt at home. We are blessed with living on the edge of the Romney Marsh in Kent, and can leave our house and immediately be on flat country lanes. I built speed and endurance without having to climb hills. That said, we do have some killer hills which I added in to the mix, surprising myself with how much my riding has improved – and with how much I am enjoying it.

Two become five – triathlon trendsetters!

By the end of January, we two became five. Our friends Philippa (62), Nikki (59) and Sue (51) decided that, if we could do it, so could they!

All of us had our strengths and weaknesses. Sue could run forever, but wasn’t a swimmer. Phil was a strong swimmer and keen recreational cyclist, but not keen on running (plagued by a knee problem). Nikki was a spinning fiend, but couldn’t run well, and is scared of “things in the water”!

In late February, whilst on holiday in France, I embarked upon the challenge of beating my running phobia. To my horror, when I did start to jog on the beach, I could do no more that 30 paces before fighting for breath, my chest feeling as though I’d been sat on by a very large beast.

On my return to the UK, I saw my GP who confirmed that I was suffering from asthma.

Two inhalers later and clear instructions on how to improve my lung function, I set about building up the distance I could run.

Sue and Clare were very supportive and before too long I was notching up longer and longer treadmill sessions, and eventually realised I CAN do it. This culminated in my taking part in a 5km run last month – and managing to do the whole thing without a single wheeze!

We all did an open water workshop at Leybourne lake with Mike Russell and Giovanna Richards in late June (www.teamoutrageous.com), and it was thoroughly excellent. I would advise anyone undertaking a triathlon to do such a course, as it serves to dispel myths, but also makes you realise how different swimming in open water is from a pool.

I am learning to cope better with the restriction of swimming in a wetsuit , (even appreciating how weeing in it warms you up) and can get out of it without falling over and wetting myself. Yes, I’m not proud, I did do that the first time I tried! Fortunately that was at a private pool!

We have been practising transitions, feeling like beached whales in our wetsuits, blundering out of the water and running around to find our bikes, then cycling for 30 minutes before parking our bikes and then running on jelly-like legs. This is hard work!

One month to go: course recce

On July 6th, we all did a recce of the Hyde Park Course (exactly a month before the day!) and frightened ourselves silly at what we saw: goose poo worthy of a Great Dane, algae, steep inclines on the cycle course (steep when compared with Romney Marsh anyway).

But we are now all really gearing up for what is likely to be the most challenging thing any of us have done in a long while. We are loving the camaraderie of sharing our training and loving seeing and sharing one another’s successes. We also love the endorphins that flow after a good run, cycle or swim.

Current training schedule

At the moment, our week consists of something every day for six days then a rest day. It has been a revelation to me that I can fit it in and run a business and a home, and still continue with singing in two choirs and play tennis. I just don’t often sit down. (“Or speak to my husband”, says my husband.)

Now all we have to do is put it all together on the day. Watch this space!

Thanks for letting us know how you’ve been getting on, Auntie Rose! I’ve been quietly watching your Facebook updates and helping out when I can. You have to let us know how you get on – will you do another guest post after the race?

Oh, and you never did answer my question about “will you do another triathlon”?

Please all wish Auntie Rose and her friends the very best of luck with her triathlon. She’s an inspiration to me and I’m so delighted she’s taken on this challenge – and risen to it so admirably. Joyce genes are tough stuff! 😉

Story of a first-time triathlete: Auntie Rose tells all is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

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