How to get your triathlon wetsuit on…and off

April 21, 2011

In my capacity as an age-grouper triathlete and triathlon feature-writer, I’m often asked the best, easiest and quickest way to get a triathlon wetsuit on and off. When someone asked me the question on Twitter today, I thought – why not write a quick “how-to” blog post. The open-water training venues are opening up very soon and the first triathlons of the season won’t be far behind. And I daresay this glorious sunshine will tempt a few of you into the open-water. But it’s a bit chilly to go without a wetsuit just yet (don’t be fooled by the air temperature!) And why swim without a wetsuit when the event you’re training for dictates you wear one?

So, here they are: my top tips for getting that skin-tight triathlon wetsuit on – and then off again!

Getting your wetsuit on

Remember a couple of things: firstly, no prizes for being the fastest person to put their suit on. Secondly: yes, it really should feel that tight (it will loosen off a little once you’re in the water, which is all that matters).

The clock doesn’t start ticking til the starter sets you off on the swim. So you can take as long as you like. Leave yourself plenty of time and find a cool spot (it’s amazing how hot and sweaty you get struggling into a wetsuit). Take your secret weapon (thank you to my triathlon pro and super-speedy swimmer pal Richard Stannard for this tip):

Yes, the common carrier bag. Put the carrier bag on one foot, like a sock. Slide that foot into the suit (the leghole, obvs). Take the bag/sock off, repeat on the other side. You should now have the suit on both legs, up to about the knees.

Pull it up. The zip should be at the back. You now need to make sure the groinal area of the suit (I know groinal’s not a word, but how I wish it were) is right up into your groin. Do this by inching the suit up, from below the knees if necessary, in tiny steps. Don’t yank and pull at it – therein lies a future of rips and tears to your suit. Use the pads of your fingers to pinch a bit of suit, and pull it up a few inches…and repeat all over the legs until the groin is in the right place.

Now check there are no rucks or folds behind your knees. This+swimming=ouch.

OK now check the time. Is your wave nearly ready to go? If so, proceed to the next step. If not, leave things here for a while. You really don’t want to be walking round for ages completely zipped up into your wetsuit on a hot day.

Put one arm and then the other into the suit (different arm holes). Then repeat the process you went through with the legs, but with the arms, making sure the suit fits right into your armpits. This is really important. So, inch the neoprene up in tiny bits from the wrists until it fits properly. Get someone to help you if necessary, don’t feel shy to ask, after all you need to keep your strength for the triathlon and it can be exhausting getting a wetsuit on!

Once your arms and legs are in and your groin and armpits are aligned with the relevant bits of the wetsuit, it’s time to zip up. Again, don’t do this if you have a long wait for your swim, it’s just not worth getting overheated.

Ask someone to help you zip the suit up (you may need to breathe out and draw your shoulders together right back behind you). They’ll need to press the velcro flap down over the top of the zip. Get them to hand you the end of your zip leash (if that’s what it’s called?) so you’re confident you can find it on swim exit.

Now just a couple of things to do to really check your suit is fitted snugly. Bend forward at the waist and grab any spare neoprene around your stomach. Yes, it really is neoprene and no I will not believe it is your belly. You are a triathlete! You have trained!

Ease any spare neoprene up, over the boobs (if you’re a lady…) and onto your upper chest/shoulder area. This is really the only area where you want any ‘spare’ neoprene. Can you grab a fistful of neoprene in that dent in front of your shoulder/under your collarbone? That’s OK. Can you grab a fistful of neoprene anywhere else? This is not so OK.

Check again for folds and creases in your elbows and behind your knees – get rid of them.

You’re ready to go (assuming you have your hat and goggles on). Enjoy.

Getting the wetsuit off

OK so you’re out of the swim. Time really does count now so it pays to practise getting your wetsuit off as fast as you can. What makes that super-tight wetsuit come off quickly? The layer of water inside. So act quickly before the water drains out. Here’s the drill.

Stand up out of the water, pop your goggles on top of your head, and start to run/walk towards transition. Immediately, reach behind you for your zipper leash and pull.

As you run/walk along, take one arm and then the other out until the suit is flapping around your waist.

Get to your bike and roll the suit down to your knees. Then lift one leg and the other until you can pull one foot free. Use that foot to stand on the other leg of the wetsuit, so you can pull the other foot free.

You’re done!

If you struggle with this technique, experience dizziness after the swim (me too) or feel a bit flustered, there’s no shame at all in just sitting down by your bike and pulling your suit off whilst you sit on the ground.

Hope that helps!

Do you have any tips or personal experiences to add? Please do!

Edited to add: My friend Dick (yes, really) has alerted me to the fact that “groinal” is, in fact, a word. Thanks, Dick!

How to get your triathlon wetsuit on…and off is a post from The Fit Writer blog.


Interval training at Fresh

April 4, 2011

OK so I lied about no more photos of me training for a while. When I wrote that, I forgot that I was due to go and train at Fresh, a gym and athletic conditioning facility newly opened in Shepperton.

Fresh contacted me through Twitter and invited me along to train with S&C coach Mike Lovett, on one of my HIIT days. Sure thing, I said. Put me through my paces. Let’s just say the drive home was…challenging. I kind of wished I was driving an automatic. It’s been a long time since my quads have felt like that!

To back up a bit: Fresh is just a couple of months old. It’s a big facility and combines traditional gym floor stuff (cardio machines, resistance machines and free weights) with athletic conditioning equipment in a lovely big space. There’s a scaffold, suspension training equipment, Olympic lifting, squat rack, kettlebells, battling ropes, punchbags and lots more.

I met Mike, my designated trainer, who asked me what I wanted to get out of the session. He already knew I was 14 weeks out from my figure comp (it’s taken me a couple of weeks to get this blog post up!) I’d told him I do plenty of heavy lifting but have little space or equipment with which to do really good conditioning sessions.

First of all, Mike led me through a warm-up focusing on mobility and dynamic stretching. He then revealed my circuit to me: five exercises focused on whole-body movement patterns (lunge, squat, pull, push and rotation)…and told me I’d go round five times. 45 seconds on, 15 off, and a bonus rest between sets. Eek!

Here’s what I did (with coach Mike’s explanations)

1) Lateral strap-shuttles
“Plyometric loading of the legs in a semi squat position whilst support the posture with the suspension straps, this exercise is great for heart rate training and really gets those legs full of blood”

2) Rope drives
“Using a 30kg heavy-duty rope, the aim is to get the whole body firing up in sequence with triple extension from ankle, knee and hips, an explosive power endurance exercise which will challenge the whole body”

3) Squat jump to hangs
“A favourite exercise of mine, great for separation and definition in the quads! Using a frame around 7ft high: stand directly under the frame in a squat position and explosively jump up and catch the pole above. Hold in an isometric position for 2 seconds. Let go and land softly in a full squat and simultaneously explode back up to the frame and repeat for the duration. A fierce explosive exercise!”

4) Get ups
“The aim of this exercise is simple: get on the floor from a standing position and – as quickly as possible – get up again. This usually involves a high tempo work rate including a squat, press up and lunge, and works both concentrically and eccentrically in all movements.

”

5) Endurance punch bag work
“Nothing gets the heart going like a little boxing. Using a 35kg hanging bag, I had Nicola punching high and hard for prolonged periods. This was challenging and got the heart rate up massively whilst keeping Nicola focused on the target throughout.” (I concur… 😉 )

My heart was pounding and I was completely knackered after that lot, but it was a clever circuit which fooled me into carrying on.. the 15 second rest period was just enough recovery for me to forget what the fuss was all about, and one or two of the exercises were just easier (not “easy”, just “easier”..!) enough to convince me I could make it through another round.

The exercises Mike chose for me got my heart rate up, worked my entire body and blasted me from all angles – lateral, explosive, triple extension and all that good stuff. I asked him to explain why he chose them:

This session was designed specifically for Nicola going into a HIIT training day. Although many people associate HIIT with treadmills/rowing machines, this session was purely based on body weight exercises challenging every muscle group by keeping the heart rate raised with short rest periods which in turn results in a fantastic HIIT training session. My aim was to work on an explosive basis, ensuring maximum force in every movement, this was evident with the load and explode squat jump and hangs.

Nicola was great to work with and really put in a fantastic effort throughout, already looking in great condition for her upcoming figure competitions. It was a pleasure to train Nicola and give her some guidance on training structures.

Without question Nicola got the HIIT workout she requested and also went away with some new ideas towards training.

Nicola, I hope you enjoyed the experience at Fresh and we look forward to seeing you again.

Mike was a fantastic coach, calling out words of encouragement all the way through and saying just the right thing to keep me going. One of my favourite was during the squat jumps/hangs: “Load up that squat and explode out of it…it will really get some separation going in those quads.” Yes please, sign me up!

Fresh is a great facility and well worth a visit if you’re in the area. As well as training in the indoor facilities, the team do a range of classes, outdoor sessions and are about to start dedicated triathlon training sessions at an open-water swimming lake. So, whatever your sport or fitness goal, do check them out if they’re in your patch.

Thank you Mike and the rest of the Fresh team, the session was great (and took me a while to recover from!) and it was a pleasure to see your facility.

You can follow Fresh and Mike on Twitter, and Fresh on Facebook.

Interval training at Fresh is a post from The Fit Writer blog.


Giving it a tri

February 27, 2011

I hope you’ve had a nice weekend. I had lots of family over today, including my Auntie Rose, who has decided to take up triathlon. Now, it’s terribly rude to talk about a lady’s age but, if I tell you that I’m 33, you can probably work out for yourself that my Auntie is not quite a teenager. So I think it is fantastic that she is training for her first triathlon.

Auntie Rose and my little sister 20+ years ago yesterday 😉 – sorry both of you, ha ha!

Auntie Rose is no couch potato – she’s a good swimmer and plays tennis (very well, I’m told) regularly. But triathlon is quite a challenge for anyone.

Before lunch, she picked a few products from my cardboard boxes of items I’ve kit tested for magazines (PRs, if you want them back, please just ask – Auntie Rose has only borrowed them). And, over lunch, she picked my brains about the mysteries of brick sessions, transitions, race belts and lock laces.

I’m thrilled to be able to help her out and can’t wait to cheer her on in her first race. And I’m delighted to have someone else sporty in the family!

I’ve asked her if she’ll do a few guests posts on this blog as her training progresses. If there’s any part of the learning curve you’d like her to write about, please let me know.

Did you take up a particular sport later on in life? Would you ever consider doing a triathlon?

I’ve got an exciting day lined up tomorrow with one big bit of kit to test and a talk to give at an industry event. I also owe you a blog post about fitness kit I’ve tested this week – some interesting stuff! I’ll blog again soon…

Giving it a tri is a post from The Fit Writer blog.


Guest post: Nicky at Run To Live on Ironman training

February 7, 2011

Today’s guest post is from Nicky at Run To Live. Nicky started running with her Dad when she was 10 and has never really stopped. She’s completed 14 marathons and one Ironman triathlon to date and is training for a few more this year. She manages fibromyalgia, which she says sometimes hampers training but never enthusiasm!

Here’s Nicky on Ironman training. (For those of you who don’t know, Ironman refers to a long distance triathlon: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and marathon (26.2 mile) run.)

Training for an Ironman isn’t something you do overnight. It takes months and sometimes even years of preparation for something that will last a maximum of 16 hours. Outside of that cut off time, you cannot call yourself an Ironman even if you finish the course.

“You’ve done an Ironman!”, friends and colleagues exclaim. It sounds grand, but often it only takes an extra dose of ignorance (of what to expect) or stubbornness to complete it. There is no doubt that Ironman triathlon uses all of your emotional tools against you, sometimes at your weakest moments. But my friends at Run To Live and I have learned that all you need is courage, determination and a little bit of luck to get to the finish line.

I mention this as we have again just embarked on an Ironman journey, this time with friends in tow. On the first weekend in August we’ll all be toeing the start line in Regenburg, Germany for the second running of the event. It’s been really interesting to watch their approach to training and compare.

(photo by Laurie King)

That’s Jules. She’s our ring leader. She’s always there, never shirks and doesn’t rely on rubbish excuses that some of us throw in when we can’t be arsed. She’s the one who borrowed her Dad’s climbing helmet to cycle in when she forgot to take her own. She’s the one who will get in and do her 100 lengths without the chit chat. Determined, focussed, capable.

Phil is our panicker. He does every training session, adds extra and thinks he’s still isn’t doing enough. Everything is 100%, which results in some amazing improvements but is also the same highway to burnout. We’re keeping an eye on him. 😉

Laurie is the frustrating beginner who picks everything up so quickly (he’ll be blushing when he reads this). The one who threw himself into the lake last year not being able to swim (Note: cheap wetsuits from Sainsbury do not help you to float!) Now he can comfortably do 100 laps in an hour while we are still struggling. He can cycle for hours at a really fast pace. Fast is fun to Laurie. Running is his achilles heel at the moment. A stress fracture and sprained ankle have hampered his plans to go long right now. But he’ll be fine, we don’t worry about him at all.

If you have the guts and determination to have a go, which one would you be? In the meantime, you can follow our progress to the start line at Run To Live.

Thanks Nicky, and best of luck to all of you! My husband did Ironman Switzerland some years ago and I was there as a spectator and supporter – completing the course (regardless of speed) is no mean feat and I take my hat off to all of you. I’ll be keeping an eye on your progress via your blog!

Guest post: Nicky at Run To Live on Ironman training is a post from The Fit Writer blog.


The Fit Writer tells you what you want to know

January 24, 2011

I love blogging. One of the bits I love the most is looking at the search terms people out there type into Google which lead them to these pages. Some of them are just bizarre (yes, I’m looking at you). However, weird or not, they do tell me something about what people are searching for. And sometimes, maybe, this blog is the right place for them to find the info they need.

So today I thought I’d have a look at my site stats, grab the top 10 search terms which have led people here, and address them. Here they are:

ONE
Liam Tancock

Ah, you all love yourself a bit of Liam, it seems. And who wouldn’t? Buff, a great swimmer, and a jolly nice chap to boot. Well, “Liam Tancock” Googlers, why not read my post here about the time I met (and swam with!) him. Oh and here’s a picture, cos I know that’s what a lot of you are really after (see point “five” below).

TWO
The Workout Mix

A ha! The Workout Mix is a double CD of workout tunes released last December. I was invited along to the press launch and had the chance to interview Matt Roberts, personal trainer and one of the experts behind the CD. As a matter of fact, the workout mix, the workout mix 2011 and workout mix 2011 are all up there in popular search terms. The PR company must be pleased! And I’ve just realised I’m now going to get a lot more hits for people searching for info about it… Read my review, all the links are there!

THREE
The Fit Writer

Well, that’s me innit. Hiya! 🙂 That’s not actually my name. That would be weird. It what I call this blog because I’m a freelance sport and fitness writer. And I go to the gym a lot. And I have a biro and a pad of paper in my kit bag. Enough reasons?

FOUR
Wetsuit

Wetsuits, wetsuits, wetsuits. I do spend a disproportionate amount of my time clad in finest neoprene. It could be because I’m testing wetsuits and reviewing them for triathlon magazines, or because I’m training/racing for my own enjoyment. Just be assured that, for several weeks every summer, my house smells of drying neoprene, and there’s usually at least one wetsuit hanging up in the shower.

FIVE
Liam Tancock speedo

Perverts! (Scroll up to the top of this post.)

SIX
Gravity training system

There’s another happy PR out there! Yes, lots of people end up at my blog looking for information or reviews of the Gravity Training System, a bit of fitness kit I was invited to try out at the end of last year. Here’s my review. I thought it was great.

SEVEN
Fitness journalism

Perhaps a lot of people come here hoping I hold the key which will unlock the door to freelance journalism. I don’t, I’m afraid, but I am always happy to give my advice and my story to anyone over email, and I have done several times. Perhaps that’s an idea for a blog post, actually. In the meantime, I was interviewed by Essential Writers about freelancing in the sport and fitness niche. Here’s the interview.

EIGHT
2xu project x

These kit reviews are popular aren’t they? Sadly for anyone wanting info about 2XU’s pricey but fantabulous Project X triathlon wetsuit, I didn’t actually review it on this site as I’d been commissioned to review it for a magazine. I wrote about, er, writing about it. Not too helpful!

NINE
Wetsuit lads

Perverts! There are probably pictures of “lads” (?) in wetsuits on this site, but not a post dedicated to that fine topic. Apologies! Might I suggest you train for an (open-water) triathlon? Or volunteer to help at one? (At longer-distance triathlons, there’s even a helper role called “wetsuit stripper”. No kidding! Sounds like your kind of job.)

TEN
Fitness industry trends 2011

I have an image of several Sports Management students tapping away at their keyboards and ending up here. Sorry about that! I did, however, go to the FIA keynote at last year’s Leisure Industry Week, and blogged about what was said. That might be of some use? I do keep up with what’s what in the industry, and follow some useful people on Twitter. Feel free to rifle through my follow-list if you want.

The Fit Writer tells you what you want to know is a post from The Fit Writer blog.


Recent work for sport and fitness clients

January 21, 2011

I initially intended this blog to be split about 50/50 between posts about my work as a sport and fitness writer, and posts about my own sporty endeavours.

Somewhere along the line, the balance has been lost! So today I’m going to post about a few recent projects I’ve worked on for sport and fitness clients.


Website copy for a personal trainer

I wrote website copy for Mack Parnell of Reboot PT, a personal trainer in North London. He asked me to redo his existing homepage text and write copy for a new FAQ page. He also asked me to write copy for his services pages, including weight loss, nutrition, muscle building and kettlebells. It was right up my street and I turned the project around – from quote to sign-off – in a week.

Mack said: “This all looks great, exactly what I was looking for.”

Press release for local fitness bootcamp

Another recent job was writing (and distributing) a press release for a charity fitness boot-camp held locally. I wrote the press release, including sourcing a quote from the charity which would be benefitting, researched a media list and then sent the release to named individuals at the target publications. The result? Coverage in the main local newspaper (and on the paper’s website) and an interview on local radio. And my client now has a researched media list she can use in the future.

Heidi from Fasttrack-fitcamp said: “Thanks for your help, it got us on the radio and in Wokingham Times which is great as we would like to raise our profile in Wokingham more.”

Content for triathlon wetsuit website

I was contacted by a client looking to create a website devoted to triathlon wetsuits: which to choose, how to get the right fit and tips on caring for the wetsuit. I was the right person to ask, having written a number of triathlon wetsuit kit-test features for triathlon magazines (and worn my own fair share of wetsuits in races!) I researched and wrote the wetsuit reviews and also supplied content for three short articles: a beginner’s guide to triathlon wetsuits, tips for wetsuit care and performance tips (ie how to get the thing on and off!).

Richard Sykes from triathlonwetsuits.co.uk said: “It has has been a pleasure working with a real professional – someone who contributes ideas as well as copy – and delivered at incredible speed.”

Of course, I also still work as a freelance sport and fitness journalist, writing features for consumer magazines. I’m terrible at a) buying the magazines I’m featured in and then b) tearing the pages out and c) scanning them in (even typing that out makes me feel tired!) but here’s one I have got on file. It’s from Body Fit magazine and looks at how to keep your fitness mojo going over these cold, dark months. Since I’m currently shivering in my study, it seems a timely one to share. Enjoy! 🙂


Recent work for sport and fitness clients is a post from The Fit Writer blog.


The Fit Writer’s pick of 2010

December 31, 2010


Me and Richard of Richard’s Transrockies 2011 blogging amidst the New Year beer…and wine….and Bailey’s…and whatever else you can spot there in the background 😉

How was your 2010? I’m not hugely into resolutions (I prefer to make them as I go along, regardless of the date) but, as it’s the final day of the year, I wanted to look back at 2010 and pick out some highlights for you. A kind of a New Year’s Honours list, if you will. Without the royalty.

So here are The Fit Writer’s picks of the year gone by:

Favourite commission
Ooh, well. Most of my commissions are favourites (how’s that for diplomacy?), because I just love writing. But some stand out for being a little more unusual. How about a week in Croyde in August, training with the RNLI Beach Lifeguards to get a taste of what their qualifications consist of? (Hint: really hard work) That was for an article which appeared in Coast magazine. I also thoroughly enjoyed meeting, swimming with and getting some swimming advice from Liam Tancock later in the year. Judging by the search terms which lead to this blog, it would seem that many of you would like to do the same! You can find Liam on Twitter and he’s a jolly good sort of chap. Did I tell you that I tweeted I was on the way to meet him, and someone who follows me on Twitter said how much of a fan his daughter was. I told Liam, who was happy to pose for a photo for the guy’s daughter, and then said hello to her on Twitter. Nice guy 🙂

Favourite race
Another tough one. I really enjoyed getting into road cycling this year, completing several sportives having never done one before. But I think the Favourite Race gong has to go to the Folkestone Half Marathon: it’s in my home town, I was cheered on by my new nephew and I got a PB. What’s not to like?

Favourite event
Speaking of new nephews, event of 2010 has to go to the birth of my nephew Henry. Nothing to do with sport, I realise (although, a few weeks later when I was struggling through the Little Woody half Ironman triathlon, I did draw on the strength I’d seen my sister demonstrate during labour!) Nephews rock, particularly mine.

Favourite bit of fitness kit
Although I’ve been asked to review lots of lovely bits of kit and gadgetry this year, the award for favourite bit of fitness kit has to go to my kettlebells. You saw me using them during my 10,000 swing kettlebell challenge, and I use them regularly for both strength and CV work. So handy!

Favourite training session
I’m a bit of a hermit. So it takes someone fun to persuade me to give up training solo for once. And when I end up crying with laughter, I know I’ve found a good training partner. So props to Kat Millar, PT and now a good friend, with whom I trained a month or so ago. Second place goes to one of the many beautiful road bike rides I did back when it was burning hot and sunny: just lovely.

Favourite sporting moment
I watched as much of the Commonwealths as I could, and cheered as loud as any of you when Rebecca Adlington won both the 400m and 800m freestyle. Whadda woman!

Well, that’s it. I can’t bear this super-slow internet connection any longer! I will bid you a very happy New Year’s Eve, a great evening and a fantastic start to 2011 – and I’ll see you on the other side. Thanks for reading!

The Fit Writer’s Pick of 2010 is a post from The Fit Writer blog.


Stocking-fillers for sporty types

December 16, 2010

Still got most of your Christmas shopping to do? Yeah, me too. I’ll do it later. Once I’ve been to the gym.

Right, here’s the thing. If you have a partner, Dad, Mum, sibling or bestie who’s into sport, chances are you’re looking for something to do with fitness, nutrition, kit or gadgets.

So here’s my list of things which – in my opinion – most gym-bunnies, runners, cyclists, triathletes and swimmers might like to find in their stocking. A couple of things to note, for transparency’s sake. Some of these things were sent to me initially by PRs, but they’re all things I would buy (or have already bought) again. Some weren’t. All of them are things I genuinely like and use on a regular basis.

Not all of them are festive but they’re all things I reckon you could put in a sporty person’s Christmas stocking for a two-thumbs-up. Personally I like to get gifts I can use again and again. These are those things.

OK, shall we get on with it?

Wingman Wipes

These are extremely manly wipes for the chap in your life. If he cycles to work (as mine does), goes to the gym at lunchtime or goes out on his mountain bike and gets grubby (as mine does – and did, along with two other terribly manly chap friends…then all three came back to our house only to find our boiler had broken and we had no hot water for showers), then I think a pack of Wingman would go down a treat. The packaging is all steel-grey and superhero-ish. You get two wipes in a pack: enough for one moderate to large chap, slightly soiled and of medium sweatiness, I’d say. Oh! And they’re going to be featured on a BBC2 programme called “The Next Big Thing” presented by Dragon’s Den’s Theo Paphitis soon. So your chap could kind of have a random claim to fame in linking his armpits to Theo. Kind of. You get them in Boots stores.

Sure Maximum Protection

Let’s keep it sweaty for a bit. I know ladies are purported to glow, not perspire (let alone sweat) but…come on. Really? Well I sweat, so there. In the gym, it looks kind of good. Outside the gym – in a meeting, say – not so much. I really like Sure Maximum Protection (you can get a spray or a solid cream thingy). It smells nice, fits in gym bag/handbag, does what it should do and it very reasonable (£4.99 I think). Should Santa see fit to pop either product in my stocking I’d be very pleased. I mean, you’re always going to use deodorant, aren’t you? Like you, Santa could buy it from pretty much anywhere – Boots, Superdrug, supermarkets.

Halo sports wash (for your clothes not for you)

OK, one more thing about being smelly and then I’ll leave it, I promise. If you train a lot, I know you’ll understand what I’m on about when I talk about that….smell….your favourite bits of kit get, no matter how well you wash them. Some kit just stinks, doesn’t it? It’s gross. Well, no more! This stuff is the bees knees. It really does get rid of all stinks and, whilst it makes your kit smell more strongly (of “clean”) than normal washing liquid/powder, it “dries down” (ooh, this is like a perfume review!) to a fresh smell. Not too girly, I swear. Then I’m told that it’s anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, killing all sorts of germs, bacteria superbugs and MRSA and what not. I really do love this stuff and wash all my sportsbras and other kit in it now. Go buy! (You can get it in Wilkinson’s stores or online from Germ Warfare).

OK. Let’s try to be a bit more ladylike now. What else….um…oh yes! Food!

I love food, but I try to make it good food. And, let’s face it, there are nuff snacks and sweets around at Christmas, you don’t need to get your own as presents. So I tell Santa “no chocolate thank you!” Poor chap probably wonders what the hell else to get me if he can’t pick up a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Well, here’s what I’d be well chuffed to get.

Linwoods Flax products (especially the…er…cocoa (!) one)

Not to everyone’s taste, but I like flax. And I like it even better when it’s mixed in with other yum stuff like nuts, berries and cocoa (cocoa being different to chocolate, alright?) It’s so good for you, particularly if you’re really active and either trying to build lean muscle or burning a lot of energy doing cardio. You can get lovely big packs of Linwoods flax products in health food shops, Holland & Barrett and probably supermarkets too. Here are the two I like best: the one with nuts and the one which is like cocoa powder only good for you. To me, a gift of these would say “I respect your efforts to eat well but I know your secret adoration of very dark chocolate. Now go and have a Christmas smoothie.”

Yummy pistachios

Forget a dusty old walnut in the toe of your stocking. You want to step it up and get some sort of lovely nut treat like these. Salt and pepper flavour, which appeals to the savoury-toothed amongst us and is great for sporty folk who tend to need a little extra salt in our diets. My friend Richard won’t like these – feel free to ask him what happens when he eats pistachios – but that means there’s all the more for me. Great for a portable snack or for chucking on salads (recipe ideas here. PS It took me three goes to spell pistachios correctly. PPS You get them in Tesco. PPS Check out the website, there’s a cute “Peanuts” video on it.

Stuff for muscly people

I try to pack a lot of protein into my diet (reason why will be revealed soon on these very pages) and often I have to do it with whey/other powders. My online protein portal of choice is the aptly-named myprotein. In fact, I had a delivery yesterday (their Facebook page was offering 15% off orders) and did a little dance in the kitchen. Ask my husband, it’s true. Anyway (anywhey? ha!), there are a few products I’d pick as my latest favourites from myprotein. Won’t be for everyone but if you know a gym-bod or anyone interested in building muscle, they may well appreciate stuff like this as a gift.

1) Goat’s whey powder. Yep. I really really love this stuff. They say it’s flavourless but I think it actually tastes very mildly of goat’s dairy so if you’re a goat’s cheese fan, that will actually be a plus point for you. Having said that, it mixes perfectly in smoothies or with flavouring products. I tend to leave it plain for a minor goat-experience. Baaaa! Oh and check the nutritionals – pretty stellar – and apparently goat is easier to digest for many than cow’s dairy.
2) Flav drops. There are lots of flavour drops on the market (goodness knows I’ve tried most of them) but these are yum, thicker than most so you can kind of drizzle them. The toffee in particular is lush.
3) Handy shaker. Yes, it’s just a shaker, but if you make recovery shakes or want to take powder to the gym to make the shake there, these are great. They’ve got a little thingy inside which helps mix everything together.

For swimmers

Don’t you just hate that water-in-the-ear thing? It can seem to last for days. Here is something which helps me…earcalm. It’s a spray, it’s anti-bacterial and you get it from the chemist or from Boots. It really does work and it gives you peace of mind that you’re not picking up all sorts of nasties from your local pool and storing them away in your lugholes. Yuk.

Sporty book

Every stocking needs a book balanced on top, just in case you still wake up at 6am on Christmas Day and have to read under the covers until everyone else wakes up. Amongst other things, I am currently reading Mental Mastery by Ken Way. I got a preview copy (thanks Becky!) but it’s now available as advanced copies from Amazon. It’s all about how to coach yourself to a winning mindset – pretty crucial in any sport, regardless of what level you’re at. Whether you’ve got a goal set down and want to steel your mind as you work towards it, or have some issue which is troubling you – nerves, poor race-day performance, etc – this well worth a read. And it’s a bit of a tome (over 500 pages) so had great thud-factor.

So there you have it. Stuff to stop you from smelling, stuff to stop your kit from smelling, stuff to stuff in your mouth, something to spray in your ears and then something to read once you’ve done all that.

Never say I’m not a useful resource.

Merry (nearly) Christmas! 😀

Stocking fillers for sporty types is a post from The Fit Writer blog.


Fitness trends for 2011

December 15, 2010

It’s a great time of year for setting goals and thinking about shaking up your fitness routine. I’ve got a big change and an exciting goal up my sleeve which a few of you already know about. The rest of you will know just as soon as I have a firm date to attach to the goal! 😀

What are your 2011 fitness and sport goals? Are you aiming for an event, wanting to try a new sport, or setting yourself more private and personal goals?

I blogged here about Leisure Industry Week earlier in the year, where I sat in on the FIA (Fitness Industry Association) keynote, which was packed with thought-provoking ideas and updates about the direction in which the industry is heading.

This month, I asked those in the know to tell me what they thought would be fresh and exciting in 2011. Here’s what they had to say:

Nigel Wallace, Director of Training at Lifetime, a national training provider in the fitness industry thinks: “Traditional gyms will evolve with a shift towards niche facilities that target specific demographic groups. The gym will be a hub of fitness and advice rather than a prescriptive home for ‘this is what you need to do…’

“The future of the fitness industry is behaviour change management. iPhone apps allow, and will further develop, exercise routines to extend beyond the typical hour-long face to face sessions. For example, when a client goes on holiday, their PT can contact them, motivate them and update their training programme via the apps.”

Ben Jones, Teaching and Curriculum Manager at Lifetime (and a nutrition specialist) adds: “There is going to be a trend towards genetically modified foods. We already have the technology to add artificial vitamins and minerals to food. Crops will be made with higher protein quantities/fewer calories, There will need for increased education around obesity – better regulation and signposting.”

Rob Beale, Group Health and Fitness Manager at David Lloyd Leisure says: “2011 is going be even better with new classes starting and more of a focus on children’s fitness, as we all work together to improve the health of the nation and get people active. Improving children’s fitness has never been more important with childhood obesity increasing at an alarming rate. Health and fitness operators will look to provide better facilities for children and look to educate them and their parents better.

Triathlon is Britain’s fastest growing sport and we predict an increase in triathlon based activities. Triathlon clubs will be run in all David Lloyd clubs.

Indoor group cycling will be transformed by the introduction of a new class – Adidas Zone Cycling, inspired by Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton. Exclusively at David Lloyd Leisure, this class will take you on a journey around The Velodrome and get your heart pumping.

“We also predict that more health clubs will affiliate themselves with injury specialists and sports medicine professionals to offer members an extra service and help members to make the most of their time at the gym.”

I’ve got my eye firmly on nutrition at the moment. Dr Nina Bailey, a nutrition scientist, thinks EPA will be big news. “An omega-3 fatty acid generally associated with fish oils, it’s emerging as a natural product that, when taken in high enough doses (1-2g/daily), can have a profound positive effect on mood. Being hailed as ‘mother nature’s antidepressant’, regular intake of ethyl-EPA supplements may be the answer, not only to keeping Winter blues at bay, but also providing clarity through its brain boosting powers, to help us focus on achieving our January goals.”

I think kettlebells will continue to be a strong trend for 2011 – and you know all about my love of the ‘bells!

You’ve already had my review of the Gravity Training System, and I do think that total body training will be popular in 2011. What’s not to love? It saves time, hits the entire body, provides cardio and strength. Gravity classes like the one I did use your own bodyweight and a variable incline to deliver muscular endurance, cardio endurance, strength, agility and flexibility. If you’ve got a Nuffield Health Club near you, lucky you – give a class a go (search gyms here).

There are also some great new fitness DVDs coming out which I’m going to be reviewing soon, so stay tuned for those (I’m taking a stack of them away with me to wintry Wales for New Year).

Music and its effect on training and performance is an area I’m really interested in. Who doesn’t love a brand-new playlist on the MP3? There’s a new CD aimed at runners and gym-goers which I’d like to tell you about. I’m going to blog about it in more detail soon but, for now, I’ll just mention that The Workout Mix 2011 is a great package (ideal for a pressie actually) – not only do you get 3 CDs of (bang up-to-date, original artist!) music mixes but you also get free passes to Fitness First, access to the website with bonus features and training tips, and a bonus 30 minute training session led by Personal Trainer Matt Roberts. The CDs are cleverly done with each mix of music ramping up in BPM tempo over a 60-minute period to keep you motivated and pushing through your training session.

What do you think? Are there any bits of kit, new classes or forms of technology which you see shaping your workouts in 2011? Let me know; I’d love to hear about them.


Sports journalism: Nicola Joyce interview

November 12, 2010

This week I was asked by the website Essential Writers to talk a little about my journalistic niche: sport and fitness. The interview is now up on the Essential Writers site; if you’re interested in how to get into sports journalism or just want to read what I have to say about the job, the perks and the challenges, head over and have a look.

Here’s an extract:

It’s difficult to untangle my career as a sportswriter from my own adventures in sport and fitness. In fact, I don’t think I’d be doing this job had it not been for one, rather special, sporting achievement. This is how it happened:

I made the decision to become a freelancer when I was made redundant and moved out of London. It seemed like as good a time as any to pursue a career in writing (something I’d always wanted to do). Initially, I took on copywriting clients, but knew I really wanted to write features for sport and fitness magazines.

I just needed a way to get my foot in the door. At the time, I was just a few weeks away from swimming the English Channel (the first of two successful swims, as it would turn out). If I couldn’t pitch a first-person piece about swimming the Channel, it was unlikely I had what it takes to be a freelance writer of sport-related features…

Thanks to Essential Writers for inviting me to be part of their specialist genres pages.

Sports journalism: Nicola Joyce interview is a post from The Fit Writer blog.


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