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.

Hello from Delhi

January 31, 2011

Hi blog friends! 🙂

Just a quick hello from Delhi
as I sit in our hotel’s teeny lobby waiting for my friend to get back: we’re over here because she has to visit her company’s Delhi office but tomorrow we are off on our travels, visiting Agra, Jaipur and Jodhpur.

I have lots of photos but they’re all stuck in my camera at the moment which has run out of charge. I’ll share some with you as soon as I can.

Needless to say I’ve done no training since we got here. Partly because that’s not the purpose of this holiday (normally I would try to train on holiday, but I’m here with my friend and wouldn’t feel right going off to train, leaving her in the hotel) and partly because it’s proving enough of a challenge to walk down the street in a floor-length skirt and shawl. I genuinely can not imagine the reaction if I went for a run, or used a park bench for a quick circuit session. I think I’d either get carted away by Delhi Police or cast in a Bollywood movie called “Crazy Crazy English Girl!” I’ve been doing my postural exercises and stretches every day, and am giving myself a pat on the back for that. 😀

There is a Gold’s Gym near our hotel, and of course there are the facilities built for the Commonwealth Games. But, to be perfectly honest, 5+ hours of walking a day (fuelled by Indian food for lunch and dinner – yum!) is enough for me!

I hope you enjoy the guest posts I’ve got lined up for you whilst I’m away. Enjoy!

Hello from Delhi is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Kettlebell challenge: will I make it?

December 19, 2010

Gosh, there’s a lot to do before Christmas isn’t there? Finishing up at work, shopping, planning, present-wrapping and kettlebelling.

You know I have my priorities straight.

So, we left off with me having done 5,500 swings of my 10,000 kettlebell swing challenge. The deadline is Christmas Day.

Amusing as our guests may find it, I really don’t fancy this kind of scenario:

nor this

and especially not this.

(Note to self: this much kettlebelling can make a person look really tired, evidently…)

So I’ve been swinging my bells (sounds kind of festive?) every opportunity I get. Bearing in mind I’m currently lifting some pretty heavy weights in the gym, this has been a challenging goal. My muscles have sometimes tried to persuade me to give it up, but I’m nearly there:

14th December: 500 at home
15th December: 100 as part of my gym warm-up
16th December: 300 at home, 100 later on as my gym warm-up
17th December: 150 as part of my gym session
18th December: 150 as part of my gym session
19th December: 200 as part of my gym session, then 750 at home later (yes…a mild sense of panic setting in!)

Total=7750 (I think? Maths never my strong point)

So, 2250 with 5 days to go. Hm.

Are you kettlebelling with me? How are you getting on?

By the way – just a quick funny – blogging does make me laugh sometimes. Here are some of the search terms people have put into Google (other search engines are available) and then ended up at my blog. I genuinely can not fathom how some of these pointed to my blog. Hope they give you a giggle:

– speedo dads
– train routs from camberley to bournemouth
– good dog, bad husband
– black and white devils hand
– guy taking ice bath
– hairy torso
– images of giants with serpentine legs
– open girdle
– weather report 1971
– chafing groin swimming
– pictures of ice cream van at dorney lake
– is it common to be so hungrty three days after running a half marathon
– words with ow that fit with happens in water (…what?!)
– elderly people on a picnic

Kettlebell challenge: will I make it? is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

The Fit Writer meets Matt Roberts (The Workout Mix 2011 review)

December 17, 2010

Do you train with music? When I just ran (and swam), before I was a member of a gym (imagine!), I used to be sniffy about training with earphones in. “But what about the beautiful sounds of nature?” I’d ask. “Why not lose yourself in the silence?”

Nuts to that. I can listen to nature when I’m walking the dog. Nowadays, the only training I do without music is cycling and swimming, both for rather obvious safety reasons (although I have reviewed a number of waterproof MP3s for triathlon magazines, but the old-school swimmer in me still thinks swimming to music is a bit…radical 😉 )

It’s a sad day for me when my iPod runs out of charge partway through a gym session or a run. Whether I’m listening to podcasts (great for long, steady runs) or the warblings of Beyonce and co, I find that having something to listen to really does motivate me to keep going or to try harder.

Which is why I was happy to go along to the press launch of a new CD. Now before you think “what’s going to be great about this?”, bear with me. First of all, this CD (well it’s three CDs actually) is far more than just music. It’s a really good deal and I’d probably buy it if I hadn’t been given a promo copy (thank you, Leila). Secondly, it’s been done very cleverly, with folk like you and me in mind. Let me tell you about it.

The Workout Mix 2011 is 3 CDs of current music (original artists) mixed to give you 45-60 minute playlists which gradually ramp up the BPM to suit your workout – building, peaking and then giving you time to bring the pace down. There’s a bonus feature in the shape of a downloadable 30 minute training session from “PT to the stars” Matt Roberts, and you also get a free Fitness First gym pass and access to a training plan. It’s a great package, I think, and will be very reasonably priced. Two of the CDs are for cardio workouts and the third is for strength work or endurance sessions. I’ve been listening to them for the past couple of weeks and really really like them.

I met up with Matt Roberts, the personal trainer who was involved in the creation of the CDs and the bonus extras. We chatted about training, music and motivation.

The Fit Writer: Why do you think music helps so many people with training and mental performance?
Matt Roberts: I think it’s an instinctive thing; we move in time to the cadence and rhythm of music. Without realising it, music can help you speed up. On the other hand, some music can flatten your performance and decrease your motivation. So choose your tunes wisely! It goes right back to music being used in gym classes, but it works for running and solo gym workouts in just the same way. The music builds until it reaches an overload point where it helps you push harder, go faster. With these CDs I’ve made sure the tunes build up really naturally, then peak, then decrease gently. They’re between 45-60 minutes, ideal for most workouts, and there’s stuff in there too for interval training (see the website).

TFW: How does the bonus feature – you motivating the listener during their session – work?
I’ve done a voiceover which motivates you, keeps you going and pushes you a little, whilst giving you useful tips. It’s essentially like having me there doing some PT except I’m just in your ear! I’ve taken everything I’ve learned about what motivates PT clients and put them here: we know that clients work harder with me (or whoever their PT is) talking to them and working alongside them. The idea is that it will give you a lift and bring something to your session which you might struggle to find if you were going it alone. It takes what I do with my own clients and puts it onto a download for anyone to access.

TFW: You’re from a sprinting background, aren’t you? How do you manage to fit in your own training these days? What sort of thing do you like doing?
I always make time to train – partly because I have to (I couldn’t be a PT and not train myself) and partly because I absolutely love it and really miss it when I don’t do it. I feel much more energised when I train. I work from 6am to 8pm most days and am really busy, but I just make time for my own training. I try to get a session in at least 4 days per week, and I make sure I work really hard during that time.

TFW: And what’s on your playlist?
All sorts! I have a very eclectic mix. Kings of Leon, Coldplay, Black Eyed Peas, David Guetta… I make lots of playlists, particularly for running. And, yes, I do use the CDs myself! The music is all really current and it’s a fun mix.

TFW: I blogged about fitness trends recently. What do you think will be big in 2011?
The TRX and other suspension trainers are brilliant and will continue to be a hot bit of kit next year I think. They’re suitable for anyone and can be put to so many diverse uses: home, the gym, hotel rooms – you don’t need much space. You can use them to get a really decent full body workout in and they’re a brilliant fallback if you are pushed for time/space/kit. I also think everyone should have a good HRM with GPS: it gives great feedback and is a good motivational tool. There are a lot of apps out there which I think will be huge once they’re perfected. None are quite there yet but I think apps in general will be the biggest thing in the industry in the near future.

TFW: It’s really cold today. I hate being cold. How do you get around training outside when it’s snowing and icy? Or is it tough luck?
(laughs) There’s always something you can do, regardless of temperature and weather, and that’s what I tell my clients. It’s important to do cardio outside if you’re training for a specific event which demands that kind of training. But, of course it’s OK to head inside and replace that session with something else. A gym gives you that flexibility. And you know what? If you can’t get outside to run, don’t worry about it. Just relax, enjoy an extra bit of rest, or come up with some other way to move. Your fitness isn’t going anywhere in just a couple of days. Having said that, I used the recent snow to give my clients some really challenging sessions. Doing drills in the snow certainly shakes things up! So I’d say, if possible, adapt and get on with it. Get the correct kit and clothing and off you go. I bet you’ll be glad you went once you get out of the door.

Thanks for your time and advice, Matt. It was nice to meet you.

Tell me about your MP3. What’s your favourite playlist? Which podcasts do you listen to? Does a really funny song ever come on whilst you’re in the middle of a workout (This happens to me loads, I swear I don’t even put those songs on there in the first place…)

The Fit Writer meets Matt Roberts (The Workout Mix 2011 review) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

10,000 kettlebell challenge: nearly there!

December 14, 2010

(This pic obviously has nothing to do with me, I just liked it)

Getting there with the 10,000 swing kettlebell challenge! I do love kettlebells and like the fact that setting challenges like this one reminds me how great they are.

With so much else to choose from (gym, classes, cardio outside), I can go weeks without picking up my ‘bells. I shouldn’t neglect them! They are ideal for Winter (I am of the view that – as a channel swimmer – I’ve spent enough of my life being unbearably cold. So nowadays I refuse to be any colder than I have to, and that extends to running or cycling outside when it’s sub-zero). They deliver a fantastic full-body/cardio/resistance workout within a very short space of time. And then can be done in a small space.

So, how am I getting on? When I left off, I was at 4,100. Since then I’ve done:

6th Dec: 50 swings at the gym as part of my warm up
7th Dec: 350 swings at home (done as sets of 50s with upper body exercises between) then 500 swings at home at the other end of the day (done as 50s and 75s, with lower body stuff between)
8th Dec: 50 at gym as part of warm up
9th Dec: 50 at gym as part of warm up
12th Dec: 100 at gym, 300 at home

So that brings me to 5500 with 11 days to go. I’m aiming for 800 today as my cardio session. How about you?

Are you joining me on this challenge? Please let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you. My ladies Jo and Viv, how are you getting on?

PS Sorry for lack of pics but there’s a limit to how exciting I can make pictures of kettlebells!

Fitness journalist: unplugged (Gravity Training System review)

December 13, 2010

As a writer, I spend most of my time in my home office: head down, researching and writing, speaking only to the dog. Days out are exciting! A week ago, I was invited into London to try out a bit of fitness kit. Here’s how it went down.

I met up with Cheryl and Katherine, two sport and fitness PRs, for a trip to the lovely Nuffield Gym in the City. Our mission: to try out the Gravity Training System.

Now. Here’s the thing. As a freelance journo, I get asked to try out a lot of sport and fitness gadgets and gizmos. A lot of them promise the world and say they can do it all, and I normally reserve a healthy level of skepticism. So it was when I went along to try out the Gravity Training System. As I tend to write for and about multisport and competitive sport, I am always after things which challenge, condition and really cut the mustard. Gravity is a bit of equipment used in 60 minute and 30 minute classes in various Virgin Active, Nuffield Health and independent gyms. (For a list and more info, see here). But I was curious: would the GTS really be all that?

Gravity, please accept my humble apologies. After just a few minutes on the contraption, I was feeling the burn.

As you can see from the pics, the GTS uses…well, gravity (!) to create a challenging body weight workout which can be used for the entire body without having to faff with weights, clips or plates.

I asked the lovely trainer Michael Steel (awesome name for a fitness trainer, don’t you think?) for his explanation of our session. All I can remember is that it was a tough workout which both got the heart-rate up and most definitely challenged my full body. Here’s what Michael had to say:

“We started the workout in an upright supine position to work the legs with bilateral squats. We set the level on the Total Gym to 6 (of 8 levels) and this was perfect for the amount of bodyweight we wanted involved in the activity. This is a great way to get warmed up. To increase the intensity and challenge the core we progressed to unilateral (single leg) squats. This instantly increased the load and, by varying the pace we challenged the glutes, quads and hamstrings. Without stopping, we introduced sports specific plyometrics (jumping activities). This increased the O2 consumption and got the heart rate up but reduced the impact on the joints.

“After training the legs, we adjusted the level to 3 for all the upper body and core exercises that were to follow. In an upright prone position, we lay chest down on the glideboard and we used the cables to work the upper back, lats, triceps and trapezius. We moved from one exercise to another and completed 8-10 reps of each exercise. We completed 6 different exercises in this position and we did the set twice. This ensured that we achieved a level of overload and fatigue. By the way, how did you feel the next day…?

“From this position we simply turned sideways and trained the body in a lateral position. We did exercises in a high kneeling position, but you can also do these exercises seated or low kneeling. The high kneeling challenges stability and requires the body to work as an integrated unit rather than isolating one muscle group at a time. We started with torso rotation (woodchops) and by simply moving the handle from one to the other we worked our chest in a fly position. Then we did a compound bicep/shoulder press using the same side of the body, then swapped hands and did a high row followed by a reverse fly. Although each exercise was targeting the chest or shoulder or bicep, we also felt our back extensors and abs, adductors and glutes firing up to create the stability and support to provide the strength in both the concentric and eccentric phase of each movement. Very effective and very representative of every day movement patterns!

“We then faced the tower in a low kneeling position and started a series of exercises that utilised spinal flexion and extension with arm activities. We call this the ‘surfer’ series: narrow rows, shoulder extension, biceps curls, triceps, upper back and lats as well as shoulder flexion. Every one of these exercises also challenged our core.

“We did a quick change here and rolled down the glideboard onto our backs in an inverted supine position. Here we focused on the front of the arm (biceps) and the deltoid group by doing upright rows, long lever shoulder flexion and deltoid raises. In the same position we also disconnected the cables from the glideboard and used the footholder to do some hamstring work for the posterior muscles of the leg and some reverse crunches.

“To finish we raised the rails again and we did a big set of partial weight bearing pull-ups and chin-ups, varying the pace in both the concentric (shortening) and eccentric (lengthening) phase of the movement. The great thing about this exercise is that most people can not do a pull-up or chin-up. Here we can moderate the load and ensure great technique. To increase the intensity we add plyometric pull-ups which required a combination of speed, power and control….fun and challenging.

“This was just a fun, total body workout that was designed to give you a sense of what working out against your own bodyweight, on a moving glideboard (surface) and controlling your body in space feels like. Total Gym and Gravity really is designed to provide an option or everyone, any client and any trainer in a very efficient and effective way.”

Thank you Michael, it was a fun session, challenging and tough and yes I definitely felt it the next day! Whatever your sport or level of fitness, I urge you to give it this bit of a kit a go if your gym has a Gravity Training System class. If I had access to one, I would use it. Gravity and Michael are on Facebook.

Oh, and that wasn’t the end of my day out. Ha, no. I then went and met my PT Kat and we did an hour’s leg workout together. (We also discussed my next fitness challenge and put some firm plans in place – I can’t wait to tell you guys all about it! So exciting!)

As a fitness journalist, I like to “walk the walk”. Days like this make that a little bit of a challenge. For the next couple of days I could hardly walk at all!

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.

How I became a freelance journalist (and other FAQs)

October 2, 2010

Last week I was interviewed by Essential Writers, the website where writers (and aspiring writers) share advice and experiences. Judy asked me how I got started in journalism, how I got that important first commission, and how I handle the ups and downs of freelance journalism.

From my Essential Writers interview:

What inspired you to become a writer?

I always had my head in a book as a young child and wanted to be “a journalist”, although I’m not sure I knew what that meant. I love being creative and also the freelance lifestyle and even the challenges of being my own boss.

How did you find your first writing job?

I’d been made redundant from my event job in London and moved out of London at the same time. It was time for a change. I was also a few months away from my first Channel swim. I knew that, if a pitch for a first-person piece about Channel swimming couldn’t get my foot in the door of sports journalism, nothing would! (Thank you to 220 Triathlon for accepting that pitch!)

Did you face much rejection initially?

I face more rejection now, actually, because I’m braver about pitching outside my comfort zone these days. I deal with it by learning from it and moving on quickly!

How did you come to specialise in writing about triathlon and other sports?

Triathlon and other sports are a huge part of my life so it made sense to write about them. I know the technicalities, the history and the athletes very well, and can write quickly, fluently and with real passion. I went freelance around the time that triathlon and open-water swimming exploded in popularity in the UK, which helped.

If you fancy reading the interview, here’s the link.

Here are a few blog posts about my work as a sport and fitness journalist: sport and fitness journalism online, my favourite commissions (so far!) and some examples of my work from May 2010.

Where in the world is The Fit Writer?

May 9, 2010

Freelance journalism isn’t all about sitting in a quiet room typing furiously. I’m blogging from a ferry at the moment, and I’ve been on the road since 5:15am.

But why, and where am I going?

Photos to come!

Sport and fitness journalist’s favourite commissions

May 4, 2010

When you spend your time writing about sport and fitness, every commission’s a good one. But some turn out to be extra-fun. I think these are my favourite commissions…(so far!)

1: Swimming between the Scilly Isles for Coast magazine
In July 2008 I went to the Scilly Isles (by helicopter, no less) to take part in a holiday which involved “island-hopping”… by swimming between the islands. The water was beautiful, but cold. I’d never been to the Scillies before and I was blown away by how stunning the landscape, beaches and wildlife was. On the final day of the trip, I got to swim with seals which was something I’d always wanted to do.

Swimming with seals in Scilly

The article appeared in Coast magazine

2: Swimming around Malta for 220 Triathlon magazine
In April 2008, 220 Triathlon magazine asked me to go on a long-distance swimming training camp in Malta. I was training for my second Channel swim at the time, so I jumped at the chance. Mind you, this was a tough way to get a commission! Over the four day trip, I clocked up more than 12 hours of swimming in the seas around Malta and Comino.

Long-distance training in Malta

The article appeared in 220 Triathlon magazine and you can read it here

3: Training with an Olympic athlete for Triathlete’s World
It’s not every day that you get to train with an Olympic athlete. And it wasn’t until I stepped onto the track at Loughborough University that I realised quite what a silly idea this was (although hopefully it made good reading!) Tim Don is a World Champion Triathlete, who’s represented GB at the Olympics. I’m…er…not! I do triathlon, but at around half the speed that Tim cruises at. Half of this commission took place whilst jogging round the track with Tim during recovery intervals, with the interview being conducted whilst he was sitting in his pants in an ice-bath. I love my job!

Interview with Tim Don

The article appeared in Triathlete’s World magazine.

I need to keep number 4 hush hush for now, as it hasn’t been published yet. Suffice to say it involved spending time with lifeguards… You can read the article in July’s issue of Coast magazine 🙂

Lifeguarding for Coast magazine

As well as copywriting for sport and fitness brands, I write regularly for sport and fitness magazines. You can see some of my journalism portfolio at my journalism website. I’m always available for commission – seals, ice-baths and sea-swimming pose no problem! 😉

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