Breaking down Perceptions

 

Welcome to next in the series of ‘Women In Sport Week’ blogs, I am very excited to bring another, different sport (for want of a better description) for you to read about.  Perhaps also, I want to highlight that Nicola H has come to this sport relatively recently and is leading the way in terms of creating new paths at any age, at any time.

I have watched Nicola grow and develop in confidence while working with Stuart Aitken from Stuart Aitken Fitness.  As a personal trainer and someone who thoroughly enjoys the feeling of lifting weights, Nicola’s points for me demonstrate some real progress in terms of encouraging more women to lift weights.  It is important that we take pride in being strong and challenging those preconceptions.

Have a read and get behind Nicola as she embarks on her journey to represent her country  . . . .

1.Have you always participated in some form of sport/ exercise/ activity? If so what have you been doing and if thats a no, has there been any reasons?

At school I was always one of those kids who would forget their PE kit on purpose and write fake notes so I could skip class, I was never a sporty child!  Through my teens I played a little hockey and netball, then I found something I loved martial arts!  I trained in Freestyle Kickboxing for years, until I picked up a knee injury. Following that life just got busy and I stopped all sporting activities for years. However, during this time I focused on my career and my family.

2. I know you have been training with Stuart Aitken Fitness for some time now, what brought about this next phase in your training/ participation in sport/ exercise?

About 6 years ago at the age of 34, I made a choice to get off my arse and get fit! But it is a minefield out there! I really did not want to do fitness classes (not coordinated),‎ the gym was something which was alien to me (full of ‘pretty’ people) and I did not know where to start. So I decided to go with something familiar, something I knew I could do and that was boxing. I did this for about 2 years and during this time my fitness levels gradually increased but it wasn’t enough and I felt like I needed to push myself.

That’s when I signed up for Survival of the Fittest which then led on to the Deerstalker and Spartan Race. One thing I discovered from participating in these races is that….. I AM DEFINITELY NOT A RUNNER!!!!!

This was when I got a bit lost in my fitness journey and I decided that I wanted a bit more structure and someone to support me. Around this time is at the age of 36, I started to work with Stuart Aitken of Stuart Aitken Fitness. ‎Stuart gave me focus and accountability which I had never had before.

Stuart will probably tell you when I first started with him I wanted what nearly every woman wants to be slimmer and leaner. But now I realise I was just trying to fit into expected social norms!

After training with Stuart for a period  of time we both realised that I work better when I set a challenge (something real to aim for) and that’s when Stuart suggested Powerlifting and before I knew it I had signed up for my first Powerlifting Competition.  That’s where my strength journey began and I have never looked back‎ since. Also as a result of the confidence I gained through my PT sessions I started martial arts again, this time taking up Sport Jitsu – this helps a lot with the Cardio.

3. What do you take away from your training and participation in your sport?  Has this evolved over the years or with changing activities?

Training sessions are “protected time” just for me. I work full time in a stressful job and have a daily commute of 3.5 hours in total. During training I can just focus on what is in front of me and most of the time it’s just about getting through the sets and lifting the weights. Nothing else matters during that time. Life is left at the door! I always have a great sense of achievement after every session…..

Powerlifting is a sport where it is just you against the bar and you have to be physically strong to lift the weight but mental strength is also key. I am still working on that element but every day I am getting better.  I also have to give recognition to the women in the Powerlifting Community who are some of the most supportive and inspiring women I have met. At every Powerlifting Competition they are always there cheering and pushing you on, its part of the reason I love this sport and it makes me feel proud to be part of such a great community.

4. You received some really awesome news this year in your powerlifting journey, would you like to share this with us? How did that feel?

Following on from my recent trip to Belfast for my first British Masters Powerlifting Championships,  I have recently been selected to represent Team Scotland at the Commonwealth Powerlifting Championships in South Africa from 10th – 17th September this year.

To say I am proud is an understatement! Although, slightly terrified!! I am really looking forward to getting on the platform in September and getting some PB’s.

Thanks must go to Stuart my trainer for his constant reassurance and guidance and my husband Brian for his unwavering support.

5. This blog series is part of Women In Sport Week,I love highlighting real people achieving their goals and truly enjoying what they do.
You came to the sport of Powerlifting relatively recently, what would you say to other women out there who are afraid to lift weights or think they are too old or too overweight or too unfit?

I would say to other women, try anything and everything, what have you got to lose?

You never know what will be the one thing that you connect with.

I turned 40 last year and never would have imagined that I would be representing Scotland at this stage in my life!  You are never too old to try something new. Take risks, believe in yourself and lifting weights doesn’t make you bulky!

Negative body image is something which I have struggled with all of my life. I was bullied at school which led to years of self-doubt and negative thoughts. I used to talk about myself in a really destructive way – and you don’t understand how harmful this can be (especially when you get older and have kids).

I used to feel that my self-worth was based on how I looked and that I was nothing unless I was skinny! This led to dieting (a lot of unhealthy dieting) and when I reached my “goal” weight – you know what – I still wasn’t happy!

It has taken a lot to get to the point where I am now (and I still have off days) but I believe Powerlifting and focusing on strength training has changed my perceptions of my body – where achievement and goals aren’t focused on looking a certain way but are based on what your body can do.  It’s about accepting who you are and being happy with that.

As an example, a few weeks ago I came into the gym and said to my trainer “I am weighing too light Stuart, I need to put on 3-4kgs” the pre-powerlifting me would never have said that but now I really just don’t bother about weight – it’s just a number!  (unless I need to make a weight class!)

If I had a chance to speak to the younger me I would have said “ be who you want to be not what everyone else expects” – would have saved me years of grief!!

If you would like to help Nicola to realise her dream in SOuth Africa feel free to pop onto this crowdfunding link to donate:

Support Nicola to represent Scotland

Getting Outdoors

In the second blog of my ‘Women In Sport’ series, we have one of my clients – Jane W.  I believe some of her challenges are more than worth reading about, more to come on these later in the week but to wet your appetite, if I was to say she will be canoeing 89km supporting Poitr, moving down the River Tay from Killin to Meikleour.  Wow!

So to start you off check out where this fantastic journey in sport began:-

‘Last November, 2016, I heard about a talk being given by Louise Johnstone (Louise’s PT4U) on behalf of Grow Biz East Perthshire.  A local enterprise support group for small businesses in rural Perthshire.  It sounded fascinating, Louise was going to give a motivational talk about the Marathon de Sables which she had completed earlier that year.  Following the talk I was clear that I would like to approach Louise for health and fitness training sessions.

At that point I was dealing with some back and joint problems which were having an impact on my work. And with the fact that my daughter Derryth, had left home to move to Glasgow. She was my main buddy and partner in crime. In her mid teens she became interested in a number of outdoor activities. These included mountain biking, canoeing, ski-ing, rock climbing and road biking. We gave them all a good shot. I was determined not to be just a taxi driver. I wanted to join in.  So I tried everything and found I had a passion in particular for the biking. But I love the canoeing and climbing too. We were lucky enough to have friends who could teach us the skills required to take part in these new interests.  We would buy second hand kit and to go ski-ing we would work our lunches in the ski cafes in order to get a free ski pass.  We would take ourselves off on some fairly mad adventures. We cycled the Caledonian Etape together when Derry was…almost 18.  We paddled up Loch Morar, camped out overnight and then paddled off down Loch Nevis one time. We’ve cycled the Burma Road in the Cairngorms on our mountain bikes. And for Mother’s Day this year she took me rock climbing at the crags on the edge of Kirriemuir.  I took up these outdoor sports in my early 40s as Derry entered her teens. And have had an absolute blast doing them.  I would not say that I am a naturally gifted person at learning these new skills. Unlike Derry who would get it first time. I would have to really apply myself and practice a lot. Derry took to things like a duck to water and had to exercise a lot of patience whilst waiting for Mum to get with the programme.   She would also teach me what she had learnt and picked up quickIy.  So I would have lots of opportunities for re-learning everything.

I have always been pretty active tending to work outdoors part time in conservation and rural management work.  And also in running my own business, where I make baskets, willow fences and coracles. When I was younger I played team sports such as netball and lacrosse at my High School. But I hadn’t done any sporting activities in over 20 years until I started mountain biking and canoeing with Derry.

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Why did I chose the activities I engage in?

I could have gone down the team sport route if Derry had gone down that route. But she chose the fields that I am now participating in. So to begin with I followed Derry. I let her lead rather than the other way round. Which seemed to suit both of us.    But they have continued to suit me particularly well. I have always had a love of the great outdoors, of forests, mountains and rivers. My dad used to take me fishing when I was in my teens and bird watching. And I went hill walking in the Lake District with a group of girls from my Secondary School..

 

All these were formative experiences.

And I am at my happiest when I am out of the house in a wild place.  And to be able to navigate through that landscape under my own steam with the aid of a boat, bike or a rock climbing rope has and still does give me immense satisfaction.  When I am on my bike I get two amazing sets of feelings. I feel wild, ferrel, completely free and full of physical power (even more so following the training sessions with Louise!).  The stronger I become physically, the more those sensations are magnified.  But if I am feeling stressed, rung ouDSCI0011t or under pressure the bike is always the solution. If my heart is racing due to menopausal hormones; daily stresses; or caring for my parents the bike has an incredibly calming and steadying effect.  When I have had the opportunity to cycle for extended periods I seem to find a natural rhythm or cadence. A certain number of pedal strokes per minute am not sure what it actually is. But just that I know it when I have hit that pace it is a lovely feeling and makes me feel like I could keep going indefinitely. That rhythm is like a meditation, and really grounds me both mentally and physically. ‘

Jane is embarking on a remarkable challenge on Wednesday 21st june 2017, there will be an update later in the week  to let you know more . . . .

 

(PS:  You may be able to follow their progress at Outdoor Explore on social media)

 

Flying High – Pole Fit

When I discovered  this week (19th June – 25th June  2017) was Women in Sport Week, I knew I wanted to do something to highlight this.  There are many inspiring and motivating women in our lives every single day.  There is not a day goes by that I am not reminded of this fact.

I work alongside Nicole, she moves with such grace and athleticism when teaching and and expressing herself in her pole work.  Please do enjoy Nicole’s blog below:

‘When Louise asked me to write a blog post for ‘Women in Sport’ week, I was delighted that she considers what I do a sport. In my mind it is a sport because I train hard throughout the week, I have goals I work towards, I compete and it takes full physical and mental energy to perform.

My discipline is PoIMG_6758le Dancing (or Pole Fitness), which comes up against some prejudice occasionally and may not be considered a sport by some. There is no denying it is a discipline that originated in strip clubs and it would be a shame to deny the women who created its foundations that credit. Since then the discipline has grown various different annexes including sport, art and exotic styles. The sport as a whole has been rapidly growing, with studios, competitions and governing bodies being created every year all over the world. I have even spent time in Egypt instructing pole fitness after being invited over by the first dedicated pole studio there. The fact that a country like Egypt can embrace pole, with all its restrictions and issues, just proves the sports determination to grow.

I came across pole during my final year as a student of contemporary dance, the classes started off as an escape from the stresses of my final year. It quickly became a discipline that gave me confidence in my body and ability, both of which had been occasionally criticised in the dance environment. Being slightly taller than my peers and always feeling a little larger or more muscular, I found myself being told to ‘slim down my legs’ or ‘be careful of getting too muscley’ throughout my time as a dance student. As I became more engrossed with pole fitness I found that being strong or having larger thigh

4059_3S9A8165s were features which became advantageous to my progress. Of course this made me feel great about my body and spurred on my passion. As my pole practice progressed I felt my body become more defined, my legs actually slimed down after years of dancing and I found my body was devouring the new challenges which presented themselves.

As soon as I discovered there was a platform for pole to be competitive, I needed to be a part of it. This is when pole truly became a sport for me. Performing on stage gave me the opportunity to bring my strength and creativity together, whilst writing the routines focused my training and helped push me to the next level each time I performed. After winning my first few amateur competitions I went on to compete at professional level placing in the top 4 at every competition so far. My goal this year is to perform at bigger competitions in the UK and raise the stakes a little, I know for these competitions I will need to learn harder tricks which means I need to train to become stronger, more flexible and confident in my own abilities.

Pretty soon after starting pole I decided I wanted to share this discipline with other people. A few years down the line I created Get Fit and Fly. It became an outlet to share how good pole made me feel, share my own techniques and movement and bring my own background of contemporary dance in to the mix. After outgrowing the use of community halls, we have recently opened our own studio space to give our students more chances to train in a specifically designed studio. It allows us to put on more classes and welcome even more people to come and discover pole.

I know my students a13330968_1093343354038312_2148843897541752459_nnd others find pole fitness as equally empowering as I do. Each find their own benefits and challenges within class, for some it is a chance to love their body, for others it is a form of expression, it is a chance to develop strength or challenge their current ability. I love teaching pole for its ability to shift students focus from what they look like towards their bodies functionality. They start to think more about what they want their body to do rather than what they want it to look like, despite the connections of pole with sexual objectification. It is a welcome relief  to many, in a world where women are under constant pressure and scrutiny over their image. ‘

www.getfitandfly.com

facebook.com/getfitandfly

instagram @getfitandfly

 

Ending on a Fail?

It kinda feels like an omen for 2017 doesnt it?!

It is always my hope that what I have been doing helps someone, one person is enough to make a difference.  One person impacts the people around them, the knock-on or domino effect.  As for the Marathon des Sables, many ask why should people pay for me to go and have fun, to go and do events I wouldn’t normally afford.  This is about so much more than running in events, it is raising the profile, raising awareness of a charity/charities and some monies.  It is doing something that some see as impossible, a massive stretch to the human body.

Without the support of those who have donated, given their time, their conscious effort to make a difference and to help I would not have gotten as far as I did.  It is with great sadness and a feeling of letting others down, of failing my charities, that I say I did not manage to secure sufficient funds to attempt this challenge – #80degrees.  However, I am very grateful to the sponsors for trusting me to secure the funds to enter the event in January 2018 – I have a goal.

In addition to my friends, clients and those sponsors, a big mention must go to Vickie Saunders.  Vickie is behind The Sponsorship Consultants, they work with individuals such as myself and but also many top level athletes.  Vickie has been instrumental in shaping my perspective on sponsorship.  She has shown me and illustrated that all is not as it seems.    You do not have to be the winner of every race, you do not need to be or have to be a household name to secure sponsorship.  Vickie has taught me a huge amount about connecting with teh right people, that everyone has worth and connects with others, thank you!

#80degrees (My name for the challenge) was meant to be my next challenge to further raise awareness of the fantastic work carried out by DAMH (Dundee Association for Mental Health) and SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health).

These two events are run by David Scott through his company Sandbaggers – check them out if you are looking for something different. An 80 degree turnaround!

Running through the Namibian desert in +40 degrees with a second marathon at -40

degrees in Outer Mongolia.  The mental strength, capacity and determination to do these types of challenge mimics real life.  My experience in the Sahara is testament to this.  I have tried to ultilise and speak of my own experiences with mental health to demonstrate that those who face these challenges do not always fall into the stereotypical ideas that society has.

Mental health challenges and welbeing affects people from all walks of life.  We bounce back and sometimes we don’t so quickly (By the way this is not a reach out – Im all good).

I have much to keep me busy in the coming year, so this is a failure?

No, it is an opportunity to grow, refelct, evaluate and improve my approach to come back stronger and more knowledgeable.  If you would like to keep up to date, I will endeavour to be better at posting my blogs.  I am being published by Positively Scottish so keep an eye out on there also.

Whats coming up:

My Marathon des Sables experiences

My prep for #80degrees

Training for the West Highland Way (June 2017)

Deadwater (July – Aug 2017)

Finally but by no means least, a huge THANK YOU to my sponsors who have stayed on board to ensure we can continue to raise the profile of DAMH and SAMH.

Heal Physiotherapy                                                  Carol S & Kay L and many more fundraising

Bloc eyewear                                                               Murroes Primary School

Icebug UK/                                                                   Running Sisters Tayside

Clarks Bakery                                                             Henrys Coffee House

The Gas Technology Partnership Ltd.

 

 

 

 

What did previous runners say???

Well it is now only 4 days, 22 hours, 11 minutes, ? seconds and counting – oh god its drawing closer and I am scarily calm.  Is it the calm before the storm?  Well we’ll soon see.

I thought you guys would find it interesting yo see what previous MDS runners to say about the race . . .

Name: Gordon Barrie12510725_10153207786621861_1501170662_o

When did you complete the Marathon des Sables? 2005

What was your background in running?     I started running in 1st year at school (Madras College in St Andrews) and joined Fife AC. I now run for Dundee Hawkhill Harriers (since 1991). I have competed over various
distances on the track, cross country and road.
What made you sign up?   I was in danger of drifting away from the sport
and wanted a fresh challenge. Plus, I had seen the MdS on the TV and in
Runner’s World and thought it looked amazing (and it was!).
What was/ is your best memory of being out in the Sahara?    Running
through the desert on the long stage in the middle of the night was
fantastic. There was nobody else around, it was nice and cool and the
stars in the night sky were amazing!
What was/ is your worst memory of the race?     Waking up on the morning of
the long stage (about 50 miles!) and being sick with nerves. I honestly
though I was going to quit at the first checkpoint that day. Then I
looked at the guy lying next to me in the tent, who looked worse than I
felt! He kept going and I was immediately motivated again. I never
looked back after that. In a race like the MdS, everybody has highs and
lows, you just have to keep focussed on the goal. Plus, everybody
encourages one another. There’s a real bond between the runners.
How long did you have or take to train for the race?     I was running
anyway but specific training for the MdS was probably 5 or 6 months,
with the bulk of it in the last 12 weeks. Back to back 20+ milers at the
weekends!
What is the one thing you would have changed about your training?   I
would have done some upper body strengthening and carried a pack more
often in training.
What is the one piece of knowledge or recommendation you wished you had
had going out there?   Make sure you like all the food that you’re
carrying. I discovered that I should have taken more savoury stuff. I
found the sweet food unpalatable in the heat!

Name: Keith Anderson

 When did you completethe Marathon des Sables? 2009

What was yourbackground in running?   No background prior to entering the event
in 2007. Was formerly a rugby player.

What made you signup?   Had seen Ben Fogles documentary a few years before which
was the first awareness of the event. I was looking for a challenge and wanted
to prove that the ordinary person can achieve anything.

What was/ is your best memory of being out in the Sahara?
Difficult. In short the camaraderie and “journey” everyone shared. Personally,
on the long day I suffered sickness bug and almost retired at the first
checkpoint. I got medical assistance for extreme dehydration 7 x 1/2 litre bags
of saline and glucose via a drip, after which I got up and walked the next 66
miles non stop. That episode was “my mds”.

What was/ is yourworst memory of the race?    Sickness bug which swept the
campsite on day 2.

How long did you have or take to train for the race?   2 years building from 10
km up to ultra distance races as long as 64 miles.

 What is the one thing you would have changed about your training?
You don’t need to train for 2 years. 6 months should be long enough. However my
experience was in 2 stages. The journey to the start line which comprised of 2
years of fundraising and training which was an amazing time, and then there was
the race itself. The more training you do the more you get to know your body’s
limitations.

What is the one piece of knowledge or recommendation you wished you had had
 going out there?
I researched every element of the race to an extreme level and so I had all the
info I needed and there was no real surprises which gave me confidence in my
abilities. The best piece of advice that I had was to never withdraw yourself
from the race, get a medical assessment and let them withdraw you. You’ll be
surprised how much you can achieve even when you think you are done.
Also, never share anything with fellow participants, that’s not being selfish
it’s self preservation as bugs transmit very very easily so no sharing
water/food/cutlery/etc.

 

Name:  Lucja Leonard1902795_10152441613959924_4052712739759365014_n

When did you complete the MDS?    I did my first one in 2014, now up for my 2nd.

What was your background in running?   I took up running to lose weight about 8 years ago, hated running or any sport growing up, I was a size 18, weighing 98kg when I started with a walk/jog routine and next thing you know…..I’m running MdS (ha ha not quite, it did take quite some time but it was pretty quick considering my history) First marathon in 2011, first ultra 2013.

What made you sign-up?   I’d watched a documentary about it on TV and was gob smacked by the sheer challenge.

and then return again . . . and again?    My first MdS was a real eye opener, a real kick in the guts every day I was out there to say you are not as fit as you thought you were and I found it brutally difficult and although I finished I was personally disappointed with my result so even though on the finish line I vowed I would not be back….whilst I was watching my husband compete in it again last year (2015) and he did super amazing (32nd overall!) I just got so excited I had signed up before he had even finished the last stage!  I am really keen to go back and run it better and stronger.  I am fitter, lighter, stronger and wiser than last time so that has to help right?

What was/is the best memory of being out in the Sahara desert?    The total isolation, I love that feeling of being away from everything that is routine to my normal daily life in a stunningly beautiful place whilst pushing my body and mind to the limit.  It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

What was/ is your worst memory of being in the Sahara?    The heat & the sand!

How long did you have to or take to train for the race the first time round and then thereafter or have you been keeping fit doing other races in between?   I was marathon/ultra fit, or at least I thought I was (it’s all relevant) already so my training kicked off in the December of 2013 so a good 4 months of solid training with a mixture of training and a few races in between to keep me focussed.  Christmas is always a hard time though so that was a blip in the schedule.  In hindsight I can see now that I overtrained, I was so focussed on my weekly mileage rather than the quality of my training, and spent too many hours running ‘junk’ mileage and too much running with my bag instead of focussing on quality sessions and including strength work into it.  After MdS I remember it took at least a month for my body to recover, I recall feeling like I wanted to run about a week after and about 1/2mile in I just stopped and was totally exhausted, the mind wanted but the body couldn’t.  It really takes a lot out of you.

10153771_10152441614489924_1331766896319222961_nThis time around my training has been all about quality sessions, getting in my key sessions each week – strength, flexibility, speed, hills, tempo, long back to back runs and most importantly – rest!  I have only just had a run with my bag and only plan on about 4 runs with my bag fully weighted, and I will start heat chamber sessions and Bikram yoga 2 weeks out from the race.

What is the one thing you would have changed about your training?   Sometimes less is more.

What is the one piece of knowledge or recommendation you wished you had had before going out there the first time (if you can remember)?    It is probably really obvious and it does sound stupid but I wish I had realised how damn hot and sandy it was going to be, nothing prepares you for the furnace that is the Sahara and no one can explain it to you.

Did you change things massively year on year?    More in my training approach, a few tweaks to nutrition, especially for during the race, the first year I took lots of nuts and bars to eat whilst ‘running’ and found them impossible to stomach, so this time I am going for gels and liquid energy (like Hammer Perpeteum and Torq energy sachets to add to my water) and save the chewable stuff for back in camp.

Here are Lucja’s own blogs: MDS Preparation 2014 and Post-event – please do check them out.

 

Thank you for reading folks, I really do appreciate everyones support and words of motivation.  Big thank you to Gordon, Keith and Lucja for answering these questions for my blog but also for answering my incessant questions and fielding my worries.

 

I am raising money for a small local mental health charity – Dundee Association for Mental Health – DAMH – they are a wonderful Dundee based charity who do fantastic work to help local people.  As someone who understands the need for this kind of invaluable suppo12687943_10205375836827795_8892240053623715467_nrt, both personally and professionally, I aim to do my very best out there in Morroco.

I will be taking on my biggest challenge to date,
if you would like to donate to the charity and sponsor myself you can do so here – Sponsor Page – Thank you

Follow me from your comfortable seat 😉 – Here is a link you can go to to follow me on a ‘live’ basis but if you wish you can also send good luck messages to keep my spirits raised during the event!    I am runner number . . .  1013 (#scary)

Women Run Strong – Great Event!

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What better day to post this blog than International Women’s Day!  A post on an event called Women Run Strong!!  Think about that for a second, what do those words mean to you?  All the positives, the supportive environment, lacking judgement or pressure, first or last – all supported, no timing – ‘Just Run’

I hope you all had a lovely Mothers day on Sunday?  Including all of you lovely ladies who may not be mothers!!  I loved hearing about all the races that took place, I was over in Edinburgh for 2 reasons:

Support clients who were running Women Run Strong Edinburgh run. (As a personal trainer)

Support my sponsor Women Run Strong in their first Edinburgh run.

I arrived in Edinburgh in the safe hands of Shauna and Daniel, our key supporter!!  We headed into The Crowne Plaza in Edinburgh, well, this was like no other run registration I have ever been to.  Very civilised – brilliant – but also very relaxed!  Avril who runs Women Run Stong has done a fantastic job of creating a community with the facebook group for those signed up to run, you get to know faces, names and whats happening with the run.

This is ideal, I know many of you will agree, it can be pretty intimidating turning up at a race event on your own.  Not here, you knew faces, everyone incredibly welcoming.  Not only that water, tea and the best – biscuits available to munch.  You can tell I am sold already haha.  Sign-up was an easy affair, we then waited on the rest of the crew to appear.

12799071_1710395169172525_4538943199466152473_nNot only that but you’ll never guess who I managed to run into – Cathy from  The Art of Communication! Wonderful to be a part of her 6th event out of the 50 planned this year!  Here is the epitome of ‘Women Run Strong’, I always think its nice to run i12806103_1096537113745035_2572782224698782507_nnto people you know at events.  Not only that I got to meet people I have been communicating with on social media.  I love making new friends!

I was lucky enough to meet Lucja, who has run in the Marathon des Sables previously AND is going back this year.  Nice to know I’ll know someone out there.  I think I picked her brains, well and truly, it was a revelation to be honest (Ill keep that for another time).  We were then led down to the start line, a very short walk away at the base of Arthurs Seat.

 

Wow! We had an amazing day for our run, there was no pressure on this run and I already knew I wanted to push but at the same time I had been nursing a sore back all week and didnt want to cause myself any further issues.  But also, I already knew I’d be stopping to take pictures along the way and wanted to talk with folks.  I honestly felt sluggish in this run, quite possibly my lack of exercise all week.  The views were simply – Outstanding!  We could not have had a better day for todays run, the sun shone, you could see for miles, the company was fantastic – I spoke with so many women today.  All different levels and experience.  The marshalls were massively encouraging and really brought a smile to your face as you rocked up and either gave you a jelly baby or some water and encouraged you on your way.

Did I say the views were spectacular?  Just in case you wondered .  .  .  . so were the hilly sections hahaha!  Phew, I now know why there was a massage included in your cost.  We all supported each other and stomped on, after the most dramatic of hills it became more undulating but still hilly.  I am not sure even I am making sense here.  I spoke with a lovely lady who said that despite the fact she trained around Arthurs Seat, she had in fact not been on the trails we covered, so a real positive there.  I can see this would have been a harder route in wet conditions.

A run out back to the hotel entrance, where I managed a wee sprint race with a fellow runner to finish well – always good, maybe.  And the prosecco, oh the prosecco!  What better way to finish the run than to be welcomed back with a glass of the bubbly stuff.12794416_1096537653744981_3411775268710125603_n

Quick sip, passed to Avril (I think she is still saving this for me 😉 )off I went back for my crew.  Louise’s PT 4 U motto – ‘NO-one gets left behind’.  This has been a long held motto an done I am very proud of.  Everyone of the girls did well today, for some their first run, we had 2 in the 5km and 2 of us did the 10km.  We did well and supported each other – the important part.

Are you getting what Women Run Strong is about? If not, why not pop over to the website or Women Run Strong facebook  or even come along to one of their runs!  Don’t just take my word for it, I asked my clients for some feedback, here’s what they said –

‘I’ve just completed the Women’s Run Strong 10km run in Edinburgh today. My first trail run and something I thought this time last year was beyond my physical reach. The event was beautifully organised, Avril and her team were superb from the swift registration to the jelly babies stop,  the excellent marshalls and the prosecco and massage waiting at the end. It was a tough run with killer hills but the views from the top were just spectacular well worth the effort. Another stand out factor was the team spirit amongst the runners, everyone actively encouraging and supporting each other. A run I would certainly do again.’ (Pauline A)

‘Women Run Strong? Well, on Sunday I think I was only hopeful of achieving 1/3 of those!! And even then only just!!

Having initially signed up for the 10k I could have easily pulled out as training in January & February was a non event. But I didn’t! Knowing that a buff, a glass of bubbly and a massage were also signed up to, I swallowed my pride and decided I would at least venture out on the 5k – that had to be easier than the unprepared for 10k? Yes? Hmm … I’m not sure!!

For someone who likes jogging on a flat tarmac route with a strong tailwind … what greeted me was something quite different!! The words “trail” and “hill” were order of the day!!! I think “brutal” best describes what I was muttering as I WALKED slowly up the 150m steep ascent to a fabulous view across Edinburgh! Waiting for me at the top was Shauna … a huge smile on her face cheering me on! And the view was spectacular!!

We crossed the finish line together … even managing a wee sprint to the tray of bubbly!! At 6.3k it is safely the longest (and hardest) 5k I have ever run … or run a bit of anyway!!! I’m not even sure it was easier than the 10k … but I wasn’t going to test that theory out when it got to the “10k that way / 5k this way” point! With a leg massage now firmly in my sights the 5k route was the only way home for me! Once again, if it hadn’t been for Shauna, I don’t think the leg massage would have happened for me as the queue was long and the clock was ticking on me having to get back to Dundee! But it happened and I got home with minutes to spare!

Anyway, asides how brutal I felt the run was and how underprepared I was … it was a fabulous event … location, people, massage, friendly faces, give aways and doing it with a wee crew of people who really don’t leave you behind (even when you would be quite happy to be left behind to find a flat route home!).

It was genuinely a lovely morning … a very relaxed gathering of women joining together to have a good time … from walkers to hard core runners … some idiot even ran with a bright yellow 8kg back pack on and looked like she was wearing about 20 layers of clothes – I’m sure I overheard her asking where the nearest sand dune was!? You see them all at these events, you really do!’ (Nicola R – I was ggoing to cut this down but actually, it gives you context and the reality of the day).

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Sponsor Profile: Lift the Bar: Education & Support for Personal Trainers

The latest sponsor for my that I would like to introduce you all to is Lift the Bar, they are an education and mentoring group  who will simply rock your world as a personal trainer.  They really do bring community to a position that can create the feeling of isolation.  Particularly if you are used to working for someone else.

The generosity of this group kind of blew me away, to be honest, everyone’s kindness and support has.  Story for another day however.

Chris who runs LTB with a fantastic group of guys, really does listen, they all ‘GET IT’, been there, done it, got the t-shirt and if they haven’t they’ll find someone who has.  But that statement does the group no justice at all, they use that information and draw on the knowledge of specialists to really take you to that next level.

This not only exists in terms of specific business considerations but also supporting you. Mental health is one of those things that often personal trainers will talk freely about in terms of supporting clients to improve through physical activity BUT there is that fear that if we put it out there that we too may struggle we are seen as weak.  Here is where my challenge of doing the Marathon des Sables resonated, we believe deeply in supporting each other to be better and do better for others, mentally and physically.

If in doubt, got questions or just want a bit of a gander, give them a shout Lift the Bar– well worth the time and effort.  Enough of my chat, read on to really get a better description . . . .

 

Lift The Bar – A Personal Training Community

 

Most people become trainers because they had a positive personal experience with health and fitness and they wanted to share that with others, whilst hopefully making a decent living.

You get through your “qualification” and skip off into the sunset helping more lives than Mother Teresa, or maybe not.

More than with most industries, the fitness domain can often leave you confused as to what is actually right, or even good practice. It’s something the experts even like to argue loudly about over social media.

High fat is best.

High carb is best.

Squats are the best exercise.

Squats will ruin your knees.

And so it continues.

Then there’s the isolation. You’re a one (wo)man band. Working long hours often on your own or under the disdainful gaze of “the competition”, you know, the other trainers in your gym.

And what’s the result of this high stress, all consuming and often-convoluted vocation?

19 out of every 20 PT’s will be out of the industry within five years.

Let that sink in for a second. In a world with exponential rates of obesity trainers are struggling to make a living when they are needed now more than ever.

So what did we do?

 

We created Lift The Bar: Education and Support for Personal Trainers (LTB)

 

Predominantly based in the UK LTB is a community of over 350 personal trainers, facility owners and education providers with a range of expertise and experience.

So what unifies us?

The desire to improve the fitness industry, and in doing so, helping to positively impact the lives of thousands of people.

 So how does it work?

 Let’s first look at the education.

  • An online webinar library allowing you to learn from industry leaders on a range of topics. This is constantly being updated.
  • Seminars in a range of subjects held around the UK in which our members get to learn from experts from both the UK and abroad.
  • Internship Days. Get first hand experience how our successful trainers work down at LTB HQ in Bath or Edinburgh.
  • Regular Technique Days – A chance to ask questions, make mistakes and apply the information you are learning, all in the comfort of a non judgemental environment. It’s ok not to know stuff!
  • Business Days – Helping our members to provide some structure when it comes to growing their business.
  • Bi-weekly Skype calls with some of our mentors (complete members only).

 

I have to be honest, as good as the education is, I honestly don’t think it’s the best part of LTB. Why? The community and the support it provides.

 Lets check out the support.

 

  • Community- To those who are not part of LTB this can often seem a little strange but the sense of community is HUGE. It is what makes LTB, LTB! From a little pick me up if you have had a bad day, to other coaches providing you with their time all in the name of helping. It’s the best group of hard working and moral people I can say I have been a part of. Our members hold regular met ups with each other all over the country (for both work and play) and once you are welcomed into LTB, you are one of our own, no ego’s, no ulterior motives, just a fantastic community of coaches trying to be better (and doing it with a smile on their faces and possibly one too many drinks at the social event J).
  • Members Facebook Group– Imagine being able to pick the brains of over 350 fellow trainers. Well that’s what happens everyday in our closed FB group. Anything from where to get new flooring for your gym to asking for advice on a client with stubborn body fat. The Facebook group really has become the hub of our LTB community.
  • Accountability Service – Sometimes there is just so much to do it can cause paralysis by analysis. We take some of the stress away by getting our members to prioritise their weekly tasks then hold them accountable to them.

 

So there you go, a little glimpse into our LTB community.

 

If you would like to know more please visit our website at Lift the Bar or visit us on Facebook at Lift The Bar: Education and Support for Personal Trainers.

Gregg.

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