Challenging the Status Quo

Here is part 2 of Jane W’s instalment of my ‘Women In Sport’ blog series.  Every day I am in a superb position to bear witness to the phenomenal achievements of my clients.  I can keep writing or just let you get stuck in, I finished reading this myself with a smile on my face!  What do you think?

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‘Sport and activities can often be considered to be for those of a ‘younger generation’ – what would be your thoughts on this?

Well to be honest I think physical activity should be for all ages,  all abilities and all genders.  We should be working towards removing barriers for everyone. Because the benefits are huge in terms of physical and mental well being.  And it must be cheaper than prescribing drugs or hospital treatments.   I started mountain biking and canoeing in my mid forties as a single parent.  As  females entering some of these sports we werP1080719e in a minority.  As a female single parent taking her daughter off on multi day challenges without professional intervention I was sometimes viewed as reckless! But my daughter and I have had immense pleasure through doing these kind of shared activities and have worked as a team to, for example go off mountain biking in the Cairngorms. I’m good at logistics and she is great at navigation having done her D.O.E certificates. And as a result of commencing these sports I am now fitter and healthier than I was in my 20s.

When I was younger I thought that all I had to do was to keep active and eat well in order to maintain fitness..  I now realise that there is a lot more to it than that.  All round strength and not just power in a part of your body is important. You may have higher lower body strength from running but less upper body strength for example. In my case I was very one sided as I had been carrying a lot of heavy weights on the right side of my body whilst working. That lead to back problems. I also wasn’t picking the weights up properly. I got away with this for a long time but seemed to lose a lot of flexibility around the time of my menopause and as a result sustained a number of injuries.  I am now working hard with the help of my personal trainer, Louise PT4U, to improve this situation. In fact I am now way more aware of good posture; healthy eating; balanced strength and flexibility and hydration as a result of going for regular training sessions.

Why aren’t we all taught good posture and how to lift things at school?

It seems like common sense. So I have come to realise that it isn’t just about keeping moving but the manner in which you move your body, in order to do sport;   hoover the carpet; wash the car;  split logs for the fire etc. etc.  So I am taking this on board as I intend to keep on doing sport for as long as possible.

 

As part of my personal training routine my coach, Louise,

20170513_113131encouraged me to set some goals to work towards.So as it was my 50th birthday earlier this year I decided to set goals with the numbers five and zero in. So it went something like this;

Goal 1 – To swim 50 lengths without stopping, had only ever previously got to 20.  So I managed to achieve this one in late February.

 

 

Goal 2 – To cycle over 500 miles in one go.  I finally got to 509 after taking a trip out to the Outer Hebrides in May. When there I cycled most of the Heb Way, crossing over 8 islands and having some fantastic experiences in one of the remotest places in the UK. And then carried on through Skye and a route round North Mull then back onto the West Coast of mainland Scotland.

 

 

 

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Goal – 3 To paddle 5 solo Canadian canoe trips. This one has morphed a bit. I was asked 5 weeks ago by an outdoor education instructor, Piotr from Outdoor Explore, if I would accompany him on ‘the old green kayak challenge’. This consisted of paddling over 50 miles (53 to be exact) down the River Tay from Killin on the far side of Loch Tay to the beech hedge at Meiklour. 14 hours, 8 Ospreys and 1 beaver later we had made it. That was the hardest and most difficult challenge to date and I had to dig really deep mentally to complete it.

 

 

I’ll be setting myself another goal shortly.

This stuff has been really helpful. It has given a context to my training and has helped me to stay focused and positively motivated.  And even when I have been facing  the outcome of medical diagnoses for joint issues, it has helped me to concentrate on what I can do rather than what I have been told by the medical profession that I should not do.  And with every challenge ticked off and done comes a greater sense of self confidence and amazement at what my body can still achieve at age 50, with the right training and a bit of TLC from myself!’

 

 

 

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Ninja in Training

I don’t actually remember a starting point for sport and fitness and that’s possibly because I was an active child and being sporty simply continued into my adult life.  When I was born my dad delivered me – I didn’t wait for the midwife and my dad laughs when he tells me that I entered this world with speed and purpose and haven’t stopped since.

I know I used to run everywhere and as a child I had skinned knees frequently, I climbed on things and recall feeling excited the first time I saw a rope swing in a woodland near to our home.  The earliest I recall anything about fitness being ‘a thing’ was in primary 7 when I was awarded sports champion. I didn’t even know such a thing existed and suddenly I was given an award for doing something I loved. I recall my gran being very pleased as she had been sports champion in her day and was delighted that the sporty gene had been carried forward.

High school offered lots of sporting opportunities and I tried them all – the only ones I didn’t connect with were racquet sports but otherwise I embraced every opportunity. I am sure I paint a picture when I say that running shoes and sportswear were the main items on my Christmas list each year.

In my adult life I experienced the evolution of lycra and aerobics – it was good at the time but the classes weren’t quite ‘me’. On the basis that it wasn’t the done thing for girls to go to a traditional gym, along with the idea that lifting weights would give me muscles I didn’t want, it was 1996 before I discovered that weight related fitness was the key to remaining strong and in good shape.  It’s bizarre looking back as I can’t imagine following a fitness programme today that doesn’t involve weight related routines.  Thank heavens fitness evolves the way it does or I would still be in a leotard and tights !

Running and general fitness moved into triathlon and triathlon moved into adventure racing then obstacle course racing and now I enjoy different events wherever I go.

I like to have a solid fitness foundation so that I can train up relatively quickly for any event that takes my interest.  Over the years that has included hundreds of events from 5k runs to longer distances, the London Marathon was very memorable. I have enjoyed fell races, kayaking, cycling and pretty much anything that creates enthusiasm when I read about it.

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Last year I applied for Ninja Warrior UK …. Well why not!! I went through the application process, the audition and in August made it to the filming stage in Manchester. While I was fit and strong enough I lacked skill between transition and splashed down on 4th obstacle.  With a bit of luck I will be back there this year but with over 30 000 applicants I know the odds are against me.  Making it up that warped wall would place me as the oldest female ever to have completed that stage of Ninja Warrior anywhere in the world so I am training hard …. and keeping my fingers crossed.

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While 50 seems old at times, (there are certainly days when I ache a lot and I recently noticed my knees are sagging ….. truly what on earth is that about 😀) I also feel young, energised and entirely ‘alive’ when I am training.

This weekend I completed Tough Mudder with a fabulous group of ladies from our amazing gym — Good Health and Fitness

IMG_3854(Dundee’s best kept secret when it comes to gyms that make a positive difference!!) It was a fun event and we laughed, helped each other, shared moments, and felt very accomplished by the end. Friendship through fitness is something special and I value that as much as fitness itself.

 

 

So the future …. I cannot imagine ever being inactive so enjoying sport and fitness will continue to be part of me, hopefully when my time is up I will eventually leave this earth in a similar way to my arrival – with energy and a bit of a sparkle.  In the meantime I am truly thankful for the active life I have, those that are part of it, and for the opportunities that are out there just waiting to be grabbed and embraced.

 

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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)