Run Rabbit Run

Once again, I am excited to introduce you all to a good friend of mine, Jeni, I am always blown away by her running exploits.  They put me to shame, I love hearing about her upcoming goals and dreams.  We first met a few years ago through a mutual friend and from there I have followed Jeni’s journey through trail running.

Get a wee squiz on Jeni’s fab achievements and learning her why . . . 19619751_10155397983105775_2051904924_o

1. When did you first get involved in sport/ exercise/ physical activity?

In 2005 I found myself in front of a mirror and saw myself for the first time in a very long time, I didn’t like what I saw.  Many struggles of life had occurred before that point but the truth was I was unfit, lumpy, grey, dull and needing to lose some weight.  I changed my lifesty19650506_10155397982840775_64886262_oe for the better and along with some gym stuff I found running was most convenient for my life.  So I ran a few 10k races, they were tough.  I completed a half marathon in Glasgow and I was destroyed, it wasn’t good, I ran other in Aviemore a few weeks later and had to walk half the way due to pain.  I gave up running that day.  In 2011 I found myself in-front of a mirror again, I was 14 stone, I had a 6 month old baby and a 2 yr old.  My youngest had a bad start in this world and we struggled through 6 months of hospital visits and zero rest.  I was tired, fed up, depressed, and lacking in energy.  A couple of pals (Donna; who introduced me to the inspiration behind these questions; Louise) encouraged me to hit the gym and join JogScotland.  So I did…. In 8 months I had lost 5 stone and had completed my jog leader qualification and was back to work, happy, and running….

2. I know you through your fantastic and inspirational running exploits, can you tell us more about your journey through running?  

I have a passion for mountains and big days out, I wanted to have the strength to run further to make hill days count for more, fell running was my goal and I knew ultra-distance would be good for me.  In 2014 I ran my first Ultra (D33).  I ran 2 ultra-marathons that year and to be honest I found it tough and mentally awful.  The following year I ran a few more; I visited some beautiful places through events such as the Highland Fling race,19692191_10155397983125775_47539126_n Speyside way, Jedburgh 3 peaks and Glenmore 24; many many lessons were learned that year as I found I loved running further, I absolutely loved the ultra-family who adopted me with little bribery.  I loved the events but I felt I could be using my running for a greater cause.  Then 2016 happened.  It was never the plan to run as much as I did and I properly do not condone it as it nearly broke me, but in a mission to complete a charity challenge I had the goal of running 70 miles a week.  On paper, ultra races would help to cover those miles, I absolutely would not race, I would have company (I was already feeling isolated in my village), it would be fun, there would be bling and I get to check out awesome places…. so it was a no brainer at the time; enter loads of events throughout the year till my 5000km year was filled; BOOM.  I finished my challenge and ran the distance as well as raising £7000 for MNDScotland, I am still so grateful to all those that helped me and although I was mentally and physically broken I felt at peace.  Oh and I won the Scottish UltraMarathon Series for the lassies…

I now focus my charity work towards mental health charities as I have struggled myself over the years and running has helped me to work through some of my issues.  Makes sense to support others.

3. Do you have anymore running goals in the coming months and years?

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My goals this year are to heal my mind and soul, I need a year to get a normal life back and let my body recover properly.  I have started to prepare for mountain marathons and completed the L

one Alpine Mountain Marathon a few weeks ago.  We tackled the top head on and entered the A class, probably a bad idea for your first one but I loved it.  I am also having a shot at the Salomon skyraces in the Lake district which again could be a complete disaster but I know I will enjoy the adventure whatever happens!  It is after all only running.  Next year my goals are to complete a 100 mile race and have a bash at actually racing it.  Then its all about the mountain rounds for me, starting with the Ramsey round, then Bob Graham and if I survive then its the Paddy Buckley!

4. What would you say to women/ anyone wanting to get started in running but is thinking ‘I’d never be able to do that’ or they fear being last?

I have started and stopped a few times now, every-time I gave up was due to being under trained and lacking knowledge of what I was taking on.  Since training properly and taking as much advice as possible I find I can run distances more comfortably.  So don’t give up, you can do it but you need to put the work in.  Every runner starts the same, we all start struggling that first mile and some days its as hard to run that first mile as it was all those years ago.  As for being last, I’ve been last plenty, and you know what its not that bad.  I read a great article once and will never forget the lesson.  It was about putting more value on a PW (personal worst) than a PB (personal best) performance.  When your oranges are down (an orange represents a reason not to run, if you have 3 or more reasons not to venture out then don’t… could be tiredness, an over run meeting, a cold… anything) and your race/run is terrible and you achieve a PW then actually you have gained more, so be proud that you did it.  You got out and battled against all odds.  Always remember those who actually can’t run, do it for them!  Do it for your heart; mentally and physically.

5.  What does running give you?

Mentally running is very very important to me, any exercise in fact has been a blessing.  It helps me process my day, mostly I’m quite happy and I like to think through my endless ‘to do’ lists and plan my next adventures while running.  Some days I don’t cope with being on planet Earth very well and if I go for a run in the woods or up a hill its all sorted and I find I’m able to give myself a good talking to.  Life is always better after a reality check in the hills.

Physically I’m now fitter than I have ever been, I turned 40 this year and I’m delight19686267_10155397982950775_294395409_oed to feel that I’m improving my running and I hope that by the time I’m 60 I’m still gunning for big adventures and gaining personal bests.

Socially, I am grateful to running, I currently partake in long distance events that are as off road as possible.  Through this I have made some amazing lifelong friends.  Adventures and shared experience give us a connection that is very special and I do whole heartily admire, respect and love those who take time to get to know me and hang out while on the trails.  I’ve been lucky to have fallen in with a crazy bunch who enjoy meeting up regularly and am lucky to have many chums across the country.  I must add in that marshaling at these events also helps my socialization on the planet and I encourage anyone wishing to run far to try marshaling first to gain insight to our ultra world; this is my only regret and wish I’d helped sooner.

Thank you to Jeni for bring my ‘Women In Sport Week’ blog series to a close (ahem, albeit Im late on this).

The primary aim was always to celebrate the successes and amazing feats of those who are around us every day.  I think sometimes we can forget just how much inspiration can be taken from our friends, our families or our colleagues.

Thank you everyone, I hope you enjoyed this little series as much as I did.

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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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. ‘

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