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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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)

Introducing my Sponsors: Stuart Aitken Fitness

I have been blown away by the generosity of Dundee’s small businesses in supporting me to reach the Marathon des Sables in order to raise money for local mental health charity , DAMH (Dundee Assocition for Mental Health).

As these become available to me, I will pop up small blogs where the businesses can highlight who they are and what they do, for example.  Please do pop over to thheir website and/ or facebook page.

First up is Stuart Aitken Fitness,  I have actually known Stuart for some time, we both attended Abertay University. I work alongside Stuart but also asked Stuart to help keep me honest with my own training a little while ago, yep even trainers need trainers, for my OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) so I am thrilled that Stuart has gotten involved in my new venture.

Stuarts take on the matter . . .

”When Louise asked me to be involved with her attempts to run the Marathon Des Sables (from now on this will be referred to as MDS), I could not have been happier. Louise is one of the most inspirational people I’ve encountered in the fitness industry. Through her consistent fundraising events, and community get-togethers she organises, she’s always been someone who I’ve enjoyed working alongside. This however, is a whole other ball game (which I know she knows!) so my reason for writing this is to let you in on some of the things I’ll be advising Louise with throughout her time in training for the MDS.

 

Training

Firstly we have to take into account her training. Now I won’t be involved with the running side, as this isn’t where I specialise or have enough knowledge to be of practical help, but I do have experience in helping athletes become stronger and faster from the weight room.

Louise is going to need a consistent weight-training plan, which may come as a surprise to some of you as she isn’t doing an event that requires lifting weights or being visually strong. This is a common myth with weight training, that it is only used to improve strength and muscle tone, it has so many more benefits to any individual who takes it up, especially endurance athletes who commonly miss it out for fear of getting to muscular.

The weight training Louise will be focussed upon doing will be mainly to ensure we give her current muscles a good reason to stick around. We know from plenty of research that a big muscle is a strong, more robust muscle. This means that doing weight training will help her stay injury free and keep her current muscle at a reasonable level, so she is still strong enough to endure what her body will go through during the MBS.

Although her primary focus will be upon getting the miles in and ensuring her body is ready from an endurance perspective, training in the gym will play a big role in providing her with the best platform to have an amazing race.

 

Nutrition

Nutrition is another thing that is quite often disregarded for endurance events, at least right up until the day before the event (carb-loading for example!).

This is going to be absolutely essential for Louise, as she will need to ensure her body recovers optimally every time she trains. Nutrition plays a huge role in this and ensuring she gets enough calories in to keep up the volume of training she’ll be doing, while also providing enough nutrients to keep her immune system in tact so she can keep on top of illnesses.

We’ll need to ensure she gets a good amount of calories into her body, which will have a large focus on getting plenty of protein (for muscle recovery and building) as well as carbohydrate (for fuel during her training bouts) and fat (so her hormonal profile stays at a high level).

 

Mindset

Lastly, and I think most importantly, we’ll need to ensure her mindset is excellent throughout the whole event, and leading up to it. I don’t think this will be something Louise will struggle with too much as she is already strong-willed, but the MDS is completely new animal, and one that will need preparation from her mind. We’ll need to ensure we’ve ran over possible problems that will arise, as well as getting her head into a position of belief and confidence with everything she does. It will also be important for her to visualise and put herself into positions she didn’t think her body could cope with as this will help through the toughest parts of the race.

Overall I really can’t wait to start seeing how Louise progresses through her training, and ultimately when she actually completes the MDS. I know she’ll set herself up right and raise an incredible amount of money for the Dundee Mental Health Association, and I can’t wait to be part of something as special as this.”

Thank you Stuart!  Here are the links to Stuart’s site:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/StuartAitkenFitness

If you would like to become a corporate sponsor please do get in touch, I am still aiming to raise the final amount by early January.  My contact email is louisept4u@yahoo.co.uk.

Stuart Aitken Fitness

 

Uncomfortable with Mental Health?

Evening Y’All!

I’m sitting here trying to work out the best way to write this blog, its a challenging one to write I think cartoon-confused-face-300x297

I could tell you all about the stats that are out there:

‘1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health condition in any given year’,

‘9 out of 10 people who suffer from mental health difficulties will be the subject of stigma and discrimination’,

and ‘nearly 3 in 4 young people fear the reaction of friends when they talk about their mental health difficulties’

( http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/mental-health-statistics-facts ).

Being Brave . . . .

On some level we are aware of these facts, we know people who suffer from mental health difficulties, these people are our friends, family, work colleagues.  I would add myself to this list of people, I am not identified by this, nor does it define me.  I have been told at different times to ‘Get a grip’, ‘dont be dramatic’, ‘why do you think you are any more important than anyone else’ and many more.  I have had health professionals see me only as my mental illness, some can not see past it, family and people I thought were friends,  be dismissive of it.  I really believe it is important to never judge the road you have never travelled, and in all honesty, will not travel, because you are never fully in that person’s shoes.  You can sympathise and empathise but you can not walk in their shoes.

How would people describe me? (comments I have had back)

‘determined, strong, active, successful, distant, arrogant’, amongst many other sayings.  Why is this important?

Those who suffer from mental health difficulties come from all walks of life, why am I talking about this, because I believe by being open I can help others see that those with mental health difficulties are not the stereotypical images that we have imagined, but can affect so many of us to a variety of levels and extents.  Does this mean your feelings are any less than anyone elses – NO!  Yes, there may be people in a worse position than yourself food wise, poverty wise but this does not detract from the feelings that you have.

To help me, cope with a bad day (or anyway you wish to describe such a day), I choose to exercise.  I choose to get out in the fresh air, there is nothing I find more exhilirating than getting out in the country, in the fresh air of Scotland, the surrounding area.  To see wildlife on my run, for me that in itself really does make a run or a cycle, to run in the hills, past the farmyards.  The occasional nod from a fellow runner/ cyclist, its that mutual understanding.  Don’t get me wrong, I have to work at it, this is by no means easy.  But there is some celebration in this achievement of simply sticking to the decision to look after myself.  Simple and silly to some but an important necessity to me.  I have managed to take what I enjoy and use it to benefit others.

Fundraising

On and off I have raised money for local mental health charities Insight Counselling (http://www.insightcanhelp.co.uk/).

Last year after being encouraged by a previous client, I decided to fundraise properly for a big challenge I was undertaking.  Now, I do a fair few challenges and races, I really enjoy pushing my own limits and fully seeing what I can do.  For me, at the time, this was a biggie!  So I met up with DAMH (Dundee Association for Mental Health – http://damh.org.uk/), Jenni was amazing and super keen for me to hear of the various activities that they do.  I wanted to ensure that the momey raised would go to a specific initiative and wouldn’t be swallowed up, into admin for example.  What excited me, ALOT, was that the money raised could go to a physical activity initiative, well this blew me away, this was completely in line with my own beliefs, what I do for a living at Louise’s PT 4 U (http://www.louisept4u.co.uk/) and fully in line with the research out there.

I was alittle worried that I wouldn’t be able to raise enough to really help the charity but I was committed to doing my best.  WOW!  I was blown away by the support I was given for my Cotswold Way 100 Mile Run (Equivalent of 4 marathons in 4 days! – there is a blog detailing the 4 days if you want to have a read).  It was incredibly tough, this was the furthest distance I had ever run back to back and I think, it was my furthest distance in one day also.  I ticked off alot over these 4 days.  Truly pushing  your limits, really is a great thing, your perception of yourself and the possibilities really does change.  Not only that, the fact so many people supported me and donated money, showed me they believed I could do it.  I couldn’t let them down.  So through those hazy, lightheaded moments – I pushed through with my donaters in mind at all times, helping me put one foot in front of the other to the finish line!  We had raised over £800 by this point.  Simply outstanding, I really can’t even begin to have the words to say thank you and express my gratitude!

Tough Guy The Original

This one deserves italics!! I decided it would be great to top the money off to £1000, I thought that would be great.  Next big challenge, ‘Holy S**t’ – you get the idea this was going to be mental.  It pushed my boundaries in a way I never thought possible.  Blog is upcoming for this folks – keep your eyes peeled! (Apologies for the profanity, but even now, I have butterflies in my belly thinking about it, so that is tame)

You guys, everyone who donated are simply AMAZING – we hit that £1000 and some.  Truly amazing.  Blown away!

Time to Change . . . 

MIND, the mental health charity based in England were running a campaign called ‘Time to Change’ on the 5th February 2015.  Now, I just happened to see it on facebook and decided this would a great wee initiative to encourage folks to get involved in, albeit, it was last minute as it had only just popped up on newsfeed.

This was a great day that we ran at the gym I work from – Good Health and Fitness (City Quay, Dundee).  The members as well as my own clients and friends there were fantastic in supporting the day.  I did an early morning walk, a midday walk and we had a few guys do some baking, by the way, I believe I may have consumed my fair share of them.

All in the name of checking it was appropriate and tasty enough for you guys of course, hahaha.  During the day it was about simply taking that 5 minutes to talk about mental health.  This could be from a personal experience perspective, it could have been from the view of having supported someone, a work initaitive or simply your own perceptions.  We also looked at how physical activity played a vital role.  We then asked everyone to make a pledge, not in the typical sense, this was about maybe something that had been learnt or what you already did, maybe mental health and physical activity.  I was overjoyed to see we raised a brilliant £85, for a last minute day and not managing to get as much done for the day as I would have liked, I was super pleased!  Again, the people I have to thank are all of you out there who have sponsored, supported and shared anything I have been running.  It has been amazing!

Last words . . .  

Those who suffer from mental health illnesses are not by any stretch of the imagination weak.  They are strong beyond belief!  To get through every day can be the hardest thing in the world, our history makes us who we are today.  I would not be the person I am today had I not had to go through the difficulties and experiences that I have, this in no way intimates that I wanted these situations or would choose them.  Simply that I know I am stronger today than I was yesterday.

‘It is not the mountain we must conquer but ourselves’

Thank you folks for taking the time to read this blog folks.  Please remember these are my own opinions and not those of any organisation/ business or group.  Keep any comments positive, any negativity will be removed.

P.S Just heading off to hand over the cheque folks – picture will follow.