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.

 

 

 

 

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

 

Recharging the Batteries

After what can only be described as a few crazy ass weeks at work, my training had fallen by the wayside as I tried ot keep on top of the ‘important stuff’.  This leads to the question, actually what is the important stuff?  Living to work or working to live.  I am incredibly fortunate to be able to do a job I love, helping others and now working to bring events to Scotland but like anyone I can spend too much time working and nt enough time having fun, investing in myself.

So today, was absolutely magical!  My mate and I headed over to the Lomond hills for what turned out to be one of THE most blustery days ever! We headed up East Lomond hill, struggling to stand for the warm-up even.  It was straight into the hill from the car park, fairly tough going, we came upon a family who stated they nearly lost the wee ones on the top of the hill . . . eeek!

We hit the top in a burst of hail stones/ snow showers, sare ane!  Of course we had time to do the current trend of a selfie pic hahaha.  The views were epic, looking around, truly a beautiful location on a day you could stand up straight.  We headed down the other side, much steeper than the car park side.  I took off with Karen screaming in the back ground about falling on her arse  We made it in one piece!

We headed toward Craigmeade car park which sits between the two hills, this was a much flatter run, undulating.  Naturally, as an OCR racer, looking into the forest exhilirated me – I just cannot look at woods and trees in the same light!

As we crossed the car park, we agreed we were heading toward the waterfalls as we didnt have enough time to do the other hill and the waterfalls.  What a choice this was to be . . .

I didn’t really take in the fact that we were on a predominantly downhill section, it was great, free-rolling down.  Giving Karen some tips as we went about how to take on the down sections.  We found the amazing waterfalls, being in these surroundings, this is what brings me alive – THIS is why I wanted to begin running.  Why?

Because this is freedom, this is not running, its energy, beauty, amazing, to be surrounded by something larger!

Climbing amongst the hills, designing future training runs and opportunities, sooo exciting.  We stopped and took some pictures because it would be rude not to.  Karen did some climbing, grannies should know better eh?!

Now, we had to go back uphill, it was a tough first run but the aim is always keep moving, put one foot in front of the other.  The climb back up the east Lomond hill was brutal if I am being honest as a first run back into the fol.  As soon as I hit the top I could barely move, the wind was vicious.

What a fantastic way to bring it all back and remember why I train!  For my sanity, to de-stress, to feel alive again.

Get out there folks!