Running & Fitness Tips

The 5 Health and Fitness Apps You Need Today

Most of us have our mobile phones within reach 99% of the time so it would seem pertinent for us to use them for more than just listening to our favourite music or watching Lol Cats. We have a vast resource right at our fingertips with an endless amount of health and fitness apps that are now on the market.

I have tried many health and fitness apps over the years but these are the ones that have stuck with me and I still use them all regularly to this day.

Disclaimer: This post has affiliate links, which means if you choose to buy through my links I receive a commission at no extra cost to you! I’ll only ever link products that I absolutely love and use, thank you for supporting me.

Strava

Originally, I was signed up with a Strava account by a work colleague of mine who insisted that because I was now cycling to work, I was part of the ‘cycle to work gang’ who were all following each other on this app. Unfortunately for me, they were all male so the pressure for people to see my ‘performance’ every morning and every evening was enough to motivate me to try and cycle my little heart out. If you didn’t cycle when it rained you were a ‘fair weather cyclist’ and I didn’t want to be accused of that! ‘Not cycled in today Michelle?’ they’d accuse. ‘No, I have to leave early for an appointment’. ‘Right ho, if you say so’.

Aside from my personal experiences with Strava, I didn’t actually feel like I needed it initially. Yes, it was nice to have a group of ‘friends’ on a fitness app which I’d never had before and it did appeal to my competitive nature but I already was using my Garmin connect app which was tracking all of my activities.

Except Strava is so much more than that I soon discovered. For the first time ever, I’m trying to race myself on sections of my route that people have deemed worthy enough to log. One of my all-time nemesis hills (which I’d had to dismount and walk up on my first try) was one of these stretches of road that was ‘log-worthy’ and I can’t tell you how happy I was when I ended up near the top of the female group in the recorded times.

Even though I’m cycling no longer, unfortunately, I now have to commute too far, I still use it to look at runs that I have logged (Strava will connect with my Garmin) and I also really like the Kudos feature, so you can be connected with people who don’t have a Garmin too).

One of my favourite features are the graphs and split time stats. I’ll look to these first, before my Garmin stats, because I prefer how clear and uncomplicated they are.

 

 

 

 

Garmin Connect

If you have a Garmin, you’ll most likely be connected with this app where you can change all of your settings, download watch faces, activate Live Track and see all of your data in real time and you can customise the home screen with different stats depending on which ones interest you most.

While I enjoy the stats of this app, I’m not crazy over the design of it with a moody-dark feel to it and I’d prefer to look at the Strava graphs and charts than the ones on here. This app will also link with My Fitness Pal (an app I’ll talk about next) and will show you how many calories you have remaining including your daily activity.

From the Connect app, you can make friends here too and join weekly challenges and I seem to have been signed up for one step challenge or another every week! You can also view a News Feed which will have any of your connections’ logged activities here and you can like and comment on these.

My favourite features about it though are the stats. While I don’t necessarily enjoy the format that they’re all presented in I am always flicking through them to see how many miles I’ve run or walked, what my sleep pattern has been like or has my V02 Max score changed.

It has some nice features like uploading of training plans, automatically logging your gear mileage, insights into where you compare to other users for each sport, and my favourite bit, the Connect IQ Store. Here you’ll find lots of Watch Faces, Widgets and Data Apps that you can download and add to your watch.

My Fitness Pal

I kind of have a love-hate relationship with this app! I love how easy it is to use, I love how you don’t have to put any thought into your calorie counting you can just scan any barcode and 9 times out of 10 the food you’re trying to scan will have been uploaded.

My Fitness Pal will also link with my Garmin so it will automatically upload my exercise into the app and deduct these calories from my overall remaining total. This app is one of the only things that will keep me accountable for making better food choices. While I am well aware that calorie counting isn’t the only form of eating better, I find it very motivational when I’m thinking about whether to treat myself or not. Because it’s only counting calories, I sometimes lose track of how much healthy food I’ve actually eaten. Yes, I may be under my calorie goal but I may have eaten terribly that day, and eating healthy is more important to me than counting calories, therefore I’ll only ever use it as a guide throughout the day and if I’m tracking what I eat I’ll take photos of everything instead to get a better picture.

The app can also track your weight, which is also an interesting statistic for me personally because I’ve been using it since 2013 and I’ve put on quite a few pounds since then! Hello, upwards graph! They’ve added a feature where you can also upload progress photos but I’ve never been one for taking progress pics, I have uploaded my daily food diary photos into it though so I can refer back to them at a later date.

Relax Melodies: Sleep Sounds

While I love being asleep and snoozing, I’m terrible at actually getting to sleep! I’ve tried tons of different sleep apps and sleep trackers and my favourite so far is Relax Melodies: Sleep Sounds. While the app has many more features if you pay to upgrade, there are enough features for me with the free version.

You can set different sleep noises like rain, ocean, winds, waterfalls, thunder and many others. I find this white noise very useful to get my mind clearer and I’m less likely to be staring up at the ceiling for hours praying for sleep to take me over. If you haven’t used a sleep sounds app before, check this one out.

 

Audible

While you may not consider Audible to be a health or fitness app, I have found it useful in both areas. Sometimes when I’m going out for a run and I want to have more of a chilled and relaxed attitude I will pop on an Audible book. I’m a cardio enthusiast so high energy dance tracks are usually the order of the day but occasionally listening to the soothing reassuring voice of Stephen Fry or the hilarious Jack and Michael Whitehall gives a whole new experience to my run. It will also give me something else to focus on, which I love for a long Sunday run. I’ll sometimes listen to one on my daily commute because some days, no genre of music will help you deal with the traffic and terrible drivers.

Another way I find Audible useful is as a sleep app. While I do enjoy the thunder and lightning noises to drift off at bedtime, sometimes I can’t clear my mind of thoughts and that’s where I find an audiobook will help because it’s giving my brain something else to think about, yet it’s not so distracting that it will keep me awake. My preferred audiobook is one of an autobiographical nature, usually by a comedian. A new addition to my Audible library is Derren Brown’s Happy. I have his book in hardback, and on my phone so I was delighted that he was finally narrating one, he has the most soothing, relaxing voice I’ve ever heard. You can also set a sleep timer so it doesn’t continue to run all through the night.

So if you’ve never considered audiobooks before, give Audible a try, they’ve got lots of different books for you to choose from. Click here to start an audible trial today

 

 

 

Advertisements
Running & Fitness Tips

A Beginners Guide to Running With Your Dog

Before I get into my tips for running with your dog, let me tell you some things about my Labrador, Darcy, and what a rascal she was, which should give you somewhat of an insight into our running relationship. Her family lineage was a long line of working dogs bred to retrieve game from fields and essentially, work all day. Because of this, she had energy and tons of the stuff! She was also powered by rocket fuel, Red Bull or the Devil, I’m not sure which. Not only that, she loved to run… not necessarily with me, but off leash she was as wild as the day is long.

Disclaimer: This post has affiliate links, which means if you choose to buy through my links I receive a commission at no extra cost to you! I’ll only ever link products that I absolutely love and use, thank you for supporting me.

I once had to retrieve her (the irony isn’t lost on me) from a huge field of people having some kind of picnic, festival type thing, that she’d decided to, for no good reason, gatecrash. Perhaps she could smell sausages, I just don’t know what used to go through her dog mind.

When we took her to puppy training classes (I know it doesn’t sound like she had any but believe me she was certified level 1 and 2) they told us not to use extendable leashes because it would encourage them to have more of a free reign and to train with a static one to get used to them being in the correct ‘position’. Darcy had, in conjunction with a halti on occasion, a fabric lead until she was around 3 years old. She would have days where she would be exceptionally good on the lead and walk right next to me no troubles, however, put another dog in front of her and she would lose her mind and do anything to say ‘henlo’ to them.

I got some advice from the local pet store, when I’d decided I was going to train for a half marathon, on which running lead would suit Darcy best. He came to the conclusion that an ‘around the waist’ lead which was slightly stretchy, what you’ll mostly see at Canicross events and what I would recommend to you to run with your dog, would be no good because she was far too strong for me. She could easily pull me to the ground with minimal effort and I needed to be able to pull her back and keep her close to me at short notice if necessary. So, I opted for the extendable lead which would also be much more comfortable when Darcy would decide to dart off in the opposite direction because she wanted to sniff something interesting and nearly twist my arm out of the socket. <a href="http://Kzoo Patented 360° Heavy Duty Tangle-Free Retractable Dog Lead For Dogs Up To 50kg; Extendable 5m Long Nylon Tape/Ribbon With Anti-Slip Soft Rubber Handle, One-Handed Brake & Lock“>Click here for a similar extendable lead to the one we used

So, Darcy and I got to training, gradually increasing our mileage week by week. I found it a comfort to run with her as I didn’t feel like I was running alone and it also meant I was more likely to go out because I had to take her out anyway, I may as well kill two birds with one stone. When we first stepped out of the door she’d be off like she’d never seen the outdoors before and she’d sprint as fast as the extendable lead would allow her with me trailing along behind trying to keep up with her (not the ideal way to start a run but hey).

After around a quarter of a mile, she’d settle down into a comfortable running pace and she’d run alongside me for the rest of the run. I soon found though that while she seemed happy enough running with me, her max limit was around 3 miles. She would start to lag behind or she’d get easily distracted by leaves and lights and mist and I’d have to shout encouraging phrases at her, much like a personal trainer, ‘Come on Darcy it’s not much further now’.

A cool down is important too

I had to accept that while my pup was perfect in every other way, she wasn’t going to be the training buddy that I’d hoped for. I think it just didn’t hold much excitement for her after a certain amount of time and she got a little bit bored. While I was still training for the half marathon, I’d take her out for around 5k, loop back home to drop her off and go back out again.

Let’s get into the tips for running with your dog! I’m sure your pup is much better behaved than mine was, so you’re already ahead of the game (ahem).

Make sure your dog is fit and healthy enough to run with you

The rate at which dogs mature and are fully grown is different for each breed. Larger dogs have a much longer ‘puppy phase’ than smaller dogs (which is why Labradors are so naughty for so long!), so have a chat with your vet or dog trainer so they can guide you on when is best to start running with your dog. Dogs’ bones and ligaments need to have fully formed before you should start running with them so let them get over their toddler years to avoid injuries for them further down the road. Darcy was around 2 before I started running with her at all, mostly just as casual short occasional runs.

Have good leash training

I know this is rich of me to say but do as I say not as I do and all of that! It really will make running with your pup much easier if they’re already used to walking on one preferred side alongside you. As I mentioned previously, walk train your pup with a static leash that doesn’t have much room for lunging and they’ll adopt this placement much easier once you upgrade them to a more suitable leash for running.

Start them steady and slow

We wouldn’t expect ourselves to be able to go from ‘couch to 5k’ without actually running any distance in between so we shouldn’t expect our four-legged friends to do this either, no matter how fit we think they are. Much like you’d increase your weekly mileage, do the same with your pup. If you’re going out for every training run together and you’re both new to running, even better.

Try and train your pooch to run on softer terrain

I was very much a helicopter dog parent with Darcy and when we were out running together, I’d always try and encourage her to run on the grass rather than with me on the pavement. Running on the grass was much softer a landing for her joints and she seemed to prefer to run on there any way (it smelled way better than the pavement I’m sure!).

Find the right leash for your dog to run in

There are some great leashes designed for running with your dog which are practical and comfortable so you can run hands-free. I would highly recommend that you choose a canicross style or static lead to run with (I wouldn’t necessarily recommend running with an extendable leash). As I mentioned, this type of leash wasn’t ideal for Darcy and me to run with as on the odd occasion she’d have to wear a Halti and she was a notorious ‘stop, drop and sniff’ kind of girl. I also felt like I had more control over her when I had the extendable lead and I also found it more comforting to be holding something. Speaking of which, when I run alone now, I find myself clenching my right hand into a fist because I was so used to running with her and holding her lead! <a href="http://DogTao Running Dog Lead For Medium and Large Dogs – Hands-Free Dog Walking Belt with Waterproof Pouch“>Click here for a hands free dog leash suitable for running

I’d recommend you speak to your vet or local pet store for more options and styles of leash for running with your dog.

Give it time

If your pupper isn’t turning into the natural runner that you’d have liked, don’t give up. It will take some time for you both to get into a running rhythm with each other, much like when you start to run with another person in the beginning. Be patient with them and accept that they do need regular stops for breaks and sniffs and saying ‘henlo’ to other dogs. I know many people are strict about this sort of thing but I wanted Darcy to enjoy running as much as I did so I tried to make it fun for her too.

You’re doing amazing sweetie

Listen to what your pup is telling you

I’m under no illusion that you’re Doctor Dolittle here and you can actually understand what animals are saying (if you are, call me, I want to learn your secrets), however, look down at your pup frequently and see if he looks comfortable when running. Look out for signs of them being in distress or injured and make sure you don’t force them to run when they look uncomfortable.

I was once at the end of a run and Darcy was getting more and more reluctant, which was nothing unusual, to keep up. I tried all of my usual encouraging ‘you’re doing amazing sweetie’ type pep talks but something didn’t seem quite right. Darcy had the type of personality that even if she was in pain or hurt in some way, she’d still soldier on regardless (unlike me who at the slight sign of illness will crumple like a piece of paper and lay down for days until I’ve recovered). I was keeping a close eye on her and all of a sudden realised she had a slight limp. I stopped immediately and she started to draw her paw off the floor as if there was something on her foot. Sure enough, when I lifted her paw up to get a look, she had the tiniest thorn stuck in one of her pads. I picked it out of her paw and she got merrily back to running again! I, on the other hand, felt terrible, how could I have let my poor baby girl (helicopter parent remember) run when she was in pain! You live and learn.

Sign up for a Canicross event

If you haven’t heard of Canicross before let me enlighten you.

“Canicross is the sport of cross country running with dogs, it is dog powered, so they are harnessed , attached to the human and run in a team. The human is the driver, directing the dog from behind with voice commands. Canicross not only is a great method to get a human and a canine fit but works the dog’s mind and allows them to use their brain in a work mode”.

If the thought of running races with your pupster appeals to you, check out the Canicross website https://cani-fit.com/beginners-guide-to-canicross/ which has got tons of tips on racing with your furry monsters.

Dogs like medals too

Pay attention to weather conditions

I personally, never took Darcy out when it was anything more than a ‘mild’ temperature. If she used to resist a 5k on a cooler day, she certainly would on a slightly warmer day. If your dog isn’t great with the heat, don’t take them out during the blazing hours of the midday sun but rather run with them first thing or later in the evening. Sometimes, I’d take some water with me if I felt like she might need a drink along the way but I was very conscious of her overheating and scalding her paws on the hot pavement.

The same would go for very cold weather. While she would run and play in the snow for hours (“the cold never bothered me anyway” – Elsa, was definitely a mantra that Darcy lived by), if the pavements were very icy and slippy she wasn’t keen on walking on it and to be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t run in those conditions anyway (she wasn’t a husky after all!).

Keep them safe

Even when I wasn’t running with Darcy, I used to make sure she was wearing an LED collar which could be seen from pretty far away when it was dark out. This helped to make her more visible when she was on pavements and crossing roads (it also made her look really cute) to alert other pedestrians, especially when she was ‘extended’ on the lead, that she was there. <a href="http://PetSol Ultra Bright Mini LED Collar For Dogs – Perfectly Designed For Small Dogs – Ultra Bright LED Dog Collar For Increased Visibility & Safety – 4 Colours 2 Sizes (Green, Small)“>Click here for the collar that Darcy used to wear

Some final tips

Make sure you never leave the house without some dog bags, you don’t want to get stuck on the hop without them so add them to your running with pup checklist!

If your dog really is a reluctant runner, don’t force them. Some running relationships just aren’t meant to be and with all the patience and practice in the world, sometimes it’s just not for them.

Make sure you make the runs fun for your pup. It’s okay for you, you’ve got your new running shoes on and you’ve got a great playlist in your ears but for the most part, your pup is just running alongside you with not much else to stimulate them. Some dogs are perfectly happy with this but my pup never was. We’d sometimes skip sideways and I’d encourage her to do mini sprints to try and get her to the end of a run when we were closer to home when she’d clearly had enough.

If you liked this post, click here to read my post on why dogs are so good for our health

I wish you and your best friends the best of luck and many years of a beautiful running relationship. You’ll never find a more enthusiastic, all-weather, no matter what running buddy, I guarantee it!

Henlo Friends

Running & Fitness Tips

Everything You Need to Know About Running in the Winter

I’ll let you into a little secret… I absolutely love summer! I love the long light evenings, days spent on the beach and in pub gardens drinking a cool crisp cider. Alas, summer doesn’t last forever. I’ll let you into another little secret, even though I’m a summer-lovin’ type of person I absolutely adore running in the winter months. I’m not like Elsa, the cold does bother me, but I know that being a winter runner is so much more productive and for that reason I love it.

“The cold never bothered me anyway” – Elsa 

Disclaimer: This post has affiliate links, which means if you choose to buy through my links I receive a commission at no extra cost to you! I’ll only ever link products that I absolutely love and use, thank you for supporting me.

I can recall one late winter day while I was out for a run. It was pretty cold when I stepped foot outside the door but the sun was shining and there was a beautiful blue sky as far as your eye could see. ‘This is perfect running weather’ I told myself with that inner smug satisfaction you get when you’re about to hit the ‘sweet spot’ of perfect running conditions (don’t lie, you know exactly what I’m talking about).

My smugness was short lived though, because in no time I was absolutely roasting hot and cursing out loud to the atmosphere that it ‘should be colder than this, it’s winter’. Now, this is why I prefer winter running. 99% of my life, I’m cold or chilly or something on the opposite side of warm but when I’m running or doing a workout, I’m a molten lava filled furnace who might just spontaneously combust – I’m dramatic, I know.

“Great things come out of being hungry and cold. Once you’re pampered, you get lazy” – Rob Zombie

When the temperatures are lower, I can run so much further with so much more effort and I feel like I’m getting twice the amount of benefits when I’m running in the cold than I can in the summer. While it’s a little shock to the system the moment you step outdoors, I know that I’ll be cozy toasty warm in minutes. So here are my top tips for running in the winter and also some motivational nudges that should help you get out of the door so you can experience the winter running nirvana that I do!

Be safe out there running alone

As a female, running alone in the cold, dark winter months, it can sometimes feel a little less safe than it does in the summer. Here are some safety measures that I put into place when I’m running at night:

  • Before you set out on your run, make sure you’ve told someone exactly where you’re going, what time you expect to be back and the route you’re going to take. Make sure you’re taking a mobile phone with you so you can call someone in an emergency or take some spare cash with you for phone boxes (if you still have any in the area that you live).
  • Set up your GPS tracker to automatically alert your friends, family, the dog of your whereabouts. While it’s all well and good to tell someone where you’re going and what route you’re taking, it’s even better if they can see it in real time (it’s also useful during races so anyone who accompanies me knows how far I am from the finish line). I have a Garmin Fenix 5 running watch and it has a feature called Live Track. I have this set up to auto start so as soon as I press the start button and it’s linked with GPS it will send an email to the address I’ve set up and they can watch the route that I’m taking, what pace I’m going at and least of all, exactly where I am at that moment in time.
  • Stick to the main roads and pathways, running in the darker months isn’t the ideal time for you to try out that new trail run route or to take shortcuts through housing estates that you may not be familiar with.
  • Find a running buddy or a running club so you don’t have to go it alone. You’ll feel much safer and have a greater reassurance of your safety rather than pounding those pavements solo.
  • I’d highly recommend that if you’re running in the dark not to impair your hearing by listening to an MP3 player while you’re out. You’re less likely to be able to hear traffic, other people using pathways and keep you on high alert to your surroundings.

Dress appropriately for the weather

In the South West of the UK, while we do get cold weather, we seldom experience snow. That’s not to say that we don’t suffer from icy roads and pathways when it does get cold, but average temperatures are not usually below zero. Therefore, dressing appropriately for the weather is more likely going to be ‘how do I not get soaked right through’ rather than, ‘how many layers of gloves should I wear today’ (it sure rains here a lot in the UK).

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” –  Alfred Wainwright, A Coast to Coast Walk

While I can’t really advise you on those sub-zero temperature appropriate clothing that you may have to wear if you’re in a much colder clime (I know that a ski jacket is not suitable), I can give you a guide on what I wear when it’s much chiller outside.

  • You must have heard this before, the key is layers. When I step outside the door first of all, I’ll be wearing a base layer which will be something that will keep me warm but that isn’t cotton. Cotton will hold onto any moisture from rain and sweat and will make you feel much colder (which will mean you’ll end up with ‘cold bones’ and have to take a bath for 2 hours to warm up… just me?). Look for the dri-fit fabric when you’re purchasing your base layer and you can’t go wrong.
  • Follow up your base layer with an appropriate outer layer which you should tailor to the conditions you’re going to be running in, whether that’s rain, wind or just lower temperatures. There are some great running jackets which are made for each condition that you might encounter so do a little bit of shopping around and purchase the one that suits your needs best.
  • If it’s really cold but not raining, I’ll wear a lightweight hat or ear cover to keep as much of the heat in as I can. I also suffer with my sinuses in the colder weather so covering my ears with something is an absolute must.
  • I’ve never been one for running in gloves, I find them all too uncomfortable and restrictive and I’ll usually tear them off in anger 5 minutes after I’m out of the door (and then I’m stuck trying to find somewhere to put them until I’m home). What I do enjoy is a jacket or jumper that has thumbs cut out at the end of the sleeves. That way, I can pop my hands through and keep my hands somewhat warm initially but when I’ve warmed up a bit I can just free my hands and thumbs much easier.
  • Another cold weather item which has become popular is the buff. This can be used in multiple ways across your head, neck and face to keep the wind from battering your neck upwards. I haven’t mastered them as I find them fussy but I know lots of runners that swear by them and use them on nearly every run.
  • If you’re going to be battling with a snowy ground or more uneven surfaces, I’d recommend running in trail shoes if you have them as they’ll have a much more aggressive grip on the ground than your usual running shoes. If you’re really determined to run in icy weather, take a look at the Yaktrax, “named after the Tibetan yak, are light-weight ice grips worn over your regular walking shoes, winter boots, jogging or running shoes when walking on packed snow and ice in winter” which are designed to reduce the risk of slipping on ice. Find them here https://www.yaktrax.co.uk/

Be safe, be seen

There are some great pieces of equipment out there which will not only help you run better and safer in the dark, winter months but that will make you more visible to other people either on the roads or pathways so they can look out for you too.

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer” – Albert Camus

You’ll find on most running-specific clothing such as jackets and leggings there are built in high visibility sections in areas such as the back, ankles and sleeves. Anything that shows you’re a moving person is going to help the onlooker to determine you as such instead of a shiny stationary object. Check out the Pro Viz Sports jackets which are the only 100% reflective jackets on the market https://www.provizsports.com/en-gb/

If you’re looking for something more to help you be seen there are many inventions like <a href=”http://“>LED belts , <a href=”http://“>reflective safety sashes and <a href=”http://“>reflective armbands. To help you see better, you can also purchase <a href=”http://“>head torches which will help you navigate any uneven terrain and avoid trips.

Motivation

What’s for all of the above information if you’ve got no motivation to get out of the door in the first place, right! Here are some tips to get you lacing up those shoes and bouncing out of the door like Bambi (hopefully not on ice).

Here are some tips to get you back on track if you’ve had a break from running

  • Warm up before you leave the house. That way you’ll have nice warm muscles to work with so you can get straight into your run instead of getting warm and doing a warm-up all at the same time. I’ll usually listen to a few tracks on Spotify that I find motivational and do some dynamic stretches and aerobics style movements to get the blood pumping. (Ok you caught me, I dance around my living room in somewhat of a haphazard way doing half aerobics half street dancing).
  • Go to bed wearing your running clothes. Perhaps not all of them, running shoes likely aren’t the most conducive to a good night sleep or mud-free bedsheets, but if you’re comfortable enough at night sleeping in them put on your running top or leggings if you’re planning to head out for a morning run. That way you’re practically ready anyway so you may as well go out for your run!
  • Get new workout clothes or running gadgets. This is a sure-fire way to get you motivated to go for a run. Once you purchase a new piece of running gear it would be rude of you not to take it out for an outing now, wouldn’t it? In the words of Ross Gellar to Phoebe when she was given a new bike that she never rode ‘if you don’t ride it, it will die’. True story, look after your bikes kids.
  • Because you’ll be able to run without overheating, you’ll be able to run a lot longer and a lot more effectively along with improving your mental determination. This means you’ll be burning more calories (say hello to more cake) and you’ll be reaping the benefits for your summer races by training in the winter months.
  • If you’re relatively new to running and you’re feeling a little self-conscious running in the great outdoors, you’ll be able to work on your confidence in running while it’s still dark outside so come summer time, you’ll be sashaying around the pavements feeling like a pro.
  • Sign up for a virtual race to keep your motivation high if you’re not keen on entering a race or you’re not feeling up to it just yet. There are tons of virtual races out there so pick one that appeals to you with distances from 5k up to 100 miles to month. Sign up to the race that you’re interested in, send proof of your distances before the deadline and get your medal. Check out one of my favourite virtual running sites at https://www.virtualrunneruk.com/
  • Have a kick ass playlist that you can’t wait to go outside and listen to! One of the main reasons I love running is that I can put on my favourite music, drown out the rest of the world and sing and fool around as much as I like. I personally find music very motivational so I’m always on the looking for new tracks to get me in the mood to go running. (I’ll never listen to music though if it’s very dark out for safety reasons).

Final winter running tips

Even though it’s cold outside, and you may not feel like you need it, make sure that you’re staying hydrated when you’re going out for your runs. Some runners swear by taking a little room temperature water along with them on their runs to stop them getting such a dry mouth from breathing in the icy atmosphere.

If you really can’t bear to go running outdoors or the conditions are highly unsuitable, I’d suggest having an at-home alternative so you’ve got no excuses. Cross training is going to be your best friend if you want to continue with your training regime in the winter months. I have many cross-training options at home, one of them is my spin bike which I just adore! One reason I decided to invest in it was that the spin classes I was attending were becoming very expensive and it was more cost effective for me to purchase one for at home that I could use at any time. It also helped me when I was suffering from running-related injuries. I have been going to spin class for many years so I was familiar with the process of what I should be doing, but if you’re not, there are tons of videos on YouTube which will take you through a spin class for free!

As a running tip, if you’re running on more slippery terrain, take smaller strides and be lighter on your feet. This will help you to gather a more stable footing and make falling over less likely.

So, you’ve headed out the door, you’re wearing all of your new running gear and you’ve got a motivational playlist in your ears but it’s just too icy and you’re not sure whether you’re going to be able to cover the distance you had planned safely. Try and keep to routes that you can shorten so if you have to turn back home for whatever reason (you’re too cold, you’re too wet etc) you’re not too far from the finish line.

I’ll leave you with my favourite cold weather quote:

“To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold” – Aristotle

I hope you’ve found some of these winter running tips useful and wish you a fun-filled season of safe, winter running.

Running & Fitness Tips

Top Blog Posts of 2018

As this year is drawing to a close, I thought it would be great to do a roundup of the best posts on the blog in 2018 and give you an opportunity to catch some posts that you might have missed throughout the year. Click on the header links to read more.

Thanks to anyone that read or commented on any of my posts, I’m eternally grateful to be part of this health and fitness community and love hearing all of your inspiring stories and helping one another get through the sometimes not so easy parts too. You’re the best! Let’s make 2019 even better and be happier, healthier and more inspired than ever.

Top Tips on How to Have an Exceptionally Productive Day

Have you been struggling to get your productivity up and at ’em? I’ve got some great tips on how you can have an exceptionally productive day to ensure you get all of your must-do tasks completed. Heck, you might even have time for a break too!

31 Tips for Running Beginners

From getting the correct running shoes to being safe when you’re pounding the pavements, here are 31 tips if you’re new to running on how to take up the sport. Don’t forget that running is supposed to be fun too, so make sure you’re making it an enjoyable hobby so that you’ll want to continue for years to come.

What I Ate to Lose a Stone in One Month

I’ll share my photo food journal with you every day for an entire month which led to my stone weight loss within a month. I lost the weight by eating healthy foods, no fad diets and also enjoyed some of my favourite foods and drinks too. Moderation really is the key.

12 Tips on How to Get Fit on a Budget

You don’t have to have an expensive gym membership to get fit. Check out these tips on how to get fit when you’re also trying to save money. There’s no excuse with all of these tips to get you looking and feeling your best without spending any extra cash.

25 Amazing Benefits of Running

As if you needed any more reasons to get out there and run, here are 25 amazing benefits of running that you may not even be aware of. Warning: this post will make you want to get out and run with all of this running motivation!

Should You Work Out With Music?

We’ll debate the pros and cons of whether you should work out to music or whether it’s better to listen to something a little more motivational or nothing at all. Pick a side, which one are you choosing?

Half Marathon Training | Week 10 | Diary of an Injured Runner Blog Post

Eugh, daylight savings really hit me hard in this half marathon training week!

Run Every Day January Challenge 2019

And don’t forget to join me in the 2019 Run Every Day Challenge in conjunction with Mind Charity which is promoting the benefits of mental health and daily exercise. It’s not too late for you to join in, I can’t wait to get started with it and kick-start my New Year’s Resolutions in 2019.

 

That’s it folks! Thanks for reading and I look forward to smashing my goals and watching you all smash yours in 2019. I know we can motivate each other even more this year.

Running & Fitness Tips

6 Of The Best Ways to Find New Races

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I am a little bit addicted to running races (let’s be honest, I also love the medals too!). I get asked quite a lot how I find new races so I’ve put together some ways that I find great ones and some sites that I use frequently.

1. Look at your maps

One of the most effective ways I’ve found races that are local to me is to look at the maps app on my iphone and write down a list of towns that are close to me. Once I’ve got a little list of places I’ll head on over to Google and type in the town name followed by the distance I’m looking for (which is usually 10K). For example, on the screenshot below I’d search for Fishponds 10k, Frenchay 10k, Filton 10k, Bedminster 10k and so on. I’ve found many races local to me that I never knew existed in this way.

2. Look to your local running club

Often people who are affiliated with a running club will go to races together, that is after all a shared interest for everyone there! This is a great way to find new races and have moral support at the same time, which is especially great if you’re new to running and races. If you’re also a member of a running club you can get an affiliate discount on most races.

3. Take to social media

My favourite social media platform is Instagram and, if you didn’t already know, there’s a whole running community on there. Most of my followers are people who are local to me or have attended races that I have so I’m always taking an interest when they post races that they’ve been to (especially if it’s got a particularly appealing medal!). They can also tell you what they thought of it and whether they’d recommend the race itself.

I also have a Twitter and Facebook account for posting all things running related, however, I haven’t found these as effective for sourcing races but nonetheless there are communities here too.

4. Source running club websites

Even if you’re not part of a running club, check out the websites of clubs near to you. Sometimes they’ll have links to local races and some clubs will actually put on their own races so have a look at these.

5. parkrun

While parkrun isn’t a race as such, it’s worth noting that if you enjoy the experience of being part of a race all for free then check out the parkrun app. It will give you full details of all parkruns, not just in your area but all over the globe, so if you are inclined while on your travels, have a look here for your running fix.

6. Websites

Here’s a list of some great websites that I like to peruse if I’m on the hunt for a new race.

www.runbritain.com ~ this website is a great resource for all kinds of races, distances and areas, you’re sure to find a new race here for sure.

www.timeoutdoors.com ~ again, great resource based on a search criteria. I’ve also found many races on this site that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else

www.fabian4.co.uk ~ I don’t find this the easiest site to use but they often have some quirky races listed on here. Many of the races I attended last year were from this site.

www.thrunningbug.com ~ handy for finding bigger and further afield races.

www.goodrunguide.co.uk ~ they’ve recently upgraded this site as it was quite difficult to use before, however, they’ve made it much easier to search for races and covers the whole country.

Races in the South West England
As this is where I live, I thought it would be pertinent to include the websites that I use all the time to find races local to me. Many of these are parts of a series and run by the same organiser and they do many different terrains and distances.

www.southernrunninguide.com ~ not only good for finding races, it’s also a great resource for all things running.

www.aspirerunningevents.co.uk ~ I’ve done several of the races in this series and they do mostly trail runs with stunning views.

www.relishrunningracescom ~ very well organised races and, again, races with stunning views off the beaten track. They often have multiple race distances on the same day from 5k all the way up to marathon.

If you have any other ways to find races local to you, let me know any tips you may have below.

Grey Signoff heart

Running & Fitness Tips

25 Amazing Benefits of Running

If you’re on the fence about taking up running, I’ve got 25 amazing benefits of running that I just know will convince you to take up the sport. Whether you want to get a bit fitter, lose a bit of weight or it’s something you’ve always thought about doing, here are some of the best benefits you’ll reap that you may not have even considered!

  1. It’s cheap
    Compared to gym classes and memberships, running is cheap in comparison. All you need are a well fitting pair of running shoes, comfortable running clothes and you’re all set to pound those pavements!
  2. You can run anywhere, any time
    There’s no waiting for gyms to open, you can run any time of the day or night, whenever is most convenient for you. This means you can fit it around busy schedules and plan into your day accordingly.
  3. Running can be a social activity
    While the majority of people take up running solo, running can actually be a sociable sport. Most towns have running clubs that anyone can join from beginners to more experienced runners and you can take yourself along to any parkrun for free where there’s a whole community of runners.

    adventure athlete athletic daylight
    Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
  4. Great for weight loss
    Running is a great calorie burner at an average of 100 calories per mile of running. In comparison to swimming which burns around 400 calories per hour.
  5. A stress reliever
    Running has been a proven stress reliever and may help anxiety and depression.
  6. It’s a confidence booster
    To quote Elle Woods ‘exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy’ which in turn will boost your confidence. Who doesn’t want to be happier!

    woman wearing black and white run printed pullover hoodie
    Photo by EVG photos on Pexels.com
  7. Increases your cardiovascular fitness 
    Running is great for increasing the fitness of your heart and blood vessels.
  8. Strengthens your joints
    It’s a myth that running weakens your joints so don’t let that put you off starting to run.
  9. You already know how to do it!
    There’s no training, no courses or classes you need to attend, you can literally put on running shoes and start unsupervised. We’ve been running since we could walk upright, it’s a natural action for your body.

    dawn dusk forest grass
    Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com
  10. Helps mental agility
    Running improves your memory by boosting the blood flow directly to your brain and helps stop age related mental decline.
  11. Adds years to your life
    While you’re strengthening your joints, boosting your memory and improving your cardiovascular fitness, you’re adding years to your life and practically owning the secret to a long life.
  12. Less likely to develop cancer
    Studies have suggested that running may make you less likely to develop cancer.

    exercise fitness jogger jogging
    Photo by Picography on Pexels.com
  13. Hear hear!
    Running may actually help you hear better by increasing the blood flow to your ears
  14. You can eat more
    My favourite benefit, you can eat more! This doesn’t mean that you can eat whatever you want but it does mean your appetite may increase so as long as you’re eating sensibly, you can eat much more.
  15. Lowers blood pressure
    Which reduces your risk of heart disease
    people-2592247_1920 (2)
  16. Power up
    People who are runners will tell you that if you’re feeling tired, you should go for a run. Running will give you an energy boost which I know you won’t believe but trust me, it really works.
  17. Puppers
    Your four legged friend is going to like this one a lot because they’ll get to spend more time with you and have fun at the same time. If you have a dog that loves to run you can make it an enjoyable experience for the both of you. If you find that you both love it, there are Canicross races across the country that you can run with your dog.
  18. Improves your posture
    Your natural running stance automatically engages and strengthens your core muscles which in turn will improve your posture. If you sit at a desk job you’ll feel the benefits and stop yourself slouching for 8 hours a day.
    leon-liu-699597-unsplash.jpg
  19. Better sleep
    Exercise in general will help you sleep better so if you’ve been struggling to get your 8 hours a night you will very likely find that you’re able to have a more restful sleep.
  20. You can pump up the tunes
    One reason I love running is that I can listen to my favourite mood boosting and motivational tunes and get a great workout in because I’m feeling so much more pumped.
  21. Gets you outside
    Being outside in nature is what it’s all about and you can explore new places, run in new cities, woodlands and countries. The possibilities of races you can run are almost endless.
    runners-1517156_1920.jpg
  22. Runners high is real
    While many people are still debating whether runners high does in fact exist, others swear by it and claim that that’s what keeps them going back out and running time and time again.
  23. You might inspire others
    Very often spectators of races feel inspired to take up running themselves by seeing you achieve your running goals. If someone sees you excelling at running after taking it up from scratch, other people make look to you for inspirational real-life goals.
  24. Free transport
    While you may not like the idea of running 10 miles to get to work, you can incorporate running into your commute whether that’s going to the shops, visiting a friend or if you live a reasonable distance from your office, run to and from home a few times a week and you’ll not only get fit but save money too.
  25. Improves circulation
    Running will stimulate your circulation which will help to give you clearer skin by flushing out waste products from your body. Lovely. But you’ll have dewy glowing skin so you’re winning.
    sport-3340598_1920.jpg

I hope you enjoyed some of these running benefits and heck, I hope that some of them have inspired you to put those running shoes on and start running.

 

Running & Fitness Tips

How to Get Back on Track

Whether you’ve had a break from running due to illness, injury or life just got in the way, sometimes it can be hard to get your motivation back. Here are some tips and tricks on how you can get your mojo back and how to keep it.

Disclaimer: This post has affiliate links, which means if you choose to buy through my links I receive a commission at no extra cost to you! I’ll only ever link products that I absolutely love and use, thank you for supporting me.

1. Sign up for a race
I’m sure races aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but there’s no better motivation to get out there and train when you’ve got an event to train for. You don’t even have to go for a PB but it could be the push you need to ignite your motivation again.

2. Set goals
If you’re a bit of a planning and organising nerd like I am, setting goals can be a great incentive to move you forward. Print off a weekly or monthly calendar and plan out some short term goals and block your time out as if you would with any appointment.

3. Remind yourself why you started
Sometimes we lose sight of why we want to achieve the goals that we aspire to. If you have a specific goal in mind, such as completing a couch to 5k plan, remind yourself why you want to achieve that goal.

4. Get a running buddy
Many people find that having someone you’re accountable to will motivate you when you’re really not feeling like getting out there. Arranging to meet a friend will make the experience more enjoyable and you may even forget that you’re working out!

5. Get some new running gear
Personally, nothing motivates me more than buying some new running clothes even if I’m only taking them for a little spin around the block. You don’t have to spend a lot of money either, I’m often content with a running top or even a running belt or accessory.

6. Plan plan plan
You know what they say ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ so plan plan plan and I bet you won’t be able to wait to get started on your new goals. Even if you’re planning day by day, look forward to what you’ve set out for yourself the next day and the next day.

7. Give yourself small rewards
Sometimes, if I’m feeling really unmotivated, I’ll plan out each week and plan into the end of that week a small reward if I manage to do all of my runs and workouts. These don’t have to be in the form of designer bags or food treats they can be small things such as a pamper day or evening, going to the cinema or binge watching a favourite series.

8. Look to the future
While no-one can guarantee the future, we can shape it to a certain extent. You’ve heard that saying ‘imagine where you’ll be in a year’s time if you don’t give up’. Try and visualise where you want to be in a year and what great things you’ll achieve if you start now and don’t give up.

9. Get a personal trainer
If you’re lucky to have enough spare money or time, get a personal trainer who will kick your butt and get you motivated again. If you really like the idea of a personal trainer but you are strapped for cash, do some research into trainers near you as sometimes they’ll do deals where you can rope some friends in to share the cost with a group session and also you’ll be more accountable to each other to show up.

10. Lay out your clothes
If you’re one of those people who can only find time to run in the mornings or you just prefer to workout at that time, lay out your workout clothes the night before, that way you’ve only got to roll out of bed, throw them on and get out of the door. Equally, if you’re more of an evening runner, set your clothes out to get changed in to as soon as you get home from work.

11. Be kind to yourself
So you’ve fallen out of your routine, it’s not the end of the world. Try not to beat yourself up too much and if you feel like you need more time off, for whatever reason, don’t torture yourself if you don’t manage to get out there just yet. Just tell yourself that you will be back out there soon and look forward to the time you are.

12. Start small
Sometimes the thought of planning out a whole week, month, even year is a daunting prospect. If you really can’t think that far ahead in terms of how overwhelming it may be for you to get there, take each day as it comes. Set really small goals for yourself such as going for a walk instead of getting running or doing half a mile instead of a full mile. Every little bit helps towards your future progress.

13. Track your progress
I’m all for using stickers to track things that I’ve done well that week. If I’ve managed all of my planned workouts for that day or week, I’ll give myself a gold star. Looking back and seeing how well I’ve done and tracking any progress I’ve made will often motivate me to continue. Bullet journals have taken off in the past year so if that’s your thing, set out a habit tracker and check off each day.

14. Change your workout up
If you’re a runner and you’re feeling a little demotivated with it, why not try some other form of cardio such as a spin class, yoga, or even just changing up your usual running route. A change is as good as a rest, so they say.

15. Look at where you lost your focus last time
What was it that made you fall off the wagon the last time around? Were you setting yourself unrealistic goals that you just couldn’t meet? Make sure that if you’re planning in your workouts, it works for you. If you really can’t run first thing in the morning because of your lifestyle then plan to run another time that is more convenient. Look at where you think you fell down and try and work around these things so that you can achieve your goals. Don’t make things harder for yourself otherwise you’ll think of them as more of a chore than a pleasure and you’ll end up quitting again.

16. Cross train
It’s always a good idea to cross train rather than doing one form of workout which will help you avoid injury. You need to be challenging your body in as many ways as possible so that you’re constantly progressing and getting fitter and stronger. Make sure you’re planning in strength training and stretching into your weekly routines.

17. Give yourself a pep talk
Sometimes all you need is to give yourself a pep talk. You can’t be bothered to go out and run? So what, get out there, stop being lazy and do it anyway! The only person stopping you is you (unless you’re unfortunately injured). If you’re not great at giving yourself some tough love, ask a loved one to do it for you. Get that friend to text you and say ‘hey, get out there today’.

18. Have a quote or photo in a prominent place
If you’re motivated by a quote that you can really relate to, print it off and put it on your desk or set it as your phone background so you have to see it every day and serve as a constant reminder to you to get out there and achieve your goals.

19. Have a contingency plan
After suffering from multiple running injuries, I decided to invest in a spin bike for home use. Classes were just getting much too expensive and it’s not always convenient for me to get to a class. Now I had no excuse to not work out, even if it wasn’t the workout I had planned to do. I can sit on the bike and watch my favourite shows or I’ll make a banging playlist that I’ll sing along to. Plan for what you can do if you can’t get out and do your scheduled run. If plan A doesn’t work out, there are still 25 more letters!

20. Make it fun!
Life is supposed to be fun so make sure that you’re making your workouts fun too. You want to have a little dance while you’re running to your favourite tune… do it! I’ll let you into a little secret, I do this all the time and I don’t care if someone sees me singing while I’m running or having a little bop on the side of the pavement, I’m having fun and working out and that’s all that matters to me and it’s what keeps me going out time after time.

I hope some of these tips have inspired you to get out there and get your motivation back. If you’ve got any more tips on how you get back out there, leave a comment below I’d love to hear them.

Running & Fitness Tips

12 Tips on How to Get Fit for Free!

While celebrities like the Kardashians flaunt their workout routines in empty gyms having personal training sessions, the rest of us look on eating tubs of ice cream watching Gossip Girl and wondering how the heck we can look like them with 1% of the budget they have… no…? Just me then.

In all seriousness, health is big business and there are now so many ways for people to keep fit, you’d think we were all marathon-running-Instagram-goddesses but, in case you’re in need of some new ideas on how you can keep fit while spending the least amount possible, here’s some tips on how to get fit when you’re tightening the purse strings.

Disclaimer: This post has affiliate links, which means if you choose to buy through my links I receive a commission at no extra cost to you! I’ll only ever link products that I absolutely love and use, thank you for supporting me.

1. Dog Walking
These 4 legged miracles are more than shedding, crying, hungry monsters that live for free in your home that don’t understand anything you tell them but they listen anyway, they’re also a great way to keep fit for free. If you don’t have a pooch of your own, I’m sure you know someone that has a dog that would be more than willing for you to take them out for a spin around the neighbourhood. Heck, why not even get a bunch of ’em and pretend you’re Cesar Milan The Dog Whisperer… step too far??

2. Outdoor Gyms
On a walk back home with my Dad a couple of years ago we spotted an outdoor gym and I thought it was the craziest thing I’d ever seen! Who on earth would want to be working out in the middle of a busy park in front of noisy kids and flying footballs at their heads! Obviously, I couldn’t resist having a go on all of the gym equipment and I can 100% verify that I was breaking a sweat by the end of it. Here’s a link to the one in Exeter that I’m referring to http://www.tgogc.com/Gyms/United-Kingdom/Devon/Belmont-Park-Devon.html

Dad clearly enjoying the free gym equipment!

I’m 99% sure that at 7am on a Sunday morning there aren’t going to be hoards of people just waiting in line to get on the equipment so if you’re that way inclined and you don’t mind working out in front of total strangers then you definitely need to give this a go. Check out the Great Outdoor Gym Company who have these types of gym equipment in parks all over the UK http://www.tgogc.com/Gyms/

Definitely dressed for the gym!

3. Running
Any runner will tell you that running isn’t a ‘cheap’ sport but I’m here to tell you, you don’t need to spend huge amounts of money when it comes to taking up the sport (unless you really really want to). When I first started running I didn’t have a GPS watch and apps weren’t invented yet so I used to do my runs and then hop in the car and drive the route to see how far it was! These days there are lots of fitness trackers like Nike running, Strava and Map My Run so you don’t need to spend money on a fitness watch, especially if you’re just starting out.

I’d suggest the only investment you really need to make is on your footwear. Get a great pair of running shoes and you can run anywhere you like.

4. Workout DVDs
This is where I started my ‘keeping fit’ journey many many years ago and, truthfully, I can still do the same workout DVD that I’ve done for 15 years and be physically challenged by it and have fun at the same time. They don’t seem to be as popular nowadays, I’m assuming thanks to the internet, but once you’ve found a DVD that you enjoy keep at it and you will see results.

Some of my all time favourites are the Ministry of Sound Pump it Up DVDs. The first DVD was inspired by the Eric Prydz Call on Me music video in 2004 (yes, that’s how long ago that song came out!) and then a series followed, and I loved pretty much all of them until they stopped making them – sad face. I then moved onto the Clubland workouts as Deanne Berry who fronted the Ministry of Sound DVDs had moved there too.

Another favourite workout series of mine are Davina McCall’s DVDs. I think she’s up to around her 15th DVD now and she looks amazing. While the Clubland and Ministry of Sound DVDs are more dance based, Davina’s are more strength training and overall fitness. So trawl those charity shops and bargain bins because you may find an amazing workout that you can do in the comfort of your own home, any time of the day or night and in your favourite pyjamas.

5. Instagram
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll have heard of Kayla Itsines who is an Australian personal trainer who has used her social medial to promote her fitness brand and has racked up 9.1m followers on the platform. She posts mini workouts on her Instagram page which you can do at home and she’s also got some pretty awesome E Books and a workout app.

There are so many Instagram accounts I’m not even sure where to start but a couple of great ones are @workouts.for.women and @absworkouts so check them out and literally knock yourself out with an endless supply of workout tips and everything else inbetween right at your fingertips.

6. parkrun
I guess parkrun technically comes under the ‘running’ category here but to me it’s an entity of its own. Obviously, you can hit the open road and run wherever and whenever you like and time it yourself, but you certainly don’t get to be part of the running community running alone that you do at a parkrun event. If you don’t know what parkrun is, it’s a volunteer run, free, timed, 5k run which started in the UK in 2004 and it’s spread far and wide since then. You’d be hard pressed to NOT find a parkrun near you! Saturday mornings have never been the same since.

7. Cycle to Work
I hadn’t rode a bike for nearly 10 years when I decided it would be a great idea to start cycling to work. My, very neglected, bike had been in the garage for so long but I was surprised that after pumping up the tyres it was good to go. I hopped on the bike to cycle the 5 mile journey and I never looked back, I cycled to work for an entire year after that and the thought of driving seemed weird!

Many organisations have Cycle to Work schemes these days where employers loan cycles and safety equipment as a tax free benefit. Check out if your organisation has one and relive your youth and get back on the bike.

8. YouTube
This isn’t going to be news to you but you can find ANYTHING you want (and don’t want) on YouTube. It has an almost endless stream of workout videos which will take you through abs workouts, aerobics, and yoga, there really is something for everyone.

The first channel I ever watched on YouTube was Blogilates who has so many videos up it would be impossible for you not to find one that tickled your fancy. They really are the modern day workout DVDs except you can pick a new workout every day and still never run out of new routines.

9. Home Workout Equipment
This doesn’t mean that you have to buy some dumbbells and resistance bands and do a Green Goddess routine from the 80s! Home workout equipment has become much more accessible and versatile since then and you can pick up some relatively cheap items that actually get you fit.

I loved spin classes and went every week for a couple of years, however, I never liked that sometimes I didn’t enjoy the spin instructor so much. Sometimes you’d get ‘serious’ spin instructors who would wear cycling gloves and you’d do an entire 45 minute road run sat down, then the next week you’d get an I’m-at-a-70s-party-and-going-to-sing-all-my-favourite-tunes instructor. Don’t get me wrong, they are both great instructors in their own right but it was hit and miss whether I’d enjoy the class or not, that and the fact it became so expensive to attend a weekly class, it was more cost efficient for me to buy my own spin bike!

I purchased a bike for around £100 and it’s the best investment I’ve ever made. While I’m mostly a runner, there are days that I can’t face running into torrential freezing rain or it’s too late for me to get outside and not feel like zombies just might be chasing me. Not only that, it’s helped get me through some running injuries and I’ve been able to keep my fitness up when I’ve been unable to run. The best part is that I can listen to my own music, do my own spin routines and have the best workout! I’ve also watched a few YouTube videos of spin classes for some inspiration or if I just haven’t got the capacity to come up with a great playlist.

To keep things really cheap, have a look on EBay or free sites where you might be able to pick up a bargain on a spin bike, rowing machine or treadmill and exercise to your hearts content knowing you haven’t got to queue in the gym and you’re saving money too.

10. Walking
You may roll your eyes at the idea of going for a long stroll but walking has so many benefits that you can’t ignore and is actually a pretty efficient way of getting and staying fit. At most, you need some comfortable shoes and then you can head out to woodland trails, exploring new cities and get to know your neighbourhood better (I’ve found some absolute gems of places that I’d never had ventured to if I’d have been in the car).

I’m a huge fan of leaving the car at home, when practical, and walking there instead. My main shopping centre is around 1.5 miles away and I’ll tell you, trying to find a parking space on a Saturday there is nearly impossible. There’s nothing I enjoy more than leaving the car at home, taking a leisurely stroll there and not having to stress about where I’m going to park. And yes, it does take me longer but I feel so much better for it AND I’m getting ever closer to my daily step goal of 10k steps!

11. Workout Apps
These are a great way to fit at home workouts into your life for a fraction of the cost of a gym. You can pick up some free Apps such a 7 Minute Workout and Couch to 5k runner in the App store so have a peruse of the ones available and pick one that suits you.

12. Leisure Centres
Leisure Centres, while not always ‘cheap’, can be a great way to still go to the gym but for a much better rate than a gym which has all of the facilities such as sauna. While these gyms are lovely to go to, they are often very expensive and you have to make sure that you’re making as much use of your gym membership as possible to get the best run for your money.

At most leisure centres you can sign up to a gym membership that you pay per month and use the gym and attend as many classes as you like, so if you absolutely must go to a gym, shop around and find the best deal.

I hope you’ve found some of these ideas helpful and I’d love to hear any of your suggestions for keeping fit on a budget!

Running & Fitness Tips

Techniques for Running Hills

Whether you love them or hate them, hills should be an integral part of your running routine. Training hills significantly improves your strength, speed, muscle power and anaerobic capability so what’s not to love!

But what’s the best running technique to get the most out of your hill running? I’ve put together some tips on how to be a better hill runner, whether it’s up or down.

Uphill
Don’t lean too far forward when you’re running uphill. You’ll restrict the air getting into your lungs and this in turn will give you less movement to bring your knees up.

Try and stay tall and look ahead in the direction that you’re going.

Lift your knees and land on your forefoot

Use short, light footed steps instead of striding.

Pump your arms to give you more drive and momentum going up the hill.

Walk! Sometimes, if you’re on a very large incline, it’s more efficient for you to walk up the hill than it is to run.

Downhill
Don’t lean too far back, try and keep yourself centered and engage your core muscles.

If it’s a really steep downward hill and you’re going faster than you’d like, shorten your stride. However, practice longer strides and with a slight forwards lean (leaning back ‘puts on the brakes’).

Make sure you’re looking down the hill and not down at your feet.

For better balance, put your arms out to the side.

When you’re next running hills try leaning back and forward and see what a different the two make.

Do you like running hills or avoid them at all costs? Have you managed to improve your hill running?

Running & Fitness Tips

Should You Workout With Music?

We’ve all been there. You’re listening to that power song while doing the most difficult workout of your life and you feel like Rocky and Superman combined. You can take on the whole world… or can you?

These days, more and more road races do not permit you to listen to music and you can actually be banned from future races if you’re caught using an MP3 player when they’ve forbidden it. But what benefits are there from both working out listening to music or without?

Why You Should Do It ~ Rocky Style
Listening to music distracts you from both the pain and effort that you’re putting into your workout. While I was on mile 10 of the Bristol Half Marathon last year, when Muse’s Uprising came on, I felt like it was the theme tune to my whole life even though I felt like (let’s be honest) hell, and I really pushed myself to a strong finish. I’ve also found this distraction technique works on planks…. listen to your favourite song and try and make the plank last the whole duration…. and then hernia (just kidding).

Music, by nature, gets you moving. Even if you’re not a music lover, music makes you want to tap a foot, click your fingers or nod your head and heck sometimes even get up and dance! (I can testify that this also works for cleaning, stick on your favourite tunes and you’ll be surprised how much housework you can get done!).

people-2592247_1920 (1)

If you’re listening to music while running, the best timed tempo tunes can keep you at the right pace. On Spotify there is a feature that will measure your cadence and play songs accordingly when you’re out pounding the pavements so you don’t even need to plan your songs in advance.

Let’s face it, listening to music is more fun. I am a music-a-holic and there is no place and no time when there’s music on and I’m not singing, dancing with the dog or generally pretending I’m a pop star.

adult-1867757_1920

Your mood can be significantly improved by listening to upbeat music and who doesn’t want to feel more upbeat and energetic while they’re working out.

We’ve all got that song that we just have to sing along to because the lyrics just give us the feels and this type of music can motivate you to infinity and beyond.

singer-84874_1920

Why You Shouldn’t Do It ~ Enya Style
Running especially, while listening to music, can make you miss out on some great atmospheres. There have been a handful of races that I’ve been to that just wouldn’t have been the same if I had been listening to music. Cannock Chase, a trail run, was one of them. I would have missed the sounds of footsteps going around the gravel pathways, the birds in the trees and the nearby lake.

If you’re running in the dark and alone, it’s much safer for you to be completely switched on to what’s happening around you, for obvious reasons.

yoga-3053487_1920

While running with music is a great distraction from pain and effort, it also distracts you from your technique and form. If you’re bounding down the road like a puppy to Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ because it just makes you so darn happy, you might not realise that your running form is suffering, which in turn makes you less efficient.

Without music you can get seriously focused on exactly what you’re doing. You can feel exactly how hard you’re working, which muscles are feeling the burn and keep count of reps and sets.

people-2587066_1920

Headphones. Are. Annoying. I know you can now get fancy cordless ones but I’m stuck in the 1990s and I like untangling masses of headphone cable before I can listen to any music (said no-one ever).

Listening to yourself breathing is one of the best running hacks I think I’ve ever learned. If you’re breathing way too heavy you can ease it off and if you aren’t breathing heavy enough are you even trying… listening to your own body can tell you way more than any expensive GPS tracking watch can.

yoga-3053488_1920

Do you prefer to workout with or without music and what are you favourite workout tunes?

cropped-pink-signoff-heart.png