Ten Things Tuesday

A while back I used to post Five Things Friday posts on Fridays.

Well, today isn’t Friday, – it’s Tuesday and I feel like I probably have more than 5 things to share, so I’m going to try for a Ten Things Tuesday post instead…

  1. We’re still working on our house…I fear it will never be complete!

    We’ve actually been living in our house for three years now, which is insane!  Although our house felt almost instantly like home there is still so much that needs doing to it.  The work on our last property was completed much quicker as it was a much smaller property and we completed the majority of the larger projects before we moved in.
    This house came with challenges though.  A major update required – new bathrooms and a new kitchen, new boiler, new carpets, new radiators and skirting.  It seems like we’re taking forever to get through the list which we made, and whenever we do manage to cross something off, we always spot something else that needs improving/updating/changing.  I’m not sure that we’re in our forever home, but it is definitely the perfect home for our little family right now.  Dan and I upsized from a two-bed to a four-bed house in 2015, but had to compromise on a smaller garden in order to do so.  Having focused mainly on projects in the inside of the house over the past couple of years, our focus has now shifted to the garden ever since Oscar took his first steps and wants to be outside all day every day!

    Our back garden(Starting pic)

    I really, really wanted our garden done ready for Dan’s birthday next month but it’s unlikely to be complete in time.  We dedicated one solid weekend to trying to make some headway on clearing everything, but because of the heat it was impossible to work for too long in one go and one of us always had to keep near to Oscar as the garden has an open pond.  We also had help in the form of Dan’s Dad for a few hours that weekend and friends for a few hours the following one.  I can’t wait for the garden to be finished now – it will be so nice to be able to let Oscar out to play without having to spend two hours sat holding his hand by the pond as he stirs the water with a stick!
    So far we’ve cut down the giant monkey puzzle tree that was at the back of the garden, removed several walls and mini hedges, cleared the patio area and flattened the ground out ready for grass.  It’s definitely getting there but I’m looking forward to the day when I feel like I can finally sit down on a chair in the garden and get out a book and a cold drink to oversee Oscar playing on the lawn.
    Our back garden(Our garden in it’s current state)
    The plan is to turn the entire right side of the garden to lawn, pop a bench on the far left-hand side of the garden overlooking the pond and then fence this whole area off, then remove the wall and shrubs on that same side.  At this top end we’ll keep Oscar’s outdoor toys.
    It’s still very much a (slow) work in progress.

  2. I’ve totally had enough of this heatwave.

    We all like a bit of sun but this is getting ridiculous now.  It would be nice not to feel like I need to change my outfit every two hours during the day and to be able to go outside without having to cake Oscar and myself in gallons of suncream first.
    The one saving grace?  There is no way that this heatwave can last until mid-September when I attempt my next 100 miler…right?…

  3. I had such a good day out with the Decathlon Blogger’s Team on Saturday.

    …Like, the best day.

    Decathlon blogger meetup

    Other than when I’m out running (which I usually try to schedule for early in the morning before Oscar wakes) it’s rare that I have any me-time at all these days unless I also have a child in tow and it was so, so lovely to head out to the Decathlon Blogger event in London on Saturday.  I hadn’t met any of the other bloggers before in person, although have followed and chatted to several of them online now for a number of years.
    I’m waiting for the pictures to come through from the event before writing my recap post in full but will just say that we played some friendly team sports on the roof of the Decathlon building, headed over to the park for interviews and volleyball and stopped for a gorgeous lunch too.  Outside activities and good food – the makings of a perfect day!

    I had a bit of a nightmare getting down to London though.
    My brother arrived late the night before to babysit Oscar for me. He came with his girlfriend and two stepkids who Oscar adores…resulting in lots of bed jumping and excited chatter until I finally managed to get Oscar to bed just after midnight.
    Oscar then woke again at 3am and stayed awake on my bed until 5:10am when he fell back asleep – giving me just 5 minutes sleep before my alarm went off! 😭  A quick rush round to get ready, but one of the kids had moved my purse the night before and I couldn’t find it anywhere. Luckily I had an emergency £30 stashed away upstairs which came in useful! It then took my step-niece and I ten minutes to wake my brother, by which point I was cutting it really fine to get to the train station on time.
    I made it to Bedford, missed the car park turning so had to turn around. Rushed over to the ticket machine. The machine I’d entered my registration number in only took cards as payment…then it wouldn’t cancel my registration number so I couldn’t use another machine! Finally I managed to select my car registration on another machine only to discover that the machines didn’t take notes, only coins!  I rushed inside, queued in Starbucks for change only to be told that they didn’t have any, but the lady on the ticket booth did, handing over a selection of pound coins in exchange for my fiver. I rushed back outside, got my ticket and rushed back in agaom. From my place in the queue (of two) I asked the woman on the turnstile if I would be able to buy my ticket whilst on the train. She started asking me questions about which train I was traveling on. Turns out I did have to buy my ticket from the ticket booth, so I turned around to re-enter the queue at the same time a group of about 12-13 other people all joined on at the back. 😭  I did have a little cry – literally everything was going wrong for me!
    With my train sat on the platform and just one minute left before it was due to leave, I forlornly turned around and headed back to my car, resigning myself to the drive.  How hard could it be?…!
    Turns out London isn’t the easiest place to drive and I was definitely feeling rather stressed out by the time I pulled up in a local Tesco carpark a while later.  Even more stressed out when I realised that I would only be allowed to park there for four hours, – at least an hour less than our meet up was due to last.  I started to spill out my tale of woe to the lady on the checkout at Tescos and she quickly reassured me that the Customer Services Manager would be able to add my car registration to the list which would have access to unlimited parking that day.  Luckily, after slightly more persuasion on my part, the CSM agreed!
    Coming home was a further nightmare as my phone died a death in the middle of an upgrade on my walk back from lunch.  I had my car charger with me so wasn’t overly concerned until 20 minutes of charging had happened and my phone still wouldn’t turn on.  I suddenly realised that I was in the largest city in the country in complete unknown territory with no satnav to direct me home, no phone to call for help and no money to pay my way out either!
    I made my way to the nearest phone fixer-upper shop I could find and spilled out my tale of woe once more.  Luckily after 30 minutes or so of poking, prodding and testing, the amazing guy behind the counter wished me a better weekend and returned my (now-working) phone free of charge!  My hero!

  4. I miss reading blogs.

    I try and keep up with social media and can usually catch Youtube videos when I’m doing the washing up so know roughly what most of the people I follow online are getting up to, but I’m rather particular when it comes to reading blog posts.  I like to sit upstairs at my desk in the office uninterrupted so that I can easily type a comment on a blog after I’ve finished reading it.  There’s nothing more faffy than writing a really long blog comment out on my phone!  There just doesn’t seem to be enough time in my day at the moment though, especially since Oscar has been much later going to bed since the start of this heatwave.  Hopefully, now that I’m cutting two nights from my working week I’ll be able to slot a few hours of blog reading back in again.  Fingers crossed.

  5. We’ve been spending lots of time with family just lately.

    …Which has been nice.  Oscar has four cousins (the eldest is six), four step cousins (the eldest is ten) and another baby cousin due at the start of September.
    Dan’s brother and sister joined us for a day out at West Lodge Farm Park a couple of weeks back with their four children.

    The Pearsons at West Lodge Farm Park

    It’s Oscar’s favourite place at the moment.  It’s still free for him to go until September when he turns two, and I got a season ticket a few weeks back so we intend to visit a lot over the next few months.
    Me, Dan and Oscar at West Lodge Farm ParkWe had a look around to see all the animals before spending time in the playpark, grabbing a barrel ride, eating our picnics and watching the pig racing.  Then we decided it was time to try the walk to the Witch’s House.  Dan decided to tell the kids that a real witch lived in the house and would cast spells on them if they were naughty that day, so they needed to behave.  An OK tactic in principle, but as the kids nervously talked about whether the witch would be in when we arrived, he didn’t retract his statement and continued with the pretence.  Dan’s brother had been left behind with his youngest child in their buggy when we reached a steep set of steps a few minutes away from the Witch’s House.  The other three children and Oscar eagerly followed Dan towards the house when we arrived.  Now in full character though, Dan told them all to wait back and that he would check to see if the witch was in first of all before letting them come forward.  They waited nervously in anticipation as Dan earnestly knocked on the door then peered into the window, updating them all the time.  When he peered into the window, his back was to the kids so Dan thought it would be funny to let out a loud cackle as if he was the witch.  Oscar and Isla remained stood where they were but Jenson and Georgia ran as fast as they could towards the spot where I stood with Dan’s sister.  Dan hadn’t realised that he’d frightened them and so let out a second cackle at this point and Georgia took off – shooting through the nettles and brambles, desperate to get back to where her Dad was in the wood, with me desperately trying to chase after her!  Dan got a severe telling off from me afterwards!
    Jenson, Oscar and Sarah at West Lodge Farm Park

  6. I am really enjoying running right now.

    I need to bring speedwork back into my weekly training schedule, but this should hopefully be easier now that I have dropped a couple of shifts at work.
    I was a little nervous about attending running club after my first 100 mile attempt last month.  My 10k time means that I sit just inside the qualifying time to run with Group 4, but I worried about having lost speed whilst ultra training.  In the end, on my first night back the club was a coach short and so Groups 5 and 6 were running together that evening.  I had been half tempted to run with Group 5 when I turned up to the club meeting point, but wasn’t so keen on running at the much slower Group 6 pace, so did run with Group 4 after all.  Turned out that I had to turn back and collect runners during the run – I wasn’t near the back at all!
    For about a year I was rarely able to attend club sessions.  Dan didn’t get home from work until 6:20pm and with club runs held 8 miles away unless I dragged Oscar out to club every week so that Dan could meet me in the car park and take O home, I just couldn’t get there in time.  When I gave up my position on the club committee in April though, Dan agreed to speak to his boss to see if they could work something out and he now starts and finishes work half an hour early on a Thursday so that I can run out with club and feel more part of things again.

  7. I don’t think I’ve processed the death of my Mum yet.

    I’m not really sure what to write about this other than just that.  I’m not sure if it’s because my life is so busy that I haven’t really allowed myself to stop and think about it but I’ve never really gotten upset and I feel like life just carried on when perhaps time should have stood still for a little while first.
    It’s already been eight months but I think because it was such a long, drawn-out process it feels like much longer.  I still visit my Dad in Norfolk every couple of weeks and speak to him most days on the phone.  I will be more concerned for him when Winter rolls around than now though.  He’s really thrown himself into the garden this Summer.Oscar and Grandad deheading the flowersIt’s absolutely beautiful and consumes a lot of time, but that’s a Summer activity and I think he might notice that Mum has gone more when Winter rolls around.
    IMG_20180718_181309

  8. I’m really excited about our upcoming holidays.

    Dan’s Mum bought a holiday place (I think a cabin/static home type place?) in the Isle of Wight at the start of the Summer.  She’s been down most weeks since, and Dan’s sister has visited several times but we’re yet to test it out.  We’re hoping to spend three days down in the Isle of Wight at the end of August.  We’re also planning on staying with my Dad in Norfolk for a further four days the following week.  There is always so much to do in Norfolk and growing up here myself, I know all the attractions to take Oscar to.  I am really looking forward to having a proper little break back in my home county.

  9. I seriously underestimated quite how hard life as a stay-at-home-parent would be.

    Oscar has just hit the ‘Terrible Twos’ and seems to be having a meltdown over absolutely anything at the moment.  Quite often it’s a food related meltdowns and it seems to have tied in with him dropping his daytime nap.  One super-tired, super-hungry one year old can often be found screaming at me or trying to headbutt me when he gets really frustrated.  His meltdowns are always over something completely unreasonable.

    Oscar: Oscar wants falafel.
    Me: Wait one minute while I put this away and then I’ll get you one…OK, here you go.
    Oscar: NO FALAFEL!  NO FALAFEL!
    Me: Alright, I’ll put the falafel back in the fridge again.
    Oscar: OSCAR WANT FALAFEL!  Banana!  Milk!  OSCAR FALAFEL!

    It gets quite draining.  It ends up being more draining staying at home and being frustrated at not being able to get on with anything (or have everything undone as you tick jobs off!) than it does heading out for a few hours though, so we do go out for the day quite a lot at the moment to take his mind off of things.

    No-one articulates quite how much hard work and how lonely bringing up a child can be, and without family living nearby I’ve found this even more so at times.

  10. Why did I not make the most of Norfolk when I lived there?

    I miss my friends and family, the beach, I miss how laid back Norfolk life is compared to life in the Midlands and I miss the memories of my childhood.
    Oscar is loving outside life at the moment and whenever we visit my Dad he eagerly helps dig up potatoes…
    Oscar digging up potatoes…test the raspberry crop…
    Oscar eating a raspberry…or just spends time watering the flowers…
    Oscar in the flowersMy Dad is known for making en epic salad.  Here’s the one he greeted me with at lunchtime today.
    Epic salad at Dad's houseDan doesn’t eat any salad items so we have it much less frequently as a meal choice than I would like.  Especially at this time of year.  Oscar eats a much better variety when we stay at my Dad’s, and he helps to collect the food from the garden – something my Mum would have been so chuffed to have seen him do.
    Oscar adores taking my Dad’s dog out for walks and insists on walking the whole way himself, even if it does take him an hour as he stops to look at every single plant and creature on the walk!
    Oscar walking with a flowerI took Oscar down to the beach for the first time last week and it is probably his new favourite thing.  He had so much fun running around with the children of two of my best friends and constantly wanted to be paddling in the water or digging sandcastles.  I can’t wait to take him to the beach with Dan when we both come to stay in August.
    Oscar at the beach

Any suggestions for places to visit/things to do on the Isle of Wight?
How are you finding this heat?
When do you tend to read/write blog posts?

The National Running Show

The weekend before last was the first National Running Show – something I had been looking forward to for quite a while.  I hadn’t bought anything running related in what felt like ages, so I was ready to see what gizmos and gadgets shouted out at me at the NEC last week, taking along the remainder of my Christmas money.

The National Running Show

The show ran for both days of the weekend and originally I had planned on heading down on the Sunday with my friend Laura.  I knew things would be a little touch and go when it came to staying awake on the Sunday, as I was originally due to work Friday, Saturday and Sunday night of that weekend (all 10pm-7am).  I would have Oscar on my own all day Saturday, making more sense for me to head down childfree the following day.  A few days before the event I was told that I no longer needed to work on the Friday night though, then making much more sense to head down to Birmingham on the Saturday.  I hoped that Dan’s Mum would be able to take Oscar for the few hours I visited, but she was unfortunately busy so Oscar joined me for the show instead and Dan dropped us off that morning on the way through to watch the footy at Wolverhampton.

Most of the people I knew who were headed over to the show were heading down the following day, but I did get to have a lovely catch up with Anna, who had ticked ‘K’ off her parkrun alphabet challenge list that morning and was buzzing about her upcoming marathon in Dubai later in the week.

I also spoke to Faisal, who I hadn’t met or talked to before, but who is also a member of the UK Fitness Bloggers community and had recognised me from my profile picture on there.  He is working towards 12 marathons in 12 months for charity during 2018.  Definitely making me feel like I need to up my marathon game this year!

Another part of my decision to head to the show on the Saturday rather than the Sunday had been due to the speakers on the program that day.  I really wanted to listen to Jo Pavey and also Susie Chan.  And I ended up listening to several others throughout the day as well.  The exhibition was much smaller than I was expecting it to be and I had seen pretty much everything to the extent I wanted to look at it by the time I settled down to catch Jo Pavey just after 10am which was rather disappointing.

I had hoped that the show would be at least a similar size to the expo at London Marathon, but this wasn’t the case.  I also found that several of the exhibitors I wanted to question directed me to email them via their website to find out the information I was after, which wasn’t really ideal, as I thought I was asking fairly basic, common questions that someone representing the product should have been able to answer.

I had taken Oscar along in his running buggy, as I find it much more lightweight than his original buggy.  We tend to use his running buggy for day to day use now and have done since he turned six months old pretty much.  Several people stopped to ask me about it, and the lady on the Thule stand even used my turning technique as a demo to a number of couples on the few occasions I drove it past!  I’m writing a post about Oscar’s running buggy at the moment, – it has definitely been a game changer when it comes to fitting runs in around everything else this year.  So check back hopefully later this week if you are interested in hearing more about that.

I quite fancied getting myself some nice headphones at the show as mine are forever falling out of my ears.  I have been using my mp3 player regularly since Dan bought it for me for my birthday last October but it’s just so frustrating when my earphones go flying out all the time!  The guys on the Aftershokz stand didn’t seem to want to know though and on coming home I’ve found I can order them for much cheaper online, so that’s probably what I’ll do at some point in the next couple of weeks.

My best find of the day were these fabulous Pace Pockets pace bands, which I picked up in 4h 30m and 4h 15m timings as I hope to fall somewhere between the two at Milton Keynes in May.

Pace pockets - pacer band

The fabric folds over at the top to enable you to hold a key safely inside and they’re completely washable, so it will no longer be sweat-soaked paper pacing bands which I’ve printed from the internet and wrapped in sellotape strapped to my wrist!  They were £5 each – a real bargain!

Pace pockets - pacer band

I also picked up a marathon card for a friend who is running her first marathon this year, but I won’t share that on here, as she often drops by my blog.

I had put together a pack up for the day including lots of snacks for Oscar, and loaded a selection of books and toy cars into the bottom of the buggy.  He was in a lovely mood for the whole morning, and when I let him out to explore along the right of the main stage area he bum shuffled over to those sat around us, desperate for a new friend to play cars with or to read him a book that he carried over!  He was very good, and never strayed too many shuffles away – always coming back for another piece of his snack!  I did manage to listen to the whole Jo Pavey talk, which was very inspiring, and when the lady who had been sat next to me on the floor got up at the end to leave she crouched down next to me and said “You may not think it, but he has been really good!”  (Talking about Oscar.)  “My son would never have let me listen to all of that!”  (Her partner had headed off with their baby in his buggy near the very beginning of the talk.  It was a lovely thing for her to say and I felt very proud of Oscar for being so good.

It was a little after this that Anna stopped by for a chat and Oscar was beginning to get restless as he was so tired by now.  I gave him an apple and loaded him into the buggy but he only managed a few bites before freezing mid-mouthful as he fell asleep still gripping tightly onto his apple!  I managed to get round a few stalls with him like this before deciding to park the buggy up again ready for the afternoon speakers.

I managed to catch Steve Edwards who had some great stories to share.  Steve has run over 800 marathons with an average finishing time of 3h 18m and I really enjoyed listening to his tales of mad rushes around the world to fit in extra marathons!  His talk felt a little wooden in places, as he was reading it from cards, but he needn’t have worried, as he had such a passion for the sport that I know he would have captivated the audience had he not been reading his notes.

The National Running Show - Steve Edwards

After quickly nipping out to change Oscar, Susie Chan – ultramarathoner extraordinaire – was next and I wasn’t disappointed.  Her talk was filled with tales of jungles, long distance races and her story of how she just fell into running in the first place.  I found it quite amusing that the nutritionist who had been talking on stage earlier that morning settled down into position near me at the front just as Susie went on to talk about her feasts of pizza on runs!

The National Running Show - Susie Chan

I wandered round some more stands to kill a little time, although a lot of stands had now sold out and were looking slightly bedraggled by this point.  A friend messaged to say that she was coming over to the NEC for an event later that evening, so Oscar and I went and grabbed dinner with her and her boyfriend over at Las Iguanas before Dan arrived to pick us up and head for home where I fitted in a quick nap before work.

Verdict: I’m really glad I went – there were some fantastic speakers with really inspiring stories.  If I hadn’t had Oscar with me I could have sat and listened to the talks all day.  Twice I headed up to ask questions – Jo Pavey and Susie Chan – and both times Oscar became fidgety with waiting and I had to leave again, so no celebrity selfies for me.  :(  I heard on the grapevine that next year The Running Show has signed up Paula Radcliffe, who I’m sure will be a fantastic head for the event.  She’s definitely somebody who I have always admired.  The event will also be moving to larger premises, so hopefully more exhibitors will be able to get on board to help provide more of a day out.

Did you go to The Running Show?
Who would you like to see provide a talk at a running event?

September – what a month

I always knew that September would be a tough month.  That basically I would have to just put my head down, keep fighting until the very end and then hopefully emerge from the other side still kicking.

Having given my notice to finish teaching at the end of the Summer, I was offered a further month of work with a bonus to help ease the transition for new members of staff within the department.  With a finish date of four weeks, after having just had the six weeks of Summer off, I decided to go ahead and accept the proposal.  The extra money I was being offered would be nice in the build up to Christmas if nothing else!

I knew it would be tougher than when I had originally returned to work back in May.  A May timetable with no year 11 or 13 and countless trips across other year groups is very different to a September timetable, when new courses are starting up and resources need creating or adapting to suit different classes.  My September timetable contained six year 11 classes and a year 10 class, amongst others, so I would also spend lunchtimes holding coursework catchup sessions for those GCSE students.

Not only would my workload be higher, but my personal life at the weekends was also looking rather full during September.  For each of the weekends my calendar was pretty jam-packed full of activities.

Week 1: Marshaling at Go Beyond Northampton Half Marathon
Week 2: At a friend’s wedding
Week 3: Round Norfolk Relay
Week 4: Ealing half marathon
Week 5: Oscar’s birthday party/christening

There wouldn’t be a lot of time for sleep, running or baby cuddles.  With my Mum very poorly I also wanted to try and fit in as many visits back to Norfolk as was practical.
As a new ambassador for Decathlon I was also really looking forward to the Decathlon blogger meet up at the end of the month, although was concerned that I would be burnt out by that point and unable to fully enjoy the activities that had been planned for us all.

As it turned out though, things didn’t really go quite to plan for September.  I had severe back pain from the second week of the month, managing to run the Round Norfolk Relay only having dosed myself up with double-strength Ibuprofen first, and then unable to run any further miles in September.  The day after the Round Norfolk Relay, my Mum was once again admitted into hospital with a serious infection and so many trips were made over to Norwich hospital for visits during the week, as well as twice-daily phone calls to help support my Dad.  Following one weekend visit and eating in the questionable hospital canteen I ended up throwing up over and over.  My Dad was also left feeling poorly that evening.  I made the difficult decision to pull from Ealing Half Marathon – I hadn’t been able to walk with a straight back for ten days by that point and also I felt it was more important to be with my family in Norfolk.

By the time I began the final week of my contract, I was really struggling.  By Wednesday lunch time my face was hot to touch – burning up, whilst my coat-clad body shivered uncontrollably from the cold.  At 3pm that day I made the decision to head for home, leaving my half-finished marking laid out on the shared office desk with a post-it note stuck to the top reading “Really sorry, – feeling totally pants this afternoon.  Will clear in the morning.”

Oscar's first birthday

That Wednesday was Oscar’s birthday, only I never saw him that day as I rang to cancel my physio appointment on the way home, before curling up into a little ball in my bed, texting Dan to ask if he would be able to pick Oscar up from nursery on his way home from work later that night instead.

The following day I couldn’t even get out of bed, and napped on and off all day, feeling very sorry for myself.  I left emailing Decathlon until the very last minute to say that I wouldn’t be able to make it that evening, just in case I perked up a little and was able to still attend.  I so wanted to attend.  I knew deep down that I would be too poorly to go though, and even if I did manage to sit through the train journey down, I would not be well enough to enjoy the activities they had planned for us once down there.

Friday, my last day at school and I was still too poorly to attend.  What a funny end to my time at the school.  I’ve been in this week to clear my desk and tidy up a few loose ends, but the end of my time there wasn’t how I imagined it to be at all.Oscar's first birthdayThe Saturday was spent opening up Oscar’s birthday presents and last minute cleaning and tidying ready for Oscar’s guests the following day.  I managed to get through the weekend somehow, although I still don’t feel 100%.

…But we did make it through the other side.

Our life will be better now.  That hard work was worthwhile, as it has put a nice pot of money into our bank which we can fall back on if necessary and I’ve been told any future reference requests will be glowing following the work I put into my role.  I’m very glad that my time in school is over now though.  Despite working full pelt, I never felt like I was totally doing my best job of being a Mum or my best job of being a teacher or a daughter or wife.  I always just felt like I was getting by – existing and doing my best to not sink in the madness that was going on around me.  The last fortnight of the month contained several days where I managed only to grab something from the petrol station for lunch, and skipped tea altogether as I knew Oscar was being looked after at nursery for food and I really needed to get on with work.

This is the start of our new chapter now.  One hopefully filled with healthy living, three meals a day, a tidy house, family fun, lots of running, a return to blogging, and a better work-life balance for us all.  I struggle with that work-life balance, as I know many do.  But at the end of the day, life is short.  {How is Oscar one year old already?!}  I don’t want to look back and feel like I missed out because I was too busy working or wishing Oscar would go to sleep so that I could get some marking done.

Now to see how the next chapter of our life turns out…

Countdown to the Rio 2016 Olympics

It feels like hardly any time has passed since London held the 2012 Olympics.  I had put in for lots of tickets but was unlucky with all requests.  My friend managed to get tickets to see the Paralympic Dressage on several days though, so let me buy two tickets from her for one of the days and I went down with my Mum to watch the event.Dressage at the London 2012 Paralympics

At the start of the Summer I was actually out in Malawi on a school trip with a group of year 11 students.  We kept hearing updates on the Olympic events now and again as students received messages from home but I was a little upset not to have really been able to see any of the footage in my home country, so it was nice to receive the Paralympic tickets on my return.

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted to see if I was available to head down to London for the one year countdown celebrations for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Tuesday 4th August marked the start of the one year countdown and Fitness First – as the official fitness partner of Team GB – were holding some exclusive workshops hosted by some of the Team GB coaches.

There were three fifteen minute sessions repeated throughout the day:
Strength and conditioning: The Power to Perform
Nutrition: Introduction to Performance Nutrition
Psychology: Introduction to Sports Psychology and Motivation

Anna posted on Twitter that she hoped to attend the event and so we decided to meet up beforehand and head over to the Fitness First studio in Bishopsgate together.  Much less scary going into something new with somebody you have already met!

I woke early and caught the train down from Cambridge.

train down to LondonWe had been given a hashtag to use for the event – #everydaywinners and upon entering it on Twitter I discovered that HelenEmma and Christine were also going down for the event.

My train arrived and I grabbed a quick Costa whilst waiting for Anna’s train to come in.  I had been organised the night before and collected together a map with directions from the station to the Fitness First studio, along with my train time details.  The map said it would take 5 minutes to walk to the studio.  I’m betting that it actually took us closer to an hour.  Navigating London is clearly a not a strong point for either of us!

When we finally arrived and had given over our blog names we were ushered downstairs.  This gym was enormous and just looked amazing inside.  I’m very jealous that none of the gyms out this way are even close in comparison!  One of my favourite features was the video on the wall of the workout area which showed you how to complete different exercises.  Very handy to have right there in front of you!

We weren’t waiting long before the group of us that had gathered were ushered over to the workout area and introduced to Duncan French.  Duncan is internationally recognised as a leading strength and conditioning expert. Included on his resume are Olympic, World Championship, and Commonwealth Games medallists from a variety of sporting disciplines, as well as a current world record holder.

A few bars were issued out, although there ended up being more bloggers than bars – probably why I look a little sad in the below picture as I was still without at this point.

Fitness First workshopImage from fourfits_ Instagram.

I was soon issued a bar though.  Luckily the bars weren’t heavy at all and Duncan showed us a variety of moves to try which we then had to put into a sequence at the end of the session.  Some of the moves started off fairly easy, although my form wasn’t always correct, as shown in the photo below that Anna took!

Lifting at the Fitness First eventCheck out my rounded back!
Duncan explained to us that we weren’t focusing on strength, but that we should be focusing on our co-ordination.  Something I have proven in the past that I am lacking in!  He explained that we should be focusing fully on the task at hand, and not just absentmindedly lifting a couple of weights up in the corner of the gym.  The first task when you arrive for a workout should be to get your mind in the right state ready for a good session.Duncan French at Fitness First

The session we worked on included pulling the bar up, squatting, rolling it and returning to the original position.  I messed up the sequence a few times when I wasn’t fully focusing, and when we went down for the squats my legs reminded me that I had put them through a 70 mile race just three days earlier!

The second session was led by James Collins, a leading Sport & Exercise Nutritionist. James was heavily involved in advising Team GB Olympic teams and individuals in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

When I heard what the three sessions for the day were going to be based on, I was probably most looking forward to this one, although it felt rather generic when we were there.  We were handed a few powerpoints to share out between us and were talked through some basic nutrition principles for sport.  Being interested in this area I was already aware of quite a lot of the information we were being told and felt that it might have been nice to hear a few examples of athletes that James had dealt with and how he had helped them specifically adapt their diet.  We only had a 15 minute session though, and I would imagine that composing a talk for a group of ‘unknowns’, all of different fitness levels and from different sports would be a difficult task.

The final session was the most interesting of all and was the psychology session led by Sarah Cecil.  Sarah is a technical lead Sport Psychologist at the English Institute of Sport and has worked extensively with a range of sports for over 10 years including canoeing, fencing, athletics, shooting and women’s rugby.

We got to sit down for this session, which my legs thoroughly appreciated!

Bloggers at Fitness First eventAnna had the sense to take notes on her phone all the way through the talks and I wished I’d pulled out my notepad and paper from my bag before the sessions began.  Although I would have felt a little silly scribbling notes down!  I also thought afterwards I probably should have brought my camera rather than relying on the camera on my phone as I would have gotten much better quality images than the ones I came away with.

Sarah Cecil at Fitness FirstSarah talked us through how our brain reacts to situations – the fight, flight or freeze response and how best to not let our automatic responses damage our performance by adapting to either the physical or mental stress that has been added to our environment.

The whole morning seemed to be over very quickly, and I would have liked to have experienced much longer sessions than we had.  As soon as we started to get into a session it seemed to already be over which was a shame.  On leaving we were each given a water bottle, towel and drawstring bag and have been given a month pass to a local Fitness First gym.  Although there aren’t really any ‘local’ to me, I am hoping to try out the one at Bedford a couple of times as I was really impressed with the Fitness First in Bishopsgate.

Fitness First and Team GB have collaborated to produce a quiz to help people discover what sport they might be best suited to based on speed, stamina, strength, power and agility.  Apparently, despite there being 28 different sports featured in the Summer Olympics, us Brits tend to stick to just four – running, cycling, football and swimming.  The idea behind the quiz is to encourage people to take part in sports that they might not otherwise have considered, potentially being sports that they could do well in!

When I tried the quiz I was told that I should give volleyball a go.  It’s not something I’ve ever tried but I would be happy to try it.  I can do jumping around!  :)

Volleyball player

See what sport the quiz suggests you should take up.

Afterwards, Helen led Anna and I to O-Food, a Scandinavian sandwich bar where I enjoyed a Bello sandwich – Herb baked Portobello mushroom, pickled red cabbage and Spanish Guindilla chillies with roast pepper relish and parsley pesto on sourdough roll.

Bello sandwich from O-FoodIt was delicious.

I really enjoyed having a long chat with Helen and Anna all about running and blogging.  There aren’t many people day-to-day that I get to talk blogging with, so it was nice to compare stories and have a laugh over lunch.

My legs were rather achy by the end of the day and I may or may not (totally did!) have fallen asleep for most of the train journey back home again.

Which sport was suggested for you by the quiz?
What is your favourite feature about the gym you go to?