Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge

I’ve just returned from Yorkshire having completed the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge – 26 miles of walking the 3 highest peaks in Yorkshire (1,586m total ascent).   We climbed up each peak in swirling mist, lashing rain & howling wind – it was amazing how quickly the weather kept changing.  The route was challenging but the atmosphere amongst our fellow walkers was buzzy and upbeat.  There were moments of thoughtful silence as we queued to clamber up the first peak of the day (Pen-y-Ghent 691m); laughter and squeals as we literally bounced on our butts on the descent of a particularly steep peak (Whernside 728m); occasions when we were on our hands and knees pulling ourselves up the rocky heights of the final peak (Ingleborough 723m), the steepest, but I thought, the most enjoyable peak of the day!    It was challenging, great fun and a wonderful way to spend a weekend soaking up the panoramic views & spectacular scenery of the Yorkshire Dales.

2 days, 223 miles later…

..fuelled by fig rolls, a wonderful peleton & fantastic scenic views!

What a lovely way to spend a bank holiday weekend, touring the green and pleasant Somerset/Dorset countryside and soaking up the lush scenery was my initial thought when I signed up last October to the Tour of Wessex 2014, a cycloSportive event known for its challenging & enjoyable cycling on a rich blend of hilly and flat terrain.  Training has been going well over the last few months, and finally I was as ready as I’d ever be to face the great TOW 2014

Day 1: 107 miles, weather forecast – relentless rain, chilly

Highs = Cycling up Cheddar Gorge;  Feed Stations; Fig Rolls; Challenging hills (King Alfred Tower – one hell of a beast to conquer);  when the rained stopped for 10 mins; Great cycling buddies

Lows = Soggy feet that never dried out;  King Alfred Tower – the hill that kept on giving; Passing all the enticing Somerset Cider Farms & not being able to sample any; puncture 6 miles from the finish

Day 2: 117 miles, weather forecast – sunny intervals, warm but breezy

Highs = reaching the top of Durdle Door & enjoying the coastal views; cycling in the glorious sunshine; Fig Rolls & Jelly babies;  Great cycling buddies;  Big smiles as we entered the final corner to the finish line; exhausted but exhilarated that I’d finished!

Lows = Screaming thighs; Battling the wind; A Scotch egg getting stuck in my throat; Serious chafing;  The last 30 miles..

Overall a thoroughly enjoyable two days in the saddle.  My bike served me well & now deserves a proper clean, a splash of oil and some well deserved rest.  Now, where did I put my running shoes………

Calling all Cyclists & Runners (& anyone else who would like to join theDUO!)


Join theDUO
Outdoor Strength and Conditioning sessions
aimed at
Cyclists and Runners

Developed & delivered by
Bex & Claire
Two Personal Trainers with a passion for Cycling & Running

Build Stamina  –  Develop Core Strength – Prevent Injury

Starts Wednesday 4th June at 6.15 -7.15am
in Verulamium Park, St Albans

For further details please email info@greatshapefitness.co.uk or call 07759 298 768

On Yer Bike!

What a beautiful sunny bike ride I enjoyed yesterday with three lovely ladies who I met through our shared love of cycling.  With the route sorted (sort of – directions have never been my strong point) we set off on our trusty wheels & headed out towards Ashridge.  On our pedals we passed some stunning bluebell woods – a haze of blue as far as the eye can see, went up a couple of long slow hills to wake the legs up and then onto some fast & furious flat!  All the while we were drinking in the views of the fabulous Hertfordshire countryside.  Time seemed to pass far too quickly, and finally we were on the homeward stretch, with the wind behind us and the sun on our backs, heading down the lanes towards the obligatory stop at The Hub for the best cappuccino in town!  What a wonderful morning, fresh air, glorious sunshine, plenty of exercise and lots of banter.  So if you have a bike gathering dust at the back of the shed, now’s the time to get out there and embrace all that cycling has to offer!!


Mad march hare

Spring is my favourite time of year – the daffodils are slowly starting to open delighting us with their happy yellow faces and the promise of new beginnings. Blossom hangs heavy, laden from branches filling the air with their sweet perfume, it’s getting lighter & slightly warmer, what’s not to love?!  So now is the ideal time to get outdoors & get exercising.  Yesterday I did just that & was lucky enough to spot a whimsical hare swerving wildly in a field next to me whilst out on a run.  A truly uplifting sight – yet another reason to get outdoors and embrace all that nature has to offer.

The Power of Antioxidants

“Free radicals, what the ‘ell are they?!”  was a question posed to me recently by one of my Client’s.  You may have heard the term free radicals in conjunction with the word ‘superfood’ – a term used by marketers to put certain foods on a super healthy pedestal for their health giving benefits.  Free radicals on the other hand are often seen as the enemy.  They are everywhere, produced naturally in our body during normal metabolism, during exercise and also come from pollution, fried or barbequed foods and smoking – there seems to be no getting away from them.  Free radicals are an important part of our body’s functioning, however, they can also wreak havoc & cause damage within the body leading to an increased risk of various chronic diseases including heart disease & certain cancers.

So what can we do to combat them?  Increasing your intake of antioxidants will offer powerful protection by in effect neutralising the free radicals and therefore limiting the damaging effects.  You can get a whole load of antioxidants from your diet, with fruit and vegetables offering some of the most powerful protection.  So how do you know which fruit & vegetables offer the most antioxidant protection?    Researchers at Tufts University in Boston (USA) developed a scientific test to measure the oxygen radical absorption capacity (ORAC) of different foods. The following fruit and vegetables were found to be the top performers (based on a serving):-

Fruit: 2 x Plums; 1 cup berries; 1 medium pear; 1 medium apple; 1 cup cherries, 1 orange; 1 peach; 3 fresh apricots

Vegetables: half an avocado; asparagus (8 spears); broccoli (cup cooked); sweet potato (half a cup cooked); cooked beetroot (half a cup)

There are also plenty of other fruit and vegetables that contain antioxidant power including leafy green veg, red cabbage, peas, red peppers, watermelon, bananas and kiwi fruit. Choose at least 2 fruit and 3 vegetables every day to supply your body with the recommended 3500-5500 ORAC units for optimal health.  Other suitable food choices with antioxidant power are lentils, kidney beans, walnuts, pistachios, ground cinnamon, turmeric, dark chocolate and red wine (go easy though – 150ml is the recommended amount!)





Winter Olympics – ‘Extreme’ action!

Absolutely loving watching all the action from the ‘Extreme Park’ at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics!  Snowboarding, cross country skiing & biathlon amongst others, and it’s got me thinking as to the type of training involved for these leg and lung busting sports. It appears that the one thing they all seem to have in common is that strength training is incorporated into the athletes fitness routines.  Strength training helps prevent injuries and assists in all aspects of fitness including aerobic strength and endurance.

Jenny Jones, the Snowboard bronze medallist has been at the top of her sport for more than six years.  Her off-season training appears to involve a lot of bodyweight exercises that focus on the lower body and also build core strength.  Cyclists can also benefit from strength training during the off-season as it will help build stamina & strength and improve overall efficiency on the bike in preparation for those Spring & Summer Sportives.  Consider bodyweight exercises such as squats, squat jumps, multi-directional lunges, press ups, planks and glute bridges, all of which will help to boost your performance and get more power to those pedals.


Yoga – a balanced approach to fitness

A few months ago I decided to start incorporating yoga into my weekly exercise schedule.  As a runner & cyclist I rarely get the chance to ‘slow it down’ and tight hamstrings and hip flexors were beginning to niggle more so than usual.

Yoga offers so many benefits, the most obvious being improved flexibility.  In addition, it helps to improve core stabilisation, strengths bones & muscles through weight bearing exercises and develops mental focus and concentration.  (There are a whole host of other benefits to yoga practice, but I don’t have the space to go into them).

Yoga is particularly beneficial for runners & cyclists.  Running & cycling have very repetitive movements usually in one direction and in one plane of motion i.e. forward and backwards.  Over time, this process can lead to imbalances in the muscles and joints leading to overuse injuries.  Yoga is not just simple stretching, it works the muscles and joints through their full range of motion & activates smaller rarely used muscles that help to support the primary movers. The body must be worked through all three planes of motion in order to remain strong, balanced and healthy. Yoga works not just in the sagittal plane but, in the frontal and transverse planes as well, ensuring well-balanced development.

After a few sessions I have definitely started to feel less tightness in my legs and I’m able to do more of the yoga poses which in the beginning seemed impossible.  I am now starting to incorporate some of the yoga moves into my regular stretching routine after an invigorating outdoor workout.  Pigeon pose & Downward dog I salute you!!

New Shoes!

My new outdoor trail running shoes have arrived, and what better way to celebrate than to take them out for an off-road run in the local forest.  Post-workout I always make sure I eat or drink something within 30-60 minutes to replenish & repair muscles.  My personal drink of choice at the moment is a homemade blueberry and banana shake.  If you want to try it here’s what you need:-

  • Handful of ice
  • 1-2 cups of water
  • Small banana
  • 1 large handful frozen (or fresh) blueberries
  • Small pot of low fat natural Greek yoghurt
  • 1tbsp flax/sesame & sunflower seeds
  • large pinch of cinnamon

Whizz ingredients in a blender & enjoy!



St Albans parkrun

We’re halfway into the month of January now and the St Albans parkrun had record numbers last weekend!  The 5km off-road course was put to good use as the usual route was still heavily flooded.  I was the tailrunner which meant I was running at the rear of the group encouraging people around the 5km course who were new to running, & also to give some of the regular runners some gentle motivation & words of encouragement to help them round the undulating course .  It felt good to be part of it & also seeing so many people embracing the great outdoors!