FitBits - fitness for fun and wellbeing: May 2014


Monday, 26 May 2014

Learning to swim: Part 1

I've never been a confident swimmer. At primary school we had a small freezing outdoor pool that we had to share with lots of flies and other dead insects once or twice a week. I was always the fat kid with armbands, stuck at the shallow end flapping about trying not to drown while others effortlessly glided from one end of the pool to the other.

That drill where they used to make us pick up the weighted brick from the pool bottom used to terrify me almost as much as getting changed in front of other girls.

True story
In my adult life I've got away with not being able to swim properly by pretty much avoiding it and getting pretty damn good at backstroke (water doesn't go up your nose then), but now that me and Chris are looking at doing a triathlon before the next season of marathon training, I'm gonna have to bite the bullet and get it done.

Also, I'm getting into kayaking so learning to swim is pretty important.

I've booked lessons and joined the local gym so I can get in some practice, and so far I can get a little bit down the pool before the flapping and spluttering commences...

Week 1

When: Monday 19th May, 7-7:45pm
Where: King Alfred Leisure Centre, Brighton
What: Breathing, gliding, arm strokes, roly polies

There were only three of us in the class, which I was really pleased about when I turned up. I booked onto the women only improvers, and after the first lesson I wasn't sure whether I should move down to beginners or not but now that I've practiced a bit I reckon I can learn, given time.

I took my nose clip from kayaking as I've got a thing about water going up my nose but thought I'd give it a go without to see how I got on. The instructor was really friendly and understanding of my nervousness and after setting the other two girls off to do lengths he got me to practice just putting my head in the water and blowing out through my mouth.

Swimming lessons King Alfred Brighton

To my surprise (and elation), I didn't die. 

He then got me kicking off from the wall, with my head down in the water, arms on a float in front of me, and breathing out, just gliding as far as my breath would take me, before turning around and getting back to the wall again.

Then I had to go a little further with the float, gliding off from the wall but adding a few breaths in - this is where it got a bit spluttery, but I persevered and sort of got it by counting. Sort of.

After that we practiced arm pull technique whilst walking, and then while the others went off to do lengths I started combining the arms with the glide to see how far I could 'swim' off the wall. I've put that in inverted commas as it's definitely not what I would call a swim just yet!

I got about 7-10 metres before having to stop and catch my breath, and it got really frustrating as I couldn't get the rhythm right with coming up for air - I seemed to come up too early so wasn't ready to take a breath in.

After a few of these the instructor got the group back together and got us to do mushroom floats and roly polies in the water. Mushroom floats are where you tuck your knees into your chest and hold your arms around them, and then just float face down in the water. We did this and then a version where we breathed out and went to the bottom of the pool.

Then we practiced roly polies in the water, starting from standing, throwing ourselves forward and breathing out through our noses whilst using our arms to propel us around 360 degrees. If I knew we were doing this before the lesson I would've been screwing but now I know getting water up my nost isn't gonna kill me I can handle it.

Practice makes perfect...

Since the lesson I've been to the pool a couple of times with Chris, and while he's off doing proper lengths perfecting his technique I've been going up and down the pool with and without a float practicing the breathing. I've now got the breathing down perfect with a float but when I bring the arms in I lose it, (and the life guard notices and stalks me) so just need to work on that and also make sure I take it slow and don't panic.

It's gonna be a looooong road to my first triathlon I reckon! Haven't booked a place yet as wanted to see how I get on with this first. I'll give it a couple more weeks and choose one to enter. We ordered our new road bikes today so it's happening, whether I like it or not!

Watch this space!

Are you a nervous/learning swimmer or are you a seasoned triathlete? I'd love to hear any tips you have for a beginner (parading as an improver!) so please do share! 

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Monday, 12 May 2014

Facing fears at Lee Valley with spogo

"If you fall out of the boat and get dragged underneath, 
don't worry, 
you won't be under there for long"

White water rafting at Lee Valley

This was one of the many terrifying sentences to escape the instructor's lips as we listened intently to the white water rafting safety briefing at Lee Valley a couple of weeks ago. Other such sentences included

"If you fall out, whatever you do, keep your feet down stream, DO NOT try to stand up".

I'm not very good with listening to safety briefings normally, it's a bit like taking directions: eyes glaze over, head nods in all the right places, and my mind wanders until suddenly I've planned a week of dinners in my head while whoever I've asked for help thinks I'm listening to them.

This safety briefing was different though - gripping, even. Like something out of a horror film. Alright, maybe not quite that bad, but it was scary enough for someone who is terrified of deep water and whose best 'swim' is more a coughing, spluttering flap. They still made us jump in the fast flowing water and get washed down stream for the swim test though (which, miraculously, I actually managed to survive):

White water rafting at Lee Valley
Me and the others jumping in the deep end

Do something that scares you

But, it's good to do stuff that scares you, right? To try new sports and experiences. Our bodies are wonderful machines - why not see what they can do while we still can? (Even if it scares the shit out of us). Being inactive shortens the lifespan by 3-5 years. By 2020 the average Brit will be so sedentary that they will use only 25% more energy than if they spent the whole day sleeping. That's pretty scary too if I'm honest.

Lee Valley white water rafting

Get inspired

The reason we were at Lee Valley in the first place was down to spogo. This wasn't the first time I'd tried something new with them either - a few months ago they invited me to try rock climbing and bouldering which was also another EPIC day.

Born out of the legacy left behind by the London 2012 Olympics, spogo is a great new website and online tool to not only help you find local sports and fitness classes/clubs/activities in your local area, but also give you the confidence and skills to get started.

With over 121,000 sports venues, clubs, trainers, events and other activities across the country, as well as some great free exercise plans, challenges and even a buddy finder so you don't have to go it alone, if you're looking to get more active you need to bookmark this badboy.

Kayaking: making it fun 

Our day of kayaking and white water rafting at Lee Valley started well. (I was joined by Soph, Jen, Lucy, Mollie, Paula, Cathy and Sonia). I've done a bit of kayaking before, having joined a club in Brighton and completed a six week pool course during which I learned to eskimo roll, so was really excited about this part of the day. And I was also actually really excited about the white water rafting, until we were given the safety briefing, which turned me into a jittery mess as we stepped into the raft, but more on that later...

Kayaking at Lee Valley White Water Centre
I'm aware I look like a child. 

Once we were kitted up and shown the basics of how to use the paddles, we got in our kayaks and entered the (nice and flat) pool safely away from the Legacy white water loop. Then followed an hour of skills practice in the form of silly games (stuck in the mud), team races and water confidence exercises.

Kayaking at Lee Valley White Water Centre

Even though I've done kayaking before and know how to roll I'm still terrified every time the boat rocks or wobbles in a way that I don't mean it to. So the games and exercises where we had to stand in our boats and sing Head Shoulders Knees and Toes really helped to put me at ease and remind me just to enjoy having a play.

Kayaking at Lee Valley
Head, shoulders, knees and shit don't rock the boat!!

The instructor was great and made it really fun as well as cramming in as many core skills as possible in just an hour.

Going back for more

Then it was time for white water rafting and the safety briefing of doom. There I was having a nice little play in the kayak and then they have to go and get me all scared. On a serious note though, the briefing was actually very good and even though it scared some of us it equipped us with the basic knowledge to make sure we didn't fall out of the boat - and if we did, we'd know what to do. Doing it would be another matter, of course, but thankfully we didn't need to find out.

Unlike these guys (CAN YOU IMAGINE?!)

White water rafting at Lee Valley
Rather them than us!

We went round the course five times, with each time getting progressively more challenging. The instructor (who was great, by the way), taught us all the signals and moves in the flat before we got on the white water and told us exactly what to do throughout the loop. We surfed waves head on and side on (the latter of which was pretty terrifying at times as I thought I was gonna fall out!), and paddled and sat down into the boat when instructed. The sitting down into the boat part I was quite happy with, as you can imagine!

Despite the genuine fear of falling out and dying it was such an exhilarating experience and really was so much fun (in an Oh-my-God-I'm-scared kinda way). We alternated between cackles of laughter and repeated girly screams - apparently we were the loudest boat there!

White water rafting at Lee Valley

It's a great feeling when you're scared of something but then do it anyway, I recommend it to anyone. Life's too short to not try these things!

If you wanna have a go at kayaking or white water rafting check out the Lee Valley White Water Centre website, or if you're not nearby, visit the Go Canoeing website for events, clubs and trails in your local area. There's no better time than now to get into it, it's Go Canoeing Week on 24th May – 1st June 2014 - what are you waiting for? GO! GO! GO!

Oh, and if you fancy finding another sport to try in your local area, visit the spogo website and get started!

Have you ever tried any water sports? Are you scared like me or 
do you love getting in the water?

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Monday, 5 May 2014

Egg & veg breakfast muffins

Egg and veg healthy breakfast muffins paleo recipe

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you'll know I'm a sucker for a sexy breakfast. Before I quit smoking I used to skip it altogether, instead opting for a roll up and a cup of tea to get me going in the morning, (I know, bad Tess). 

Since getting on the fit-wagon and trying to look after my body I've found a ton of healthy, nutritious breakfast recipes that keep me full 'til lunch and fuel me right, and this is one I've been meaning to try out for ages. 

I bought a muffin tin a couple of weeks ago as I'm starting Julia Buckley's Fat Burn Revolution 12-week programme tomorrow, so now's the perfect time to experiment with a healthy, protein-rich breakfast to give me a kick start. 

After putting a tweet out asking for recipes, Rebecca from Weight Wars kindly came to the rescue with a nice and easy method. Off to the kitchen I went... 

(I literally boshed these out in under 30 mins)


(makes 6-8 but probably 6 more comfortably)

  • 3-4 eggs 
  • Handful of spinach
  • 1 large mushroom, chopped 
  • Feta if you like :) 
  • Few cherry or sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • Couple of spriggs of broccoli, spinach or other veg, chopped
  • Pepper to season

Ingredients for healthy egg and veg breakfast muffins recipe


  • Preheat oven to 170 C
  • Whisk egg (the more you whisk the more they'll rise apparently - I haven't mastered this yet!)
  • Chop veg 
  • Add egg and veg to muffin tin
  • Bake for approx. 20 minutes until risen
Healthy egg and veg breakfast muffins recipe

I've already tried one as I couldn't wait until tomorrow to sample them and they're really good! They keep in the fridge for a few days and work great as easy no-mess snacks. Well impressed!

Have you got any other great recipes (breakfast or otherwise) to share? I'm on the hunt for new things to try! 

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