FitBits - fitness for fun and wellbeing: July 2015


Saturday, 25 July 2015

REVIEW | Brighton Yoga Festival

A little girl and her mum walked past the entrance to 
Brighton Yoga Festival this afternoon as I was leaving.

"We can get sweeties in there mummy"
"No darling," the mum said, "It's all healthy in there..."

She wasn't wrong. 

I left the festival energised, relaxed and full of vitality and health, ready to take on the world. Luckily, I only had to meet my husband (still love saying that) for a lovely sunny lunch in town so no one else had to put up with my dreamy, zenned-out state. 

I have a feeling I wouldn't have been the only one floating around Brighton today after a whole day of free classes and workshops put on by the city's finest yogis. 

Currently in its second year and held at St Georges Church in Kemptown, the festival offered massages and other treatments, delicious vegetarian and vegan food, lines of stalls advertising art, crafts and the cream of Brighton's yoga crop, and a host of indoor and outdoor classes of just about every type of yoga you could ever imagine. 

Brighton Yoga Festival 2015 - St Georges Church Kemptown

Brighton Yoga Festival 2015 - St Georges Church Kemptown

I got there early to book onto my two chosen classes - a blissful yoga and pilates fusion class with Holly and Ellie from MyEscape / Studio iO to wake up my senses, and a 40 minute mindfulness meditation workshop from Sam at The Float Spa to drift into the most beautiful space. I sometimes find it so hard to slow down and quiet my mind but today it just worked, and it was ace. 

Brighton Yoga Festival - Ellie & Holly from MyEscape / Studio iO
Ellie & Holly from MyEscape / Studio iO Brighton

Whenever I wake from Savasanah or any meditation that I've been able to fall right into I come about all giddy and smiley. It's such a rarity for me to be still, to be quiet. To not think about what needs to be done, what training I'm doing later, that deadline at work, the washing up that's waiting in the sink. 

I've always got 101 things whirling around my head and I'm a terrible multi-tasker/half-a-job-finisher. My short attention span flits between whatever's won the momentary fight for attention in my brain, whether that be the work I'm doing, that programme I'm watching, that conversation I'm having, that notification on my phone. (Need a bit of a phone detox actually but we'll talk about that later...) 

Sometimes I feel the only time I'm ever truly focused on one thing and one thing only is when I'm in the zone with writing. So today, it was really nice to take some time, create some space, and just be. After my two classes I bought some fresh pineapple and a cup of tea (mainly because I didn't have enough change on me for tea and cake), before wandering around the rest of the festival, taking photos of the other classes. 

Brighton Yoga Festival 2015 - St Georges Church Kemptown

Brighton Yoga Festival 2015 - St Georges Church Kemptown

I would've stayed all day if I could but lunch (and a hungry husband) were waiting :)

It's no secret that I love my city, and I'm really falling for yoga. Brighton's got such a big heart with so much going on, including a huge yoga community, and this festival is exactly what we need - I just can't believe it wasn't organised sooner! 

Who's coming next year then?


Have you fallen in love with yoga like I have? 
Do you find it hard to slow down and be mindful in every day life? 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015


That's the main thing I've realised this past couple of weeks whilst throwing myself into my non-training plan for my first tri this September. Never assume you can't do something if you haven't actually tried. Although I love challenging myself and learning new things, I do sometimes take the 'easier' route to make progress if it means not having to change and re-learn.

Like swimming. I've made so much more ground this past couple of sessions than I ever did last year, and that's because I was 'forced' to step outside of my comfort zone. Yesterday I swam my first ever (flappy / stop-in-the-middle-to-have-a-cough-and-splutter) full length WITHOUT my nose clip. It was completely by accident too - I set off forgetting to put it on and then decided to just go for it and see what happened.

Turns out, no one died.

I did however, make the mistake of going for an evening swim on the day that schools broke up for summer. Which was no fun at all.

Lesson no.2:

Check the pool timetable

I'm really enjoying triathlon training at the moment. Or am I actually enjoying just 
not marathon training? I'm not following a training plan as I couldn't find one that worked for me as a beginner swimmer but strong cyclist and experienced (but not great) runner. (Any ideas, anyone?)

So my non-plan is currently consisting of whatever I feel like putting in, typically involving two or three swims a week (including one sea flap), daily cycle commute with a weekend long ride, strength training, boxing (for fun) and yoga (for the soul), and then poor old running squeezed in whenever I remember.

So herein lies the third lesson learned:

Don't neglect the running

The thing about running is, as soon as you stop doing it regularly, it gets bloody difficult again, and all that rainbows-and-unicorns-sunshine glory you once had bounding like a gazelle around your favourite run-route soon gets replaced with a whole load of arse.

As I discovered this week:

It's OK though, me and running are like that *crosses fingers*. We just need to rekindle our affair and soon we'll be pumping out that ever-elusive sub25 5k.

But hang on - what about running off the bike? I've only done one brick session so far - I ran the inaugural Hove Prom parkrun after cycling to Worthing and back a couple of weeks ago and let me tell you it was far from pretty, and definitely something I have to work on. 

So - at least one brick session per week from now. It might never get pretty, but I'll get better at it. Maybe??

Cycling-wise I'm pretty comfortable to be honest. I cycle every day and feel right at home on the bike. Apart from when I'm half way up a beasty hill and realise I've got nowhere else to go on the gears. When the legs are burning, lungs screaming and that bastard gradient increasing ever-more, it's a dark, dark time when you look down and realise you're already in the lowest gear.

Say hello to lesson no. four:

You always need another gear

The cycle route at Eton Dorney is thankfully nice and flat so maybe I won't have this problem. Just the god-awful run off the bike to contend with then. Still, it's only 2.5km and whatever happens, it's gotta be better than the duathlon I did there last February. Even if I did lap Dame Kelly Holmes.

So yeah, a few lessons learned so far, no doubt there'll be more. Looking at the weekly roundup of last week's training below it's pretty clear I need to add some regular brick training and running in.

Just gimme a couple more days in the week first, yeah?

Tue: AM swim 16 lengths front crawl / Sweaty Betty Yoga PM  
Wed: PT with Amy PM
Thu: AM swim 20 lengths
Fri: REST  
Sat: Hilly ride to Eastbourne & back (45 miles)
Sun: Stanmer Park mtb trails  


What's your biggest lesson learned during your training (triathlon, running, cycling, whatever). Do you sometimes take the 'easy' way out if the option is there?

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Thursday, 16 July 2015

Making waves - PROGRESS!!

I made a breakthrough this week.

And I've got 30 minutes left of my lunch break to tell you about it. (Those who know the way I write will know that getting a blog post written and published in such a short time is actually quite a ridiculous task, but hey. I like a challenge).

This week I was forced to bite the bullet and try to do something I'd convinced myself I couldn't do. I've been making excuses for months about how I 'can only swim one length at a time', before 'needing a break' to swim another. I've been banging on about how I can't get the breathing right, often reaching the other side of the pool gasping for air and as for bi-lateral breathing?!

There's no way I can do that.

Well, the thing is... this week I did. Thanks to the really busy slow lane in the pool on Tuesday morning, (I mean seriously, does EVERYONE have to get on these early morning endorphins?!), I had to abandon all hope of doing any of my session in backstroke, and do the whole 16 lengths front crawl so I could see where I was going.

I picked up a trusty pull buoy, waited for a gap in the stream of (not so slow) slow lane swimmers, and went for it. I swam 16 lengths in total, all front crawl and mostly in 50m segments - 10 with a pull buoy and six without. I left the pool elated, and proud, and excited about the progress I can make from now until my tri.

22 minutes left. 

Then, this morning, I swam 20 lengths, all front crawl, 12 with a pull buoy, eight without, with minimal breaks between (mostly) 50m segments. It took me 25 minutes in total, so no records for speed, but a good place to start.

I also tried to really focus on improving my stroke and had a proper go at breathing on the left side as well as the right - and promptly drank half the pool, but made it work for probably a couple of lengths in total if you add it all up.

Not so sure the guy who got a face full of backwashed chlorine as he passed me was too impressed but hey.

14 minutes. 

I'm now really excited about the next few weeks training knowing that actually, I can swim, I can learn to breathe on both sides, and I can, in theory, absolutely smash this tri. Never mind the fact that it's open water, in a wet suit, and I need to get over my fear of swimming in the sea to train in OW over the summer. I've got seven whole weeks - plenty of time.

Need to get rid of the nose clip too but we'll talk about that later...

So, to recap, (in no more than 11 minutes or I'll get the sack), these are the things I've learnt that have helped me improve my swimming this month:

1) Look at your feet when you come up for air 

A good friend / coach told me this last week while I was flailing about in the sea trying not to die. If you turn to look at your feet when you come up for air you create a nice big pocket of air to gulp, giving you more time to slow it down and relax before going back under for the next stroke.

That is, unless you're in the sea and a big bastard wave comes to get you. I'm working on it.

2) Elbows up

A few people have told me this, and it's something I can work on now I'm not gasping for air so much. I'm not sure why it works and don't have time to look it up right now (6 minutes) but it definitely works

3) Slice the water

There's a lot to be said for not slapping the water on entry with a big flat hand. Instead, turn your hand 45 degrees to slice the water before turning it flat for the back stroke. This makes no sense. I'm aware of this. I've got four minutes before I get the sack, bear with me here.

So there you have it - three things that have really helped improve my swimming this week, mostly courtesy of Kurt and other swimmers in my amazing BTRS family.

I'm so glad the pool was too busy on Tuesday for me to stay in my comfort zone :)

Diamond Tri - I'm coming to get you!


Are you a beginner swimmer or have you improved lots recently? Any more tips for me to improve my breathing and stroke? 

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Monday, 13 July 2015

Staying in control

I spent nearly an hour in the kitchen prepping Monday's food. I got seduced by the convenience of Asda's smoothie bundle when I did the online shop this weekend (big windows - they saw me coming) so I'm starting the week with a coconut water, kale, watermelon and banana smoothie. Except it didn't quite hit the spot taste-wise so I added some frozen berries and now it looks like pond sludge.

All the healthiest smoothies look like sewage, right? 

FitBits | Asda smoothie bundle - Breville Active Blend

I'm excited to say that after my pretty impressive Glasto blow out and week-long recovery that ended with a skanky cold  (go hard or go home, kids), I'm well and truly back on the wagon. I'm eating mostly clean, back to training, and feeling organised, productive and ready to take on the world.

Or at least this triathlon, in eight weeks.

FitBits | Monday food prep - eat clean
Monday's breakfast, lunch & snacks - including the world's straightest banana

Survived another sea swim/flap/panic. Still terrified but will plod on until I'm not...


A weighty issue...

Last week I did something I always said I wouldn't in case I get obsessed - I bought a set of bathroom scales. For the past couple of months, basically since boshing my PB at Brighton marathon, I've been feeling a wee bit stodgier than I'd like and could definitely do with losing a fair chunk of body fat. At 4ft 10 it's pretty obvious to me when I put on weight, and last Sunday I weighed in at 59.9kg, a good 5kg heavier than I'd like to be right now.

Back in December when I started marathon training, I had my body fat measurements taken (it wasn't pretty - 36.2% body fat) and promptly booked onto six weeks of twice-weekly PT sessions with Brighton PT Amy Jordan.

During those six weeks I was off the booze, mostly off sugar and trying to eat a healthy, balanced diet full of lean meat, fish and plenty of fruit & vegetables. My twice-weekly sessions with Amy focused on strength training while I took care of the cardio myself, and at the end of the six weeks I'd got my fat mass down to 31.7% and increased my muscle mass by 3.5%, gaining 1kg of muscle. I still had a fair bit to go (healthy body fat range for me is anything around 25%), but I felt fit, strong, and awesome.

Measurements from Jan 2013 to Jan 2015

FitBits | body fat measurements - Body Optimum Brighton
Interesting how much I'd let it go since 2013 - even though I was exercising more

FitBits | muscle mass measurements - Body Optimum Brighton

The last time I had a body composition analysis was just before Brighton Marathon and I was convinced I'd put on loads of weight and had ruined all my hard work from the beginning of the year, but was relieved when it turned out I'd basically maintained.

Now, it's time to get back on it.

Performance & cocktails

I've spent the last week getting back in the zone with things and really being organised when it comes to food so I feel in control.

It really is all down to planning if you want to eat well - spending a couple of hours a week prepping my meals and snacks, and planning alongside my training makes sure I'm energised, focused and strong enough to train hard.

FitBits | the first Hove Prom parkrun 12 July 2015
A very happy Run Director at the inaugural Hove Prom parkrun this weekend

FitBits | BTRS sea swim triathlon training - Brighton
The BTRS crew getting ready for the swim

If I don't plan my breakfast and make my snacks/lunch to take with me to work it basically all goes to shit and I end up buying processed convenience food from Tesco and feeling crap. I'm tracking my food on MFP and have hacked it to track Macros so loosely following an IIFYM formula.

The first few days were a bit tough with headaches and energy slumps as I limited my sugar and caffeine but once I got past Wednesday I was OK. It's amazing how much what you eat and drink can affect your performance and general focus/productivity.

She says, all self-righteous. 

Anyway, the week's training looked like this:

Tue: Lunchtime swim (18 lengths)
Thu: Gym AM - (kettlebells / barbell squats / box jumps + 2km run) + sea swim PM
Sat: 22mile cycle + the new Hove Prom parkrun off the bike (hardest 5k EVER)
Sun: REST 

Next week's training isn't fully set in stone yet but I do know that tomorrow at some point there will be a swim. And looking at the current time, I'm guessing it won't be the morning.

Really need to get to bed earlier! This is my actual nemesis, I'm such a night owl. 1am though, that's taking the piss. Shut up and get to bed Tess...


Do you train better when you're in control of your diet? How do you stay on track?

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Thursday, 2 July 2015

Running at Glastonbury Festival

**Event page for 2016 run on Thursday 23 June 0900 >>> 

I don't know what I was more excited about when I first saw the Facebook post - the actual real excuse to pack my trainers after all, or just the general fact that my annual pilgrimage to the Greatest Festival on Earth was mere days away.

Hubs was not impressed when I told him there was an organised run.

"You always take too much stuff and I have to carry everything else. When have you ever actually made it out for a run at Glastonbury?" 

He was right. I've been packing my running kit for the last couple of years and my trainers have stayed firmly in the bottom of my camping bag. But not this time. I'm a sucker for an early dose of endorphins, especially collective ones shared across a group.

And what better run route is there than the largest greenfield festival in the world?!



There are a few things as a regular Glasto-goer that have become rituals over the five years I've gone - making something in the Green Futures Fields; watching the sunrise up at Stone Circle on the last morning of the festival; red wine/chair wanker Sunday.

Now I have a brand new ritual to add to my repertoire!

Organised by Andy Hickson from Actionwork, the UK's leading theatre and TIE company dealing with bullying in the UK, our instructions for the run were simple: 9am meet at the Anti-Bullying Village in the Green Futures Fields for a warm up and 9.15am start.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm an early bird at the best of times, usually up and out for pre-work run or gym session most mornings (maybe not this week). But as to be expected, a fair amount of cider and revelry got Glastonbury off to a cracking start as we arrived on site to glorious sunshine and blue skies on the Wednesday. So there *might* have been a few swear words muttered as the 8am Thursday alarm went off in my tent.

Wednesday shenanigins

Wednesday shenanigins - pre-run fuelling

I reluctantly hauled my sorry ass out of bed and into my favourite BOSH running kit before successfully swerving the gin and other spirits for water (not a fun early morning mix up to make, I can assure you).

In a game of Spot The Runners I navigated to the Green Futures Fields and honed in on the lycra-clad group in time for a few photos and brief warmup before meeting The Guardian reporters who would be joining us for our run. Andy told us he'd organised the run because he didn't want to go too long without training, but also to raise awareness of the Anti-Bullying Village on site.

I got a bit too excited as we set off on a 5k loop around the site, and ended up running nearly threshold pace. I was soon put back in my place as we headed up through The Park and up the mammoth hill towards the famous patchwork Glastonbury sign.

My hangover and lack of running in the week or so leading up to the festival was taking its toll as I puffed my way to the top, before stopping for a few photos and making our way to the BEST FINISH LINE ever (Glastonbury Cider Bus).

We lost The Guardian reporter somewhere up the next hill into Big Ground, but she found us at the end for the finish line photo :)

It was a great start to the festival (making a little room for the incoming cider) and I'll definitely be back next year for more if I'm lucky enough to get a ticket again. I did ask Andy if there were runs on any other days but looking back on the activities that followed that holy Thursday morning effort it's just as well that there weren't!

I'm still feeling extremely sorry for myself and nursing the most monumental case of dreaded Glasto Blues, but it was bloody worth it! 

Til next time, Worthy Farm! x

**PS. I also won BOSHer of the week for my Glasto antics - bonus! :) 


Do you run at festivals or do you take a break from exercise? 

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**Event page for 2016 run on Thursday 23 June 0900 >>> 

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