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Team JB were buzzing with anticipation this morning at the prospect of taking part in Monster Race 2013 just a few miles up the road at Charlton Park Estate near Malmesbury (best known for hosting the annual WOMAD festival).  Considering how popular similar events like Tough Mudder and Men's Health Survival of the Fittest have become, it was surprisingly our first such obstacle race, and we were getting pretty excited at an excuse to get covered in mud on a cold November morning (can you tell we miss playing rugby??).

As we got ready, attaching our timing chips to our laces and writing our entry numbers on our foreheads, our group of 8 quickly became 9 as Kim from Chippenham joined our team.  Thankfully, there was coffee and tea available to warm us up before the race, and a handy bag-drop facility as the start was a fair walk away from the car parking area. Scheduled in the first wave at 10am, we were called to the event-organised group "warm-up" (if you call plyometric lunges a warm up!) and before we knew it we were at the start line!  The excitement was all too much for Alex, who, unable to wait for the first proper obstacle, jumped straight into the middle of the first decent puddle with both feet (surprisingly difficult to resist when you know you're going to get really muddy anyway).


After a pleasant trail run through a wood, we reached the first obstacle, "The Hurdles", a gentle introduction to the course which we negotiated with relative ease (although I did manage to muddy Sian's ear in the process with my foot - thankfully no harm done!).  Next up was one of the highlights of the course, "Monsters' Marsh" which did not disappoint! Lowering ourselves with the aid of a rope down the slippery bank, those of us who had spent our summer swimming in the Cotswold Water Park lake had a fair idea of what to expect - but it still always makes your heart skip a beat when the icy water hits your chest!  We were also lulled into a false sense of security when the water level was at first only up to waist height.  As we peered around the reeds and saw Sian and Alex disappearing up to their necks, any initial smugness at being a bit taller soon evaporated as the rest of us realised this was the eventual fate of us all (even the tall and brave team JB newcomer Karen)!

Onwards we went through the "Tyre Crawl" and "Log Carry" to the next big challenge - "The Wall".  Fantastic teamwork saw us hoicking each other up and flinging ourselves over the top, winning top marks for artistic impression on dismount!  A long interrupted run stretch followed, past a temporary film set at the edge of the estate (looking like a prisoner of war camp - anyone know what film?).  Then it was on to the "Sandbag Carry", which immediately inspired plans for a Tetbury Woolsack Race 2014 relay team, followed by the "Hay Bales Steps" where we were cheered on by star supporter Amanda, who we also have to thank for taking the awesome photos!  Only a couple of obstacles now separated us from our Monster Medals, and Alex progressed from two-footed puddle jumps to chest first swan dives whilst she still had the chance!

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The penultimate obstacle was the muckiest of all, with our mud-pit crawl under barbed-wire drawing wild applause from the crowd at the finish!  A final wall awaited, made all the more tricky by the mud which now lubricated and rendered the rope next to useless! Thankfully Hayles showed off her second-row lineout llifting skills to safely guide the team over (although by this stage Clare and our Kim were making it look easy).  All that remained was for us to proudly join hands to cross the finish line together, wondering what had happened to the "Pugil Pummel" Monster henchmen we had been looking forward to tackling (literally)! 

With no showering or changing facilities available, it was a slightly anti-social end to the event as everyone hurried off to their cars to get warm. We would encourage this to be improved for the next event, with perhaps an extra changing marquee and some buckets of water for hand-washing a reasonable expectation for an event of this size.  Nevertheless, as Team JB's first venture into the world of obstacle course events, Monster Race was an exhilarating opportunity to confront and conquer a new challenge!  See you next year then....

 

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Only eight weeks ago, our latest beginners' running group met at Lydiard Park in Swindon for the first week of Run JB's Couch to 5K course.  This Saturday morning, they got up bright and early to run their first ever 5K at Swindon Parkrun! And as these pictures reveal, they did themselves proud, successfully completing the two-lap course and having great fun in the process! Huge congratulations to Sharon, Helen, Amanda, Jane, Michelle, Jacqui, Jessica and Linda! Congratulations also to Run JB's Dawn Chivers and Simon May for smashing their personal best times! We had fantastic support on the day from previous Couch to 5K graduate Yvonne, who has become a regular since completing the course, and personal training clients Jeremy and Tony, who are leading the way in the number of Parkruns completed! Many thanks also to Hayley for doing a fantastic job as photographer!

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Check out the Swindon Parkrun results from the day (24 Aug 2013) and the complete historical Run JB Parkrun Results which include all previous Parkrun events.  Inspired by our latest group's success? You could be completing YOUR first 5K in December!  Join our next Couch to 5K course starting Wed 16th October and be fitter, healthier and happier this Christmas! After all, we were Born to Run!

 
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Eating out is no longer the luxury it once was for our parents' generation.  According to the government's "Family Food Report 2011", we each spend an average of £50 a month on eating out, with a third of meals taken outside the home.  So what we consume in restaurants is increasingly important to our overall standard of nutrition.

In accordance with a government initiative, a minority of British restaurants, including Harvester and McDonalds, have begun to publish calorie counts on their menus and food packaging. However, unlike some parts of the USA, there is not yet any legal obligation to do so.  Moreover, as we will discuss in a future blog post, all calories are not equal.  So here are some golden rules to help you stay on track with your weight loss or maintenance goals when eating out...

  1. Ditch the Fizzy Drinks.  It always amazes us when we look around in restaurants and see how many people are drinking Coke.  Diet versions are no better as they make you crave sweet foods.  Replace with free tap water and save loads of calories AND money at the same time! 
  2. Avoid the Bread.  Why spoil your appetite and ruin your enjoyment of your main course by filling up on bread whilst you are waiting? Most people are already eating too many carbohydrates.  Opt for olives instead, which are full of healthy monounsaturated fats and protect us from cancer and high blood pressure.
  3. Ask for Swaps.  Even if a dish is listed on a menu as coming with chips, there is often an alternative. Many restaurants will be perfectly happy to replace the chips with a healthier option such as salad or vegetables at no extra cost.  Remember - if you don't ask, you don't get! Ask for any salad dressings to come on the side, so you can control the portion size.
  4. Order a Fish Dish.  Eating out is the perfect opportunity to have fish without the smell invading your home.  Fish is nearly always one of the healthiest and least calorific choices on a menu (unless battered) and oily varieties such as salmon, trout or mackerel are packed with omega-3 fatty acids which protect against heart disease.
  5. Ban the Beige!  Variety of colour is a really good simple indicator of how healthy a dish is.  Anything beige will nearly always be covered in pastry or batter and/or fried and have very little nutritional value.
  6. Share A Dessert.   If you can't resist a dessert completely, then why not share one?  Most desserts in restaurants contain around twice as much fat and sugar as a chocolate bar, so half really is plenty for one person.
  7. Never Super-Size. Refuse Refills and Bottomless Chips.  If an establishment offers super-size portions, the nutritional quality of their food is likely to be very poor. As for refills and bottomless chips, anything that sabotages your weight loss efforts is never truly "free".
 
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Be honest. How supportive are you towards helping your partner reach their fitness goals? In my experience as a personal trainer, it is clear that family and friends have a huge influence on an individual's probability of success in achieving their target, from weight-loss to running a marathon. 

Let's face it - any goal worth achieving involves an element of sacrifice.  If someone is devoting a lot of time to training, this could mean spending less time with their partner.  But it doesn't always have to!  It is fantastic when I see other halves adopting the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" philosophy when their partner starts a new fitness training regime.  They find that the time spent together - cycling, running or walking, for example, can turn out to be the best quality time they have spent together in a long while: enjoying the great outdoors together free from the incessant interruptions of modern technology. It can work well even if you are at different fitness or motivation levels - a partner accompanying the occasional long run on bike, for example, may be an easier sell than them undertaking all your marathon training!

Support towards a fitness goal doesn't stop with the training - a partner's influence can be even more important when it comes to food shopping and mealtimes.    If you are lucky enough to have a partner who does most of the cooking, don't expect them to cook two separate meals if you don't fancy the healthy food that they are preparing (yes, believe it or not this does happen!). Also, if you know your other half is trying to lose weight, don't tempt them with offers to order take-away!

If you are really honest, does part of you worry that you may look bad in comparison if your partner succeeds?  Why not see their ambition as an opportunity rather than a threat?  Get on board and exercise more and eat more healthily.  You will always be much stronger as a couple working together towards a common goal.

 
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I was originally introduced to Fartlek training by highly-respected Swindon Supermarine rugby coach, Steve Bartlett.  It was very much in keeping with his no-nonsense approach to fitness training.  The beauty of Fartlek training lies in its simplicity and intensity. If you are looking for a straightforward but highly effective way of improving your running speed, then look no further.

The name "Fartlek" literally translates from the Swedish as "speed play".  It is deliberately less structured than sprint interval training.  You can Fartlek anywhere, with no equipment - you don't even need a stopwatch.  In Fartlek training, the key is intensity variation and interval randomisation.  Sessions use different paces - e.g. sprint, jog and walk, to complete a series of relatively short and varying distances. For example, you could jog 20m, then sprint 50m, then walk 30m etc.  But you don't need a tape measure - you can use any objects to segment the intervals.  Lamp posts make excellent markers as they are a suitable distance apart.  For example, you could jog from the first to the third lamp post, sprint to the forth and then walk to the fifth - turn around and repeat the pattern in the opposite direction.  Alternatively, on a rugby pitch, you might start at one try line, jog to the 22, walk to halfway line, sprint to the next 22 and then jog the remaining distance to the opposite try line.


Fartlek training is popular amongst sports coaches as it mimics the demands of many sports in which short sharp bursts of activity are separated by periods of slower running.  However, it also has huge fitness benefits for anyone wanting to improve their running speed of simply looking to lose weight. To run faster in a race you have to train faster - and Fartlek training is a great way of improving speed endurance - the ability to maintain a faster pace for longer. By taking you to the limits of your anaerobic threshold, it develops superior lung capacity. This positively impacts our health in a myriad of ways, including

- enhanced metabolic function
- decreased risk of heart attack and stroke
- greater energy and reduced fatigue
- improvements in general focus, concentration and memory
- decreased inflammation

Indeed, lung capacity is considered to an extremely important general indicator of health and longevity. 

Like other forms of high-intensity interval training, such as our Metafit™ bodyweight training group fitness classes, Fartlek forces the body to use not just the aerobic system (where muscles are supplied energy by burning glucose with oxygen) but also the anaerobic system, a faster but less efficient way of producing ATP (the form of energy used by muscles).  This inefficiency is a great thing as far as weight loss is concerned, as triggers a state known as "oxygen debt", forcing the body to complete additional internal processes to replenish its energy stores for several hours after exercise has finished.  This raises the metabolism and means that you will be burning additional fat long after your workout is complete.


JB Personal Training's running group, Run JB, offer incorporate Fartlek training into their club sessions throughout the year.  For details, see our website.

 

 
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