Strong 45 review

What is Strong 45 by HIITBURN?  Well it is a 45 day programme that consists of daily strength training coupled with a high intensity interval training (HIIT) finisher workout.  The combination of this workout is intended to build muscle and strength whilst also burning fat.

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I was looking to get back into a routine following my knee injury and whilst not all workouts may seem appropriate I knew there were modifications and so I was soon signed up and had all the material emailed to me.

You are sent the links to download material which included:

  • Access to a private Facebook group
  • Training guide manual
  • Nutrition guide
  • Hiitburn recipes
  • Workout calendar
  • Intuitive eating guide

I was also doing the ab finisher workouts and was sent the download for that too.

From before the 45 days started the facebook group was very active with people sharing before photos, recipe suggestions, videos of modifications and more.  I knew that having a forum for accountability and help would be super valuable!

The plan starts with progressive resistance training to aimed to improve muscle strength.  One thing that appealed to many, I found from the facebook group, was how this plan really only needed some dumbbells so it really took it back to basics.  The HIIT element is designed to have short bursts of intense exercise followed by short rest periods – don’t be fooled, like me, by thinking 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off that sounds easy – it is not!

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There is an app from HIIT Max that you can subscribe to with a whole host of resources and as part of the Strong 45 challenge you are given access for the duration for free and can choose to continue should you wish.  The cost for this is $19.99 per month though there is a huge amount of resource and plans available included within this.

  • Day 1 was a leg day and I will admit I looked at the exercises and thought yeah that’s fine but my god where my legs on fire by the end of it!  I even left a sweaty angel on the gym floor – nice I know!
  • Day 2 was back/biceps/triceps and again I really felt it!
  • Day 3 was legs and glutes and by this point I was walking awkwardly and had no idea how I would do legs again!
  • Day 4 was chest and shoulders and I mean you can survive without the use of your arms right?
  • Day 5 was full body so everything was aching by this point and I was ready to make my final goodbyes to family members and I had to workout everything.

But did I die?  Well no but I spoke to my friend who is a PT and said to her how I was worried as I’d done 5 days and have 40 left and I could not fathom in my head how I would get through this.

This was hard! Really hard!  The workout was tough but it was the way I felt after and having leg day Monday and again on Wednesday was not feeling like enough time for my muscles to repair.  Most of the exercises were using either body weight or a dumbbell – how could a dumbbell be ruining me so much?!

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Week 2 and I will admit I was slightly disappointed that each week was a repeat of the same daily workouts although the finisher sometimes differed.  For some reason I had assumed it would be different as it progressed but 45 different workouts is a lot!  It did mean I could look back and see what weights I had previously used and if I could maintain that.  This was also queried in the facebook group and an admin explained that the reasoning behind this structure is that the programme is designed to be progressive so you can see the difference in strength and muscle tone at the end of the challenge.  It was also explained that the workouts include a balance of consistency and basics to make meaningful progress coupled with unique exercises to keep it interesting and help work towards a specific goal.

Week 3 and was seriously wondering if I can get through another 35 days.  I workout a lot but I ended up asking a friend of mine who is a PT to work out with me to figure out if I was just being a wimp or it was as hard as I was finding it.

There were times where the app did not match the workouts from the PDF that were sent but I assumed it was ok and not ashamed to admit I would often opt for the easier of the two especially if I was feeling particularly tired from the workouts.  Now this is a simple to follow app but on day 2 on week 3 I realised I had been making a massive error!  You select the program you are following, the week, the day – couldn’t be simpler right?  I managed to get this wrong!  I selected everything right and as I said above I was confused why the PDF didn’t always match – here was my error!  I was following the videos – easy to follow providing technique tips and showing you exactly how to do each movement.  So where did I go wrong?  Well the videos include all modifications too so I was doing way too much!  No wonder I felt so ruined.  I actually put a post in the facebook group and titled it idiot alert and explained my error.  A couple of people commented saying ‘you beast’ more like idiot and I am not sure how I made such a mistake that was glaringly obvious once I noticed.  Then I started following it correctly and yes still tough but way more manageable!

Week 4 and now I had the workouts correctly it was better but I still continued to feel bloated and exhausted.  I was getting disheartened by the progress pics and videos from others in the facebook group as I wasn’t seeing that myself but continued regardless.

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Week 5, 6 and 7 unfortunately for me ended up being a countdown to the finish.

I actually really enjoyed the strength and weights elements and really liked that all you needed was some dumbells but the HIIT element was just not something I came to enjoy and in fact I began to dislike it more as the weeks went on.  Towards the end I added a post on my insta noting that I was on count down.  I wanted my routine back, was bored of feeling tired all the time and missed working out with my friend who is a PT and missed my bike a lot!  I had also intended to return to CrossFit for some sessions during this challenge but there was no way I had energy for that too.

I drank so much too – I was getting up every night to use the loo, which I never do and for the first 4 weeks I felt bloated and like my clothes felt tighter.  I was reassured by the support in the fb group but I was worried about what results I would see at the end of this.

There are different variations of packages you can sign up to for example some with nutrition guides, car-cycling guides, coaching and the prices varies accordingly.

So in the end how did I get on?  Well I put on 6lbs!  I am aware that muscle mass weighs more BUT I am still feeling bloated and uncomfortable so I am thinking it is more weight gain.  I did lose 5.5 inches overall but  the feeling of being uncomfortable is overshadowing that also.  I was able to increase my weights on all exercises on the last two weeks, which is progress and I managed to get the technique of a sit through pretty good, however, I am still useless at lunging!

There were many people in the facebook group who shared videos of crazy physical progress and also some who couldn’t do a single pull up at the start and now were banging out several – again not anything I could report myself.

As I said many in the group were extremely positive and saw huge results but this was just not something for me and I need to enjoy what I do so sadly I will not be continuing.

 

Mirafit Studio Pump Set review

I love reading reviews from people I know to get first hand recommendations whether it be for events, kit, books or anything else.  I recently read a review from my friend Lucy at Paddle Pedal Pace, where she was talking about wall ball exercises to build full body strength using a 10kg wall ball from Mirafit that you can read here.

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Earlier this year we had a home gym built and we are steadily adding pieces of kit to our collection.  Weights have been something that I really enjoy using in my workouts and so when Mirafit got in touch with me to review some of their kit I was keen to do so.  I wanted something that we didn’t already have and something that could be versatile.  I am a big fan of workouts using just one piece of kit as this often makes it more accessible for most people rather than needing to have several pieces of kit that you either don’t have space or money for.

The piece of kit I got from Mirafit was the studio pump set.  The set includes:

  • 1 x 140cm bar
  • 2 x collars
  • 2 x 1.25kg weights
  • 2 x 2.5kg weights
  • 2 x 5kg weights

The cost of the item is £44.95 and the total weight for the bar and weights is 20kg.  The description from Mirafit explains that this item is designed for high repetition movements with low weight load.  I was pleased to see it came with a soft padded bar as I am always that person who uses the padded collar at the gym on the bar!

I’ve also had many sessions with my friend Emma who is a fab PT using the weighted plates without the bar so knew there would be numerous exercises I could get with this set.

If you have done a body pump class at a gym you will know that it is a total/full body workout where the exercises you complete target all the main muscle groups.

Here are some examples I have been doing with the bar:

  • Chest press – lay on a bench with feet flat on the floor, each rep sees you straighten your arms and lower the bar to your mid chest.
  • Clean and press – stand with feet shoulder width apart and with hips down, chest lifted, eyes forward, arms long and core tight, drive through your heels to lift the bar to your collarbone first and then overhead with both straight arms and legs.
  • Power press – like the clean and press but after lifting the bar overhead return to your collarbone and sit into your legs to drive the bar overhead again.
  • Overhead press – also known as a push press, similar to the power press but without sitting into your legs when repeating.
  • Deadlift – one of my favourite exercises! Stand with your feet under the bar, shoulder width apart, grab the bar, bend your legs, lift your chest and keep your back straight (I have a tendency to arch mine and its something I need to work on), strand up straight with the weight.
  • Bent over row – stand with feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, chest forward, pull the bar up to your navel and repeat.

Here are some examples I have been doing with the plates:

  • Tricep extension – stand with feet shoulder width apart, hold the weighted plate overhead with fully extended arms and bend the elbows lowering the plate behind your head.
  • Deadbug with plate – lay on the floor with knees lifted and legs bent and arms straight holding the plate, lower one leg but to just above the floor and at the same time lower the weighted plate by lowering your arms overhead and repeat with alternative leg.
  • Thuster squat with rotation – stand with feet shoulder width apart, holding the weighted plate at chest height, lower into a squat position and as you stand up straight lift the weight above head height twisting to the left and repeat on alternative side.
  • Chop – stand with feet shoulder width apart, holding the weighted plate down to one side, rotate and lift the plate to opposite side above head height, repeat on opposite side.
  • Lateral lunge with push – holding the plate at your chest, lunge to one side and push the plate straight out, return to centre and repeat on the opposite side.
  • Crunch reach – lay on the floor with knees bent, hold the weighted plate on your chest and sit up in a crunch then extend your arms.

This piece of kit will be a staple in my workouts I am sure and as I continue to train, with benefits to my cycling in mind, I know I will get use of these weights and be able to easily incorporate them into exercises for my legs and core, two main areas to focus on for bike strength.

I was gifted the item but all opinions are my own.

 

 

How I picked a personal trainer

Do you use a personal trainer?  Interested in getting one?

When I first started trying to get fitter and healthier I would go to the gym but if I am honest I didn’t really know what I was doing.  I tended to opt for classes because it took the thinking out of it for me and I followed the instructions.  Whilst there is nothing wrong with this I wanted to be in a position where I could go to the gym and do a workout on my own.

Now I was the girl who didn’t want to go to the weights section as that was generally filled with men, which wouldn’t ordinarily bother me at all but they did all appear to know what they were doing and quite frankly I didn’t.

I am lucky that my best friend, Emma, is a personal trainer.  I actually met Emma at the gym as she taught the spin classes I would attend.  I was picky with my spin classes and I wanted one that had variation and good music and Emma’s class had that.  Soon after we started training together.  Soon after that I got her into OCR and running – she is always up for another crazy challenge!

What was important for me was having someone who understood my goals and what I was trying to achieve.  I knew some other people in the gym who were being trained by Emma and they all spoke highly of her.  I knew the qualifications she had and she took the time to find out what I struggled with, what my strengths were and talk over any and all injuries.  She is also very funny and I have said before I need to have fun with all my training so this made a huge difference and the sessions were always full of giggles, something not to downplay as you are there for training but there does, for me, need to be a connection in terms of personality.

Emma takes her job seriously and has a huge passion for what she does and a genuine care for those she trains.  I can’t recommend Emma enough and would struggle to find someone who would not only train me but also work out with me and laugh at me at the same time.

They say reputation precedes you and it is true as I now know a number of friends that train with Emma and here is what they say:

Lucy: I started having sessions with Emma last July. I’d seen how well Lisa had done at the Outlaw half relay triathlon- she put her improvement on the bike down to adding strength training into her programme. I had let my strength training slip, so seeing Lisa’s improvement gave me the incentive I needed to start working with a personal trainer again. 

I really enjoyed working with Emma right from my first session. She tailors the workout to the individual’s goals and each session is completely different. I like the variety of different exercises that Emma comes up with and the different equipment she incorporates (including the home made Wheel of Doom)! She makes the workouts challenging but fun, we have a laugh during our sessions and the hour flies by. 

I’ve really noticed an improvement in my strength, fitness and endurance after a year of PT sessions, which has translated into better results in my triathlon races.

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Nikki: I have been training with Emma for over a year now!  Had a go in 2015 but only did one session before life got in the way etc.  Love Emma’s way of making the most painful exercise fun!!!  She’s crazy and funny and keeps your mind off of the hurty bits and engaged in conversation or crazy random bits of equipment! The smelly horseshoe weighted sack is my fav to be honest lol!! 

The time passes so fast and to top it all my body is looking bloody amazing!!! Couldn’t have found this shape or strength without her for sure!

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Brett: Once I started training with Emma she explained the importance of strength training for me to complete my Ironman event and by far this was the biggest contributor to my result.

Having trained with Emma for over two years I don’t think I’ve ever had the same session and she caters for different disciplines, and although it is in the gym it is always fun, structured, tough going and extremely beneficial.

Over the time I’ve known Emma she has become my friend first and trainer second and is the PT to have. When we train together she is not my friend, she is Satan.

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Dave: Emma is a fantastic personal trainer who not only pushes you hard but makes every training session enjoyable. She will help you in any way she can and has a heart of gold!

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So in short like any relationship it is a two way thing and you need to work with someone who understands you and you can trust – good luck finding your Emma!

Cycling kit list when going abroad

Following on from my post yesterday about cycling abroad, some of the questions I received were around what sort of kit you should take when travelling to cycle abroad.

It is a good question and again I know I harp on about personal experience but it really can be invaluable and so I have put together a checklist that may be of help to people but would caveat that I am a road cyclist and so depending on the type of cycling you are doing ie if off road then this would need to be adapted accordingly:

  1. Bike – if you are taking your own then yes this is pretty key.  If not then research local bike hire companies and arrange in advance – I have been to training camp in Lanzarote a couple of times now when it is busy and people assume there will be bikes available but they are all booked up.
  2. Bike shoes – I ride with cleats and if you do too then shoes are essential.  Again if you are hiring a bike I would always take my own pedals and shoes.  If you wear trainers then pack those!
  3. Saddle – if you are taking your own bike then this is a given and should be packed with your bike when transporting but if you are hiring this is another thing you can take and put on a hire bike.  Saddles are personal and for comfort, especially if you are doing long rides, taking your own can make a huge difference.
  4. Saddle bag – in my saddle bag I would always carry two spare inner tubes, two gas canisters, gas canister attachment, tyre leavers, multi-tool, disposable gloves and spare sachet of chamois cream.  That sounds like a lot but it isn’t and packs down in a relatively compact saddle bag that I have from Lezyne.
  5. Kit – plan your kit for your days riding.  I don’t like to wear bib shorts more than once so take as many sets as days I am cycling – alternatively take travel wash and re-use.  In addition to bib shorts, jerseys, gloves and socks, I also pack a gillet, arm warmers, base layer, rain jacket and potentially a buff (these things are so versatile).  I have learned that a sunny climate doesn’t always mean it will be dry or warm especially if climbing and being cold at the start can be hard to then warm up and make a long uncomfortable ride so plan accordingly and the additional kit I mention is easy to pack away in a jersey pocket if not needed.
  6. Helmet – I never ride without one.  If I was hiring a bike I would also opt to take my own helmet.
  7. Chamois cream – not something used by everyone but I do use this and wouldn’t go on a cycling trip without it!
  8. P20 – I am super pale and burn so easily so my sun cream is often the centre of jokes as I tend to go for a factor that you would put on a baby.  Being out on the bike on long rides in the sun you do of course get sweaty and so I tend to use P20 so I apply before I leave and I am sorted for the day.  I don’t really want to be carrying more than what I need including sun cream lotion!
  9. Watter bottles – again judge the climate you are in and the distance you are riding and take what you need.  I tend to take two bottles with me so I know I will hydrate properly and can refill on route if necessary.
  10. Sunglasses – I need these when cycling for sure especially in the sun.
  11. Nutrition – I always take mine and whilst I am sure you can buy on arrival I like to use the nutrition I train with at home.  The one slight difference may be certain bars that might melt in the sun compared to in the UK but otherwise I stick to what I know.  I also put my gels in the bottles in the bike box so if there is an explosion it is contained in the bottle and doesn’t go over the bike or any clothing.  I always use electrolytes but if I was doing a short ride at home I may just use water though when abroad in the heat I always use electrolytes – just because a ride is shorter doesn’t mean it won’t be super hot or a much higher elevation so important to replace the salts.
  12. Wahoo Bolt – or whatever bike computer you use, with the mount and any chargers.
  13. ID bracelet – I have a band from One Life ID, which I use at home but also make sure I take with me when travelling too – can never be too careful!  This has all my in case of emergency details on it.
  14. Track pump – this is another thing we pack in our bike box.  If you are going somewhere like a training camp they will have these there but we tend to pack ours as a matter of course.
  15. Chargers – I have Di2 electric gearing on my bike and my husband as SRAM Red so whilst we charge everything before a trip we often pack the chargers just in case.
  16. Tools – this is personal but my husband always packs certain tools not just for rebuilding and packing the bikes but as a just in case of mechanicals etc.  Now this is weight dependent as it can get heavy quickly and once again if on a training camp there should be facilities for this to be used if needed (though not intentionally there for bike builds necessarily) but we pack as a back up.
  17. Phone case – I ride with a phone wallet at home but make sure I have this in my kit list too so I have my phone with me whilst cycling and it is protected from the rain etc in my jersey pocket.

I have only included cycling kit in the above list and left off anything obvious like passports etc and anything you may pack for days off the bike.

I hope that helps!  Happy cycling!

 

 

Cycling abroad

Have you ever cycled abroad?  Interested to do so?  Not sure where to start?  I have seen many posts recently about cycling holidays and training camps and ended up in a discussion with some on Instagram about a recent trip I had to Sweden and got on to the subject of other countries I had been to, which prompted this post.

My husband does triathlon and this often means travel abroad with bikes.  There is a lot involved with a trip for something like this so with registration, race briefing, practice swim, shake out run I often take my bike and use the time to cycle.  So I thought I would do a round up of where I have been.

  • Dubai – very busy main roads in the city centre itself near the Jumeirah beach area (with some places actually illegal to cycle) we got a cab about 30 minutes out to visit the Al Qudra Cycle Track.  I didn’t actually take my bike on this trip but at the start of the track there is a Trek hire bike shop so a quick stop and we were on our way though advance booking of 72 hours is recommended.  The track is 86km in total though you can do just part of it and don’t have to ride the whole thing – there are options of a 50km loop from the Trek store, you can add a 20-30km extension or do a 16km out and back.  We were there in January and it was hot, as expected, but there are sporadic shelter stops – not cafes but areas that you can stop should you need to.  Some of the track is like a false flat but otherwise it is flat. The scenery is pretty much just desert but the dedicated track is such an awesome thing to have and is popular with many cyclists and you may even see some camels as you ride, which is not uncommon!

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  • Austria – we drove (I won’t be doing that again – was very long!) as this was for my husbands IronMan in Klagenfurt near Lake Worthersee that is pretty much not that close to any one airport.  Although people think this is flat (I have heard many comments on this) bear in mind there are a lot of ski resorts which means hills and sometimes mountains.  It is absolutely stunning though, jaw droppingly beautiful and somewhere I would return in an instant.

France – we got the ferry which meant no dismantling and rebuilding of bikes which was a welcome change.  I cycled in Chantilly and it was relatively flat with some undulating sections.  Gorgeous scenery and so many chateaus that we passed.  A number of streets with cobbled sections, especially in the middle of the road which mean care had to be taken on corners.  I am sure most people head to France for the hills, which I cannot comment on as I have no personal experience but cycling in this area was beautiful.

Sweden –  possibly my favourite so far.  I have done the Vatternrundan, that leaves from Motala, twice now and this year also the Tjejvattern and Halvvattern, which you can read about here.  I also took part in the Ironman Jonkoping 70.3 this year.  Sweden has a huge cycling culture.  Another interesting fact about Sweden is that approximately two thirds of Sweden’s land area is covered by forest and there are so many lakes too so wherever you cycle you are likely to be greeted by gorgeous countryside views and landscapes.  My experience here is mostly flat, some undulating parts and one mountain but that is just my experience.

Lanzarote – my experience here has been training camp at Club La Santa with Havering Tri, which you can read a bit more about here.  It is hilly! And windy – wind like I have never experienced before.  Always tough riding but feel so much stronger when I return home (though tired too).

If you are looking at a cycling holiday I would advise the following:

  • What sort of riding are you intending to do; road, mountain biking, touring/bike packing and then plan accordingly as different locations may be better for one or the other.
  • Do you need to hire a bike?  If so research local rental shops and book in advance knowing if you need/want to take your own items for example if I was hiring a bike I would take my own pedals and helmet.
  • Are you going for an event – this is often easier as the location/date/time/distance etc is set for you.
  • What sort of training are you looking to do; routes that are flat or hilly and pick a location accordingly ie I wouldn’t advise Lanzarote if you are looking for flat routes.  You may also wish to change your bike set up if going to a climbing destination for a cassette with an easier gear ratio more suitable for hill work.
  • It sounds silly to train for a training camp or cycling holiday but in my opinion, given my experience, if I were to go somewhere hilly I would train on hills in advance to ensure I got the most out of the trip and the routes available.  Also a cycling holiday or training camp more often than not involves long days and back to back days in the saddle that you may not be used to so the more training in advance the more pleasurable your experience will be.
  • Research what routes are recommended.  Some rental shops will help with this and there are often routes online or once again from others who recommend or have personally tried them – we have shared our routes in Lanzarote before.  This is especially important if you are cycling self guided and not with a group.  Once you know your routes you can plan your trip accordingly for example you wouldn’t start your cycling trip with the hardest route on the first day.
  • Get advice from people who have been to the destination beforehand as personal experience and recommendations are invaluable.
  • Insurance is important and you will need to make sure you are covered if you have an accident as cycling abroad can be classified by some providers as an extreme sport and cover needs to be adequate for your needs.
  • Kit is key depending on destination.  You don’t want to pack for every occasion but weather can change so being prepared with the essentials will help.  Even when I have been to sunny destinations for cycling I have taken a gillet and arm warmers for example in case it is windy or there is a shower – you’d be surprised how cold you can get after some rain and it can affect the remainder of your ride.
  • Nutrition is good to plan – what will you take and what will you buy on arrival.  Is there anywhere to buy nutrition?  If a hot country you wouldn’t necessarily pack something that could melt when having a long day in the saddle.  But do plan especially if you are having long days in the saddle or climbing a hydration and fuelling will be key.

If you travel with your bike like me then investing in a good bike box is key and I love my Bike Box Alan, which although not cheap are worth every penny and if you travel regularly it is worth the cost as it pays for itself after a few trips rather than paying for hiring all the time.  I wrote a blog post on travelling with a bike you can read here.

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I welcome any recommendations of places I should add to my list too – nothing better than a personal recommendation to go by!

Where to Ride For Cake in Essex

Why do you ride?  Earlier in the year as part of the British Cycling campaign One In A Million, a campaign trying to get one million more women on bikes by 2020, I shared a number of stories from inspiring ladies I knew who cycled.  Whilst doing this I got to understand the main reasons why some of them cycled.  The three main reasons that kept coming up were the sense of freedom, personal challenge and the social aspect and I think it is safe to say this is not just limited to women either!

When looking at the social aspect I could relate to this personally.  I like to ride with others, I enjoy being part of a club and I, like many others, am more than happy to ride for cake!

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I am based in Hornchurch in Essex and so my rides are all to destinations I can get to from close to home and I thought I would share some of my favourites:

  • Blue Egg – Great Bardfield – this is super popular with cyclists in the area and the place itself is made up of several different companies but the cafe is Knead Food.  The route I have for this ride is around a 90 mile round trip and a stop here could be breakfast, lunch, snack or cake.  The full English is fab and I can recommend the carrot cake  and the quiche too.  Sadly closed on bank holidays.

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  • Andrewsfield Airfield – Great Dunmow – not too far from the Blue Egg (is actually about 2 miles on the route I take).  They do a nice breakfast and also lunches and main meals.  Take cash though as they do not accept card payments.
  • Bakehouse – Chelmsford – this is a regular stop for many cyclists in the area.  There is also one in Maldon though I have not yet been there.  Again this is a popular stop for cyclists especially in summer months.  Both indoor seating and a pretty courtyard to seat in too with lots of bike racking available.  I can recommend all the food – been her for breakfasts, lunches, cakes and more!
  • Blackmore Tea Rooms – Blackmore – this is another regular stop and another popular choice with many a local cycle club.  It is not that far from the Bakehouse.   Really lovely scones, cream and jam.

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  • Tiptree Tea Rooms – Tiptree – famous for their jams and really tasty homemade cakes.  They also sell mini bottles of tiptree gin (not for when riding obviously but small enough to fit in a cycle jersey!).
  • Paper Mill Lock – Little Baddow – the tea rooms are on the canal and popular in the summer with lots of outdoor seating.  And after you have eaten you then have the delight of North Hill to cycle up!

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  • The Snug – High Easter – really tasty freshly baked cakes and super friendly staff.
  • The Booking Hall – Rayne – great red velvet cake!  Such a quirky little place that used to be an old train station.  Lots of bike racks here too as it is another popular choice with cyclists.
  • Hanningfield Cafe on the Water – Hanningfield – it is as the name suggests with the cafe overlooking the reservoir.  Lots of bike parking and large area on the decking to sit and eat.
  • Hall & Co – Ramsden Heath – the first time I visited here I cycled round the back to the garden area and it was full of pink, black and grey as the Rapha club had cycled out to here.  Food is always great and staff are brilliant.  Freshly made cakes and yes in the picture that is a cadbury cream egg, wrapped in chocolate cake and dipped in chocolate – need I say more?

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  • Butts Green Garden Centre – Chelmsford – found this little gem when on an organised Specialized ride and honestly I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of stopping at a garden centre and yet they have the best cafes, just like this one!
  • Nerissa & Claires – Ongar – great hot chocolate!
  • Norton Heath Cafe – Norton Heath – delicious all day breakfast though limited where to leave bikes.
  • Peterboat – Leigh on Sea – note a cafe but a pub that has become a firm favourite especially after the London to Southend bike ride.  Loads of seating outside with plenty of space to leave bikes and a huge menu.
  • Liana’s Tea Shop – Hornchurch – this is a little gem I discovered only recently, recommended by some friends.  It is not far from where I live so tends to be a stop at the end of a ride and something nice to look forward to.  All the cakes are home made and the flavours differ from one week to the next.  I am a sucker for nice china and a teapot and this place did not disappoint.  Very welcoming and as it is in the courtyard on Langtons there is ample space to leave bikes too, with seating both outside and indoors.

Happy cycling and if you know of anywhere else I should visit on my cycles please let me know.

How I am dealing with a knee injury

Are you a good patient?  I am not normally ill and (touch wood) don’t generally suffer from injuries but since an injury a couple of years ago in my left knee, every time I feel a niggle I panic.

I was taking part in the Birmingham Velo 100 mile bike ride in 2017 and very shortly into the ride, with a lot of pain, I was on the floor and out of the event.  You can read more about that here.  But the long and short of it was I had displaced my kneecap, torn my medial collateral ligament and had crepitus – not the most fun news to hear after my scans but could have been worse.

This year for me has all been about the bike and heading toward the middle of the year the niggles got worse to the point that on a ride about a month or so ago I had to get off and after having a little moment carried on but a lot steadier.

So whats the deal?  Well I am seeing an amazing sports therapist and he thinks I have bursitis and chrondomalacia.  Bursitis is  a painful condition that affects the joints – bursae are fluid-filled sacs that act as a cushion between bones, tendons, joints, and muscles – when these sacs become inflamed it is called bursitis.  Chrondomalacia patellae, also known as “runner’s knee,” is a condition where the cartilage on the under surface of the patella (kneecap) deteriorates and softens.  I am yet to have a scan on it but will do if only to confirm what he thinks and find out how bad and if there is anything else I should know.

I have been having regular ultrasounds on the knee, acupuncture and getting it strapped and it is helping but it is still not right.

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When swimming I do breast stroke and the nature of the movement would not be good for my knee so I am avoiding that and I had intended to start a run/walk programme but was advised against that.

So I’ve rested and been icing it every day too.

My training was quite full on so to go from training 6 days out of 7 to nothing was frustrating.  I started on the bike when I had the go ahead to do so with an easy flat ride whilst taped up and again that did not feel right so I went back to resting again.

I didn’t like it and was super grumpy about it.

But there was work I could do and so I  added to my home gym a new gym ball and a step.  I started with exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee and my glutes, which control the movement of the knee.  These include:

  • Clamshell exercise: lay on your uninjured side with your hips and knees bent and feet together. Slowly raise your top leg toward the ceiling while keeping your heels touching each other. Hold for 2 seconds and lower slowly.
  • Straight leg raise: lay on your back, bend one knee and place your foot flat on the floor. With the other leg remaining straight, raise it to the height of the opposite knee.
  • Side leg raise: lay on your side. Bend your bottom leg for support, straighten the top leg and raise it to 45 degrees. Hold for 5 seconds, lower and relax.
  • Step ups: place one foot on a step bench, keeping your pelvis level, bend your knee and slowly lower the opposite foot to the floor. Lightly touch your toe to the floor, then rise back up.
  • Glute bridge: lay on your back with your feet on the floor and the knees forming a 90 degree angle. Now press yourself up into the bridge position by contracting your glute hard. There should be a straight line from your upper body to your knees.
  • Banded walks: loop a resistance band around the bottom of your feet, squat down slightly and walk sideways.
  • Bear squat: start in downward facing dog keeping your heels on the floor, sit back on your heels keeping your hands on the ground.  Move back into the starting position by completely extending your legs and putting your heels back on the floor.
  • Squat hip rotations: stand with feet slightly wider than hip width, squat down with feet flat on the ground and bum not quite touching the floor.  Rotate one leg outward, going up on the outer ridge of that foot.  Pause for a moment and go back to the starting position.  Rotate the same leg inwards until the knee touches the ground next to the other foot.  Pause, go back to neutral and repeat with the other leg.

In addition to the above regular stretching and yoga.  I will also look at some easy leg spinner sessions on the turbo trainer and have been on some steady rides outside.

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I fully planned on being on the start line of the RideLondon 46 miler the weekend before last, even though I needed to be sensible and adapted my ride to take it easier.  (I have done the 100 mile several times so it was nice after my main events to do the shorter route for the first time).  It didn’t go totally to plan as I reapplied my tape on my knee myself the day before and clearly I am useless at it as it peeled off about 4 miles in!  I also stood up as I went over a speed bump and the impact on my knee was rather painful.  However, I finished the ride and all good.

I am now doing HIIT and strength training, which may sound crazy but again I am being sensible and I am doing all the modifications necessary and aside from being tough its all good.

Injuries take time and aside from the exercises to get stronger I also need to find some patience from somewhere!

And what is that smell you ask?  Jointace!  I constantly smell of jointace now ha ha