Craft Sportswear

Craft is a brand that I am familiar with, however, more from the European events I have attended and not so much in the UK.  This is a shame as the kit I have had has been great and affordable!  Anyone who is into any form of exercise will know that kit and equipment come at a price and even buying the essentials can quickly add up.

I recently reviewed the new Craft Fuseknit Jersey, that you can read here, which came just at the right time as the weather started cooling and I am certain will be one of my most used items through the winter months.

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I am signed up for a number of events in 2019 and so I am aiming to ensure my training continues through the winter and good kit will be a massive benefit.

When my husband and some friends completed Ironman Dubai 70.3 instead of a finishing tshirt they were given a gillet (slightly odd for a country with such high temperatures but great for them) and it is an item that is handy especially over the winter when trying to get layering right.

Given the opportunity to try out the Craft Urban Run Body Warmer it was an easy yes.  The body warmer is pretty much the same as a gillet, and I didn’t even have to complete a half ironman to get one ha ha.

So the body warmer is again another Craft item that at first glance looked great though it was the same size as the jersey but more snug around the chest area when trying on for the first time so I was unsure how I would get on with it (and yes, I am quite large chested).  As the large is the biggest size in this item for women I tried again and decided to give it a go and see how I got on.  It fit and I could zip it up but not being the best runner I was slightly concerned that being tighter across the chest would not help with the breathing aspect of running and well breathing is pretty crucial in life!

Off I set with the dog for my first run in it and like the jersey I decided I may as well test it in weather that it claims to have benefits in.  The label stated it was quick dry, water repellent and wind protective.  I was setting out in the cold with rain coming down and bitter cold winds – lets see how good this item really is.

It was great!

I came back with a drowned rat of a dog from the weather and sopping wet hair but with the jersey and body warmer I wasn’t cold at all.  Don’t get me wrong I had been for a run so will always work up a sweat but it was that sort of weather where I procrastinated going in the first place then figured right Craft kit lets see what you’re made of (don’t worry I wasn’t actually debating with the items of clothing).

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The gillet had beads of rain all over it that literally just wiped off and was dry to the touch straight away.  The jersey was pretty much the same.  The body warmer fit really nice, was super comfortable and actually very flattering.

I have since run in it twice and walked the dog in it too.  When I layer up I always worry I will actually end up too hot but this is really lightweight and was just right.

The body warmer is £65, which is a lot cheaper than most leading brands when I was looking for running gillets and you can check it out here.

I was gifted the jersey and gillet, but all opinions are my own.

Winter Bike Training On & Off the Bike!

With my 2019 being largely focused around events on two wheels I am keen to make sure my winter training contributes to giving me a good base for the beginning of the season and that is not just about training on the bike.

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Pre injury this year I had worked hard on the bike and the results showed in some of my events.  To compare to the previous year I could easily see the changes I had made that I felt contributed to this.  They were as follows:

  • I introduced more structure to my cycling.  My husband is a qualified cycle coach and so he set me sessions to complete that made sure I was getting in a range of riding including recovery, tempo/at pace, intervals and working on my cadence.  Cadence is the number of revolutions per minute and at first I found the cycling to cadence really tough – I generally push a big gear and I know this is not efficient but working to different cadence sometimes felt like I was spinning like crazy.  It became a bit of a joke in our cycling club as you would randomly hear my husband shout ‘Lisa, cadence!’.  The main point is that I was not cycling simply for cycling and what some would call ‘junk miles’.
  • I gave strength and conditioning training a priority.  My best friend is a qualified PT and she set me sessions and trained with me knowing the goals I had in mind including a lot of core work.  Before I took part in my first triathlon relay a fellow tri club member predicted I would get sub 3 hours for the 56 miles, which I thought was out of reach and he said to trust the strength training I have done.  I finished chuffed to bits in 2:56!
  • I made sure I stretched!  I am useless when it comes to stretching before and after exercising and really have to build this in to my training to make sure it is not missed.  Post injury I needed some massage therapy and was recommended someone who is amazing though a sports massage is not the luxurious treat you may think – it hurts but it so worth it afterwards and just highlighted to me the need to stretch the muscles properly.

From the above I have learned what to make sure I focus on over the coming months including the following:

  • Core workouts – a strong core is essential when cycling.  A weak core can lead to poor performance (a lot of movement side to side/rocking) and even injury as a consequence.  Gripping the handlebars (something I am guilty of) is a sign of a weak core also and can contribute to back pain and also neck pain.  When cycling your power should come from your legs and this can be lost if you are moving too much from side to side.  There are many movements to help strengthen your core, you don’t need a gym and it doesn’t take too long either. Why is this important?  The core is what is keeping the body stable whilst cycling and is put under a lot of pressure when in the saddle.  When I first started cycling I would suffer from back pain and this can often be a result of a weak core so I knew I had work to do.  Some exercises that would help your core could include mountain climbers, Russian twists, leg raises, plank, abdominal crunches, scissor kicks, boat pose and bridges.
  • Strength training – my workouts tends to include both core and strength exercises and focus on specific muscle groups.  For cyclists a focus on the muscle groups used when on the bike is beneficial.  Some exercises that would help could include squats, reverse lunges, deadlifts, push ups, shoulder press, renegade rows, kettlebell swings and burpees (I know no one loves a burpee sorry).
  • Yoga/Pilates – cycling can lead to tightness in certain areas of the body especially the lower back, neck, hips and pelvis.  A strong core will help reduce this especially if your spine is lengthened and low abdomen engaged, both of which will support your core.  Some poses that would help with this and in turn maximise your potential on the bike could include cat/cow pose, downward facing dog, bridge, camel, chair pose into forward bend, sacrum stretch, hamstring stretch, quad/hip flexor stretch, child pose, reclining bound angle pose and not forgetting legs up the wall.

I will be trying to get out as much as possible as I much prefer getting outside whenever possible though sometimes excessive rain, ice, snow and similar weather conditions can make cycling dangerous so will also need to incorporate some targeted training on the turbo (a necessary evil).

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As they say winter miles equal summer smiles so here we go!

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Gilbert Netball

This post is actually more of a guest post from my sister, who lives and breathes netball, along with my niece.  Every week sees training sessions and games for them as well as umpiring and coaching.  It is full on and way more competitive (when she is involved) than you might think.  If you watch a good game of netball it can almost be like the rules are being broken – you can’t move with the ball but it is so fast paced that it looks as if that is being done continuously (though it isn’t).

The basic rules of netball are:

  • a netball team consists of seven players, each of whom have their own position and can only move in certain areas of the court
  • the goal shooter and the goal attack are the only two positions that are able to score and this can only be done from inside the goal semi-circle
  • a netball match consists of four quarters that are 15 minutes each
  • netball players are not allowed to run when they are in possession of the ball (if they do this is called footwork).

My sister plays for Essex Open Netball Club, as does my niece.  My sister also coaches some of the teams and the club is known to have tough teams to beat.

When Gilbert Netball offered some tickets to a match I knew she would be much better placed than I to attend.  She also had the opportunity to test and review some of their new kit.

Gilbert Netball dates back 160 years in sport initially in rugby and then moving into netball.  You may recognise the name from the kit and balls seen used by the England team who won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year.  This is not just a sport played in school and I was interested to read that adult participation was up 16.4% according to Sport England.

The game was last Friday and it was England v Uganda at the Copper Box in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.  The evening started with the opportunity hear some of the players be interviewed discussing the sport they love.  The ladies won the match England 65 – Uganda 53 and they ended up winning the series also.

My sister even managed to meet some of the players and added some posts on her Essex Open netball social media channels.  Interestingly enough one of the players, Olivia Tchine, plays for the same team as my sister and is one of the players on the England Futures Programme, the purpose of which is ‘To maximise players’ preparation & conditioning, developing them towards the Roses camp based programme, through exposure to high level training & international match play experience at identified opportunities.’

Olivia is not the only girl from Essex Open to move further into competitive sport for England with another former player, Christine Ohuruogu, going on to compete in the London Youth Games for both netball and athletics and then as part of Team GB in track and field and earning Olympic, World and Commonwealth champion status.

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It didn’t take long for an opportunity to present itself to test the kit out with training on Sunday and a very good review of the kit.  Extremely comfortable, breathable and very importantly leggings that are both squat proof and do not fall down – all the ladies out there will know how important this is when choosing sports kit!  If you want to check it out yourself you can do so here.

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The game tickets and kit were gifted, but all opinions are our own.

Be Fearlessly Unapologetically You!

I recently found out that I had made the shortlist for nominations for the Sport & Fitness category of the UK Blog Awards, (*insert shameless plug for votes*) where you can vote for me here.  It spurred me on to think about the blog – why I started it and where I am now.

So I started the blog after embarking on a fitness and weight loss journey.  In a bid to hide the fact that I was overweight and terribly unfit I would attempt to use humour to hide the fact that most of the time I was terrified of whatever it was I was doing and also hence the name of the blog.  Some friends said I should write a blog and that is basically how it all began.

It is a personal blog and I am clear that I am not qualified in any way in fitness or nutrition but what I share is based on my experience and if I do give advice it is following what I have received from those who are qualified so I can make sure I am not sharing anything that is not misleading or with no understanding.

I would update a blog post every Monday and include a weigh in picture of a little board I have to show progress.  Then I hit a plateau and this changed – no more weigh in board pics.  This is not a negative as it actually taught me a valuable lesson as it meant I was putting less pressure on myself.

My blog is not necessarily the norm.  It is not about the facts and detailing the specifics of a piece of tech.  I like to add a bit of my personality to it and there is humour and sometimes some swearing.  It is not intended to be offensive but it is me.  I am trying to keep it authentic otherwise what is the point?  I am who I am.  I will not try and be someone or something else through this blog.  This blog is not intended to gain approval.

I intend to be my own kind of strong, my own kind of fabulous and my own kind of beautiful.  I am not in competition with anyone else.  I will run my own race (or more than likely jog a bit and walk a bit).  I fully intend to continue to embrace the glorious mess that I am.

There is a saying from JK Rowling asking is fat really the worst thing you can be?  And many more about how the number on a scale does not define you.  By focusing on weight was I sending the complete wrong message to anyone reading my posts?  More than that I realised that the journey I was on getting fitter was about my health and that was my goal – to be healthy and happy.

And so with that you will see the change in wording of my blog strap line.  It no longer says ‘An ordinary girl on a mission to get fit and lose weight’.  Morale of the story – be fearlessly unapologetically you!

Whats on your Christmas List?

This year has flown by and not before long Christmas will be here.  We are already seeing everything in the shops, people have put up their trees and decorations (not me I hasten to add) and people want to know what it is you want for Christmas.

I am that person who doesn’t know.  Literally no idea what I want.  I am not one for ‘stuff’ and would much rather go somewhere or do something than receive a gift just because that is the norm.

However, there are many items I have that I am sure could benefit others if they are on the same fitness journey as I and so I thought I would share some ideas around that.  I am also trying to keep it affordable – fitness can be expensive!  I remember my husband telling me getting a bike would save us so much money – he would commute, use the car less blah blah blah.  Then I started cycling….even the essentials cost a pretty penny when you add it all up.  So I am trying to keep it affordable and with Black Friday tomorrow there is additional money off too – you’re welcome!

Cycling/Running:

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Socks – usually £8 but £4.80 in the Black Friday sale – it’s obligatory to get socks at Christmas right?  A great collection from Primal for cycling with the unicorns being my favourite (obviously).

 

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Safety bracelet – £15 – this was one of my favourite presents last year from a cycling friend of mine from One Life ID.  It is a rubber band with emergency details on and I use when running and cycling.

 

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Buff – from £3 – another item great for both running and cycling or even if just out and about in winter months.  Decathlon have a good range of colours.

 

Yoga:

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Mat – usually £17 but down to £12.75 in the Black Friday sale – my yoga mat is from Yoga Matters and is the sticky mat and recommended to me when I started with hot yoga.  As the name suggests it doesn’t slip, which is great for use at home on wooden floors.

 

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Yoga mat strap – usually £4.50 but down to £3.38 in the Black Friday sale – ease of transporting if I take to a class.  It literally just loops round each end and acts as a strap you can put over your shoulder.

 

 

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Yoga mat towel – usually £26 but down to £18 in the Black Friday sale – that sits on top of the mat, again super grippy and really good for hot yoga as it means I can easily wash the towel after use.

 

 

Home workouts:

kettlebellssetKettlebells – £30 – I will admit I have used many a kettlebell workout from different online sources and they’re great as small pieces of kit that can easily be put away (I don’t have the space for something like a treadmill).  I got a starter kit from Amazon to begin with.

 

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Resistance bands – usually £25.99 but down to £19.99 in the Black Friday sale – I learned from a friend who is an awesome personal trainer about the many uses of resistance bands and how I can use them outside of the gym to get in full workouts.  I got this set from Amazon.

 

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Skipping rope – £7 – I got one from Amazon so I can try and get better at skipping for when it appears on a WOD at CrossFit (pink of course).

 

Miscellaneous:

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Trucker cap – who doesn’t love a good cap?  For use casually or to run in.  Collections by loads of different suppliers but at the moment one of my firm favourites has to be from Stomp The Pedal – usually £25 but 50% off for Black Friday with code Style50.

 

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Bobble hat – £20 – I mean it is freezing and especially after training I seem to live in my bobble hats (plus it hides the sweaty hair).

 

 

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Reusable water bottle – usually £15 but down to £11.99 in the Black Friday sale – A firm favourite of mine are my Hydrate M8 bottles for both at home and work to make sure I am drinking enough water.  They have catchy little quotes and measurements down the sides so you know how much you should be drinking.

 

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Reusable coffee cup – from £10 – we all stop regularly for tea/coffee even if to and from work and a reusable cup is much better for the environment.  Keep Cup have a range of different designs and sizes and you can even create your own.

 

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Notepad – I write down all my workouts and use it as a reference to see what went well and bad.  I also put in future events so I can work my training schedule back to know what I need to do in the lead up.  You can get a notepad from pretty much anywhere though I am using one from Paperchase, usually £14 but down to £9.80 in the Black Friday sale – which is a week per view.

 

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Skincare – if you train outside a lot then your skin can really be exposed to all the elements.  I have been using the two step routine from CJ Skinhealth and love it.  Active Cleanse is £14 and Enhance & Protect is £28.

 

 

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Foam roller – £30 – a necessary evil that we should probably all do more often after exercise to stretch and loosen the muscles and don’t because lets face it, its not fun.  I have a Triggerpoint foam roller though there are many different sizes and designs available to purchase.

 

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Voucher for a sports massage – because if you are working out a sports massage is always a benefit.  You also can’t go wrong with Radox Muscle soak for the bath and from £1 and it fits in a stocking!

 

Happy Shopping!

 

Commando Series with my son

This year was the third year that I have taken part in Commando Series.  It has always been my season ender for OCR and I always feel like I end on a high as I genuinely love this event.  And this year I took part with my son so it made it extra special.  He has taken part in two obstacle runs before but it is not often so this was a lovely treat for me.  However, he was not happy with me as he had asked if he would get wet and muddy and I had said not really – this was a little white lie and he found that out pretty quickly and was not overly impressed though we did laugh about it.  I mean its a muddy obstacle run – I thought he was joking when he asked hence my answer.

Commando is set in the gorgeous Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, and gardens and its just stunning there and this run uses the grounds and streams and is something I love rather than an urban event.  I have done a previous write up you can read here.

This year there were some new obstacles and the route was slightly different so it was exciting to see the changes that had been implemented.  In previous years, following the warm up, we made our way to the start line and the run began.  This year instead we made our way to the end of the lake and all boarded a a landing craft that then took us across the end of the lake where the run began.  This was one of the new obstacles called ‘D-Day Landings,’ and is explained as follows:

‘a landing craft experience, based on ‘Operation Neptune’ from World War II – otherwise known as ‘D-Day’. Royal Marine Commandos were transferred ashore on similar vessels from much larger ships during the D-Day landings, whilst having to encounter many obstacles. Recruits will experience the combined thrill and terror of the ramp lowering under fire, having to take cover using hedgehogs, and finally neutralising the enemy. Keep your nerve as you step into the shoes of our WWII Commandos. ‘

Another one of the new obstacles required balance – I am always terrible at these sort of obstacles and as most people get over quickly I am usually teeny tiny steps whilst pleading with the person behind not to get on and wobble it – in this case my son.  I feel like I could be the first person to fall off!  It was called ‘The Mole’ and is explained as follows:

‘Testing Commandos’ speed, balance, team work and accuracy, recruits must balance on a ship’s gangway before launching onto the cargo net and climbing to the top of the mole. All done whilst carrying ‘grenades’, ‘The Mole’ is inspired by the daring 1918 Zeebrugge Raid, encouraging high level performance under pressure. Aiming to neutralise the enemy using ‘grenades’ upon their descent. Recruits must keep their nerve, show dexterity, and maintain a low profile.’

I was pleased to get to the slide – I remember this from the media event for this run and its surprising how much speed you can get on this.  I went first and could see my sons face as he zoomed down the wet tarpaulin, which was quite funny.  Not quite as funny as when he came out of the ‘leap of faith’ obstacle, which is a steep windy tube slide and he flew out of the end of it!

It wasn’t long before we had reached Peter’s Pool and I knew this was where we were about to get cold!  This is effectively a lake crossing and again I remembered from the media event a tree trunk about half way across to climb over.  The water was as cold as I thought it might be and it really takes your breathe away.  This probably wasn’t the best time to stop and get a photo together before we got out ha ha!

Sheep dip came around quicker than I thought and I knew that my son would be sitting this one out as he had recently had a tattoo and was trying not to fully submerge the top part of his arm in the muddy water along the course.  I was wearing my usual Mudd Queen kit, which is recognised by many who take part in these events and as he was wearing his Spartan top the marshal decided it would be fun for him to complete air squats as I did the obstacle and so I took my time (it was funny at the time I promise).

We finished with the 12 foot wall and as we crossed the finish line for the 1 lap course the first finisher for the 2 lap course finished – that was a tad embarrassing but kudos to him!

It was good to see more people at the event this year.  I feel like this event is not as known as the more mainstream OCR events but it really should be and those that have taken part would know why I say that.  I’ve noted in my previous post that you can decide the difficulty or your entry from just getting round (which was what we did) or to be treated as a commando so you see many doing additional exercises and carrying bergens and wooden rifles to mimic how a Commando would complete training like this.

It was nice to see the positive posts on social media that this event deserves and I hope to see it get bigger and bigger as years go on. Even nicer that as you finish you run past the castle itself and the poppies down the front of the building are gorgeous and with the event falling on remembrance weekend was a fitting tribute.

But don’t just take my word for it here is some feedback from a couple of others who took part in Commando Series at the weekend:

Claire Rosser from Team Elements

‘A great Sunday taking newbies around Commando Series – fab course and a good reminder of what OCR is all about – FUN!’

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Vince James founder of OCR Wrongens

‘Blown away at just how much year on year this event gets better and better.  Great work Commando Series this is a gem of a race.  The team loved it.’

If you want to get involved next year then tickets are available here!

My race entry was complimentary, but all opinions are my own.

CrossFit

What do you know of CrossFit?  To me it was this thing I watched on TV and was amazed at these people who appeared to be super human.  I had the pleasure of seeing it up close and personal earlier in the year when I was at training camp at Club La Santa Lanzarote with my triathlon club, Havering Tri, as there were some CrossFit Games athletes there training.  Yes, I was the person who asked for a photo and I was the person who walked past and ended up standing staring in amazement at what these people can do.

I was so intrigued with what was involved and when I found that there was a CrossFit box close to home I knew I wanted to give it a try and that is how I started with Iron Phoenix CrossFit.  That was over a month ago now and I’ve had several people ask me about it – what is it like, what do we do, that were exactly the same sort of questions that I had.

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What is CrossFit? CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.

I first of all took part in a free taster session so I could join in and see what it was all about and I dragged my husband along so I would at least know one other person.  I left a sweaty mess but loved it.  The worst bit was listening to my husband moan about his abs for the rest of the week.

To attend regular sessions you have to attend a fundamentals class.  The fundamentals is necessary to complete prior to attending sessions to teach you how to move safely and effectively.  Once this was complete I was good to go.

I had heard that CrossFit is like a community and the people in the box are all super friendly and they were right.  I attend the 6am sessions and so see the same faces and that actually makes me feel more comfortable.  The sessions are different every day and one of the ladies I’ve met, Jules, has been at this box for 18 months and said she’s never done the same WOD twice.

And I realise I’ve said WOD, which some people will read and be like yeah I know what you are saying or if you are like I was when I first started I would nod my head and wonder what all these weird acronyms were so here are some:

  • WOD – workout of the day.  I found a definition of this once which described it as tortuous, makes you want to cry, feel like a rock star after, workout – which is pretty damn accurate!
  • AMRAP – as many rounds/reps as possible.  You might be asked to record the reps so you can track progress.
  • EMOM – every minute on the minute.  You might be set a list of exercises and every minute on the minute you do them in a certain order.
  • Box – this is the name for the gym.  Why is it called a box?  A box is usually a box shaped space – no posters or mirrors that you would get in an everyday gym.  Think less bells and whistles but everything you need to get your workout done.
  • RX – this refers to a WOD as prescribed ie with no scaling done so using weights etc as listed.
  • HSPU – hand stand push up.  I don’t need to worry about this for now.

There are a ton more but to be honest I am only a month in and I am still learning this myself.

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What happens if you can’t do something?  I tend not to look in advance at the workouts as I am sure I would talk myself out of going but there would be no need as literally everything can be scaled.  For example handstand push ups you could do that or a scaled version where you kneel on a box and simulate the same movement doing the push up part on the floor or you can do a push up with hands on the box.  In short there is always an alternative to give you just as good a workout and still push you based on your ability.

Does other training help do CrossFit?  I run (terribly) and do obstacle runs (again not brilliantly) and cycle and so thought I am sure that will translate in some way for example on the assault bike.  The assault bike is not an ordinary bike, you use both your arms and legs on it – you need to pump the handle bars with your arms while also cycling with your legs to give more of a full body exercise.  It’s not the same as cycling or even being on a turbo trainer so I am not sure much of my cycling ability helps at all!

What if you are the slowest or get the least amount of reps?  At the end of some of the WODs you put your score on the board – this might be the number of reps you completed or the time you took to complete a set workout.  This terrified me to begin with – the thought of putting up what I assumed would be an embarrassing number compared to other peoples.  BUT I can honestly say no one cares!  Not once have I worried about putting a score on the board.  There is a variation of exercises being done for example in the WOD on Monday one activity had the following scaling options:

  • Muscle up or chest to bar or pull ups or ring rows or dips

So in short the number completed is completely personal to you and not comparable.  The idea is to put in max effort for you and that is all.

What should you expect from the sessions?  To be sweaty, tired but feel great after – much like the definition of the term WOD that I put earlier.  I am not worried any longer about working on a piece of equipment with sweat literally dripping off me.  I am not worried about finishing a WOD and just laying on the floor – I didn’t even care when I left a sweaty arse mark on the floor – I was too tired from the WOD itself to care and to be honest there were several of us laying on the floor spent! Towards the end of a WOD earlier in the week I fully thought my wall ball was on point but was tired and clearly not enough effort – ended up completely missing the target and the ball went across the box – yep I’m that girl!

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What are the coaches like?  I can only go by the coaches at Iron Phoenix but so far I have had Ashley, Alina, Ian, Omar, and Lucy and they’ve all been great.  Really patient even with all my stupid questions especially after the briefing of what we will be doing when they say everyone understand what they are doing and everyone nods and I laugh and say I don’t understand all of it but will follow someone else or ask again what something means.  Always on hand with loads of tips and advice.  Constantly watching that form is correct, monitoring progress and amending scaling as necessary – on Monday I was doing my box jumps standing on two 20kg plates rather than the floor (box jumps are something I need more confidence with as I am never sure I will actually jump high enough to land on the box and sure I will just whack my shin on the corners) and Omar noticed I was jumping high enough to remove one of the plates whilst putting my mind at rest that I am jumping high enough to do so – and I didn’t whack my shins either so bonus!

Do you need to stretch?  There is always a dynamic warm up session before any workout so you are completely ready and stretching after, in my opinion, is a must.  You are doing so many different exercises and utilising muscles you might not usually use that without stretching you will become sore and stiff pretty quickly!  I have started doing yoga at home following my sessions and it definitely helps me.

And who knew skipping was so bloody hard? It’s like when you try monkey bars as an adult and think yeah did that as a kid, going to nail it. Ha think again! Skipping is exhausting and double unders? Basically the skipping rope going round twice per jump – wowsers that’s going to take some work!

So why should you try it?  Well why not?  I find myself explaining it to people as so hard but so good and it is just that.

If you are local to me as well there is an awesome offer on at Iron Phoenix CrossFit that includes a free taster session, fundamentals and then 12 sessions after that for £60.