Go Bites – I am a fan!

I have written a previous post on fuelling for events and make no excuses for the fact that I am a total food snob and like to know exactly what I am eating especially when fuelling for events.  I won’t preach that one way is better than another as I think it is a completely personal thing and what works for one very easily could not work for someone else.  I have found, for me, this has been very trial and error.  In the post, that can be read here, I talk about Go Faster Food.

I first met with Kate and Sophie from Go Bites on a Skype call where they found out more about me and vice versa.  It was nice to talk to two inspiring ladies who were passionate about the product and keen to understand more of what my goals were and how I could use their product to help.

A little more about these ladies – Sophie is a personal trainer, registered nutritionist and has a masters in sport and exercise nutrition and is also an amazing sportswoman too.  Kate is the face of the brand and one of the founders.  Both of these ladies are extremely active and their passion is evident as they are working on a product and brand that they use themselves.

Earlier in the year I attending a training camp in Lanzarote and went armed with my go bites for fuel for cycling and running.  I also took spare and dished them out to many people within my triathlon club and they were well received!  I have also used these balls when participating in two half marathons with a friend who subsequently used them herself when she took part in another half marathon.

The book they have has also provided some staple recipes that now form part of my event routine such as the overnight oats, porridge and there is always a jar of granola in my kitchen now too.  If you check out their website you can find some free recipes that could interest you.

I was excited to learn that there would be three new flavours added to the range and of course didn’t pass up on the opportunity to try these and give some feedback.  The flavours available now are:

  • Date and coconut boost balls
  • Raspberry and cacao boost balls (NEW)
  • Apricot and seed refuel balls
  • Strawberry and cashew refuel balls (NEW)
  • Hazlenut and cacao recover balls
  • Blackcurrant and blueberry recover balls (NEW)

What are they like? I really like them.  They fit perfectly into a running belt, cycle jersey pocket or bike bag and also my handbag as a snack!  I have also been adding them cut up to my porridge of a morning.

So in short the new flavours get a thumbs up from me, with the raspberry and cacao balls being my favourite, and I look forward to using them more in the future as my training continues through the winter.

These go bites are all gluten, wheat, dairy free with no added sugar free and are also vegan. Using 100% natural ingredients is certainly something that appeals to me to ensure I am more conscious about what I am fuelling myself with.

If you would like to try the Go Bites you can use code TASTER20 for 20% off your first order over £9.99.

The product I received was complimentary, but all opinions are my own.

Tracking your fitness goals

Are you on a weight loss or fitness journey? Do you track your food and fitness progress?  I do.  I am a sucker for stationery anyway and I like taking note of what workouts I have done and what weights I used.  I also like to note when I have had a good workout and it gives me an easy reference to see what I ate or did if I had a good or bad workout so I can see if I can determine the cause.  I also use this method to add in certain events/goals and can work backwards to determine what training I should be doing in the lead up.  Don’t get me wrong I know this is not for everyone but for me I have found it super useful.

The NHS quotes that ‘digital technology is transforming the way you can manage and improve your health.  Apps and other digital tools are effective ways to share your goals, get advice and support, or talk to other people who can inspire you with their experiences.’

There are a number of fitness tracking mechanisms in the market now though all encourage an increase in fitness and physical activities for the users and some can assist with making your activities feel more like a game or fun activity with many offering challenges for example on Strava.  It also helps with personal accountability.  Although the Smart Fitness Planner is neither an app nor technology as such it works on the same basis.

smart fitness planner

I  recently agreed to trial and review The Smart Fitness Planner.  This sounded exactly like something I would get good use of and given the above I fit the demographic perfectly!  The format was an e-book and came with an intro explaining that the author was in competition with no one but herself and acknowledged the fact that she was not perfect.  She is someone who has been on a journey herself and is using what she has found useful to create this resource to share with others.

The e-book comes with a disclaimer explaining that it is intended as a planning tool to support you in your fitness makeover journey. It is not meant as a substitute for a comprehensive fitness and nutrition program, nor it is meant to replace the expertise and guidance of a fitness professional.

Before you start using the planner there is an invitation to some exercises which should encourage more mindfulness around what you are trying to achieve and by writing down intentions and your ‘why’ (why you are on this journey and doing what you are doing) you can remind yourself of this and refocus.

The planner follows the logic that is seen a lot, which is that the scale does not define you and so it is not centred around weekly weigh ins and instead gives space to update other metrics such as:

  • measurements once per fortnight
  • hunger and cravings
  • energy and mood
  • sleep

The planner can also be used for goal setting and works similar to the process I follow by setting goals in advance and then working backwards so you have a logical plan as to how you will work your way up to those achievements.

This is a great resource, if like me, you are into logging what you are doing and how you are feeling and being in electronic format means you can print off and reuse.  For a lot of people, myself included, having a visual can be a powerful reminder to understand and remember and also refocus if necessary.

How did I find the planner?  As I mentioned before this is something that I currently do on my own and I do see a benefit for myself though completely understand that some may find it a somewhat cumbersome exercise.  If I wasn’t already doing this I would be the exact person that would buy this and at £5.97 if this is something that interests you I would definitely check it out – I think I spent more on the diary I currently use.  I do, however, think that once you are doing this sort of thing you can easily do by yourself.  An additional benefit with this is inclusion in a Facebook group and sometimes being part of a community like that to exchange hints and tips can be invaluable.

I was given a copy of The Smart Fitness Planner, but all opinions are my own.

Beachy Head Marathon

Friends don’t let friends do stupid things alone do they?  So when a group of Mudd Queens mentioned signing up for Beachy Head marathon I suggested to my friend Emma we should do the same and so just like that we did.  It was months ago and seemed like we had an eternity to train and get prepared for it.  But my god did it come around quickly!

I am still being treated for an injury and so is Emma and I think both of us were thinking this would not happen and the closer it got the more we tried to ignore it.  We knew it was a tough course and we knew from others that there is a lot of the course most people walk, mostly because of the climbs and so we decided we would give it a go and see how we got on.  I was terrified if I am honest – this was ambitious.

img_5185

The game plan was to walk the uphills, jog the downhills and to jog/walk the flat sections.  I had seen the pictures of the start and new it was uphill almost immediately but until you get there and start that uphill you don’t realise it goes uphill and then round the corner uphill some more and then still there is more to come, just up and up.  So within the first mile I was really rethinking my life choices and wondering if this was the one stupid idea I’d had that was a step too far.

img_5186

It started really congested and took quite some time to spread out.  The run is all trails and takes on grass, mud, woodland, rocky paths, chalky paths and stairs – as if it was not hard enough there were a number of sets of stairs.  One set of stairs was called stairway to heaven – I would have called it stairway to hell only it was definitely going up and up and up.

The first check point came quicker than we realised and Emma and I found ourselves high-fiving for getting to 4.4 miles (yeah I know 4.4 into 26.2 was nothing but it felt like a small victory).  The second checkpoint at 8.8 miles and we stopped shortly after the 10 mile mark in a pub to use the toilets.  I was surprised that up until this point there had not been a single portaloo and I’m not too posh to pee in a bush if I need to but this was quite open so not many places to hide!

At the 10.6 mile mark Emma told me not to look up.  I looked up.  I wish I hadn’t.  It was of course another hill and the marshal at the foot of it said we were doing great and wished us good luck.  Emma and I looked at each other and I think it was then that we both realised this was hard and we had 16 miles left.  We went up that hill in silence after we had eaten some more mars bar from the check point and laughed at Emma’s now very large swollen hand (just the one hand always swells – and no that is no a mini mars bar that is just how big her hand had gotten).

img_5188

The next check point was 12.2 and we knew we were almost at the halfway point.  That should have made me feel better but it didn’t as I was thinking wow I have to do all that again.  What I didn’t realise was that the second half was harder.

Checkpoint 16.7 came and as we approached we could hear music and this was definitely the fun check point – a live band, sausage rolls, soup and porta loos – never have I been so pleased to see a porta loo!  This was also the stop we saw two ladies who were supposed to be doing the 10k but started with the marathon wave and just followed.  I am not quite sure how they didn’t hear the announcements at the start or how they missed the sign where it splits or how you get to 16.7 miles and only then realise you are on the wrong route.  Fair play to those ladies who carried on and I really hope finished!

img_5191

Emma and I had decided that we would hit a high and get our second wind once we hit the 20 mile mark.  The 20 mile mark was part way up yet another giant hill but it was still 20 miles in and still cause for a celebration in between catching breaths.  Another check point and hot cross buns and tea and coffee on offer too!  We were on the final stretch but my god did they make us work to get to that finish line.  The last 6 miles seemed to go on forever.  These were where we met the seven sisters or how I now call them the seven bitches.

The views were spectacular especially along the coastal part.  It stayed dry and although it was bright the cold wind was savage.

The hills absolutely sapped all energy and life from my legs – the plan of walk/jog the flats soon turned to walk on legs that were getting more and more stiff.  I couldn’t have made myself jog some parts even if I wanted and accepted that on some of the climbs even on a good day there would have been no way I would have been running them.  It was the first running event I had been to that was more a walking event for the majority of the field of participants.  We managed lots of laughs and smiles though – Emma is a much stronger runner than me and I am very grateful that she stayed with me for this event!

We must have spent several miles discussing in detail what we were going to eat that night.  It was going to be an Indian and this was what was keeping us going too.  I should note there was only one Indian within hobbling distance of our hotel Saturday night and they had no tables!  I am pleased I didn’t know this whilst on the event as I may have given up all hope.

I think I lost part of my soul somewhere on the seven bitches and when a fellow participant announce at 23 miles that we had 6 miles left I almost cried.  The final 1.2 miles saw us try and get a jog on.  My calves and quads had almost fully seized up by now and although my jog was probably as quick as most peoples walk I was surprised I made myself do it until I could hear the tannoy and as we started the descent I could see the finish.  Whilst I’m on the subject of walking – some of the participants out there with the walking sticks, man they are quick! I came to hate the sound of those sticks though as it meant I was being overtaken by a power walker or some of them used them like skis and I was scared of being whacked by one! I was going to finish this!  I did not appreciate with 100m or so to go the spectator telling me to sprint finish – I was pleased at this point I was still walking, there was absolutely no chance of a sprint!

img_5197

This was my longest distance I have ever covered, first marathon, first experience of Beachy Head and I can safely say never again. Ever.  It was absolutely not quick and it was in no way pretty but we got it done.  We completed Beachy Head Marathon.  Shortly after the event Emma tagged me in a post that said ‘there is nothing more beautiful than when you prove to yourself just how strong you are’ and although initially disappointed with how much this course took it out of me and my finish time, I am proud of what I achieved, what we achieved together.  This was not about a time, this was to complete it.

It was also my first experience of running with a hydration vest/backpack, which I got from Decathlon and it was awesome – didn’t even think about it being on and was so comfortable.  I also used my Craft Fuseknit top I was given to review and it was perfect, super comfy, and I didn’t feel too cold or hot – if it ticked the boxes for this event I think it will tick all the boxes for any events I have in future!

img_5214

Emma and I have now made an agreement that in future when one of us says shall we….. that we just interject with no.  We have silly ideas and each of us always says yes sure lets do it.

Getting up on Sunday was interesting as my ankles didn’t seem to want to bend so getting out of bed and to the loo was a monumental effort and on the way back it was easier to just faceplant the bed than try and lift my legs and climb up.  Think of the lyrics from the Ed Sheeran song ‘when your legs don’t work like they used to before’ well that’s me.  Today was no different, please send help – my legs hate me and I would like to say sorry to them but assure them I will never do this again!  Kudos to all those who run marathons and hike miles.  If you’ve not done it before and my post doesn’t totally put you off the entries for next year are now open and you can sign up here.

Spartan Trifecta Tribe

Slightly later than usual for me but it took longer than usual to defrost following the Spartan Beast at Windsor on Saturday!  Man was it cold! Wet and cold, for almost 15 miles and this made it tougher than usual.  The word I have seen across social media repeated over and over is brutal, and it was!

I set out at the beginning of 2018 with my best friend and PT, Emma, to complete my second trifecta and her first.  We had done the Sprint and Super earlier in the year in Kent over one weekend and Beast was the last of the set to complete.

Emma and I do almost all of the OCR events together and we are at different abilities but together it works – she is a better runner and walls and monkey bars are her thing, whereas I am more comfortable with the carries and weight obstacles.

Spartan have some standard obstacles you expect and there will always be one stand out that people end up talking about.  At the super earlier in the year it was the tyre carry which seemed to go on forever and this year was the second sandbag carry.  1.2 miles! 1.2 miles with a pancake shaped sandbag, it seemed there was no end in sight as we passed sandbags that had been discarded, but this was my thing and I got it done. The first and second sandbag, bucket carry, log carry and atlas ball was my domain and all five saw me smiling as I completed them.

Unfortunately for us the rope traverse was closed by the time we got there due to the bad weather for safety but I saw earlier in the day that some got to complete it and better to be safe so totally understandable.

The route had the usual hills that you would expect from a Spartan race – especially those switchbacks going up and down the same steep hill, if you’ve done a Spartan you will know what I am talking about – those hills we all love.

This years Beast at Windsor was longer than last years by almost five miles, which I think was a tad confusing for those who took it on last year to go from just under 10 miles to just under 15 miles but this is what you should expect from these events – they are made to test you and it does say 12 plus miles and just under 15 is over the advertised 12.  The race did become the race of 2 miles left for us though as from just over 8 miles everyone around us kept saying 2 miles left – for almost 7 miles in the wind and rain this went from being frustrating to being funny.  How long left? 2 miles ha ha.  2 miles is a long way when you are cold, wet, tired, have heavy legs and are running on what looks like wet and muddy ground but as I found is actually a waist deep bog (yep that was a surprise that got everyone behind me laughing and subsequently taking a more sensible route).

I am so pleased to have earned my second trifecta and even more pleased that Emma got her trifecta too – couldn’t think of anyone else I would have rather done that with!

It was also so good as usual to see the many familiar faces during the race including finally getting to meet the fab Fitcetera the UK Mudd Queens, Mudd Kings, friends from The PT Barn and many more!  Always super helpful marshals that I cannot fault and the skinny beer at the end was very welcome too – drank that when I got home and would never have been able to tell it wasn’t normal lager!

It was also great to see and hear from two of the competition winners from my blog who won two Super tickets, Cassie and Paul.  Seeing their finish photo was an awesome feeling to know that they got to experience something that I love.  Did they love it?  Different to what they have done before, which is generally road racing, duathlon, triathlon and cross country running. However, the awesome Cassie managed all bar three obstacles (rope climb, twister and monkey bars), which is amazing. Her favourite obstacle was the inverted walls – there were three in a row and after help from her boyfriend Paul she completed the last two on her own! Least favourite for Cassie was Olympus – it’s a hand killer so I totally get that but teamwork makes dream work and as Emma sat on my shoulders for this Cassie did the same with Paul (great minds). Cassie said ‘it was fun, but nothing like I thought it’d be – absolutely loved it though’ and I love that!

Lastly kudos to those who took on the extra challenge of completing the course with a plank of wood, repeating obstacles and completing burpees prior to doing the obstacles – epic!

So who is up for a Spartan race in 2019 and earning your trifecta?

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

Tough Mudder

At the weekend I flew back from Italy, packed my kit bag and then the following morning got up bright and early to head to Tough Mudder to take on the full.

I had previously done the new 5k event with The PT Barn, which you can read more about here.  I had also completed the Tough Mudder Half, which you can read more about here.  So now it was time for the full!

img_4610

I was signed up with my bestie, Emma, and her boyfriend Dan.  Emma and I do all of our obstacle events together but this was the first obstacle run that Dan would be taking part in and between us we were excited!  The signs you see as you enter the event village always make me laugh and you see similar whilst on the course too.

img_4615

We were starting as a team and we were finishing as a team.  The run was as usual very up and down though didn’t feel as hilly as the course used for the half that Emma and I had completed.  Here we are before and after:

I will repeat what I have said several times before but the thing I love about OCR is the teamwork and everyone helping everyone else out and with Tough Mudder not being chip timed this is one of the areas mentioned in their pledge that ‘Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge’, that ‘teamwork and camaraderie before course time’ plus ‘help my fellow mudders complete the course’ whilst having fun!

As we made our way to the start line we found we were in the same way as a man who was completing his 100th Tough Mudder event that day – and was running with a backpack full of all the headbands he has earned over those events.  This was pretty awesome and he actually helped us on the underwater tunnels obstacle giving a little helping hand push under the tubes.

img_4624

There were some obstacles that I had not done before as they were not on the 5k or half courses.  These included:

  • arctic enema – the name gives it away and I was that stupid person that came out of the end and said ‘my god that’s cold’ to which the marshal said ‘the clue is in the name’.  You climb up to a platform, slide through a tube into a container of icy water, the submerge fully under a partition and then climb out the container on the other side.
  • electroshock therapy – I don’t know why I was disappointed not to have done this on the previous events, because now I have done it I can say that it hurt!  A weird pain that is exactly what it says, a shock, but left my two teammates on the floor whilst I froze not knowing whether to help or carry on.  As they started crawling I ran on and got shocked twice more – man that smarts!
  • funky monkey – I can’t do this, enough said!  but kudos to those that did especially those that made it look super easy.
  • underwater tunnels – a large container of cold water with tubes to submerge yourself under and come out the other side then repeat three times.
  • cage crawl – I’d done a very similar obstacle at Nuclear Races and so whilst people were wondering how you tackle this I was straight in there and knew the drill, quite like this one!
  • walk the plank – now I will happily admit I didn’t even try this one.  I knew there was no way I would be able to make myself jump from a height but stood watching people who did it over and over again – maybe one day I could muster the courage?

There were a number of obstacles that I was hoping to be on the course that weren’t including Just The Tip, Prairie Dog, Kong and Kong Infinity but most of all was disappointed that Shawshank was not on the full course as it was my favourite on the half and I was looking forward to doing that one again.  But this just means I have to go back in 2019 for these ones!  You can see more about the obstacles on the Tough Mudder page here.

When doing events such as Tough Mudder people often wonder how you train and think its the craziest thing to do but I am sure the same people would surprise themselves if they gave it a go and most would thoroughly enjoy it as it is heaps of fun!  Tough Mudder also post videos with training ideas on their social media and have a whole section on their website regarding training for one of their events that you can find here.

I had a blast on Sunday and so did my team – I am by far the weakest runner and yet didn’t feel like I was holding anyone back at all and we all worked well together.  It was also great to learn more from Dan about Runarchy that he is part of.  Runarchy have a mission to inspire everyone on the planet to boost their mental fitness through exercise.  They quote:

As a brand our mission is to inspire you to create mental fitness through running & exercise.

To achieve our mission, we promote a rebellious attitude to fitness & life. We want you to run, exercise and keep fit your way.

We value individuality, uniqueness and nonconformity. We want you to be bold, strong, fearless and free.

They are also very much centred around teamwork and so having Dan as part of the team with Emma and I was great and for a first timer he did awesome and smashed Everest too!

4255a083-d996-4d21-b0f6-8f6506b99012

I have been so pleased to be part of the Mudder Women group this year and hope to get more of those headbands in 2019!

img_0466

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

Mental Health and Fitness

Being physically active is so beneficial to not only your physical health but also our overall well-being. It’s something that I have become more aware of and is being spoken about more widely over the past year. I have some very special people in my life who suffer with different forms of mental health issues and whilst I don’t personally, seeing how it affects them makes this something I am keen to understand better. I should note I am not a professional in this area and this post is not intended to offend in any way – something I am very conscious of with it being such a sensitive subject.

healthy-quotes-mental-health-is-just-as-important-as-physical-health

My husband has spoken out the past couple of years about his own struggle with depression, stress and anxiety and so this hits home very close for us and this post was written with those people I mentioned above and includes quotes directly from them.  They all suffer from different forms of mental health issues and fitness and self-care are the main, non-medical, ways in which they help to keep this under control.  Here my husband speaks about this below:

Exercise, for me, is paramount to my overall well-being and without regular sessions I quickly become my own enemy. The daily struggles range from not wanting to get out of bed, talk to anyone, letting personal hygiene lapse to anything as bad as totally shutting myself off from the world for days on end.  I’m not saying this is the answer to a well-balanced mind and something that will get rid of the issues of depression, anxiety or stress but it does help.

I’m extremely lucky to have an amazing wife who took the time to research, understand and got to learn and know the signs of when I’m going into a bad place.  Exercise for me is the key and she is incredibly aware of this and encourages me to do any form to make me feel better and it works.

Having come to terms with the mental health issues I have was the first step I found to really understand and get better, recognising the signs of a re-lapse is paramount to remaining the best you can be.  Having these issues is not a weakness and honestly I think it is the complete opposite, strength within comes from those who know they need help and want to overcome their issues. My daily worries range anything from being body conscious,  doubting myself to not becoming ‘that friend’ who is down again.  I’m lucky to have a great group of friends who have been there for me in the low times as well as the great.

 I’m a very open to talk about my issues and feeling and a big advocate for others to do this as this is the only way the stigma is going to be broken.

 The help is there and I encourage those to seek out the answers they want to make them feel better.  

Mental health has in the past been something people tend not to talk about and is often a taboo subject, however, awareness appears to be on the up with more people talking honestly about different mental health conditions and how they cope with this. Mental health and fitness is often something that comes up time and time again as this is something people find helpful for their mental health and in helping to stop the stigma and overcome barriers that surround this subject.  This can only be a positive thing especially as 1 in 6 people suffer from a mental health illness.

Mental health conditions or diagnoses comes in all different shapes and sizes and I think this is the first misconception by many who haven’t had any such experiences, or know people who do.  All too often you hear comments such as “you look ok?” or “you don’t look depressed?” I want to ask what does mental health look like?  A very close friend of mine who is a mental health professional added this:

I guess I have always been someone who worries about things.  This could be anything from “What should I wear?” “Will I fit in?” “Should I eat this?” to, “am I doing a good job?” “Am I quick enough?”. 

Last year I started to have really bad panic attacks. It started one afternoon at work, out of the blue – or so I thought. Things had been unsettled in my workplace for a while and there were some big changes happening in my personal life. I didn’t put them together or think they could be some of the root of the problem at first. I didn’t like to think of myself as having weaknesses, which if I’m honest is how viewed this.  

I was so worried about what people at work would think if they knew I was having panic attacks, worried the view would be that I couldn’t cope or work to the best of my ability. 

Some key moments I remember is a close friend saying “I didn’t realise panic attacks were a thing for you” and a colleague stating “I never would have known, you were so together at work”. 

My partner noticed that I had stopped exercising regularly, and reflected that I was generally happier/more ‘me’ when I did. I’d been to my GP who gave me the option of medication and talking therapy. I had already found a counsellor online, as I didn’t feel I could wait for NHS services. This helped me hugely over the period of about a year.  

It was a real struggle but I made myself get back to exercising. It wasn’t regular,  or for very long, but it really did help me. I love swimming, and some days all I wanted was to be in the pool. I might only swim for 15-20minutes but it felt good. I started yoga and got back to running, sometimes alone and at others with friends. Some of the friends knew what I had been struggling with,  others didn’t.  It didn’t matter so much, it was being out in the fresh air and moving that was helping me. The social side was an added bonus to that, I love to chat! 

Over time I have really come to value exercise because of how it helps me. I still worry, I get low sometime,  I don’t want to do or see anyone, I don’t always exercise. When I do, it’s good. It doesn’t matter about intensity, length of exercise or what it is. I value it because it’s good for my Mental Health & general well-being. 

I will do my best not to judge myself on my performance, but the movement, according to what I need at the time.  After all, my life is for me, not other people.  

Fitness can have such a positive impact on not just your body but also your mind. It can help with stress relief, increase energy levels, reduce anxiety, increase confidence, self-esteem, help with sleep and provide an overall boost to mind and body.  A qualified personal trainer with exercise referral and client psychology quoted the below.

Exercise has massively helped and continues to help my mental health. The gym or the outdoors never judges you or makes you feel bad. When I’ve been at my lowest in the past getting out and exercising whether it’s in a gym or outside has really helped me and is the reason why I retrained and joined the fitness industry. Now whilst I’m maintaining my mental health I also get to help others improve theirs. You always hear about the endorphins that are released when you exercise but it doesn’t have to be that scientific, what about the social side of the gym, or the ‘you time’ away from life’s stressed and worries. No matter the duration of the workout!

An amazing man I met from OCR, Stuart Amory, recently completed his ‘Run of Gratitude‘ for Mind charity.  This run started from his house in South West London to his girlfriends house in Aberdeenshire, which meant Stuart covered approximately 50km per day for 17 days.  To quote Stuart the reason for the run ‘I am running to my girlfriend to show gratitude for what I have in life…legs that work, support from friends, family and some major companies.’ On Stuarts website you can see his blog posts as he recounts the run and his mental account of it here.

You can find a lot more information available on this subject from many different resources including:

  • mental health charity, Mind
  • Mental Health Foundation who explain the link between mental health and movement here and also have a publication to download on how to look after your mental health using exercise that you can find here
  • Rethink who provide help and support for those affected by mental illness
  • Heads Together a mental health initiative spearheaded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex
  • Calm (charity focusing on mental health in men) are also great resources
  • NHS have a large amount of resource with regards to mental health including a Moodzone discussing common problems, tips and advice and real stories

I would also recommend The Mental Health Podcast and to quote the two awesome ladies behind this ‘aims to break the stigma around mental health. Bethan and Laureen know a bit about mental health, they both live with mental illnesses. In one episode they discuss why we shouldn’t confuse a common condition with something that’s normal. ‘

You can read more from Bethan on her blog at A Pretty Place to Play, one of my favourite blogs to follow and refreshingly honest in her accounts of keeping both physically and mentally fit.

My biggest take away from being around people who are suffering with their mental health is that it is ok not to be ok.  According to the Mental Health Foundation 1 in 6 adults experience a mental health problem and 1 in 5 adults have considered taking their own life at some point due to the daily struggles they live with and so it is important to break the stigma and talk about it.

Why I choose to wear a helmet when cycling

I feel like this is an age old question debated by many including myself and as it is International Helmet Awareness Day today and tomorrow (admittedly this is more in the equine area) I figured why not ask the question again from a cycling perspective.

I cycle a reasonable amount and ever since I started I have worn a helmet – why would I not as it can save your life so in my mind is an essential part of my cycling kit that I would not be without.  I am a part of a cycling club and we have a rule – no helmet, no ride – this is not uncommon for clubs to insist on and the same is said for most sportives/events also.  We follow the rules of British Cycling and although it is not a legal requirement they do quote:

‘British Cycling recommends wearing a correctly fitted helmet while cycling however we also support the right of each individual to choose whether or not to accept this recommendation and recognise the limit to the protection that helmets provide.’

This is a similar position to that of The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) who quote:

‘There continues to be much debate regarding the effectiveness of cycle helmets and whether the wearing of them should be made compulsory. RoSPA’s position is that we strongly recommend that cyclists wear a cycle helmet. However, it is important to remember that cycle helmets do not prevent crashes from happening. It is therefore vital that through infrastructure improvements, supported by education and training that we reduce the primary risk factors.’

When I first got kitted out in my cycling gear I admit I felt like a bit of an idiot head to toe in lycra, which is not the best look for most, finished off with a dashing helmet.  Does anyone look good in a helmet?  Probably not, but does it matter?  Is the main intention of wearing a helmet to look good or to increase your safety?  For me, I appreciate that it is down to the individual whether or not they choose to wear a helmet though I choose not to cycle without one.

I have been involved in two incidents where I can say with certainty that without wearing a helmet my injuries would have undoubtedly been far worse than they were.  I know others who feel the same also from personal experience.

I see people with those material cycle caps – how will they help you should you have an accident?

I see people with the straps undone – really?

I see people with helmets attached to their back packs or their handle bars – not really serving the purpose is it?

Some tips for helmet wearing:

  • they come in different sizes so you will need to make sure you have checked this depending on the brand and have the correct size.
  • when you put your helmet on it should be positioned correctly – be careful not to have it so low it obstructs your view or so far back it is not covering your whole head.
  • the straps should sit under the ears and be secured in place under the chin – you should not be able to fit more than two fingers between the strap and your chin, if you can then it is too loose.
  • handy tip for making sure your helmet is secure is to put it on and adjust as necessary but before you do the straps up you should be able to bend forward without the helmet coming off.
    • only buy a helmet which is CE approved. CE marking is a certification mark that indicates conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold within the European Economic Area.
  • Helmets also have a lifespan – different retailers quote different time frames but these are generally between 3 and 5 years.

    A lot of retailers also offer a crash replacement discount.  Now I know the intention is not to crash but should this happen and the integrity of the helmet has been compromised by an impact this is a great way of ensuring that the manufacturer can review how the helmet handled the impact for future improvements.  Different retailers will offer different discounts but I have always used Kask helmets and they offer a 50% discount when your damaged helmet is returned (with necessary paperwork).

    There are arguments that there is no scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of a cycling helmet and it is very true that simply by wearing a helmet will not make the act of cycling any safer and I think that often this is the misconception of the argument.  I wouldn’t argue that a helmet would stop the chances of you having an accident, however, if you were to have an accident I would say from an injury prevention perspective it is really hard to argue that a helmet does not assist.  There are lots of studies that can be found online relating to this and the results show that on average there is roughly 65% reduction of serious/fatal head injuries when wearing a helmet.

    The debate will long continue I am sure and Cycling UK make a good point when they say:

    ‘The evidence on this question is complex and contradictory, providing as much support for those who are deeply sceptical of helmets as for those who swear by them.’

    There are lots of websites online that offer advice on choosing a helmet and you can find a blog post here by the awesome Paddle Pedal Pace where she discusses this.