Entry 210 – Outlaw 70.3 Relay

Ever done a triathlon?  Me neither! I run and I cycle but I am not overly keen on the swim element of triathlon and so have kept myself to single discipline events although I  have tried a duathlon (which was a very odd sensation on the legs).  However, I am part of a tri club (Havering Tri) and I will never say never, so when my friend Amy was looking at putting together a relay team for a middle distance triathlon at Outlaw Nottingham 70.3 I thought why not and said I would do the bike leg and another friend Lisa would do the run.  We were team Menage a Tri (see what we did there).

A middle distance triathlon includes a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run.

We signed up for this months ago and when you have an event that is a long way off it doesn’t seem as daunting and ordinarily the thought of a 56 mile bike ride wouldn’t particularly phase me either.  However, as the date grew closer knowing I was part of a team I started to put unnecessary pressure on myself and was really quite nervous.  Both Amy and Lisa are like me and we wanted to enjoy it and were not looking at being the quickest, instead just looking forward to completing this event together.

So why was I so nervous?  What if I had a mechanical – that would be game over for me!  What if I had a puncture – I always have people with me to help with this and although I can do it I was sure it would take me forever and be stressful!  What if I was super slow?  What would poor Lisa think standing at the transition area waiting for me to get back so she could go out and do the run leg?  They say overthinking is the art of creating problems that are not even there and this was absolutely the case.  At the end of the day I was doing what I do most weeks and I was just riding my bike.

I had actually cycled the course last year when my husband took part in the event and as he was getting ready with everyone else the day before I took the opportunity to go for a ride myself and so used the route of the event for this.  So no fear of the unknown either. I knew there was one sharp hill and that the rest was undulating.  Everyone who knows me knows I hate hills and undulating is not my favourite but I knew if I worked the downhills and flats I could use this to my advantage.

The event starts and finishes at Pierrepoint, the swim is in the regatta lake, the bike is mainly on country roads in Nottinghamshire and the run is within the grounds of the country park.

Thankfully I did not need to worry about anything and I loved it!

Amy was first up in our relay taking on the swim leg and I was excited to see her and be able to get out on the bike. Although a lot of the roads are pretty shoddy with poor road surface, gravel, potholes and uneven surfaces the event organisers had been out in advance and spray painted areas to avoid in orange paint (I’d be interested to know how much paint was used!).  These were some of the better bits – the worst was the final 2 miles, which event organisers apologised for in the briefing – speed humps, gravel, pot holes, large stones and rocks – you get to ride past the lovely Holme Pierrepoint Hall but for that section a mountain bike would be better.

My husband had amended the display on my garmin so I could only see speed, cadence, heart rate and gears. My mental game is not that strong and this was such a benefit not having the mileage or time display as I’m sure depending what way it went that would have changed the way I rode, either trying to speed up or slow down. He also set an alarm on my garmin so every 20 minutes it went off to remind me to eat something and drink – a little tip I got from when I was interviewing Lucy Charles and worked brilliantly for me although I did come back with a lot of food and drink so still work to be done in that front.

When I came back into transition I was reminded of that off the bike run feeling with jelly legs but headed to Lisa to rack my bike and pass over the timing chip. She told me I had done sub three hours and I was so shocked I exclaimed ‘f*ck off!’ then promptly apologised to those around me who were just laughing. Off Lisa went with a smile on her face.

Lisa was one of many running in the sun and a large part of this run has no shade so many were suffering as a consequence. Lisa had a smile on her face every time we saw her though and it was so nice to see her at the finish funnel where Amy and I joined her to cross the finish line.

The feeling of running down that finish funnel with two awesome ladies who are friends was amazing and such a great experience!

There were a number of us from the tri club taking part in this event, which meant there was great support on the day too.  It was brilliant being there with them all and getting to experience my first taste of triathlon (albeit as part of a relay) with them as their encouragement and support really helped.

It was also amazing to see both Lucy Charles and Reece Barclay who took 1st and 2nd respectively. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting of these guys and seeing them both race and they are super impressive! The sprint finish for 2nd/3rd place involving Reece was exciting and he really dug deep and got the 2nd place place win.

We were admiring Lucy’s awesome new bike in the morning before the event started so we managed to see her, have a quick chat and wish her luck. Lucy is the most laid back person, always smiling and just lovely to everyone and I’m so pleased for her win!

Usually it is me supporting my husband at these events but yesterday our roles were reversed and he was part of the support crew and took most of these pics. Massive thanks to him for everything as always!

Has it made me want to do a triathlon? As I said never say never….

Entry 209 – Tough Mudder Half

Almost two months ago I took part in my first ever Tough Mudder event, the new 5k Run, with The PT Barn. I had a blast with these guys and so I was excited to go back for more.

I signed up with my friend Emma and we were heading to Henley to do the Tough Mudder half.

First off was the warm up and honestly there was part of me that just wanted to stay there as this guy was hilarious!

A warm up like no other with dancing, laughing, a sexy catwalk from a stag in a wedding dress, sexy noises and suggestive lunges. Warm up was the area to be!

Then on to the start where we all got on bended knee and with hand on heart repeated the Tough Mudder pledge.

Then we were off and soon learned this course was hilly. Hilly as hell! People were walking fairly early on, including us. Just after the hill we will run again, that was what we kept saying, until we realised it was just hill after hill so a run/walk strategy was adopted. They were going to make us work for those head bands!

We soon learned the half did one lap and the full did a second lap. Now I’m not a fan of laps and after the hills in the heat I think someone would have had to be truly convincing to get me to do a second lap. However, well done to those who did as there is now a piece of me that is gutted we did the half. Just means I need to go back later in the year for the full!

What did we miss by doing half and not the full? Arctic Enema and to be honest in the heat the water obstacles were a relief! Kong Infinity, the rig, Electric Shock – I’m sure there are others too and you can see the full list of obstacles here. We also missed out on Everest and Human Pyramid as there was just us there and between Emma and I we would get less then halfway up Human Pyramid! We did ask for the ropes that the elites had used but they had been taken off – another for us to do on the full.

Favourite obstacle? For me I love the water obstacles so Blockness Monster or Shaw Shank would be mine and were a lot of fun! Emma said at the time she liked the hero carry but that was because she got a piggy back the whole way! Her favourite was also Blockness Monster.

Ever fancied a Tough Mudder? Do it! So much fun and as the pledge says it’s not about time it’s about teamwork. The energy is fab, there’s music at some obstacles, great marshals and atmosphere, well signed and they feed you on route! (This was also one of Emma’s favourite parts ha ha!)

Entry 208 – Being the supporter role

I am not sure what is harder being the participant of an event or being the supporter.  Now I know that probably sounds ridiculous but bear with me on this.  When you are the participant of course the effort is harder as you are doing the actual event but I think the stress of the support role can be tough, albeit in different ways and for different reasons.

I have just returned from Marbella where a number of friends and club mates from Havering Tri completed Ironman Marbella 70.3.  It is awesome to see everyone on the course and especially the beaming smiles on the finish line but the day generally goes something like this for the supporter (I am using myself as the example here):

  • up as early as my husband to make sure first and foremost that he actually gets up
  • going to the start line with him
  • waiting outside transition as he does a final check on his bike and drop bags
  • waiting as he applies sudo cream and glide to stop chaffing (yes you read that right)
  • waiting as he goes into the sea to acclimatise
  • waiting as he stands in his timed pen before he enters the water
  • running round to bike exit to make sure I see him on the bike out
  • running round to your decided place on the run course so I can see him head out on the run (I say run but a good spot is like gold dust so you get there early and camp out)
  • spend hours on the tracker seeing where they are and if there is a glitch panicking and wondering what has happened – inevitably suspecting the worse to then thankfully know that was silly as your team mate runs out and soaks you with water (not the husband but a friend – thanks Nick).  You also know roughly when people should finish so there is also that moment where you start to say he should have been here by now, do you think he’s ok?
  • run around the run course to see him at difference places
  • run to the finish to get my good spot to see him finish
  • stay around until everyone you know finishes
  • scream and cheer a lot
  • realise you are probably sun burnt
  • realise you have not eaten or had anything to drink over the course of the day (and this never happens)
  • stay around until the final runner finishes, which is what everyone from Havering Tri did at this event (last tri club there to support #justsaying)
  • walk slowly with your tired participant to get their kit and bags

This doesn’t mention the months of training, moods, stressing, packing (and often unpacking), laying out kit the night before, getting nutrition ready or any of the pre-event prep.

I knew 12 people taking part in this event (plus 6 adult supporters and 4 kids) and seeing each and every one of them before, during and as they completed was amazing!

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It is all totally worth it and I certainly earned my beer! And so did they as they came first in their division!

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Entry 207 – Training at The PT Barn

I have written a few posts before about The PT Barn and Coach Scotty.  This is Scotty:

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I first heard of The PT Barn on a training day there with the Mudd Queens, which you can read more about here.

After talking to Scotty about training I signed up for his body transformation course and my god was it tougher than I thought it would be but the results were amazing!  Here is the write up for that.

I then signed up again, and you can read about that here – must be a sucker for punishment but as hard as the sessions were the sense of achievement made it worth it.  And I’d recommended it to others too who’d signed up and I am sure would echo anything I said about the courses, training and coaching.

I was even crazy enough to sign up for one of his six hour bootcamps – one of the toughest days ever!  Don’t let me put you off though – have a read here and sign up for yourself!

I’ve said before one of the things I love about OCR is the people and the fact that there is always a helping hand or words of encouragement or a boost up a wall from an absolute stranger.  So the fact that there is such a variation in ability does not matter at all.  I always seemed to get partnered at the bootcamp with a guy called David.  David was like a speedy little spider monkey and would speed through everything from running to bear crawls to strength workouts.  I always felt terrible when he was partnered with me as we were at very different ends in terms of ability but we worked together and got it done and if i carried the sandbag uphill for 100 metres he might take it for twice that so we were both putting in equal effort.

I recently took part in the new Tough Mudder 5k at Stratford with The PT Barn and again there is a post and you can read more about that here but again it shows what it is all about – teamwork.

I’m not just doing this blog post to share previous posts, it’s a build up to give a bit of backstory as to how I got involved with training at The PT Barn.

My latest session was on Sunday and I signed up to a beginners OCR session.  Yes I have been doing OCR now for a while but I do it for fun and I just give it a go or I will be honest if here is a queue I don’t want to hold people up waiting for me so I let them go ahead or have before even opted to skip it and then feel gutted after.  Or if I feel intimidated (which is often) I might fumble something I’ve done before easily.  So whilst I do the events for fun it would be nice to do them for fun but do them well and I knew this session would take me back to basics and refocus.  So my training recently has been focused more on technique, homework exercises Scott set me to help with grip strength and trying to get more quality rather than quantity from my training, which is great as my best friend is a PT and we do these events together so I have her expertise and knowledge also, and the majority of my training is with her!

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There were five of us on Sunday, plus coach Scotty and his better half Karen, who I am so so grateful to for filming parts of the day, always being there to give me a nod when I was about to have a wobble and to tell me she would slap me when I said I can’t do it.  (Don’t worry there were no Lisa’s hurt in the training as I did it all so no slaps needed.)  Being in a smaller group like this is amazing as there is so much focus on each of us and the support is brilliant – you start out as strangers and pretty soon in you are cheering each other on and clapping each others achievements.

I learned so much during that one day.  It was almost 6 hours and that amount of time doing OCR training with a lot of work on the hands is tiring.  You fatigue quickly but it was structured in such a clever way with a good warm up and moving from a specific technique to something else to allow for some recovery.  Scott says he will not be making any of us better in that one day but he breaks each obstacle down step by step that it makes the obstacles more achievable.  That coaching and knowledge is invaluable and is all about training smart! I read something recently and it was saying how it doesn’t matter how heavy you can lift, how quickly you can do something or how many times you can do it if it is with poor technique and these sessions really focus on getting the technique bang on.

We tackled rings, traverse rope, cargo net climb, high wall, low wall, spear throw, traverse wall with rings, slack lines and balancing, ropes, the weaver and the monkey bars.  And I did them all.  There were bits I was so nervous about and bits I’ve tried several times before and never got far but it all just clicked.  Although I did think we were doing the traverse rope hanging underneath but Scott explained this could be done under or over and without thinking he saw the look of fear on my face at the thought of balancing my body on top of the rope and moving along he then explained (with a smile) that we would be doing it on top.  I just laughed – poker face Lisa, remember your poker face when around Scott!  We didn’t have to do anything we didn’t want to but I felt like I had to face this, I am trying to face my fears lately and rather than take the easy way out give it a go and figure out what needs work.  After the recent Spartan weekend I did just this and made a note of obstacles I failed so I know I have from now until October to work on those before I tackle Spartan Beast.  Anyway back to the rope traverse, I mean this thing is roughly about six foot off the floor and when you lay on it it lowers a lot so you are probably 1.5/2 metres off the ground so not exactly high but when you are balancing on it it is high enough and it moves as you move and so with every movement I was telling him not to move away and to catch me if I fall.  I didn’t fall!  I did it.

I also swore a lot through the whole day.  I know I swear but really didn’t realise how much.  Although this was in a good way as I was so pleased and it was either swear with excitement or cry and then feel silly so swearing it was!

I came away absolutely buzzing.  I don’t have the most confidence and Scott knows me enough to know exactly what I can do and it was just bloody awesome. I’m never sure who is more pleased when training there if it’s me for accomplishing something or Scott watching me get there!

Last night I was sent a video of my time there on Sunday by Scott and Karen.  This was a total surprise to me and I am not too ashamed to say there may have been a little tear or two or three, more because of their kindness at taking the time to put this together for me.  I am my own worst critic and when other people believe in you there are two options – to think they are just being nice or believe them.  I usually think people are just being nice but I can see improvements myself from this video and it makes all the training so worthwhile and I am very grateful to these people for their help.  I’ve made a lot of friends through this OCR malarkey!

So in short get involved!  Get down there and see what it is all about.  There is an open weekend at the end of April with pay and play on offer so you do what it says on the tin and turn up pay and go on whatever you want and Scott will be there if you want to ask questions.  I won’t be in the UK for that one so will miss it but I will be at the next one and the one after and the one after that.  Alternatively there are OCR classes, different levels of these sessions on offer, bootcamps and more.  All event details can be found here.

See you there!

Entry 206 – My Spartan weekend

This weekend saw the start of the Spartan season for 2018 at the St Clere estate in Kent.  On Saturday the Super was taking place and on Sunday the Sprint.  Naturally I signed up for both and this would mean I would be well on my way to getting my trifecta this year with only the beast left to complete.

  • The Sprint is minimum of 5k with 20 plus obstacles.
  • The Super is minimum of 13km with 25 plus obstacles.
  • The Beast is minimum of 20km with 30 plus obstacles.

Complete all three within the same year and earn your trifecta – simple!  I have done this before and so this helps my mental game as I can remind myself when needed to pull up my big girl panties and get it done.

I will be completing my trifecta with one of my best friends and training buddy, Emma.  Emma is a Spartan trifecta virgin and so this weekend was a first for these events for her also.

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I cycle and I run and when there is an event in Kent I immediately think hills.  Spartan are known for hills and having their races have parts of hilly trail running involved.  What I had not bargained for was how relentless the hills at St Clere on the course would be.  I have seen one word mentioned in OCR groups online – brutal.  And they were.  To be more precise the elevation for both was as follows:

  • Sprint – 4.7 miles with 1,027ft elevation
  • Super – 9 miles with 2,106ft elevation

In addition to this at the Super the switchbacks up and down the hills in the woods went on for roughly what felt like 5 hours.  The tyre carry went on for what felt like another 5 hours. I mean it didn’t actually take me that long but it felt like it – coming out of the woods and seeing sky was like what I imagine seeing water in a desert feels like even if we then completed some more obstacles and had to go back in and yes you guessed it back uphill again.

The Sprint being only part of the course we ran on Saturday meant there was no tyre carry but I would be lying if when we entered the woods and started climbing up and up and up and up and then up some more my heart didn’t sink a bit and I was thinking please dear god don’t let it be as long as yesterday.  If it was there was a good chance I may have hurled my own body down the hill and just hoped for the best.  Thankfully it wasn’t as long and there was no body hurling involved.

But one thing is for sure it was savage.  But this is Spartan and you have to earn that medal!

When you fail an obstacle at Spartan you receive a penalty of 30 burpees.  I have made a note of the obstacles I got burpee penalties on and will be working on those for when i take on the Beast.

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It was great to run with Emma, as always, and on Sunday we were joined by more Mudd Queens, which was great as it was their fourth birthday and we had a blast.  We also saw Coach Scotty from The PT Barn on course as well, which was amazing as a lot of us train with him.

It’s brilliant seeing everyone post their pics and videos – always love seeing them from Karen who also trains at the Barn and is just girl power beasting everything like an absolute boss! And her daughter, Isla, follows in her footsteps and absolutely smashed the kids race. One of the great things about Spartan putting on kids races at all their events so everyone can get involved. Isla will definitely be one to watch on the OCR scene when she’s older!

I particularly liked the fact that part of the course drew out the Spartan mask when you loaded your run to Strava – very nice touch!

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And of course it is never a chore to see Spartan Phil!

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Also great to see some friends take podium places – well done to Robin French who came third in his age category at the Sprint and to Andy Durrance who came third in his age category at the Super and first at the Sprint – awesome efforts!

The highlight for me, aside from a well earned beer at the finish, was getting back to the bridge before the event village and Emma exclaiming with pure joy ‘it’s the bridge!’, which meant no more hills!

Great organisation, brilliant marshals and brilliant idea putting down the sheets in the car park as the ground was so boggy from recent weather and meant there were minimal issues with cars getting in and out.

I am bruised, I am battered, I cut myself on the barbed wire crawl, I feel like I have the knees of a 90 year old and I had to shower twice on each day to get mud out of places I have never got mud before and I loved every minute of it.

Spartan Beast we are coming for you!

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Entry 205 – Tough Mudder 5k

Tough Mudder have launched a series of 5k events and last Friday I took part in one with an awesome bunch of people from The PT Barn.  This included Coach Scotty who is an awesome OCR coach and having been on a number of his six week courses and bootcamps I had been lucky enough to experience an obstacle race with these guys before and so was looking forward to having his experience, and help, as we made our way around the course.

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There was a large group of us and all of these guys I met from The PT Barn. We are of differing shapes and sizes, varying abilities with some having qualified and competed for the World Championships and others never done an obstacle race before, and a lot of us only know each other from our time spent training with Scotty. These guys bloody rock! They are all so lovely and so supportive and we stayed together for the whole thing. There was always a helping hand, assistance getting up a high wall, words of encouragement, high fives when completing something you didn’t think you could, a hug to say well done, a fist pump, a sh*t load of smiles and a lot of laughs.

Despite all my obstacle racing over the past two years I had not done a Tough Mudder before and only been to them before in a support role whilst cheering on my husband many years ago.  So I had no idea what to expect!  It was in Stratford, which is fairly local to me, and so I assumed it would be water and mud free and it was.

There were 10 obstacles that included:

  • Bale bonds – stacked giant bales of hay to climb over (for some reason this was roped off in our wave and we didn’t get to do this one)
  • Skid marked – 10 foot slanted wall to get up and over (10 foot is really really high!)
  • Devil’s beard – heavy cargo net to crawl under
  • Giant A-hole – a-frame that you run through and then climb up/over (again so much higher than I thought it would be but one of the guys, Stuart, was next to me and although I was shaky I got it done and pleased as up and over is one of my nemesis)
  • Mudder wheelbarrow – wheelbarrow action with a teammate (Emma was my wheelbarrow – well done Emma, shoulders of steel)
  • Hero walls – 10 foot tall wall to get up and over (again so high and some of our guys could get up and over alone with no help!)
  • Get low – crawl under chicken wire (this is where I was pleased I was wearing black knickers as my trousers ripped on the bum and when I got home I found my knickers had too – savage, though thankfully no flashing as a result!)
  • Clean & jerk – stretcher carry with teammates (Emily was on our stretcher and weighs almost nothing so this one was good!)
  • Hanging out – rings, one day I will get these (these were quite high so some of us needed help to even get to them)
  • Everest – quarter pipe to run up and climb over
  • Pyramid scheme – climbing up and over teammates to get over, once you get to the top you hang down to help the next up and let me tell you hanging down by your feet is terrifying (thanks Dave)

Being a new member this year to Mudder Woman, a group of ladies taking part in the events over the course of this year, I am pleased to say I now own my own Tough Mudder headband finally, and enjoyed that cider at the end!

I would say from the little experience I have of this event that I’d been told Tough Mudder were known for bigger obstacles and some of them really were. Given this I would say the camaraderie of OCR that I know and love is key here and the 5k series is a great way for people to try it out before moving on the the half or the full.

Until the next one….

Entry 204 – #howigetfit with Decathlon

How do you get fit?  Everyone knows the sports retailer Decathlon right?  Regardless of what sport you take part in you can almost certainly find some part of your kit here.

Decathlon have a passion for sport and their main mission is to make sport accessible to as many people as they can and encourage active lifestyles.

Having an active lifestyle myself I often find myself in Decathlon for any number of reasons whether it be for kit for obstacle racing, running, swimming or cycling (there’s loads more on offer too, I am just thinking of things I regularly do myself).

As my fitness journey continues I find I have more active wear at home than I do normal clothes and the workout accessories around the house is growing also, which is a good thing (despite possibly needing an extra room in my house to accommodate this stuff).

What I love about Decathlon is that they have such an extensive range, all so reasonably priced and good quality too.  If it can withstand the obstacles, mud and water I regularly use them on then I am sold!

I have ended up with a training schedule that I follow on a weekly basis that will include varied gym workouts and differs depending on what events I have planned but it generally will include:

  • cycling
  • running
  • obstacle training
  • gym sessions

For me having a plan works well as I know what I am doing and when and I find it easier to ensure I have time to get everything done.

I include a lot of photos and videos on my social media with regards to my training and looking a what I do almost all of it is accessible to everyone regardless of whether or not you have access to the same facilities that I do.  What do I mean by this? You can simulate the same sort of training easily elsewhere.  Where there is a will there is a way!

If you are like me I like to just get outside.  I’ve had the benefit of doing some outdoor training that has taught me that you can be really quite creative with your surroundings to get your training in with minimal equipment needed.

Don’t have a bike?  You can use a bike at the gym, most major cities have hire bikes.  Or run, or walk.  It’s amazing how reliant we are on cars and I include myself with that.  I try to cycle commute 2/3 times a week now to ensure I get my training in around my day.  You could also get off your bus or train a stop or two earlier and walk part of the journey or all if you are close enough to do so.

Don’t have access to an obstacle training facility? You can easily simulate a lot of the same training in local parks and woodland – you just need a bit of creativity.  I’ve added videos to my social media where I have worked out with my friend and PT in a forest and used logs instead of weights as an example.  Local parks are also always a great way of practising monkey bars!

Don’t have a gym membership?  Again loads that can be done outside or at home – you don’t need weights or fancy equipment.  At a bootcamp I attended we worked out on a field which had two goal posts and our coach would bring his TRX straps and attach to the goalposts – such an awesome idea and I have done the same myself both outside and at home too.

I haven’t always been active but it is now part of my every day life and I don’t look back.  I have a full time job and family (including a dog) so always on the lookout for ways to incorporate working out into my busy days.  I am an early bird so always prefer an early morning workout and find it sets me up so well for the rest of the day.  The dog will come with me when I run so I can kill two birds with one stone as it were and I get my run in and she gets her exercise too.

My husband trains a lot also and currently is doing so for Ironman Marbella 70.3 and Ironman Italy later in the year and so in order to ensure we still get some time together we can make some of our days together fit around our training – like an active date!

I find even if I can fit in a short workout I feel so much better for it and recently shared a pic with a quote ‘make yourself a priority, at the end of the day you are your longest commitment’  and its so true.

I also like to make it fun – if it is no fun then what’s the point?

The photos I have used in this post demonstrate some of my training and all wearing Decathlon kit which you can find here (and all of which I recommend!):

Just a little sample of #howigetfit with Decathlon.