Sunday, 16 March 2014

Kettlebells with PT Luca Meriano

Luca's kettlebells. Don't let the pastel shades fool you, they're not metrosexual.
While I can still type, I'm posting about a kettlebell workshop I went to today. I fear that tomorrow will be too late.

Luca Meriano ran a three-hour beginners kettlebell workshop at The Gym on Waterloo Place in Edinburgh. A new skill for me, a new teacher, and a new venue.

The Gym is a cavernous, white, modern 24 hour gym with plenty of space in the matted area for Luca to teach 9 of us the basics of kettlebells. It was clean, well equipped and (despite being the most central gym location you could imagine in Edinburgh), didn't seem full of posers. Which I liked.

Luca was a great teacher. He broke everything down very clearly. His instructions were really succinct and he took the time to check we were all managing the moves. Everyone got individual feedback throughout the class, one to one. Luca was thoroughly professional and  knowledgeable and I can't think of anything else I would ask for.

Me and the teacher!
Kettlebells will leave me with more bruising than a pole dance class, I suspect. Luca says that this is common to start with, but with practice you develop better control and stop whacking your forearms with the kettlebell!

Luca told me that kettlebell moves use up to 80 muscles. Even a shoulder press-type move uses the whole chain of muscles from your feet to your hands overhead. Two hours on and I'm starting to believe it... I'm not sure I felt this achey after my last marathon!

We had a very thorough warm-up before learning how to swing, clean, snatch and squat. Doesn't actually sound much when you list it like that, but after two hours I was feeling ready to go home. It was the cleans that I really struggled with by the end, because every time I racked the kettlebell, I was thumping it off the outside of my forearm. By the final sequence my left arm was in too much pain for me to finish - not the 'good workout' pain but the 'dropped an iron on my arm' type pain. Still, I'm assured it's just a beginners ailment and it's about timing.

The squats were not the forward-tipping Body Pump variety but real ass-to-the-grass hip-openers. After about 40 of those today, I fear my training run tomorrow will be in jeopardy. It occurs to me now that I didn't know I could do ass-to-the-grass squats until today, and why didn't I know that? Well, because nobody's ever asked me to do them, so I didn't know I could. Which is quite depressing, actually, as a bit of a sign that I don't push myself to try new stuff.

Far from only working the upper body, even when they're overhead kettlebells are really intense on your lower body, as you push from the hips to get the momentum for the moves. Squeezing the glutes protects your lower back from strain so it works your ass like crazy - before you even begin those squats!

The class, still smiling after three gruelling hours!
I used an 8kg (pleasantly pink) or a 10kg (baby blue) kettlebell. Luca has his own stash of them, the size and standard required for competition. They were colourful, but Luca warned us off the smaller (but not lighter) gym's-own kettlebells, describing them as 'metrosexual' (I did LOL).

Luca told me that having good flexibility and mobility in my hips meant that my kettlebell technque was good. Who knew, bellydance and kettlebells are odd, but complementary, bedfellows. Hurray.

I'm plan to use kettlebells again, even if they are the metrosexual kind that Edinburgh Leisure supplies.  Luca suggested 50 squats, 50 snatches and some core work as an all-over general workout in 20 minutes. I need to remember to squeeze my glutes, keep my elbow in and swing the other arm!

Great workshop, great to learn some new skills!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Yasso 800s

I wish there were more things in life like Yasso 800s. Things that are actually 'one amazing trick to success'. Like when the internet tells you to click on this link to find out the one crazy thing to do to get rid of belly fat - only for real.

Yasso 800s are a running training regime which can predict your marathon time. If you run your Yasso 800s in 4 minutes, you can finish a marathon in 4 hours. If you for Yassos are 3 mins 30 seconds, your marathon time will be 3 hours 30 minutes. Crazy but true (by all accounts).

The 800 refers to 800meters, half a mile or two laps of a running track. Run that as hard as you can, ten times over, with one lap (400m or a quarter of a mile) between each set for recovery and collect your times. The average is your marathon time.

Last year when I was training for the Loch Ness Marathon, the Yassos defeated me. I don't regularly run on the track and doing the session was nerve-wracking. I usually run first thing in the day, and you can't do that at my local running track. I felt anxious and uptight throughout and didn't peform well at all. After that, I decided to throw in the towel on my sub 4-hour marathon hopes for Loch Ness in 2013.

Today I was really anxious about the Yasso 800s my coach had set for me. Combine it with husband going away for work for 2 nights, son leaving on a three-day school skiing trip (first time away alone!) and I was almost hysterical. It troubled my sleep and left me really uptight all morning before I got to the track.

However, I knuckled down and got on with it. The track was cold and windy but at least I was alone (unless you count the people in the gym who have a birds-eye view of the track while they're on the cardio machines!). The last two sets were performed in sleet which at least made sure I didn't linger on the track!

My average time was... (drum roll...) 3 minutes 48.7seconds!!

I am over the moon! I was exhausted for the rest of the day and my glutes are killing me. I don't think any of my previous Yasso 800s were this good - plus I ran 20 miles five days ago, so I'm not what you'd call fresh. It feels great to know I'm at the top of my game!

My next marathon is 2.5 weeks away at The Meadows in Edinburgh, and I'm getting my fundraising going. I am now REALLY excited that I can finally beat four hours!!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Freedom from Emotional Eating

Two weeks ago, I started reading Paul McKenna's Freedom From Emotional Eating. It has been an amazing, revealing, enlightening fortnight.

This book has changed my life. Honestly.

On day 2, I noticed that I felt calm and happier, in a non-specific sort of way.
On day 3, it all started to fall into place, and I realised for the first time that I ate because I felt entitled to food. Without conciously trying to eat less, I was eating less.
On day 4, I challenged myself to eat more slowly and conciously.
On day 5, I found myself at one of my usual feeding frenzy times, when I can't help myself snacking - at home, fed up, with squabbling children. I didn't eat. I didn't want to. It no longer seemed like a helpful thing to do.
On day 6, I got home late at night and had a cup of tea. No toast, no nuts, no yoghurt - just a cup of tea. Which is unheard of.
On day 7, I got up, put on my skinny jeans and felt fantastic. It was the first Sunday for years that I didn't lurch from one snack to the next.
On day 8, I realised for the first time why I was using eating to help me deal with my emotions.
On day 9, I cried, all day.
On day 10, I stopped crying, but I wanted to run away and hide, all day.
On day 11, a friend told me about the problems she's been having recently, and made me realise that it really has been a long, long time since I've been properly switched on emotionally, either to myself or other people.
On day 12, I realised I'd lost over 4lb in two weeks. In the past, it's taken me literally months of calorie counting and long walks to lose those 4lbs.
Today, I had the best Sunday I've had for several years, feeling relaxed, connected to my family and contented.

I am amazed by how effective this book is, and the CD and DVD that go with it. To not emotionally eat has not been difficult. I have not needed to use willpower or self-restraint. I've simply felt differently about food. I have found it amazingly easy to eat when I'm hungry, and stop eating when I'm not hungry. Nobody is more surprised about this than I am.

In the last few years, for various reasons, I haven't given myself space to acknowledge, accept and act on my emotions. I've been forcing my feelings down and trying to "get on with" as much as possible, focusing on productivity over emotions. I had forgotten how to feel. I hadn't cried for years. The last two weeks have found me starting to reconnect with myself. I feel happier and more relaxed in most parts of my life. And I haven't once found myself in the kitchen looking for comfort, in two weeks.

This post doesn't seem to do justice to the emotional journey I've been through in the last fortnight. When I read back what I've written, it sounds like an advert for the book! But I don't know what else I can add. I want to rush out and tell almost everybody to try it. I want to salute Paul McKenna, hug him, and thank him for this amazing book.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Getting rid of my emotional eating.

I like Paul McKenna. I blogged in 2012 about using his book and CD, Change Your Life in 7 Days and how useful I found it. Here he is on the Dr Oz Show.

So when I went to Waterstones with a £13.02 gift card and saw Freedom From Emotional Eating for £12.99, I thought it must be a sign.

It's not very comfortable to admit that I'm an emotional eater. I'm not overweight. I weigh about 55kg and I'm 1.61m tall. My diet is good, especially now that I'm NSNG and I've cut out sugar and grains. I have lots of organic veggies, plenty of avocados, eggs, meat. I rarely eat out and pretty much all of what I eat, I've prepared myself. I love exercise so when I over-eat, it's offset by activity.

But there are times when I just can't stop eating. It's mainly nuts, seeds, yoghurt, fruits - nothing terrible, but I can pack them away like a maniac when the urge takes me. And I don't seem to be able to do anything about it. I realise it's self-destructive and that later on I'll wish I hadn't - but there's not cut-off switch in my brain. As much as I'd like to lose 2kg to hit my best running weight, I can't seem to translate that desire into the movement of walking out of the kitchen.

Chiefly it happens at weekends and evenings. Recently I've been trying to pause and analyse why I'm eating. I think I'm usually anxious, bored or tired. Those seem to be the three things that send me to the kitchen cupboard. I am totally sure, however, that whatever it is, it's not hunger.

So, there you are. That's my confession about emotional eating. This morning I read the first chapter of Paul McKenna's book and, just like Change Your Life in 7 Days, I felt it working even though it was just the introduction. The mytical magic of NLP, I think! This book is a 7-day challenge too, and this week I'm going to do what he asks and beat my emotional eating.

I'm going to blog every day and keep track of how I'm getting on.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

ETM. Eternally Talking Muppet.

I have six days until the first assessment for my Exercise to Music qualification (ETM). I don't think I will think about much else for the next 6 days.

I've been teaching bellydance for the last 9 years. For at least four hours per week, I stand in front of a class and instruct them in a physical activity. I thought this would mean that working for an ETM qualification would be something I would find fun and within my comfort zone.


I'm glad that I have confidence in standing in the front of the class, because there are so many other elements to juggle that it's good to be comfortable with *one* aspect of it.

Getting the choreographies prepared has taken a really long time. Ensuring that there are changes at the right time, in the right direction, and the right kind of movements to the right kind of music has made my brain hurt. It's not like dancing because you never *respond* to the music, you only count it. Which is less fun than I had expected.

But here's the bit I like least. When I'm delivering the class, I have to talk non-stop. For each section of the 22 minute aerobic curve (warm-up, peak and warm-down, ranging from 128BPM to 140BPM and back down to 132BPM) I have to give my class
  • 5 teaching points
  • 5 posture points
  • 5 ways to make the move harder
  • 5 ways to make the move easier
  • 5 alternatives to the moves I'm demonstrating.

That's 25 sentences. The shortest section is only 4 minutes long and I have to say 25 things at the same time as I'm demonstrating choreography at 140BPM.

I'm daunted.

The only real advice I've had is to practice, and that it all gets easier the better you know your choreography. So I'm getting as much practice as I can, all alone, in my house, annoying the crap out of my downstairs neighbours.

I think I am enjoying the course. I like a challenge and this is one. But I won't be sad when it's over. Which hopefully will be sooner (if I pass on Friday) rather than later (if I don't and I have to resit!)

Monday, 30 December 2013

2013: twelve months in twelve sentences

In 2013, I ran 1226 miles; I had my 40th birthday; completed two marathons and three half-marathons; I started a running club in my children's primary school; I learned to do chin-ups; I joined a gym for the first time in nearly a decade; I totally overhauled what I eat. It's been my best fitness year ever.

In January I was rather miserable and got poorly.

In February I started training for the Edinburgh Marathon, feeling daunted but quickly realised that I could regain my speed and increase confidence.

In March I passed my CYQ Level 2 Gym Instructor qualification! It took a lot of hard work and practice but I'm really proud to have held my own in a class of people half my age and feel so much more confident in my fitness knowledge and my own fitness.

In April I finished up my HNC in Fitness, Health and Exercise from Edinburgh College. I'd originally signed up for the HND - one more year's study - but the course was geared towards university applicants, so I took what I had and decided to work for a Personal Trainer qualification in January.

In May, I completed the Edinburgh Marathon in 4 hours and 12 seconds, and accordingly developed a monkey for my back about getting a sub-4-hour marathon.

In June became a coaching client of Angie Spencer at Marathon Training Academy and learned the value of having a coach and mentor and exactly how that can make me a better runner. 

In July I took a month off running to see if I could cure the plantar fasciitis which I'd suffered from since May. It didn't work but I did enjoy working out in the gym instead, including the lovely Elite in Broadstairs and the glorious Fitness First in Brighton.

In August I had one of my favourite, most transformative runs, 8 miles up and down the Royal Mile with Vicki Weitz, when I realised for the first time that running need not be solitary and need not be non-stop.

In August (also) I started a few new college courses: CYQ's Exercise to Music qualification via Edinburgh College at Granton; Applied Nutrition, and Pre- and Post-Natal Fitness, both at Edinburgh College at Milton Road (same institution, a few miles apart but a world of difference!)

In September, I completed the Loch Ness Marathon in 4 hours 7 minutes and learned how much fun running a marathon can be, especially when the scenery is beautiful, the race is well-organised and there's a bit of tourism involved.

In October I switched to a No Sugar, No Grains diet and loved it, and I'm still thriving on it, delighted to no longer be a slave to sugar and to instead have long-lasting, fat-fuelled energy.

In December, I managed to do 40 chin-ups in one week before straining a pec and having to take the rest of the month off, but also managed to run 40 miles in the week of my birthday, including a brilliant 22-miler on my actual birthday.

If you'd like to see some of what I plan for 2014, nip over to my fortyfest blog, for some forthcoming fitness fun. There will be more too, as I study for my PT qualification and set up as a PT - can't wait!!

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Back to college!

I'm very excited to be going back to college this term! Hurray!

I'm sticking with my decision not to study for an HND, but I still want to increase my knowledge. I'm going to Edinburgh College's Milton Road Campus to study four credits, two in Applied Nutrition and two in Applied Exercise Prescription. I am optimistic that the teaching quality will be better than most of what I experienced last year at the College's Granton Campus, although I am nervous about meeting a new group of people. It's only for one day a week (and not even a whole day) so hopefully it will keep my brain occupied and keep me consciously working towards my career goal.

Then on Fridays, I'll be back at Granton Campus studying for a CYQ Exercise to Music qualification! This is something I've wanted for years and I'm really looking forward to it. As a dance instructor you might think this might be something I can already do, but the fact is that Egyptian bellydance is more about responding to the music and interpretting what you hear than it is about doing a certain number of moves and changing to another move at the right time. I really enjoy music-based exercise classes so I think I'm going to love this course!

In January I plan to study for a level 3 Personal Training qualification at Milton Road Campus. This is the one that I really want, and I'm sad I have to wait until next year for it! But it gives me some time to get on with other things that need my attention, like organising a loft conversion!

This week I have an appointment with a business adviser at Business Gateway. I've been trying to set this appointing up since June so it's been a long time coming. This is outwith my comfort zone but I hope it will keep me focused on preparing to build my business when I'm fully qualified as a personal trainer and a post-natal fitness instructor.

It's an exciting week with so many new things to look forward to - bring it on!