Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Live What You Love

Illustration by Chrissy Welsh - check out her 365 day project form 2012 here

Within twenty-four hours of completing Tough Mudder, the hardest thing I'd ever put my body and mind through (read about it here), I was already contemplating my next challenge. I've clearly caught the extremely contagious obstacle racing bug that is spreading around the world faster than a bad strain of bird flu.

Having only ever run 8.5 miles in training prior to finishing the 12 mile event, I began wondering that if I could get through 12 miles with obstacles, then would I be able to do a half-marathon straight running without the obstacles?

A major symptom of the aforementioned bug includes not questioning 'why the hell would you want to do that?' but 'I wonder if I can do that?'. With this in mind I have entered myself into the Liverpool half-marathon on March 17th.

One of the most satisfying feelings post-Mudder has been generated by inspiring others to have a go. My fiance wants to do a TM but is not a runner at all. Fair play to him though, he's been out in the cold starting his training and we've entered into a shorter obstacle race as a warm up before going for the big one later this year. The event Major Series is hosted by British Military Fitness and we'll be doing the 10k course at Bramham Park near Leeds on March 2nd. Give me a shout and let me know if any of you are taking part!

In support of his efforts (and to help me be more understanding than bossy), I've also decided to take up a new sport - in my case swimming. Of course, I can get in water and not drown, but this is very different to being able enter into either a fun or competitive swimming event. The ultimate dream will be to eventually participate in, and complete a triathlon. Having started back in the pool for about a month on and off, I realise this will be a lot harder than I ever could have anticipated. More on this later.

2012 was a fit year for me. In fact, it was the fittest and healthiest I've been since I was at school and competing in county level athletics. This isn't something I'm about to let slip away easily. Have no fear, I'm not getting old and boring, I've just realised how much better I am at everything when I'm fit. Getting up in the morning, energy levels throughout the day, sleep patterns, mental energy at work and general motivation and zest for life. If I could bottle it and sell it, I'd be a frigging billionaire.

With the realisation of just how important diet and exercise is to both my physical and emotional wellbeing, it seems a natural progression for my blog to cover more on these subjects. So for 2013 you can expect to see a lot more in the way of health, fitness and food.
I'm neither a fitness professional nor a nutritionist so don't profess to be an expert but this is something i'm passionate about. I'll be featuring a wide range of exercises and training regimes I'm trying and testing, recipes, reviews of sportswear and equipment, supplements, books/articles/people that motivate me along with my journey to hopefully achieving my goal of taking part in a triathlon.

I'll still be covering beauty and music but wanted to give you a warning about the squats, squash and sweat that you'll notice more of round here from now on...

I hope you'll stick around and here's to a fit 2013!


Monday, 21 January 2013

Kérastase Resistance Bain de Force Shampoo

'I can't grow my hair' or ' My hair just doesn't seem to grow' are moans and grumbles that I hear from friends and read from girls up and down the country all the time. I have been guilty of this myself in the past.

However, there is an answer to this common female problem, albeit a more than slightly patronising one.

Stop getting your hair cut.

Ok so nothing groundbreaking so far but please bear with me. If like me you have coloured and over-styled hair (mine is straightened or curled on a daily basis) then prolonging the visit to the hairdressers might be easier said than done.

You can find your erosion level here on the Kérastase website by completing a number of questions about your hair type as well as exposure to elements and different heat styling. My rating comes out at Erosion 3 - Fibre damage. Damaged and rough hair, breakage, split ends.

Spot on. My hair is thick but definitely has a tendency to feel straw like, dry and rough and I do get split ends when I know I'm due for a cut.

This review is the first in a two part of my must have products that have helped me leave a few more weeks between cuts each time by vastly improving the condition, look and feel of my hair.

Kérastase describe Bain de Force as 'a reinforcing and refreshing shampoo for weakened hair. Its strengthening formula will gently cleanse whilst adding body and vitality to leave your hair stronger and shinier and with improved health. Kérastase Bain de Force is formulated with Vita-Ciment which instantly rebuilds the internal substance of the hair fibre and Vita Topseal which mimics the hair’s natural cuticle layer and seals in the renewed strength. Your hair is left stronger, shinier and extremely supple.'

This shampoo is advised for erosion levels 1-2 but it was recommended by my hairdresser for my hair type because of how it rebuilds the hair fibres it would be perfect to help me grow out my shorter layers. My hair is very thick so I can only use it for a maximum of 1-2 washes per week because of how much it thickens and boosts my hair volume. I'd love to see what this can do for those of you who feel your hair that your hair is fine, thin and flat. They do actually make a specific Bain Volumactiv product that is designed for those with fine hair but I haven't tried this one so may be better if this is your hair type.

It smells lovely - I'd liken it to almost a watermelon sort of smell - not too sweet but a bit fruity. It lathers amazing well and you don't actually need a lot unlike some cheaper brands.
Depending on where you buy, this shampoo costs between £10-15 (current cheapest is £11.13 from Active Beauty). Whilst this might seem pricey for a shampoo, if you are a regular reader of my blog you'll know that I'm an advocate of products that deliver on what they say - for me that represents true value for money in that you are getting what you pay for. I'll definitely be repurchasing along with the conditioner that I've not tried yet.

For me this product has transformed the health of my hair and has enabled me to last up to 3 months without getting it cut. I'll be reviewing the second product that's helping me on my quest for the perfect wedding hair for next year soon...

What shampoos have you been impressed with and would recommend?


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Tough Mudder: The Day I Conquered Everest - Part Two

In my first post about Tough Mudder (you can read it here if you haven't already), you learned that I survived - but now I'd like to share a bit more about the experience...

If you are about to complete your first TM and don't want to know more then stop reading here. I purposely didn't do any research, read any blogs, watch any videos prior to completing the course, but that's just me. Reminds me of the time I have a tooth implant - when I'm about to undergo something a bit scary, I prefer to know as little as possible and just get on with it. Ignorance, for me, is most certainly bliss. However, if you've come for some pre-game insight then continue - may contain spoilers :)

Dirty protest? Check out the guy in the mankini...

What can I say? It was tough. And muddy. Certainly no danger of Trading Standards getting involved. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen mud quite like it. Soft mud, hard mud, deep mud, thick mud, thin mud, sticky mud, slimy mud, cold mud, warm mud, mud that steals your trainers, slippy mud. Oh and did I mention mud that stinks of shit. Mud glorious mud.

So now I have a new found affinity for mud, and whilst trying to avoid as much cheesy American psychobabble as possible, I'd like to explain how the Tough Mudder experience has changed me forever.

I said I didn't do any research prior to the event, that's a small fib. I had investigated the different kinds of obstacles I would face on the Tough Mudder website when I signed up (and on a few occasions afterwards) and permanently imprinted onto my brain the ones that petrified me. Arctic Enema, Electric Eel, Everest, Electroshock Therapy. Need I say more?

As I mentioned in my first post, I encountered Arctic Enema between mile 1 and 2. Fortunately enough, the adrenaline was still pumping high when I queued up to climb into the skip full of ice, put my head under to pass a wooden bar and haul myself out again. Yes you heard right. As this was the first of my bogey obstacles, I expressed my fear to the guys behind me, who then adopted me as part of their team.

I don't have any pics of me doing this one but here's an official photo

Arctic Enema. The verdict. Not as bad as I thought it would be. I was in and out very quick, it wasn't horrendously cold even on such a cold day- again I think at this early stage the adrenaline gets you through.

The next few miles were actually quite fun. I learned very quickly that the guys at Tough Mudder were sadists. Or should I say, at the very least they like to fuck with your head. I remember thinking, this is going ok so far when I passed the mile 1 marker. Until 10 minutes, several obstacles and a whole lot of mud later, passed 'the real mile 1 marker'. This was the first in a series of head fucks that I can now look back on and have a little giggle but definitely called them bastards at the time.

Here's a low down and videos of some of the more interesting obstacles:

Walk the Plank / Underwater Barrels

I had been nervous about Arctic Enema and not given a second thought to either of these obstacles. Clearly I'd underestimated the natural Cheshire rivers on a freezing November morning. The man made ice bath had nothing on these bad boys.

Walk the Plank was a jump of a 5m board into a pond. I was ok with jumping off but I was completely unprepared for what would happen to be body when I hit the water. The cold, the confusion, disorientation and my sudden inability to either breathe or work out how to swim were unexpected to say the least. I remember watching a programme about soldiers that had to cut holes in ice and jump into frozen lakes as part of training and all I remember thinking was that I had about a minute to get out before I was done for. Ha nothing like a bit of an over reaction but I was so grateful when a new team mate dragged my up the cargo net that I simply didn't have the energy to climb myself.

After that experience I approached the river to tackle the underwater barrels with extreme intrepidation. I remember getting in and saying 'oh its not actually that cold' which i regretted after about 30 seconds and the water sapped every bit of my body heat. The cat-like body language says it all. At each of the sets of barrels I was instructed to 'PAUSE, DEEP BREATH, DIVE'. Nothing prepared me for the feeling (no not even Walk the Plank). This was different. You know the brain freeze you get from eating too much ice cream? That, times 1000. My head literally felt like it was going to explode. By barrel three I thought it had. Getting out of the river (about mile 7) was my absolute low point - but I'm sure I still managed a smile...

Going, Going, Gone.

Electric Eel

First electric obstacle I had to face. And my fan club / support crew were there so I couldnt chicken out. This one didn't zap me but Keith next to me felt it. Feels good watching this back as I manned up and got the job done without hesitation.


So I passed the mile 12 marker. The guys I was running with were buzzing at nearly finishing. All I could think was that we still hadn't done the two obstacles I was dreading. I was cold and wet. My legs felt like lead (the furthest I'd ever run before this was 8 miles). And then I heard it. The hum of the finish line - the music, the MC on the mic talking to runners as they crossed and the crowds - cheering people on as they attempted the most gruelling challenge of them all. Everest.

I wanted to do this more than anything. My fan club had assembled here to watch me do it and I was so worried about letting them down. Aside from that I don't think I could have faced what I thought would be humiliation at this stage. The queues for this obstacle were ridiculous. We waitied about 30 minutes - freezing cold, soaking wet and knackered to even have a first shot at getting over. I nearly gave up. In fact, it took every ounce of grit as well as persuasion from both my team and my boyfriend not to quit. I've never felt so cold in my life despite the hand warmers I'd bought (they did fuck all) and my boyfriend donating his ski jacket. My advice to anyone else would be to try and go in an earlier start time wave if you don't want to queue.

The crowds queuing for Everest.
So we stood and watched. For half an hour. While many tried and many failed. Watch the video below to get a sense of just how difficult it is and how tired people were.  But not a dot of humiliation in sight. Everyone was rooting for you to do it - at the bottom, at the top and on the side lines. That's the great thing about this event.

And then there was my turn.

I'd told myself I only had to try once. If I couldn't do it, it didn't matter as long as I'd tried once. But trying once wasn't good enough.. As you can see, giving my other half a face full of verbal was clearly all the motivation I needed to get the job done. This was my proudest moment of the day. I get goosebumps just watching this back.

Remember the guy with the mankini? He conquered Everest too - thankfully first time for his sake!

Electroshock Therapy

The final obstacle. And on a high from completed Everest, we sprinted through Electroshock. I got zapped about 15 times getting through but I stayed on my feet, others were less fortunate. I'm not going to give anything away about this one - its a feeling like no other I've experienced, that's all I'm going to say... you'll have to face this one on your own!

So what did I learn?

Your parents/teachers try will tell you from a young age that 'you can do anything if you put your mind to it'. I always knew (ok, hoped and prayed) that I would finish Tough Mudder. Sheer bloody mindedness more than anything would get me through. But the feeling of pride and satisfaction when I crossed the finish line was unprecedented. I did it. I trained for months. Often in the wet, in the cold, before 7am. (Thanks to those of you who follow me on social media for still following despite me being a total gym bore). But it was worth it - I had put my mind and effort to something and achieved everything I had aimed for. That feeling didn't end there... I was riding high on the crest of a confident wave for days and weeks after. When my team won the pub quiz the following week I knew I was unstoppable. Ok so joking aside, the sense of 'what next' was definitely high on my agenda and I wasn't about to put it to waste.

My buzz definitely rubbed off on others with friends and family motivated by my tales of adventure with many signing up for other obstacle runs this year. If me being involved (and boring you with training tweets) has inspired even one person to dust off their trainers / enter into an event / push themselves a little bit further than before, then this would be the as satisfying an achievement.

Did I learn anything else?

Raising £962 for charity feels really good. Thank you to everyone who sponsored me.

People notice the details. (Yes I coordinated my nail varnish with the Tough Mudder team colours). No reason why I couldn't bring a bit of glamour to the operation right?

The face of a nearly broken but very happy lady. And not a nail out of place ;)

Find out what challenges I've set myself for 2013 in my post coming soon... but would I do it again? Hell yes.

I'd love to know if you've ever taken part in any obstacle runs or if you're taking on any new challenges this year?