Sights set on the London marathon?

marathonIf you watched last weekend’s London marathoners wondering if you’d ever be among their masses then read on to find out if you’re up to the 26.2-mile challenge.

Am I fit enough?

If you are currently pretty fit then by implementing a structured running schedule six months before the run you would most definitely be ready to run next April’s race. If you don’t really do any exercise at the moment then it doesn’t mean the 2016 marathon is out of your grasp, but it would be a good idea to slowly introduce some activity into your routine in order to slowly build your fitness levels up.

It is also a good idea to run some shorter distance races beforehand in order to understand what happens at races, and to learn what you like to have with you, how to pace yourself, and about how to mentally get yourself through.

What do I need?

A good pair of trainers is essential, and for running these kind of distances it’s really important that they fit well. Buy them from a specialist running shop as they will analyse your running style to find the right pair for you. Bad trainers can be responsible for injuries all over the body so buy the best pair you can afford.

How do I enter?

There is a public ballot which opens on Monday 4th May 2015, but if you don’t get a place that way then you can apply for a charity place. Check the official London Marathon website for a list of the charities offering places.

I don’t think I’m up to it but still want a fitness challenge

There are so many events you can take part in now. There are obtascle style races such as the Tough Mudder, or Rat Race, loads of different running races over different distances and terrains, some at night and some during which you get covered in paint (Colour Run and Run or Dye).

Cancer Research no longer just offers their 5k race for life. You can now take part in their 10k, Pretty Muddy®, half marathon or even marathon. Check their website to find events near you.

If wheels are more your thing then bike events are becoming more popular by the day and there are now a huge range of those to choose from too.

Help, I don’t know where to start

Whatever challenge you set yourself the key is to have a structured training schedule in place, which sees you gradually increasing your fitness. There are plenty of websites, books and magazines out there that will help you find one.

If however you would like a bespoke plan that takes your needs, schedule and energy levels into account then get in touch at laura.f.hilton@gmail.com and I’d be happy to put a training and nutrition plan together that will see you achieving your goal.

The importance of pelvic floor exercises in pregnancy

Why should I do pelvic floor exercises? I’ve heard that it needs to be relaxed during labour, not contracted. 

Pelvic floor exercises are vital for several reasons including not weeing yourself post labour(!), and are an important part of the labour preparations too. Relaxing it is important but the exercises are what enable you to control it as directed by midwives in labour, so they very are important. People also say they help prevent prolapse too and although that’s true it’s also uncommon.

I’ve heard that it’s more important to practice squats during pregnancy than pelvic floor exercises. Is that true?

There’s no denying that squats are beneficial, especially if you think you might like to give birth in that position. However pregnancy is not the time to start hitting the squat rack if you’ve never set foot near it before.

Instead maybe try squatting against a wall. Lower yourself down until your knees are at a right angle. Hold the position if you can. If not raise yourself up and down for about a min. Keep your back pressed into the wall.

What pelvic floor exercises should I do?

  1. Slowly relax and contract the pelvic floor ten times, then do the same quickly.
  2. Image your pelvic floor as a lift that goes up three “floors”. Lift it up to each floor and release back down stopping at each “floor” on the way.
  3. Contract the pelvic floor and hold it for a count of ten.

Try and do these at least three times a day. Maybe every mealtime? Or every time you stop at a red traffic light? You could also set a reminder on your phone.

Introducing kettle bells

Kettle bells could become your secret weapon (Copyright 2011 John Piekos)
Kettle bells could become your secret weapon (Copyright 2011 John Piekos)

One of my greatest fitness loves are kettle bell classes. They give me results I’ve never got from any other kind of workout. By doing them I’ve seen my strength and muscle tone increase, lost weight and body fat and seen a huge improvement in my stamina and general fitness.

They give you an all-over-body workout and combine cardio and resistance training, and as a result you get great results. If you’ve never tried kettle bell training, read on to find out more.

What are kettle bells? 

Kettle bells are cannon ball-shaped weights with a handle. They are generally made of cast iron or steel. They come in a wide variety of weights.

Why do they give such great results?

Kettle bell classes combine strength, flexibility and cardiovascular training. All your energy systems are going to be challenged and all your muscles are going to be working hard, in particular those in your legs, shoulders and lower back.  Your core also gets a great workout because of the need to engage it throughout the class for stability, as well as any moves which specifically target the area.

What does a class involve?

It will depend on the instructor but personally I’ve encountered two approaches. In one an instructor will demonstrate a move, the class repeats it for a minute, and so forth throughout the class. Moves will come in a fairly random order varying between big combination movements such as squats, and isolation movements such as bicep curls. The pace for all will be fast and all body areas will all be worked throughout the class.

In the other kind an instructor might take a more circuit-like approach. A set might involve three or four different moves performed a certain number of times or for a certain duration. Besides kettle bell moves these may also include some bodyweight or ab exercises such as press-ups, burpees, v-sits or planks. The set will be repeated several times before the class is moved onto another mini circuit.

I like both approaches. In the best instance a fitness centre will offer both within a week in order to give variety while still using the same powerful moves.

Where could I try a class?

Kettle bell classes are very popular now. Check out your local council gyms, private gyms or personal trainers in your area who might run classes.

Can I do this at home? 

Yes. There are plenty of DVDs available. Obviously you would need the kettle bells themselves but these too can be bought online. If you’re a beginner a 4kg will probably be good to start off with. Just remember that you need to increase your weight as you get stronger, otherwise your fitness will plateau and you won’t reap all of the potential benefits. This can mean that you have to keep buying new weights which is a downside to home kettle bell workouts vs those in a gym, where these is loads of equipment.

If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to contact me. I can’t urge you enough to try out this great workout.