how why self reflection

How was your year? Mine was a pretty busy one! From work projects to CrossFit competitions to travelling, things have been non-stop, and honestly I haven’t had much time to reflect on my progress and assess where I was headed.

It’s so important to self-reflect, so this year I’m going to dedicate some time to it, and ensure I’m working towards my goals rather than shooting off in random directions.

Read on to find out why reflection is so important and the best techniques to use to self-reflect on your own year.

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better at crossfit

Since starting CrossFit in July, I’ve made a lot of progress and have really fallen in love with the sport. I’ve learned how to snatch and climb a rope, my clean has improved no end (too bad I still can’t clean my flat) and my mental attitude to both fitness and my own body has improved too. Now I’ve reached a point where I want to get better – to compete, maybe – but simply doing what I’ve been doing isn’t bringing me any more progress.

In a nutshell, I need to get leaner, faster, and better to be CrossFitting at the level I want to be at. It’s easy enough to say that, but how exactly am I going to go about it? By breaking my needs into different areas I can establish marginal areas I can work on, and get valuable gains that I wouldn’t have managed otherwise, had I simply attacked the bigger picture.

It goes without saying that consistency is key, which I’m going to strive for in 2016, but I’ll also be making plans to hit the following marginal goals..
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Setting tough but achievable goals is really important to me: it keeps me motivated to move forward and gives me a massive sense of achievement when they’re completed. However, after a goal has been hit – especially a big one, say, a marathon! – it can send you into a slump because you don’t know what to do next. Sometimes when sportspeople win the competition they’ve always dreamed of winning it can dishearten and confuse them, as when they’ve hit their greatest goal, what is there to accomplish then?

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Chris and I ran up an enormous hill in Delamere Forest.. with just one brief walk!

Back at the start of November I set myself some running goals for the month, so now we’re into December I thought I’d check back in to let you know how I got on…

After a slow start to the month I didn’t end up running the 100km I wanted to. I only ran twice in the first two weeks – a 7km and the Run in the Dark 10km – due to three Masters hand-ins clustered around the 13th (my birthday!). I did manage 70km for November which I’m still pretty happy with, especially considering the majority of the distance was run in just over two weeks. I’ve done more spinning sessions this month, at my own gym and also a class at BOOM Cycle which is great HIIT work, though I’ll be adding in some variation with Insanity-style classes and CrossFit.

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It was my birthday! My mum got me this card, which I relate to highly.

Forefoot striking came a lot more naturally to me than I thought it would. I decided to do it in November and didn’t really have any issues transitioning, though at first I took the “forefoot running” too literally and my calves took the brunt – now I’m landing mid-forefoot and letting my whole foot touch the ground and it’s a lot more comfortable. I had a bit of a knee niggle but that didn’t last for long, especially not after I started taking turmeric tablets, so I think I’ve achieved my aim of staying injury-free! I’ve also made progress with my hips and pelvis, though I haven’t stuck to doing my physio exercises every day. I have an appointment this evening so I’m sure I’ll get told off about that. Rest is something I still need to work on; I feel like I’ve been going through life at a hundred miles an hour lately so I need to learn how to better take down-time.

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We kicked off the Nike+ Run Club Manchester – it’s on Thursday nights and Sunday mornings if you’re local.

So, that’s November over with: how about December’s goals? I’ve been thinking about my nutrition a lot; for a while I was just eating whatever I wanted – very carb-heavy – and I noticed I’d started to lose definition. I know it’s not everything but I’d really like to maintain muscle density whilst marathon training, so I had a chat with PT Denton who reassured me that whilst it’s difficult, it’s not impossible, and advised me to aim for a 40% carbohydrate/40% protein/20% fat split. I’m back on MyFitnessPal so I’m aiming to login every day and track my macros more carefully. If you’d like to keep me accountable (or nosey at what I eat) my username on there is squatbot.

I’m doing Advent Running this month, which is a runstreak of 25 days – from December 1st to Christmas Day – running at least 30 minutes each day. Yes, that includes Christmas Day! My goal is simply to complete the whole 25 days and to stay injury-free throughout. It’s already been tough and I’m only on day 4. Dark nights, extremely cold weather and busy schedule are getting in the way, but I’m doing it, which already proves to me that if you make room for something then there’s always time. You can keep up with the challenge (and join in yourself) by checking out the hashtag #runforsprouts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. And if you happen to notice the absence of my posts.. give me a nudge! I might just need that extra motivation to get off the sofa.

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Whilst I’ve made it known that I’m doing a Masters degree in Sports Marketing & Business Management this year, I’ve kept something else a little closer to my chest: in April I’ll be running my first full marathon, and what’s better my debut will be on home turf at the Greater Manchester Marathon.

Yep, it’s around the time I’ll be handing in my last Masters assignments, bar my dissertation. And yep, I’m going to be spending a lot of time this winter training for it. So I guess you could consider the fact I’m doing two very big things in the same year a little crazy, but I find the more you do the more you want to do, and I’m already enjoying my studies and looking forward to my training runs.

I graduated from my Bachelors last week – First Class with Honours, thanks for asking – and it was Olympic sprinter Darren Campbell who handed me my scroll. No jokes about dropping the baton please, I’ve heard them all. He gave an inspiring talk about the importance of a strong work ethic and the fact that where you’ve come from doesn’t have to dictate where you’ll go, and I totally agree. Everything is about focused, hard work. Now I’ve graduated I can’t linger on my Bachelors any longer – it’s time to dig deep and get my Masters and get around this marathon.

In October I hit 90km for the month, which I believe to be more than I’ve ever run before. Even when I was training for previous half marathons I did it on a wing and a prayer which you can do while you’re young; I recognise as I’m nearing my thirties that I need to be kinder to myself, and that involves thorough preparation and proper rest. Thus, I’ve set myself some goals for November:

  • Run 100km in total for the month.
  • Do more high-intensity interval training.
  • Make progress with my hips and pelvis, engaging my glutes.
  • Consciously try to strike on my mid/forefoot.
  • Rest when I need to, and enjoy it.
  • Stay injury free!

November is going to be very busy for me: two Masters hand-ins, the run club at work launching, physiotherapy sessions and – last but not least – my birthday. I’m getting so much better at time management and putting what I want most above what I want right now, and I know I’ll be able to not only survive but thrive at both my Masters and my marathon.

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Top: January 4th. Bottom: January 26th. I don’t see a big difference in my body, but have I achieved any non-scale, non-measurement, non-aesthetic victories in that time? Read on..

Throughout my life my health and fitness has been sporadic, at best. I was a very active teenager, and in my late teens and early twenties I was a gym obsessive. Since then I’ve dipped in and out of fitness, never quite reaching the same body of age 21.

Until this time. Something just feels different. Whether it’s my determination to look after my health and body, or whether it’s my well-informed, nutritious diet, I think I am heading for the best shape of my life. I wanted to write this post to look back on whenever I have wobbles in the future, and remember the non-scale victories I have had the past few months.

I’ve been sleeping better.
No more sleep paralysis or pins and needles in my hands, and I sleep all night, provided my cat lets me.

I’ve been less tired.
Whether it’s the good quality of sleep I’m having or otherwise, I’ve definitely been less tired throughout the day, with less caffeine consumed and fewer energy slumps.

My determination has spread into other areas of my life.
I’m incredibly determined when working out, and this is down to my brain knowing full well that my body can do what I am asking it to do. I’ve realised this applies to the rest of my life, too, whether at university, work, or even just socialising (I can definitely suffer from a touch of social anxiety!).

And oh, all right. I’m pretty pleased I’ve gone down a size in yoga pants.
I know I shouldn’t be, and I sort of don’t want to be pleased. But at least it shows eating clean and training mean is working.

Though I’m happy about these victories I still feel I have a long way to go. My fitness goals for this year are, in no particular order:

To go to a CrossFit session.
There’s an amazing box just across the river from me, and it’s owned by Sam Briggs, the fittest woman in the world. I want to be able to go and not only complete a WOD but do it well!

To grow my butt.
This isn’t a very SMART goal I’m sorry, but I will be happy when I see my butt at least starting to fill my yoga pants. Patience and work, patience and work…

To do the Manchester 10K.
This is looking like a fairly easy goal to achieve now, so I am considering aiming for a half marathon in the autumn. It all depends what happens when I graduate – hopefully I will get a tasty graduate job and have more time and freedom at the weekends to train and race.

To do 10 unassisted chin-ups.
I can’t believe how weak my upper body is compared to my lower. I’ve been using the assisted pull-up machine the past couple of weeks building up to this but I still can’t do one unassisted. I’d like to be able to do these before I go to a CrossFit session.

To do an unassisted handstand.
Every night just before bed I have a bit of a mad half hour when I practice my yoga inversions. I am alright at tripod headstands and I’m getting the hang of the crow, but handstands still evade me. My boyfriend helps out when he is feeling amiable, otherwise the wall is my best friend.

Overall, I’d like to be consistent in my eating and workouts, and remember that a few days off working out or eating clean does not mean falling off the wagon. I have to remember the good stuff – the stuff from the beginning of this post – and how fantastic it feels to be fit, strong and happy.

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