England Rugby Warrior Camps Are BACK + The Benefits of Winter Rugby | Ad

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Did you hear that the Inner Warrior camps I did back in August drove a massive 3,500 women to pick up a rugby ball for the very first time?

If you didn’t get chance to try rugby then – or gave it a go and loved it – then I have some great news for you. Warrior Camps are back for 2018! The camps are running 12-28th January 2018, encouraging women to kick-start their fitness routine for the new year and challenge themselves to take up a new sport.

Some awesome stats came from the last wave of camps – over 10,500 women attended camps since January 2016 (way in excess of the 8,000 target) which meant that 41 new female contact rugby club teams began in 2017.

I covered the benefits of playing rugby after my first rugby training session, but if you’re unwilling to get on the field during the winter, here are some of the benefits of getting outside to play during the cold weather that will hopefully change your mind!

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This post is in collaboration with England Rugby Warrior Camps.

LIFE: Fight a Cold.. Naturally!

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Getting a cold is utterly inconvenient. Smack bang in the middle of the season where we’re burning the candle at ALL of its ends (modern life’s candle obviously has at least four ends: work, training, friends, family.. I could go on) you’re struck down with a fuzzy head, snuffly nose and generally feeling like you’ve been hit by a bus. You soldier on and you’re physically present, but you feel and look so crappy you’re neither use nor ornament.

While there’s no fail-safe way of preventing a cold, there’s some measures you can take to reduce the spread of germs and ensure your immune system is firing on all cylinders. The easiest one is to simply wash your hands regularly; you unwittingly touch so many surfaces that others have touched, sneezed or coughed upon, then you go eat and touch your face. It’s not always possible to wash hands as often as we should, which is why I carry a mini antibacterial hand rub for after I’ve been on the tram or been shopping.

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I take zinc all year round to balance hormones, aid with muscle repair and for its antioxidants, but it’s especially important in winter as it helps elevate the immune system when attacked by viruses. I make sure I take echinacea through the winter months too; although there are few studies to prove its efficacy (however this one says you’re 65% less likely to catch a cold if you take it) it’s been used for hundreds of years to prevent colds, and I’ve not had a full-blown cold whilst using it – so that’s good enough for me! I’ve been taking Scitec’s Winter-X* supplement as it contains both zinc and echinacea, along with vitamin C. I’ve been taking one a day which is a nice change as echinacea I’ve taken previously needed numerous tablets a day to make up the dosage.

The World Ginger Association should probably employ me (is there a World Ginger Association? And if not, why not?!) for the amount I wax lyrical about ginger. I’ve spoken before about its benefits and also its amazing taste! I love drinking Pukka’s lemon, ginger and manuka honey tea for its soothing taste but it’s also adding to my immune system strengthening. Manuka honey is pretty excellent on its own too due to its antibacterial properties – I can’t afford the real thing at the moment but I feel a little bit is better than nothing! Use a tiny amount in smoothies, with muesli, in tea, or anywhere you’d normally use sugar. Garlic is another immune powerhouse that’s been shown to specifically prevent the common cold – I use it in every single meal. Just chuck two chopped cloves in the pan before everything else.

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I first picked the Pine & Honey Balsalm up from Holland & Barrett about a year ago and it has been repurchased quite a few times! I originally bought it when I was absolutely rotten with a cold, and after a few doses and a good kip I was feeling right as rain. Whenever I get those tell-tale warning signs of a cold I take a couple of spoonfuls, and as I said earlier I haven’t had a proper cold in ages. It’s likely to be a mixture of all the above elements so to me it’s worthwhile keeping them all up.

And if all this fails? Remember you are not a superhuman and take some time out! Most of us go to work through a cold so make sure you keep a couple of evenings free to do nothing and go to bed early. If I feel run down I have some very early nights to sleep – dosing up with Ibuprofen if necessary – to allow my body to repair itself. Take time off when you need to and ultimately you will bounce back faster and stronger!


KIT: Stay Safe in Winter

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Winter running can be a little daunting, as the majority of us are either early morning or late evening runners due to daytime commitments. We all know that we should run with others, tell someone where you’re going and how long you will be, but are there other precautions we can take to stay safe in the dark, cold winter months?

Changing up your winter running kit is the easiest way to keep yourself safe and warm over the winter months, often the most important time in the running calendar, with the majority of long races being in early spring.

If your kit has reflective and fluorescent elements on it, you’re much more likely to be seen by motorists and other road users. Both work by absorbing and reflecting light differently to other materials (a black pair of matte leggings, say, will just absorb the light and become part of the background); although reflective materials need a light source to work, like a car headlight, fluorescent materials are easier to see in low light conditions. You can pick up fluorescent vests and reflective bands for a couple of quid from places like Pound shops and eBay, so there’s no excuse for not being seen! A good tip for reflective bands is to wear them on places that move the most, like your ankles or wrists, as motorists are more likely to notice something moving rapidly.

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Sometimes the thought of feeling cold can really put me off going for a run – even though I know that five minutes in I’ll be warm enough – so I bundle up before leaving the house too much. That means I end up sweating an unpleasant amount, eventually getting colder than I would have been had I have been wearing less! A general rule is if you dress as if it’s 5°C warmer you are less likely to overheat on your run, and you’re also much better in a couple of thin layers rather than one thick layer. The first layer should wick sweat off your body, the second keeps warm air circulating around, and the third can protect from the elements if it’s windy or raining. The more you do it, the better you’ll balance keeping toasty in your warm-up and staying cool during your run. No more shivering cooldowns.

Less of a kit-tip and more of a no-kit-tip: I’m dreadful for sitting around in my sweaty running clothes post-run, but this really isn’t ideal in winter! There’s no proof that getting a ‘chill’ can cause a cold, but it does feel unpleasant and it’s tough to warm up again after your body temperature drops. I try to strip off as soon as I get home and get in a hot shower. It warms up my skin, so makes me feel more comfortable, but also keeps my core temperature stable which is the most important thing. Jumping straight into your cosy pyjamas and drinking a hot drink not only feels amazing but will keep you warm too!

When it’s freezing and lashing it down outside, nothing feels more triumphant than getting yourself out pounding the pavement. But at the same time, if you’re feeling run-down anyway and the thought of getting out there fills you with absolute dread, the world is not going to end if you skip a run. It totally depends on your goals and why you run. Just don’t turn it into a habit!

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EAT: Winter Health Smoothie

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The weather in Manchester has changed for the colder in the past few weeks, and whilst I love crisp, cold, sunny days, they also bring with them the coughs and colds of the season. It can also be SO much harder to get out of the house to train in winter! This week I’m running a winter health special on the blog, giving you a few hints and tips on how to stay fit and well over the next couple of months. There’s a saying that summer bodies are made in the winter, so if a hot body is your motivation then remember that – but if overall health is more your thing then it’s just as important in the winter to get your nutrients, and lots of fresh air, too.

First up we have my favourite smoothie to drink whenever I’m feeling run down. Somehow even just drinking green juice immediately makes me feel healthier and more spritely – that must be a placebo effect, but smoothies are a very effective way to get nutrients into your body, especially from sources you wouldn’t think to eat normally. I love this mix of pineapple, spinach, ginger and wheatgrass, as not only does it do good, it tastes good too.

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I use about a quarter to a third of a pineapple. Chopping a fresh pineapple can be a pain however they are SO cheap to buy whole (65p from Aldi!), this is but a mild inconvenience. Pineapples are full of vitamins and antioxidants, plus they’re the only known source of bromelain: studies show this enzyme to be a powerful anti-inflammatory. All those “-itis” complaints we have in winter? All down to inflammation.

Ginger is one of my favourite tastes so I stick about an inch of root into my smoothies. It has been known to reduce a fever or reduce symptoms of a cold and is also anti-inflammatory.

Chucking in a load of spinach helps your blood transport oxygen around the body, thanks to its high iron content. This helps to support your immune system, as iron deficiency has been proven to be detrimental to immunity.

And finally, wheatgrass. Yes, it’s horrible tasting on its own, and anything more than a teaspoon overwhelms everything else in my experience, even when mixed with strong tastes like ginger and pineapple. However, it’s a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, iron, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium (phew!) so if you get the taste balance right it’s really worthwhile including it in your winter wellness arsenal.

I’ve been using the Nutri Ninja blender* to create my smoothies lately. It really whizzes through fibrous fruits and veggies, reducing the mixture down to a liquid, unlike my normal blender which is not quite as refined and tends to leave smaller chunks in the drink. You can see me in action with my Nutri Ninja in the video below: I took part in the #SmoothieWars challenge and I don’t think the other competitors were impressed with my “blow your head off” approach to ginger. Whoops! Perhaps start with a smaller amount of ginger – even a small amount can have a positive effect. The best advice I can give is to experiment with your smoothies! I hit upon the one above just by playing around with different ingredients. That way you can have a tasty drink tailored to your taste, with lots of health benefits too.