03/03/2015

Sweaty Betty Glasgow x JDH Aveda Yoga Lock-In


On Friday the awesome Sweaty Betty Glasgow threw a yoga bash at the James Dun's House Aveda Lifestyle Salon.  The salon is named similarly to the original in Aberdeen; which actually resides in the ex-museum James Dun's House. One of the store Ambassadors, Colette, from Infinity Hot Yoga, hosted classes and Juice Warrior drinks were on hand for tasty re-hydration. I ran down from work, ready to stretch it out. My left leg had been quite tight and I had also missed Pilates that week so felt very much in need of some gentle movement.

The JDH Aveda salon and spa runs over multiple levels. The top level- hairdressing- was where the class was to be held. Prior to that evening I hadn't considered how similar hairdressers and exercise studios actually are- high ceilings, natural light, modern glossy wooden floors... Pretty spot on! It made for a gorgeous yoga spot; but I did end up with a few errant hairs stuck to my legs!

When I arrived the previous class was still being taught; and you could hear Colette's instruction floating down from in high, "breathe in, breathe out". Robyn and Lorna suggested grabbing a free spa treatment downstairs before class. Downstairs was like a different world- soft, warm light; decor in shades of chocolate. Lovely. I waited a few minutes and tried out some of the Aveda moisturizers. Then I was called into a treatment room and offered a choice of two relaxing oils. I chose a menthol/mint/lemon style oil. I then received an amazing back and neck massage. God I love massages. It really was the perfect antidote to a stressful week. The treatment finished with a short hair massage- I love the feeling of my hair being played with; and since it was pre-yoga I didn't mind the oil in the hair.

Then it was up the stairs. I was pretty happy to spot the now-iconic team SB goodie bags, in the nicest colour yet. I later found that this bag contained a running water bottle, vouchers, and hair bobbles that don't snag. As always, very generous freebies!




Anyways, what we came for- the yoga! We went through a series of classic poses, with a lot of leg-focused stretching and some moves focused on relaxation. I was so happy with how low I managed to get in pigeon pose under this tuition, and how close I could get my head to my knees in other poses.
I've been taught by Colette before (in pilates) and knew she was an excellent teacher. She's just as great in yoga- friendly, encouraging, hands on, inspirational; with constant reminders of breathing and core strength. She said so many useful things throughout the session. I honestly wish I had recorded her. 

The two that stood out for me were her comments on comparison to others. She talked about how we all see instagram yogis doing beatific inversions and forget that we all start somewhere and we are at a beginning (myself especially!). She also talked about how your brain stops you half the time- by freaking out before it is asked to do something; by glancing around at the girl two mats over thinking, 'oh god she's perfect at this, oh god I can't do this'. One quote I do remember:

"You're not in her body. You are in yours. That's where your mind should be".

After the class we all stayed and chatted for a while; and repeatedly thanked Colette. She also showed us her favourite pose... A flawless 'monkey' aka the front splits. On exit we had our choice of the Juice Warrior range. I went for the Pillar Box- watermelon, mint, and lime. Delicious!

The beautiful Collette dropping into Monkey pose
Yum. Really want to try the Coco Cashew and the Blood Face beetroot too.
A huge thanks to Sweaty Betty and Aveda for such a lovely night. It was so relaxing; and honestly I felt I needed it. Robyn and Lorna also mentioned they are starting a Sweaty Betty Sunday morning run club in March; so that's definitely something to watch out for!

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Do you like massages? People playing with your hair? I love it. I also very definitely have an AMSR, so the sounds are really relaxing to me too.

What is the best thing a yoga teacher has taught you?

Clarification: This post was not sponsored or requested by the company, and the only freebies I was given were included in the free class and available to all participants, not just bloggers. The event could be attended by anyone. No links are affiliate; all just for information. 

27/02/2015

Glenmore Lodge Introduction to Winter Skills Part 1







I now know 4 major things about winter mountaineering:


  1. Crampons are God's one true creation.
  2. Whereas winter boots were birthed by the devil.
  3. You must never, ever put your gloves down. 
  4. Layers will be your new lord and saviour.

Slightly religious twist on that list, I'll admit. Last weekend, my dad and I headed to Glenmore Lodge in the north of the Cairngorms National Park to take part in some winter mountaineering skills training. Both of us love to hike and love the hills; but lack the skills to stay safe in deep snow, ice, and winter unpredictability. The course is aimed at people who can hike in summer, but have no winter experience. AKA, moi. It was meant to be mum and I, but very sadly she caught a virus the day before we were going.

We headed up to Aviemore on Friday evening; stopping to admire the incredible star visibility near the Cairngorms (we saw Jupiter. And Orion was completely clear). Upon arrival we settled into our lovely room- with complimentary mountain picture (the image was different in every room... I did ask!)-, then popped to the bar for a drink before heading straight to bed.

The wall in our room




One of the hallways- so cool!
Bright and early the next day we shoveled some breakfast down our throats before meeting Matt, our friendly, knowledgable, and mildly eccentric instructor; and the rest of our group. First on the itinerary was how to pack a bag. This may sound boring as hell; but in the mountains under-prepared = good-as-dead. The general theory here is pack everything you may ever need; in reverse order of when you might need it. Keep food handy (this is my kinda advice); pack multiple layers; pack more gloves than your hands can... handle, I guess. The outcome of this was that my winter hiking backpack was roughly 1984293 times heavier than a summer daysack.

We then headed on a long hike (5-6 mi) up and around Cairn Gorm itself, with the promise of learning winter skills along the way. We were introduced to the wonders of crampons- metal spike soles that allow you to dance on black ice like you are the winter fairy-, and spent much of the day deciding as a group when to pull them on or off. We also learned to traverse steeper snow slopes by cutting steps. A great deal of discussion also focused around snow types. Different types require different walking techniques, and carry different risk. We learned about how to identify slopes and snow at risk of avalanche; and how to avoid these slopes navigational-y. All day long we also carried avalanche transmitters that reveal your position to rescuers. I got back at night only to realise I hadn't turned mine on... Oops. That's step #1.

Putting on or taking off crampons






Lots of rime ice on the weather station

Top of Cairn Gorm (second from left)

Once back and refueled on tea and cake; things were no less hectic. We had a lecture at 6.45 pm, then dinner, then a lecture at 8 too. The 6.45 lecture was about winter navigation. The key takeaway here is not to rely on any landmarks that aren't huge productions of mother nature- paths, streams and buildings disappear in snow; elevation does not. Though elevations can be harder to see, so don't walk off a cliff, and can change shape with snow cornices. The team leader suggested learning your pacing, and timing. Learn how long it takes you to reach certain short distances in certain conditions. Learn slope directions and angles. Then you can navigate using these and your pacing. Another good idea is to keep in mind what lies past your target- what happens when you have gone too far? We also covered the thought that maps are not infallible.

Contours= everything

Visibility/snow makes is harder though- how steep would you say the THREE slopes in this picture are?


Interestingly (for me), most navigational mistakes are human psychology- someone is cold, lost, in a 'descending' mindset, wants to get out of the wind and takes a directional shortcut or doesn't properly consult their compass. The Cairn Gorm is a great example of the potential impact of this: if you walk off the wrong edge there are 20-odd miles to anything at all. Take a map, a compass, a spare map. GPS and phones are nice but electronics die. Some even freeze. The instructor also told a story of a rescue where the man had been relying on his iPhone for directions, and then broke the screen. Humans need to challenge themselves and their assumptions in navigation. Even the centre leader recounted a tale where he got lost and found himself thinking, "well these must be the cliffs so I go past these...", and after forcing himself to check against his maps and compass he found that he was in completely the wrong place.  Learn to say no to yourself.

By that time we were starved. Luckily, the food was great at dinner- squash with spinach stew or pork chops. Both were served with roast parsnip and sweet potato mash, then optional sticky toffee pud. Extremely tasty. I went for the squash and didn't end up having cake- sounds insane I know but there was cake in the packed lunches, cake in the afternoon refuel, and cake at dinner too! I was all caked out.

And soup... forgot the soup!


The 8 pm Avalanche talk was also all about psychology. The speaker gave the calculation for avalanche risk as: Hazard (weather, snow conditions) + Party (experience and skills) + Landscape (slope and aspect) = Decision. The inital focus of the lecture was on planning- researching the back weather forecasts (as the previous weather greatly effects avalanche risk), red flag snow types, and rising heat after heavy snowfall and strong winds. Then we were taught to beware slopes of 30-40 degrees (represented by 6-10 contours/cm on map) that face away from the wind direction (as all the deep snow is blown onto these). We also discussed the most dangerous snow type- windslab. This snow breaks in large fractures, and is very weak. You can see it if large clumps crack and fall away together as you step on it. The phrase to remember is: Steep, deep and weak.

But its mostly about humans. Most avalanche accidents are caused by humans. The danger scale begins with humans- avalanches caused by them become likely before natural ones do. Again the question is, are you big enough to say no to yourself or others? Even if you want to get home, or impress the group leader, or prove yourself a mountaineer? Even if you are tired and sore and cold and don't want to check the slope angle? Are you going to be wise enough to say, "guys, this slope is a bad idea". Like in navigation errors, more people caught out on the descent. You also get group and individual human heuristics. Heuristics are dangerous, they are a bad way to make decisions in winter situations. People think, "well loads of people are around". Or experience the familiarity fallacy, "I come here all the time!". There is also wishful thinking based on the level of commitment to the hike, "I'm sure its fiiiine". There are a million of them: its sunny; this is the only day you've got. Groups make particularly bad decisions- the quiet members go underrepresented, peer pressure leads to risk taking, there is competition within the group and between groups, and people are saving face. The instructor told us people literally walk past or through avalanche debris and think, "huh".

If you are worried about avalanche threat where you are: turn around, stop, go home via a safe route. The mountain will be there some other time.

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Check out part 2 next Friday! Sorry this is so long but we learned so much.

Do you hike in winter?

24/02/2015

Eating Out Healthily in Glasgow: Martha's

Martha's is a great addition to the Glasgow food scene. Its entire brief is 'fast food that isn't homogenised muck'. It's healthy fast food.

Both images from the MyMarthas website


I ate... Thai Veggie Curry main box- a box of coconut milk based curry with sweet potato; squash; peas; red lentils; and carrots, served over wild rice. This comes with a side of their special slaw (no thick mayo here, only natural yoghurt and lemon dressing). I also had the C-Moregreen smoothie- spinach, celery, mint, orange and mangos.

Om nom nom nom


Was it expensive?

Martha's isn't too expensive, but it certainly isn't the cheapest option either. Most main boxes are around £5. The dish I ate was £4.95. Its easy to wrack up the money when you get to the tills and see the delicious vegan brownies they sell... The smoothies are also expensive if you sit in, which irks me as they do not have to wash the containers as they are disposed of for every customer (they do recycle them all).

What else was on offer?

As it specialises in healthy food, you would struggle to go particularly unhealthy unless you only ate from the crisps stand.  Martha's has many more 'main box' options- mostly flavoured spiced dishes served over brown rices or noodles. There is a daily main box special. Additionally, any main box can be served as a flatbread wrap instead of over a carbohydrate. They also sell salads, and an ever-changing list of daily soups. Their menu has full calorie and vegetable/fruit content information, along with indications of particular 'superfoods'. There is a huge range for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free eaters.



What did I think?

Martha's food is reliably very tasty; healthy; and flavorful. I do think its advised to take out- the menu is cheaper then, and the atmosphere can be a little sterile, with staff whipping away boxes just after you've taken the final forkful. The cafe does have gorgeous decor, but it is optimised for fast eating. Definitely if you are after a quick lunch with a pile of healthy options, in the centre of town, this is the place to swing by. Its very busy at lunches; but apparently does a mean breakfast too.

To clarify: No one paid me anything in any way, nor was I encouraged, to write about this place. 

20/02/2015

Muay Thai


My office is currently doing an informal 'sport swap'- trying out each other's sports . We are a surprisingly active bunch for such busy folk.  First up was one of the guys in my office, who does Muay Thai and mixed martial arts. On Monday therefore I agreed to head to Muay Thai with him and one other PhD; also a newcomer to the sport.

We rocked up to The Griphouse's Muay Thai Fundamentals class at 8pm- not really knowing  what to wear, what would be expected of us, or how scared to feel. Muay Thai is the Thai national sport. All I knew in advance was that it is a fighting art; one rumored to work very well with very little ceremony. It allows the use of boxing, elbows, knees and kicks and therefore has quite the brutal reputation.

After signing in; we nervously queued in a narrow corridor under the decaying ceiling and bright lights. The Griphouse isn't bothered about decor but has plenty of fighting space (for video tours check out this or this). The class before us was obviously advanced- everyone who came out looked like they were either carved out of marble, or grew up scrapping in alleys. Quite terrifying. Our class was decidedly less solidly built; composed of skinny guys, fitness girls in capris, and many totally average bodies.

The gym smelled exactly like a Bikram studio. What do I mean by that? Well, it smelled entirely of other people's sweat. You just have to get used to it fast. It was a large room, with padded floors and piles of boxing equipment. There was also a ring in one corner for the advanced guys. The odd bleep roared through the air, which is their indication to switch positions. The rest of us listened to Guy the guy- the very friendly, very Scottish, trainer.

Image from the Griphouse website


The first thing to do was to warm up. It was hella' a warm up. Jacks, high knees with forward punches, butt kicks, lunges, single leg deadlifts, squats, and burpees for 10 minutes. No breaks. No mercy. Just do it. Guy definitely kept it on the cheery side of things though- no bootcamp insults here. Then we grabbed a partner. Despite coming as a three, we all somehow got an unknown partner. I was fine with a guy who had only been to a few sessions. My experienced colleague got someone a little less experienced than he was, but not dramatically less. My fellow rookie got the love child of the hulk and Jackie Chan. This guy had blood on his shirt. This guy was built like a brick shithouse. He wasn't from the Griphouse; but he sure as hell shouldn't have been in a fundamentals class!

The first practice was the jab cross- a single punch forward with the left hand, then a more exaggerated counter balanced punch with the right (your left foot is forward on the mat, so your right hand has more momentum behind it when you punch. See a demo here). One person has mitts, the other pads to block them. Your hands always return back up to protect your face.

We did several minutes of that, then added Muay Thai roundhouse kicks (demo) using the left leg. You need to draw the left leg slowly away from front first; as in classic stance your left leg is in front of you- the demo shows it at 1:20 but as a switch. Our instructor said it was better to do it quietly and slowly, as a fast switch means your opponent will notice preparation. These kicks sting your bare skin like a bitch. The closest approximation I can make is it feeling like a belly flop onto water, but on your foot and shin. Slap! The aim is to use your upper body to drive the momentum; along with the pivot off the hip. Listening to the noise some of the more talented attendees were making when they connected with the pads was both inspiring and scary- it sounds like whiplash. We then turned these into a combo- jab, cross, then kick.

We then swapped. The role of the pad holder sounds easy but your shoulders are already wrecked. I needed to keep stretching mine out! The kicks also practically reverberate up your bones if they are well placed. I felt very bad for my colleague under the onslaught of the accidentally chosen martial arts master. He later ended up with bruises all up his arms. I had a taste of this when Guy came to demo the kick to me- the difference in force between him and the amateur was astounding. He actually told me at the end of the class that there is very little strength variation. Its all technique and how much power is therefore actually transferred.

We then switched again and did a jab hook set. This hook is deliberately extended, as its intended to reach an opponent without being close to them. We then did a set of right kicks, exactly as the left above. Most people find this easier as there is no draw back and right legs are often more powerful. We created a c-c-c-c-c-combooo of these, as above, for the third and final section.

Lastly was the warm down. Ha. Ha ha ha. Not a warm down. It was a burpees/push ups set. You do burpees whilst your partner does push ups then switch. Its 20 burpees, 15 burpees, 10 burpees, 5, in a descent style block. With push ups in between all, for however long it takes. By the end I could not even do push ups on my knees.

I really enjoyed trying this sport out. I love meta boxing classes- this may be a great full-body progression. I also enjoy being aggressive if I am honest, its half the fun in sprints. The trainer was fantastic. The class was incredibly busy but he never stopped moving around people, giving technique advice, demonstrating and correcting. I think I spoke to him 5 or so times, which is impressive in a class of over 40 people.

By Wednesday my shoulders ached; I had a bruise on my foot from kicking the pads foot first instead of shin first; I had a bruise on my calf from where my partner accidentally kicked me. And I loved it. So much so that I went back on Thursday! A similar deal but with different punches, a more ab focused workout, and more of a focus on combining moves. A series of mid-quad kicks ensured I will be bruised there too!

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Have you ever tried a martial art?

Do you like aggressive sports?

17/02/2015

Blog Love

So, I read a lot of blogs. It's perhaps a problem. It certainly takes up a lot of time.

I've recently found myself moving away from the 'big' bloggers; and unfollowing them too. I just don't seem to find them that interesting anymore. Too much quick switching of brand alliances. Too many people who don't work and essentially train and blog for a living even though they aren't even approaching elite. Call it snobby, but the ones that inspire me are the typical people making it happen. I thought I would cover some of my favourite bloggers in this crazy running corner of the internet world- why I like them, and suggest a post you should read.

Sarah at Dreaming of Footpaths

Sarah at the Saltmarsh 75


Sarah is standout hilarious. She has a way with similes that always makes me smile, and is very honest about running and life. Her blog is very fitness-focused; which I appreciate. It has just developed a saucy little triathlon twist too, after she completed one triathlon and is gunning for more.

Sarah's standouts to me are her hilarious write ups of typical muddy long runs. This post about running with a furry friend made me smile. I also love her write up of the Thames 50/the time a kayaker overtook her in a race!

Caitlin at FIT AND FEMINIST

Caitlin writes with an excellent worldview. She attacks the distinctly sexist aspects of health, fitness and its surrounding culture. She has run ultras, triathlon, multiple marathons. She generally comes across as the sort of woman I'd love to know. She writes so many posts that make me want to grab her and shout 'YES'. Check her subheader, "Because it takes strong women to smash the patriarchy".

I absolutely loved her 2014 New Years post about the cult of the body.

Graham at Glasgow Tae Somewhere...



The key word I can think of here is authentic. Graham writes about the mountains because he loves them. He covers days in the hills, races (mostly trail or long-distance hill), and (only very occasionally) technical gear. I feel like his voice and his passion comes through in every post. As he would say, its braw. I've also met Graham in real life. He's pretty chuffing braw himself!

I love all of Graham's posts about the mountains. These posts about running in the alps make the wanderer in me very jealous.

Sarah at Goldilocks Running



Another Sarah! I can't help it; Sarahs in general are so ace. Sarah started off as a talented little road runner, graduated into being a talented marathoner, and is now a triathlete working it all out on the bike. She's also a busy almost-doctor. I love her blog, and the girl herself is also fantastic. She is honest, charming, and does an awesome internet round up on a Sunday.

Sarah's post about her word for 2015 made me feel really proud of her!

Rhona at Redwinerunner

Rhona At the Hoka Highland Fling


Rhona is a northern belle. Funny, smart, sarcastic (how I like my women). An ultrarunner by nature; she has run some great Scottish races. Rhona's blog is another that is remarkably free of advertisement and agenda. Rhona mostly posts race reports but has started blogging about her West Highland Way race training schedule too.

I really enjoy Rhona's ultra write ups; like this one about the Hoka Highland Fling.

Emily at Sweat Once A Day

Emily is the only comparatively 'large' blogger that makes this list. That's because, aside from the odd joke about her work with a brewery and a few references to Oiselle, I know nothing about her life details. She doesn't fill her blog with froyo. Emily is a very good ultrarunner and posts the most beautiful photos of Oregon and the mountains.

For my favourite post, I'm going to go for her account of running the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim trail.

Autumn at Tinyrunner

Autumn setting her half marathon PB (and winning the race!)


Autumn is another runner that I badly wish I could meet in real life. Very real, very genuine, very funny. She's currently writing some very informative posts on the things people overlook in marathon training. She is also a supreme snapchatter.

I would vote her best post as the account of running an 89 minute half marathon- what a machine!

Candice at Wild

Candice is the dream. A wild, dirtbag, ultrarunner who practices what she preaches. She is also a race director of several 200 milers. Because 100mi just was not enough. Candice is a keen yogi, which reminds me that yoga is important and useful, and a pretty incredible athlete.

My favourite posts are the accounts of running the Wonderland trail around Mt Rainer. That is a dream. It makes me want to run away.

There are many, many, other bloggers whom I love, but I will save those names for another day. I particularly love that the blogging community I've become a part of also interacts in other ways- on Twitter, by email. I feel like many of these people have become friends. I feel glad to be part of this community.

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Do you have any blog suggestions for me? 

Who are your favourite bloggers? Why?