What makes a good home gym?

I’m not going to lie to you – I am a massive tight wad so the idea of having to pay extortionate gym membership prices doesn’t really appeal to me. I would much rather pay out for a bit of gym kit that I can use whenever I want, keep until it wears out and get maximum bang for my buck.

You don’t even have to have masses of space now for a home gym – we have our gym in the garage where, let’s face it, most people store a lot of junk that never sees the light of day! Some people also build sheds specifically to house all their gym equipment. There are also some really great space saver pieces of gym equipment, including folding exercise bikes and treadmills, such as this one from the Gym Company (pictured below) so even the corner of an office or the dining room can become a make-shift gym.

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BH Fitness F5 treadmill – £899 available from the Gym Company.

In our gym we have various weight machines (more the boyfriend’s than mine!), including a Smith Machine, dumb bells and kettle bells, a TV, DVD player and TV box, space to do aerobic exercises, a folding treadmill and bike, and a punch bag.


Out of all of the these things, my favourite piece of kit is the bike because you can do HIIT training on it or more traditional sprint and endurance workouts.


My essential pieces of home gym kit are:

– A cardio machine, be it a treadmill, bike, cross trainer or rowing machine – something that means you get a good cardio workout on a rainy day

– Free hand weights and/or kettle bells for strength and cardio training

– An exercise mat for stretching and yoga practice

– Mirror for weights (just to check your form)

– A TV or iPod dock – for entertainment purposes!

Everything else is a bonus!


#sub50project twitter chat 1: The secrets to running faster revealed…


Thank you so much those of you who attended and got involved with the #sub50project twitter chat yesterday. The topic of this month’s chat was on “What’s the secret to running faster?”. You can check out the tweets by searching twitter using the hashtag: #sub50project, but here is a nice little summary of the chat:

What role does physique play?

Lots of you thought that being lean, long-legged and having the ‘long distance runner’ physique was an advantage to start with, but the consensus was that this was not a prerequisite to running fast. Becs felt that hard work was the most important contributor to running success. Laurie pointed out that good genes will help, but average genes are not a limiting factor – they may just make progress slower.

Positive mental attitude and running faster

We all agreed that having a positive mental attitude was almost as important as hard work! Carli said that this was one of the main things that kept her going after developing an injury during the marathon. Katie and I agreed that we both suffer from mid-race negative thoughts and need to up our mental game! Laurie shared an example of two friends who don’t fit the runner profile and smoke who run fantastic half marathon times. We wondered if this could be due to unbelievable self belief and wanted to know their secret (at least I did!).

Sprint training

Training wise, hill sprints, threshold training and fartlek sessions were all thought to be essential ingredients for developing speed. I for one know I can work on this, but it’s a difficult type of training to do alone.

Timing yourself during a race

We also touched on whether you should time yourself during a race and this is something I would really like to try out as I think I sometimes get too hung up on the numbers. Becs said she never times herself during a race (and Becs is a super speedy runner!). Katie has not timed herself at her local Park Run before and achieved a PB, but felt it was too risky not to use her trusty Garmin for a race when she doesn’t know the course.

Pre-race nutrition and hydration

Caffeine was mentioned pre-race either in the form or tea, coffee and energy drink or a gel, but not everyone was a convinced by caffeine pre-run. Lots of you were fans of porridge, bananas, malt loaf and chia seeds as part of your pre-race nutrition regime. Slow-release carbs were thought to be important. Both Anne-Marie and I are big fans of crumpets as an alternative to bread as they are easier to digest pre-race (preferably with lots of jam!). Hydration pre and during a run is important too – not too much/too little. Difficulty in keeping hydrated during long training runs could be avoided by using a hydration belt, backpack or stashing water bottles en route.

Cross training

Interestingly, lots of you mentioned the benefits of cross training as part of your running training. Leonie got her great half time after practicing bikram yoga with only 10 runs – she said that the core, leg strength and hip flexibility really helped. Rosie, Katie, Jen and Kate mentioned that they have run PBs in the past cross training on the bike and doing other workouts. Leg strength training (lunges, squats etc) and core work were thought to be almost as important as running itself – something that a few of us really felt we need to work on (including me!).


We didn’t cover the topics of sports massages or post-run nutrition, but we can discuss these on future chats.

Really looking forward to drilling down on these issues some more over the next few weeks.


5-minute exercises

Even on holiday or when I’m busy I really do try and squeeze in just a little bit of exercise into my day, even 5 minutes’ worth is better than nothing at all! Here are some of the ways I do it:

Tabata training

tabataI saw this idea on Facebook a while ago and thought I’d give it a go as it’s a nice way of mixing up my training and because it’s short I’m much less likely to skip it. You write down a random selection of exercises (timed or number) onto lollipop sticks (squat thrusts, planks, sit ups etc), put them in a pot and then pick them at random.



Have some fun with it too and add in some yoga poses or even some paleo exercises (eg, the bunny hop).


Suspension training


Obviously weights are too heavy to take with you on holiday, so how about trying out suspension training where you use your own body weight to train? I’ve bought out the straps and attached them to a tree here. It’s such hard work that you only need to do a few reps to feel exhausted and out of breath!


Hill sprints

Find a hill, pick a stretch about 100m in length (maybe 2 to 3 lamp posts) and sprint up it as fast as you can. Walk back to the starting point and repeat 5x.



Half marathon training update (or lack of it)

So 2 to 3 weeks ago I was running 20+ miles in a week and feeling good, I ran a 10-mile run at race pace for a just under 2-hour half (minus a few stops for traffic!), I ran a 5k PB (25.06), a 10k PB (53.40), I was squeezing in yoga, a few races and even Boom! Cycle…and then I was hit with quite a bad cold and it all went down hill from there. I haven’t run probably in 2 weeks now – well, I haven’t had the energy to do anything really other than stuff down food and watch TV. I tried to go for a run on Saturday, but had to stop after 3k because my lungs were burning.



It’s just frustrating when you set your heart on running something and training for it really well (I’ve got in long runs of 10+ miles, speeds sessions and been doing so well) and then a huge set back happens.


I’m now in Crete for some R&R, but I know the area well so today I do have some exercise plans. Tabata training before lunch – I saw this fantastic idea the other day and wanted to try it out – and a run this evening (possibly 6-7K). I also plan on doing another run of a similar distance on Thursday, one on Saturday in the morning and then a long run on Sunday when I get back (try for at least 8 miles).

I think my chances of a decent time at the Oxford half marathon in 19 days are somewhat scuppered now, but I’ll have to just settle for finishing it, taking in the atmosphere and enjoying the day. Maybe the Brighton half next February will be my chance to shine?

Anyway, I have the sub 50 project coming up so that should keep me busy. 🙂

Speaking of training set backs, do go along and say hi to Dash – she’s had a few set backs and for us runners, it’s the worst possible thing! Let’s stick together and show our support!


#sub50project: Twitter chat on Wednesday at 8pm GMT



Coming up on Wednesday 25th September at 8pm GMT is the first #sub50project twitter chat. The topic of the discussion is “What’s the secret (if anything) to running faster?” – what did you do to run faster, what tips could you share? Do you think it’s all to do with training or all about being mentally tough and pushing yourself? Is it to do with genetics or body shape and size? Is it all of these things and more?

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Anyone with a twitter account can join in by using the hashtag #sub50project. Whether you already consider yourself to be a fast runner and would like to share your tips or if you want to glean some insights, get involved!


If you want something, you have to fight for it!


I’ve been chatting to quite a few people lately about what they want to achieve – mostly weight loss goals – and the thing that always strikes me is that even the best of people want something, but they are not prepared to fight for it. They are not willing to overhaul their lives, suffer difficult times, work hard, cry on occasion, and sweat, but in the process achieve the one thing in their lives that they really want. You see, I think if you’re not prepared to do those things and make a few sacrifices then you are not ready to make a change. End of!

The only way I think change will happen, whether it be eating more healthily, exercising, losing weight – whatever it is – is if you push yourself and do the following:

1) Set a goal: doing something for something’s sake is not going to have any lasting impact on your life. Otherwise you would have been doing it before, right? For example, exercising purely for weight loss is both dull and uninspiring, you will not push yourself hard enough (look out for these types in the gym – they will be the ones on the phone on the treadmill!) and you will probably lose interest. Set yourself a goal – whether it be a weight loss target by a certain time, to run a 5k or to row 10,000m. Having a goal to push towards gives you focus.

2) Make your goal accountable: It’s no good saying “I want to run 5k” to yourself as you will likely be used to letting yourself down. Tell your friends and family your plans, post on Facebook or Twitter, or invite your friends to join in. Making your goals common knowledge will make you less likely to quit as hopefully your pride will kick in. Also, you’re not just letting yourself down – you’re letting down others too.

3) Make it fun: I don’t believe in exercise for losing weight (it’s 80% diet, 20% exercise anyway!) – exercise should be fun. Make it a competition with yourself, friends, enter fun things (Tough Mudder, local 5k race), travel and exercise (go trail running, hiking and cycling). If it’s not enjoyable, you won’t stick with it.


Nobody said it’s going to be easy, if it was you would have done it already – but when you start seeing results, and achieving dreams you will never look back!


Duathlon training: Help! I need stabilisers

“Who’s bright idea was this?!” I could hear my dad saying, only those words weren’t my dad’s, they were mine – as I bumbled my way on the bike up the quiet cycle path. This was of course after the comedic exercise of getting on the thing in the first place where I nearly ended up in a tree! I am not a natural-born cyclist shall we say. I prefer exercising without gadgets favouring running where all you need are the clothes on your back and a vaguely decent pair of trainers.

Any cycling I have done before was as a child on a fixed-gear bike or more recently on a mountain bike, although I’m not sure 2 cycling outings amounting to a total of 15 miles counts for much?

My lovely road bike arrived last week. I’d ordered one the week before, but when I went to pick it up it was far too big for me so I had to order the next size down. Here she is in all her glory – isn’t she a beauty?


I took her out for an inaugural test spin and here’s what happened:

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On my mountain bike, the gears are numbered and there’s a front and back lever, but the road bike isn’t quite as user friendly. After reading the utterly useless handbook, which seems to focus on whether or not you are wearing a helmet rather than showing you the features of the bike, I resorted to YouTube and I’m so glad I did. You see on my road bike, after much research, I’ve established there is a tiny switch for going down the gears and you have to push the break levers sideways to change up (totally obvious right?!).

It seems I’m not alone in having no clue about road bike gears – many people are not shown how to use gears properly at all, especially as most of us start out on fixed-gear bikes. Even the chap in the fantastic video I found here admitted that he, rather embarrassingly, had to go back to the shop to be shown how to use the bike. So later today or tomorrow I hope to be back on the saddle and give some of the tips a go!

So what did I learn on my little bike ride?

– Read the manual or failing that have a good look over the bike and check out videos on YouTube if unsure how to use the gears

– Road bikes are not as scary and wobbly as I thought they would be – I have nailed the getting on and off, and breaking to a gentle stop already

– I need to start building my confidence and get out on the road more (once I have got used to the gears that is!)

Never forget how to ride a bike eh? My arse!

I’m taking part in the Lexus Reading Dinton Duathlon on 17th November.