Saturday, 26 April 2014

Chin ups and Eggs

I'm really happy that despite getting to an age that some folk have inadvertently fallen into a rut of familiarity, I'm still leaning skills, having adventures and experiencing new things.

One of the things I'm most excited about on my journey of being a team GB para canoeist  is the fact that I can now ........ do chin ups. Note the deliberate plural here :-)

This may not be a skill high up on many of your wish lists, but I've been trying unsuccessfully to do one for years.  In fact I can remember being turned away from the local gym club aged 10, despite being able to do passable headstand, because I failed the strength (ie chin up) test .
Me doing chin ups (ie more than 1!)
As a cyclist, chin ups were about as likely to happen - and as relevant - as me jumping over the moon, but when I started kayaking everyone said I had to be able to do chin ups - It's a kinda right of passage - something to do with getting strong arms, backs and shoulders I suppose.

In fact chin ups are so much of a way of life for kayakers that most of them can jump onto a bar and pop out hundreds while still chatting about their weekend. Many tie massive weights around their waists- (big enough to make my knees buckle)  and then they still manage several?!? Kayakers have even been known to do chin-ups for fun at parties...
Adding weights, like its not difficult enough!

Another new experience for me is eating eggs.  Now bear with me, egg eating may seem random and unrelated to my chin up success, but I wonder ?..... When I started on the journey changing from an endurance to a sprint athlete I had to get bigger and stronger. In order to achieve this my diet had to incorporate more protein - "Eat eggs" everyone said. This was going to be a massive challenge to manage because eggs make me feel sick- I've never been able to eat eggs, think about eggs or even sit next to someone eating eggs without feeling really nauseous. 
Yes! I can now eat eggs :-)
However, continuing the theme of 'embracing new experiences' I figured if I could become European champion in less than a year of kayaking then I could also conquer egg eating.

It's taken me 18 months of trying and I'm not sure which was harder, chin ups or egg eating but I'm happy to report that I can now do both.

I hasten to add that I can't do many of either (and never at the same time;-) ) nor do I particularly enjoy doing them and I definitely, categorically won't be doing either at parties !!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Looking forward to Easter!

Is it sad that coming up to Easter the thing I'm looking forward to most of all, even more than my Easter egg, is the arrival of my new mattress?
The healthiest Easter Egg I could find:-)

  It's funny to reflect, but one of the hardest things to get to grips with on the GB program is just how much sleep I am supposed to have.  Not just time in bed, but 8 hours of quality sleep... Sleep is where your body repairs and recovers. Good sleep means you can train hard day after day. After years of choosing my own bedtime it's like being a child again - being sent to bed earlier than I want ... and I havn't even been naughty!!

 As an adult choosing my own bedtime has been one of life's simple pleasures and with my busy schedule, sleeping less than 5 hours a night has been commonplace. 

Even when I was training for 24 hour mountain bike racing I would frequently only go to sleep when I was so tired that I couldn't think straight, I would then choose to leap out of bed early the next morning.  My coach even put in 3am training sessions to help me get used to functioning when every cell in my body wanted to sleep.  She also used to tell me I needed recovery time, but I'm not convinced I ever really got it.....

Ragged at the end of a training session :-(

 All that has changed. Just as a child and a teenager need sleep to grow I am building up so much new power that I need more and more sleep to help my muscles recover and get stronger. As much as I hate to admit it, the research supporting the theory that quality sleep is a crucial for fast recovery is right.  If I want to get stronger and faster I simply have to get more sleep.  One of my strangest training goals for this season has been the search for a new mattress to replace the old one which is uncomfortable.

 Mattress buying is the strangest thing. Lying down with your partner on a bed in the middle of a busy shop feels a bit naughty - or am I the only one who thinks this? 

And there are so many mattresses out there that are all so different... As a physio, and someone with a history of 2 serious back injuries I am incredibly particular about what I sleep on and I felt much like goldilocks finding something wrong with every mattress I found. In true female shopping style I dragged Simon to loads of shops without giving in to his exasperated pleas "this is just like the last one" doh! no it's not!! 

Finally, after much research as well as the field testing of lying down, turning over and head shaking (me) eye rolling (Simon) we (I) now know we have found the perfect mattress :-)

Mammoth claim to make mattresses that are loved by athletes and "Olympians".

 They came up in my research and I don't usually do hype, so they were just one of many I tried out.  I have to say that as soon as I lay on one I smiled - "Just right", said Goldilocks".  Simon was away at the time, but as soon as he got back I found an excuse to drag him into a shop.  Within moments of lying down he was gently snoring (he says it was jet lag having just flown in from Thailand, but I recon it was the uber comfy mattress)

 I will be open with you - I am immensely grateful to the fantastic folk at Mammoth who have been incredibly supportive and I can't thank them enough!
 This mattress will definitely help with my training!

 So it's Easter coming up.  I will have an Easter egg, (and won't tell my coaches just how big it is), but they will be pleased to hear my new mattress is coming - because sleeping properly for 8 hours is going to be the easiest gain ever in my training.