Back in the pool

Given that the last time I went swimming was an impromptu dip in a rather chilly Lake Como after a long walk up and down the Italian hills, and that the last time I was at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic pool I was clambering over giant inflatables in a Total Wipeout style afternoon with my waterpolo pals (don’t ask), it was really good to get in a proper swimming set at the Olympic pool last night.

My limbs were conscious of the 4 mile run I’d put in earlier in the day, as well as the fact that I haven’t been swim training much lately, but both my limbs and my soul felt good for a dip!

I don’t know how, but sometimes I forget how much I adore swimming; luckily it only takes the smell of chlorine and a length or two to remind me. What makes me all the more happy (and frightfully nostalgic) is when, as with last night, there is a swimming club training in a couple of the lanes at the same time with lots of kids going through the hours of lengths that I went through at their age (and then gossiping in the showers afterwards!).

I keep toying with the idea of re-joining a club, although I fear that I’m not as fit as I might be and will end up floundering at the end. If anyone can recommend any good masters clubs in London or fancies trying out with me, let me know.


In the meantime here is my set from last night:


200 m front crawl
4 x 100 m front crawl FLAF (full stroke, legs, arms, full)
100 m backstroke


Main set

4 x 25 m IM (fly, back, breast, front crawl) x 4 plus 30 seconds rest between 100 m sets
150 m breathing every 3 strokes for 50 m, 5 strokes for 50 m, 7 strokes for 50  x 2 plus 30 seconds between sets
100 m front crawl kick
100 m backstroke kick
4 x 100 as 50 m backstroke 50 m breaststroke

(1,300 m)

Swim down

200 m front crawl

Total: 2,200



Catching up: Mind, Body and Spirit

I realise that I haven’t written for a while; a combination of mood, work and wedmin, sunshine and social engagements have made me reluctant to sit in front of a screen when not absolutely necessary of late. I’ve even been eschewing my phone in favour of books and magazines in a bid to escape the dreaded pull of the blue light, which connects you to a million things that you could or should to be doing.

Still, lots has been going on so I wanted share a quick(ish) update with you here.


a life without limitsLast week I finally finished four-time World Ironman Champion Chrissie Wellington’s autobiography A Life Without Limits. I’d been listening to this as an audiobook following a recommendation from the Twins in Trainers and, as with finishing any good book, having reached the end I suddenly feel like I’ve lost a close friend.

I found Chrissie and her story beyond inspiring and it both entertained and spurred me on through countless long runs. This is an incredibly story of an athlete discovering her athletic capacity relatively late in life and trading a phenomenally successful career in international development for a brutal  training regime and killer races.

I really can’t recommend this book enough and although my reaction to Chrissie’s story hasn’t been to sign up for an Ironman (as I know one of my Twin pals has been tempted to do) if you are looking for something to get you out on a run, swim or cycle, look no further.


IMG_4497Talking of getting out to train, today I enjoyed my first swim in the Hampstead ponds. This has been on my ‘to do’ list for some time now and with the sun shining on London this weekend posed the perfect opportunity. It was just a quick dip today (as my friend Ariana and I were taking it in turns to guard the bags while the other swam) but it was utter bliss and I will certainly be making a return visit.

My favourite part was swimming alongside a duck and her little ducklings, all seen for the first time at water level. This was my first non-sea-based open water swimming experience and it was no where near as scary as I had feared.

I’ve also been enjoying (more traditional) weekly swim sessions in the St Pancras pool. Alongside my morning yoga ritual, these serve to stretch out my limbs and have proven good alternatives to running in the hotter weather. I have a back list of sets to share, which I promise I will do soon.

As for running, I’m back to a steady ebb and flow of weekly runs ranging from 3 to 13 miles. I really feel like I’m in a pretty positive place with running at the moment and despite a niggling pain in my lower right shin, I’ve been feeling good and, most importantly, really enjoying each run.

IMG_2875R and I enjoyed our first run in Epping Forest the other week and I can’t believe we’ve not ventured out there sooner. It was so beautiful and the trails are great, especially for practising hill running. It’s always nice to try a new route and to test the limbs on different terrain. Even better though, is its proximity to our friend Mark’s cafe Hucks, where we went afterwards for peanut-buttery crumpets, amazing coffee (with all of the non-milky milks) and live music. Basically the perfect day.

I’ve entered a few races in the autumn months but until then I’m just embracing running (and gossiping) with my pal Louise on our lunch runs, or avoiding the tube with my commuter jogs and just heading out on my long Sunday routes without any agenda.

Finally I also got down to the climbing wall for the first time in an age last week. My arm, chest and back muscles certainly benefited from an hour or so of bouldering (even if my feet didn’t thank me for being squished back into climbing shoes!) and although my climbing isn’t what it was, it was so nice to get out of my head and onto the wall for a while.


IMG_4010Another new experience since my last post was my first trip to The Sunday Assembly in June.

With the tagline ‘Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More‘, The Sunday Assembly was started by two comedians who decided that they both wanted to start something that was like church but totally secular and inclusive of everyone, no matter what their beliefs. The resulting group offers inspirational speakers, moving talks, music (and singing by the ‘congregation’), cups of tea and the opportunity to chat with lots of like-minded people.

I hadn’t especially thought that I had a Sunday morning void in my life (in fact my Sunday’s are strictly dedicated to the Gods of the Long Run), but I admit that there was something so uplifting and enjoyable about belting out songs with like-minded folk, as well as listening to inspiring short talks and feeling like a part of something bigger than myself.

The Assembly gathers twice a month, on the first and third Sunday’s, with the next London group on 7 August and I intend to be there.

That’s all for now but more soon I promise. Until the next, go out and enjoy something new this week!



Swimming upstream

It’s been a funny old week in the UK, and by ‘funny old’ what I actually mean is abjectly disastrous. This blog isn’t usually a platform for my political opinions, but this week comes as an exception and as politics and well-being collide I’ve found myself laying awake at night worrying, doing sun salutations to the sound of Radio 4’s Today Programme, putting on the news in the gym and talking politics while on the road with my running pals.

So before I share this week’s swim set, as I know my blog has quite an international readership, I just wanted anyone reading to know that a significant proportion of the British population is tolerant, inclusive and outward looking and that we know and value how much internationalism in the UK enriches our lives, culture, economy, skills base, workforce and communities.

I have so much more to say on the subject, but here is not the place. I just want to reiterate the point that we are a tolerant nation, and for better (and sometimes for worse), a democratic one. I think the past week has really highlighted the need for all of us in the UK to do some soul searching and to take a serious look at ourselves to try and understand how we have become a nation so divided. We need to reflect on how we got ourselves into this mess in the first place, and, in the coming weeks, months and years, we need to make a plan (something which no one appears to have felt necessary up to now), to get ourselves out.

This week as politicians have been trying to keep their heads above water, I’ve submerged mine in order to escape. This session is just 2,000m, but the sprints are killers. It took me a few attempts to get the 25m front crawl without breathing but it was pretty satisfying once I’d cracked it.


Warm up
200m choice

Main set
4 x 100m IM sprinting on fly and breaststroke
30 seconds rest between sets
4 x 100m IM sprinting on back and front crawl
30 seconds rest between sets

8 x 25m front crawl no/minimal breathing
15 seconds rest between sets

200m front crawl breathing bi-lateral (either every 3 or 5 strokes)

4 x 100m sprint to easy every 25m as:
100m full stroke
100m kick
100m full stroke
100m kick
30 seconds rest between sets

Swim down
200m front crawl

Total 2,000m

Underwater ab workout

I made it down to the pool twice last week and again last night so I’m stockpiling a nice collection of sessions ready to share with you. I was going to post them in order, but last night’s session was too much fun to hold back (!!) so I thought I’d share it first.

This session followed a killer gym session at lunch with the new PT at out work gym. I’d asked for a new programme to blitz everything as the countdown to the wedding gets ever shorter, and he certainly obliged. Needless to say I swam the below at a relatively gentle pace although I dug deep for the fly kick set to give my abs an extra boost. If you really want to work your stomach, do the whole fly kick set on your back and the front crawl kick and breaststroke kick sets without a board.

It’s 2,400m in total and took me around 50 minutes.


Warm up
300m choice

Main set

4 x 100m fly kick as 25m each on your back, left side, right side and front
Plus 15 seconds rest between each 100m set

4 x 100m front crawl breathing bilateral, every 3 or 5 strokes
Plus 15 seconds rest between sets

2 x 100m IM kick
Plus 15 seconds rest between sets

4 x 50m fly drill (one arm pulls as 3 strokes left arm, 3 strokes right arm)
Plus 15 seconds rest between sets

100m front crawl kick

2 x 100m backstroke
Plus 15 seconds rest between sets

100m breaststroke kick

4 x 50m breaststroke
Plus 15 seconds rest between sets

Swim down
300m choice

2,400m total


I am, IM: A 40 minute medley swim set

After my last swimming session post I received lots of positive feedback so I’ve decided to share a swim set here each week. Hopefully this will motivate you to get your weekly chlorine hit, as well as having the added bonus for me of making sure I get to the pool at least once a week and put together a worthwhile session (rather than lazily doing laps).

I know a couple of people at least who bowed out of the fly in the last session. This set has more fly, but there is plenty of rest between sets and you never need to do more than one length/25m of fly at a time, so I’d urge you to give it a go. If full stroke is too much you can try fly legs with one arm pulls. Here you need to do a fly leg kick and pull one arm at a time, leaving the other arm out in front of you. Here the trick to getting this drill right it making sure you are still doing a fly pull (not a front crawl one).

Another question related to listening to music etc. while swimming. I have to admit I’ve never done this and while it is each to his own (and I do like to listen to music when running), when I swim I quite like the escape of being in the water and being isolated from technology and distractions. I also believe that there is a lot to focus on while you swim – especially when you are just starting out – in terms of getting your body position right and your strokes fluid and consistent, and there is the concern that listening music or a podcast would distract from that. We all have room for improvement on all strokes so I’ve added a drill set to the end of this session to tap into that and hopefully to keep you engaging in swimming and not looking for other distractions!

Right, that’s enough from me, here you go, it’s 2,200m and should take around 40 minutes. Enjoy!

Warm up:
200m front crawl

Main set:
2 x 175m as
Fly to front crawl (50m)
Back to front crawl (50m)
Breast to front crawl (50m)
Front crawl (25m)

30-45 seconds rest between sets (take longer if it means you’ll do the fly!)

3 x 150m front crawl as
Swim (150m)
Kick (150m)
Pull (150m)

15 seconds rest between sets
4 x 125m as
Fly, back, breast, front crawl, front crawl x4

30 seconds rest between sets

5 x 100m front crawl alternating each length drill to swim

10-15 seconds between sets

Shark fin – on each pull touch your hand to your armpit, then return it to your side, lift it to your armpit again before completing the pull.

Catch-ups – after each stroke leave your hand in front of you until the other hand meets it.

Catch-ups with drag – as above but as you pull allow your fingertips to ‘tickle’ the surface of the water and keep your elbows high.

Top hat – as you bring your hand out of the water touch the top of your head before you allow it to re-enter and complete the pull.

Breathing every 3,5,7 strokes

Swim down:
200m front crawl


I hope you enjoy the set and as always feedback and requests welcome.

Happy swimming!

A fun 45 minute swim set

After a blissful, (if not slightly indulgent on the food and wine front), long weekend, on Tuesday I decided to stay out of the rain and switch my run for a gym/swim combo.

Lunchtime saw me power through a Kayla Itsines-inspired HITT workout, with jumping squat-lunges and cross-body mountain climbers designed to turn all of your muscles to jelly.

In the evening I headed to the pool and had such a great session I wanted to share it here.

This is a 2,100m session which should take around 45 minutes and is a great way to keep you interested and engaged for the whole set:


2oom front crawl
100m backstroke
100m breaststroke

Main set

300m front crawl
2 x 150m front crawl (30 seconds rest after each)
3 x 100m front crawl (30 seconds rest after each)
4 x 75m front crawl kick (20 seconds rest after each)
5 x 50m as 25m fly, 25m backstroke, rest 10 seconds, 25m  backstroke, 25m breaststroke, rest 10 seconds, 25m breaststoke, 25m frontcrawl, rest 10 seconds, 25m fly, 25m backstroke, rest 10 seconds, 25m  backstroke, 25m breaststroke, rest 1 minute
6 x 25m front crawl off 30 seconds

Swim down

100m easy

If you have a fun swimming session do share it with me and I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did.

Happy swimming!


A run in the park – learning to run cross country

As my last few posts have been a bit philosophical it’s nice to come back to a good old running post.

This Saturday marked the first race in the cross country season. When the fixtures were initially announced R had coaxed me into signing up with the promise that it would be ‘fun’, when Saturday came around however, I was a little sceptical about how much fun it would actually be. As much as I love running, I’ve never been able shake my event anxiety and every race day I find my stomach churning with nerves (some days it’s so bad that I can’t even do a Park Run without feeling sick before). On top of which, the hip-opening 1 hour 45 minutes of yoga that I’d done the night before had left my upper ITB pretty sore, and I didn’t have any racing spikes, an apparent pre-requisite of cross country running.

New running spikes
New running spikes

The resolution to two of these problems came with a brisk walk to Runners Need in Kings Cross – the walk loosened up my limbs before the race and the shop offered some comfortable Adidas spikes at not too higher price.

It was actually the most perfect day for running, not too hot or cold, with just enough sunshine to see everyone in good spirits. The race was in Claybury, a place lost somewhere on the outer reaches of the central line, and consisted of two and a bit loops of a 3km course through woodland with two smallish hills.

Once I’d arrived and met with the other runners from my club I started to feel more at ease – not least as Petra, one of the girls that I train with, was there and it was her first cross country race too. Anna took us on a little warm up run together and by the time I reached the starting line I was actually rather looking forward to the race.

It was strange running in spikes at first, more as I was forced to avoid any spots of path rather than to seek them out as I would normally do. Although I’m used to running in minimal shoes with a forefoot strike, in my spikes I could feel each lump and bump of the course and my ankles were certainly taking more of a hit than usual. Still as the race went on I got more used to them and they did instil me with more confidence when running down the muddy hills.

Running cross country, showing the strain!
Running cross country, showing the strain!

In cross country women and men run separately and having the men cheering us on as we went was so nice and really gave me a boost when I started to flag. On the second lap the second hill really hit me, but with an encouraging cheer from the sidelines I managed a reasonably strong finish and, although it wasn’t the fastest I’ve ever run, I have to admit I really did enjoy it. It was so nice being outside and off the roads and the team atmosphere made for such a nice run.

There were a few minutes to grab a drink before the men’s race started and Petra and I found a good spot from which to cheer them on. Their race was slightly further – 8km rather than 6km – and you could see the strain on everyone’s faces on the third lap, as the knew what was coming up. However, everyone finished well and with some home-baked cakes and flasks of tea waiting at the end it was a jolly occasion all round.

I had scheduled a run on Sunday morning with my running buddy John, also from the club. My legs were surprisingly weary, given that the race had only been 6km, but the 1.5km from my house to meet John helped to ease them out a little. It was so nice having a commitment of someone to run with to get me out of bed and into my trainers.

We truncated our usual route, covering just 11.5km at a steady pace, but it was such a beautiful run along the canal in the morning sunshine and certainly made my bowl of porridge on my return all the more delicious.

Aquatic Centre
Aquatic Centre

Post-run, after a brief stopover at home to shower and gather my things, I enjoyed a trip to the Aquatic Centre at the Olympic Park with my pal Katie. The pool there is so beautiful and a good 40 minutes or so in the pool certainly helped to ease out the kinks of the running and yoga of the past couple of days. I love gliding through the water, stretching out my limbs and helping to re-balance my body after putting it though its paces elsewhere.

All in all it has been a perfect weekend of exercise and early nights, let’s hope it has readied my body for the onslaught that is the Frankfurt Book Fair next week!