Fiona's blog posts tagged with 'ctgf'

Flat out and ready for a challenge



Hello from Team Life Sciences.

Here we are again for the third year. We have 10 people on our team this year, some who exercise on a regular basis, some who have fallen out of the habit of it and some who are trying out the activities to see what they think of them and what kind of changes they will see in themselves.

For our team goal this year we decided to come up with something we could all participate in, that we would have to work towards and ultimately feel good about achieving.


We have decided to do a 30 day plank challenge, these kind of challenges have been really popular on the internet recently and some of them are more challenging than others. Our team goal by the end of CTGF is to be able to hold a full plank (no bums in the air) for one minute. This is something no one on our team can currently do and we all find the plank very difficult, but we are confident we can achieve this goal. We started on 20 seconds yesterday and repeated that again today and will be increasing to 25 seconds when we get back on Tuesday, so keep checking here to see how we are getting on.

Revelation and reflection



Throughout the whole of CtGF our team goal was to complete a mileage aim of 684 mile, which was equidistant to the distance from Brighton to Venice (as the crow flies). I am extremely pleased and proud to say that we smashed that goal.

I’m actually currently on a gondola floating along the Grand Canal sipping a Bellini, cliché I know, buy hey our team have covered over 800 miles this month so give us a break (and a free massage too if you like ). I am still totting up the totals but we have really exceeded our goal, which we thought was fairly ambitious in the first place. In the next few days each of us will be reflecting on what we have achieved individually and things we have gained from the challenge, so keep checking this space if you want to find out...

View from a gondola in the Grand Canal, Venice Italy, facing the Rialto Bridge - Arjola Mishgjoni

The challenge that is left with us is to keep the momentum and legacy of CtGF going and integrate it into our lifestyle, which as everyone here knows is easier said than done. Luckily we have a few group sessions planned, tennis on Friday and a yoga session in the next few weeks. Additionally we have weekly Life Sciences walks being lead by Martyn Stenning at the moment and John Spencer a Chemistry member of faculty from our team has promised to organize a smoothie bar at one of our monthly coffee mornings, so hopefully we can do all of that and carry on from there.

From my personal perspective the hard part comes during those long winter months when you would much rather be tucked up with in a duvet with a hot water bottle, bowl of stew and Ryan Gosling film marathon. With this in mind might I suggest the sports centre run a ‘half hibernation’ challenge to try to help and encourage us to crawl out of our holes and jump around during those gloomy days.

Though none of this reflection, thought and contemplation would even be possible without saying a mighty thanks to all of the staff at the sports centre. For me the experience I have with sports, exercise and fitness would be a lesser one without their help, dedication and encouragement. I can honestly say I never thought people in a real gym would know my name but I have got to know a lot of the staff who work there and the passion and interest they invest in their jobs is clear to see. I always feel like the people there have time for you and really help and encourage you in your goals while creating a comfortable, relaxing environment. So congratulations to them and everyone on Commit to Get Fit 2013.

Last and proud.



So I came last in the boundary run, to be perfectly honest I’m surprised I finished it and was only about 10 minutes behind the bulk of people. The run for me cemented the belief that running is not as much about the physical act, but the mental battle and this run clearly demonstrated that for me.

At the start of the run I really couldn’t get into the swing of things and switch to the mindset needed for it and as a result the majority of the other runners were out of my sight before we had finished crossing the car park. It was this point at the start where I thought ‘Why am I even doing this’. I was expecting a fun run with lots of slow coaches like me, but the stretching, look of mastery and 10k t’shirts at the start of the race assured me that I had come along to something entirely different. Still I couldn’t really back out as I had told so many people I was planning on running it, so off I went.

The majority of the first third of the race was spent walking, running when I saw a steward and trying to work out where I was on campus. Though as I ran down the slope towards the halfway mark I gradually found myself getting into a slow rhythm and was even running when there was no one watching me. The turning point of the race for me was the big slope, which I managed to gently job up (though my jog is still slower than a walk). By this point I just kept counting to twenty and convincing myself the finish line was around the corner (which was implied to me by all of the stewards!). After many repetitions of counting to twenty the finish line was eventually in sight and the crowd of finished runners cheered me to the finish. I did feel slightly embarrassed by this but in equal measure I ran a lot faster to my finish time of 35 minutes 20 seconds. The person who finished first could have ran round twice and still be waiting for me at the finish line, but hey so what I’m a newbie and for now I’m still basking in the fact I completed it and ran for 50%, small steps take you towards bigger goals and for me I completed the challenge that I set for CtGF.

Feldenkrais taster session: Gwenda's experience.



I experienced a taster session of Feldenkrais today. I had only recently heard of the technique from a colleague, and as I have a few problems with my back and neck decided to give it a try.   Feldenkrais aims to enable us to move more freely and to improve posture, balance and coordination. It can also help people with pain and neurological conditions.  It was described as being based on slow movements, repeated and explored, and with reminders to constantly be aware of how each movement felt, both before and after repeated movements.

I admit to being sceptical that such seemingly small movements would do anything but by the end of the session I did feel my posture had improved.  I also discovered ways of moving upper back muscles that I’d struggled to find before.

Tina, who ran the session, was encouraging, informative and had a soothing voice, so that at times I nearly drifted off!

If the Sports Centre are able to offer a course in the future, I would be keen to sign up.



Holy Guacamole



I love guacamole and once you have made it from scratch you will never want to buy the supermarket brand again, which is probably good as a lot of mass produced brands only use a small amount of avocado combined with lots of oil and fats.

Guacamole is generally quite good for you as it contains nutrients, vitamins (especially vitamins A, E & K) and no cholesterol, but bear in mind it should be eaten in moderation as it’s very high in calories, a single avocado has 322 calories.

But as long as you’re not eating it by the bucket load you are fine to indulge in this tasty dip every now and then. My guacamole recipe takes no longer than 15 minutes to make all you have to do is:

  • Mash two ripe medium avocados
  • Mix in a teaspoon of fresh or dried crushed red chilies, a chopped medium red onion, a couple of chopped vine tomatoes, you can use normal tomatoes, but I prefer vine
  • Add a good squeeze of lime juice
  • Give it all a good mix
  • Garnish with fresh coriander
  • Eat immediately

guacamole with text

Keep calm and carry on!



This week is crazy busy I don't actually know where to start. I have quite a few work deadlines I'm working to, I'm moving rooms in my shared house tonight and i'm trying to fit exercise between all of this. Not much I can do really but get on with it one thing at a time, but it is easier said than done. I'm arranging and rearranging group sessions, trying to sort out transport for the London to brighton bike ride I'm doing in a couple of weeks and trying not to think about the boundary run I've signed up for tomorrow that I haven't done not nearly enough training for. But I'm going to do it and i'm going to do everything else and probably have a rest and massive slice of cake when it's all over.

I think I am one of those people who works fairly well under pressure and a colleague once said to me (a formed boss actually) he would always ask the busiest person to do something for him as he then knew it would get done and that logic kind of makes sense.

When I first started CtGF I had in my head an imagined or ideal way that I thought things would pan out, this included loads of planned group sessions, cycling everyday and daily blog posts. Well ideal is one thing but life does get in the way and things happen that you have to react to and deal with and you have to get on with them, which actually is good training for incorportating exercise into your life, you have to work it around and fit it into your normal life which can be hard and busy but you do it and hopefully it will eventually reward you. These rewards are very personal, for me exercise clears my head and makes me feel more in control and energised and does wonders for my sleep. For other people it gives them confidence and makes them feel better about themselves, for you who knows? Answers below.

Back to work for me now, but i'll be down the gym at lunch on the bike clocking up those last minute miles, probably writing a list at the same time.

Beats to push you along



We've all been in an exercise class with particularly uninspiring music that doesn't fit or push us as much as it should do. Workout music is a very personal thing and we will all react differently to music, but there are certain tunes that really do give you that burst of energy and push you to run to the end of the road or kick a little higher.

My music taste is fairly broad but when it comes to an aerobic workout I tend to lean on the dance with a hint of cheese side of things. Now I love The XX, The National and Interpol but for me they go better with a good chat and glass of red wine than a sweat drenched kickboxing class.

The list below is something I like to work out to. It leads you into a steady pace with tracks like 'Poison' by the Prodigy and 'Tick of the clock' by Chromatics then hits you with a high energy burst of pop, as Nelly Furtado says 'oh you crazy people come and jump around'! I just had to put some David Bowie on it, everyone loves him at the moment and his new album is great I can't stop listening to it. The list carries on and i'm sure you will recognise at least some of the tracks and be introduced to a few of the others. Leading you to the inevitable cool down and the only song you can really stretch those quads and calves to, Beyoncé, 'Halo'. Enjoy.



Better habits



Two-thirds into the CtGF challenge I am starting to reflect on my progress and how I am feeling.  I seem to be doing a class pretty much every weekday (even though its not my challenge this year) at the moment and cycling in some form most days. For me I have got to the point where fitting exercise into my daily routine is easier and I am not searching for excuses not to do any infact I am enjoying it alot more. If anything I need to watch I’m not doing too much.

Last week I was booked onto 7 classes in 5 days but had to drop a class and forego cycling in one day as my body was too tired and strained from the accelerated activity, so I needed to allow it to rest and recover for a day. A habit I can get into with the gym is going to loads of classes for a sustained period then dropping everything for a few weeks then taking on classes again. So for me my aim for when the challenge is over is to sustain a resonable level of activity and maintain regular class attendance with no long absenses.

What has been interesting in the past few weeks is how I have incorporated fitness into my social life; going on long walks with friends, organizing group bike rides and having swim and sauna sessions have all been great for the mind and body, but also have been really social occasions too.

Something I have noticed in the past few weeks is a change in my eating habits. Now I am not one of these people who can give something up for a whole month. I would rather do extra exercise to allow myself a treat or try and incorporate a healthier schedule into my life. Recently I have been having more apples, reaching for them before I go to the vending machine for a chocolate fix.  Additionally I have had a few salads this week and have enjoyed them. These may seem like small changes, but you have to start somewhere and I’m hoping I can stick to all of these changes and continue with the momentum that CtGF has started.

Power & Control



controlled and composed

Yesterday on campus we found a secret suntrap, the tennis courts up at the sports complex. Despite being freezing in our offices and the threat of rain throughout the day the sun was shining splendidly for our tennis taster session. Before Simon came down to join us on the courts to give us some much needed advice we decided to hit a few balls over the net ourselves. This proved quite amusing, as control was a problem for all of us. I seemed to be constantly hitting it over the fence; some people got the ball on other courts and none of us actually kept it in at all.

Luckily Simon found us and began to work on some of these problems. The main aspect we were all working on was control of the ball and not just taking a swipe at any old ball coming towards us.  Simon also made us practice our forehand and backhand which enabled us to think about the shots and hence have more composure and control.  Gwenda from our team turned out to be a great player and hardly needed any coaching at all.  Massive thanks to Simon who was great and put up with me trying to hit him with a speeding tennis ball on several occasions. We all really enjoyed the session and have arranged another one with a view to having a few games in the future.

Gwenda tennis

nicola and alex tennis

Alex playing tennis

The small things are what matters



Sometimes you can be plodding along at something for a while with no apparent progress then suddenly out of no where you get a sign that you are actually going in the right direction and it makes you feel great. I had this on Monday and I’m still feeling the buzz from it. I was at my usual yoga class (general yoga with Karen) and I managed to get fully into quite a difficult position that I have been working towards for a while. I’ve put a picture of the full position below, which is a shoulder stand. Looking at it now I cannot believe I got my body to do that, but I did so wahey!

Shoulder stand

On this high I went along to the ‘goal setting’ talk presented by Kevin Betts and Terry Cooper yesterday. As a result of it I’ve pretty much convinced myself to sign up for the Brighton marathon next year as I want to really challenge myself, the talk was that good! Just have to wait for the next pay check then I’m pretty sure I’m going to do it. I want to do one marathon at least once in my life and I believe I am the fittest I have ever been so now seems a good a time as any.

I took away some really good points yesterday such as setting goals which are:

• Measurable

• Managable

• Motivating

And within those goals have smaller and larger sub goals. The talk also made me think about what my limits actually are and how more often than not they are controlled by psychological factors rather than physical ones. I find generally that during the CtGF challenge I really do push myself and it’s something that I want to extend further into the year and into my personal and work life too. I love feeling inspired and positive as it’s a really motivating feeling so am really keen to prolong these feelings and ‘ride on the high’ as long as possible.