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PHA at Rat Race’s Survival of the Fittest

PHA at Rat Race’s Survival of the Fittest

Survival of the Fittest

This weekend, The PHA Group Sport and Leisure team attended the final instalment of Britain’s biggest adventure running series, Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest, which took place in Wembley Park, London.

Survival of the Fittest – for those of you that don’t know – is a colossal 10km urban assault course. Comprised of gigantic hay bale walls, monstrous man-made obstacles and a river crossing, this is an event which certainly isn’t designed for the faint-hearted – or the unfit for that matter!

We arrive at the event village, situated in the shadow of Wembley stadium, first thing in the morning. The weather is grey, gloomy and rainy – the perfect conditions to ensure that all the competitors get seriously wet and muddy.

Survival of the Fittest

The first wave of runners set off at 9am; amongst them are some of obstacle racing’s finest, all gunning for the fastest times and the coveted first place position.

As the elite runner’s race ahead, others in the wave show some great comradery as they help each other over some of the toughest obstacles and cheer each other around the course.

From 9am until late afternoon, waves of up to 400 people departed every 15 minutes to tackle the Men’s Health Survival course, resulting in a total of 8000 competitors taking part in the event.

The course itself looped around Wembley Stadium before taking competitors through a route of 20 obstacle zones, and 100 pieces of equipment. Highlights included an enormous slip ‘n’ slide, an army assault course area, the ‘Parkour’ zone and the infamous Men’s Health ‘Wall of Fame’ – a sheer eight-foot high construction, which competitors had to scale before officially calling themselves a Survivor.

Survival of the Fittest

Once competitors had completed the course, they all gathered to toast their success in the massive Rat Race beer tent, which was the size of a football pitch. The atmosphere was electric, as the crowds cheered on their fellow survivors as they came through the tent on the keg carry obstacle and then back out onto the course.

The Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest Series is produced by leading adventure sports company, Rat Race, which has the largest selection of adventure races in the UK. Unlike other obstacle races, Survival are the only events located in city centres, with London being the culmination of a series of 10K high-octane obstacle races, which also took place in Cardiff, Nottingham, Edinburgh and Manchester.

Survival of the Fittest

The next event on the calendar for Rat Race is the Mighty Deerstalker event, the toughest off-road run in the UK, which takes place on the Scottishborderss on the 14th March 2015.

My 90 Day shape up: against all the odds I reach the end of cycle one

Shape up plan - The Body Coach

I’m not going to lie, the 90 Day Body Coach shape up plan has been a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. Although the recipes have been easy to cook and the exercise easy to fit in and, dare I say, enjoyable to do, there have been moments where I have struggled mentally.

Joe (aka The Body Coach) does warn you at the beginning that the shape up plan will be a physical and mental challenge but I thought that would be for the people who are totally overhauling their lifestyles. (I already cooked everything from scratch, ate relatively healthily and was prone to the odd bout of exercise).

Whilst during the working week I found the shape up plan easy to stick to, especially with the ongoing support from my boyfriend, Paul, it was the weekends that I struggled with. I found that’s when my lifestyle had to adapt. I used to, more often than not, go out for a burger and chips at a pub or on a Sunday night have a takeout curry from Woondall, the Indian located literally below my blog of flats!

It wasn’t just the food either, it was also the alcohol. Most people are prone to the odd tipple at the weekend and I’m no exception. Where I really tried to stay dry for the first month I honestly found it nigh on impossible, which says a lot about how much I (tragically) rely on alcohol. That’s something I’ll address – again – in January. I endeavoured not to get drunk and stick to one or two G&Ts or red wines if alcohol was being consumed. Although these occasions were infrequent, and I only really let rip one night at a bank holiday BBQ I went to, I do feel naughty having had indulged.

I tried not to let myself feel too guilty though, because as Joe says, life is for living, and I didn’t want to start resenting the shape up plan.

I also have a confession…. The weekend after I wrote my Day Ten blog I had a really hard time. I actually cried, which is embarrassing to admit, but I was seeing some old uni friends and panicking about sticking to the shape up plan and the guilt I’d feel for slipping. This is when I had my first sip of alcohol on the plan after I’d talked it through with Paul and decided I wasn’t going to feel guilty. Anyway… on the Monday I came back to work feeling strong and like I’d pushed myself over a hump and I was back on the wagon. Then, at lunch my colleague, Tom, started munching on a pack of ginger nut biscuits and asked if I was allowed them. Obviously, the answer was a big fat glaringly obvious NO!

Try as I might I couldn’t get those gingernuts off my mind, I could imagine their spicy goodness as I sat at my desk trying to push myself through the overbearing sugar craving I was going through. Then all of a sudden, my body overriding my head, I got up and hunted down the gingernuts. I looked high and low until eventually, I remembered a conversation I’d heard about secret biscuits in the boardroom. I stalked in there trying to make sure no one saw me, grabbed a pack and hot-footed it to the toilet… that’s right, the toilet. I sat in there and devoured all three. The last one I stuck in my mouth WHOLE. The shame. I then proceeded to pick the biscuit out of my teeth and casually arrived back at my desk, no one any the wiser.

After gingernut gate, feeling wholly ashamed of myself, I climbed, for the second time, slowly and agonisingly back on the wagon and managed to stay there for a while.

To be totally honest, I have been out for a few meals (it’s my favourite past time), but I’ve always made good choices and stuck to something similar to what I would have been having that night anyway. I didn’t eat carbs out of turn and avoided starters and desserts.

I might have slipped up a few times food wise, but never when it came to the exercise. I have been doing various 20-25 minute HIIT workouts four-five times a week and can feel myself getting stronger. Where a 30-second interval of mountain climbers or burpees once filled me with dread I can now power through to the end and be ready for the next round! I’ve even got more steam in me than Paul, which is an added bonus.

When the time finally came to send Joe my measurements and new photos I genuinely wasn’t convinced I’d done enough and couldn’t see the difference in myself, despite Paul’s protestations. I just thought he was being nice. However, when Joe replied congratulating me on my hard work and put the two photos next to each other I could really see the change.

Although I didn’t lose any weight, I did lose an inch on my chest, waist and hips and half an inch on my arms. I’m really not bothered about weighing less and am more interested in feeling good, so that’s a positive start in my book! Also, Joe is really emphatic about not worrying about what the scales say, and I agree with him.

Seeing the pictures has given me the drive to give Cycle 2 my all. This cycle involves weights which Joe says will do wonders for me. I’m going to have to take a trip to Argos to buy some equipment and turn the spare room in my flat into a home gym.

So with some trepidation, but also lots of newfound excitement, I embark on Cycle 2…

The Fitspo debate

 

Image Courtesy of Julia Gurevich, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of Julia Gurevich, flickr.com

It was recently reported on MailOnline that personal trainer Kayla Itsines had become the latest #Fitspo sensation after earning herself an astonishing 700,000 followers on Instagram by simply showing off the results of her fitness regime. Kayla is just one of many of the up and coming stars on Instagram who post selfies doing workouts and handstands as fitness inspiration – ‘fitspo’ for short. This begs the question of what exactly is Fitspo?

And more importantly, is it a good thing? Fitspo is kind of like a healthier and happier version of Thinspiration. Where thinspiration arguably focuses on glamorised photos of very thin women; Fitspiration consists of blogs and photos devoted to those who pride themselves on being fit and healthy.

Posts can vary from photos of fresh healthy food, green juices and women doing impossible yoga poses to body transformations and motivational messages. Instagram has now become crowded with these posts from yoga teachers, personal trainers, ballet dancers and weight trainers who share pictures of their six-packs and snaps of their healthy lunches. For these people, their bodies are a walking billboard; toned, muscular and unattainably perfect.

Jen Selter from New York is the forerunner of this trend with over 3 million followers lapping up her every post. Just one picture of her on a workout ball or squatting at the gym can garner as many as 80,000 likes, and thousands consider her a fitness inspiration – including Rihanna!

Once she achieved 300,000 followers, sponsorship offers piled up from companies including Nike, Lululemon and New Balance, among others. She has since quit her gym job and secured deals with water company NY20 and a nutrition supplement company, Game Plan Nutrition, for which she is a spokeswoman.

Image Courtesy of FitnessInfor Si, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of FitnessInfor Si, flickr.com

While the professional fitspo stars like Jen pride themselves on their beautifully lit, filtered and framed pictures, there are some who set up accounts for a different purpose: not to inspire others, but to motivate themselves and generate accountability.

These people will often state their current weight and goals and post before and after shots to encourage themselves and others to keep on target. It is clear from the popularity of fitspo that many consider it a positive influence in their lives, something which enables them to visualise health and fitness success and adopt healthier eating habits.

Although, there are some critics who believe fitspo can propagate female objectification, dehumanisation and can result in body image issues. These people argue that promoting an appearance that fails to come easily or naturally to a substantial portion of the population could result in many setting themselves impossible physical goals and turning towards dangerous practices such as over-exercising or disordered eating to reach their target.

This is all the more amplified when fitspo bloggers edit their pictures so that all imperfections are removed. Taking this into consideration I think it is important for people to realise that, like many things, Fitspo has its pros and cons.

While some may use fitspo images to motivate themselves and improve their lives, others may find the images fuel their self-hatred and body image issues. Ultimately, I believe our individual interpretations of these images will determine whether fitspo is a positive or negative trend. But what do you think?