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Party pre-season!

6th November 2016

How do you approach your training November?

As the last banger fizzles out on Bonfire Night and we have new Christmas ads to sell us stuff launched every other day, what better time to escape the onslaught and put in some extra sessions so you’re in great shape to get the most out of the festive season when training takes a back seat and it’s time to celebrate and party.

As the December diary starts filling up, make November full of your favourite sessions, work outs and routines. As well as exercising the body, it’ll give you time to escape, think and be inspired. What to get the person who has everything, where did you leave the decorations, will the lights for the tree still work, will you get in to that party dress, can you still eat mincemeat that’s been in the fridge since last Christmas!?

I love Christmas, and often it’s the time that I get out and exercise more. But I like the flexibility of knowing that I can kick my feet up and enjoy Home Alone, The Grinch and all the other fantastic Christmas favourites with everyone without feeling any guilt.

So lets get out, get active and be in great shape to party hard.


Try it, you might like it

11th October 2016

Every year I bemoan that Autumn seems to be upon us too quickly. The flip from warmer long days to gloomy skies and chillier winds. It certainly catches me out.


I wanted to share an inspiring training regime from a client who at this time of the year, seeks to try something different. Their regular season has come to a close, traditionally running, swimming and cycling, so while taking time to plan their schedule for the next year, they look for new activities to keep themselves sharp and use your muscles in a different way. Last years experience was Netball. This year he’s looking to play Basketball again after a 25 year absence stretching back to high school. He’s been inspired by Fab Flournoy and the Eagles!


As we plough on through the year, it’s all too easy to forget how many fantastic sports there are out there just waiting to be enjoyed. Some easier than others to pick up, but what’s for certain is that the learning experience will sharpen your mind and sharpen your fitness. And put a smile on your face as you embrace the test.


So here’s my challenge to you – try at least one “new” sport before Christmas. I’ll let you decide how you classify new. It would be great if you can share your experiences and inspire others to do the same.


Variety is the spice of life. #beyourbest

A Truly Great North Run

6th September 2016

I always love the build up to the Great North Run. As a non participant, you know it’s coming as the streets of the North East are awash with an increasing number of runners from the end of July. The sign appears on the Tyne Bridge. Then final few weeks sees a dramatic peak of runners!

Then the week after, it all goes quiet!

As a professional, I’m always thrilled when people make me part of their plans. Helping them get to the start line, helping them achieve personal bests, helping them recover.

I love the stories of why people are doing it. For some it’s a regular event. For some a one off treat or experience. So many people are raising money for so many great causes.

If I’m not there watching and cheering everyone on in person, I’ll be tuned in to see everyone make their way from Newcastle to South Shields and show the North East at it’s very best. The Tyne Bridge heavily laden with runners, the Red Arrows paying tribute, the crowds of support, the faces of pain and joy crossing the line in South Shields. So many iconic images which show off our region to the rest of the world.

It’s a world class event we should all be proud of. First to get over 1 million runners over the finish line, this year getting a runner from every country around the course this year, a British institution. Inspiring people to get fit and stay fit for decades. Thank you Brendan and your team.

So whatever you’re doing on Sunday, take time out to appreciate and celebrate the Great North Run and everyone running the 13.1 miles. Cheer them on, donate a few quid, then buy them a pint when they’re done.


Progress and perseverance

1st August 2016

What is progress? How do you measure your progress? How do you realign goals and targets when progress is better or worse? What keeps you going? What’s your motivation? From where you your draw your energy to keep going and striving? Why commit to progress in the first place!?


Stories of progress and perseverance keep me doing what I do. Ironing out aches and pains, refining plans, consulting on S&C, giving guidance, helping with prioritisation, finding marginal gains.


My job surrounds me with inspiring stories of goals, targets and perseverance. Every client session gives a new perspective on greatness and resolve.


Everyone is doing what they’re doing to be their best. Because that’s all you can be. Be inspired by others, learn from others, copy others! Then make it your own.


I have a client who is now into year five of his swimming journey. He’d be the first one to admit that progress has been slow at times, and his motivation and commitment haven’t been what they should be. But in the last 6 months, he’s really making proper progress.


I heard about an athlete who completed an ironman at his third attempt after two very close misses. That is dedication, perseverance, mental strength, commitment and the result of loads of honest hard work. Huge respect for that level of achievement.


As we sit down to marvel at the elite at Rio, look around at the people you work with, train with, socialise with. They’re elite too. Committed to a high standard and achieving their best every time they go out there.


So lets celebrate the whole of Team GB – from every day to elite.



Smells like team spirit

18th July 2016

Leicester, Iceland, Wales. Great players, Great managers, Great teams.

As pre-season training is upon those of you in football, how much time are you allocating getting to know your team mates and working together to align expectations?

Hard running and commitment isn’t just for July and August when the sun is shining. It matters most in January and February (and probably March here in the North East) when it’s a tough winter’s day, the pitch is heavy, and the opposition seem formidable. That’s when you find out what someone is made of. 90 minutes of selfless effort that sets up victories. Perseverance, endeavour, effort.

There’s a wealth of writing on great teams, here’s a few of my thoughts to help gather team mates who stand up to be counted;

1. Responsible. Whether it’s for washing the kit, answering text messages, filling the water bottles or covering for your attacking run, do your team mates do what they say and take responsibility?

2. Honest. Mistakes happen in football. You need team mates willing to put their hands up rather than look for someone to blame other than themselves.

3. Committed. How many of your team mates aspire to play every game? If a big night is on the cards, will they take a rain check to put the pursuit of three points first? Big seasons happen with big commitment. From everyone.

4. Resilient. Mental toughness. The opposition will be tough and want to win. How many stand up to a bit of sledging and give as good as they get? In any sport, you need to know how to win.

5. Creative. I’m not just talking about dress sense either – they are willing to solve problems, on and off the pitch to get the team functioning at its best.

6. Fun. Sport should be enjoyed. If it becomes too serious, it stops being enjoyable. Winning and enjoying it makes it even better!

7. Supportive. Teams look after each other. They care about their team mates. That’s what makes the success all the more enjoyable. A shared achievement.

What do you think of my list? Would love to hear your thoughts and any that should be added. Good luck to everyone working hard for the new season.

#beyourbest #vamosrafa

Who do you think you are kidding?

2nd June 2016

Wanted to share a fascinating article I read this morning about amateur doping!?

I’ve written before and will continue to write about the brilliant stories I hear all the time about my client’s honest endeavours, so I suppose this slightly shocked me.

When you line up at the start of any event, or lace up your trainers on a gloomy evening, the reality is that you’re racing yourself (unless you’re an elite athlete of course, with the eyes of the world upon you, and the promise of a glittering career of riches within your grasp…).

However, what unifies us all is that each time we choose to exercise or compete, we’re stepping up to the mark to see what we’re capable of. We may prepare in different ways, diet, sleep, regimes, coaches, kit etc to give us a marginal gain or two.  But the real race is the one with ourselves.

I hope this is a fad that fades into the distance and not a trend.

The real trend has to be more people getting out. Side stepping the quick fix and embracing the challenge to be their best.


A healthy cycle

16th May 2016

Wooler Wheel, Virgin Cyclone, Coast 2 Coast, Great North Bike Ride – we’re blessed with some great mass participation rides in this region.

We have Saddle Skedaddle organising iconic cycle holidays across the world.

We have a fine array of shops such as Start Cycles, Cyclelogical, M Steel and Team Cycles able to meet your every need.

There are many great clubs including Gosforth, Blaydon and Barnesbury.

And of course cafe’s such as the Journey, the Hub and Pedalling Squares. One imagines there will be more to come.


Lets face it, the growth of cycling is a phenomenon that shows no sign of reducing. Here’s a few charts from locally based national group Sustrans who are ensuring this movement keeps moving in the right direction.


Commuting to work still remains comparably low in the North East, however investment in the infrastructure shows signs of assisting the growth as can be seen best in the centre of Newcastle.


As I’ve mentioned previously, cycling to work isn’t the easiest thing to confront. It’s all about the logistics. Your job / life demands. The route. Bike safety at work. The shower / drying / storage facilities. That’s a lot of hurdles to get over before you worry about what bike to get and what kit to wear!


However and whenever you do decide to cycle, it’s a form of exercise that is easy and fun for families of all ages. Weekend rides are seeing more and more people out and enjoying the roads.


So this summer, get out on a bike. See how much fun it can be! Let me know where you get to – and feel free to add anywhere I’ve missed on my view of the regions bike industry!


Sing when you’re swimming

13th May 2016

To many of us, the sight of prolonged sunshine after the winter is a welcome relief. To a growing band of people, it signifies that the open water season is upon us! Lakes, and seas, are slowly coming to life and warming up, it’s time to dust down the wet suit and embrace nature.


Quite a few of my clients are passionate open water swimmers. Some brave folk swim out doors all year, others count down the days with may focused on the first Thursday in May at the QEII lake in Woodhorn for the VO2 Max sessions. A spiritual welcoming in of the summer.


Why is it that open water swimming is so revered? What’s the fascination? Only one way to find out – I asked them! And soon found out, it’s a sensual thing…


SMELL – it’s clear the neoprene of the wetsuit is unmistakable, and that there’s something about that which people are attracted to. Takes all sorts. And of course the fresh air and wind is a sharp contrast to indoor pools.


TASTE – the water is fresh (or salty), not chlorinated which to many is a welcome treat.


SIGHT – the sky (ideally blue) and the deep water embody the feeling of getting back to nature. Some amazing stories of blue skies, tropical fish and encounters with stingrays. Not so much love for pond weed. Bit too close to nature for my liking. And of course sighting is different. Using wind turbines, pylons and anything large to keep you in the right direction.


TOUCH – the rush of cold into the wet suit and onto the face, numb feet and hands, but slowly acclimatising, warming up and getting the feel of the water. Also in the sea, feeling the moving water of the tides. And the mass of people, jostling, bumping, drafting all adds to the enjoyment


HEARING – swimming outdoors has a peace and calmness about it. If you’re sea swimming, the sound of the ocean. Plenty of love for seagulls and ducks. Less for geese and swans!


There’s no doubt swimming outdoors gets you back to nature and taps into our inner explorer. A certain freedom from lanes, constraints and repetition. It brings people together and the sight of everyone taking the plunge into the water and getting going is something I love to see when I’m working at the events. A great mass of collective energy and achievement.


I hope we see more stretches of river and lakes able to accommodate open water swimming. Everyone I spoke to is passionate about this re discovery and we can only hope that more take the plunge and dive in. Or rather hobble over the slippy rocks and tumble in.




13th April 2016

A hot topic seems to be progress. How you’re performing and whether you’ll be at your best when you need to be. For runners, cyclists and triathletes especially, we’re on the verge of events season. If you’ve been following a plan then hopefully you’re tracking steadily towards the events you’re booked in for. But how do you keep focused and be confident it’s all working and you’re making progress? A few thoughts from the conversations I’ve been having;

1. Realistic – how has it all been going? Training as much as you wanted or a few sessions down? Was the plan too challenging? Was it too optimistic? Have you had any setbacks e.g. illness, work / family commitments? Or has your motivation dipped?

2. Update – get the plan in line with what’s possible. Then commit to it. Be confident that you can make it happen.

3. Rest / Recovery / Revitalise – build in the necessary breathers to ensure you’re not going to burn out before the events or peak too soon? Have a lie in or an early night. You’re at your best when you have had the necessary rest.

4. Variety – do something different – it will refresh you mentally and physically and give your training a lift

5. Food and drink – keep making tweaks to your diet and seeing if there is a positive result. Start to think about your pre event nutrition. And always make sure you’re hydrated. I swear it’s getting warmer!

6. Friends – try and hook up with a few people who are training for similar events, or get involved in a club – either for a chat, or to get out and share some training sessions. A bit of support, challenge and competition will give you an extra boost.

7. Technique – get a session with a coach to get a fresh perspective, to give you new things to work on.

8. Reassurance – I’m always inspired by the dedication that people show in bettering themselves. I sometimes don’t know how you fit it all in. Be confident that I’m cheering you all on and I’m sure there are many others who are impressed with your achievements

9. Kit – if all else fails, go and buy something new to wear! Not one of my recommendations, but I know a runner who swears by a new pair of trainers to get him out of the sofa.

10. Enjoy the challenge – setting targets and striving to achieve keeps us moving forward. Embrace this positive mindset, harness your energy and stay strong knowing it’s all good.


When Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday etc comes

1st April 2016

After another wet winter in grassroots football, April and early May have become the months of non-stop football where it all happens. The games come thick and fast which for some is heaven and for others is hell.


Here’s my thoughts on how to get the best out of every minute you’re on the pitch;


  1. Get your diary out and plan as best you can. Look at what games are coming when and mentally prepare yourself for what’s coming.
  2. Physically prepare. In the simplest sense, make sure you’re fuelled and hydrated for midweek games as you would be on a weekend. Two cups of tea and a soggy sandwich will leave your tank empty come half six when the evening games kick off.
  3. Warm up. Always important. Even more so after a day at work or several games in a row. Get the mind switched quick into game mode. Don’t bring the baggage of the day at work, or back to back watching Jeremy Kyle onto the pitch. Helps no one.
  4. Relax. You’re body may be a bit tired, but you have match fitness and mental sharpness. There’s a very good chance you will play your best football in this tournament type intensity of games.
  5. Cool down. Stretch. Hydrate. Refuel. Rest. I talk a lot about the need for us to sleep well, eat well, drink water and make time relax. Give this some thought to help you be at your best when the whistle blows.
  6. Switch off. Don’t get into analysis paralysis of each game. Take each game as it comes and let the coach or manager guide you through.
  7. Socialise. Get the team out for a night out. Moan about how knackered you are and laugh it off. Gain strength from the team.


Managers and coaches similarly have to adapt to these new conditions;


  1. How do you rotate the squad to get the best out of everyone?
  2. Shorter focused, lively warm ups which are sharper to get players switched on, and making subtle improvements. Nothing long and arduous. They’re finely tuned machines!
  3. What can you learn? Some early experimentation for next season? If you’re safe in the league, let players try new positions, experiment with formations? Keep it fresh and positive. Nothing to lose, everything to gain.
  4. Remember, everyone else is in the same situation. It’s not like the opposition have been for a fortnight in Dubai!


And the golden rule. Enjoy it! As I once overheard a manager, “this is what you work all week for”.



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