Saturday, 16 August 2014

Well that was emotional...

Oh hello... I'm surprised you're still with me after my epic blogging break. I wondered whether to scrap this one and start again, but what the hell - there's some comfort in familiarity.

Since my last post, quite a lot has happened - but I guess the biggest thing, from a fitness point of view (because that's what this blog is really about), is that I joined a CrossFit box just under a year ago and have spent the last few months in a cycle of sweat, muscle soreness, elation and disappointment.

Don't get me wrong - I love CrossFit. I wish it had been around when I was a teenager, so I could've switched my life to a more positive one much earlier and not messed around in my twenties not giving a shit about anything, least of all myself. Many of you will know that I've had periods of depression and that during those times I felt, at best, totally inept. Those feelings never totally leave you, although you get to learn the triggers and how to manage them - and I guess this is one of the things that CF helps me with the most. That's not to say I don't beat myself up if I struggle to make lifts - but I don't think that will ever change.

Last weekend was a huge mental battle for me - I competed at a CF event, European Inferno, in Cardiff, in front of about 1,000 people. It was tough - not only because of my shoulder injury but because it was just so daunting. I've never been good enough to compete at anything before. When people ask me for advice on getting fit they often have that kind of accusatory look that suggests I find it easy - well I really, really don't. Every time I step into the gym it bloody hurts - it doesn't get easier. Burpees - yep, still hurt. That first 3km of a run - yep, still get stitch and feel like I'm going to die. So when I stood up there with those incredible athletes I had a major wobble. But I got through it, and we didn't come last - I put everything into it and, aside from a bit of an emotional breakdown at the end of the final WoD, for the first time since Berlin I felt pretty proud of what I'd achieved. It wasn't pretty, however - and it really did show up my weaknesses in terms of form and general fitness, but at least it showed me some of the main areas I need to focus on.

I'm not the easiest person to coach - I let competitiveness get in the way of perfection and that's something I know I need to work on. This blog is going to help me, because for the next few months I'm going to be easing off the weight and concentrating on form. There's nothing I can do about my wonky skeleton, but I can rest my shoulder until it's fully recovered and work on flexibility through my back, hips and hamstrings. My glutes are practically non-existent so there'll be a lot of focus on strengthening through there, and I'll be concentrating on posture to help reduce the curve in my lower back.
I'm going to be building in some yoga for flexibility, a Pilates class to improve core strength and swimming once a week to help build up my shoulders in a low impact way. I'm also going to try for at least a couple of 5k runs and some intervals each week - hopefully this will feed my competitive side (racing against myself is always fun) as well as improving my cardio fitness. 

In between all this, I'll work with the coaches to drill technique at low weight so I feel comfortable getting under and lifting the bar. Hopefully by the New Year I'll feel ready to start adding some weight - but I'm looking at this as a long term thing.

Sam x

Saturday, 5 January 2013

New Beginnings

I feel a bit embarrassed that I haven't written this blog in such a long time. Since the end of August, to be precise. I am going to use the age-old 'insanely busy' excuse and move on, swiftly.

The truth is, I have been working super hard, running a lot and being Mummy to my beautiful Miss Ruby - so there's been little time for anything else.

Since I last posted I ran the Berlin Marathon. It was what this whole blog was leading up to. I won't lie - it was hugely painful - after the Dr advised me not to run, I had a few weeks off training (including a lovely, slightly raucous week in Ibiza for my beautiful friend's wedding). So when I lined up with 40,000 other people at the Brandenburg Gate, I'd never felt so unprepared for anything. I was petrified. I can still remember it so clearly - this overriding thought that there was no way in a million years I'd be able to get to the end.

Thankfully, I had so many messages of support - some made me laugh, others made me want to sit down in the middle of the road and sob my heart out because the people that I love and respect most in the whole world were telling me that they believed in me. It made me run, and run, and run.

The last 3km were hell - my hips had completely gone so I had to alternate between walking and jogging. I swear the finish line got further and further away - I must have looked like I was going to pass out because as soon as I crossed the line a volunteer grabbed me and ushered me into the first aid tent. All I could think about was that I had done it for Miss Ruby, and that they'd better not have given out all the medals already.

Fast forward three months and I am planning in my races for 2013. No marathons this year, mainly 10km's, with the Sheffield Half Marathon, Wales Half Marathon and Tough Mudder thrown in for good measure (I didn't get to run Tough Mudder last year - I was gutted).

I'm working super hard on my running at the moment - specifically getting my time down for 5km. I have been running parkrun every week, which is really helping because I am ridiculously competitive. My very first parkrun was back in March last year and I think I ran it in 38 minutes - today I knocked almost a minute off my PB from last week, running in 25:58. My goal is to get down to 22 minutes by the end of the year.

I'm pretty excited about Tuesday night - I have my first run with Nidd Valley Road Runners, which I'm hoping will help me improve my speed and technique. I'm still suffering pretty badly with excruciating stitch on some of my faster runs and it's probably the most frustrating thing ever - my legs and head are all saying GO but my diaphragm is spazzing out of control. Ouch.

Lastly (for now) - I have a new challenge. Feeling pretty overfaced with it right now, but hopefully this time next year I will have chalked up 1000 miles. I'm thinking with the running club and all the races I have coming up (10 at last count - trying for one every month) it should be achievable.

Oh, and I'm going to try and be better at doing this... :)

Sam x

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Goodbye, Run Harrogate

Hi Everyone,

It is with heavy heart that I have made the decision to end Run Harrogate for the time being. I can't actually do the qualification they're asking for until October at the earliest - so carrying on is impossible.

Here's the last communication I received from HBC - I don't feel they've answered our questions regarding what constitutes an 'event', but wanted to share with you so you can make up your own minds:

Dear Miss Ward


Further to our email correspondence regarding the 3K Run Harrogate being held each Thursday on The Stray, I have now heard a little more about your event.

Based on the information the council now has, it appears that you are operating a Running Club.  In fact you have yourself thought about public liability as you say you have asked everyone taking part with Run Harrogate to sign a disclaimer form.  It will be for you to decide whether that disclaimer would cover any liability you may have personally for running the Club.

The council has to make sure, when organised events are taking place on public land it owns or manages, that all public liability is being met and that appropriate risk assessments have been carried out so that it can take into account the safety and well-being of those involved.  This is the climate we have to operate in and you may wish to clarify your own liability if you are to continue and/or expand the Club. 

As I have said earlier, running on The Stray with friends or family is fine, that’s what the area is to be used for.  But when sessions are carried out on a regular more formalised basis and you are inviting people or groups to attend (as your piece in the local paper was doing), then we have to consider this as an organised event and one which has to follow guidelines put in place to protect not only those taking part but other users of the council’s facilities too.

The council is very happy for such organised events to be held on The Stray but there are guidelines for organisers who should:

  • check with the land owner or those responsible for it (Harrogate Borough Council in this instance as managers on behalf of the Duchy of Lancaster) that they are happy for this organised activity to take place on their land.

  • follow the guidelines set out for the use of that piece of land for that specific event or activity; these would be assessed from the application form submitted by the applicant.

  • have sufficient public liability insurance, and also has sufficient skills to provide the event or activity in a safe manner.

We also ask such organisers to read and sign, as part of the application form, a section which indemnifies the council as follows - 

I understand that organisers must indemnify the council against all actions, claims and expenses arising directly or indirectly out of the event or the presence of any of the organisers or of their goods and materials present on the land during the event or not properly removed therefrom unless the claims and expenses are as a result of the negligence of the council, its agents or officers.

The guidance notes and application form are attached and we will happily help you complete the application form.  You may want to think about contacting the Athletics’ Association who will also be able to give you advice and guidance particularly in relation to insurance.

If you wish to carry on with your run informally with just your friends or family, then that will be fine and we will be happy for you to do so.  But if you do wish to carry on with the Running Club then we will have to ask you not to promote it to the general public until you have followed the guidelines in regard to insurance and risk assessments.

Please let me know what you decide to do.

Here's my reply:

Dear Mr Middleton,

Further to your e-mail below, I can confirm that Run Harrogate has now been disbanded.

I have sent out a Tweet to that effect, and will be closing down the Twitter account within the next week.

It's such a shame that the encouragement of physical activity (I maintain that this was a support group, not a club) is so discouraged by HBC - especially when just over a quarter of adults were classified as obese in 2010. I'm sure you don't need to be made aware of the serious health risks associated with obesity - not to mention that it's set to cost the NHS around £6.3 billion in just three years' time.

Whilst you make it clear that The Stray is available for all to use - perhaps a review of what constitutes an event - and indeed the way in which communications are made - is necessary. I feel that 'events' like Run Harrogate should be supported - encouraged, even. You could supply contact information for the relevant organisations (Run England, insurance companies etc) on a simple fact sheet - at least that way you're seen as being slightly more helpful.

Still, thank you for taking the time to contact me and review our situation.

Kind regards,


So, there we have it. Consider the CLUB disbanded.

Luckily, I have met some lovely friends through Run Harrogate - and I hope that we shall all continue to run together every Thursday evening. Same time, same place.

Much love,

Sam x

Friday, 17 August 2012

A Reply...


I've had a reply to my e-mail from HBC. Here's the full communication so far - just so everything's totally transparent:

Dear Ms Ward

It has been brought to my attention and from reading the local newspaper that you are holding fitness activities on The Stray.

Although there isn’t a problem with you using The Stray to hold these activities, as events, The Council does need to manage activities that take place on land that it manages, and as with Park Run we need to ensure that you have completed a sufficient risk assessment and hold public liability insurance to a minimum of £5 million and have completed the relevant paperwork, we also need to ensure that the staff holding the activity have sufficient qualifications to carry out these activities.

Please can I ask that you submit the relevant information prior to continuing your activities on The Stray.

A copy of the relevant paperwork can be downloaded from our website at or please feel free to contact me via the details below.

Dear Michael,

Thank you for your e-mail. I've informed the group that we can no longer meet to run as I have neither a qualification or PLI. I wasn't aware that this would be required, as we are just like minded people meeting to go for a run. No education takes place, and everyone signs a sheet to say that they are running entirely at their own risk.

I am going to be taking a Leadership in Running course in a couple of months and will look into PLI, however this won't be until October.

I do feel that this is an area that requires clarification - where are the boundary lines drawn? If I were to text a couple of friends to see if they wanted to go for a run, would that be okay - what's the maximum number before this becomes 'an event'? Please don't think I'm being facetious - I've just had a lot of people get in touch to say that it's unclear - and I don't know what to say!

Happy to abide by any rules, would just be good to have all the facts.

I have to say though, I thought HBC would be more supportive of a free running support group that encourages fitness and a healthy lifestyle, especially on the back of the Olympics. 

Anyway, totally appreciate you're just doing your job, would just like clarification if possible.

Thanks so much,


Dear Sam,
I can understand how frustrating this is, as with any organised event we do need to ensure that these activities are carried out in a safe and secure manner, we also need to know who is using any Harrogate Borough Council land, to ensure that these activities don’t clash alongside other activities.

We encourage people to use the facilities, just sometimes we have to check we are happy with what is taking place, I would ask that if any of your friends or colleagues are thinking of similar projects that they take a look at our event paperwork  at  which will give you some idea of the details we need.

Running along The Stray with a couple of friends or family is fine, that’s what the area is to be used, you just need to be a little more careful when you start to carry out these sessions on a regular basis and are inviting people or groups to attend, we felt that your piece in the local paper was maybe some kind of advertising campaign, which is why it was brought to my attention to have a look at.

I am happy to help you move things forward as quickly as possible, but think for the time being you need to look at getting some sort of qualification, and for the protection of yourself and those taking your sessions you will need to have public liability to a minimum of £5 million.

Please feel free to contact me if I can be of any further help

So that's where we're at. Thoughts?

Sam x

All By Myself... :'(

Hi Everyone,

So, I thought I'd better post to give you my views on the recent RunHarrogate furore that's sent Twitter into a bit of a frenzy.

As a bit of background (and those of you who know all this, I'm sorry - I'll keep it brief), I started RunHarrogate back in May because, quite frankly, I was petrified. The thought of running by myself was daunting to sway the least - I'd just had a baby, I knew nothing about running and I ran under the cover of darkness.
I figured other people must feel the same, so I sent out a Tweet - would anyone like to come and run with me? We could support each other - safety in number and all that. RunHarrogate was born.

Fast forward a few months and we now have a core group of 15-20 runners, with more dipping in and out as commitments allow. I love this group - they make me smile (and, admittedly, beam with complete pride) every week; I've seen people (myself included) go from walking around the course to running, full pelt, head held high. Their fitness levels have improved beyond belief and they now take part in the weekly 5km Park Run as well.

Anyway, without getting too teary-eyed about it, Harrogate Council got in touch to say that unless I had a running qualification and £5million public liability insurance then I was to stop the group.

I was taken aback, to say the least. Bearing in mind I don't teach anyone - I've always been very honest about not knowing the first thing about running - and it's a free group that is literally there just so that people have the motivation to get healthy. I also send out a fortnightly newsletter to everyone with a disclaimer to say that they run entirely at their own risk.

I don't want to ride on the back of the Olympic coat tails but, really? We've just seen the biggest sporting event in the UK, well...Ever. Everyone's excited and energised to get involved in sport. Just let us run.

I don't want to fall out with anyone and totally understand sanctions are put in place for a reason but where does it end? The Stray is a public place - what if a group of mates wanted to get together once a week for a game of football or picnic? Is this an 'event'?

It remains to be seen. The local media has been amazing - I've done interviews with the Yorkshire Post and BBC Radio York, with another on StrayFM on Monday. People feel so strongly about this and the support has been amazing. Hopefully we can work with Harrogate Borough Council and reach a solution - it would be such a shame if we had to lose the group.

In the meantime, I'm off running on Thursday next week, around 6:30pm. Might see you there (coincidentally, of course).

Finally, I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone on Twitter who has sent a supportive message or retweeted our concerns - every single one has been absolutely AWESOME.

Sam x

Thursday, 26 July 2012

I'm Just Going To Stick A Needle In You...

Er... What?

When I went to visit my lovely physiotherapist, Vicky last night, I have to say I wasn't expecting her to say she was going to stick a needle in my leg. However, acupuncture has been used for years as a way of encouraging blood circulation to the affected area, promoting repair - magic!

Anyway, it has worked an absolute treat - my hip is feeling much better and I think I'm going to attempt a very slow jog with the Run Harrogate crew this evening. I have a massage booked tomorrow and a further physio session on Saturday morning, so fingers crossed I won't be too far behind schedule.

Vicky also noticed that my hamstrings are incredibly tight and suggested that may be partly to blame for my injury - my hips could be overcompensating. So more than ever, I am learning that stretching properly is as important as the run itself. I have some new stretches to incorporate now, so fingers crossed it will help. I am also going to start taking ibuprofen half an hour before my runs and when I get back - this will prevent a build up of muscle inflammation, which is obviously a huge problem for me at the moment.

Anyway, I'll keep this one short, I know I've already posted about food today!

Sam x

Olympic Food Challenge: Palau

Over the next few days, you’ll be seeing daily blog posts from me under a completely different theme. Those of you who even vaguely know me understand my obsession with food, so this will probably come as no surprise; I signed up to do the #OlympicFoodChallenge with a group of fabulous food bloggers – the aim is to cook a traditional meal from each of the 204 countries over the 19 days of the Olympics between us – 19 recipes each.

My list is hilarious. There are countries I have (unsurprisingly, given my basic knowledge of geography) never heard of, and it’s one of these that I decided to kick off the challenge with; Palau.

Palau is part of the archipelago known as ‘The Black Islands’ and has a population of just 21,000. In spite of this, a healthy amount of tourists head to the island each year and as a result, Palauan cuisine has sadly diminished over the years. Young people on the island are increasingly choosing Western food and culture – although why they would poo-poo chomping down on a fruit bat or two is beyond me.

Japanese and Korean traditions heavily influence Palauan culture, and as such, I dipped in and out of three different recipes to create my Palauan fish dish; Palauan Fish with Coconut Rice and Plantain.

I was meant to use mackerel for this, but I hate all the fiddly little bones – I’m such a fish heathen – so I used sea bass instead. Baking a whole mackerel in the oven instead of using fillets on the hob would work fantastically, I would imagine – if you like that sort of thing.

For the Palauan Fish

2 good-sized sea bass fillets
1Tbsp hot chilli paste
1tsp minced garlic (I used smoked garlic – it was immense)
1Tbsp sesame oil
1tsp finely grated ginger
1tsp oyster sauce
1Tbsp soy sauce
1Tbsp brown sugar
1Tbsp lemon juice
1Tbsp sesame seeds
1 bunch of spring onions, chopped (just the green bits)

For the Plantain

1 plantain
1Tbsp sesame oil

For the Coconut Rice

Rice, cooked according to the instructions
Coconut milk
1 stick lemongrass, well bruised


Start with the rice. Make it up according to the instructions on the packet. In the meantime, warm the coconut milk in a pan and add the bashed lemongrass. Just before the rice is fully cooked (a few minutes or so) add the coconut/lemongrass mixture and allow the rice to fully soak up the liquid. You only need a few tablespoons of the liquid.

Now for the plantain – warm a good slosh of sesame oil in a frying pan and slice the plantain into diagonal chunks around 1cm thick. Pop them in the pan and turn occasionally until you’ve plated everything else up.

Don’t forget them.

Meanwhile, heat the sesame oil for your fish in a separate frying pan.

While you’re waiting for it to become smoking hot, mix all the other ingredients together in a bowl. Don’t be shy, just whack it all in and give it a good mix.

Add your fish to your hot oil, skin side down and leave for a few minutes until the skin becomes crispy.

Baste the fish generously with the sauce, flipping over to baste the skin side as well.

Tip the rest of the sauce into the pan along with the spring onions.

Stir the chopped coriander through the rice, and lay out on your serving plates. Lay your fish out on top and spoon the sauce over the top. Arrange your plantain in a fancy way on the side.

Eat and enjoy*.

*So, there are a couple of things to mention here. Firstly, I know a lot of people like their fish skin crispy – it won’t work with the way I’ve done it, but it does mean that the fish takes on the maximum amount of delicious flavor. Secondly, the plantain brings absolutely nothing to this dish at all, but I like the way it looks.

Tonight: Poland.