Go Ape: Training Goalposts!

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As I may have oh so briefly mentioned, I’m going to be doing a fairly intense (I had no idea how intense…) obstacle run at the end of March, which I’ve been training for by using a 5K running app (see here, I LOVE it!). However, there’s more to an obstacle run than running. You may have caught that obstacle part, there. YES! There are obstacles! Now, thanks to a variety of fallen trees and other hazards in the local woods, I’ve been getting quite a lot of obstacle training into my runs, but none of them compare to the challenges that lay ahead… So, there was only one thing for it – another challenge, part training, part confidence boost, and all over good fun – Go Ape!

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I knew this would be the perfect chance to get a little workout in, see how well we were all doing, and catch up with my team mates at the same time. I’ve been to Go Ape four times now (that’s me above back in 2010!) and I’ve loved every visit, so I knew it would be awesome! So, last Sunday, enjoying the first day of spring weather, we headed to Alice Holt.

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The course is very lively, and beautiful in the sunshine, consisting of five sections, four of which are accessed by climbing a rope ladder. You start off with a safety demo (and I was picked on to be the volunteer this time when it turned out I had a PR pass!) and learn the ways of Go Ape, in which safety is paramount.

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Swinging from a tree is serious business, but there are so many safety procedures involved it’s very safe – if you follow instructions. You have a variety of clips and attachments to make sure you’re always anchored in multiple places, which is very reassuring when you’re hanging from a tree in the middle of the forest. I have no idea how high these platforms are, but I have to tell you, they do make your knees go funny when you stand on the edge!

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Once you’ve done your safety demo, which involves the first of five zip wires (how else would you get down from such a great height? Zip wire, of course!), you get to start on the first ‘big’ set of crossings. First of all, you need to climb a rope ladder (can I overcome the obstacle of a rope ladder? YES!), and then you’ll face the first of the two Tarzan swing / cargo net combos. This is the part I look forward to the most – weightlessly flying through the trees, before a quick scramble up a net – which is one of the obstacles we face at the run at the end of the month!

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The swing is daunting, and the cargo net is tough, but that’s what makes it so much fun! Unfortunately, we had a young girl in front of us at my visit who completely freaked out at the Tarzan swing, and despite careful, patient and professional coaching from one of the Go Ape team, she eventually had to back out and come off the course. The first Tarzan swing is the test of your courage – if you can’t make it across, it’s unlikely you can do the rest of the course. But we’re all made of stern stuff, right? Of course!

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The first cargo net is tougher than the second – I think it’s slightly looser – but we were really pleased with how well we managed to haul ourselves up them. Can we overcome the obstacle of the cargo net? YES!

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The rest of the course is made up of various methods of getting from one tree to another – there’s always a metal cord that you stay clipped to as you go along, so you cannot – cannot – fall off of anything as long as you’re attached. The challenges vary from easy (wooden blocks to step on) to bloody difficult (stirrups), but if you ever have enough and just cannot take the strain, all you need do is relax into your harness and pull yourself along to the next tree platform.

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Sometimes the course handily splits in two so that you can follow an easier path if you wish. Did we do that? Of course not, we were doing a very important training session! However, there was one challenge I could not complete…

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Walking across the beam with noooo hands! Rachel actually pulled this off twice – incredible! I just couldn’t get my balance and held onto the safety cords which are attached to the wire – you can see them to the right of her head in this photo. That’s the nice thing about Go Ape – it’s tough, but if it gets too tough, you can sort of cheat. Unfortunately for me, balance beams are one of the obstacles I face at the end of the month. Can we overcome the obstacle of the balance beam? Well, only one of us…

After each treetop section is complete, you get on your zipline and speed off into the distance…

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…and it’s seriously the best fun you can have in the woods when you’re stuck up a tree. Amazing!

When you’ve finished your course, you even get a certificate and can pose with the Go Ape ape for a photo (if you bring a camera, natch), just to prove how awesome you are!

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All in all, Go Ape is fantastic experience, whether you’re testing your strength, training for an obstacle race, or just want to have some fun! You do need to be in reasonable shape to complete the course, but it’s certainly not incredibly physically challenging. Plus, it gives you amazing bragging rights after, and the chance to eat some ham, egg and chips for lunch completely guilt free afterwards… Which may or may not be what I did at Alice Holt…

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Book your own tree top adventure with Go Ape at www.goape.co.uk. They even have segway courses (and you know how much I love segways!) and loads of locations all the way across the country (find out here). Tickets cost between £30-32 for adults, £24 for 10-17 year olds, and they even have special courses for tiny ones at £17 per child! I was given two tickets for the purposes of review for this post, although the fact that it was my fourth trip is a pretty good indication of how much fun I think Go Ape is!

So, let me know – have you Gone Ape before? Are you planning to? And how do you train for obstacle runs like Tough Mudder or X-Runner?

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Fashionably Fit: Trail Shoes Edition

When I first started exercising “properly”, it was in 2009, in order to lose weight for my wedding in summer of 2010. I exercised at home with games like EA Sports Active and DVDs like Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred. At home, my only concern when it came to kit was a good sports bra – any old T-shirt and jogging bottoms would do. But this year, as I’ve started jogging OUTSIDE, under the watchful gaze of OTHER PEOPLE, I started to consider my exercise clothes in the same way as I did my everyday outfits: a chance to express myself, enjoy what I wear, and feel better about myself too.

When SportsShoes.com got in touch with me to ask me to select some items from their site in order to post about fashion and fitness, I leapt at the chance – not least because that exact same day I was planning a trip to pick up some trail shoes from the Nike Factory Store at Gunwharf Quays. The event I am training for this spring is really one that requires trail shoes, as it’s basically one long mud bath punctuated with a variety of opportunities for me to fail hilariously at being sporty. But hey, at least no one will be able to accuse me of not having the right kit!

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The shoes I selected from the site’s extensive range were Nike Zoom Terra Kiger running shoes (pictured above, £69.99) which are designed to cushion the foot and provide extra grip in muddy conditions! Perfect! I also selected a pair of Nike Legend 2.0 Women’s Dri-Fit workout pants – my first pair of ‘proper’ running bottoms. Previously I’ve made do with offerings from Primark, F&F and Next’s own sport range, which are all fine, but not made of technical material like Nike’s Dri-Fit products. These help to wick moisture away from the skin to keep you comfortable while you sweat like a maniac.

As I’ve never knowingly undershopped, I took the opportunity to pick up a beautiful silver reflective jacket from the Nike store on my trip (which I went on anyway, because shops). I already had a great red cycling jacket, but the Nike Flash range jackets are reflective ALL OVER, and plus, are pretty space age. Sports Shoes has a selection of similar jackets here.

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Styling workout outfits is infinitely easier if everything you have can be mixed and matched, and is generally along the same colour scheme. As your trainers are your most important piece of kit (in my opinion!), I think that you should pick these first, according to your needs and budget, and then build your collection from there. These Nike Trail shoes came with a purple and grey colour scheme, so I ran with that and picked up a variety of black, pink and purple items. Pictured above with my Nike shoes and joggers are a pink Nike Jam Jam top (£20 here), my silver running jacket, a pink and grey Adidas gym bag, and NOT pictured is a pink and black sports bra from Shock Absorber (£35 here).

On my spree, I also bought a black Heidi Klum for New Balance cropped tee from Next (£30 here), and a pink Nike boyfriend tank (similar here). Combine the two, and you have an outfit which brings back good memories of netball practice at school…

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I also have to mention my phone, which is one of my most essential pieces of kit. I’ve mentioned before that I’m using the Zombies 5k training app, and it’s really keeping me on track and motivated to get out there several times a week – both to keep up my progress, and to find out what’s going to happen to Abel Township next! Luckily, my Kate Spade iPhone cover matches my new trainers or I would have had to throw it away in disgust…

Finally, as it is nippy outside, I decided to pick up a reversible purple Nike headband (£9.99 here) to keep my ears warm and my hair out of my face. In all honesty, for me, this is a frivilous and unessential purchase as I always get very hot on my runs anyway, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to look as sporty as possible. And let’s face it, what’s more sporty looking than headbands, sweatbands and leg warmers?

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I’m sure you’ll agree from the photographic evidence that just with the simple addition of a headband, I suddenly look 85% more sporty, and 50% more likely to be able to complete a marathon at the drop of a hat.

Fitness FashionNike Zoom Terra Kiger running shoes, c/o SportsShoes.com / Reflective running jacket, Nike (similar here) / Cropped T-shirt, Heidi Klum for New Balance / Reversible Headband, Nike / Nike Legend 2.0 Women’s Dri-Fit workout pants, c/o SportsShoes.com / Jam Jam Top, Nike / Ultimate Gym Bra, Shock Absorber

What do you wear when you exercise? What’s your favourite work out outfit? And, what do you think about fitness fashion in general? Let me know!

My Nike Zoom Terra Kiger running shoes and Nike Legend 2.0 Women’s Dri-Fit workout pants were sent to me by SportsShoes.com for the purposes of review on this blog.

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Zombies 5k: initial review

In early spring, I’m going to be motoring off with a bunch of other fine folks to take part in a crazy, mud-soaked 5k obstacle course. So, I decided, as a basic minimum, that I really should at least be able to run 5k before I get there… In comes Zombies 5k, an app I had already downloaded but never used – which sits in amongst a plethora of 5k apps that I download whenever I’m supposed to be doing Race for Life. This time, though, I’m pretty serious about making sure I prepare properly. So at the end of last month, I embarked on my first week of Zombie 5k training!

The app works with your phone (and is also available on Android) to track your distance and other fancy things, but the main feature of it that made me download was the storyline that’s woven into your progress as you run. You plug in your earphones, select a playlist from your music folder, and then in between tracks, narrators tell a story of a group of survivors of a zombie apocalypse, of which you are one, who are struggling to gather supplies. As Runner 5, you are put into training to venture out and gather items, and the narrators mix together plot points and training advice along the way to make each run seem like it’s building up to make you an elite, zombie-outrunning athlete.

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These are screenshots from my phone to show the information that you gather as you run – and how you progress, from a series of short bursts of running interspersed with walking, to an hour’s worth of longer runs and walks in the final week. Unless you are incredibly unfit, it should be easy to get stuck into, and it follows a fairly typical route for most 5k training programmes.

One of my favourite parts about this programme, though, is the way that it captures lots of extra info that can be viewed online if you link your app to the website, www.zombiesrungame.com.

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First of all, it tracks your overall distance and time, and also breaks down the total distances for each week as you go along, as well as informing you about the major plot points you’ve encountered so far. Week one workout three was especially fun for me, as I went with my parents and their mad dogs to Royal Victoria Country Park, where not only did I get dragged through the mud by an insane mutt, but I also got to experience an exciting storyline twist when I was asked to run outside the safety of the base in order to pick up some ammo for the township!

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As you can see, if you choose to share this info, the website can track your progress on a map – which is the second aspect I really like. You can see exactly where you went, and even how fast you were going at each stage – right down to your speed for each individual song!

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Royal Victoria Country Park is an amazing place to run, as it covers lots of different terrains, from a pavemented seafront, to a wooded area, and even a military cemetery. And here’s an interesting fact for you: the tower is what’s left of Royal Victoria Hospital, where the fictional Dr Watson from the Sherlock Holmes stories trained as a surgeon for the army!

Somehow, my app magically synched itself to my run and had me tearing down a side route (middle left) in order to pick up the aforementioned ammo. The accompanying insane canine was very happy to pull me far beyond my normal running pace and I ended up plunging through a series of muddy puddles of varying depths… But, considering I’m training for an obstacle course, I’d say it’s all part of the programme!

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I’m definitely happy to have picked this method of training, and I’ll be sure to pick up my review at a later date in order to fill you in on my progress! Crazy as I sounds, I actually look forward to my thrice-weekly runs, and it’s a combination of a well-crafted learning curve, and an interesting storyline, that are keeping me coming back for more. Visit the app store to find Zombies 5k, or head to www.zombiesrungame.com for more info.

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