Overcoming Injury and Illness - 01/10/2017
No one likes being injured. No one like being ill.
I think it’s safe to say that when it comes to someone who dedicates almost all their time to training and competing, both injury and illness fast become one of the biggest curveballs and barriers there are.
Just over 5 months ago I sustained a wrist injury that both myself and the Doctor thought would have healed in 3 months at the latest. As I sit here writing now, I still don’t have my wrist back. I can do a lot more, but there are still essential parts of my training I can’t do because my wrist is not there yet.
The last 2 weeks have set another lesson to be learned through illness. I trained an insane amount in the lead up to a big competition, I raced flat out at the comp then finished and crashed … Into a hospital bed. Hooked up to a drip I knew I needed to take it easy for the next few days but the competitive voice took over. The fear of losing fitness was shouting at me to keep pushing. I usually bounce back fast, and after 48 hours, despite feeling drained, dizzy and still a little nauseas, I got in my car and went to the CrossFit box to keep pushing. I went flat out, got back home and went flat out for another 2 hours in the gym.
Then I really crashed.
The next 9 days would entail nothing but lying flat on my mattress, not even having the energy to sit up.
I felt so stupid! I also promised my body I would never abuse it like that again, and that from now on, I would always have one rest day a week.
I was struggling to find something positive to take from 2 weeks of illness … Then I went back to my physio for wrist work and we were both shocked by it’s improvements. I had gone from not being able to a press up on it, to being able to do a handstand! The rest my body had so desperately been craving had given my wrist a chance to take a big step forward in the healing process.
There are daily frustrations that come with injury and illness. ‘Whilst I get weaker, my competition is getting stronger’, ‘what if I never fully recover’, ‘I’m going to miss so many events’, ‘it’s going to take me ages to get back to where I was’ … Fundamentally, you are swamped in fear of going backwards. You train for hours everyday to keep moving forward, and then that gets taken away and you start dropping away from your PB’s.
Mentally the last 5 months for me have been a real challenge. The first month was the most difficult, then you almost realise you have to get a grip and find a way of coping.
You realise things could be way worse, you find the silver linings and you keep firm sight on the light at the end of the tunnel.
I nearly broke on a few occasions. I most certainly didn’t take the injury well at the start. I was heart broken and lost perspective for a while. But there will always be a voice that makes things okay. Listen only to that one, believe it and cherish it.
Here’s how it worked for me …
1 – Say ‘you’re welcome’ to your joints! They probably haven’t had much of a break for a fair stretch of time. The rest will do them good.
2 – Read a good book that will help you shed light. I read ‘Chasing Excellence’ by Ben Bergeron. It’s a great book for finding perspective when you can’t seem to look at things the way you want too.
3 – Focus on your weaknesses. Work on skills that you wouldn’t normally work on to make you a more versatile athlete. If you’re injured beyond the ability to train at all, then use the time to study things that will further your knowledge of training so that when you get back into it, your understanding will be greater.
4 – Find a way to help someone else. Find someone struggling and try to motivate and support each other. Share number 7 with them too.
5 – Highlight a lesson you have learned from the experience. We learn far more from hard times than good times.
6 – Strip movements back to perfect technique and rebuild your strength as injury allows. It will be frustrating to not hit the performance levels you are used too, but a solid technical foundation will make room for further excelling when your body is ready.
7 – Adapt! Be careful not to create too much of an imbalance by doing things one sided (I need to take that advise!) but find things you can still do and learn new things you have never done before. Use the injury as a tool for creative exercise … It’s crazy what you can come up with!
8 – Know you’re not alone. No athlete that trains and competes day in, day out, will forever be without injury. It’s kind of part of the package, and you will be stronger for having overcome it.
We are always learning, growing and developing as athletes and as human beings.
Don’t let the curveballs throw you off course.
Stand strong, accept the challenges with open arms and become the person who you would want as your role model.
The Most Valuable Lesson Yet - 17/05/2016
In every walk of life, and in each thing I do, I gain some kind of perspective and valuable lesson that can be taken into whatever comes next.
I have just been exposed to a world I knew nothing of. In this world I learned my most valuable lessons yet.
First of all, never let yourself become a victim. We all go though something hard. Maybe you lose someone or something you love, experience heart break, fall into financial difficulty, fail to reach your goals and ambitions, reach your goals and ambitions then lose them, have to move away from the people you love or even become a victim of your own mind. We will all fail. We will experience the lows. We will all face consequences of our wrong actions. The truth is, the punishments and consequences for doing wrong are there to make you stronger; more knowledgable for the next time, not to knock you down.
When we fail, it creates resilience and drive for the next thing we approach. Instead of becoming a victim, become strong and resilient for the next punch that life will hit you with. Hard times will always end. They will never last forever. Lift up your chin, smile with pride and strength and remember that above anything, never give up.
Secondly, never disregard the importance of team work. Doing great things is amazing, doing great things with great people will change your life. Take the time to help the person to your left and right, they will have your back the next time you need help. When you help the living things around you, you become a human with much more value.
Thirdly, never underestimate or make assumptions of new people that enter your life, even the people walking past you on the street. You know nothing of their hardship, of their passions, or of their greatest achievements. It is often the people you least expect that have great stories and experiences. Make the most of every person you meet. Understand what makes them great, learn from it and soak it in. Every person that is born into this world is capable of so many things. As individuals grow and settle into jobs and homes, families and locations, we all end up in very different positions, but the capability and ability we were born with still remains, and there are a huge amount of people that embrace that.
On a final note, and something that all of the above fall into, remember that everything we do comes from the way we program our minds. So program your mind to be strong and resilient, fill it with love, positivity, drive and ambition. Allow it to be soft and vulnerable at times for this does not make you weak. Allow happiness in by creating the best version of yourself that you possible can. Stay head strong and enjoy every single second you have on this planet.
A Different Kind Of Adventure - 13/12/2015
When you think of the word ‘adventure’, I’m sure you think of white sand beaches, palm tress, exotic destinations filled with beautiful buildings, wild animals, mountains, oceans, extreme skies and inside this, there is you, a back pack and some mode of transport. Maybe a bike, kayak, your own two feet. You get my gist.
This winter, instead of flying off on adventure, I took on a new and very different one. I moved to London.
So many times I have found myself thinking, “What the hell am I doing?” Quite often, it involves being surrounded by silence in a foreign country and thought with a smile or mild laughter.
But, one week into moving to the city, for the first time ever, my ‘what the hell are you doing?’ was one of despair and thought not with a smile, but with a tear of sadness and nostalgia.
The moment came just after getting stuck in rush hour on October 2nd 2015. I sat in a coffee shop and tried to drown out the sound of sirens, traffic, coffee machines churning and the people moaning about their jobs next to me, by putting in my head phones. I was looking through travel photos and listening to the comforting sound of Angus Stone, appreciating and admiring what my eyes had already seen.
As I headed home, tears streamed down my cheeks as I thought, “what the hell am I doing?"
I didn’t last long in London. I was working in indoor retail in a busy, central location. It made me feel like I couldn’t breathe. I felt trapped, the air felt dirty and I longed for the sea and expansive cliffs.
I followed my gut and went back to Devon, but then something changed. I realised it was first time I had given up on something before learning to find the things I loved about it. I felt like I had quit and my view on London was so negative that I felt like I had wasted time and money in moving somewhere which had left me feeling slightly soul crushed. It was like I had had an argument and left without finding a solution and smoothing things over.
So after a few weeks of enjoying the delights of Devon, I moved back. I found a job in a Christmas tree forest so I got to earn money but still work outdoors and keep active in my work. From this I found purpose and stability. Thankfully also happiness thanks to working with such fun people!
I allowed myself to be open to the things that happen in city life and just start doing them, and enjoying them. From this I found excitement.
I ended up spending a lot of time going to Project Awesome. From that, I found inspiring people, laughter, fitness and a gateway to a multitude of social events with like minded people. This gave me feeling of content, friendship and love.
I now love London. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t live and work here all year round and I am very excited to take my next, more traditional style adventure in Canada in January, but I am no longer leaving on bad terms. I have smoothed over the argument and have met some incredible people and seen the beauty in the City.
I think it has made me realise the bread and butter of what I really need to be happy. I need purpose, goals, friendship, laughter, long hours outdoors and some kind of stability.
This has definitely been my toughest adventure, but I’m glad to say that I didn’t quit, I am so happy I came back to give it a second chance. It just goes to show that no matter the kind of person you are, you really can find happiness anywhere!
… And there are some BEAUTIFUL surrounding areas of natural beauty a short train or bike ride away.
5 Ultra Marathon Survival Tips that will get you over the finish line! - 22/06/15
Running, or perhaps crawling, over the finish line at an Ultra event is a great achievement and a highly rewarding (and painful) experience.
From the first event I did, I would read personal blogs and scientific studies to perfectly plan my races, but over time I have realised that everything scientific changes from person to person. There are so many opposing articles telling you what and when to eat and drink, what shoes you should be wearing and the latest superfood that will keep you sustained for days on end … But we are all genetically engineered in different ways, therefore every person at an Ultra Marathon event will have to prepare in a different ways. Some things will work great for some, but for others it will hinder them.
So all I am saying is, no matter how great the athlete or scientist, don’t take everything they say religiously, just use it as a guideline and find out what works best for you.
In light of this, I have composed a list of 5 things that will hopefully help all of you!
1 - PROTECTION: Vaseline and good socks. A skinless bum and blistered feet is added pain you could do without … And so easily prevented! Get a good pair of socks on those feet (personally I like Craghoppers) and smother everything in Vaseline! Having shoes that fit well and suit your style of running is also essential. I run with Vivobarefoot shoes and use Superfeet insoles. To join the barefoot revolution, find out more at and to support your soles over those enduring distances, perhaps think about finding an insole that will keep your feet smiling at
2 - CONSUMPTION: Get your nutrition right. This is SO specific to the individual and what each person consumes prior and during an event ranges massively. Make sure you start a race happy and confident with the nutrition you have packed because it makes all the difference! I would suggest playing around with different foods during your training to see what settles well in your stomach and keeps you going. However, something that is relevant for EVERYONE, is hydration. Make sure you get the right amount of water for the week leading up to the event and keep yourself fully hydrated. I swear by running with electrolytes in my water and I have never met a long distance runner who doesn’t! Get protein on board whilst you're training for quick muscle repair and take on carbohydrates close to race day to help supply your body with slow release energy.
When racing an Ultra I always carry:
- A chunk of plain bread or a small quiche
- A Satsuma
- A Banana
- 2 granola/cereal/nut bars
- TOP TIP: A pack of softmints or chewing gum goes a long way. It ALWAYS saves me and gives me a refreshing boost between the last check points and the finish line!
3 - MIND GAME ONE: Every time you reach a new check point, your mind and body will be screaming at you to stop and pull out. You will begin making excuses in your head to try and justify a way of not making it to the end. You know it’s a long way and you’re completely exhausted … BUT DON’T GIVE UP! You must remember that pain is only temporary, but your sense of self achievement (and your shiny medal) will last forever!
4 - MIND GAME TWO: Remind yourself why you signed up to do the race in the first place. Whether you are running for charity, to beat a PB, or take on a new challenge, keep reminding yourself as you run and use this as your driving force to cross the line.
5 - MIND GAME THREE: Motivation! One of my favourite things about Ultra events is the great social scene before, during and after running. While you’re out on the course, especially if you can see that someone is tired or struggling, offer them words of motivation. The more you motivate and inspire others to finish, the more you motivate and inspire yourself to finish!
I wish the best of luck at your next/first and hopefully not last Ultra event!
Race Time - 20/11/2014
The last two months has been an incredible learning curve for me, and I have finally begun to understand how to balance different goals.
For the first time in my life I am pursuing my three greatest passions all at the same time. I am in full time training for Jasmin Vardimons young company JV2, with trail running and surfing events squeezed in at the weekends and during the Christmas holiday break.
I believed for a very long time that there was no limit, and in many ways, it still remains a foundation in my motivation. But it is clear that doing TOO much can hinder your performance in everything you do, and in a way, your limit for achievement begins to drop.
The last few races have been a huge eye opener to what the human body is capable of.
Helped along by reading ‘Born to Run’ a both educational and inspirational book written by Christopher McDougal, I decided to venture further than the 42 mile race I had dragged myself through in Cornwall.
I first ramped up a gear and took a slightly doubtful dive into the self-navigated 58mile race across the sparse Snowdonia mountain range.
I had entered without really thinking about it, and it was only when Benn Berkeley, a good friend and experienced expeditioner, helped me track and visualise the route along an OS map that I gulped with apprehension. He looked at me and said ‘wow, that’s long way’ … and that was coming from a man who has endured one of the toughest endurance ice races across Siberia!
None the less, I had entered, and I am not one for backing out, so I set off on an adventure with the thought that if the worst came to the worst, I could always pull out at a checkpoint.
The small pool of runners set off as the sun rose, and I was in my normal chirpy mood, excited to explore a great route across mountain range I hadn’t seen before.
I latched onto the back of two Australian runners in desperation of not getting lost, but they shot off after the first 6 miles.
I knew there was a long race ahead so I stuck to my own pace and made more of a focus to reach the end in one piece.
With over 10,000 ft. of elevation, I felt at times I would never stop climbing, but luckily the surrounding view was enough to distract from the pain.
I wearily stopped to fill my water pouch from the fresh river by the slate quarry, then continued, paying close attention to the terrain.
By the fourth checkpoint, I had caught up with a lovely chap called Tom. His smile was enough to cheer me up from a severe state of self-pity and I decided I would try and stay close too him for as long as possible. He munched on some jellybeans and bound off down the trail, so I plodded after him, still shovelling nuts into one side of my mouth whilst trying to breathe out the other.
He welcomed my company and became a hugely motivating leader. He had some knowledge of the area so whilst he chatted away, I replied very abruptly, just trying to concentrate on keeping up.
All in all we ran together for a good 6 hours and I feel that without his chirpy spirit I may have crumbled and withered far sooner!
As we reached the last checkpoint, I was so desperate to finish but my legs were screaming at me, so I told Tom to head off without me and assured that I would see him at the finish line.
He spun round and waved me a good luck smile before disappearing into a never-ending horizon.
For the last few miles I had my map clutched in my fingertips, tracking every slight advance towards the end.
As I crawled out of the forest and reached the road, I could smell both civilisation and the finish line.
An old man stood with a walkie-talkie and buzzed back to HQ that he had seen the first woman. I had no idea I was running in the lead! My mind had been so focussed on my map, looking where my feet were going and not losing sanity, I almost forgot I was even in a race.
I was hit with a wave of last wind energy and embodied the bounding energy I had envied Tom having hours beforehand.
I could hear the band playing and I could see the lights of the finish.
As I broke through the tape I was greeted but the few male runners that had come through already, a teary eyed mum, and a very happy race director armed with a bowl of hot pasta. I was in disbelief at my finishing time and position. Being the youngest runner by about 6 years I was overwhelmed with words of congratulations from spectators and other runners.
2 weeks later it was time to hit the trails again, and this time it was a multi day event, covering 89miles.
Full of motivation form the last race I was ready to attack this one with full spirit … 20miles into a hilly coastal trail route later, I was covered in sick and felt like I had a living creature playing tennis in my stomach, whilst my legs were cramping beyond despair.
I had spent the previous day surfing in the hot sunshine for bout 11 hours and had fallen victim to dehydration. The last 10miles of that first day killed me and I cried almost the whole way to the finish line, certain that I was going to pull out of the race.
A short nap and plate of lasagne later, I was packing my rucksack for day 2 and had forgotten all about the horrific run the previous day.
Desperately trying not to let their left leg rub against the raw skin on the right, or snap their hamstrings by moving too much, packs of runners waddled to the start line ready to do it all over again.
I was feeling just as rough but was armed with enough water to fill a swimming pool, and in hindsight, WAY too many rehydration salt sachets.
I set off well, darting over tough stretches of rocky and wet terrain before finding a steady place alongside a pack of 5 men. ‘Papa John’ was chief navigator and pace setter whilst the others rotated like migrating birds to give him a rest. When they realised I was attached for the long haul, I became part of the pack. We took it in turns to lead and shout encouraging words to each other and John took on a military roll as we hit check points. He would grab a sausage roll and keep running whilst everyone else was enjoying the chance to breathe, gingerly filling up their water pouches and munching on pizza and jellybeans. He would shout at them for wasting time, and in the desperate attempt to become a valued member of his team, I would copy him despite my huge desire to follow the others.
We ran as a group until the very end of the last day, and Papa John, being the kind hearted gentleman that he was, gestured me to cross the line first with a cheeky smile and a wink.
First day aside, I loved that event for the sheer beauty of the route and for the company I had.
Papa john was an ultra running legend, having done all the races I aspire to do in my lifetime, and the pain of lactic legs were drowned with laughter the whole way home.
Freefall Summer Intensive - 10/08/2014
By Sarah Thomson
Day one began with a yoga class led by Simon Birch.
A room full of excitement, apprehension, and also open minds sat in rows with eyes closed; a communal breath of what was to come.
Charlotte Eatock led the first contemporary class. Just to watch her teaching the warm up displayed what a technical masterpiece she was! Fourteen pairs of eyes sat upon hard working minds, fixated with concentration on her every move. I haven’t really done much technique before, and especially to the level and pace that Charlotte was teaching. I often found my brain one step ahead of my body, but none the less I was determined to keep up!
I think quite often, it can be hard to enjoy something if you feel as though you can’t do it well. We like to feel we’re succeeding, and as a result, it becomes very easy to stick to the things you can do well, but despite my far from perfect technique, I was hooked on everything Charlotte taught and thoroughly enjoyed the class.
The next two classes were led by Joss Arnott, and whilst some of the group were gracefully training their ballet bodies upstairs with Amely Instance, the rest of us were getting friendly with the ground.
Naturally my body took to his style of work more and I must admit I was slightly relieved when he said, “let’s start on the floor”. You could feel the energy in the room and everything he taught was very dynamic and engaging. Series of sequential melting and powerful gestures brought a great feel to the room even with the end of day nearing, and the brains beginning to struggle to contain and withhold movement memory, it was a brilliant couple of classes.
I left day one feeling like I had felt when I first did a whole day of dance with Devon Youth Dance Company about 6 years ago. Aches and pains had no meaning, and for shear enjoyment I could have danced all night long!
… Having said that, the more sensible option was to head home, stock up on protein and get a good nights sleep before the start of day two.
The next morning was like awakening to Christmas as a five year old!
I was so excited, that I ran out the house to my car without realising I hadn’t put any contact lenses in. It was hard enough with full vision so learning half blind would have been one challenge many! … So it was a quick back track home to make sure I had actually packed everything I needed.
Joss Arnott provided a fast paced start to the day, and you could tell from the strange noises and grimacing faces that the vast majority, if not everyone, was suffering from the demands of the previous day; the first few deep pliés weren’t particular comfortable.
The room soon warmed up and with the sharp attention and love for the movement being taught, the aching pains were soon forgotten.
Charlotte Eatock took the last contemporary class, and whilst half the dancers were out hill sprinting and squatting with Alex Lloyd from Primal Fitness, I decided to not stick in that comfort zone and approach technique round two.
What was described to be the ‘slow’ class by Charlotte, was of course, not in the slightest slow and I’m not sure whether it was down to information overload or just tiredness, but I’m almost one hundred percentage sure that it was in fact, faster than the previous class she had taught.
I absolutely loved it as much as I had done the previous day though and I didn’t get it all wrong! It’s nice to find things that you need to work on to strengthen yourself as a dancer, and I’m looking forward to training my body to respond a bit faster to intricate movement and be able to build a good level of technique.
We finished with a Pilates class with Clare Meardon.
A beautiful moment to reflect on, and appreciate, an incredible two days with wonderful people and great teachers. It did also feel overwhelmingly good to properly stretch out everything from head to toe.
I have always been fascinated in watching people dance and we can learn so much from watching other people move in and through space, and I think that is one of the best things about the Summer Intensive.
Above everything, I have learnt that when a professional dancer says ‘let’s do it slow’, that is more or less a direct translation to ‘this is going to be fast’ and when they say it’s going to fast … prepare for some mind blowing turbo speed!
Nothing beats the feeling of doing something you love, and I am grateful that I had the chance to be part of such an amazing and inspiring weekend, and what a great way to kick start my apprenticeship with Freefall.
Bear Grylls Survival Training - 10/07/2014
By Sarah Thomson
Adventure - 20/06/2014
By Sarah Thomson
I recently got contacted by a guy who asked me to write down my most adventurous moment.
I jumped deep into memory lane and found myself lost in a world of all the scary and exciting moments and situations that have I have found myself in since I began travelling at 17.
In India I found myself removing all my hair with a pair of carpet scissors in desperation to walk through the slums of Delhi without having it grabbed and pulled by strangers, I drove a skidoo off the side of a mountain in Bulgaria, had a shark attached to my leash in Indonesia, very nearly lost a friend to the punishing rocks at the bottom of a waterfall in Costa Rica, was kidnapped in Italy with only a sack of potatoes and a broom to save myself, and was millimeters away from a potentially deadly snake bite in Ghana (will expand on all of these bit by bit!) … But for some reason, the one moment I could not let go of was far more calming. So this is what I told him …
“To me an adventure means taking a risk. Sometimes you run into trouble, and sometimes it turns out to be the most epic moment of a lifetime. One of my most adventurous moments was whist backpacking with a friend of mine in Indonesia. We awoke early, packed our rucksacks and headed off with no idea of direction. We passed peaceful lagoons, chilled out cafes and tiptoed through local farmlands, attempting to climb coconut trees for refreshment on the way. We walked for hour upon hour until we reached what we believed to be the end of the world! A huge of bank of black sand saw the end of the ever growing palm trees and we both stopped in awe. We laughed and told stories the whole way and yet when we reached this bay of black we had nothing to say, but just sat and soaked in the love of a wonderful adventure.”
Stepping Into the World of Ultras - 10/06/2014
By Sarah Thomson
You have probably all heard of people saying “It’s 70% mind and 30% body”, and to be honest with you I never believed it.
After years of punishing road races, stuck in a bubble of half marathons, I never saw myself being able to run much further. I always ended tired and the flags surrounding the finish line were a welcome and happy sight.
I guess what I decided to do was test the theory.
Marathon? No thanks. Ultra Marathon? Sure, why not … It’s all in the mind anyway, isn’t it?
Alarm goes off. Pick up rucksack. Fill with: safety blanket, first aid kit, head torch, energy bars, water in hydration system, pen knife, hat. Slip into lycra. Eat banana x 3. Eat Eggs x 4. Shoes on, laces up. Back pack on, tighten straps. Get in car. Headphones on. M83 to pump me up. Race brief. Register. Start line. 10 Second countdown. Race starts.
I’m now on a trail running race and not only is the distance foreign, but so is the terrain. I have no idea what pace to go at so I just bounce along and soak in the beauty of the Devon and Cornwall coast. I soon begin to learn techniques of getting up and down hills. It’s not like a road race where you can pound the up and freewheel the down. There are rabbit wholes and grassy lumps to navigate around, and to be honest with you I don’t know which direction on hill was more painful.
I begin to dread the half way mark as that is as far as I have trained. As I begin to reach it my thoughts flood with worries of not finishing or getting lost; It’s funny how the mind can wonder as you get tired and dehydrated … I approach the hill towards the half way check point and make the decision to not stop for water and just keep going. I get to the pinnacle of the hill, grab a banana chunk from the table and keep the legs moving.
The hill at mile 22 was hard work. My knees were getting tight and my toe nails had already began to drop like flies. After running alone for 3 hours, I once again began to doubt my navigation, but was just concentrating on getting to the top of the hill. As I reached the last few steps to the top I began to think that was all my legs were capable of. I was slowing down and energy was running thin. I closed my eyes and pretended I was somewhere else but found it hard to distract from burning lactic in my quads, and then it happened …. Oh, hang on ….
A smile began to grow back as I saw a small leg of flat ground ahead, and a church I recognised on the map.
Spirits boosted and back in the game. Pace picking up and competition face on.
From there, I just kept going. The pain did not get any worse and the fatigue stayed at the same level. Sure I cursed at a few of the big hills and lost my temper over silly things like snails diverting my choice of foot placement, but in all, I was really enjoying it.
I found myself very loudly cheering as I sprinted through corn fields, and commentating (in an aussie accent) an imaginary surf comp as I passed some amazing waves, … and I’m also pretty sure I was talking to the cows and horses along the way for company!
… I could tap down every single moment of two very long races on here, but I think you get my drift …
To finish the fairy tale with a happy ending, I ran through the finishing check point, thinking I was last and realising I had come in as the 3rd woman!
Don’t be misguided by my initial words and think that fitness does not play a big part. Although I didn’t train hugely long distances in one chunk before the race, I trained nearly all day every day in a variety of sports, which I believe is where the endurance came into it. But do remember that your mind can push your body beyond what you thought was capable, and on race day, it really is 70% mind and 30% body.