Reformer Pilates – Test Beds!

img_2518A new reformer Pilates studio opened up in our tiny village in Killaloe, County Clare. And so three of the intrepid Bitchmittens bloggers decided we needed to get our fabulous arses over asap to give it a go. Which is why we found ourselves gathering at 6.30am for a pre-work introductory session of reformer Pilates with Roisin, who also happens to be a fully qualified physiotherapist. Swit swoo.

‘Clinical Reformer Pilates’ (as opposed to just regular Pilates) had been suggested to me by my spinal specialist, and my sports physio. I hurt my back about six months ago, and it’s just not getting better. So what is it? Well, ‘Clinical Pilates’ is delivered by a trained physiotherapist, who will have a detailed understanding of injury, recovery, treatment and movement. Reformer Pilates, is delivered via machines (rather bloody expensive machines, being several thousand a pop). But it’s a very safe, stable and effective way to rebuild strength after back injury, so I was delighted to have one open on my doorstep, and with the physio layer to boot.

Roisin’s studio has three such machines so the classes are, by nature of the numbers, all ‘personal training’. Every one gets individual attention. This was great for us though, because even though we’ve mastered a few different sports, we were all three of us Pilates virgins.

img_2515Personally, I was just keen to lie down again, it being 6.30am and all. For the first few minutes she talked us through how the machines work (I keep calling them beds!!). Basically there’s a sliding platform, a foot bar, and handles (that have foot handles or hand-handles) and we started out with really simple exercises lying on the beds. The resistance is provided by coiled metal springs, which you can adjust based on your requirements. Ruth of course went straight for hardcore toughness, which Rhona and I were content to take it a little easier 🙂

Over the course of an hour, we worked through arms, core, legs, (inner and outer) as well as a nice set of stretches and twists at the end. It was really calm and gentle, exactly what I needed at 6.30am, unlike the class Ruth dragged me to a few weeks ago which had me doing burpees five minutes after I got out of bed. Great class, but just TOO GODDAMN EARLY.

I loved this class because Roisin has a really calm demeanour, and explains everything brilliantly. For a morning class the music was just right, the room was lovely and the tempo of effort perfect. The next day I was pleasantly stiff, but unlike the first time I tried TRX, I didn’t have crippling DOMs (Delayed onset muscle soreness) for a week after.  I can clearly see how the moves at greater resistance would be pretty intense, even though your not lepping around all that much. (But she did say something about a jumpboard, which was another attachment…) Hmmm.

All three of us found this class excellent. Ruth and Rhona I think found it a little too easy in patches, but then they are both extraordinarily strong in the leg. We paid €22 per person, which is good value for what amounts to personal training with a qualified physio on super expensive equipment. My back has felt pretty damn good all week, and I’m relieved that I can start my road back to more regular exercise in such a fun way. Test Beds, aka reformer Pilates get an A+ from me. There are reformer Pilates studios dotting up all over the country, as it is becoming quite a craze! Just remember, if you’re carrying injury, you might be better off looking for a studio that is physio led, or at least get some advice from a physio before you begin.

xxx

Bitchmittens Emily

PS – Here’s Roisin’s page if you’re interested in checking it out:

https://www.facebook.com/thephysioroom.ie/

Note:

While we occasionally get asked to review places, products and services, and we love the occasional freebie – this wasn’t one of those times, it’s an honest to goodness unsolicited review 🙂

 

 

Micro-Adventures For 9-5 Life

So it went like this over a glass of red on a Sunday night…

Him. “Are we both free tomorrow eve after work?”

Me. “Yes!”

Him. “OK – let’s do something we’ve been talking about for a while. Want to try a Micro-Adventure?”

 

For those that don’t know a ‘Micro Adventure’ is a term coined by world famous Adventurer and motivational speaker Alastair Humphreys. It can be described as “an overnight outdoor adventure that is “small and achievable, for normal people with real lives.”

Microaventure

Image taken from http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/microadventure-3-sleep-hill/

Now some people might disagree that we are “normal” as we are lucky enough to have a pretty extensive adventure background, a fleet of touring kayaks at our disposal and a pretty serious set of camping kit  – but don’t let that put you off. A Microadventure doesn’t have to be on the water! It can be anything from pitching a tent in nearby woods, exploring a town or city by moonlight, or even holding a family slumber party in the back garden. The only real rules are that you must keep it minimalist, cheap and you must sleep outdoors away from your normal habitat. It also takes place ideally out of normal office hours i.e. after 5pm and before 9am.

It’s not what you do between 9 and 5 it’s what you do between 5 and 9 – Alastair Humphreys

So (slightly wine-fuelled) we put a plan in place for our first post-work Micro Adventure, due to take place the following evening. I almost forgot until I was reminded over breakfast the next morning! But, never one to go back on an agreement, wine fuelled or not, it was all systems go! The plan was straightforward; finish work, pack some kit and go.

Our Micro Adventure No.1. was a gonna be a “Kayak Camp” trip. The idea was simple enough for us, as mentioned we are lucky enough to have a fleet of kayaks and my husband Mike might just be the best person ever to go wild camping with as he has all the equipment and even better knows how to use it 🙂

So following a busy day in front of a computer screen and being attached to the world wide web we left home just after 5pm and made our way to the water. A quick repack from van to boats and off we went, quite literally paddling into the sunset.

Boat Pack.

The sense of freedom leaving the pier on a beautiful sunny Monday evening was almost overwhelming. What an evening for it!  It was like it was meant to be. We spent the next few hours kayaking around some of the islands lovely Lough Derg has to offer.

Once the sun started to set we made our way to the island we were camping on, set up tent and got the stove lighting for dinner. After dinner, we took a short wander around the perimeter of the uninhabited island – and then it was time to lay our heads to rest.

We are lucky enough to have our own awesome camping kit and following years of roughing it as scouts and then as students with cheap equipment, we now have a top of the range tent, therma-rests and sleeping bags. Microadventures may not need the most extreme gear, but you want to be comfortable too – so if you don’t want to splash out on top of the range stuff for such a short trip, beg, borrow or hire one or two key things to turn your trip from a trial into a treat.

With decent bedding and tent, sleeping outdoors generally guarantees us a good rest  – usually only interrupted by the odd bug or moo from a cow and luckily neither of us are bothered by either. I fell asleep looking forward to what lay ahead…a dawn chorus and a sunrise paddle home.

Neither failed to disappoint. We were packed up and in our boats in time to watch the sun rise over Lough Derg. Without the need for early morning chatter we both embraced the feeling only a sunrise reflection on the water can provide.

paddling for home

Again it’s one of those moments that just has power and everyone should experience it in this capacity at least once in their lives.

“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them.”

― Jo Walton

Like all good things it passes and while we tried to hold on and capture the scene forever in our minds it was time to paddle for home and wind up our first Micro Adventure. Time was ticking and the real working world was waking. Back at my desk at 08.52 I felt a little tired but mostly refreshed, there was also a great sense of achievement for what we did and what we experienced in the previous 16 hours. Of course the cogs are turning with ideas for the next one already!

We might even bring a few more friends along! So if you fancy joining us get in touch or maybe you just wanna try your own Micro Adventure, whatever works I just urge you to give it a go.

The idea is simple: 12-16hrs of something different, something outdoors and something which involves a little adventure and a lot of open mind!

And remember

“you do not need to be an elite athlete, expertly trained, or rich to have an adventure” Alastair Humphreys

 

xxx

#BitchMittens Andrée

 

NOTES FROM THE ED.

Andrée and Mike are the incredible duo behind My Next Adventure, which arrange family kayak tours, adventure camps and lots more for adventures of all ages and abilities. When Mike isn’t taking teams to Kilimanjaro or further afield you can find him in Killaloe, and on the waters of Lough Derg 🙂 Check out their Facebook page, it’s fab! 

For a great list of ideas for your own MicroAdventure – Check out Alastair Humphreys – he’s got something for everyone.  alastairhumphreys.com

Gear: What to Wear When Surfing

You’re going to need two or three costume changes.

Ellen 600x600The first you’ll need whilst driving to surfing. I have thought about driving to the beach in my wetsuit before, only to be put off by the thought of a moist gusset and thrush… In my opinion it is best to wear, unless you are coming from work; posh lounge pants, aka tracky bottoms, with a Tshirt and sweatshirt, or of if you are under the age of 20 a “hoody”. Age appropriate clothes definately apply to surfing as one can look like “an American teenage boy from the 70’s”. (That is in quotation marks as a male friend of mine actually said that to me recently).

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You will also need gold accessories, hoop earrings and chains to give you that LA beach vibe and full make up also that looks totally and completely natural. You need to be able to get out of your loose fitting clothes easily, usually in a rainy car park or public toilet. So the faster you take everything off and put your wetsuit on, the better 🙂

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The second outfit is the bikini/swimming costume, wetsuit, gloves, hood and “booties”. You usually need to wear something under your wetsuit because “everyone else does”. I find that if you wear a bikini under your wet suit you will get VPL (visible panty line), which is not very pleasant for other people to look at and makes the length of your leg appear shorter. “Going commando” urban dic (short for dictionary), says (not wearing any underwear) is most appropriate. Your wetsuit must be a tight fit. In Irish waters I wear my winter wetsuit all year round. This is made from 5, 4 and 3 millimetres of neoprene. The thinnest portion of 3 mill is on the knees and elbow joints making them easier to move.

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Summer wetsuits are made from even thinner neoprene. You WILL need to double check all measurements when buying on line. Make sure you take time to find the right fitting if buying from a shop. You will be spending a considerable amount of money on your wetsuit (€250 upwards for a decent one). So make sure it fits! Different brands have different sizing! You might be an 8 in an Excel and a 10 in an O’Neil.

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The staff at The Surf Shop Lahinch are amazing, and they have great first hand knowledge of brands and their unique sizing. You can buy second hand suits on the internet. My first wetsuit I bought from a very helpful store on the phone for very cheap. Unfortunately, it was a size 14 (I am a size 8 Excel). The gusset used to fill up with water and sag down to my knees, it was that long I could keep my sandwiches and a small boy in it! This also made me cold so I was not able to stay in the water long.

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Gloves and boots are essential in the winter months to protect you from the colder sea conditions. Some people who are pussies choose to wear a hood. This apparently keeps one warmer. It also makes you look like a person who has one side of their face squashed into the other side of their face. It also makes you unable to hear as there are flaps and straps that go over the ears. The neck strap can make you feel very claustrophobic and not very Fifty Shades at all! It also can make ones head sea fleas itchy. Basically it is NOT attractive item of clothing.

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After surfing you will have: a freezing white face, running nose, streaming eyes and bad hair. So really, it will really not matter what you will wear post surf. There ain’t no amount of accessorising that will save you….

Ellen’s insider guide to great surf products:

For bling that won’t break the bank, head to River Island
For Sun block – try Riemann P20. It’s amazing. It stays on all day, in and out of the water.
For post surf body moisturiser – raw coconut oil. Warning, stray dogs will like you as you will smell irrisitible.

Useful links

Guide to buying a wetsuit: http://360guide.info/wetsuits/complete-wetsuit-guide.html#axzz3mPg3hS2t
Detailed surf reports for Lahinch: http://magicseaweed.com/Lahinch-Beach-Surf-Report/52/

Notes from the Ed

When she’s not on the beach looking damn hot, Ellen is a qualified Iyengar Yoga teacher with regular classes running in all over Munster. Like her on Facebook for great yoga posts. Warning, she is rude, cool and very awesome 🙂

ADVENTURE: Romancing The Stone!

Turn Back Most of you will know me as a Triathlete but my background is actually adventure sports and it was through this mutual love that I met my awesome adventurer husband Mike Jones. Our 4 year college degree was a Bachelor of Arts in Outdoor Education and we got to spend a lot of time in the mountains or on the rivers and lakes of some of Ireland’s most remote and adventurous places.

A Romantic Escape

 

To say the adventure buzz is a little rife in our house is a bit of an understatement! Mike recently qualified as a Mountain Leader with Mountaineering Ireland and guided his first expedition up Kilimanjaro last month.  All went well and he heads out there again this week to take on Africa’s highest peak with another bunch of enthusiastic clients. Between the two trips, we decided to spend some ‘quality couple time’ together and in true ‘us’ style we headed out, not to a nice spa or for a fancy dinner – but for the hills

Last week it was decided the ‘quality time’ would be spent in lovely Kerry, specifically in Ireland’s largest mountain range; The Macgullicuddy Reeks.  While both of us had climbed Carrantuohill numerous times, Mike had always talked about a route he did two summers ago. It  turned out to be one of his favourite – a beautiful, yet challenging day in the Irish mountains. We decided it was time for me to give it a go.  I wouldn’t exactly say I am in the best climbing condition, especially not compared to someone who had been living at altitude for the last 12 days but I knew I could hold my own and hoped all the rope work and mountaineering skills that were ingrained in us over the years in college would come flooding back.

On top of the world

Planning the Climb

Most people climb Ireland’s highest peak via a steep gully known as the Devils ladder, however the route we were taking ‘Howling Ridge’ is a multi-pitch rock-climbing route which requires harnesses, ropes and specialist gear know as a climbing rack, which is basically lots of shiny,colourful pieces of metal that get slotted into cracks in the rock, from which safety ropes can take the climber’s weight in case they fall. Many spend years collecting and building on their ‘climbing rack’ and all this shiny gear can end up being worth a pretty penny.   

That morning we set out, lunch and snacks in tow, and after a coffee stop in Killarney we hit the car park area at the foot of the climb at around noon. We hit the base of the climb and got harnessed and roped up in good spirits. With multi-pitch climbing you have a lead climber and a second climber. While in my climbing fit days I would have ‘lead-climbed’ today was definitely not going to be that day, and I was more than happy for Mike to lead and me to second.  Pitch 1 was fine and all about getting used to the techniques again, the calls, the rope work and most importantly getting into my own personal climbing rhythm.  The weather was perfect and  I was thinking we’d top out on the summit after five, maybe six pitches as it didn’t look that far away. (Famous last words!)  As we got higher the pitches got a little harder, with a couple of challenging moves and I was very glad I wasn’t leading.   After five pitches the tiredness and burning arms started to kick in. It was here one piece of gear got stuck. I just couldn’t shift it from the rock!

Howling ridge

Trouble on the Rocks?

Annoyed, I ended up leaving it behind and climbing on (which is a real no go for climbers and their precious and expensive gear) so when I joined Mike again and told him he decided he had to go back down and retrieve it! He down-climbed on an Italian hitch and I belayed him back up the same way.  Not an ideal scenario and it added to our time on the climb.  

At this stage we decided it was time to grab a snack and take a few minutes rest in order to be fully fuelled for the next lot of pitches.  “You defo need your wits about you for the next half” I remember Mike saying…YIKES!  But I smiled on, though maybe I would have reconsidered the spa option at this point!   

Refuelled, we pushed on. Now each pitch seemed to test me a little more.  I found a ‘chimney’ section particularly challenging, but hey this is what we were there for  – the challenge! Every now and then, when Mike was leading and he went out of sight I would have a slight moment of doubt, but my method of coping with doubt is this; be aware of it, allow it in and then let it out I would also pinch myself and look out across the amazing surroundings and think how lucky I was to be there, doing this incredible climb with the man I love!  For the last pitch we just roped up and moved together. This is a technique you use a lot in Winter Mountaineering.  It means you can move pretty quickly and cover ground fast and this was important, as both time and snack supplies were slightly running out.  

 

Topping OutOn the final pitch I had mixed emotions. My little arms and body were screaming and wanted the constant pulling and dragging to end, but my mind was thinking  – maybe we should have brought the tent and camped the night to extend the fun and do it all again tomorrow! The last little slog to the summit is always exactly that… a slog. When we got to the familiar big cross that marks the summit there was just one other fellow climber who, on seeing us coming from the Ridge side greeted us with “Ah ye took the hard way up!”  I laughed at the understatement.    

Coming Down

We chose the quickest and steepest descent via the Devil’s Ladder, which is quite worn and loose in sections but we both have sturdy knees and good descending skills, another thing that was ingrained into us in college!  An hour later we were at the foot of the ladder.  At this stage again my body began to feel really tired, unlike my mountain goat of a husband, so true guide and porter style he took my pack and carried it for the remainder of the hike out.  Now that’s my idea of real romance.  At this stage we had been on the hills for 8 hours!! But what a wonderful 8 hours   

 So as it is named “Howling Ridge” was it really howling? No, thankfully we had perfect weather conditions, but it was a ridge! Is it the route everyone should take in order to make their way to the top of Ireland? No.But with the right guide, equipment and preparation, it is possible for most.   

So whatever the route, my advice is…get yourself to the mountains folks, even if it is your local little hill and it takes you all day to climb, climb it and then enjoy the views from the top!

 

#BitchMittens Andree

 

 

For more information on The Bachelor of Arts in Outdoor Education at GMIT see www.gmit.ie/outdoor-education/bachelor-arts-honours-outdoor-education

For information on Hill Walking and Mountaineering training, courses or to join a club in your area see www.mountaineering.ie

For more info on Trips or Expeditions with Irish Expedition Company Earths Edge see www.earths-edge.com

Gear: Nike Pro – keeping everything looking good and in its place

So bras are things we need. They are things that I need. Being a 34 D/DD (really should get re-measured) it’s an extremely rare and uncomfortable occurrence for me to be without a bra. So I’m definitely not seen without a bra whilst training. I feel far too exposed and everybody gets an eyeful!

When I first started exercising it was running that I took up. So I needed some industrial strength, class 5 underwired monstrosity to keep my girls in check. I was an FF so it was necessary. Now most of my training is low/medium impact. Rowing, cycling, weights, TRX, yoga and the odd run. This means the super-duper, clamp-down bras are not needed. I got a bit excited. I wanted to break free from underwire – since I couldn’t break free from the bra completely. I started browsing the web for low impact sports bras. Pretty things with lovely backs and bright colours.

Last year, on my first sports clothes haul at the start of the new rowing season, I bought a Puma sports bra.  Pale turquoise and beautiful strap work detailing on the back. It was on sale and in my size. I loved how it looked but my boobs were droopy. I don’t have pert little things and they need a bit of assistance. I was so disappointed but I kept wearing it in hopes that I would get used to the feeling.

My second attempt at a ‘non-underwired’ bra was far more successful. I was in the Nike shop in Kildare Village (great shop btw). And there it was. Hanging amongst the white and black boredoms that people call sports bras. My electric blue dream. It caught my eye instantly. I waited until Cormac and his brother fecked off so I could try it on in peace (you don’t want lads hanging around when you are doing that sort of thing). I put it on, not expecting to be blown away, but I was. Due to the thick fabric and wide, elasticated under-boob band it held everything in place. Gave a bit of resistance and made me feel really really cool. I was in love. It was €19 and it was gonna be mine!

Since then it has become my staple sports bra. I bought another soon after because I was living in the first one. I probably should think about getting a third.  I still need my industrial strength clamp down bra for running but when I’m not pounding the pavement I put one of these bad boys on. I don’t know about you but there is something very cool about Nike. The brand feels so iconic and a part of sport. You think Nike, you think sport, you think training hard, you think sweating your ass off. When I wear these bras I feel invincible, I feel free, I feel… heck I feel comfortable. And when you are comfortable you can take on the world!

You can find the Nike Pro bra on the Nike website as well as on Sports Direct. I also am very fond of the Nike shop in Kildare outlet. It comes in like a bazillion different styles and colours and for me it’s just perfect for low/medium impact training.

 

Ps: Sorry if you came here only to look at my boobs. I am not that kind of lady! 😉

 

 

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