Inspiring Women 6: Angie Fisher

It’s been quiet for a while on my blog, but the lack of posts doesn’t mean I’ve not been doing anything. 2020 is going to be a big year for me: I’ve two new books due to be published and a fair few aquathlon and swimming adventures planned! I’ve been busy writing and training, but I’ve come up for air to share this lovely interview with talented triathlete and super-coach, Angie Fisher.

If you remember back to last December, I did my first aquathlon at Halesowen in England. Angie Fisher, head coach at Nuneaton Triathlon Club, gave me a lift to the event – and gave me lots of top tips too. On the way back from the event, Angie shared a little about how she got into triathlon. Her story is so interesting that I asked if she’d be willing to be interviewed for my adventure blog – and she said yes!

Angie ‘in a Nutshell’
Angie is 63, lives in Nuneaton and trains with Nuneaton Triathlon Club. She’s a retired police officer and has 2 grown-up kids and a dog. She used to be known as Angie Fisher the Swimmer when she was at work. (She  was World Police and European Open Water Swimming Champion!) Now she’s known as Angie Fisher Head Coach (of Nuneaton Triathlon Club) and ‘Ironlady’.

The Interview
1. It really inspired me to hear that you only got into triathlon in your mid-50s. Can you tell me about how you got into triathlon and about your triathlon journey so far?
I retired from the Police Force aged 55 after 36years (I drove the fast response car) and wanted a bit of a challenge. Someone at work was talking about doing a triathlon and it seemed like a good idea at the time. I’ve always been a bit sporty: I swam at quite a high standard and had run a bit (at school!), so off I went to the bike shop and got a bike, having never ridden a racing bike in my life.

My first triathlon was a bit mad really, now I think about it. I couldn’t find my bike in transition and had to walk most of the 5k run, but I was hooked and just wanted to go back and do it better.

Around this time, a small group of masters swimmers started running on a Saturday morning at our local track so we got together and formed a triathlon club. All because I bought a bike!

We only had one coach, and he knew nothing about swimming, so I thought ‘well I could do that’ and went and did my coaching courses. Now I have people to help me with different aspects and I mainly take the swimming sessions and oversee the club’s training programme.

Having done a sprint triathlon, I wanted to do more. That meant doing an Olympic, and then a half Ironman. And then, of course, a full Ironman. I’ve done 2 Ironmen so far (Austria and Barcelona), plus the Long Course weekend in Wales.

I have qualified for the GB Age-Group Team a couple of times at Aquathlon and Middle Distance tri but only took up a place for the first time last year (its very expensive). I would like to go again. It is a good experience.

2. What are you training for at the moment? I have entered the Swimathon in March (5k), a marathon at Stratford in April and an Olympic distance triathlon in Majorca in May. I’m a bit of a fair-weather cyclist to be honest, so I’m doing most of my cycling on a turbo. I spend the winter running and swimming and use events like the Swimathon and the marathon to set me up for the race season.

3. Tell me a little bit about your training regime.  I train nearly every day for an hour or 2, with a longer bike ride at the weekend in the summer. I do have a plan but I like to keep it quite flexible. I prefer to train with other people and take a day off when I feel I need to. On average I do 3 swims a week, 3 runs a week, 3 bike/turbo rides and 1 strength and conditioning, mixing up the length/intensity/variation of each session. Sounds really boring but I love it.

4. What has the sport of triathlon given to you that you didn’t expect? I get so much pleasure coaching and seeing other people achieve something that they never believed they could do.

5. What’s the best thing about triathlon? The people. The social aspect. Its all about the people.

6. What’s the hardest thing about triathlon? Being Injured. It can be tough. I had a really bad accident 2 ½ years ago and came off my bike. I hit some electrical covers in the road and must have gone over the handlebars, I don’t really remember as I was knocked unconscious. I was air lifted to hospital with a broken neck, wrist, collar bone, 4 ribs, couple of fingers and a fractured cheekbone. I never even thought about giving up. I did Ironman Austria 12 months later although I still wasn’t fully recovered.

There are elements of triathlon that carry risks and lots of athletes do get injured. At least I’m in a position to be able to emphathise with them and encourage them to dig deep. And as a coach I can help them minimise the risks.

7. Do you think triathlon is a good sport for older women to take up? I’m fit. I’m healthy and I’m happy. All because I do triathlon. I get to travel – a lot; meet people – a lot; and have fun. I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to do it. Age doesn’t really come into it. Its good for everyone.

Angie (far right) with fellow Nuneaton Tri Club athletes!

8. What advice would you give to someone thinking about giving their first triathlon a go? You can do it. All you have to do is finish. Do it for yourself. Do it for fun. Do it and enjoy it.

9. As a woman on the other side of the menopause, how do you view your body? I got the hot flushes and I put a bit of weight on. I think I always had cotton wool for brains, so I’m not sure about that one! Now I’m the same weight as when I was 18. I think I’m a bit more conscious of eating for energy, staying hydrated etc. although I can more or less eat what I like. That’s all down to the exercise. I feel so much fitter. I have virtually given up alcohol though, I don’t like the after effects of being tired and lethargic. It affects my training.

10. People talk about women feeling ‘invisible’ once they have gone through the menopause. What do you think about that? Is it true for you? Invisible? Me? 🙂

11. Are there any upsides for you about being on the other side of the menopause? I feel wonderful. I used to get debilitating migraines every month which have now stopped. I no longer care what people think and feel happy in my own skin.

12. What do you have in your sights triathlon-wise for 2020? I’m still waiting for confirmation that I’ve qualified for the World Aquathlon Championships in Holland in September. I will make that my A race this year if I have. I qualified last year and went to Spain (I was 8th in my age group) but was in the middle of training for Ironman Barcelona at the time and think I could have done better.

13. What’s your number one piece of advice for post-menopausal women? It’s a new chapter in your life. Make the most of it while you can.

I’m looking forward to catching up with Angie again in April (we’re both competing in the Air3 aquathlon at Warwick University), by which time I hope she’ll see an improvement in my swimming!  In the meantime,  I’m just going outside and may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

Inspiring Women 5: Nicole Morelli

In this 5th Inspiring Women post, I catch up with the brilliant Nicole Morelli, founder of Menopausal Mermaids, a local cold-water swimming group. Here’s Nicole’s  in-a-nutshell bio:

1. She’s a 49-year-old mum of two girls, Lucia (8) and Giannina (6)
2. She sells delicious ice-cream! (You can find her at Morelli’s To Go ice-cream parlour.
3. She’s based in Portrush, Northern Ireland.

And here’s the interview 🙂 :

1. You’re the founder of the Menopausal Mermaids, a local sea-swimming group for women (and the odd merman or two). Can you tell me a little bit about how it all started? I was recovering from a hip replacement and was feeling pretty rough (heavy medication etc.).  I was at a birthday party in the beautiful Arcadia in Portrush and I got chatting to a friend, Maggie Purdy, who has blood pressure issues. We couldn’t take our eyes off the sea: there and then we decided to meet the following day for a swim -the rough sea just looked so inviting! I think we lasted about 2 minutes but the buzz and laugh we had brought us back the very next day.

2. How many members do you have now and how does it all work? We have over 200 members now between our Facebook and WhatsApp group! Most of it’s been word-of- mouth: people have heard about us or seen us and have just turned up on the beach asking to join us. It’s fantastic!

3. What do you think the main benefits of sea-swimming are – in general and particularly for post-menopausal women? The changes I have seen in myself and others are night and day! The high you get on coming out of that cold water: you feel so brave you feel you can do anything! I’m off all of my pain relief medicine now (I have osteoarthritis). There are women in our group with many forms of arthritis, angina, blood pressure issues, depression, skin issues. Every one of those women is feeling the benefits physical  and mentally from sea-swimming.

4. If people want to have a go at sea-swimming themselves, what advice would you give to them? Never swim on your own. It’s much more fun and safer to have someone with you! Get changed as quickly as possible after and bring a hot drink with you to help heat up your core! Hooded towels are a must and a bottle of warm water for you sandy feet!

5. Sea-swimming seems to be really taking off. Why do you think that is? It should be on prescription! I think people are hearing and reading about the benefits and the best part is that it’s free 🙂 .

6. What has sea-swimming given to you that you didn’t expect? It has given me a confidence in my body that I’ve never had before. I feel strong and invincible when I leave the water – not to mention the amazing friendships I have made which I know will last a lifetime.

7. What are the most memorable Menopausal Mermaid moments from the last 2 years? Last June we all got together for a swim and picnic at East Strand Portrush. We brought our kids, our husbands,and our partners. We stayed for hours chatting, swimming, and eating; and our kids who had never met just played. It was a wonderful day, considering we were strangers to each other only a few months before.

8. What’s next for the Menopausal Mermaids? Our group is growing every week (we get at least 4 new member requests a week). We just want to keep on swimming! We have a golf group now also, we meet and play once a month; we also have cinema nights, dinners and lunches. I never thought it would become so social but it has and it’s fantastic.

You can find out more about open water swimming on the Outdoor Swimming Society websiteI’m yet to join the Menopausal Mermaids for an adventure, but I’m feeling the call of the sea 🙂 In the meantime,  I’m just going outside and may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

Last Adventure Reports of the Year!

It’s been a while since I last checked in and I’ve had a fair few adventures in the interim! As I’ve decided that 2020 will be my  #InForTheSwim year (obviously this was not by any means a rational decision, I just found myself on the British Triathlon Federation website and the rest, as they say, is history 🤣), I thought I’d better get the training underway. The aim is to do a few aquathlons (swim-run races, including open water events). I’m going for the sprint distance (750m swim and 5k run) and I’m going for something else …. *wait for it* ….  😱…. I’m going for an age-grouper (50-55) qualifying time for either GB or Ireland. This means I have to swim 750m in under 15 minutes and run 5k in under 23 minutes.

I’m not worried about the run. I am worried about the swim 🤣. After years out of the pool, I got back in on December 31 2018, swimming twice a week (as a recovery from 400m/800m track training and powerlifting). I was a 100% breaststroke girl. Total frog. Never deviated from it. And that’s because I couldn’t deviate from it. After a length of crawl I was completely done in. I didn’t even try backstroke. And as for butterfly … well that was for another adventure!

After the powerlifting competition in July things changed. I started my swim coaching sessions with David Graham of Trinetic, the aim being to swim a length of butterfly in respectable style by the end of October. The good news is I did it (you can watch me doing it here). And, more curiously, the unintended consquence of me learning to swim fly was that I had to improve my front crawl (you can’t do training sessions of only fly: it’s a power stroke and you’d never get out of a fly-only session alive!)

Honestly? My front crawl was in bad shape: kicking from the knees (it’s a running thing, apparently), arms crossing over in front of my head, thumbs in first, core not engaged, head too high, no rotation ….. I could go on 😳 David helped me make some initial fixes so I could get through the sessions and focus on fly.

After the butterfly race I was hooked on swimming. I’d built up to 4-5 sessions a week, and I loved being in the water, and I loved the gruelling aspect of the training: it really reminded me of the work I was doing for 400m/800m running. So, this is what I said to David: ‘Let’s keep going. Let’s see how far I can go with this swimming thing.’ And so, since the end of October, I’ve been working on my crawl with the aquathlons in mind …. and I’ve been keeping that there undulating going too because I’m going to give the NI Masters Swimming Championships a whirl next May too … and my chosen stroke will be : FLY 🤣 Yep. I’m a complete nutter. Tell me something I don’t know 🤣.

Davagh Forest 10k Results: Alice Got Me Home In Good Time!

First time out in my Ballymena & Antrim Athletics Club vest!

#InForTheSwim means that I’m having to get back to running longer distances again. I threw myself in ‘at the deep end’ and ran in the Davagh Forest 10K trail race on 9 November (organised by the Sperrins Harriers). Conditions were grim to say the least (lashing rain, sludgy ice, frozen-feet cold) but I did manage to be 1st female finisher (in the F50-59 category) and the 4th female home overall . This was completely accidental because I’d started running next to another female runner, Alice, pretty early on in the race. Like me, she was a chatter (you don’t get many of those in the shorter, faster races) and I thought it was my best chance of getting around the course without losing the will to live (10K is a long way after racing at 400m/800m, I tell ya!) It was probably a good job hadn’t asked Alice how old she was at the start of our running partnership. If I’d realised she was a good 20 years younger than me, I probably would’ve never tried to keep up with her: I was suffering in the last 100 metres (she had a furious finish in those fast legs of hers and I didn’t stand a chance)!

November saw the close of the CrossFit Open 20.1, a 5-week challenge where athletes take part in a specified (pretty horrific 🤣😱)workout once a week. People from all over the world take part and it’s quite a thing. And quite hard. And quite helpful for the mental aspect of training. I surprised myself by topping the leader board in the UK for my division (female masters, 50-55, scaled). It was super to undertake this challenge with fellow CrossFitters from Team Causeway: big shout-outs to Gillian, Pete and Ivor. I did a fair bit of whinging over that 5 weeks (and used a fair bit of chalk too 🤣) and it reminded me of something that’ll help me with #InForTheSwim: the suffering is always transient and always (all-ways) worth it! (It also taught me that pull-ups come in handy now and again 🤣).

And that brings me to the last race of the year and my first aquathlon! It was a pool-based aquathlon organised by Halesowen Tri Club : 400m ‘snake swim’ and 5k run. I contacted the friendly folk at Nuneaton Triathlon Club to see if I could get a lift (I’d be in England without transport to Halesowen) and at 06:30 on Sunday 15 December, Head Coach Angie Fisher picked me up from my parents’ house and drove me to the event.

Angie Fisher: triathlon is a very serious business!

Angie gave me some top tips on race day (especially about breathing – oh yeah, and I learned that a hole punch is an important piece of tri kit!) and helped dispel pre-race nerves. She showed me the ropes (literally 🤣) at the pool and even cheered me on during the swim.

I was due to be in the water at 08:32 so reported to the poolside team just after 08:15. Phil Hall (Triathlon Redditch) kept me good company and also helped me to calm down a bit! (He did the run segment dressed as the Grinch!).

The event was marshalled brilliantly. I was invited into the water at my allocated time and given a clear countdown. I swam as hard as I could because I thought I’d get in Phil’s way. Turns out I swam so hard I caught up the swimmer in front of me 🤣. You can see me being non-plussed by the situation  in this video. I’m in lane 3 at the start of the film (dark blue tri suit and royal blue hat). When it comes to the turning point in lane 4, I’ve caught up the swimmer in front. I stop and wait and have a wee think about what to do before setting off again!

I managed my swim in 08:41. Transition was slow at 01:52 (and I really should have practised it, and I really should’ve toughed it out and not bothered with struggling to get my windproof on. Anyway, I don’t really wanna talk about it. Enough about transitions already. No one mention the T word, okay? 🤣). The run was also quite slow at 24:17 (I’d done a ‘dry’ run of the full event at home in lashing rain and strong headwinds earlier in the week and managed the run at 23:03) but conditions under foot were tricky: it was very icy indeed and there were sections that were barely runnable. I’ve made peace with my run time so it’s all good!

My overall finishing time was 35:50 and I was the second FSV 50-59 across the finishing line. The first female across the line in my category was only 15 seconds faster (no .. do NOT mention the T word .. don’t even THINK about it 🤣). It felt good to get it done!

After the event it was lovely to talk to other competitors and to other Nuneaton triathletes. It strikes me that this sport is very friendly and inclusive.

We stayed for the award ceremony and Angie won her category! On the way home Angie told me that she’d only started competing in triathlons in her 50s: this was good for me to hear 🙂 . Angie’s story is very inspiring – in fact, it’s so inspiring that I’m going to interview her for a separate post. (I’ll just say GB age-grouper vest, okay? 🙂 ).

Right then. I’m off to email Santa to see if he could manage a last-minute hole punch order. After that I’m going outside and may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Race Report: 25m Butterfly

A lot of good things have happened over the past couple of weeks! On 17 October I hopped over to England to see my folks for a few days … and while I was there I laid a few ghosts to rest 👻.

The Pingles, Nuneaton

As I was due to race (run) a very demanding 10k on the Sunday, I decided to go for a recovery swim early on the Friday before the race. This swim, however, would not be any swim. This swim would actually be in the pool where the slow-clapping incident occurred in my teenage years – when I’d been volunteered to swim in a butterfly race, even though I couldn’t swim butterfly!

The pool opened at 7am (which is a lovely time to swim and I really wish our local pools would open this early) and I was faced with a very busy ‘fast lane’. Undeterred, I managed to complete an 850m swim (front crawl) and I got a real confidence boost when I realised how fast I was going! My very last length was  25m all-out-effort butterfly: 40 years after attempting to swim a length of this stroke in this pool, I actually managed it! It felt like a defining moment.

On Sunday 20 October I ran with my dad in a hilly 10k race in the Cotswolds. There was, as promised, a very high hill content – and I can’t say I took in very much of the beautiful scenery 😆. My sortie into the world of track and field has meant that my ‘long runs’ have been at around the 3 mile mark. Couple that with no actual 10k-specific training for this event (and the race organiser’s glee as he kept mentioning the HUGE hill) and I wasn’t feeling that optimistic about getting around in a good time.

In spite of my doubts, I managed to cross the finish line in 50:36, which I was pleased with (and I reckon all that squatting and deadlifting must have kicked in #literally 😆). I was the 7th lady finisher in the 45-55 category : I was also pleased about that as normally I’d be in the 50-55 category and competing against ‘vintage’ runners closer to my own age! (You can see the start of the race here. When the video goes into slow motion, you’ll see me in my blue headband and knee-length blue socks.)

Getting ready to race.

Once the 10k was done that was me settling into my taper for the butterfly race with Samantha. The race had originally been scheduled to take place in my local pool, but the roof fell in! I’ve had to travel to the next town to train (Coleraine) and the staff (and my new fellow swimmers) have been brilliant.

I’ve been very much welcomed into the Coleraine morning swimming community, and I have to say it is quite riotous in the changing rooms in the morning. Patricia, one of the Duty Managers, at the leisure centre has been particularly helpful and made sure the race could take place on the right day at the right time.

Pre-race sportswomanship

On Tuesday 29 October at 11am, the race took place. It was lovely to see so many supporters come along. Special thanks go to my fellow CrossFit athletes who came to cheer us on (Cheryl, Janine, Marcella and Diane); to Siobhan, my Coleraine morning swim buddy, who popped in to see the race; and to Richard Lappin (one of the coaches at CrossFit Causeway) who officiated. Thanks also to the ‘Crawford Sisters’ (Coleraine swimming legends) who have given me such lovely (and kind) feedback about my butterfly; and to Sybil and Raymond at the Ballymoney pool who have kept me in order since January (and given me feet to follow in the early morning). Oh – and a BIG thanks to Samantha for coming out of her swimming retirement to race me!

I managed to complete the 25m in 25.1 seconds. I needed to get under 25.6 to reach Swim England Bronze standard, so I’m please about that. I’ll need to get an affiliated swim instructor to time and verify my speed in order to secure the award, but I’m still thrilled to have achieved that standard from a ‘standing start’ in 3 months. Samantha beat me by a good 8 seconds, and I spent most of the race chasing her feet. You can watch the whole race here:

Post-race hugs!

I’ve really enjoyed this particular adventure, and swimming is something that I’m going to keep doing, mostly because it feels so good to be in the water. I’m going to try a pool-based  aquathlon (swim and run) in December, and next year will be the year of mastering open water swimming 😱 (just a little bit worried about this) so that I can compete in an open water aquathlon. I’m also going to continue work on my fly with a view to competing in the masters championships here in Northern Ireland next summer. I’d love to knock a good 8 seconds off my 25m time. It’s a huge ask … but I’m all in 😎… I’m totally going for it … I’m going to give it my very best shot!

Patricia (Duty Mgr) and me with my silver medal!

And so my final official adventure of the year moves into focus: learning the tango. The first lesson is at the end of November – and I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I’m just going outside and I may be some time 🙂 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Pulling it all Together

It’s been a while since I checked in and lots has happened. The big pull-up challenge has taken place and the results are in! I’ve also had my final pre-race swim coaching session with David at Trinetic and I’m moving into the speed phase of my training, ready for the  #ClashOfTheTitans race on 29 October.

In spite of training pull-ups three times a week for six weeks, the final results don’t really reflect the promises made by most of the YouTube videos I watched. I’m glad I did it though, and I expect my butterfly will be helped by my new-found pull-up prowess 🤣🏊‍♀️.

As for my swimming, it’s still going really well and I’m completely in love with it (in spite of it being gruelling much of the time 😱). You can see how I got on at the last coaching session in the short videos below. The first is me trying for a wider hand entry with butterfly. The second is me working on my ‘roll’ for front crawl.

You might remember that Sharron Davies gave me some lovely words of advice about succeeding at butterfly a few months back. I’m thrilled to report that she took a look at my most recent swimming video and gave a little more advice: to slow down the catch and to undulate a bit more!

I talk a bit more about how my adventuring has panned out over the last couple of weeks in today’s video blog (below). I also give a few hints about the direction I’ll be heading in next year 😎.

Right. I definitely need a lie down somewhere, so I’m just going outside and may be some time 🙂 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

When you have it, you have it all over!

Elvis Presley apparently once said ‘Rhythm is something you either have or don’t have, but when you have it, you have it all over.’ Fortunately, I was channeling ‘The King’ last week when I went for my third coaching session with David Graham at Trinetic 🤣.

The third session marked 7 weeks of butterfly training – and that third session changed everything for me. David said ‘Just focus on the rhythm. Forget everything else. Everything else will come if the rhythm is right.’ So I did what he said and this is what happened:

The rhythm changed everything! The week before the coaching session I had been managing sets of 4 x 25m of fly, but each length was taking me a good 35 seconds. When I returned to the pool last Friday, I was managing 25m at well below 25 seconds for most repeats!

David gave me a new training programme to follow, and I have to say it’s pretty challenging – but I’m going for it! I talk about my butterfly adventure and my swim training in today’s video blog. You can find details of the book recommendations I make below the video.

Right, then. I definitely need a wee lie down, and after that I’m going outside and may be some time 😉 .

JT 🙂

Clash of the Titans

I’m 5 weeks into my butterfly adventure and I have to say that things are going rather well. I’ve progressed from being able to do not a single stroke to 4x25m of full fly over that period of time.

With my other adventures I’ve always had an end goal and that has really helped me to keep motivated. For this adventure I’ve set myself 2 goals:

1. To swim 25m full fly in a race by the end of October.
2. To swim 25m of fly fast enough to qualify for a Swim England award by the end of the year (but October would be good too!). That means swimming the distance anywhere between 23 and 25 seconds. The good news is that my swim coach, David Graham, thinks this is completely possible. I completely trust him, so I think it’s completely possible too 🙂 .

With 8 weeks to go until the end of October, I’m thrilled to announce race details! I’ll be racing against Samantha Russell-Morelli at 11am on Tuesday 29 October at my local leisure centre.

Sam has come out of retirement especially for this event 😱. Here’s her athlete profile:

1. She swam competitively in New Zealand between the ages of 11 and 17.
2. During this period she  held several regional records for freestyle, butterfly and individual medley.
3. When she was 16 she placed 3rd for the Women’s Open 100m Individual Medley (that’s out of everyone in NZ) and 8th in the Women’s Open 200m Fly.
4. She’s currently a Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt and a CrossFit athlete.

So …. I’ve got 8 weeks to get my act together! At this stage, if I were you, I wouldn’t be placing any bets on me winning. If I could swim a PB, though, I’d be pleased. A sub-25 second 25m would be brilliant!

Right, then. I’m just going outside and may be some time 😉 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Pulling Another Trick Out of the Hat

This week it’s our wedding anniversary. Actually, we celebrate our anniversary on two different dates every year: one in August and one in September. That’s because we got married officially in the registry office in August (a very low-key affair with two witnesses) and then had a Celtic hand-fasting in a field on our farm in September (also low key, but there was dancing and a yurt and I was driven into the field, Boudicca-style in my wellington boots,  on the back of a Kawasaki Mule Pro DX).

As a couple, we’ve had lots of adventures together, but farming has got in the way of doing big expeditions over the last couple of years.

This year we’ve decided to do something a bit different to celebrate our years together: a pull-up challenge! On Sunday 29 September (which gives us about 6 weeks to improve our current pull-up performance 🙂 ), we’ll see who can do the most strict pull-ups in a row (completely unbroken). The one who does the most pull-ups gets to choose where’ they’d like to have dinner and the other person has to foot the bill!

At the moment I can only do 7 strict pull-ups unbroken, although I can do multiple sets of around 5. My husband is keeping his current performance standard under his hat 😉 . I’m going to aim for 20 pull-ups unbroken, which will be quite a challenge. I’m going to follow this 3-times- a -week training protocol and keep my fingers crossed/my overhand grip nice and tight 😉 :

Do feel free to join in. This particular programme works on the basis that you can already do 5 strict pull-ups in a row. If you can’t do a strict pull-up yet, there are LOADS of videos on YouTube which will help you to progress! #YouTubeIsYourFriend

I’m up for this challenge because, even if I lose, I still win 🤣. Pull-ups will help with powerlifting (yeah, I’m not done with this yet …) , CrossFit and butterfly. I can’t go wrong, really. Plus, it’ll be fun 😎. Let the games begin!

Right, then. I’m just going outside and may be some time 😉 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

It’s All Going Swimmingly!

My front crawl is improving!

I’ve just entered the 4th week of my butterfly training programme and I’m pleased to report that it’s all going rather well!

Last Wednesday, after 3 weeks of following David Graham’s programme, I went back to Trinetic HQ for a progress review. I was quietly confident that David would see a marked improvement in my front crawl and in my undulating capabilities🤣 . I’d followed his programme to the letter and upped my training from 2 sessions to 4 sessions a week. On top of that, my body was showing me that it was adapting quickly to the demands of training: my back had grown an inch and my waist had shrunk an inch. (I put the shrinkage down to the kick drills which are extremely demanding on the core  😱.)

The first part of the session with David was a review and fine-tune of my crawl. My body was sitting much better in the water, but my pull was a bit wide. I tried pulling closer to my body, my palm facing backwards, and *WOOSH* (bit of a technical swim term there 😉 ) the game changed. Everything felt a bit odd but so much easier than before: much less ‘efforting’.

Actual butterfly, folks! Actual butterfly 🦋🦋🦋

The main part of the session was dedicated to developing my butterfly stroke. This session the arms were added. I have to say that when David mentioned arms and kicking at the same time, I was a bit frightened. I had my second ‘WOOSH* of the session as I was transported back to an experience I had at a  swimming club in Mildenhall (East Anglia, England) when I was about 10. Suddenly I was being told by the swimming instructor that I had been promoted to the next group up (the second promotion in two weeks) and I knew I wasn’t ready.

In spite of my fear, I (quite literally 🤣) dived in and got on with the first new drill: single arm butterfly arms with fly kicks. I found this drill hard to do on my left-hand side – it’s going to take a bit of work to develop a better feel for the water on that side, I think. Here’s me doing the drill on the right-hand side:

The next drill was 3-4 kicks and then one full double-armed pull. I liked this a lot more than the single arm drills, I can tell ya! After this drill, I had my first go at the full stroke and here’s what it looked like:

On Thursday afternoon I received my updated training schedule from David, ready for my pool session on Friday morning.  The programme is certainly far more demanding and I have to admit that I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be up to the job. I needn’t have worried, though. Once I was in the water, I was completely in my element. The front crawl portion of the session felt like a breeze, even though repetitions for some of the sessions are now at 100m (something I couldn’t have managed 3 weeks ago). The drills were challenging but doable. My favourite drill was working the arms and legs together: it was gruelling in a good way – very physical, requiring total presence to the experience. While I was doing that drill I felt completely alive!

So, I’m on my way. I’m making progress. In 3 weeks I go back for another review and I’m feeling quite confident. Powerlifting has taught me that as long as you’re consistent and follow an intelligent training programme, you will progress. I trust David and his programme, so – all being well – progress will happen!

Here’s a short video blog about my swimming progress:

Right, I’m off to do some pull-ups. (No, I actually am because, well, there’s another wee adventure brewing, which I’ll tell you about shortly 😉 ). After that, I’m just going outside and may be some time 😉 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Inspiring Women: the Powerlifting Edition

July 20 was a big day for me: I took part in my very first powerlifting competition – the NIPF rookie comp in Coleraine. On that day I met three inspiring women and I’ve recently managed to catch up with them and interview them for my adventure blog 🙂 . Kyla Mulholland and Clare Conway are both seasoned competitors. Kyla did the weigh-ins, MC’d and refereed at the rookie comp. Clare was a guest lifter and also refereed. Both of them were extremely welcoming and supportive (and  I have to extend a special thanks to Kyla who managed to stop me from storming the platform early FOR EVERY SINGLE LIFT 🤣). Una Ferguson was the second oldest lifter (I was the oldest) in the competition and I felt a special connection to her as a fellow M2 competitor.

It’s a bit of a bumper edition but really worth the read. If these women inspire you to find out a bit more about powerlifting in Northern Ireland, hop over the the NIPF website or check out the NIPF Facebook page! You’ll find the home of British Powerlifting here and the Irish Powerlifting Federation website here.

Kyla Mulholland
Kyla is 45, married and a mum of two. She owns two after-school clubs in the Greenisland area, as well as being a national referee for NIPF (Northern Ireland Powerlifting Federation) and GB. Based in Carrickfergus, she’s a member of the NIR powerlifting team. She competes in the M1 84+ category (so that means masters category 1, which is for the 40 – 49 age range, and 84 kilos bodyweight and over).

Kyla  currently holds all the NI records in her category and for Irish M1, open bench and total. Her current records stand at:
Squat 150kg
Bench 100kg
Deadlift 162.5kg.
Equipped bench press 125kg

1. How long have you been powerlifting and how did you get into the sport? Approximately 6 years now. I started weight training with a coach, and we both realised I was reasonably strong so sourced out the NIPF. At the time when I first competed there were only around 10-12 woman in the whole federation.

2. Tell me a little bit about your training regime. I have been with my coach Marty Cummings at ReForm for nearly 3 years now. I train Monday to Friday mornings. My programme runs on a 12-week cycle. I bench and squat every training session and deadlift 2 days with accessories* thrown in. I find during the months of July and August training becomes impossible with work commitments as I work from 7am to 8pm each day. (* Accessories are literally ‘helping’ exercises, rather than the so-called main lifts.)

3. What have been the high points, so far, in your powerlifting career? I have lots of amazing high points but I think the best time was when I won 4 gold medals in South Africa at the Commonwealth Powerlifting Championships in 2017.

4. Have there been any low points in your powerlifting journey so far? Recently I had a very low point when I had conflict with members of the Irish PF committee after being selected for the Irish team to represent then at Worlds. This made me second- guess if I wanted to be part of our federation. Luckily I have come through this.

5. What has powerlifting/competing given to you that you didn’t expect? It has totally built my confidence and empowered me. I have made some amazing friends and met some truly amazing people all over the world. It has opened my horizons to other countries through competing.

6. Can you tell me a little bit about your involvement with NIPF?  I am a national referee and also Marketing Director, which means I am responsible for getting the name of the NIPF out to more people and generating sponsorship. I also help other committee members if need be in the run up to competitions.

7. Do you think powerlifting is a good sport for women to take up?  100%! It totally empowers women, and it is non-judgmental. Regardless of size, age ability everyone supports each other.

8. Do you think there are any risks for an older novice female lifter? Recovery during
training is a big one, I feel. It take me longer to recover after comps or comp prep. I also feel its harder to cut weight for comps: after I turned 40 this became difficult. Injury is more prominent also,  and YES OMG pelvic floor lol! I always joke that at a masters comp all you smell is deep heat and pee!

9. As a strong woman, how do you view your body?  When I started lifting I was a 72kg lifter.  Over time I gradually gained weight. I’ve mixed feelings about being a bigger lifter. I’m strong at this weight but not happy with my body image. Ideally I would like to be around 80kg but find it hard to motivate myself to lose weight.

10. What do you have in your sights? I’ve recently had a few injuries which have knocked my training this has made me kinda lose my mojo. I’ve decided to take the rest of the year of to recover and try and lose some weight so I can come back in 2020 with a clear mind. I would still like to compete at Europeans and Worlds, but I’m also contemplating going down the avenue of equipped bench.

11. What’s your number one piece of advice for women who want to start
powerlifting? DO IT! Contact one of the girls in the sport who have been around for a while, have a chat, maybe go and train with them. Come along to as many comps to watch. Don’t over think it. Don’t do that whole “I’m not as strong as the other girls” etc. This is your journey: no one will judge. Id love to help anyone thinking of entering the sport. We all had to start somewhere.

Clare Conway
Based in Lisburn, Clare is a 41-year-old probation officer. She’s 63kg (most of the time 😋) and a Masters 1 lifter. She’s been a member of NIPF since 2012 when a guy in her gym advised her to make contact with the Fed to put her training to good use and give her a focus for it! She helps out with both the NIPF and the Irish PF, spotting, loading, refereeing (Irish PF) and any other duties!

Clare has been selected for a number of Home Nations comps and for the Commonwealths 2 years in a row (but didn’t compete). She competes in M1 63kg category. Her current personal records are:

Squat: 105 kg
Bench: 65 kg
Deadlift: 145 kg

1. How long have you been powerlifting and how did you get into the sport? I’ve always been sporty, playing hockey, netball and gymnastics at school. When I went back to train as a social worker as a mature student I got into the gym. This started off as taking part in pump, spin and circuit classes. I found that I enjoyed lifting weights and not the cardio side if things! I started lifting in 2012 when I did my first comp (bench only) and then went on to do my first ‘3 lift’* in 2013 and have been hooked since! (In 3-lift competitions you do squat, bench press and deadlift.)

2. Tell me a little bit about your training regime. I’m a single parent so I have to plan my training days around my son. I usually train 3-4 days a week when he is at football training so, therefore, it’s important that I utilise my time efficiently. I have a coach, Sean Ryan Custom Strength, who sends me a weekly programme which is tailored to focusing on the big three (SBD), and then accessory work targeting my weaknesses. I attend group training every Saturday morning with other lifters he coaches. This is a great session which is good craic but also gives Sean the opportunity to see my lifts ‘in real life’. I also send him videos and feedback throughout the week.

My programme is based on RPE scale (rate of perceived exertion) which I found difficult to get used to initially but find beneficial as you pick weights dependent on how you are feeling on the day, taking into consideration amount of food, lack of sleep, stresses etc.

It is hard to balance life, caring for my son,  working 9-5, keeping an eye on my nutrition, having a social life and also adequate rest time. But I feel that training is beneficial for my mental health so I try to prioritise it. I like to think that my son looks at his mum and sees someone who is active and invests in their health.

3. What have been the high points, so far, in your powerlifting career? High points are that I have been selected for a number of Home Nations teams over the years, competing in a British championships in Horncastle, and holding a NI record in equipped bench (no longer hold this as of this year). Also being there at the start when female powerlifting began to take off!

4. Have there been any low points in your powerlifting journey so far? A low point has definitely been a serious injury. I had a suspected bulging disc in L5 SI over two years ago. I had complete numbness down the left-hand side of my body and I struggled to walk for weeks. I had to strip everything back and start at the beginning again with kettle bells and extremely light weights. Injury fairly makes you rethink how you train and puts you in your place! Patience is definitely required.

5. What has powerlifting/competing given to you that you didn’t expect? A sense of achievement. Every time I get a PB I feel proud that the hard work, time and effort has paid off. I have also made a lot of very good friends from powerlifting and have had the opportunity to pass my Irish ref powerlifting exam and have had the privilege of reffing at Irish nationals and other comps.  I’ve also had the opportunity to become Communications Director for the NIPF, which has allowed me develop and expand our social media to encourage new people to the sport.

6. Can you tell me a little bit about your involvement with NIPF?  I am an Irish PF ref and also sit on the committee for NIPD as Comms Director. I also help spot and load most comps and am responsible for arranging and organising other people to help out.

7. Do you think powerlifting is a good sport for women to take up? I think all women should lift to some degree: strong is sexy and it is a great confidence booster when you can lift heavier than you ever thought you could! Also when your body shape changes and you start to see muscles growing!   Nothing better!

8. What’s the powerlifting community like in N Ireland? It’s such a great supportive community, I’ve been at comps where lifters are shouting and cheering others on even when that person may be taking their record. My coaching group, Custom Strength, is a great environment for getting the work done and also having a laugh. Everyone is very humble and doesn’t take themselves too seriously. You also need a thick skin for all the slagging!

9. Do you think there are any risks for an older novice female lifter? I think there are risks for anyone of any age. It’s about knowing your limits, getting a good coach and working on form above anything else. Leaving the ego at the door is a good idea!

10. As a strong woman, how do you view your body? I love my body now and it took years to get to this point. I feel confident in my own skin and I put a lot of that down to lifting and the powerlifting environment. You can’t beat a strong, confident, sexy woman which a bit of muscle 😍. I do have my worries when going heavy sometimes due to my previous back injury, but I trust my coach and always try and work on my form.

11. What do you have in your sights? Hoping to compete at either British or Irish Masters. I also just focus on what I am lifting and trying to get better. I try not to compare myself to other women or what they are lifting. At the end of the day, if I’m getting better, I’m happy!

12. What’s your number one piece of advice for women who want to start powerlifting? Do it now! I wish I had started earlier! Get a good coach and focus on good form! Don’t worry about who’s looking at you in the gym because I can guarantee you that the men/women you are worried about looking at you are far too self-absorbed to be worrying about what you are doing! Pick up a barbell and get lifting, girls!

13. And what about the food side of things? Pre- comp I keep my protein intake to around 2.2g per kg body weight.  I eat a lot of chicken, bagel thins, rice. I try to limit my alcohol intake and stay away from take-aways! However, nutrition isn’t my strong point and always panic about my weight around comps! I always advise rookie lifters to never cut for their first comp and it’s better to lift in a category that you sit comfortably in.

Una Ferguson
Una is 52 years old (competing in M2 84+ category) and lives near Annacloy. Her current PRs for powerlifting are: 

Squat:  105 kg
Bench: 50 kg
Deadlift: 130 kg

1. How long have you been powerlifting? I started powerlifting in September 2018- so 10 months.

2. What inspired you to start powerlifting and what first steps did you take? I started in my current gym as I wanted to achieve a certain body shape. I have been involved in a variety of activities during my life including Irish dancing , classical Greek dancing , Shotokan Karate (1st Dan achieved before rupturing my ACL in skiing), horse riding, general gym classes with PT.

When I started in my current gym my PTs suggested I should take up powerlifting and enter competitions.  So although I have experience in a variety of activities and disciplines, powerlifting grabbed my interest early on. I became addicted.

3. Tell me a little bit about your training regime. I train 4 days a week. I train in Conor Gelston’s gym Annacloy. I train with Aaron Kelly 3 days a week and Conor Gelston  once weekly.

My PTs have a specific way of training me and preparing me for competition. I train late in the evening usually so I have time with my family. It is escapism from work as it is totally different.

4. What did you enjoy most about the NIPF rookie powerlifting competition in Coleraine this July? Competing in a sport I have grown to love. Having the back-up and support of my PTs and friends from the gym. Making new acquaintances who I will hopefully see at future competitions. Achieving personal records (PRs) and training to break them. I love a challenge.

5. What are your 3 top tips for women just starting their powerlifting journey? Enjoy, listen to your coaches, have faith in the journey they’re taking  you on.

It can be tough but the sense of achievement even after a tough session is exhilarating. I get a buzz from achieving. I love the support and encouragement I get from my coaches, other friends at the gym, my family and work colleagues.

6. What has powerlifting given to you that you didn’t expect? That’s a thought-provoking question. I didn’t start out to powerlift so I had no expectation from this at the outset. I am achieving a body shape; it is a work in progress. I have achieved satisfaction and belief in myself that, regardless of age, tough discipline and goals can be achieved. This can be carried forward into life experiences giving a renewed sense of determination to succeed.

7. Why do you think powerlifting is a good sport for women to take up? Powerlifting is one of the most physically challenging sports for anyone. It’s not going to suit everyone but, if embarked upon, I feel it can have a major positive impact on physical and mental well-being. It is inclusive regardless of age, sex, body shape and weight. That is unusual for any sporting activity.

8. What do you have in your sights? Lets see where my training takes me! I have entered for the Ulster Open September 2019  and planning to enter for the British Masters in Lincoln October 2019.

Right then! I’m just going outside and may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂