• My Journey To Strength: How Lifting Heavy Changed My Life

    Emma Ludlow Ambassador Powerlifter British Champsionships

    Sundried ambassador Emma Ludlow is a powerlifter and tells us how that has changed her life.

    When I tell people I’m a powerlifter, I’m met with a mixed response.

    Some think it’s amazing but others are confused. "But you’re not big" they might say. Or "that’s a bit scary."

    Unfortunately, the myth persists that lifting heavy turns women into hulks. At 56kg, I’m proof that strength training will not make you look like the cover model on a bodybuilding magazine.

    I started weight training about eight years ago. I’d done some kettlebell training at my local gym and was impressed with the tone and strength it gave me in a short space of time. Training with a barbell seemed a natural progression. I was the only woman in the weights room, so I relied on blogs and online tutorials to teach me the basics of lifting, as well as a few personal training sessions. This started an obsession that led to me becoming a personal trainer.

    I’d always been too scared to enter powerlifting competitions, although the weights I was lifting in the gym attracted attention. Other lifters encouraged me to compete, but I worried I’d let myself down. Then, about a year ago, I decided to go for it. I needed a new training goal and decided it was time to show everyone what I could do.

    Related: The Benefits Of Weight Training

    My first competition was a South East regional. I was nervous and made some mistakes, but came away with a bronze. However, after dropping a weight category and getting to grips with the powerlifting rules, I started winning gold. I placed 4th in the British Championships last year and I’m currently preparing for the same regional competition where I made my debut. I’m hoping I can top last year’s performance.

    Training in powerlifting requires time and dedication. I hit the gym four times a week and, when I’m preparing for a competition, I’m constantly pushing for better numbers. My diet isn’t restrictive, but I need plenty of protein for muscle growth and repair and natural carbohydrates for energy. I watch my weight around competition time as I’m at the upper end for my weight category.

    However, every effort I’ve made in powerlifting has brought many rewards. Strength training and following a healthy lifestyle has not only transformed my appearance, it has changed my life. It has helped me adopt a determined and positive attitude, which permeates everything I do.

    When my only goal was to stay slim, exercise was simply about working off that pizza or biscuit I shouldn’t have eaten. I’d spend hours on the cross trainer and wouldn’t leave until I’d burned enough of that day’s food. For all that work, I saw little change in my body shape. My weight didn’t budge and my body fat percentage was average.

    Don’t get me wrong, cardio has its place in any fitness routine, but my fixation on burning calories turned me into a hamster on a wheel. There was zero enjoyment in those lonely hours on the cross trainer. Exercise was a punishment for overeating.

    Since discovering weight training, the gym is a place where I feel empowered. Although my weight is still 56kg, my body fat percentage has halved from 26% to 13%. I have watched my boyish physique transform into a feminine hourglass figure, building shoulders and legs an athlete would be proud of.

    I have also achieved feats I never thought possible. A few years ago I was working towards my first pull up, now I can do 15. When I started working on my deadlift technique with an empty barbell, I never imagined I’d be able to lift over twice my body weight. These achievements are proof that hard work pays and focus and consistency brings rewards. In a stressful, fast-paced world where I sometimes feel I am pulling against the tide, it’s easy to lose sight of that.

    Weight training has completely changed how I feel about myself too. I used to waste so much energy hating my body, comparing myself to other women and feeling inadequate. I had a mini internal battle every time I put something in my mouth. Now I no longer look at other women’s bodies with envy. When I see an athletic woman, I am inspired by her commitment. When I prepare a meal, I am eating to nourish, repair and fuel my body. The guilt has gone.

    Lifting weights has made me feel empowered, positive and energetic. Benefits that extend far beyond looking good. The basics of weight training are simple and it’s an activity anyone can do, regardless of age, skill or fitness level. All you need is a willingness to learn and a commitment to achieving your health and fitness goals. Being consistent is the key to life-changing results.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • CrossFit Open 2018

    CrossFit Games 2018

    Channah Brandsema is a Sundried ambassador from the Netherlands who discovered the sport of CrossFit while recovering from an injury. She talks to us about the CrossFit Open 2018.

    CrossFit Open 2018

    The CrossFit Open is a 5-week online competition with thousands of athletes competing with each other throughout the world. In 5 weeks there will be 5 different workouts and every workout can be done on your own level. There is an rX workout, which is the "standard", but for those who the rX is too heavy, you can choose to go for a scaled workout. The workouts have to be filmed or done under supervision of a qualified judge. Each week on Thursday the workout will be announced and you can upload your score until Monday afternoon. 

    The top 200 athletes in every division will go to the regionals for Europe this will be in Berlin on 19-23 May. Those who then make the top 20 will go to the CrossFit Games in August in Wisconsin, USA. So that sums up the CrossFit open. Now more about me.

    Related: 5 Tips For Surviving CrossFit

    My name is Channah Brandsema and I'm a Dutch triathlete. In March 2017, I ruptured one of my ankle ligaments, it had to be operated on to make it possible to compete again in the Dutch highest division of triathlon. During my ankle rehab I got in touch with CrossFit, which is a lovely combination of strength, gymnastics and endurance. One of the first CrossFit workouts I did with my physio was a real eye-opener. In triathlon, it is sometimes hard to train the transition from cycling to running as I find I'm out of breath in the first mile of running. While doing the CrossFit workout with my physio I found I had the same issue, so I realised this would be a great way to improve my triathlon transitions! The workouts are hard but it is really improving my triathlon training as well as my CrossFit training. So that is the way I became enthusiastic about CrossFit.

    Related: Getting Started In CrossFit

    In December 2017 I start following some CrossFit workouts in addition to my triathlon training, and decided I wanted to combine the two sports and see what happens. Well, two months later and I'm competing in the CrossFit Open!

    Related: 5 Things You'll Only Understand If You've Tried CrossFit

    Some final questions to ask myself before I enter the CrossFit Open: am I nervous? No, not at all, I have nothing to lose. Am I excited? Yes, for sure! No one knows what is coming in the workouts. So everyone is looking forward to the announcement. Am I ready to start? Yes, I am. I haven't done all CrossFit movements yet, so there will be surprises for me during the workouts. But I think I will handle it. 

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Sandra Abla Personal Trainer

    Sandra Ablo Personal Trainer

    Sandra is a passionate personal trainer and sometimes trains with her clients to help them through the pain. She talks to Sundried about life in fitness.

    Please tell us about sporting events you have taken part in or have coming up.

    I did the Leg day UP camp Hypertrophy last year. It was so challenging that I couldn't walk properly for a week but it was good pain. We had 3 training sessions during the day. It was fantastic. I recommend it to everyone who wants to know how to train their legs properly.

    Tell us about your journey to fitness, where did it all start?

    It all started in high school where I did a paper that was talking about obesity and its link to aspartame. At that time, I was overweight but I was really interested in nutrition. Then when I started university, I signed myself up to a gym and I guess this is where my journey began. When I came to London after settling down I decided to rejoin the gym and few years after I completed my PT level 2 and 3 with Active IQ.

    What are your training goals now?

    Maintain a healthy lifestyle and healthy weight. Keep training 3 to 4 times a week.

    Tell us one unusual fact we wouldn’t know about you:

    I have absolutely hated running since a young age, but I force myself to do it.

    What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started out?

    Cardio is really important no matter what.

    Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?

    When I'm on a diet, I eat fewer carbs to get in shape quicker. Other than that, I don't drink alcohol anymore, I don't drink coffee or juices, and I limit my refined sugar intake (cake, sweets, sugary drinks etc.)

    What do you do to keep your clients motivated? Do you have any top tips to keep motivated?

    I take pictures of my clients, before and after to keep them motivated. I measure them every two weeks and I also give them nutrition tips to follow. When the training becomes too hard I train with them to take a bit of the pain away. I hope it works.

    Talk us through your training regime.

    I workout most of the time 4 times a week. I do love weight training and can't leave the gym without doing some lunges!

    Monday: full body weight workout plus cardio

    Tuesday: rest

    Wednesday: Box with my colleague plus cardio

    Thursday: full body weight workout plus cardio

    Friday: rest

    Saturday: full body workout plus cardio

    Sunday: full body weight workout

    How do you keep your fitness knowledge up to date?

    I read books and follow the best of the industry such as Ultimate Performance, Charles Poliquin, Dr Jacob Harden, Backfitpro, and Massy Arias.

    What are your top 3 trainer tips?

    1. Always train your full body rather than just parts or single muscle group.
    2. Drink at least 2 litres of water per day.
    3. Training is not enough, nutrition is even more important.

    If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

    It would probably be avocado, but I absolutely love food and I'm in a relationship with food!

    Why work with Sundried?

    I love that Sundried is ethical and is made from 100% recycled materials. It's a pleasure to work with a brand that cares about the environment like I do.

    Favourite fitness quote:

    "If it's too easy it's not worth it."

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Laura Fry Personal Trainer & Athlete Ambassador

    Laura Fry cycling road bike mountain sports

    Laura is an adventurous sportswoman who loves finding new challenges to take part in. She talks to Sundried about life as a triathlete and PT.

    Please tell us about sporting events you have taken part in or have coming up.

    I've taken part in a number of triathlons including the London Triathlon. I always try to choose events that really challenge me but also take place with a beautiful backdrop; the Wales Swim in Tenby, Jersey Triathlon on our beautiful sister island, some Sportifs in Devon and France. My biggest challenge to date was Man V Horse; a small event in mid Wales which originated after a debate between two locals in a pub over which could run faster for longer; man or horse. The event takes place every year across a 23 mile course of gruelling ups, downs, bogs, rivers and every other sort of obstacle you'd expect to find in the welsh countryside. I plan to take part in it this year again! More regularly I do Parkrun but I also organise triathlon, swim, bike and run events through my own social enterprise so I now get enjoy watching others challenge themselves!

    Tell us about your journey to fitness? Where did it all start?

    I have always been active but it wasn't until I suffered with depression during teenage years and through to my early twenties did I discover fitness as a means for managing my mental well being. A friend introduced me to triathlon which I quickly became hooked on. I love the variety, the opportunity to zone out on long runs, long swims, long bike rides, and I love that it's shown me my body is capable of more than I believe it is. It's given me confidence and also really helped me to look after myself. Even better than that, it's given me a career change and a passion

    What are your training goals now?

    Over the last 12 months, injury has taken me away from running and into the gym. I've been learning lots about functional mobility and how I lack the ability to perform basic movements. I've discovered a love for strength and mobility work and I've also recently joined a boxing gym. My goals have shifted from training for specific events to learning more about movement, building strength and also learning the art of boxing which takes a lot more skill than I've ever appreciated. I guess you could say my fitness goals have moved towards challenging my mind as well as my body. I still love to swim and plan to swim the iconic 5km open water swim to the Island of Herm from Guernsey this year so as well as lifting and boxing, I'm getting back into the pool lots this winter in preparation for this swim.

    Tell us one unusual fact we wouldn’t know about you:

    I'm currently learning to play the Ukulele!

    Laura Fry personal trainer running beach sprints

    What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started out?

    One of the most challenging things I've had to learn about running a business in our industry is not to take things personally. So many clients are 'buying' the chance to be trained by you for your personality and ability to motivate, make people feel at ease, communicate in a way they get etc. So when clients decide to work with someone else, it's really easy to think it's because they don't like you anymore! It took me a while to deal with those thoughts but now I'm careful to remember that I too am a client and I too want to try new things and be constantly challenged; it's nothing personal

    Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?

    I've experimented with paleo diets in the past but found them unrealistic given my lifestyle and my sport. The most important thing I've learned about nutrition is that everyone is different and once you learn to listen to what your body likes and doesn't like, it becomes a whole lot easier. It's also really important that we understand that women are different to men, particularly when it comes to nutrition. We have to consider our cycles and the impact that has on our training and how we feel; nutrition can be a huge help or hindrance, depending on how we manage it. My body likes a high fat, low carb diet. I've never cut out carbs completely because I know I need them for my sport so I try to always include slow releasing carbs at lunch and think about replenishing my stores after a long workout. I also take a lot longer to recover form high stress workouts or big events so again, I really plan my nutrition carefully for pre- and post-workout when I know they're going to smash my body (not too often these days!). Other than that, I don't give myself a hard time about it all because I love food so much and it brings me a lot of joy. I eat a lot of peanut butter, a lot of avocado, black coffee and dark chocolate. I've also been known to eat pizza, drink cold beer and hide a snickers bar in my bike jersey!

    What do you do to keep your clients motivated? Do you have any top tips to keep motivated?

    The majority of my clients are triathletes, runners, swimmers or cyclists. Many are giving it a go for the first time so need lots of encouragement through those really hard first few months when all your head wants to tell you is you're no good, this is too hard and 'what on earth do you think you're doing?!'. Empathy and understanding is really important in the kind of coaching I do. Clients much prefer to hear 'I know how tough it is but you will get there' over typical 'no pain. no gain' mantras. For more experienced athletes, my advice is to always have a goal and make it something that really means something to you. there's no point signing up to a half marathon because that seems like the obvious next step for someone who's seen their Parkrun times improve. A goal can be as personal as crossing the finish line with my children looking on or it can be as public as being National Champion..whatever it is, it should make you smile at the thought of achieving it

    Talk us through your training regime.

    I train most mornings after I've delivered early morning coaching sessions. I head to the gym or the pool and spend between 40 and 60 minutes immersing myself in whatever my activity is for that day. I train my legs three times a week; focusing on key muscle groups (glutes, quads, hamstrings) as well as lots of rehab work that I hope will get me running pain free again. I have poor mobility in my thoracic region which limits the strength I have in the pool and also hinders my progress with some of the big strength movements I'm working on so I spend two sessions a week trying to mobilise this region while also building strength in all of my overhead movements - I would love to be able to complete an overhead squat but until I gain mobility through my upper body, there's no way! I box twice a week in my local boxing club which I absolutely love. For a triathlete who has focused so long on pacing, endurance and data it feels liberating but also really challenging to throw everything I have into 2 minute rounds! I also attend one pilates session a week which helps me really focus on my core strength and the art of breathing.

    How do you keep your fitness knowledge up to date?

    As a triathlon coach British Triathlon are great at keeping me up to date with various CPD courses and coaching opportunities through their mentorship program. Outside of that I follow some great swim, bike and run coaches and athletes on youtube, Facebook and Instagram; kinetic revolution, swim smooth and content delivered by brands including Specialized, Under Armour, New Balance. I always read men's health as I find the tips on strength work and mobility a lot more insightful than female specific magazines. I follow functional movement gurus like Kelly Starrett via MobilityWOD.com and female nutrition and training experts like Dr Stacy Sims and I listen to podcasts on endurance training including Fitter Radio and Endurance Ladies Radio.

    What are your top 3 trainer tips?

    1. Always keep it enjoyable. The moment you stop enjoying it, the moment you need to find something else
    2. Add variety; remember that fitness only comes from constantly challenging yourself
    3. The workout is just the stimulus, the recovery is when the magic happens so if you want to get fitter you must include recovery in your program to allow adaptation to take place

    If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

    Peanut Butter!

    Why work with Sundried?

    I value the brand's work around sustainability and also all of the amazing work it does to promote local events, charities and fitness stars. The brand is founded by personal trainers and athletes which to me means that their apparel and kit is designed by experts and they speak a language that is relevant to me and my clients. The fact that it loves Triathlon too is an added bonus!

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Winter Training By Laura Rose Smith

    Laura Smith Ambassador Triathlon Bike Climb

    Winter is always a time of digging deep and putting in the ground work for the upcoming season. We all struggle to find motivation for a 3 hour turbo or a late-night run but it’s important to remember your goals and keep going. Medals are won in the winter after all! 

    My winter training has been proceeding well. I’m managing to juggle studying whilst getting solid blocks of training in, which is easier said than done. It’s my first year in Manchester studying dentistry and the initial adjustment to living away from home combined with a demanding course was hard but I seem to have it under control at the moment...Just about.

    Unfortunately, Manchester University doesn’t have its own triathlon team but I haven’t let that hinder my training. 

    When I first arrived in the city I trained to get a grasp of life up north. It’s not easy motivating yourself for a 6am lonely swim session so I soon signed up for the City of Manchester Swim Team and have been training with them for the past few months. The coach at City is great and has given me a whole new meaning to the word swimming... I didn’t know a kick set lasting an hour could exist!

    I’m also training alongside the University's cycling and athletics clubs which is definitely pushing my capabilities as a multi-sport athlete, although I do have to admit that this winter I haven’t been very brave and a lot of my bike miles have been spent on the dreaded turbo.

    I have my fair share of mental battles when it comes to training so I thought I’d share some top tips for staying motivated this winter:

    1) Set your 2018 season goals now and use them as motivation when you are about to snooze your morning alarm or head home early from a long run or ride.

    2) Join a triathlon team or join multiple single discipline clubs to enable you to train with others. 

    No one is ever going to be up for a 3 hour bike ride alone but add in friends and a cafe stop and riding has a whole different meaning. 

    3) Plan your week and follow a structured programme.

    It’s a lot easier to stay on track with training when you have your weeks mapped out, planning for your work/study/social life. You will soon get into a good routine and pre-planned days off remove any feelings of guilt that us triathletes suffer from.

    3) Get the right kit! 

    There is nothing worse than getting in from a run and having no feeling in your hands and feet or leaving the swimming pool shivering. Invest in some good warm kit this winter and make training in the cold that little bit easier. I know I can always rely on my trusty Sundried kit to keep me toasty.

    4) Sign up for some races! Just because the triathlon season is over it doesn’t mean you can’t spice up your weekend with the odd cyclocross and cross-country race.

    5) Most importantly, have fun!

     It’s easy to get caught up in the triathlon trap of training because you feel like you have to. Treat training as a chance to unwind from work, make memories, and spend time with friends.

    That’s all from me for now.

    Have a great winter’s build and keeping smiling!

    Posted by Alexandra Parren