Outdoor workouts

Ever feel like you spend most of the year cooped up indoors? Now’s the time to make the most of the longer, brighter days and warmer temperatures by getting outside and active whenever you can.

The health and wellbeing benefits of outdoor exercise, particularly close to nature, are well documented. Experts have coined terms such as ‘ecotherapy’ and ‘forest bathing’ to describe its antidepressant, heart-rate lowering and stress-relieving effects. And a large-scale 2013 review, published in the journal Extreme Physiology & Medicine, concluded that outdoor, natural environments help increase physical activity levels with lower levels of perceived exertion. In other words, we do more but suffer less, thanks to physiological benefits such as stress reduction, restored mental fatigue, improved mood and self-esteem and perceived health.

So why not press pause on the gym and try something different this summer? ‘Take the pressure off yourself to get to that Spin class or pre-work HIIT session – sometimes a hike through the woods or a dip in the sea is what you really need,’ says Sophie Everard, fitness coach and Keen footwear ambassador.

Here are a few ideas to inspire you, whether you’re at home or holidaying… 

Head to the park

Launched in 2014, Our Parks is an organisation that works with councils to offer free or low-cost outdoor group exercise classes in local parks and community spaces. Sign up for Bootcamp; Box Fit; or Abs, bums and thighs, for example. This year, it’s partnering with Merrell, the rugged outdoor footwear brand, to expand the classes around Greater London and into the surrounding counties, and get 100,000 ‘parkers’ exercising for free each week by 2018. Find your nearest class at ourparks.org.uk

Go wild in the wet

Our favourite place to make a splash and act like big kids is the amazing outdoor New Forest Water Park that’s like Total Wipeout meets Ninja Warrior. It uses large floating sports apparatus called WiBit and users can burn up to 500 calories an hour larking around on them. There’s also 5-Pylon cable wakeboarding, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. If you aren’t local, make it a short break and camp there too; visit newforestwaterpark.co.uk

Salute the sun

Take your yoga practice outdoors and salute the sun in person. It doesn’t have to be an outdoor class; just take your mat into the garden and work through some poses, listening to the birds and feeling the breeze on your skin. Increasing numbers of teachers and studios are offering outdoor options in summer time. Or Londoners could book a lesson with a local teacher via the Yogi2me app and ask them to meet you at a local beauty spot (from £65; yogi2me.com). 

Meditate in the fresh air

Visit China and you’ll see adults and children alike practising Qi Gong – an ancient form of moving meditation – in the parks, gardens and open countryside. With its roots in traditional Chinese medicine, Qi Gong exercises are designed to stimulate and move the ‘Qi’ (Chi) energy in every organ and meridian in the body. ‘It’s a fantastic way to fully connect with and be at one with nature, so we often practise it outdoors,’ says Qi Gong and Taoist Master David James Lees. Find a local teacher at qigonginstitute.org/directory or, for David’s drop-in sessions in the beautiful Derbyshire Dales, visit wuweiwisdom.com/meditation-classes

Make like a monkey

If you haven’t yet tried Go Ape, the treetop adventure course, do your fun side a favour and book in. ‘A typical session burns over 500 calories and you’ll keep your heart rate at 50 to 60 per cent of its max, so it’s a great fat burner,’ says personal trainer Ben Boulter. But it’s the mood-boosting endorphins we love the most – just try swinging through trees without a huge grin on your face. Find your nearest of 31 locations at goape.co.uk

Enter an OCR

Summer is arguably the best time to take on an obstacle-course race or ‘OCR’, when you won’t get so chilly charging through rivers and plunging into mud baths. Get a team together and take on a 10- to 12-mile Tough Mudder or half (5 miles) – find an event at toughmudder.co.uk. For a more scenic, ‘wild run’ through forest, lakes and trails – with a few obstacles thrown in, too – get in training for the award-winning Wolf Run in Warwickshire this September. Visit thewolfrun.com/autumnwolf

Try Coasteering

Coasteering is a seaside adventure sport that originated 100 years ago, when climbers began to traverse rocky sea cliffs. You wear a wetsuit, trainers, helmet and buoyancy jacket, and explore the coast at sea level. This might mean swimming in sea caves, climbing natural rock arches, wave dodging or flinging yourself off sheer rock faces. If you’re feeling brave, book a coasteering weekend in beautiful Pembrokeshire, where you’ll be guided through this exhilarating sport by top-class instructors and also have the chance to go on a coastal hike or try surfing or sea kayaking. Weekend breaks cost from £219 including all food, instruction and accommodation; visit preseliventure.co.uk

Find beauty in running

Forget racing – next time you fancy a run, leave your watch at home and take in some culture, instead. There are lots of sculpture parks across the country, many of them free. Yorkshire Sculpture Park has pieces by Barbara Hepworth and Anthony Gormley. Kielder Water and Forest Park in Northumberland has a stunning forest and lake trail, studded with outdoor art. Other locations include Grizedale Forest Park in Cumbria, the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail in Gloucestershire, Crosby Beach in Merseyside, the New Art Centre in Wiltshire and Surrey’s Pride of the Valley Sculpture Park. 

Go electric

Think an electric bike’s cheating? See it as a training aid, instead. Electric mountain biking is one of the fastest growing types of cycling, with women taking the hills by storm. By giving you more oompf, EMTBs make trails more accessible, enabling you to go further and faster. We like the Haibike sDuro HardLife 4.0, £2,000. Find your local dealer at haibike.com/en-US/INT/dealer – many offer outdoor events in summer where you can give the bikes a try, such as Bedgebury Forest (quenchuk.co.uk/bedgebury). 

Jump on board

With British waters now warming up and so many surf schools now accessible to us, learning to surf has never been more readily available nor more popular,’ says Everard – who teaches the sport as part of her Mad To Live retreats (madtoliveblog.com). ‘It’s an incredible sport that involves endurance, power, strength, agility and balance, and what I love most about it is the multitude of physical and psychological benefits that being connected to the ocean brings.’ Find a coach or surf school at surfingengland.org/

Take a trx

Don’t have an Our Parks venue (see no1) near you? No problem – get a full-body DIY workout with a TRX Go, which is the lightest in its range of suspension trainers. It comes in a small carry pouch, with two suggested 20-minute workouts, and takes less than 60 seconds to set up. ‘Loop your TRX over a tree branch or a goal post and you’ve got an outdoor gym for a full-body workout right there,’ says TRX Senior Master Trainer Matt Gleed. ‘Suspension Training develops strength, balance, flexibility and core stability simultaneously, all by leveraging gravity and your own body weight. Use it for planks, lunges, biceps curls, triceps dips – or any of the 100-plus exercises detailed online.’ TRX Go, £109, trxtraining.co.uk

Perfect your topspin forehand

Have a knock-up at your local ‘walk on and play’ free public court. You can even join in a free, weekly coach-led session – all thanks to Tennis For Free, a community-led sports charity that hopes to get more people active and interested in the sport. Find a court or class at tennisforfree.com

Swim outdoors

You don’t have to brave the sea or lakes if it feels too daunting – there are plenty of outdoor pools and lidos around the UK where you can enjoy fresh air and (hopefully) sunshine as you swim. Find out more, and get inspiration for wild swimming in nature, at outdoorswimmingsociety.com. Got the bug? Get in training for Macmillan’s All Out Swim charity events – 2K or 5K cold-water swims taking place in outdoor pools this September and October. Visit macmillan.org.uk/alloutswim

Get geocaching

This global game takes treasure hunts to the next level. Think Pokemon Go but for real, or orienteering with more rewards. Geocaches are hidden all over the world by fellow players, usually in a location of special interest or beauty. They normally take the form of a small waterproof box containing a few low-value knick-knacks, a logbook and pen. The geocacher then uses their GPS to record the coordinates of their cache and logs its existence online. All you need to play is a smart phone or GPS device. Download the Geocaching app (geocaching.com), then choose a cache (like the ‘treasure’) near you and navigate your way there. There are 2 million geocaches worldwide, all in different formats. Once you find it, you sign the logbook, and you can take something from the cache and leave something of equal or greater value in return. Then you log your find online and put the cache back for the next person to find. Visit gagb.org.uk

Tennis tips from the top

Feeling inspired by Wimbledon? H&F’s Emma Lewis catches up with tennis gurus Patrick Mouratoglou and Martina Hingis to let you in on the hottest tips so you can hit the court with confidence.

Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams’ coach and owner of Mouratoglou Tennis Academy near Cannes in the south of France (mouratoglou.com) has these tactics tips.

  • Think about hitting your balls higher over the net – use topspin (brush the ball with an upwards motion as you hit your shot) to help keep the ball in the court, as using topspin helps it dip back down.
  • Keep hitting the ball cross-court (ie diagonally) most of the time, as this gives you the biggest space in which to hit the ball.
  • Try to make your opponent move east to west and north to south within the court when you get the chance.
  • If you try to control the ball too much, it’s the best way to miss; but you can point your non-racquet hand to where you want the ball to go and hit the ball in that direction.
  • Don’t forget your sunglasses if you’re playing in the sun – they’ll keep your eyes more comfortable and less tired and lift the quality of your view. 

    Martina Hingis, recent Wimbledon mixed doubles winner with partner Jamie Murray, helps us improve our technique.

    • Create circles with your racquet as you swing – bring it up and back before you hit the ball, then follow through up and over your shoulder.
    • Hit the ball when it’s just in front of your body to create more power [than if you hit it when it’s beside your body].
    • In a two-handed backhand, make sure your left hand takes the strain – your right hand is just helping to guide the racquet (or vice versa if you’re left handed).
    • Hold the racquet quite loosely when you serve (think 3-4 out of 10 in terms of pressure) so you can snap your wrist at the end of the movement.

       And a few doubles tips:

      • If you’re playing doubles, imagine you and your partner are joined at the hip by an invisible piece of string – if they move, you move with them.
      • If a ball’s hit down the middle of the court, the player whose forehand side it is should hit the ball.
      • Don’t turn to look behind you when you’re in front and the ball is hit towards your partner – you won’t have time to react to the ball if it comes to you next.

        Patrick Mouratoglou and Martina Hingis are ambassadors for polarised Hawaiian sunglasses brand Maui Jim, official eyewear supplier of the ATP World Tour; uk.mauijim.com.

Rowing machine workout

Hands up if you find the rowing machine a little daunting? 

We don’t blame you. Taking on a rowing machine may seem far more complicated than running on a treadmill or cycling on an exercise bike, which is why so many people steer clear of this effective piece of gym equipment. However, if you actively avoid using a rowing machine at the gym, perhaps it’s time to give it a second chance. Rowing can have fantastic physical benefits, and you’re missing out!

Mastering the moves for this machine will lead to weight loss, better fitness and increased upper and lower-body strength – all without the harsh impact that some cardio exercise can have on joints. 

‘Indoor rowing is a complete form of exercise,’ explains Olympic rowing coach and Concept2 fitness expert Terry O’Neill (concept2.co.uk). ‘Rowing is a combination of cardiovascular and strength conditioning, making it a great addition to any fitness regime or training programme – for people of all ages with a wide variety of goals.’ 

Whether you’re a complete beginner or an Olympian rower, there’s definitely a way to make rowing a key player in your workouts.

Full-body workout

One of the main reasons that people opt for a workout on the rower to get their cardio fix is because – unlike the treadmill, stepper and stationary bike – it offers plenty of added value. Using correct technique harnesses the power of both the upper and lower body, so your bum, thighs and calves will get a real push as well as your arms and shoulders. Rowing also requires solid activation from your core and back to maintain good form (particularly in the upper back) with each and every stroke, which means that a good session on the rower can hit almost every muscle, offering total-body conditioning. Plus, the cardiovascular movement of rowing gives your heart and lungs a great workout, too. 

‘Indoor rowing is great for toning up, as it involves more muscle groups over a wide range of movement, with little pressure on the joints,’ says Terry. ‘No matter why you choose to row, the rowing machine will offer just the right level of resistance for your goals, as well as an infinite variety of workouts.’

Fuss-free intensity

If you think rowing is just for steady-state fitness, think again. The rowing machine is great for both endurance and interval training. ‘Because the rowing machine activates a large muscle mass, it helps you achieve better cardio results in less time,’ Terry explains. ‘It can also provide excellent anaerobic workouts complementary to explosive power sport training. Plus, indoor rowing is a great endurance exercise that really helps to boost both your heart and lung functions.’

If you’ve ever tried high-intensity interval sprints on the treadmill, you’ll know how annoying it is having to repeatedly press buttons while you’re trying to run to adjust the speed of the belt. One of the great things about the rowing machine is that you can control the speed simply by increasing or decreasing your own work rate, although the resistance can be slightly tricky to adjust once you’ve got going. While some people may enjoy longer, steady-state sessions on the rower, those looking for a heart-pumping interval session can get on with focusing on their technique without having to keep pushing buttons, as they would on the treadmill.

Of course, the crucial element here is technique – the better your form is, the more efficient your workout will be. Use the steps below to perfect your stroke and practise rowing at a comfortable pace until you’re ready to up your speed. 

The rowing masterclass

Use these simple step-by-step instructions to get to grips with perfect rowing technique. Remember to avoid letting your shoulders round or your lower back arch beyond its neutral position. Ready, set, row!

• Keeping your legs straight, lean back slightly with the handle close to your body and your forearms parallel to the floor.

• Extend your arms fully, rocking your body forward slightly and keeping your arms extended.

• Slide your lower body forward from the hips until your knees are above your feet, keeping your arms extended.

• Push down on your feet to drive your body back, straightening your legs and leaning your body back slightly as you do so.

• Pull the handle back past your knees towards your body to return to the starting position. Repeat.

How to lose fat

If you’re ready to get serious about fat loss, do yourself a favour and steer clear of fad diets and calorie restricting. Instead, try these super-easy tips and tricks to help you become the best version of you!

Refuelling hazard

Ever felt ravenous after a workout? Make sure you come prepared – bring a protein shake or healthy snack to consume post-workout. I’ll save you from making decisions that will hamper your results.

Ditch the boyfriend

Don’t panic – it’s only for the workout. Men usually burn more calories than women in the same workout due to being heavier, in addition to which Mother Nature acts to protect women’s role as child bearer, which means we maintain adequate body fat for nourishing healthy babies. Doing your partner’s workout, then, might end up with him shedding pounds but you only shedding tears. Go solo, girl!

Turn on the afterburners

Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) is the term given to the body’s attempts to recharge and restore itself immediately after a workout, a process that results in additional calorie burn. Research has shown that high-intensity interval training leads to greater EPOC than steady cardio workouts, so turn up the dial with alternate bouts of maximum effort and rest for serious results. Try the Tabata format – eight periods of 20 secs full-out work followed by 10 secs recovery.

Muscle up to slim down

Building lean muscle mass will speed up your metabolic rate and promote fat burn – so get strength training. Compound exercises that use bigger muscle groups will be most effective – like squats, deadlifts and kettlebell swings.

Running on empty

Exercising in the morning before your first meal is a great way to shed fat. Research shows that fasting (which is essentially what happens overnight as we sleep) leads to increased adrenaline and reduced insulin levels, creating an environment that is more conductive to the breakdown of fat for energy. If you’re not used to this, though, ease yourself in and remember to stay hydrated.

Team tactics

When it comes to fitness, it’s easy to fall into a rut by doing the same workouts over and over – especially if you’re partial to studio classes. So give your fat-loss hopes a sporting chance by joining a football, hockey or tennis club. Not only will variation keep you motivated, these sports incorporate the need for repeated bursts of effort (interval training) that we know burns fat.

Up and down

Alternating your exercises between upper and lower body in a circuit format results in an extra calorie burn because your cardiovascular system has to work harder. Peripheral Heart Action training, as this is known, challenges the heart to keep pushing blood from one part of the body to another, in order to deliver oxygen to fuel the muscles. A routine like this also allows you to move straight from one exercise to the next, as muscle groups get a chance to rest, so you can get your workout done quicker.

Explode the fat

Also known as jump training, plyometric exercises involve stretching the muscles prior to explosively contracting them. Think burpees, box jumps and jumping lunges; all of which result in high calorie expenditure, making them a valuable weapon in your fat-loss armoury.

Gym workouts for women

We’re well aware that time spent on the treadmill can often stand still. If you’re bored of your gym routine, help is at hand. With our favourite ways to get fit in the gym, you’ll never have to spend an hour on the treadmill again! High five to that.

1 Tabata

From time saving to fat burn, high-intensity exercise is one of the best ways to get more bang for your buck at the gym. And the fastest method? It’s got to be Tabata. Warm-up and cool-down aside, the workout lasts only four minutes including rest periods. There really are no cons to this no-frills, super-speedy method. Don’t forget to do some mobility exercises to warm up and stretches to cool down.

Perform 20 seconds of a resistance exercise such as squats, kettlebell swings or medicine ball slams, followed by 10 seconds complete rest. Repeat eight times.

2 Circuits

If you have a little more time, make use of the fancy equipment on offer at the gym. Good health clubs will have TRX, kettlebells and sandbags on offer, and you’d be a fool not to use them. Check out our Workout Routines for ways to work out using all kinds of gym equipment. Remember to keep rest periods short and intensity high if your goal is to burn fat.

3 Cardio

If you prefer using cardio machines but don’t fancy a spin class, why not combine various machines in one session to avoid getting bored? Try 15 minutes on the treadmill, 15 minutes on the bike and 15 minutes on the rowing machine – you could even throw in some resistance exercises between each transition to spice things up. Interval training is a good option, but beginners can always start off with a steady pace.

Get a summer back

The row, press and lunge  

This exercise targets and tones the upper back, shoulders and thighs. If that wasn’t enough, it also strengthens the core while challenging your balance, making it a very effective move to include in your workout.
 
Effectiveness

This modified version of the clean and jerk is one of the most effective exercises for toning the whole body because it works so many of the large muscles in the upper and lower body.
 
Technique

• Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a pair of dumbbells by your thighs.  

• Inhale, exhale and then bring your hands up level with your shoulders with your elbows pointing out.  

• Inhale, dropping your elbows down and then exhale pressing the weights overhead. 

• Inhale, keeping your hands above your head, taking a big step forward with your right leg, performing a lunge (making sure your knee doesn’t come in front of your toes). 

• Exhale, push through your right foot and return to standing with your feet together.  

• Lower your hands to the start position and repeat, lunging with your left leg this time. This is one repetition.
 
Be careful!

• Keep your chest out and back straight, without leaning backwards throughout the exercise.  

• Make sure you press your hands directly above your head and not slightly forward, to the side or back. 

• Take a large step forward and make sure your knee is behind the toes of your front foot with your shin vertical.
 
Remember

Only lift between 3 and 6kg per dumbbell. Try to do this exercise two to three times a week if you want the best results. If you feel like a challenge increase the weight and try to make the movement as fluid as possible, increasing the speed as you progress.

Cankles be gone

Embarrassed by your ankles? With the heat turning up you’ve probably had to dig out your summer shorts and sandals, and for many people with wide ankles, this can be daunting 

The fat stored between your calves and ankles is often referred to as cankles and they can make people really insecure. There’s hope, though! The best way to blast away those cankles is by losing weight throughout your whole body and eventually the layer of fat will begin to disappear. As well as watching what you eat, you can do this exercise that targets your lower legs to promote weight loss. Calf raises will help slim them down and get you feeling super confident again.  

The one-legged calf raise is an easy toning move that you can do anywhere – all you need is the back of a chair or something hip-height to support yourself. 

How to do it:

Stand on your right foot, holding on to the back of a chair for balance. Raise your left leg bent behind you. Contract your calf muscles and raise your right heel off the floor to balance on tip toes. Hold for two seconds, then lower your heels back down to the floor. Do two sets of 12-15 reps on both sides. 

Focus on rising up as high as possible onto your toes. The larger the range of motion during each rep, the harder your muscles are having to work. It won’t be beneficial if you’re only doing half reps, feel the burn!  

Tip! Remember to stretch afterwards. It’s super important to stretch after exercising to prevent muscle soreness and improve flexibility!  

Cankles can be caused by water retention, too. The easiest way to figure out if you’re retaining water  is to press down on your ankles with your finger, if it leaves a temporary dent in your skin it most likely means you’re holding water. If this is the case, try to lower your salt levels, cut out alcohol and drink plenty of water. 

If the worst comes to the worst and you’ve tried all of the above and your cankles still wont shift, there’s a chance that it might run in the family. Speak to your parents and grandparents – there might be a possibility that your genetics are to blame. 

Betty for Schools take on period taboos

New research suggests girls are missing out on school sports due to period worries – but that’s about to change

New research by Betty for Schools, the curriculum-linked period education programme for students aged 8-12, has shown a high number of young women are being held back from participating in school sports due to period taboos. The study of over 2,000 women found that almost half had used their periods as an excuse to skip PE classes – even if they felt well enough to take part.

So what was their reasoning? It seems embarrassment, rather than pain, is the major barrier to participation: three in four women stated that period shame was one of the main barriers to girls participating in sports in school. In fact, the top reason given for skipping sports classes was a fear of leaking, with two in five admitting that this was a serious concern for them. Other reasons – as told by 24 per cent of participants – were the worry of their sanitary pads being visible to others or slipping around as they exercised. 

However, over two thirds of women agreed that if girls were better educated about periods and how they affect their bodies, they wouldn’t be so reluctant to take part in PE. As a result, Betty for Schools are launching a campaign this week – coinciding with Women’s Sport Week – to encourage parents and teachers to talk to children more about periods and exercise. 

The campaign is supported by Sam Quek MBE, England and GB Hockey player, who is a passionate advocate of the need to overcome taboos when it comes to periods. ‘For me, sport and exercise are a huge part of life,’ she says. ‘I find it really sad that periods – something all women experience for a big part of our lives – are creating a barrier to sport for so many.’ What does she think can be done? ‘We have to break down taboos around periods – this starts with elite sportswomen being more open and honest, with schools creating the environment where girls can talk about the changes their bodies are going through, and education that empowers us all to know and understand our bodies better,’ she says.

Indeed, exercise and sport can in fact be extremely beneficial while menstruating, helping to release endorphins and alleviate cramps. The way we view exercise at such an early age is also thought to have an impact on later life, with 59 per cent of women agreeing that avoiding PE in school because of periods can negatively impact the way girls feel about physical exercise and sports into adulthood. ‘We know the value of exercise for our bodies and our minds – at all ages – and it’s really worrying that so many girls are finding that the weight of taboo around periods prevents them from participating in sports,’ says Becky Hipkiss, Education Manager at Betty for Schools. ‘More needs to be done to teach young girls about the benefits of exercise and to help them overcome the embarrassment about this perfectly natural time of the month. This has to start at school, with PE teachers being understanding of different girl’s needs, but also creating a comfortable environment in which girls feel empowered to work within the changes they experience each month. Girls also need to be wearing the right size and type of products which mean they can exercise without fear of leaking.’

Free Betty for Schools PSHE resources for teachers are available to download at bettyforschools.co.uk. Here, you can also find top tips for parents and teachers on how to tackle conversations with confidence about periods and exercise, as well as Sam Quek’s personal advice on how to handle sport and exercise during your period.

Morgan Lake Q&A

H&F: You turned 20 last week – how does an athlete celebrate her birthday? 

ML: Probably quite different to how other people celebrate their birthday. I had a full day of training and then went out for a meal with my family and friends. Quite a chilled one – but still nice. 

H&F: Looking back at last year, what was it like to have made the Olympic final in Rio? 

ML: It was amazing. I didn’t really expect anything from it. My biggest aim last year was to make the games and so finding out I’d made the final after qualification was more than I ever could have hoped for. 

H&F: How do you cram in the training for all of the different events for the heptathlon? 

ML: It’s definitely hard to programme it all. There are seven events to train for [high jump, 100 metre hurdles, shot put, 200 metres, javelin, long jump and 800 metres] and you’ve also got to have strength and conditioning as well. It is hard – I usually do about three events a day, maybe four. So training twice a day and then Sunday is a rest day. I also have to fit in studies and try to have a social life. I try and use every hour of the day. It’s not as hectic sounds, and I’ve got into a routine now where I know what I’m doing. 

H&F: Away from athletics, what are your interests? 

ML: I enjoy being with my friends. When I’m training I’m on my own quite a lot of the time so I don’t really have much time to relax and watch movies, listen to music. Just normal stuff. 

H&F: How important to your performance is your diet? 

ML: It’s very important. I’m realising that more and more, especially for my energy levels. We have a British Athletics sports nutritionist who we can go to at any time, which is really helpful. 

H&F: What power foods and drinks do you use for energy? 

ML: I use Red Bull – I used it a lot even before I became an athlete. I use it in training, before competitions, during competitions. During training I will have a sugar-free Red Bull, and then I use the normal kind for competitions. 

H&F: What gym moves do you find work best for your overall fitness? 

ML: I love core workouts. I don’t really have much time to do them at the moment but I’ll try and squeeze them in at the end of my gym sessions.

H&F: What are the expectations moving up from a successful junior athlete to a senior athlete? 

ML: I’ve always had a teen title to my name and now I’m not a junior anymore. It is a bit of a jump and I’ve got to make sure I transition well. I have a long career in the sport so I’m just trying not to rush it. 

We tried it!

H&F’s Hally Houldsworth tested out her high jump skills at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre with Morgan Lake and former Olympic Gold medallist Jason Gardener. 

‘Beginning with a warm-up, Megan explains how important stretching is to her daily routine – she starts her day with an hour warm-up before training even begins. Cutting that back to roughly 10 minutes, our high jump session begins.

As the session unfolds, we learn that technique plays a huge part when it comes to this event. There are many components that affect your overall performance in various ways. For example, pushing hard off one leg and driving with the other gives you greater height over the pole, as does beginning the jump at a certain distance from it (which is relative to your height). ‘Jumping too close or too far away will cause you to knock it down’, Morgan explains.                                        

Taking four large strides for my run-up and building up as much speed as I can in that time, I begin to understand that I must concentrate on using all the parts of my body in my jump. As I push hard off the ground with my left foot I drive my right knee and right arm up into the air. This pulls me up before I can arch my back and tilt to the right to bend over the pole, flicking my legs up as soon as my back has crossed it so as not to bring it down during my landing. 

My various attempts at the event are recorded and Morgan watches them over, offering feedback and encouragement as she does: pointing out the importance of using my arms and engaging my core. 

The session proves a valuable experience in understanding the thought process of an athlete – particularly when learning how they overcome obstacles such as mental blocks, and how the psychology of their sport allows them to push past this not only during training, but also in a competitive environment.’ 

To find out more about Morgan Lake, visit RedBull.com 

Get half marathon ready

Summer’s the perfect time to get out and start training for your big day. Follow your training schedule to make sure you meet your fitness goals, and in the last few weeks of training make sure you include these tips to get a PB! 

Get drilling

Doing some basic running drills is the key to boosting your running efficiency and working towards a better performance come race day. Think arm swings, high knees and running on the spot. ‘The point of these exercises is to wake up the nervous system, warm up all the muscle tissue, and put the joints through their full range of motion,’ says elite running coach Andrew Kastor (coachkastor.com). ‘This allows your body to move more efficiently.’ 

Each exercise has a different purpose. ‘High knees activate the hip flexor muscle tissue, butt kicks activate the hamstrings and provide a subtle stretch in the quadriceps, and movements such as “fast feet” [running on the spot] excite and heighten the nervous system minutes before you need to perform fast running,’ says Andrew. 

Keep up the tempo

A great soundtrack is a sure-fire way to boost your running motivation, but it’s also the secret to giving your all out there on the pavement. ‘Music can make your runs much more interesting, but studies also suggest that music with an upbeat tempo, similar to your stride rate, can actually help you run harder, for longer,’ says Jessica. The best tracks are those that match the pace you’re aiming to stick to, so head to jog.fm for a great selection of music designed to suit every pace – you can even browse by your speed per kilometre. But do bear in mind that you won’t always be able to rely on music to get you through. ‘It’s well worth putting together a running playlist, but don’t get entirely reliant on it,’ says Jessica. ‘A lot of marathons and races won’t let you wear headphones.’

Fire up your backside

If you want that extra advantage on race day, focus on getting your best asset working its hardest. ‘Spending all day sitting down puts most people’s glute muscles to sleep,’ says Jessica. ‘And runners are often no different – if yours aren’t firing properly, you won’t be as efficient as you could be.’ So how do you fire up your backside? ‘Try the wall squat – stand in front of a wall with your toes touching it, and sit backwards into a squat,’ Jessica tips. ‘If you find it impossible, or your knees are touching the wall, your glutes aren’t working properly.’ But don’t worry, it’s easily fixed. ‘Add some glute bridges into your routine: lie on your back with your feet close to your bum, and drive off your heels to push your hips into the air. Too easy? Try with one leg in the air.’   

Scale the hills

Want to build leg strength and boost your speed? Hill runs are about to become your best bud. ‘Running hill repeats is resistance training in disguise!’ says Andrew. ‘The muscles recruited to run up a hill strengthen as they are the ones with the most amount of stress being applied to them.’ Hills can also help to boost your running form and efficiency when you return to the flat. ‘Running hills helps refine your biomechanics for flat-land running,’ says Andrew. ‘Running uphill is very hard to do with bad mechanics, so the body gradually begins to recruit muscle tissue much more efficiently.’ And a more efficient runner is almost always a faster runner.

Fuel up

Get your nutrition right and you’ll give yourself a real head start. But don’t go mad on the pre-run spag bol. ‘There’s no real need to carb-load as a recreational runner, so forget massive bowls of pasta,’ says personal trainer Jessica Wolny (jessicawolny.com). ‘Just eat balanced meals, with plenty of protein and veg.’

But what if your energy is running low before you even get out there? ‘If you feel like you need a bit more energy pre-run, a slice of toast with a banana can help,’ Jessica says. ‘You’ll get instant energy from the fructose sugars in the banana, and slower-release energy from the toast.’ Plus it’s super-cheap.

On shorter runs you shouldn’t need a snack mid-run to keep going. ‘A good rule of thumb is that you don’t need to refuel during any run that’s shorter than an hour,’ Jessica explains. So what about long-haul runs? ‘If you’re running a half (or longer), it’s worth experimenting to see what works for you on training runs.’ Trying something new on the big day is a no-no. ‘Don’t try any gel, drink or pill for the first time on race day,’ tips Jessica.