Wednesday, 19 April 2017

This Girl Can: Jackie's Story to falling in love with Basketball

My name is Jackie and I have the great privilege of writing a guest blog post for Melissa about my favourite sport – BASKETBALL!
I thought that it was such a shock that Melissa asked me because she wants ‘Women in Sport’, I thought she had a made a mistake! I was NEVER one of the sporty girls at school, frequently being on the ‘D’, ‘E’ or even ‘F’ team at school, preferring volunteering to games lessons and even winning a wooden spoon for being the worst at badminton! 

Jackie's women basketball team at university.
However, when I got to university, I thought that nobody knows how rubbish I am at sport, basketball is something I have always wanted to try and it was only about two minutes away from my halls. They advertised it as something anybody of any ability can try’, no need to try out and best of all? It was free. So I thought, why not have a go? 

Much to my delight, basketball was very fun and easy to grasp; the other women were also extremely kind, supportive and welcoming and it was great for both my mental and physical health. Not only was I exercising regularly and becoming fitter, but it also gave me an opportunity to make new friends across subjects and years. It even managed to get me out of my room – something that I always tried to avoid doing at university. 
This Girl Can Social Basketball - Leazes Park
Three years later I moved back to Newcastle and I am now raring to join another club – a big city with two universities and a great city team – how hard could it be?
However, I couldn’t find any that were suitable – either you had to try out (be a certain ability to make the team), or they were too expensive, at the wrong times, exclusive to certain age groups, difficult to get to, just a series of irritating barriers that prevented me from playing.

I knew some people in Newcastle who played basketball and I would sometimes meet up with them to play at a local park but our busy lives often mean these opportunities are few and far between.
When playing on my own at a local court I thought that there might be women around Newcastle who might feel the same as me; who wanted to try a new sport but couldn’t due to some obstacle or that they used to play but couldn’t find an opportunity to do so.
This Girl Can Social Basketball - Leazes Park

I was nominated as a This Girl Can Ambassador through some volunteering for Streetgames and Factory Dance Academy. I had just taken part TGC activities previously, but I thought –why not do something about this?

With the TGC Play Basketball Club I hope to create a fun and social atmosphere where girls and women of any age and ability can come and make new friends, and learn something new or even share tips with each other. It’s free, with no gear or experience needed and easily accessible in the middle of Newcastle City Centre. 

I know that basketball isn’t for everyone but I really recommend you do some sport or exercise, even just 30 minutes a week or walking/cycling/running/jogging/table tennis or football. There are some wonderful local parks with great facilities you can use for free. Bring a friend, get some fresh air, take in the view, get the heart pumping a bit – it’s good for you mentally and physically.
This Girl Can Social Basketball - Leazes Park

Hope this has interested you and if you want to play some basketball - male or female – let me know. Hope to see you at Leazes Park Basketball Court soon!

This Girl Can Play Basketball Club meets every Saturday from 3-4pm at Leazes Park Basketball Court. Just wear some comfortable clothes, bring some water and get ready to have some fun! For more information please join the This Girl Can Play BASKETBALL group on Facebook (here). 

If your interested in trying out basketball, Don't be afraid to join the Facebook page or if you fancy trying out something different why not check out the Active Newcastle Facebook page to see what other This Girl Can activities are happening in Newcastle. If you would like to see other women's only activities happening across Newcastle you can check out Active Newcastle's Website for tones of other activities happening in Newcastle.  

Monday, 10 April 2017

Top 3 places to eat at Lunchtime in Newcastle

In December my workplace moved our office to Newcastle City Centre (Civic Centre). As everyone knows Newcastle's city centre is full of places to eat and I won't lie I'm a sucker for eating at restaurants and cafes. With this I thought I would list my top 3 places to eat on my lunch each restaurant/cafe has it own reasons for being on this list and I'll explain them along the way. 

1. Meet and Treat

Top 3 places to eat at Lunchtime in Newcastle
Meet and Treats Interior 
Top 3 places to eat at Lunchtime in Newcastle
Meet and Treat Fish Bowl and Beef Flank Noodles.
Meet and Treat has only recently been put on my radar. If you follow the #Neblogger hashtag on twitter and Instagram then I'm sure you would have seen lots of photos of this place including it's incredible floor (blogger heaven). Meet and treat is at the end of China Town and is for me is somewhere that is just within walking distance from my office which makes it great if you are looking to get away from all the shopper. The thing I love most about Meet and Treat is that the atmosphere is calm and the staff are lovely.

I've been 3 times now and every time I've tried something different. I've tried the the Deep Fried Vegetable Dumplings Japanese Style, Fish Ball Noodles, Malaysian Style King Prawn Noodles and finally the Teriyaki Chicken Bao. 

Everything I've tried I've loved. If you fancy checking Meet and Treat out then here is the menu and there Facebook.

2. Tyneside Cinema Cafe

Top 3 places to eat at Lunchtime in Newcastle

Tyneside Cinema Cafe has always been one of my favourite places to go and relax. When I was at college and I got sick of sitting in the library tyneside cinema cafe was my place to go. With free wifi and sometimes a film on in the cafe I found it was my go to place to get away from the stress and that hasn't changed since moving into my current job that sometimes can be stressful. 

With the tyneside cinema cafe being located on pilgrim Street which is about 5 minutes work from my office. It's one of them places I go when I might not actually have that much time but I don't want to be stuck in the office. 

My favourite thing to have at the tyneside cinema cafe is normally the soup of the day or the Tyneside Hot Dog and Chips. The service is normally quite quick which is essential when you want something quick but I've also used tyneside for meetings and it can be quite quiet through the day. 

You can check out the menu for Tyneside Cinema Cafe here it has the brunch menu and the evening menu just incase you fancy going after work. 

3. Fat Hippo Pop Up

Fat Hippo - Top 3 places to eat at Lunchtime in Newcastle
The Fat Hippo at the moment is definitely a highlight of my week, so every Thursday around 12noon Fat Hippo set up their pop up Burger Bar at The Quad within the ground of Northumbria University. I remember seeing this on my twitter feed and jumping around the office in excitement. The Fat Hippo has always been one of my favourite places for food but I love them more when they are at pop u including Wylam or The Cumberland Arms for there Beer and Ale Festivals. 

My favourite burger that is always on the menu is the The Little Hippo (I wish I had a photo to show you) which is a single 4oz patty, topped with chorizo, cheese and Fat Hippo sauce which I won't lie is my favourite part. Another item on the menu that is a must is the signature cajun fries. 

You can see when the burger bar is coming close to your workplace by checking out there events page to see where there heading next. 

Well that is my top 3 places to eat at Lunchtime in Newcastle. I hope you have enjoyed it and like seeing a little bit of a restaurant review. I'm hoping to do a few more of this type of post. 

Why don't you tell me below where you favourite places to eat at lunchtime? 


Friday, 17 March 2017

Guest Post: Triathlon is for everyone – My triathlon story

With the launch of This Girl Can happening in February, I wanted to find local women in the North East that empowered what This Girl can is all about and that is when I started talking to Michelle. Michelle to me empowers everything that This Girl Can is about. Below she is going to tell you about triathlon and about how she got involved in the sport. I hope you enjoyed this post.

I am a triathlete. It gave me a massive thrill and sense of achievement to be able to say that when I completed my first event in 2011.
A triathlon is made up of a swim, a cycle and a run. You do all three sports one after another, with no rest.
You may know about it through the Brownlees, brothers Alistair and Jonny who are Olympic medal winners and World Champions for Team GB. They compete at the very highest elite level and push themselves to the limit, but triathlon isn't just a sport for the super fit. It's the fastest growing participation sport in the UK. Anyone can do it - even me.
My triathlon story starts back in 2008, when I began running as part of a bid to get fit and lose some weight. I hated it at first, and couldn't manage more than a few hundred metres without getting out of breath. My first milestone was to be able to run continuously for 20 minutes, and it took me a while of running and walking to work up to that. 
Somewhere along the way I started to enjoy it. Within a year, I went from being unable to run a mile without stopping, to running 13.1 of them on the Great North Run. It was an amazing transformation. I was fitter, slimmer, and more importantly had made a whole new group of friends through running, so I was happier too.
I loved the challenge. I found I enjoyed training for races and then running as fast as I could, chasing better times, and the feeling of the adrenaline rush when I crossed the finish line.
I worked with a personal trainer, Ian from Inspire Fitness who has helped me stay strong and avoid injuries. He did triathlons too, so I went along to watch him and some of my running friends race at the QE2 Park in Ashington. Just like the running community, I saw a bunch of friendly, enthusiastic people, doing something slightly crazy and challenging on a weekend. And I knew then that I had to give it a try.
I took lessons to improve my swimming, cleaned up my old bike and started training. In 2011, I took part in my first triathlon and I loved it so much, that I signed up for another one two weeks later. Since then, I've challenged myself to do triathlons that involve swimming in lakes and the sea, and done longer distance events.
Triathlon is an amazingly inclusive sport. Ordinary people like you and me can race on the same courses as the elites. I’ve swum, biked and run on the same route as the Brownlees in Leeds, and then stuck around afterwards to cheer them on. There’s not many sports that give you that kind of access and experience of being close up to the best.
There's nothing to beat triathlon for a feeling of satisfaction, for the sense of really having achieved something. And because it involves three sports, you get three times the adrenaline rush.

Anyone can give triathlon a go

I am nothing special. I am not particularly fast, or especially fit. I've found triathlon to be very friendly and I encourage anyone to give it a go.

1) What if I can’t swim/I can only do breaststroke?

If you can’t swim, then it's a great skill to learn. It could save your life. Swimming is great exercise and yes, it can be hard to learn, but it’s well worth it.
Most people swim front crawl in a triathlon because it’s faster, but there's no rule to say you can't do breaststroke.

2) I don’t have a road bike

Some people spend a huge amount of money on the latest go faster carbon fibre, streamlined machines that weigh less than a bag of sugar. But you don’t have to. I did my first triathlon on an ancient old mountain bike, that I could only just lift into the car. I do now have a lovely road bike, but any decent working cycle will do. You must have a helmet though - that's in the rules.


3) It’s expensive

Like all sports there’s always a fancy bit of kit, gadget or gizmo that promises to shave seconds off your best time, but ryou only need a few basics of a bike, helmet, running shoes and something that you’re comfortable to wear to swim, bike and run in.
Bear in mind that you'll be getting straight out of the water and onto a bike, so you need to wear something that's comfortable and won't chafe. A pair of lightly padded bike shorts, or specific triathlon shorts is a good buy.

For open water swimming, you may need a wetsuit, but you can often hire these for a day, week or season.

Race entries can cost a bit more than a run, because there's a lot involved in making sure races are safe and well organised. You can get a discount on entries by joining a triathlon club that's affiliated to your National Triathlon organisation.

Here in the North East, VO2 Max Racing, who organise the very best triathlon events I've taken part in, will offer a free entry to one of their events if you volunteer to marshal at another.
Find out more about triathlon events and clubs in the UK:
Welsh Triathlon

4) I’m too fat/too unfit/too old/ I’ll come last

If you feel fat and unfit, what better way to change that than to add some exercise to your lifestyle and start training? Having a goal or event to aim for is a great motivator to get out there. There are short distance triathlons, including novice or super sprint events that are easily achievable with a bit of training.
Don't worry about how you think you'll look. Everyone’s too focused on swim, bike, run to give it a second thought. And if you don’t fancy a tri suit, you can throw on a T-shirt and shorts before the bike.

There are often a great range of age categories at races and some will even award prizes for different age groups, so getting older doesn’t have to mean you’re at a disadvantage.

If you think you’ll be way behind the rest of the field, remember, the only person you’re really competing against is yourself. Even if you do find yourself the last to cross the line, I can guarantee you’ll get a bigger cheer that the speedy person who came through in first place.

Michelle Nicol is a writer and triathlete. When she’s not swimming, cycling or running, you can find her at, and on twitter @I_am_wordstruck

Friday, 27 January 2017

Guest Post - We'll see you in September - Mr. M's Journey to the 2017 Great North Run

It's January and everyone starts out the year with something outside of their little bubble that they want to try. I think it's normal for many people in the North East to want to try out the famous Great North Run. If you live in Newcastle you know you have to try it once in your lifetime which is why I was not surprised at all when Mr. M. told me he wanted to do it when I first met him 3 months ago. He asked if he could go a little series about his training up to the big day and I thought it would be a great idea. We decided to do 4 posts and this is the first installment all about receiving the e-mail to say you got your ballot place.

“We’ll see you on the start line in September!”

That’s was the first line of the email announcing the results of The Times ballot for the 2017 Simplyhealth Great North Run.

As is so often the case I met it the surprising news with a combination of excitement and trepidation, the latter in particular as I was (and still am) suffering from a chest infection and it is double the distance of anything I've run so far. Nevertheless, I was in!

Let’s backtrack a bit…
Up until June last year I hadn’t run more than 2.5k, a 12 minute run a few times a week to keep me fit for Australian Rules Football. Despite my best efforts I was having a disappointing season and was in need of a sense of achievement, and somehow arrived at the conclusion that I should run a 10k. With the inaugural Prince Bishops Durham City Run a mere 16 days away I decided that I would attempt a 5+km run depending on how that went sign up for the Durham City Run or not.

Surprisingly after a 5.4k run which left me soaked to the skin (it was raining), I was feeling rather optimistic and so began a crash training program which saw me run 47.8km in total in the build-up, including a 10.2km run in 51:47. I finished the event itself in 52:18 and, more importantly, I felt great! I wanted more and over time signed up for the Gateshead Trail 10k, the Great North 5k and then the Newcastle Mo Run with Melissa. My regular 2.5km turned into a regular 5.4km and I tried whenever possible to do the Park Run on Saturday mornings.

Growing up in the North East it's hard to avoid the influence of the Great North Run and it has been on my bucket list for at few years despite my relative lack of distance running experience. It was with hope, then, that I bought The Times on 7th January to sign up to their exclusive ballot for 3000 GNR places...

Back to the main event...

What time am I aiming for?

This is my first half marathon and, as with my first 10k, my main aim is to complete it and unlike any other half marathon, in my opinion, it’s as much about the atmosphere as anything else.
That being said, entry forms for events require a predicted time and for these, I use Runner’s World Race Time Predictor. This estimated a finishing time of 1:55:03 based on my last 5.4km run. As I wasn’t at peak fitness when I ran that I am hopeful that I’ll go sub 2 hours.

So, what’s my training plan for the Great North Run? Do I even have a training plan?

I had already signed up for the 2017 Simplyhealth Great North 10k and have since signed up for the Siglion Sunderland City 10k. With these events in early May, early July and the GNR on 10th September I already have a rather neat pattern of two months between events forming. If I go ahead with the Stroke Association Resolution Run in late February that's an additional 10k loosely fitting into this.

The footy season runs from April to August which will keep my fitness up (whilst hopefully leaving me uninjured) and I will be continuing with my 5.4km runs as a baseline.
In addition, I’ll be increasing the distance of set runs in the weeks before each major event and it is my intention to have completed a few half marathon distance runs by mid/late August before taking it easy in the final weeks.

I hope you enjoyed reading Mr. M post and hopefully his next few posts will be helpful when it comes to training.posts. So make sure you come back for them. 


Friday, 20 January 2017

Guest Post: Goal Setting, is it a good thing?

Today I have a guest post from the lovely Clare from the blog Exercise and Mental Health. I got in touch with Clare and asked if she would like to do a  blog post about creating goals and how mental health can effect creating goals. 

Most people set goals to some degree in everyday life whether it be to get a certain job, travel to a particular country or buy a house but when it comes to fitness should you do it too? My opinion is yes absolutely! Having a goal gives you something to aim for and keeps you on track. When you have down days, can’t be bothered or a ‘better offer’ than going to the gym comes along it can keep you focused. Thinking of how good you’ll feel when you hit that target weight or get into that special outfit is usually enough motivation for most people. 

But if you suffer from a mental health illness such as depression or anxiety can it still be as beneficial? Well now I think it becomes a little bit more cloudy, yes totally still set goals but generally be more aware that it may take you a little longer to reach them and the effect that can have. If you already experience anxiety and stress then setting a goal you may feel under more pressure and this can cause anxiety and stress if you already experience these, or even if you don’t. Everybody is different and there is by no way a one sizes fits all approach to anything and it all depends on the extent of your illness, the goal you set and the way you handle things. If you do set yourself a goal and then for whatever reason you don’t achieve it will that be detrimental and put back your recovery? You need to be aware of your illness and how you cope with different situations and if you have your illness under control, have a good support network around you and are confident you can make your goal then yes absolutely, go for it as the feeling of achieving it can be amazing, it can make you feel so good. Support is crucial, tell your friends and family your goals and plans and get them involved, take them to the gym or to a class, it will make it more fun and if it’s more fun you’re more likely to stick at it and succeed.

Of course, all of this is just my opinion but it does come from my own experience. I was diagnosed with depression four and half years ago although looking back I had struggled for a long time before that. It felt good and still does to actually have an answer for how I am and that I’m not alone and that in itself has given me a lot of strength and be able to look in the right places for help. I’m pretty lucky now to mostly have it under control, as anybody in a similar situation knows I feel I’m probably never going to be totally free of it but understanding it goes a very long way to helping. Along with that, I put most of my change of outlook down to the fact that I started to exercise, I’ve lost a lot of weight which increased my confidence. I have set a lot of goals along the way, some I’ve achieved some I haven’t. For the ones I haven’t yes it did knock me down and make me feel bad but as with almost everything those feelings are temporary and once I accepted that my mind can re-focus and set a new goal and make a plan on how to achieve it. That is also an important part, making a plan, you might say you have a goal to visit Australia for example but if you don’t plan to work hard, save ‘x’ amount of money etc you have no plan as to how you’re going to make it happen and therefore more likely to not reach your goal so the same can be said for fitness goals. As part of my training as a gym instructor and personal trainer, I’ve learned that you need to and need to encourage clients to set 
S.M.A.R.T goals.

S = specific goal, so instead of saying ‘I want to lose weight’ say ‘I want to lose 10lbs’

M = measurable, so for losing weight it’s measurable by checking your weight on a set of scales

A = achievable, so don’t say something like ‘I want to lose three stone by this time next week’, it’s very unlikely to happen therefore not achievable

R = relevant, something relevant to you, not your partner or your best mate.

T = time bound, set yourself a time limit to achieve your goal, again a realistic time limit, not too short but also not so long that you don’t really have the motivation to get to work on it.

So an example of an S.M.A.R.T goal would be ‘I’m going to run at least half the distance of this year’s Lincoln 10k’ that ticks all of the boxes.

I’ve set myself some goals, some probably without even realising it. The first one was to actually get moving and attend my first exercise class which was Zumba, I was scared, I took four friends with me and I loved it, gradually they stopped going and I made friends with other people that were there and everything started from there. Then I joined a gym but for a long time I didn’t really do anything then three years ago I set myself the goal of taking on a program called the ’12 week challenge’ it was three months of personal training and group sessions with a gym instructor. I was really doubtful I could do it, I knew the other people taking it on and they were all fitter than me. But from chats with some of them and my class instructor, I soon realised they felt the same and we all just needed to work together and focus on our own goals. Through that program, I lost 20lbs and my confidence skyrocketed and I the began to train as an instructor to help people the same way it and my instructor had helped me.

Last year I set myself the goal to take part in Cancer Research’s Pretty Muddy, not only did that involve running but climbing over obstacles and for someone that has always had trouble trusting her own body that was scary. In comparison to other obstacle courses, it’s small but it was huge to me. I did it and not only that I loved it and I can’t wait to take my friend round it this year. I’m setting myself a goal of getting round an obstacle course that’s bigger and harder.

We all need goals in in all aspects of life no matter how big or small and it might be something as simple as trying to leave the house and that in turn gives you the motivation to get out of bed each day. Or it might be that you want to run a marathon and that gives you the motivation to go out running in all weathers, turning down social events so you can train.

So go set yourself some goals, smash them and feel great about it and yourself, you deserve it.

If you have loved reading Clare's post then please go over and check out all her social media links which are below. I hope this post was some help and you get something out of reading the post. 

Clare's - Facebook / Twitter / Instagram  / blog

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