Well Done Claire & Dave Grima!

A huge congratulations to our incredibly fast trainer Claire & her husband Dave, who raced in the Amsterdam Marathon a couple of weeks ago.

Claire shot around the course in 2:49:18, & Dave slightly faster at 2:48:45. We're a bit miffed that this is the first time Claire has been beaten by her husband at this distance. But we're confident she'll leave him for dust next time!

Get in touch if you'd like some personal training sessions with Claire. Whether you want to beat your marathon PB, or run a 10k for the first time, Claire's your girl!

Posted by Heather Waghorn.

It's Marathon Time Again

We wish all of our clients, friends & especially our HA fitness trainer, Claire Grima, a fantastic race on Sunday. We'll be cheering you on all the way & look forward to hearing your post-race stories next week.

Huge congratulations to our client, Mandy Brown, for running the Boston Marathon on Monday. It's really saddening that what should have been a day of triumph & festivities turned into something so horrific. Let's not allow it to change the way we enjoy & participate in big sporting events in the future.

Feeling inspired?

Running a marathon is an experience that's difficult to put into words. It's a mixture of passion, pleasure & pain. However there's something really inspiring about watching those runners pushing themselves to the limit to cross that finish line. Maybe it could be you next year?

If you're thinking about putting your name down for a race, doing a run for charity or simply want to improve your fitness levels, get in touch. We can motivate, advise & help you to achieve your goals, & have a bit of fun too!

Posted by Heather Waghorn.

Knowing Me Knowing You - Spotlight on Claire Grima


As personal trainers, a crucial part of our job is getting to know all of our clients as quickly as possible – your individual goals, likes and dislikes, how to motivate each and every one of you, know when you're really pushing yourselves (and when you're not...) and of course to work safely, taking into account each individual’s injuries or health considerations.

We think we know you all pretty well these days, but as the HA fitness team has grown in recent months, we thought we'd turn the spotlight back on ourselves and help you get to know us a bit better. Starting with the newest member of our team, Claire Grima, we sent Kate Dorward out to find out more about Claire and what makes her tick.

Kate: Let's start with the big on earth did you manage to run a marathon in 2 hours 49 mins, just 10 months after giving birth?

Claire: I did a lot of running before I fell pregnant so carried on running (not so intensively) until halfway through my pregnancy. At that point it felt like the right time to stop, although I must admit I really missed it! 

At my 6 week postnatal check I was delighted when the doctor said I could run again. I took it very steadily and had to stop for a couple of weeks with a sore back; a common postnatal problem related to a lack of core strength, but after a month or so I started to see big improvements which really motivated me. I did a half marathon when my baby was 4 months and was surprised how my speed had come back.  It was then I decided to go for the marathon again.

After 6 / 7 months I stopped breastfeeding so was able to train as intensively as I had for previous marathons. I'm still not quite sure how I managed a personal best! I think it was a combination of having a good run on the day, my husband doing the marathon with me (a bit of healthy competition is always motivational) and possibly just being a lot more active now with a baby, rather than sitting at an office desk. I never thought I would break the 2hr 50min mark, but as I got closer to the finish and I realised it might be possible it really spurred me on.

Kate: How do you find the time to exercise now you have a baby?

Claire: I am really lucky to have an understanding husband and an amazing mother-in-law who is always happy to help out and provide me with the time to run or get jobs done! I am also incredibly lucky to have a good baby, who has generally slept through since he was 6 months old.

Finding the time to exercise with a baby involves a lot of planning tag team with my husband. On a Sunday night we plan the week as to who runs on which night. He runs at lunch time or to work some days so I can run in the evenings, and when I was training for the marathon I tried to run a couple of times during the week with the buggy.

At the weekend we generally go after each other for a run, but sometimes a friend or family will babysit so we can run together.

It’s not always that easy to get going. Some nights I just don’t really feel like going out running, but my husband always encourages me and I know he is right - I always feel so much better if I go out  than if I planned to go and then didn't.

Kate: Running a marathon is clearly very ambitious and not the norm for most of us so soon after giving birth (I didn’t do any exercise until my daughter was 5 months and I didn’t run until she was about 9 months), but as a new mum, what advice can you give to other new mum's who want to get back in shape, but who struggle to fit gentle exercise into their schedule?

Claire: Exercising with friends and planning a time helps you to stick to it. Exercising with your baby is definitely a great thing to do. Brisk walking is such good exercise, especially pushing a buggy. I know going for coffees with other mums is an essential part of new mums’ lives, but to catch up over a good long walk as alternative will really help get your fitness back and actually help you feel revitalised.

I think if you are able to change your mind-set and make exercise a fixed part of your routine rather than something you do occasionally as and when you feel like it, then it will become habitual.

Kate: What kinds of exercise do you recommend for getting back into shape after pregnancy?

Claire: Buggyfit classes!! Other than that, brisk/power walking is definitely a good option as you can take your baby with you and pushing a buggy uphill can be pretty intensive, getting your heart rate going and burning fat. Gentle jogging is not for everyone, but once you are comfortable walking at a good pace it can help you take your fitness to the next level.

The one thing that is a must is core stability work. Carrying a baby for 9 months really takes its toll on your tummy and back muscles, and with all the carrying, contorting and lifting that is an integral part of a mummy’s life, the more you can do to strengthen your core the less likely you will get back and hip pain/injuries.

When starting any exercise programme it’s important to listen to your body. If you get too exhausted then both you and your baby will suffer. If you are breast feeding then it is crucial that you eat and drink enough to cope with the additional demands of exercise on an already busy life.

Kate: How did you get into fitness?

Claire: I have always enjoyed exercise and sport. At University I started rowing. This introduced me to fairly intensive training programmes, circuit and weight training. With rowing you really had to be committed because you were relied on by the rest of the crew.  It is also an endurance sport which has distinct parallels with long distance running.

I have always run to keep fit and entered my first half marathon in 2003, which I did ok in. I then did my first marathon in 2004 and have loved the challenge of beating my own times since then.

Kate: What or who inspires you?

Claire: My husband told me to put him!!

As a female runner, Paula Radcliffe is an obvious choice but Haile Gabrselassie (another long distance runner) is also amazing. I have a newspaper article on the back of our toilet door about him, which I have read many times and find very inspirational.

Kate: How do you keep motivated?

Claire: Coming back from having my baby I have found that my running times have improved in nearly all the distances I run (especially in the last 4 or 5 months) so that definitely encourages me. I find having a fixed goal works for me, so I make sure I have races lined up to keep me motivated.

For me the fear of losing fitness will always keep me on my toes.

Kate: How do you like to relax?

Claire: Like most of us I enjoy a glass of wine, watching a film or going for a walk in the countryside with some good company. I also love music and going to gigs. We were able to take our son to Glastonbury this year where he celebrated his first birthday.

My other favourite sport is snowboarding and we did manage to go this year with my then 8 month old, which was great.

I don’t only run for fitness. I find it’s good time out for myself and I always feel de-stressed after a good run. 

Kate: This is the question we all really want to know the answer too, with all that running and healthy lifestyle surely you must have a weakness or two?

Claire: I love chocolate and have a sweet tooth. If there is one thing I can’t resist it’s a lovely, gooey chocolate brownie!

Kate: Finally, what's your next big challenge?

Claire: It’s quite a challenge enough juggling my new job with being a mum!!  Because of that I don't have any really big challenges lined up at the moment, but watch this space...!

- - -

Look out for interviews with the rest of the HA Fitness team: Kate, Heather and Sheldon in our Knowing Me Knowing You series!

Posted by Heather Waghorn.

Pleasure or Pain: What Drives You?

Understanding your motivation for getting fit is the first stage in bridging the gap between sitting on a sofa thinking about exercise, and actually going out and doing it.

Identifying the triggers that drive you, and using them as a springboard to getting and staying fit and healthy, is the key to success.  The more you focus on these, the more likely you’ll be able to fire up your enthusiasm for a healthy lifestyle.

So what encourages you more, the carrot egging you on or the stick beating you up?

Running Away From Pain

The stick is something that you want to move away from, you may like to think of it as a form of pain. It could be a health issue you want to stay clear of such as obesity and heart disease, or physiological problems like stress or depression.

The catalyst could be your doctor dropping some strong hints, or a friend or family member suffering from these complaints.

The motivation comes from your fear of the stick and wanting to take action to avoid it at all lengths. If you keep reminding yourself of this potential beating, it can be a really powerful self- motivator.

Try taking measurements or photos of how your body is changing as you get leaner and fitter. Look back at these and remind yourself that you don’t want to go there again!

Pursuing Pleasure

The pursuit of pleasure can also be a very powerful self-motivational tool. This is the carrot, or aspiration. It’s about wanting satisfaction by achieving something significant. For example, running a marathon, racing a PB, losing 2 stone etc.

Setting realistic goals and bite-sized targets is key. It doesn’t have to be a marathon or reaching a specific weight. It could be completing 3 workouts a week, or managing to run up a particular hill.

Visualisation can be a very powerful motivational tool. Picture yourself finishing a race or buying clothes in a smaller size. Imagine how good you’ll feel, and how proud you’ll be of your achievement.

Treat yourself when you achieve a step towards your goal. There’s no law against self-bribery!

Moving Beyond The Carrot & Stick

So what happens when you achieve your goals and the stick becomes a distant memory?

You may find that your motivation starts to diminish, so it’s important to plan ahead to avoid drifting backwards and having to start the whole cycle again.

Set new goals, challenges and targets and keep adding in variety by trying out different things. You may have moved from being in fear of the stick to wanting to pursue the pleasurable goals. Keep it interesting and inspiring and try to maintain the momentum. Look at what you’ve achieved and where you want to go next.

Don’t Stop Me Now!

Believe it or not, at some point you may actually find that you enjoy exercising. This is your ultimate goal, when fitness becomes a way of life and you’ll need less and less to rely on the stick or the carrot to keep you going. You train because that’s what you do and who you are.

Remember, regular exercisers don’t waste time sitting on the sofa weighing up the pros and cons of doing a workout, they just get on with it!

Posted by Heather Waghorn.

Fancy a Challenge? How about running 7 marathons in 7 continents in just over 5 days!

I love hearing stories about people who push the physical limits of the human body, and take on extraordinary challenges and adventures. Top of my Herculean list at the moment is Richard Donovan, who has just completed a Global Marathon Challenge by running 7 marathons in 7 continents in just over 5 days (and that includes travel!).

Donovan’s recent run around the world began in Antarctica where he battled strong winds, blinding snow and sub-zero temperatures. He then flew to sunny Cape Town, followed by Dubai, London (in the snow!), Toronto, Santiago, and finally Sydney where temperatures rose to 33o!

He completed this gruelling challenge in a total of 130 hours and 8 minutes. During this time, he ran 295km (183 miles), spent over 62 hours ‘resting’ on planes, and flew 43,000km!

To put this into perspective, running a marathon (26.2 miles) is a pretty tough challenge in itself. However with enough groundwork, plus a beefy mental attitude, I believe it’s well within most people’s reach.

Running back-to-back marathons, however, takes things to a whole new impressive level. This type of endurance event is reserved for the hard core, those who are fit enough and sufficiently foolish to attempt it.

But Donovan’s challenge was no measly trot around a few city parks. Not only did he run a huge distance over a short period of time, he also had to contend with sleep deprivation, jet lag, and extreme temperature and weather changes ranging from deep snow to intense heat!

Compare this to your own training over the last few weeks. If you’ve wimped out of going for a run around the block because you thought you might get a bit damp or cold (especially during the recent snow and rain), then let this story put you to shame! These are just mild inconveniences in comparison!

For further inspiration, and to read more about Donovan’s challenge, and GOAL, the charity he ran for, visit his website at

Happy training!


Posted by Heather Waghorn.

What’s the Point of Sports Drinks & Gels?: Part 1

Fueling the Grueling Marathon Miles

You see plenty of weary runners guzzling sports drinks, like Lucazade Sport, on events such as the London Marathon without really knowing what it’s doing to their body and how much they should be knocking back at each mile.

But to understand why and when you should consume sports drinks & gels, it’s first helpful to know a bit about the way your body uses fuel for exercise, and why you get tired on a long run.

Muscle Power

When you start exercising, your main supply of fuel is the glycogen that's stored in your muscles and liver. But this is in limited supply. The harder you work, the faster it’ll run out.

As you tick off the miles during a marathon, your body starts to burn proportionally less glycogen and instead turns to blood sugar and body fat for energy.

Fuel for Thought

However, your brain relies on blood sugar to function properly, and it simply can’t let this supply run out. So as levels drop, your body increasingly switches over to fat as a preferred fuel source.

Unfortunately fat, in comparison to blood sugar and glycogen, takes much longer to be converted into energy. The more your body relies on fat as an energy source, the slower and harder things become.

On top of that, converting fat into fuel requires considerably more oxygen, so you’ll also become increasingly out of breath too!

From relative comfort into pure torture!

After about 2-3 hours, you may develop temporary hypoglycemia. At this point, your body has a depletion of muscle and liver glycogen stores together with low blood sugar levels.

Runners call it “hitting the wall” whilst cyclists refer to it as “bonking”. Symptoms include light-headedness, heavy legs, severe tiredness, and you generally feel like you’re giving a 16 stone man a piggyback!

Read "What’s the Point of Sports Drinks & Gels?: Part 2" to find out how you can make things easier!

Posted by Heather Waghorn.