How drinking could affect your marathon training

January 10, 2015 at 7:00
Posted by Rachael Woolston

Running a Spring marathon this year? Then think twice before you sink too many cocktails …


We all know that drinking too much can leave you with a hangover and that strange feeling of breathlessness when you head out for your next run. But in terms of protecting your marathon training, what is far more worth realising is just how much it can knock your immune system.

A recent survey at Loyloa University Healthy System in Chicago asked volunteers to down four to five vodka shots in 20 minutes.

Taking blood samples from participants over the next few hours, they then tested immune cells response to harmful bacteria. At first, the immune system ramps up but within two hours, response safe weakened.  Add to that the effect of long training runs on your immune system and it is a recipe for illness.

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MOT massage

December 3, 2012 at 10:48
Posted by Rachael Woolston

Masssage, yoga and foam rolling helps keep you in touch with your body

When most women, or men for that matter, start to exercise or run,  they often ignore the need for massages. Result? Bang, that niggle turns into a full blown injury and all their plans to get fit fall by the wayside.

But if you follow a good stretching protocol, with a regular Yoga for Runner’s class, foam rolling and sports massage, you can stay on top of your game. It is how the elite do it too.

Even though Jessica Ennis may seem like a machine who never has a  niggle in her life,  she sees her physio, Alison Rose once a week.

‘It’s maintenance and making sure we catch things before they develop ito an injury,’ says Jessica.

Having a mssage can also put your mind at rest and reveal that something you were worried about as being serious is quite common. And it also helps you to engage more with your body, and understand all the cogs that go into making it work efficiently.

Take Jess for instance. She may have a tight hamstring but is it down to her legs? Not according to Alison Rose.

‘Jess might have a tight hamstring that is actually the result of a rib moving out of place because she has been throwing the javelin.’

Of course, we are not all elite athletes and many people put off massages due to cost,which can vary between £25 and £65.

But what is more important? Your health, and ongoing ability to exercise with all the benefits this entails to your mood and health, or four months of exercise followed by a months out due to injury?

We know which we would prefer.

Fancy getting a check up with Jessica’s physio? A full body MoT with Alison Rose costs £95, including treatment and exercises at the Coach House Sports Physiotherapy Clinic

If in Brighton, get in touch for our recommended massage and physio partners.


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Race photos

November 22, 2012 at 4:57
Posted by Rachael Woolston

Performance crew at Spartan Beast

Pictures speak a thousand words. Do you heel strike, are your hands hanging limp, is your foot collapsing as you take off?

All this and more could be divulged from a race photo. So, if you ran the Brighton Brooks 10k this weekend, or any other race nationwide and want the chance to get chance  find out what your race pic says about your running email us your pic in JPeg format and you could get a personalised report from top physio, Tom Goom of Brighton’s The Physio Rooms.

Email with subject Race Photo. If chosen, you must agree to having your race pic posted on our site.


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Look good in races

November 15, 2012 at 6:08
Posted by Rachael Woolston

We have lift off – both feet off the floor

No one ever likes their race photographs. There you are, feeling pleased with  yourself for entering and completing a race, only for the race photos to hit your inbox. One quick glance is all it takes to make even the most experienced of runners feel like giving up.

In place of the lithe, springy, sleek Jaguar? A flat footed, runner with terrible posture and an unfortunate gurn. And that’s not to mention the fact that race photographs always manage to make you look like your walking.

In fact, there is a whole industry dedicated to showcasing just how bad race pictures can be (Seriously Ugly Race Pictures) but perhaps it is not surprising considering how many photographers have to snap during a typical race.

‘It can be a bit scatter gun,’ admits event photographer Kathy Archery, ( who has papped runners at events including the Brighton Marathon and Reading Half Marathon. ‘But it is possible to get a good race photograph with the right tips.’

Here’s Kathy’s top tips for ensuring you get a good race picture.

1. Smile at the photographer

‘If you engage with a photographer, you are more likely to attract their focus so that they will get a more decent photograph. Besides, smiling means you are less likely to be caught with runner’s jowls.’

2. Dress well

‘Wear tight fitting tights and a top, ideally with a splash of colour,’ advises Kathy. ‘So many women runner wear baggy, cotton t-shirts in a bid to hide their body but it makes you look bigger, and draws attention to lumps and bumps.

‘Tight-fitting is much more flattering.’

3. Wear your hair back

‘ If you have long hair, tie it back in a pony tail rather than letting it blow all over your face.’

4. Work those arms

‘Don’t let the hands hang lose,’ says Kathy. ‘Pump them to propel your running, or even wave.’

5. Channel your inner Kenyan

‘Concentrate, look focused and pick your knees up and speed up to ensure good form.’

And even if your race photos are hideous, they are not wasted.

A photograph speaks a thousand words, and when it comes to your race snaps, you can read a lot about your biomechanics, posture, and technique.

Want to find out what your photograph says about your biomechanics? Email them to us at (if you are prepared to have them featured on our site) . We will choose three photographs and physio, Tom Goom of The Physio Rooms and author of excellent blog, The Running Physio will  provide his top tips on what your picture says about your running form.



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Winter running: What to wear

October 23, 2012 at 4:08
Posted by Rachael Woolston

As the cold draws in, the wind carries the icy breath of Siberia and puddles deepen, Victoria Del Federico shares her hard earned tips on essential winter running kit


Trail shoes

I used to think these were only for gazelle-like runners, not for mere ordinary mortals like myself.  But as I began running more off-road, slithering down muddy tracks with my legs turned to jelly from the monster hill I’d just come up, I soon began to realise that trail shoes are  a godsend in the winter.

A word to the wise though, don’t just buy any old pair like I did. Try out a few pairs and treat your purchase as importanty as you do when you are buying your usual running shoes.

Can’t afford trail shoes and your normal running shoes? Don’t worry, trail shoes are not essential but they can make you feel more comfortable up on the trails in winter.

Our Fitbitch winter pick for 2012 are Salamon Speedcross, £95



Wave goodbye to cold hands

Hands are the first thing to feel the cold when you are running in the winter, and there is nothing more miserable than icy fingers.

Not only does it feel horrible, gripping your hands can tighten shoulders, lungs and result in headaches.

Opt for water resistant,windproof gloves with pads on the fingers so you can use your IPhone or music without having to take them off.

Don’t try getting away with every day gloves – I started out running a year ago wearing heavy duty fluoroscent ones. They not only made me look like a bin man, but were far too hot and heavy.

Try Brooks Adapt Glove, £17.99 (, with a water resistant windshield when it turns misty, a thumb pad for IPhone use, and even a magnet that keeps the gloves together when not in use.


You can lose up to 75% of your body’s heat through your head so running with a hat during winter is a must, particularly if you want to keep that windy chill from freezing the tips of your ears.

Go for a high tech, lightweight fabric that wicks away sweat and if you have long hair, one with a hole for your ponytail is essential. Otherwise your hat just rides up your head leaving you looking like a Smurf.

Alternatively, if like me, you get too hot running with a hat, try a fleece headband like Ronhill Run Headband, £9.95 ( You may risk looking some Eighties throwback but believe me, you won’t care.

Keep your ears warm

Running jacket

Photos of me running last winter show me swathed in high viz commuter cycling gear. High spec it might have been, but designed for running? It certainly wasn’t.

If you can only afford to invest in one piece of kit for your winter running wardrobe, make it a decent running jacket. It makes a huge difference to your running comfort and enjoyment.

Whatever you do though, don’t waste your money on shower proof or water resistant jackets, as they just don’t cut it. It should be lightweight, so you can carry it without even noticing the extra weight if you need to take it off, as well as being water proof, wind proof and also breathable.

Most running jackets fall down when it comes to sweat-wicking, which just means you just get cold and wet from the inside.

Of course, all that technology comes at a price but get the right one and it will last. My money’s on the Original Mountain Marathon (OMM) Kamleika jacket, £150 (worn by Fitbitch coach, Rachael who has had her’s for three years). It really is the business.

Don’t go cheap


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Race preparation: The Seven Day Countdown

October 9, 2012 at 6:34
Posted by Rachael Woolston

Calm pre-race jitters by focusing on that finish line elation

After spending weeks training for a race, you don’t want it all to go wrong with poor choices made in the week before your race.

Here’s our five point checklist of what you should do the week before.

Seven Day Countdown

1. Turn on the water works

Drink lots. Ensuring you are well hydrated is not just something you should be thinking about on the morning of the race. Aim to be drinking 2-3litres a day in the lead up to an endurance event.

2. Get your beauty sleep

Your body needs to be well rested so that your muscles are fully repaired and ready for the race. It is while you are asleep that the body does essential repair work, so don’t burn the candle at both ends.

3. Eat well, don’t pig out

Before you think this is license to eat cake, and lots of it, think again even if you are doing a marathon.

Your muscles can only hold a certain amount of stored energy in the form of carbohydrates. All too often marathon runners fall into the trap of overeating cakes and chocolates just because they think their running gives them license to do so.

Obviously, your energy requirements will be different to someone doing a shorter race, and you want your muscles to be ready with stored energy. But slow to medium GI carbohydrates, with good sources of protein such as a seafood pasta or risotto, or fish with sweet potato is good enough.

(For anyone running shorter than a half marathon, or a race that will take less than two hours, there is no need to eat anymore than  you usually do. Sorry!)

4. Perfect  your preparation

Don’t wait until the morning of the race to attach your race chip, pin on  your number, decide what to wear or try to figure out your pace. All this should be done in the week leading up to the race.

Decide what you are going to wear to race in, as well as to the start line to keep warm (remember, you can wear a t-shirt and throw it away so you don’t shiver on the start line).

In fact, it is worth trying on your race top with your number attached. Many race numbers are not very flexible and don’t sit particularly well on your chest if your a woman. Try it and find the best race number position.

Have your race bag ready, packed with everything you need for before the race and afterwards.

If you know you are going to be nervous, practise putting on your kit as if it is race day.  Feeling comfortable with what you can control will help you feel calm on race day.

5. Keep your legs ticking over

The question of what type of running to do and for how long before an endurance event is very individual. You have to do what feels right for your body. But what how do you decide what is right if this is your first endurance event?

Basically, don’t go off and do a heavy pace of hill session. Keep sessions light with a pace session but not full out, or a short distance run, perhaps half at your race pace and the rest at a recovery run pace.

If you have been used to running day in and day out, not doing anything will just leave you feeling rusty on race day.

And to calm  your  pre-race jitters? Focus on that incredible feeling of elation and sense of accomplishment you will feel on the finish line.

You will get there, and while the route there on the  day may feel tough, it makes that finish line feeling all the sweeter.


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Long runs: How to ensure you are drinking enough

September 13, 2012 at 3:39
Posted by Rachael Woolston

Do sweat the small stuff...

Whether you are running long distances (over 90mins) in hot or cold weather conditions, knowing how much water to drink is vital to your performance.


1. Most crucially because it helps to regulate your body temperature.

As you exercise, your body temperature rises and you sweat to help cool your body down. Lose the ability to sweat and you could risk heat exhaustion and even death.

2. Your joints, cells and organs also require water for joint lubrication and to digest and store the nutrients need to work efficiently and effectively.

What happens if you don’t drink enough? Headaches, cramping, nausea and lack of co-ordination and balance, all things you want to avoid if you are already mentally trying to cope with putting one foot in front of the other on a long run.

You should ensure you hydrate sufficiently on the week leading up to a long run, don’t just wake up and glug down two litres an hour. And ensure you have plenty of water when you are training long distances.

How to  know if you are drinking enough?

‘Weigh yourself before and after exercising,’ reccommends Jeni Pearce, Head of Performance Nutrition at The English Institute of Sport. ‘If your body weight has decreased by more than 2% you have not drunk enough.

‘If it has increased you are drinking too much and it is not clearing your gut.’

So, if you are about to start training for a marathon, get your hydration training in early on.

Our Brighton Marathon 2013 training starts the week commencing 29th October for total beginners. Later start dates for those more experienced. For details visit our running club site

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How to get a tummy like an Olympian

August 7, 2012 at 1:35
Posted by Rachael Woolston

Misty May-Treanor shows how a strong core means power and stabilisation Copyright Getty Pics

Watching the Olympics, whether its the sprinting or beach volleyball, you can’t help admiring the flat, toned tummies of the female athletes.

So, how do you get a tummy like Jessica Ennis or any of the other incredible female athletes? Obviously, it requires a great deal of training and these athletes are not doing it for the purpose of looking great but to ensure they are stronger, faster or more powerful in their javelin throw, sprint, spike or whichever sport they play.

But even behind all of that training, it also comes down to eating well.

‘Diet is key as the surface layer of fat covering the abs needs to thin enough for them to show through,’ explains Jessica Ennis’ coach Toni Minichiello. ‘The first rule of six-packs is less food unfortunately.’

If you get that right, try these three exercises which will  not only help tone your tummy but help prevent injury, backache and make you a better runner (or javelin thrower if you fancy trying it out). These are all intermediate exercises and not recommended for beginners.

The Plank

The queen bee of core exercises, if done correctly this helps to flatten the tummy and protect the back. To do correctly, lie on your tummy, and bring your elbows directly under your shoulders, palms facing up. Come on to your feet so your body creates a straight plank, imagining there is an invisible cord pulling you from the crown of your head through to the tail of your spine.

DON’T: Dip your hips and avoid clasping your hands or legs together which just encourages your leg muscles and upper back to take over. This is an intermediate exercise so do not attempt if you are a beginner.

Tuck Sit ups

Lie down flat, legs out straight in front of you and then sit up quickly, drawing your legs up and in as if you are doing a tuck jump. Repeat as fast as possible for 20.

DON’T: use your hands to pull yourself up, or raise your hips off the ground. If you find yourself doing this stop. Also ensure your shins stay parallel with the ground throughout; bringing your heels to your bum is cheating.

Oblique Sit Ups

These work the muscles in the side of the tummy, which help cinch the waist in, and are great for bringing strength to twist and throwing movements, and also help power sprinters and runners.

Lie on your back, legs bent. Drop your knees to the right hand side and now crunch up in small movements ensuring your elbows stay wide in your peripheral vision. Ensure your knees stay down and that you raise up equally rather than lifting just on one side. Do 20 and switch to the other side.

DON’T clasp your hands behind your neck and cause strain on your neck, or flap your arms to come up. Keep your elbows wide and in line with your ears throughout the movement.



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Notes from The O…Rowing Rocks!

August 6, 2012 at 2:18
Posted by Rachael Woolston

Row for rehab, run or the sheer physical enjoyment

One thing  is for sure, Olympics 2012 has got everyone fired up and inspired to exercise.

It is partly because it is amazing to watch the incredible physical feats of endurance, strength, speed or sheer grace that athletes have demonstrated. But let’s be honest, this is mixed in part with admiration and ‘I want one like that’ attitude for their incredibly honed physiques.

The rowing physique is a case in point – who hasn’t watched our women rowers, Kat Copleland, Sophie Hosking, Heather Standing and Helen Glover row to victory this 2012 and not been in admiration of their incredible strength, fitness and honed shoulders, arms and legs?

And while many people tend to assume that rowing only targets the upper body, the legs, core and bum are vital.

‘Your legs do  most of the work,’ explains Anne Richardson, a coach for British Rowing. ‘If you arms ache more than your legs it’s a sign your technique needs attention.’

It means that rowing is a fantastic form of training for runners who are  injured because it works all the major leg muscles and really turns up on the glutes in the bottom. And then there is that cardio burn too.

Small wonder that the numnbers of women over the age of 45 who have taken this up since 2009 have increased by 40%.

If you want to try it yourself visit Explore Rowing, an initiative started by British Rowing in 2010 designed to get more people rowing.


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Fitbitch Dispatches…The Barefoot Convention

July 27, 2012 at 1:38
Posted by Rachael Woolston

Barefoot Ted leads a run from the Natural History Mueseum

Last month, we were  invited to the U.K’s first Barefoot Convention, hosted by Primal Lifestyle and featuring some of the world’s foremost experts on barefoot running, including the ultra runner, Barefoot Ted and Vivobarefoot coach, Lee Saxby.

It was held in the Natural History Museum, a fitting location  as the premise of the barefoot running movement is that we were forced to evolve to become efficient barefoot runners over long distances due to the need to hunt for food, or risk starvation and death.

Fast forward 2.5million years, and barefoot experts now argue that modern day running shoes with built up heels and motion control support have changed our natural gait and foot strike which is contributing, rather than preventing  injuries.

As Barefoot Ted, who came to prominence with the book, Born to Run says; ‘Barefoot is not a fad. The fad is what we are just coming out of …how to take us and bring us back to where we were.’

Which is all well and good, but what does this this debate mean for the reality of runners? And should we all make the transition to barefoot in the hope it means less injuries and a better running experience?

At FitBitch, we agree with the principle of barefoot running and teach some barefoot techniques to help make runners think about their gait, conditioning and foot strike.   But that does not mean that everyone should necessarily throw away their trainers and head for the hills.

While purists of barefoot running would argue (vehemently) that barefoot running is for all, what I see time and again at barefoot meetings, or in interviews with barefoot runners, is that many are already movement specialists, running or strength and conditioning coaches.

Even Barefoot Ted himself admitted ‘I had some understanding of what it meant to be barefoot,’ having had a background in skate boarding and surfing before he ditched his trainers.

Is it then any wonder that barefoot purists have made the transition to barefoot running so easily? And why few understand that it is not as easy or as relevant for all.

At Fitbitch, we teach women from all different walks of life and experiences of fitness, from the very fit to the total beginner. Some  want to race and don’t have the time to regress their running to do a gradual build up to barefoot running.

Other’s just want to get fit, and if they started out having to follow a program of very short distances for weeks on end, any feel good endorphins and sense of achievement would be lost. And with that, the desire to continue to run which would be the biggest tragedy of all.

After all, the reason and motivation to run for most of us is not the accolades or the PBs, but simply because it makes us feel good.

And somewhere in the barefoot running debate at the conference that aspect – the feeling of being in touch with your surroundings, seems to be getting lost.

As a final word on the convention, it came  to barefoot coach Lee Saxby, to be the voice of reason.

After a decade of treating injuries amongst heel strikers, Lee admitted that he has spent most of the last two years rehabbing injured barefoot runners. Why? Because people are not conditioned enough to do it or don’t have the correct technique.

‘If you’re going to heel strike, you’re better off wearing a shoe,’ he explained.

If you want to give barefoot running a go, don’t just think that putting on a pair of Vibram FiveFingers or taking off your trainers immediately makes you a better, more efficient runner. You are the same runner just with less cushioning.

It requires a long, gradual transition, technique workshops and coaching and then barefoot running may reward you well. But let us not get hung up on the issue –  running however you do it, allows you to explore your landscape, both geographically and mentally. It lays open the world at your feet, whether they are in trainers or not.

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How to run in the sun: running tips

July 23, 2012 at 12:42
Posted by Rachael Woolston

Hurrah, at last the summer heat has arrived. But what does this mean for your running?


Just a few degrees rise in body temperature can affect your body, so knowing what to do when running in the heat to prevent it affecting your performance – or worse – is important.


Replace lost salts

It goes without saying that you should drink sips of water every ten minutes, if you are planning to run longer than 30mins in the heat. But as important on long runs is replacing lost body salts as we sweat.

It is vital to replace these salts as without them, your body has no way of keeping your body cool. Our favourites are Nuun Tablets,  which you add to water and help replace salts.


Train for it

Particularly relevant for our runners who are currently training for the marathon and 30k in Lake Garda, is getting used to the heat. It is why many Olympic athletes will accaimitise themsevles in a host country before a big competition so their bodies are prepared. (not sure how they7’re going to fare this year, with full on rain, low temperates followed by this week’s heatwave?!)

‘Build up slowly by running at a gentler pace or for shorter distances at first, and your body will adapt to running in warm conditions,’ advises Dr Watson.

Get protected

With exposed skin and increased perspiration, runners are amongst the most at risk from skin damage. High factor, sweat resistant products, such as P20, reduce the need for re-application and will ensure that you don’t return from a long run looking like a lobster.

Protect your peepers

Eyes are in danger from UV rays, so wear sunglasses, to minimise the risk of cataracts and retina damage, as well as keep headaches at bay.

Dress right

Synthetic, porous fabrics wick away sweat better than  cotton t-shirts and allow your body to cool more easily. Look for technical fabrics, such as CoolMax® or Dri-Fit, which are particularly good at moisture management.

Cap it

A specialist running cap, made of breathable fabrics, will help to manage your core temperature, by keeping direct sunlight off your head. We love Salamon XA Camp, from £16 available at

And lastly, listen to your body

‘When you body shows certain symptoms, such as headaches or cramping don’t ignore it,’ advises  Dr Philip Watson, Research Fellow at Loughborough University.

Symptoms of heat stroke in particular should be heeded.  These can include dizziness, nausea and feeling chilled. If you feel any of these symptoms, find shade and drink some water or a drink with electrolytes. Ignoring these early warning signs could result in heatstroke, a potentially fatal condition.


Copy: Lucy Grewcock


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Bike for a better butt

June 1, 2012 at 1:44
Posted by Rachael Woolston

Olympic cyclist, Victoria Pendleton

Olympic cyclist, Victoria Pendleton

Want to improve your running? Get on your bike.

Whether you are bored with your training, or you’ve overdone the running and are now injured and feeling frustrated,  cross training could be the solution.

This helps minismise the risk of injury through overuse patterns, or helps to keep your training going if you are injured, and cycling is one of the best compliments to running.

‘Many women who are new to running over do their mileage and end up with shin splits or achilles injuries,’ explains physiotherapist, Anna Cox, ( ‘Adding cycling encourages active recovery, and allows you to still work the muscles with less impact on the joints.’

Alhthough cycling is not only useful for new runners but could also help dramatically boost your performance if you are a seasoned pro.

‘Cycling recruits the gluteal muscle,s which are major stabilisers in running,’  explains running coach Rachael Woolston ‘ All too often, these are weak in runners and cycling really helps to strengthen them helping to improve your efficiency and strength as a runner.’

And, it also helps shape your bottom, which is great for a bikini too!

Try entering a cycling event to give your cycle training focus. The women’s only Cycletta series organise rides for beginners to seasoned pros. Choose from 40km, up to an 80km race starting from £42 for entry.

For more information visit

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Post marathon blues?

April 24, 2012 at 3:39
Posted by Rachael Woolston

Got the runner's blues?

You’ve spent months training for the marathon, and the last eight weeks of that dreaming of a time when you don’t have to spend every weekend running, thinking about running or eating so that you can run.

But now it’s all over and you have sworn you would never run another marathon, how many of you are feeling just a tiny bit blue?

You are not alone as once the novelty of drinking wine and not having to get up and run on a Sunday morning has worn off, many runners report feeling lost without their marathon training.

So, what can you do to prevent the runner’s blues? And more importantly ensure all that hard work and training doesn’t go to waste?

1. Go short

Enter a series of shorter races, such as 5 or 10ks or even an obstacle race. This will allow you to work on your speed, keep you training without the risk of injury that can occur when you have a long list of marathons to race.

2. Switch your sport

Do something entirely different such as volleyball, or biking. It will help you to see fitness as fun again, particularly if you have the runners’ blues but dread the thought of looking at a training plan for a while.

3. Enter a ‘life’s dream’ marathon

If you already know that you would like to run another marathon, don’t must think of repeating the one that you have already done. The temptation to stick to what you know, in an effort to beat your time can see many runners do the same marathon year after year.

Why not use running as a way of exploring the world and choose a race in a country that you have always longed to go to? That way, you can run the marathon and get a holiday.

(The FitBitch running club head to Lake Garda 2012 marathon if you wish to join us – there’s a 15k race for those who would prefer a shorter race.)


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