An interview with Maz – Fitness extraordinaire

And so to my latest fitness interview. I’m chatting to my friend Maz, aged 72, who has the fitness of a 30 year old, is easily the coolest person I know and truly an inspiration to me 😘.

Maz at the top of Kinder

What do you do to keep fit?

A variety of exercise classes. My philosophy is to do something that works every part of my body. I do HIIT, GRIT, Circuits, Spinning, Pilates, yoga, bodybalance, body pump and sometimes throw in some dance based classes.

Maz working tomorrow out with weights

That sounds like a lot of classes, how many do you do a week?

I just do 5 a week, Monday to Friday and then walk on the weekends. I will vary which classes I do but always do 2 cardio based, 2 stretch and tone and 1 for strength. The leisure centre where I go have been running brilliant Everybody LIVE classes online during lockdown; the Les Mills classes are really good too.

What is your favourite class?

Definitely spinning. I love it!. I always do one of these a week, although I haven’t been able to during lockdown, so have resorted to hoola hooping and skipping instead; I’ll always find a way 😁.

I started spinning 13 years ago when I retired. Spinning classes are an indoor bike workout, classes last 45 minutes and are quite structured in style although they take place to music which makes it so much fun. We can emulate gears with a wheel dial which corresponds to the resistance you feel and you use different RPM (revolutions per minute) for different sections of the workout; 100-120 RPM for a sprint for example. I love spinning and feel inspired to work hard even when I’m tired.

What has been your biggest achievement in fitness?

I would say qualifying as a spinning instructor when I was 70. I wanted to set myself a target that was fitness related. It was a brilliant course. I went along with a gym buddy who had qualified with another company but didn’t find them as good so joined me at Performance Cycling who were great. There was a lot to learn; you have to ensure you understand the varying positions such as standing climb, hover, standing sprint and why/when you would introduce them into your class. I’m very proud of my certificate. My husband framed it for me (so sweet).

When I asked Maz about whether she teaches spinning she said no she wanted to do the course for fun and to see if she could. She loves to challenge herself and has also done courses on computers, wine, massage and recently started one on hairdressing. (I must ask her about the wine one again sometime 😝). She also told me: “I’ve also been learning to play some tunes on the Ukele 😆”.

Maz during her spinning training

Do you have any aspirations/dreams in terms of fitness, maybe for when you’re 80?

I want to be alive this time next year – does that count 😆? Seriously I just want to maintain my level of activity as long as possible and maintain both physical and mental wellbeing.

What is your approach to nutrition?

I have a really addictive personality. If there is a packet of biscuits I have to eat them all. It’s the same with anything, a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine. I have to be really strict otherwise I’d be 20 stone. I try to be good during the week and then will allow myself some wine and chocolates on the weekend. When I retired I experimented with cutting out carbs like bread, pasta and potatoes. I felt so much better for it. It just suited me I guess. I still have muesli in the morning though, with lots of seeds, nuts and soya milk.

I also tried to start drinking more water when I retired. I immediately noticed how energised I felt. I’m generally eat pretty healthy to be honest. I was laughing with my husband the other day that we’ve had fish and chips 3 times during lockdown. Before that I had it maybe once in every 10 years!

When did you first get into exercising?

I started off with yoga when I was pregnant with my daughter, so 43 years ago. Also during the 1980’s there was the whole Jane Fonda thing and I got into aerobics classes. When I think back to those classes it reminds me of that Victoria Wood skit – do you know the one? I do……

Later on I moved onto swimming and gym and I always managed 3 activities a week whilst working. I really progressed this more after retiring. I guess I’m very self motivated; not competitive mind you but determined.

And there you have it folks, Maz extraordinaire – inspiring 😘

Maz hanging out during the Tour de Yorkshire

An interview with Christine and the Inca Trail

What do you do to keep fit?

I walk most days, between 45 minutes and an hour and then do a 8-10 miler one day during the week when it tends to be quieter. We have walked locally during lockdown obviously. There is a beautiful walk via Etherow Park, Ernocroft Woods, Glossop Road then to Mill Brow, Marple Bridge and back via Peak Forest Canal home.

Since lockdown has eased we’ve been able to walk in Derbyshire, walk up Mam Tor etc. I lived in Bakewell for many years so I know the Peak District well. We also like to walk in North Wales and have walked up and around the Orme with our Nordic poles. Walking is something we’ve sought to include on holidays and really enjoyed walking part of the South West Coast Path and then up North from Whitby to Robins Hood Bay.

How different is it walking with the Nordic poles?

We went for training on how to use these; in Marple Bridge. They make you stand straighter and use your arms more and automatically walk faster. It’s a really good workout.

Have you any other fitness activities?

Yes I was swimming regularly before lockdown. I’m not fast but would swim 40 lengths in a session. I’ve also just started doing Zumba and yoga on Youtube.

Have you ever had any injuries that have held you back from your fitness goals?

Yes I have Mortons Neuroma in both feet. I had orthotics for a while which helped. Now I know I can walk roughly 8 miles before the pain starts so I have to keep my walks to this length.

What is the biggest walk you have done?

Well I climbed Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Scarfell Pike in one summer. We completely ran out of water on Ben Nevis, despite carrying 3 litres each, but we were lucky to get great views up there that day. I’m told its mostly too cloudy to see.

The biggest and most important walk I did though was the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It had been a life long dream to do it. Machu Picchu is located in the Andes mountain range in Peru. The route is a trek through the mountains with three major passes that ascend to 13,775 feet, 12,955 feet and 11,970 feet. After each pass there is a steepish descent with a beautiful trek through the mountains and cloud forest before the next ascent starts.

The total route is only around 25miles so it can be done slowly whilst taking in the amazing scenery all around. Along the way there are several Inca ruin sites which were amazing to see as the only access is on foot so it was very quiet, in contrast to Machu Picchu which is a busy tourist site.

I’d mentioned to someone that it was a dream and he just said book it and then you’ll have to get ready for it, so I did! I started walking a lot more, going to the gym and doing leg stamina exercises. When I came to do the Inca Trail you have to acclimatise a little first. We spent a few days in the Amazon to get used to the climate and then flew to Cusco for our first taste of altitude – an interesting experience where you seem to lose control of your legs. Following a few days of acclimatisation in Cusco we travelled to Km88 at Qoriwayrachina Bridge, which is the start of the trail and the adventure.

You then only walk maybe 5 miles a day due to the altitude. I wore a heart rate monitor to ensure I monitored my pace and level of exertion. We saw people far fitter failing as they went too fast and then couldn’t cope with the altitude.

I was blown away by the place, everywhere you see beautiful Incan ruins along the way and the views of the mountains are just breathtaking. It’s steep going up especially Dead Woman’s Pass where the path is just 2 metres wide with a sharp drop next to you. We camped every night with amazing porters carrying all our stuff, tents, food, cooking stoves etc. One campsite was particularly memorable as we felt as though we were on top of the world camped right on top of an escarpment overlooking the Andes. We got up at 5am to walk up a hill to see the sunrise – the porters brought a kettle and gave us tea.

Campsite overlooking the Andes

I made some great friends on this trip and also met my now husband Gary 😁.

Reaching the Sun Gate and the first sight of Machu Picchu was very emotional and I confess to having a little cry.

Christine on her way up to Machu Picchu
Clockwise from top left, Christine at Whistler in Canada, Christine with Gary cycling in Vietnam, in Spain, Northumberland and at Mam Tor.

An interview with Cath and the Nijmegen Marches

What do you do to keep fit?

I play Squash, Badminton, do aerobics, exercise classes and go walking. Before the pandemic I was playing a number of squash and badminton matches every week as well as doing the other classes. During lockdown I was able to keep up exercise classes via zoom and facebook live, I also went for short walks every day.

You do such a variety of sports. What is your favourite exercise and why?

Definitely squash and badminton. I love the competitive side of it. It’s also very aerobic and there is a lot of skill involved. I look forward to getting back to this soon.

What are your most memorable moments in terms of sport?

There are a few. I did the moon walk, which is a marathon walked at night, to raise money for breast cancer. I did this 3 years in a row having never done any distance walking before training for the first.

Photos taken from two of the walks: Cath after finishing the Moonwalks 2006 and 2007 (top) and donning a Magic themed bra/at the start of the 2006 walk (bottom). The team did the marathon in 5.5 hours in the second year.

I also loved doing the Nijmegen marches. Its the largest multiple day marching event in the world. It runs every year in mid July. There are four days of ‘marches’. We walked on all four days for 25 miles with each route starting and finishing in Nijmegen. The marches have taken place since 1909. Originally it was a military event but now is mainly for civilians although military do participate and we saw a number of groups of them during our walks. It was a massive event and it felt like all of Holland came out to wave at you. It’s very well supported and an amazing atmosphere. We loved it and it was so worthwhile after all the training (we walked up to 50 miles a week in the last few weeks of training).

The Nijmegen Marches. Top left Cath collecting the Gladioli and medal given to those who finish. Gladioli are a symbol of victory since Roman times (Gladiators were thrown these flowers).

Have you had any injuries that have held you up?

I’ve had several relating to my feet! I’ve had issues with my ankles, Achilles and then had Sesamoiditis also. The tendon in my foot gets inflamed and stops you from walking. I had to see a consultant and a podiatrist. Eventually, however, I learnt to cope with it and also recognise the early signs of it coming on. I now know when my calves get tight I need to get them massaged and this helps to prevent the onset of Sesamoiditis.

I also have Sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction. The SI joints link the pelvis with the lower spine and cause me lower back ache and leg pain. I injured it training for an indoor triathlon. I’ve had physio, saw a Consultant and had a steroid injection. I’m now working on strengthening my glutes which helps to prevent the back pain.

You mention an indoor triathlon. What was that about?

A friend of mine, Debra Montague, was diagnosed with ALK positive lung cancer which is not caused by smoking. She set up a charity to raise money and support ALK positive lung cancer patients across the UK. She has done so many things now for this charity and is an amazing woman. She decided to run an indoor triathlon and I agreed to join in. I started training in the August and we did the triathlon in the October. The triathlon raised £15,000 for the charity. You can find more information on the charity here:

You’ve mentioned there was a group doing the triathlon. Do you feel group exercise has been a good opportunity to make friends?

Definately! The exercise classes I go to are now run by an independent company but it was previously part of a Rosemary Conley Franchise. It’s like an exercise company and social club rolled into one. As well as a massive range of exercise classes on offer including HIIT, Dancercise, Pilates, Yoga, Tone, Chair Fit and many more, they also organise theatre trips, barn dances, trips at home and abroad and we all also organise amongst ourselves to meet up for coffee or even breakfast sometimes after a class. We’ve been to Portugal and more recently Madeira. They organised some activities such as a boat trip to see fireworks but its also just an opportunity to socialise and have fun.

Cath relaxing in Madeira

An interview with Emma and running Ultras

What do you do to keep fit?

I work as a landscape Gardner/designer and also as a personal trainer. I love walking my dog, running, fell running and also just recently bought a paddle board. I basically love anything that keeps me moving 😁

What is your favourite sport?

Fell running is my passion. I started off road running but always felt the need to run too fast. I was initially afraid of running out on trails but once I found myself off road, I realised it was more me. I love finding new trails I never knew were there. I feel good out on the hills and found my joy. I also have no knee pain, there is less impact on my joints running off road. I’ve discovered I’m a good downhill runner which I love.

How do you feel when you are out running?

I lose myself in the moment. Sometimes I think a lot about things but mostly I just switch off. I have a very busy brain so its good for me to find that peace; it grounds me. It’s also just a positive thing to do something you love and you get a sense of achievement whatever the distance.

What are your greatest achievements/most memorable moments?

I really remember my first 10K. It was the Manchester 10K which I ran for my dads charity. It was a big deal for me to run 10K then and I felt so emotional to have achieved it. It led me onto more running.

The most poignant run was the Cortina Ultra in the Dolomites. I was blown away by the enormity of the mountains and the distance/elevation (The Cortina Ultra is 50km and has 2,800 metres of elevation). I turned up with my old backpack and probably the wrong gear; surrounded by very professional looking runners with fancy gear from many different countries. It was amazing though and the people are so friendly and helpful. That’s something you find in trail running in general.

Emma before the Cortina d’ampezzo Ultra
Emma running the Cortina Ultra another year

Do you have any comical moments to share?

Well I lost my trainer once. It was an ultra marathon in Leeds. I thought I was just running through fields and then my foot sank right down up to my calf. It turns out it was a bog; I tried pulling my leg out and promptly fell over in the bog. I was then not only without trainer but resembled a buffalo rolling around in the mud 😆.

What is your fitness background prior to the running?

I always wanted to be a dancer. I did a bit of running with my dad but I wasnt really into it back then. I loved contemporary dance and ballet and got into dance college. For personal reasons that didn’t happen and my life took a different course and I became a florist.

How did you go from Florist to Personal Trainer and why?

I did it for my own benefit really. I still do florist work but I wanted to be injury free when running and I was doing more and more Ultras. I had trained for 15 years with my own personal trainer and I still see him now and again. I wanted to learn more about it and be stronger. I love it now and its my passion to help other people. You can find Emmas website here:

You’ve mentioned Ultras plural, which Ultras have you done?

I’ve done the Cortina in the Dolomites, Italy, twice (48km with 2,600m elevation); the Eiger in Switzerland (51km, 2,800m elevation), Mont Blanc (56km and 3,500m elevation). I attempted the Bullock Smithy in the Peak District and I’ve done a few Punk Panther Ultras including the Punk Panther Ultra Leeds (80km) and the Ring O Fire (135 miles around the Isle of Anglesey). I prefer to do ones where I can get points that allow me to do Ultras abroad.

The Eiger Ultra Trail, Grindelwald, Switzerland 2017
Emma running a training trail marathon on Snowdon
Emma with her Mont Blanc medal

What goals/dreams do you have in relation to your running?

I’d like to run every European Mountain or better said the main mountain in every European Country. I was supposed to do the Pyrenees this year but it was cancelled due to the pandemic. I also want to keep helping other people. I would love to guide people to run and realise you can do this no matter what shape you are. You cant always give someone that motivation though. It’s all about self worth and self aspiration, it comes from within.

An interview with Tom, running and bouldering

What do you do to keep fit?

Currently I mostly go running although I’m hoping to get back into rock climbing when I go back to University. This has been on hold due to the pandemic. I also enjoy doing circuits.

Running free

Out of all those activities which do you enjoy most and why?

Rock climbing or more specifically indoor bouldering. Bouldering is done in a climbing centre without ropes as you don’t go up that high and can jump off onto mats. The emphasis is on different types of holds and a great deal of hand, finger, forearm strength is needed. It’s also technically challenging which I enjoy. I get a sense of adventure with doing new levels/routes and its the same with trail running.

I think I always liked climbing/adventuring. When I was young, maybe 7 or 8, I remember being on a beach and seeing a cliff face there. I ran over and climbed all the way to the top not realising it would be harder to get down without ropes. My mum came running over and talked me down slowly!

How does exercise make you feel?

It’s nice to feel I’m staying healthy. During lockdown it was also a good way for me to have a sense of routine since University was closed and jobs were sparse. Most of my other hobbies are sedentary so its good to have something where you are up and on the go.

I think running and climbing compliment each other. When I run I switch off and relax. I’ve tried meditation and I just cant stop my mind from going off here and there. With running I can just accept that. My thoughts will dart all over the place going through my day or other things I want to do but its a relaxing unwinding feeling.

With climbing my mind is very focussed on what I’m doing. Your brain is completely switched on to that very task and there isn’t time to think about anything else except your next hand hold. I like that Ying and Yang of the two different sports.

Do you have any fitness goals or aspirations?

I’d like to progress to more difficult routes on the bouldering side of things and with running it would be nice to do a sub 20 minute 5k or sub 50 minute 10k. I’d also like to do a half marathon or marathon in the longer term. My more immediate aspiration would be to achieve a stronger appearance and feel stronger. I’ve been the one to lose arm wrestling contests with some of my friends. It would be nice to look as if I could win those. It would be good for a feeling of self defence also, to look like someone people wouldn’t want to tackle.

Do you think exercise is good for mental health?

I think being active helps you to switch off and in that sense its very cathartic. It’s also a positive re-inforcement that you are being healthy. In addition it gives you ‘me’ time which I think is so important.

What are your most memorable sporting moments/achievements?

I think there are 2. My mum and I ran the Manchester 10k run just after the Manchester bombings. It felt amazing to run together and with that strong sense of community in the City at that time.

The other was a personal victory for me. I never thought I was good at sport, I wasnt co-ordinated when it came to ball sports. At High School I was entered into a cross country 1500m race against others in my PE group (there were 3 groups across the year). I came first and afterwards people came up to me and said I was like a machine and I would then hear people say ‘oh Tom is good at running’. I’d never been complimented before when it came to sport and it felt really good.

An interview with Maria and dancing

What do you do to keep fit?

I don’t think really think about fitness as such – I dance as I love dancing and keeping fit is more of a side benefit. Having said that I do Pilates as I know its good for me. It helps to keep me strong but dancing is my prime motivation.

How long have you been dancing for?

I started when I was 7 at the Constance Grant dance school in Sheffield. I later moved away from the area and didn’t return to dancing until my teens. Once I did though I took the IDTA Grade 1-5 exams in tap, ballet, stage and modern jazz; and then did the associate (teaching) level – this was and still is my favourite form of dance.

Life moved on and I didn’t dance for many years until I was in my 50’s. Anxiety resulting from stress at work and some depression arising from menopause compelled me to start dancing again. I took up belly dancing which I loved. 

Later on our belly dance teacher started a Tahitian class after the belly dance class. It was brilliant. We shipped over the authentic costumes from Hawaii and did some performances as a troupe.

What components of dance make it such a passion and how does it make you feel?

The music has to be right; I love good choreography and the challenge of learning new steps. This is also why I don’t love dance fitness as its too repetitive and there is no challenge. It’s like a form of meditation – you feel only that moment and forget about all your troubles. I also get a real buzz out of it. (This is how I feel when I run: Note from the author).

What is your relationship with nutrition?

I do love chocolate and cake! However, I’m also aware of what is healthy and what isn’t. I cook everything from scratch every evening and only use good quality ingredients like rape seed oil for cooking. i also make sure i get a good balance of vitamins in my food. At the moment i take an additional Vitamin D supplement as its hard to get enough sun in this country. I wouldn’t eat ready made meals, I like fresh foods and I just think they taste better.

How many classes do you do a week?

When everything is on it would be about 10. 3 Jazz, 3 Pilates, a tap, a Zumba, dance floor fillers and Salsa. Each class is anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour 15.

How has lockdown affected you with regards to dancing?

I’ve been able to continue with some classes, but you cant substitute dancing in front of a teacher in a class. I do classes via zoom; some where they are live on screen but they can’t see you; and some using Youtube – but its harder to follow than in a real class situation and its better to dance with others in a studio.

How important is camaraderie?

It’s very important. I’ve met so many friends via the dance classes and we also meet up after the classes and talk about the dances and other things. It’s nice to have people who share the same passion as you do. It’s very bonding.

Have you had any injuries that have affected your dancing?

I fractured my proximal humerus and it took me 3 months to get back fully to normal. Dance friends used to pick me up and take me to classes and I would sit on a chair tapping my feet (during tap class). I then built up to dancing with one arm (which looked ridiculous) and eventually two arms.

I’ve also had a hip replacement. I started to notice pain in my left thigh during the time I was doing Tahitian dancing. Over several years it got worse and worse and was more evidently in the hip. I had physio and xrays along the way but hip replacement wasn’t mentioned during this time. I carried on dancing but just had to adapt and manage the pain. Dance was still easier than walking mind you! Eventually it was decided I needed a hip replacement and thankfully I had this done last November. I was able to get back to dancing (carefully) after a few months. It’s amazing, its the best thing I ever did.

An interview with Chris and my weekly training

I thought it would be interesting to interview a different person each week to get their insights, feelings and aspirations in terms of sports and fitness. I’m sitting with Chris who has also signed up for triathlons and has many years cycling experience. He is waiting comfortably with a mug of tea and ready to answer my questions.

Chris ascending Mont Ventoux

When did you start cycling?

When I was a kid, I’ve always cycled. One of my earliest memories is cycling from Reddish to Buxton on a fixed wheel bike with my mates. We always stopped at the top of Long Hill as we thought Buxton was a weird place. I remember there were no cars back then.

How did you get into triathlon?

After London Edinburgh London I needed another challenge. I’d swum before and run before. I’d did the Great North swim at Windermere and had run half marathons so people kept saying why don’t you do triathlon so I thought why not.

What made you decide to do LEL (London Edinburgh London) and how much training did you have to do for it?

I really enjoyed Audax already (An Audax is an organised but self supported long distance bike ride). I was sat in a cafe in Hebden Bridge before an Audax and somebody mentioned LEL and my mate said I fancy that and I said lets do it! You don’t have to qualify for it, however, I treated it as if it was PBP (Paris Brest Paris is a qualifying event) and did a 100k, 200k, 300k, 400k and 600k Audaxes in the months leading up to the event.

Out of the three triathlon sports which is your favourite?

Cycling. I’m a natural cyclist, I’ve cycled all my life.

What do you like about running and swimming and why?

I love running because you can do it straight from your front door and it doesn’t require any preparation. I much prefer trail running however to road running. I like swimming, however, having to go the leisure centre for a swim is a bit of a bind. I prefer open water.

What is your next event and how are you going to prepare for it?

My next event is a recently booked 15k trail run in the Lake District. I need to get some hill trail running in for this.

Do you do any other sports?

Yes sometimes I go to the gym and I have a personal trainer. She is great and if you can find a good personal trainer its totally worth the money.

How many training sessions do you do a week?

About 7 or 8. I commute to work on a bike, run once or twice a week, swim once a week, do one or two longer bike rides and see the personal trainer once a week.

How would you describe your diet and does it make a difference to your training?

In the last year I’ve become mainly vegan. The main benefit of this is recovery. I find I am recovering much quicker after exercise than before. I also naturally keep weight off and I’m still getting all the protein and nutrition I need without the shit fats.

Thanks Chris, good luck with the rest of your training 😁

So in terms of my own week training, it was quite a busy week.

On Tuesday I went for a short run but it was faster than usual and I felt really good.

Having a rest after my run. The sleeved top was necessary as I took a backpack that can chafe

On Wednesday I managed 45 minutes on the turbo and on Thursday I did another flat, local run but slightly longer than Tuesdays run at 4 miles.

My husband went for his first swim since the relaxation in rules. I was quite envious of him as I watched him pack up his wetsuit and set off for the Open Water swimming place (my physio says I can start swimming soon but I have to start in a pool so I can stop easily if my shoulder plays up).

On Friday I decided to do a nearby “Col” on my bike. There are no real Col’s around here but there is a strava segment/hill named one so that will do. I was aiming for a PB and got one but honestly I will not try this again when its a) hot and b) rush hour! I carried on after the hill to do my usual up and over loop.

On Saturday hubby and I had a joint session with our personal trainer. It was a fab workout as always and she comes up with such inventive ways to train which makes it really fun.

At the top, lifting the band up with your leg whilst holding on to nearest and dearest. Below doing a kind of one sided Russian twist whilst throwing a ball at a trampoline and catching it 😀

After the PT workout I did an 8 mile hilly trail run. I think it was the slowest I’ve run in a long time and mainly because I had to walk a few stretches. A combination of slippy muddy trails and the muggy weather (which makes me a bit out of breath). Despite this I really enjoyed it. I hardly saw any people and its so lovely to be out on the trails on your own (despite running past a nutter standing behind his van, oddly dressed, mumbling and blowing a whistle)…..

Today I went for a bike ride with hubby. Just 38 miles. We were going to do something a bit longer with another hill in it but we were both somewhat weary today so cut it shorter and stopped for a brew mid ride.

I’m now debating the fact that I should be doing my shoulder physio but am suffering from CBA syndrome… hmmm..