How to unleash your inner athlete
The incredible athletes of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics have brought around a welcome excitement to a nation emerging from lockdown. A recent survey for the BHF showed that 64% of people said that exercising was a bigger priority for them than before lockdown.
Charged by this excitement, our friends at the natural iron brand Spatone® recently organised a virtual 48 hour sports day in a bid to get us all moving again in the great outdoors.
We caught up with some inspiring people – professional powerchair footballer, a pair of Instagram fitness influencers and a mum-of-two (who had lost her workout mojo during the pandemic) – to share the lessons they’d learned during their own personal fitness journeys.
Hannah Tyldesley and Emily Kier (known as H and E to their almost 66,000 Instagram followers) are Twice The Health, best friends with a passion for strength training and running. Between them they’ve tackled an Ironman, run numerous marathons and ultra marathons, and have accomplished such feats as running the Grand Canyon from rim to rim and 250 kilometres through the Wadi Rum desert. They also run their own UK wide run clubs @wearerunnersuk.
We look to each other for motivation – we’re only human, and despite this being what we love, we have days where we don’t fancy it. Thankfully, it’s usually only one of us that feels like that so we can count on the other to pull us out of the rut. Don’t be afraid to lean on others for motivation.
We know each other inside out, when to give some tough love and when to support each other in a more sensitive manner. Training for these events is taxing, challenging and exhausting. Whether it’s the company for a tough session or someone on the end of the phone to moan to, I’d say a BFF as mad as you is essential.
Exercise because you want to, not because someone else thinks you should. It’s far easier to be motivated by something that sets your soul on fire.
Diarise your sessions just as you would your drinks dates. And take it slow, go at your own pace and be kind to yourself. Progress will happen, it doesn’t have to be instant. We don’t put too much pressure on ourselves to perform at a certain level, that’s just a bonus.
Book events early so you have something to work towards. Our goals tend to be exciting events, they act as our victory lap and motivate us every step of the way. Our advice is, if it scares you, it’s probably worth trying. It’s always worth it.
Don’t neglect rest. It’s much harder to motivate yourself if you’re running on empty.
We’re very fortunate to have never suffered with our mental health, but we believe a lot of this is down to our relationship with running and its ability to calm any situation or worry. It gives us headspace, it gives us endorphins and we feel at our strongest when we run. There’s nothing else like it.
Seek to enjoy food, try and avoid just seeing it as ‘fuel’. We both have big appetites and we always respect them to ensure we are providing our bodies with enough energy to train and recover optimally. Don’t cut out any food groups (unless due to allergy or intolerance, of course).
No guilt here, we do love cake! We often finish our runs, cycles and swims with a coffee and cake.
On Spatone’s virtual sports day, we hosted a live strength session. It was brilliant to empower more people with the way we train.
During our menstrual cycles, our iron requirements increase and we like to ensure we are keeping on top of this. If we feel our diet has been lacking in iron-rich foods then it is nice to know that we can turn to a natural source of iron to cover our backs. Iron binds oxygen to our red blood cells in the form of haemoglobin – endurance events rely on an ample oxygen supply to our muscles, so it’s essential to provide our bodies with enough iron.
The best advice we’ve ever been given is “Don’t be a dickhead in the first half, don’t be a wimp in the second.” That was from ultra coach and incredible athlete Damian Hall.
Our exercise motto is that we are here for a good time, not for a fast time.
Brad Bates, 23, plays powerchair football for West Bromwich Albion PFC and the England senior national team. He has spinal muscular atrophy and has been playing powerchair football for 14 years. His honours include winning the EPFA Nations Cup and the APFA Club Championship. He has also twice won the FA Disability Cup and WFA Cup and won the MDUK Premier League Champion three times, as well as being the Manager’s Player of the season on three occasions.
My condition made me wheelchair bound from the age of 3, but I had a passion for football and, when I was at school, I would referee or coach just so I could be involved one way or another. I came across powerchair football online, got in touch with my local club and I’ve never looked back. That time on the sidelines had a positive impact on the tactical side of my game.
On a typical week I do a 3-hour training session heavily based around technical and tactical work. I also do coaching for a charity named Goals Beyond Grass, which is all good additional training time, as well as being able to pass my knowledge on to a range of players.
After being away from sport and the social benefits that come along with it for so long in lockdown, I don’t really have any ‘can’t be bothered days’. But if I ever need to keep motivated, I try to retain my routine and remind myself why I do what I do. I’ve not put 14 years of work in for one unmotivated day to get the better of me. Ask yourself why; Why do I need to go and train? If I don’t will I be even more frustrated at myself for falling behind and not fighting harder?
Keep a positive support network to provide calm and distraction. As athletes, the majority of the time we are our own harshest critics. We know when we’ve made mistakes and the only opinion that should matter from a sports point of view is that of our coaches.
Set yourself goals. At all levels it can be very difficult to see minor development details. As athletes there will be days after a training session you may not feel you’ve got anywhere or progressed, but setting regular and varied goals is a great way to ensure you’re fully pushing your limits – and an opportunity to be able to give yourself the praise and credit you deserve when you achieve these goals.
Never settle. Even when you reach the very top of your sport, It’s key to focus on your targets and your end goal. And once you’ve achieved them, it’s imperative to push yourself to achieve higher standards. The moment you start to settle is the moment you lose. As soon as you stop trying to better yourself and become content, everyone who was behind you will instantly catch up.
Find balance. It is important to not neglect your life away from sport, whether that’s social life, education, family or relationships. It’s key to ensure there is more to your life than just your sporting side.
Powerchair football has had such a drastic impact on my mental health. Providing me with a platform to excel on and off the court, it’s helped me to grow in confidence as a player, coach, person and even a public speaker. I have a dramatically improved social life, and have made lifelong friends from all across the world.
Throughout my footballing life I’ve had my fair share of mental health problems, from depression and anxiety to a toxic relationship. The one constant throughout all of those was powerchair football. It was the one environment I felt truly comfortable in, and it gave me a much-needed release.
Try a new sport, bite the bullet and give it your all. It will give you such a boost socially and also gives you something to look forward to each week.
Spatone products have been a huge help for me. I struggle with my iron levels so having the sachets is very convenient, and the apple taste is great.
The best advice I’ve ever been given is to just believe in myself and trust my end goal. I can guarantee that if you don’t truly believe you can get to where you want to, you won’t.
You can achieve anything you want to with hard work and a positive mindset. I spent ten years as a goalkeeper for the WBA second team without any success or accolades to my name. All my honours have come in the last 4 years, which in my eyes is all the evidence you need that if you keep the right mindset and keep positive, no matter how long it takes, eventually you can achieve what you aim to do.
My motto for life is a quote from Nelson Mandela: “I never lose. I either win or learn”
Lara Kilner, 46, is a writer, editor and mum-of-two who lives in Brighton. Like many of us, she let her exercise regime and general health and wellbeing practices slide during the pandemic, and her busy life with young children, recently starting a new phase of her career following redundancy, and generally juggling everything at all times, means that she’s not made fitness enough of a priority. She took part in the Spatone Sports Day to kickstart her way back into a healthier way of life.
There’s always been a reason not to workout – I’ve got a deadline to meet, I need to go food shopping, my kids need to be taken to their swimming lesson, the bathroom needs cleaning, And on it goes. But why should exercising not have the same level of priority? I’m starting to reassess my schedule and making sure I do something, however small, every single day of the week.
If I can’t get away from the kids (in the nicest possible way), I literally incorporate them into my exercise. My 7-year-old daughter will be a prop in my floor exercises by lifting her, or having her stand on my feet while I do sit ups. Or she’ll join in and show me her best yoga poses (I’ll never be able to do spider pose quite as well as she does). My 10 year old son is a brilliant athlete, and I can’t run anything like as fast as him, but we play tennis (badly), or the whole family will play frisbee or ping pong. We’re so fortunate to live very close to the beach so, for the Spatone sports day, we all went on a 5 mile bike ride along the seafront, before going for a swim in the somewhat parky British sea.
My next goal is to take up sea swimming. I love swimming and have missed it very much during lockdown. I’ve recently started going to the lido whenever I get the chance, and need to toughen up and join the local DryRobe brigade for a regular sea swim. There’s no point living by the ocean and never getting in the ocean. Friends say it’s like a natural high; I need me some of that.
I’m setting myself running goals. I’m not very good at running, but in February last year, I completed the Couch to 5K and was proud as punch. And then we went into lockdown. The gyms closed and I’m much, much better at running on the treadmill than in the great outdoors, so I immediately lost my mojo. Now I’m back in the gym, my trick to building back up is to set myself very modest goals so as not to be overwhelmed, and then (hopefully) surpass them. So I’ll decide I’m just going to do 1K and then when I get there, decide I’ll keep going until the clock hits 15 minutes, and then I’ll think ‘hang on, I need to round up the number of calories I’m burning so I’ll hang on a bit longer’. And then I’ll think ‘I’d better keep going until it’s half an hour’. I’ll never be a marathon runner but I’m hoping before too long I can at least be back doing a regular 5K.
Every day should be a Pilates day. I used to adore my Monday morning Pilates class to kick off the week and I’ve missed it dreadfully since lockdown. I could never get on board with the Zoom version, but I now try and do at least five minutes of Pilates each day, even if it’s just a few spine curls (the most important one of all, according to my teacher) and a rollover (because I’m not great at this and far better to do it in private).
Always stretch. I never used to bother in the gym (time was a-ticking to get back to work) but it’s so important. If you’ve only got five minutes, focus on the areas you know your own body needs most – for me, it’s those tight calves. After two kids, I always need to be mindful of the old pelvic floor too, so as not to become an incontinent old lady (as the nurse doing my smear tests never fails to mention).
Choose your time well. I know I’m hopeless at lunch time exercising (too hungry) and I definitely can’t do it too late in the evening because that is my precious down time. For me, I either need to go straight after work to freshen and enliven me after a sedentary day sitting at my desk, after which I feel decidedly creaky or, better still, first thing in the morning to kick start the day. I’m much more likely to get the most out of a workout if I’m not forcing myself when I’m knackered or hangry.
Find out more about how to release your inner athlete with Spatone. Spatone® Iron-Rich Water is a natural supplement which is easily absorbed and gentle on the stomach, helping your body to release energy, and maintain a healthy immune system. Find out where to buy it here.