Guest post: Paul Kenny

We’re lucky enough to have expert training advice from Personal Trainer, Paul Kenny

Panic! There’s only two weeks to go until Will of Iron… But really, don’t panic, there’s still time!

Fear not, you’ve signed up to help out an amazing charity and raise money to support a great cause. Plus, no matter what your overall time, you will get it done. But it’s probably time to fit in some final training before the real work starts.

When the panic and last minute training kicks into gear, there is definitely a greater risk of injury. You may push too hard desperately trying to get the body into gear and take it to a level that it’s just not ready or willing to get to.

Take a read of my top tips on warming up, stretching off and what you can get done as part of your main session…

Getting the body ready for exercise

It’s essential before any training or competitive session to get the joints moving, get blood flow to the muscles and gradually increase the heart rate.

Move all your major joints through all their normal movement patterns several times. Eg. Stand on one leg, lift the other leg and bend at the knee backwards and forwards / circle the arms at the shoulder joint backwards and forwards in a swim front crawl style.

Go through the following exercises 10 – 20 times

  • Perform 10 – 20 reverse step lunges, (see photo), raising the arms in the air to help movement in your legs and hips.
  • Jog on the spot for 30 seconds gradually increasing the pace
  • From a standing position, walk your hands into a press-up position, then walk your hand back towards your feet into a deep squat and stand up
  • Jog on the spot for 30 seconds gradually increasing the pace
  • Get into a plank position on your elbows and raise one leg in the air, pulsing your heel in the air. Repeat on both legs. If this is too hard, drop onto one knee
  • Jog on the spot for 30 seconds gradually increasing the pace
  • Side step 20 – 30 metres one direction and return to your starting position
  • Jog on the spot for 15 seconds as fast as you can

What next? 

  • Find a hill and either lay out some obvious points with cones, items of clothing or choose a line of trees or posts
  • Sprint to one point, jog to the next, sprint to the next, jog to the next etc
  • You’ll need to jog and sprint at least 5 times each
  • Repeat this process 10 – 15 times, depending on the severity of your hill and current fitness levels, but you should tired and out of breath (burning lungs) by the end of it

After, give yourself a five minute rest and go for a fast paced run for 20 minutes. You can do it!

Key Stretches: hold for at least 30 seconds and where applicable, repeat both sides:

  • Hips and legs – as you’ll see in the photo, drop onto one knee, take your other leg forwards and lean over it
  • Glutes (bum cheeks!) – a very important muscle group. Start on all fours. Stretch one leg over and behind the other stretching your arms out in front of you
  • Lower back and outside of thighs – lie on your back, stretch one leg straight out in front of you and hook the other leg over it, bending at the knee joint

If you’re lacking time, even going through the warm-up section will be a small win. Most people don’t warm up or stretch down. Make this a habit as part of your training and you’ll really start to see the benefit, even after a couple of weeks.

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch at or  find me on Twitter @FitnessPK.

Faye Cox

Guest post: Faye Cox

We’re excited to announce that a whole island could be taking part in Will of Iron this year! Read more from Faye, Personal Trainer and Will of Iron champion at Shetland Recreational Trust:

Faye Cox

Faye will be proving her Will of Iron this May

When? On May 10th, at a small leisure centre on the island of Unst in the Shetland Islands, the most northerly tip of the UK something amazing is going to happen.

Myself and fellow Shetlanders will be taking on the Will Of Iron triathlon challenge in one day. That’s right; we are going to complete it in under six hours AND we are going to race each other.

Why? Because it is for a wonderful charity and Shetlanders are not ones to shy away from a challenge especially if it is going to help somebody!

I work for the Shetland Recreational Trust who runs the leisure centre I work in and their vision is to improve lives through sport and recreational activity so when I came to them with the Will Of Iron event they were more than happy to offer their support.

Who? Already over 25 people have signed up for the one day event and we will be dividing the entries fairly into small teams so we can have a fun competitive aspect on the day too.

What? To help all the entrants we have put on classes that focus on building up endurance for the events such as indoor cycling and running classes. Our pool has never been busier with islanders cutting through the water getting their lengths in and our gym is packed with some sneaky treadmill runners.

Will Of Iron has brought a real buzz to Unst and everyone is talking about it. A local business woman has offered to provide tea and home bakes on the day (which will be very welcomed!) and even the children have been asking if they can join in.

I am really excited and can’t wait to see Shetlanders prove their Will of Iron. Oh, and may the best team win!

Inspired? Sign up today… 

Never say never…

I only started working for Willow in February and within a week I’d already committed to taking part in Will of Iron. If you haven’t made it round the rest of the site yet, it’s basically an ironman in a week (instead of 17 hours). It means swimming 2.4 miles, cycling 112 miles and running a marathon (26.2 miles). Easy, right?!

I ran a half marathon last year and as I crossed over the finish line I told myself: “Thank the bacon sandwich that’s waiting for me, it’s over. Never again.” I’m not a naturally athletic person and at first used my half-marathon exploits as an excuse to eat macaroni cheese twice a week (and this was before I’d even started training).

Feeling sorry for myself after my first 5km training run

Feeling sorry for myself after my first 5km training run

I really admire people that enjoy exercise but sadly I am not one of them. I don’t know about you but the thought of doing an ironman distance triathlon at all is quite alarming even if I don’t have to do it all at once.

And yet here we are.

I may be a rather reluctant runner but Will of Iron is pretty exciting as it’s a challenge anyone can take on. Despite the rather intimidating distances, you can really make the event your own. Do it by yourself, do the half-distance, or get together as many team members as you can find. As long as you complete the distance within any seven consecutive days in May you’re a winner.

Mark, a colleague at Willow, is doing the full distance by himself. For the record, he is my hero. There are lots of others who have signed up who are tackling the full distance or the half-iron man distance by themselves. Other teams are doing a bit of everything. Fortunately, I’m lucky enough to have a team doing it with me and we decided to divide the challenge by discipline which means I’m only responsible for the running. Thanks to Carol, our team’s cyclist, for being convinced (by me) to do just the cycling instead of doing the challenge by herself and to Simon, our team’s swimmer, for making sure I didn’t have to factor in the horror of buying a swimming costume as part of the challenge!

I hadn’t actually been running since December until last weekend when I just about struggled my way through 5km. It was ok. I got a bit lost en route and now walking upstairs is mildly painful (my own fault for not stretching) but I’m getting there. A bit of me might even be looking forward to it.

Whether you’re as averagely* athletic as me, a serious triathlon competitor or somewhere in between, we want you to sign up to Will of Iron. Every penny you raise will help Willow create more Special Days.

We’ll be introducing the rest of our Willow teams soon but in the meantime wish me luck!


* please interpret as regular cake eater and sofa sitter

Q&A With Catherine Faux

Catherine Faux was named Triathlete of the Year 2013 and is the fastest triathlete in her age group in the world. Described as ‘the most aspiring female talent in long distance triathlon’, Catherine is the face of Will of Iron – let her be your inspiration to take part…

catherine-faux-new[1]What was your first race?

Mansfield Sprint was my first triathlon (not even an eighth of an Ironman distance!), though I’d done some running and swimming at school. The earliest races I ever remember are sports days at primary school; I won the skipping race since I seemed to have the coordination to just charge and swing the rope all at once. Though now I’m pretty sure the 6 year-old me would beat 26 year-old me!

When and why did you make the decision to move in to triathlons?
I knew of a race at Rutland Water which was near my home town and I always thought it looked pretty cool so, when I won an essay competition at university (which gave me enough to buy a cheap bike) that became my aim.

What is your favourite discipline?
It depends where I am, and when you ask me! At the moment (crazy-weather February) it’s running, because cycling is not pleasant in bad weather and much of it has to be done on an indoor bike at this time of year. I love running in the summer too, but the cycling gets much better and you can go on beautiful evening rides that end at a good pub out in the Peak District.

In Hawaii (where the Ironman World Championships are held) it’s so hot that cycling and running are just a big sweat-fest, so being in the water becomes the best. Plus the marine life is incredible to watch whilst you swim above it – and there’s a floating coffee boat in the ocean days before the race. The cycle and run courses used for the race are just roads through lots of sparse lava rock so those elements are comparatively less fun, however during the race itself, the swim is least enjoyable and the last few miles of the run are incredible!

What do you like about triathlons, as opposed to other endurance sports?
Triathlon requires both brains and brawn, and if you are smart you can potentially beat quicker, fitter but less well-prepared competitors. I love the disciplines, I love the people you meet and the sights you see that you’d certainly miss otherwise, even around my local area. I love the buzz of a good training session and seeing how good the human body is. It’s really quite impressive what it can do. I love triathlon because you don’t have to be the very best at any one part of it – it favours all-rounders.

How often to do you train?
Usually twice a day – with a rest day once a week.

What has been your career highlight so far?
It has to be the 2013 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii in October. I came 10th overall and broke the amateur record by 17 minutes. No one was really expecting that, least of all me!

What has been your biggest challenge?
Passing my last set of medical exams. When I’m spending so much time training it doesn’t leave any time or energy for studying, and I tend to be very focussed on one thing at once. Needless to say having been focussed on Kona this year I had a whole lot of cramming to do!

What’s your next big goal?
Passing the next set of exams! But in terms of triathlon I’ll be taking some time out as I complete my first couple of years as a doctor, so I want to make this season a memorable one.

What are your tips for any would be triathletes wanting to get started? How should they approach the training?
Get something in the calendar – it’s motivating and exciting to have an event to look forward to – whether it’s a challenge like Will of Iron, or a race, or just a personal goal. Make plans for training – it’s good to have purpose and focus, and to keep a record so you can see how far you’ve come. But don’t be afraid to miss or swap sessions if your body needs a break, if other commitments make it impossible, or the weather forecast was wrong and it seems criminal to miss a beautiful day outside if you had planned a swim.

What do you do in your spare time?
I love training, so that is something that I’m happy to spend a lot of my ‘free time’ on. I spend a lot of the remainder cooking and baking, and drinking inadvisable amounts of coffee, church, hanging out with friends… the usual.