Cooper who?

Lynda's weight loss on the scales - almost at target weightWeek 4: The morning of the dreaded Cooper test had arrived. I could put it off no longer. I had to go through the excruciating pain of running for 12 minutes as fast as my slightly short legs could carry me.

It was the closest thing to a race I had done in a while and I felt nervous.

After breakfasting on three Weetabix (my usual pre-race menu - too much fibre might have undesirable effects) I headed down to the local park with my trusty four-legged companions.

Everything was in my favour; weather conditions were perfect; the ground was firm; my dogs behaved considerately and didn’t stop or sniff or get under my feet; and other park users were few and far between.

But I didn’t beat my 7:43 min mile pace. I averaged 7:48.

Maybe it just wasn’t my day. Both Anne and a fellow runner suggested that it could be linked to the stage I am at in my cycle. Apparently there is some science behind this. Actually, I think I was just tired. It was my fourth consecutive day of running. The day before I had done an ‘easy’ five mile run, the day before that, a nine mile run, and the day before that, hill reps.

More R&R needed

During a post-mortem with Anne, we agreed that every fourth week needed to involve much more recovery. Anne tweaked my plan to incorporate more upper body and core work, easy runs and reduced mileage during that week. Recovery weeks give our bodies a chance to adapt to an increased training load and establish fitness gains, she said.

Withweek 7 weight loss and 5Kin a couple of days, I was over my disappointment and gearing up for the next challenge in my training plan - a timed 5k targeting 8 min miles.

Anne was concerned about me doing two speed tests in the same week. But anyone who knows me well will verify that once I get the bit between my teeth there’s no dissuading me. I was determined to give it a go.

I had an alcohol-free rest day on Friday, then on Saturday morning, I got up bright and early, had my Weetabix and met my friend Cath – who has glutes of steel from lifting kettle bells that weigh as much as small children and had offered to pace me.

The skies were grey and the lanes were wet from relentless drizzle, but 8 min miles felt reasonably comfortable - so much so that I was pushing closer to 7:40. There was a moment when I came close to crashing out - I stopped, spat and swore, but then I collected myself, carried on and completed the 5k in 24:25, averaging 7:49 min miles. Boom.

Week 8 looms

That was almost four weeks ago. I am now coming up to week 8, when I repeat the fitness tests.

I have no idea whether I will have made further improvements.

I gueLynda 9lbs lighter after 7 weeksss I must have done…

I am almost where I want to be weight-wise. In the last four weeks I have lost a further 3lb and am now down to 9st - a loss of 9lb in seven weeks.

Last Sunday I did my LSR (Long Slow Run) at 8:57 min miles, chatting the entire way round, and did 13 miles instead of 11 miles by accident (wrong turn - navigation is not my strong point).

I am no longer daunted by the prospect of targeting a sub 8 min mile pace, doing two sets of 15 press ups or holding a plank position for over a minute.

During my latest interval session of 4 x 4 min intervals, my average pace was 7:14 - faster than my training plan target. Could that sub 7 minute mile be achievable by week 12?

Week 8 is not just a milestone for me - it’s a big week for Anne.

On Monday, it’s the live final of the 2020 Fitness Trainer Competition. I will take part in a half-hour Zoom stability & strengthening class whilst four judges look on and critique Anne’s training style.

Fingers crossed Anne gets the recognition she deserves!


Four weeks in, is she on the way to a PB or high BP?

side profile before and after

I’m four weeks into my intermediate running programme and although I am not yet emerging, butterfly-like, from my corona chrysalis, I am a slightly improved version of my former self.

For a start, I’m 6lb lighter than I was four weeks ago. This morning I weighed in at 9st 3lb.

The August bank holiday that preceded the start of my PT programme most definitely sealed my lockdown weight gain. It was one last hurrah…the final blow-out before the kids returned to school. We camped on Anglesey and dined on sea air, laughter, gin, fish ’n’ chips, blue cheese and ice cream - enriching for both soul and waistline.

Unfortunately, Anne had asked me to log everything I ate and drank that week, to benchmark my pre-programme calorie and macronutrient intake. My meal choices were balanced and healthy; it was the extracurricular crisps, chocolate and biscuits I was troughing with gay abandon that were doing the damage. I was putting away in excess of 2500 calories a day, in the mistaken belief that I was ‘running it off’.

In my head I was only drinking alcohol at weekends. Under closer scrutiny, it was apparent that my weekends were starting on Thursday and finishing on Sunday night.

After analysing my usual diet, Anne tactfully suggested a few adjustments.

What I loved about Anne’s advice was that she didn’t judge me or tell me to cut out bread and butter or other such faddy nonsense. She advised me to stick to 2000 calories a day, limit alcohol to twice a week and choose wholemeal rather than white carbs. She also recommended that I cut out my morning glass of fruit juice (eat actual fruit instead) and have skimmed milk on my cereal. I wasn’t to deny myself chocolate and cakes altogether but to have a small treat most days - the plan had to be sustainable or I wouldn’t stick to it, she said.

weight loss resultsThis sensible, balanced approach to nutrition has completely worked for me. I don’t feel like I am dieting - just eating healthily.

There have been moments - stretching into hours - of weakness. Like the other Friday when I stumbled home from my friend’s house, reeking of firepit, after four healthy home-measures of gin. I was forced to soak up the alcohol with four chocolate digestives, two shortbread fingers and a couple of rounds of buttered toast.

It was with heavy heart and pounding head that I retrospectively logged this booze-fuelled sugar fest via my PT app the following day. I contemplated declaring a watered-down version, but concluded that would be cheating.

Anne’s response: “Well - as long as they were really good gins. Everyone needs a blow-out occasionally.”

Lynda BW Results 23 09 20Pride comes before a fall

In conjunction with a nutrition plan, I have been assigned a personalised training programme for the past four weeks.

Each week is slightly different, but generally includes four running sessions (long run, easy run, interval session and hill reps) and two strength & conditioning workouts, one led by Anne via Zoom.

I embarked on my first interval session with gusto.

After a wholesome breakfast of bran flakes with skimmed milk and banana, I headed down to the local park with my dogs.

My usual warm-up consists of hanging around the park entrance with a poo-bag in hand, waiting for the dogs to do their business. For the new me, though, this didn’t seem adequate. I did a few arm-swinging type exercises that I thought were akin to those Anne had shown me, followed by a  mile warm-up around the perimeter of the park.

As an introduction to interval training, Anne had prescribed 10 x 1 minute intervals with a 2 minute recovery after each interval. The first couple of intervals felt a bit slow, so I sped up a bit after that, and by the seventh interval, I was really in my stride.

Then, 49 seconds into the tenth interval, I was sprinting along in what I deemed to be excellent form, when I went over on my ankle and landed hard on the path, hands bleeding and embedded with gravel.

An elderly gentleman kindly steered me towards a bench and a lady of about my age made a joke about me taking up baking instead. I laughed weakly and mumbled my thanks before hobbling back to the car park, my ego dented and my left ankle swelling fast.

“Perhaps we need to focus more on your stability,” joked Anne. 

Fortunately, the ankle healed fairly quickly and didn’t stop me from continuing with the programme.

Zoom PT Sessions

Incremental improvements

Yesterday I completed my fourth interval session: 5 x 3 minute intervals with 3 minute recovery, at an average pace of 7:18 minute miles. Gradually, I am building up some speed, helped by all the lunges, squats, jack knives, crunches, bridges, press ups, tabata and so on I’ve been doing.

This morning Anne repeated the fitness tests she had done with me at the start of the programme and I was encouraged to find I had improved in every area. Both my squat range of movement and core stability are significantly better, my press-ups are “excellent” (Anne’s words not mine) and I can perform more than ten single leg deadlifts without losing my form.

The visible changes are slight - but then this is only four weeks into a 12-week programme! I’m slightly more toned, and, as well as losing weight, I’ve lost a couple of centimetres from my midriff. I also feel positive and motivated, which is spilling over into other areas of any life.

Next week I have to re-sit (or re-run) the dreaded Cooper test: flat out for 12 minutes at maximum speed. Will I be able to beat my 7:43 minute mile pace?

Lynda Run PT 4 week Fitness test results

Post lockdown lack of tone

Hunk, chunk or drunk? I know which I am...

They say that people emerge from lockdown either a hunk, a chunk or a drunk. I definitely straddle two of these categories, and sadly, that doesn’t include the former.

Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t been spending my days lolling on the sofa in semi-darkness, watching daytime TV surrounded by takeaway boxes, empty wine bottles and overflowing ash trays.

I’m an active and healthy 44 year-old mother-of-three who spends most of life frantically juggling kids’ activities with PTA meetings and copywriting commissions.

On a BMI chart I am comfortably ‘normal’. I am an enthusiastic runner – I train on average four times per week – but would describe my athletic ability as ‘recreational’ rather than ‘elite’. Most of my training takes place after the school run, flanked by the three other founding (and only) members of our informal running club ‘Mums on the run’ and our four-legged friends.

Or at least it did. When the schools shut down at the end of March, so did my motivation. The first few weeks in lockdown were like a weird holiday. With all of my journalism work on hold and my impending ultra cancelled, there was no reason not to crack open a bottle of wine on a Tuesday evening and every reason not to head out for a solo speed interval session.

Although, with my husband working from home rather than commuting across Manchester, I had more time than ever to run, my desire to run was eroded by this amorphous existence.

Five months on, life is starting to return to normal. The kids went back to school this week and I will be attempting to pick up the pieces of my own life by rebuilding my copywriting business and my mojo.

So here’s where I am: I have put on about half a stone in the last five months and now weigh in at just over 61kg (9st 8lb). This gain has corresponded with a gradual decline in speed and fitness. In January 2019, I averaged 8:10 minute miles over half marathon distance. Now I can barely maintain this pace over 5k.

I was pondering how to go about getting back in shape when, a couple of weeks ago, a Facebook post from Anne Chinoy caught my eye. Having reached the national finals of the 2020 Sport Fitness Trainer Awards, Anne was looking for someone to work with for the next 8-12 weeks.

She wanted someone who was looking to lose a bit of weight and gain muscle tone and fitness. I immediately messaged her.

Within a matter of minutes, there were at least 12 other eager responses to her post, each offering a compelling case as to why they would make the ideal candidate.

There was no chance she was going to pick me, I thought. I’m neither fat nor thin, fast nor slow. Just a middle-aged plodder with a biscuit habit.

So imagine my surprise and delight when she called me to say that she would love to work with me.

The first two sessions were all about benchmarking to give her the information she needed to design a programme tailored to my goals as well as my strengths and weaknesses.

A Zoom fitness test quickly exposed my lack of balance and stability. Whilst swan-like Anne gracefully demonstrated a single led dead lift, I wobbled about clumsily like the ugly duckling. The strength tests were only marginally less embarrassing; my quads were quivering just 20 seconds into a wall sit.

If Anne was wondering what she had let herself in for, she didn’t let on. She patiently demonstrated each exercise – from kettlebell goblet squats to reverse dumbell lunges – while I huffed, puffed, moaned and groaned my way through.

She also needed to establish my current running ability. This time last year I ran my fastest ever 5k (23:09). At the minute I avoid any sort of speed work as I don’t want to admit how slow I have become. The ‘Cooper Test’ established my maximum running pace as 7:43 minutes per mile over 12 minutes.

With my lack of fitness laid bare, I am now raring to embrace my ‘intermediate runner’ training programme.

Vital statistics
Height 160cm (5ft 3in)
Weight 61.2kg (9st 8lb)
Waist 29"
Hips 38"
Max running pace 7:43 minute mile



  • Run 5k in under 23 minutes
  • Run 1 mile in under 7 minutes
  • Lose at least 8lb in weight
  • Prepare for first ultra (32 miles, Sea 2 Summit, April 2021)
  • Increase upper body strength, glute strength and overall fitness
  • Abs!!!!