Manchester Gin Festival

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A festival of gin, I’m in! As soon as details of the 3rd annual gin festival were announced, the date, location and exact time (to the second), that tickets would go on sale got etched in the diary. This was an event that had mine and my gin twin’s name all over. After missing out on tickets last year, there was no way I was missing out again…

We managed to bag tickets for the afternoon session on Saturday 26 March, what better way to spend Easter weekend, supping on the good stuff in stunning surroundings! The festival took place at the grade II* listed Victoria Baths, where more than 100 different gins were showcased from craft distilleries across Britain and beyond.

Decisions decisions… so many gins, too little time!

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On arrival we were given a gin glass the size of your head and a gin book (bible), listing all of the gins available to try. I’ve always been a girl that studies last minute or wings it, however, had I had this book a day or two before the event I would’ve studied it cover to cover!

Unfortunately we didn’t have the time (or liver capacity) to try 100 gins; although I’m sure we’d give it a bloody good go given half the chance! We scanned the book and each picked 4 gins we’d not tried before to taste.

Gins I supped included:

  • Pinksters – a pink gin made with 5 botanicals, most notable fresh raspberries. This is a dry gin, with a soft and fruity finish. Best served with fresh mint and raspberries to bring out the flavours. It’s also gluten-free, as the creator has a wheat allergy. I liked this a lot, very easy on the palate, perfect to sip in summer.
  • K-25 – a Spanish gin made in the Basque country, this is a citrusy gin with a cool blue tone. Distilled 14 times, with bitter and sweet orange, lemon, mandarin and coriander. Best served with Rosemary to bring out the flavours. I wasn’t sure about the look of this one at first with it being blue, it reminded me of a blue WKD (brings back BAD memories of many BAD decisions made in my youth!). However, I was tempted by the botanicals and curious about the rosemary accompaniment, and was very pleasantly surprised indeed. A great decision to try and taste (30+ older and much wiser). Rosemary and gin is a great combo!
  • Sikkim Bilberry – another Spanish gin, inspired by the mountainous state of India, famed for rooibos tea. This is a dry gin, with the sweetness and depth of fresh blueberries and blackberries. Best served with fresh blueberries to bring out the flavours. I picked this one because I liked the purple bottle and because blueberries are a superfood, making it a ‘healthy gin’ (I’m going with that anyway!). Very nice indeed, another great drink for summer.
  • Ely Dark Chocolate – a dark chocolate and gin liqueur, rich with cocoa it has a woody fruitiness. Best served neat on ice or with fresh orange juice, no garnish. I picked this one as it was like having a dessert, this being the final gin I supped of the day. Also because it’s Easter weekend, and all about sweet treats! I drank it neat, and loved every sip.

Throughout the event we mixed and mingled with fellow gin lovers, and were treated to live entertainment, talks from gin industry experts aka gin gods, and feasted on tasty treats to soak up all the booze.

Gin lessons learnt at the gin festival

  • I definitely prefer light and fruity gins over the tough stuff! Whereas Dawn, my gin twin, prefers the stuff that’ll put hairs on your chest, she can handle her gin…
  • Rosemary is an amazing garnish (with suitable gins)
  • Spain produces great gin!

This was my third gin jaunt of 2016, a fantastic festival that I highly recommend fellow gin lovers attend. A total bargain in my mind, tickets cost £7.50 and then drinks tokens cost £5 a drink (which is pretty standard for a G&T). There’s a number of events taking place throughout the UK in 2016, but be warned tickets sell quick! Find out more and get involved:

Check out more pictures from the event over on my Facebook page

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Life: next chapter, new focus!

Quotes of encouragement and support shared by awesome friends and colleagues!

Last week I made some pretty big (scary) decisions about my future/career, with a bold and crazy move made to commit to it. I handed my notice in at work, signed up to do level 3 PT and asked my long suffering mum and dad if it was OK to move back home for a brief spell (I promise it will be brief mum!).  

At 31 taking steps backwards isn’t ideal, but needs must in order to move forwards in the direction I want to go. I don’t think I’m having a midlife crisis; it’s too early for that yet… surely!?

Going full circle…

Towards the back end of 2015 I decided I wanted to get back into leisure and instructing, a setting in which I started working life at the tender age of 16, as a leisure attendant and swimming instructor. I missed working with people and the buzz of a leisure centre environment; sitting behind a desk 9am-5pm wasn’t doing it for me anymore. I decided to do a level 2 Gym Instructing qualification, with intentions of picking up casual hours around my full-time job. This was the start of it… I did a few more qualifications at the beginning of this year, Kettlebell and Studio Cycle Instructor training, and decided I wanted to learn and do more. To get my foot in the door fully I needed to do my level 3 PT, and to become the best instructor I can be I need to focus on fitness full-time! Something had to give…

I’ve worked in sport most of my career, either delivering or promoting it. After studying a marketing management degree at University, I took on a marketing role at the leisure centres where I started out. Before moving on to British Cycling where I am now (well for the next four weeks), and have had the odd job in-between, but I’ve always come back to sport. It’s what I’m passionate about, it’s what I enjoy, it’s what I want to do for a living, with emphasis now being on the doing and delivering!

I start my level 3 PT this week, with Planetwes Training and following successful completion and pass (PMA), well that’s the unknown bit… stick around and see how it pans out.

Hugh Laurie

If not now, when?!

I don’t want to look back on my life and wish I’d done something different or given something a go when I had the opportunity. As it stands I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain, a window of opportunity to make a change, so I’m doing it!

I’m lucky and thankful to have such supportive and encouraging friends and family, who give great advice and words of wisdom. Best advice my parents have given me growing up ‘try your best, that’s all you can do’ and ‘do what makes you happy’. Simple advice, but these words have stuck with me.

Scary and exciting times ahead… all positive vibes and words of encouragement most welcome.

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Bury Breeze Ride

Impromptu snap stop with men in uniform!
Impromptu snap stop with some men in uniform!

On Saturday 12 March I led my first Breeze bike ride, in celebration of International Women’s Day. Breeze is a women’s cycling initiative by British Cycling, aimed at encouraging more women to take up cycling for fun! It’s a volunteer led programme, where everyday women (like me) train as Breeze champions and organise free guided bike rides.

This is where I could go off on a corporate tangent… spouting stats and facts about the programme, because I work for British Cycling – but I’ll try my best to give this an outside in view. The reason I decided to become a champion was because I was/am genuinely inspired by all of the women involved in the programme, champions and participants, and the support that they give one another, it’s a sisterhood in every sense of the word. Going out on a bike ride, meeting new people and having a laugh – what’s not to love about that. After sitting behind my desk for 2 years watching them have all the fun, I wanted in on the action!

Back to the bike ride…  5 champions, 9 participants, 10 miles! We did a loop around Bury (my hometown), that was predominantly off-road and pretty easy going. We had 3 pick-up points with champions based at each start point, so women could join in along the way. The ride started at Clarence Park in Walmersley, headed to Burrs Country Park (where we had an impromptu snap stop with some men in uniform), and then down Totty lines to Greenmount for the final pick-up, and back again – a great little route, suitable for all abilities.

Back at Clarence Park we had coffee, cake and a good old chinwag, dished out Breeze goody bags for our participants, and us champions were given a goody bag each for organising the ride in partnership with Bury’s I Will If You Will project.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first taste of Breeze as a champion and Ride Leader, and am looking forward to spending more time on the other side of the desk! #getwomencycling

Sticking my work hat on for just a second, there’s a number of recreational cycling programmes offered by British Cycling for men and women to get involved with, if you’re reading this and wanting to find people and groups to cycle with – find out more here!

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5 top tips to maintain your mojo


Mid-January sees flocks of new faces hitting the gym, come early March it’s only the reliant regulars that remain. A cycle you see year in and out – great for sales targets, but that membership is an expensive piece of plastic in your wallet if unused.

Maintaining your mojo can be tough at times! We’re all human, have off days, weekend binges and fall off the bandwagon. The important thing is not to beat yourself up about it and throw the towel in.

Writing a list of New Year’s resolutions as long as your arm probably wasn’t the best idea, as was thinking you would tick them off in quick succession. Don’t despair, take stock and review your goals.

Here’s 5 top tips to get back on track…

  1. Tone it down

All too often people go from doing no exercise, to training every day. It’s New Year and you’re on fire – but it’s only a matter of time before you burn out. Tone it down, build it up gradually over time. Create a routine that fits in with your work/life schedule, this may mean making a few changes here and there, but it shouldn’t be so drastic that you can’t stick at it.

  1. Try something new

Mix it up, try different exercises, classes, sports and activities; the gym isn’t always the answer for everyone. Exercise should be fun and enjoyable! Try out as many different things as possible, until you find your mojo.

  1. Review your goals

Be honest… Are they realistic? Are they achievable? Do you actually want to do them, or did you get caught up and carried away with the new you notion? It’s OK to change track and review your goals – that’s life!

  1. Prep like a boss

I feel like a bit of a hypocrite saying this… This is my first to do to get back on track. Plan your weekly exercise sessions in advance, so you know what you’re doing on what day of the week. Create a workout log to track weights, reps/sets, distance and time, to show your progression.

  1. Ask the experts

Ask a fitness instructor for tips, guidance and support, that’s what they are there for. In many gym facilities you can get tailored exercise programmes or a PT session as part of your membership package – take advantage of this! They’ll talk you through and show you exercises suitable for your specific areas of focus, to meet your personal goals.

Got more top tips to get back on track? Share your suggestions in the comments link at the top of the page…


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Studio Cycle Instructor Training

Spin course

Second course of 2016, second success – I passed YAY!

On Wednesday 2 March I headed back over the Yorkshire moors to take part in studio cycle instructor training, another one day course delivered by Premier Training International. I booked it at the same time as the kettlebell course and took advantage of half price fees, getting two qualifications for the price of one – winner!

There were 11 of us on the course in total, ten women and one man (he held his own), a good mix of ages, backgrounds and experience levels. Despite my misconceptions being dispelled on the kettlebell course, I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive beforehand thinking I would be the newbie novice that knows nothing. This wasn’t the case at all, yes there were people with more experience, but equally there many on a similar path to me – retraining, upskilling and making changes to their career. In doing both courses I’ve found this to be really motivating and inspiring, meeting such lovely groups of people.

The day started with round the room introductions, an overview of studio cycling and the benefits, we then moved into the spin studio to go over cycle set-up. We were shown all of the elements of the bike and told how to set someone up correctly (most important part of any class), each taking it in turns to instruct bike set-up in small groups.

Throughout the day we discussed positioning of hands and body on the bike, pedal strokes, cadence (resistance), riding techniques and how to structure a session. We took part in a full spin class delivered by Jamie our course tutor; she showed us how to structure a full session, including warm-up, cadence building, main session with different riding techniques and a cool-down. Before it was over to us, to devise and instruct a 10 minute class as part of our final assessment.

Me (sweaty one at the front) being assessed delivering a class.

Doing these qualifications has given me an even greater appreciation of fitness professionals, and the level of effort, thought and planning that goes into structuring and delivering a quality exercise class.

The qualification (course and certificate) is only the first step… it’s like learning to drive, you don’t learn until you’ve passed your test and you’re on the road. I’ve got the qualifications, now comes the hard part – devising routines, planning and structuring sessions and of course getting my foot in the door, bagging instructing hours!

To anyone thinking about doing a fitness course, go for it! Don’t doubt or question your ability, if you’re passionate about it, motivated and determined to do it, you will do it! There are people from all walks of life that you’ll meet on these courses, many that are in the same position as you. I’ve really enjoyed all the courses I’ve completed and I’m excited about the doors they will open. I’ve no more courses booked at the minute, but I’m already considering my next… watch this space!

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