Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - by the sea

Wordless Wednesday  - remembering the sunshine on this grey December day ...

More Wordless Wednesday bloggers here.           And here on Image-in-ing

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What are your sports wishes for 2016?

2016 is just around the corner and with it the thrill of the Olympics and Paralympics in Brazil. Of course women’s sport is much more than these two events but they are still the biggest showcase.

I’m not making any sports resolutions this year but I do have wishes for the New Year fairies:

  1. Changes in coverage of women’s sport to continue. In Ireland I’m thinking for example about the new section in the Irish Times every Thursday, regular interviews and reports in the Irish Examiner, or fabulous websites like run by Sharon Hutchinson and Women’s Sports Journal.
    Internationally let's have more like espnW or the BBC on women's football
  2. Women’s combat sports to become ever more popular. Women like Aisling Daly, Caradh O’ Donovan, Lisa Kearney, Ferial Ameeroedien, Katie Taylor and Catherine Costigan are becoming part of the national conversations – but we need more!
  3. Sponsors, sponsors, sponsors  - why so few women in the Top earners lists worldwide? Serena Williams is leading the way; maybe that will inspire someone sitting at a boardtable somewhere?
  4. More opportunities for women in combat sports – some of my favourite pictures this year have been of Afghani women doing MuayThai
  5. More blogs and social media dedicated to the joys women can get out of sport.
  6. This year the women’s Oxford boat race was run on the same course as the men’s, in rugby and soccer women’s matches are being played on the same day as the men’s finals, women cycled the Tour de France route (ok for charity but still); let’s see more of this.
  7. More social media campaigns like the brilliant #thisgirlcan from the UK or #supporthersport here in Ireland
On a personal level a really good friend started learning MuayThai with me over the summer, and is now a regular 3-times a week. I LOVE watching her grow in skills and confidence. It's been so great getting back into teaching and training after a whole lotta injuries. Thanks to Dave at Hammerhead Gym and Cecile for this!

And after I interviewed windsurfer Rose Barrett I finally took the plunge and started learning windsurfing. It’s been a bumpy journey with lots of breaks but so happy to have another reason to be by the sea. Who knows, I might stay up for longer than 10 minutes next year ...

What are your sports wishes for 2016?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Australian boxer Bianca Elmir on training, food and aiming for Gold

PIc via Biana Bam Bam Elmire Instagram by Phill Northwood

I posted an interview on Facebook a few days ago where Australian boxer Bianca ‘Bam Bam’ Elmir talks about stereotypes of boxing and women boxers. And by a lovely coincidence a film-maker working with Biana got in touch, and here we are with a couple of blog-posts to come from our chat. 

Bianca is gunning to bring home Australia’s first gold medal from the AIBA women’s amateur boxing world championships at 54kgs. 

She won the International Boxing Tournament Balkan gold last month, and holds the Oceania bantamweight title, and before that fought in MuayThai and kickboxing having started with soccer. Phew!


So how much training exactly does it take to have a realistic shot at that gold?

Bianca’s training goes over six days, including walking everywhere. She jokes: “Running or walking is therapy and a heaps better way to get around than a metal car."

She said: “I do my strength and conditioning training with one coach Bryan Roberts from Full Throttle – it’s mostly plyometrics and supersets. Then I do my technical training five days a week with Garry Hamilton; my crazy British Trainer from Middlesbrough. I also do kickboxing training one day a week to bring me back to my roots with Gaz Rees at Chopper Muay Thai. One of my favourite training projects is mountain running. I love it!”


Food, food, glorious food 


Having moved divisions from flyweight to bantamweight and now fighting at 60kgs, food is a BIG deal for Bianca. She jokes the main thing she’s learned on this journey has been not to obsess about calories, saving that for training. 

She warns: “Food is too tied up with your self- image and with your self- esteem. It can be a dark and lonely road if you let food and diet obsession take over. It’s hard enough as it is to shut out all of the sensationalised information about food and diet.” 

And does she feel extra pressure compared to the guys at her gym?  “Being a woman you’re pressured to focus so heavily on your looks! But at the end of the day it’s important to have a well-balanced diet. I eat bread and I drink milk and I’m all good! 

“I try keep myself up to date with nutrition and training by listening to podcasts. I try not eat too much and when I do, I try not do my head in about it; although I sometimes do,” she said. 

PICS: Bianca Bam Bam Elmir Instagram

Impact of the London Olympics on women's boxing 


She’s been fighting in one form or another since 2009, but like so many of us was delighted to see amateur boxing at the London Olympics. 

“Promotion of women’s boxing in Australia has improved so much as compared to say five years ago, when I first started. You can see this overseas too after boxing was included in London. I know the final 60kg division had more interest than any other sport so it’s definitely come a long way. There’s also a lot more opportunities for women to compete here,” she said. 

How did Holly Holm vs Ronda Rousey affect Australian boxing? 


And of course just last month Melbourne, Australia was home to one of the most hyped women’s fights in recent times: the MMA bout between Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm. 

Bianca said: “I think Rousey has played the gender card well to her advantage. I think she’s a good business woman. She knows how to turn it on for the media and play into the stereotype of either 'tough girl fighter' or 'woman getting interviewed with an evening frock' which I’ve seen.” 

But she reckons there are other ways to do, adding: “I personally think there are many more shades of grey for female athletes. I don't think she has managed to capture all the nuances we can bring, but I respect that she turned the tide and got female fighting on the map.”


Stay calm and carry on boxing 

And her final tips for staying sane when your daily grind involves getting hit in the face?

“My friends and the group around me have given me so much support. You need that when things get hard; they keep me grounded and focused. I also make sure I am always laughing.”

Keep up Bianca's fights at Bianca Elmir on Instagram  

And I'll be speaking to Jemma from Lolapolooza Films soon about the documentary she's making on Bianca.

UPDATED: Post updated Saturday Dec 19th to correct factual errors  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: tomorrow's wrestling stars?

Wordless Wednesday  - could these Dublin girls at Hercules wrestling Club be the superstars of the future?
                                         Pics thanks to Ce photography 

More Wordless Wednesday bloggers here.           And here on Image-in-ing

Monday, December 14, 2015

How to perfect your rowing technique on and off the water

One of the sights I love most at home in Cork is the rowers gliding up and down the Lee. They seem to be there at all hours, even when there’s serious frost on the river banks. 

The closest I’ve come to that is tackling the rowing machine in the gym and if you’ve done that too you’ll know it’s a pretty gruelling workout. 

So when I was sent a breakdown of the perfect rowing programme, I knew it would be tough but it’s beyond ... Designed by SAS, an advanced analytics company working with British Rowing, it's based on actual rowing patterns followed by elite rowers. 

One of the UK's top rowers is Jess Leyden who's hoping for a place on Team GB's women's quadruple sculls side. She told Sky Sports (at the launch these pics are from): 

"This year we've tried out new things, some of which worked well and some didn't, so all we can do is keep building towards it (Rio).  The gains we're making are so much larger than a team that maybe have been together a while, so once those building blocks are in place we're going to get to a point where we can tackle those finer bits”. 

And added this which made me smile, so true of many sports. She said: “There's no hiding in our racing. It's not how much over the line you are and it can come down to a bow ball, which has happened to me before!"

So what do you think of this routine? 

Click HERE to find a PDF with the perfect rowing programme. The second page is even more useful with diagrams and tips for the rowing machine down the gym. So even if you can’t go to Rio, you can still learn from the best! Just remember to take  heed of your own ability and limitations; this is a suggested programme only.

Jess Leyden was speaking on behalf of SAS – the leader in analytics software and services. SAS is the Official Analytics Partner of British Rowing and the GB Rowing Team at


Friday, December 11, 2015

Do we need Title IX sports laws in Europe?

Lala (right) gets ready to pass the ball during a practice in Rocinha.Lianne Milton for NPR

When I first heard about American legislation called Title IX , I didn’t immediately understand the links with sport. It says that any education agency receiving money from the government must spend the same amount on male and female activities. 

The big winner out of this was women’s sport in schools and universities who’ve hugely gained in funding since 1972. I read a story in yesterday's Irish Times about how many Irish women have benefited from athletics scholarships in the States, no doubt connected to this law. 

I spoke to the American author of soccer-book ‘When girls become Lions’ to find out more. Jo Kadlecek thinks more should be made of the shock impact of the legislation. 

She said: ‘Today’s young women players in the U.S. have so many more opportunities because of Title IX and I think it’s helpful when they know it wasn’t always this way. 

I’d hope that could motivate them to play all the harder and with more confidence, knowing they have a history of champions that helped insure they have this chance. Then they don’t take all the fancy equipment, the great fields, and staffs for granted! 

I suppose it can instill a deeper gratitude that can make the effort more meaningful.’ 

Jo lives in Brisbane, Australia now. And even though Australia is known the world over for its love (obsession?!) of sports, she’s seeing some gaps. 

'Obviously, in the U.S. the success of the World Cup reinforced the game’s popularity for girls and women players as well as its fans. The (Australian) Matildas were equally inspiring and heroic I think during the World Cup, but my sense is that women’s professional soccer here has a long way to go before it attains the equal status and pay it deserves,’ she said. 

Still not sure? 

Listen to this short NPR radio doco on the differences between women's football/soccer in Brazil and America to become aware of some gaping holes that law has been busy filling.

Look around at your sport situation, do you need a Title IX?


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: MuayThai in Bangkok for the King of Thailand's birthday

Wordless Wednesday -  MuayThai event for His Majesty, the King of Thailand's birthday at the weekend, courtesty EB-TV, Bangkok.

More Wordless Wednesday bloggers here.           And here on Image-in-ing

Monday, December 7, 2015

Women's fighting is having a moment

mma muaythai womens boxing vogue williams

Women in sport have been having quite the moment in the sun. I know we try to stay positive here and focused on what can be done but I really am starting to feel something is changing.

Firstly there was the global reaction to Holly Holm beating Ronda Rousey  - don't worry I'm not going into all of that again. I will just say that it was incredile to see that fight covered in papers and sections of the papers -  not to mention in TIME magazine  - that you would NEVER have found women's fighting before. Congrats to Holly but hats off to Ronda for making the world take women's MMA or #wmma seriously.

And if you can access RTE's player, this episode of Wild Girls meets some of Ireland's best fighters including women I've spoken to here like MMA's Catherine Costigan , Ferial 'Felix' Ameeroedien from MuayThai and Christina McMahon, WBC champ.

It's a great show, and hopefully will bring lots of girls into the gyms.  I also loved the conversation between Catherine and presenter Vogue Williams about periods, you really have to see it!

(I know a lot of you are reading from outside Ireland but if you download a programme like HOLA you can watch from overseas).

Lots more interviews and fun tips coming up after my break. I was away the last two weeks with work, but only managed to get one week's worth of posts up. Apologies for that but hopefully you've been catching up on old posts?

But I did manage to write a Christmas shopping list for you - the best women in sports books around! It's up on here.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Learning Kung Fu with a Shaolin Monk in Wexford

Shaolin Monks Wexford Kung Fu Niamh Griffin

I'm always up for trying new sports but it doesn’t always mean I'm any good at learning them as I found out when I had my first ever Kung Fu lesson!

It was pretty special, as I learned with Master Zheng Xiaohong from the Shaolin Temple. He and one of his students Wang Jinlei spend three months in Wexford every month at Monart Spa. Most people do Qi Qong and meditation with them, but how could I turn down learning a little Kung Fu from the very best?

Master Zheng was so polite, he smiled and clapped his hands when I got anything even half-way right. He said: “I like teaching, I love even with the people who cannot do it, it’s fun.” Hmm, very polite. And good-humoured for a man so long away from his wife and two children.

The hour-long lesson it felt more like 15 minutes. We went through Bow, Horse and Crab stances (confusing!) and then together in a sequence. He looked amazing, so elegant and swooping close down to the ground. Me? I did a pretty good imitation of Kung Fu Panda as I scraped and twisted my way across the floor.

I would have been fine except there were full-length mirrors so I couldn’t avoid myself! What a treat though. And a serious work-out, these moves may look gentle but my quads and biceps were aching next day.

We went outside after the class to take photos (see more on my last Wordless Wednesday post). The two monks were so serious, but I couldn’t stop laughing at how surreal it all was.

I was writing about the spa for the newspaper I work at – have you ever managed to drag sport into your everyday job??

Disclaimer: I spent the day at Monart Spa in Wexford courtesy of the Spa for my job with a newspaper. This is my honest opinion!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Kung Fu in Wexford

Wordless Wednesday  - I spent a lovely day learning Kung Fu and a few other things from Master Zheng Xiaohong from the Shaolin Temple recently  - come back on Friday for the full story!

Kung Fu Shaolin Monks Monart Niamh Griffin

Kung Fu Shaolin Monks Monart Wexford
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Waterfall Kung Fu Shaolin Monks Monart Niamh Griffin
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More Wordless Wednesday bloggers here.           And here on Image-in-ing

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dr Fionnula McHale on women and lifting weights

Dr Fionnula McHale weights Invigorate Clinic Fitness
International Fitness champion and medic Dr Fionnula McHale via @DrFionnula
When you’ve won silver at the Powerlifting World Championships, but your body is telling you that elite level of lifting is just a bit too far, what do you do next? Turns out there is a new sport in town, and one that Dr Fionnula McHale has fallen in love with.

Twice European Powerlifting champion (yep, as well), I talked to her a few days ago because I heard ** she's won the International Fitness Championships title in England. She's training now with Englishman Mark Coles, and just a little focused on this new type of competition which mixes power-lifting with showing-off a toned physique.

Fionnula said: “I like looking the way I look, and I like being physically strong. I love weights, I fell in love with them the first time I tried it. I tried a competition that was just about physique but I missed the intensity around weight training and competition.”

The IFC championships is five one-minute rounds of lifting, and she cranked out an astonishing: 

  • 27 squats
  • 18 chin-ups
  • 37 bench-press repetitions 
  • 44 push-press repetitions 
  • 45 deadlifts 

Of course I asked her what she tells her clients about weight-lifting, and why she thinks women should do it. Once she started talking on this she couldn't stop!

Dr Fionnula McHale weights IFC Fitness champion power lift
International Fitness champion and medic Dr Fionnula McHale via @DrFionnula

Reasons women should lift weights 

  1. Weights will revolutionise your training
  2. You can change your body shape completely but “still look nice in a dress” 
  3. Lifting helps your muscles, your joints 
  4. It’s even good for women around the time of the menopause, or much older
  5. She’s seen a woman in her 60s competing in power-lifting: something must be right! 
  6. You need to eat well and eat a lot to maintain strength: any excuse will do, thanks! 
  7. With good training you can lift the same weight as man: ego points!
Fionnula did say more than a few times as we talked that a GOOD TRAINER and GOOD FORM are so important. And in case you're wondering she competed at 58.2kgs in that photo above so you can park any fears about bulking-up. (I know, we shouldn't think like that but we do sometimes, don't we?) 

More shots from that tournament and more on her Instagram DrFionnula.


Want to Powerlift? 

Fionnula describes in excruciating detail her first experience at the Irish Drug-Free Powerlifting Association tournament, read it and wince at UltimatefitCrew. 

**Thanks Aoife Murphy MMA for telling me about Fionnula!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Elite women's boxing in Dublin this weekend

katie taylor boxing olympics ireland london2012
Katie Taylor London2012
Irish boxers are competing today in the National  championships with the finals on the 27th. It’s fun to think some of these women could be flying home from Rio next year with a medal.

We’re still living off the Katie Taylor memories from London2012, but hopefully many more to come.  At the time it seemed as if every girl in the country was discovering boxing.

Unfortunately the big numbers are still not at this level, with some fighters receiving a bye into the final due to lack of competition.

IABA posted this online last week before the prelims: ‘Please note that due to the small entry there may be no boxing at the National Elite Women’s Championships at the National Stadium in Dublin this weekend.’

Former pro-fighter Deirdre Gogarty told me she encourages every girl to take up boxing, confident hardly  anyone at all will actually fight and risk injury!

But the big names are all there; Ceire Smith, Kelly Harrington, Dervla Duffy and Taylor herelf. Maybe the “Taylor Effect” will come next Olympics?

In the meantime former Irish coach Billy Walsh has taken up his new job in America. I spoke to women’s boxing expert Malissa Smith from Girl Boxing blog during the Olympic Trials, but she was very coy.

When I asked her thoughts on Walsh, she just mailed back: “As for Walsh. I don't know enough to say! :;)”

She praised Claresa Shields, saying: “Truly there is no one to beat Claressa who was masterful. Even with Tika Hemingway's pressure in the final, Shields just up'd herself to another gear.”

Claressa Shields PIC AP Photo/Rick Osentoski
And it looks like Katie Taylor won’t have things all her own way if she faces Mikaela Mayer. She fought the same opponent three times to qualify; a win, a loss and a hard-fought win. Sounds like champion material to me, especially as her opponent JaJira Gonzales “crumpled” her in the second according to Malissa.

(PS: Malissa has a lovely piece on Holly Holm vs Ronda Rousey  I know, I know you've read a lot on THAT kick but this one from a true boxing fan is fascinating).

UPDATE: IABA post here with named fighters and details on how National Championships feed into the Road to Rio. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: the power of learning

Wordless Wednesday:  the power of learning!
                                  this week's photos in a slidehow by Emanuel Rudnicki
( MuayThai seminar run by Tiffany Van Soest, with Caley Reece and Darren Reece at Riddler's Gym, Perth.)

More Wordless Wednesday bloggers here.           And here on Image-in-ing

Monday, November 16, 2015

Jorina Baars Muay Thai fighter learning from the hard times

Jorina Baars muay thai muaythai thai boxing netherlands Lion fight
As blood streamed out of a deep cut under Jorina Baar’s eye, the doctor said if it got worse he was calling the fight. Up to then her head wasn’t really in the fight but on hearing a loss was in the offing, something lit up inside. 

That something you see in the picture above was more than enough to win yet another belt; Lion Fight World title (65.6kgs). That by the way took her record to 38 wins 0 losses. Now the Dutch MuayThai fighter is searching for a major sponsor so she can focus on training. 

She lives, trains and works near her family, a strong support system for a professional career. I’ve followed Jorina from the sidelines, but it was only when we spoke that her respect for her father’s memory became clear.
She said: “My father passed away in 2006, two days after my European title fight. At that moment the European title was worth nothing at all, all I trained for was for nothing. I lost my dad whom I loved and still love very much, it certainly puts things in perspective of what is important. My dad was at my side for most of my fights - I miss him every day and every fight.”

And there’s been quite a few fights, mostly abroad. Unfortunately in spite of her success, she still works full-time. Jorina works for PPS Security, and it makes me smile to think of some drunk guy trying to push her around and getting a bit of a shock! 

She said: “My training schedule varies every week, because I work as security and bouncer in a concert hall and nightclub. I work evenings and nights. I live an hour from my workplace and work about 40 hours a week.”

Jorina Baars muay thai muaythai thai boxing netherlands Lion fight

In an ideal world she trains twice a day, four or five times weekly. But she adds glumly: “It happens frequently that I can only train three or four times a week and once a day. That's why we don't only train hard, we also train smart. It’s always a challenge to find a balance between work, training, and family.”

For your typical fighter that’s not such a big deal. But now twice-winner of the Lion Fight title, fights pop up all the time.

“I have to keep up with my training. When they call me, I'm ready at a moment’s notice, that's what champions do, stay ready and be ready to fight, this is my train of thought as I am always coming to win and would hate to lose, that's why I will always give it my all,” she says.

Jorina Baars muay thai muaythai thai boxing netherlands Lion fight Martina Zinkova
Jorina Baars Vs Martina Zindrova Lion Fight World title October 2015
So how did she deal with that cut? Pictures from the fight went everywhere on the internet, and even though it was below not above the eye, it was still potentially a game-changer for her Czech opponent Martina Zindrova. 

Jorina says: “That was the moment when I woke up and start the fight.  I did not have the preparation for this fight that my trainers and I had planned on.  I got busy with work and could not train as what we had planned. 

“The moment the doctor said ‘I let you fight but when the cut gets bigger and opens up further or doesn't stop bleeding, I will call the fight’ that obviously that got some fire under me. I had to turn up the pace; the word losing is not and will never be listed in my dictionary.”

Jorina Baars muay thai muaythai thai boxing netherlands Lion fight

So yes, for now she is happy with what she’s built. Happy and grateful to the team who’ve gotten her this far: family, friends, trainings partners, supporters, trainers Dennis Hekking, John Jongepier Edu Hogel, Andre Mannaart and her manager in the United States Johan DeLeeuw. 

Jorina says: “Besides being a fighter I am also a family person, I have everything in the Netherlands. My family, friends, work, gym, my life is here. Of course when things change in the future I will consider moving but for now I'm happy in the Netherlands.

“Thank you all for reading this and supporting me, I am fighting for you! Osu!”

You can find out more about Jorina at her website (where these pictures are from):  Jorina Baars 

She's also on Twitter @JorinaBaars  and Instagram @jojorinab

Friday, November 13, 2015

How can we promote women in sport more?

Holly Ferling, Australian cricketer    Ursula Jacob, Irish camogie player

Team sports and individual sports don’t often pull together but I read an interesting piece last night by a cricket-player calling for just that. 

Australian Holly Ferling thinks women in sport are maybe a bit too focused on worrying about media space, and should instead support each other in getting better. This, she reckons, will lead to a sports pages take-over.

Holly says: “Females make up half of our population, and many do watch some form of women's sport. If we can combine our following, and the disciplines unite, women's sport as a whole will win.”

I have to say I agree with her. I've a lot more time for any woman involved in sport who is also out there promoting her friends, and team-mates online and in the media instead of carping on the lack of coverage.

It’s hard to do, but that’s the place we’re in – playing catch-up with the men. And it is hard, I've done interviews when I was so tired from training the nonsense I was talking might have been better kept quiet! But you do it, don't you?  You can read the rest of Holly’s piece on the Sydney Morning Herald. .

And as it happens I got an email last night through the Union of Students in Ireland with some positive thinking from Wexford camogie player Ursula Jacob (above). I don’t often talk about team-sports here but maybe I should do a bit more now and then.

Anyway, Ursula’s points about why sport is so good for you could just as easily be said for combat sports, swimming or running or whatever you're having yourself. She's calling on students to mix sports and study because: 

  • Sport releases positive endorphins
  • Sport allows you to de-stress from your studies
  • Sport encourages positive interactions with your peers while also
  • Sport allows you to communicate and engage with a wide variety of people
  • Sport can later help you with your career path because many businesses and corporations recognise the important presence sport and physical activity can have in people’s lives
The next bit made me roll my eyes just a little though, she says: 

  • If you’re doing sport, you’re not actively engaging in continuous alcohol related activities.
  • If you are committed and dedicated to training then you recognise the importance of getting a healthy balance between studies and sport rather than spending all your free time drinking


What do you do to promote women’s sport? Online? Telling your friends and family? Sharing pictures? Going to games and fight-nights?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Disrupt Ageing

Wordless Wednesday:

Today's photos are Alex Rotas' powerful shots of women aged from 70 to 90 but still rocking it on track and field. She tags them with #disruptageing and #mastersathletes on Twitter where we met.

Dorothy McLennan from Ireland (79) sprinter, pole vaulter

Dorothy McLennan (79) stretches out

Hildegund Buerkle from Germany is 80 and is 100m sprinter at 18.16 seconds

More Wordless Wednesday bloggers here.           And here on Image-in-ing

And more of Alex Rotas' photographs on her blog here. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

MuayThai and boxing training in London with Simone Harvey

I first heard about the woman in today’s post through Lisa at boxing blog The Glowing Edge. Then director Garreth Carter got in touch, and he connected me with his sister who also trains with this inspiring coach.

And really you all need to meet former MuayThai fighter, personal trainer and coach Londoner Simone Harvey.

I loved Simone’s intro to Garreth's short, so honest. She’s standing there, grinning like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth and says she discovered fighting at 16. ‘Yeah, going out at night, having a little fight. Going to nightclubs, having a little fight, making a bad name for myself. That’s when the police came to the door, and that’s when I chose …’

Simone Harvey, Coppa-Doc from Garreth Carter on Vimeo.

One of her students Kathleen Carter is a self-confessed boxing addict. She told me: “It’s a stress reliever and counteracts all the other crap that goes with living in a big city. I've found it's the perfect way to 'empty mind'. I originally did taekwondo then found boxing, and specifically personal training with Simone.”

When I asked if she’s ever fought, she said: “I would love to get more time and train to do one day. Let's face it when there's someone facing you in a ring looking at every way to catch you with a left hook there's no way you can think about anything like your work, laundry, rent or any other worries!”
Too right, mindfulness comes in many forms.

We talked about the difference between training with a regular personal trainer, and with a former boxer. Kathleen said: “Simone inspires women from all walks of life, she makes everyone feel at home boxing.

“I've watched formerly nervy people really come into their own and relish pounding the pads. Women love learning how to get the punching technique correct and since Simone was a Thai Boxing champ she has the kudos, and she takes time to teach people proper punching techniques. I’m sure as a Thai boxer you'll agree they know how to make some damage!”

Ehm, yes. We certainly do, and even if you never fight knowing how to use that power is so much fun, it’s empowering. And with Simone’s warm-up being a full-on boxing pyramid of burpees, star jumps and press-ups, women get a real taste of fitness. 

I haven’t trained with Simone, but when students make a Coach of the Year video nomination for London Sport, you know something good is going on. Worth watching this short clip to the end …

Simone Harvey - Mind Over Matter from Kathleen Carter on Vimeo.


Friday, November 6, 2015

Your thoughts on Badass female fighters in films?

I was writing about Kung Fu for work this week, which of course sent me looking for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for research.

That came out in 2000 when I was still actively fighting in MuayThai. I still remember the excitement of seeing the fight scenes when Michelle Yeoh took on Zhang Ziyi. It was one of the first movies to gave actresses a central fighting role.

That film one of the reasons why I still have a hankering to learn fencing or some sword skills. You’ll be hearing more about my Kung Fu adventure, but I’ve also been reading about Filipino Escrima/ Arnis fighting at The Stick Chick blog if you’re tempted by this clip.

While I was poking around for the best clip to show you, I also found this montage below. Now this is a lot more violent as it features action women characters from a range of films including Hanna and Alien as well as martial arts movies.

It was interesting to me that I noticed how violent it is. I probably see fictional male characters shooting people most days, even flicking channels when the news gets too grim usually brings up male policemen or soldiers doing unspeakable things.

And similarly in the real world people expect the Kurdish Peshmerga to fight against Islamic State, but when female soldiers join them it becomes headline news. Military services like that in the UK army or Israel's IDF where women play an active role are constantly examining this.

I’d love to know how you feel watching this –  Inspired? Uncomfortable? Interested? Proud? Something else??

Action Women Movie Montage from ClaraDarko on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Monday, November 2, 2015

Do you throw up after working out?

Warning: this post contains vomiting references! 
Aisling Daly pre UFC Dublin PIC: Twitter Jerry McCarthy

Yesterday morning Irish MMA fighter Aisling Daly was interviewed on Newstalk radio as part of a segment on ‘body-shaming’.

They somehow ended up talking about training so hard that you throw up, after one of the interviewees (a model) said:

“It does happen, it’s not that uncommon. If you push your body that hard, it’s basically a release.” ~

I was listening to that rolling my eyes.  I come from a fairly tough sports-background: MuayThai gyms in Thailand are not known for taking it easy on students.

So yeah, I’ve felt ill in training (say after someone threw a massive kick or punch that I decided to block with my stomach!!) and dehydrated after long sessions in the sun but thankfully no full-on projectile vomiting.

Then Aisling came on the line. She got straight in there with:

“As far as I’m concerned healthy is the bottom line on everything. Just back to what Lynne was saying there, I’m obviously a high-level athlete. Vomiting while training hard is not normal. I’ve never once thrown up while training. That’s a level too far with your body, that’s not being kind to your body. That’s a little bit of a step too far, I just think it’s a bit backwards.
"I think you should be kind to your body. Exercise, look after it and treat it like the beautiful machine that it is. Healthy should be the main goal.”
Thank you! Let’s move past this idea that pain and suffering is the way to be healthy and successful. It’s especially dangerous for young girls and teens to hear women saying pain and vomiting is normal – because then they will do the same.

Or girls will avoid exercise because it sounds horrendous.

It’s hard enough to get women and girls doing sport as so many studies have shown. Let’s focus on the fun and healthy parts, not frighten people out of the gym with chatter about throwing-up.

What do you think – how much pain is acceptable? Which side of the debate do you fall on?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Age no limit for women in boxing and running

Pauline Curley Dublin Marathon Christina McMahon Alicia Slick Ashely WBC New York
Top: Pauline Curley INPHO         Bottom: WBC Superbantamweight via Alicia's Twitter
What a week for older women in sport; the fastest Irishwoman at the Dublin marathon was 46, and last night two women in their 40s battled for a WBC world title. This week's video is dedicated to them.

Some inspiration for anyone feeling the pinch from a cold winter, if they can do why can't you?

Pauline Curley crossed the marathon finsh line at 2.49:29 not long behind the women's winner from Ukraine Natalyia Lehonkova at 2.31. I'm hoping to talk to her on this blog soon, and bring you some tips.

Jamaican Alicia "Slick" Ashley entered the record books taking the WBC Super-bantamweight world title in New York aged 48 last night. Her opponenet from Monaghan here in Ireland was Christina McMahon (40) whose last outing was winning the WBC Interim belt at bantamweight against a much younger Zambian opponent.

I'm a big fan of Christina's but the night definitely belonged to Alicia. This video below was shot earlier at the famous Gleason's Gym in New York.  She's talking about moving from dancing to boxing, and why she still has the passion. 

Best part for me was when she leans her leg up against the top of the ring-pole, saying: "I tend to be a boxer, not a brawler in the ring, that's why they call me Slick".

(Photos and video from last night's fight on @Girlboxingnow Twitter. )

Alicia "slick" Ashley from haimy assefa on Vimeo.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Catherine Costigan on what to eat for MMA

catherine costigan MMA alphafemale invicta BAMMA

As a 21-year old manager in one of Ireland’s largest surpermarket chains, Catherine Costigan should have been overawed. Looking back now, she says martial arts kept her confidence up.

That same confidence is evident as she talks about the training and nutrition which keeps her MMA career with Invicta and BAMMA Ireland going strong.

The Irish fighter is also a personal trainer under the rather cool banner of “Alpha Female Fitness”. How could you say no?

She said: “I have a lot of women who train with me, it’s not just about fighting. I do a lot of explosive work, we work with programmes like Tabata and all that cool stuff. It’s really different, much more exciting than just a regular gym. There’s been a real evolution in women’s fitness, it’s much more hands-on now.”

Catherine obviously lifts weights, and recommends this for anyone no matter what your sport.

She said: ‘It doesn’t have to be something huge, healthy muscle is good. Running on its own is grand but I don’t think it gives you the best physique you could possibly have as a woman.”

catherine costigan MMA alphafemale invicta BAMMA
All pics via Catherine Costigan Twitter @alphafemalewar
 Eating for MMA  

Diet is a big thing for Catherine, diet meaning healthy, clean eating. High protein, low-carbs is her mantra.
When we first spoke she was in that dead week after a fight when sugar seems like a great idea. For an Atomweight fighter (c. 48kgs or 105lbs) every calorie counts.

She said: “I’m not feeling well, I’ve a cold and feel achy. That’s me back on the broccoli, off the chocolate. Fighters can get quite sick before or after cutting weight, our immune systems are so balanced.
“You only get a certain amount of time to enjoy normal food!”

In the final weeks before a fight, she starts the day with bananas and a protein drink, then lunch is chicken breast and broccoli.  Low-carbs, a lot of water and egg whites at night with greens like spinach to load up on nutrients.

“You do have to eat, it’s not enough to take protein drinks. You can taking them obviously but you need good food going into you to keep your metabolism going for training,” she said.

When it gets down to the final grams, she goes for salt baths over saunas, saying these work better for women.

Vogue Williams Instagram Catherine Costigan MMA
TV presenter Vogue Williams gets into the cage with Catherine PIC Instagram @VogueWilliams
Irish viewers will get a chance to see how her training stacks up soon with a major TV programme on women’s martial arts. Presenter Vogue Williams (who you might know from winning one of Bear Gryll’s intense adventures) even got into the Cage.

Catherine said: “She came to me, and did everything we do in MAA. She said it was amazing but she couldn’t understand how we think about everything that can possibly happen in a fight, she said it was incredible.

“Then she kept asking do you get hit in the “fionnuala”? I finally worked out what she meant so I said I’d gotten kneed in the “fionnuala” a few times, but I have a “fionnuala”-guard! She was really funny, she was asking how I train or fight with my period. I just do it really.

“It will be really good for MMA when it airs, getting someone like Vogue behind us is fantastic.”

Follow Catherine Costigan on Twitter and  Catherine .......