Leading a healthy lifestyle infographic

by Sara Picken-Brown @Figure_Genie

James Tebbs Triathlete for Valetudo RetreatsWhat hits you most upon meeting James Tebbs? He is a force of nature. A mountain of a man standing 185cm tall, together with his beard & long hair, you could be forgiven for thinking Thor’s Viking cousin was about to beast you on his road bike.  I had the privilege of catching up with the Beast from the SouthEast (of London) recently between pool laps to get a little insight into just what it takes juggling a career, triathlons and parenthood and discovering the odd grey hair.

How many people do you know that begin any career, let alone an athletic one, at 43. Then have the results to contemplate representing their country? We are not talking playing darts here either, we are talking Triathlons consisting of 1500m swim, 40km bike ride and a 10km run to finish, which pro level triathletes finish in 01:50:00. You will be forgiven for feeling tired just reading that. 

What does it take to be a competitive  Olympic Distance Triathlete and still have a life? James took the time out of his crazy training regimen to share some insights into his world and has some advice for those considering delving into the mad-bad-world of Triathlons.

James Tebbs Etape Tour 2018 _Valetudo Retreats
Have you always been involved in sports?
Yes, sport is in my genes. I played football competitively as a junior. Rugby, cross-country running and track and field followed at secondary school along with basketball. I took up Thai-boxing for 4 years which I thoroughly enjoyed and it taught me a great deal about myself.

Who do you respect most in the sport & why? I have the utmost respect for any athlete that has the confidence to take on a challenge. It shows they have the will to succeed and to push themselves. 

What does your average training week look like? I train between 8 – 12 hours a week. My day starts at 4:30am and finishes with a session around 11pm some nights, being sure to fit in my work and family life.

What is your current diet and supplement regime? I have a wildly overzealous metabolism so I burn calories at a ridiculous rate and need to eat a lot, (checkout the burger mountain on instagram).  I’m on a keto-based diet for the most part of the week, lots of meat, healthy fats. I don’t eat enough vegetables but I’m working on that. I snack on fruit and nuts through the day.  Main supplement staples are protein, creatine, multivitamins, BCAAs (brach chain amino acids) and GABA

Triathlete James Tebbs for Valetudo RetreatsWhat is different about your training this year? My swimming technique was poor having only really begun to swim properly in 2016, and as it would take years to properly hone a better technique, to get me race-ready endurance was the main focus so I would be able to complete the swim and recovery quickly for the bike discipline. Not having run or cycled for a long time, a lot of time was spent building stamina, leg strength and focusing on active recovery, essentially being able to lower my heart rate while still exercising. As a result of this approach, I ended 2017 season in a strong position and with my training tools this has only continued to improve.

When you are not training, what hobbies or passions capture your focus? Lol. When I’m not training, some days it feels like that is all I do, I love spending time with my daughter, who is my world. I read and I play guitar as often as I can. I really get immersed in writing music or just playing.

What are your key aspirations with your sporting endeavours? To represent my country as a triathlete. Through hard work I am becoming a strong competitor. I’m genuinely passionate about triathlon and have learned a huge amount from my coach, Gary Spencer, who has represented Great Britain as an Age Group triathlete. As he has done for me, I want to be able to give others the same opportunities and guidance, as a Coach in the future.

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James is Coaching a ‘Duathlon Club’ 6 Week Program starting Oct 10th at Fitness Space Bloomsbury in WC1  If you want to improve running, cycling, overall fitness and learn how to get involved in events, then this is NOT TO BE MISSED. Email: bloomsburysm@fitnessspace.com


What advice would you give to amateur athletes looking to start with triathlons? Just book an event. Start small. There are so many events around the country, all of which are open to the public. You can borrow or hire equipment so there is no need to spend lots of money initially. The atmosphere of all the events I’ve entered is phenomenally uplifting. Training certainly has transferable skills and has improved many aspects of my life. I feel more alive and approach many things with the same tenacity. There are the obvious health and fitness gains which has improved the bad posture I previously possessed, courtesy of the desk job. Its also fun.

James is proof that with a little focus and work, no matter what age you are, you can improve your health and wellbeing and enjoy life on another level. Travel, meeting like-minded people and improving health and wellbeing are just some of the benefits of trying new things. If you are inspired by James’ story and want to follow his progress you can catch him, if you are quick in:

2018 has been a mammoth year of events for James and next year proves as challenging. Until then, its consistent training, lots of Coaching with aspiring urban athletes and a co-hosting a Fitness Retreat in Bali in February.

For Courses Plans and Programs contact the Coaches



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IMG_9127Since I arrived in the UK  I have been blown away by huge number of tanning salons here. They are like a virus, dotted along high streets and  on nearly every street corner.

Australia banned  Tanning Salon permits and eventually the salons themselves in 2015. For a country with the highest cases of melanoma cancers, this was a critical step in public health care and a prevention strategy for future generations. ‘Pale is In’ across many parts of Australia, tanning is now considered a rather trashy look as fashion moves toward a healthier complexion. The anti-ageing benefits of staying out of the harsh sun have also not been glossed over.

Despite the very different lifestyle lived in the UK (being outside for much of the year is almost impossible unless you are made of special forces material and the rain and cold are embraced). Brits love of tanning is something that needs address from a public health perspective. After all ‘dying for a tan’ is hardly smart.

Speaking of smart, there are some very real and very clear reasons that snubbing the tanning bed is the best way to go:

Dangers of Tanning in a Tanning Bed

  • The emissions from tanning beds chiefly consists of ultraviolet rays. There are two types of ultraviolet radiations known as Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB). UVA, a longer wave radiation, has been identified as a cause for a deeper penetrating radiation.
  • The biggest culprit is probably UVB, a short wave radiation, which has long been linked with sunburn effects. Moreover, it is the one which is responsible for malignant melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.
  • UV radiations from the bed can also affect our immune system adversely. It also causes premature aging of the skin, which leads to rather crumpled and gristly appearance. Recent studies have even suggested that people who used tanning beds are 2.5-times more prone to risks of basal cell carcinoma, while 1.5-times more vulnerable to the occurrence of squamous cell carcinoma.
  • People using the tanning-bed are more susceptible than those who had natural sun exposure previously.
  • People who choose to tan in salons using tanning beds are approaching increased risk of developing skin cancer. This is particularly true in case of periodical tanning which occurs at a continuous frequency over relatively long period. As the amount of damage to the epithelial cells of skin accumulates, it increases the risk of melanoma.
  • Skin aging and skin cancer are the delayed effects that usually come to surface after many years. So, the damage done by this ultra violet ray emissions is not immediately apparent, people in their teen ages are often unaware of the dangers of tanning. In US alone, around 1 million cases of new skin cancer cases have been reported last year.
  • Teens are at a greater risk, as they are still witnessing tremendous cellular growth in their body at that particular age. Due to the increased multiplication rate of skin cells at this time, they are more prone to the dangers.
  • It also poses a great risk of sunburn. Medically, our skin has been classified into five types out of which skin type I and II are more susceptible for skin burns due to the prolonged use of tanning beds.
  • Eyes of frequent users are more exposed to the threat of cataracts and corneal burns from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays.

IMG_9240Now it has been a long time since I took to using a tanning product, in fact the last time was a ProFigure Championship in Fort Lauderdale, USA and the experience was a production line of white bodies parading into a booth one by one and emerging glistening and a dirty chocolate colour. The product smelled terrible and was a bit of a nightmare to keep from streaking. Perfect skin condition was one of the aspects athletes were graded on.

Based on a decade of competition tanning memories, and ruined clothes, the idea of  testing out Cocoa Brown tan didn’t fill me with a huge amount of joy. As tanning products go, if being pale is just not for you, then this should be one on your list to try. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The colour wasn’t terrible, no orange or strange brown streaks. It smelled remarkably good, almost edible actually. Best of all it dried instantly, no sticky residue and it didn’t stain my clothes. Made from natural ingredients and very easy to use. Depending on how dark you wish to go, this product gives you full control. Plus for those super glam nights out, you can use the body glitter lotion to really shimmer like the stars.

PHOTO: R Faraci (Australia)

Cocoa Brown Product

Review by Sara Picken-Brown for H& N Magazine (U.K)



FigureGenieFiles half marathon preparation, knee painHaving a goal is a brilliant way to keep your training and mental focus on track. Which is why after many years of goal setting with my own fitness and achieving some very satisfying personal bests, I have decided to tackle a half marathon. I was never a ‘runner’. Memories of horrible forced cross country running activities at school in the middle of winter haunted me for years. Coupled with the fact that I was always more of a sprint/power style athlete; 100m races I was unbeatable, long distance I always came last or close to it. I then deviated as far away from running as I could with a successful bodybuilding career, even ballet is an anaerobic physical pursuit. So needless to say, ‘endurance’ has never been a ‘comfortable’ place for me. So why set a goal that is clearly waaaaaay out of my comfort zone? Well, because a half marathon it is waaaay out of my comfort zone and clearly this endurance aspect of my health,  fitness and mental focus needs developing… a lot!

I began really focusing on a weekly consistent run of 1x 3km and 1x 5km (in whatever time I could muster) the key was to do it and do it regularly. I discovered that running outside was not a favourite thing to do, running alone was not fun. But since April 9th I have built up a good consistency and seen big improvements in both my fitness and enjoyment of this activity.  I still have not broken the elements barrier yet, you know ‘if it ain’t raining, it ain’t training’ as Bear Grylls says. But I will get there.  Consistency in action is always going to be far more productive for your long term health.

I am now 23 weeks into this adventure, I have an event planned (Hampton Court Half Marathon on Sunday 17th March 2019), which is 25 weeks away. I have as of this week completed my first 10km distance, and aiming to build up to a 30km per week distance broken into a variety of distances and heart rate training zones.

However, I have recently discovered a troublesome issue! My left knee starts to hurt, a lot at about the 4km mark. After a little enquiry, seems that my patella tracking on the left side is a problem.  Stemming from a tight ITB (thats been a long term issue that requires management) and potentially weak glute medius and glute maximus, (what weakness after all this strength training? Good grief).

The body does not lie, so fix it I must! A new program that includes: Functional strength training focusing on the hip and glute area, balance work to stabilise the femur into the hip girdle and a lot of quad stretching and adductor stretching to lengthening. A focus on maintaining greater balance on the clearly imbalanced working muscles.

Dr. Mike Clark, DPT on behalf of Sharecare Fitness Fitness states,  “Kneecap pain while running is often caused by tightness in the rectus femoris, which is the main thigh muscle, and your biceps femoris, which is the outside back of your thigh muscle (the outer hamstring). Tightness of these two muscles, increases the pressure on the kneecap (patella). There is usually also weakness in the inside thigh muscle (called your vastus medialis obliquus), and the upper outer hip muscle (gluteus medius). Weakness in these two muscles allow the thigh to move inward when the foot hits the ground. The combination of the thigh moving in (caused by muscle weakness), and the kneecap being compressed (muscle tightness), causes kneecap pain.

To deal with this, here are the 4 main things that you can do:
1. Foam roll the outside of your thigh.
2. Stretch the thigh muscle (rectus femoris).  Try the kneeling hip flexor stretch and hold the stretch 30 seconds.
3. Stretch the outside thigh muscle (biceps femoris). Perform the 90-90 outer hamstring stretch and hold the stretched position for 30 seconds.
4. Activate the inside thigh muscle and the outside hip muscle (gluteus medius). Perform side lunges to balance, side to side tube walking and stability ball squats.
In addition, make sure you ice the knee when you are done running. “

Being injury free is a massive focus for me, I do not believe in ‘running through it’ or ‘running it off’, the body is very good at telling us when we need to pay attention, and this is certainly what i intend to do. I am, despite the knee niggle, actually enjoying running and running outside now. In my book that is a big win, so long as i eat properly in preparation for my sessions, I believe this half marathon, will be completed in a very reasonable time, one I will be competitively proud of. Now I don’t just want to ‘finish’ I want to do well.