This year, between January and December, under my own steam in the form of a 'pentathlon' (in this case, swimming, cycling, running, paddle boarding and kayaking)
I will (virtually) cover the length of South America at 9,006km. This challenge will also include an undisclosed challenge from my coach each month that will push my comfort zone to the extreme.
As someone who likes to set themselves a challenge, I found myself getting disheartened in 2020 by training for triathlon events which couldn't take place.
I know I am not alone in feeling that the constant changing environment that we are living in was impacting my mental health.
As the essence of nnoodl is about encouraging people to get out of their comfort zone and try new things, I thought I should ensure that as well as talking the talk, I am walking the walk. There is evidence that the more we set ourselves even small challenges, the more resilient we become, and so are better equipped to deal with the big challenges that life throws at us. If ever there was a time to be resilient it is now!
I needed to set myself a goal, an adventure which I had some control over.
Reflecting back on an event I did in 2017 where I completed an 800mile bike ride between Argentina and Chile across the Andes, I wondered how I could 'up the ante'.
Could I travel a distance which is equivalent to the length of South America?
What about adding in some further sporting disciplines to not only challenge myself but also replicate some of the terrain I would encounter in real life?
And so I decided on my version of a pentathlon, the Latin American Pentathlon:
Who better to help me with my challenge than Tom Frearson, Head Coach and Founder of Be Fearsome? A former Royal Marines Commando, keen Triathlete and Mountaineer, Tom has been coaching me over the past two years in my triathlon pursuits. We decided that in addition to the 'pentathlon' elements, that he will set me specific goals and challenges along the way to try and replicate some of the terrain and conditions I would face in real life. I have no idea what these are.......oh dear!
I am going to caveat this from the outset for the purists out there. I know how to research and plot a 'real' route but am using a bit of artistic licence here. My main aim was to replicate the distance on this virtual challenge, and tap into elements of the conditions along the way, for example climbs and descents, off road sections, cold water etc. So with that said....
Starting at Barranquilla, the 'Golden Gate' of Colombia, my route will take me through this cycling mad country into Bogota. From there I will pass through Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and onto Lima in Peru, situated on the country's arid coast. Then it is onto not one but two of Bolivia's bustling cities, La Paz and Santa Cruz de la Sierra. We continue to stretch reality as I zig zag across the Andes southwards into Salta in Argentina and across to the small mining town of Copiapo in Chile. I know from experience what a logistical exercise it is to make even one Andes and border crossing in reality. But hey, this is my imaginary challenge so I can go to all the places I want! Continuing through Chile and the metropolis that is Santiago, then on via the Alpine-like town of Villa la Angostura Through Puerto Aysen and onto Chile Chico where the Patagonian waters will really inspire me. Continuing south and back in Argentina to the city of El Calafate on the southern border of Lago Argentino and then Puerto Natales in Chile at the gateway to the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. We are now truly in some of the most stunning parts of Patagonia, surrounded by glaciers, lakes and rivers. The last leg takes me past Puerto del Hambre until my final destination of Ushuaia, aptly nicknamed 'The End of the World'.
How it works
The main reason for choosing this amazing part of the world for my inspiration is for the contrasting terrain and conditions it offers. It is these elements that I would like to challenge myself with: cold water swims and challenging kayak and SUP sessions; endurance testing climbs on the bike and run sections. I am no stranger to training in challenging weather conditions so I hope this sets me up for the winter sessions!
9,000km as a distance to cover over the next 11 months may seem achievable to a cyclist alone, but I have set myself some parameters around this. A percentage of the pentathlon must be covered by each of the five disciplines. With current Covid restrictions in place I am faced with the added logistical challenge of getting the mileage in with some of these sports. Just how far can I swim each month in open water in winter? Along the way I will be on the lookout for areas of the UK which I can use to test myself on. Restrictions allowing, there are already plans afoot for a Scottish adventure...
I will track my progress with my Garmin, synched with 'My Virtual Challenge' and update this blog page each week. My hope is that I can also inspire people along the way who are likewise missing their challenge fix to show that there are ways in which we can adapt and not only survive, but thrive.
To follow my progress, check out the blog here
Here at nnoodl we are as deflated as the rest of you that we are being advised against social contact, and moving towards isolation. Human interaction, and trying new experiences together is at the heart of what brings us joy. But, these are indeed unprecedented times, and so in the spirit of staying safe, but also sane, nnoodl founder Denise has gathered together some of her favourite activities that you can do safely, all from the safety of your own isolation. It also represents a mix of suppliers (some are free), but including some small businesses, who we love to support during these trying times.
Ok, so this is a simple one, it is something many of us probably already do in the privacy of our own home, in the shower, or whilst cooking dinner. But, have you ever experienced the joy of singing with someone else?
I first went to Matt Thompson at ‘Sing the Easy Way’ about 4 years ago. Initially this started as a bit of a dare, as I shy away from public speaking or any public performances. Matt has an amazing way of putting you at ease though, and after my first lesson I felt such a natural high that there was no going back! Matt has always offered online singing lessons, offering the same fun, one-to-one environment as face to face, but without the contact we are trying to currently avoid. Check him out here
Like me, you could become a singing convert and will be joining his beginners choir!
Quelle bonne idée!
Duolingo is something I have been using for a little while now in my attempt to learn Spanish. It is a free platform (with premium upgrade available) that includes a language-learning website and mobile app with 36 languages ranging from Hindi to Scottish Gaelic. They offer a skill tree of lessons that use listening exercises, flashcards, and multiple-choice questions to drill you on new words, phrases, and sentences. Most questions have a comment thread where users can discuss a particular question in detail. The service also has community features that let you connect with other people who are learning the same language you are. Soon you will not only be able to chat online to your current friends, but could be connected to some new international ones too. Get prepared for those 'post covid holidays'!
Gucci Osteria is an Italian restaurant by the famous fashion house which most of us could only aspire to visit in the best of times. However, Massimo Bottura, the Michelin -starred chef heading up the kitchen is giving us a welcome glimpse into this establishment, and just the jolt of optimism we need as millions enter into quarantine to mitigate the spread of the virus. Bottura wants to help with a free cooking series he’s launched via his own Instagram page here
Kitchen Quarantine’s lessons are always taught in English, despite the chef’s Italian provenance, and come to you live via Bottura’s own home where he’s holed up with his family. So far he has taught us how to make a veggie-packed Thai curry, salad, and a tortellini in a thick parmesan sauce to name but a few. He is keen to advocate cooking in a way to limit food waste by using every scrap and byproduct you can.
Bottura wants to be clear that he isn’t just teaching kitchen skills. “It’s just a way to share with people from all over the world… we just want to be part of the world. There’s a beautiful sentence in Italiano from a poet, Franco Arminio [translated roughly to]: yes, we are here, home, but we are talking with the whole world, so we are sharing with the whole world.”
Now this is one that I know is on a lot of people’s hit lists. Learning to sew, either for fun, or in these challenging economic times, to make your own clothes, or upcycle, is a great skill to have. I did my own sewing challenge back in 2015 when I went to the Thrifty Stitcher to learn how to make a dress. (If you really have time on your hands, have a look at my blog here about this great experience).
Owner, Claire-Louise Hardie was the first Sewing Producer for The Great British Sewing Bee, a Professional Costumier with a passion for teaching beginners to sew. She is running a range of online sewing courses, perfect for great tuition in your own home. Check out her online courses here. Also, in the spirit of helping everyone in these challenging times, she is offering some free online sewing tutorials for beginners here.
Thank you for the music...
Having owned a guitar since I was about 12, I am as guilty as the next person of not giving it constant attention and keeping my practice going. Well, what better time to perfect those musical skills than now? Charlotte Barrow is a guitarist whom I have had the pleasure to play alongside at various flamenco gigs. She is a guitar, ukulele, mandolin and recorder tutor with over 12 years' experience of teaching a wide variety of levels and ages, including exam tutoring. She aims to ensure her lessons are fun, friendly and learner-centrered!
Charlotte is happy to offer online lessons and can be contacted via any of the below:
Mobile 07952 231 494
If you are anything like me, the thought of how to keep up a healthy exercise regime will be causing you a bit of anxiety! Jokey social media posts aside of people running a marathon on their balcony, or fashioning a bike turbo trainer with a rolling pin, here are a couple of online resources that I have been using for a while and can highly recommend:
Yoga with Adriene is a fantastic You Tube channel hosted by international yoga teacher Adriene Mishler with an online community of over 6 million viewers. She provides a wealth of online yoga and mindfulness practices that cater for every level of participant. Such a fantastic way to look after your mental and physical wellbeing!
For additional strength and cardio training, I have also been a huge fan of my TRX for about a year. Standing for Total Body Resistance Exercise , these clever suspension straps use body weight exercises to develop strength, balance, flexibility and core stability simultaneously. Initially developed by former U.S. Navy SEAL Andy Hetrick whilst deployed, and trying to find a way of exercising in remote, or confined spaces. Seems like the ideal solution to isolation training to me! I follow TRX UK on Instagram, who post live exercises every day at 4pm. Check them out here
More tips will follow over the coming weeks and months. Stay safe everyone!
Over the past few years, we've seen businesses moving away from competitive work environments to workplaces where collaboration and co-operation between staff is seen as the key to success. As part of this change more and more companies are undertaking regular team building activities. These activities can range from a short, problem-solving activity to a retreat lasting a couple of days. As we approach the end of the year, we also turn our thoughts to Christmas events and the all important thank you's too.
Otherwise known as "I'm already planning to pull a sickie so that I don't have to spend a day being to talked to like a child and forced to 'bond' with my colleagues".
Why does the term 'team building' strike dread into most of our hearts?
Because it can so often go horribly wrong!
Who can forget the escapades of Mr Brent in the Office, like this cringe-worthy classic.......
In this blog we have brought together some comedic, if slightly woeful tales of team building doing anything but bonding people. These are all true stories, which we found many to choose from sadly!
At nnoodl we recognise the difference between the tragic and the magic when it comes to events and experiences and will never put you in a situation like this….
“During a previous job, I worked in a team that was having trouble getting along, so they brought in someone to help us work together as a team. First activity? We had to go around the room and tell each other what we didn’t like about each other. We might have also had to add what we did like about each other but I honestly only remember the criticisms and the people bursting into tears. We went from simply not being able to work together to actively disliking each other in about 30 minutes. Then we ate a boxed lunch and ended the day by filling out personality tests.”
The trust fall fail
There is perhaps no team-building exercise more infamous than the trust fall, an activity whereby a person closes their eyes, crosses their arms, and blindly falls backwards into the arms of a colleague.
This activity is designed to build support and trust between employees. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always pan out this way.
Mark, an editorial assistant at a book publisher, tells us that his employer once brought in a “corporate team-building coach” who broke the staff into pairs for a trust fall exercise. He was partnered with Tim, a marketing intern who was known around the office for his unrelenting Snapchats.
“I closed my eyes and let myself fall backward,” Mark recalls, “and SMACK, I landed flat on my back on the floor.
When I looked up to shout at Tim, he was standing there filming the entire thing on his phone, chuckling to himself.”
And of course who can forget this classic You Tube example........
Lego for lunch
One of the easier team-building exercises to poke fun at is Lego Serious Play, a facilitation methodology created by the Lego Group in 2010.
Team members are given a pile of Lego and asked to “work through imaginary scenarios using visual three-dimensional Lego constructions.” It’s as cringeworthy as it sounds, though a vast nation of HR professionals claim that it promotes effective communication, engages the imagination, and leads to the discovery of new design opportunities. But when employees are treated like children, they act them too.
Alice, a marketing professional, was participating in a Lego Serious Play where employees were given 10 minutes to visualise a problem they faced using Lego bricks. Midway through, two of her colleagues got bored.
“One of them told the other, ‘I’ll give you £20 if you swallow a Lego brick right now,’ and she actually did it,” she said. “I don’t think that’s the type of creative thinking the employer had in mind.”
The next day, says Alice, the Lego gulper was “literally shi**ng bricks.”
Although a great schadenfreude read, I’m sure we all have our own cringey stories of team building days to share. As we near the year end and the infamous team thank you’s and Christmas parties, why not consider using nnoodl to take the angst out of your next team gathering?
At nnoodl we listen to your specific requirements and then create a bespoke, meaningful and memorable team event.
And we are much more than that.
Have you ever been the person responsible for organising said activity? It can be a thankless task trying to come up with something that appeals to everyone, and you inevitably end up as the fall guy.
One of our unique qualities at nnoodl is that we can act as your 'adventure concierge'. Let us decide what the team are doing, so that it is a surprise for everyone. Imagine that, even the organiser can enjoy it!
Some of our previous activities have included underground singing adventures, axe throwing, bee keeping, stop motion animation to name but a few - and always with a lovely food and drink element included.
So if you are looking for something different for your team away day, thank you event or Christmas activity, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a no obligation chat and let's see if we can help you to create something that is more than just a bad day out of the office!
This month we were tasked with coming up with a special day for a group of property developers. The brief was that this was to be a half day activity which served as a celebration for all of their hard work over the past 12 months, as well as having a little team building and fun competitive edge to it.
We got the sense that this was a group of people who by the nature of their work did a bit of travelling, and had a sense of style about them. nnoodl specialises in events in and around London, and we were advised that this activity could take place within a two hour travelling radius of the capital. As with all of our events, we asked every individual to fill out one of our 'About You' short questionnaires so that we were aware of any real likes or dislikes, along with any special dietary requirements. This activity was going to be particularly food and drink focussed so this was an important factor!
As the group were coming from London, we met at Victoria for a train journey of just over an hour into the heart of Kent. The inevitable guesses were happening on the train of where they might be going and what they might be doing, but this journey soon turned into an 'I spy' game where people pointed out towns they knew, or properties they had worked on. It was a fascinating insight for me into how the team work with their clients to produce the full interior package and work on some really interesting properties.
We disembarked at the small station of Headcorn where a few people carriers awaited to whisk us 20 minutes away to......Chapel Down!
This is an award-winning vineyard that produces a world-class range of sparkling and still wines, along with a range of Curious beers and cider. Their sparkling wines are produced using the intricate Traditional Method, the same method as Champagne, where the bubbles occur naturally within the bottle. Interestingly only two of the group of 14 had heard of this little gem of a place, and neither of them had actually been there.
Our first part of the day was for lunch at the onsite restaurant. The Swan has been awarded two AA Rosettes and a Michelin Bib Gourmand, and has such a lovely, welcoming feel to it. We were ushered into a lovely lounge area where we sat on quirky little cork stools as we sipped our glasses of Kit's Coty Blanc de Blancs. It's true what they say about this being exactly like Champagne in everything but name (more on that later...) I was particularly drawn to this venue for it's lovely decor - the outside of this building totally belies what is within and I could see the design conscious group also appreciated it.
We were then seated for lunch which was a three course set menu, and we were in for a treat! The starter was beetroot bavarois, smoked & pickled, hazelnut and mint, served with homemade bread made with their very own Curious IPA. I went for the Union Red Chapel Down wine to accompany my lunch which is a blend of Rondo, Pinot Noir, Regent and Early Pinot Noir. Food and drink both delicious!
Next up was some slow cooked lamb served with seasonal vegetables, which was a sheer delight, the meat really falling apart. Dessert was a poached pear served with cardamon ice cream and a ginger biscuit.
The group were feeling well and truly relaxed by this point, as we were then introduced to our tour guide for the afternoon.
Hazel led us down to the main reception area where we had to don a rather fetching high-vis waistcoat. Apparently this is to ensure that the groups are easily seen by farm vehicles which are usually on the go on this working vineyard. Hazel started by showing us some of the oldest vines in the vineyard and talked us through the background of Chapel Down winery. They make around 1million bottles of wine a year, and are the largest vineyard in England. With the same chalk rock under the soil as the Champagne region, Kent has the perfect conditions for making white and sparkling wine, which is leading French Champagne houses to invest in vineyards in this area.
Apparently it takes about 16 bunches of grapes to make one bottle of wine, and each vine needs about 100 days of growth. Harvest happens around October, and one of our group asked how many people are recruited to pick the grapes. Imagining the answer to be about 100 we were gobsmacked to learn that it is a small, skilled team of only about 8 people!
We then made our way to see where the next stage of the process happens. Once the grapes are picked they go through two pressings to extract the juice. The first press or 'free run' is used for the single variety and sparkling wine. The second pressing gets all the remaining juices out and is used in the blended wine.
Red wine is treated slightly differently – the stems are taken out and the grapes lightly crushed, they go into a tray and are pumped into a huge metal vat with the skins. These skins provide the colour for red wine, not the actual flesh of the grape.
Sulphites are then added to the wine, which kills off the natural yeast and allows the winemakers to add their own, and so control the flavour. White wine has three weeks of fermentation in temperature controlled vats, and the red wine has one week.
As the yeast works it's magic and eats the sugar, it dies off and creates ‘lees’ at the bottom of the bottle. The flavour and bubbles are kept in the bottle using a cap at this point. The traditional way to get rid of the lees was to store the bottles at an angle neck down and turn every day, gradually getting straighter until the lees are down in the top of the neck. Hazel showed us the racks which were used to do this, and then indicated the huge automated cages which are programmed to gradually turn and do this process for them. To get rid of the lees, they freeze just the neck of the bottle and the ice cap comes out when the bottles are uncapped. They are then corked using the traditional corks after being ‘dosed’ with grape concentrate containing natural sugars, which finalises how sweet or dry the wine is. The bottles are then corked and capped with the traditional wire cage and the ribbon, sticker and label added on top.
We then made it back to the centre for our wine tasting, the highly anticipated element of the day!
Grouped around tables, Hazel pointed out the wine tasting chart and talked us through the four stages of tasting. Firstly, check the colour by holding the glass at a 45 degree angle against a white background. White wine gets darker with age, whilst red wine loses it’s colour as it ages. Next to check is the aroma –swirl the wine around the glass and get your nose in for a big sniff. Then it was time for a taste –Hazel highlighted the various areas in your mouth and how they detected different elements to the taste, from the tingling in your cheeks indicating tartness, the front or your tongue for sweetness and the warm feeling in your throat being the alcohol. It is then important to see what lingers in your mouth after swallowing the wine (or spitting it out, which funnily enough no-one seemed to be doing!). This is called the finish.
The first wine we tried was a white Lamberhurst Bacchus from 2017. This was very pale in colour, confirming it's age. It was highly aromatic, crisp and dry with flavours of gooseberry, pineapple and guava, with a hint of elderflower. I quite like a white wine, but tend to usually veer towards a fuller bodied one. The next one we tried was Kit's Coty Bacchus from 2016. Apparently this was a very warm, sunny and dry season and so the fruit produced was a very high quality. Hazel explained that the Bacchus grapes were whole-bunch pressed before wild fermentation in 3rd and 4th fill barrels where the wine stayed for 9 months. This wine had an even more intense flavour of tropical fruits, with an oaky background. The third white was a Chardonnay from 2014, and here we could really start to see the depth of colour reflecting it's age. This was a classic style of unoaked Chardonnay, grown on chalk of the North Kent Downs, with aromas of apple, white peach and kiwi fruit. This was much more my style of white wine!
Next we were onto some sparkling wine and the group were definitely in celebratory mode. They had been testing each other to see if they could guess the wines from the list in front of us and spirits were high. This one was slightly easier to guess as it was a sparkling rose, only one of two which Chapel Down produce. We were treated to the Rose Brut Pinot Noir, a lovely crisp and fresh wine with aromas of strawberries and redcurrants with background notes of toasty shortbread. It is particularly special as it was poured at William and Kate's wedding in 2011 and was also the first English wine to be served at Ascot Racecourse. There was time for one more white sparkling wine, the Kit's Coty Blanc de Blancs 2014, a lovely sparkling chardonnay, before we moved onto the red wines.
By this point the chatter and laughter was lifting by the minute and poor Hazel was having to project her voice big time to be heard. It was great to see everyone having such a great time though!
I was particularly keen to hear more about their red wines, as the climate in the UK doesn't typically lend itself to producing this style. The first we tried was a 2015 Pinot Noir, which had the typical aromas of blackberry and plum and a hint of leather. It was a very smooth, easy to drink wine. We then finished off with the red which I had tasted over lunch, the Union Red from 2017. Again the summer of 2016 had contributed to perfect conditions to produce high quality fruit. This wine was a blend of Rondo, Pinot Noir and early Pinot Noir with aromas of cherries, blackcurrants and black pepper. This was definitely the wine for me!
As we left Chapel Down the group were delighted to be given a goody bag containing a bottle of classic non vintage brut sparkling wine and a box of sparkling wine truffles. I won't say how many didn't make it to the end of the train journey home...
There was wonderful feedback all round from this little celebratory adventure which I was delighted to organise for such a lovely group of people.
So remember, if you are looking for a group activity with a difference and would like someone else to take the organising on board, do get in touch and we would be delighted to have a chat with you to come up with something suitably surprising and special! Just drop us a line at email@example.com
A group of nnoodl adventurers took on a horseriding challenge.
See the full post here:
In the spirit of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, Denise tried her hand at trapeze! Read the full blog here:
A wonderful adventure to the famous Mayfield Lavender field this month as we took on beekeeping and photography! Read the full blog here:
Denise Yeats is the creator of nnoodl. Here she shares a selection of previous nnoodl activities along with some interesting articles and insights.