Monday, 23 November 2015

A Running Questionaire

There've been quite a few serious posts on the blog lately so I thought that it was about time I posted something just for fun. So how about a running questionnaire! I pinched these questions from Mary's blog, and some of them really made me think.

Would you rather run along a beach path or on a mountain trail?
Ooo tough one to start with! I loved and hated the beach sections of Tiree in equal measure with their flatness and seemingly never-ending nature so I'll probably err on the side of mountain trail. I've little experience here but despite hating hills, trails are fun and what goes up must come down. Plus, views, right?
Beach running on Tiree

If you could choose the flavour of Gatorade at your next race’s aid stations, what would it be?
I wouldn't. I don't drink it. Nor do I drink Lucozade. The only thing I tend to drink that's not water is nuun and my current favourite flavour of that is lemonade.

If I gave you a £100 gift card to a running store, what would be the first thing that you would purchase with it?
I *ought* to by a new sports bra and maybe a fancy reflective jacket but in reality I'd buy capris! I've got enough trainers (although there are plenty I still covet) but I'm a sucker for funky capris.
Do you prefer to follow a training plan or wake up and decide then how far and how fast you want to run?
I always have good intentions of following plans, and do ok, but can feel quite constrained and overly worried about following them so given the choice, and if I didn't have an event to train for, I'd prefer to just run as I feel.

Would you rather start your run with the uphill and end on the downhill or start your run with the downhill and end with the uphill?
Always get the uphill out of the way first. There's the argument for the legs being more warmed up at the end of the run but they're also tired and I'll be grumpy so let's pick the option that involved least swearing.

When you can’t run, what type of cross-training do you choose to do?
I cross train even when I can run, because I am the type of person who get's bored if I'm only doing one thing all the time. I mainly do metafit, HIIT, boxercise-type classes, circuits, kettlebells and yoga but will swim or cycle occasionally too. I'd love to dance more often but that's fallen off the radar recently.
 I've tried trapeze and trampolining too!

What is your preference—> Out and back, point to point or loop runs?
Loop runs are best for me because it's harder to talk myself out of turning back early and saves on the logistics of getting home again in a point to point.

If you could recommend ANY running related item to a new runner, it would be a—>
pair of trainers that you LOVE. If you love your trainers then you're much more likely to want to put them on and go show them off.

Do you ever see any wild animals while out on your runs?
Yes, mainly squirrels around this way. There was the occasion when I actually kicked a squirrel by accident having apparently snuck up on him. I'm not sure who was more surprised. I've seen the odd deer in the forest too but that's about it.

Ever gotten lost while out on a run?
Not to the point that I've had to call for help but there was one occasion in particular when I got lost in the forest (with company) and it took a bit longer to get home than expected, adding a couple of miles on to what was a medium length run. 

If you could have one meal waiting and ready for you each time you got home from a run for the next 30 days… what would that meal be?
I can't possibly answer that question because I don't have a favourite meal and often I'm not hungry for a full meal when I get back from a run. A chocolate milk drink and a bit of cake wouldn't go amiss though!
Capris or shorts… what do you run in most often?
Capris. I own very few pairs of shorts, and certainly no loose fitting shorts, that don't start chafing after 3 or 4 miles.

At what mile (or how many minutes) into your run does your body start to feel like it is warming up and ready to go?

It takes me about a mile to warm up and get into the flow of a run. There have been a few occasions when it's taken longer or never really happened at all but when you find that moment of complete flow it's pretty special.

What do you do with your key when you run?
Put it in my shorts pocket. I have a special pair of keys, free from key fobs etc, that I take when I run, rather than my usual set.

If you could relive any race that you have done in the past, which one would it be?
A real tough one. There are so many that I've loved, either for what I've achieved or the fun I've had. It would probably be one of my marathons, maybe Marathon Du Medoc. 
Party time at Medoc
What has been your biggest motivation lately to get out the door to get your run on?
My growing sense of lethargy. I know the longer I leave it, the worse it will be so I just go out to run with no set agenda.

When you go for a run, do you leave right from your front door or do you drive somewhere to start?Almost always from my front door. That's part of the attraction of running for me, that I don't have to go anywhere to start. I'll travel to run with friends, for races and parkrun, but I'm lucky that I have a lot of loves places to run within a couple of miles of my front door.

When running in daylight—> are sunglasses a must or an annoyance?An annoyance usually. Of course it depends on the light, and the trade off between wearing sunglasses and being able to see but despite having a really good pair of sport sunnies with interchangeable lenses, I prefer to go without. My eyelashes catch on the lenses sometimes and I can't stand it.

When you get tired, what keeps you from quitting?
I honestly don't know. Perhaps it's breaking down the distance left into more manageable chunks, seeing friends or family on the course, or just a fear of feeling guilty if I don't do my best.

I'd love to hear your answers to these questions! Pick one or two to answer in the comments or link me up to your version on your blog :)

Friday, 20 November 2015

Waste Not : What's In My Fridge

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall may have left our screens for the time being but the message of his War of Waste programme are still with me. Think about what you buy. Try to avoid waste whenever possible. Be fair to the producer. I always thought I was pretty good at avoiding food waste and not over buying but I thought it would be interesting to put this to the test and so I'm going to share with you the contents of my fridge and over the next few weeks, give up dates about what else I buy, what I use up (and how) and what I've had to throw away. This is a completely honest look. No styling or filters here!

Let's start with the salad drawers. Drawer one contains a head of broccoli and a red pepper I bought this week. There's also some beetroot and a courgette from a veg box, apples and a bag of salad tomatoes, chillies and a red pepper from mum's garden. Drawer two contains more apples, onions and two leeks from the veg box.
Drawer one.
Drawer two.
Ok, so far so good. The bottom two shelves are the ones I'm not keen on sharing but here we go. Booze! The bottom shelf is all booze. I don't drink a lot so it's all been there for months, but I like to be prepared for guests so there's a bottle of fizz, some beers, white wine and pimms. This is also the condiments zone. Olives, artichokes, mustards, jam and chutney. Oh and some lettuce that wouldn't fit in the drawer.
The top two shelves are a bit better... The lower one contains an assortment of protein drinks, pomegranate juice, coconut water, avocados and sheep's yogurt. Aside from the protein shakes these are not usual fixtures, but I'm playing with cutting out cow's dairy and trying to find ways to disguise barley grass powder in drinks. The top shelf contains half an avocado in a box, a tub of boiled eggs for snacks, a wealth of tomatoes and some sheep's cheese.
The door is a jumble of eggs, butter, cordials juices, condiments and almond milk.
There was also a plate in the fridge that had half a spinach and paprika omelette on it. Left overs from dinner destined to be lunch in a day or so.
It's not the best, nor the worst fridge. Most of these items are destined for specific recipes which I'm happy to share as we go if you like. I'm quite interested to see how this plays out.

Do you end up throwing food away or are you a frugal, well organised cook?

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

A Birthday, Some Food and Some Fun

I didn't mean for this to be a food-focused post but those seem to have been just about the only photos I've taken this week so I must have been thinking about it a lot!
Free coffee and Pizza Express Snowball Doughballs to get me feeling festive.
Work hard and party hard was the theme of the week. On top of my usual teaching I had a meeting with Talking Therapies about the forthcoming Back to Fitness scheme, an evening at the Woodley Festival of Business on behalf of Barnes Fitness and a lovely meet up at Bisham Abbey with the ladies in the running (pun intended) for a place in the London Marathon.  The latter was of course the most fun. It was the first time the four had all met up and their enthusiasm was visible, despite a couple of injuries. I led a short RunFit session which everyone seemed to enjoy despite the drizzle.
Stunning morning sky
It was my dad's birthday at the weekend so while the Box Bell crew were stomping around in the forest laden with back packs on a military march, I was enjoying a meal out and a cinema trip with my parents in celebration. We even managed to catch a glimpse of the Christmas light switch on firework display at Bluewater as we left. We had intended to take part in the Glow in the Park event in London on Saturday (mum had stocked up on fairy lights and I'd brought glowsticks) but severe weather warnings meant that dad didn't really fancy it, and I can't say I blame him. It was meant to be a fun event and a birthday treat so there's little point if it's going to be a miserable experience. So instead, after doing a wet and windy parkrun in the morning and seeing a matinee performance of The Winter's Tale with mum, it was a night in with Craig Charles on the radio and a bottle of wine (or two).
Pre parkrun breakfast. Yogurt, grated apple and crunchy seeds alongside a custard apple brioche.
Continuing with the foodie theme and birthday celebrations, I took dad out for brunch on Sunday morning. It was a lazy affair, partly out of our control thanks to the speed of service, but a lovely opportunity to get some much-overdue father-daughter time. Another cinema trip to see Spectre and then home for a cup of tea and a slice of birthday cake made for a fine end to the weekend.

I wasn't as active as I'd originally planned, but I enjoyed what I did and am already improving on things this week! Last week's training:Monday: metafit
Tuesday: Rest day
Wednesday: Speedwork
Thursday: 6 miles
Friday: Strength
Saturday: parkrun
Sunday: Rest day

What was the last thing you saw at the cinema? What's your pre-run breakfast? Did the weather change your plans at the weekend?

Monday, 16 November 2015

Showing Side Effects The Yellow Card

How often do you read the leaflet that comes with medication? Perhaps you don't bother with the over-the-counter remedies like ibuprofen but skim the information that comes with your prescription medication, paying attention to dosage and side effects?

I was recently prescribed a course of antibiotics. Just hours after taking the first tablet I experienced a bitter, metallic taste in my mouth. It subsided after eating and drinking but soon became a notable feature of my day. It was so strong that it woke me up during the night. On reading the medication notes more closely it became clear that this was one of the more common side effects.

But I also noticed a little note, inviting me to notify my pharmacist or GP, or submit information online to record the side effects I had. I'd never noticed this before but decided to do so and duly logged on to

The Yellow card scheme allows you to report "all suspected problems or incidents to all health care products, not just suspected side effects to medicines" and is "vital in helping the MHRA monitor the safety of all health care products in the UK to ensure they are acceptably safe for patients and those that use them". The information you log can help to make decisions about whether to update the printed information in the packets or even, in extreme cases, if a product should be taken off the market.

In addition to logging your side effects, it's worth remembering that if you do suffer from any side effects with your medication that are uncomfortable or you are troubled by, you can go back to your GP or pharmacist to discuss alternative options. Don't assume there's only one option; you don't have to suffer. There are are wide range of drugs that can be used to treat many conditions and it's worth finding one that's right for you. For example I was prescribed three different iron supplements, to restore my heavily depleted natural stores, before finding one that didn't make me very uncomfortable.

Have you ever asked for a change to medication due to unwanted side effects? Would you take the trouble to log them?

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

There's Always Time. It's Just How You Use It.

Do you get those weeks when you realise that things expand to fill the time you have? Last week felt like one of those. I had some days when I didn't seem to get anything done, whilst simultaneously busying myself, and others when I made a concerted effort to achieve and ticked off lots of things.

I only managed to make it to one class last week, as work and family commitments took priority, and motivation to work out alone or late or in the dark was somewhat lacking. I need to work on that. It didn't help that on Monday night I suffered with a rather lengthy bout of insomnia, thanks to some antibiotics I was taking. So while I did some exercise on Tuesday and Wednesday in a sleepy state, I would normally have done more and I felt grumpy about that.
Earned my virtual runner medal on 3 hours sleep
Neither yoga class was an option this week. Instead on Wednesday I enjoyed dinner with a friend (something we've only managed once before in 8 years of friendship) and Saturday saw me travelling to Canterbury for a family christening, after parkrun of course!
Post parkrun legs
I shadowed another Eat4Health session last week, and followed that up with a visit to their office to talk about the possibility of becoming an instructor for them in the New Year. It would compliment the work I'm doing with the council on the Back to Fitness scheme, encouraging and enabling people to make positive changes to their eating and exercise habits. I find a lot of joy and satisfaction in that.

Although Sunday is marked as a rest day in my training summary below, it felt far from restful. I attended a Kinesiology Taping course at the British School of Osteopathy, run by ProActive Training. It was a full day from 9:30am to 5pm, with only half an hour for lunch and no other breaks. Many of my class mates were osteopaths and I learnt almost as much from them as the instructor. It was a great opportunity to refresh my Anatomy and Physiology knowledge and learn a new skill. We got hands on pretty quickly and were covered neck to toe (really) in tape. As I write this I'm still wearing the postural tape on my back because it feels so good and has made such a difference. I need people to practice on now!
Last bit of news for the week that was, in that I won a place on the PURE Fast & Listen course via PT magazine. I've hinted at the struggles with my diet recently. In the past I've suffered with blood sugar dips so severe and sudden that I've fainted and so I've become nervous of being without a snack or missing meals. So it will be good to address this, see if I can make any positive changes to my eating habits and perhaps learn some things that could benefit clients. Box Bell Fit have just run a Eat Clean Train Dirty course that I didn't take part in but wished I had, so I see this very much as a second chance to make changes in a supported way. The thought of change really scared me at the start but after a great chat with Robyn, half of the husband/wife team who developed and run the course, it's not half so daunting. It would be fair to say I'm still a little sceptical but I'm going to give it a go.

I hope to improve on my efforts last week:
Monday: Boxercise
Tuesday: 2 mile fast effort run
Wednesday: Strength
Thursday: 6 miles easy
Friday: Rest day
Saturday: parkrun
Sunday: Rest day
The life of a gym dog eh?

Monday, 9 November 2015

Review : Simply Supplements

As a vegetarian, PT and ultra runner maintaining my health and making sure that I am getting all the vitamins and minerals I need is very important to me. I take iron and B12 supplements once a week as I don't absorb these from food very well and take glucosamine daily to help protect my joints. This, in conjunction with a diet rich in fruit, veg and grains seems to stand me in good stead.

I tend to get my supplements from Healthspan but when Simply Supplements contacted me to ask if I would be interested in trying some of their products and writing a review I thought I'd put them to the test a bit. Rather than searching online to find supplements I thought I could use, or just trying different versions of those I already take, I asked what others they would suggest for me. Very quickly, they came back suggesting Vitamin C (to support iron absorption), MSM (similar to Glucosamine, popular with sports people) and a Calcium & Vit D supplement (to support healthy bones and energy levels throughout winter). They sent me out full sized packs of all three supplements and I've been taking them now for about a month.
It's hard to tell, unless you have a real deficiency, whether supplements are making a real difference so I can only comment on this in reference to how I've felt in the past. I'm putting more focus on my strength training recently, thereby taking more impact to my joints, and although I've been feeling the effects in my muscles (hullo quads) my joints have been feeling in fine fettle. Getting up for the early morning PT and teaching sessions is so much harder now at this time of year and I found my energy levels really dipping this time last year but I'm certain the vitamin D is having an impact as I'm feeling much brighter than I would expect.

The tablets are medium sized and uncoated, so if you have problems swallowing tables then do consider that. The vitamin C tablets are chewable with a somewhat chalky consistency and strong artificial orange flavour, but not entirely unpleasant. Simply Supplements seem to be slightly cheaper than Healthspan and of similar quality so could be worth looking at as an alternative. If you order before 3pm you'll get same day dispatch. P&P is free and students get 20% discount so no excuse for not looking after yourself on a student budget. I'd certainly compare products on Healthspan and Simply Supplements before buying in future.

Have you tried this brand before? How do you feel about supplements generally?

Friday, 6 November 2015

Waste Not

It's rare that I'll write something resembling a rant on this blog but it was with real outrage, sorrow and frustration that I watched Hugh's War On Waste on the BBC iPlayer during a bout of insomnia recently. I have been so moved by this program that I feel compelled to write about it.
I sometimes refer to myself as a passionate foodie. I mean this in as much as I ADORE food. You won't find me in michelin star restaurants, creating "foam" to garnish my dishes or waxing lyrical about the latest superfood. Even whipping up any meals requiring more than two pans is usually a step too far, but I believe in eating good food, real food, knowing where it comes from and avoiding waste wherever possible.
Credit: Hugh's War On Waste
What has this got to do with health and fitness? We need to eat well to be healthy, for a start, and given that around a quarter of all fruit and 45% of all salad is binned, that surely must be having an impact on how often we reach our 5-a-day. We import a huge amount of fruit and veg from abroad, simply because our own supermarkets deem the home-grown produce too ugly for sale. Just last week a friend of mine commented on how his online grocery shop had included carrots from South Africa! In October! I've got more carrots than I can eat in a large pot outside my front door and we're shipping them in from South Africa? The more fresh produce is handled, the longer it takes to get from field to shelf to plate, the fewer nutrients it contains. It just seems mad.

So over the next few weeks I intend to look very closely at my food habits. How much do I really waste? Can I get even better at reducing my food waste, either by buying less in the first place, or by being more creative with what I have. I intend to share the state of my fridge, cupboards and freezer, my existing meal planning routine and some of the meals I come up with to help reduce waste.
Green tomatoes destined to become salsa, chutney or cake.
Of course wastage comes from the supermarkets directly as well, not to mention restaurants and fast food outlets, and that's difficult to impact as one person. But. If we all do something (pledging your support on the WasteNot website is a start) then perhaps we can make a difference.

To get you started in a new way of thinking, the WasteNot website has an abundance of useful tips and links to websites such as The Rubbish Diet, Love Food Hate Waste and Too Good To Waste.
It covers a lot more than just food. I remember collecting bottle tops at school to be sent to charities but these days they usually get binned, as I've lacked the impetus to collect them when I've not known what to do with them. However, I've discovered that you can take them to LUSH to be recycled into their cosmetic pots. As I buy LUSH products occasionally it's a great tie in for me.

So please, pledge your support to the WasteNot campaign and have a look at your food waste habits. Try to change just one thing. Then another, and another. Thank you.