Friday, 29 November 2013

Competition time!

Today I have something super special for you all, something I've wanted to do for a while… my very first ever give away! 

First prize
  • Brush off your running mojo with entry to either the Dorney Lake 5k or 10k on February 22nd 2014 courtesy of F3 events and Write This Run
  • Kick your training into touch with 6 months membership to the Run Lounge
  • Prep your body with a High 5 nutrition pack
  • Relax post-training and get inspired with a copy of Running Like A Girl
  • Pair of Sweat Pink shoe laces
  • Recover well after the event with a sachet of Après Hot Chocmalt drink

I'm already entered into the 10k and really looking forward to it. Your Run Lounge membership will get you access to training plans, strengthening and stretching videos as well as discussion forums and a great community. I'm a big fan of Après so I can't resist including a sachet of this as well.
As well as the main prize I'm offering three runner's up prizes of Sweat Pink shoe laces. I may throw in a little something else as well as a surprise
Pink laces make you run faster, don't you know
For your chance to win all you have to do is enter via the Rafflecopter widget below and cross your fingers! The competition is open until the 20th December, the winners will be announced before Christmas day and the prizes will be sent out in time for you to make your New Year's resolutions. This does mean that you won't be able to give any of these as Christmas presents, but this is meant to be a treat for you.

Good luck everyone!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please note that no monetary alternative will be given for prizes and postage is within the UK only.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Write This Run Conference

One thing I didn’t expect from this weekend was to meet quite so many Santana fans but it just goes to show that there’s more than meets the eye to the people who attended the Write This Run conference at the Running Show this year.
Laura… not talking about sports bras
For those of you not in the know, Write This Run is a community for bringing people who are passionate about running and writing together. I’d known about them for a while, had heard excellent things about their workshops, met the girls at the Women’s Running 10k in London earlier in the year and so pounced on the opportunity to attend their second conference.
The Better Blogging panel
A rather over air-conditioned room at the back of the Running Show venue at Sandown park hosted around 5 hours of truly inspirational talks and panels which were broken up into themes which were in turn broken up by lunch (provided) and coffee breaks. My favourite personalities of the day were Jody Raynsford, Bangs and a Bun, Sophie Walker and Robbie Britton who made me belly laugh and is responsible for inspiring me to try 24 hour events, thereby giving my mum a few more grey hairs. The day was rounded off with a choice of a yoga session or a running techniques class. Also included in the ticket price was entry to the show and the 5k or 10k run on Sunday, which Idecided to take full advantage of.
Trying out a wordplay bag in the coffee break
Technically we had some time to look around the show before, during coffee and lunch breaks but really most of us just wanted to chat and get to know each other. Although I once again failed to pluck up the courage to go and talk to Bangs, I had a lovely time chatting to Lucy from Lucy Lemon, Lucy from Black and Tabby Runs, the Veggie Runners and Katherine Selby, Christina Macdonald and one of the lovely photographers from Women’s Running. In fact I got randomly chatting to quite a lot of people, even outside of the conference. I love that about the running community… it’s so friendly!
Brands and Bloggers panel
Indeed we created a bit of a buzz at the show all weekend. Almost every stand I went to asked if I was with the conference and when I went back to look around the Running Show properly on Sunday I got chatting to someone from the Run Mummy Run community (identified thanks to the funkycompression socks) who had thought about going to the conference but didn’t. I was fairly singing its praises and reducing my chances of getting a ticket next time.

As I sat in my car afterwards eating a bag of chips, bought purely because I needed to warm up from the inside, I reflected on the day. I’d come away with a fantastic goody bag including a lululemon yoga mat, nicely relaxed after a half hour of (chilly) yoga and a glass of vino from the after event social at the G!ro café down the road. I had met some great people, become inspired, enthused and felt full of confidence. That feeling hasn’t really left yet. And despite lusting over lots of lovely new kit and innovations I managed to resist and only spend a total of £10 - result!
Socialising at the G!ro Cafe
Oh and the Santana fans… well it so happened that after the show I was going to see Viva Santana at the Boom Boom club down the road in Sutton. Everyone I mentioned it to claimed to really enjoy Santana’s music… who’d have thought!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Race Review: Running Show 10k

I keep glancing over to the clock on the sideboard. I'd have liked to have left the house half an hour ago but my house guest is still eating breakfast and I promised to drop them at the station before going to Sandown Park. I have rarely felt less prepared for a race. I've not run for weeks, with the exception of treadmill work, and no further than about 3 miles even then. It's cold and I'm tired from a full day of conference and a gig the night before. I've only the vaguest of ideas about the course layout and all I know is I need to register by 10am. It's 9:15 and the journey takes 40 minutes.

A rather aggressive car journey later and I get to the registration desk at 10am precisely. The people behind the desk don't show any signs of turning people away in the near future so I start to relax. Grasping my race number I wander around the Running Show for a bit to try and calm down. I snaffle some samples of Clif bar and enjoy a soothing and warming hot chocmalt drink from the chaps at Après. Breathe. It's fine. Just get round. 

By the time I get myself to the start area and meet up with the Write This Run girls I'm feeling a bit better and have amended my goal from "just get round" to "run a sub hour". The starting group is much smaller than I expected but the atmosphere is lively. I got race envy last year when I saw people wandering around the show with their medals so I was thrilled to discover that my conference ticket included entry to the race this year. No brainer, as Kevin Bacon would say.
The Write This Run girls. Photo from Write This Run
The course is two laps around the exhibition centre and part way round the race course. There are some long inclines that I hadn't been expecting but I hack away at them, picking off a couple of people. Afterwards I can see from the split data on my Garmin, which miles were uphill. I'm buoyed by James from 4Distance giving me a shout out as we pass each other going in opposite directions on the first lap and by seeing Debbie, who ran my pub quiz for me earlier in the year, marshalling at the top of quite a steep incline outside the exhibition centre.

We're off! Photo from Write This Run

I talk myself into walking the final incline, once I've passed the enthusiastic marshalls, and am passed by a lady in purple, who I'd overtaken moments earlier. "Come on, we've got this" she puffs, so I pick up the pace and run hard to the finish line. I break my PB by 20 seconds, completely unexpectedly, amazing! Lady-in-purple and I thank each other, we both did better than expected and I head back into the show, beaming, to freshen up a bit and guilty try on kit that I won't buy and will leave smelling slightly less fresh.

The Running Show 10k is well worth taking part in if you go to the show next year. There's a fun run for the kids and a 5k option too. Just don't expect it to be flat!
Bling and PB

Friday, 22 November 2013

Was that an entire week? Seriously?

Friday! Again! It keeps on happening doesn't it? I'm not really sure where all my time has vanished to this week, although reading back over my post gives me some idea.

Last Saturday was absolutely brilliant. I went to the very first Run Mummy Run social up in London to put some faces to the twitter handles and Facebook names. I was pretty nervous about it because I didn't really know anyone, I'd been a bit of a lurker on the Facebook page and of course I'm not a mum, so I felt a bit of a fraud, but it's not exclusively for mums. The whole thing was started by Leanne who wanted a way to find people to run with who were similarly constrained by partner's working hours and childcare. The group is incredibly supportive and contrary to my expectation we all talked about running rather than children. I met some truly amazing ladies, listened to some very interesting talks and got a fab goodybag. It was a really fun day and I feel so much more a part of the community now. There's talk of entering a run or two with some of the ladies near to me like the Knacker Cracker and the Bracknell Half Marathon.

However if I'm going to do things like that I need to start running a bit more. It's been a week since I last ran, at my PT session, on the treadmill. I had all good intentions this week but it's been cold and dark and, on some days, very wet, and I've been a wuss. I even gave up circuits in favour of a free cinema ticket on Tuesday and skipped circuits and Body Balance yesterday in order to get some study in. I did get to Urban Rebound again on Wednesday though, and was grateful to find it was a fair bit easier second time around and on an empty stomach. I did a half hour of hula hooping this morning, walked the dogs at lunch and have my PT session after work so I've at least done something active this week.

I'll be active over the weekend too. I'm going to the Write This Run conference at the Running Show on Saturday at Sandown Park. There's a whole host of fantastic speakers including Bangs and a Bun, the opportunity to chat to some fellow bloggers and do a bit of networking over a glass of wine after either a group run or a yoga class. I cannot wait! I'm going to opt for the yoga as I'm running the Running Show 10k on Sunday. My conference ticket includes entrance to the show on both days as well as the 10k but as I won't get a chance to look around on the Saturday I'm looking forward to doing that on the Sunday, either side of the race. Bit nervous about the race given my current activity levels and the temperature out there but I'm sure I'll get round and can thaw out over a planned coffee with a friend in the afternoon.

I spent a few happy hours last Sunday doing what I like to call a "veg box cook", making some big batches of soup and snacks to have during the week, planning my meals and making sure I'm making best use of everything to avoid waste. I find a great deal of happiness in those sorts of tasks. I bought a book for my Nutrition and Weight Management course which was recommended to me by a fellow student; Carbs & Cals. It's really aimed at people with diabetes but I can see it's going to be pretty useful for judging portion sizes and working out nutrition content of meals. I'm in week three of the Nutrition and Weight Management course but have managed to get ahead a bit and am now on the material for week four. I hope to keep things that way, as it's all too easy to fall behind. I'm also keeping up with The Mind is Flat course… I'm in week three of that too.

I've finally finished writing all my articles on Soy Protein for The Protein Works and they're available here for you to read if you so wish. It was fun having a writing assignment and hopefully I'll get to do a bit more of that in the future but for now I'm kept busy enough.

Finally this week I shall leave you with a picture that I found especially inspiring… puts pay to the argument that lifting weights makes you bulky. If it's good enough for Marilyn, it's good enough for me. Rock on lady!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Early Bird or Night Owl? Try the Munich Chronotype Questionnaire

I read an interesting article the other day on Mark's Daily Apple about chronotypes, i.e. whether someone is a night owl or an early bird. It's not quite as straight forward as you might think and the majority of us are truly somewhere in the middle.

It's suggested that night owls are more prone to poor health and bad diet choices but largely because our society dictates that we should rise at a certain time which robs night owls of some much needed sleep. That lost hour or two of sleep can make huge differences. But our behaviours can be modified to some extent so all is not lost. I know I go through phases of not being able to get to sleep before midnight and others of waking up an hour or two earlier than usual.

There's a test you can take to find out if you're naturally an early or late chronotype. It's free and you can find it here. I am very firmly in the "normal" or "average" range, being neither an early bird nor a night owl. I'm perfectly fine with that.

Monday, 18 November 2013

My Race Wishlist

I've taken part in a LOT of races this year, more than I've ever run in a 12 month period before. What's more only a fraction of those were races I'd done before. I love the atmosphere of races (and the bling) and use them as an excuse to try different things, see different places and as motivation for continuing to maintain my fitness. I don't often use them as arenas to break PBs. Usually to complete in a "reasonable" time is good enough for me.

While it's tempting to keep entering the same races to try and improve my times over the same course I figure that's what parkrun is for and I'm also afraid races I really enjoyed wouldn't live up to expectations on a second try (which is why I won't be running Bournemouth Marathon again). There are masses of fantastic races out there to be run and if I keep doing the same ones I won't get to try them, especially as I've promised my mum I'll only do eight events next year.

I've already got three races in the diary for 2014 which only leaves me five to play with! If I had the time, money and ability to do as many races as I wanted next year this would be my list. As it stands I'm going to have to try to whittle this down A LOT. Let's start with the scary stuff... mum, you might not want to read any further.
The Ultras
Gatliff marathon just your bog-standard 50k ultra (ha!)
Toad Ultra I really fancy a multi-day event sometime and Susie sold this one well.
Oner (I'm hopeless at navigating though so maybe not)

The Foreign Ones
Chicago marathon to run with one of my best friends
Reykjavik half marathon I've been sold on this by Laura
Bank of America Chicago Marathon
The Halves
Race Your Pace Half at Dorney Lake
Lydd Half down in Kent, my home county
Eden Project Half because I love Cornwall and the Eden Project
Richmond Half because... I can't remember actually... I'm sure I heard good things
Eden Marathon 2013 logo

The Small/Local Ones
Shinfield 10k
Marlow 5
Wargrave 10k
Samaritans 10k - literally a mile down the road from my house. Been meaning to do it for about 3 years.
Royal Berkshire 10k - a new race i got an email about earlier in the year

The "Fun" Ones
Glow in the Park - oh come on! Glowsticks! And the National Trust! That's two of my favourite things!
The Tough 5/10/15 - I fancy challenging myself with some hills
Moon Walk - the fundraising aspect puts me off this one unfortunately
Kilomathon - there used to be a London version of this so I'm hoping they'll bring it back
Hellrunner - I'm not sure why... I have generally sworn off these types of events

Brooks HellRunner
Quite a list huh? I've just realised there aren't any marathons in there. I guess none have really taken my fancy this time around, although if I had to put one in it would be the Vegas Rock 'n' Roll marathon. I'd also have to include Brighton so that I can run with Alex, even though the course doesn't especially appeal, and I'd definitely tackle the Paris marathon if I won a place in the Women's Running 26.2 project. You see how they start piling up? There's even more that I'd like to do in my lifetime (MdS for instance) and that's without considering triathlons or duathons (Blenheim and London Duathlon if you're wondering).

What's on your race wishlist next year? Or do you avoid them like the plague?

Friday, 15 November 2013

Segway, Sweat and Socialising

What adventures have been had in the last seven days? Well last Saturday morning I took my friends 13 year old son  to Dinton Pastures for an off road segway experience as a belated birthday present. The weather forecast had not been favourable and no sooner did we step onto the segways than the rain started and just got heavier over the course of the hour. There were just six of us in the group so we got plenty of help if we needed it. Kiddo took to it like a duck to water (though thankfully didn't drive the thing INTO the water... there path was largely on the banks of the lake) and despite the cold and the rain he had a whale of a time so it was all worthwhile. He ended up at the front of the group right behind the instructor who seemed to take a shine to him and answer all his questions. We may go back in the summer and try it again.
Sunday was ice hockey night again! I could see myself becoming a bit of a regular at the Bracknell Bees games. This time I went with my fella and sat upstairs which meant we could hear the commentator more clearly but I didn't feel quite so close to the action. Although we didn't win the shirt-off-their-back raffle nor the duck/puck game the Bees did win so that's what matters.
My certificates came through for my Gym Instructor qualification and I've and booked my PT module up. It's a long module and by starting in March I'm looking at a June 2014 finish. At that point I'll still have a few modules to complete for the diploma but I will be REPs level 3 PT qualified so I could start taking clients, which is really exciting.

I managed to force myself through a gym session on Monday, doing my intervals and strength routine and seeing small steps towards improvements there, and I've got my PT session tonight for more of the same... My PT runs a circuits class twice a week so I tried it out on Tuesday and followed it up with Body Balance. The circuit was ok, the squat thrusts followed by burpees were killer, but I did pretty well. I'm not sure if I'll make it a regular thing. Staying to do Body Balance afterwards was well worth doing though. I've not been out for a run for ages and I'm missing it a bit so maybe I'll make the effort to get out on Sunday (giving myself a day to recover from PT).

I'm missing parkrun tomorrow as I'm heading up to London for the very first Run Mummy Run social. I know I'm not a mum but they're very inclusive. There'll be speakers and lunch and a chance to just have a natter to other like-minded women. Can't go wrong with that now can you? Continuing with the social theme I met up with Anita for dinner at her gym last night. It's pretty swanky and I got momentary envy but honestly couldn't justify spending that sort of money on a membership. The food was great though and I even had a glass of wine. At the gym!

What have you been up to this week? Lamenting not having achieved something you intended to or celebrating having done something new and exciting?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013


This post has nothing to do with exercise and everything to do with my first love, which is food. I'm unapologetic about this. Lately I've been blessed with an abundance of food. After having been flooded with apples and tomatoes from my mum's garden I've had my own tomato harvest to deal with followed closely by beans, spuds, beetroots and carrots. I was seduced by a good offer (free cook book and bottle of wine... wine!) and restarted my veg box delivery with Abel & Cole, got a yogurt hamper from the wonderful Chobani and accidentally scheduled a trial of a Hello Fresh box during a time when my fridge was already full to bursting.
My proper local veg box used to look a bit like this.
If you've only started reading this blog recently you may not know I have a half plot allotment which has been rather neglected lately. Any daylight I had in the evenings was spent training and spare time at weekends recently has coincided with thunderstorms so I have quite a list of things that need doing, mostly pruning and digging, each of which should be easily managed in a half hour block. Time seems to pass very quickly when I'm on the plot but it's always enjoyable and therapeutic. Being able to serve up a meal and say "I grew that" is pretty cool too. Having herbs outside the house this year has been a revelation - meals have been transformed and there's been no more sighing over the fact a recipe calls for fresh basil that either already expired in the fridge or I failed to pick up from the supermarket in the first place.
Example of an allotment harvest
If you grow anything, grow herbs, in a tin on your kitchen windowsill or in a balcony box, they're usually very forgiving. A friend of mine said I'd inspired him to try growing veg on his balcony in London this year so I sent him some seeds in the post to plant in pots. Carrots, radishes and tomatoes did particularly well, despite suffering a bit of neglect as he's had to travel a lot this summer. I'm a teeny bit proud of him. He's been proudly telling twitter about the things he's made from the harvest and in return for my inspiration he inspired me to try a radish soup!
Growing tomato plants upside down. See, you don't even need floor space!
I adore cooking and baking. I'm no star baker or master chef but enjoy trying new recipes, and making the odds and ends in the bottom of the fridge into a respectable meal. I pride myself on rarely wasting anything. On the front of my fridge is a list of meal ideas that are possible with the current contents of the fridge and a meal plan that aims to ensure there are enough lunches to go and that bag of salad gets eaten before it goes off. I know I'm lucky to have this bounty and to be able to have such a varied diet. It's also made it easier to make healthy choices, although portion sizes might have increased a little lately...
Mutant "courgette". I appreciate this looks more like a marrow. But it wasn't
That's why you'll have been seeing a lot more recipes on the blog lately, partly because I've been sent things to try and partly because I've come up with a few gems of my own through looking out new things to do with gluts of things (I've found, surprisingly, that there is a limit to how many apple crumbles I want to eat). I hope you're enjoying them and have maybe been inspired to try a couple of new things yourself. I know not everyone enjoys cooking, thinking it's difficult, that they don't have enough time (you do) or lacking confidence to stray from a recipe but I think there's a great deal of satisfaction to be had from a little time spent in the kitchen.
Traffic light tomatoes
Do you enjoy cooking? What's your style - follow a recipe to the letter or freestyle it up? Have you started growing anything this year or been tempted to?

Monday, 11 November 2013

I'm a Sweat Pink Ambassador

The eagle-eyed among you will have seen a new little badge appear on the right hand side of this blog. It announces that I am a Sweat Pink Ambassador, which sounds quite lovely, doesn't it? But what does it *mean*?
SPAs are part of a community called Fit Approach. Fit Approach is a site founded by cousins Jamie and Alyse who are aiming to build a healthy community. Their mission, in their own words:

We believe that kicking ass is best done in pretty shoes. We’ve learned that real women sweat, and sweat hard. We know that assertiveness, strength, and ambition are the ultimate feminine qualities. We concede that sometimes it takes hours to get ready, but we’re also no strangers to just rolling out of bed and going. We’re convinced that we run faster in pink shoelaces. We believe in pushing ourselves, and we believe in giving ourselves a break, too. We’re all about the rush of endorphins and the thrill of the challenge. We’re all for looking great and feeling even better. We’re committed to finding our best fit, and making it stick.

Basically we try and inspire others while wearing pink shoelaces. Why pink shoelaces? I'm not really sure, but they are funky. You can find out a bit more here.

The community is very big in the states but a little less so over here, so applying seemed like a no-brainer. I'm all for trying to be inspirational and encouraging people to challenge themselves. Everyone who is accepted as an ambassador is invited to write an introductory article about their "aha" moment, the story about how they got into fitness and what drives them. Mine got published last week and you can read it here.

Contrary to what you might believe, this isn't just for women. My fella swiped a pair of the pink laces for his trail shoes, and mighty fine they look too.
Pink shoelaces... even Scotsmen can wear them.
I'm thinking of running a little competition at the beginning of December, something along the lines of a book/books on running and a chance to get your hands on some of these pink shoelaces. Would you be interested in that?

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Green Tomato Soup

My mum and I have been growing tomatoes for about 4 years now. We always end up with too many plants and therefore huge gluts of toms, not only ripe ones but buckets of green ones at the end of the season too. There's usually some stubborn ones that won't ripen and so over the years I've compiled a few recipes to use them up, including a DELICIOUS green tomato cake, a salsa, and a soup which I'm going to share with you today.

If I could remember where I got this recipe from I would credit it, but I can't. If anyone finds the original then let me know so I can give credit where credit's due. This is a really satisfying soup and pretty quick and easy to put together, though it's worth taking time to get the veg really soft in the beginning.

Green Tomato Soup

serves 6
  • 1oz butter
  • 1 lb green tomatoes
  • 8oz potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 pints stock
  • 1 tin beans like borlotti, pinto or cannellini
  • 1/4 tsp dried sage/thyme/mixed herbs
  • salt and pepper
  • a handful of rice
  • 125ml single cream or a splash of chilli sauce (optional)
  1. Fry the tomatoes, potatoes and onion in butter until soft
  2. Add the beans, stock, herbs, rice, salt and pepper and bring to the boil
  3. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the veg is tender
  4. Blend 2/3 of the soup if you like some texture or all of it if you like it smooth
  5. Stir in the cream or chilli sauce if using (I don't), and reheat before serving.

Friday, 8 November 2013

These are a few of my favourite things...

This week has been utterly brilliant and full of all my favourite things. If only I could find a way to make a living from learning, watching films, seeing my friends, cooking and going to the gym I think I'd be truly happy forever.

I got my exam results from the weekend (97% for my Core Training) and started the e-learning for my Nutrition and Weight Management course. I also started another online course through FutureLearn, in conjunction with the Open University and the University of Warwick, called "The Mind is Flat: the shocking shallowness of human psychology". I thought it might be a good thing to do alongside my PT course to get a bit more insight into the human psychology which might help me with positioning myself as a trainer further down the line. I've completed the material for week one and it's hugely interesting, regardless of whether or not I'll be to apply it.

I've managed to do some sort of exercise almost every day, walking the dogs, PT session, Body Balance, gym sessions and more treadmill walking for FitFlop testing. My abs finally stopped aching round about Wednesday and the arms took over. I'm finally feeling like I'm making some progress on the speed and strength front; I've added an extra interval to my speed session and finally increased the weights on part of my strength routine.
Alcoholic yogurt... mmmm yes please!
In foodie news I got a delivery from TheProteinWorks of some of their new Cherry and Almond flapjacks, which were on offer and are absolutely delicious. I also tracked down some of the new Raspberry and Amaretto yogurt from The Collective on offer at Waitrose... also amazingly scrummy. I had to be very controlled and not buy every yogurt flavour I fancied trying. I think I'm the only person on earth who gets more seduced by the yogurt aisle than the cake aisle in the supermarket. I'm not convinced it's a much healthier habit to have sometimes. My tomato plants finally got ripped out and stripped of the remaining fruits which lead to a batch of green tomato soup to see me through the weeks lunches; another success which I'll share soon.
Segway-ing in Chicago. Love that skyline. I miss it. I'm booking a flight right now...
This weekend I'm skipping parkrun again and taking my friend's eldest lad on a segway adventure. I'm not sure who's more excited. I've been on a segway before in Chicago but I think this is going to be a bit more rugged. On Sunday I'm going to the ice hockey again but this time I'm taking my fella. We're seeing the Bracknell Bees play the Telford Tigers. We have upstairs seats this time so it'll be a very different experience for me. 
So it's been a very full week, and that's without mentioning the cinema trip and socialising! I'm holding out hope that next week will continue the trend. What's been your highlight this week? Have you done any of the things that make you truly happy?

Incidentally if you fancy trying some of those fancy new flapjacks, or indeed the brand new porridge pots from The Protein Works, not only do they have both on offer but if you order via this link you will get 250g of their premium Whey Protein 80 in whichever flavour you prefer absolutely FREE if it's your first order.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Saviour snacks vs Nutribox

Lately I've been seduced by some introductory offers and have been trying out various food-by-post services. There are a huge number of these around ranging from those that specialise in cheeses or puddings, to meal kits designed to include exactly what you need with no waste and parcels of snacks. Most people will already be familiar with Graze boxes, a subscription service that will deliver 4 punnets of fruit, crackers, porridge, cakes and all manner of other delicious snacks at a time to your doormat but there are plenty of others too.

I signed up to two services: Nutribox and Saviour. Both are subscription services offering a selection of healthy snacks. The biggest difference between these and Graze is that where as Graze design their own snacks, you should be able to go to a supermarket or other online retailer and find the snacks included in the Saviour and Nutribox parcels to buy for yourself. In this respect these are good if you want to try some new products. Here's a little comparison of the two and my thoughts.

Varieties: Classic*, vegan or sports nutrition
Sizes: Mini*(9 snacks) or nutribox (18 snacks)
Frequency: Weekly, fortnightly, monthly, bi-monthly
Cost: £12.95 on a 'pay as you go' plan, or pay upfront for 3, 6, 12 or 24 deliveries and save up to 15%
Comments: I ordered a mini classic box which contained 9 snacks. The box, similar to Graze, fitted through my letter box so was waiting for me when I got home. The snacks were mostly sweet but a mix of bars and seeds/fruit. I had heard of nakd, rude health and beond products but hadn't tried any of these varieties before. Annie's fruit bar was really tasty, I can't wait to try the lovechock bar as it looks so indulgent, and I think I want to try the Turkish Delight fruit and nut mix on porridge.

Varieties: "Ultimate", Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free and Kosher
Sizes: One size only or 8-10 snacks
Frequency: Weekly, fortnightly or monthly
Cost: £15 a week plus £2.22 shipping
Comments: I ordered a vegetarian box which contained 10 snacks. The box didn't fit through letter box so I had to make a trip to the post office to collect it. The packaging was lovely though. I had tried chimpanzee bars and bear fruit before but not these varieties. I'm looking forward to trying the wasabi pumpkin seeds and the snapz tomato "crisps". The lovebite ball looks to be surprisingly low in cals for something that looks so chocolatey and indulgent.

Given that I got both boxes on the same day I was pleasantly surprised that there was only one product that appeared in both boxes and even that was in different flavours. Both boxes came with an info card telling you about the products and giving some nutritional information. I think the Nutribox is slightly better value but that the Saviour box, on this occasion, had a slightly more exciting range of snacks. I'm sure it's cheaper to buy all of these products individually but you're paying for convenience and an element of surprise. I maintain that Graze are probably the best value of all the services out there at the moment, at £3.89 a box, and of course it's even cheaper to make your own snacks (it's not hard) but these boxes are a good way to try out different products and maybe find some you've not heard of before to go out and buy as part of your weekly shop. These are great for keeping at work as I now have an exciting range of snacks on hand that I know are good for me and I liked not knowing in advance what I was going to get. I'm unlikely to continue with these as a regular subscription as I think it's a lot of money to spend but it was nice as a treat.

If you want to try one of these services for yourself you can currently get £5 off a Saviour box with the code "FAMILY" or get 25% off your first Nutribox order.

Note: This is not a sponsored post. I paid for these boxes and products myself and have not been asked to write a review. I just thought it was a nice comparison to do.

Monday, 4 November 2013

School Report

Happy Monday everyone! I'm in a frightfully good mood today and I make no apology for it whatsoever. Deal with it or get involved. In fact, I challenge you to think of 3 things that are good about today, either things that have already happened or things you're looking forward to... there, it's not so bad is it?

Apart from the fact it's a glorious day outside I owe my good mood to an extremely good weekend. Not all of it went to plan, admittedly, but where would the fun have been in that? In between dinners out, seeing Thor 2, having a good old boogie and sing-a-long to The Bohemians at the Half Moon in Putney and indulging in an unashamedly square Sunday evening of listening to big band music on the radio and reading I took two more courses towards my PT diploma.

This time I had to head into London (to the delightfully named Slim Jims)which always feels like a mini adventure. I actually quite enjoy taking the train as to me it's just enforced reading time, even better when I have a flask of coffee and a snack. Although the courses were two distinct modules, both were held in the same location and taught by the same instructor. 13 of us took the Circuit Training course on Saturday and about 8 of us took Core Training on the Sunday. We were probably split 50/50 into "hobbyists" and those already in the industry so I was able to get a few insights from those already in the know and also compare notes and experiences with people still in the early days of studying like myself. Both days were excellent fun thanks to the group being really friendly and funny and our tutor, Sam, being one of the most positive, enthusiastic and approachable people I've met. It seems Future Fit have a superb team of tutors.

The Circuit course was pretty physical. Sam put us through a mini circuit to set the scene then after some theory work we were split into two groups to design and delivery an hours class. We did not go easy on each other! There was a lot of giggling and grimacing and somehow our efforts were good enough to warrant passes all round. Sam gave some constructive feedback for us to take away and build on and I definitely want to spend a bit of time reading through my manual more and brainstorming ideas. I might even stretch to trialing a mini class for some friends.

Thankfully Core Training on Sunday was less energetic. There was a lot more theory work but most of the afternoon was spent trying out different exercises and adaptations, rounded off with a half hour multiple choice exam. I have to wait to get my result but I'm quietly confident I'll have passed.

So I started today with some good aches, having ticked another couple of boxes towards my diploma and having made a new contact/friend in the process. Add to that a gym session before work and the fact I can start the first of my nutrition modules today and I'm feeling pretty happy with my lot.

Here's a to a good week!

Friday, 1 November 2013

If Your Jim Needs Directing...

It's Friday, which means that if recent habits are to be maintained, a review of the last seven days is in order. First up... I passed my exam! I took my practical assessment last Saturday morning and I am delighted to announce (again, for those of you who follow me on twitter or facebook)  that I am now a fully qualified Gym Instructor (REPS level 2 thank you). I was all kinds of nervous beforehand but my assessor was really lovely and Joanne, my subject and ever lovely friend, kept me calm as only she can. Dave my PT also texted to wish me luck :) I taught my program and got some great feedback. This weekend I'm doing two day courses, Core and Circuit training. I will, of course, report back on those next week.
Our view
Gotta have a foam finger right?
I went to my very first ice hockey game on Saturday evening to see my local team, the Bracknell Bees, play against Manchester Phoenix. I know NOTHING about ice hockey but I won a family ticket to go and I'm always game for doing something different so I took Joanne and family along with me. Apparently the Bees are almost bottom of the league and Phoenix are almost at the top so I was thrilled when we won 3-2 after overtime and penalties. We had downstairs seats which meant the commentator was rather muffled through the plexiglass (but I'm so glad it was there, the puck hit it at least 3 times, but then we were sitting behind a goal) and we happened to choose a spot where we couldn't see the scoreboard but it was still really good fun. Why are there 3 periods though? Why? Makes no sense. Anyway I enjoyed it enough to want to go again. It's very affordable and it's fun to support a local team. I'm starting to understand why people like football. And sport in general.
Me and Joanne's eldest. We had a blast.
Up close to the action
Saturday ended with a bottle of red wine, which was nice. What was less nice was the run the next morning. I mean I'm glad I went, because I'd have been angry with myself if I had been stubborn and stayed in bed but I ran badly. Ever had a run where you wish you would trip and fall and injure yourself just so you didn't have to keep running? That. I'd hoped for a nice scenic 3-4 miles. What I got was a 5.5 mile route (ok it was pretty) with a hill I couldn't run and a lot of huffing and puffing on my part. Frustrating because I know I can do better. If you'd seen me you wouldn't have thought I was capable of running 26.2 miles just 3 weeks ago.

But that rubbish run plus action film plus sport film has equaled motivation. We watched Friday Night Lights on DVD (spotted Tim McGraw, always a pleasure) and watched Escape Plan at the cinema (Sly Stalone and , Arnie SEE IT!) which contained the wonderful line "You punch like a vegetarian". This immediately made me want to take up boxing. My motivation seems to wax and wane quite wildly at the moment but I started with renewed intentions of getting stronger and faster so that I can go for a run with my fella without feeling as though I'm slowing him up for once.

Finally, after goodness knows how many failed attempts I made it to Group Kick class on Tuesday only to find that it was the last one for a month while the studio is being revamped. Such a shame as I actually really enjoyed it, not least because the instructor handed out chocolates at the end. I picked up the routine pretty quickly and worked up a sweat but didn't feel like I'd been worked super hard so I hit the gym afterwards to do the weights section of my new program. I'm led to believe that these are much like the Les Mills Body Combat classes, kick boxing movements choreographed to music, so I might try and look for a similar class at one of the other gyms covered by my membership but otherwise I'll hang on until December do one now and again to mix things up.

My second new class of the week was Urban Rebound which I signed up to for a bit of fun on Wednesday. The entire class takes place on your own mini trampoline with the focus on keeping your upper body mostly still and all the effort being in the downward push from the hips through the balls of the feet. You do not get points for height! It was a very odd sensation but a lot of fun. We did not stop moving the entire time, sprint, squats, jumping jacks, you name it. A MUCH harder workout than Tuesday's class so I didn't do weights afterwards but went home for a cup of herbal tea to try and settle my stomach (leave more than an hour after eating before doing this class).

Working in London on Thursday which meant I was ideally placed to take part in some testing for FitFlop at the London South Bank University. I found out about it via Danielle who is a long standing "subject". The test took about an hour all in and involved being wired up and walking on a treadmill in a pair of sandals. I have another session next Thursday to repeat the test in a different pair. Will, who carried out the test, was really sweet and chatted away, answering all my questions and quizzing me a bit on my Kilimanjaro trek. They're still after more (female) subjects I think so if you're interested, let me know and I can put you in touch. You'll get a £40 voucher to use at FitFlop for your trouble.

I'm heading back into London tomorrow for two day courses in Core Training and Circuit Training which I'm looking forward to. Fingers crossed I pass these too. I start my Nutrition for Weight Management course on Monday... all happening here!

What've you done this week for the first time, and would you do it again?