Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Vik's Picks : May 2016

New things, as opposed to new experiences and classes, have been thin on the ground this month but I still have the full compliment of five items that I've rated in the past 30 days, to share with you.
  1. First up we have these rather great Forest Feast Street Food snacks. I've been eating a lot of snacks lately and my sweet tooth is failing me, so I'd been on the look out for some good savoury snacks. I found the Samui Thai Spice variety in Holland & Barrett and they've really hit the spot. I was delighted when they were on offer on the plane coming back from Edinburgh too!
  2. I'm in gym kit just about every day but most of the time I don't need full blown technical running socks. Primark do a fine line in trainer socks at just £2.50 a pack in a variety of colour combos. They are comfy, wash well and have even stood up to the test of a 10 mile run.
  3. I was in Decathlon buying some more kettle bells and mats a few weeks ago and accidentally ended up in the sports clothing aisle. Then I accidentally bought these rather gorgeous Kalenji Eliorun trainers. I justified it by reasoning that wearing my proper running trainers to teach class in is a waste so I'm using these as "gym trainers". They say they're suitable for running but I've not put them to the test yet but at around £30 I'm very happy.
  4. Another snack! Ok I know I said my sweet tooth wasn't as prevalent this month but these are just so moreish. MyProtein Clusters offer the right balance of texture and sweetness whilst being under 150kcal per pack. Just right for nibbling on post training.
  5. Finally, my kit choice of the month is this basic domyos essential skipping rope, also part of my Decathlon haul. I use these in some of my classes but also as part of my own training regime at the moment, helping me to improve my speed, agility and aerobic capacity for boxing. Cheap but effective.
Any savoury (vegetarian) snack tips? Do you wear Kalenji trainers for running?

Thursday, 26 May 2016

New Routines, Nice Runs, Now Relaxing

Life is a series of routines and phases. I'm currently in a phase of starting lots of new things, classes, training, clients and study, all of which takes a bit of getting used to. I'm thankful that I made the decision not to start everything all at once and given my self time and space to get into my new routines. Last week I started a third Back to Fitness course and a "graduates" class, which will be ongoing for as long as there is demand. I have figured out my routine of loading up the car with different kit for different classes and managed not to get stressed out about it. What's even better is that everyone seems to be enjoying the new classes and courses so far!
Back to Fitness "graduates" (and new participants) enjoying post-class refreshments.
Boxing training is still a feature at the moment, with the HIIT sections still being manageable and the boxing element getting more complex. I've been trying to get to grips with slips, rolls and blocks and getting out of the "boxercise" habit of being formulaic and routine with my punches. I'm also trying to teach my partner not to apologise when she makes contact (it's light touch still)!

My running in the past week has been sociable (Green Park 10k), leafy (Tuesday's off road run) and fitted in whenever (Friday's shorter run before heading to London for an evening's eating and entertainment with mum). I took inspiration from my friend Cathy in terms of just getting out there in whatever time is available to run, rather than making excuses. It's worked so far.
One sunny morning
Before my run with Bracknell Forest Runners the week before I'd managed to get my forms signed to apply for a place on a Coach in Running Fitness Course and was delighted to get confirmation of my place by email last week. The course doesn't start until the Autumn but I'm already looking forward to it as it's been hard to find dates that worked with my schedule. I've also been accepted as a Run England Mental Health Ambassador and need to make time to do a bit of work in that area.

So work is busy, training is going well and I've managed to be sociable too; an afternoon coffee and playground date with Cathy and her little boy (seesaws are a great leg workout) being a particular highlight. Oh and let's not forget the marvellous meal at Wahacas in London prior to an especially brilliant dance performance of Jekyll & Hyde at The Old Vic.

So that's life for me at the moment, to some extent same old same old, but all good things. In summary, training looked like this:
Saturday: Boxing Training
Sunday: 6 mile run
Monday: Skipping set & Yoga
Tuesday: 5.3 mile run
Wednesday: Rest day
Thursday: Boxing Training
Friday: 4.5 mile run

Anything new crept into your schedule lately? Are you organised or a fly by the seat of your pants kinda person?

Monday, 23 May 2016

What's Keeping Our Wellderly Population Healthy?

Staying fit, healthy and sharp for as long as possible is what many of us hope to achieve in life. A study, started in 2007, entitled the Wellderly Study, is uncovering links between good cognitive health and protection from chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Initial findings  from the project, which has enrolled over 1,400 people in America between the ages of 80 and 105 with no chronic medical conditions, seem to indicate that a healthy brain and a healthy body are linked but how cause and effect are related is still unclear.
Dr Eric Topol, in an article in the San Diego Union Tribune, speculates that "it could be that the brain-protective variants have other effects that preserve health in the whole body. Alternatively, people who are clear-headed might be better at following healthy living habits".

The "Wellderly" population have been defined as "exceptional individuals who live into their ninth decade and beyond without developing a significant chronic medical condition". Conditions or diseases including cancer, stroke, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, diabetes and heart attack account for 90% of all deaths in industrialised nations and around 75% of health care costs. Understanding the link and how we can potentially protect ourselves against these conditions would have huge implications.

Of course while we await further results and findings from the study there are many things we can do to give ourselves the best chance of staying fit and well. Eating a healthy, balanced diet, getting regular check ups from the GP, staying active both mentally and physically and ensuring we stay sociable, all put us on the right track.

Do you consider yourself part of the Wellderly population or know someone who is? What is it about your/their lifestyle that sets you/them apart?

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Club Running, Long Running and Various Treats

Having given myself a week or so grace since coming back from holiday, the past week has been pretty busy with new Back to Fitness courses and preparing for a couple of new ongoing courses, one for council employees and another for Back to Fitness "graduates". It feels as though all of my non-teaching hours have been taken up with session planning and prep, although I know in reality that's not true. The first couple of weeks surrounding the start of a new class or course are always busier and it doesn't last but I know I need to get a little better with segregating my work and "rest" time, especially with my days split into morning and evening shifts as they are.

Insight into my work/life balance aside, what have I actually been doing with my non-working time? Training has taken up quite a few of those hours, especially on Monday when I went for my last long run before the marathon in June. I very nearly didn't go. I texted my mum a "I don't really feel up to it" sort of message, expecting a sympathetic response. Instead I got a "well just going out and see what you can do, it's a nice day" message in response. Damnit! So I dutifully went, with no route in mind. I decided to explore some of the footpaths around the area in a bid to make the run a little less monotonous.

At two miles it felt like a lot of effort, so I texted mum again for support. "Run a bit and walk a bit. You need the miles not speed" was the response. Yes mum, that's exactly what I would tell other people, so why am I having trouble telling myself that? A video from my parents waving flags and cheering me on followed, making me smile and plough on. I had water, snacks and music, sunshine and lots of green space. A run/walk strategy was adopted, using a walking break at the end of the mile to sip water. It worked. I got through 16 miles and enjoyed it in the end.
Saturday also marked the start of my boxing training at 8:30am. Due to holidays I missed the first session so I was joining for session two. A mix up in hall bookings saw us training outside on a warm sunny morning, which was actually really nice. We started with a general warm up, much like the sort I do with RunFitUK, followed but a HIIT workout of three lots of three minutes, then technique practice on jabs, crosses and a basic block. I didn't find it too testing and was really more interested to see who else was taking part. The proportion of men is unsurprisingly higher but the range of women is reassuring to see.
After training I headed down to Canterbury to visit my Nan for lunch and conversation. I'd found a little place called The Cosy Tearooms in Elham via google maps which turned out to be a real gem of a find. All the food was home made and there was a great selection of vegetarian options. Lunch options were sandwiches, toasties, jacket potatoes and quiches and whilst that could have been quite dull, it was all beautifully presented and full of flavour. Seemingly popular with cyclists and walkers, the tearooms also offered a fine line in cakes. I can highly recommend the caramel banana loaf and cherry coconut cake.
Sunday morning was spent marshalling the Woodley 10k in heat that made me glad I wasn't running and very sorry for everyone taking part in the Bracknell Half Marathon that was also taking place that day. The event went well despite a bit of a panic over our commentator mat malfunctioning, leaving me to try and find numbers and corresponding manes from printed lists to give names checks read as finishers came over the line. Having not taken advantage of many of the free Starbucks rewards I'd earned through Vitality recently I thought I'd treat myself to an iced coffee and a couple of hours by the lake in the afternoon - a treat indeed!
Thursday evening is host to my second boxing training session of the week at the moment. The format was the same as the Saturday session but this time we were working on hooks, upper cuts and blocking hooks. It's starting to feel a little more cohesive and I'm starting to suss out who I'd *like* to be paired with, not that I get any say in the matter.
On Friday I had my first run with Bracknell Forest Runners. I'm not sure if I mentioned but I joined the club some time ago but my work schedule and some long standing social commitments has meant I'd not been able to make any meets until now. I'd expected there to be quite a group for the Friday run in the woods but there were only eight of us, including myself and two other guys who were also new to the club. I'd had mixed experiences of club running in the past and I find it takes me quite a long time, in general, to feel part of any group but I think the low numbers really helped on this occasion. We were all made to feel very welcome and it was a chatty, social run (although that's not to say it was easy) where no one got left behind. We did get a tad disorientated, and one chap had a bit of an incident with some barbed wire and his trainer but it was a really enjoyable hilly run in the woods and I'm scouring my diary to see when I can make it again.

All in all, a good week of training, which in summary, looked like this:
Saturday: Boxing Training
Sunday: 6 mile run
Monday: 16 mile run & yoga
Tuesday: Sit up and press up matrix

Wednesday: Rest day
Thursday: Boxing Training
Friday: 6 mile run

Are you a club runner? Have you been put off? What's one thing clubs could do to make it feel less daunting to join?

Monday, 16 May 2016

Event Review : Royal Berkshire 10k

It has been two months since I last ran in a race and a little longer than that since I ran a race for myself, rather than as pacer. Add in to the mix an entry that had been deferred from last year, a relatively local, well talked of event and a bunch of lovely ladies to spend the morning with then it really was no wonder that I was excited about the Royal Berkshire / Green Park 10k. The race seems to be suffering a little from identity crisis, having been previously known as the Green Park 10k but now the Royal Parks. Both names were evident around the race village.

The weather looked set to be somewhat less scorching than the previous weekend that played host to the Woodley 10k and Bracknell Half Marathon and I'd heard rumours of the course being particularly fast and flat so although I'd not been putting in any specific 10k training, and certainly hadn't been running with much speed of late, I felt optimistic of a decent time.

I knew many Bracknell Forest Runners, Reading Road Runners, Box Bell Fit-ers and other friends taking part but on this particular occasion I was delighted to be part of the Bracknell RunFitUK group or "Tool Station Posse" as we have dubbed ourselves (we even have a sign to that effect). Charlotte very kindly offered taxi services to me, Nikki and Cathy (our supporter on the day) and we met up with Clare in the race village.
Photo by Clare Payne: Clare, Nikki, Cathy, Me and Charlotte
A message from Charlotte declaring she was on her way at 8am prompted a very hasty scoffing of banana and sultana overnight oats. Nikki got a similar fright and poor Cathy didn't manage to have her toast at all! But thankfully bacon butties were available in the race village, along with coffees, burgers and toasted sandwiches so appetites could be sated. There were two car parks for the race, costing £5 per car, but as we arrived at 8:45am (the race started at 10:30am) I can't comment on whether there was any queueing or difficulty in parking later in the day. 10:30am is rather late for a race start but it allowed for mums and dads to run with their children in the mini marathon earlier in the morning and still run in the main event, which was a thoughtful touch. It did make me apprehensive about whether I'd eaten too early though, and whether I'd suffer for it on the course.

Race village was just a short walk away, the bag drop a breeze (so I'm told) and I didn't have to queue for loos at all so big ticks for organisation pre-start. I had to collect my race pack from the help desk as I'd not had my entry transferred over properly but it was no hassle at all, for which I am thankful. Also in the race village, for a small fee you could get a massage or have sore muscles taped up. Heart FM provided the soundtrack to the day, pacers were on hand and also helped warm up the crowd before the off.
We discussed our targets for the day, exchanged hugs and split up to find our respective spots in the start funnel. We started bang on time under a glorious blue sky, temperature creeping up bit by bit. I tried desperately not to go out too quickly but the crowd's enthusiasm was infectious and all too soon I was at the 2km mark, about to turn out of Green Park to the strains of a percussion band. The entire event is on closed roads and lives up to it's reputation of a flat course with the exception of two or three motorway bridges. Unfortunately it doesn't lend itself well to spectators and there was little cover from the sun that beat down. Being on quite enclosed lanes there was also little breeze so the water station at the 6km mark was welcome. Small bottles with sports caps were handed out, which is probably my preferred choice rather than cups, pouches or normal bottles.
Photo by Cathy Owen
I managed to maintain the pace I was aiming for up to the water station, which is when I started to think that my goal was possible... so determination set in and I started to push a little harder, using any downhill to my advantage. I even started to overtake a few people in the last couple of kilometres. I saw Cathy on the side lines, doing a grand job of cheering everyone past the "200m to go" point. I pushed a little harder. "Dig deep, dig deep" was my mantra. I felt slightly nauseous but was focused by this point. The finish line! Hit the stop button on my Garmin. Glance at it. Grin. A new PB of 55:43! My previous official 10km PB was around the 57 minute mark with an unofficial PB of 55:59 at Equinox24 two years back.
The face of a new PB holder
I collected my (gorgeous) medal, water, soreen mini loaf, water bottle and packet of crisps and waited to see Nikki over the line. The two of us then wandered back to join Cathy cheer everyone else through. We missed Clare but saw Charlotte come through looking really strong to earn herself a new PB too. The collective all through, we meandered back through the race village (we may have snaffled some more crisps on the way) stopping by the ice cream van, as is a tradition of mine. So engrossed were we with chat and iced treats that we almost forgot about collecting bags. Ours were the last in the bag drop - sorry Mr Attendant!!
Raspberry ripple, vanilla and rum & raisin were the flavours of choice
I rarely run with others and it's an even rare occasion that I go to races with others but I now realise what I've been missing. It was brilliant to share our successes with each other, to have the support and friendship. Even better to be able to support these ladies, who I've seen develop in ability and confidence with their running. I feel privileged to be able to call them friends too.
Of course company can often make or break an event but even if I hadn't been in such great company I know I would still be writing a very positive review of this race. I can't think of anything I'd change in the organisation, I enjoyed the course (bar lack of spectators but that can't really be helped) and thought that forgoing traditional goody bags in favour of the edible treats was a good choice, especially as the snacks were exactly the sort of thing that is useful at the end of a run. It was excellent value too, £19 unaffiliated, £17 affiliated and £25 on the day. A technical t-shirt was extra but was available in male and female fit, in a choice of two colours and a range of sizes. I don't say this often but I would definitely enter this again.

Have you ever surprised yourself with a PB? What's one race you would run again without hesitation?

Friday, 13 May 2016

Beltane, Bruce, Beach, Bostocks and Burgers

Not content with just one break, 48 hours after returning from Cornwall I set off for Edinburgh to visit a friend. The theme of good food and relaxation continued, with a few more dog walks and a bit less swimming. Ok, no swimming - although we did go to the beach.
About 10 minutes before it hailed...
The trip had been organised around the Beltane Fire Festival to mark the start of Spring but there was also a long list of food and drink I was to try whilst I was visiting. Somehow we managed to tick most things off the list!
We sampled inventive ice cream flavours from Mary's Milk Bar and donuts from 12 Triangles, had vegan haggis burgers for breakfast at Holyrood 9A, wonderful tatty scone wraps from Scoff at the food market and the best (vegan) chilli I've ever had from the Union of Genius at the Fire Festival. Oh not forgetting an amazing caramel banana bostock for breakfast on my way to the airport on my last morning. And that's not even everything!
Bruce also enjoyed the food market
I won't lie, I didn't do nearly enough activity to justify all this great food (or the cocktails) but it was wonderful. Early morning dog walks were a revelation. It was so peaceful and good to get my steps off to a good start so early on in the day. Bruce really enjoys walking, almost as much as he enjoys taking the bus... he does like to try and get on almost every single one we pass, and we were kind and let him travel on a few. It was good to discover how many eateries were dog-friendly in Edinburgh, and bars, for that matter.
Tried most of these. Figuette About It was my favourite.
The Fire Festival was on the Saturday night. We'd been really looking forward to it and got there in good time to explore the site on top of Calton Hill. Fairy rings of illuminated mushrooms, dancers painted and in costume, people from all walks of life, gathered to celebrate Spring. It was quite the spectacle as dusk fell. However once the parade started we soon found it hard to see anything on the dancing and soon took ourselves off towards home, happy that we;d experienced it at least. Then we found a group of nearly-nude drummers, painted red. THIS was what I'd been told the festival was renowned for! We hung around to listen to them a while, enthralled and slightly tipsy on the urn bru and whisky we'd been sipping, before catching the bus home. Somehow we managed to refrain from buying more chilli.
Vegan chilli - best chilli I've ever had.
So it was a very easy week in terms of activity. I did a lot more walking than is recorded below, but I didn't track all the dog walks so this is just a portion. I travelled home on Tuesday and came back to a really busy 48 hours but things have settled down again and I'm back into training and business as usual. There's no doubt that the break has done me the world of good, though. I'm looking forward to my mini spa break in July now!

A sample of my activity during my time in Edinburgh and when I returned home is below:
Saturday: 4mile walk
Sunday: 3 mile walk
Monday: 3.8 mile walk
Tuesday: Rest day
Wednesday: 4.6 mile run
Thursday: Rest day
Friday: 10 mile run

If you have a dog, do you find you're generally more active?

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Boxing Clever

After Swimathon I had no races until May so found myself looking at my dairy and decided I had space in my life to bring something fresh into the mix. I've been inspired by movies like Southpaw and Creed recently, not so much with a view to getting in the ring, but with the style of training that boxers go through. So I decided to add some boxing-style training into my weekly routine.

Why not just concentrate on my running? Well, to be a better trainer, I need to play around with different types of training and while reading around subjects is all well and good, the best way to get under the skin of something is to experience it myself. I'm not ready to take on physique training (yet) but I wanted to see where a boxing training plan will get me to in terms of my fitness and figure.

But then something happened... I saw a blogger friend post about the Ultra White Collar Boxing match she was about to take part in. And the seed was sown. UWCB gives Joe Public the chance to get eight weeks of boxing training for free in return for committing to stepping into the ring to fight in three 2-minute rounds and raise money for charity in the process. What better way to get committed to boxing training than in preparation for a real fight? Dear Reader, I signed up.
June 25th will see me stepping into the ring, complete with entrance music, with another amateur fighter from the group, to fight it out for real. This is so far outside my comfort zone it's almost a dot. I'm nervous as all hell but also really intrigued to see how I cope with the training both physically and mentally. This will be the first contact sport I will have gone in for. I will get hit. I will get hurt. And I'm under no illusions that my Boxercise Instructor training will count for anything.

Each Thursday evening after my PT sessions and Saturday morning instead of parkrun I will be heading to Reading for a training session with the other guys and gals who have signed up as well. In fact that part has already started and I will be sharing more about that in the coming weeks. In addition to these sessions I'm cleaning up my diet and while I won't be giving up running I will be ensuring that I also make yoga or Body Care (at Box Bell Fit) a priority, in addition to some sessions that include a mix of jump rope, shadow boxing, bag work and strength as well as press up and sit up circuits. I have my gloves, wraps and gum shield and am psyching myself up for the hard work ahead.
Let's not forget that this is also in aid of charity, namely Cancer Research UK, and I would be incredibly grateful if you would consider sponsoring me for this match; my Just Giving page is here. You can also come and watch me flail about in the ring if you would like! Tickets are available here (be sure to include my name as the competitor) or you can drop me a line and I can arrange them for you. Wish me luck!

Friday, 6 May 2016

Cornish Coastlines, Surf, Swims, Hikes & Hills

Holidays. Whoever invented them needs some sort of special recognition. It's amazing what difference a break away from home can make, even if you don't actually leave the country. Last week I spent some time in Cornwall with my mum for her birthday at the rather lovely Watergate Bay hotel near Newquay. Although child-friendly we went out of holiday time which meant it was relatively quiet with probably equal numbers of small children and dogs present. The rooms were luxurious, the food outstanding and the swim club small but well equipped. Those of you who follow me on instagram will have already been bombarded with pictures and I make no apology for that!
Over night chia, oat, banana and blueberry pots
Cornwall is one of our favourite places and because the drive is around 4.5 hours we try to make it part of the trip. On this occasion we did that with a picnic breakfast. We were also lucky that we had taken mum's car (I got to drive) and so were able to put the roof down and enjoy the sunshine. On our first day we did very little except enjoy the balcony and some of the fine eateries in the area including Wax for nachos and Fifteen for dinner. We did make it down to the beach to watch the last part of the King of the Surf tournament.
Finding a sheltered spot to watch the kite surfing
Although I'd planned to get in the sea with my bodyboard, it proved too cold and windy for it to be safe for me (with Raynauds) so I resigned myself to trying out my new Garmin in the pool, followed by a stint in the hot tub, of course! The pool was gorgeous and I racked up quite a few kilometres, although I do wish I'd remembered my goggles so I could have done front crawl properly. Live and learn.
We could see part of the coast path from the hotel and so one sunny morning, when we had no treatments planned, we decided to stride forth, pit ourselves against the wind and walk to Porth, around 2.5 miles each way. In doing so we discovered some lovely shops, more beach and a cute cafe for a rather indulgent hot chocolate.
Unfortunately time flew all too quickly and soon it was time to head for home again. In an attempt to extend the holiday vibe we stopped at Stourhead for lunch and a quick walk around the lake, something we probably wouldn't have done without our National Trust membership cards. We were only there an hour or two and it wasn't nearly long enough so we've already made plans to return at the end of the month for a more leisurely visit with a picnic.

Of course I had some making up to do in the way of running once I got home and I was thankful my mojo paid a fleeting visit for a long run around Bracknell, taking in Swinley Forest in a hill-scouting expedition in preparation for the RunFitUK Hill Running workshop (places still available - sign up now!) I found a few good'uns and I'm looking forward to putting our participants through their paces on May 22nd!
Will this be "the hill"?
My activity for the week ending 29th April looked like this:
Saturday: 7.5 mile run (including parkrun)
Sunday: Rest day
Monday: 2,000m swim
Tuesday: 1,000m swim
Wednesday: 1,000m swim & 4.5 mile walk
Thursday: 10.7 mile run
Friday: 2 mile walk

Do you work out on holiday? If so do you do the same things that you would do at home or do you try different things?