#mygoal: the lines of a runner in January

30 Jan
Rebecca pencil drawing

Me, Rebecca the runner, taken from a picture of me before I ran 50K drawn by Clive Whitfield

With 60-something days to go until I race the big adventure known as Marathon des Sables, it’s time to reflect on my progress in January. But before I do, I wanted to share this picture, drawn by my fiance’s uncle Clive Whitfield (you can see more of his work here). Not only does it capture my excitement at this moment in time but it is also a message of encouragement from the artist, which is what I need right now.

Training in January

I don’t want to jinx it but the training has been going well. The mileage has slowly been increasing from week to week and at weekends, I’ve alternated between shorter and longer distances. I’m covering roughly between 60 – 120 miles a week and am feeling comfortable with this mileage. The ballet at City Academy has also helped as has a weekly yoga class. My weekly BOOM cycle classes have also been a great way of letting off steam at lunchtime. All in all, I feeling stronger, looking leaner and gradually building my confidence.

Nutrition

I thought I wouldn’t be able to cope without caffeine. I thought I’d collapse in a heap without my daily fix of the sweet Pepsi Max. I thought a whole lot of things. But you know what, I feel better. I’m sleeping more soundly at night, I feel less anxious and my energy levels are staying fairly stable. Cutting back on the sugar and general rubbish has also helped I’m sure. And the only time I really miss a glass of vino is on a Friday night.

Chia charge bars yum

Chia charge bars yum

As for Marathon des Sables, I currently have a stash of Chia Charge bars, Bounce balls, Oats & Chia porridge and DrinkMe Chai under my desk.

DrinkMe Chai

DrinkMe Chai

My body

As I said before, I’m feeling stronger mainly due to running more and ensuring that I do include some sort of cross-training in my plan. I also have a strategy for my feet, which I’ve been following and have seen improvements in that area. I’m not really sure whether I’ve lost weight or gained muscle as I don’t really measure this but I do know that my body is prepped.

My well-being

Am I feeling more confident? Yes. I still have a growing to-do list and have not yet finalised my food plan – to take the bunsen burner (what I call a cooking stove) or not? How will I stuff at least 2000 worth of calories into small sandwich bags? Sleeping mat? What to do about toilet paper? There are so many things I need to make decisions on but it will come in time.

Life in January

Ha, what life? And I’m not kidding. I honestly have to say the hardest part of training for Marathon des Sables is fitting it all in. A 20-mile run before work? Yes, that’s me looking like a soldier with all my gear attached to my body. I’m not complaining as I decided to do this and I’ve set my own rules but I’m itching to let my hair down at some point and dance until dawn. It’ll be worth waking up at stupid-o-clock and constantly having to bail out early on friends (sorry).

I’m not going to tempt fate by saying everything is going exactly to plan as there is still a long way to go. As January draws to a close however and the Marathon des Sables becomes even more of a reality, I cannot wait to see what the next month brings.

I’m running the Marathon des Sables for Great Ormond Street Hospital, I’d be extremely grateful for any donations. Please see my page http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SaharaBecsRun

Get fit for free on your doorstep – a guide to trails and fitness equipment in London

26 Jan

Calling all Londoners, getting fit without fleecing your bank account can be as simple as stepping outside your front door. Not only are there an abundance of different running clubs available for various levels of fitness – adidas 26rs, Good Gym, Runner’s Need, Sweatshop, Nike Run Club, athletic clubs to name but a few – there are also a number of trail adventures for runners and walkers to take advantage of, which are perfect for an endorphin boost on a cold January day.

Winter run

Take to the trails on a cold and frosty morning

Here are some fantastic ways to get fit for free and take advantage of what outdoor London has to offer:

1. Take to the trails

Whether you head to Hampstead Heath, Bushy Park or the path based on a disused railway line called Parkland walk that joins Highgate to Finsbury Park, there are plenty of opportunities to get stuck into some serious trails.

If you’re heading to Hampstead Heath, aim for a similar route to the cross-country races held there every year for a serious heartrate-boosting workout. Start at the Gospel Oak end of the Heath and pace yourself steadily up the hill until you reach Kenwood House, keep going west towards The Spaniards Inn. Once you hit the main road, cross over just past the famous pub and head into the woods towards the Heath extension. It’s definitely quieter in this area but just as undulating as the more popular Hampstead Heath.

For a pretty route through the woods, start at Finsbury Park and head up the disused railway line towards Highgate. You’ll pass Alexandra Palace en route as well as a number of relics of the past.

With off-road trails, woodland and grassy paths, it’s hardly surprising that Bushy Park is chosen as the finish line for the Royal Parks Ultra Marathon. A great place down south to get lost in your own trail adventure.

2. Try the Capital Ring

The Capital Ring spans some 78 miles of open space and greenery around London. From the grounds of the Art Deco Eltham Palace to the contemporary Olympic Park, there are many sights to be seen on this route around London. The information may piecemeal as the ring is split into 15 rather in-depth sections rather than a map to print out and some parts are currently undergoing works (around Manor House in Finsbury Park) but this is a trail adventure worth motivating yourself to do.

There are signs (a white disc on a wooden post featuring a Big Ben logo and directional arrow in open spaces or large aluminium signs – featuring the walking man symbol on streets) but they may not be obvious in some places so it’s worth downloading the sections to ensure you don’t get lost.

3. Be beside the canal

For a true East to West experience, try the Regent’s canal, which stretches from Limehouse to Maida Vale. You’ll head past Victoria Park, Angel, the new regenerated area around King’s Cross, Camden Town, Regent’s Park and all the pretty canal boats in Little Venice. Or you could head out-of-town along the Grand Union Canal starting at Paddington Basin. For a quieter trail run along a river, try the Lea Valley Park, Starting at Springfield Park in Upper Clapton, this route heads right up past Walthamstow Marshes towards Cheshunt and Waltham Cross. It’s a pretty tranquil route that’ll take you past some of the best wildlife spots that the capital has to offer.

4. Join an urban gym

Want to mix your training up with a bit of strength work? Well, thanks to a number of outdoor gyms around the capital you can – for free. These outdoor gyms feature everything from cross trainers and chest press to pull-up and ski machines. To save you the bother of having to find one of these marvellous adult playgrounds, Muddy Plimsolls has pulled together a useful map of all the locations of outdoor sites http://www.muddyplimsolls.com/outdoor-fitness/. They have visited all the sites marked on the map and included descriptions of what you can expect to find at these specific locations, including what they call traditional calisthenics equipment, perfect for bodyweight exercise. Sounds pretty good for anyone wanting to be the best they can be in 2015.

Where do you like to run? What is important to keep you motivated when training outside? Please let me know below if there is a trail that I should check out. 

Give me a BOOST, give me an #UltraBoost with adidas

22 Jan

As a runner who gets through trainers like there’s no tomorrow who has a habit of checking out other runners footwear, I’ve been intrigued by the current adidas campaign filling up my Twitterfeed.

What on earth are these shiny new kicks called Ultra BOOST? And more importantly what are their special features that will BOOST my run? Well the following video may help…

And for those who like to know about features, the adidas Ultra BOOST include:

  • Heel counter made from highly elastic material to aid stability
  • Twenty percent more BOOST foam for added comfort and consistent cushioning unlike EVA soles, which tend to lose cushioning properties in hot and cold climates
  • Made from Primeknit technology to adapt to the changes in conditions when running and ensure less restriction if your feet expand
  • Stretch web outsole – again stretches and adapts with foot strike and movement
  • A Torsion system (oh nod to the old skool 90s) embedded into the shoe’s sole which allows your heel and forefoot to move independently and so again helps with stability while you run

They also look very sleek in black (very Batman-esque):

Black Ultra BOOST trainers

Love the black and blue combination – a touch of the neroazzurri (or Inter Milan – the football team I support)

Will they revolutionize running? Probably not. But I can’t wait to get my hands on a pair when they go into store on 22 February 2015. Just another way to BOOST my long training runs while I prepare for the Marathon des Sables.

Why I’m running the Sahara for Great Ormond Street Hospital

19 Jan

I will be always thankful to GOSH (Great Ormond Street Hospital) as they provided me with the support and care I needed as a child. They ensured that I received the right treatment for my port wine stain (birthmark) on the back my left leg and realigned my leg length so that I could be fit, healthy and run today. I’m not going to go into the details but let’s just say I have a lot to be grateful for. Without GOSH I’m not sure I’d be able to walk correctly let alone run.

Great Ormond Street Hospital continue to help children and their families through their pioneering research and care, and it is an honour to support their worthy cause by running across the Sahara. See the video below to find out more about GOSH.

On 3 April 2015, I will start my Marathon des Sables adventure (a multi-stage race across the desert) to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital. Please help me raise money for this amazing cause.

If you wish to donate a gift, please go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SaharaBecsRun  .

Preparing your feet for running…far…across the desert…in the heat

17 Jan
Feet covered up by trainers

No, I’m not showing you my feet

Not only are these trainers absolutely brilliant for running trails but they also cover up my dirty little secret – yes, that’s right – my worn and battered feet. I have not been blessed with pretty tootsies – my feet are naturally bony, my toes look like a skeleton covered by skin and lefty (foot that is) is covered by a purple birthmark (not that it should matter but people mistake it for a bruise, burn and so forth).

The odds have been against me from the off. But since covering long distances and training like a crazy woman for the past god knows how long, my feet have become victims to losing blackened toenails, dry and cracked heels, blisters, hard skin, let’s just say I have it all going on down there. There was the one time that I had to, ahem, paint my big toenail on for my big brother’s wedding. Now is the time to take action because I’m going to be relying on my feet to cross the Sahara desert in (eek) 74 days time. So with about as much enthusiasm as booking an appointment for the dentist, I decided to expose a podiatrist to the claws. And it is probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time. Here’s why:

1. Reassurance about my claws

My feet may look a state but they’re actually “not too bad…for a runner”. Phew, what a sigh of relief! It was like being told my teeth are healthy I just need to floss and brush for longer. The podiatrist told me that despite the only thing really wrong with my feet is aesthetic and with a few tweaks and extra care, I can ensure they’re prepared for running across the desert.

2. Knowledge about my feet

It’s hardly a conversation opener down the pub but knowing that my skin is particularly soft and my toes are floppy with a tendency to cross over can help in terms of preparation for a challenge where they will be under pressure. Since I have no control over my toes, I need to wrap them all separately like tidy pigs in blankets to prevent them from overlapping and creating friction and consequently blisters. I should also use a special type of tape Hypafix rather than the hypoallergenic plaster tape usually used as my skin is too soft for the latter. Incidentally, he wrapped two of my toes in the different materials and the Hypafix lasted longer and was more comfortable. Time to practice wrapping them neatly.

Another thing he identified was the cause of my cracked heels.  He suggested these were not so much down to dry skin but a lack of depth in my orthotics. Indeed, when I stepped into my orthotics my heels created a rather attractive (not) muffin top over the edge, which when compounded with the repetitive motion of running creases the skin into fissures and cracks. The solution? Deeper orthotics to cup my heel securely.

Some say surgical spirit can toughen the skin – he told me this would not help my particular skin type. Now armed with this knowledge, I know how to prevent problems from happening beforehand.

3.  Reminder about basic footcare

In addition to taping my toes with Hypafix and adding depth to my orthotics – the podiatrist also offered three more tips for runners in general. We probably all know what they are but it’s good to be reminded once in a while as they can make a difference to whether you come out of a long distance race comfortably or not.

Three tips to care for you feet

  1.  Trim and file your nails right down – this will prevent them from cutting or digging in
  2. Use a cream such as Flexitol twice daily (or foot cream containing urea) to soften cracked heels, fissures and generally keep your feet in good nick
  3. Prevent any kind of friction by tying your laces as tight as possible and ensuring you have enough width around the toes – he actually suggested I re-lace my trainers so that the laces go straight across instead of diagonally

Some of these tips may not be relevant at all to your running preparation but I hope they highlight the importance of  looking after your feet and how some things you read are particular to individuals. Remember to take care of your tootsies if you’re heading into those ultra distances / multi-day challenges as they are one of the deal-breakers when it comes to completing these epic adventures.

What are your tips for looking after your feet?

Inspired by #thisgirlcan?

15 Jan

Better late than never – I have to say that the latest #thisgirlcan campaign struck a chord with me and many others because, to put it simply, it’s encouraging women to become more active and not give a monkey in the process.

As someone who has spent the last 10 years not giving a monkey what anyone thinks of them running, cycling or generally looking hot and sweaty around London, I find the stats behind the campaign and research undertaken by Sport England pretty compelling.

Two million fewer women participate in sports than men and yet 75% want to be more active.

So why don’t they find an activity they love and “Just Do It”? You may ask.

In short, it’s down to the dreaded “F” word. FEAR. Fear of being judged by others, fear of not being good enough and fear of not looking like one of those fitness model that appear on the front of a multitude of sporty publications.

Or as Sport England chief executive Jennie Price put it in a piece published by the BBC: “Worries about being judged for being the wrong size, not fit enough and not skilled enough came up time and again.”

The don’t-give-a-monkey’s crowd could sit there and spout out that our fellow women should not worry, do what they want to do, you’re a long time dead after all, but as that no make-up selfie campaign that lost the true meaning in 2014 showed, women are anxious about how they and their physical appearance is perceived by others.

Instead, all I can say is give it a go.And as a starter for 10, head to your local gym’s women’s changing room. Here you’ll see women of all ages and all shapes and sizes, some in the nude, some half-dressed, some fully dressed. My point is if you are among women who are not body builders or going to make it into the America’s Next Top Model then It may make a slight difference to your body confidence.

For the women in the nuddy getting ready for work after a hard session or relaxing few laps up and down the pool are just like you only with a passion for sport / activity / anything that gets them moving outside, in public and often with a group of mates. They’re not experts and probably will never win a gold medal but they enjoy it, which is the main thing, and love that surge of sweaty adrenaline throughout the process.

Before you ask, I do not have any evidence or research into this theory but I personally think the changing room experience is refreshing. (Just don’t stare at the naked bods as that is a bit weird.)

And while I’m not naive enough to say that this will take away the fear of running, swimming or whatever you want to do completely, it may help.

Whether you’re a team player or prefer going solo, remember #thisgirlcan and so can you. Here’s the video:

#SBFlyFlexFlow – get fit in three (and for free)

12 Jan

Calling all yogis, runners and women who just want to get fitter, healthier and happier in 2015, the latest Sweaty Betty #getfit4free challenge may be just what you have been looking for. Let me introduce you to Fly Flex Flow.

What is Fly Flex Flow?

As the name suggests, this hour-long class is broken down into three different elements so you’re not only pushed to the max with explosive cardio, but those muscles you’ve forgotten about are given up a wake-up call and then a much-needed stretched . Honestly, it is pretty much an all-over body workout offering more balance for those of us who tend to focus on one particular area.

Speedy session outside

1. FLY in a speedy session

Photo 08-01-2015 19 13 43

2.  FLEX and condition

Photo 08-01-2015 19 21 02

3. FLOW with yoga

Created by Sweaty Betty ambassadors – the lovely run coach Annie Foulds and yoga teacher Jo Arther, be prepared to hit the session hard for the first part with HIIT-style speedy sprint workouts. It certainly gets that heart-rate up. Once you’ve built up a sweat, you’re into the toning session, which uses light weights to target the flab and condition your body. Finally, you’re taken through a yoga routine to stretch out those muscles and release any areas of tension throughout the rest of the class.

Aim to do the class three times a week while eating more healthily (Sweaty Betty has also hooked up with Honestly Healthy to offer nutritious and delicious meals throughout this challenge) to make the most out of this new #getfit4free campaign.

I’m completely new to working out and nervous about working out, will I be made to feel welcome?

Of course, and good for you for taking the leap. Remember #thisgirlscan take part in fitness and health activities. Fly Flex Flow is aimed at everybody and you work to your level. What’s more, you’ll be hanging out with the Sweaty Betty community, who are a friendly bunch.

And for those who already workout, you will find this class beneficial because of the variety of activity. You may be able to run a marathon relatively fast but now try and touch your toes. Yep, the yoga bit will definitely help. Whether you’re a power-lifter or a die hard yogi, Fly Flex Flow will challenge you in some way, and when you’re challenged, you become stronger.

How much does it cost?

Nada, it won’t cost you a penny (which is awesome in “dry” January).

How do I get involved?

Classes run in-store from 22 January – 12 February, check out Sweaty Betty for more details on the classes in-store and further information about the challenge.

Here’s a taster of what to expect:

#mygoal 2015: one step at a time

4 Jan
Marathon des Sables

My pledge for this year (well until MdS)

This is me on New Year’s Day setting out my major goal for this year, which as you can see is pretty self-explanatory. I’m super well aware that over the next (cripes) 88 days I will have to train, eat and sleep better in order to make the most out of the Marathon des Sables experience. But what does this term that many people bandy about actually mean?  Well, I think it’s very much a personal thing and what your personal #mygoal is.

For person A, this may equate to fewer kebabs after a night out and swapping that commute to work a mile away by car to walking. Person B, however, may be a runner with a beer gut which has been cultivated after developing a taste for ale of the “Craft” variety. This is not helping in terms of PBs. So it may be worth cutting down and revving the training up by more speed sessions.

My point is whoever you are and whatever you want to achieve, you need to take on board advice and realistically tailor it to your needs. Are you ever going to be completely teetotal?  Hell no. But you can cut down on the booze a bit.

I believe (and I’m not an expert so please do bear in mind that this is my personal opinion) that you should set goals that are realistic and achievable. Break a huge goal such as a crazy race across the sand into smaller goals and set deadlines for yourself. If you race is in April and you want to feel confident that you can at least run 50 miles, aim to do a 50 mile run by mid-February.

Think of it like redecorating an entire house. You would be insane to try to get it all done in one go (hats off if you’ve achieved it though). Instead you do it room by room. And that is my approach (god I hope it works) to my Marathon des Sables training.

So how am I going to train better, eat better and sleep better without becoming a complete hermit?

Train better

I’ve created a POA or plan of action which alternates between completing a long run at the weekend and a X Country race at the weekend. During the week, I will alternate commutes between running (up to 20 miles twice a week) and cycling. I already carry half my life on my back in a rucksack so weighted running isn’t a massive issue. I will become inevitably one of those runners – with water bottles on either strap – plodding through the streets of London at the coldest, most miserable time of year. But I will still be smiling (I promise).

I’ve also added in a ballet fit class once a week and track sessions. Once a week, I will go to a half hour spin class at BOOM and fit in a faster 20 minute session on the days that are lower in terms of mileage. I’ve tried to look at the training in terms of four-week cycles with a lighter week on the fourth week to give my body time to recover. I will take part in one to two long ultra runs (up to 50 miles) and also do a rehearsal week at the end of January. I’m aiming for between 60 – 120 miles a week (I’ll do 120 miles a week twice before I head to MdS).

We’ll see how it goes. I’m well aware that sometimes, well, let’s put it this way, life does get in the way. But by trying to stick to my plan, I know that I’ll be more confident when I hit the sand dunes of the Sahara. Closer to the time, I’ll also be heading to the sauna to read a book during lunch. It’s not quite heat chamber training but at least it’ll get my body used to the heat and I’ll also have the chance to escape with some of my favourite authors.

Eat better

My diet is a tale of two halves. On the one hand, I eat a shed load of vegetables and fruit. My main meal of the day normally consists of something vegetable-based. I also drink lots of water – around a litre of so at work throughout the day.

On the other hand, I also have a tendency to eat way more sugar than I should and have a habit of falling for all the “healthier alternative” spiel. I will snack throughout the day on “healthier” biscuits and “healthier” crisps which probably have no nutritional value at all. I’m also a sucker for sweets, I love a glass of decent white wine and don’t get me started on the cider. But my biggest vice is caffeine and Pepsi Max. I drink way too much of it to be deemed healthy.

So I have stopped. No caffeine, chocolate or alcohol has passed my lips since the New Year (OK around 1am New Year’s Day). It had to be done as I’m not going to find a truckload of Pepsi Max in the desert. And before you ask, I hate coffee. I’m going to make the decision closer to the time about whether to introduce caffeine in the form of Nuun tablets as there is discussion around caffeine enhancing performance. Until then, I will be living in a no caffeine zone.

While not cutting out the sugar completely, I have started to be more conscious about what I’m putting into my body e.g. thinking about the nutritional benefit rather than see it as a quick fix. Hard boiling eggs as snacks, slicing up avocadoes to have on rye and generally stopping the needless gorging on sweets (apart from at races as you need sugar sometimes). I’m tempted to try protein shakes on the go as they are easy to consume especially if, like me, you lose your appetite after running.

During my rehearsal week, I’m planning to consume my delicious menu for Marathon des Sables (I’m still working on that) but by cutting out and cutting down, I think I will prepare my body for both the race and the future.

Sleep better

There is only one thing that Margaret Thatcher and I  (lefty feminist Liberal who believes the State can, in the right circumstances, enhance society) used to share: the belief that sleep is for wimps. Now, after many years of soldiering on, I know that sleep can make a whole world of difference. Honestly, good times in the land of nod make for good times in reality.

To ensure I am my best in April, I am setting myself an alarm clock for bed during the week (10pm rock’n’roll) with the aim of seven hours sleep a night, maybe more at the weekend. The caffeine clampdown has also helped. In the last few days, I have noticed how much my sleep has improved. Long may it continues as this is an area which will completely transform both my performance and my mood.

What are your goals for 2015 and your plans to achieve these goals? Let me know below.

2014: The year that…

31 Dec
Yoga on the London Eye

Yoga in a pod – views over London

1. I got high on yoga

Not only did I kick-off this year with a yoga class on the London Eye or in the clouds but I also embraced my “inner yogi” with a view from the Shard. A first for me on both accounts, I can now say that I have seen London from all angles.

2. The marathon madness continued

In the top 10 ladies but I'm not over 50!

In the top 10 ladies but I’m not over 50!

As in the Paris, Geneva, Kent Roadrunner, Bournemouth, Rail to Trail Newport, Rail to Trail Cuxton and A20 Path’n’Downs Marathons – that’s a total of seven marathons or 183.4 miles of marathon races. Phew, I need a drink just thinking about it. I also managed a new PB by chatting away to a fellow competitor and kissing my boyf halfway round the race. I’m not over 50 though!

3. I went off-road

The road is long...especially when you make a wrong turn

The road is long…especially when you make a wrong turn

And found my feet on the trails. In August, I took part in the Berghaus Trailscape – an epic multi-day event across the beautiful North York moors. I may not be able to add reading a map to my CV as my group went about 10K off-course but I can say that the race was breathtakingly beautiful. Similarly, running on the North Downs with Matt Buck’s Running Adventures in early December was the perfect escape from the City and something I’d love to do again and again.

4. Tried out the trails

My trainers on trial

Trailscape running equals bliss

In the latter part of the year, I also tried a new series of races called Trailscape – Rail to Trail. Easy to access as they are around an hour from London by train, these races put me through my paces. Hills, mud, white flags to follow and great company, trails are definitely a challenge and a whole load of fun.

5. And worked as a team for 24 hours

Thunderbabes are go...

Thunderbabes are go…

A bunch of running mates team up together to see how many 10K laps they can complete in 24 hours may sound like madness to you but to me it’s a weekend full of fantastic memories. Both the Adidas Thunder Run and Spitfire Scramble were fun, frantic, adrenaline-fuelled events and I loved every minute. Music festivals feature heavily on my annual to-do list but running festivals are also becoming a must on my list. Thank you to adidas, the Thunderbabes and Team Naturally Run for the ride – I had a blast.

6. I met sporting heroes

Hanging out with Haile like you do on a Sunday

Hanging out with Haile like you do on a Sunday

This year I ran with Haile Gebrselassie (get me) who was absolutely inspirational (and tiny). His philosphy that “Running is life, Running is medicine” rings so true. I also took the plunge with my childhood hero Duncan Goodhew. He boosted my confidence in the water and offered some fantastic tips for anyone wanting to take part in the annual Swimathon.

7. My trainers multiplied

Running all over town and beyond...

Running all over town and beyond…

From adidas adizeros to the Salomon SpeedCross 3W, this year I finally found a range of trainers which suit the various races that I take part in. I tend to train in the adidas boost or Asics, run road marathons in adidas zeros, tackle the hills of X country in spikes and hit the mud of the trails in Salomons. It may seem extravagant to own a variety of trainers but by swapping them around according to terrain, I’m sure I am making the most out of them and myself.

8. I was introduced to LIJA, Boom Cycle, Results with Lucy and Chia seeds 

Me in my gold jacket

Me in my gold jacket

This year hot new Canadian brand LIJA caught my attention, especially a certain gold jacket that I wore continuously throughout spring, Boom Cycle became a part of my weekly routine, thanks to their new half hour lunchtime classes in Holborn, Results with Lucy also proved to be handy in terms of cross training and overall fitness, and Chia seeds were a welcome addition to my rather hit and miss diet.

9. I cycled in Carcassone, Vietnam and at the London Duathlon .

London Duathlon 2014

London Duathlon 2014

As well as traveling to Paris, Geneva and Italy, the boyf and I headed to the medieval town of Carcassone where we took advantage of the many vineyards en velo and Vietnam, where again we cycled like proper tourists in pointy straw hats. Back on UK soil, I continue to cycle to work and even participated in the London Duathlon on my ramshackle of a bike. Three times up the infamous hill was tough but the whole event was a lot of fun.

10. You met the Dynamo Mum

Well done Dynamo Mum

Well done Dynamo Mum

What a woman! Having never taken part in a race before, my 60-something mum trained so she could do the Race for Life with me. It was a real pleasure running the route with her and encouraging mum to keep going until the end. I’m so proud of the Dynamo Mum.

11. I signed up for the biggest challenge yet

Oodles of noodles for MdS

Oodles of noodles for MdS

In less than 100 days, I will be setting off on an adventure across the Sahara desert with everything I need on my back. This multi-stage race known as the Marathon des Sables or, to quote my Dad, “that crazy run across the sand” is daunting and exciting. As of 1 January 2015, it will be properly heads down so I can ensure that I am the best I can be but #mygoal for 2015 is to finish this challenge smiling (and hopefully dancing). I am running the Marathon des Sables 2015 for Great Ormond Street Hospital. If you would like to sponsor me, please go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SaharaBecsRun

12. Love is the answer

scrambled

Witness the fitness of Team Naturally (what a lovely bunch of girls) getting scrambled

This year has been in some ways a trial (we had no bathroom for a few months earlier on in the year, which meant I learnt very quickly where the closest gyms are in proximity to my home and also now know what Kenwood House’s toilets look like although I have never been inside the house for a look around). But in other ways, it has been absolutely magnificent.

Ring-a-ding-ding

Ring-a-ding-ding

Not only have I met some fantastic people thanks to running, many of my closest friends have become engaged and married and I have also had the pleasure of becoming an aunt for the first time. And the icing on the cake was saying “yes” to my partner of seven years and sporting my own piece of bling. We’re leaving it until 2016 as next year I have Marathon des Sables and the wedding of one of my bestest friends. The next few years are certainly looking bright and I’m enjoying just living in this moment.

As Rik Mayall, who sadly passed away this year, said in a speech to graduates at the University of Exeter:

 Love is the answer  

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Running Adventures in the North Downs with Matt Buck

24 Dec

If you’re looking for a true running adventure then try the new guided runs with ultra runner and Marathon des Sables finisher Matt Buck. His series of guided running tours take you to some of the most beautiful spots in the UK. And I should know as I joined him in early December for a 32-mile run across the beautiful North Downs.

First look over the North Downs

First look over the North Downs

Starting just outside Guildford City Centre (note for non-car owners – the starting point was really easy to get to from the train station), this run at a leisurely pace took us right across the North Downs, past Dorking, up to Box Hill and back to where we began. Instructed to bring what we may want to eat for the day and warm clothing, it was also good practice for anyone planning to do the Marathon des Sables. And since Matt Buck (our guide) completed MdS in 2014, the 32-miles of trails and hills was also a fantastic opportunity to pick his brains for tips on the desert run.

Top tip from Matt: do a dress rehearsal for MdS (roughly plan out a week so that you eat and drink only what you are planning to take and run up to 70 percent of the distances of the various different stages including one longer day).

I would recommend Running Adventures for runners who want to explore off-road running in a group environment. Of course, you can get together with a group of running mates and do it yourselves but the advantage of having a guide is that is takes the pressure off. In the same way that using a race as training for your main goal, you don’t have to organise the route, read a map or even try and work out where you are. If you have a track record for somehow managing to get lost during trail races, this comes as a welcome relief. You do have to pay for the privilege but with scenes like this and the knowledge that you’ve completed a 32-mile training run, it’s worth it.

The sun low in the sky about, just about to set - how glorious!

The sun low in the sky about, just about to set – how glorious!

Top tip from Matt: take whatever the race organisers offer you – in 2014, many competitors were caught out because they only took one bottle of water, when two bottles were offered.

Indeed, Matt started Running Adventures to cater for runners who wish to make the step up to ultra running, but maybe feel a bit nervous about taking the step up to a race (which can be an intimidating experience). He said it acts as “an in-between step.”

A church with a view

A church with a view

“Running Adventures offer guided runs (so you don’t need to worry about routes etc) as well as advice throughout the day, it’s the perfect opportunity to meet like-minded people as well as getting all your running questions answered by myself.  The other appeal of the runs is offering the opportunity for any ultra runner to experience new trails and basically enjoy a sociable day of running.  I try and keep prices low (relative to many races) and I’ve also just introduced a night run, offering the chance for those people nervous about running in the woods alone at night, the chance to experience the thrill of doing so, in a safe environment.”

As well as offering guided running tours, Matt also trains people wanting to take on an Ultra. The next Running Adventure is on 24 January 2015 and offers a 39-mile circular route through the beautiful and varied countryside around Guildford. If you’re looking to take on an Ultra, then I’d highly recommend it.

Check out Matt’s website www.runningadventures.uk for more info.

Looking forward to January already? Here are 4 healthy things to try in 2015

22 Dec

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. And even if you’re currently suffering from the excesses of the festive season or a persistent cold that is preventing you from doing what you really enjoy (running in my case), now is a great time to look forwards and make plans for the New Year.

You don’t have to be training for the Marathon des Sables, simply wanting to cut down on the booze or eat less rubbish can be the trigger to helping you feel better and happier. But how do you stay on track? By finding stuff to keep you motivated of course. So here are four healthy things to in 2015 that will inspire, motivate and keep you on the right side of healthy.

1. Speedflex

Speedflex

Speedflex

Thanks to small group classes, HIIT-style circuits and a range of their own specially-designed resistance machines, Speedflex is not just a brilliant way to burn off calories in a small amount of time (classes are 45 minutes long).

As part of the package, you are offered an initial health assessment (measuring muscle mass, target weight, BMI, percentage body fat and visceral fat), which helps you focus on becoming fitter, healthier, stronger or whatever you aim to do. Throughout the classes you are also hooked up to a system measuring your heart rate which allows you to see if you are really pushing it hard enough and how many calories you have burned in the 45 minutes. Whether you’re a serious athlete or complete beginner, being able to compare your data over the weeks can be that extra bit of impetus to keep going.

With studios currently in London, Newcastle and Leeds (with more coming soon), it’s worth trying out if you enjoy group sessions that make a difference. Speedflex is also fantastic cross-training for runners as all the exercises are low-impact.

To try out your first class for free, click here.

2. New Good Food Eat Well Show

Good Food Eat Well Show

Reluctant chef? Maybe this will inspire you.

Calling all foodies, health fans or people who just want tips on how to eat better. The brand new BBC Good Food Eat Well Show is coming to London on 27 February – 1 March.  Learn how to balance a healthy lifestyle with your love of good food.

See inspirational guests such as Davina McCall and Jenni Falconer and enjoy live cookery demos from healthy eating experts like Natasha Corrett and Marcus Bean. Get involved with in-depth discussions on food-related issues, and discover a host of healthy food products to try and buy. Intrigued? I know I am. Will is inspire me to finally dust off my many cook books? Hmm, the jury is out. It does however look like a lot of fun.

Well tickets are now on sale! Just quote EW20S when purchasing to receive 20% off tickets until 31 January 2015. Click here to find out more.

3. Run Hackney on 10 May

Run Hackney

Run Hackney

Missed out on a Spring marathon? Or want to try a half for the first time? Well, you could always head East to the oh-so-trendy Hackney and have a go at the half marathon on 10 May 2015. As a runner of the inaugural Vitality Hackney Half back in June this year, I have to say it was a pretty well-organised route with plenty of stewards along the course and plenty of support – think race with a party vibe. You can read my thoughts on the Vitality Hackney Half here. I’ll be there in one form or another just a month after the epic Marathon des Sables, so come join me stumbling along the 13.1-mile route.

To sign up for Vitality Run Hackney, click here.

4. Barre Fit Workout

Barre Fit

Barre Fit

Come meet me at the ‘Barre’ at one of the new exciting fitness classes launched by City Academy in 2015. More specifically, Barre Fit Workout. Based on Pilates and ballet barre work, this hour-long group session conditions your muscles while giving you an all-over body workout. I recently tried a taster class and let’s just say my arms felt it the next day after lifting relatively light weights a gazillion times. You also don’t need to have any dance experience to take part in this class as the instructor takes you through all the exercises thoroughly. If you’re interested in having a go, there is a taster session on 6 January 2015 (£10). A six-week course costs £50 (now that is pretty reasonable in my book).

For more information on Barre Fit Workout, click here.

From Paris with Love: Cop. Copine

18 Dec

You may know them as the store that does “black very well” but the French export known today as Cop. Copine was initially called Copain-Copine when it first opened it doors in 1986. The two brothers behind the brand Alain and Léon Nédélian wanted to create clothing for both men and women – oversized, modern and as this piece in Biba magazine (a French magazine that I always buy when I visit Paris) with a subtle anti-conformist spirit.

Cop Copine in Biba magazine

Cop. Copine in Biba magazine

They may have narrowed their focus and decided to design just for women but Cop. Copine stays true to its modern and distinctive style. And perhaps it is this that has won over so many fans as well as the fact that they are not afraid to play with various techniques. Whether that be spandex in the 80s, asymmetry during the next decade or laser cut fabric and neoprene in millennium, Cop. Copine (as it has been known since 1993) do not follow the trends. They are unique and true to their style and when they do something, they do it well.

Here are some of my favourite looks and pieces from their current collection (and there is not much black):

1. The jumper dress

Warm and easy to wear, you can layer this dress up over a long-sleeve top, wear it with tights, boots and a cap as seen below or even go bare-legged if you dare.  The jumper dress is a key staple in your winter wardrobe and this shape is flattering without being too clingy.

Cop copine jumper dress

Cop. Copine jumper dress

2. The winter short and tee combo

Who says you should put the shorts away when the temperature drops? Team with a woolly t-shirt, gloves and snood and you’ll be just about ready for the cold. This t-shirt could also be worn as a dress. (You could always wear a layer underneath for those particular chilly days.)

Jumper and short combo

Jumper and short combo

3. The boyfriend coat

It’s a look that has been done countless times before but the mix of florals and oversized masculine jacket simply works, especially when teamed with a pair of heeled boots. It’s like a modern take on the grunge of the early to mid-90s; sharpened and clean but still with a military edge.

Military flowers

Military flowers

 4. The coloured jean

Forget blue, black or even the tropical colours of the spring/summer as Cop. Copine has a new shade of trouser. Wear with this speckled furry jumper, leather trench and heeled ankle boots and you’ve got an elegant look that will put smart into the term “smart casual”.

The coloured jeans

The coloured jeans

 

Check out the Cop. Copine website here

Training for trainers – Salomon Speedcross 3 W

16 Dec

Training for Marathon des Sables 2015 is no easy feat so as part of this epic journey I am trying to test out gear before I go. At the first Rail to Trail Trailscape, it was a Berghaus rucksack, which stood the test of 26-odd miles of mud. In Cuxton, I opted for a double-whammy. Not only did I load up a rucksack with a little bit of weight, I also wanted to give the all-important trail trainers a trial. One thing was for certain after the last mudfest: my choice of Salomon Speedcross 3 W wouldn’t stay shiny and clean for long.

At the start of the race

s At the start of the Cuxton Trailscape race

Recommended in part by the running dynamite that is Cat Simpson (who was placed second at Atacama this year wearing Salomon) and from reading I have done around the subject, I wanted to know whether the fit, grip and weight of the shoe would be right for me. And let be honest here, I’m used to running in fairly light-weight shoes so these definitely appealed as they really are:

Surprisingly light

I’m all for a lighter trail shoe as it makes it easier to pick your feet up in the muddiest of conditions. There’s nothing worse than having to shuffle along like you are carrying the world on your feet because your shoes are weighing you down. You may not have the speed of someone running on hot coals but the idea is the same – essentially you are trying to pick your feet up as fast as possible. And these 260g shoes really help with that process.

No fuss fastening

Salomon call it Quicklace, I call it no fuss-fastening. You can easily slip these shoes and go without worrying that your laces are going to come undone and drag in the mud. Then there is the aftermath of having to untie muddy laces (spikes at cross country springs to mind).  Thanks to the zip-loop approach you don’t have to carefully pull apart laces caked in half a ploughed field.  Undoubtedly, you are always going to get muddy when trail running but for me, the ‘pull and release’ fastening is way more functional than classic laces.

Grip and protect

I apologise to all my colleagues who I felt the need to “get a look at these bad boys” as I showed the Salomons off in the office but honestly, the grips on the sole of the Salomon Speedcross are a work of trail shoe art. Like a collection of misshapen arrows, they cut through the earth and grip firmly without collecting debris as you run. They are not fully waterproof but the mudguard around the base of the shoe does help keep your feet in tact and less wet than say a normal running shoe.

Bright and colourful

When it comes to trainers, I am all about the colour and not just for the obvious reason that they look cool. Let’s just say that you can be seen in the luminous green of the Salomon Speedcross 3 W.

My trainers on trial

My trainers on trial

My perfect pair for the desert?

Since I wear orthotics in my shoes the added cushioning around the heel may have been lost on me but as far as running in the desert goes, I really liked the Salomon Speedcross 3 W. They ticked all the boxes and made me feel more confident on the rather uneven trails. My feet also did not suffer, which is paramount when training for the desert. I will give them another few tries but in terms of MdS shoes, a spare pair of Salomon Speedcross 3 W can be added to the shopping list.

Do you have any trainer recommendations for trail running?

Top tips for making the switch to trail running

8 Dec

Bored of pounding the pavements? I asked the lovely Hannah – one of the duo behind the Trailscape series - for tips on making the switch to Trail running.

Views from the Downs

Views from the Downs

Here is what Hannah had to say about tackling hills, mud and where to start when it comes to off-road running.

1. Don’t over think it

Trail running can seem daunting and we tend to build it up in our minds, predicting it will be ‘too hard’, ‘too hilly’ or  ‘too slow’ – so much so in fact, that many people are stopped in their tracks and never reach the vital point of signing up! The reality is that trail running is some of the most beautiful running you will ever do and we wouldn’t want you to miss out on the opportunity.

The trail running philosophy is very different to a road race – less about time and competition, and more about comradery, teamwork and enjoyment. People will help you if you struggle, people stop to take photos and revel in the day, and share munchies along the way. So don’t over think it, just do it and we promise you will never look back.

Marathon Man UK (Rob) and I in selfie mode - team trail

Marathon Man UK (Rob) and I in selfie mode – team trail

Our first ever trail marathon was a bit like this. We didn’t know anything about the company or the terrain and signed up on a whim. It was a coastal marathon with over 5000ft of ascent and a total distance of nearly 30miles. Yes, we were daunted, yes we wondered if we could do it and on the day, yes, it was hard but did we regret it? Never….Now we (Hannah and her partner John) organise our own trail running events and can honestly say we have never looked back

2. Get prepared

The terrain for a trail race is very different. It is uneven underfoot, muddy at times and requires practice at getting your pace and footing. During training try to mix it up – at the very least run on the grass alongside the path or switch to fields in the local park. At every opportunity you can, get off the tarmac – this will prepare your feet and core stability.

3. Go slow and taper from there

The first half of your run should be slower than the second. This gives the body time to acclimatise and settle into that all important pace. John and I have very different running styles. John has the typical adrenalin-fuelled start and I don’t see him for dust but you can guarantee that by the second half as I catch him up he’s always complaining that he ‘started too quick’! In trail running slow and steady always wins the race!

4. Walk the hills, run the flat & downs 

Someone told us this before our first trail race and it filled us full of confidence so we will repeat it here. There are always stages of a trail run that are impossible to run, either due to the steep incline or the mud. If you try to run these sections you will expend and waste a lot of energy without the gains in speed or distance covered. It’s not worth it – take these stages as a moment of recovery and conserve your energy for the points where you can fly.

Emma and I enjoying the last trail race - look at those smiles

Emma and I enjoying the last trail race in Cuxton – look at those smiles (c) Trailscape

5. Mind over matter 

As most runners will tell you the points where you struggle in a race are near-on always psychological – the ‘I can’t do this’, ‘Not another hill!’, ‘If I feel like this now, what will I feel like later?’, ‘I’m not cut out for this’ and so on.

Listen to your body not your mind and you will go further. You can also try the strategy of breaking the race down into stages and then treating each stage as a mini but manageable goal. Try not to think too far ahead, moments of struggling or ‘the wall’ rarely last the whole race, they come and go but don’t stick around for too long. Focus on each individual moment and stop predicting what will happen next – you do not have the power to predict that you ‘won’t make it’, or ‘that there will be ‘more hills’, ‘ or that you will ‘come last’. Focus on the here and now, and let your body do the rest.

If you’re looking for your next trail challenge or want to try an off-road race in the New Year, then sign up for the next Trailscape Rail to Trail in Ashurst, Kent on 10 January 2015. With three distance: 10K, half marathon and full marathon, it’s the ideal way to brush off the cobwebs and kick-start running in 2015.

Click here for more details.

Read what Andrew McClelland – a newbie to trail running – thought of the Cuxton event.

Trailscape Rail to Trail: Cuxton – the tale of a newbie trail runner

3 Dec

While I opted for the full marathon in the second of the Trailscape series, my mate Andrew McClelland decided to try out the half. So before I post about my muddy experience, I decided to hand the reigns over to him so he could tell the story from the perspective of a newbie trail runner.

Andrew has tried his hand at Tri

Andrew has tried his hand at Tri

A bit of trail running? Sounds fun. A half marathon? Hmmm. November? Yeah, why not, it;s ages away. So went the conversation between myself and the lovely marathon running machine that also goes by the name of Becs. I do a bit of Triathlon but came to sport very late. In fact, it is kinda my mid-life crisis and knocking on the door of 45, I hadn’t even run for a bus until 3 years ago. Before Saturday, the furthest I had run (for a bus or otherwise) was 14K.

A change of scene

Trailscape is a fab concept where trail runs are laid-on near to train stations so that smog-bound Londoners can swap pavement-pounding for some fresh air and time in the woods, all without resorting to a car. I was going to be the willing victim of the Cuxton event. Three distances were on offer; 10K, ½ and full marathon. The half was my ‘poison-of-choice’.

The weekend before the event was living up to the time of year weather-wise; whilst not cold, it was chucking it down and friends who knew the course attested to the stickiness of the mud but strangely glossed over the 1,600 feet of ascent they had clocked up!

Ready, set, go…it’s time to hit those trails

Fourteen degrees and sunshine greeted us as we registered on the morning of the race. The full marathoners were already a distant memory as I got my race number and timing chip at a very civilised 10am. A light-hearted but detailed briefing saw us lined up and dispatched through the starting gate and into a cemetery; I couldn’t help but wonder at what sort of omen this was setting!

The first 4-5K was pretty solid climbing, some subtle and some not so, and all in shaded woodland. Trees were broken by open pasture that was more swamp-like. But coming to the crest of the climb, we were treated to gorgeous views across the North Downs with not a house in sight. The decent was interesting to say the least with the beautiful browns of the fallen leaves hiding deep puddles and tree roots but I was starting to settle into this. No, I was enjoying it!

Stunning scenery and hills, so many hills

The open chalky fields tested ankles and climbing (again) through narrow paths offering glimpses through the tree-lines towards rolling country side kept the spirits up. The first checkpoint was lit up by the smiling faces of marshalls, a quick cup of jelly babies then a u-turn, shift to the left and…..a climb. No wonder the marshalls were smiling; they knew what was facing us.

Views from the Downs

Views from the  North Downs

Now I know that some of my fitter brethren were running up this but I adopted what I hoped looked like running shuffle. Half way up there was a message about conquering stuff and yeah, I patted myself on the back at the top.

Passing half way the mixture of ups, a few downs and lots more ups were becoming more interspersed with idyllic running through woodland, more squelching and more mud. The last checkpoint, where all three distances came together was a hive of activity and welcoming marshalls. Personally, I would have preferred it to be at the top of the nasty hill that came after it but it did mean that the last quarter of the course was more populated and frankly by that time, it did me some good to see other runners I could pace myself against and use for that inevitable ‘digging deep’.

Cuxton half elevation profile (in case you were wondering)

Cuxton half elevation profile (in case you were wondering)

About 5K from home there was the last nasty climb and actually, as the realisation came to me, my legs started working again. I was nearly home! A quick stop to offer an antiseptic wipe to a runner who had been attacked by a stick and I suddenly found myself at the finish.

Finished? Not quite

Yes, I am hooked on trail running. It makes a brilliant change to road, tests you in more ways than you would have thought; not least because you have to use your brain and concentrate on where you put your feet.

Will I do it again? Oh yes. Will I do the full? Who knows. Should you do it? It comes highly recommended!

Thanks to Andrew for sharing his story with me. Come join us at the next race in Ashurst, East Sussex, 10 January 2015. For more info, click here.

View from the Shard (and Yoga) with Yogasphere

1 Dec

Why settle for simply visiting the Shard when you can have an hour of peace, tranquillity and a yoga class thrown in? Yes, I’m talking about yoga in the Shard with Yogasphere. With classes in the evening or first thing on a Saturday morning (stop groaning, it’s worth it), the relaxed and calming environment is the ideal way to check out the City from 800ft.

You also don’t have to be a diehard yogi to take part. The flow-based hour-long classes are easy to follow and leave you feeling stretched and revitalised. You can then take your time to take photos from level 72 of the Shard without the crowds.

Honestly, anyone wanting to visit the Shard book in for a class (I went for one on the Saturday morning) and you will not regret it. At £40 a pop, the class only costs £10.05 more than the usual admission price of £29.95 and you also receive a goody bag afterwards.

My only regret is that I chose a particularly cloudy Saturday morning but the views were still rather spectacular.

Views from the Shard

Views from the Shard

This particular view reminds me of a scene from A London Trilogy: The Films of Saint Etienne 2003 – 2007, which features footage of London over the years set against the voices of the past. Watch it, and preferably before you go up the Shard to see what I mean. If anything, you’ll be transfixed and fascinated by how the landscape of London has changed.

The loos with a view

The loo with a view – yes the loos have glass windows

Can you spot Tower Bridge?

Can you spot Tower Bridge?

While my photos may not do it justice, yoga on the Shard is well worth getting up for on a Saturday morning and is also a thoughtful Christmas present for the fitness lover in your life. (In fact, this was booked as part of a birthday present from the boyf’ this year. The boy did good.)

To find out more, please click here.

It’s time to party with City Academy

26 Nov
Rave on like it's 1999

Rave on like it’s 1999

Glow sticks and legwarmers at the ready as it’s time to party with City Academy. Help is at hand to counter all the food and alcohol festivities throughout December in the form of…yes…you guessed it partying.

On Monday 1 December, London’s leading and most inclusive performance and creative academies will be offering all those wannabe ravers the chance to work up a sweat to 90s classics. Expect high-energy, crazy shapes and laughter as you recreate that fish move from your school disco days.

This hour-long class offers a taster of a new series of fitness-based classes launching in January by City Academy. If raving is not quite your thing, then you can also have a go at the City Academy version of the oh-so-popular ballet fitness class called Barre Fit, try your hand at Afrobeat Workout and shake it up with the Jamican Dancehall-inspired Dancehall Workout. You never know when those moves will come in handy.

Two left feet? Well, you’ll only have to wait a month as City Academy will having you feel the burn with their Fitness Bootcamp (starts in January 2015). And to tone that tum after all the Christmas feasting, you can try the Pilates workshop (Jan 6 2015).

At reasonable prices and various locations around the Capital, it’s worth considering City Academy to kick off your New Year, New You plans.

As for me, well I’ll be raving “on the podium” next week at the taster workshop and taking the opportunity to recreate on of my favourite places at this time of year – the dance floor. Dance off anyone?

Running on holiday: Vietnam

22 Nov

Sometimes you just want to run, free from goals and training schedules. It doesn’t matter where or how far, you just want to experience that moment of exhilaration of the wind brushing past your face. It’s pretty easy to fulfil this desire when you’re at home in the routine of everyday life – a break from the desk does you good – but it becomes more difficult if, say, you’re on your holidays (and running holidays do not count).

Depending on what you do, and in my case it’s normally some form of travelling around the chosen destination. This means you may not know where you’ll be from one day to the next. You try and make the most out of your holiday by visiting all the must-see sights, which means scheduling in a run is near darn right impossible. Not that it should really matter. After all, unless you’re training to be a world-class athlete taking a break once in a while will probably do you a whole world of good.

How can you resist views like this in the morning?

How can you resist views like this in the morning?

There are times however when you do have the chance to put on your running shoes and explore the city where you’re staying by foot. And on my latest holiday in Vietnam, my running shoes were an absolute must. I took to the streets to run for the following reasons:

1. Stretching my legs after travelling

Sometimes a teeny-weeny part of me wish my partner and I were one of those couples who could spend two weeks lazing around on a white sandy beach, occasionally arising from our sunbeds to take a dip in the crystal-clear waters. But in reality I know that after half a day of a beach holiday and I’m bored. Itching to explore and find out new information about the country I’m in. But with all this thirst for adventure comes the travelling. And this can really take its toll on your legs. By running for just 20 minutes in Vietnam, I felt better. Maybe it’s psychological, I don’t really know, but a good stretch in the sunshine has got to be good for you.

Stretching my legs

Stretching my legs

2. Explore where you are

As in your surroundings and also find your bearings. I had the chance to run in Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An and Hanoi. Despite the fumes (especially in Ho Chi Minh City), simply getting out and taking to the streets at 6am in the city allows you to get a feel for the city. As the climate is so humid, it wasn’t unusual to see people, starting their day, cooking rice and setting up store to sell Bahn Mi or Pho at a relatively early hour of the day. Of course, you always need to be aware of potential dangers but seeing the markets setting up shop for the tourists and working out how to get to a specific park is all part of the fun of running on holiday.

Exploring..

Exploring..

3. And see how the Vietnamese exercise  

What struck me most about Vietnam was how much exercise they did first thing in the morning. In Hanoi, people of all ages headed to Hoan Kiem Lake to take part in Tai Chi, aerobic classes or use the series of gym equipment located there. I saw salsa in the bandstands in Ho Chi Minh City and badminton (the national sport) or versions of this racket sport involving feet, a net and a shuttlecock. There were a few runners but it seems that the Vietnamese like to exercise together and turn it into a social occasion. If you ever head to Vietnam, I’d recommend going to one of the local parks just to experience the very social way they like to move it.

Exercising with fans

Exercising with fans

Do you take your running shoes on holiday with you? What has running on holiday taught you? Let me know below.

A20 Path’n’Downs Marathon 2014 – the one which included Pilgrims’ Way

19 Nov

Another weekend, another marathon – yes, this is how I roll at the moment. And the lucky destination of choice after a three-ish week hiatus (which included a holiday in Vietnam and a very exciting engagement) from running was very close to my home town of Chatham in Kent.

Known as the A20 Path’n’ Downs Marathon, this 26.2 miles of paths which include parts of the North Downs, as the name suggests, is a hilly ride through the garden of England.  It begins just down the road from Leeds Castle in Kent and takes you through the neighbouring pretty villages of Charing, Lenham and Harrietsham (see the route map below) as well as parts of Pilgrims’ Way, which became famous after the murder and subsequent canonization of Thomas Becket in 1173 (good to know if you’re a fan of pub quizzes).

The A20 Path'n'Downs Marathon map

The A20 Path’n’Downs Marathon map

Besides being very close to my mum and dad’s house, which means I reap the benefits of the parental comforts for the weekend, this marathon is a fantastic introduction for any marathon runners wanting to challenge themselves away from the crowds of the city. In fact, I enjoyed it so much three years ago (my first time with this particular race) that I thought why not incorporate the race into my Marathon des Sables training. After all, every little helps. And I’m so glad that I did. Here’s why:

1. The Hills

I would describe myself as a glass half full kinda person. You know, always look on the bright side, have faith and paint a rosy tint on everything around you. While I remembered the spectacular views from when I had raced the A20 Path’n’Downs Marathon before, I had forgotten just how many hills there were along the course. It was tough, dressed in a long-sleeve top, leggings with my rucksack on my back but I know that there will be many a hill along the MdS course, so this was a much-welcomed challenge for me.

2. The organisation and race marshalls

It’s true that smaller events are easier to manage but organisers could learn a thing or two from the people behind the A20 Path’n’Downs as getting lost simply wasn’t an option. The course was well marked with bright yellow arrows and mile signs and the marshalls were enthusiastic and offered a range of treats for runners in need of a drink or energy boost. With my rucksack and pockets bulging with sweets I was an anomaly among runners who ran without anything as the snack tables really had all you needed for the 26.2 mile race.

3. The size of race

Hands up if you prefer smaller races. Me. Me. Me. Around 150 runners took part in this race, which is now in its fourth year, and from what I could see, the majority of them were club runners. That’s not to put anyone off as I think this is a great race for anyone with a bit of marathon experience. In fact, smaller races are fab full-stop if you hate the argy-bargy, crowds and pressure of larger city marathons. Or the idea of having to share a space of around 10 metres wide with 10,000 other runners (that is until a race thins out). A half marathon was also taking part at the same time, which for anyone wanting to enter a hillier half is a great course to do.

 4. It was essential winter training

As much as I love running, it can be hard to keep yourself motivated. That’s why I enter races. I know, I know constant racing is not good for you but when it comes to long runs and training for the MdS I think racing say a marathon helps me prepare both mentally and physically. My aims for the A20 Path ‘n’ Downs were simply to hold back for the first half, control my speed without the use of any gadgets and finish feeling strong, which is exactly what I did. I passed numerous people during the last 5K because my legs had not been pushed too hard. Despite the time finishing well short of my new PB (3:38:25), I am happy in the knowledge that I can run a marathon in warm clothing carrying a rucksack without feeling like poo afterwards. My legs are tight but nothing that a decent stretch couldn’t fix.

In all my gear again - sorry this will be a familiar site over the next few months

In all my gear again – sorry this will be a familiar site over the next few months

Back to the race – I’d recommend the A20 Path’n’Downs to anyone who wants to try a marathon in the winter months. It’s hilly yet worth the climb and you are surrounded by the splendours of the autumnal colours such as:

Run run run in the countryside

Run run run in the countryside

Light up your run this winter

15 Nov

Running in the dark is a different type of adventure, where a stream of light from a headlamp, hand torch or whatever illuminant you choose, creates a path and guides you on your way safely.

When it comes to running after dark, think like a well-informed cyclist. Wear bright clothing to be seen, add a fluorescent jacket, gloves or anything that lets a driver know you are there can really help. Now you don’t have to go the whole hog and look like an overdone Christmas tree but mixing lights with reflective gear is important for anyone running in the dark.

From beanies to bright pink gloves, Nathan Sports offers a bunch of “get lit” gear to well make sure you can see and be seen. For quite rightly as they state on their website: “Drivers can more easily recognize (sic) the human form when runners wear multiple points of light”. By combining my LED Lenser head torch with some of the Nathan products below, I’m going to light up the town this winter.

1.Nathan Bronco glove, £30

Available in pink or black, these gloves include reflective strips and a slot to store small items like coins and your keys. You could also insert a strobe light from the Nathan collection to give your run a disco-feel. While pink may not to be to everyone’s taste (they’re also available in black), these are very warm and feature touch technology pads, which mean you can switch tracks on your music/phone on the move.

Nathan Bronco glove pink

Nathan Bronco glove pink

bronco glove pink front

Bronco glove pink with pads that allow you to use your electronic devices if you so wish

2. Nathan LightSpur, £19.99

Anyone born in the 80s will remember LA lights, the trainers that the kids went crazy for. Well now you can light up your run and relive your childhood (yep, I never got a pair either) with Nathan’s LightSpur. These super light-weight spurs offer up to 40 hours illumination and are powered by easily replaceable watch batteries. Also recommended for cyclists too.

Lightspur on shoes - LA lights anyone?

Lightspur on shoes – LA lights anyone?

3. Nathan Strobelights, £9.99

Wear on your belt or tucked into your glove, the Nathan Strobelights are handy for extra illumination and keeps on blasting out light for more than 100 hours. Not only are they waterproof but they’re fantastic also for cyclists who may be caught short from time to time on the lighting front.

Nathan strobelights

Nathan Strobelights

4. Nathan DomeLight beanie black, £40

Light up your run with this USB-rechargeable beanie, which features front and rear lights (white and red accordingly). It’s also light-weight and warm for those chilly morning and evening runs.

Domelight beanie black

Domelight beanie black

5. Nathan Zephyr Front torch, £44.99

Not a huge fan of holding items while you run? Thanks to the straps attached to this hand torch, you’ll hardly notice that it is there. While it’s not as powerful as some hand torches, this is handy all the same. It also has a rear red light so people can see you from behind and a high-pitched sound so you can warn people that you’re behind them.

Zephyr Front torch

Zephyr Front torch

These are just some of the products available from Nathan Sports. Have you invested in gear to light you up on your night runs? What do you wear to be seen in the dark? Let me know below.

You say bridesmaid, I say Best Woman

10 Nov

Next year is already looking bright. Not only am I running the Marathon des Sables but I am also Best Lady (my term for Matron of Honour as I hate this wedding term) at one of my best friend’s wedding in September, which as you can imagine is majorly exciting.
When Weddington Way  – a “bridesmaid dress wedding site from the US” shot me an email asking me to style up a dress of my choice from their ample collection, I thought why the hell not? There are three of us altogether and we are still on the hunt for the perfect dresses but I’ve spied few that I like on Weddington Way including this Audrey Bridesmaid dress, available in mint green and ivory bliss.

The final choice for our bridesmaid dresses will be completely different but it’s still fun to have a gander at all the possibilities. After all, it may help spur on my creative juices in the fashion department and be a whole lot of fun as I can pick pieces that I can only dream of ever owning.
Here goes…introducing my three looks from one very flattering mint green Audrey bridesmaid dress ($150).

DId someone say party?

DId someone say party?

Who says that weddings have to always be demure? I wanted to add a bit of sass to this classic silhouette of a dress (named after one of the most famous style icons ever) so I picked out this pair of Sophia Webster navy Jojo and fur shoes (£595). Playful, unique and approximately 4.5 inches in height, these will make a statement without drawing attention away from the bride. And for the wedding celebrations, I threw in this monochrome purse from Oscar De La Rente (£1,015), which again steps the look up a gear or two.

Office Chic

Office Chic

The A-line shape of the Audrey dress combines with the summery mint green colour means it lends itself to a fresh and bright office look. Team with a white fitted blazer (it may be darn hard to clean but the colour can lift an outfit), neutral ballet pumps (£130) and a tan shoulder bag such as this cute leather one from Alfie Douglas (£100) and you have a professional and smart look for that important meeting. And if you really want to go all out or are heading out in the evening, add a piece of statement jewellery such as this Love Rocks Chain and Stone Collar (£45).

Time for a cocktail

Time for a cocktail

As every stylish person would say, it’s all about the right accessories. A colourful silk scarf can instantly transform an outfit. This quality silk square from Jane Carr (£165) features a colourful snake design and includes colours which complement the mint green colour of the dress. Finish with a pair of classic Jimmy Choo square toe pumps (£425) and a sparkly gold handbag (£245) for a lip-smacking look.

Whether you’re in wedding mode or not, it’s worth checking out some of the fabulous dresses from Weddington Way. Here is a link to their latest collection http://www.weddingtonway.com/all/bridesmaid-dresses.

What do you think? Have you ever worn a bridesmaid dress after the wedding?

Cycle safe this winter

6 Nov

Let’s face it, while we may be short on sunshine, exercise is one way to boost our endorphins (happy hormones) and our mood. So instead of leaving your two-wheeled friend to hibernate in the garage, shed, hallway, bedroom… , take advantage of the cooler weather and cycle your way through winter.

It’s snow joke

With a bit of extra prep and gear, you’ll be able to hit the road in most weather (if you’ve ever tried cycling in a stormy blast of the white stuff, you’ll know that it’s not worth skidding around on a dirty and icy road).

Here is a winter checklist provided by LV – it may seem obvious but extra vigilance around batteries for lights, having a break, tyre pressure and tyre and pedal grip check really do make a huge difference.

Bike checklist from LV

Bike checklist from LV

 

On those particularly wet days, mudguards on your front and back wheels are a real blessing to stop backsplash of muddy water on the road. And while reflectors are not an absolute must, drivers will thanks you for them.  Finally, if you’re leaving your bike outside in wet weather, a seat cover is another piece of gear you will be thankful for.

With your tyres, the next infographic reveals more about what to consider when it comes to tyre pressure and your bicycle checklist.

Wise up on two wheels

Wise up on two wheels

Illuminate the roads

When it comes to cycling, it can be particularly irritating when one of your lights cut out and you do not have any spare batteries to hand. Put a set of USB-rechargeable Moon Lights on your Christmas list. I didn’t but was pleasantly surprised to receive some from the boyfriend (no really, I’m a practical girl at heart). Easy to attach and detach from your bike, they are bright see me coming with this powerful set of lights.  I also have a back-up set already on my bike just in case I forget to charge them at work. I would say, whatever your lighting style (see below), always have a plan B.

What is your lighting style?

What is your lighting style?

Head, shoulders, knees and TOES (and FINGERS)

You don’t need to go overboard when it comes to cycling in the cold. A waterproof jacket and trousers over layers of clothing underneath (even better if they are hi-vis) should suffice. But what I would not leave at home is a separate pair of woolly socks and gloves to keep your tootsies and mitts warm.

Invest in a decent pair of cycling gloves, preferably with some waterproofing, and cycling socks. If cycling to work, you may want to take a change of clothing too as there’s nothing worse than sitting around in sweaty gear all day and stinking the office out. Have a gander at this list below for more cycle-appropriate gear to wear if you so desire.

Wrap up this winter on your bike

Wrap up this winter on your bike

And as for shoes

It may be cool/in/”whatever the youngsters say these days” to be seen in a certain brand of loafers on your bike but you may find that you’ll wear out that pair of 60 quid hipster pumps before the winter is out. Use your loaf and pack a spare pair.

All this extra gear does add up but the benefits of cycle-commuting to work far outweigh other public transport options or travelling by car. While #runcommuting may be my preference, I still #cyclecommute some days, especially when I have to carry more things or am meeting friends after work.

Don’t be put off by the winter weather, a brisk cycle in the cold weather will revive you. Simply be organised, tick off the winter cycling checklist, saddle-up and pedal safe.

I can’t get no sleep…

27 Oct

The title feels pretty apt as I am currently sitting on a bunk of a Vietnamese sleeper train while I write this. It’s not just the fact that the train is warm (although there is air conditioning thank god) but at around 2am this morning, we were awoken startlingly by a very loud message across the tannoy that we had arrived at such and such stop accompanied by equally annoying tinny music. Comfort and luxury, it is not (but it is kinda fun).

Vietnam

Good night sleep?

Back on UK soil, the clocks would have gone back an hour by now, signalling the end to British Summertime and the start of the winter months. What does this really mean? Well, according to the American rhyme “spring forward, fall back” – you guys (over there in the UK) gain an hour in bed. Great huh? Well yes actually as long at you make use of it. A recent survey of 2,000 people by Ibis Hotels revealed that a good night’s sleep really does make the difference between a good day and a bad day.

Another interesting stat from their survey is that a staggering 13% of Brits have woken to find they have been creative whilst they’ve slept and have created works of art or writings. Sleep and creativity have long been linked with studies looking at the detrimental impact of a lack of sleep on creativity, so if you’re feeling less creative you can blame your lack of sleep. I always wondered why on some days the ideas just flow while on others, I struggle to construct a simple sentence.

And girls, listen up, you can also blame your dreams for those periods when you’re snappy towards your partner. One in every 10 British women have confessed to being angry with their partners because of something they did in a dream.

Those who live in the capital are also pretty lucky as according to the survey, 41% of Londoners are able to get back to a dream after waking up from it.

Of course, these surveys are like most stats thrown at these days, curated in a way so they create a pretty picture but overall the less-than-ground-breaking story is just another way of telling the generation that “can’t get no sleep” about the importance of shut-eye.

We all know this but now you’ve had your extra hour in bed, perhaps it’s time to think about your sleeping routine. Are you strict about bed time? Do you have a tendency to burn the candle at both ends? Do you have a routine at all? (As much as we all love a weekend lie-in, research has shown that this can completely throw our sleeping patterns out of kilter.)

As an amateur runner/fitness fanatic/crazy adrenaline junkie, I know that sleep has a massive impact on my performance and my mood. And despite the early morning wake-up call today, I’m feeling pretty chilled as I soon fell back into my slumber and am still “in-bed” past midday.

I’m using this holiday for some R’n’R and much-needed rest but also a time to look at how I can improve my sleeping patterns back home. It’s been a crazy few months with plenty of hours but it has left me feeling, well, pretty beat.

There may be an element of truth to the slightly amended saying here:

Early to bed, early to rise, makes the young woman, wealthy and wise (and healthier/faster/stronger)

And I’m going to try and stick to it…

How about you?

 

 

 

 

Trailscape Rail to Trail 2014: Newport Marathon – the one where I wore all my clothes

24 Oct

OK, the second part of the title is a little bit of an exaggeration. I didn’t wear ALL my clothes (a supersized Michelin Man springs to mind). I did however wear a running vest, baselayer, longer-length leggings, up-to-the knee socks and Berghaus rucksack because I’m using the Trailscape Rail to Trail Series as part of my training for Marathon des Sables.

With four races located in some of the most unspoilt countryside just an hour from London (who knew), spread out over the winter months, Trailscape (Run it, Love it, Live it) are offering a brilliant escape from the hustle and bustle for people who love to run.

The races are:

And after successfully completing the first one in Newport, Essex, I have to say they’re great prep for any spring marathon, half marathon or 10k you want to try your hand at. Here’s why:

Newport

Only an hour from Londinium, It’s like stepping into Ambridge from the Archers

 

1.  The ‘Rail to Trail’ races are easy to get to

Irritated by races where you have to either rely on the car of ‘mum and dad’, great friends or some ultra-complicated plan that involves about three or four different methods of transport (trains, planes (bikes) and automobiles)? Me too. That’s why the rail to trail races are so brilliant. All around an hour away from Central  London mainline stations, they are pretty easy to access for most of us without four wheels at our disposal.  Then when you arrive at the other end, the start is only five minutes walk from the station. No fuss or faff, all you need to do is check for the right time train on National Rail Enquiries and then make sure you get to the station on time.

2. There are three different distances to choose between (and therefore wake-up times)

So I choose the marathon (surprise, surprise), that’s because I’m training for Marathon des Sables. You can also run a half marathon (roughly a half marathon) or 10K and not have to wake up as early as us crazy fans of the 26.2 miler. The marathons start at 9:30am, half marathons at 10:30am and 10K at 11:30am.  Yes, those 10K runners can have an extra two hours sleep

Berghaus

Berghaus bag with necessary jelly bean supply

3. You can try out your kit (if you so wish)

I chose to run with the Berghaus Hyper 37 Rucksack as this is what I will use next year on my crazy race across the sands. Hesitant as I was to carry the mandatory kit in THE BAG (everyone has to take a whistle, foil blanket, fully-charged mobile, water and money with them on the Trailscape races) in case I ripped it or damaged the light-weight fabric in some way or another, I’m glad that I did.

Measuring 61cm (H) x29cm (w) x 21cm (D) and weighing just 560g, it was super-comfy and so it should be as it was designed for the inspirational adventurer Philippe Gatta by Berghaus. With straps around the chest and hip area, you can securely fasten this light as a feather bag to you with what they call the Bergbuckle. There are also small pockets on the tummy straps, which I used to stash some jelly beans to keep me going. My only criticism is that as a smallish lady up-top who likes to wear things attached tightly to me, there was a lot of extra strappage going on. I think I will cut off the excess before my next race.

Muddy fields aplenty

Muddy fields aplenty

4. You will find it a challenge

In my limited trail-running experience, there are races which are billed as trails but turn out to be a mix of road, trail and routes through woods. Then there are the diehard trail races. Trailscape falls into the latter category.  It was like running a cross country race in the muddiest conditions ever. The competitors were not just running around the ploughed fields of mud, we were running across them. Imagine wading through thick treacle that continues to stay with you once you arrive on dry land and you’ll catch my drift. It was tricky, my feet were at times weighed down with mud, and when coupled with knee-deep puddles, wet grass, rocky footpaths, gates and electric fences, you pretty much have a Tough Mudder, in the middle of nowhere, with no crowds cheering you on (or hardly anyone around). Add to this the fact that you only have markers and pieces of white tape plus various checkpoints to ensure that you stay en route (unfortunately a farmer removed one of these and a group of 10 of us got lost – the curse of the trail returns) and it becomes a whole different adventure.

5. There will be low points

You’re sweating, realised that your water bottle dropped out of your bag somewhere earlier in the race and you can’t see any more white tape or signs telling you you’re going in the right direction. The lead that you have created slowly disintegrates as you join up with those following to say that you think you’re lost. It happens. Especially on trail races. And it’s not the organiser’s fault that some farmers or walkers decide it’s a good idea to remove the markers that they’ve laid out the night or morning before. But my goodness, it is super-demotivating.

The best way I find to recover from this kind of situation is to switch my music on, stay focused and positive by trying to enjoy the scenery around you. You may have slipped back a few places and may not be able to hit your former pace but at least it adds to the adventure and makes for a better story. You’ll also learn that you really should take better note of the checkpoints that you’ve passed before, so if you do have to phone the organisers you have more knowledge than simply, “we’re in a field, at the top of hill with a church steeple and windmill behind us”.

Marathon Man UK (Rob) and I in selfie mode

Marathon Man UK (Rob) and I in selfie mode

6. And plenty of highs

You’re lost, a wee bit tired and, well, pooped. Then again, you’re surrounded by a great bunch of people, chatting about their running adventures. The best thing about the first Trailscape race besides the freedom of running in the countryside and the whole excitement of “where are these arrows leading us next, oh, it’s another gate to open or sty to climb over”, was the fellow group of runners. Even before the race started, I had already chatted with a bloke, who joked “you can’t be wearing all that unless, of course, you’re training for the Marathon des Sables” – he had already competed MdS and incidentally went on to win the first Trailscape marathon.

Then there was the impressive Marathon Man UK, who has made it his mission to complete a marathon a day for more than a year to raise money for charity. When we were lost in the wilderness he offered me a bite-sized Snickers or Bounty to cheer me up. Another guy called Paul ran and chatted with me during the tough mid-part of the race, and shouted when I almost went the wrong way. The atmosphere was friendly and all the competitors were very supportive of each other, spreading the running love.

7. You will love/ hate your first Trailscape but nothing will stop you from wanting to do it all over again

For all of the reasons above. Bring on Cuxton Rail to Trail Marathon and the consequential mudfest!

Mud, mud, mud

Mud, mud, mud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My picks of autumn/winter sportsgear 2014

20 Oct
My sportswear picks for this autumn/winter 2014

My sportswear picks for this autumn/winter 2014

Whether you’re training for an ultra or a 5K, I find there’s always an excuse for new gear (or at least to make your wishlist, even if 97 percent of it never materialises). And as I will be training over what may well be a pretty chilly winter, I’ve drawn up my pick of 16 pieces built for warmth and performance. They (well some of them) also happen to tick all the right boxes style-wise.

Viewed as rows from left to right

1.  adidas adizero cap sleeve shirt, £38, adidas

I know adidas have a new range out called Climaheat to…well..keep you warm but I’m a sucker for their adizero range. The fabric dries fast and is super-light, almost like a second skin. The cap sleeve style is very flattering and the pink pattern is also reflective, making this a good choice when sprint training in the dark.

2. adidas adizero sequencials three-quarter tights, £58, adidas

I already own a similar pair of tights by adidas and absolutely love the light and easy-to-wear fabric. The weave of the fabric supports my muscles making them an excellent choice for cross-country racing. The ones in the photo have reflective detailing so they’re also fabulous for training in during the long, dark winter nights.

3. ashmei  merino + carbon running jersey, £75, ashmei

It may look like a cycling jersey but this top-quality product will retain heat and absorb sweat as you move. Made from 62 percent superfine Merino wool, 34 percent carbon and 4 percent spandex, it is also almost all natural fibres and so will let your body breathe.

4. Berghaus vapourlight hypertherm reversible jacket, £120, Berghaus

Don’t be put off by the name of this product (it is a bit of a mouthful). Multi-purpose and light-weight, this reversible jacket keeps you both warm (one side retains heat) and not too warm (the other side allows heat to escape so your body can cool down). If you’re looking for a trail jacket, make a note of the Berghaus vapourlight hypertherm reversible jacket and the blue/orange version is certainly on my list.

5. Icebreaker Pace leggings, £65, Cotswold Outdoor

You can never have enough sports bras or leggings and this pair will keep your legs and muscles warm in those chillier conditions. Constructed from Merino wool, expect them to be comfortable and the flat stitched seams (they call them flatlock) help prevent “exfoliating those upper thights” otherwise known as chafing.

6. Ninety Six Windbreaker, £31, Fabletics

As much as I’m not a fan of the Fabletics business monthly subscription model (I have to remember to skip each month or they’ll charge me £40), I really like this windbreaker jacket. It may not be the warmest but will add a colourful layer over a long-sleeved technical t-shirt.

7. Patagonia Balaclava,£25, Patagonia

You may not want to run around Central London in this get-up but if you’re hitting the trails on a bitterly cold day (or slopes), this breathable balaclava could be exactly what you want to protect your nose and ears. It could also be a real help when training for a desert marathon.

8. Lululemon Vinyasa scarf Rulu, £42, Lululemon

Designed for yogis, this circular Vinyasa scarf from Lululemon will warm you up and you could almost get away with wearing it to the office. I’d certainly sport it on my bike on a fresh and wintery day.

9. Nike Aeroloft 800 vest, £120, Nike

It’s like the 21st century puffa jacket or bodywarmer- yes, this Nike Aeroloft 800 vest will ensure your body stays warm and ventilated during the winter while remaining as light as a feather (well almost).  A great alternative to a winter running jacket, the longer length also prevents the ‘vest’ from rising and the laser-cut ventilation allows heat to escape.

10. LIJA mesh-panelled top, £65, net-a-porter.com

Thumb-holes to prevent the sleeves riding up and cover arms? Check. Mesh-panelling and moisture-wicking fabric? Check. Flattering stitching and style? Check. Throw on this LIJA running top to add an extra layer that is comfortable and will help to regulate your heat when the temperatures drop. Selected LIJA wear is now available on net-a-porter.com.

11. LIJA printed stretch-jersey capri leggings, £65, net-a-porter.com

Quick-drying, breathable and supremely stylish, these leggings are not only practical for those long training runs, they also look pretty hot too. If I could get away with it, I wouldn’t only wear these when working out.

12. Sweaty Betty Velocity jacket, £99, Sweaty Betty

Love the colour and the reflective detail of Sweaty Betty’s latest version of their ever-popular running velocity jacket. It has all the features you want from a showerproof jacket, including a drop hem and breathable mesh side panels. You can also pack it away easily into the back zip pocket.

13. Vitascope print leggings, £280, Lucas Hugh

These are beautiful, eye-catching and make the ultimate run statement. Unfortunately, they are way out of my price range. A girl can still dream though…right?

14. Salomon S-Lab Exo twinskin skort, £120, Salomon

All I know about this skort is that it helped my mate Lenka come first in a 24-hour race. She swears by them and says the multi-layers prevent any chafing, are ultra-supportive and super-comfy. You’ve sold them to me Lenka, I want (need a pair).

15. Michi Cyclone top, £135, Style PB

If you’re looking for high-fashion sportswear, check out the new website Style PB. It’s where you’ll find pieces such as this sexy top by Michi. With sheer panels and bodycon shaping, it seems a shame to cover this piece up. Would I wear it out running? Probably not. To a club or cocktail bar? Definitely. It’s smoking hot.

16. Ronhill base print tight, £33, Ronhill 

With a reasonable price-point, great quality gear and a selection of high vis clothing for winter, Ronhill is definitely on my radar. It’s just a shame that their Vizion collection (that’s the high vis stuff) for women is sooo pink (why? oh why?). After some digging, I did find these black leggings with a luminous yellow pattern so they have redeemed themselves a little.

What has taken your fancy this season? Let me know in the comments below.

Marathon des Sables 2015: le jour viendra

15 Oct

Translation “Sand Marathon – the day will come”

And don’t I know it. In approximately 170-odd days I will be at the start of what has been hailed the toughest race on earth. Whether or not you believe the hype about what is a ridiculously expensive multi-day race, one thing is for sure, it’s going to be a ruddy good adventure.

It’s taken me a long time to write this post because unlike most of the other races that I do, I have to come to terms with what I’m about to embark on.

Just some of the tasty goodness I'll be considering

Rubbish photo I know but it’s just some of the tasty goodness alongside my MdS bracelet

 

What is the Marathon des Sables?

It’s a self-sufficient, multi-stage race across the Sahara where you can expect to find yourself battling temperatures of up to 55 degrees centigrade. And by self-sufficient, I mean you have to carry everything with you for the entire duration of the trip, which comprises of six stages (most stages are marathons but the long stage is a double marathon and as next year is the 30th year, we’ve been promised surprises!).  That means food, water, sleeping bag (as it can become rather chilly when the sun goes down), toothbrush, soap and anything else you may happen to need. Forget flat roads and smooth tarmac, the terrain out there varies from sand dunes to teeny rocks that get into your shoes. The blisters from past participants are so gruesome that they can put you off your dinner…for life…And you have the opportunity to sleep under the stars, well almost, as the tents look like a very basic version of a yurt. You have to carry whatever you choose to sleep with too and share the space with seven other people. To put it into perspective, of the 1029 people (I think) who entered last year, 917 finished – around 10% abandoned the race.

So why am I taking part?  

Besides being a glutton for punishment, the Marathon des Sables appeals to a side of me that likes to push myself to the extremes. There will be no crowds cheering me on just rocks, dunes, hills and planes of desert with all the terrain that comes with an arid landscape. Some days I’ll want to enjoy the silence and solitude, while on others I know that it’ll be the company of a talking book or music that will get me through. Whatever it is, I’m drawn to the challenge of completing this tougher than tough Marathon des Sables.

Of course, my family and friends are worried. I had to broach the subject carefully with the boyf. The conversation went – “Honey, if I really, really wanted to do something, you would support me wouldn’t you” He replied sternly – “If you’re talking about the Marathon des Sables then NO”.

I understand, I really do, why he is concerned. (And I finally talked him through what I was going to do.) But it can be sometimes difficult to articulate the exact reasons why you want to run across the desert. In my mind, I feel like I’m ready to do this. Ready to explore the unknown territory, listen to those who have completed the race before me and yet make my own way towards the finish line.

What will I have to do over the next few months?

As I said above, I’m constantly looking for advice and picking up tips on the way from the likes of the amazing Susie Chan and Cat Simpson (who has not only just completed Atacama – the equivalent race in South America – but was placed second woman).  I’m heading to Vietnam next week for a fortnight but once back I return, my current training regime will be shifting up a gear or two.

I know I need to be realistic, I do have a day job which I enjoy but as it’s a 9 to 5 and sometimes later, I need to be flexible with my training plan. As well as competing in a few Trail marathons, multi-day races, upping my speed and hill work plus cross-country (which Danny Kendall who finished fifth in this year’s Marathon des Sables swears by), I’m also planning to go on some long walks in the country at weekends. This is something that I can do with my non-running boyfriend, made even more appealing by a spot of lunch in a country pub. During the week, I’m going to try Bikram yoga and sitting in a sauna. And sand dunes, well, I want to head to Camber sands or the Norfolk coast at least twice before April. It’s a semblance of a plan and it will take shape over the next few weeks. I’m pretty realistic and will not beat myself up if say I cannot stick to it day-by-day, but I think simply having a plan that I can stick to will boost my confidence as well as my fitness levels.

And finally, and equally as important, the question of kit (I have a Berghaus rucksack to test at this weekend’s race) springs to mind. What to wear? should I take a sleeping bag?  All this needs to be considered now, well before Father Christmas decides to pay a visit down my chimney. Then there’s the fuel or food, which is my biggest weakness.  I know I cannot live off a packet of Liquorice Allsorts for the entire duration of the race. Well, I could but I probably wouldn’t finish. It’s time to get serious and think about what I can really stomach in the desert (a mix of salty Supernoodles, Oats + Chia, Chia Charge flapjacks, Chia Tea latte powder, some sort of hot chocolate/strawberry milkshake, dried fruit, sweets and seeds is what I’m currently thinking will suit me).

Plenty of stuff to try out before Christmas and think about. In fact apologies to my mates and family as this will be high up my priority list. Scrap that, number one priority. I guess you could say that the Marathon des Sables adventure does not start when I step on that plane next year (4 April 2015). It has already begun.

Am I crazy? Yes but that’s just the way it is. To get me in the mood for Morocco, I’ve been listening to a famous Algerian artist called Khaled.  His song “Le jour viendra” is a bit of a mix of Arabic melody and French lyrics. Give it a go…

Etait-ce vrai ou bien n’était-ce qu’un rêve ?
Oh… Le jour viendra

Oats + Chia on World Porridge Day

10 Oct

Porridge has come a long way since my student days when it consisted of a bowl of gloop with a consistency to rival wallpaper paste and that’s even before you dared to taste it. Yes, porridge was something I actively avoided. That was until I became a runner. And as all runners know, porridge is a staple fuel pre-race. You can almost tell who the runners are when staying at a hotel before a marathon. If they’re not shovelling down a bowl of hot porridge perhaps followed by scrambled eggs, they’ll probably whiff a bit of Deep Heat or Tiger Balm).

As a source of slow-releasing energy, the oaty goodness of porridge makes it perfect for keeping your energy on an even playing field. It certainly helped warm me up before my final lap of the Spitfire Scramble. But I’m the first to admit, it’s not the most exciting  of foods. Or so I thought.

Chia_Lifestyle_Oats_AppleDry_Kitchen_sml

Oats so good (no, my kitchen does not look like this) (c) The Chia Co

You know how I love my Chia seeds,  well The Chia Co have combined the health benefits of Chia with Oats to create a breakfast or snack (why not?) that is tasty. What’s more, each serving contains 5g of fibre, Omega-3, protein and antioxidants. And you don’t even need a microwave or hob to make it up. So it’s perfect for even the laziest of chefs, active adventurers or when you only have access to a kettle at work.

Available in three flavours – Apple Spice, Banana & Mango and Mixed Berry – each of which are mixed with coconut oil, they’re world’s apart from the usual sickly-sweet instant porridge mixes on offer in supermarkets. The downside is that you can only find them at Ocado and at £5 for 5 sachets, it’s worth stocking up for the winter.

As today is World Porridge Day, it’s a reminder that winter is on its way. Thanks World Porridge Day people. (In fact, World Porridge Day is an awesome campaign to help feed some of the most impoverished children around the world. A worthy cause so take a glance at the World Porridge Day website.) Those early mornings in the darkness, training in the cold for a marathon may become a bit of a drag, so it’s always good to have something tasty and warm to look forward to. Now you can, with Oats + Chia.

Bournemouth Marathon 2014: a chinwag, kiss and new PB

8 Oct

After a few fairly solid marathon performances this year in Paris, Geneva and then the Kent Roadrunner, many an epic adventure and a new goal, a new marathon PB was not exactly what I had in mind for Bournemouth.

The adidas #boosts were ready but was I?

The adidas #boosts were ready but was I on the chilly October morning?

After all, it was only a week after Ealing Half, and while I had taken it easy, I still ran a few distance training runs (between 13-16 miles a pop) in the week. I hadn’t tapered or followed any specific marathon training plan. My left hamstring was also giving me a bit of gip after a sprint session on the Monday.  With all this in mind, completing the marathon in a 3:30 pace and feeling strong afterwards was the aim. Nothing more (and nothing less).

Bournemouth marathon

Finished and looking sternly at the camera – LOVED IT THOUGH

Let’s just say that when I finally finished with my legs tired but not crucified and received the text message that I ran the Bournemouth Marathon in 3:19:47, my response was a slightly more X-rated version of “oh my goodness, how on earth did I manage to knock a solid 5 minutes off my PB.” I still have no idea. Instead of trying to work out the secret to my new PB as I’m still trying to get my head around it, here’s what I did differently at the Bournemouth Marathon 2014.

Hooked up with pacing buddies

While I love running naked (sans gadgets and gizmos), it can sometimes be tricky to establish a pace that you can keep for the entire length of a marathon. In the past, I have been known to totally blitz the first half only to feel like an idiot when my legs are crying for “no more” at mile 23. So instead of getting carried away with the crowd and trying to “chick” every bearded man I saw (don’t they get extra hot with all that facial hair?), I found myself a pair of pacing buddies for the first 15 miles of the race. We played a game of cat and mouse at the start but once we’d established a pace we were all comfortable with, it was a rather pleasant way to spend half a marathon.

Embraced a little runchat

As well as running alongside my two pacing buddies, I started chatting about random race-related stuff. The bloke happened to have run a sub-3:20 marathon in Oslo two weeks before and a sub-3:25 marathon in Berlin (a week before) so he was pretty much at the extreme end of the running-crazy scale AND absolutely lovely with it. We chatted from about mile 9 to mile 14 and I have to say the distance flew by. I was in the sunshine, chinwagging about a subject that I happen to have a massive interest in and sustaining a relatively quick pace without even thinking about it.

Played spot and kiss (chase) your boyfriend 

Part of the Bournemouth Marathon route takes you on a massive loop along the seafront, which means spectators have the opportunity to see you twice en route. Unbeknown to me, my partner (in crime) had decided to stand at a point where I could see and hear him as I began this 2ish- mile circular path. I would also pass him once the loop was completed before heading up the infamous Bournemouth hill towards Poole and back along the seafront to the finish.  I was at the stage where I was ready to run ahead of my newfound running friends and then I heard a “Go Bec” from the boyfriend. As much as he’s not the biggest fan of my running and yet he was there, cheering me on. I thought that deserves an embarrassing kiss. And this (soppy as it sounds) spurred me on to run two miles, maintaining my pace, with the main aim to surprise him with a sweaty smacker on the lips. NICE. It’s these little games that keep you going and make races so much more fun.

X marks the spot where I kissed the boyfriend

X marks the spot where I kissed the boyfriend

Encouraged the crowds whooping for “the lady”

She’s a lady..uh-oh-oh..she’s a lady, who happens to run, and sometimes also happens to be upfront with the boys. While I still find it rather odd that people point out that I have boobs and different bits to most of the other competitors I am running with, in Bournemouth it was kinda cool. There were a couple of groups of women who went absolutely crazy when they saw a female pass. Shouting at the top of their voices “she’s nailed it, nailed it, nailed it”. Oh yes girlfriends, I’m nailing it for you – I thought as I continued to run past beach huts and the blokes. I’m loving the sunshine, running along the beach and you guys toasting us as you tuck into your beach picnics. And as if I was a comedy warm-up act, I started waving my arms around, urging people to clap at all the runners making their way past.

Sang (out loud)

I confess, I’m one of those runners who sings tunelessly along to the music blaring away on their iPod as they run. When I say sing, I mean perhaps grunts a few words out loud. Anyhow, it keeps me going And ironically, during my final few miles of the Bournemouth, I was listening to the rather aptly named “I’d rather walk than run” by Herman Dune and several Belle & Sebastian tracks. Not exactly what you’d find on one of those glossy high-octane running mixes, but the action of mouthing away the words as I entered the final stretch kept me going.

Surprised myself

Before the race, I was worried about my hamstring. Would it last the full distance? Would my legs cramp up? Would I have to suffer in pain? It was almost as if I was waiting for the inevitable to happen around mile 23. It was going to hurt and I was ready, prepared and waiting for the marathon wall. When I hit the 23 mile point, however, I was pleasantly surprised. My legs were tired but I felt like I could keep going and going and going.  The week before at the Ealing Half Marathon, I had hated the final 800m and I struggled. The following week in Bournemouth at a time when I had almost run twice the distance, I still felt strong. And looking at my half marathon split, I hadn’t lost my pace massively either (my half marathon time was 1:39:05 versus a full marathon time of 3:19:47 – just over a minute and a half difference).

In the top 10 ladies but I'm not over 50!

In the top 10 ladies but I’m not over 50!

I guess what the Bournemouth Marathon 2014 did teach me was if you relax and enjoy the ride, you may surprise yourself.

 

Ealing Half Marathon 2014: More than a feeling…the #EalingFeeling

2 Oct

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, well here goes.

Running like a girl

Running like a girl (c) Sussex Sport Photography

This is me on the last leg of the Ealing Half Marathon 2014. By this time I think I’d covered 12 and a half miles of the leafy West London suburb. I was hot, a wee bit achy after a trampolining class on the Thursday before woke up some underused muscles but absolutely loving the atmosphere of the Ealing Half Marathon 2014.

While it looks like I’m whipping the blokes’ bottoms in terms of the race, the reality is I was part of a crowd of runners who had paced themselves around 13.1 miles of roads, parks (three parks to be exact) and other runners to complete a well-organised race. It also doesn’t show my awe and wonder at the winner, who raced past me on the other side of Drayton Bridge Road, how I clapped as I saw one of the first women speed past, showing the boys who is boss, and my gratitude to the St Stephen’s Church for the wedge of orange. The photo fails to capture all the signs around town welcoming the French and Polish runners joining us en route or the consistent support for the Ealing Eagles (the local running club). Then there’s the army of volunteers handing out water at various stops along the race (there was more than enough on what turned out to be a pretty warm day for September) and encouraging all the runners to be strong and carry on.

As much as I love this photo and it seizes a moment of glory for someone who runs like a girl (all my bits are present and correct), it doesn’t do what turned out to be a well-organised race justice. From the race village to the start, finish and e-goody bag (finally fewer bits of paper to litter the spare bedroom (or what looks like a junk room)), I couldn’t have wished for a better race. I may have had to “sprint” to the start, jump the barrier at the 1:40 start and weave my way through the runners to find space for my pace but that’s down to my need for an extra 20 minutes in bed, lost race pack in the post and necessary toilet stop. I also didn’t do too badly for someone not training for a half or a marathon (1:34:54 – in the top 30 ladies) – but this race wasn’t to do with time, it was all about the #EalingFeeling, and the 13.1 miles course and atmosphere encapsulated this sentiment perfectly.

What did you think? Did you race the Ealing Half Marathon 2014?

Indoor cycling with an Edge…and a Bootcamp

30 Sep

How do you like to wake up on your birthday? Most people would probably like to be woken up to a glass of champers and their favourite brekkie (lightly peppered scrambled eggs on rye with a side of tomato and avocado if you’re wondering), I decided to try one of London’s latest indoor cycling studio experiences – Edge Cycle Bootcamp. Start as you mean to go on and all that.

Edge Cycle (c) Edge Cycle

I’m spinning around at the DISCOTHEQUE (c) Edge Cycle

Based just on the Chancery Lane end of Leather Lane (which has an awesome market during the day if you ever have the chance to visit), this indoor cycling studio aims to get your heart going with some low impact cycling and then throws some off-the-bike moves into the mix. The ultimate aim of the class is to make you sweat and burn up to 1,000 calories in a 45-minute session while also working on areas, which I am the first to admit, I ignore. Yup, I’m talking about strength and core work.

Work it, work it, work it (c) Edge Cycle

Work it, work it, work it (c) Edge Cycle

In theory, it’s a great idea – combine a heart-pumping, sweat-inducing cardio cycle with HIIT-inspired strength training but does it work in practice? Here’s what I thought of the Edge Cycle Bootcamp:

  1. The indoor bikes are top-notch
    I’ve tried a fair few indoor cycling bikes in my time but I have to say that the Matrix cycles at Edge Cycle Bootcamp definitely come in top. When it comes down to it, the bikes do not really matter all that much but perceptively a good indoor bike can help, especially if you’re new and nervous about indoor cycling. Perhaps it was the smooth, soft knobs (I know what is sounds like but if you try it, you’ll understand what I mean) or the way they were so easy to adjust, whatever it was, these bikes were definitely the cream of the crop.
  2. You can work at your own pace on the bike
    It doesn’t matter if you’re a diehard sportive rider or a bit of a novice, indoor cycling is a real leveller. (If you are competitive, try Cyclebeat – it’s awesome.)You can both work at your own pace and adjust the toughness factor accordingly. If you want to go hell for leather then it’s your choice. On the particular class that I participated in, the instructor did come round during the class and adjust our speeds if she thought we were not pushing ourselves. Personally, I didn’t mind as I wanted to be pushed in that particular session but the whole concept of Edge Cycle is that you can go as fast and hard as you like during the timed cycling sessions.
  3. Weighted HIIT workout for cardio fans
    As I said above, I tend to be rather lax when it comes to any kind of workout involving weights or my core so the fact that this was integrated into the 45-minute session is definitely a positive. It was a bit cumbersome having to climb off the bike and go into some plank-style exercise, and lifting weights repetitively is not exactly my idea of fun, but when incorporated into a HIIT format – one minute blasts of different exercises – it didn’t feel monotonous in the slightest.
  4. Focus on your posture
    Another point that I should mention is that by having a section of floor work focused on your core in the midst of a class makes you more aware of how you are sitting on your bike. I found myself sitting up straighter and slouching less than I would during a normal indoor cycling session. By awakening my muscles during the ab session, I was made more aware of sitting up straight and pulling on my soft middle during the latter stages of the workout.
  5. A fast cycle to glory…and run to the shower
    THe HIIT-inspired training was then followed by a fast cycle until the end of the class so there was never a dull moment. The studio was also well-decked out with discotheque-style lights (to borrow a phrase from my dad) and an urban feel. I did feel wide awake after the class and ready to face the day but unfortunately, due to the queue for the showers (all participants are given a clean towel and there’s REN skincare on offer to wash yourself with, NICE!), I had to run to my local council gym to take a shower.

All in all, I really enjoyed the class and came out raring to go, which is the way I want to feel everyday, not just on my birthday.

As well as Edge Cycle Bootcamp, the studios based in Holborn, also offer classic spinning classes known as Edge Rider. If you’re based in the area, it’s worth trying one of their classes to see whether it’s for you. And if you’re a total beginner, don’t worry because at Edge Cycle they ease you in gently, thanks to their beginner riding classes – a good shout for building your confidence in the saddle.

 

 

 

Are you ready for an #epicLED adventure? (With help from LED Lenser.)

24 Sep

Boy, do I love an adventure. Whether that be a cycle ride across the South of France, a 24-hour race or getting lost on the trails, it’s the sense of entering the unknown that does it for me and the challenge of being able to finish the situation that I’ve (on more occasions than one) thrown myself into? It seems no matter how much you prepare for something, you’ll always be surprised by the journey.

But when you live in a world, where you’ve got a mortgage, career and relationship, it can be difficult to balance out this thirst for adventure with the daily grind. I wouldn’t want to become a full-time adventurer, I enjoy my life as it stands, there’s just a part of me that cries out for a break from the norm once in a while.

Mountains or the Dolomites

Escape to the mountains perhaps?

That’s why I’m super-keen to get involved with #epicLED Winter Adventure campaign. As well as promoting LED Lenser’s latest range of head lamps – the SEO and NEO (the SEO is amazing as I found out during the Spitfire Scramble), adventurers and adrenaline junkies are being offered the chance to win a week’s holiday in the beautiful Austrian Alps, a bunch of Berghaus stuff and LED Lenser head lamps.

And here comes the icing on the cake for all city dwellers wanting to escape to the mountains: you’ll have the opportunity to see the glorious Alps at night as the prize includes a night walk on the snowy plains after dark. Exciting? Not half. Epic? Definitely.

Let LED Lenser headlamps light up your night

Let LED Lenser headlamps light up your night

You’ll get to see a snow-covered version of the picture above lit up by the powerful LED Lenser head lamps (they’re really useful on the trails). This really is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

All you have to do is upload a picture of you taking place in an adventure to the gallery here, then share it on Twitter or Instagram #epicLED or on Facebook including the #epicLED to be in with a chance of winning this epic prize. You can find out more details about the LED Lenser epic adventure challenge here.

So what are you waiting for? As they say, you’ve got to be in it to win it. Now I’ve got to try and dig out the photos of my best adventures so wish me luck.

 

London Duathlon 2014: Cycle-Run-Cycle-Run-Cycle

22 Sep

You know it’s going to be a challenge when only the day before a race you realise that during that race you’re going to have to cycle more than a marathon, on a bike that has had more work done to it than some A-list celeb. And just to add to the madness, you then work out that you have to actually cycle 11 miles before the race begins. This is what I like to call an oh-my-god-what-have-you-got-yourself-into situation.  It’s too late to find a different bike, you will have to purchase a cycle helmet because the one you own is way too pretty to wear on the course (and you don’t want to get it scratched) and you’re not quite sure if the gears will hold-up on Broomfield Hill (a very steep, sharp hill to climb).

The helmet I had to buy to make me feel more "racer".

The helmet I had to buy to make me feel more “racer”.

This, my racing friends, was the reality I was faced with only 24 hours before the London Duathlon 2014. I’d spent my summer racing on two legs not two wheels and hadn’t “bricked it” since last year’s event (unless you count the time I was late for a dentist appointment and I sprinted off my bike after cycling up Hampstead hill). I was signed up for doing the Classic distance – 10km run, 44km cycle, 5km run.

Map of the Classic route at the London Duathlon

Map of the Classic route at the London Duathlon

Was I prepared for the next day’s event?  No way. Would I pull out? Not on your nelly. And was I glad that I participated in the London Duathlon 2014. You betcha. Here’s why:

1. It’s good to mix-it-up a bit

When your main focus is running and you become a little fixated on your goal and your journey to get there, you can sometimes forget the other paths that may lead you there. After all the running I have taken part in over the summer, it was refreshing to jump back on my bike and just enjoy the ride. No, I was never in it to win it but pedalling up and down those hills was a different kind of workout for my body. What’s more, from certain points of the 11km cycling route, I could spot the Shard and beyond. This meant that when I did attack the running again, I wasn’t as knackered as I would be say after a marathon.

2. You can still chick all the boys on the running 

I’d lie if I said I didn’t have some last-minute strategy on the London Duathlon 2014. It was as follows: run as fast as you can with the knowledge that you will have to cycle for 44km afterwards. And as all runners who are competitive know, there is something satisfying when you overtake people. You may not want to admit it but, honestly, I loved running past the boys thinking ha, ha you’ve just got chicked, knowing full well that they would be speeding past me on their whizzy carbon framed microlite machines that they call bikes.

3. The race is impeccably organised 

Now I’ve run a lot of races but none are as well-organised or as thought through as the London Duathlon. From the staged start at the beginning of the Classic race, where by only 30 participants go off at any one time to prevent congestion on the road, to the marshalling and volunteers, there is something to be said for a race that takes all the rules really seriously. While I’m not too sure about some of the rules of the road in London for cyclists, especially when they on a few occasions they seem to disregard my own personal safety, I’m a stickler for race rules, and I really think that anyone wanting to organise a race should look to the London Duathlon as an example of a smooth operation. I didn’t have much of a chance to look around the event village but Crewroom,Trek Bikes and Embrace Sport were all showcasing their lovely stuff.

My old rust bucket of a bicycle

My old rust bucket of a bicycle

4. It’s tough but doable and enjoyable 

Last year, I tried the Sprint so this year I thought I’d up my game and double the cycle distance from 22km to 44km (the running distance stayed the same at 10km, followed by the cycle, and then finished with a 5km run). I’m pretty fit at the moment and the running wasn’t too difficult. The cycling was tough, especially on my fourth lap when I honestly thought my chain was going to break. That being said, the Classic distance was not impossible even on my old rust bucket. If you look at my times, you can see that I could still nail a 22 minute-ish 5km after a 44km cycle race, 10km run and 11 mile cycle from my home to the start of the race.

My London Duathlon 2014 results

My London Duathlon 2014 results

 5. It’s perfect for any endurance athlete

If you want to race it, then go for it. The London Duathlon is a great race to try a cycle-run-style race because it is so well-organised. Of course I could have been more prepared and perhaps actually rented a proper bike (from British Bike Hire) but this time around, I think I saw the Duathlon as a race leading me towards another goal. Fundamentally, it’s like any other endurance race and you need to pace yourself. And as I said above, there really is nothing wrong in trying different disciplines as you may surprise yourself.

 Did you take part in the London Duathlon or would you ever try a duathlon? Let me know your thoughts below.

Farfetch: fashion lust and hot boutiques

17 Sep

You may not have wangled yourself a ticket to this season’s London Fashion Week but you can still indulge in some designer lust, thanks to the website Farfetch. Coined as a global community, bringing together over 300 high-end fashion boutique and showcasing over 2,000 designer, you could say that Farfetch opens the door to the world of fashion.

Whether you’re after that Givenchy pyramid pouch, adidas by Stella McCartney animal print track jacket, Peter Pilotto Kia dress or Fendi Fendista sandals, you can find them all and more on the Farfetch website. And now you can also locate where to find the designers that suit your style, thanks to Farfetch’s whizzy new boutique finder widget.

By matching your personal style to their uber cool boutiques around the globe, you can find a store that stocks the kind of gear you love. First note of caution: this widget is slightly dangerous because you may want to plan your holidays around the result. Here’s what happened when I had a go:

Farfetch boutique finder

1. First question, pretty easy

2. This is slightly trickier as I tend to flirt with different styles

2. This is slightly trickier as I tend to flirt with different styles

3. What to choose? I'll go with the catwalk.

3. What to choose? I’ll go with the catwalk.

4. Slightly easier as I love Chloe

4. Decisions, decision – Alexander Wang or Chloe? I went for Chloe

5. My boutique is in Greece

5. Always fancied a trip to Athens

There you have it. I’ve always wanted to go to Athens and not only because I was fascinated by Greek mythology as a child. Put simply, this is just a bit of fun but it illustrates the breadth of designer goodies on offer at Farfetch. For label lust and the hottest designers, it is one website you will want to get into bed with. Second note of caution: but you may want to keep those credit cards out of sight while you do so.

Try the Farfetch boutique finder  for yourself and let me know below what new boutique you have discovered. Go on, you know you want to.

London Fashion Week: Holly Fulton Spring/Summer 2015

15 Sep

It may be difficult to believe when reading this blog about my latest escapes getting lost in the wilderness or being covered from head-to-toe in mud and to be honest enjoying every second of some hardcore run but I absolutely love fashion. For unlike art, which you can admire from a distance, you can submerge yourself in the creativity of a designer. Put simply, you wear their creations and they become a part of the way you present yourself to the world. And one particular lady who cuts her cloth well and I would love to wear more of is Holly Fulton. Her latest Spring/Summer 2015 collection ticks all the right boxes in my book.

Now in terms of fashion lifetimes, Holly is no new kid on the block. She’s been on the scene since 2009 when she picked up the Swarovski Emerging Talent Award for Accessories at the British Fashion Awards. Her eye for bold geometric patterns, bright colour palette and equally covetable accessories has also led to a following by many a fashionista. The Royal Academy of Art MA graduate has collaborated with a number of different brands including Radley handbags (pieces of arm candy worth looking at), LG and even Echo Falls wine. While some may question her associations, I just think go for it girl. If I could buy one of your LG washing machines for my kitchen, then I would.

Her core talent however lies in the fact that she puts the fun factor into fashion. She’s has Barbara Rae’s knack of finding colours and patterns that simply work.  All her collections are thoroughly researched and considered. This piece in the Telegraph shows just how meticulous this Scottish fashion superstar is and where her inspiration came from.

What Holly Fulton does do so well is direct and produce a collection that you want to wear. And you can.

Take this t-shirt and skirt combination. You can wear the t-shirt with jeans, the skirt with a blouse or all together. But what gets me is the craftsmanship behind these pieces. The skirt looks like layers of printed, slightly translucent fabric, which will gently swish around your body as you move.

 

Holly Fulton

Holly Fulton SS2015 collection (c) Style.com

Another piece I want in my wardrobe is this white summer jacket. Worn loose over an outfit of your choice, it will instantly lift your look. The attention to detail and black print adds intrigue and interest to what is a very sleek yet fresh combination of wide-legged trousers, lemon loose top and flat sandals.

Holly Fulton SS2015 (c) Style.com

Holly Fulton SS2015 (c) Style.com

This monochrome floral pattern certainly stands out but I absolutely love how Holly Fulton has created an easy-to-wear dress that you could on a grey day wear to the office. The shape is feminine without hugging the figure. It’s super-flattering.

Holly Fulton Spring/Summer2015 (c) Style.com

Holly Fulton Spring/Summer2015 (c) Style.com

The final piece that I thought would look good in my wardrobe is this folky-style dress with pretty v-lines of floral detailing on the bodice. Again, this is the kind of dress that shows off a small waist without making you feel like you have to reach for the Spanx. I adore the slight A-line skirt and the mix of patent straps with a colour floral print.

Holly Fulton SS2015 (c) Style.com

Holly Fulton SS2015 (c) Style.com

4 gym hacks you need to try

10 Sep

Hectic at work? Just can’t fit in that hour-long gym session? Need to shop, make dinner, get ready for tomorrow before you even think about heading out to Pilates class? With only 24 hours in the day, there are a multitude of reasons we can find for why working out gets pushed aside. But what if you could shape-up without costing you one of the most precious currencies out there? Yep, you’ve got it time.

In this fast-paced world of too-ing and fro-ing and ever-connectivity, it can often feel like the clock is against you. If your attitude towards working out is forget about it, then listen up. Here are 4 gym hacks or fitness hacks to slot seamlessly into your day.

Cycling

Cycle your commute

1. Turn your commute (or part of it) into exercise

Now I’m not suggesting you run the whole way to work, although I’m a huge fan of the #runcommute, but you could walk part of the way, cycle or even get off the bus a stop early. Not only will you arrive at work feeling brighter and less stressed, you may even find it takes you less time. Cycling, in particular, is a real winner on the time-front. A six-mile cycle will take you about half an hour? What with traffic and one-way systems, the same journey could take you up to 40 minutes in a car. Why spend the time in traffic when you could be taxing your thighs instead and kick-starting your day with a decent workout?

Yogabomb at Hiitgirl

Try a 30-minute Hiitgirl class

2. HIIT it hard and fast

If you want to get your metabolic rate up and really burn off some calories, try some HIIT (High-intensity Interval Training). This can be anything from squat jumps for 20 seconds, 10 seconds rest, repeat, to the dreaded burpee (an exercise that involves a squat, plank, standing up straight and a jump) for the same amount of time. All that matters is that you push it hard for those 20 seconds and then get back on it after 10 seconds rest. Find a 15-minute routine and you will sweat like anything. For inspiration, take a look at Sweaty Betty’s Hiitgirl video and you’ll soon see what I mean.

3. Add protein to your diet

As a vegetarian, I’m probably one of the worst for doing this although if you saw my rather muscular legs you wouldn’t think so. If you struggle to eat breakfast first thing or after you’ve done some exercise, try something like a ready-to-drink protein shake. You can buy them from specialist stores such as Multipower Sportsfood UK  and this one in particular is suitable for veggies (but not vegans). Now I’ve never been a huge fan of protein drinks and never actively buy them. When I do drink them, however, I certainly feel the benefits afterwards. Not only is my recovery a whole lot faster (less muscular aches and more movement), I also find that the 4pm urge for a sugary snack is heavily curtailed. On a side note, if you find it difficult to eat straight after racing (me, me, me), it may be worth trying protein drinks to ensure your body can recover properly. Please be aware that I am not a nutritionist and I’m only suggesting this from my own experience of running umpteen marathons.

My elegant attempt at hula

Hula hula hula

4. Make fun of fitness

Who says that exercise has to be boring? Go for a run with a bunch of mates and you’ll get a double-dosage of those feel-good hormones (from the running and spending time with people who make you feel good). Have a game of rounders, challenge your friend to a game of tennis, go on a cycle ride with your partner or simply try hula hooping with your bestie. Not only will you be working out but the time will fly by while you spend time with your nearest and dearest.

What are your fitness hacks? Do you find exercise fun or simply a chore? Let me know below.

This post has been sponsored by Multipower Sportsfood.

 

End SWEATember on a high with the Ealing Half Marathon 2014

8 Sep
As I said in my previous posts, September should be renamed SWEATember as it really is the month that you can jump back on the fitness wagon. What with the Summer of Sweat, Sweaty Betty’s September initiative, the London Duathlon, Beauty and the Beast and a whole host of other challenges to choose from, us fitties are really spoiled for choice.
Ealing Half Marathon

Who’s with me? Ealing Half Marathon 2014

 
One race that I’ve signed up for and am looking forward to is the Ealing Half Marathon 2014 on 28 September 2014. Voted number one race for ‘best atmosphere in 2013’ by Runner’s World UK and scooping the ‘Best Half Marathon’ award at The Running Awards, this half promises to be a fitting end to a great SWEATember.
 
So what is the Ealing Half Marathon?
It’s half marathon of course – that’s 13.1 miles to anyone new to the concept of marathons. The information says that it is a single lap course, starting and finishing in Lammas Park and navigating the participants through parts of Central Ealing, Montpelier, West Ealing, Hanwell and St Stephens. Much like the Hackney half, this race will take place on roads closed  to the public so you really get the sense of running through the streets of London.
 
What time does it start?
With a 9am kick-off, one could say it’s another early doors on a Sunday. But if you put it another way, you’ll be back in time for brunch or lunch and have the rest of your weekend to chill out, have a drink down the pub or even have a mid-afternoon Sunday snooze.
 
And transport links?
I love racing early on a Sunday but hate the lack of public transport from North London to say Richmond or Kingston. Thankfully, the start of the Ealing Half is well connected to London Underground stations (Northfields station on the Piccadilly Line (Heathrow Branch) is within a 5 minute walk of the Start/Finish area. Ealing Broadway on the Central and District Lines is a 15 minute walk from the Start/Finish area), rail with trains going every 15 minutes to an from Paddington, and buses. A quick search on TFL tells me that my journey from home to the start of the race will be just over an hour – so not too bad on a Sunday morning.
 
Bag drop, water points, pacers etc…
Boasting a super-efficient bag drop, pacemakers, chip timing, five water points, supporters along the way, a medal and an e-goody bag (?!), the Ealing Half has everything for the novice and the more experienced runner.
 
Right, I’m sold – where do I sign up?
Wo there, slow down for a me. The Ealing Half is only three weeks away and a half is no easy distance. It’s up to you whether you sign up but I’d factor in stuff like how fit you feel at the moment, your experience of races and what other races you have in your calendar. If you’ve never run a half before, (and as awesome as the Ealing Half sounds) perhaps give it a miss.
 
Enter and win…
To enter simply click here – and make sure you type in the code  TwitEHM2014 to win an Ealing Half Marathon official Hoodie and an Ealing Half Marathon official T-shirt.
 
Tweet and Win! 
You can also win a hoodie and stickers by tweeting that you’ve entered the UK’s Best Half Marathon. Go on, give it some Twitter love and encourage your friends to run it with you. Remember to use the hashtag #RunEalingHalf and @EalingHalf and the ‘Enter Now’ page URL http://www.sportsystems.co.uk/ss/event/EalingHalfMarathon2014
 
So who’s in? Let’s finish SWEATember on a high by running this friendly half.

What I learned at the Spitfire Scramble 2014

5 Sep

You say 24 hour race to see how many 10k-ish laps you can do, I say a mini-running festival (Runstival anyone? No, I’m not convinced either)with a great gang of girls. homemade cake, fantastic support and a trophy. Or that is how I would describe the inaugural Spitfire Scramble 2014.

Set in the leafy suburbs of Hornchurch, which you could easily mistake for being part of Kent or Essex but is apparently a London Borough, the off-road, multi-terrain 24-hour race was the perfect opportunity to hook up with some of the Thunder Run crowd.  In fact, five of us were Thunder Babes (Leah, Jen, Katy, Emma and myself) with Beki, Nikki and Charlie making up the winning combination of our VIP team (Team Naturally was lucky enough to win the Spitfire Scramble VIP competition so we received Lenser headtorches, Crewroom clothing plus free entry). Our task was pretty much the same, see how many individual laps we could do as a team. You needed to have someone on the course with a luminous wristband on at any one time, which you passed over to the next member of your team when you passed over the finish line.

scrambled

Witness the fitness of Team Naturally getting scrambled (c) eddiemacdonald.co.uk

 

Pretty much the same drill as Thunder Run. But as with all things in life, you’re always a teeny bit apprehensive about repeating an experience, just in case it doesn’t live up to your expectations.

Thankfully, the Spitfire Scramble was every bit as blood, sweat and tears as our race a month earlier. There was drama, no sleep and plenty of action to keep us busy as well as support from the lovely Lissy, Laura and Lucy, who all popped along throughout the day with various snacks, a banner and good chat. While it may have been the same concept as the adidas Thunder Run, it was still a completely different experience so here is what I learned from running the Spitfire Scramble 2014.

1. Lissy’s banana cake is amazing

I’m not a huge fan of bananas. In fact, I find the furry texture of them fundamentally repulsive. But when mixed up with chocolate, flour, sugar and a talented baker, the result is a rather tasty delight. Charlie wasn’t wrong in saying that Lissy’s banana cake was worth waiting for – thank you Lizzy for the support and feeding us.

2. Always have a plan B

Even the best laid plans sometimes go awry and no one could have predicted that we would be not one but two women down. And there was no way we would have let neither Jen nor Leah run/hobble around another lap as they were pretty injured. So what did we do in the light of this minor hiccup? Pull together, come up with a plan B and ensure that everyone was well-fed and watered. Again, our organisational skills and willingness to just get on with it shone through the darkness of the night and into the early hours of the morning.

3. Porridge at 4:30ish in the morning tastes like cardboard

If you were to ask me what time I ran at during the night, I’m really not sure. All I remember is waking up and needing something warm inside me. It was cold, I’d eaten copious amounts of sweet stuff the day before and didn’t know what I wanted so I went for the only thing included with my free wristband that I could eat (I’m veggie) porridge. It may not have been tasty but it certainly powered me through my fourth and final lap.

4. Lenser headtorches are blow-your-mind powerful

Powerful and emitting rays of light into the distance, I felt like a superheroine when bounding along the trails with my Lenser SEO 5 headtorch on. Honestly, it made such a difference at whatever time it was I ran my third lap. Not only could I angle it and change the density/width of the beam in-front of me, I could also angle it while running for longer and straighter stretches of the path. And as I discovered while playing with the headtorch beforehand, you can also change the light to red (making it fantastic for cyclists) or even make it flash, which incidentally became the signal of the Team Naturally girls to the next person running a lap waiting patiently.

 5. Crewroom clothing is incredibly comfortable

Well I sort of knew this already as I am the proud owner of the Royal Parks Ultra 2013 Crewroom t-shirt but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the capri leggings handed to us as the VIP team were just a comfortable and flattering. With reflective dots down the back, reinforced meshed around the calves and splashes of fluorescent yellow, I know I’ll get a lot of use out of these leggings when the nights draw in.

6. Winning is awesome, surprising your boyfriend is priceless

Striking a balance is always difficult – and as much as I love running, I don’t want it to rule my life so a month or so ago I made a pact with my boyfriend that I would only run one day at the weekend. There are, of course, some exceptions and races I’d already booked were fine as are a few exceptions in the run up to the big one.

Run run run

Honey I’m coming (not really, just on my first lap) (c) Leah Evans

My point is he wants to spend time with me, I want to spend time with him too but do everything else as well and it causes friction because inevitably sometimes I slip up and mistime activities so he is left waiting around for me. Let’s just say, I had a lot of Brownie points to make up on the weekend of Spitfire Scramble.

The choice of leaving early on the Sunday morning (I was up anyway), heading home on the tube, winding him up by calling him when I was 10 minutes from home with coffee in my hands, asking to check the fridge for yoghurt and if we were out whether he could buy me some from the supermarket anyway (for good reason, I wanted to make sure he was still home) and then surprising him when I turned up at 10am was the best decision ever. I may have missed my chance of picking up a trophy but hey, his smile was worth it. Not only was I scrambled, I scrambled…

7. Did I mention trophy?

Trophy

Trophy time! And Lucy’s sign (c) Leah Evans

Another race, another medal and a trophy? Yes, Team Naturally won in our category after completing 25 laps. It just goes to show what a great and supportive bunch of girls can do. Would I do it all again?  Hell yes (within reason). So come on girls, when’s our next adventure?

 

 

Join the #SB30DaySweat (if you think you’re ‘ard enough)

28 Aug

Forget the dreaded feelings of “back-to-school”, make this September all about that summer refresh. With events such as Summer of Sweat, Frame’s SWEAT-tember and now Sweaty Betty’s latest “Get Fit 4 Free” campaign #SB30DaySweat, you really can’t make any excuses. In fact, I couldn’t think of a better month to up the temperature as this fittie was born to sweat (I’m a September baby). This September is definitely the month when you can challenge both your body and mind to be fitter, healthier and healthier.

Just Dance OR Sweat

Just Dance OR Sweat

What is the Sweaty Betty 30 Day Sweat Challenge or #SB30daysweat for short?

It’s a month-long campaign aimed at helping busy women around the globe focus on their health, fitness and well-being goals. By teaming up with bloggers, Sweaty Betty ambassadors, fitness professionals and nutritionists, Sweaty Betty has created daily challenges that even the most hectic of lifestyles can stick to, available for you to follow on an agenda-style calendar (available here). Ranging from a minute (it only takes a minute girl) to half an hour, this is something everyone can do.  All you have to do is tick the box once completed. Whether that be squats and side-lunges on 7 September (thanks Runista!) to the task of thigh-burning jumping lunges (created by the Lunges & Lycra girls) on 19 September, just follow the challenges every day to complete the #SB30DaySweat.

But will I really sweat?

It depends on hard you push it. As well as online videos and at-home challenges set-out in the calendar, there are also weekly Hiitgirl classes, devised by the lovely Susan Dyson, held nationwide, plus 30-minute online videos. Follow the Hiitgirl classes and you will be drenched in sweat by the end. As part of the campaign, we were invited to a class led by Susan.

Putting my #pinksters through their paces

Putting my #pinksters through their paces

Her mix of meta moves and muscle moves certainly made me sweat and I was a little achy around the glute area the next day, which happened to be the Friday before the Berghaus Trail Chase (perhaps another “Don’t“).

 

Hiitgirl

Susan Dyson shows us how it’s done

Take a look at the video to find out more:

What about stretchy moves?

Don’t sweat Yogis (well do) as well as hardcore cardio, some days you may find yourself trying out yoga and Pilates within the #SB30DaySweat challenge.

Healthy mind, healthy plate?

If that wasn’t enough, Sweaty Betty has also hooked up with the likes of Calgary Avansino and Danielle Copperman to guide you nutritionally and will offer weekly recipes recommended by The Detox Kitchen. Yum.

Smells like calm

What’s more, the Sweaty Betty scent partner Neom (the perfect way to block out whiffy sweaty smells while exercising) have devised daily doses of mindfulness to bring you to a state of calm. They are also are offering Sweaty Betty customers and “Get Fit 4 Free” participants the opportunity to win a bunch of Neom fragrance prizes.

 Check out the Sweaty Betty website for more info on how to get involved in the #SB30DaySweat challenge – as they say: “It’s cool to sweat”.

Sunshine on a rainy day – welcome to your summer of sweat

26 Aug

There may be a chill in the air but thanks to Lunges & LycraLondon Sport and a bunch of some of the hippest fitness joints in town, you can still enjoy the freedom of summer, dip into something new (paddle board yoga anyone) and get your sweat on for another six weeks with the Summer of Sweat.

Share the fitness love with a summer of sweat

Share the fitness love with a summer of sweat

 

Offering the unique opportunity for every women to switch up our routines with an awesome selection of pop-up sessions at purse-friendly prices (classes range from £7.50 to £12.50 apart from the six-week running course, which is £30 all in), Summer of Sweat is a brilliant summer refresh after a lazy holiday or few months of festivals, music and good times in the sunshine. As the sessions are women-only, it’s also a great way to share some girl power love.

From perfecting those pikes on a trampoline to samba-ing to carnival rhythms, whatever you are into, I guarantee that there will be something to tickle your fancy from the range of events on offer at Summer of Sweat. Starting on 25 August 2014 until the end of September, get in there now before all the sessions book up.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a tough decision to make as you’ll simply want to do them all. I’ve signed up for trampolining already and am tempted by the Secret Sweat Mob at Dalston Roof Gardens, Cyclebeat – Cycle To The Beat party, Friday Night Yoga Party at Good Vibes, The Greatest Escape with Rabble, Woman Up with Spartan Fam, Parkour with the Chainstore Parkour academy, Six-week running Bootcamp with Rebecca Cox, Train Like An Olympian with Hendrix Fitness, Stand-Up Paddleboard Yoga, Hot Bikram Yoga – oops, I think I’ve listed everything

Take note that you don’t have to be a marathon runner or hand-standing inversion yogi to join in. The classes are aimed at all levels of experience with the emphasis on having fun. You never know, after one session on the trampoline you may be itching for more bounce.

Having tried the Stand-Up Paddleboard Yoga at an event organised by Lunges & Lycra, I have to say that I’d love to try my hand at attempting a downward dog on a board in the middle of Paddington Basin again. After an hour of floating and trying to shift my tight runner’s body into yoga moves, I felt calmer and more relaxed. I may not have been the most elegant on the board but I certainly stretched out those hip flexors and hamstrings, which get a bit of a battering from all the running. Most importantly though, it was an enjoyable experience and that’s why I want to go back (I also want to be able to confidently move into a bridge position on the water). Honestly, if you can find a spare place, you must try it.

So what are you waiting for? This is too good an opportunity to miss, get booking now.

 

#fromwhereirun in my #pinksters (otherwise known as adidas Energy Boost)

22 Aug

Running all over town and beyond...

 

The dos and don’ts of running the Berghaus Trail Chase 2014

20 Aug

Fifty-odd kilometres up to a height of 1,826m over the course of two days, how tough can it really be? Not that bad if all goes to plan and you know what you’ve let yourself in for. For those who have never run anything like the Berghaus Trail Chase 2014, let’s just call it an adventure.

Set in the North York Moors National Park, the inaugural Berghaus Trail Chase was a two-day staged race. With a choice between three difference routes: Blue Course. Day One = 16.6km / 326m. Day Two = 10.1km / 291m. Total 26.7km / 617m, Red Course. Day One = 25.3km / 801m. Day Two = 17.4km / 582m. Total 42.7km / 1,38 and Black Course. Day One = 32.8km / 1,012m. Day Two = 21.3km / 814m. Total 54.1km / 1,826m (I choose the black) plus camping, trails and views of the country I have never seen before, I was determined to enjoy yet another running holiday/ roadtrip with running mates Jen, Lenka and Marina.

Berghaus Trail Chase map with "motivating phrases"

Berghaus Trail Chase map with “motivating phrases”

And on the whole, I had a lot of fun. But as with everything you have your highs, lows and sometimes what am I doing here situations. If you’re planning on trying a similar race or considering next year’s challenge, read my list of dos and don’ts of running the Berghaus Trail Chase 2014.

1. Don’t expect everyone to understand

Some people just don’t know why you want to spend yet another weekend exploring the UK by foot, camping in a field and going without a shower for two days. Then again, you may not understand someone else’s obsession with video games such as Call of Duty. That’s life.

 2. Do drive up the night before if you have to travel for two hours or more

We (that’s Jen, myself, Lenka and Marina) made the right decision to go up on the Friday night, share a family room which was as cheap as chips so that on the morning of the race we felt suitably refreshed.  I can’t imagine feeling anywhere near ready if we’d have had to travel four and a half hours on the Saturday pre-race. It may have been difficult tracking down somewhere for breakfast but it turned into a laugh when Jen our driver started gnawing on a massive loaf of Soreen.

2. Do study the course map

You may not be the best at Geography or want to know what you have let yourself in for (hands up both times) but having an idea of what to expect will definitely help prepare you mentally for the tough climbs and descents in the North York Moors.

3. Don’t neglect the info

You may huff and puff about having to take a series of items (whistle, survival bag, waterproofs, mobile and water) but this is because the course has no checkpoints. You’re also told to follow the flags (white in the black course’s case) to reach your destination so take advantage of all the stuff they upload such as pre-race videos that I failed to watch.

4. Do stay focused throughout the race

Unlike me, who followed two blokes sheep-fashion instead of watching out for the white flags. Not only did this cost me a potential placing in the race, our little detour added an extra 10k to the first day of racing. Yep, I accidentally ran more than a marathon on day one of the Trail Chase.

5. Don’t expect to see your feet all the time

Once we were back on course, it was all downhill from there. No really, the course was super-narrow, steep and unlike anything I’d ever tried before. Let’s just say the others pelted it down there, while I tried to get my balance and footing in amongst the bracken, rushes and god knows what else was under my feet. The foliage was so thick I couldn’t even see where to place my feet so just went for it.

Fields of Heather

Fields of Heather

6. Do enjoy the scenery

I was lost, alone and with nothing surrounding me except a sea of purple heather. So I whipped out my phone and took pictures. The scenery may have been bleak at times but it was wildly beautiful.

7. Don’t try and run it all

Unless you’re a mountain goat-style runner. Put simply, run steady not speedy. This is not like X Country Racing. With steep hills that seemed to go on and on, streams to cross and parts of the course where you said to yourself “they seriously want me to go down there” when you came to a brick wall and the course seemed to veer down what looked like a sharp descent of boggy madness. Running was simply not an option.

The road is long...especially when you make a wrong turn

The road is long…especially when you make a wrong turn

8. Do take enough water

The wind may have been bitingly cold and the air fresh but a quick stop for water was essential along the way as you had to be self-sufficient on the Berghaus Trail. Make sure you have at least one bottle of water to keep you going.

9. Don’t expect to have much sleep

You’ll be camping in a field and the temperature may drop dramatically so wear all your clothes. Then the rain will come and you’ll realise that you’ll be running another half marathon in the morning on about two hours kip.

10. Do respect the wildlife

If you happen to come across two cows mounting one another in your path, slow down and don’t try and charge past. Remember cows on heat can be pretty feisty beasts.

11. Don’t think the second day will be like the first

It may be similar in terrain but as I found on the Black Course, the second day was way easier and more enjoyable, thanks to the multitude of trails and paths. While the first day of fighting through bracken, getting lost and endlessly trying to spot a white flag in purple, green and foliage galore was not the best running experience ever, the second day more than made up for it.

12. Do practise opening and shutting farm gates

Or simply jump over them as I started to do (not advised but there were so many of them).

13. Don’t forget to say hello

To other runners, ramblers and those who share your path. Plus all those who are running the race with you back at basecamp.

14. Do say thank you to the organisers

Thank you Berghaus and the organisers of the Trail Chase – despite a few hiccups, it was a really fun weekend. The entertainment and food (and £2 a pint cider) in the village hall on the Saturday evening was welcomed after a hard day out on the trails.

15. Don’t forget to bring music

For the long drive home. And by tunes, I mean any dance tracks from the 90s if you’re a car with Jen, myself, Lenka and Marina. Listening to these banging tunes and chatting about the events that had passed certainly was the perfect end to a weekend adventure.

Thanks to Jen for driving us there, Lenka for her entertainment and Marina for all the Ultra tips – I had a blast.

Carry on camping with Mountain Warehouse

16 Aug

When it comes to UK breaks, in 2013 camping or caravanning proved 78% more popular than staying in a self-catering property or so say the latest figures from VisitEngland. I expect that in 2014 the number may be slightly higher, considering the rather great summer we have been having (up to now anyway), the glut of summer festivals popping up from no where and the opportunities to have a weekend out in the wilderness running or hiking as I did a few weeks ago at Thunder Run 2014.

So what is it that makes camping so appealing? Well I put it partly down to the success of outdoor adventurers such as Bear Grylls and also the fact that equipment is so much more accessible. Back in 2004, I was living in France as part of my studies and I was always amazed by the range of camping stuff that I could find in Decathlon – a French outdoor store where you can buy anything. It was a completely different story back home.

My stash of Mountain Warehouse gear just keeps growing

My stash of Mountain Warehouse gear just keeps growing

I had either to pop to a specialist camping shop, Millets, Army store or try and find a cheap-as-chip tent from the Argos catalogue. Anything you could find was always way too specialist for happy campers and also pretty darn expensive for a student. Fast-forward 10 years and you can easily find decent camping stuff that will not cost a packet. One of my favourite stores that helps you carry on camping, hiking and enjoying the great outdoors without blowing your budget is Mountain Warehouse.

Founded in 1997, Mountain Warehouse seems to be going from strength-to-strength. Back in May, they reported a 44 percent hike in profits, which they put down to quality products at competitive prices.  And I couldn’t agree more.

And in the darkness...

And in the darkness…

Having tried and tested a number of their products, I have to say I have been thoroughly impressed. I was so grateful for the Merino wool thermal pants (was £49.99 now just £19.99) at the recent Latitude Festival. Comfortable and easy-to-wear, they kept me warm throughout the night. The Trek Mat (was £15.99 now £9.99) added an extra layer between myself and the ground so I could get some much-needed kip. As for running, the light-weight Sprint Hydro Bag (was £34.99 now £16.99) has been roomy enough to stuff a change of clothes, shower gel, cards, phone and keys. And Leah’s purple Mountain Warehouse tent, which she used at Thunder Run was a real hit. In fact, I find myself constantly heading to Mountain Warehouse to pick up some camping- or outdoor-related stuff because I know it will be good quality at reasonable prices.

So if like me you find yourself venturing into the wilderness in the next few weeks, it’s worth checking out what Mountain Warehouse has to offer.

Where do you go to buy your camping equipment?  Have you been taking advantage of the great outdoors?

Mountain Warehouse sent me a bunch of stuff to try but I have also purchased a microfibre towel, light, ponchos, whistle, tent pegs, waterproof trousers and various other pieces since taking those photos above.

 

 

 

From Paris with Love: Alegory Paris

13 Aug

Whether you live in flats or totter in sky-high stilettos, no one can deny the allure and appeal of the heel. Step into a pair of shoes on an angle and you transform from Hobbit-legs (as I am affectionately known by the boyf) to a lady with grace and shapely pins. It may all be marketing spiel but I still want to be able to saunter in a pair of high heels.

And yet finding the perfect pair can be as painful as the shoes themselves. Having searched for almost two years for a pair of Louby Lous, I’m still no further forward. All I want is a pair of classic black pumps. I’ve tried other pairs, opting for tango shoes for my brother’s wedding last year but ended up removing them when we hit the dance floor. While I can run marathons quite comfortably these days, heel walking is pretty damn impossible or so I thought. Then I discovered a new company from Paris which may have the answer to my footwear woes.

The website may be fairly basic and the company is a start-up funded via crowdfunding site Indiegogo but the concept behind “Alegory” – la chaussure a talons imoviables” is fantastic. You buy a pair of shoes with, as the tagline suggests, interchangeable heels. They (Alegory) say the heels represent your personality. I say it’s a winner for those who feel more clumsy clown than Carrie Bradshaw in anything over an inch high. Whatever way you look at it, “Cinder-Becca” will go to the rave (who wants to go to balls these days) in a YSL “le smoking” suit (I wish) and classic pumps that she can wear for more than five minutes. Here’s why:

Take your heels to a brand new level

With three different heel heights to choose from and four different heels, including a petit “Maline” which is 4.5cm (as illustrated here) you can choose to stay low, raise the stakes to 7.5cm with the “Complice” heel  or go sky-high in 9cm “Audacieuse” or the stiletto version known as “Grandiose”.

Alegory Paris height

Alegory Paris – you can choose between these styles but 4 heels come free when you buy the 210 Euro package

Quick and easy to change

Thanks to two years of research, the heels are apparently quick and easy to change and, most importantly, secure. From the diagram and description around the heels, the “Dovetail system” means you can simply release the heel and replace with another by sliding it and clicking it into place.

Top-quality fabric

Made in an artisan French shoe workshop, the Italian leather is specifically moulded in a “one cut” fashion to leave the foot feeling as comfortable as your feet can be at an angle.

Choose your style

Alegory is not the place to find Sophia Webster-style creativity, you will however have to make a decision over which style you would like: pointy “Aurea” or rounded “Jessica” toes? (I much prefer the pointy as it’s less Minnie Mouse). Pick from the six colours available – I’d stick with black or purple – and finally opt for either a leather or suede finish.

Price

There are various different packages available on the indiegogo site:

One pair plus 2 heels – 175 Euros (around £140*)

One pair plus 3 heels – 195 Euros (around £155*)

 One pair plus 4 heels – 210 Euros (around £167*)

*Exchange rate as of 13 August 2014.

Why you should?

You may gulp at what looks like a hefty price to pay for what is effectively a pair of court shoes but think about it for a moment. Plain, classic heels never go out of fashion and you get four pairs for the price of one made to order. For those who live by the numbers, it’s the equivalent of paying around £42 for a pair of leather pumps. Not too crazy expensive now huh? And they also suit those who may need a helping hand when it comes to stepping up.

What is your favourite pair of shoes and do you like the idea of interchangeable heels? Let me know in the comments section below.

My beauty stash: Shu Uemura Tokyo Lash Mascara

8 Aug

Shu Uemura first came to my attention when I was desperately seeking falsies – eyelashes that is. For as well as offering a range of delicate and intricate lashes, this iconic Japanese make-up brand also have sets of partial or individual lashes to add natural volume to your own set. If you don’t want to commit to full-blown eyelash extensions, the Shu Uemura’s partial lashes are the next best thing.

Talking of commitment and lashes, I’m a bit of a flirt when it comes to mascaras. From top-of-the-range to bargain buckets, I’ve tried a few in my time (the electric blue variety in the mid-90s) but none quite like Shu Uemura’s Tokyo Lash Mascara.

Shu Uemura Tokyo Lash Mascara

Shu Uemura Tokyo Lash Mascara

Lacquer up those lashes

Available in one colour only lacquer-black, Shu Uemura’s Tokyo Lash loads up your lashes with a Kapow effect. The formulation is dark, jet black so perfect for creating the drama from root to tip. You also don’t get that clumpy effect of some mascaras.

One sweep is all you need

It was the brush that really the mascara to me.  In fact, Shu Uemura say the brush is inspired by Kirenaga (which means according to Google “duration of sharpness”) beauty so you can expect a certain attention to detail and coverage of individual lashes to make them appear thicker and fuller. You can even coat those hard-to-reach outer and bottom lashes. All you need is one (or maybe two) sweeps and you lashes are coated for the day.

Brush it on

Brush it on

Perfect for all weathers

Unlike other mascaras that either melt during the heat-wave or smudge in a downpour, this mascara doesn’t budge.  This can be a good or a bad thing. While it coats your lashes with what feels like an almost rubber-like texture, the formula is also very difficult to remove by ordinary methods. I still wake-up with specks of remnants on my face after removing it the night before, which is also not great for my pillowcases. If I had any complaint, this would be it.

Purse-friendly or big spender?  

At £20 a tube, this mascara is at the higher end of the spectrum. That being said, it certainly stays put and also makes my eyes appear bigger and brighter.

Overall verdict

I think this mascara is the perfect introduction to the rest of the Shu Uemura range. Despite the fact it has strong staying power, it is also quick and easy to apply. I also like how it looks and doesn’t clump my lashes together. It’s a thumbs-up from me.

If you’re in London, make sure you head to Shu Uemura boutique on Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, the staff there are fantastic and offer many a beauty masterclass for you to experiment with their amazing range of products.  

 

Pull your socks up running-style – my search for running compression socks

5 Aug

Running socks are kind of like Netflix, you can quite happily live without access to the multitude of hot new TV series. But once you’re hooked, it’s kind of hard to break the cycle. You take the time to pick and choose which series you’ll watch, save for later or keep for special occasions. Do you see where I’m going with this? Yep, this is how I view my running socks.

The sock drawer

My failsafe everyday pairs that keep my feet in good nick when training (mostly from Primark or Christmas presents from my folks), those that I specifically pick out for shorter races and then my extra special soft (Balega and Sole socks) for when I need a bit of extra comfort on those long-haul marathons. They feel like silk against the skin and make all the difference (in my mind anyway).

Training socks

A small selection of my running socks – including my school hockey socks

The only thing missing in my sock drawer is a pair of those up-to-the-knee compression socks. Now I have in the past worn Boots air flight socks under a pair of my school hockey socks (and they still have my name-tag sewn in). They work in pretty much the same way as normal compression socks, supposedly increasing blood circulation and slowing down muscle fatigue.

Just long socks?

To be honest, I’m not even sure that this is true – I just like to wear them as a pseudo security blanket. I’m also not bothered that when I’m wearing them I could give Nora Batty a run for her money in the wrinkly stocking department. What has annoyed me in the past, however, is their failure on more than one occasion to stay up. Running a 17-lap 26.2 mile race on tarmac is difficult enough without the worry of your socks bagging around your ankles and that urge to pull your socks up.

So in my preparation for the big one next year when I will be running on sand, grit and god knows what, I’m looking for anything to stop the sand from touching the skin of my feet without cutting off my circulation. Cue my fascination for long compression socks. And if they do help with muscle fatigue like they claim then bring it on.

Desperately Seeking Socks

Instead of just Googling/ using Bing to search for running compression socks, I asked the Twittersphere what they would recommend. Thinking that I would have to sell my boyfriend’s fine collection of CDs and DVDs to be able to afford a few pairs of socks (I’ve seen some for £35), I was quite surprised that all the answers apart from one were under the £15 mark:

1. Balega compression socks 

Not sure why I was recommended these as think someone got the wrong end of the stick. The thought of Balega compression socks did get me very excited but alas I have been unable to locate these anywhere. If I was a diva, I would demand that the Balega people design a pair with reinforced toes and extra padding around the heel as well as comfort grip around the top of the sock enabling the apparel to gently and firmly support my calf. Go on Balega, give my calves a cuddle. Pretty please.

2. Karrimor compression socks, £6, Sports Direct

Sports Direct may be the big bad sportswear equivalent of TK Maxx but you can find some real bargains. At just £6 a pop on the website (and £3.99 apparently in-store), I’ll be buying plenty of these to test out. Thank you Laura from Life Laura London for this purse-friendly suggestion.

3. Lidl compression socks

Lidl do compression socks? Apparently so. Another bargainous suggestion from the amazing Ultra runner/ runner in general Cat Simpson – she’s not a fan of compression wear but definitely knows a thing of two about socks.

4. 1000 Mile Ultimate Compression socks, £11.99, Wiggle

As recommended by Steph from A Magpie in the Sky, these will not blow the budget sky high and are, as Steph says: “Like a little hug for my calves and seems to help stave off night time cramps!”

Well that’s a few to get me started but please let me know if you can recommend any alternatives.

 

#Introjuicing sweat and two veg

25 Jul

What do you get when you combine lifestyle bloggers, a bunch of juicers and an exercise class? Noise, laughter, sweat and the chance to have a natter with some of your mates and that, it seemed, is what the Currys #introjuicing event on Tuesday turned out to be and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Shiny juicer

But aside from being an accidentally-by-chance-bloggers-meet-up, what exactly did the #introjuicing event introduce me to? Well, here goes:

  1. It’s all about the veg
    Forget oranges, apples and berries, when it comes to juicing, it seems that veg is where it’s at (the old man and his allotment will be happy). Of course, fruit is good for you but, as nutritionist Derry Temple argued it can spike your insulin levels leaving you feeling bloated, more hungry and can actually cause weight gain. Swap some of that fruit for veg or fruit lower in GIs (on the Glycemic Index) and you can prevent adding any more sugar (Fructose) to your diet.Do I believe all this? Well, I’m not qualified to argue either way but it has certainly made me think twice about how much and what types of fruit I consume.Almost all fruit
  2. A veggie juice can be tasty
    Unfortunately, I have a bit of a sweet tooth. This means that I naturally err towards apples, mangoes, berries and oranges when choosing a juice – I’d take mixed berries over some green kale concoction any day. Or so I thought. After the talk by Derry Temple, I decided to opt for a version of the carrot and ginger juice and I was pleasantly surprised. The warming ginger really complimented my chosen mix of carrot, pineapple, apple and celery. It wasn’t exactly all veg but a great tasting juice all the same and a pat on the back to me.
  3. At home juicing machines do work
    Up until now, my experiences of juicing machines are similar to my childhood experience of Mr Frosty – disappointing. For those of you who were not brought up in the 80s, when it comes to slush puppies, Mr Frosty was the IT toy.Shaped like a snowman, you added ice to the top of this toy, held down his hat and turned the handle of the washing machine-style ice grater to create a slush that you could add lots of brightly-coloured flavouring to. Well, that’s how it worked in the advert. In reality, you were left with about an eighth of a glass while the other ice cubes slowly melted inside Mr Frosty. If you think that John Lewis snowman advert was sad, well think again. You can see where I’m going with my experience of juicing. Bundle in fruit, push the lid down and what do you get? A dribble of juice if you’re lucky. Fast forward to now and I’m elated to say that the whizzy Phillips juicing machines at the #introjuicing event produced almost a pint (a pint!) of the good stuff out of my ingredients in the photo. Finally.

    Juice

    Almost a pint of the good stuff

  4. Juicing can be very satisfying
    It’s a bit of an odd one but the juicing machine brought thecavewoman out in me. I was like, come onjuicer, let’s see what you’re made of, as I chucked various hard bits of veg in the top and pushed lightly on the lid. It felt so satisfying as the machine diced, chopped or whatever it does to produce my vitamin-rich goodness.

    I love photos me

    I love photos me

  5. Body conditioning with blogger friends is fun
     Urban Kings Gym in Kings Cross is a fitness centre focused on martial arts and boxing and had a distinctive whiff in the air as we entered the area. We were taken through a warm-up, split into two teams and then shown (very quickly mind you) what our body conditioning circuit race would look like. The first team who could get all members around the circuit three times was declared the winner. Withburpees, squats, step-ups, weights and more, this was a sweaty affair. And I had a laugh chasing the other girls along the route plus the view from the ringside of the boxers in training wasn’t bad either.

    No thanks to cleaning up this mess on a daily basis

    No thanks to cleaning up this mess on a daily basis

  6. I won’t be buying a juicer any time soon unless…
    The actual device is more compact and super-simple to clean. Despite the fact that I can see the place of juicers and why people are going crazy for juiced veg but the machine is too big. I want something I can use at work rather than at home as it’s during my working day that I could do with adding some variety to my diet not at home where I have access to fresh fruit and veg in abundance. For all you who say, you could make juice and then take it to work. Yes, I could but knowing me, it would end up spilling all over my rucksack and, put simply, I do not want to have to add to my load. I already look like the running hobo. And don’t get me started on the cleaning. This was easier to clean in terms of the detachable part (jug) but I dread to think what was lurking where all the roughage was collected.

Thank you very much to JoeBlogsNetwork and Currys for the invite. All photos on here are mine apart from the last, which is courtesy of JoeBlogsNetwork.

Core blimey, why Results with Lucy is more than an ab workout

24 Jul

What is Results with Lucy?

Not just another celebrity-endorsed exercise plan that’s what it is. Results with Lucy is a full-on online programme aimed at helping individuals to become healthier and happier.

Results with Lucy

Results with Lucy

Tell me more 

Unlike those exercise DVDs of old (there’s only so much you can do with a DVD), all you have to do is log into the website to begin your chosen programme, which for me is the three month 6 Pack Ab programme (Phoar!). Each month is separated into weeks: Month 1, week 1, Month 1 week 2, etc… and looks at two aspects of your life, fitness and nutrition so as well as working your body into shape, you can also feed your body the right stuff to help you tone up and feel better. The gradual small step style philosophy also means you’re less likely to fall off the fitness wagon and can progressively work towards your goal week by week. There is also a bunch of other bits and pieces on the website such as case studies and a magazine.

So who are the people behind Results with Lucy?

Obviously the Made In Essex star Lucy Mecklenburgh is the face behind the brand and she says in her intro that she wanted to share her journey to fitness and health with her PT Cecilia and Results Fitness and Health with others.

Now if you ever get a chance to meet Cecilia, you can see why. Passionate about all aspects of fitness, she challenges herself and is always looking for ways to switch things up. All the workouts have been put together by her and her team and look at areas that will tone and strengthen your body.

Admittedly, it may not be specifically designed for runners but this short bite-sized daily plan allows you to pick and choose areas to target. While you may not end up looking exactly like Lucy (who in real life is absolutely lovely), those who are on the programme and who have tweeted about it seem to be pretty happy. Just looking as some of their tweets, they both look healthier and by their tone and excitement, you know that they feel more confident, happier and (put simply) better in themselves. And if you follow Lucy too, you can get the gist as to how Cecilia works and what she’s planning to work on next in terms of workouts.

Nutrition task master

As I said before, the plan is split into nutrition and workout. So let’s talk about nutrition first.

There are no drastic dramas as in you’re not told to cut out everything that you like from day one. Rather you are guided gradually through a programme to “cleanse your diet” of the refined crap that so many of us munch on everyday.

At first, it is pretty basic stuff e.g. drink more water, eat more veg and protein etc…but then once you’ve adapted a little to this, you are then introduced to ideas such as balancing your hormones to strip your body of fat in Month 2, Week 1. This week Results with Lucy talks about Carb Cycling – essentially a day of “Clean Carbs” (examples include rice, rye bread, quinoa) followed by a day of “Cheat Carbs” (examples include pitta bread, crumpets…). Results with Lucy also draws on scientific explanation to back up why they came up with this plan and why followers will benefit.

As I’ve said before, I’m no expert on nutrition (at my peril perhaps) but this gradual introduction into cleaner, healthier eating is informative and follows the philosophy of small steps, which is much easier to follow. You can even have a “cheat” day once in a while. After all, we are only human.

An exercise blast

Next onto the exercise part of the programme, which again is broken down month by month, week by week. Every week of the three month programme, you have access to a series of five different sections, each containing three video workouts.

Every weekly sections contains a Warm-Up, Abs Workout and then the third video varies depending on which session you choose (workouts to target your legs, bum and some cardio). Each video lasts between 4 minutes (for the Warm-Up) and 10 minutes.  The idea is that you can pick and choose a workout to suit your needs.

Some videos do feature the lovely Lucy alongside her trainer but not all, which I like. And some workouts are pretty intense HITT-style training. No matter what your level of fitness, the combination of burpees, mountain climbers and more is tough. What’s more, the variety of workouts available means you’ll never get bored.

Are there any downsides?

The website is a bit clunky and could do with a refresh but I think there maybe something in the pipeline. An app or web-based app would also be a great idea. As someone who is into fitness, some of it can feel a bit basic. That being said, I think Results with Lucy is ideal for someone who wants a guiding hand or step by step advice to not only lose weight but also help them to adapt their lifestyle.

Anything else you may want to know?

Results with Lucy also runs weekend, £265, and now one-day Bootycamps, £65, which are a way for users to meet the team behind the online plan. I was lucky enough to attend the one-day Bootycamp and I’ll reveal all soon in another blogpost but let me just say I can see how it offers a big dose of motivation.

Is it aimed at fitness freaks like me?

As a pretty active person, the first few weeks were not really suitable and finding the time to fit in even the shortest workouts can be a problem. The one-day Bootcamp however certainly steered me back on track and I’ve been really enjoying my quick-fire ab attack and leg-strengthening workouts.

Will I be emptying my wallet?

Not at all.  Prices vary from package to package but 50 quid for the 12 week abs plan is not at all bad when you pay on average around £40 and upwards per month for a gym in London.

Overall verdict

I’m definitely trying to stick with Results with Lucy as it has been really well thought through. From complete novice to the more experienced, I can see why Results with Lucy is so popular and how it will work for every body.

Free healthy brekkie? Head to the Chia Pod Pop-up Breakfast Bar

16 Jul

FREE? Did someone say FREE Chia Pods? If you haven’t heard of this amazingly breakfast that looks like frogspawn but tastes divine where have you been?

After sampling this healthy and nutritious pot of goodness at the Be:Fit  show back in March (and taking home a stash for later), I have been on the lookout for the recognisable little pots with cute orange spoons in the lid. Maybe it’s the coconut milk mixed with real fruit or the fact that each separate pot contains a tablespoon of chia seeds (my current food obsession) – all I know is that they are a brilliant alternative to my usual high protein yoghurt or 9bar.

In fact, when you get down to the nitty gritty details, if you’re so inclined, each of these pots contains 3 grams of Omega-3 ALA, 5 grams of dietary fibre, protein and a bunch of other vitamins and minerals. Of course, all you really need to know is that by eating one of these pots you’re helping to protect your heart and body. And even if you do fall off the wagon at some point in the day (CAKE – it’s someone at work’s birthday), at least you’ll know that you’ve stocked up internally already on the good stuff, thanks to the Chia Pods.

And now Londoners can also sample the good stuff as they have set up a Pop-Up Breakfast Bar at Regent’s Place. The brightly-coloured van is there until Friday (19 July 2014). Regent’s Place is just off Hampstead Way. If you’re coming from Warren Street, turn left out of the station, cross the main Euston Road, walk through the square and you’ll find the Breakfast Bar just off one of the side streets. Someone (ahem) made a diversion on their #runcommute this morning to pick up a sample and may well do the same thing until Thursday. And if you’re not sure what to look for then here you go:

Chia Pod Pop-up - yum yum

Chia Pod Pop-up – yum yum

 

Honestly, I’m no foodie and quite boring when it comes to experimenting with new things but these Chia Pods, available in banana, mango, blueberry and my personal favourite vanilla bean extract, are really tasty and healthy.  As they say, miss ‘em and you’ll definitely be missing out.

The Chia Pod Pop-Up Breakfast will be at Regent’s Place until Friday then off to Old Spitalfields Market from the 19-20 July 2014. You can find the Chia Pods in selected Waitrose and Tesco stores (but not in East Finchley, booo).

My first 5k by the Dynamo Mum

15 Jul

She did it! Yes, after weeks of hard training my mum ran her first ever 5k Race For Life and raised a load of dosh too. Go go go Dynamo Mum! Here are her thoughts on the race and why this could be just the beginning for #TeamDynamo.

Team Dynamo

Team Dynamo

Ok Dynamo Mum, tell me about your race day outfit.

I wore an adidas top with Dynamo Mum printed on the back – this was kindly created and sent by the adidas team to my daughter with one for her – Style Dynamo.  They read about the race on her blog and just sent the shirts. Thank you so much adidas.

On the bottom, I went for LIJA running capris as these were a gift from my daughter and so comfortable. They also really supported my legs – honestly, I immediately noticed the difference when I started wearing these. I always like to wear a Sugoi cap to keep my hair back and sun out of my eyes and finished off with some Saucony running trainers which support my heels.

How were you feeling before the start?

Not too nervous – I really wanted to get to the start and get going. I was also pleased that I could start with the first section of runners as I was worried I would get caught behind the walkers.

Laughing

Mum’s first running selfie

What did you think of the route?

The route around Mote Park Lake was really pretty in the sunshine. The inclines weren’t too steep and early on in the race, with a few down hills to spur you on. If the inclines had been later in the race I would have found them more challenging. The route was similar to runs that I’ve been doing around recreational parks with slight inclines.

How did you find the race overall?

I was pleased to see the 3km and 4km marks. I was surprised at the number of runners that slowed down to walk, mostly at the inclines. Overall the race went as well as I could have hoped. There was plenty of space around runners and the pace wasn’t too challenging. The weather was ideal, no rain; not too much sunshine and a breeze.

Tell me about the main challenges of running your first 5k

Dynamo Mum hits the hills

Tackling those hills – the Dynamo Mum is a natural

To keep running for 5k. The main challenge for me was to build up from 5-minute interval runs to running for as long as 30 minutes. I have been comfortable walking 8k and 16k but running is a bit more challenging at my age.

Is there anything you would do differently the next time?

I think that practise makes perfect. Six weeks ago I found it hard to do interval running over 20 minutes.  I am only now just starting to feel comfortable running 5k after six weeks training.  I think that I would start training 12 weeks before, or just carry on from now.

Will there be another outing for Team Dynamo?

I hope so. Not sure that I have the running bug (boo, come on Dynamo Mum), but I did get a buzz from training and reaching the 5k goal. I really want to go further and faster!

Bling bling

Mum’s first bit of bling

What tips would you give to someone running their first 5k race?

  • Plan running into some of your routine journeys i.e. run to the gym
  • Start training well ahead of the race
  • Walk 5k to gauge the distance
  • Start interval training jogging-running –sprinting three times a week and gradually build the time you run over several weeks. The six week training plan from Race for Life is a good basis.
  • Challenge yourself with some inclines
  • Get a PT or coach to help you with you running technique
  • Make sure you have comfortable gear, especially shoes. Special gear also gives you a boost.
  • Don’t expect too much of yourself, if you need a breather have one!
  • Get friends and family to give you support and sponsorship-then there’s no backing out
Well done Dynamo Mum

Well done Dynamo Mum

Special thanks

Thank you to the amazing Style Dynamo (blush) for all her encouragement and who made this goal possible – she drummed up so much support; family and friends who supported and sponsored me (an incredible £150 for Cancer Research) and the adidas team who surprised and boosted the Team Dynamo with such thoughtful and delightful t-shirts.

Race day is looming for the Dynamo Mum

11 Jul

On 13 July 2014, I will be running Race For Life 5k with my mum in Maidstone, Kent. The Dynamo Mum will be running her first ever 5k race. Who knows? She may even catch the running bug.  I really hope she does as I love the idea of TEAM DYNAMO.

Now I know she’s been training hard as I keep in regular contact via email, Whatsapp and even Facebook but in the run-up to the race I asked her a couple of questions to find out how she is feeling and see if she has any tips for beginner runners.

adidas t-shirts

Thank you to adidas for these amazing t-shirts – they will certainly encourage Team DYNAMO

What are you most looking forward to?

The finish line!

How is the Training going? Any Tips?

The six week running plan from Race For Life gives a good basis to build up to a 5k run. I ran and exercised for the allocated times each week. This final week my PT suggested we do a 5k run, he said my pace was around a 10-minute mile. The tips he gave me were:

1. Look up and stop leaning forward, straighten up so breathing is more efficient.

2. Take longer strides.

3. Rest injuries- I tripped up running up the escalator at Leicester Square tube two weeks ago and injured my knee. The doctor said rest for a week –the swelling and pain are just subsiding now.

What are you scared of?

I’ve been training in open spaces and clear paths with few people around, so crowding is a worry. I’m not sure how easy it is going to be running with hundreds of people. I’m frightened that I might fall over and injure myself (not with me around mum, I’ll protect you).

I’m scared that I won’t be able to run 5k.

It is  really important to me, as I get older (Mum is in her 60s), that I am not losing my physical faculties.

What are you aiming for?

Five kilometres in 30 minutes, that’s about a 10 minute mile. This is my first ever run, so it is important that I finish the race and I’m sure the crowd will spur me on.

Why does running the Race For Life mean so much to you?

I have lost and still have family and friends battling with cancer, so hope to offer a small contribution. My discipline is chemistry (Mum was an analytical chemist and is a brainbox with a Masters in Analytical Chemistry who passed with Distinction and came top in her class. What’s more, she studied for this qualification in her 40s with a young family after being made redundant. And yes, I admire her massively.) and I recognise the importance of research .

It will also be quite wonderful to run part of the way with my daughter. She said that she will run the race, then come back for me. She is an incredible marathon runner (with times around 3hrs 30min) and such a source of inspiration and encouragement.

GO MUM, I’ll be there at the Dynamo Mum’s side to help her reach her goal of a 5k in 30 minutes.

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