Be Fit with LIJA

15 Apr

New season, new kit (or that’s how I justify it to myself) and you can not understand how excited I was to receive an outfit from the new kid in town: LIJA.  Pronounced “Lee-jah”, this brainchild of Canadian Linda Hipp and gift to women who love a challenge is a fusion of fashion and fitness so as you can imagine it’s right up my street.

Whether you’re after a kit for the studio, golf, tennis or running, LIJA is for every woman who loves to look good while they’re doing their thing. Now I’m not going to continue with my gushing praise without outlining the reasons why LIJA has won me over.

 

EVA_jacket LIJA

Just love this gold jacket

 

Without further ado, here are three reasons why LIJA motivates me throughout my active endeavours:

1. LIJA is effortlessly on-trend

You see that gold jacket, yup the one I’m wearing everywhere because as always metallic are on-trend for summer didn’t you know. You only need to look at Albert Elvaz for Lanvin’s SS14 collection to see glossy and gleaming outfits made out of iridescent fabrics. And since this LIJA gold jacket makes such a statement, I’ve added it to my staples for this spring/summer. After all, who says functional can’t be fashionable?

I really do love this gold jacket

I really do love this gold jacket

2. It’s not just about aesthetics

When it comes to sportswear ultimately you’ll looking for something that performs or helps you perform better without having to worry that a) you’ll get too sweaty or b) you’ll end up with chafing under the arms, on the thighs and anyway else you can possibly imagine. LIJA is created using high-technical fabrics that provide everything you’d expect from modern sportswear. Take the top I’m sporting in this photo. The fabric is both moisture-wicking and quick-drying so I can just get on and sweat. And since the fabric is cut in such a flattering way, it doesn’t cling to my body. The result is I feel super-comfortable wearing and don’t have to worry about it riding up and down my belly.

3. It’s all in the detail

What really struck me about LIJA wear is the detail. Not only are the running leggings flattering (mine are called Dash, £70) they also have a breathable mesh around the calf area and come with eye-catching pink piping and gold dots. Not only do they look good but these features are also reflective – thumbs-up from me. They are so comfortable to wear and have pockets (thank you) for gym cards etc…And they sit comfortably around my middle thanks to a thick waistband, which means no having to constantly worry about them bagging or falling down when I’m out on my run.

Bit of a rubbish pic but you get the gist around the detailing

Bit of a rubbish pic but you get the gist around the detailing

The gold jacket (known as Pulse, £90) comes with two pockets to stash all your important items and a drawstring waist and is made out of quick-dry fabric. It’s also built to be folded and stashed away for any occasion (and I’m talking any occasion).

In terms of tank tops, there are plenty to choose from. My particular Studio black top (£50) has a gold drawstring bottom so you can adjust it to fit. Again this detailing follows through the ultimate aim of LIJA: to help you look and feel awesome.

It certainly kept me cool at Be:Fit - in all my LIJA gear

It certainly kept me cool at Be:Fit – in all my LIJA gear

And boy do I feel awesome in my gold and black outfit. I’ve even worn the gold jacket to work. In fact, I’ve been trying to sneak it into my day look as much as possible, I mean, why on earth wouldn’t you?

In terms of sizing, I’m normally a size 8 and the XS-S fitted me well.

Alongside catering for the running me, LIJA also have kit for the Yoga me (when I go), the tennis me, the Studio me and the golf me (never say never). Yep, LIJA is made for women who love fitness period and definitely one to watch.

And you don’t have to jet off to Canada to find it. LIJA is currently available in House of Fraser.

I’d say the price points are competitive. The gear is so well made and straddles both fashion and fitness so it’s worth investing in. If I was going to work out cost per wear of my gold pulse jacket, it would equate to being free right now and that’s saying something from a girl with a wardrobe stashed with clothes.

LIJA in London

LIJA in London

What do you think of the new LIJA activewear? Pretty smart, huh?

 

Paris vs London: A tale of two cities in marathon kits

10 Apr
Paris vs London in marathon kits

Paris vs London in marathon kits

As much as I love the Paris Marathon (even if I didn’t break my PB last weekend), I have to say when it comes to kit wars, the adidas London Marathon gear wins hands down. Not only can you buy it online, the mix of technical fabrics, bright colours and altogether practical nature of the piece available this year mean you’ll want to wear it again and again.

In my bright orange fleece

In my bright orange fleece

You’ve probably seen from my photos over the past few weeks that in-between washes (one downside of being a runner is your washing machine is permanently going) I have been living in my glow orange fleece. In fact, my uniform for the Paris Marathon was the very blue vest and navy shorts you see in this picture. I can safely say that I did not suffer from chafing of any kind.

In my blue vest top

In my blue vest top

While Asics may have created some compression pieces (the leggings and blue top in the picture above), their actual memorabilia offering was pretty sparse and dare I say it a bit too pink for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, pink is a bright colour which is very visible – I live in a pink adidas jacket when riding my bike – but if I was to choose running gear, pink would not be my the first choice. I hate the association of colours with gender.

I have also searched far and wide to try and find the Paris Marathon kit online but fail at every hurdle. This is why you guys get my rather artistic interpretation of the tops and lycra shorts displayed at the Paris Running Expo at the weekend. Besides the pink and blue tops, compression wear and a rather fetching looking yellow/green rain jacket, there was really nothing else that caught my eye.

Oh look, it's me in my London adidas kit

Oh look, it’s me in my London adidas kit

So if you’re heading to the London Marathon Expo over the next few days, make sure you pop by the official London Marathon store. It really is a stylish offering for anyone who wants to takeaway something special in memory of the big day. And remember, I may have run Paris and it still remains a firm favourite but in terms of gear, their stuff is not a patch on this year’s London Marathon effort.

Paris Marathon 2014: can I call it a warm-up?

8 Apr

After training hard for the past few months, I felt all prepared for the Paris Marathon 2014. Yes, I’d been a bit tired of late after countless early mornings and long runs at the weekend but nothing that I couldn’t shift without a few early nights. It was (touch wood) all going to plan. I had even eased off the running in the final week up to the big day and tried to let my hair down, following the philosophy that if you feel relaxed about a race, you’ll smash it.

Mum and I at the Paris Expo

Mum and I at the Paris Expo

Wednesday splutter

And then I developed a cough on the Wednesday before the marathon. No, not just a light tiggle in the throat that you could shrug off but a full-blown chesty splutter-your-guts up-style cold. Bah, it’s ok, I told myself nothing to worry about, just stick with it.

Thursday uh-oh

Thursday (three days before the marathon) approached and I felt it a little more on my chest. I went out not late, late but late enough to the Lululemon launch party, had a jolly good time (and even a taxi back to mine) and tried not to think any more of it.

Friday hmm

By the time Friday came around, I could quite easily have rivalled a smoker of 50-a-day for 30 years in the voice croakiness stakes. My chest was tight, throat was sore and voice was on the wrong side of husky. Would a good night sleep solve it? Let’s << croiser les doigts >> and hope for the best.

Early Saturday ho-hum

It really says something when your boyfriend crawls out of bed at 5:30am, stands at the front door as you’re about to leave and asks you: should you really be running? You’ve actively avoided Google because you know that just like your boyfriend, the advice will say that to run with a cold above the neck is fine but below the neck and you may find yourself in trouble. Decisions, decisions.

Sleep, I just need sleep

At Eurostar, I filled my bag with cough remedies from WH Smith – Beechams, Strepsils Extra Strenght, Nurofen Express, honestly, I felt like the walking pharmacy. My mum, who boarded the Eurostar at Ebbsfleet, said (in only the way mum’s can) you sound rough and look shattered. Gee thanks, I replied, just what I wanted to hear at 8am on a Saturday morning. With that firm vote of confidence, I went back to my seat situated elsewhere on the train and tried to get some shut-eye so I didn’t look like a bedraggled creature on their last legs.

Paris Running Expo

We arrived at Gare de Nord and first things first, we headed to the Paris Running Expo at Porte de Versailles. Now I know this area really quite well as my ex-French boyfriend lived on a road behind the exhibition centre. It always brings back fond memories of days gone by, which unfortunately this time around were shattered by the business of the Running Expo.

After having my photo taken with my number and buying a memorabilia top (a ritual of mine at City marathons), I hastily headed towards the exit. It was simply too hot in there for my liking. Interested as I am in all things running-related, when you’re feeling a bit below par and are in Paris, the best place to be is not in an exhibition centre. Eagle-eyed as ever or simply nosey, I did manage to spot a few French brands and new running trips on the way towards the exit (or freedom from paper leaflets). Thausne Sport looked rather interesting in terms of sports bra and compression wear while Anita Active focus on women’s sports undergarments was something I’d be keen to investigate further. I also saw a few very inviting trail runs in the Limousin region of France. Perhaps one for next time, I told myself.

Hotel, drugs, Flunch, parks and dinner

Once we’d dumped our bags at the hotel, discussed with the owner that tea and honey, cherry brandy and a dose of some effervescent French painkiller may help with my cold situation, we started to explore Paris via Flunch for lunch. It was such a beautiful day. Sod the drugs, if anything was going to make me feel positive about running the Paris Marathon in the morning, it would be walking through the streets on a glorious spring day with the knowledge that I would be pounding these very streets the next day and take in the sites from a new perspective. We headed towards the Champs-Élysées from the Palais de Louvre and even spotted an adidas boost van – where Parisians could trial the trainers. In the glorious sunshine, I told myself it was going to be ok but I’d need to play it safe. No PB for me this time.

Glorious day in Paris

Glorious day in Paris

At dinner with the rest of the Team Paris Marathon, I knew it was a risk, potentially stupid idea to run. I didn’t feel any better and was still coughing up god knows what but I wanted to run Paris.

Questions, questions were running through my head…Would I do sub 3:20? Not a chance, now that would be silly wouldn’t it? No way was I going to push myself that hard. What was the point then of doing the marathon? Putting your body through so much for what, a medal? Once you get over a half marathon,  you know there’s a risk. Your limbs may recover quicker but will the rest of you. However I tried to rationalise it, I just knew that what I really wanted to do was to enjoy this race.

No I didn't choose pink but my mum made me this banner

My mum made me this banner

Race day

It was another early start and I was still debating my decision, especially since I’d received a whatsapp from my boyfriend late on Saturday night saying “Have a good run tomorrow but if you’re not ready for it, please don’t run it”.  Yes, I was tired and my cold wasn’t any better but I had come to Paris to run. I didn’t want to cause any upset or worry for the boyfriend at home though. I would simply enjoy running through the streets of one of my favourite cities in the world. Dosed up with drugs for my cold and a handful of jelly beans and Nuun tablets stuffed down my sports bra, that’s exactly what I did.

There’s neither a happy or a sad ending to this tale. My decision to relax and enjoy the Paris Marathon did not mean that by some miracle or another I beat my PB. You need the focus, drive and above all to feel on top of your game. I can tell you, this was not the case and my time of 3:36 is not too shabby for some but I  am disappointed.

Paris Marathon 2014

Tired but I did it in 3:36

Tired but I did it in 3:36

You win some, you lose some and unfortunately for me the Paris Marathon 2014 wasn’t going to be where I triumphed. But you learn something new from every race that you do. From the Paris Marathon I learnt to take it easy, control my speed and not push myself too hard. Unfortunately Superwoman only exists in fanzines and comics. The final miles were tough and I was wheezing once I’d finished but I still loved the sensation of seeing the Bastille, Chateau de Vincennes, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower to name just a few breath-taking sites from the roadside throughout the 26.2 miles.

Three ways to save your pennies in Paris

2 Apr

Chic, romantic, atmospheric and expensive, there’s no way to dress up the fact that you can easily spend ridiculous amounts of money simply eating and drinking in Paris. If you’re heading to Paris for the marathon this weekend, here are three ways to ensure you’re not out of pocket by the end of it all.

Paris on the cheap

Paris on the cheap

1. Head to Flunch for lunch

Or dinner perhaps. If you think all the French do is dine out at exquisite restaurants or brasseries then I’m afraid your mistaken. They tend to head to Flunch. The décor is drab but the concept – canteen cum restaurant – is excellent. As well as offering a variety of “Formule” menus – normally a main dish say fish in sauce and potatoes or pasta and sauce plus drink – for the relatively modest price of around 10 Euros, they also have a massive selection of salads, which you can pile on your plate, desserts and mix and match plates. It’s amazing for veggies, who want more than “salads vertes”, the main meals are more often than not made to order and there’s not a burger in sight. No wonder the French love to Flunch for lunch. If you don’t mind being parked next to a family with kids while you munch on pretty healthy stuff, then make Flunch your purse-friendly choice. There is one based at Les Halles, which is pretty centrally located in Paris.

2. Buy a carnet of tickets

The visitor passes may seem like a good idea at the time but if you simply calculate how many times you will be using the metro, then I’m sure you’ll discover a book of 10 tickets for the Métro is way better value. At just 13,70 Euros for 10, that’s 1,37 a journey. A two day visitor pass will set you back around 16 Euros, if there’s two of you, that’s 32 Euros. Or you could buy 20 tickets for 27Euros. Essentially, it’s up to you to work out how many trips you will be making on public transport but we usually end up coming back with at least four tickets left over after our visits to Paris. You can buy both at any Métro station.

3. Head East of Pigalle

If you want to buy a souvenir of Paris or perhaps pick up a new item for your wardrobe, there are several shops between Pigalle and Montmartre that sell seconds of famous French names such as Kookai, 1-2-3 and Agnes B. If you’re after a bargain, they’re worth taking a look. One word of caution though: those who are not fans of TK Maxx’s lack of merchandising should avoid as there’s a lot of rummaging around to pick out a bargain find. Then there’s always Tati, which as the name suggests, is an emporium of well “tat” but you can sometimes find a treasure or two. Hell, this massive department-style store even sells wedding dresses. Your best place to start on your bargain shopping mission in Paris is Barbes-Rochechouart – which is my personal favourite Métro stop to try and pronounce properly. Just dive right in and go along for the ride.

 

Five things to do in Paris when not running a marathon

1 Apr

As the Paris Marathon swiftly approaches and a pile of ‘running’ holiday gear begins to appear alongside a suitcase, I got thinking: what will I do on Saturday after collecting my number etc at the Expo? The obvious answer is sleep. But hell, I’m in Paris – it’s time to reacquaint myself with the romance. Whether you’re running the marathon or not, here are five things to do in the beautiful and enchanting city that is Paris.

Sunset over the Seine

Sunset over the Seine

1. Make shapes at a museum

We all know about the Louvre and its famous painting (the Mona Lisa) but it’s a pretty large space. I was lucky enough to have a year pass 12-25 when I lived in Paris and still feel like I never really got to grips with what it had on offer. Instead head to another equally grandiose and beautiful building that is home to exceptional pieces of art: The Musée d’Orsay.  It’s everything you’d expect from a building that was once a former train station; light, airy and perfect for perusing works by Impressionist Masters, such as Monet, Degas, Gaughin and Manet. And since the space is so vast you soon forget you’re in a museum at all.  The only downside are the mammoth queues. Thankfully, you can bypass them by booking your tickets online.

Nearest Paris Métro or RER stop:  Solferino (Line 12) or RER C Musée d’Orsay

Making shapes at the Palais de Tokyo

Making shapes at the Palais de Tokyo

Other cool culture spots:

Palais de Tokyo – Contemporary, fresh and packed full of imagination, the Palais de Tokyo is one of my favourite places to really explore the minds of creatives. The shop and café aren’t bad spots to hang out either and are normally frequented by the cool Parisian tribe.

Nearest Paris Métro or RER stop: Iéna and Alma Marceau (line 9) or RER C Pont de l’Alma station

Les Arts Décoratifs - Tucked away on the Rue de Rivoli, Les Arts Décoratifs is a Mecca for fashion aficionados because it hosts world-class exhibitions . Victor & Rolf, Marc Jacob Louis Vuitton, Dries Van Noten (currently showing), you name it and this wing of the Louvre has probably shown held an “exposition” in some exceptional form or another.

Nearest Paris Métro or RER stop: Tuileries (line 1)

2. Take a walk in the parcs

To really take in the view of Paris, head to one of my favourite parcs in the city: Le Parc des Buttes Chaumont. Based to the north-east (that’s slightly East, I guess, of Gare de Nord) in the 19th arrondissement , the sheer elevation of the green space means that you can really take in Paris’ beautiful vista. Throw in man-made cliffs, a suspended bridge and dramatic waterfall and you have what some have quite rightly called a pretty romantic space.  Grab a book, a blanket and head up here to unwind and enjoy Paris at its best.

Nearest Paris Métro or RER stop: Buttes Chaumont (line 7), Botzaris (line 7)

Other green spaces to head to:

Jardin du Luxembourg – With its main pond filled with toy sailing boats, shaded areas to relax in and locals sitting around playing yet another game of chess or drafts, the Jardin du Luxembourg feels lived in and alive. If you love to people watch or play “guess the statue” (there are apparently 70 statues dotted around the space), then head to the Jardin du Luxembourg situated slap-bang between the Latin Quartier and Saint-Germain-De-Prés.

Nearest Paris Métro or RER stop:  RER B Luxembourg station

Me in Jardin des Tuilleries

Me in Jardin des Tuilleries

Jardin des Tuileries
If you don’t have the time to head to Versailles, then the Jardin des Tuileries is pretty much the next best example of the renowned André Le Notre’s work. Situated near the Louvre and Arc du Carousal, this mix of greenery, pathways and statuettes runs right through the veins of central Paris. Look one way and you’ll see the Arc du Triomphe, spin around 180 degrees to gaze at the Pyramid entrance to the Louvre. Alternatively, you could grab a metal chair, perch yourself next to one of the ponds in the park and try to get your head around the many different “rangs” (rankings) of French society during the 17th and 18th century. You may not succeed but at least you feel like you’re living within its realms.

Nearest Paris Métro or RER stop:  Tuileries (line 1)

3. Shop

A water bar? Whatever next? As pretentious and perhaps ludicrous as it may sound, Colette on Rue St Honore is indeed home to a water bar. Don’t let that put you off visiting what is essentially one hell of a concept store. You may not have the budget to splurge on some of the weird and wonderful products on offer but Colette is worth a visit, just to gaze at the way they display the items. If you want to know what a fashion edit that works looks like, head to the first floor to find pieces by designers such as Ashish, Comme des Garcons and Opening Ceremony. Think Dover Street Market with a twist of Parisian charm.

Nearest Paris Métro or RER stop:  Pyramides (line 14,7)

Other places to shop:

Rue d’Alésia – For designer French bargains, head to one of the many “Stock” shops on Rue d’Alésia. The cut-price boutiques do have a habit of changing from time to time but when I was in Paris in January 2013, I found a Sonia Rykiel outlet that was worth the visit alone.

Nearest Paris Métro or RER stop:  Alésia (line 4)

Galleries Lafayette - Gaze in wonder at the Chanel 2.55, wander around the many kiosks selling make-up and fragrances you may or may not have heard of and immerse yourself in the designer fashion of Galleries Lafayette. And don’t forget to look up or you’ll miss out on the beauty of this world-famous department store.

Nearest Paris Métro or RER stop:  Opéra (line 7.4) or RER A Auber

4. Browse the many markets

Can you spot me?

Can you spot me on the bag? Seriously, it’s me.

The best day to visit the market (marche de puces)Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen (metro stop: Porte de Clignancourt) is on a Sunday. But don’t rule it out as the many smaller stalls of the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen are open throughout the week. Head inside the cattle shed-style enclosure to discover one of my favourite places ever – a store that sells everything from vintage sunglasses and fabrics to fashion “gravures” and buttons. I cannot for the life of me remember its name but you’ll know when you’re there. You can spend an hour or two sifting through the many prints or trying to spot a real treasure in the glass cabinets of objects from the past.

Nearest Paris Métro or RER stop:  Porte de Clignancourt (line 4)

Marché Rue Dejean – If you want to explore the true melange of Parisian culture, a good place to start is this food market in the 18th arrondissement. Come out of the metro Château-rouge and you’ll be transported by a variety of smells, colours and sellers trying to impart their fruit, veg and various other wares on you. Just brace yourself as it is complete and utter chaos and not for the faint-hearted. You can buy just about everything you need for a picnic, so why not get involved in the popular Parisian pastime of “picniquer”.

Nearest Paris Métro or RER stop:  Château-rouge (line 4)

Marché de la Bastille – The food market may be on a Sunday but it’s worth popping by to the flea market on a Saturday to see the variety of bric-a-brac on offer. Again, this market is pretty congested and you may find yourself constantly dodging the “granny” trolleys. The nearest metro is Bastille and if you’re in it for the day, Rue de la Roquette is packed full of bars offering Happy Hours among other things.

Nearest Paris Métro or RER stop:  Bastille (line 1, 5, 8)

5. And relax

I once made a very close friend of mine walk miles to sample the hot chocolate at Les Deux Magots but boy, was it worth it. This restaurant/café situated in the 6th arrondissement was once the hotspot for all the intellectuals that graced Paris in the early 20th century.  From Hemmingway to Simone De Beauvoir, history has certainly played its part in making this also popular among tourists. That being said, you can’t help but be swept away by the sheer charm, waiters dressed in “penguin” (black tie) and ambience of the place.

Nearest Paris Métro or RER stop: Saint-Germain-De-Prés (line 4)

Other areas to take a pew:

Abbesses – Head slightly north-west of Pigalle and you’ll find yourself in a quartier called Abbesses. With a few fashion, vintage and antique stores, not to mention a dangerously tempting Cave à vin, this is a quiet place away from the noise of the red light district. Share a carafe of wine with a loved one and who knows where your night may end. (Post-marathon perhaps?)

Nearest Paris Métro or RER stop:  Abbesses (line 12)

 Le p’tit bar – Granted I’ve never been here but a person who has tells me it’s a crazy place to hang out the night before your girlfriend runs a marathon. It’s about the size of a boxroom with one or two stools. According to my source, a certain Madame Polo is responsible for what goes on in here alongside her trusty canary in a cage. And once the character known as M Polo takes your order, she heads to a fridge out back where she keeps the stock.

Nearest Paris Métro or RER stop:  Charonne (line 9)

Let me know what you would do in Paris when not running the marathon.

Sleep: why I (try to) listen to my internal clock

30 Mar

You can train hard, eat well, follow a plan religiously but when it comes to performing on race day, having enough sleep is a vital factor. Skip the shut-eye and you can end up feeling knackered before the running has even started.

And it’s not easy to get right. If you’ve ever had an attack of the nerves an evening before a big race than you’ll know what I mean. Unlike nutrition and training, trying to get to sleep can be difficult.

Now I’m not going to reel out a load of research about sleep right now but I, for one, know that I sleep best when I’m clear-headed, exhausted physically and relaxed in my mind and body.

Anything I can do to ensure I’m in these conditions, such as run off all my energy, participated in yoga, in the right temperature room (not too hot or too cold) and perhaps listening to my favourite radio dramas in bed, I will do to actively encourage a sleepy state of mind.  I also set myself an alarm clock for getting up in the morning and going to bed.  No matter how tempting it is to stay up and watch Brits Abroad in Malaga, when the time comes, I’m bed-ward bound As it’s the week before my first marathon of 2014, I’m going to try and ensure I follow a strict routine. The bed, mattress and pillow helps too. We invested in a new bed a year ago and this worked wonders.

It may not be easy, seeing as the clocks went forward and this will upset my body clock but I’m hoping this will at least give me an advantage when I’m at the starting line in Paris next week.

Talking of “spring forward: fall back” (this is how I remember which way the clock goes), we went to Greenwich yesterday and almost stood on the Meridian line.

Meridian Line photo

Almost stood on the Meridian Line

I was also sent this infographic from Tempur mattresses, which I thought I’d share. It has some interesting facts for history buffs (pub quiz anyone?) and tips on how to adjust your body clock.

Source: Tempur

What helps you sleep better? And please don’t say the obvious.

Surrey Spitfire 20 on the Top Gear track

29 Mar

As much of a Top Gear fan that I am (the trip round Vietnam is definitely up there as one thing on TV that I’d watch again), I did not sign up to this race to run on the test track of Top Gear. In fact, I thought I had signed up for a completely different race entirely: the Cranleigh 21-miler.

Look it's a plane at Dunsford (c) Katy Malpass

Look it’s a plane at Dunsford (c) Katy Malpass

The Style Ditz?

Now before you tarnish me with the ditzy brush, this was an easy-ish mistake to make. After all, the Cranleigh 21-miler was happening on the same day (16 March 2014) and Dunsford is in Cranleigh, so I wasn’t that far out. On the race instructions, they advised drivers not to use their Sat Navs to get there for this very reason. Yes, I could have actually read about the race that I had entered but at that stage in marathon training, I wasn’t all that fussed. As long as it covered an ample distance and was held under race conditions, it was good enough for me.

A #RunDay out

Once over the initial shock that it wasn’t quite what I had signed up for, the problem of logistics reared its ugly head. How on earth was I going to get to the starting point of Dunsford Aerodrome? I love racing but when you don’t have a car, travelling to any race outside the M25 becomes a bit of a nightmare. Especially from East Finchley on a Sunday.

Before discovering a ready-made running community of women on Twitter, the Blogosphere and Facebook, I had to rely on the folks for lifts to races. While I’m sure they enjoyed spending time with me on the drive to a race and back, it’s not exactly fun or fair for them.  Then there’s always the option of hiring a car (costly) or not racing at all but then I’d miss out on seeing the glorious English countryside.

Katy, me, Alexa and Hilary at the start (c) Katy Malpass

Katy, me, Alexa and Hilary at the start (c) Katy Malpass

Thankfully, one of the bunch of runners I have got to know after the past two years Katy was driving and offered myself Hilary and Alexa a lift there. What a godsend she was. My only alternative would be to cycle to a London train station at some obscene hour, then cycle five miles from the train station near Dunsford to the Aerodrome, run 20 miles and repeat the whole process backwards. Now what kind of person would be crazy enough to do that?

Granted, I did have to cycle 20 miles that day because I now live in the very green but not so well-supported in terms of transport links on a Sunday Hampstead Garden Suburbs, but that was to Katy’s house and back and I saw it as a bit of a warm-up/warm down.

It was so much fun on the way there and back, chatting with the girls about running, relationships, jobs, our parents and more. Us running bunch have built up a supportive camaraderie  online and it’s good to be able to take it “offline” too.

On your marks…

In terms of set-up, there was an area selling the usual bacon butties, teas, coffees etc and a shop with running gear. We were told when we picked up our race numbers from the registration desk to leave our stuff in the car as they had a key drop. We took a look at the course map, did the obligatory to toilet stop (for the second time in my case), dosed up on electrolytes, sugar and snacks before stripping off and heading to the start.

Get set without music

Another detail I had failed to notice when signing up for the Spitfire 20 was the clause that you would be disqualified if wearing headphones. This is standard for cross country but then you’re covering much shorter distances at a harder pace. Cross country is also strategic so you’re constantly thinking and looking for your next break in the line to get ahead. It’s true that longer races can be crowded at the start but I find that music helps me to relax into my rhythm. And since I have a tendency for positive splits, anything that helps me control my pace at the start is surely a good thing. But 20 miles in silence is something completely new to me. Crikey, this would be both a physical and mental test of endurance.

Go

Let’s take at look at the course: two loops of the track and surrounding village. You completed the track first (around three miles) before heading out onto country roads. With a few water and fuelling stops along the way at around miles 5, 10, 15, and plenty of volunteers helping you find your way, there was no way you could get lost on this well-organised event.

The race

For a race billed as a “flat course”, I’m not quite sure what they classified at hills. Sure, there were no mountains and you weren’t climbing to the altitude that I did on the South Downs Marathon but there were a few undulating spots (miles 7 and 17 spring to mind), which you had to brace yourself for. There was also plenty of gorgeous scenery to take your mind off that fact that you were running in silence. I was actually surprised at how people passed the time, striking up a conversation with their neighbour. Instead of drifting off into my own little world like I usually do, I spent my time listening to my fellow competitors talking about the race (those who had done it before), what races they were training for and various other running-related chatter. This helped to create a more relaxed atmosphere.

Once the first half was over and the realisation I had to do it all again made me increase my pace slightly. Perhaps a little too soon. Thankfully, I too fell into the pattern of running alongside a fellow runner, chatting with him about the course. I thank him for helping me up the killer hill the second time as it was a bit of a killer.

By the time I reached the second lap, I realised that the electrolyte tablet I’d stuffed in my short pocket had decided to make it’s way around my shorts, mixed with sweat and created a patch of stickiness on my shorts, which chafed my inner thighs. Attractive? I think not. After crossing the finish line, I picked up the piece of medal bling, a cup of water and chocolate bar, and headed for a free sports massage.

Seeing that I did have to get up at 5:30am on a Sunday morning and cycle from East Finchley to Clapham South, I think I did ok in the race overall. I’m pretty pleased with my chip time of 2:32:41 and being placed ninth out of the ladies. Admittedly, the Paris marathon and PBs are playing on my mind as the date draws ever closer but as I have learnt in the past, the times when I do best are when I’m feeling refresh and relaxed.

Celebrating our success!

Celebrating our success!

Would I do the Surrey Spitfire 20 again?   

The goody bag may not be up to much (a medal and a chocolate bar) but the race itself was well-organised and supported by volunteers. In fact, the organisers Events to Live are the people behind the only wine tasting marathon I’ve heard of in the UK – the Bacchus Marathon.  It’s definitely one on my list. They also have a fab scheme for volunteers, which is worth taking a glance at too. Back to the Surrey Spitfire 20, which is great for prepping your marathon legs without having to fight your way through running traffic.

If you enjoy undulating hills, beautiful countryside and Top Gear, then try it out next year.

Thanks to Katy and the girls for their support and the lift there.

#adidas26rs and the miles that make us

24 Mar

Mornings colder than ice baths

thick fog, head nods & ipods

pickups, plyos, pb’s

plus the long way home

all for Jamaica road

the highway and st james’

the city is our stage

the marathon is our mission

and this is our club…

Or so the story of the new #adidas26rs London running club goes.

What is it? 

They may have come up with one of the corniest of catchphrases ever “it’s the miles that make us” but #adidas26rs is a new running community or club inspired by the London Marathon.

adidas 26er Running Club Copyright onEdition 2014©

adidas 26er Running Club
Copyright onEdition 2014©

Based below the new London Marathon Store near Liverpool Street Station (1 – 3 Norton Folgate Bishopsgate London E1 6DB), “the engine room” is a space where runners with a marathon in their sights can hang out, share their running and marathon tales, learn from the experiences of others and, most importantly, take part in almost daily runs hosted by team adidas26rs.

Lockers that can cater for my usual house-on-my-back rucksack Copyright onEdition 2014©

Lockers that can cater for my usual house-on-my-back rucksack Copyright onEdition 2014©

It’s worth noting that this isn’t an exclusive club where only marathon runners need apply; #adidas26rs is aimed at all levels, from those with multiple marathons under their belt to complete beginners.

This is reflected in their (almost daily) schedule of training runs below:

Mon: 1pm (5km)

Mon: 6.30pm (5km)

Wed: 1pm (Beginners 5km)

Wed: 6.30pm (Beginners 5km)

Thur: 6.30pm (10km)

Fri: 1pm (5km)

In the run up to the London Marathon, #adidas26rs is also hosting longer runs on a Sunday, from 9:30am.

Sunday 30th March: (13 miles)

Sunday 6th April: (8 miles)

Check out the new #adidas26rs site for more details and to register.

Club hub Copyright onEdition 2014©

Club hub Copyright onEdition 2014©

What does it cost?

Only your time, sweat and energy but of course as a runner you know this already. You will not have to part with a penny.

So it’s just another running club?

Hell no, besides the daily organised runs, what is really impressive about #adidas26rs is the club house.

Trying to hide at the launch event Copyright onEdition 2014©

Trying to hide at the launch event Copyright onEdition 2014©

I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch event, where none other than Scott Overall, Liz Yelling, Martin Yelling, Simon Freeman and a host of other inspirational runners lent their support and led a 5k run around  the Thames.

Just another run along the Thames

Just another run along the Thames

If this wasn’t exciting enough (I can tell you, I am certainly in awe of Liz Yelling who pushed her twins in a double-buggy on the run, wow), then actually having a first glimpse of the dedicated hub to the #adidas26rs community showed they understand what a runner really wants.

Charlie from therunnerbeans and I show off our marathon stars

Charlie from therunnerbeans and I show off our marathon stars

Somewhere safe to dump your stuff – cue roomy lockers that can fit a bike bag and more (hallelujah), toilets and, a plus point for me, showers so you don’t have to worry about sweating to the max. There are also a few extras thrown into the mix such as see me, try me, where runners can view the new boost trainers all artistically presented in a glass box display and give them a go on a training run. Speaking of presentation, the street art-style illustration on the wall was a real gem and the kind of thing you would easily see in Colette, the concept store in Paris, or some cool new gallery in Hackney.

Amazing space (c) onEdition

Amazing space (c) onEdition

Let’s put it this way, it’s the first time I’ve seen something so considered in a running store and reminded me of the superb new Like The Wind magazine. In fact, the entire idea of sharing your marathon tales shifts the focus towards a more romantic view of running. One of stories, memories and moments, that you may or may not want to capture and treasure for life.

I wanna be in your gang Copyright onEdition 2014©

Great start Copyright onEdition 2014©

The message is clear: it’s hip to be fit and runners are leading the way.

Is there a catch?

As I mentioned above, it’s FREE people. In terms of the runs themselves, I’m also not sure what type of level they are aimed at apart from beginners, something to bear in mind. From a purely selfish point of view, however, I wish they could transport the club hub to Covent Garden as it would be so convenient for #RUNches. Then again, it’s probably not the best idea as I don’t think they’d be able to get rid of me.

Thank you to adidas for inviting me to the launch, it was amazing to run with such inspirational athletes and hear their marathon tales.

The Beautiful Fall by Alicia Drake

18 Mar

If you love fashion and want an honest account of two of fashion’s greatest figures, then put The Beautiful Fall by Alicia Drake on your wish list.

Drake cleverly weaves together the biographies of Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent and tells the story of the heady days of fashion, personalities and influences in Paris from the 50s to the present day. She also explores the balance of power between the two rivals. They may have been friends in the early days but it seemed that Lagerfeld was always playing catch-up to the imaginative, focus and genius that was Yves Saint Laurent.

With their own band of followers and muses, both designers found themselves as celebrated among the Parisian glitterati. While Karl Lagerfeld continues to wow fashion lovers every season at Chanel, YSL’s legacy lives on. He may have been a more troubled character than the seemingly controlled Lagerfeld but, as with most geniuses, people ignored his idiosyncrasies.

Karl too had his moments and certainly made an impact with his eccentric way of dress. But underneath the creative exterior was an astute and obsessive businessman, who knew how to make money.

This book that features interviews and countless accounts by the stars of the day such as Loulou de la Falaise, friends and colleagues of both Lagerfeld and YSL is a great way to remind us of their influence in the past and present.

Continue reading

Challenge 2014: #Swimathon and a few last-minute tips from Duncan Goodhew

16 Mar

You know that stomach-sinking feeling just before an exam when you know you’ve done all the hard work, it’s just putting it into practice? With only a week to go until D-day or should that be “SWIMATHON 2014 day“, I’m a bundle of these pre-exam nerves.

WIll I get water in my goggles?

Will I get water in my goggles?

I have been enjoying my training, especially now the sun is shining and I’ve found my little Oasis in Covent Garden. But here I am, sitting on a Saturday evening, wondering what it will feel like next weekend at this time when it is all over. How will I do? What are my expectations? Will my goggles fill up with water?

Mulling over these questions is probably not the best thing to be doing just before bed and I put these pre-event nerves down to the novelty of it all. I have never participated in an organised swimming event before, and also down to the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever swum 100 lengths all in one go. Eek!

It will certainly be a double-first for me come Saturday, when I jump in and complete the 2.5k  (that’s 100 lengths) distance in the Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Swimathon 2014.

Thankfully, my mate Duncan Goodhew (ok, he’s not really a mate but he’s a jolly nice chap and he motivated me to learn the basics in the water) has five last-minute tips to help us “Swimathoners” make the most of our own particular challenge.

1. Streamline your body

Think tall and long in the water, make sure to stay as streamlined in the water as possible.

2. Use those arms

In all strokes (except breaststroke), remember that most of the power comes from your arms and not your legs.

3.  And relax your fingertips

Keep ‘soft hands’ whilst you swim – relax your fingers, hands and wrists in the water to maximise speed.

4.   And relax full-stop

Relaxation goes for the whole body too – the faster you want to go, the more relaxed you need to be. Make sure not to tense up your arms or legs or hold your breath.

5.     Enjoy yourself

Last, but certainly not least, make sure to enjoy your training and Swimathon challenge. The sponsorship money you raise will help change lives, so get spreading the word now.

Duncan Goodhew comments: 

“Whilst you’re staying streamlined make sure to relax and enjoy your swim – you’ve taken on a challenge for a great cause and will be helping raise much needed cash for Sport Relief.”

It’s important to remember that you’re doing the Swimathon for a good cause. It may feel like an exam now but that doesn’t mean it has to be laborious. Shock horror, I’ve actually quite liked/really got into some of the exams that I have taken over my lifetime. It’s only the anticipation beforehand that has proven a bit of a problem. Most importantly, enjoy your Swimathon 2014 and I’ll report back to you next week on how I got on.

Swim on friends…..swim on.

#TeamHackney #BoostLondon with adidas

13 Mar

Last week I did this:

Who with?

If you’re not eagle-eyed enough to see me, I was lucky enough to be a part of #TeamHackney. Yep, @Rhalou of sportstylist.comSophie of challengesophie.com, Ernie (@Erniedoto of yinnyang.co.uk), Diana (@DianaBooty) and I were doing our ting representing the East London hipsters.

Doing your what?

Have you not watched the video yet? And no mum, ting is not a spelling mistake, it’s how the youngsters of today speak. We were not told what was going on until we reached our first point of the journey, so it was clouded in mystery. There were a few tweets bouncing about the day before, gearing us up for what turned out to be a secret mission across London. Pitched against three other teams: #TeamPeckham, #TeamLadbrokeGrove and #TeamCamden, our challenge was a 6k race to the finishing line with certain checkpoints and a 50m sprint along the way.

Why?  

To #BoostLondon, of course. And show off our snazzy silver adidas outfits.

About the adidas gear

Yeah, pretty cool huh? I absolutely love the pink boost trainers.

Pink adidas boost trainers - luv it...

Pink adidas boost trainers – luv it…

And the leggings?

You got me there. Initially, I wasn’t the biggest fan as for once I didn’t want to bring attention to my legs. But they are super-comfy to wear and have grown on me.

You look like spacemen/women

It was undoubtedly the silver jacket that made this outfit. My boyfriend remarked that it’s the kind of thing a 14 year old would wear but I don’t care. You’re never too old to fall in love with shiny things and this is standout, top of the class shiny.  It’s also lightweight and helps regulate your temperature when running. Big thumbs-up from me

So you ran between checkpoints

That’s right. We started off on Kingsland Road, ran to a Vietnamese place then on to Shoreditch Town Hall, Hatton Gardens and the finish, just off Carnaby Street. We also had a little 50m sprint race between Shoreditch Town Hall and Hatton Gardens.

Start of the sprint

Start of the sprint

Sprints and challenge aside, did you have fun?

Hell yeah, it was brilliant having a chinwag with my team, working together and generally spurring each other on to the finish line. What a lovely bunch they are.

#TeamHackney #BoostLondon

#TeamHackney #BoostLondon

So #TeamHackney #BoostLondon?

I would say so. Individually, we may have been noticed in this amazing get-up but as a team we definitely got some looks. Let’s put it this way, this was no ordinary evening. We may not have won the race but we sure had fun trying to complete our adidas #BoostLondon mission.

Thanks to the rest of #TeamHackney and adidas for inviting me to come along.

Tech on trial: Monster iSport headphones

11 Mar
Monster iSport range of headphones

Clockwise from top: Monster iSport Freedom, Monster iSport Intensity and the ones small enough for me, Monster iSport strive

When I first received the invite from Monster to test drive their latest iSport range on a quick 5k around London, I thought I may as well give it a whirl. After all, I am a runner who enjoys nothing better than listening to music, podcasts and the radio while out on a run. I’ve also had a somewhat checkered history with headphones.

Of course, this has nothing to do with the fact that I’m a wee bit clumsy. I’ve never accidentally pulled the wires out of the sockets when packing them in my sports bag, trod on them when in a rush or tangled them up in my bicycle wheels. As if by magic, they just seem to break. I don’t think a pair of headphones has lasted longer than a month in my hands and I have no idea why. Honest.

And I think that my “lack of luck” with the various pairs of headphones I’ve tried in the past qualifys me as potentially one of the best testers for their new range. They are, after all, billed as being built to last. Made out of super-durable materials, the four new speakers-on-a-string (or not as the case may be with the Monster iSport Freedom) have been designed for sports such as skiing, running, cycling etc…

Here’s a brief description of each pair on offer.

  • Monster iSport Freedom – on-ear wireless headphones
  • Monster iSport Victory – noise-isolating in-ear jobbies
  • Monster iSport Intensity – offer moderate noise-isolation
  • Monster iSport Strive – the most compact pair, which I happened to go for as I have teeny ears and the PR assured me that they would fit into my tiny ears.

Pop over here to find out more about their features and functionality.

Look blue

I was tempted to try the Monster iSport Freedom (they certainly look pretty trendy and add a pop of colour to your running gear) but prefer my headphones to be as lightweight as possible. Blue happens to be one of my favourite colours and complements my running gear, so I was pretty happy to be given a blue pair.

Feature-wise, they seem to look good on paper, especially when I read that they are waterproof (double-tick from me), but what I really wanted to find out is whether they are Becs-proof and would the in-ear headphones really stay put in my tiny ear drums?

Did the Monster iSport Strive headphones fit?

It’s a fact that I have abnormally small hands and ears. This has put me off buying in-ear headphones in the past. There is nothing worse than having to constantly rearrange your headgear when focusing on a run. And I have to say that I was sceptical at first with the Monster iSport Strive headphones. But I soon learnt it’s all to do with technique. You have to line the in-ear bud part of the headphone up with the right part of your ear so it’s straight and twist it into place. I’m not going to say, I managed it straightaway but after a few tries they felt firmly in place and rather snug. (Surprise). The real test, however, for these mighty speakers would come during the run.

Will they, won't they? Fitting the iSport Strive

Will they, won’t they? Fitting the iSport Strive

5k of boom boom music and The Archers

Now sound quality is never number one on my list of priorities. I couldn’t give a jot whether it’s blah blah Htz or any of those technical details you see on the specifications sheets. All that matters to me is whether or not I can hear the music, audio book or latest episode of The Archers.  Since I normally spend no more than a fiver on a pair of headphones, you can imagine what the clarity is like. Pretty dire. I usually have to turn the volume right up to hear what’s going down in Ambridge Village.

Running London in my cool headphones, channelling Wurzel Gummidge with my barnet

Running London in my cool headphones, channelling Wurzel Gummidge with my barnet

So I was pleasantly surprised by how clear the playlist created by the Monster team sounded on the 5k run they’d organised for a group of us to get to know our chosen headphones. The real test however was on my morning #runcommute. Would I be able to follow what was happening in terms of sheep and water butts in my favourite farming radio soap? Well, let me tell you, I had to turn the volume down, which is a first for me.

Another feature worth mentioning is these little in-ear headphones are not complete noise-isolators, which is a plus point in terms of personal safety. It’s kind of common sense but having awareness of the things around you is important when you #runcommute. Lastly, they are staying in my ears, not falling out and dangling around, waiting to be trodden on….

Are they Becs-proof?

They have lasted a week so far (no joke) and I’ll have to wait and see if they really are as durable as they claim to be but my experience of the Monster iSport Strive headphones has changed my opinion slightly. Would I consider paying more than my monthly fiver on a pair of headphones? Perhaps. The Monster iSport Strive cost £59.95.  All I can say is that I really hope these headphones last as they tick the boxes on sound and fit.

In a phrase, the Monster iSport Strive headphones are…

Small, mighty and offer clarity of sound.

I was offered a pair of Monster iSport Strive to try and attended an event hosted by a bunch of friendly PRs. All opinions here are my own. To find out more about the particular headphones I tried, please click here.

Adidas Silverstone Half marathon and the mental mile

3 Mar

“Does it ever get any easier?” I pondered and then put to the ultimate running coach Tom Craggs. His answer was something I only wanted to half hear. While your body gets used to training at a harder rate, you’ll always want to push yourself that little bit more. You become more experienced so know what to do but, in short, the answer to this question is a resounding no.

Essential running kit including Glamour magazine and face wipes

Essential running kit including Glamour magazine and face wipes

 

There you go people who say to me after all those marathons that a half marathon is a walk in the park. It’s not because I don’t just want to run it, I want to race it and beat my PB.

And there’s always a race that helps you remember this? The adidas Silverstone Half marathon 2014 was this year’s eye-opening experience and a reminder that racing is a whole different ball game when you’re a PB chaser.

As part of my marathon training, I have been upping the mileage, bouncing around London in my adidas boost (yeah, it’s a namedrop but it’s also true) on either a Saturday or Sunday to get in my long runs. Being off the source since January has definitely helped my efforts alongside the training sessions with Tom Craggs and the Mornington Chasers.

I’ve also participated in X Country, when I can, to build up my strength and balance. But if you were to ask me whether I’ve run any longish races in a while, I’d have to say no. In fact, my last long race was the Royal Parks Ultra back in October.

Don’t get me wrong, I am training hard at the weekends but there’s nothing like a long race and the mentality that goes with it to get your head straight and focused. This year’s adidas Silverstone Half was exactly that – a time to really test my pace over a longer distance in preparation for the 26.2 miles in April.

Race day

The Silverstone Half is not an unfamiliar race. Having competed there twice before in 2009 and 2010, I know that the billing of it being a “flat course” is a bit of a white lie. In the right conditions, e.g. sunshine, little or no wind and a fine spring day, it can be called a speedy course. When faced with the other end of the weather spectrum, this race on tarmac is tough to say the least.

Unfortunately, the sun didn’t shine on race day and the wind was fierce making the adidas Silverstone Half marathon 2014 a tougher than expected cookie to crack.

Oh, fancy pants footwear at Silverstone

Oh, fancy pants footwear at Silverstone

The course itself is pretty much as you expect – tarmac, jam-packed with people for the first four miles at least and meandering like a river. If you start in the middle, as I happened to, you’ll find that you will spend the first few miles weaving in and out of people, apologising as you squeeze past and generally trying to find a natural and comfortable pace.

It’s not all bad though, this focus to get ahead motivates you to push out the fast miles at the end and if you’re lucky you may pass someone that you know. In my case, this was the gorgeous Charlie of therunnerbeans.   I heard a “Becs!” from Charlie as I went past. It’s always good to recognise a friendly face among the crowd.

Talking of the crowd, the atmosphere at adidas Silverstone Half was pretty serious. Then again, it was a cold day, very windy and you know people are there to do the mileage for the big one. I think this is fair enough as admittedly I’m one of them.

By the halfway point, you’ve pretty much found your crowd and it’s just a countdown until the final mile. Or so I thought. As the story goes, there’s always one leg of the race which you remembers. Enter mile 10 to 11 of adidas Silverstone Half marathon otherwise known as the mental mile.

Why the mental mile?

Up until this point, I was pretty happy doing my thing, keeping up with a group of fast men, showing off my adidas marathon kit in its full glory (I don’t care if I’m flashing my flesh, vest and shorts is the only way to go for me when competing in longer races). Then I came across the block; that mental part of the race when it becomes tough. The exposure of this part of the course, coupled with tarmac and the force of the cross-winds blew me completely off my stride. No matter how hard I pushed, I could feel my legs getting heavier. It was a wake-up WTF call? I was  only (I say this as a long distance runner) 10 miles in. How to get over this monstrous mile?

Focus. Focus. Focus and relax. I switched up the volume on my iPod and mentally switched into toughness mode. No way was I going to be defeated by some poxy puffs of wind. It could blow me over for all I cared but I was going to finish this race in a decent time. Hell, I shut my eyes for a second, tried a few yogi breaths (seriously, I did) and carried on. And you know what? From that moment, the race became easier.

Thank god, the mental mile was over and I was back on relatively less windy turf.

Freezing my bum off but look at my medal

Freezing my bum off but look at my medal

Heading towards the finish line, I felt reasonably ok. My legs weren’t aching, I was a bit tired and couldn’t wait to have a sip of water. I crossed the line in just over 1:38, collected my medal and a goody bag full of “healthy” treats such as bacon-flavoured peanuts and chocolate biscuits and headed to find one of the Food & Lycra girls (they are top lasses), who I’d joined on the “Fun Runday bus” with adidas.

The aftermath of my windy tale

While racing doesn’t get any easier, your body does however adapts to the training and recovers more quickly. I can say I’m in a lot better shape right now.  The day after this year’s Silverstone Half, I cycled to work, went for a swim and a short 5K in the evening. No sweat. This is a far cry from my first half marathon when the day after my poor boyfriend had to give me a piggy back to the tube because I couldn’t walk down stairs. Running simply enters into a different league and not to get all philosophical about it but it really is the challenge that pushes me on. It mirrors life. Some people are happy treading the same ground, which is fine. Others always want to search out new adventures and are motivated by challenges. I fall into the later camp.

And I love running, I’m competitive and I always want to see what time I’ve done and push myself to the realms of beyond. For the record, I did the adidas Silverstone Half Marathon in 1:35:52 and came 29th woman overall.

Could I have done better? Of course I think so but then again I’m always going to think that.

 A huge thanks to the adidas team and the Food & Lycra girls who made the day so enjoyable, hope to see you guys soon.

Bombing it with yoga: Hiitgirl Yogabomb

2 Mar

When it comes to fitness trends 2014, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is growing ever more popular.

Yogabomb at Hiitgirl

Yogabomb at Hiitgirl

Explosive, calorie-burning and packed full of moves that everyone can do, HIIT is designed for the generation of busy individuals who want to make a difference without having to put in hours at the gym. And the added bonus of HIIT? Well, according to research after one session, (ranges from 15-30 minutes depending on what class you do), it increases your metabolic rate for up to 24 hours. Translated: you continue to burn calories faster for up to a day after each session.

For cardio-junkies who thrive on fast-paced activity, HIIT is the ultimate action-packed class. But there is a downside. While they’re focused on pushing harder, stronger, fitter and all the rest of it, they often forget one vital element – to stretch. Yep, we’ve all been there. Knocked out a killer 10k no problem but can we really say we put the same effort post-cardio action e.g. lengthening out those muscles? You tell me.

How about the yogis out there. Yoga can be intense, especially those deep lunges that awaken the muscles but when it comes down to it, does it really get your heart pumping like a set of burpees?

Enter Hiitgirl’s latest class Yogabomb or what I like to call the answer to all these fitness conundrums. In short, it’s perfect for those who short-cut their stretches (me) or never pump up the pace.  Here’s why:

What’s the deal?

Aimed at time-poor women who want to get fit, healthy, sweat and essentially feel better about themselves, Hiitgirl combines easy-to-follow heart-pumping movements, such as lunges, burpees, twists and planks, with a we’re-in-it-together atmosphere.

Yogabomb relaxation time

Yogabomb relaxation time

The brainchild of Susan and Stuart Dyson, every group class (see the Hiitgirl timetable here) is pretty small and all the women work together to encourage each other. The instructor (in my case Susan, who know her stuff) also comes around to check that you’re doing the moves correctly and also give you a motivational nudge in the right direction.

And the best bit of all (besides the calorie-burning and post-workout calorie-burning), no class lasts longer than 30 minutes. It only takes 30 minutes of these high-intensity metamoves, each one lasting 40 seconds with a 20 second break, to burn up to 500 calories.

Yogabomb splits the 30-minute class into two sections: one focused on the high-intensity moves, while the other is dedicated to yoga. You may compromise slightly on the calorie burn but boy, it’s worth it for the stretch.

Sounds good?

You betcha. Even the studio, hidden away in Crouch End, London, looks impressive. When you enter, you’re instantly hit by the gorgeous smell of scented candles, the wooden panelling everywhere and a screen that links up to an iPad, which tells you exactly how much time of Hiitgirl you have left.

There’s a wall where you can write little messages to keep you motivated and even cubby holes to place your stuff, so the whole place looks tidy before you begin.

As for the class, it’s pretty tough stuff. You may not think that 40 seconds is a long time but I guarantee you’ll change your mind after doing a rep of burpees, lunges, jumping jacks or (my least favourite) press-ups. If you’re not a yogi or used to stretching, then the last 15-minutes is a double-whammy on the scale of difficulty as you try and stretch out those super-tight hamstrings.

The Yogabomb boost

It may be a challenging throughout the session but post-yoga and the little lay down on the mat at the end, you feel utterly revived. Maybe it’s the low-lighting  in the room or the mix of HIIT with yoga. Whatever it is, let’s just say that I’d had a pretty tiring day before the evening class that I attended and when I came out of the session 30 minutes later I felt relaxed and rejuvenated.

What does it cost?

At £72 for 4 sessions (not just Yogabomb but you can also try the other classes too), Hiitgirl does not come cheap. There’s no joining fees and once you drill down into the numbers though, you can find a deal to work for you. A 25 session carnet costs £250 or £10 a session and lasts for three months. If you go twice a week, then this will last around three months. One class, £10, twice a week – it doesn’t sound too steep now, especially when you reap the rewards.

See the price list here

Overall “Yogabomb is da bomb”

As a self-confessed cardio junkie, I thought Hiitgirl’s Yogabomb was the perfect balance for me. It gave me the Hiit(girl) of heart-pumping action with the much-needed stretch afterwards. There’s also a fab community vibe going on and motivational plans such as 30girl, which keeps you on the straight and narrow for 30 days.

For girls on the go who want a fitness quickie and stretch that works, try Hiitgirl.

Find our more about Hiitgirl here

I was invited along to a Hiitgirl Yogabomb class, all opinions here are my own.

Challenge 2014: #Swimathon and five things I’m enjoying

27 Feb

With only a month away until Swimathon 2014, it’s all go poolside. Although I wouldn’t exactly call myself proficient in the water quite yet, I’m having fun splashing about in the water. Here are five things I’m enjoying about my prep for #Swimathon 2014.

Oasis Swimming Pool

Oasis Swimming Pool

1. Swimming outside

I’m not a huge fan of the cold, never have been, never will be so the thought of swimming outside in a cold water wouldn’t exactly be first on my “fun-things-to-do list”. Brr, goose pimples appear on my skin just at the thought of it. Now the temperature has picked up a bit however and I have the opportunity of swimming in a heated open air pool in the middle of  Central London and you create a slightly different picture.

Oasis swimming pool near to Holburn and Covent Garden is home to an indoor 25m pool and outdoor 27.5m pool. While the indoor pool has been my home for the majority of training, I’m starting to discover that the outdoor pool really is the place to be. You may skip, jump and leg it from the door to the pool but once you’re in the water, it feels so relaxing. Not only is the pool warm(ish), simply being outside in the fresh air reminds you that spring is on its way.

If you have a lido close-by, I recommend trying it. It really adds an extra dimension to your swimming training.

2. Experimenting with my stroke

I am working on my front crawl (or freestyle) but as with everything, I know it will not happen overnight. I’m persevering to find out how I can improve my breathing and efficiency. This means trying out different ways of paddling. Initially, I was trying left, right breathe, left, right breathe, which meant I was only turning my head to breath on one side. Now, I’ve introduced an extra stroke to make me more balanced in the water and also ensure I move further faster underwater. It’s not been easy and my left side is certainly stronger at the moment but I’m enjoying the challenge, experimenting with my stroke and finding out what works best for me in the water.

3. Experimenting full-stop

It’s not all work and no play in the water. Indeed, there’s something so childlike about moving through water that takes you back to the days when you splashed about with your friends. During my warm-up or even when I need a break from the drills, I’ll experiment by seeing how far I can swim underwater without breathing, diving down deeper into the water or I may even try and do the legs from the butterfly stroke – even at the age of 31 I can still try and swim like a dolphin, right? Essentially, I’m rediscovering what I enjoyed about swimming as a child and it’s still fun now 20 years later.

4. Swimming etiquette

I love running, I love cycling but when it comes to etiquette swimmers have it nailed (well the ones in my pool do). Maybe it’s the nature of swimming in narrow lanes that enhances and reinforces the etiquette, whatever it is, runners and especially some cyclists could learn a few manners from swimmers who acknowledge those in their lanes and ensure that their fellow swimmers know that they have entered into the flow of their lane. Primarily swimming is a solo sport but I really admire how those participating work together so that everyone can have a smooth swimming experience.

5. The relaxation factor

I find the whole process of swimming laps relaxing. The swimming pool is like an oasis of calm, especially when you have your head underwater, everything  looks slightly distorted and you feel like you’re moving in slow motion through the water. When you spend most of your time surrounded by noise, it’s good to have those moments of silence and calm, all of which can be found in a swimming pool. And you know what, it’s really reinvigorating.

How about you? Are you a swimmer, what do you enjoy about the sport?

I’m a member of the Swimathon #BlogSquad, check out who else will be joining me at the Swimathon 2014 here.

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How Sweaty Betty is helping me get Fit(ter) 4 Free

24 Feb

Once you’ve found your fitness thing, it can be difficult to get the balance right. You may be pretty speedy as a runner but this is at the expense of your flexibility. You can cycle round a track no sweat but try and lift anything heavier than 10kg and you’re at a dead loss. You try and become the best that you can be at your chosen sport but that focus can sometimes mean you have to compromise in other areas.

So inspired by this imagery at Sweaty Betty

So inspired by this imagery at Sweaty Betty

As a dancer turned runner, I know exactly how it can feel to lose my twinkle toes.  Where as once I was able to do the splits, today I’m most likely to be at the back of the class struggling to touch my toes. I’ve always had a lot of bounce but my alignment and core strength has swayed slightly off track.  It’s time to take charge. As well as running and training for my Challenge 2014 #Swimathon, I’ve been trying out different classes to improve my overall fitness.

First up: Sweaty Betty’s classes and Get Fit 4 Free.

What’s the deal?

As well as offering a range of fashion-focused fitness and sportswear and motivational messages (Got to love “Fit is the new it”), Sweaty Betty have made it part of their mantra to build a community of fitness fanatics. Affectionately known as Sweaty Betties, these women are empowered through fitness and like to practice what they preach. You can find a whole list of the core beliefs here. And before you go thinking this is an exclusive club, I want to tell you that Sweaty Betty’s main purpose is “to inspire women to find empowerment through fitness” – talk about speaking my language. They offer free (yes, FREE) classes in-store up and down the country, which range from Run clubs and Yoga to Tabata and Pilates . Check their list of boutiques to see if there’s a class you may like. And then, of course, there’s Get Fit 4 Free.

Say it again – Get Fit 4 Free?

Get Fit 4 Free is a month-long campaign which aims to engage the community, create a new challenge and showcase some of the hottest fitness trends. And this February, Sweaty Betty happened to choose something after my own heart: let’s hear it for Ballet Bootcamp.

Twinkle toes? More like cramp in toes.

Twinkle toes? More like cramp in toes.

Having a ball at Ballet Bootcamp 2014

Ballet Bootcamp 2014 is designed by the people behind sleektechnique.com and combines ballet technique with cardio and strength work, so you leave the class feeling like you’ve had an all-over body workout. It also happens to be a great way to stretch and use a range of different muscles. But be warned, as a runner you may experience cramp when you attempt to point your toes.

Alongside the class, which lasts an hour, there is also a video on the site by sleektechnique.com, who host live online classes (think teaching via Skype). You can also buy a range of ballet-inspired dance gear at Sweaty Betty entitled Dance Statement, which, get this – was designed in collaboration with English National Ballet.

Tried and tested

I tried the class at the Muswell Hill Boutique and was amazed by how much my arms ached after holding them in various positions. From testing my balance to using a different set of muscles than running, the “plies”/ “battement tendus” worked my glutes and the next day my muscles were a little bit sore. Santa may not have delivered on the Barrecore classes for Christmas but this class was certainly a wake-up call. Most importantly though, I really enjoyed the hour class and surely that’s what it’s all about. Let’s put it this way, Sweaty Betty got me fit(ter) 4 free with fun thrown in. I could also have a quick look around the store to eye-up any pieces for my shopping list.

Are there any downsides?

It’s a shame that the Ballet Bootcamp 2014 is only running until the end of February (so this week). Make sure you book a class ASAP. Speaking of bookings, you have to call the store a day before to sign up for the events and places fill up very quickly. You’ve got to be pretty quick off the mark.

Trying out Sweaty Betty yoga leggings as I arabesque - they look surprisingly great!

Trying out Sweaty Betty yoga leggings as I arabesque – they look surprisingly great!

Overall a thumbs up

I absolutely love the fact that Sweaty Betty offers its community these free classes and the Get Fit 4 Free campaign. The only downside is the booking. I’ll be trying to dip in and out of a few Sweaty Betty classes this year. Who knows? If ballet is back on the menu, I may try and perfect my arabesque.

 

Why fashion is looking to Chatham, Hackney, East London

21 Feb

As London Fashion Week draws to a close for yet another season and the fashion press draw on their talents to forecast the key trends for autumn/winter 2014 (geometrics, royal blue, loads of layers and folklore – just off the top of my head), I’m looking at East London, Hackney, to a street called Chatham Place for the next big thing in London fashion.

Holly Fulton A/W 2014 (c) catwalking.com

Holly Fulton A/W 2014 (c) catwalking.com

For those in the know, this small road that runs almost parallel to the main road in Hackney, where the Hackney Picturehouse can be found, is home to a number of designer outlets, including Burberry, Pringle and Aquascutum. More Bicester Village than TK Maxx, these stores offer a similar shopping experience to their Bond Street counterparts albeit with a little more stock on display. Expect to find discounts of up to a third off Burberry gear in the store housed in an old factory building. Or head next door to pick up a Pringle jumper, while the store opposite has a fantastic selection of Aquascutum classics with up to 30 percent off the full retail price. But these discounted designer boutiques are only a part of the story. It seems that Hackney are looking to regenerate the entire area with a focus on fashion.

Of course, East London has always had links with the fashion crowd. The former warehouses that once stored tea, coffee and a number of different products are the ideal space to prep a collection, offer reasonable rents (well they did) and so many designers set up their workshops around Hackney, Clapton, Dalston and Stoke Newington.

Then there’s The Hackney Shop – a pop-up store that offers residency to designers wanting to shift some of their work at discounted prices. From Holly Fulton and James Long to Markus Lupfer and Jean-Pierre Braganza, this tiny store on Morning Lane - head towards the massive Tesco and keep walking up – plays host to many a designer who has shown their collection at London Fashion Week. If you’re lucky, you may actually have the chance to meet them as I did last year when talking to a lovely Scottish lady in the shop about how much I loved Holly Fulton’s prints and embellishments, only to find out that said lady was Holly Fulton!

More exciting is the news that Hackney Council gave the go-ahead for a Fashion Hub back in October 2013. You can take a look at what they’ve proposed here:

With promises of apprenticeships and training, jobs, a stitching academy and regeneration for the area, there’s no denying that the aims behind this hub of creativity are far-reaching and surely that is a good thing?  This joint venture between Chatham Works and Manhatten Loft Corporation (who restored St Pancras Hotel) is also being designed by one of Britain’s top architects, David Adjaye. It all sounds so good on paper. Works have already started so it’s a case of wait and see.

While there’s always the worry about the price of property for local residents, as areas regenerate (just look at Dalston, where as five years ago, a two bed would cost around £300k, expect to pay at least half a million today) another part rejoices in the fact that the Hackney Fashion Hub will focus on design and accessibility for people from different backgrounds. Moreover, it will create jobs and boost the local economy, which is surely a good thing.  Most importantly though, it will support start-up businesses and provide mentoring to those who want to succeed in the fashion industry, meaning that we may well see even more talent emerging from the diverse and cosmopolitan city that is London.

London Fashion Week has worked hard to become a must-see on the fashion buyers’ calendar. It has, up until now, be seen as the underdog on the fashion weeks’ calendar. With schemes such as Hackney Fashion Hub on the roadmap that support and nurture fashion designers, our capital will finally keep the talent on home grown soil and show the world that London Fashion means business.

What do you think about the Hackney Fashion Hub? Do you think it’s a good idea for fashion?

Running with heroes: Haile Gebrselassie (the ultimate #energyboost)

19 Feb

There are days that you’ll never forget. Dancing at 4am to Chemical Brothers at Benicassim in 2004, demanding “a moment” of Tony Blair’s time, while my friend captured us on camera in Paris, arriving in Arles with the boyfriend  just in time to watch the Tour de France whizz by, having a swimming lesson with Duncan Goodhew and running alongside Haile Gabrselassie.

Running alongside Haile Gebrselassie

Running alongside Haile Gebrselassie

If you need me to tell you who Haile Gebrselassie is, well let me put it this way: he is a running legend. With an accolade of titles to his name, including Olympic titles, a marathon world record in 2008, which he held for three years, and a talent for running and winning numerous distance races, he is a superhero to runners.

And it’s not just his talent on the racing track that makes him such a character. This Ethiopian running champion (who is arguably the greatest distance runner in history) uses his talent and fame to promote charitable causes. From the Hailemarathon held in Ethiopia to his support for the Righttoplay – a charity based in Ethopia that inspires children orphaned or victims of HIV or Aids through participation in sport, he puts his energy into his running and helping others.

And on Sunday 16 February 2014, I and a bunch of other journos/bloggers were invited by adidas to run alongside him through the London parks (this was prior to the announcement that he would be the pacer at the Virgin London Marathon 2014). Yep, that’s right, I ran alongside this world class athlete for 8k. I’m still pinching myself!

Not only was the sun shining but Haile himself was really approachable and chatted freely while questions were thrown at him. My particular favourite answer was from a question by Laura of Lazy Girl Running. When asked for tips on the London Marathon, he said run the last 5k fast!  Ha, if only this could be the case. Of course, there were photo opportunities and it would be mad not to have your photo taken alongside a legend.

Hanging out with Haile like you do on a Sunday

Hanging out with Haile like you do on a Sunday

After the reasonably-paced run (which was a walk in the park for the great man himself), Haile went through a few stretches and talked essentially about his love of running. For him as for the rest of us there, it is a passion that we all share and his enthusiasm for the sport is infectious. It made sense when he said: “Running is life, Running is medicine”. Running does keep you fit both physically and mentally. It helps you to focus on your goals, relax, is brilliant discipline and, most of all, can be a kind of meditation (for me anyway).

Only this week research published suggested that physical exercise can help prevent the onset of dementia. I’m a little sceptical about the headline but as a runner and advocate of physical activity I seriously hope that there may be something to this claim.  When I’m tired or feeling a bit grumpy, there’s nothing like a run to improve my mood . Talking of improving my mood, I was on cloud nine after this run with Haile.

Another 'pinch me I'm dreaming' moment in London with Haile

Another ‘pinch me I’m dreaming’ moment in London with Haile

One thing is for sure ; meeting and running with Haile Gebrselassie was the ultimate #energyboost and a real motivation for my running goals in 2014. Thank you to adidas for organising the event and allowing me to meet one of my heroes.

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Bring on #boostLondon and brighten up those Parkruns in adidas

15 Feb
Brighten up London in adidas

Brighten up London in adidas

As London Fashion Week begins to unfold, the latest news that trainers are making the headlines is music to my ears. As a fashionista who can’t walk in heels, this is my moment to stand out. Especially now I’m the proud owner of adidas’ Supernova Glide Boost.

Not only do my purple pair tick the boxes on the fashion front – think the hot New Balance mixed with retro adidas – they are also pretty swift on the race course. As I have been discovering on my training runs and at a Parkrun with the rest of the adidas crowd last weekend.

What are Parkruns you may say?

Whether you’re a beginner runner or more experienced, Parkruns are an excellent way to keep up your training and your pace.  Held up and down the country, the 5k race starts at 9am, is free and is manned by a number of exceptional volunteers. It really is a great community to become a part of a reason to get out of bed on a Saturday morning.  Check out the Parkrun website to find one close to you. The Parkrun I participated in last weekend was five laps of Highbury fields. Granted it wasn’t the most exciting course but it certainly left me buzzing afterwards, especially in my new trainers and adidas’ London Marathon kit.

Me on a parkrun

Look, visible boost!

The future is glowing…in orange

As you can see from the picture, the new adidas Virgin London Marathon kit is bold and brightens up even the dullest grey day. Personally, I love bright colours and the combination of glow orange, solar blue and navy is fresh and reminds me for some reason of the tropics (very spring/summer 2013 but still on-trend now). Moreover, it’s really comfortable to wear.

FORMOTION Motion?

The running leggings are thick enough to keep your legs warm during the months of winter training and feature the classic stripes in solar blue plus a pocket large enough for your iPod and keys. Apparently they feature FORMOTION – a “design that moves with you when you run”. I’m not one for technical names – all I know is that they are soft, stretchy and allow me to move with ease. The glow orange fleece is also a handy piece of kit, especially when you’re standing round in the cold waiting for the race to start as we were on the Saturday morning. In fact, I was so warm after three laps that I had to strip down to the blue vest top, which has a very cool racerback details – those adidas bods have thought of everything.

As with all the sportswear that design, it has real thought and technical detail behind it. They think about the end user i.e. me, who just wants something that allows them to run with ease without chafing or overheating. Despite my love of this particular kit, the real icing on the cake of their new collection has to be the adidas Supernova Glide Boost Shoes (they’ll set you back £100). They really are feather-light, fast and with enough grip to handle a few puddles and slippery surfaces. My little factoid of the day, when talking to others about running shoes, is the soles are made from Continental tyres (yep, I have conversations about this). And as I said before, they look pretty awesome too.

Join the #LFW crowd

If you’re in the market for a good pair of running shoes that will see you through on race day, try a pair of adidas Supernova Glide Boost. Even if you’re not a runner, these comfy trainers should be up there with the best of them in the fashion charts.

I’m tempted to wear them with my spring dresses but know I should really wear them for the actual purpose they were made for - to help me smash my PB in 2014. Bring on #Boostlondon.

What do you think of the new adidas Virgin London Marathon kit?

Challenge 2014 #Swimathon – when the going gets tough, have a plan

13 Feb

It would be a lie to say that I’m finding training for the #Swimathon easy. Some days it feels like an uphill struggle. That said, I’ve had a few moments of clarity over the last few weeks, thanks to my session with Duncan Goodhew, advice from an awesome triathlete I know and a training plan.

Oh I love the water, I really do, just need a plan

Oh I love the water, I really do, just need a plan

When it comes to running, I pretty much know by now what I need to do. And while, from time to time, I may take a sidestep from what I need to do, I always keep roughly to the same drills. I’ve even started trying to incorporate speed work and track training, which I hope will pay off. Whatever the case may be, I feel pretty strong during my runs and hope to stay that way.

Swimming is an entirely different kettle of fish. With Duncan’s advice, I know what to do – it’s just the ‘doing’ that I find the most difficult. I’ve been using the float to perfect my stroke and even got kind of used to breathing out under water (it’s ruddy hard) but some days my lungs still feel like they’re going to explode. A tip from a triathlete that I saw at the weekend is proving very useful at the moment. She said breath out underwater like a horse and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. It’s the fear that stops you from breathing properly and once you get over it and feel more relaxed in the water, those lengths become easier. I know that I can do the distance and it is coming…slowly…together – though I know deep down that in order to complete this swimming challenge of 2.5k in the pool, I’ll need a plan.

Luckily for me, #Swimathon has got it covered. I was pleased to find that #Swimathon offer a 10-week personalised plan for a 2.5k on their website. Now I may have just over five weeks to go (that’s half the time) but when I entered my predicted time (well over 1h30), I discovered that the training wasn’t that unrealistic.

Week 5 entitled Endurance week (like it!) looked something like this:

Warm Up 1                x 100 Swim (45 SRI)2                x 100 Swim with last 50 stronger   (30 SRI)3                x 50 Swim with a pullbouy or   float (30 SRI)
Skill Development 4 x 50 Swim Hands in Fists (20 SRI)
Main Set 4 x 100 Swim Strong (30 SRI, PTC 3:30)
Cool Down 2 x 50 Backstroke / freestyle (20 SRI)

When you do the math and break it all down, I need to complete 40 lengths of a 25m pool. No, they’re not all at the same intensity and some are tougher than others but having this plan on paper makes the #Swimathon feel more achievable. If you complete this session twice this week, then it’s a great base for the 2.5k challenge (100 laps of a 25m pool). Or so they say.

Whatever the case maybe, I know I can do 40 lengths comfortably, so this training plan will build my endurance. I just need to keep working on my breathing and, as Duncan says, relax in the pool.

Is anyone else training for the #swimathon 2014? Do you have any tips to help me improve in the water?

Glassworks Studios – why it’s worth a peek

10 Feb

Tucked away at the far end of Monmouth street, just a stone’s throw away from  Seven Dials and the hustle and bustle of Covent Garden is Glassworks Studios - otherwise known as the place where you can pick up a selection of the newest and coolest fashion brands as well as their own label stuff. The brand may be inspired by the hipsters of East London but their Monmouth Street boutique caters for every type of discerning cutstomer.

Offering a mix of designer wear such as Helmut Lang, Sophie Hulme and Zoe Karssen alongside their own Glassworks’ label, this brainchild of New Yorker Lauren Lewis is a real destination to find staple pieces and trend-led fashion. I popped in the other day just for a quick browse and ended up buying a 100% cotton shirt with black detailing around the collar.

Whether you’re after something more avant-garde or a classic that you’ll keep forever, Glassworks Studios can fulfil a number of different briefs. The jewellery collection is also worth a look, especially if you’re after an alternative to all the chunky pieces around of late. Their stockist called Chloe + Sam design pieces that are delicate and understated. Think cute charm necklaces to team with a spring dress or silver fishbone rings. As for their range of accessories, let’s just say that I’ve fallen for the Kason Mohair mittens.

And the best bit of all is the price point. Glassworks Studios is not ludicrously expensive. In fact, you can pick up knits for around £45, dresses start at the £60 mark and the jewellery can be found from a bargainous £20. The website stocks an edited collection of what’s in-store and offers a taste of what you can find. Here are some of my favourite pieces from their collection available online.

1. Glassworks Cloud Print dress, £80

Glassworks Cloud print dress (c) Glassworks Studios

Glassworks Cloud print dress (c) Glassworks Studios

I’m a huge fan of shirt dresses because they are so versatile – you can wear them on casual Sundays or suited and booted. This is made by someone called Cake for Glassworks and looks fab with the floppy hat and ankle boots.

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Equinox made me do it: that is #ETC

6 Feb
Equinox made me do it - not quite this but you get the picture

Equinox made me do it – no, not this but their new #ETC

Equinox made you do what exactly? Yep, this may sound like I’m passing the buck over to the very swish Equinox Fitness Club on High Street Kensington but their latest fitness class certainly uses those muscles you (or I) may have neglected over the past few months. Believe me, the short ‘taster session’ was a wake-up call to my abs and triceps. But please, don’t let me put you off as what I have to say is their latest offering is perhaps one of the most comprehensive fitness programmes I have seen in a while.

Imagine a gruelling bootcamp session mixed with HIIT (High-intensity Interval Training) plus teamwork and you kind of get my drift. All I know is that this half-hour ‘taster’ certainly pushed me to my max and it certainly was tough love for the trainer bellowing instructions my way.

This opportunity to get the “best body possible” or so the blurb around the Equinox Training Camp (#ETC to the Twittersphere) claims takes shape in the form of an hour-long class, led by the motivational fitness instructor Geoff Bagshaw, and is part of a new six-week bootcamp-style program that aims to get you feeling fitter and better than ever.

As I said before, by combining elements of the oh-so-now HIIT with teamwork, this complete body workout burns calories and uses muscles you never knew existed. The moves themselves are not overly complicated and form part of a sequence of drills and core-focused resistance training which everyone can do. From clock lunges and squats to burpees and  a minute of rowing, each exercise can be modified to suit people of all abilities. Essentially, it’s down to you how hard you work.

And here’s the deal-breaker; not only can you burn between 600 to 1,000 calories throughout the hour-long session, the nature of the exercises (HIIT), mean that you continue to burn calories at a higher rate for up to 48 hours after the class.

It is a six-week program, so you do have to be committed to the cause and as with all exercise, you only get what you put in. But after that time, you may well find that your strength, endurance, speed and flexibility have improved dramatically. The Equinox team also believe that the bootcamp-style classes will create a kind of camaraderie among the participants. You get to know them, laugh with them, sweat with them and motivate them along. And if you’re the kind of person who needs a little nudge to get moving or motivated, then the Equinox Training Camp could be for you. Sometimes it’s easier to take direction from the experts to help kick-start your fitness routine. This programme will certainly do that.

Whether you’re looking to improve your current fitness or simply do not know where to start on the road to health, Equinox Training Camp is the catalyst to make you do just that. Believe me, it certainly made me push myself harder. Equinox made me do it.

To find out more click here

I was invited to participate in a half-hour class by Equinox and all views here are my own. It was tough and a great workout for one dimensional cardio addicts like me.

Challenge 2014 #Swimathon – diving in with Duncan Goodhew

3 Feb
Duncan Goodhew teaching me how to swim

Duncan Goodhew teaching me how to swim

As a kid of the 80s and 90s, I have a pretty broad spectrum of British sporting heroes. From Daley Thompson (the number of joysticks I broke while trying to beat my brother at his Decathlon computer on the Amstrad) to Sally Gunnell, these sporting stars motivated me to keep moving. I’ll never forget waiting outside my Nan’s house in the car with my big brother and dad, so we could listen on the radio (old school) to Linford Christie win gold at the Barcelona Olympic Gold.

My memories of swimming stars was dominated by one man: Duncan Goodhew. Imagine my sheer delight, when 20 years later I was offered the chance to not only meet the President of Swimathon 2014 but have my own 1-2-1 session with him in the pool as part of my training for the #Swimathon 2014.  Excited? Not half.

The man who I’d seen on countless children’s TV programmes (Blue Peter, CBBC, Going Live, you name it) was going to spend time with ME and help ME improve the sorry state that is my swimming technique. He was just as I imagined; kind, patient and encouraging.  And I got to hold his gold medal from the 1980 Moscow Olympics. I came out of the session on a swimming high but also more focused about how to make the most of this #Swimathon opportunity.

Here’s how Duncan Goodhew and the #Swimathon made this all possible.

1. The water is an oasis of calm

I’m pretty confident in the water and have been for some years now but before I even jumped in, Duncan helped me to see the crystal-clear water of Ironmonger’s Row Baths, Islington, as a calm environment. By tapping into the times that I have spent in the water and enjoyed it - on holiday in some far-flung location away from rainy London, he instantly made me feel comfortable and relaxed about training. The pre-drill prep talk certainly changed my mindset so I could focus on how fun being in the water is.

2. Go back to the beginning

Like most people, my relationship with swimming harps back to my schooldays and material award badges. I never learnt how to dive, my freestyle (front crawl) is basic (to say the least) and breast stroke is passable. Duncan asked what the goal of the session was. My first thought was, well where do I start? Perhaps a good place would be to work on my breast stroke and make myself more efficient in the water. I am, after all, going to have to swim 100 lengths on 22 March 2014 (the equivalent of 2.5k) as part of my Swimathon challenge. He asked me to swim breast stroke for a length and then freestyle for half a length (which I just about managed). The good news was my technique for breast stroke wasn’t bad, in fact, my pull – that’s the arms – was quite good (you have no idea how great that made me feel to hear this from an Olympic champion), it was my timing which was slightly off. He also told me kindly (and not using these words) that my freestyle was salvageable. So after all my concerns, there was a way forward. It would just mean going back to the start.

Me and my friend the float

Me and my friend the float

3. Use a float

As Duncan explained, water is amazing in that it supports your body. Astronauts train in water because the buoyancy created allows them to experience the weightlessness of zero gravity in space. The key to swimming well is to try and make your body as aerodynamic as possible. This is where the float comes in. Yes, you know what I’m talking about – the polystyrene objects, usually found at the side of pools up and down the country. Everyone learns better by taking things one step at a time and to nail my swimming technique, it would be a case of breaking down the stroke into pull (arms) and legs. And, of course, a float is a super-useful in this process. Not only does it keep your body horizontal by supporting your weight, floats can also stabilize your body, ensuring it’s in the right position as you glide through the water. It’s also a good way of isolating one part of your body and giving the rest a bloody good workout.

4. Perfecting my breast stroke

Ha, as if! No matter how hard Duncan tried, it was going to take more than an hour to perfect my stroke. He did, however, give me two drills to take away and practice in my own time:

The first  – I like to call puff. Essentially, it focuses on my kick during breast stroke. You hold a float out in front of you and every time you kick with your legs you breathe out quickly. This action of puffing out helps you snaps your legs out behind hard and fast to make you as aerodynamic in the water as possible. Or that’s the theory anyway. I have to say it’s a lot harder than it sounds but I have been working on snapping my legs together in the water.

The second exercise focuses on the timing of my stroke. As I said before, my pull is pretty good. My timing has a lot to be desired so Duncan taught me a drill of one small quick pull followed by two very quick leg snaps. Again, it’s tough but certainly something for me to take away.

5. And finally,  getting onto that freestyle

I’ve always shied away from freestyle as the breathing just seems like a minefield. While I’ve kind of mastered my breath while running, moving in the water is a whole different matter. Once again, Duncan took me back to basics. Old habits do die hard but with a little bit of determination and Duncan’s drills, I’m determined to be able to swim freestyle confidently in a few months time. Once again, the float came in handy with this drill.

By holding the float with both arms straight out in front of me in the pool (making an arrow shape in the water), I could really focus on the stroke: as in arm movement, head turn and breathe. It was a struggled but after a few half lengths, my body started to become attuned to the action of moving my arms one at a time through the water  and turning my head after two strokes to breathe. That said, I knew this was only the beginning. Duncan did say that I’ve grasped the idea (thank God), but as with everything practice takes perfect. And that is exactly what I will do.

Not only has being a part of the #Swimathon 2014 encouraged me to swim more, it’s also pushing me to try harder and learn different strokes, so that I can enjoy making the most of being in the water.

My beauty stash: Pulp-Friction Foaming Fruity Body Scrub

29 Jan
Soap & Glory Pulp-Friction

Soap & Glory Pulp-Friction

It may be winter at the moment but I’m not letting the fact that I have to wrap up outside stop me from flashing the flesh when indoors. But not in the way you think. While I could normally hide under layers while running in the winter, this year’s Challenge 2014 - #Swimathon2014 means that I am spending more and more time in my swimming costume and chlorinated water. And you know what that means? Yep, those classic winter skin problems of flakiness, dryness and irritation have only intensified. This year there is no way of escaping the fact that my skin needs a bit of TLC. Step in one of my favourite scrubs for dry and flaky skin: Soap & Glory’s Pulp-Friction Foaming Fruity Body Scrub.

Scrubber, you say?

Packed with skin-polishing ingredients, including pumice, fig powder, peppermint oil, lemonade tree water, orange waterjuice and what the team behind Soap & Glory like to call vitaminballs (antioxidants vitamins A, C and E, all of which are beneficial for your skin), this treatment tackles those really dry patches. As an exercise junkie, I often find myself trying to incorporate ways of keeping my skin healthy that don’t take too long. I wish I had the time to luxuriate in a warm bath, then again, I kind of like cramming my day with activity. Anything that can remove the hard skin on my ungainly feet (and hands) is extremely useful. This scrub has really helped smooth my tootsies and heels without too much effort.

Soap & Glory’s Pulp-Friction Foaming Fruity Body Scrub is also tough at removing flakiness yet gentle enough to use on my currently under-exposed legs, arms and back, I feel like this body scrub gets to grips with all my winter skin gripes.

Despite all the benefits of using Soap & Glory’s Pulp-Friction Foaming Fruity Body Scrub on my bod, including a soft and silky finish, it’s too abrasive to use on my visage (unfortunately).

A squeaky clean polish

To make the most of your polish, get wet first and then apply a small smidge (about the size of an edaname bean) to your skin in circular motions. It may take slightly longer than usual shower cream but once you’ve attacked those dry and flaky areas of skin and rinsed it off, you’ll notice that your skin feels softer and squeaky clean. I use it about three times a week and this seems to have made a difference. Warning: make sure you rinse off properly. There have been times when I’ve been in meetings and discovered a splodge of pumice on my neck. It may smell divine but not what you want when presenting your findings to a room full of people.

Smells like…

Talking of smells, I have to say this product packs a powerful punch of fruity goodness in the fragrance department. It’s fresh and fruity but not at all sickly-sweet. Whatever they have bunged in to create the Fruitigo fragrance is the perfect balance – it makes you feel clean and confident all day long.

Price

As with all Soap & Glory products, this scrub falls within the mid-range price bracket (£8 RRP). That said, you do get a lot of bang for your buck. One tube lasts about four months. I have to say that this is  definitely one exfoliator worth paying for.

How do you keep your skin feeling tip-top over the winter months? 

Challenge 2014: #Swimathon – jumping in at the deep end

24 Jan

It was going to be a pretty easy January. Take it slow and steady, work up my mileage, throw in a few cross country races and then I’ll be able to ace that Paris Marathon (or so the theory goes). But then again, I never like to take it easy. Marathons, duathlons, yoga in The London Eye, you name it and I’m pretty much up for it (within reason). So when the team behind the #Swimathon (the UK’s fundraising swim for Sport Relief) invited me to take part in this year’s event, I accepted (with slight hesitation) to take the plunge. Here’s why:

Swimming costume

My gear is ready but am I?

1. It will motivate me to jump right in

I love the water, I love swimming, my only concern is that I’m not that good at it. I’m not an expert cyclist either but I do it so regularly that I know what to expect. Even when I was in training for the London Duathlon in 2013, I didn’t think that the challenge was beyond my capabilities. Some people may say that you have the engine for it, and yes, running distance does help with building up your stamina. On the other hand, swimming is a completely new discipline and as much as I’d love to be a graceful butterfly in the water, I’m much more of a doggy paddler. That being said, I’m game. Bring on the Swimathon 2014.

2. It’s all about the timing…as in finding the time to train You say ‘junk miles’, I say ‘my time to think’. I admit it, I’m a bit of a running junkie and that may not be the best for me in terms of performance. Not only will this #Swimathon get me used to a brand new discipline, it has also had an affect on my training schedule. If I’m aiming to complete 2.5k in the pool, I need to be training seriously at least once, if not twice a week. Time to swap my running shoes (once or twice a week) for goggles, a swimming costume and cap.

3. And a pool to train in

Unlike cycling or running, where you use your own equipment, one of the key ingredients to swimming is the pool. Where to train? How to get there? The cost implications and timing to get there? In terms of logistics, swimming is the most difficult discipline to train for unless you live near a beach or lake or are lucky and rich enough to own your own pool.  I do live near Hampstead Heath, which is famous for its Ladies’ pond but the thought of swimming in sub-10 degrees centigrade really does not appeal at this moment in time. Instead of jumping into freezing cold water outdoors (I really admire those brave enough to swim outdoors at this time of year) I’ve been using the Swimathon site to find pools near me and close to my work, so I know where to go to get the lengths in.

4. Faff, what faff?

As I said before, I enjoy being in the water but the whole routine around going swimming has, up until now, put me off massively. Not only do you have to find a pool and get there, you have to ensure you have a change of clothes with you, goggles (for contact lens wearers), change for the locker, a towel, swimming cap if necessary…and then there’s the aftermath. Yes, the thought that you have to carry a sodden costume around with you all day when swimming before work. No matter what you do, you always seem to whiff ever so slightly of chlorine. Need I go on? It’s these thoughts that have prevented me from swimming regularly and I have to say that the majority of them are wrong. You do need to be slightly more organised and you may whiff a little of chlorine but there are now machines at the swimming baths that squeeze your swimming costume dry. The goggles are not a huge problem and  swimming before work sets you up for the day. All in all, sometimes the faff is worth it. 5.

5. A new goal and a great cause

Let’s not forget that the Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Swimathon is a fantastic cause to be involved in. The fact that it has been running since 1986 is testament to the success of the event and all the charities who have benefited. Sport Relief helps disadvantaged and vulnerable people turn their lives around and I’m so pleased to be able to talk about it. And I’m only one of thousands of people who will be jumping in the pool during the weekend of 21 to 23 March 2014 to complete the distance of 2.5k. It’s a different type of goal for me and that’s what makes the Swimathon so special. Why don’t you join me and everyone else?

Get involved: There’s still time to sign up for the Swimathon. You can choose to do 1.5k, 2.5k, 5k or just swim – remember it’s all about taking part. You can also enter a relay team and make a day of it with your mates or work colleagues. For more info, head to the Swimathon site here. And your tips are always welcome to this newbie swimmer who is about to take the plunge.

The Swimathon 2014 is just one of the events that I am training for as part of my Challenge 2014. I am also hellbent on beating my marathon PB at Paris in April and breaking sub-42 in a 10k. Oh and then there’s the Thunder Run….It’s going to be a Challenge 2014. Suggestions welcome, as long as they’re not along the lines of you’re crazy, as I kind of know that already.

Yoga in the clouds (London Eye with Lift London and Bodyism)

23 Jan
'Lift London' experience

‘Lift London’ experience

So what were your New Year’s Resolutions (if you can still remember them)? Now I’m not cynic and like most people see the New Year as a way to reassess where I’m going, what I’m doing and where I want to be. When the clock struck midnight, I kind of promised myself that I would try and incorporate more of an equilibrium within my running routine. And while I haven’t been able to take on the #21daysofyoga challenge as set-up by my wonderful friend Charlie from TheRunnerBeans, I’ve signed up for the Swimathon and participated in non-running activities, including this weekend’s ultimate experience: Yoga on The London Eye with Lift London and Bodyism.

What was Saturday’s experience all about?

According to The London Eye’s website, ‘Lift London offered Londoners the chance to blow the blues away with some PMA’ (that’s positive mental attitude). To be honest, January has been quite kind to me so far, so I’m almost bursting at the seams with positivity. What really attracted me to the yoga class was the fact that it was a chance to throw some (badly balanced) yoga shapes on the London Eye. In all my years of living in London (let’s say eight), I have also never been on the London Eye. It seemed to tick the boxes of being more adventurous and trying something something new in 2014. Plus it was also the price of a standard ticket (£17.96 when booked online), so why the hell not?

Yoga in a pod?

Yoga in a pod?

Pre-lift off
Luckily for me, I arrived early enough to get into the first yoga session of the day. I then noticed the lovely bunch from FoodandLycra and Lunges&Lycra (where I found out about the event) and Lululemon and waited for a while before we could enter the pod. What would it be like? Would I be able to balance as we reached the spectacular heights of the London Eye? We were all handed yoga mats and trundled down to the entry, where we were swiftly taken to the front of the queue. I may have been in my lycra but at least I didn’t have to wait around in cold.

During flight

Admittedly, it was a bit of a squash in the pod, with little room for anything else than the several yoga mats laid out on the floor. But all in all, the flight was pretty smooth. And once in the zone and listening to the wise words of Danai Kougiouli from Bodyism, I did feel reinvigorated. There were some hilarious moments, especially when we were at the same height as another pod and all the onlookers seemed to be looking quizzically at us as we performed everything from the Warrior to Downward Dog. I also loved being able to gaze over London and let my mind focus on certain spots. If you haven’t already been on The London Eye, it’s definitely one for your London Bucket List.  And as for the yoga, it was pretty awesome.

Danai Kougliani from Bodyism shows us how it's done

Danai Kougliani from Bodyism shows us how it’s done

Especially when I think of what I took away the experience; the idea that you can physically and mentally see things from a different perspective by practicing yoga. It seemed pretty obvious when I was twisting myself into a yoga position and taking in a different London vista. Perhaps it’s time to explore the many possibilities out there so that 2014 will be the best year yet.

What do you think? What changes are you making to your life in 2014, if any?

That's me, smiling

That’s me, smiling

By the way, Friday (24 January 2014) is National Compliment Day. And while it may be just another “made-up” day by the marketing team at Dove to get us to buy more of their products (which I think are pretty good, see my review here), the stats behind us Brits (as in ladies) receiving compliments is slightly alarming. Apparently, some 40 percent of us feel embarrassed when someone says something nice about us to our faces. What’s more, one in five women in the UK can’t remember the last time they received a compliment. Pretty shocking, huh? Well, I will definitely be sharing the love around come Friday #MyBeautifulSelf as I know so many women who are empowered, beautiful and deserve to be shouted about.


This week (January 17 2014) I…

17 Jan
#swimathon

Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Swimathon leaflet

1. Dived headfirst into the deep end

By joining the Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Swimathon Blogger Squad.  As someone who is way more comfortable running through “ponds” than swimming in them, this will definitely be a challenge of a different kind. What it does mean is a little adjustment to my training schedule to include my own interpretation of breast stroke (let’s call it doggy paddling with an edge).

You’ll be noticing a few more posts about “swimming” in the run-up to the event taking place all over the country throughout the weekend of 23-25 March. Why don’t you join me?  Seriously, if I (neither graceful nor efficient in the water) am confident enough to have a go, then surely you can give it a whirl. You’ll also help raise money for some really worthy causes that help extremely disadvantaged and vulnerable people turn their lives around.

Find out how by going to the Swimathon website here.

 

2. Spied with my little eye this wonderful new store opening in Covent Garden

Lululemon opening in Covent Garden

Lululemon opening in Covent Garden

 

When it comes to fashion and fitness, it’s all happening in the UK right now. And nothing pleases me more than an opening of a new store that promises to synchronise two of my favourite things in perfect harmony. Now I know that Lululemon already have a store on Floral Street (and what a friendly Canadian welcome I receive from their team every time I visit) and have run with their gang in South Kensington, but this huge retail space that you can see in the picture is situated on Long Acre, one of Covent Garden’s busiest streets. Spring cannot come too soon this year as really will prove to be the season of new beginnings and a dazzling new Lululemon London retail space.

adidas adizero boost trainers

adidas adizero boost trainers

 

3. Took my brand new adidas adizero mega trainers on a test driveThese trainers, no, let me rephrase that, little beauties are simply bliss to run in. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, the BOOST cushioning combined with the Continental tyre sole puts a real spring in your step. Lightweight and airy, you feel like you are wearing slippers not some trainer that has been put through vigorous tests to be the best that it can be. And I guess it’s this freedom of comfort that really helps you perform when it counts. I’m trialling mine sparingly as I don’t want to wear them down before my real challenges of the year – the Paris and Geneva Marathon. But they’ll definitely be my first port of call when I’m in need of speed to break those PB barriers down.

My sales picks of 2014 (If I had a bigger budget)

9 Jan

So I’ve made some suggestions about how to shop smart in the the 2014 sales and unfortunately I’ve already spent all my budgeted on a new mini laptop (yay for me, boo for my wardrobe). With £30 off and the option to pick it up at my local Tesco express, I couldn’t have been happier at the fantastic deal from Tesco Direct. However, I do wish sometimes that I had a little more money stashes away, especially after finding these fantastic fashion bargains online. Here are my sales picks of 2014 (if I had a million dollars/struck a book deal/ simply had a bigger budget).

1. White poplin buffalo shirt, Surface To Air, was £130 now £78, available online at Avenue 32

White poplin shirt from Surface to Air, Image © Avenue 32

White poplin shirt from Surface to Air, Image © Avenue 32

When it comes to versatile buys, you can’t beat a classic crisp white shirt. This poplin cotton piece from the Parisian-based (of course) brand Surface To Air is chic, understated and would look fabulous with a pair of tight black trousers, statement necklace and high-heeled boots. What’s more, it’s now on sale for just £78 at Avenue 32. Grab it while you can.

2. Sonia By Sonia Rykiel silk cotton shirt dress in evening lights print, was £315 now £204.50, available online at ASOS

Sonia Rykiel dress, Image © ASOS

Sonia Rykiel dress, Image © ASOS

Granted, even with this discount, £200 is a lot to spend on a dress. It’s probably the same you’d end up spending on a weekend to Paris (Eurostar plus hotel). However, this is the kind of dress you’d pull out from your wardrobe year after year, wearing it over tights, leggings or even bare-legged.  This dress will skim your thighs and flatter your shape, making it a go-to if you’re ever having one of those days where you don’t want to have to worry about a little pot-belly,

3. Travis dress, Ba&sh, was £155 now £49, from Atterley Road

Travis dress by Ba&sh, Image © Atterley Road

Travis dress by Ba&sh, Image © Atterley Road

Treat yourself to a new LBD at the bargainous price of £49. This Travis dress by Ba&sh is just one of those things to add to your capsule wardrobe and, thanks to its flattering silhouette and neckline, will be something you’ll come back to again and again.

4. Vikro animal woven silk jacket, InWear, was £159 now £39, from Atterley Road

Vikro jacket, Image © Atterley Road

Vikro jacket, Image © Atterley Road

Wanna show off your wild side without being compared to Bet Lynch? Invest in this silk beauty from InWear. At £39, you really can’t go wrong. With soft tailoring and relaxed fitted lines, this blazer made from a silk mix will instantly add a sharp and confident edge to your outfit.

5. Cashmere pocket sweater, Jaeger, was £160 now £99

Cashmere jumper by Jaeger, Image © Jaeger

Cashmere jumper by Jaeger, Image © Jaeger

As I said in my smart sales 2014 guide, if you can stretch the pennies, get your hands on a quality cashmere knit. Forget the novelty Christmas jumpers and head to somewhere like Jaeger, which currently has a fantastic selection of styles that will never go out of fashion. From cobalt blue and Barbie pink to softer pastels and classic camel, step up the luxe factor in your wardrobe with soft-to-touch cashmere.

6. NW3 Chaffinch trouser, Hobbs, was £119 now £50

NW3 chaffinch trousers, Image © Hobbs

NW3 chaffinch trousers, Image © Hobbs

Two years ago, I wouldn’t have given Hobbs a second glance but after a storming year in 2013, their collections are just getting stronger and stronger. They are one company that have married the latest trends with their core brand identity. The result is a mix of fashion and heritage. Not only are these Chaffinch trousers from their NW3 line a real steal (£50), they are also a classic shape that can be worn from day to night.

7. Marc By Marc Jacobs Etta print skirt, was £260 now £156, from My-Wardrobe.com

Etta skirt by Marc by Marc Jacobs © My-Wardrobe

Etta skirt by Marc by Marc Jacobs © My-Wardrobe

Put some colour back into your wardrobe with this 40s inspired skirt from Marc By Marc Jacobs. Again, it’s at the more expensive end of the budget but think about what you could team this piece with. A rollneck in winter, white blouse in summer or even a smart silk t-shirt, the possibilities are endless. It’s also modest enough to wear to work as it’s not too short and has a cute fish-tail flare section at the back.

8. Funnel neck coat with belt, Lauren by Ralph Lauren, was £395 now £296, from House of Fraser

Camel coat by Lauren by Ralph Lauren, Image © House of Fraser

Camel coat by Lauren by Ralph Lauren, Image © House of Fraser

I love the idea of owning a camel coat but I’m such a mucky pup that I’ve had the guts to actually buy one. If I did, then this wool funnel neck piece from Lauren by Ralph Lauren would be my choice. It’s just the right length for you to be able to move freely but also incorporates a high neck to stop the wind from chilling your bones.

9. Ovid silk sweatshirt, Whistles, was £80 now £65

Whistles Ovid silk sweater, Image © Whistles

Whistles Ovid silk sweater, Image © Whistles

While you’re not making a massive saving on this purchase, you are buying a piece that is perfect for those days when you want to look “casual but smart”. Yep, the key to getting this right lies in the fabric. This top is 100 percent silk so it’s not really for lounging around the house in but I love the sporty feel of it. Teamed with a skirt and pumps or even jeans, the ink-coloured pattern on the front and contrast panel at the back makes it one of those pieces to return to season after season.

10. Levi’s jean modern demi curve, SoJean.co.uk, was £80 now £56

Levi's jeans, Image © SoJean

Levi’s jeans, Image © SoJean

If you know your denim brands and your size, head to SoJean.co.uk, where you will find an array of denim at discounted prices. I’ve picked out Levi’s because I like the way they fit on my rather short stumpy legs but you can also find Diesel, 7 For All Mankind, J Brand, Salsa jean and more. There’s even an option on the site that allows you to find the best denim for your shape. Head to Fitting Room and give it a whirl.

Do you have anything you picked up in the sales this year that is a real steal? Please share if you dare.

Please note that these items may not be available for long and also the prices are subject to change. 

Shop smart in the sales 2014

8 Jan

Christmas is over so let the sale shopping commence. Even if you have hit the shops already to hunt down the hottest bargains (who can blame you really as they were slashing their prices pre-Christmas due to poor sales exacerbated by the poor British weather), here’s some advice to take heed of so you don’t throw your pennies down the drain. Yup, you guessed it here’s how to shop smart in the sales 2014.

Barbour jacket

My treasured Barbour jacket

1. Compare the prices

Stop thinking that this only applies to techno gizmos and kitchen gadgets (TVs, microwaves, laptops and George Foreman grills etc.) and start applying this mentality to everything that you’ve got your beady eye on. Yes, it’s a bit extra work but you may save even more money. Let’s look at my Barbour Gold label Alice Temperley jacket as a case in point. Ever since I’d seen this luxury puffa-style jacket with a furry hood online, I knew it belonged in my wardrobe. The only sticky point was the rather high price-tag. So I waited…and waited…and waited…until one day, low and behold, it was on sale on My-Wardrobe Then my instincts kicked in and told me that if it was on sale on this lux shopping site, it would be on sale elsewhere. Come Boxing Day that year, I used the mighty search engines at my disposal and found the beaut for about £30 less at none other than Harrods.  It may have taken me a few extra minutes (like 30 or something) but the savings were worth it.

2. Keep within your budget

It is oh so easy to get carried away when shopping in the sales. Oh, it’s only £25 down from £75 and I can’t resist this Liberty scarf that was £250 now £125, and what about those shoes, my goodness, I need them in my life too and there a snip at £200 down from £400. STOP. BREATHE. BUDGET. Think realistically what you can afford to spend before you hit the sales and don’t be drawn in to overspend as you may well pay for it later. Whether that means buying one key item at a discounted price or an outfit, make a decision on the amount of money beforehand. A good way of doing this is by simply withdrawing cash from the machine and once it’s gone, it’s gone. If you don’t like carrying large amounts of dosh on your person, be strict with yourself. By sticking to your guns, you’ll also help youself make decisions between purchases that you really will wear and use or flash-in-the-pan, once seen then forgotten.

3. Take a trip to the store

When it’s cold and wet, the last thing you really want to do is traipse around the shops getting sodden as you try to avoid the frequent downpours. But when it comes to clothes shopping, heading to the shops may save you time and money in the long run. Think about it, once there you can try things on to make sure they fit. Yes, the queues to the changing rooms are a major downside but at least you don’t have to head to your local post office to send that item back if it doesn’t come up to scratch. What’s more, you can snap up the cut-price items there and then. I love the ease of shopping online and certainly take advantage when it comes to technology and premium homeware (I’m currently hunting down some Le Creuset stainless steel pans and have been amazed at what has surfaced on the web) but am also aware that sometimes you can save more by stepping outside your front door. Department stores are always a good place to start. The sheer amount of stock they have, concessions and the like, means you don’t have to go from store to store. If you’re shopping with your partner, there maybe something for them too and you may find even more of a discount on premium brand items. Most big retailers (I’m talking chain boutiques such as Whistles, Jaeger etc…) do not share their stock with their  online stores, which means you may discover something that is no longer available on their web shop. I swear I saw an amazing pencil skirt for £30 (bargain) from Whistles in their Hampstead store, which is not available online. So make a plan, get there early and you can revamp your wardrobe in 2014 for less.

4. Choose wisely  

When it comes to sales shopping, there is always the urge to spend money on something because it is reduced. In a way, it’s like being drunk. Flexing that credit card seems like a good idea at the time, throw caution to the wind, it’s only money at the end of the day, and we’re talking 75 percent off. But when you’ve sobered up and finally unpacked your shopping bags from the sales, you find that even with the massive discounts buying that item was a mistake. But to save face, you shove the said dress to the back of the wardrobe and come back to it time after time, but it never really cuts the mustard. Hmm, it’s a bit too revealing, , too young, too conservative, not the right shade of grey, whatever the excuse, the fact is you’re never really going to wear it. I’ve been there and done it many a time. You’ve got to be brutally honest with yourself and go for pieces that you know you will wear again and again. And they may well be at the top end of your spending budget. I’m talking cashmere sweaters (now £99 at Jaeger), designer jeans (80 percent off at Sojeans.co.uk), classic shirt dresses, pumps, items that do cost a bob or two. Then again, I make sure that I look after them and wear them well. You don’t have to be a fashion killjoy and you can always find something that will suit your personality. I picked up an amazing Holly Fulton acid yellow dress from a pop-up store in Hackney. I’ve worn it once already and know it will have a few outings this year. Just ask yourself, will I wear it? And is it really worth that amount of money?

5. Take stock

Oh yes, the only time I will mix fashion and audit in one sentence. Go through your wardrobe and chuck out any old pants, holey socks and items you wear regularly and replace them with equally decent but discounted clothing. No matter how many times you wash that white shirt, it’s starting to look a little grey and grubby around the cuff and collar. Pass it onto your local charity store or homeless shelter and stock up on those basics.  I also like to pick up new sportswear at this time of year (Sweaty Betty fans get in there quick as their sale ends tonight January 8). You may tell yourself that you will sew up the holes in your socks. Really? Again find a way to recycle them (I had a quick look around the internet and apparently St Michael’s Hospice accepts old socks) and buy yourself some decent new pairs. The New Year is a great time to both detox and retox your wardrobe.

Have fun while the sales still last and shop smart to save more. Do you have any sales tips or bargains you want to share with me?

2013: The year that….

2 Jan
Boutique Sport 'After Dark' Run

Boutique Sport ‘After Dark’ Run as taken by my friend Eric Knopp

1. I joined a running group

Boutique Sport’s Whole Food Run Club to be exact. Every Monday evening from February to April, we’d meet for a 6.5-9k run around town and then head back to the wonderful Whole Foods’ store near Piccadilly Circus for coconut water, snacks and chat. Not only did I meet like-minded people but I made a few friends along the way. It really was an awesome way of bringing together women who simply love to run.

Enjoying the sunset on Mirissa beach, Sri Lanka

Enjoying the sunset on Mirissa beach, Sri Lanka

2.  I travelled… 

To Paris, Sri Lanka, Aberdeen and Girona, Spain (Catalonia). As Saint Augustine of Hippo said “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”. I managed to plough through a good chapter this year. Paris is and always will be one of my favourite cities in the world and ever since I lived there from 2003-4, I have to go back at least once a year to walk along the Seine, flex my credit card in Galleries Lafayette or soak up the atmosphere in one of the many brasseries. But the big holiday was our two week tour of Sri Lanka. It had everything that we wanted: sun, seaside, wildlife, spectacular sites and tasty vegetarian food. From climbing up the famous Sigiriya rock, whale watching and going on safari to trekking to the famous World’s End, visiting Dambulla’s cave temples and dining on the white, sandy beaches of Mirissa, lit up by twinkly fairy lights, Sri Lanka was the complete package. After a brief hiatus on home soil, we headed north to Aberdeen for a weekend and its bleak and beautiful surroundings. And finally, south to Girona in Spain later on in the year.

3. We celebrated good times

I was born in September 1982 and as the school year in the UK falls from September to August there were many a 30th birthday party celebration to be had. Coupled with my big bro’s spectacular wedding in Girona and a surprise but equally intimate marriage of a very good friend in Nottingham, 2013 was indeed packed full of parties and celebrations.

4. And finally moved on

Moving on can be hard but once you’ve made that commitment to change, it’s worth sticking with. Moving home was one of the best decisions we made in 2013. And while we no longer have the lure of Stoke Newington Church Street and all its bars, restaurants and cute vintage shops on our doorstep, we now have quiet, trees and a space to think. We also have a brand new project 2014 and I’m sure I’ll be moaning about the paint in my hair, dust and many trips I’ve had to make by foot and by bus to Homebase in the not too distant future. But my, oh  my, our new home is going to look spectacular.

Me and my medal

Me and my medal

5. I got my running mojo back

It was tough at the beginning. What with a pretty snowy and cold start to 2013 and plenty of excuses not to push myself plus (what was in my eyes) a disastrous London Marathon, I thought I’d lost the running plot. But never one to be defeated, I ran an insane marathon pretty soon after, which consisted of laps around a cycle track. Then as my final affirmation that I can run that kind of distance, I tackled the very hilly (and picturesque) South Downs marathon. Oh and just for fun, I decided to sign up for the Royal Parks Ultra Marathon in October – 50k of trails across London’s beautiful Royal Parks – and completed it in 4:08:09 (not bad at all).  I also nailed my first Duathlon, got back into cross country and was placed in a few 10ks. It has to be said that 2013 was one of my best years for running.

6. And my confidence

It always surprised me when I first arrived at Durham University (pretty posh) at how so many of the kids there were so confident of their abilities. Maybe it had something to do with their schooling or their upbringing. I was always focused on what I wanted to do but somehow lost this inner belief to put myself out there. I could never connect the two and questioned whether I was really good enough to do this or that. On paper (academically at least) I was a high achiever but I missed out on opportunities to meet these expectations in terms of my career. I was way too modest for my own good and this persistent attitude of being what a colleague once called a “quiet overachiever” haunted me throughout my 20s. For one thing, I’m not all that quiet and as for achievements, I feel like I’ve yet to make my mark. So in 2013, I swept aside all these doubts or what I think of now as nonsense and started putting myself out there. And it will pay off in 2014.

7. I enjoyed writing my blog about running

Ok, let me be honest here, I don’t always enjoy writing. When faced with a choice between writing my blog and trying to re-hash copy that hasn’t been explained or briefed properly, I know which one would be more preferable. I need to earn a crust somehow and actually, I stick by the idea as told by Heather Rabbatts, director of the Football Association, to Woman’s Hour that women should always have their own liquor money. But I’ve really enjoyed sharing my race reports, tips and insights on running in 2013. I also attended conferences with Write This Run to help improve what I write about and meet other running bloggers. If anything, 2013 was the year that opened my eyes to the amazing running and fitness community in the UK and beyond.

8. And fashion and beauty

Like most people, I have many interests and alongside getting muddy and sweaty, I not only love to look glam but enjoy finding out the history behind fashion labels. Not everyone can pull off what they see on the catwalk but, in my mind anyway, they can take elements of these creations and find their own voice in the way they express themselves visually. This year, I’ve really enjoyed taking a look at some of my favourite French fashion brands, (Oxyde, Maje, Tara Jarmon,  Bensimon, ba&sh) participating in Rentez-Vous and BuyMyWardrobe events and generally indulging in my passion for fashion and beauty. That being said, I think it’s time to redefine my wardrobe in 2014 as it’s currently bulging at the seams.

Photo of me as taken by Sarah Carpenter

Photo of me as taken by Sarah Carpenter

9. I became a model

I’m not deluded. I’m both too old and too short to be a model but that I had loads of fun getting all dolled up so my lovely photographer friend could take pictures of me for an exhibition or posing for the wonderful BuyMyWardrobe crowd. When I’m old and crinkly, I can look back on these photos and pretend that I looked like that everyday instead of a bespectacled scarecrow in running gear.

10. I looked forward but also lived in the moment

I’m a planner, as in I like to plan and organise things, and am in constant possession of a notebook with umpteen ‘to-do’ lists inside. This is not a bad thing because if you break down your tasks/goals, it becomes a whole lot easier to finally achieve them. The downside to this constant planning/organising is that you often forget to appreciate the here and now, what you have, the simple things like what it feels like to run on a warm summer’s day. You also worry when you’re not doing anything seemingly productive. Although I’ll never shake off this zest for “what next?”, I’ve tried to take a few steps back and enjoy what I’m doing, like I did to the max on New Year’s Eve 2013.

11. We became members of the Royal Academy of Arts

So what, big deal, you may say but I would reply it is so worth it if you enjoy going to exhibitions. Not only is the RA, slap bang in the middle of Central London (only a stone throw away from Oxford street), they also have some amazing shows not to mention the Summer Exhibition. The membership may be under my partner’s name but every time he goes, he can invite a guest (aka moi!). You’ll also receive money off in the shop and a fabulous new bar has recently opened for a cocktail or two.  And finally, you can just dump your bags for free in the cloakroom and waltz straight in to the exhibition without having to queue.

12. I discovered PayasUgym

The problem: you’ve planned a long run through town or a race the other side of town but also want to spend time with your loved one, which involves going into town. You’re worried that the 40  minute journey there and back will eat into your day, which equates to moaning about your priorities. You have three solutions: either suck it up and do the there and back journey, take a shower at home  and suffer with Mr Grumpy all afternoon, mooch around town in your sweaty training gear and not only suffer from Mr Grumpy complaining that you haven’t made an effort but also feeling too subconscious and smelly to try on that must-have dress from Tara Jarmon. Or plan to meet in town, find a council gym or PayasUgym nearby, pack a bag of clean clothes plus wash stuff with you and have a wash at the chosen gym.  The downside of this is that you have to carry your stuff with you all day but the upside is that you don’t have to dramatically change your training plans, you don’t waste time and you can arrive to meet your loved one looking and feeling great.

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Running in the dark

23 Dec

Even if you have all the best intentions in the world and are sticking like glue to your marathon training plan, it can be a struggle to get out of bed when it’s winter.

Picture of dawn breaking

Picture of dawn breaking or Breaking Dawn for those Twilight fans out there (moi? Never, tee hee hee).

For one thing, to quote a line from a festive song, the weather outside is frightful. Not only is it cold but with what feels like Arctic wind chills and thrashing floods of rain, it’s little wonder that any of us want to step outside the front door. Ok, ok, it’s true that with the right equipment you can get over being thrown a weather curveball. The real killer at this time of year is the night skies. Yup, you guessed it; the fact that you’re having to run in the dark.

As we all know, there’s a fear (perhaps from childhood) of strangers in the night. And it affects runners both pre- and post-work. During the summer, when everyone is out and about, running outside is a no-brainer.  The sunshine and warm weather invites you to head to your local park for a quick jog. But when it’s cold, dark and a little bit grizzly, training outside is not so appealing.

You could, of course, resort to the treadmill in  your local gym and when it snows this is the most sensible option. However, if you want to seriously put your body through its paces in prep for those spring marathons, you need to get your body ready for those roads.

While the shorter days and longer nights cannot be changed by human power (the position of the earth on its axis dictates over this type of stuff and perhaps not even Superman, if he ever existed, could manoeuvre the globe into the right position so the UK would receive equal measures of day and night, phew!), we can take a few of the following safety measures to make us feel more confident when running in the dark.

1. Run in packs

Join a club, gather up some running friends and hit the roads together. It’s all about safety in numbers. And who knows? You may meet some fabulous new people who share your enthusiasm for running and can also offer you tips on facing that Spring marathon. There are plenty of clubs, which cater for all types of runners. From clubs (Serpentine, Highgate Harriers, Mornington Chasers etc…) to running groups associated with sportswear brands (Nike, Lululemon, Sweaty Betty), you’re sure to find one suitable for you. They normally supply high-viz vests and a front and backend runner who will guide you throughout the run so you can concentrate on building up your mileage slowly but surely.

2. Know your route

Not everyone can commit to training at a specific time and a specific day of the week. One of the reasons they took up running was because it allowed flexibility and something they could fit in as and when. Or they use it as a form of transport: running to work, from work to home or both. The idea of joining a club/group simply isn’t feasible. Well, to tackle the darkness problem, make sure you know your route and stick to roads that are well-lit and populated. It is common sense really. And remember to trust your instincts, if it doesn’t feel right, don’t go there.

3. Tell a friend where you’re going

Another piece of common sense but tell someone close (housemate, partner, friend etc…perhaps not your parents as they will only fret, believe me) where you’re going and roughly how long you’ll be gone. I’m in the taking a mobile phone with you camp, just in case you’re longer than you expected so they don’t worry.  If you #runcommute, text, call, email, whatsapp, Skype, Facebook, pigeon message (ok, maybe not that one), your chosen person to let them know you’re there. Of course, not everyone has this sort of arrangement and by no means do you have to do this but it’s good to  communicate your intentions just in case.

4. Wear the right gear

Think like a safety-conscious cyclist and choose high-viz gear that can be seen from the road. Thankfully, there are a bunch of brands now offering high-viz gear for all budgets. From Nike’s supa-dupa Allover Flash jacket (at a very ouch-worthy £320) to Karrimor’s range of cheap and cheerful running gilet (barginous at £10.99), you can dress up to be seen. Sweaty Betty also sell a pair of Reflective Arm Blinkers, £14, which are pretty powerful and can be seen from a distance. Yes, you’ll look a bit like a Christmas tree but why not embrace the holiday spirit?

5. Take a head torch

You may not feel entirely comfortable channeling the caver look but wearing a head torch also lets you be seen and can help in terms of dodging puddles, cracks in the road or on foggy days, when visibility is low. Again, you don’t have to spend loads on this but it’s worth considering that the more expensive running head torches are more likely to last longer in terms of battery-life. They also come in use if you are thinking of taking up trail running.

6. Run against the traffic

If you’re running on the road, run facing traffic (in the opposite direction to the traffic) so that on-coming vehicles can see you. It’s not rocket science and running on the road isn’t perhaps the best but when faced with no other choice, make sure you put your safety first.

7. Carry ID

Be it a bank card, driving licence or photocopy of your passport, carry some sort of identification on you when you’re running in the dark. It’s for the same reason that you fill out the back of a race number at a competitive race; you never know what will happen. So it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Don’t let this put you off running in the dark. By taking a few safety precautions and just being aware of what is around you, you’ll be fine.

Have fun, take care and Merry Christmas everyone.

Have I missed anything off this list? Feel free to share your tips with me.

Post-party skin saviours

19 Dec

It’s only Thursday and it already feels like it has been a long week. With impromptu drinks, planned Christmas parties and much merriment all around, the need to constantly pack your evenings and forget that it’s a school night can leave you somewhat weary.

This isn’t so much of a problem when you’re a mere whipper-snapper. But once you hit a certain age, not only do you feel the late nights and partying on the inside, it starts to show on the outside. From dark shadows and bags to flaky skin and breakouts, it’s little wonder that the first thing your mum says to you when she sees you for the first time is: “Cor, you look tired, have you been burning the candles at both ends again?”

While this may be stating the obvious, you don’t want to draw attention to the fact that this is all, of course, self-inflicted. In fact, you wish your mum didn’t worry about you at all. You’d love to turn up at the door with a glowing complexion and sparkly eyes instead of representing the green side of pale with added under-eye shadows so dark that you look like you’ve been taking make-up tips from Marilyn Manson.

Although I can’t promise that my post-party skin saviours will cover up all signs of living-it-up, they make give your skin that much-needed boost so at least you look perky.

Beauty stuff

Clockwise from left, Bliss eye mask, Neal’s Yard Wild Rose Beauty Balm, Perfect Clarity, Aromatherapy Associates overnight mask, Trilogy Rosehip oil

1. Bliss Triple Oxygen Instant Energizing Eye Mask, £35.80

Wave goodbye to under-eye baggage and hello to brighter peepers thanks to these wonder eye patches crafted by the guys behind the amazing Triple Oxygen treatments. Packed full of vitamins and  minerals, including vitamin C and cucumber extract, each patch is vacuum-packed so the ingredients stay fresh until you use them. Whether you’re looking for a remedy for bleary eyes or a pre-party pick-me-up, shove a couple of these in your handbag, pop them on your eyes for 15 minutes and you will be able to see the difference.

2. Neal’s Yard Wild Rose Beauty Balm, £37
T
ired, dehydrated skin? Give yourself an at home facial by using Neal’s Yard Wild Rose Beauty Balm. This skin treatment is amazing at helping to replenish and restore moisture to a tired and dull complexion. Use this combination of nourishing wild rose and the antioxidant rosehip as well as geranium, starflower, hemp and rosemary oil to cleanse, exfoliate or simply nourish your skin. This Beauty Balm is so versatile that it’s worth keeping a jar in the bathroom cabinet for a post-party treatment or once-a-week cleanse.

3. Elemental Herbology Perfect Clarity Blemish Minimiser, £25

You should have grown out of it but once the party season is in full swing so those pesky blemishes come out to play. Instead of giving them a good squeeze, which can cause your skin to scar, dab on this Perfect Clarity Blemish Minimiser. This mix of Rosemary, Lavender and Tea-Tree oils calms the inflammation and redness, allowing the salicylic acid and lactic acid  to get down deep dirty, exfoliating and clearing your pores. And unlike the solutions made for teenage skin, this formula in a pen-style application will not dry your skin out. Leaving you with a clearer complexion.

4. Trilogy Rosehip Oil Antioxidant, £26.50

Use under moisturiser or on its own, Trilogy’s Rosehip Oil Antioxidant feeds, nourishes and brightens your skin. You only need a few drops and it absorbs almost instantly into your skin meaning you can continue with the rest of your make-up routine. The key ingredient, rosehip oil, is packed full of powerful antioxidants, which include omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids to plump up the skin, and retinoic acid to even out skin tone. You certainly will not regret adding this one to your beauty routine.

5. Aromatherapy Associates Overnight Repair Mask, £51

For the ultimate in overnight repair, reach for the beautifully delicate Aromatherapy Associates Overnight Repair Mask. Not only does the subtle rose aroma help to calm your mind, the mix of rejuvenating rose, frankincense and strawberry seeds plump get to work stimulating collagen and elastin fibres. The result is plumper, smoother skin when you wake up.

Admittedly, none of my post-party skin saviours come cheap but they do last for ages and you will notice a difference. Have fun over the holidays and the best thing you can do for your skin is to remember to, at least, remove your make-up and apply moisturiser overnight.

Please note all the images are copyright of Bliss, Trilogy, Elemental Herbology, Neal’s Yard and Aromatherapy Associates.

From Paris with love – Agatha Paris fashion jewellery

12 Dec

You can’t live in Paris for a year without visiting an Agatha jewellery store. With blue exteriors decorated by the trademark ‘Scottie’ dog, the Agatha stores are unmistakable in France and well worth a gander. Amazingly, Agatha Paris has been around for around 35 years now but it wasn’t until I was a student over in the City of Light (now 10 years ago) that I discovered this emporium for everything that sparkles and shines.

Accessoire cheveux Scottish

The ‘Scottie’ dog that Agatha is famed for

Not only are their collections so varied that you can find something for just about every female (or male) friend that you have, but the prices are incredibly reasonable. Starting at around 12 Euros for a cute doggy hair clip, Agatha Paris is a store that caters for all budgets. It was my go-to boutique for friends’ presents when I was over there and I’m pretty pleased that our homegrown talent, Alexa Chung, is now fronting the brand.

Fast-forward 10 years (really 10 years?) and I still love some of their collections. My tastes may have changed but Agatha’s abilities to appeal to both my younger and now older self is testament to their on-trend designs.

Paris necklace and bracelet

Paris necklace and bracelet

 

From a ‘bon souvenir’ of Paris to a statement cuff, there’s so much choice that it can be difficult to know where to begin your journey around the site.  But I’m loving the Ballerine, Pointes & Rock’N’Roll collection as it has a fierce edge to it and would add drama to all those outfits you can pull out of the wardrobe at this time of year.

Make a statement with this Blackswan necklace

Make a statement with this Blackswan necklace

 

If you’re after a watch, make sure you check out their Agatha’s timepieces.  You’ll find a selection of vibrant colours, elegant wrist straps and ceramic cases. The Ceramique Chrono would make a fine gift for the lady in your life and is a much more purse-friendly version of the Chanel J12.

Freeze watch, Glamour watch, Ceramique Chrono watch

Freeze watch, Glamour watch, Ceramique Chrono watch

Unfortunately, the English version of the website looks like it’s still in development but if you can understand a bit of French, take a look at their blog. You can also participate with their network on all the popular social media sites. Their Facebook page is particularly engaged and engaging.

Another downside to the site is that you can only purchase in Euros at the moment but there are also standalone stores in both London Westfields and Harrods. So if you fancy doing it the French way this year or stuck for gift ideas, take a look at Agatha Paris, you may well find a piece that they’ll treasure forever.

All images are from the Agatha website which you can find here.

 

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What I see on my morning run

10 Dec
What I see on my morning run

Morning has broken over Camden Town

It’s dark, it’s cold and the air can sometimes be filled with dew but, oh my, London can really look spectacular on a winter’s morning.

I’ve been trying to document my morning #runcommute from the valley of Hampstead Garden Suburbs to Camden via the Heath, Hampstead and Chalk Farm. Sometimes it’s the butcher delivering his orders or builders getting their caffeine fix before they start on a construction site. I’ve seen late-night revellers coming home still a little merry from the night before and the aftermath of a party splayed across the footpath.

From the early morning road sweeper to security guards munching on a bacon sarnie, you see London from a different perspective before it really wakes up itself.

And for a teeny, tiny moment, you feel like it’s all yours.

My (running) Christmas wish list

5 Dec

With less than three weeks to go until Crimbo, I thought I’d share a few items on my running wish list in case anyone (mum) reading is a little stuck. From stink-free tops to socks, here is my (running) Christmas wish list for 2013.

Clockwise from left, Freya, Nike, Sweaty Betty, Under Armour, Balega, Ashmei, adidas

Clockwise from left, Freya, Nike, Sweaty Betty, Under Armour, Balega, Ashmei, adidas

1. Freya Active Sports Top, £56

Ever since I discovered this  Freya Active Sports top back in September, I’ve been itching to get my hands on one. Not only does this racerback vest come with a built-in wired-up brassiere to support my assets, it also wicks the sweat away and, wait for it, “stays odour-free for its lifetime”. This, my running friends, is music to my ears. Sportswear that doesn’t smell after you’ve sweated to the max while wearing it. No more having to stand 10 feet away from my boyfriend after a long run because, according to the blessed one, “I stink”. Hurrah for Freya for inventing this sportswear gem.

2. Nike Shield Flash running jacket, £240

Now I did say this is a wish list and in a dream world, I would absolutely love to be handed this £240 Nike Shield Flash running jacket as a present but realistically, that’s just not going to happen. It does, however, look pretty awesome and comes with a bunch of features, including wind and water resistance. What’s more, The Nike Shield Flash running jacket is made from some glass-beaded exterior. Essentially, this means that the grey bits are reflective. There’s a whole lot of grey going on, so you can imagine what it’s like to wear this outside on a dark evening. I may not get my hands on one of these but H&M do a similar style at around an eighth of the price, which I could settle for (hint, hint).

3. Sweaty Betty Quick Dry Flex Long Sleeve Run Top, £60

When it comes to keeping warm and staying cool, this little number from Sweaty Betty seems to fit the bill quite nicely. Made from sweat-wicking fabric, I’ll stay dry throughout my run plus benefit from the long sleeves and flattering design. This run top also includes reflective tape so again I can be seen at night and thumb-holes for those chilly evenings. In terms of longer tops for training at the moment, this one combines function and fashion.

4. Under Armour compression leggings, £38

If you hadn’t of noticed, there’s definitely a theme going on with this Christmas wish list – essentially I need kit to keep me warm. Under Armour is a brand often bandied about in the Blogosphere, mainly because their sportswear is apparently so darn good. I’d love to try a pair of these babies. Not only are they compression tights (meant to enhance your performance by increasing blood flow etc to your muscles), these leggings are also dual-layer to keep you extra toasty and prevent the dreaded VPL or visible panties full-stop.

5. Barrecore membership, £2,800

I went. I tried. I woke up muscles I hadn’t felt in yonks. My first two (and only) lessons at the hip new class Barrecore were a revelation and worked those muscles, which I, as a runner, tend to ignore. I may have been shaking during the class as the moves went deep and really challenged my body but afterwards I felt stretched, reinvigorated and ready to face the world.  I would love to sign up for a Barrecore but at £28 a class, it’s a bit steep for me. I already pay a monthly fee for my gym, which unfortunately does not offer anything close to the awesome sessions at Barrecore. Now, I’m not asking for an annual membership but there are other offers available, which can be found here.

6. Adidas Adizero Boost trainers, from £99

When it comes to sports kit, you cannot beat a decent pair of trainers and these Adidas Adizero Boosts have definitely become my ones to try next. I first saw them at adidas spring/summer 2014 press day and have become besotted ever since. Not only are they as light as a feather (well almost), they also feature the BOOST technology, which I translate as gives you bounce, and grip made from Continental tire material. I’m due a new pair of running shoes, maybe Santa could help.

7. Aehmei running gloves, £30

I want these running gloves for both running and cycling as it’s always my hands that seem to suffer during the cold, winter months. Crafted from the Merino wool, a natural fibre that wicks away the sweat and helps regulate your body temperature, I will not need to worry about becoming too warm (it does happen even on bitter days). They also have touch screen fingertips, so I don’t have to take them off when switching between tunes on my iPod or making a call. Admittedly, I have a habit of losing one glove but if someone invested in these, I will treasure them.

8. The Annual 2014 – Ministry of Sound, from £10

Every year without fail, I receive a running music-related gift. I love it as I rarely buy music these days and it’s something new for me to whack on my iPod. This year I think I’ll go down the classic Ministry road and ask for The Annual 2014. There are a few artists on there who I recognise but even if I don’t know them by name, at least I can be down with the kids, pump up my runs and know the words on those occasions when I let my hair down on the dance floor.

9. Balega socks, from £9

Yes, I really do want a pair of socks for Christmas. And there not just any socks but ultra-cushioned, ultra-comfy and ultra-supportive socks specifically designed for sporty types. Once you’ve tried an awesome pair of running socks, it’s very hard to go back to the days when you simply selected the first pair in your sock drawer, irrespective of whether they matched or not. I recently received a pair of  Balega socks, courtesy of Cat Simpson, and I have to say, they are now top of my sock charts. At £9 a pop, they’re not too expensive and they would be gratefully received.

10. A year’s supply of sports massages with Gareth

If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt this year, it’s to get a regular sports massage. Regular running does make your muscles tight, there’s no doubt about that. And no matter how much I try and stretch (never enough), the only way to reduce the build up of tension in my muscles is to see a professional. Gareth, of A2Z Elite Health is my go-to for tight muscles, niggles and advice about training. He’s an expert in his field and I’d really benefit from a massage a month next year to loosen up and help me reach my peak.

What is on your running wish list for next year? I’d be interested if you have any other suggestions about socks, running tops and more…Feel free to comment below.

Why the running community is full of Gentle Giants

29 Nov
Me, image taken by Sarah Carpenter

Me, image taken by Sarah Carpenter

There’s only one thing I want to draw you attention to in this photo of me taken by my talented friend the photographer Sarah Carpenter. And it’s not my face or my pose. In fact, it’s not the picture at all (although it is well shot) but the description underneath. Never a truer word has been spoken about the people who belong to the running network and the last few weeks has highlighted how running can bring people together, help others and give something back to the community.

I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch of the Zero Calorie Advent Calendar a few weeks back. Starting on 1 December, this calendar will offer a workout, recipe and health/fitness business everyday instead of the usual chocolate treats.  The trio behind this fantastic idea, PT Mollie, From Snickers to Marathon and Diary of a Dashing Fashionista, set it up to both keep us bloggers on track and offer us a bit of fitness fun but, more importantly, they wanted to raise awareness of a fab charity called A Mile In Her Shoes.

Established by the keen amateur runner Nicola Miller, A Mile In Her Shoes aims to help vulnerable women who have found themselves homeless by introducing them to running. For, as anyone who is into running will tell you, the feeling of belonging to a community combined with the action of pounding the pavements, getting some exercise and completing a route really helps boost your confidence and self-esteem. It’s not just about finishing a race but the satisfaction of doing something for yourself, irrespective of whether that be nailing a 20-minute run for the first time or simply having the confidence to run on the streets or in the park.

The Zero Calorie Advent Calendar have asked businesses who participate in the calendar to contribute to the charity by donating kit, time and resources rather than charging them for advertising. Fitness folk with or without qualifications (such as Leadership in Running Fitness) can also volunteer over Christmas and I think it’s a great way of giving something back and sharing your love of running. Head here to find out more about how you can help.

Talking of giving something back to the community, The Zero Calorie Advent Calendar also introduced us to Goodgym - an organisation that “helps you get fit by doing good”. Essentially they organise runs with a community purpose. Whether that be helping shift rubbish from Somerset House for the Makerversity project (like we did on that evening) or meeting up with isolated older people, Goodgym encourage good deeds that make an impact and also develop relationships within a community. Again, it’s an awesome idea that highlights the strengths of our caring and sharing generation.

It also shows there’s another side to the running community – one that is full of Gentle Giants who want to help and give back.

My beauty stash: Trilogy Rosehip Oil Antioxidant +

28 Nov
Trilogy Rosehip Antioxidant + oil

Trilogy Rosehip Antioxidant + oil

From dry patches and flakiness to breakouts and skin so shiny you can see the reflection of my high vis cycling jacket, I have suffered from it all and more so right now. So what do I reach for to save my skin? Well, Trilogy’s Rosehip Oil Antioxidant +.

As a 31-year-old who (STILL) suffers with spots from time to time, I was a bit hesitant at first. After all, it is an oil and no matter what I read about facial oils’ abilities to rebalance the skin, I still have the fear that I’m putting grease on-top-of grease. I had visions of my experiments as a child when I tried and failed to mix oil with water. I had a lot of fun mixing and shaking but neither were able to penetrate the other and I ended up right back where I started. Fortunately for me, my experience with Trilogy Rosehip Antioxidant + oil is a completely different story.

It is an oil and has a liquid consistency, so you have to be quick to apply the required two drops to your face. They suggest massage it into your skin but I just try to ensure it’s spread evenly on my face, paying particular attention to the areas that need it most such as lines around my mouth, forehead and cheekbones. There have been times when I’ve thought “am I just spreading olive oil over my face” as there’s a faint whiff of this familiar scent about it but the results suggest that Trilogy Rosehip Antioxidant + oil really does contain game-changing ingredients in terms of the condition and appearance of my skin.

One of the most obvious of these is Rosehip Oil, which helps to repair skin tissue and smoothes fine lines. A few celebs are said to be fans (Miranda Kerr, David Gandy) but I’m not so bothered about that. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. And I’ve been getting some pretty sweet results.

My skin looks brighter, I’m not suffering from so much dryness on my chin and although I still suffer from the occasional blemish, they’re not as frequent.  I even got a thumbs-up from my mum who replaced her usual spiel “you look tired” with “your skin is looking good”. Whether it’s the Rosehip oil or the powerful combo of antioxidants (lycopene and phytosterol) added, which protect against the harsh “free radical damage” (those nasty atoms found in the environment that cause your skin to deteriorate), Trilogy Rosehip Oil Antioxidant + works for me.

This is the first product from Trilogy – a company founded in New Zealand – that I’ve tried and the Rosehip oil is certified organic, so it’s top-notch stuff that comes at a a price, £26.50 for 30ml. Then again, you only need two drops. I have been applying it religiously at night for the past three months and there’s still three-quarters of the bottle left. You also have to keep an eye on the use by date  as organic beauty products do not contain preservatives. Not that this will put me off buying Trilogy Rosehip Oil Antioxidant + again.

Let’s just put it this way, I’d like to add this powerful beauty treat to my Christmas list (and I’ve been ok this year, Santa, honest) and perhaps the body oil too (I’ll be doubly good next year).

Has anyone else tried Trilogy’s products?

 

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Sweaty Betty SS14 collection

25 Nov
Sweaty Betty SS14 collection

Sweaty Betty mashup

I love Sweaty Betty. In fact, if given half the chance, I’d saunter around my fairly new pad in a few key pieces from their loungewear collection (see me in the middle of this mashup – photo taken by the lovely Charlotte from lungesandlycra.co.uk). Unfortunately, due to the cold spell, I appear more like the Michelin man wrapped up in umpteen layers in our beautiful new flat than some effortless glamour Sweaty Betty girl. But hopefully come the springtime, when the flowers come into full bloom, I’ll be able to get my hand on some of Sweaty Betty’s gorgeous new collection. Last week, I was lucky enough to have a sneak preview and I can tell you that it lives up to its reputation.

From reversible yoga leggings that pass the panty line test to what looked like the making of a new TriSuit (the fabric certainly felt neoprene enough), Sweaty Betty have responded to their loyal following and produced a collection which combines fashion, function and form. I couldn’t resist putting in a tiny pic of the glorious technicolour trainers – I want them all. Lightweight running shorts, brightly-coloured base layers, neon running jackets, new prints, Sweaty Betty has ticked all the trends for next season and more.

Even though I’m not the strongest swimmer (in fact, I’m pretty pants), I can’t wait to get my hands on one of their fab new bikinis because I know that I won’t have to worry about looking cool and feeling comfortable when I’m doggy paddling in the shallow end of my pool. And this illustrates why Sweaty Betty works so well: you want to buy the clothing because it looks so good and while you are it, you may even be persuaded to try it out. At least if you know  you look good, you’ll feel more confident about challenging yourself. And this is, as we all know, half the battle.

Well done Sweaty Betty – thank you for creating a confident and confidence-boosting collection for spring/summer 2014.

The day I tried Hula (hooping that is)

18 Nov

I love running, I love cycling, I love dancing, Hula hooping? Well, let’s talk about Hula.

My elegant attempt at hula

I’m doing it, I’m doing it….My elegant attempt at hula (photo courtesy of Cat Simpson)

About two or so weeks ago, I decided to sign up to some of Fitness Freak’s one-off Hula hoop classes in Shoreditch Town hall. Led by Marawa of The Amazing (just look at her in action and those abs here), it looked like a bit of laugh and something I could pick up pretty easily as my next party trick. I mean how hard could it be? I can remember being a bit of an expert hula-hooper as a kid or I think I was. And it’s like riding a bike, right? Once a hula-hooper, always a hula-hooper. Erm, nope. Having arrived at the atmospheric Shoreditch Town Hall (and I’m not just talking about being bathed in technocolour lighting and the colourful ‘Majorettes’ who handed you a hoop; the room itself is rather grandiose), I grabbed a hoop, put it over my head and started rolling my hips in a style not dissimilar to Baby in the scene from Dirty Dancing, where she first dances with Johnny. After about two seconds of exaggerated rolling, the hoop fell to the floor. Ok, so this wasn’t going to work. Let’s try it again. This time I stood with my feet apart, right foot slightly in-front of my left, and grinded my hips even harder. Again, gravity struck gold with my hoop. Humph. I was baffled. This swing your hips malarkey wasn’t going to keep that hoop afloat around my middle.

The hoop has landed but I'm smiling

The hoop has landed but I’m smiling (photo courtesy of Cat Simpson)

The secret, as one of the Majorettes explained, to keeping your hoop moving effortlessly around your hips, was to focus on your core. Making small movements with your tummy muscles instead of swirling your hips uncontrollable (like me) was the key to becoming a successful hula hooper. And I have to say that it sounds way easier than it actually is. While I got the idea, I mean I’ve been to enough pilates classes to know about ‘zipping and tucking’, but I think my problem with it was I was over-thinking it. Instead of trying to relax into the move, I spent time focusing on trying to perfect it rather than just letting my body lead. I almost had it when Marawa decided that we were going to try pushing our hoop the other way. I’m ok with directions when I’m on my bike but it’s a whole different matter when it comes to hula hoops.

I fared slightly better when it came to swinging the hoop around other parts of your body and had far fewer problems rotating the hoops around my arms and hands. But putting the hips and arms together took it to an entire new level.  It just wasn’t happening for me. Then came the hoop-tacular or hoop-tsaster finale, where we “challenged” ourselves to juggle five or six hoops at one time.  Or in my case, watch as they fell to the floor in one foul swoop.

Let’s just say this hula hoop class was not my finest moment but it was, however, a jolly good laugh. I went with my young American friend, Marie, who really enjoyed the hour-long session. It would also make a great idea for a hen night as if you’re like my friends and I, you enjoy doing things that make you giggle with and at each other. I saw some friendly faces from the Blogosphere (Jen and Cat), who also seemed to be smiling and laughing away. Not to mention the benefits of taking up the hoop, which include a toned, flat tum (just look at that video of Marawa again).  Would I do it regularly in a class? Probably not but I will suggest it to friends as a meet-up rather than heading (straight) to the boozer after work. Saying that, if anybody out there is listening, a hula hoop  may well be on my Christmas list.

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Alexander McQueen & Damien Hirst Scarf Collaboration

13 Nov

This is why I love fashion.

Enigmatic and beautifully shot, this video taps into every part of my senses. The Alexander McQueen & Damien Hirst Scarf Collaboration is more than a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the skull scarf, it is inspirational. Art. Pure class.

While I’m not a huge fan of Damien Hirst, this adaptation of his butterfly project as a pattern for the scarf and the fall of the fabric works wonders in this short film. It is also one of 30 unique designs all adapted from Hirst’s Entomology series available from November 15 2013 on the official Alexander McQueen site. And if you need a spiritual lift before then (on what has become known as hump day), watch this video.

Copyright for this video is McQueenworld, you can find out more by heading to http://www.alexandermcqueen.com

Running in the rain

11 Nov

It was a Saturday afternoon, my mum was driving me to a cross country race and it was raining, scrap that, it was pouring, hard. So hard that you could feel the car being pushed by the storm towards the hard shoulder. Mum said in only the way that mum’s can: “Are you really going to run in this? Are you mad?”

While my sanity may be questionable (to some anyway), there was no way that I was going to let a few raindrops prevent me from running in my second cross country race of the season. In fact, running in the rain can be enjoyable, challenging and a brilliant workout as long as you’re prepared for it.

Don’t let those rainy days put you off heading outside, it may be just what you need to clear your head and re-energise your body. Here are my thoughts on making the most of a washout workout.

1. The first few minutes are never pleasant, so get over it…

If you’ve ever run cross country, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. The first few minutes before you set off and go, you are waiting around at the starting line in your shorts and vest. Your legs and arms are going numb with cold, you’re shivering and you’re wondering what the hell am I doing  here.  But once the gun has fired and you’ve hit that first hill, the cold is no longer a problem. It’s the same with running in the rain. The initial few minutes are not at all pleasant but it only takes this amount of time to make the switch from hesitation to focusing on your run. Enjoying what you’re doing and forgetting that buckets of water are falling on your head. When you’re sitting in your PJs, contemplating that run in the rain, try to remember that the transition between the initial feeling of getting wet to enjoyment is a short-lived fraction of your race

Me running in the rain

Me, running in the rain

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2. You’re going to get wet

Regardless of what the sportswear manufacturers say, there’s no way you can run in the rain without getting wet. While the latest Goretex-coated clothing can prevent the water from getting in, it stops the water from getting out. And by water, I mean sweat. In all my years of running (10 years), I am yet to find a jacket that is the perfect balance between waterproofing and breathability. If anyone knows of a brand that works then please let me know. In the meantime, I have learnt to accept that despite all my efforts to keep dry by wearing an external water-resistant light-weight layer, there is nothing that will stop me getting wet.

3. Wear appropriate clothing

Having said that, choose running gear that is less likely to absorb water. Running in your dad’s cotton t-shirt is the equivalent to wearing an extra-absorbent nappy as it will suck up any water thrown at it. Opt for light-weight layers (one or two) made from a material that wicks away the sweat from your body. If you can afford it, buy a decent set of find seamless clothing as rain enters through the seams (Ronhill does a great range of base layers that will keep you warm). Get your hands on a light-weight, windproof/shower resistant that will keep the rain out for around 20 minutes and remember to re-coat it every few months with a waterproofing layer. Same goes for your trainers.

4.  Think about your footwear

‘Cause it’s slippy out there. Whether you’re road running or hitting those trails, make sure you’re wearing the right footwear as one slip here could be disastrous. I ran my first cross country in my normal running shoes and spent the entire race petrified that I was going to fall over, flat on my face, in the mud. Do not make the same mistake. Invest in decent trail shoes (Saucony and Brooks spring to mind) for running off-piste . Don’t obsess over your foot placements when city running but be more mindful about the fact that there may be puddles etc on your routes for you to dodge, jump over or run right through.

5. Dry your clothes and shoes out properly

We’ve all been there I’m sure, you know when you get a whiff of Eau de wet dog from your gym bag. Make sure you pay special attention to drying you kit out properly after you’ve run in the rain. When it’s not possible to bung it in the washing machine (say if you’ve #runcommute), discreetly hang it up where you can. This will stop the horrendous odour that is so difficult to shift from developing.

6. Don’t wear glasses

Running in your glasses can be incredibly hazardous because  a) you become preoccupied with cleaning your glasses and are not able to enjoy your run and b) cannot see where you are going. Contact lenses are a way better option when it’s pouring hard.

7.  Be visible

Think about your body as a road vehicle. When it’s raining, cars and bikes switch their lights on to ensure other occupiers of the road can see them. Protect yourself and others by wearing something high-vis or even investing in a headlight. You may feel a bit like a reverse caver and an idiot to boot but at least you’ll be able to spot those puddles in the dark. More importantly, other moving objects will be able to see you.

8. Protect your equipment

You can buy fancy waterproof cases to protect your mobile and MP3 player or you could use my tried and tested method of taking a ziplock plastic bag (the type you use for sandwiches), piercing a hole in the top and slotting your headphones in. It’s entirely up to you. Whatever you choose to do with your electronic devices, please ensure they’re waterproofed when you’re using them in the rain. Unlike yourself, they take a hell of a long time to dry out. Take it from someone who knows and has spent more money on replacing phones than necessary  (this was pre-discovery of my sophisticated ziplock method of protection).

9. And yourself

If you’re going to run in the rain, make sure you have something dry, somewhere dry to change into straight afterwards. You’re asking for health troubles otherwise. I’d like to say up your vitamin C, take probiotics and boost your immunity by taking X, Y and Z but I’m not qualified to do so. What I would say is: if you look after your body in the colder, wetter weather, it will respond favourably.  And, of course, have fun, not quite singing but running in the rain.

Do you have any tips for rainy running? Or has anyone found a waterproof running jacket that actually works?

Joules is a gem of a store (and I’m not the only one who thinks so)

5 Nov

By combining country class, colourful prints and functional fashion, clothing outfitter Joules is proving to be a real gem among the rubble of what has become known as the current high street.

And this is not just my humble opinion. With news yesterday of a £22 million cash injection by private investors, it seems that this British-based company has not only weathered the storm of the last few years but come out of it fighting.

Perhaps it’s the success of the e-commerce strategy, which now enables delivery of goods to over 30 countries, or their growing base of loyal customers (me included). Whatever the reason for the power of Joules on the high street, I like to think it’s down to the fact that they’ve got a unique style of British country heritage that taps into our current obsession for the good old days.

From the Great British Bake Off to the Royals, we have a real need for a more peaceful era. To slow it down, enjoy life more, leave the rat race behind and head to the country for walks on a Sunday.

While this fantasy may not become the reality for some, especially when you consider the current state of “post-recession” Britain, where you work harder, for longer, for less or the equivalent salary as two years ago, at least you can look and feel like you’re heading to the calm of the glorious countryside by dressing the part.

This is where Joules comes in. I guarantee that you’ll find at least one piece for keeps out of their range of tweed jackets, playful jumpers, Fairisle knits and patterned trousers. Indeed, they have cleverly fused timeless and vintage to create clothing that you’ll want to pull out of your wardrobe year after year. Joules does not pretend to be fashion-forward, in fact, it doesn’t claim to be anything but country clobber with a colourful twist and that what makes the brand that’s ‘dotty about detail’ stand out from the crowd.

Not convinced? Well, I’ve pulled together some of my favourite pieces from their current collection.

Joules picks

Joules picks

Here they all are:

1. Womens Intarsia Jumper, Fox, £69.95 

I’m a HUGE fan of Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox, now I can work my own foxy number.

2. Womens Fair Isle knit, Nutmeg, £49.95

Tank tops are perfect for layering over a crisp white shirt.

3. Womens Floral Dress, Navy Floral, £69.95

Pair this tea dress with thick wool tights and a cosy cardigan.

4. Womens Tweed Fieldcoat, £220

Buy it now, wear it for years to come.

5. Womens Wellyprint, £39.95

Liven up those rainy days in these wellies with a one-year guarantee.

6. Womens Silk Scarf, Kristina Damask Fr.Navy, £34.95 

Can’t afford a Hermes? This silk scarf is the next best thing.

7. Womens Blouse, French Navy Drawn Birds, £59.95

Twit-twoo, the bird print and pussy bow fastening make this shirt a must-have in my wardrobe.

8. Womens Patterned Trousers, Purple, £49.95

Mad Men may be off-screen for the time being but these could pretty much be the perfect pair of Mrs Draper pants.

What do you think? Have you spotted anything you like at Joules?

Cross country running strengthens your body and mind

31 Oct

It’s not pretty, you will feel like your lungs are going to explode at certain points throughout the race and you can’t listen to music but that’s about the only negatives I can think of when it comes to cross country running. When it comes to training over the winter months, cross country is my favourite way to increase stamina and build up speed.  Here’s why:

Hello runners

Hello runners

1. The short, sharp distances shake up my routine
I’ve completed my major races for this year and feel confident that I can comfortably run around 20 miles. In fact, my usual long run can be anything up to 20 miles and above on the weekend. While it’s good to run the distance, I know that if I want to improve, I need to work on my speed.  Cross country is the ultimate test for speed and endurance. You have to find your pace pretty quickly when  you only have between 5 to 8K worth of terrain to cover and you have to be ready to run up and down hills, deal with uneven terrain, mud and competitors coming up close behind you, as some of the trails can be pretty narrow. Yes, it may be over in half an hour but that’s 30 minutes of running hard and sometimes you need that to improve on your overall fitness.

2. It’s awesome terrain and hill training
It’s not that I don’t like a challenge, hell, I’ve run the South Downs and Kielder Marathon but hills are tough. I wish I could fly up ‘em with the elegance of a gazelle or Kilian Jornet Burgada.  What I lack in aptitude for hills, I know the different technique used is great for my glutes. In fact, cross country is brilliant agility training  too, as the ground is never even, you have to jump, dodge or go straight through puddles and you really do learn how to control your body. Getting to grips with wearing those spikes and learning how you can use them to your advantage when you strike the ground is a complete switch from road running. It really is a dirty running revelation.

3. Cross country teaches you core control

I raced my first cross country of the season on Saturday. When I woke up on Sunday, I felt it. Yes, I do pilates to work on my core but nothing prepared me this time for that dull ache in my abs . Even if you’re not completely aware of it, you naturally engage those core muscles when you run cross country. If you didn’t do this, well, let’s put it this way. You’d end up face down in mud. You dig deep, really deep to keep your body upright and striding forward. Posture is important, especially when charging down hills or holding yourself vertical on uneven ground.  Cross country allows me to try out what I learnt from my pogo ball days of my childhood. The constant need to balance while moving forward.

 

The gun fires

The gun fires


4. The competition helps you to focus

As I said before, the races are relatively short but it’s all about the competition. Whoever said women are not competitive has never been to a cross country race. You can’t listen to music, you don’t have the time to zone out, all you are thinking about, when sloshing about in the mud in your relatively light spikes ,is passing the person in front of you and breaking away from the person you can hear breathing behind you. I can tell you that just hearing a runner’s breath behind me, puts the wind right up me.

Running to the finish line

Running to the finish line

5.  You become aware of your entire body

The competitive nature of cross country pushes you to work hard and you can feel it in every heart beat and every breath that you take. You become so aware of how your body reacts to the different challenges your faced with across the course. Sometimes it’s tough, as in, I’m going to puke tough but by reaching this level, you get to understand what your body is capable of. Would I say it’s empowering? You betcha.

6. It’s muddy

Childish, I know, but I absolutely love running through the mud in my spikes. Feeling is squelching underneath, jumping through puddles, and getting covered in it. Me. Wild. Fun. All I can say is, before you judge me, why not give it a go?

Minnietheminx

Minnietheminx

7. We’re a community

I run cross country for Medway & Maidstone (the local running club of my hometown). I enjoy meeting the other runners, who are all really supportive of each other (and VERY fast).  I personally don’t see a problem with club running. You get to take part in amazing races, the training is aimed at runners of mixed ability and there are always guys at hand running around the course shouting “go on Medway” at me while they warm up. From my experience, club running is a great thing. And I love channelling Minnie The Minx in my club vest.

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Why adidas spring/summer 2014 collection is worth saving the pennies for

28 Oct
adidas spring/summer 2014

My collage of adidas spring/summer collection 2014

We all know how important it is for active wear to be functional. The short shorts bum cheek look may have been one of the hottest fashion trends for spring/summer 2013 (and not on my hot list I have to add) but when it comes to doing your thing on the track. trail or road, the last thing you want to think about is whether your shorts are showing a bit too much flesh. That said, you also want to be as cool as possible in terms of temperature and feel confident that your clothing will not hamper your performance. Chafing of those thighs and rubbing under the arm holes can be really painful. So what if a brand could promise comfort, function and fashion-forward looks for those of us who want to start the race feeling like we’re winners? Well, cue adidas and their latest spring/summer 2013 collection.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m already a huge fan of a number of sportswear brands on the market that combine fashion and function, From Sweaty Betty with their must-have Velocity Run jacket (head over there today as there’s a sale on) to Lululemon’s Swiftly tech top, which is seamless to make it super comfy and the cutest slogans on the inside edges (you just have to see it to believe it), I like to mix up my sportswear wardrobe and find pieces that really work. But adidas has got me super-excited for several reasons:

1. The hot new range of fancy footwear

While the adidas Springblades may have caught the attention of the press and you can see why by looking at the pic of them at the top middle of this picture, what I am more excited about getting my hands on is a pair of the adizeros. Featuring adidas’ BOOST foam, which is meant to “energize your running stride”, and grips made from Continental tire material, these training shoes are super-light with improved grip. In short, it sounds to me like the adizero range can speed you up. And if they helped Wilson Kipsang smash the World record at the Berlin marathon back in September 2013, then I’m keen to get my hands on them. You can see the grip of the adizero trainers in the top left-hand of the picture collage above and the pair in the bottom right-hand photo of the picture collage above.

2. ClimaChill technology

I already own a lot of adidas stuff and really rate their ClimaCool technology, which is fabric created to wick away the sweat so your body temperature is regulated. ClimaChill takes this to the next level and not only keeps your body at a comfortable temperature but actively cools you down. Now I’ve not tried this yet, so I am not entirely convinced that it works. The idea, however, that you can wear something that will actually help your body cool down, especially on those hot training days, is a step forward when it comes to sports gear.

3. Design and colour
Rainbow Brite eat your heart out as next season’s adidas collection is bursting with colour to brighten up those dull days. Please forgive the reference to one of my favourite cartoon characters from the 80s, however, the design and shades used in the adidas spring/summer collection 2014 demonstrates that adidas are determined to make sportswear both functional and fashionable. I fell in love with their rainbow splash jacket (above top right) as the sleeves are detachable and it will channel my cool inner urban chick, which I am as far removed from as possible. The leggings were also available in vibrant patterns and even featured cut-out panels (very Alexander Wang c. A/W 2009 – it takes time to filter down through the fashion chain). Even if they do make my shapely legs look like deformed sausages, I can’t wait to pull a pair of those bad boys on.

With light as a feather fabric of the adizero range to sports tops outerwear made with tough Gore Tex to keep you warm and dry, I can’t wait to add some of this colourful collection to my wardrobe.

And as you can see from the rather decorated collage of pieces above, I have chosen my key picks already.

Sports bras make pretty good spider monsters

22 Oct
Sport bra monsters

Sport bra monsters

I didn’t mean it to turn out this way. What I wanted to show was a picture of three different pieces of sports kit that can be used for “supporting” your breasts but when I looked again at the image I took last night, it became apparent that they looked more like inverted spiders (just go with me). Maybe it’s because Halloween is on my mind and all the Haribo-shaped ‘horror’ jelly sweets have blinkered my once so stylish sight. My failure, however, to take a decent pic of these sports bras (with socks stuffed up them to puff them up) should not distract from the real reason of this post. Yes, I wanted to talk to you about running and boobs.

Big, small, flat or perky, when it comes to those little sacks containing the mammary glands there’s one thing we ladies all need – a decent bra.  I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that for years I wore the wrong size bra. My experience as a rather well-developed teenager whose bra kept on coming unhooked at the back while I was walking along the corridors of school still plays on my mind. Let’s just say after making a constant effort to get myself measured every so often, I pretty much know the range of my bra sizes. My bra size depends on a number of factors, including whether I’m in training, what time of year it is, the time of the month, you know the drill.

So what has this got to do with sports bras? Well, up until the last few years I have been seriously neglecting my booby needs in the sporting field. It was not until I really started taking running more seriously that I realised the necessity for the right underarmour.  I always thought that it was perfectly acceptable to pack my little handfuls away in a crop-style bra top (like the bottom one in the photo of spider bras above). I was wrong.

According to an article I found on Runner’s World, my boobs move up and down, side to side– around 33 percent in each direction, when I WALK.  Turn this into a jog or run and this movement increases to 51 percent up and down, 22 percent side to side and 27 percent in and out . You don’t have to be a mathematician to work out that running equals a whole lot more jiggling. My little crop top could not stop them bouncing, let alone protect them from the mad figure of eight created by upping the pace.

While my bouncing boobs in my crop top was not uncomfortable (they’re only small handfuls remember), this constant up and down, side to side and in and out action was causing those fragile ligaments around my breasts to stretch permanently.  And once they’ve stretched to capacity. I would have, yes you guessed it, saggy boobs for life. Now I’m not THAT vain (honest(. I rarely wear make-up to work and I’d rather get a run in than stand there preening myself in the gym mirror (not that there’s anything wrong in that – it’s just how I manage my time). But if through my own stupidity I have caused my boobs to touch my knees in later life, I would be pretty upset. Cue my mantra to always wear a sports bra when working out.

Once I started reading around the subject, I discovered that, just like the conditioner I put in my hair to keep it manageable and the moisturiser I use on my face to stop my skin from drying out, I would have to invest in some new pieces of kit – cue a sudden influx of sports bras in my wardrobe five years ago.

Charlie, over at The Runners Beans, has put together an awesome guide to sports bras, which you can read here. Rather than repeat her info, I’m just going to say that the two brands I and my puppies swear by are Shock Absorber and Freya Active. Here’s why:

With a thick back strap and racerback fastening, Shock Absorber’s Run Bra (second bra in my rather unfortunate photo above) really holds you in place. The Shock Absorber Run prevents bounce (and movement of any kind including the crazy figure of eight created by running). Made from a breathable fabric, it helps keep you cool. If, like me, you like to split your runs up, the Shock Absorber does dry relatively quickly so no more having to get into a soggy bra for that evening plod home. Priced at around £36.99, they don’t come cheap but it’s worth keeping an eye out on Sports Pursuit as they often have deals on Shock Absorber so you can stock up.  In terms of sizing, it starts at 30A and goes up to 36F  but as with everything, it’s worth trying them on first to ensure they feel comfortable and firmly in place.  And as for lifespan, well, I guess it depends on how often you wear them. If, like me, you’re a running junkie, you’ll be lucky for one to last longer than six months.  You can get them in all sorts of fancy colours depending on the season, including a rather fetching pink/purple at the mo.

A great alternative to Shock Absorber is the Freya Active Moulded Sports Bra. I was cynical at first, mainly because I’m not a huge fan of moulded cups (it feels too 70s Wonder Woman to me). That said, once I tried one on and bounced up and down in the changing room a few times, I really liked the fact that each of my breasts had its own cup to sit in. Again the fabric is completely breathable and you have the option to wear it as a racerback or bra. (I prefer the racerback as it feels extremely secure). In fact, I was so impressed by the feel of the Freya Active Moulded Sports Bra that I bought two! Now you don’t hear me say that very often. The black one did, however, see me through the Royal Parks Foundation Ultra (that’s 50K) without chafing or digging in. It was so comfortable that I didn’t have to worry about what I was wearing on that epic adventure. It’s still early days with the Freya Active bras, so I don’t know how long they’ll last but they are available in up to an H cup. One word of advice though: make sure you try on a Freya bra before you buy as you may discover that you have to go down a back size and up a cup or two to find the perfect fit.

How about you? What sports bras do you recommend? How are you helping to prevent the dreaded droop?

From Paris with love – the French brand Oxyde

16 Oct

After a few days away in Spain at the marriage of my big bro to his beautiful new wife, I arrived back to a rather chilly Angleterre. While I’m not a huge fan of the cold, I do love the different seasons in terms of weather and fashion. It’s time to dig out those woollies from hibernation and wrap up in some of my favourite pieces from my autumn/winter wardrobe. Now one of those pieces that I always return to is a white sleeveless sweater-style dress from a boutique called Oxyde in Paris. It must have been almost 10 years ago that this piece, which I love to layer up with rollnecks and colourful hosiery underneath with a classic Beatnik chic, came into my life. Extremely versatile and easy-to-wear, this dress is a fantastic representative of the casual and laid-back style of the French brand Oxyde.

Whenever I visit Paris, I always head to the store located in the Marais (their workshop is also located there) to see what fashion goodies they have in store. The Marais boutique is almost hidden in the back streets of Paree on a street called rue Saint Merri. If you’re heading to the famous Centre Pompidou, go past the fountains (below), cross the main road and you’ll find yourself at rue Saint Merri.  There are also other stores dotted around Paris, which I would not have known about had it not been for my little discovery about oxyde.fr. I have, from time to time, searched the internet for their site, so imagine my excitement when I came across a full blown e-comm boutique. Woo hoo. Not that this would ever stop me from returning to the City of light (it’s one of my second homes after all) but this feast of fashion online is certainly enough to satisfy my sartorial urges between trips.

The delivery charges to the UK may be a little pricey and the website is pretty basic but if you’re looking for winter staples that no one else will have oxyde.fr is worth a browse.  And in true Parisian style, here are 10 key pieces that I would choose for my wardrobe (numbers go from left to right):

My pick of 10 (images go from left to right)

My Oxyde pick of 10 (images go from left to right)

1. Robe Farah, 110 Euros

This pretty print dress with a ruffle neckline is made from a light floaty fabric that doesn’t cling to your lumps and bumps. Easy-to-wear and comfortable, it’s the kind of piece you can wear with woolly tights and a thick cardigan or simply with a pair of pumps.

2. Chemisier Eden, 92 Euros
Swap your winter coat for a denim shirt in-between seasons for that 90s grunge look. This over-sized version from Oxyde would toughen up a pretty slip dress or channel that cool casual Sunday look when worn with slacks.

3. Manteau Cary, 225 Euros
Forget camel coats, navy is where it’s at for all those Fashion Editors and this cape-inspired Cary coat from Oxyde hits the nail on the head. It’s a bit Sherlock but the nipped in waist and elegant design transforms an outfit to chic in an instant.

4. Pantalon Jacinte, 98 Euros
Inject a 40s’ feel into your wardrobe with these Jacinte trousers. Made from 60 percent wool, the loose fit leg and tight ankle means you can team them with boots or heels alike.

5. Jupe Darice, 85 Euros
I’m a huge fan of short, pleated skirts as you can team them with just about anything. This pretty number available in prune or beige is something you’d want to wear again and again.

6. Short Lou, 78 Euros
Or get shorty in a pair of checked shorts. Not convinced? Don’t worry, they’re not for everyone. I love the look of them when teamed with a pair of dark 70 percent opaque tights and a polo neck.

7. Cardigan Imma, 98 Euros
This is a classic golfing-style cardi that you can wear with jeans or dress up with a pencil skirt. Made from 85 percent cotton, it’ll also help keep the warmth in.

8. Gilet Darice, 92 Euros
I love these kind of cardigan coats or “coatigans”, the kind of thing you can pull on over a pretty floral dress to keep you warm and an absolute must-have in your winter wardrobe.

9. Pull Nelly, 95 Euros
I’m a bit obsessed by jumpers but you really can never have enough. I like the fact that this is a slightly baggy version of a classic shape and knit that is 60 percent wool – again another flashback to TV series My So Called Life of the 90s.

10. ECHARPE INé, 45 Euros
No outfit is complete without a scarf and this linen and wool multi-coloured number fits the bill. And to really up your game, you’ve got to learn how to tie it properly, n’est pas? Maybe I’ll do a post on that, what do you think?

31 reasons why I’m looking forward to running 31.07 miles otherwise known as The Royal Parks Ultra Marathon

2 Oct

No, I haven’t gone completely mad after my week with a cold and yes, you did read the title of this blog post correctly. With less than a week to go until The Royal Parks Ultra Marathon, I am really looking forward to this epic challenge.  Here are 31 reasons why I can’t wait to run 31.07 (rounded up) or 50k on 6 October 2013.

Run Becs run

Run Becs run

1. It will be my biggest challenge yet

I’ve run more than 10 marathons, several halves, cross-country races, not sure how many 10ks, 5ks, but I have never paced myself for longer than 26.2 miles. If anything will put my body and mind to the test, it’s going to be this race. I’m not setting myself a time to beat and have no real expectations. What I do want to do, however, is cross the finish line with a smile on my face.

2. It’s a gentle introduction to ultra running

While gentle and ultra don’t look like they belong in the same sentence, the Royal Parks Ultra has been considered to be a baby ultra because it is only 8k more than a marathon. This offers novices like myself the opportunity to test the waters as it were.

3. It may be just what I need

After training for so many months now, I feel that this “baby ultra” race will be my make or break time. Either I love it and will want to try more ultra-type adventures or I’m going to decide it’s not for me and put any “Mini Mimi Anderson” aspirations to bed.

4. It will help me assess my running goals 

Some runners just like to run, while others (like me) have certain goals. At the moment, my main goal is obviously to complete an Ultra but trying something new will help me decide what to aim for next year. Should I be battling the marathon PB? Or perhaps upping the mileage? I’m hoping at least this Ultra will help me identify what path I should take in 2014.

5. It’s not that far

No, I have not lost my mind completely but in the grand scheme of Ultra running races, the Royal Parks Ultra is not that far. This means I do not to have worry too much about the training I’ve done so far affecting the other races I have on this year.

6. I couldn’t compete in the Royal Parks Ultra last year

Last year, as in 2012, was definitely a wake-up call in every sense of the word. From the highs of the Paris Marathon, where I achieved a PB at the Paris marathon to the lows of an injury that put my training back months (and then losing my contract at work), last year was a toughie. And I had to make the decision to pull out of the Royal Parks Ultra because I wasn’t mentally or physically in the right place.

7. Now I can really enjoy some of the most beautiful parks of the world 

If you read my blog regularly, I hope it comes across that I really dig beautiful scenery. Some of my favourite races so far have taken place in the diverse countryside that this green land has to offer (check out my pics of the South Downs Marathon). When you live, work and socialise in London, it can be difficult to (sorry) see the wood through the trees or see any forage full-stop. The London Marathon  is a great example of a race that takes part in the beautiful concrete jungle that is the City but you just don’t get the sense that London is a truly green capital. The Royal Parks Ultra route takes you right through the many beautiful and protected areas of London and I can’t wait to experience them all in one day. Come on, I’m selling it to you now aren’t I?

The  Royal Parks Ultra route

The Royal Parks Ultra route

8. Not to mention the sights

Undoubtedly, the London Marathon is a brilliant experience  but (now here it comes) you miss out on the West side of London. The Royal Parks Ultra takes you right past the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Battersea Park, Richmond Park, Putney Bridge, not to mention Kew Gardens (where there’s a fungi festival on at the moment for any wannabe mycologists). I’ll also be passing over eight bridges that cross the Thames, just don’t ask me to try and name them all.

9. And the different terrains

I’ve run on roads, footpaths, park terrain and even a cycle track but I have never run on them all in the same race (apart from the cycle track of course). The Royal Parks Ultra includes towpaths and park trails as well as the not-so-forgiving concrete roads of central London. It will certainly be a test for my little legs.

10. The start of the race is in Central London

Hurrah, at last, a race that starts not umpteen miles away from my home (or a cycle ride away). All I have to do is work out a way to travel from East Finchley to Hyde Park on public transport for around 7:30am. Yes, it’s an early start for a Sunday but believe me, the starting line is way more preferable than some races I’ve competed in.

11. It’s an early start

I know there’s always this debate going on about the best time of day to run but I’m pretty thankful that this race does begin at 8:30am. This means that (hopefully) I’ll be finished around lunchtime and then be able to go for a well-deserved slap-up pub meal in the glorious surroundings of Teddington. Well, that’s the plan at this moment in time.

12. My friends will be there

All together now, ahhhh. But seriously, having your friends at cheer points and seeing people you know at certain stages of the race really can help motivate you. I’ve lost count of the amount of times during races I’ve wished that my boyfriend had been there, cheering me on, (he’s never seen me win anything) but this time he will be alongside my mum, dad and friends. So thank you guys in advance for your support over the last few months and for putting up with this endless running malarkey. I am truly grateful for all your support.

13. Mimi will be there too

But running not watching. I will be running alongside (yeah right) well behind the awe-inspiring Mimi Anderson who was one of the reasons I signed up for the Royal Parks Ultra in the first place. Mimi is besides other things, a World Record holder. She is also extremely personable and just comes across as totally sound. I’m super excited about running in her footsteps.

14. As well as Team Write This Run 

Some of my fellow Write This Run team will be running the Royal Parks Half, which starts at 9am. This looks like it will be an equally beautiful race and I’m sure I’ll see some familiar faces supporting them along the course as the Royal Parks Ultra follows a similar route. Good luck everyone and a special thanks to Liz from Write This Run for all her sound advice and encouragement.

15. In fact, it feels like a bunch of my running friends will be at The Royal Parks’ races

I’m not sure if I’ll see Leah, Jess, Sian, Charlie and all the rest of the Team Naturally cheering crew but just knowing you’re there makes this race all the more fun. I’ll be wearing pretty much what is in the photo – my Great Ormond Street vest, adidas shorts, granny compression socks (flight socks) under my sole socks, blue New Balance trainers and (I can’t promise but I’ll try) a huge grin.

16.  I get to show off my Great Ormond Street vest

It’s purple, which in the olden days was the royal colour because only royalty could afford the very expensive purple-dyed cloth.  How times have changed but it seems quite apt to wear my purple GOSH vest when running the Royal Parks Ultra Marathon.

17. Not to mention run for charity

I don’t know what other runners think about this but there comes a point when you stop running for charity because you have already done those distances. For me, it always feels a bit ingenious asking my friends and family to sponsor a marathon, for example, when I’m only really in it to get my PB. Of course, I’m not against supporting charities but I’m not going to mix charity with running anymore, unless it is a real challenge that I’ve never tried before. The Royal Parks Ultra Marathon definitely falls into this category.

18.  And a charity after my own heart

I’m supporting GOSH because I wanted to give something back. As a former patient, I know how vital the specialist care and research that GOSH are involved is and as pretty a colour the vest is, it’s more important that I can be a part of their fundraising efforts. You can read the story about my birthmark, operation and how they monitored my leg lengths from being a child through to my teenage years here.  Without GOSH help, I may not have been able to walk let alone run today.

19. I’ve raised a bit of money so far

And with your help, I’d like to raise some more.,. Joking aside, thanks to all those who have sponsored me. It’s a real driver for the Royal Parks Ultra Marathon and I do not want to let you or GOSH down. Of course, I’m nervous but the thought of the money that I’ve raised and all the people who have supported me will be spurring me on.

20. I can put my training to work

Despite my cold last week, I have been training hard. I’ve not exactly stuck to a training plan per say but it has been one of my main priorities of the last few months. It will be great to know that all the early mornings and long runs on a Sunday have been worth it.

21. Especially splitting runs up during the week

I’m not going to say that I spend every hour that I’m not at work running but at times it has felt like it. I run to work (5k), run at lunch (5k) and run home from work (5k). By splitting up my runs like this, I have managed to get the distance in but also managed to kind of have a life (although my boyfriend would probably argue on this one). The downside of splitting runs is the amount of shower gel and towels I get through in a week, not to mention the growing pile of kit in the corner of my room.

22. Talking of kit…

As well as wearing my fancy new GOSH vest, I get to wear my new adidas running shorts with their barely there feel, my Sole socks, which are super comfy and my Freya Active Sports Bra. Of course, I’ve trialed them already and am really pleased with the way they make me look and feel but the Royal Parks Ultra Marathon really is the ultimate test.

23. Coming back to the Freya Active Sports Bra

Now I’m not going to bang on about this too much but this piece of under armour is just that. When it comes to designing these wonderful pieces of equipment, I’m sure the team got the memo about a strict no bounce policy. I feel totally secure in my mine with no worries about jiggling about, which means I can concentrate on the race.

24. I’ve been doing the hydration maths

According to my calculations, I’m going to need a 500ml bottle of electrolyte Nuun-infused water (will take a litre to be sure) plus a bottle of plain water. I don’t really go in for gels but will probably have a sports drink beforehand to give me an initial boost of energy. Cross-fingers that my A in GCSE maths will not let me down.

25. Food, glorious food

Then there’s the eating that I’ve tried to incorporate into my training regime. Admittedly, I’m not the best at sticking to this as I’m out of habit of eating before races. But honestly (mum) I have nibbled on energy bars here and there while training and am sticking to the minimum amount of alcohol in the run up to the race. Let’s see if undoing years of going without will make a difference at the Royal Parks Ultra Marathon.

26. They’ll be food at the end

Even if I don’t feel like a pint and a pie after plodding for 50k , there’s always the option of FREE hot food at the end of the race. How many races have offered you that, eh? The perks of running The Royal Parks Ultra Marathon.

27. Did I read that correctly – AND hot showers?

I love running and racing but the aftermath of a marathon or even a 10k is always, well, a bit messy. In fact, I buy passes off PayAsYouGym so I can use their facilities close by. Who wants to travel back on the tube smelling like old socks? It was like music to my ears when I heard that Ultra runners can have a hot shower for FREE after the race. It’s the simple things that make all the difference.

28. Plus FREE massages

It seems odd to look forward to be looking forward to a massage and not some relaxing candle-lit job but a hardcore knead-your-muscles-like-dough experience but I think my legs are going to need it after a 50k race.

29. I’ve been prepping my legs with monthly sports massages

Unlike other races, where I’ve not taken the care to look after my legs, I’ve been making regular visits to the lovely Gareth of A2Z Elite Health and boy has it made a difference to my training. I hope my visit last Friday will also make a difference to my performance.

30. Gareth says I’m ready

My sports masseur Gareth is also a specialist sports and performance physio and was the lead physiotherapist for the British diving team. He is an expert in his field, passionate about his field ans always happy to share his advice. From adaptations and why I need to vary my routine to inactive injuries, I always learn something new about athletes and performance every time I pay him a visit. And if someone who has worked with the likes of Tom Daley tells you you’re ready, it’s a real boost to your confidence.

31. I’m running 31 miles aged 31

And I ran my first marathon that’s 26 miles at age 26 back in 2009. Maybe this is just by chance and I’m not in the least bit spiritual but I kind of like this pattern. What next? Well, we’ll have to wait and see what happens at the Royal Parks Ultra Marathon.

You can read my story and pledge your pounds here - it is an awesome cause and I’m really looking forward to wearing my vest with pride. Who will be running with me?

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My beauty stash: John Frieda Sheer Blonde

30 Sep
My beauty stash: John Frieda Sheer Blonde

Once a blonde, always a blonde…

Besides a brief hiatus with the dark side (I had jet black hair for two years!), my crowning glory has always been on the lighter side. I’d like to say it’s all natural but I’m not adverse to a helping hand from a bottle or two of the lightening stuff.  And as we all know, this has a tendency to weaken hair, make it prone to brittleness and can also turn it the brassy side of yellow. If you’re not careful, dying your hair can transform locks from glossy to Wurzel Gummage-style and this is exactly what I have been faced with over the past few months.

As you can see from these photos, I’ve had many different styles of hair. When you’re hair is constantly cut short, it’s easier to keep it in tip-top condition. But when you’ve been growing it for a particular wedding, the very tips of your barnet start to get a bashing. It’s not that I’m not careful during the process of lightening my roots, it’s sometimes difficult to apply the solution just to areas that matter. The result is blonde hair that feels drier than usual and out of condition.

So when John Frieda asked if I wanted to bring out the blonde with their Everlasting Sheer Blonde Colour-preserving shampoo and condition, of course I said yes, yes, yes.  As a runner, who washes their hair almost every day, I go through washing product like there’s no tomorrow. And John Frieda’s special range of products for blondes seem to fit the bill. Yes, they’re slightly more expensive than your average shampoo and conditioner – around £6 a pop for a 250ml bottle – but you only need a pea-sized amount of the shampoo to create a lather in my now shoulder-length hair. I use a little more conditioner and leave it for around a minute, then comb through for tangle-free locks. My hair does feel softer after each use.

The test for me, however, is always a few hours later as I let my hair dry naturally, often in a hair bobble as I do not like hair strands dangling around my face as I work. Can I pull my wide-toothed comb through my hair without shedding a number of fine blond hairs all over the place? Well, kind of. My hair is not back to what it was but it is feeling softer and smoother than before. After just a couple of washes, it also looks brighter and shinier than before. It breaks less frequently than before I’m no longer suffering from the dreaded frizz.

John Frieda’s  Everlasting Sheer Blonde Colour-preserving shampoo and condition has not completely restored my locks but it’s now looking smoother and sleeker than scarecrow. I’m not quite at the ice maiden blonde stage but after a few more months of using the stuff, I’m sure I’ll recapture my shine.

I was sent John Frieda’s Everlasting Sheer Blonde Colour products to review, all opinions and references to children’s TV characters are my own.

Run down: when it’s time to take it easy…

26 Sep

It’s been exactly a year since I launched The Style Dynamo…Woo hoo. What initially started out as a story of my wardrobe has transformed into a tale of my different passions, including running, beauty and fashion.

As well as allowing me to meet so many inspirational people along the way, this blog has offered me the opportunity to take on different challenges. Only a few weeks ago, I participated in my first duathlon. I’ve been a member of the Write This Run 10K team, I’ve “owned the night” with Leah and the gang (plus Nike), run my own “Speedy” sessions alongside the lovely Charlie of The Runner Bean and even had my photo taken for BuyMyWardrobe. Undoubtedly, I have as the French would say, “profitez-en bien” from this platform, where I can express myself in ways that I may not be able to when in front of a crowd. (I’m not the most forthcoming of people sometimes). I’ve had so many good times in the past year and could not have envisaged the amount of support I’ve found from my fellow bloggers. It’s such an amazing community to be a part of. But along with the highs, there have been some lows. And I have to say that the last couple of days have been a bit of a rough patch.

It was all going so well, almost too well I have to say. I’ve been feeling strong, powerful, determined and really ready for my next challenge. The big one. The Royal Parks Ultra Marathon. I’d completed a number of practice runs (up to a marathon at a time) and surprisingly not collapsed at the end of them. You know, I was up for it and even ran last Sunday after a pretty heavy night out on Saturday. Fatigue has plagued my body a bit but that’s all part of the training, right? Right? WRONG.

Runner's rocket fuel it ain't

Runner’s rocket fuel it ain’t

Fast forward to Monday and instead of my usual sprightly leap out of bed, I’m dragging myself to turn off the alarm. I head to the gym on my bike with the intention of a usual early morning 5k around the park but I’m not really feeling it. By lunchtime, I sound like a 40-a-day chain smoker and am completely spaced out. It takes me more than my usual two seconds to register when someone’s asked me a question. So I head home ON THE TUBE (I rarely take the tube) and crawl into bed thinking all I need is sleep. If only that were true. The next day I wake up feeling worse (how can it be?) and languish in my own heap of self-pity with nothing but Radio 4 Extra dramas and a cup of Lemsip to keep me company.

By day three, I’ve had enough of this cold. It’s completely put my life on hold. I can’t run, I’ve cancelled lunch plans with a good friend the previous day and now I’d have to forgo my chance to see the England Women’s Netball team play South Africa at Wembley with Maximuscle. If that wasn’t enough, this ruddy sickness thing is stopping me from training for the Ultra that is looming in the not too distant future – one and a half weeks away. As you can tell, I’m not the best at this staying in bed all day malarkey. I’m such an active person that to my detriment perhaps, I sometimes find it hard to relax let alone have to lay still for several hours at a time.  I also hate being off work and disconnected from the world. As I haven’t bothered to register with a doctor in my area, I’m left with the option of a four hour wait at the local hospital walk-in centre. Lucky me. So armed with the latest copy of Glamour magazine, which I didn’t read as I was too tired (!?!) , I sat there diligently waiting and waiting for my turn.

Thankfully, I only have a viral cold, not a chest infection as I feared, but it has certainly thrown me off course. I’d planned for a couple of shorter runs over the next few days but don’t want to risk it when my health isn’t up to scratch. According to advice from the experts, you should not run your symptoms are “below the neck” as this indicates you have a virus – CHECK. The amount of reassuring articles I’ve read on the internet that I will not lose my conditioning by taking a few days off helps but I would still like to fit in a few more shorter runs during the tapering session.

It’s at times like these you remember that you’re not invincible. You may be stronger and fitter than ever but it only takes a few too many runs when you’re tired or a few too many late nights and you’re hit with a setback.  If I want to be 100% on course for next week, I need to take it easy and rest up so I can perform and complete this epic challenge next Sunday.  I hope that my steely determination and willpower are enough to get me through my longest ever race.

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Savvy sales shopping 2013

6 Jan
Paris shop window

Paris shop window

Offering up to 70% off hot fashion items, it’s hard not to be tempted by the sales this year. But before you take the plunge and head to the stores, here are a few tips to take the urge out of your splurge.

1. Does it fit?
Yup, it’s a pretty obvious one but there’s no point in buying an item that is two sizes to small for you. You may be hoping to shift a few pounds by summer but by then you’ll be thinking more about bikinis than cashmere sweaters or whatever you’ve purchased.

If you can’t parade and show off your goods now or at least try it on at home, then there’s really not much point. Come on, don’t kid yourself. Buy something that will fit and makes you look and feel good and it’ll boost your confidence. Trust me.

2. Think in the long-term
When it comes to designer bargains, think classic rather than avant-garde.

I remember a few years ago, a friend on a fashion course got her hands on a Barbour Liddlesdale jacket for something like £10 from Harrods. I bet she has dug this little treasure out year after year.

Another friend bagged herself a piece of Vivienne Westwood arm candy in the Liberty sale a few years ago and when we are out on the town her ‘Vivienne’ is never far from her side.

We may not all be able to find a Barbour bargain but if you are tempted by designer goods, find a piece you’ll want to show off (see my New Year, New Boots post).

3. The staples
Cashmere jumper? Check. LBD? Check. Jeans that fit? Hmm. Before you head to the sales, think about the staples that are missing from your wardrobe.

This time of year is brilliant for stocking up on tailored trousers, high-quality knits, finding a few pieces for work and maybe the odd party dress or two.

You don’t have to go out the door with a complete agenda but think of it as a chance to build up your capsule wardrobe at a fraction of the normal price.

4. Sign up to Shop It To Me
Shop It To Me is a personalised sales shopping search engine that does all the hard work so you don’t have to. Simply enter in your criteria, including size, stores you like and your favourite designer brands, and Shop It To Me will trawl the web and send you a daily email with a summary of all the items on sale in selected stores in your size.

Honestly, it is the easiest way to find some true designer bargains. Last year, I bought a pair of Acne jeans for less than £35 through shopittome!

What are you waiting for, sign up to it today and do some sale shopping from your sofa.

Do you have any tips you’d care to share about sales shopping with me?

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