#Introjuicing sweat and two veg

25 Jul

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

Shiny juicer

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

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

    Juice

    Almost a pint of the good stuff

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

    I love photos me

    I love photos me

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

    No thanks to cleaning up this mess on a daily basis

    No thanks to cleaning up this mess on a daily basis

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

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

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

24 Jul

What is Results with Lucy?

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

Results with Lucy

Results with Lucy

Tell me more 

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

So who are the people behind Results with Lucy?

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

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

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

Nutrition task master

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

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

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

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

An exercise blast

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

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

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

Are there any downsides?

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

Anything else you may want to know?

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

Is it aimed at fitness freaks like me?

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

Will I be emptying my wallet?

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

Overall verdict

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

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

16 Jul

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

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

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

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

Chia Pod Pop-up - yum yum

Chia Pod Pop-up – yum yum

 

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

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

My first 5k by the Dynamo Mum

15 Jul

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

Team Dynamo

Team Dynamo

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

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

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

How were you feeling before the start?

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

Laughing

Mum’s first running selfie

What did you think of the route?

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

How did you find the race overall?

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

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

Dynamo Mum hits the hills

Tackling those hills – the Dynamo Mum is a natural

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

Is there anything you would do differently the next time?

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

Will there be another outing for Team Dynamo?

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

Bling bling

Mum’s first bit of bling

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

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

Well done Dynamo Mum

Special thanks

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

Race day is looming for the Dynamo Mum

11 Jul

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

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

adidas t-shirts

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

What are you most looking forward to?

The finish line!

How is the Training going? Any Tips?

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

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

2. Take longer strides.

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

What are you scared of?

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

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

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

What are you aiming for?

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

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

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

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

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

#Runcommute: Lighten the load with Fitness First Home Run

10 Jul

If you want to run home or part of the way home without a heavy load you have one of two options. Either leave the majority of your stuff at work (rather obvious) or get involved with Fitness First Home Run.

Fitness First Home Run

Fitness First Home Run

After a break of 18 months, Fitness First in conjunction with Limelight Sport (who are behind the Swimathon, London Duathlon, Royal Parks’ Half and Ultra Marathon) have relaunched what can be described as a sociable #runcommute with a bunch of friendly Londoners (yes, we exist) plus the added bonus that your bags will be transported to the final destination. Translated: you don’t have to carry a rucksack the whole way. And seeing as I have an object that transports stuff of some kind permanently attached to me, it felt like a breath of fresh air when I took part in the Home Run from Fitness First, Tottenham Court Road to Fitness First Highbury and Islington on Monday.

Not quite a running club

Fitness First Home Run is not the place to go if you want a structured session of threshold training nor is it a replacement for those vital speedy track runs which some of us runners know we need to get to grips with. It is not a running club per say. That being said, it shares the same community spirit. In fact, it’s more like a sociable run home with a gang of mates. You start chatting to someone you’ve only just met at the start and before you know it, you’re five miles down and almost at the finish. As they say, a change is sometimes as good as a rest and this solitary long-distance runner relished in the opportunity of company on the #runcommute through Camden.

The power of the masses

Love the #runcommute, hate the people? You’re not alone. Running at peak hours through the centre of town certainly puts a whole new slant on the term urban jungle. From dodging tourists to weaving in and out of lampposts, the #runcommute is a test of agility, speed, stamina and patience. Now we all have to share a pavement but when you have a group of runners (as selfish as this sounds), pavements seem to open up and you have the freedom to run in a straight line. Fitness First Home Run offers power to the running masses.

Colourful Camden

Colourful Camden

New perspective of London 

With four routes planned for this season’s Home Run: Liverpool Street to Stratford, Bank to Clapham Junction via Waterloo, Tottenham Court Road to Highbury and Canary Wharf to Waterloo (for more details click here) you can pick the one that most suits you and also see London from a different perspective. Even if you a route planned with the precision of a military operation, it’s always fun to see how other people would interpret it. The Tottenham Court Road to Highbury Home Run takes you past Regent’s Park, Camden and past Holloway and the Emirates, a route this former Stoke Newington girl would never consider taking. And I have to say it was eclectic passing through pretty Regent’s Park into the colourful Camden, back streets of Holloway and finally past the Emirates Stadium.

Regent's Park

Regent’s Park

Sign up now

Whether you’re a beginner or more experienced runner, Home Run lightens the load and takes the faff out of running home. All you have to do is turn up at the respective Fitness First and follow the running leaders. It really is that easy. Now this does come at the price of £15 for a six-week season (you receive a light-weight comfy t-shirt if that’s any consolation). Admittedly it’s not that much for some but this fitness lark can add up. The first season will finish on 25 July; it’s probably better to sign up for the second one starting on 4 August. If you’re a Fitness First member, it’s free. Another note about this season’s Home Run is that it only takes place two days a week (Monday and Wednesday or Monday and Thursday depending on the route) so you can’t adopt it fully as part of your commute home for the week. This may change in the future. And it’s only based in London. Despite these minor sticky points, Fitness First Home Run certainly stands by its mantra or hashtag for you to #GetFitGetHome.

Do you #runcommute home or would you consider a similar scheme in your area?

 

Going away? Don’t forget your toothbrush and trainers (and sports bra)

7 Jul

If you love travelling and running, there’s no reason why you can’t combine the two. Even when not racing abroad, you can still make the most of your experience, explore your surroundings and even find an area off the tourist trail before the city wakes up. Whatever you do on your hols, don’t forget your toothbrush and trainers (and sports bra girls). Here’s why:

1. You can keep up with the KM 

That’s kilometres for anyone who works with imperial measurements. Training for any kind of race requires a certain amount of commitment. While two weeks of complete rest will not undo all your good work (in certain cases some running fanatics may benefit), it can leave you feeling mentally underprepared.

Enjoying the sunset on Mirissa beach, Sri Lanka

Enjoying the sunset on Mirissa beach, Sri Lanka

 

In the crucial weeks before the London Marathon 2013 (late February to early March), I was sunning myself in Sri Lanka. It was amazing travelling all over this very interesting country, which is a tapestry of history and has one of the most beautiful coastlines I’ve ever seen.  When it came to training however, I only managed a few small runs. This meant that when it came to my marathon a month and a bit later, my time and confidence took a battering. I always feel that  you should treat fitness like a language i.e. if you don’t use it, you lose it. You don’t have to train everyday but take your foot too far off the pedal and you’ll have to step up more than one gear on your return.

2. It’s an opportunity to explore new places

Now the “training advice” (believe you me, this is only from personal experience and may not apply to everyone) is over, one of the best reasons to take your trainers is they offers you endless opportunities. As long as you use a bit of common sense and (as hard as it is for me to write this) make sure that it’s cultural acceptable/ safe for you to go out alone, a run around the local area is a brilliant way to see the sights.

Ironically on July’s #run2workday, I was staying in Manchester (no, it wasn’t a holiday but I was a newbie to Manc) at the same hotel as the conference my work was hosting the next day. I could say ‘I ran to work’ but that would merely consist of sprinting across the corridor. Staying true to the spirit of the day, I packed my running gear so I could view the great city of Manchester before it became a hub of activity. As it was my first time in this great city, I didn’t really know what to expect but was really impressed by the architecture of the town hall and art museums. In fact, having been there in a working capacity and plodded around first thing in the morning, I now want to go back with my partner for a weekend.

3. And a chance to discover the new in familiar spots

Bath Canal

Bath Canal

Once you fall in love with a city or place (take Paris, for example), you may find yourself wanting to retrace your steps at least once again. By running in these familiar spots, you’re able to spot what has changed or stayed the same. For me, the city of Bath is a home away from home. I love nothing better than a long run up the canal to Bradford-on-Avon and am always surprised at what I notice. From fewer canal boats (the last time I visited) to more greenery and canal boats selling ice cream to the flowers and a new block of flats being built, I enjoy treading the same paths but discovering differences every time.

 4. Plus something for later

Morning, midday, evening, who cares when you go for a run when you’re on holiday? Take a rough map, find your bearings so that when you do spot a cool bar, you can make a mental note for later. Want to check out if the guide is worth the paper that it is printed on? Try a run there before you make any decisions. As an early bird, I use my morning run on holiday as an excuse to check out the hotspots, discover if there is anything publicised that we could do later and find any golden nuggets (normally consisting of a bar with fabulous cocktails or a restaurant that serves a vegetarian meal other than risotto) that we simply must go to. If the city is small, I can also use it to gauge stuff like queues for museums, opening and closing times and the best places for coffee for my boyf (normally frequented by the locals).

5. It won’t weight you down

My speedy adidas boost trainers did help

These babies are super light and don’t weigh me down

Quite simply, running is one of the easiest ways to stay on top of your fitness when away from home. All you need is a pair of trainers (and a sports bra girls), shorts and t-shirt, which you’ll probably take anyway if you’re heading somewhere warm. Are your trainers a bit bulky to pack in your suitcase? Wear them on the plane. But if you do want to pull off the whole “how to look good while you fly” (something I’ve never quite achieved as I a) love hoodies and trainers b) would wear my PJs to fly society-permitting), why not invest in some of the extra light-weight trainers around? Adidas have recently launched a pair of adizero Prime Boost. Who cares if they’re aimed at the boys, they look pretty awesome and claim to be as light as a feather and probably pack neatly into your bag. By taking your trainers you’ll also be sorted for any adventures where flip-flops won’t quite cut it. And who can say no to adventures abroad?

Do you train while on holiday? What have you discovered while running abroad?

My summer of sporty style picks 2014

2 Jul

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, it’s officially cool to get your sweat on. The recent news that Net-a-Porter are launching a fashionable fitness destination called, yep you guessed it Net-a-Sporter, puts sportswear at the heart of the style map. Move over high-heeled glamour and make way for the relaxed, sexy and damn right more comfortable sport luxe look.

Whatever you think of fashion and the so-called images of “strong women” sporting this gear, this nod by the fashion big wigs has to be a good thing. Come on, stick with me here, it means even more choice of lovely legwear, an excuse to buy yet another colourful vest and sporty numbers that you can wear if you dare on and off the court. And just to convince you, I’ve picked out some of my favourite pieces for a summer of sporty style.

1. LIJA Hourglass Tennis dress, £48, LIJA Style

LIJA Tennis dress

LIJA Tennis dress

Sometimes you need to add colour to your life and what better way than this shocking pink tennis dress by Canadian leisurewear brand LIJA. It’s not for the faint-hearted and sure it may be on the short side for work but this little number will work on those lazy summer days. It would be a go-to for holidays and thanks to the contrasting zip is a welcome change from the classic tennis whites. After seeing Susie Chan (mega Ultra Runner and inspirational chick) working a cute tennis dress at the City Mile the other day, I’m tempted to buy one and try it out for races as well as the post-medal celebrations.

2. The Runsie, $98, Lululemon

Runsie by Lululemon

Runsie by Lululemon

Thank you Laura from Life Laura London for bringing this ‘Runsie’ Onesie all-in-one cute number into my life. As opposed to the LIJA Tennis dress, I would never run in this.  I would, however, wear it again and again (see how I’m trying to justify the price here). For example, on a hot and balmy day. It would be one of those things I’d pull on when heading to the beach on holiday or take to the festival as I optimistically hope for sunshine. Put simply, I need this one piece in my life this summer.

3. Nike Pro Sparkle Sunburst leggings, £90, Nike

Nike Sunburst leggings

Nike Sunburst leggings

You could either book a Eurostar to Paris complete with Prosecco, lentil-based salad dish for lunch and perhaps a pudding or purchase these Nike leggings. Bright, bold and Holly Fulton-esque, I don’t care if they made my legs look like sausages or the insane price – 90 smackers for what are essentially a piece of stretchy lycra. I know, I know, they are made from a high-tech, wick away the sweat fabric. You could wear them with a loose-fitting boyfriend shirt to work too. Paris or leggings? The jury may be out for me but they are pretty fabulous.

4. Patagonia Women’s Capilene® 1 Silkweight Graphic T-Shirt, £45, Patagonia

Patagonia t-shirt

Patagonia t-shirt

Thanks to Yotopia Yoga’s  free classes over the past three Fridays, cloud-gazing has become a weekly ritual and why not? After all, it really does help calm the mind. That’s why I love the Skyscape print of this tee by Patagonia. Designed for the outdoor adventurer, this piece is also highly practical for those wanting to hit the trails. Not only does is the material breathable, fast-drying and made to filter out the sun’s harmful rays (it says it’s UPF 50+), it’s also scores highly on the green points as 35 percent of the polyester that goes into this top has been recycled.

5. Sweaty Betty Momentum Run Cami, £55, Sweaty Betty

Sweaty Betty cami

Sweaty Betty cami

Even if you’ll be spending this summer running through suburbia, at least you can imagine sailing away into the sunset with this vest by Sweaty Betty. In fact, the blurb says that this print is taken from the founder of Sweaty Betty Tamara’s own archives – what a lucky lady. It’s not only the print that makes this such a standout addition to the wardrobe, the longer length of the top means this vest will not ride up and show off your belly (unless of course you want it to). Constructed with an in-built bra, you may not even have to worry about packing your under armour unless of course you’re running, where I’d always say pack them in as tight as possible so they do not budge.

6. GapFit Geo Print Shorts, £16.95, Gap

Gap shorts

Gap shorts

A few months back, I attended a Gap with Glamour magazine event to showcase the new GapFit sportswear. Now I know during the evening the Prosecco was to blame for me loosening the purse-strings but when I woke up the next morning, I was still pleased with my purchases. The shorts, in particular, are well-made, light-weight, comfortable and come in a range of standout prints including this take on camouflage.  I also find that they’re neither too short (as in flash your bum cheeks) nor too tight and the relaxed fit is flattering for ladies with powerful thighs.

7. Gymluxe V Mesh Vest, £49.99, Gymluxe

Gymluxe top

Gymluxe top

Hello new top to go with my black pencil skirt. The sleek silhouette combined with flattering mesh detailing and ultra-light fabric make this elegant top a great choice for the gym or dare I say it clubbing. The cobalt colour is particularly eye-catching and, once again, it ends at your hip so you don’t have to worry about flashing your tum. The only decision you have to make is whether you’ll really want to just wear this piece while exercising.

8. Puma Ferrari Track Jacket, £50, Puma

Ferrari jacket by Puma

Ferrari jacket by Puma

Fans of biker jackets, take a look at this bad boy by Puma. Created with Ferrari, this is way more stylish than a hoodie and would work with yoga pants and jeans alike. It’s also the perfect layer for the temperature at this time of year – let’s call it a transitional jacket to see you through the seasons. And with the Ferrari shield badges sewn on the cuffs and the back, it’s one for fans of the classic red Italian sports car and costs about the same as four pairs of Ferrari socks – just trust me on this one.

9. Creation Tubular Scarf, $30, Lolë

Tubular scarf by Lole

Tubular scarf by Lole

The lovely Cat of Diaries of a Marathon Widow drew my attention to this Canadian brand, which is not yet available in the UK (goddamit) and on searching through the site of quality pieces, I spied a selection of tubular scarves. Again, they’re not the type of thing you’d wear on a run but when there’s a chill in the air on a long walk or cycle, this useful item will keep you warm. The tubular shape means they’re less fiddly than scarves and less likely to get caught in bicycle wheels. Forget those kaftan-style throw-on shirts for festivals or shawls, that you’ll only end up traipsing in the mud. Try a tubular scarf instead.

10. adidas Flower Jogger Pants, £26, adidas

Jogger pants by adidas

Jogger pants by adidas

When you’ve just run god knows how far, have jumped in the shower and want to change into something more comfortable, what do you reach for? Jogging pants – well I know that I do. Thankfully, I can now slip into these relaxed pyjama-style pants from adidas with a pretty flower print rather than a classic jogger pant-style from the 90s (and probably from the 90s). They may not be as toasty as the fleecy ones but who needs it when the sun is shining. Made out of light-weight polyester, the slim but not skinny fit makes them fantastic for holidays and you can create a relaxed look when teamed with a white vest, flip-flops and the tubular scarf from Lolë. There you go, holiday outfit sorted.

 

Racing weekend: Vitality Run Hackney Half Marathon 2014 and City of London Mile 2014

28 Jun

What do you get when you run a half marathon and a mile race in the same day? A double-dose of bling and who could say no to that? Certainly not this off-your-rocker running fanatic. Here’s why last Sunday 22 June 2014 was a race day and half (or should I say mile).

Hackney Photo

Sorry about the rubbish photo – I didn’t have time to reach for my camera on this one…

First up: Vitality Run Hackney Half Marathon 2014

Having lived a sixth of my life in Stoke Newington, Hackney, this area of London will always have a place in my heart. I’ve watched as Dalston has transformed from fairly grotty to still fairly grotty during the day but the life and the soul of the party at night. And with the opening of the new cinema in Hackney and a glut of designer outlets, this rough-round-the-edges side of London is becoming a destination for young hipsters. In their Fresh Prince-style dungarees and glitter heeled jelly shoes, they infiltrate the many coffee shops serving everything but Nescafe. And what a fine audience they made for the 12,500 runners or so who came through the streets of Hakkers last Sunday.

The course

Running, jogging, plodding and racing, we were there to take home the all-important medal of this inaugural event. If I was to break down the course, I would say that we ran through the heart of Hackney but unfortunately I can only remember running past Becca from Snickerstomarathon at mile 6ish, the Pringle outlet round the back of the cinema (says a lot really) and the final three miles, which is best described as undulating paths of tarmac hell. And it’s probably the case that I was just in a funny old running zone but one thing I liked about the Paris Marathon was that they put up signposts of the sights as you passed them. Why shouldn’t Hackney do the same? After all, there is a lot of history in that part of town.

Organisation of the race

If you take a step back and look at the race as a whole, I’m sure you’ll agree that it was pretty well organised. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I was reminded to check transport links, was told it would be a 20-minute walk from Stratford station and to make sure I was prepared for hot water. Yes, there was a bit are argy bargy from me at the start as I climbed the barrier and tried to manoeuvre myself into the right time zone.  I took a Nuun with me to drop into a bottle of water halfway round, only to be given a Capri Sun-style water pouch. That’s definitely a learning for next time on my part. I’m also no mathematician and my map reading in the past has been questionable (or questioned by one person in particular) but the final 100 yards seemed to go on and on and on. Finally, this was one of the first races my boyf has been to this year in the UK to support me so at least make sure he can grab a coffee. Early morning plus no coffee equals moany boyf and grumbles that running isn’t a spectator sport. Please hire one of those ruddy coffee vans to satisfy the disgruntled supporter.

Leader of the pack

Leader of the pack

All in all though, the Hackney Half Marathon was well-organised with plenty of stewards at every point of the race and a seamless finish. You have to give the organisers some leeway, it was the first of its kind and a pretty massive one at that. I also liked the fact that it began at 9am. Early races are good, believe me. It means that you can spend the rest of the day at one of those trendy rooftop bars OR taking part in another race. Bet you can’t guess which one I chose?

Duh duh duhhhhh: City of London Mile

What the hell, it’s only a mile or four times around a 400m track is how I rationalised this one to myself. And I receive yet another medal so that I can definitely give Mr T a run for his money. In my mind it was all so well planned. Finish the race in roughly 1:30 (1:36:19 not too bad with the heat), head back to Stratford, jump on the tube, alight (when else can you use this word?) at St Paul’s, pick up number, pin on shirt and go to start of the mile race with quarter of an hour to spare.

This isn’t quite what happened. It was more like wait for boyfriend to spot his colleague finish the race, wander back to Stratford with the clock ticking, arrive at St Paul’s at five to twelve (the race was at 12:15). Quickly swap numbers over, dump stuff at bag drop, head to First Aid to grab a plaster as my finger was bleeding furiously and then finally with all this adrenaline still pumping from the stress of will I/won’t I make it, head to the starting line. Phew.

The course

The mile took you past St Paul’s Cathedral, the Bank of England and Guildhall. Come on, what were you expecting? It was a mile after all.

Organisation of the race

Despite the low turnout of the Half Marathon Cool Down crew, the organisation of this race was impeccable. I was worried about picking up my race pack etc.. but it was pretty easy. There was support along the way with drumming and I even spotted Leah from NaturallyLeah (I dumped the boyf at Westfields so he could find a coffee. The race organisers were also strict about start times as I did ask them to wait for a bloke I know called Tom, who I could see making his way to the start in the distance, but to no avail (and to their credit really). We were given medals and a pretty decent goody bag at the end and so came to a close my Sunday #RUNday. The only think I thought was a shame was the fact that so many participants of the Hackney Half didn’t make it in time or decided not to take part due to the heat. Yes, I was feeling a bit sick as by this point I’d probably swallowed half a pint of blood (I cut my finger on Saturday and it decided to bleed furiously throughout the Hackney Half) but I’m glad that I could do the City of London Mile. My time may not have been the best (6:46) but my legs weren’t too knackered afterwards, which is exactly the result I’m currently looking for.

This final quick mile was the perfect finale to my raceday and since it was all over by one, I had the rest of my Sunday to hit one of those trendy rooftop bars for a pint of cider or three.

How was your #runday or experience of the Hackney Half?

 

7 easy ways to get fit(ter) for free

25 Jun

If I had a million dollars, I’d buy myself time, a PT and a lifetime membership to one of the amazing gyms that London has to offer. Unfortunately, like the most of my friends living in London, these luxuries are way out of reach. While we may be hearing that “good times” are back on the agenda economically, the reality (especially outside of the capital) seems to paint a different picture.

 

Kentish Town Road

You are Priceless – really?

 

It seems that in periods of instability like these health is the first thing to be sacrificed. In fact, a  recent Legal & General survey revealed that  83% of families with children under 10, living in the UK, think gym memberships are the easiest luxury to give up. Now I don’t want to stand on my soapbox and preach about how healthy body equals healthy mind but it’s remarkable how simply getting the heart pumping for half an hour a day by moving your body can boost your mood. And you don’t have to pay for the privilege or be super-fit to start with. Whatever your age of level of experience, here are 7 ways to get fit(ter) for free.

1. Walk or cycle (part of the way) to work

One of the easiest ways to pack in your cardio is to give it a purpose. Take the commute to work, for example. Most people who work in an office have to travel to an office somehow, so why not ditch the car or public transport and do it by foot or bike? You may actually enjoy it a whole lot more (now the weather has perked up) and be surprised at how walking helps to calm you down and lowers your stress. In fact, just 10 minutes of exercise a day has been shown to improve heart health. A quick cycle to work will make you feel so good as you whizz by all the stressed commuters stuck in a traffic jam. Even if you have to drive to work, you could always park further away to increase your number of daily steps. Try it and you’ll arrive at your desk feeling calm and raring to go.

2. Take the stairs

I know it’s been said again and again but why wouldn’t you take the stairs at work? (Unless you work on the ground floor, duh). You may think it will take you longer but you’ll be surprised. By the time the lift has arrived and you’ve gone through the process of waiting for people to come out so you can enter, then pressed the button and arrived on your floor (perhaps collecting and depositing people on the way), you may as well have walked. Go on, I dare you to try it and time yourself against a colleague. No, it won’t turn you into a triathlete but taking the stairs will get your heart rate up, which is important, for free.

3. Think like a kid

Do you remember all those games that you played as a kid? Skipping, catch, Frisbee, chase….What is stopping you now? Rocky’s favourite skipping is an awesome way to up your fitness levels. Try skipping for a minute and you’ll realise just how challenging it is. My best advice is to work up slowly with two jumps in-between each swing of the rope then progressing to one. Another great one for your cardio and your waist is hula hooping. This may or may not involve extra cost, depending on the model of hula hoop that you intend to buy. Head to the Poundshop or 99p shop and you’ll be laughing your way to fitness as you try to perfect the moves.

4. Team up with mates

It doesn’t matter if you’re completely inept when it comes to hand-eye coordination, a game of rounders with friends is a brilliant way to spend an evening, create team spirit and get moving after a bum-on-seat kind of day. Not only will it leave you feeling energised, you’ll also get in some cardio as you sprint between bases. Five-a-side footie also comes relatively cheaply (on Astroturf) or for free if you’re using your local park. All it will cost you is time trying to convince your friends to take part and that’s nothing the promise of a cheeky victory pint afterwards will not solve.

5. Join your local parkrun

Well, I couldn’t really avoid mentioning running, especially when you probably have an awesome parkrun happening every Saturday in your local park. Once you have paid for the right gear (decent running shoes and sports bra if you’re a girl), running can be a relatively inexpensive activity, depending upon how far you take it. And the free 5K parkrun – a timed race organised by volunteers – may seem intimidating at first but they are honestly there for everyone at all different levels. I have done several in London and in Norfolk and am always amazed at how they bring the community together through running.  Even if you think you’re not a runner, this weekly event offers you goals to work towards. Try it and you’ll be converted, I promise.

Cloud-watching with Yotopia Yoga

Cloud-watching with Yotopia Yoga

6. Get involved with a branded community

From Nike Training Club and adidas 26ers to Sweaty Betty and Lululemon, there are now a number of brands who take the word community seriously. I do not joke when I say that Londoners could probably find a free class that they could do almost every day of the week via Nike, adidas, Lululemon, Sweatshop and Sweaty Betty. And those outside of the capital can also get involved with Sweaty Betty, Nike, Sweatshop and adidas (who sponsor parkrun) plus a bunch of other sports shops I’m sure. Salomon for one were inviting keen beans to take part in city trails around the world. If you’re really stuck, then you can always download the NTC (Nike Training Club) app or head to the Sweaty Betty website, where there are plenty of videos for you to use. Whether you want to run faster, improve your flexibility or simply try a new fitness trend (Sweaty Betty are particularly supportive of this), you really have got everything you need at your fingertips.

7. Test out trial offers 

Many fitness clubs such as British Military Fitness (BMF) offer the first class for free so you can try before you buy. Be warned though, after one BMF session you may want to go back as they definitely target all the right areas. You are under no obligation however and this can be a way of switching up your fitness routine. Although again, I do warn you. After my 20 day trial with Yotopia Yoga, I’ve been avidly trying to find free classes around the City as I really felt the benefits. Luckily enough, they have been holding free classes in St Martin’s Courtyard, Covent Garden, for the past two Fridays but this week’s is the last one. I have a feeling that I may have to cough up some dosh as this strength-building exercise is exactly what I need after my runs. And I’m prepared to do so as I see the value in these yoga classes and other sessions that I have tried too. But if you’re looking to keep the pennies in your purse, make friends with Google, Yahoo or even Bing and search for studios, free trial fitness passes or you could even offer up your time or skills in exchange for a free class.

How do you keep fit for free? What are your tips? Share your advice and you could win a load of new gear, courtesy of Legal & General. Find out more here.

This blog post was written as part as a competition for Legal & General but contains my own opinions and advice. Disclaimer: I am not a PT or qualified in this field but take an avid interest in fitness and healh.

Race For Life – the Dynamo Mum

18 Jun

On 12 July, I will be running a 5k Race For Life alongside my mum aka the Dynamo Mum.  In fact, this will be the first 5k that my mum has ever signed up for and I know she’s going to do brilliantly. Let’s just put it this way – I inherited my competitive spirit from somewhere and it is definitely not the old man.

Instead of bleating on about how wonderful this woman is (and believe me, mum is a brainbox and a force to be reckoned with), I’ve handed over this post for her to say a few words about her motivation, training and why at over 60, she proves you’re never too old to start running.

First things first, meet my mum Kate.

The Dynamo Mum

Mum cycling in LA earlier this year, just like you do

Tell me a bit about yourself:

I’m an active 60 plus lady, with a post-career as an Analytical Chemist and two grown-up children. Alongside training with a Personal Trainer for some seven years now (Phil at META Personal Training in Chatham, Kent), I walk in Kent with the Ramblers and in the Italian Dolomites with Club Alpino Italiano. I also regularly practise Yoga and Pilates plus I volunteer with the National Trust.

Why are you running Race For Life?

My PT and kids have been nagging me to set some new goals so thought I’d better try this one before it’s too late. I have lost and still have family and friends battling with cancer, so I hope to offer a small contribution.

What experience of running do you have?

Most recently I have done interval running with PT and at his Bootcamp. I used to take children to running club and they have never stopped training. I have supported my daughter for years at numerous running events, cross-country and marathons, including Paris, South Downs, London Parks Ultra 50k and Kent Roadrunner 2014.

What has surprised you (or not) about training for the 5k?

Well I’m not surprised that I’m finding it harder to ‘jog-run-sprint’, as each year goes by. I wish I could go a bit faster (don’t we all mum!), it was definitely easier two years ago. I am surprised at how running in open spaces makes me feel liberated and the feeling of achievement when I did actually jog non-stop for more than 20 minutes.

Do you have any tips for running newbies?

Try walking 5 miles or 10 miles with the Ramblers first. Build up to running gradually. I used street lampposts- run one walk one, to and from gym; then run two walk one –increasing the amount every few weeks. Try and time your distance. Remember to relax your shoulders, breath and think lip-to-hip with your thumbs when using your arms.  I aim to lengthen my strides and relax into it.

What do you wear when out training?

Sports bra, sports vest, running shorts; cap; sunglasses; trainers and socks. SPF 50

Do you have any further running plans for after your 5k?

Steady on-I would like to say yes, body willing, but one step at a time!

Thanks mum! You never know, you may well catch the running bug…

If you want to throw a bit of encouragement my mum’s way, you can sponsor her at http://www.justgiving.com/owner-email/pleasesponsor/katebryant

 

From Paris with Love: Frenchologie

16 Jun

Je ne veux pas travailler
Je ne veux pas déjeuner
Je veux seulement l’oublier
Et puis je fume

Only three out of these sentences is true and it doesn’t take a genius to work out what I’m talking about (as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast, I stay well clear of smoke apart from when it’s part of a theatre production or a disco). That being said, this little ditty reminds me of France and the oh-so-chic woman that I often came across in Paris. It wasn’t just her nonchalant attitude and “Bof” shrug of the shoulders, it was the effortless sense of style and natural poise. She could make the simplest of outfits (striped top, jeans and flats) look elegant.  Oh yes, those Parisiennes know how to dress and tried as I might, I could never quite get it completely right.

Frenchologie

Frenchologie store on Monmouth Street

Fast forward 10 years and I’m still a huge fan of the French style and that’s why the London-based store Frenchologie has made it onto my list of “From Paris with Love”. It may not be based in the romantic City of Light but it houses one of the finest selections of French labels that I have seen in a long time. From an absolutely must-have if I ever won the lottery cotton-twill trench by Carven to a weekend jumper by Cacharel that you would wear and wear, Frenchologie lives up to this idea of fashion for life. They even stock Vionnet – a much underrated label whose namesake and founder Madeline Vionnet was said to be responsible for creating the flattering bias cut. Then there’s the clean cut designer Monographie – a youngish label packed full of items parfait for that day to evening look. With Carven collars, Florian Denicourt handbags and amazing pieces of jewellery (this Juliet Necklace by Moutton Collet certainly lives up to the idea of statement piece, Frenchologie is French design all wrapped up. As for shoes, well there are heels from Carven and JC de Castelbajac but the footwear that really catches my eye is the selection of slippers by Chatelles, which put flats firmly back on the fashion map.

For those who believe home is where the heart and design should be, Frenchologie offers a range of interior goodies. Think Maison Martin Margiela Ligne 13,  coffee tables by Romain Duclos, lighting by Tsé & Tsé associées and a very quirky line of wall stickers by Domestic. Beauty fans will find body lotion by, wait for it, Ladurée and a brand of eco-conscious, organic beauty treatments called Absolution which I am itching to try out. From French art to DVDs, books and music, this is a curated space of all things French.

Unfortunately, the majority of the clothing is way out of my price range but the DVDs, books and beauty stuff offer a good entry point for those wanting a little bit of France chez vous.  If you happen to be in the Covent Garden area, make your way to their shop on Monmouth Street (just by Seven Dials) or you can find out about the founders Beatrice and Cecile on their website.

Kent Roadrunner Marathon 2014 was the race I…

12 Jun

1.Took a photo of the course

Here you can see the course in its full glory. The Kent Roadrunner Marathon was essentially 17 laps of the Cyclopark in Ebbsfleet (2.5km a lap). Despite the heat, which at times you could see radiating off the tarmac, it was a fantastic race.

Cyclopark Ebbsfleet

Ok, you can just about see it from here

2.Remembered that they provided bands for every lap

Unlike last year, when I made paper bracelets and asked my poor mother to attach them around my arm before the race.

Bands for the laps

16 bands to get through until my final lap of glory…

3. Spotted some funny signs

Ok, well I found them funny. Come on, you’ve got to be a bit off the wall to run a 17 lap marathon right?

Feed the runners!

Feed the runners!

4. Felt ready-ish to race

With a start-line like this, blue skies, nourishment (Clif shots, water, energy drinks, cake, crisps – it was a feast for marathoners) every 2.5km, my music blaring and a guy running in the opposite direction to cheer us all on, I felt good (for around 14 laps at least).

The start line

The start line

 5. Put my super-speedy adidas trainers to the test

They are beauties but would they withhold 26.2 miles of tarmac-pounding? Well of course. In fact, I was glad to be wearing these super light-weight adidas boost adizeros during those final laps when my legs began to feel very, very heavy.

adidas trainers

Hello feet in your comfy pair of supadupa adidas trainers

6. No really put them to the test 

All I can say is that these adidas trainers gave me the #Boost needed to perform this angled stunt at mile 9 or something. (FYI This was my entry for the showboating contest and not something that I regularly do during marathons).

Showboating move

Showboating move (c) tzruns/Stuart March Photography

7. Pulled the ultimate #Raceface

Like where’s my call from the running glossies for #Raceface of the week? Empowered. Strong. Or simply trying to gulp down water as fast as I possibly could. This is the ultimate caption contest photo so why not give it a whirl and comment at the end of this post. Courtesy of tzruns/Stuart March Photography.

Caption contest anyone

Caption contest anyone? (c) tzruns/Stuart March Photography

 8. Came in third position (female)

Look at me with my trophy and my massive medal.

Trophy time

Trophy time (c) tzruns/Stuart March Photography

9. Received an awesome medal to boot

Did I mention the absolutely massive medal?

Huge medal

My trophy is almost eclipsed by this amazing medal.

 

10. And a Medal Size-O-Meter

In this pretty awesome goodie box. Now I can see if my bling measures up. Bet you’re well jel.

Look at my bling ruler

Bling! Bling! I can now measure my medals.

11. Will do again

Why would you want to run 17 laps around a Cyclopark again you may ask? See all of the above.

Believe me, once you get into the swing of it this a fun (showboating contest), well-organised and fast-ish course. You don’t have the usual people/car traffic and everyone is in high spirits. It’s also not stupidly expensive and easily accessible from London. Check out the website for more details about the Kent Roadrunner Marathon 2015.

 

Guess my #runcommute this morning on #run2workday

5 Jun
My run to work

My run to work

Here’s a little challenge for you all. Let me know if you recognise any of these photos (some are smaller than others and they are all London-based). I took these photos this morning as I plodded along on #run2workday.

 

My #runcommute essentials

4 Jun

It’s official – Thursday 5 June 2014 (tomorrow if you’re reading this now) is #run2workday. Whoop whoop!. While I may not agree with BoJo’s politics, I think it’s fab that the Mayor of London is supporting the basic principles behind the event. In fact, there’s one key message from the day that I want to shout out loud: running to work is quicker than many people think.

Morning run

Morning run

It takes me on average around 50 minutes to run to work. The tube takes 25 minutes but when you factor in the walk to the tube and from the tube (16 minutes), you’re only around 10 minutes out. Chuck in a whole load of stress of being squashed in a carriage and other people’s body odour and I’d know what I’d rather be doing.  If you haven’t clocked it already, the tube is not my favourite place to be first thing in the morning. (I’m not dissing public transport, I’m simply advocating a stress-less commute).

In preparation for the big day and to help anyone who is gearing up for their first ever #runcommute, I’ve pulled together a list of my #runcommute essentials.

1. Running kit

To comfortably complete a successful #runcommute, ensure you have a decent pair of running shoes (Converse, plimsolls or any sort of canvas shoe do not count), sports bra, if you’re a woman, and rucksack. This may seem like I’m stating the obvious but I do wonder if I’ll spot anyone carrying a canvas tote on their shoulder while attempting to run to work tomorrow. The same goes for women who think doubling-up on bras works in the same way as a decent sports bra. Now I’m not the sports bra police nor do I run around London staring at women’s breasts (god forbid) but more education around the value of sports bras is needed, especially for newbie #runcommuters.  As for the rucksack, well you can see my thoughts on this here.

2.  Wash stuff

If you plan on having a shower after your #runcommute and I would strongly advise that you do, packing a bag of wash stuff is necessary unless you’re lucky enough to work somewhere that provides locker-space and showers. For the rest of us, it’s pack a bag the night before and a long hard think about what you really need. Shower gel? Yes. The latest pre-moisturiser body serum that promises to lift and tone? Probably not.

Shampoo

My little bottles of shampoo and conditioner are half the size to lighten my load

As a regular #runcommuter, I have found that smaller travel-sized bottles are the way to go. I decant my shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and face wash into 50ml bottles, which last me around three days. This saves on space in my rucksack and makes the run more pleasant as I’m less likely to find that I have something hard against my back. In terms of post-shower, I pack my toothbrush and toothpaste (optional, I just like to brush my teeth post-run), moisturiser (with SPF), concealer, BB cream and mascara. I may also add in a bit more make-up, depending on what my day looks like but this pretty much sets me up for the day. Another tip, sachets from magazines may seem like a pain but they are perfect for the #runcommute as are testers from make-up counters. Use your #runcommute as a way to test out a new moisturiser in a trial size bottle. There are certain gyms that offer shampoo and conditioner so do your research beforehand and weigh up the costs. This may save you space and weight but cost you an extra £40 a month.

And don’t forget to pack your deodorant, again the smaller roll-ons are perfect for your commute on foot.

3. Towel

Whether you believe the argument that towels provided in gyms are not washed at a high enough temperature to rid them of yucky bits or not, you can be sure that carrying a towel on your #runcommute adds to your load. I happen to belong to a council-run establishment, where the cost of borrowing a towel is £3 so I’d rather take my own thank you very much. The best towels to pack are undoubtedly the microfibre sort because they dry quickly and are light-weight. I bought one of these by Karrimor in Sports Direct about a year ago and alternate between it and another microfibre variation. They both do the job without weighing me down.

4. Spare underwear

Chuck in a spare pair of socks and pants or keep some at work in your desk or one day you’ll have to make the choice between sweaty underwear or going commando. You’re only human after all.

5. Change of clothes

Make all those wardrobe decisions the night before so all you have to do is wake up and run. I’m lucky to be able to pretty much wear what I like to work within reason. I do however keep a change of shoes and a blazer at work for those important client-facing meetings. To avoid the crumpled just-got-out-of-bed-look, fold your clothes up when packing your bag. Again, I’m not trying to patronise anyone, I just know from experience, this is the best way to create room in your rucksack and also ensure you look half decent at work.

6. Wet wipes

If all else fails, there are always wet wipes. Versatile, easy-to-use and dispose of, the handy wet wipe is a must for all #runcommuters. You can remove that stubborn mascara, which seemed permanently attached to you eyelashes yesterday but has somehow miraculously created a panda-eye look when you shower in the morning. And, this is not advised, when you’re really really pushed for time or there’s a disaster, such as no available shower, the wet wipe can be a saviour. At least, you’ll feel somewhat fresher than the sweaty mess you were after your #runcommute.

Please don’t let this list put you off, the #runcommute is one of the best ways to explore your city, have time for yourself and train for a race. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is and Fitness First are making it even easier for some by joining up with Home Run to transport your load between certain distances in London, so you can just run. Try it and hopefully you’ll see the benefits that I’ve been championing all these years.

What are your #runcommute essentials? Have I missed anything? Will you be joining me tomorrow?

 

5 top spring/summer beauty tips from a top Team GB duathlete Charlotte Harris

2 Jun

If you’re a nature-loving fitness fanatic, who loves nothing better than getting outside especially now the weather is looking up, then pay attention now. You may find that the change in season causes havoc with your beauty regime. From breakouts and dry patches to cracked heels and frizzy hair, it can be difficult to keep on top of these problem areas.

While Team GB duathlete and 2014 London Duathlon ambassador Charlotte Harris may not have the answer, she does have some very sound advice for us fitness fanatics.

And since the London Duathalon is now only a few months away (Sunday 14 September people) , it seems about time to ramp up that morning beauty routine, so you can concentrate on being the best you can be in all senses of the phrase.

Here are Charlotte’s top 5 spring/summer beauty tips and some key areas that definitely need attention as the temperature rises:

1. Suffering from taught skin? Drink up

You know that after-shower feeling, when your skin feels stretched and tight? It may be down to that tough workout in the fresh air. Here’s what Charlotte has to say:

“No matter what your sport, be it the gym, running or cycling, always remember to hydrate with plenty of water to replenish lost fluids. Not only will this aid recovery, but also ensure your skin stays looking fresh and banishes fine lines caused by dehydration.”

Nuun tablets

Nuun tablets replace the salts you lose while sweating it out

On particularly hot days when you’ve sweated buckets (or are hungover), it can be worth adding a hydration tablet to a bottle of water to revive you. Charlotte adds: “I always use Nuun hydration tablets,£6, in my water – they contain electrolytes but very few calories and to top them off, come in loads of nice flavours”.

 2. Think feet first

There’s a tendency for certain runners to ignore their feet and hope that the black toe nails, cracked heels and blisters caused by the constant pummelling will miraculously disappear, especially in time for a big brother’s wedding. Painting your toe nails on the night before said wedding is probably not the best idea.

Instead, “Look after your feet they are vitally important for your running and deserve to be looked after.” Says Charlotte, “Blisters, black toe nails, hard dry skin, we’ve all had it; to keep on top of your foot health, make sure you have your trainers professionally fitted – this is vital. You can then keep those feet looking smooth and soft with Flexitol Heel Balm, £4.95.”

Heal cracked heels

Cracked heels are painful and a pain

3. Protect your pout 

Hands up if you wear lipstick, lip gloss or lip balm every day. Now hands up if you use lip balm with SPF when training outside. While you may remember to wear SPF on your face, your lips can sometimes be an afterthought. Charlotte advises investing in a really good lip balm with SPF if possible.

“When you are out running or cycling in the summer sun, it’s easy to forget about your lips, as unlike winter you don’t run this risk of chapping. The sun, however, can dry lips out and even burn them during longer training stints, so make sure you invest in a good lipbalm. I would recommend Clarins moisture replenishing lip balm £19.00 with essential rose wax, well worth the money or Elizabeth Arden eight hour nourishing lip balm with SPF 20, £20.”

4. Get to grips with your mitts

Constantly gripping the handlebars of your bike or exposing your hands to the fresh air can zap them of moisture completely. But as Charlotte explains, you can treat your mitts while you workout.

“If you use running gloves, invest in an intensive moisturising hand cream and apply as a treatment before adding your gloves for silky smooth hands. Even if it’s summer this works a treat, so you can combine your beauty regime with your workout without trying. I use Udderly smooth hand cream, £5 – it’s even good for those cycling sore bits.”

Wave bye bye to a frizz with Morocan Oil

Wave bye bye to a frizz with Moroccan Oil

5. Tame the frizz

Wash more than that man right out of your hair – get rid of the dirt, grime and sweat that you’ve produced during your workout (and don’t you feel good afterwards). But don’t forget to shampoo and condition afterwards.

“Even if you are in a rush after your training, it’s important to use a good conditioner as working out regularly can mean you are washing your hair more than usual. To avoid dry, frizzy hair, I carry with me Moroccan oil, £13.45. Wet or dry hair, it’s amazing!”

Charlotte Harris will take part in London Duathlon 2014 in Richmond Park no Sunday 14 September. It’s a fantastic and well-organised event with charity places still available for the Super Sprint (5K run, 11K cycle and 5K run), Sprint – (10K run, 22K cycle and 5K run),Classic (10K run, 44K cycle and 5K and,Ultra (20K run, 77K cycle, 10k run). I’m going to be there attempting the Classic (eek), so why not come along too?

A racing weekend: The Bupa Westminster Mile and Bupa London 10,000

28 May

Two races over one bank holiday weekend provides you with plenty of food for thought. I mean, realistically, should you race twice in two days? Especially when one requires you to step it up a gear. When I was first invited to run a mile by adidas, I thought, how hard could it be? Realistically, I knew that there was no way I could run it in this time (see below)…but I’d give it a go.

The adidas Bupa Westminster Mile challenge

The challenge – yeah who are you kidding?

It was only a mile and wouldn’t impact at all on my Bupa London 10,000 race which I was running for my running club the next day.  Hindsight is a funny old thing because I was so wrong about the Westminster Mile. Racing 1,609m is tricky business, no wonder so few people actually train to do it. Here’s why the Bupa Westminster Mile was more difficult for me than the Bupa London 10,000 (a 10k race).

1. It’s the pace not the distance

A single mile or 1,600m (1,609m to be more accurate) is the equivalent of running four times around a 400m track (plus 9 extra metres) or walking from Hyde Park Corner tube to Tottenham Court Road tube. Granted, you can do it at a moderate 5k pace but sprinting is a completely different kettle of fish. It’s not far but far enough for the speed and distance to have an impact. Unlike a 10k, where you can ease yourself into a steady, speedy pace, you have to be in racing car mode from the word ‘go’ – and then stick with it until the bitter, puke-inducing end.

2. Training for a mile relies on power, posture and poise

Ok, I made up the poise bit but a lot of the training run by Tom Craggs relies on you being aware of your posture when you run. Whereas you can be a bit lax during marathon training, especially when you get tired, to run a mile efficiently you have to think about form. I was invited by adidas to a session with Tom, who explained that to work that mile you have to be conscious of your posture throughout the distance. This means leaning slightly forwards, arms pumping, head high, gaze focused and legs moving as if you’re running on hot coals. It sounds good on paper but try putting it all together on the track, adding in an explosion of speed and then you’ll soon realise the racing a mile.

Hamstring sweeps and a flat back/porte de bras from me (well almost)

Hamstring sweeps and a flat back/porte de bras from me (well almost)

 3. You need to warm up properly

When it comes to warming up, I’m not the greatest. It’s not that I don’t enjoy some of the training exercises put together by coaches like Tom (in fact, some of them remind me of warm-up during my dancing days), I’m just lazy. I’d rather be out there, on the field, running. A few kicks here, jogs on the spots, runners’ arms and I’m pretty much ready to go, aren’t I? Erm not when it comes to running a mile. As Tom very wisely told us, you have to ensure your muscles are warm before you hit those sprints. This means being thorough about those dynamic stretches, hamstring sweeps, feet rolls. And perhaps on the day of the Bupa Westminster Mile I was not thorough enough. Let’s just say I said hello to my hamstrings once again as I catapulted myself along the 1,609m long race.

4. It’s over quickly but you can certainly feel it

My initial thoughts about the Bupa Westminster Mile were half correct. It was a short and sharp race that took me about 6 minutes (6:17 to be exact) to complete. It was however a bit of a shock to the energy systems and my legs.

With my medal

With my medal

5. I’d prepare myself more the next time

Note to myself: if I’m going to run a mile in future, I should definitely go in more prepared and maybe not run a 10k the next day. Honestly, after my 6 and a bit minutes of “sprinting”, I went home and spent the afternoon alternating between an ice pack tied around my leg with a hairband and sitting on balls (the soft yoga massage kind) to try and ease my twitchy hamstring.

Double-trouble medal madness - love these pieces of bling

Double-trouble medal madness – love these pieces of bling

6. And not run a 10k the next day if my leg is twitchy

The Bupa London 10,000 is well-organised, not too overcrowded and a good one for club runners. I even bumped into my fellow Minnie The Minxes at the beginning of the race (our racing vests are red and black) and I didn’t have to a climb barriers to enter my racing pen. In fact, I was looking forward to it being a speedy breeze around London but unfortunately my hamstring wasn’t playing ball. I even started out with the best of intentions, wearing my TomTom watch to time my kilometres (something I said in my last post that I would start doing) but thought against it in the end as I know what I’m like. Not only am I competitive with others, I’m competitive with myself and I’d only want to push myself, making the injury worse. In the end lefty leg did hold up and I managed a sub-45 (44:23) but it was nowhere near a PB.

Would I run a mile again? I think if that’s my goal, I will have to train better and think seriously about the warm-up to ensure I don’t injure myself. As will be revealed soon, my next goal is at the other end of the scale. I also thought the medals were nice touches – the mile medal celebrated 60 years of Roger Bannister breaking the 4 minutes mile barrier (and he didn’t have speedy adidas boost trainers to help him!).

Did you run the Bupa Westminster Mile or the Bupa London 10,000? What did you think of it? Would you do either of them again?

 

A day out at Kew Gardens with Sheila

22 May

When I grow up, I want to have the zest and vitality of my neighbour Sheila. Not only is Sheila kind, she is also honest and always up for an adventure. She has a shared passion for theatre and the arts, watches just about every film out on release at the cinema and volunteers at a charity shop. In the past few months, Sheila has had to put up with builders at our flat (she lives opposite) and has also visited Israel and Prague. When we has a party around Christmas time, she popped round with a bottle of wine and chocolates. Goodness, she has even been kind enough to let me store my bike in garage. Put simply, Sheila is one-of-a-kind and she also happens to be in her 80s.

Taking my neighbour Sheila at Kew Gardens

Taking my neighbour Sheila to Kew Gardens

So when I was asked by Simply Health if I wanted to take an elderly relative or friend to Kew Gardens for the day, I couldn’t think of anyone better. Sheila may be elderly but she is certainly conscious of staying active. From swimming to dancing, this octogenarian doesn’t let age stand in the way of health. The weather may not have been the best but we enjoyed each other’s company and after the rain came a pretty spectacular rainbow.

Rainbow at Kew

Rainbow at Kew

And just like the sunshine, Sheila brings sunshine into our lives (myself and my partner). She offers words of wisdom but is also keen to find out what’s new. I think the fact that she stays active both mentally and physically means she has the same bounce as someone half her age.

Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, Sheila’s attitude towards ageing and health is not the norm. In fact, research published by ShARP (Simply health Advisory Research Panel) and simplyhealth reveals the following facts:

  • 20 percent of over 55 year olds are seeing their doctor less, compared to younger age groups
  • 29 percent of older Britons have been advised to lose weight
  • Only 13 percent of those have been successful in shedding the pounds.

Now I’m not going to do a deep dive into the details here (you can find out more by taking a look at this infographic) neither am I going to suggest that everyone should exercise for an hour a day. I am however conscious that if I have to work until I’m 75 due to our ageing population, I want to ensure that I’m healthy as I can be.

I’m lucky enough to have found an activity that I enjoy and live in a city, where public transport, walking and being active are the norm, but you don’t have to be a running obsessive or live in London to stay active. It’s the small steps that can make all the difference. You could walk to the shops instead of jumping in the car. Forget the lift and take the stairs. You could walk the kids to school or park a mile away and walk to the school gates (after all, it may save the stress of drop-off traffic jams).  Love dancing as a kid? What’s stopping you now? If you enjoyed something as a kid then there’s no reason to say that your feelings will change today. After all, we’re all big kids at heart.

Try a new activity, find a sport that you enjoyed as a child or simply adopt new habits and you’ll live a healthier life and still have a thirst for adventure whatever your age, just like my neighbour Sheila.

 

City Trail with my Salomon X-Scream

17 May

It’s a funny old life. One minute you could be sipping cocktails (or downing shots in a bar) and the next you’re talking running and everything that goes with it. Put simply, this is because you love to run. And when you’re not working, sleeping, eating, out with friends or occasionally visiting the Royal Academy or other art-related/bizarre ventures, you’re participating in some sort of heart-racing activity.

Running is definitely in my top 10 of heart-racing activities but unlike the others in the list, running requires a few pieces of essential equipment. If you enjoy running and want to make the most out of your time on the road or treadmill, it’s always a good idea to invest in at least one pair of decent running shoes and Converse or Dunlop plimsolls do not count. You want a shoe that will support you and save your joints because you put your body through

Now I’m lucky enough to be the owner of several pairs of running shoes, all of which have their own particular purpose. Besides my adidas BOOSTs, which I save for race day, my current squeeze are these pretty beauties.

Salomon X-Scream

I’m currently wearing these Salomon X-Scream trainers with everything

Colourful and comfortable, I’ve received many a compliment about my pink Salomon X-Scream trainers. Not only can I get away with wearing them just about everywhere, they are also ideal for my #runcommutes in the morning and my off-road runs across Hampstead Heath at the weekend. For these training shoes have been designed for what Salomon call City Trails.

Hopefully, you’re not always going to follow the same path or your runs will become a little bit monotonous. Come on, everyone needs to get out of their comfort zone sometimes. These trainers give you the confidence to do so because they have grip that is designed for multi-terrain and you don’t even have to tie your shoe laces. Yup, Salomons come with a one-pull lacing system – translated: you can slip them on and then tighten the ready-made loop using a plastic grip. They may not be as feather-light as my racing adidas BOOSTs but they fit like a glove and are not at all heavy. Believe me, I wouldn’t be wearing them all the time if they were.

I better stop my current obsession with them as I really want to put them through their paces on some trail runs this summer. Perhaps discover more about the area in London that I moved to last August.  I’ve also signed up for a few trail races, so I’m sure these will come in handy.

Salomon X-Scream

Oh, look at that grip and fancy laces

If you’re looking for a decent, road and trail-worthy pair of training shoes that will last, then you should really take a look or sign up for a trial of Salomon’s range of City Trail shoes. That’s right, Salomon are offering wannabe trail runners the chance to trial their shoes while exploring new routes. As well as finding out whether these shoes are for you (I really can’t fault them), you may come away from the run with a beautiful new route to try. Check out their website to find out a run in your local area.

As for me, boyfriend permitting, I will be heading to the London-based one next weekend (that’s the Bank Holiday weekend) after completing my Westminster mile. Why not join me?

What do you think of trail running? And does anyone know of any trails around East Finchley going North? Please let me know.

 

Geneva Marathon 2014: why running in the shadow of Mont-Blanc is my kinda race

13 May

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I’m not a huge fan of the London Marathon. Perhaps it has something to do with the sheer volume of people racing the 26.2 mile course. It could be down to the route, which starts to lose its sparkle when you head past Tower Bridge only to be interesting once again when you hit the river.  Or maybe it’s the pressure that I put myself under when running London. I know that pretty much everyone I know will be watching out for me and I fear failure. (Even this year, I received texts from mates telling me they’ll be watching out for me although I didn’t run it).

Geneva Marathon moment wearing my Lululemon headband, which saved me from frustration and random hair strands in my face throughout the race

Geneva Marathon moment wearing my Lululemon headband, which saved me from frustration and random hair strands in my face throughout the race

Fundamentally though I think it’s down to the fact that I’ve never had a good London Marathon experience.  From almost collapsing while trying to find my boyfriend and folks at the meet and great point after my first ever marathon to having to pull out at mile 20 due to dehydration. Even my third time lucky wasn’t exactly lucky as my nerves had got the better of me.  Yes, I’ve only run London three times and I’m keen to try it again next year because I want to defeat what has become my running nemesis and have a race I can write home about.

Geneva, on the other hand, was was love at first race. Despite a fairly sketchy training schedule between Paris and Geneva (Paris was almost exactly a month before), I still managed to pull a 3:30:44 out of the bag. Who knows how? Yep, a training diary would help and it’s definitely something I’m considering starting but I think I fear that writing stuff down like “today’s run felt awful” or “today I consumed a 9bar and three mini eggs for my breakfast” would make me face up to a reality that I’m not quite ready for.

The same goes for monitoring my runs. I’ve made a small step and finally dug my TomTom watch out from where it’s been “hiding” for the past few months. If I’m going to get better and smash my PB, I need to face facts that my current training regime just ain’t workin’ (sigh) and I need to shake it up a bit.

As well as highlighting what I could do to improve in future, the Geneva Marathon confirmed why I enjoy the marathon distance. After Paris, where I was ill, it felt good to run without coughing my guts up and was an exercise in confidence building. Here’s why running in the shadow of Mont-Blanc for 26.2 miles is my kinda race:

  • I had the space to find my race pace: when it comes to running, the number one peev that I have is overcrowding. There is nothing worse than having to navigate yourself around a race, while trying to find your pace. I swear it adds on minutes to your time (or that’s what I tell myself).  In fact, I think races that are rammed with people can become almost like a steeple chase. Stick with me here. Testing out your agility skills, making you jump across puddles, skip sideways and generally run for it when you spot a gap. In comparison, the Geneva Marathon was like a dream. If you include the relay teams, there were only around 1,800 running at any one time and an open road so you could quite easily find your pace.
  • It was freezing but I could take cover: the race pack may not have been the best – I received a number, usual plastic bag to hand my stuff into the bag area, bandana and four safety pins – and there may not have been any instructions on paper about the start, finish or route but Geneva did have a “changing area” in a building where it was warm. After visiting the facilities, I headed straight for this building to find the female “changing area”. I never found it but what I did do was take cover inside next to the stairwell with two other women who had the same bright idea until the final call for bags. It was freezing that day and having somewhere you could shelter (probably not officially) made the start of the race all the more bearable.
  • It was a good mix of undulating terrain: I enjoy a mixture of hills and flat, especially when running a marathon. When you’re running up a steep trail, there’s nothing more satisfying than the thought that once you’ve reached the top you can let it all go. Now Geneva was no where near as challenging hill-wise as say the South Downs Marathon or Kielder. Then again there were a few of those long uphill and downhill stretches to test out my quads and hamstrings.
My adidas BOOSTs certainly boosted me off the floor even at 30k I actually look like I'm running! Photo courtesy of Beki Cadd

My adidas BOOSTs certainly boosted me off the floor even at 30k I actually look like I’m running! Photo courtesy of Beki Cadd

  • There was a little bit of support too: Besides the girls from Team Naturally Run, who had all come out to run the Geneva Relay or Semi Marathon respectively, there was a bit of support from the locals on the way. If you get a buzz off the crowds at marathons, then Geneva is not for you. When I say a bit of support, in the first half of the marathon I think I saw a man on his tractor, a few Shetland ponies in a field (or at least I think they were Shetland ponies, hey I’m not an expert on equine studies) and a couple of families cheering on the way. I’m not too fussed about the crowds and can find it all too overwhelming sometimes. Despite my lone ranger attitude towards running, spotting Beki at 30k and my boyfriend at around the 38k mark certainly lifted my spirits. He did complain later that he had been shouting at me for ages but I was too engrossed in my very loud music to listen. There may be an element of truth to this but I appreciated his support.
  • Surprisingly running alongside the relay helped: Being joined by a fresh pair of legs every 10k meant I was able to break the race down into a series of 10k races. As funny as it may sound, this made the distance feel more manageable because there a new dynamic every 10k. Your race partners or those who you pace yourself next to changed more frequently. I didn’t know beforehand whether this would hinder or help but psychologically it did the latter.
  • It gave me time to savour the moments: I know I’m pointing out the obvious when I say a marathon is a long way but running over this distance means you have time to think and enjoy what you’re doing in the moment. Without the crowds and surrounded by beautiful countryside, I could do just that. Savour the moments, listen to my music and just be.
  • And as for the scenery, well…: it was a grey day but that didn’t stop the sun breaking through the clouds to create a halo effect around Mont-Blanc. Honestly, the landscape was the stuff to inspire poetry. I almost always keep my focus forwards but at one point I was running with my head turned to one side so I could imprint the image of Mont-Blanc that day to my memory forever. Mountains, chocolate box-style Swiss villages, fields of yellow, the Geneva Marathon showed off the splendour of the Swiss countryside. And then as I hit the last downward path towards the main city, I caught a glimpse of Lake Geneva occasionally sparkling, thanks to spotted rays of sunlight on the rather overcast day. Wow, just wow – it’s at those times that you’re reminded about the beauty of the natural world. If only I could take pictures while I run.

The weekend would not have been complete though without the girls from Team Naturally Run any my long-suffering non-running boyfriend. Meeting them pre- and post-race made the break all the more special, as did my very own Geneva water bottle, which were given out to all competitors.

Not quite a water bottle but a well-deserved glass of vin post-marathon - À votre santé

Not quite a water bottle but a well-deserved glass of vin post-marathon – À votre santé

I didn’t take it with me on the race but I am sure going to use it to store liquid of a different kind. Let’s just say I think it would make the perfect receptacle for something alcoholic mixed with blackberries. What do you think of city marathons? Do you prefer scenery or crowds? What’s the recipe for your perfect marathon? Let me know here.

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BOOM and LIJA – a match made in fitness heaven

8 May
Funniest face goes to?

Funniest face goes to?

Ever since the hot new BOOM! Cycle studio opened in Holborn, Central London, I’ve been trying to find the time to head down for a cycle-to-the-beat class. With its banging tunes and premise that you really do spin those pedals to the music, BOOM! Cycle promises you a good time. Especially, if like me, you spent much of your childhood dancing and even now, find yourself tapping away a timestep when, on the odd occasion, you decide to take the tube or bus and have five minutes of “just standing” time. I digress.

So when the news came through that they were co-hosting a 45 minute session with none other than LIJA to raise money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer, I signed up like a shot. Not only would this offer me the opportunity to donate to a good cause, we were also offered a pink customised LIJA top to wear and a goodie bag. More importantly, I’d be able to try a BOOM class in its relatively new(ish) studios led by the co-founder and very enthusiastic Hilary Gilbert. And what a class it was. I may have come out of the class soaking and dripping in sweat but I loved every minute.

For if you’re after a high-octane, blood-pumping, spinning party, head to BOOM! Cycle. Seriously, it’s like a rave on wheels. The music was spot on, everything you needed to keep you going but it was Hilary’s infectious energy that guided the class through a number of tracks, counting the music out loud and introducing plenty of spinning variations.  From cycling standing up and pushing your hips back to hover over the seat to a move where you stand up and only move your legs and a move where you “look up to the front, look down at your bike”, the knob on the Schwinn bikes wasn’t the only thing that I needed to adjust.

Thumbs up all around

Thumbs up all around

I also liked the extra touches in the studio. The lights were dimmed so no one else could see just how much of a sweaty mess I was throughout, there was a scented candle and we were asked to set our intention and what our goals was at the beginning. All this helps you focus on what you’re doing at that moment rather than what you’re going to have for dinner that evening. And post-class, there were showers, free towels and even bottles of REN shampoo, conditioner and shower gel in the shower cubicles for you to use as well as separate changing rooms and free lockers. They’d certainly thought of everything that a fitness junkie would want and need both pre- and post-workout.

LIJA trunk show at BOOM

LIJA trunk show at BOOM

And the icing on the cake was the LIJA leisurewear trunk show at BOOM, where you could peruse the latest collection of LIJA at your leisure and snap up a few new items. I know that I’m in love with my gold jacket but this Time to Shine Cocoon jacket has also caught my eye alongside this show-stopping curve top in teal green and Swirl run pant. My mum has just signed up for her first 5K so as well as supporting her along the way, I may treat her to some LIJA goodies so she can look and feel the part.

Hilary goes for gold

Hilary goes for gold

Fortunately, as well as the trunk show (which ends tomorrow at BOOM so you better be quick), you can now buy LIJA online in the UK.

As for BOOM, well I’ve been adding a few shorter (35 minute) classes into my lunch hour to give me that boost in the middle of the day. Classes start from £16 for a single shot but then depreciate according to the amount of credits you buy. There is also a 15 day intro offer for £25. To find out more, click here.

All photos come from the evening at BOOM and are credited to BOOM/LIJA.

Chia seeds – perfect for the runner (and lazy chef)

6 May

Besides the dedication, training and quite frankly mental strength, if there’s one thing that running has taught me is that you’ve got to fuel up to run well. Now I know it’s all en vogue to be into food and try your hands at creating your own bake-off speciality but I just can’t sum up this kind of enthusiasm at home for something I’m going to gobble up in 20 minutes flat.

The Chia Co recipes

The Chia Co recipes

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the craft behind it and how chefs spend years dedicating their lives to perfecting and producing amazing dishes. In a way, it’s a similar process for fashion designers or anyone who really wants to be the crème de la crème in their field. I also enjoy and appreciate a good meal (as long as I’m not the one who has to cook it). I have tried to be enthusiastic about recipes and do have a repertoire of staple tomato-based veggie dishes but anything beyond this is too arduous a task for this lazy and slightly reluctant chef (if you can call me that).  Put simply, I eat to run.

And when I say eat to run, I mean I try and consume enough of a balance so that I can perform well when it comes to race day. As a veggie who doesn’t eat meat, fish or much cheese, this can be a relatively difficult task. Thankfully, there are foods out there that I don’t have to prepare such as seed-based bars, high protein yoghurts, healthy lunches which include my food-of-the-moment avocado and supplements that you can add to give you a boost in nutrients.

One of my favourite of these so-called supplements (I use this term loosely) is Chia seeds. It was my big bro who first drew my attention to this nutrient-dense superfood. We may not have that much in common but what we do share is a love of sport. He organised a five-a-side footie match the day of his wedding for god sake. Anyway, he may have read it somewhere when he was training for his first (and last) marathon that Chia seeds help your performance. I remember him banging on about Chia seeds and like a numpty, I ignored his advice. It’s only two years later that I’ve finally come around to the power of Chia. Here’s why:

  • Great source of Omega 3 for veggies like me – as a veggie for almost 20 years, the thought of eating meat or fish turns my stomach. God, even looking at the fish counter in supermarkets makes me shudder and I can’t touch dead flesh without using plastic gloves. When I cooked chicken at New Year’s the task of washing the flesh alone ended up in a shrieking fit. Putting this aside, I’m clued up enough to know that my diet may be lacking in certain things such as Omega 3. This  group of essential fatty acids have been linked to a healthy heart, glowy skin glowing, silky hair, strong bones not to mention keep the grey matter in check. No wonder fish, one of the main sources of Omega 3, is heralded by so many dieticians. As the highest plant-based source of Omega 3, Chia seeds are the perfect alternative for this non-animal eating individual.
  •  Easy to eat – as I have mentioned above, my life in the kitchen does not mirror my life on the road. When it comes to recipes, I steer away from adventure and that’s why I love these Chia seeds. You can add them to fancy recipes and indeed there are a number of yummy looking dishes at thechiaco.com.au or you could sprinkle them on your cereal, yoghurt or add them to anything you eat daily à la SpeedyBecs (in case you were wondering that’s me). It only takes one tablespoon of these super seeds to get 100 percent of your plant-based Omega 3 and 25 percent of your daily fibre.
  • Aides a sluggish digestive system – I’m the first to admit that sometimes my body takes longer than it should to digest certain foods. These Chia seeds give my system a kick-start due to their high fibre content and help to regulate everything down there.
  • Makes me feel fuller for longer – once in my digestive system, these seeds form a thick gel which helps me feel full and less likely to reach for those less than nutrient-dense foods (or in my case sweets).
  • Keep my energy levels stable – with a low GI (glycaemic index), Chia seeds allow for a slow release of energy, which is vital whether you’re an athlete or not. Essentially, this means you do not experience that 3pm sugar crash and are tempted to reach for a choccie biccie to boost your energy. If they were good enough for the Tarahumara or running people of the canyons of Mexico, then they are good enough for this wannabe endurance runner.
  • Packed full or protein – granted, I will probably not consume as much as my meat-eating friends but Chia seeds are 20 percent vegan protein which as we all know is essential for building strong muscles for running marathons and are a great source of this essential bit of body composition.
  • Help with hydration – apparently this has something to do with the micro-fibres on the coating of the seeds but they are said to between nine to 12 times their own weight in water (depending on what you read). Whatever the case may be, this makes these seeds perfect to eat pre-race to prolong hydration. A word of caution here though: make sure you drink loads of water too when eating Chia seeds.
My daily shot of Chia goodness

My daily shot of Chia goodness

I have to say that the small packets or what they call “shots” from the Chia Co suit me quite nicely. I can easily add them to my daily yoghurt like you would sugar and I’m finding I do feel fuller for longer. What’s more, their seeds are 100 percent natural, raw, chemical-free and gluten free so at least I can do something nutritious to counteract my love of sweets.

The Chia Co also do a bunch of other stuff and I spied some Oats + Chia Pods and Bircher Muesli + Chia Pods on their site. They’re ready-made wholesome pots that are perfect if you’re looking for a quick fix or a reluctant chef like me. I grabbed a couple of them at the recent Be:Fit event and they went down a treat for brekkie.

Discover more about The Chia Co and how it can help whether you love being in the kitchen or are a lazy chef like me.

Has anyone else tried Chia seeds?

I was sent a box of Chia seeds to try but this is my own opinion and I really am a shockingly lazy chef.

 

My #runcommute kit bag(s)

30 Apr

Don’t you just love it when you’re accidentally on-trend? When something you have been doing for years, let’s say, Run to work, becomes all the rage. Suddenly, out of no-where (well sort of), there is even a day dedicated to runners who embark on their commute by foot. Swapping their morning crush-on-the-tube-oh-smelly-armpit ride for some fresh(ish) air and “me-time” on the road becomes the norm.

Joking aside, as someone who has been running to work since 2010 and cycling in London for (god) eight years now, I think it’s amazing that so many people are finally realising the benefits of commuting via muscle power. All we need now is for the government to realise the potential of the #runcommute and we’ll be laughing but more on that in another post. Today my friends, I want to talk kit – well my #runcommute rucksacks. Here’s why I have a multitude of rucksacks for my #runcommute.

Rucksack

Choosing a rucksack is essential unless, of course, you plan to run to work and sit around in your stinky gear all day. Why? Well unless you’re training for the Highland Games, the easiest way to carry around your change of clothes, wash bag and everything else you tend to take with you everyday is on your back.

With plenty of rucksacks on offer, specifically designed for running, (brands that spring to mind include Deuter, Berghaus and OMM), you’ll not find it difficult to find one to suit your needs. Many are lightweight and moulded in a way that makes the journey more comfortable.

Now I have two rucksacks: an autumn/winter, spring/summer (pictured below):

20140430-075043.jpg

The one on the left is pretty damn huge but in the winter, when I’m not willing to compromise on space for my extra thick jumpers and boots, it suits me fine. It’s heavier than it looks and comes with all the essential extra pockets to shove keys, Oyster cards, extra contact lenses and anything else that I may need. Don’t ask me how many litres this carries as I have no idea but let’s just say it’s made for hiking at weekends.

Rucksack

Rucksack front with a multitude of straps

Admittedly, I look like I’m training for some hardcore adventure like the Marathon des Sables (the ultimate goal) but I don’t care. It’s comfortable, has a sort of netting at the back to mould to my shape and create airflow between my body and the fabric. The straps are padded for extra comfort and it comes with a multitude of straps for me to fasten the load to every inch of my upper body so I can really carry off the tortoise and its shell look. It even has an in-built rain cover. In fact, I don’t think there’s anything this rucksack does not have in terms of features.

Strap heaven

Strap heaven – there’s a padded waist strap too

This rucksack was a birthday present from my brother. I asked for a running rucksack and as I’d like to think he knows me pretty well (as in I always seem to accumulate a lot of stuff), I think he chose pretty well. This particular item has definitely seen me solidly through the winter and can also be used for hiking and even weekends away. Well done big bro.

adidas rucksack

adidas rucksack

At the other end of the scale is my adidas bag, which looks pretty small in comparison to the mighty haversack next to it. What I like about this bag is that it is deceptively roomy. I can carry what I need in it during the spring/summer months and the front pocket offers me easy access to my keys, phone, etc…There’s also a side pocket for me to slip whatever music/radio contraption I choose to use at that time into. As long as I pack my bag well i.e. with no  hard objects at the back, it’s easy to carry. Another top tip that I’ve learnt is to separate everything – clothing, washbag and shoes – and place them in plastic bags.

The bottom is a slightly different plastic material that repels water and keeps the stuff inside dry. And what I really like about this bag is the colours. It’s pretty bright so people can see me coming in the misty mornings we’ve had of late. In terms of strappage, this is pretty simple. There are no waistbands to fix it to your body but I find as long as I adjust the straps tightly to my body, it does not jiggle annoyingly up and down like so many of them do.

And I know that if I turn up to the theatre or even the cinema with this bag in the evening, I don’t look like I’ve moved out of home. The adidas bag is a day rucksack that fits everything that I need in it for the warmer months.

How do you carry your essentials on your #runcommute? Should I upgrade? What tips do you have?

 

My beauty stash: Makeup Revolution Awesome Metals Eye Foils

28 Apr

One of my favourite make-up trends from Spring/Summer 14 is metallic eyes. And I’m not talking fairy dust sprinkled around your peepers but full-on, creamy textures that enhance and make your eyes a focal point. So when I discovered MakeUp Revolution Awesome Metals Eye Foils, I was super excited. Not only would I be able to recreate those looks but I could do it for a steal of a price.

A bit of sparkle on the eye

Bring out those peepers

The deal

Makeup Revolutions Awesome Eye Foils are creamy eyeshadow formulas that glide on and create layers of multidimensional colour around your eye. Easy-to-apply, you can opt for a sheerer look or build up the intensity to copy the graphic styles seen all over the Paris Spring/Summer shows.

Amazing bronze, mixing palette and primer

Amazing bronze, mixing palette tray and primer

And the best thing about this eye colour is that it comes with a primer and tray so you can mix and apply for a smoother finish. When it comes to eyeshadows, powders can be messy and if you don’t get it right, you can end up looking like a sparkly flower fairy (not that this is not good, it’s just not my style). The primer and tray mean you control how much colour you apply to your eyelid.

How I use it

I use it by itself as I’ve found that I really don’t need to use it with anything else. Simply add lashings of mascara and your eyes instantly appear brighter.  For a more dramatic look, add some liquid eyeliner to your upper lid and in an instant, you’re ready to hit the town. It’s a perfect piece to add to your kit and, thanks to the primer, lasts all day long.

Makeup Revolution Awesome Metal Eye Foils, £5

Makeup Revolution Awesome Metal Eye Foils, £5

As you can see from my photo, the bronze colour, which I own, adds a sheen and shiny effect. Gorgeous and perfect for the summer months when you don’t want to wear to layer it on too thick.

It is also available in four other shades, which include a beautiful teal metallic.
 

The price

It’s not just the finish that makes this product so special. You really can’t find anything better on the market for the price as one shadow costs a fiver. Yes, a whole five pound note. What else can you buy make-up wise that is so effective?

The Metal Eye Foils are, in fact, one of the most expensive products from the new Makeup Revolution range. With lipsticks, eye colours and nail polishes starting from £1, and a 100 Eyeshadow Palette for just £12, this is one hell of a make-up revolution. There are also some luminous eye colours, which are perfect for festival season. I’m going to grab a couple (they’re a pound each!) for when I head to Latitude this summer.

So what are you waiting for? Join the Makeup Revolution or head to Superdrug where the entire range is currently being stocked.

 

The pros and cons of running at different times around the clock: Run in the morning #Runcommute

25 Apr

Whether you’re training for a marathon or a 5k run, you need to find the time to put the mileage in somehow to prepare your body and your mind for that specific distance. And while this may sound all very well on paper, when reality bites and certain other commitments, such as re-doing your bathroom, crop up, it can be difficult to stick to the plan.

Running in the morning I get to see stuff like this

Running in the morning I get to see stuff like this

How to find the time

It is tricky, especially if like me, you have a rather hectic social life, busy work schedule and a partner who only runs when it’s raining and that’s from home to the bus stop.

Essentially, I have several options of when I can run. Option a) a run or #runcommute in the morning, b) head out for a #RUNch or c) after work as a #runcommute and brave the hills (I live in East Finchley work in Covent Garden, there’s no way you can avoid them) d) at dusk, run after getting home from work, e) go to run club or f) head to the track by myself. Believe me, at some point over the past few years I’ve tried all of these options (apart from treadmill but I spend all day inside, why would I want to run inside when I love being outdoors?) and they all have their pros and cons in terms of training. So first up, here’s what I think about running in the morning:

Pros:  Mental focus

Running first thing in the morning helps me to mentally prepare myself for the day. It’s like a wake-up call without the caffeine and helps loosen up my body, making me feel alive and at peace. I can focus on my ‘to-do’ list and prioritise what needs to be done when at work and at home. You also notice things such as the change in seasons, the early morning dog walkers and how wonderful London is before it becomes crowded by commuters.

Pros: Keeps it consistent

Countless studies also suggest that early morning runners are also more consistent with their training. I guess it comes down to the fact that your training is done for the day. And once you’ve set yourself up and are in the habit of getting up half an hour to an hour earlier than normal, it becomes part of your daily routine.

Pros: Weight loss

There’s also been some research that suggests running first thing in the morning on an empty stomach helps you lose weight as you’re kick-starting your metabolism and burning fat, which you continue to do after your workout. This isn’t my main goal but I do find that when I run in the morning, I naturally eat better throughout the day. It helps to regulate my appetite.

Pros: Race day

The majority of races on a runner’s calendar (well my calendar) besides X Country, adidas Silverstone Half and Nike We Own The Night have a morning start. By training in the morning, I feel like I’m prepping myself for the early start and getting my body used to drawing on resources when I need them most. Or that’s what I tell myself anyway.

To #runcommute or not? 

There was a time when I would run, come home take a shower and then go to work from my desk in my home. Ideal? Perhaps in terms of training. Now that I work in an office (and actually prefer it for company), I have taken to the #runcommute as I can run to work, save money and get some distance into my training regime. In fact, I can get in an easy 10k before work and not have to suffocate under somebody’s armpit on the smelly tube during rush hour. Of course, not everyone has this choice as many people drive to work or have to catch a train, but I find it the easiest way to clock up my mileage.

The cons of the #runcommute

Cons: Cost and baggage

The downside of the #runcommute is that you will never see me without a sports bag, saddlebag or heap of stuff by my side. While I may be saving on our water bill at home by taking a shower at a local gym, I do have to pay essentially to take a shower a day. Unfortunately, my company does not have a shower on the premises. And don’t get me started on packing my bag – out are my heels and heavy but beautiful coats, replaced by lightweight cardis, shoes and essentially any clothing I can pack into my bag and not look like I’m moving home everyday. Oh yes, and there have been days when I’ve left something essential at home.

Cons: Pacing

When you’re running to work with a bag on your back, it’s very difficult to pace yourself right. Now I know it’s all part of army training but I’m looking to get faster without the baggage. It is a hell of lot easier to pace yourself without a heavy load on your back. When I run without my bag, I still feel that it takes my body a bit longer to warm-up than say running in the evening. If you’re following a training plan (I don’t but perhaps I should), this is something to factor in.

The cons of running in the morning

Cons: Early to bed…

Waking up an hour early so you can run can play into your downtime and those around you. There are countless times that I’ve said no to the cinema on a school night because the film ends after my bedtime of between 10:30 to 11pm (moany boyfriend alert). Drinking can also be out of the question. Once in a while you can handle a late night and have a complete blowout but when it becomes too regular, you feel it in your pace, your legs (and your head). You have to be disciplined about running in the morning and this means setting an alarm clock in the morning and the evening.

Cons: Regimented and organised

As well as going to bed slightly earlier than your other half, you also have to plan your bag and your kit in advance (if you #runcommute), again this can take time to do at night and blows any spontaneity out of the window.

Having said all this, I do enjoy my morning run. In fact, it’s one of my favourite times to run as London isn’t quite the hub of activity and you notice many of the small things. That being said, it may not be the best time for speed work as it takes a while for my body to warm up but the mental gains are immense. Running in the morning helps me to start the day on a good note.

Do you prefer running in the morning, lunch or evening?

 

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.

PeachyLau

The running scientist

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