Rants and Raves #7

I feel like I have absolutely no time right now. What with planning meals to make sure we use up all our food, planning what to wear and what needs washing and ironing last minute so not to mess up the packing situation, last minute housework (who wants to come back from holiday to a messy house??) and my normal day job…I feel a bit time-limited. Though I will hastily qualify that statement with anyone who has children makes me look very pathetic. Kudos to all you parents.

So when better to have a good old rant and raves?

Rave: Generally I’m a very tidy person. Though Ben likes to push my boundaries on this one (apparently trousers can be allowed to drape on the banister if he’s going to wear them in the next ten years…that would be no, Benjamin). However I’ve let things slip in the fitness clothing drawer department. I do have a lot of fitness apparel (as I’m sure a lot of you do too) and it was getting to be a struggle to comfortable fit everything in…so, I’m embarrassed to admit, in the end it’s been a bit of a “shove it in” affair.

But enough was enough. I sorted through the drawer and made a big pile of clothes to donate to charity that I just don’t wear anymore since upgrading a few item which left me with enough space to make nice neat and organised folded piles within the drawer.

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Ahhh, so much better. And so much easier to access. My soul sleeps happily at night now.

Rant: I’m a dog person as you might have guessed, but I don’t hate cats or wish them ill. I just find certain ones around where I live annoying and very cunning. They leave little paw prints on my sunroof so I know they’re walking over my car at night. And this may be my imagination but I swear they goad and taunt Alfie.

Alfie, bless him, is not a particularly smart dog or very ferocious. He will give chase to a cat (and promptly yanks himself on his lead) but if the cat just sits there he sort of freaks out and doesn’t know what to do. I imagine in his head he’s giving the indifferent cat a menacing stare. Basically I think these cats are taking liberties. They sit close to our front door, they slink slowly past our living room windows…

IMG_9017 And they sit on our bins! I feel like they are being passive aggressive and are waging psychological warfare on us. OK maybe not, but seriously, cats please hang out elsewhere as dragging a frenzied Alfie around on his lead is fun for no one (except the cats perhaps).

Rave: This is hilarious and probably very true:

Female runnersI definitely imagine that I look better running than reality. Race photos are always quite a horrifying shock.

Rant: This is rather gross story so apologies in advance. I was walking Alfie at the weekend and I often wear my iGloves as then I can use my phone without getting cold hands (I normally listen to some music or a podcast). Anyway, Alfie did his business and I picked it up with a poo bag and as I tied it I noticed Alfie poo on my glove. Yuck. And then found the poo bag had a hole in it and was leaking – wonderful! Luckily there was a poo bin close so it wasn’t too bad in the end. Obviously my glove needed to be washed so I took it off and turned it inside out and when I got home it went in the wash with some other bits and bobs and then in the dryer later.

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And it shrunk!! It looks like a very small child’s glove now (I actually think it looks quite cute). How annoying though! It does kind of fit but it’s a lot more stretched. Hmph.

Rave: I know I keep saying this (sorry) but I’m loving going to the gym. I know that might sound incredibly sad but I’m really enjoying it. It might be because I do so many different things when I’m there that it’s never boring. I do a certain number of reps of something before moving on to something else. And I know this sounds weird but being in the gym at 5.30am makes me feel hardcore. There are a few other people there (probably less than 20? It’s quite a big gym) and I feel like we’re hardcore gym goers to be there so early. I also get the choice of any space, equipments and weights that I like. IMG_8992And getting there for 5.30am means I’m done by 6.30ish and as I walk out I can just see the Spin class starting and, I won’t lie, I do feel very relieved to not be doing it! Spin is a brilliant cardio workout and I do enjoy it (sort of) but I much prefer doing my own thing at the moment and I feel like my entire body is getting a good workout so it’s a better use of my time and effort to get stronger overall.

Rant: Those first few minutes at the start of your commute when the car is FREEZING and you’re desperately turning the heating up as far as it will go. At 5.20am in the morning it is possibly the worst 5 minutes of my life. Even my steering wheel is freezing! I tend to wear a hoodie and a coat and then leave the coat in the car and make a mad dash to the gym as I hate carrying excess of stuff to the gym but lately it’s just not possible.

IMG_9028 This was from this morning, not nearly as cold as yesterday but still not that warm!

Rave: Trying to make sure we don’t have to waste any food means a lot of careful planning. Happily this has meant more soup eating! I had half a butternut squash I wanted to use up quickly so chopped it up and popped it in my slow cooker with some chopped onion and vegetable stock. I left it to cook away for about six hours on low and then just whizzed it up with a hand blender. I added in a tablespoon or so of cream cheese as well to make it extra creamy and a tin of chickpeas to increase the protein.

Butternut squash creamy soup I got two large portions of soup out of this.

This is a similar story for sweet potato too, which I enjoyed a bit more as it had a deeper flavour.

Creamy sweet potato soup (Apologies for appalling photos)

And that’s my lot. I won’t be blogging in America (though I will be Tweeting – follow me HERE if you’re interested) so won’t be back blogging now until February. I’ll still try and keep reading blogs when I’m chilling by the pool after a hard day of roller coasters ;-)

What are your rants and raves this week?

Are you a cat or a dog person?

Are you tidy and organised…and do you have a secret ‘Monica cupboard’ like my fitness drawer was to me?

Am I mad??

I’m trying not to get ahead of myself just yet and go into full on holiday mode. I still have four days left. But that sounds pretty good to me!

This weekend was a busy one as we had a lot to get done, being the last weekend before we go to the States. Friday night I was a lonely spinster while Ben went off with some friends to our local pub for a ‘boy’s night’. I stayed in watching trashy telly and going to bed at 9pm. What a rock and roll lifestyle I have! I was just so tired. I’d been to the gym four times that week (getting up at 5am each time) so I was worn out.

Saturday morning, after a blissful night’s sleep, I was up ready to go help set up parkrun and also run it.IMG_8997 This wasn’t my first run back. I’ve been gently getting back into running with some Garmin-less runs, all kept nice and easy (well it felt easy, I have no idea of pace) and short. I’m not going to blog too much about this running as at the moment it’s all very relaxed, no pressures, no goals, just running when I fancy. And I fancied parkrun so decided to make an appearance.

IMG_8998 It was very chilly setting up in the morning (about 8am) and we noticed some black ice on the course as we were putting the markers out so we diverted the route slightly onto the grass (which later turned into an absolute mud bath). And then it started to rain icy rain!! I didn’t mind the crisp, dry coldness but icy rain is awful. After setting everything up I did a warm up as I was just SO cold. I didn’t even take my ski jacket off until the last minute!

The run went fine. I won’t lie, I’ve lost a lot of endurance and speed since not running for so many weeks so my easy pace is not what my easy pace used to. But it was just nice to be out in the fresh air seeing familiar, friendly faces. Without any real running goals it means I’m not panicking about hitting paces or mileage. At the moment it’s purely supplementary to my gym goings. I finished in just under 24 minutes which I was happy with and managed to negative split the miles with a nice push of 7.38 on the last mile. I’ll take that!

After clearing everything away and catching up with people, I headed home to Ben. He was somewhat hung over bless him. We got the housework done and then he headed out for bike ride with a friend. The first bike ride since being told to stop all exercise (all OK’ed with the physio). I think it went well and he was happy to feel the rush of endorphins again.

In the evening we headed to Brasserie Blanc in Gunwharf Quays with Ben’s mum to have a superb meal. We were celebrating her birthday and decided to splash out on a rather posh meal. It’s not the most expensive restaurant in the world but it’s fairly pricy!

IMG_9005 I had a selection of salads to start, a coquelet for my main and an amazing chocolate soufflé for pudding.

Brasserie Blanc It was so good! Definitely a winner. The soufflé was unbelievably light (not as in less calories as hello it’s pudding, but as in the texture). It wasn’t a heavy chocolate pudding and the pistachio ice cream it came with balanced it perfectly.

Sunday was all about chilling for me. No gym, no running, just nice Alfie walks and a trip into Southampton to take back clothes that we’d ordered online that either looked awful or didn’t fit. I got annoyed in Top Shop as all the jeans that they were selling were either skinny, high-waisted skinny or ‘mom’ jeans. They had so many pairs of bloody skinny jeans. *sighs* So annoying as Top Shop is normally a perfect place for me to get jeans but skinny jeans are not my thing (wrong for my body shape and bloody uncomfortable). But we did managed to exchange a few items for both Ben and me so it was a success.

And now back to the grind. Got some gym visits planned for this week and perhaps a couple of runs. I’m considering running very early on Friday before we get picked up by the taxi at 6.30am as I know I’ll feel crazy antsy on the plane for ten hours otherwise! Am I mad???

Would you run really early when you’re going to fly on a plane later? It’s just such a long time to be sat not moving much…

Do you enjoy going to slightly more posh restaurants occasionally and spending a bit more on a meal that you might do normally?

Did you do any workouts this weekend? Any parkruns?

Rants and Raves #6

First ranting and raving post for 2015. So we’re supposed to get snow…? Or a massive storm? So far it’s rather peaceful and quiet this morning. Wouldn’t a snow day just be lovely? Unlikely though. Anyway, here are latest my rants and raves!

Rave: New boots! OK I got these before Christmas, but in the sale from Dorothy Perkins for £20 I think. I’m not a high heel wearer but I enjoy a modest ‘wedged’ heel rather than a pointy one (if that makes sense…).IMG_8833

They’re sort of burgundy rather than the brown colour they appear in the photo. I normally go for black so it’s nice to have a change. They’re very comfy and very useful for the current rainy conditions we’re being blessed with in the UK. Though I do take them off at work now I have my standing desk otherwise it can be a bit hard on my calves…

Rant and rave: A nice segue to my standing desk.

Standing deskI won’t lie, it is hard to stand the majority of the day. I’m very much ready to sit down for lunch midway through the day. However the difference I feel when I walk somewhere after I’ve been standing compared to after I’ve been sat having my lunch is incredible. My legs are all stiff when I’ve been sat for an hour whereas my legs feel great after standing instead.

My boss asked how it was going and what my motivations behind it were. I told him how I felt more alert later in the day, my back ache had disappeared and my posture was improving. It shocked me that he seemed genuinely surprised that standing would be better for you than sitting and the health benefits involved.

Rant: Speaking of people being ignorant to health matters and fitness, sometimes I feel like shouting at people. OK not shouting, I’m not a shouty type of person. But I have serious face-palm moments when I hear and see some of the bewildering things people do or say on their journey towards health. A serial dieter at work asked “is tinned tuna fattening?”. I felt myself die a little inside. There are so many things wrong with this sentence. And then there’s the lady going on a liquid diet for a set number of weeks to drop pounds quickly. Or watching the TV programme Fast Food Baby and seeing parents giving their toddler takeaways every single day and walking past the produce section of the supermarket saying “we don’t need any of that!”.

I read a lot of blogs, magazines, books and surround myself with a lot of similar people so health and fitness aren’t vague concepts to me, but I know that for some of the population today they are. I’m trying not to sound smug or like an annoying know-it-all because I know I’m not (hello, I’m the girl who’s always injured from running). But it makes me sad when people just don’t seem to have a clue and will always try the quick fixes to achieve what realistically takes a long-time to sort out. Lifestyle changes not dieting. You could say “well it’s easy for you to say” but I work hard in the gym, try not go crazy with my cake obsession and try to eat healthily most of the time – being healthy is not easy and perhaps there’s the issue.

Rave: My parents installed two web cams for their kitchen and utility room so they could check up on their dogs via an iPhone app throughout the day.

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Surprise surprise when he checked midway through the day the three dogs were fast asleep all snuggled together. I think this is brilliant and very cute. A great way to check in on your house and see what your furry friends are up to. I’m pretty sure the same would be for Alfie as he sleeps like 16 hours a day! But I would love to nosey in on what he’s up to in a day.

Rant: More of a half-hearted rant really. This is Ben’s idea of porridge:

IMG_8975 Not only does he submerge it in golden syrup but there are also a few teaspoons of white sugar in there as well. Oh his poor teeth… Thankfully he only has this or toast at the weekend as he never has breakfast in the week (*sighs*). I think I would self-combust on the way to work if I didn’t have breakfast.

Rave: If you read this blog regularly you’re probably aware that I adore BBQ sauce. BBQ ribs are probably one of my favourite foods (and why I’m so happy we’re going to Dallas as apparently they’re good there…). My latest easy meal (that Ben also enjoys) is oven-baked BBQ chicken thighs and drumsticks. I remove the skin (weirdly I’m only a fan of chicken skin in restaurants as they just do it so much nicer? More crispy and flavoursome) and coat it in BBQ sauce (sneakily add some kale) and oven bake it for 40 minutes or so. With it I have a roasted sweet potato whereas Ben has onion rings.

IMG_8844 OK let’s ignore the fact that the main ingredient in BBQ sauce is sugar and you could say ‘pot calling kettle black’ and all that jazz with my previous rant about Ben’s golden syrup…but it just tastes SO GOOD. And there’s healthy stuff there with the kale and protein. Shhh.

Rant: At Christmas one of the presents both Ben and I got were selfie sticks. Funnily enough both Ben’s mum and my parents got us selfie sticks. So we’re now the proud owners of four selfie sticks. No one is that self-obsessed right?! As we got the selfie sticks as our table present (anyone else do that?) I tried to get it working so we could have a quick selfie before we ate.

IMG_8878 Can you see how happy Ben is about this?

And that would be a fail. It has a little remote control to take the photo but it was just very fiddly and difficult to work out how to use.

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I did think that our attempts were somewhat amusing, and trying to take a photo in front of a large window is never a good idea. Needless to say we haven’t attempted to try again. I am taking them with us on holiday though. Just probably not on any roller coasters… Hopefully this will turn into a rave at some point!

Rave: Nice people at the gym. I was at the gym the other morning going through one of my strength routines, just in the zone you know, and there was an older lady who was doing her own routine behind me. As I finished up and was doing some stretches she came over to me and said “Can I just say that you have such an amazing core!” Granted it was a bit of a weird compliment but it literally made my day. She told me she had been watching me do my thing and was impressed at how strong my core was. She asked my age and said she was almost 60 herself. I said to her that I hoped to be like her when I’m 60 because she was rocking out some tough moves herself! I think we both made the other feel pretty damn good that morning.

She told me she was a runner too and only a few years ago the doctor had told her after she had an accident she’d never run again – well, she said to him, she didn’t run beforehand but she was damn well going to now! She told me her 10k PB was 58 minutes – how amazing is that! Bless her heart she said mine must be 40 minutes. I loved her for that and did laugh quite a lot. Not quite I said haha!

What are your rants and raves this week?

Do you enjoy taking selfies?

BBQ sauce or ketchup? Ketchup is a mere pretender in my eyes ;-) but it will do if nothing else is available. Chips (fries) without a little sauce is a heinous sin!

Being ill sucks and {giveaway winners}

Happy Monday everyone. I’m glad we got that rather nasty little week out of the way. The week where you just resent that you suddenly have to work again after eating mince pies and doing whatever you fancy ;-) The routine is back and we’re go go go again.

After my optimistic post on Thursday about all my lovely workouts planned for Friday and the weekend I promptly became ill. Sod’s law. Throughout Thursday I started feeling worse for wear: achy, tired and just not right. Then after a terribly night’s sleep and a failed attempt at the gym Friday morning (I ended up doing 15 minutes before realising I shouldn’t be aching and sweating as much as I was) before going home and back to bed. I was supposed to be working from home but I just called in sick instead and spent the rest of the day comatose on the sofa under a blanket watching crappy TV and films. How depressing!

Saturday I wasn’t much better (despite sleeping for 12 hours solid!) so Spin was definitely out of the question but I refused to let it ruin the whole day. We’d planned to go to Nando’s and then see The Hobbit with our friend, Nathan (who’s just returned from an epic month-long trip to Indian and Thailand). I wasn’t up for sitting in a cinema for hours so we just did Nando’s instead.

IMG_8973First Nando’s of 2015! It went down very nicely. The waitress laughed at me and my whole chicken but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Serving sizesWe watched two films at home instead: Guardians of the Galaxy (very funny) and XMen: Days of Future Past (love the XMen films and really enjoyed this one). But I struggle with sitting down and not doing much else so I made sure I dragged Ben on lots of walks with Alfie despite not being 100%. I found the fresh air helped a bit, though it did shatter me more than usual. It’s funny because Ben and me are so different in that respect. He can spend the entire day just watching movies or playing the Xbox whereas I can only sit about for a while before I need to get up and do something. I drive Ben mad at times because I’ll get him to a pause something while I go off and do something to stretch my legs. I’m just an antsy person I think.

Sunday I managed to get a workout in the morning as I started feeling better. We had another lazy day (with housework of course…) which basically sums up our weekend! Next weekend will be busier with Ben’s mum’s birthday meal on Saturday evening and also we’ll probably going to the shops. We’ve done a bit of online clothes shopping before our holiday and I imagine we’ll need to take some items back or exchange for different sizes. But I much prefer to do to it this way than go to the shops hunting for clothes. I am not a natural shopper as I get fed up and frustrated. At least online you can just flick through stuff quickly and they usually have your size.

Well I really wish I had more exciting stuff to say but being ill doesn’t really give me much! I’m feeling much better this morning thankfully. Annoyingly I woke up at 4am (whhhhhhhy??) thinking it was almost time to get up (my alarm was set for 5am) and was in that weird hazy dreamy state for an hour so when my alarm did go off it wasn’t hard to get up thankfully. I got in a good hour’s workout and worked up a good sweat (I did a slight variation of my Strength Routine A and my running strength stuff).

And lastly, the two winners of the Nathan hand-held torch light giveaway are *drum roll*:…

Ken C and Liz!

Please can you send me your address to my email annatheappleblog@gmail.com and I will have the torches sent to you.

[Full disclosure: I gave each competition entrant a number and then used an online random number selector to determine the winner so it would be a fair selection]

How do you cope being ill? I hate it. I hate not being able to do anything and being useless. I tend to drink lots of squash as well as I find it quite easy on the stomach and comforting!

What restaurants do you always go back to? Nando’s is one of those easy restaurants where it’s close, it’s easy and it’s relatively inexpensive – and they do tasty whole chickens!

What films have you seen lately? I can’t wait to watch some good movies on the plane.

Stealing ideas from the gym

Wow the heavens have opened up in a big way in the South Coast of England. It’s absolutely tipping it down this morning!

I might have mentioned a few times I’ve been going to the gym a lot rather than running these days. I’m really enjoying it. I don’t tend to slog out numerous minutes on the cardio machines though as I just find this soul destroying. Plus my aim at the gym is not to just focus on cardio but rather strengthen my entire body (arms I’m looking at you) to hopefully reduce any injury chances later on when I get back into running and also to make my body strong and healthy. My body has just been running a lot for so long now and it’s not a great way to get an overall level of strength. Oh sure I could easily run 10 miles or a half marathon no problem but when it came to anything else, it was weak. Since going to the gym I’ve had muscles aching that I never knew I had!

IMG_8958Instead of doing cardio machines I do lots of classes. For example, this is my week:

Monday: Body Blast (a crazy session of HIIT and then a round of several weight moves, like overhead presses and weighted squats, etc., repeated) and Power Core (focusing on strengthening the entire core).

Tuesday: Pump (weights class) and Step (I worked up a sweat but honestly this is not for me. It was laughable how uncoordinated I was and how I was about 5 steps behind everyone else).

Wednesday: yoga

Thursday: an hour session in the gym doing my own thing (more on that below).

Friday: either Spin or the same as Thursday followed by a Tone class (using weights to ‘tone’ your muscles…I loathe the word tone but it is a good class).

Saturday: Spin

Sunday: Spin and Legs, Bums and Tums

Classes are great as you never know what to expect (so can’t dread them). It’s always very varied and you get motivated by the instructor and others around you. However it’s annoying that the only classes in the week I can make are in the evening. This means going to the gym straight from work and not getting back until late, meaning my evening’s are so much shorter.

And because it’s January, the evenings at the gym are PACKED.

IMG_8963The gym I go to is massive so it’s not really a problem but it means that the classes are full of lots of newbies who need lots of demonstrations and explaining. Totally fair enough but this does eat into the class time. I like to get to the gym, do my thing and get the hell out. No time is wasted. I hate to stand around…and not to mention hearing some of the people bitch and moan like they’re at school is just irritating. You’re PAYING for this so get on with it!

So I’ve been stealing ideas from the classes to make my own routines so I can do them whenever I want (which in the week means getting to the gym for 5.30am and getting out by 6.30am – perfect). OK I don’t get the motivational aspect but I’m quite a focused person and if I’ve gone to the gym I damn well will work hard to make it worthwhile. I’m not a social gym goer: I’m not there to make friends.

I always wear my Polar heart rate monitor at the gym as, like with running, I’m a stats geek and like to see numbers. I like to see how hard I’m working and if I’m pushing myself too much or too little.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few of my routines:

Routine A:

Repeat 3 times: Make it harder:
2mins cardio at 100% effort  
40 mountain climbers Use stability ball
30 squats Add weights
20 bridge lifts (per leg) Raise one leg
10 press ups Full press up
5 burpees  

This routine took about 25 minutes which was perfect. I tried not to stop between exercises. It kept me motivated and entertained because nothing went on for too long to make me bored.

Routine B:

Repeat 3 times: Make it harder:
2mins cardio at 100% effort  
1 minute wall sit 2 minutes
30 Russian twists Add heavier weight
20 bent over rows Add heavier weight
10 cleans Add heavier weight
5 burpees  

Basically I’ve been stealing moves from the classes and then trying to create routines that are varied and hard enough to get my muscles aching and my heart racing. You get a good blast of cardio from the HIIT cardio and a good blast on the muscles with the strength moves.

I then add 30 minutes of focused running strength work:

Single leg deadlifts 12 x4 (per leg)
Single leg squats 12 x4 (per leg)
Decline single leg squats 12 x4 (per leg)
Hot salsa 3-4 minutes
Side plank on bosu ball with high knee leg raise 12 x3 (per leg)

**A lot of these moves can be found as videos on the Kinetic Revolution website HERE (anything Mo Farah or Galen Rupp do I am fully on board with!!).**

IMG_8969I did Routine A and the running strength routine this morning (though I missed out the single leg deadlifts) and it took around 50 minutes and I was shocked to find I burnt more calories than a 45 minute spin session! Calories aren’t everything I know but it was an interesting comparison nonetheless. I really enjoyed the workout (unlike Spin) and it zoomed by. I got to work on all the areas of my body I wanted to and got my HR up. And no moaning people or hanging about!

This is probably old hat to lots of you experienced gym goers but to me this is like seeing the light. I’ll still continue with going to the classes (especially at the weekend – there’s no way in hell I could do my routines when it’s absolutely heaving) but certain evening classes I’ll drop in favour of doing my own thing super early. I love that I can switch and change the moves, make it harder, shorter, longer, whatever! And focus on the areas I want to work on rather than what the instructor wants to do.

Basically, I’m a happy annoying gym bunny!

What classes do you enjoy at the gym?

What are some of your favourite strength-focused moves?

Why do you mainly focus on at the gym: strength or cardio, or a balance of both?