What I ate when working in London

Whew last week was tough. I was in London for four days as part of the final bit of a project (for those who don’t know, I’m currently a software test analyst… yes very geeky). These last few weeks have been very stressful as we’ve had some unmovable deadlines to hit and lots of work to get done. But I won’t dwell on that for this post, this post is about the good stuff. FOOD.

I was in London Monday until Thursday. I was the only one in the group to be staying in a hotel. Everyone else lives in Basingstoke or nearby so the commute was a bit more manageable (well, I say that but one guy had commuting issues all week… something I was glad to avoid!). Luckily the office we were in had a very fancy pants kitchen area so I bought porridge oats and almond milk at lunch time on Monday so breakfast Tuesday until Thursday was covered as I could make it in the morning there. Saving money and still able to enjoy my usual breakfast 🙂

My job expenses travel, hotels and dinner but for breakfast and lunch I need to buy myself. The office was located in Victoria so at lunch there was a wealth of options available, from the Shake Shack, Subway, Pret, Itsu, McDonalds, Starbucks…etc. I’d heard good things about Leon so went there on Monday to grab something.

I went for the South Indian Spiced Fish, which was delicious.It was really tasty. It contained chunks of smoked fish in a mild coconut and turmeric sauce on a bed of rice. It was lovely and hot but not too spicy. I actually did buy some extra cooked chicken though to add to it as I knew I wouldn’t get much of a chance to eat again until dinner and I generally have quite a big appetite! It kept me going until 8.30pm (we didn’t finish work until 7pm).

That evening after getting to my hotel, which was in Paddington (so not too far from Victoria) I’d made sure I’d already made a Deliveroo order on my commute back. I didn’t fancy going out as I was exhausted from the day so this was ideal. I ordered from Lokkanta, which is a meze and barbeque restarant. I ordered a Tavuk Shish, which was chicken with Bulgar wheat with a halloumi and sundried tomato salad. I also ordered some bread on the side. I’m always wary of ordering when I don’t know portion sizes so I’m always willing to get more than I need than risk not getting enough 😉 Turns out I didn’t need the bread, but it was tasty.

My hotel… *sighs* was dreadful. It was tiny and not part of a chain, which can be nice sometimes but in London a chain is sometimes better because there’s a level of quality that needs to be maintained however basic the actual amenities are. When I was lying on the bed watching TV after eating I noticed tiny little white dots slowly moving on the sheets. On closer inspection I found that they were tiny mites. URGH. I headed downstairs to talk to the manager (the only person who seemed to work there…) and complained.

He literally looked like he couldn’t care less (by the way, this is the same guy who gave me a master key for the hotel when he couldn’t find the key for my specific room – oh yeah, I felt safe!!). When it looked like he didn’t really a) know what to do and b) want to do anything I suggested quite firmly new sheets for my bed. He looked really grumpy and finally agreed. He appeared at my door a few moments later and handed me the sheets. I handed them back to him and said I was going to step out to make a phone-call. I was not going to change my own sheets thank you very much. I came back and thankfully my bed had been made and the mites had disappeared. But Jesus. So yeah, that delightful abode is called Mina House Hotel FYI.

The next morning I headed out for a run. Despite my hotel being awful, it was very close to Hyde Park. As my last solo run in London had be disastrous I was glad to have somewhere specific to run around that had lots of maps about the place (and water fountains)!

I thoroughly enjoyed this run. I decided to go around the perimeter and see how far that was. It was very warm but the sights were so pretty with trees, grass, fountains, flowers and statues. I don’t think I’ve ever actually been to Hyde Park before so it was a lovely way to explore it.At one point there was this huge line of horses with very fancy looking men all in special uniform walking graceful through the park. Apparently the Queen’s Guard! The Queen wasn’t there (obviously, it was like 7am) but it was very cool to see this procession.In the end I ran 8 miles which felt great! I had breakfast at the office again (porridge) and for lunch I headed out to find what delights I could embark on. I decided on Pret (how original) because I love their salads and their miso soup. I got that with the extra chicken from Sainsbury’s and some apples. The salad was the Greens, Grains and Chicken Salad. Sorted!

For dinner I decided to find somewhere on the way home from work as we finished after 6pm again and I wanted to prolong the time before I had to face my hotel room again. I found a lovely little Turkish restaurant (I think it was called Raffles) in Paddington. I went for something simple so had chicken wings to start (*cough* I know, I just can’t help what I like!) and chicken with rice and salad for main.It was really tasty and just what I fancied. When you have to spend a number of days away from home (and not on holiday) eating out on your own can get a bit tiresome and annoying. Granted this was only my second evening but I was pacing myself. I’d have loved to have eaten crazy exciting meals each night but I didn’t want to be too unhealthy. My usual mantra is eat fairly balance and normal meals during the week and then splurge at the weekend on more fancy and exciting meals.

The next day I headed out early to go to the local PureGym. I’d rung up the day before to extend my membership to the Bayswater one (which was about a 15 minute walk from the hotel). It would cost me £4 for the week on top of my month’s membership which sounded good to me. I punched in my code when I got there and found it wouldn’t let me in. I got a text message from PureGym informing me that my code wouldn’t work at this location. WHAT.

I tried ringing them but at 6.30am the hotline wasn’t open and there was no one in the gym to help me. So I huffed and puffed and then walked back. Luckily the weather was nice so that was something. I rang them later to find out what was going on and it turns out the person who I rang the day before hadn’t extended my membership properly. They were very apologetic and said I could go to the gym for the rest of the week without the £4 charge.

I had the same Pret lunch again (as I did for the next day – I just love that salad) and after work went for another run round Hyde Park.I decided to do something similar to before by running the perimeter. There were some live events going on (music, cinema and things like that) but being on my own I didn’t really fancy getting involved.A run was a far more fun activity for me as a solo person. As I was running I thought I might as well run somewhere to dinner and really fancied Nandos. So basic but I do love it. And handily Nando’s was just over a mile from Hyde Park so I incorporated that into my run.It did mean me sitting there in my shorts rather hot and sweaty but no one seemed to mind and I actually didn’t look that weird amongst the other assorted London folk… I was very warm though and cleaned up a bit in the bathroom. I went for a half chicken, with a side salad, char-grilled vegetables and a corn on the cob. I would have loved a whole chicken but it was only a Wednesday night after all!

The next morning I got up early once again to attempt the gym for the second time. I am but a girl of very small brains. Of course a trip to London must mean at some point I will go wrong and have an adulting fail moment. This was my time to shine. I put in my maps app what I thought was the Bayswater PureGym and headed off. I used a different app from the day before just because I prefer it to the Google one. It took me on a different route, which I put down to it being a different app. But as I became a bit more awake and compos mentis I realised I was actually no where near where I was the other day. And lo and behold, the PureGym I arrived at was not in fact the Bayswater one but a different one entirely. And nope, I could not get it. So I had to turn around and walk all the way back again. Well done, Anna.

My last day in London saw the same breakfast and lunch as the days before. I’m fairly glad I don’t work in London all that often because spending £6-7 at least every day on lunch was becoming expensive! Normally I make my own lunch and take it with me, but for four days it was a nice treat (especially considering dinner was sorted for me).

This will be my only post for the week as I’m actually currently in Austria on the MarathonTalk running retreat (SO EXCITING!). So catch you on the other side!

Do you go to London for work often?

What do you eat for lunch during the week?

What’s your favourite lunch restaurant?

Currently – April

I feel like I still have so much to catch you guys up with. Things have been a bit mental round here and I’m trying to get my ducks in order left right and centre. So without further ado, here are some things that I’ve been currently loving.

The Boston App: My friend, Andy, from the running club who’s just recently run Boston (he’s SUPER fast) sent me a Tweet letting me know that I was a tiny bit famous:That’s me on the app screen for the 2017 race! OK granted you can’t really tell as you can’t see my face, but you can see my running club vest! Clearly the organisers thought that my red, white and blue vest was ideal. And check me out running to the tangents 😉

Becoming more adult: I Facetimed my dad to work out how to use my new tin opener… OK so hear me out before further judgement ensues.I’m used to tin openers that go alongside the vertical sides of a tin, whereas this contraption sits on top. I couldn’t get my head to work it out. I mean I know it’s simple. I just couldn’t connect those simple dots. So I Facetimed my dad because, well, he solves everything. He explained in very simple, Anna-coherent terms how to use it and hey presto! I got it to open my tin of salmon.

I mean, know it’s totally obvious now. Like one of those weird eye puzzles that you look at for ages trying to see the horse but you can’t see it until you blur your eyes and then it’s like it never left the page. OK, weird analogy. Unfortunately this tin opener leaves a very sharp edge. You win some, you lose some.

Weird snacking: No I’m not pregnant (good Lord), but I do love these gherkins to randomly snack on.They remind me of being in America with their pickles they serve with sandwiches and burgers. It’s weird, but it’s good.

Healthy treats: I heard about this “ice cream” on social media (can’t remember where now if I’m honest). As you’re probably already aware, I’m a volume eater so buying the real stuff (i.e. Ben & Jerrys,  my one true love) would be problematic for me as it’s likely I’d eat the whole tub. At an excess of 1,000 calories for some of them, that’s a bit much for an evening treat! I have minimal self-control and being fully aware of this I will rarely buy any. I admire people who can take a scoop and enjoy it for what it is, but for me I always enjoy things in larger portions. It’s just the way I am. So anyway, Frill is not technically ice cream but it’s very similar.It’s a frozen smoothie made up of dates and fruit and cocoa powder and some other bits and bobs (but actually no nasty-looking chemically things from what I can tell). The whole tub is 350 calories and a whole lot less sugar. Considering normal ice cream portions can be around that for just two scoops, this is pretty damn good! And it’s surprisingly dense.

I won’t lie, I did indeed eat an entire tub one evening because I’m a fricking independent woman and can do what I the hell I want (in my PJs watching crappy TV. Yes, Beyonce, I’m truly living the dream). They have a green and a red version. The red is a berry flavour and the green is a green smoothie flavour, of which the mind can only boggle whether that would actually taste nice. But there we go, healthier ice cream for greedy people like me 😉

New Nike trainers: The lovely guys from MilletSports let me choose some Nike trainers and like a small child in a sweet shop (who am I kidding, like myself in a sweet shop) I scrolled through so many beautiful looking pairs before I settled on some black and white Nike Frees.Just casually taking a selfie at the gym in my new Nikes with my London Marathon finisher tee as you do 😉They’re super comfy. I mean like bouncability is a strong 10/10. Though technically speaking they are running shoes, I’m reluctant to run in them as I’m so injury-prone and particular about running trainers but for the gym and everyday life, they are PERFECT.They literally fit like a glove. Ahh I do love Nikes.

PureGym antics: I love my gym. I truly do. It’s super close (8 minutes drive), open 24/7, huge with lots of machines and equipment (four squat racks!) and very cheap. The clientele never cease to amaze me as well. You do get some funny characters, especially at 5.30am. The guy in the photo below was doing some crazy things on the pull-up bar that just blew my mind. He’d “superset” his acrobatics with dumbbell curls. As you do.It was amusing to watch I must say. Never a dull day.

London Marathon: I love all the stats they give you. A plethora of facts and figures to geek out over. This one was my most proud:I held out strong on the final stretch it seems! 🙂 Weirdly I was actually passed and was overtaken for the first 35k the exact same number. Not sure how that works!

What’s a weird food you like to snack on?

What’s your favourite brand?

What’s your take on healthier treats?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the Nike trainers by MilletSports for free in exchange for a mention on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Currently – March

Thursday, hurrah! Or as I like to call it…Friday Eve 😉 Here’s a little update of how things are currently going for me.

Running: TOUCH WOOD, TOUCH WOOD IMMEDIATELY. Things are actually going OK. I am tired and feeling the effects of continued marathon training but my marathon training in comparison to others is kind of weak. No 50+ miles a week going on over here. But that said, I am running consistently and attempting the longer runs at the weekend.

What I’m really pleased about is the run I did last week after work. I picked a reasonably flat route (which is tricky given I work in Basingstoke Amazingstoke). I didn’t intentionally set off to run fast but I did want to do some fartleks so I popped on some motivating music (“banging tunes” some might say, I would never say that…out-loud/in public). As I started running my legs suddenly felt pretty good so I went with it. And consequently ran my fastest 5k in almost two years. TWO YEARS (to be precise, since July 2015 20:43, at Little Stoke parkrun).I was so in the zone that an elderly man cycled past me and said “you go girl!”. I stopped my watch exactly at 3.1 miles and couldn’t believe the time! OK not my fastest and still over a minute off my PB but for not having done any real speedwork lately, I WILL TAKE THAT.And happily, a royal flush negative split. Pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. And this has encouraged me to do one speed session a week. So last night I headed out to do a speed session (my intention was some 1km repeats with a couple of minutes rest between) but my legs went “nope” so I decided to do hills instead. Four hills (0.3 miles long, 11% gradient)…ooof. I do prefer hills though because even when you’re not feeling it, it’s still a good workout for your legs despite not actually going that fast. So mentally I can deal with it.

Books: I’m a keen reader so I’m always reading a book. When I finish one I move on to another. I usually read before I go to sleep to chill me out and with my breakfast in the morning (#nerd) so I can get through them fairly quickly. I signed up to BookBub.com (NOT an affiliated link, just a random recommendation) and you get emailed about discounted e-books around the web so I often take advantage of that. I rarely ever buy a book over £4. Anyway, I’ve just finished The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult.

It was fantastic. I love Jodi Picoult. She has such a great way of writing. This was really thought-provoking and I didn’t know how it’d end.

Before that I read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.Whenever a film comes out that is based on a book I’m always prompted to go and read the book if it takes my fancy. This book was quite short but sad. I was literally crying into my porridge one morning reading it. But a good story.

Gym nutrition: I’ve been trying a new BCAA drink from Sci-Vation. I fancied a change from my usual BSN Amino X Intra-Workout.

I chose this because it contains no proprietary blend (which is a supplementary company’s way of cost cutting because they don’t have to state the dosage of the ingredients within the blend and you’ll likely be fobbed off with an ineffective dose to have any real effect) and 7 grams of BCAAs (a 2:1:1 ratio of Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine; plus an additional 2.5g of glutamine per scoop and 1g of Citrulline Malate) and 1.1 gram of electrolytes. Basically, a good BCAA drink! It’s more expensive, but more effective. And it tastes DELICIOUS. I use it during my fasted gym visits.

Slow cooker fun: I’ve been back on the old slow cooker wagon again.My meals are verrrrry basic but it’s so nice to come in to a home smelling of food and having dinner ready. LAtely I’ve been throwing in chicken drumsticks and thighs with butter squash chunks and other veg and just adding some basic seasonings and spices, like paprika, garlic, fish sauce (trust me, it works), Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce.

Quickly back to running quickly, this week has been feeling tough (probably because I’ve suddenly started doing speedwork again and did a fairly tough 16 miler on Sunday…oh and I ran a marathon last month!). I don’t feel injured but I do feel worn out. I am “meant” to run a long run on Friday morning (as I’m away this weekend) but I’m just thinking it’s not going to happen. I’d rather turn up to London undertrained and than overtrained (or injured) so I’m probably going to skip it. Listening to my body and all that 😉 I might be able to get out Sunday afternoon when I’m back but I won’t cry about it if I don’t. And it depends how I feel!

Do you use a slow cooker?

What book have you read recently?

What signs tell you when to take some rest from working out?

Full of positivity and MuscleFood pre-workout review

I’m in a super positive and happy place right now. I’ve started 2017 just feeling good and ready to take on the year. I came into work on Tuesday feeling in a good mood, much to the delight of my colleagues 😉

Though I don’t tend to make big grand New Year’s resolutions (last year’s resolution was to be more punctual. That lasted a week) I have made a couple of notes to myself on things I’d like to improve on. One being more conscious of my spending – so only one takeaway a month rather than three or four… Another is being more confident and ready to take on new challenges at work.

I’ve recently bee promoted, to start the new role in March, and it gave me all the anxieties before Christmas wondering if I could actually do it, whether I’d fail, whether they’d demote me once they found out I couldn’t do it…But instead I’ve switched it round and thought, “OK let’s do this”. If people have confidence in me, then who am I to argue with that? I just need to stay focused, work hard and not be afraid to ask for help.

In terms of running and goals in the fitness area? I actually haven’t a clue. I’ve become a lot more relaxed about running in general and I no longer feel the desperate urgency to fulfil my Marathon Major goals as soon as possible. After Tokyo I want to reset and chill for a bit. Just run for fun. Enter races that make me happy and just pootle along. I’m enjoying the gym so I’ll carry on there, maybe look for some new challenges in that area. Basically I’m content and it feels like a weird place to be in, but also very nice. I think I’ve relaxed a bit more….weird.

Onto my review then!

MuscleFood Rampage™ Pre-Workout Formula

A few weeks ago MuscleFood sent me some pre-workout to try out.Pre-workout is actually something I’ve only just become familiar with. I drink BCCAs (branched-chain amino acida) during my workout which help maintain muscle mass when doing strength workouts, especially as I do my morning workouts fasted. My goals are not to lose fat and I don’t want to lose muscle either.

So what’s a pre-workout then? You basically drink it before you workout as the name suggests! It usually contains a stimulant like caffeine and some other supplements to help get the most out of your workout and reduce fatigue.MuscleFood kindly sent me two different flavours of the their pre-workout Rampage (what a name, eh): Lem & Pink Grapefruit and Orange & Pineapple. It contains BCAAs to reduce muscle breakdown and help with recovery, as I mentioned above, Arginine AKG which is another essential amino aciden which helps the body to create energy from protein, fats and carbs, Beta Alaine which helps with performance (though be warned, it does cause some rather odd tingling!), Taurine for muscle growth promotion and recovery, Citrulline Malate to help fatigue and manage lactic acid, Creatine Monohydrate which is a well documented and studies supplement to help with building muscle and Beet4Perf™ which is a natural beetroot ingredient to help boost performance as well (I love my beetroot supplements!). It also contains 200mg of caffeine (the equivalent two cups of instant coffee).To be honest, I was highly sceptical of pre-workouts in general when I first heard about them as it all sounds a bit weird. Stimulants for working out? Hmmm. But then caffeine has been proven to help push harder and I often use caffeinated gels during marathons and drink a coffee before a race – and in general most mornings. I obviously don’t want to become dependent on caffeine but getting up at 5am to start my workout at 5.30am is tough going and having caffeine just before really helps. I just make sure I don’t have any further caffeine later in the day.

Though to be honest I don’t find I need anymore, whereas if I don’t drink the pre-workout by 10am I definitely need my morning cup of coffee. Normally I’d have two cups of coffee a day so now I’ve switched to decaf on days I drink this. I’m not hugely sensitive to caffeine and don’t get any headaches of withdrawal symptoms if I don’t drink it for a few days so I think I’m OK.

So what did I think? Well, the taste isn’t amazing. It’s not disgusting or unpleasant, it’s just something to get used to. Both flavours are nice enough but some mornings it does take an effort to get it down. I make up one scoop with 200ml of water and that seems like the perfect amount. Any more water and the taste gets worse as it waters down. The grapefruit flavour is better than the pineapple in my opinion.

Taste aside, did it aid with my performance and recovery? It’s a tough one to know for certain, but I do believe it’s helped me. Within 15 minutes of drinking it I start to get the tingles (they’re no hugely unpleasant, just a weird itchy palms kind of feeling) and then I feel a lot more awake. It’s not made me feel invicible and nor can I suddenly deadlift 10kg more. However I felt more “get up and go” and more alert. Obviously the caffeine is a big factor here but the other bits and bobs could be contributing too. After particularly heavy squats, my legs weren’t quite as sore as they might be. But again this is all very cause-effect stipulation and subjectivity.

I do enjoy taking it though and am happy to keep it in my routine. I won’t take it before every gym visit, just when I think I need it. I’ll also have a week or so without it every now and again to help keep my caffeine tolerance at a nice level. I don’t want to become too dependent or used to it.

I don’t think it’s necessary for the gym or to make any significant gains. It’s more of a pick-me-up to help supplement you as and when you need it – if you need it at all! But I do recommend it if you fancy adding a little it of oomph to your workout occasionally. I’m tempted to try it before a race as well to see how that goes.

Have you ever tried using per-workout?

Do you use any supplements?

Have you made any big goals for this year?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the Rampage Pre-Workout from MuscleFood for free in return for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

 

But I’m still a runner

I’m in a quite frustrating position. I’m still not running. And I’m not hugely bothered.

Who even am I? I feel like I’m in a really odd place. Normally when I’m injured I feel really down, really frustrated and angry.

Not running, just volunteering at parkrun

Normally going to parkrun and volunteering every week would be hard; watching runners get their parkrun mojo on. I would feel a huge leap of jealously at any runners I drive past. I’d wonder if today is “the day” I’ll try running again before I’ve even gotten out of bed.

But…I’m actually not thinking those things. I mean, it obviously helps that the weather is pretty gnarly. It’s dark, cold, wet and unappealing to be outside. During the warmer months I find it hard because I just want to be outside in the fresh air. But right now all I want to do is hibernate away in fluffy socks and Christmas jumpers.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve not suddenly become a couch potato and happy to lapse into inactivity for days at an end. Quite the opposite. I’m loving the time I spend at the gym right now. I can lift heavy weights without wondering how it will affect my running the next day. I can push my limits of my strength and reach new PBs. I can work on non-running-focused strength training without feeling guilty.

And my gym is lovely and bright, cool not cold and it’s full of other like-minded people. Rather than the dark, lonely streets at ridiculously o’clock in the morning or straight after work, I can skip into the gym at 5.30am and it’s full of people. I don’t converse with these people, good God no! I’m there to workout and my social switch is firmly in the OFF position until I get to work, but I’m around other people and don’t feel like I’m the only person in the world working out.

This is obviously a problem though. I mean it would be a fantastic situation ordinarily…had I not got an impending marathon in February. Every time I think about the marathon I feel a bit stressed and a bit sick. Oh sure I could bin it, but I’d rather not waste the money I already spent on it (a fair chunk) and I do actually want to do it. I just don’t want to train for it.

I only have myself to blame for this situation. Too many marathons, too much running, stupid biomechanical faults, questionable training… Yes I know I’m an idiot when it comes to running in a variety of different ways. But marathons are not 5ks or 10ks, or even half marathons. You can’t decided one week to just enter one and run it in the near future. You don’t know what the situation is going to be like in the months ahead. And this marathon more than most is one you need to apply months and months away from the start date.

I’m just in a sticky situation of not being able to train for a marathon I’m not sure I want to train for. Problematic. I suppose it’s better that I’m feeling indifferent than to be feeling full of despair for not running. Mentally I’m in a good place (increasing nausea and panic attacks for impending marathon aside of course). I just need to hope that I can run soon so I can find the love again… Though I love the gym, I’ll always still be a runner first and foremost.

Have you ever felt demotivated for a race coming up?

What do you consider yourself – a runner, crossfitter, climber, cyclist, etc.?