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?

Rants and Raves #35

One more cheeky Rants and Raves before Christmas? Go on then… Though I do have some choice rants, in general I’m very happy at the moment. Life seems to be going quite well, if I do say so myself 🙂

Rant: Idiots who can’t park. Ahh parking and car-related moans. They really do bring out the best in us, right? I have to say, I don’t swear that much being the polite young lady I am (hi, mum!), but get me into a car on my own and some choice words can be known to fly out of my mouth during my commute when people don’t seem to know how to drive. And likewise, when people don’t seem to know how to park. Case in point in the village where my parent’s live.

I just don’t understand how anyone can walk away from a parking like that? Bizarre. That didn’t necessarily annoy me more than baffle me. What did annoy me was after going to the gym one morning and driving back into the enclosed shared parking area I noticed some knob idiot had decided to park two cars rather than one. We only have one allocated car parking space per flat and have our own designated space with our number on it. The way this person had parked – diagonally behind their first car (not a legitimate space) – meant I couldn’t get into my space.

It really annoyed me. How selfish. Before I calmed down and thought a bit more rationally I was about to do one of two things: start beeping my horn until they came out, but thought best not as it was before 7am, or park behind them and block both their cars in. But that seemed childish and I didn’t want to get keyed.

So I did the next best thing. I wrote a passive aggressive note which I slapped on their windscreen. How very British of me.It made me feel a lot better I must say. There have been no more stupid parking. My work here is done.

Rave: I’ve been mixing things up on the porridge front (crazy, I know ;-)) by continuing to add protein powder to it. Protein is always important for me as I find it fills me up a lot more than just carbs and in general my porridge was a lot higher in the carb to protein ration. So I add about 15g of protein powder to my normal amount of oats and almond milk and it feels a lot more filling.

My current protein powder set-up that I’m loving is about half and half of a flavoured powder with an unflavoured as I don’t really like my porridge overly sweet. I have the PEScience Select Frosted Cupcake and the MuscleFood unflavoured whey. I definitely need the unflavoured variety to tone down the PEScience one as otherwise it’s incredibly sweet (but FYI great for protein pancakes). I’m loving my breakfast even more now – and you know how much I love my porridge if you’re a long-time reader! (No affiliation with either product, I just like them).

Rave: I pay the monthly fee for Audible which gives me one book a month for “free” (if you count paying £8 a month free…) and recently I’ve listened to some really good ones.

The Girl With All The Gifts  – M. R. Carey

I love an “end of the world” style story and this had me gripped. It slowly draws you in and you’re constantly wondering what’s going on, but in a good way not in a Lost series kind of way (i.e. here’s a polar bear in Series One that we’ll do vague some hand-waving explanation about in Series 8). And I loved how unpredictable (at least to me) the ending was.

Scrappy Little Nobody – Anna Kendrick

It’s always great getting an autobiography on audible as they’re usually read by the author, so you can really feel a connection with what they’re saying. I saw some good reviews from this book and while I didn’t know a huge amount about Anna Kendrick I’ve quite enjoyed some of her films and thought, “eh why not”. Initially I thought I was going to hate it as she has quite the nasal American accent (no offence to any Americans reading this, I’m almost certain my stupid posh British accent would annoy the hell out of you guys!) and she had one of those “I was unattractive and was never popular” kind of backstories which you struggle to believe because, well, she’s Anna Kendrick. HOWEVER, within a few chapters I was laughing out-loud and fully wanting her to be my best friend. She’s got a great self-deprecating and dry sense of humour it’s really difficult to not like her (damn it). It’s also got some great “behind the scenes” stories from her different films and some realities of trying to break it in Hollywood.

Rave: I was given some flowers and chocolates at work for doing well this month and it really made my day. I obviously don’t talk much about work on my blog but I’m really enjoying work-life at the moment and seem to be doing a good job, which can’t be a bad thing 😉 Those chocolates didn’t last long. I might have consumed a good number on the way home after the Christmas party.

Rave: It’s taken me a year to realise I haven’t been receiving my RunnersWorld magazine subscription every month. And I’m still paying for it! So I emailed them and they changed my address and gave me last three months, which is good of them considering it was my stupid mistake for not telling them.So I have some good stuff to read over the holidays 😉

Rave: Proud daughter alert. Both my parents are doing incredibly well at Slimming World.

My dad has lost almost 2.5 stone now (the above picture was for when he’d reached two stone – so 20% of his body weight). He seems to be steadily losing between 1-3 lbs a week. Obviously this will slow down the more and more he loses, but he’s doing it in a very measured and sensible approach. He still has treats and meals out, but he plans them in now and makes sure to eat healthily around those days. Though I feel incredibly uncomfortable when my parents talk about “Body Magic” when they’re referring to exercise…Slimming World has some weird terminology.

How Christmassy are you feeling?

Are you a good parker?

Do you have any good books to recommend?

Things I’m Loving Lately

Dare I say I’m loving the cooler weather…? I just hope it remains for 2nd October, when I have the Chester Marathon. Anyway, on to some things I’ve been loving lately.

New (inexpensive) workout gear: I popped into TKMaxx the other day quickly just to check out what they had. I don’t often shop there as (similar to Primark) it stresses me out as it had a very warehouse-feel and can be a bit mad ad disorganised. But I rifled through my size area and found two bargains: an Adidas sports bra and a New Balance running top.

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Together for under £25! I love the colours. I don’t often go for greens or blues so it’s nice to have some variety

Toms: I have one pair of Toms (a simple black pair). I love them. They’re so comfortable and go with so many things. My mum also loves Toms. She has SO many pairs…

IMG_5124_thumb.jpgThe white ones I’m wearing are her Toms too

Happily we both have the same size feet (5 if you’re interested). This means I get to borrow her Toms. She often lends them to me in order to “stretch” them a bit so they’re a bit more comfy for her. I willingly oblige (*sighs* the things you do for your parents ). The photograph above isn’t even of all of them. (My mum also has a handbag addiction and I also get to borrow some of those lovelies too! Hello, Mulberry and Michael Kors).

Foot sling: I was sent an Ashipita Foot Sling*. When I was first contacted about this review I was a bit like, “a what?” but then I read a bit more about it and decided it sounded like a very interesting product to try!IMG_4997.jpgThey’re made by a young start-up company in Germany that sells health products, which you can find more of from their Amazon shop. The foot sling appealed to me because my feet are always an issue with running with my fairly collapsed arches.

It’s supposed to strengthen the midfoot ligaments and muscles to allow your feet to roll naturally but not excessively. It helps provide stability and provide comfort. I’ve been wearing them around the house (and with shoes as well as they’re quite discreet). I have to say they do feel very comfortable. After an hour or so I do notice my feet feel a bit different – not achy but just something is off, but in a good way. Like something is working. I can’t tell you if they definitely work or not, but I’ll continue to wear them at home as I do feel like they’re doing something. Apparently they’re quite the thing in Japan – like foot lingerie!

Compression sleeves: I’m a big fan of compression socks and clothing. When I run in the evening I’ll usually pop on some compression socks or sleeves after I’ve showered and it’s divine. Both the socks and the sleeves I use are CEP.IMG_5211_thumb.jpgYes they’re expensive (£40 for the socks; £35 for the sleeves) but I swear by them for recovery. While there’s no firm evidence for improving your actual running, there is some evidence that shows that wearing compression socks improves blood flow and recovery (here’s an interesting article on this can be found on some of the debate of whether they work or not). Personally I love them after a run – make calves feel a lot fresher after wearing them for a couple of hours. As to wearing them during a run? I think the jury’s out on this one. I don’t notice any benefits for short distances (and when I suffered from shin issues they didn’t give much relief) BUT I find that for long runs they’re great. My calves don’t cramp as much. Perhaps it’s psychological but they work for me!

Tangle Teezer: After my annoying hair issue last week after my 21 miler in the rain, Maria mentioned the Tangle Teezer brush.IMG_4998.jpgThe bristles move with your hair so don’t tug it all out when you’re trying to brush through it. It works for both wet and dry hair.teezer-hairbrushI used to use a wide tooth comb for after I washed my hair but this made my life SO much easier. It just seemed to glide through. Saves me loads of time now.

Speaking of hair… My parent’s dogs have had haircuts. They look adorable. Their Cavalier, Dylan, is a bit on the chunky side and this has only been made more apparent post-haircut.dylan

I (lovingly) call him Shamu as he looks a little bit like a killer whale. The little tubster!

Funny Ladybird books: I love these Ladybird books. This one called “The Wife” made me laugh a lot.img_5047I’m sure we all know that person, right?? Hehe. Whereas this one spoke to me on a more personal level…ladybirdDating in this day and age… such a nightmare! Speaking of which, I’m listening to an audio book that Maria (again!) recommended called Modern Romance and, though hilarious, does actually speak of a lot of home truths I’m experiencing. Giving me some good advice as well.modern-romance

I’ve also just started reading the Brownlee brothers autobiography, Swim, Bike Run: Our Triathlon Story. How amazing was it to see Alistair sacrifice his first position in the World Triathlon Series to help his brother when he was near collapsing near the end of the race? I’m not an overly emotional person but it did almost bring a tear to my eye!

What books have you been reading lately?

Have you heart of the foot sling before (or “foot lingerie”!?)

Do you use compression clothing?

**Full Disclosure: I was sent the Ashipita foot sling for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

What I’m Loving Lately

I started out writing this post as a Rants and Raves post…until I realised I actually didn’t have anything to rant about. This is obviously a good thing! So instead, here’s what I’m loving lately.

The Olympics: I’m quite sad that the Olympics is over. I must admit I was a bit late on jumping on the band wagon. It didn’t help that some of the stuff I would have watched (Mo’s races, Usain Bolt and the heptathlon) were in the middle of the night. It’s really not my thing to set an alarm and stay up to watch things. I like my sleep too much!

I did, however, watch both triathlons. Is it wrong to say I find them more interesting than regular running races because a bit more happens (oh the drama of the transitions and the different strengths involved)? The Brownlee brothers were amazing but the women’s race was quite tense! I watched the men’s marathon as well and thought it was hilarious when Meb Keflezighi fell over right on the finish line and then started doing press-ups! What a great save of face.

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Rave: Finding new podcasts. I love my current favourite podcasts but I’ve been zipping through them really quickly on dog walks, driving to and from work and while cooking/cleaning. My two new additions are TED Radio Hour and Stuff You Should Know. Again, so late in the game with Ted Talks (I’m like a lost sheep… I will eventually follow the flock but only after they’ve left and headed way up the hill).

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I love the TED Radio Hour because it has an overriding theme. It discusses several different talks that relate to the theme the host interviews the different TED talkers so we hear a bit more detail. It’s very good. One I listened to the other day was called Brand Over Brain and it was so interesting. I’m trying to pace myself through them but it’s tough.

The Stuff You Should Know is great for more focused information on one specific subject. For example, I listened to a podcast all about caffeine the other day which was cool. The two guys also have very soothing, smooth American voices which are very calming!

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To be honest, I could listen to them discuss anything. Case and point: I listened to them discuss the differences between jelly fish and octopi. Honestly, my brain is going to explode with information Winking smile

Books: On a similar knowledge-seeking vein, I’ve just finished The Calorie Myth by Jonathan Bailor (as an audio book). It started off really interesting and I was fully on board with what he was saying… Things like going really low in calories isn’t the best way to lose weight and how eating more food of better quality actually regulates your metabolism, set-point and hormones and losing weight becomes easier. Obviously I’m not looking to lose weight but I find books like this very interesting. I get so annoyed when I read about diets touting 1,200 calories as the “golden number” and this book gave more insight into why those diets don’t work in the long-term. There was lots of science and clinical studies to back things up which made it very compelling.

However, I struggled a bit with the overall guidelines and mandates of the book. He dismissed “jogging” in a big way and claimed only 20 minutes of resistance exercise each week was enough. OK, I fully agree that exercise isn’t essential for weight loss. It’s a tool and can help speed up the process. And our body’s aren’t stupid, we adapt. That three mile run you did last week will have less of an effect this week because your body is adapting and finding sneaky ways of making it easier (biologically speaking). And anyone who’s trained for a marathon knows that it’s not the way to lose weight. If anything, you put on weight. More miles does not mean more weight loss. But to dismiss it outright… hmm. OK it won’t make you lose weight but there are so many more health benefits (physical, social and mental) that are given. But it was an interesting read.

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The book I’m currently reading I actually heard about through the Marathon Talk podcast. Tom Williams, one of the presenters, mentioned it in passing. It’s called Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The tagline is “The Surprising Truth About Success”. I’m not one for self-help books but it didn’t seem like that kind of spiel. And it isn’t. The title refers to the black boxes found in planes and how when a plane crashes or has a problem, the reasons behind it can be fully examined afterwards and we can learn from those mistakes.

This is not the case in other industries however. For example, in healthcare mistakes are not examined as thoroughly. An accident in surgery can be swept under the carpet as a “something that happens” or “an unfortunate complication”. Not because doctors and healthcare workers are dishonest or stupid, but because of culture and psychology. It’s a fascinating book and I fully recommend it. It also makes me never want to go to hospital again!

Workouts: Asides from running (see my last post), I’m still going to the gym and working on my strength. I do three strength sessions a week. One session is focused on glutes and legs, one on shoulders, arms and chest, and the third on my back with running-specific exercises and core work thrown in here and there. I’m also going to spin on Fridays when I can. This was originally because a cute guy started to do it (yes, I’m that sad and clearly I’m at my most attractive covered in sweat, ha!) but I’m now going because I enjoy it.

With running I’m not really doing any intense speed sessions because marathon training is hard enough coming back from injury and not having enough time. I’ve dabbled a bit with some harder effort parkruns and a fartlek session but otherwise it’s just getting the miles in to sort my endurance out. I’m not expecting a fast time for Chester after coping with that hamstring thing for so long it sort of shot down those hopes. So to just get through this training and the race itself without injury is good enough for me!

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So spinning. It’s a great way for me to get that quick leg turnover and fast speed workout in without the impact and injury-risk that a hard running speed session could pose for me. It was also nice to see the friend face of fellow Southampton runner, Ruth, as well.

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She used to write a blog (not sure she does anymore!) and that’s how we connected. Interestingly enough was suffering from a similar hamstring issue to me. It was lovely to have company while spinning (though she’s a spinning extraordinaire and put me to shame).

What workouts do you do in a week?

What podcasts do you listen to?

What books have you enjoyed recently?

Books Lately

I’m a big fan of books. I’m always reading something and as soon as I finish one book I’m on to another. That’s not to say I’m a particularly fast reader or that I read intellectually challenging or deep things but I always like to have something on the go.

Books

I used to be one of those people who would always, without fail, finish a book. But actually I’ve realised life’s too short for books you don’t enjoy. It’s supposed to be pleasurable after all so if something really isn’t interesting to me I’ll drop it and move on. Here are some of the books I’ve enjoyed lately.

Room – Emma Donoghue

OK strictly speaking I actually listened to this as an audiobook. The book is told entirely from a child’s perspective so it was narrated as so. At first I was a bit dubious thinking “Oh god, do I really want to listen to a 5-year old tell a story?” but I kept at it as it instantly drew me in.

From Amazon:

“Jack lives with his Ma in Room. Room has a single locked door and a skylight, and it measures ten feet by ten feet. Jack loves watching TV but he knows that nothing he sees on the screen is truly real – only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until the day Ma admits there is a world outside.”

I’m desperate to see the film now as it was such a moving and fascinating story. Yes the subject matter is pretty grim and it can be very dark at times, but the book’s tone and overall story was not dark. There is such an innocence as well with it being from a child’s perspective. Obviously if it had been told from the mother’s perspective it would undoubtedly be a grim and different story.

Behind Closed Doors – B. A. Paris

I do look at the bestseller lists for a lot of my books. You kind of know you’re going to get a fairly decent read as the masses have gone for it and like a sheep I follow (though ‘decent’ can be a stretch for some books…). This is about a husband and wife who from the outside look perfect but as you find out more and more it turns out it’s a horrible fabrication.

It’s fairly unbelievable I have to say but it was a definite page-turner. I was desperate to find out what would happen. The characters are a bit one dimensional but as thrillers go it was pretty good. Good holiday read!

The Diet Myth – Tim Spector

I do love a bit of myth busting when it comes to so-called nutrition facts and ridiculous diets.

From Amazon:

“Drawing on the latest science and his own pioneering research, Professor Tim Spector demystifies the common misconceptions about fat, calories, vitamins and nutrients. Only by understanding what makes our own personal microbes tick can we overcome the confusion of modern nutrition, and achieve a healthy gut and a healthy body.”

Really interesting. A little repetitive at times as it obviously had a slight agenda with the whole microbe and gut focus but it really opened my eyes. I knew our gut health was important but never to this extent. There are some great anecdotal and scientific research which is really fascinating. It’s not quite the page turner but still interesting.

Bossypants – Tina Fey

I was at a loss of what audiobook to go for (I have the Audible subscription of getting one book a month) and had heard so many people rave about how funny this was and how brilliant Tina Fey is and as she was the narrator for the audiobook it sounded good. Don’t get me wrong, she is funny and I did laugh but because I didn’t know a huge amount about her and had never watched Saturday Night Live it wasn’t as good as I hoped – some stuff was lost on me. I have a lot of respect for her though and she’s clearly very talented.

Happily – Sophie Tanner

I was contacted by the author to read this book. It sounded like such a bizarre but interesting story so I was intrigued!

From the author:

“Happily is a story about a woman who marries herself. In a case of life imitating art I married myself in a performance at Brighton Fringe Festival last May – you can read more on that in a feature I wrote for Stylist.com here.”

This sounded like quite a refreshing and weird book to read. I was a bit dubious at first but it’s such a fun and light read I found myself really enjoying it. It’s got a really good theme running through it that basically you need to love yourself before you can love someone else, which I fully believe. Don’t expect someone to be your missing piece or to fulfil you. Fulfil yourself first! A nice change form the usual “must find man” themed chic flicks.

You can download a copy on Amazon. You can find more about the author here:

Do you read a lot?

What’s your usual book of choice?

What’s your favourite book? 

**Full disclosure: I received a pdf copy of Happily by Sophie in return for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**