Christmas – family, food and running

I took a bit of a break over the Christmas holidays to chill and reset myself so I’m a bit behind on blog life but here we go anyway…

Christmas is really one of my favourite day’s of the entire year. There’s something about knowing that a huge number of people are doing something very similar to you on the same day. You feel part of something, a collective and a togetherness. I know not everyone celebrates Christmas, but a vast majority do and it’s nice to feel part of something bigger.

On Christmas Eve I volunteered at Netley parkrun rather than ran as my leg is still not 100% and I wanted to run the Christmas parkrun and knew I couldn’t do both. The weather was so cold and windy that after helping set the course up and then cheering on two laps of the three lap course I quickly headed back to the start/finish area and then sat in my car with the heating on full blast while watching to see when I was needed to help clear down. I was so cold and, it must be said, a bit grumpy. I don’t think it helped that when I stood complaining about being cold someone said to me, “oh you’ll be warm as soon as you start running”… except I wasn’t going to run! I can understand why they thought I would though as I was in my gym gear (with a coat) as I was going to head to the gym afterwards and get my endorphins that way.

But anyway, I stayed at my parents for Christmas Eve and then got up early the next morning and headed to parkrun once again. But this time with my dad in tow as he was going to do the Christmas parkrun too. It’s funny because we were both feeling a bit nervous about it; me with my shin and him with not having done a parkrun in a few months, and not having done the new hillier Netley either.

The weather was far better though, for which I was eternally grateful for. I’d gone with a Christmas-themed fancy dress and was grateful for the warmer temps.My dad had his new Netley parkrun t-shirt on as well, bless him (oh I also have to make a correction to a previous post where I’d said he lost 20% of his body weight – which wouldn’t have made any sense. He’s lost almost 2.5 stone, which is ten percent of his body weight… stupid Anna).

Two of my lovely friends, April and Jo, also came to Netley which was lovely. We “met” via Instagram and social media and though I’ve met April a few times in ‘real life’, I’ve never met Jo. So it was nice to see them both at such a festive occasion.

April and I ran together, with my friend Mike, but Jo was super fast (despite coming back from a niggle herself!) – she came first at the Southampton parkrun just the day before…naturally. But April and me tend to be around the same speed so it was nice to run and chat. My shin played ball and only niggled a tiny bit so I was quite happy.

But it did still feel hard. When you haven’t run consistently or for any great distances in a while it always feels pretty bloody awful regardless of pace!

The Netley Abbey Running club has festively set-up a table with Baileys shots for anyone who dared, and then set it up at the finish at the end. They were raising money for charity and quite a few people went for the shots!
All in all it was a very festive parkrun, with lots in fancy dress and a band playing. My dad did very well, getting a 5 minute PB with a time of 46:32 minutes, which even beats his Lee-On-Solent time (a vert flat course) and he wasn’t last! He was over the moon.

Then we packed up the course and headed back home to celebrate Christmas. I helped my dad with the lunch prep, we opened presents, ate chocolate (well, my granddad and I did, while my parents were very restrained).

Amongst other bits and bops I got some very nifty lifting shoes for Christmas.

They’re for the gym and specifically for lifting. They should help my form a bit more and basically keep me planted nicely on the ground and support to help me lift. I love the colour personally 😉

Then after cooking we got down to the main event…

I had a couple more plates of the main dinner…so tasty. I’m all about the stuffing and honey roasted parsnips. And the turkey of course 😉 I was in charge of pudding so I went for an M&S Chocolate and Orange Melting Middle Pudding (*cough* maybe two of them…because having too much is always better than not enough!). I actually didn’t realise it was chocolate orange until I was eating it and wondering why it was so zesty. I’m not a big chocolate orange fan so it wasn’t the “rock my world” situation I’d imagined. However it was obviously very good and though we didn’t eat both puddings we did crack into the second one.

Then we went for our annual walk down the beach. Unfortunately the weather had taken a turn for the worst and it was cold, wet and windy and we really just wanted to get it over with. It was nice to then get back home and curl up with a good movie. We watched It’s a Wonderful Life, which I’ve never seen before. I was a bit dubious about it thinking it was going to either be boring or ultra cheesy. I was pleasantly surprised at just how good it was and I was fully moved at the end, sobbing away at just how lovely it was. After another mini portion of leftovers and Christmas TV I was ready for bed! A really lovely Christmas 🙂

How was your Christmas?

What’s your favourite part of the Christmas dinner?

Winchester Christmas markets and a come back?

Oh I feel super Christmassy now. I’ve bought all my presents (wrapping is yet to be done but, details!), sent all my Christmas cards, worn my Christmas jumper, had my Christmas parties and eaten a proper roast turkey meal with all the trimmings. Yes indeed, Christmas is in full force.

The one thing I’m holding back on is the Christmas playlist. That bad boy gets rocked out closer to the day to maximise the effect (or rather, not make me want to tear my hair out too quickly after the 17th time of hearing All I Want For Christmas…).

On Saturday I forwent parkrun for the Winchester Christmas markets instead. Though I obviously love parkrun and my shin/calf is feeling better, the Christmas markets was just too much of a lure. I stayed at my parent’s house on Friday night and we left super early to beat the traffic and rush (well, we left at 9.30am which isn’t that early but pretty good for us considering we’re the most disorganised family known to man).

We got the Park and Ride which is probably the best way to do it (£3 to park the car and then everyone gets a seat on the bus, pretty good and only 15 minutes away from the centre). It was busy already though!We headed straight to the Cathedral where the actual Christmas market was located and wandered around slowly looking at all the different stalls. There were lots of craft-style stalls selling handmade jewellery, scarfs, ornaments etc. There were also food-related stalls selling cheese, dried meats and fudge and then hot food stalls selling bacon rolls and burgers.

There were some quaint old fashioned style ones selling roasted chestnuts, caramelised nuts, hot mulled wine and toasted marshmallows as well which all smelt divine.

There was also an outdoor ice rink as well but we weren’t tempted! I got myself a Schokokuss (a ‘chocolate kiss’) which I’d had in Berlin and loved. There were lots of different flavours, like Baileys, chocolate orange, dark chocolate, but I went for a white chocolate almond and honey flavoured one. It was delicious. Basically it’s like a teacake – waffery base topped with marshmallow fluff covered in chocolate.I shared it with my mum and dad (who didn’t want one of their own as they’re trying to be healthy – who even are they??) and it was delicious.

Obviously got a photo of the nativity scene because…Christmas. Though the sign above kept reminding me of Madonna’s “Step into the groove” song. Not sure why I felt the need to touch Mary’s shoulder. Perhaps I just thought it made her feel more involved in the photo 😉

And then the pièce de résistance… hot churros dusted with sugar and melted chocolate.Despite seeing the churros being dipped into boiling oil and then quickly sprinkled in sugar and chocolate and handed to me within a one minute period I still felt the need to try one immediately. And then, delightfully caught on camera by my loving father, managed to look oh so attractive in my first scorching bite. The burning was worth it though, they were damn good (but if I had one tiny criticism it would be more chocolate was needed…but that’s just coming from a very greedy person).Overall, the markets were really good. There was a choir, it was very Christmassy and the food was good. But it was rather small and there were no gingerbread biscuits or more snacky items like that (again, this is from a greedy person). It doesn’t help that I’ve been to Berlin where their Christmas markets really do steal the show and I’m comparing them to that.

After doing a bit more shopping on the highstreet and general moseying around, we decided to have some lunch at a lovely Thai tapas restaurant called Koh Thai that, funnily enough, my physio had recommended to me.

Usually tapas is a bit of a pain for me as I don’t share food but as I was with company who understands that (i.e. my parents) so I knew I was in safe territory 😉 We all ordered a main (which wasn’t really a true main, but a slightly bigger small dish that you didn’t share) and then I ordered ribs strictly to be eaten only by me and some pork salad bites to share. My parents ordered chicken satay, crispy beef and fishcakes for sharing, because they’re reasonable human beings.My main was a chicken salad. Honestly the food was AMAZING. I’m actually not a huge Thai food fan (or Chinese fan either) but it was so good. The flavours were so fresh and tasty. However there were some very cheeky sneaky chillies in my salad and halfway through the meal I felt like my tongue had had a layer taken off the top of it and my eyes were streaming. The ribs were to die for though, obviously.

Though I wasn’t hugely hungry to start with because of said treats above, we left no prisoners behind. Though to be fair, the meal was pretty healthy for a meal out (quantity aside). Though my tummy was buzzing by the end.

I had planned to do a run that morning before we went to the markets but I decided to leave it until later so I could be a bit more warmed-up and also not have wasted a potential lie-in (though I woke up naturally ridiculously early anyway…*sighs*). As it took a while to amble back to the bus stop, then the car journey home my stomach was in a better shape to attempt a run. I was super nervous and fully dreading it. I decided to run from my parent’s house before I left to go home just because I had a better three mile route and I could moan like a brat to my parents if it went badly (aren’t I delightful?).

Expecting the worse as soon as I stated I was pleasantly surprised to feel fine. As the run continued I could feel an echo of the niggle so just concentrated on my form and breathing and tried not to over-think things. It didn’t get worse so I carried on. I actually felt great running in terms of fitness. I felt very comfortable and within myself, though I loathed to look at my watch, thinking I didn’t need to see how much speed I’d lost. So I was really chuffed to see a nice negative split.

And a good pace for having not run in a far number of weeks! Clearly my boring cardio sessions have maintained something. My calf/shin felt reasonably OK after the run – not better, not worse. Not perfect…so I’ll need to take this very slowly and one run at a time.I mean, Sod’s Law will be that my next run will be terrible and I’ll be back to square one, but hey let’s be positive. It’s Christmas after all 😉

Have you been to any Christmas markets this year?

What would you buy/eat from a Christmas market?

What’s your favourite cuisine?

How I stay on track during Christmas

Christmas time can be the best and worst of times…In many ways, but specifically in terms of food.

As soon as the red Coca Cola lorry has rocked up and the John Lewis advert has hit our screens, we’re bombarded with a continuous onslaught of Christmasness. Personally I love it. The music, the decorations, the festive cheer and, of course, the food. You really can’t escape it. And it’s tough to keep on track of your health and fitness goals when you’re surrounded 24/7 by all those naughty but incredibly tasty Christmas treats. Mince pies, boxes of chocolate selections, biscuits, Christmas puddings, cheese, stollen, gingerbread, meals out, drinks out. It’s a bit of a minefield. It’s no wonder that as soon as January hits we’re all racing to the nearest gym armed with our shining New Year’s Resolutions promising not to eat a pig in blanket for a good while.

I do first want to preface this and stress that Christmas is certainly not a time for guilt, restriction and unhappiness over food. It should be enjoyed, but like all food, Christmas treats do need some moderation. I’m not trying to lose weight but I do want to keep myself in fairly good shape over December because 1) I’m going to Florida in January and want to enjoy eating LOTS of good food there while also remembering that 2) I’ve got a marathon to run in February. Hmmm. So here’s how I try and maintain a good balance:

I don’t use the “because it’s Christmas” excuse

It would be easy to just have an “F*** it” mentality when it comes to Christmas and just eat everything in sight. December is a long month and it’s easy to get into the habit through that month of eating rubbish and ignoring the consequences. Instead…

I know when to splurge and when to save

Over December there are so many events going on from parties, dinners, drinks out, Christmas markets… I try and save myself for those special occasions rather than a random lonely Friday night with a box of Celebrations. If I’ve got a Christmas dinner planned one week I want to go to it without feeling like I need to watch what I’m eating or refuse pudding because I’m “trying to be good”. Instead I’ll make more sensible and healthy choices in the days leading up to it and the day after and fully enjoy the ENTIRE meal without a care. If that means two puddings, then that means two puddings.

I had a second plate of puddings at my work Christmas dinner #winning

Eat the good stuff

I’m a big believer in not denying yourself any foods. However, there are definitely superior foods to be had during Christmas. There are treats I can eat any time of the year but mince pies, Christmas cake and things like that are generally only available around Christmas. And I don’t want some crappy mince pie because it’s just there, I want the quality one that I know I’ll enjoy and savour the most. If that means spending more money, then I will because food enjoyment is important to me.

Don’t buy it

If you are worried about over-indulging and eating ALLTHEFOODS, then don’t buy them. Rest assure you will find things to enjoy outside of your home but it’s all the harder to get to them which means you can’t easily eat them all the time. I don’t buy any Christmas food but that doesn’t mean I don’t get to eat it. I just enjoy it more when it’s not so easily available.

Keep focus on your goals

Christmas doesn’t have to change anything. Keep going to the gym or running etc. and stay in tune with the goals you had before the Christmas madness took over. Christmas is one day. There are still weeks before and after that you can carry on as normal.

But don’t punish yourself

You ate three mince pies in a row? You had two slices of Christmas cake? You went back for seconds/thirds/fourths at the buffet (please tell me we’ve all been there)? Don’t force yourself to “sweat it out” on the treadmill or bike. Don’t hate yourself over it. It’s one meal, one day, one indulgence. Just savour the memory, draw a line under it and move on. Life is far too short to torture yourself over a little bit of over-indulgence. Just don’t repeat that indulgence every single day of December.

Enjoy yourself

I love Christmas but I don’t go mad every day. I know for a fact on Christmas Day I will eat far too much food and will probably physically feel like utter crap the next day. But mentally I’ll have enjoyed myself and have no regrets. Food needn’t be a barrier or an anxiety during what should be a very happy and festive time. It should supplement the day but not be the focus. Enjoy the good food with your loved ones and relax.

How do you stay on track during Christmas?

What’s the one Christmas indulgence you just can’t say no to?

All the puddings

This weekend was full of highs and lows. Let’s get the lows done quickly, shall we?

I ran on Monday night and my shin/calf was really niggly. It had niggled slightly at parkrun a week ago but I put it down to it being really cold and my muscles not being warm enough. But Monday clarified things. It didn’t feel right and afterwards it felt pretty crappy. I’ll go into this in another post but basically this is rubbish.

Anyway, I didn’t run again until deciding to try a few miles before parkrun this weekend (because I was panicking I hadn’t hit the 8 mile long run I needed to for Tokyo). Though I knew I was lying to myself. I knew the run wouldn’t go well really and this was just to avoid me going to parkrun believing I could run and having to DNF. So on my pre-parkrun walk with Alfie I ran up the road with him and decided it was a no-go. I got back home, wrapped up in warmer clothes and headed to parkrun to set-up and volunteer.img_6900It was very cold and despite having several layers on and a hat I was cold. I was grumpy as I was overthinking about my leg, running and marathon training…but I was eventually cheered up by the lovely parkrun crew. You can’t be too sad at parkrun!

After parkrun and a hot bowl of porridge, I headed to the gym to take out some of my frustrations. I did 30 minutes on the elliptical machine which made me feel a little better about not running and then did a fantastic glute workout which I’m still feeling today. This included:

• Squats
• Landmine squats (these are great for really working on your depth)
• Monster walks with a resistance band
• Cable pull-throughs
• Leg press burnout
• Single leg deadlifts

I left the gym feeling accomplished and far more happy. Sometimes you just need to sweat it out!

I was also feeling good because I was going out for a Christmas meal with my friends. It’s always so nice to dress up. I wore a very sparkly dress with sparkly shoes and felt really happy 🙂img_6924

We went to the Cams Mill pub (where the Fareham parkrun starts at). It was very nice!img_6935We’d made our menu selections a while ago and I was disappointed with myself for choosing trout as my main rather than turkey (who does that!??!). I think my rationale was that I didn’t want to over-do turkey before the big day. I was very jealous when the mains came out though. However, my trout was delicious (and I got some leftover turkey from one of my friends so it was a win-win!)cams-mill-pubAnd again I was annoyed that I’d selected a pear tart for pudding… but then realised I’d chosen it because the cheesecake was chocolate orange which I don’t really like. I’m not a Terry’s Chocolate Orange fan at all! And Christmas pudding is a bit too rich and alcoholly for me.

The pear tart, however, was really really good. The ice cream was lovely and creamy and the tart was lovely and (dare I say) moist. No big nasty chunks of pear in which I was fearing. As nice as it was, I got serious food envy when I saw the cheesecakes. They looked so good! My friends laughed at me for ordering the inferior pear tart and I grudgingly watched them enjoy their cheesecakes (the far more popular pudding choice). Isn’t it the way when even though the meal you’re eating is nice but you see something that looks more appealing suddenly your meal isn’t as good…just me?

However, I was very lucky that two of my friends didn’t finish their cheesecakes and passed them down to me! Now, on reflection, I can say the pear tart was the better pudding. I’m still not a chocolate orange fan and who serves cheesecake with orange sorbet?? But I can’t say I complained too much 😉 Though I felt very full afterwards!!  Just call me the human dustbin…

I did have a few gin and tonics as well, because it’s Christmas 😉 Though amusingly my first G&T didn’t actually contain any gin and I was sipping away thinking “this is lovely!” until the barman ran over to me and said he needed to put the gin in as it got taken before it was ready! Oops. Shows how much I drink!img_6940Anyway the evening was good. Nothing like good friends and good food to make you feel 100 times better.

Christmas meal number two this week 😀

Are you going to any Christmas parties or meals this year?

Will you be dressing up?

What would you normally order on a Christmas menu?

Good things making me happy

Apart from the dark mornings and evenings, the cold and rain, things are quite happy in my neck of the woods! It’s always nice to take stock of a few things that are making me a happy Anna.

The ‘C’ word: What is this madness? Christmas stuff already out in supermarkets. This photo was actually take two or three weeks ago as well.img_4888Christmas cakes, mince pies, stollen… yep. It’s October. That said, I love all things Christmas, especially food-related items) so I’m happy with this state of affairs. More mince pies in my life can only be a good thing.

Tesco encouraging kids to eat more fruit: They’re offering a free piece of fruit to children coming into the supermarket. img_3917So they can chomp on something healthy as they walk round with their parents. What a great idea! Nice one, Tesco. We’ll let you off for your Christmas products 😉

New shoes: I bought some new shoes. They were really cheap as they’re of an older seasons but I really needed a pair of simple comfy shoes I could easily slip into and wear for quick errands or walking Alfie. img_5954I tend to have a lot of trainers, pumps, boots and then my gym shoes (Vans & Converses – ideal because they have flat soles for squatting and deadlifting which help me be more “in tune” with the ground and lifting) but nothing that I’d be happy to get a bit mucky. I had a previous pair of Skechers and I wore them to the ground. These were only £25 which I thought was a steal.

Unusual gel flavours: A lovely friend of mine (a triathlon legend it must be said – his training cycles make mine look very amateur indeed) sent me some gels as a good luck present for my marathon (though with strict instruction NOT to use them during the marathon if I hadn’t tried them first).img_5972Maple Bacon flavoured gels!! I know some (many?) of you will be thinking “that’s so gross” but I’m genuinely looking forward to trying them out. I quite like the GU gels (I still remember that salted caramel one I had once…so good. And the lemon flavoured one that tasted like a zesty pudding) so I expect good things 😉

Protein Porridge: I got a packet of this Mornflake Go! High Portein Porridge in my goodie bag from the Chester Marathon. Normally I will never use porridge packets because they always contain some form of sugar or flavouring and I can’t stand sweet porridge. For me the only sweetness I like is from the milk, so it’s very subtle.fullsizerenderBut this was different. It’s a pack of oats containing soya protein isolate and (other than a stabiliser) that’s it. No sugar, no fruit, no seeds…just oats and protein. One packet though wouldn’t be enough for me for breakfast as it was around 130 calories. So I used two with almond milk and it tasted almost identical to my normal porridge.img_5953Basically the same texture and it was really filling. I’m still regularly having scrambled eggs (with cheese, kale and olives – love it) for breakfast but I miss my porridge. The reason I swapped was because the porridge was quite low in protein but this is a great compromise. Though it is more expensive, so I’m looking into getting some unflavoured protein powder and playing around with that.

Woofins: These are adorable…even if I was disappointed when I first saw them as I thought “oooh cake” and then realised they’re actually for dogs.img_5987

Alfie isn’t a huge treat lover or chewer. For example, if I give him a dentist stick to chew on he puts it in his mouth then wanders around whimpering until I take it off him and cut it into four pieces for him (what a princess…). Although he will easily eat them normally when he’s around my parent’s dogs – but I think this is due to the fear that if he doesn’t they’ll eat it for him. Anyway, I digress, he wolfed down this mini cake – he loved it!

New car: OK it’s pretty much identical to my old car, just new.img_5968I love the Fiat 500 and wanted to stay with them. Unfortunately I did want a different colour (I quite like the mint) but they didn’t have it in stock for when I wanted it so I had red again. As someone who is rubbish with adulting, having a brand new car with no MOT or service to worry about for a while is a huge weight off my mind (especially as I was late with my last service by about 10,000 miles as I got confused <– story of my life).

But things making me nervous: A 10k obstacle course race (Chepstow Stampede) with my friends, Kate and Jamie, that’s happening Saturday. I did that obstacle course in Spain but I don’t think it can quite compare to a muddy obstacle course race in Britain during a rather wet autumn. I’m stressing a bit with what to wear as I don’t really have anything I’d happy to never see again if it got ruined… and I’m scared about being really cold and wet. But other than that, it should be a laugh. We’ll see…

Have you ever done an obstacle course race?

What kind of car do you have?

What non-workout shoes do you normally wear?