Things I’m Loving Lately

I’m fairly behind in my blog posting. I still have an epic food recap for Orlando and the MarathonTalk Run Camp to come, but while I work on those I have a quick post for things I’m loving lately.

Hard Rock Hotel: As I mentioned in my Orlando recap post, I stayed in the Hard Rock Hotel which was amaaazing. But yes fairly expensive. The room I stayed in was so nice. Oh the bed… the bed was super comfy! I actually had two beds which was amusing; which one to choose each night??And I don’t know if you can quite see, but on the mirror it has a measuring rule and then the heights listed for different famous people. I’m 5ft4(ish) so I’m around Madonna and Pink’s height apparently. Very cool.

And as the hotel was fairly expensive I had no issue in stocking up each day on the really fancy smelling bath products each day…I’m sure I’m not alone in doing this… because after all, these little shampoos and shower gels are so handy for when you next go away and don’t want to take a huge bottle with you!

Jam Bluetooth Speaker: My dad gave me this little speaker when he saw how I was playing music… through my phone and carrying it around the flat with me. He had one of these spare.The sound quality isn’t exactly Bose quality of course but it is a lot better than my phone! I love this little speaker as it means I can leave my phone on charge somewhere and still listen to music or a podcast. I usually listen while cooking so this is perfect.

Boots: During the winter I practically live in boots. I have a fair collection now, whether that’s ankle boots or more full leg boots. My mum recently passed these UGG boots on to me as she bought them on a whim and then found she actually didn’t like them (yes, my mum actually does this).Obviously it works out quite nicely for me! They’re so soft inside as they’re lined with sheep’s wool. But they’re suede so I have to be choosy when to wear them!

I also ‘splashed’ out on a pair of over the knee boots (they weren’t expensive at all!).But they’re great for the winter as they basically give you another layer over your legs over your jeans!

Chicken: It’s kind of become a Sunday tradition for me now to cook a whole chicken. I then carve it up and it gives me delicious roast chicken for the week. OK that’s a lie, it probably feeds me for four days… But that’s still pretty good.It may not surprise you that I love roast chicken so it’s always nice getting home from work knowing I have some in the fridge to throw into different meals that night.

And now on to a quick review…

Splat Blackwood Charcoal Toothpaste Review

Charcoal toothpaste you say? Doesn’t sound entirely pleasant, right? But withhold your judgement for just a bit…

So I was sent this charcoal toothpaste to review and was indeed fairly sceptical and a bit worried about the taste.

The company who made this, My Natural Smile, is a natural and organic teeth whitening and healthcare product specialists. My Natural Smile has been endorsed by the dental team at Visage, the UK’s best Private Dental Practice North as voted for at the Private Dentistry Awards 2016, as well as Avsan, one of the UK’s leading dental groups.

They argue that because your mouth is pretty significant gateway to your body and health, it’s probably a good idea to look into more natural and organic ways to strengthen gums, whiten, help sensitive teeth and bad breath.

There’s no alcohol or dodgy chemicals. The birch charcoal whitens enamel and absorbs odours, while juniper berry extract has antibacterial effect to ensure protection against bacteria and plaque formation. It helps normalise pH balance, it’s fluoride-free and vegan friendly.

But what does it taste like? Because let’s be honest, that’s a very key part of a toothpaste if we have to use it at least twice a day.Yes the toothpaste is actually black, which is slightly disconcerting. And it does foam up to be fairly grey. But it does taste like toothpaste, though you can tell it’s not Colgate or something seriously minty. It does have that kind of “natural” edge to it.

After using it now for over two weeks I’m fully used to it and quite happy with the taste. The only slight con is that the black colour can leave unsightly marks on your sink if you don’t wash it all away. It doesn’t stain but it does make your sink look a bit grubby if you don’t wash it all away, whereas normal toothpaste would just leave a white mark which is harder to see. You can check out more of their range of natural oral care products on their website.

What’s your favourite style of boot?

Do you listen to music or podcasts around the house?

Do you do any food prep on a Sunday?

**Full disclaimer: I was sent the toothpaste for free to review for my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

What to Wear When Running in Winter

Winter running can seem like the most unappealing type of exercise. You look outside and it’s dark, cold and probably wet. Nothing is less desirable.

But it is true what they say: there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. The one thing that winter running has above summer running is that it gets better the longer you run. If you’ve ever run on a beautifully sunny day you’ll know how hard it can suddenly become after that first mile. You start to get hot, the sun is beating in your face, you sweat, you’re thirsty… it sucks basically. But at least with winter, though it may look pretty rubbish and miserable, once you get going it’s actually not too bad. As long as you’re prepared.

When it comes to what to wear for winter running, you really do have a lot of choice. The temptation is of course to wear lots of layers so the minute you step outside you’re not cold at all… but within a mile you’re ridiculously warm and sweating. Ideally you want to be cold before you get going, because you will warm up. That first mile might feel horrendous but it does get better.

To give you some tips and guidance for what you could wear for running in the winter, I’ve teamed up with Decathlon, the sports products company.decathlon-winter-run-gearI tend to graduate my running outfits as it gets colder and colder. So for the beginning of winter I’ll probably choose a long sleeved but fairly thin layer, like the Alenji Kalenji Elio long sleeved jersey.kalenji-kalenji-elio-womens-long-sleeved-running-jersey-broken-pinkHaving a half-way zip is ideal because you can have it done right to the top as you start but then undo it as you get more warm to provide a bit more ventilation. Also, having thumb holes in the sleeves is a great compromise when it’s not quite cold enough for gloves. Ideally you also want a top that has reflective bits on it, especially as the nights and mornings get darker.kalenji-kalenji-evolutiv-womens-running-jerseyThe Kalenji Evolutiv jersey is a step above providing more protection from rain but also has a handy ventilation section where you can uncover the arms and/or chest. You can see in the first picture of the three tops with the arms and chest done up (middle picture) and then how it looks when unzipped (photo above). This is great for those who can’t make their minds up what to wear!

Obviously keeping warm and dry is a high priority for runners, but so is being seen and keeping safe. Having high-vis gear on is essential when it’s pitch black outside. Yes you’re probably running on the pavement and there is street light but by making yourself visible you’re doing yourself and everyone around you a favour. When you run across a road, or run towards a pedestrian, it’s essential to be seen to avoid any nasty collisions or accidents.kalenji-ekiden-light-jacket-yellowThe Kalenji Ekiden jacket is a great lightweight high-vis jacket that can definitely help with this. It’s not too thick to be overbearing, heavy or too warm, but it will protect you from the wind and rain while making yourself visible to those around you.decathlon-winter-running-gearFor most of the year I’ll stick with wearing shorts as my legs never get that cold. But when it does get really bitter then I’ll switch to either a pair of capris or long length leggings. There’s nothing worse than numb legs!!kalenji-ekiden-warm-womens-running-tightsThe Kalenji Ekiden running tights are inexpensive (£9.99!) and perfect for those really cold days when you just can’t face bearing your legs.

But the one thing I cannot be without are gloves during the winter. The rest of me might be sweating and seriously hot, but my hands never warm up. I wear gloves pretty much November onwards.kalenji-retro-reflective-gloveThe Kalenji Retro-Reflective gloves are great because not only will they keep your hands warm but they’ll also give a bit more high-vis to your hopefully already high-vis’ed up outfit ;-)And in terms of running accessories, I’m a huge fan of wearing lights. Either a head torch (though I do find this annoying as they always tend to bob about on my head) or by attaching some sort of LED to my clothing.

kalenji-kalenji-run-lightThe Kalenji Run Light is a handy way to make yourself super visible. You just put it over your top layer and you’re good to go. It provides visibility up to 20m ahead of you and it comes iwth a rechargeable battery (though it does last 5 hours). What I really like is that it has rear flashing lights as well, so you’re fully covered.

So basically my key points are:

  • Be seen, either using high-vis clothing or lights (ideally both)
  • Avoid wearing thick layers; you want to be cold when you begin because you will warm up
  • Look for material that is wicking and will protect you from the rain and wind, like a light-weight jacket
  • Wear gloves

How do you stay warm during winter running?

What are your top running accessories?

How do you stay visible running/exercising the dark?

**Full Disclaimer: I was given a Decathlon voucher to spend in their shop in return for this article. All opinions are my own.**

Rants and Raves #33 and Phoenix Fit UK Elastic LaceSystem review

Hello, hello! I shan’t mention the obvious (to us in the UK) this morning as I don’t want to go into political discussions on my light and fluffy blog…however, I will say that I just hope that the future is as bright and cheery as the Leave campaign pledged it would be (*cough*). For me it’s a rant but to others it might be a rave. We shall see! Anyway I have other rants and raves for you today, hope you enjoy!

Rant: My name just seriously causes problems for people. It’s Anna Smith-JAMES. I get so many variations and people just don’t seem to get the hyphen. The two names are relatively simple, why is it so difficult to understand? This was the reserved sign for our Sadlers meal at the weekend.

IMG_2219Come on people!

Will I change my name back to just James when Ben and me complete our divorce? Probably not. I like my name at the moment and it’s such a ridiculous faff to have to go through so much paper work to change it.

Rave: New gym and running gear. Yes the obsession continues to live on. I can’t help myself. I buy more workout clothes than I do normal clothes. And to think if I do get into climbing I’ll need to buy more stuff for that I’m sure Winking smile

IMG_2280

A lovely lady was wearing some really nice Adidas shorts at parkrun and I asked her where they were from and she said Sports Direct! And they were in the sale too. So I literally went out and bought them that day.IMG_2278

They have pink shorts underneath the black material which looks really cool and prevents any unfortunate moments of exposure. Oooh er!

I also bought three new sports bras from Forever 21. I love Forever 21 as it’s very cheap and the colours and styles are always really bright and fun, and you can choose between low, medium and high impact.

image

Rant: When I was bouldering on Sunday I got a savage blister on my finger. I won’t share a picture because I hate it when people do this as I hate wounds and things like that on the Internet (I suppose you could argue that vegetarian/vegan readers might feel similarly to my excessive meat pictures on my blog, sorry!).

Anyway it is ridiculous how painful my finger is. The pain woke me up in the middle of the night! It’s only a small wound but it’s basically exposed flesh from where the top layer of skin has been rubbed off from the climbing. I have a true appreciation for the pain that Ramsey Bolton’s victims went through. I would not survive well under torture I can tell you that!

Rave: On the meal at Sadlers on Saturday there was a party of twenty people. Happily we had ordered our food and been served before them so our service was tip top and quick. This did mean though that during our meat coma at the end we got to see there food arrive.

IMG_2237

And arrive it did! They had meat platters for everyone and this basically meant three HUGE wooden platters just piled full of food, following by bowls of chips coming afterwards.

IMG_2238

It was insane. We just looked on in awe (though none of us craving ANY food by this point!).

Though despite saying I wouldn’t need to eat meat again for a good week, I have started to get the cravings again. I tend to eat a lot of fish during the week but I’m glad I have the contents of my swan of shame in the freezer…

IMG_2249

Rant: [Game of Thrones spoiler alert] What is Sansa thinking?? Withholding crucial information from Jon because…? Either it’s bad writing or Sansa is not who we thought she was. Also, there are some ridiculous Sansa pregnancy rumours going around social media. This will really annoy me if it comes to be true because in the books Sansa and Ramsey haven’t actually met.

And I fully topped up Alfie’s food bowl that evening Winking smile

Phoenix Fit UK Elastic LaceSystem

I was recently sent some new elastic lock laces from Phoenix Fit UK.

IMG_2318

Basically you swap your regular laces for these elastic laces and, due to the lock system, you don’t need to actually tie the laces. They’re primarily aimed at runners.

IMG_2315

The pack comes with easy-to-follow instructions (and there is a YouTube video you can watch as well) so it didn’t take long for me to put them in my trainers. You then snip the excess laces and add the lock system onto the end. It sounds more complicated than it is really.

IMG_2317

I chose a pink colour and they go so well with my Helly Hansen trainers. And, having worn them many times now, find the laces to be very easy to tighten, keep my foot secure in my trainer and are really comfy. It’s actually upgraded my trainers a bit as previously I had just plain white laces that had seen their best.

IMG_2340

I imagine they’re ideal for triathletes because they’re super quick to loosen and tighten, which is handy for the transition areas. You can buy the laces in many different colours from Amazon for £6.49, which in my eyes is a bargain.

What are your rants and raves this week?

Lock laces or regular laces?

Game of Thrones watchers, did you enjoy the last episode?

**Disclaimer: I was sent the laces for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.***

Rants and Raves #28

More raves than rants lately which is all good in my book. Marathon training is going well (*TOUCHES WOOD IMMEDIATELY*) and I’m in a happy place. For no specific real reason really (I’m still single…which I don’t particularly mind right now), just loving that the days are longer, the sun is brighter (or actually present) and I’m enjoying life!

Rave: I’m not a huge shopper (unless it’s to do with running/gym clothes, then I’m the worst) but occasionally I might splurge on non-fitness related items. I recently fell in love with a pair of Timberland boots. My mum has the same size feet as me and has a pair but annoyingly she has them in a deep raspberry colour, of which I wasn’t too keen on (otherwise I could borrow them). I went and perused a light brown pair on Saturday and tried a few different styles. They were quite expensive though so I left without buying them. But then ended up going back the next day as I couldn’t resist. That’s always the sign of a good purchase I think!

Timberland

They’re really good quality, water-proof and hardy. Though the worst of the weather seems to be behind us, I always need a good pair of ‘proper’ shoes that aren’t just trainers or slip-ons.  I also got myself two new pairs of jeans from H&M that were a bargain (£15!). They fit perfectly so I bought one in black and one in denim (in above pic). When you’ve found a pair of good fitting jeans, BUY THEM ALL.

Rave: OK I have a leeeeeeeetle thing for leggings. Most of my leggings though are more gym appropriate than running appropriate. They tend to be a bit more flashy or the material isn’t as good. I normally stick with either my trusty Nike capris or my slightly longer Helly Hansen ones.  I do have Puma full-length ones but I rarely wear them unless it’s super cold. Anyway, my Nike’s are looking a bit tired (they’ve been around for a few years now…) and I’d seen some cool compression-style ones at the Marathon Talk Run Camp. In the end I went for 2UX 3/4 tights.2XU Compression

I got them from Zalando (I had a £10 off voucher. It made sense. [Not an affiliated link]). They are expensive at £70 (without my voucher) but I know how long my Nike’s have lasted and I wanted a quality product. And let me tell you, they are fantastic. They’re compression so they’re obviously a bit tighter than my Nike’s but they feel great on. They don’t slip down, they’re water-resistant, they have a little pocket for a key and they’re lovely and smooth. And they have the compression technology in them. Fully recommend!

Rant: When you’re one of the few people in an office who regular runs you become known somewhat of a ‘guru’ for all things running related. It doesn’t sound too bad I guess but it’s become more and more regular that people expect me to solve their fitness-problems. One fellow colleague started running with his dog and found after a few runs his knee started hurting. He told me this and then looked at me questioningly as if I could a) explain his knee issue or b) give him some solid medical advice. I’ve had my fair few injuries, don’t get me wrong, but I can barely solve my own let alone other people’s! I suggested getting trainers fitted and laying off the running until it felt OK…and possibly seeing someone about it if it wouldn’t go away.

Another guy told me how he was going to run the Reading Half Marathon which is in a few weeks time. I asked how his training was going and he said he wasn’t really training for it. OK… Yeah so plucked a random time goal out of the air, he then plugged that pace into a treadmill and evaluated how he got on. Apparently he lasted 10 minutes. Riiiiight. I told him normal half marathon training plans were at very least eight weeks long for fairly new runners, though ideally 12 weeks realistically (and that’s probably with at least some running experience behind them). He laughed and said, “Weeks?!”. Good luck, my friend. Good luck.

Rave: But on that similar note, it’s always nice people from other companies (we share an office block) coming up to you and saying they saw you running after work and asking what I was training for. They did London, they’re planning on doing this or that and the conversation just flows nicely. Running brings people together Smile

Rant: When I was in Bristol the other weekend Alfie joined me. This is a tad gross but Kate said when they took Alfie and Doug, her pug, for a walk in the morning when I was at parkrun she noticed Alfie’s poo wasn’t, er, optimal. She suggested feeding him pasta to help his tummy as that’s what the vet has always told her (Doug’s had a few sick times). She kindly cooked him a little bowl of plain pasta (fusilli if you’re interested) for him to eat. He absolutely wolfed it down. Now Alfie is far more a grazer than a wolfer-downer (I just leave kibble in his bowl and he has it as and when he fancies it). I was really shocked.IMG_8979

My little Alfie is a carb-lover it seems! However, when I tried to recreate this at home but with rice instead of pasta (as I never have pasta) he played around with it and then left it. I’ve now been finding rice grains all over my floor since. *Sighs* Thanks Alfie. Clearly he’s picky with his carbs. But his poo has become more normal so it’s all good (TMI?).

Rave: I’ve been doing so well in reducing the number of artificial sweeteners I eat in my diet. I’m really quite bad at this… Sugar-free squash, sugar-free jelly, Options Hot Chocolate. It isn’t pretty.

But I’ve managed to cut back on my squash successfully; only two glasses a day. The rest have been swapped for herbal teas (peppermint and raspberry & Echinacea are my two current favourites). I haven’t been able to stop the jellies (choose your battles). But I have been able to stop the Options Hot Chocolate. This is a big move for me as I literally have one every single night. Not now though!

IMG_8286

I now have real cocoa powder with Stevia to sweeten. Stevia, though yes is still technically a sugar, is far better for you than other more chemical ones. At first it wasn’t the same… Not as sweet, a little bit too bitter, but now I’ve adjusted. Cocoa actually has some great benefits for reducing inflammation and contains antioxidants. Win win!

Rave: Still loving the gym. I thought I wouldn’t be able to balance the two: strength training and marathon training but I listen to my body and go with it. When I’m tired or ache from a run, if I still fancy going to the gym I’ll lower the weights or do less reps. Or avoid some exercises completely. IMG_8726But I’m really pleased that I’ve managed to reach 75kg for my squats (six reps!). My depth probably needs to improve a bit but I focus on that on a different day when I do higher reps (12) with a lighter weight. My deadlift as well is coming on better. I had a break from it for a while as my lower back was bugging me (trampolining…). When I went back to it I needed to lower the weight again and work on my form but it’s all nice progress Smile

Rant: Easter eggs. They’re everywhere. How am I going to resist?!

IMG_8935

It’s just a nightmare. I love Easter Eggs – especially the ones with bits in the actual egg (Thornton’s do a great peppermint speckled egg and ones with fudge pieces in) .I can give or take the plain chocolate ones but anything that’s remotely a bit more exciting I struggle to resist. I do want one this year but I know that it’ll only goad me from it’s see-through prison and then when I break into it it’ll be game over. I just have no self-control.

Do you buy Easter eggs? What do you go for?

Do you eat a lot of artificial sweeteners?

What kind of ‘proper’ shoes do you usually go for?

Rants and Raves #27

And I’m back on the Rants and Raves again! I actually have quite a full-house today, so let’s get going.

Rave: As I mentioned in the previous post, I treated myself to a new pair of trainers. Why is it that it always requires an injury or niggle to trigger me to do something sensible? The logic of a runner I suppose… or maybe just me!IMG_8516

They’re Mizuno Wave Paradoxes and I believe this could be my fourth pair. I did consider buying another pair of ASICs (the Luminus ones I reviewed a while ago) but they’re very expensive and my Luminuses haven’t actually worn out yet. So why don’t I just wear them? Well, Mizunos have always been my fail safe. I’ve worn them for several marathons now – possibly all of them and I always go back to them. They are quite ‘stiff’ but I find this works for my feet. For £57 as well you can’t go wrong (I got them from www.sportsshoes.com).

Rant: The colour of said trainers. It looks like they’ve gone through the wash with a pair of jeans. My last pair were pink which was a whole lot better than this light blue colour. But after a few parkrun visits I’m sure the colour will be unrecognisable.

Rave: Crisp cold mornings are far nicer than soggy mild ones in my opinion.IMG_8477Yes it’s cold but it’s just so beautiful. And Alfie doesn’t get anywhere near as muddy.

Rave: And on that note of coldness, I’ve been wanting a hat for ages to wear when I walk Alfie as putting my hood up feels a bit silly and antisocial (and isn’t actually that much warmer). I found this hat in Tesco for £2!IMG_8517

It’s so snug and lovely. I can’t believe their winter stuff is in the sale already.

Rant: Don’t put tissues in your FlipBelt and then wash it. IMG_8596

Big mistake. Little pieces of white tissue everywhere! Arggh. I rarely take tissue with me on a run but I did for my failed 18 miler just in case. Then I forgot and merrily went on my way to washing it *sighs*.

Rave: One of my close friends is getting married in July and I’m really excited. It should be a fantastic day as they’re such a lovely couple. I did have a little bit of fun on the RSVP though…IMG_8518

She found it amusing thankfully Winking smile

Rant: I’m an idiot (probably a good portion of my rants in general are down to my own stupidity I’m sure). I booked a holiday completely on a whim, paying for it and everything before realising it was the day after said wedding. I evenly smugly booked Southampton airport because “how easy would that be”. Not so easy considering the day before I’m in Gloucester and was intending on staying over in a hotel. It means no drinking for me now and a very late drive home after the wedding. Oh well.

Rave: And to segue nicely into my booked holiday (stupid timing aside)… I signed up to go on the Body Type Nutrition Retreat. It’s run by Ben Coomber, the nutritionist who’s podcast I’m obsessed with. Basically it’s six days of 3-4 hours of training and 1-2 hours of nutrition coaching (per day). There are workshops and training sessions focused on strength and conditioning so you can learn and progress in your fitness goals. It’s not running-focused, but rather overall health. As I’ve got so into the gym and lifting weights I wanted to gain better knowledge in the area, as well as nutrition in general. There’s also a lot of fun and games involved. I thought “hey you only live once!”. I’m in a stage in my life where I can do what the hell I want and this interested me. It’s also nice to know I’m going on holiday with a bunch of like-minded people.

Rave: Good food! I never used to eat much steak at all but I’ve suddenly had such a craving for it. Obviously I’ve always been a keen meat-eater so I guess this is hardly surprising.IMG_8642

This was a grass-fed Irish rump steak (from MuscleFood – use this code AS284829 for freebies!) with a steak seasoning, a load of veg with Saint-Félicien cheese. Very tasty and filling! Mid-week steak, can’t go wrong (unless your a veggie…).

Rant: Idiots on the road. This guy in the photo below wearing SHORTS. Not only is it FEBRUARY but shorts on a moped at any time during the year is a stupid move. If he fell off his bike he could lose half the skin on his leg at best. Rush hour on a Tuesday morning is not a good time to play dice with the traffic.IMG_8669

Speaking of idiots, there was another guy the other week on a motorbike zooming along the motorway with his hands OFF THE HANDLEBARS. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He was just sat that with this ridiculous grin on his face with no hands, clearly showing off. After ranting on Facebook about it my policewoman friend questioned me about it and then later said they think they have him on camera so he’ll get done. Good! Because it isn’t just his life he’s risking.

And on that happy note…

What’s the worst thing you’ve seen someone do on the road?

Favourite type of steak and how do you like it? I really enjoy rib eye medium rare. I prefer the more fatty cuts just because they’re a bit more flavoursome.

Have you got any holidays planned this year?