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?

Caffeine and me

I recently bought a coffee machine. I never thought I would. I mean, I’m not really one of those OMG I NEED COFFEE TO FUNCTION type of people.

If I don’t have caffeine in a day then I’m generally OK. It’s just habit and the enjoyment factor as to why I regularly drink it. I don’t start shaking or fading through the day or get headaches.

At work it’s a way to get away from the desk and keep me from endlessly snacking on #allthefood in the office. I’ll have a black instant coffee, and thoroughly enjoy it. At the weekend I’d treat myself to something a bit more elaborate at Starbucks, but more because it’s a fun drink to enjoy. I’m that person who has an obnoxious order… half decaf half caf medium Americano with sugar free hazelnut syrup and hot skimmed milk. Why half and half? Because I do like to limit caffeine where I can (and sugar…). I don’t want to become dependent on it and I like to use caffeine in big races to inject some speed into my legs. I don’t want my tolerance level to become skewed.

So why did I get a coffee machine then? Well, I was finding that my Starbucks weekend habit was fairly costly over the year (my drink is around £2.40, so around a fiver a week). In the back of my cupboard I found a milk frother that I’d never used and found I could heat up almond milk and froth it nicely to add to my coffee. I also bought my own sugar-free hazelnut syrup from Amazon, because I’m fancy like that 😉 And literally it’s like Starbucks in my kitchen!I’ve also been drinking a pre-workout before the gym which contains quite a high dose of caffeine (~240mg) and I didn’t want to keep buying it – though I enjoy using it from time to time because it has other added benefits. I do enjoy feeling a bit more awake before the gym so didn’t want to give up entirely on caffeine.So with a coffee machine I could dictate how much coffee I had (and whether it was caffeinated or not) and reduce my coffee/pre-workout expenditure. Killing two birds with one stone.

After a lengthy time wondering what type to buy (most people advising on the very cool looking Nespresso machines) I eventually just settled for a simple coffee maker.

The problem with the Nespresso machines (and the pod coffee makers in general) is that the size of the drink you get is quite small. And I didn’t really want anything too fancy first thing in the morning. Also the pods themselves were expensive, so defeating the point of trying to save money. I wanted a proper MUG of coffee that was cheap and easy to use.So I bought this very cheap Russell Hobs Brew and Go machine from Amazon (around £27.99 – this isn’t a sponsored post by the way!). It comes with a travel cup and basically you can dictate how much coffee you put in and how much water you use. Perfect!

Some people give caffeine a bad rep or just avoid it for their own reasons and that’s fine. Everyone to themselves. But I know that a little bit of caffeine before the gym or before a race can really help my performance. It’s a legal supplement to take and it’s cheap. But if I didn’t have my cup of coffee before a race it wouldn’t panic me. I do parkrun and long runs every week without coffee and perform just fine. Perhaps it’s psychological then that I see these performance gains… who knows. What I do know is, I enjoy coffee and enjoy feeling more awake at 5.30am before I hit the gym.

What are your thoughts on coffee and caffeine in general?

If you drink coffee, how do you take it?

Do you have a coffee machine?

Not the weekend I wanted

This weekend didn’t fully go as I’d planned but it was still a good one. As is standard for running and me, after doing those ridiculous runs straight after the marathon (the seven miles, then the nine miles off-road in Swindon) my ankle had become slightly swollen and very stiff.

If I’m entirely honest, I felt it start to faintly niggle on the first run… then I continued to run the 3ish miles in Bristol, then the off-road run in Swindon. I mean I really only have myself to blame. Especially straight after the marathon. My body, so delicate and sensitive, was clearly still getting over the marathon and though I felt fine didn’t appreciate jumping back into the mileage so quickly. WHY DON’T I LEARN? WHY DON’T I EVER LEARN??

I tried running on Thursday evening but it just wasn’t happy. It wasn’t painful but just very uncomfortable and stiff. So I stopped – I had nothing to gain to keep going. Finally being sensible! But too little too late. This meant my weekend of running, of which I had parkrun planned and a long run with a friend, was cancelled. Humph.

I still went down to Netley though to volunteer and see everyone as I hadn’t been for ages. It was nice to chat about the marathon and to see the usual crew.It was annoying not to be able to run but I enjoyed cheering everyone on and then being the funnel manager. I’ve never done the funnel manager job before (basically you stand there ensuring that people don’t overtake each other within the funnel so everyone gets their right barcode. You check with the timekeepers and the people handing out the barcode every now and again to make sure the numbers are corresponding). To be honest it’s quite a boring job.

And as more and more people started finishing, cakes started appearing as quite a few people had their milestones that day. I watched with envy as the tins were passed around but I couldn’t leave my post… The run director who saw me looking longingly over took pity on me and said I could go and grab some quickly (he himself had a stack of three so he could hardly stop me if I’m honest ;-))

In the end I had FIVE different bits of cake: half a chocolate cookie, a chocolate brownie bite, a delicious chocolate traybake thing, a chocolate crispy thing and, for a change, a lemon shortbread. I felt quite sick as it started to settle! The run director declare me volunteer of the week for this feat, teehee.

Then I had a tiny bit of bread pudding in the cafe that was going spare. Look, I can’t be trusted around so many different cake options!! I have no self-control.

I’d planned on having breakfast after parkrun and heading to the gym but in the end I obvious didn’t need breakfast and just headed straight there (I was in my gym gear already).Trying to get as much wear out of the t-shirt as possible 😉 Not that anyone at the gym cares at all! I did about 30 minutes on the elliptical machine and then some upper body strength work, such as lateral pull-downs, cable face pulls, lateral raises and rows. I felt very well fuelled!

Later I went to my friends’ house for dinner and a movie night, which was great. They made slow-cooked pulled pork with potato wedges and I brought salad. They’re trying to lose weight (they’ve both done so well so far!) using SlimmingWorld so everything was really healthy and tasty.We attempted to watch a film but in the end we were chatting through it so just gave up and chilled. It was a nice easy evening catching up with good friends. They’re also going to help me host my Divorce Party. Yes, that’s actually going to happen 😀 I’m officially divorced and I think that deserves a bit of cake and a knees-up.

Sunday I was meant to go for a long run with a friend… but this obviously wasn’t the wisest idea. I saw my sports massage friend, Kyle, the day before and he’d loosened things up for me and had done a bit of acupuncture to it so it did feel better but I was advised to give it a day or two.

So after a lazy lie-in I headed to the gym again. I did an hour on the elliptical machine this time, and it felt good to get a sweat on. You might be wondering why I bothered now that I’ve done the marathon…but I have a potential goal coming up and as long as my niggle disappears and I remain uninjured I think I can manage it. But we’ll see. More on that another time.

After that I did some leg strength work, such as goblet squats with a pulse (these BURN), some high rep/low weight Romanian deadlifts (for muscle endurance), some cable glute kickbacks and randomly worked on my bench press. I’m feeling really good about my strength increases in this area. I remember a time when I could barely manage any weight.

Though I didn’t get to run it was a nice chilled weekend where I could catch up with life admin and housework, having spent the last few weekends all about the place. So not a complete loss!

What’s your favourite position to volunteer at parkrun?

What do you do to cross-train when you can’t run?

What did you get up to this weekend?

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.**