30 and loving life

Turning 30 hasn’t been so bad. I had a fantastic weekend with my friends and my family doing what I generally do best (eat lots of food). And recently so much good stuff has been happening.Having a birthday that sits on a Tuesday is pretty lame but actually I had a really lovely day. I’d obviously brought cakes in for everyone but I was really chuffed to find my work colleagues had bought 12 brownies from the amazing Melted cafe in Hilsea in Portsmouth.
I’ve tried these brownies before and honestly they’re probably the best brownies I’ve ever had. They’re really dense and stodgy. I’m not really a fan of the more cakey and light brownies. I like them to be gooey. And these are so gooey. There were two kinds: Oreo brownie and peanut butter brownie. I thought it was caramel so went with that one.I’m not a huge peanut butter fan but actually this was crazy good. Chunks of peanut butter in it with all the dense chocolate. It was so so good. My colleagues know me well clearly! Of course I shared them, though it was like a dagger to my soul every time someone took one… 😉 I did make sure I snagged an Oreo one to take home and put in Anna’s Glorious Cake Freezer though!

Speaking of good food and lovely people, the amazing Jude (@RunnerViking) sent me some WHITE CHOCOLATE Lion Bars all the way from Scotland.I’d been moaning about not being able to find them in shops and she was kind enough to buy me a few and send them to me. They arrived in perfect timing for my birthday. I’m SO excited. She’s an awesome person and an awesome runner 🙂

And as we’re on the theme of awesome people and white chocolate… my lovely lovely uni friends bought me the BEST present for my birthday. A white chocolate crazy rocky road chunk of heaven. It’s from Choccywoccydoodah. White chocolate covering marshmallows, jelly babies, nougat, honeycomb. I mean MY GOD.I won’t lie, I’ve cracked into that bad boy already. I meant to only have a bite but ended up eating maybe almost half (OK OK two thirds). It was just phenomenal. I mean what was nice was that every bite was different – which is probably why I kept going.

They also got me a jar of hand-picked sweets from the Brighton sweet shop (Sugar Sin) which I’ve been to a few times and ADORE. The sweets aren’t you’re usual pick ‘n’ mix sweets, they’re crazy sweets you can’t get in the UK. So needless to say, I am very chuffed.

OK one last food-related item… I saw this at my new gym and it really made me laugh.It’s a twist on that famous line in Notting Hill (one of my favourite rom coms). Don’t get me wrong, I do love a salad (as long as it’s a big salad) but I think we can all agree there are definitely days when you just wish it was a giant doughnut.

Speaking of my new gym (how good are my seamless tangents today eh!), I’m really getting into the spin classes. I’ve tried Les Mills Sprint, RPM and The Trip. RPM is probably my favourite as it’s hard but the instructors and music really keep you going. Sprint is just Go Go GO and The Trip is…well, a trip really.You basically follow a route on the screen and put your resistance up when you get to a hill and then beast it on the downhills. The “routes” you go on are either normal places like San Francisco or they’re crazy worlds (very trippy). It’s good fun though.

Does anyone remember these?My dad is a proper technology geek and as a family we were early adopters of most new technology and gadgets (like game consoles and mp3s – anyone remember the Microsoft Zune? No…?) so I was the first one in my school with one (yes really, it was 2003 – it wasn’t mine though I hasten to add, but borrowed from my dad) and I remember people looking at it in wonder and asking what it was. Yes I could really keep 1,000s of songs on there. This wasn’t even the first version of the iPod we had. I dropped it about four times and as it was in warranty I could keep sending it back and they’d send me a new one (oh those were the days…). And then the last time I dropped it they sent me the updated version. This was the first version I had (photo from Google):It’s amazing because now we just use our phones to store music. Mental. I can even remember when they became colour.

And one last thing I’ve recently been loving is the episode I listened to from the Ben Coomber Radio podcast. I have a love-hate relationship with Ben Coomber. I do rate him as I think he’s super hardworking and driven and has a lot to give in terms of knowledge and passion, but there are also things he does or says that I struggle with (or cause excessive eye rolls). But I listened to his interview with James Haskell and I really enjoyed it.James Haskell has such a no nonsense approach to training and keeping fit. He has a very direct and blunt way of talking and a lot of sound solid knowledge. It’s worth a listen if you’re into that kind of thing (strength training, fitness in general and social media). Also, he has a very weird fascination with diggers (to the point he actually has one loaned out to him…).

Did you have the iPod back in the day?

What podcasts do you listen to?

Chocolate or sweets? It’s probably chocolate for me but I ADORE pick ‘n’ mix from the cinema.

Fitbit Surge Review

Through being connected with Run Reigate (I’m running their half marathon and blogging for them), I’ve been given a Fitbit Surge to help with my training as they’re one of the Run Reigate sponsors. So I thought I’d do a little review of how I’m finding it and what I think.

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When the fitness trackers first started coming out I had an original Fitbit. It was fairly basic but it did what I wanted: counted my steps and monitored my sleep. Then when the Garmin Vivofit came out I decided to upgrade as I liked the idea of it also working as a watch (the original Fitbit didn’t have a screen) and I have a Garmin running watch so it seemed to make sense.

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Now I have the Fitbit Surge. I was really excited about this because I liked the idea of having a heart rate monitor on all the time. I’m a geek and love all the stats so this really appealed to me. Plus I liked that it looks a lot more like a watch that the Vivofit. A few of my non-running friends often laughed at my Vivofit saying it looked like I was wearing a prison tag device on my wrist *sighs*.

So what are the features of the Surge?

Activity Tracking

It tracks steps, distance, calories burned, floors climbed, active minutes, hourly activity and stationary time. And, using the Fitbit app, you can see cool graphs of your activities over the day and week:

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And you can delve into this further to see when those steps were accumulated over the day:

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This day had a run in the morning as you can see by the spikes at the beginning of the day.

Tracks Workouts

Unlike the Vivofit, you can track an actual workout.

FitBit spin

There are different exercise groups you can choose from, such as hiking, weights and spinning.

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This was a spinning session I did. It tracked my heart rate and calories burned. Not visible in the screenshot is, if you scroll down, it will tell you how many steps were taken during this workout and activity minutes – basically the “impact on your day”. So when I go to the gym and do weights I can see how many steps I take purely during that workout, which I think is quite interesting. And very handy as well with running as when you run it’s easy to get over 10,000 steps and maybe you want to hit 10,000 despite the run (basically not being an active couch potato Winking smile).

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You can then see what you’ve been up to during the week in terms of activities (that Thursday run went a bit wrong as I was just getting used to how to use the watch!).

Tracking Runs

The handy part of the Surge is that you can use it as a running watch. It has GPS so you can track a run exactly as you would using a Garmin.

Fitbit Surge

On the watch face you can choose what stats you see. So, average pace, heart rate and distance etc. It vibrates when you hit a mile (though you can change this to whatever increment and metric you like). I wore my Garmin watch with it as I still prefer my actual Garmin to run with but I liked that I could see my HR and the stats were very close between the two watches. If you were looking for a running watch and wanted an activity tracker then this would be ideal for you.

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Interestingly even when I didn’t select the running functionality and just used my Garmin (but still wore the Surge) when I synced it later to my phone it had picked up I’d run anyway (though contained no map as the GPS hadn’t been engaged). I love this! It means that I can still partition my steps away from a run but not waste battery on using GPS. Very clever. And yes, it does connect to Strava.

Tracking Sleep

Like other trackers, it monitors your sleep. You don’t have to click anything to say you’re going to sleep, you just sleep.

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Like the steps, you can hone into the detail of each night’s sleep and it will give you a graph displaying when you were awake, restless or asleep and for how long.

Notifications

It also picks up messages and incoming calls by gently vibrating and displaying it on the screen. You can read the messages on the screen which I think is quite handy. You can also control your music through your watch. This is amazing for me as when I go for a run and listen to music my phone will invariably be in a bag or armband and be tricky to get out. If a song comes on I don’t fancy it’s such an effort to get the phone out – but using my watch makes things a whole lot easier! The same goes for if I receive a message or a phone call – I can just click to read/answer it there and then.

Alarms

This is what I really missed about my old Fitbit when I moved to the Vivofit. I loved that there was an alarm functionality which was basically a gentle vibration of the device and this is the same for the Surge.

Heart Rate

This was the best part for me: seeing my heart rate through the day. Especially during marathon training, it’s important for me to monitor these things to make sure I can catch any early signs of illness or over-training. I check my heart rate in the morning as soon as I wake up (I always remember Steve Way telling us at the MT Run Camp that he checks his HR all the time and noticed that one morning he woke up and it was 10 beats higher than normal and felt a lot more tired and realised he was over-trained and needed a break before he crashed).

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It’s fairly accurate I think as I had my heart rate taken my a proper HR machine thing a few years ago and it’s always been around 50, which I guess is below average (probably why I feel dizzy when I stand up too quickly!).

The App

I love the app. I love the design of it, how easy it is to use and the sheer amount of data you can delve into. The Garmin Connect does have similar data but I just prefer the Fitbit app. It’s more intuitive and interesting.

IMG_4701The Dashboard

It also syncs really quickly and easily to it. You can connect with other Fitbit wearers and do different challengers as well to gain different badges. All very cool.

Other functionality I really liked was that the screen is touch screen and it’s very fluid and smooth moving. You can go back and forth through the different bits very easily. I disliked the Vivofit as it involved clicking a physical button and you had to click all the way through to get back to the time
 and if you clicked one too many times you had to cycle through them all again.

I also really like how it has a backlight. This means I can tell the time in the middle of the night without looking at my phone (being short-sighted is an issue at bedtime). I hate looking at my phone in the middle of the night as it can sometimes distract me – “ooh a new notification on Facebook or Instagram
”.

But the one thing that I really don’t like though is the battery life. The Vivofit didn’t need charging, whereas the Surge needs to be charged once a week. For someone who’s used to wearing a watch now all the time, it’s hard to remember!

All in all, I really love it. I won’t be going back to my Vivofit!

Do you wear an activity tracker?

How many steps do you do on average in a day?

Do you like to track your workouts?

**I was given the Fitbit Surge for free by Run Reigate in exchange for my participation and blogging in the Reigate Half Marathon. All opinions are my own honest owns.**

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?

Not panicking

Here we go again. The weather is definitely on the change. The morning’s are not distinctly cooler and autumn is swooping in fast.

My weekend was a mixed bag really. Just rolling back to the start of the week I decided to book myself a sports massage with my normal physio as I could feel my shin/calf was a bit niggly. I ran on Tuesday night and it felt fine during the run but after doing some track work on Thursday night, it was definitely more grumpy. Luckily my massage was booked for Friday as I was working from home so it was nicely timed.

The physio wasn’t too concerned. She said it was just getting a bit inflamed which was causing the tightness. It’s annoying because I’ve managed to avoid all other injuries by strengthening my body; no IT band issues anymore, no knee issues, hip issues, groin issues etc. All of which have consistently plagued me in the past. After strengthening my body (specifically my glutes) I haven’t had any twinges, tightness or anything. The issue I’ve been consistently having with my shin/calf though I don’t know what to do about. I wondered if it was because I had weak calves and over the past few weeks have been doing lots of calf raises (single leg on the stairs).

After talking to my physio though she reckons that’s unnecessary and probably compounding my issue further. She said my calf (the one I’ve really focused on) feels very tight and this is probably making things worse when I run. Looking back it does seem to make sense as it has only got more niggly the more strength work I did. The likelihood is that it’s a biometrical issues caused by my flat feet (*sighs*) which gets aggravated when I do lots of mileage, but usually isn’t anything that comes to much (I do get a very slight similar issue in the other leg, but it never comes to anything). However adding in my quite enthusiastic calf raises most days (yep, I’m that keen) has just sparked it off. Thankfully though she’s given me some good exercises to work on my flat feet to strengthen my arches to try and stop this happening in the future. All about the toe-grabs 😉

And because I am such a paranoid runner and terrified of stress fractures I asked if it could be or was close to being a stress fracture (I know how ridiculous this sounds…especially as there was no actual pain). She knows my neuroticism and all but laughed at me. She ultrasounded my entire shin and calf area to reduce any inflammation and reassured me that if I had a stress fracture then the pain of the ultrasound would have been severe. The fact that I felt nothing proved I didn’t have one. Well, that’s something!

After that very long explanation, I ran parkrun on Saturday because I wanted to do it and because I wanted to know in my mind how bad it was. It didn’t feel amazing but no pain, just discomfort and, well, niggliness. It was very tender from the massage as well which probably didn’t help. I shouldn’t have run (my physio advised against it…yes I know, I’m ridiculous) but mentally I needed to know. It wasn’t any worse afterwards…

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It was the first time in ages that I was cold before we started. I say cold, more chilly really. Nothing like as bad as it gets in the depths of winter when you dread taking your coat off to line-up.

The rest of the day was, again, sorting more house stuff out. Specifically the loft and shed. Everywhere else is pretty much sorted in terms of streamlining my stuff, separating bits and pieces between Ben and me and throwing out/giving away/selling junk. Just the loft and shed are a beomoth of crap and full of stuff that “we might use later”.

The next day I’d planned 16 miles but on the advice of my physio I cancelled it. I’m probably going to take the rest of the week off just to be safe. For once I’m not panicking. Obviously I don’t want to DNS Bournemouth but I don’t think it’ll come to that if I’m sensible. Thankfully this isn’t an injury, but it could become one. A week off now means things can resume again without issue (FINGERS CROSSED). I think I’m mainly not that stressed about Bournemouth because I have no goals apart from to just finish it. Getting close to my previous times would be nice but I want to enjoy the marathon and not rinse myself and stress out. I just love marathons and want to continue my streak of having another good one in terms of enjoyment.

So I ended up in the gym on Sunday morning. I didn’t set an alarm but woke up at 7.30am and realised I could make the 8.30am Spin class. Ultimately having someone yell at you to workout is so much easier than motivating yourself I find (if it’s not running that is).

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I haven’t been to Spin in ages and was dreading it. But you know what, I really enjoyed it. The instructor was fantastic and played some great music. The sprints were hard but I found myself really going for it. Good workout indeed!

I wanted to exercise for around the same time I’d have been running for to maintain some sort of endurance (and sanity) so went on the elliptical machine, the rower and then followed by the stepper. I find it so hard to motivate myself or keep myself interested which is why I machine hopped (I tried to keep the breaks minimal when hopping between).

IMG_3806Less time than I would have been running but higher intensity I suppose. No way near as fun as a long run (and calorie stats and HR are so dull in comparison to having minutes per mile splits and elevation charts…) but it is what it is!

The rest of the day was spent having a long walk and chat with a close friend with Alfie. The weather was beautiful and it was lovely. Not much else to report sadly. Like I said, a bit of a mixed bag. I’m not stressing about my calf but I am bummed I can’t run…for the moment. But I have a far more positive outlook 🙂

Also, I’ve just started watching the Hannibal TV series. I was a bit reluctant as it looked a bit gory and scary for me but I liked the sound of the premise and the two guys in it are quite dishy (in a weird way). I AM HOOKED. It is rather grisly but it’s quite enthralling.

What have you gotten up to this weekend?

What TV shows are you hooked on right now? Do you have a particular genre you go for?

Calf raises: yes or no??

A spot of afternoon tea

Hello! It’s Wednesday – half way there! Not that I’m living for the weekend or anything
 Winking smile

This week I’m joining the blogging link-up What I Ate Wednesday and share the delightful treats and meals I’ve been loving lately. Pop over to Jenn’s blog to see what’s going down Smile

 

So here’s a recap of Saturday’s eats as they were pretty damn good. As I mentioned in my last post, I didn’t run Parkrun on Saturday. This was really hard and sad for me. Without sounding overly dramatic, it sucked. Ben went but I went to spin instead. I could have volunteered but I wanted to get the endorphins going and to be honest I was in a bad mood.

And let me tell you, spin was hard core. The usual person was sick apparently so we had a stand-by person do it. I assumed it would be a cop-out session. Ha. Usually we have little breaks between songs but not this time. It was just non-stop. And then the instructor goes “right, time for a 5 minute sprint”. Seriously?! It was 30 seconds of sprints, with about 10 seconds recovery, over 5 minutes. I was a sweaty mess.

After this I had my usual breakfast:

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Same old same old. Porridge (oatmeal), almond milk and chia seeds.

Then after getting ready and usual house stuff, Ben and me headed to my parent’s where I dropped Ben off for some ‘man-time’ with my dad to watch the football and play Xbox. I picked my mum up and we headed off for a lovely spot of afternoon tea for lunch.

Besides from getting immensely stressed out trying to find a car park in the world’s smallest village square and ending up giving up and parking in a ditch, we arrived at Lilly’s Tearoom in Wickham in one piece (not always guaranteed when I drive).

We ordered soup to start because we weren’t sure afternoon tea would be an adequate lunch (rookie error right there).

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Delicious pea and ham soup

I loved how beautiful all the crockery was. In fact, the whole tearoom was beautifully decorated and the service was fabulous.

Tea at Lillys

Obviously we had tea Smile

And then our ‘main’


Afternoon tea

Heaven! We had the choice of so many different cakes (carrot, chocolate, lemon drizzle, coffee and walnut, rocky road, millionaire shortbread or Victoria sponge). Well, my mum and me both adore Victoria sponge so we both went for a slice of that. It also came with crustless chicken sandwiches and crustless cucumber sandwiches (but of course!) and scones with clotted cream and jam.

Yeah so we clearly did not need that soup!! We were both quite full by the end, only leaving a couple of the sandwiches (choose your battles I say – cakes all the way). It was perfect.

And then we looked round the little square at all the lovely little shops. And lo and behold I found the most amazing chocolate shop.

Chocolate shop Wickham

Because after so much cake, surely this makes sense??

So many beautiful and tasty looking chocolates! Well, I pushed the boat out and went crazy. I bought Ben and me a box to share.

Box of chocolates

I forgot to take a photo of inside, but I will share soon as it’s pretty impressive

The shopkeeper thought it was hilarious that I was buying this for just Ben and me to eat ourselves. How terribly indulgent, I know Winking smile

Well, dinner wasn’t needed for quite a long time afterwards! Luckily Ben had had a pub lunch so we were both happy to have a nice late dinner.

Roast sausages and veg

I kept it simple and had roasted vegetables and sausages. I threw in a chopped cooking apple as well (because I don’t eat enough apples – it’s something I’m trying to work on Winking smile). I threw some herbs on it (rosemary and thyme) and then drizzled it with some oil and balsamic vinegar. LOVED this. Definitely happening again. And so easy – everything just went in a casserole dish and then in the oven for 20ish minutes.

And that’s that!

Last night I went for an easy 8 mile run and it felt pretty good. No pain, no major discomfort. Just a bit of aching but I was more concerned with the raging thunderstorm going around me! But more on that another day.

Have you ever had afternoon tea? I think it’s pretty much the best thing in the world. OK I’m easily swayed by anything cake-related.

What treats do you like to buy? A box of chocolates is fairly extravagant for us, but I just couldn’t help myself. Usually it’s Cadbury’s chocolate or Lindt!

What’s your favourite filling in a sandwich? I am a bit turkey or chicken fan, with loads of salad. And cranberry sauce.