Life Lately

So life is pretty good right now. I feel in a very happy place.

My job is something which I’m really pleased about. I look forward to going each day and the challenges I’m given. Now that I’m fully in the grind, as it were, I feel confident and happy. Of course I still have days when i haven’t a clue what I’m doing but everyone is always so helpful and friendly that I never feel stupid. It’s been so long since I’ve felt excited about my career and I hope this continues. Of course it’s nice to work in an industry I’m passionate about as well but it’s not just that. sure the subjects I deal with are to do with cycling and running etc. but the tasks I do could be applied to any ecommerce and digital marketing industry.

And speaking of good stuff at work…As I do a lot of running and people at work know this (I tend to do a lunch time run – runch if you will – twice a week) I occasionally get some freebies to try. Recently I was given some adidas Ultra Boost X’s to test out. I can’t quite work out my feelings about them though. Walking around in them felt very odd and not particularly comfortable as they were quite tight fitting across the tops and heels of my feet. But when running they felt great. Very bouncy and soft, and like they propel you forward. I love the colour of them and the knit look as well. Very in Vogue (like I know what’s in fashion, ha).Along with testing the trainers I was filmed with two other girls from Wiggle not only running in the shoes but also answering questions about how I found them. I’m sure I turned into a bumbling blithering idiot on camera but it was a fun thing to do at work.I was also given a pair of adidas shorts. I love these! They’re great to run in – crucially they rarely ride up and they’re my favourite style. I so much prefer shorts to run in than leggings! Which is funny because we all know how big a leggings fan I am in other areas of life ūüėČ

Speaking of running then… My runs continue to be doing OK. I had a nice social nine miles with Mike last week after work and thoroughly enjoyed it. Mike and I used to do these Thursday night runs all the time and now the evenings are lighter I think we’ll be doing them more. They’re nice easier paced runs where we chew the fat and catch up while getting a slightly longer run in – usually 7-9 miles. I hope to do some more of these ūüôāI also did a good progression tempo run on Tuesday. I started around 8min/miles and got down to 7:08min/miles. It was quite windy so I didn’t manage a royal flush negative split but I felt strong and smooth running. I don’t want to do any crazy speed work right now because I’m still paranoid about injury and don’t want to risk the Brighton Marathon. But I feel like my running is naturally just getting stronger. As I always though, fingers crossed. It did feel good though sailing along at some speed rather than questioning every footstep and wondering if the niggle was still there.My gym visits are also going well. I still go around three to four times a week and I’m honestly still loving it. It’s part of my morning routine and gets me going for the day. My routine is usually two strength circuit workouts, one legs/glutes day and one back day. One circuit workout is usually focused on upper body and the other on legs and glutes again. An example for upper body is something like this:

  • Rowing machine (3mins)
  • 20x press ups
  • 12-15 overhead presses (depends on weight for no. of reps)
  • 12-15 upright rows (again, weight dependent)
  • 15-20 front raises
  • 20x Russian wists
  • Plank (1 min)
  • 10x burpees

Repeat x4

Lower body circuit goes something like this:

  • Rowing (3 mins)
  • 15-20 hip thrusts (15w/ barbell, 20w/ resistance band only)
  • 20x kettlebell swings
  • 20x squat jumps
  • Walking lunges (1 min)
  • Wall sit (1 min)
  • 20x leg raises
  • 10x burpees

Repeat x4

I like the circuit workouts as they’re quite go, go, go and keep my heart rate raised while working my muscles. It keeps me entertained! But I still enjoy the pure strength stuff too. It’s just a balance. I try and plan what I’m going to do at the gym the night before. That way I don’t turn up to the gym without a clue and walk round aimlessly. Plus at that time in the morning the less thinking I’m required to do the better!

My only annoyance with the gym was the fact that there was no hot water there on Monday. It was BALTIC. It was lucky I didn’t have the wash my hair and so basically just stood next to the stream of ice water and splashed myself in an attempt to wash.Luckily it was pretty much back to working the next day when I did need to wash my hair. I’m not sure I could have taken the brain freeze otherwise. This is what you get when you pay ¬£18 a month eh! But I love how conveniently my gym is located and the fact that it’s open 24/7. I’d happily have a cold shower no and again for that sort of accessibility and cost.

So yes, life is good. Things are going well. Happy days indeed.

Do you go to the gym?

Do you like to do more cardio or strength workouts at the gym?

Do you like adidas workout gear and trainers?

How I try to be injury-free

2017 has been my best year running. No I haven’t PB’ed in every distance (in fact, I’ve only achieved one PB this year, at the Great South Run). But I’ve had a great year of CONSISTENTLY running and side-stepping injuries.

This year I’ve only had two injuries, both lasting a short period of time (for me this is VERY good). One of those was ankle related and probably down to throwing myself back into running too soon after a marathon and going on a ridiculous seven mile off-road trail run. The second was upping my mileage from 25 miles a week to over 50 miles a week on an Austria run camp – lots of downhill running causing my knee to say ENOUGH. So in terms of those pesky over-use injuries I used to get ALL the time, I’ve done very well.

I thought I’d do a post on some of the things I’m doing that I believe might have helped me. I will obviously preface with this with: 1) I’m not a physiotherapist, coach or anyone of any notable qualifications or intelligence, 2) this might all be fluke. That said, let’s get to it.

Gaining weight

I used to be about five-six pounds lighter. Yes, yes lighter usually means faster when it comes to running but as I don’t particularly care about speed in the great scheme of things I don’t mind (that said, I’ve managed to almost reach my 5k PB from my lighter days).

I’ve put in some solid effort at the gym and gained muscle and, yes, fat. Ladies, FAT IS NEEDED. We need fat to be healthy. Boobs, bums, hips, thighs‚Ķ fat is a good thing to have. Obviously there is a limit, but being ridiculously skinny is not that healthy. Embrace those love handles, jiggle those thighs and be proud of your lumps, bumps and curves. I realise I’m still a relatively slim jim, but I am definitely not as slim as I used to be and I’m very happy. I love my body and I love food. I have an insane appetite and the thought of giving up anything to be slimmer genuinely brings sadness to my heart. Happily, I truly believe that carrying a bit more jiggle has given my body more strength and the ability to endure higher mileage.

Strength training

I bang on about this all the time I know. It took me a while to get this. I’d get injured, I’d end up at the physio, he’d assess and treat me and send me away with a list of exercises I needed to do. I’d do them for a period of time and eventually be back running, forget the exercises… and then get injured again. This was quite the cycle for me. Until I finally realised I needed to¬†keep doing the exercises. Sadly I’m not as hardy as other people and I require that added extra work in order to keep me running healthy and strong.IMG_0965So I go to the gym four times a week. Two of those sessions are focused on my legs and glutes. For legs I do squats (lots of variations from heavy low reps, to high reps with resistance bands, etc.), lunges, single leg work, leg presses, deadlifts… And for glutes I do hip thrusts, kickbacks, bridges, step ups, etc. And every day at the gym I always do at least five minutes of focused glute resistance band work, such as monster walks.

I’ve also found when I start to feel something “not right” (like my hip the other week) I focus on that area and the areas around it. I make sure I don’t cause pain or discomfort, but I aim to strengthen that area. I’ve found it also helps to get the blood flowing in that area to help keep it healthy.

Bit of stretching

I don’t really stretch after running and I don’t tend to do much warming up (unless it’s super cold or I’m waiting for someone – then I’ll do some token squats and leg swings). What I do do is stretching first thing in the morning. This is usually at the gym. I go through a sort of mini-yoga routine opening up my back and my hips. I try and make sure the movements are dynamic and not just static holds. I don’t know if this has helped me much with running but in general I feel better for it.

And nutritional things…

Now take these with a punch of salt. I thought I’d mention them because they’re something I personally like to do and in my head I think they make a difference but really I have no idea and no direct proof.

  • Turmeric: I eat a lot of turmeric. It’s gotten to the point now that most of my dinners have a slight orange tinge to them because of the turmeric. I really like the spice (I wouldn’t eat it if I didn’t, believe me!) and I’ve heard some good things about it helping reduce inflammation. So I chuck it on my meals. In my most paranoid moments (the day before a long run or a marathon for example) I might even go as far as having a turmeric latte. Yep.
  • Omega 3 supplements:¬†I take these every single day without fail. I do try and eat fish regularly through the week but I like to fully ensure I’m getting my omega 3 anyway.
  • More protein:¬†And in general I eat a solid amount of protein. I much prefer protein to carbs (#allthemeat) so I don’t find this too difficult. With every meal I’ll have a solid source of protein. Easy protein sources: tinned tuna (I eat this every day for lunch in a salad), protein powder (I add this to my porridge), Greek yogurt (or Skyr yogurts are really good), chicken, turkey and meat/fish in general, eggs, cottage cheese, beans, chia seeds…

Like I said, I have no idea if the above has significantly contributed to me staying uninjured but it’s a lifestyle I’m going to continue. Hopefully this has been somewhat useful to you! Now excuse me while I sip my orange-tinged coffee… ūüėČ

How do you stay injury-free?

Do you take any supplements?

Do you go to the gym?

Rave, rave, rave

I was thinking of doing a Rants and Raves post but actually I couldn’t really find much to rant about.¬†What a problem eh!

I am in such a happy place right now. My life seems to be floating along so nicely! I know this is mostly due to changing jobs and changing up my routine but it really has made me a much happier person.

Rave:¬†Speaking of routines, so as you probably know along with running, I love going to the gym as well. I enjoy the different type of workouts I can get; focusing on strength training and making myself stronger. After moving into my parent’s house I realised I needed to change my gym as it was now too far away to make logical sense.

I did a bit of hunting. I¬†briefly,¬†VERY briefly, considered joining a ridiculous expensive gym right next to work…and then found a far cheaper and 24/7 gym on the way to work. This was perfect because a) I don’t want to spend a fortune on some fancy shmancy gym which probably will have a ratio of 10:1 cardio to¬†weights ratio and b) I like to go SUPER early. I’m not an evening gym person and I like starting the day with a workout. Plus going early means beating any crowds.So the gym I found (called 24/7 Fitness) is SO good. It has several different rooms, which I quite like. A room that’s like a Crossfit room with hanging ropes, TRX’s, a rower and a climbing frame type thing and lots of mat areas with free weights and dumbbells. It has another room focused on chest presses and chest isolation machines. Another one focused on leg weights with squat racks etc. and then a room with just free weights and benches. It also has a “women’s only” area… lots of machines, all pink (*sighs*) – at least it’s not just full of cardio machines, eh! And a few other rooms with more machines and then cardio equipment. It is a bit shabby but I’m not there to admire the paintwork so it suits me fine.I drive there after walking Alfie, do my thing and then shower and get ready there. Other than making me get super organised the night before with packing what I need to take with me (so far no forgotten bra yet) but it’s saved me so much time sitting in traffic as I’m past all the busy stuff before the gym and then it’s a quick 10 mins from the gym the rest of the way. What a win!

Rave:¬†Finding the most comfy and well-fitting jeans! As a runner my legs tend to have problems with fitting into jeans (hey there strong thighs). It’s mainly just the ratio of my body I guess. I’m sure non-runners feel this exact pain as well because, let’s be honest, we all have different shapes, lumps and bumps.I don’t regularly shop in Top Shop as it’s a bit…young?… for me. It’s like when you scroll too far on the Forever21 website and you go, “really, who actually wears this?”. But Top Shop have consistently done be well when it comes to jeans. I like that they do a waist measurement and a leg measurement. I popped quickly in there one day after work (SO MUCH MORE TIME IN LIFE!) and saw a pair that looked nice along with a lovely jumper and didn’t bother trying them on as I was heading to Nando’s with a friend. I could return them at the weekend if they didn’t fit¬†so it wasn’t an issue.

BUT MY GOD. They fit like a glove, AND are super comfy. I love them.

Rave: Muffin market research… it was such a stroke of luck that this happened on the Wednesday. Any other day and I probably wouldn’t have seen it. But on a Wednesday I go downstairs to the Starbucks and was thus able to spot the market research table that had been set up…Muffins! Muffins galore! They had a load of different samples for people to try of either lemon, chocolate or blueberry muffins. You had to give your preference of muffin in terms of texture, taste and appearance. I mean, it was a tough job but I stepped up to the bar. I probably ate about four muffins in total. I was surprised at how much I quite enjoyed the chocolate muffins. Normally I’m not a big fan (well, actually I’m normally not a big muffin fan in general but they were¬†free…). Some of the chocolate muffins had this delicious chocolaty oozy middle which worked¬†against the dryness issue that muffins often face. Delicious!

Rave:¬†New trainers. To put my work discount to good use I bought a pair of these ASICS¬†Gel-Exalt. I get on well with ASICS and they’re a great colour.It’s funny because as I was packing before I moved back to my parents I actually found a pair of Adidas Boosts (Supernovas I believe) that have barely been worn so despite buying a brand new pair of trainers I actually don’t need them just yet. Always handy to have a few pairs to rotate with too!

Biggest rave¬†of all:¬†If you follow me on any form of social media (Instagram, Twitter, Strava¬†or Facebook) then you’ll probably already know that the Bournemouth Marathon went very well for me. I’ll be (hopefully) getting my recap post up this week. I’m SO glad it went well and I can now look back at Bournemouth fondly and wear the marathon t-shirt with pride.What do you look for in a gym?

Have you ever taken part in any market research before?

What do you look for in a muffin?

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 ūüėČ 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 ūüėÄ 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?

Glute exercises and Oppo ice cream review

So many running-related injuries can happen due to weak or inactive glutes.¬†One of the main reasons I go to the gym is injury prevention. Glutes are so important to our running form that you really do need to get them going if you want to avoid things like runner’s knee, IT band issues, hamstring problems and even shin splints.

You can always spot the runners at the gyms because when they’re not on the treadmill (or looking sad and dejected doing cross training on a bike) they’re doing all manner of glute exercises, lunges and squats while looking like they’d rather be anywhere but at the gym. I was definitely one of those back in the day! Luckily I now quite enjoy the gym, and not just for injury prevention workouts, but for general strength training. Though I would indeed look rather miserable on a cardio machine!

Every week I’ll do one session (45mins – 1 hour long) doing glute-focused exercises. Here are some that I try to do regularly:

Lunges

A very simple exercise that I’m sure you’re familiar with. I either do it static, putting one foot forward, lowering my back knee, then bringing the leg back and switching legs. Or I do walking lunges. The important part is¬†pushing through your glutes as you’re coming back up and not leaning too far forward. You can use a barbell, like below, or dumbbells held at your side.lunges

Single leg Deadlifts

This is a great exercise because it focuses on just one side of the body at a time so you can really focus on any imbalances or weaknesses.¬†I know my left side is far weaker than my right so I can do a few more reps on it to try and increase its strength. It’s also a great exercise at improving your balance and strengthening your ankles.

Standing on one leg you lower the weight (or your hand) to the floor while sticking your other leg out behind you. As you come back up focus on using your glutes to stabilise and balance yourself, then raise your knee to really get that glute firing. Don’t go too quickly: the slower the better as you need more control that way. You don’t have to use a weight but I’ve been doing this exercise for a while now and needed more of a challenge.single-leg-deadlifts

Curtsy Squats

This is a good move to add a new angle into your usual squats. Put your right leg behind yourself then bend your knee to the ground, keeping your toes pointing forward. Again, you don’t need to use weights and similar to before, use your glutes to push your leg up to then swap your legs over.curtsy-squats

Cable Pull Through

Like many glute exercises, this one is one not to catch anyone’s eye while performing it ūüėČ It’s a bit awkward but it’s really good. Though you do need a cable machine to do it, so it’s not one you can do at home. You stand in with your back in front of a cable machine with a rope as the handle, pull the cable through your legs and have your feet wide apart. Reach through your legs, bending at the hips with your knees slightly bent and then pull the cable through using the motion of getting your hips straight. It’s important that you’re not using your arms or shoulders to pull the cable. You want to feel this in your glutes – squeeze as you come to the standing position (where your hands are now rather embarrassingly around your nether region holding a bit of rope…#awkward). glute-cable-pulls

Cable Kickbacks

Again, another one for the cable machine, but you can do this with ankle weights or even a resistance band attached to a solid frame. You want to attach an ankle strap/heel cup to your foot and then kick out from the machine. Do not go heavy on the weight as your targeting very small glute muscles here and adding heavier weight will likely cause your back to help out. You do not want this.

What I find that helps is actually feeling your glute with your hand while you do this workout so you can get that muscle-mind connection so the right muscles are being used. If it’s too hard, lower the weight or take the weight away completely. ¬†You can kick backwards, to the side, to an angle… just go for different varieties to hit the glutes at different places. Ideally your rep ranges will be fairly high for these (15-20).glute-kickbacks

Oppo Ice Cream

Now moving on from exercise to… ice cream! Ice cream is such a crowd pleaser but it’s not a food you can really eat a huge amount of on a regular basis due to it’s high sugar and fat content. However, there is an ice cream out there that you can incorporate into your diet without accumulating big calories. And the best part? It’s not chemical ladened with artificial nasties.oppo-ice-cream-mintOppo Ice Cream isn’t full of sugar and fat. It uses ingredients like¬†virgin coconut oil and stevia leaf instead. Stevia is naturally sweet but contains zero calories and zero sugars. Therefore the ice cream contains between 50-60% fewer calories and sugars than regular ice cream.oppo-ice-cream-comparison

Source

One of the¬†founders also did a TED talk on how the ice cream came about which I found really interesting. I just love the whole ethos behind the company and what they’re trying to achieve.

There are three flavours¬†Mint Choc Swirl, Salted Caramel and¬†Madagascan Vanilla. I’ve tried the salted Caramel and mint. I like how within each of those flavours different natural ingredients have been used which also boost the nutrition of the product. In the vanilla, the baobab fruit is used which is rich in Vitamin C, potassium and anti-oxidants but also contributes to the creaminess and texture of the ice cream. For the salted caramel, the lacuma fruit is used which contains¬†beta carotene, iron, zinc, vitamin B3, calcium and protein but also helps get the sweet flavour of the caramel. For the mint,¬†spirulina is used to help get the green colouring. It’s 65% protein and a rich source of vitamin B, iron and manganese.oppo-ice-cream-salted-caramelThoughts? I love them. Both the mint and the salted caramel flavours rocked my world. I’m a big mint choc chip ice cream fan and I found it very minty and sweet, but not overly so. It was creamy and delicious and did feel naughty.oppo-ice-cream Though the salted caramel was my favourite. What I will say though is that you know you’re not eating Ben and Jerry’s. It’s not as thick and dense. It’s more airy and quick to melt. But it does hit the spot when you fancy a sweet treat but don’t want to be as indulgent as eating higher calorie ice creams.

My friends, Kate and Jamie, tried the mint with me and they enjoyed it too. But Jay did say that it wasn’t quite as good as the really naughty stuff but it was good for a mid-week treat without having a blow-out. It’s also a lot easier to eat an entire tub because it’s not as dense! But at around 400 calories, it’s not¬†that¬†bad (compared to the 1,000s in other tubs!). Thumbs up from me!

Do you ever buy lower calorie versions of treats?

What’s your favourite ice cream brand?

What exercises do you do to try and prevent injuries?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent a voucher for one tub of ice cream in exchange for a review. I bought the other tub because I enjoyed it so much. All opinions are my own.**