Books Lately

I’m a big fan of books. I’m always reading something and as soon as I finish one book I’m on to another. That’s not to say I’m a particularly fast reader or that I read intellectually challenging or deep things but I always like to have something on the go.

I used to be one of those people who would always, without fail, finish a book. But actually I’ve realised life’s too short for books you don’t enjoy. It’s supposed to be pleasurable after all so if something really isn’t interesting to me I’ll drop it and move on. Here are some of the books I’ve enjoyed lately.

Room – Emma Donoghue

OK strictly speaking I actually listened to this as an audiobook. The book is told entirely from a child’s perspective so it was narrated as so. At first I was a bit dubious thinking “Oh god, do I really want to listen to a 5-year old tell a story?” but I kept at it as it instantly drew me in.

From Amazon:

“Jack lives with his Ma in Room. Room has a single locked door and a skylight, and it measures ten feet by ten feet. Jack loves watching TV but he knows that nothing he sees on the screen is truly real – only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until the day Ma admits there is a world outside.”

I’m desperate to see the film now as it was such a moving and fascinating story. Yes the subject matter is pretty grim and it can be very dark at times, but the book’s tone and overall story was not dark. There is such an innocence as well with it being from a child’s perspective. Obviously if it had been told from the mother’s perspective it would undoubtedly be a grim and different story.

Behind Closed Doors – B. A. Paris

I do look at the bestseller lists for a lot of my books. You kind of know you’re going to get a fairly decent read as the masses have gone for it and like a sheep I follow (though ‘decent’ can be a stretch for some books…). This is about a husband and wife who from the outside look perfect but as you find out more and more it turns out it’s a horrible fabrication.

It’s fairly unbelievable I have to say but it was a definite page-turner. I was desperate to find out what would happen. The characters are a bit one dimensional but as thrillers go it was pretty good. Good holiday read!

The Diet Myth – Tim Spector

I do love a bit of myth busting when it comes to so-called nutrition facts and ridiculous diets.

From Amazon:

“Drawing on the latest science and his own pioneering research, Professor Tim Spector demystifies the common misconceptions about fat, calories, vitamins and nutrients. Only by understanding what makes our own personal microbes tick can we overcome the confusion of modern nutrition, and achieve a healthy gut and a healthy body.”

Really interesting. A little repetitive at times as it obviously had a slight agenda with the whole microbe and gut focus but it really opened my eyes. I knew our gut health was important but never to this extent. There are some great anecdotal and scientific research which is really fascinating. It’s not quite the page turner but still interesting.

Bossypants – Tina Fey

I was at a loss of what audiobook to go for (I have the Audible subscription of getting one book a month) and had heard so many people rave about how funny this was and how brilliant Tina Fey is and as she was the narrator for the audiobook it sounded good. Don’t get me wrong, she is funny and I did laugh but because I didn’t know a huge amount about her and had never watched Saturday Night Live it wasn’t as good as I hoped – some stuff was lost on me. I have a lot of respect for her though and she’s clearly very talented.

Happily – Sophie Tanner

I was contacted by the author to read this book. It sounded like such a bizarre but interesting story so I was intrigued!

From the author:

“Happily is a story about a woman who marries herself. In a case of life imitating art I married myself in a performance at Brighton Fringe Festival last May – you can read more on that in a feature I wrote for here.”

This sounded like quite a refreshing and weird book to read. I was a bit dubious at first but it’s such a fun and light read I found myself really enjoying it. It’s got a really good theme running through it that basically you need to love yourself before you can love someone else, which I fully believe. Don’t expect someone to be your missing piece or to fulfil you. Fulfil yourself first! A nice change form the usual “must find man” themed chic flicks.

You can download a copy on Amazon. You can find more about the author here:

Do you read a lot?

What’s your usual book of choice?

What’s your favourite book? 

**Full disclosure: I received a pdf copy of Happily by Sophie in return for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Mostly raving #26

Things are fairly positive in my life right now so I actually don’t have much ranting to do, long may it last!

Rave: I’m really proud of myself. I’ve been reducing my excessive intake of squash. I’ve mentioned before on the blog how I tend to drink a lot of squash. Mainly out of boredom at work if I’m honest. It’s not great as I get the sugar-free variety which though is, well, free of sugar it is not preservative-sweetener-colour-crap-free. It’s not that I don’t like the taste of water, it’s just when I’m at work and I fancy something but not necessarily an actual snack I go for squash. Anyway, I’ve switched a few of these times for something a bit better for me: herbal and fruit teas.IMG_8070

I’ve always drank peppermint tea (my absolute favourite) but I’ve added in a few more to keep things interesting. I’ve yet to crack into the salted caramel green tea though as I’m terrified it’ll make me feel sick (green tea always does this to me). I’m thinking though that because it’s mixed with other things it might be less potent to me? Anyway there was a Twinings offer in Tesco so I risked for a biscuit…or a fruit tea in fact.

Rave: I just love him so much.


It’s OK Alfie, I don’t need much space on the sofa…

Rave: trainers! I have so many pairs it’s ridiculous. I love Strava for keeping me solidly tracked on their mileage as well. I’m a bit of a trainer whore as I don’t really favour any brand in particular. In general I love a good stability shoe as I’m fairly flat footed (though less so than when I first started running due to weekly exercises).


Mizuno are usually my go-to shoes but my current love are the ASICS Luminus. I tend to cycle through the trainers depending on what I’m doing (i.e. my Boosts tend to be for speed workouts or shorter distance races), how wet/muddy a pair currently are and where in the Cupboard of Doom they sit:


It’s a balancing act in there…

Rave: if I fancy a kind of naughty snack but not really a full-on face in cake moment I’ve been having these Protein Works Mug Cakes (I wasn’t sent it to review and have no affiliation with them, just bought it as I heard it was nice).Protein Works Mug Cake

Granted it looks pretty terrible in that photo but it’s actually very tasty. Nice and chocolaty with a good texture. It has 148 cals per serving and 20g of protein so it’s nice to top up the protein as well. It just h its the spot when I fancy something quick and tasty in the evening. It takes like 30 seconds in the microwave and you just add water – my kind of baking Winking smile

Rave: I’m listening to a really interesting audio book called The Diet Myth. It goes over all those silly diet trends and looks over scientific data and research surrounding them. It’s really very interesting and has a lot to do with the microbes in our body, which to be honest I’d never even thought about. It’s one of the reasons I’ve switched artificial cheese (like Laughing Cow and Babybells) to real cheese like stilton, Camembert and Brie. I haven’t finished the book yet but from what I’ve heard so far (it’s an audiobook) is variety is key, whole foods are best and avoid artificial crap. No great surprises there, but the rational and science behind it is very interesting.

Rave: my flat is pretty much sorted now. I just need a rug for my living room and I’m there. I’ve tried really hard to make it into a lovely home that I enjoy being in (which I truly do) and a reflection of who I am.Flat decorMy new armchair is a perfect addition. Actually it’s not really an armchair as there are no arms… I also have lots of photos and wall art to give it a nice individual touch. My favourite wall piece is something that was handmade by a family friend, Sue. From an old book she took all the pages and made this:IMG_8108

I love it. I’m a big reader so for me it’s absolutely perfect. There’s nothing I find more relaxing than getting lost in a book.

A single rant: my neighbour had a party in his flat last week. On a Thursday night. A Thursday. I mean seriously, what the hell? I suppose I’m fairly lucky that I’ve had very few problems with my flat so far but this really ticked me off (as, I’m sure, it would most people who work Monday to Friday).

It really agitated Alfie who hadn’t a clue why there was suddenly a lot of door banging, loud music and loud voices coming through our walls. Our flats aren’t even directly next to each other – there’s a corridor we share and that’s it, but I could still hear the music. Alfie would bark every time he heard a loud noise and eventually cuddled right up to my face in confusion (he’s normally down the bottom of the bed). *Sighs*. I only had one ear plug as well as I lost the other one so had to be choosy in which ear got the preferentially treatment.

The next morning I put my radio as close to my door and the wall closest to his flat and whacked up the volume. Now when I get up at 5am in the morning I don’t try my hardest to tiptoe about the place, oh hell no I’m like an elephant. Do not mess with the early riser.

What have been your rants and raves recently?

Do you have considerate neighbours?

Do you read a lot of books?

New Rules of Lifting for Women – Stage 1

I thought I’d do a post covering how I’ve found the New Rules of Lifting for Women as I’ve just completed Stage 1.

Just rolling back before I started this, I was still doing lots of strength work in the gym. I’d found lots of good stuff on RunnersWorld, Kinetic Revolution and other random places. At the start of the year I was focused on getting my heart rate up while also strengthening my body. I was running three times a week low mileage and needed something else to give me that sweaty heart pumping boost. The workouts I did were a combination of HIIT and strength, but ultimately leaning more towards cardio.

That said, I did strengthen my body during this time. I came back from injury stronger and in a better mindset to get running again and training in earnest for the Liverpool marathon. I can, hand on heart, say my knees and hips (which I had problems with last year) haven’t bugged me once this year. My tight IT band grief is a distant memory as my glutes have come into action with my running and I feel strong. My only one bug bear this year is my shin/calf that occasionally likes to niggle (and haunt my dreams with thoughts of stress fractures…).

When my running increased I couldn’t maintain the same enthusiasm at the gym and found myself a bit confused as to what I should be doing. I then found out about the New Rules of Lifting for Women and it caught my interest. I bought the book, read it, agreed with so many of the concepts and points made and decided to start the training plan (not the nutritional plan though – I don’t follow diets/eating plans in books. Just not my thing).

I was surprised at how simple the plan seemed. There are several “Stages”, each lasting 4-8 weeks depending how often you train (I tend to do three sessions a week depending on what my running was doing), and each stage would have two different workouts.

The book doesn’t tell you how much to lift but it does tell you how many reps and sets and the rest in between. The number of reps was vastly different to what I was doing before. Whereas before I’d be squatting 30 times, this specified 15, decreasing as the weeks went on until eventually eight. The point being that the weight you choose should be tough for those limited reps.

Stage 1

I really enjoyed both the routines. Yes it got samey doing the same two workouts, but at 5.30am going into the gym with a no-nonsense plan I was familiar with was fabulous.

  • Workout A: Squats, press-ups, seated rows, step ups, prone jackknifes
  • Workout B: Deadlifts, dumbbell shoulder presses, wide-grip lateral pull-downs, lunges, Swiss ball crunches

I won’t go into all the weights I lifted but just to give you an idea…in January I was squatting 20kg (for around 30 reps). I can now squat 50kg for eight squats. And proper full, deep squats. That might not sound amazing to all those warrior lifters out there, but to me this is huge! And I know I can continue to increase.

The progress I was able to make and the confidence it gave me was fantastic. I stepped away from my ‘safe area’ in the gym and moved into the ‘male section’. There would have been no way I could have lifted a barbell to my shoulders to squat if I hadn’t have used the squat rack.

I’m also hugely pleased with the progress I’ve made to my deadlifts. Again, similar numbers to my squats.

What I also enjoyed was that it made me work on my upper body. In my family we seem to be blessed with naturally toned arms (check out the picture of my sister in previous posts – she hasn’t worked out in years *cough* so may say ever…and yet her arms are lovely and toned) so I would always neglect my upper body as I didn’t “need” to do it. But after Cheddar Gorge marathon and the next day my arms ached it further verified that your upper body is really important in running for maintaining good form and helping you push up hills.

I still included some of my ‘essential’ running-specific moves as well – but increased the weights and decreased the reps (things like single leg squats/deadlifts, Russian twists, box jumps, etc.). Since January my single-leg squat has gone from bodyweight to 20kg!

Not the most happy of faces so early in the gym!

Results: There’s a big fear of “omg bulking up” when women lift weights. I can safely say I haven’t bulked up at all. I have more defined muscles, yes, but I’m not the hulk (or at last, I don’t think I am!). I feel stronger when I run and have a better “kick” at the end. And the proof is in the pudding: I’ve been injury-free for the entire year (TOUCH WOOD, TOUCH WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!).

Who says girls can’t lift?

What’s next? Stage 2! New workouts and moves to get to grips with (no pun intended). I’m keen to continue with increasing my strength on the squat and deadlift moves as well so will probably go back to them frequently. They’re perfect full body moves that compliment any type of fitness. Though looking at Stage 2 workouts the deadlift move is going to be ‘upgraded’ so that works nicely.

All in all, I’m hugely impressed with NRLW and hope to continue the stages until the end. Obviously my running is the priority so the workouts will always come second best, but the time it takes to get through the stages doesn’t bother me. It just gives me a good focus on how to further strengthen my body to be a good marathon runner.

Do you lift weights?

How do you remain injury-free for running?

Do you like to do the same thing at the gym or do you mix it up?

Rants and Raves #16

This week honestly has been going on forever. It is just dragging by. Saying that though I don’t want things to speed up either. I’m a big believer in enjoying every day – whether you’re at work or not. There’s no point just living for the weekend as that’s only two days after all!

I have a few rants and raves for this jolly Thursday anyway…

Rave: First and foremost, this is the biggest rave I’ve had in a while. Alfie got a haircut. This is him beforehand:


All cute and scruffy. Malting everywhere but rather rugged and handsome.

Then after three hours at the groomers (his hair was gently pulled out – as is the way of Westies. I hasten to add that it’s painless, it just comes out very easily) he turned into this:IMG_2609 Honestly, when I first saw him I couldn’t stop laughing. Like proper belly-ache laughter. He just looks so naked!! He doesn’t look like Alfie at all. But he is adorable. He looks like a puppy again. He’s so small!


I couldn’t stop cuddling him. I also found it funny that the groomer asked if I wanted his eyebrows and beard doing (I said leave them). How cute.

Rant: Trying not to get too stressed or sad about house moving stuff. There’s so much to sort, pack, give to charity, sell…I feel exhausted just thinking about it. Sorting through certain items as well is hard and I’ve just sort of grown a thick skin and have to get on with it. Sentimental items are not being kept and I’ve just got to move on. My flat is going to be my space, my world and my new life. My new start.

On a more amusing note, I took some Xbox and PS3 games to Game to sell. A massive stack of them. Some of them were even special editions.


And the money I got back? £23. Wow. Split that in half and it’s time to go shopping! Ha.

Raves: I ran after work on Tuesday night around Basingstoke [AKA Amazingstoke ;-)] and did my standard hilly route. Well, there really is no other route to be honest as Basingstoke is just hilly in general. I got to the usual really nasty hill (12% incline for over 0.2miles) during the first mile and really went for it. I’m keenly aware that there’s a Strava segment for that hill and I’ve been trying to whittle down my time for it. I actually don’t know specifically where the segment  ends so I just power up the entire thing and then keep powering even when I’m over the hill. It’s good practice anyway but it is HARD work.

(The blue line is my pace)


And I beat my PB by six seconds! I’m third on the leader board and that’s probably where I’ll stay as the ladies above me are amazing (1:34 compared to my 1:48. I mean wow). Anyway 4ish miles in the bank with a good load of hills.


Speaking of hills, I’m mentally preparing myself for Cheddar Gorge marathon in just over TWO WEEKS. As I did Cheddar Gorge half marathon I have the elevation data handy (it’s two laps of the half). For fun and games I decided to compare it to my most recent hilly half marathon (Stansted Slog).


They both look tough but I can’t work out which is worse. I’m thinking maybe Stansted as there are more sharp inclines, whereas there are a lot more long inclines for Cheddar and generally a nice bit of downhill from miles eight onwards. Who knows. Well I will soon find out!

Rant: I stayed at my parents house over the weekend and when I got back from my long run I was freezing so had a cup of tea, a shower and then finally had breakfast. By this point it was almost 11am and I was ready to eat. Like the standard idiot I am I was rushing and being too quick and as I got the porridge out of the microwave it slipped from my hands and was thrown all over the floor. My parents thankfully saw the funny side as they’re used to my clumsiness but I was devastated: my breakfast!! Why am I so incapable of not dropping things all over the floor? When it had cooled down my parents let the dogs eat it (gross). They gobbled it up within seconds! (Obviously I cleaned the floor afterwards as well though – and the fridge door…).

Rave: I’m really enjoying reading the New Rules of Lifting for Women. Cathy brought it to my attention and I’m really grateful.


She questioned why I was doing 30 repetitions of strength training exercises like squats and deadlifts, explaining that doing less reps at a higher weight would be more beneficial in terms of building strength. After having a read and doing some more research of my own, I found that interestingly the more reps you do the more muscle hypertrophy you’ll achieve (i.e. making your muscles bigger aesthetically but not necessarily corresponding to actual strength increases).

It’s like I’ve seen the light. I’m not sure I’m going to follow the plan to a T in the book but I’ve dropped my reps and increased the weight I’m lifting. And I’m finding it a lot more enjoyable. It is hard obviously, but mentally it’s easier to think “OK only 8 reps (or 15 as you start with in Stage 1) to go” rather than 20 or 30. And you get a great burn!


It does mean venturing and staying in the male-dominated weight section though. Most of the time I would pop there, grab my dumbbells (because apparently outside this area 10+kg dumbbells don’t exist. And on that note, I can’t believe there are even 1kg dumbbells available). But at 5.30am it’s hardly heaving. Plus no one really cares because people are doing their own thing – it’s all just a mindset.

And a last rave: I saw this and thought, yes 100%.


What are your recent rants and raves?

Have you ever moved house? Any tips on packing/sorting/not imploding with stress?

How do you strength train? High reps/lows reps?

Finding the small things

I don’t know about you but when I get stressed, or angry, or sad sometimes I can find myself wallowing in the emotion. This isn’t good to do for long periods of time obviously. It’s not good for your mind, your health or you spirit.

Pardon my French, but when the shit hits the fan I just want to run away and hide. I want to moan, cry and beat my fists: “why me?”. But what good does this do really? OK sometimes it’s very cathartic and I’m not saying to have a good cry is wrong from time to time. But you still have your life to live and things to get done. So when I’m feeling this way I try and find stuff to keep me smiling and make me happy.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love reading. I’m a self-confessed book worm and I am not ashamed! After the very sad death of Terry Pratchett I realised I hadn’t actually read many of his books (possibly just one, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents which was one of his younger books). My dad is a huge Terry Pratchett fan so I asked his advice about where to start because the Discworld (where most of the books are set) is massive. I was slightly dubious as I’m not that into fantasy but I thought I’d give it a crack. My dad leant me Going Postal and I’m hooked.

Going Postal Terry Pratchett Source

It’s exactly what I need right now – a story about a world far enough from reality that I can forget any problems I have and just sink into the story. For me reading is a brilliant escape and perfect to help you relax just before you go to bed (that terrible time when the demons always appear).

And in daily life seeing the hints of spring always makes me feel good. Knowing that better weather is round the corner, lighter evenings, lighter mornings and wearing less layers.

Spring daffodilsLet’s not think about losing an hour this weekend though! Meaning my 5am gym wake-ups might feel like 4am for a bit. Dear lord.

And spring time means my motivation to walk Alfie is far higher. It’s no longer a trudge through the cold, but sometimes the sun is shining and it’s just perfect. I know I keep going on about them, but the Jabra ear buds are also making walks with Alfie easier.

IMG_0174 Having a dog lead and ear phone cables to contend with makes things a bit stressful and occasionally I’ll accidentally catch the cable and yank one from my ear, which is always painful. But as the Jabra ones are wireless it means just one thing to contend with – Alfie…who’s hard enough on his own with chasing birds and pooing in bushes!

Obviously running makes me happy and is a fabulous escape and refresher of the mind. I’ve been running the same very hilly 10k(ish) route every week around Basingstoke where I work before I go home on a Wednesday night. Strava is brilliant because it let’s me compare runs when I do the same route. I’ve now done this route five times and so far I’ve just kept improving slightly.

image To be honest though I don’t think I can continue this trend. It is a hard run and I’m not sure how much faster I can do it. But it’s not necessarily just about the speed for the run – it’s about those horrific hills and the strength I’m hoping I’m building up in my legs.

image There’s no point just running easy flat routes all the time. Make your training hard to make racing easy is my plan. Though always remember to make it easy when your body tells you to – we’re not superheroes!

As I run from work on a Wednesday night it means I’m not going to get dinner until I get home. So by the time I’m home and dinner is prepared it can be at least an hour and a half later. I do need something to refuel me to make the next day not feel like hell. The people from Upbeat sent me some protein smoothies to review for my blog.

IMG_0167 So I’ve been taking them to work and having them post-run on a Wednesday night when I drive back home. Luckily we have a fridge at work so I just grab it as soon as I’ve finished my run and drink while I do some stretching in the mini work gym.

Upbeat smoothie Post run stretch and refuel

Upbeat drinks are dairy protein drinks. They’re high in protein (20g per bottle – and this comes from whey protein from the milk), low in fat and relatively lower in sugar than most smoothies. Each bottle also has less than 150 calories. The available flavours are Strawberry, Blueberry & Raspberry and Mango & Passion Fruit. The ingredients list reads very nicely without any crazy artificial flavourings or chemicals.

Mango and Passion Fruit Upbeat

My thoughts? I actually really enjoyed these, which I was surprised about as I thought “ooh whey protein and a smoothie? Hmm”. The consistency was fairly thick (like a smoothie) but lovely and, well, smooth. I definitely felt like I was being filled up when I drank it. It didn’t feel like “empty calories”. I never want actual food straight after a run but the length of time between running and dinner is too long to not have something and this fits the bill perfectly.

Upbeat bag

They also sent me a lovely material bag for life and notepad as well, which just made me smile. Maybe I’m not feeling that upbeat right now, but it helps to have a reminder to at least try!

And if all else fails, just have a bit of what you fancy. I don’t believe you should eat for your moods all the time but I do believe sometimes you just bloody well need chocolate.

IMG_0198How good does that sound?? Salted fudge! It’s currently sat in my fridge just waiting…I’ll crack into it soon (no pun intended…) but just knowing it’s there like an old friend ready to help me when I most need it is just wonderful.

How do you get yourself out of dark moods?

What is making you smile lately?

What is your perfect East egg?

***Full Disclosure: I was sent the Upbeat protein smoothies for free to review. All opinions are my own honest ones.***