What I’m loving lately – December

I’m not stressed that I still have so many presents to buy for Christmas. I’m not stressed. I’m not stressed. Panic is not ensuing…

Anyway while that inner monologue continues, here are some things I’m loving lately and wanted to share.

Date nights: Kyle and I always make it a priority to have at least one date night a week and this usually involves the cinema (though I’m sure everyone has worked this out already, though I’ve not explicitly said it on the blog, Kyle is my boyfriend!).

We both love going to the cinema; the whole experience is just a fun one, whether the film is really good or… not (*cough* I’m looking at you, Robin Hood). We generally see one film a week. Last week we saw Ralph Breaks the Internet which was a good laugh (I loved the Disney princess bit), and a few more standouts were First Man and Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s just nice to do something mid-week and as we both work at the same place it’s an easy thing to go straight there. We buy a Subway from work (which after 3pm goes down in price), and a fizzy drink from the cinema (we take our reusable straws because we are super cool eco warriors) and enjoy a fairly inexpensive but fun evening.Not only did we go to the cinema last week but we also went out for dinner and then saw Jurassic Park in Concert. Basically this is a showing of Jurassic Park on the big screen with a live orchestra on the stage below the screen playing the soundtrack as the film played. It was INCREDIBLE.The orchestra were amazing. Like you could forget that they were’t actually part of the film. It was fascinating to watch them play as the film went on (though I imagine they’re so sick of Jurassic Park now having toured around the country doing this!). They were perfectly in sync and it was just so all-encompassing. Dinner was pretty good as well. Before the showing, we went to 7Bone Burger. I had the Triple-D burger (which comes with blue cheese sauce and bacon) and halloumi fries…And a cheeky side of chicken wings. Kyle had a fried chicken burger with halloumi fries and a chocolate milkshake. It was goooood. The milkshake (as I did help Kyle out a bit with it…*cough*) was SUPER thick. Personally I’m not a huge milkshake fan but if I were to have one myself it would be a thick one. It was delicious.Podcasts: I listen to a number of podcasts every week: BBC Five Live Film Review, Marathon Talk, Empire Film Review, TED Radio Hour, My Dad Wrote a Porno – and dip in and out of other ones that take my interest. But I’ve recently been finding myself running out of them (I listen to them in the car, walking Alfie or when I’m doing boring chores around the house). My lovely friend, Emma, recommended Fearne Cotton’s podcast Happy Place and it’s great!I listened to the Gary Barlow one first and found it really interesting. It’s amazing how celebrities who are so famous, earning so much money and seemingly living their “best life” can be taken down by depression or body image issues. I’ve since listened to the interview with Mel C and Stephen Fry and both were just as good. Heartily recommend.

Recovery: I’ve come a long way since I first started running. When I was facing all my injury and niggle woes I’d be foam rolling, stretching and icing until the cows came home. But recently I’ve been finding I only really need to do a bit of light stretching after my circuit workouts, foam rolling on my calves maybe once a week and, when I get the chance, lovely soaks in the bath with some of this amazing stuff.Vie Epsom foot and Bath Salts are fantastic addition to a hot bath. It apparently helps increase your magnesium levels and sulfates, which are quite tricky to get through food but can actually be absorbed through the skin. Both are really good for your joints and muscles in terms of recovery.I add a couple of cups (as you can see above – the cup doesn’t come with the salts FYI) in the bath and just relax and enjoy. I’ve found it can really decrease how much I’ll ache the next day. I don’t know about injury prevention but it definitely makes me feel better anyway.

Blondies: Amazingly I won more baked goods on Instagram again. I just seem to be very lucky (or enter ALL the competitions…). Anyway, the lovely company Fully Loaded Treats sent me six blondies, three different flavours.Oh my god they were good. There were M&M ones, Hershey’s Cookies and Cream ones and another type that I think were Kinder Bueno that were awesome.There’s something about blondies that I so love. I mean I do prefer brownies I think but blondies are a nice change now and again.

Dylan: My parents have three dogs (Lexi, Dylan and Sam) where I have just Alfie. Dylan is probably the most stupid out of them all (in a really cute and lovable way though). I can’t help but share how cute he looked the other morning.He’s very much a “I’d rather sleep than do anything else” kind of dog. Well, actually he’d rather eat than do anything else but sleep is a close second. I mean, let’s be honest, I think we all have a little Dylan inside of us all.

Do you prefer blondies or brownies?

Do you have any recovery tips or routines?

What podcasts do you listen to?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the Epsom salts for free in return for a review on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

My motivations for the gym

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you probably know two key things about me. One, I see myself as quite the injury-prone runner. And two, I love leggings. Happily I’ve been able to complement these two things into a very productive outcome. Just hear me out…

I’m a big fan of going to the gym. Yes I love running, of course, but I do really enjoy going to the gym as well. It hasn’t always been this way. I saw the gym as the enemy. A place of bewilderment and boredom. I would drag myself there when I was no longer able to run because I was suffering from a sore knee, hip, painful IT band or something along those lines. So I’d go to a Spinning class or use the elliptical machine, grudgingly. But never sort the actual issue out – the root cause.

After numerous of physio appointments it finally got through to me that I needed to actually make strength training part of my weekly routine. Sadly I’m not one of those seemingly superhuman people who can just run and do nothing else.

It was tough though. It took a lot of research, YouTube videos, physio help and guidance to become stronger, confident and actually happy to go to the gym.Where do leggings come into it though? Well, one of the reasons I love the gym is that I can be a bit more exciting with my fitness clothing. I don’t wear leggings when I run because I just prefer to wear shorts… but at the gym, leggings are my staple. What you look like at the gym really doesn’t matter of course, but for me it really helps to be wearing something I feel comfortable and, yes, look good. It helps make me feel good.

I’m quite a boring person with what I wear normally so it’s nice to be a bit more “jazzy” at the gym where anything goes in terms of colours and patterns. One of the sites I love is The Sports Edit. They have a fantastic range of very stylish gym wear – and items that will last, not fast fashion that you will chuck away after a few months.I was sent a pair of leggings and a top from the site to review and I can happily say I’m in love. Now you know I know my leggings. I know what makes a decent pair, what’s flattering and, most importantly what actually works at the gym in terms of comfort and actually exercising. These leggings are GORGEOUS. I’m not really a huge pattern fan but these are subtly different. I love how sparkly they are (they don’t actually feel sparkly and don’t drop glitter everywhere – something I was a bit worried about).
They’re the Alloy Ombre High Waisted Leggings from the brand Beyond Yoga and when I wore them at the gym I got quite a few compliments. One person asked if they were they my “disco leggings” for Christmas. I mean, I guess he’s right, they’re perfect for the Christmas season! But I will be wearing them all year round 🙂 They have a lovely high-waisted fit, are thick enough to be squat proof but not too thick to not be breathable.
The top is the Under Armour Accelerate Tank White 2.0. I love how simple it is but also that the back is open to give a bit of air and also so you can show off your sports bra at the back (I have some quite nice sports bra with some funky strapping which is always a shame to cover up under a t-shirt). I’ll be wearing this top for both the gym and running.In terms of my gym routine, currently I’m at the gym three-four times a week. I tend to do circuit classes which work the entire body, but in a more weights-focused way. Think less cardio, more strength. I also ensure I do at least one legs and glutes focused day. We’re talking squats, lunges, hip thrusts, single leg work and resistance band routines. I’ll do heavy barbel squats and hip thrusts to really target increasing my strength and then higher rep, lighter weight exercises to focus more on the endurance of my muscles. I can happily say I’ve remained uninjured for a good while now and I’m almost certain it’s because of my stronger body.

What keeps you motivated at the gym?

Do you have different clothes for running compared to what you were at the gym?

Do you look for gymwear that will last a long time or whatever is cheapest? For me it’s generally long lasting and quality – but this does tend to be more expensive, but in the long run it works out better!

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the leggings and top for free in exchange for a review on my blog. As always these are my own honest opinions!**

What I’m loving lately – November

Things lately have been really good. Life in general is going well – I’m happy and enjoying life. Work is going well. And running is still going well.

Running: This year has been so good for my running. Whatever I’ve been doing has clearly been working because not only have I been consistently running but I’ve been running strong. I feel in a very positive place – I can only hope this lasts!

Last week I ran another fast 10k (42 mins flat – my official PB is 42:50) on a random lunchtime run.The colder weather definitely helps me to run faster and the 10k route I take is super flat so this helps. I should probably do a 10k race and give it some welly to make it official (as I’ve now beaten my official PB twice on a training run). But at the same time, I don’t want to enter a 10k race this side of Christmas before my next marathon… aaaaand I hate 10ks. Though I do have Stubbington 10k mid-January. Not really a goal in my head though if I’m honest. I’m just happy to know I’m a bit faster.

parkrun Alphabet Challenge: After completing the challenge, Kyle surprised me with a very lovely present. He had a hoodie made with all the corresponding parkruns typed out and the date which I’d first done that parkrun (as for some I’d done multiple times). He even put a heart on Netley because it was my home parkrun. And he made sure to choose parkruns that were meaningful to me where I had multiple choices for the letters.I also liked the front. It was a very thoughtful and lovely gift. I wore it with pride at Netley parkrun the week after I got back from Zary. Everyone was impressed 🙂 It’s a niche challenge, I grant you, but I’m so proud of myself and it’s so nice to have something to commemorate it.Compression socks: I was recently sent some compression socks from Rymora Socks. I’m a big fan of compression socks.I wear them for the majority of my long runs and have worn them for every single marathon. There’s some science to support that wearing compression socks after running can help speed up recovery (increase the blood flow and reduce stiffness) but in terms of during the run, the jury is out.However, I personally like to wear them during long runs as I find it reduces cramp and I feel more supported. This might all be a placebo but I like to wear them. I think it helps.Anyway, the compression socks from Rymora are good. They’re tight and provide decent support to my calves. However, they are not as tight or give as much compression as my favourite pair from CEP. I think the cost reflects this (CEP are upwards of £30 whereas Rymora are around £10). That said, some people prefer less compression. They’re also A LOT easier to get off after the run – which with my CEP socks can be an absolute nightmare.The Rymora socks are a little long for me as well. They come just over my knees. But nothing that a bit of rolling down doesn’t solve. All in all, a very affordable option for a “milder” pair of compression socks.

Metal straw: I’m not the best at avoiding plastic, I will admit that now. I buy a lot of squash and fizzy drinks throughout the month. It’s hard to reduce something like squash that I really enjoy because asides from just having plain water, there’s not much else I can do to jazz it up that doesn’t involve plastic. Yes I could use bits of fruit but it really isn’t the same for me. I could get those little squirty things for flavour enhancing but they’re not as good either and I go through them quite quickly.

But I have bought myself a metal straw. Kyle and I go to the cinema a lot and we always buy a drink from their fountain machine thing. So we bring our straws with us. Yes this is SUCH a small thing, but it helps in a very small way. We also use them at work if we buy a Subway drink. It is a tricky thing to clean though!

I used to use straws in my morning coffee as well. I always have a coffee on the way to the gym (I make at home) and a straw helped me drink it while I was driving without having to avert my gaze from the road (I would use one straw for as long as possible FYI – I didn’t use a new one every day!). Now I use my metal straw. Though I’ve burnt my lips a few times!I know I need to get better and I annoy myself for what I’m like. I do like to think I’m good in other ways though. I don’t use baby wipes, I don’t wear make-up, I use the “hard” shampoo from Lush, I buy loose fruit and vegetables where I can and try not to buy too many fizzy drinks in small bottles. I know I have a long way to go but at least I’m conscious of my actions. I just wish society also made things easier as well. Excuses, excuses I know.

Are you doing anything to reduce the plastic you use?

Do you wear compression socks?

Have you ever received a running-related gift?

**Full disclaimer: I was sent the Rymora socks in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

All the good stuff in life

I love this time of year. Before it starts to get really cold, before the super short days, and all the beautiful colours of the leaves and cool running weather. I’m feeling particularly happy at the moment. Life is good, running is going well and I have some exciting things coming up. Happy days. So things making me smile lately include but not limited to, are…

Bake Off delights: More tasty baking from lovely colleagues at work. Every week we have something new and it really does brighten up a Monday. In ironic celebration of the other week’s vegan week, my work friend, Trystan, brought in maple bacon cupcakes. Yes they may sound weird but they were really tasty. I’m a firm believer that bacon is a good addition to sweet things 😉And yesterday was a very zesty and tasty lemon tart. Genuinely I’ll be sad when this ends. I’ve gotten used to the constant supply of home-baked goodies.And even more on the note of cakes… It was Kyle’s birthday the other week (and his twin brother, Zack’s). His team at work bought him a “unicorn cake” from the CoOp downstairs (we both work at Wiggle FYI) so I was able to have a slice. I’ve wanted to try it for AGES, passing it so many times in CoOp so I was quite excited.If you’re not into ultra sweet and sickly cakes, I’d avoid but for me this was perfection. I’m basically a small child.

That evening, his family, him and I went out to Coast to Coast to celebrate. Before (yes more) cake, we had some really tasty food. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while then you’ll know just how often I go to this restaurant. It’s a local favourite after a marathon.I went for chicken wings to start and ribs for main (predictable AF).
We had a voucher for “buy one main and get another free” but as there were 7 of us we needed another main to make it work so Kyle and I shared a main chicken wings as a starter so we could get it for free. Happily this meant another portion of chips! Genius 😉 The waiters were really nice -Zack and Kyle got free cocktails.Then for pudding Kyle’s sister, Lucy, had made two INCREDIBLE chocolate cakes. Kyle’s was covered in Malteasers, Dime and Bueno. I had to try both of course!I did prefer Kyle’s though. Usually I’m not a huge chocolate cake fan but this honestly rocked my world. As a thank you to the amazing waiters, we gave them a slice of cake too.New trainers: My trainers have racked up over 400 miles so it was time to swap them out for a new pair. When I originally bought my trainers I bought two more pairs of the same kind because they were so cheap. £35 each in the Nike Outlet! So pleased.I love the colour! And they’re so soft and comfortable. I’m so pleased I’m set for the next 800 or so miles with this pair and my safety stock pair. I do love adidas Supernova Boosts but I’ve found these work for me really well too. They’re Nike Lunarglides. I had them in a lilac purple but I much prefer this bright colour.

Surprising speedy runs: I haven’t done any structured speedwork lately. Track…ehhh it’s just not a priority right now. I don’t have the urge to do it and the motivation is just not there. But I do like to surprise myself some days by just putting a blast into a random run. Actually this run I’m about to talk about was the day after #allthefood from Coast to Coast. I felt amazing going out at lunch and decided to see what I could do.

I randomly managed a 43:30 10k! It was a flat route I often do and the temperature was lovely and cool so really the odds were in my favour (and I was fully powered by cake from the day before).And I’m so pleased that I managed to pick up speed towards the end! Yes it was tough but not impossibly so. I’m just pleased I’m maintaining some sort of speed despite slacking on the track front. I have ideas of maybe “going for it” at the Gosport Half Marathon (November) and maybe the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon (December). Not PB attempts specifically (I think I’d need a lot more work ahead of those races to get under my current times), but just “let’s see where I’m at” kind of runs. Whoooo knows. I haven’t been injured for a bit so that’s probably in store for me soon 😉

What are you enjoying lately?

Do you like super sweet cakes? I’m very much big on icing/frosting.

How many miles do you run in your trainers before changing them? I used to be super cautious and run up to 300 miles but now I can get away with 400-450.

Things I’m Loving Lately – May

It’s almost June. How did that happen?

Aftershokz: So. The saga of my Aftershokz. I’ve mentioned it a few times, but after the Brighton Marathon I lost my beloved Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones (they did so many races and long runs with me…devastating). I either threw them away accidentally with my foil blanket (standard Anna move) or I left them on the beach. I was really upset about losing them because honestly they’re so good for running outdoors. As someone who is generally an idiot, hearing the outside world while I run is a help. But I do love listening to music and podcasts so with Aftershokz it really is the best of both worlds. Good sound quality while also allowing you to hear the surroundings. It basically uses “bone technology” to transfer the sound to you, rather than through your ears. Your ears are therefore left unobstructed.

Aftershokz amazingly reached out to me through Twitter to ask me what had happened and I explained. They were very sympathetic and offered me a 30% discount code. As they’re £100 to replace my old ones that would be quite a chunk off. However when I tried to use the discount code it wouldn’t work so I messaged them to ask if I was doing something wrong (usually the case, let’s be honest). It turns out they were the US Aftershokz and the discount code would only work for the US site… ah.

Instead they offered me an unboxed test pair of the Aftershokz Trekz Air, the new version, FOR FREE. They wouldn’t be brand new box fresh of course but they would be a working pair with all the bits and bobs working fine, simply just not in the box. Of course I said yes!They arrived a week or so later. And they are amazing. I mean they work just as well as my Titanium’s did (the model before) but they’re a bit lighter and more streamline. I love them. I can’t stress how much I love Aftershokz headphones for running. During races I like to hear the crowds and of course the marshals, and these headphones just give me the option of both hearing my music and still absorbing the race. Not only this but they’re England Athletics approved, meaning they can legally be used in races. I also like that I can keep wearing them when they’re turned off without them blocking sound out. During a marathon I won’t want to listen to music or podcasts all the time, so just having them sat above my ears nice and comfortably means I can still hear properly out of my actual ears. Happy happy.

Obscene amounts of chocolate: I was in Gunwharf Quays on Saturday to see the new Avengers Film (a rave in itself really) and while waiting for the film time, we had a mosey in the Cadbury’s shop. I haven’t been in that shop in ages and thought it would be really over-priced, but actually everything was really reasonable! It wasn’t like dirt cheap of course but it was probably cheaper than the supermarket. And I was SO pleased to have finally found the holy grail of chocolate… the white chocolate Toblerone. I’ve been obsessed about this since my friend Kate got one for her birthday a few months ago. She’d said she got it from the airport and as I hadn’t spotted it anywhere else I was resigned to only seeing it after a holiday (the time when we all want to eat lots of chocolate…hmm).

But lo! And behold! There it was. And under £4 for a decent sized one.I also picked up a big bag of Mis-Shapes. They’re apparently factory rejects of odd shaped chocolates. Well, I was fairly disappointed with my selection. It’s basically a bag of fudges and a few coffee chocolates. I hate coffee flavoured chocolate so really it’s a bag of fudges. Hmmmm! I thought there would be a bit more variety so I feel a bit short-changed. I guess it’s the luck of the draw as well with things like that. Nonetheless, chocolate is chocolate and it was quite cheap for the amount you got.

Supplements I’m taking: I don’t really take that many supplements because I’ve read a lot of articles about how it’s essentially giving you expensive wee as the vitamins etc. just go straight through you. That said, I’ve heard some good stuff about Omega 3 supplements and Magnesium. Through work I was given some supplements to test out for free (how many times do I need to say this… I love my job).They’re from the brand Puori I tried the Organic Whey Protein, the Liquid Fish Oil, the Magnesium and the Vitamin D. I personally don’t think I need to take Vitamin D right now because I get enough sun now with the day being longer. I walk Alfie twice a day, go for a lunchtime walk at work and run outside… so I’m guessing I’m OK on that front. So I’ll save them for the winter months.With the liquid fish oil I was a bit dubious because, well, fish oil. But it’s absolutely fine. It has a faint taste of lemon but it’s not sweet. It doesn’t taste fishy and it’s only a small amount you take. It is a bit greasy if you spill some on yourself though (standard Anna move again).

The magnesium tablets are good but I’m getting through them quickly as you take three at a time. I also had to put them on my bedside table because you take them before bed and I kept forgetting. Though I can’t tell for sure, I do think this is helping with my recoveries. I’ve heard good things about magnesium, especially when combined with Zinc as this supplement is. I’m all about injury prevention!

Do you take any supplements?

Do you use headphones when you run?

What is your favourite chocolate?

**Full Disclaimer: I was given the supplements for free at work in exchange of a review on the Wiggle site. I was also sent the Aftershokz for free but they did not ask me for anything in return.**