Full of positivity and MuscleFood pre-workout review

I’m in a super positive and happy place right now. I’ve started 2017 just feeling good and ready to take on the year. I came into work on Tuesday feeling in a good mood, much to the delight of my colleagues 😉

Though I don’t tend to make big grand New Year’s resolutions (last year’s resolution was to be more punctual. That lasted a week) I have made a couple of notes to myself on things I’d like to improve on. One being more conscious of my spending – so only one takeaway a month rather than three or four… Another is being more confident and ready to take on new challenges at work.

I’ve recently bee promoted, to start the new role in March, and it gave me all the anxieties before Christmas wondering if I could actually do it, whether I’d fail, whether they’d demote me once they found out I couldn’t do it…But instead I’ve switched it round and thought, “OK let’s do this”. If people have confidence in me, then who am I to argue with that? I just need to stay focused, work hard and not be afraid to ask for help.

In terms of running and goals in the fitness area? I actually haven’t a clue. I’ve become a lot more relaxed about running in general and I no longer feel the desperate urgency to fulfil my Marathon Major goals as soon as possible. After Tokyo I want to reset and chill for a bit. Just run for fun. Enter races that make me happy and just pootle along. I’m enjoying the gym so I’ll carry on there, maybe look for some new challenges in that area. Basically I’m content and it feels like a weird place to be in, but also very nice. I think I’ve relaxed a bit more….weird.

Onto my review then!

MuscleFood Rampage™ Pre-Workout Formula

A few weeks ago MuscleFood sent me some pre-workout to try out.Pre-workout is actually something I’ve only just become familiar with. I drink BCCAs (branched-chain amino acida) during my workout which help maintain muscle mass when doing strength workouts, especially as I do my morning workouts fasted. My goals are not to lose fat and I don’t want to lose muscle either.

So what’s a pre-workout then? You basically drink it before you workout as the name suggests! It usually contains a stimulant like caffeine and some other supplements to help get the most out of your workout and reduce fatigue.MuscleFood kindly sent me two different flavours of the their pre-workout Rampage (what a name, eh): Lem & Pink Grapefruit and Orange & Pineapple. It contains BCAAs to reduce muscle breakdown and help with recovery, as I mentioned above, Arginine AKG which is another essential amino aciden which helps the body to create energy from protein, fats and carbs, Beta Alaine which helps with performance (though be warned, it does cause some rather odd tingling!), Taurine for muscle growth promotion and recovery, Citrulline Malate to help fatigue and manage lactic acid, Creatine Monohydrate which is a well documented and studies supplement to help with building muscle and Beet4Perf™ which is a natural beetroot ingredient to help boost performance as well (I love my beetroot supplements!). It also contains 200mg of caffeine (the equivalent two cups of instant coffee).To be honest, I was highly sceptical of pre-workouts in general when I first heard about them as it all sounds a bit weird. Stimulants for working out? Hmmm. But then caffeine has been proven to help push harder and I often use caffeinated gels during marathons and drink a coffee before a race – and in general most mornings. I obviously don’t want to become dependent on caffeine but getting up at 5am to start my workout at 5.30am is tough going and having caffeine just before really helps. I just make sure I don’t have any further caffeine later in the day.

Though to be honest I don’t find I need anymore, whereas if I don’t drink the pre-workout by 10am I definitely need my morning cup of coffee. Normally I’d have two cups of coffee a day so now I’ve switched to decaf on days I drink this. I’m not hugely sensitive to caffeine and don’t get any headaches of withdrawal symptoms if I don’t drink it for a few days so I think I’m OK.

So what did I think? Well, the taste isn’t amazing. It’s not disgusting or unpleasant, it’s just something to get used to. Both flavours are nice enough but some mornings it does take an effort to get it down. I make up one scoop with 200ml of water and that seems like the perfect amount. Any more water and the taste gets worse as it waters down. The grapefruit flavour is better than the pineapple in my opinion.

Taste aside, did it aid with my performance and recovery? It’s a tough one to know for certain, but I do believe it’s helped me. Within 15 minutes of drinking it I start to get the tingles (they’re no hugely unpleasant, just a weird itchy palms kind of feeling) and then I feel a lot more awake. It’s not made me feel invicible and nor can I suddenly deadlift 10kg more. However I felt more “get up and go” and more alert. Obviously the caffeine is a big factor here but the other bits and bobs could be contributing too. After particularly heavy squats, my legs weren’t quite as sore as they might be. But again this is all very cause-effect stipulation and subjectivity.

I do enjoy taking it though and am happy to keep it in my routine. I won’t take it before every gym visit, just when I think I need it. I’ll also have a week or so without it every now and again to help keep my caffeine tolerance at a nice level. I don’t want to become too dependent or used to it.

I don’t think it’s necessary for the gym or to make any significant gains. It’s more of a pick-me-up to help supplement you as and when you need it – if you need it at all! But I do recommend it if you fancy adding a little it of oomph to your workout occasionally. I’m tempted to try it before a race as well to see how that goes.

Have you ever tried using per-workout?

Do you use any supplements?

Have you made any big goals for this year?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the Rampage Pre-Workout from MuscleFood for free in return for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

 

All the puddings

This weekend was full of highs and lows. Let’s get the lows done quickly, shall we?

I ran on Monday night and my shin/calf was really niggly. It had niggled slightly at parkrun a week ago but I put it down to it being really cold and my muscles not being warm enough. But Monday clarified things. It didn’t feel right and afterwards it felt pretty crappy. I’ll go into this in another post but basically this is rubbish.

Anyway, I didn’t run again until deciding to try a few miles before parkrun this weekend (because I was panicking I hadn’t hit the 8 mile long run I needed to for Tokyo). Though I knew I was lying to myself. I knew the run wouldn’t go well really and this was just to avoid me going to parkrun believing I could run and having to DNF. So on my pre-parkrun walk with Alfie I ran up the road with him and decided it was a no-go. I got back home, wrapped up in warmer clothes and headed to parkrun to set-up and volunteer.img_6900It was very cold and despite having several layers on and a hat I was cold. I was grumpy as I was overthinking about my leg, running and marathon training…but I was eventually cheered up by the lovely parkrun crew. You can’t be too sad at parkrun!

After parkrun and a hot bowl of porridge, I headed to the gym to take out some of my frustrations. I did 30 minutes on the elliptical machine which made me feel a little better about not running and then did a fantastic glute workout which I’m still feeling today. This included:

• Squats
• Landmine squats (these are great for really working on your depth)
• Monster walks with a resistance band
• Cable pull-throughs
• Leg press burnout
• Single leg deadlifts

I left the gym feeling accomplished and far more happy. Sometimes you just need to sweat it out!

I was also feeling good because I was going out for a Christmas meal with my friends. It’s always so nice to dress up. I wore a very sparkly dress with sparkly shoes and felt really happy 🙂img_6924

We went to the Cams Mill pub (where the Fareham parkrun starts at). It was very nice!img_6935We’d made our menu selections a while ago and I was disappointed with myself for choosing trout as my main rather than turkey (who does that!??!). I think my rationale was that I didn’t want to over-do turkey before the big day. I was very jealous when the mains came out though. However, my trout was delicious (and I got some leftover turkey from one of my friends so it was a win-win!)cams-mill-pubAnd again I was annoyed that I’d selected a pear tart for pudding… but then realised I’d chosen it because the cheesecake was chocolate orange which I don’t really like. I’m not a Terry’s Chocolate Orange fan at all! And Christmas pudding is a bit too rich and alcoholly for me.

The pear tart, however, was really really good. The ice cream was lovely and creamy and the tart was lovely and (dare I say) moist. No big nasty chunks of pear in which I was fearing. As nice as it was, I got serious food envy when I saw the cheesecakes. They looked so good! My friends laughed at me for ordering the inferior pear tart and I grudgingly watched them enjoy their cheesecakes (the far more popular pudding choice). Isn’t it the way when even though the meal you’re eating is nice but you see something that looks more appealing suddenly your meal isn’t as good…just me?

However, I was very lucky that two of my friends didn’t finish their cheesecakes and passed them down to me! Now, on reflection, I can say the pear tart was the better pudding. I’m still not a chocolate orange fan and who serves cheesecake with orange sorbet?? But I can’t say I complained too much 😉 Though I felt very full afterwards!!  Just call me the human dustbin…

I did have a few gin and tonics as well, because it’s Christmas 😉 Though amusingly my first G&T didn’t actually contain any gin and I was sipping away thinking “this is lovely!” until the barman ran over to me and said he needed to put the gin in as it got taken before it was ready! Oops. Shows how much I drink!img_6940Anyway the evening was good. Nothing like good friends and good food to make you feel 100 times better.

Christmas meal number two this week 😀

Are you going to any Christmas parties or meals this year?

Will you be dressing up?

What would you normally order on a Christmas menu?

Proud of my muscles

When I look at photos of me from just a few years ago, when I was first getting into running and racing, I can’t believe how much I’ve changed.

Mentally I’ve changed in a big way. I view running and exercise completely differently. I no longer just run. Several injuries have taught me my body is not the hardy type and I need to work on my weaknesses regularly to keep me running healthy and strong. But not just that, I found a great love of lifting weights. I no longer feel that running is my one and only (though if I had to choose, it would always be running. I am a runner first and foremost).img_6036For the past few weeks I’ve just been going to the gym and lifting and it’s been a great break from running. Though I’m itching to get back to it now, I haven’t been going out of my mind because “omg I haven’t been running”. I’m happy to take a break and refresh my system to get the mojo juices flowing again (nice). This is is different to the old me!

I thought I’d share this comparison pic I created because it kind of blew me away. The photo on the left is from around three years ago. I look like an entirely different person. I feel like an entirely different person.Transformation photoThe lack of self-confidence is obvious but also lack of muscle. This is why I love lifting. It’s given me a body I’m proud of. I’ve never hated my body or thought I looked bad, but seeing my body now in comparison to how it was has just validated my love for the gym. I feel better in myself and think I look better after gaining some muscle to my frame. And with that I’ve also gained confidence.Girls with muscleI stride into the gym knowing exactly what I’m going to do that morning. I feel confident going into the weights area, setting up the squat rack and doing my thing. And this has trickled into my life in general. At work I’m more confident, I stand taller, and with running I run stronger and feel like I can kick out that 7min/min at mile 26 of a marathon.img_6051There is also something so satisfying and fun about lifting weights. You can focus on so many different areas. Becoming a stronger runner with form drills and increasing my strength endurance, or focusing on aesthetic goals such as sculpting my shoulders and getting a perkier bum. Or just generally increasing my overall strength – can I smash my personal best when squatting or deadlifting? There’s so much you can do. I’m never bored at the gym.

I’m not saying everyone must lift, and everyone must have muscles. Absolutely not. What I think is important is finding that thing that you love and enjoy. Exercise shouldn’t always be a grind and it certainly shouldn’t be a punishment.

lucysewellIt has to be something that, first and foremost, is enjoyable. If it’s not you won’t stick to it.

It also has to make you feel GOOD. Both running and weight lifting make me feel fantastic. Realistically not every gym session or run is a “punch in the air” scenario, but overwhelming most of the time I enjoy it and look forward to doing it again. So choose something that makes you happy, whether it’s weight lifting, cross-fitting, running, swimming or walking, it’s all good stuff. And most importantly, don’t compare yourself to anyone else out there! No exercise is superior to another and everyone is in a chapter of their own story after all.

What is your favourite exercise?

Do you compare yourself to others?

How has exercise changed you?

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 😉 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

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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.**

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?