Blogging and me

My blog was offline for a couple of weeks which was beyond frustrating but also very strange.

I’ve written my blog since 2012 and unless I’m on holiday I’m writing at least one blog post a week, but usually two or three depending on what’s going on. I felt a bit lost without having my blog to update. I was also very concerned that the problems I was having with it (a nasty virus) that I would lose everything.

This realisation was actually very upsetting. I’ve documented a lot of what goes on in my life, to some degree, through my blog. Memories of events I’ve done, fun experiences, times with friends and of course the bad times too. There are nuances and tiny details I remember at the time and write about that would probably fade from my mind later. It’s nice to go back over and read old posts. It is very much like a diary.

And I can go back and find gems like this…my very first post-run photo? Mental. Running in leggings and a cotton t-shirt…Of course I don’t write about everything and I do try and keep it positive, but ultimately it is my life and the things that have happened. To lose that would devastate me. So lessons have certainly be learnt. And big ‘thank you’s to the support I had from different lovely people to get it back online and working again. I’m beyond grateful. I just need to go back through some posts to add photos that were lost during the fix but that shouldn’t be too hard.

It’s also highly annoying that my blog went down at a time when I had a lot going on and a lot I wanted to talk about. Doing well in my Alphabet Challenge, doing races, doing fun things with cool people. Maybe I will recap everything that I would have ordinarily done. At the time I generally take little notes of things going on to remind myself when it comes to writing later so I don’t forget things and I have written some posts already (I’m too used to writing to stop now and I knew my blog would eventually be back, in some shape or form). But we’ll see. I don’t want to get boring with “a few weeks ago I did…”.

I know blogging is probably a dying form. I know realistically we live in the world of fast, quick information in the shape of Instagram, Snap Chat and Twitter but there really is something so cathartic to me about writing more than a quirky one liner or paragraph about something. I love writing and I don’t get to do it enough in my life. As I’ve always said, I’d still write even if no one read it. So if I waffle and meander, apologies, it’s just nice to be back.

Did you ever write a diary?

Do you enjoy writing?

Secret London #SecretFitness Session

I’m not usually that keen on going to London because it’s such a faff; I hate trains and I’m a country bum. Buuut when I got invited to the Secret London event that involved getting my hair done, Alpro products and yoga on a stand up paddle board, well I was convinced!

The location of the event was a mystery until 24 hours beforehand (hence the “secret” part), though I was told it would be around Oxford Street so I could at least plan my parkrun into the equation!

It was actually really easy to get to and was set in the lovely location of Merchant Square.IMG_4278

I was greeted straight away by the very friendly people from Secret London and Collective Two (the organisers of the event) and shown the cool set-up they had.

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I got to choose a pair of SuperDry flip flops and sipped on a delicious Alpro Berry and Coconut Smoothie while I waited to get my hair done by the guys from Headmasters.

IMG_4261From Secret London’s Facebook

Charlie (from TheRunnerBeans blog) and Bex (from TwinsInTrainers blog) were already getting their hair done so I went and said hi. IMG_4180

It was a bit like meeting the cool kids from school to be honest as their blogs are a lot more popular and known about than my iddy biddy one. They were lovely, of course.

Headmasters UK[Source]

I can’t tell you how nice it was to have someone do my hair for me. I am the girl who has my hair cut once a year and the most exciting thing I do with it is put it in plaits (braids) or a pony tail because my capability to do anything else is beyond me. We were all having braids done and in cool styles. I literally said to the hair stylist, do as you wish!

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In the end it looked fantastic (if I do say so myself!). It’s definitely not a style I’d be able to recreate at home or that I’d normally choose. While we were all chatting and enjoying ourselves there was a camera crew hovering around and a photographer snapping away. It felt very glam but made me a little insecure…There I was, fresh from parkrun with no make up on. Bex and Charlie looked so effortlessly glamorous in comparison, clearly more used to this sort of thing than me!

And then we headed to the water area to begin our stand up paddle board yoga. We were all fairly nervous because there was a genuine risk of falling in. I’d brought spare clothes and a towel but still! The instructor, Jen, from Pure Yoga Zone was lovely though. And she had the most adorable little dog, Clyde, with her too (yes, he went on the SUP with her too!).

Secret London Session(2)[Source]

We got on board and headed out onto the main bit of the water. It was fairly windy so our SUPs clustered together but this meant we could chatter and giggle together while trying to master the yoga moves.

Stand up paddle board yoga[Source]

The yoga moves weren’t tricky at all in themselves. It was fairly ‘entry level’. But on a paddle board it was a different story. Even moving from your knees to your bum was a dodgy episode that required balance and strategic navigation.

Secret London Session (11)[Source]

And yet as the time went on we all became more and more confident. It required us to think carefully when doing the moves and to use our core to keep us balanced on the board.

Secret London Session (16)[Source]

It was actually quite a tough session! I’ve done yoga before but sometimes you can ‘sleepwalk’ through it. Despite the tranquil surroundings there was no sleeping through this session!

Secret London Session[Source]

At the end we got our boards together in a line (no easy feat in the wind I assure you) and posed together like the yoga buffs we’d become.

Secret London Session(9)[Source]

Then after safely getting back onto dry land we headed for some vital refuelling (I hadn’t eaten breakfast or eaten post parkrun so I was definitely ready for food!).

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We were treated to a smoothie bar that was stocked with the toppings you could imagine (OK, relatively healthy toppings you could imagine) and smoothie flavours.

Secret London Session(3)I love this photo – it’s just so “me” around food [Source]

I went for a berry smoothie with just about everything in it from chia seeds, to fruit, to nuts and almond butter. Delicious. Now I’m not usually a smoothie lover but I was very happy to chomp this down.

Secret London Session(5)[Source]

The three of us then had a little interview to talk about our session and were chuffed to hear that we sounded almost like we’d had media training with the answers we gave and our ease in front of the camera. Dahhhhhling we’re bloggers, don’t you know? This is what we do. (<—Ummm, yeah I’m about the most awkward person in life ever).

It was a fantastic experience and I fully recommend SUP yoga (and now want to go SUP’ing again asap). If you get the chance to go to a Secret London session I’d definitely give it a go. It was a fun experience Smile And we got lots of cool goodies to take away with us too.

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You can buy tickets to these events, it wasn’t purely invite only, so keep your eyes open if this is your thing!

Have you ever been SUP’ing before?

Do you do yoga?

What’s your perfect smoothie creation?

One Year to Go – Fitness First #EverydayWinners

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to an event in London to celebrate that August 4th was one year until the start of the 2016 Rio Olympics. The event last week was hosted by Fitness First, the official fitness partner of Team GB.

The event was at a Fitness First gym in Bishopsgate in London with workshops run by Team GB coaches.

image Source

This sounded amazing and I was keen to get involved. The workshops including Strength and Conditioning, Nutrition, and Psychology. And there would be Olympians just casually strolling about as well, such as Jason Kenny and Keri-Anne Payne.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 04:  Members of the EIS staff take Fitness First customers through their paces at the announcement to launch Fitness First as the official new fitness partner of Team GB, at Fitness First Bishopsgate, on August 4, 2015 in London, England.

I was also pleased that someone else I knew had been invited too, Mary (the ultra running superwoman – she’s just smashed a 70 mile trail race. Yep.). Going to London for me is always a bit of a faff so it was nice knowing Mary was going too.

Anyway the morning started quite badly when, as per standard procedure in my life, I only gave myself just enough time to get to the station within minutes of the train arriving. No contingency time for a) paying for parking and b) getting my ticket from the machine. I didn’t think I had any change for the parking machine so I automatically rang the number on the side of the machine to pay that way (I’ve done this before, it’s very handy). Like the genius I am not, I decided it would be quicker to multi-task and do the train ticket at the same time. This involved me managing somehow to crash the ticket machine and mess up my parking on the phone. So I had to go into the station and get my ticket that way. Then run like a mad person to get onto the train, while still trying to sort my parking out.

In the end it took about five phone calls (let’s not forget how intermittent signal is on the train – another genius Anna move) and two car parking payments as I got the registration number of my own car wrong the first time. I was sweating with nerves and stress by the time I finally sat down on the train. As I put my payment card away I noticed I did indeed have the three sodding pounds to pay for the parking. GARGHH.

Thankfully I got to London and successfully met Mary at Liverpool Street station. There ensued a rather comical amount of time for us attempting to find the gym. We walked up and down one road about four times trying to follow Mary’s printed map (very organised, you can tell she’s a teacher) and Google Maps on my phone. We asked random passerby’s as we started to get desperate and each person told us a completely different direction. Finally we found where we were meant to go. Only about a five minute walk from the station we started at. *Sighs* Mary and me are clearly not natural Londoners!

When we arrived we met up with other fellow bloggers, Helen, Emma and Christine, and a few others I didn’t know.

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Our first workshop was run by Dr. Duncan French, a leading strength and conditioning expert with 11 year’s experience as a coach. He’s looked after Olympic, World Championship and Commonwealth Games medal holding athletes and a current world record holder.

This session involved Duncan going through several fairly complicated strength moves using a light bar. It wasn’t about the weight of the bar nor our personal strength. It was about our coordination and form.

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We started with a fairly simple move of a squat, which then progressed further and further into a jump, snatch, squat routine which really did involve my head more than my body as you had to get the order of it all correct as well as the form perfect.

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It was like I was back at school because I found myself glowing with pride when Duncan complimented my “hip mobility”. Though he did point out an improvement I could make and then made me repeat it with everyone watching. Oh the pressure… 😉

The next session was led by James Collins, a leading expert sports and exercise nutritionist, who was heavily involved in advising Team GB Olympic teams and individuals in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic Games, and now towards Rio 2016.

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This was probably the weakest of the workshops. Understandably nutrition is such a vast area and the amount of time he was given to go talk to us was short and I think he tried to cover too many areas as it was a bit vague and textbook.

It was interesting though. He talked about how different athletes need different and specific diets because they have very different needs. And that this also changed throughout the year as their individual training peaks and declines depending on what they have going on. He also mentioned how he helps coach athletes with regards to living in the Olympic Village because the sheer amount of food available to them is vast. They need strategies to ‘cope’ and to make the sensible options for their bodies in order to perform at their best. This is especially true for those athletes that need to carefully monitor their weight, such as judo players and boxers.

The third workshop was led by Sarah Cecil, a technical lead sport psychologist at the English Institute of Sport. She has over 10 years of experience working with a vast variety of different athletes and worked with Team GB athletes across both the Olympic and Paralympic Programmes in London 2012.

Her session was by far the most interesting and enlightening. She talked about how she helps athletes cope with the pressures of the ‘big day’ and facing crowds of thousands of spectators. She went through a psychological theory (which I believe is the Triune Brain Theory though she never said – but I’ve since Googled) that our brains are broken into three areas: one being very primal focused purely on survival, the second area more emotional and to do with innate motivations, and the third is where reason, knowledge and rationalisation comes into play.

I’ll probably do a poor job of explaining it here, apologies, but the theory is that if we we overload our more rational side, then the less rational and more emotional side with take over and see a situation in terms of it being a threat rather than an opportunity. This can easily be extrapolated to Olympians just about to compete. They over-think the situation and then panic. She works with them to make sure that they see the situation in terms of an opportunity, and that nothing has changed from when they were training. Basically it’s a choice you can make to take a sep back, breathe, and then take charge of your emotions and perform better.

It’s funny because when preparing for smaller events she says she always tells her athletes she hopes everything will go wrong, so then they can deal with it and then for the more important events they know they can cope.

I found this so interesting! And Sarah was very personable, friendly and knowledgeable. All three workshops were interesting, but they could have been longer to be honest, but I think this was more the style of the event.

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The Fitness First gym was fantastic and we were allowed to use it after the event. As I wasn’t really in the mood and I had intervals planned for the evening I declined. But there was a cool running strip, loads of amazing looking machines, weights and other cross-fit style equipment. There was also a huge TV screen on the wall demonstrating loads of different exercises (I got distracted by this several times).

After the event, Mary, Helen and I headed to find some lunch. Thankfully Helen is more London-savvy and took us to a great little spot called O-Food, a Nordic sandwich bar.

O-Food

The menu was really good and I could have had anything to be honest. I went for a smoked mackerel salad with a side of roasted potato wedges with a sour cream dip. Oh it was divine!

O-Food salad

They also served water with cucumber slices in it for free which was fantastic too.

It was lovely chatting to Mary and Helen, discussing racing (Helen was a fellow Cakeathonner!), bogging and what we’ve reviewed on our blogs in the past. Perhaps the event wasn’t as long as it could have been (and the goodie bag could have been better!!) but I did enjoy the day, especially the lunch and chatting 😉

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How do you find getting to and being in London?

What great little food places have you found in London?

And just for fun, Team GB have created a questionnaire you can fill in to see what sport your most suited to HERE. I’m a footballer apparently!

**Full Disclaimer: I was invited to the event for free but paid for all my own transport and food. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

A sunny blogger meet-up

The blogger meet-up has been in my diary for a good few months now and suddenly it was here. There were quite a few bloggers (foodies, runners, healthy living, lifestyle, etc.) initially interested in the event but due to a myriad of reasons in the end it came down to nine of us (I think?).

It was a tough choice on the location of the meet-up as everyone lives all over the country (some in Scotland, Newcastle, some down South, Bristol, etc.). In the end London was decided as the destination after a group vote. I would have been happy to have gone up north but it would have involved flying there or staying over as I’m so far south, so London was a bit of a relief for me. Though I do still find it immensely stressful!

My train was at 11am as we were meeting at 1pm outside Camden Wholefoods (clearly the essential blogger meet-up location!). This was great as it meant I could still go to parkrun in the morning, though I’d have to dash off straight after finishing.

Running during the week had felt hard. I ran just over four miles on Wednesday and just over three miles on Thursday. The marathon definitely seems to have caught up with me. I need to write a post soon about my future running goal plans at some point…I’m in a bit of a quandary.

Anyway I took parkrun fairly easy, running with a friend trying to get him 23:30 but it was very hot and I think we both were finding it tough. It was OK but not as easy as I was planning considering I had a 10k the next day.

Netley parkrun June 2015

Photo credit to Kookie51

We were both just over 24 minutes so not too bad!

I dashed off and showered and ate breakfast in record time – the whole time cursing myself for lack of time. Why do I always put myself into situations where I’m constantly running late? It was a mad rush but I got to the station and didn’t miss my train – I even managed to get a coffee! Maybe I was being over-cautious, but you never know with traffic and trains.

IMG_1680 This book was SO good. I started it on Thursday I think and I’ve finished it already. A real page-turned and very cleverly written.

London was heaving. It was the Gay Pride Parade which just compounded the usual London-weekend madness and the fact that it was a lovely (hot) sunny day didn’t help either. I was so concerned I’d get lost, or get the wrong tube. I’m just not good with navigating on my own! But I caught the tube and got to Camden perfectly fine and arrived pretty much on time outside Wholefoods to meet with Cat and Pip.

IMG_1683I’d never met them before in real life but I obviously recognised them from their blogs. I was very nervous…it’s such a strange situation to meet people you’ve been reading about on the Internet and hearing lots about their life but never having actually met before. They were both so lovely and friendly I was put at ease instantly.

Mary and Ceri arrived shortly after as well and we stood on the road just sort of properly meeting each other. Claire arrived a little while later too. Then we headed into the hallowed foodie blogger grounds of Wholefoods and picked up some pieces for a picnic lunch.

Yeah that makes it sound very easy but honestly I was so flustered and spoilt for choice that I must have circled that shop about five times. Sadly this Wholefoods didn’t have the amazing famous salad bar where you fill up a box of different bits and bobs from an amazing buffet bar and then have it weighed, but it did have so many take-away options and a Mexican stand that you could order a tostada or burrito.

It’s funny because Pip asked for a burrito but without the wrap and got basically an amazing looking salad, so both Mary and I (and I think Claire?) followed suit. And then another random girl asked for the same (we started a trend…). You just got piles of salad, black beans, guacamole, salsa and sweetcorn, cheese along with your choice of protein (I went for chicken).

I also picked up some watermelon and a chocolate cake pop.

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We walked to a local park and sat on the grass enjoying the sunshine chatting and eating. It was quite amusing to see everyone whip out their phones to take the standard blogger photo of their meals before beginning to eat.

It was just so lovely to properly chat to all the girls but their were moments when it felt surreal. Like when Claire was talking about how her car got burgled and we all nodded away as we knew this had happened as we’d all read her blog post about it – despite none of us really having spoken to her in real life about it!

Then we headed off to the more…interesting parts of Camden to meet a couple more bloggers in the inSpiral Cafe where Cat had booked a table for us. (Side note: the non-London members the group followed like sheep as we literally had no idea where to go and were terrified of getting lost – though this could have just been me!)

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Though it seemed there was a lot of confusion over this as no one seemed aware that it had been booked. Cat was amazing though. She fully took charge and sorted it out. You definitely need a good organiser and ‘sorter-outter’ like her in a group!

The menu just sounded incredible.: different raw food main meals, smoothies, juices, tonics, ‘activated’ almonds, fermented things, hazelnut cheese…We’re not in Southampton anymore!! Again I was in a state of confusion as to what to order and went back and forth between a smoothie, an almond ice cream shake and ALL THE FOODS.

In the end I panicked and just went for an almond cappuccino. It was delicious. Normally I’m an Americano girl with a splash of milk if I fancy it, but this was fantastic. The almond milk gave it a delicious flavour and they managed to froth it up nicely.

Lily and Laureen arrived and so we all ordered something sweet. Honestly the theme of this day was me standing in front of a selection of food and drink going “Argh I don’t know what to get!”. The raw cheesecakes sounded divine but they looked a bit dense and rich. It was so warm (read: sweaty) as well I wasn’t sure I fancied something overly chocolaty so I went for the crumble of the day.

IMG_1746 It was pineapple and artichoke with a seeded crumble and a zesty ginger sorbet (which had melted by the time it arrived). It was delicious! I didn’t really notice the artichokes but it could have done with either custard or thicker (*cough* proper) ice cream but it was very nice regardless. Many of the other girls got cheesecake and I did have some food envy but I was glad about my choice.

I had a lovely chat with Lily about running and how expensive London is (£20 for a single gym class and £150 gym memberships!!). She also ran the London marathon this year so it was great hearing how she found it…just makes me look forward to running it next year so much!

Bloggers meet-up 2015Photo Credit to Cat

To be honest, I had lovely chats with everyone – Mary about running and blogging, Claire and her adorable dog Henry, lots of chats about food and allergies, preferences etc…just good old nattering about life. It didn’t feel like a collection of people who had met via the Internet. It just felt like a group of friends…or “blends” as those cool Americans call them 😉

Anyway, I really hope it happens again (probably up north next time I’m sure!). It was a lovely day out. Though I must say, I was glad to get out of hot, smelly London afterwards 😉

Thank you to both Dannii (who sadly couldn’t make it) and Cat for arranging! 🙂

Have you ever met someone via the Internet? (Sounds rather sordid doesn’t it??)

Have you ever been to a raw food cafe or tried a raw meal?

Do you enjoy going to London?