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.

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).

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!

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

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.

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!

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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 😉

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 Day Pretending to be an Olympian

Hi guys, so in continuing with my last post on my weekend catch-up, here is Part 2. (See Part 1 HERE).

Sunday morning – race day at the Olympic Stadium! We stayed with friends in Clapham in London so it was fairly easy to get to Stratford via the tube in the morning. I say ‘fairly easy’ because Ben knew where to go and what tube to catch. I obediently followed, bewildered by all things public transport and London.

On the tube journey there was another race goer with her National Lottery race t-shirt and bib on. I decided to wear my running club vest instead because the t-shirt (despite being a small) was HUGE. It fit Ben perfectly though so he now has it in his running wardrobe. At each tube stop, more and more runners got on-board and there started to be a buzz of excitement.


Then we got to Stratford and a sea of blue people flowed out and we were whisked along with the crowds of people heading towards the stadium.

We walked past the huge shopping centre, Westfield…


It was just streaming with blue shirted and Lycra-ed people. It was fairly overcast but that was fine; nice and cool for running I hoped!

Olympic Park

Then finally, after security, we got within sight. I was so excited by this point and it really was quite a spectacular sight.

We got there around 8.30am which was perfect really as we got to mosey about before the race (which started at 10am). I stood in the queue for the first toilet I saw and waited for ages. Then afterwards we headed towards the area that Ben would spectate (it was all divided according to the colours of the bibs; I was a red wave). I noticed a million more toilets and realised my initial error of panicking and going to the first toilet I saw. In the end I literally went to the loo three times before the race as I was so nervous and there were so many loos.

I got goose bumps when we first walked in the stadium. It was amazing. It looked a lot smaller than it did on TV but it was very impressive.

Ben and Anna OS

We met up with a girl from our running club and her hubby (who also wasn’t running) and little daughter and chatted for a bit just waiting around. Then me and my friend headed to our start area. We were both in the red wave and this was the first wave to start.

Sir Chris Hoy (British Olympic gold medallist cyclist) opened the race and also introduced Victoria Pendleton (British Olympic gold medallist cyclist), Mel C (aka Sport Spice) and Paula Radcliffe (hero! Long distance legend) who were right at the front. Me and my friend were in the middle.


We did a crazy warm-up from some seriously enthusiastic guy and then we were off. Well, after a good minute as we shuffled towards the start.

Mile one was tough because there were so many people and the path was quite narrow at points. It was tricky to get ahead and was a bit of a nightmare trying to get past people.

Mile two the path became wider and we found our stride. I think a water station appeared around 2.5miles but I was OK so kept going. There was also a mist thing that you could run through to cool down. Though the weather wasn’t as hot as it has been, I was still quite hot so I ran through the mist. Lovely. I started to struggle though.

Mile three and it felt really hard. Psychologically it was tough because you could see the front runners doing a further part of the course. You knew what was to come. It also wasn’t a pancake flat course.

Mile four and I was really struggling. My friend was starting to get further away from me. We had both agreed that if one of us felt like stretching it out they should just go. Though it irked me that I couldn’t keep up. We’re around the same speed normally I think and it wounded my pride a little that I had no energy to catch her.

Mile five and I just wanted it to be over. I finally got into the stadium (albeit in a tunnel underneath the stands). They were playing out cheers and moments from the Olympics (from what I can gather) and it helped motivate me on. Then I got into the actual stadium onto the track and think I said out loud “thank God”. I had no oomph left for a sprint finish. I just wanted to get there.

National Lottery Garmin

I’m really happy with my time. It’s not a PB – it’s around a minute off. But I feel like it was a good effort considering I think I’ve lost a little bit of my speed since being injured (I know, I know: excuses, excuses!!) My only disappointment was not catching up with my friend. She finished 20 seconds ahead of me. Hey ho!

National Lottery Results

I was 66th girl so I’m really pleased with that considering there were around 7,000 females!

And the best part? I met Mel C! She finished just after me and in a really embarrassingly ‘OMG-I-love-celebrities-I’m-so-uncool’ kind of way I grabbed her for a photo. I’m mortified now looking back because when I asked her she was like “Can I just catch my breath first? I might throw up on you otherwise”. I die of shame. I like to think I’d be cool around celebrities. Wrong.


The 12 year old Spice Girl obsessed girl inside me is doing a dance

I even said afterwards “you have the same shorts as me!” *Shakes head in shame* Oh Anna, you’re so uncool.

I found Ben afterwards and we watched more runners finish and it was just brilliant. And there were so many did crazy sprint finishes!! As we headed out in search of the Mo Farah cardboard cut-out I spotted Maria from Running Cupcake with her partner. I felt a little bit like a stalker if I’m honest but I really wanted to say hi so I tapped her on the shoulder. (We had messaged each other beforehand to try and meet up at the stadium but we weren’t sure how it would work out considering it was such a big event).IMG_4784

It was lovely to have a quick chat with her – catch her recap of the race HERE. It’s always nice to actually hear someone’s voice after reading so much about them on their blog – does that sound weird? I quite like vlogs in that respect. Well, I can confirm she is as lovely as her blog is Smile

And then we saw the Mo Farah cut-out.

IMG_4786Then we headed home! We checked the train times and found a train leaving in 40 minutes, so we got our skates on and aimed for that one. It was a bit stressful and we hadn’t eaten but we wanted to just get home. Rest assure though I snacked well on the train home to keep me going until lunch.

The event was brilliant. I loved the atmosphere, the hype and seeing the stadium. I didn’t enjoy the running part so much. It felt like a struggle and the scenery was a bit rubbish (it was kind of a building site) but running in the stadium was epic. I did feel bad a lot though as I knew Ben wanted to run but he couldn’t because I forgot to get him a ticket when I applied for mine. I KNOW, worst wife ever. Though in fairness, he is still injured…

So over all, a brilliant weekend! Open-mouthed smile

Did you watch the Olympics when it was on? Have you been to the stadium before?

Who’s your favourite Olympian or athlete? Mo and Paula are high on my list!

Have you ever met a celebrity and/or been star struck?