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.**

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.**

Rants and Raves #40

I am in a very happy place right now. Life is good. I mean, a marathon PB does do that to you, but life in general asides from that is going well too. Here are some bits and bobs I’m loving and ranting about lately.

Rave: I had literally one of the best Mondays. My work had organised a bake sale to raise money for Stand Up To Cancer and it just so happened to be on the day after I’d run the Brighton Marathon. Usually the day of the marathon straight after you don’t feel like a whole lot (despite having dreamed of all the food you’ll eat). Though I did refuel well, I was more than ready the NEXT day to celebrate with a lot of sugar.Literally I was the first one at the cakes when the email was sent around and I loaded my plate up. For my first round, I had a slice of Victoria sponge (heavenly. Normally I’m not that big a fan as I find it a bit dull but my god this was a good one), a salted caramel cupcake and a white chocolate cookie.The salted caramel cupcake was very gooey and so delicious. Post lunch I had round two, another salted caramel cupcake (it was just so good the first time), another slice of Victoria sponge and a salted caramel crepe (which I heated in the microwave). And in the afternoon, PURELY to be polite to my friend, I tried his chocolate cake… gahhhh so good.So I definitely think I’ve caught up with what I burnt the day before 😉

Rant: Still on the subject of cake… Right each to their own and all that, but it hurts my soul that Victoria Beckham had a watermelon cake for her birthday. Not a cake in the shape of a watermelon but a cake made of watermelon (some may argue that that’s not even a cake).She’s always been rumoured to not eat much and be super conscious of unhealthy food (and is super slim) so I’m not entirely surprised but COME ON. Just have a slice of cake. (Obviously I’m making a snap judgement here purely on what she projected to social media and have no idea if she did eat cake in her own time blah blah blah so this might be an unfair comment, but whatever).

Rave: OK this is one for the ladies predominately. I’ve recently downloaded Clue. It’s a period tracking app.Now I am a big fan of apps that track stuff. I track my running, my steps, my sleep, sometimes I’ll have a mosey on MyFitnessPal if I want to know the nutritional value of something (I don’t track meals or food though – that would probably trigger me to become overly obsessed, which I certainly don’t want to be). But anyway, I like stats and data.

I love this app because you can fill in lots of lovely detail about your cycle (god I hate that word) – I won’t go into the specifics, but you know what I mean. Lots of things are affected by your hormones and period so you can fill out this data and then after a few months it can help forecast and predict things for you. It also tells you when you’re most fertile and ovulating and uses the data you put it to learn and predict. It’s also FREE and someone else can track your cycle too if you share it with them (yeah bit weird but hey whatever floats your boat).

Rave: I love movies. I love food. I LOVE the sound of Taste Film. Basically there’s a monthly film experience where the audience eats the food that’s served within the film (or basically relates to the themes of the film). Oh my god how good does this sound?? Apparently they did Bridget Jones’ Diary and actually had blue soup. The food looks amazing. I would so love to do this at some point. My only issue is it’s only in London… standard.

Rant: The London Marathon have changed their Good For Age Entries. GFA is basically the way that some (UK based only I believe) runners can get into London ‘guaranteed’ by achieving a certain time. I was able to get into London last year through this method as my marathon PB was sub 3:45. Anyway, they’ve changed some of the criteria.Mary wrote a great blog post highlighting the changes and her own opinion on this so check that out as it’s a good read. My opinion is this. OK it’s a very over-subscribed marathon and I imagine they needed to re-asses and readjust the times (well, the men’s time mainly) because of the demand. I personally don’t think the current ballot system is the best approach (it’s not really explained how the ballot system picks people and some people believe it could be down to the London Marathon wanting a spread of different people etc. etc. so some people who have entered like five times still can’t get in). It’s VERY hard to get a place. So the GFA was one way for certain runners to get in.Now that’s fine. They can set whatever criteria they like – it’s their race. What I object wholeheartedly to is that they changed these times mid marathon season. It’s like changing where the goal posts are half-way through a football match. For example, James was aiming for a sub 3:05 at Brighton so he could then do London next year. If he’d have gotten 3:04:59 he’d have been super pleased – as of Sunday the GFA still stood that his age group with a sub 3:05 could get in. Then a day or so later, the times changed and suddenly he needed a sub-3. Luckily for him he did get a sub 3…but how devastating for people who didn’t but were momentarily happy thinking they had qualified? Or that they’re entire training had been focused on sub 3:05 and NOT sub 3? Five minutes is quite a chunk!

There were a lot of sad people on social media who had this exact issue. That said, I don’t think London is the be all and end all of marathons. Yes it’s easy for me to say that having done it, but I only really did it because it was a Major and I’m trying to do them all. Obviously it depends on your experience, but though I did have a good experience I wouldn’t say it was the best marathon – not even top three for me. It’s a faff. It’s super busy. It’s expensive to get to and from (don’t forget, they don’t send out the bibs either so you need to go to London twice). And most importantly, there are SO many other good marathons in the UK and outside the UK – better than London, in my opinion. London IS NOT the only marathon.

What do you think about qualifying times for races?

Have you ever done London?

Do you like health tracking apps?

Raving time

Now normally I’d be having a few rants but actually I can’t think of anything lately that’s been bugging me. I’m pretty solidly in the rave camp at the moment!

Rave: I’m really busy. I love it when my diary is chockablock full of fun and exciting events coming up. I’m off to London on Saturday for more parkrun tourism and brunching with my lovely friend, James. Then it’s the Gosport Half Marathon on Sunday (pacing another lovely friend, Martin). And then the following weekend heading to Brighton to visit even more lovely friends (all my friends are lovely!)… Christmas meals at work and with friends, heading to London again for a Harry Potter escape room… Secret Santas. Ahh I’m just in a very happy place right now.

Rave: And continuing on this theme… having an already jam-packed 2018 planned! I have quite a few exciting events/holidays I’m (hoping) to be able to do next year. I mean, who needs money right…? Most of them in some way running-related 🙂 I say hoping because who knows what my legs will be like next year, but I hope to do most of what I have planned. If all goes to plan (and I don’t bankrupt myself) I should be going abroad FIVE times. Not for massive holidays I stress, but mini-breaks and trips.

Rave: Passing my three month probation at Wiggle. I can’t believe I’ve been here for over three months! It’s mental. And, as I’ve said so many times, I really do love it. And, as far as I can tell, I think I’m doing OK.

Rave: Now THIS is one of my biggest raves at the moment. Do you remember a while ago when, the idiot that I am, I took the wrong barcode to parkrun for a number of weeks? I tried to get the parkrun support HQ people to help me out but, understandably, it wasn’t something they were willing to amend because, let’s face it, it’s my mistake and would require a lot of faff on their side.

Anyway, after speaking to my friend, Joe, who’s been a run director at Netley parkrun, he mentioned that results for individual parkruns could be retrospectively changed. Like when people forget their barcodes and then email them afterwards they can be added. So, I emailed Netley (where I had three parkruns under the wrong barcode) and explained what I’d done. I mean, I do know the main run director, Peter, at Netley so I guess that makes it easier, but he was more than helpful (incidentally the same Peter who sold me his Portsmouth Marathon place – so hugely grateful to him!). He changed the results and lo! and behold I got three emails through congratulating me on my result!I also emailed Brighton & Hove parkrun where I’d also used the wrong barcode (and the one I desperately wanted adding to my account as I’ve only done it once and really want to do a different Brighton parkrun when I visit next). And they too have changed my result over. I am BEYOND pleased. Thank you, Brighton & Hove parkrun! The email they sent to me as well was lovely. They said they don’t usually make changes so long after the event but they like to look after their tourists. Well, I am certainly feeling the love. I know this might sound really sad but I’m literally over the moon about this now. I’ve now done 151 parkruns (and 30 different UK ones and one US). Only 99 until my next t-shirt…Rave: Running at lunchtime (runching if you will). It’s so much nicer to run at lunch than it is after work. I’m so much more motivated to run when it’s not as cold and definitely not as dark. It also means I can toddle off home quicker after work.

Wiggle has great shower facilities and also a great number of routes around the office. It’s especially good for when I do speed work (I’ve done two speedworks now!) as the lake I run round is soft underfoot and almost exactly a mile. Ideal! No traffic lights, dog walkers or hills to break the flow of trying to get some solid speedwork in. No excuses basically.

On Tuesday I did one mile warm-up, followed by two miles at 6:50-55min/mile pace, followed by 0.5 miles easy, and then another two miles at 6:50-55min/mile pace and then a cool down. I mean it was slightly awkward as I kept passing the same work friends who were having a walk on their lunch break so I must have looked a bit mad. But it was such a great feeling to hit those paces and get another solid workout in. Plus, with it being soft underfoot I feel like this is better for me (*cough* injury-prone) than doing the workouts on concrete. 2mile repeatsDon’t get me wrong, I find I do ‘fear’ these workouts and begin them with some trepidation. I know it’s going to feel hard and the temptation to sack it off and do a standard 8min/mile run is SO tempting. But I know this is good for me and the feeling I get when I finish is fantastic. I just need to make sure I stay motivated. I need to mix things up as well so if anyone has any good marathon-focused speed workouts for around 6 miles I’d be grateful for the inspiration…

What are you happy about right now?

Are your parkrun stats important to you?

What speed workouts do you do?

Rave, rave, rave

I was thinking of doing a Rants and Raves post but actually I couldn’t really find much to rant about. What a problem eh!

I am in such a happy place right now. My life seems to be floating along so nicely! I know this is mostly due to changing jobs and changing up my routine but it really has made me a much happier person.

Rave: Speaking of routines, so as you probably know along with running, I love going to the gym as well. I enjoy the different type of workouts I can get; focusing on strength training and making myself stronger. After moving into my parent’s house I realised I needed to change my gym as it was now too far away to make logical sense.

I did a bit of hunting. I briefly, VERY briefly, considered joining a ridiculous expensive gym right next to work…and then found a far cheaper and 24/7 gym on the way to work. This was perfect because a) I don’t want to spend a fortune on some fancy shmancy gym which probably will have a ratio of 10:1 cardio to weights ratio and b) I like to go SUPER early. I’m not an evening gym person and I like starting the day with a workout. Plus going early means beating any crowds.So the gym I found (called 24/7 Fitness) is SO good. It has several different rooms, which I quite like. A room that’s like a Crossfit room with hanging ropes, TRX’s, a rower and a climbing frame type thing and lots of mat areas with free weights and dumbbells. It has another room focused on chest presses and chest isolation machines. Another one focused on leg weights with squat racks etc. and then a room with just free weights and benches. It also has a “women’s only” area… lots of machines, all pink (*sighs*) – at least it’s not just full of cardio machines, eh! And a few other rooms with more machines and then cardio equipment. It is a bit shabby but I’m not there to admire the paintwork so it suits me fine.I drive there after walking Alfie, do my thing and then shower and get ready there. Other than making me get super organised the night before with packing what I need to take with me (so far no forgotten bra yet) but it’s saved me so much time sitting in traffic as I’m past all the busy stuff before the gym and then it’s a quick 10 mins from the gym the rest of the way. What a win!

Rave: Finding the most comfy and well-fitting jeans! As a runner my legs tend to have problems with fitting into jeans (hey there strong thighs). It’s mainly just the ratio of my body I guess. I’m sure non-runners feel this exact pain as well because, let’s be honest, we all have different shapes, lumps and bumps.I don’t regularly shop in Top Shop as it’s a bit…young?… for me. It’s like when you scroll too far on the Forever21 website and you go, “really, who actually wears this?”. But Top Shop have consistently done be well when it comes to jeans. I like that they do a waist measurement and a leg measurement. I popped quickly in there one day after work (SO MUCH MORE TIME IN LIFE!) and saw a pair that looked nice along with a lovely jumper and didn’t bother trying them on as I was heading to Nando’s with a friend. I could return them at the weekend if they didn’t fit so it wasn’t an issue.

BUT MY GOD. They fit like a glove, AND are super comfy. I love them.

Rave: Muffin market research… it was such a stroke of luck that this happened on the Wednesday. Any other day and I probably wouldn’t have seen it. But on a Wednesday I go downstairs to the Starbucks and was thus able to spot the market research table that had been set up…Muffins! Muffins galore! They had a load of different samples for people to try of either lemon, chocolate or blueberry muffins. You had to give your preference of muffin in terms of texture, taste and appearance. I mean, it was a tough job but I stepped up to the bar. I probably ate about four muffins in total. I was surprised at how much I quite enjoyed the chocolate muffins. Normally I’m not a big fan (well, actually I’m normally not a big muffin fan in general but they were free…). Some of the chocolate muffins had this delicious chocolaty oozy middle which worked against the dryness issue that muffins often face. Delicious!

Rave: New trainers. To put my work discount to good use I bought a pair of these ASICS Gel-Exalt. I get on well with ASICS and they’re a great colour.It’s funny because as I was packing before I moved back to my parents I actually found a pair of Adidas Boosts (Supernovas I believe) that have barely been worn so despite buying a brand new pair of trainers I actually don’t need them just yet. Always handy to have a few pairs to rotate with too!

Biggest rave of all: If you follow me on any form of social media (Instagram, Twitter, Strava or Facebook) then you’ll probably already know that the Bournemouth Marathon went very well for me. I’ll be (hopefully) getting my recap post up this week. I’m SO glad it went well and I can now look back at Bournemouth fondly and wear the marathon t-shirt with pride.What do you look for in a gym?

Have you ever taken part in any market research before?

What do you look for in a muffin?