Exploring Clean Eating

The Clean Eating phenomenon has swept the UK over the last few years and I’ve watched with interest as it’s spread around social media. My introduction to these diets came when I was given Deliciously Ella’s first book back in 2015. Since then, clean eating has continued to increase in popularity  but there has also been some backlash against a few of the more high profile figures in this movement, questioning the facts behind these lifestyle ‘crazes’ and branding some as unaffordable and even dangerous…

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Fitness Highs and Lows: A Charity Cycle and an Unexpected Half Marathon!

A bit of a long one – I talk about the two sporting events that I’ve just taken part in and how they didn’t exactly go to plan!

The Charity Cycle

16th Sept: I undertook a charity cycle with work colleagues. 170 miles over 2 days.

I’d been training for this for almost 6 months. I took part in the same event last year so I already knew that I was capable of the challenge. Despite this being a more demanding ride (more miles and more hills), I was relaxed with my training. I mostly cycle with my boyfriend, who pushes me hard. I like to dawdle and look at pretty landscapes along the way, but he is solely focused on getting from A to B in the quickest time possible (maybe it’s a male thing!).

Before the ride, I could cover 70 miles at a reasonable pace and barely feel it in my legs the next day.  We’d also accidentally covered a number of ‘worst case’ scenarios – getting lost and not having enough food or water. But a group event like this is a very different experience and you can’t plan for the weather….

Day 1: We had 25 punctures. 25!!!! Storms and flash floods the day before had covered the roads in flint and debris. Our skinny road bike tyres didn’t stand a chance. Only 4 of the 27 riders survived the weekend without suffering any punctures at all.

I was forced to quit the ride and jump in a support van near the end of the day after discovering a huge hole in my tyre. Before that, I’d been having a great day. I unintentionally found myself in one of the fastest (all male) groups and was pleased to discover that I was able to keep pace.

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Day 2: I decided to hang back in a slower group and ride with friends. That didn’t go so well. The temperature had dropped. The wind had picked up. I didn’t eat enough the night before. I didn’t get a good night’s sleep. I could go on with the reasons – I have spent hours over-analysing this already.

Basically, I didn’t have enough fuel to keep going. I became so cold and exhausted that I felt close to fainting. When my vision starting blurring I knew it was time to put myself in the van before I held up my team mates!

I was really disappointed not to complete the whole distance. It was still a great achievement but I have a tendency to set high standards for myself. I knew I was capable of doing it. I was a relatively experienced cyclist compared to some of the team. I was annoyed at having played the nutrition game so wrong. Also, this was a team event and I felt so out of it that I couldn’t really connect with the enjoyment and celebrations at the end of the ride.

But the important thing is, we’ve raised over £10k for Asthma UK! 🙂

My first half-marathon

27th Sept was the Bristol half marathon. 4 days before, this message appeared on my phone: ‘Well done on the cycle! Don’t suppose you fancy running the half marathon this weekend?!!’ A friend’s friend had dropped out due to injury and a free place was up for grabs.

My immediate reaction was NO WAY. Despite supporting various friends running the Bath Half for 6-7 consecutive years, I’ve always said that I’d never run 13 miles. Excuse no.1: I find running a bit boring. I can’t be arsed with all that training. Excuse no.2: My granny knees can’t take said training.

But then I thought again. I’m probably the fittest I have ever been right now. Certainly fit enough to run a half decent time without dying.  I had all the cycling training behind me and I run (a little bit) anyway. My friend, an experienced long distance runner, was happy to take the course at a relaxed pace. So we went for it – going in with no preconceptions about time or ability. Just to enjoy it.

And it was great! We did it in 2hrs 6mins – a time I am very happy with considering I hadn’t ‘trained’ and in fact, had never run further than 6k (3.7miles) before. Although the last few miles were a bit of a struggle, I had enough energy to chat to my friend (and generally mess around) throughout the course. And we managed a sprint finish too!!

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The atmosphere was great and I would definitely consider running another Half in fancy dress, to get even more support. Sunshine and showers on the day made for reasonable running conditions. UK runners, if you’re looking for a half marathon for next year, Bristol is great – it’s a lovely scenic route and according to my friend (the more seasoned half marathon runner), it’s really good logistically too.

Before any runners yell at me, I am not advocating doing an event like this without training! My legs started hurting from mile 3. The day after, I could barely walk. I’ve had a sports massage today which has pretty much sorted them out.

So, there we go, the best laid plans etc….Anyone else got any big sporting events coming up?

H x

 

EAT: Combining healthy eating and training

Since I’ve stepped up my training for my charity cycle ride in September I’ve been especially conscious of my diet.I like to think I’m a fairly healthy eater anyway but increasing your calorie intake in a healthy way is a different challenge.

 

Here are a couple of my staples on a training day….

Breakfast: Porridge or fruit museli. My tip: soaking porridge oats overnight speeds up breakfast a little the following morning!

Lunch: Quinoa salad with tuna, cherry tomatoes, avocado and feta.

Simply mix with some olive oil, a splash of white wine vinegar and lemon juice and you’re good to go. I sometimes add a shake of flaxseeds and/or sunflower seeds for a little extra protein crunch. I do lots of variations on this, sometimes adding peppers or olives to the mix.

Yes, I know quinoa is quite expensive and a bit of a faff to cook (if you don’t use packets… yesterday I split half of mine in the sink and had to spend ages rescuing and washing it!) But I really like it as an alternative to rice and pasta – it’s filling without being stodgy and goes so well with so many different things. The extra protein content is an added bonus!

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Snacks! Energy bars, nuts, dried fruit…and if you need it, a second lunch…

I’m always hungry, even when I’m not doing loads of exercise. They don’t call me Hangry Harri for nothing! At work I have a desk drawer full of snacks. On cycling days I even have an Outlook calendar reminder at 3pm for my ‘Second lunch’ (usually a quick chicken or tuna sandwhich). Otherwise I will be super grumpy on the ride home.

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Smoothies!

I’m not a huge fan of eating fruit, so blending things together is a great option for me. It’s also useful for masking the taste of food I’m not keen on: I hate bananas, but I’ll sometimes pop a few pieces into a smoothie for an extra nutritional hit.

Frozen fruit mixes are a great – you always have something on hand. A berry mix is my go-to – I might add some yoghurt to thicken it up and if I’ve been exercising, a small scoop of protein powder as well. At the moment I’m using Maxinutrition strawberry flavoured powder. I’m not an expert in this area but for me useful addition to my recovery routine.

These are just a couple of highlights from my diet right now – if I can eat sensibly, then anyone can!

H x

Me and My Bike

Let’s talk cycling!

Due British success at the Olympics and in the Tour de France, cycling in the UK has never seemed so popular.  Around here, the cyclists have been out in force during these past few weeks of rare summer weather.

Growing up surrounded by quiet country lanes, with parents who loved UK holidays, I spent a lot of time cycling as a child. Apart from a very brief period where I was forced to cycle to work (I very quickly bought a car), as I got older my bike rides became more and more infrequent.

Then in 2014, I was persuaded (read: bullied) into purchasing a lovely road bike by my Tour de France obsessed boyfriend. But I was still a fair weather rider – the furthest I had ever cycled was 10 miles, and I hurt for days afterwards.

Until last year.

I took on the challenge of cycling 150 miles in two days, for charity, in an event organized by the company I work for. I enjoy exercise (honestly!) and previously considered myself fairly fit – but I was in no way an endurance athlete. This was TWO CONSECUTIVE DAYS spending 6-7 HOURS on a bike.

But I did it! And guess what – I’ve agreed to do it all over again.

The next ride is in September. To increase the challenge factor for those who rode last year, we’ve chosen a new, longer route: 160 miles in over two days.

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Taken last year, before my pedals were forcibly swapped for clip-ins…

So, cycling has once again become a regular thing in my life. Like training for any long distance event, it takes up a lot of time: fitting in ~100 miles a week training is not easy when you’re working 9-5! But call me a convert – these days I’m all about racking up the miles and checking my stats on Strava!

Among the colleagues taking part there’s actually a good male:female ratio – great to see.

Like so many sports, cycling is dominated by men and let’s be honest, cycling is not an attractive activity. Lurid lycra, padded shorts, sweating, flies in your face, pulling horrendous grimacing expressions while trying to tackle a hill. Then there’s the discomfort involved – I get stabbing neck pains from being hunched over the saddle and let’s not even mention saddle sores (hands up if you know all about chamois cream).

I’m not really selling cycling, am I? So why do it?

  • I got into cycling because of my boyfriend and it’s really nice to have an activity that we can do together. Despite the limitations of road bikes (dry, smooth roads only for me please!) it’s still a great way to explore the countryside around us.
  • It’s social! There’s a great group for our work ride that get together to train. We’re all about comparing the chain oil ‘tattoos’. There’s also plenty of cycling clubs out there…
  • It’s (relatively) cheap exercise! Yes, a decent bike and kit will set you back a bit (unless, like me, your boyfriend is not the most imaginative with presents and therefore constantly buys you bike gear). It doesn’t have to be a road bike – once you’re set up you are free to head out whenever you like!
  • It’s a challenge! Even if you come back tired and wanting to eat ALL the food in the house, completing a long ride feels like a great achievement.

Including my commute to work, I cycled 42 miles yesterday – but I felt surprisingly sprightly today which means my training is paying off 🙂

H x

We beat The Monster!

Rewind back to the middle of April. On a cold, wintry morning, we were attempting to park in a field in the middle of the Oxfordshire countryside,  delayed by a car stuck in the mud. Given the reasons for us being in said field, not an auspicious start to our day….

We were here for the Monster Race – 10K of  mud, icy water and slippery obstacles. Just for fun!13040873_10156907884060220_2688274105778798666_o

These types of obstacle/challenge events seem to have massively increased in popularity over the past couple of years. Even some of my most exercise-shy friends have completed one, even if it’s just 5k for charity. Aside from raising money, we humans seem to love a physical challenge. I guess it’s an escape from our clean and safe existences – many people’s lives are physically easy compared to what they would have been 100 years ago.

This was completely for fun. I joined a team of guys and gals from work and the team spirit was great. I used to be a complete tomboy: up and down trees and frustrating my mum with the grass and mud stains on my clothes. These days I’m much more girly. Aside from the physical aspect of the race I wondered how I’d react to the dirt!

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The terrible weather that morning only made the course more difficult. The freezing cold drizzle sapped our energy (and enthusiasm) and the incredibly sticky mud forced you into an unnatural and awkward running style = lots of aching muscles the next day! I have to admit that I skipped the water obstacles on the second lap as I just couldn’t face the icy temperatures.

Despite the cold, it was a lot of fun. There were plenty of laughs and banter on the way around. There were some hilarious wipe-outs from members of our group. In the end one of the my favourite ‘obstacles’ was the waist-deep ‘Bog of Eternal Stench’ – mainly from the amusement of watching my team mates’ faces as they battled through it! I needed two showers to get clean again…

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I would probably do the Monster again, although at around £50 (depending on time of booking) it’s not cheap. With any of these events, I would definitely recommend doing it as a team challenge. I’m now on the lookout for another event in the greater London area – the perfect excuse to catch up with one of my old friends.

For a flavour of the Monster race, the official video of our event is here!

H x

A gorgeous sunny evening – time for a bike ride!

Well, scrap what I said in my last post – we had beautiful sunny weather in Bristol yesterday! My boyfriend and I headed out on our bikes as soon as we got home. This is my bike – fairly girly, it’s white with pink highlights on the wheels!

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I purchased it through the Cycle to Work scheme. My boyfriend is a keen cyclist; he and a group of friends cycled from Bristol to Barcelona last summer, raising over £10,000 for MacMillan Cancer Care (but that is a whole other story!). He thought it would be a nice activity to do together so I decided to get in on the action. One of my goals for this summer is to complete my commute to work (a 50 mile round trip with a 5.30am morning start – unfortunately, I don’t work in Bristol!).

As I’m fairly fit already, when I started riding my bike at the beginning of this year I was able to do 15 – 20 miles quite easily. However, it wasn’t so easy on my knees! I ended up with a knee injury requiring physiotherapy. I’ve learnt my lesson; I’m trying to be really disciplined and do my stretches and strengthening exercises as often as I can.

I’m now slowly (and sensibly) building up the miles, so yesterday’s ride was a fairly short and easy route. On our way back we did a quick circuit of the Downs, where I annoyed my boyfriend by wanting to stop and take photos every 5 minutes! It’s such a great open area and I’m lucky to live so close to it. I find open spaces relaxing just by looking at them.

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It was also great weather for flying kites…

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Hope everyone is enjoying the warmer weather!

Hattie x

Fitness: My new motivator!

Apart from the odd sunny day, it’s still not quite warm enough outside to tempt me out for a run on week nights. I’m not very keen on running at the best of times and if it’s cold and damp then I feel more like jumping under the duvet when I get home from work! It’s really important to me to do some exercise nearly every day as a mood booster, but I’m also making a concerted effort to do regular exercise at the moment to build up to a few fitness goals I have for summer.

At moment I’m using one of the 7 minute workout apps to get me going. There’s been a lot of hype about these workouts in the last year or so – research indicates that short high intensity workouts such as these produce the same fitness benefits as 30 minute sessions. All you need is a chair or sofa, a section of wall and space to lie down. Perfect for my tiny flat! The ‘voice’ of the app leads you through a series of short exercises with short rests in between. It’s weirdly compelling which is great when you’re lacking in motivation.

The app I use is free and is just called ‘7 Minute Workout’. The app leads you through a series of short exercises with a short break in between. Unfortunately, with this app it’s the same 12 exercises, in the same order, every time. I think it would get boring if you did it every day, but unless I’m really short on time, I only use it to lead into something more fun. I do like the range of exercises though; they focus on areas that I tend to neglect.

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Once I’m warmed up I generally have a bit of dance around my flat – it’s a great de-stresser too. I’ve got wireless headphones – my boyfriend bought them for me after watching me wreck two headphone cables in six months with all my flailing around! What I’m listening to varies on my mood but it’s generally upbeat so there can be plenty of jumping around and booty-shaking! If I’ve still got energy left after that then I’ll finish with a few pilates exercises and some stretches. I’m trying to be disciplined this last part as I’ve had to have physio in the last few months to recover from a knee injury.

What do you do to get going?