Tuesday, November 24, 2015

One Of A Kind: Helly Hansen x This Is My Style

This post contains products sent to me by Helly Hansen as a competition prize. All views are my own.

WAY back in the spring, Helly Hansen had a campaign running on their app called This Is My Style. By logging runs on the app, it enabled users to unlock various design features for a pair of tights with the added incentive that you could win your design printed on a one of a kind pair of tights. Excitingly, one of my designs was a winner- and so a patient wait for manufacturing began.

The tights I designed on the @hellyhansen #thisismystyle app are being made up into real tights for me! Excitement.
My design in the app

Even better for me, the design was to be be produced onto one of my favourite HH products- a 7/8 Capris that I already have a couple of pairs of- you can read my review of the winter styles and patterns right HERE.

Excitingly, I had an email from the forever lovely people at ADPR last week to say THEY'RE HERE! That's right- one of a kind, all for me tights.

Helly Hansen Tights
Sneaky little first look

The REAL DEAL! To say these excite me (yes my life is that dull and devoid of other meaning) is an understatement. One. Of. A. Kind.....


Custom one-of-a-kind Helly Hansen VTR 7/8 Capris, c/o Helly Hansen as competition winner

Aren't they beautiful?! I love the coral red and the geometric bits of the print, I love the slightly purple hue to the blue and I love that nobody else has the same pair as me. As ever, huge thanks go to Helly Hansen and ADPR for getting these amazing, amazing tights to me and for running such a cool competition. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What I Wore: Lord Mayor's Banquet 2015

Once in a lifetime he said. I'll never get the chance to do it again, he said.

In 2013, my partner was commander of the honour guard for the Prime Minister at the Lord Mayor's Banquet. It's a formal dinner held each year welcoming the new Lord Mayor of the City of London into their position and is attended by assorted members of the High Courts, cabinet and diplomatic community as well as merchants and livery from the City of London. The dress code is white tie- the next step up from black tie. Last time I had about 2 weeks notice to find something to wear, this year, I got a whole month, aren't I the lucky one.

LMB 2015
Commander of the guard. And me. 
From Where I Stand.... institutional carpets the country over. This one is Davies St.
Nothing exceptional- I'm not bold enough for sequins at events like these, but I covered everything I needed to! The star of the show this year for me, was having someone else do my hair for me. 

LMB Hair
Hair by the lovely people at Rockalily Cuts

In the wake of recent world events- I write this having just read of an explosion in a Nigerian town previously targeted by Boko Haram but also horrors of violence and disasters in Beirut, Japan, Mexico and of course Paris, the speeches by numerous officials were of particular interest to me this year. I do not and continue to choose not to share politics here or (for the most part) my social media channels, but I would hope the message that we must not allow those who support the oppression of choice and democracy to divide us or to set us turning upon each other as human beings is one you can join me in. I stand united not for or with Paris, but for all human beings. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

What I Wore: Denim Dress & Tan Ankle Boots

There have been many cheap dresses from eBay in the last 3-4 years. Some managed a wear or two before I realised that an Asian large definitely isn't large enough for me, and some have lasted the course. This denim shirt dress has seen me through some seriously sticky summer days and it's all the right kind of awesome with a jumper over it for chilly chilly winter days. A keeper you might say, for around £5, I'm not going to argue.

Denim Dress & Tan Ankle Boots
Shirt dress- old via eBay, Belt- old from Primark, Boots- Clarks

Ironically, this dress is actually now a touch on the large side for me, luckily it's nothing a belt doesn't sort out, and given those buttons all the way down are actually poppers, it's nice not to have to worry about my boobs quite literally breaking free!

The boots. We need to talk about these ankle boots from Clarks. 

Tan Ankle Boots

Remember these from my post about wearing navy blue in autumn in October? They're still working hard for me and I love them, especially as they're cut a little lower on the ankle than most ankle boots- it gives me some definition back in my chubby chubby legs. Note to self, it's probably time to get back out there and running again after a very lacklustre effort post-marathon last month.... 

Denim Dress & Ankle Boots

Revolutionary? No. But this boots-dress-massive scarf combo leaves me feeling like actually dressed myself properly with minimal input in actually dressing myself properly. Made sense to me, but it's ok, I'll go snuggle back up in my massive scarf. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Taking a Break From Running: The Best Thing Ever

So far this year I've run 98km in races alone. I can't actually bring myself to count the hundreds of training kilometres I've clocked up since I donned trainers and pounded pavement for the first time back in January. I've cycled over 500km (although at one time I used to do that in a month) and since August I've dropped a whole dress size and I'm on the way to another thanks to a whole range of improvements to my training and eating for my activity levels. I ran a freakin' marathon for goodness sake.

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But since October hit, so has a bit of a wall. The marathon hit me hard and it took a little bit of my soul with it when it was finally over. That combined with additional work responsibilities, a trip stateside and the darker nights means in a month I've exercised less than 5 times, compared to the 4-5 times per week I was getting through this summer.

Y'know, it feels great. I'm really looking forward to going to running club a couple of times this week and not feeling that I *should* be doing something at a certain level, but taking it at the level I currently find myself at. I'm excited to plan some new PT with my trainer and for the first time in months, I don't feel guilty or lazy or ashamed that I haven't really done that much. Mostly because I came to realise I needed to take a break.

Goals and targets are great, regular sports and exercise are great too, but there is such a thing as too much and it's ok to need time to recalibrate as one goal comes to an end and you rethink your approach to whatever your fitness of choice may be. It's ok to accept that you can't do everything all the time and for some people (I include myself here) there are more important things than making yourself go for a run in the dark which will leave you hurting, feeling miserable and with a growing sense of failure. For some, the 'go hard or go home' approach coupled with the mantra 'you'll only regret the workout you didn't do' is much needed motivation, I'm pleased for you if so. We all have to find a way to make shit happen. But if you're already a driven person. if you tend towards being perfectionist or obsessive about reaching targets, your brain and your battered body might just thank you for signing out of instagram, twitter and pinterest, and going for dinner with your friend rather than sticking to your training plan, going away for a weekend and not packing your trainers for a long run before breakfast on Sunday or admitting that your twingy ankle is going to benefit far more from a marathon session of The Good Wife than it is a threshold run.

Life is too short. Say yes to the fun day out.

I've found it so easy to be swept along with signing up for event and event, session after session and hauling my behind out of bed at 0600 on the one day of the week I don't need to, just because ohmygodIhaven'texercisedenoughI'msuchabadhuman hits me. If you spend 6 days of your 7 day holiday worrying about your training plan has fallen to pieces because the most exercise you've done is swimming across to the pool bar, is that really any more or less healthy than the not doing anything in the first place? I'd say you're not doing yourself any favours.

In this brave new world of hotel room workout videos and social media schedules, it's time to give yourself a reality check. It's someone's business to post a daily fitness routine, it doesn't mean you have to do it. Hotel workout youtube videos might be great for someone who has to work away a lot, but is that what you want from your holiday? And most of all, listen to your body and your mood and your own sense of wellbeing. Feeling constantly under the weather? Injury that won't quite go away? Feeling reluctant every time you don trainers? Maybe it's time to take a step back and breathe. Enjoy life. Take a deep breath. Reassess. And don't you dare allow yourself to feel guilty for it.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Adventures: Las Vegas Highlights

Ain't jetlag a massive bitch. It's taken me almost 2 days to get over flying back from the States, not great when it's remembrance weekend and I've got services etc to attend with T's regiment.

BUT at least I'm suffering off the back of something good, 6 days in Sin City itself, Las Vegas. I went out because my friends got married out there on Halloween, no pictures of the wedding because the bride and groom want them to stay private for now, but it was certainly an experience to see a Little White Chapel Wedding...


I went out with my mother & grandmother (otherwise known as rent-a-crowd if you have a wedding, FYI) and we stayed in apartment off the strip because we did some jiggery pokery with timeshare weeks and swaps. We flew direct from Gatwick with Virgin, and we were out for a total of 6 nights. 

I'd never been to Vegas before, and it's certainly different. Best description... all life found here. I'd also say that once you get over the novelty of whatever each hotel theme is, there's not that much to do that isn't eating, drinking, shopping or gambling on the strip.

Probably the only good picture I managed to take of a hotel on the strip

Not the strip and one of the coolest signs. I wish I'd been able to get a better shot

Once we got over the wedding and and the mayhem that is Vegas, we did manage to fit a few things in...

The mothership & I

We drank Margaritas... we decided that Halloween was a good opportunity to crack out some swish masks....

Doing the Gondola thing at the Venetian... The gondoliers can actually sing! 

The Venetian has it's own little canal running through part of the hotel and for about $20 per person, you can take yourself to Venice because the surroundings are to scale replicas of Venice Streets. If nothing else, it was fun. 

Vegas High Roller
The High Roller at Linq Hotel 

Like everything in Vegas, bigger is better. This 'orbital viewing platform' is just like the London Eye, except it's 109ft taller. They get really hacked off if you refer to it as a ferris wheel! The views from it are incredible and it was pretty good value for $17.50.

Getting Lucky in Vegas
You kinda can't go to Vegas without hitting a Casino...

So.... Casinos. I walked past and through many and felt they were a little sad- lots of people mindlessly loading money into digital slots. In the end my mother & I headed to the Venetian casino on our last evening, which was a little more buzzing than some we'd seen, and headed for the biggest, shiniest machine we could find. I don't know how to play most of the other casino games, and we figured we could afford to lose $20 in a slot machine. I'm quite lucky, and I have been since I was a kid, so without really knowing what we were doing- much to the amusement of all the people watching, my total cash out was $225 and change. Not bad for a half hour giggling at a machine. My mum managed $75 and we walked away happy. I bought my super tacky poker chip cushion as a little reminder of my win. 

And then it was time to come home. 

Vegas by night
Early evening flight out of McCarran

I did manage a few other fun things in Vegas- I did some serious shopping which I'll be showing off over the coming weeks no doubt, and we also managed a helicopter tour out over the Grand Canyon and Lake Mead. I find Lake Mead and the provision for water in that part of the States fascinating, so once I've finally gotten around to editing my pictures, there'll be another separate post about that too. 

Vegas is an odd place to go. Initially I wasn't sure I'd want to go back, but on reflection, I'd do it again with T, mostly because they have some huge nightclubs with headline DJs I'd kill to see. But unless you're into proper gambling or you're prepared to venture out of town regularly, it seemed to me to be a bit same-y. the same shops, the same food, the same frozen margaritas... Not that it stopped us from having fun!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

What I Wore: H&M Biker Style Coat

I wasn't looking for a new coat exactly. I mean sure, I knew I could probably use having more than one because I split my time between home and my Cambs base, but I didn't set out actually looking for one. And then an H&M discount code landed in my inbox, the next thing I know there's a screen full of knitwear (a particular weakness of mine) and coats. And this one fell into my basket. And I surprised myself by totally loving it.

HM Biker Coat

In previous winters, I've stuck with more fitted mac style coats, having tried looser or straighter styles and realising they make me appear about 5 times bigger than I actually am. The beauty of this coat is that it's a bit shorter, so it doesn't seem to drown me in the same way. The discount code made it £27.99, and it's still available on the H&M website for £39.99, as well as in a dark/wine red colour.

HM Biker Coat

HM Biker Coat


P.S. Yes, yes those are glittery kitty shoes! 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Experience: There Is Such A Thing As Drinking Too Much Water

Every day I am bombarded with messages about drinking more water. From blog posts on how to make it easy, to government/health organisations warnings about the need to drink my 8 glasses per day. But did you know there is such a thing as too much water?

First up- I don't drink a great deal of other drinks in the day, except water. I have a couple of strong cups of coffee and a cup of peppermint tea each morning, then that's me done. If you drink tea or coffee throughout the day, then know that caffeine is a diuretic (meaning it pushes the water through your system and therefore you need more water).

Second, I get through 3-5 litres of water per day (depending on the temperature) and for those wondering how that equates on the whole 'glasses' measure- that's anywhere from 12-20 glasses of water. Yeah, I know.

And before we go any further- I'm not a medical professional and you should always seek advice from your GP or someone qualified before you make big changes to your diet/lifestyle, including hydration. The entirety of this post is based on my own personal experience.

So all that water, I should have the skin like a pre-teen girl, and practically brimming with wellness right? The many benefits of being properly hydrated are documents all over the place. Well, water might be good, but  drinking excessive amounts of water can be bad. The side effects are not pretty and they're not fun.

What do you mean it doesn't have electrolytes in it sweetie?

How can you tell what excessive is- well despite a zillion fitness bloggers assertions to the contrary, clear pee is not good. Why? Because it means there's no waste product being flushed out. And that's bad because after your body is done getting rid of the bad stuff, it starts flushing out the good stuff.

Drinking a lot of water also flushes the electrolytes out of your body- the ones that are important for feeling lively, energetic and happy, the ones that help regulate things like blood pressure and hormone production. You'll feel tired, drained and if you exercise you might feel nauseous or  struggle to work at your usual level.

FYI- this is especially dangerous when you're sweating a lot because when you sweat you also lose an important electrolyte- sodium, and if you don't take on any electrolytes and continue to drink water, you're compounding the problem. Low blood sodium is grim, will make you feel really shitty and can be fatal in extreme cases.

I learned all about low electrolytes and sodium the hard way this year- I had no idea my hydration was causing me to struggle with my marathon training until someone with someone with qualifications in the nutrition field took a hard look at what I was eating and drinking. I also really struggled after I completed the marathon in October as the prolonged period of time sweating and drinking water (even though I was also drinking regular electrolyte drinks too) can be difficult to manage.

Drinking water, for me certainly, is also very habitual. Left unchecked I could and would probably drink even more water than I already do because picking up a glass is almost a reflex. Everytime I come off a call or change position in my chair or get up to do something, I drink from my glass. As a teenager and in my early twenties, I knew I didn't drink enough water, so I made myself do it. I suspect this is probably in part due to my personality type, but it's now a habit I find very difficult to break. It also means that my wine glass is most likely to be the first one empty and I'm likely to be the one who finishes her cocktail first- not just because I like a drink, but because having a glass in my hand is part of the habitual nature- it's created as many problems as it's solved.

It's no surprise that I have had to do something about my drinking problem. It's not been a barrel of laughs, but it beats throwing up in front of my running club (true story). Here's how I did it:

I added an electrolyte drink into my daily routine. They don't have to be ultra sticky sugary sports drinks- immune system boosters (the tabs you put in water and find in the supplements section) have a lot of the same electrolytes as sports drinks without all the calories and sugar. An instant boost to my system that's just like the big glass of water I've always thrown down my neck on waking up, but better.

'Close your eyes and it could be a margarita...' Mum on this week's detox drink.
That time mum & I tried coconut water. Sorry, but GROSS

Another seemingly obvious solution would be to drink less. Groundbreaking. This was easier said than done but a lot of the techniques recommended for drinking more can also be used to control drinking too. I drink sparkling water which is bottle in any case, but I've also used cups or bottles with a set volume and instead of finishing the bottle as a target, I use it like a ration system. This way I know exactly how much I've already had and I try not to exceed a certain amount either side of lunch- once it's gone, it's gone.

A side note, current guidance says you should be drinking approximately 2-2.5 litres of water per day (8-10 glasses). I struggle to get below 3 litres (12 glasses) and that works for me. Dropping below the 3L mark left me thirsty, tired and irritable. I also don't count water I drink before or directly after exercising or water I drink when I'm drinking alcohol.

Adding a glass of smoothie to my diet really helped me address the balance post-marathon. Drinking something with some actual nutritional value allowed me to get back on track, especially on the days where my appetite was non-existent. It's worth remembering that water is great for lots of things but it doesn't have anything it and that can be as bad as it is good.

Whilst unpleasant, the learning curve that came from my experience with hydration (and overdoing it) has been really fascinating in that it's taught me a lot about how some of my body's systems work and made me realise how little I actually knew about some functions or how many habits I assume are good for me, that aren't.

Grapes in a Glass
That time we added grapes to water and didn't turn into wine!

I can't stress enough that this has been a personal experience and that you should consult with someone who is properly qualified if you're concerned about how you feel before, during, after diet changes, exercise or major lifestyle changes. The point to my post is this: be wary that lots of guidance and hype in health and fitness is generic. It doesn't account for your own quirks or body type or habits you already have- drink more water is such a common piece of advice to read or hear, but remember it might not apply to you.