Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016: An Honest Look At My Year Running 2016

An honest look at my active year 2016- last year I posted an honest review of my year of running (click if you missed it), having completed a major challenge I wanted to look back on the highs of the year but also the realities. I figured since 2016 is nearly over and out, I wanted to take a look at my 2016 filled with just as many undulations that I wouldn't want to airbrush out.

In early 2016, the PB bug really set in deep. Going from complete newbie to a marathon in 2015 gave me many many opportunities to see large chunks of time come off my 10k PB and I rounded off NYE 2015 with 10km PB of around 1:02 (it wasn't chip timed), and determined to see sub 60 in 2016. I didn't quite make it on Jan 31st 2016 and began to understand how much harder it is to knock whole minutes off your time as you build experience as a runner.

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NYE 2015 vs 31st Jan 2016

My PB drive continued through the late winter and early spring. Nothing like having a goal to get you running in the rain, and rain it did. I managed to get my 5km under 30 mins for the very first time at the beginning of March and then enjoyed the opportunity to run in a truly stunning setting when we spent the end of March and half of April in Vietnam. I boarded our flight with every intention of running 2-3 times per week whilst away, stressing a great deal as to whether having some down time would screw up my plans for my next shot at 10km sub 60m glory in May. Yeah. I was that person.

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Turns out I needed the down time. I ran less than 5 times through my entire holiday. Had a complete blast, got engaged, lost a kilo in weight and got the tan dreams are made of. Running and sports are great and everything, they really are. But if you're not a professional athlete, then take a step back when you find yourself wondering if it's ok to run with jetlag. Does it really matter that much? Is it really that important? The answer is probably a resounding no.

Having kicked back, gotten some perspective and cooled my heels on the whole PB mania, I was bitterly disappointed and highly frustrated when a spur of the moment 5 mile race on May Day bank holiday Monday did not go at all to plan. 5 miles is pretty much exactly 8km and I was aiming to see the time at around 48 mins (hopefully just less) to give me an average pace of 6min/km. At 49:27, all the frustration came flooding back and the bit of my personality that allows me to spend days obsessing over something I think I should have done better came out in full force.

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I hit training hard through the rest of May and I'm the first person to admit that it wasn't very healthy. I started to become anxious if I missed or had to alter my workouts, I was completely obsessive about nutrition, and changes to simple things my meal planning. This is amateur running and fitness at it's absolute worst. It's not fun, it makes you miserable, it promotes a terrible attitude to looking after your body and it encourages restrictive behaviour which can lead to all kinds of problems. My wake up call came when it was pointed out to me that I was displaying several characteristics that are warning signs for eating disorders, and that I'd be unable to continue some of my group and class based training if some of these issues weren't resolved before they spiralled completely out of control.

The only plus side to all this? I finally, finally achieved my sub 60m 10km on May 30th at the London 10000. An amazing through through central London on closed roads, well organised and with a frankly incredible goody bag. I came in at 56:27 and the day previous also managed a new 1 mile time almost 2 mins quicker than the previous year. Achieving this major goal also marked the final race of my challenge to run 100km of races before my birthday on June 3rd for Cancer Research. In fact it was just over 143km, not bad for someone who struggled with a 1 mile race 12 months before- if you want to know a bit more about the challenge I undertook including the marathon I ran in 2015, I posted about it here

And then, it all went a bit crazy. In June my parents sold their house which also includes the office we all work from, and although we had a likely completion date set for July, we didn't have anywhere new lined up. I ran a very enjoyable and friendly 10km with running club but otherwise reduced my running significantly and focused on strength training I could do anywhere. And it was nice, because a new challenge dropped into my lap to keep me out of trouble through the midsummer- I was already gearing up to cycle 100km in July for the #RaphaWomens100 - it's a tradition I love and my bike doesn't get as much love as it used to, so the offer of a place to do Ride London- a 100 mile cycle through London & Surrey following some of the 2012 Olympic route, with Skoda no less.

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I treated myself to a new Garmin (it's a Forerunner 620) which measured my cycling data a bit better (and my running data to be fair), managed to give myself stripes riding to Southend and ran purely for the joy that I could do something for fun which this time last year would have been a struggle. In other words- I got my shit together.

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So July. My parents became homeless, we moved into a temporary office which I could only use for some of the time because there wasn't always somewhere for me to stay. Running our business through the busies part of the year on a dodgy internet connection through a VPN made me grateful that strength training had become a joy. Being able to do a workout in our garden meant I was in reach of the phones and kept me sane on some of those crazy days. It also helped tremendously with Ride London- I've previously had back pain and shoulder issues when riding my bike for long periods of time- despite having my bike fitted and choosing my spec carefully, but I finished on a very sunny but not unbearably hot July Sunday with a massive smile on my face and made a beeline for the hospitality tent that came with my sponsored entry. Ride London was not only a great privilege to have been offered a place for, it was yet another reminder that sports and being active should be fun, it's ok to have a goal and to push yourself, but there is a fine line between motivation and obsession. If you want to check out the day, I posted a Photodiary covering it all...

August and September were spent plodding along with occasional runs and at home strength training here and there. After 13 months of one to one weekly personal training, my weekly slot was no longer available and I decided it was a good time to take a break, and drift for a while. It was strange to think in September that it was a whole 12 months since I'd run a marathon and here I was with no real goals and nothing much doing. We finally moved into our new office and my parents into their house as Autumn came our way and I finally felt settled enough to make fitness a bigger part of my life again. I approached a new PT in October and it's helped me to form some new plans, especially since we've turned the garage at my parents' house (where I spend most of my weekdays) into a gym. Strength and weight training are something I've come to look forward to and I'm also signed up for my first ever (yes, really. I've run a full marathon, more 10ks than I can count, but never a...) half marathon in March 2017- I'll be running the Cambridge half marathon with the primary goal of finishing feeling proud of myself, and a secondary goal of finishing in 1:59:59 ot less.

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Now we're into Winter I posted my now annual shot of my in the same Helly Hansen kit- 2014 as a beginner. 2015 marathon finisher. And 2016- finding some balance. 2016 has been a year of extremes- smashing through barriers and achieving some big goals that I set for myself. It's also been a year of understanding that being driven and pushing myself to achieve things can lead me down a difficult pathway, one which has a point of no return on it that I wouldn't have to go to far to find.

The vast majority of the images in the body of this post have come from Instagram, workouts, before and after pictures, weight loss articles and training plans pop up regularly on my suggested Pinterest pins, there are hundreds of Twitter accounts dedicated to running, cycling, weight lifting, HIIT style workouts- think BBG or Joe Wickes, Facebook pages for Personal Trainers who have become online celebrities or magazines post sometimes hourly, fitness has exploded into our digital lives and for me it's been an interesting representation of my 2016- I love that I was able to find a dozen half-marathon training plans to look at and find one that suits my ability and training, I love that we can connect with other people who love our sport as much as we do from across the country or the world, and movements such as This Girl Can have inspired thousands of women to lace up their trainers or shuffle their swimming cap. But for every smiling selfie, you have a responsibility as a part of the social community to remember that there's a story behind every smiling medal selfie, every weight loss journey and every meal planning Monday. It's not a crime to show the world the highlights and celebrate the good, but we can only appreciate the dedication and the hard work behind it when we acknowledge it and enjoy it for what it is.

And with that, I close my honest review of my year running, the year that was 2016. Happy New Year 2017, I wish you all the very best for your own goals.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

I Hate Christmas, Don't Take It Personally.

I do. I hate Christmas. I've spent the last couple of years kidding myself that I don't hate it, I just don't love it either. This year I realised that's all I'm doing- kidding myself. And for some reason, people seem to take this very personally- strangers, friends, family... It's a bit wearing after a while.

There are a lot of reasons I don't feel the festive love, I have a whole heap of emotional baggage attached to Christmas, I find the obligation to spend my precious, precious time off travelling to visit people who wouldn't ever think to come to me instead frustrating because I work away all week, as the organised one of the two of us, it usually falls to me to do all of the Christmas shopping for mine and Tom's families as well as send all the Christmas cards to the relevant people- without missing anyone lest they be offended, I'm also allergic to evergreens- that means Christmas trees- I wish I was kidding, the list goes on. Christmas for me is synonymous with obligation.

Despite my dislike for the time, I wouldn't say I'm a scrooge- if you want to put up Christmas decorations, make wrapping gifts into a party or drink warm spiced wine for an entire month, go for your life. If roasted turkey & pigs in blankets is the meal of the year for you, enjoy. You don't get to judge me for not owning a single bauble or string of tinsel any more than I get to shame you for being excited about mince pies or jumpers with reindeer on them.

This year, for the first time in 6 years, Tom and I are doing our own thing for Christmas. We'll be spending it in our home, just us, doing things the way we want to. We'll probably go for a run, I'm cooking a duck pasta dish for lunch and there's every chance a bottle of wine will be open before 2pm. We will exchange gifts, we have given gifts to the children in our family and some close family members but instead of the previous volume we've made donations to a charity each that's important to us- Cancer Research UK & The Army Benevolent Fund. We probably won't watch much of the Christmas TV- to be fair we're already 2/3 of the way through the Harry Potter movies anyway, we are unlikely to dress up much, and we don't own Christmas pyjamas.

So as we wind down for the weekend and head towards the 'big day' itself,  yes, I'm one of *those* people, and inevitably I'll be told daily- I should just enjoy myself or to stop putting a downer on someone else's plans, and to them I remind them: you do you, I'll do me- I'm not stopping you, I just don't want to join you.

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With love from the single Christmas decoration I own- a tealight holder from my time in Leipzig

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

5 Awesome Training Plans for 5k, 10k & Half Marathon

I am a planner. I likes lists and calendars and the highlight of January 1st for me is opening my new, fresh, clean diary and putting away my stickered, highlighted, bookmarked one from the previous year. So it won't surprise you to know that I am big into training plans for running too.

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I'm now on the countdown to the Cambridge Half Marathon (5th March 2017) which is a new distance to me, and I have a handful of 10k events I've bookmarked as well. If you're reading this and you're not sure you could ever manage to run a mile, let alone a 5k, 10k or beyond, then there's something here for you too. This is a round up of some of my favourite training plans- beginners, PB chasers, distance transitioners... I got you!

1. The beginner plan- Run/Walk

I'll kick right off with this beginner plan that is based on the principle of run:walk. It's how I began my running journey and understanding that it's ok to walk, and that running continuously takes time to build up to was a key to getting me out of the door a couple of years ago. Click here for 5k & 10k plans.

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2. The 5k improver plan- Sub-30mins
Once you've mastered 5k, especially if it's a distance you run regularly at Parkrun or other events, maybe the PB bug is setting in? My first big time goal was to get my 5k under 30 mins. Click here for the (US) Womens Running sub-30min 5k plan and they also have sub-25 mins & sub-20 mins for the ambitious runner out there.

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3. The Transition Plan- 5k to 10k

Mastered 5k, and looking for a new distance challenge? Or perhaps you signed yourself up for a 10k but your training has been a bit lacklustre? This plan is designed to get you from 5k to 10k in 4 weeks and is great if you like to mix up your workouts as it is based on 3 runs per week combined with cross training. I couldn't find a credit for this plan but you can find it on my Training Plans board on Pinterest.

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4. Another Transition Plan- 10k to Half Marathon 13.1

You got 5k down, you are owning 10k and perhaps like I was, you're wondering what all the fuss is for when it comes to half marathons. The 13.1 distance is fast becoming one of the most popular distance events and this is another great transition plan. It's based on 4 runs per week and is a good starting point if you are struggling to work out how much mileage you need to build for a half. Again, no credit for this one but you can find this 10k to half marathon transition on my Training Plans board on Pinterest.

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5. The PB or bust Half Marathon plan

And last but not least, my personal favourite. Not least because it's the plan I'm currently using with a few tweaks here and there. This plan is set out for those trying to go sub-2 hours in their half marathon, but I'd suggest I'm highly unlikely to manage that given this is my first event. So why this plan? Well, it covers cross training as well as running- I am really enjoying spending time in our home gym this winter, getting to grips with weights and strength training has been a major part of keeping myself injury free. Not only cross training but this plan has guidance on speed work, hill training and technical elements within runs such as strong finishes and race pace running. These are things I try to keep in my schedule, race training or not and the intensity & frequency of these extras match my needs perfectly. Click here for the 12 Weeks to Half Marathon PR plan & the whole article.

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Whatever your goal is, there's a plan out there for you and the internet is a great resource for it. You can check out my Training Plan board on Pinterest which covers everything from C25K to Ultra plans and try having a search for a specific distance or time goal. Go forth and conquer.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Do You Really Want Socks For Christmas?

This site does not contain any affiliate links and neither have I been compensated to link to any product or website. 

Confession time, I never normally write gift guides and as December pushes on, I get increasingly sick of being told to buy hugely stereotypical gifts for family members and friends, not least because the tend to be so gender oriented, yawn. So instead of complaining every time I see one this year, I thought I'd create one of my own. Less of a guide, and more a few suggestions for the active person in your life- runner, swimmer, cyclist, gym aficionado, triathlete, rower, glutton for punishment...

Xmas gifts for active people

The gift you'll only understand if you are a runner too...

Joke though many do about receiving socks for Christmas, ask any athlete about the importance of footwear and socks and you are likely to be there some time. As our feet are usually rammed into trainers, and especially sports like running where your feet are the first point of impact, socks are essential to keeping your feet happy and healthy. These Thorlo socks are specially cushioned in key areas and are designed to pull moisture away from the kin. Keep your beloved runner blister free with socks they'll be genuinely excited to receive.

Buy Thorlos socks from your local independent sport shop to get advice on sizing. They start at around £10.

The extravagant gift...

Fitness trackers and sports watches come with a whole host of functions and price tags. I'd strongly recommend paying attention to what your intended giftee has their eye on (and it won't be hard to get them started talking about fitness tech) if you're looking for something sport specific, but lots of the active people in your life are probably a bit data obsessed- how far, how fast, how many, how high... Fitness trackers give them even more data to get excited about.

The Fitbit flex is a good budget version that monitors activity, sleep & recognises exercise automatically from around £70. It's straightforward and immensely popular. I'm told their app is easy to use as well.

I recently bought a Garmin Vivosmart HR to keep track of my heart rate when I'm doing non running/cycling training. It tracks some exercise, your daily steps and activity, sleep and connects with your smartphone if you want it to for notifications (I was reassured to find it's incredibly easy to turn off the notifications because I don't not want Instagram alerts whilst half way through my mountain climbers set, thank you!). I am pleasantly surprised at how much it can do and based on the data I already have from a more traditional heart rate monitor attached to my Garmin Forerunner 620, the inbuilt HR monitor on the Vivosmart seems accurate enough for my needs. It starts at approx £120 new, but check out eBay for many deals on new and unused Garmins as mine only cost around £30 from someone who had received it as an unwanted raffle prize.

Garmin watches & Fitbits are available to buy from major sports retailers online & instore as well as electricals websites & online department stores. Check out eBay for new, unused items at discount prices too.

The edible gift...

I have friends and family who are always a little horrified by the volume of food I get through in a day, let alone a week or a month (and until last week I haven't really been training big distance or endurance...). I know I'd thrilled to discover a box full of my favourite treats to tide me through my long run days, hungry days... any day with a 'y' in it... Check out Aldi & Lidl or Ikea for Christmas tins & boxes and hit up online grocery orders, Amazon or their favourite site for a selection of their favorites or give them something new to try...

Clif bars are available to buy in cases of 6 or 12 from Amazon and websites such as Proteinpickandmix are great for a selection of individual packs or sample sized portions. MyProtein also sell single samples of their products and regularly do deals such as 10 samples for £10.

The gift that keeps on giving... 

Has your favourite athlete got their eye on an event that they're hoping they can still get a place for come payday? Race or event entries will give them joy on opening and keep them busy right up until race day. If you've always harboured a secret dream to do what they do, why not sign both of you up and train with them for twice the fun? Personally, I'm holding out for entries to the Paris RunDisney half in September  and the Yorkshire Festival of Cycling has been on my hitlist for a while. Other ideas include tickets to exhibitions- for the active woman in your life BeFIT tickets for April 2017 are already on sale.

BeFIT tickets available to HERE

The gift for the one who is always on the go... 

I think we all know one of these, whether they're in your closest family circle or the person from 2 desks down at work. The one who is attending a different class every day of the week and has a gym bag permanently attached to their shoulder. Well they might just appreciate the brilliance that is keeping a drink cold for 24 hours or hot for 12. Chilly's bottles come in 3 sizes (260ml, 500ml & 750ml) and a myriad of colours. Not just great for water but morning coffee,lemon water, soup or your favourite smoothie.

So whether it's your significant other, your bestie or your mum (for real, I buy my mum work out clothes as a gift regularly), this should give you a few starting point ideas.

Chilly's Bottles from around £15 on their website


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Skincare for Active Women - Oily & Acne Prone Skin

When you read about workouts and running and fitness on the internet (or anywhere else) occasionally you'll see posts about remembering to wash your kit immediately or how to stay hygienic in the gym, which is fine, but there's another less glamorous element that doesn't seem to be talked about so often, and that's looking after your skin if you're active- be that sports or fitness or maybe your job.

Yup, it might not be the first thing you think of when you you're planning your training or hitting up the gym, however if you struggle with sensitive or problem skin (which I do), then keeping your skin healthy and happy can be really challenging if you find yourself showering more regularly, wearing specific kit items or equipment, needing to wash your hair more regularly, and generally getting sweaty and owning being active.

I've talked about seasonal favourites before but this is my ultimate favourites list- Skincare for active women with acne prone or oily skin.

1. I'm no stranger to Dermalogica products and have talked about the Dermal Clay cleanser in my summer skincare for active women round up. The Dermalogica Charcoal Rescue Masque is a more recent addition that I use once-twice per week and helps to drag all the nasty congestion out of your skin. It's tough on the cleansing front but never leaves my skin feeling dry or or tight and at the end of a few training days when my forehead in particular can start to look and feel congested, this helps to clear things up fairly instantly.

2. Serozinc is a bit of a cult product and something that's a returner to my skincare posts. Zinc is a well known healing & antibacterial ingredient which you can find in acne medications as often as over the counter remedies and beauty products. Spray lightly over face, back & chest before a workout to freshen up, keep it in your bag if you have to travel home from a class or training session before you can shower to help keep nasties at bay and also to help with healing.

3. This is a cheap and cheerful cleanser/toner that is more often than not available on a 3 for 2 offer in Boots as one of their own ranges- Tea Tree & Witch Hazel Cleansing Lotion. It makes it's way onto my list for a number of reasons- it's more effective than face wipes for cleansing before a workout- yes I cleanse my face (whether or not I've been wearing make-up), back/shoulders & chest before I train- helps if you at least start with a clean base rather than adding to any pollutants, grime, dead skin or other joys you may have accrued through the course of your day. It's dead simple to use- dab onto cotton pads, wipe over face, repeat. And it's a cost effective product. Is it a replacement for washing your face? No. Is it useful to have in your gym back for pre-class, in between sessions or to freshen up if you have to travel home before showering? Yes, and for £3.89 (or £2.50 a go on 3 for 2 as it is now), it's easy to have a couple dotted about the bathroom, your gym bag, locker or desk drawer.

4. Lastly, Dermalogica Active Moist, no I'm not writing a sponsored post here but an oil free moisturiser that really works is tough to find. Double bonus, this one doesn't leave a nasty grainy or sticky residue, and for those of you like me, who prefer more neutral scents in skin care products, this is a joy.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Steak or Beans: Payday Millionaire Beans

Whilst Black Friday in the US is geared around the day after Thanksgiving, being the last Friday of November it is also for many people the last payday before Christmas and us Brits sure know how to spend. Today being December 1st, that means most of us have at least 22 days, but possible 27 more days until we next get paid.

But it's not just November/December where many of us are counting the meals left to cook before payday.... Paymentsense reckon over one third, yes, one in three of us, change our eating habits as the month draws on because we've spent up to quickly, if you're female (and the magic of analytics tells me that about 80% of my readers are ladies) then your TWICE as likely to be a payday millionaire. That's scary stuff- want to know more? Here's 10 things you should know about the rise and inevitable (and what goes up, must come down) fall of the payday millionaire.

With that in mind, they asked me to come up with a cheap eats recipe for the 'scraping the barrel' moment at the end of the month, so here goes with the beans...

4 meals for £5... let's do this!

Mexican Mixed Beans recipe photo B47A13C7-4905-4B5C-9B92-86683D639EB7_zpsaonm6n5k.jpg

2 x Mixed bean salad 44p each
1 x tinned tomato 25p
1 x Onion approx 25p
Garlic 30p
Peri Peri or fajita seasoning 50p
Cherry tomatoes 89p for a pack
Peppers 90p for 3

Total: £3.72
I bought my ingredients from an Aldi store, prices are correct from late November 2016

Technically the cost per per portion: £0.93 but I'd say this recipe yields more like 6 portions

In the meantime, today is ALL about my Mexican mixed bean stew- if you want to make this in the slow cooker, add tomatoes, one pack of peri peri seasoning, one slice onion and the entire bulb of garlic sliced or crushed for approx 4h on low, and add the beans, peppers & tomatoes for approx 30 mins more on low.

Mexican bean stew NOV2016 1 photo Med beans 1_zps6adgn865.jpg

1. Slice onion & slice thinly or crush garlic, add to a pan- make it a large one as you have a lot more ingredients to add, with a splash of oil on medium heat & allow to soften slightly before adding one pack of the Peri Peri seasoning- yes, I'm aware this isn't Mexican, but it adds lots of flavours which are local to that neck of the woods if you don't tend to have many spices or other ingredients. Give the whole lot a good stir through, it'll seem a bit dry, but that's ok.

2. Add the tinned tomatoes to the mix and stir well. Bring the whole lot to a gentle simmer and leave for 20-30 mins.

3. Whilst the the sauce base is cooking, slice on of the peppers into strips, and cut a handful of tomatoes into halves. Drain the mixed bean salad into a colander, give them a quick rinse and leave them to dry off a bit.

4. Give your tomato sauce a good stir through, if it's still looking a bit thin, you could add a touch of tomato puree if you have some, if not a half teaspoon of flour (preferably cornflour) let down slow into a thick liquid and stirred in will help. Check for seasoning, I'd normally add a generous helping of black pepper and maybe a splash of tabasco or chilli sauce to your own taste.

5. Add the mixed beans and stir thoroughly. You could add the peppers to the whole batch if you wanted to, but keep in mind that they'll be a bit soft if you reheat the mix later on (and you really should because the flavours develop).

6. If you haven't already added your peppers, heat them through by adding them all to a dry, non-stick frying pan on a high heat for a few minutes, stir regularly to prevent burning.

To serve, put the vegetables into a bowl and ditch a large spoonful of the bean stew over the top. Enjoy a warming well balanced meal that is also suitable for vegetarians (and depending on the spice mix you use, may also be Vegan- always check ingredients if you are catering for a vegan).

Approximate nutrition based on 4 servings: 268 calories, 35g Carbohydrate, 12g Protein, 8g Fat, 10g Fibre
Calculated using MyFitnessPal recipe import. Values not verified.

Mexican Bean Stew NOV 2016 2 photo Med beans 2_zpszoq5mfyj.jpg

So, you could repeat this 4 times over, and it would feed you well. but I know I would be bored. So here's a few more ideas on what to do with the remain 3 portions by adding one low cost add on...

Sweet potato -  pour the bean stew over a baked sweet potato for a warming, carb loaded meal.
Sweet potatoes £1/kilo which should give you 4-5 medium potatoes, so should give you 4 meals
Total cost £4.72

Burrito Bowls -Shredded lettuce & cooked rice or grains, dig your hand down the back of the sofa for some change to add some sliced or mashed avocado
Lettuce 45p, Instant savoury rice 30p, Avocado approx 30p. Should yield at least 2 bowls.
Total cost £4.77

Enchiladas- roll your bean stew up in flour tortillas and bake in an oven proof dish for 20 mins for soft in the middle, crisp on the outside enchiladas. A topping of cheese before baking isn't a bad add on if you've got some!
Tortillas 65p for 8, Mozzarella ball 49p. Should yield 2-3 large portions.
Total cost £4.86

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P.S. Keen eyes will notice the pictures were taken across 2 meals, because I too had a whole lot of leftovers to get through!


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Has That Top Really Lasted 2 Years?

I'm rolling back the clock today a bit today, indulge me, just for today?

Autumn cycling- all about @endura #supercommuter kit and new bikes

I've talked a lot about my running journey, how I came to it after no longer being practical for me to cycle to work each day. That was November of 2014, and sometimes I get little reminders of just how much has changed in 2 years, because from sometimes, it feels like nothing has changed at all.

2014: Couch 2 5K

L:2016 R:2015. I don't look that different but a marathon and 100km in races later... It sure feels different.

2015: 100 kilometres of racing, one marathon and about 300 miles of training later...

2016: Finding my happy place...

2016: the year of balance

And that's definitely the bit that's taken time to get to. I've seen a lot of before and after pictures (the black hole of the #bbg tag on Instagram is my Kryptonite) but what a lot of the those 'transformations' don't cover is the difficult bits- the moment where you realise your fitness or diet goals make you miserable and neurotic or that there is such a thing as pushing yourself too far.

Due to circumstances outside of my control this summer, I took a big break from regimented running schedules and strict workout routines, and that lead to increased drinking and a much looser hold on nutrition. And do you know, it did me the power of good.

I spend a lot of last year and most of this year feeling stressed if I missed a planned training session and spend way more time that was healthy planning what I could or couldn't eat to make sure my macros (protein, carbs, fats) were falling to the right proportions each day, and feeling guilty and frustrated if it didn't go right.

Asian inspired salad with prawns, avocado & toasted seeds. A bit in love with all tamarind everything at the moment.

Having finally gotten back to a sort of normal set up with business (it was our office move that really put a spanner in the works this summer) and worked out what it is I am aiming for with my training, it all seems to have clicked. There's a complete lack of self-imposed pressure which in turn has left me far more relaxed and able to enjoy being active in a new way. So here I am in my happy place- I'm running regularly and have a training plan for my next upcoming challenge- my first half marathon in March, and the plan has a margin for error, injury or you know, when life gets in the way. I'm strength training, in a way that challenges me and helps with my ultimate goal of staying injury free, and I'm (mostly) comfortable with my body. I don't have visible abs, I'm only just in the 'healthy' bracket of BMI, and nobody is going to be impressed by a flex of my biceps, and all of that is ok, because I'm fit enough to run my favourite race distance, strong enough to do push ups for the first time in my life, and I'm healthy enough to enjoy my life. What a difference 2 years has made to me, but not that pink top, which incidentally still looks as good as new!

TransformationTuesday Before & After 2014:2016

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Chloe Likes To Eat: Elystan Street

Elystan Street Quince Tart Cover

Given that there's just the three of us- mum, dad & I in our office, our work Christmas party isn't exactly... traditional. As you can imagine, hiring a DJ or renting a mixologist isn't really on my to-do list when it comes to organising anything to do with the festive period business-wise.

What we have taken to doing, and it's so much more fun, is selecting  restaurant to visit, sometimes fine dining, sometimes a regional cuisine we've not tried before, sometimes a new opening as was the case this year. Elystan Street is Phil Howard's latest opening in Chelsea and one look at the menu ticked all the boxes- seasonal, unpretentious food with exciting ingredients and exciting vegetarian choices. So what did we think....

The first thing you should know about Elystan Street it's that it's distinctly unstuffy. A cool, modern and comfortable interior with stained wood tables and gentle lighting made it very comfortable for the four of us to sit down in in casual shirts at 2.30 in the afternoon and not feel like we needed to whisper. The front of house staff dressed in aprons and chambray is the perfect balance of attentive service and relaxed dining that allows the food to speak for itself. Or should I say sing, because oh, the food.

With a vegetarian in our group, we pay close attention to vegetarian choices on menus and it was one reason we chose Elystan Street from our short list- more of the starters on the lunch menu are vegetarian than not (5 of 8) and the 2 (of 7) main course listed exciting and ingredients without a hint of being the afterthought they so often can be. The vegetarian food completely stole the show with it's complexity, interest and innovation and my (long suffering) mother has billed it as the best and most memorable main course she's eaten in many years-

Autumn spring roll with roasted onion squash, hispi cabbage, pickled walnut and pumpkin oil

Food we will be talking about for time to come at @elystanstreet this afternoon congratulations Phil Howard, a great success.
My pictures definitely do not do this justice, but we can't all be food photographers

Amongst the rest of us, we all opted for fish main courses, the simplicity of these dishes seemed a little at odds with the complexity of the autumn roll dish above, but the ingredients were really allowed to shine with soft, meaty cod, crispy bream skin and buttery risotto- Phil Howard is definitely not shy with the butter.

Elystan Street main courses cod & sea bream
L: My cod with sourdough crumb, bacon, coco beans & cabbage.
R: Sea Bream with risotto nero & green olives

The desserts are worth noting and leaving room for, having got a distinctly intense waft of dark chocolate from the table next to us early on in the afternoon, the chocolate tart with milk ice cream & dulche de leche was a no brainer so far as I was concerned, but the sharp & sweet citrus notes of meringue in the blackberry cheesecake cream dish did leave me a little torn... until I discovered a sprinkle of popping candy underneath the icecream!

Elystan Street desserts chocolate tart & blackberry cheesecake cream
L Warm chocolate tart with milk icecream & dulche de leche
R: Cheesecake cream & blackberry with oat crumble

We wrapped up our afternoon with a very enjoyable espresso before being not quite the last table to wander out into the rain, having been able to congratulate the man himself, Phil Howard on his newest opening. Elystan Street has only been open for about 6 weeks but it's not hard to see why the write-ups are overwhelmingly positive.

If you're looking for a chilled out slice of exceptional food that clearly demonstrates Phil Howard's many years working at height of fine dining, you've got it. I think it would be fair to say he has nothing to prove, and it shows, because the elegance of everything we tried this weekend spoke for itself with none of the ego that so often accompanies fine dining.

Elystan Street is located at 43 Elystan Street SW3, details of their menus and reservations can be found here: www.elystanstreet.com we ate from the lunch menu at £42.50 for 3 courses. This isn't a sponsored post and I have not been otherwise compensated to write this post, we just had a really memorable and fabulous meal. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

An Autumn Goals Update

About this time last month, I set myself some goals for the autumn period. A few things were niggling at me and I needed to feel like I was getting shit done- the original post Autumn Goals is here- click if you missed it.

And now for the updates...

1. 10k time

I want to say this is an abject fail, but that's not strictly true. I was due to run the first of the Royal Parks Winter 10k Series on Sunday after getting back to a more regimented training routine, but I didn't even make it to spectate (Faceache was running too) as I've been out with a nasty cold bug for over a week. I thought I was on the mend on Saturday but when I woke up on Sunday I was super disoriented and struggling with my temperature so there's no tangible result here.

That said, The training regime is good, I'm enjoying feeling like I have a routine down and seeing some upper body strength kicking in.

Work out journal completely bare this week and most of last. Fed up of being under the weather now.
Sad, empty work out journal

2. Wardrobe Clearance

Go me for practising my shopping this month. I managed to steadily work through a whole load of clothes that weren't fit for donation on a 'wear and bin' session through October. The milder weather helped me out because some of those items definitely needed temperatures above the distinctly chilly 2 degree temp outside today. I took advantage of discount codes from H&M and ASOS to try and restock a little bit too- realising that I was more than a little bit short on winter clothing post clear out.

#fromwhereistand on the platform. Custom velvet biker jacket and old favourite @asos ankle boots and some of the best basics I *might have just ordered some more of from @hm #custommade
Me. Wearing actual clothes. And everything. Including my kick ass velvet biker jacket

3. MyFitnessPal Logging

I'm on it. This goal should probably more accurately say 'eat more, especially fats and proteins', but logging my meals and snacks onto the app we seem to have a love-hate relationship with is my way of being mindful of what I eat. I had noticed my energy levels suffering and and when I worked it back, I wasn't eating enough to fuel me through all the things I do between work, fun stuff, training and challenges. I'm back up to the kind of calorie level and balance of different food groups that works for me, I'm back down a kilo or so that had been hanging around lately and aside from the above mentioned bug, I'm feeling loads better.

I wouldn't say we were a cliché but.... poached eggs and avocado on sweet potato toast (complete with sriracha, obviously) after doing the crossword in bed with coffee... #brunch #saturday #lazystart #london #lifestyle #lblogger

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Chloe Likes To Eat: How To Sabotage Meal Planning Intentions

Blogs, Twitter & Pinterest are all goldmines of resources for meal planning and creating healthy balanced diets for your own personal needs, and if on a Sunday afternoon when you find yourself wondering if it's time to get organised, you start to look around, you'll find plenty of guidance on how to do it. What sme of these guides won't tell you... What NOT to do, because with the best will in the world, there are some 'Don'ts' that will completely sabotage even the best of intentions.

DON'T wait until Sunday afternoon to make a start

Yup. First things first, if you're reading this on Sunday afternoon, all is not lost, but don't expect that you will necessarily be able to get everything done ready for tomorrow. Because most UK supermarkets and larger shops shut at 4pm or 5pm, you're unlikely to be able to stock on the fresh you need, sort through the cupboards to see what is actually lurking at the back (half used, 5 year old bag of couscous, I'm looking at you) AND cook or prep sme of the things you have planned.

DO: Take it in stages, have a look through the cupboards, fridge and freezer through the week and try and run down your stocks if you're planning a big overhaul, spend some of these darker evenings hunting down some new recipes and ideas- start making a grocery list of things you now know you don't have. And FYI mid-week grocery slots for online deliveries are often much cheaper than weekends and are sometimes free.

 photo meal planning sabotage_zpsrdob5var.jpg

DON'T shop before you plan

Creating a grocery shop is all fine and good, but without a plan, you're likely to end up with wasted food, wasted money and be missing at least one thing you want later on. Aside the wasted money, because that's your look out, the wasted food really bugs me when food production can be very environmentally damaging coupled with the many who have to manage on tight food budgets and/or food banks for survival.

DO: Consider the days you need to prepare food for, both lunch and dinner if you work from home or make your own lunch to take somewhere, and then create a working meal plan for those days, then you can create a list for any ingredients you need. Don't forget to allow for snacks and we also have a rolling list stuck to our fridge of items we have run out of but don't necessarily buy regularly (condiments, herbs, spices, boring household items) in anticipation of the next shop.

DON'T try too many new recipes in a week

I find it tough to believe that anyone who cooks regularly hasn't had a recipe fail. You know the dish that turned out looking like cat puke, or the one that just didn't taste of anything, or worst of all, the one where the cook time was way out on the temperamental oven in your rented flat and is so black it's actually inedible (just me...?). You might be able to laugh about one or two meals in a week that just didn't turn out, but every day, your humour may start to fail.

DO earmark a few new ideas over the course of a month and break them up with tried and tested favourites. It's also worth keeping notes- I keep a recipe notebook in the kitchen to note down any major changes to a recipe or substitute ingredient that works well.

All the food prep yesterday morning, except I then forgot to pack lunch for myself for today. #fail #lblogger #lifestyle #foodprep #foodblogger

DON'T panic if the plan has to change

I'm not very good at this bit, deviating from any kind of plan is quite stressful, but there are some days or events that either aren't worth planning for or are nice to leave to choice. I rarely bother planning my weekend meals unless there's something we really fancy and I know we'll struggle with the ingredients. It helps that we often have our groceries delivered on a Friday which means we can decide late into the week what we fancy. Also remember that some fresh food might start to go over a little quicker than expected and be prepared to switch days around to use things up whilst they're at their best if needs be.

DO notice the patterns though- if you regularly plan for a particular day and you regularly end up abandoning that plan, time to change the plan, or accept that it has to be a day that you embrace the frozen portion of lasagne from the freezer or the half price Itsu selection.

Asian inspired salad with prawns, avocado & toasted seeds. A bit in love with all tamarind everything at the moment.

DON'T give up

Whether you're planning your meals to try and improve your diet, save yourself money, time or to create some routine in your life, it takes a bit of effort and practice. It won't go right every week because life happens. A plan also shouldn't stop you from enjoying things you love- because life is too short to say no to a pizza with your best mate instead leftover chicken salad sometimes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Running: The Best and Worst Thing That Has Ever Happened To Me

We hear a lot about the wonders of exercise, there's always a new class to try, a new study to tell us why interval training is so good for us, accounts of octogenarians running marathons in record times and a few people like me who use the internet to witter on about their experiences. But there's a bit of a lack of honesty going on- yes we've all seen the BuzzFeed-esque lists of things people with exercise don't tell you and why injuries are the worst thing ever, but exercise isn't just about the physicality, sometimes it's also about how it makes you feel. To that end, running is both the best and the worst thing that has ever happened to me.


Running is not the very first thing that got me active. Those who have known me for a few years may remember that I religiously used to cycle to research job when I was based in a Docklands office in East London. I rode about 20km for my daily round trip through rain, wind, mist and ice and I loved it. Even on the days I used to spend half of my morning bitching about my cold feet. After leaving my job to embark on new business projects and the management of my family business, cycling to work became redundant, if I'm not working from home, I'm at work about 80 miles away which is not conducive to hopping on my beloved bike for a quick 20 minute weave through traffic. I turned to running in very late 2014 as an easier way to exercise regularly because I (very naively thought) all I needed were some trainers.

Today is #globalrunningday ... It's taken time for me to learn to love running but one of the many things I do now love is that running is for everyone. All ages and genders and sizes and shapes and goals. Running is for people who like to match their nai

Cannot believe this is six months ago. 2015, the year I ran a bloody marathon. #neversaynever #thisgirlcan #cruk

Fast forward 2 years and I've run a marathon, I train (running and strength/conditioning) 4-5 times per week, I run 10km in under an hour and I have running kit for every conceivable weather condition duplicated at home and at my base for when I'm working away. Hardcore. I'm fitter than I was 10 years ago when I dabbled with running as a teenager, I'm stronger than I've ever been, muscles you can actually feel and I'm a healthy weight and size for my height, gender and age. So far, so good, right? Doesn't sound so awful.

I've read before that to keep running beyond achieving a short term goal, for it to become something you choose to do, for a hobby or regularly, it takes a certain amount of motivation and drive to achieve that is often associated with so-called 'Type A' personalities or 'Red' personalities. To keep pushing yourself in any sport requires drive, but running, with all it's quirks and foibles does seem to require a special kind of  bloody mindedness and self punishment. The kind of belief that means you feel you've failed yourself if you don't make it out for the fourth day in a row because you feel under the weather, even though it would do more harm than good. The kind of 'drive' that leaves you fully expecting yourself to run a 10km as quickly as you did last month despite being advised it's likely that you have a stress fracture. The kind of bloody mindedness that enables a person to punish themselves when they don't think they have put enough effort into a run or a race. The kind of crazy that leaves you wondering if you can't bring your particular time to a particular level if you're just not a good person.

12 months ago to the day- 04-10-15 I ran a marathon. 9 months ago I realised how much being active had changed my body when I did this 1 year compare, 6 months ago I CHOSE to go out running for joy on the other side of the world and today, today I have my

Running is the best and the worst thing that has ever happened to me because those are a handful of the thoughts that go through my head before, during and after running, training and racing. Sometimes I come back from a run feeling empowered and uplifted- I can take over the world, I am powerful, I am strong, look at what I have achieved. But sometimes running (and sport/fitness as a whole from time to time) sends me into an unpleasant spiral of self doubt and self loathing. Is it healthy? I don't know. All I know from my own is experience is that the best way to deal with it choose to run with and surround myself with people who run because the love their bodies and the strength that sports and exercise gives them, to surround myself with people who take joy in celebrating not just their own successes but everyone's and those who make a positive choice to lift others up rather than to put them down.

Running is the best and the worst thing that has ever happened to me.

Really rough 10km yesterday, it all went a bit wrong between hyponatraemia & humidity. These are my awesome #teambrc chums who all ran excellent races despite tough terrain and humidity.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Chloe Likes To Eat: 3 More Working Lunches

Back in June I put together a post with 5 of my favourite work day lunches- click if you missed it. Seems you liked my cauliflower fritter bowls and stuffed aubergines because it's one of my most heavily view food posts this year. So I'm back with three more lunch ideas- a bright and colourful pick me, a big bowl of comfort and one that's as good warm as it is cold in case you can't heat your lunch. Oh, and all three of these lunches have vegan bases, all meat, fish & animal products are optional extras.

1. The colourful pick-me-up... Asian Salad

Asian inspired salad with prawns, avocado & toasted seeds. A bit in love with all tamarind everything at the moment.
Asian Inspired salad- created after a craving for the Vietnamese Nem Bo dish hit

I mentioned this Asian inspired salad in my recent post about building the perfect salad- again, click if you missed it... IT's bright and cheerful, slightly sour and fresh all at the same time. Basic recipe below- proteins & extras are your own choice, as you can see this one has prawns added as well as avocado & toasted seeds to get my fats in.

Shred vegetables- I used red cabbage, cucumber, radishes, carrot and half an apple. Use a grater or a spiraliser, I threw it into my Thermomix on speed 5 for 5 seconds.

Add the veg to a bowl and pour over a mixture of the following:
1 tbsp white wine or rice wine vinegar
Squeeze (teaspoon ish) honey
1/2 tsp tamarind paste
dash of soy sauce
dash of sesame oil

The volume of veg you shred will determine the number of servings but using a quarter of a cabbage, 1 carrot, half an apple, half a standard cucumber and a handful of radishes gave me 3 very large portions. Store in the fridge, but can be eaten at room temperature.

3. Comfort in a bowl... Thai Green curry & coconut daal

Comfort food lunch right here: coconut milk & lentil daal with spinach & prawns mixed through, topped off with toasted seeds and sriracha.
Daal topped with toasted seeds and prawns mixed through. Not forgetting a dash of sriracha

This is so not the most photogenic of dishes, but it's warm, comforting and the perfect antidote to a dark, wet & windy afternoon.

I recommend using a non-stick pan for this:
Heat 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil or sesame oil
Add 2 tbsp of preferred green curry paste (red would also work if preferred)
Once bubbling, add 180g of red lentils, mix to coat the lentils
Add 1 400ml tin of coconut milk (if you're using low fat coconut milk, the next stage will be down to judgement on consistency)
Fill the empty tin with water, and as the daal starts to simmer, add the water bit by bit, stirring in between. I used about 3/4 of the water to get mine to the desired consistency with full fat coconut milk- the whole cook time is around 30 mins
Taste for seasoning- may benefit from a dash of salt or soy sauce.

To serve, mix spinach leave through before heating, I also like to add leftover roast chicken or prawns and top with toasted seeds for crunch. The above yields 3 substantial portions.

3. The one that's awesome hot or cold... Burrito Bowls

A very greedy burrito bowl for me: mixed bean chilli style sauce, spinach, quinoa, avocado, feta & crispy onions. All that's missing is a beer, but it is a school night. #burritobowl #monday #lblogger #foodblogger #balanced
Very greedy but oh so good with chicken, feta, quinoa, avocado, salad & crispy onions

Burrito bowls have been done time and again, and there are some great recipes out there for different chilli style mixes to go with them- mine changes every time I make it...

For the mixed bean chilli:

To a slow cooker add:
1 tin mixed beans (often called mixed bean salad)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 small tin sweetcorn
generous dollop tomato puree
smoked paprika & cumin to taste- start with 1 tsp each
Splash or sriracha or chilli powder
3 cloves garlic crushed
Cook on low for 4-6 hours until the sauce has thickened.

To build your bowl:
Grains of choice- I had leftover quinoa, so that's mine
Shredded lettuce
Avocado or guacamole
Cheese of choice- I like feta for sharpness
This was a greedy bowl so I added some left over roast chicken as well...
Squeeze of lime & even more greedy, crispy onions

Feeling the chill? Take your chilli & grains separately to your salad, and warm through gently first. If you're taking this to an office, a sectioned box or bento box is really useful for the different elements, otherwise consider having a few smaller storage tubs so you can build your bowl at the time of eating.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

5 Awesome Things About Not Getting A London Marathon Place

After running a marathon in 2015, I did say I wouldn't do another. And yet somehow in May, I couldn't resist throwing my name into the London Marathon ballot. Places are hugely oversubscribed for a reason- it's an incredible event, and given I now know I am capable of a marathon, I'm tempted, just not tempted enough to fight for a place. But when I got my 'no' email (I haven't been home for a couple of weeks, so there's probably the requisite magazine waiting for me there too), I was pretty relieved. Marathon training is intense, it takes over your life and it requires (at least it did for me) a great deal of sacrifice in order to have time to train. So here's five reasons to be glad if you too are feeling rejected...

1. Did someone say... wine?

For a lot of people getting their weekly increasingly long 'long run' in means an early start or giving up an entire weekend day. That can mean having to put down the wine glass that's basically mandatory with a pizza in my house. And that's no fun at all. Enjoy your autumnal evening pizza with as much Primitivo as you like now you know you won't have to 18 miles at 7am on Sunday....

It's the weekend. I'm full of grim cold-cough sickness so obviously it's all about pizza and primitivo 

2. These... 

Clarks Hamble Oak Brogues shoes

Instead of these...

Joy is shiny new @mizunorunning trainers ready for hill training and more this week. #girlswhorun #thisgirlcan

Because new running shoes are great and everything, but you can buy a lot of fun shoes for the same price. I ran about 350 miles training for my marathon and new running shoes are recommend every 300-500 miles....

3. Loads more of this too...

This week I am especially proud to be a girl who rides. The entire female Great British Olympic delegation inspire me to work harder, ride longer push further and feel even more joy! #girlswhoride #girlswhorun #fitchicks #fitnessblogger #lbloggers #cyclin

Because have you ever tried fitting a 100km bike ride into a week where you also have to run 15 miles?

4. When a sandwich goes back to being a meal and not a snack...

I seriously don't think I've ever had to eat as much as I did when marathon training and it's tedious. Eating the balance of carbohydrates and protein around training runs requires planning and after a while it's easy to feel like all you're doing is running, eating or thinking about running or eating.

5. Running for actual joy

I ran a marathon and nobody can take that away from me, but I also lost a little bit of joy along the way. Yes I pushed my body above and beyond, yes I achieved something, but a casual 5 miles on a sunny day, because that's something I can do and something I want to do, that's amazing too. And there isn't often time for that in a marathon plan.

Mega sweaty 5 miles back to the house after a mega sweaty First ever ParkRun this morning. #runningblogger #parkrun #teambrc