Just eat ‘proper’ food.

Good evening! Here we are, back again with another blog. No negativity, deep thinking or dwelling on the meaning of life (I’ve done that enough recently!). Just a simple, informative, descriptive blog about our favourite topic; FOOD.

A human need, a guaranteed energy supply and sensation pleaser. It sounds so simple. So why is it that so many of us have a difficult relationship with food? A Love-hate tendency and an overactive mind that judges every mouthful, leaving us feeling in control and satisfied, or tremendously guilty. We label foods as good or bad. Healthy or unhealthy. Allowed or not allowed. The list goes on. Clean eating, paleo, high carb-low fat, high fat-low carb, high protein, vegetarian, vegan. Just to name a few! Each diet has books on the topic, lists of food to eat and avoid, rules, regulations, hashtags, trends, weight loss stories, weight gain stories. You name it, it’s out there.

No wonder we fight so hard against our own brains to decide what and how to eat. We’re bombarded with choice and most of our family or friends are following some sort of regime. It’s easy to get sucked in. We choose to match our beliefs to the opinions of those we value most. And so before we realise it, we’re taking nutritional advice from people who have no health or nutrition qualifications and very little education and understanding on the topic. It’s easy to see athletes eating a slice of melon for dessert and concluding that if you’re an athlete, dessert is out of bounds. In the same way, you see celebs avoiding ‘carbs’ at all costs and looking super lean in heavily edited social media posts. Maybe I’ll not reach for that extra slice of toast at breakfast…

Anyway, fear not! Let’s bring the simplicity back to food and debunk some common misconceptions surrounding the topic.

 

  1. Losing weight

Uh. Where do we start? First of all, it’s not a bad thing to want to lose weight. A common misconception is that we should all embrace our bodies, no matter what shape or size and carry on eating a fry up for breakfast every day followed by copious amounts of more food, because it ‘makes us happy’. And whilst I agree that we should love our bodies and celebrate the fact that we’re all different shapes and sizes, I think an important way to love our bodies is to treat them with respect. And by this I mean, nourish our bodies with a variety of fuel that will allow us to be the best we can be. You only have to google the risks associated with obesity and you’ll find a million and one articles on the diseases, medical conditions and complications associated with excess weight. I’m not here to scare anyone, but if you want to prolong your life and be healthy and happy for many years to come, diet is one of the few things we can control and take responsibility of to ensure this.

Would you fill up your car with lard and expect it to drive no problem? Probably not. So why would we fill up our bodies with crap and expect it to perform without significantly putting our health at risk?

If you feel uncomfortable in your own skin and your BMI suggests you’re sitting in the overweight category, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to lose a few extra pounds, think of it as gaining a bit more life. Additionally, if you’re a healthy weight but would like to reduce your body fat, this is not a problem either and it shouldn’t be shamed on. It’s your body and you can change it according to your goals, both health and aesthetic related.

The only thing that is not healthy, is losing weight to become underweight, losing weight if you’re already underweight or losing weight very fast/via crash diets and restrictive eating. If in doubt about your weight, consult your doctor. BMI’s are useful to an extent but each individual has their own range of healthy and unhealthy weights. For example, if you’re a female and lose weight to a point that your periods stop or become irregular, you’re not at a weight that is healthy for your body. Respect mother nature and she will respect you back. The same goes, if you feel lethargic, sluggish and sloppy despite having a ‘healthy’ BMI, losing a couple of pounds could bring the bounce back to your step and get you on the straight and narrow again. If in doubt, experiment and find a weight that your mind and body are both satisfied with.

 

So now the disclaimers are out of the way, let’s move on to the real deal. Weight loss in a nutshell; energy deficit. THAT IS ALL. Consume less energy than you expend on a daily basis and as if by magic, you will, over time, lose weight. It really is that simple. There’s no specific diet. There’s no magic ingredients. There’s no spoonful of foul smelling green powder. It just takes a LOT of discipline and a little manipulation of the amount you’re currently eating. To find out how much energy approximately you should be consuming, there are numerous websites whereby you can fill out your height, weight, age, activity and lifestyle in order to get a free calculation of how much you need to eat to lose weight, maintain weight and gain weight based upon your measurements.

Can you still eat chocolate? Yes, as long as in the day you do not consume more than you expend.

Can you eat out? Yes, as long as in the day you do not consume more than you expend.

Can you still drink alcohol? Yes, as long as in the day you do not consume more than you expend.

Can you still eat takeaways? Yes, as long as in the day you do not consume more than you expend.

Can you still eat pizza? Yes, as long as in the day you do not consume more than you expend.

Hopefully, this is starting to make more sense. You do not need to cut out or restrict any specific food groups. You just need to consume less energy than you expend. You do not need to go to bed starving, you do not need to cancel all of your social plans and quit drinking in order to lose weight. I mean, you can do all of the above if you want to, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Here’s where it gets complex. There are certain things that could potentially help you lose weight more easily. However, IT IS NOT ESSENTIAL. If I haven’t mentioned it enough times already, to lose weight, you need to consume less food than you expend in a day.

But, a diet higher in protein can help to keep you feeling full for longer. This means, you are less likely to feel starving or hungry, which could help you stave off snacking or over consuming food. I’d suggest having a breakfast high in protein such as eggs, smoked salmon, greek yogurt as well as a carb source and a fat source. Then incorporating fresh fish/meat and beans/pulses into your main meals. It takes a reasonable level of discipline to reduce your food intake and so helping to stave of hunger can help you along the way.

Secondly, exercise. Exercise burns calories ie increases the energy you expend. Therefore, by incorporating exercise into your day or week, you can afford to eat more than if you stay sedentary all day. Not only does exercise help to boost and improve your mood, it has many health benefits and can speed up the weight loss process. I would suggest finding a sport of activity that you enjoy! Some people get up and run 10miles a day, but I appreciate, this is most peoples’ idea of hell. You don’t have to be that person, you can do yoga, dance, tennis, football, netball, rounders, circuits, head to the gym, walk more, the list is ENDLESS. If you’re struggling for motivation, invite your friends or family along too. Take your partner for an evening walk. Borrow your neighbours dog. Take your friends kids to the park. Exercise doesn’t have to be an inconvenience.

Cutting carbs. Essentially, reducing the amount of carbohydrates you eat, could help you lose weight. There’s science behind it, trust me, or read some journals on the topic. However, this does not require completely ridding all forms of carb from your diet. I would just reduce the portion size and increase the protein. For example, maybe have one slice of toast with your breakfast, rather than two. Or have a lighter salad for your lunch or dinner with fresh vegetables and protein as oppose to a big portion of pasta or a sandwich. Reducing your carb isn’t necessary for weight loss. But it can help shift those extra pounds. If you’re staying active and exercising, carbs are still very important so don’t neglect them entirely, but make wise decisions about which carbs you do consume. Wholegrains, vegetables, fruits, brown bread and pasta all have a high fibre content, keeping you fuller for longer.

Counting calories. This is not essential to lose weight, and can be a time consuming tedious method. However, sometimes, it can be useful to count calories for at least the first few days to get you on track and to adapt and learn about the energy content of different foods. If you’ve never dieted before or your diet is a little bit ad hoc currently, counting calories can be a good way to take control and make a change. There are many apps out there such as My Fitness Pal, which allow you to track and control your calories throughout the day. Try not to get obsessed by counting calories and only do it until you’re confident enough to control your own intake. It’s not healthy to religiously weigh every single item of food and log it to the decimal place.

 

Finally, what should you eat? OR how do you structure your eating?

I would recommend 3 main meals a day and 2-3 snacks to tie you over in between meals. Incorporate a balance of carbs, fats and proteins into each meal and include the occasional treat to keep you sane. Steer away from ready meals and processed food and just eat real food. Fresh vegetables, fresh meat/fish, eggs, pulses, grains. Focus on changing your lifestyle as opposed to ‘going on a diet’. Patience, persistence and discipline are your three most important factors.

 

  1. Balance

But what does this popular word even mean? Most will have their opinions and beliefs surrounding the word.

Does it mean an apple in one hand and a cake in the other?

Does it mean incorporating carbs, protein and fat into each meal?

Or does it mean eating the specific amount of food that results in an energy balance of equilibrium?

To an extent, I’d say there are aspects of the above statements that each contribute to a balanced diet. One thing I will stress slightly more is that balance does not necessarily incorporate restriction.

My view on a balanced diet is eating an adequate amount of carbohydrates, proteins and fats to allow the human body to function and carry out daily tasks including exercise and rest. In order to fulfil nutrient and vitamin requirements, I suggest eating a variety of all carbs, proteins and fat. That means starches and sugars for carbs, animal and plant protein and unsaturated and a lil bit of saturated fat. All in all, a balanced, varied diet = a happy, healthy mind and body (ok, maybe it’s not THAT simple, but you get the gist).

Listen to your body and respond to any cravings or desires in a conscious way. If you really want some chocolate, buy your favourite chocolate bar and ENJOY eating it. Food is there for enjoyment as well as a necessity for human life. Try not to go overboard and eat an entire bag of sharing chocolate. We’ve all done it, admittedly so. But moderation is important and all part of maintaining a balanced diet.

 

  1. Breakfast

The clue is in the name; breaking the fast. The majority of us tend to sleep for approximately 7-9hours each night. Unless you get the midnight munchies or are able to eat in your sleep, that’s at least 7-9hours without food. Hence, we usually wake in a ‘fasted’ state. Skipping breakfast was once a trend, as was eating breakfast ‘boosts metabolism’. Contradicting opinions already, surprise, surprise. So what is right?

Personally, I’d say do what works for you (haha – generic, I know!). But seriously, if you’re hungry on waking, then eat, if you’re still stuffed from the day before, maybe just have something light or wait a few hours until hunger kicks in. Aim to have a balance of carbs, protein and fat at breakfast and never skimp on the caffeine. Needs must at the end of the day! I would recommend something along the lines of;

  • Toast with smashed avocado and poached eggs
  • Toast with nut butter and banana
  • Toast with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon
  • Cereal with milk and banana/berries
  • Greek yogurt with granola and berries

The list could go on, but essentially try and choose a balanced breakfast incorporating at least 1-2 of your 5-a-day.

 

  1. Veganism and vegetarianism

If it works for you, keep doing what you’re doing. I have nothing against these kind of diets and I know the positive effects it can have not only for the environment but animal welfare as well. Personally (and yes, this is my opinion) I find vegan and vegetarian diets too restrictive and so I will continue to eat meat and dairy. However, I think there’s a lot that everyone can learn from vegan and vegetarian diets and I will usually opt for meat free recipes a few times a week. If I could summarise my diet, I would say most of my meals are plant based with added protein in the form of meat/fish/eggs. Plant based diets are a great way to incorporate your 5 a day too.

Even participating in #meatfreemonday to reduce the amount of meat you and your household consume can help to make a difference to an extent. Whilst most vegans and vegetarians believe in the all or nothing rules of their diet, I think many of us can still make an impact by slightly reducing our meat and dairy consumption or opting for dairy alternatives now and again. If it’s not for you, then keep doing what you’re doing. I am not the vegan police. I will, however, make a more informative and detailed post on this topic as I’m literally glazing over the surface.

One thing I will say on this topic is; be mindful of where the meat you consume is sourced from. Use local butchers and opt for free range eggs. Supermarket meat is often expensive and poor quality compared to what you can get from the butcher.

 

  1. MILK

What milk do I drink? Skimmed, semi skimmed, whole milk, oat milk, almond milk. EVERY SORT. I tend to drink oat milk in my coffee and on my cereal as I like the taste and OATLY B is AMAAAZE. However, I will drink literally everything. Why? It’s one of the only foods that contain carbs, protein AND fat. Amazing huh. A lecturer in Nutrition at my university once said if he could only consume one food for the rest of his life, he would consume milk. Due to the balanced nature of its macros. Milk isn’t bad for you, it won’t make you fat and it won’t cause you digestive issues, unless you’re intolerant. In which case, don’t drink it. Simples.

Milk is also a grand source of Calcium.

Strong bones = less stress fractures.

Chocolate milk? Bottoms up.

 

  1. Vitamins, supplements and powders.

Unless prescribed by a doctor for a specific deficiency or medical condition. The vast majority of essential vitamins and minerals can be obtained through good, proper food in a balanced diet. If you’re susceptible to anaemia, take iron supplements. Similarly, Vitamin D can be a good idea, given that the sun barely shines in this country. However, the rest are mostly excreted in your wee. If you’re dying for some Vitamin C, have a glass or orange juice, it probably tastes better than a bland tablet anyway!

 

  1. The timing of eating

Most common misconceptions;

Eating late at night makes you fat. False.

Eating little and often boost metabolism. False.

Eating all of your daily calories in one sitting makes you put on weight. False.

First of all, if this topic excites you, do some reading. There are so many journals and research papers surrounding this topic, it can be really interesting to delve into some reading and learn something new.

But in summary, the time of day that you eat doesn’t not effect your weight. The only factor that largely has an effect on weight loss or gain is energy intake. If you’ve got this far reading, you won’t mind referring back to point 1, whereby I stressed the fact that energy balance is the determinant for weight loss/maintenance/gain.

Thus the time of day, the carbs you eat after 7pm and the amount you eat in one sitting are not independently going to effect your weight. Only if your energy balance is in deficit or surplus will you lose or gain weight.

 

MORAL of the story;

Eat good, proper food.

Eat your carbs.

Exercise regularly.

And don’t let the boys be mean to you (joking!).

 

Peace, love and lotsa learning!

XOXOXOX

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Don’t lose the spark that makes you, you.

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Life is tough but so are you.

If you ever feel lost, I encourage you to write.
One line.
Two lines.
A paragraph.
An essay.

It’s been three weeks since my last day of work. And to be honest, those three weeks have flown by. Time doesn’t wait for anyone. It’s true.

The last three weeks have been difficult; a mixture of confusion, lack of control, uncertainty and overthinking. It’s amazing how your brain goes completely into overdrive when given the opportunity to do nothing at all.

I’m the kind of person that would intentionally cram as much into my day as possible. I would be up between 5-6am most days just to fit in training before work, spend the rest of the day at work and then happily collapse into my bed at 11pm when my body was mentally and physically exhausted. Yet every morning, I gave myself a reason to get up and do it all again. It was addictive, the endorphin rush from clocking almost 10miles every morning was enough to carry me through the day. I was focussed, motivated and bloody determined to just survive until my next rest day or my next day off work. The great thing about being busy is that it’s a tremendous distraction technique to ignore negative and overwhelming events and thoughts in your life. The only problem is when you stop.

I chose to stop. I was running into injury trouble and I was forever treading the fine line of being ‘healthy’. I needed a break. And so I took one.
Best. Decision. Ever.
But only after 3 weeks can I truly appreciate that.

The first week was like a holiday, I got up late most days, ran late morning, had lunch with my *truly amazing wonderful* mother, napped in the afternoon and made dinner for the family. Standard. I was content, catching up on sleep for the past year and recharging the well drained batteries in my body. I felt like the weight had shifted from my shoulders and I felt pretty free. I was, free as a bird that flew away.

The second week was quite tough. I promised myself I would fully switch off for one whole week, and then I would start to get my shit together. Monday came round and I jumped out of bed at 7am. A slight shock to the system after falling into a mid morning wake up routine, but a strong coffee and staple breakfast of avo/eggs/toast powered me through the morning. I wanted to start to look at new jobs, new opportunities and see if anything came of interest. The problem lies in that I don’t exactly know what I want to do. I was jumping at every small opportunity and firing applications left, right and centre. I even convinced myself I was moving back to London in a couple of weeks at one point. I’d go to bed fearful, scared that it wouldn’t work out and that by Christmas I’d be moving back home, rock bottom. I felt deflated. It wasn’t what I wanted, I knew that deep down. But I felt the need to prove myself and others wrong.

I put a lot of pressure on myself when moving home that I would 1. Immediately find a job, 2. I would promise myself to be the happiest I’ve been in a long time and 3. I would spend the whole summer going away on holiday and catching up on all of the things I’ve not been able to do over the past 12months. My expectations slightly exceeded reality here. I now see why people disappear to India for a few months to ‘find themselves’. Haha. But in all honesty, I felt as lost as ever.

Luckily, I have some absolutely class friends who will happily spend an hour or two on the phone to me, keeping me sane. I sound like a handful… I promise you, I’m not that bad, I have my shit together, just. I find writing a great way to express my feelings, which are otherwise quite hard to understand. These phone calls were a friendly reminder that actually it’s ok to have no direction right now. I mean this is why I moved home isn’t it, to take time to decide what I want to do, where my interests lie and what I’m passionate about. So I backtracked, turned down a couple of opportunities, cancelled a few interviews. There is honestly no point in jumping feet first into anything if your heart is not with you. As cliché as that sounds, it’s true. And so I took a step back, decided that I would persevere and take more time before making any rash decisions.

Rolling into the third week, accepting that these things take time, my mojo was pretty low. I couldn’t think of many reasons to get up in the morning. I had no purpose. And by that I mean, a 30min run takes 30mins, eating breakfast takes 15mins and getting showered dressed takes another 15min. You don’t quite realise how much time there is in the day until you have NOTHING to occupy the hours. I was irritable, moody and didn’t really want to do anything. My parents probably thought their new housemate was a right psycho… kidding! Luckily they know me well enough to 1. Tolerate my irritability and 2. To leave me bee when I’m not in a socialising mood. Hahaha. And I’m still learning how to be a great daughter.

Again, I started jumping and getting carried away over any small opportunity that I saw. I think I struggle to have nothing to focus on. It’s not something I’m used to and it does make me feel a little bit inadequate. The questions keep rising; ‘what do you work as?’, ‘what are you doing at the moment?’, ‘what’s your plan?’. Fuck off. I haven’t got one, just yet. A couple of friends I’ve met recently have said ‘I don’t want a proper job’. I can relate. FINALLY. Something I can relate to via this adult, working world. I want to be creative. And by creative, I mean, I want variation, I want to pitch new ideas and create content. I want to travel. I want to work in a relaxed environment with a supply of coffee close by and I want to go out and meet people. I may have somehow got 99% in my C1 Maths A level exam but I couldn’t think of anything worse than a monotonous job, crunching numbers all day or operating like a robot. That, is not me.

So after a lot of dithering, a couple of weeks desperately trying to force a successful future and taking on some golden advice from a few too many late night phone calls, I landed myself in a better place. A place of acceptance. Right now, what do I enjoy? I enjoy running, I enjoy cooking and I enjoy going on mini adventures, visiting new places and meeting new people. So that is exactly what I’m going to focus on. My mum and I have decided to explore some wild swimming locations as well as revisiting some childhood holiday destinations, which hold a lot of memories. I’m going to keep up with my cooking. And I’m going to give myself the opportunity to put a lot more energy and focus into my training and running. This means, I’ll stay at home for the time being. But now, I’m going to make the most of my time here. I’m already itching to get back out onto the fells and pick up my racing, which has been desperately neglected over the last two years.

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I’ve rekindled my love for yoga and I’m becoming more mindful. When reading an article relating to life and it’s importance, I saw this quote; everyone will die at some point. Whilst a slightly morbid thought, there’s no better reason to truly make the most out of your life, what you have and what you can do. Don’t leave anything until tomorrow, as tomorrow may never come. But most importantly be happy, satisfied and appreciate everything you have and do. Whilst I feel a little like a housewife at the moment, minus my own house, a husband and an extensive list of jobs to complete, I can fully appreciate and enjoy doing exactly what I want to do in my own time. It gets to a point where social media becomes quite boring and you realise the repetitive nature and fake smiles plastered across most social channels. Gym workouts, big bums and ripped abs. Why do we become so obsessed with documenting our lives? I’m guilty of it too. I think I’d rather go for a walk and leave my phone at home right now.

Who knows, maybe I’ll be begging my parents to take me away camping to some remote island off the North Coast of Scotland that is so far away, it doesn’t fit on the map and has no signal or electricity. Extreme, I know.

Anyway, rather than scoping too far away from the meaning of this post. Let me reiterate; taking a break was in fact the best decision. You learn a lot about yourself, you learn to restrain from rushing into things, you learn to relax. You learn to enjoy life for what it is. You learn not to feel guilty for not having a job. You learn to create your own happiness. And you learn than Sunday afternoons sitting in coffee shops with your own thoughts and feelings is actually a bloody good way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

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Before I blink again and it’s September, it’s time to crack on with the fun stuff and make the most of the next few weeks of ‘summer’.

Putting the adventure back in @adventureswithsal – peace out. Watch this space.

 

 

#athlete speedy suppers

Whilst cooking and meal prep can be fun, it can also be quite time consuming and tiring, especially at the end of a long day. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking the last thing I’d want to do after a 16km volume training session is spend 45mins putting together a meal, which will then be demolished in 60 seconds.

Adequate nutrition is important to provide fuel for both training and recovery, but it doesn’t need to be made complicated, nor time consuming. I’ve put together a series of ‘speedy suppers’ that can be thrown together in less than 15mins. Ideal for student athletes, full time working athletes or those that simply want to spend minimal time in the kitchen.

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7-a-day salad

Ingredients:
1tsp coconut oil
1/2 can chickpeas
3-4 mushrooms
1/2 red onion
1/4 cucumber
1/2 avocado
5-7 cherry tomatoes
1 carrot
1tbsp dressing
1 cooked chicken breast

Method:
1. Heat the coconut oil in a large frying pan on a low heat
2. Slice the mushrooms and red onion add them to the pan with the chickpeas, stirring regularly
3. Slice the avocado, cucumber and tomatoes and mix in a bowl with the dressing
5. Peel and grate the carrot and add this into the bowl
6. Shred the chicken breast and mix through the pan before throwing it all in a bowl to serve

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Creamy smoked salmon and asparagus gnocchi

Ingredients:
1tsp coconut oil
250g gnocchi
6-8 asparagus stems
1 garlic clove
50g smoked salmon
50ml cream
15g Parmesan
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 lemon

Method:
1. Throw the gnocchi into a pan of salted boiling water and cook until the gnocchi floats, remove from the heat and drain
2. Lay the asparagus onto a baking tray, drizzle with a little oil and season. Place the asparagus under the grill for 6-8mins until browned and crisp
3. Heat the coconut oil in the pan, add the garlic and he gnocchi and stir regularly to brown
4. Meanwhile grate the Parmesan and stir it into the cream with the nutmeg
5. Turn off the heat, stir the zest of the lemon into the gnocchi and add the cream mixture. Stir gently until all is combined and the sauce has melted
6. Now cut the smoked salmon into thin pieces and stir into the gnocchi
7. Serve in a bowl and top with the asparagus, a squeeze of lemon and a shaving of parmesan

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Halloumi with Med veg and couscous

Ingredients:
1/3 block halloumi
1tsp coconut oil
1/2 courgette
1 red pepper
1 red onion
1/2 pack instant couscous
1/2 pomegranate

Method:
1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees; cut the courgette, red pepper and red onion into small chunks and throw them onto a baking tray with the oil
2. Put the baking tray in the hot oven and bake for 30mins, shaking every 10mins
3. Boil the kettle and make up the instant couscous
4. Once cool, mix the pomegranate seeds into the couscous
5. When the veg has 5mins remaining, slice the halloumi and fry on a high heat in the frying pan for 2mins on each side (until brown)

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Vegetarian miso noodle broth

Ingredients:
1 nest egg noodles
1tsp coconut oil
3-4 mushrooms
1/2 courgette
1 egg
1 packet instant miso soup
1tsp sesame seeds

Method:
1. Cook the noodles for 5-6mins in a pan of boiling water, then drain
2. Meanwhile, heat the coconut oil in a frying pan and cook the mushrooms and courgette on a low heat
3. Boil the egg by placing it in a pan of boiling water and leaving to simmer for 6mins
4. Add 300ml of boiling water to a jug and mix in the instant miso soup packet
5. Add the noodles and vegetables to a bowl and pour over the miso soup
6. Peel the egg, before slicing and placing in the bowl
7. Sprinkle with sesame seeds to garnish

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Quinoa superfood salad

Ingredients:
1/2 pack cooked quinoa
1/2 cucumber
20g feta
6-8 cherry tomatoes
1/2 avocado
Handful chickpeas
2 tbsp dressing of choice
1 grated carrot
1 tbsp houmous (optional)

Method:
1. In a large bowl, empty the quinoa and stir through with a fork to remove any clusters
2. Chop the cucumber, tomatoes and avocado into small chunks and stir through the quinoa
3. Crumble in the feta, add the chickpeas and stir through the dressing
4. Grate the carrot and either add as a topping or stir through
5. Finally, add a dollop of houmous

 

 

No sweat core strengthening exercises

I’ve been looking forward to writing this post for a while. I often get approached via social media with questions in relation to my running, training and s&c work. I don’t tend to share workouts or sessions on social media as I respect the fact that my coach devises my training according to my specific goals and my capability as an athlete. As with most things; individuals are very different and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to improving as an athlete and finding the training that is optimal for performance. It’s easy to get obsessed with what other people are doing and constantly compare your own training and racing to others. However, it’s important to focus on yourself and monitor training/sleep/recovery in order to find what works best for you.

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Whilst the running side of the sport is very much individualised, I thought I would share the core exercises I do in order to reduce injury and keep my body strong to facilitate the volume of training I do.

The explanation behind the ‘no sweat’ core strengthening session is that in order to strengthen the core muscles, the majority of exercises are not too intense, yet are still effective. The core includes the abdominal muscles as well as the back muscles and many other contributing muscles surrounding the trunk of the body. Without delving too far into an anatomy lesson, a strong core is needed to hold and correct posture and alignment whilst running. Without a strong core, the risk of injury increases as alternative muscles overcompensate for the work being done.

1. Single leg raises
Lay down with your back flat on the ground, raise the knees to a right angle position (left) and slowly lower each leg to an extended position (right) before bringing it back. The key is to keep the lower back in contact with the ground at all times and pull the core inwards to assist the movement. Alternate legs for each extension and do 20-30 reps on each leg.

2. Plank
Lay down on your front, lift yourself into plank position; your head, neck, torso, hips and legs should all be aligned. Ask someone to check your alignment or hold in front of a mirror to ensure correct posture. This exercise is static and so there should be no movement. Hold for 1min on the front, then do 1min on each side and finish with 1min on the front (4min total).

3. Bridges
Lay down on your back with your knees bent to a right angle and your feet on the floor. Squeeze your glutes to lift your hips up towards the ceiling (left). Hold here for 5-10 seconds before rolling your spine back down in a controlled manner back to the starting position. Repeat 10-15 times. This exercise can be made harder by fully extending the legs one at a time when stationary during the 5-10 second hold and flexing the knee up to the chest and back down(right)

4. Squats
Start by standing with your feet hip width apart and holding in your core. Slowly squat down in a controlled way and stand back up. It’s important to keep your back straight and head up. I often use a 5-10kg weight to add some resistance. Start by doing 15-20 and build up to 30.

5. Hamstring curl with exercise ball
Lay down on your back with your feet raised onto the ball. Lift your hips to align your shoulders, hips and knees in a straight line (left). Now slowly, pull the ball towards you using your feet and flexing your knees (right), then extend the legs back to the starting position. 15-20 reps of this exercise is enough to feel the burn in your hamstrings and core.

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6. Russian twists with weight
Balancing on your bum in a sitting position with your feet raised, move the weight (5-10kg) from side to side, keeping your core strong and your back straight. Do this exercise slowly as the more control you have, the more engaged your core will be. Repeat for 20-30reps.

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7. One leg standing balance with weight
Standing on your left leg, with the weight in your right hand, slowly bend at the hips, lower the weight to your standing foot, whilst extending the right leg straight behind and reverse to standing again. Start by doing 5 reps on each side and build up to 10 as your balance and strength improves.

 

Stepping into the unknown

As dramatic as it sounds, sometimes, it’s just not meant to be.
Without delving into a sob story, begging for attention or preaching about unnecessary opinionated thoughts, I’ll display loud and clear a few topics that have been playing on my mind in the recent months.

 

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I currently sit in a position whereby I have ten more days of work before walking away from my job that I once saw as a ‘dream’ and if I’m honest, I know I’ve made the right decision. Stupid, silly and regret… just a few words that floated though my mind initially. But now, relief, excitement and a tad of anxiety as I move forward and on with my life. There’s only so much you can give, when you get nothing in return. I’ve worked continuously in between studying for the last few years and now the time has come to take a break.

You can ride a wave for so long, before eventually falling off.

Sometimes it only takes one conversation with a close friend to spark up the idea of change. Other times, it takes weeks, months and maybe even a year to realise the path you’re currently on is stationary and that you’re potential is greater than what you’re currently able to exhibit. With the support of my absolute number 1’s; I’ve decided to retreat back to Manchester to find my feet and proactively look for a career path that allows for development, succession and most importantly satisfaction. They say you either live to work or work to live.

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The importance of work life balance.

I was working to pay the bills, unable to finance a life that was worth living and instead, becoming increasingly frustrated that my training, racing and social life were all being negatively effected by the unsociable working hours and time spent on my feet. I’m not looking for sympathy; my parents helped me out massively, both financially and mentally. And admittedly, my passion for running is very much self initiated. Equally so, trying to average 10+ miles a day and spending another 10 hours on your feet in between; it’s easy to see how I landed myself in injury trouble. Most athletes will appreciate that training and racing is at its best when the rest of your life is healthy and stable; relationships, work, nutrition, sleep, stress. It’s a fine balancing act but when it’s in your favour, it allows your body to do incredible things.

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Quitting as an ‘athlete’ to become a better athlete.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m by no means blaming my job on the slight hiccups I’ve encountered. For some, the job is everything a more a person could wish for. It just happens that on this occasion, it’s not for me and I’m ok with that. I have a demanding lifestyle and I’m ok with that too. It’s about overcoming the fear of the unknown and being proactive about what you want to achieve in your life and picking a career for its journey rather than its destination. You may think working for a global sporting brand supports your training and allows you weeks off work at a time for altitude trips, training holidays and racing but in reality, it’s a business that requires weekend work, late shifts and long hours. I sometimes question whether there’s actually any interest or passion for sport in these big companies anymore. Or whether it’s solely focussed on money. I’d love to be proved wrong as it’s a little heartbreaking to see the direction being followed by brands but hey, what do I know?

Judge me, and I’ll feel sorry for you.

There’s a lot more courage in openly admitting things are not ok over trotting along in silence and pretending everything is fine. There’s times in life where you have to do the latter for a little while and sometimes, everything works out in the end. But sometimes, you have to grasp the situation with both hands and control it yourself, before it controls you.
Do I feel ashamed writing this? No, not at all. Do I feel judged to be quitting my job and moving back home temporarily despite it being the ‘safe option’? No, most definitely not. Why, you may ask? Because I’ve been unhappy and rather than dwell and moan about it, I’m doing something about it. Do I want your respect? No, on this occasion, it’s an act of selfishness or even self love – I’m doing it for myself.

H8rs gonna H8.

And so, whilst organising my thoughts after the Mondayist Monday of Mondays. I’ve found clarity, a clear space in my head and a little buzz of excitement to have a few weeks of waking up to Northern air, a fridge full of homegrown vegetables and being able to see my parents on a daily basis. Simple but so damn important at times of need.

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What next.

Who knows what the next chapter holds. There’s definitely plenty of time to gain some valuable work experience, have a proper think about what I enjoy and where I’d like to see myself in ten years time and start building the foundations for the rest of my future. London is still the dream, but it’s back to basics for the mean time.

From where I stand

Bonjourno, tapping in from a cosy apartment in Chamonix, a French greeting seemed most fitting.

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I’m not here to apologise for the lack of blog posts as blogging isn’t my life and sometimes it’s important to focus on the minute daily tasks we’re faced with such as turning up to work on time, fitting in training and packing as much into the day as physically possible. However, with a few days break and purposely avoiding all adult responsibilities, I thought it was about time I reached out to the keyboard and got some thoughts flowing.

Reflecting back over the last couple of months, it’s safe to say, there were stressful times, busy times, a lot of change and some fairly grim weather. As most people would agree, the prospect of Spring just around the corner is quite comforting although I’ve found I’m nortorious for constantly looking ahead and never stopping to appreciate the moment. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be proactive and look ahead to where you want to be in a few weeks/months time however, to work out how to get to this point, it’s important to appreciate where you currently stand. And so this post is dedicated to right now, this week and appreciating the small things.

This week;

After counting down the days, hours and minutes until leaving work last Friday, it wasn’t much longer until I jumped on a train back to Manchester. My dad was waiting at the train station with a warming hug and we had our usual 30min natter for the duration of the drive home, which basically involves me elaborating on every snippet of text message I’ve sent him or my mother for the last few weeks. Arriving at the front door, I’ve opened and closed everyday from the age of 5, it’s easy to see why I still call it home. Never have I appreciated more, the short stops at home, since embarking on my London adventure. My parallel working life in the big smoke is a whirlwind of non-stop, no-rest, busy, jam-packed days. Yet the fast pace becomes almost addictive and despite the difficulty of saying goodbye to my family, there’s an inner drive which makes me get back on the train to London every time.

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Waking up in my own bed, rolling down the stairs to rustle up a wholesome pancake breakfast, and spending the morning packing for a little adventure with my mother, our lazy Sunday had got off to a great start. With an invitation for puppy dates and cupcakes, I decided to throw on my trainers and get my run done for the day. It all sounds idyllic so far, yes? Here’s where the bottle spins; icy rain lashing down outside and strong winds blowing up the valley. Does it stop me, no, not today. Shorts, compression socks and a long sleeve tee, probably not the most sensible of kit choice considering the near zero degree temperature but hey, I’m still Northern. Within 5 minutes, my t-shirt was sodden and sticking to my skin, my legs were bright pink, possibly from some sort of ice burn and I had rain flowing down my face. Do you know those runs that actually make you want to cry, sobbing silently, hoping the end destination appears right in front of you? I expected this run to be one of those, yet surprisingly, the only tears were from the rain. I recognised in that moment, that 1. I’m not injured, 2. My body is strong enough to battle the elements and 3. For the first time in weeks, my head actually felt clear. Bliss, I tell you.

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The next few hours entailed the best therapy I’ve received in years. Already on a runners high, when my sister and her cocker spaniel puppy, Toby, came to visit, my heart melted. As anyone that knows me well can tell, I’m not the most fond of dogs. Following years of severe dog allergies and numerous encounters of barking/attacking canines whilst running, my usual response to a dog would be ‘ugh’. Yet this little pup could melt a heart of stone; it’s playful, giddy, energetic character coupled with the most overwhelming bright green eyes was more than enough to win me over. I encourage anyone in need of a little love and attention to spend the afternoon with a puppy. Happiness x 1million.

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What Monday morning blues? The only time rising at 5am at ease occurs is if you’re off to the airport (or if Prince Charming has swung by at 5am, but that didn’t happen). Side by side with my wonderful mother, we boarded the 8:25am flight to Geneva, stocked up with snacks, magazines, books, water and all in-flight essentials for the mammoth 2hour journey. Following this, a spin into France and up the valley to Chamonix, saw us nicely to the door of our apartment for the week, via a shot of coffee from a deli across the road. Holiday, and breatheeeeee.

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Holidays; for me are a break, a rest period where I can enjoy the daily rituals of training in new surroundings, with different scenery and alternating terrain, inbetween napping like an absolute pro and feeling no pressure to actually do or see anything. I use it as an escape. I use my phone heavily for social media and documenting my day as oppose to checking in on emails, missed calls and messages. And finally spending quality time with my mum. She’s a nutter, but I love her and wouldn’t want her any different.

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And so seeking out healthy cafes, delis and wholefood stores to fuel the daily adventures as well as stocking up on French chocolate, BIG chocolate chip cookies and fresh bread from local patesseries, it’s easy to fill in the time inbetween training sessions. One thing I love about travelling to new places is experiencing the local cuisines and culture. If it means eating 6 garlic snails and a whole plate of beef accompanied with chips, then so be it. In this moment, I appreciate the fact I’ve found balance in my diet; I’ll eat chips, beef, cookies, hot chocolate, pain aux chocolat anything else you put on a plate in front of me without feeling guilty. I’m on holiday and I’m running close to 10miles a day; but actually, I don’t need to reason it. I may go to bed with a stomach the size of a baby elephant but I’m happy and that’s what matters.

 

From where I stand.

Looking ahead, in fact, no, let’s not even look ahead. Right now, I’m sat in a cosy apartment, overlooking the baby ski slopes of Chamonix. I’m happy. I feel at one with myself and with the world. I have a belly full of comforting food, I have legs that can carry me through the snow and I have a family that support me through every high and and low in life. Not everything is perfect, in fact nothing is perfect but things are the best they can be at this given time and that’s what matters. It’s easy to get carried away on what seems to be the rollercoaster of life but when you stop and take in the moment, you can grasp full control over it and appreciate where you currently are and how you got here. Running through the snow, looking up to the vast mountains above and crunching along to your own breath can conjure up some serious thinking time but additionally letting go of all the thoughts and feelings, draining every last ounce out of your mind and running with a clear head is a great way to see the world.

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I have vision, I have dreams and I have realistic expectations, yet it’s only what I did yesterday, today and will do tomorrow that are the building blocks for where I want to be. I think it’s important at times to strip life back to your current location, position and appreciate every little aspect that makes getting up in the morning that little bit easier. There will always be difficult days when getting out of bed seems more impossible than climbing Everest, but in that given moment, getting out of bed may be the biggest accomplishment of the week. Keep it real.

Peace from the Chamonix valley, Sal x

 

KOBOX

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It took me a couple of weeks (I kid you not) to work out why it was call KOBOX, but after a little deliberation, it finally clicked. KNOCK OUT… boxing; an energetic combination of cardio and strength to give you one intense workout.

The notion of exercise classes has never been my sort of thing – the idea of being cooped up inside a sweaty room with 20-30 other sweaty bodies whilst an instructor shouts at you is far from what I’d call fun. I’d much rather lace up my trainers and escape outdoors on foot and run. However through moving to London, working at Nike and spending a few too many hours on Kings Road, I finally caught the KOBOX bug.

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I experienced a KOBOX class for the first time at the Nike Unlimited You event, yet I was left feeling frustrated (at myself). My lack of coordination combined with excess energy in my legs and the unnatural feel of leading with my left foot meant that I was basically running/jumping around on the spot and could not even throw a punch correctly. My hand-eye coordination has never been a strong point. Being naturally competitive, I already had the drive to better myself and so when a Nike friend suggested signing up to a KOBOX class, I couldn’t say no.

This time, my alarm was set for 5:50am on a Friday morning. We were booked in for an early ‘full body’ class with Ian. Despite spending the first five minutes waking up through an intense warm up, the loud music and energy in the room soon kept my eyes open. And as we progressed through the rounds, alternating between the wall and the bag, it suddenly became obvious what the hype was about. Enjoyable, sweaty and an opportunity to rinse every last ounce of energy through punching the bag. The second time attending KOBOX was a game changer; the movements felt more natural and I was finally getting the hang of the whole coordination thing!

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I’ve now been to KOBOX twice more and my love is only growing! For me, it’s a great opportunity to mix up my training and incorporate some strength based work, which quite often gets neglected when my daily training involves running miles on miles on miles. I also see it as a great social opportunity – the classes I’ve attended have been with friends and it’s actually great to have that mutual support and knowing that they are there every punch of the way! Additionally, it gives the perfect excuse to grab breakfast/brunch/lunch afterwards! With the good life eatery just round the corner, there’s no better way to refuel than with super charged paleo waffles or lean machine bowl.

At KOBOX, the trainers really look after you. I have only attended classes with Ian, however there are several other trainers and many options for the classes; targeting upper body, lower body, full body etc! From the moment you walk in and sign in at the desk, you’re provided with hand wraps (if it’s your first time), a towel (TRUST ME, you will need it) and boxing gloves. There are hundreds of lockers both in the communal area and in the changing rooms to leave your belongings and the changing facilities and toilets are kept super clean and fresh. There are six showers, with shampoo, conditioner and body wash provided (they know how to treat you well!). As well as big fresh clean towels, hair dryers, mirrors (full length woop), benches and body lotion! Additionally there is a KOBOX kitchen whereby you can pre-order a protein smoothie to be ready as soon as your session is over.

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Top tips for attending KOBOX:

1. Take in a bottle of water – water is available to buy at KOBOX for £2 and you’ll find you can definitely get more out of your session if you’re not dying for a drink after every round!

2. Eat breakfast beforehand, or at least have a strong coffee and a banana! Whilst fasted exercise has its benefits, I’ve found I can train so much harder and get a lot more out of the session if I’m adequately fuelled!

3. Try out a few different trainers and their classes until you find one that you love! Different people have different preferences when it comes to classes so don’t be afraid to try out a few!

4. Don’t forget your hand wraps! KOBOX have an amazing introductory offer whereby you can buy two classes for £25 with a pair of hand wraps included in the price! Just don’t forget the for your second class.

5. Be prepared to sweat, yes there will be times that you see a little water spray off the bag but that’s only a good thing – it just shows you’re working hard… Or that you’re a heavy sweater haha! Plus there’s showers available afterwards.

6. Go with friends – it makes it even more enjoyable and it’s nice to have someone by your side to push you that little extra!

7. Switch off, stay in the moment and pretend the bag is your worse enemy. You’ll surprise yourself how hard you can punch!

8. ALWAYS say thank-you to the trainer afterwards! These trainers have to carry pockets of energy through the whole day! A smile and a thank-you are the least you can offer (can you tell I’m northern yet?)

9. If you have he opportunity, stretch afterwards or later on in the day! DOMS are real. You will be waddling 24hours later and you’ll realise there are a lot more hidden muscles in your back and arms than you thought were there.

10. Finally, enjoy it! Work hard, play hard. If you’ve never done it before, try it out, you may find that boxing is your forte!

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Last of all, don’t forget to SWEAAAAAAT.

Lots of love, Sal 🙂