London Healthy Eating Guide: The Good Life Eatery

Tucked away down Sloane Avenue, just off London’s legendary King’s Road is a special little place that I hold entirely responsible for the disappearance of half of my income this year. The Good Life Eatery has become something of an institution in its short life and is fast on its way to securing iconic status on London’s dynamic health scene.

The cosy space is frequented by fresh-from-Barre Core women outfitted in Sweaty Betty and a whole host of health conscious celebs including Hugh Grant, Millie Macintosh, Adele, and *swoon* Bodyism’s James Duigan. I’ve seen a lot of Cartier here. But none of the up-market glamour affects the relaxed yet lively ambiance of the place. There’s no wifi, because there are only twenty very cosily crammed together chairs and there’s usually a queue I wonder whether this is to stop people from hanging about all day drinking matcha teas and mylks. The Good Life is so on the cusp of cool that it’s not even weird to photograph your food here – in fact until recently the place’s entire marketing was done through Instagram and the vibrant dishes, bare brick walls, and reclaimed wooden tables lend themselves perfectly to being filtered and captioned. Instagram, incidentally, is how I discovered the café’s existence.

Power breakfast of quinoa porridge, cashew mylk and an almond milk coffee.

All juices at the Eatery are cold-pressed, all ingredients locally-sourced, and all meat organic and grass fed. If you’re not a Londoner, or even if you’re from outside Chelsea, you’re likely to suffer a momentary rise in blood pressure when you see the juice and smoothie prices. But, Sunwarrior rice protein is an optional add-on to your beverage, so, the cost is more than forgiven.  Food is more than reasonable though and portions are gigantic.

 

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Perfectly portioned carrot cake with my favourite ratio of icing to sponge. 1:1 for the win.

The menu is huge and wildly varied. Each time I’ve been I’ve sat gorging on my choices whilst side-eyeing the meals of other visitors and trying to quash my food envy. There are ingredients to satisfy even the most erudite of healthy eaters with quinoa, sweet potato, acai, and kale abounding.

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Homemade raw vegan nut butter on gluten free bread.

I think my addiction to the Good Life is rooted in the fact that I’m not considered a pain-in-the-butt eater here; ‘normal’ wheaty bread isn’t even a thing, much to my non-clean-eating dining partner’s consternation, and I celebrated the fact that every cake is both gluten and dairy free (they do use egg though, so they’re not vegan)by treating myself to the heftiest most proud-looking slice of red velvet cake that could rival any allergen-ridden equivalent. When the server was plating up my piece it broke a bit, which absolutely wouldn’t have bothered me in the slightest, but they really kindly brought me over a second slice to take away. I ate it in the cinema while watching Gone Girl afterwards and got satisfyingly covered in crimson crumbs and ‘cream cheese’ icing all over my face. The brownie more than appeased my friend and she’s now won over to the idea that delicious healthy eating is not an oxymoron.

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I GET TO EAT WAFFELS HERE. Paleo chestnut waffels. I think these had to be my favourite.
The charming chalked lunch menu boards. See those? See why it takes me 3 hours to decide what to eat every time I visit?

The Good Life goes a long way in championing the recent movement in health and body image which eschews the until recently widely believed notion that it’s necessary to go hungry to look good. Its assortment of beautiful, radiant, healthy and happy clientele are testament to this – The place just screams: ‘Look, they’re all indulging in whopping big colourful salads and waffles and smoothies THAT TASTE LIKE CHOCOLATE – re-evaluate everything you’ve been taught about nutrition right away and join them!’. Once again, there is no denying that ‘you don’t need to eat less, you need to eat right‘, and The Good Life Eatery is helping spread the word.

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Thank-you, red velvet cake, for breaking so I could get a second one of you.

 

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And a key lime protein pudding for the train home.

I’m working my way through the breakfast menu right now and I’ve yet to be disappointed.

And just to put the dairy-free icing on the gluten-free cake that is The Good Life Eatery, one of the founders and the general manager, Frank, are ultra-runners. I need to move in.

Body Pump 91 Review

 

So we’re onto a new release already (okay this post is late going up, we’ve been onto the new release for quite some time now) – cue obligatory remarks about how fast time flies etc etc. Despite my initial reservations of 90 I actually grew to like it, so release 91 needed to be a good one. And it is, I think. It’s taken a much more simple approach but is deceptively really blimmin’ hard work. I didn’t feel fully DOM-less between my first 3 or 4 91 classes, so it’s clearly been challenging my muscles in a new way.

Here are my legs, about to squat to the Killers.
Here are my legs, about to squat along to the Killers.

Here’s a little run-down of my thoughts of each track along with my weight selections for release comparison’s sake:

Warm-up

This is the first release I’ve done where plates/dumbbells are used in the warm-up – it’s a bit weird transitioning but I suppose it makes sense to warm-up for all the plate work in the shoulder track.

My 91 weight: 10kg

90 weight: 10kg

Ten Feet Tall – Wrabel

Squats

Horrible song choice. It’s more of a bicep track to me and lacks the energy of the normal dynamic squat style music. Lots and lots of singles in this one and also quick stance changes, I missed the switch from narrow to wide the first couple of times I did this release and got yelled at by the instructor. D’oh.

My 91 weight: 25kg

90 weight: 25kg

Somebody Told Me – The Killers

Chest

My BP instructor calls the 90 chest track ‘legendary’ because it  was so much tougher than its predecessors and after it, this chest track seems a bit of a doss. I do enjoy the press-ups being moved from shoulders to here though – they seem a lot harder to do after chest work for me so I feel I’m getting more out of them. A-presses are back which is also good IMO, I like the switching back and forth between isolation and compound moves.

My 91 weight: 10kg, decline pushups

90 weight: 10kg

Goodness Gracious – Ellie Goulding

Back

I complained a little (okay a lot) about the previous release’s back track, but now I miss it. I’m loving the return of consecutive clean and presses to get the heart-rate up but there are just so many deadlifts and rows that by the end it’s my forearms that have taken the brunt of the workout. I’ve had to reluctantly lower my weight for this release to avoid building bulging vascularity in my lower arms, even though I can go heavier for presses.

My 91 weight: 20kg

90 weight: 17.5kg

Beautiful Life (Remix) – Armin Van Buuren

Triceps

Thank-you Les Mills for an extension and press-less release! For tris I love me some dips, kickbacks, tricep pushups and overhead plate extensions, and this track has all of them. The song is a bit chilled but don’t let that fool you, there’s lots of work to do in this one and the transitions are fast so you can’t be dilly dallying. Like.

Avicii seems like a bit of a funny song choice but it works.

My 91 weight: kickbacks: 5kg, o/h extensions: 5kg, dips: 5kg,  pushups on toes

90 weight: 10kg

Hey Brother – Avicii

Biceps

Back to heavier weights, yippeeee. And a new move – bicep rows, which give your muscles a break without actually giving them a break, if that makes sense. I always ignore the bar recommendation and use dumbells for bis, I just find them more comfortable and like twisting on the rise and I like to do what I want, so.

My 91 weight: 2x5kg dumbells

90 weight: 2×3.5kg

Bad Company – Five Finger Death Punch

Lunges

There’s no bar this time round but holding plates instead. The squat presses that have disappeared from the back track since 90 crop up here for some ridiculous reason and there are a heck of a lot of squats for a lunge track. It nevertheless gets those butt muscles firing and the heart-rate up so it’s all good, even though the music is contradictorily very mellow.

My weight: 2x5kg dumbells

90 weight: 20kg bar

Find You – Zedd

Shoulders

Here lies the best song of the whole release and frankly the only memorable one as well. It pretty much follows the standard shoulder track format with upright rows and presses followed by dumbbell presses but this time with some lovely hard peck decks.

My weight: 10kg bar, 4kg dumbells

90 weight: 10kg bar, 4kg dumbells

Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat (Remix) – Fatboy Slim

Core

Planks! Planks! The king of core exercises is back and my obliques are very happy for it. There are front planks and side planks and side planks with dips in this one and it’s truly great. The side abs get some attention finally after 90 which was merely boring crunches. Planks rule. That is all.

Trumpets – Jason Derulo

Cooldown

Stretching, what more can I say really?

Burning Bridges – OneRepublic

Verdict: Body Pump release 91 is deceptively tough! The music is largely mellow and pretty boring, actually, I miss the signature BP techno and dubstep, but the workout itself is sweat-inducing and quite a killer. That said, I’m eager for the grace period to be over and for the instructors to start mixing it up with older releases again.

Against the Grain: Why I Went Gluten-Free

I am not a nutritionist or official authority (yet!) All the following information is info I have gathered and learnt over lots and lots of time from what I deem to be reliable, authoritative, informed sources. But educate yourselves and be autonomous in your approach to your own health. Knowledge is power, after all :)

Ah, the pervasive grain. Wheat is predominant in the Western diet, we’re conditioned from an early age to fill up on whole grain for our health, and indulge daily in wheat-based junk food.

The truth is that wheat is so overly modified in order to increase yield per ache that it now bears little resemblance to the natural grain it originated from. In other words, humans have ruined it for everybody.

Our modern wheat is just that, a beast!  It is Frankenstein wheat, plastic wheat, chemical wheat, or any other name you want to give it, but it is not wheat as we knew it.   It cannot reproduce itself in wild and cannot sustain life without the aid of man.  It has been altered to grow 2 -3 feet high, making it perfect for harvesting, it has more kernels, it can resist dry weather, it takes less time to grow – all in the name of higher yields and a longer shelf life.                                                                                               http://www.donteatwheat.com/

Wheat (and all farmed products) are valuable commodities, as soon as you realise this you realise why we have it drummed into us to wolf down grains and dairy all day everyday – because people are making money from it. And then more people are making money as a result of us becoming sick from it… ‘You are what you eat’, they say; do you want to be Frankenstein? Anyway, I digress…

Wheat Belly was the book that finally convinced me that wheat may be responsible for my own health issues and to follow suit and try cutting it out for a while. If I didn’t notice any change I would go back to my pre-run peanut butter bagels and poached eggs on doorstep toast and nothing would be lost. But I did notice a change, and although it took me a long time to fully commit and to stop sneaking bites of sandwich and pasta out of convenience, I straight away noticed I had more energy and felt less sluggish and over time the benefits only increased.

Then just over a year ago, I became great friends with two Crossfitting, American girls while at University in Amsterdam. We bonded over our shared obsessions with the gym and Nikes and barbells and they convinced me to try the Paleo style of eating, which meant taking away all grains entirely. Giving up my morning bowl of porridge, which I’d been excited to wake up to every single morning for the 5 years prior, was heartbreaking but as I’d read up so much on the benefits of not eating grains so I knew exactly why (or why not) it was a good thing to be doing, I knew it could be worth it. Now when I do let loose a little and make myself a big nostalgic bowl of oats they feel so heavy and sluggish that I realise there’s no wonder they were contributing to depleting me of energy and irking my digestion.

Reasons to remove grains from your diet

  • Wheat, rice, and corn are high GI foods which spike your blood sugar levels. This instigates a major increase in insulin production which can be a precursor to diabetes. It also sends our hormones going haywire. Cortisol is raised, and, in short, high cortisol levels lead to stress, abdominal weight gain.
  • Grains contain Phytic Acid, a mineral blocker that prevents absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc.
  • Wheat contains gliadin, a protein that stimulates appetite. I.e. Grains make you hungrier, making you more likely to overeat and satisfy the h-anger with convenience food.
  • Wheat related weight gain, which comes as a result of gliadin release and insulin spikes, is mainly in the belly, which is the most dangerous area in which to store fat.
  • All of the above create inflammation within the body, which is the root of all disease. Nobody wants inflammation.
  • Gluten contributes to Leaky Gut Syndrome. Just the name of that was enough to send me running away from the Hovis. These diagrams explain what it means to have a gluten-induced leaky gut:.

    Leaky-gut-handout
    Yeah… No thanks…

Cutting out wheat can lead to improvements in/healing of IBS, emotional and mood disorders, acid reflux, arthritis, obesity, skin irritation and acne, chronic fatigue and sleep disorders – if you’re having trouble with any of these, try going grain/wheat-free for a week or two and see if you notice any improvements!

What a wheat-free diet should NOT be is one that simply replaces conventional wheat product with packaged alternatives. Eliminating wheat from your diet only to replace it with processed imitations – cakes made from spelt flour, rice based cookies, rye bread et al. does NOT a healthy diet make. Whilst these grains are probably not quite as evil as wheat when it comes to the above bullet points, they behave in very similar ways inside our bodies and are simply another conduit for shoveling sugar, saturated fats, and artificial ingredients into our bodies. For example, take a look at the ingredients of these Tesco Free From Cupcakes:

cupcakesTherefore, cutting out grains entirely can be another good way of automatically removing processed food from your diet.

My point here isn’t that you should never ever eat things things, it’s that you shouldn’t assume that if something is labelled with the buzz-term ‘gluten-free’, it is suddenly good for you. This is yet another falsity that the food industry is successfully having us believe. Gluten-free doesn’t automatically equal health food.

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So how DO you replace wheat/grains in your diet?

Firstly, by eating whole foods in their natural states:

  • I use a lot if squash and sweet potato to add slow release carbs to my meals.
  • Quinoa, flax and chia seeds are bones of contention within the Paleo world as they’re believed by some to behave very similarly to grains during digestion. I tend to err on the side of caution given my gut troubles and only eat them on occasion, but they are worth experimenting with.
  • Protein powders – ie. Clean, unprocessed protein powders are excellent flour replacers in recipes and help keep you satiated between meals too.
  • Beans and chickpeas – again, I don’t eat these often at all but I hear there are some pretty legitimate recipes for chickpea blondies floating about out there. Sadly, peanuts fall within the beans and legumes category… this is where I slip up. Peanut butter is lyf.
  • Cauliflower pizza bases – I will be trying this very soon
The most delicious grain-free pancakes.
The most delicious grain-free pancakes.

Myths surrounding giving up wheat:

  • You wont get any fibre: If you are not getting fibre in your diet you need to take a look at your intake of vegetables, nuts and seeds. THESE food sources contain an abundance of fibre.
  • You wont get enough carbohydrates. Um, there are natural food sources out there that contain much better quality carbs than bread and which wont send your insulin levels to ridiculous heights. Fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans all contain important slow release carbs which wont mess with your blood sugar.

This is what I ate for breakfast this morning:

breakWas I left wanting and feeling like I’d been deprived? Heck no! On the contrary, this was well rounded and full of unsaturated fats, slow release carbs (I eat most of my carbs post-workout, fyi) and lean protein that it kept me full of good stuff that my body could actually use, meaning I wasn’t craving unnecessary starchy carbs again 30 minutes after breakfast, as I used to when I started my days with porridge.

So this was my rather lengthy (yet still huuuugely trimmed down) reasoning for going against the grain. If you want to know more, I recommend taking a look at Yuri Elkaim, Grain Brain and Wheat Belly Next up, let’s discuss DAIRY :D

Do you have experience with eliminating wheat? Are you intolerant like me?

 

 

 

In Defense of Food: Why I Eat Clean

So I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while and seeing as I am currently coming at you from under the foggy influence of an impromptu wheat and dairy binge that happened last night (there was a party, there were brownies, there was pizza…), today seemed like a good time to finally get this written.

Since I caught the fitness bug and made friends with running and the gym I’d always believed in the old adage that you can eat whatever you like as long as you workout, yet I was constantly frustrated that despite the good quality exercise I was doing, I seemingly inexplicably never saw the results I was after. I also struggled for years with terrible bloating, awful skin, lack of energy, and I retained water like nobody’s business. Despite working out and running regularly and eating well I always felt uncomfortable. After more than one night curled up on the bathroom floor in agony and wondering whether I should call an ambulance for the stabbing pains in my stomach and chest I finally reached a point where I just couldn’t deal with it any more and I turned to my diet for the cure.

Once I began to dig into the depths of the Western diet I discovered that many of the ‘healthy’ the foods I was eating were really not so healthy at all and I gradually began to adjust my intake as I learned more and more about nutrition. I finally realised just how good I could feel and that you really can’t out run a bad diet. This is when my love of health and nutrition really developed and I’ve since spent huge amounts of time researching health and how to get the most from food and our bodies for physical and mental wellness.

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It wasn’t easy to do at all. The foods I’d been filling up on are essentially drugs that we are conditioned on a daily basis to become addicted to; and I was well and truly an addict. There was a whole lot of regressing and quitting and denial – ‘Nuh-uh. There’s no way Galaxy Cookie Crumble/fro-yo/millionaires shortbread/Nutella/BREAD could possibly be bringing my face out in cysts and making my belly look as though it’s housing a 6-month-old foetus. I love that sh*t with all my soul. I’m eating it.’ But once I finally eliminated processed food from my diet my skin cleared up, the perpetual bloating and uncomfortable-ness reduced significantly, my body composition changed and I noticed a radical increase in my energy levels.

Word.
Word.

The question of diet is vast, multi-faceted, and subject to much contention and controversy, so I thought I’d write a series of posts dedicated to why it is I now eat the way I do focusing on each of the main ‘rules’ I follow, namely, being dairy-free, gluten-free, grain-free, and sugar-free. I don’t follow any one particular, defined ‘diet’, it is more of a conglomeration of different ways of eating and fuelling that I’ve found worked for me after a lot of time and a lot of experimentation. My primary focus is now on the Clean Eating paradigm (I capitalise because eating ‘clean’ is now super vogue and a cool thing to do, so Instagram says), which for me, means the following:

  • Eating as little packaged, aka, processed food as possible
  • If I do eat food from a packet/tin/container I make sure I know exactly what each of the ingredients actually IS. If I can’t pronounce it, I don’t eat it.
  • If it came from a plant, it’s good. If it was made in a plant, it ‘int.
  • Little sugar, and no refined sugar.
  • No beans, pulses, legumes, dairy, grains (sometimes peanut butter slips through here…).

The way I eat could probably be most closely associated with the Paleo diet, which I credit with providing me with a lot of my education on food, but as I’m also pescatarian I can hardly call myself an devoted Paleo, which is a good example of how the best diet is the one that is tailored to you as an individual. I do think it’s interesting, though, that there seems to be a general theme running through the modern diet of our culture, and that is that for the most part we are filling up not on food but on food-like substances and I think that says a whole lot about our rapidly declining health.

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Here’s a little list of the resources that influenced me most on my quest for better health:

Food Matters

Yuri Elkaim

Fat Sick and Nearly Dead

Forks Over Knives

In Defense of Food

So, first up will be my take on GRAINS and why I stopped gorging myself on porridge and that oh-so-nutritious-and-full-of-greatness bread – I hope you enjoy reading!

WIAW: Eat the Rainbow

It’s Hump Day once again which means only one thing over here – WIAW time! This is actually what I ate last Wednesday. But it still counts.
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Up first, GREEN EGGS. Green eggs don’t just look whimsical, they are super nutritious and easy to make too: I just whizz 2 full eggs and 2 egg whites in the blender with a huge fistful of spinach or kale, or spinach AND kale, then cook them in the pan in coconut oil as you would normal, boring, un-green scrambled eggs. Eat yo’ greens, people. The darker and leafier the better, ain’t nobody got time for iceburg lettuce. I added avocado and mushrooms sauteed in coconut oil for extra greatness and a coffee because, obviously coffee.

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Snack time was satisfied by one of these babies. A raw energy bar to power me through the afternoon. They are packed full of seeds and goji berries, which are a good source of vitamin C, they have also been shown to boost the immune system and increase what we shall call ‘gastrointestinal regularity’; all good stuff. Goji berries are RED because they are full of beta-carotene, which is good for our skin. These bars are also sweetened with dates, which are PURPLE (kind of…). Dates promote healthy digestion and contain lots of lovely iron. They also contain lots of lovely sugar so don’t overdo it, after your workout is probably the best time to scoff them to replenish those glycogen stores.

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Bread for photo purposes only, you understand. No wheat is going in this belly.

Experimented with clean, raw Nutella recipes at work during the afternoon and absolutely nailed it. I love my job.wiaw15

And Wednesday was the day I realised my own genius after I spontaneously decided to cover my Pulsin’ bar in raw chocolate and thus found the meaning of life.
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I ended the day with a miscellaneous before-bed plate of another egg, with one gloriously sunny YELLOW yolk. Don’t fear egg yolks – they are a great source of essential fatty acids and it’s been proven that they don’t raise cholesterol levels as was previously thought. With more avocado, cinnamon-roasted butternut squash, mixed nuts and summer berries. Just take a moment to appreciate that vivacity.

I didn’t consciously decide to write about food in terms of colour today, I just noticed while uploading the photos how vibrant the food is and it reminded me of the importance of getting a whole array of colours into our daily diets. The greater the spectrum on your plate the more variety you are getting in terms of nutrition. Nobody should be eating predominantly green food any more than they should be eating only bland and beige. Plus, colourful meals must surely boost your mood, nobody could possibly be down in the dumps whilst eating jaunty looking food.

What was the most colourful thing YOU ate today? Tell me!

I Kind of Really Like 5ks – The Gosport Summer Series 5k

After spending my first few running years plodding about happily oblivious to anything concerning pace, gait, recovery or Dri-fit and a few years after that fumbling about with marathons and half marathons, I can now say I’m really enjoying racing short and (relatively) fast. I’m definitely built more for the 5 and 10ks, I think. I do have some longer races coming up in the autumn but I think from now on I’m more of a short girl. It suits my stature :D2014-07-08 20.33.12

It totally and completely chucked it down the whole day which I thinking must have put a lot of people off running since the course is almost on top of the sea. The weather ended up working in my favour though as the speedy women not showing up meant I finished first. Although it was a small race of 65 I’m really quite proud of my first win, not just because it’s my first but because it happened to be in my home town where I grew up and along the promenade on which I cut my first slow, plodding, little running teeth. I was second female (out of almost 400) in the Zuidas Run in Amsterdam back in May but because the race had so many categories to award, only the winners were called to the podium, so this was also my first time being acknowledged and getting a prize.

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Some things I’m learning about 5ks:

  • I’m much better at short and fast than I am at long and steady.
  • There’s not really any way to approach 5ks strategically, you’ve just got to go out fast, stay fast, and finish fast. Although maybe I could do with starting out just a tiny bit more slowly.
  • There’s not a lot of point putting in the time to compile a perfect playlist. By the time I’m finished I really don’t even remember what the heck was going on with anything, never my mind being able to appreciate the Flosstradamus/Rihanna mashup getting busy in my ears.
  • Warm-up! I never do this but I’m finding that if I want to give it my all during shorter distances then I’ll be much more efficient if I’m warm before the gun goes off.
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I kind of really like where I live.
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The course.
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My splits for any of you who like numbers. I really need to work on this positive splitting thing…

I really liked this race a whole lot. It’s something a little different. Yet another evening race – I still have a lot to learn about evening run fueling but I’m coming round to the idea of later-in-the-day races. It was also dominated by club runners and I think I may have found myself a new running club out of it, so that’s good.

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You can read my official race report over at TrekandRun.com once it’s live I will post the link.

Will run for Wine. Obligatory and shameless posing with my prize...
Will run for Wine. Obligatory and shameless posing with my prize…

So my sketchy short term running goals:

  • I’m still after that elusive 42 minute 10k
  • To keep getting my 5k times down. I’m nowhere near PR-ing for the 3.1 anytime soon though
  • To PR for 10miles at the Great South Run in October

I have some work to do…..

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Parkrun: How to Start the Weekend

On Saturday I finally attended my very first Parkrun.

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So this is what Southsea looks like at 9 on a Saturday morning. Who Knew.

I’ve been wanting to try Parkrun for ages but having been living in Amsterdam the only opportunity I’ve had in the last two years to actually make it to one was when I was home for Christmas and I was obviously far too full of Miniature Heroes to even begin to contemplate anything other than my new Breaking Bad box set and more food (I think it’s important to note here that on any other previous year I’d have been full of Celebrations as they were always the superior variety of assorted chocolates. That was until they made the ludicrous decision to replace Galaxy Truffles with TWIX and I quickly boycotted them before they ruined Christmas. What even is that? Anyway…).

Now that I’m back in Blighty, top of my list of important things to do, alongside having a roast dinner and catching up with a bit of Phil and Holly’s charming British-ness on This Morning, was to finally get myself and my Nikes to my local Parkrun along the Southsea esplanade. Obviously when you reside beach-side it’s essential to forego the park and run parallel to the sea.

The course is a lovely straight out-and-back.
The 5k course – a lovely straight out-and-back.

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The event is free, you just register online so your time is recorded, you show up, a couple of perfunctory announcements are made by a volunteer (‘there are building works today so you’ll be running partly on shingle’, that sort of thing), t-shirts for veteran Park-runners are awarded, and then you’re off!

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There I am, Little Miss Unknown. I finished in 21:23 on my Garmin and ran just a tiny bit over 3.1. I have a lot of work to do before I’m in PB shape again.

After the event everybody’s times are available to view online and they keep a log of your runs and how you compare to others.

Parkrun is unifying, not just amid the individual city groups but nationally. Knowing there are thousands of other runners and volunteers all setting their alarms on Friday night to wake up at 9am on a Saturday, collectively eating bananas as they pull on their trainers, congregating en masse to pound out 3 miles and wage an inner battle with themselves to PB, or just enjoying the camaraderie and the early morning endorphins, before refueling with post-race coffees just makes me smile. Forgive the obvious and probably worn-out condemning of the digital-age, but it’s a lovely little hour of shared human interaction and light relief from surface to kick off the weekend, even if just for an hour. It’s restorative to know so many people take part.

Post run coffee and my brand new timing chip, so next week I will have an identity on the results table :D
Post run coffee and my brand new timing chip, so next week I will have an identity on the results table :D

I really like the fact that it’s a great way to practice Race Day, it gets me up to start the weekend when I may otherwise dawdle over catching up on social media etc before leaving the house, and it’s an awesome way to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise cross paths with. It’s definitely going to become a regular event for me, especially with all the races I have coming up in the autumn.

What I Ate Wednesday – and Why it was Good for Me

(The title of this makes me think of Supernanny bacon Kid – I’m sure you’ve all been acquainted with him by now?? If not, Youtube that little dude asap.)

Since I like to learn a lot about the nutritional benefits of food and how it fuels the body I thought I’d dedicate today’s WIAW post to explaining a little bit about why I eat the foods I do.

I’m really conscious of what it is I put into my body, firstly because I’m very active and I always have a fitness goal I’m working towards and I know that eating right is fundamental to a functional body. Training can only get you so far without proper nutrition. Secondly, as a result of learning how to properly fuel I’m now super aware of the nasty stuff lurking in processed and packaged food, and even food that seems to be clean is often full of additives, preservatives and added salt and sugar. It’s taken me a long time but now 90% of what I eat is clean, whole, real food. The other 10% is dedicated to treats because, yum.

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I welcomed in this week’s hump day with an nice easy 5 miles along the beach. It. Was. Hot. When I got in I downed a pint of water and then cooked up a pile of pumpkin Paleo pancakes.

Not my most attractive stack but they refueled my running muscles like the best of them.
Not my most attractive stack but they refueled my running muscles like the best of them.

I’ve been eating a predominantly Paleo diet for just over a year now after suffering for years with digestive issues, skin problems and perpetual bloating and I love it. It’s just what works for me and most of my digestive stress and uncomfortable-ness has disappeared as a result. These pancakes have been my go-to recipe for most of the last year and are one of my proudest developments in the kitchen :D They began life as the ubiquitous 2-ingredient Paleo pancakes – just one banana and an egg blended together and cooked like your average pancake – and I pretty much just kept adding other elements to make them more satisfying and beneficial to eat post-workout. Now I make them with the usual egg and banana and also add sweet potato, pumpkin, a scoop of pea protein powder and spices, so they’re packed with protein to help my muscles recover and essential carbs to replenish glycogen stores post workout.
Today I also added cocao powder to half the mixture for extra antioxidants and deliciousness. I like to get my fruits mostly in berry form as they’re low in sugar and bursting with anti-inflammatories so I topped my stack with blueberries and also almonds and hazelnuts, cocao nibs, and a dollop of coconut oil. I always focus on getting enough essential fats into my day and as I didn’t have any avocado in the house this morning and extra helping of coconut oil did the trick.

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Smoothie of the day was a giant green monster made with spinach, celery, cucumber, kiwi, cinnamon and parsley. Parsley is a super herb and is full of Vitamin C, beta-carotene, folic acid to support the heart and for a strong immune system, which is super important if you’re exercising hard and continuously subjecting your body to a beating. I feel deprived if I have to go without my smoothie.

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I finally tracked down a place outside London that stocks Pulsin’ bars and I am ridiculously excited about it, so snack time was brought to me by these guys. I favour these beauties over Quest bars as their protein is plant based and they don’t contain sucralose. They’re not totally grain-free as they have some rice protein but I’m not complaining, they’re pretty much as clean as you’re going to get when it comes to protein bars. As I’m mostly pescatarian and don’t eat grains or legumes or dairy I find getting enough protein to support muscle development tricky, so good quality protein bars are very special things for me :)

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Tea is usually comprised of vegetables, some leafy greens, and a protein. A whole heap of spinach today because it’s awesome for digestion and a good source of protein. To really reap the benefits of spinach though it’s important to always consume it with a source of vitamin C, which I failed to do here. Sorry spinach.
Also making an appearance today: beetroot, mushrooms, aubergine, red pepper, and broccoli all cooked up in coconut oil. Stocked up on avocado because I can’t go a day without one. I rarely eat meat other than fish but today I enjoyed a little chicken breast.

And there you have my round up of food for this Wednesday and a bit of an idea of how I fuel my body, just in case you were interested :)

What did YOU eat this Wednesday? Do you follow any particular way of eating? What are your favourite recovery foods?

The Lowdown on Foam Rolling

I admit it, I love to workout, but I absolutely do not love to put in the necessary time in between workouts to stretch and foam roll. It’s just a bit tedious and a lot boring. But at the end of last year I found myself injured and unable to properly workout for more than 6 weeks. I was lucky enough to be looked at by one of the best physiotherapists in the country – he treats some of Team GB so you know he knows what he’s talking about – and he informed me that I have a lot of imbalances and muscle tension and that my injury could have been much less debilitating, or even prevented entirely, if I wasn’t so lapse with my post-workout routine. Well that told me, I shall never neglect the cylindrical shaped foam again.

Foam rolling gym selfie. It's didactic so it's okay. Serious face is not required for effective rolling.
Foam rolling gym selfie. It’s didactic so it’s okay. Serious face is not required for effective rolling.

I think most of us have heard of foam rollers by now, or at least noticed the multi-coloured rolls knocking about unused in the corners of our gyms.  If you’re also prone to skipping foam rolling now is the time to use them!

Why Should I?

So, the reasons foam rolling is so important to both our athletic and our everyday health:

  • It increases range of motion
  • It corrects muscle imbalances
  • It helps decrease risk of injury
  • It helps relieve DOMS and tightness

And something I’ve noticed myself is that having to prop yourself up to reach some muscles doesn’t half provide a good core workout. Win win.

Why Our Muscles Love Being Rolled Out All Nice

Our muscles are complex and prone to diva-ish behaviour if not lavished with lots of attention and tenderness. When we exercise and perform repetitive movements knots, or ‘trigger points’, form in the muscles. Regular foam rolling can release these adhesions in our muscles and connective tissue which stretching alone cannot. These points of tension can cause weaknesses and pain which stop the muscle from contracting in the way it is supposed to – leading to increased injury risk.

Pick Your Torture Device

There’s a whole host of foam roller and trigger-point release paraphernalia on the market, my favourite, and one of the most lethal, is the grid style on the bottom left. It’s now my BFF. Many of the others I daren’t go anywhere near…

Best-Foam-Rollers

You can also use a humble tennis ball and I’ve been known to use a kitchen rolling pin on occasion. They both work fine but as they have smaller surface areas they’re just a little trickier and more painful to use.

This is How You Roll

It will be uncomfortable and most likely pretty painful to the point of inducing tears, but suck it up; injuries hurt a heck of a lot more! The good thing is that once you’ve got the nastiest  kinks out it starts to feel almost a little teensy bit like a massage. Kind of.

These diagrams do a good job of showing how to roll the major muscles:

Foam-Rolling-Infographic6 Foam-Rolling-Infographic5 Foam-Rolling-Infographic4 Foam-Rolling-Infographic3 Foam-Rolling-Infographic2 Foam-Rolling-Infographic1

 

Unlike static stretching, which should only be performed after exercise, foam rolling can be done at any time. I usually do it before my workout so I can get my ass to grass for squats :D

A Couple of Words of Warning

  1. To really work into the muscles properly you’ll probably find you need to get into some pretty awkward looking poses that will attract some side-eyeing from other gym users. Ignore them. You’re winning.
  2. Obviously I am not an authority on the body in any way (yet!) but one thing my physio was sure to advise me against was rolling out the IT band. This is something I’ve seen encouraged amongst athletes and so this was news to me too, but apparently, as runners especially, our IT bands need to be tight so that they can properly support the rest of our body. THIS article explains it much more articulately than I could.

Happy rolling!