Thursday, 4 October 2012

Bristol Half Marathon

This weekend I completed my second-ever half marathon, completely by accident.

Well, I say by accident but I don’t think even I could absent-mindedly stumble into a race of 14,000 people completely by surprise. No, I mean it was very last-minute and totally unplanned. You see, a friend has persuaded me to join her in the Great South Run later this month, a 10 mile flat (I’m assured) course around Portsmouth’s historic docks.

I am by no means a serious runner and often need a steady push out of the door to encourage me to embark on the longer runs but I’ve been trying out some new mechanisms to help my mind switch off from the task at hand and get me enjoying the runs.

It must have worked, as the mileage has been steadily increasing – perhaps a little too much as my runners’ knee will testify – and as the Bristol Half Marathon approached I felt 2012, the year of the London Olympics and all it’s inspiration and glory, could be my year for completing a run I’ve wanted to do for well over 5 years but not had the time/inclination/motivation (delete as appropriate) until now.

Thanks to one of our clients, the charity One25 offered me the chance to run for them. The application pack lurked incongruously for a week or so, as I debated whether or not I could take on the challenge. I agreed with myself that if I could run 10 miles a week before the run, the application would be signed, sealed and delivered.

Thankfully(?) my feet didn’t fail me and carried me through a hilly, drizzly, steady jog. The sense of achievement at the end was overwhelming so before the endorphins wore off and I came to my senses I scribbled a hasty signature on the dotted line and hobbled walked to the post box to wave it goodbye.
Needless to say, race day was amazing. Granted, I’ve only done one half marathon before but the atmosphere was incredible (people of Bristol, you never disappoint), the race well organised – I swear the energy gels single-handedly carried me though the last 3 miles – and the course spectacular. As a born and bred Bristolian I couldn’t help but swell with pride running under the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

  I finished in the grand time of 2:10, knocking 5 minutes off of my Bath Half time and feeling utterly thrilled at my achievement with only 6 weeks or so of serious running. The less we say about my knees and hips at this point, probably the better but let’s just say I’m awfully glad I’m married to a sports therapist and am spending more time than is healthy with my foam roller.


For me, the real challenge of the longer distances is psychological. My body is willing but my mind resists every step of the way. Using distraction techniques, I managed to overcome this massive barrier and am once again enjoying the runs. If you too find yourself battling with your mind the whole way through, stay posted and I’ll be sharing my tips with you over the coming weeks. In the meantime, I have no time to relax.

Gotta keep this momentum up now for so I can fly (ha!) around that course and bag myself another medal to add to my growing collection.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Getting my sweat on

For the first time in a long time (since having babies?) I'm feeling properly fit. Not quite looking it yet but these things take time y'know?

Since running a half marathon last year and it pretty much killing any enjoyment I had for running (not that much actually, to be fair) the old exercise has been a bit sporadic, limited to cycling into work and the odd token jog or gym session when I could fit it in.

At the start of the summer though, Andy and I went to a fitness convention for work and something just kind of clicked, I went to a ton of lectures on nutrition and listened to the latest research, got tips on training and was just immersed in everything fitness for 2 days. I returned full of motivation and thankfully, it's still hanging around.

Rather than use time as an excuse, I'm actively making time for exercise, a novel concept. Luckily the gym I go to has a great creche so I'll go maybe once a week with the boys and for a longer session on a weekend when Andy's home. I cycle a 15 mile round trip to work twice a week and the rest of the time is either running if Andy's not on a 7am start or doing the 30-day shred.

And the running....finally I'm enjoying it. I'm doing the Great South Run in October and am back up to running for an hour, way more than I could have dreamed off 6 months ago. I love the flexibility and portability of it and am coming up with new ways to keep my mind off the whole 'God this is hard, when will it be over' thing which I've battled with in the past.

Rather than bore on about it, I'll do another post soon with the things I find help me on the longer runs. In the meantime, if any of you have any tips, tricks or advice on how to stay motivated, do share. I'm sure I'll need it soon as the training ramps up!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Old friends and new beginnings

So, it's been an emotional few weeks. Saying goodbye to nursery and looking forward to new beginnings has been the focus of the last 7 days.

I was dreading the last day at nursery. I cried, they cried (the staff, not the boys. They were a bit nonplussed by the whole situation) and we miss them terribly already. Thankfully the assistant manager also has a little babysitting sideline I left armed with her number and the perfect excuse to see her again AND have some grown-up time out.

Now we look forward to a new era. Max started pre-school on Monday and as much as I was fretting over the thought of him doing something ALONE for the first time in his little life, he was amazing. Clung onto my hand for dear life until I sat him down on the mat with the other children and shyly nodded his little head when they called his name in the register but he was fine.

Not a tear shed from him or I which, given how my insides were twisting at the thought of him there with a bunch of strangers (albeit professional, warm, friendly and CPD-checked but still strangers) was nothing short of a miracle.

Come the afternoon, I collected a happy, giggly little boy armed with paintings and full of stories of what he had done on his first day at 'big' school. Phew, success!

The next day we hit a big milestone. The big, heart-wrenching, gut twisting emotional roller coaster that is the First Day At School. It's fair to say I've not been looking forward to waving my little (big) boy off at the gates and I am so grateful for his excitement at the whole thing as I'd have been in bits if he wasn't comfortable with it.

He too bimbled in without a care and quickly quashed all my fears in one fell swoop, proving I don't give him enough credit for his independence and ability to fit in.

Silly things worried me:

What if he doesn't know where to put his bag?
Parents of reception children accompany them into the classrooms and pegs are clearly labelled with names and an animal for each child.
What if he needs help changing his shoes? (they wear slippers in class)
Of course he doesn't. He's well old enough and wears velcro shoes
What if he doesn't make friends?
THEY'RE FOUR. Kids aren't like us, they'll pretty much talk to any other kid about anything. Common interests: dinosaurs, space, Peppa Pig.

There was an incident today which if I'd have thought about before would have sent me into a mild panic. The kids are given boxes of raisins at snack time. Finn said he was last there and there were no boxes of raisins left. At this point my heart sank at the thought of my little boy bereft at the shortfall in dried fruit snacks but when I asked him what he did he just said "I asked Mrs Phillips and she got me some more". See? No panic, no fuss, just a sensible, confident kid. You go, Finn.

So there we go. The dawn of a new era. A few muddled weeks await with afternoon sessions here and morning session there (and some very late nights on the laptop making up for lost work time no doubt but hey, this ain't about me) but so far, so good. Everyone's happy, we're settling in and ready for this next exciting step in our lives. I'll just leave you with the obligatory 'first day at school' photo. How grown-up? *sobs*

Monday, 27 August 2012

A rainy/sunny/rainy bank holiday

We loaded up Bertie this weekend and headed West to St Davids for a family camping weekend. We didn't really do much, just mooched around the beaches, did some cliff walking (in flip-flops. Never underestimate how unprepared we can be) and watched a lifeboat launch.

My Dad, stepmum, step sister and her boyfriend (who Finn hero worships) were staying on the same site and we almost broke the tradition of disastrous camping trips until the last day when we were battered by gale force winds, the car broke (it is 85 years old) and my Dad sliced his head open. Standard.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Comfort food on a stormy day

There's a whole heap of stuff I love about Twitter. It can be a great support system (I so wish I was on Twitter during the newborn angst days, it would have prevented many a wobble and plenty of tears, I'm sure), provide invaluable advice and give access to some brilliant blogs.

2 Of my favourite blogs came to the rescue this afternoon. Dreary, thundery and miserable outside, we needed some gastronomic hugs inside. What better remedy that curry and chocolate. Not together.

Kimberlee is the ultimate superwoman. She runs a business giving knitting lessons and selling the most amazing cakes (I've tried them, trust me on this one), looks after the gorgeous Henry and writes a great blog. Recently she posted a recipe for beetroot brownies and as the (soggy, weed-infested) veg garden is producing a glut of beets at the moment, I thought I'd give them a go.

Needless to say I wasn't disappointed. Mmmmm.

What's not to love about melted chocolate?

For dinner, I turned to Charlotte, Mama to super cute Lil who writes the most honest, funny, REAL blog about Motherhood you're sure to read. She is also uber cool, has a wardrobe to die for and is gorgeous to boot. Jealous, much? She pointed out a recipe for a delicious-sounding curry this week. Delicious, healthy and super-easy. So we made it. It was gooood.

One big heap of a mess but SO worth it

Monday, 20 August 2012


Thanks to Charlotte (and the rest of Twitter it would seem. I'm never one to pass by a bandwagon) I ordered me a copy of Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred last week.

Now, usually I'm not in to fitness DVDs. I run, cycle, and go to the gym so have never really had a place for them in my life. Plus, as much as it hurts, I like the feeling of pushing myself hard and really getting my sweat on. In my experience, many commercial DVDs don't give you this experience.

...Until I found this one. There are 3 levels and each level consists of 3 circuits; 3 minutes strength, 2 minutes cardio and 1 minute abs. So all in all (not counting the warm up/cool down) it's a workout in under 20 minutes.

Now, 20 minutes may not seem like enough to get results but done right, you can torch as many calories as you would in a longer, slower workout and you'll also get the 'afterburn' effect, where you go on burning calories even after you've stopped.

So, how does it work?

1. Circuit training is one of the most efficient forms of exercise. By combining strength and cardio, with minimal rest, you maintain a higher heart rate throughout the workout, meaning...

2. ...It's intense. High intensity yields a greater calorie expenditure and resulting fat burn.

3.You get a full body workout. By combining upper and lower body exercises, you train your entire body and man, do you feel it the next day.

4. Because it's so fast paced, you're less likely to get bored. You've just about got enough time to think about finishing your star jumps without whacking the dog in the face (just me? Ok, then) and before you know it it's over and you're on to the next thing

5. You can really push hard. Which is the point. Each exercise only lasts about a minute so you can really get your head down and go for it knowing it'll be over soon.

6. You don't need much space. This was a MAJOR selling point for me as our living room is so teeny. No space for grapevines in our house, no siree. No complicated choreography means on the spot jumping around. It's all good.

So, if you're short on time, want to lose a few inches and aren't afraid to work hard, this could be for you.

Have any of you tried it? I'd love to hear your experiences if you have :)

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Lift weight to lose weight

Yep, thats right. If you want to lose weight(well, inches/fat but for the sake of this post let’s call it weight loss as we’re all familiar with the term) you need to lift weights. Resistance training is key to a successful, and more importantly sustainable loss.

Lets have a think about metabolism. So your metabolism determines the amount of calories your body uses as fuel. The faster your metabolism, the greater the calorie burn, the slower it is, the smaller the burn. With me so far?

Ok, now your muscles burn more calories than fat so the greater the muscle mass, the greater number of calories your body requires just to function on a daily basis. According to the American Council on Exercise, maintaining 1lb of fat uses 2-3 calories per day. The same findings show that 1lb of muscle burns up to 10 calories a day so you don’t have to be a maths whizz to work out that if you replace fat with muscle* you’ll burn more calories a day.

We all know that cardiovascular exercise increases calorie burn, right? So you go for a 30 minute run, burn about 300 calories, job done, and your metabolism returns to it’s normal rate. Now, how about a weights workout? Granted your calorie expentiture during the session will be less but the magic of resisitance training is that because your body needs extra time to recover (you know that achy feeling you get after weights? That) your metabolism is elevated even after you’ve hit the shower and gone home. Experts estimate this can be up to 39 hours post-workout!

Before you say ‘but I don’t want to bulk up!’…you won’t. Any bodybuilder will tell you it’s not easy to build muscle mass and often means very structured regimes, carefully planned nutrition and alot of discipline. By adding 2 or 3 resisitance training workouts to your week, you can start to replace lost fat with muscle and look forward to a leaner, more defined shape without added bulk.

Thanks to this greater muscle mass, and your new improved (increased) metabolism, you’ll be burning more calories at rest, not just when you exercise. Using more calories as you sleep? Sounds amazing. This makes for a sustainable loss. Carry on with the weights, and as long as your diet remains the same (i.e. not consuming more calories than you burn) you’ll avoid piling the weight back on, a common pitfall of many a dieter.

So what are you wating for? Grab a set of dumbbells, hit the deck for a set of press ups or get squatting to become a lean, mean** calorie burining machine.

* I’m talking losing fat and gaining muscle. Fat doesnt turn to mucle and vice versa, another common myth debunked right there.
** Perhaps not mean, you can still be nice even with muscles