Why I love running

This time last year I was preparing for my first ‘running event’- the Canary Wharf jog, a 5k route which seems comparatively laughable to me now.

I never set out to go and do a half marathon ever really. I’ve always watched or gone to see the London Marathon and thought “I’d love to do that,” but didn’t think I’d have the time or stamina. I got into it off the back of swimming because I could no longer make the training after work, once I started working in London again.

We’re lucky enough to have free spit ‘n’ sawdust gym in my building and although it’s not the biggest of places, has all the basics. I’m not into weights (yeah I know I should mix it up but #cardioforever) so a treadmill, a bike and a cross-trainer is good enough for me.

I started running outside just over a year ago when I realised that 1) it’s much more simulating than running stationery, in what feels like a green-house at times and 2) my sense of direction isn’t as rubbish as I thought it was- I’ve only had to climb over a fence once when getting lost!

So yeah…however cliche it is, I have caught the running bug.

Nike Downshifters

My faithful Nike Downshifters

Reasons why I love lacing up my trainers to pound the pavement:

  1. Exercise is therapy for your mind and exercising outside is even better for you- waiting on the heatwave so I can get me some tan!
  2. It makes you feel productive for the rest of the day, especially if you manage to do it first-thing in the morning.
  3. It’s freeeeeee…you just need a half decent pair of trainers (if you’re a beginner) and the road.
  4. It’s precious ‘me’ time, where I can get lost in my own thoughts.
  5. I feel less guilty about having ‘treats.’
  6. I feel a lot more toned and healthier, running won’t give you drastic weight loss but it helps you to maintain a certain weight level.
  7. It helps you to appreciate the outdoors more.
  8. Even when you’re completely KO’d after a run, it gives you this addictive buzz.
  9. I love the achievement I feel after I run a little bit further.
  10. Losing yourself in an awesome playlist (see my latest below) helps make everything a little easier.

 

You can sponsor me for my half marathon challenge here, to help me raise money for Prostate Cancer UK.

Keen runner like me? Leave me your tips/thoughts in the comments below.

Health-Kick 101

I have distinctive haunting memories of being in my second year of uni (4 years ago now!) and trying a little navy blue strapless dress on in the changing rooms of Republic. To my horror, a size 12 just about zipped up and I remember coming out of the shop nearly in tears because I had to get a 14- I desperately needed a dress for a girlie weekend away. My mother consoled me saying that sizing was different in certain stores and although I know that more now (looking at you H&M and Topshop) I knew that I had become a bit more shapely than I usually was.

Before anyone slaps me on the wrist, no I don’t think that size 14 is fat; I’d rather have curves than bones jutting out any day but I knew I’d had the standard puppy-fat that most students end up with when going to uni. The average student gains 2 stone while at uni apparently! I was doing a lot of burning the candle at both ends with studying, going out 3 nights a week and my part-time retail job meant that I worked till 10pm when I did a late shift. Although I’ve never been one to eat in excess or gorge myself on takeaways/junk food, I was still coming home from work late and having a full-on dinner at 11.30pm. The 3-4-1 drink deals probably didn’t help either and I wasn’t in a proper sleeping routine, now I can just about stay awake past 11pm during the week!

It all adds up and even though I felt like I never stopped ‘running around,’ like most students, I probably wasn’t taking care of myself as well as I could and the weight had crept up. I’ve always been around a size 10-12 (my hips don’t lie) and I just felt uncomfortable in my own skin, for someone who’d been a bit of a Tom-boy when I was younger. So I made some small lifestyle changes as much as I could, for example, instead of eating a normal dinner when I came in from work, I’d have a bigger lunch and make some toast when I got in (Brinner is winner) and I started going to the gym.

Image from thedailyconfidential.com via Pinterest

Image from thedailyconfidential.com via Pinterest

I’m not going to say it was a drastic change but people started commenting on how well I looked. When I finished uni, it became easier to get into a routine and once I was working a 9-5 job, I managed to go back to one of my most-loved childhood hobbies- swimming. I think I’ve said before but sometimes a fitness regime for me can become monotonous and if I set myself a challenge, it helps my motivation. That’s why I did the 5K Swimathon last year, the 5K Canary Wharf Jog last month and I’m looking to do the 10K Run To The Beat race in September; if I have a goal, it kicks me up the arse to get my training in.

I found that exercise helps my mind as well as my body and for me, it can be very therapeutic. This time last year I felt very frustrated with where I was in my life and the swimming/running helped me to unwind. Now I fit in a run or I go to the gym during my lunch break, when you get that 3pm slump and need something to wake you up. Rather than reaching for coffee or chocolate, I find that running outside invigorates me and wards off those sweet cravings.

I struggle to diet to be honest because 1) I’m ridiculously fussy 2) I don’t really eat meat and 3) I have to watch my blood sugar. I’m trying to cut down on certain things (biscuuuuuuits) and add more salads/fruit to my meals. I do enjoy the exercise more though!

Here’s some things I’ve been trying lately:

(FYI- I’m no expert so if anyone wants to put their two pence in, please do!)

* Green Tea– I luuuuuurve tea! Name me a Brit who doesn’t! But having sugar in it adds up so now I’ve swapped my PG tips for Twinings Green Tea. If that’s too bland for you, try Green tea with Honey or Peppermint, it only has 2 calories and contains no fat/sugar.

* Water, Water, Water! I’ve always taken a bottle of water to work with me and now that I have my Brita Filter bottle, I fill it up 2 to 3 times a day. Often when you think you’re hungry, its your body crying out for some hydration. They recently launched their #PourOClock campaign to encourage people to reach for a glass of water rather than a sugary snack.

* My Fitness PalThis one is a work-in-progress. I used the app a couple of years ago and have started using it religiously again. I’ve found that it does passively-aggressively guilt-trip you and I’m not sure how I feel about that! I need to start weighing myself on a weekly basis to check if its working!

* Change It Up- Again if I do the same regime every day, it becomes boring and your body gets used to it. Challenge yourself by shaking up your routine every couple of weeks. I’ve somehow not managed to get lost around Canary Wharf when I go on a different route ha! I use sites like Running Routes as well.

* Avoiding PR ‘goodies’- Working in the media, especially alongside magazines, is a hub for treats and goodies that wink at you every time you walk to the printer. I’ve convinced myself that I’m sick of cupcakes and only allow myself to dip my paw in every now and again.

* Dark chocolate- If I do fancy a little treat, dark chocolate is my fave! I mean I’m not saying buy 10 bars of it and gorge yourself silly on it but it contains less fat/sugar than milk chocolate. Pret’s Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt is my guilty pleasure!

Anyways, I feel that this post has been personal enough, I might enlist the help of my fitness pals to create another one with some top tips!

How do you guys keep fit? What handy apps/tricks have you come across? Share below 🙂

Just Keep Swimming…

There’s nothing better than sitting down on the sofa at the end of a long day with a nice cup of tea and a biscuit…unless you’ve given up on sugar for Lent of course! I’m quite aware that I sound like a little old lady and I frequently find myself now falling asleep in front of the TV/reading a book/on my laptop at the ridiculous time of 9.30 in  the evening, before I am shook awake and manage to stumble up the stairs in a daze.

I relate to the phrase “Living for the Weekend,” more than ever now and count the days down to Friday in order to cram my weekend full of fun shenanigans before Sunday evening creeps in. Gone are the days of staying up until some unearthly hour frantically tapping away at my laptop on Facebook  trying to finish off an uni assignment or going out mid-week with the rest of the Nation’s students to take advantage of £2.50 Jager bombs. I mean, I’m not saying my social life has gone completely out of the window, I guess things just change.

One of the things that I’m grateful about with my 9-5 life, is the routine that I can plan around it. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m back swimming with the Masters squad and I’m currently on a training regime for my 5K (200 lengths) Challenge for the Swimathon in April. I’m averaging about 120/130 lengths in my sessions at the moment and don’t worry, I’m well aware that I constantly need to step it up a gear each time because for me, the 5K is definitely a challenge, despite having swum since I was a kid.

An indoor pool is always ideal

An indoor pool is always ideal

It’s like any physical challenge, whether you’re doing a Triathlon, the Marathon or the Tour de France, it can drain you mentally as well as physically. When I get in from work sometimes, I just want to put my feet up and pretty much doze for the evening, especially with the arctic weather we’re experiencing at the moment. However, I think a lot of the time, you have to psyche yourself up for these challenges and train yourself into thinking of only the positives e.g. “When I’m in the water, I don’t have to think about anything and I always feel awesome after a session,” rather than thinking “Oh god, I’ve still got another 50 lengths to go and I’m so tired and hungry.” It helps that swimming is second nature to me and it’s definitely my own of therapy that helps me through the week.

I mean of course any challenge that you do is hard, otherwise it wouldn’t be a challenge! You’ll always have good days and bad days with things but use the bad days as a catalyst to kick arse next time. At last night’s session, I planned on doing 120 lengths and I could have just got out of the pool and be done with it for the evening. However, I had ten minutes left and I was so in the zone when you’ve smashed past the mental barrier that can sometimes set you back, that I ended up doing 10 extra lengths on top of my 120. Sounds cheesy, but I felt so much adrenaline afterwards.

The worst thing you can do with anything is to give up completely. I’ve had times when I can hear my own pulse in my head, my breathing becomes erratic, my eyes are red-raw from the chlorine (even with goggles) and I feel like I can’t lift my arms over my head any further. Obviously never push yourself to the point of causing danger to your health and always stop doing anything that causes you pain e.g. muscle pain, cramps, nausea and dizziness etc. Always allow time to recharge your batteries after a session and re cooperate before getting back into the swing of anything too but once you’re back, live and kicking (excuse the pun) get back on track and give it your best shot. At the end of the day, if you try your best at anything in life, at least you know that you gave it your all.

Despite Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Adlington announcing her retirement from competitive swimming at the age of 23 last week, she said:

“If you really love something that never dies and it never goes away. And that’s what it’s like with swimming…I genuinely love the sport whether I’m competing or not. Whatever I’m doing I’ll still love the sport, it’s such a great thing to be part of.”

 

 

 

If you would like to sponsor me for my 5K challenge at the Swimathon, please see the link below. Thank you!

http://my.artezglobal.com/personalPage.aspx?registrationID=411798&langPref=en-CA

ZUMBA your way to Fitness

Okay, I know a few of you are gonna be like “Zumba is so last year,” and it’s true I guess, in a way, because everyone (well, women) went mad for it. My friends and I started going to our local Zumba Beats classes back in October and we’re addicted! I thought I’d write a post about this in relation to the whole New Year’s Resolution malarky and if you want to exercise more but don’t want to break the bank with unused gym memberships and faddy diets, then this is perfect for you.

Zumba Beats run by the brilliant Maria at YMCA is fun, energetic and will get you burning off those mince pies in no time. There’s no pressure of having a gym instructor shouting at you and you don’t have to be in time or be able to copy the moves step-for-step. It’s all about dancing your butt off and having fun. Maria gives out tips every session and lets you know which muscles you’re working. If you’re someone that doesn’t exercise often, it’s an excellent way to start because you can take it at your pace, if you feel a little out of breath at first, there’s no pressure to dance through the whole session and free water is always provided.

The music is a fusion of latin inspired beats, chart music including Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez, Maroon 5 and Chris Brown etc and indian rhythms. Now that I’ve discovered I don’t have two left feet as previously thought, I can salsa, sashay, wiggle and rumba my way through routines. We all felt like lemons at first, admittedly, but everyone is concentrating on the music and their own moves, so if you find yourself still spinning around while everyone is shimmying to the left, laugh it off!

The best thing is that the hall is full-up of people of all ages, shapes and sizes, even guys too! There’s usually a two-hour themed Zumba party every month held on a Friday at the YMCA in Romford as well. So if you’re saving yourself for a big night out at the end of the month and you want to save some money but don’t want to sit in on a Friday night, aid your fitness regime with a marathon sesh.

Weekday sessions run at the YMCA Romford on a Tuesday at 7pm for an hour and another at 8.10pm. There’s also a new Thursday sesh for beginners starting this week with the first sesh at 6.45pm and the second at 8pm. Classes are £5 and for further details of more classes at other locations, check out the website.