Friday, 31 January 2014

NSV! (Non Scale Victory)

Not much to report today as I took today and Monday as Annual Leave to sort out some house stuff.
As a result, having a particularly lazy day, although I did pop into Sainsburys to exchange a pair of 'Large', black and turquoise running leggings for a pair of Medium ones(!), because the large ones were WAY too large! Result! On top of the size 14 jeans I bought last weekend because my old ones were literally falling down (look how baggy they are on my bum!), I'm feeling pretty good right now! :)

I happened to see another pair of leggings on the rack that were in black and pink, so picked them up too, only to find at the till that they were on sale for half price! Double bonus!

Both feel really comfy - stretchy and quite high waisted so I shouldn't have problems with them falling down, and they have integral mp3 pockets - unfortunately not quite big enough for my iPhone, but will still be useful to hold my front door key or some coins. for £14 for the one pair and £7 for the other, I'm quite happy with them :)  Looking forward to trying them out at the initial consultation with a PT at my new gym tomorrow morning!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Eating at Work

Following on from yesterday's post about lunch at work, I thought I'd take you on a little tour of my work drawer...

This serves as my go-to for breakfast, lunch and snacks and whilst I'm not promising it's the healthiest in the world, I don't think it's too bad - I don't pretend that I'm an entirely whole foods or Paleo kinda girl! ;-)

In it you can see:
  • Rye crackers
  • Honey
  • Furikake rice topping
  • Low-fat salad dressing
  • Cashew nuts
  • Flaked Almonds
  • Couple of boxes of green tea
  • Chopped apricots
  • Veggie instant soup
  • Special K bars (in case of a sugar emergency! ;-) )
  • Dal (Indian, dried, spiced lentils)
  • Japanese seaweed for miso soup
What you can't see is the boxes of porridge sachets behind my computer monitor, the bowl of fruit (currently bananas and grapes) and the 0% Greek Yoghurt and cottage cheese in the fridge... A vast improvement on the crisps and cereal bars that used to live in there!

Oh, and how cute are these?!
Can't say they are the most accurate in the world, but better than completely 'guestimating' and at only £2 from Morrisons, I think they're a bargain!

Today's Workout:
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 8 minutes
Running (slow, 5.2 mph) = 7 minutes
Cycling (moderate, 85-90 rpm) = 35 minutes

Shoes: New Balance Minimus WR00

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

When Planning Goes Out of the Window

I don't know about you, but I am dangerous going food shopping when I'm hungry.

After a day off exercise yesterday (due to not enough sleep the night before) and a ridiculously early night last night, I didn't get around to making mine and my BF's lunches for today, beyond packing us both some fruit to bring in. He usually has an egg mayonnaise and tomato sandwich with a pot of fruit (any combination of grapes, apple, melon, strawberries and kiwi, depending on what's on offer or in season) and a couple of chocolate bars. Working in construction, he gets through a lot of calories and to be honest, it's hard to make sure he gets enough! I on the other hand, being sat at a desk all day and then playing computer games all night, meet the dictionary definition of a sedentary lifestyle. Any exercise I do is a benefit, but I do need to keep an eye on what and how much I eat. At the moment my lunch is usually some kind of sandwich or wrap, leftover dinner or a salad of some sort.

Which brings me to lunchtime today... Not having brought anything in, I had to go for a wander down the High Street to pick something up - never smart if feeling hungry, as I'm more inclined to pick up more than I need! As I wanted to pay a visit to Holland and Barrett at the bottom of the street to pick up some hazelnut butter (I'm going to have a try at making hazlenut butter cups this weekend), that meant a trip into the Marks and Spencers Food Hall and spending more than intended. On the plus side, as the shops are still cashing in on the weight loss and fitness resolutions at the moment, there's plenty to choose from that's on offer.

Therefore lunch today was the Fuller for Longer, American Pork with crunchy slaw and apple glaze wrap with a tub of mango (plus the Chicken and Supergrain soup which was on the same 3 for 2 offer, which I'll have tomorrow). I like the Fuller for Longer range as it's nice to see a healthy range which doesn't just focus on lower fat or reduced calories, but bulks out the protein content as well, which really does make you feel full. I'd meant to take a picture of this bad boy but I was so engrossed in eating it, that I forgot! :)
I think I can safely say, that this has to be one of my favourite M&S sandwiches though; it was jam packed with loads of pork (34% according to the ingredients list), low fat cheese, spinach and the cabbage slaw, with a good dollop of a tangy-sweet apple sauce, all wrapped in a soft tomato tortilla. Yum! Might try to replicate it at some point in the future! ;-)

Because I was hungry so my eyes were somewhat bigger than my belly, I also got the Sprouted Pea and Carrot Salads (on a 2 for £3 offer) - one of which was for today and the other for tomorrow, but feeling a little fuller now, I suspect one will now be for Friday. :) Hopefully next week's lunches will be a little more organised!

What's in your lunchbox?

Today's Workout (c25k W4D2):
Rowing (moderate, 32 spm) = 5 minutes
Cycling (moderate, 85-90 rpm) = 10 minutes
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 16 minutes
Running (slow, 5.0 mph) = 16 minutes

Shoes: New Balance Minimus WR00

Monday, 27 January 2014

Can't Cook, Won't Cook

Foodwise, I had an absolutely diabolical weekend. From Thursday to Saturday, we had Dominos pizza, Chinese takeaway and McDonalds... Whilst this was largely due to me having another cold (the third within 2 months) and therefore feeling completely uninclined to cook, it was still pretty bad! Unfortunately as my other half pretty much won't cook (except for special, pre-planned occasions and even then, under instruction), my options are quite limited when I don't feel like cooking and haven't got much prepared in the freezer.

Interestingly though, because I had managed to get some exercise in on both the Thursday and Friday, the pizza and Chinese still came within my calorie allowance, so all wasn't lost. Plus at least for the Chinese, it was pretty healthy options (fried rice excluded), so could have been a lot worse. I'm pretty pragmatic though, and certainly enjoyed it! :)
However I'm very glad that the scales were out of order at the gym this morning as I suspect a combination of the above, plus coming up to a certain time of month won't have done me any favours!

Workout-wise, today was Week 4, Day 1 of c25k and it's crazy to think that I'm not all that far off the halfway mark for the programme! Today's routine was alternating two 3 minute runs and two 5 minute runs - both of which seemed okay, even after time on the rower and bike beforehand. Still positive and looking forward to Wednesday's repeat :)

Over lunchtime today I'm going to pay a visit to another gym that is just around the corner from my office - as the weight section of the gym downstairs is woefully short of decent equipment for the kind of workout I want (Starting Strength or Stronglifts 5x5) and the advice of the gym manager / resident PT leaves somewhat to be desired. Be interesting to see what it's like!

Today's Workout (c25k W4D1):
Rowing (moderate, 30 spm) = 10 minutes
Cycling (moderate, 85-90 rpm) = 5 minutes
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 16 minutes
Running (slow, 5.0 mph) = 16 minutes

Shoes: New Balance Minimus WR00

Friday, 24 January 2014

My Inaugural Outdoor Run

I was home from work today with the third cold of the season. Feeling a bit better at lunchtime after having had something to eat (leftover Chinese takeaway - shh!) and a fresh dose of Lemsip, I figured a quick bit of fresh air might do me some good. I was eager not to forgo the last part of C25K Week 3 today, so thought I would take it really slowly and go for a mooch around the local Common, as Runkeeper said my proposed route was about as far as I'd usually do on the treadmill for these workouts.

I think it's safe to say I learnt a few things from my first outside jaunt... :)

  • Don't run when feeling remotely snotty, regardless of how well the Lemsip is working. It's hard to blow your nose when you run, and hard to sniff when you breathe through your mouth.
  • I need some method of carrying water. It wasn't that I was particularly thirsty, but the colder air did give me a much dryer mouth than normal - to be expected, really.
  • My calves got more of a workout as the terrain is (surprise, surprise), not consistently flat. 
  • Mud is both sticky and slippy, and you have to pay a lot more attention to where you are putting your feet, particularly as the paths are very well used by bikes and dogwalkers.
  • Dogwalkers who insist on walking in the middle of paths and dogs who leap up at you (having just been for a swim in the pond) are a particular hazard!
  • I need some proper running shorts or tights, because my plain 'fashion' cheapie leggings were slipping down.
  • I need somewhere or something to put my phone in where the headphone wires don't get tangled up.
  • And speaking of which, I need some better headphones - I could only get the in-ear ones to stay in by keeping my headband over my ears and the wire kept getting tangled where I was having to hold my phone.
  • I need to get a housekey cut so I don't have to take mine off my keyring.

With a few modifications, I'm looking forward to getting outside again! :)

If there are any more experienced runners who can offer any solutions to the above (or anything else I should consider), I'm all ears!

Today's Workout (c25k W3D3):
Walking (brisk, 3.5 mph) = 21 minutes
Running (slow, 4.8 mph) = 9 minutes

Shoes: Vivobarefoot Breatho

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Motivation - Keepin' it Real!

Quite regularly on MFP (MyFitnessPal) you come across people who seem to be failing in their motivation and convinced the world is over because they have fallen off the bandwagon or haven't lost as much weight as they'd expected. I usually tend to reply along the lines of below, but felt it would be useful to set my answer out in more detail.

Images courtesy of stockimages /

Be Honest

Are you really logging everything that you eat and if you are, do you use scales to make sure your food weights are accurate?
Are you forgetting to account for any exercise, or perhaps you have based your total calorie intake on too high an activity level?
The simplified magic formula goes something along the lines of:
Cals consumed < Cals expended (over an extended period of time) = Weight loss. Simples!

Your body knows if you aren't being honest with yourself, so who are you trying to kid? No-one else is accountable for you body other than you, so therefore there's no need to justify or make excuses to (or for) anyone else.

Are you scrupulous in your logging but the scales still haven't moved the right way?

The scales lie!

Okay, well maybe they don't lie, but your weight fluctuates throughout the day, week and particularly if you are female, month, so perhaps expecting a constant loss is unrealistic? Go easy on yourself - so long as the overall trend is in the right direction, does it matter? If you are likely to get disheartened by seeing occasional weight gains, perhaps reduce your weigh-ins to monthly ones so you only see the wider picture?

At the end of the day, weight is only one way of tracking progress and on many occasions, comparing your measurements can show results even if the scales don't. Do your clothes fit better - perhaps a bit looser? Do you have a more defined chin or waistline? Do you feel fitter or have more energy? If so, those are all 'wins' too. Exercise such as weight training, can have a bigger impact on inches than on the scales so remember to take that into account!

Much though you hate them, progress photos can be an invaluable comparison tool when you feel like you're getting nowhere (I deliberately didn't take any when I started my health journey, and really regret it now). No-one else has to see them but you, and the sense of achievement when you compare your initial pictures to your most recent, can be immense.

What is a diet anyway?

Literally speaking, a diet is 'the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.' We have just come to associate the word with restricting or otherwise modifying our food intake to achieve a specific goal - most commonly to lose weight, and if that goal isn't achieved then the so-called 'diet' or you, in your inability to stick to it, are a failure.

Instead, try thinking about changing what you eat and how you exercise as a positive mindset and/or lifestyle change. Rather than focusing on a fixed number, break your target into smaller goals that you are more likely to achieve and feel smug when you DO suceed.

Be SMART - are your goals realistic?

I hate using business jargon, but this really does illustrate a point. Your personal mini-goals should be:


Whilst telling yourself that you will lose 14lbs in a month may be specfic, measurable, achievable and time-related, if you are likely to become so miserable sticking to your plan that you do not enjoy it let alone stick to it, it is unrealistic. Instead, perhaps setting yourself a goal to lose 1lb per week or 4lb over a month means that as you are able to consume more calories, you can eat more of what you enjoy and are therefore more likely to stick at it.

My personal mini-goals for 2014 are listed here, and you can see they are not at all weight-related. Rather they are a set of goals that will be challenging yet achievable for me (with some work on my part).

Ultimately, there IS no magic shake, pill or anything else that will make a person lose weight in a healthy way - it all comes down to wider lifestyle changes and only you have the power to make them.

“If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten.” - Anthony Robbins

How do you stay motivated?

Today's Workout:
Rowing (moderate, 30 spm) = 7 minutes
Cycling (Level 5-9, 85-90 rpm) = 20 minutes
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 8 minutes
Running (slow, 5.0 mph) = 10 minutes

Shoes: New Balance WR00

Review: My Fitness Pal

One particular website / app deserves a special mention in my health journey, and that's MyFitnessPal.
In it's simplest terms, it is a free method for helping you to achieve your weight goals by restricting calories according to your activity levels, however the community aspect is (in my opinion) invaluable, the phone app is very handy when you're on the go, and it syncs with many other apps and devices to provide an even more accurate report of your calories in and out as well as other stats (I've got my Fitbit linked to my account). As would be expected, you can check in with your current weight and measurements to log progress, as well as enter anything you've consumed and your daily exercise.

When you initially sign up, you enter your current stats, weight, activity and also your weight and fitness goals, and MFP gives you an estimated daily calorie intake based on your required weekly weight loss (or gain). You can choose to simply follow its recommendations, or if you prefer to use your own TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) amount, you can set your own custom daily goals including nutrient levels.

Entering foods is relatively simple; the food database is largely user-generated so although sometimes you have to double check the nutritional information, it does mean the database is pretty comprehensive for many countries - something that many other weight resource sites fail on. You can also enter and save your own recipes, which is great if there are certain meals you eat regularly or cook in larger amounts but want to know the calorie value of a single portion.

The community aspect is also not to be sniffed at although it can definitely be an acquired taste. Whilst the forums are not the easiest to navigate and you do get the usual set of trolls, there are also many users with tons of experience who are willing to share their knowledge and focused groups for pretty much anything to be honest.
Friends can be added to your 'friends list', and you have the option of sharing your food and exercise diary with them for support, motivation or advice - I personally find some of the best conversations are via my friends 'News Feed' and it's great knowing there are so many people in the same boat as you.

Although the phone app doesn't give easy access to the forums, you have full access to your News feed, food and exercise diary and reports etc (see screenshot). The phone app also has the awesome feature of being able to add foods via barcode, which is particularly helpful if you are out and about.

Essentially, MyFitnessPal is there to support a lifestyle change rather than just focusing on weight loss, and it understands how important having a support network is when making big changes. 
As there is no weekly weigh-in and you are essentially left to make your own decisions, it is definitely a tool that requires a good degree of self motivation and dedication to get the most out of it.
Losing weight is simply a matter of consuming less than your body is expending, and simply having a better awareness of how many calories there are per portion of food, makes it much easier to control this.
I've got my goal set to lose 0.9lbs per week and I can reliably say that I've met or slightly exceeded this goal consistently since I started logging back in November 2013.

Cost: Free

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

New Shoes!

I woke up this morning feeling sleepy, sneezy and snotty, but was still really keen to get the next part of my C25K workout done so I decided not to do my regular weights workout before it.
What a difference it made! W3D2 was an absolute breeze and I felt like I could have run for much longer - really looking forward to W3D3 on Friday, which brings me onto my other news for today - my replacement New Balance Minimus trainers from SportShoes arrived today!! I love my Vivos, but they're really for outdoors and I was looking for a non-trail pair that would be better suited to the treadmill.

I'd originally bought a pair of New Balance WR10v2s, but found that the pair delivered had a frayed shoelace so sent them back for an exchange. Unfortunately the size I needed wasn't in stock so I asked for a pair of New Balance WR00s instead - don't they look purdy next to my Vivobarefoot Breathos? I'll be writing a full review of each once I've worn them both a bit more, but first impressions are good and SportShoes' service was great. :)

Today's Workout (c25k W3D2):
Rowing (moderate, 30 spm) = 10 minutes
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 22 minutes
Running (slow, 5.0 mph) = 9 minutes

Shoes: Vivobarefoot Breatho
(New Balance WR00s awaiting trial tomorrow!)

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Recipe: Tuna Crunch

First, a disclaimer: I do not use any low-fat, low calorie or otherwise 'diet' ingredient in any of my recipes, so calories and nutritional values are on that basis. If you choose to, adjust the values accordingly! :)

After last week's soup binge, I've fancied something a little more solid for lunch this week so during the weekend shop I picked up a ton of salad and veggies to get creative.
As I'd committed to making my partner a lemon cake to take into work (!) today, after sorting that and then dinner, I didn't have a huge amount of time to put much elaborate together, but based this off a sandwich that I'd been experimenting with over the weekend.

1 tin Tuna steak with spring water (mine was John West No-Drain, because it was on offer)
5" stick Celery, diced
1/4 Red Pepper, diced
1" Cucumber, de-seeded and diced
3 Spring Onions, finely sliced
25g Sunflower Seeds
2 tbsp Mayonnaise
1 tbsp Tomato Ketchup
1 tbsp Salad Cream
1 tsp Lemon Juice

Thoroughly mix all ingredients in a bowl - simples!

This made enough for 2 servings and the MyFitnessPal estimate puts it at 289 kcal per serving (9g carbohydrate, 22g protein, 19g fat).

I was originally going to try the Warburtons Sandwich Thins this week, but they didn't have the seeded ones and I figured that you can stuff more into a wrap anyway, so thought I'd give the square-ish wraps a try instead. The ones here I packed with extra lettuce and slices of tomato.

If you are low-carbing / non-refined carb eating, you could always wrap the filling with lettuce leaves.
For the gluten/wheat -free crowd, this would also be great over a jacket potato (which is what I may well do with the leftover portion for tomorrow's lunch!).

These Feet Were Made for Running(!?)

I've already touched on the fact that I never used to understand runners or the running mentality. Other than short runs trying to catch a bus or my train, I don't think I've run since my schooldays, and even then, they were the days where I'd forgotten to get a note from my mum to say I wasn't technically allowed to run because of my knees (subluxating patellae).

Today wasn't a c25k day, but whilst I was walking on the treadmill today I decided as an experiment, to see how long I could run slowly for. Now bearing in mind this week's longest run periods are 3-minute stretches in the c25k programme, I was expecting to do 4 minutes comfortably. Surprisingly, I ran non-stop for 6 minutes and could have gone further if I'd had more time: after the initial few minutes I just seemed to settle into a comfortable routine. Compared to my c25k 'practice' session on 30 December, after which I had incredibly painful DOMS in my calves and hamstrings which made getting up and downstairs... let's say interesting, I'm completing sessions now without any pain whatsoever.

One thing I've not mentioned yet (although any astute runners may have noticed from my choice of footwear), is my running style.

I spend a lot of time barefoot or running around wearing socks, flat slippers or flip-flops. Even in the office, I only ever wear my heels when I'm collecting guests from Reception or in meetings - other than that I pad around the office in my tights. :)
Like many people, I bought my first pair of trainers off the shelf from a discount store as I didn't see much point in spending loads of money on something I wasn't sure I'd really use. They have big air-cushioned heels and felt really lightweight compared to the skate-style trainers I'd usually worn. The problem was, I felt really unstable in them when I started to do weights last year so I started looking around for alternatives and came across the barefoot (or minimal) running technique (I plan to discuss the science behind the technique at a later date when I can consider myself a little more experienced).

From my initial research, it is apparently common for experienced runners to encounter problems when transitioning to a barefoot style due to the use of different muscles as they adopt a midfoot strike, landing on the balls of the feet (as opposed to a more common heel strike). However because I am most comfortable when not wearing a heel, and would be starting from scratch, I decided to jump in at the deep end and train myself in the barefoot style from the start of my c25k programme. Furthermore, because barefoot-style is lower impact than a more traditional technique, it should be easier on my knees and joints - this has certainly seemed to be the case for me so far.

Now I'm not saying that barefoot or minimal running is for everyone, because it isn't, but for me, I've actually surprised myself with how I'm easing comfortably into it. As I mentioned above, I plan to write more about the technique when I've had a bit more experience with it, and also to review the two makes of minimal running shoe that I use now. Keep an eye out for them :)

Today's Workout:
Rowing (moderate, 30 spm) = 5 minutes
Cycling (Level 5-9, 85-90 rpm) = 15 minutes
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 9 minutes
Running (slow, 4.9 mph) = 6 minutes

Shoes: Vivobarefoot Breatho
(Still awaiting replacement Minimus ones)

Monday, 20 January 2014

Motivational Monday

I thought rather than just posting quotes, I'd put together a picture than can be used as a desktop wallpaper for more 'through-the'week' positivity! :)

Monday, Monday...

This morning was hard.
It's Monday.
I had a bit of a late night last night and we left a bit late this morning (after scraping ice off the car) so I had to run for my train.
This morning there were 3 guys in the gym who were all trying to use the weights area at the same time so it was busier than normal (it's not particularly big anyway), so I got through my mini-lifting workout quickly and hopped onto the treadmill to continue c25k.

Quite honestly, if anyone had told me even 6 months ago, that in early 2014 I would be running for a minute and a half straight, I'd have laughed in their face, yet this morning's c25k workout included two 3-minute sessions with two 1.5-minute sessions. More to the point, I was able to manage it reasonably comfortably!
3 minutes was definitely a step up from last week though, so I'm feeling positive, especially considering the end of the week is a third of the way through the programme. Next week progresses to 3 and 5 minute runs, so should be interesting!

When I got back to the changing rooms, I saw the sign on the door saying the showers were out of order, which I'd apparently not seen on my way in... Due to a problem with the boiler there was no hot water downstairs. I don't usually have a problem with 'cool' showers, but they were just straight freezing so I ended up having to wash my hair and sweaty bits with cold water at the sinks... not fun!

Roll on tomorrow!

Today's Workout (c25k W3D1):
Rowing (moderate, 30 spm) = 5 minutes
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 22 minutes
Running (slow, 4.9 mph) = 9 minutes
Strength (Squats, Bench Press, Lateral Pulldown) = 4x8 of each

Shoes: Vivobarefoot Breatho
(Replacement New Balance WR00s on the way!)

Friday, 17 January 2014

What's in Your Breakfast?

I love Friday mornings. Not only is it dress down at work and the last day before the weekend, but Friday mornings at work are all about the bacon sandwiches, and both the PAs and directors all partake.
Mine's always a bacon and mushroom sandwich on white, no butter, and the place where we get them from is absolutely amazing! Bacon sandwiches are best made at home on fresh bread with really thick cut meat, and this place has managed to exceed all expectations.

But my Friday morning sarnie is more than just enjoying the bacon - having a high-protein breakfast has been shown to reduce appetite during the morning, and snacking in the evening, and of course maintaining adequate protein  in the diet is essential for your body to rebuild damaged muscles following workouts.
During the rest of the week, my breakfast is usually either porridge (boosted with nuts and seeds) or my quick favourite, rye crackers with lean ham, cottage cheese and tomatoes - yum!

What's your breakfast?

Today was the final workout for C25K week 2, and as I'd hoped, it was certainly a bit easier than it felt on Monday. I'll admit I'm a little apprehensive about starting to double some of the run sections to 3 minutes, but I'm sure I'll be fine provided I've had enough sleep beforehand! :)

Have a great weekend!

Today's Workout (c25k W2D3):
Rowing (moderate, 30 spm) = 5 minutes
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 22 minutes
Running (slow, 4.9 mph) = 9 minutes
Strength (Squats, Bench Press, Lateral Pulldown) = 4x8 of each

Shoes: Vivobarefoot Breatho
(Replacement New Balance WR00s on the way!)

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Solving the Obesity Issue

There was an interesting article on the BBC on Tuesday which gave viewpoints from various organisations on how to cure obesity. It suggested that education and information, reducing poverty, banning junk food advertising, swapping unhealthy food for healthier options and increasing access to keep fit programmes are all viable ways to stem the 'disease'.

However the problem is, that there is no one way to 'cure' obesity. It's not like there is a magic pill that will automatically make everyone a healthy weight.
In my opinion, because much of the population does not see being overweight as a problem, until they do, no manner of initiatives or access to exercise will help. There is only so much you can put information in front of people before they will simply become blind to it because if they are not interested, they will not read it, let alone learn from it. As it stands, I've been unable (so far) to find evidence that the graphic images on cigarette packets have actually gone beyond people saying they 'intend to quit to actually quitting, so why would this be any different?

Like smoking, people know being overweight is bad for them but will keep doing it anyway. I appreciate that I am generalising, but many people eat too much and/or or unhealthily because they enjoy it or simply because it is convenient.
Now I'm not saying that all the suggested 'cures' won't help, but surely there has to be the desire to want to change the status quo first? You could provide all the free fitness classes in the world, but if people don't want to go, they won't - like the proverbial horse. Managing weight and fitness is a lifestyle change that requires a level of commitment that many people simply do not want to give, and that is really the problem that needs solving; how to change a collective mindset.

Today was a cycling day, but to mix it up a bit I decided to try including a couple of HIIT-inspired sprint blocks (high-intensity interval training) to notch up the workout a bit. I've been doing some research into HIIT for a future post and thought I'd give it a try. For two 4-minute blocks, I alternated 120 rpm, 20 second sprints with 10 second 80 rpm recovery periods. I can safely say I sweated LOADS more than I usually do on the bikes and my legs felt like they were burning! My heart rate was up much higher as well, although I do want to look into getting an HRM later this year to get a more accurate reading. :)

Today's Workout:
Rowing (moderate, 30 spm) = 5 minutes
Cycling (Level 5-9, 85-90 rpm) = 30 minutes including 2 x 4-minute HIIT-type (120 rpm) blocks
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 10 minutes

Shoes: Vivobarefoot Breatho
(Still awaiting replacement Minimus ones)

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Recipe: Chicken, Sweet Potato and Sweetcorn Soup

Do you ever find with roast dinners that sometimes there's not quite enough meat left to do another meal, but too much to just throw it away?

This Sunday we had Roast chicken with sweet potato mash and I had a bit of chicken meat left on the carcass. Loathe to throw it away or give it to the cats, I stripped it and put it to one side whilst I made stock from the bones (nothing extravagant, just put them in a saucepan, covered with boiling water and allowed to simmer really, really gently for a couple of hours before straining). I can't emphasis enough how making stock from leftover bones tastes so much better than stock cubes and is so much better for your health! I'll post more info on why along with some recipes, soon!

Anyhow, back to the soup!

80g Chicken, shredded
100g Sweet Potato, cubed
80g Celery, sliced
80g Sweetcorn
20g Onion, diced
500ml Chicken stock
1 Chicken stock cube (optional)
1/2 tsp Jerk Seasoning
Salt and Pepper to taste

This made enough for 2 regular servings (approx 300ml), or 1 large serving (approx 500ml, adding less water)
The MyFitnessPal estimate puts it at 401 kcal for the whole lot (43g carbohydrate, 28g protein, 13g fat).

I'm not even going to insult your intelligence by doing a step-by-step, because I literally dumped everything except the chicken meat, into a large saucepan, put the lid on and allowed to simmer gently for 20 minutes until the sweet potato was cooked through and tender. I then poured about 2 thirds into my blender and blitzed until smooth, before adding it back into the pan with the remaining soup and stirring through the chicken. Add extra water (with a crumbled stock cube if necessary) to get it to your preferred consistency. You could of course, blend the whole lot for a smooth soup, but I prefer mine thick with a bit of bite! :)
I think this would also be lovely as a vegetarian option (without the chicken and using veggie stock instead).

Today's workout was Week 2, Day 2 of C25K and although I'm not going to pretend it was a walk in the park (haha! - that would be even more amusing as it was done inside on a treadmill), it didn't seem as bad as Monday's session. This was especially good considering I didn't have quite enough sleep last night as we had stayed up watching the season finale of Sherlock... oops!

Today's Workout (c25k W2D2):
Rowing (moderate, 30 spm) = 5 minutes
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 22 minutes
Running (slow, 4.9 mph) = 9 minutes
Strength (Squats, Bench Press, Lateral Pulldown) = 4x8 of each

Shoes: Vivobarefoot Breatho (without socks today - have now discovered my feet sweat a LOT when exercising!)
(Awaiting replacement Minimus ones from New Balance)

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The 10 Minute Wall

I did some research today into why the first 10 minutes of my workout feels so difficult, but after that it feels great. It's largely to do with how the body uses different fuel depending on what stage of the workout you're in and how hard and long you've been exercising for. It's been a long time since I completed my Biology A-Level and Zoology degree, but I hope I've managed to simplify the the science behind the 10 minute wall here. :)

ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) is an energy-bearing molecule that our bodies require in order to do pretty much everything they do. At rest, we produce the ATP from stored energy reserves from food, primarily via aerobic (oxygen-required) reactions. When we start to work out, our bodies quickly use the available ATP, forcing the body to have to produce more to fuel our muscles. Whilst we can quickly supply a little more by anaerobic respiration (without oxygen), the body has to fully switch on the aerobic reactions in order to sustain the continued work. The '10 minute wall' (in reality, more like 4-5 minutes) comes about due to the delay between using up the easily available ATP and the aerobic reactions producing enough to keep us going, and is otherwise known as the oxygen debt.

The switching from one energy system to the other is generally accompanied by heavier breathing, increased heart rate and muscular discomfort as your body works to get enough oxygenated blood to the muscles to kick off the sustainable aerobic reaction which will allow you to keep working out at a steady pace, at which point your heart rate and breathing should settle, and your workout should usually become a little more enjoyable. By ensuring you perform a gradual warm-up to full-blown exercise, you not only help your muscles to prepare for work, but you should also help yourself avoid the discomfort of the oxygen debt.

Today's Workout:
Rowing (moderate, 30 spm) = 10 minutes
Cycling (Level 3, 80-85 rpm) = 30 minutes

Shoes: Vivobarefoot Breatho
(Minimus ones currently with New Balance for exchange...)

Monday, 13 January 2014

If you really want to do something, 
you’ll find a way. 
If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

Bento Love

When I was working in Westminster there were so many quick lunch options that it was simple (albeit very expensive) to go out and grab something for lunch. Now I'm working out of London, lunch options are fewer and bringing my own lunch in saves a considerable amount of money over time, as well as generally being healthier than ready-made sandwiches or salads (our options here are Greggs, M&S or something from Morrisons...). Plus, it just looks so cool to have such a beautiful lunch! Packed lunches are not just for kids, and don't have to consist of boring, sandwiches!

What on earth is bento?
You may well have seen the pictures of amazing packed lunches made by some mothers in Japan for their children (referred to as 'character' or 'picture' bento), however most day-to-day bento are single-portion takeout or home-packed meals, common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional bento consists of rice, fish or meat, and one or more pickled or cooked vegetables, usually in a box-shaped container (thank you, Wikipedia). Although very popular in Japan and increasingly popular around the world, particularly in the US, it seems that bento-making is still in its early days here in the UK.

I'm not going to profess to be an expert in bento-making by any means, however I hope that I can share a few ideas that will give you some inspiration for your own lunches.

There seem to be a couple of schools of thought on bento proportions for carbohydrates, proteins, vegetables and sweet/dessert, but generally proportions seem to be given in the proportions of 4:3:2:1 (carbohydrate : protein : vegetable : sweet) or even more simply as 3:2:1 (carbohydrate : protein : vegetable). The idea is that a correctly-sized bento box which is properly packed, will provide you with approximately the same calories as the volume of the box (ie, a 500ml box should provide about 500 calories). This not only makes it easy to regulate your portion sizes, but  also makes it easy to manipulate the calorific intake by modifying the ratios.

Pictured is an example of a pretty traditional bento - included are a simple soy-chicken stir fry, rice, hoisin beansprouts, blanched broccoli and dried mango. I prefer flavoured rice, so this had a small drizzle of kecap manis (sweet soy). This box has a total volume of 650ml, divided over three tiers (a larger one at 250 ml, and two smaller ones at 200 ml), however rather than fill the larger compartment with rice, I decided to use a smaller one and to increase the protein/vegetable content and reduce the calories instead; packing gaps with the blanched broccoli. You could also of course, massively reduce the carbohydrates by replacing the whole of the rice container with more fruit or veggies.

I'll post more healthy bento box ideas over the coming weeks! :)

In other news, today was the Week 2, Day 1 workout for C25K. The 'run' definitely seemed a little trickier than last week, although foing sweet f* all all weekend probably didn't help!
To be fair, I think I felt as tired after the first workout last week and it got easier, so I'm hoping for the same this week. :)

Today's Workout (c25k W2D1):
Rowing (moderate, 30 spm) = 5 minutes
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 21 minutes
Running (slow, 4.9 mph) = 9 minutes
Strength (Squats, Bench Press, Lateral Pulldown) = 4x8 of each
(Strength programme is being reviewed later today!)

Shoes: Vivobarefoot Breatho
(Minimus ones still need sending back to New Balance for exchange...)

165 lbs (-1.5 lbs)

Friday, 10 January 2014

Recipe: Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Well I meant to take some pics of this but got a little involved in preparing the bowls for my workmates, and then eating it... oops...
Fortunately one of the girls did take a picture :)

In hindsight, I'd have chopped the onions a little finer and not blended it to give it a more interesting texture (I've presented the recipe below as unblended), but otherwise it tasted really nice.
I decided to try out Morrison's Fiery Chilli Cheese (which is basically grated cheese with chilli, peppers and paprika) on top of the soup to give it a bit of a kick, which did work really well - highly recommended!

I'm not going to pretend this is a low calorie / low carb soup, because it is very definitely not(!), but it would make a great dinner and you should be able to freeze it.
The MyFitnessPal estimate puts it at 387 kcal (48g carbohydrate, 17g protein, 14g fat) per portion, and this amount made 4 generous bowlfuls (with the toppings).

1kg 'floury' potatoes (I used King Edwards)
1 medium onion, diced
250ml milk (I use whole milk, but semi would work fine)
1 tbsp butter
1 Chicken stock cube
Salt & pepper
Boiling water (as required)

To serve: 
80g grated strong cheddar
4 rashers of streaky bacon
A handful of spring onions, finely sliced
4 tablespoons of Soured cream


Preheat oven to 180 degrees C

1) Place potatoes in the oven and bake until cooked through (a fork will come out easily once inserted). This will depend on the size of your potatoes, but will usually take between 1-2 hours. (You can speed up the process by pricking and microwaving them for 3-4 minutes first). Cut the potatoes in half and allow to cool.

2) While the potatoes are cooling, melt the butter in a large saucepan and stir in your diced onions. Keep the heat low and cover so the onions 'sweat' but do not brown.

3) Add the milk and stock cube to the pan and stir until the cube is dissolved.

4) Scoop the insides out of your potatoes into the pan (retain the skins) and stir. Allow to simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring gently. You should find the potatoes break down slightly and thicken the soup.

5) Prepare the garnishes. Finely chop up 4 rashers of bacon and fry until crispy; draining the fat on a piece of kitchen roll.

Add extra boiling water, salt and pepper to the taste and consistency required.
I tend to like my soups quite thick ;-)

Serve into bowls and garnish with a tablespoon of soured cream, 20g cheese, 1 rasher of crispy bacon and a handful of spring onions. Enjoy!

Soup, Glorious Soup!

At work this week the girls and I (there are 4 of us who sit in an open plan area) decided we would take turns in making soups for lunch to help save money in January. Not sure how long everyone else will want to keep going with this, but at the moment I'm loving it, and it beats buying the shop stuff!
So far we've had butternut squash, leek and potato and broccoli and stilton (or parsnip and potato - Tash made a choice!).

Today was my day, and my soup is a recipe I've been looking forward to trying; Loaded Baked Potato Soup. In a previous job where we had a 'lunch club', a colleague made this and it was absolutely amazing, so I've been looking forward to an excuse to make it, and it seems fitting that I'm introducing it to the girls at my current workplace. :)

General consensus was that it tasted good, but it definitely needed its toppings to 'finish' it, and that it was incredibly filling!

Today's Workout (c25k W1D3):
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 22 minutes
Running (slow, 4.8 mph) = 8 minutes
Strength (Squats, Bench Press, Lateral Pulldown) = 4x8 of each
(Strength programme is being reviewed on Monday)

Shoes: Vivobarefoot Breatho
(Minimus ones need sending back to New Balance for exchange)

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Bike, Bike Baby

I was originally supposed to have a review of my weight programme today, so only did relatively simple cardio today, but unfortunately it's had to be rescheduled to Monday :(

I upped my time on the bikes by 10 minutes but to be honest, felt like I could quite happily have done more. (I might have to look into a HRM to make sure I'm getting the most from my workout...) As with the running, it's not long at all since just 5 minutes cycling gave me really sore knees and quads so apparently the squats are doing something!

Today's Workout:
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 12 minutes
Running (slow, 4.8 mph) = 3 minutes
Cycling (Level 3, 80-85 rpm) = 30 minutes

Shoes: New Balance Minimus 10v2

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

C25K - Week 1, Day 2

Let me make something clear.
I've always been one of those people who really didn't see the point in running. Didn't see how or why people would want to run, let alone go fell running or do marathons, triathlons and all the rest of it.
I'd love to know then, how starting to get into fitness has changed my mindset to the point where I actually decided to start running.

In any case, at the end of last year I set myself the goals of completing the c25k beginners running programme and running a 5k Race for Life.  ---eeek!

When I came into the office on 30 January, I thought I'd give myself a little 'warm up' for it on the treadmill and spent the next couple of days in pain with DOMS, so it was with a little anticipation that I started officially with the W1D1 (Week 1, Day 1) session on Monday.

Surprisingly, I managed the whole thing far more easily than I thought I would and even more bizarrely, I actually enjoyed it! And because my leg muscles had got over their shock of being used, they didn't even ache afterwards! :) So today, I was actually quite looking forward to the second workout which was completed again without problems and I'm still psyched up for the third workout on Friday.

The first week of c25k involves three 'runs' comprising a 5 minute warm-up walk followed by 20 minutes of alternating running for 60 seconds and then walking for 90 seconds, with a 5 minute cool down. As I progress, the length of time spent running will increase and the time spent walking will decrease.

To make it clear, I've started the workouts indoors on the treadmill. Partly because of the weather and also because I'd rather be inside in case I have any problems given I'm a new runner. As conditions get better outside, I'm hoping to transition to running outside in a few months' time and may start getting off the train a stop earlier to run the last bit into work...

Who'd have thought even a few months ago, that I'd even consider doing that?!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

2014 Goals

So now onto the fun stuff!

As I said in my last post, last year's goal was to get below 170lbs before Christmas and then maintain that weight until after the holiday break. And I'm happy to say that I weighed in yesterday at 166.5lbs :-)

Last year I started back at the gym for the first time in many years with a basic programme of compound weight exercises and some cardio. I did the classic 'newbie gym' thing and spent time on the Arc trainer thinking that cardio was the best way to lose the inches, but then after some research, established that actually doing some proper progressive strength training could make more of a difference to my shape.
I modified my routine to increase the weight and reduce the reps, and balanced the cardio a bit more with the intention of revamping the whole thing in 2014. As it stands, I've got a PT session booked in on Thursday to put together a new programme and this year I can afford to be a little more ambitious...

Whilst I'm not to bothered about how much weight I lose, I ideally want to get into a UK size 10/12 by the end of the summer and in time for my sister's wedding in August. More important than clothes sizes though, is improving my overall health and fitness.

The goals for this year have to be both realistic and achievable. I'm by no means fit and nor have I had much experience with some of the things I want to try. They have to be fun and naturally I have to be interested in them, otherwise I simply won't want to achieve them!

So... without further ado, this year's Wannado List, with the understanding that it may be added to at any time! :)

  • Complete the C25K (Couch to 5k running programme)
  • Learn to Hula Hoop
  • RUN a 5k Race for Life (walked on last year)
  • Complete the London-Brighton Off-Road Bike Ride
  • Fit into a Size 12 dress and jeans (obviously not at the same time!)
  • Start on the Stronglifts 5x5 programme

Monday, 6 January 2014

Single Steps

It's a bit of a cliché to start a new blog in January, especially as technically I made my first steps to health and fitness in November last year. Being as it may, I didn't get around to setting it up until today so January it is!

Star Psyche is my about my personal journey to health and fitness, possibly with pit stops to look at other topics and idiosyncrasies along the way; I have interests in cooking and food (particularly baking), craft, outdoorsy stuff including bushcraft and minimal camping, self-sufficiency and 'growing my own', computer games and animals, so expect anything...

First, a bit of background to give a bit of context to the trip.
I'm 31 years young, 5'2" and as at 8.15am on 6 January 2014, I weighed 11st 12.5lbs (166.5 lbs).
I wear a UK size 16 and have done since I finished University at 21, but wasn't much below a 12-14 before then. I don't think I've worn a size 10 since I was 10!
I have crap knees (subluxating patellae apparently) so never got much into sports, but did ride from age 7, and had horses from when I was 13 (again, until university at 20). At Uni I danced Swing and Lindy Hop and learned to paraglide but then did very little exercise-wise until 2012 when I started going to Zumba classes once a week. Financial constraints put a stop to them in 2013.

Summer 2013 was notable in the fact that despite the fact I don't eat a rich diet, was only 30 years old and female, I was diagnosed with gout. As the other main factors are genetics (both parents have it) and weight-related, I decided that I had to do something proactive to get myself healthy. In November 2013 I joined the gym at work and have been every weekday (that I have been in the office), ever since.

My goal for 2013 was simple: to get to below 170lbs by Christmas and then not to put any more on over the holiday period. I achieved both. This year I am a little more ambitious but will discuss my goals in my next post.

I believe in the very much overused but very true quote from Lao Tzu:
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

2014 is the year to start achieving the thousand miles.

And finally for today, I'm going to end with this quote from Terry Pratchett, because it amuses me ;-)

“Everything starts somewhere, though many physicists disagree. But people have always been dimly aware of the problem with the start of things. They wonder how the snowplough driver gets to work, or how the makers of dictionaries look up the spelling of words.”
― Terry Pratchett, Hogfather