Thursday, 27 February 2014

Mud, glorious mud...

It would seem that this is really just 'one of those weeks'... I missed my usual train this morning as I left my bag at home and had to go back for it(!), which had the knock on effect of me only having 15 minutes in the gym. To be fair, I'm feeling physically tired today after yesterday's London jaunt; according to the Fitbit, I walked over 10 miles (over 25,000 steps) yesterday, which wasn't too bad considering all the stuff I was lugging around. But I'm running (ha!) ahead of myself...

Yesterday morning, I thought I'd take advantage of the brilliant frosty sunshine and go for a quick run before heading into town. I figured that after a pretty dry week, the local Common should have dried out slightly to go have a mooch around, so I headed out the door in that direction.
After running down the track on one edge, I followed the path that takes you onto the Common properly, only to find myself very rapidly in freezing cold water - what had looked like solid (but damp) grassland was actually pretty boggy wetland and any which way I turned, wasn't going to get me out of it. Undeterred and with water now fully soaking through my Breathos', I picked a direction which  I figured should have taken me to a slightly drier, higher patch of ground. Unfortunately however, said patch of ground involved going through ankle-deep mud...

Now I was never sure what I'd feel about having wet feet whilst running, but can now say for certain, that:

1) I can cope with wet feet, although the sensation of water in my trainers is still very odd

2) I can cope with mud - even ankle-deep

3) I cannot cope with my toes freezing

4) I am sick and tired of the ground being so waterlogged that even after nearly a dry week, the Common is still soaking :(

On the positive side however, the Vivobarefoot Breathos seemed to shed a lot of the mud pretty quickly and I didn't slip at all. A quick rinse under the tap, a quick spin to get most of the water off and sticking them on the radiator for 20 minutes, and they were near enough ready to go again (indeed I wore them into London as well). Impressed!

PS. Very jealous of all those runners in Regent's Park where the ground was lovely and dry.....

Any hints on the freezing toes front?

Today's (measly) Workout:
Rowing (moderate, 30+ rpm) = 5 minutes
Stationary Bike (moderate, 105+ rpm) = 9 minutes

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

WIAW: ALL the Things!

Today's WIAW is being brought to you remotely, as by the time you read this I will be wandering around London looking at conference venues.
I'd originally planned to go to the gym first this morning, but a slight issue with the alarm (didn't go off) meant that those plans went out the window, although I'm not complaining too much as I'm actually pretty sore after yesterday's lifts. Instead, I thought I'd take advantage of the sunshine and go for a quick run around home instead... well... didn't that turn out well (spot the sarcasm). I'll post my observations tomorrow. :)

Anyhow, I thought that although I'm not in the office, I'd give you a flavour of what a fairly regular workday looks like for me, so this is Monday's eats - enjoy!

I rarely eat before my morning gym session, on the basis that I can't eat first thing anyway, and also because I've ready that exercising whilst fasted is best for getting your body to utilise stored fat as it has few carbohydrates available for fuel. Once I'm down to a healthier weight, I'll probably start introduce a pre-workout snack to boost my energy levels.

My current 'favourite' breakfast (it seems to be changing on a monthly basis), is tropically-inspired, 0% Fat Total Greek Yoghurt with chunks of fresh mango, a sliced banana, a drizzle of honey and a dash of ground cinnamon. This generally keeps me going from about 9.30am until lunchtime at around 1pm. :)

Another Asian-inspired lunch this week. I had a real craving for Katsu curry last week so thought I'd try to improvise. This was tempura chicken fillets with rice, courgette and Chinese curry sauce. Whilst the principle was good, I couldn't find the right kind of curry sauce in Sainsburys, so compromised with Sharwoods Chicken Curry sauce as it didn't contain 'crap' ingredients. Unfortunately it tastes awful, so I ditched the rest of the jar and had my leftover rice and the rest of the chicken today, with Blue Dragon lemon sauce instead. Still not great tho, so I really need to go on the trip to the oriental supermarket that I keep intending to do...

If you've read yesterday's post, you may just have noticed that I'm somewhat hormonal this week, so I've been having all manner of foodie cravings. Last night I was initially desperate for a straight Caesar Salad, but as I was pulling it together, it kind of morphed into an 'ALL The Things' Salad, which had everything in which I fancied at that moment in time: Romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, avocado, sweet potato, (leftover roast) chicken leg meat, anchovies, parmesan, croutons, caesar dressing and sunflower seeds. I'm not going to lie - this was not a calorie-light salad (and low-calorie dressings are against my religion - lol!). It clocked in at just under 1000 cals, but was worth every one of them... (and we won't mention the ice cream I had for dessert afterwards... lady hormones, be damned!!)

Today's Workout (muddy run...):
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = about 10mins
Running (slow, 5.5 mph) = about 15 minutes (story to follow tomorrow ;-) )

Plus lots and lots of walking around Central London today :)

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

One Day...

I was really not in the mood this morning.
Actually, correct that; I really wasn't in the mood this week period.
I have very strong reason to believe it's my hormones that are making me feel really antsy and hungry at the moment, given the time of month, but it's rare that I actually wake up feeling irritable.

This is probably in part due to the fact I didn't get enough unbroken sleep last night - I woke up twice needing to pee, and another couple of times due to cats and/or boyfriend taking up my space.
I was also incredibly full after dinner - I'd really fancied a salad, but not a namby-pamby girlie one, a BIG FAT salad with ALL the things in it. This beast had EVERYTHING in that I fancied and it clocked in at just under 1000 cals, but boy was it worth it...

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I was just going to do a quick session on the bikes and rowers at the gym today (instead of weights), but the plan got thrown off by a fire at my local station, which meant getting off the train at a different stop and power walking up the hill for 15 minutes to the gym, by which time I'd managed to motivate myself enough to get lifting.

Will admit, I did get a little annoyed at one guy sitting around and watching me until I was finished (apparently waiting for the power rack), but other than that, I pushed through and completed the workout - and surprise, surprise, I feel better for it...

It also dawned on me, that 6/7 weeks ago, running for 90 seconds was really challenging for me. These days I can run for 25 minutes.
One day, I will look upon my weight lifts in the same manner:

Today's lifts will one day, be tomorrow's warm-ups.

Fortunately it should be pretty quiet at the office today, so I should hopefully manage to keep my cool.
PMT really sucks sometimes...

How do you motivate yourself when you really aren't in the mood?
And Ladies - what do you do to combat PMT cravings? 

Today's Workout (Stronglifts 5x5):
Squats = 30kg
Bench Press = 30kg
Rows = 32.5kg

Plus a 15 minute unscheduled power walk up the hill....

Monday, 24 February 2014

Week in Review : Ending 23-02-14

Before I get started today, I just need to share my excitement about the fact that I exceeded my own expectations again by completing c25k Week 7, Day 1, which was the first of three 25-minute runs!
I didn't get quite enough sleep last night so it was really hard to stay motivated this morning, but fortunately I'd spent some time getting to know Spotify this weekend, so finally had a small running playlist sorted out which made it a bit easier to zone out, although I admit I nearly died inside when the c25k app voice pointed out I was only halfway! I think I set the music bpm a little high for me, so need to make a few changes though :)

As a fellow list-maker (kind of essential as a PA), Meghan's Week in Review link up appeals to my inner OCDness. There's something innately satisfying about creating a list of everything you need/want to do, and then systematically crossing things off it. It's a sign of progress and forward movement and I love it!


The Week in Review Link-up is about sharing your accomplishments with the world - those things that you've managed to cross off your list(s) that are noteworthy or otherwise important to you.
I have to say though, last week for me was apparently quite non-descript as I've not all that much to report :)

I found some awesome potential venues for the next conference I'm organising for work. Means I get a fun day-trip in central London on Wednesday to look at some seriously fun venues, and it has the potential to be my best conference yet!

Also work-related, I finally put forward the business case to get Photoshop installed on my work laptop, which means I can get more creative with my presentations again and start playing with Prezi (PowerPoint sucks big time).

I ran, non-stop for 22 minutes on the c25k programme. Anyone who has been following my blog or ready my previous posts, will know I started the c25k programme in January, having not run since my teenage years (and only occasionally then!). My excitement at my progress knew no bounds, until this morning when I exceeded the time again. :)

I made my own high-protein snack bars for my man to take to work with him. He's terrible for snacking throughout the day, so after he was quite taken with the Almond Bounce Balls at the weekend, he decided he'd like to try some homemade chocolate & hazelnut, and almond & cherry bars.
Conclusion? The chocolate ones worked brilliantly, the cherry ones less-so (far too sticky - apparently the idea sounded nicer in his head!). Will post a recipe for the chewy chocolate 'no-bake' protein cookies soon!

What have you been up to this week?

Today's Workout (c25k W7D1):
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 11 minutes (6, 5)
Running (slow, 5.5 mph) = 25 minutes (25 non-stop)
Stationary Bike (moderate, 100+ rpm) = 13 minutes

Friday, 21 February 2014

A Sense of Accomplishment

I'm feeling absolutely and positively pumped today.
I think the sun shining is playing quite a big part in in, along with the fact that it wasn't dark when I caught the train this morning and also because I am hugely proud that I managed Week 6, Day 3 of c25K, which is the non-stop 22-minute run. Small fry for some more experienced runners, but to me it's a marathon! :) Considering I only started in January and now have just 2 weeks left of the official programme left to go, I'm feeling really positive. So positive in fact, that I started canvasing suggestions on Twitter (Follow Me!) for beginner-friendly Parkruns nearby that I can try out in a few weeks' time. Nonsuch Park it is! Let's just hope the weather holds! :)

Today I had another kinda Non-Scale Victory. I popped into M&S this lunchtime as my current underwear is really starting to fit badly. I noticed that they have an offer on where if you have a lingerie fitting session, they give you £5 off if you spend £30 on underwear, so thought I'd take them up on it.
Apparently I am nowhere near the bra size that I thought I was, and it's no wonder everything is fitting so badly now!
I told the lady that I've been losing weight so don't want to spend too much now, only to have to buy more in a few months' time, so she suggested and fitted a couple of key pieces (2 for £16), leaving me to then go pick out some matching knickers. Well pleased! I picked up one of my favourite American Style Pork wraps as a treat. :)

As M&S is next door to Holland and Barrett, it would have been rude not to pop in and take advantage of their storewide BOGOF deal . I've been itching to try Bounce Natural Energy Balls for a while, so picked up a few for me and P to try. Review to come soon...

Have a wonderful weekend! I think this weekend we are going to visit Bekenscote Model Village and look at getting our bikes road/trail-ready!!! :)

What are you up to this weekend?
And what healthy snacks do you enjoy?

Today's Workout (c25k W6D3):
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 13 minutes (8, 5)
Running (slow, 5.5 mph) = 22 minutes (22 non-stop)
Stationary Bike (moderate, 100+ rpm) = 18 minutes

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Working Lunch #1

It belatedly dawned on me that lots of my foodie posts are likely to be work-based, because that's where I tend to spend a lot of my time. I do my damnedest to stay away from pre-packaged sandwiches and other lunchables where possible and it's the meal where many people get stuck eating the same thing week in, week out, so hopefully I can share a few ideas for inspiration. :)

I'm fortunate in that where I work, we have boiling hot water on tap, a fridge and a microwave, which makes for more options. Lots of my lunches though, can be eaten at room temperature,

Although I've posted a few things previously, I thought I'd share one of my favourite lunches at work at the moment. It's not quite bento, but pretty close. :)

This was an almost accidental discovery - I had some leftover rice from Sunday night's dinner, and leftover salmon flakes from Saturday lunch and thought I'd just stick them in one of my favourite Sistema soup 'mugs' (which are also great for soups and pasta!).

Because carbohydrate + protein does not a balanced meal make, I popped over to the local Morrisons supermarket to grab some tenderstem broccoli, and also found a fresh sweet chilli and ginger sauce (in their fish section).

I gave the broccoli a very quick zap in the microwave, before heating the rice and then topping it with the fish a teaspoonful of hoisin sauce and one of Noritamago Furikake.

Furikake is essentially a Japanese rice topping - at its simplest comprising seaweed, sesame seeds and spices, although there are loads of variations. The Noritamago version contains sesame seed, wheat, dried yolk powder, sugar, salt, shaved bonito (fish) flakes and seaweed. It's great for making plain rice more interesting and nutritious. :)

The broccoli in the dipping sauce is gorgeous, and smoked salmon with anything is always good in my book! So good in fact, that it's been my lunch for the last 3 days!
The whole meal could be eaten at room temperature (assuming you cooked your rice last night or the same morning and kept it in the fridge until leaving home) and you could easily blanch the broccoli beforehand too.

What do you do for lunch at work?

Today's Workout (Stronglifts 5x5):
Squats = 27.5kg
Overhead Press = 22.5kg (only completed 3 sets at this weight)
Deadlift = 45kg

Stationery Bike (moderate speed, 90rpm) = 12 mins

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

WIAW: Cupcakes for Breakfast?!

The further I progress with my fitness journey, the more I'm finding I'm enjoying really pushing myself further and harder. If I'm not dripping with sweat by the time I finish my workout, I don't feel I've tried hard enough. This morning was no exception. I was re-running c25k W6D2 to bring the 'week' back into line with a calendar week as it's been bugging me, so today was 2x10 minute runs. I finally managed to get my Spotify account working, so it made a nice change not to be listening to the same tunes on MTV Dance again - I've decided that running to D&B tracks at about 180bpm, really makes a difference and I upped my speed a bit to 5.5mph (from 5.2). Definitely still manageable but more of a challenge and I was somewhat sweaty once I'd finished running! Really feeling like running a full 5k is within reach now - might have to look some up that are before the planned Race for Life this summer!
After the treadmill I hopped straight onto a stationary bike for a further 10 minutes hard ride. Lovely job! :)

Today, as you're probably aware, is Wednesday, which means that it's time for WIAW!
This week's is brought to you again from Saturday...

Breakfast was a wonderfully unhealthy homemade vanilla cupcake (full fat, full sugar and absolutely delicious) and a banana.
I bake cakes for family and friends and had been asked to make some Valentine's cupcakes for a good friend of mine. These were red-coloured vanilla sponge with cream cheese frosting. As P loves them too, I always make a few extra for him, but helped myself to one on Saturday morning (but scraped the frosting off mine!).

Lunch was slightly healthier and one of my favourites: wilted spinach with hot smoked salmon flakes, topped with two poached eggs (and lots of ground black pepper). This was the first time I've tried poaching eggs for years and I was really pleased how they turned out! The 'Hairy Bikers' suggest immersing your eggs for 20 seconds in the hot water before removing them quickly and then breaking them to poach - seemed to work a treat as they stayed in nice neat blobs and I was able to cook two in the pan at once.

Dinner was also one of our favourites! A lean, jerk-spiced pork loin steak with sweet potato mash, sugar snap peas, carrots and for myself, a big bunch of curly kale. I can't get enough of the stuff and am usually only limited by how much room I have left on my plate!

Now I'm off to go and see what everyone else has eaten this week! :)

Today's Workout (c25k W6D2 - repeated to bring the 'week' back in line):
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 14 minutes (6, 3, 5)
Running (slow, 5.5 mph) = 20 minutes (10, 10)
Stationary Bike (moderate, 100+ rpm) = 13 minutes

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Contagious Fitness

Along with my own change in mindset, there's been what appears to be, a slow but steady change in mindset in the office as well.

To give a bit of background, I'm a PA and I work in an open-plan office with three others.
A few weeks ago, the three of them decided to give Slimming World a try, and have signed up for a full 12-week course of weigh-ins.

Initially, the girls were planning on losing weight primarily by diet alone, none of them being open fans of exercise. Now I'm not going to comment on the 'science of Slimming World', however since my own enthusiasm for fitness has been increasing exponentially, a little may be rubbing off.

Two of the girls are considering starting the c25k running programme, whilst another has just started doing fitness DVDs at home, and last weekend did a couple of workouts with her weightlifting partner.

I'll admit, it would be nice not to be the only fitness junkie around here...

Workout-wise not quite so good today. P is on a course so I had a lift into work again today, but because he arrived so early yesterday, we left home a little later today. This meant I had to use the work gym as there wouldn't have been enough time to go to the other gym I visit, and therefore my stronglifts workout today was a little 'gimped' (the work gym doesn't have a squat rack or bench rack)... Still, better than nothing I guess! :)

Today's Workout (semi-Stronglifts 5x5):
Squats = 25kg
Bench Press = 25kg
Rows = 30kg

Rowing (moderate effort, 32 spm) = 5 mins
Running (slow speed, 5.5 mph) = 5 mins

Monday, 17 February 2014

Review: Taj Aloe Vera Drink

In hindsight, it was probably quite unfair of me to think that I wouldn't like Taj Food's new Aloe Vera drink before even opening the bottle. I'll be honest though; the vividly bright packaging seemed to scream 'E numbers' and sugar at me, which is usually an instant turn-off.
Maybe it was because I was feeling a little tired, or perhaps because it was so dark and miserable outside on Friday, that I decided to give it a try.

Taj presented me with an initial challenge of getting into the bottle! My grip's not bad, but I really struggled to open the twist cap and had to resort to running a knife around the band to be able to open it! When I tipped up the bottle, it looks like the whole unit is vacuum-sealed for preservation purposes as there were no air bubbles in the bottle - I'm assuming this is what made it quite tricky to get into.

The ingredients list is surprisingly short, with aloe juice being the predominant ingredient and strawberry juice being the third on the list. I was interested to see the drink is sweetened with Stevia, a plant-based, zero-calorie sweetener which has been used in Paraguay and Brazil for centuries, however still a sweetener and therefore something I would usually steer clear of (in favour of drinking less of a natural sugar-sweetened product). Upon opening, you can immediately smell the strawberry, which although a little strong, wasn't unpleasant. I poured just under half the bottle into a glass for a closer look :)

Upon pouring, I could see the pieces of aloe pulp in the drink - you can just about make them out in the picture.
My first impression on drinking, was how sweet it is! As I've been eating fewer sweet products recently, this really hit me to the extent that I had to water the drink down a little. The flavour is surprisingly natural with no real aftertaste, which I did find quite surprising as I remember drinking straight aloe vera juice when I was younger and I found it repulsive! The pieces of aloe pulp are a little like chunks of fruit jelly and quite nice, although they did seem to sink to the bottom once I'd diluted the drink a little.

As Britain's leading ethnic food's brand, Taj foods are probably unfamiliar to many UK shoppers, so it would be interesting to see if their Aloe Vera Drink takes them a little more mainstream.

Although possibly not something I'd drink on a regular basis, if you are on a low/restricted calorie or carbohydrate diet, it could be well-worth considering Taj's Aloe Vera Juice Drink as a more natural alternative to traditional 'diet' soft drinks which tend to use artificial sweeteners.
I've got the Original flavour still in the fridge, so will be interesting to see how it compares.


Please note that I was sent Taj Foods Aloe Vera Juice Drink in Strawberry and Original flavours, for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Further information can be found at the following:

TAJ Foods -
Aloe vera drinks -

Changing Mindset: Observations

I've always been very aware that the main reason I never lost weight, was because I was eating too much and not exercising enough (read, at all). When I started going to the gym back in November, it was after I'd lost a couple of lbs already and my mindset was getting curious to know what kind of results I'd achieve if I added some exercise into the mix.

Initially my main purpose in going to the gym was to help me lose weight faster, however the longer I've spent on this journey, the more I'm appreciating that what I'm doing is a complete lifestyle change. It's no longer about the numbers on the scale, but about how I'm feeling. It's not about eating less, it's about eating the right fuel for my body to achieve what I want to achieve.

Nowadays there are three main reasons why I workout 5 mornings a week:

1) To get fitter and improve my overall health
2) Because I love the endorphin high it gives me for the rest of the day
3) Because it means I can eat even more!

I've gone from not being able to run at all, to doing 10-20 minute non-stop runs (thanks to the c25k programme, 3 times per week). The prospect of running 5k now seems achievable and running for the train these days doesn't make me break into a sweat or feel out of breath! After starting with baby weights, I'm really looking forward to lifting heavier as I progress with Stronglifts.

I get to my desk feeling full of energy and really positive for the rest of the day. Now I really notice the difference when I've not worked out in the morning and particularly at the weekend when P and I currently spend the majority of our days playing EVE Online...

I currently aim for a total net intake of 1350 calories* (1350 calories consumed after accounting for any exercise) to give me an average loss of around 1lb per week. If I exercise more, that means I get to eat more (so long as it works with my macro nutrient proportions) in order to keep the net intake correct - win!

I'm paying more attention to the proportions of macro nutrients (carbs, protein and fat) that I'm eating - not religiously, but they are goals I'm aiming for.

I'm eating less processed food and more whole grains, beans and lean meats, although that doesn't stop me from having an occasional blow out on pizza or Chinese, or from having my Friday bacon and mushroom sarnie.

P also tells me that not only is my figure looking much more curvy in the right places, but my skin is looking brighter and feels smoother as well - this is also apparent on my upper arms where I have mild keratosis pilaris, but these days they seem to be smoother as too.

What were your initial reasons for starting to workout?
Why (and how) do you workout now?

* I am only a dinky 5'2" and with a very sedentary, desk-based lifestyle, other than my current 5 workout sessions per week. I work on a TDEE - 25% basis for weight loss, with my TDEE being in the region of 1800. I've been losing on average, 1lb per week.

Today's Workout (c25k W6D2 - still out of sync, GRR!!):
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 16 minutes (6, 3, 7)
Running (slow, 5.2 mph) = 20 minutes (10, 10)
Stationery Bike (moderate, 100+ rpm) = 17 minutes

Friday, 14 February 2014

Valentine's Day, My Ass (Quite Literally!)

P and I don't believe in Valentines Day.
There, I said it.

Given how we tell each other that we love them loads already, it seems a bit silly and very commercial to subscribe to a specific day on which to show how much we love each other. I don't need flowers, chocolates or anything else to show how much he loves me, because I already know.
It's a bit different from the high school days, when the Secret Valentine's Rose Delivery Service at my school was running, when the thrill of receiving an anonymous long-stemmed rose could set off a whirlwind of emotions (and rumours), but for already-established couples, it seems a little ridiculous and according to my other half, it puts a lot of pressure on guys to get it right for girlfriends who expect the moon on a stick. We both re-affirmed to the other, that any gifts today wouldn't be welcome.

That said, we have just taken advantage of a 'couples photoshoot' deal on Groupon in order to do something a little quirky later this year. :)
A while back, we said that one day we'd love to get a photograph of our bare bums to stick on a wall canvas in the living room(!). Since going to the gym and certainly since starting weights, my posterior is getting much... perkier, so as the voucher can be used up util May, in a couple of months' time it should be looking just peachy!  And how cool would it be to have an artistically shot photograph of your ass in a prominent position?! Far more fun and longer-lasting than going out for a meal or something, on one of the most overpriced days of the year.

P - as you very well know, I love you very, very much every day and not just on Valentine's  ;-)

Today's Workout (c25k W6D1 - still out of sync, GRR!!):
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 18 minutes (7, 3, 3, 5)
Running (slow, 5.0 mph) = 13 minutes (5, 8, 5)
Stationery Bike (moderate, 90+ rpm) = 13 minutes

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Squats and OH Presses and Deadlifts, Oh My!

Not too much to report today, so just a quick workout update. :)

The gym was surprisingly quiet this morning, so I was able to get straight onto the power rack to do my squats and overhead presses - still 'baby' weights at 25kg and 20kg respectively, but I upped to deadlift weight to 40kg - still very easy for me :)

On a side note, my lunch today was AMAZING! Pearl Barley, Mushroom 'Risotto' - will post the recipe and pics tomorrow...

Today's Workout (Stronglifts 5x5):
Squats = 25kg
Overhead Press = 20kg
Deadlift = 40kg

Rowing (moderate effort, 32 spm) = 5 mins
Stationery Bike (moderate speed, 90rpm) = 12 mins

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

WIAW: Bright and Colourful!

Before I start with today's WIAW, I just want to say that I am SO CHUFFED with myself!
I've just finished the dreaded C25K W5D3 (the first non-stop 20 minute run). Considering I only started running (having never run, even at school) a little over a month ago, I'm calling it a massive achievement!!! I'd originally planned to re-do W5D2 to cope with my OCD-ness issue of having a 'workout 3' on a Wednesday, but got to 10 minutes and figured I was good for 12. Then got to 12 and thought I could manage 15 and then thought fk it, I was going to go for the full 20 minutes. Legs are feeling a little wobbly now (although that could be the fast 5 minutes I did on the bikes straight afterwards), but overall feeling good. STARVING but good! :)

Anyhoo, onto today's proceedings!

Today's WIAW is brought to you from Saturday - I'm finding that taking food pics during the daytime works SO much better than taking them in the evening, which means that weekends work best, even if it hasn't stopped raining for weeks! :)
I've been itching to make banana pancakes for ages and as we had a couple of old bananas left in the fruit bowl this week, I thought it would be rude not to. I was tempted to try the simple banana + egg recipe, but as P does really need his carbs, I kept the flour in the recipe. 

After we came back from shopping for a few bits and bobs (including some new gym kit - yay!), I was absolutely ravenous, so whipped up a Red Pepper, Black-Eyed Bean and Low-fat Cheese Quesadilla.

Dinner was another recipe I've been itching to try out as I've not made one in years. This was a Pork, Stuffing and Apple Meatloaf with stir-fried spring greens (P had his with some mashed potato as well).
This was VERY yummy and the leftovers were just as good for lunch the next day.

500g Lean Pork Mince
50g Sage and Onion Stuffing
5 Rashers, Smoked Streaky Bacon
1 Medium Egg
25g Breadcrumbs
50g Bramley Apple Sauce
1 Firm Eating Apple (I used a Pink Lady), sliced
Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 190 Degrees C

1) Evenly line a small loaf tin with the slices of bacon.
2) Make up the stuffing with a little boiling water and set to one side.
3) In a mixing bowl, thoroughly mix the mince, breadcrumbs, egg, salt and pepper - get your hands in - it's much quicker!
3) Press half of the mince into the loaf tin.
4) Spoon the apple sauce down the middle length of the tin. Roll the stuffing into a sausage shape, and place down the middle of the loaf tin on top of the apple sauce.
5) Carefully press the remaining mince mixture over the stuffing, wrapping any loose ends of the bacon around the bottom.
6) Place the slices of apple along the top of the meat mixture.
7) Cover the top of the tin loosely with foil and place in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes.
8) Remove the foil and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes.
9) Take the tin from the oven and carefully turn out onto a baking sheet so the bacon is on top. Return to the oven for a final 10 minutes so the bacon goes crispy and slightly golden.
10) Allow to cool slightly before slicing.

Today's Workout (c25k W5D3):
Rowing (moderate, 32 spm) = 10 minutes
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 10 minutes
Running (slow, 5.0 mph) = 20 minutes
Stationery Bike (moderate, 90+ rpm) = 6 minutes

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Recipe: Banana Pancakes

If you Google 'banana pancakes', you'll find LOADS of recipes on the internet.
I'm not going to pretend mine are special in any way, other than to say they are quite simply, the best ones I've made and they were absolutely amazing for breakfast on Saturday.

Beautiful, fluffy banana clouds with a couple of rashers of crispy bacon, sliced bananas, blueberries and a drizzle of maple syrup.... Yum!

They are already dairy and refined-sugar free, but could very easily be adapted to be gluten-free as well.

2 medium, very ripe Bananas (mine were almost black)
1 Egg
1 Egg white
120g Self-raising flour (I'd have used wholemeal, but we've run out :( )
1/2 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Baking powder

To serve:
Your choice really, but I had:
2 Slices of crispy bacon
1/2 Banana, sliced
Maple syrup (or similar)

1) In a mixing bowl, sift the flour, cinnamon and baking powder.
2) Roughly mash the bananas in a second mixing bowl and add both the egg and egg white and vanilla. Beat well until light and fluffy-looking - I use an electric mixer and it took about 3 minutes.
3) Gently add a spoon of the flour to the banana mixture at a time, whisking briefly between each addition until all the flour is combined.
4) Heat a large frying pan to a low-medium heat. I wipe my pan over with a little groundnut oil on a piece of kitchen roll to aid the cooking.
5) Use a large spoon to drop 3 'blobs' onto the pan. Leave to cook for a minute or so, until you see bubbles start to appear in the pancakes, then using a spatula, flip each one over gently to cook the other side. You should see them rise up into fluffy cakes. Allow to cook for another couple of minutes and then transfer to a warm plate. Repeat until the batter is used up.
6) Serve on warmed plates with you your choice of toppings

This batter made 8 large pancakes (3 for me, 5 for my man) at 76 cals each (16g carbohydrates, 1g fat and 3g protein).

No workout yet today due to P having to be elsewhere this morning with the car, so going to the gym tonight instead :)

Monday, 10 February 2014

A Brief Introspection: My Life, Food & Fitness

Amy @ thelittlehoneybee blogged this weekend about her food and fitness journey, and I felt really inspired, learning how she had developed over time and it got me thinking about how food and health have affected me throughout my life. Amy - I hope you don't mind that I've copied your idea - it's been really interesting seeing where I came from and where I'm headed!

Time in my life: Growing up, as a child

Foods I ate: Predominantly homecooked meals. School lunches were memorable because our cook was simply AMAZING, although notably, I know it was this period that put me off eating liver and cold lamb!

How I looked: I was never skinny, but not massively fat, although I did put on some puppy fat when I was around 10-ish and lost most of it by the time I was 12. I was pretty active and played on the netball, rounders and athletics teams, and the school took us swimming once a week. I used to go horseriding once a week as well.

How I felt: Generally pretty happy. I was obsessed with horses, which would go on to play a massive part in the next stage of my life.

Time in my life: Secondary school and 6th Form (1994-2001)

Foods I ate: Quick breakfasts at home. Lunches in the school canteen were generally unimaginitive jacket potatoes, chips (with very regional gravy, or cheese) or salads. Dinners were still my mum's cooking, occasionally my own meals as I developed an interest in cooking.

How I looked: I think I spent most of secondary school as a UK size 14 (the picture above was taken on the last day of sixth form - I was 18) but as most of the other girls in my year were pretty skinny, I always felt I was fat although in reality, I was actually very muscular. Never enough to worry too much about it though. I didn't play on the school sports teams often as by age 12, I was fortunate enough for my mother to buy me my first pony so all spare time was spent up at the stables. I went on to compete at regional level with pretty good success.

How I felt: Teenage angst. I hated my school with a passion and couldn't wait to get out of there, so the stables were my life.

Time in my life: University (2001-2004)

Foods I ate: For my first year of university I opted to live in self-catering flats, but limited kitchen facilities meant most meals revolved around pasta and potatoes and I put on some weight. Moving into a shared house in my second and third years was a bit of an improvement and for a while, I did do the Atkins Diet quite successfully, getting back down to a UK size 14, but found it SO expensive! Over this time due to very erratic periods, I was finally diagnosed with PCOS.

How I looked: I didn't really exercise much, although living at the top of a hill did help (I always walked down, even if I didn't always walk back up it again!). I did start dancing in my second and third years, going on to be the Swing Dance Society President. I also spent a summer learning to paraglide and lost some weight climbing up lots of hills (only to jump off them again). I also went clubbing pretty regularly but rarely drank when out.

How I felt: More myself - I enjoyed trying out lots of different things and experimenting more with food.

Time in my life: Post-graduate (2004-2008)

Foods I ate: After uni I moved back in with my mum for a bit whilst doing a Postgrad Diploma at a local college and picked up a part-time job. We tended to share to cooking until I eventually moved out to live with my boyfriend in Cheltenham in 2006. He was an incredibly fussy eater, so I usually ended up cooking 2 separate meals. Over this period I developed IBS and put myself on an exclusion diet to try to narrow down the culprit. I subsequently went completely gluten-free for a couple of years which did help a bit.

How I looked: I was hovering around a UK size 16 again.

How I felt: At this time in my life, I had my first bout with depression. Combined with the IBS, inability to get a job in the field I had studied in, and relationship problems, this was one of the lowest points of my life. I felt fat, unfit and really miserable. This culminated with me leaving my boyfriend of 7 years and going back to my mum's.

Time in my life: Career girl (2008-2012)

Foods I ate: After a few months of being back at mum's, I decided the job prospects there were non-existant and decided to move to London to search for work. Being the main time of the recession, jobs were hard to come by so when I was finally offfered work as a Team PA, I jumped at it. I was living in a shared house with limited kitchen facilities again, so was back on pasta and potatoes, along with shared meals as the housemates took turns cooking. As most were travellers, food was cheap but plentiful and I started to put on weight again. I reintroduced wheat as being gluten-free was too tricky in a shared environment. Working in Central London, lunches were expensive and pre-packaged.
In 2009 when my housemates were returning to New Zealand, I moved into a flat with new boyfriend so I finally had my own (tiny) kitchen again and was able to start making my own lunches.

How I looked: I was pretty consistently a UK size 16.

How I felt: Despite picking myself up after my previous relationship and some wonderful 'ups', including buying a house with my partner in 2010, towards the end of 2011 and 2012, I was sliding back into depression again. I felt like my life was a lie, I felt fat and my IBS was playing up again in a big way. I was signed off with depression for 6 months but managed to get myself a new, more local job at the end of the summer of 2012 and started to make peace with myself and get my life straight.

Time in my life: At  peace with myself (2012-2013)

Foods I ate: My current job is the closest to home I've ever worked - 25 minutes door-to-door. Having more time meant I was able to spend more time with food. I started baking again more regularly and having a full kitchen with more storage, meant I could start experimenting with recipes. BF is very definitely a meat-n-two-veg kinda guy, so whilst dinners tend to be more traditional British fare, I often got quite creative with my lunches. Breakfasts were generally from the canteen at work, and either toast, a panini or porridge.

How I looked: Still a definite size 16 but for the first time, not too worried about it as I carry weight well and no-one actually believed me when I'd state my clothes size. I joined a Zumba group for a while, but had to give it up due to financial constraints.

How I felt: Towards the end of 2013 I was starting to feel fat again, but the more positive me actually wanted to do something about it for good this time. In November 2013 I joined the gym at work, starting with just 15 minutes on the cross trainer and some basic weight exercises EVERY weekday. I also re-joined MyFitnessPal to keep track of my food intake. By Christmas, I'd lost over half a stone (around 10 lbs) and was feeling re-energised, ready to hit the ground running in 2014. Incidentally, I've not had a proper IBS bout since 2011, although I was diagnosed with gout in the summer of 2013...

Time in my life: Now (2014...)

Foods I eat: Generally portion-controlled, meats, vegetables, grains, legumes, salads... Anything in moderation as I don't believe in restricting myself or labelling my diet anymore. I avoid caffine, sweetners and most things 'low fat' or 'diet', preferring to have a 'little of something I like' instead of a poor substitute.

How I look: As of 10 February 2014, I've lost over 16lbs since November and bought my first pair of Size 14 jeans (in 10 years) recently.

How I feel: Happy and much healthier - it's amazing what exercise endorphines and good food can do! Very positive and confident that I can achieve my 2014 goals. I started blogging in January as a way to document my exercise and how I'm feeling, but I'm loving getting involved with the online healthy living community - it's been great knowing there are loads of people with the same outlook. I don't feel alone in my journey anymore. <3

Today's Workout (c25k W5D2):
Rowing (moderate, 32 spm) = 10 minutes
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 16 minutes
Running (slow, 5.0 mph) = 16 minutes (2x 8mins)

Shoes: New Balance Minimus WR00

Friday, 7 February 2014

A Question on Gym Etiquette

Today was my second day (and therefore the first of Workout B) of the Stronglifts programme, which meant squats, overhead press and deadlifts. As I've not done overheads or deadlifts before, I set my starting weights below the recommended start for men, at 17.5kg and 30kg respectively.

I'll be honest - I found the overhead presses quite hard and am still feeling a burn in my arms at the moment! The deadlifts I found very easy, so might consider taking them up to 35kg on Monday. Apparently my body remembers lugging around multiple bales of hay and straw and giant, full water buckets from when I was younger! :)

One thing I did find a little trickier was more people-related; how to broach the event when multiple people want to use a piece of equipment. It would seem that Friday is a popular day for the men to go to the gym for an early morning workout, which meant most of the equipment was in use by the time I got there just after 7am. Whilst I'd have preferred to use the power rack to start getting into the habit, it wasn't too much of an issue for the moment as I could use the non-Olympic bars for the squats and overhead press, and fortunately a proper bar became available when it was time to do the deadlifts.

However what do I do next time, if there's someone already using the power rack?
Wait until they are done? Ask if I can do my sets in between theirs?

How do you handle the situation? Suggestions and advice gratefully received!

Today's Workout (Stronglifts 5x5):
Squats = 20kg
Overhead Press = 17.5kg
Deadlift = 30kg

Stationery Bike (moderate) = 10 minutes

Shoes: Vivobarefoot Breatho

Thursday, 6 February 2014

15lbs+ in 3 months - don't mind if I do :)

Forgive me Fitness Blogosphere for I have sinned: I know I shouldn't have, but I had a cheeky weigh-in this morning... Kinda glad I did, because it was a good one. :)

5 November 2013 was the day I started getting fit again, and although my first 'official' weigh in was on 11 November and I checked-in at about 12 and a half stone (177lbs), I'm pretty sure I'd lost a couple of lbs in that first week.

Three months of religious food measuring and logging (the good, bad and ugly), lots of kgs lifted and many treadmill, stationery bike, rowing machine and elliptical miles later, I checked in this morning at 162lbs - so 'officially' a 15lb loss over about 13 weeks (which included the Christmas break). I'll call that a nice, steady and healthy win, tyvm.
I'm probably overdue in taking some progress pictures, and I really, really regret not having (and still not having bought) a tapemeasure to compare measurements, but otherwise i'm pretty chuffed. A workmate measured me today and I've apparently got a 34.5" waist - which I've not had since university!

I'm definitely finding that lugging less weight around is making working out much easier. I'm not going to lie; I still can't say I enjoy running yet, but I suspect that once I'm not carrying around so much and I'm actually running outside, I'll find it more enjoyable. Looking forward to getting outside on the bikes soon as well!

Today's workout was C25K W5D1 - the OCD part of me is really disliking being out of sync to the extent where I'm tempted to either skip forward a workout or add in a couple to bring them in line with actual weeks... Three 5-minute runs broken up with 3-minute walks was fine. Bring on the next session's 8 minute runs! :)

Today's Workout (C25K W5D1):
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 18 minutes
Running (slow, 5.0 mph) = 15 minutes

Shoes: New Balance Minimus WR00

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

WIAW: Hopping on the Bandwagon! :)

I LOVE trawling my list of blogs and reading through the WIAW entries.

What? You've not come across them before?
WIAW (or in full, What I Ate Wednesday) is a cute blog meme started by Peas & Crayons and is a great window onto other people's eating habits. :)
I've been meaning to start for a while, but keep forgetting to photograph a whole day's worth of meals, which makes it a little tricky. However this weekend, I finally remembered to snap away, so here's what I ate on Sunday...

Breakfast was a variation of one of my favourite weekday breakfasts - rye crackers with low fat cottage cheese and a sliced boiled egg (still a shop-bought one as our girls are still off lay) and cherry tomatoes on top of some homemade black olive hummus and sprinkled with sumac.

Lunch was a small M&S tub of Moroccan Style Fruity Couscous (left over from last week's overzealous lunch purchases) with some added  cubes of feta cheese (and another pinch of sumac - are you spotting a trend?)

Dinner was one of mine and P's favourites at the moment. Crispy Jerk-spiced Chicken mini fillets, chunky oven chips with a small splodge of mayonnaise and a simple salad dressed with lime juice and a dash of olive oil.

The chicken is really simple!
1) Mix up about 3 tablespoons of cornflour, a little salt, pepper and about a teaspoon of Jerk seasoning.
2) Roll each mini chicken fillet in the flour mixture until entirely covered.
3) Fry in just enough oil (I use groundnut) over a medium-high heat, to make the outside of the chicken crisp up. Turn regularly so the chicken cooks evenly to a light golden brown all over. This usually takes me about 10 minutes.
4) Set the cooked chicken to one side on a couple of sheets of kitchen roll until ready to plate up.

Today was my first solo Stronglifts workout, so baby weight to start with. As I've already been doing squats and bench presses with 20kg, I thought I'd start a bit higher with them.

Today's Workout (Stronglifts 5x5):
Squats = 25kg
Bench Press = 25kg
Pendlay Rows = 25kg
Stationery Bike (moderate) = 20 minutes
Shoes: Vivobarefoot Breatho 

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Recipe: Chicken, Celery and Brown Rice Soup

Soup again, I'm afraid!

After coming back in from a hard morning's shopping on Sunday, I wanted something warm and healthy.
I was originally going to make a straight celery soup, but wanted to increase the protein and make it a little more substantial (not being one for watery soups) - this was the result! Very yummy and would definitely make it again - Possibly as a full vegetarian version using veggie stock and omitting the chicken! 

250g Celery, chopped
1 Onion, diced
90g Chicken breast (I used 3 mini fillets)
60g Brown rice
1 Chicken stock cube
1 tbsp Butter
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp Double cream (optional)

1) In a small lidded frying pan (or saucepan), place the chicken, rice half the stock cube and enough water to come about a half of the way up the meat. Bring to a simmer, cover and allow to poach for about 12-15 minutes, turning midway through (until the chicken and rice are cooked through and tender). Set to one side.

2) Whilst the chicken is cooking, melt the butter in a large saucepan and gently saute the onions and celery until transparent but not browned. 

3) Crumble in the remainder of the stock cube and cover the pan contents with boiling water (approx 400ml). Simmer for 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

4) Transfer about 2 thirds into a blender and blitz until smooth, returning the smooth soup to the pan. 

5) Shred the chicken and tip into the pan along with the rice and the poaching liquid, stirring to mix thoroughly and adding extra water, salt and pepper to taste. 

6) Stir through the cream (if desired) and serve!

This made enough for 2 regular servings (approx 300ml).
The MyFitnessPal estimate puts it at 282 kcal per serving (26g carbohydrate, 18g protein, 12g fat - including the cream).