Clothes for every workout as the season changes

Monday, October 23, 2017

Mammut shorts on the move
About a third of  my wardrobe is activewear.  I tend to prefer technical fabrics over cotton because I have trouble regulating my body temperature and prefer to wash things after wearing a few times to reduce my impact on the environment.  As I have mentioned before, I like to trial test products a few times before I let you know what I think.  Here are a few pieces I have been trying over the last few months.

The first are Mammut MTR 71 Shorts, which I found to be super versatile. I used them for marathon training, indoor cycling, dog walks, and plain old home workouts.  Having the inner shorts helped prevent chafing between my thighs when I had longer runs planned.  There is a small zippered pocket in the back on the waist and a key pocket on the inside front.  The fabric is breathable and very stretchy due to the spandex component.  The large was a little big on my thighs so I found the inner shorts would sometimes ride up.  I think if I had the mediums, it would have been fine.  There is also an antimicrobial treatment to the fabric to reduce odor, which means you can pack light on a camping trip without having to worry about worrying about the smell.

Mammut shorts and my OgiYogi hoody

My OgiYogi hoody and leggings came to me in May.  We had such a fantastic summer, I haven't had a chance to wear these until recently.  I am so sad because they are truly amazing!  The leggings fit perfectly and are great at balancing my body temperature when I start sweating.  I also found the print flattering event though I normally avoid horizontal stripes.  The merino and bamboo hoody is super soft and warm, with a concealed zip and thumbholes (check it out in the above photos).  It has pockets and a longer length torso.  I do wish the zipper would open from the bottom because the longer length has to fit over my hips which it does but I don't think it is super flattering.   I guarantee I will be living in these pieces this autumn for running, spinning, and lifting.  And sitting on the couch while I write blog posts.

Blindfolded yoga with The Private Yogi

You might not know that Hunkemoller sells more than lingerie.  They recently started offering sportswear in a variety of styles (including a Blogger line).   I received a black Hunkemoller top with a mesh back panel in early 2017 and have found a ton is uses for it.  The front is a solid piece of black fabric with a normal crew neck.  When we went to Cape Town, it was a beach cover up and a cute top to wear to the bar. 

Breakfast on the deck before swim time
The back really is the fun bit.  In London, I use it as a layer to go to the gym over a bright sports bra.  Unfortunately, this particular top isn't available any more but there are new lines offered several times a year.

Ready for a night out
If you have any questions about these pieces, leave a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Thank you to all of the brands for providing me with samples to try. All opinions are honest and my own.

Active Travel: Chicago

Friday, October 20, 2017

When travelling, I love to use my free time to prioritise fitness and try new things.  I spent a lot of time researching different fitness trends in Chicago that were not commonly seen in the United Kingdom.  Unfortunately, I didn't have time to try them all.  Here is what I suggest you do next time you visit The Windy City.

AIR® class in River North

This studio offers beginner/foundation to advanced aerial exercise classes, such as Flow and Core.  The fabric, called a hammock, hangs from the ceiling and can be twisted together for additional strength or extended to fully suspend your entire body.  Don't worry, it really is strong enough to support you while laying horizontal a few feet off of the ground.  Alexis taught my class and was very good at explaining which ways we were to flip our bodies up and around in the fabric.  The two other women in the class had been to the studio before and were much more confident with their ability, while I had never done anything like this.  (I did a cocoon class at Gymbox once but that was just for relaxation).  Within the first few minutes of class, I was already hanging upside-down during the warm up.  It was such a strange sensation to feel the pressure of the hammock on my lower back as the blood started to rush to my head.  It took me some time to learn to trust the hammock and relax into each movement.  Alexis, a former dancer, taught us a few  separate sequences to build a one minute routine, which we tried at the end of our 50 minute class (click here to watch a video of Alexis demonstrating).  Unfortunately, my lack of upper body strength hindered my ability to do several of the moves.  I was sweating profusely throughout the class, had to take a few breaks, and definitely felt the session in my arms the next day.  Classes can hold up to 22 people at the River North location.  The studio has recently launched Floor Lab too, which is a barre-inspired workout session that covers plyometrics, planks, and push ups.

My most advanced move


Lovely mermaids before we plunged in the pool

Learning to float
What woman didn't dream of being a mermaid when she was a little girl (or even now)?  Splash was one of my favourite movies growing up. I used to swim like Madison in all my friends' pools. When I saw I could do this as an adult with a real tail, I knew I had to try it.  AquaMermaid Chicago offers classes on Sunday mornings at UIC Sports and Fitness Center.   The classes can also be arranged for birthday or bachelorette parties.  I roped two of my good friends, Lisa and Pattie, to try it out with me at the Hilton Chicago pool.  All I can say is that I was smiling from ear to ear from the moment the tails were pulled out of the bag.  Our swim instructor, Cora, was very friendly and patient as she taught us how to float with the tails on, swim from one end of the pool to the other, and how to do a somersault.  She also tried to teach us how to do a dolphin circle (not sure if that is exactly what is was called.  We had to do a backwards somersault while keeping our legs straight) towards the end of our session. But by this point, we were getting tired and water kept going up our noses.  A few moves were challenging for us to do because we only had one lane of the lap pool available to move about.  We made it work though, as you can see from the photos.  We all got a few foot cramps from the monofin so make sure you eat a banana earlier in the day and take the time to warm up before the class. Overall, this was an absolute blast!

Explore the 606
Unfortunately, I didn't make it to The 606 but I absolutely love the idea of it.  It is an abandoned railway line that now provide 2.7 miles of trails for walkers, runners, and cyclists.  Along the way there are art installations and green space.  You can have a look at all the maps here.

Divvy, Chicago's version of Boris Bikes
OK, yes you can rent bikes in London, but I didn't realize Chicago offered this too until my last few days.  I would have much rather ridden a bike around town that taking the subway.  You can see things from a pace riding through neighbourhoods rather than from the train line.  Prices start at about $10/day (or $99 for the year), where a one way ticket on the L train is $2.25 and a one day L pass is $10.  In Oak Park, the suburb where I was staying, I saw several commuting cyclist and numerous cycle lanes. The only downside to the bike rentals is there isn't a helmet included, but you could probably rent one of those too from a local bike shop.  If you are confident on a bike and up for exploration, I highly recommend trying these out.

There were many more things I wanted to try, like a kayak architecture tour and indoor surfing class, but I just ran out of time.  If you have a suggestion on other active travel for Chicago, please leave a comment below.

The next chapter

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

At Chicago start line
On Sunday, I returned from 11 days in the USA which included 3 races, an aerial dance class, and a mermaid swim session.  My brain and body are still confused as to what time it is but I am trying to think ahead to my next challenge.  Currently, the only races I have booked in are 18 November for A Day at the Movies for a shark medal (think Jaws and remember I am a fish nerd) and London Winter Run 10k.  To be honest, I am looking forward to a break from marathon training.  I have completed three World Marathon Major (WMM) marathons in the last 13 months (Berlin, London and Chicago).  It is all consuming, from scheduled runs to cross training, arranging travel and carb loading, even if you are injured like I was over the summer.

A full review of Chicago marathon (my 3rd WMM) will be up soon, but I can tell you my body just wasn't strong enough per usual.  To help correct my weaknesses (and hopefully increase my speed) I am working with Function360, who provided me with a gait analysis at the end of the summer.  Their team is confident that they can get my lazy bum in gear and optimise my running form.  I will also be returning to Julia B Fit's online gym for overall strength and conditioning and working with Shannon S Nutrition to get my portion sizes under control (something that went a bit crazy in the USA). This is a big focus now because my next big challenge is in March and I want you to join me.

I am climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in 2018!

Yes, you read that right. I am working with Eco Africa Climbing to bring a wonderful group of ladies up the Machame route.  We will summit on International Women's Day for a trek totalling seven days.  Here are some important details if you are thinking "yes, this is the adventure for me":
  • The trip is 2-11 March 2018, with an optional safari through 14 March 2018.
  • The route has a >90% success rate and EcoTours tests blood oxygen twice a day to monitor your body's response to the altitude.
  • Cost is $2469 (~£1800) which covers 10 days (7 days trekking + 3 night hotel, 1 night before climb and 2 nights after climb), including 3 meals a day and tent accommodation on the mountain.
  • Free gift worth £30 from me to the first 10 people who pay in full and give my name as a referral.
  • Surprise at the summit for those who register by 1 December 2017.
  • Facebook group to get to know one another before we meet in person.
  • 3 months of fitness guidance from me, worth £250
  • Exclusive shopping event with discount at Ellis Brigham to help you kit up for the trip. Date for London shopping event TBD.

You can register here and be sure to tell them you heard about this from me to ensure you get your free gifts.  The more women who come along, the more I can offer you in the lead up to the trip.  There is no time like the present so if this is on your bucket like, please get in touch.  Personally, I cannot wait.

Please note, I am not liable for any cancellations or issues with the trip. All transactions with Eco Africa Climbing are between you and the company.  I highly recommend investing in travel insurance to protect your trip and health on this adventure.

Disclaimer: For each person who registers as a referral by me, I receive a small discount on my trip.

Back to school with Future Fit Training

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Learning new things is one of my passions.  Very rarely am I not enrolled in a course.  After university it was scuba diving.  Then I took chemistry classes part-time to apply for vet school.  I also did a nursing nutrition course when working at a hospital followed by a master degree in Zoo and Aquarium Management.  Since 2009 I have gained over a dozen health and fitness qualifications while maintaining my first aid certification.  I even did marketing and Instagram courses to learn how I can promote my business.

Over the last two years, my day job has been so full on that my in-person personal training and continued professional development want have had to take a back seat for a while.  My no-longer-new neighbourhood doesn't have the demand for personal trainers like my old one did.  My work over the last year was a bit unpredictable as to when I would leave at the end of the day, but now things have calmed down a bit.  Plus I don't have any specific marathons booked in (just working on my pace to get a BQ).

What am I going to do with all my free time? Never one to sit around and twiddle my thumbs, I have just signed up for Future Fit Training's Advanced Nutrition and Weight Management diploma (don't tell my husband) which is certified by the Association for Nutrition.  It is an online program that covers the following modules:
  • Behavior Change Coaching
  • Childhood Nutrition and Obesity Prevention
  • Nutrition and Weight Management
  • Nutrition for Sport and Exercise
  • Pre and Postnatal Nutrition
My aim is to finish in one year.  Hopefully my coursework with Institute for Integrative Nutrition will give me a solid foundation of knowledge.  I have started with Nutrition and Weight Management, the longest module, which will have me doing a six week case study after I complete the lectures.  The course starts every Monday, so you can join at any time of year and make it work around your schedule.

When I complete the course, I will:

  • Become a specialist qualified Nutrition Adviser
  • Gain an in-depth understanding of nutrition and weight management
  • Have knowledge and insight into the role psychology plays when trying to change a client's behaviour or habits
  • The skills and confidence to run your own weight management clinic, or offer individual consultations
  • An in-depth understanding of sports nutrition and the ability to provide appropriate nutrition advice to those with sport or exercise related goals
  • Specialised knowledge of how the principles of nutrition relate to women who are pregnant or breast-feeding

Also, with the new qualification, I will be able to take on more remote and digital coaching clients, as well as keep myself fit(ter).  Eating is the biggest thing that influences your body shape.  Sure, exercise is important, but it is much easier not to consume extra calories that to burn it off later.  I will be updating you about my studies over the next year so keep checking back to see how I am doing.  If you are interested in receiving nutritional advice, please fill out this form and I will get in touch.

Thanks to Future Fit Training for allowing me to enroll in their course.  All opinions and experiences are honest and my own.

Dancing at dawn with Morning Gloryville

Friday, September 29, 2017

When my alarm went off at 4:45am, I wasn't sure if going to a rave before work was a good idea.  However, it was the autumnal equinox and there was sunshine in the forecast.  I got myself out of bed, ate some breakfast and ordered an Uber to get me to the Shard in a hurry.  Morning Gloryville (MG) had already started and I needed to be there before dawn.

Driving up to the Shard in the dark of night
It has been years since I went to a MG event.  That was back in the day when they were just starting out by renting empty warehouses in Shoreditch.  With the lights on and being 100% sober, those events were a bit more surreal because you felt like you were in a club but could just see what it really looked like during the day.  I didn't know exactly what to expect at the Shard event aside from an amazing view of the sunrise.  My only time there was to take part in a yoga class a few years ago.

Good morning London!

My friends Corey and Eileen got there at the start.  From the 5:30am to about 6:45am, there were several morning rituals involving chanting, drums, and energy releases to welcome in the Equinox at sunrise.  I was glad that I chose to sleep a bit later and arrive just before sunrise.  It was the best of both worlds- to have more energy and see London slowly awaken.  I wasn't really with it yet when I arrived so I think too much time with the chanting might have put me back to sleep. I didn't realize this was part of the schedule for the day.  Next time there is a special edition MG, I will look more closely at the timetable. 

Tarot reading area

The 69th floor is a square with stairs in the middle so only two of the sides really faced the sun.  Even though MG started super early, there was still a big crowd ready to take part in the ancient traditions.  Another side of the square had the entrance from the lift and a bar with plenty of food and drink to buy with hardly any queues.  All the things available were very healthy selections of smoothie bowls, vegan cakes, and botanicals (virgin) cocktails.  The fourth side had beautiful face painting, tarot readings, a charity, and complimentary massages.  There wasn't a booking system for any of these meaning you had to stand in a line but you made some new friends in the queue while waiting.  I tried to book in for a massage because there was a paper signup at first, but it was too confusing after the rituals ran overtime.  I just wanted to dance.  A guy I saw get up from a massage looked to be in absolute bliss.  I will have to  make it a priority next time.

Vegan sugar-free cakes

The dance floor facing east was packed every time I did a lap of the floor.  The weather that day was perfect for our bird's eye view over the city.  You could see very far, and even observe fog rolling steaming up on the river.  At the top of the Shard, the bright sunshine was a natural way to light the dance floor and build up your positive energy for the day.  We could not have been any luckier!

Here comes the sun, little darling

There were a few kids there, which at first struck me as odd, but if there is a sober rave when kids would normally be up at home, why not bring them along?

Adorable dragon baby princess

If you needed fresh air or space to chill, the open air on the 73rd floor gave you the opportunity to relax or take part in one of three yoga classes.  Most of the MG events will have free yoga, so plan ahead better than I did and try to find out the schedule when you arrive.  I missed out because I didn't realize the class times until it was too late to join.

Free yoga

Sadly I had to leave for work at about 8am.  This is when a live band took over from the DJ.  The party lasted until 9:30am for those who had a more flexible day.  If you had been able to stay the whole time, you would have definitely got your money's worth.

I am a dancing fool so I will attend another MG and bring my husband along.  We never seem to make it to the clubs because we are old but this is a good compromise if you don't have to be at work until 9am.  A cocktail would have been nice but I can still have a good time without it.  MG holds events all over London and across the globe so you don't have too much of an excuse not to come along..  They are always looking to expand too if you want to suggest a venue near you.

Morning ritual facing west, giving you an idea of the costumes people wore

The next MG is Thursday 5th October at Ministry of Sound
 with Summer of Love theme.  Fancy dress was in abundance at the Shard but there were people in their work clothes too.  The Equinox  theme was nature/ying & yang so you saw nymphs, muses, zebras, earthy hippies, a family of dragons (see the princess above) and more.  It was very much come as you are which meant there was no pressure to look a certain way.  Glitter seemed to be a must!  And there will be a glitter station at the Summer of Love too.  I am still finding glitter everywhere which is a wonderful reminder of the fun I had.

Thanks to Morning Gloryville for the complimentary ticket.  All opinions are honest and my own.

Aftershokz Bluez 2 Wireless Headphones review

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Lately my Facebook feed has been full of questions about wireless headphones and bone conducting headphones.  Here is my review that was originally posted on the now defunct H2 Life Blog.

Thumping beats really help me keep my pace. However, my small ear canals make ear buds uncomfortable and they usually fall out. I prefer the old school headphones that slip over your head. True, they are not cool and get really sweaty but I don't have to worry about my run being disrupted so I can put my music back on. On the flip side, I worry about my safety. As a woman who usually runs alone, I always try to be aware of what is going on around me-cyclists, cars, pedestrians- I need to be able to hear my surroundings. It is a tough balance though when your music motivates you to keep going at a steady pace.

Aftershokz  Bluez 2 are a wireless 'bone conducting' headset that allow you to listen to audio tracks while running, cycling, cleaning, walking, etc.  I didn't realise how annoying wires were until they were gone. I wasn't getting tangled up when I swung my bum bag around or needed to remove my jacket. It was fantastic. If the volume is up too loud, the sound waves will make your cheeks buzz, but I took it as a sign that I need to turn the volume down. The sound quality is fantastic for both music and my Harry Potter audiobooks, however busy traffic can sometimes overpower the recordings. I did find on longer runs (10+ miles) the band around the back of my head would start to drop which would then need a bit of readjustment around my ears. The battery holds charge for at least a week between uses and the system will tell you (literally, it speaks) when it needs charging. It is also really easy to sync to your mobile phone.

SIde view of how they headphones sit

I should add that one night at dusk, I did not hear a man run up behind me. There wasn't any traffic and I was in my running zone with Podrunner playing. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a tall man running up behind me. I jumped and he apologised. He was out for a run too and said he was trying to be loud as he came up behind me. Lesson learned: even though your ears are uncovered, you might still be vulnerable and not hear your surroundings.

My husband is more of a cyclist than a runner (hence the recent ride to Paris).  To get another opinion on the functionality of these headphones, I asked him to try out the Bluez2 on a long bike ride.  Here are his thoughts:

Commuting in London (and I’m sure elsewhere) you often see those cool guys with their headphones weaving through traffic to get where they’re going, no doubt fuelled by some up-tempo beats. Craziness.  No doubt fun, but crazy all the same. Safe cycling really demands an awareness of what’s happening around you – hearing the sound of the vehicle approaching from behind can give an indication of its size, speed and, sometimes, likelihood of it trying to overtake you on that blind bend. So listening to music or the radio on closed headphones seems to me like a pretty stupid idea.

Although the Bluez2 seemed a possible way around this, I was initially sceptical. They have proven me wrong though and do a pretty good job of allowing you to listen to your favourite beats or radio show while still listening out for that traffic around you. On a couple of rides out from the suburbs of London in to the Hertfordshire countryside I listened to both a talk show - the irreverent Danny Baker Show - and music. At the moderate speeds I rode at I could hear Danny’s stories without too much problem, although much faster and on downhill sections the sound of wind past my head began to drown things out. Music wasn’t such a problem and the beats came through fine, but I imagine a windy day combined with moving at 30 km/h would make listening difficult.

The main issue for improvement I see is the need to better accommodate the wearing of sunglasses at the same time as these headphones. As they currently are you need to sit the glasses on the outside of the headphones - although not designed for this it works but after a couple of hours on the bike the sides of your head about the ear begin to ache.

Sunglasses vs headphones
Overall though I think these things are great. The Bluetooth connection means there’s no need to worry about wires and I can both listen to speech and music without too much problem, while at the same time feeling like I know what’s going on around me. Just beware; if the radio show is too amusing you might get distracted, and if the beats too big you might try to take that corner just a little bit faster than you might otherwise normally do.

Front view of me in the Blues2

For both a running and cycling viewpoint, the Blues2 worked really well for us.  If you normally wear sunglasses, a cap, a headband, or a big hairstyle when running or cycling, these factors may influence how well the Bluez 2 fits on your head.  You should also consider if  you will use it for dialogue or music and if wind speeds will impact in your ability to hear.  The toughest thing is remembering to charge them once a week, although the verbal reminder is quite effective.

What kind of headphones do you wear when you run or cycle?  What is the best feature about them?

Aftershokz kindly gave me these headphones to review.  All opinions are honest and our own.  This post contains affiliate links which cost nothing extra for the buyer and help support the running of this site.

Easy rice salad recipe

Friday, September 22, 2017

Packed lunches are a beautiful thing, if you get them right.  I am a big fan of crack vegetables and will often have them as a side dish for lunch.  Right now, I am trying some other dishes to expand my repertoire with an easy way to get a vegetable and carb serving in.

This week, I started working with Shannon S Nutrition after seeing the amazing results my co-Zero Advent Calendar founder, Becca, had.  Shannon is teaching me to count macros, which is a new practice for me.  During this first week, I am just getting used to logging all my food on My Fitness Pal and being aware of portion sizes.  Next week, I will take more notice of my macros.

If you are new to the term, macros means looking at the amount of protein, fat, and carbs you consume.  It goes a bit beyond calorie counting to ensure your body is fueled properly.  Shannon has given me the ratio I need (30% protein, 29% fats, and 41% carbs on average) to achieve my goals.  Now I just need to stick to it!

I developed the recipe below using what I had in the cupboard to get some carbs in, along with vegetables.  Everything is to taste really so feel free to adjust the ratios to what you like and what is in your kitchen.  I am a big fan of Mexican food, which is why I chose these spices.

Easy rice salad
2 servings of cooked brown rice
1 can black beans
150 g frozen corn, defrosted
2 tbsp coconut oil
Sauteed medium onion and one bell pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic granuals
Salt and pepper to taste

  • Prepare rice according to package directions.
  • While rice is cooking, chop up onion and saute in coconut oil on low to medium heat.
  • Add one chopped bell pepper to pan once onions have cooked for a few minutes.
  • Cook peppers and onions to desired tenderness.
  • Defrost corn in microwave.  It should only take 1-2 minutes.
  • Drain can of beans and rinse.
  • Add corn, beans, and spices to pan with pepper and onions.  Heat through.
Ack! I will replace this photo soon.
  • Once rice is cooked, place in a large bowl.  Add everything from the pan to rice.  Stir to mix.
  • Serve hot or cold.  Keep in the fridge.