Learning about the food you should eat

Monday, August 13, 2018

Back in October, I began the first of five modules of my Future Fit Advanced Nutrition and Weight Management online course.  After running the Chicago Marathon, I had a few days with my feet up recovering so I started chipping away at it.

Studying in my office with help from my personal assistant
I started off with the longest module, Nutrition and Weight Management.  I figured it would give me a good review of nutrition topics I had covered in my personal training course with more detail.  There were 16 lessons all together in this module, each of which took 20-30 minutes to complete.  For this course, I had to be online to play each lesson, which features an audio track of the text.  There are knowledge checks periodically within the lesson to see if you retained key bits of information or to see if you have prior knowledge about the next topic.  The information delivered so far is simply put and broken down into little chunks that were easy to digest.  If I didn't finish a lesson, it would save my place and offer me an option to resume where I had finished or to start at the beginning of the module.  Before passing each lesson, you must complete a five question quiz and score 100%.  You can repeat the test immediately of you missed one or two questions but if you take too long to pass, you will have to log out and back in to restart.

Each lesson also has a resource folder which includes a transcript, relevant forms, and sometimes a glossary.  Any time I had a question, I could either email my tutor or submit a question through the website.  Most of my questions were around the technology side of things, rather than the course material, because computers are not my forte.  The Future Fit Training team were always quick to respond and very helpful.

No joke, this cookie is as big as my head.  And when I get stressed, I eat the whole thing.
Part of the course is a case study working with a client to help them learn more about their food habits and emotional links to eating.  It was actually hard to find a volunteer that was willing to work with me for eight weeks.  Through Twitter, I found two competitive male cyclists who wanted to drop some weight to improve their cycling performance.  One of them was travelling a lot of work and was unable to check in with me on a regular basis.  I am happy to say the other client was able to check in regularly and found the accountability very helpful.  He tracked his food three to four days a week for me and started choosing fruits and vegetables over convenient processed foods.  He didn't loose any weight but he was sleeping better and feeling more energized during the day.

My tips for online study success?  Give yourself deadlines to complete each lesson or modules by writing them in your diary.  Think of them as exam dates that you cannot change.  Set aside studying time in your diary each week too.  I prefer to have the same slot every week (although that hasn't be possible with marathon training the last two months) and keep plugging along but your schedule might be better to spend one day every other week.  Set up a place to study that is free from distractions- no TV, no music, no kids (or dogs) interrupting you.  You are taking this course to improve your health and knowledge, as well as to help your clients.  Make it a priority.  Have a notepad to take notes or print out the resource info to annotate as you go along.

Most of all, enjoy it!  All of the information will help you fuel your body properly, feel energized and maintain a healthy weight that is appropriate for you.  As they say, "health is wealth".

Thanks to Future Fit Training for their support of furthering my nutritional education.  All opinions are honest and my own.

Coming up next: 4x4 running challenge

Thursday, August 9, 2018

As someone who was cut from her high school football team for being slow, I never imagined I would be running marathons in my spare time while in my late 30s.  Currently, I am pursuing the six World Marathon Major races, but when an advert for a desert ultra marathon caught my eye, I suddenly wanted more.

I started running in 2006 to fundraise for a local humane society.  From 2011-2015, I supported RODS Racing as a way to grieve for my stillborn nephew.  I have been slowly gaining my confidence from being the slowest girl on the team to a confident athlete who is up for a physical challenge.  My latest adventure was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in 2018 to summit on International Women's Day.

This year by committing to Track Tuesdays and working with the amazing team at Function360, I have never felt fitter or faster.  I have also started to drop excess weight by working with a nutritionist and staying focused on my goals.

With this in mind, I am super excited to announce my 4x4 Running Challenge!

Over September, October and November, I will take part in four different running challenges in four different countries.  They are:

8 September: Marathon du Medoc- fancy dress and wine drinking marathon on Bordeaux region of France

21-22 September: Ragnar Relay White Cliffs, UK- relay race of 170 miles with a team of 10

7-13 October: Wadi Rum Ultra, Jordan- 250 km over 5 days in the Jordan desert with temperatures over 30 degrees C

4 November: NYC Marathon, USA- Mollie's 4th World Marathon Major

#TeamLikeAGirl, who are my new friends 

Wadi Rum Ultra will be the hardest race for me.  Although I am currently feeling strong in body and mind, the only experience I have in multi-day events is as part of a relay team for Spitfire Scramble and Fitbit Fifty.  Plus, I have never run in the desert or an ultra (anything over 26.2 miles/marathon distance).  To successfully train for Wadi Rum, I will need to add more miles into my marathon training schedule, more strength and conditioning to keep my body strong through the challenge, and somehow acclimatize my body to the heat for running for 30+ degree C temps (although the London heat wave is certainly helping).   Can I do this while working full-time and having a (mostly) understanding husband at home? Time will tell.

I was lucky enough to take part in a Wadi Rum training weekend where I met lots of the racers.  Everyone was friendly and happy to chat all things running (my kind of people!).  We have another training weekend coming up in September where I hope to learn more about how to prepare effectively.  There is so much to learn about running multi-day challenges, as well as caring for your feet.   I need to sort out what I am going to eat along the way and make sure everything fits into my bag.  Somehow, I will manage a way to fit it all in.

Salomon Agile 6
I am so blessed as a blogger to have developed relationships over the years with various brands.  Many that I have worked with in the past are once again showing their support for my enthusiastic and adventurous efforts.  I would like to say a huge thanks to these companies for sending me samples of the following kit to put to the extreme test over these next few months.  Reviews will be posted after the challenge is complete.

Salomon- Agile 6 bag and Sense Ride trainers
1000 Mile- Breeze sock
Sole- Active Medium footbed
Skins- various compression wear (more info soon)
Suunto- Suunto 9
IV Doc- Post race treatment

One other aspect of this challenge will be verbalizing my 'why'.  Non-running acquaintances keep asking me why I signed up to do all of these races, why would you rather run 20 miles that have a BBQ, why do you over-commit yourself with fitness activities every day of the week?  I can't yet answer them.  I think some of it stems from being cut from the football team. Another is that I do find it fun (when I am not injured, of course). Some of it might be to draw attention to myself as I am so far from friends and family back in the USA, I don't want to be forgotten about.  Lucky for me, I have plenty of long runs coming up to think this through more carefully. 

If you want to keep tabs on me and my training over the next few months, please follow me on Strava.  A little kudos goes a long way.

We raced down this huge dune near Brecon Beacon. I am pretty sure a local 9 year old girl (not pictured) won.

Wild & Well Festival- come be active and inspired

Monday, August 6, 2018

If you are in England 20-21 October 2018, you should aim to stop by Bristol for the Wild & Well Festival that weekend.  Their tagline is "a new style of wellbeing festival for anyone who want to live in a healthier happier, more connected way."  This totally resonates with my ethos and offers many different classes, workshops, talks, and activities at six venues around Bristol.

I wanted to attend last year but was in the USA for the Chicago Marathon.  This year, however, I am giving a talk about my time in Tanzania, climbing Kilimanjaro.  I am super excited to share my story with you, giving tips on how to plan your trip and what it takes to go on adventures big and small.  The final program is still being developed, but my talk will be on Sunday at Ashton Court.
Second tier tickets are currently available for £30/day or £50 for the weekend.  There are also family tickets available.  You can currently pre-book some of the talks (like mine!) and workshops if there is something you are interested in.

My aim to have my e-book about Kilimanjaro available by this time too.  It will includes tips on preparing, a training guide, packing list, and stories from my trip.  All proceeds will go towards my fundraising goal to help a special needs classroom in Moshi, Tanzania, that we visited on our trip.  This classroom does not have any desks or chairs, which means the special needs children sit on the floor for their lessons.

My goal is to raise £420 (£1 for each kilometer I climbed) towards the £1250 needed to buy this furniture.  If you scroll to the bottom of my Kilimanjaro post, you can read more about the project.

Thanks to friends, family and my local community, I have raised £173 so far.  A desk/chair set is £95 ($135).  You can donate through PayPal any amount you wish with this button.

I didn't stop at Stella Point, but kept going (very slowly) to the tippy top of Kilimanjaro.

Come to my talk at Wild & Well to learn more about this unforgettable experience in nature.

Don't forget to check out Wild & Well on Facebook and Instagram (@wildwellfest). Follow me too on Facebook and Instagram.

Sometimes I pee my pants when I run

Thursday, August 2, 2018

This post will quickly become TMI, so only continue reading if you dare. If words like incontinence, vagina, vibrator, fart, and poop make you uncomfortable, stop reading now.  This isn't the typical vocabulary on my blog but I want women to know they are not alone on a few embarrassing bodily functions.  Mom- you have been warned.

When I go out for a run, my main objectives are not to pee or poop my pants (aka underwear or leggings, depending on where you are from.  Either way- it wouldn't be pretty.).  Lots of planning goes into what I can eat in the few hours before a run.  I prefer fasted runs first thing in the morning as the risk of uncontrollable bowel movements is minimized.  With urination, it is a different story.  Usually, I leak a little when I cough due to hay fever while running.  This problem doesn't seem to be as big an issue when a coughing fit strikes while I am on my bike.  During another episode, I was climbing over a stile on a trail race when I felt a slight release.

Black leggings are good at hiding wet patches.
I can never tell how much volume of urine actually leaves my body.  It feels like an uncontrollable rush, which is mortifying.  Questions like- "Will anyone be able to tell?" and "Does it smell?" go through my mind.  When I finally get to the loo, it is always much smaller than what I originally thought.  It just seems illogical that I have this issue.  I have never given birth, nor do I suffer from chronic urinary tract infections.  I am still on the younger side of 40, so why do I have the problem of sometimes urinating when I run?

Being a member of Run Mummy Run's Facebook group, I know this is a problem for many women.  On the spectrum of severity, my problem isn't bad at all.  It doesn't prevent me from being physically active and I don't feel a need to wear an absorbent pad.  But what I can't understand is why women don't talk about it more?  As a creative problem solver, I decided to create a survey to help me gauge how much of an issue incontinence with running is and who women are turning to for help and advice.

First, I would like to thank everyone who took a few minutes out of their day to share their story with me and also those who shared my survey.  You can see we had a variety of ages represented, as well as running experience.

One hundred and eighty one women and one man completed my survey.  Only 25% of the respondents talk to someone about the problem (compared to 53% who keep it to themselves).  Of the 98 people who answered why or why not do you talk to anyone about your incontinence problem and who if you do who,  the majority said they were too embarrassed to speak about it. Another large proportion said that it wasn't enough of a worry to bother talking to others.  Those that do talk to others rely on family (mostly moms and sisters) and their running friends to confide in.  I was surprised to see a few women didn't' know how to bring it up and another said it was "frowned upon" to discuss it in the spin community.

Ladies- let me tell you that you are not alone.  Half of the women who do not have kids and completely my survey have some sort of experience with incontinence while running or playing sport.  Seventy three percent of the moms who completed my survey suffer from some degree of incontinence after the kids arrived (both by vaginal birth and C-section). Yes, it is embarrassing, but know that chances are the lady next to you at Parkrun is having the same worries as you at the start line.  Besides, everyone can relate to your body doing something that you cannot control (like farting when you sneeze, or is that just me?).

For those that answered my survey, 63% felt it was a minor problem that didn't require any protection, while 23% wear thin liners or nappies.  There where two big things that also stood out to me.  First, that this problem keeps women from being physically active (33% in my survey will "occasionally" to "all the time" miss workouts because of their concerns).  Other women purposely drink less on a run to avoid the issue.  I would really advise against this, especially with the hot weather we have been having.

The second is that of the few women who were brave enough to bring this up with their general practitioner (GP, aka doctor in USA) (although I hate to use the word brave as you should be able to talk to your GP about anything.  I acknowledge that this is a difficult topic for most though), the GP was dismissive.  In my experience with the National Health Service (NHS), the doctors are too busy and too budget-aware to address things that don't inhibit you from going to work.  Perhaps if you have a good relationship with your doctor, they will recognize that this issue is important to you and make suggestions on how a solution can be reached.

Most women in my survey knew what kegals were and 99.8% knew what pelvic for was (maybe it was the man who didn't).  To ensure we are all on the same page, kegels (named after the doctor who first described them) are exercises that involve tightening and releasing the pelvic floor muscles.  Both men and women can benefit from performing kegel exercises.  The pelvic floor is a group of muscles at and across the bottom of your pelvis.  It holds internal organs, such as bladder, bowel and uterus, in place.  A strong pelvic floor can help you control urination, defecation, flatulence, and sexual function.

Reading a few comments from women who took part in  my survey, it sounds like medical experts just see occasional incontinence as a fact of life after birth.  Some women said you can ask for pelvic floor physical therapy through the NHS to get help.  Over the years, women's magazines report you can interrupt your urine stream when peeing to help strengthen your muscles "down there".  But as a personal trainer, I can't see how that will work as the "sets" would be fairly short. 

I have not yet given up all hope.

Recently, I was contacted by V-Sculpt to try out their pelvic floor toner and vaginal rejuvenation device.  Sold exclusively by medical professionals, it is considered an authorized medical device.  I have never used anything like this (or any "toy") for that matter so wasn't sure how this would go.  It uses LED light therapy, gentle heat and vibration to help tone and health the vaginal cells and muscles.  You can use it if you have an IUD (which I do) so I was good to go.

To start with, the V-Sculpt recommends six minutes a day of toning over a few weeks, building up to eight minutes and then ten minutes four times a week.  I find I need to lay down to use the V-Sculpt so will check social media or read a book while sculpting. 

Ten minutes a day sounded totally doable when I first agreed to try it out, but I am finding that it is still hard to fit it in.  I need to put a reminder in my calendar or go to bed before my husband (who thinks this whole thing is hilarious) so I can be left in peace.  Apparently, he has never felt the urge to pee or poop his pants while running and therefore cannot relate.  Some guys get all the luck.  After nine weeks of initial vaginal training, you just need to be on a maintenance plan of ten minutes one to two times per week.

I have been using the V-Sculpt once a week since I got up the nerve to charge it.  It was a bit weird to ask, but in my survey 68.2% of the women have had or still do have a vibrator.  Therefore, the V-Sculpt might not be awkward for them to try. 

There is a photogenic gel which helps the V-Sculpt work more effectively.  It is extremely runny and I welcome any advice on how not to waste it when applying to my V-Sculpt or myself.

Why did I agree to review this when I don't usually talk about lady bits?  The V-Sculpt does have a peer-reviewed study supporting its claims.  I have nothing to loose and everything to gain from not worrying about peeing when running.  Plus I want to help other women out there find a practical solution to this very common problem.  I will be checking back as I get into a routine.  It takes about three months to see results if you use the V-Sculpt every day.  I can say my weekly sessions are not working in my favor so far but hope to better commit to my training program and post a follow up in a few weeks time with some good news. 

Here is the user guide if you want to learn more about the V-Scuplt.....

Thanks to V-Sculpt for the complimentary vaginal toner.  All opinions on the product are honest (probably way too honest) and my own.

Shoes for land and sea

Monday, July 30, 2018

Welsh coast from above
This year I have been so lucky to spend time outdoors on various adventures.  Packing for these sorts of trips can be difficult as you don't want to pack too much but you also want to have the kit that you need.  When Keen contacted me about their new Terradora Ethos hiking trainers, I was super excited to try them out.  As you may have read previously, I am very familiar with the US brand Keen.  I have had a pair of their Newport sandals (or something similar) for years and wore them a lot in Thailand (every beach trip and even when snorkeling to protect my feet from sharp shells).  The only thing about them is that they are very bulky and make my feet look very large compared to my dainty ankles. 

Keen Terradora Ethos
The Ethos are designed to be a versatile shoe you can wear on the trail but also through water.  They are very light with a sleek design and I love the purple colour.  I wore them on a few dog walks on Wanstead Flats before taking them to Love Trails Festival.  They were instantly comfortable to walk in at camp.  The cut outs on the side allow for a cool breeze but unfortunately the occasional pebble.  The secure-fit laces make it quick to put them on or take off as I popped into my tent.

The water crossing
At Love Trails, I took them out for a 10k trail run and didn't experience any Achilles pain.  Whenever I switch shoes, I usually experience some discomfort. I think it may be due to a change in the height of the heel but haven't tried to confirm that yet but looking at the shoe stats.  Also, we had a high water crossing on the route.  When everyone else was faffing taking off their shoes and socks, I smugly went straight in and out on the other side.  Running in the wet Ethos didn't pose a problem at all.  In fact, it was really nice to have the cool water on my feet while the temperature approached 30 degrees.

I also took my Ethos on another camping trip to Wales the following weekend.  This time, we stayed at a proper campsite with indoor showers.  I wore my Ethos in the shower and around camp to give my feet a rest from my heavy trail shoes. Even though they were wet in my bag for the long drive home, they didn't stink when I unpacked them late that night.

With the flattering slim design of the Ethos, I think they will be replacing my old Keen sandals on upcoming trips. The are a little more "dressy" if I paired them with jeans while travelling and won't take up as much room in my suitcase. I can also wear them over multiple types of terrain, apart from snow!  I found out they are also very durable as our local fox chewed mine overnight  while they dried in my garden.  No more drying outside!  Lesson learned.

Do you have shoes that are versatile for adventures and travelling?

Thanks to Keen for the complimentary pair of shoes.  All opinions (and urban foxes) are honest and my own.

Feeling the love of running with Love Trails Festival

Friday, July 27, 2018

This summer, nearly 1000 runners of all shapes, sizes and abilities descended upon the Gower Peninsula in Wales for three days of running, sunshine, beers, and music at the aptly named Love Trails Festival (LTF).  I had wanted to go last year, but there were a few other things going on at the same time, such as Spitfire Scramble.  This year also had conflicting races but I made LFT a priority and I am so glad I did.  Here is why:

Yes, I realize this crazy British heatwave is an anomaly but the weather was gorgeous! Sunshine very day, a light breeze, and cool evenings make me a very happy girl.  I was so happy topping up my vitamin D under factor 50 sunscreen.

Sunshine and sheep

When I was little, my family would go camping at least once a year in the state park.  My husband and I never go around to it while dating in Michigan, nor since we moved to London.  This camp sight had port a Loos and limited showers (I took 1 shower in 3 days but hey, everyone was sweating).  It was relaxing to be outside.  My new sleeping mat from Decathlon (Forclaz 400) is amazing.  It self inflates pretty quickly (once you open the valve) and just needs a few puffs to get it to the correct firmness.  I slept in leggings and my Polartec Alpha hoody and was snug as a bug in a rug in my Decathlon sleeping bag.

The tent is Quecha Arpenaz 3 Fresh & Black from Decathlon.  I had to pitch in the dark b I had already practiced once in my garden.  I didn't realize it but the Fresh & Black feature keeps the majority of the light out, manning I didn't wake up when the sun started to shine.  Instead, I work up when Project Awesome started whopping their way through camp.

I kept camp food simple and light.  Each morning, I had bagel with peanut butter and Fuel protein porridge pot for lunch.  Dinner and drinks were from one of the six or so the festival vendors.

Running along the beach #winning

Just look at these views. I ran through the woods, along the coast, on a beach, over salt marshes, and literally through a creek.  You don't get that in London (which is also why it seemed much harder than it should).

Welsh coast #lush

I was lucky enough to lead a few 3-5k organized runs which was amazing way to meet lots of people.  I was with my blogger friends Becs (The Style Dynamo) and Bethan (A Pretty Place to Play) plus their partners, whom I have known for years but don't see as often as I would like.  We met through running years ago, stay connected through blogging yet are always busy because we live in London.  We could actually just hang out and catch up in a leisurely way.  If we had met in London, I have a feeling it Would have been incredibly rushed.

Me and Becs

Things I would do differently for next year:

  • Hire a car or bring less stuff.  Carrying a 90L bag, 38L bag, tent and camping chair all over London and on public transport was terrible. Glamping is very attractive to me at this point.  With a big enough group, the cost can be effective.  I would also leave my camping chair at home as I barely used it.  Perhaps if the ground had been wet, I would have used it more.
Yes, I know this photo is blurry but you get the idea about how much stuff I carry
  • Attend more talks.  There was so much going on, I couldn't be at three places at once.  Hopefully next year, the program will have a bit more detail about what the talks are on so I can be inspired to move more.
Chilling at Camp Fire Stage
  • Try more shoes.  Salomon had tons of tester shoes you could take out for a spin.  I also did so on the last day and in hind site, should have tried as many as possible.  I am always nervous about investing in new running shoes because of the expense, especially if it turns out I don't like them.  I am a big fan of Salomon trail shoes and should really give the road shoes a try.
I did try the Suunto watches a few times
  • Take loo roll.  Unfortunately there was a shortage of this on Saturday night.  It was a rookie camping/festival mistake not to keep some tissues on me at all times.  Lesson learned.
  • Pack coffee for camp. Not for me but since I have a small stove to boil water, it would be nice for others.  Coffee was a good 15 minute walk away at the main festival area and always had a queue first thing in the morning.
So are you in?  Early bird tickets are now on sale for £109/pp.  The LTF will be 4-9 July 2019.  See you there?  Or if you are up for an adventure, there are also sister events in Chamonix and Falkland Islands planned.

Amazing drumming for the Beer Relay

5 tips on how to cope with the heat when running

Friday, July 13, 2018

Can you believe the heatwave we have been having in England?  It has been a real treat to have so much sunshine, but I will say it is impacting my marathon training plan and the quality of sleep I am getting.  I thought I would give you a training update and a few of my tips on how to cope with the heat.

Training update
I am on week eight of my marathon training plan in preparation for Marathon du Medoc and more importantly NYC marathon.  The runs up until now have been endurance building.  Saturday I was meant to do a 90 minute progressive run where every 30 minutes I increase my pace.  In an ideal world, I would have left the house just before 8am, got 60 minutes of solid running in before parkrun and finished with a big effort and new course PB. However, I slept much later than my alarm because the hot weather is making it very hard to sleep. We have an oscillating fan but Friday night it was just blowing hot air around the room.  I don't sleep soundly on a good day so the combination of worse sleep and increased mileage is making me feel exhausted when I get up.  I read a quote the other day that said the snooze button is the ultimate form of procrastination.  It is so true.  I am going to see if I can turn off the option to have snooze on my phone alarm as a way to get me out of bed once and for all.

But I digress.  On Saturday, I did 20 minute slow pace (10 min/mile) before parkrun with my Opsrey running vest. I didn't wear it during parkrun and took a different approach in terms of effort.  I started off in the front and run just under threshold for the entire route.  My average pace was 8:30/mile which is very speedy for me.  I did have to take my top off towards the end of the 2nd lap because the sun was intense even though it was only 9:15am.  I was the 4th female finisher and 2nd in my age group.  This demonstrated to me that my hard work is paying off and I am indeed becoming speedier, as well as more confident in my abilities. 

I need to work on my tummy tan
Last week I also managed a 200 meter and 400 meter PB at track.  I joined group 3 and hung on for dear life.  This is another testament to running and strengthening work I have been doing.  Here is a brief summary.

Sports massages
Taking advice from Charlie at the Runner Beans, I have been scheduling regular sports massages at Function 360*.  In the past, I only had sports massages when my periformis had acted up.  Hopefully, this  preventative work will help keep my leg muscles in tip top form.  Ben has also been working on my crunchy back to loosing up the musculature keeping me upright.  He worked on it on Wednesday and taped it up as a reminder for me to stand up straight. Camping outside this weekend will hopefully not make my back any worse.

Ben is also giving me new bum strengthening routines every six to eight weeks.  Now that I have a training plan to follow, there isn't as much time to commit to this.  After working on my back, he said I am to focus on core work only until I see him again. Up until now, I have gone to the gym Monday nights after spinning for leg curls and hip ad/abductors.  At home, I use my fitness bands for clams, squats and hip extentions.  These are tried and true and seem to be paying up with my newfound speed.
Hip extensions in my messy dining room

Stretching is something I do after every exercise session, be it track, spinning, or run commute.  I start with downward dog, move into pigeon pose, then child's pose.  Then I foam roll my calves.  Hamstring stretch next, then butterfly.  I will also roll my feet over a spikey ball to loosen my fascia.  All of these stretches should help reduce the risk of a repeat Achilles issue and/or periformis pain.

The thing I haven't been doing, and 100% should be, are eccentric heel raises.  These are so important to stretch and strengthen my Achilles.  This weekend at Love Trails Festival, I will probably be kicking myself for not doing them these past eight weeks. I find the uneven terrain while trail running really set off the discomfort.

And now the bit you have been waiting for......

How to cope with the heat

1.  Get up early or go to bed late.  Yes, I know this isn't ideal but if your work is flexible it is a good way to get the miles in without too much disruption.  Don't forget to embrace napping when following this tip or break up your runs into smaller distances for a morning and an evening run.

2.  Cross train.  I ended up doing abdominal work when I couldn't finish my progressive run last weekend.  You could also try swimming or using cardio equipment at the air-conditioned gym (elliptical, indoor bike, treadmill) to continue to build endurance.  Pay As You Gym offers reasonable drop-in rates or monthly memberships if you just need to get by until the autumn weather kicks in.

3.  Slow it down.  Marathon training is really about time on your feet.  Slow down your training runs and don't worry too much about your pace.  If you are sticking to your training plan the best you can, you shouldn't get too far behind.  Don't forget that race day might be really hot too, in which case you will also have to let go of your dreams for a PB.  Try to stay on the shady side of the road for a noticeable temperature difference.

4.  Stay hydrated.  When you are not out on a training run, don't forget to keep drinking water.  You can also start adding a wee bit more salt to your foods to keep your electrolytes in balance.  Or continue to drink nuun or Lucazade to replace the lost salts.  Remember your urine should be nearly clear when you are properly hydrated.

5.  Dress for the weather.  Choose technical fabrics that are breathable and moisture-wicking.  Cotton is not always the best to wear in the heat.  I found myself removing my top to reveal my sports bra on a few runs this month. It isn't something I normally do but I was really struggling in the heat.  Wearing a light baseball hat or visor will also keep some of the sun off of your face.

What I am doing differently from your marathon training? Leave a comment below and let me know.

*If you would like to work with the team at Function 360, I highly recommend them.  Their staff's skill set is diverse so you just need to go to one clinic to receive many services (corrective exercise, massage, dry needling, physiotherapy, etc).  Use code #F360MM15 for a 15% discount and let me know how you get on.

Night of two PBs

Why I am packing merino wool for Love Trail Festival

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

I know what you are thinking.  #woolinsummer? Am I crazy?  I assure you, I am not.  In previous blog posts, I have waxed lyrical about the benefits of merino wool.  I wear merino socks all year round and merino base layers in the winter.  When we went to New Zealand a few years ago, we visited the Ice Breaker outlet four times and stocked up on cycling gear, socks, running tops, and base layers. 

Icebreaker recently contacted me about their Cool-lite(TM) range. It helps make their clothes more comfortable and breathable in hot and humid temps (exactly what we have been experiencing in London).  Aside from the other benefits of merino (no smell build up and moisture wicking), Cool-lite(TM) also is made from sustainably-sourced eucalyptus.  Nearly 100% of the solvent used to make up one of the components of Cool-lite(TM) is recycled too.  Sounds good to me!

This long heatwave has given me ample opportunity to put Cool-lite(TM) to the test.  I wore the Cool-Lite(TM) Sphere Short Sleeve Low Crewe Cook Reflected shirt (130g for those that know their base layers) a few days when we had some time scheduled outdoors with dog walks and meeting friends in the park.  The short sleeves, rather than a vest, were nice as it prevented my shoulders from burning.  My husband didn't report any smell issues by the third day of wear. Although I was warm in the direct sunlight, it wasn't unbearably hot in my t-shirt.  The sizing of the shirt seems a little big. I usually wear a medium in shirts (large if it is a womens cut).  The shirt I am wearing is a medium and felt a bit roomy.  On the other hand, maybe all of my calorie counting is paying off!  If you decide to order one, you might want to double check the sizing guide first.

Based on this trial run, my Icebreaker shirt is already packing in my duffle bag for Love Trails Festival this weekend.  It will be perfect for wearing around camp in between runs.  It will dry fast on my clothes line and shouldn't smell too bad by the time I get back to London.  I am also bringing:
  • Camping clothes lines to dry out wet gear
  • Swim suit for run/swim
  • Sunscreen
  • Bagels and peanut butter for easy portable snack
  • Luchodillitos for energy on a run
  • Headlamp to pitch tent in the dark
  • Mermaid bunting to hang on the outside of my tent to make it easier to find
  • Kindle for reading and writing
  • Spiky ball for massaging
  • Sunglasses
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Quick drying towel for swimming and 3 min showers
  • Flip flops for camp
  • Antihistamines and nasal spray
  • Solar charger power pack
  • Cash and card for food and drink vendors (fingers crossed they stock Diet Coke)

I have never been to Love Trails (or any kind of festival, really) and would appreciate any and all advice you have about what to pack and what to leave at home.  I am hoping my packing list for a 24 hour relay race will be a good starting point.  The tricky thing will be carrying everything on the Tube to get on the coach to the festival site in Wales.  Hopefully my 90L duffel bag from Kilimanjaro can hold everything, including my tent and sleeping bag.  We shall soon see.

Thanks to Icebreaker for gifting me this shirt for review.  All opinions are honest and my own.

Using Polartec Alpha to stay warm when camping

Friday, July 6, 2018

First outdoor campout in the UK was with Adventure Queens along North Downs Way

I am fairly certain my body struggles to regulate its temperature.  When I get cold, I tend to stay that way.  Sleeping as a child, I would have 10-15 blankets on my bed.  To this day, I always sleep with socks on and religiously wear merino wool during the winter.  On the flip side, such as this Wednesday, London was so hot I couldn't cool down on my midday run.  I was so desperate to cool off I took my shirt off and ran in my sports bra.

Staying warm was one of my big concerns for Kilimanjaro.  We climbed on the cusp of the rainy season which meant the weather would be unpredictable and probably wet.  I religiously use an electric blanket in the winter back home and wasn't confident a hot water bottle would be sufficient on the mountain.  Luckily, the good people at Polartec sent me the Norrona Lofoten Alpha Raw zip made with Polartec Alpha to test out.  The hoodie is bright orange, which is very handy when I need to find in a dark tent.  It also makes me easy to spot at a busy campsite.  It has a insulating hood, integrated hand gaiters, and warming pockets.  It is also very light and packs down small in a vacuum bag when travelling.

How I slept during my Kilimanjaro trek

With my luggage weight on Kili limited to 15 kg, I wanted to test out the hoodie before my trip.  In January, I joined the Adventure Queens for an overnight wild campout along the North Downs Way.  I chose to bring my two person tent rather than sleep outside under the stars.  It was due to rain a bit that weekend and being mid-winter, the temperatures were already low.  I packed the hoodie in my rucksack and put it on once the sun started to set.  The cold damp was starting to creep into my bones as we sat around the campfire telling stories and roasting marshmallows.  I ended up sleeping in the hoodie and stayed fairly warm overnight.  As I emerged from my tent the next morning, I found the air to be crisp so kept all of my upper layers but swapped my thermal tights for jeans.

Post-breakfast hike with new friends
After breakfast, we broke into groups and too a very low-key hike through the local woods.  There were a few hills which took some effort due to mud and warmed me right up.  I had to tie the hoody around my waist to prevent overheating in my two other layers.

Along the way to the top of Kilimanjaro with the hoodie under my rain jacket

The Lofoten Alpha Raw zip passed the test for me after this campout and made it onto my packing list for Kilimanjaro.  I used the same approach on Kili as I did on the January camp out, sleeping in the hoody every night but also used it as one of my eight layers on summit night. The guides recommended seven layers but I get cold so I added an extra.  It turned out that seven would have been the correct number!  We summited at 8:30am and were so hot by the time we got to the top.  I stripped most of my layers off at that point and carried them down in my rucksack.  If I had a choice, I would always choose to be a little bit warm over a little bit cold so I didn't mind carrying the extra weight.

At the top with eight layers on top and four on the bottom

The Polartec Alpha fabric was originally designed for U.S Special Forces to be used in both dynamic and static situations.  It is extremely breathable, lightweight, and dries fast.  This means you don't need to stop mid-activity and add or remove layers.  It washes well and the hoodie didn't leave fuzz everywhere even though the texture is fluffy.

Polartec Alpha is a fabric I will be sure to lookout for in the future when I am investing in new pieces for future outdoor adventures.  Being lightweight, packable and versatile for layering makes it a good staple to keep in your rucksack.

How do you keep warm on your outdoor adventures?  Leave a comment below and let me know.

How to be a good run club leader

Monday, July 2, 2018

One of the things I love about London is how people pour their heart and soul into their community.  Whether their passion is cycling, singing, the environment, their local neighborhood, rescued animals, or bee keeping, you can find your tribe somewhere within the M25.  Experts come together to teach the novice.  The group may host an open day event in the hopes to spark.the interests of others.  These hobbies offer a commonality that might not be found at work or at home.  A release.  A kinship.

I was lucky when I moved to London from the USA to find a Glee-esque show choir with Starling Arts.  Much like my drama club friends from high school, I knew I could burst into song at any time with my choir mates without any strange looks.  Starlings tend to love theatre, sing-a-long cinema showings, and Pitch Perfect.  Coming from all walks of life, we had a love of singing (not as much with dancing)  that we bonded over every Tuesday night in Pimlico.

Starling Arts' FORTE at our summer fete

Unfortunately, when I moved out to North London to be closer to work, I would get home very late on a work night after choir.  When we moved to East London, my commute was super long and the dog needed to be let out.  I am still sad that I don't go to choir anymore (because of #tracktuesday).  Many of my choir mates are still rehearsing with Starling Arts and I keep tabs on them via Facebook.  I am proud to see the founders, Anna and Emily, have built a successful company and made Starling Arts their full-time gigs.

Whole Foods/Boutique Sport run club from Piccadilly Circus

My other passion, aside from theatre, is- you guessed it- sport.  When I started my blog in 2012, I didn't think I would ever be able to run a marathon.  Over the years, my love for running has slowly developed due to the people I have met through the sport.   Now I hate missing #tracktuesday with Advent Running and most of my holidays have a race on the itinerary.  I have also become a Leader in Running Fitness with England Athletics, followed by Coach In Running Fitness, due to this inspiring and supportive community.  Both of these certifications mean I am qualified to lead run clubs, amongst other things.  I have been invited to many one-off run events for brand launches and attended ones put on by running stores.  This month, I am volunteering to be one of the run leaders at the Love Trails Festival.  Being a run leader is not as easy as it looks so here are my top five tips on how to be a fantastic run club leader.

1.  Stay with the last runner.  No one wants to be the last person to cross the finish line.  Slower runners (and remember each person percieves 'slow' differently) might be nervous when attending run clubs that they will be judged for their pace and get left behind.  Even worse, they might be worried they will get lost if they fall too far behind the group.  A good run club leader will realize the workout is for other people and not worry about the pace.  Staying with the last runner gives them confidence and makes sure that no one is lost along the way.

2.  Review the safety rules before you head out and follow them.   When I lead a run clun, my rules are to always stay on pavement; be aware of pedestrians, cyclists and cars in the road, especially at junctions;  follow the green man rather than blindly crossing the road because someone else did.  I make sure I do the same to follow a good example. I have also beenknown to use my "mom arm" once in a while to keep people from running out into the road.

Whole Foods/Boutique Sport run club from Kensington

3.  Encourage everyone to cheer each other on. This is probable the American in me, but I always encourage runners in the group (good job, well done, keep going!) and ask others to do the same.  I can't be everywhere at once and it is also a good way to break the ice.  My runs end in mandatory high fives too, which are typically followed by a smile.

4.  If you don't have many leaders, try to keep the group together with fartleks or exercises at stop lights.  It is difficult to predict how many runners will turn up at a run club.  At a miniumum, I prefer two leaders, one for the front and one for the back (see tip #1).  The person in front can confidently lead the way (which can be challenging in London where the streets tend to wind) while the other leader makes sure no one is left behind.  However, if there is only one of you, ask the faster runners to either stop at specific junctions to meet up or have them run back to you as fast as they can when they can't see you any more to regroup.  If you want them to stop at a light, they can do squats, burpees or star jumps (jumping jacks) until you catch up.

5.  Introduce yourself every week. Ask new people if they have any injuries you need to know about.  This is important, espcially if you are not wearing a uniform to distinguish yourself from the other runners.  You can ask who is new, but some people might be too self-consicous to raise their hand.  A good practice is to ask everyone who has injuries and then offer to speak to them privately about it.  Learning names is hard for me, but if I can learn a few a week, I know people will appreiciate it.

If you have things your love or hate about run club leaders, leave a comment below and let me know.  It would be interesting to hear what you think is important.

Track Tuesday Group 4, that I often pace with Advent Running