Is 15L enough for a run commute backpack?

Friday, October 18, 2019

For a long time, I have been a fan of Osprey rucksacks for running and other outdoor pursuits.  As a brand, they offer a female version of some bags, which can be really important when ensuring the correct fit.  Recently, I had the opportunity to test out the Duro 15, a unisex hydration pack.  My usual go to bag for run commuting is their Tempest 20 which has room for snacks, a change of clothes, my lunch, sunglass case, and a large wallet plus water pouches on the shoulder straps.  I was curious to see if removing five liters and having a unisex design would be noticeable.

The bag was extremely comfortable as soon as I put it on.  The mesh fabric used to line the area that will be against your skin never chafed or scratched. It is very soft and helps with breathability. The front chest strap is adjustable so you have find a level that fit your body shape.  There is also a hip belt which helps support the bag if it is full, especially if you are running.  Keeping the bag close to your body assists with balance and center of gravity.  The hip straps also have zippered pockets which are super handy for snacks, your phone or a debit card- things you may need quick access to while you are out and about.  There are also small zippered pockets that you can use to keep organized, which is very appealing to me.

As a hydration pack, this bag offers both a 2.5L bladder and two 500ml pouches.  I think this gives it versatility and the options to take as much (or little water) as you need.  Of course, the bladder will take up extra space leaving you less room to carry things like extra layers.  For me, the missing 5L made the bag a little shorter than my Tempest 20 and therefore slightly more comfortable.  The Tempest 20 does have an adjustable torso length to help with the fit but the though that the Duro 15 was too big for me never crossed my mind.  I couldn't fit both my changes of clothes and lunch in the Duro 15 but if I planned ahead for run commuting, it didn't impact me.  I would either leave a change of clothes at work or buy lunch in the canteen.  Or if I was going on a long run and just needed to carry an extra layer and water, this bag is perfect.

Overall, I really enjoyed running in this bag.  Even though I couldn't cram all of my stuff in there, it was probably better for my body not to carry that much weight.  Running with a rucksack (no matter what size aside from my 1.5L) always influences my posture and therefore running form.  I like being prepared though, so tend to carry more than I need just in case it rains, I can't find a shop, or I get injured.  Of course, being restricted from carrying so much has benefits on my running performance.  Looks like I should switch to the smaller pack to ensure my commute doesn't turn into junk miles.

Do you ever run to work?  What do you carry with you and how?  Leave a comment and let me know.

Thanks to Osprey for the complimentary bag.  All opinions are honest and my own.  

Stand up paddleboarding in London

Monday, October 7, 2019

Yes, you read that right.  I have been paddleboarding in London this summer while training for London Regatta.  2019 was meant to be the inaugural year where people could row, kayak or stand up paddleboard (SUP) down the Thames River from Putney to Greenwhich or Putney to Big Ben and back again.  The river was to be shut to traffic, as well as the tide (by closing the Thames Barrier).  Sadly, the weather wasn't cooperating and the race had to be cancelled.  You can imagine how many authorities and staff were involved to make it a successful and safe event.  Of course, I was disappointed that it was cancelled but I could not fault the organizers for make a tough call. They had the safety of the participants in mind (both in terms of water quality and tide) which is the most important thing.

For the Regatta, SUP participants needed a board that was at least 11 feet long, a flotation devise and a waist leash (rather than an ankle).  They also recommended a carbon paddle which would be lighter than a standard one.  I was grateful to have Two Bare Feet support my efforts by gifting me a Entradia touring board starter pack in pink.  Living in a flat in London, I don't have room for a proper SUP board.  An inflatable board suits me as it is much easy to store in our shed.  The rucksack is 90L and fits everything inside.  After a few times out, I realized the paddles can be strapped to the outside of the bag, making the inside a bit more roomy.  It is fairly heavy to carry though.  My husband and I estimated it to be 20-25 kgs (more than a checked bag).  I took it on the Tube a few times and had to rest along the way rather than my normal rush.  The weight is something to consider if you will be carrying it around town or travelling. with it.  With practice, I think you would build up the strength to carry it more easily.

One way to make the rucksack lighter is to leave the pump and puncture kit at home.  I used Wakeup Docklands near Royal Victoria DLR stop as the place where I trained.  With my own board, I only had to pay a £5 launch fee.  Or you can rent boards there for £20.  They have both manual and electric pumps to inflate SUP boards which I took full advantage of.  The dock they have access to is about a mile if you do the entire edge.  There are other activities going on, such as sailing, swimming, and wake boarding, so you have to keep an eye on your surroundings. One of the instructors, Sarah, was extremely kind and offered lots of tips on how to improve my form and paddle stroke in order to increase my speed.  The Regatta was meant to have a four hour cutoff which meant that I needed to keep a good pace going in order to finish.  I was a little bit worried but now I have another year to train.

Inflating the board took a bit of practice.  The pump has a handy inflate and deflate option which makes packing up much easier.   One tip I have is to realize the board can take more air than you think.  A few times, I didn't realize it was a bit under-inflated until I was out on the water.

The bungee on the front of the board was handy for holding my dry bag down and clipping my water bottle too.  I had started experimenting with having a small bucket connected to the bungee for the Regatta as I thought I would need to store a lot of supplies (dry clothes, food, etc).  I am not sure if the 90L bag with pump would have fit comfortably under the bungee.  This might be something to consider if you were starting in one place and ending in another.

I really enjoy spending time on the water and cannot wait to get out there again.  Even though autumn has arrived, if the sun is out, I will be taking the board out.  I just need to figure out how to keep my feet warm (maybe with dive booties?).  Next summer, SUP'ing will probably be my sport of choice.  I need to obtain a British Canoeing membership to take my board out on the London canals which would be a lot of fun and a change of scenery.

Have you ever tried SUP?  Where is your favorite place to go?  Leave a comment below and let me know.

Thanks to Two Bare Feet for gifting me the paddleboard.  All opinions are honest and my own.

Italian ski break with No Boundaries

Monday, September 23, 2019

View of the valley
Skiing is one of my favourite ways to enjoy the winter.  Unfortunately, London doesn't get much snow but mainland Europe does.  If you plan ahead, cheap flights can be obtained for a quick weekend getaway on Easy Jet or Ryan Air.  Of course, you need to factor in the equipment you are taking in terms of luggage but their are ways to make it affordable.  I don't have much time or knowledge of the European resorts aside from Vernier, so when I saw No Boundaries (NB) was planning a short ski weekend in Italy with yoga in February 2019, I booked in right away (#ipaidforit).  I knew it would be an intense weekend with long days and late night dinners with wine but I thought I could make it for three days.  Just.  With some energy drinks.

Hotel lobby
The NB team can book flights for you with hopefully a discount if there are enough people booked in.  I opted for this with a payment of £125 but there were not enough people to get a discount.  NB kindly paid the difference for the ticket though.   The cost of the weekend included accommodation, airport transfer, hotel breakfast, and lift tickets plus several yoga classes (in the morning and afternoon on full days).  NB likes to work with local businesses and guides where possible and booked us at a family-owned hotel that was about 10-20 minute drive from the mountain.  The hotel was a bit dated in its decor but very clean and had a state of the art spa and room for yoga in the disco.  Unfortunately, I was too tired to spend a lot of time in the spa or take photos.  It had a small pool, steam room, cold shower and place to relax.  The annex of the hotel had a boot drying rack with a place to leave skis and snowboards overnight.  This meant everything was dry for the next day and didn't clutter up your room.

Yoga in the former disco in the basement
Yoga was at 7am and about 5pm (depending on when the skiers and ice climbers returned) on the full days.  We also had a session the evening we arrived and the morning we left.  It was beautiful spring spring weather in the Brenta Dolomites (Pinzolo - Madonna di Campiglio -Folgarida/Marilleva Ski Area).  It is a small mountain, perfect for families and beginner to novice skiers.  There was a van that the hotel lent No Boundaries to drive us to the mountain.  We left between 8-8:30am depending on the day and then headed back about 3-4pm.  Some people who lived in Italy had driven to the resort, rather than fly, and drove to the mountain on their own.  I was a little disappointed the first morning as we didn't get on the mountain until after 11am.  This was because we had to wait for people to get fitted for their rental gear and the company rep to obtain the lift passes in a long line.

Small bags and good snacks
With a limited amount of time to ski, I prefer carrying snacks and eating on the chair lift.  This also saved me some money too.  The sunshine was amazing though and many people enjoyed a drinks and some french fries.  The food prices were extremely reasonable for a ski resort but the lines were also long.  We didn't have time to stop at the grocery store for sandwiches either.

There are a few small shops within walking distance of the hotel and a large supermarket on the way to the mountain.  The hotel has a three course dinner available for 15 Euros.  Most of the group met about 7-7:30pm to have dinner together.  We all shared common interests in travel, being outdoors and keeping fit.  It was lovely to meet several other women who were also travelling alone.  Although booking solo holidays isn't always fun, I don't want to wait around for someone else to join me.  It is too hard to find dates off work, a destination, activity, and budget that matches up.  Of course, there was plenty of delicious wine along with dinner to fuel the conversation (you have to pay for it but again, the prices were very affordable).  Our last night, there was a grappa tasting at the hotel put on by a local distillery.  Not sure how often this happens but it was a nice treat. 

All in all, I had an awesome time.  The only problem was the traffic on the way back to the airport (which should have been a three hour drive) meant I missed my flight.  As I had to check in my skis, the airline counter had closed by the time I got there (30 minutes before departure).  My tour guide who didn't have any luggage was able to make the flight and was very helpful getting me in touch with the NB main office who paid for my hotel and new flight hoe the following morning.  I am sure NB took this hiccup on board, as well as my feedback to obtain the lift passes ahead of time so that people who have their own equipment can do so asap.

I once again have extreme travel insurance which covers winter sports, so I am thinking about booking another weekend with NB.  It will have to be after the Tokyo Marathon though so I don't know if there will still be snow on the mountains.  If you want to get away and ski or snowboard for an affordable weekend this winter, check out the ski/snow board page on No Boundaries website and let me know when you are going in case I can join you.

As I said earlier, I paid for 100% of this trip.  No Boundaries is not compensating me in any way for sharing my experience or their links.  I enjoy supporting small businesses that promote leading an active lifestyle and spending time outdoors.

Did having a nutritionist change my bad eating habits?

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

It has been a few months since I signed up to work with Melissa, the Delicious Nutritionist #gifted.  My initial goal was to stop eating crap while on-the-go and get back control of my eating.  I had a few bad habits I needed to break, many of which involve craving sweets and being unable to control my response.  Melissa was very supportive during our coaching calls and had lots of good ideas to help me overcome some of the challenges I faced.  She suggested quick meals full of vegetables for my meal plan after hearing that my husband prefers not to eat meat at home.  She also had new ideas for simple snacks that I could find anywhere if I failed to pack something appropriate ahead of time (such as homemade popcorn, dark chocolate, a banana, and cheese slices).

Avocado and cucumber salad

The same day as our coaching call Melissa would send me two weeks of meal plans with some new recipe ideas that my husband and I both enjoyed.  The plans included a weekly meal plan for all meals and snacks as well as a shopping list.  The amount of food required for both the shopping list and recipes were in American units which means you should have a scale and/or measuring cups available if you don’t live in the USA.  I am used to this system though (obviously).  When my husband and I did the first shop, we were amazed at how much fruit and vegetables were overflowing form our fridge.  We tend to buy for a week at a time as our groceries are delivered.  However, this wasn’t the best strategy for us with the fresh items as some of them went off before we could use them.

Shopping for tinned goods

My biggest challenge in working with Melissa was sticking to the plan.  She provided everything I needed but something blocked me from sticking to her plan.  Some of it was scheduling as I was busy the week we started.  I asked for meals that can made enough for leftovers (yes, that is a choice if you hate leftovers) and when I actually made them, that worked out great.  But I don’t know why I found it so hard to stick to her plan.  On our last call, I explained this to her and she said in retrospect she could have provided me with recipes rather than a plan.  Her coaching is great like that as it is very flexible.  We do refer to her recipes often.  Two salad recipes she gave us are now firm favorites- spinach with roasted cherries, blueberries and goats cheese and a nectarine quinoa salad.  I am not sure we will be able to make these in the winter months but we have even brought them to picnics and BBQs as a healthy alternative to coleslaw and potato salad.

Acai bowl with homemade granola

The biggest takeaway I have from working with Melissa is that I had got lazy with my food.  This in turn made my standby recipes a little boring.  I wasn’t being creative in the kitchen anymore.  The recipes Melissa provided allowed me to experiment with a few new food combinations and remember how good vegetables can taste if prepared the right way (ie not overcooked).  She never scolded me for not sticking to her meal plans but rather helped talk me through why I was having trouble and brainstorm ways that we could modify the plan to make me be more successful at it, such as putting reminders in my phone to come off social media and meal prep instead.  She also checked in via email as I wasn’t ready for weeks 3-4 when I should have been.  I felt like I had a lot of support from her even though I wasn’t strictly following her advice.

Tinned options work for me

If you are in a food rut or just want some new ideas on how to incorporate more fruit and vegetables into your diet, I would suggest getting in touch with Melissa to see what she can help you with.  Feel free to mention my name for a 10% discount too and let me know how you get on.

Fresh salad, broccoli soup, and cheese slices fill me up!

The Delicious Nutritionist provided me with complimentary services in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are honest and my own.

5 tips on how to make the most of your physiotherapy

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

For nearly two years, I have been working with Function360 #gifted. Initially, they developed a pre-habiliation program for me to work on imbalances in order to become a faster runner.  Then a few niggles and slight injuries also had me trying out their sports massages, osteopaths, and physiotherapy.  Some people might think physiotherapy is a luxury, but I would argue it is essential for people who are very active.

If you are thinking about signing up for physiotherapy, I thought I would offer my tips on how to get your money's worth and see great success.
  • Come dressed for your appointment- Don't waste precious time changing in and out of your shorts or t-shirt.  If your time slot is only 30 minutes long, you will get a few more minutes updating your physiotherapist or receiving manual therapy.
  • Arrive on time- On a recent leadership training course, it was impressed upon the attendees that arriving on time demonstrates respect for the others involved.  Being late implies that your time is more valuable than others.  Plus, it can have a knock-on effect for the rest of the day or subsequently shortens your appointment.
  • Do your homework- If your therapist gives you stretches or exercises to do at home, do them!  Be honest when agreeing on a treatment plan. If your physio wants you to go to the gym for an hour five times a week, let them know that two is all you can squeeze in.  That might change what they want you to do and how often your recovery may take.  Take videos or photos so that you can remember how to perform the exercises correctly.
  • Keep a diary of symptoms/workouts- This has been really useful for me with my mystery niggle on my heel.  Pay attention to when the pain or stiffness comes and goes and then write down what you were doing, what time of day, how the pain felt (sharp or dull), and how intense it was on a scale of one to ten.  Having this info can help your physiotherapist put the pieces together if they cannot recreate the problem in your appointments.
  • Schedule an appointment when the problem normally occurs (if possible)-  Looking back at the notes in your diary, consider scheduling an appointment when the pain is most likely to occur.  If you are always stiff the morning after a six-a-side game, book in for the first appointment.  If running triggers pain in your knee, run to your appointment or just before.

  • Stick to the treatment plan-  If your physiotherapist wants to see you again in two weeks, try not to cancel and re-book for much later.  When booking appointments, the therapist has a long-term plan in their head.  Usually, they will need to see you more often at first and as your condition improves, more time may pass between appointments.  However, if the treatments are too far apart from what they had originally intended, this could delay your recovery.
If you enjoy moving without pain, whether in daily life or in an athletic pursuit, a physiotherapist can help you.  Personally, I consider my health to be priceless, don't you?

If you have a niggle or reoccurring pain, I highly recommend Function360 in London, UK.  Their team is friendly and helpful and willing to get you to the start line. It is a one-stop-shop for physiotherapy, osteopathy, sports massage, gait analysis, acupuncture, and more.  You can receive 15% off your first appointment using code #F360MM15.  I do not receive any compensation for the referral so feel free to share with friends.

Let's go streaking

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

At the end of July, I knew I needed to start running again.  Injuries and persistent pain have made me a bit scared about running.  My trip to Malawi, which includes three 20km trails runs, means I need to be fit and healthy.  In order to get over my fear and slowly build up my fitness again, I decided to do a run streak in August.  My commitment was to run only one mile a day but I could run more if I felt like it.  The goal was to keep it low pressure and use it as a way to explore all the places I was visiting in early August.

Photo by Kate of Cakes V Scales
After sharing my plans and progress on social media, I am happy to report that several people joined me on #augustrunstreak.  Being on holiday made it really easy to fit the runs into my schedule and also go a little bit further if the mood struck me.  Returning to London and a full work week in the middle of a heatwave has made it hard to get out for much more than one mile to five kilometers a day.  I was trying not to be competitive but in the last few days of the streak, I am worried that I haven't got any faster.  But I need to remember that my original intention was never to get faster but just to enjoy running again.  

And I think I do.  There is still a bit of pain when I run but a referral for further diagnostics should give me some clues.  Mentally, I am ready to start really putting work into my Malawi preparation- both in terms of running and physical strength.  Fifty three plus miles as of yesterday for the month is a not a bad place to start (see the Instagram post below for the final updates). 

Photo by Katie by Cakes V Scales
A few people were asking me if I would keep my streak going once August was over.  I feel like that would put more pressure on me that what I had originally planned when I started.  Instead, I am going to start a #septemberplankstreak.  Every day in September, I am going to hold a plank for as long as I can.  Maybe I will record the times, maybe not.  Core strength is very important for running.  And something I always slack on.

Care to join me for a September streak?  Let me know in the comments below if you want to run, plank, or streak another way.  If you prefer a variety, check out the Strava Escape Plan.  All 32 of their sports count towards a five days per week challenge throughout September.

Do you have what it takes?  Commit to 30 seconds a day or one hour a day.  It is up to you and what you enjoy.  See you at the finish!

View this post on Instagram

Although I enjoyed @thelondontri it didn't lift me out of my training funk. I think after being off injured for so long, I am scared to start running again. However, I need to start up again so that I am prepared for my trip to Malawi in October. How am I going to overcome my fear? . . By having a run streak! . . Every day in August, I am going to run 1 mile. This should only take about 15 minutes including changing clothes. I won't need water or a phone. It can be done on my lunch break or when I get up in the morning. There is no time pressure and the distance is achievable. Half of the month I will be on holiday, so it is a great opportunity to explore new places. Plus, I hope my nephews will join me for one or two of the days. If I feel good after my mile, I can run a little more but there is no obligation. . . I think this is the trick I need to retrain my mindset about running. It needs to be fun again. I need to believe I can do it. Will you be joining me in August? . . . . Day 1- 1.0 miles road Day 2- 1.07 miles treadmill Day 3- 1.15 miles road Day 4- 2.0 miles road Day 5- 2.0 miles road with dog Day 6- 2.0 road miles with friend and dog, pit stop then 1.1 miles Day 7- 2.94 total miles on the road and 6 reps of the Rocky Steps Day 8- 1.1 road miles Day 9- 3.6 + 1 road miles Day 10- 3.77 miles road and track session Day 11- 3.18 miles road Day 12- 1 mile road Day 13- 4 miles road Day 14- 2 miles road Day 15- 3.3 miles road Day 16- 1.2 miles slightly hungover Day 17- 1.2 miles very jet lagged Day 18- 6.1 miles road. Still jet lagged because I thought it was 10k! Day 19- 1 mile treadmill Day 20- 3.1 miles road Day 21- 1 mile treadmill Day 22- 2 + 2 miles road with backpack Day 23- 1 mile treadmill Day 24- 1.5 miles road with backpack Day 25- 1 mile road Day 26- 3.1 miles road Day 27- 3.1 miles road . . 📸 By @cakevsscales
A post shared by Mollie, Happiness PT (@ptmollie) on

Race report: London Triathlon Super Sprint

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

In an effort to rekindle my running mojo, I signed up for the London Triathlon* rather last minute.  To keep it a realistic goal after my running injury, I selected the shortest distance. The Super Sprint course is 400m swim, 10km bike, and 2.5km run.  For a short moment, I considered bumping up to the sprint distance (750m, 20km bike, 5km run) to challenge my PR from 2012.  But I decided to keep it safe/play it smart by sticking to the shortest distance to avoid re-injury.

My entry wave was at 3:10pm on Saturday afternoon.  About 95% of the women in my group (I chose women-only vs mixed start) were first timers.  The London Triathlon is a great race if you are tri-curious.

Entries and fees:  The race doesn't sell out (it is held over two days with lots of entries available) and entries are available close to the event.  There are different fees depending on the distance you sign up for.  It ranges from £40+.  Remember that triathlons tend to be more expensive due to the amount of logistics required to set up swimming, cycling, and running courses.  Personally, I think the London Tri is very reasonable considering the scale of the event (the race takes up half of the ExCel Centre).

Course and bogs: The course starts and ends at the ExCel Centre.  The swim is in the Royal Docks and the longer bike course goes to Big Ben (the super sprint course is only 10km).  All bike segments are on closed roads, which is great.  The run is along the Royal Docks on paths of varying width.  Different distances compete at the same time, so you will have different abilities on the course with you.  I did shout to a few people who were walking three abreast to keep to the left as no one could get by.

This year, it was almost so warm we didn't have to wear wet suits.  I really like my Aptonia wet suit from Decathlon.*  It fit me perfectly, which is hard for a woman as our body shapes are so diverse.  The zipper is a bit tricky to zip up as it is designed to unzip bottom to shoulders, but I think that might make it faster to remove.

Location: Unfortunately, there isn't anything glamorous about the ExCel Centre in East London.  However, the location is super convenient for anyone in London and especially for me as I live about five miles from the start line.  Inside the ExCel, there is a small amount of vendors if you need to pick up gels or a few pieces of run kit, including official merchandise.

Atmosphere: There are not many cheer points along the route.  Many friends and family were cheering at the swim and at the finish line.  The transition area is really big, so it is hard for your fans to see you as you switch disciplines.  Otherwise, you are on your own out on the course

Race bling and goody bag:  No goody bag but you receive a medal just after you cross the finish line.  You also get to pick up the official race t-shirt (which I really like) and the Tenzing team was there to hand you a can as you walked out of the finish area.

Tips if you want to take part next time:  If you are coming back from injury, triathlons are great as the cross-training allows 2/3 of the training to be low impact.  That is one of the big reasons why I signed up. Also, make sure you try open water swimming at least five times before the race.  This gives you a chance to get over the fear of not seeing the bottom, learn how your wet suit fills up, and get used to having to swim continuously.  Finally, do some brick sessions (two disciplines back to back) to get your muscles used to working differently and to try out different outfit combinations.  My kneesuit with sports bra underneath worked perfectly!  You can also use bricks to think about water food and drinks you will need during the race.

Feeling inspired and want to give London Triathlon 2020 a "tri"?  Register your interest now.

*Thanks to London Triathlon for the complimentary race entry and Decathlon for the wet suit.  All opinions are honest and my own.