Tuesday, 26 August 2014

TRAINING UPDATE: Parkrun Comeback

Training is starting to get exciting for me now. The last couple of weeks have been full of running and I even completed a week where I ran three times so overall, I feel like I am getting back to my old ways.

What has also been great is that I am now balancing out my workouts by combining running with swimming, cycling and core exercises. Running is starting to take priority now and with Cabbage Patch 10 approaching in around six weeks, I need to start thinking about my training plan and how to get the legs ticking over 10 miles again.

Looking back though since my last Training Update, a lot has been happening! I have been really busy with work, wedding planning and seeing friends, so cramming in exercise where I can has been essential. With running, I am starting to see an improvement in my speed and have also attempted running with a backpack again. I haven’t actually done this since around April/May and after booking in my bike for a service over a couple of days, I took the chance to run home from work on one of them.

The route home isn’t too exciting and scenic but is roughly around four miles, so is well within my capabilities at the moment. It was a really hot day when I did this and I did struggle a bit. I also got THE worse stitch, which is very unusual for me. I wasn’t sure if it was where the strap across my stomach from the bag was digging in, but it sure was painful! This caused me to slow down in the last mile but was still pleased to log another four miler.

The next day, I opted to meet my friend for swimming again. When I left the office to cycle to the gym around five miles away it was pouring it down with rain. Still a little nervous cycling in these kinds of weather conditions, I took a route along the Thames towpath and instantly regretted it once I was on it. So many cyclists, runners, dog walkers and fisherman. Wahh! I couldn’t take it and due to the wet, narrow path and uneven paving slabs, my back wheel kept skidding out.

I came off the towpath early and got a bit lost getting to the gym via busy central London roads and so when I did finally arrive, I felt very tense and shaky. The reason I have explained this particular journey is that I think it may have been one of the causes of what happened in the pool afterwards.

We worked to a routine which involved front crawl intervals, arm pulls, kicking with floats and so on and at around 1000m, I got the worse cramp! I’ve never had cramp whilst swimming and holy hell it hurt! It was in my calf and very much panicked me as I was in the deep end so had to drag my body over to the lane divider to pull myself to the side. I stayed here for a good 10 minutes to massage and stretch the calf. It remained very tense but the cramping had eased off and so I opted to try again. 300m later however, I got cramp in the other calf! Inconveniently it was again in the deep end so there a repeat of getting myself to the side to stretch out the other leg. Typical!

A nearby swimming instructor must have been watching me and came over to have a chat. She explained I may be dehydrated and my friend asked if I drink during swimming. Err no? Is it really important I do? Apparently, it is REALLY important you stay hydrated during swimming as, funnily enough, lack of fluids causes cramp. Learnt my lesson there then didn’t I? I also think the stress and tension from my horrendous journey to the gym was still lingering and may have possibly contributed to the cramp too.

The next day (Friday), I was in agony! My calves felt so stiff and sore and I spent the day hobbling around at work. I was really worried I had damaged myself but I did find the more walking I did, the more my muscles were loosening up. That evening I travelled down to the South West with my fiancé and future in-laws to visit our wedding venue for the weekend (the below view defines the beauty of where we are getting married!). Sitting in a car for two hours did cause them to seize up again but by morning they were feeling a tad better.
On the Sunday, I got up early and left the hotel to go for a jog along the Kennet & Avon canal that was nearby. The calves were back to normal (thank the Lord) and my Maid of Honour drove over to join me too, which was nice! As we were nattering so much, we didn’t really exceed nine-minute miles but we did complete 10K, which I was thrilled about! This is the furthest I have run since my injury and I honestly felt like I had really accomplished something this day. I even celebrated on the lock, with the cows!
The following week, I had a lot of work events on so sadly didn’t get to cycle as much as I had hoped. When I have launches to host, it does mean I am travelling around the city a lot, carrying god knows what whilst also dressed in my finest so having the bike for these occasions isn’t ideal. After one meeting however, I was based in Oxford Circus and so opted to run home from work that evening. 
(running on the go!)

The route was five miles long and the most glum of them all. Up Tottenham Court Road, past Warren Street to Camden and up north on busy roads during rush hour wasn’t the best; but again, I had my backpack and found this run a lot easier and faster! I reached my front door bang on five miles (don’t you just LOVE it when that happens?) with an average pace of 8.27.

By Thursday, I was curious to see if I could take on a speed session. Before my injury, I would head to my local athletics track every Thursday with my running club to do a HIIT session (high intensity interval training). This is where I am at my strongest and going over two months without any of these kind of runs has affected my performance. A little apprehensive to chuck myself back into track training, I opted to do a mini session up at Alexandra Palace by myself.

I chose to do a downward pyramid: 1600m, 1200m, 800m, 400m with a minutes rest in-between and aiming to hit a faster pace as I worked down. Starting off, I tried to ensure I was pushing myself but boy, did I find it hard. Finding the power to turn my legs around faster was tough but the further in I got, the faster I felt myself going. By the time I reached the 400m, I was on 2.5 miles and so I opted to do another half mile to reach three. When my watched beeped at this point, I had done my final mile in 6.50. I haven’t seen a sub 7 in a lonnnng time and I was ecstatic that I managed to hold this speed throughout the session.
By the weekend, I was on my travels again - this time back home to see friends for a BBQ. I knew I wanted to get a run logged during my time there and so I plucked up the courage to attend the local parkrun, with one of my best buds in tow! This particular one I love. It’s one single lap, relatively flat and pulls in on average 350 runners so there’s a great field of abilities.

I haven’t done a parkrun in yonks and this was my first time running in a large pack since Mizuno Endure24 and lining up at the start line, I did feel a little nervous! My aim was to get under 25 minutes (my PB is 21.58 and I knew I wouldn’t even get close to this). Starting off, I kept a mantra in my head to stay steady and don’t bomb it. I really didn’t want to burn out by mile two, so I made sure I held back just a tad. My first mile buzzed at 7.14, which I was really surprised with as I felt like I was doing eight-minute miles. By mile two I hit 7.20 so keeping the pace together. The plan was working and the final mile is a steady incline and we were running in the wind so having some fuel left in the tank really helped. Mile three buzzed at 7.44 and I dug deep for the last stretch to cross the line in 23.09! I was shocked I managed this and my time also secured me 4th lady in a field of 337 runners, which was amazing!
(feeling chuffed with our results!)

I cannot describe how happy I was with this. I felt like I was back and feeling strong. I didn’t think I would get close to 23 minutes so knowing I have achieved this post injury is brilliant. I definitely celebrated Saturday night with far too much food and gins but now I am back up in London, it is back to training, this time my aim is to run 10K at a steady pace. Hopefully by the time I get round to writing my next training update, I will be well into my training for Cabbage Patch 10.
(yep - I pigged out. But it was SO worth it!)

Until then – happy running!

Lipstick Runner.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


When I first got my bike, my main goal was to save money on commuting. This has kind of worked. Once you desert monthly travel passes for pay as you go Oyster, the money can clock up when you do need to take the tube or bus so each month, I am trying my hardest to avoid Oyster usage as much as possible.

The second reason I got a bike was to ensure I exercise daily and improve my overall fitness. This, I THINK is happening. As I return to running, my fitness isn't as bad as I thought and I do think cycling has helped keep the momentum going during injury.

I was so excited when my other half allowed me to have a bike. I had been pining for one for months but to him London cycling was a danger zone, which I can totally appreciate. However, with the promise to him that I would take a cycling proficiency lesson around the city I was finally given the green light to get a bike. Wahoo!

I opted for this baby - the Trek Lexa Women's Road Bike 2013. I got this as the 2014 model launched so managed to get some money off as it was the old model. This doesn't bother me though. It's just so pretty! (I'm not too girly at all).
The next step was making this bike commuter friendly and that meant adding extras. First up was a bike rack for the back wheel. This is where I fix both my locks with bungey cord. Attached to this I then also clip in my cycling tool kit. Due to being a short arse, I can't fit this under the saddle so at the moment it hangs off the rack. This contains tyre repair tools and materials, plus a mini bike pump. You can never too prepared for cycling in London! Or anywhere for that matter. 
Next, I wanted a decent backpack to fit all my clothing, toiletries, shoes and god knows what else I need. I was on a budget and didn't want to invest too much in a bag and found a steal in this Karrimor Sector 25 Rucksack. I actually purchased this from Sport's Direct for £24 but you can buy it directly from Karrimor's website for only £16 at the moment! 
First of all, I picked it for it's bright colour. This will enhance my visible presence to drivers on the road. It also is the ideal size to carry all my crap (s'cuse the bad language). I work in beauty PR, so looking in tip top condition for work is extremely important. By the time I arrive at the office I want everything I need to get ready packed neatly in one bag. This rucksack allows me to carry an entire outfit, my toiletries bag (containing baby wipes, face wipes, a flannel, deodorant and perfume) and my make-up bag (bursting with concealer, powder, eye shadow and of course lipstick). I then also have space for my breakfast and lunch.

In fact, this bag is so spacious I have even packed the above along with two towels and swimming kit! It was a tight squeeze but I managed it!
(my everyday cycling essentials)

I make sure I pack my bag the night before so I'm not faffing around in the morning. I then also layout my cycling kit, which is normally a running top with my Adidas shorts and trusty Mizuno Wave Rider 16s.

Each morning, as soon as my alarm rings, I am up. I never hesitate or lay there for a second extra otherwise I'd never get out of bed. I hop in the shower to wake me up and always finish using Nivea In Shower Body Moisturiser. This leaves my skin silky soft. 

Next, I chuck on my kit, throw my breakfast and lunch in my ready packed rucksack and head out the door. All this takes around 15/20 minutes. Getting on the bike, the first thing I pass is the clock tower in my neighbourhood and I always check the time. This is so I know roughly when I will arrive at work which is, on a good day, 25 minutes later. 
(arriving at work)

Getting to work, I head straight to the bathroom and use the flannel and baby wipes to freshen up. As I am showered, I never get sweaty really. My back does a little but this is due to the rucksack I carry.  I then chuck on my clothes and head to my desk where I sit for around 15 minutes sorting my face and hair out. By looking at the below pictures, you can truly see how blimmin brilliant make-up is!
(these two pictures show the importance of me drawing in my eyebrows. They also emphasise how little brow hair I have - embarrassing!)

I can normally do all of the above in around 20-25 minutes and by the time the rest of the team arrive at 9am, my rucksack is tidied away under the desk, helmet in hiding and my beauty PR self is all dolled up. Voila!

When 5.30pm strikes, it is then back to the loos to switch back into my gym gear (I normally lay my top over my bag under my desk during the day for the back to air out if it is ever damp). I then head straight out to my bike and cycle home to arrive at my front door around 6.15pm.

This new daily routine has been rather easy to adjust to. Yes, it may sound like an effort to some but I find heading out on a cycle ride every morning instead of being shoved into a tube carriage with hundreds of hot and bothered commuters a luxury. I love being outside, come rain or shine and my commute time has halved since I got my own set of wheels. 

Are you considering the switch to cycling for your commute to work? If so, I hope this post has been a good convincer!

Lipstick Runner.

Thursday, 14 August 2014


In my last Training Update, I mentioned that I have been trying out the Nike Training Club app and I have found it so blimmin brilliant, I had to write in detail why.

Free to download, this latest techno hit from Nike is an app dedicated to women who want to achieve all sorts with their body. Whether it is to tone, sculpt, strengthen or condition the body, there is something for you here.

I love the simplicity of this app. Super easy to navigate around, the app allows you to pick a certain goal you want to achieve and then this is broken down into different workouts within the category.
I have found myself opting for toning workouts as this is ideally my main goal in core training sessions. There are plenty of brilliant workout options, all offering different time scales and intensities. Once you have found a workout you want to try, you have the option of downloading a full video of the session or seeing still images of each step. Brilliant huh!?
The videos I love but do find I personally chop and change in-between workouts across the categories so I have found myself referring to still images more. This is mainly down to living on a top floor flat with wooden floors (I don't think my neighbour below would appreciate me doing burpee's and high knees). There are also some workouts which involve medicine balls, weights and resistance bands. I don't really have these in the flat hence why I also chop and change between workouts to find steps I can do quietly and equipment free. This doesn't bother me though as there is still lots to choose from!
The Get Focussed section of this app provides you with workouts that are quite specialised. If you want to focus on yoga movements, weight based exercises or even kung fu, there is a workout here. The 'Dynamic Duo' workout also looks a great one to pair up with a friend for. Might have to rope the other half into this at some point...

In all, you can't complain. Free, easy to use, accessible and effective. Nike Training Club is an app every woman should tap into. On those evenings where you're at home twiddling your thumbs, you're a few clicks away from a workout that is easy to carry out in the comfort of your living room.

Lipstick Runner.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

TRAINING UPDATE: Progress, Progress, Progress

If you follow me on Instagram & Twitter, you will see that progress is indeed a relevant headline for this training update.

This past fortnight I feel like I have stepped up the improvement ladder in injury land. Not leaped to the top but definitely on the next rung. It’s been great to see a development in my running, even if it’s slow.

Last week started off nicely with my normal cycle to work followed by a swim at my local pool. I opted to do 600m gently as I was planning to try out running at some point mid week so I wanted to reserve energy and avoid added exhaustion. Tuesday was then spent doing some core and strength work outs at home. Yes – these included squats (see why in my last Training Update) and I am feeling the effect from them every time I do my set of 50.

Wednesday came and it was time to venture out for a run and test the knee again. By this point, my 6th week of injury, I was getting ready for the feeling of disappointment a few minutes into the run and so when I closed that front door, I set off a bit lifeless, almost plodding along without any real interest. I was waiting to get a mile in and feel the dull ache and shooting pains up my right leg.

The first mile I did in 8.40, which was okish. The knee felt a bit creaky but no pain yet. ‘That’s a good sign’, I thought. Hit the second mile in 8.10 – holy hell I have no shooting pains yet. Are you for real!? By this point I can feel my face relax and the corners of my mouth turning up to a smile. My aim at this point was to get to 5K. This would be a milestone for me and one I felt I could reach. I hit three miles with another 8-minute mile and felt so blimmin chuffed to get to 5K in just under 26 minutes. OK – not near my PB but to get to 5K. YAY!
I must admit the knee did get a bit ‘twingey’ in the last mile but by morning I felt ok and my cycle to work carried no pain. I even went swimming on Thursday and completed 750m and still felt fine. Cogs are beginning to work all together again!

Friday I opted to just do my cycle to work and have a restful evening, as I was up early on Saturday to head to the pool with a fellow club runner, who incidentally is also injured.

This particular friend of mine is far FAR fitter than me, far more dedicated to training than me and far more faster at anything than me, so I was a little concerned about my efforts compared to hers. I was right to concern. Arriving at the pool, she had a session all planned out. A session? I never do sessions! I just swim until I’m tired. Lengths hard, lengths easy, lengths with paddles, lengths with floats, lengths, lengths, lengths and more lengths. I think this was the furthest I had ever swam – 1300m in all (even if it was 15 lengths less than her). I was shattered when I got home but actually, I greatly appreciated how beneficial it was to train with someone again. I’ve gone so long now being a lonesome scout for any exercise I do, I had got comfortable at my own pace. This was a huge wake up call and I very much look forward to more swims with her (and runs when we are both fixed).

This past week just gone has been less about exercise and more about socialising. But you have to sometimes right? I however didn’t avoid my weekly test run. After the success of the 5K, I was actually really excited to lace up and try again. This time, I planned to reach four miles. Setting off I found it hard to get a good breathing rhythm and in all honestly, I felt knackered! My first mile was 8.10 again – same as last time and my second broke under the 8-minute mark. I felt good at this point and was stronger and more faithful in my body. My mind felt in tune with what it was doing and I even tackled a couple of small steep hills pain free.

I hit the four-mile mark running steady but hard and was thrilled to see I finished with an average of 8.10 per mile. Quicker than last week! Boy was it hot though – proof of beetroot face below! The knee again felt a bit stiff but with no niggles and I am getting so excited now that I may, MAY be over my ITB woes.
I did think about running again on Friday but after a fab four miles, I didn’t want to jinx it by running again so I decided to wait until next week, where I will attempt to get to five miles. Instead, I decided to test out the Nike Training Club app. Suggested by a friend, I thought there was no harm in downloading it (the app is free). Not one to normally do workouts at home, I was a bit dubious as to whether I’d like it but actually, it’s really good! There are a great variety of workouts to choose from and you can download in video or still image format. In fact, I was so impressed I am lining up a review soon to be able to show in more detail its fabulousness. 
On Saturday I met my friend for swimming again. After last week and knowing the intensity of what we will do, I cycled down mentally prepared and determined to put in maximum effort. I got to the pool early so got stuck in and by the time she arrived I had already done 25 lengths. I regretted this head start - I was already feeling a little tired but as soon as she dived in the pool she got me working on all sorts of sets! The worse is arms outstretched in front of you with a float and all you have is to kick your way through the water. I find this sooo hard and after expressing my hate for it, she made sure I did plenty throughout the session to get used to the pain and burn I felt from it (in a good way of course). I absolutely love her drive and having her there really pushed me and it pushed me far. 2,170m to be exact (70 lengths)! I may not have been able to walk afterwards, but I really felt like I had achieved something.

After this mammoth swim session, I spent the rest of Saturday out with friends, enjoying great food and some well-deserved G&Ts! I had such a lovely time and will all my progress I have been making in all my workouts (run, swim & cycle), I made the most of letting my hair down and rewarding myself. It’s in my rulebook after all.
 (Strawberry Sorbet & Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream (YUM), Gin & Blackberry Cocktail Fizz (double YUM!))

Until next time.

Lipstick Runner.

Friday, 1 August 2014

FUEL FOR THOUGHT: Home-Made Granola

My first recipe on the blog and one of my faves! This step by step to make home-made granola is super easy and will provide you with a ton of the stuff so it's great to take to work for breakfasts.

Granola is one of my favourites. I'm not a fan of hot breakfasts - I much prefer a good serving of this with mixed berries and yoghurt. Mmm yum!

Here's what you need to buy and do...


450g porridge oats
120g sunflower seeds
100g light brown sugar
250g almonds
300g raisins
1tsp salt

175g apple sauce
120g golden syrup
4 tbsps honey
2 tbsps sunflower oil

1. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper. Set the oven to 170 degrees (fan oven setting).

2. Add porridge oats, sunflower seeds, light brown sugar, almonds and salt together in a large baking bowl.

3. Measure and add to another bowl/jug the apple sauce, golden syrup, honey and sunflower oil.

4. Add this to the dry mixture and mix well.

5. Spread mixture onto the two baking trays.

6. Bake for 40 minutes, turning the mixture halfway through.

7. When cooked and golden brown, remove from oven and allow to cool. Once it has chilled, add in the raisins.

8. Store in an airtight container and enjoy!

Sounds easy? Well it is. This took me hardly anytime to prepare and cook and I have managed to see it last me all week for work with lots spare. Here's how I munch it on the go:

(home-made granola with Yeo Valley strawberry yoghurt)

Lipstick Runner.