Sunday, 28 September 2014

TRAINING UPDATE: Run, Cycle, Swim, Repeat

This last fortnight has been far more successful than previous. Coming out of the flu was a slow(ish) progress. The snuffles and an awful cough were what remained from my bed ridden state but I was just grateful to be back up and running again.

I felt fully recovered midweek but still opted to avoid exercise until the weekend. Despite that though, I didn't hold back come Saturday and I headed out bright and early for an easy eight mile run. The first mile was literally run at snails pace just to get me into my rhythm but by 5K I had found my feet and was running on average just under nine minute milling. By 10K my legs were aching but I trooped on to complete what I set to out to do. I did keep coughing a lot on this run and I felt a tad wheezy but way better than I was expecting which was a great sign!

I had planned a bike ride on Sunday as the weather was going to be nice. I woke up with very heavy legs from my run but despite this, I still got ready to head out for a cycle. It would probably do my legs some good loosening them up. I took the route through Hampstead to Regents Park where I did a lap of the outer circle. I then took a quick pit stop and walked my bike up to the top of Primrose Hill (one of my favourite spots in North London) to take in this beautiful view:
After Primrose I then looped back round through Kentish Town to bring me back home. My cycle was roughly 10 miles so not too strenuous but enough to wake my legs up.

By Monday, I was craving a swim. I haven't been for a good couple of weeks and previous to this I was really making progress with my front crawl. I don't want this focus to slip so after work, I headed to my local lane pool and set myself a little workout based on exercises and technical movements a good friend (and incredible swimmer!) had taught me:

Front Crawl Technique (in 30m lengths)

4x standard front crawl (warm up)
4x arm pulls with float
2x standard front crawl
4x around the world hand touches
2x standard front crawl
4x leg kicks with float out in front (THESE KILL ME!)
2x standard front crawl
4x 'sharkies' (where you touch your shoulder on every arm stroke)
2x standard front crawl
4x leg touches
2x standard front crawl
4x arm pulls with float
2x standard front crawl

TOTAL: 40 lengths (1200m)

By mixing standard front crawl lengths between each technique it is helping me to put them all into practice when swimming normally. I do feel like my style is improving - I am using less energy per stroke which in turn is making me go faster. I do however need to work on 'cutting' through the water better. I do worry when I swim I am a bit all over the place, kicking and splashing.

Tuesday was club night for me and as I was missing the track session this particular week, I opted to head with a few others to the Regents Park dirt track which is situated on the outer circle. It was just over a mile jog there and then after some drills we went straight into 400ms. Two sets of 4x400m with decreasing rest periods (45secs, 30secs and 15secs). I found these hard, especially as my body was feeling fatigued from the last three days of running, cycling and swimming but I stuck to working as hard as I could. You can see below with my times that my speed greatly improved whilst on the track and I even managed a faster run back to the club than I did running to Regents Park. 

I really feel my core working when doing these high intensity workouts and they are a brilliant way to kick your metabolism into gear and burn fat faster. That said though, after jogging back to the clubhouse I did have two chocolate biscuits. Oops!
The rest of the working week was fun and play after this. Thursday I would normally head to the track for a HIIT session but instead I spent the evening with family at my favourite dim sum house, Ping Pong. Check out this scrummy cocktail!
By the time the weekend arrived it was time to head out on a long run again. This is actually my last shot until Cabbage Patch 10 to squeeze in a decent run as the next couple of weekends I'm away. I chose to do eight miles again with the aim to be quicker than last week. I set off not really knowing where I was going - I sometimes prefer planning the route on the spot as it makes the run more adventurous and free. 

I headed to Hampstead Heath but only stopped there for five minutes, choosing to run through and up to Kentish Town and onto the towpath towards Angel. I have only run along here once but where I cycle along it weekly now, I thought this would be a great place to pick up some speed (something I am lacking greatly at the moment!). It was really quiet and peaceful running along here and I was boshing out some great times too (miles 2 - 8 were all sub 8.30)!

By the time I reached 10K, I didn't feel tired at all which I saw as a great sign compared to how I was feeling the week previous. Running along the towpath also allowed me to keep my pace consistent as its a straight path with very little people. Once I was off here and onto the busy streets of Angel there was lots of stopping and starting, weaving in and out of people. Still though, I was super chuffed with my time. I was nearly four minutes faster than last week and had plenty of gas left in the tank, which is very reassuring for me as Cabbage Patch is fast approaching.
By Sunday, it was time to head out for a bike ride and after heading to Regents Park last week and seeing all the cyclists on the outer circle, I wanted to head there to experience my first proper speed session on the bike. After a comfortable cycle there once I was on the outer circle I aimed to do four laps (I'm not too sure on the distance per lap but I would predict 2.5KM), two laps fast and two laps recovery. This was the first time I had picked up speed on my bike without lots of traffic around me and it as brilliant! Although many fellow cyclists sped past me, I revelled in pushing myself around the circle and in the final straight to the marker point where I move into a steady lap, I made sure I pumped my legs harder and faster. 

Doing four laps was definitely a good starter. My legs felt like they had a good workout and bum hurt which can only mean I worked hard *must invest in cycling shorts*. After the session I remained in Regents Park to meet a friend at the boat pond for a coffee. It was such gorgeous weather and lazing around in the sun relaxing was a lovely way to end my exercise fuelled week. 
Here's to the same next week!

Lipstick Runner.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Dreams become reality: Blenheim Palace Triathlon 2015

This week, some exciting news landed in my Inbox...
I signed up for fast track entry to Blenheim Palace Triathlon months ago after deciding to pursue my goal to complete a triathlon. The last year I have been curious to give one a go, mainly because solid road running was giving me itchy feet to try something different. In May when I got my bike, the urge got greater and so I opted to look into Blenheim Palace after seeing The Runner Beans take part in the 2014 event.

Apparently, it's a very popular race so I'm glad I signed up for the priority window. When this email came through I did hesitate for a moment to click the 'enter now' button. 'Can I seriously do this?' 'Will I keep up the training?' 'What if I come last!?' were just a few of the thoughts that ran through my head before the 'This is an amazing opportunity TAKE IT' thought took over.

Filling in the application form, I got to the options box where you select your distance. I was so indecisive on whether to opt for Super Sprint (400m swim, 13.2K cycle, 3.1K run) or Sprint (750m swim, 19.8K cycle, 5.7K run). Originally when the idea of doing a triathlon came into my head, I had always planned on attempting the Super Sprint first but when it came down to applying there was little niggle in my head urging me to select Sprint. If I'm going to do it, I may as well go all out and give it a go. So, there I made the decision to take on the Sprint distance. 

I'm so excited to know what part of my plans for 2015 will be. As you all know from my Operation Bridal Bod post, I'm getting married next Summer (three weeks after this event funnily enough) so all the training will be a great focus for this goal too! I am a little nervous about what the months leading up to the triathlon will involve. I will have to whip my front crawl technique into shape, hell even learn to swim in open water but I am so excited to be taking on this challenge!

With nine months until the triathlon, I have got well under way in buffing up my knowledge by purchasing a guide to triathlons - I opted for Triathlon for Women by Charlotte Campbell (£8, Amazon). I'm hoping this will help me get on track with training, nutrition and body recovery. I am also going to look into filling the diary with other race opportunities which will play a crucial role in my training, such as duathlons and open swim meets. 

I'm not too sure what my level of enthusiasm will be mid February in the stark cold winter out training in my wet suit, on the bike etc...but right now, I am SO ready to get my Tri on!

For more information on Blenheim Palace Triathlon, visit the website HERE.

Lipstick Runner.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Running Clubs: The Benefits

I have been a part of a running club since I was nine. My parents enrolled me into my local athletics club for social purposes and to keep active. I remember clearly heading over to the playing fields every Thursday evening and Mum paying 50p. We did drills, mini gladiator obstacles and learnt to throw javelin with sponge spears. It was great! In the six years I represented the club I recieved brilliant training and I got to take part in many competitions which lead to a ranking of 7th in the UK for U15 girls 100m.

Today I am part of a London based running club which offers excellent facilities, group runs and coached training sessions. All for a small annual fee.

So why is joining a running club so beneficial? Well that's easy:

1. Group running = great running
(out for a 12 mile run with fellow club members stopping at all the London sights)
(my best friend and running pal dragging me round parkrun to a PB of 21.58)

There's nothing better than running with a group. I mean, yes of course there are days you want to go at it solo, pound the streets and clear your head but in general, having company can really improve your run. Not only is it safe (especially during the dark nights in winter) but bringing in a social aspect helps to shift focus from the run. You naturally loosen up, run lighter and a lot of the time faster, especially if you are in a group pushing the pace! During my injury, I really missed my club runs. I wanted to see my friends and head out on long summer runs on Hampstead Heath. I love how we all get together to pursue the same hobby, which is rewarded with tea and biscuits afterwards.

2. Club Leagues 
(the first time I experienced cross country at Parliament Hill, London. Oh the pain...good fun though!)

When you are a part of a club, the chances for racing regularly open up through leagues. These vary per region and offer set agendas for both winter and summer months. October through to February is generally cross country season and these races offer the ultimate workout and strength building. Normally a short distance of around 5-8K, they come with hills, mud and woodland trails and are great fun when running as part of a team. During the Summer, track session comes into play for lots of clubs but also leagues for 10Ks in local parks. Each club/region vary but there will always be opportunity to represent your club with your entry supported by your membership fee or if not, drastically reduced. 

3. Community Feel

People join running clubs for many reasons. A big part for me was making friends as I was new to London at the time I joined. Meeting people with the same interests is a great way to build your running 'social circle'. Having people around you to support your training and encourage you to try out new distances/terrains is fantastic motivation! Some of my good friends I have gained since living in London are through my running club and we all keep up-to-date with one anthers training and progress. I also thoroughly enjoy long Sunday morning runs followed by a coffee and catch up after. 

4. Top Training

Running clubs come with great training facilities. With many based at local athletic tracks and offering special coached sessions, you can be sure you are getting the best advice and training. I love my weekly sessions with our club coach who works with us all on improving speed, endurance, strength and running style. He personally gets to know everyone so well, remembering peoples individual targets and what they are working on.  Having this support in your training really is so beneficial. You can never have another advice and guidance!

5. Team Work All The Way!
(Mizuno Endure24 2014)

If you really want to get involved in club events, why not encourage team races? I think it's great when people actively form teams for running events (Welsh Castles Relays, Adidas Thunder Run, Mizuno Endure24 etc...). This year, I got involved in my first ever team race at Endure24 and it was fabulous! Best 24 hours I have spent and being in the same boat with friends makes the experience all the better. I pushed myself and ran the longest I have ever run and despite the thunderstorms and mud up to my knees, I smiled for every minute. I would highly recommend getting involved in these sorts of opportunities for anyone looking to seek a place with a running club. 

Lots of running clubs welcome people along for taster sessions. Always check out their websites beforehand to see what days are best to go and even drop a committee member an email as most clubs consist of only friendly faces who are willing to help out.

So are you looking for extra motivation and guidance for a big race? What are you waiting for!? Get down to your local club and boost all aspects of your running experience. 

Lipstick Runner.

Thursday, 18 September 2014


If you follow me on Twitter, you will see I have been poorly the last week. After waking up one morning with a dry cough and a sniffle, it quickly escalated into a lot of pain and illness which resulted in flu. Brilliant.

Last week started off pretty good though! I returned back to normal training through my running club. Going back to see all my friends and fellow runners was fantastic! The feeling of normality in my training schedule gave me hope that my injury is long behind me now. I managed to attend the social run on Tuesday and also track on Thursday, both of which I haven't been to since early June.
I was a little nervous diving into a heavy HIIT session with fellow club members at the track. When I also arrived, I had a bit of a dry cough but thought this might be due to pollution from my cycle ride there. Once we got started with the drills, it had disappeared and so thought no more.

After drills of high knees, heel flicks, skipping and strides the session was set. 4x 1200m at 5-10k pace followed by 4x 400m hard. I set off with a club friend who went off ahead of me but my aim was to try and stay within 10m of her. We'd of normally run close together before my injury anyway so keeping her in close sight was good going in my eyes. After 2x 1200m, I was seriously flagging. Sweating bucket loads and huffing and puffing, I carried on a strong as possible but was running more towards 10K pace than 5K. I also had the 4x 400m in the back of my mind too so needed to keep fuel in the tank for them.

Our coach had been sneaky as when the 400m came round, the rest periods decreased. 90secs, 45secs, 30secs, 15secs. Wowee were these hard! I actually managed to speed up for these and really pick my feet up which felt brilliant! I was however glad to see the back of them afterwards. My core felt tight, legs like jelly but my mind reassured as I didn't feel like I had lost to much speed in my absence. Cycling home wasn't too bad either but I was out like a light once my head hit my pillow that night.

Friday however, was a very different day. Waking up for work, I felt all bunged up and heady like I was getting a cold. The dry cough also returned. 'Sods law!' I thought. Now I've got my fitness back I get a bloody cold! Still though, I went to work but by lunchtime I felt so awful I came back home to rest. Snoozing on the sofa all afternoon, I felt myself getting worse and worse. By nighttime, all sorts of symptoms had started, which I won't go into deal about but it involved sick buckets and many toilet trips.

By Saturday I had a high temperature and my joints, muscles and skin were sore to touch. I was in so much pain (especially my legs) I hadn't slept a wink the night before and cold flannels were my go-to in a bid to cool me down. I rang NHS Direct who booked me into a clinic a few miles away to see a GP. Even getting there via taxi seemed like so much effort. I was shaking due to pain and dehydration and felt so sick! I also looked like DEATH!

The doctor diagnosed flu and declared me contiagious (my fiancé who kindly came to the clinic with me shuffled his chair back at this point). She stocked me up on dehydration sachets which you add to water and told me to sleep, sleep and sleep more. I couldn't actually wait to get home back to my bed to practically quarantine myself.
(my flu flighting friends)

By Monday, I still felt awful so stayed at home. The aching has subsided but the headiness and sweats (sorry) hadn't. I did manage to sleep that night so opted to try work out on the Tuesday. Getting there was awful. I took the bus and I felt like all my senses were on high alert. When I get a cold, I have this thing where cigarette smoke stinks. I mean, I know it does anyway but I mean it smells so bad you can taste it in your throat and it lingers there. Anyway, this man got on the bus and sat next to me. I knew instantly he had just smoked a cigarette. The smell was SO bad (sorry to this man. When I'm flu free it honestly wouldn't bother me) it made me gag. When I got to work I felt so rough I made a Lemsip in the hope to clear my sinuses and rid the smell.

By around 10.30am, things did not feel right. I felt boiling hot, I could feel the sweat on my forehead and before I knew it, I was rushing to the loo retching. Luckily I avoided being sick but the dizziness was there and I honestly felt really upset at how I felt. My boss sent me home to which I spent the next 48 hours nauseous, weak, hot and snotty. What's worse was that I was too scared to take a Lemsip in case it made me sick so I was avoiding all medication and relying on my trusty Vic to clear my sinuses.

By Wednesday afternoon, I had 80% recovered. After a long soak in the bath, I felt awakened so much so that I even pulled the blinds up to let natural light in (before this dark rooms were my solace). I did however have a nasty cough but after everything I had been through, I was happy to settle for this. All this illness has well and truly wiped me and out and I hate to say it, but training went out of the window. Walking up stairs tired me out! Once the flu is 100% gone, I am going to start off lightly (hopefully at the weekend) but heading out on a jog. I'll try my best to make it 6-8 miles but I will not even be looking at the pace. It is a shame really as I was enjoying getting back into training hard but I do fear diving back in if I am not fully recovered.

Another thing I am also going to do is book in for a flu jab. Never do I want to feel like this again! The NHS here in the UK does offer it to patients who are at risk of flu (e.g. elderly, asthmatic) but you can also purchase the inoculation for a small fee if you don't quality for it automatically. I would highly recommend it to anyone, especially those who are very outdoorsy or live in large cities. The more people around you, the easier it is to pick it up. With the flu jab, you can be reassured that all you can contract is a cold. That's something I can definitely settle for. Find out more information on the NHS's flu vaccination HERE.

Here's to a productive update next time. One involving exercise.  

Lipstick Runner.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

KIT PICKS: Sporty Skincare

I invest a lot in my skin. It's the part of you that's on show your whole life and ageing is something you (sadly) cannot avoid. Being a rather sporty person, it's even more important to make sure my skin stays healthy, plump, blemish free and well, looking as fresh as can be!

My skincare regime switches seasonally but whether it's icy cold or sticky and hot, I always make sure I keep it in tip top condition. I've been quite fortunate throughout my life and have had normal skin. Spots have never been a huge issue for me and it has always been healthy and plump. However, now in my mid-twenties, I have noticed a change. I would say I have gone from a normal skin to a oily skin type. I think a major factor to this is living in London the past four years and the daily tackle of smog, pollution and just generally filthy air. I also think the increase in physical activity contributes to the constant shine as build up of sweat can lead to clogged pores.

I religiously use the below products as I feel they tick all my skincare concerns boxes, one them being keeping that pesky shine at bay!

I have a thing about cleaning my face. I absolutely love it. When I am cycling home from work (make-up still on - tut tut I know!) I am craving my bathroom sink to splash cold water on my face and scrub off my sweaty, congealed make-up with this dream cleanser. There's a lot of speculation around foaming cleansers, mainly because you have to wonder what's in the product to make it foam? However, I have tried water cleansers, gel and milk versions and I always come back to this one. Clarins Gentle Foaming Cleanser come in three types - normal, dry and oily skin. The latter I use. I love the micro exfoliating beads that contribute to making this a super gentle foaming delight that rids every single scrap of make-up and dirt on my face. When I rinse, my skin squeaks it's that clean so you can imagine how refreshed you would feel using this after a long sweaty run.

I've been using this the past six months after having it suggested to me by a friend. It's more of a lotion than a cream as it is super lightweight and dispenses through a pump tube. You only really need a small amount and it's thin application means it settles into the skin instantly and doesn't leave any tackiness, which is what I prefer, especially if I am about to apply make-up or I am still beetroot red, huffing and puffing from a ten mile run.

I used to apply this day and night but in the warmer months, I have avoided using this in the day. Mainly for all the reasons above. It is thicker than the Liz Earle option and in hot weather I feel like it just 'sits' on my skin, rather than absorb into it. However, it is a gorgeous night time treat. The HydraQuench range from Clarins is best described as a 'glass of water for your skin'. All women suffer from dehydration - it's impossible to avoid it in today's day and age with pollution and air conditioning. Using this before bed gives my skin a boots of hydration and allows it to replenish and rejuvenate whilst I sleep.

I'm 25. The time has come to start using anti-wrinkle care. I have noticed a few lines around my eyes. Very faint but they're definitely there. A couple of years back I tried YSL Touche Eclat concealer and had a horrific allergic reaction which lead to blistering under my eye (it was vile!). After using prescribed cream to battle it, the skin under my eyes has become extra EXTRA thin and so I need to take very special care of it. This eye cream is super gentle, silky to touch and sinks into skin beautifully. This will be a great wrinkle preventer as I age and my skin starts to um...sag more (I couldn't think of a nicer phrase).

You can never go without tea tree! This double ended wand has a clear gel for morning application and a thicker lotion for the evening. I do find this very soothing - especially for those darn red blemishes that are close to erupting!

It's extremely important to treat your skin to a mask, especially if you exercise regularly. They condition and rejuvenate the skin, allowing for it to remain ripe, youthful and super-duper clean. This purifying mask is for oily skin (I would not suggest it if you are prone to dry skin) and I apply it to my t-zone and chin once a week. It also comes with a rough sponge to rinse it off. After I use this, I see the results each time. My forehead looks more matte and my skin feels detoxed and lifted.

Seems like a lot I know but all worthy investments! By moisturising daily and keeping up with the purifying mask, I'm ensuring that all dirt and impurities (which are greatly increased due to exercise) are removed from my pores. The specific use of these products also mattifies my complexion and rids excess oil that sits on the surface of the skin.

My regime doesn't stop there. For everyone that knows me, they will happily say that I am a body moisturiser addict. I go through bottles of it! During the summer months, I do use a little less as it can get clammy in the heat but a day NEVER goes by where I don't moisturise. Having soft, firm skin means keeping up with this regime and as a sufferer of eczema, my skin does feel tight and dry if I don't moisture after I shower. 

My favourite body moisturisers are Garnier Hydralock Body Moisturiser, £5.40 and L'Occitane Ultra Rich Body Cream, £32. Both are very thick and packed full of thirst quenching skin nutrients that work to soften and smooth skin. At the moment though, I am LOVING Nivea In Shower Body Moisturiser, £3.56. This baby is a dream! You simply apply in the shower, massage into skin, rinse off and step out with conditioned, silky soft skin. This is great for those rush hour mornings where you may not have time to moisturise but it is also great for anyone who hates the feel of moisturiser on their skin. It's so lightweight you step out the shower without an inch of creamy gloop surfacing on the skin.

There is also another product that I keep on the beauty shelf, especially for those long runs during the winter. Clarins Energising Leg Emulsion, £26 is a camomile & basil scented, cooling lotion that comforts tired legs with a cold, refreshing tingling sensation. I have no idea if it actually re-energises tired legs but I do really like applying this and then collapsing on the sofa, feet up with a cuppa. I guess you could say it's a nice post run beauty treat. After all, those pins have been through a lot on a long run.

Do you have a sporty skincare regime? What hot products do you use?

Lipstick Runner.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

TRAINING UPDATE: A week to myself

I have been dying for this week to come! Time off work is something I have been craving for weeks. I've been starting to get the constant feeling of exhaustion and I can tell by looking at myself in the mirror that I need a break. Skin is grey and dull, eye bags are drooping down to my toes and my hair is limp and lifeless. When my fiancé's family asked if I could puppy sit their two French Bulldogs whilst they were on holiday, I didn't hesitate. A week out of London to recuperate? Yes please!

Another great thing about this week off is that I get to use my time to get out running and cycling in Essex countryside. This has definitely been a real treat, especially when you are limited to city routes on a daily basis. I arrived here on Friday night and straight away on Saturday morning, we were up and out to do a nice 10K training run. In my last Training Update, I mention at the end that I wanted to try a 10K and try and hold a steady pace. We started out running through some residential areas and the first mile or two I did feel really tired. I am noticing this a lot when I run. It takes me ages to get started and I do find it hard to get a rhythm working.

I started with a couple of 8.50 miles which was really bumming me out. Pre-injury, I would run 10K on a training run at around 7.50 miles, so knowing I am a minute slower is really getting me down. Still though, halfway in we had reached the winding county lanes and picturesque villages so having the nice scenery helped to pick me up. We ran down little lanes, past corn fields, horse stables and stunning views. It was super lovely! I returned back home to complete 6.2 miles with an average of 8.33 miles. This run did involve a lot of stopping and starting so really not pleased with my time BUT no point in dwelling and I must keep my patience intact.
The next day, we both went on a bike ride. It was really great to head out as a couple as my fiancé doesn't keep his bike in London. We headed out the same direction as we did for the run the day before but extended further into small quaint villages. This was only the second time ever I have cycled my bike without locks clamped to the rack and a huge backpack weighing me down. It felt soo light and quick - it was great!
When the start of the week came round, I tried to keep to a similar fitness routine as I would on a typical working week. Monday's is Nike Training day so I opted to do a 30 minute session working on key core and strength exercises. I am starting to look forward to these sessions now as it's a nice change to high intensity workouts. It's also a great time for me to stretch out my ITB and work to rebuild it's strength. 

As I am in a house this week and not a top floor apartment with thin wooden flooring, I took the opportunity to actually complete a full Nike workout. When I wrote my review on this app (see HERE) I mentioned that I have to pick carefully each step I take as ones involving jumping, hopping, running aren't suitable to do in my apartment. I'd fear I could fall through the floor into downstairs living room! However, with a huge living room to do my workout in this week, I chose the Slim Chance workout in the Get Lean category.

This workout got my heart rate working! With light jogging, split jumps, high knee runs and side hopping intwined with press ups, mountain climbers and Russian twists, I was pooped by the end! My core however felt the burn from it which can only mean it's working.
Tuesday I opted to do a standard four mile run. I've got into a routine of doing this. It's long enough to feel like I've done a workout but short enough to ensure I have plenty left in the tank for a speed session and long run later in the week. Again, like my 10k at the weekend, I found this run so hard. I was hot and bothered and had to stop early in to use my inhaler, something I hardly ever do! I completed the four miles with an average pace of 8.21 per mile and again, I am feeling a bit low that I am not getting any faster. What's gutting is that I feel incredibly tired during my runs and right now, I can't imagine running 10 miles, which I have to do in six weeks! Right now, I'm not sure how I ever managed to run at a sub eight minute mile pace for this sort of distance and sadly, I don't think I'll reach this standard for a long time.

Wednesday I headed out on a cycle, again heading back to the country lanes I went down at the weekend. I absolutely loved going back along this route. As it was mid week the roads were empty and at one point I stopped in this field and just stood there. It amazed me that there was not a sound to be heard. It was refreshing to be surrounded by this compared to the hectic rat race of London.
During the cycle, I noticed so many hot spots for blackberry picking. I mean loads! So with that in mind, the next day I came back out on this cycle, three tupperware boxes in the rucksack to get on a major blackberry picking spree. It was really therapeutic to be back out in the country, minding my own business and I also got tonnes of juicy blackberries. Check out my post on my findings and how I used them HERE.
On Friday, I was working from home so had a pretty busy day glued to my laptop catching up on everything. I worked straight through to 5.30pm and after staying in the same spot all day, I felt like I needed a good run. This was the perfect time for a HIIT session! My aim was to do three miles so I chose to do 800m warm up followed by 4x 800m at 5K pace and 2x 400m at 3K pace. It felt good pushing myself - hard but rewarding. Comparing my times to the last speed session I did (read about it HERE) my pace stayed exactly the same. I was slightly disappointed that it hadn't improved but at the same time, I've got to appreciate that it wasn't any slower.
Saturday = rest day. It was lush!

Sunday was long run day. I had been dreading this a little bit since my awful 10K a week previous. So, instead of going first thing in the morning, I opted to go at midday. Two reasons - 1. I wanted to watch Mo Farah in the Great North Run and 2. I wanted to see if running a bit later in the day, post breakfast and fully awake would make a difference. 

Turns out, it does. I had a fabulous run! I managed to complete seven miles and my pace was slightly quicker than the 10K. I'm absolutely thrilled with this result. I did feel tired but not extremely fatigued and even more importantly, the ITB band held up! I did get a bit choked two miles in when I passed a field being harvested (the dust in the air was horrendous) but this was the only part of the run I struggled with. I definitely think going a bit later helped. Having a bit of fuel in me gave me a boost, especially as this was going to be the longest run I have done in around five months. 

(me feeling super happy with my run!)

Overall, I am chuffed to bits with my training this week. I have managed to cram in a lot of workouts in-between chasing a four month old puppy around the house. I will definitely miss being outside of London, the country bike rides and generally spending all my time doing what I love. But, work is calling and it's time to face the city again. This next week, I make my return to the running club which I am so excited about! Let's start seeing those miles build up!

Until next time.

Lipstick Runner.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

FUEL FOR THOUGHT: Home-Made Blackberry Muffins

Today I went blackberry picking. It was great! After heading out on a bike ride yesterday through the Essex countryside I found loads of hot spots with bramble bushes brimming with ready to pick blackberries! I couldn't avoid this so I ventured out the next day, Tupperware in tow to get me some blackberries!

Two hours later, I got me a few:
After realising that I did in fact have around five kilos of blackberries, I had to get using them before they turn into a mouldy pulpy mess in the fridge. So first up was blackberry muffins. The reason being is that I am currently staying at my future in-laws and after rifling through their kitchen cupboards, I managed to collate all the ingredients I needed for these. 

I got the recipe off Tesco's website funnily enough. I never knew they had recipes on there but this one seemed simple and straightforward so I got to it straight away. The ingredients I used were:
75g Unsalted Butter
75g Caster Sugar
200ml Semi-Skimmed Milk
250g Self-Raising Flour
1 Egg
1 tsp Baking Powder
0.5 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1 punnet of blackberries (roughly 500g)

1. Firstly, I lined a cupcake tin with cases and then creamed together the sugar and butter. Normally at home, I would use an electric whisk but I couldn't find one of these so I used a hand held whisk and got my biceps hard at work! I will admit I didn't get it light and fluffy (my arms were killing!) but I made sure it was all whipped up. 
2. Next, in a separate bowl I whisked together the milk and egg before gradually adding this to the sugar/butter mixture. This makes it very liquidated so make sure you whisk all the ingredients together thoroughly.
3.  I then added in the flour (which I didn't sieve) and again, I did this bit by bit, folding the flour into the mixture each time until it was thick and gloopy.
4. Final step is to add the blackberries. The recipe advises to mash them up slightly so some are whole and some are mushy. Once these are stirred into the flour mixture, evenly decant into muffin cases and bake for 20 minutes at 180 degrees (gas mark 6).

Here's how they turned out - not bad for a last minute bake off! Mary Berry would be pleased (I hope). 

For the full recipe please visit Tesco's Real Food website HERE

Lipstick Runner. 

Tuesday, 2 September 2014


I'm getting married in 10 months. 10!? Last time I checked I was newly engaged and had 18 months until my big day. 

So after realising that time is going very fast, I need to get planning and part of my plans is to get a bridal bod! Don't shake your head and assume I mean living off celery sticks and hopping on a PowerPlate at every possible moment until I am ultra skinny. I also don't mean trying every fad diet in the book or signing onto Lighter Life (saying that - you guys know how much I love VB6!). I'm talking about getting a lean, mean athletic physique.

There are athletes I aspire to for this dream body. Those that are slim, but strong. I really admire women who don't have this obsession with being 'thin'. A few years back, I was one that fell under the spell of being 'skinny'. In my second year of University, I lost a lot of weight. I had broken up with someone and was also working ridiculously long hours at a local pub. The combination of this with my studies saw me drop to 7st 12lbs. I lived off apples, Slim Fast cereal bars and bowls of peas. I really don't joke.

I remember shopping in TopShop and slipping into a pair of size 8 thick demin slim leg jeans and feeling high from this achievement. But, at the same time, I felt awful. I was constantly tired, calorie obsessed and quite frankly, not much fun. My grades also started slipping and I knew that things weren't right.

I then started dating a guy. I guess love picks you up as my attitude towards food changed. We would cook together and I remember the first meal he made me was spag bowl (romantic ha!) and I ate it all. I also vividly recall a time where he came round one evening with a family size bar of Dairy Milk and I cried as I felt guilty for eating it. Slightly baffled by my attitude towards food, he told me to grow up and just eat a slab of chocolate - so what if it's bad for you!

This guy is the man I am marrying and I couldn't be happier. Except that now I am looking at my body and thinking that I could put some effort into 'fine tuning' it into a body I feel proud of. We are in a very comfortable relationship and he loves me no matter what but I still want to walk down that aisle and be in the best shape of my life! Not the 7st 12lb shape that I once was but definitely not the 9st 5lb self I am now!
(I couldn't find a decent picture of the thin me but this gives an idea. Here I am in 2009 on the left and right is me today, June 2014)

I need to find the in-between. I really liked a post I read on Challenge Sophie - Fit Not Thin. Sophie's feelings and mine are totally mutual and reading this post really put into perspective that I actually have a great figure. I have limbs that are all fully functioning, I have no disfigurements and I certainly am not fat. But I am a woman and one of the typical types that obsessives over her appearance despite looking perfectly normal. So, keeping in mind that what I have is great, I am now going to work to make it greater and that I think, isn't at all a bad thing.

So, Operation Bridal Bod is me trying to achieve a strong, athletic figure and one that will look smokin' in a wedding dress! There are women athletes who I think look incredible and they are definitely people I aspire to look like. I've even stuck my head on their own bodies and made myself a 'perfect figure' comparison checker. What do you think?
(L-R: the always enviable Jessica Ennis Hill next to the strength and power of my favourite athlete, Jodie Stimpson)

(L-R: rowers Helen Glover & Heather Stanning, sprinter Jodie Williams)

These women are real women to me. Those that have used their natural body shape to their advantage. For example, Jodie Stimpson has sculpted her broad physique into a triathlon power house and Helen Glover has used her upper body strength to her advantage to become a Olympic Gold medallist rower. 

Now looking at my body, I am curvy but in a muscular/fat way. I don't think it's that bad front on but from the side and from behind, the lack of toning and sculpting is clear to see. What gets to me is that when I look at this body, I don't see a runner. I see someone who's had one too many cupcakes but managing to hold back a hugely expanding waistline through some form of exercise. At 5"3, I am also carrying all my weight on a rather short frame, so weight gain is easily noticeable. 
Focussing on my legs, my sprinting past is evident. Nicknamed 'thunder thighs', I will never have trim pins. But I can have strong legs and this is better than fat legs. My main goal is to cut the wobbly bit in the upper inside of my thighs as this does get me down. I also know this is a very hard area to blitz fat so I will need to ensure I incorporate specific exercises to sculpt this area of my legs more. Legs 11 here I come!

My stomach is well, rather mehhh. It's not amazing but it's not horrific either. When looking at it, you can see that there is shape and definition potential and that it is more the lower part of my belly that needs working on. I also tend to carry fat on my lower back, which does really bug me so targeting this area of my body will really help to add more of a leaner shape to my midriff. 

Boobs are boobs. They aren't the size of peanuts but not melons either so I am actually more than happy to keep them the way they are. TICK! Arms however - they need to shrink badly. I loathe looking back at pictures where I am shot from the side and my upper arm flab is the most striking part of the image. This feature of my body is genetic so I'm not expecting miracles but if I can definitely tone up my arms even a teenie tiny bit, I'll be happy. 

I feel like I have waffled on a bit here but it's been nice to write down my feelings on body image. Posting these pictures online was something I was a little indecisive on doing. But it is my reality check, that anyone in the world can now see so having these live on the web will be my motivation and reminder on the journey to gaining my ideal bridal bod. Plus, it's a special occasion and I get to wear a pretty dress and who doesn't want to look their best when walking down the aisle?

Keep up to date on my fitness and weight loss journey through my social channels (listed on the right side bar). I'll also post here on my updates and how I am reaching my goal. 

Lipstick Runner.

Monday, 1 September 2014

KIT PICKS: Decathlon Haul

Decathlon is a place I never get to visit. I haven't lived near one and the only time I got to experience it was years ago on a holiday in France. I'm in Essex for the next week having some time off work with family and on Saturday, my fiancé and I were driving to Tesco when we drove past a Decathlon. 'I NEED TO GO IN THERE' was my demand and despite having a boot full of freezer food, I made him take me.

As soon as I walked in, I straight away picked up a long sleeved skin on a promo stand at the entrance and was gawping at all the cycling accessories. This place was huge and I was tempted to spend a lot of money. In the last few years where fitness and exercise has taken up a big part of my life, I have found my wardrobe of sports gear now outweighs my wardrobe of normal clothes. Slightly worrying I know...

Anyway, I'm in wedding saving mode for the next year and this is always at the front of my mind. I am trying my hardest to avoid purchases because I 'want' them and instead am only making purchases because I 'need' them. I definitely didn't hesitate to pick up a few essentials that I 'needed' (yes needed - definitely not wanted).

Wed'ze Flowfit Base Layer, £9.99
Yes, this was what I picked up the moment I stepped in the store, but it looked so snug! I have been thinking about clothing when cycling during winter time and I reckon my morning cycles will become very chilly! I guess if weather is icy, I may steer clear of cycling to work but for days where I will, this breathable skin will keep my upper body nice and warm. I think it is meant for snowboarders so hopefully I don't need to layer up when wearing this too! I can see myself also opting for this for those snowy days out on the long winter runs.

Kalenji TS Ladies Running Top, £3.99
OK, I maybe didn't 'need' this but I go through running tops like no tomorrow and so when I saw this for £3.99 I couldn't resist a bargain. It's super thin and lightweight so more suited for summer running but it will also be great for winter running to wear over a long sleeved base layer. Bright and visible too so handy for both running and cycling!

B'Twin MTB 700 Gloves, £11.99
For weeks, I have been meaning to purchase some gloves for cycling. Twice now I have been caught out cycling in torrential downpours and despite it being summer, my hands turned icy cold and I was struggling to brake as the handles get really slippy (I cycle a road bike and I do find braking harder than on a hybrid at times). These gloves I saw on a hand mannequin (is that the right thing to call it?) and knew they'd be perfect. I wanted a pair to cover the tips of my fingers and most there did not. These however are lightweight, flexible and provide grip in all the right places. I couldn't find them anywhere on the shelf but Dan luckily found a small size hidden with other brands available.

B'Twin 550 Water Bottle, £2.99
Just because you can never have too many water bottles right? Most of mine have the middle cut out which are great for running as they are easier to hold but I wanted a standard one for the bike. I never like to invest lots of money in these sorts of things (and why should you frankly) so I found this a great opportunity to snap one up at a cheap price.

So there we have it. My Decathlon essentials. I'm very proud of myself for walking away spending under £30! I could have quite easily have purchased a lot more, including swimming costumes, new goggles, a cycling jacket and padded shorts. However, I might have to save these until next time.

For more information on Decathlon, visit the UK website HERE.

Lipstick Runner.