Tuesday, 30 December 2014

TRAINING UPDATE: The start of triathlon training

I was recently interviewed by expert health and beauty website, Get The Gloss, about how I stay fit. This section of the site interviews women who lead full time, demanding jobs yet still find the time to exercise regularly and lead an active lifestyle.  

One of the questions I had to answer was what a typical training week is for me. If this has been brought to me six months ago, it would have been answered with ‘I carry out 3 to 4 runs a week’. Simple. Now though, with triathlon training in full swing it is actually a trickier question to answer, what with three disciplines to now train for.

It got me thinking that I haven’t really revealed in full detail the nature of my daily lifestyle now and how I have adapted to this change in exercise. When I tell people I am going to do a triathlon, the first thing people normally ask me is ‘how are you going to train for that!?’. They almost seem surprised to think that I can manage the training along with a job, seeing friends and spending time with family.

The truth is, no matter what you think, you can work exercise around your everyday tasks.  Excuses of ‘I’m just too busy’ just don’t suffice. There is always a way to lace up your trainers and squeeze in 30 minutes of cardio or weights.

For my triathlon, I have taken the approach to plan ahead each month and create a calendar to list my activity. This is to help me stay focussed and see each week and what needs doing. If I have also planned in advance social activities, I will make sure these are added to the calendar as marked rest days.
To kick the week off, I try to swim on Mondays. Due to being a cyclist, I head straight from work to a local pool around four miles away. Each week I alternate between technique and distance practise. At the moment the technique sessions are carried out to help improve my front crawl and consist of various exercises such as arm pulls (where I place a float between my knees and without kicking pull myself through the water using just my arms), round the world (where I won’t lift my other arm up until my hands meet out in front) and fast kicking using just my legs with my arms out in front holding a float.

For distance sessions, this is where I carry out 25 lengths of front crawl non-stop. This equals to 750m that is required for the sprint triathlon. I will gradually increase this to around 900m, which will help to build my strength so that when it comes to the big day, doing 750m will (hopefully) be a breeze.

Tuesday is a run day where I head to my running club for a casual social run. This is never intense; it’s merely an enjoyable session where I normally do 5/6 miles running various routes in London. It tends to be my time to have a natter with fellow club friends and stretch my legs. Thursday is then my weekly interval session where I head to an athletic track and carry out specific sessions designed to improve speed, endurance and core strength. These workouts hurt but I definitely see the benefits of them when it comes to races. Same as swimming, I also use my bike to get to all my training sessions and can complete around 10-12miles per day cycling around London, which is an added training benefit.

Come the weekend, I try to get in bigger sessions or races. If not, I will do two smaller sessions across both days. It’s really important I try to get out on the bike for a long ride or interval work but this has been an area I have lacked focus in since starting my triathlon training. It is my New Year target to resolve this and my January calendar has had more cycling specific sessions built into it.

As I live in London, I like to head to Regents Park on my bike as it has a huge outer circle that is great for cycling speed work. So many cyclists head here in London as it is easy to reach, a great place to train with others and ideal for intervals. The latter I like to do, carrying out a routine of one lap fast and hard then one lap gently. I do find I am very weak at this as after four laps I’m shattered! I have read that the cycle is a bit part of the triathlon to train consistently for and I'm well overdue a slapped wrist for not concentrating on this discipline more.

At the weekends, I also try to get a longer run in. I am currently training up to 10K. My triathlon only has a distance of 5K and I am also trying to secure a new 5K PB from my training (more can be read on this HERE) so keeping my legs comfortably ticking over 10K seems appropriate right now. I'm trying to fit in a couple of races at weekends too, such as cross country fixtures and also the Mornington Chasers Regents Park 10Ks which run through Winter. 

Over time, my training will develop into different sessions. Swimming distances will increase and by March time, I will be carrying out brick sessions. This is where I will be cycling and then running straight after, a training method crucial for multi sport races. By building up my training calendar bit by bit, I can gradually merge it into my work and social schedule so I don't feel like I am chucking myself in at the deep end. Steady integration is the way forward!

Lipstick Runner.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

FUEL FOR THOUGHT: Post exercise breakfast

My most important meal of the day is breakfast and I think that goes for pretty much all runners. I have a few friends who can easily skip this meal, which leaves me baffled. By the time I arrive at the office from my cycling commute, I'm so hungry and I can't wait to get to my desk to eat my bowl of porridge (or cereal in the warmer months).

At the weekends, I tend to carry out my bigger training sessions, such as longer runs and bike rides. Aiming to head out early(ish) morning, by the time I get home around 10.30/11am, all I can think about is food. This is where I make a bit more effort and make a breakfast that is fulfilling, rewarding and a great source of energy to refuel my body after a tough workout. 

Poached eggs on toast
This is my savoury go-to that is packed full of protein and is a nice toasty warm meal that goes down super well after a cold winters run. 

Now, I must admit I am crap at poaching eggs. We have those rubbery round moulds that we crack the egg into and then float on water to poach. I'm very good at over boiling the water which then floods the moulds and gets the eggs all soggy. So, I normally opt for this breakfast when my fiancé is home - he's a pro at making the perfect poached egg!

I tend to have two eggs with two slices of spelt toast. I then season with salt and pepper and a generous amount of tomato ketchup (the important finishing touch). The humble egg has a rich nutritional value. The whites of an egg hold a valuable amount of protein, as well as zinc and iron. They also are low calorie and low cholesterol. These benefits are a great source of fuel to re-energise tired muscles and I do definitely feel perkier after this full and satisfying dish.

Banana & cinnamon pancakes
OK - this is more of a 'treat' breakfast. When I know I have been good in the week leading up to the weekend and I have had a particularly tough session, I opt for this super sweet brekkie. By all means, these aren't pancakes lathered in chocolate sauce, sugar and ice cream. I do take into account some nutritional value.

First of all, I make the batter myself which is made using spelt flour. As you know by now spelt is the only way forward for me as I find it lighter and far easier to digest. I also add in a sprinkle of cinnamon which carries health benefits such as aiding colds and controlling blood sugar levels. It gives the batter a sweet kick and is an instant seasoning.

The mix makes around six pancakes so I tend to make this when I have someone to share with. When the pancake is made, I fill it with banana and drizzle a small amount of honey before rolling it up to eat. High in fibre and potassium, bananas are a common source of energy post exercise. They help aid muscle cramps and sustain blood sugar levels. 

Fruit, granola and yoghurt 
More a choice of breakfast during the summer months, mixing fruit and granola with low fat yoghurt is a extremely quick dish to whip up and is surprisingly very filling.

When I make this, I chop and prepare an apple, banana, clementine and grapes. This I will then mix with a low-sugar shop bought granola (although sometimes I do make my own which you find the recipe for HERE). Finally, the finishing touch is normally with Onken Fat Free Strawberry Yoghurt. This particular option carries less calories than its competitors. Here in this picture though, I have chosen a natural greek yoghurt. 

I am a total fruit bat and I find myself eating this almost every weekend during Summer. It's incredibly refreshing and curbs any sweet craving that may develop later in the day, which is an added bonus!

These three are definitely my top breakfast picks. Like I said, these are what I prepare after heavier/intense training sessions where I can feel my body has worked at maximum effort and is in need of some hearty refuelling!

What are your favourite post exercise meals?

Lipstick Runner. 

Friday, 19 December 2014

My 2014 fitness journey

With 2014 drawing to a close and another whole year complete, what better time is there to reflect on your own journey - both achievements and learnings. 2014 for me has been a jam packed year full of fabulous progressions in all aspects of my life. I started the year newly engaged and with a new job which was very exciting and throughout the year, I have set myself many fitness goals. Some I have smashed, some I have failed. But that's OK - failures are simply learnings and everything I set out to do I always try to reflect on positively for the future.

So on that note, here are my 2014 fitness highs and lows.

1. Securing a 10K PB
1st January and half marathon training was back on track after three weeks off holidaying in Hong Kong. It was tough getting back into a routine but I actually found having a decent break to let my body chill and recuperate did the world of good! My pace was on top form - faster than before in fact and I didn't have one single niggle. By the start of February and crossing the start line of Mornington Chasers Regents Park 10K, I never dreamt of heading under the sub-46 minute mark. But I did! 45.45 to be precise. 

Funnily enough I returned to this course at the start of December and working at maximum effort, I finished in 47.40. I found it hard to believe that I had been two minutes faster at the start of the year and it made me realise that I have in fact lost speed. A big chunk of what I know I am capable of. 2015 will be focussed at bringing this back - especially for the triathlon. I am hoping my 5K plan (which you can read about HERE) will contribute to this greatly. 

2. Missing my half marathon target...by seconds
After smooth sailing training, I was ready to smash my half marathon target of 1.45. My training had me on schedule to go clean under and I was so excited to cross the finish line with this secured. Choosing Reading Half Marathon for the second year running, I carried out the race in the wrong way from all aspects. Due to rainy, cold weather I decided to wear leggings and a skin under my club vest. Big mistake. Here's a note for you in case you didn't already know - no matter how cold it is, don't layer up. Once you start running, you will boil. I learnt the hard way and by the 5K mark I was beetroot red, itchy and irritated. 

Due to being so hot and bothered I started to stop at water stations, drinking far more than I am used to when running. This lead to a huge stitch at around mile eight. I was practically crawling now and at mile 10, with just 5K to go, the 1.45 pacer passed me. I remember it clearly. I was about to come up to the hardest part of the course, a dual carriageway. A long straight road that seems like it never ends is the easiest place to lose the will to live and once the pacer past me, I felt close to tears. 

Why had I gone so wrong? Well whilst I was thinking this, when I reached the end of the carriageway and turned into a road, I got close to the curb and a spectator's giant husky dog jumped up at me and nearly sent me head over heels. Yep - that definitely topped it.

Despite all these setbacks (most which I am to blame), I crossed the finish line in 1.45.30. In all honestly I found this worse that finishing way past 1.45. I was so close and I messed it up. It really got to me. I stood there at that finish line and bawled like a baby. I had never cared so much about a race and never had I trained so hard. 

It took a while to get over this race trauma but I am happy to look back at it now as merely a learning experience. Deep down, I know if I train right and avoid these errors, I can go under 1.45 and one day (when I am not 5K or triathlon focussed) I will definitely give it another go!

3. 24 hours of team running
By the summer, the most exciting event of my 2014 calendar (in my opinion) was taking part in Mizuno Endure24. Not only was I facing my biggest challenge yet, I was doing it with my home club and best friend. Donned head to two in Newbury A.C gear, I was raring to go and despite the horrendous storms that took place over the 24 hour period, the grin was not wiped off my face. I completed four laps, totalling 20 miles and kept each turn consistent with pace. Yes, I injured my ITB rather badly on lap three (at 3am might I add) and I was out of action for the next couple of months but it was worth it! Best 24 hours I have spent awake (mind you this has probably only occurred in my life twice - but still it was the best).

4. ITB woes
Post Mizuno Endure24 and I faced my first, ever proper time out from running. After experiencing a slip on lap three of the course, I knew I was in sticky territory. I knew it even more come 8am and heading out on my final lap where the pain in my right knee was agonising. 

In the weeks that followed I attempted running, only to find myself retiring a mile in clutching my knee in sheer pain. After a trip to my sports masseuse, it was confirmed I had damaged my ITB and immediate rest from high impact sport was needed. I came back home with a foam roller under my arm, a plan to switch to swimming and determined to get myself fixed.

5. A brand new shiny bike
So with my injury comes the urge to dabble in a new hobby. I had always wanted a bike in London (for commuting and getting about town easily) but my fiancé had always disapproved. However, I think seeing me in the depth of misery through my injury brought his soft spot to life and after giving his blessing to get a bike, I was out the front door in a flash to get one before he changed his mind.

Seven months later and I am glued to my bike. I pretty much go everywhere in London with it and rarely travel by bus or tube anymore. It's brilliant! I never knew how much fun cycling could be and I will make sure in 2015 I broaden my horizons and take up more cycling adventures. I'd love to head out of the city somewhere, see some sights on route and get a good grip of long distance cycling. 

6. A 10 mile comeback
Come September, my ITB had healed and I was getting back into the routine of running. Rather a relief considering I had Cabbage Patch 10 just weeks away. With very little time to train, let alone strengthen my ITB, I decided to just do the best I can and not set any expectations. After Reading Half Marathon, I wasn't prepared for disappointment again thats for sure!

I focussed on distance over speed for this one. I hadn't attempted 10 miles since the spring so putting aside how long it took me, I trained up to eight miles which turned out to be just plenty come race day. I honestly believe going into a race with little expectation can be more beneficial to you than setting a target. It proved to be right for my 10K at the start of the year and it did for this too. A PB wasn't secured, no, but courage and belief was. I ran the whole course light footed, relaxed and well, breezily. I finished in 1.22 (two minutes slower than the previous year) and I was overjoyed!

7. Tri-life begins
Around late summer, I had decided that I was going to bite the bullet and enter my first triathlon, choosing Blenheim Palace in July 2015 as my debut. By November, I was starting my first month of full training and am now in a regular routine of swimming, cycling and running each week. It has been a hard adjustment to make as I have only been used to training in one discipline up until this point. However I have now found my rhythm and am already seeing improvements in my swimming and cycling.

My parents also kindly took me for a day trip to the palace itself to get a feel for the course and see the lake that I would be swimming in. I have never done a 'reccy' before, mainly because I haven't felt the need to. However, seeing where it will be taking place was so helpful. I am a little daunted at taking on this challenge but I do feel slightly reassured that I know the surroundings of the event a bit more and it won't feel so alien to me on the day.

I honestly cannot wait for the big day to arrive! To say I have completed a triathlon will just be incredible and I am already feeling so chuffed that I will be taking part.

8. Getting trim
One of the best things about triathlon training is the change that is happening to my physique. As you may have read, I have started Operational Bridal Bod. A fitness journey to me becoming bride ready for my wedding in July 2015. Since I started this back in September, I have dropped 6lbs, nearly a whole dress size and already areas of my body are slightly trimmer.

Of course it wavers at times. With Christmas coming up, I am expected to lose concentration a tad (because who wouldn't?) but knowing the level of training I have to take on for the tri, I really hope I see further improvements in my overall appearance over time. I can't afford to gain anything extra otherwise the wedding dress simply won't fit. What more motivation do I need eh!?

9. Feeling Tough
I was incredibly fortunate to experience one of the most sought after obstacle events in the world. Tough Mudder takes place at various locations across the UK and after being invited along to the London South course in October, I was rather curious as to what the whole experience would be. I was given a months notice so no time to train at all but I went out there with my Tough Mudder team and endured 12 hilly miles and 21 obstacles. I faced my fears of being trapped in water, got electrocuted and hauled my body through a shipping container of ice.

I think it's safe to say I will never experience anything like Tough Mudder again but I am slightly smug at having the honorary headband as evidence of what I went through.

10. Losing speed
As of November, triathlon training began and I went to solely running three times a week to swimming, cycling and running - aiming to workout four times a week. Having to focus some attention on two other disciplines does mean my running has dropped slightly. My speed on track and in races has reduced and whilst I actually feel quite miffed about this, I have to accept that this is actually to be expected in the early days of tri life. My body is still adjusting to this massive change of routine and I'm hoping once it's in the loop of things, it will begin to advance across all three sports. For now though, its a case of grim and bear the setbacks and work towards moving forwards.

So there we have it. My 2014 fitness journey. It's been really invigorating writing this post and looking back over the past year. I am so proud of all that I have achieved this year - both the good and bad experiences - and I am really excited to get stuck into 2015 and the new challenges that I face.

What are your 2014 highlights? Do you have any challenges set for 2015 too?

Lipstick Runner.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

KIT PICKS: My Christmas Wish List (triathlon style!)

"What do you want for Christmas?" The question everyone asks one another at this time of year. My answer is always "I dunno, nothing much really. Shower gels and stuff?"

Well this year, with Santa's visit fast approaching and along with enjoying some blissful time of work seeing family, I have devised a wish list of all the things I hope to pick from under the tree. 

Friends, family, read closely...

Zone3 Women's Aquaflo Trisuit
One thing I have specifically asked for is a triathlon race suit. Mainly because they can be quite pricey and along with buying a wet suit (or I might hire - I haven't decided yet), I could see my bank balance buckling at the cost of everything I need for the big race. So my parents have kindly offered to get me a trisuit and I spotted this beauty on Evans' website. 
Designed specifically for women, this trisuit offers high performing comfort and support for all three disciplines, including drag reducing fabric for the swim, padding for the cycle and an inner bra for extra support on the run. I can't wait to get my hands on this and I'm bursting to try it out during some training sessions to get a feel for an all in one suit. 

Zoggs Predator Flex Reactor Swimming Goggles
I threw a question out on Twitter this week seeking advise on a decent pair of goggles. I have an old pair of Speedos that are touch and go on leaking and always, ALWAYS leave marks that remain evident the next day. These are no way an option I am going to consider for my open water swim and after some fabulous feedback from the Twitter community, I found a few people suggested these bad boys. 
These are the creme de la creme of goggles so to speak. With a flexible frame that bends in all sorts of directions, comfort and the right fit is guaranteed. Along with this, the curved lenses offer a 180 degrees peripheral vision (amazing for open water swimming!) plus they are photo chromatic, meaning they darken depending on the brightness of natural sunlight. 

I was immediately sold by all these qualities but at £30-£35, they aren't cheap. I also found they were sold out on Zoggs website so I rather cheekily sent my other half a link to Amazon for them. Not subtle at all.

Sealskinz Women's Winter Cycle Gloves
I'm not going to lie. This freezing weather can make my daily cycle to work painfully cold. Especially for my hands. At the moment, I am wearing two pairs of gloves. A thick wooly pair from Primark and then my Summer B-Twin light gloves over the top. Even this double layer doesn't protect my hands from the cold and some days, my fingers have become so frozen it hurts to bend them for braking.
So, this obviously calls for a new pair of snazzy (and snug) winter cycling gloves and Sealskinz is a brand that gets recommended time and time over. This particular pair are built to stand both wet and cold weather conditions with a super cosy lining and a synthetic palm for that all important grip. The gloves themselves also look rather slim, which means that movement of the fingers isn't restricted. 

Hand Weights
One area that I really need to work more on is strength training. I am awful at core exercises, lifting weights, holding planks etc... With just a cheap yoga mat in the apartment, I rarely pluck up the motivation to dig it out and do a workout at home. 
For the triathlon, I am going to need a strong core, arms that can carry me through a 750m swim and sturdy legs to take me through all three disciplines. I need to strength train. I have no choice about it. To get me in the mood for it, I thought some nice shiny new weights would spur me on. Gone will be the tins of baked beans I sometimes resort to using. Now I will hopefully (if Santa is feeling nice) have a a proper set of weights so I can pump some iron. Grrr!

In all honestly, this list has been reiterated to my loved ones (thanks in advance guys!) and fingers crossed I will have the real life versions to show and review very soon! 

What's on your Christmas wish list? Have you got any triathlon must have's to suggest? 

Lipstick Runner.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Operation Bridal Bod: Week 12

(L-R: Week 1, Week 4, Week 12)
Three months into my plan to get wedding ready and I am feeling really good! After a slip up at week eight (which you can read about here), I made it my mission to get back on board both the diet and fitness wagon. Looking back at the last month, I feel like I really have! What's been great is that I haven't necessarily felt like I have been dieting. An extreme case of 'being skint' has lead to purchases of tinned soup, bananas and porridge, with dinners then being freezer food (which I know isn't great) but having no money has meant no subconscious mid afternoon sweet treats have been purchased from Tesco Express.

Looking back at week four, I was on a roll. I had dropped 5lbs and keeping my running up in training for Cabbage Patch 10. Then once the race was over, I slipped. Lots of social engagements led to eating out, drinking and feeling too tired to exercise. A bad patch but one I have definitely learnt from. I have since picked myself up, especially on the exercise front as I have just completed my first full month of triathlon training! 

I have kept to around 75% of my calendar plan and where I have made tweaks or missed sessions I have tried to make up for them elsewhere. Taking on swimming, cycling and running has been hard to adjust to but looking at my results, it has been totally worth it! Using my bike to commute is really helping me to pick up cycling skills, especially on long straights where I try to pick up pace (safely of course :)) and work flat out, pushing myself as far as I can go. Each week, I find my legs are getting stronger and I'm climbing the steep hill I face every morning faster. I even managed to get on a gym bike whilst visiting my parents where I practised the Sprint Tri distance of 20K. I found it quite uncomfortable cycling indoors as the room got so stuffy but was pleased to complete the session in 36 minutes. I'm hoping on the road bike I can shave off some time but for a starting point, I'm really happy!
For my swimming, it's, well, going swimmingly! Each week I alternate between technique practice and distance practice and I was astonished to find in my first distance session that I managed to lane swim 750m front crawl without stopping. I was chuffed to bits (below shows just how much).
With my running, as you all know I have decided to set myself a 5K challenge of reaching sub 21 minute territory (read about this here). I have only recently started this in the last week, tailoring my first training session to a track workout. Consisting of four sets of 800m followed by 400m, this workout was all about working to maximum effort at 3-5K effort and I managed to nail the exact pace I need to keep for a sub 21 minute 5K.
So where has this left my body overall? Well I am thrilled that say I have lost another pound (not much I know but it's still weight lost!) and I am now hitting the scales at 8st 13lbs. I cannot remember the last time I was under nine stone so to sneakily slip under this is huge for me! With 6lbs lost in the bag, my focus now is to not slip up with Christmas on the horizon. 

Already I have had to tell all my loved ones to not under any circumstance purchase any form of chocolate, biscuits, sweets or cake for me. I have even (with great strain) turned down my Mum buying me my traditional present of a Cadbury's selection box. However, what I avoid in the form of presents I will no doubt face on the coffee table at various family get togethers over the festive period. My willpower will most definitely be tested when I am in front of massive tubs of Quality Street, mince pies and cheese boards but I am going to try my absolute hardest to not go crazy. Note I am not saying I will completely avoid these treats. Christmas is a time to indulge a little and I will of course be eating Yule log and dipping into chocolate tins. I just won't be devouring whole packets.

You'll know how good I have been early January for my 16 week update. Let's hope for a good one!

Lipstick Runner.