Thoughts on Being a Runner

A few months ago I confessed that I’d signed up to the British 10k. I’d spent the day watching the London Marathon and if the London Marathon doesn’t inspire you to put on a pair of trainers, then nothing will. Watching those many thousands of people of all ages, shapes and walks of life running that incredible distance, you can’t help thinking “maybe I could do that too…”.

Well, in my blogging absence I did it. I didn’t run a marathon (God forbid!), but I did run 10k. Ten whole k’s. I used to only run for the bus. Then I met my boyfriend – my Strava-addicted, trainer-obsessed, marathon nut of a boyfriend – and in my attempts to hold an intelligent running conversation with him, I got a bit interested. Now look at me! I’m a changed woman.

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Going from the sofa to a 10k finish line is not impossible. Far from it. Most people have run at some point in their lives (even if, like me, it was only for the bus). For a 10k that just needs little refining. If I can do it, you can too.

*Sign up for a race: Give yourself something to aim for, it’s the easiest way to keep motivation high. I’d recommend a local race but with as many participants as possible so you have the excitement of a large event but without all the stress of travelling. Don’t be put off if the entry fee is a bit steep – it usually means you’ll get a good t-shirt and medal at the end.

*Get the kit: Everyone knows that a new hobby opens up a whole world of shopping opportunities. Embrace it. You don’t need to buy huge amounts, and running kit can get very pricey, but I would recommend a few items. First and foremost, a good pair of trainers. Did you know that some trainers are ‘fashion trainers’ and not meant for any proper physical activity? AVOID those trainers. Places like Sweatshop analyse your running style so they can recommend the best trainers for you. This is quite scary, but definitely worth it. Secondly, proper running socks. Seems silly but normal socks will rub your feet. And lastly, if you’re a girl, a sports bra. A great one is truly life-changing.

*Get a running buddy: Talk one of your friends into signing up with you and then support each other through the whole process. Go shopping together, drag each other out for runs in the rain and hold hands over the start line. It’s the best way to keep motivation high. Preferably, find someone to run with who is better than you. If they really know their stuff they’ll be able to pace you properly, recommend the perfect pair of trainers and encourage a little healthy competition – noone likes being left behind.

*Remember that it’s OK to hate your running buddy: The aforementioned marathon nut of a boyfriend was my running buddy. We had some tough runs. He lied about distance, tricking me into running 2k further. I told him I wanted to punch him in the face. He ran off without me. Expletives were hurled. He quoted Muhammad Ali at me (irritating), he didn’t need a post-run shower (devastating) and he foam rollered my legs until I screamed in pain (entirely unnecessary). Just remember that running you and rational you are two entirely different beasts. And know when to say you’re sorry.

*Create a running plan: Draw up a plan of all the runs you want to do leading up to the race. Remember to taper the week before the race. This is the best week where you don’t have to run and, instead, eat as much pasta as you want (apparently it’s good for you). Include some interval sessions, long runs and short, easy runs. Think about what you want to achieve from each run – for the longer distance ones forget about time, they are just about upping the kilometers. You don’t need to do the full 10k before the race, but if it’ll reassure you that you can actually go the distance then do it.

*Don’t stress out too much about said plan: Sometimes it’s raining. Sometimes you’ve had a bad day. Sometimes it’s raining and you’ve had a bad day and there’s a pizza in the oven and a new PLL episode on Netflix. Treat your running plan as a guide rather than strict commandment. Missing a couple of runs won’t kill you. If your running buddy refuses to get on board with this attitude, see above point that it’s OK to hate your running buddy.

*Get involved with Parkrun:  Parkrun is the absolute best. Granted, the 9am Saturday morning start time doesn’t feel so wonderful but the fun, community atmosphere and encouragement does make it all worth it. Parkrun is all over the country and is simply a free, timed 5k. There are the super-keen fast runners but the huge majority are just there to have a good time and run the best time they can. And a volunteer runs at the back so you will never come last. Genius.

*Enjoy it: Running can be fun. It’s so good to get outside after a long day in the office, feeling yourself improve and getting involved with the sportswear obsession. And to run a proper 10k race and have a proper medal at the end does feel like a huge achievement. Just remember, the day after the race, that noone has ever died from a pulled muscle. And that you’re entitled to not take the stairs for at least a week.

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London’s Farm Shop: Daylesford

Being in a city doesn’t mean you can’t have farm fresh food.

Last Saturday the sun put in a very decent appearance in London (hallelujah!) so to bask in the warmth and find a delicious breakfast, Tiarnan and I took to the streets of Notting Hill.

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Westbourne Grove is a little like the Portobello Road’s big sister. Slightly more refined and much less crowded, it offers an escape from the never ending throng of tourists. Don’t get me wrong, wandering down the Portobello Road is one of my favourite activities but sometimes you don’t want to fight the crowds. Westbourne Grove has plenty of delicious breakfast options, but we settled for Daylesford.

Daylesford is essentially a farm shop given the London makeover. You won’t see any muddy wellies there, but plenty of farm fresh food. It began as an organic farm in Staffordshire and is now one of the most sustainable farms in the UK, with another one in the Cotswolds as well as various London greengrocers and restaurants. They also have a cookery school and hold various events throughout the year including supper clubs, masterclasses and a summer festival.

Daylesford’s menu is made up of fresh, seasonal produce from the farm’s market garden, cheese and bread from the creamery and bakery and meat from their animals. And if you eat something you really love, it’s pretty likely you can pop into the farmshop and buy it to take home with you.

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Healthy Chocolate and Almond Spiced Cookies

Since working in an office, I have become much more interested in what I’m eating.

I’ve never eaten particularly badly, but I would always eat what I wanted without giving anything a second thought. It turns out that attitude doesn’t cut it in an office. When you’re sat at a desk all day, burning those calories is so much tougher. And therefore, I have entered the wonderful world of healthy snacking (and it really is a whole world of deliciousness).

While I usually make a beeline for WH Smith’s ‘nutritional snacks’ stand, these cookies are one of my first homemade efforts. They aren’t the sugar explosion you expect when you bite into a cookie, but that is part of their charm. You can eat them all day and not feel sick! The banana really sweetens them, and the spices make your entire house smell incredible while they’re in the oven. I followed this recipe – they are so easy to make and turned out really well.

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YOU WILL NEED:

  • 2 cups ground almonds
  • 2 heaped tbsp coconut oil
  • 9 small squares dark chocolate
  • 1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 small banana
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger, nutmeg, salt and baking powder

TO MAKE:

Preheat the oven to 170C. Mash the banana together with the chocolate.

Heat the coconut oil on a low heat. Add the syrup, spices and salt and stir until combined.

Mix the ground almonds, baking powder and almond butter together with the banana and chocolate. Add the melted ingredients and stir until combined.

On a tray, take a tablespoon amount of mixture and press down to form a cookie. Bake for 10-15 mins and enjoy!

Homemade Tropical Granola

I love granola. I love it on yoghurt, I love it on smoothie bowls and I love it straight out of the packet. Those little nutty clusters are just so satisfyingly crunchy and sweet.

The problem with granola is it’s usually absolutely filled with sugar. It also tends to be incredibly expensive. So, to crack both problems I have a delicious homemade recipe for you.

Granola is one of the simplest things to whip up, it requires only basic equipment and it’s so customisable. One of my all-time favourite granolas is Sainsbury’s tropical granola, with coconut and dried pineapple chunks (and a ridiculous amount of sugar). This is my sugar-free recreation, which tastes just as incredible! As I said though, anything goes with granola – so add and remove whatever you feel like.

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YOU WILL NEED:

  • 3 cups plain rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup flaked almonds
  • 3/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups mixed seeds
  • 2 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup dried pineapple
  • Generous pinch of salt

TO MAKE:

Preheat your oven to 180C.

Place everything but the pineapple into a large mixing bowl and mix really well.

Put the mixture into a tray (with sides) lined with baking parchment.

Bake for about 30 mins (or until golden brown) while mixing every 5 mins, so it doesn’t turn into one enormous granola bar. Add the dried pineapple two minutes before you take it out of the oven.

Remove, and leave to crisp up. Enjoy when it’s super crunchy!

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A Healthy Sunday Breakfast

Sundays are for lazy breakfasts, right?

This morning, Tiarnan and I fancied whipping something up rather than eating yet another bowl of porridge, but with New Year’s resolutions hanging over us we passed on the traditional fry up. Instead, we created an entirely guilt-free feast which (and here’s the best part) is a complete doddle to make! Say hello to our resolution-friendly-but-still-delicious Sunday breakfast creation: tropical smoothies and banana pancakes.

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*TROPICAL SMOOTHIE

If I’m honest, yellow smoothies are more Tiarnan’s thing than mine (I’m all about the pink ones, which I shared in A Super Simple Smoothie) but a cup of sunshine is undoubtedly the best way to start a Sunday when it’s miserable outside. This one is super thick and creamy, so you could just blitz up extra and have it for breakfast on its own. However, Sunday is for feasting, and it makes the perfect accompaniment to the pancakes.

For a smoothie that can serve two, all you need is one banana, a couple of handfuls of mango, an equal amount of pineapple, a dollop of vanilla yoghurt and a splash of apple juice. Blitz it it up and you’re done!

This smoothie is a really thick one, as mango and banana are good as smoothie bases alone and yoghurt really bulks it out. If you don’t love that so much, skip the yoghurt or just add more apple juice or pineapple.

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*BANANA PANCAKES

These pancakes take just two ingredients. Two ingredients. (Although we cheated and used three). However, they are still deliciously light and fluffy and taste like banana bread and french toast rolled into one. They are also super quick and easy to make. And they don’t need to be reserved as a Sunday treat, have them every day if you want!

All you need is one extra ripe banana and two large eggs (and that’s it!).

Mash the banana well until there are no large lumps, then whisk in the two eggs. If you like you can add vanilla (for extra flavouring – we did), baking powder (to make them super light and fluffy) or anything else to flavour them, like cinnamon, honey or cocoa powder.

Pour small amounts of the batter in to a hot frying pan, and flip when the first side is done. Wait for the other side to cook and you’re done! You should manage 6-8 small pancakes. Top with whatever you feel like. I personally love maple syrup and blueberries, but extra banana, honey, cinnamon, granola or whatever takes your fancy will also be delicious.    

The Mae Deli Breakfast

Today I’ve got the best kind of treat for you. A guilt free one.

The Mae Deli has been on my radar ever since it opened late last year. Opened by Ella Woodward (aka Deliciously Ella) and her fiance Matthew, Ella is a health goddess to anyone in the know, with her inspiring Instagram and bestselling cookbook. Now, you can enjoy her food without risking a disaster in the kitchen. In fact, you don’t even need to enter a kitchen!

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I usually find these health cafes over-priced, not that tasty and a bit, well, intimidating. I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised by The Mae Deli. It is a little on the pricey side I grant you, but I feel that you really get what you pay for. The ingredients are great, the food is delicious and the smoothies are pretty enormous (Tiarnan and I couldn’t finish ours!) The atmosphere is very cosy and welcoming, and the staff are absolutely lovely. Also, Ella and Matthew are running around like everyone else – so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to fan girl.

We went for breakfast (we’d particularly recommend the avocado on rye bread and the bircher muesli – both delicious!) but they also have plenty of mains for lunch and dinner, and all kinds of sweet treats and snacky options throughout the day. There are also plenty of hot drinks, smoothies and cold pressed juices on offer. And, if you hadn’t quite got your fill, there is Mae granola and rye bread for sale and signed Deliciously Ella cookbooks, so you can take a slice of The Mae Deli/Deliciously Ella life away with you for your own kitchen.

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They are in a great location, tucked away just behind Selfridges at Marble Arch. I’m excited for warmer days when we can pop in for a smoothie and enjoy it while strolling around Hyde Park. But while chilly January is still here, I’d highly recommend waiting for a seat (space is a little tight to be prepared to queue), sinking into their baby blue cushions and taking your time over food so delicious, you won’t even realise it’s guilt-free.

A Super Simple Smoothie

Smoothies are such a great, healthy pick-me-up to start your day with. They also make your first decision an active and healthy one, which will put you in a great mindset for the rest of the day! Today I’m going to share with you my all-time favourite, a banana and berry smoothie.

Fruit smoothies are deliciously sweet and are great for beginners, as they aren’t quite as intimidating as the all green, vegetable concoctions. Fruit smoothies won’t spike your blood sugar levels like a fruit juice will, as smoothies retain the fibre of the fruit. While a juice will be almost immediately absorbed into your bloodstream (and thereby spiking your blood sugar levels), the fibre in a smoothie cushions this, and also makes it more filling.

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All you need for this smoothie is half a banana, a handful of frozen berries and a splash of apple juice. Blend them all up together and you’re done!

Bananas freeze really well, so don’t worry about using only half. The banana is essential as the base of the smoothie. All smoothies require a chunky fruit or vegetable base to thicken them up, usually avocado, mango or banana. I like using bananas because they add a bit of sweetness and you can buy them cheaply. Bananas are a great source of potassium and fibre, which is essential for stablising your blood sugar levels and maintaining a normal blood pressure and healthy heart.

I love the taste of all berries, which is why I use them in my smoothies. Frozen berries can be bought cheaply, obviously last much longer and make your smoothies really refreshing. Berries also make the smoothie runnier, which I prefer as I don’t like really thick ones. Berries are full of antioxidants which is great for your skin and hair as well as your health in general!

All smoothies need a liquid as well, and I use apple juice simply because I like it. But you can use anything. I use a lot of liquid because I prefer runnier smoothies, but if you want it thicker be more sparing.

This is one of the most basic smoothies you can make, but I think that if it is simple, you are more likely to make it even if you are in a rush. I always have this alongside cereal or porridge, but if you want it to be your breakfast on its own then add some porridge oats, yoghurt or nut butter to bulk it out and make it more filling.

If you have any favourite smoothies then I would love to hear them!

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Sky High Yoga

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After one too many Christmas parties drinking champagne, and evenings on the sofa eating mince pies, a detox was in order. Christmas is great but the festive spirit can be dampened when you start to resemble Mr Blobby. Today’s post is all about London’s coolest yoga class (and a delicious breakfast!)

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The Sky Garden should be on your radar for a place to visit in London anyway. It costs nothing to whip up to the top of the “Walkie-Talkie” building and gaze out at London’s sky line, whilst also admiring the gardens inside. All you have to do is book a time slot. Or, visit in the evening for cocktails and dinner as the sun sets over London.

The Sky Garden also holds yoga classes at (brace yourselves) 6.30am on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings. It’s an early wake-up call, but it’s an amazing way to begin your day, surrounded by greenery while watching London wake up. Classes last an hour and are very beginner-friendly. I had never done yoga before but absolutely loved it, and felt like I’d worked hard by the end. It’s a big, mixed group and there’s always someone good at the front to copy!

And, to reward you for your efforts, you get 20% at Darwin Brasserie for a post-yoga breakfast. They have quick, healthy options like granola and yoghurt to grab and go, as well as cooked breakfasts. We feasted on smoothies, coffee and avocado toast in our relaxed, yoga bubble while watching the sun rise.

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Classes are starting up again in mid-January, and I will definitely be going along as part of the inevitable, new year fitness kick.

On a side note, I have finally sorted out a Bloglovin’ account. It’s the best way to easily follow all of your favourite blogs, so please head on over and check mine out (and maybe even follow it…) by clicking here!