Cross training is where it’s at

By cross training I don’t mean the machine in the gym, but mixing it up a bit rather than sticking to the same old, same old.

Fot the past 6 months I’ve had some big running events to train for – the Brighton Half Marathon in February and the Marathon in April – so I’ve had to cram in so much running I haven’t really had the time for anything else.

I’ve been doing quite a few bits of cross training lately:

  • Walking – people always underestimate how good for you walking is, but I really enjoy it. You might even save some money too if you walk instead of driving.
  • Thai boxing – I find this great fun and really good exercise, plus it’s a great stress reliever as you get to imagine you are punching someone you can’t stand!
  • Weight training with hand weights – I like doing this whilst watching the TV to try and tone my arms.
  • Climbing – forget the marathon, I ached for at least a week after half a day rock climbing and because you are having fun and using your brain you don’t notice just how tired you are!
  • Exercise DVDs – I find these easy to fit in in to my mornings or evenings. I love Davina’s Body Buff because you can choose which area you want to focus on (abs, arms, card etc).
  • Spinning – It’s definitely a good cardio workout and also low impact training for your legs and butt so I’m all for this on non-running days.
  • Pilates – I’ve just started doing this – it’s going to take me a while to get used to, but you definitely feel the burn in the abs and the legs afterwards.
  • You probably guessed by now I love yoga. If nothing else, I find it good to do on rest days as it’s really relaxing.

How do you cross train?

Salad for salad dodgers: Delicious no dressing salad

I have a confession to make – I used to be a salad dodger. I think it’s because ‘salad’ is usually an uninspiring combination of lettuce, tomato and cucumber or laden in lard (i.e., caesar salad) making it more healthy to eat a Big Mac and fries.

I decided to preserver and try out making my own salads with the things I like. This isn’t so much a recipe as an assembly, but for my absolute favourite and virtually (bad) fat free salad all you need are the following:

1x ripe avacado, 1x tomato, 1x bag of salad or little gem lettuce, 2 or 3 beetroots (jar or vacuum sealed), rock salt (or low sodium salt – replace with chilli flakes if on a low salt diet) and black pepper (ground), and some form of protein – I’m using chorizo here, but you could replace this with lean bacon, ham, chicken etc (in fact this would then make it 14 syns on Slimming World Extra Easy plan – take out the avocado and it’s free)

There are 2 key things that make this salad a salad dodger friendly zone. Firstly, I always chop everything into small chunks so that each mouthful then has a little bit of everything in it. Sounds simple I know, but every salad dodger’s worst nightmare is having just the lettuce left at the end and none of the good stuff.

Tomato and beetroot cut into small chunks rather than slices

I like to do the same with the avocado by scoring the avocado and then scooping it out so you get cubes of avocado and finish by adding your chicken, ham or chorizo (also in small pieces).

The second secret ingredient to this salad is the seasoning. I like to season mine with rock salt and ground black pepper. Believe me – once you start seasoning salads you will wonder how you ever ate them without it! If you would rather not use salt, you could replace this with chilli flakes or paprika.

So here it is – my favourite salad. Time to make – precisely 3 minutes, most of which was the time it took me to find the ingredients in the fridge!

I didn’t choose all of these ingredients for the taste alone:

– Eating avocados helps lower cholesterol (increasing the ratio of healthy fats to bad fats) and they contain L-carnitine, which helps to promote fat metabolism and increase energy production in the muscle cells. They are also rich in potassium, which helps reduce belly fat and prevent fluid retention.

– Beetroot contains nitrate, which has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve circulation and boost stamina by as much as 16% in athletes.

Hope you like the salad and let me know what you think.

Running club: Sprints and 4x100m relay

Yesterday’s running club was great fun. We started off with usual warm up – 2 laps around the track followed by a mixture of cardio and core (sit ups, press ups, mountain climbers etc). Then we split in to 2 groups – one group did the endurance run and the other sprints. I chose sprints because 1) I really badly need to improve my speed and 2) I figured I can do endurance runs any time. I’m so glad I chose sprints – it was so much fun. We started with some warm up moves – knee lifts and skipping just to loosen up the muscles, then we did 4 lots of 80m sprints at 80%. This distance was perfect as you just got into your stride without getting absolutely exhausted.

My favourite was the relay. I haven’t done a relay in about 15 years, but boy was it brilliant fun! My team won, although I have to say I was more of a hindrance than a help as I think pretty much everyone overtook me! 🙂

The session rounded off with several 200m sprints – by which point I was exhausted, but I felt like I’d had a really good workout.

I’m really enjoying running club – it beats the treadmill and boring long distance runs on my own. Here’s hoping that I can start getting my times down soon!

Divas’ love: Slimming World

For years I tried lots of diets – cabbage soup, Atkins – you name it! They all had the same problem – they were ‘diets’ and the very nature of that word with me means they were doomed to fail from the outset. You see, if I have to count things, weigh things, and completely cut something out then it’s not going to work for me. We all have weeks where someone brings chocolate brownies into the office, or where you have to go out for dinner, and these faddy diets make it difficult to live a normal life without irritating all your friends and family and ensuring you are well and truly crossed off future invites!

Tim’s mum had joined Slimming World a few years before and had lost a huge amount of weight. I was a bit worried that it might be a bit evangelical and like the ‘Fat Fighters‘ sketch in Little Britain so it took a while for me to finally give it a go. I’d gone through a really bad patch by then and just wanted to lose weight and get fit.

I looked on the website, found my local group and went along. They were really friendly, it didn’t take long for me to sign up and then I sat in on the group listening to all the other stories.

Slimming world is essentially a low fat/low processed sugar diet. The emphasis is on getting more vegetables, fruit, low GI carbohydrates (brown rice, pasta, noodles) and really  to monitor the amount of dairy you eat and high-calorie foods such as bread and cereals. I chose the extra easy plan as it’s the same plan every day (personally – I think the red and green days is confusing). I also love the fact that there is no real counting involved if you make everything yourself and have an understanding of what foods you can eat as much as you want of (most vegetables, pasta, rice and noodles, meat and most fruits, beans and pulses). I chose not to eat many processed foods as as soon as you do you then have to start counting the points (or syns as they are called, for which you can have 15 a day) and I’m too lazy.

I found it really easy to stick to and lost 3 Ibs in my first week. I then went on to lose over 2 stone from October to January and I have maintained that weight loss.

I actually don’t stick religiously to the plan, but I do always take the principles with me and try to apply them.

So, here are the things that I love about Slimming World and are why I would recommend it to anyone who needs to lose weight:

1) Easy to join and good value for money – if you are overweight you can also get it for free on the NHS (in the UK) so speak to your doctor

2) If you go to the groups, it keeps you motivated and you get some great ideas for recipes

3) For me, it was easy to follow as it was pretty much the same as my existing diet, but I just made some small changes:

– Max 2 slices of brown bread a day OR 2 Weetabix/day OR a bowl of porridge – before I could easily get through half a loaf of bread (2 slices of toast a ‘healthy’ sandwich, and maybe garlic bread with dinner!) and a big bowl of muesli.

– Cheese – I cut this out completely and sometimes treat myself to it (I used to live for cheese, but I no longer miss it). I used to put cheese on everything, and just removing it made a huge difference. I get all my calcium from milk and yoghurts.

– Eating to excess – now if I want some chocolate I have it, but I just have a bit not the whole thing

– Adding more vegetables into existing meals, e.g., spaghetti bolognaise – I now add a pepper, fresh tomato, carrots and mushrooms

– Eating 2 apples a day

– Eating muller light yoghurts for dessert with fruit rather than ice cream

– Cut down on oil and use spray oil

– Season salads instead of using dressing

4) The whole family can eat it, even children, as it’s just a healthy balanced diet – Tim is unwittingly on Slimming World and even he agrees we’re not missing out.

5) There are lots of recipes, but once you know what foods are ‘free’ (i.e., you can eat as much as you want of them), it’s super easy to make up your own recipes.

6) No counting or weighing involved (unless you eat a lot of processed food or eat loose cereal – I am lazy and eat 2x Weetabix or porridge sachets!).

7) If you have a bad day it’s ok as you can just make sure you have good days for the remainder of the week.

8) It clearly works as Tim’s parents, my mum and my sister and I have all lost weight. In my experience, if it doesn’t work then it’s usually where the person hasn’t followed the plan correctly.

So if you want to lose weight, have a go at Slimming World and see how you get on. I’ll be posting up some of my slimming world recipes soon (everything I make is super easy and takes less than 15 mins as I am laziness personified when it comes to cooking!). Let me know if you have any questions or need any tips on the plan. Happy to help. x

Sami: Getting back to it

Exercise seems to be a thing of the past. I used to spin all the time – 4 days a week in the mornings before work – do weights and run in the evenings. That was last year.

I feel as if I’m starting from scratch again – I guess the marathon took more out of me than I thought…

In two months I’ll be taking part in the Adidas Thunder Run 24, which in layman’s terms means running 10 k laps continuously for 24 hours! There’s a nice team of 5 of us to take turns, thank goodness, but let’s not belittle 10 k. Yes, this used to be my ‘short runs’ when training for the marathon – that was 6 weeks ago and remember I haven’t done anything since then.

I’ve just found it hard to get back into some kind of exercise routine. Every Sunday evening I mean well writing up a workout plan for the week which by Tuesday has been scuppered by work and tiredness excuses.

Today is a Monday and I plan to stick to my plan. I’m hoping the pending 24-hour relay on 28th July is just the kick up the backside I need!

We are doing the Adidas Thunder Run 24 for World Vision and you can sponsor us here.

Team Dashing Divas do TR24 for World Vision

Meet the Dashing Divas (and honorary Divas) who will be running in the Adidas Thunder Run 24-h race. More details about the race here, but it’s going to be an epic race where one person at all times must be running on the 10k track in a 24-h period. We will be running in this slightly bonkers event over the weekend of 28th to 29th July.

Top left is the lovely Kate who is a super fit triathlete (so jealous – it’s still on my to-do list!); top right – you know Sami and I; bottom left is Andy who never seems to stop running, ever; and bottom right is Lamont who is possibly the coolest person on the planet – fact!

The Divas will be running for World Vision. I actually found out about the work that World Vision are doing in Niger at Cybher and wanted to help in some way. For those who are unfamiliar with the situation in Niger, millions are in need of emergency food as the country faces its worst food crisis of the decade. 7.8 million Nigerians — more than half of the population — are hungry and at risk of famine. Already 1.5 million children are malnourished, and that number is expected to increase substantially in the coming months.

We have set up a fundraising page here. Please feel free to donate on our page.

We’d like to thank Workplay bags for very kindly sponsoring and supporting us.

Race review: Lindfield Village 10k

This Sunday in the searing heat (think it was about 31 degC; 87.8 degF), I ran in the Lindfield Village 10k cross country run. I love taking part in smaller races. Don’t get me wrong, I also love the amazing atmosphere you get at the big city races too, but taking part in the smaller races is nice as you often meet friendly local people and you’re kind of playing your part in supporting local community events.

Me before the race.

I’ve done a few cross country runs and I just love them. You don’t usefully get the kind of speeds that you get running on the flat, but you certainly never ever get bored and you never know what’s around the next corner (all part of the fun!).

The heat was unbearable standing around waiting for the race to start let alone running so I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope. Fortunately the route passed through quite a bit of forest so there was some welcome shade every so often, but I really struggled running up hill in the heat. The heat just sucked up all my energy and I lost a lot of pace. It was a very pretty route though – we ran from Lindfield to Ardingly reservoir and past Ardingly College (very Harry Potter-esque building) and back again.

This was not a race to get a PB (aside from the fact that, at times, you were in single file through the forest and had to wait to get through the many stiles) and I certainly won’t be comparing it to my previous 10k times, but I was pleased with my time – 1h 12 mins. I’ve set a good time to beat for next year’s race anyway.

Me with another bit of bling to add to my collection.

Diva rating: 4/5

rating 4 of 5