Training on holiday & the Berlin Marathon countdown

Thanks to the fabulous running community on Twitter I’ve been reminded that it’s less than 10 weeks until the Berlin Marathon! 

Run 4

10 weeks though! Seriously, where has the time gone?! I’m already at that ‘can’t stop thinking about it marathon stage’ and constantly drifting off into day dreams of running a 3.15 marathon (yeah right, Han!) and I’m not ashamed to say I’ve already planned the outfit I’m flying in! God help whoever has to put up with me for the next 10 weeks, I apologise now.

As you may have spotted from a previous a post, I’ve been in Italy on a bit of a tour across the country. When we booked the holiday I knew I wouldn’t be following my set marathon training plan for a number of reasons; 1) there’s gelato to be eaten 2) the heat and 3) I booked a holiday to relax, sightsee and have a break.

So with that accepted I settled on trying to get a few runs and some bodyweight exercises in now and again, it is part of my happy pace after all! Still, it was hard not running. I worried about getting behind, worried about the extra pizza weighing me down and worried that I ‘d be too unfit to get back on track.

The reality is that it’s two weeks and I actually exercised most days. Granted most days it was walking but when sightseeing in Venice and Rome we averaged 8 miles of walking a day! Never forget to pack your Garmin on holiday, even if you’re not going to be running!

If you’ve got an autumn marathon booked and a holiday coming up as well then check out these tips on how to maintain a training routine while away.

Sightseeing – Grab a guidebook and go on a walking tour. Lonely Planet books are amazing for this. Not only will you see the sights and plenty of hidden gems along the way but you’ll also be banking some miles in the legs. Think of it as another version of steady state cardio. Another amazing way to see the sights of where you’re staying and to explore an area is to get up and run! Run early in the morning before the heat hits and use it as a way to explore the area and see some sights before everyone else is awake. It’s like your own personal private tour and a chance to get up close and personal with the city.

Run 2 Run 1

Use your surroundings – If there are some steps down to the beach do stair runs up and down them or sprints along the beach. Think of the feeling of jumping into the sea after a hot and sweaty workout! Also, use the sea or a swimming pool if your hotel has one to get some swimming in. It’s a great cross training activity and gives your knees a break from road running or pounding the treadmill. Not to mention it’ll cool you down!

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Move the furniture- Make space in your hotel room/find the space to do a bodyweight workout. This can be as little as a tabata workout or an hour long strength session if you wanted it to be. Check out Dane’s blog where he’s posted what we did as well as some more challenging hotel workouts. Make sure you look around and see what you can make use of. It might be a step for calf raises or a chair for Bulgarian split squats for example. A good bodyweight workout can go a long way! You can burpee, hip thrust, or squat jump just about anywhere! If you’ve got some bands pack those in your suitcase too to use when you get there.

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Running past the colosseum, along the Venetian canals and by the harbour in Ischia was amazing and I feel so lucky to say I’ve done that. I’m excited to get stuck in to Berlin training once again now though as well as my new programme for the gym designed by Dane. You can check out my previous programme in an earlier post here.

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In other marathon news I’ve only gone and got myself a good for age place in next year’s London Marathon! 😀 YES!

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I’ll be keeping you up to date with how my trainings going over the next 10 weeks as well as posting plenty about Italy and the new recipes I’m going to rustle up inspired by the food I’ve eaten in Italy.

Ciao!

 

How to eat clean while travelling 

 This post is coming to you from a sun drenched beach in Ischia, one of Italy’s most beautiful islands. I’m fast approaching the end of a two week trip of a lifetime around Italy which started in Venice and will finish in Florence. 

I’m having the most amazing time. The weather has been spectacular as has the food, scenery and activities. I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the most historical and breathtaking landmarks Italy has to offer as well as sample some of the tastiest meals of my life so far.

  
It’s the amazing food which leads me nicely to the topic of this post. I’ll also just add that there will be plenty more in-depth food posts to come on each area I’ve visited so far as well. 

As I’m sure any girl will tell you, when you go on holiday you want to be looking your best and I’m no different. 

That said, here I am a couple of kilos heavier and abs gone but I’m still lying on the beach in a bikini. The best way to be bikini ready is to just put one on and rock it.  Job done and I couldn’t agree more. 

The food here is out of this world and was a major factor when thinking about where we wanted to go so it was only inevitable that I’d get a little fluffier on this trip. 

I know many people get worried about this when they go on holiday so I thought I’d write something about how it is still possible to eat clean and make healthy choices while abroad. 

That said, remember you are on holiday and it’s a time to enjoy yourself! It’s a time to try new things, experience the local cuisine and treat yourself. I don’t regret a single gelato, pasta dish, pizza or bread basket I’ve devoured because it’s all part of the experience and it has been incredible! 

As soon as you get to the airport it’s easy to enter holiday mode; a croissant with your coffee, a beer with your breakfast or a super-size snack from duty free. That’s fine but if you’re conscious of staying healthy on holiday here are a few ways to navigate the airport junk food traps: 

1) Snacks – At most airports there’s usually a Boots or a little shop/cafe where you can buy nuts, carrot batons or pieces of fruit which are all great healthy snack choices. Avoid salted nuts though if possible.

2) Take your own- If you know you’re likely to get hungry before you fly then pack your own snacks to eat before going through customs. This will mean there’s no need to cave in and buy something unhealthy. Some ideas include bananas, nuts, kale chips, protein bars, homemade energy balls or carrot/cucumber/celery sticks. 

3) Meal prep – This is more applicable  to long haul flights but taking your own prepped food on the plane is an option. Fruit, vegetables and solid foods can go in hand luggage but foods with sauces or with a high liquid content need to go in those little transparent bags you get before going through security, or just use sandwich bags. Make sure you check online or the airport website for quantities allowed and for any other restrictions. It’s also worth noting that these days you can usually buy a basic side salad in cafés/restaurants and some sort of meat which is a simple and easy way to eat clean. Add some nuts to your salad for extra protein to fill you up. 

When you land and start the holiday it’s so easy to devour every treat in sight and by all means if that’s what a holiday is to you then absolutely go for it. However what I’ve found over the past two weeks is that if you want to you can stay healthy while on holiday. 

Breakfast – In each hotel we’ve booked we’ve had breakfast included which has been great. I LOVE breakfast and especially love my egg scrambles but I had a feeling they wouldn’t be available at a breakfast buffet. Some options have been better than others. The Italian way of life here is a cappuccino, croissant and juice for breakfast. This is all we got in Rome so I fully embraced it. However at our other hotels there has been far more choice. Go for the fresh fruit, eggs, brown toast or museli. Stay away from cakes,  pastries and sugary cereal. Also, just have one breakfast! Why does it feel acceptable on holiday to have three or four courses at breakfast when you’d be satisfied with one at home!?

  

Lunch – The salads across Italy have been spot on, packed full of flavour and variety. Again, most places have a salad option and some sort of meat or fish on the menu. Trust me, it’s the bread basket that’ll be your downfall! Just do what Dane and I did (or tried to do!) name your slice when the basket arrives, have that and then you’re done.  

   
    

Dinner – Each and every dinner here has been absolutely incredible. I’ve had a giant buffalo ribeye steak, tuna tartare and enough octopus to fill an aquarium! Fresh fish is the only dinner option in my opinion and it often comes with fresh vegetables or salad.  Need I say more!? The entire bread basket, wine, limoncello and pudding is optional of course! Basically what I’m saying is that there’s usually always a healthy option on the menu, you’ve just got to look and chose appropriately. 

   
    

Reading this back I realise I’ve stuck to very little of this but that’s ok. I wouldn’t want to leave Italy not having  fully immersed myself in the experience and deprived myself of anything. Balance and finding your happy pace is key. And now if you’ll excuse me it’s time to find mine again at the gelato shop before taking another dip in the sea and practicing that epic dirty dancing lift – yes, Dane and I are that couple. 

Keep an eye out for my next blog post while I’m away which will be about Berlin marathon training on holiday with just 11 weeks to go!

  
Ciao. 🙂 

Nourishing our bodies at The Garden, Hale

Get yourself to The Garden in Hale

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Balance in my life is always restored after I’ve been to see my best friend, Liana. Visits to Liana’s always involve great food, training and hysterical laughter at some point throughout the weekend. A recent visit to her house was no exception.

We rustled up a delicious dinner on Saturday evening of scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, spinach, chives (who are we?!) and avocado – we LOVE breakfast at any time of the day, especially for dinner. Sunday morning was a knockout egg scramble with chilli and chives before we hit the gym for a strength session.

We have been dying to try Bosu Body Bar in Chorlton for ages as it looks amazing but sadly for us it wasn’t meant to be as they are closed on a Sunday so we had to go in search of another fantastic healthy eating place to fill the void. Liana had been to The Garden, in Hale before with her friend so even though it was a good 30 minutes away after looking at the menu we decided that it would be worth it.

The Garden offers a selection of healthy, organic dishes using local produce and has an array of mouth-watering clean treats.

45 minutes later thanks to horrendous traffic we arrived delirious with hunger but the friendly staff soon had us sat down at a table browsing the menus with two tasty drinks on the way.

Liana went for a Green Peace smoothie which was made up of spinach, avocado, apple, kale, cucumber, parsley, wheatgrass and spirulina while I had an I am Balanced juice of coconut water, fresh aloe vera and fresh peppermint. They were both served in charming jam jar style jars with cardboard straws. They also do amazing looking shakes and a raw cacao smoothie, too.

Choosing lunch was just as hard as choosing a drink as the whole menu is full of delicious superfood dishes packed full of flavour and goodness.

Liana went for the Rainbow Spaghetti which was seasonal vegetable spaghetti, which you could have raw or al dente, served with a choice of tomato, coriander and chilli or a kale pesto sauce. You could then choose from quinoa meatballs, organic salmon or organic chicken. Liana had kale pesto and organic chicken and said it was delicious.

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Meanwhile I went for the Abundance Bowl with king prawns. This was a big, hearty bowl of cauliflower rice, chilli and lime chickpeas, spring onions, parsley, radishes, apple, sunflower seeds and pomegranate seeds topped with pistachios a lime and mustard dressing. It was really tasty and the cauliflower rice was very filling but the only thing I would say is that I would’ve liked more dressing.

We didn’t stop there either. We also got some kale chips which had been cooked with some sort of cashew butter making them even tastier than regular kale chips, as well as and dips and crudités. The three dips we chose were houmous, sundried tomato tapenade and cashew cheese.

Enjoying the chilled atmosphere we decided we wanted to stay a bit longer, i.e. we weren’t done eating, so we checked out the dessert menu. Everything looked delicious but what we really had our eyes on were the blueberry buckwheat pancakes on the breakfast menu. The staff and the chef were kind enough to make us them and we enjoyed them with dairy free ice cream, banana and homemade chocolate sauce. We also threw in a homemade date and raw cacao protein ball on top – us girls can eat!

The Garden 1

If you live in Manchester/near Manchester or are there for a day trip I’d definitely recommend checking out The Garden, it’s well worth it. It’s a health food lover’s paradise. #earthfriendlyfood

Berlin marathon training

Warning: look away now if you don’t like squiggly red line running routes and heart rate graphs!

Berlin marathon

In honour of National Running Day I thought it was only fitting to write something about running and more specifically about my running.

If you follow me on Twitter/Instagram you will probably know that I’m training for this year’s Berlin Marathon (woohoo). I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to secure a place in the ballot, I’m so excited!

I also happen to love Berlin having visited once before on a four day city break with my friend Hannah G. The nightlife there is like nothing I have EVER experienced before. Anyway, that’s another story and a different blog post entirely.

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Back to this post and my Berlin Marathon training. So far my training has been good and I’m injury free – touch wood – having largely stuck to my programme which is about 25 weeks in total if I remember correctly.

Each week on my programme is different but there are certain elements which are constant. Every week there will be two quality sessions, one focusing on speed and the other on distance. The rest of the week is split in to minimum 30 minute runs. A run after a quality session will always be a 30 minute recovery run at easy pace and the others will have some strides thrown in.

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A recovery run with 7 x 20-30sec strides thrown in.

Here’s what my training looks like for this week. This is the second week of phase two of my programme.

Monday 30 mins easy pace with 7 20-30 sec strides
Tuesday 30 mins easy pace
Wednesday Quality 2: 4 mins hard, 3 mins recovery jog until reached 10K
Thursday 30 mins easy pace
Friday 30 mins easy pace with 8 x 20-30 sec strides
Saturday Quality 1: 20 mins easy pace, 20 mins threshold pace, 20 mins easy pace
Sunday 30 mins easy pace

Saturday is my first Q1 (quality 1) session but this is my second week of Q2 sessions. I’m really enjoying the programme so far as it means I’m running regularly and even when I don’t feel like it I remind myself that 30 minutes is more than manageable. I think it was on a Runner’s World Facebook thread where one woman wrote that whenever she doesn’t feel like running she always runs at least one mile. If at the end of  that mile she still doesn’t want to run then she allows herself to run home, meaning she’s done at least two miles that day. This is a great strategy if ever you’re lacking in motivation as by the time you’ve reached two miles about 15 minutes has passed so I think I might as well do the other 15 and before you know it you’ve reached 30 minutes.

A recovery run which turned in to a pretty fast 5 miler, whoops.

A recovery run which turned in to a pretty fast 5 miler, whoops.

I’m also monitoring my average and max heart rate thanks to my fabulous Garmin Forerunner 220.

One of the main benefits of using a heart rate monitor is that it can help you to make sure you’re recovering adequately from other runs. If you know your average resting heart rate and VO2 max you can work out what your heart rate should be on a recovery run. Having a quick glance at this on your watch while running means you can make sure you’re not overdoing your easy/recovery runs (something I am guilty of!) and this can ultimately help to prevent overuse injuries.

HR 1

A 5k made up of fast intervals which got my HR to 191.

Monitoring your heart rate also gives you a more precise way of gauging exertion levels which is usually more accurate than your own thoughts on how hard you think you’re working.

A 10K Q2 session HR graph

A 10K Q2 session HR graph

I’m definitely getting faster as well which I love and I already feel comfortable at a faster minute mile pace than before which is great. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still got a long way to go before the Berlin marathon and over the next two weeks my speed sessions really start to ramp up, eek!

A Q1 long run from the previous week.

A Q1 long run from the previous week.

My goal is just to perform as well as I can in the marathon on September 27 and enjoy running my first marathon abroad. I’d love to run sub 3.30 or dare I say it break 3.20 but we’ll just see what happens on the day. Either way, I’m ready for the next four months and to see what I’m capable of.

Are you training for a marathon? Let me know what your programme is like!

My weekend Tabata fun

Don’t think you’ve got enough time to train? There’s ALWAYS time for Tabata. 

In keeping with the theme of this post this is just a quick one about the workout which left me feeling like this…

Tabata 1

I was pushed for time on Sunday morning as I had to travel home and make myself look presentable for a family lunch.

There was no time to do my planned run that morning so instead I settled for running later and starting off my not so lazy Sunday morning with some Tabata.

If you’re not familiar with Tabata it’s basically a type of HIIT (high intensity interval training) lasting four minutes. It’s 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off – which works out at 8 rounds.
So for example it would be 20 seconds of push ups, 10 seconds rest, 20 seconds of push ups…etc until the four minutes is up.

The genius behind this is Professor Tabata who carried out a study involving two different trials with the Japanese Olympic speed-skating team.

One group was asked to cycle at a moderate intensity five times a week for 60 minutes while the second group switched between 20 seconds of max effort and 10 seconds of rest for four minutes for four times a week in addition to one 30 minute cycling session at moderate intensity.

Basically Professor Tabata concluded that it’s the shorter recovery time that helps to improve both aerobic and anaerobic fitness.

You can read more about it and the study at Tabata Official.

Tabata is great because not only does it help fitness and endurance it’s also good for fat loss and unlike steady-state cardio the high intensity intervals actually increase the number of calories burned after you stop exercising for up to 24 hours. It also helps to maintain that muscle mass and even build muscle as Tabata targets those fast-twitch muscle fibres.

One of the best things about Tabata, aside from the fact that it takes just four minutes, is that you can do it with any type of exercise from sprints to squats, push ups to mountain climbers!

Go on YouTube for a Tabata countdown timer.

Here’s what Dane and I did:

Tabata warm up:
1- squats
2- hand walk outs
3 – spidermans
4 – lunge with a twist
5 – squats
6 – hand walk outs
7 – spidermans
8 – lunge with a twist

Tabata round 1:
Kettlebell swings (20kg for me, 28kg for Dane)

Tabata round 2:
Chest to floor burpees (to see how a chest to floor burpee is done – click here)

Trust me, this gets hard really quickly! Try and maintain the same number of reps per round.

Let me know how you get on!

Keep an eye on Dane’s website as well as he’s planning to do a Tabata post sometime soon!

🙂

Tag me on Instagram and Twitter using #hannahshappypace

The Major Series 10K

“KEEP moving those legs otherwise you’ll get stuck and I’m not coming in to get you” – British Military Fitness.

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There’s little I love more than a challenge, especially when it’s a muddy one!

Last weekend my top teammate Dane and I tackled The Major Series at Leeds Bramham Park, a British Military Fitness (BMF) trail race voted the best in the UK.

Dane and I were signed up to the 10K race which actually turned out to be 12K and after an early start we arrived in time to set off in the first wave of the day.

Over that 12K we tackled nature’s obstacles from hills, mud, water and ditches to ropes and even bright pink space hoppers! This wasn’t my first muddy trail race, I ran Tough Mudder last year so I was interested to see how this was going to compare.

In short the obstacles in The Major Series are, in my opinion, better for a trail race than Tough Mudder as they use the environment rather than manmade structures.

Keeping your trainers tied tight was VITAL as you tried to wade your way through the Stench Trenches. The smell of fresh mud hits you instantly and as the BMF volunteer said its best to keep moving otherwise you will definitely get stuck! My legs felt as though they were moving through thick treacle as I tried to drive my knee up through the mud. When you’re waist deep in a bog of black tar like mud trying to claw your way to the other side on tired legs it’s easy to get stuck and Dane had to pull me my leg free at one point.

Getting ready to set off!

Getting ready to set off!

There’s plenty of mud in Cooper’s Crawl too which requires you to showcase your best commando crawl – Dane takes first prize on that one – as you keep as low to the mud soaked ground as possible. There’s also Spike’s Mud Crawler (the picture at the top of this post) where you’ve got barbed wire to contend with.

You’ve got to get low again to avoid some dangling electric fencing wire on one of the obstacles where there’s actually an escape route! And yes they are on – my left buttock can testify to that!

Aside from the mud there are plenty of logs to jump over, ditches to crawl out of and amazing trail running over mixed terrain. Oh, and there’s LOTS of water as well. My legs and feet were numb from wading through streams, under bridges and through bogs.

Then came the obstacle I was dreading most. Since Tough Mudder, Arctic Enema has haunted me so I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy Martin Marine’s Zone. There are two barriers you have to swim under and with the volunteers urging you to do it in one that’s probably what I should’ve done. Instead I swam under the first one before coming up for air and tackling the second one – it’s like a giant brain freeze!

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My favourite obstacle by far though was Sander’s Slide where Corporal Sander is ready to give you a good soaking before you take a run up and slide down the hill on your stomach much to the joy of spectators.

Last but not least, remember space hopping when you were younger? Well the last obstacle before you run over the finish line is the Breast Cancer Campaigns pink space hoppers.

Waiting for us at the end was a well deserved goodie bag full of a Moma! porridge sachet, a Coco Pro protein coconut water (which was AMAZING), a Beet It bar, dog tag medal and a £25 voucher for a health food website.

All in the entire race was so much fun and Dane and I finished with a massive smile on our face which we’d pretty much had the whole way round and we both said how much we enjoyed it.

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The only thing I would’ve like to have seen was foil blankets waiting for us at the end as it was FREEZING and maybe some power hoses to rinse off afterwards as it made getting changed a bit of a nightmare.

To find out more visit majorseries.com.

Yoga month: good for running, CrossFit & your abs!

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It’s that time again when another challenge month has come to an end and it’s on to the next. February was yoga month where Dane and I did at least 10 minutes of yoga every day.

We decided on ten minutes because it seemed like a manageable amount of time to fit in to our day and could easily be done in the morning, before bed or as a way to stretch after training.

We usually ended up doing more though and I downloaded two yoga apps and went on YouTube for tutorials. After a week or so though I had learnt enough combinations to create my own routine.  Check out Dane’s website – All Things Movement –  where he will soon be posting a 20 minute yoga routine guaranteed to get that blood pumping and those muscles working.

As a runner I have inevitably tight hips, tight hamstrings and poor shoulder mobility from the repetitive motion of pounding the pavements but after 28 days of yoga I saw noticeable differences.

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Here’s what I noticed:

– Positions such as classic downward dog helped me to improve the flexibility of my hamstrings and over the course of the month simple moves such as forward bends became easier and I could gradually go forward that little bit more. I do think it’s important to say that without pushing myself during some sessions I might not have improved as much and yes it is painful but like any other training the pain is worth it.

– My general mobility and range of motion improved. I noticed that my squat depth improved as I had been struggling with this after the marathon due to majorly tight hip flexors. Not only that but the range of motion in my shoulders improved too which I am thrilled about as it’s something I really need to work on. Again, I’m not going to lie this was painful at times and I had to push myself.

– Yoga isn’t painful all the time though! It gave me new ways to stretch after running, a way to relax before bed and a better way to start the day with that wonderful yoga feeling. If you’re a CrossFitter, yoga can help to counter some of that soreness after a tough metcon WOD as well. I also slept better which, although I can’t be sure, I believe was helped by yoga.

– Holding a pose or stretch and feeling that “burn” makes it easier to push through the pain of a long run – obviously don’t push through if you’re injured – but it can help you to focus and work through it when you’re struggling. It takes your mind (and body) to a place where you can access that endurance when you need it most during a race or training run.

– Practicing yoga helped me to breathe more efficiently when exercising and is something I think is particularly beneficial to runners. It can help with efficiency and eventually your breathing will naturally match your pace.

– I became more aware of where my body was/where I was placing my weight. My balance improved and I was aware of how I needed to adjust the weight to improve my balance and performance. This not only helped with my running but also in CrossFit with elements such as engaging my shoulders when doing an overhead squat and squatting in general thinking about which part of my foot I was putting my weight on.

– Yoga helps to improve strength and most definitely your core strength as you have to stay tight during each pose.

I definitely think that to keep seeing these benefits I need to keep some yoga in my training routine. I won’t do it every day but I will try and aim for one or two 30 minute sessions a week – I really enjoyed it! 

Dane and I decided to round off yoga month with some acroyoga and I’m still laughing at our attempts! My abs certainly got a good workout from all the laughing as well!

We did manage to nail a few poses though and it was so much fun! I definitely think that the 28 days of yoga prior to that helped with my strength, mobility and flexibility.

Here’s what we managed to do… (keep reading for a hilarious acroyoga fail video.)

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Acroyoga fails….(I’m still laughing now!!)

On the second one watch how quickly Dane manages to get his legs in to that lotus position!!

March is handstand month – follow @hbryan91 on Instagram and @hannahbryan91 on Twitter to see what we’re doing. I’ll post a piece soon on the handstand progressions I’ll be doing!

🙂

 

It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that swing…

Celebrating after doing out 4433rd & final swing!

Celebrating after doing out 4,433rd & final swing of the month!

So after 143 swings every day, 1,001 a week and 4,433 in total, Kettlebell Month is officially over. It has been a great challenge and I think we chose the best one to kick-start 2015.

To jog your memory Dane and I decided that instead of creating new year’s resolutions this year we would take on monthly challenges, starting with kettlebell swings.

On certain days, namely those when I had the previous days swings to do as well,  it was tough but over the past 31 days I’ve seen changes in my body as well as a definite increase in strength and endurance.

Throughout the challenge I used a 20kg kettlebell whilst Dane used a 24, 32 or even a 48kg bell and we did Russian swings which you can see a video of later in this post.

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Swings are such a simple exercise but when done correctly they provide fantastic benefits.  Here’s a little bit of what I love about kettlebell swings.

  • Simplicity – You don’t need a gym or a whole lot of space to do swings. All you need is this one piece of equipment and 10-15 minutes out of your day. Kettlebell workouts needn’t be 30-40 minutes long-  they don’t even need to be 20 minutes long! Build them in to an EMOM (every minute on the minute) workout or a Tabata set which is eight rounds of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for four minutes.
  • Increased aerobic and anaerobic capacity – Because they’re such a good HIIT (high intensity interval training) exercise, kettlebell swings will boost your anaerobic capacity whilst your lungs and heart will get a good workout with high reps.
  • Combines cardio and strength training – What more could you want from a workout?!
  • Strengthen your core muscles – With every swing you do you are engaging your core and a strong, stable core will transfer in to success in other sports/fitness areas as well as aesthetically.
  • Tighter glutes – ‘nuff said.
  • Increased power – Because the swing is a hinge movement, kettlebell swings will increase the power in your glutes and hammies as your thrust forward.
  • No more back problems – Swings help to reduce neck, shoulder and lower back pain as they develop the hamstrings, glutes, core and back.
  • Fat burner – Not only are kettlebell swings a great HIIT exercise, they also boost your metabolism post workout when done with a decent weight.

Now here’s what I noticed:

  • My core was definitely stronger and this in turn has helped with my running as well as exercises such as toes to bar at CrossFit and keeping my core tight in other exercises and lifts.
  • Tighter glutes which has also helped with my running.
  • They got easier! When I first started CrossFit swinging a 16kg was mega tough but now I know that I can do 20 swings at 20kg EMOM for 10 minutes.
  • Endurance – my endurance improved and it became easier to hit 12 swings per round in a Tabata set and basically just to keep swinging!!
  • Time – I learnt that no matter how busy I might convince myself I am, the reality is that there’s always time to get something done. On days when I thought I didn’t have time I just did a Tabata set and within four minutes I’d got 96 done. Easy.

Here’s a video of the last day of swings 20 EMOM, my grip was GONE by the end!

 

We’re now moving on to yoga month which I am SO excited about. I don’t do anywhere near enough stretching as I should do so I’m excited to improve my flexibility and strength and hopefully I’ll find it relaxing as well.

Dane's getting in to the swing of things already!

Dane’s getting in to the swing of things already!

I have downloaded the Pocket Yoga app on to my phone and iPad and here are some of the poses I’m going to try and master by the end of the month -apparently I’ve picked some of the hardest ones – go hard or go home, ey!

 

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Center Parcs spa day

There’s no better way to chill out and re-group than a spa day and that’s exactly what Dane and I did at Center Parcs.

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We headed to Sherwood Forest for the afternoon/evening thanks to a generous Christmas present and I had literally been counting down the days until it was time to go!

We were booked in for a twilight session which starts at 4pm and on arrival we were given white fluffy dressing gowns and a towel as well as being told we could get our complimentary drink whenever we liked. The complimentary drink was either fresh orange juice or champagne.

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At each Aqua Sana Spa you’ll find a minimum of 15 spa experience rooms and there is an extensive range of treatments available from aromatherapy massages to facials for both men and women. There was 16 amazing spa rooms at Sherwood Forest including plenty of resting zones to chill out in.

Picture cred: Center Parcs

Picture cred: Center Parcs

Japanese Salt Bath - picture cred to Center Parcs

Japanese Salt Bath – picture cred to Center Parcs

Dane and I wasted no time in getting stuck in and headed for the Japanese Salt Steam Bath room which was definitely our favourite. There was also a trepidarium to cleanse the body and boost the immune system whilst the mediation room, complete with water trickles and a lemon scent, provided the perfect place to enjoy some quiet time.

We also spent some time in the outdoor zen garden – mainly messing about with yoga poses – and chilled out on the balconies in the big pods complete with fluffy blankets which was great as it was freezing!

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We took a break halfway through and hit the Vitale Cafe Bar, still in our dressing gowns, and treated ourselves to a fruit scone with jam and clotted cream. We also had one of these sharing platters which came with ciabatta bread, balsamic and oil, prosciutto ham,  chorizo, olives, pesto covered mozzarella, sundried tomatoes and taramasalata – lovely!

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Afterwards, we headed to the main village area which had plenty of choice for restaurants. We picked Cafe Rouge and enjoyed a really nice dinner. We shared chorizo bites and baked Camembert to start and then Dane had steak and I had a giant chicken and bacon salad. We finished the evening with three Krispy Kreme doughnuts and a McFlurry on the drive home which probably isn’t what most spas would recommended but it’s highly recommended by me!

Overall, I’d really recommend a visit to Center Parcs if you fancy a spa break. It has everything you’d need and if you feel like spending the day there then there’s PLENTY to do from hiring bikes and hitting the trails to a big swimming pool with slides, badminton courts and a fitness studio.

Eat your greens at breakfast!

To celebrate Breakfast Week I wanted to write a piece about how I believe breakfast should be done and share with you my most recent breakfast creation.

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We’ve always been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and in my opinion it really is. Recently I’ve changed the way I do breakfast and I wanted to share these changes with you. This is just my opinion though and it’s what works for me, everyone will be different.

First things first, your breakfast should be your biggest meal of the day. Skipping breakfast is a big error as it takes a toll on your energy levels and will leave you reaching for the nearest/easiest snack possible when hunger hits which will most likely be something that’s not going to fuel your body or be the most nutritious start to the day.

Big meals don’t have to mean bad meals; it’s all about picking the right foods to make up that meal. A big breakfast will set you up for the rest of the day and if it’s healthy it will help you to make healthy choices for the rest of the day as well.

Not only that but instead of reaching for a snack when you get to work or when 11am hits, a big breakfast will keep hunger levels satisfied through to lunch time. If you get in to a habit of doing this you’re likely to consume fewer calories throughout the day as well which is good if your target is to lose some weight.

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Ok, so what should you be having on your plate on a morning then? This will vary for different people depending on what your goals are. For example, when I’m training on a morning I like to have oats made with water and some nuts/seeds thrown in to add some healthy fats in there. Nuts also provide a reasonably high protein content too. I find that the carbs keep me full until lunch time especially after training. However on the days I’m not training or if I’m training on a weekend and I’ve got more time to make breakfast I’ll have scrambled eggs with veggies and some form of protein.

The ideal breakfast for me will consist of fats, protein and veggies on a plate and in my opinion everyone should try and have some vegetables at breakfast.

Those who start their day with greens on their plate have higher energy levels, improved concentration and don’t crave sugary/bad foods by 11am.

Add your veggies to an egg scramble or to an omelette for something quick on a morning. It’s also a great way to use leftover veg from the previous night’s dinner.

Now to address that dreaded word….fat. Without sounding like a total cliché, fats are your friends! I’m talking about good fats here such as coconut oil, avocados, nuts and nut butters rather than the bad, processed unhealthy fats.

Cooking your eggs in coconut oil or adding almonds or avocado slices are all great to add to your omelettes or shakes/smoothies.

Eating fats will give you energy, ward off hunger pangs for longer and let’s be honest, eating just veggies and meat (protein) does not fill you up!

Be careful though, although these are good fats it is still important to exercise portion control and adapt the amount you need depending on how much exercise you’re doing. Listen to your body and be mindful of when enough fat is enough. Believe me, I’ve been there and know all too well how easy it is to inhale a jar of peanut butter before you can blink.

Most importantly though, the concept is simple- eat real food! You’ve only got one body so why wouldn’t you want to fuel and feed it with the most nutritious foods possible? You’ll feel fuller for longer, have more energy, be alert throughout the day at work and generally just feel more healthy and positive in yourself.

Here’s a phenomenal (if I do say so myself!) breakfast recipe which I made at the weekend to fuel a day of work and training. It’s got some healthy carbs in there, fats from the avocado and protein from the eggs and smoked salmon. The smoked salmon is packed full of Omega-3 which is good for heart health and reducing high blood pressure. Rye bread also has a higher fibre and lower GI content compared to normal bread and so releases energy more slowly keeping you fuller for longer. It is also better for people who are sensitive to wheat or wheat intolerant.

Below is the recipe and nutritional breakdown.

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You will need: 
-Rye bread
– Eggs
– Avocado
– Smoked salmon
– Black pepper to season

Method:

– Put a small amount of coconut oil in a pan and heat before adding beaten eggs to the pan and stirring to scramble.
– Toast the rye bread and then mash the avocado on to the toast instead of butter.
– Top the avocado toast with eggs and the smoked salmon and voilà, a healthy and nutrient dense breakfast.

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Check out my other breakfast recipes I’ve posted including these low carb burpee breakfast tarts.

What’s your go-to breakfast? Do you eat the same thing or do you change it depending on work or training schedules? Let me know 🙂