Lady Garmin Forerunner 220

Meet Lady Garmin, I rarely go anywhere without her. She’s the timekeeper of my happy pace, she pushes me when I’m not going fast enough and she sings happily to me when I get a new PB. I love her.

garmin

I was given this watch as a present as I embarked on a new marathon training plan and even though I’ve only ever had one Garmin before I have been super impressed with everything this watch can do.

To start with, the Garmin Forerunner 220 lets your friends/family/coach see where you are during a training run or a race, providing you’ve got your phone with you and are using the Garmin Connect app. I don’t run with my phone often as I like time out from it on my runs but I do take it with me on particularly long/rural runs and this feature is great if you’re racing or for worried parents/significant others!

Let’s start from the minute you put the watch on shall we. The lightweight design makes it feel as though you’re barely wearing a watch and the strap is comfortable and does not rub.

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There’s absolutely no delay in connecting to GPS to get going – just press the run button and you’re off.

Once you’re running Lady Garmin automatically pauses when you stop and starts again when you continue on your run – this means there’s no need to keep clicking stop/start if you have to stop at traffic lights.

You can also set her up so that you get vibration alerts if you’re going too fast/too slow compared to your goal pace. Although if you don’t want that feature on make sure you turn it off as she will keep buzzing away at you if you’re too slow!

You can customise the display shown when you’re running and this can include distance, pace, time, average pace, heart race zones (comes with a very comfortable heart rate monitor), calories etc or you can set up two screens and switch between the two. You can switch between them manually or set it up so that the display switches between the two automatically. 

After your run you’ll be told your distance, average pace, cadence, calories burnt and can then see your mile/km split times.

11 miler

If you’ve managed a new personal best your Garmin will sing and beep happily at you to say congratulations on the new PB and this will be stored on there for you to have a look at and remind yourself of how fab you are at any time.

Lady Garmin also programmes interval workouts and there are free training plans and support on Garmin Connect which you can download and load on to your watch for coaching as you run!

If you’re looking for a new watch I’d highly recommend taking a look at the Garmin Forerunner 220 for not only a reliable and accurate watch but one that’s going to push you too!

Check them out here – Garmin Forerunner 220

When I start my 24 week Berlin marathon training plan (more on that to come soon!) in a few weeks I’m going to start wearing my heart rate monitor a lot more so that I can learn more about my body and how to perfect my pace.

Peanut & almond butter cups

Staring at gooey peanut butter, threatening to spill over the top of a newly opened jar must be what true love feels like.

I love peanut butter and these no bake treats are perfect for combining that love with one of my other true loves, chocolate.
But these treats are sugar free and are made with completely natural ingredients.

I was kindly sent some Meridian Foods crunchy almond butter and smooth peanut butter to sample. Meridian Foods peanut butter has long been my favourite PB brand; not only because it tastes amazing but also because it has nothing added to it.
I hadn’t tried the almond butter before so this gave me the perfect chance to experiment  and I couldn’t wait.

PB jars

Recipe makes 8-10 cups
You will need:
75g Meridian crunchy almond butter
75g Meridian smooth peanut butter
1 heaped tablespoon of honey
50g shredded coconut
25g sultanas

For the chocolate:
75g coconut oil
75g cacao powder
2 tablespoons honey
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

Mix the almond butter, peanut butter, honey, coconut and sultanas until well combined.
Put a tablespoon full of the mixture in to cake cases before flattening down with the reverse side of the spoon to create an even finish.
Set these aside whilst you make the chocolate. To make the chocolate, melt the coconut oil in the microwave and then add the cacao powder, honey and vanilla extract and mix well.
Top the peanut and almond butter mixture with the melted chocolate and then pop in to the freezer for about 20 minutes until they are set.
Once they are set, they should be kept in the freezer to keep firm.  And there you have it, a simple and super quick way to rustle up some treats.

You can use just almond butter if you’d prefer or just peanut butter rather than combining them both and you can change the dried fruit depending on what you feel like. The almond butter was so tasty and the slightly nutty texture meant that these bites had a bit of a crunch to them as well – perfect!

 peanut butter and choc cups

Marathon training & some other challenges in between

After weeks of thinking about it I’ve finally devised myself a training plan for the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon.
With just under three months to go I thought I’d share my training with you as I work up to running 26.2 miles and take on a few different challenges in between. 

Here’s a little about what I’ve got coming up:

Saturday, July 19: The No Ego Trail Challenge – Conquer the Forest half marathon at Dalby Forest
Just five days from now I’ll be running my first trail half-marathon. I’m not sure just how much of the stunning views of Dalby Forest I’ll be able to take in though as we battle through water, jump over fallen trees and tackle mud bogs and plenty of hills. As it’s my first one I’m not expecting a fantastic time but ideally I’d like to complete it in less than two hours.

Saturday, July 16: Adidas Thunder Run 24 Hour
For many people, the thought of running for 24 hours would sound like some form of extreme punishment. To me though, it sounds like one hell of an exciting challenge. I have been lucky enough to secure a place on the Women’s Running magazine team for this incredible challenge, organised by Adidas. The idea is that someone from the team has to be running the 10k trail route at all times across 24 hours. Each competitor must complete at least one lap but after that you can run as many as you want, or take it in turns. Hats off to those solo runners who do the full 24 hours by themselves! I don’t doubt that it’s going to be a huge test for me, both physically and mentally.

Saturday, August 2: Tough Mudder Yorkshire
My best friend and fitness fanatic Liana took on Tough Mudder last year and this year we’ve decided to do it together. We will be volunteering as course marshals on the Sunday after running the course on the Saturday as well. For those of you who don’t know what Tough Mudder is all about, it’s described as the toughest event on the planet. Over ten-12 miles we’ll tackle a range of obstacles from underwater tunnels to rope climbs and even fire to test our strength and all round physical (and mental) capabilities.

So that’s what I’m facing at the moment, a gruelling three weeks with plenty of recovery and mobility work in between and quite frankly I can’t wait!

Guilt free banana, blueberry & peanut butter bread

I can promise you that the title is not a trick; this really is a guilt free treat.

Thanks to the ‘caveman’ paleo plan there is such a thing as sin free cake. The paleo plan focuses on eating what our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have eaten, steering clear of processed foods. This twist on a classic banana bread is full of completely healthy and wholesome ingredients and provides a healthy sweet treat for breakfast, dessert or an afternoon snack.

I’ll admit that the peanut butter isn’t paelo but I couldn’t resist; the slightly salty & crunchy texture against the sweet moist bread proves an ideal combination.

The recipe is adapted from a pumpkin bread recipe on www.paleoplan.com, which is a great site if you’re a follower of the paleo plan, or even if you want to try new recipes using some alternative ingredients. If you fancy knocking this up from what you’ve got in your cupboard though, simply switch the flour used here for regular plain flour. One of the great things about banana bread is that you can add whatever you want, so if not blueberries why not try walnuts and dates or pumpkin seeds and cranberries.

Ingredients:
– ½ cup almond flour
– 1 tbsp cinnamon
-1/4tsp ground ginger
– ½ tsp baking powder
– 2 heaped tbsp peanut butter (organic Meridian smooth is the BEST)
– 2 large eggs
– 3 ripe mashed bananas
– 3tbsp coconut oil
– 1tbsp vanilla extract (natural)
– 1 cup blueberries

Method:
– Preheat the oven to about 180 and line a baking tin with a little bit of the coconut oil.
– Mix the cinnamon, ginger and baking powder in to a bowl. In a separate bowl add the peanut butter, eggs, coconut oil, and vanilla, mashed bananas, blueberries and flour until well combined.
– Add the dry ingredients to the peanut butter mixture and mix well.
– Pour the mixture in to the lined tin and bake for about 40-50 minutes. Allow to cool before slicing. Topping with more peanut butter afterwards is optional but highly recommended.

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Trying out tapas in York

So as you’ve probably guessed from reading this blog, I love running and eating. If I’m not running or eating you can guarantee that I’m thinking about it.

Living in York I am lucky enough to be spoilt with an abundance of nice restaurants to choose from which makes choosing a new weekend haunt possibly one of the best problems to have.

On Friday night my friend and I were torn between either Thai or tapas for dinner. After several pre drinner drinks tapas came out triumphant and we headed to Ambiente Tapas on Goodramgate. We hadn’t booked and the waitress told us that there might be a table for us in the bar area if we came back in about half an hour.

Even though our bellies were rumbling the food smelled so delicious and the decor was warm and inviting that we decided to head for another drink before going back later. Luckily when we returned there was a table free for us in the window and we were seated at a long wooden bench. It didn’t offer a roomy space like a table in the restaurant but it was big enough and added to the whole dining experience.

After drooling over the menu we decided on bread and oils to start and almond stuffed dates wrapped in Parma ham. I’m a huge fan of dates but I’ve never had them wrapped in ham so decided to try them on the recommendation of my friend. He wasn’t wrong, they were incredible and the almond in the middle made for a nice surprise.

For our main we chose six dishes:

The Calamares fritos – calamares rings deep fried in Estrella beer batter with aioli
Chorizo y patatas – caramelised chorizo and roast potatoes
Gambas con crema de manchego – Grilled prawns with a spiced Manchego Mojo sauce
Alboronia – A warm spicy salad of quince, pumpkin and aubergine
Queso de cabra y hinojo – Soft, mild goats cheese lightly battered and drizzled with honey, served with braised fennel and beetroot crisps.
The classic patatas bravas

 

Our six main dishes at Ambiente Tapas, York.

All of the dishes were packed full of flavour and even the classic patatas bravas contained more flavour and taste than expected.
My favourite was the goat cheese which melted in the mouth and the honey added a surprisingly pleasant sweet taste to it. It was unlike anything I’d ever tasted before. The calamares was also the best I had ever tasted and the restaurants own beer batter really gave it the edge. My friend fell in love with the chorizo dish, so simple yet exceptionally cooked.

All in all our bill came to just under £50, with wine and beer as well which I think was reasonable considering the amount we had eaten. We couldn’t resist eyeing up the dessert menu which offered some tasty treats but it would’ve been a case of eyes bigger than the belly if we had said yes.

The atmosphere in the bar was great too and had a real buzz about it. When I ventured to the toilets, which are through the restaurant, I was surprised to find that I was actually pleased to have been seated at the bar. The atmosphere in the restaurant seemed a little quieter than the bar area and somehow you didn’t quite get the buzz on offer in the bar. All in all a great evening and I will definitely be heading back to Ambiente next time I fancy tapas.

Forget the Sunday roast

After getting home at 4am following a night of dancing, my friend Liana and I decided that we were going to get smoked salmon for lunch the next day, or later that day should I say.
But after a slightly longer than planned lie in (I think all that dancing had worn me out) and a lengthy gym session it was time for dinner rather than lunch – and we were in charge of cooking for the whole family!

Chicken is pretty central to our diets so dinner was of course centred around that.

So here is our take on a classic Sunday dinner: Mediterranean chicken

You will need:
As many chicken breast as you like (we had five)
One can chopped tomatoes
One jar passata
Aubergine
Courgette
Garlic
Onion
Olives
Sundried tomatoes
Peppers
Capers
Sunflower seeds (toasted under the grill for a few mins)
Pumpkin seeds (toasted under the grill for a few mins)
Fresh basil

Whilst the chicken is baking in the oven, prep the veg for roasting.
Leave out the capers, olives, sundried tomatoes and nuts. Add the veg to a roasting tin before adding the chopped tomatoes, passata and some cracked black pepper.
Once the vegetables are cooked, chop the chicken and stir in before adding the olives, sundried tomatoes, toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds and fresh basil.

Another simple yet extremely tasty meal that sticks to the clean eating plan. For those who want to add something exta, throw in some sweet potato to the roasted vegetables.

Homemade Mediterranean chicken

Homemade Mediterranean chicken

#cleantreats

You can go right ahead and file this one under #cleantreats.

Finding a sweet treat to satisfy that after dinner craving when you’re an avid follower of a clean eating plan can be a daily battle.
But treating yourself after dinner needn’t be such a struggle anymore. Whilst having an active weekend with my best friend and fellow clean eater, (dancing until it was too painful to walk in our heels and trying out fun new exercises at the gym), we discovered the perfect sweet treat – minus the sugar, chocolate and all of the other bad things we tend to avoid.

Protein pancakes.

All you need is two eggs (one whole egg and one egg white) and three scoops of protein powder. We tried vanilla and chocolate but they would work with any.
Add a little bit of coconut oil to a pan after creating your pancake “batter” – add some water to the mix if it is too glooopy – and pour a small amount in to the pan. Basically, you make them the same way as any other pancakes!
It genuinely is that simple (although it did take us a few tries to perfect them but by the fifth pancake we had definitely mastered it.
Check it out…

Chocolate protein pancake with stewed plums and frozen berries.

Chocolate protein pancake with stewed plums and frozen berries.

photo 3 (6)

Chocolate protein pancake - it was tastier than it looks, promise!

Chocolate protein pancake – it was tastier than it looks, promise!

We topped ours with stewed plums (courtesy of Liana’s fantastic mum Anne) and frozen fruit. Not only did they satisfy our sweet tooth but we got our protein hit too, an ideal combination.

The rest of the weekend was as usual centred around food and exercise so I thought I’d share some of the other creations we made. Check them out on the next post.

Experimenting with vegan

Since Beyoncé published pictures of her and her hubby Jay Z’s 22 day vegan challenge just before Christmas veganism has seen a rise in popularity. 

Apparently she enjoyed it so much that she has started it again. It would appear she isn’t alone either, with more and more people wanting to try either going vegan or vegetarian for a couple of days a week.

Campaigns such as Meat Free Monday have taken off after research showed that having a vegetarian diet at least one day a week comes with health benefits.

Eager to feel these health benefits after a pretty extravagant weekend in London (which put significant stress on my back balance as well!) I decided to try out some vegan recipes.

I could never be vegetarian – I love meat too much – so for me it wasn’t an ethical change, it was purely to see if the health benefits the expert’s claim you feel are true.

It was a lot easier to avoid meat than I thought, especially at tea time. Dinner time was when I struggled though as I usually have salads so at first it was quite tricky to give up my favourite salmon salads and Nando’s chicken. But I stocked up on tofu and made a really tasty broad bean, bean sprout, cucumber and spring onion salad which was very tasty.

After a week I did start to feel the benefits which I was surprised at. I felt full of energy and generally less sluggish on a morning which was great and I found that I hadn’t really missed red meat all that much. Plus, I saved money from not buying chicken as well which was an added bonus.

Here are two examples of vegan dishes I made for tea:

The first is Mediterranean veg and bean mash.
I used:
– aubergine
– courgette
– pepper
– mushrooms
– artichoke
– haricot beans
– vegetable stock
– garlic

Whilst the vegetables are roasting, boil a tin of haricot beans in some vegetable stock with the garlic and simmer for about 10 minutes. When it starts to thicken, take the beans off the heat and mash until you’ve got a consistency you like and voila – a simple, really tasty and surprisingly filling tea.

Vegan Mediterranean veg and bean mash

Vegan Mediterranean veg and bean mash

The second was my favourite of the week – apricot and orange baked quinoa with roasted vegetables.

See above for the roasted veggies recipe, but you can add whatever you want to roast and whatever flavouring you fancy.
I’m a big fan of quinoa (or keen-wa as my flatmate recently told me it was pronounced) but I had never baked it before.
Add the quinoa to a casserole dish with the juice of one orange, fresh apricots and vegetable stock. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes, stirring once in between.

Baked quinoa with apricot and roasted veg

Baked quinoa with apricot and roasted veg

And there you have it – two really simple, tasty and healthy meals made in less than 30 minutes.
I liked the results and the new tasty dishes I had tried so much that I’m trying out more this week. I’ll post my new recipes as the week goes on.

If you’ve got any vegan/vegetarian recipes you think I should try let me know.

Feeling perky!

I was nicknamed perky pony during university so you can imagine my excitement when I discovered there was a whole range of healthy breakfasts and treats with the name PERK!ER.
The bright packaging is what first caught my eye followed quickly by the fact that they are gluten free, full of goodness and offer tasty snack options as well.
The healthy snack option sold it to me, plus the fact that I am a porridge fiend in the mornings and the porridge range looked really tasty.
I’m not gluten free but my sister is supposed to be for health reasons, so I know she would appreciate that side of PERK!ER products.
I went for the fruit berry porridge pot and the apple, cinnamon and raisin pot, but PERK!ER offer plenty of other breakfast options including PERK!ER fruity flakes and more interesting flavours of porridge such as gingerbread and raisin.
The pots were so quick to make – simply boil the kettle, fill up the pot with boiling water to the marker point, pop the lid back on and wait two minutes for the perfect porridge.

PERK!ER porridge pots are really easy to make.

PERK!ER porridge pots are really easy to make.

I tried the berry one this morning and it was filling and full of flavour but not over powered with artificial sweeteners as many porridges with flavourings are – this is all natural.
The pots  are also ideal for a post gym breakfast sat at my desk at work. Rather than having to carry a sachet around and find a bowl at work, all you need is a kettle and you’re good to go. That will definitely help with my morning motivation to get to the gym- I can’t wait to try the rest of the flavours now.
As well as breakfast though, they offer a range of “gloriously gluten free, fabulous and delicious treats” including Tiffin, rocky road and multi-grain bread.
The best thing as well – they can be easily found at Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s as well as to buy online. The products are also wheat free and do not use artificial colours, flavours or hydrogenated fats.
Follow PERK!ER on Twitter @perkierfoods

I can't wait to try the apple, cinnamon & raisin PERK!ER porridge pot.

I can’t wait to try the apple, cinnamon & raisin PERK!ER porridge pot.