I’m working with a nutritionist!?

I’ll try and keep this short and sweet (famous last words!) but this is a post I’ve wanted to write for a while but I won’t lie, I have found it quite difficult to write.

Towards the end of summer 2016, I started working and getting help from Chris Lowe, a registered and expert nutritionist, based in Leeds.

Chris has worked with, and continues to work with, a wide variety of athletes, helping them to reach both their performance and aesthetic goals.

The decision to work with Chris came while I was on holiday in Croatia with my boyfriend and our two friends. My relationship with food is something that Dane and I had discussed a number of times but at the time I don’t think I realised just what an issue it was.

Although I didn’t think it back then, for a while I definitely had an unhealthy relationship with food. As a marathon runner (or someone who likes to think she’s a marathon runner!) I train between 5-6 times a week with a mixture of running, strength training and other cardio sessions such as cycling. I definitely wasn’t fuelling my body correctly for the work it was doing and as a result I was often tired, grumpy, weak and quite frankly, miserable. I didn’t even think to look at what I was fuelling my body with though, instead I’d be frustrated at my body for not changing or adapting the way I wanted it to and I’d often take that out on Dane.

I wasn’t eating bad foods, I still had a diet made up of healthy food, but I think what’s important to realise is that even eating a healthy diet, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are healthy, if that makes sense?

I’ll try and explain it a little better. I won’t give you a full run down of what I was eating but essentially, I wasn’t eating enough and I was depriving my body of certain things – mainly carbs – and as a result I’d binge. Usually, I’d have two eggs (sometimes just egg whites!) and some peanut butter before the gym and then usually a protein bar after the gym. I’d be hungry way before lunch time arrived and at lunch I’d usually have a chicken salad and then again, some form of meat and vegetables for dinner. I wasn’t eating enough of, or the right foods in general, to fuel my training. As a result, I was so hungry but instead of just eating something proper and having some carbs, I’d delve into the cereal box or peanut butter jar and then feel terrible about it.

So there you have it – I was a carbohydrate-phobe, not eating enough to fuel my body and on top of that, I was too focused on aesthetics, which is so silly because when I perform well in the gym or have a great run, I don’t care what my body looks like, as long as it can do great things! That’s actually one of the things I say to people quite a lot (not in an offensive way) ‘nice body but what can you do with it?’

What I didn’t realise, until I worked with Chris, was that if your nutrition is right, the aesthetics will follow – and they did indeed!

After having an initial chat with Chris about my diet, I completed a three-day meal plan which was then sent to him for analysis. The results I got back from Chris were extremely detailed and incredibly eye opening. I was restricting my body of so many nutrients and some of these were nutrients that I hadn’t even thought about before!

Chris put together a variety of meal plans for me, one for rest day, one for long run day, run AM, run PM, strength AM, and Strength AM run PM.

I was so excited to get stuck in to them and you’ll be surprised to know that there was zero peanut butter on there – this was a massive thing for me haha and I literally did just go cold turkey. However I felt so satisfied from what I was eating that I actually didn’t want any peanut butter.

For the first few days of the plan I was SO full. I almost felt like I was overeating because I was so full but I persevered and after a week and a bit, my appetite was back. I felt extremely satisfied following the plans and was never left wanting to reach for the snack cupboard or the peanut butter jar.

Not only that, but I found that my sleep quality dramatically improved, as did my mood and energy levels. 5.30am gym sessions no longer felt like a slog, I was lifting well and feeling great for it.

I was also having some really good running sessions, although for the first few weeks I felt a bit heavier but I think that was just my body adjusting to the new diet.

Through weekly conversations with Chris I learned how to fuel my body, what to eat before and after exercise and how to adapt my meals for the day if plans were to change and I couldn’t train due to work for example – this is something that used to really stress me out before!

It sounds silly but if I was going out for dinner, I’d get a bit stressed thinking I’d have to eat ‘bad foods’ or would overeat for example. Now though, I know that having a pizza or a burger for example, isn’t going to change my physique or performance once a week and I can plan my other meals around that to ensure I’m still fuelling my sessions right.

The most important thing for me out of all of this is that I feel a million times better. This for me is far more important than the aesthetics side of things. However, Chris had told me that with the correct nutrition and with the training I was doing, the aesthetics I had once so desperately been craving, would come – and they did – I was amazed! My relationship with food has changed dramatically and I’m so, so happy with it. My diet is far more balanced now and I feel extremely happy with where I’m at now. The issues with food put a massive strain on my relationship with Dane, which is hard to admit, and if I could go back and change all of that, I would in a heartbeat.

Since working with Chris my diet has now changed again, in that I’m not eating animal based products anymore. I’m conscious that I still need to educate myself about this and so I’m excited to be working with Chris again to get his advice to ensure I don’t deplete my body of any nutrients or restrict myself again.

I hope you’ve found this helpful or insightful and I’ll be writing another blog post soon on my journey to eating more of a plant based diet, although don’t worry, this won’t be preachy in any way shape or form – each to their own!

If you want to read more about the work Chris does (please do because he’s awesome) – then you can check out his website here. He also posts some awesome blog posts/nuggets of information on his Facebook page here.

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Summer training & races to come

Well hello there! It’s been a while since I properly posted a training update – or anything for that matter – so here goes!

I’ve had a little break but I’ve since been quietly working away, trying to improve my running and strength and slowly build back up towards marathon training.

long run

I’m running the York Marathon in October which will be my 5th marathon! York was actually my first marathon as well so I’m super excited to go back and run it again. Not only that, but it’s home turf so I’m hoping the family (including my 1-year-old niece!) can all come and cheer me on which would be amazing.

Aside from that, York is flat – yipeeee! My current marathon PB is at 3.25, which I achieved in London earlier this year. I’m not expecting to beat that at York but what I am aiming for is a strong finish. My goal is to be able to run that last 10k as strongly as I ran the first 10k. I realise I’m not going to be finishing the race as gazelle like as when I started it, but I want to be able to maintain a consistent speed, without seeing those mile splits climb.

So basically, that’s what I’m training towards. As always I’m doing my three gym sessions a week. This is made up of 2 strength sessions and a third focusing more on conditioning rather than lifting big numbers – I do love a bro sesh though as demonstrated below, ha!

strength 1

At the minute I’m running three times a week. Before anyone tells me that you need to be running every day to run a marathon, you definitely don’t need to. For me, it’s about getting in the quality sessions and finding out what works for me. I’ve tried running 6 days a week and for me, that just doesn’t work – particularly for my mental health! If you want me to do a post on training for a marathon on three runs a week – just let me know by commenting below or Tweeting me (@hannahbryan91).

speed session

This week I did a speed session on Tuesday, an easy run on Wednesday and a long run on Friday. I’ve got one more gym session to do (my conditioning one), which I’ll do tomorrow (Sunday). This might increase as the marathon nears but this depends on a number of factors i.e. time and my body! I’m currently getting some help with my nutrition which I’m hoping is going to benefit my performance and aid recovery so I might end up running more within the next few months, but I’m going to tell you more about the nutrition side of things in a different post!

easy run

Here’s a list of what I’ve got coming up:

August – Askern 10 miler
September – Great North Run
October – York Marathon, Sheffield 10k
November – exciting challenge to be announced soon!

I’ll try and get some other races in but at the minute that’s what I’ve got booked in.

The only other thing to mention is that I decided not to accept my Good For Age place for London next year. I hope I don’t regret it! My plan is to focus on Boston – providing I get a place! If I don’t get a place…then the Great Wall Marathon is on my list…!

That’s all for now training wise, I’ll keep you updated as the marathon nears. I’m ready to work hard for this one!

🙂

A brief training update & tips to maximise your training time

While I don’t like to start with an apology, I feel this post needs one. So firstly, I apologise for the lack of posts recently. In the last two months I’ve moved to a new city and started a new job – life has been hectic to say the least! With the love of a new job to keep me occupied, I’ve found that my priorities have shifted and as a result, training has taken a back seat.

I’ve been more than happy with this, much to my surprise, but with a marathon on the horizon and the drive to hit a new PB, I’m having to adapt my training slightly and make the most of the sessions I can do.

When you’re following a structured or dedicated training plan, it’s inevitable that aspects of life such as your job, house or a family, may mean sticking to that plan isn’t always possible. I thought I’d use this post to give you a quick training update and list a few of my top time saving tips to help you fit training in and make the most of training time.

squats

At the minute, my strength training programme is pretty much the same every week, for four weeks. I’m incredibly lucky that I have Dane to write me a new strength programme every month. At the minute I’m doing two strength sessions a week and I love knowing what I’m going to be doing every time I walk into the gym, for me it just means I get on with it instead of faffing about! The first session is made up of squats, rows, split squats, core exercises, calf work and stiff leg deadlifts. The second session involves sumo deadlifts, dumbbell step ups, more core work,calf work and hip thrusts. At the end of every session I do a glute circuit, which I’ll blog for you with some videos at some point.

gym1

Now on to the running! The road to London Marathon is a long one, so I’m mindful of pacing myself. I’ve been doing a speed session once a week (last week I did 800m repeats with a 200m walking rest period in between) and then a couple of recovery runs, one longer one and a tempo one.

track

As I mentioned earlier though, if something comes up at work or with my friends/family, then that schedule can change. Some people train with the mindset that it’s NEVER ok to miss training but personally I think that’s an unhealthy attitude to have. My training for the Berlin marathon definitely taught me the importance of balance!

So here’s a couple of my top tips on how to maximise your training time and fit it in to a busy schedule:

  1. Schedule training in the same way as you would with a dinner date. Drafting in a training buddy is beneficial in so many ways but if you use training time as a way to catch up with someone at the same time then you’re more likely to make sure you fit it in. The other evening, Dane and I wanted to see each other, but I also needed to train and eat so we ran to a restaurant!
  2. Utilise your lunch hour. I get 30 minutes at lunch which isn’t enough time to get a run in and eat, but it’s definitely long enough to get outside and stretch my legs. Getting some fresh air will not only rejuvinate you for the afternoon but can help fire you up for training later in the day. On the other hand, if you don’t get time to train, at least you’ve been out at lunch to stretch your legs and will feel far less sluggish in the afternoon.
  3. Make your quality sessions count. On days where you can afford to do a good session, find the motivation to do it. This is beneficial not only physically but provides you with some mental relief from the pressure of a structured training schedule. If you finish early one day at work for example, or don’t start until later, then make that the day of the week when you’ll do your biggest session. If the rest of the week doesn’t go to plan then at least you’ve got one of your main sessions done.
  4. Be as prepped as you can possibly be. It’s such a simple thing but having your food prepped, clothes laid out and gym bags packed saves so much time and just takes that hassle out of getting ready for the gym or thinking you need to go home to get your stuff or worrying about when you’re going to eat. Having your food prepped too will also help to fuel training.food prep 1
  5. Mix up your training. Similar to booking in a date with a training buddy, booking on to a boxing, spin or another fitness class will make sure you get a good workout in using a structured time period. I find that a spin class is perfect for this. It’s 45 minutes of solid hard work and forces you to work hard throughout.
  6. If you’re worried that you won’t have time to train at all, firstly, try not to worry! If you’re really pushed for time but eager to get something done, do one or two tabata sets. Burpees, kettlebell swings and even body-weight squats are all absolute killers! Equally though, if you don’t have time to train at all, don’t worry, just look ahead to the rest of the week.

What are your time saving tips when it comes to training? Tweet me @HannahBryan or use #hannahshappypace on Instagram. Follow me on Instagram @hbryan91

🙂

How to recover after a marathon 

First things first, you’ve completed a marathon! Woohoo, congratulations, it’s a major achievement and definitely one worth celebrating! 

Before you start the celebrations though it’s important to think about how you’re going to aid your recovery after the race. Generally it takes your body 2-3 weeks to recover from a marathon and what you do in the stages after the race is just as important as what you’ve done leading up to it. Of course, recovery will vary for each runner. A seasoned marathon runner for example is more likely to recovery more quickly than someone who just completed their first 26.2 

Recovery after a marathon starts as soon as you cross that finish line. Drink something as soon as you can and eat a banana or something you’re offered as soon as you’re over the line. As hard as it may be, fight the urge to immediately collapse in a heap on the floor – don’t sit down! A walk to meet friends/family or back to your hotel or car will be good for you and will prevent you from seizing up immediately. 

Once you’re home, put your feet up and as soon as you can stomach eating get some fuel down you. Make sure there’s carbs and protein in there to start replenishing those depleted glycogen stores and aid muscle recovery. Something along the lines of a chicken pasta dish is ideal. Of course, now is the time to treat yourself to a pudding too, you’ve earned it! Listen to your body and give it what it craves, this is its way of telling you what it needs! 

Running a marathon is a huge stress on your body and after the race you are more likely to be susceptible to injury and infection as a result of that stress as well as depleted glycogen stores and dehydration. Make sure you get plenty of rest and eat healthy, balanced meals to keep yourself as healthy as possible. Think hearty, wholesome dinners, vitamin c and early nights! 

Now let’s talk about DOMs! Many people suggest an ice bath to ease muscle soreness but speaking from my own experience I don’t see it as the be all and end all. I’d recommend doing some light exercise to ease DOMs within the first few days after a marathon. This could be a gentle 30 minute walk, a slow swim or even a gentle, short bike ride to loosen up the legs. Yoga is always beneficial too. Hydration is key as well. Drink little and often after the race until you’re rehydrated (hello clear wee!) and this will help to ease muscle aches and pains by flushing out the lactic acid. A massage within a couple of days of the race can help to ease muscle soreness too. 

Post marathon blues are inevitable and trust me, they are real! My advice for beating the blues is to focus on something which isn’t running to give yourself a mental break. Now is the time to try something new that you couldn’t do before because of marathon training. Once you’ve recovered, set yourself some new and exciting running goals! 

In terms of returning to training, ease yourself back in to it and most importantly listen to your body. Try not to put pressure on yourself to get back to it before you’re ready. Try some easy pace runs to get back in to things and remember, easy pace means easy pace! Foam roll and look after yourself. 

Enjoy the recovery time, wear your medal to work and make sure everyone knows what a running superstar you are!! 

🙂 

#hannahshappypace 

Crystal light balancing therapy at The Sanctuary of Healing

Before my visit to The Sanctuary of Healing I had no idea what a chakra was or whether mine were aligned. All I knew was that I was eager for some relaxation time and to try something different. 

  

The Sanctuary, near Blackburn, believes that our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energies need to be able to flow freely through our body in order for them to be able to work together to heal the body. 

Spiritual healing is never something I’ve learnt about before or even believed in so I was excited to try one of the treatments and experience something different. 

My friend Liana and I opted for the crystal light therapy treatment which lasted for 30 minutes, although you can opt for a one hour treatment.

The Sanctuary told us that crystal light therapy ‘combines natural healing frequencies with the use of precious gem stones to bring balance and harmony’ to both body and mind. 

A treatment is said to help correct imbalances in the body which can manifest as an illness; in particular IBS, joint pain and sciatica to name a few. It also claims to help with Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and asthma. 

The treatment uses chakra crystals and colour which are said to radiate energy to each chakra in our body. We had seven lights pointing to the main seven chakras in our body. Chakras are basically  the energy centres in our body according to ancient Indian medicine. 

They are: 
1) The root chakra at the base of your spine.
2) The sacral chakra in your lower abdomen. 
3) The solar plexus chakra in the upper abdomen. 
4) The heart chakra just above your heart. 
5) The throat chakra in your throat. 
6) The third eye chakra in your forehead between your eyes. 
7) The crown chakra at the top of your head. 

So basically what we did was lie on a bed with a ridiculously comfy pillow while one of the therapists adjusted the lights accordingly to align with our chakras. We then had the option of having the lights dimmed or not and whether we wanted soft music on. I opted for both. Then it’s time to relax for 30 minutes and it’s up to you whether you stay awake and watch the lights or go to sleep and let the crystals do the work.

Afterwards people are said to feel more energised, enjoy a better nights sleep, feel less stressed and more relaxed. I can definitely say that I felt more relaxed but I’m dubious as to whether the crystals had anything to do with that but all in all it was a lovely, relaxing and peaceful afternoon. 

Before our treatment we enjoyed some lunch in the café which was delicious! We had one of the chefs special pulled chicken and crispy pancetta salads which included a soft boiled egg, coleslaw, shredded carrot, yellow tomatoes and mung beans. In keeping with the treatments at the Sanctuary the menu is of course full of healthy yet delicious options with some delicious looking desserts too. 
The staff we met during our visit were incredibly helpful and answered any questions we had about the food and the treatments and even gave us a guided tour of the meditation facilities on offer. 

  
  
One thing I did take away from the experience was the importance of relaxation. These days even when we think we are relaxing, before we go to sleep for example, we’re actually not. There’s always something distracting us, from phones to our other halves! I’m going to try and make a conscious effort to relax properly before bed to ensure I get the best possible nights sleep, ignoring my phone and maybe putting on some of that soft soothing music! 

Have you tried crystal light therapy or are you a fan of healing? Let me know your experiences. You can Tweet me @HannahBryan91 or email me at hbryan91@gmail.com 

🙂 

Nutty chocolate squares

Warning: This recipe is definitely not healthy BUT it is delicious!

IMG_8951

Ok, so these might not be one of the so-called clean bakes I like to create but they are so yummy and perfect if you fancy a treat or if you’ve got friends/family coming over – and who doesn’t like chocolatey treats!?

I made these for my mum who had to take some sweet treats into work for a cake sale.  I also made a batch for the whole family to devour and we all loved them. The recipe is actually one from my Grandma so I can’t take credit for this creation but I guarantee you won’t be left disappointed if you do give them a try!

You will need:
– 2 medium sized eggs
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 2 tsp vanilla essence
– 1 1/2 cups pecan nuts, chopped
– 1/2 cup plain flour
– 1/4 cup caster sugar
– 1/2 cup golden syrup
– 3oz plain chocolate, finely chopped
– 3 tbsp butter
– pecan nuts to decorate

Mixing together the sugar and golden syrup

Mixing together the sugar and golden syrup

To make:
– Start by whisking the eggs, vanilla and salt together.
– In a separate bowl mix the chopped nuts and flour.
– In a pan bring the sugar and golden syrup to the boil gradually then remove from the heat. Keep stirring so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
– Once removed from the heat stir in the chocolate and the butter which should all melt in. Gradually mix in the egg, vanilla and salt mixture before folding in the pecan and flour mix.
– Pour the mixture into a greased baking tin and bake for about 35 minutes on 180 degrees.
– Once ready (you can check the squares are ready by inserting a knife into the middle of the bake & if it comes out clean, they’re ready!) decorate each square with a nut on top and drizzle with chocolate before cutting up in to squares!

IMG_8946

Tag me in your creations using #hannahshappypace on Twitter (@HannahBryan91) or Instagram (@HBryan91)

Delicious low carb tortilla pizzas

No stodge, healthy pizzas – yes you heard me! 

pizza

Oh pizza! You can be a calzone, a deep dish or a crispy thin creation and I’ll still love you no matter what. However you’re served up you’ll always hold a special place in my heart!

So as you can probably tell, I love pizza! In my quest to be able to eat them a couple of times a week I’ve come up with this recipe. This pizza is low carb and you can make it as healthy as you desire. We’ve all been there when we’re looking at a menu in a restaurant and like the toppings on one but want to add some from another but with this recipe you can! You’re in control of what you want to throw on there so go ahead and chuck on whatever toppings your heart desires! That said, these are meant to be healthy pizzas so you are in control of how healthy you make them as well.

These actually feel as though you’re eating a “real” pizza with a delicious thin and crispy base topped with plenty of tasty offerings; you forget you’re not tucking into the real thing. Another plus is that they take no time at all to make and bake.

You will need:
– Wholemeal tortilla wraps
– Tomato purée
– Buffalo mozzarella
– Basically any toppings you want! I topped mine with chicken, olives, sundried tomatoes and loads of veggies.

To make:
– Pre-heat the oven to about 180 degrees.
– Get a wrap and spread the tomato purée all over one side of it followed by a few slices of mozzarella. – Add the rest of your toppings.
– Pop the wrap on a foil covered baking tray (this just lets it slide off and on to your plate more easily) and bake in the oven for about 12-15 minutes until the wrap has begun to crisp up and the cheese has melted.

Voilà, that’s literally it! Enjoy your pizza and let me know what you like to top yours with!

Tag me in your creations on Twitter and Instagram using #hannahshappypace