A Weekend of Cycling

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Victoria’s recap:

Last weekend my husband drove off to Wales with the boat and kayaks for a week of adventures with his friends. Knowing I had a free weekend, I messaged Sahdya to see if she fancied coming down to Kent for some cycling. Sahdya agreed and a plan was soon hatched to have as much fun on two wheels as possible.

Luckily Sahdya knows how to cycle, although because she doesn’t currently own a bike her only recent experience has been riding a ‘Boris Bike’ – not the easiest way to get around the city, but still plenty of fun. After meeting at the train station we had a quick healthy brunch (kale scramble for me, as usual) before hopping on the bikes and cycling along the coast to Whitstable. I always think a good bike ride is marked by the snacks you can incorporate whilst out and about, and the sole purpose of cycling to Whitstable was for a delicious ice cream from Sundae Sundae. Needless to say my salted caramel did not disappoint, and the ice cream man even put a chocolate star on the top, much to my delight. We then cycled back along the coast with a nice tail wind which carried us home quite quickly, before having a thoroughly indulgent evening eating pasta and watching The West Wing.

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We woke up early on Sunday morning knowing that we only had a short break in the weather where it would be dry, and after fuelling up on croissants and green juice (which unintentionally ended up being the same colour as my Bianchi) headed back out on the bikes, this time into the countryside. We must have crossed paths with about 15 other cyclists and everyone we passed gave a cheerful ‘good morning’, I also had a man tell me how much he loved my Bianchi which left me feeling like a very proud parent. Yes, Edoardo the Bianchi is beautiful, and yes, I love him dearly. Whilst Sunday was a shorter cycle, it had quite a few hills to contend with which wasn’t the most comfortable on a hamstring injury I sustained last week, but still, hills are always good practice for race day.

All in all, a thoroughly fun and active weekend – we really made the most of being outdoors, even if the weather wasn’t as lovely as I had hoped!


Sahdya’s recap:

This time last weekend I was cycling along the coast with Victoria. It was such a fun weekend filled with delicious food, cycling, and The West Wing all with the best company J I haven’t owned a bike since I was 11 but I have ridden a bike since for leisure. Living in London I have used the “Boris bikes” a couple of times in Hyde Park but I’ve never dared venture out onto the roads despite doing a cycling course several years ago as cycling on the roads of London seems quite scary (coming from the woman who has lived in Afghanistan and Palestine!) When Victoria invited me to stay a month ago little did I know that she had a weekend of cycling in store although having been friends for five years now I knew some form of exercise would be included along with cake and Earl Grey tea of course!

Victoria and I not only cycled along the coast but in the countryside too and on both days we were blessed with sunny weather. The great thing about exercising with Victoria is that you never feel like you are exercising! Having run a 10k together in January and now having cycled together I’ve been thinking the past few days that Victoria is responsible for changing my attitude to exercise. I used to exercise begrudgingly but since knowing Victoria I’ve come to realise that it can be fun. It’s all about finding out what kind of exercise you enjoy doing that way when you are exercising you don’t feel like you are at all!

So, what did I learn about cycling last weekend? Well, I learnt that it sure is hard work! It looks easy but you definitely need strength and stamina especially when you’re riding up hills and you can feel your legs burning. However, you are compensated with the descent; one of the joys of cycling I discovered. What kept me going on both days was the scenery which was beautiful, an ice-cream on Saturday halfway during our cycle and fuelling up with an almond croissant, half a chocolate and almond swirl and a kale, banana and kiwi smoothie on Sunday morning. One of the many things Victoria and I agree on is not depriving yourself of such food but eating it in moderation and then exercising to burn the calories!

Oh, and what else did I learn? That you definitely need to wear padded shorts unless you want your butt to hurt like hell afterwards!

There is nothing better than exercising outdoors. In fact whilst I was staying with Victoria she managed to persuade me to sign up to the City of London Mile road race which will be what my next blog post is about!

 

The Importance of Sodium

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Now, I’ll preface this by saying I have no medical background whatsoever so please consult a medical expert if you have any concerns about your own mineral levels rather than self-diagnose.

Recently I was diagnosed with a few mineral deficiencies, including very low sodium levels. Low sodium levels in the blood is also known as hyponatraemia and, amongst other things, can cause nausea, tiredness, unconsciousness, muscle cramps and death. Whilst I have always been conscious of this condition as I have read plenty of articles about marathon runners and endurance athletes suffering during an event, it was something I hadn’t really associated with myself – despite being the prime candidate for it.

I’m very careful with my diet, I track my macros, I drink upwards of 3L of water per day, I eat nutritious food and avoid processed food like the plague, so on the whole I feel like I am doing fairly well with my diet and leading a nutritious life. However eating a relatively healthy diet does unfortunately mean that I lose out on easy-access to salt foods (ie. crisps, salted nuts, processed meats) plus I don’t add salt to my vegetables or food when cooking (my papa will be horrified when he finds out!) and I am rather obsessive with my meal planning so I essentially eat the same food every single day. Combine a healthy diet with somewhere between 8-12 hours of exercise per week, and therefore a lot of sweating, and you have the perfect recipe for someone who will be feeling weak, nauseous, irritable and all-round exhausted due to a lack of salt in their blood.

I knew something wasn’t quite right with how my body was feeling but assumed this was low iron or potassium levels which is something I’m all too familiar with. So to be told that I now need to add an entire teaspoon of salt into my diet each day is proving to be quite the task. When you think about it, a teaspoon of salt is a huge quantity to disguise in food, especially as I need to start adding it as soon as I wake up…which means my beloved porridge has now become victim to a salt invasion. I thought this would taste grim, but actually as I made my way through the bowl it became quite palatable and interesting. It did leave my mouth feeling salty for the rest of the morning though which isn’t quite so great and left me wanting even more water, which I obviously now have to monitor.

And whilst I’m still quite averse to junk food, I am coming round to the idea of needing to be more flexible in what I eat on a daily basis and perhaps a packet of crisps won’t actually cause the world to end. I also now have a bucket load of vitamins I need to start taking on a daily basis, which for someone who cannot swallow tablets without causing the biggest scene in the world, is proving to be quite the nightmare. Oh, and then there’s that small issue of figuring out what I’m going to fuel myself with during my races to ensure I keep my sodium levels up (if you have any good ideas, please let me know).

Here’s to a saltier future!

 

Fuelling for Fitness

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I have a confession to make: I haven’t been out for a run for about 2 weeks now. Cue gasps of horror – people that know me may find this revelation a little surprising. And I do feel terrible for neglecting my running, but instead I have been enjoying our honeymoon sailing around the Greek Islands and filling my days with swimming and diving (because nobody really wants to run in 41°C heat). I did also sign up for the London Winter Run 2016, so my first race of next year is in the diary and I am so pleased to say that Sahdya has also signed up – it will be her first 10K and we plan to run this race together.

This evening will be my first run since landing back in a rather cold and drizzly England, and I am expecting it to be tough as I will certainly have lost some of my run fitness. I am excited to put my running shoes back on though, and am looking forward to a proper autumn descending next month as this is by far my favourite season for running. There’s nothing quite like putting your running tights on for the first time with the changes of the season and dusting off your neon beanie hat.

And so today seems like the perfect time to start talking about another really important side of running (well, any exercise, really)…the art of fuelling. I have a love-hate relationship with fuelling my body. Sometimes I like to think that I’m invincible and capable of extraordinary things without having to eat as much as regular people. Other times I just hate the size of my thighs and decide to skip my pre-run snack because I think that cutting those calories will at least go some way in reducing their monstrous size (don’t worry, my rational side knows this is ridiculous and if I forgo this snack it significantly impacts on the quality of my workout). And, rather foolishly, a good few years ago I would run as a way of purging as many calories as possible from my already-undernourished body, causing many long-term issues.

These days I can honestly say that, for the most part, I love my food and I have figured out what works best for me in terms of fuelling my medium-length workouts…and that, my friends, is breakfast food. Porridge, specifically.  This is of course great news come race day as a bowl of oats 1.5hrs before the start provides me with the energy I need to complete a 10K (with a handful of raisins consumed a few minutes before the start of the race for good measure). Without getting too technical, because I am no scientist, oats have the perfect combination of simple and complex carbs, protein and fats, and are absolutely delicious with limitless flavour combinations.

The above image is my favourite oat bowl and, as a self-confessed creature of habit, is the same breakfast I have had almost every single day this year – even during the summer because it tastes like a treat in a bowl and I couldn’t imagine starting my day any other way. I use three tablespoons of the Waitrose Gluten-Free porridge, followed by a dessert spoon of chia seeds and raw cacao powder, cut up an apple into small chunks (with skin on), add some unsweetened almond milk and heat it up. Once I have piping hot porridge I add a spoonful of coconut oil, et voilà, an absolutely wonderful breakfast which tastes like pudding and is thoroughly healthy. Whilst I have consciously avoided working out exactly how many calories is in that little bowl of heaven, it is certainly enough to fuel a really good workout and I don’t see myself switching to any other flavour combination for the time being.

Of course, with next year looking like my year of endurance events I will have to start to pay a lot more attention to how I fuel my body, both to sustain the levels of training I need to do but also to ensure I integrate post-exercise recovery snacks into my diet (which quite frankly terrifies me). Ideally I need to gain a bit of weight to ensure I’m healthy enough for an open water swim start in a triathlon. The good news is that this lends itself nicely to a thoroughly indulgent Christmas.

What’s your choice of pre-run fuel?

The Inaugural

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To add some context to this first post I should say that I have been running regularly for many years, generally keeping to 5/10K distances, but have had the life-long dream of running the London Marathon – I hope this blog will encourage me to achieve that dream, no matter how long it takes. Sahdya has been running on-and-off over the past few years, and a few weekend’s ago marked her first post-Ramadan venture back into the world of running.

I wanted the day to be as run-filled as possible so spent my morning running solo around the quiet streets of London in the glorious sunshine, eventually stopping at Daisy Green’s in Marble Arch for lunch with my super-triathlete friend, Anne. Anne is a great source of inspiration and knowledge for all things fitness and nutrition and by the time we had finished sharing the banana bread sandwich she had somehow convinced me that I had the ability to get a ‘good for age’ qualifier for the marathon. Everyone needs a friend who can convince you that you are invincible.

After lunch I ran to Regent’s Park to meet Sahdya for ‘the inaugural’. We used to live together a few years ago and became the best of friends. Now, I sprung this run on Sahdya at the last minute – I think I gave her 48 hours notice and she had told me she was nervous as this was the first time we had run together. With this in mind, we would be taking it easy, but not too easy. I had my Garmin so could track our stats and by the time we had finished and were stretching back in Marylebone we had covered 4 miles. To say I was proud would be an understatement, Sahdya absolutely aced her first post-Ramadan run and with me being a usual-solitary runner, I was rather pleased to have found someone I was happy to run alongside.

Now, both of us are fairly careful with our nutrition and would not necessarily condone rewarding yourself with a sweet treat just for completing a run (although I am increasingly becoming a #willrunforcake kind of runner…), however it was a truly lovely day and the first time we had seen each other for a little while so we decided to pop into The Natural Kitchen on Marylebone High Street to try their new frozen yoghurt bar. It felt like a real treat as we sat indulging in our fro-yo in the park, watching the world go by.

All in all, a spectacular Sunday.