Monday, 28 February 2011

Work hard, play hard...confess, repeat?!

Hello bloggies!

Been a good week or so since I posted last. I've been mega busy at work and when I've not been working, I've been [trying to] sleep. I had a nasty bug last week which not only left me unable to sleep with a really sore chest and snotty nose, but I also lost my voice on Thursday and Friday. It played havoc with my already weird dreaming. I fell asleep one night last week, feeling really dodgy and hot and uncomfortable, listening to one of the spoken word versions of C.S. Lewis' The Horse and His Boy. I would find it very difficult to put that particular dream into words, but it was ethereal, very relaxing and oddly serene. Then I woke up with my nose stuck to my pillow and I very quickly felt a lot less peaceful. Plus, I still had to go to work despite my job entailing an awful lot of talking which aggravated my chest. I battled through and - truth be told - ended up having a fairly successful Friday!

                                                                      A nasty bug.

Suffice it to say that the tail end of last week was pretty grim, so come Friday night I was very ready for my friend's birthday party. It was a debauched night out in town and since I don't drink regularly anyway, a night out at a vodka bar hit me pretty hard! It was worth it. We had a really good night. However - and here's the confession - I had a very lazy weekend. Saturday was recovery / being-a-total-hungover-chocolate-pig-dog day [*oh the shame, but I'm all about the honesty!*] and Sunday was spent flat-hunting. Couple that with a mega-busy Monday (had to skip the gym this morning  to prepare a huuuuuuge pile of work for 9.30am sharp) and I currently feel like a medium-sized whale. HOWEVER - I am just typing this up and I'm hitting the treadie for a long run in front of a film. Hit the cardio hard - the only way to regain some sense of human self.

Yup - you heard me right, by the way - I was flat-hunting on Sunday! My housemate has sold her house and I have to move. We're still hoping that I'll be able to piggy-back with her to her next property, but I can't rely on her for everything. So, I've been looking back in Cardiff for somewhere affordable and convenient. And those words have to be my mantra whilst I'm flat-hunting because I know how tempting it would be to get somewhere that little bit more expensive, and then end up regretting it after the first few months when I'm skint and empty of fridge! Its true though - healthy eating is an expensive game and I had to factor that into my flat-hunting budget.

Anyway, to try and make up for the fact that I have eaten horribly this weekend, I cooked up some quinoa and beetroot for dinner yesterday and did enough for my lunch today too. I had tried earlier in the week to cook some quinoa but it was disastrous. I must be the only person I know who messed up quinoa! I thought I could just pour water on it and it would fluff up like cous cous. Wrong. However, when I did it properly, it was truly delish:


Arriva Trains Wales have thoughtfully gone on strike for the next few days so I've had to secure lifts from people from work (some of whom I don't even know!) to and from work. I didn't even know there were strikes until I turned up at the train station today at 5am and there was no train info on the boards. Hmmmmmmmmm. Not the *best* start to the week.

Ah well. *mutters to self* "Glass is half full, glass is half full...."etc.
Catch you soon - with pics from this Wednesday's circuits class, hopefully!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Beneficial butt-moving

I'll start with last night's dinner, which was teeming with foodgasms:

Pitta pizzas topped with:
- tomato puree;
- spinach;
- red onion;
- red pepper;
- mushrooms; and
- goats cheese.

Yes, I had 2. Yes, I'm a pig. But I have an insatiable appetite and have to eat in large quantities (which is why healthy food is a must for me!)

Another night in dreamland last night. This time, I was trying to avoid an old flame who was in my vicinity - which happened to be a campsite last night?! He had come to visit one of my friends who was staying on the same campsite and when he got there, I picked up my orange smoothie (looked vile!) and went to sit somewhere else. A short while later he was running in v tight running tights and went passed me as I was reading a book. Very unexciting. Very non-erotic. Bit disappointing really. Ah well, fingers crossed for improved dreamage this weekend.

I woke up today feeling tired, sluggish and actually not all that well. So, I did what any self-respecting, self-controlled, fitness fanatic would do. I ate like a viking. Assuming that vikings ate loads, of course. Ok, so maybe not *every* fitness fanatic would so the same! Nonetheless I tried protein pancakes for the first time today, using vanilla flavoured whey protein. And I have to say, they were abso-bloody-lutely deeeeeeeeelish. I made them by chucking together the following (see how much of a professional I am in the kitchen?! I *chuck* stuff.):

- 2 eggs and 3 egg whites;
- one scoop vanilla flavoured whey protein; and
- a blob of vanilla extract.

I whisked it all up, stuck it in a pan and did the pancake thing. I topped it with Greek yog and Agave Nectar. *Drool*. Whilst it tasted like heaven, next time instead of making one huge pancake, I'll be making several smaller ones. Here's what it looked like - it looks a bit greasy in this photograph but actually it wasn't greasy at all. I think its just the plate that looks a bit shiny in the light, they were much more appetising in the flesh.

After brekkie and the ubiquitous Saturday chores (washing, cleaning, etc) I was umming and ahhhing about whether to go to the gym. I was still feeling tired and, truth be told, a little bit grumpy. So, I had a shower, stuck on the gym kit, packed a bag and dragged my arse to the train station. I did an hours' work in the office (Monday is going to be a nightmare so I'm trying to soften the blow by doing a bit this weekend) and then went to the 3pm circuits class at the gym.

Circuits well and truly did the trick. It was with a new trainer at the gym who I hadn't done circuits with before and she turned out to be lovely. There was only one other girl who had turned up to the class so I was v stoked - love a gruelling session. We did press-ups, step-ups, lat raises, leg raises, weighted jump-squats, tricep dips and spins on the bike (uphill slogs and then sprints). We did between 1 and 1.5 mins on each station and we did 2 rounds, interspersed with jumping jacks and crunches at various points.

And then, I did a short back workout consisting of the following:

- Deadlifts (3x12 reps @ 45kg)
- Bent over rows (3 x 12 reps @ 30kg)
- Lat pull-downs (3 x 12 reps @ 43kg)

And because I couldn't help it, I had another go at the dreaded barbell squat. And after a little assistance and some massively helpful pointers from one of the Laguna PTs, I smashed up 3 x 12 reps @ 50kg! Get in. Turns out I was bending my knees too much and letting them move forward over my toes. Which is pretty poor form. Instead, I focussed on straight back, bum out, and bending at the knees, from the waist without allowing my knees to drop over my toes. And better form makes such a difference - I honestly think I can lift heavier than that too, so next week I'll be onto 55kg. Onwards and upwards! Its my new favourite workout. For now ;-) Catch up with me tomorrow as I plan to post some fab pictures of the view from my (otherwise pretty lung-wrenching and painful) run in the Ponty hills.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Barbell Mouse

Evening blogland,

Nearly a full week has passed me by in a haze of crazy circuits classes, a million work files, early mornings and weird-ass dreams. Where to start?!

Ok, the gym has been great. I go to Laguna on Greyfriars Road in Cardiff most weekdays before work at 0630h. Its when I workout best and it sets me up for the day: Twice a week I do circuits classes and whilst each of them are excellent, Rhys (on Wednesdays) pushes us to the max. Yesterday I sweated so much in 50 minutes that not only was I dripping onto the floor, but my t-shirt was absolutely drenched and I my face was so red it looked like I had been picked up by the feet and dipped in a tin of fuchsia paint from the neck up. *Massively* attractive. I could kick myself for not taking a photograph of the class set-up but next week I definitely will do and I'll blog it all. I *heart* those classes.

I also tentatively tried out a new mini-HIIT circuit on the treadie. I knew it was going to hurt so I slipped in a taster sesh before my circuits class on Wednesday. I did 5 x 30 sec sprints (@ level 13) on a 9% incline. Yes, you read correctly - 9%! Yes, it was only 5 mins. Yes, the sprints were only 30 seconds. But it was much tougher than I expected. The plan is to increase the sprints but keep the rests at 30 seconds until I can do ten sets of 1 min sprints. Now that's going to hurt! Bring it!

I also had a bit of a run in with the barbell bench press. Normally I do dumbell chest presses and I'm presently lifting 12kg dumbells for 3 x 12 reps. Very soon I'll be onto 14kg. So, I tried out the barbell chest press on Tuesday to change it up a bit. I loaded 10kg weights onto wither side of the barbell, got into position and......couldn't bloody lift it. Well, I got it out of the brackets, but struggled like a nobhead trying to get it back on. I thought perhaps I had hurt my shoulders at Monday's circuits by doing ab roll-outs on a barbell (it felt uncomfortable on my shoulders at the time) so I kind of put it down to that, I mean surely one can't go from lifting 12kg dumbells to not being able to lift 20k on a barbell??

Your thoughts on the above would be much appreciated. Hints or tips, anyone?

                                                      (What *should* have happened.)

                                                         (What *actually* happened).

Work has been crazy mad and as a result the week really has flown by. Only one more day to go and I can turn off my alarm and sleeeeeeeeeeeep until I wake up naturally. The thought is, quite simply, orgasmic. I have been having my usually bizarre dreams, too. They freak me out sometimes because they are so vivid, but I really enjoy the experience of having such lucid images. Last night I slept with a guy I haven't seen for 14 years. Not literally - obviously - just in the dream! Recent dream-fodder contains the following:

- that I have no belly button;
- that I am on a barge being chased by vampires;
- that someone called my name really loudly and woke me up (there was no-one in the house but me);
- that Rhianna was my best friend;
- I was in a bath with 2 fully clothed blokes and a naked girl with a brazilian wax, the naked girl was showing off and I remember thinking that I should have been showing off too (WTF?!); and
- that I was running a 10k race but I was so late packing my bag that I missed the first three start waves and ended up not running at all. Gah! That was my least favourite one - I hate being late. Hate it!

I think I'm going to start blogging more about my dreams and see where that goes - its easy to forget them so I'm going to re-start noting them in my dream diary as soon as I wake up.

So - what's looming on my blogging horizon? I'll be getting some pics of my circuits class, logging my progress on my barbell chest presses, dragging my sorry arse over the hills for 9 miles on Sunday, cooking up a storm for next week's lunches and hopefully having some random dreams I can freak you out with.

Bye for now!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

10 kilometres, 3 courses and 7 muffins

Today was my first 10k race for about 4 months. I have been running regularly but nowhere near as often as I was training last year. This year I changed my training schedule to focus more heavily on weights and strength training and slightly less on running. So, since January I have been training in the gym 6 days a week but running just 3 times a week. This is a stark contrast to the 5-6 times I was running last year. But since I want to focus on form, I can't over-do the running/CV. Simple fact.

So, in accordance with my race diary (see link at top of page!) today was the Cardiff Love Run (now known as the Action Duchenne 10k). It takes place in Bute Park and the route winds its way through the park and along the Taff. I thought the event was very well organised, the Duchenne representatives were friendly and enthusiastic and the route was very well sign-posted and marshalled. Here I am pre-race in the middle of Pontcanna Fields (very nervous, I always am before I run):

The race started at a little after 11am and I finished in 51 mins. Nowhere near my normal 'race-fit' standards of 47 mins, but in accordance with my new schedule, I'm right about on target. (Although I am running the Liverpool Half in March with my older brother and he ran his training 10k today in 46 mins - this time last year I would have kicked his sorry ass, but I think this year *might* be a bit of an 'Element Senior' victory. Humph!). All in all, though, I was very pleased - I was the 16th girl to cross the line and was 86th overall in a field of 219. I then had a little pootle around Cardiff, had some lunch and picked up a few goodies on the way home. A thoroughly enjoyable morning.

Now then - lunch! It was absolutely delish. I went to Zushi, my favourite sushi place in Cardiff to celebrate my 10k. I had squid salad and pickled salmon from the little conveyor-belt-thingy and a huge bowl of chicken ramen. All washed down with Jasmine tea -  I enjoyed every mouthful. I took a picture of the squid salad and jasmine tea, but I wolfed the ramen down well before I even considered taking a picture.

When I got back home I made some mini-muffins for the very first time. I am not in the least bit interested in cooking and find it more often than not a means to an end. However, I just really felt like baking. No idea why. Can't explain it. Anyway, I adapted a recipe initially designed and created by the lovely Gina from Fitnessista ( I swapped her quinoa flakes and quinoa flour for buckwheat flakes and buckwheat flour. The recipe is as follows:

> 1 egg;
> 2T almond nut butter;
> 1/4 C agave nectar;
> 1/2 C buckwheat flakes;
> 1/2 C buckwheat flour;
> 1/2 t baking powder;
> 1/2 t cinnamon

This makes 7 mini muffins at 190 cals each. They were absolutely stunning!! I cooked them for 10 mins at 350 and they came out better than anything I have ever baked before. As you can see from the picture I did make each muffin quite big - I reckon you could probably get 10 smaller ones out of the mixture, which would reduce the cals per serving to 133. Not bad, eh? And they genuinely taste delicious. In fact, like someone else with more cooking experience has made them (that's the first thing I thought when I ate one!). The method is really simple too. Mix the wet stuff in a bowl. Mix the dry stuff in a bowl. Mix both sets of stuff together. Dollop onto baking tray. Cook for 10 mins @ 350. Et voila!

And then I chilled out, watched a bit of Glee, mooched around t'internet and now I may have to get ready for a night out on the town! See y'all soon!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

An epiphany?

Hiya blogland!

Just a brief post today. On the exercise front it was a rest day and I had to attend a work-related course in Gwent. Great course and I'm really pleased I went - I don't very often say that about the courses I attend so I'm v chuffed and feel motivated to start back at work. Tomorrow. Eeeeeeek!

On a different note, I realised today that despite my aspirations to constantly progress massively quickly, to keep my eyes open for other opportunities, to constantly try to progress is any way I can, I may actually be holding myself back by trying to do so much. Something happened today, which I have to keep on the down low for various reasons, which made me realise that if I knuckle down to the "here and now", if I make every effort to do everything to the best of my abilities right now, taking each day as it comes, then things might slot into place. I *may* not have to force things quite so much. If I enjoy every day and do what I have to do as best I can, I can accomplish more (and quite possibly do fewer things better) than if I am trying to achieve a million different things all at the same time. An mini-epiphany? Possibly!

As a sort of tag on to that, I know that we all wish this were true:

But it ain't quite that easy, is it? So, since my overall life goal is to (a) work in an environment and in a career that I truly love and (b) be perfectly financially comfortable, I've come to accept that satisfaction and cash don't always go hand in hand. And (in spite of the ubiquitous work-related-red-tape-type complaints) I do love my job. Which I will try not to lose sight of.

Even when I feel like tearing my hair out of my head strand by strand.

And putting my knuckle-dusted fist through a computer. :-)

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Fat-burning, fruit & frugal ambitions

Bonsoir bloggettes!

Another lovely day of annual leave (and another day closer to re-starting work). For one reason or another  I have a training course tomorrow and I have to go into the office on Friday. Ah well *sigh*. I did have a great day today though. Another fab circuits class with the massively enthusiastic instructor Rhys, who today put me in mind of an over-excited school boy begging his Mum for attention. For me, the funniest part was when he grinned like a lunatic, grabbed some dumbells and started doing box jumps shouting "look! Weighted box jumps, guys!" I couldn't resist a giggle. At least he leads by example!

Another lush brekkie at Starbys was swiftly followed by a trip to my favourite fruit and veg shop. I know its really geeky but I love that its such a simple place, with bright colours and really fresh produce. The staff are always uber-friendly and helpful and they kindly allowed me to take a sneaky pic:

I bought 4 courgettes, a big bag of mushrooms and some beetroot. And because it was so lovely, I had the same lunch as yesterday - courgette spaghetti putanesca. Yuuummmmmm! I'm trying to be more frugal when I buy my food (and in my life in general). Its so easy to spend a fortune, so I'm trying to stick to the healthy basics - which is surprisingly easy to do. Fresh fruit and veg, milk, porridge oats, Greek yoghurt, cottage cheese, tuna and turkey are pretty much my staples at the moment. So I'm sticking to that for now, its seems to be doing the trick - (1) plenty of protein to keep me full and my muscles repaired and (2) plenty of veg to keep up my vitamins and nutrient intake.

Just a quick note about training. Yesterday I tried barbell squats for the first time. I normally do walking weighted split squats and superset them with weighted stability ball wall squats. I found my first attempt at the barbell squat awkward, my form was horrific and i couldn't really feel any effect on my quads or glutes because I had started with such a low weight (20kg!) I realise that as a novice my technique will be horrible initially, but after 3 sets of 10 reps, I *just* wasn't getting it. At all. I'll stick with it for now though and see if I feel any different after another couple of sessions. I'll still do the walking split squats though, as I absolutely love those. I think all of that combined with stability ball ham curls are the reason I have been feeling rather heavy-of-the-leg for the last 2 days! Circuits today really helped loosen them up a little.

Any thoughts, hints or tips about the barbell squat gratefully received!

Monday, 7 February 2011

Back in the saddle (and the fruit & veg shop)

Great news today, thus:

1. My fab friends Matt and Imo are running the MSM (Midnight Sun Marathon) with me in June. Hurrah!
2. I hit the gym this morning for circuits and weights for the first time since my insides were hit with the virus last week. I felt heavy on my feet in class, but soon got into the swing, then followed it up with a solid leg workout.
3. I have located my most-sought-and-drooled-after/over running trainers! Yay! They are magnificent - Asics Gel Kayano 16 - last season's colour, but fab nonetheless.

I'm now on the last few days of my 2-week 'staycation' and it's really great being able to just take some time out. After gym and a little window shopping this morning I breakfasted decadently at Starbys (still there now!) and savoured every mouthful of my soya podge and yoghurt.

Afterwards, I jumped on the train home and grabbed some goodies from the local fruit and veg shop (which I just luuuuuuuurve) which included 3 courgettes, a bag of mushrooms and 2 red onions. I'm making veggie spaghetti putanesca for lunch with courgette "pasta" which I'll make on the spiralizer.

When I was at the fruit and veg shop, the place was quite busy with older people doing their daily shopping. I am always quite touched by how friendly people can be and many of them smiled and chatted to me as I bagged my mushies. When I joined the queue there was one small, elderly lay in front of me who was paying for her veg and chatting to the cashier. I looked at what she had purchased and for some reason it tugged at my heart strings. She had bought one carrot, a small piece of broccoli and 2 bananas. I suppose it made me assume that she was living on her own and I just didn't like the thought of it. In reality I am sure she has a wonderful family who she sees all the time! I'm such a soppy idiot sometimes.

Anyway, here was lunch. I cooked the courgette a little too long so it turned out a little watery, but was still delish. Nom nom nom nom nom nom.....

Now I have to go watch old SATC episodes whilst doing something constructive at the same time to legitimise it i.e. checking out possible accommodation for the MSM. Seeya laters!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Background to my Blog

Hello blogland. So, I've just set up my blog and am really excited to see how it evolves and changes throughout its [hopefully successful and long-lived] existence. I set up this blog to record all those things that I often think about, ponder over and discuss with others, but nobody seems to care as much about as me. Like what? I hear you ask. Well, like working hard, training hard, treating yourself well and with respect, trying to make the best of yourself and enjoying each day and taking it all as it comes. And importantly, like taking charge of your own life - because nobody else will do it for you.

I am lucky in many ways - I have no kids, no husband and no real desire to settle down anywhere in particular, or spring any roots just yet. I'm fairly selfish and make no apologies for that, but by the same token all of my successes and all of my mistakes are my own. So I try and accept and learn from them all. Of course, there are pros and cons to this sort of existence, but it suits me very nicely right now. I focus on improving my career and improving my body - both of which can safely occupy 90% of my time for a whole week! If I could I would immediately metamorphosise into Linn Hansen and/or Nicole Wilkins. To me, they are simply fabulous.

Enough of a ramble for now? Yeah, I reckon so.  Well, having got this far it is now time for dinner. Left-over chicken stir fry and mash. A solid mix of protein and carbs, clearly very necessary to support my massively exhausting day. (I've done nothing but cook lunch for my friend Jo, so pretty much Jack Sh*t!) I'm now approx 78% recovered from my stomach virus which has plagued me all week. Which means I kick back into my beloved training routine from tomorrow - starting with a long run. Watch this space! Oh, and here's dinner: