It’s been a while….

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So, it turns out it has been quite some time since my last post.  I have been busy, but that is not really a reason, only an excuse.  I still believe that if you want something enough you’ll find a way to make it happen, so perhaps I have just changed my priorities a little.

Quick update on me – I’m still at my target weight, still eating like a nutritionist, still trying to be active and outdoors whenever I can…unfortunately an injury to my foot means that this is not nearly as active as I would like.

I have calcification of the ligament between my toes, and a ganglion cyst on the tendon that enables my middle toe to move.  I haven’t been able to cycle long distances since June 2016, and cycling stopped completely in September, due to the pain, numbness and cramping in my foot caused by this injury.  I miss it, very badly.

I am still walking everywhere I can, but can only walk for up to about 45 minutes at a time before my foot hurts.  However, somehow running is unaffected, and I have joined a running club following a formal beginners class in September/October.  I’m not running far or fast, but I am running regularly and I’ve met a great group of people who keep me motivated.

I’ve also taken a beginner’s archery course and subsequently joined a local club, but it’s a bit cold to be standing still without gloves at the moment so I haven’t done any archery for a couple of months.

I’ve found some super recipes which I will share if I ever get the time, and I also discovered this fantastic service called Plan to Eat which makes meal planning, shopping and recipe storage so easy for a tiny monthly fee.

Before my foot got bad enough to stop me cycling I took part in the Portsmouth Duathlon Series 2016 – well two out of three of the races, as I was abroad for the second race. You can see my  Race One results and Race Three results here. The pictures in this post were taken from that event, which I did with a colleague of mine, Diana (also pictured), and we raised money for Naomi House.

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With any luck, now I have a diagnosis, I will be able to get this problem with my foot resolved and be back on my bike soon. I’m not setting any specific dates for this to happen as there is no point rushing the healing process, and I know that when I do start cycling again, it will take me a good while before I regain the muscle and fitness I’ve lost since I was forced to stop, but for now I will be content to think that perhaps by the end of the year I might be able to consider doing another duathlon in 2018.

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Funfetti Protein Cupcakes

As soon as I saw this recipe from Third Shift Fit I knew I had to try it.

One thing I personally find hardest about eating healthily is eating less cake – I just love cake! Normally I try and do an extra workout or cut out something else on the days I want to indulge in a slice, but with this recipe…well, with a massive 2g fibre and 7g protein and only 1g fat and 10g of carbohydrate per cake this will be easy to fit into any day! I might even have two! (And for calorie counters, they come in at just 80 calories each!)

Cute cupcakes
Cute cupcakes

They are easy to make too, literally throw one lot of ingredients in one bowl and the rest in a second, mix, then mix them all together and bake. Took me 1 hour from start to finish, but that’s only because I only have a 6-hole muffin pan and I made 15! Could easily be done in 30 minutes, allowing a little extra time for them to cool before decorating.

Preparing the batter
Preparing the batter

I don’t use the same brand of protein that Rachael does, so I used My Protein Deluxe Impact Whey Velvet Vanilla – but the nutrition must be about the same as the overall cupcakes came out with the same calories/macros etc. as the originals.

I definitely recommend these, they are tasty (not exactly like real cake but close enough you don’t really notice), quick and easy to make, and provide great nutrition – what’s not to love!

Decorating the cakes
Decorating the cakes

a health & fitness blog

As promised, cupcake recipe number two from my protein baking adventure last week! A Funfetti Cupcake with Protein frosting 🙂 At only 80 calories each, you will love these! They are the perfect treat that you can eat without any guilt!

Funfetti Protein Cupcakes

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cup oat flour (used instant oats-ground in nutribullet to powder)

3 Tbs coconut flour

1 scoop Cellucor Cor-fetti Cake Protein Powder

1/3 cup fat free cottage cheese

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One Year On – A Comparison

Although there is no specific anniversary at the moment – it’s not one year from any particular landmark achievement or victory – last weekend did mark approximately one year since the last Big Sky Ride in Southampton, an event I participated in for the first time last year, and which I participated in again this year, but in a different capacity. This difference caused me to reflect back on how all the small changes I have made in the last year have brought me to this place.

July last year – I had been on my ‘fitness journey’ for six months at this stage, and had lost two of the three stone I wanted to shift. I had been cycling for pleasure for only three months, mostly with Breeze Rides on short distances of up to 14 miles, and I was still slowly figuring things out with my diet.  I had re-discovered the joy cycling but wasn’t fit enough or confident enough to cycle further and I am pretty sure my nutrition at this time would not have supported more intense training.  I did the Race for Life 5 KM for Cancer Research UK but I walked it and would not have considered jogging that distance; it seemed insurmountable.

Race for Life 2014
Race for Life 2014

A typical weekend last July would have involved me doing the weekly food shop and some housework, binge-watching Netflix, then an hour of tennis on Sunday afternoon. On the Big Sky Ride weekend I cycled the six miles to Southampton with my husband, we did one loop (five miles) of the route, posed for an official photo, then had lunch before cycling home.  That made a total of approximately 17 miles cycled that day, and we were both pretty tired afterwards.

Sky Ride 2014
Sky Ride 2014 – Image Credit Sky Ride via Facebook

July this year – It is six months since I reached my target ‘healthy’ weight and decided I was happy with that weight. I have been on further Breeze Rides but I have also joined the Southampton CTC and most of my rides are now with them. A typical ride is 20-50 miles now, and I know I can go further if I want to.  I have become a qualified nutritionist and revel in my new-found knowledge as I make wiser food choices based on understanding what my body needs, whilst still enjoying every bite.  Although I did not enter the Race for Life this year, I can now run a sub-30 minute 5 KM if I want to. I also walked a marathon (26.2 miles) this year, and tomorrow I am cycling 62.3 miles (100 KM), for the Rapha Women’s 100. All for fun.

CTC Ride to East Tytherley
CTC Ride to East Tytherley – Image credit Ian McKay, Southampton CTC

I don’t have typical weekends any more.  Last weekend I woke up early on Saturday to attend a special event at my local gym in Romsey – I cycled the six miles there, participated in a 90 minute high-intensity studio class (followed by birthday cake), cycled home, ate lunch, cycled back to Romsey to join a 20 mile CTC ride then cycled home again from Romsey. On Sunday I cycled six miles to Southampton to help man the CTC stand at the Big Sky Ride which involved enthusing about cycling and handing out fliers, then cycled to Romsey from Southampton (nine miles) to play tennis for an hour, before cycling home (six miles).  I cycled a total of 44 miles on Saturday and 19 on Sunday.

Sky Ride 2015
Sky Ride 2015 – Image credit Ali Baker, Southampton CTC

So, I would say I am more than a little thinner, fitter and active this year compared to last year.  Not only that but my priorities have changed and my idea of fun has changed.  A year ago the weekends were for resting, (after all I’d worked hard all week and deserved a rest).  These days weekends are for being active, for getting outside wherever possible, for seeing new places and meeting new people (after all, I’m sat at work in an office all day, I need to take every opportunity to get moving outdoors at the weekend as I certainly don’t move enough at work).  It’s not my job that has changed, just my perception of how active I am during the week.

And now I understand what my body needs I am supporting it with the correct nutrition – knowing when it needs carbs for energy, when it needs protein for muscle repair and when it needs water for hydration have pushed my fitness into the next level.  As long as I eat right and train sensibly, I can get faster, fitter, stronger.

I wonder what I will write in next year’s comparison….

Like Chocolate, with Negative Calories

Mmm....chocolately goodness

Everyone loves chocolate, right?  The delicious creamy taste, melting texture and feel-good factor…..

Yes, I totally tipped out my chocolate stash to take a picture, then ate some!
Mmm….chocolately goodness

Science tells us that eating chocolate triggers the release of neurotransmitters known as endorphins, such as serotonin. These are the body’s natural pain moderators, and act on the same receptors as opiates like morphine – no wonder we feel good after a bar of chocolate, eh!

Such a shame that aside from making you feel good chocolate has no nutritional benefit and is a short-cut to weight gain if not consumed in moderation…

The thing is that for me cycling has the same effect; it’s like eating chocolate, but with negative calories! I used to cycle daily as a teenager for college and work, and I started cycling daily again two years ago for my commute to my current job, and I don’t think it’s coincidence that those two periods correspond with me being happiest overall in life.

Consider it a natural high – a pain-fighting, mood-boosting, concentration-enhancing wake up call every morning, and a stress-busting, motivating pick-me-up after work, plus a work out and an uncomplicated way to get to work each day.

I’m not just making it up though, and I refer to science again (you’ll find I do that a fair bit) but studies have proven that exercise releases endorphins too (more so than chocolate even!) and it is becoming more common now for doctors to prescribe exercise to treat a range of conditions, including depression, because of the measurable effects of exercise on mood, among other things.

So, when people ask me now why I choose to cycle instead of drive, one of the reasons I should give is that it is like chocolate, with negative calories – what’s not to like!

If you’re interested you can find out more about exercise and depression from The Harvard Medical School.

My First Bike

It seems right to start at the beginning – where it all started, with my first bike. I remember my first bike well: it was white with silver and red accents, and a dropped bar, and stabilisers and a chain guard, and it looked like freedom.

I remember my dad helping me learn to ride it; teaching me the things it is impossible to teach and you really have to learn by making mistakes – how to balance, how to lean into the direction you want to travel, how to coordinate pedalling and steering and balance and looking behind you for traffic and waving your arm when you want to turn or stop…

I kept the stabilisers on for quite a while, I seem to remember. I wasn’t ready to balance by myself just yet.  And it felt like when we took them off, I had to learn how to ride all over again. Nowadays it’s all the rage to give children balance bikes (without stabilisers or pedals) so they learn to balance first and add the pedalling later, which seems to make sense to me as balancing is the harder skill.

Apollo wooden balance bike from Halfords
Apollo wooden balance bike from Halfords

We started in the garden and then when there wasn’t enough space in the garden we would go out into the garage road behind the house and I would whiz up and down – it felt like I was going really fast! – and dad would be there running along beside me reminding me to pedal or sometimes to stop before I hit something.

But once I could ride I could explore!  My friends all had bikes too, and although I wasn’t allowed far from the house as I was only little, there was plenty to discover around our own quiet road, and we would cycle around feeling fast and free and powerful, and race our bikes down the hill slight incline of the road – especially fun after they resurfaced it and it was all smooth.

I didn’t realise it then, but those early days of riding my little white bike with stabilisers would start a long love of cycling, and a sense of freedom whenever I get on a bike.