5 important lessons I learned from a running injury

Hello!

It’s taken me a while to get here, but I’ve finally written a new post for the blog – on my 28th birthday!

I will be honest…I have had a few challenges over the past few months, and I think it made me feel a bit down. However, I feel like I have come out the other side, and things are starting to improve again!

If at first you don't succeed...

If at first you don’t succeed…

I was training at full throttle for the Gold Coast Airport marathon (which is this weekend in fact!) and unfortunately right at the start of May I got injured. I couldn’t run for a few weeks and subsequently fell too far behind on my training and had to pull out.

I enjoyed taking a few weeks off from training properly, and it gave me a chance to reflect on what I should have done differently. I did find that I felt worse about myself and life in general when I did less exercise though, which is a big motivator for me to get back into it.

A few things I learned from my injury:

  1. If you try and compensate for missing periods of training, you will likely overtrain and get injured!
  2. One session of cross training per week is not enough.
  3. If you get injured mid-run, STOP immediately.
  4. Swimming is your friend during knee/foot injury – low impact, relaxing and a great way to start the day.
  5. If you stop training, don’t continue eating the same as you were before (I have gained about 3kg/6-7lbs).

I have started running a few times a week, just short distances of 5-6km to let my body get used to it again. And we’ve moved to Manly, living right by the beach so it’s quite nice getting outdoors and seeing the sunrise while I run.

Tomorrow I have an assessment with a new personal trainer who I will be working with for the next 6 months to prepare for the wedding! It’s only 5 months and 3 weeks until the big day now so I have to get cracking. And I think the added strength training will help me become a better runner. I will do a marathon, eventually. But I’m going to take it slow and train properly.

We’re still going up to the Gold Coast this weekend…we had already booked our flights and hotel so we’re off to visit some theme parks and have fun.

Despite a few setbacks over the past few months, I am genuinely feeling a lot more positive and happy – I didn’t think I would but it just took some patience and reflection…

I’ll try not to leave it so long next time and post an update on my training!

Coco xoxo

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2015 so far: sunshine, beaches & a PR

After a two month hiatus, I’m back!

I have had a busy few months – Ben & I went to New Zealand in December, and I unexpectedly had to return to the UK in January as unfortunately my grandmother passed away over Christmas.

I’m really glad I was given the opportunity to head back to England in September to spend some time with her, when she was almost fully aware, and able to recognise me. Dementia is an extremely difficult and upsetting illness for both the sufferer and the sufferer’s family. I would not wish it on anyone, but my grandma passed peacefully surrounded by family, which I am very thankful for.

Sarah-Nanny-Me

RIP Nanny Miriam, you were a very special lady who will be sorely missed.

On to some happier news from the past weekend, where I entered into my first 10K race for some time, as I begin to train for the Gold Coast Airport Marathon in July.

The Sun Run is a fairly challenging course, beginning at Dee Why Beach and ending at Manly Beach with a few hills along the way. There are two course distances – 7K and 10K – I entered into the latter with my father-in-law-to-be, Kim who is always up for a challenge.

Me & Kim before the race

Me & Kim before the race

The beautiful 10K coastal course is as follows:


10k

And with perfect conditions of 16-18 degrees and bright sunshine allowing optimum performance, I actually ended up running my fastest ever 10K at 55.40 – despite a serious lack of training! I was enjoying the scenery and keeping a faster than usual pace with the other runners which allowed me to maintain a 5.34/km average page vs my usual 5.50 or so.

It goes to show that (good weather,) attitude and determination make a huge difference. I was in a such a good mood – see the below pic at the start for proof of that!


happyrunner

I’m considering trying out some trail running next, as it really helps when you are absorbed in your surroundings rather than stopping at traffic lights every 5 minutes. I’ll keep you posted what happens with that!

My training schedule for the next 5 months looks something like this..

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 2.45.27 pm

However, I have some horrible blisters at the moment because my trainers have been rubbing, so I am going to spin and swim while they heal this week. And I think it might be time for a new pair.

I also need to incorporate some strength training into my schedule, so I think I will either add in some extra evening sessions or add some weights before or after my runs. Any advice would be appreciated, so please let me know in the comments 🙂

Until next time!

Coco xo

The importance of setting ‘unachievable’ goals

This week saw the start of the Aussie summer! And as it’s almost the end of the year, which got me reminiscing about the past twelve months.

It’s been an eventful 12 months full of good news, bad news and hard work, both in and out of the office. The past few weeks have been particularly intense, as I have been supporting my fiancé Ben with a 6 days a week training schedule – partly dragging him out of bed in the mornings, partly keeping temptations away from him.

Ben and I set ourselves the “unachievable” target of completing one half marathon in 2014. Well, as we near the end of this year Ben has completed three and I have completed two. So we exceeded our goal. And how great that feels!

Not content with completing Blackmore’s Half Marathon, four months ago Ben decided to sign up for one of the greatest challenges out there, the Ironman 70.3.

The Ironman 70.3 is a long distance triathlon organised by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC). The “70.3” number refers to the total distance in miles (113.0 km) covered in the race. It begins with a 1.9km swim, then a 90km cycle and finally a half marathon (21.1km) – one after the other with no breaks!

Well, after finding a 16-week, extremely ambitious training schedule, Ben signed up and the training began. The early mornings and anti-social weekends were a challenge, not to mention having to give up his McDonalds habit (read back on some of his thoughts on the experience here). But 16 weeks later, and a fair few kilograms lighter, the day finally arrived and last weekend we travelled to Penrith for the big race!

High spirits during the run

High spirits during the run

Ben was spectacular and we were all immensely proud of his finishing time, 6 hours and 6 minutes. That’s a huge feat – particularly in 35 degree heat – and a brilliant finishing time for a triathlon virgin! Not to mention he raised over $1500 for the Redkite charity which supports young people suffering from cancer and their families.

For those not quite ready for a solo 70.3, there is also a team option where one person takes part in each stage. I think this could be quite a fun taster, and we’ve discussed entering as a team next year. I think I could handle the run, and maybe the cycle but my swimming isn’t really up to scratch as the cut off is 1 hour and I think I’d need double that :).

Ben cycling

Ben cycling

Beyond the Ironman 70.3, or a half Ironman as it is otherwise known, there is a full Ironman, which is double (!) the distances of the 70.3. Ben has spoken about doing this event sometime in the future, but I think for now he needs to allow his feet to heal as he suffered from Plantar Fasciitis throughout his training, and despite multiple warnings from the physiotherapist, he decided to continue training. Not exactly advisable, but he is stubborn 🙂

The lesson learnt for 2014, is that you shouldn’t shy away from setting yourself a seemingly unachievable goal.

You can and will prove your expectations wrong. It’s a new mind-set. It’s uncomfortable. It’s scary, stressful and hard work but believe me, the high you get from crossing the finish line of an event you never thought you could complete beats any other. And it’s not just the physical finish line after an event like this, I think the same principle can be applied to a challenge in any area of your life.

I’m feeling a bit anxious about attempting a full marathon next year, but that will be my ‘unachievable’ goal for 2015 🙂

We’re off to New Zealand over Christmas and New Year, travelling around the south island. So I’ll definitely have some adventures to report back on in the new year too (including a four day pack walk, staying in huts!).

Ironman!

Ironman!

And of course, many congratulations to Ben, you are my inspiration and I’m so incredibly proud of the strength of character you’ve shown over the past few weeks and months.

Coco xo

Happy healthy Halloween!

Happy Halloween folks!

I’m feeling festive this week, so I decided to write about the scariest and arguably the sweetest holiday of the year, Halloween.

Celebrated annually on October 31 – tomorrow – Halloween is a favourite fun holiday for many children (and adults) around the world.

If dressing up, pumpkin carving and sugary treats are your thing, then this celebration is for you!

Photo credit: @Kiuko on Flickr

Photo credit: @Kiuko on Flickr

Origins of Halloween

Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival, Samhain. This was a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture where the ancient Pagans would take stock of their supplies in preparation for Winter.

They believed that on October 31, the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc for the living world.

Trick-or-treating as it is known today, is similar to the late medieval practice of “souling,” that originated in Ireland and Britain when the poor would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1st), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2nd).

Interesting fact: Shakespeare mentions “souling” in The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593), when Speed accuses his master of “puling [whimpering, whining], like a beggar at Hallowmas.”

Read more about the origins of Halloween.

Halloween and I

So it comes as no surprise that Halloween is a solid favourite for kids around the globe, they get to dress up as ghosts and witches (or anything if you’re stateside) and eat lots of sweets. What’s not to like?

I used to love Halloween as a child in England, peering out of the window and watching at all of the groups of adults and children dressed up roaming the streets trick-or-treating. It’s also the time of year to watch one of my favourite movies, Hocus Pocus!

I remember having Halloween parties at my house with games like bobbing for apples, and trick-or-treating with my sister Sarah, coming home with a huge bag of goodies that would be distributed carefully by my parents to ensure that we didn’t throw up.

My sister Sarah and I, dressed up many moons ago for Halloween.

My sister Sarah and I, dressed up many moons ago for Halloween.

My parents were fairly strict when it came to sweets and chocolate as a child, but they did let us celebrate Halloween when we were young, and the sweets that came with it.

Here's a picture of me with my carved pumpkin

Here’s a picture of me with my carved pumpkin

I have noticed that people – particularly parents – are becoming increasingly aware of their sugar intake and the real health risks we are exposed to – and rightly so, as research has shown our consumption has skyrocketed over the years. And it has disastrous impacts on our health including increasing our risk of Diabetes and putting a lot of stress on our liver. Not to mention rotting our teeth. Sugar also has no nutritional content.

It’s unrealistic to stop eating sugar altogether (and I love sweets, but I try and keep my intake in check), but we are now equipped to research what we’re putting in our body and make better choices.

I have found an impressive array of healthy alternative Halloween treats online, so I thought I would pick my favourites and share them with you on the Happy List today – in case you’re thinking of dishing out something a little kinder on the teeth, and the waistline!

Chocolate chip pumpkin protein bars

These Chocolate chip pumpkin protein bars look amazing, and with an added protein kick even the most health conscious can find an excuse to try!  Find the recipe here on Popsugar.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Protein Bars

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Protein Bars

Pumpkin caramels

I have a really sweet tooth, so these Pumpkin caramels look like just the thing to hit the spot! You could devour these in-house or prepare these for trick-or-treaters. Find the recipe here on the Food Network.

Pumpkin Caramels

Pumpkin Caramels

Grape and raisin spiders

I LOVE these grape and raisin spiders which I think would be great for the kids, and are less processed than your typical Halloween sweets. They also look really creepy! Find instructions on Eating Richly here.

Grape and Raisin spiders

Grape and Raisin spiders

Three ingredient Halloween apple bites

How amazing and scary looking are these three-ingredient halloween apple bites? Bound to go down well with the kids, plus all you need is a bunch of apples, nut butter or jam and some slivered almonds! Easy peasy and really effective. Instructions are here on Oh She Glows.

3 ingredient Halloween apple bites

3 ingredient Halloween apple bites

Spooky Halloween chocolate mousse

I’m a big fan of the healthier chocolate mousse recipes – like my avo-choc mousse here. You really can’t taste the difference. I think kids and adults will both love this vegan mousse recipe, and with some decoration like below, they would make a fantastic Halloween snack. Recipe is here on I Quit Sugar

Spooky Halloween Chocolate Mousse

Spooky Halloween Chocolate Mousse’

 

Banana Ghosts and Tangerine Pumpkins

You can’t help but fall in love with these cute tangerine pumpkins and banana ghosts, and the kids will love them too! Instructions can be found here on Weelcious.

Banana Ghosts and Tangerine Pumpkins

Banana Ghosts and Tangerine Pumpkins

So there you have it! Got any favourite healthy Halloween alternatives? Let me know in the comments! And have a fun Halloween!

Coco xo

Top tips for the beginner Spinner

Spin/spinning/indoor cycling is a popular cardio group workout that involves cycling to music on a stationary bike, usually in the dark. Your bike has a manual dial to alter the bike’s resistance (simulating an uphill ride) depending on how challenging you want it to be, and what the instructor asks you to do.

Photo credit: @theglobalpanorama on Flickr

Photo credit: @theglobalpanorama on Flickr

Only certified Spinning instructors are permitted to teach the “Spinning” class but other group cycling classes exist with different names – cycle, ride etc. Most classes are between 40 and 60 minutes. Some places may offer beginners classes which are shorter, or “pro” classes which are longer.

I recently got back into Spinning and I even managed to hit a 9.15am class today – a Sunday of all days! I was introduced to it back in 2011 when Ben and I started dating. I’d always wanted to try it – but being a gym-phobic, slightly overweight couch potato – it wasn’t something I’d ever seriously considered. Ben inspired me to start swimming a few months prior, and that gave me the confidence to sign up for the gym. I’m a big believer in attending classes, especially when you begin working out since it’s harder to back out of your workout halfway through a class full of people.

The first class was really difficult but I felt tingly and happy afterwards which I find is the sign of a good workout (hello endorphins!). I really ached the first few times, but you should expect that if you are suitably challenged.

Spinning is great for all abilities due to self-managed intensity. It’s also great for those who want to look after their joints as it’s low impact compared to running for example.

What to expect in the class

It’s important to arrive early and let the instructor know you’re new so they can fit you to your bike. There are several parts that need adjusting, and you can do some serious damage to your body if you work out in the wrong position.

Your instructor acts as a guide, and trust me when I say some instructors are better than others which you will figure out quite quickly. You’ll be told to adjust your dial and how fast to “spin”, often to the beat of the music playing. You’ll also be asked to stand up for parts and sit in slightly different positions on the bike. Unlike classes such as Zumba, which I am terrible at, you don’t need to replicate complicated moves and no one can tell if you get it totally wrong!

It’s up to you to work out at your own level and adjust depending on how you feel and how hard you want to work.

The more effort you put in, the more you get out of spin classes – it’s been found that calorie burn can vary from 358 to 715 for a 45-minute class – however I think it could be even lower if you don’t increase your dial enough, so if you’re going to go to the class, you should make the most of it! No pain no gain!

Going it alone

I use the solo spinning bikes at Fitness First sometimes – if I want to do a bit of an extra workout after a treadmill run or elliptical i might do 15-30 minutes on the spin bike.

They look something like this: spinning

I wouldn’t recommend starting on this, but I find it more challenging than the standard exercise bike. You can set the program as if you’re either really cycling on the road or in a class.

Feel like you want to try? Ask yourself these questions.

  • Do you prefer working out in a group setting?
  • Do you enjoy working out to loud music?
  • Do you want a high intensity workout?
  • Are you looking for a low impact exercise?
  • Do you want some control over the intensity of your workout?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, I’d give spinning a go!

You can read more about Spinning on their website here.

Do you enjoy spinning? Why do you prefer it over other exercises? Let me know in the comments!

Coco xo

We need to talk… (and my super easy paella recipe!)

…about Turmeric!

Because this stuff is sensational.

Photo credit: Jackson3 on Flickr

Photo credit: Jackson3 on Flickr

Have you heard of it? I didn’t really know what it was until recently, except for recognising the distinct yellow colour and that it had something to do with curries. Interesting fact – it is also the magic ingredient that gives american mustard its bright yellow colour!

Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, that grows in the forests of South and Southeast Asia. It has a tough brown skin and a deep orange flesh.

Benefits

A natural anti-inflammatory and powerful antioxidant that has been found to help detox the liver in particular, research shows us what many asian countries have known for thousands of years – that turmeric is not just delicious, it could potentially protect us from dementia and even prevent the dreaded C.

How?

Turmeric has an active ingredient called curcumin. In lab tests, curcumin was found to block the growth of certain types of tumours! One study even showed that turmeric extract containing curcumin stabilized colorectal cancer without any other treatment! I must add further research needs to be done, but the initial results are promising – and what do we have to lose?

How to eat it

You can buy oral capsules, or it can be added to curries and other dishes in its powder form. I made a simple paella this week when we had a friend over for dinner that I thought I’d share (and the reason why I had turmeric on my mind!).

Super easy Paella recipe

The finished result.

The finished result.

Ingredients

  • 500g chicken
  • 1 chorizo sausage
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 200g cooked prawns (I didn’t use these this time – so they are optional)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • Bunch of coriander finely chopped
  • 2.5 cups chicken stock
  • Capsicum (or red pepper as i should call it, silly Aussies…)
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 1 onion
  • 1 small chilli – seeds removed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 200g green beans
  • Lemon wedges to serve

Method

  1. Pan fry the chicken breast until cooked and set aside.
  2. Add a splash of olive oil to the pan, then cook the chorizo, garlic and onion for a few minutes, until the chorizo begins to crisp.
  3. Add the turmeric, chilli, capsicum and the rice – cook for two minutes.
  4. Add the stock and chopped tomatoes, mix and then simmer for around 15-20 minutes until the rice is cooked.
  5. Add the chicken, cannellini beans, green beans and prawns if you’re using them, cook for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add the chopped coriander, stir.
  7. Serve immediately with lemon wedges. Enjoy!

How do you use Turmeric in your cooking? Let me know in the comments!

Coco xo

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The quantified self & how I lost 13kg/28lbs in 2013

We live in an age of the quantified self.

That is – tracking devices and pedometers, fitness apps. We’re in a constant state of yearning to improve ourselves and to know as much as we can about what’s going on in our bodies.

My experience with the all-popular Fitbit is not a very lengthy one. I have had four fitbits. I have lost three Fitbits (and one broke).

Fitbit

Once in a club, once on a run and once again in a club. Anyway, I took it as a sign that the Fitbit and I were never meant to be. The Fitbit is a wearable device (clip on or wristband – see above) that essentially tracks all of your activity throughout the day, calories burnt and some devices will also track your sleep. In theory it’s a great idea but for not for someone like me. It may work for you though – I’ve also heard that the Jawbone Up is a good alternative although I haven’t used this one myself.

But this leads me to what I actually want to talk about and that is MyFitnessPal, “the world’s leading health and fitness platform” – a smartphone app that I used to sync with the Fitbit to include my exact steps and activity throughout the day.

MyFitnessPal is a simple concept – you log all the food you eat (you can even scan barcodes) and log your exercise.

Adding food to MFP

Logging food is a scientifically proven way to successfully lose weight as a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found “the more participants recorded what they ate, the more weight they lost in the end. Participants who did not keep a food diary lost about 9 pounds over the course of the study, while those who recorded their food intake six or more days per week lost 18 pounds—twice as much as those who didn’t track any food!”

The MFP food database includes almost everything – I think I have only ever had to manually enter food once or twice. You can even scan barcodes and the app will automatically recognise the nutritional information.

When you begin, the app prompts you set your weight goals and activity levels and it will tailor a calorie plan for you to stick to on a daily basis. I successfully lost 13KG/28lbs using the app last year, and have kept it off so far.

Here's my home screen today.

Here’s my home screen today.

 

I formed a really good gym/exercise relationship as I was using the app – I was really enjoying exercise because entering the calories I had burnt into MFP meant I still had some left for a dessert, or a snack. I still ate chocolate almost every day but we got into the habit of an evening walk that would blitz the extra calories on top of a morning workout 5-6 days per week. We’re planning to continue the evening walks now as it’s starting to get a bit warmer in Sydney 🙂

Chocolate Cake copy

Losing weight is basic mathematics. You need an overall deficit of around 3500 calories for 1lb or .5KG and if you move more, you can eat more. My diet consisted of 1200 calories + exercise for 8 weeks to reach my goal. I think the essential ingredient is willpower (and a dash of patience!).

It also helped me to form some good habits, and I researched the food I eat and the nutrition content which allows me to make better choices now. I think it also helped me to get to know my body better and what works for me.

I still use MFP now, but more as a guide to see how much I’m eating and how much I’m moving each day – I never go without but if I eat badly one day I try and eat less and move more the following day.

MFP also has a message board for users to keep each other motivated and discuss everything food and exercise related. I also highly recommend following their fantastic blog called Hello Healthy full of healthy recipes and exercise related articles and insights – you can read that here.

There is no magic pill help you lose weight unfortunately, but with a bit of exercise and willpower you will get there!

MyFitnessPal is certainly a helping hand to get you started 🙂

You can download MyFitnessPal online for free here.

Coco xo