Tasty Snack Ball Recipe


As part of my food prep for clean and lean eating, I’ve adapted this snack ball recipe.  Perfect for pre or post gym to stave off the hunger pangs and give you an energy boost or for that post-dinner snack to ensure your sweet tooth doesn’t crave chocolate.  Pop a couple of these in your bag and you won’t need to buy processed snacks, crisps or chocolate and great for your purse strings too!

Makes around 12-14 balls

Time: 20 minutes (including roasting time)

Ingredients

40g sunflower seeds

50g pumpkin seeds

100g almonds

30g figs, roughly chopped

30g dates, roughly chopped

30g raisins (or other dried fruit of your choosing)

90g dried cranberries (or other dried fruit of your choosing)

30g dates (mine were a little dry so you can rehydrate with hot water for 5 minutes), roughly chopped

2 tsp chia seeds

30g Shredded coconut with added cinnamon to taste

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180c and roast the nuts and seeds for around 10 minutes.
  2. Once nuts and seeds have been roasted, set aside to cool.
  3. Once cooled, add all nuts, seeds and dried fruit to a food processor (or you can manually chop if you wish) and mix until it’s combined and broken down into roughly chopped pieces.
  4. Using slightly wet hands, take a small handful of mix and roll into bitesized balls (enough for 2-3 bites).  The ingredients will be slightly crumbly so remember to keep rolling and push together.  It’s a bit fiddly but it’s all worth it!
  5. Roll balls into the coconut/cinnamon mix and coat thoroughly. You may need to re-roll, and re-pack the balls again to ensure it retains its shape.
  6. Place in containers and eat as desired!

Please note that these are approximate weights and feel free to adapt the recipe to your liking; you can use all sorts of dried fruit, nuts and seeds of course – the choice is yours!

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The running challenge…or not?


So last year (2017) I embarked on my first ever running event.  I decided I needed to try something new and opted for the 10k Midnattsloppet run in Stockholm.  Sure, I’ve done a couple of 5k fun runs before for charity but I wanted to stretch myself a bit and get some training plan in place.  I was a bit nervous about doing it – not sure why – maybe it’s the perception that I needed to achieve a personal best, or at the very least finish it!

I needn’t have worried because although 3/4 of the way through I was willing it to end, I was also weirdly enjoying the experience too (see my previous post for full race breakdown), there was a sort of buzz, maybe that’s what they call adrenalin.  It’s also mildly addictive and so this year (as it’s January and let’s not lose the momentum of positivity and motivation), I have signed up for the STHLM10 and possibly others, like a trail run or something different, to be explored…

In signing up for these races, I am going to do the runs that I know will suit me (in this case the 10k is enough) and I will reap personal achievement in terms of challenge, route, training time and what my body’s telling me.  I suspect a half marathon will not bode well with me as I have degenerative foot issues which will likely inhibit performance, enjoyment or become worse with more kms.

The moral to this story? Don’t feel pressurised (either by others or in yourself) to undertake races that you don’t want to.  Simple as that.  Just because you have a PB in the 10km and feel you can do more, is a half marathon necessarily the next challenge? Is more distance the key? Why not try something different like a trail or a Mud Run instead? Without furthering your kms and stressing your running legs, you may reap a challenge in a different way.  It could even be that you don’t even want to run anymore and decide to take up swimming or cycling instead!  Whatever your choice, I’m sure it’s an exciting one.

Go for it!

 

Embarking on a new direction


New Year, New Goals

I love and hate this time of year…the bad thing: it’s cold and dark (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, obviously), the good thing (and more importantly), it’s a time for getting yourself sorted, to make those resolutions, go for those goals, do something a little different, create a challenge for yourself.

Learning about yourself

As the years tick by, I’ve found that I’m definitely more conscious about my body and how it works, as well as understanding that we’re not young anymore and we don’t simply bounce back into shape or can eat and drink anything we want.  I was never tremendously interested in the Sciences at school and have not progressed a career anything to do with health or food either.  It’s only since I embarked on the Clean and Lean eating ‘diet’ back in 2011, that I started learning more about nutrition, sleep, mindfulness, well-being and exercise.  I found I enjoyed learning about what food does to your body, about how to eat certain things and not others and of course, it’s all over the media, with celebrity chefs turning to a different way of cooking, being overloaded with healthy recipes for this and that, new fads, foods, eating regimes etc etc…that we can’t help but pay attention to it.

This year’s goals

So far I’m going great guns in 2018! Feeling motivated and re-energised I’ve enrolled in a distance learning course in Nutritional Therapy.

I wanted to learn more about nutrition in general and how I can further adapt my eating habits.  I also wanted to learn more from a personal point of view, with high cholesterol, blood pressure and Type 2 Diabetes in the family, I wanted to avoid a lifetime of drug dependency and to prevent myself from getting illnesses which I could most certainly avoid.  I also wanted to find out more to help my Mum, who, being a very different generation to most of us reading this blog, was not sure about what was right for her, what she could eat and how to change her perception of food.

We grew up in a Chinese household with lots of delicious meals: salty, fatty, oily, carby.  Is it a great diet? Not really, and with a health scare last year, even my Mum has embarked on learning more about her way of eating and I want to help her.  The clincher was when we found a picture of us both from 2007 looking bloated, fat and quite frankly very unhealthy! I can’t even bear to post a picture of it here but in time, I might summon up the guts to share it with you.

I’m really looking forward to learning more and will post more about this on the blog over the coming months.  Hope to share some interesting insights with you soon!

 

Here’s to a Happy, Healthy 2018!


Hi All – sorry it’s been a while! Happy New Year and I’m hoping that you have your New Year’s Resolutions in place? Again, mine are the same; after a busy, Festive Season, we’re all feeling a bit heavier and slightly unhealthy right? Never fear! we can get back on track and this is exactly what I’m doing in January: no booze, clean eating, meal and snack prep, lots of hydration, motivation and embracing the great outdoors.

I’m also signing up for a few more running races this year, so will share my training and nutrition schedule and tips, some recipes, plus my review on the Fitbit weighing scales, running kit, trying out Cross Country Skiing, new workouts, food and drink crazes and more…

Here’s to a happy, healthy 2018! 🙂

So, how was the 10k run?


It’s been two days since I participated in my first 10k race.  I’m not one for competitions or anything, I don’t know why I just don’t.

So why did I sign up for it then? A number of reasons: 1) to mix up my exercise (previously I was just running short distances of 5k or less and doing strength work in the gym) 2) I was reaching a weight plateau and wanted to break out of it somehow and 3) I never do races.  I even roped in my hubby to do it with me so that I’d have no excuses and he’s not one for running either, he’s more of a cyclist.

Feelings of doubt and nerves

I knew it would involve training, being diligent with what I eat and not to overtrain in order to minimise injury.  In the weeks leading up to the race, I was starting to dread it a bit and even wondered if the starting group in which I’d placed myself was a bit too ambitious?  I had injured my foot and calf slightly from a fartlek training run earlier in the week and was in two minds whether it was going to heal in time. However, I took a steady paced 20-minute run three days prior to Saturday and rested for the rest of the week. I was trying to eat properly and devised a menu to ensure I was getting enough nutrients.  It was sort of hard work trying to be good and we were a bit naughty and had Prosecco and doughnuts the day before and on the day of the race; to say we weren’t totally strict with our diet was an understatement!

The day of the race I was actually a bit nervous.  Why was I nervous? I wanted to at least finish the race if anything, that was my priority.  My next worry was whether I’d finish it in the group I was in.  I was memorising the map and it was very hilly.  I hate hills!!  I was thinking about my pace strategy; I wanted to run the first 1k at a slow and steady pace to warm-up my muscles and not to overdo it, then the next few kilometres to around 5k at a faster pace and then keep it steady until 8k and then give it as much as I had between 8k to the finish.  That was the plan anyway…

To top it off the race was a night time run: Midnattsloppet the largest race in Europe with over 32,000 participants, it’s a fun, annual event and takes in the best sights in Södermalm, the hippest part of town with a plethora of historic buildings, interesting streets and a finale down the main thoroughfare of Hornsgatan. Our starting group began at 22:40 and by the time the evening rolled around, we were contemplating sacking it off; staying in, drink wine and watch telly.

Pre-race 

Runner's CornerEnough whining, overthinking it and being nervous! We made our way to Runners Corner near the starting line which was filled with people of all shapes, sizes, ages, abilities and nationalities.  There was a buzzy atmosphere and out on the streets there were supporters: friends and family by the sidelines waiting for their loved ones to start and even those who had already finished it, having been in the elite or faster groups.

The race

Starting LineThe build-up was fun, a bit of a warm-up with staff from Run Academy giving us a pep talk and a sing-along to get us started and excited.  That was fun! As the starting fire canons set off I was still suffering from pre-race nerves but as we started the first 1k I thought that this wasn’t so bad and up to 3k it passed by in a flash.  The first of the hills were coming up and some runners were starting to flag slightly but I managed to plough on up thinking if I stop to walk I won’t want to start running again.  From 3k to 5k we made our way through the streets of Södermalm with kids on the sidelines holding out their hands for a high-five.  I truly appreciated the support and gave some high-fives back. I was feeling pretty good and was doing a bit of overtaking as my legs were still working so why not? I made a point not to look at my time on my Fitbit but just my pace and I was going great guns, maybe a bit too fast for my running strategy (which pretty much went out of the window) but I just sort of went along with it and adrenalin was kicking in here.

Mentally beating the hills

From 6k to 7k I was starting to wonder how far I still had to go and managed to find a marker for 7k.  Only 7k? Where was the finish?! A succession of inclines was testing my legs and I was glad that the training had paid off as I’d incorporated hills to get my quads used to it. It was starting to become a bit of a blur as I was manoeuvring my way past other runners and the streets were pretty dark.  I was taking in a number of supporters who were propped up outside the busy bars and pubs with a glass of wine or beer in their hands, drinking, being merry and shouting for us to run faster.  I’m trying but my legs were starting to wane.

The Finale

As I turned the corner to the final 8k to 9k, what could I see before me? Another hill! my heart sank slightly but I knew I didn’t have far to go, the map ingrained in my memory told me that this was the last hill and then it’d be home and dry from there. I pushed it up the hill and passed other weary runners who were walking up.  Up to the final kilometre, I felt a flapping around my right foot, my shoe lace had become untied and I contemplated leaving it but thought better of it and had to stop to the side to tie it up.  I think the warden nearby thought I was going to throw up and was looking a bit concerned but I got up and knew I only had another 5 minutes or so of running and it would be over.

Giving it one last push

As I passed Hotel Rival and Mariatorget I knew this was the final stretch.  Turning onto Hornsgatan I could see a myriad of supporters shouting and cheering for us to run faster and clapping to spur us on.  I found a little more energy and started on pretty much a steady sprint to the finish line, I knew that fartlek training was worth it! I was peaking a bit but as I was running through the dry ice towards the finish line like a scene in a sports underdog movie I thought to myself: “I’ve done it and it’s OVER!”.  Relief.

My post-race analysis

After the racePassing the finish line was a great feeling! I had done it and weirdly I didn’t actually feel too bad.  I thought I’d be more shattered but I felt like I could run some more (I know…). I eventually looked at my time: 60 mins 30 secs! Wow, I was really pleased! I had finished it well ahead of my anticipated group time which was 65 to 70 minutes but I swore softly to myself as I could’ve pushed for sub 60 minutes. I was immediately thinking I wanted to do it again to beat it. Is this what happens when people run competitively? Do they always push for more? Is this the running bug I keep hearing about?

It’s an adrenaline buzz

Midnattsloppet 2017 medal

Now that I’ve done it, I’m very pleased that I did.  It goes without saying that the training takes dedication and being restrictive with what you eat to ensure you are prepared requires discipline. I am thinking about another 10k race; yup, it’s true, I’m really am thinking about doing another one when previously I was not interested. At all.  I’ve been researching the races coming up but in the meantime, I’ll have a break and recover first!

If you are ever thinking about entering a race I’d definitely recommend it but don’t overthink it like I did; it’s to be enjoyed and not a chore. Try it, the sense of achievement and the adrenaline buzz is second to none.

Happy running 🙂

Countdown to 10k: The best pre-race food


This week is all about prep and only a few days to the big race!  I did some research about some of the best foods to eat before a race and for runners and hopefully, it’ll help me with my race:

Foods to eat

  • Salmon (omega 3, protein, B12, boosts immune system)
  • Beef (good source of absorbable iron, boosts running performance)
  • Chicken (protein, good source of selenium to protect from free radical damage during exercise)
  • Brown rice (great for carbohydrate and contains lots of antioxidants)
  • Quinoa (rich in protein and a great alternative to pasta)
  • Oats (great slow release carbohydrate for satiety and iron, lowers cholesterol)
  • Almonds (lots of Vitamin E which is great for reducing muscle damage as well as magnesium, iron, calcium and potassium)
  • Ginger (natural anti-inflammatory, good for reducing joint and muscle pain)
  • Bananas (great for carbohydrates, potassium and Vitamin B6)
  • Avocados (contains nutrients including Vitamin E&K, B Vitamins, monounsaturated fats (good!), potassium and fibre – all good for runners)
  • Flaxseed (good for alpha-linolenic acid, a type of fat that boosts immunity, endurance and blood flow)
  • Pasta (use whole wheat for that extra special healthy carbohydrate)
  • Red peppers (great for Vitamin C and carotene which fight cancer and heart disease)
  • Sweet potatoes (good for carbohydrates and also for carotene)
  • Yoghurt (contains carbohydrates, protein and calcium which is good for muscles)
  • Peanut butter (great for Vitamin E, mono and polyunsaturated (good) fats)

Foods to avoid

  • Cruciferous vegetables e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts (gas and bloating – no!) – avoid prior to the race
  • Fatty meats (fatty, obviously)
  • High-fat cheese (phlegmy)
  • Sodas (gassy)
  • Deep fried foods (greasy, bleurgh)
  • Bran cereals (bloating, gassy)
  • Dairy (limit before a run so it doesn’t induce phlegm unless you know you’re ok with it)

I also devised a meal plan for this week to ensure I incorporate enough of these good foods as much as possible.  As I normally eat like this anyway, these foods should help prop up my energy levels and fuel my muscles. If you’d like an idea of what I will be eating, just download the meal plan here: Pre-race Meal Plan by Project Clean and Lean

Just to be clear, I am not a professional sports nutritionist so don’t take my meal plan or foods to eat as a rule. I have created this from open source research, links to sources below.  Happy meal prepping and training!


Runners World

Great snacks

Avocados

Best foods for runners

Runners Food

Women’s Running

10k Race Meal Plan

Very Well

Best Foods for Runners

Stack

Foods to avoid

10k countdown: why am I having an off day?


So it’s seven days until the big race! Since the last running training post, I’ve been doing a mix of strength, fartlek, short and longer runs.  The other day I was doing some fartlek training and felt like death! My legs were heavy, my whole body was weak and it was a bit disconcerting because I’m normally ok but this was very definitely an off-day.

I decided to Google it and find out what could be the cause – considering I’m not unfit and am used to running – and found this very useful article by Greatist. It mentions that it can be due to a number of factors: overtraining, lack of hydration, lack of sleep, low sugar levels to name but a few. I pondered what could be the issue and concluded it was down to lack of sleep and lack of hydration.  Luckily, today I went for a longer run and it felt decent; a good, steady pace with a mix of trail, road and a couple of faster spurts.  The moral of the story is: don’t let a blip get you down and if it was easy it wouldn’t be a challenge!

It’s only next week now so I’ll have to make the coming days count! Will be looking at the best pre-race meals in my next post so watch this space…

Review of The Fitbit. My new toy.


I love a good gadget and I’m a sucker for trying anything new or on trend, so last Christmas I’d asked for a Fitbit to start tracking my steps, heart rate and activity.  I previously had the Jawbone but found that after a while the whole plugging into my phone syncing malarky was a bit of a faff.

Fitbit Dashboard

Features and reminders

With the Fitbit, it’s a lot easier syncing via Bluetooth;  results are instant and tracking steps and activity is simpler.  The handy app means you can adapt and adjust your step goals, heart rate, weight and so on.   It even recognises and logs certain activity such as a walk if it’s longer than 10 minutes or that you’re on an outdoor bike.

If you have signed up for notifications via email, Fitbit sends a weekly track of your activity and will also notify if it needs charging.  Can be a great reminder for some but I just check my app and charge it periodically.

There are other features like letting you know when a phone call or text comes in but since I’m not using this to keep track of daily life (in fact I’m escaping from these interruptions by doing exercise!), it’s easy enough to switch this function off.

Since I’ve been using this, I’ve found that it really helps me keep on track, it’s a handy stylish watch and has useful features such as an alarm clock and stopwatch.

Training log

At the moment I’m training for a 10k run and the only thing with the Fitbit Charge 2 model is that it needs to be synced with the app so you will need to take your phone with you (not a terrible thing for me seeing as I use it for music too).  The GPS tracker shows the km splits and your pace too which is great to check progress later on the app’s dashboard and stick to a training schedule.

Fitbit Challenges

Fun with the Fitbit

The app has a number of Challenges to keep you motivated and you can challenge friends to different goals such as who can the most steps within certain days or times.  They, in turn, can also challenge their friends making it a fun and collaborative way of meeting step goals. For those who want to rev it up a bit, there are Adventure Challenges such as NYC 10 Miles (NYC landmarks are simulated to tell you how far you’ve reached in the 24,000 step challenge) or similarly you can try the Valley Loop for an epic hike between Yosemite’s mountains (35,800 steps).  I haven’t used these features yet but once I do I will post a review here.

 

 

Fitbit Workouts

Workout Challenges with Fitstar

This is pretty awesome! (I never use this word but this warrants it), the Fitbit app in collaboration with Fitstar offers a number of workouts to suit your needs, whether it’s a warm up, working on core, legs or cardio to optimise your training and fitness.  Some are free, some are for Premium subscribers.  You’ll need to download the Fitstar app to access these but I think it’s a great way to maximise your workouts and especially if you don’t have time to go to the gym or are away travelling and can only do a workout in the hotel room, these are very handy.

Currently, the subscription is GBP5.99/monthly or GBP29.99/year (check your territory’s rates) which I think is not too bad considering you can easily spend this on a night out if not more!

In conclusion, while there are a plethora of fitness gadgets out there, I’ve found this to be easy to use, great for beginner runners, easy for technophobes to grasp and reasonably priced if you are serious about tracking your fitness and training.  The added subscription on Fitstar is a small price to pay and adds a bit of variety to your fitness routine.  So far I’m loving this watch and its apps and will post some more reviews once I’ve done a few of the Challenges or workouts.

Happy Training!

 

10k countdown – Day 18


So it’s only 18 days to go until the 10k run I’ve signed up to! Training? Well, it’s been a bit sporadic but I need to step it up a gear!

I found a training guide in a Trail Running magazine which outlines what you need to do in the weeks leading up to a race. We are now in Week 4 and although I’ve been running here and there and doing some strength work in the gym, I’ve not been sticking to it religiously…whoops! Well, we’re only human and I’m not a professional sports person so I’ll cut myself a bit of slack 🙂

However, it’s not too late and will adjust the diet and plan until the big day.  Today I will be doing an easy run and will build up strength and distance from there so watch this space to see how it’s going.  Maybe train with me wherever you are and whatever you’re training for, hopefully we can motivate each other!

Nutrition for the 10k


So one of the first things I thought about when signing up for a 10k race was how could I adjust my food and nutrition to optimise my training?

There’s a balance between ensuring you are eating properly and still having the odd treat here and there.  So I’m keeping up with the eating clean principles: no processed food, whole wheat and grains, fruit, vegetables, plenty of water.  Pre-run I’ve been having a banana or a slice of toast with organic peanut butter (less sugar and salt). One of the things I do have post-run is some protein to feed the muscles such as Greek yoghurt with a handful of almonds, topped with chia seeds and honey or with some fruit like a kiwi or banana.  This always keeps me satiated until I have something else later.

Now that my race is looming (three weeks and counting…), I’ll be trying to keep up with my training schedule and getting enough fuel to keep me going.  It’s hard though!

Here is a great article I found by Kate Percy giving some great tips for a better, faster run.  What do you eat pre and post run? How have you found your running training?