2 Years In – My Running Tips

I will shortly be celebrating my 2 years runniversary! Amazing that I’ve stuck at it this long, and it wasn’t a fad. Who knew?

When I started out running I really wanted to get advice from people like me – not just running magazines and sports therapists. I did get some great tips from bloggers and friends which really helped. So I thought I might do the same, and share some of the do’s and dont’s I’ve learned along the way, in the hope that it might help some of you. Since the weather is improving and spring is here, running season is kicking off – so here goes!

  • Running is free – this is true, but you really must invest in good shoes if you’re serious about running regularly. My first pair of shoes, Nike Pegasus, were wonderful for a while, but too wide for my feet it turns out. Get a gait analysis and go to a shop that has more than one brand, so you don’t just get lumbered with the best shoe that ONE brand can offer. You need the best shoe for you!

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  • Everyone learns at different speeds. Everyone starts from a different fitness level. Everyone is different. Some people will run a mile on their first outing, and others will take a month before they can manage a mile. The important thing is you laced up and went out.
  • If you run, you’re a runner. (p.s You’ll hate it if anyone calls you a jogger!)
  • Speed isn’t everything. When I started running I was impressed with the speed I could run a mile. But I was shattered after it and wanted to throw up. I soon realised speed isn’t the be all end all – it’s finishing that matters.
  • Leading on from this, don’t compare yourself with others. This is much harder than it sounds. Two years in I still berate myself for not running as fast, as far or as often as another person. But they might be lighter than me, or younger than me, or just simply more athletic. They also might be pushing too hard and end up with injury.
  • Listen to your body. I’ve had two bouts of injury, ITB and runner’s knee. I ran too far too quickly and didn’t listen to the niggles when they happened. At the time I was working in a two storey shop on my feet all day, and would spent days between runs in pain, taking painkillers to make it through the day. It’s not worth it. But if you train smart you can avoid it.
  • Running is bad for your joints – When I started telling people I was taking up running, I heard it all. Mostly that running wrecks your joints. It’s true to an extent, but it’s also true for all high impact sports if you don’t take care of your form and your body between run days…..
  • …which leads to…. Complement your running with core work and weight training. You’re putting your body under lots of stress every time you pound the street. I do a yoga session which is designed to help strengthen and stretch my body twice a week. I do arm and leg weight sessions once a week, focussing on my weaker areas when I need to (leg press to strengthen quads and glutes really help prevent further ITB injury). I work on arms, because when you get near to the end of a long run that can be all you have to help propel you on!) and core work which really helps with my form (especially posture).
  • You’ll have really good runs, and you’ll also have crap ones. Lots of crap ones. But at least you’re running!
  • Run with friends. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable running alongside someone else is. You don’t need to chat, just run!

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  • Enter races! If you don’t decide to join a club or have a running buddy then you might not know the joys of running in a group. And if you are familiar with how fun that is, then you must experience the anticipation and camaraderie of running an organised race. Plus goodie bags and medals…. it’s a win win!

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  • You will become obsessed. I know I told you running is free, which is technically true, but you’ll want ALL the clothes and ALL the accessories and to enter ALL the races. You have been warned. You will also, all of a sudden, be absolutely fine wearing garish neon colours and loud prints you would never have dreamed of wearing before!

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  • Never use nutrition on race day that you haven’t trained with. You don’t want to be caught short in the middle of a race because you’ve tried a new gel that day and it’s given you the two bob bits.
  • Hydrate in the days leading up to a race. If you’re chugging on water the morning of your event all you’ll do is need to pee every ten minutes. Portaloos are not your friend. 
  • One of the best bits of advice I read when I started out: “Never trust a fart after a mile” Crude but true.
  • You will all of a sudden be fine with discussing your bowel movements (and girls, your monthlies) with other runners, and you know, everyone else.
  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – I’ve been there. I still go there. If I have a race coming up, I want to be the best I can be. But because of this I put so much pressure on myself that it stops being fun to train. Don’t fall into that trap.
  • Just because you ran for ten minutes doesn’t mean you can go and eat a McDonalds. But I actually found that I went right off most fast food and fatty snacks when I started running and I really just wanted a banana….. I still do get the occasional burger though…. beef’s good protein, right?
  • Most of all enjoy it! You’ve chosen a great, social sport, that will get you healthy and outside into the fresh air…. and lots and lots of shiny medals!

Let’s Talk Paranormal Activity

If you’ve been living under a rock, you won’t know about Paranormal Activity. So let’s pretend for a second you are said rock dweller, and I’ll tell you a little bit about a series of found-footage movies that could change your life.

In October 2007 Paranormal Activity graced our screens and brought those nasty shadows and night-time bumps to life and into our homes. With the use of footage from hand cams and closed circuit systems, we saw a dark entity unfold. Odd clues and occurences (and amazing effects) brought to life the single most scary movie I’d seen at that point.

Now I’m pretty good with scary films. I like to be frightened and this genre of movie is right up my street – but the final 30 seconds were too much for me. I hid. I didn’t see that final 30 seconds until much later on.

IMG_2826I was curious enough, however, to google a text description of what happened in that last-minute.

5 movies followed, including Paranormal Activity: Marked Ones, a spin-off movie (but a must see if you’re following the series… I’ll explain more in a bit).

Paranormal Activity 2 was released in 2010 and continued the story, or began the story since it actually back tracked and told you where things began in the first movie, then continued the first story a little, all at the same time.

Sounds confusing, but isn’t I promise. Again, the effects in this movie were epic. One particular scene had the whole cinema gasp and then giggle with nerves.

Paranormal Activity 3 went back even further, to the 80s, using an old style home movie tape camera. With the use of the base of an oscilating fan the directors created a nerve-wracking panning effect that you just knew would give you the chills at some point, since you were at the mercy of its slow left-right turns.

Speaking of the directors, incidentally, this movie was directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman who were the creators of the original Catfish movie/documentary (if you like Catfish the TV show you must check out the original documentary, it’s awesome.)

Never disappointing their viewers, there are two separate moments in this movie that will take your breath away.

Paranormal Activity 4 snaps back to the present day, and starts to explain a little more of the back story and link it to present-past events.

Using current technology such as webcams and infrared dots on an XBox Kinect, this story plods along and in my opinion was the weakest of the series so far. It progressed the story like it needed to, however, so definitely worth a watch.

To bridge the interim between this movie and the impending Paranormal Activity 5 (or The Ghost Dimension), Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones appears removed from the standard format and focusses on a group of youths pretty much just larking about but when weird things start happening in their apartment complex they get a bit too curious and even weirder things start happening to them. The story starts to link in with what you’ve already seen in the previous films and by the end I was bolt upright in my seat having twigged what was about to happen – let me tell you, I got chills. This movie definitely furthered the whole series’ story.

Paranormal Activity: the Ghost Dimension, which I believe to be the final part of this series, is due for release this October. If it is the last one, I for one am hoping they release a set containing all the movies, because I’ll have them on repeat in my dvd player. This is an awesome collection of movies, and if it’s your kind of film but you haven’t watched them yet, or you haven’t watched them all yet, you have enough time to rectify the situation before the 6th installment comes out.

Maybe just don’t watch them alone…..

Bikini body – 3 months in

For those who read my blog regularly you’ll know I’m off to Ibiza in September to celebrate the engagement and wedding of one of our good friends, Sarah. It’s my first girly holiday, my first beach holiday and my first Hen weekend.

It’s also going to be the occasion I wear my first bikini. I’ve owned them in the past but never had the nerve or occasion to wear one. I’m not body confident. I have a wobbly stomach, sticky out ribs, small boobs, tiny waste and massive child-bearing hips. My weight yo yos and usually just sticks to my hips and stomach. So since the end of December last year, I’ve been working hard to put this right.

Since then I’ve been running twice a week (now three times), with at least one run to be for an hour and the other run(s) no less than 5k. Yoga twice a week, abs twice a week and weights once a week. The Nike Training app has been a godsend – I use it for yoga and abs and the occasional cardio workout if I can’t get to the gym. Since they’re timed 15 min sessions I know I have to complete the whole 15 mins – that’s not too long to fit into a busy day but long enough to feel a difference. And now you can link your app to the iPhone 6 Health app and it adds that Nike Fuel to your daily activity. Not a huge deal, but I like seeing all my activity on there. Makes me feel a bigger sense of achievement.

Since I started, I’ve slimmed down to the point where none of my trousers fit any more so I’ve had to buy a new pair of jeans, and my perfect fit jeans are slightly too loose….. argh! I’m starting to feel ab definition and my arms are more toned and getting back to how they were a year ago before I stopped weight training to focus on running training.

The running I’m doing now isn’t all just for cardio’s sake – I’m training for the London Bupa 10,000 at the end of May! I’m really looking forward to this race for a few reasons – it’s my first race of the year and you get to run some of the landmarks the lucky London Marathon runners will have just run, even finishing up by running down the Mall. I’ve also decided to run this race for Dementia UK, a wonderful charity to assist those and the families effected by dementia.

4a63c769-f6d6-4a9e-a3bd-d8e366fe00daLook, there I am!

I’ve set up a Just Giving page, which you’re welcome to visit and donate on if you wish.

I also have the Race for Life and Women’s Running 10k Series race planned for later in the year. By then I’ll be so svelte I’ll be one of those women who just runs in her sports bra….. not likely…. But who knows, I might eventually share some of my progress photos if I’m brave enough…..

I’ll update you again in about 3 months!

Good Eats

Last week the G-Man turned 32 and even though he doesn’t really celebrate his birthday normally, we decided it would be nice to go out and have a meal. We wanted good food and something different. Since Milton Keynes now is a mecca for chain restaurants (it has 5 Nandos in the space of 5 miles!) we knew we’d have to go out of MK for something decent to eat.

Gary found the website for a lovely looking pub in Tring called The Akeman. It looked like a London-style pub with a great selection on the menu. I think we’d both chosen about 3 meals worth of food just by looking online at the menu.

We weren’t disappointed when we arrived. The staff were friendly, the atmosphere was relaxed but classy and had it been warmer and not raining their garden area looked very inviting. We had a peruse of the menu, and even though we’re not 3 course people we ordered three courses each!

To start I had chicken crackling: chickenskinI love pork crackling so was interested to try this. It was crunchy, light and very tasty with the sauce.

Next I had roasted golden and pink beetroot with tenderstem broccoli, chia seed, honey, orange zest, yoghurt and thyme dressing.

beetrootsaladThis was delicious. Light and refreshing and felt really healthy. Gary had bruschette topped with tomatoes, basil, garlic and oil.

For my main course I had lemon and thyme chicken, with a pumpkin sage and potato hash, smokey bacon jam and jus.

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I couldn’t locate the smokey bacon jam, but the hash was in a light gravy type thing which could have been the jus. It didn’t taste of smokey bacon though. This dish was in a section on the menu called Comfort Food and I could tell why. The first mouthful of this was seriously comforting. It was as if I’d taken a bite of all the best roast dinners I’ve ever had all in one go. This also came with crispy chicken skin on it. Gary had Penne Arrabbiata which he really enjoyed!

I decided to forgo the desert and have a coffee, but Gary had a brownie with salted caramel ice cream, which I tried a little of and it made me quite emotional. So good!

The place, atmosphere, staff, food and selection of food were great. We’ll definitely be back. We were told the menu changes fairly regularly to change with the seasons, and we could tell thought was put into the dishes just by looking at their specials menu. There was much more we could try so it won’t be long until we visit again.

If you’re passing through or fancy a trip to Tring you should really pop in and give them a try – they even do breakfast!

Movie Time!

Over the last few weeks I’ve managed to see quite a few movies, surprising in part because I’m always so busy, but also not so surprising if you consider I’ve spent a huge amount of time flying in those few weeks.

I managed to watch 4 films during both the long haul flights I’ve been on recently, and caught a couple on the day after I returned. Perfect jet lag behaviour!

The first movie I saw was Mockingjay part 1

I watched this movie awkwardly on a tiny screen with audio that came in and out because the headphone jack was too loose and I had to keep spinning it slightly in order to hear in stereo. Despite this I did enjoy the film. I feel like it stayed pretty close to the book, from what I remember, and it was entertaining enough. It wasn’t epic, but then that’s not what these movies are trying to achieve, I don’t think.

I also saw Men, Women and Children.

This movie has a great star cast, and has an independent film feel. It’s a great film just about people and their lives. It’s honest and clever and addresses social media, technology and how this affects people’s relationships. I really enjoyed it.

Next I saw Nightcrawler.

The trailer for this movie gave me the creeps enough that I didn’t want to see it at the movies, but I’m glad I’ve watched it now. Jake Gyllenhaal is fantastic in it, and even though the movie is fairly slow-moving, that doesn’t matter. It needs to go at that pace so you can take it all in. This guy just wants to be good at something – anything – to the point of obsession. With some crazy moments towards the end, this movie makes you just the right amount of uncomfortable to be entertaining.

The Skeleton Twins was recommended to me by G Man (as was Men, Women and Children – he knows me well!)

This movie is about a set of twins who have drifted apart, but come back together when one of them tries to commit suicide. This is a touching and wonderfully dysfunctional relationship, depicted in an independent movie style. It’s got subtle humour and comes across very real. It’s a great watch and something I’d like to see again.

I’d had Summer of Sam downloaded on the Sky box for a while.

I remember when this came out originally and people saying the music was really good. Based on real events of a serial killer, this movie really captures the atmosphere of the baking hot summer when women even started to colour their hair blonde in order to be less appealing to this murderer. The culture, music and heat of New York that summer, come across really well and I really enjoyed the movie. Nice and gritty.

In all of the hype that surrounded 50 Shades of Grey, one movie that kept coming up was Secretary.

Starring the other Gyllenhaal, Maggie, this movie was apparently what everyone expected 50 Shades to be – but, you know, good. I remember seeing it reviewed in Empire way back in 2002 and flicking straight past the article. But my interest was piqued, and so I thought I’d give it a go. This movie isn’t for the easily offended. It’s raunchy, rude and explicit. But not gratuitously. Everything is in there for a reason. One of the most interesting things I found about Mr Edward Grey (yes, his name is Mr Grey…. coincidence?) is that at no point do you find him attractive or even really like him. The characters are very well written and that keeps you intrigued. You’re interested in what makes them tick, why they do what they do and the chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Spader is strong. An intriguing and enjoyable movie that takes the mickey out of itself in parts. I’m glad I chose to watch this movie, and not 50 Shades, its inferior cousin 5 times removed.

So that’s a run down of the films I’ve seen recently. Not a single rotten one in the bunch! Have you seen any of these movies? I’d be interested to hear what your thoughts on them are!

Eating Las Vegas

Anyone who reads Shutterbug regularly will know I love my food. And I have no problems with whipping my camera out to photograph the food I’m served all over the world. My Dad has actually started requesting pictures of things I eat when I’m away, and I’m more than happy to oblige!

If food photos don’t float your boat, then feel free to skip this post. I won’t hold it against you! All the more for the rest of us :)

My foodie journey began on our flight. After being recently confirmed as lactose intolerant, I knew I assumed I would have a hard time finding things I’d be happy to eat. We updated my flight details and opted for a vegan diet on both flights there and back, since the vegetarian option couldn’t guarantee there would be no cheese in the food. A long flight isn’t the kind of place you want to have ‘those’ kind of problems….

I had remembered from a previous flight, years back, that airlines like to stuff you with food, but hadn’t flown with Virgin before so had no idea of what to expect. Here’s a section from my travel journal about the flight:

What’s with all the food?! Still five hours to go on an 11 hour flight and we’ve already had…. a snack, full 3 course meal, ice cream lolly and now a ciabatta/calzone (huge). Will we starve for the rest of the flight? Who knows? Apparently we have afternoon tea an hour and a half before we land. I need never eat again!

The three course meal was really nice. It was a tomato orzo salad, then chickpea dahl, pea and spinach paneer and basmati rice. Then a fruit salad. The calzone weren’t dairy free but I was given a full-sized mixed bean ciabatta roll. I couldn’t eat the pretzels, ice cream lolly or the afternoon tea because it was all cheese and chocolate. By the second half of the flight my stomach was expecting food every half an hour so by the time we were at the hotel (and after a little nap) we were starving!

We headed out to the Rainforest Cafe, in our hotel, since we knew there was a good chance that we would get tired very fast and we knew there was stuff we’d eat there as we’d eaten at the Cafe in Disneyland.

10923641_10155478210920727_4900933054957404483_nI opted for the Paradise Pot Roast which came served on mashed potatoes. I’ve been taking lactase tablets a little before eating anything with a small amount of dairy in, so I popped a few of those knowing there was likely cream in the mash. They seem to work quite well for things like this. Despite the messy bowl, I loved the presentation and the food was yummy and comforting. Just what I needed after a long flight!

After a fairly good night’s sleep, and checking Facebook, a friend Carrie had recommended eating breakfast at a place called Hash House a Go Go. It looked great on the website and had been featured on Man Vs Food. Since we were awake stupidly early, and starving we hot footed it to this 24 hour restaurant, and got seated straight away.

10945409_10155478211130727_6074142470278156142_nGary had a massive pancake (they call these flapjacks) and I had an avocado, swiss cheese and bacon scramble with crispy seasoned potatoes and a buttermilk biscuit. It was all amazing. They gave me some strawberry jam for the biscuit which was wonderful.

We also tried the Cheesecake Factory during our stay. I had a wonderful salad, and thought I’d risk the cheesecake.

1491766_10155478214140727_1435444263095033494_nI got a little emotional eating this, it was so good. I chose Key Lime Cheesecake. But despite it being wonderful to eat, no amount of lactase tablets could save me and let’s just say my afternoon wasn’t as pleasant as my morning had been. You can get lactose free Philadelphia now, so it looks like the only cheesecake I’ll be eating from now on will be home-made!

On one of the afternoons there was a Man Utd game on which Gary wanted to watch so we headed to a sports bar in our hotel called Tap. It’s actually owned by a guy from Watford, who we chatted to for a bit on the last day. We had intended on just having a few drinks and watching the game, since neither of us were really hungry, but we were lured in by their bar snacks. We ended up ordering to share, pig in blanket (a sausage in pastry) which came with an amazing brown beer mustard sauce, and some fried green beans.

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We ate at a Denny’s one morning. After being educated by Beckie, I discovered I should have asked for my eggs ‘over easy’ to get them how I like (we only have one way with fried eggs in the UK!) so I was able to ask for this later on in the holiday. We also ate at a Johnny Rockets and PanAsian. But we really enjoyed the restaurant food. We had planned on eating at a buffet on one of the lunchtimes but ended up eating in Serendipity 3 instead. Home of their famous frozen hot chocolate (which I decided was probably not safe to try after the cheesecake incident!), we were really surprised by how good their savoury meals were.

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I had a pulled pork and slaw pretzel roll with fries. It was so full I had to eat it with knife and fork, but so so delicious! They need to open one of these in London!

Finally, on our last day, we woke late, packed and checked out and then headed back to Hash House a Go Go. This being a lot later than on our first morning we had an hour wait to be seated and then half an hour wait for food once ordered. The atmosphere was great though, since it was so busy.

10171730_10155478209675727_8909387152905351245_nThis time I went for a skillet of artichoke, spinach and mushroom with crispy potatoes and eggs (over easy!). Again the food was amazing. I’d never had artichoke before and was delighted with the flavour. It was like a cross between celery and cabbage but a really light flavour.

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And I didn’t miss out on desert in The Venetian, where I had some dairy free strawberry and apple sorbetto. Just as good as ice cream, if not better!

I was really pleasantly surprised by the amount of food I could eat, which was dairy free, and I haven’t even mentioned the best steak ever that I ate, on one of the evenings! On my return, I expected to have put loads of weight on but was happy to have remained the same as when I left. We worked out we averaged 10 miles a day, walking, which will have helped burn off the calories!

I am missing the amazing choice of foods, and different places to eat, but I will admit I am ready for some home cooking. There’s nothing wrong with a baked chicken breast with a side of broccoli and new potatoes!

 

Las Vegas by Numbers

Last week we spent an amazing 7 days in one of our favourite places in the world, Las Vegas. But you don’t want a boring day by day run down of our holiday, so here’s our vacation round-up by numbers!

  • 11 – the number of hours our flight to Las Vegas took.

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  • 8 – hours behind the UK. We didn’t really suffer from jet lag either when we arrived or when we came home.
  • 2 – boxes of blister plasters I went through when I realised I’d brought all the wrong shoes to trample the strip.
  • 2 – pairs of new shoes I bought while there to assist my poor broken feet.
  • 10 – we averaged 10 miles a day walking around. No wonder my feet hurt!
  • 3 – the number of shows we saw whilst there – Michael Jackson One (Cirque de Soleil), Human Nature Motown Show, Jersey Boys (our 6th time seeing the show!)

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  • 4 – I watched 4 new movies over our 2 international flights – Mockingjay Pt 1, Men Women and Children, Nightcrawler and Skeleton Twins. I really recommend the last three.
  • 1 – The number of times we heard the word ‘dang’ legitimately used.
  • 2 – We ate at Hash House a Go Go twice, on our first morning and our last. It was worth the wait on the last day.

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  • 3 – the number of games of roulette I played. Also the number of games I came out up!

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  • 35 – the number of hours we were awake from the day we left Las Vegas to the day we arrived back home.
  • 1 – the number of times I rode the New York, New York rollercoaster. It was fun, but wasn’t thrilling. I need something more extreme! Gimme the Hollywood Tower of Terror!

11061285_10155478212280727_6311385057821856076_nWe love Las Vegas and can see ourselves making a trip there a regular occurence!