Running & Fitness Tips

The 5 Health and Fitness Apps You Need Today

Most of us have our mobile phones within reach 99% of the time so it would seem pertinent for us to use them for more than just listening to our favourite music or watching Lol Cats. We have a vast resource right at our fingertips with an endless amount of health and fitness apps that are now on the market.

I have tried many health and fitness apps over the years but these are the ones that have stuck with me and I still use them all regularly to this day.

Disclaimer: This post has affiliate links, which means if you choose to buy through my links I receive a commission at no extra cost to you! I’ll only ever link products that I absolutely love and use, thank you for supporting me.

Strava

Originally, I was signed up with a Strava account by a work colleague of mine who insisted that because I was now cycling to work, I was part of the ‘cycle to work gang’ who were all following each other on this app. Unfortunately for me, they were all male so the pressure for people to see my ‘performance’ every morning and every evening was enough to motivate me to try and cycle my little heart out. If you didn’t cycle when it rained you were a ‘fair weather cyclist’ and I didn’t want to be accused of that! ‘Not cycled in today Michelle?’ they’d accuse. ‘No, I have to leave early for an appointment’. ‘Right ho, if you say so’.

Aside from my personal experiences with Strava, I didn’t actually feel like I needed it initially. Yes, it was nice to have a group of ‘friends’ on a fitness app which I’d never had before and it did appeal to my competitive nature but I already was using my Garmin connect app which was tracking all of my activities.

Except Strava is so much more than that I soon discovered. For the first time ever, I’m trying to race myself on sections of my route that people have deemed worthy enough to log. One of my all-time nemesis hills (which I’d had to dismount and walk up on my first try) was one of these stretches of road that was ‘log-worthy’ and I can’t tell you how happy I was when I ended up near the top of the female group in the recorded times.

Even though I’m cycling no longer, unfortunately, I now have to commute too far, I still use it to look at runs that I have logged (Strava will connect with my Garmin) and I also really like the Kudos feature, so you can be connected with people who don’t have a Garmin too).

One of my favourite features are the graphs and split time stats. I’ll look to these first, before my Garmin stats, because I prefer how clear and uncomplicated they are.

 

 

 

 

Garmin Connect

If you have a Garmin, you’ll most likely be connected with this app where you can change all of your settings, download watch faces, activate Live Track and see all of your data in real time and you can customise the home screen with different stats depending on which ones interest you most.

While I enjoy the stats of this app, I’m not crazy over the design of it with a moody-dark feel to it and I’d prefer to look at the Strava graphs and charts than the ones on here. This app will also link with My Fitness Pal (an app I’ll talk about next) and will show you how many calories you have remaining including your daily activity.

From the Connect app, you can make friends here too and join weekly challenges and I seem to have been signed up for one step challenge or another every week! You can also view a News Feed which will have any of your connections’ logged activities here and you can like and comment on these.

My favourite features about it though are the stats. While I don’t necessarily enjoy the format that they’re all presented in I am always flicking through them to see how many miles I’ve run or walked, what my sleep pattern has been like or has my V02 Max score changed.

It has some nice features like uploading of training plans, automatically logging your gear mileage, insights into where you compare to other users for each sport, and my favourite bit, the Connect IQ Store. Here you’ll find lots of Watch Faces, Widgets and Data Apps that you can download and add to your watch.

My Fitness Pal

I kind of have a love-hate relationship with this app! I love how easy it is to use, I love how you don’t have to put any thought into your calorie counting you can just scan any barcode and 9 times out of 10 the food you’re trying to scan will have been uploaded.

My Fitness Pal will also link with my Garmin so it will automatically upload my exercise into the app and deduct these calories from my overall remaining total. This app is one of the only things that will keep me accountable for making better food choices. While I am well aware that calorie counting isn’t the only form of eating better, I find it very motivational when I’m thinking about whether to treat myself or not. Because it’s only counting calories, I sometimes lose track of how much healthy food I’ve actually eaten. Yes, I may be under my calorie goal but I may have eaten terribly that day, and eating healthy is more important to me than counting calories, therefore I’ll only ever use it as a guide throughout the day and if I’m tracking what I eat I’ll take photos of everything instead to get a better picture.

The app can also track your weight, which is also an interesting statistic for me personally because I’ve been using it since 2013 and I’ve put on quite a few pounds since then! Hello, upwards graph! They’ve added a feature where you can also upload progress photos but I’ve never been one for taking progress pics, I have uploaded my daily food diary photos into it though so I can refer back to them at a later date.

Relax Melodies: Sleep Sounds

While I love being asleep and snoozing, I’m terrible at actually getting to sleep! I’ve tried tons of different sleep apps and sleep trackers and my favourite so far is Relax Melodies: Sleep Sounds. While the app has many more features if you pay to upgrade, there are enough features for me with the free version.

You can set different sleep noises like rain, ocean, winds, waterfalls, thunder and many others. I find this white noise very useful to get my mind clearer and I’m less likely to be staring up at the ceiling for hours praying for sleep to take me over. If you haven’t used a sleep sounds app before, check this one out.

 

Audible

While you may not consider Audible to be a health or fitness app, I have found it useful in both areas. Sometimes when I’m going out for a run and I want to have more of a chilled and relaxed attitude I will pop on an Audible book. I’m a cardio enthusiast so high energy dance tracks are usually the order of the day but occasionally listening to the soothing reassuring voice of Stephen Fry or the hilarious Jack and Michael Whitehall gives a whole new experience to my run. It will also give me something else to focus on, which I love for a long Sunday run. I’ll sometimes listen to one on my daily commute because some days, no genre of music will help you deal with the traffic and terrible drivers.

Another way I find Audible useful is as a sleep app. While I do enjoy the thunder and lightning noises to drift off at bedtime, sometimes I can’t clear my mind of thoughts and that’s where I find an audiobook will help because it’s giving my brain something else to think about, yet it’s not so distracting that it will keep me awake. My preferred audiobook is one of an autobiographical nature, usually by a comedian. A new addition to my Audible library is Derren Brown’s Happy. I have his book in hardback, and on my phone so I was delighted that he was finally narrating one, he has the most soothing, relaxing voice I’ve ever heard. You can also set a sleep timer so it doesn’t continue to run all through the night.

So if you’ve never considered audiobooks before, give Audible a try, they’ve got lots of different books for you to choose from. Click here to start an audible trial today

 

 

 

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Health & Wellbeing

The Perfect Sunday Routine to Have a Productive Week

A Sunday well spent brings a week of content

 

Write out your goals

Writing down your goals for the next week, whether they’re health goals or work goals, will give you some focus for the week ahead. If you write down everything you want to accomplish the following week you can prioritise more important things and ensure that you get all of your important tasks done in good time.

I’m a huge fan of time blocking so I’ll use my planner, which has the time of day down the side of the page and write in all of my appointments and things that I cannot change (like work from 7am – 4pm or dentist appointments). I’ll then take a look at all of my tasks and goals for the week and what I need to get done as a priority and block this time off specifically for each task.

For example, say my goal for this week was to do 3 runs and 1 yoga session, I’ll take a look at my free time that I haven’t blocked out the time for and plan in my workouts each day. That way I’ve got no excuses that I don’t have time because I’m making the time and not trying to find the time throughout the week playing it by ear day by day.

Planning out your goals like this will motivate you throughout the week to keep on track and you know what they say ‘a plan without a goal is just a wish’ so stop wishing you could get things done and plan plan plan!

If you’re struggling to get all of your tasks completed within your timeframe, click to read more tips and how you can have an exceptionally productive day

Plan meals & meal prep

Writing out a weekly meal plan has been a game changer for me in terms of sticking to my health goals. A little bit like my time blocking each week, I’ll look at what I might have on that week like eating out or when I might be working away from home and I’ll work out how many meals I’ll need to prep for the week.

If you’re not sure where to start with meal planning, I’ve put together a really easy meal planning template that you can download for FREE here.

Once I’ve got all of my meals planned, it’s time for the prep! Another thing which has really helped me stick to eating healthier has been portioning out each meal into containers. When I first started meal prepping I used these super affordable meal prep containers. There are 14 in a pack so I’d plan out all of my lunches and all of my dinners and put little stickers on the front so I knew which day and which meal was in each.

Then I’d go to the fridge and pick out which meal I was having for that day along with any snacks I may have put aside with them too. If you set aside some time each Sunday for prepping your meals you’ll save tons of time during the week to do more fun stuff and there’s less washing up! It’s win-win.

Disclaimer: This post has affiliate links, which means if you choose to buy through my links I receive a commission at no extra cost to you! I’ll only ever link products that I absolutely love and use, thank you for supporting me.

Self-care

Sunday always used to be a day of rest but these days it’s the day we try to get everything tied up in a neat little bow typically before the working week starts again. If you haven’t already heard of Self Care Sunday I’ve got some easy self-care tips for you. Making time for yourself will make you feel energised and more productive as well as decreasing your stress and anxiety levels. We are all so busy these days trying to fit in a career, relationships, family and keeping on top of our health and well being that we sometimes forget to take some time out for ourselves.

Take some time out of your Sunday to recharge your batteries and help feel motivated and refreshed for the week ahead. Here are some quick and easy things you can do right now to take care of yourself: –

  • run yourself a relaxing bath with some candles
  • read a trashy magazine or book
  • take a walk somewhere pretty
  • spend some time with a pet
  • bake your favourite dessert or cake
  • write a list of some of your favourite things
  • do some crafting or something creative that you enjoy
  • watch your favourite film or Netflix series with a drink or snack that you love
  • put your phone or electronics away for an hour
  • give yourself a manicure or pedicure
  • do a guided meditation podcast or YouTube video
  • listen to some of your favourite tunes and dance around
  • call a friend
Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

Set out your outfits

Whether you’re heading out for school or work, one thing that will save you oodles of time during the week is planning your outfits for each day. This may feel like a chore at first but once you start doing it, you’ll find it difficult to stop!

I like to hang up entire outfits including jewellery and accessories on one hangar for each day and when I’m getting ready for work on a morning I can just grab the hanger for that day and I don’t have to think about whether it matches or whether I’m happy with a piece of clothing I own on a whim because I’ve put thought into each one.

Photo by Shanna Camilleri on Unsplash

Put away laundry

Admittedly, this is my most hated job but gosh do I feel accomplished once it’s done! I always do a wash of my work clothes on a Thursday night (as it’s dress down Friday the next day) and my other loads on Saturday morning. This means that by Sunday night everything will be clean and dry for me to wear the following week.

While this isn’t a necessary step, I have organised my clothes right down to my underwear, within an inch of their lives. I’ve got drawer inserts for all of my socks and tights and I line them up so I can see them all perfectly and can grab exactly what I need without searching through a messy drawer.

This does mean that it adds to my putting away laundry time but I feel so much more organised once it’s done.

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Clean bedsheets

Who doesn’t love getting into a clean bed ready for the week because I certainly do! I make sure that I strip the bed off and have a spare set to put on for the wash so that I’ve got no excuse to change the sheets every week.

Ah just imagine that feeling of getting into a lovely clean bed on a Sunday evening after you’ve accomplished all of your other Sunday routine tasks. Bliss.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Clean room / house

Starting the working week off with a clean house will encourage you to keep it tidy throughout the week when you have less free time. It will also be much easier to keep on top of the weekly chores if your house or room is already clean and tidy.

To save yourself from having a monster of a job on Sunday, keep on top of the household chores by spending a least 15 minutes every day, even if it’s just having a quick tidy up every night before you go to bed.

Exercise

I know what you’re thinking, Sunday should be a day of rest why would I want to exercise? Even gentle exercise like a walk will make you feel more energised and awake which will help you get all of your other tasks done.

Take some time out of your Sunday to explore somewhere new and spend some time in the great outdoors.

I hope you’ve found these tips useful and that you can plan your own Sunday routines to best suit your lifestyle.

Let me know any of your favourite Sunday routines that I’ve left off of the list in the comments below.

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Running & Fitness Tips

A Beginners Guide to Running With Your Dog

Before I get into my tips for running with your dog, let me tell you some things about my Labrador, Darcy, and what a rascal she was, which should give you somewhat of an insight into our running relationship. Her family lineage was a long line of working dogs bred to retrieve game from fields and essentially, work all day. Because of this, she had energy and tons of the stuff! She was also powered by rocket fuel, Red Bull or the Devil, I’m not sure which. Not only that, she loved to run… not necessarily with me, but off leash she was as wild as the day is long.

Disclaimer: This post has affiliate links, which means if you choose to buy through my links I receive a commission at no extra cost to you! I’ll only ever link products that I absolutely love and use, thank you for supporting me.

I once had to retrieve her (the irony isn’t lost on me) from a huge field of people having some kind of picnic, festival type thing, that she’d decided to, for no good reason, gatecrash. Perhaps she could smell sausages, I just don’t know what used to go through her dog mind.

When we took her to puppy training classes (I know it doesn’t sound like she had any but believe me she was certified level 1 and 2) they told us not to use extendable leashes because it would encourage them to have more of a free reign and to train with a static one to get used to them being in the correct ‘position’. Darcy had, in conjunction with a halti on occasion, a fabric lead until she was around 3 years old. She would have days where she would be exceptionally good on the lead and walk right next to me no troubles, however, put another dog in front of her and she would lose her mind and do anything to say ‘henlo’ to them.

I got some advice from the local pet store, when I’d decided I was going to train for a half marathon, on which running lead would suit Darcy best. He came to the conclusion that an ‘around the waist’ lead which was slightly stretchy, what you’ll mostly see at Canicross events and what I would recommend to you to run with your dog, would be no good because she was far too strong for me. She could easily pull me to the ground with minimal effort and I needed to be able to pull her back and keep her close to me at short notice if necessary. So, I opted for the extendable lead which would also be much more comfortable when Darcy would decide to dart off in the opposite direction because she wanted to sniff something interesting and nearly twist my arm out of the socket. <a href="http://Kzoo Patented 360° Heavy Duty Tangle-Free Retractable Dog Lead For Dogs Up To 50kg; Extendable 5m Long Nylon Tape/Ribbon With Anti-Slip Soft Rubber Handle, One-Handed Brake & Lock“>Click here for a similar extendable lead to the one we used

So, Darcy and I got to training, gradually increasing our mileage week by week. I found it a comfort to run with her as I didn’t feel like I was running alone and it also meant I was more likely to go out because I had to take her out anyway, I may as well kill two birds with one stone. When we first stepped out of the door she’d be off like she’d never seen the outdoors before and she’d sprint as fast as the extendable lead would allow her with me trailing along behind trying to keep up with her (not the ideal way to start a run but hey).

After around a quarter of a mile, she’d settle down into a comfortable running pace and she’d run alongside me for the rest of the run. I soon found though that while she seemed happy enough running with me, her max limit was around 3 miles. She would start to lag behind or she’d get easily distracted by leaves and lights and mist and I’d have to shout encouraging phrases at her, much like a personal trainer, ‘Come on Darcy it’s not much further now’.

A cool down is important too

I had to accept that while my pup was perfect in every other way, she wasn’t going to be the training buddy that I’d hoped for. I think it just didn’t hold much excitement for her after a certain amount of time and she got a little bit bored. While I was still training for the half marathon, I’d take her out for around 5k, loop back home to drop her off and go back out again.

Let’s get into the tips for running with your dog! I’m sure your pup is much better behaved than mine was, so you’re already ahead of the game (ahem).

Make sure your dog is fit and healthy enough to run with you

The rate at which dogs mature and are fully grown is different for each breed. Larger dogs have a much longer ‘puppy phase’ than smaller dogs (which is why Labradors are so naughty for so long!), so have a chat with your vet or dog trainer so they can guide you on when is best to start running with your dog. Dogs’ bones and ligaments need to have fully formed before you should start running with them so let them get over their toddler years to avoid injuries for them further down the road. Darcy was around 2 before I started running with her at all, mostly just as casual short occasional runs.

Have good leash training

I know this is rich of me to say but do as I say not as I do and all of that! It really will make running with your pup much easier if they’re already used to walking on one preferred side alongside you. As I mentioned previously, walk train your pup with a static leash that doesn’t have much room for lunging and they’ll adopt this placement much easier once you upgrade them to a more suitable leash for running.

Start them steady and slow

We wouldn’t expect ourselves to be able to go from ‘couch to 5k’ without actually running any distance in between so we shouldn’t expect our four-legged friends to do this either, no matter how fit we think they are. Much like you’d increase your weekly mileage, do the same with your pup. If you’re going out for every training run together and you’re both new to running, even better.

Try and train your pooch to run on softer terrain

I was very much a helicopter dog parent with Darcy and when we were out running together, I’d always try and encourage her to run on the grass rather than with me on the pavement. Running on the grass was much softer a landing for her joints and she seemed to prefer to run on there any way (it smelled way better than the pavement I’m sure!).

Find the right leash for your dog to run in

There are some great leashes designed for running with your dog which are practical and comfortable so you can run hands-free. I would highly recommend that you choose a canicross style or static lead to run with (I wouldn’t necessarily recommend running with an extendable leash). As I mentioned, this type of leash wasn’t ideal for Darcy and me to run with as on the odd occasion she’d have to wear a Halti and she was a notorious ‘stop, drop and sniff’ kind of girl. I also felt like I had more control over her when I had the extendable lead and I also found it more comforting to be holding something. Speaking of which, when I run alone now, I find myself clenching my right hand into a fist because I was so used to running with her and holding her lead! <a href="http://DogTao Running Dog Lead For Medium and Large Dogs – Hands-Free Dog Walking Belt with Waterproof Pouch“>Click here for a hands free dog leash suitable for running

I’d recommend you speak to your vet or local pet store for more options and styles of leash for running with your dog.

Give it time

If your pupper isn’t turning into the natural runner that you’d have liked, don’t give up. It will take some time for you both to get into a running rhythm with each other, much like when you start to run with another person in the beginning. Be patient with them and accept that they do need regular stops for breaks and sniffs and saying ‘henlo’ to other dogs. I know many people are strict about this sort of thing but I wanted Darcy to enjoy running as much as I did so I tried to make it fun for her too.

You’re doing amazing sweetie

Listen to what your pup is telling you

I’m under no illusion that you’re Doctor Dolittle here and you can actually understand what animals are saying (if you are, call me, I want to learn your secrets), however, look down at your pup frequently and see if he looks comfortable when running. Look out for signs of them being in distress or injured and make sure you don’t force them to run when they look uncomfortable.

I was once at the end of a run and Darcy was getting more and more reluctant, which was nothing unusual, to keep up. I tried all of my usual encouraging ‘you’re doing amazing sweetie’ type pep talks but something didn’t seem quite right. Darcy had the type of personality that even if she was in pain or hurt in some way, she’d still soldier on regardless (unlike me who at the slight sign of illness will crumple like a piece of paper and lay down for days until I’ve recovered). I was keeping a close eye on her and all of a sudden realised she had a slight limp. I stopped immediately and she started to draw her paw off the floor as if there was something on her foot. Sure enough, when I lifted her paw up to get a look, she had the tiniest thorn stuck in one of her pads. I picked it out of her paw and she got merrily back to running again! I, on the other hand, felt terrible, how could I have let my poor baby girl (helicopter parent remember) run when she was in pain! You live and learn.

Sign up for a Canicross event

If you haven’t heard of Canicross before let me enlighten you.

“Canicross is the sport of cross country running with dogs, it is dog powered, so they are harnessed , attached to the human and run in a team. The human is the driver, directing the dog from behind with voice commands. Canicross not only is a great method to get a human and a canine fit but works the dog’s mind and allows them to use their brain in a work mode”.

If the thought of running races with your pupster appeals to you, check out the Canicross website https://cani-fit.com/beginners-guide-to-canicross/ which has got tons of tips on racing with your furry monsters.

Dogs like medals too

Pay attention to weather conditions

I personally, never took Darcy out when it was anything more than a ‘mild’ temperature. If she used to resist a 5k on a cooler day, she certainly would on a slightly warmer day. If your dog isn’t great with the heat, don’t take them out during the blazing hours of the midday sun but rather run with them first thing or later in the evening. Sometimes, I’d take some water with me if I felt like she might need a drink along the way but I was very conscious of her overheating and scalding her paws on the hot pavement.

The same would go for very cold weather. While she would run and play in the snow for hours (“the cold never bothered me anyway” – Elsa, was definitely a mantra that Darcy lived by), if the pavements were very icy and slippy she wasn’t keen on walking on it and to be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t run in those conditions anyway (she wasn’t a husky after all!).

Keep them safe

Even when I wasn’t running with Darcy, I used to make sure she was wearing an LED collar which could be seen from pretty far away when it was dark out. This helped to make her more visible when she was on pavements and crossing roads (it also made her look really cute) to alert other pedestrians, especially when she was ‘extended’ on the lead, that she was there. <a href="http://PetSol Ultra Bright Mini LED Collar For Dogs – Perfectly Designed For Small Dogs – Ultra Bright LED Dog Collar For Increased Visibility & Safety – 4 Colours 2 Sizes (Green, Small)“>Click here for the collar that Darcy used to wear

Some final tips

Make sure you never leave the house without some dog bags, you don’t want to get stuck on the hop without them so add them to your running with pup checklist!

If your dog really is a reluctant runner, don’t force them. Some running relationships just aren’t meant to be and with all the patience and practice in the world, sometimes it’s just not for them.

Make sure you make the runs fun for your pup. It’s okay for you, you’ve got your new running shoes on and you’ve got a great playlist in your ears but for the most part, your pup is just running alongside you with not much else to stimulate them. Some dogs are perfectly happy with this but my pup never was. We’d sometimes skip sideways and I’d encourage her to do mini sprints to try and get her to the end of a run when we were closer to home when she’d clearly had enough.

If you liked this post, click here to read my post on why dogs are so good for our health

I wish you and your best friends the best of luck and many years of a beautiful running relationship. You’ll never find a more enthusiastic, all-weather, no matter what running buddy, I guarantee it!

Henlo Friends

Health & Wellbeing

Permanent at Home Laser Hair Removal ~ Braun Silk Expert 5 Review

Have you ever gone to put on your running shorts, skirt or cropped trousers and thought ‘oh no, I haven’t shaved my legs’ and frantically grab your razor from the bathroom and shave any areas that will be on show? If you have, welcome to my world. I know I’m not alone in feeling like hair removal is a time-consuming pain in the rear.

Disclaimer: This post has affiliate links, which means if you choose to buy through my links I receive a commission at no extra cost to you! I’ll only ever link products that I absolutely love and use, thank you for supporting me.

I’ve been looking for some time now into the wonderful world of permanent laser hair removal options and after extensive research, I can confidently say that I cannot afford to have this treatment done in a salon! Prices were upwards of £700 for minimal treatments and, while I’m sure they might be more effective, that is just not within my budget.

That’s when I stumbled upon at-home laser hair removal solutions. While the majority of these units are fairly pricey, they are much cheaper than the salon counterpart treatments and you can do as many or as little areas as takes your fancy at your own convenience! I then made it my mission to find out whether at home laser hair removal really worked.

I did a ton of research online and read lots of reviews and decided upon the Braun Silk Expert 5. The one that I purchased also came with a sonic body exfoliator (which I haven’t yet used as I read somewhere that you aren’t supposed to exfoliate while using laser hair removal treatments – I don’t know if this is actually true but I wasn’t going to take the chance). I purchased mine from Amazon for £260.00. Click link here for the model I opted for.

Product Description
This device promises permanent visible hair reduction in just 4 weeks (based upon hair/skin types).

It adapts to your skin tone for a safe and effective treatment.

A lower leg can be treated in only 8 minutes

It works beneath the skin surface by targeting the melanin in the hair follicle helping to break the cycle of hair regrowth.

Sounds great right! I was excited to start trying it out right away and decided that my weekly day for lasering would be Sunday. First off, I downloaded the Braun Silk-expert app where you can plan and track your treatments along with a how-to guide. This will set weekly reminders for you for specific areas of the body so you won’t ever miss a day of lasering or need to keep track of which areas you need to treat. Brilliant!

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So, how did I start? I decided that before every laser session I was going to use a brand new razor every time to make sure I was getting a nice smooth canvas to work with. They recommend shaving rather than any other hair removal method such as waxing or epilating.

The first time I used the IPL I’m not ashamed to admit, I was hecking nervous! I knew that it wasn’t completely pain-free but I wasn’t sure how much it was going to hurt either! I decided from the get-go that I was going to keep the device on the highest setting (there are 3 settings for the strength of the laser) because if it was way too painful on the highest one, I thought I’d never get up to the highest setting (that’s my kinda logic) and felt that the treatments would take longer to see results.

With a shaky and sweaty hand, I decided to start on the lower half of one of my legs. Actually flashing the device for the first time was scary to me but it actually didn’t hurt much at all. It feels a little bit like someone has placed a tea light on your skin for a couple of seconds and then the pain goes away. Once I’d done the whole lower leg I did feel that the skin was a little tender for a short while after I’d finished but it was nowhere near as painful in comparison to a wax. One downside I found was that the device kept coming unplugged from the charging cable and I had to keep plugging it back in, although, the cable is more than long enough to manoeuvre around where you may need it to.

On the first try, I couldn’t quite bring myself to use the ‘glide mode’ which is a much faster way of getting through the treatment. If you hold the button down, it will continuously flash in short intervals until you take your finger off. The device can tend to feel a little warm when you’re moving onto the next area of skin, almost as if it’s still a bit hot from the last flash, which is why I was so reluctant.

It was a little tricky to make sure I’d lasered all down the leg area, as the device needs to lay perfectly flat against your skin and down the front of your leg is a pesky leg bone which can be difficult to manoeuvre around. I found if I tried to ‘flatten’ my leg against the floor, it made getting a flatter surface much easier. I also must have had a little bit of hair remaining following the shave because when I lasered one section, it stung a bit more and I could smell burning hair… so don’t do that!

Even though it’s safe to use without any eye protection, I did look away each time the device flashed as the light is very bright. This is especially the case for your underarms and face area as it’s much much closer to your eye area.

I’ve detailed in the following paragraphs a weekly update on the treatments just for a point of reference on the kind of results I was seeing each week, but if you want the spoilers, skip ahead to the ‘results’ section further below. So, does at home laser hair removal work? Let’s find out!

Laser Hair Removal Journal
Week 1 ~ The first week, I lasered my lower legs, bikini line and underarms. Immediately after lasering and well into the next day, my legs felt much smoother than as if I’d only shaved or waxed, it was looking promising.

Week 2 ~ the hair on my legs seems to have grown back quicker than last week, the hair was stubbly the next day. Shaving my face…. did not feel natural or good to me.

Week 3 ~ seems that the bikini area is growing back a little patchier than before. The first time using the ‘fast track’! I was brave and quite honestly, just wanted to get it done! I felt a little more sensitive today than the past few treatments. My skin does feel super smooth after treating the area, more so than just shaving. I keep thinking certain areas aren’t growing back as much but it always seems to not be the case 🙁 Most treated areas are definitely growing back more patchy now

Week 4 ~ sped through today’s session, I’d say I have my entire body (with the exception of my arms) down in around 15 minutes. Skin still feeling seal-like after treatments. It’s Monday night after my 4th session and I can’t believe how smooth my legs still are! It feels like I’ve just shaved them. It doesn’t seem to be having any effect on my underarms, which is the only area I haven’t noticed less regrowth.

Week 5 ~ feel like I fly through the sessions now and I’ve got to admit, I get pretty bored of having to do it. I feel that my legs and bikini area are smooth for an extra day but not any other places. I also get boiling hot while I’m lasering, could be the hassle of it all or just the sheer effort and determination to get it done quickly! I’ve got 7 more weeks left and I’m starting to think this might not work for me as you should see results in 4 weeks.

Week 6 ~ had to postpone my lasering day because I was in London. Before shaving, I had a good inspection of my hair regrowth. I have noticeably less regrowth on the bikini area and my legs. I’m halfway through now and I have never been able to get as smooth after shaving as I have with the laser treatments, I feel even more seal-like, I may even join them in the ocean. I finally feel like it’s really working for me.

Week 7 ~ I haven’t shaved my legs all week and, while there’s a little regrowth, they still feel pretty smooth. I still don’t see any change on my underarms – they are notoriously stubborn areas apparently.

Week 8 ~ still haven’t noticed any change in my underarms. I feel that my legs are the most noticeably different. I’m now not shaving them in between weekly laser sessions.

Week 9 ~ I’m thinking this won’t actually work after the 12 weeks of sessions. I’ve only got 3 left now and the hair is still growing back everywhere with the exception of my bikini area. While the hair is growing back slower (except my underarms) it’s still growing back after a week. I felt really sensitive today and it hurt more than normal.

Week 12 ~ last day of treatments! I haven’t noticed any difference in my underarms at all 🙁 My legs are mostly smooth after a week but I have some patches of hair growth – perhaps I have missed some areas on some weeks? I’m going to have to keep going until the regrowth is even less.

THE RESULTS!
So here’s my overall opinion on the laser hair removal device: –

  1. It isn’t painful at all unless you’re feeling a little sensitive some days, even on the highest setting
  2. I haven’t got the ideal type of hair for this kind of treatment. The ‘ideal’ person has fair skin and dark hair. I am very pale skinned but my hair is also pretty fair, but I was noticing results and some areas were definitely growing back less
  3. For the above reason number 2, I will have to continue to do the treatments until the regrowth slows down even more. The instructions do advise that some areas and hair types may need up to 24 months of treatments before regrowth becomes ‘permanent’.
  4. Even though I was getting regrowth, the areas I was treating felt exceptionally smooth, even more so than shaving, waxing or any other hair removal method I’ve tried.
  5. The full body treatment doesn’t take long, I could do face (puff out your lips to get a good ‘flash’ on this area if you’re having difficulty), bikini area, and legs in around 15 minutes. What I found slightly irritating was the fact I had to shave all of these areas beforehand, which was adding to my overall ‘treatment’ time.
  6. The Braun device is very easy to use, it fits nicely in your hands and it’s comfortable to manoeuvre. You have one big button to press and you can change the intensity.
  7. The cord is lovely and long! I just hate it when devices like hairdryers have short cords and you’re restricted. Ideally it would be wireless, however, you never had to worry about charging the device so I didn’t mind the cord.

3 Months After Treatments
Honestly, the laser treatments 3 months after my last session haven’t made any difference to my hair regrowth at all. Every area that I was seeing less regrowth or patchy areas are now growing back as if I hadn’t treated them.

Obviously, I’m quite disappointed in this because I was starting to see noticeable changes in some areas but I have to admit that I should have continued with the sessions after the 16 weeks as advised.

I’m going to continue with the treatments again in January and stick with them until there is a consistent improvement because it does work and that I can attest to and I’ll write an update here so watch this space!

Would I recommend the Braun Silk Expert 5? Yes, I would! There wasn’t anything I’d change about the device itself and I’m sure that if I keep going with the treatments it will work long term.

Is it work the price tag? To me, absolutely yes. It isn’t the most expensive laser treatment device on the market but it also isn’t the cheapest either (bearing in mind mine came with an exfoliator too).

If you’ve got any other questions about my experience with the Braun Silk Expert 5, please feel free to leave a comment below or if you’ve been using it too with different results to mine, let me know how you’ve been getting on.

Disclaimer: I would recommend that you fully read any instructions that come with this, or any other at home laser treatment before you use them and do your own research. Please don’t take my experiences or statements as absolute gospel, this was my experience which may be very different to yours and each device will have different operating and safety instructions which you should follow above all else.

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RED January ~ The Good the Beyoncé and the Flamincorn (Days 7-13)

When I started this running blog back in January of 2018, I always wanted it to be an authentic account of my running journey. No sugar coating. No making things look better than they were. Just me, being myself and writing as if I were talking with a friend. So this week… let’s just say it’s uber authentic…

Also, after writing my post last week on Should Guide Runners Receive a Medal Too I’ve been thinking how I’d really like to get involved with helping blind people in sports so if you’ve got any tips or advice let me know!

Disclaimer: This post has affiliate links, which means if you choose to buy through my links I receive a commission at no extra cost to you! I’ll only ever link products that I absolutely love and use, thank you for supporting me.

TOTAL MILES THIS WEEK = 10
TOTAL RED JANUARY MILES = 22

RED Day 7 >>> 1.1 miles >>> What day/ year is it again?

I did not want to go out for tonight’s run, I left work later than normal and got stuck in traffic so I lost an hour of my evening. As is customary for me, I ate 4 Quality Street chocolates and a banana, put my big girl pants on and went out. I programmed 1k into my watch but I really wanted to make it to a mile so I did push a little further.

There I was feeling all accomplished and came home to eat dinner and watch Silence of the Lambs… Clarice sure is a good trail runner she needs to give me some tips!

I feel like I’m getting sick though (if you know me I’m always sick so this is nothing new). I feel hot one minute then cold and I have a runny nose and a scratchy throat… this can’t stop me from completing the challenge!

Managed another fastest mile! Only another 2:40 to take off my best PB… off to sew another button on BRB (I may or may not have stabbed myself in the hand many times during this challenge… 7 minimum).

Fastest mile of 2019 so far…

RED Day 8 >>> 1.5 miles >>> Sleeping vs running

I had a terrible night sleep last night and had a headache when I got home from work. I put dinner in the oven which gave me half an hour to go out and get back. Except I put my trainers on and sat on the sofa for 15 minutes and nearly fell asleep!

Run was uneventful, highlights included nearly being run over on a pedestrian crossing (because the rules of the road don’t apply to everyone), meowing hello back to a cat and running a little faster when I got it in my mind someone was following me (thanks to yesterday’s Silence of the Lambs).

It was on the chilly side again tonight but I managed my minimum mile distance. An early night is in order I think. Zzzzzzzz

RED Day 9 >>> 1.0 mile >>> Only 22 days left but who is counting

When it’s 2 degrees outside and it’s so so warm indoors, how do you drag yourself out to go for a run? What I do is procrastinate by doing many things I don’t want to do less than I want to go out for a run and finally run out of things to do and then finally get out there!

I decided to do my usual mile run route backwards. At first, it felt exhilarating like a brand new route! It wasn’t quite so exhilarating when I was running the wrong way down my usual pathway and because it was so dark and I didn’t know the path, I kept veering off into the grass. The lights from cars driving past were making me lose my bearings and my eyes were playing tricks on me.

I felt like I wanted to run a little further than a mile but my knees were really painful and I’d put the oven on before I left so I felt like I should head back.

In other news! I received my Flamincorn 5k virtual medal today and it’s so pretty and sparkly and I wanted to wear it on my run for some motivation but I was worried I might knock my teeth out! The medal was delivered really quickly, I ran my 5k on Sunday and submitted it that afternoon via www.virtualracinguk.co.uk.

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In even more news, I also received my race pack for the London Winter 10k, which is going to be a logistical nightmare to get to and I really didn’t think this through properly. I originally only signed up because I thought the medal was awesome (thanks Instagram for giving me medal envy).

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So, an unpleasant side effect that I’ve been experiencing since day 6 of RED January is stomach pains. They come on shortly after I’ve completed my run and continue through the evening until I go to sleep at night. Then by the next morning, I feel absolutely fine, until after my run again the next day.

I’ve been running consistently now for about 2 years and I’ve trained for half marathons, trail runs, dozens of 10ks, I’ve done races back to back in one weekend multiple times and I’ve never experienced this before. To say it’s annoying is an understatement!

If they could just go away now, that would be great, thanks so much.

RED Day 10 >>> 2.5 miles >>> Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be… Beyoncé

What a great run I had tonight! I think it had a lot to do with my playlist which was an old running Spotify playlist I had and I forgot just how great some of those tunes were! Obviously, there was ‘Who Run The World’ which gave me the opportunity to run and sing at the same time!

If you’ve been running for a while you’ll know that some days are like this. Other days you’ll feel like the worst runner ever and feel like giving up but it’s these days that make it worthwhile. So I highly recommend if your motivation is a little low, throw on your favourite music and get out there I guarantee you won’t regret it.

This also lead to a January PB mile time of 9:34 which is by far the fastest mile I’ve run so far in this challenge!

RED Day 11 >>> 0.68 mile >>> Give me all the M&Ms

I didn’t finish work until sooooo late today and I accidentally ate an entire bag of M&Ms on the journey home. I’m sure this isn’t why you started reading this blog to hear about all of my bad snack habits but yet here I am sharing them anyway. Not the M&Ms they’re all mine I’m not sharing those!

Yesterday I felt like Beyoncé and today I feel like one of the lesser known ones in Destiny’s Child…

I think this is my shortest run EVER, including the time I took my Labrador out and she pulled me to the ground when she saw another dog just around the corner from my house and we turned around and came back home, but I didn’t get out until 9pm.

Today we had our first RED January event at work but it wasn’t overly successful, unfortunately. We played ‘Guess the Weight’ and had some fitness equipment for people to estimate how much it all weighed. The prize was a shiny gold medal (obviously 100% real) and we tried to put the emphasis on the awareness/ charity aspect rather than the ‘winning something’ aspect.

Next week we are going to run a plank and hula hoop challenge so fingers crossed we’ll get more people involved!

Later in the evening, even though I’m a proper grown up, I still like to learn the dance routines to music videos. I’ve done this as long as I can remember the first one being PJ & Duncan Let’s Get Ready to Rhumble but some of my most recent favourites are Justin Bieber’s Sorry and Kiesza’s Hideaway. What can I say, I love music and I love dancing and you’re never too old for that!

RED Day 12 >>> 1.0 mile >>> Sponsored by my pyjamas

Ok, so today didn’t go exactly to plan. I’ve been suffering this week, mostly while at work, with palpitations and no amount of Badger Sleep Balm and breathing has been helping. Here’s the link to the Badger Sleep Balm I absolutely love the smell of it as it’s very calming to me. In the spirit of RED January, I’ve been walking at lunchtime and I can tell you, it helps a ton.

Anyway, I didn’t go out for today’s run until 8pm and I ran in my pyjamas (they look like leggings so I feel like I could get away with it when it’s dark)! I pre-ran a bath before I left and made a cup of peppermint tea for when I got back so I had something great to look forward to.

I grabbed my torch and just went out and ran as far as I felt happy with. Obviously being January, it was pitch black but I feel pretty safe in my neighbourhood but I also love watching horror films which isn’t particularly conducive to happily running alone and feeling like I wouldn’t be kidnapped or some creature wearing a mask might kill me… You’ve got to pick your battles I guess.

RED Day 13 >>> 2.7 miles >>> It happened

Nothing much eventful about today’s run, I did a walk warm up for around 3 mins. My knees were giving me a little bit of trouble at the start but it soon eased off.

The worst part about today’s run was my calves. I did a little walk on an incline and it really knocked my calves for 6. I had trouble getting running so I had to do some stretches before I could get running again.

The wind wasn’t particularly in my favour on the last mile but it wasn’t cold so that was something. Followed up my run with a nice dairy-free butter crisp sandwich!

While I’m not particularly happy with my overall mileage this week I am happy that I went out every day even if it was at 9pm some nights! I want to try and avoid injury though so I think keeping the mileage low might be a smart idea.

If you’re taking part in RED January, how have you found this week? What has been motivating you to go out every day?

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Should Guide Runners Receive a Medal Too?

While I was scrolling through Twitter yesterday afternoon, I stumbled upon a Sky News article which was titled ‘London Marathon: Visually impaired entrants urge organisers to reverse ’embarrassing’ guide runners rule‘ and was naturally intrigued. It stated that ‘volunteers, who remain tethered to their runner throughout the 26-mile route, are not given finisher medals like regular entrants’. Read the full article here

This isn’t something that I had ever considered before, had you have asked me whether guide runners received a medal upon finishing the London Marathon, I would have presumed that they would but this is not the case.

Blind charities, such as the RNIB are now putting pressure on the Marathon’s organisers to request that guide runners receive the same recognition as their visually impaired co-runners adding that ‘they need to bring themselves into the 21st century’ in line with other large marathons who do recognise them and that they ‘have a lack of understanding’ for the community.

Guide runners run the same distance, they do the same training they put in the same amount of effort as the visually impaired runner all while sacrificing their own race times. Guide runners are selflessly giving up their own time to help another person achieve their goals.

Blind runners would not be able to participate in the London Marathon without a guide runner and it’s no easy job. Guiding someone across a long distance like a marathon is a tough job, you have another person to be responsible for and ensuring that they cross the finish line safely.

One person on Twitter commented that at the Paralympics, guide athletes will also win a medal alongside their visually impaired co-athlete.

So why is the London Marathon so against the official participation of guide runners?

Organisers argue that guide runners are given a place to run the London Marathon, a much-coveted race which thousands of people are denied access to via the ballot every year, free of charge. They state that they are not official participants and they are there only to safely guide and support the runner and not run the race itself. For that reason, they are provided with a race number but they are not issued with a chip timer, receive no official finish time and are not rewarded with a medal or goody bag at the end.

Following the recent backlash, the London Marathon organisers have commented that the current policy will remain in place and guide runners would continue to receive no recognition, despite the recent poll where 95% of respondents voted in favour of guide runners receiving a medal.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think that guide runners should receive the same recognition as the visually impaired runner? 

Running & Fitness Tips

Everything You Need to Know About Running in the Winter

I’ll let you into a little secret… I absolutely love summer! I love the long light evenings, days spent on the beach and in pub gardens drinking a cool crisp cider. Alas, summer doesn’t last forever. I’ll let you into another little secret, even though I’m a summer-lovin’ type of person I absolutely adore running in the winter months. I’m not like Elsa, the cold does bother me, but I know that being a winter runner is so much more productive and for that reason I love it.

“The cold never bothered me anyway” – Elsa 

Disclaimer: This post has affiliate links, which means if you choose to buy through my links I receive a commission at no extra cost to you! I’ll only ever link products that I absolutely love and use, thank you for supporting me.

I can recall one late winter day while I was out for a run. It was pretty cold when I stepped foot outside the door but the sun was shining and there was a beautiful blue sky as far as your eye could see. ‘This is perfect running weather’ I told myself with that inner smug satisfaction you get when you’re about to hit the ‘sweet spot’ of perfect running conditions (don’t lie, you know exactly what I’m talking about).

My smugness was short lived though, because in no time I was absolutely roasting hot and cursing out loud to the atmosphere that it ‘should be colder than this, it’s winter’. Now, this is why I prefer winter running. 99% of my life, I’m cold or chilly or something on the opposite side of warm but when I’m running or doing a workout, I’m a molten lava filled furnace who might just spontaneously combust – I’m dramatic, I know.

“Great things come out of being hungry and cold. Once you’re pampered, you get lazy” – Rob Zombie

When the temperatures are lower, I can run so much further with so much more effort and I feel like I’m getting twice the amount of benefits when I’m running in the cold than I can in the summer. While it’s a little shock to the system the moment you step outdoors, I know that I’ll be cozy toasty warm in minutes. So here are my top tips for running in the winter and also some motivational nudges that should help you get out of the door so you can experience the winter running nirvana that I do!

Be safe out there running alone

As a female, running alone in the cold, dark winter months, it can sometimes feel a little less safe than it does in the summer. Here are some safety measures that I put into place when I’m running at night:

  • Before you set out on your run, make sure you’ve told someone exactly where you’re going, what time you expect to be back and the route you’re going to take. Make sure you’re taking a mobile phone with you so you can call someone in an emergency or take some spare cash with you for phone boxes (if you still have any in the area that you live).
  • Set up your GPS tracker to automatically alert your friends, family, the dog of your whereabouts. While it’s all well and good to tell someone where you’re going and what route you’re taking, it’s even better if they can see it in real time (it’s also useful during races so anyone who accompanies me knows how far I am from the finish line). I have a Garmin Fenix 5 running watch and it has a feature called Live Track. I have this set up to auto start so as soon as I press the start button and it’s linked with GPS it will send an email to the address I’ve set up and they can watch the route that I’m taking, what pace I’m going at and least of all, exactly where I am at that moment in time.
  • Stick to the main roads and pathways, running in the darker months isn’t the ideal time for you to try out that new trail run route or to take shortcuts through housing estates that you may not be familiar with.
  • Find a running buddy or a running club so you don’t have to go it alone. You’ll feel much safer and have a greater reassurance of your safety rather than pounding those pavements solo.
  • I’d highly recommend that if you’re running in the dark not to impair your hearing by listening to an MP3 player while you’re out. You’re less likely to be able to hear traffic, other people using pathways and keep you on high alert to your surroundings.

Dress appropriately for the weather

In the South West of the UK, while we do get cold weather, we seldom experience snow. That’s not to say that we don’t suffer from icy roads and pathways when it does get cold, but average temperatures are not usually below zero. Therefore, dressing appropriately for the weather is more likely going to be ‘how do I not get soaked right through’ rather than, ‘how many layers of gloves should I wear today’ (it sure rains here a lot in the UK).

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” –  Alfred Wainwright, A Coast to Coast Walk

While I can’t really advise you on those sub-zero temperature appropriate clothing that you may have to wear if you’re in a much colder clime (I know that a ski jacket is not suitable), I can give you a guide on what I wear when it’s much chiller outside.

  • You must have heard this before, the key is layers. When I step outside the door first of all, I’ll be wearing a base layer which will be something that will keep me warm but that isn’t cotton. Cotton will hold onto any moisture from rain and sweat and will make you feel much colder (which will mean you’ll end up with ‘cold bones’ and have to take a bath for 2 hours to warm up… just me?). Look for the dri-fit fabric when you’re purchasing your base layer and you can’t go wrong.
  • Follow up your base layer with an appropriate outer layer which you should tailor to the conditions you’re going to be running in, whether that’s rain, wind or just lower temperatures. There are some great running jackets which are made for each condition that you might encounter so do a little bit of shopping around and purchase the one that suits your needs best.
  • If it’s really cold but not raining, I’ll wear a lightweight hat or ear cover to keep as much of the heat in as I can. I also suffer with my sinuses in the colder weather so covering my ears with something is an absolute must.
  • I’ve never been one for running in gloves, I find them all too uncomfortable and restrictive and I’ll usually tear them off in anger 5 minutes after I’m out of the door (and then I’m stuck trying to find somewhere to put them until I’m home). What I do enjoy is a jacket or jumper that has thumbs cut out at the end of the sleeves. That way, I can pop my hands through and keep my hands somewhat warm initially but when I’ve warmed up a bit I can just free my hands and thumbs much easier.
  • Another cold weather item which has become popular is the buff. This can be used in multiple ways across your head, neck and face to keep the wind from battering your neck upwards. I haven’t mastered them as I find them fussy but I know lots of runners that swear by them and use them on nearly every run.
  • If you’re going to be battling with a snowy ground or more uneven surfaces, I’d recommend running in trail shoes if you have them as they’ll have a much more aggressive grip on the ground than your usual running shoes. If you’re really determined to run in icy weather, take a look at the Yaktrax, “named after the Tibetan yak, are light-weight ice grips worn over your regular walking shoes, winter boots, jogging or running shoes when walking on packed snow and ice in winter” which are designed to reduce the risk of slipping on ice. Find them here https://www.yaktrax.co.uk/

Be safe, be seen

There are some great pieces of equipment out there which will not only help you run better and safer in the dark, winter months but that will make you more visible to other people either on the roads or pathways so they can look out for you too.

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer” – Albert Camus

You’ll find on most running-specific clothing such as jackets and leggings there are built in high visibility sections in areas such as the back, ankles and sleeves. Anything that shows you’re a moving person is going to help the onlooker to determine you as such instead of a shiny stationary object. Check out the Pro Viz Sports jackets which are the only 100% reflective jackets on the market https://www.provizsports.com/en-gb/

If you’re looking for something more to help you be seen there are many inventions like <a href=”http://“>LED belts , <a href=”http://“>reflective safety sashes and <a href=”http://“>reflective armbands. To help you see better, you can also purchase <a href=”http://“>head torches which will help you navigate any uneven terrain and avoid trips.

Motivation

What’s for all of the above information if you’ve got no motivation to get out of the door in the first place, right! Here are some tips to get you lacing up those shoes and bouncing out of the door like Bambi (hopefully not on ice).

Here are some tips to get you back on track if you’ve had a break from running

  • Warm up before you leave the house. That way you’ll have nice warm muscles to work with so you can get straight into your run instead of getting warm and doing a warm-up all at the same time. I’ll usually listen to a few tracks on Spotify that I find motivational and do some dynamic stretches and aerobics style movements to get the blood pumping. (Ok you caught me, I dance around my living room in somewhat of a haphazard way doing half aerobics half street dancing).
  • Go to bed wearing your running clothes. Perhaps not all of them, running shoes likely aren’t the most conducive to a good night sleep or mud-free bedsheets, but if you’re comfortable enough at night sleeping in them put on your running top or leggings if you’re planning to head out for a morning run. That way you’re practically ready anyway so you may as well go out for your run!
  • Get new workout clothes or running gadgets. This is a sure-fire way to get you motivated to go for a run. Once you purchase a new piece of running gear it would be rude of you not to take it out for an outing now, wouldn’t it? In the words of Ross Gellar to Phoebe when she was given a new bike that she never rode ‘if you don’t ride it, it will die’. True story, look after your bikes kids.
  • Because you’ll be able to run without overheating, you’ll be able to run a lot longer and a lot more effectively along with improving your mental determination. This means you’ll be burning more calories (say hello to more cake) and you’ll be reaping the benefits for your summer races by training in the winter months.
  • If you’re relatively new to running and you’re feeling a little self-conscious running in the great outdoors, you’ll be able to work on your confidence in running while it’s still dark outside so come summer time, you’ll be sashaying around the pavements feeling like a pro.
  • Sign up for a virtual race to keep your motivation high if you’re not keen on entering a race or you’re not feeling up to it just yet. There are tons of virtual races out there so pick one that appeals to you with distances from 5k up to 100 miles to month. Sign up to the race that you’re interested in, send proof of your distances before the deadline and get your medal. Check out one of my favourite virtual running sites at https://www.virtualrunneruk.com/
  • Have a kick ass playlist that you can’t wait to go outside and listen to! One of the main reasons I love running is that I can put on my favourite music, drown out the rest of the world and sing and fool around as much as I like. I personally find music very motivational so I’m always on the looking for new tracks to get me in the mood to go running. (I’ll never listen to music though if it’s very dark out for safety reasons).

Final winter running tips

Even though it’s cold outside, and you may not feel like you need it, make sure that you’re staying hydrated when you’re going out for your runs. Some runners swear by taking a little room temperature water along with them on their runs to stop them getting such a dry mouth from breathing in the icy atmosphere.

If you really can’t bear to go running outdoors or the conditions are highly unsuitable, I’d suggest having an at-home alternative so you’ve got no excuses. Cross training is going to be your best friend if you want to continue with your training regime in the winter months. I have many cross-training options at home, one of them is my spin bike which I just adore! One reason I decided to invest in it was that the spin classes I was attending were becoming very expensive and it was more cost effective for me to purchase one for at home that I could use at any time. It also helped me when I was suffering from running-related injuries. I have been going to spin class for many years so I was familiar with the process of what I should be doing, but if you’re not, there are tons of videos on YouTube which will take you through a spin class for free!

As a running tip, if you’re running on more slippery terrain, take smaller strides and be lighter on your feet. This will help you to gather a more stable footing and make falling over less likely.

So, you’ve headed out the door, you’re wearing all of your new running gear and you’ve got a motivational playlist in your ears but it’s just too icy and you’re not sure whether you’re going to be able to cover the distance you had planned safely. Try and keep to routes that you can shorten so if you have to turn back home for whatever reason (you’re too cold, you’re too wet etc) you’re not too far from the finish line.

I’ll leave you with my favourite cold weather quote:

“To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold” – Aristotle

I hope you’ve found some of these winter running tips useful and wish you a fun-filled season of safe, winter running.

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My Best and Worst Races, Full Running Calendar and PBs of 2018

2018 huh, what a year! There have been highs, lows, horses, stunning scenery, mud, a lion, lots of falling over and even a few PBs! It hasn’t been the best year for me personally, and running had taken a bit of a backseat in comparison to last year. I had to say goodbye to my beautiful Labrador in the summer and, quite frankly, I didn’t have the enthusiasm or energy to run for months (I’m really keen to write a blog post all about losing a pet and things that really helped me, for anyone else who may be going through the same thing). Then I got sick and couldn’t run a couple of races towards the end of the year, which I was devastated about and didn’t take the decision not to run lightly (in 2 years I’ve never had a Did Not Start, I always turn up to a race). Then my final race of the year, the Watermore 10k, was a bit of a disaster…

I’m going to share my entire race calendar for 2018 (including the two I didn’t make the start line for) and include my favourites as well as my least favourites, followed by a cheeky look at my PBs and how much I’ve improved as a runner since 2017. Check out the further links next to any of the races I’ve done full reviews for or blog posts.

My Favourite Races of 2018

Martock 10k
What a lovely race the Martock 10k was! The honest reason I wanted to enter this race was, I saw on my Instagram that someone had run it last year and I thought the medal was so cute I had to have it (medal goals) and I managed a PB at this race.

Martock 10k

Minchinhampton 10k
If you’re looking for a lovely, village-style race, this is one you’d definitely enjoy. Read my full race review here or read more on my training journal here

Longleat 10k
Oh my gosh, the rain we had this day! (Fun fact, in the past 2 years I’ve done a total of 47 races and not once have I had to run in the rain, that’s not to say it hasn’t rained before and after). Because the weather was so awful, most people didn’t hang around afterwards but I wanted a picture all by myself with the Longleat Lion… I mean, obviously right! For a full race review on the Longleat 10k click here or to read my blogging week of the race ‘diary of an injured runner’, click here

Brecon Beacons Trail Race
The prettiest trail race I ever did do! The Brecon Beacons cemented my love of trail running, except I did spend a considerable amount of time stopping and taking photos because the views were stunning. I had a little bit of a disaster on the way because I’d accidentally set my Sat Nav to ‘avoid tolls’ which took me a hecking long way around Wales instead of directly over the bridge, not such a good start. The medal was also some pretty hefty bling which looked great amongst my medal collection.

Read more about the Brecon Beacons 10k Trail Challenge click here or to read my blogging week of the race ‘Need for Speed’ click here

Frenchay 10k
A really lovely village run with some serious hills and trail sections. It’s all fun and games isn’t it when you’re doing the first mile all nice and downhill, except you have to run back up that hill on the final stretch! Not feeling like Mo Farrah now are you Michelle… no you are not. Despite the hills, it didn’t put me off this race and the ‘medal’ was a cute mug which I have on my mantle.

My No-So Favourite Races of 2018

Hawkesbury Upton 5k
I certainly had some beef with this race for sure. It didn’t help that it was freeeeeeezing cold (in June) which didn’t put me in a happy running mood. I found this race very strangely put together, from the warm up to the fact that children and adults went off running together. I was very concerned that I was going to accidentally trip over or get tripped over by a child, in my opinion, they have very different styles of running to adults and many of them would weave all around the course which I found quite unnerving. I will say though, the kids that ran it were amazing runners, truly, and this tiny child who must have been around 6 was whooping my behind for sure!

Bath Skyline Trail Run
I had prepared myself to fall over during this race, I just had a feeling that it was going to be that kind of trail running. I’d already signed up for the 10k race but when I got there something was telling me to defer to the 5k instead (it was after all a 2 lap course, which I’m not that keen on anyway). Even though I ‘officially’ transferred to the 5k race, I ended up not having a time recorded on the website for some reason.

I will say, the views on this race are spectacular and that was the only thing that was keeping me upright the majority of the time. I fell over once in the wet, muddy, woodland section and the very nice runners in front of me asked if I was ok. I then stood up, took another few paces and went down again… they were probably wondering who the heck I was and if I’d ever actually run any sort of race before!

Read the full race review here or to read more about my falling over journey on my weekly blog post here

Slay the Dragon Trail Run
Again with the trail running, I’ve decided I’m going to stick to the trails I know in 2019 so I don’t end up in such a grump and gosh was I in a grump after this one (I think my face in my ‘post-race selfies’ proves this). We’d had some terribly cold and snowy weather the week before this race and the churned up mud was frozen solid and it was agony for me to run on. I was really concerned about twisting my ankle and ruining the rest of my race year!

Read my full race review here or to read my training blog post with more info on the Slay the Dragon 10k here

Concorde Canter 10k
Feeling nostalgic for Concorde, I signed up for the Concorde Canter. It promised to be a flat, unused airfield which in my mind means ‘very flat, you’re gonna get a PB’. How wrong I was! While it was relatively flat, the wind across this 2 lap course was unbelievable. Not only that, the weather was scorching hot. It was also, quite possibly, the most uninspiring and uninteresting course with long sections of airfield that you couldn’t even see the end of.

Even worse than this, I didn’t even get to see Concorde (except on the medal, which was quite cute).

My 2018 Race Calendar

January
Longleat 10k ~ 28th

February
Bath Skyline Trail Run ~ 11th
Slay the Dragon Trail Run ~ 25th

March
Minchinhampton 10k ~ 11th
Clock Change Challenge ~ 25th (read my race review here and blog about the race here)

April
Devizes Half Marathon ~ 8th
Frenchay 10k ~ 15th
Bridgwater Bolt 10k ~ 29th (read my blog about the race here) spoiler, I get a PB!

May
Brecon Beacons Trail Run ~ 5th
Glastonbury Round the Tor 10k ~ 6th (read my blog about the race here) – spoiler, it’s hot!
Bristol 10k ~ 13th (read my race review here and blog about the race here) – spoiler, I hate how busy this race is!
Caerphilly 10k ~ 20th

June
Chew Valley 10k ~ 10th
Hawkesbury Upton 5k ~ 16th
Martock 10k ~ 17th
Pretty Muddy ~ 30th

July
The Concorde Canter ~ 4th
Thornbury 10k ~ 12th

August
Cannock Chase ~ 5th (read my race review here and blog about the race here)

September
Oldbury 10mile run ~ 9th
Bristol Half Marathon ~ 23rd
Watermore 10k ~ 30th

2018 Personal Bests

2017
1k ~ 4:53
1 mile ~ 8:04
5k ~ 27:35
10k ~ 57:53
Half ~ 2:15:41

Total miles ran ~ 402

2018
1k ~ 4:50
1 mile ~ 7:59
5k ~ 27:03
10k ~ 56:33
Half ~ no record set

Total miles ran ~ 208 miles

Wow I ran half the amount of miles than I did in 2018 but I actually set PBs across each distance, with the exception of my half marathon (the Devizes half, read about this disasterous race – which does include a horse – here)

I hope you’ve all had a great running year, let’s smash our goals in 2019! I’m starting off January with RED January (Run Every Day January in partnership with the Mental Health Charity, Mind – read more here how you can get involved too) which I’m hoping will get me back into running as I’ve already signed up for 5 races and I want those PBs baby!

 

Health & Wellbeing

Why You Need These 8 Life Changing Daily Habits

In this crazy modern world that we live in, we have to do lists as long as our arms and even less free time to do them all in! So how do you know which ones to prioritise to get the best out of every day? I’ve put together a list of 8 daily habits which will change your outlook on your day and in turn change your life. Remember, it takes 28 days to make a habit so give yourself some time to start seeing and feeling the benefits.

Make your bed

You may think, oh but why I’m going to be getting back into it later, it doesn’t matter. Let me tell you, it does! Making your bed as soon you hop out in the morning will set the tone of your day by giving you a mindful exercise before you start the day. It’s also a nice quick check in a box for your daily to-do list.

Keeping a tidy bed will also give you more incentive to keep your entire bedroom cleaner and tidier and it will be much more satisfying to crawl into a nicely made bed at the end of the day rather than having to haphazardly throw the covers back on just before you get in. Take the extra 2 minutes it will take you and get it done, no excuses.

Meditation

Once you’re up and out of bed (and it’s made of course) it’s time to set aside a few minutes of your morning to some meditation. Meditation has been proven to reduce anxiety, promote better mental health, improves memory and focus and reduces overthinking. It’s also been scientifically proven to lengthen your attention span, which you’ll be able to reap the benefits of throughout the day as well as reducing age-related mental health, which your future self will be grateful for.

Try this 2-minute meditation to start your day off:

  • Take a deep breath and begin to close your eyes
  • Focus your mind on your breathing and imagine yourself becoming more calm and focused
  • If your mind wanders to thoughts of the day ahead, keep bringing the focus back onto your breath
  • With every out breath, imagine all of your worries and stresses leaving your body
  • Take a few more deep, considered breaths and start to bring your attention back to your surroundings
  • Finally, open your eyes and take a few moments

Get Up and Dressed

While I was doing research for the blog and topics to talk about, I stumbled upon a movement titled the #GetDressedEveryDayChallenge. Now, if you’re getting up and leaving the house every day, you’ll be able to get this one down easily, it’s not yet 100% acceptable to leave the house in nightwear! But if you don’t have to be out of the door what’s the point in getting dressed, surely you can sit around in your pyjamas all day!

If you stay in your pyjamas for the entire day, you’re more inclined to cuddle up for an afternoon snooze or lounge on the sofa watching Netflix. But if you get dressed, you’ll be switching your mind from ‘sleepy you’ to ‘I’m going to be productive you’. Even if you’re just changing out of your bedclothes and into some comfy leggings or joggers, it’s a few minutes that you can add to your self-care routine.

Eat a Healthy Breakfast

As if you didn’t know this one already. After a long night of sleeping, you literally need to break that fast to fuel your body for the day ahead. You’re also less likely to consume as many calories throughout the day if you’ve had a healthy breakfast before heading out of the door because you won’t feel as hungry (who doesn’t get that 11-sies snack craving when they’ve been running on empty all morning).

Eating a healthy breakfast can also improve your concentration and improve your memory. Both of which will help you to be more productive and more energetic.

That’s great, but what should I eat, I don’t have time to eat breakfast? If you’re short on time, grab a granola yoghurt or fruit like a banana or apple. If you’ve got a bit more time, try and have some wholegrain toast or a veggie omelette.

Drink Plenty of Water

According to the National Health Service “in climates such as the UK’s, we should drink about 1.2 litres (six to eight glasses) of fluid every day to stop us getting dehydrated”.

Even mild dehydration has been proven to impair your concentration, increase headaches and induce fatigue. Keeping hydrated can help you to lose weight, make your skin brighter and increase your alertness by helping to flush out all of the toxins in our body and improving your digestive system.

Try starting the day with a hot lemon water or herbal tea and ensure that you’re drinking enough throughout the day to stay hydrated.

Spend Time Outdoors

Being outside and spending time in nature can be a great meditative exercise. Getting outdoors has proven health benefits from improving your mood to increasing your fitness to helping you sleep and increasing your energy levels, even if it’s a relatively short stroll around the block to the local store.

If you’ve got a 4 legged friend, make sure you’re taking them out for an appropriate amount of exercise, they’ll also be healthier and happier for it.

Photo by Clarisse Meyer on Unsplash

Write a Daily Journal

If you’ve never tried it before, I’d urge you to start writing a daily journal. It doesn’t have to be something fancy, just a place where you can jot down your thoughts from the day. Journaling seems to have fallen out of favour in the last decade due to all of the technology we now have access to and less and less people are writing down their thoughts.

While it’s not mandatory to put pen to paper, a tablet or smartphone will do just as well, putting your thoughts from the day down really helps you process through your feelings and get some of your worries off of your mind. Journaling can be a little like having a therapist that you can tell all of your deepest feelings and emotions to without fear of judgement.

Once you start writing a daily journal, you might find that you are able to solve your problems much more effectively as you’re not just mentally weighing your options and pros and cons, you’re committing to writing them down and trying to come up with some solutions, even if they are still a jumbled mess. It’s better to have a messy page than a messy mind!

Photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

Spend Time Laughing

You know what they say ‘laughter is the best medicine’ and it truly is a great daily habit to add to your list. Even if you don’t feel happy, research has shown that by mimicking the outward signs of being happy (laughing, smiling) will actually boost your mood. So watch that comedy, pick up the phone to a friend or hang out with someone who is hilarious and you’ll be laughing all the way to the (health) bank.

Photo by Court Prather on Unsplash

 

Blog

How I conquered Run Every Day January (Days 1-6)

Wow what a first week for RED January! I was smug for a day, then felt the opposite of smug, then totally broken, what a challenge this is! I also quickly came to the conclusion that I’d rather go out and run every day than sew a button onto my RED January t-shirt! I’m so awful at stitching, I thought this was going to be a much bigger challenge for me every day!

TOTAL MILES –> 12

If you haven’t heard about RED January yet, click link here where there’s tons of information on how you can get involved and what the aim of it is.

If you want to donate to this fantastic charity, please click the link https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/red-january-2019-57705432-194b-4cb3-b46c-8d38bd30bb81

In summary, it’s not just a January challenge, it’s been developed to improve mental health at a time when many people can feel low and money is tight after the Christmas period. In conjunction with the mental health charity Mind, it aims to promote physical activity by challenging you to run every day.

RED Day 1 >>> 2.78 miles >>> I’ve missed running

It’s been literally 2 months since I ran at all so my plan for my first run of 2019 is a steady slow one!

I did a nice long walk warmup for around half a kilometre and then got into what I can only describe as a gentle jog. Ooh this is nice, why haven’t I run for so long…?

Then my girl boss badass song came on Spotify (Demi Lovato’s Sorry Not Sorry if you’re wondering) and boy was I feeling pumped. I was singing along and having a great time and then BAM… crikey, I didn’t realise how unfit I’d gotten! This used to be my easy short route!

So, because I’m the sensible type (I’m going for the long haul here so cannot get injured!), I eased off the running and did more of a jog/ walk for the entire run and it actually felt pretty great. The weather was warm for January, the wind was minimal and I just enjoyed being outside and listening to some tunes.

Back at home I did a short stretch sequence which I’m terrible for neglecting usually.

I’m not sure whether I’m living in a parallel universe, a bit like Bandersnatch that I unashamedly played 6 times in 2 days, but when I completed my run it had logged it for 11.55pm on 20 December! Come on Garmin get it together! I did get a ‘night owl’ badge though so….. ok it doesn’t count but hey!

I’m learning Spanish so I’ve changed all of my devices to be Spanish!

Based entirely on this one run alone, I am thinking this challenge is going to be easy. Let’s see how it goes when I don’t have the day off and I’m back to reality and flying by the seat of my pants like normal!

Injuries: my right outside foot felt a bit off and by the end of the run the top of my right foot felt iffy too!

Not really an injury but my gosh we’re my legs and knees sore come the evening. Going downstairs, no thanks I’ll stay up here for now.

How I felt before: not too bad actually, I’d say I was in a good mood and felt happy and optimistic for the New Year.

How I felt after: mood stayed the same except I felt a little more badass than before. Tried not to feel too low that I’m starting from scratch again.

On the back of your RED January T-shirt there’s a calendar for you to ‘check off’ the days that you’ve worked out which is a nice idea. I intended to buy some iron on stars for each day but they were super expensive so I rooted around in my loft and found these really cute buttons which I’m going to sew on.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had to sew anything and this was much more troublesome than I imagined it would be!

RED Day 2 >>> 1.01 miles >>> no squats for me today

My legs… just… no stairs for me please I just can’t! Puts into perspective just how unfit I’ve let myself get, yesterday wasn’t a long run by any stretch of the imagination!

What a contrast to yesterday’s run! It was freezing cold and I ended up with a Rudolph red nose to go with my RED T-shirt. I’m going to try and make a mile my minimum daily distance but I’ll be happy getting out at all some days.

Also I’m getting better at sewing on buttons already!

I spent the afternoon and evening working and when I went to get up… I felt like an 80 year old woman… Yesterday I thought this challenge was going to be easy but I’m not so sure about this now. I read another blog post of someone who participated in RED January last year, who was a much more prolific runner than I am, and she said it nearly broke her! Eek!

On Instagram I’ve seen some people sign up for the 2019 miles in 2019 and I thought this would be a heck of a challenge! That’s 5.5 miles every day and I struggled to do one today! Perhaps I’ll leave that for the more seasoned runners…

Mood before: pretty good, if a little tired

Mood after: super cold but feeling energetic!

RED Day 3 >>> 3.04 miles >>> I feel broken already

I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I feel broken already with this challenge and I’m only on day 3! When I put my running shoes on, I felt a little bit of discomfort on one of my feet, a little like if you’ve been wearing a backpack all day and you put it back on.

The weather was overcast and so so cold today, what a grey depressing January day it was! I planned to go out for one short mile but, as oftentimes does happen, I get the idea in my head that I’m going to go further once I’m out there.

Not only that, but I decided I’d go up my nemesis hill (I’ve also affectionally nicknamed it the ‘Batman Hill’ because on Strava the elevation looks like Batman!).

I felt great… then awful… then great again all within 3 miles. Also, I found a new found appreciation for having a shower after a run… isn’t it glorious!

Mood before: a little bit drained

Mood after: felt happy that I’d gone much further than I planned and felt pretty great

Later on in the evening, I literally felt like I’d been stomped on across every part of my body. Wasn’t I the cocky one 2 days ago thinking this was going to be easy!

RED Day 4 >>> 1.01 miles >>> not quite as broken

I felt much better today, I didn’t feel quite so ‘stomped on’ which can only be a good thing! I’ve been reading other stories of runners getting involved in RED January and I’m so inspired by everyone it makes wanting to continue very easy.

I went out for a leisurely 1 mile but honestly even that felt difficult. It was freezing cold out again today which makes breathing in just that bit more difficult!

Mood before: a little exhausted

Mood after: tons more energy to get my chores done and warm up of course ✅

I think it’s easy sometimes to forget why we are all joining in with this challenge as you get swept away with the days and miles but I am very keen to keep promoting the mental health aspect of this challenge as much as the challenge itself.

So with that in mind (no pun intended) I took as many tips from as many different places as I could get my eyeballs on. I updated my company Yammer page, I helped get the incentive out into our workplace as much as possible, we ran mini challenges, I promoted it on Instagram, Twitter and my blog here. I told everyone that would listen, I joined the Strava group and updated my posts with ‘RED January’.

Of course there are people that don’t want to be helped for many reasons. You can’t force people into doing physical activity. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink as they say. I can’t make him drink, but I can raise awareness of this brilliant challenge and provide people with as much information and support that they want.

There’s a whole community of people out there who want to help themselves, each other and everyone else. My favourite community is the one on Instagram. Search for the hashtag #REDJanuary and you’ll find a whole host of posts to motivate you and make some friends along the way.

I saw on Instagram that there are 60k people signed up for RED January this year which is just absolutely amazing!

RED Day 5 >>> 1.03 miles >>> Looks like we’re running again today!

This is a short summary of my day > wake up late > work until 3pm > have a scheduled 30-minute snooze > have a really weird dream > get woken up abruptly by my house rabbit stamping > procrastinate for an hour > decide that it’s too cold to warm up on my run > have a dance party in my living room (I didn’t learn Drake’s In My Feelings dance routine for nothing you know) > feel like that was a workout enough > go out for a run anyway

The run was pretty tough I’m not going to lie, although it wasn’t as cold as yesterday, it still was difficult breathing in and I left it so late in the day it was dark when I finally went out. I managed to grasp a 2019 PB but I feel that I’m so far away from my old mile PB which was 8 minutes on the dot that I might never see it again.

Mood before: pretty down and lethargic. Even had the thought ‘would anyone even know if I didn’t go out for a run today’.

Mood after: after my little dance party and run I was feeling happy and energetic. I even had a little impromptu Mary Poppins sing along because Spoon Full of Sugar popped into my head (and now I have a sore throat, I’m no Julie Andrews).

‘The mile most fast’

 

RED Day 6 >>> 3.1 miles >>> Virtual 5k Run

This was the toughest run I’ve had so far this month. It felt difficult, I felt very lethargic and my ankles felt horrible. It probably doesn’t help that I had 3 Quality Street chocolates before I left, which I don’t recommend as a pre-run snack!

I had decided that today was going to be my 5k Virtual Run day with https://www.virtualracinguk.co.uk for the Flamingunicorn medal, which is so cute so I set my watch for 5k and just went out there and did the best I could physically do.

Longest run

I followed up my run with Yoga with Adriene which was a nice end to this week.

Honestly, I don’t feel great today so it’s a bit of a low note to end on but I did run every day and did a total of 12 miles so that’s the main thing.

How have you got on with your first week of RED January? My main goal for the rest of the week is not to get injured so I can continue with the challenge.

My sewing skills throughout the week!