What do you eat when training?

It is 3 weeks out from my main event of 2019, the Vatternrundan and so training ramps up and as it does I need to make sure my fuelling is right.  Fuelling wrong in training and in an event can make all the difference and I have been on that bike ride before thinking I feel great and then bam I’ve bonked.

The Vatternrundan is a cycling week festival in the town of Motala in Sweden and I will be taking on three events in five days with a total mileage of 550km.  This means my training is including strength and conditioning, yoga, structured turbo sessions and longer rides on the road.  Food is key for this and that is good as I love food!

I was sent some ingredients from Buy Whole Foods Online (not just Whole Foods Online) and over the weekend it was super easy to add these to my meals in different ways.

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My go to breakfast before any event is porridge – you need to find what works for you and oats are something I have tried and tested and found to be good for me.  I also like that you can be adaptable with them with so many things you can add including nuts and seeds, fruit, dried fruit and nut butters.  Before my club ride on Sunday I added some cashew nut butter, organic cashews and a few dried cranberries – delicious!  Another breakfast option is overnight oats – again with the oats and super easy to mix oats with either milk (any type) and fruits, nuts, seeds or toppings of your choice.  I did a blog post on the recipe I use that you can see here.  In this pic I added oat milk, fresh banana, teaspoon of ceylon cinnamon, handful of macadamia nuts and dried organic cranberries.

 

I like to experiment with food for on the bike.  I love cooking and trying out new things.  I make granola bars that I cut up into bite sized pieces.  They are easy to grab on the move and portable.  These are for energy and contain a lot of sugar so I definitely wouldn’t be snacking on these on a regular basis but on the bike they were fab and I froze the leftovers in snack bags for future rides – easy to grab and go!

To make them I used:

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Super easy to make too – literally put the milk, sugar and oil in a pan and melt.  Remove from the heat and add in the nut butter, oats and hemp seeds.  This is the point where I normally go off tangent and add whatever nuts, seeds and fruit I have.  Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, add the mix to the pan and simply leave in the fridge overnight to set.  Cut up and put in portion bags – and add some to the freezer as they freeze well too!

I have joked that I will cycle for cake and I will – lots of people do!  For longer rides it is often nice to have a coffee or cake break on route.  Also gives the opportunity to fill up water bottles too.  I made the honey cake in the pic below with sunflower seeds as a little treat for post ride.

To make this I used:

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Again another easy recipe where you put the honey, butter, water and sugar in pan until melted.  Take off the heat and add the eggs and flour.  Add to a cake tin, top with sunflower seeds and bake at 180C for 40 minutes.

After 86 miles on the bike on Monday a slice of this cake was perfect!

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I look forward to using these ingredients in more cooking – loads of options with salads, stir fry and smoothies too!

 

 

Mental Health Awareness and Body Image

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme for this year is Body Image asking us how we think and feel about our bodies using the hashtag #bebodykind.

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The Mental Health Foundation have many resources on their website and for the theme this year they quote:

‘Having body image concerns is a relatively common experience and is not a mental health problem in and of itself; however, it can be a risk factor for mental health problems.’

They have included some statistics around the topic also that note:

  • 1 in 5 adults have felt shame because of their body image in the last year
  • Over a third of adults in the UK have felt anxious or depressed because of concerns over their body image
  • 1 in 5 UK adults have said images on social media have caused them to worry about their body image

First of all I want to say I love any initiative to increase awareness around mental health but lets remember that for those that suffer from any form of mental illness this is life for them that they live with that struggle every day.  So lets open the door for discussion but ensure we continue the momentum after this week.

I would also like to note that I do not personally suffer from mental health issues and so will not claim to be an expert in any way, however, some of the closest people to me in my life do and I can see first hand on a daily basis how different areas of mental health affect people.  I wrote a blog last year on this very subject that you can read here.

So my blog is called Fat Girl Fit and it is not intended as an offensive name but yes I am aware I am not the same size as the models in the magazine and yes I have cried about my body and the parts I hate but that no that does not stop me from doing my thing with a smile on my face.

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My blog started when I was on a fitness and weight loss journey and I will admit I was in a routine where I would post on a weekly basis as an update with what weight I had lost on my ‘weigh in Monday’.  This soon turned into something that was quite toxic and left me feeling terrible about myself.  I also soon realised that was not what my blog was about and instead I turned my focus to being a healthier and happier me.  I wrote a blog post on that change that you can read here.

I can’t claim that I don’t still get people look me up and down when I say what crazy event I have planned next but you know what that says more about them than it does about me.  It has taken me a long time not to let those glances upset me.

And also lets be real here I do still want to lose more weight and that doesn’t make me a terrible person either.  There is so much ‘be body positive’ talk and I am completely on board with that but there is also nothing wrong if you want to lose some weight either.  There is nothing wrong with having a moan about that god awful event photo, because lets face it they are mostly unflattering, but then take a step back and think wow my body helped me achieve that goal.

Yes you have a bikini body now – you have a body put it in a bikini and voila!  But you want to be fitter and healthier then so be it – don’t apologise for that either but just do it because you want it and not because of what you believe you should do because you are told so from society.

My new strapline to my blog at the end of last year changed to read ‘be fearlously unapologetically you’ and I have learned that my body is fierce and strong.  So a shout out to all those who have been on the same journey and are learning that after a lifetime of believing that losing weight was all they had to offer the world that they were so wrong and they are worth more than that number on the scales, because your weight is not your worth!

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F*ck perfection!  Embrace the body you have and all its imperfections and remember that fit isn’t a size, its a feeling so continue to do you and smile whilst you do it, giving a big cheery middle finger to all those that think you don’t fit the mould, the stereotype, the people we see in the glossy magazines.  Because I am sure they are air brushed to hell!  I am also sure they have their own insecurities too that they are also dealing with.  That old saying about being kind because you don’t know what battles others are fighting.

Think about what impression you are leaving on future generations as they grow up influenced by those around them.  They should grow up with a healthy relationship to food and their bodies.

There was actually a song last year by Little Mix and I love the lyrics:

Take off all my make-up ’cause I love what’s under it
Rub off all your words, don’t give a, “uh”, I’m over it
Jiggle all this weight, yeah, you know I love all of this
Finally love me naked, sexiest when I’m confident
You say I ain’t pretty
Well, I say, “I’m beautiful”, it’s my committee
If you got little boobs, love it
If you got a big ass, grab it
If you got nothing big, rock it
It’s your life, go get it, if you want it

So repeat after me – I am an absolute f*cking babe and projections from others will not define me!

And if you want the cake then bloody well eat it – life is too short!

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#bebodykind

 

Kit Review – Stomp The Pedal Bib shorts

Have you heard of Stomp The Pedal?  It is a company run by the lovely Natarsha Tremayne, known to everyone as Tarsh.  The brand was born as Tarsh loved cycling but was fed up of boring kit.  So she started her own brand and that is where STP started.

Tarsh is colourful, always smiling, super positive and just all round lovely.  I am bias as she is a friend and during Ironman Italy, where I was with over 20 members of my triathlon club Havering Tri, we adopted her as part of our little group as she was there alone.  Only she is never alone as everyone knows and loves her.  I recall her coming down the red carpet at the end and Paul Kaye recognising her from a distance and cheering her through the Ironman archway.

Tarsh also sits on her turbo for hours!  Literally hours!  At the recent London Bike Show I was chatting to her as we were at the Casquette stand listening to the talk on saddlesore (I wrote a blog post on this subject that you can read here).  Anyway I ended up saying to Tarsh that I didn’t know how she sat on her turbo for so long and she very confidently said it is down to her bibs.  Tell me more……

I have kit that ranges from cheap to expensive and actually my most expensive pair of bib shorts are my least comfortable ones so I am not claiming that the more you pay the better they are as that is not the case in my experience.  However, if I can find kit that is comfortable and stops soreness downstairs then yes I am happy to pay for that luxury.

If you follow Tarsh or Stomp The Pedal you will know that she truly believes in her brand and any product she brings to market has been tested by herself both in training and in events.  For example she has spent a long time trying to perfect a tri suit and recently debuted this at Ironman Marbella 70.3 and shared what needed to be changed noting that ‘by the time this suit comes to market I will have done everything I can to make sure it looks good, performs well, is comfortable and the cut is flattering.’  I love that she shares this on her social media so her followers, customers and friends know what lengths she goes to in order to get that perfect product that she puts her name to.

So when Tarsh said to me she was going to send me some bib shorts to review I was excited.  If honest, I couldn’t wait to try them to see if they were as good as she said but also quite a bit nervous – reviewing kit from a friend?  What if I didn’t like them?  True to her word she sent me the bibs and added a note saying she would really appreciate an honest review pros and cons.

So be it!

That evening I had a session on my plan on Zwift so the shorts were first tested on my Wahoo Kickr turbo trainer.  A lot of people will know that as there is no natural movement on a turbo it can cause discomfort and this is definitely something I suffer with.  Was trying them on a turbo to start with harsh?  I figured that was how this conversation started so why not?  They were fab! No soreness or the need to fidget which is my tendency to try and alleviate any sore or numb parts.

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Let’s rewind a little.  The bibs come in a kit bag, with a little handwritten note from Tarsh herself and a bag or haribo – everyone loves a freebie little bag of sweets right?  These were eaten before I got on the turbo I am not ashamed to admit.  The bag is also super handy and came with me last weekend on a trip for a cycling sportive.  The material on the bibs is great, laser cut leg finish with the branding on the band.  The chamois was at first glance thinner than I thought it would be and I will admit I was worried this meant I was going to be more uncomfortable if anything, but I was totally wrong.

They stayed put too and didn’t rise up on the leg, which some bibs can do. The straps are also made of a mesh material and comfort wise is always my preference as I find those with solid straps can dig in and especially on longer rides this can be uncomfortable and the last thing you need is to be stopping and having to adjust. But as I said these stayed in place and were extremely comfortable.

They washed up great – no hand wash either, which I find really annoying with kit.  I wash my bibs after every single use and training most days I don’t have time for hand wash (who does?!).

So the next test?  I was heading to Great Yarmouth with friends (who also know Tarsh and are STP fans) to do the Tour de Broads event.  Again was the second test being a 100 mile ride harsh?  My training is gearing up for an endurance event and I need longer mileage so seemed the perfect opportunity.  The ride ended up being 108 miles in total.  In the freezing cold, rain and savage wind.  How were the bibs?  Again they were fab!  I actually had no soreness down below at all. I can’t stress how much this is a positive for me!

So far so good.

I did find after the ride that I had a loose thread.  Not anywhere that will create a hole but on one of the legs where there is some double stitching on my front thigh (not sure I am explaining this right).  Anyway message sent to Tarsh who was super appreciative of the feedback and offered immediately to return so she could send back to the supplier and replace with a new pair.  So great customer service too!

The bib shorts I have are these STP signature black bibs, they are £100 and would I buy them?  Hell yes!

Now the main question is what jersey do I get? I have my eye on the new jersey inspired by Audrey Hepburn that is simply stunning and my bibs need a matching jersey right? Would be rude not to!

I was gifted the bib shorts, but all opinions are my own.

Finding the right cycling club for you!

Started cycling and want to find a club that suits your needs?  Not sure where to start?  I received a message earlier this week on instagram from someone saying I always looked so happy (and so did the others) in the pics I shared from my club rides with Romford CC.  And I genuinely am!  But I am also aware that it can all be a bit confusing and a bit of a mind boggling experience finding a club in the first place.  But it doesn’t need to be!

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It is important to remember that not all clubs are the same and some have different objectives, which can be anything from social riding to racing.  So as they say one size does not fit all, and that’s ok!

Everyone may have a different purpose when they get on a bike including:

  • social riding
  • touring
  • commuting
  • duathlon
  • triathlon
  • racing
  • endurance
  • time trialling

To be fair the list could probably go on and on.  But no one is right or wrong and you just have to identify what you want out of it and find a group of like minded people, and you will probably find in that a suitable club to join.

A good starting point is British Cycling, who have a club finder on their website.  It does what it says on the tin and you can enter the details of where you live and how far you are willing to travel and these will apply a filter and provide you with a list of registered clubs in the area.  It will also provide you information on the clubs, within the results, including what activities they take part in and who it is suitable for.  From this you can determine one you feel most suitable for you.

A lot of clubs will offer the option to try a certain number of rides with them so you can test them out so to speak and see if it is a suitable fit.

Some things to ask when contacting a club could include:

  • the pace of the rides
  • do they apply a no drop policy ie no one is left behind
  • when and where they ride
  • the distance of their rides
  • membership prices and any benefits that may be included
  • what you need to bring with you ie repair kit, lights

Cyclists are generally a social bunch and within a club you will find those with the same interests (bikes, bikes and more bikes) and more often life long friends.

For many the thought of a club is daunting but it really needn’t be.  You will be surrounded by like minded people.

I remember first going on a club ride and being worried about:

  • being too slow – there is always someone faster and always someone slower but you all get from a to b at the end of the day and those that are less than gracious in this area I often call them dick swingers (yes I really just said that)
  • looking stupid in lycra – not many people look good in lycra so just go with it
  • looking like a mushroom in my helmet – everyone does and it serves a purpose so I would rather look like a mushroom that is in tact rather than not
  • is my bike good enough – ignore those that say you have to have a certain make or spec of bike, of course that can make a difference but you can’t throw money at something and get instant results, that takes training (I refer to my earlier dick swinger comment)

There will always be exceptions of course but most people I know who found a club they like have never looked back so take the plunge and who knows where it may take you – literally somewhere far flung on your bike maybe!

Volunteering at the VLM

I wrote a blog post previously about he job of an event marshall, which you can read here.  This post is not too dissimilar but focuses on the Virgin London Marathon in particular, though applies in the same context to any event. I did a similar post before which you can read here but so many people say they’d love to volunteer and you can and should!

There are a total of approximately 6,000 volunteers at the marathon including the start, finish and on course with varying responsibilities. Events like these rely on volunteers. Here is a link where you can find out how you can get involved too.

So at the weekend the Virgin London Marathon took place.  Where you there?  Did you run?  Where you a volunteer?  Where you on the streets somewhere cheering for the participants?  Even watching from home I personally find this event such an emotional one.

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I have volunteered for four years now on the water station at mile 23.  This water station is managed by one of my best friends Laura and is the best one (I am biased but it really is).  I should also point out Laura has done this for around 15 years!  So it was a bit of a surprise this year when we found that they had removed it from the course.  We were offered to volunteer at the Lucozade gel/jelly bean station, which is a dual hub and runners pass it at both mile 14 and mile 22.

It was sticky!

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I have described the experience to many as bipolar.  I do not mean any offence by this and I am aware this is probably a terrible way to explain it but those that have taken part get what I am trying to explain.  So what do I mean by that?  Well it is a complete roller coaster of emotions.  You will be inspired, elated for people, happy, want and do hug people, offer help to those who might be in a worse state than they had planned and want to cry at those who go past in floods of tears.

BUT…

It is an experience I would recommend to everyone.  The atmosphere is second to none!

So what does the typical volunteer day look like?  Well you get the option of two different shifts being an early 9am-3pm shift or a late 12pm to 5pm shift (though this may vary on other volunteer spots).  I go in early to help Laura so we were on the train heading into London just after 6am.  To the volunteer spot and help set up.  This involves opening crates of boxes filled with gels and jelly beans, setting up tables with a mix of each and taking you position to hand out to the runners as they pass.

The day starts with the wheelchair participants, participants with disabilities, elite women, elite men and then the masses.  The wheelchair participants never take anything though you do have to be ready just in case.  The same can be said for the elites.  When the first runners come through they are rapid!  So rapid that they can take a gel/water etc from you and you feel like you’ve been pushed as they go past at such pace!  This does mean, however, that some don’t get taken quite right and end up on the floor instead.

Once the masses start coming through the hours fly!  You are so focused on getting the gels etc to them as they hold their hands out that you are none stop, cheering as you go, shouting out encouragement and calling names of those who have them on their tops.

You will also see people you know and that is amazing especially if you get to hand them a gel or water.

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As the day goes on you move from those who complete the event in spectacular times to those who are struggling.  This is not a surprise – 26.2 miles is a bloody long way!  Then the sweeper vans come and then the roads open and participants who wish to finish are asked to move to the pavements to do so.  These are the people who are hurting.  They are doing it for lost loved ones.  They might be injured.  But they are determined.  And they are the ones who really need the encouragement and it is heart breaking as the crowds that were hard to move through slowly disappear.  This is when you need to go home but you can’t because someone needs to cheer them on!

There is of course the clear up operation but that is fine and once the road closures open the tidy up job is actually an impressive precision operation!

The day is, as I said, a complete roller coaster of emotions.  It is an early start.  It is hard work, really hard work.  Don’t turn up if you are not willing to put in some hard graft for the day.  You really earn your beer! But as I said it is an amazing experience and I will be back for more next year!

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You Can Do It – Put Your Back In To It

They say you can do it if you put your back in to it but at the moment I am having issues with my back so that saying is not for me right now, but what can I do to change that?

I have had a bike fit but recently I have been having real issues with my lower back when cycling.  Tingling even to the point of numbness.  Not a terrible pain to stop me in my tracks but more of a dull ache that is uncomfortable and causes me to shift around in the saddle hoping the change in position helps.

So what could be causing it?  According to British Cycling there is no one issue but it could be related to poor mobility, conditioning or bike set up.  They have some great routines I have started doing for both:

Both of the above take just over 15 minutes in total so should be easy for me to include in my training and hopefully see some good benefits.

I have also found some great cycling specific yoga sessions online, including this one from GCN.

As I said I have had a bike fit and the set up on my bike is comfortable so I have spoken to some people around me who are more knowledgeable on the subject.

I have changed my training schedule and replaced my previous gym sessions with CrossFit, which I love and is great but I perhaps need to focus more on my core.  A physio I know suggested that the tingling and numbness would indicate it could be nerve related so I will be investigating that further with them.

Back issues on the bike are often related to a weak core and therefore improving core strength can see massive benefits.  So what sort of exercises does that include?  Things like:

  • glute bridges
  • planking – all variations including forearm, straight arm, with a leg lift, side plank and adapting to include the thread the needle exercise too
  • tabletop leg press
  • lying lateral leg lifts
  • cat/cow
  • supermans
  • scissor kicks
  • boat pose
  • single leg crunches
  • kettlebell swings
  • deadlifts
  • bent over rows

Back pain when cycling is also the biggest issue for most cyclists and according to Cycling Weekly:

‘Given how hard your legs work on the bike, it’s natural to assume that when an overuse injury strikes, it’s your knees that will be most vulnerable. Surprisingly however, the research says otherwise. It seems the biggest culprit is not knee pain in cyclists – it’s lower back pain.’

It can also arise from pushing big gears, especially when climbing, and anyone who has cycled with me knows that I am guilty of this and it is a running joke to shout cadence as my husband does to remind me of this very fact!

Cycling Tips have an article on lower back pain when cycling and their finishing quote just about sums me up.  So many people say will you stop cycling after an accident or injury – absolutely not!

‘Unless you want to swap your road bike for something with a bell and a basket, you need to be able to tolerate a forward-flexed position. The exercises described above are designed to help you achieve that position for longer and with less discomfort.  They’ll also help you improve your performance on the bike. Outstanding.’

So watch this space and I will let you know how I get on and if you’ve experienced something similar get in touch and share your tips please and thank you!

Hello Fresh

Back in June last year I completed a trial of Hello Fresh for Healthy Living London.  You can read the review here.

I was sceptical.  If I am honest I was thinking it would take some convincing for me to be converted.  Why was I sceptical?  I am a self confessed food snob and I was worried the food would not be fresh and it would be boring recipes that I would soon get bored of.  But I was happy to be proved wrong

Following the two week trial I was really impressed!  I even purchased the cookbook for my grandparents.  I then signed up to continue with the meals and over eight months later I am still a fan.

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I like being able to choose in advance what I want to have for upcoming weeks and that I can put on hold if I am on holiday and resume once back.

I found I got stuck in a rut before using Hello Fresh where I would be so busy with full time work and training alongside a family including a dog and often settle for a bagel for dinner and wonder why I woke the following morning wanting to eat everything in sight.

I genuinely haven’t had a bad meal since subscribing to Hello Fresh.  I have had an item missing and phoned and the customer service was great – very apologetic, credit added to my account that is then taken off future orders and sorted quickly.  For a period I did notice the portion size of the fish and sweet potatoes seemed to be getting smaller plus carrots seemed to be quite bendy but I provided some feedback and haven’t had a problem since.

It works perfectly for me and my family.  I have a husband, son, dog, full time job and train at least four times per week.  Being able to open the fridge and simply pull out a bag with everything I need and follow a clearly laid out recipe card step by step is a saving grace.  My husband and son also don’t eat meat and that has not caused a problem either – we always ate more fish than meat anyway but found the recipes easy to adapt and if I picked a meat one could almost always divide and do him a portion with some fish I would buy or vice versa.

All of the meals are created by the Hello Fresh chefs and nutritionists so I know what I am eating is good for me.  I don’t need to worry about portion size as you pre determine how many people you are cooking for.  It also keeps it interesting – in the time I have been having these meals I have not yet had the same one twice.

And all the packaging is recyclable and the bags and boxes come with cute little messages encouraging you to do just that and recycle them.

If you are tempted check out the website here and if you use the code LISATHA you get £20 off your first box too!

The only person I couldn’t convince was my step dad.  He said he is not keen on all that origami they sprinkle over everything – I think he meant oregano ha ha!