Thursday, 20 November 2014

Do you even pre-workout?

My experience of supplements etc doesn't really stretch any further than the occasional protein shake after a long run or work out. But when the lovely people at USN offered to send me some of their Hyperlean Two-In-One pre-workout to try, I thought I'd give it a bash.

Here are some of the benefits that they say Hyperlean can give you:
  • Can improve nitric oxide generation
  • A great energy source
  • Can contribute to muscle recovery
  • Promotes weight control and lean muscle maintenance
I've been trying a serving of Hyperlean about 40 minutes before I go to the gym - I don't really like the feeling of drinking a lot before a run.

Once you've shaken it up, the pre-workout is a slightly weird pinkish colour. My only criticism of it is the taste - I really dislike the 'fruit fusion' flavour and have on occasions had to hold my nose to force it down! However this is something that's very much down to personal preference. I often struggle to find flavours of things that I like (Nuun has finally solved this problem with about nine million different flavours!) so I'm not really surprised that this was a sticking point for me.

'Fruit fusion' just isn't the flavour for me :(
I definitely feel like I have the energy to work out for a bit longer when I have some of the pre-workout - bizarrely one thing I particularly noticed it in was when I did the plank! 

I've also been feeling less sore and DOMS-y but then I've also been a good girl and doing my foam rolling after working out too so that may be a combination of both. 

While I'm not sure a pre-workout is something I'd use regularly, if you fancy a really intense workout or need a bit of a boost then it certainly can't hurt!

Harris x

Do you ever use a pre-workout? Do you struggle with finding flavours you like?

Monday, 17 November 2014

Monday Morning Motivation

(found here)
It's an oldy but a goody. Everyone prefers to stay in their comfort zone. Your comfort zone is...well...comfortable. And right now my comfort zone is sitting in my bed.

Okay, okay, I'll go for a run now.

Harris x

Monday, 10 November 2014

I've found the one...and it's a spiralizer

I thought it was just a fling. I thought maybe my feelings would change. I though perhaps my trust was misplaced.

But NO, my spiralizer is definitely the one.

My new boo
So what is a spiralizer?

It's basically a nifty gadget for turning any fairly firm veg into long strips (they can either be thin like spaghetti or thicker like udon noodles) in a cool spiral shape.

I've heard tons of people talking on Twitter about making 'courgetti' or 'zoodles' - the world's best portmanteau describing spaghetti/noodles made out of courgette, so I decided to get on board.

DISCLAIMER: I really dislike courgette

But here's the thing: quickly fried and then smothered in pesto or simmered in a delicious tomato sauce, you'd have no idea that these courgetti contained any of the gross green stuff. I may even put some recipes up in future (you have been warned) because I feel like I need to spread the spiralizing love!

Go on, try and tell me this doesn't look delicious
I'm an absolute pasta fiend and while there's a time and a place for a big old bowl of the stuff, it got to a point last winter where I was eating it every single day. I also struggle to get enough veggies into my diet (I admit I can be a little picky) so any way of sneaking more greens into my meals is fine by me, Now instead of eating a serving of pasta, I eat a whole courgette!

When my spiralizer first arrived, I was a little confuse about how exactly to go about it all. But after some quick googling I discovered it's actually dead simple - check out Inspiralized for easy how-to videos on how to turn pretty much any veg into spirals (and also lots of delicious recipes).

So far courgetti is definitely my favourite spiralized food, although I have also made myself some 'noodle salads' spiralized cucumber and carrot. Cucumber works really well but I found that carrot is harder because it's thinner (the thicker your veg the better your noodles). However maybe if I used some beefier carrots it might be better.

My next spiralizer venture is hopefully going to be sweet potato curly fries. I think this may involve a bit of trial and error but fingers crossed!

My rather unphotogenic (but delicious) tuna 'noodle' salad
As a slight veggie-phobe I can honestly say that getting a spiralizer has really helped me to up my vegetable intake. I've had it for about three months now and it still makes regular appearances unlike some gadgets (liquidizer I'm looking at you). I've recommended buying one to everyone from friends to work colleagues to random people on Twitter - if only I was on commission! Yes it might still not be huuugely healthy to smother my courgetti in pesto but hey...I'm working on it!

Harris x

P.S. I got my spiralizer here

Have you ever tried a spiralizer? Do you struggle to get your portions of vegetables in?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Confessions of a running loner

I'm a loner...when it comes to running that is.

In theory the idea of pounding the pavements with someone else is lovely. I've got a romantic vision of speeding along the banks of the Thames in the winter sunlight with a running pal. Nothing can stop us. We're encouraging each other and challenging each other.

But another part of my brain is convinced that it just isn't possible. What if we have different paces? What if I'm holding them back? What if they're holding me back? What if I get tired and want to stop? What if they get tired and want to stop? Do we have to talk? Won't I be too tired to talk? If we don't talk won't it be a bit weird? Or awkward?

Plus my mind always drifts back to one of my very first (and incredibly unsuccessful) runs with a group of friends when I was in my first year of uni. It was horrific.

I also find running great for de-stressing, letting my thoughts run riot and generally getting rid of some of my worries. With all the stresses of running with someone, what if that gets ruined?

But last week I was getting ready to pop out for a short and easy run when I realised my flatmate Iona was also lacing up her trainers. Turns out we were actually intending to run the exact same route. After much "see you out there!" we finally decided to try running together.

Begrudging running buddies
Iona is of the same view as me: running is a solo sport. No interacting. No faffing. NO TALKING. So that's how we did it. We ran side-by-side for the most part, with our own music in. The only interacting was me pointing out the route (it was Iona's first time).

It might sound antisocial but for us it worked a treat.

It was actually really nice knowing someone was there with me and at no point did I feel stressed about pace. We gave each other the option to drop back/carry on ahead if we needed to but we seemed to manage just fine!

Now that I've finally got over my fear of running with others I'm not really sure what's next. I've always wanted to try a running group but the worries mentioned above always stopped me. Maybe I'll even be able to TALK while running?! I know, I know, baby steps...but never say never.

Harris x

Are you a running loner? Would you recommend joining a running group? 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

You used to be fun! Expert tips on keeping the enjoyment in running

Where has my running mojo gone? Why am I not enjoying this any more?

I've seen lots of posts recently about motivation and enjoyment - or lack of it (particularly check out Charlie's great advice on ways to get your running mojo back)! I think I'm safe to say that it's something most of us struggle with, particularly as the cold winter nights draw in.

While I'm not sure I have words of wisdom just yet, I thought I'd share these tips from Decathlon.

I can particularly relate to Simon Freeman on the pleasure of seeing progress. I'm amazed at how far I've come with my running and love seeing what else my body is capable of.

What do you think of Simon Freeman and Tom Williams' tips?

Harris x

Sunday, 26 October 2014

See Harris Inspired: The Runners

Okay so I know this was released aaages ago but a friend sent this to me recently and it really struck a chord with me.

I've been properly running for about a year and a half now and while I'm always experiencing peaks and troughs with it, this video reminded me of the power that running can have: not just transforming you physically but also mentally.

It's not a fancy film and it's only about 11 minutes long, but I absolutely love The Runners.

Harris x

What did you think of The Runners?

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

In search of the fear factor (or help me find a race!)

There's no motivation quite like sheer terror. And for me sheer terror is usually what I feel before a race. 

I'm currently enjoying doing lots of little runs (nothing more than 5k) but there is NO progress happening right now. If anything I feel like I'm going slower…ERGO I need to get me signed up for some more races baby!

I know, I know, I've picked a bit of a stupid time as there seem to be far less during the autumn/winter months. But surely there are some out there?

I'm currently on the hunt for a nice early spring half marathon (yes, I'm going to put myself through that all over again dammit I will do it faster and stronger and generally better) as well as some 10ks (preferably at least one or two before Christmas). 

Seeing everyone having a great time doing the Royal Parks left me hankering to try out another half, especially since I haven't run further than 10k since the Liverpool Rock'n'Roll. I'm currently considering applying for a charity place for the Brighton half. I've heard lots of good things about running in Brighton so it would be lovely to try a half there. There's also the Adidas Silverstone half in March, although I'm slightly suspect about the route - it sounds a little boring to me, although I might well be wrong. 

As far as 10ks go, I'm not too sure. My flatmates and I are considering doing a 'Mo Run' for Movember (plus I look damn good with a tache) but other than that I'm slightly stumped.

Harris x

Do you need to be TERRIFIED (slash just have some races planned) to feel motivated? Have you got any race suggestions for me? 

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Run To The Beat: 14th September 2014

After hearing about the debacle that was the Run To The Beat Half Marathon last year, I was interested to see how things would be done differently this time...turns out pretty much everything had been changed!

Post-race with my work colleagues
The race was run by Sure instead of Nike this year - I wonder if maybe Nike were trying to distance themselves from the race after last year? I've only done one Nike race (We Own The Night 10k earlier this year) and it was great - see my review here. But in fairness RTTB was really well organised this year - a good race village in the shadow of Wembley stadium with lots to see and do. I thought the stretching station, run by Fitness First, was a particularly good idea.

The course was also well organised but my goodness it was depressing. I've never had reason to venture to Wembley before and I can't honestly say I'll be rushing back. The course began and finished at the stadium, which was pretty cool, but the rest of the route consisted of residential area (lots of people waving at us in their dressing gowns) and a giant industrial estate. Considering it RTTB has been in Greenwich in the past, this was a bit of a let down.

Although this was only a 10k, it was a toughy - partially because of my own lack of preparation and also thanks to a bugger of a double hill. Just as you finished an awful long pull up, you round the corner to find,...another hill! There are several horrendous photos of me on the second hill - I was not a happy bunny!

It doesn't look bad but that hill was HORRENDOUS
As far as this being a 'music' race, I can't say I was particularly impressed. There were a number of sounds advising you that 'big beats' were ahead but it was more like someone with a set of iPod speakers most of the time. It may have been due to noise regulation since many of the music stations were in residential area but again this was a little bit of a let down. The party at the end was much more impressive and by the time I finished lots of people were already having a bit of a dance.

There were plenty of people already having a dance in the shadow of Wembley Stadium
I finished in 1:09:25 - not even remotely close to my PB of 1:02:14 but I had no expectations for a good race time since I was quite out of practice. I was pleased just to finish in under 1:10, having dropped back a wave to join some of my friends from work that I was running with.

I really enjoyed RTTB but I don't think it will really stick in my mind as a particularly memorable race...I'll definitely still sign up next year though!

Have you ever done a Run To The Beat race?

Harris x

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Liverpool Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon: 25rd May 2014

Well it only took me four months but FINALLY here's the story of my first ever half marathon!

For those of you who have followed me from the start, you'll know how terrified I was when I started out running. The 5k was a big deal. The 10k was frightening. But now I am a HALF MARATHON RUNNER. YEAH.

Ready to Rock'n'Roll (joke had to be made soz)
In all honesty I probably wouldn't have chosen to do the Liverpool Rock'n'Roll as my first ever half, mainly because I live nowhere near Liverpool. Like not even remotely close. But when I won myself a place back at the Write This Run conference in November, I couldn't really turn it down.

So come May I found myself lining up at the start line near Liverpool Docks, with my usual "What the HELL am I doing?!" mantra preventing all rational thought about the race ahead.

Spot the (utterly terrified) Harris
But, as has been proved to me each time I've run a new, longer race, it was absolutely FINE.

I was worried about running the full half distance as the most I'd ever done in training was 15k - 13.1 miles translates as something like 21k so it was still a fair bit more than I'd ever actually run. Although I was knackered by the time I hit 11 miles, there was no point where I felt like I just wanted to collapse. I actually felt at the very end of the race that I had a little bit left in the tank.

I also took a bit of a chance by accepting a gel about three quarters of the way around the course. I've never used gels before and I know most people warn against trying them for the first time during a race. But I had a tiny mouthful of the gel every five minutes or so and felt absolutely fine. To be truthful I'm not convinced it even helped me particularly, although I don't really have anything to compare it to. It did, however, cover my hands in weird orange goo.

I (very inexpertly) had a bit of tape on my knee as I had been feeling a constant niggle in my previous few weeks of training. Happily it was no problem during the race and seems to have gone away now after plenty of foam rolling.
Running through China Town

Apart from the finish line, this was my favourite moment
It was really great getting to see a new city as part of the run - Liverpool is such a varied place and the route was great, taking us past the iconic Cavern Club, through the city's parks and dockland and some nice residential areas too. I'd certainly like to explore the city again...maybe on another run!

The route felt well-organised to me, although my only criticism would be that the whole idea of the Rock'n'Roll marathons is that there are lots of bands. I was under the impression that this was at every mile, but I only saw about 5. It was a lovely way to break up the run but I just felt like it would have been nice to see a few more!

I finished with a chip time of 2:21:51 - I'd been hoping for under 2:30 so was very pleased with this, although I do feel like I could have maybe done about 2:15, since I wasn't totally spent at the finish line.

Sweatiest post-race pic so far
Earned me some heavy metal
I'm really proud to be able to say I've completed a half marathon and am super keen to do another, hopefully in a slightly faster time. I had a few moments, particularly on the home stretch of the half marathon as I ran back along the banks of the Mersey, which felt completely surreal and I was half convinced I was going to wake up and find it was all a dream. But I did it.

Thank you so much to those of you who tweeted/emailed/texted me with support along the way - it makes all the difference. Also thank you to everyone who helped me with advice as I was training, you guys were so helpful.

Also a HUGE honorable mention goes to my friend Rachel. Rach was meant to be running the race with me but after struggling hard against an injury in the end she was forced to pull out. Rach also lives nowhere near Liverpool, but both she and her mum helped put me up for the night, fed me, looked after my big bag of race junk and then cheered me on at the finish line. Rach could have just stayed at home in South Wales but no, she supported me the whole way, What a mega babe.

I'm not convinced I'll move on to marathons yet but I'm definitely planning on signing up for another half! Any recommendations?

Harris x

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Update: A thousand and one ways to worry about your first half marathon


That's pretty much all that's going through my mind now that the Liverpool Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon is almost here.

Looks like this is really happening.

That and a whole list of worries including:

  • What if I just can't do it?
  • What if my knee gives out (it's been giving me a bit of gip)?
  • What if I fall over?
  • What if I have a wardrobe malfunction?
  • What if I have an explicable need to go to the toilet?
  • What if I somehow miss a route marker and get completely lost?
And the list gets longer and longer the closer I get.

The first is definitely the most prominent - what if I just can't do it? I've done just over 15km in training and a half marathon is 21k. Maybe I'm woefully underprepared. Maybe I was lazy and slapdash with my training. Maybe I haven't thought nearly enough about my nutrition (last night's Domino's counts as good carbo-loading right?). Maybe I should have got my knee properly looked at. Maybe it's all going to go totally tits-up.

But enough of the relentless worrying, it's too late to turn back now. I travel up to north Wales tonight to stay with a friend before tomorrow's painfully early start and trip over to Liverpool. The day is almost here and although my primary feeling right now is simply sheer terror,  I must admit I'm also incredibly excited. I've read so many race reports of half marathons and now it's finally my turn. I'm running a half marathon!

So maybe it will all go wrong. Or maybe, just maybe, it will work out. 

Please keep your fingers crossed for me!

Harris x

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Nike We Own The Night Women's 10k: 10th May 2013

This was my first race in a good while and my first one with my little sister Bex, so I was interested to see how we would handle it, but all in all I can safely say that the We Own The Night 10k was GREAT!

Looking a little chilly ahead of the race

I've heard mixed things about the various Nike events that have taken place in London and the one that sticks in my mind most was the problem-laden Run To The Beat half marathon. So I was intrigued to see how We Own The Night would measure up.

In my opinion, the whole thing was really well organised, with proper bag drops, staggered start times and clear instructions. My only criticism (and this probably wouldn't be avoidable) would be the way that the start/finish line was such a long walk from the station, as by the time we got back to Bethnal Green tube we were freezing.

Bex is much faster than me and so she decided to go for the Blue funnel (under 1hr), while I stuck with Green (under 1:10) since my PB for 10k so far was 1:09:09 - I'm definitely more of a tortoise than a hare. I was happy to have chosen Green as I didn't feel like I was dragging at the back or like I was trying hard to get past people. Not sure how people running in other groups found it, but there didn't seem to be much issue with congestion or anything.

Ready to go in the Green funnel

The run itself was good, with bits and pieces like light tunnels and live bands along the way to make things a little more interesting. I was particularly loving the brass band that was playing and wish I could have found out what they were called. It's really nice to have stuff along the way to liven things up (it would have been even better if there were more live acts along the route).

Light tunnel (turns out I CANNOT take pics while running)

I felt strong all the way through the race and decided to push myself to see if I could PB and boy I was not disappointed - I SMASHED by PB time by nearly seven minutes, coming in at 1:02:14. It was nothing next to my speedy little sis' 54:49 but I'm so pleased.

I definitely feel like taking someone else along with you to the race is the way to go. Even though Bex and I didn't run together it was so nice to have someone there with you at the beginning and end. Bex even tried to get a shot of me finishing but it was too dark to get a decent shot - one day I'll get a snap of me running!

Lovely Alex Monroe finishers necklace in a Liberty Print box (credit)

Another huge plus was the finishers necklace, which we were given instead of a medal. Don't get me wrong, I love some race bling as much as the next runner but as someone who doesn't really own much nice dainty jewellery, it was really nice to get something that I feel like I could wear everyday. Well done Nike and Alex Monroe!

All in all this was a fab race, definitely worth a race price (which initially did seem a bit steep), considering the organisation on the day itself, Nike t-shirt, finishers necklace and goody bag. I'll definitely be taking part next time!

Did you take part in We Own The Night? Are you tempted to in future?

Harris x

Monday, 24 March 2014

Dear Running, I'm sorry I cheated on you

Dear Running,

I'm back. But I guess I should explain where I've been.

We've been having problems for a while now. I know you've felt it too but I didn't know how to address them. And so I cheated on you. With the gym.

I was seduced by those shiny machine, that loud music, those promises of a toned body (also the steam room...mainly the steam room). I forked out my money. And I really do like the gym.

I felt guilty about it, but I didn't want to face up to it and so I stopped blogging. You can't have a running blog without any running right? I've even been avoiding reading about you because it made me feel guilty.

But now it's time for a reality check. It's only nine weeks until the Liverpool Rock and Roll Half Marathon. And you and I need to be able to go the distance. 13.1 miles to be precise.

The gym is still important to me, and probably quite good for me. But it's time to focus on you and me now.

We've always had a love-hate relationship (often a lot more of the hate part) but I sometimes forget how much you've done for me. Without you, I'd be in a very different place right now. I'd be in a very different dress size too probably.

So I'm sorry Running. I'm sorry I abandoned you and cheated on you. Things are going to be different from now on.

Harris x