London's Winter Run

This time last year MOH and some friends set out on the London Winter Run, running 10k around the capital's streets raising money for Cancer Research UK. A year on and he was back on the streets taking part again, this time without his running buddies due to injuries and one even moving to another country - which is a bit drastic, if you ask me.

So earlyish on Sunday we headed into town to be ready for his start time of 9.38; it was that light drizzly rain which, while it's good to run in, wasn't much fun for supporters. Thankfully because of my lingering cough I was excused from the hardcore supporting and my only job was to hold his bag. And take photos.

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The run started in Trafalgar Square headed off towards Holborn and then towards St Paul's and the City before heading back and ending on Whitehall. We did the obligatory pre-run photos and then set about finding out where we should be.  

Trafalgar Square was filling up and the fountains were proving popular as a stretching aid.  With the warm-ups done and MOH's starting wave called he headed off towards the start line. 

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There was plenty going on in the square so I had a wander and soon found some St Bernards - real and less real.

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And it seems that the London fox - a well known, and not always loved creature - was also taking part.  

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I worked my way to the start line wondering if I'd spot MOH - I didn't. 

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No surprise really, when you see just how many people there were waiting to start. The snowmen were doing their best to entertain the runners, generously dishing out hugs and posing for photos.

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The rain continued, and with MOH's wave started there was only one thing for it. Breakfast - the cafe's close to the start were pretty full but just along The Strand I ducked into Paul. It turned out to be an inspired choice as I had a clear vantage point as the runners returned and headed to the finish. 

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Of course, once again I didn't spot MOH go past and met him as arranged in the pub nearby where he welcomed the espresso, mini croissant and the pint of beer that was waiting for him.  He was rather chuffed with his time too completing the 10k in just 49 minutes - the fastest he'd run for a while. He tells me this is an eight minute mile, which sounds pretty good to me.

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He enjoyed it, liked the course and didn't even mind the rain. It seems his mission now is to encourage me to take part next year - because yes, he's already signed up for next year. He'll have his work cut out though, while I don't mind running - well I don't think I'd mind it if I got past the first few weeks of running, I'm not a fan of organised running so it's very unlikely I'll be running alongside him next year on the day.

I much prefer the job of looking after the bags!

Cycle Routes: May

May was a big cycling month with plenty of long rides, and in total I clocked up just over 250 km which I'm surprised by too as it seems quite a long way. It's been a month of firsts - our first Tuesday Totter and another first which I'm less proud of but I guess it was bound to happen eventually (there's more on that further on). It's also been a month where preparation has been the theme, with some practice rides on consecutive days in Norfolk to work out what might ache when we finally get to Bavaria in June.

There's also been some mechanical problems, not for me but for MOH - his bike has been in for repairs as his bottom bracket needed replacing. All done relatively smoothly, but not so good on a bike that's barely four months old. That's had a bit of an impact on his training for the Ride 100 in August and on the amount of rides we've done in the latter part of the month.

1. A change of plan, with lunch

We started may with an easy 20k on the Bank Holiday through Greenwich and over to Docklands. Encountering Bank Holiday paced pedestrians in Greenwich prompted us to change our plans for our route back to avoid the crowds.

We retraced the route to Trinity Wharf, this time stopping in Fatboy's Diner for a late lunch/early tea.  If you're in this part of town and want to eat somewhere a bit different then this is a great place to go.

And then it was back south of the river using the much quieter Woolwich foot tunnel.

2. Our first Tuesday Totter

We joined the Lewisham cyclists for their fortnightly Tuesday Totter for the first time. They meet in Ladywell, which for us is just the other side of Lewisham so we set out in the early evening to make the 6.30pm meet time. We took a bit of a wrong turning along the way and by the time I caught up with MOH to let him know we'd gone more out of our way than we needed to, clocking up 7km before we'd even started the ride.

The Totter is billed as a relaxed ride, usually ending in the pub - sounds good to me! The plan for this trip was to head towards Tower Bridge and then back along the river to Greenwich. We'd got as far as Bermondsey last month when we ventured west along the Thames Path so were keen to go a bit further.

Because of the high winds, there was some debate as to whether or not a ride along the river was the best choice - remember those very windy days at the start of May? Yes this ride took place on one of those windy evenings - but in the end the consensus was yes to the ride, so off we set.

We cycled west along the south side of the Thames Path and then across Tower Bridge, which was pretty scary. But also in a large group of cyclists quite comforting. Ducking down into St Katherine's dock we headed back east along the north side of the river. There's a lot of docks and canals that way and one day when we cycle that way I'll stop to take some pictures, but this time I was concentrating on going forward against the wind. At times it felt like we were getting nowhere but it was great to join this friendly group of cyclists.

We crossed the river using the Greenwich foot tunnel and there we said our goodbyes as the pub was further out of our way than made sense. We did however make our own pub stop cycling along to the Trafalgar Tavern - and we discovered they served some fabulous sausage rolls! 

And we clocked up a steady 34km, not bad for a Tuesday evening ride!

3. My first falling off

So as we set out for the Tuesday Totter ride above - and before I'd been in any pubs - I managed to fall off my bike. Right outside the pub just along the road from us! I'm not quite sure how it happened but somehow both me and the bike ended up on the floor!

Both the bike and I were fine, if not a little bemused - as was MOH!

4. A practice 140km in Norfolk

I was keen to clock up some bike miles on consecutive days to see if I could physically do it. And it seems I can. I was relieved to discover that I didn't ache, or have any sore points. Phew! I did learn that our cycling clothes (even though I don't wear cycling gear) takes up quite some room. That was good practice too, as we've now booked two bags into the hold.  

We did three consecutive days of cycling each with a purpose:

1. To the pub for a pint and lunch - it's just the pub we choose was about 22km away!

2. To Sandringham for tea and cake - and a round trip of 46km.

3. To the fish shed at Brancaster Staithe to buy some fish for tea. I'd packed my cool bag in my basket, but we ended up buying a fish larger than the cool bag, so the nice lady in the shop packed the fish in a bag of ice for me. That worked well, apart from the weight. Clearly when I chose a bike with a basket I hadn't thought it through as I ended up carrying all the shopping and was even slower than usual up those hills.

5. To Maltby Street market

This meant another trip back along our favourite Thames Path. We set off heading west and then headed inland to search out the Maltby Street market.

We found it and although I knew it would be busy, I hadn't realised it was a full blown market in a small passageway. And it was busy...

We managed to wheel our bikes through the market, as all the places we could have locked our bikes were taken. Lunch was a pulled pork roll and my special feat is to balance one roll in my basket and the other in my left hand and continue to wheel the bike through the market without spilling any!

Well I was impressed. Full on pulled pork roll and the macaron I'd bought before hand we headed towards Tower Bridge and St Katharine's dock again. It was much busier this time and scarier than before, but safely across again we looked for the route we'd followed before. We missed a turning somewhere and ended up alongside the river sooner than we wanted to be. 

MOH was convinced he knew the way, I was less sure. But he was right - don't you just hate it when that happens? And then we were back on the route from the Tuesday Totter. Arriving home we put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea to go alongside that Portuguese custard tarts we'd bought at the market. Well after an almost 30km ride, I think we deserved another cake!

 

So that was May. June will bring cycling in Bavaria and (at least) 224 km in just six days. I expect we'll see some amazing sights, have a great time and I hope the German I've been learning sees me well. I've learnt the German for bike - fahrrad - and more importantly basket - korb - although I think the panniers our hire bike comes with are likely to be a more realistic option. I'll let you know how we get on!

Fitness 4 Mamas

Holiday prep: Healthy eating

Last week my holiday prep post focussed on tickets, information and immersing myself in learning German and about the places we're off to. I've spoken about getting bike-ready with a few days in Norfolk clocking up some bike miles in readiness for our 224km cycling holiday, but what I didn't mention was something that started much earlier and that was a healthy eating plan.

After a good Christmas, some hibernating in January followed by a sedentary February I knew I wanted to eat more healthily and shift a few kilograms in the process, so when I saw Michelle from Bod for Tea was offering bloggers a chance to try Noom Pro it was just the opportunity I was looking for, so I quickly signed up and downloaded the app.

I'm an iPhone girl and some behind the scenes jiggery-pokery was needed to get my account working for the group of bloggers I was joining, but this was done smoothly and I was quickly setting targets and logging the food I ate. That's always a shock isn't it, in those first few days when you want immediate results to discover just how many calories you're eating?

As well as logging your meals, the app suggests articles for you to read and sets you challenges - all of which are optional, I mean the "try a new vegetable" one wasn't for me. I know what vegetables I like and eat a relatively wide range and I'm still scarred from that kohlrabi that appeared once in my veg box many years ago... Even writing that has made me shudder.

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But back to the app. The basic premise is to eat more "green" foods and to limit your "red" foods.

That makes sense and I quickly learnt what was green: 

  • a cup of tea (result!)
  • lots and lots of vegetables
  • salads (sans dressing of course)
  • hummus
  • tomato-based pasta sauces
STARTING GREEN

STARTING GREEN

And what wasn't:

  • sourdough bread, pasta, rice, potatoes (amber)
  • avocados, scrambled eggs (amber)
  • red wine (amber - double yay!)
  • cheese (red)
  • butter, cakes, fried food (red)
...NOT SO GREEN

...NOT SO GREEN

And while often my days would start well they quickly deteriorated towards the red. Adding vegetables to our evening meals has been a good way to redress the balance but for me my problem meal is lunch. Often I'd just grab some more bread, toast it and have some cheese - nothing green there!

So that's one place where I've worked to improve what I'm eating. Hummus has been a godsend - and it's easy to knock up in a food processor too, and tastes so much better than the supermarket varieties, trust me. And with the warmer weather (err - where's that gone?) my NutriBullet was once again becoming my friend.

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Logging food you eat regularly is easy too as by swiping you can add it quickly, and as someone who's an avid lister (for almost everything) this really worked for me. Of course if you choose not to include everything it isn't going to work, but that's part of the commitment you've made to yourself isn't it?

Like many of the fitness and healthy eating apps Noom Pro allocates a daily budget of calories. I thought this might be my undoing as I'm not one for knowing the calories in everything. In fact I know the calories in almost nothing.

But as with most apps it's cleverer than me and has calories programmed in. You can also add food using the easy units too - which is great as I think MOH would have thought I'd lost it if I started weighing food like scrambled eggs!

This is also great if your approach to cooking can be like mine and often it's "a bit of this and that" which sometimes is the only way to go. You can add the foods you create as a custom dish, so if you cooked them again or made some for the freezer it's already stored in the app.  

There is a recipe section in the app, but I haven't used this - I've got enough recipe inspiration already without throwing something else into the mix!

 

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As well as recording your weight loss with weekly weigh ins, there's also space to "Do more" and record your activities. So all that cycling has found its way into here too - and on the days I've cycled or done a Pilates class then my calorie budget increases. Now that's encouragement...

The other part of Noom Pro I liked was being part of a group. That worked as we all started using the app at a similar time so were learning together and could ask questions, we could also see how many meals each other had logged that day so there was a small element of peer pressure to keep going.

So did it work?

Well I guess that's what you really want to know... 

Yes it has, in the three months or so that I've been using Noom Pro I've lost almost four kilograms. So about a kilo a month, which I'm happy with and feeling much better for.

And while that might not sound a lot - and it probably doesn't qualify me as slimmer of the year - remember a bag of sugar weighs 1kg (or 2.2 lb if you prefer it in old money) and I now weigh almost four bags of sugar less by making some relatively small changes to my diet, which I think is pretty good.

Yes of course there's been days where I haven't logged the food I've eaten, and days where I've ignored it altogether but that's because sometimes life just gets in the way - and that's fine. I still plan to use Noom Pro and I still plan to eat more healthily too, and I think that's a good plan to have.

What I learnt:

  • Lunch is my weak meal of the day. It's often only for me and all too easy to grab something quickly, but with some forethought and planning it doesn't have to be that way. While cheese is nice, it shouldn't really be my "go to" food (sobs!)
  • It's easier than I thought to eat more vegetables. As many mums will already know, you can pack veggies into all sorts of stews, casseroles and one-pots and get a health boost at the same time. And adding a salad on the side is another easy way to eat some greenery.
  • Slow is ok. I'm definitely one who wants instant results, but as I plan to carry on what I've started slow is definitely ok here

What I liked:

  • The green-amber-red approach - it was a simple and effective way to retrain my eating habits.
  • Easy logging of foods I ate regularly - just a swipe and it was logged.
  • Easy units for logging foods - especially as I'm not a calorie nerd and often take the "a bit of this and that" approach to cooking.
  • Red wine was amber - my approach was to make small changes to my diet, and my diet includes red wine. It was refreshing that I didn't feel like I was being told off for having a glass or two.
  • The support and camaraderie the Noom Group gave.

Where it could improve:

  • As a planner and a lister, I'd like to be able to enter my meals in advance so I can make sure the combinations I'm planning aren't going to blow my budget
  • As a multi-devicer, I'd like to be able to seamlessly use my iPhone and my iPad to enter that day's meals depending where I was or which was closest to me.
  • Include more UK supermarket foods and meals to make the easy logging even more accurate.

Have you used an app to encourage healthy eating? Did it work for you and help you make changes to your diet and lifestyle? 

 

Disclosure: I received access to Noom Pro free of charge as part of a blogger trial, but all words and opinions are my own.

Fitness 4 Mamas


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