Blips and Other News

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The second week started really well, but ended with a bit of a blip. I did my first run on Saturday, my second run on Monday, and then it all went a little awry.

Somehow it just seemed too difficult to go for another run last week, and I was in danger of continuing that trend this week. But this afternoon, somehow, I got my mojo back. And went for a run. It was harder than the previous two runs, but it was still achievable.

I also began the next phase of Toby training, in that I kept him on the lead and had him running next to me for most of my six 90-second running intervals. He was very good and didn’t barge in front of me, or refuse to run. That was quite surprising, given that he had already been for his long walk today. The plan is that – assuming I can stick with the programme – when I start running for longer periods of time, I can run in places other than around my (quite small) nearest park, and Toby can run with me.

I don’t know what tomorrow’s run will bring. I’m thinking I might have a go at doing week three. But it is quite daunting, including running for three whole minutes in one go. With no running for a whole week before today, that might be a bit much. But I figure there’s no harm in trying; I can always shift back to a week two run if I need to.

Other News

I have always shied away from bold colour on my fingernails, because I am an inveterate nail-picker (less so, biter). Which means that bold colour magnifies how short my nails really are, plus I struggle to leave them looking perfect for more than about five minutes.

But, high on the success of my run, and after a lovely relaxing bath, I thought I’d be brave and try out a colour usually reserved for my toes.

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What do you think? It’s Richmond Terrace by Nails Inc (currently a free gift with purchase of Nails Inc products from Feel Unique, but usually £11), and I’m very pleased with it. We’ll see if it helps break the habit.

 

 

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So Far, So Good

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I’m a week into the Couch to 5K programme (which is 9 weeks long, minimum) and it is going really well, so far. I actually did 4 runs this week, rather than the 3 recommended, for a couple of reasons. First, as I explained in my last post, I wasn’t following quite the same programme for my first run (and didn’t strictly follow even the one I was using), so I didn’t feel like the first run counted. As luck would have it, the second run also went a little nuts as I failed to switch my mobile off silent, so couldn’t hear the verbal prompts. It’s amazing how ready you are to think your phone is vibrating (the only other prompt), when you expect it to vibrate in the near future.

One of the fantastic things about the modern world is relatively simple things like the C25K app. With the app (provided you use it properly!), all you have to do is follow the instructions. You start it up and then run when it tells you to run and walk when it tells you to walk. You have no idea what a relief it is not to have to look at your watch and see the seconds count down. Knowing you will be told when it’s time to start walking is so much better.

The second reason for four runs, rather than three, was that I know myself. I was worried that, if I left a rest day between my first run and my second, it would be too big a hurdle to jump. Now I’ve done a few runs, I shouldn’t need to repeat it, but I needed to prove to myself that the first experience was not a fluke. I might run both Saturday and Sunday for a couple more times, but my guess is that – the further into the programme I get – the less I’ll feel like doing it two days in a row.

So I’m looking forward to tomorrow, with reservations. Next week is three runs of “90 seconds running, followed by 2 minutes walking” for 20 minutes – which is 9 minutes running total compared to 8 minutes last week. But it isn’t the extra minute that’s daunting; it’s the “half as much again” running each time. So we’ll see.

The best improvement over the week has actually been Toby’s attitude. You may recall that he spent most of my first run, standing by the park gate. I have no idea how much of that was:

  • The presence of the scary dog;
  • The imminent need for breakfast; and
  • The strangeness of Cath moving around at speed.

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By Thursday’s run, however, he joined in for the entire time. Don’t get me wrong, there was still a significant amount of standing by the gate, and even more of standing at one end of the park, trying to figure out what version of nonsense his owner was up to now. But he did keep joining me, with what I’m choosing to call Toby’s interval running – either stop to sniff something interesting or stand still to see if Cath is coming back soon, then running like mad to catch up. Those of you who have dogs will know that watching your dog run towards you, ears aflapping, is one of the best experiences there is in life.

I’m hoping that, if I manage to stick with this, I’ll be able to persuade Toby to run alongside me on shorter runs. Yesterday made me think it might be doable. It would be a shame not to be able to combine my exercise with Toby’s. It would be particularly helpful when it stops being summer. The only person I know who hates the rain more than I do is Toby. What that means is that I get a strange schadenfreude from making Toby go out when it’s raining. When he was a puppy, we had to walk for half an hour before he stopped fixating on going home and realised how much he needed to pee. Running with him in the rain (when we’re running away from, rather than towards, home) will be his penance for making me walk unnecessarily in the rain.

Exercise Ahoy!

I’ve never been particularly enthusiastic about exercise. My complete lack of skill at any type of team sports, combined with a strong preference for curling up with a book, meant it took until I was thirty to find something physically active I could actually say I enjoy. I started out with a yoga class in 2005 and revelation hit.

At the time, I was commuting from London to Brighton daily for work, which – as a result of the vagaries of public transport – meant I left home before 6am and got home about 7pm. This just about allowed enough time for making and eating dinner, before collapsing into bed, and not much else. On the day of my weekly yoga class, however, I came out of class at 7.30pm and was ready to skip home, with enough energy to do another day’s work then and there. This had never been my experience of exercise before. Exhausted? Yes! Exhilarated? Never!

Doing one weekly yoga class had other benefits as well. I actually found myself craving yoga, and would often do more at home. My posture (I am slouch queen extraordinaire) improved and, when hungry, craved healthy things rather than my standard chocolate and cheese. I also had less of an urge to drink alcohol.

Reading this, you would be entitled to wonder why I am not still attending weekly yoga classes. It’s a question I regularly ask myself. I moved to Brighton in November 2005 and have tried, several times, to re-establish the class-going habit. It just hasn’t quite taken. I don’t know why. I have, however, continued my yoga practice, albeit haphazardly, by going on yoga holidays for every holiday I have taken over the last ten years. I might do another post about those. I have also, on and off, continued with a home practice – although this is mainly in the “off” setting than the “on”. I certainly have ALL the books necessary to support a home practice (i.e. several shelves’ worth).

By the end of 2011, my exercise regime was non-existent. This was one of the key factors in my decision to get Toby at the beginning of 2012. I was, at that point, the proud owner of two cats – Dorothy and Oscar. But cats are not conducive to physical exercise, as they have a knack of coming to sit on your lap at exactly the point you intend getting up to do something. One could argue that Oscar’s tendency of curling up underneath me on the (rare) occasions I get out the yoga mat and get into Downward Dog is supportive, but I think it’s more likely to be orneriness.

(For readers unfamiliar with yoga, this is Downward Dog. Having a cat sit underneath you in this pose might be seen as an incentive to maintain the pose. Or not.)

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Source: yogajournal.com

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Toby

Having Toby has been a joy, and I cannot now imagine my life without him. He has certainly got me off the sofa, as was my intention, and I now leave the flat many times more per day than I would if there weren’t big brown eyes begging for a walk. Particularly when you considers that dogs have to be walked in all weathers. At least, they do, if you don’t have a garden to bundle them out into so they can *ahem* perform, and I don’t. But it would not be honest of me if I let you believe those walks are anything other than a gentle stroll. For me, at least. When we get to the park, Toby might do some running around. But not me.

Over the last eighteen months, Toby’s walks have got shorter, my weight has crept up again, and I have been trying to think how I am going to get back on top of my physical health again. A few things over the last few months have put running into my head:

  • I read, and thereby felt a modicum of inspiration, Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley
  • A friend on Facebook has embarked on a healthier lifestyle, including taking up running using the Couch to 5k programme (aka C25k)
  • Last week I read a post by one of my regular beauty blog reads about her fitness regime

Those things, combined with the indignity of having to buy a pair of jeans in size 16 (when I consider myself a size 12), just so that I could wear jeans and breathe at the same time, planted the seed. Yesterday, I took my normal approach to starting a new project; read everything I can find about the subject (when I decided to get Toby, I read ALL the books about dog behaviour – go ahead, you can ask me anything!). I concluded that C25k sounded like it might actually be achievable.

All of that is leading up to the fact that, if you had been in a certain Brighton park this morning, you would have witnessed a very red-faced woman alternate jogging and walking backwards and forwards, followed by a very confused dog. I have completed my first ever run!

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Source: c25k.com

How did it go? Very well, all things considered. I had taken Toby to the Sorting Office to pick up a parcel in lieu of a warm up and almost bottled out when I had to stop and drink some water before even embarking on the run (in my defence, the park is significantly uphill from the Sorting Office). There were also quite a few people in the park with their dogs, and I wasn’t sure I wanted that many witnesses to my first go at this running lark. What finally got me going was, having bought an entire “fitness” outfit (including new headphones and a sports bra), I would have felt really silly walking home from the park without even trying.

If you are unfamiliar with C25k (as I was until yesterday), it consists of 3 workouts each week for 9 weeks, building up very gradually to being able to run for 30 minutes (which is likely to be roughly the right amount of time for 5 kilometres or just over 3 miles). The first workout, you jog for 1 minute, then walk for 1.5 minutes, over and over for 20 minutes. I had actually gone to the park with the intention of doing a slightly different workout (which I found in an ebook), but with the same basic approach, but it went a bit awry. One of the USPs for C25k is that you can download a mobile app which tells you exactly what to do and when, during your workout, thus removing the need for clockwatching or counting. I had attempted a do-it-yourself version of this app (thinking it only worked on newer versions of the iPhone than the one I have – which turns out to be wrong), which did not work at all; I couldn’t hear the announcements, so ended up running for 2.5 minutes in the first session, and only approximating the remainder, as I had to keep looking at my phone to check whether I was supposed to be walking or running.

By the way, I have been using “jogging” and “running” interchangeably so far. I shall be talking about running hereafter, but I want to acknowledge that this description of my activity is aspirational rather than accurate. The one clear message I took away from all the reading I did yesterday was that most beginners try to run too far and too fast at the beginning. I was moving forward during the “running” parts of my first go, but it felt snail-like compared to even a brisk walk.

The other slight issue was that Toby was thoroughly bemused by this new approach to park life (do you all have Blur in your head now?). He ran along behind me for the first circuit (by which I mean he did his usual “stop to sniff something interesting, sprint to catch up” rather than actually toddling along beside me). On the second circuit, the only dog he is actually scared of turned up at the far end of the park, so he cut that corner off. On the third, he had clearly decided I had gone mad and went to stand by the park gate for the remainder of the time. I am petrified that, one of these days, someone is just going to pick him up and have off with him when he isn’t in sight at the park, so the rest of my running/walking was backwards and forwards in an arc, keeping the gate in sight. Which must have bemused any onlookers greatly. Lesson learned. Next time, Toby gets his breakfast before the run.

The running itself was fine. It confirmed for me just how beneficial the regular walking actually is, as I could certainly do a whole minute without collapsing in a heap. The programme I was using (or rather attempting to use) actually had two minutes’ walking after each run, and I didn’t need all of that to recover sufficiently – so I’m definitely switching to the proper C25k 90 second walk for the next one. Towards the end of the twenty minutes, my face was sweaty enough to make my glasses annoying, and I was taking a mouthful of water when I passed the place I had left my bag.

On the way home, I bumped into a couple of friends and felt sufficiently proud of my performance to announce that I had just done “my first ever” run. They both confirmed that I looked “quite red” and were very supportive. So we shall see how the rest of this week goes. As C25k only requires 3 runs a week (and strongly suggests you space them out), I’m half-hoping all this enthusiasm might reinvigorate my yoga practice to complement the running. We shall see how it goes!

 

Horrible Warning

It isn’t quite proper to be proud of something you did not actually do. I have a frighteningly good complexion and, since before April this year, I didn’t have a skincare routine worth a damn, I don’t think I can take credit for it. However, since April, I have been doing something that more closely approximates the term, even if it is a bit haphazard. I feel that has probably been necessary, given that I have been wearing makeup, and one should – as a minimum – take it off at night.

Over the last six months, I have always managed to take the makeup off at night, even if only with a facial wipe. It has often developed into more than just that. Then we come to this weekend. I went to the pub on Friday. A number of hours later (I’m slightly hazy on how many), I came home and went to bed without removing the makeup. Saturday came and went with some very gentle pottering about, as my hangover was not merciful. Today, I have on my forehead one of those throbbing pustules of a spot that hurts to the touch.

Coincidence or cautionary tale? You decide.

So I am now completely convinced of the need for the removal of makeup every night, even when rip-roaringly drunk. If just one instance of failing this step can occasion such a prompt comeuppance with my sickeningly healthy genetic heritage, just imagine the damage it can wreak on a more temperamental complexion!

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The evidence!

Beetroot? Are you sure?

Here is what I did with the beetroot from my vegbox last week. Borscht, it isn’t!

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These are Forbidden Chocolate Brownies, from Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache by Harry Eastwood. If you enjoy baking – particularly if you enjoy trying something a little different – I do recommend this book. She incorporates vegetables into her cakes (and for any coeliacs out there, her recipes include gluten-free alternatives as standard).

I was a bit underwhelmed at the idea of borscht and, as my mum (who has coeliac’s) was staying, we thought we’d try our hand at this recipe. For me, I stuck pretty rigidly to the recipe; I added a little black treacle as my mum was not entirely convinced that my light brown soft sugar was the same as the light Muscovado sugar called for in the recipe. I also added a little water to the beetroot when it was refusing to blend. I used ground almond, rather than grinding hazelnuts from scratch, and I was rather heavy-handed with the chopped mixed nuts on the top!

The results? Scrumptious. Very moist in the middle; almost to the point of needing a spoon. We did a quick comparison with another brownie recipe we found online, and the beetroot (and almonds) replace the butter and a lot of the flour, but there is quite a bit more sugar in this recipe. So is it healthier? It depends on your definition of healthy, I suppose, but it makes for a ruddy good brownie!

Day to Night Look

 

 

I thought I would show you my makeup looks today. I ran out of time to put my new foundation on today before leaving the house, so that’s why it first makes an appearance with the night time look. That wasn’t the intention! Anyhow, here goes…

Daytime

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Products used:

Clinique Super City Block 40SPF (£18 for 40ml)

Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer in Vanilla (which seems strangely impossible to obtain in this shade from the Nars website but can be found in Space NK – £22)

No7 brushes (Foundation Brush £14 and Concealer Brush £8)

Eyeko Skinny Liquid Liner in Black (£12)

Benefit’s They’re Real! Mascara (£19.50)

Body Shop All-in-one Cheek Colour in Bubblegum (£8 for 4g)

No7 Powder Blush Brush (£11.50)

Revlon Colorburst Lacquer Balm in 105 Demure (£7.99)

 

Night time

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Without removing any of the daytime look, products used:

Clinique Superbalanced Makeup in shade 01 Petal (£22.50 for 30ml)

Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Shadow Stick in Bark (£20 for 1.6g) – added another line above the black eyeliner

Nars Larger Than Life Long-Wear Eyeliner in Via Appia (£19) – just under the bottom lash line

No7 Blush Tint in Rosebud (£9)

Charlotte Tilbury Fallen From the Lipstick Tree K.I.S.S.I.N.G. in Night Crimson (£23 for 3.5g)

 

And finally…

Here’s a picture I thought I would share with you. I was trying to minimise the chances of a double chin, but it screams “Be off with you, revolting peasants!”, doesn’t it? I usually need to be peering over the top of my glasses to look that imposing.

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Quick Snack

I just thought I would share my quick snack with you, as it’s quite pretty.

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These are seasoned poached eggs, with red Leicester and wilted spinach, on a toasted Sainsbury’s cheese and black pepper muffin. Yum!

I’m particularly pleased with myself, as I had not even thought of adding spinach until after I’d started poaching the eggs. But, because I use Poachpods (Lakeland, £4.99 for two), it was dead easy to quickly, roughly chop a few leaves (three, since you ask) and chuck them in the water with a few minutes still to go. Hey presto! My snack is suddenly far healthier, and approaching meal status.

I do recommend Poachpods if you are at all timid about poaching eggs, as it makes the process dead easy. I like my yolks runny, so often err on the side of caution with poaching for five minutes. This usually means the whites are a bit runny too, but if you have a fear of the gloopiness of egg whites (technical term!), a little bit longer on the heat will firm them right up.

The only thing I would have done differently, now I’ve eaten them up, is to add a little sweet chilli sauce on top of the spinach. This is an idea I’ve pinched from one of my favourite places in Brighton to have brunch – Iydea – whose poached eggs come served with avocados and chilli sauce.