Fast Lanes and Slow Lanes: What every pavement needs.

This has made me laugh lots – and then it made me envy people in Sheffield! The Meadowhall Shopping Centre in the city took note of a complaint by a schoolgirl that people were walking too slowly while shopping and set the mall up with (trial) fast and slow shopping lanes.

I want these in London too – I walk pretty fast at the best of times but getting down Oxford Street or anywhere in Covent Garden in Summer is not a speedy experience – I’m pretty sure after about 5 minutes my blood pressure is through the roof.

However there does seem to be a fundamental flaw in the design (as someone on the Meadowhall Facebook page points out). Surely the slow shopping lane should be closest to the shops?

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Image: Meadowhall Shopping Centre

Hotel Chocolat Cocoa Infusion: The Zero Calorie Chocolate Fix

I have spent much of the day sniffing a teabag muttering ‘oh my god that’s amazing’.  No, I’ve not developed some weird fetish, instead, I have a box of Hotel Chocolat’s Cocoa Infusion on my desk.

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I first saw the press release for this on April 1st.  Not the best day to send it out as a lot of people did think it was a joke, after all it was promising a calorie free chocolate fix. But, they actually sent the mail out after noon and, after careful tasting, I can declare that Hotel Chocolat Cocoa Infusion is real – and frankly it’s the answer to a dieting chocolate lovers dreams.

Made from crushed cocoa shells as you open the packet you’re hit by a rush of chocolate scent as good as if you’d opened an actual bar of dark chocolatey goodness. Take out a bag and defy you not to wander round with it in your hand inhaling it. But don’t – instead bung the bag in a cup, pour on boiling water and wait 4 minutes. You can take sneaky sniffs as it’s brewing if you like.

I admit I didn’t want to drink it. I figured it would spoil things. I was expecting that same watered down insipid taste you get with diet hot chocolate – but no. While you don’t get a creamy hit, what you do get is that same taste and bitter kick on your tongue that you get eating proper, high cocoa dark chocolate. It’s not going to satisfy a major sugar craving but if it’s chocolate you want, this really does hit the spot. I’m actually a little bit amazed. I tasted about 15 bits of dark chocolate at a food trade show yesterday (more on that over the next few days) and this has exactly the same after taste but with zero calories, no sugar, no fat.

It costs £9.00 for a box of 18 bags – which makes it cheaper than chocolate too! I think that’s the definition of #winning! Find it at hotelchocolat.com

 

 

A Healthier Salad Bar Salad – in Four Words

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Love this tip I just saw in UK Women’s Health – it’s come from some work from Cornell University (who are like the gurus of all things buffet) and it’s about how to eat healthier at the salad bar. Basically it all comes down to four words

Never Use A Spoon

Why? They say that if whatever you’re about to load onto your plate comes served by a spoon there’s a good chance it’s got oil or mayo within it and is going to bump up the calorie and fat content of your meal up somewhat. All the healthy stuff is normally served via tongs or a fork .

See, easiest diet advice ever.

It’s New Running Playlist Day

I’ve got a new rule. Every time that little monotone voice on my shuffle tells me ‘battery low’, I not only have to charge it, I have to add five new songs to keep me interested. Today was that day. I’ve decided to mix up new songs with old running faves that I haven’t heard for ages. So, here’s what I loaded….

99 Red Balloons by Nena

Under Control by Calvin Harris

Best Day of My Life by American Authors

Live While We’re Young (the Dave Aude Remix) by One Direction

Let It Go by Demi Lovato

That last one was  compromise as I desperately want the Dave Aude Remix of Let It Go from Frozen, but it’s not available here in the UK – I’m not sure if you can get it in the US or if it’s promotional only. It is however amazing and I want to run to it soooooo badly. Have a word people at Disney. Listen….there’s also a fab Tiesto one on YouTube

 

Farewell My Foothugging Friends

Today is a sad day. the fact that my plantar fasciitis is flaring up when I run means it’s time to send my trainers to the big running club in the sky.

I always find this moment a bit sad. We’ve spent hours together; overcome obstacles, suffered pain and discomfort, laughed, cried, felt pride – and of course run a really long way.

This particular pair of shoes have run in four continents – the Americas, Asia, Australasia and Europe. They’ve run past Big Ben, The Sydney Opera House, The Magic Kingdom castle and the Eiffel Tower. They’ve taken me through the Disneyland Half Marathon, the Disneyland 10km, the British 10km, two paint splattered colour runs and a trip round London Zoo – plus all the miles of training doing that takes. I’m going to miss them.

We just went on our last run together – 40 minutes past the fields and now it’s time for them to leave. Run In Peace little New Balances.

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Innocent Super Smoothies: They’re, erm, super but watch the sugar!

Today I have been drinking my own body weight in fruit. The reason was simple. I was pottering around Boots and I saw a huge advert for Innocent’s new Super Smoothies. I’d mentioned these on my healthista page at the beginning of this month but, because I live a fair few miles out of London and the smoothies had to be kept cold, Innocent couldn’t put any on a bike for me to test. I’d kind of forgotten about them until I saw the sign. Ah what the heck I thought, I fancy something sweet, I’ll give them a try.

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There are many reasons why I wanted to do this. In fact, I’ve made a handy list….

1) They’ve been created with the help of nutrition guru Ian Marber – this means theyve got kudos in my world. I like Ian. He speaks sense.

2) They’ve not just got fruit in them – they contain veggies like pumpkin and beetroot and they’re fortified with vitamins, minerals and herbs like echinacea and guarana to give them an extra health boost

3) They also contain flaxseeds: Not lumpy ones, very, very smooth ones. Ian told me they took ages to try and get this right as most people don’t like seeds in their smoothies. Why are the flaxseeds in there at all in that case? Well they give a small dose of added nutrients, but more importantly they contain healthy fats which slow digestion. This means you won’t get so much of the sudden surge of sugar (then the potential crash) you can get from normal smoothie drinks.

4) The drinks tell you how they might help you with names like Energise and Defence . This is unusual in the UK right now because to imply this you have to include ingredients that have been given official permission to say they can help those things based on evidence. And that’s not as easy as you think to achieve. However because Innocent have included things like B vitamins which categorically help you make energy and minerals like zinc which definitely can help support the immune system you can choose a drink that spells out how it might help you – which saves you wasting cash on the wrong one. Admittedly, the third variant is called Antioxidant. You can’t make health claims for antioxidants so it doesn’t have an aim. Thankfully you can at last say they exist otherwise that one might have a blank label!

5) They taste really good. I’m not a smoothie fan normally. They’re either two sweet or too sharp – but these ones, particularly the Energise and Antioxidant are smooth, creamy and sweet but not too sweet. In fact, I like them a lot, which is a bit of a problem because…..

Smoothies are sugary and pretty high in calories! There’s no way around it. Squash half a fruit bowl into a small bottle and there’s going to be consequences. And for the Innocent ones the cost is around 211-239 calories per bottle and 44-50g of sugar based carbohydrates which is a heck of a lot of sweet stuff. So, while I enjoyed mine today I won’t be making them a habit – I’d rather eat my calories than drink them. I also eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily and take a multivit so I don’t really need the extra boost I get from a smoothie or juice – but, if you are looking for a grab-and-go way to up your intake of fruit and veg, these are a pretty tasty option. Just remember to account for the calories.

You’ll find them now at Boots and selected supermarkets. Check out the Innocent website for more details

 

 

Marathoners: What’s In Your Post Run Bag?

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Marathons are like childbirth in many ways: they hurt while you do them, as soon as you finish you swear blind you’ll never do it again but a few months later you’ve signed up for the next one. But there’s one other thing they share – that you need a little bag packed for afterwards.

The moments after a marathon often get strangely ignored. You’re all ready for the start with your breakfast, spare loo roll and in my case, a pillow to sit on (it’s a long wait before you corral at Disneyland!). During the race you’ve got your own body weight in gels, liquids and anti-chafing goo- but after? Nothing. Normally, it’s a case of flump down at the finish line with the free banana, but after doing a lot of half marathons and a couple of fulls, I learned that having a few simple things packed in my gear bag can make the hour while you sit and wait for your buddies to finish, or summon up the enthusiasm to move, a lot more pleasant. Here’s what I always pack for a post race….

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1) Flip flops: It takes me close to 6 hours to run a marathon. I always get a blister. I have before now lost a toenail. When I cross the finish line all I can think about is how hot my feet are and how much I want my shoes OFF. And, particularly if you do have a blister, the last thing you want to do after letting your feet free is put your trainers back on again. Flip Flops (post run weather willing) are your friend.

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2) Food/liquid that isn’t sweet: I go back to my six hours timing – six hours of drinking sweet things ending in ADE, squeezing in the pure sugar that is Gu, eating bananas, orange slices, maybe a Jelly Bean if I get lucky enroute, I finish hungry but I also finish thinking ‘If I never eat anything sugary again it will be too soon.’ A packet of crisps, or even better, peanuts and a bottle of fizzy water tastes like the best food on earth at a finish line.

 

Mendill Towelettes: These smell incredible

Mendill Towelettes: These smell incredible

3) Some kind of wet wipe. Getting the salt off your face and freshening up some other bits makes the concept of post run journey’s home just that little bit more bearable. If I think there’s a possibility of heading to the pub afterwards (six hours remember, it’s lunchtime by then), I might also throw in dry underwear and a new T-shirt. Say hello to post marathon chest breakout if you don’t.

So that’s it, my post run checklist. Do you pack anything for after races? Have I forgotten anything vital? Let me know.  Oh, and here I am after the Disneyland Half Marathon – NB: I have not yet removed my shoes!

Shiny medals

Shiny medals

 

Top 3 images: freedigitalphotos.net

UK Based Avengers Runners (and other wannabe superheros) – check this out

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Running the new Disneyland Avengers Superheroes half and not sure what to wear?  Here’s an idea.

The Run 4 Cancer Superhero Run takes place in London on May 18th- and they still have places. It costs £22.00 to enter (plus raising a minimum sponsorship of £100 for the charity – which gets you karma points) and you get a medal and a free superhero suit (Superman, Supergirl, Batman or Batgirl) that you get to keep afterwards.

The 5k and 10km runs take place in London’s Regent Park. Visit run4cancer.org/superhero-run-2014 to find out more.

Oh and if you are running Avengers from Blighty, let me know. There’s a little speech bubble waiting for you to say hi up the corner over there.

 

Do Not Pee in the Pool People. It’s bad for your lungs.

Breaking News: Well to me anyway. Apparently the idea that some swimming pools put a blue dye in the water to catch people who pee in the pool is a myth. Not true. An out and out fib. That’s right, all the times I’ve dragged my sorry butt out of the water to head to the bathroom when the urge struck for fear of swimming around with a trailing indigo tail as people point and laugh were pointless – except they weren’t. New research has shown a bigger concern re pool peeing than the blue cloud of embarrassment.

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According to a report by the American Chemical Society urine combined with chlorine can actually create toxic fumes that can potentially cause lung problems. I’m not kidding, look here’s a link to the press release. By taking yourself off the bathroom when Mr Tinkle comes calling (seriously, did I just write that?) you therefore potentially protect your lungs and those of that nice person sitting by the side in the yellow and red outfit (which, seems like the least you can do considering they’re willing to jump in and save you if you get into trouble).

Now I admit, I do have a vested interest in passing on this little bit of news on as it looks like I’m about to spend a fair bit of time in the pool testing ideas for a new e-book, and frankly, lung problems or no lung problems, considering how much water I swallow when I swim I’d like my water to be, erm, mostly water!  So, if you could pass this message along I thank you. Or, maybe just tell people someone HAS made  a blue dye of embarrassment.

 

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

 

The 47p Protein Bar

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It’s all gone horribly wrong. Last week I went on the Dubai diet. This involved me attempting to consume ALL the hummus in Dubai over a four day period. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, not a meal went past without a dollop of creamy beige goodness. When I got home dinner didn’t taste right so I popped out to Tesco to buy some and ate the pot in 24 hours. The result, the scales have gone up. Up by 0.5kg.  This is bad, very, very bad and it must be stopped as, being the only person alive who 5.2 didn’t work for, I still haven’t shed the 2kg I gained over Xmas.

While the spectre of Educogym is looming in my brain (I know it’ll work but I have to give up my life for a week to make it happen), I’m first trying to rebalance things merely by doing low-carb thing again; hummus is banned as are starchy carbs and I’m sticking to protein and veg. I find that pretty easy – except for the fact that I can’t go to the gym until 5pm. By then I’m starving and my workout suffers accordingly. Sliced chicken doesn’t quite cut it pre-workout and for some reason Sainsburys haven’t had any no-fat Total in for weeks. My go-to snack in this situation is then protein bars which, give me a little chocolate buzz but thwack enough protein into my system to not send my insulin levels soaring. My wallet however starts to cry whenever I start this plan – at about £2.00 a time, even just three a week gives you a hefty £6.00 a week pre-gym snack bill. However, I may have solved my problem.

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Onto my desk this week plopped – or rather crashed – the heftiest protein bar I have ever seen. Called the Builder’s Bar its made by US brand CLIF which has just started selling direct in the UK. Designed for endurance exercise they contain a few more carbs and sugar than other brands – but, as I specifically want it to fuel my workout that’s not bad thing.  The Builder’s bar weighs a whopping 68g and as you take a bite it just feels dense -the chocolate’s thick, the oaty bit is chewy, and, in the Chocolate Peanut Butter one that I had you find the odd peanut. At 264 calories a pop though eating a whole one could probably take the place of a meal. Cue my clever idea.

Whereas I normally cut my protein bars in half, even half of this would be immense. I therefore figured if I cut the thing into five I could have a little slice each day before the gym, give myself a little 53 calorie (4g of protein) lift and save a fortune. And yep, it worked.  The tiny slice cut my appetite enough to get me willing enough to workout without sulky hunger face – and meant a whole £2.35 bar lasted a week. Result, a protein bar for 47p a serve.

If you want to try them yourself you’ll find them in Holland & Barrett, Tesco Extra, Boots and Ocado.

 

Image: freedigitalphotos.net