And it’s Bye-Bye From Health-e-Helen

Remember a few weeks ago I had my crisis of blog-fidence. Well I decided at that point that Health-e-Helen needed to change. I couldn’t compete with the gorgeous girls doing headstands on beaches and living a life devoted to green juice and smoothie bowls, it’s just not me – so I decided to stop trying. I had two choices at this point… quit blogging, or relaunch to make the most of my slightly quirky take on all things healthy. What do you think I did……….? Yep, I decided to relaunch with a new look and a new name. I’m therefore pleased to announce the arrival of Not Your Normal Health Blog. A place of “Fun Fitness, Yummy Health Food, Spoil Yourself Spas – and Barely Any Kale.”

Now those of you who subscribe here, shouldn’t notice any change to service – especially if I do the redirect thing right in a minute (here’s hoping). Your next post should arrive tomorrow from the new site address – but if you’ve got me on your blogroll then please do change that to the new address over at http://notyournormalhealthblog.com just to make things a bit easier in the future. I’ll also be changing the name of the Facebook page and other bits and bobs in the next week or so (when I decide on a logo). If you don’t get a post by the end of tomorrow though – can one of you let me know at healthehelen@gmail.com so I can workout what the heck has gone wrong!

Admittedly, the site is still a bit of a work in progress – I’ve got over 700 pictures to move around for starters and I couldn’t shut everything down to do it – but over the next few weeks everything will hopefully emerge, phoenix-like from the Health-e ashes.

In terms of what I’m writing about, you’ll still find the same updates on all things new in health and fitness, but it’s just going to hone in on everything fun and doable. To me it has recently seemed that ‘being healthy’ in the online world seems to have got really serious, competitive and quite hard work…..and I’m hoping to prove that doesn’t have to be the case.

I’m also going to go back to doing more advice, more useful information, more expert tips – I might even do a recipe or two (I’m not promising anything on that though).

Anyway the last few years have been a blast – I’ve loved almost every minute (except for that bit where I ended up in the lake with the duck poo – that sucked) – may it continue over at NYNHB. I hope you’ll come with me. ID-10038129

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Fun Training Tip Alert

I get to interview a lot of trainers for my day job and sometimes they give me great tips that don’t just quite fit in the piece I’m working on. That happened the other day when I asked Australian trainer Kylie Edwards for some tips in a piece. She came up with a really fun way to liven up a workout with a friend and so I asked her if it would be okay to use it on here. Thankfully she said yes

Here’s her idea…

“Grab a training partner and take it in turns ‘calling’ the workout, go for a run and pick point to point marks (telephone poles, picnic tables) where you increase the pace, run for a certain distance or minutes then stop and do some some squats on a park bench etc. This way you don’t know what’s coming so you can’t dread it. It also allows you to have fun with a friend.”

I loved this idea for a few different reasons..

  1. When you’re working out with someone else it can be hard to ensure both of you are meeting your current training goals – this way you can both think of what you need to achieve that session and come up with a move that helps you do it.
  2. We’re always being told that it’s mixing up moves that keeps your workout interesting – and the more different moves you try, the more your body is challenged – well if you’re not the one picking the moves there’s a good chance they aren’t things you do every day. Especially if when you’re not training together the two of you do completely different classes – when you’re trying to decide on things to do, pilfer ideas from the things you don’t do together.
  3. The dreading it part…..I won’t go to the bootcamp down the road from my house because I suspect they will make me do burpees. And I hate burpees – I don’t know how to do them properly, I refuse to do them badly in case I get injured…and then I look like a big fat wuss. If your mate suddenly shouted ‘burpees’ as part of this challenge, you couldn’t get out of doing them but because you didn’t know they were coming you also wouldn’t spend the workout dreading the moment they would arrive. Mind you, anyone who shouted burpees when they were working out with me, would no longer be called my friend.

So that’s my idea for that day…..what’s your favourite way of livening up your workout?

 

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net

The DiscoD Silent Disco Tour – burn calories and have a blast

Disco D tours review

I thought I’d seen Sydney’s Opera House from every conceivable circumstance – boat, plane, feet; inside, outside, dusk, dawn, winter, summer – you get the picture, but no, I hadn’t – because now I have seen the Opera House while dancing toward it doing all the moves from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.

It started when I was looking for advice on things to do in Sydney on Trip Advisor, having lived there and visited a lot I was looking for something a bit different to do….and there it was DiscoD Tours. A Silent Disco dancing-based tour around the streets of Sydney. I roped in my friend Arian and her friend Goretti and, not really knowing what on earth we were doing, we turned up at the historic Cadman’s Cottage near the historic Rocks district at 7pm on a Friday night.

Thankfully there was more than just the three of us, and it was just starting to get dark so we felt we had some camouflage, so donning our headphones we were soon practicing our signature moves to disco classics. Then it was time to move…..I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but what we ended up doing was something that looked like a really strange flash mob through the streets of the Rocks. We shook, we shimmed, we did mini routines and strutted across zebra crossings like the Taylor Swift version of the Beatles – at one point there was also a particularly spirited rendition of Rock Lobster opposite the Belgian Beer Cafe. And we did all of this while people doing normal things like eating pizza or drinking beer looked at us out of windows like we were all completely mad. IT WAS BRILLIANT.

Disco D tours review

Honestly, I haven’t had that much fun outside of a karaoke room in ages. I felt self conscious for about 30 seconds, but I think because you have the headphones on you feel a little bit more protected from the outside world than if the music was playing from, say a boom box, and once the initial ‘oh my god what I am I doing’ moment passed I figured why not just go for it. Also, one thing you notice everywhere in Sydney is people exercising outdoors – there’s bootcamps, boxing classes, martial arts groups and so I kind of figured everyone probably thought we were just doing some weird fitness class. Some intrepid folks even joined in.

After an hour of dancing I had even broken a sweat and my Fitbit told me I’d burned off about 400 calories – but more importantly we’d all had an absolute blast. Plus I now know some of the moves from Thriller and you never know when that might come in handy.

The tours take place every second week on a Friday night in Darling Harbour and on Sunday night in the Rocks and you have to book in advance. It’s costs $35 per person (that’s about £17). You can find more information and details on how to book the tours here. Go on, think of the Facebook photos! Just try and make them less fuzzy than my ones!

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Five Ways to Stop Orthotics Squeaking

A few weeks ago I published a video of me on Instagram running down the road with THE squeakiest trainers ever. Honestly they were driving me nuts, It’s here if you want to see it. A couple of days I walked into the gym making the same noise and seriously the whole room turned round. Enough was enough. Something had to give so I got on the phone to podiatrist David Eardley from Peacocks Medical Group who make orthotics and asked his advice. ‘If your orthotics and your shoes fit well together this won’t happen,’ he told me. ‘But if there’s a gap at any point between the orthotic and the shoe the orthotic will move and that causes squeaking.’ The good news was that there seemed to be lots of solutions that could help….

  1. Talc. Simply sprinkling this inside the bottom of the shoe and placing the orthotic back on top can reduce the friction and stop the squeak. ‘It doesn’t always work though,’ says David. ‘And you do have to keep renewing it.’
  2. Velcro: Because the problem is the orthotic moving in the shoe putting something in place to stop that movement can also help. David suggests sticking a strip of velco furry side up on the base of your shoe, then sticking a second postage stamp sized piece on the base of the orthotic at the point you can feel the movement or gap. If you’re lucky the two will stick and your squeak will stop.
  3. Moleskin: If the squeak occurs at the heel, stick a square of moleskin on the bottom of your shoe. It cushions the orthotic and can stop the problem.
  4. If you’re getting new orthotics, then the absolute best solution is to send your shoe along to the orthotic manufacturer so they can fit the inner sole to your shoes as well as your foot. Sadly that one is too late for me.

At this point I was inspired – I thought the moleskin trick sounded like my best solution and I was ready to go get some, but then as part of my day job I went to find out about a new treatment for arthritis called Apos therapy which uses specially crafted shoes to alter the way you walk reducing pain. Part of the visit involved having a gait analysis to see how I walked, I scored really well which surprised me and so we started discussing my pronation – at this point I happened to mention, ‘the squeak’. The physiotherapist took one look at my trainers and said ‘they are a shoe designed to correct your pronation, I actually don’t think you need your orthotics in them. Maybe a few years ago when trainers weren’t as good at correcting gait you did, but now, in this shoe, with your level of pronation, I don’t think you actually need the orthotics.’

Pretty purple trainers - but check out the different laces.

Magic Squeak Stopping New Balance Shoes

That was about six weeks ago and that very night I took the orthotics out of my shoes. I admit I was nervous. I can’t even remember why I got the orthotics in the first place but I know it was because something had started to hurt. My first run was fine, my second run was fine – and, while I’m by no means rackiing up the miles right now, the other runs have been fine too – so, hooray. I no longer squeak.

Making tip no5: Buy a shoe designed to correct your problem, take out the stupid squeaky things and see what happens.

Oh and while we’re on the subject of  all things insole related. While I might have divested myself of my trainer boost, I’ve had to add some added support to my daily walking plimsols. I’m still trying to rack up 10,000 steps a day on top of my normal exercise and I admit it’s taking it’s toll on my feet a little bit. When I walk in my shiny new black plimsols I’m definitely feeling twinges that signify the return of my old friend plantar fasciitis but thankfully, I’d been sent some Sole Footbeds to try. These use the heat generated as you walk to mould the inner sole to the base of your feet and give your arches some extra support. It’s early days, but so far, so good and I’m not getting so many twinges. You can also use them in running shoes so, if you’re having foot woes they might be a good in between solution between getting customised orthotics and nothing. As an added bonus, they don’t seem to make any sound either.

Breakfast Ice Cream

Breakfast Ice Cream – it’s a thing

I told you a few weeks ago that I’d been to the Lunch! show in London but then I nipped off on hols and I didn’t get time to do any more posts about some of the exciting things I’d seen there – well it’s about time I put that right then isn’t it – so, let’s start off with Nana Breakfast Ice Cream.

No that’s not a typo – this really is ice cream to be eaten first thing in the morning instead of your cereal, toast or, smoothie bowl if you’re that way inclined. Now before you get super excited and get visions of starting your day with the AM equivalent of Ben and Jerry’s, it’s considerably healthier than that – after all, we all know that starting ones day with a big pile of sugar leads to eating your packed lunch at elevenses- and eating everything else you can see around you for the next 24 hours. Instead, this is ice cream from a dairy free mix of frozen bananas, avocado, apples, dates and a bit of sunflower oil. The mix is a low-sugar blend (with no added nasties) that contains enough healthy fat to stop you sugar crashing come 11am – and a 120ml serving counts as one of your five a day.

Trend of Ice Cream for Breakfast

The range was created by Margie Broadhead, a private chef, caterer and healthy eating blogger (you might even follow her blog at Made By Margie) and while I admit the idea was enough to get me interested, I also had a taste and it’s a really nice ice cream. Sadly, the whole thing to do with frozen things turning into liquid when removed from cold places meant I couldn’t take a sample home and actually see what it’s like to start your day with ice cream – but the very fact that this is now a thing that you are allowed to do as an adult fills me with more glee than you can ever imagine – so as far as I’m concerned it’s a genius product.

Right now it is super new and as such there’s not a lot of stockists but here’s where to go if you do want to find out more information. Or, you could always try making your own via one of the many dairy free banana ice-cream recipes out there. Just remember if you are trying this, you don’t want to crash and burn in some kind of carb coma by mid morning, so keep the sugar content down and the sources of fibre, fat and protein up (maybe pop on a handful of nuts for an extra boost)!

If you haven’t yet found your own online recipe the one I’ve used before now is this one by Nics Nutrition who I now also notice suggests it as a breakfast option (and she’s a dietitian so that makes it virtually medically prescribed). How did I not notice that bit before? Months I’ve been missing out on the chance of starting my day with dessert!  *Runs squealing towards the freezer*

There’s a Pumpkin Workout

Use your pumpkin to workout

It’s nearly Halloween (I’m aware that’s not exactly breaking news) and, if you’re playing along properly right now there might be a large round orange vegetable in your house awaiting carving….well, don’t just leave it sitting there doing nothing until it’s time to cut it up, make use of it, with personal trainer Julia Buckley’s pumpkin based interval workout.

Okay so it might seem a teeny bit strange to be dancing round your house with a large vegetable, but her point is to show that you don’t need to go to the gym – or even have proper weights to do a decent workout.

Frankly if it gives me abs like hers I will be permanently found attached to a pumpkin from now on….right now though all that’s in my house is a butternut squash. Squash squats do have a nice ring to them though don’t you think?.

If you like Julia’s workout, check out her (veg-free) online training plan at juliabuckley.co.uk

 

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net

Give Your Sushi a Vegan Makeover.

Next up in my mini series of posts on healthy things I found in Sydney is my trip to a fantastic foodery called Superfood Sushi in Sydney’s Newtown. The reason I chose them, out of all of the eating joints in that area, was that their USP is that all their sushi fillings and toppings were vegan – and one of them particularly had caught my eye. Let’s play a little game before I reveal why to you….what do you think the nigiri on the top left of this selection below is topped with? The red one.

Vegan Sushi - Superfood Sushi Sydney

Now your immediate reaction, considering it’s sushi is probably tuna, maybe carpaccio of beef – but remember the whole vegan thing – that means no meat, no fish, no dairy…….Now perhaps you’re you’re putting your money on roasted red pepper….but no, the answer is watermelon. Watermelon…on sushi. I’ll just let that sink in for a minute.

Now, the idea of that was exciting enough to get me to schlep myself across Sydney to check them out, but what I found when I got there was even more exciting. It’s not just any ordinary watermelon, owner Penelope tells me it’s dehydrated and then marinated to give it that deep red look. That also gives it a truly unique texture – a bit like fruit roll ups, but softer (‘oh Helen, why don’t you review restaurants all the time’ I hear you cry ‘you have such a romantic turn of phrase’). It was divine. And that was just the start of the exciting toppings they brought out – roll after roll was full of surprises – with amazing textures, interesting flavour combinations, and lots of things that just made me ask ‘what’s the one made from? The answer of which always surprised me.

Vegan Sushi - Superfood Sushi Sydney

This isn’t filled with salmon – instead it’s a raw pate made from seeds

I asked Penelope what makes a good vegan topping or filling, and, the answer it seemed, was pretty much everything – her advice was to try flavour combinations you like in other foods and just put them in a sushi form but if you want a bit more inspiration – here’s some simple versions of the ideas that I thought worked brilliantly in the samples I tried…..

Top an inari boat with kimchi – like the one top right in the selection above. This one was my favourite

Tomato and basil and avocado rolls were another big winner for me.

Penelope particularly suggests experimenting with fruit – they top lots of their rolls with kiwi, but I really loved the papaya boat above.

And if you’re fed up with using your courgetti as a base for pasta sauce, instead, mix it with pesto. add it to the top of some rice and wrap it in seaweed, or a thin slice of courgette.

Sweet potato, finely milled nuts, marinated mushrooms – and of course tofu – also make an appearance on the menu. ‘Just experiment and have fun,’ says Penelope. If you’re not completely sure how to make your own sushi, check out my post on how to do it yourself. It’s actually a lot easier than you think and I actually make it quite regularly now.

However it’s not just the filings that make Superfood Sushi special – they serve the rolls not just with traditional wasabi and soy, but with special mayo like dressings which really add an extra flavour pop. Ingredients are also marinated adding another layer of taste – and they use black rice, green rice – and normal rice coloured with exciting things like beetroot powder to turn it purple, which means the presentation is absolutely gorgeous (hello instagram) so, if you’re in Sydney and want to try something truly innovative for lunch or dinner, pop along to Superfood Sushi – at 69-77 King Street. That’s the end closest toward Broadway (not the station end).

If you do pop in, tell them Health-e-Helen sent you – and try the eggplant dip for me will you. I didn’t have enough stomach room left after all the sushi rolls, but it looks great!

How To Love Cycling – even in winter

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I had a piece in last month’s Slimming World magazine with some great expert based tips on starting cycling……but, because of space we had to leave out another huge section of information – namely, how to make cycling seem a bit more appealing if the weather isn’t exactly outdoor friendly. It seemed a shame for that info not to get out there, after all loads of brilliant experts took time to help me out plus, it’s pretty useful stuff,  and so, my editor at SW said it would be okay for me to run all the tips I didn’t use on here (clever eh) – so, here you go nine tips that could be extremely useful if you want to keep pedaling throughout the winter months and keep a smile on your face.

  1. Buy special cycling gloves: You might just think you can pop on a pair of wooly ones, but Jim Riach from Scottish Cycling says cycling gloves are better ‘as they aren’t bulky which helps you retain a good feeling for controlling the bike and brakes.’ Try dhb Long Finger Windproof Cycling Gloves, £19.99 at wiggle.co.uk.
  2. Test your lights in daylight: ‘If you can see them from a distance on a normal day, you’re definitely going to be seen effectively on a dark night or dull day,’ says Rachel Howard from Cyclescheme (the Government subsidy scheme to get people commuting by bike). Remember, you must have lights on whenever visibility is poor not just at night.
  3. Know the slip spots: Drain covers, tram/train tracks, white or yellow lines and the white parts of Zebra crossings can be particularly slippy when the weather is wet so be super careful. ‘And if you find yourself on ice, just keep going in a straight line and don’t brake,’ says Rachel Howard. ‘If you have to stop, use the rear brake gently and you should be able to get a foot down and stay upright if the bike slides around.
  4. Try a cycle path: If you get nervous riding near cars at night, visit CycleStreets.net to find specific cycle paths. You might want to avoid these if it’s snowy or icy though, ‘Minor roads and cyclepaths are often not gritted so you might be better on a bigger road with traffic,’ says Rachel Howard.
  5. Buy a specialist cycling shirt: Proper kit isn’t just for posing – a wicking top which draws water away from the skin will reduce sweat evaporation which can make you colder. One layer isn’t enough for warmth though so, ‘add a looser insulator layer made from wool, fleece or a synthetic fibre to trap air near the skin and top that with an outer shell made from a wind blocking or water resistant material like Gore-tex,’ says Natasha Chauhan from Halfords.
  6. Wet on your finger: then hold it in the air –and see which side dries first. You then want to cycle toward that as that’s the way the wind is blowing. ‘It’s better to go into the wind to start, ‘says Jim Riach. ‘You’ll then get a wind assisted journey home when you’re more tired.’
  7. Buy De-icer Spray. ‘Small metal parts on your bike – and your bike lock – can freeze solid if it’s very cold and this helps free things up,’ says Rachel Howard.
  8. Fit Special bike bags: ‘Not only is are these more comfortable than wearing a backpack which creates sweat which can make you cold, wearing a bag on your back covers up reflective clothing making you harder to be seen,’ says Jim Riach. Wiggle.co.uk do a selection of bags which fix everywhere from handlebars to either side of the wheels
  9. And use mudguards: Fit these and you won’t end up splattered after every ride. As Phil Cavell from Cycle Fit told us ‘you get wetter from the road than the sky.’

Sadly the issue of Slimming World that the feature was in has just gone off sale (guess who is late posting this!), but that means the new one is out. Check it out if you want to find out how to stop fear of missing out messes with your healthy eating plans, get some scrummy winter soup recipes and find tips on how to fall in love with exercise (Helen flips to page 119)

Image: freedigitalphotos.net

It’s Bunless McDonalds – but is it any good

As I have briefly mentioned I’ve recently spent a few weeks in Sydney – and of course, while I was there I was looking for healthy stuff to try. It’s not hard, every corner seems to have a juice bar and you can’t walk into a park without tripping over someone doing bootcamp – but you know I’m never going to cover any of that ordinary stuff, I wanted to hunt out the more unusual healthy ideas around town – and boy, were there a lot of them……so let’s get started, with Bunless McDonalds burgers.  That’s right, your favourite guilty pleasure has had a health-over. Look, here it is….

McDonalds Bunless Burger

Australia was the first country to get the new idea and now, after success there, it’s being rolled out elsewhere (though not yet in the UK). It’s part of what they call their Create Your Taste program. In this, instead of ordering your burger at the counter you do it via a touch screen choosing what type of bun you want, how many burgers, if you want toppings like cheese, bacon, onions and pickles and which sauce you want. And, one of the options within this is to banish the bun entirely and wrap your patties in lettuce. I was very excited.

There was however a tiny problem. I don’t really like McDonalds. It’s not a ‘my body is a temple’ thing, it’s not an image thing, I’m just not a huge fan of the taste of their burgers and so, I wasn’t looking forward to testing this. Step forward The Boyfriend, who, loves McDonalds, but rarely gets to go in there because of me. He was very happy to take on the challenge and decided to attempt to create his own bunless Big Mac.

I did have a mouthful I admit – and the concept does work. The lettuce wraps round the bun nicely and. it. combined with a clever little cardboard doo-thwacky, holds in your fillings and, it makes a really nice change to a stodgy bun. McDonald’s don’t have nutritional information for how many calories swapping to lettuce saves you, but my estimate would be that it would take the calories of a Big Mac down from 508 a serving to about 350-400. The patties did still taste like the normal ones though (sob) so I’m still out for that reason. The Boyfriend however was impressed with the taste, the extra veg (this is a man whose last meal would be salad) and lack of carbs, but not with the fact that his little build your own experiment cost nearly$AU12.00 – around £6.00.

So, while, even if they do come here, I’m not going to be rushing to buy Bunless Maccas any day soon, I DO like the idea of lettuce wrapped burgers and can see me giving those a try at home .All the lettuce wrapped burgers I’d seen in the past used iceberg, but this version using slightly softer easier to wrap leaves works much better.  Thanks for the idea McDonalds!

If you’re not a lettuce fan, it’s not the only thing you can use instead of a bun. Here’s five more suggestions…

I regularly eat a burger squashed between two grilled flat mushrooms

Or, swap your burger round – have two thin patties and the toppings inside

Try slicing an apple and using that – no really it works brilliantly with cheese

Grill some thick slices of aubergine

Or, check out this genius idea from Mos Burger in Japan of having it between two bits of a beef tomato. Check out the full story at redonline

What’s your Nutritional Kryptonite?

It’s a gorgeous day today….the perfect day to head out for a run in fact, but instead I took myself off for a walk, why? Because last night for dinner I went out for curry – and curry is my Nutritional Kryptonite.

If I try and run the morning after eating curry, it will literally feel like I’m running through mud. My legs don’t move well, I can’t get up any kind of speed and I often end up having to walk – it’s a bit demotivating and I’ve just spent two weeks in Sydney and while I walked a LOT of miles I didn’t get time to run once – and so, demotivating is not what I need right now as I get back on the fitness pony.

Curry affects run training

It took me a long time to spot the link. I just thought that some runs were naturally a bit rubbish, but one day while I was running along thinking those aimless thoughts that pass the time while you log miles I realised that there was a pattern to things. That I always had a bad run the night after eating at the Indian – and immediately banned ‘going out for a curry’ as an entertainment option the night before any long training run.

I have no idea what it is about curry that causes me problems – I’m fine with other spicy food, I can eat white rice with something else and run the next day with no problems, and, I also run after beer okay so it’s not that I’m washing down my spicy goodness with too much Cobra. I also had an intolerance test recently and, while it determined that pretty much everything I eat on a daily basis was, theoretically on my ‘you shouldn’t be eating this’ list (cue immediate reaction of ‘lalalalalala I can’t hear you’)…nothing curry orientated appeared upon it. So, I have no clue why it does what it does – but I’m just happy I spotted that it did so I can avoid it when I’m training properly.

So, the moral of this story is, if you regularly have, what I like to refer to as a stonker of a run where nothing goes quite right, have a look at what you’ve eaten the night before or for breakfast – it might be that you have a Nutritional Kryptonite too.

Image freedigitalphotos.net