What’s Your HMI – introducing the Haddock Mass Index.

The other day I was going to a work event in Covent Garden at a place called the Hospital Club. The event was on the second floor and so I was in the lift staring at the walls, as you do, when I noticed something special about the sign. Normally lifts have boring signs telling you how many people they hold (which are kind of redundant as the answer is  ‘as many as we can cram in until the alarm sounds’) but the Hospital Club tells me something different. It says the below…

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This made me a giggle a lot. And then it made me think. I already live by the motto that age is just a number (albeit attempting to block mine out with the help of acting anywhere between 7 and 17 most of the time and the liberal use of products delivered by needle) but weight – that’s something that can make or break my entire day.But perhaps if I simply measured myself in haddock, I wouldn’t stress too much. After all, the 9.7 haddock equivalent sounds much better than 111kg  (if my sign related maths are right). I am therefore proposing I shall now forget about stones, pounds and kilos and instead think of myself in terms of the equivalent number of haddock – aka The Haddock Mass Index.

Note: I don’t know if, in reality, the average haddock weighs about 11.5kg as the sign might suggest, It’s my theory and I’m working with it.

This image first appeared on instagram.com/healthehelen. If you like this post, you’ll like it there too. It’s just as erm, abstract!.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon: There’s updates.

There were explosions of joy in Health-e Towers yesterday when I got an email from Disneyland Paris giving me more news on the inaugural half marathon taking part there September 2016 (23rd to 25th fact fans). It seems the first wave of registration is currently planned to open on October 6th. According to my slightly dodgy maths, that’s 102 days away people. Calendars at the ready.

221A2016 panoramique HD

While they haven’t released all the details about the event as yet (or exactly what time I need to be sat slightly hysterically in front of a computer attempting to register), there was lots of exciting info hidden within the website for the obsessed  people who read things thoroughly. So here’s five bits of information I picked up..

1) The pace is the same as the US races – a 16 minute mile – I particularly liked this line in the information. “It is suggested that participants train for a 15 minute per mile pace to allow time for restroom breaks, photo opportunities, and other diversions on the course.” Ha – I run the first 3 miles at a 10 minute pace and train the rest at 12 minutes so I can attempt to get maximum castle/character pictures. I might have to train at a 9 minute if I get into this one.

2) You don’t need proof of time in advance: The US races have stopped letting you provide this after registration (cue madly trying to find a timed 10k before registration day) but Paris will let you give proof of time until June 2016. If you haven’t run a Disney race before you might be wondering why your corral matters, after all you’ve got a chip on your shoe so your time is recorded and if you’re training way under pace you’re not going to get kicked off the course? The answer is related to point 1 – If you can’t prove how fast you can run you’ll go in the last corral. If you’re running that means you’ll be doing a lot of weaving for the first miles – but, more importantly, especially in an inaugural race, the 16 minute mile pace starts when the last person crosses the start line. The further up the corrals you are, the more grace you have to take pictures and generally run around with your mouth open being excited – and when the queue for pictures with Mickey is 30 people deep you can join it without fear of falling behind.

3) The first wave of registration is for packages – so race, hotels and park tickets not just entering the race itself. I wasn’t keen on this when I first heard it, independent soul that I am, but the more I think about it the better that could be – after all, there’s not as many non-Disney options close to the park as in California, or, to some extent, even Florida and so it’s going to be super important to be on site – at least you if you book it all together it’s sorted out. I’ve stayed at the Santa Fe resort before so that would probably be my choice,  There are Good Neighbour hotels nearby but they are a 10 minute shuttle ride away – and as yet it doesn’t say if they’ll be running shuttles from those before the race – but this makes me wonder. “Guests staying at Disney’s Davy Crockett Ranch as well as non Disney® Hotels must arrange their own transportation and should park at Disneyland® Paris Visitor Car Park, standard parking fees will apply.”  As I don’t drive, I’d rather be safe than sorry (or running an extra few miles to the start at ridiculous o’clock). If you are an independent type though, then individual entries will be on January 12th – this is also good as, if you don’t get a place first time round, there’s a second chance.

4) You have to pick up your own race pack: This was brought in at the US races last year and it’s holding for Paris. This means you have to be on property by the Saturday 24th, to run the half on the Sunday 25th (they are currently saying the Expo will open on Thursday 22nd) – thankfully, they’ve added a handy 5k to keep you busy that day if you want another medal!. Talking of which….this is the big news.

5) There’s a Castle to Chateau challenge: Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee — It’s the thing everyone was wondering and it’s happening. If you run the half in Paris and you run a Disney event in the US in the same calendar year you’ll get an extra special medal. At this news, I practically exploded – I didn’t manage to get my Coast to Coast this year as all of the dates for the Florida runs clashed with trips I had already planned. But now, I could get an even shinier, newer medal. Admittedly this adds more pressure…..which other 2016 race to choose? What’s still going to be open for registration after October – as best I get into this one first  before I book another transatlantic trip….oh, god I need a drink.

Of course there’s still so many other questions too – how much is it all going to cost, what time does registration open, what’s the medal going to look like, what’s the course?.So many questions, so many excited noises… This is worse than Avengers. Seriously, someone bring me a drink  (checks it’s gone noon)……..

If you want to find out more, visit the Disneyland Paris page at http://www.run.disneylandparis.com

Power-bowling – pretty and effective

This week I have mainly been eating out of bowls. I did that thing again were I went off to the US, didn’t have time to run as was too busy seeing stuff and ate ALL the burritos (and their friends the chips and salsa). The result was an extra 3lb I enjoyed getting, but didn’t want to hang around.

Because I didn’t have much to lose, I didn’t need to use the High Fat Diet to get it off, so I thought I’d just see what happened if I moderated my eating. Normally the answer to this is nothing as, my body laughs in the face of lettuce and as such, doing normal things like switching to salad, giving up booze and cutting out carbs, doesn’t trigger any weight loss in me – but this time I decided to try Power-Bowling.

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I had a power bowl as one of my meals in the US and loved it. It was pulled pork, salsa, avocado, rice and beans so pretty healthy – and absolutely amazing. And oddly the fact that it was all in a bowl made it seem yummier than if they’d served me that on a plate and the portion was smaller. So I decided to adopt the same rule here. To make my power bowl I therefore…

* Start with a layer of greens – rocket or spinach being my normal choices

* Add a heaped tablespoon of a grain like spelt, freekah, bulgar wheat or quinoa. To be honest, I did this the first day as the cupboards were bare of everything but some leftover sachets of these from a testing. But I found I did stay a lot fuller with them in there so they stayed.

*  And a heaped tablespoon of beans or chickpeas

* Add some more vegetables – tomato, beetroot,red pepper or artichokes being favourite

* Add some fat – normally olives or avocado

* Add one dessertspoonful of a dressing, salsa or hummus

* Top with a small portion of protein – chicken, chorizo, prawns

Done – that sounds like a lot of food, but because it all has to fit into a bowl, I find actually I’m eating fairly small portions of each item – and the dressing goes a seriously long way. The variety makes me think I’m eating loads though. Plus the mix of lots of protein and wholegrain carbs keeps me full until 6-7pm easily so I’m not snacking at all in the afternoon.

I didn’t quite know what to expect from my experiment, but that. combined with making myself run or walk daily has seen me dump the hitchhiking pounds in a week – and so I’m keeping at it. Oh and, I have the bonus of a pretty looking lunch too!

New Mission: Try an Urban-Tri

Oooh, this looks fun. On the first Sunday of every month super fit London types can now do what organisers called an Urban Tri – and, it doesn’t technically involve getting your hair wet (except with sweat).

It starts with a 45 minute hot yoga session in Covent Garden’s Yotopia, then you go off for a 5k run through St James Park (time to wave at the Queen) then down the Embankment to end up at BOOM cycle in the City for an 8 mile spin class.

urban tri blue

It cost £40 a session but you get a goodie bag. The next one is on July 5th starting at 9.30am and you can enter now. To find out more visit boomcycle.co.uk.

But what if you’re not in London (like me), no worries – try the Health-e equivalent…

Do a 45 minute yoga class via online yoga provider yoogaia.com

Head out for a 5k walk or run ending up at the gym

Then, do a Song Cycle for 8k.

What’s a Song Cycle? Well, it’s based on the way you move in uber-fun spinning class Psycle, it sees you matching the speed of your pedals to the beat of the music – if you need to go slower up the resistance, if you need to go faster turn it back down but just try and ensure that the bottom of every pedal stroke hits when the beat does. If that doesn’t make sense, see this post I wrote on it before which explains it more fully. Trust me, it’s fun. Those eight miles will whizz by.

Welcome to the 21st Century (aka Health-e-Helen joins instagram)

Today’s big announcement is that Health-e-Helen is now on instagram. You know you’re excited…oh, go on, just pretend you are as it’s actually a big step out of my comfort zone. I’ve been avoiding it because I’m not a hugely visual person and even if I was, frankly, it’s not my natural home for many reasons.

1) I do not have abs to show off

2) I do not wear glamorous matching gym kit

3) I can’t do a yoga pose to save my life

4) I very rarely drink smoothies

5) I like my food hot and therefore when I do photograph it for posts on here it’s a case of ‘just take the blooming picture’ than two hours of careful styling.

6) The stuff I find interesting about health tends to need conveying in words rather than pictures.

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But still I thought it would be a fun experiment in thinking differently and it would give my brain a bit of a workout as I tried to figure out how to communicate things in a visual way and, of course, it might bring a few more people here which would be nice.

Although after a week I now can see why all the health folk on there do post pictures of their abs, workout kit and smoothies because seriously it’s really hard to find things to put on there otherwise, especially I’m trying to keep things Health-e like and not get too po-faced and serious – so, we shall how we get on.

Which brings me to the bit where I beg for followers….go on, visit instagram.com/healthehelen and follow me. There’s shaman blessed energy bars and, and upcoming picture of a squirrel.

So fellow health blogging folk – if you’re on instagram, what do you post? Inspire me…….

Update of Yumminess – Zeo, Mighty Bee and Krunchies

So, you know when I went quiet for three weeks – I wasn’t completely ignoring you all. I was still testing lots of things to put on here – the only problem was I didn’t have time to type them up. So, in an orgy of fabulous new yumminess, here’s the three faves of the things I tried during that time…

Mighty Bee Coconut Meat

Coconut Meat

No, we’re not done with the whole coconut craze yet, and this incarnation is coconut for the lazy. It’s basically all the flesh from a coconut, removed for you and frozen – handy if you can’t be bothered to stand in the garden throwing one of the small furry fruits on the ground trying to crack it (or, don’t have a drill/machete/chainsaw handy). I admit, defrosting does make it a bit damp – The Boyfriend referred to it as Slimy Nastiness – but I really liked it and was happily nibbling on it as a snack. You can also leave it dry out and eat it as coconut crisps should you so desire.  If you want to try it, you can pre-order it online here or it launches at Wholefoods and Planet Organic any day now. Try to ignore the fact that they call it Virgin Meat, which all just sounds a bit Game of Thrones to me…oh, and their Virgin Coconut Water is the nicest one I’ve tried so far.

Zeo Low Sugar

I was impressed with Zeo when they first launched – their USP was that they were a soft drink for grown ups and they claimed to have created the closest thing to alcohol without booze in it (see my post on it here) – but now they’ve gone one better – they’ve created low sugar Zeo which tastes just as good, but with less sugar (2.2g per 100ml of drink) and fewer calories – 30 per 275ml bottle. Unlike original Zeo though this one doesn’t say it’s being stocked in pubs – still baby steps I suppose. You’ll find it at Tesco, Co-op, WHSmith and Ocado instead.

LIME 275ml

Blue Diamond Almond Krunchies

Moreish alert….do not buy these if you don’t want to eat them all. They are basically almonds in a crispy shell with added flavours – and the Salt and Vinegar ones were fantastic. Anyone with willpower could probably get away with a handful or two – we just kept going back and back for more – mind you the bag contains 164 calories so, it wasn’t too evil. They cost £1.39 a packet from Tesco, Sainsbury’s and other major supermarkets. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the moreishness though.

Blue Diamond Almonds Krunchies Salt & Vinegar

X-Body – what happens when you mix workouts and electricity

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Ever wanted to workout looking like an extra in a sci-fi movie; now’s your chance as X-Body has arrived in the UK. You might remember I told you on the healthelen facebook page that I’d tried a workout that involved electricity, well this was it and it was…..interesting.

Already huge in Europe this is one example of a type of workout called EMS training – EMS standing for electro muscle stimulation – the theory behind this is if, as well as moving muscles yourself while you workout by doing toning moves like squats etc, you add the effect of a machine toning them too you get a double workout whammy. As such, they say, you only need to exercise for 20 minutes and, it’s claimed two sessions of this a week would be equivalent to six hours of normal exercise. Yep, you can imagine how fast I was asking to try this one can’t you.

So, a few weeks ago I found myself in a room at London’s very lovely The Library Club in Covent Garden wearing a black t-shirt and cycling shorts waiting to don a version of the fetching suit above. ‘I’m just going to wet the pads’ said Mark, the trainer….erm, hang on. I’m no physicist, but water and electricity? I do recall various warnings about that at school. I suppose the fact that I’m here and typing tells you all was okay, it seems the dampness helps conduct the mild current through the fabric better but still, nervous much!!!  I then stepped into the suit and the pads were aligned along the correct muscles, I was plugged in (again, can you say sudden surge of panic!) and I began a workout strapped to what feels like a giant wearable Slendertone machine.

To start with they turned it quite low – it feels quite tingly and while it’s not exactly relaxing, it wasn’t unpleasant and it was certainly not painful. The current to each muscle was then adjusted separately to the maximum point between ‘I can feel that’ and ‘turn that off it hurts’  I then went through a variety of different moves – squats, lunges, side bends etc – combining the movement with the electrical stimulation. Well, in theory anyway – the problem is, when you’re as adverse to stretching as I am your muscles are generally quite tight and my glutes particularly do like to cramp up now and again. It’s extremely painful when it happens and as such I try and avoid that situation. The muscle stimulation was making them feel extremely tight from the get go and as such, when I started doing moves like kickbacks, I didn’t work as hard as I think I would have done not strapped to the suit – I also found that my right tricep was also painfully contracted when I tried to do the arm moves and as such I wimped out on those too.

I think that was why, even though I’d been told by other people that I’d ache the next day, I actually didn’t feel anything – which, considering my lack of strength training at the moment made me wonder exactly how much I’d achieved. Personally, right now I think I’d be better just doing a decent weights workout for a change (with a good stretch afterwards) and maybe coming back to X-Body when I had some muscles for it to tone. I’ve also heard from another trainer whose worked with the machine that perhaps, the current was turned up a bit too high for me right now, and that maybe taking it more gently would actually have got a better result.  It was a fun workout though and, the fact that you really do have to concentrate on when to inhale and exhale (to coincide with when the stimulation occurs) meant it actually flew by rather fast.

Right now, there aren’t a lot of machines in the UK – though expect to start seeing them in boutique gyms soon – but to book a session in Covent Garden, sessions cost £40 a time, and you can contact Mark and Transform Me through the Library club, click here for the email details

Oh, and just to amuse you, here’s a picture of me in the suit (note to self, stop speaking when people are taking photos of you).

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Run to The Beat – there’s a new course

I did Run to The Beat last year – it was the first year it had swapped from a 10km to a half marathon and it looked intriguing. I kind of liked the event, but I was disappointed by the music zones. I was expecting pounding beats, whopping, hollering and, frankly, a bit more noise and atmosphere from a music themed even and I think at one point my shuffle was louder. It was also quite a hilly course and when I finished the event, I didn’t think I’d run it again. However, I really do need a race to motivate me and so, when I heard that they had changed the course for this year my ears pricked up.

Image: Run to the Beat

Image: Run to the Beat

It’s still at Wembley, but they’re now having what they called four ‘high intensity music zones’ with their own theme and DJ.

You’ll start on Electric Avenue which is described as fast paced, with bright lights.

Sounds of Summer comes around half way as you run through a park – they say this will have a festival vibe (hopefully that’s just the course and music not the Portaloos)

Zone three is still a bit of a secret – apart from the fact that’s it brought you by alcohol free wine company Edinger Alkoholfrie – maybe songs about grapes? Rhianna’s I’ll Drink to That on repeat? I dunno

And finally, there’s an end zone the theme of which will be voted on by the runners.

It sounded tempting and so I’ve signed up. If you want to do the same the event is taking place on September 13th in London. Check out more about the race – and how to enter here.

Tested the Zero Runner

I had a strange workout the other day; it was in a shop in full gym kit! Admittedly the shop was Fitness Superstore so it wasn’t like I was doing Crossfit in H&M or anything, but still, it was a bit strange. The reason I was doing this was that Fitness Superstore are the stockists of a new gym machine that aims to help runners keep up their fitness but with less impact on their joints. It’s called Zero Runner and it’s kind of like a cross trainer – but one that mimics the same gait as running.

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It’s pretty easy to use – simply climb on and start moving your legs in a circular, almost cycling type of motion – so far so, some types of cross trainer – but what makes the Zero Runner slightly different is that you can then bend your knee enough to kick your leg up behind you just as you do when you run. This has the effect of creating an almost bean shaped movement, which by downloading their associated technology, you can then see illustrated on an ipad on in front of you. Your job is then to try and make all your beans look the same – if you don’t it’s a sign that your stride is starting to alter and you need to focus on your form a bit more.

Artist representation of the 'beany bit'

Artist representation of the ‘beany bit’

It was extremely easy to use – and unlike some cross trainers or ellipiticals I’ve tried it didn’t require super balance to feel stable on it – which would be good if you were using it for rehab purposes – nothing worse than attempting to stay fit while an injury heals and falling off the machine and twisting the other leg! Take it from someone who came back from a torn meniscus and was VERY nervous when getting on the cross trainer for a while.

You can just use it purely as a cardio machine – they have programs ranging up to half marathon (god save me from ever having to train for a half marathon on any kind of machine) but it also has timed interval type plans too that combine both cardio and strength training. How Helen I hear you ask – well….there’s two handles on the back of the machine which pull out to reveal cables that you can use for resistance work and, the machine happily counts you on and off. If you were looking for a machine to buy for home. and didn’t have room for a treadmill this would be a pretty good option – apparently it has the same size floor ‘footprint’ as an exercise bike. Admittedly at £2700 a pop, it’s a bit more expensive than an entry level treadmill, but if you love to run, but your knees don’t, it’s another option.

If you want to check it out it’s at Fitness Superstore stores now (click here to find your nearest but do call to check they have this machine) – which I’ve discovered is a brilliant way to get a free sneaky workout. You go in and test the machines and voila, instant cardio session – admittedly you can probably only do this, maybe twice, before they get suspicious!!!

Bean Pasta…..it’s low(ish) carb brilliance

Put down your spiraliser….I have freed you from days of cleaning the blooming thing. There is an alternative if you want to cut your carbs, but put your pasta sauce on something – and it my friends, is the range of bean based pasta by Explore Asian.

I spotted it while pootling around Planet Organic and picked a pack up – specifically the Organic Black Bean Spaghetti shaped version. I didn’t quite know what to expect but decided to give it a try when The Boyfriend was making his yummy bacon, tomato and chilli concoction. Unlike many other pasta things this doesn’t work well on courgetti, flat mushrooms or peas (I’ve tried them all), it’s just a bit too liquidy – and so I thought I’d try it with the bean pasta. It was brilliant.

IMG_1501It cooks to almost the same consistency as al dente normal spaghetti and, while it doesn’t taste anything like white pasta, it is faintly reminiscent of brown pasta in kind of an earthy way. Despite the fact that it looks kind of odd, I was very pleasantly surprised. I served myself about a quarter to a fifth of the pack, which, according to the label is around  40-50g dry weight – this would weigh in at about 150 calories, 6-7g of carbs and about 20g of protein. Not bad. The added protein also makes it super satisfying. Oh, and it’s gluten free too.  I likeee.

As I said, I bought mine from Planet Organic, but you can also find it at Holland & Barrett stores and online. It costs £3.29 a packet. I’d guess a pack would give you 4-5 servings.