Coming Back To Fitness – to plan or not to plan.

So I’ve mentioned on here that my fitness has kind of slid recently – and that I’ve been trying to get back into a routine. Well that’s failed…..I did all the things you’re supposed to do. Planned my workouts, wrote them in my diary like appointments – and then life got in the way. The type of life you can’t ignore, like people needing extra little bits of work (NOW) and someone you need to speak to for the thing that earns you money wanting to talk to you at the exact moment you planned to be at the gym – and yes, the sun coming out and deciding I’d rather be sitting in it with a beer than lifting weights inside.

planning workouts

I admit the feeling of abject failure was getting me down. And so I decided to change things. This week I decided to workout when I actually could – not when I thought I could in this mythical world of unicorns, fairies and time that’s my own. This is how it’s gone….


Unicorn World Plan: run for 40 minutes first thing

Reality: Friday night wine stopped play. Did 20 minutes during a spurt of energy at 3pm instead


Unicorn World Plan: No exercise

Reality: I needed to do 40 minutes so I did them Sunday morning instead


Unicorn World Plan: Run to the gym at 4.30 – workout until 6pm

Reality: Went into hysteria, decided I would need to work late to get everything done. However I had to go to the post office – normally I walk to the one 15 minutes up the road – so, instead, I got the bus to the post office next to gym at 2pm and trained for 30 minutes, ran home. Finished  all my work at 6.30pm anyway as loads of people replied while I was at the gym!


Unicorn World Plan: Oh god, oh god, oh god – I have to go to London at 10.20. I’ve got to do masses of work before I go. I can’t exercise….blah blah

Reality: Woke to sunny day – realised I only had to leave 10 minutes earlier to walk to the station than if I get the bus (due to having to be at the bus stop one bus before the one I need as they don’t always come). 40 minute fast walk to the station


Unicorn World Plan: Going to test exercise class in London

Reality: Got lost – but did 45 minute fast walk round Hyde Park while trying to work out where I was supposed to be. Did 10 minutes of exercise class (more on that another day!)


Unicorn World Plan: Go the gym at 4.30 – workout till 6pm.

Reality: Interviewee can only speak to me at 4.15pm, boyfriend wishes to go out tonight so can’t go to the gym later (unless wish to go in sweaty kit).

Unicorn world plan 2: Go to gym at at 7.30am – fail again as panicking over piece due this morning.

Reality – file piece by 8am, have a cup of tea – go to gym from 9-10.30am – world didn’t end, I don’t seem to be unemployed and I still got all my to do list done and I’m typing a blog post

So, that’s actually quite a lot of exercise for someone who didn’t actually stick to her plan once! And wow, do I feel better for it. So what is the point of this post…..well I realised something. I realised that I don’t have a scheduled enough life to plan my workouts and, while this goes against every fibre of my control freak personality, if I’m going to get into a fitness routine I’ve got to let go of the fact that it’s going to be a routine…..that doesn’t mean it can’t be frequent, but it’s not going to be a routine……fingers crossed this is the epiphany that changes everything.

So, how do you schedule your workouts? With military precision or does being more freeform work for you?


Five Reasons Why I Love Fat Lass at The Back’s Running Shirt

Fat Lass At The Back review

This post is rather late – I spoke about Fat Lass at The Back in my page a few weeks back – and I was supposed to write a review then. However in my infinite wisdom I decided to go back on the High Fat Diet that week which meant dragging myself out for even a ten minute run was miserable – and, while I wore the shirt on that run, it didn’t seem like a particularly good test. Then it got super-hot and I wanted to run in a sleeveless tank, and then I had to wait until I did a couple of longer runs, which, erm, didn’t happen until this weekend! But it’s done now and I have to say I really like the shirt. Here’s why….

1) It makes me laugh: Come on, it’s got Fat Lass at The Back written on it in HUGE letters – how can that not amuse you. But I also like the label that comes with it, that clearly points out that this shirt will not make you go faster – or look like a shrink wrapped chicken. I’ve been noticing recently that health and fitness is getting really po-faced. I’m going to test things and everyone is so serious (while I’m at the back giggling) and social media is becoming a warzone of ‘look how committed I am to being healthy’  – erm, it’s exercise, it’s like playing for grown ups – it’s supposed to be fun people (or you don’t want to do it!). This brings back some of that fun.

Fat Lass At The Back Review

2) It would be a talking point in any race – which is nice. I like it when people talk to me during events – it’s one of the reasons why I only run with one headphone in so should someone strike up a conversation I can have a chat back. Admittedly, sometimes I can’t chat back as I’m in pain/having a brief moment of madness when I decided to go fast/wondering why on earth I decided this running lark was a good idea – and therefore grumpy – but this would be a talking point.

3) It’s incredibly flattering. The range originally started off as Fat Lad At The Back a cycling-wear range for men – founder Yorkshire cyclist Richard decided that most cycling ranges were only for the skinny and so, he wanted to create one for the erm – fuller figure fella. They sourced a supplier in Italy to make good quality kit – and offered it in a range of sizes – but then the ladies wanted in, so they started a women’s cycling range – this the ‘Scarper’ Running Shirt is their first foray into running wear. To determine what size you need you measure your waist and bust and choose the appropriate size. This is important as the range is tapered in at the waist – but flares out so it doesn’t tighten over the stomach. It’s the first piece of kit I think I I’ve found that gives me a waist but doesn’t make me feel fat as it does it (annoyingly The Boyfriend took a rubbish picture of me in it and then got bored trying to take another one, so you’ll have to have this glary selfie with my office in the background to see what I mean!). It’s also just long enough to hide your bum.

fat Lass At The Back review

4) It wears well – by that I mean it doesn’t seem to rub, chafe, ride up, flap about or generally annoy you. The first time I wore it the collar was a bit stiff but a wash sorted that out. The only thing I could potentially see being a tiny problem is the inside of the zipper at the neck which I had to position carefully so it didn’t rub – I could see that possibly causing problems over a very long run like a marathon (when let’s face it, anything even remotely chafey becomes the equivalent of rubbing your skin with glass). It’s also very strokey – the fabric is so soft – which, I admit, is a bit weird, stroking gym kit is not something you should probably confess to online.

5) It comes in some seriously inclusive sizes – I’ve done a lot of interviews with experts talking about reasons why larger people don’t exercise – and one of them is that comfortable kit doesn’t come in big sizes. If you’re trying to run, cycle or even walk – in something that rubs, chafes, scratches and generally makes you feel bad about yourself, it’s an added hurdle. But FLAB (see, even their acronym is tongue in cheek) go up a size 50 bust and a size 46 waist. Admittedly, you’ve got to a have a bit of confidence to have the F word emblazoned on your back, but as Julie over at the Fat Girls Guide To Running proves, there’s a lot of curvy women out there packed with chutzpah and wearing trainers!.

So is everything in the garden perfect….okay, I have to admit there are two things I don’t like 1) It’s not a cheap shirt retailing at £49.99 which goes against my never spending lots of money on kit principles – although I admit, if you do like to spend money on kit I would be worth it. 2) I have to give it back – I’m going to miss it!!


Running in France – you have to know this

Lynne, who follows this blog and is possibly even more excited than me about the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon, tweeted me the other day to say a couple of things had changed on the website (ie they are removed the word ‘limited’ from the January entry day). I went on there to have a pootle around and noticed something I had no idea about but is so important, I thought it deserved a blog post all to itself.

If you want to compete in a race in France – yes even one where you’re planning on pootling around taking pictures of Mickey – you HAVE to have a medical certificate signed by your doctor saying you are fit enough to take part in the run. No certificate, no bib – no bib, means you just wasted a heck of a lot of money on plane fares and race entry.

disneyland paris half marathon

I’m sure RunDisney will flag this up heavily (it is already mentioned in passing now in lots of places on the website, but if you didn’t read everything properly you could still not realise that it’s mandatory rather than optional), but as there’s a lot of stories of people arriving at huge events like the Paris Marathon not knowing that they need this magic bit of paper I figure the more places it mentioned the better.

There isn’t an official certificate you get, instead, you print out a template which you then take to your doctor who must sign it and stamp it in the surgery. Exactly when it has to be done varies from race to race but as of today Disney are saying the certificate must have been done within a year of race day. I don’t think I’d go that early but nor would I leave it to the last minute – maybe go a few month’s before the run just in case your doc wants more proof that all is good with your health/training. A bit of googling reveals there is currently a template on the Run Disney website which you can print out and use – but, as things are changing so much on that site right now, I’d wait until entry day so that you know it’s completely accurate and confirmed as the one they will accept – but good to know they are providing one as the wording does have to be quite specific.

Normally a doctor will charge a fee for signing such certificate – yes, even here in the UK with the NHS – and it seems to cost about £15 to do it. Oh, and this isn’t clear on the Disney site right now – so hopefully they’ll clarify it – but from what I’ve read re French requirements for taking part in sport, it may not just be the half marathon you need one for –  anyone running just the 5k or kids races might also need one. BTW: some athletics association runners may not need the certificate as they are already verified as part of various affiliations – but do check.

France isn’t the only country that requires a medical certificate – Italy does, Moscow marathon does, The Bull Runner race in the Philipines does and the Marathon des Sables requires both a bit of a paper and an ECG (though that makes sense). If you know of any other events that need one pop them in the comments as you could be helping someone out.

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Color Run Night and Trick or Treat 5k…new fun race(s) alert

Looking for a fun 5k to run later this year – well, there’s not one but two just been announced.


First up is the Color Run Night Race: September 5th in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, in Stratford, London

This one had me at the word ‘Bubble Zone’ although what I’m supposed to be most excited about is that it’s the first Color Run in the UK to be held at night. They’re replacing the normal powder with neon shades, having glow in the dark colour zones, giving everyone a glow-in-the dark T-shirt to run in and you’re running with a blacklight headlamp so you can see all the colours in their flouro fineness.

They haven’t said what time the race starts yet – only that ‘it’s once the September sun goes down’ – my friend Google tells me that sunset that day is 7.39PM so it’s unlikely to be superlate – which is good because I’ll need to get home as I am currently Helen, party of one for this one, as running buddy Jackie has a prior engagement and I can’t think of anyone else who’ll give up their Saturday night to run round the Olympic Park with me. Applications for volunteers on a postcard to Health-e Towers.

Entries aren’t officially open yet, but here is the secret early registration site that you can sign up to now that gives you a heads up in advance when it does open – and special priority booking window so you sneak in ahead of the crowds.

But wait, it wasn’t the only new run that popped into my inbox this week…..

Next up is Run Or Dye’s new Trick or Treat Run

Run or Dye Trick or Treat Run

This is a 5k or a 10k taking place in Richmond Park in London (again, sorry non London folk) on November 1st – yep the day after Halloween and all that and, as such it has a super spooky theme. Instead of colour zones they’re having Spooky Zones – zone one has Skeletons, zone two Witches, bats and cauldrons, zone 3 is the Pumpkin zone while Zone 4 has Zombies – which makes me wonder are you going to be chased by ghouls and goblins. In which case – brilliant. You can also choose between trick or treat finish lines… Oh,,,and the best bit about this one is that fancy dress is encouraged. I GET TO WEAR THE RUNNING TIARA!!! Now, where do I buy a black running tutu and bat wings to go with it.

While this race might sound like it should be at night, this one is actually a day race – the 10km starts at 10am, the 5km starts at 10am with a second race at 2pm. There’s also a 2km for smaller folk (and those hungover from Halloween parties)

Again, there’s another early entry site which gets you in for the super discount price of £20 (instead of £25). This is open until July 23rd and you need to use the code RUNORDIE – see what they did there – to claim your discount entry.

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Love this: Paleo Friendly, Herb Growing Vending Machines

Aussie readers – this one is for you.

This meal comes out of a machine...mind blown!

This meal comes out of a machine…mind blown!

I haven’t written about a healthy vending machine in a while have I….I thought I’d better break the habit as there were a bit of a run on them, but I was doing some research for an upcoming trip to Sydney and I spotted two that have recently launched in Australia – and the first one particularly is VERY exciting (if you like food that comes out of machines).

First up is All Real Food, which frankly, has gone overboard with fabulousness.


Not only do they sell super healthy breakfasts (including an Avo on Toast option which is pictured above), super yummy salads, smoothies and snacks – all of which are marked as to whether they are suitable for special diets  – including Paleo, Raw, Gluten-Free etc – and Banting (which would make fans of The High Fat Diet happy as it’s kind of similar) – but they also have a Gratitude Wall with quotes to help make your day that little bit better – and, a vertical herb garden that grows inside the machine…..Awwwwwwww. Bless.

Right now their machines are based mostly in Queensland. Find out exactly where by clicking here

But if you’re not in Queensland, do not despair….. there’s also FuD on the scene too.


They’re based in Victoria and follow a simpler model, really healthy food available 24 hours a day – because, you know there’s always someone who needs lettuce at 3am (note – that’s not as bonkers as it seems, the team at Potters Herbals told me recently that lettuce actually have soporific tendencies – eat enough of it and you will drop off).

15th July Update 1: Since I originally wrote this, the nice Fud people have been in touch and given me MORE information. Apparently, there’s more to them to just super yummy looking salads in jars. Each of their meals is created by a nutritionist and they can cater for all sorts of diets include Paleo, vegan and low FODMAP – which is brilliant news as FODMAP friendly eating can be tough (for those not up on their diets de jour, FODMAPs is the acronym for certain sugars found in foods that are linked to heaps of IBS like digestive symptoms)

They currently have two machines in the Melbourne area with five more opening this year. Find out exactly where here

Sadly, as I type neither of them have a machine in Sydney for me to go and play with – but my trip is a while off yet, so here’s hoping.

Update 2: Fud ARE coming to Sydney late 2015….I don’t know if it will be late enough for me, but you know if it’s not I’ll be standing in front of that machine with an excited look on my face pretty much as soon as my flight touches down.

The Trick That Boosts Kettlebell Squats.

If you’re using kettlebells to tone or strengthen your legs – then I learned a handy trick yesterday.

This picture is captioned 'Happy People Using Kettlebells'

This picture is captioned ‘Happy People Using Kettlebells’ by the picture agency

First up though the news that I have joined a new gym. I haven’t been able to get to my old gym since last September – I know, I know – so in April I made the decision to cancel my membership. The day I did it felt like there was something wrong in my life – I can’t remember when I didn’t have a gym membership, but that club wasn’t working for me so…..

I had already decided to join the no-frills gym The Gym but still I kept putting it off, but the other morning I just thought – do it – logged on, paid my £20 joining fee and signed up for my £16.99 a month membership. As soon as I clicked accept I felt healthier, like it was a new start. Part of the package is three sessions with a personal trainer and so I signed up – admittedly, purely so I knew I would go at least once.


Beam me fitter Scotty

I met Kerrie at the scary entrance (anyone else thinking Star Trek – or The Fly) and he took me through a 30 minute workout using kettlebells and body weight – and it was tough. Really tough. Having to put my head between my knees tough (admittedly I haven’t eaten a carb in 7 days and was still slightly in ketosis) but he taught me a handy little trick.


This picture would probably be captioned ‘Less happy person using kettlebells’

If you’re doing squats with a kettlebell, do it standing on two benches. Why? Because normally when you squat with a kettlebell your movement is limited by the bell touching the floor. Do them on a bench however and you can go lower – and before anyone says – but I thought you were supposed to only squat to so your thighs are parallel to the floor – that’s old thinking, new thinking says it’s okay to go lower if your knees can take it. Neat trick huh…..(or did everyone already know that).

Anyway, I ache nicely today and am suitably motivated to go again on Monday. Mission one – get my routine back, then we’ll worry about getting my fitness back (and hopefully getting some muscle strength again, I miss muscles!). I’ll also keep you posted about how I get on using a gym without the bells, whistles (or battleropes) of my old one.

Main image:

Running/Cycling to Beat The Tube Strike tomorrow – check this out

Okay, I admit this is totally a cut and paste job from a press release I’ve just been sent, but it’s such a great idea (and a rather nice thought by the Fitness First group) and only applicable for 24 hours so I needed to rush it out – so here goes….London folk – If you’re commuting to work tomorrow in a way that makes you sweaty, FF will let you hit their showers. The release says…


Don’t let the tube strike get in the way of your workout this week!

Fitness First is encouraging commuters across the capital to make the most of the 24 hour tube strike by offering FREE showers and training sessions across all its London gyms.

Walk, run or cycle to work tomorrow and show your Oyster Card in your nearest Fitness First club so you can shower off or train in the gym free of charge – meaning there really is no excuses not to get your workout done this week!

With 45 gyms across London, Fitness First will be open as usual helping you to keep moving, even though the tubes have stopped.

Fitness First tube stop clubs:

Oxford Circus – 15 Great Marlborough Street W1V 1AF

London Bridge – London Bridge Hotel 8-18, London Bridge Street, SE1 9SG

Tottenham Court Road – 179a Tottenham Court Road W1T 7PA

Charing Cross – Concourse level 1 Embankment Place WC2N 6NN

Liverpool Street – Platform 17-18, Unit 12, Liverpool Street Station EC2M 7PY

Bishopsgate – 47 Bishopsgate EC2N 4AJ

Clapham Junction – 34 St Johns Hill Clapham Junction Station SW11 1SA

Brixton – Blue Star House 234-244 Stockwell Road, Brixton, SW9 9SP

Angel – 361-373 City Road EC1V 1LR

Camden – 128 Albert Street, Camden, NW1 7NE

High Holborn – 246 High Holborn WC1V 7EX

Old Street – 60 Featherstone Street, EC1Y 8NQ

Carnaby – 59 Kingly Street W1B 5QJ

Isn’t that nice of them…..


It’s healthista day……

And it’s a doozy – with the latest celeb fitness trend, underground farming, fab new snacky things from nut people Meridien and oatcake folk Nairns (love them both), a running shirt that makes me laugh (review on that tomorrow or Wed I promise) and this little creation.


It’s called an Aquabase and its basically an exercise mat that floats. That makes you wobble so you have to use extra muscles ergo your workout is more effective. They haven’t done their trial day yet so I haven’t had a go yet, but I’m on the list apparently. Expect a soggy Helen picture to come. I’m pretty sure I’ll end up in the drink!

For full details of all the above, check out

The Trainer Tying Hack for Odd Sized Feet

I recently decided I needed new trainers – not least as I was in Texas and heading off to an outlet mall in San Marcos which had a New Balance shop – my trainer brand of choice. I pretty much always buy my trainers at a discount – either at an outlet mall, or in the last season’s colour sale as I’m not normally bothered about what my shoes look like, only that they fit.

Rather foolishly though this time I didn’t write down what type of trainer I normally buy before I left – this left me with row after row of shiny shoes to choose from – one pair of which were purple. Cancel everything I just said about not caring about the colour.

Pretty purple trainers - but check out the different laces.

Pretty purple trainers – but check out the different laces.

Thankfully, they were also the most comfortable pair of the four types I tried on – the only issue being that because I have super wide feet and one foot slightly bigger than the other as normal there was some issues getting both feet to fit. I could either have the left slightly too tight, or the right a tiny bit too loose (my normal choice) – which was when the fabulous sales assistant came to the rescue. ‘Do you know about the bunny ears lace?’ She asked adding, ‘It’ll tighten the shoe on that right foot.’

A minute later she’d done something complicated looking with the laces which, yes, completely changed the way the shoe felt on my foot as I ran up and down the shop – I immediately made her do it again twice to show me what it was. Frantic googling later revealed it’s actually called a Lace Lock – why has no-one taught me this before? I might still have a normal toenail on my second right hand toe if I’d learned this years ago!

So, in case you have also missed out on this useful wisdom – and also have one foot bigger than the other, Here’s what you need to do….

The secret is to use the extra hole at the top of the shoe – the one ringed below – as well as the normal bits you lace up.


Lace your shoes just as you would normally, but then when you reach the top, don’t tie them in a bow. Instead, feed the lace backwards and downwards through that extra hole to create a small loop, do the same on the other side – think like you’re creating bunny ears on either side of your shoe! Now feed the loose part of the lace through the loop on the opposite side. It should look like the below when you’re finished


Finally, to tighten the lace pull both sides out and downwards so both sides tighten and you create the flat vertical lace below. Now feel how much more secure your shoe is.


You then just tie your shoes as normal. It’s genius – and means I now have pretty purple trainers – that fit and hopefully will get through this summer without a black toenail I need to hide!

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…


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 If you like this post, you’ll like it there too. It’s just as erm, abstract!.