What a week!

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a weekly ’round up’ post on here but last week so many exciting things happened that I wanted to share – so here goes.

untitledMonday saw the launch of the 2014 Zero Calorie Advent Calendar. It’s a project that I work on each year with my co-founders Mollie and Christine. Each day we feature a free workout, a healthy recipe and an offer from a health and fitness related business. If you’ve not had a peak yet you really should!

We’ve had a great reaction to the calendar again this year and there’s still a lot to come.

 

Monday also saw me join a new gym. I’ve not been a member of a gym for a very long time. But I’ve watched Limehouse Marina Elite take shape directly across from my flat for the last couple of years and have been itching to get inside to check out the facilities. Last weekend I got my chance when it opened its doors and wow, just wow. It’s an amazing space with fantastic kit and I just knew I needed to become a member. Capture

On Monday night I joined up and became one of the first people to use the gym. I went in on Wednesday and was the only person there! So far I’ve been in for a HiiT session on a spin bike and for an induction session that turned into a PT session on the TRX. I’m really looking forward to trying out more of the kit including the weights section and the large array of punch bags!

 

On Wednesday I also found out that my first ever article had been published somewhere other than this blog. I became a member of the Merrell pack when they featured a piece titled ‘Mud Glorious Mud’. Such an exciting moment for me.

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And then yesterday the week ended on the biggest high. As you’ll know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I’ve been training with Julia Buckley for nearly two years now. I was super excited and proud when Julia asked me to feature in a couple of videos that she was recording for her new fitness programme Challenge XXX which starts in January.

At first I was a bit apprehensive – Julia has a body to die for, I am still most definitely a work in progress and I worried that I was going to look enormous on the screen next to her. But I also realised what a huge milestone this would be for me. Having not just the fitness levels but also the confidence to do it.

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We had a fab morning and filmed two full on strength sessions. I am super sore today, but also super proud of just how far I’ve come in the last couple of years.

Only members of Julia’s website will get to see the videos in full – but here’s a few photos as a taster.

What a week!

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In your genes?

Ever wondered why that friend of yours is as thin as a rake and can eat whatever they want, while you only have to look at a cake to gain a couple of pounds? There’s obviously loads of factors that could be at play but there’s a good chance that some of it is down to genetics.

DNAI think I’ve mentioned before that in my dim and distant past I used to call myself a scientist. A biochemist with a keen interest in genetics and DNA no less.

 

We are all different and that’s mainly due to our DNA. There are the differences that we all see like eyes and hair colour, but then there are also differences in the way that we metabolise nutrients for example and the way we deal with toxins. We all know someone that can’t handle their alcohol well and others who can drink like fish. Again a lot of factors at play, but some of it will be down to genetics.

Nutrigenetics is the study of how genetic variation in individual genes affects how someone responds to particular nutrients and toxins in their diet. It’s a fascinating area of science. Imagine having an understanding of your own genetics such that you could make the very best nutritional choices for you. It would take so much of the guess work away!

So when I was recently contacted by a company called DNAFit and asked if I’d like to have a DNA test done which would help me find out what diet is best for me, based on my own DNA, I leapt at the chance. I’ve made a lot of changes to my diet in the last couple of years and I was fascinated to know whether the results of this test would back up my experience.

DNAFitI was sent a DNA collection kit in the post in a shiny silver envelope. It consisted of a form to fill in, a small plastic tube and then the swab to collect my DNA. There were clear instructions in the kit of what I needed to do. Wipe the swab on the inside of my cheek, making sure that I was doing it firmly enough to get the swab nicely covered with my cheek cells. Then break off the swab into the tube, seal it up and label it and send it back. Pretty straightforward.

A few weeks later I was sent my results. A personalised report with a set of guidance notes to help me understand more about the results. I was also lucky enough to be offered a one to one consultation with Olympic athlete Andrew Steele who is part of the team at DNAFit. He talked me through my report and what it all meant.

The report is 25 pages long and goes into far more detail that I can cover in a blog post but the summary of it is shown below.

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I have medium-high sensitivity to carbohydrate and for optimum weight management should stick to a low carbohydrate diet. This is exactly in line with what I’ve experienced since I’ve switched to a low carbohydrate, high protein diet. Andrew told me not to be scared of fats, including saturated fat. My profile indicates that these are not an issue for me in terms of weight management or general health.

The report goes through a number of different areas including my anti-oxidant need, Omega 3 need and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Based on these results Andrew gave me the following advice

  • increase my selenium intake – selenium is important to help the body deal with free radicals. My test results indicate I have a reduced capacity for dealing with free radicals  – 3 brazil nuts each night would have my selenium needs covered
  • increase my Omega 3 intake – as an essential fatty acid I need to get this from my diet – I hate oily fish, which is a great source of Omega 3 so Andrew recommended some alternative sources such as flaxseeds or that I consider taking a supplement
  • increase my Vitamin D intake – really important in calcium metabolism and bone health – it’s hard to get enough Vitamin D in the diet so this was one where he definitely recommended a supplement

There are a couple of other areas also covered by the report. Sensitivity to salt, alcohol and caffeine. As I suspected would be the case I metabolise caffeine quickly – meaning that I feel its effects in a short space of time. I also have moderate salt sensitivity which can cause high blood pressure so I’m advised to keep my salt intake down. And unfortunately I’m not one of those people who gets any health benefit from moderate consumption of alcohol. So I have no excuse!

Finally the report confirms that I am lactose tolerant and that I do not have any coeliac predisposition.

I found the report absolutely fascinating. It confirms a number of things which I already suspected but has also given me some pointers for small tweaks that I can make to my diet. I’m in the process of implementing the recommended changes and I’m interested to see whether I can feel any benefit from them. Watch this space!

I’m really impressed with the service I received from DNAFit and the quality of the report that was produced for me. There’s enough explanation for all the results that you don’t need to be a scientist to understand them at all and the recommendations are very clear.

The test that I had done is called DNA Fit Diet Professional and costs £199. They also offer a Lite version at £99 and a Premium version at £149. The Premium and Professional tests also include a 12 week eating plan based on your ideal diet, if that’s the sort of thing that appeals to you.


DNA Fit also offer DNA analysis for fitness. I’ve also had this test done and the results are just as fascinating as the diet analysis. I’ll talk more about those results in a separate post.

DNAFit were kind enough to carry out this test for me for free. All opinions are my own.

 

Zero Calorie Advent Calendar 2014

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Back for its 3rd year the Zero Calorie Advent Calendar will start to open its doors from Monday 1st December.

I’m delighted to be collaborating once again with Christine and Mollie to bring you an alternative way to count down to Christmas.

Daily workouts, healthy festive recipes and giveaways and offers from health and fitness related brands.

Follow us on Twitter @Zerocaladvent

Like us on Facebook Zero Calorie Advent Calendar

And of course check out the Advent Calendar itself on a daily basis from 1st December.

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Winter Running

I quite like running in winter. There’s something about getting layered up and hitting the streets. Knowing that while you might start out a bit on the cool side you’ll soon be lovely and warm but unlikely to ever get too hot. Seeing the mist as your warm breath hits the cold air. Finding that your favourite paths and routes are that little bit quieter as more people stay inside. Getting my dose of daylight by going for a run at lunchtime to balance our travelling to and from work in the dark.

Sunny and cool are probably my favourite running conditions and every now and again London serves up one of those perfect running days during winter. That’s the good side of winter running.

For the last two out of three winters I’ve been training for the London Marathon and have had to embrace winter running in all its glory. Forcing myself out of bed on dark cold and wet mornings. Praying that the snow would stay away. Leaving the house looking like a Christmas tree in an effort to be visible. Sometimes having to head out and run in actual snow.

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On many occasions I’ve cursed winter running – willing the lighter, warmer mornings to arrive. Looking forward to the day when I could leave the house without gloves and a hat. And then panicking when that day arrived knowing that it meant race day was getting ever closer.

This winter I’m not training for a marathon. I’ve not really run consistently for some time and haven’t done anything beyond a sprint session since the end of September. I am loving the training that I’m doing right now but now that the days are getting shorter I’m starting to crave some time outside in what little natural daylight there is. So I’m planning on adding some running back into the mix.

Those of you who’ve been following this blog for a while will know that I like a good goal. So rather than just say ‘I’m going to do some running’ I’ve entered a race so that I have a focus and something to aim towards.

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The Cancer Research London Winter Run seemed like the perfect goal race. A closed road 10km race, starting in Westminster the route heads out on a loop past some of London’s most famous landmarks including The London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben, Tower of London and many more iconic London sites. As well as a great route, the race features some extras that make it sound like a lot of fun. A giant snow ball warm-up, an ice cave and snow zones on the route, a winter warmer finish zone and polar bear hugs at the finish. What’s not to like?

So I’m all signed up. And if having read this you fancy signing up too then I have some good news. Standard entry costs £39 before 16th December but if you use the discount code KISDISCOUNT you can reduce that by £3 – for a limited time.

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So if you also want a winter running goal and something to keep you motivated during the cold months, then what are you waiting for? See you there!

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Photo credits http://winterrunseries.co.uk/ (except for the one of me, I took that!)

Taking a holiday?

I’m just back from a lovely two week holiday in the USA. We spent time in Chicago, Denver and New York and I thoroughly enjoyed the break. My holiday period coincided with the halfway point of the current round of Extreme Inferno, Julia Buckley’s online fat loss programme. The programme is 12 weeks long so two weeks away from home might seem like a  good excuse to take a couple of weeks off from my fitness schedule as well.

But I didn’t view it that way.

Holidays for me are time off work, time to relax and unwind and spend time with Mr J, time to explore new places, enjoy good food and drink. Generally time to enjoy myself. And I enjoy training – I love working out and how it makes me feel. So while some people might decide to take a fortnight off their usual schedule I planned to fit in as many of the EI workouts as possible.

Being able to do that took some forward planning. Research into what facilities would be available in the places that we were staying, thinking about how much workout kit I could afford to pack and whether I had any opportunity to wash it, scheduling workouts that I could do without any equipment for the days when I wouldn’t have access to a gym.

Coregasm in our 52nd floor apartment

Coregasm in our 52nd floor apartment

One of the great things about Extreme Inferno is the mix of workouts – there are plenty of sessions that require no equipment at all (like Coregasm which you can try out for yourself here), and others where it’s easy to improvise. My carry on case came in handy one day as an improvised weight along with some bottles of water. Other sessions allowed me to make the most of the fantastic facilities I had access to in Denver and Chicago.

Brilliant free weights area in Chicago

Brilliant free weights area in Chicago

Our apartment block in Chicago had a gym facility on the 9th floor. A great space with lots of equipment and most importantly for me a brilliant free weights area.

Happy Becca.

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Fantastic facilities in TruFit in Denver

Then in Denver we had access to an absolutely enormous gym with pretty much everything you could think of, including a climbing wall and full TRX rig!

So while we were away I managed to keep up with the EI schedule, which definitely helped to balance out some of the extra alcohol and not so clean food which was consumed.

And I also picked up some fab new leggings too.

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Back with my beloved barbell

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know that I’ve developed quite a love for lifting heavy weights. It all started when I discovered Julia Buckley’s Fat Burn Revolution programme and realised that I was reasonably strong. Over the last 18 months I’ve been improving that base level of strength, in the main with dumbbells in my own home.

In January this year I did a four week Ladies Who Lift course run by Strength Ambassadors, which taught me the basic barbell lifts – squats, deadlift and bench press. I loved it and surprised myself with the weights that I could manage after just four weeks of training. Realising how beneficial strength training could be to my marathon training I signed up for personal training sessions with Sally Moss, the founder of Strength Ambassadors. We did a lot of barbell work in those sessions which saw me to a strong marathon finish, despite carrying a hip/glute injury pretty much the whole way around.

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Since the marathon and while I’ve been recovering from that hip injury I’ve not been doing a lot of very heavy lifting. Julia’s Extreme Inferno programme has been my main focus as I’ve turned my attention back to fat loss, and while I use weights a lot during EI it’s all work that I can do in my own home with dumbbells – no barbell required.

Recently my glute/hip has been feeling a lot better and I’ve been hankering to get back to some barbell work. So for the past 3 weeks I’ve been having a once a week PT session with Jess Wolny, who I also met on the Ladies Who Lift course. We’ve worked our way through the ‘big lifts’ and it’s felt great to be back with the barbell again.

I’ve been really pleased to see how much my strength has improved since I last tried these lifts out. I’m relatively comfortable ‘working’ at a 50kg squat, 60kg deadlift and was particularly pleased with a 50kg bench press. Jess has also introduced me to the military press – a move that’s gone straight to the top of my favourites list. I’m excited to see where my numbers get to as I carry on training with Jess.

Last weekend I was back with Strength Ambassadors at one of their free Olympic Lifting workshops. In the two hour session we were taken through a series of drills that culminated in being able to perform both the snatch and the clean and press. There’s an awful lot going on in each of those lifts but Sally and Alex broke the moves down so that they were easy to understand and the drills progressed quickly so that before you knew it there you were Olympic Lifting.

I thoroughly enjoyed the session. While the weights were relatively light the Olympic Lifts are incredibly dynamic and involve explosive movements so by the end of the session I was exhausted. That kind of post swimming all over tiredness when you know you’ve worked your entire body.

I wouldn’t say I was a natural at the lifts at all. I have a lot to work on in terms of mobility in my squats and my form in the clean. I got some excellent cues from Alex that really helped me improve in particular aspects of the lifts during the course of the session. I really enjoyed myself and absolutely loved the jerk part of the clean and jerk.

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I’m hoping to sign up for a beginners course in the New Year so that I can learn some more.

It’s safe to say that I’m loving having the barbell back in my life!

Dirty weekends

Warning – if you’ve come to this post on the basis of the title expecting a *particular* kind of content you may be disappointed.

I haven’t really run more than a couple of miles at a time since May. Mainly due to my hip taking a really long time to heal up but also because I’ve been busy doing other kinds of training. But since my hip is now pretty much better and I’m thinking about a spring half marathon next year I thought it was about time to lace up the trainers and get back to the running.

To ease myself back in again I’ve taken part in two completely different types of events over the last two weekends. Different but with a similar outcome –  I got very very dirty!

Last Saturday saw me take part in the 5K Run or Dye at Excel in London Docklands. Billed as the most colourful event on the planet the 5K course had a number of dye stations on route where we runners had different coloured dyes thrown on us as we ran. I had mixed feelings on my way to the event bright and early on a Saturday morning. I was hoping for a carnival of colour but was slightly concerned that I’d paid a reasonable amount of money to get up very very early on a Saturday to just get covered in paint.

The reality was somewhere in between. Having met Mollie, Bethan and Tessa at the DLR stop we made our way to pick up our race packs. As well as a white T-shirt and temporary tattoo we were also given two bags of dye each. Once we’d all changed into our race tops the fun began as we chucked the paint around and got suitably covered in colour. I’m not going to deny that it was pretty fun.

 

Once the run started I was a bit disappointed if I’m honest. I’d expected music and atmosphere as well as the advertised dye stations but what we got in reality was a 5K run around the Excel with a couple of areas where volunteers chucked paint over us. I don’t know why but I’d expected paint cannons and sound systems –  a party of paint. The reality was people scooping handfuls of dye and chucking them in our faces. It was a laugh overall but I couldn’t help feeling a bit ‘was that it then?’ and I don’t know that I’d pay to do it again.

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Yesterday Buckley’s Battalion re-formed to take on the Major Series South in Tunbridge Wells. The team made up of Julia’s fat loss clients was a of a different line up to last year but the team spirit and camaraderie were just as strong as we made our way around the 10K cross country course.

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It took us nearly three hours to complete the course which included mud, muddy water, bogs, ice pits, electric fences, barbed wire, mud, more mud and just when you thought you couldn’t get any more dirty a bit more mud thrown in for good measure. Teammates were essential to lend a hand getting out of ditches or freeing people who had literally got stuck in the mud.

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The atmosphere here was brilliant – friend or stranger if you saw someone in need of a push or a pull that’s what happened.  There was a fair bit of queuing for some of the obstacles but no-one seemed to care – it wasn’t the sort of event you ran for time – it was all about the taking part and getting round as a team. Oh and the mud.

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This was always going to be a bit of a test for me. 5K is one thing but 10K of hilly cross country on no real running training is somewhat more of a challenge. My hip behaved itself impeccably but my calves had other ideas and at just over halfway I started to get cramps. It was pretty frustrating but I kept going, walking when I needed to stretch them out. It meant that I started lagging behind the rest of the team a bit but in true Battalion style someone was always there with me making sure I was OK and the team stopped and waited for us back markers to catch up at regular intervals.

I’ve got to be honest and admit that I was glad once we’d finished – happy to have done it but a wake up call that my running fitness is pretty much shot to bits and needs to be built back up again. If I’m serious about doing Tough Mudder next year I will need to get this sorted!

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Of my two dirty weekends the mud won hands down, even if I did go home with some bruises and scrapes alongside my dog tag style medal and loads of mud. There’s something about getting absolutely soaked to the skin and covered in mud that I really quite enjoy!

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