Sugar

An addiction burdening society, I have fallen into the uncontrollable grasp of sugar cravings, so I thought I would relieve some of the thoughts I’ve been having by writing a blog post on Sugar.

I’ve always been a ‘more nutella than toast’ kind of spreader, but right now the very thought of sugar actually disgusts me, when eating sugary spreads and jams, table sugar in drinks or sweet foods I feel disgusted in myself and like I’ve failed. Don’t get me wrong everything in moderation is good, however I feel I have got to a point where I rely on sugar to give me my daily energy, I feel dependant on it and like I’m not in control of my levels of sugar consumption. I feel like my body takes over and I find myself eating it without consciously wanting to, like a savage.

I have noticed myself cranking up my sugar intake, more sugar in my tea (and when I rely on tea 7+ times a day I am repulsed by the thought of my many sugar-calories I am consuming just through drinking tea). Luckily I like the taste of tea without sugar too, so cutting that out won’t be a problem.

Being an exercise enthusiast, keen runner and triathlete I am definitely noting a change in my training quality and ability. I find myself getting a drop in blood sugar, hot-cold sweats and dizzy spells when starting a run. I generally feel constantly fatigued, lethargic and like I don’t want to exercise, and that I just want to eat sugar. These symptoms ultimately made me cut work-outs short which led to more feelings of frustration and failure. This is why I am starting now, this minute, with My Pledges below. For the sake of my training this sugar addiction must stop.

I have trawled the internet for medications or magic ways to quit sugar, because I have had numerous failed attempts at going cold turkey, which all led to me having crippling 24/7 thoughts of sugar-filled foods and thoughts of self-loathing, failure disappointment and depression when I did consume sugar. L-glutamine is raved about on the internet for its supposed powers of removing sugar cravings. I have decided though that by pledging to my blog , I am trying one last time at going cold turkey because I don’t want to have to rely on any supplements or medications.

My Pledges:

  • To stop adding sugar to tea/coffee
  • To steer away from all sweet foods completely. Foods such as; biscuits, sweetened cereals, jam/ sweet spreads on toast, cakes, ice creams, chocolate etc.
  • To eat proper meals, to properly fuel my body rather than small meals and lots of sugar to follow.
  • To delete my instagram and all other social media, so that I am not always scrolling through photos of sugary foods, porridge with 1,000,001 sugary toppings and peoples successful workouts which ultimately make me feel worse.
  • To reduce the amount I am baking to once per week, for the cafe down the road so I am not the one trying my bakes.
  • To try choose vegetables over fruits to reach my 7 a day, because vegetables have lower sugar content that fruit

If you have been dealing with a similar issue relating to sugar, feel free to get in touch. My main advice would be to speak up about it and tell someone, because by not talking about it you are probably in denial, and by talking about it you are more likely to be successful in cutting down or even cutting it out with the support of people around you.

That’s all for now!

Claudia 🙂

Banana Bread

A great way to make use of over ripe bananas!

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Ingredients:

290g Plain Flour

1 tsp Baking Powder

112g Butter, slightly salted

225g Caster Sugar

450g (around 4.5) Very Ripe Bananas

2 medium Eggs, beaten

85ml Whole Milk

1.5 tsp Lemon Juice

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Method:

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees fan, line a 1kg loaf tin with greaseproof paper.

Cream together the butter and sugar.

Mash the bananas in a separate bowl.

Add the lemon juice to the milk.

Add in the eggs, vanilla, milk mixture and mashed banana to the creamed butter mix.

Sift the flour, baking powder into the wet mix and fold it in.

Transfer the batter to the lined tin, bake in the oven for 60 minutes at 160 degrees, check the cake by opening the door, then bake for a further 20 minutes at 140 degrees or until golden brown on top and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Enjoy! Claudia 🙂

Cranberry & Pistachio Biscotti

Dunked into a big mug of coffee, or crumbled on top of ice cream, these biscotti are one of my favourite things to make and share with friends.

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Ingredients

225g Plain Flour

225g Caster Sugar (1:1 ratio of flour to sugar)

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 Medium Eggs (I use 126g of egg), beaten together

100g Dried Cranberries

100g Pistachio Kernels

1/2 Orange Zest

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 140 degrees fan.

2. Sift the flour and caster sugar into a bowl together and stir until evenly distributed.

3. Add in a pinch of salt and the baking powder and stir.

4. Beat the eggs together and add in a tsp at a time to the dry mixture stirring as you add and in between additions. You may not need all the egg, and only add enough egg until you have a firm dough that is not at all sticky.

5. Roughly chop the pistachios and cranberries then incorporate them into the dough by hand.

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6. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface very gently. Split the dough in half and roll out into 2 logs of 4cm diameter.

7. Place the logs on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper at least 5cm apart and place in the oven to bake for 33-35 minutes.

8. Take out of the oven and leave to cool in the tray for 12 minutes until firmer, then move to a chopping board.

9. Cut the logs diagonally 2.5cm thick, then put them back onto the baking tray and back into the oven for a further 17 minutes. Turn the biscotti over and return to the oven for a further 17 minutes until crisp.

10. Cool completely on a wire rack, then store in an airtight container.

I hope you enjoy this recipe! Why not substitute the pistachio and cranberries for these other delicious flavours:

  • The zest of 2 lemons, 35g poppy seeds, 2 tsp of lemon juice.
  • 100g dried chopped apricots, 100g whole chopped almonds, 1/2 tsp almond extract.
  • 50g good white chocolate melted, 10og macadamia nuts chopped, 85g dried raspberries.

There are so many different ways to flavour your biscotti so use this as a chance to get creative!

Claudia

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Essential Kit List for a Triathlon

Now I’m not sure whether this is a post I am qualified to write, seen as I have a bit of a reputation for forgetting (or almost forgetting) essential bits of kit to most races (like bike shoes). However, I don’t see a rule book for blogging anywhere so I’m just going to go ahead. This post is about what kit I think should be making an appearance in your kit bag for a triathlon race.

Essentials

1. Trisuit

You won’t regret buying a trisuit, it saves valuable time in transition not having to put shorts and a t-shirt on.

2. Goggles

Swimming is a clear and obvious part of the triathlon, and unless you plan on swimming with your head out of the water, goggles are a must.

3. Wetsuit

In the UK it is compulsory to wear a wetsuit if the water temperature is less than 14 degrees, and many people would sensibly still wear one if the temperature was between 14 and 25 degrees.

4. Swim cap

These are usually given out at races so they have coloured caps by start time and wave number.

5. Bike

Regardless of whether you have a road, hybrid or mountain bike you’ll struggle towards the middle of the race if you don’t take your bike with you.

6. Helmet

Compulsory.

7. Bike Shoes

If you have clip-in pedals on your bike you’ll need to remember these shoes, otherwise you can just wear the same trainers you’ll run in for cycling.

8. Trainers

Bare foot running is a thing, but why make the triathlon any harder than it needs to be? I strongly advise you remember your trainers.

9. Race Belt

Safety pins will do, and are often given out in the race pack along with your race number , however I’d recommend buying a race belt, they are really good value for money when you can keep using them every race and not ruin your beautiful trisuit by poking safety pin holes in it.

10. Race Number

Usually given on the day (or the day before) at registration for the event. If you get your race number by post (which some races do) DO NOT FORGET IT.

11. Paperwork

You may need to take a conformation email along with you to race registration.

12. BTF membership card, or £5

If you don’t have a BTF (British Triathlon Federation) license, you will be required to buy a day pass (only £5) on the day of your race to cover the insurance.

13. Water

You’ll regret not taking any.

14. Recovery food

I will do a second blog on my opinions on pre/during/post race fuel, however now I will say make sure to stick a banana and a snack bar in your bag!

Top Tips, and my essential extras:

1. Flip Flops

I always take flip flops with me so I can leave my bike shoes with my bike and my trainers in transition, so that when I walk down to the swim I don’t go barefoot and flip flops are easy for my fans to hang onto while I race.

2. Maintenance Kit

A small hand held pump and a spare inner tube are really smart things to carry on your bike so that if you do disastrously get a puncture, you are at least equipped to deal with it (I had a puncture during a race once and still finished because I had the kit to repair it).

3. Tech

A race watch or bike computer are by no means essential, however I find mine really useful to track my speed and times, to see if I am on target for how fast I want to complete the triathlon.

4. A Slave

The person to carry your food, warm clothes, extra drinks, hold the ‘GO YOU!’ banners and be your personal photographer.

5. Sunglasses and Suncream, or Hat, Gloves and Coat

Living in the UK the weather will probably require you to pack the latter, but make sure you think carefully about the weather, because you are likely to either be stood round in the boiling sun (and racing in it) so you don’t want to get burned, or stood round in the freezing cold (and racing in it) so you don’t want to get frostbite / hypothermia.

6. Pack the night before

Packing the night before is a good idea so you can sleep on it and have any nightmares about forgetting certain bits of kit and then prevent forgetting them by adding them to your race bag in the morning on race day.

I hope this post is useful for all levels of triathletes, and that I haven’t forgotten to mention any other vital pieces of kit. That’s all for now!

Claudia 🙂

A week In Training

Thank you to @a.runners.diary of Instagram for requesting this blog post. I train for triathlon, but I also love long distance running and cross country so my schedule has to include swims, runs, cycles and strength and conditioning. Although I am a stickler for routines, I find it hard to keep a consistent training plan because I have a full time job and changing race goals. Below is a rough insight into a week’s training.

Monday usually consists of rest after a busy weekend of training. I do my strength and conditioning at home.
Tuesday I do a speed session for running. I go outdoors and run ~2km off-road as a warm up before doing hill sprints, then I go to a field for some intervals before running home to cool down.
Wednesday I go to the gym and do an indoor cycle on the stationary bike. I try to get in 20-30km of hard pedalling, followed by a short, speed session in the pool. My swim is usually only 1km in length but a hard session because I do lots of drills.
Thursday I do my long run. I train my long run on a 5-week cycle; increasing the length by 1km each week so on week 1 I run 12km and by week 5 I am running 16km the length of this long run increases when I am training for half marathons.
Friday is my long swim day. Tired after a week of work calls for training my best discipline; the swim. I usually try to get in 3 km or more of race-pace swimming. This is followed by strength and conditioning exercises at home.
Saturday I run and swim; a brick session of a treadmill session varying the speed I’m running. This run is then followed by another speed session in the pool similar to the one done on Wednesday.
Sunday I cycle, usually a long ride of 60-90km.

I hope this post is interesting! Please get in touch with any other posts you’d like to see up on the blog soon.

 

Claudia 🙂

 

Life as a Barista

In line with my previous post ‘change’, I left university in December, and 6 days after arriving home I had managed to secure a job….at Starbucks! I joined the Starbucks team before Christmas so I got to wear the red apron and learn how to make all of the Christmas beverages which was very exciting!

Within a week and a half I was trained and ready to be on shift as a working barista. Training wasn’t just about learning how to make all of the complex drinks (although it was a large part of it) I also had to get to grips with using the till, cleaning procedures and customer service.

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My training involved mastering the art of Latte, Cappuccino and Caramel Macchiato as well as all the other drinks on the Starbucks Menu!

In all honesty, I am loving my work, my job gives me purpose, interaction with people from all walks of life, going about all sorts of daily tasks. I love being able to make my customers happy when I hand-craft their drinks.

I am now training to become a Shift Supervisor, which means I can lead the shifts I am on. I am really excited for this next stage of the job and although the work is tiring with either early starts or late finishes, I don’t think I could think of a much better job for this year.

That’s all for now! Claudia

Simple Lemon Biscuits

These biscuits are simple yet very delicious, the perfect addition to an afternoon tea party or a quick mid morning snack.

Makes 24 Biscuits

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Ingredients:

100g Unsalted Butter

112g Caster Sugar

1 Egg, beaten

205g Plain Flour

2tsp Lemon Juice

Zest of a lemon

90g Icing Sugar

1.5 tbsp of full fat milk

Method:

Beat the butter and sugar together until it is pale and fluffy. Add in the egg and whisk until combined. Fold in the flour, lemon juice and knead on a lightly floured surface, incorporating half of the lemon zest. Knead until a soft smooth dough has formed.

Chill the dough for 30 minutes. While waiting crystallise the remaining lemon zest by adding a 2 tsp of caster sugar and spreading it out of a plate.

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees fan. Roll the dough to 4mm and cut out roughly 24 biscuits. Bake for 12-13 minutes, until pale golden, then cool on the tray for 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the icing by sifting the icing sugar, adding in the milk and another tsp of lemon juice. For best results, pipe a circle of the icing around the circumference of each biscuit then fill each piped circle with a thin layer of icing. Top with a sprinkle of the lemon zest.

Enjoy! Claudia 🙂

Race Review- Yorkshire Cross Country Champs 2017

So on 9th January I had my first race of 2017- The Yorkshire County Cross Country Championships. I’ll start by saying I wasn’t using this race as a selection to run for the county- having just had 4 draining months of injury and partial, very frustrating training I am just happy to have been back racing!

It was a Saturday morning, I woke at 8am, and walked the dogs before meeting a friend at 10.30am to lift share to the race. We arrived an hour later, collected race numbers and had a good warm up by jogging the course and doing some drills before the lining up on the start line at 12.45pm for a 12.50pm start. The course said it was 5.85km but my GPS watch said 6.11km… I’d like to think my watch was right!

I was running as an U20, and its fair to say the competition was fierce. The first 8 runners to finish would be selected to race for Yorkshire, and so when the gun went I wasn’t surprised by how fast we set off. The race comprised of one short lap and two long laps with an undulating route and one steep but short incline. My first kilometre was done in 3 minutes 5o which I was not prepared for. I spent the next kilometre playing catch up with my heart rate and legs. I felt surprisingly strong, and finished in a time of 29.58 which I am more than happy with.

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My very clean looking new spikes (it wasn’t very muddy)

I came 13th (out of 13 finishers), however I wasn’t disappointed. I set myself zero standards and expectations for this race, other than to enjoy the fact I was back racing and make the most of the experience. I am really glad to be back and I can’t wait for my next race, which is a 4.7 mile PECO cross country league race.

Well done to everyone that raced and thats all for now!

Claudia x

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Valley Striders Senior Ladies Team (and me as the u20!)

The Backbone to Success

In this post I’m going to explore injury causation, prevention and my experiences with it 🙂

As a triathlete, I often find myself falling into the mindset of ‘endurance sport therefore endurance training’. To an extent this is true, if you want to do an Olympic Distance Triathlon, and you don’t train doing long rides, swims and runs, it’ll without a doubt be tougher than you anticipate. However, doing the cardio never seems to be a problem for us lot, because the reason we do this crazy stuff is because bizzarely enough we get pleasure in doing so.

I have had a total of 5 breaks to my bones over the years (I’m 18), I have hyper mobility in my pelvis, chronic back problems (basically many of my vertebrae move outwards meaning I need them regularly popped back in), patellofemoral pain syndrome in both knees and the frequent flare ups of my illiotibial bands in both legs. Writing all of these out actually makes me embarrassed because the causation and prevention of many of these niggles and injuries is simple. It is hard to do all the cardio I do without muscle, however the lack of muscle in certain places is the root of my problems. I always used to skip the strength sessions and any form of conditioning, because I found it boring and didn’t see results. The muscle in my back wasn’t supporting my spine, and a ripple effect of overuse of certain muscles to compensate for lack of muscle in other places occurred.

I started a yoga class, and it was hard and at first when I went to the novice classes I struggled to do most of it. To be honest, I didn’t expect much different, 10 years of neglect to my body wouldn’t be undone instantaneously. But over time I have found myself capable of more complex yoga, and it has become a fundamental part of my training.

I live by my foam roller. If you haven’t invested in one, I would highly recommend it to any runner or athlete that is serious about their sport. 2-3 minutes of agony 2-3 times a day and my injuries have become manageable. If you are stuck for how to use your foam roller, just type into google “foam rolling exercises for …” inserting your injury where the ‘…’ is and thousands of videos and tutorials should appear.

I admit I have invested in seeing a physiotherapist more than once, and I would certainly recommend it as a tool to getting an accurate diagnosis for what your injury is, and some useful stretches to do to alleviate some of the pain. After that, I would say it is up to you to manage your injury, do the stretches and strengthening because generally further physiotherapy appointments are of little use if you put the work in yourself. Sports massages are also very beneficial for tight muscles and after big races or training weeks.

I have a chiropractor who I have seen for the past 5 years and will continue to see (he honestly works magic), I urge you all to save your bones and CARE for your muscles. Coming from someone who overanalyses every part of their performance to be in despair of what is holding me back, the problem I was looking for was staring me in the face. No amount of cardio, nutrition, physiotherapy or massages will help you to protect the vital key in your sporting success. Your muscles require a great deal of pampering and care, you literally destroy them and break them down during a training session, so a little bit of time and effort spent caring for them will be the only way to enhance your performance once you’ve put in the miles.

In Summary:

There are millions of yoga classes EVERYWHERE, it will be impossible not to find one near you. Go with your friends, take your mum or go alone for a peaceful retreat, its the best decision I have ever made, and it’ll be the best you do too. Foam rollers are extremely reasonable; I got mine for £8 from Start Fitness. Physiotherapy is more expensive, but I’d only recommend it as a one-off to get a diagnosis. It’s my personal preference to have a chiropractor to sort out my alignment, however seeing a chiropractor isn’t essential at all. Sports massages are reasonably priced and very beneficial.

I hope you can find some points that are useful in this post, and that you can learn from my misfortune to avoid the same thing happening to you!

Until next time! Claudia 🙂

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cupcakes

This week’s recipe is a personal favourite. A take on carrot cake, this beautifully moist and healthy cake will leave you with a craving for more.

Pumpkin Bundt Cupcakes- Makes 12

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Ingredients

1 medium cooking pumpkin

150g unsalted butter

150g caster sugar

2 medium eggs

150g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp ginger

1 tsp mixed allspice

Method

  1. Chop and dice the pumpkin, removing the skin and seeds. Add to a pan and boil for 20-40 minutes with water until completely soft, and the chunks break easily when poked with a fork.
  2. Drain completely, mash until it is a puree consistency then leave to cool.
  3. Grease a 12-hole mini bundt tin with butter, then add flour and tap it out.
  4. In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth, then add in the sugar and beat until smooth.
  5. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking powder and all the spices.
  6. Beat in one egg, until combined, then sieve in 2-3 tbsp of the flour mix and stir to combine.
  7. Beat in the second egg then sieve in the remaining flour mix, combining it all together to form a batter.
  8. Once the pumpkin has cooled, add it to the batter stirring in one tbsp at a time to incorporate it slowly. It is not necessary to use all the pumpkin, but use at least ¾.
  9. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until cooked. Move to a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. Drizzle with simple royal icing, 150g icing sugar with 3-4 tbsp of water added to make into a paste.

TOP TIP: At Halloween you can decorate instead with orange buttercream to look like pumpkins.

I hope you enjoy making these, and that you fall in love with the beautiful taste of them!

Until next time, Claudia 🙂