Tuesday, 11 March 2014

FitBit says I'm not that Fit?!

You may recall this post from last year, in which I was waxing lyrically about my newfound love for the FitBit pedometer.

Almost a year on, I’ve gotten my hands on a newer version of the same step-counter and thought I’d give it a try. This one’s a bracelet, so unlike having to remember clipping the old version into my bra, I just keep it on at all times (unless I’m in the shower). This thing can even measure your sleep patterns, which I did for a while. Then the thought of having my every waking AND sleeping hour measured and stored away somewhere in the data universe freaked me out too much, so now it comes off when I go to bed. Two people in there are enough!

Now, my work is rather sedentary. Not rather, it is. Plain and simple. My life, on the other hand, tends to be a bit more active. I work out a lot and am generally moving about a fair bit, whether it’s doing the grocery run, pottering around the house or going for a walk along the seafront.

You might recall that I told you that the suggested daily rate of steps is 10,000. You may also recall that that’s not actually that easy to achieve.

With a lot more work and a lot less running (read: none), I was curious to see what my daily total would amount to on average. Unfortunately, I’m having a really rough time making it to 10,000 steps.

That’s got me wondering how realistic a 10,000-step goal actually is. I go to CrossFit on average three times a week. The other days I tend to do yoga or go for long walks. On Mondays after CF, I tag on a trip to the store to do my weekly food shop. I usually end up pottering about the house, cooking meals, tidying, etc. but yes, I also spend a fair amount of time in front of my computer, cause that’s how I pay my bills. Now on that kind of day, despite CrossFit, grocery shopping, etc., I still struggle to reach my daily step-goal, unless our WoD (workout of the day) happened to include, say, 400m repeats. That ain’t right? Or is it? I’m active, I work out, I move, yet I’m still not ‘getting enough exercise’?!

To be honest, all this has me a bit skeptical. Don’t get me wrong. I know how important it is for us to move and exercise, etc. But I would consider myself a pretty active person and I have days where I simply struggle to reach my goal. I have a friend who walks to and from work most days of the week. That’s an hour and a half round trip. Now she manages 10,000+ steps per day. When I go to work, I walk across my upstairs landing. That’s it. And I would bet that most people aren’t willing and/or able to put in an hour and a half commute on foot on a daily basis.

Take the other day, for example. I got up, did my bits around the house and sat down to work. I managed to finish my project early so decided to throw in a 30-minute yoga session, followed by a walk, as it was sunny out. I walked to our local pool (25mins.) to inquire about swimming lessons, walked to the shop to pick up some bits for dinner (15mins.) and from there walked back home (20mins.). I was out walking for a full hour and only managed this:

I then tidied the house, cooked dinner for G, a friend and myself, did more cleaning and finally sat down on the couch for an hour of TV pre-bedtime. My daily total? Only 8,910 steps. I may not have gone to CrossFit or squeezed in a run, but that was a pretty active day, or at least so I thought.

I’ve decided to stop driving myself mad over this. I think I can say with confidence that I’m a pretty active person. So I may not regularly reach my 10,000 steps a day, but then I have days where I manage double that. Or I forget to wear my FitBit, don’t have my every move measured and guess what? The world doesn’t end either.

So as ever, I think it’s important to use these things with a bit of common sense. If you’re overweight and/or extremely sedentary, it’s a great little gadget to start measuring your daily activity levels and provide a little kick up the derrière in terms of motivation and all. If you’re an already active person with a pretty balanced and healthy lifestyle and are curious to see how many steps a day you manage, it’s a fun little gadget to have – but don’t let it rule your life!

If you are curious about your own daily steppage, you can order a FitBit from here (UK only).

What are your thoughts on this? Is this a helpful gadget to have or yet another unnecessary piece of technology to complicate our lives further?

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

A 2014 Project

Ah, hello all! It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

In a nutshell, I haven’t felt that I’ve had very much to say to you all. I’m still not running. And if I’m not running, what could I possibly talk about on a running blog? Well, I guess this hasn’t been a ‘proper’ running blog for over a year now.

That realization hit me the other day while the Brighton half marathon was on. Last year’s Brighton half was my last long race, with the 14-miler the following weekend being my very last long run ever. I don’t think I’ve managed anything more than 3-5 miles since. On a very sunny day, just the other week, I got so excited to get out, I laced up my Brooks and headed out, only to have to stop after about a mile and turn back, hobbling the remaining half mile while cursing under my breath.

Basically, running and I have broken up.

But don’t worry, I’m not just sitting on my couch and binge-eating my way through a Breaking Bad marathon (not most of the days, anyways), I’ve still been doing my CrossFit and some yoga ‘round the house and I’m itching for it to get warmer, drier and less windy (!!!) to get back on my bike and get some mileage in that way.

I like projects. I mean life’s just way more fun when you have a project, a goal to work towards. So I’ve set myself a new one: learn how to swim and learn how to do it properly. After all, before I started running, I called it my nemesis, being unable to jog for more than two minutes at a time. At least I have a pretty decent and speedy breast stroke and even managed to survive a swim relay last summer, so I’m already way ahead in the swimming game than I ever was back then in the running game.

This isn't posed, I promise. I was coming straight out of the water!
So I’ve contacted a swimming coach, I’ve got a good pool just down the road from the house and as I’m not running, I should easily be able to squeeze in two or three swims a week. So watch this space to find out how many gallons of water it is humanly possible to swallow during a sesh and any other adventures I might be getting up to.

Now, where is that swimsuit of mine?

Have you only recently learned how to do a proper front crawl? How did you go about it?

Any tips, suggestions, advice?

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

When trees take on storms, who wins?

What happened to last week? One minute it was there, the next it's February?

First of all, I wanted to thank ALL of you for your fabulous comments on my Blue Monday post. It seems the general advice is to have a lie down or food, both of which I'm totally in favor of, especially no. 2!

For those of you curious to know the outcome of my day, here it is: around midday I received a phone call from the box that one of the ladies had accidentally picked up my coat, thinking it was hers. Unluckily for her she didn't realize it until she got home and had to turn around and drive all the way back to the box, but she did and I went down to pick up my coat, keys and, most importantly, 9bar. Next time I saw her she apologized profusely. I told her that some chocolate would make up for it. She offered fish. I'm still waiting for food! 

As to the bike, thanks to my handy husband and his plethora of toys, ehm, I mean tools, my beloved Pashley was liberated from its imprisonment that very same night, amidst a flurry of sparks and screeching as he set to it with his angle grinder. I can highly recommend the lock, obviously!

In not so happy news, the above-mentioned and highly beloved Pashley is no more.

UK-based readers amongst you may remember hearing/reading about and/or experiencing the storms that hit the coastal regions yet again over the weekend. While I was safely tucked away in the Lake District, visiting G's family and going for my first run of 2014 (gorgeous and, more importantly, pain-free!!!!), a tree in our neighbor's garden decided to take on Mr Storm. And lost. Collateral damage? My bike. 

Maybe the universe was trying to tell me something by attempting to keep my bike locked up at the box? 

And by the way, according to my random number generator, Nicola is the lucky winner of a case of delish coconut-date bars. Hurry and make friends with her now!!! 

* * * 

I also wanted to thank you all for your comments on my cupcake post, which started a really interesting debate. There were some really brilliant remarks, ranging from agreeing with me to saying that I probably should've taken that comment with a pinch of salt (not sugar, then?!). Best of all, the author of the original tweet commented on my post and had this to say: 

Hi Jen,

I saw this post a couple of days ago and I’ve been thinking a lot about you’ve written here.

It’s never nice to be criticised and it made for very difficult reading for me, but I’m hoping we can make this little encounter into something positive.

The overwhelming feedback I receive is that my tweets/programmes/book/etc help people develop/reinforce healthy eating habits and a positive body image - even though you think I got it wrong with that tweet, I hope you realise that’s what I’m generally about.

I suppose I’ll never be able to hit the right note with everyone all the time, but I’m very interested in your point of view and I’d like to hear more of your thoughts on this. As a fitness coach and writer, there will always be more for me to learn and scope for me to “grow”. Perhaps there’s an opportunity here for me to learn from you.

Would you like to meet for coffee sometime? If you’d like a cupcake to go with it, that’ll be on me too. ;-)

Hoping to hear from you soon,


I think the fact that she got in touch to start a conversation is absolutely brilliant and I'll be sure to contact her, if only for my free cupcake.

On that note, I will leave you with a pic of yours truly, wearing what she eats!

Have a fabulous week.

How did your week go? Do you have any disastrously good or bad stories to share? 

Thursday, 23 January 2014

I'm proud to wear my cupcake!

A couple of days ago, on Twitter, someone posted a status that said: 'So next time you're starring [sic] down a cupcake maybe ask yourself if you'll enjoy wearing it later.'

So I unfollowed her.

But I wanted to do the polite thing and tell her that she'd just lost a follower. So I tweeted her to say 'and for that, buh-bye'.

She replied: 'Wow. Was just trying to help people who are trying to cut down on sugar.'

For a moment I felt bad. Was I being harsh? Unreasonable? Hysterical? Then I thought better of it and felt fine with my decision.

I don't use Twitter to be an advocate for anything, it's my utterly unscientific opinions and ramblings you'll find there. And recently I've not even done much engaging with the Twitter community because I got a bit bored with spending all day long on my phone, checking what people I don't actually know have to say.

I do realize, however, that others use Twitter for their business, whether they are PTs or nutritionists or diet gurus and so it becomes their medium to dish out advice and motivation.

Tomorrow I'd like to look a giant chocolate chip peanut butter cookie, cause that's just the mood I'm in right now.

But let's be honest, was that tweet really helpful in cutting out sugar? I don't think so. There's a whole lotta sugar in a healthy fruit smoothie, yet she didn't tell us not to go for that. Hey, don't drink that smoothie unless you want to look like one tomorrow! I'm pretty certain that this was about food and about weight, even if she won't admit to that.

I'm sure we all make comments about food here and there, to remind ourselves or perhaps a close friend or family member that maybe, just maybe we shouldn't go for that fourth helping of chocolate cake and no, it's probably not wise to eat the entire box of Jaffa cakes in one go. I've done that and I'm grateful when G reminds me that five large chocolate chip cookies in one sitting is not an acceptable amount of cookies to eat on my own. Mostly because I'll spoil my appetite for dinner and might even manage to make myself feel sick. Then I'll be hating on chocolate chip cookies for the next year and that's just not fair to the cookies. After all, this was all my own fault!

Using a public platform like Twitter to make these types of comments, in my humble opinion, only encourages an unnatural and unhealthy relationship with food and the way we see ourselves. As a fitness journalist and trainer, with over 17k followers, and using Twitter as a professional platform, shouldn't she have a responsibility to her 'followers' and promote a healthy weight-loss message instead of contributing to, what is probably already for most people, a fraught relationship with food in general and treats in particular?

Maybe I'm overreacting but I'd love to hear your thoughts about all of this.

For now, I'm off my soap box again! And don't forgot, if you'd like to be wearing some coconut & date bars sometime soon, check out my giveaway over here

What are your thoughts? Am I over-reacting or was that just not necessary? 

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Blue Monday and a Giveaway to Make up for It!

You know those mornings when you get up and things just aren't right? You didn't sleep as well as you should have, despite going to bed at just the right time. You wake up feeling disorientated and you know this day might just be a bit off.

So then you get on your bike to go and work out (because exercise solves all, right?!), despite it being cold and frosty outside, because you've decided that short cuts just aren't good enough anymore. So unless it's pissing it down with rain or blowing a hurricane, you will cycle to CrossFit (because driving half a mile to your exercise class is just pathetic). When you get to the box, instead of doing the lazy thing and wheeling your bike indoors, you decide to be a grown-up and lock your bike up outside, like you're meant to. You turn the key in the lock, it closes, and suddenly you're left with half a key in your hand, while the other half is still stuck in the lock.

You sneak in, unbeknownst to everyone, and rush to the bathroom to sort your emotional self out. It's time to WoD. Thank goodness for endorphins. This, and G's bolt-cutter should do the trick. After taking almost four weeks off and having struggled through last week's sessions, today's doesn't seem quite as difficult anymore. It's heavy week and the lift du jour is an overhead squat at 85% of your 1 rep max. That would be roughly 32kg. You manage 32.5kg and although it feels tough, like real tough, you get through it. 

Then comes the WoD. It doesn't look too bad. Five rounds for time, 7 x pull ups (yes, back to the bands because apparently if you don't practice them, you'll loose them!), 7 x burpees and 7 x shoulder-to-overhead presses. This is where the lack of fitness (or the high standards of heavy week?) come to show. Twenty-five kg for the lift it is. At least it's done in under nine minutes. Thank you endorphins. Life's good again. For now.

A quick snap of the crazy-legging-Monday crew and you're off to grab your stuff. One of the coaches offers to look at the lock to see whether the key can be salvaged. But where's your coat? With your keys in it? And your post-workout bar? Turns out, one of the other girls accidentally wore your jacket home. Stranded at the box, sans keys, sans warmth and, most importantly, sans food, the endorphins quickly evaporate into thin air.

You're lucky to have a knight in a shining van come to your rescue. But despite their best attempts, neither the husband nor the coach can manage to bolt-cut their way through the bike lock. That's great, isn't it. What an amazing lock. Except for today.

So now you're back home and your bike's at the box. At least one important lesson has been learnt today: 

 Always, always, always have a backup bar stashed away in your gym bag because you never know who might take off with your coat! 

In order to help you avoid ever encountering an equally annoying conundrum as I have today, together with Cocofina (you might remember them from this post), I'm giving away an entire case of their awesomely scrumptious organic coconut & date snack bars. That's 24 bars. That means you have enough to stash away in your car, your coat, your various bags and even leave some in ultra-secret hiding places around the house for just in case!

While it's my main mission to help cure your hunger with this little giveaway, it's Cocofina's mission to help alleviate hunger of those really in need, some might say that's a much nobler undertaking than mine. Here's what they have to say: 

Cocofina, founded in 2005, is the leading European brand of coconut water and distributed by all of the top health food distributors, sold in 2,500 speciality and premium stores such as Wholefoods, Holland and Barrett, Waitrose, and exported to 18 countries. 
Website: www.cocofina.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cocofina/140783995935811
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CocofinaCoconut

Cocofina will donate 10p for every case of our products sold across the globe to Action Against Hunger, and we have pledged to raise a minimum of £5,000 every year.

Action Against Hunger assists over 7 million people every year, in over 40 countries. ACF was chosen because of its ethical policies, global reach & incredibly low administration costs.

Recognised as a leader in the fight against malnutrition, Action Against Hunger ACF International saves the lives of malnourished children while providing communities with access to safe water and sustainable solutions to hunger.

With 30 years of expertise in emergency situations of conflict, natural disaster, and chronic food insecurity, ACF runs life-saving programs in some 40 countries benefiting seven million people each year. 

Other than producing some very tasty drinks and now bars, I think this sounds like one awesome cause to get involved in and the fact that this charity was chosen because of its low admin costs means it rocks even more. 

So, how can you get your hands on these bars? Tell me your best coping tactics for dealing with a day-gone-wrong. Alternatively, share the best place to stash emergency food for just in case. The best, funniest or randomly chosen post will win a case of Cocofina's snack bars.

Comment below or...

... tweet your response to @jens_itchy_feet

...or post on the Two Itchy Feet FB page.

* Sorry, sorry, sorry, but please note that Cocofina can only deliver to a UK mainland address but don't let that stop you from dishing out some much-needed advice. 


Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Beach Running

Running on the beach. It’s the ultimate runner’s fantasy, isn’t it? A long stretch of white sand that reaches for miles in either direction, not a cloud in the sky and no need for shoes or techy gadgets. You just go, be at one with nature, in the most authentic way possible.



After the first week of our trip and an incredible amount of laziness and food, we decided that, once arrived on the beach, we’d have to do something about our increasing waist-band sizes. For the last two years, G, my mother-in-law, as well as my sister-in-law and her husband, have been going out for a Christmas Day run and we didn’t really want to break with the tradition. To be honest, that alone might not have motivated us enough to get out and run. However, there were a fair few runners out and about on the stretch of beach where we were staying and that did provide enough motivation to head out (well that and the thought of having to get into a bikini).

So after way too much food and wine during our Christmas Eve celebrations, we decided to stay true to our tradition and get out before it got too hot.

The wind that day was blowing a gale, from the left to the right, to be meteorologically specific. So we headed left, to get the hard part out of the way first (into the wind). The beach stretched out for about a mile until it reached a natural cliff-border.

Running on the beach is not like running anywhere else. I'll explain below. On top of that fact, we’d decided to do it ‘properly’ and go out barefoot. After all, you’d walk barefoot on the beach, why not run it?

Basically, you run much slower on sand as, with every step, you sink. You also tend to have a forefoot strike, which is exactly what the so-called experts suggest we all should do. However, if you’re not used to that kind of running you just may end up in a whole lotta pain the next day (or even sooner).

By the time we got back to our bungalow, after running roughly two miles, our calves were screaming and, to our horror, we both discovered what we later identified as blood blisters on our toes as well as plenty of other ‘rubbed-up spots and blisters on our feet.

Golden, tropical sand, it turns out, is actually made up of gazillion fragments of rocks and shells and all kinds of other debris. In case you hadn't noticed. So basically, what we had done was to run on a bunch of sand paper for a good 20 minutes. Geniuses!

By Boxing Day both of our calves had tightened up so much and our feet were so sore that we were doing a rather sexy hobble-walk. Luckily, the manager was a keen yogi and offered to take me, along with three other guests, with her to a 90-minute torture session (cause if that was yoga, then I've been duped for the past few years). The session did, however, help to alleviate some of the calf pain and by the next day I was willing to give beach running another go. This time, in shoes! 

But no matter. We ran on Christmas Day and kept the family tradition going. 

Do you have any type of running tradition?

Monday, 13 January 2014

Happy 2014

Well hello there! And a happy new year to you, even if it’s almost two weeks late.

As per usual disorganized protocol, G and I decided on a last minute schlepp around the world and took off in a bit of a haste halfway through December to escape the miserable weather and holiday stress. We tracked lions in East Africa, frolicked on Zanzibari beaches and couch-surfed our way around the Middle East. Not too shabby for a three-week trip, methinks.

Coming back to reality was, surprisingly, more bearable this year, maybe it’s the house, maybe it’s Brighton, but whatever it is, it hasn’t been as bad as anticipated.

I’m not much one for New Year’s resolutions. I don’t think it does anyone any good to pick just the one day a year to decide to be a better human being, to get fitter, smarter or healthier. If you break down during the first week of January, does that mean you’ll have to wait a whole ‘nother year to try again? I don’t think so. Those kinds of journeys can and should be started any day of the year.

I do, however, like making plans, like ‘In 2014 I’ll do this… achieve that…, travel here…, etc.’ My main goal for 2014 is to get stronger so that maybe, just maybe, I can be back to my old running self by, say 2015?! [gulp], do lots more cycling (and finally get myself some clip-in bindings like a real cyclist) and lots of domestic stuff like sorting out my ridiculous sports-wear box and study. All noble endeavors, don’t you think?

I haven’t signed up for any races in 2014. Not a single one, which is pretty unusual for me. But, looking at my 2013 track record, I just didn’t think it wise to tempt fate. This might mean that I’ll miss out on a good part of the big spring races and even some fall ones, but so be it. There are plenty of smaller races around and if all else fails on the running front, there’s always the Santa Dash 2014.

I’m pretty excited to see how 2014 will turn out. There’s plenty of stuff coming up on Two Itchy Feet that I want to tell you all about and I can’t wait to hear your news as well… Until then, have a great start to the week!

So how has 2014 kicked off for you? Any good resolutions that have already been broken? Any exciting new plans? Tell all.