Crunchy quinoa salad

This one doesn’t look that exciting but the dSteaming vegressing and nuts give it a real flavour kick. First cook some quinoa – a great source of veggie protein, as well as fibre, iron and magnesium. Whilst that’s cooking, lightly steam some veg – I went for broccoli, carrots and snow peas. Don’t overdo them, you still want come crunch. (The rather prettier M&S version of this salad that I got the idea from has the veg chopped up small, but I get too easily distracted and end up over cooking it if I don’t keep the veg quite large!).

When the quinoa and veg are cooked, mix them together. I’ll often make double and have the first helping hot, and then have the rest the next day as a salad. To finish it off as a salad I add some avocado, nuts (I like toasted almonds) and seeds.

Yup, most of my salads haveQuinoa and steamed veg salad seeds in them, they’re a great way to get  your ‘thumbs’ worth of healthy monounsaturated (e.g. pumpkin seeds, as well as avocado) and polyunsaturated (e.g. sunflower seeds) fats. (I use your thumb as a way to measure how much fat to eat in each meal. Ask me for more details of my ‘Seven steps to weight loss success’ if you’re  interested).

I finish it off by mixing some chilli sauce with soy sauce and sesame oil. Or if I’m feeling lazy I have a jar of jerk paste (a Brixton essential!) and I just add a teaspoon to some oil and drizzle over.

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Fight off flu salad

There’s been lots of colds and nasty bugs going round recently so I made a salad packed full of lots of different coloured veg to boost my vitamin intake.

First cut a butternuVitamin packed saladt squash into large cubes and bake in an oven (gas mark 6), along with the squash seeds (scoop out with a spoon, give a quick rinse to get rid the flesh and then spread out on the baking tray, they tend to stick so you might want to put them on some foil or greaseproof paper).

Then mix your choice of salad leaves (I had spinach) with beetroot (either ready cooked from a packet, or roast along with the squash, I’d stay away from the pickled stuff, it will overwhelm the salad) and some carrots for crunch. Peel and cut up an orange or grapefruit and add the bits of the flesh. When the squash is done leave it too cool (I normally don’t have the patience to wait long, and I like warm salads!) then add to the leaves. Sprinkle over the pumpkin seeds (I added some extra pumpkin and sunflower seeds) and add some goats cheese. To give your immune system and extra boost try adding a  large pinch of turmeric and ginger, and mustard seeds if you have them, all packed with anti oxidants, to some olive oil for the dressing.

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Top 10 tips to prepare for a marathon

The marathon season is pretty much upon us, with London, Paris, Brighton and Edinburgh and many more fast approaching, and there are ever more people pounding the streets and treadmills, trying to get in those final miles before the big day.

Runners cross Tower Bridge during the 2008 Flora London Marathon.

But it isn’t just about keeping to the training plan – you don’t want all your work to go to waste because you’ve neglected the other details. Having had this conversation a lot in the last few weeks, I thought I’d share some of my 10 top tips* to make sure you’re race ready here:

* Obviously the main prep for a marathon is your training, if you haven’t got one then it’s probably too late for the spring marathon season! Make sure you keep to it and taper properly before your race rather than being tempted to keep cramming in the miles to make up for lost runs.

1. Practice, practice, practice. Use your long runs to practice for race day – plan now what you’ll wear, what you’ll eat and drink before and during the race (and where you’ll carry it) and start practicing it all now. You don’t want to get to the start line and find your trousers are falling down with the weight of the gels in your pocket (I speak from experience!). And you don’t want to find that nice charity top you’ve been sent to run in really starts chaffing half way in.

What to eat and drink

2. Pre race dinner – have something fairly simple with lots of carbs, pasta is a good one, and (you won’t often hear me say this one) stay away from anything with too much fibre because you want your stomach to be as settled as possible. Don’t be tempted to over-eat though, you don’t want to wake up still feeling stuffed. Make sure you’re well hydrated and get an early night.

3. Race day breakfast again, have something with lots of carbs (around 80% of the calories in the meal) and not too much fibre. Stay away from too much protein and fat as they take longer to digest. Stay away from anything very sweet that will give you a short-term sugar high followed by a sugar low before you start running.

My personal preferred option is muesli (soaked in milk the night before to soften it if I want something easy to swallow and on my stomach, topped up with more milk in the morning). Other traditional options are bagels with peanut butter and/or banana, porridge with milk and fruit, or yogurt and toast with jam. If you know your stomach suffers on a run then liquid carbs (e.g. smoothies) can give you quick-to digest carbs, but have them well in advance so it’s not all sloshing around when you run (see below). You’ll probably have a spot of pre-race nerves so keep it simple. If you don’t normally have pasta for breakfast then today is not the day to try it! (Yup, I’ve done that one as well!) And as with everything, practice different options before your long runs so you know what, and what time, works for you.

4. When to eat – The ideal time for a pre-race meal is about four hours before so there’s time to digest but late enough that this energy won’t be used up by race time. But this is often not practical on race day, and you may be able to get away with 2 hours before. If you’re eating 4 hours before you want about 1000 calories, if you’re going for two hours before the start then aim for 300 to 400 calories (this is very approximate, actual numbers are dependent on your weight and race distance, but I think it’s more important to go with what feels right than forcing down the calories).


Make you’ve got enough gels, and enough pockets!

5. Energy on the run – Your body can only store enough energy (on average) for 90 minutes of exercise, so if you want to avoid ‘bonking’ or ‘hitting the wall’ you’ll probably want to use some gels. These are little sachets of sweet goo (or easily digestible carbohydrates) that you sip straight from the packet. Some of them have caffeine or other wonder products added. Again, try out various options on your longer runs to see what works for you (the directions on the packet will tell you how many you’ll need). On the race day you might want to time them just before the water stations so you can wash them down.

6. Drinking – Make sure you drink enough the day before and on the morning, but don’t overdo it, and sip little and often rather than guzzling. Aim for 500ml of fluid two hours before a run (water, a sports drink or diluted fruit juice) and then just little sips until you start so you don’t need to go to the toilet as soon as you set off (and make sure you leave plenty of time to go before the race, don’t underestimate the big queues!).

On the run just little sips but fairly often (if you’re not carrying water then try to remember when the water stops are) – from a comfort point of view you don’t want to drink more than you need. If it’s hot and you are drinking a lot you might want to add some rehydration tablets to the water (although if you’re using gels, they should do the job for you).

bridge7. Pre race prep – Look at the route in advance so you know how often the water stations are, whether they have toilets etc, and also to get a feel for the course so you know when you’re on the homeward straight. Work out your journey in advance and get there early to you’ve got time for last minute panics, and a warm up and some dynamic stretching. Get your stuff ready the night before, some things not to forget:

  • Race number and race chip (unless you pick these up on arrival, in which case do you need ID?) and safety pins (for race number)
  • Check the weather to make sure you’ll be wearing suitable clothes
  • Gels, water for before (and during if you like to carry your own)
  • Optionals: Sun cream, clothes and shoes to change into after, money, bum bag/arm bag etc to carry gels, phone etc, watch/ HR monitor/ GPS, an old top, or even a bin bag, to wear over your race gear and dump it in a bin at the start

8. Know your pace  – You should know your pace by now from your training runs. Work up from that rather than decide you want to a sub three hour finish and set your pace from that. Ideally you want to stick to your pace for the whole race (or if anything, finish faster than you started), if you go out too fast you’ll really stuggle by the end. If you’re planning to walk-run the race then make sure you’ve praticed this on your training runs. Many have pacers but dont rely on them as they can be hard to find, and remember to check they started at the same time as you, big races can take 30 mins to cross the start line so you dont want to stick with someone, only to find their finish time is based on a different start time.

9. Get the support crew sorted – If you’re lucky enough to have support crew  coming down, make sure you know where they’ll be on the course, tell them your approximate pace so they know when you’ll be coming through, and tell them what you’ll be wearing. That way hopefully they can spot you and you’ll spot them. If you haven’t got anyone you know watching, try writing your name on your front, you’ll be amazed how much support you get from the crowd, and what a boost it will give you.

10. Relax and enjoy it! – You’ve worked really hard to get this far, now just relax, and soak it all in.

Post race, make sure you get some carbs and protein (up to 20 grams) 20 mins – 1 hour after the end of the race (a recovery drinks or bar is often easiest). And enough water – at least around 500ml in the first 30 minutes after the run and then keep sipping little and often. Try and do a gentle recovery run, or failing that, at least some stretching and foam rolling. And then sit back, feel very proud of yourself and start planning the next one! 

What do you think? Have I missed off any big ones? Share your top tips, or things you wish you’d thought of, below.

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#ThisGirlCan workout / lactate threshold workout

Last Sunday was International Women’s Day and there were lots of events to celebrate women’s sporting achievements and to encourage more women into fitness at the grass-roots, including those organised as part of Sport England’i know i'm slow -potraits inspiring #ThisGirlCan campaign, which is aiming to get more every day women into fitness and inspire women to “wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgement is a barrier that can be overcome”.

I’m passionate about helping break down the barriers that stop so many women from getting into sports and fitness, and hope this workout, full of songs by women and about the power of women, will help inspire a few more women to take on their own challenges and show the world #ThisGirlCan. (I’m making no claims about the feminist credentials of all the songs, but there’s certainly some good ones in here which you should enjoy, whether you’re a man or a woman).

How to use the workout
This work out is for use on a gym bike or turbo trainer. You’ll need your phone to download/ stream the playlist below but you might find it easier to print out the instructions to avoid risking dropping your phone if you’re trying to read off the screen.

You can use the work out in 2 ways. Either as a fun 60 minute general fitness work out or as part of a build phase in a training programme, once you’ve already got a solid base of endurance training over the winter.

Cadence: Either way you should follow the cadence (speed, or rpm) given in the instructions, so where it says @67 this means keep to a rpm of 67 (look for the rpm field on the bike screen, or just follow the beat of the music).

Resistance (or effort level) You’ll need to change the resistance (or effort level) so that you can get the right cadence. The hills are shown with an H, you’ll need to increase the resistance for these ones. The flats are shown with an F, you’ll need enough resistance that you’re not wobbling all over the place, but keep it fairly low, the main challenge on these one is to keep the speed up.

If you are doing it as a general fitness work out then you should choose an easy enough gear for each track so that you can feel you are working but not pushing too hard as it’s a hard set with around 10-11 minutes work each time before you get a rest.

If you are doing it as build phase training then you want to be working at just below your lactate threshold. Forcing your body to deal with a lot of lactate (which leaves you with that heavy feeling in your legs) for relatively prolonged period of time will make your body more efficient at dealing with lactate, meaning after sustained training, you’ll be able to go faster for longer before the lactate build up forces you to slow down. This is a hard work out and should only be done at this intensity if you already have a strong base to build on. If you’ve done a test with me then this means you want to be in Zone 4 (Subthreshold) for the flats, and Zone 5 a (Suprathreshold) for the hills, if you’re using %MHR then it’s around 85% MHR, or to keep it simple, around 8/10 on your own effort scale (down to 4-5/10 for the recoveries).

Get the music – Spotify playlist for IWD
(I’m working on getting the sexy plugin, in the mean time you’ll need to click on the link to access the music on Spotify. You can download it if you have an account with that option or just play it online).

** Warm up**

Can’t hold us down, Christina Aguilera (4.15)

  • Don’t worry about the beat for the warm up, instead:
  • First 2 minutes: Start at 80 rpm, with a fairly easy resistance
  • Until the end – take it up to 90 rpm

 Cannon ball, The Breeders (3.34)@ 90  

  • First 90 seconds: Take it up to 95 rpm, with 15 secs max effort at the end
  • Until the end: Take it up to 100 rpm with 15 secs max effort at 3 mins=

Run the World (Girls), Beyonce (3.56) @67
Find the right resistance that means you’re comfortably pedalling at 67 rpm. Even if you’re doing a hard training workout, we’re still warm up.

In the choruses (1.37 – 2.01, 2.59 – 3.22) stand in the pedals for 2 pedal strokes on the ‘Girls’ and then down for 2 beats, up again on the ‘Girls’, and down again (when I taught this in a class I had the women going up on the ‘girls’, and then down for 2 whilst the men went up. It wasn’t entirely coordinated, but fun way to start and wakes the brain up!)

** Main set **

H: Get your freak on, Missy Elliot (3.31) @67
This track is the theme tune to the Sport England’s brilliant #ThisGirlCan campaign, if you haven’t already, check out the videos  at

Whilst doing this workout why not make your own promise to yourself to take on a fitness challenge, however small, that you’ll work up to this year and show the world #ThisGirlCan. If you’re feeling brave, post it on my blog here. If you’re a man then think what you can do to support the women around you show the world they can!

F: Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Zero (4.26) @100+
You can take an optional quick breather for the first 30 seconds until the beat kicks in)

H: I am woman, Helen Reddy (3.24)@ 65
I can’t get enough of this track, it’s so powerful. If you’re ever feeling in doubt about what you can achieve, put a blast of this (whether you’re man or woman!), sing alone and refuse to be held back  “I can do anything, I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman”.

[RECOVERY]: Fighter, Christina Aguilera (4.06)] – don’t worry about the cadence here, take your effort levels down to 4/10 and have a breather.

Use the recovery to think about your pedal technique. You want to make sure that you use the up stroke as much as the down (If you are using toe straps or cleats) so that you get a full 360 degrees of power on each pedal revolution and a smooth continuous pedalling action rather than having ‘dead spots’ at the top and bottom of the stroke.

  • Imagine you’ve got some mud on the bottom of your shoes and you’re trying to scrape it off along the bottom of each stroke.
  • (if you have toe straps or cleats) On the chorus unclip one foot and just use the other foot for the whole revolution, focussing on the up as much as the down.
  • Left foot : 1.00-1.20, Right foot: 2.11- 2.30

H: In for the Kill, La Roux (4.08) @ 75
Keep going through the break at 3.30

F: Changing, Sigma, Paloma Faith (3.11) @ 100+
Grab a quick recovery for first 30 secs, until the beat kicks in.

H: Running Behind, HOLYCHILD (3.00) @ 75

[RECOVERY]: Independent Woman, Destiny’s Child (3.41)
Don’t worry about the cadence, and take your effort levels down to 4/10. Use the recovery to think about your position on the bike:

  • Elbows slightly bent, don’t lock them, they need to stay loose so that out on the road they act as your shock absorbers
  • Keep your spine neutral, don’t arch at the top or stick your bum out
  • Shoulders should be relaxed, not hunched up to your ears. Stretch your neck
  • Keep your chest up and open and your chin down so there’s as straight a line as possible through your spine. Keep your chest open so you can breathe.
  • Keep your hand grip loose and move them around to reduce muscle fatigue.
  • You want a solid core to eliminate unnecessary upper-body movement so that all your energy goes directly into a smooth pedal stroke, and most importantly eliminate lower back pain
  • Core drill: You should be able to use your core to balance with your hands just above the handlebars. On the chorus try lifting both hands up, or if your core isn’t strong enough, try balancing with just your finger tips on the bars (and get to work on you core when you get off the bike!)
  • 59 – get ready, 1.02 – hands up (just for a few seconds)when she says ‘throw your hands up at me’
  • 07 – get ready, 2.11 -2.28 – hands up
  • 04 – get ready….

H: Born this way, Lady Gaga (4.20) @67

F: U-Huh, Tkay Maldza (3.27) @ 95+

H:  All Night, Parov Stella (2.46) @67

** Cool down **

Man, I Feel like a woman, Shania Twain (3.53) @ 65

  • Drop the intensity a bit, we’re getting to the end now
  • Stand on chorus (c. 30 secs each – increase resistance slightly if you need to for standing): 0.54-1.26, 1.56-2.27. Sit out the last chorus as your heart beat starts coming back down to normal.

Roar, Katy Perry (3.44)
Take the resistance right down, and let the cadence drop.

A good cool down is important, not just to get your heart rate back down to normal and stop blood pooling in your legs (leaving you feeling dizzy when  you get off) but also to help your body flush out metabolic waste products from your muscles.

Just because I’m a Woman, Dolly Parton (3.04)
Continue cooling down, and then end with some stretching of the main muscles you’ve been working.

Hope you enjoyed it! Do let me know in the comments below.

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I can do anything, I am strong, I am invincible #ThisGirlCan

Last Sunday was International Women’s Day, and I was really excited to see how many sporting organisations and companies were promoting the day and promoting women’s involvement in sport – from celebrating Olympic achievements down to encouraging everyday women to get more active.

I’ve wriuwomens_daynews_feedtten before about the challenges that professional sportswomen face through a self-reinforcing cycle where lack of media coverage means sponsors aren’t interested, meaning there’s little money to support athletes so there’s a limited pool of good athletes, meaning the media doesn’t want to cover it….and so on…

The cycle flows into the grass-roots through a lack of female role models and funding for women’s sports. On top of this, women and girls are put off sport and fitness by a multitude of cultural factors. The top one in my experience is they feel self-conscious about being seen exercising, or even saying ‘I’m going to exercise’. I’ve lost count of the number of clients and friends who say they’d like to do more sports or go to the gym but they feel too self-conscious and worry that people will laugh at them because they ‘can’t do the exercise’s or look ‘too fat to be in a gym/ wearing sports clothes’. On top of this, even these day, women still generally spend more time on child care and housework so have less time, are under social pressure to look ‘femine’ (translating into must look great in lycra but not sweaty, muscly, competitive etc) and tend to be more worried about going out to run alone because of fears over personal safety. I’m not saying any of this is unique to women, or affects all women, but it’s certainly a big issue, and contributes to the depressing state of affairs where British women are now the most obese in Europe.

Worryingly this pressure is just as acute, or more so, for young girls – just over one in ten girls at age 14 currently meet the official guidelines for physical activity, half the number of boys at the same age – meaning we have a whole generation of girls growing up without all the benefits that exercise can bring, from health and fitness, through to team building and leadership.

The good news is that things seem to be i know i'm slowchanging, there’s more recognition of the need for equality at the top-level. There’s still a long way to go but there’s some symbolically important advances – the Boat Race this year will include a women’s race, last year’s Tour de France included a gesture towards a women’s race. And Sport England’s inspiring new #ThisGirlCan campaign has been getting great coverage, including local #ThisGirlCan events being organised across the country for International Women’s Day. If you haven’t already seen the videos at take a look now and share them.

I am passionate about breaking down the fears and barriers for women in sport and fitness, whether that’s around going for a run in the park, the dreaded shopping trip to buy gym clothes, daring to break free from the cardio machines and go into the weights area, or deciding to go for it in a male dominated sport (despite relative equality in my sport – triathlon – where at the men and women race the same courses and distances and receive the same prize money on the top-level professional circuit, women’s participation throughout is only 26%).

freak on

So if you’re a woman with fears or doubts around sport and fitness, make a promise to yourself today to take on a fitness challenge, however small, that you’ll work up to this year and show the world #ThisGirlCan. Please do post your challenges below. If you’re a man, think about how you can support the women in your life to take on their own challenges.

As a special International Women’s Day present, I’ve put together a 60 minute bike workout full of inspirational songs by and about women. If you’re feeling in any doubt about your #ThisGirlCan challenge put on a blast of ‘I am Woman’ from the workout and sing along ‘I can do anything, I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman’. 

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For the love of Park Run

As anyone who knows me knows, I’ve already got a mild Park Run obsession. Last month I broke outside my normal routine of my local Park Run to go to a few other local runs, as well a volunteering at others, and it increased my love even more. So I thought I’d spread the love here –

Firstly, what is Park Run? For those who I haven’t already bored with the details, Park Run is a series of free 5k timed runs that take place in parks across the UK (in fact, now globally) at 9am every Saturday morning.


Crossing the start line at the Brockwell Park Run

How to take part
 – All you have to do to take part is register on their website, print off your own personalised barcode from the link you’ll get and (remember to!) take it along with you to hand in at the end of your run. Simples!

Why it’s so great – where to start!

There’s a great community feel – any new runners get a big welcome clap each week and there’s often social events around the runs. I volunteered at a few Park Runs last month and it really brought it home to me the impact that the event has on all those who take part.

It’s for runners (and aspiring runners) of all levels – there’s people sprinting round to try and finish first alongside people doing their first timed run event who walk-run round with a massive smile on their face when they realise they’ve completed it.

It’s great for tracking your progress, the distance is the same (although each Park Run can have quiet a different feel and terrain), whether your focus is setting a new PB (personal best) or just being reassured that you are making progress, it’s always exciting when the emaill comes through with your results and how it compares to previous weeks.

It’s great training – many more advanced runners think ‘if its less than 10k it’s not worth it’ but being able to push yourself for 5k at a higher speed than you would normally run can be great training (for both the body and mind) and see you make some real improvements in your run speed.

Equality! Park Run use age graded scores so you can compare your personal performance with others of a different age or gender. Age graded scores are based on the world record time for your sex and age, meaning in the Park Run results we all start off equal.

– There’s a Junior Park run – which is really growing and encouraging kids up and down the country to get out running.

It’s free and it gets you out of bed on a Saturday morning – I know that I often end up putting off a run session, especially when the weather is less than appealing, but knowing I need to be there on time makes sure I get out and run. You can always combine it with a longer run there and back or after if you want to do your long run that day.q

Lining up for results on a frosty morning – there were record breaking turn outs at the Park Runs near me in January and February, despite the freezing cold weather.

Get involved! Find your nearest London Park Run here.

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Still going strong 3 weeks in – Hannah’s 100 Day Challenge

Hannah’s 100 Day Challenge – 3 weeks in

It’s been 3 weeks since Hannah began her 100 day challenge to run 5k and lose 1 1/2 stone so I thought it was a good time to catch up with her and see how she was finding it. In our first session I assessed her run fitness and technique, suggesting ways to adapt her style so that she is less likely to get injured and to help her run more powerfully.

I then sent her a personal weekly run programme to build up her running up to 5k over the next 100 days, an interval training programme that she does without me in the gym on the cross trainer or bike (to both burn the calories and build her cardio fitness to help with the running) and a simple stretching and strength and conditioning programme to strengthen key muscles and reduce her risk of injury from the running.

Me: So you’re 3 weeks into the programme, how are you getting on?


Hannah out on frosty long weekend run

Hannah: It was great to get the run programme and things to work on by myself between sessions. I found the first session in the programme hard but it made me push myself and having the structure has meant that I’m exercising for longer than I normally would, which feels really great. I felt really energised from all the exercise in the first week and my skin was looking so much better as well!

Annoyingly I got ill in the second week and couldn’t do my second long run, and that week was a real struggle. But by the end of the week I was really raring to get back to it. The long runs feel so good – I won’t lie, I feel crap at the time, but then I spend the rest of the day feeling really smug and pleased with myself.

And I’m pleasantly surprised by how I’m actually enjoying the intervals programme. It really makes me work harder, it’s not easy but it’s good to see what I can do when I push myself.

Me: You’ve tried getting to 5k before, what’s changed?

Hannah: I’m feeling much more motivated, I’m actually doing it and not fighting myself. Before I’d make excuses to myself and tell myself if I gave up I could just start again. Normally after three weeks the novelty had worn off whereas this time I’m really looking forwards to carrying on.

Me: And what’s made that difference?


Keep those feet going all the way to 5K Hannah!

Hannah: I think I’m more determined, this time I don’t want to start again. That’s why I decided to work with you and agreed to the challenge.

Working with you keeps it interesting, our sessions together are fun and I’m learning lots of different exercises and how to do them, which I then build into what I do during in the week by myself so I’m more able to keep myself fit as well.

It’s really different working with a trainer, having someone explain what’s right for me and how each part is helping me. Before I was doing stuff, but it was muddled with no real focus or impact. I’d try a few different things and then get bored. Now I have a plan and it’s already getting me results which definitely keeps me motivated!

And knowing that someone else has invested their time in me – as well as the commitment I made through deciding to work with a personal  trainer – means I’m more likely to do the work outs.

Me: So on a scale of 1-10 how confident are you that you’ll complete the challenge (to run 5k and lose 1 1/1/2 stone?)

Hannah: It’s still 10 out of 10, no doubt about it!

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