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The Shock Appointment

“If you do these things now, you can make a real difference to your health for the rest of your life”.

It’s 2017 and I’m sitting in my doctor’s office after undergoing a battery of Well Woman health checks. It was just my regular annual check and I expected to breeze through. I was 55 now though and I guess you’ve got to expect things to change one day…

“You have osteopenia,” said the doc.

He took my silence as a cue to continue. “It means that your bone density is below normal but not low enough to be classed as osteoporosis. The good news is that it can be reversed.”

I had one question: “How?”

He reached into his desk and handed me a small box. “Firstly, take these calcium and vitamin D supplements and then…”

He tore off a sheet of paper and wrote ‘The Plan’…

… and then:

– Get enough calcium – eat cheese, yogurt, milk, sardines

– Eat lots and lots of fruit and vegetables

– Lift a few light weights

– Stay slim

He looked up. “Do you like to hike? Or jog?”

He grinned, leaned over his desk and handed me the paper, “All set? Go!”

And I’ve been going ever since.

Quick and Quiet! Quick and Quiet! How’s Your Running Cadence?

I’m s-l-o-w-l-y training to be 10K ready by the end of October when I’ll be running a few races with one of my daughters. Every single time I’ve trained to run with her before I’ve overdone it and ended up with a gruesome virus and chest infection. Once you hit 50, it’s so easy to overtrain. But I know if I bother to take notice, the signs of overdoing it will be there way before I succumb. So now I peer into the mirror each morning whilst pressing a finger on the pulse point of my wrist – how tired do I look? Is my heart rate raised?

So far, so good. Instead of running an easy session followed by a tougher one and then starting over, I’ve added an extra easy session in; easy, easy, hard, easy, easy, hard.

And yesterday I tried something new. I checked my cadence. This is the number of steps you take per minute and if you get it right it’s one way of avoiding injury; running with a quicker cadence reduces the impact of each foot strike and therefore the load on the joints is less. Increasing cadence can also make us into faster runners but, right now, that’s not my goal.

The number 180 is hailed as the magic number so I thought I’d shoot for that. I’m sure it’s not as simple as this and the ideal cadence must differ between individuals but no harm in me giving it a go. I was intrigued to see how it would feel.

180 steps per minute.

I read a few articles online warning me that if I’d never paid attention to it before then my cadence was likely to be too low and it would take time to push it up to that lauded 180.

I downloaded a metronome app (stroke of pure genius) – the idea being that I could set it to pulse at 180 beats per minute and try to match my foot strikes with it. The metronome emitted a loud ‘tock, tock, tock’ which was fine with me but did alarm the farmers and grape pickers as I trundled past.

At first, the increased foot movement felt a bit frantic and the ‘tick tocking’ and my steps were all out of sync but it honestly didn’t take long before my feet were in time with the app. A matter of minutes.

And, you know? Keeping up with the metronome wasn’t that hard. I definitely had to concentrate so I didn’t deviate from the rhythm but it was strangely satisfying running along to the beat and a little bit meditative. I ran for 30 minutes at an easy pace.

The cadence of 180 was definitely quicker than I’d normally run but I’m wondering if I found it relatively easy to step it up as I’d maybe already increased my cadence without realising. Last year, Julian Goater, the British long distance runner and author of ‘The Art of Running Faster’ had paid a visit to my running club and taken us out for a coaching session.

‘Quick and quiet!’ he’d urged. ‘Quick and quiet!’

He coached us to take lots of small steps (quick) and to take care to run lightly on our feet instead of pounding (quiet). I’d remembered that ever since and have tried to stick to it.

So, what next? Well, I’m going to take the metronome with me on my next few runs and see how it feels over the longer term. I’m also not quite sure how I’ll find trying to run faster and maintaining the same 180 cadence. But for starters, running at a higher cadence definitely feels as though I’m pounding less on my joints and that’s got to be a good thing.

Five Things Friday: What Caught My Eye This Week

This book:

I’ve been eating a lot more plant-based meals recently and these two chaps from BOSH! first caught my eye with their food videos on Facebook. I had to have the book. I’m just starting to work through the recipes and so far they’re fab. I loved their Rogan Bosh! Curry and their Pesto Lasagne. Next up-Gooey Peanut Butter Jelly Brownies!

Buy it on Amazon here 🙂

 

These trainer tags:

I wore these on my last run and made a point of glancing down regularly to peek at these tags. I couldn’t see the wording of course but I already knew full well what it said and just the sight of them flashing in the sunshine was a real motivation boost. I knew they’d have a positive effect on me: I just adore quotes!

Buy them on Etsy here 🙂

 

This post: How it Feels to be 50 in 2018

Midlife Chic blogger Nikki Garnett has written a comprehensive post here covering many things that touch or affect us as we enter our 50s. “We need to show people that midlife is something to aspire to.”

Read the post here

 

This post: Deena Kastor: Letting Her Mind Run

Although this post has a running focus I particularly love it for Deena’s advice scattered through the article which we can apply to our whole life.

How about these?..

“How can I twist and manipulate my mind to get the best out of myself?”

“You can have a good cry, you can say, ‘This sucks,’ but how can you grow from it or make sure you can be stronger or wiser next time around? How will you climb out and build a better day tomorrow?”

“When I made taking care of myself and cultivating a positive mindset my priorities, I found that I could get a lot more out of myself.”

“Quality is the backbone of everything I’m doing—I’m putting in quality runs, I’m spending quality time with friends and family, I’m only taking on quality projects and things that feel enriching, I’m eating quality food and getting quality sleep.”

As the post says (quote): Deena wants other women to know that they too can crack open their physical and mental potential by choosing their perspective. And that running (especially when it’s hard) can be a powerful vehicle for realizing a life-changing mental shift.

You just have to let your mind run.

Read the post here

 

This post: The Declutter Your Space Challenge

It’s time to clear some space to breathe.

Spotting this post gave me the push I needed to do some long overdue deep decluttering in my home. Although I didn’t commit to the challenge fully (from the four steps below I did numbers 2 and 4 and that worked for me!)

  1. Commit to the challenge (#declutteredspace on Twitter), or wherever you’d like to publicly commit).
  2. Pick a space each week (your bedroom closet, the kitchen counter), and focus on clearing it out.
  3. Report to your peeps every Monday on how it went.
  4. Enjoy the hell out of your newly decluttered space. Breathe. Smile. Love.

I found the post to be spot on; I did feel lighter and less stressed as the declutter progressed, I did focus on reading the small numberof books I’d decided to hang on to after taking the rest to the charity shop and I did experience little rushes of joy…

And now I know where everything is.

Read the post here

Vroom Vroom Veggie Burst with Black Beans and Almonds

As a runner, I constantly struggle to stay adequately hydrated, especially in the hot, humid Mediterranean climate. My doc explained that our total body water content declines as we age and urged me to up my fluid intake. And menopause just makes it worse; crazy hot flushes are another hydration stripper!

After experiencing another crushing headache after a particularly busy day last week I’d had enough. You see, I don’t always notice my thirst building (I know – odd!) and often forget to drink enough water (is there no hope for me?! ) so I’ve decided to try and up my hydration levels in other ways. One of my goals for this summer is to pack as much fruit and veg (especially veg, as I prefer them) into my day as possible. We often focus on the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables but it’s easy to overlook the fact that we can also boost our water intake from the foods we eat. There’s also that added nutritional bonus I mentioned – that these foods are also rich in antioxidants, vitamins, electrolytes, and fibre that are great for our health.

Top of my must-eat list are watermelons, which are 92 per cent water and just everywhere here in Cyprus in July – being sold from the back of trucks at the side of the road.

It’s pretty easy to gauge which are the super watery fruits and veg – celery, cucumber, courgette (zucchini) etc but here’s a list of the hydration stars:

Over 90% WaterOver 70% Water
Watermelon

Apples
Cantaloupe
Apricots
GrapefruitBanana
StrawberriesBlueberries
BroccoliCherries
CabbageCranberries
CauliflowerGrapes
CeleryOranges
Iceberg lettucePeaches
Sweet peppersPears
RadishesPineapples
SpinachPlums
Courgettes (zucchini)Raspberries
TomatoesCarrots
Green peas
White potatoes

Who knew that vegetables were so water-rich over fruits?! I always imagined fruit to have the higher water content.

I’ll often start my day by adding berries to my breakfast porridge and include a salad at lunch time (I have a few of my faves to share with you in a future post).

Today, I have this dish to share with you which is just brimming with so much goodness; broccoli, cauliflower, courgettes, peas, carrots, green beans, onion, sweet potato, tomatoes, spinach, coriander and black-eyed beans.

Vroom Vroom Veggie Burst with Black Beans and Almonds

Serves 4

I’ve indicated the rough quantities I used but honestly, add whatever you fancy and substitute veggies you’re not keen on. I didn’t use garlic either as I’m not super fond of the after taste but I think most people would want to add a couple of crushed cloves.

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 2 courgettes (zucchini) sliced
  • Handful cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 250g broccoli florets
  • 250g cauliflower florets
  • Large handful green beans
  • 100 g frozen peas
  • 1½ – 2 teaspoons of: cumin, coriander and turmeric
  • Sprinkling chilli flakes (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 400 g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 400g tinned black eye beans, rinsed and drained
  • 8 tbsp almond milk
  • 8 tablespoons koko dairy-free yoghurt
  • Handful slivered  almonds
  • Handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped
  • Handful spinach leaves
  • Water or vegetable stock
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the onion. Cook to soften slightly then stir in the spices, ginger and chilli flakes. Gently cook for a minute then tip in all the veg plus the tin of tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Add enough water or vegetable stock to just cover. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for around 20 minutes until all the vegetables are cooked. Add the beans and chopped coriander and heat through.

(Sometimes the cauliflower can take a bit longer and if you have time you could pre-cook it for 5-10 minutes before adding it to the pan. I don’t as I’m quite happy with it a little bit crunchy).

Mix together the almond milk, yoghurt and almonds and stir into the veggie mix.

Serve with couscous, quinoa, brown rice – whatever you fancy! As with most of these types of dishes – even better the next day 🙂

Probably The Best Anti Wrinkle Cream I’ve Ever Tried

A combination of age, hot climate and lots of running and I’d inevitably noticed my skin was losing its lustre and…eek… getting a bit leathery if I’m honest. I’ve tried both expensive and budget creams over the years and they’ve all pretty much done the job. Nothing show stopping – just an ‘okay’ result.  Then, for a several months every time I scrolled through Amazon I’d see this super affordable (under £15) product getting rave reviews so eventually I caved and bought some.

It. Is. The. Best.

I now know why it has over 2000 4.5 star reviews on Amazon.

Viola Anti Wrinkle Face Cream*

My default setting is not to believe extravagant claims for face creams. I take little notice of the ‘wonder’ ingredients and know for sure that no cream is going to truly eliminate my lines, wrinkles, dark circles and the rest. But if you’re interested, here are the main ingredients:

– Matrixyl 3000

– Hyaluronic Acid

– Argureline

– Vitamin C

– Jojoba Oil

– Green Tea Extract

and the full list…

All I care about is how my skin feels after using a product – immediately and for several hours afterwards. My main goal is hydration.

This is a lovely, lightweight cream and a little goes a long way. It smells slightly medicinal (a bit like tea tree oil but I’m happy with that as I connect that scent with the beauty salon…). It’s not oily and absorbs quickly and is non greasy.

My ‘crying out for moisture’ skin always looks instantly moisturised whenever I apply it and feels really soft and dewy for hours. I got really interested in this cream when I’d been using it for around 4 weeks and was heading out one day – I was driving and happened to touch my face. It felt different; wonderfully smooth and much less dry than it used to. Then when I got to the mall I could really see how much better my skin was looking. Yes, I was that person peering into store mirrors! The only thing that I’d changed in my routine was the addition of this cream so – although I can’t be totally sure I’m right – I put it down to that.

Any downside?

Well it would be great if it contained sunscreen too but it’s no bother really to apply that as well. I also wish it came in a huge tub so I could slosh it all over me.

The very good news is that the company also produce an anti ageing vitamin c serum and an anti ageing eye serum. I’m trying them out now and will share my thoughts in a few weeks. If you do decide to try (or have already tried) the cream in this blogpost please do let me know what you think! Here’s the link: Viola Anti Wrinkle Face Cream

this is an affiliate link. At no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. However, I only ever give a completely honest review of products that I have tried.

A Runner’s Sunscreen Routine

Recently an article in the Daily Mail about our sunscreen habits caught my eye. The guidelines used coins to illustrate the sizes of the blobs we ought to be applying on different areas of our body and the implication was that many of us are just not using enough. The recommendation was certainly more than I’d been applying. It got me thinking that although I live in a hot, sunny climate and I’m vigilant about slapping sunscreen on every day, I didn’t know a great deal about it aside from always choosing a high SPF factor.

I wanted to know more.

UVA and UVB rays

UVA rays are associated with skin ageing leading to wrinkles, leathery skin and those ugly brown sun spots I’d noticed appearing on my legs.

UVB rays = sunburn. The sun protection factor (SPF) on a bottle of sunscreen measures the amount of protection we’ll receive from the sun’s UVB rays.

The SPF number correlates to how long you can stay in the sun without burning. So in theory, when wearing an SPF 30, you can stay outside for 30 times longer than if you were unprotected.

Both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer.

One thing I hadn’t realised was the importance of checking a product for its level of UVA protection too. I use Nivea sun products and on the back of the bottle there’s a UVA star rating.

Four or five stars will give good protection from UVA rays. The little open lid container next to the UVA stars tells me I can use my sunscreen for 12 months from the date of opening.

It’s important to choose a high SPF as well as a high UVA protection with most experts suggesting that a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 and a UVA rating of 4 or 5 stars offers a good standard of sun protection.

As already mentioned, Nivea is my sunscreen of choice as I have never suffered sunburn whilst using it and nether did any of my children when they were growing up (and my son had fair skin and white blonde hair). Also, I find it doesn’t cause intense stinging if it drips into my eyes (which it definitely can do when I’m out on a run).

Here’s my sunscreen routine:

Pre-running, I apply sunscreen the same way each time. I tie my hair off my face and neck and then first I apply the product all over my face (not forgetting my ears), continuing over my entire neck and right down over my chest area. I use a high factor sunstick to cover my lips.

I then squeeze some cream on my right hand and apply it to my left shoulder, reaching as far across the area at the back of my neck and upper back as I can. I repeat on the other side, making sure I meet in the middle. I apply the cream to my arms, making sure I cover the backs of my hands (a friend urged me to do this a few years ago – our hands are one of the first areas to show those tell tale signs of ageing!)

Then it’s on to the legs. I then pull on my running gear and head back to my mirror. As my skin is now gleaming with cream, it’s quite obvious if there are any exposed areas that I’ve missed.

I live in a very sunny Mediterranean climate, so quite soon after I set off running I’m sweating buckets and I know that this will reduce the protective factor of my sunscreen so I’ll need to reapply. I used to squeeze a little sunscreen into a tiny plastic container and take it with me so I was thrilled to find that Nivea was now making its own mini versions.

It slots perfectly into my Flipbelt with my keys, money and phone.

Happy Days!

Daily Mail: How much sun cream do you REALLY need? It’s almost certainly more than you thought…as this clever ‘coin formula’ reveals.

Sunshine Struggles

I didn’t run as many times as I’d hoped on my recent trip to the US. Mainly down to my poor organisation but there was a wonderful reason not to run – spending every precious minute with my toddler grandson Harrison and his new baby brother Alfie who was born while I was there.

Descending the aeroplane steps back in Cyprus I was met with a wall of heat so I suspected that I might struggle on my first run…and I did.

All morning a thunderstorm had been crashing around the island so I laid out my running gear on the bed (ever hopeful) and when the blue skies began to peek through again I got changed and set off down to the coast. You’d think the cliffside paths would be slippery and muddy but here in Cyprus everything dries up incredibly quickly. By the time I emerged from my car only 10 minutes later the sun was already beating down. I ran at just above walking speed, my pace in double figures. Ten minutes in and my bra was digging in everywhere, my top was stuck to my back and, being out of the habit of hot weather running, I’d smeared sunscreen over my forehead that morning. (Normally I rely on my the peak of my cap to shade my forehead). The cream was now racing down to attack my eyes. My chest was heaving; I just couldn’t seem to get enough air in.

BUT.

Every cloud has a silver lining they say and as I gave up and sought shade under a lemon tree I spied a perfect, ripe peach on a nearby tree. Is there anything nicer than a sun-warmed peach?

I guzzled half on the spot and saved the rest to make this salad.

It’s packed with any fruit I could find in the fridge-strawberries, cherries, oranges, kiwi all mixed up with rocket and coriander and dressed in fresh lemon juice and olive oil. Topped with mixed nuts and my fave squeaky Cypriot Halloumi cheese.  And taking pride of place on the top=juicy slices of that fresh peach. Sigh.

Packing Cube Convert

Towards the end of April I set off for a 6 week trip to the US. I knew I was going to be in and out of hotels almost daily for the first 2 weeks so I decided to try packing cubes. To be honest, I’d never even heard of them before they popped up on Amazon when I was searching through travel items. They were billed as ‘the ultimate suitcase organiser’. Suddenly, I needed them.

As I was to be travelling through several states, the weather would be really varied too so I had quite a bit to pack. My running stuff was going with me too, not least because when I reached Utah I was determined to emulate Forrest Gump’s epic run! (Photo at bottom of this post :-))

I bought these PRO Packing Cubes:*

First impressions were that they were super lightweight, seemed durable and the zips glided easily (pet peeve is sticky zips!) There is a mesh panel which I initially thought would be useful for checking contents but you can’t really tell what’s in there by peering through that.

I followed advice from several Amazon reviewers who suggested using the different colours of the cubes to identify contents; so, jumpers in the red cube, underwear in the yellow cube and so on. This turned out to be a great idea as after a couple of nightstops, I soon remembered what items were in which colour cube and could put my hands on what I needed super quickly.

I used one cube to pack all my chargers and leads and another for toiletries.

Here’s my case just before I zipped it up to head off to Heathrow:

I thought the cubes were brilliant. I’d check into a hotel, flip open my case and just grab the handles and lift them out.

And more importantly, I could get hold of my entire running kit in seconds, before my ‘maybe I’ll give the run a miss tonight’ mindset had a chance to kick in. Pre-cube days, I’d be travel weary and rifling through my case making a huge mess trying to find my shorts, my socks, my Garmin and everything else. It’s easy (for me, anyway) to be tempted to give in when I’m tired, thirsty and faced with a run in a unknown place.

I ended up giving over 2 entire cubes for my kit but it was definitely worth it for motivational reasons.

I used one cube in my carry on baggage for glasses, kindle, medication and all those things I’d need on the flight. The manufacturer suggests using a packed cube as a pillow on an overnight flight … maybe next time!

And finally … couldn’t resist a bit of Forrest Gumping! Pulled my running gear out of the car, wriggled into it and just set off like a looney. Felt a total muppet but passing cars seem to be used to it 

* this is an affiliate link. At no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

How Dumb Can You Get?

I did a really dumb thing the other day.

I went running in a dust storm. You won’t believe me but I honestly didn’t think it through. From my house on the mountainside I could see a heavy layer of what I assumed was a heavy mist cloaking the mountainside.  The sea had completely disappeared.

I laced up my trainers, headed down to the coast and ran hard (for me), drawing in huge lungfuls of air and – I have to say – a little surprised by how difficult it all felt. The dust cloud wasn’t visible down at sea level.

It was only when I got back and saw the news that I had the first few misgivings about my run.

I also had a message from my daughter: “Best not run today, mum.”

Several days passed, the cloud lifted and I forgot all about it, squeezing in two more coastal runs in that time. Then one night I woke with the shivers and a thumping headache. My chest was tight and wheezy. I didn’t have a sore throat or any signs of a runny nose. This was different from my usual cold.

Two days on when nothing had improved and I paid a visit to the doctor who expressed alarm at my chest congestion and wheeziness. I told her about my run at the height of the dust storm and I was promptly led to a chair in the nearby pharmacy, a mask popped over my mouth and nose and I inhaled from a nebuliser in an attempt to open up my airways. Customers came and went and peered around the counter, curious at the little clouds of vapour rising up in the corner of the store.

And so, due to my own carelessness, I’m forced to quit my running again (and any exercise, come to that) for a period. I’m so cross with myself.

I’ve now downloaded the ‘Cyprus Air quality’ app and once I get back on my feet again I’ll make sure I check it regularly. Air quality is usually very good in Cyprus but when those dust storms blow in from Africa, it’s a different matter.

So, it’s feet up for a few days. I’m sure I can find some gear I need on Amazon 😉