Category Archives: Fuelling

Christmas, balance and health

As ever, in the run up to Christmas as a fit bod on Twitter following a range of bloggers, fitness professionals and athletes, my timeline was filled with a bit of a battle. From some bloggers and fitness professionals came the constant tweets about how to ‘eat clean’ through Christmas. How to avoid eating all the indulgent Christmas food your family offered you. Even, weirdly, how to lose weight over Christmas. Then, from the pro athletes, excited tweets about heading home to eat ALL of the food!


Now, I have fairly strong opinions (no surprise there, I’m sure) about all of this. I don’t think Christmas itself, and the indulgences along with it are the problem, and it would seem that a lot of the pro athletes I follow agree. I think the issue comes if your Christmas starts in mid-November and ends in mid-January. However, if it starts on Christmas Eve and ends on New Years’ Day, is it really such a problem?

As ever, I strongly believe it all comes down to balance. If you spend the rest of the year apart from that short period eating well, training consistently and taking care of yourself, you can probably afford to indulge. Rather than be the miserable spoilsport who refuses all the delicious food and insists on a tiny portion of steamed turkey and vegetables, I say go for it. Eat what you fancy. Spend time with your loved ones and let your hair down. Eat your veggies too, and try and move a little each day, but if one day, you eat most of your bodyweight in fancy cheese and only take a short walk with your family, relax. You have 350+ days a year to be healthy and strict with yourself. Maintaining an obsessive training regime and calorie-controlled diet over Christmas out of fear you might gain a couple of pounds is a bit sad, to me!

Don’t forget, whilst the fitness industry may tweet constant ‘healthy’ advice for you over Christmas, they actually make their money from you having that mid-November onwards Christmas I mentioned and gaining a lot of weight, until you arrive in January bloated, miserable and feeling guilty about your eating. Just remember that…

Me? I have no such feelings of guilt. I finished a run of nights on the morning of December 21st, and enjoyed the odd festive treat in the days leading up to Christmas Eve. on the 23rd, I headed home with James to my parents’ house in Lancashire, and have since enjoyed a lovely, quiet family Christmas. I’ve indulged in a smorgasbord of delicious cheeses, oodles of pigs in blankets, buttery mince pies and put Baileys on everything. BUT, I’ve also been out for the odd ride or run to enjoy some fresh air and movement, and it won’t go on for ever; I go back to work on the 29th, and whilst I’m sure there’ll be Christmas eats lurking around (hospital wards attract tins of Quality Street!), I’ll also be busy at work, and getting back into my usual routine of training and meal planning. I’ll probably arrive back at my house a little heavier, but not so much so I feel the need to start January miserable on a diet, and not so much I’ve damaged my health. I start marathon training properly on January 28th so I’ve got no issues with having had a laid back Christmas- my legs will be working hard enough soon!

Balance. Useful to all aspects of life.

Book review: Fitness Gourmet cookbook

When I was offered a copy in March of Fitness Gourmet, published by Jacqui Small, publisher of the Honestly Healthy cookbooks, I was a tad dubious. All of the alkaline-eating, slightly faddy food from the Honestly Healthy recipes I’d seen didn’t appeal, so I was curious to see if the new book was similar.

It’s written by Christian Coates, founder of Soulmatefood, that deliver healthy meals to busy people, and he’s also worked with a variety of clients right up to elite athletes to help with their nutrition, before writing Fitness Gourmet.

Fitness Gourmet


Rather than just being a recipe book, this one has a lot of information in it about how to balance your diet, and what I found especially helpful was that the example eating days, instead of following calorie counts, divides meals into ‘Burn’, ‘Balance’ and ‘Build’, with a good explanation of when to use the three options. The recipes throughout the book (a large selection of tasty-looking ones), are then coded the same, and, a feature which I particularly liked, all of the recipes have an adaptation into how to make them suitable for rest days or ‘Burn’ meals (such as smaller portions, or replacing the pasta with vegetables), as well as how to make them ‘Build’ meals suitable for big training days (for example, an extra portion of carbs, or adding nuts for extra fats).

Fitness GourmetFitness Gourmet


If you’re an avid calorie counter or macronutrient tracker, then this is not the cookbook for you to find healthy recipes, because none of the recipes have calorie information. If, like me though, you follow general principles rather than precise numbers to structure your diet, it’s great- and is really good if you have a sporty other half to feed, and want easy ways to up the calories in their version of the same meal without resorting to just giving them massive portions.

Some of the recipes, I’ve come back to time and time again, like their stem ginger and orange flapjacks and my personal favourites, their healthy take on Millionaire’s Shortbread, which regularly pass the boyfriend test, for not being obviously ‘weird and healthy’ (his words, not mine, about beetroot brownies).

Fitness Gourmet


The downside? Well as regular readers of my blog will know, I don’t tend to invest in ingredients like chia seeds or quinoa, as they can be pretty expensive and I’m on a student budget, and a fair few of the recipes, particularly the breakfasts and the baked treats, utilise these ingredients. That said, I was pleased to see that the book doesn’t talk about any of the current fads like paleo, ‘eating clean’ or specific diets, just eating healthy, delicious food and a balanced diet.

For the most part though, the recipes are straightforward to make, though some of them feature a lot of steps, tasty and healthy. If you are stuck in a bit of a rut, and have a reasonable budget to play with, I’d recommend the book to give you some fresh ideas and help structure a balanced diet around your training.

I was sent a free copy of the Fitness Gourmet cookbook by the publisher, Jacqui Small, to try out the recipes and review. All opinions are my own, and I was not paid to write this post.

While I’m away…

As you may or may not have realised (ie heard me whinging about on Twitter), I’m currently midway through sitting my medical finals, so on a bit of a blogging break. It’s similar to an ultra; it takes perseverance, many snacks and healthy doses of sane company to get through, but with a positive mindset, plenty of caffeine and frequent breaks it’s doable.

photo 1

The light is at the end of the tunnel now, and I have sunny days on my bike within my sights, as well as a crisp, cold G&T or three. I have a few more exams, three weeks of shadowing, a mountain of paperwork and some very scary GMC documents to get hold of, but with a bit of luck I’ll be swapping Miss for Dr as a title rather soon.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a little blog I wrote for the Vulpine website, about learning to love cycling in Yorkshire’s playground.

photo (12)



Home truths about health & fitness

I don’t know about you, but the more time I spend on social media, the more disheartened I can sometimes become, when it comes to health and fitness. It’s really easy to run away with the idea that everyone is fitter, stronger, healthier and just generally all-round better at being an adult than you. So, in the spirit of honesty, I’ve made a list of what I think are ten important truths we should all try and remember about health and fitness.

  1. It’s okay not to be eating a diet that requires use of a hashtag.
    In fact, it’s okay to eat whatever you actually want to. If #paleo #eatclean #vegan #glutenfree #whole30 is your bag, then great, congratulations on finding something that works for you- enjoy. However, if you eat a sensible, balanced diet that involves a variety of foods and the odd treat but isn’t a named diet, then you know what? You’re doing just fine.
  2. Not everybody is going to like all forms of sport.
    There are an almost infinite number of ways to keep active out there, and there absolutely is something to suit everybody. If spinning isn’t your thing, that’s fine. CrossFit isn’t for everyone. Some people will absolutely loathe running. But if you value your body enough that you get it moving regularly outside in the fresh air, that’s the important bottom line. Not how many workouts you can ‘smash’, not whether or not you’re doing the latest HIIT class, and certainly not how bendy you can be in a yoga studio.home truths
  3. Your body deserves kindness and love, not punishment and cruelty.
    Picture a scenario for me. You’re a parent of a 5 year old child, and you notice that they’re looking a little chubby around the edges. Now, do you immediately put them on a highly restrictive diet, cutting out entire food groups and severely restricting their intake, whilst forcing them through a rigorous schedule of demanding exercise, and making sure they felt guilty about taking a day off or eating anything remotely indulgent? Of course you wouldn’t. You’d gently tweak their diet, replacing some of the more indulgent food with healthier alternatives, ensuring there were plenty of fresh, unprocessed foods there. You’d encourage them to enjoy spending time outside, having fun and naturally incorporating some more movement that they enjoyed into their day. So if the latter is what we’re more likely to do for a child, why is the former what is considered more normal in the world of health and fitness on social media?
  4. There are days when you cannot be bothered to be healthy, and that is 100% normal.
    If you treat your body well the majority of the time, you can afford the odd slip-up without damaging your health or well-being, and I’d wager that sometimes, it’s just what you need. If you’ve had a tough day or are going through a stressful time, sometimes the best thing to do is throw the training regime out of the window, and do something else. Spend time with loved ones. Lose yourself in your favourite book. Laugh your head off at a cheesy film. Eat your favourite comfort food. Retreat to the sofa in your PJs. I promise, exercise and healthy eating will still be there tomorrow, and a day off won’t kill you.White Rose Ultra training
  5. If you’re training for something big, you will have bad days.
    Contrary to how some bloggers’ portrayal of their marathon buildups appear, if you’re training for something that’s important to you, and you’ve set yourself an ambitious goal, you absolutely WILL have a wobble along the way. Whether that’s a hiccup of an injury, a day where you’re just too exhausted to get out and complete what you’d planned to, or a session that just doesn’t go to plan, something will go wrong. Of course it will. What matters is how you deal with it, and how you adapt- those days and how you overcome them are the experiences that render you stronger.
  6. It won’t all happen overnight.
    Hanging out with inspiring people like my friend Cat, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking I want to do all of the amazing races, NOW! I want to run marathons and ultras, to do long bike races and triathlons that are thus far only in my wildest dreams. I want to run quickly but I want to run far too, and I want it all to happen quickly. Sometimes, I have to take a step back and remind myself that Cat is a brilliant runner because thousands of miles have made her so; they’ve forged strong legs and a wilful mind that have deservedly carried her across many finish lines. She didn’t become a great runner overnight or by accident, and chances are I won’t either- it takes patience and work. Most things worth having do.
  7. Fancy gear won’t make you as successful as hard work will.
    It’s easy to get caught up in the mentality that more money spent on kit for sport will equal better results, and in some circumstances it’s true, like spending more on a bike usually means it’s lighter in weight and thus takes less energy to propel at the same speed. Most of the time though, consistent, appropriate training for a sport, combined with optimal body composition and nutrition, will make a bigger difference to your performance than the latest shiny offering from Nike or similar. Investing that money in improving your diet or getting some coaching or guidance is likely to make far better results- Dame Chrissie once said to think less about the kit and more about the engine that drives it, and if that works for her, it’s good enough for me.
  8. Ordinary foods can be pretty super too.
    Sure, superfoods contain vitamins and minterals that are undoubtedly fantastic for you, but often at vastly inflated price tags, purely because they have a buzz around them. Take quinoa, chia seeds and coconut oil, for example. They all contain excellent things, but are hugely expensive, and they are not nutrients that you cannot obtain from elsewhere. Fresh, locally grown and produced seasonal produce really will contain all you need to stay healthy. It doesn’t have to be expensive, difficult or unhealthy, as anyone who tries a fitnaturally plan will attest to- I gained loads of fresh ideas and saw that healthy really can be simple during my 6 weeks under Sal’s guidance.Chicken satay stir fry
  9. You don’t have to do everything. Choose wisely and do it well.
    If you truly want to participate in races every weekend of the year, then obviously go ahead and have a brilliant time. But, if you’re training for a big A race and want to perform well in it, you could probably do with getting over your FOMO and spending your time knuckling down in some key, focused, specific training sessions at home instead, with perhaps just one or two tune-up races to test your progress. Autumn wrote a great post about this recently, and I think race fatigue is something people should be very wary of if they’re trying to perform at their best.
  10. You’re almost never going to feel properly ready. Do it anyway.
    Chances are, the bigger your plans and dreams, the scarier they are: after all, a good target should make you feel a little bit queasy and a whole lot excited, shouldn’t it? The thing is, it’s almost completely impossible to feel entirely prepared for such events. You can never take care of absolutely everything that might happen, so the best you can really do is take care of the controllables and then take the leap of faith. You’d be amazed what you can achieve with a bit of courage and a positive outlook.

Recipe: Cyclists’ chewy granola bars

I don’t know about you, but there are only so many gels that I can handle whilst out on a long run or bike ride before I start to feel queasy. They have their place, as do handfuls of jelly babies when a quick hit of sugar is needed to keep the wall at bay, but when I’m wanting something a little slower releasing to stoke the engine, I’ve increasingly found myself reaching for proper food to nibble on instead, like chewy granola bars and flapjacks.

Energy bars from companies like getbuzzing are really nice- they’re palatable, easily portable and full of slow releasing goodness to keep me pedalling or running. Unfortunately they’re also pretty expensive, so after some extensive research into how to make that perfect sticky texture that will stay portable and not crumble all over my handlebars, I present my cyclists’ chewy granola bars.

cyclists' chewy granola bars

The recipe is a super adaptable formula, to use up whatever you like your fuel to taste of, or whatever you happen to have in the cupboard. It also doesn’t matter what size cup you use, as long as it’s the same one to measure all of the ingredients in! I used a standard size coffee mug, but if you go bigger, just use a slightly larger cake tin.


1) Rolled grains  –  2 1/2 cups
I used jumbo porridge oats for the bars above.
2) Nuts, seeds & spices – 1 cup
    I used a mixture of milled linseed, chopped brazil nuts and walnuts and a spoonful of sunflower        seeds, with a teaspoon of ground cinammon.
3) Sticky sweetener – 1/3 cup + 1/4 cup
I used honey, but other ideas include maple syrup or molasses.
4) Dried fruits – 1 cup
Here is where you can empty the cupboard- I used chopped dates, raisins & cranberries.
5) Binder – 1 cup
I used half apple sauce and half almond butter here, but pureed dried fruit or other nut butters          would work too.


  • Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and grease and line a 23cmx23cm brownie tin.
  • Pop all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, and the sweetener and binder in a saucepan.
  • Warm through and stir together the binder and the sweetener, and then pour over the dry ingredients.
  • Flex those guns and give the ingredients a really good mix- the oats, fruit and nuts should just be sticking together, and the mix should feel quite ‘stiff’ to stir.
  • Pop the mix in the lined tin and press it down firmly and levelly with the back of a spatula, then bake for 25 minutes.
  • Allow to cool at room temperature until the tin is cool to the touch, and then transfer to the fridge for an hour to finish setting.
  • Remove from the tin and cut into whatever size bar best fits your snack preference and pocket size, and devour on your next adventure 😉

Recipe adapted from the excellent Brown Eyed Baker website.

Recipe: Speedy chicken satay stir fry

After going out for a beautiful Thai meal recently, where I had the most amazing grilled peanut chicken, the more I stared at the oversize tub of peanut butter on the worktop, the more I thought about trying to make a Thai-inspired dinner involving peanut butter, but that wouldn’t take forever to make or have loads of ingredients. And lo, the speedy chicken satay stir fry was born!

This recipe has all the things I value: it’s quick and inexpensive to make, it’s tasty, and above all, it’s just about the most well-balanced recovery meal you could make after training- there’s protein and fats from the chicken and the peanut butter, electrolytes from the soy, carbs from the noodles and loads of goodness from the delicious crunchy veg. Yum!

Ingredients (serves 1 hungry runner/cyclist)

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 pack ready-to-wok noodles
  • 2-3 big handfuls of crunchy veg of your choice; I used a mixed stir fry pack with some extra mange tout for crunch
  • A little oil
  • 1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • 1-2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • Big squeeze of lime or lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp crushed garlic


 Chicken satay stir fryChicken satay stir fry

Mix together the peanut butter, chilli sauce, soy sauce, garlic and a good dash of lime or lemon juice together until smooth, and let down with a splash of cold water until the sauce is a pourable consistency (but still coats the back of a spoon).

Heat up the oil in a wok or big frying pan, and after cutting the chicken into bite-size pieces, crack on with stir frying it.

Chicken satay stir fry

Once the chicken has started to colour, add the veg, and then the noodles, and cook for a few more minutes, until the veg starts to colour but doesn’t go soft- you want that all important crunch!

Chicken satay stir fryChicken satay stir fry

Finally, mix in the satay sauce and allow it to heat through, stirring well so it coats all of the veg, noodles and chicken.

Chicken satay stir fry

Voila! Plate up and dig in. Speedy, healthy, delicious!

Recipe: Peanut butter & white chocolate blondies

During winter, training can be a demoralizing experience. You’re either out running, battling driving winds and rain, and chilly extremities, or you’re out braving the elements on a bike, trying to remember what it feels like to have toes, and wondering how many miles are left to go until the cafe stop, where it may or may not be socially acceptable to spoon the radiator (shut up, you’ve probably done it too). With weather like this, I think it’s important to have something tasty waiting at home for you.

I’m not going to claim these peanut butter & white chocolate blondies are perfect recovery food, because the ingredients list isn’t the healthiest ever, but unlike most cakes they have a hit of protein and some fibre, and if you teamed one up with a glass of milk and a banana, or even ate it warm with a big dollop of vanilla yoghurt, it’d be a pretty indulgent but balanced recovery snack. The sweetness of the white chocolate is balanced out by the slight saltiness of the butter and the gloriously crunchy peanut butter. Yum!

Peanut butter & white chocolate blondies



  • 100g softened salted butter
  • 150g good quality crunchy peanut butter*
  • 175g soft light brown sugar
  • 3 large free-range eggs (because happy chickens make for better cake. Fact.)
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • A pinch of salt
  • 125g plain wholemeal flour
  • 200g white chocolate, chopped into small chunks


 Peanut butter & white chocolate blondiesPeanut butter & white chocolate blondies

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C/Gas Mark 3 & line the bottom of a 20x20cm brownie tin with greaseproof paper.

Cream together the softened butter & the yummy crunchy peanut butter, followed by the sugar, and then beat in the eggs, vanilla extract and salt.

Add the flour and mix thoroughly, then gently fold in the big pile of white chocolate (and try not to eat it all. I promise it’s worth it.)

Pour into the lined tin and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a knife inserted into the middle just comes out clean- if anything, you want these delights slightly gooey in the middle.

Peanut butter & white chocolate blondiesPeanut butter & white chocolate blondies

Devour! These also make a pretty good pud if you warm them through & serve with vanilla ice cream 😉

*A note about the peanut butter

You’re probably already aware of MyProtein as a source of dietary supplements & protein powders, but they’ve expanded their horizons and now offer a pretty good Women’s Fitness section of the website, that’s a lot less all about ‘dem guns and more about the right nutrition for your chosen sport- including whole foods, like this peanut butter. I try to buy PB that is just made from nuts and nothing else, but it’s normally pretty expensive (Whole Earth, I’m looking at you!), so was really happy to see pure peanut butter sold by the kilo at pretty good prices on their site. Happy days!

(I was given store credit for the MyProtein website in return for trying some products from the Women’s Fitness section of the site and writing about them, but the content and blondies are allllll mine!)

Recipe adapted from here (her Chocolate Orange Brownies are to die for too!)

The Sunday Summary – Part 6

Whether it’s been freezing and icy or just blustery, I hope you’ve managed to fit something fun into your weekend, whether that’s donning the trail shoes for a snowy run, or setting up the pain cave for a long turbo session! Either way, you’ve earned some time on the sofa to recover, so settle in and have a little read of this list of awesome things I’ve been reading lately (bring snacks. You could be here a while.)

  • Unusually for me, this link is a free PDF to download and read rather than a blog post, but it’s 100% worth the effort. It’s called Fuck Calories and it’s truly brilliant. Go onnnnnn. (Cheers Fiona for the heads up on this one!)
  • For many people, running long distances is about escaping from the stresses of everyday life and enjoying being ‘in the moment’ outdoors, and Jez Bragg (ultra runner extraordinaire) wrote a great piece on this
  • If like me, you believe in gender equality in sport, then this post from pro cyclocross badass Helen Wyman might just make your blood boil a little….
  • I’ve done a Q&A with her before, but superstar triathlete & potentially hardest grafter in Yorkshire, Suzie Richards, has done a great post crammed with common sense and some great ideas for winter training, as well as some very exciting news about her 2015 race calendar…
  • Autumn has once again been squeezing in some cracking writing between her speedy marathon training, and has this time written an ace post about the pitfalls of Strava and the like, and how it’s more important just to follow your own path with training.
  • Personally, I am absolutely awful at downhill running, so these tips from one of the Team inov-8 athletes are going straight into my training for the Snowdonia Marathon in October.
  • I’ve said it all along, but it’s interesting to read an article from Vulpine founder Nick Hussey about why the ‘shrink it and pink it’ model is a really bad way to sell things to women in sport.

The Sunday Summary – Part 5

After a brief festive break to get busy putting Baileys in every beverage and testing the limits of stollen consumption, as well as doing rather a lot of cycling, my Sunday Summary is back, where I round up some excellent things for you to read after your long run or ride. So settle down at the back, put on those recovery pants and fetch your snacks…

I always wonder how the world’s top athletes develop their mental approach towards pain and suffering during races, so I found this article interesting, especially reading about the contrast in approaches between two top triathletes.

I wrote my post about my word for 2015, but another little lady with some epic plans for 2015 is the lovely Autumn, who is planning to fly like a bird right over the London Marathon finish line in a very speedy time and wrote an excellent post about her word for the year.

Speaking of mental strength, there’s nobody stronger than Dame Chrissie in that regard, so this article of hers makes pretty good reading too (and you really ought to read her book, you know!)

And whilst we’re on the topic of triathlon, I really enjoyed this post about some unconventional essentials for the budding triathlete, and why spending zillions of pounds on aero kit might not actually be the way forward.

To end on a more frivolous note, I am personally very bored of sandwiches for lunch, and with the whole reining self in after 3895 helpings of Brie over Christmas comes the desire for something fresh and healthy- step in The Londoner’s yummy-sounding Travelling Noodles recipe- I’m all over this one!

Stollen & solo adventures- the #Festive500

After posting about taking on the Rapha #Festive500 challenge here, it’s since been time to actually get out on my bike and put my money where my mouth is. On Christmas Eve I clocked up 44.5 miles split into two rides, to make them seem more approachable, but I wanted to crack 50 miles on Boxing Day- the furthest I’d ever cycled in one go since a coast to coast effort on a hybrid when I was 17.


I arranged a ride with my friend Dan, and after looking at the route he’d prepared, was more than a bit nervous. He’d planned a route to Beacon Fell, a random hill on the edge of the Forest of Bowland that involves some pretty tasty climbs- it would be fair to say, not my forte. Still, I prepared to employ a decent dose of Rule #5 and do it anyway, since the #Festive500 was all about me getting out of my comfort zone.


Then Dan either came down with food poisoning or a massive hangover, but wasn’t leaving his bathroom either way. I thought of doing 50 miles alone, after the sufferfest that my first few club rides have been, and it was enough for me to nearly tuck my bike back away and retreat to the sofa with a Baileys, but I decided not to. You don’t get better at something by not doing it, so I decided to woman up and head out alone. I replanned a flatter route, remembering that half the suffering on club rides has come from Yorkshire being ‘undulating’ to say the least, and got ready to set off, feeling a little like this…


I loaded up my jersey pockets with Christmassy nibbles, and set off, reminding myself to actually eat before I started to bonk, rather than cramming in emergency Haribo when I was already suffering. 20 miles in, sitting by the side of the road, I nibbled a wedge of Christmas cake and marvelled that I’d made it up hills I used to stop and walk when I was 17, without even using the little chainring at all.


I whizzed around the lanes of Lancashire, through some I knew, like Weeton and Out Rawcliffe, and some I’ve only ever driven to in the past, like Inskip and Broughton. I laughed, I sang Christmas songs, and when the going got tough, I chilled. I sat up, and with one hand on the handlebars, and gently spun along, eating Percy Pigs and relaxing, with no pressure that I was off the back of a group and needed to get back to them. I even had time for a photo stop at this rather amusingly named lane in Nateby, 35 miles in.


Whilst cycling in a group is great, with the feeling of whizzing along in your very own peleton, calling out ‘car back’ and generally feeling pretty pro even when you’re actually a total newbie, I loved my solo adventure. I got to take the ride at my own pace, without worrying about being left behind, and I returned home a little bit more in love with cycling; my hands and feet frozen, my cheeks flushed and my quads tired to say the least. I rode the furthest I’ve done in one go, and I did it completely on my own. I’m pretty proud of that.


Job done. #Festive500

Free your mind and your legs will follow.

[If you’re a Strava nerd and want to follow my #Festive500 efforts, you can do so here, if you want to marvel at just how slowly it is actually possible to cycle.]