Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The importance of recharging

Soooooo... today I took a day off from studying.

Maybe that sounds mad, with my exams starting in less than a week (and I start on Tuesday into a string of 6 exams in 4 days - nightmare), but I've been pulling all-day-every-day in the library and I was just so drained. It was hard to keep my eyes open or my attention focused, even if I'd had a full night's sleep, and I wasn't getting quality work done because I was just so sick of it.

It's tempting to feel like you need to be working every second of every day when you've got exams coming up, especially when it seems like everyone around you is doing the same. (Does anyone else feel bad that there are always people around them in the library working, people there before you arrive and after you leave, even if they're different people? Or am I just crazy?) Everyone talks about studying and exams all the time, and some people do go crazy and spend every second working. But it's a lesson we can take from running - breaks make your working time better. You know how you run better when you take a rest day? Same with studying. 

So what did I do with my day of freedom? Did I take a day off working out too, and just laze in bed all day? ...Of course not ;) You know me. No studying to do = no time-limit on my gym session. That to me just means a perfect day for cross-training. (I always take a bit longer when I'm cross-training than when I run, not sure why...)

So today I did:
20 min bike
5 min high-incline fast walking
15 min cross-trainer
10 min bike
and then heaps of core work. And my body is tired! I'm always surprised to be tired on cross-training days, because I always feel like running is my 'real' workout, but I was wrecked after this.

This is my tired face, apparently! This is from literally two minutes after finishing my workout. 

Nom nom post workout snack. Normally I like something bigger but I was going straight home to make dinner so this was fine - and this apple was perfect! I brought a banana with me for post-gym but it accidentally ended up under my water bottle in my bag and got so squished and bruised and gross that I couldn't eat it, so I found this apple in the shop by my bus stop and it was the nicest apple I've ever had. Crazy to think I used to hate red apples.

Before gym time I had the longest ever wander around the shops and picked up some bits and pieces. New socks for running! (Yep, I run in regular old cotton socks. Someday maybe I'll bother with sport socks.) These shorts are actually just for hanging out, not for running, and hopefully will get used for summer biking/stretching/pilates/walks too. Then some plain leggings (not for running again, sigh) and some bobby pins (mine have all been eaten by the bobby pin monster) and some heat defence spray and a new facemask. Not super exciting but all things I really wanted, and I came home super happy!

Came home and cooked an amazing dinner. Yes, this is super boring broccoli and chicken (I ate like two thirds of my head of broccoli and loved every bite) but it was delicious and is actually one of my favourite dinners to make, because it's really simple and nutritious but still tastes great. Plus any excuse to eat more broccoli is a win for me, especially when it's fresh. I actually had a bunch of other veggies I was thinking about making but I just doubled the broccoli instead cos I love it so much.

And of course an after-dinner treat to have with my tea!

I feel so much better and more prepared to take on the rest of the exam period now that I've had my lovely rest day. Definitely recommended!

REVIEW: Bounce Peanut Protein Blast Ball

Today is a day offffffff for me (more on that later!) so I've got breakfast and tea in bed. Is it bad that I still use my Christmas mug every day?

So today I've got a little review of this beauty:

Bounce Peanut Protein Blast Ball

These are all-natural protein balls made from peanuts and whey protein. They're free of trans fats, gluten, GMs and artificial preservatives, and they've got a huge 14g of protein in each ball. For the numbers-minded, here are the nutrition numbers in one ball:

Energy: 879kJ / 210 calories
Protein: 14g
Carbs: 19g (sugars: 12g)
Fat: 8g (saturates: 1.5g)
Fibre: 2g
Sodium: 0.17g

Good stuff, right? The thing I love about these is that the ingredients list is chock full of real words that I actually recognise. There's nothing worse than reading an ingredients list full of chemical names and E-numbers. 

When you open them up, this is what it looks like. It's coated in tiny chunks of peanut (the peanuts are basically all on the outside of the ball), and is a slightly squishy ball. 

This is the inside - you can see that most of the peanuts are on the outside. Taste-wise, this tastes (unsurprisingly) quite like peanuts, so if you like them you'll like this! (Lucky for me I looooooove peanuts.) There's a slightly different taste mixed in there too which I presume is the whey protein, but it's a) quite nice and b) not really noticeable anyway, they mainly just taste like peanuts, which is great. 

These are amazing. I did a pretty intense workout last night at the gym, and ate one of these and a banana afterwards and felt great. I went trekking all over the city afterwards to buy some groceries and things, and I had plenty of energy and didn't feel tired or hungry at all. It took a good few hours until I got even a little bit hungry, which is amazing. Also, a lot of protein bars and things tend to make me thirsty, but this didn't - maybe because it's so low in sodium? But it was a lovely change from having to gulp loads of water. 

Overall, I adored this. I'm definitely going to stock up and buy some more! There are loads of flavours too, that do different things and have different benefits for you, so I'm excited to try out the rest of the range. I got mine for €2.25 from Holland & Barrett but there are loads and loads of stockists - have a look on their website to find your nearest one, or you can order online if you prefer. Definitely very highly recommended!

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Holland & Barrett goodies

Yesterday I went to go get my eyebrows done - aren't they fab? ;)

(My hair is all kinds of cray in this photo. That's what studying does to people) 
...and on the way back I decided to drop into Holland & Barrett and take a look around. 

If you're not familiar with it, Holland & Barrett is a chain of health food stores - it's the same company as Nature's Way stores, which I think may now all be H&B anyway. I've been buying my protein bars there for a while, and have bought other bits and pieces, but have never really taken the time to go all the way round the store and look at everything they sell. So I had a bit of free time today and decided to spend it in there, and I bought a couple of fun things. 

Sculptress Diet protein bars (2)

 These are the protein bars I've been eating for ages - we have a HealthyVend in my gym and it stocks these. I got one ages ago out of curiosity and was hooked. They taste great and are 16.9g of protein per bar. But, they look so bad! Does anyone else think they look like actual diet bars รก la Slimfast or something? They look so diet-plan-y that I'm almost embarrassed to eat them when people can see them, even though I've gone through the ingredients and nutrition carefully and they're just a regular old protein bar (although there's a couple of not-so-great bits in them too, but overall they're okay). So I decided to look into some new protein options.

PowerBar Protein Plus bar

 These make me feel hardcore. Silly but true ;) They've got 17g of protein, although they're not as good for carbs as the Sculptress bars. Also, there's a couple of not-so-nice ingredients (I counted three different kinds of artificial sugar crap - invert sugar syrup, fructose syrup and oligofructose syrup. Definitely definitely not good things to put in your body) but they're so far down the list I figure there can't be much. But still, I probably won't be buying another one unless it turns out to be amazing

Bounce Peanut Protein Blast Ball

This. Is. Amazing. I am not kidding. There's a whole ton of types of Bounce balls, from protein ones to energy boosters to detox ones, but this protein one looked amazing (plus peanuts are a big plus - I'm trying to up my healthy fats intake, plus they just taste so goooooood). This is seriously amazing though - completely 100% natural, with no artificial preservatives and it's gluten- and GM-free. And you've gotta love an ingredients list made up of real words that you actually know. The nutrition stats are great too - 14g of protein, 210 calories, 19g of carbs, and 8g of fat (only 1.5g of that is saturated fat, and these are completely free of trans fats too). I bought this, read the back, and literally thought, "If this tastes in any way decent I'll be eating them all the time." I ate this today after my workout, so there's a proper review coming up soon, but the verdict is basically yes yes yes. I'll be stocking up!

It's a stressful week (exams start next Tuesday, uh-oh) so I've been working out heaps as a stress-reliever. Look out for some new workout posts coming up soon!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Weekly Workout Recap: 21-27 April

Monday: 3km slow run

Tuesday: 4km slow run (on a treadmill)
Wednesday: 4.75km slow run (I ran 4km, then did a 250m walk and another 500m run - I'm trying to get my body used to the idea of running again after walking, just in case I get stuck walking at toilets/water stops during races)

Thursday: 3km speedwork on treadmill, 15 min high-resistance cross-trainer, weights & core work
Friday: rest
Saturday: 6km slow run, core work

 Sunday: 3km run to park, set of strength/core exercises (running between the stations - probably covered about 0.2/0.3km here), 0.7km run back

Last night I stayed with my boyfriend's family so this morning I was up bright and early to run in the park near their house. Guys, that park is awesome! Not only is it just the right amount of hilly, with really well-maintained paths all around it, but it's got strength training machines dotted around it. I am not kidding. They're tubular steel, I think, and the resistance obviously isn't adjustable or anything, but they are awesome. My favourites were the chest press and leg press, but there was also a steel version of one of those walk/run gym machines, plus a few core/shoulder things. So cool! (I also threw in some tricep dips, squats, push-ups etc because I'm that kind of weirdo.)

The machines you can see here are a couple of core/shoulder ones at the top, and the chest press at the bottom. That last picture is the view from the leg press - isn't it gorgeous?

This week has been the best possible week to have after being sick, workout-wise, and apart from an unplanned pizza stop on Friday it's been fairly decent food-wise too. I'm looking forward to next week! :)

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Saturday, 26 April 2014

Summer Race Calendar!

Now that I'm back running, I've picked out all my summer races! I like to run about one a month in the summer - not hugely ambitious, but a nice amount to keep me ticking over. So this summer we'll have

Clontarf 5 Mile - 5th July
Dun Laoghaire Bay 10k - 4th August

I've already registered for Flora - the Flora mini marathon was my first ever race and I love it. It takes over the whole city for the day and there's always so much energy, plus it's got a route I really like. Back when I was 15 or 16 and making my first tentative inroads into running, Flora was my "big dream" - it sounds silly now for a 10k to be your ultimate running goal, but I couldn't run three minutes straight when I first started and I always looked at the newspapers and online coverage of Flora and thought, "Someday I'll run that." Because it mattered so much, I try really hard to run it again each year, and probably will for a long time.

Clontarf and DLRBay are both completely new to me, and I've never run a five-mile before, but supposedly it's Ireland's flattest course so it should be fun! I've also taken a look at the Dun Laoghaire route map and it looks like it's going to be gorgeous, with a nice stretch along the seafront.

A not-so-nice thing also happened this week... see the bright red face in this picture?

(This is post-run on Wednesday, you'll spot it in my weekly recap tomorrow).

That red face isn't from running, oh no. (Well, it is a little bit, but mostly not!) That red face is caused by this monster:

Superdrug redid all their facemasks in the past few months, as I discovered when I went to restock my Sensitive Deep Cleansing mud mask and found it had been replaced by a bunch of new, more targeted masks. I should have known, in fairness, that witch hazel is way too harsh to leave a thick layer of it on your face for 15 minutes. I used it about a month ago when I bought it, and it was fine, but on Wednesday I decided to use it again and man

It started to sting my face a couple of minutes in, but stupidly I assumed that was just it working and decided to keep it on for the full time (10-15 minutes, according to the back - I think I did about 13 or 14). Taking it off I knew straight away I had a problem - there was literally a line at the edges of where I'd put it. I was bright red everywhere I'd put the mask, like I'd been sunburned. I freaked out, piled Sudocrem and moisturiser on, and after a few hours I was more or less back to normal, except with slightly dryer, sensitive-feeling skin. Needless to say, this stuff lasted just long enough to take the picture before it hit the bin.

The moral of the story is: witch hazel is harsh and scary and not a good mud mask ingredient. 

Also: if stuff hurts your face you probably shouldn't leave it there.

See you guys tomorrow for my recap!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014


Yep, you're reading that right - I got to run today! Eeeeeeeee! :)

I'd planned on getting up early and being in the gym when it opened, but remembered juuuust in time that my gym closes for bank holidays... so I headed back to my apartment after spending the day studying in college, got changed, and hit the footpath around 6pm for three glorious kilometres.

My Garmin was out of batteries so I had to rely on the MapMyRun app, which was actually lovely as I kept my eyes away from my distance and could focus on how the run felt (which was great, by the way!) The first 3km of that is my run, the rest is a cool-down walk back to my apartment. I figured I'd better keep it gentle for my first day, but I felt like I could've gone much longer - although that's probably because I kept it soooo slow! That average pace is being knocked about by the walk at the end, I finished running in around 22:30, but it's still reeeeeally slow. Oh well, no point in pushing too hard at the very beginning. 

This is me just before I headed out - do I look excited?! I was so excited!

Apart from that, today was made up of lots of studying, a few sneaky "tea-break" trips to Insomnia with my boyfriend...

...and a Subway for lunch. 

I know Subway isn't the absolute healthiest thing to eat, but it's better than a lot of other options, especially if you know what to pick! I always get a Turkey Breast 6-inch on 9-grain wheat bread with lettuce and cucumber, it tastes great and is filling without being calorie-heavy. I know there are some flaws (heavily processed meat, iceberg lettuce) with Subway but it's still overall a fairly decent choice.

(By the way, I found out today how Subway do their calorie counters. They're based off getting your sub on Italian, 9-grain wheat or flatbread, with lettuce, cucumber, red onion and peppers for salad. Just in case anyone was curious!) 

Anyway! Tomorrow I'm hitting the gym in the evening, so I'd better get some sleep.

See you soon!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Healthy food and a boring Easter

Today, thankfully, I had some nice healthy (and tasty!) food. While I was sick only a very small selection of foods didn't make me feel sick at any given time (I remember one odd lunch where the only thing I could stand the thought of was marshmallows...) and once I was feeling better I seemed to be running around here, there and everywhere, eating out or with other people, or not having any decent food at home. I'd planned on grocery shopping Monday and then kickstarting the healthy food Tuesday but you just get so sick of eating crap and feeling miserable. I'll end up saying this over and over on this blog, probably, but healthy food makes you feel good. I always feel gross and run-down and blah when I'm not eating well. 

So anyway! Some snaps of a day's worth of food. (I stuck around in my apartment for Easter this year as my parents are working anyway and I've a lot of studying to do, so no Easter dinners or anything...) Breakfast was my go-to yoghurt and muesli with a cup of tea.

 Isn't my Scrabble mug cute? It was a Secret Santa present. This ended up being my only tea of the day :( I ran out of milk and everywhere's shut for Easter Sunday so I can't get more til tomorrow.


Lunch was wholewheat pasta with some fruit. This is the pasta and sauce I always use - this sauce looks like crap but it tastes better than every fancy sauce I've tried. I've been eating wholewheat pasta for so long now I actually like it much better than white (and of course it's way better for you!)

 Having a quick snack break while going over my study plan for the week. Fun... :/
(This banana looks weird because the top bit stayed attached to the bunch when I pulled it off. Oops)

I tried out the omelette-maker I was talking about for dinner, to make a chicken and cheese omelette (best omelette ingredients, by the way! and it's got heaps of protein). It takes literally three minutes in the microwave and was pretty simple to use - but the way it turned out it was more or less just scrambled eggs in an omelette shape with some chicken and cheese in the middle. Not that I'm complaining, it tasted great! But I think you could probably do the same in a regular bowl. (I also had some fruit and things with this but stupidly forgot to take pictures.) 

This has been the sky out my window today - not exactly the lovely sunshine we had yesterday... So I've stayed inside for most of the day, although I'm going to head out for a walk in a few minutes before it gets properly dark. I've spent today looking after my hair and skin a little better with the help of these two...

Tomorrow is the day I'm finally going to get back running again! I'm really excited, it's been a full week since I got to run and I finally feel well enough to go. I'll let you know how it goes!

See you soon!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Illness Update & Easter Weekend!

So, a quick illness update!

Some of you maybe remember a fever appearing from nowhere in the middle of last week. Well, it didn't go away for almost an entire week, and on Monday I woke up with some pretty scary chest pains that made deep breaths tricky. Needless to say I headed for the doctor, who sent me for bloods and an x-ray (although they didn't end up doing bloods after all - I'm a nightmare to take blood from and my x-ray showed the problem anyway). Apparently I got a viral infection that caused inflammation in my chest, which explains both my breathing issues and why my heart would freak out if I tried to so much as climb some stairs (not enough room for my lungs to expand, so not as much oxygen as I needed for anything more than slow walking).

So of course exercise has hit the floor. BUT, my fever's been gone for two days now and the chest pains are all but gone too! So I'm hoping to hit the road in my running shoes on Monday.

I did manage to go to the zoo on Tuesday though - walking around the zoo is exercise right?

Look how cute the red pandas are! Red pandas are basically the entire reason I ever go to the zoo. We must have stood there for 20 minutes at least just staring at them. (I went with my boyfriend - we used passes I got him for his birthday a few weeks ago - and on the way out in the giftshop he bought me a red panda teddy! He's called Ginger, or Gin for short. I'm a loser and I don't careeeee.)

This weekend is Easter, and even though I'm an atheist I tend to get excited over the sweets anyway. Not that I'm eating anything particularly Eastery, but I am having a few treats.
These are keeping me company today while I study. (If you like sour stuff, these are from Lidl and they are so good, definitely go try them!)

Boyfriend and I are saving these for an after-study treat this evening (possibly with some Nutella on them...) 

Monday/Tuesday will see me firmly back on the healthy-eating bandwagon, promise! My dad gave me this gadget that's supposed to make omelettes in the microwave, so hopefully I'll be getting some use out of that.

See you soon!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Early Morning Adventures!

I've been hit with a weird illness this week. It started out as a cold, then the cold symptoms went away and a fever appeared. It's almost gone now but my workouts have taken a nosedive because of it! I'd been hitting the gym hard every night up to Wednesday, but then I barely made it out of bed Thursday, nevermind working out! 

Yesterday I managed a short 2km run on the roads around my apartment, which nearly killed, and 50 squats for good measure afterwards. Last night I headed home for the weekend, and with my fever all but gone, I planned on a bright and early 4km run to get back into things. 

This is part of my regular route when I'm at home - it doesn't look great when it's overcast but it's actually gorgeous. We literally live in the middle of nowhere and I get to run on real country lanes and it's great. BUT not so great today!

I'd barely made it a kilometre up the road when this huge black pitbull ran at me from a hedge. Needless to say, I screamed and ran! It didn't try to jump on me, but was running at me and barking like crazy. I'm not particularly scared of dogs normally but this was terrifying! Luckily a woman was driving past and she offered to drive me past him, an offer I gratefully accepted. But the only loop I could make to avoid him was almost 8km long, not the plan and probably impossible in my current state... so I called my dad and got a lift back to my house, where I ran laps of our garden for ten minutes to somewhat make up for cutting my run short. Probably totalled about 2.5km altogether.

Then I tried to do weights and managed about three reps before giving in. Note to self: don't run on an empty stomach when you're not fully recovered from illness, you'll be wrecked. So my day will consist of lots of this...

(That's not actual Evian water, it's a 1-litre bottle I bought ages ago, filled up with good ol' tap water.)

Apart from that, I'll be spending some quality time with my college notebooks, trying to prep for end-of-year exams - mine start the 6th of May this year. 

See you soon!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Hi, I'm Karen!

Hi everyone! I'm Karen, and this is my brand-new running, fitness and health blog. 

I've been running consistently since I was 16 (I did cross-country and athletics when I was younger, but they didn't really stick). Over the past two years, I've been through a lot health-wise and body-wise, and have been getting more and more into fitness as I learn how to love and take care of my body. 

I read tons of running and fitness blogs already and have always wanted to write my own, but I was always a bit nervous - I tend to read the 'bigger' blogs just because it can be tricky to find smaller ones, and everyone is so accomplished and talented! But I figured I've been thinking about it for so long I'll just keep wondering if I don't give it a try, so why not?! 

So who am I? I'm a 20-year-old university student, just finishing up my second year of a degree in Mathematics. I work freelance as a web designer/developer (so as soon as I have time and I'm not breaking my back with exam study I can hopefully do something cool with my blog design) and I'm also really involved with societies in my university - I mainly do the PR roles, as I get to design all the posters and things that way, and design is my favourite thing. I love music and play/sing at the occasional college open mic - I've played guitar and flute for years. I've got a whole bunch of other random interests and obsessions that I'm sure will pop up over the course of me writing this blog!

Oh, and the inspiration for my blog name? I'm addicted to tea. I'm Irish so I guess it's expected, but I drink more tea than literally anyone I've ever met, ever. Ah sure, why not?

So that's me, and here we go! Coming up soon is my first proper fitness-y post. 

Oh, and here's me, post-run - we may as well get the embarrassing post-workout selfies out there early! I promise I have semi-decent hair in my normal life. (That T-shirt is actually epically luminous green and was a race tee from my second ever 10k race, last summer.)