YearOfFit – Top Tips for Buying Running Shoes

Running is a great way to keep fit. Its a good workout, its versatile and the selling factor for a lot of people is that its cheap – but your running shoes shouldn’t be.

Tips for buying running shoes

I’m all for a bargain, but I strongly believe that getting a good pair of running shoes is an investment, and you shouldn’t just rock on up to Sports Direct and pick a pair based on the colour matching your favourite yoga pants. Trust me, your feet are worth it.

1. Get accessed

This isn’t as scary as it sounds, promise! If you go to a proper running shop, they’ll put you on a treadmill and get you to run a little bit to access your running style, meaning they can recommend a pair of shoes that will suit you best. It may be that you turn your feet out a little while you run (an over-pronator, like myself!), or you have weak knees or ankles, but by getting a professional to look at your gait, you can find a pair of shoes that are going to work with your body.

2. Shop around

Once you know what sort of shoes you need, you’ve got the freedom to shop around a bit! Try different brands, get a feel for all your options and check out outlet stores!

3. Always wear good socks

Even when you’re just trying on potential shoes, you should try to wear the right socks. Special running socks are available to give your feet more support, and you like to wear these, then be sure to take them with you when you try on new shoes; they can make a big difference to the fit! Wearing the wrong socks can also lead to blisters!

4. Know sizes

I always used to think it was as simple as knowing your shoe size, but some brands of running shoes recommend you size up or down. Asics, for example, recommend you buy their shoes half a size bigger than your regular size. General rule of thumb is a thumb – you should be able to press down about a thumb’s width at the end of your big toe, to allow space for your feet to move happily.

5. Don’t be afraid to be afraid of change

If you find a pair of shoes that work for you, don’t be afraid to stick to that same make and model. My dad, for example, always buys the same pair of Asics, because he knows they suit him, and that’s a totally normal thing for runners to do!

6. Know your shoe mileage

Believe it or not, running shoes have a sort of use-by date. Different companies may say differently, but in general you should be replacing your shoes after about 300-450 miles, just due to general wear and tear, and to keep you running at your best.

Do you have a favourite shoe brand?

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YearOfFit – Home Gym Essentials

These days there are a million ways for you to stay active without paying out for a gym membership.

There’s workout videos, YouTube, dancing, Pinterest, and you can even buy your own machines so you don’t need to share with smelly strangers, and if you’re doing any of these things, you might be thinking about setting up a little ‘home gym’. Yeah? Well here are a few bits of kit you’ll want to consider!

Home Gym

1. Swiss ball

There are a lot of things you can do with a Swiss ball, from pilates to core work; you can even use it as a chair or bench!

2. Skipping rope

Skipping is a great way to get your heart rate up and burn calories, and a rope is a really cheap piece of kit!

3. Resistance bands

Another budget piece of kit, but a great way to save paying out for pricey strength training equipment

4. Kettlebells

Although I really hate them sometimes, kettlebells are a really versatile option if you’re thinking of buying weights

5. Foam roller

Most people, runners especially, have a real love/hate relationship with the foam roller. Personally, although it can hurt, my foam roller is my go-to for tight calf problems and general muscle aches and pains.

6. TRX/Suspension cables

If you’ve got somewhere safe and strong to secure them, suspension cables are a great piece of kit that utilises your body weight for strength training. The possibilities can be endless!

7. Step box

Whether you’re using it for an aerobics workout, a weight bench, or just a general prop, a box can be a great purchase for your home gym area

8. Dumbells

Dumbells can be a pricey piece of equipment, but if you want to take your home gym to the next level, a pair or even a set of dumbells is the way to go!

9. Mat

Save yourself from workout out on cold or uncomfortable floors with a foam or rubber exercise mat!

Do you prefer to workout at home or at a gym?

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#YearOfFit – 5K by Summer

If you read my post on fitness goals that everyone can achieve, you’ll have seen that one of them was running a 5K.

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I genuinely believe that anyone is capable of finishing this distance, and to prove it, why not give this programme a go? Its six weeks, and what do you have to lose? Get those shoe’s on and let’s go!

Week 1

Tuesday: Walk for 1 minute, run for 30 seconds, and repeat 5 times. Easy right?

Thursday: Run for 1 minute, then walk for 30 seconds, and repeat 5 times.

Saturday: Run 1km, taking walk intervals if you need to

Week 2

Tuesday and Thursday: Run for 2 minutes, then walk for 30 seconds. Do this for 10 minutes.

Saturday: Run 1km. Try and walk as little as possible

Week 3

Tuesday: Run for 3 minutes, walk for 30 seconds x4

Thursday: Run for 5 minutes, walk for 1 minute. Repeat 3 times

Saturday: Run 2km in 2 minute/30 seconds run/walk intervals

You’re halfway!

Week 4

Tuesday: Run for 10 minutes, then walk for 2 minutes x2

Thursday: Run for 5 minutes, walk for 30 seconds x3

Saturday: Run 3km. Aim for 5 min/30 second run/walk intervals

Week 5

Tuesday: Run/walk 10 minute/1 minute three times

Thursday: Just run for 15 minutes

Saturday: Run 1km, walk 0.25km x4 (hello 5k!)

Week 6

Tuesday: Run 2km

Thursday: Run/walk 10 minute/30 second intervals for 3.5km

Saturday: Run your 5k!

I read somewhere recently that an 15 min/mile is just as far as a 10 min/mile, and this is such an important thing to remember; it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you might be, you’re still getting out and doing it!

So now you’re 5k ready, why not sign up for a virtual run? The Frying Pan 5K is raising money for the Rainbow Trust, you get an awesome medal and did I mention that I’m organising it?!

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#YearOfFit – Let’s Talk Fad Diets

This post is probably the one I’ve been most looking forward to writing so far this year. I’ve done a bunch of research and interviewed people and everything, and the reason I’ve put in so much work is because this is something I feel so passionately about.

Now before I get into things, I’m just going to say that while I’m not an expert/dietician/nutritionist, I’ve studied a lot of the areas that are involved in this topic: food science, diet psychology and human biology, so I’m not just sharing opinions here. I’m also going to be using my own terminology, so let me just explain that.

Fad, of course, just means something that’s popular for whatever reason, but I’m going to be discussing the main two different types of diet that people do: restrictive diets and lifestyle change diets. Restrictive diets are just that – purposefully cutting out or restricting the intake of a certain food type or group; think Atkins, Slimfast, juicing, fasting 5:2 etc. Lifestyle change diets are the ones where you aren’t necessarily cutting anything out, you’re just looking at your diet more carefully, maybe working on a point system for foods etc. These are your classic Weightwatchers or Slimming World style.

Ok, so I’m gonna start with restrictive diets.

You’ve seen your favourite celebrity drop from a size 14 to 6 in the blink of an eye and they’re putting it all down to this new diet. Naturally, you’re intruiged, and with summer just around the corner and the thought of your bikini looming, you figure why not give it a go, right?

All of these diets offer quick results – big weight drop in a short amount of time. Now this seems great, and short-term, sure, they’ll do the job, but I’m gonna let you in on a not-so-little secret: as soon as you go back to your regular habits, all of that weight is gonna come speeding back to you, and might even bring a friend, sometimes leaving you heavier than you were pre-diet. All of the people I interviews put some weight back on, and most put it all back.

The biggest issue with RDs is that you are denying your body, which is something you should never do. You NEED carbohydrates for energy. You NEED those good fats to protect your organs and maintain a healthy metabolism. You NEED protein to repair and grow. I could go on. Now your body can go a certain amount of time working just fine if you cut back, but after a while, you’ll start noticing that you’re not on your A-game.

Now everyone’s body works differently, and this is where the effects of these diets can differ hugely. Take my mum for example. A good few years back, my mum did LighterLife – a shake based diet – and was loosing a fair amount of weight. Woo, right? Well yeah, until she started to find her hair was falling out.. Lots of my interviewees experienced breakouts, some felt sluggish all the time, I could go on.

So apart from denying your body vital nutrients (which not all of them do, but still), there are mental ramifications to these diets too. By cutting certain foods out of your life, even if only temporarily, your brain will change the way you perceive this foods, and this will generally go one of two ways. First up, and this is more common with sweeter foods, it can lead to a ‘forbidden fruit’ mentality; you can’t have it, therefore you want it even more. Hello cravings. A ‘slip up’ here will normally result in a response of – and this is a genuine thing – the ‘what the hell’ effect; ‘you’ve had one Pringle, you may as well eat the whole tube’ thinking. This mindset is NOT HEALTHY.

Alternatively, and more dangerously, it can lead to certain food having negative connotations attached to them, and this is association is most common with carbs. You’ve been ticking along on Atkins just nicely, but someone brought home a pizza and you had a slice, and now you feel horrendously guilty and you’ll spend your whole day tomorrow on a cross-trainer in an attempt to ‘atone’. This mindset is NOT HEALTHY.

We’ll move onto lifestyle change diets.

No, these diets can’t promise you a drop of 3 dress sizes in 2 weeks, but the average member can expect to lose 1-2lbs a week, which is still pretty impressive.

Notice how I said ‘member’? Well that’s because all of these diets promote a community aspect, whether it be weekly meetings, online forums or just support from other members, and this community plays a really key part in the success of the diet. Sure, you don’t have to attend the meetings to see the results, but having other people with you doing the same thing can be a real help and motivator.

So why are these diets better for you? For starters, you’re still eating properly. Yes, you might be cutting back on certain things, indulging less and watching what you eat very carefully, but you’re still eating real, balanced food. Balance is important. You might be counting ProPoints, or syns or even just counting calories, but you’re making your own choices and staying in control. I call them lifestyle change diets because over time, you’re just developing better eating habits, and the more you stick at it, the more eating better becomes a part of your lifestyle. We’re talking being healthier for life, not just until summer is over.

Talking to some people who have done these diets, they loved how they never felt that they were missing out on anything and how easy they were to stick to, compared to RDs they’ve tried. Now my interviewees did still have some negative comments about these diets. For example, one person struggled with how liberal the diet was, and due to over-eating some foods didn’t lose as much weight as she felt she could have.

But really, after reading all this, do I even need to tell you what’s best? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a hundred times if that’s what it takes: eat right and live healthy and your body will reward you. It is, first and foremost, your body, and it can look however you want it to look.

Being healthy and happy is so important, please don’t forget that.

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#YearOfFit – Meal Prep 101

Be honest with yourself now, how many times a week/month/year do you say or think the words ‘ok, I’ll start eating better again tomorrow!’? Mmhm.. We’ve all been there.

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In reality, the trick to successfully maintaining healthy eating is all in the preparation. Just taking a few hours out of your week to get yourself organised will save you so much time, stress and slip ups, and you’ll feel like a superhero for being so on top of things!

1. Sort yourself out with the right containers

The right container can be different for different people. My collection of lunchboxes is incredibly varied, but are generally all cute and quirky because that makes me excited to use them. For some people, having matching containers is more important. Design is really a preference thing, but what matters is that they do the job!

There are also a bunch of really nifty lunchbox hacks – for example, I use silicone cupcake cases to split up my lunch!

2. Know your portion sizes

The most common mistake people make with healthy eating is incorrect portion sizes. Yes, you can eat veggies until your heart’s content, but sometimes there is such a thing as too much of a good thing! You can find so many portion guides on the internet.

3. Work with variations

Sure, a lot of people see meal prep as making a big batch of one thing for several days worth of meals, but I guarantee it won’t take long before you get seriously bored of your regular chicken and rice dish. Instead of doing this, I generally make batches of meal components, eg grilling chicken pieces, and then I can mix up my meals by using different sauces, a different salad mix, making a wrap etc. This way you can look forward to your lunch everyday, rather than feeling a bit blah.

I do, however, have my favourite meals that I could eat all day every day, so I generally throw them in every now and then!

4. Think about reheating

The dangers of reheating certain food items are fairly well known, but be sure to look up anything you’re unsure about – rice is a surprise high risk item!

5. Freezers are your friend!

I don’t know why a lot of people are so anti-frozen food; its such a good way to preserve food without additives! Supermarkets offer so many frozen products that you can just microwave now, making them ideal meal-prep ingredients!

Are you a meal prep pro?

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#YearOfFit – Fun Runs That Really Are Fun!

There are two types of people in this world: those who enjoy running and those who don’t.

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For the latter, the term ‘fun run’ generally seems like the furthest thing from it, but whether its a charity fundraiser, New Years resolution or mid/early-life crisis, most people will probably take part in at least one during their life, and today I’m going to tell you something that might surprise these people: some races really are fun!

Race For Life/Pretty Muddy

These ladies only races for Cancer Research UK are the ideal first race for any new runner. They’re laidback, there are normally a lot of tutus and people dancing, and you don’t even have to run it, so there’s that too!

Colour Runs

There’s a few different runs that do this now – The Color Run, Run or Dye etc – but the aim is pretty simple: show up in white, run around and have paint and coloured powder thrown at you, finish with an awesome party! I was gutted to miss our local Run or Dye last year, but I’m hoping to do the Brighton Color Run in September, and I’m so excited!

RunDisney

Do I really have to explain why these races are so much fun? Firstly, you’re running around the Disney parks. Secondly, there are character meets along the course, as well as a tonne of great entertainment and supporters cheering you on, and lastly, YOU’RE IN DISNEY. As you well know if you’re a regular reader, I have four RunDisney races under my belt already this year, with two more in September, and I’m already buzzing to do more in future years!

Virtual Runs

This is a fairly new and upcoming concept, and some people really don’t understand the point behind them, but I’m obsessed with virtual runs! Virtual races came about to combat the geographical and logistical restrictions of official races; the organisation of large events, participants having to sort travel etc. So how do they work? Just like any other race, you sign up online and pay your entry fee. This may be a charitable donation, it may also cover goodies like medals and t-shirts, all depends on the race. Your race may have a particular day, or a time period for you to complete it over, and all you have to do is complete the distance on that day or during that week or whatever, then submit a proof of run, like MapMyRun stats, photos etc to the organiser, and then you’ll receive your medal/shirt/certificate/whatever through the post. Its the satisfaction of a race without the hassle!

I’ve already completed one this year, and have 6 more coming up this year so far. I’m also thinking about organising one – if anyone would be interested please let me know!

ParkRun

ParkRun is an international organisation that holds weekly races all over the world, but there’s probably one pretty near where you are too! Its totally free to take part, with events run by local volunteers, and its a great way to get into running and join a community. Once registered, you’ll be issued with a personal barcode, which serves as your identification when you complete each race, linking your time to your account. I have two ParkRuns near me; I’m a regular at one and have visited the other once, but they’re both really great and its a real community, plus when you hit milestones (25/50/100 runs complete etc) you get a free t-shirt!

Are there any races you’d love to take part in?

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#YearOfFit – Fitness Goals for Everyone

Happy Wednesday! Are we all feeling good today?

I guess, following the previous introduction post, this is the first ‘proper’ #YearOfFit post of the year, yay!

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If you’re planning on joining me and having your very own year of fitness success, you’ll probably have set yourself some goals or targets for the year – I know I have! – but today I’m going to talk about the goals that anyone can have and achieve, even if it takes a little bit of hard work! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again: fitness is for everyone, whether you’re hitting the gym every day or just trying to walk more; it all counts!

Learn to swim

As far as I’m concerned, this is about more than just fitness, its about safety. An article in The Guardian last year said that 1 in 5 adults in England can’t swim, and to me that seems crazy! Swimming is not only a great way to keep fit (especially for those with injuries), but knowing how to hold your own in the water could save your life one day. I’m not going to get morbid, but please, if you can’t, promise me you’ll learn to swim this year?

Run a 5K

Yes, I’m bias, but a 5K is a great goal if you’re taking it up running this year. My best tip on how to get into running? Step outside your front door. It doesn’t matter if you start off running for just 10 seconds at a time, and walking in between; you’re still trying and it will get easier. Is that the finish line in the distance? Yes, yes it is.

Plank for 2 minutes

Planking is a great way of working your whole body with minimal risk of injury and minimal effort. Start by holding it for 10-20 sec, then add a few more seconds on every day. You’ll get there in no time!

Incorporate weight training

Weight training seems to have such a negative connotation with many people, but seriously guys, ITS REALLY GOOD FOR YOU! Try and add some weights into your workouts, and I promise you’ll find yourself feeling better and noticing results!

I truly and totally believe that every single one of these goals can be achieved by anyone. Go, surprise yourself!