Tips for keeping fit in Winter, woman stretching triceps

When the temperature drops and the evenings start to draw in it can be hard to maintain motivation to workout. Getting cosy on the sofa can seem like a much more inviting prospect than going out for a run on a dark and chilly night. But it’s just as important – if not more so – to keep up our fitness routines during the colder months. The shortage of daylight can lead to low mood so working up a sweat and getting those endorphins pumping is the perfect antidote. Getting outside on a crisp, sunny day will bring the added benefit of boosting vitamin D levels too.

Hopefully my tips for keeping fit in Winter will help you avoid the usual seasonal pitfalls and keep your fitness on track.

I actually prefer working out during the colder months, particularly at this time of year when the temperature is just right. Autumn is my Goldilocks season: not too hot, not too cold. I love running in the fresh, crisp air – it’s so much more pleasant than the humidity of Summer (and trying not swallow flies, yuk!). But when Winter really starts to bite it can be a real effort to swap snuggly sweaters for workout clothes, especially when it’s raining. Add to that all the festivities around Christmas and New Year, and the fitness routine can easily go to pot. Hopefully my tips for keeping fit in Winter will help you avoid the usual seasonal pitfalls and keep your fitness on track.

Tips for keeping fit in Winter, running up steps

Get out for a run

Running is a great way to get fit, plus, it’s free, you can do it almost anywhere and you don’t need much in the way of kit. Four of the six marathons I’ve run have been in the Spring, which required logging up the miles over Winter. I’m not going to lie – I’ve bailed on many a planned long run when it’s been raining and blowing a gale. Having the appropriate kit can make a world of difference though. Fabric that wicks the sweat away from the skin is essential; it prevents chafing, and ensures you don’t get cold from having wet clothes next to the skin. Wearing a long-sleeved base layer under a short-sleeved top (preferably high vis) keeps the core warm without adding bulk. A baseball cap will help prevent hair from getting wet and keep the rain off your face. (Don’t forget sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy). Hands can get really cold so a pair of gloves is essential for very low temperatures. And don’t forget a waterproof armband or bumbag for your phone/iPod…I can’t exercise without music!

Finishing the Robin Hood marathon

Finishing my first marathon! It was around this time of year, but quite a warm day, hence the vest!

Tips for keeping fit in Winter, person hiking

Take a hike

If running is not your thing, consider getting outside for a walk, or maybe try hiking. It’s easy to involve other family members so that helps with motivation. Start small by taking a brisk walk around the local park; if you have a nature reserve or forest nearby, even better. Autumn is a great time of year to get outside with the kids, picking blackberries and collecting conkers and pine cones. To make it more challenging, choose a route with inclines and up the pace.

If you decide to get off the beaten track and go for hike, it goes without saying that you’ll need appropriate clothing and footwear. The weather in the UK is notoriously unpredictable, particularly at higher altitudes, so you need to be prepared accordingly. A waterproof jacket that’s breathable is a must-have, as is a mid layer (such as a fleece) for insulation, plus a base layer to wick moisture away from the skin. Trainers won’t be sturdy enough for rugged terrain, so invest in some good quality hiking boots and socks that prevent blisters. And of course you’ll need a decent-sized backpack for food, drink and other essentials. Walking poles are an option if the ground is particularly rough. If you decide to go it solo make sure you tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to return…safety first!

Tips for keeping fit in Winter, person skiing

Consider a skiing holiday

A Winter break on the slopes is the highlight of the year for some of my friends. I have to admit that I’ve never tried skiing but I’m told it’s addictive, not to mention great exercise. As it’s so demanding on the thigh muscles, building up your strength will ensure you’re not walking like John Wayne on the second day! Top tip from my husband is to book lessons, especially if you’re travelling with people who have previous experience. Either take lessons on a dry ski slope in the run up to your trip or pre-book lessons at the resort for the start of your holiday. Skiing holidays can be expensive, but once you’ve bought all the necessary ski wear it should last for years. You can hire skis and poles at the resort until you feel ready to invest in your own. Don’t forget specialist ski insurance!

Working out at home

If you really can’t face exercising outside there’s always YouTube workouts or DVDs. Fitness trends come and go, just as with anything else, but I’ve long been a fan of Taebo and still regularly do the workouts. But you can find anything from Pilates to HIIT workouts online. I gave up my gym membership when we relocated five years ago, and as I had to take a nine-month career break I couldn’t afford to join a new one, so I had to be inventive and work out at home. Even when I returned to work I was never really bothered about joining a gym, although staying at a hotel with a gym is always a treat!

I do have a treadmill at home, which I use for short runs. I also have free weights which I use for a body pump style resistance workout. Home exercise equipment is relatively cheap and doesn’t have to take up a lot of space; you can use resistance bands, kettlebells or dumbells for a challenging workout. I take a resistance band on holiday with me as they take up next to no room. And don’t forget the good old fashioned exercises that use your own body weight: press ups, tricep dips, squats, lunges, ab crunches and the plank are some of my favourites! OK, well maybe not the plank 😉

 

How do you stay motivated to work out during the cold weather? Do you love exercising outside or do you prefer the gym?


 

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Disclaimer: This post is in collaboration with Simply Hike. All words and opinions are my own.

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Six Things That Make Me Happy

Happy Sunday! I hope you’re all having a lovely weekend 🙂 Yesterday we went to a family wedding and had a great time. I’ll be sharing my outfit on Tuesday (you may have seen it on Instagram Stories). Today I’m getting the house ready for guests and packing for my holiday as I’ve only got one day off work between now and the day we leave. So much to do!

Despite being busy I have many reasons to be happy…did you know that it was International Day of Happiness last week? The United Nations resolution is coordinated with charity Action for Happiness, whose patron is the Dalai Lama. This year was the sixth International Day of Happiness so I’m sharing six things that make me happy 🙂 Obviously there are other things that go without saying, like family and friends; this is just an insight into the little things that brighten my day!

Six Things That Make Me Happy

1.Tea Although I love a good cup of coffee in the morning I’m more of a tea drinker. I always start the day with a cup of green tea, followed by black tea with soya milk before my daily coffee hit. After that it’s tea all the way. When I first considered going vegan the one thing that made me hesitate was how tea would taste with non-dairy milk. I went dairy-free for a while in my 20s and tea just wasn’t the same. Thankfully soya milk has improved a lot since then, and there are lots of other vegan options too. Now I prefer Alpro soya milk in my tea, so I can carry on knocking back my favourite drink all day long!

Six Things That Make Me Happy

2. Watching the birds I have several bird feeders in my garden and love watching my little feathered friends. I put nuts, seeds, fat balls and mealworms out for them to attract different types of birds.  Luckily my cat Henry doesn’t bother them (he’s too lazy) but I do have to watch out for the neighbours’ cats who love to stalk them. Yesterday I saw goldfinches for the first time this year, they are such pretty birds. The robins and tits are always a joy to see too 🙂

Six Things That Make Me Happy

3 Running

Admittedly I don’t always feel ecstatic while I’m doing it but it never fails to boost my mood. No other form of exercise makes me feel as happy and relaxed afterwards. If I’m unable to run at least a couple of times a week I feel restless and irritable. A few weeks ago I had a sudden pain in my foot immediately after a run which persisted. I saw a nurse who said I probably have a hairline fracture but if I needed to carry on running I should do. Oddly, it hurts a lot less to run in trainers than it does to walk in shoes with less support. Just another injury to add to the long list but it won’t stop me running!

Six Things That Make Me Happy

4. Music 

I can’t go a day without music. Whether I’m in the car, on the treadmill or just relaxing, I love listening to music. It has always been a big part of my life. When I was about six years old I taught myself some simple tunes by ear on a keyboard, and later when I started senior school I began having classical guitar lessons. I went on to do music A level, and even started a music degree, but realised I didn’t want to make a career of it so switched subjects. Now Isobel is having guitar lessons which has prompted me to pick it up again – I was amazed I could still remember pieces that I hadn’t played for almost 20 years! You probably know that I love rock music most of all, and that AC/DC is my favourite band!

Six Things That Make Me Happy

5. The beach

There’s someting so relaxing about being at the beach. The sound of the waves lapping at the shore is hypnotic, I can fall asleep within minutes! I love the feel of sand between my toes and looking for shells. It’s been almost a year since I was last by the sea and I can’t wait to go on holiday (not long to wait now!).

Six Things That Make Me Happy

6. Animals

I’m sure you all know that being with animals makes me very happy! The volunteering work I do is the best therapy money can’t buy. I could watch the foxes all day, they are such beautiful, fascinating creatures. They all have their own personalities too. The one in the photo above is a male fox, and at first he was quite shy, but he’s used to me now and comes for a sniff. He even stole my glove from my coat pocket and took it into his kennel…I did get it back though! I can’t stop smiling whenever I’m near a fox 🙂

Six Things That Make Me Happy

Of course I couldn’t leave out my handsome boy Henry. He’s such a good-natured cat and loves lots of fuss. He was only a kitten when I moved in with Pete, who’d never had a cat before. I’ve always had cats – at one point in my childhood we had seven! Henry was my fur baby before I had Isobel, and although her arrival didn’t go down well at first (he used to go to the neighbour’s house for some peace and quiet!) they’re best mates now. I love to snuggle up next to him and go to sleep 🙂

 

So those are six things that make me happy…what makes you happy?


 

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Running the Marathon du Medoc

Running the Marathon du Medoc is one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever taken part in. That’s why it appealed to me so much. It’s certainly not for the serious marathon runner. With 22 wine stops and so much food that you could consume more calories than you burn off, you have to ignore the Garmin and just go with the flow. This is the marathon where you go to have a good time, not get a good time. Oh, and fancy dress is compulsory. This year’s theme was music, so naturally I dressed as my hero Angus Young from AC/DC 🙂

Running the Marathon du Medoc start line

Running the Marathon du Medoc start line

The carnival atmosphere at the start line sets the tone for a completely bonkers event that’s basically one big running party!

Running the Marathon du Medoc start lineRunning the Marathon du Medoc start line

In hindsight, I wish I’d have started necking the wine earlier because I think it helped to numb the pain!

Setting off from the small town of Pauillac near Bordeaux, the course weaves through vineyards and the courtyards of beautiful chataeux where you can sample some of the wine they produce. My plan was to stick to water until 35km because I don’t drink often so I get tipsy easily. Plus, I have a kidney condition that means I have to stay well hydrated, so running and boozing is not advisable. Typically my back ache and bunions decided to flare up that day making every step very painful. In hindsight, I wish I’d have started necking the wine earlier because I think it helped to numb the pain!

Running the Marathon du Medoc vineyard

Running the Marathon du Medoc wine station

One of my favourites was Jesus wearing a big cross on his back…maybe he turned all the water into wine.

The array of costumes was truly astounding, and not confined to musical themes: I saw a man wearing a pole with Marge Simpson on the top of it and all the other Simpsons hanging off horizontal bars attached to it. There was a Baywatch squad including one member being eaten by a shark, several bananas and a woman wearing a huge Eiffel Tower. As to be expected, there were numerous David Bowies, Kiss, Abba, Village People and a few other people dressed as Angus. One of my favourites though was Jesus wearing a big cross on his back…maybe he turned all the water into wine.

Running the Marathon du Medoc wine station

Running the Marathon du Medoc

Running the Marathon du Medoc

We had all weathers that day, from blazing sun and blue sky to dark clouds and torrential rain. At one point I was so wet I couldn’t even unlock my iPhone to take some video! I was certainly glad of that baseball cap to keep the rain off my face!

Running the Marathon du MedocI had been due to run with a friend and her boyfriend but they pulled out a few days beforehand. Although I was disappointed for them not to be able to take part, I have always run alone so I wasn’t put off doing it on my own. I knew that one of my colleagues was running with some friends and we’d met up the day before at the expo. They crossed the start line before me (I was delayed in the queue for the toilet as usual!) so they were about five minutes ahead of me.

Towards the end of the course the food stops get really interesting with oysters, steak, corn on the cob, cheese and ice creams on offer.

Because I passed on the wine until the later stages I managed to catch them up…they’d stopped at every wine station! Towards the end of the course the food stops get really interesting with oysters, steak, corn on the cob, cheese and ice creams on offer. I’m vegetarian so I skipped the oysters and steak (38km into a marathon probably isn’t the best time to try oysters for the first time anyway!). We finished the race together in just under six hours with a final downpour just before we crossed the line.

Running the Marathon du Medoc

Running the Marathon du MedocRunning the Marathon du Medoc

Running the Marathon du Medoc 2017 medal

Running the Marathon du Medoc

The winners were weighed after the race (you can just see the scales on the stage behind me) and won their weight in wine! Despite the pain and getting soaked it was definitely the most fun I’ve had on a marathon, and this was my sixth. Would I do it again? Well, immediately afterwards I was adamant this would be my last, but I’ve said that after the last five. A week later I’m itching to get out for a run, and who knows, there may be a seventh 😉

Who would you dress up as? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

 

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Paris skyline view from Montparnasse Tower

Looking at views like these it’s not hard to imagine why so many people choose to take part in the Paris Marathon every year.  I’ve done it four times now and the sights you see along the route still amaze me. Taking part in such a big event is both daunting and exciting (something all those runners preparing for London this weekend will no doubt be experiencing too) but running through the most beautiful city in the world is an unforgettable experience. Over 43,000 runners took part in the Paris Marathon 2016 and the average age of participants was 41, so I guess that makes me very average!

Over 43,000 runners took part in the Paris Marathon 2016 and the average age of participants was 41.

In addition to the thousands of people taking part in the marathon there were 250,000 spectators cheering and high fiving the runners along the 26.2 mile course which passes the most famous Parisian landmarks. Spotting your loved ones isn’t always easy with so many crowds – I missed my husband and daughter twice even though I ran past them within touching distance, but I finally got to see them just beyond the Eiffel Tower at the 18 mile mark.

 

Paris skyline Eiffel Tower nail art

In the days leading up to the marathon I hadn’t been feeling very well and was starting to think I might not be able to finish, or even start for that matter, but visiting the expo to collect my bib helped to get me in a better frame of mind, as did finding my name on the board amongst all the other runners. In total 57,000 people registered for the race (even though not all actually took part) so looking for your name is like trying to find a needle in a haystack!

Marathon name board

Paris marathon name board

Paris metro on way to marathon

The metro journey to the start line is always a nervous time but emerging from George V station on the escalator onto the Champs Elysees is a magical experience…the Arc de Triomphe and impressive Louis Vuitton store are right there in front of you…no time to shop though! Although the weather was perfect for sightseeing it wasn’t ideal for running. I don’t cope well with running in the heat, and typically there was a sharp spike in the temperature on race day, with the day before and after being cloudy and cool – the exact same thing happened last year. The temperature peaked at around 21c which is quite warm for April, but feels so much hotter when running. I poured as much water over me as I drank!

Paris Marathon 2016 start line Champs Elysees

Louis Vuitton Champs Elysees Paris marathon start line

Paris marathon Place de la Bastille

I had to stop for a moment to take a photo…it also gave me an excuse to have a few seconds rest!

Marathon finish Arc de Triomphe

By the end of it I was suffering from back ache and had massive blisters but the joy at crossing the finish line and putting the medal on made it all worth it…as well as seeing this cheeky little face of course!

 

Good luck to everyone running the London Marathon this weekend!

 

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Chinti and Parker striped  sweater

After running the marathon I was quite tempted to just crash out on the bed and stay there…tackling the five flights of stairs up to our apartment almost finished me off…Parisians don’t seem to care too much for lifts! But let’s face it, you can’t come to Paris and waste an evening sleeping when there’s so much to explore, so me and my blisters went out for a very leisurely stroll through the streets of Montmartre, trying to keep up with my husband and daughter (who always has far too much energy) and found a charming little restaurant to refuel and indulge in a much needed post marathon meal. On the way we snapped an outfit pic…well it’d be daft not too in Paris!

I like to keep my outfits simple and classic when in Paris so I chose a navy and neutral theme when packing for my trip.

I like to keep my outfits simple and classic when in Paris so I chose a navy and neutral theme when packing for my trip. I get so much wear out of my old Zara jacket, it’s one of the hardest working pieces in my wardrobe. Underneath I wore a Chinti and Parker sweater which I bought in the Outnet’s sale a few months ago, it was an absolute bargain and is fantastic quality.

Chinti and Parker striped sweaterSweater: Chinti and Parker, trousers: Asos, shoes: Marks & Spencer, satchel: Juno.

 

I don’t usually post food photos but this tarte tartin really was as delicious as it looks…after a lunch consisting of an energy gel and a couple of orange segments I was ready for an indulgent treat! There’s certainly no guilt after running 26.2 miles!

Tarte tartin

Tomorrow’s post is all about a boat trip on the Seine and wandering around the streets of Montmarte!

 

Thanks for reading, have a wonderful day!

 

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