SPORT: Great City Games 2014

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This past weekend Deansgate was closed to traffic (for those unfamiliar, it’s the backbone road of the city centre) not only for the Bupa 10K but also for the Great City Games. Manchester is proud of its sporting heritage and the legacy of the 2002 Commonwealth games seems to live on and on, and sporting events in the city draw sports enthusiasts and proud Mancunians alike.

I’d like to think I fit into both of those categories, so I made sure I was up at the front to watch the City Games. I was mostly fascinated by the speed displayed by the sprinters, yet the ease of their movement; up-close you can really see the power that comes from their backsides to propel them forward off the starting blocks. And we really were close-up! Deansgate is only the size of your average road so there were no seats, and a small metal barrier was the only thing separating us from the action.

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It was also awesome to see Christine Ohuruogu – one of Great Britain’s most successful athletes of all time, who came 3rd in the 200m – and Yohan “Beast” Blake. The Beast certainly lived up to his named and absolutely smashed the 150m to win with a time of 14.71 seconds.

An incredible day with some fantastic results for British athletes, boding well for Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games. Roll on July!

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KIT: Jawbone Up? More Like Down

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This was intended to be a thorough, detailed review of the Jawbone Up, as I feel these activity trackers cost a lot of money for something that is not essential for day-to-day life, so you need a lot of information before making your choice. As you might have guessed from the above image my experience with the Jawbone Up activity tracker was so bad that it didn’t last past three days!

Unfortunately, mine just didn’t work. At all. First up, although unrelated to the actual workings of the band, the sizing seems to be wrong. My wrist measurement should have fit comfortably into a size small, as it did into the perspex “try it on” hole, but when wearing the actual band the end bits stuck out uncomfortably and snagged on clothes and all manner of things, even pulling clean off at one point.

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Anyway, it arrived, I charged it, I read the instructions: of which there were few, but it all seemed very straightforward. I wore it for half a day then excitedly plugged it into my iPhone. No stats. Hmm… Must have done something wrong. Re-charged, reset, reconfigured; wore for bed and all the next day to make sure there was enough data. Still nothing. I start searching on the internet for solutions, and I read that I am to try “soft-booting” and “hard-booting”. Neither work – I figure out that the light isn’t flashing the colours it should flash, anyway. I emailed Jawbone support, telling them the things I’d already done, and received a reply days later simply telling me to do the soft-boot and hard-boot. Great! Thanks for nothing.

The more I pry around the internet, the more I read terrible reviews about this activity band. That when it works, it works great, but users have to send their bands back every few months for a replacement. One review even says that after the warranty on the band was up (after several replacements) Jawbone refused to send any more out. Could I really deal with that amount of hassle.. just for an activity tracker?

Needless to say, the band went back. I bought it from Very who took it back no-hassle, despite claiming on the site it was excluded from their regular guarantee – clearly there had been a few issues previously. I am idly considering the vívofit from trusted brand Garmin although this experience has burned me somewhat. Who really needs one of these things, anyway?!

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How To Get Enough Protein On A Vegetarian Diet

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Next week is National Vegetarian Week! Why, you ask, would that interest a bona fide meat-eater such as myself? It may surprise you to hear that it was actually only in January that I moved over to the dark side. I found that the harder I trained, the hungrier I became – and only the densest of protein-rich foods would fill me up. Hence the meat cravings, and the abandonment of the vegetarian lifestyle I’d led for ten years.

That’s why the current trend of vegetarianism for health interests me. Mitra Wicks wrote about part-time vegetarianism in this month’s Om Yoga Magazine: the self-professed “fine meat” lover tries out a plant-based diet for a month to reap the healthy benefits. Whilst it’s true that studies show a meat-rich diet can be detrimental to your health, Anita Bean also states in Sports Nutrition that athletes need between 1.2 and 1.7 grams per kilogram bodyweight – and I mean athletes as in individuals who train hard, not just the Jess Ennises and Mo Farrahs of this world – compared to a sedentary person who only needs 0.75 grams per kilogram.

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So how do we strike a balance? You’d be amazed to learn just how many foods protein is present in, though it’s difficult to get sources as dense as meat. To poke a litle fun at switch to being a meat-eater, I set myself a challenge to try get as much protein in one evening meal as I possibly could – without resorting to meat, dairy, or even fake meat!

Kidney beans: 8g per half can (120g). Beans are a perfect source of protein for vegetarians – they’re full of fibre, stabilise blood sugar and are inexpensive.

Chickpea & spinach soup: 4.4g per half can. Chickpeas are also legumes, the same as beans, and share many of the same benefits. This can is one of my “emergency” meals but I thought it would be good to make it the base! Plus this ad-lib addition is in keeping with the thrown-together quality of this dish.. Ahem.

Mushrooms: 2.2g per cup. I used to think that mushrooms were mega protein dense, due to their presence in most veggie meals, but I actually think this is due to their meaty texture rather than macro content. Still, not bad for a vegetable – calorie-for-calorie, broccoli has 1.2g.

Quinoa: 8g per cooked cup. A trendy superfood, and with good reason – it contains all nine amino acids and has twice the protein of rice.

Green pepper: 0.5g per half pepper. For taste, texture and colour!

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Total protein per portion: 23.1g. Perhaps not in the lofty heights of 50g for a steak but not bad for a plate full of vegetables.

This dish did fill me up and is something I would happily add into my weekly menu, though perhaps not suitable for the day after legs day: my muscles need more fuel after lifting heavy. I’d have been interested to hear if Wicks felt any better after her meat-free month, especially seeing as I felt stronger after ceasing vegetarianism! It just proves that your diet is a very personal thing, and whilst you should take into account what the experts say, how you feel is the best indicator of a healthy lifestyle.

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That Time I Bumped Into Sam Briggs… And Completely Fangirled

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Alright, so this is a bit of a sad, fangirly post, but I’m excited so you are getting it anyway:

Walking home from the Om Show on Sunday I bumped right into Sam Briggs along the canal near my flat. Sam Briggs: also known as the fittest woman on the planet, who finished top of the leaderboard of this year’s CrossFit Open, and will most likely batter the competition at the Games this year.

I was definitely a bit of a weird crazy person but she was very cool with it. Let’s just hope that somehow her 125kg max squat weight magically rubbed off on me in passing…

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No Fear | Handstands & Green Juice at the Om Yoga Show 2014

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Traditionally in yoga, 108 is the sacred number. 108 sun salutations, 108 prayer beads, 108 sacred sites. But this weekend has been all about the number two for me – a couple, or double; a pair. Two days of the Om Yoga Show, two hours’ practice each day. Two green juices both days to fuel my asanas; two hands firmly planted into the earth with two feet reaching up high into the sky.

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No, I didn’t mix those last two up. One of the highlights of my weekend was a handstand workshop. I was nervous beforehand, and the instructors did say that fear is what holds most of us back from being able to do a handstand. They’re not wrong there. I learned lots of new tips to improve my inversions, and even got up into a handstand in the middle of the floor. OK, so I had a spotter who made me feel super safe – and they definitely let go at one point so I was freestanding!

I also got the chance to try out three different types of yoga – Iyengar, boxing and Jivamukti. I have always just “done” yoga without a thought of which school I was, adding in and taking away bits as I felt necessary, though the Jivamukti class really resonated with me. The teacher was bursting with energy (Andrea Everingham of One Yoga Studio in Chorlton, if you’re local!), the music loud, and the flow fast. We got to do stuff I love like balances, back bends, and inversions, and I really felt like I opened new doors in my practise – I did crabs, crows, and I nearly did a one-legged arm balance before faceplanting. I didn’t mind though! I firmly believe that what doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you and it was great to take my yoga practise outside of the box.

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The Freeths of the Freestyle Yoga Project ran the handstand workshop I went to on the Saturday, and Mark was telling us about the progress he’s making with one-armed handstand. He can showed us how he can do it against the wall, and is working on freestanding. I was thinking about this  whilst watching the couple’s demonstration later that day – if these guys are still working on poses and appreciating their progress, then I shouldn’t be too hard on myself when I don’t get crow or headstand press straight away. Everyone is at their own stage of practise and progress can’t be forced.

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There were some awesome stands to nosy about, too, but sadly the intention I set was to not buy any more crazy patterned leggings. I have to save pennies! Sad though as I could have easily spent on peacock Onzies or galaxy Teekis. I did allow myself to buy some foodie bits though – I’ve newly discovered 9 Bars (I know, where have I been?), chocolate Koko milk and Chi coconut water lattes, which are made from 100% coconut water.

I’m so inspired and excited now to get back onto my mat to put the knowledge and courage I’ve gained this weekend to good use – I feel I’ve been able to let go of some fear with the help of experienced instructors, spotters and helpers. My only problem with the show? That it’s not every weekend! Seriously, it was such an incredible experience, I will certainly be there again next year.

Namaste, Om Yoga Show!

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