Category Archives: Focus on Fitness

Focus on Veggies (I mean Fitness) VII

20140811_182428Way back when, in the late summer, when I first drafted this post, I had just got back from 10 days holiday and gained 3lbs. As a result my personal trainer worked me hard, oh so hard. My first training session consisted of a plank challenge, and sprints alternating with lunges, amongst lifting and core work. Ouch – were the chips with my pub meals worth it?

So here’s some examples of the meals we’ve been having as a result of my focus on vegetables:

  1. Chicken in a cream sauce, no carbs, accompanied by 3/4 of a plate of roasted spiralised courgettes and carrots. Verdict – proper yum.
  2. Pancetta & Mushroom Tart, with 5/8 of a plate of green beans, asparagus and sugar snaps.
  3. Sausage stuffed mushrooms with 3/4 of a plate of roasted spiralised aubergine and carrots (I wouldn’t recommend this veg combination – it’s a little dry).
  4. Roasted chicken thighs with 80g (raw) of roast potatoes and 5/8 of a plate of broccoli, green beans and asparagus. Yum – first potatoes in days!!
  5. Spiced lamb patties with a pitta bread and 5/8 of a plate of roasted spiralised marrow and butternut squash (see picture above).
  6. Red thai curry with 5/8 of a plate of broccoli and home-grown runner beans.
  7. Chilli and ginger chicken leg with 250g of green beans.

I think I’ve said before that I cook in batches of 4, 6 or 8 portions at the weekend. I freeze the portions and rotate them so that we’re not eating the same thing for nights on end. It’s a habit I started when I lived on my own in an attempt to make sure I didn’t eat take away every night!

On weekdays I just get something out of the freezer in the morning, it’s defrosted by the evening, and all we need to do is cook some veg to go with it. It makes life so easy – it means I don’t have to cook properly in the week. It does mean that I have to go shopping a little more frequently to make sure the veg is fresh but that’s not the end of the world.


Breaking in new trainers..

20141109_093330The dog & I went on a cross-country run this morning – I took the chance to wear my new off-road trainers that I bought several months ago. I really would have liked to have shared a photo of the glorious view – sun streaming through the mist onto the dewy grass – but I didn’t take my camera with me, so we’ll have to make do with a “before” shot of my trainers instead.

What does half a plate of vegetables look like? (Focus VI)


Eating a more balanced diet – more veg and less carbs with my dinner as a starter for ten – has eluded me. To tackle this frustration, I have tried to use a problem solving approach to identifying the barriers and planning solutions in a more systematic way.

As a bit of background, there are a few things that would be helpful for you to know about my cooking habits.

  • Most of our meals are cooked from scratch at the weekends, and then frozen in portions for eating on weekday evenings – I cook in big batches and rotate to make sure we get some variety. Weekday cooking involves reheating the main portion of the meal, and cooking the sides afresh.
  • On four of the five weekday nights, one or other of us has a club to rush out to not long after getting back from work – meaning cooking has to be a super quick affair, and something we can do while getting ready to go out.
  • My husband loves egg noodles, and would eat them most days if I let him.

Barriers & Solutions

Buying extra vegetables but not cooking them – meaning that they go a bit soft and are not that appealing once they are cooked.  POSSIBLE SOLUTION : Try to shop for fresh produce twice a week.

The vegetables I have don’t ”go” with the meal that I’ve got out of the freezer.  POSSIBLE SOLUTION : Cook them anyway and see what happens – when we were camping I added some sad-looking broccoli to a curry and it worked great.

Vegetables take longer to cook than noodles.  POSSIBLE SOLUTION : Plan to have courgettes and carrots on hand to spiralise when we need a super quick veg. Identify other veg that can be spiralised.

How much veg should I prepare to fill just over half a plate?  POSSIBLE SOLUTION : 280g per person (The picture at the top is 280g of veg.)

How little carb is one-eighth of a plate’s worth?  POSSIBLE SOLUTION : 1/3 of a standard portion.

My husband does want to eat more healthily but doesn’t want to follow the same proportions of veg vs carbs as me.  POSSIBLE SOLUTION : Work out how to adjust the amounts to cook for both of us – the plan is to start with him having ¼ of a plate of carbs and slightly less veg than me..

What do I do if the meal I’ve got out of the freezer has carbs or veg in it – not just protein?! For example – lasagne, vegetarian cannelloni, thai curry with loads of green beans in..  POSSIBLE SOLUTION : If it has carbs in it – don’t cook any extra carbs. If it has veg in it – go ahead as usual.

I’ll let you know how I get on..

Focus on Fitness V

20140808_070239I have joined a gym… which doesn’t feel very minimalist..

During our fitness holiday in May, it became apparent that if I want to be in better shape I need to do two things – eat more healthily and do different kinds of exercise. My main forms of exercise are running (in fits and starts) and walking the dog, but that’s it.

This was confirmed during my fitness assessment – my cardio abilities are pretty good, but I’m not very flexible or strong, and my posture is poor.

And so, three times a week, I am now heading down the road to be put through my paces by a personal trainer. All the exercises I need to do are the ones that I find difficult (of course), so we are doing different variations of squats, ab work, plank and lifting stuff – to strengthen my core first. The amazing thing is the trainer manages to make it enjoyable, varies the training from session to session, and I come away feeling good!

I’m really impressed with the set-up too – it works really well but is quite rare. You pay a monthly membership, attend three times a week with up to three or four other people – each doing their own thing as instructed, so your workout is still tailored to your needs. It means you get personal training at each session, at a fraction of the price!

We are due to move house again at the end of the year, and so I’m already worrying about how I’m going to continue with this in our new location. Will I find someone else I like as much who is as affordable? If I stop having training sessions, will I undo all the good work that I hope will have borne fruit by then? If I joined a normal gym would I still go as frequently without having the trainer there as my conscience?

Focus on Fitness IV – Eating Advice

Meal Proportions

Like most of us I have heard a huge range of conflicting advice about what to eat, what time to eat, what combination to eat, how many points to eat, and the impossible “just eat healthily and exercise regularly”.

So, to be clear I am not a nutritionist, scientist or doctor, but the advice we were given on our fitness holiday earlier in May seemed sensible and quite easily applied with a little thought.

The advice was:

Start by filling just over half your plate with vegetables and salad.

  1. Add protein to a quarter of the plate.
  2. The small slice left is for carbs.
  3. Exercise some portion control.

It seems balanced, not overly restrictive, and eating more vegetables can’t be a bad thing, right? In the week we were away, I managed to follow this precisely – the amazing chef had prepared all manner of interesting and unusual salads, lots of extra vegetables to go with your meal, and served the pasta / potatoes separately so you could help yourself. I came away feeling slimmer, healthier and more vibrant. Genius.

At home, it’s been a different story. It’s taken me umpteen weeks for two things to coincide so I could include the above picture on the blog – 1) remembering to take a photo before I started eating, and 2) having followed the advice in the first place.

Even more confusingly, the trainer at the gym I have joined has a whole other philosophy towards food – the main crux of the difference being to eat carbs at lunchtime and protein for dinner, and to eat a massive breakfast, medium lunch and small dinner.

Arrrgghhhhhh…. (to be continued…)

Focus on fitness III


Tough days have alternated with easy days – which have involved hikes instead of runs, and fewer workout sessions. I seem to have done more strength and core workouts and interval sessions this week than in my whole lifetime; and they have included several of the circuit training sessions I was dreading. Fair play to the personal trainers, though, who have come up with umpteen variations of exercises each session in order to eliminate the risk of boredom.

Today I had a one to one session with the personal trainer, who assessed my strengths and weaknesses and give me a regime of pre- and post-run stretches to address my weaker areas. For the first time ever, I feel like I know what exercises I should be doing and what the purpose is.

Most of my fitness is running and walking, so one of my main points for change is to introduce a new sport or fitness type into my schedule.

My other major learning point has been about my eating habits, so will touch on that in my next post.

Focus on fitness II


This morning I’m a little achy… You can see from the picture that I did get a chance for laying by the pool, but that was by no means the main activity of the day.

As well as a consultation with a personal trainer, we went for a 6km run before breakfast, and had an introductory workout to show us some of the basic moves and stretches we’ll be using during the week. After lunch we did a combination of circuits and shuttle runs for “total body conditioning!” and then finished the day with boxercise.

The food has been delicious but healthy – lunch was an amazing array of salads with lemon chicken and dinner was a green thai turkey curry. I wonder if the chef will share her secrets?