It seems so common for us to compare ourselves to others in pretty much everything that we do. But the thing is, you don't know other people's journeys and what got them to the places they are right now. And that doesn't matter. What does matter is that you're on your own journey and your goal is to be better today than you were yesterday.
Last Saturday was the first cross country race of the season and my first pure running race since my ankle injury. It was great to be back with the Striders, working as a team and having a bit of fun whilst getting muddy! No I wasn't that fast, but that doesn't matter at this stage - I had such a good time and it has set a great baseline to work from and improve over the winter months - I cannot wait for more muddy fun coming up! (Plus Striders always have amazing cakes at our cross country meets - what's not to love!
So just remember, your journey is going to look completely different to someone else's. Letting yourself compare yourself to others will only make you feel like you're not good enough and potentially hinder your abilities to push forwards. Focus on what will make you better tomorrow than you were yesterday.
As you have probably guessed, I am slightly addicted to nut butters, so any recipe that contains the stuff is a winner in my eyes. And these are just so moreish, if I do say so myself!
These are a healthier version of Reece's peanut butter cups, and the best thing is you can tailor the middle to your own fave flavours. Which brings me onto a new discovery - Nutcessity. A friend of mine came across their products at a local food festival and had to tell me about them. They are so local to me (literally made down the road from my house), and pride themselves on being organic, free from added sugar, preservatives and oils so I had to give them a go.
Their nut butters are not your usual flavours so work perfectly for this recipe - who doesn't love a bit of variety!
I went for their maple pecan, gingerbread almond, and brazil and coconut flavours - they all taste different but super yummy.
A lot of people don’t go out of their way to be sustainable because they think that the changes are expensive and require specialty products. But, the truth is there are easy and affordable swaps you can make. It is NOT difficult or expensive to be eco-friendly. It just takes a lifestyle change, breaking old habits and practice. Here are a few changes that I have incorporated into my life, that I think many fellow athletes (and none athletes) could replicate very easily. All small changes, but like the star-fish story, we can all make a difference.
1. Packaged foods > homemade snacks
Nothing makes you feel like a winner more than getting in a swim before work starts. But if you follow that up with a (plastic) pot of bircher muesli eaten with a (plastic) disposable spoon, it rather takes the shine off. Instead, try to make your smoothie or oats at home and bring them in tupperware. Be organised and prep it the night before, so tomorrow you’re all set.
Also, try making your own energy bars to limit plastic wrapping waste. A great recipe book I have recently purchased is ‘Feed Zone Portables’, a cookbook for ‘on the go athletes’, which contains lots of great but simple recipes for pre, mid and post training portable snacks.
2. Cling film > beeswax wraps
Athletes are renowned for being constantly hungry, so one of my eco-friendly staples is beeswax wraps to keep snacks fresh in your bag but without the waste. The wraps are a great alternative to using cling film (1 roll takes 1,000 years to decompose!) and can be reused over and over again. They are also a great way to transport snacks without the need for bulky tupperware tubs – perfect if you have space constraints in your kit/gym bags! They have a natural adhesive that seals under the warmth of your hands, and are wash clean.
If you’re really creative you can actually make your own. Or these are my favourites - Abeego Beeswax Food Wrap - Variety Pack
3. Single-use plastic > reusable water bottle
Currently we buy 1 million plastic bottles worldwide every minute, with a single plastic bottle taking 450 years to decompose. By 2050, it’s thought that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, so swopping to a reusable water bottle is a no-brainer! Eliminating single-use plastic from your workout routine is a meaningful step that also justifies buying one of the cool new styles out there right now – I am currently using Sundried’s BPA-free reusable water bottle which is leak-proof and chemical-free.
4. Disposable coffee cup > reusable coffee cup
We all now athletes love their caffeine, but did you know that because of the wax coating, your takeaway coffee cup cannot easily be recycled despite being made of paper. Almost all of them are incinerated, exported or sent to landfill because their plastic lining makes them costly to recycle.
Lots of coffee shops now give you a small discount if you bring your own cup, so get your own reusable cup and help cut down on this needless waste. I have a handy collapsible Stojo Pocket Cup, which perfect when you’re on the go as it fits neatly into your bag. The Sundried reusable coffee cup is double-walled so your hot drink doesn't get cold or burn your hands when you're holding it. It also has a leak-proof mouthpiece making it perfect for commuting too.
There really is no excuse for single use!
5. Sustainable clothing
Did you know that the production of cotton for fast fashion is the second worst industry in the world for damaging the planet next to oil mining? At least 8,000 chemicals are used to turn raw materials into textiles, 25% of the world's pesticides are used to grow non-organic cotton and it is estimated that in the UK alone around 350,000 tonnes of clothing ends up in landfill every year! Brands are now proving that it is possible to create sustainable, ethical clothing without damaging the planet so look out for these when your purchasing your next round of workout clothing.
My two workout staples are Sundried’s Piz Fora training vest which is made from recycled plastic water bottles (how cool!) and Eco Tech® top made from eco-friendly biodegradable material which decomposes in a landfill within 3 years (and is super soft!).
6. Aerosols > natural deodorant stick
Another must for any athlete or gym goer is some form of deodorant to keep fresh smelling. I found Your Nature natural deodorant sticks at a local eco-festival and was quite sceptical at first as I didn’t think it would stand up to its normal supermarket deodorant rivals. However, I was pleasantly surprised and have been using it ever since. Even after heavy training sessions I am still fresh! This particular brand is vegan friendly, plastic free, 100% natural, free from toxins and aluminium, plus the sandalwood and bergamot scent is lovely! It may seem more expensive, but I am still currently on my first stick 3 months after purchasing!
7. Disposable shampoo bottles > shampoo bar and cork pot
Frequent training often means frequent hair washing, particularly for us ladies. So another way to reduce unnecessary plastic waste is to switch to shampoo and soap bars. I have fairly sensitive dry hair so found the Jason and Argon Oil shampoo bars from Lush left my hair feeling soft. Another benefit is you can get a handy cork pot, which are 100% natural and biodegradable, allow you to transport your bar without any mess!
A quick and easy snack / pre-training fuel!
I love these for an afternoon snack for a bit of a carb boost prior to evening training!
We spend so many months of the year working hard towards our 'A races', putting our bodies through both mental and physical stress - you do need a break! Something that most sporting people will say is easier said than done, we just can't seem to stop ourselves!
So, since coming back from my ankle injury I have had no training plan and just 'trained' when I've wanted to - for the pure enjoyment of being able to get out and do what I love, but whilst having that life balance too and spending precious time with family and friends. If I wanted to go out for a run I did (often with the pooch!), but if I wanted to dress as Minnie Mouse and have drinks to celebrate my besties 30th birthday resulting in a written off Sunday - I also did. Off season is all about that balance!
So, Warwickshire Triathlon last Sunday was my final triathlon of the season - it was an opportunity to just go out and enjoy it with no pressure on times/paces/power. I really do recommend doing at least one race a season with the sole aim of soaking up the atmosphere and having a bit of fun!
It wasn't just my last triathlon of the season, it was also my super mum's too - who deserves a shout out. Having only very recently started doing triathlons, she absolutely smashed this one getting a PB on the swim and bike and finishing 5th in her competitive age category, only a few minutes behind the winner - proud is an understatement! I can't wait to see what is in store for her in 2020! (maybe branching out to open water swimming...hint hint)
With regards to my race, I had an ace time and was surprised to finish 2nd in my age cat! Frustratingly though I found out that the 'faster' swimmers had been set off first thing in the morning so were racing on clear roads. Everyone else was then set off from slowest to fastest as per normal for pool based triathlons, resulting in me being one of the last to go when Stratford traffic was probably at its peak... Out on the bike course I therefore got caught behind a bus that was stuck behind a slow cyclist on one of the main descents on the course where you could make up time - gutted! Note to self - have more confidence in my abilities and put a faster swim time down if I do this race again (I beat my predicted entry time by over 30 seconds, oops!)
So that brings a close to the 2019 season - now bring on the mud fest that is cross country season! Big thanks to everyone who supported me this year. It has certainly had its ups and downs but I've got my fingers crossed for a slightly more consistent injury free 2020!