Sunday thoughts: 24th August 2014

I don’t think I had quite realised how much I needed wanted a quieter week. Ben and I enjoyed a couple of earlier finishes this week, as well as a couple of well-timed daytime breaks during which we could train together. Not a huge amount of training, mind, as Ben had hurt his wrist and my thumb was trying out some new styles (let’s just say I’m lucky it hasn’t been dislocated) so heavy lifting was not really an option, but I enjoyed some sweaty cardio work on the bike.

I just feel like I’ve had a little more time to breathe this week, and it feels good.

New things I have learnt this week

  • Well. I finally thought to actually look up the origins of bikram yoga… and I was shocked by what I found out (and also shocked that I had neither heard of the controversy before nor actually looked it up sooner). Egocentricity, arrogance, greed, bigotry, sexual harassment, rape… Nothing that I would want associated with my yoga practice. No, no, no thank you. (Full post on my experience of bikram yoga coming this week!)
  • I read about beetroot juice supplementation (for its nitrate content) in Personal Training Quarterly and while its effectiveness wasn’t news to me, the stats were: one study quoted found the best results with an 8mmol concentration, which improved time to exhaustion by 14% when consumed 2h30 before performing a high-intensity exercise for about five minutes! However, another study quoted had found no improvement in cycling time trial performance after beetroot juice consumption, while yet another couple showed improvements after regular use of beetroot juice. Meanwhile, other nitrate-rich foods like leafy greens have yet to be tested. As always, there is no substitute for a balanced and well-timed diet, hard work, and the right blend of confidence and optimism.
  • I was pleased to see a bit more talk about how eating breakfast will not necessarily solve all of your life’s problems (or something to that effect). I have already written about my views on the matter, and can report that I currently sometimes eat a full breakfast shortly after waking up, sometimes snack on bits and pieces within a few hours of waking up, and sometimes don’t eat anything for hours. The only thing that makes a difference as to how I feel later in the day is whether I eat to the full satisfaction of my cravings or not; the days where I do so resulting in more focus, higher energy levels, and smaller meals in the evening.
  • I loved this TED talk by Kelly McGonigal on learning to accept stress. Although it is obviously aimed at the world of high-pressure careers, it is so easily applicable to fitness (your heart is beating through your ears and your throat is dry and raw, the last thing you want is to panic about it), nutrition (you’ve eaten something you have been told will make you fat or unhealthy and your stomach starts knotting up as you fill with a sense of weakness and incompetence), and taking the Tube at rush hour (enough said). Another scientific angle to the spiritual benefits of meditation, which helps me build bridges between two worlds I sometimes feel torn between.
  • I also learnt that diced watermelon in a freezer bag will freeze in one solid block that will freezer-burn your hands in the time it takes to work them apart. I also learnt that using a hammer to break the pieces apart is highly effective but will also destroy the freezer bag you had planned to reuse.

New things I have eaten this week

  • I finally tried matcha! I mixed a quarter teaspoon of the attractive green powder with freshly boiled water as directed, and had a small sip. Not a fan – I found it bitter without the crispness of green tea brewed from leaves, but then it always takes me a while to get used to anything new. In the meantime, I heated some milk with the remains of a scraped-out vanilla pod (waste not want not) and added that to my matcha for a matcha latté, which I enjoyed much more.
  • Not new but definitely noteworthy, I made some awesome banana ice cream: frozen banana, a drizzle of soy milk, a drop of vanilla extract, a couple of cubes of frozen watermelon for bulk, a generous teaspoonful or two of carob molasses, all blended and creamy… then pulse in some mint dark chocolate – delicious! I used Green & Blacks but I’m now wondering what a peppermint cream chocolate like Fry’s would be like…

Other highlights this week

  • I loved having a couple of earlier evenings this week – we even finished dinner before 9pm on a couple of occasions, which is earlier than we often start cooking!
  • I felt great for doing a bit more cardio, especially sitting on a spinning bike next to Ben (racing him and beating him helped with the enjoyment too).
  • We went shopping for a new blender on Friday afternoon as we were both off! I was set on a NutriBullet having heard good things from reliable sources (and having dismissed the idea of spending £400 on a Vitamix or Blendtec), but when we found it in the (metallic) flesh we were a little alarmed at how big the base is, how small the cups are, the use of plastic for the cups, and the fact that there are no different speed settings. Right next to it, for the same speed of 600W, but with a much larger glass jug, was the Breville Pick & Mix blender. Priced at £40 (with an extra 10% off as we found out at the till), we figured that even if it wasn’t omnipotent (nor omniscient, nor omnipresent) it wouldn’t set us back in the pursuit of an all-singing all-dancing blending device, whilst allowing us to create more elaborate creamy fruity beverages than our stick-blender currently does. So far, it has managed to tackle cashews, chia seeds, and the aforementioned watermelon ice rocks, and is proving to be a fun new toy that actually looks great on the crowded kitchen worktop too!Breville Pick & Mix blender
  • Although we had to wait until almost 10.30pm for dinner last night (a visit to the driving range plus the meticulous rolling, chopping, unravelling of homemade fettucine/papardelle), it was so worth the wait. An obscenely large bowl of pasta with a thin but oily homemade tomato sauce and fresh black pepper. I won’t tell you that we binge-watched Masterchef Australia whilst ploughing through our carb-fest, lest you think any less of me.
  • But it is completely acceptable blog content to reveal my giant breakfast/lunch smoothie this morning/afternoon (it’s Sunday, everyone knows Sunday mornings don’t exist). Soy milk and water, plain soy protein powder, frozen and fresh banana, frozen watermelon, frozen blueberries, raw cashews, dried dates, cinnamon, vanilla extract. It was huge and it was just thick enough to consider eating with a spoon but I couldn’t resist my new glass straw. And it may have been the best smoothie I have ever made.Blueberry smoothie
  • This. This has been a highlight. Writing. Typing. Reading articles about whatever takes my fancy and turning laundry-pegging into a leisurely opportunity to watch TED talks. Having time and not feeling guilty about enjoying it.

And on that note – go forth and be merry, or don’t, or nap, or don’t, or basically do whatever you want… orrr… do whatever you want. It’s your time, use it however wisely you wish.

But I highly recommend smoothies, mint choc chip banana ice cream, huge bowls of pasta and maybe a little sweat; after all, it worked for me this week!

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