April 2015Eclectic Cake: April 2015

Monday, 27 April 2015

Do It?

Yesterday, over 38,000 people ran the Virgin Money London Marathon. I was not one of them...but I could have been.

Yesterday was all about this brilliant woman! Photo by Kiera

Two days before the biggest running event in the UK, I was offered the chance to run. I'd not trained, I'd never run a marathon before...but everyone I spoke to was so sure I could and should run it. With only a few hours to decide, I had to go for the old fashioned pros and cons list...

In the end, I decided that it just wasn't quite my time and enjoyed every minute of cheering on the heroes that had put the proper work into training, all those who breezed through or battled 26.2 miles of London.

Congratulations if you did run the marathon, you are amazing!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Recipe for Success

I’m terrible at baking. There have been a few successes in the past with delicious gingerbread and right-shaped cupcakes but generally, there’s something not quite right about the sweet treats that emerge from my oven. Soggy bottoms, dense crumb, you name a Great British Bake Off failing and I’ve done it. 

All this because I’m simply not using the instructions properly. It’s obvious, of course, but when you don’t follow a recipe from start to finish, you’ll end up with something that only partly resembles what you’d planned to make. 

I run the same way I cook.* 

After looking over recipes or training plans to see what’s involved, I think “yep, I can do that”, then never look at them again. It’s not through stupidity or rebellion, I think I just lack the discipline to follow something down to the letter. I know where I’m starting from and what I’m trying to achieve but kind of freestyle the middle bit. 

As I prepare to face my first ultramarathon – my biggest challenge yet – this worries me a little. Is there a correct way to train for a 35-mile race around an island? I tried to follow a plan for three days and it just panicked me. It loomed, issuing guilt when I chose to go mountain biking and skateboarding with friends, rather than do hill intervals. But also tutted at me when I wondered for twelve-miles rather than the prescribed eight.

But this is how I've always run. And, so far, running has always been fun. I like the adventure of it and going out on a Sunday afternoon getting lost until I'm ready for a roast makes me happy. Planning an exact route so I match the digits on a piece of paper just doesn't sound so appealing.

I will, of course, run further and harder as my ultra draws closer but when I feel ready, not when I'm told. Glancing at the training plan, I know roughly what I should be doing. Essentially, though, training is meant to make me prepared for what's to come. Seeing as endurance events are said to be mostly run in your mind, if I think I'm ready, my training will be done. I’m not setting out to win the thing, I just want to complete it.

As long as it’s edible it’s a cake. As long as I finish, I’m an ultra marathoner.

* No, I don't create smoke during both, as my husband assumed reading this.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Be Faithfully Unfaithful with ClassPass

I love trying new classes. Variety is the spice of life, you know. But paying individually for classes and missing out on loyalty deals can be pretty pricey – being unfaithful is high cost. That is, until ClassPass came to London.

This is a single, monthly ticket to hundreds of classes in the city from boxing to yoga, spinning to CrossFit, bootcamp to ballet in some of the best studios around. You get to try an ever-growing list of studios with just one fee. For £89 (or less if you sign up for longer) will get unlimited classes for a whole month. Go to more than seven classes during that month and you're winning.

In just a couple of weeks during my trial, kindly provided by ClassPass, I tried... 

There were so many more classes I'd like to have tried, it's hard to know where to start with such a varied and long list. There are different ways to decide – either look for a studio by name or search for classes by area, activity type or by time. Once you've chosen a class, simply click reserve and pick out your favourite lycra.

It wasn't completely smooth sailing, though. A couple of times, studios didn't register me as having attended a class. If you fail to cancel within the 12-hour cancellation period or if you miss a class, you'll be charged for it, so my marked absences almost cost me.

Also, my one month trial ended as I was away on holiday and unable to sign up for the following month. This now means I have to pay a £69 reactivation fee if I want to use ClassPass in the future. This doesn't quite sound like the commitment-free option it's billed to be. You can put your membership on hold but it will cost you £19 for the privilege.

If you use ClassPass regularly, the advantages will very soon out-weight any negatives, as you'll be able to enjoy any class you could possibly think of across the whole of London. I definitely enjoyed having so many varied classes to choose from and it would take at least a couple of months to even make a dent in my 'to do' list.

So cancel your gym membership, quit your single studio loyalty scheme. Being faithfully unfaithful is the future of working out.

Sign up for ClassPass here.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Be:Fit London

Something very exciting is happening.

Wearing lycra is socially acceptable, women's sport is becoming more present on TV and we're being welcomed into the weights room. The choice is now far harder than Legs, Bums and Tums or 'Jogging' and campaigns like #ThisGirlCan are encouraging more women to become active, helping to prove that being fit and healthy comes in all shapes and sizes.

Women's fitness is changing and Be:Fit London are throwing a party to celebrate. For three days in May, the Business Design Centre in Islington will play host to a plethora of innovative classes, expert talks and a show of over 125 of the best health and fitness brands around.

Book to hear Olympic champions like Victoria Pendleton and Becky Adlington speak, check in at the restorative VIP Luxe Lounge or reserve your spot in a free class from some of the most innovative studios in London, from Frame to Voga.

Come join the party!

Be:Fit London is on 1st–3rd May. You can book your tickets here.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Class Review: Common Ground

'A drink' is so much more than hydration. It's a premise for the meeting of minds, the offer of support and the creation of community. 

All of these are so important to anyone looking to up their fitness game or even for that first introduction. You want to join a group of people whose goals are similar to yours, who will encourage you to push yourself further than you ever would on your own and to feel like you're part of something special, so you want to keep going back. That's why new workout concept, Common Ground, by Brew is perfect for anyone in search of a more active lifestyle. 

We met our instructor, personal trainer Susie Morgan, at the all-day eatery in Putney which, even mid-morning, was bustling with mums and trendy business-ers. Leaving them to it, we dropped off our bags and followed Susie and her wagon of fitness weapons to Barnes Common, using the 5-minute walk to get to know each other and speculate what we'd let ourselves in for.

Based on bootcamp but with none of the shouting, Common Ground uses resistance and body-weight interval training to work the whole body. After a quick warm-up, we were introduced to the equipment – a medicine ball, kettle bell and battle ropes, which were thrown, swung and thrashed until our muscles turned to jelly.

Resting in between sets came in the form of out-and-back runs, squats and lunges. Whilst this took the focus away from our trembling arms, it definitely still felt like work, so we were relieved when asked to lie down on yoga mats towards the end of the class. But Susie still had some moves up her sleeve to get the last drops of energy left in the tank – a combination of sit-ups that made sure our whole core felt just as shaky as our limbs.

Workout done, we returned as a newly bonded group to Brew Putney for a much needed shower in their new facilities and that drink, a refreshing smoothie to continue our day as healthily as it started. I went for a deliciously green spirulina, Apple juice and banana creation but I could easily have gone for a glass of zesty-sounding orange, beetroot, carrot and ginger.

Common Ground classes run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from Brew Putney at 10am. Contact @brew_cafe for more details.

Monday, 13 April 2015

FIFA Women's World Cup – #RoadToCanada

I played football for the first time ever last week. Yeah, I can explain the off-side rule with a table full of condiments but I've never played the sport. It was clear very early on who in our mixed group had the edge. The guys had been introduced to the game from a young age, the rest of us were taught that girls don't play football. But there is a squad of women proving that this just isn't true.

Jess Clarke is just one of the women representing England in the FIFA Women's World Cup this summer. At just 25, the Notts County forward has already earned 50 caps for her country and has her sights on scoring victory in Canada. I had the pleasure of asking her a few questions...

Jess Clarke is on the #RoadToCanada, supported by Continental Tyres

1. We often hear of young girls being discouraged to play football. Did you face any of this?
At school, the lads always used to tease me about it. I don't think they liked that I could play at the level that they could but I think that was just kids being young. Sometimes I would be a bit wary of getting involved just because they didn't like the fact that a girl could actually play but now I've achieved my goals and am playing at a professional level, the guys from school now really appreciate that. Often enough, I'll get a little text saying well done, it's really great and it's great to see that people have changed their views.

2. Who really encouraged you to start and continue to play? 
I remember one guy who used to live in my local area and he was such a good player, he used to beat me [at football] all the time and he really encouraged me to get better because I just wanted to beat him. I wanted to beat him so bad, so I used to be out practicing all the time. I think it was just a sense of proving people wrong that I quite enjoyed. And I think that was the turning point that made me push on and really pursue a career in football.

3. How do you think girls could be encouraged to play football?
Ultimately, I think in school and PE, making it part of the curriculum. I think that would be massive in encouraging them, to show that it's acceptable as well. I think the local areas, leisure centres...you'll see guys playing 5-a-side all the time but you'll never see girls playing. Something in the community, maybe having something there that could encourage girls.

I know that people in the FA and the football foundation are doing a fantastic job of doing that in the community, holding football festivals and helping people get involved.

Jess Clarke is on the #RoadToCanada, supported by Continental Tyres

4. What, in your opinion, has to be done to make women's football as accepted as men's?
I think that's difficult because it's changing people's opinions. How can you do that?! I think it's probably giving it more exposure but having a story behind it – where football has come from in the women's game to where it is now, what things have been done to achieve that. In doing that I think that would give people an appreciation of what women do in football. It would change people's views and maybe encourage them to get involved and maybe watch it more.

5. Other than football, which other sport or activity would you love to try?
I used to play basketball when I was younger and badminton, I used to really like as well. We used to play them in school. I like dancing but more like body popping. I don't know if I'm good at it but I like it.

6. What are your hopes ahead of the FIFA Women's World Cup?
My hope as an individual is to fulfil my potential, be the best that I could possibly be. Obviously be part of a team and something special and ultimately, go over there and win the World Cup. I think that's everyone's dream.

7. What's your greatest career moment so far?
I would have to say the World Cup 2010. We were in the group stages and had to beat New Zealand. We were drawing 1–1 and Hope [Powell], the manager at the time, pulled me off the bench and I thought "oh god, she's going to put me on", bearing in mind I wasn't a regular at the time. So I got ready and she grabbed both my shoulders and said "you need to go on, you need to score a goal". That was it, I was really nervous! But with ten minutes to go, I came on and I banged in the goal and helped the team go through to the quarter final.

Learn more about Jess Clarke and her #RoadToCanada in the video below...

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Why The 'S' Matters

On a beautifully sunny Saturday afternoon, history was made as the boat race gained an 's' for the first time since it started in 1829. This year, the Boat Races saw both the men and women of Oxford and Cambridge universities race along the Tideway.

Previously, it was only men who could enjoy this historic event, with the women rowing on a separate day and a separate course, so it was a joy to see them share this high-profile platform. It's taken a long time to get to this point. Women didn't get a competition at all until almost 100 years after the men and even then it wasn't quite the same. It was apparently unladylike to race, so each team set off individually and were judged on their style rather than time.

Thankfully, we've moved on a bit. And, brilliantly, it seems that everyone welcomed the future of women's sport. Newspaper articles, TV coverage, the biggest bank-side crowds ever...women's sport typically commands only 7% of media coverage, hidden somewhere in piles of pages about football and the gossip of male-dominated sports. This is a big deal.

But it's not just about rowing. This is about making all female sport more visible – showing girls that it's normal to work hard and get sweaty and be strong and compete and even dream that, one day, they'll be the ones celebrated for their sporting achievements.

I'd never watched the rowing before or really had an interest but within the first few minutes of the women's teams setting off, I wanted to try it myself. Imagine if I'd seen the Boat Races as a kid. Maybe I'd have been in one of those teams...

Oxford stormed to victory, winning convincingly by a few lengths with a boat aptly named 'Catalyst' because, surely, this is the trigger of a big change in women's sport.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Team Eclectic Cake

One of my absolute favourite races from last year is back and I'm excited to be running it once again. This time, I'm hoping some of you will join me, too.

The Wings for Life World Run is a unique race experience, where the finish line chases you. Thousands of runners across 35 countries Worldwide will start running at the same time (12pm for us in the UK), half an hour later the chaser car (the finish line) will head off, slowly at first but gradually gaining speed. Your challenge? To run as far as possible before the car passes you.

But if that doesn't tempt you, here are five great reasons why you should join me on 3rd May...

1. Anyone Can Run
As there is no pre-determined distance, anyone can enter this event, whether you've only ever run a mile or you feel comfortable after 100. Check out the goal calculator to see how far you might run. Last year I ran 17km, so I'll be aiming to get even further this year.

2. Slower Runners Finish First
The finish line creeps up from behind, so the slower runners get to finish first. They'll get taken back by shuttle bus to recover at the paddock party with their free beer(!), leaving any speedy legs still out on the course.

3. 100% of Race Fees go to Charity
On 3rd May, our legs will be extra powerful. Not only will they do some epic running but every single penny of the race entry fees go towards Wings for Life, a spinal chord injury charity.

4. You Can Race from Home
Can't make the event at Silverstone, no problem, you can race remotely using the Selfie Run app. Once downloaded, choose your race track and start the timer. The app will count down to the release of the virtual chaser car and update you on its progress until you've been overtaken and your run has finished.

5. You Can Join My Team
This year, Wings for Life World Run is all about the teams. Races are always far better when you run with your friends, so I'd love to share this brilliant experience. You can sign up to team Eclectic Cake here and let me know below when you're in.