12/05/2015

Urban Try - Lululemon x Stella Bartram x Route One

On Sunday I took part in an event I'd never heard of- an Urban Try organised by Lululemon. A what? Well, an urban try-athlon isn't the same as a true triathlon (and I'd never say it is anywhere near as hard) but it was really challenging. Its a trio of exercise events- in this case a bootcamp HIIT class at G5 Fitness with Stella Bartram; a spin class at Route One Spin; and then a 5 mile run along the Clydeside path.

When Katy gave me a heads up about the event I made the rash decision to email immediately, and secured myself a place in the full race. The day started bright and early at G5. I could tell just by looking at Stella that this was not going to be easy. Mainly because the lady has a body that will not quit... That is a lady that does not skimp on her workouts.

G5 Fitness
Motivational but simple words are painted on the walls
In the urban-cool, reformed-warehouse style gym (it used to be a railway arch, how cool is that?), we moved into a rounds workout. We did 45 seconds of each exercise then had 15s to change to the next station. We performed mountain climbers on glider feet pads; prowler pushes- pushing a trolley that was weighted up across the floor; wall balls; burpees (urgh, everyone hates Burpees); kettlebell swings; and a squat to press to axeman ball throw with an ending press up. The wall balls were so much harder than I expected, my legs just seemed to give no power and I was a little concerned about the two leg-centric events to come. We did 4 rounds of these exercises, for 24 minutes total exercise, with breaks in between. They also had a live DJ, which really upped the party atmosphere. Honestly, it was fun but not gutting... I suspect Stella went easy on us given what was to come.

En masse, we headed to the Route One Spin studio 1.2 miles away. Unfortunately the studio had suffered a power outage, so no electricity. No music. No screen showing the Californian coastline. Cry. Luckily, the staff just rolled with it; chucking Beyonce on some iPod speakers and yelling encouragement. We did sprint and hill intervals; ticking over in between these at 115. Spin was new to me but greatly enjoyable, especially the hills. It can also clearly be an intense workout- the studio was warm and there was sweat literally dripping from my nose!

I skipped off the bike and worried some more, as my legs felt empty and wooden. We headed to Victoria Bridge to start the run. Despite refueling with a Clif bar and Nuun infused water throughout the classes I really felt I had nothing left to give. In the end it was a hard and painful 5 miles. But the support was amazing (especially for a run with only 100 or so people in it). The Lululemon/Route One staff were so positive- holding brilliant signs in the tunnel at 1km/7km (out and back course). My favourites were, "we say ass, you say arse, either way move it" and, "Oh... You thought we said Rum?". There were also some Scottish minded signs, "Dinae hang aboot". Additionally one of them told me I had lovely hair (way to my heart = compliment my hair). I also finished to a big hug from Claire from Route One, who seems completely lovely. The run definitely had more of an all-in-it-together than a race feel, everyone was just aiming to finish and giving each other high fives and so on. its a shame the day was so crappy; as it can be a really beautiful place when the weather is nice.

Still beautiful, but very grey

Yes, yes I did. Damn.
I've always loved the Clydeside graffiti and this one is gorgeous

We jogged back to studio for food- the bit I was really looking forward to. It was well worth the wait. Juice Garden provided coconut water (no, thank you); strawberry smoothie (yes, thank you); amazing avocado wraps with tomato (had like three); beetroot wraps (didn't try these); raw natural caramel bites (they were dates, coconut cream and nuts); and coconut peanut energy balls. I ate a ton. Much of the food tasted suspiciously amazing for raw health food!

Hello lover.
The freebie vest

Here I also managed to meet Katy, who turned out to know a whole bunch of people at the event. She is one really cool woman. Especially as she was totally fine with me telling her she had a magic butt. I should probably add some context- their spin class was after mine and the electricity came back on the second her bum touched the spin bike seat! Magic, I tell you. For a free event, the goodies were amazing- we received a free vest, and a free yoga class with Laura McCrimmon (also seems lovely); and a voucher for a free Juice Garden coffee. Result!

Overall it was such a great event. It gave me a real taste for how hard proper triathlon must be; as the run was a complete exercise in mental strength. I can't imagine doing the same (or likely longer) if had swum and ridden miles on a bike beforehand! Triathletes, you guys are hard as nails. 

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Have you ever done a multi class event?

Do you spin? Despite no screens, I really enjoyed it!

08/05/2015

Nutri-BS #2

There is a vast amount of nutritional information bollocks in the world. Far more than I could ever comment upon. But in this series of posts, I am trying. If you haven't yet, head back and read my first post on this topic, in which I discuss low fat foods, the media, calorie equality, intolerance, and cleansing your insides. Most importantly remember that if you disagree I'd love to hear it, but I'd like to see some cold hard facts.

"AbadiƱoko uhazak" by Luis Angel Rodriguez - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Organics Aren't Any Better for You

Organics are a tricky one. Opinions range from the idea that eating non-organic produce is akin to sipping bleach off of a soup spoon, to the idea that organics is an expensive crock full of (near literal) s***. It is, however, the item on this list that'll you'll see me be least critical about, as my feelings are mixed.

In its most basic form, your decision on organics should come down to your fears about pesticides and sustainability. There is no convincing evidence that organic food is more nutritious or even more delicious. It is more expensive and harder to create for sure. Those are not the same thing. 

When it comes to pesticides, whilst non-organics do have more exposure they are still well below the conservative limits set by government in the vast majority of sampling. Organic does not promise that your food wasn't exposed to chemicals, just that they weren't exposed to non-natural pesticides deliberately. Natural pesticides have been implicated in some illnesses and I view their use as another conflation of the natural-makes-it-healthy fallacy. I'd actually be a tad more inclined to trust the non-natural lot. They've been used longer and therefore their effects have been tested for longer. Trace pesticides, natural or not, can be much lessened by a good hard scrub. but I understand that's a touch time-consuming.

Organics are also often imports- its easier to in those conditions grow abroad. Is environmental sustainability and local business support more important than organics? That's up to you. I've talked before about welfare and the meat industry and it will come up again, but there is some suggestion that organic livestock could be better treated, and some contrasting evidence that they are treated worse, due to the banning of using certain medications. Organic proponents suggest treating ill animals with homeopathy. Im sure you can tell what I think of that. 

What about GMOs? Genetic modifiation may sound like a Frankensteinian horror crime, but everything has been genetically modified including you, your food, and your designer dog. They're created in the lab, but pretty close to selective breeding. 

Sugar by Any Other Name is Still as Sweet

I also considered the title: 'You Cannot Have Your Agave Cake and Eat It Too'. You will see exponential numbers of healthy living blogs using agave, or maple syrup, as sweeteners in food recipes, particularly in healthified cakes. We already know that added sugar products are pretty bad for us, but this is healthy sugar... right? This is proper, smug, Gerson method* style sugar... isn't it?

Oh honey, I'm so very sorry. Lets go back to basics. Agave nectar or syrup is a sweetener derived commercially from a plant. Isn't that lovely and natural. I hope you have guessed by now that nothing is. Its created by either filtering, heating to break polysaccharides into simple sugars- mostly fructose), then concentrating that juice (not so lovely and natural)... or by using mould enzymes to convert it to fructose. Either way, your result is flavoured fructose. More fructose per weight than high-fructose corn syrup has in it. And that stuff has it literally there in the name. Arguably corn syrup is being more honest.

Again, like I commented in the last nutri-BS, the nature of calories then comes in to play. Once again these are sugars divorced from their fiber. That could damage your system in a multitude of ways. Moreover, these sugars have a lessened effect on satiety (or your brain's perception of satiety), so you wont even feel like you had a luxury food treat. Poor show, agave, poor show.


The Effects of Heat are Not Predictable

I covered this idea briefly in my blender post. The idea that cooking or heating food changes its nutrition. It does. Damnit Australia- first the terrifying spiders, then the igniting forests, now we have useless nutrition food due to your beautiful climate. Wait, don't go sobbing into your amazing Bondi-beach abs yet, the fact that food is changed by heating does not make it meaningless.

Again, like the blender chat it just isn't that simple. Heating tomatoes till they are tomato juice increases their lycopene content by over a third. Lycopene is one of those miracle nutrients- cancer fighter, pole vaulter, essential dietary aid. You know the ones. In carrots and corn, beta-carotene rises as they are cooked. A shame, as cooked carrots suck. 

Heat tends to break down structure, that can definitely destroy some nutrients (particularly those that are water soluble- vitamin C for example would plummet, so don't cook your oranges like West), but it can release others. If cooking stuff will make you eat your veggies, go right ahead. A couple of weeks ago I made a soup with 400g of spinach in it. Even if those nutrients are degraded, I would never have eaten anything over 100g of spinach in one meal ever. I bet 400g cooked could beat up the raw 100g (Popeye style... this is spinach after all). 

The Problem with Paleo

Paleo is not the be-all end-all diet bonanza that it has been pushed as. We should be inherently suspicious given how marketable paleo is for a start. I'll start us off by pointing out that cavemen weren't exactly the healthiest of folks. However, as we all know that is a scientifically fallacious argument (disease, hunting etc probably lowered their life expectancy quite effectively), so lets leave that be. Odd to build a diet theory on an evolutionary textbook about only one period of human history, mind.

Consider this though, Paleolithic people hunted and gathered through necessity, spending massive amounts of energy resource to collect food. Our food comes to our door in Tesco crates or from the boot of a car with 30 minutes worth of wandering around M&S. Maybe we don't need the energy they did. The nutritional content of animal flesh has also changed beyond recognition, given the corn-fed, factory farmed livestock. Do you hunt your wild deer for dinner? If not, you really aren't eating Paleo, no matter what Grr Caveman faces you make in the mirror. We need less meat than Paleo provides- both because that meat has changed and because we have changed

The high meat-grade, high vegetable-grade face of modern paleo also smacks of well, privilege. The privilege to afford all that quality meat and fish and vegetation. This huge, rich, sexy and muscled popularity based on people liking the goddamn marketing. 

I'm also highly skeptical of its random demonisation. No added sugar? I'm on board! Lots of vegetables? Go right ahead! No potatoes? ... ... Wait, what did potatoes ever do to you?! ... ... Why the legume hatred?

Most importantly for me, where are the big studies showing Paleo to be a preferred nutritional option? Because I cannot find any. 

Vitamin Waters and Other Fake Health Drinks

This is my ending pot-shot at a very easy target. Vitamin water (I don't mean the one brand, I mean all of them) is the biggest scam of nonsense I have ever heard in my entire days. Would you like some nicely flavoured water, with a tinge of added vitamins? Add some lemon, or some cucumber and ginger, or maybe some strawberries to the good old Loch Katrine tap water we are so blessed with in Scotland (sorry England, its tasty up here). Would you like some sugar water with a side dose of misplaced glow? Buy a vitamin water and feel the chemicals stream in.

Their sugar content is high, their chemical list long, the absorption of the included synthetic vitamins highly questionable. Moreover, taking those vitamins in a different way would be hugely advantageous. To me, the real evil in these is the marketing as an alternative to clean water. They aren't. Don't buy them. If you want a fruity junk drink, just own up to yourself and buy a fanta. 

That brings me to my last point. All this nutritional ranting makes it seem like I'm a nutrition perfectionist. Nothing could be further from the truth. What I am, however, is not into companies lying to me, and not into lying to myself. I eat things that are bad for me. But I know damn well they are bad for me. Some of them are completely worth it- that fudgey gooey brownie? Full of sugars, fats, artery choking. Worth it. Drinking half-flavoured water that is pretending to do me good? So not worth it. 

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Any opinions?

Whats your favourite Nutri-BS?- I will try to cover it next time!

As always, if anyone has any scientific objection or addition, please do let me know!

* I cannot cover it with any proper attention here but the Gerson method is dangerous, poisonous snake oil science. It is literally completely The Worst.

01/05/2015

Put a Wee Podcast On

Recently I have experienced a running revival in a huge way. Helped by the gorgeous springtime weather we have been having*, I've been running 3 times a week- regular, speed or hills, and a long run. On the long run its beneficial if I can just zone out. Ideally, the less I am thinking about my legs or my lungs or my pace, the better. 

I find music is just not enough to distract my brain, so instead I turned to podcasts for running. At least I learn something! I will start to blog more about running again soon as this training picks up, I promise. Following are some of my favourite podcasts. Keep in mind that I find the macabre interesting, and that I like quite dark humour. These suggested podcasts therefore may not be great for everyone...

All images from podcast sites


This is my stand-out, number-one recommendation. Welcome to Night Vale is a podcast story, produced in the style of radio updates from a mysterious conspiracy-filled town in the middle of nowhere. Its highly weird but completely captivating. I find myself listening closely for the clever one-liners:
"And now for a brief public service announcement: Alligators. Can they kill your children? Yes."
It has a brilliant mix of plot-relevant information and completely irrelevant chat from a small town. The only bit I'm not so fond of are the weather songs. I'm sure their lyrics are also clever, but the tune is often enough to put me off and make me skip until the narrator reappears. Might not be everyone's kettle of fish**, but give it a definite try. Its a marmite situation. You will either find yourself loving it, or thinking, "That girl is one total and complete freak, and so are the writers of this podcast".


RadioLab is a nice mix of interesting information about assorted topics, and narrated parts to add to the story. They often pull on experts or writers to contribute. I think their about page is pretty spot on when it says, "Radiolab is a show about curiosity"- most people could find something to be curious about in its many episodes. My favourites are the longer compound episodes, like the one about 'Patient Zero's. In that episode they track not only the origins of a few major diseases, but also the origins of a well-known idea. Well worth a listen.  The only thing I don't love is how much they talk over one another in places. 



Caustic Soda


Caustic Soda is not nearly as knowledge-based as RadioLab, but is entertaining as hell. It covers horrible science, or news - topics like shark attacks, kid killers and nuclear disaster. They tend to bring in a good amount of pop-culture references to the topic. I find some of this podcast really funny, although they do tend to get derailed just enjoying each other's company or tangential humour. They have been known to burst into song too. They have an entertaining lack of knowledge- quite often finding things out alongside the listener. Sometimes they could do with more fact-checking, as it isn't always accurate. For example they stated that sharks don't get cancer, but they actually do.

Wearing Nike Twisted Tempos || Brooks Pure Cadence 2 || Green Lamb hooded top || and pug socks...



SYMHC is a very varied podcast. I preferentially choose episodes of this, instead of trying the lot, and tend to download the most macabre episodes. Sometimes the speakers annoy me as they can be kinda squeamish... but hey thats just me! I love that they link all of their research under the podcast online, as this makes it a much more trustworthy source. 

I'm also interested to check out some of the linked projects that they have: Stuff they Don't Want You to Know (about conspiracy theories, man I love me some conspiracy theory) and Stuff Your Mum Never Told You (written for women as a multi-topic information channel, from looking at the titles seems like an excellent resource for teen girls).

If you're a history buff, you should also check out American History Too! Full clarification: Someone I know co-presents this podcast. More serious certainly, but still chatty and entertaining. As with SYMHC, I preferentially choose topics I'm interested in (like Nuclear Fallout... Okay I'm a macabre weirdo, we know that now).

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Can you recommend any podcasts?

I'd particularly love any humour-based, with sarcastic female presenters, or about running that aren't aimed at beginners. 

How do you survive the long run?

* Please note, has alternated back and forth with sleet and frozen, drenching rain. Knew it couldn't last in Glasgow! Glasgow is changeable
** One of my relatives used to use this mixed metaphor, and I thought it was quite appropriate for Night Vale!