Active Adventures in Chamonix

As part of my recent partnership with V Water, they challenged me to have an awesome active weekend. I couldn’t think of a better place to give this a go than in Chamonix with Sophie and Charley. They have the most ridiculous playground to train, explore and adventure in, and having followed their blogs and instagram pics, it was time to pay them a visit.

Arriving on Friday lunchtime, we quickly made plans to tackle the Vertical KM that afternoon to stretch the legs and test my lungs. You can read more about this mini adventure here. It’s safe to say that the views and the beer were definitely earned in our two hour 1000m ascent!

Vertical KM Chamonix

We drank, sang and danced our hearts out that evening for Apres, which I’m definitely claiming as another workout!

Apres ski beers

The following morning, we blew away the hangovers in the bleak conditions of the Brevant slopes, on ski’s this time. Sadly the weather was horrid, and it was like skiing in a complete white out. You couldn’t see more than 10 metres in front of you at times, and since this is my first time on skis for 5 years, I was pretty cautious. My ski legs soon returned but unfortunately the sun didn’t. We gave it a good few hours before admitting defeat and retreating to an amazing Japanese restaurant in town for lunch. Miso soup warms the soul!

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Skiing Chamonix

Side note- when I last went skiing 5 years ago hardly anyone wore helmets, myself included. It’s so interesting (and great) that so many people are now donning helmets to ski. I know that when I was younger I thought I looked super cool with my beanie or headband, but with older age comes a lot more sensible attitude, and it appears that lots of others are thinking the same thing! However, helmet hair is even worse than hat hair!

On Sunday morning the clouds were still hanging low in the valley and it was raining rather than snowing. Instead of spending more cash on ski passes and hire, Sophie and I headed out for a trail run near to their chalet. Although nowhere near as steep as the vertical KM, there were a few uphills that had my quads and lungs burning- it’s clear why hill repeats are so beneficial for your fitness and are a great part of run training.

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We certainly earned our breakfast, and I made the most of it with an enormous continental spread, plus hot chocolate, orange juice and my fave’s Blackcurrant and Goji berry V Water!

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brunch in Chamonix

This post is sponsored by V Water- Chamonix I will be back for more active adventures!

Sugar Ban: 18 days in

I miss chocolate. It’s a thought I’ve had every single day whilst doing my added sugar ban. I bloody love chocolate.

However, I do feel that the sugar ban has been really beneficial. As well as forcing me to curb my 4pm chocolate habit, it’s also encouraged me to read packets more carefully, discovering that snacks I had previously thought of as ‘healthy’ had sugar in the list of ingredients- even the savoury stuff. It made me rethink my snacking pattern at work, become more organised and plan my snacks in advance.

I ate more fruit as a sweet hit, both dried and fresh, as well as adding nuts into my snacks. I also ended up eating bars such as Nak’d bars that are made from all natural sugars, and homemade energy balls to replace my 4pm chocolate bar with a cup of tea.

sultana energy balls

 

There have been moments where I’ve slipped- yesterday I ate a mint after lunch when offered it without even thinking. And that’s the point, we don’t even think about how much sugar we’re consuming on a regular basis. It’s hidden in everything, or so it seems.

This added sugar ban has drawn to my attention just how much sugar was in my breakfast in the past, whether a fruit compote with yogurt, granola or as golden syrup in my porridge. I’ve eaten plenty of eggs for brekkie in the past two weeks and noticed how they kept me full for so long. Obviously I don’t have time to poach myself some eggs every morning, so I’ve been eating homemade muesli with yogurt and fruit and making overnight oats on other days.

bowl of fruit and granola

One side effect that I wasn’t anticipating was my new found justification to eat more chips. I don’t usually eat chips but I’ve had them 3 times in the past two weeks. Weird. Clearly when one part of my self control is being sorely tested, any previous self control goes out of the window. To be fair, the post North London Half marathon chips were the best chips I’ve had in ages. Warming, salty and delicious, and exactly what this cold and grumpy runner wanted!

I gave myself a 3 day break from my sugar free ban whilst in Chamonix, partly for the beer, partly for the pain au chocolat, They were great- food is such an important part of my life, and I knew that going on holiday, I would feel so restricted if I couldn’t eat the things I wanted. The downside of this is that I feel a little like I’m back at square one in terms of positive side effects of sugar free. The upside is that I am going to continue for another two weeks until Easter. I’m also hoping to continue with some of the principles that I’ve picked up, e.g. more nutritious snacking, savoury breakfasts, and less chocolate going forward on a weekly basis, from Mon-Thurs, to make treats really feel like treats again!

As I haven’t cut out sugar completely, I haven’t felt the side effects, both good and bad from a fully sugar free diet. I didn’t suffer from headaches (extra ones, anyway!) or irritability, but I also haven’t noticed my skin clearing up or better sleep. However, I have noticed that my stomach isn’t so bloated, and that I’m not eating so mindlessly.

Apres ski beers

The Vertical KM

Vertical KM Chamonix

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Vertical KM Chamonix

If you’ve read Sophie’s blog in the past, you’ll probably have heard her mention the vertical KM. It’s a 3.8km run from Chamonix town to the top Brevant cable car, with 1000m elevation. After a 3.15am wake up call, 6 hours of travelling to Chamonix from London, the thought of stretching my legs and testing my lungs on this challenging trail was thrilling. After last weekend’s hilly half, I knew I wasn’t going to be quick, but the views (and beer) would be worth it!

We set off from the Church in town with multiple layers in Sophie’s backpack incase we were cold, but quickly started shedding those that we were already wearing. It was so sunny and warm that we were both sweating within metres of starting the trail, the temperature explains the startling lack of snow in the lower regions.

Vertical KM Chamonix

The path zig zags up the side of the mountain, meaning you can’t see the top once you get started. Although a little disheartening, it does at least mean you can’t tell how far you still have left to run, and instead can look down to survey your hard work.

Vertical KM Chamonix

My tactic was to keep asking Sophie questions so that she would do most of the talking, while I was breathing loudly just behind her. Living in London, and running mostly on the Thames tow path, hill running is not my forte, so we mostly took it at a fast paced walk. Most of the trail was clear, with small patches of snow- my Brooks trail shoes did a brilliant job although I think you would want more suitable spike style shoes if it was snowier/icier.

Vertical KM Chamonix

Vertical KM Chamonix

Vertical KM Chamonix

Once you get to the top section, the gradient increases and there are areas which are slightly more technical, involving handles, footholds and a lot of scrambling on your hands (if you’re me!). I actually loved this bit, and although looking down was a little daunting, it was so much fun to challenge myself with something new.

Vertical KM chamonix

Vertical KM Chamonix

This was the perfect way to catch up with Sophie, as well as tackling one of the challenges that I’ve heard her talking about so much. We completed the trail in under 2 hours, the mini goal we’d set for ourselves, although I’d love to come back and do it faster. Sophie’s best time is 1hr 10 however she’s hoping to complete the official Vertical KM race in June within an hour! Think I’ve got a lot more trail and hill running practise to do before I’m anywhere near that speedy.

Of course, the best way to celebrate is with beers at the top of the mountain!

Vertical KM Chamonix

Vertical KM Chamonix

Natural Running Fuel

When I first started my added sugar ban I thought about the difficulties of buying things like sauces, soups and of course, how much I would miss my 4pm chocolate hit. What I hadn’t even considered was my upcoming half-marathon, and what I would use for fuel. I’m used to using Gu’s, in particular Salted Caramel Gu, which I love, however definitely has added sugar. I spoke to some friends about what they use and came up with this great selection of ideas;

Baby Food

This is actually the option I went for during the North London Half. I opted for Ella’s Kitchen ‘The Green One’ an organic mix of apples, pears, bananas and kiwi. It actually tasted great and was exactly the hit I needed. If these came in smaller pouches I would definitely take them more regularly on my runs, and think they would be fab as ‘real food’ in ultra runs. There’s such a huge selection of pureed fruit for kids, just make sure you check that it’s only naturally sweetened with no extras!

Natural Run Fuel

 

Dried Fruit and Nuts

Bringing a little bag of dried raisins, figs, pineapple, or even peanut butter filled dates (thanks for the idea Anne), along with some salted nuts would make a great energy source for a sugar and salt hit! If you’ve got spectators on the way you could get them to hold pre-cut fresh fruit.

Homemade Energy Balls 

They may end up a little squished, but making your own energy balls like my Sultana Energy Balls, means you can control exactly what goes in them, and make them with all your favourite ingredients. If I was making these for a run, I would actually miss out the flaxseeds to reduce the fibre a little.

Sultana Energy Balls

Bars 

Whether they’re homemade or bought, (Nakd bars are a great no-added sugar option) bars can be great on long runs when you have time to stop and eat them. Personally I don’t think I could eat this while running during a race, however if you cut them up beforehand to easily stuff in your mouth then this could be a great option!

Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Bar from Lean Green Bean

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Homemade sports drinks

For shorter runs, often a sports drink is more than enough energy. These homemade sports drink recipes from Daily Burn are great, or you could make up your own recipe, to include water, something sweet like fruit juice, and salt. Salt is key- don’t omit it!! I imagine a Margherita style drink would be amazing in the summer!

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What do you use for fuel on your runs?

Long Run Recovery

I haven’t run ‘long’ in quite a while, and my legs are really feeling it after Sunday’s hilly half marathon. Tom’s been struggling with post-run soreness, and I’ve been sharing with him the recovery that works for me (when I do it correctly!). I know that everyone has their own long run recovery routine, but I thought I’d share some of my own with you, including those that are non-negotiable (eat, drink, be merry??)

How to Recover after a Long Run 

Eat- You should be aiming for about 10g-20g protein after your run, which I’ll balance with some healthy fats and carbs. I usually run first thing so I’ll come back and have scrambled eggs on wholewheat toast with avocado and a latte. After all of my runs training for the Berlin Marathon, I would stop at the coffee shop immediately after my run for an iced latte! Definitely kept me going on a few occasions. Skimmed milk is actually a great recovery drink, with the perfect ratio of protein, carbs and fluid!

Hydrate- Even if it’s not that hot and you haven’t sweat a whole lot, it’s really important to stay hydrated both during and after your run. According to Eat and Think ‘Dehydration increases the level of stress hormones in your body; increased stress hormones such as cortisol dampen down your immune system, making it much easier to pick up bugs such as coughs and colds.’ I drink a mixture of water, coffee/tea, squash, V-Water (great while I’m on sugar free, plus the added vitamins and minerals are a bonus!) and juice/smoothies. Basically, ALL THE DRINKS after a long run.

V water and iced coffee Stretch- I admit, I’m not the best at stretching but am getting better. I usually use a 5 min yoga for runners youtube video, or use a foam roller to stretch post run however if I’m in a hurry I’ve been known to do the ‘shower stretch’ whilst washing my hair.

Have a bath –  I don’t actually subscribe to the ice bath crew, however I love a hot bath after a long run either immediately after or later that day. I fill it with Arnica salts or Deep Heat muscle soak, plenty of bubble bath (I’m currently using Zoella’s bubble bath that smells great!) and zone out. I am really girly and fill the room with candles to mentally relax as well as physically. It can be a great time to reflect over your run and week of training, and prepare for the week of training ahead.

Long run recovery

Long run recovery

Move- The times where I’ve felt worst after a long run is when I’ve sat on the sofa for the remainder of the day. Going for a walk or meeting friends for lunch or coffee is a great way to flush the lactic acid out of your legs and should mean you don’t feel so sore the following day! I’ve also tried the ‘legs up the wall’ recovery position, however I’m not sure if that one really works.

What’s your go-to for long run recovery? Anything you like to eat/drink straight after?

This post is sponsored by V Water, all bath time candles are my own (given to me by friends usually!). 

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