Quorn Ambassador: Quorn Chilli non Carne

Quorn asked me to be their ambassador. I liked the sound of being an ambassador as I reckoned it means I can get people to curtsy and stuff. It also involves free Quorn, so of course I said yes.

As I’ve been vegetarian for over twenty years, I’ve eaten a lot of Quorn and one of their most versatile products is the mince. I’ve used it in enchiladas, lasagnes, tortilla stacks, spaghetti bolognaises, stir fries, cottage pies, Singapore noodles and chilli. The chilli is especially great as you can have chilli with rice, on jacket potatoes or even make a chilli cheese pie (just pour the chilli into a ready made pastry case and bung a load of cheese on top).

chilli_cheese_pie

Quorn Chilli non Carne (serves loads)

500g pack of Quorn mince
1 tbsp of olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
2 bay leaves
400g can chopped tomatoes
300ml vegetable stock
1 green pepper, de-seeded and chopped
400g can kidney beans, drained
1 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp water
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Fry the onion and garlic until soft and golden. Add the Quorn Mince, spices and bay leaves and fry for 3 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes, vegetable stock and green pepper and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in the kidney beans and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Mix the cornflour with the water to a smooth paste. Stir into the Quorn chilli to thicken.
  5. Cook gently for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove the bay leaves and discard.

Review: TomTom Runner GPS Watch

Although Garmins have got more attractive over the years, no one’s ever going to accuse them for putting looks before functionality. So, when a pretty watch comes out, there’s a collective gasp of (at least from the more shallow amongst us) ‘ooh, pretty watch’.

tomtom-arm

The TomTom Runner GPS Watch definitely comes under the ‘ooh, pretty watch’ category, despite it being not exactly dinky. I do like chunky watches though. Just not as chunky as my old Garmin 301 which took up most of my arm. The Garmin being compared below to the TomTom is a Garmin 405.

tomtom-garmin

(Now is probably a good time to confess – as you’ve probably spotted the date in the photos – this review is a bit overdue. Oops. If you didn’t notice the date in the photos, well, um… as you were.)

If you get bored of your chosen colour, the screen snaps out of the strap so you can change this, as I found out when I was playing with it (I’m assuming that’s why it snaps out, anyway – it could be for a far less girly reason than this).

tomtom-strap 

It’s easy to set up. You just plug it into your computer and set up TomTom MySportsConnect desktop application and it asks you a load of stuff like what do you want to call your TomTom Runner. I unimaginatively called mine Tom. I know, I know… It also asks you your date of birth so your performance is measured more accurately, and if you have an account with one of the MapMy thingies (Run, Fitness, etc.) it’ll link you up automatically.  If you don’t have a MapMyThingy account, you can see your stats in MySports or download them in various formats.

tomtom-website-options

But what about the actual functionality of it? The actual ‘how does it work on a run’ bit? Well, it got a signal as quickly as my Garmin and gave a little vibration when it was ready to go. This means you don’t have to stand there staring at your wrist – you can just stand in your front garden in your running gear like that’s a perfectly normal thing to be doing.

staring-at-garmin

As you can see from the photos (no, not the one with the girl staring at her wrist – the ones further up the page), it’s got a big, clear screen which you can change to show the usual distance, speed, calories, etc. I wore my Garmin and the TomTom together and the results were almost the same, only the calories burnt were shown to be higher on the TomTom.

The TomTom doesn’t have the multitude of functions a higher spec Garmin has (it’s purely for running, no option for cycling) but if you want a basic GPS watch for running, then the TomTom is a good choice and not just because it’s pretty.

Does the Right Shoe Matter for Running?

With such a vast selection of shoes on the market, it can be difficult to figure out which is the best option for you.

There are a variety of different types of shoes that are specially designed to cater for various foot types and forms of fitness training, which begs the question – as a runner, does it matter which shoes you wear? And if it does matter, which shoes are the best?

For people running outside or in gyms, there are three basic types of running shoes, regardless of the brand. These are as follows:

Cushioning Shoes

If you are what is typically known as a supinator or high-arched foot, you run on the outer side of your feet, making a cushioned shoe your best option.

This type of shoe provides shock dispersion in the midsole and outsole, and the New Balance MT1210 Leadville is a great example of a cushioned shoe that contains additional material to give even greater support where it is needed most.

Stability Shoes

A neutral pronator or neutral/normal arch is someone whose foot lands fairly evenly, albeit with more of an emphasis on the inside of the sole.

The Mizuno Wave Musha 5 is a fine example of a stability shoe that provides cushioning in addition to enhanced support in the sole.

Motion Control Shoes

Over-pronators or flat-arched feet land with a far greater emphasis on the inside of the foot.

Motion control footwear provides support to the inside of the sole with designs that include features such as roll bars, foot bridges, or dual-density midsoles to reduce over-pronation. The Brooks Trance 11 is a great example of a motion control shoe.

But Does it Really Matter?

If you can afford to invest in a decent pair of running shoes that are suited to your running style, then the answer would definitely be yes.

Far from being a fad or gimmick, these different types of footwear are specifically tailored and modelled to provide the support your feet will need in the long run to prevent strains, injury, and to also minimize the amount of wear and tear on your joints in the long-term.

Before spending the money on a new pair of shoes, be sure to read a few reviews that provide feedback over a period of weeks or months so you can see how reliable the shoes will be as you progress and begin running more.

By spending a little extra money and taking the time to find exactly the right type of footwear for your needs, you will have a much more enjoyable and successful running career, free of potential injury and discomfort.

If you’re interested in learning more and teaching people about fitness. Then check out this superb personal trainer course provider http://www.hfe.co.uk

Flowery Vegetarian Dr Martens

As a goth in the 80s, if I wasn’t wearing black pointy boots with silver skulls for buckles, I wore black Dr Martens. As I became less goth and more indie, I progressed from black and introduced some colour into my wardrobe (only red and purple though, to be honest), which filtered down into my footwear. I had black docs, red docs, red and black docs, silver docs, purple docs and – my favourite ever – bright orange docs.

When I stopped wearing leather, I stopped buying DMs. Vegetarian Shoes in Brighton sold vegetarian ones but they were out of my budget at the time. I started wearing Converse and now have a collection of colours that puts my old DM collection to shame. I’d sort of forgotten about DMs until Cloggs got in touch and asked me to have a look at their website.  As they had a Dr Martens category, I thought I’d have a nose for a bit of nostalgia, then saw these beauties.

beckett-dr-martens

 

The blurb said they were canvas. Eh? Canvas? VEGETARIAN FLOWERY DR MARTENS? I wouldn’t have been seen dead in flowers when I was a goth (actually, that’s not true – a goth would have loved to have been seen dead. That was kind of the point. They just wouldn’t want to be seen wearing flowery shoes.) But I’m no longer a goth and can wear flowers if I want to. So I ordered them and they arrived the next day.

flower-canvas-dms

They fit perfectly with plenty of room for my toes but although they’re canvas, they’re just as stiff as I remember leather docs being and will take some breaking in. 

flowery-dms

Pretty pretty pretty shoes.

10 Minute Solution–Kettlebell Ultimate Fat Burner

10-minute-solution-kettlebell-ultimate-fat-burner

Here’s a curious thing. A DVD that clearly says ‘Kettlebell’ in the title, has a girl holding what is definitely a kettlebell (although it’s so small, it’s more of a travel kettlebell), but doesn’t actually contain any kettlebell work outs.  Oddness, indeed.

Still, utter misleadingness aside, I do like the 10 Minute Solution Kettlebell Ultimate Fat Burner DVD. Although the instructor uses dumbbells throughout, she does say you can use a kettlebell – I own both dumbbells and kettlebells but some of the exercises are definitely more comfortable using dumbbells.

The DVD contains 5 x 10 minute workouts (maximum fat burner, upper body power sculpt, thigh & buns blaster, total body sculpt, and accelerated ab toner) – so it’s great if you want a quick blast if you’re pushed for time/can’t really be arsed to do anything, but it also means the more hardcore amongst us can do the whole 50 minutes.

I haven’t been hardcore enough to do the whole 50 minutes yet but I’ve done a couple of 10 minute workouts (which include a warm-up and cool down) and definitely felt it afterwards.

kettlebell-workout

An accidental run

I’d only had the vague notion of going to the parkrun this morning but, after being awake from 4am to 5:30am (luckily then falling into a sleep deep enough for me to sleep through the 6am kitty-puke-o’clock), I didn’t wake up until 8:50. That was that vague notion unvagued then. But, as the parkrun organisers still haven’t sorted out my time from last week – they’ve got me 90 seconds faster than I actually was, which I wouldn’t mind so much but it’s flagged up as a PB and I’d prefer my PB to actually be my PB – I don’t want to go back until my time is corrected anyway.

So, where to run? As it was a beautiful morning, I decided I needed to see some greenery and water, so I told Shaun I was going to do my six mile route up to the lake and back. He said ‘you can’t do six miles, you’ll break, you’ve only been doing three miles’ but I reminded him I wasn’t famous for overdoing things and most of it would be walking.

When I got to the lake, I decided to carry on and continue through the park then go back past the local-ish shops. When I got round the park though, I changed my mind and went back past the lake and back the way I came. This turned out to be a 7.63 mile run.

Yay.

I have blisters now though.

Bah.

And because tomorrow’s supposed to be another beautiful, sunny day, tomorrow I’m cycling to the beach and back – a twenty mile round trip.

Janathon Pyjama Plank Challenge Giveaway!

Well, this is a teensy bit late, eh? Still, here are the entries we received for the Janathon Pyjama Plank Challenge. As mentioned on Helen’s blog about a billion years ago, eGloves will let the winner – as chosen by you – choose a pair of gloves from their range, up to a value of £30.

Helen has also nicked her boyfriend’s copy of Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, which will go to the planker with the second highest number of votes.

To vote, leave a comment below with the number of your favourite planker.

If I’ve missed anyone out of the gallery, please email me your planking photo.

Voting will be open until 31 March 2014.

 

 

How to Protect Your Back from Injury

Your back is a very important part of the body, as it carries a great deal of weight in your day to day life. Back pain and back injuries are very common, and once you’ve injured your spine in some way it can have negative implications for the rest of your life. However, there are things that you can do to reduce the likelihood of injury and keep your back limber and healthy.

Why Do I Have Back Pain?

Back pain usually occurs because you’ve put too much pressure on your spine. This includes lifting and moving heavy objects and sitting in an awkward or hunched position for long periods of time. Some back injuries are the result of heavy exercise, but it’s becoming more and more common for those who spend long hours in front of the computer to experience back pain. Poor posture is a major contributing factor and slouching will exaggerate the natural curves in your back and cause muscle fatigue. Those with a high-stress lifestyle will find that their muscles are generally more tense and tight, and will therefore be more susceptible to back pain. If you’re experiencing back pain, it’s important to visit your GP and get it checked out. They may then refer you to a specialist practitioner like Black Swan Osteopathy.

Add Some Light Exercise

If your back hurts, exercising is often the last thing you feel like doing. However, leaving the muscles dormant is not a good idea and light exercise is encouraged to keep your back fit and healthy. Consider adding some stretches in the morning to warm up the back and increase the flow of blood. This will make you less susceptible to strains and pulls. If you spend most of your working day in a sedentary position, make sure you get up and move around periodically. Walk to the printer or the water cooler and stretch your legs during your lunch break.

Adjust the Seat

When you’re driving, it’s definitely worth adjusting the driver’s seat so that you are supported and fully upright. This will reduce the strain on your back. Try not to slump your shoulders and keep your buttocks at the back of the car seat. If your office chair isn’t correctly supporting your back, raise it at work. It’s likely that your Human Resources department will be able to replace the chair with something more supportive.

Stressssssssssssssssssss

The last two nights I’ve been kept awake feeling anxious about the gas and electricity keys going missing (not that my ex-tenant asked if she could change the meters to key ones in the first place, bah). I posted them to the decorator in my house a week ago but they haven’t turned up. I put £50 on each of them which is money I don’t really want to go missing, plus it means the decorator has had to hire generators which cost fuck knows how much and it also means I’m going to have to cancel the plumber who was coming round tomorrow to look at the broken boiler when I was in London to see the decorator and I don’t want to have to keep making trips to London and yes, blah blah blah, grand scale of things, blah blah blah, starving babies in Africa, blah blah blah, but I’m lying awake thinking about it and I need to be getting on with my four remaining assignments and the dissertation for which deadlines are a-looming and not worrying about meter keys going missing, leaving me with no gas or electricity when I need decorators, plumbers and carpet layers, etc. who probably don’t want to work in the dark. (They’d probably quite like to be able to have a cup of tea, too.) 

Still, when I got up, I remembered running is supposed to be good for stress, so I decided to go for a run. I also had some Teapigs Organic Matcha which apparently Buddhist monks have been drinking for centuries as it stimulates alpha brainwaves to help create a state of mental alertness while keeping you calm and focused at the same time. (If you want to know more about matcha, I blogged about it on my Planet Veggie blog earlier this morning.)

So, with all that running and matcha I should be in a matcha-induced-Buddha-like-blissful-zoned-out-state now, shouldn’t I?

Well, I’m not.

I did quite enjoy the run though, even if, while standing in the front garden staring at my wrist, I was reminded of the picture fairweatherrunner posted on her Facebook wall yesterday in an 80s-Rob-Newman-esque ‘see her? That’s you that is’ kind of way.

staring-at-garmin

How to choose a gym

If you’re thinking about joining the gym this year, (or in fact any year), choosing the right one for you is important. You don’t want to pay for a membership and then not go back again after about visit number four. Look at all the ones that are on offer in the area that you live in and see which one suits you best. Here are some things that you might want to consider:

Think about the kind of gym that you want to go to, and what you want to use it for

While it can be tempting to simply sign yourself up at the facility that is closest to your house, but that shouldn’t be all that you take into account before you sign your membership forms. Think about the kind of workout that you want to use the gym to get. Do you want to go purely for weightlifting or cardio, or would you rather go to a gym that also offers loads of classes and facilities for all kinds of exercise?

Look at what equipment they offer

When you’re having a look around the gym; pay attention to the equipment that they have there. If you’re not really sure what these might be, or what they can be used for, make sure that you ask. You could also do your research beforehand by looking at websites like Fitness Warehouse to get an idea of the things that a gym might have in it before you go.

The staff

Ask if the staff have any qualifications and take into account how approachable and friendly you would find them if you needed to ask them for help or advice.

Choose the gym that works best for you

When choosing your gym, try and avoid just choosing the one that offers the best prices. Look at the types of classes that they offer throughout the day, and check what times they are open so that you know if you will be able to easily fit gym visits into your existing schedule.

What other things does it offer?

Have a look at the other things that the gym might be able to offer you. If it doesn’t have a pool, does your membership include free or discounted access to your local pool as part of your fee so that you can add swimming to your work out?