Fartlekking ~ A Few Months On

Hello again

I blogged about interval training back in April  (https://anniebeebuzz.com/2015/04/17/fartlekking-say-what/) and wanted to update you as to how I have got on in the intervening period. There is a bit of a buzz about this form of exercise, which is also known as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) ~ there is some useful info here: http://dailyburn.com/life/fitness/hiit-workouts-for-beginners/ .

After being abroad for the best part of 6 weeks, where my exercise routine was a bit inconsistent but very delightful (Mount Coot-tha in Brisbane and Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas [QLD] were highlights), and then fighting off a nasty bout of cystitis, I am, as it were, back in the saddle.

Here in the ‘burbs, my favourite spot to do my 4 miles is an off-road, disused branch railway, that once linked several towns in Hertfordshire. Always busy with walkers, cyclists, joggers, kids, dogs and the very occasional horse, it is perfect for doing fartlekking (a jolly and funny Scandinavian name for interval training ~ the actual translation is “speed play”).

running outdoors

This week I have been going super fast due to having one of the Baby Bees along for the exercise. I feel like a middle-aged, slightly puffed-out and podgy greyhound which should have been put out to pasture, chasing a zippy hare. It has been delightful though and we make a good team (it strikes me if I have a heart attack she knows how to whistle and yell for help REALLY LOUDLY).

While I am on this route, I make it my business to say hello, smile and sometimes even wave to everyone I see. I have about a 90% return rate on an average outing.The British are well-known for being very buttoned-up, but in fact, are mostly happy to acknowledge me as I jog and power walk along and occasionally break into a sprint, trying all the while to look like I will not need a defibrillator.

While I was in Byron Bay (NSW) recently, I came across this brilliant fitness trail. I was quite puffed out enough just walking to the top of the hill to see the light house https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Byron_Light ) so I didn’t feel the need to have a go, but I was impressed that they were available for anyone to use at any time of the day.

fitness trail Byron Bay

Byron Bay fitness trail

Byron Bay fitness trail

Are they something the UK has managed to find money to introduce? I don’t know of any near where I live, but will have a go at finding out and posting a list. There certainly are companies in the UK selling the concept and the equipment. There is some general info on the subject here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitness_trail

So my exercising is going well. I am fairly fit, have no injuries currently, and love being outside while the weather is reasonable; long may it last. Who needs a gym membership?

outdoor gym

Annie Bee x

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Mall Walking ~ Cheaper Than The Gym

Mr Bee and I are currently watching “Better Call Saul” on Netflix, and in a recent episode, Saul mentioned mall walkers, complaining that they are hard to chase (he is selling them his will-making services) as they are all walking so damned fast.

In the UK, this is a relatively little-known phenomenon; there are pockets of it (hello Bluewater, Kent), but in the US and in Australia it seems a much bigger deal. And what an amazing idea it is.

Mall walking

I believe it all started in America when the first fully enclosed U.S. mall, the Stockdale, opened in Minnesota in 1956 and local doctors suggested patients recovering from heart attacks should exercise there, away from the snow and ice of Minnesota’s harsh winters. The 1980s saw a boom in the construction of malls and by 2001, some 2.5 million people were walking in 1,800 malls in the United States.

“You always have a bathroom, and most malls have security. Even if you have a heart issue, they have defibrillators.”

So if you live near one, what are the benefits? They are under-cover so weather proof. My Mum used to mall walk in Brisbane Australia, mainly because during their summers, it is way too hot to exercise outside if you are elderly, so an early morning brisk hour of walking in the air-conditioned mall was the perfect solution. If the mall allows, you can get the walk done before the shoppers arrive, but then grab a coffee or breakfast with your fellow exercisers. Water fountains are often available, as is seating if you over-do it. From my Mum’s point of view, it was sociable as well as being a good form of exercise. You go at your own pace and there is certainly plenty to look at. The mall owners/managers can benefit from this extra business at an otherwise very slow time of day, and the canny shop owners can work it to their benefit (Senior Citizen specials on offer).

Some years ago I emailed the British Heart Foundation asking whether they had thought of launching a programme of Mall Walking in the UK, but I never heard back. Maybe it is time for the UK to start to promote it. I think a couple of the bigger UK malls do it (the Bullring in Birmingham, The Trafford Centre in Manchester and the White Rose in Leeds as well as Bluewater); the NHS mention it on their website under ‘Get Fit For Free’ which is good, but maybe if the BHF got behind it, it could help us all.

At present I am happiest walking and running outside, but I can imagine in my dotage, I would love to join this merry band of mall walkers. And I will walk super fast if I am being pursued by anyone flogging me their will-writing services.

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Annie Bee x

Fartlekking: Say What?*!?

In a previous post I was saying how good walking is for you. No disputing that. Research backs it up, as does common sense.

However, this past week, in order to wake my metabolism up (to be honest I am not sure whether that is even a thing, but it sounds like it should be) I have been fartlekking. The main reason is I like the word, but it also gets the heart-rate up and is generally good for your fitness levels.

So what is it? Like a lot of good things, it is Swedish (as is the zipper, tetrapak, the artificial pacemaker, the smorgasbord and – wait for it – the adjustable wrench). Essentially it can be described as follows:

….. periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running. For some people, this could be a mix of jogging and sprinting, but for beginners it could be walking with jogging sections added in when possible.

For me, it is the latter. I count my paces and do 100 fast walking followed by 100 s-l-o-w jogging. I do about 4 miles. I try at all stages not to look like I might need resuscitating.

When in doubt about benefits or otherwise of health matters, I tend to turn to the NHS website. This is what they say about fartlekking.

What is interval training?

An interval training workout involves alternating periods of high-intensity effort with periods of low-intensity effort, which is called the recovery. For runners, this would typically involve interspersing bouts of fast running with slower running.

What happens to your body during the recovery phase?

The recovery phase is a really important part of interval training. The stop-and-start pattern trains your body to recover quickly between bursts of faster running, which, over time, will gradually increase your ability to run faster for longer.

What are the health benefits of interval training?

The long-term health benefits from interval training are similar to those achieved from most types of longer-duration, moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, namely a lower risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and some cancers.

Can interval training help me lose weight?

During the high-intensity phase, your body burns mainly carbs for energy but during the recovery, your body burns mainly fat to produce the energy needed to help your body recover from the intense effort. This process can continue for hours after training, which can help you lose weight, as long as you’re also eating  healthily.

What research is there on interval training?

There is growing evidence to support that interval training might be as effective, if not more so, than longer, moderate-intensity aerobic workouts. Researchers at McMaster University in Canada found that three 20-minute sessions of interval training a week provided the same benefits as 10 hours of steady exercise over a two-week period.

knackered runner

Well in that case, I will stick with it.

Annie Bee x

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My previous post on walking is here: http://wp.me/p5MNeq-1P

To Weigh Or Not To Weigh?

I was listening last week to Clare Balding on R4’s Woman’s Hour chatting about the Oxford and Cambridge Women’s Boat Race. This year it took place on the Thames for the first time ever, and occurred on the same day (Saturday 11th April) as the men’s.  What interested me was that Clare Balding had been along to the weigh-in and was pointing out that while the rowers are all quite small women, they do weigh a fair amount. They are small, lean and full of muscle.

Ox and Camb weigh in

This reminded me of a diet and fitness statement one often hears bandied about: a pound of muscle weighs more than a pound of fat. Well, no. They weigh the same. But the point (which is correct) is that muscle is about 18% more dense than fat and one pound of muscle occupies less space (volume) than one pound of fat.

These pictures illustrate the point.

Muscle V Fat

same weight pic

Some people weigh themselves every day, and there is research to show that they do in fact lose the most weight. The research was published in 2014 in the online publication PLOS One (you can access it here http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0113164). Although a relatively small number of people took part (40) there are two or three other studies which show much the same thing.

I NEVER weigh myself. I did get super slim aged about 20 and enjoyed jumping on scales as often as possible, but the more I weigh, the less happy I am to know the truth. When I am forced onto the scales (perhaps at the hospital or by the GP), thankfully very rarely, I look off into the middle distance with a thoughtful, intelligent look in my eye and pray I am not going to get a lecture from the health professional. Often it is in kgs anyway, which is complete gobbledy-gook to me.

scales

I have lost weight recently (see posts on the Side Plate Diet) but am still going nowhere near the scales. For me it is all about how I feel, how I look, and how my clothes are fitting. Also how much muscle I have – the aim is to be lean and fit. Bring it on.

Let me know if you weigh yourself, how often, and whether it is motivating – does it make or break your day? Do you calculate your BMI? Or do you have your body fat percentage measured?  I am not sure I am brave enough to face those body fat calipers just yet, but you never know.

calipers

Annie Bee x

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The Side-Plate Diet: Portion Distortion

In my first two blogs (see the February archive on the right of this post) I was talking in fairly general terms about portion sizes, plate sizes, obesity and the simplicity of my Side-Plate Diet.

In this piece, I want to discuss Portion Distortion. No matter how healthily you might be eating, if you eat too much and take in too much fuel and fail to burn it, you will put on weight.

Over ten years ago the UK charity, The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) http://www.wcrf-uk.org/ reported that over the previous 20 years food portions got ever bigger. Burgers were 112%  larger than in 1982, pasta servings 480% larger, and chocolate chip cookies 700% bigger. The UK Government has not updated their information on typical portion sizes consumed in the UK for over 20 years.

Dr Jeffrey Prince of the WCRIF said: “Between 1980 and  2003 portion sizes ballooned, and so did people. These two trends occurred simultaneously. Common sense tells you there must be a connection. Most weight loss success stories centre around reduced portion sizes. It’s a simple fact, if you eat less, you’ll lose excess weight”. Since then, things have probably got even worse regarding serving sizes, but the adage ‘eat less, lose weight’ remains true.

increase-in-portion-sizes

Packaging of our food plays an important role. The bigger the package, the more food you’ll pour out of it. When two groups of people were given 1/2 lb or 1 lb bags of M&Ms to eat while watching TV, those given the 1-pound bag ate nearly twice as much. The more you load onto your plate, the more you will eat. There are many studies to back this up (for more in-depth research take a look here: http://www.ifst.org/knowledge-centre/information-statements/psychology-food-intake-and-portion-control ). The NHS recommends, in their information on dieting, that we should be eating with smaller plates and bowls.

Previous Annie Bee  posts which cover this topic, in case you missed them, are here:

http://wp.me/p5MNeq-2

http://wp.me/p5MNeq-d

By only eating off side-plates like I do (for me, 3 a day means I am slowly losing the weight I need to without feeling weak and feeble – clearly the number of side plates will change depending on your gender, age, size etc and I am NOT advocating doing this diet if you do not need to lose weight in a sensible manner) this problem with portion distortion is largely solved for you. NB: I use 7 inch side-plates – make sure you get the size right. There are challenges around ensuring you still get enough fruit and veg, and keeping your food intake healthy and balanced but as long as you don’t snack (I literally now don’t so much as pick up an extra cherry tomato while walking past the fruit bowl) this diet works.

Other bits of diet advice which seem to be universal are: Eat slowly. Put your cutlery down between bites. Don’t eat in front of the TV.

Look out very soon for more in-depth information on the Side-Plate Diet  and let me know if you are giving it a go. I would love to receive some photos too.

vintage

There are some more pics you might like here https://uk.pinterest.com/buzzanniebee/portion-distortion/

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Annie Bee x

It’s Prestigious To Be Busy + Walking

I was listening to Ruby Wax being interviewed on Radio 4 last weekend  – an exhausting woman  (I was driving at the time and almost had to pull over and have a little rest)  – and she said, “It is prestigious to be busy these days” and she did not mean it kindly. So true. If you are not standing up (Sitting Down Is The New Smoking) you risk becoming a social pariah. I hear there are people lap-topping away on a treadmill as I write (attached to a string around their neck, like glasses perhaps?).

What’s it all about?

As I mentioned in a previous post about Calories In, Calories Out, you will know (we all know) that activity is very important to helping and maintaining weight-loss, and combining exercise into your life is the best way of doing this. Every magazine/newspaper  I read tackles the subject ceaselessly  and it is a very big business (in the UK alone the diet business is thought to be worth £2bn). You might be sick to death of hearing about it, but the great news for all of us, but particularly for women over 50, is that walking is fine.This information is from The Guardian :

“Brisk walking reduces the risk of heart disease more effectively than running when the energy expenditure of both activities is balanced out, a study has found.

Researchers compared data from two studies of 33,060 runners and 15,045 walkers. For the same amount of energy used, walkers experienced greater health benefits than runners.

The effects on participants, who were aged 18 to 80, were observed over a period of six years.

Running reduced the risk of heart disease by 4.5% while walking reduced it by 9.3%.

Calorie for calorie, walking also had a stronger impact on heart disease risk factors. The risk of first-time high blood pressure was reduced by 4.2% by running and 7.2% by walking.

First-time high cholesterol risk was lowered by 4.3% by running and 7% by walking.

The risk of first-time diabetes was reduced by about 12% by both walking and running.

“Walking and running provide an ideal test of the health benefits of moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running because they involve the same muscle groups and the same activities performed at different intensities,” said study leader Dr Paul Williams, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

“The more the runners ran, and the walkers walked, the better off they were in health benefits. If the amount of energy expended was the same between the two groups, then the health benefits were comparable.

“People are always looking for an excuse not to exercise but now they have a straightforward choice to run or to walk and invest in their future health.”

The research is reported in the American Heart Association journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology”. 

This is fabulous news for people like me for whom The “R” Word (as my beautiful friend Christine used to call it) does not tend to fit into their daily list of exercise. But we can all have a brisk walk and indeed very recent research from the University of Cambridge suggests that just 20 minutes a day has a big impact http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jan/14/scientists-recommend-20-minute-daily-walk-premature-death

Hooray! Cancel my order for that treadmill for the study; no need to pretend that I can see a computer screen while on the move. And have a good look at Ms Beckham’s shoes below. Someone needs to have a word. It will end in tears.

treadmill work 2    treadmill pic

And finally, I can highly recommend the Nike+Running App (ignore The “R” Word) https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/nike-gps/id387771637?mt=8.  I use it mainly to check how far I have gone and it keeps a record of the walks which I find very motivating.
Happy walking!

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Annie Bee x

https://uk.pinterest.com/buzzanniebee/exercise-work/

The Menopause Can Last HOW LONG?

The menopause is the gift that just keeps on giving. I do remember vast swathes of the 1970’s taken up by my Mum talking about how awful it was, but I was too young and selfish to care. How that smile has been wiped off my face. A friend of mine recently announced, at an otherwise very nice lunch, that her menopause had so far lasted 7 years. You could have stabbed the rest of us with our dinner forks and put us out of our misery right there. Seven years? How is that possible?

When mine first started I admit to finding the hot flushes quite interesting – how is it that my body is managing to do this spectacularly weird thing? By the way, on this side of the pond, we refer to them (hot flushes) in that slightly quiet, polite British manner; in the US they call them “hot flashes” which seems about right if, like me, when you are in the throes of one, you literally strip off layers of clothing without a thought for your whereabouts (the fruit and veg aisle at the supermarket, or – worse – driving along a motorway at speed). It didn’t take long for that initial wonderment to wear off. Here I am several years later, still lurching from interrupted sleep to stripping off in front of astonished strangers to asking the GP whether I have early onset dementia. My metabolism is slower than Titanic swerving round the iceberg, and I put on weight just at the mention of the word ‘menu’.

The list of symptoms women can suffer from is long and does not make happy reading. This is from the NHS website:

  • hot flushes and night sweats
  • loss of libido (sex drive)
  • vaginal dryness and pain, itching or discomfort during sex
  • palpitations (heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable)
  • headaches
  • mood changes, such as depression, anxiety or tiredness
  • sleeping problems, such as insomnia
  • urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Is that all? Any more you want to throw at us?

I can have no symptoms at all for several months, and I start to congratulate myself on getting to the end of the menopause in such a stylish and graceful manner. Next minute it’s back with a vengeance and I am shattered from lack of sleep and googling whether taking soy supplements could possibly help.

Most of the treatments on offer fall into two camps: firstly, taking medicines (one of which is  HRT) and secondly, ‘self-help’ which is essentially eating healthily and exercising. The third option is Suck It Up. I favour this but also occasionally enjoy a good moan about yet another reason why being a woman can be rather difficult. Is there an upside? Let me think …………

No

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Annie Bee x

https://uk.pinterest.com/buzzanniebee/menopause/

seven-dwarves-menopause-funny-cartoon