Happy Friday everyone, that’s the most difficult week of January over with and even I have to confess that I’ve found it trying. It began with Blue Monday and then we were battered by Storm Christoph – I’m hoping that none of you are in the worst hit areas, extreme weather really isn’t what we need at the moment. Once again today’s post is a mix of things that have caught my eye or sprung to mind while I’ve been avoiding signing off my tax return (sigh). So let’s go through a rather random selection this week with a winter cornucopia and what I’ve been wearing.
Winter Cornucopia – New skincare range
As you know, Bobbi Brown is my all time favourite brand for make-up but I’ve never tried their skincare so I was really pleased when they sent me a press sample of their new range to trial. The first two products are especially good.
Soothing Cleansing Oil
This is the first rinse-off cleanser that I’ve used that doesn’t leave my skin feeling tight. Until now I’ve always used wipe-off cream cleansers and the trouble with those is that there’s often a make-up residue that transfers to my silk pillowcase. First world problems I know but with this, I simply massage the oil into my face and remove with a muslin cloth soaked in warm water which helps to exfoliate at the same time. I pat my skin dry and it’s so soft it almost feels as though it doesn’t need a night cream.
Vitamin Enriched Face Base
The other product that I rate is the Vitamin Enriched Face Base which acts not only as a moisturiser but a primer too so that your foundation glides on perfectly if you’re wearing it – or if you’re having a make-up free day, your skin just looks fresher. It says that it’s suitable for all skin types – mine’s slightly dry and it works perfectly for me. It has a lovely citrusy fragrance but if you have very sensitive skin, it might be an irritant. As well as moisturising it includes the key skincare vitamins – B, C and E, the only thing it’s lacking in my view is an SPF.
I was also sent the Vitamin Enriched Eye Base to try and it’s very pleasant but I’ll need to use it for longer before I can say whether it makes a difference to my (not so) fine lines. I don’t use an under eye concealer but reviews say that it’s really good as a base for keeping it on if you do.
Extra Lip Tint
The last thing they sent was something that I almost dismissed, this clear looking lip balm. I quickly swiped it over my lips at my desk, appreciated the smooth, non sticky texture and then didn’t think anything more about it. It was only when I glanced in the mirror later that I saw that I looked fresher and it was down to the slick of lip colour. It isn’t anything major, just an enhancement of your natural lip colour but it’s a formula that works with your own colouring so the end result flatters your skintone. I’ve found myself putting it on every morning now for a low key boost.
I’ve been looking for one last cushion to finish off the small living room that we’ve finally restored after last year’s flood (more cushions = much eye-rolling from Mr MC). We’re spending most of our evenings in there at the moment because it’s so cosy with its thick stone walls and big open fire so I want it to be right. On my hunt I spotted these special buys – I have a lot of them in our more modern extension that you often see and they’re currently a great price for something that’s such good quality. They’re available in either a square or rectangular shape and there’s a choice of navy, pink, yellow or green – less than half the usual price and a great option for a cost-effective interiors refresh but be quick because they’ve been selling fast since I started writing this post.
I don’t know about you but I’ve reached the point where I’m really tired of my usual repertoire of recipes. Food takes on so much more importance when you’re at home all day doesn’t it? And yet I’m trying not to keep putting on the lockdown pounds, even though I’ve accepted that weight isn’t going to be easy to lose at the moment. However a couple of weeks ago when I did think that dieting was a good idea, I pulled out a Michael Mosley book that I bought ages ago. I always try to manage my glycaemic load carefully – I come from a family of diabetics and of course menopause plays havoc with insulin and blood sugar levels, adding extra risk. I must have read about this book being good a while ago but been too busy to look through it.
Now I must add that I’m not doing the 800 calorie a day diet – that would never work for me at the best of times. However what I am doing is using the recipes in this book because they’re delicious and really quick to make. Using them as the core part of our meals means that I keep my daily calorie intake lower and my blood sugar balanced. Plus they’re so tasty and filling that I feel satisfied. I have no relationship with Michael Mosley and I’m not a dietician, this is just a personal recommendation for anyone who’s bored with their own cooking and wanting some simple, great tasting ideas. Even the boys enjoy them though – so much so that I’ve gone on to buy two more books. Oh and I have slowly lost a few pounds but there are still many more to go.
The new recipe book that we’ve been using this week (but adding low GI carbs to so that the calories aren’t so low)
While we’re on the subject of books, here’s my latest page-turner recommendation. A midlife couple form a friendship with a couple in their 20s who are just starting out. Their paths intertwine via work and commuting so the relationships between them grow – but they’re not quite as they seem. It’s another unputdownable thriller that takes you into the heart of London and the daily lives of the professionals who work there – just that vicarious insight into a normal, non-Covid life is a pleasure.
Now I’ve moved onto the Booker shortlisted Such A Fun Age for something a little more high brow. I noticed that it topped lots of people’s ‘book of the year’ list for 2020, I’m halfway through it and once again it’s hard to put down.
If you’d told me a year ago that Covid was coming and that running would be one of the top three things that would get me through the ensuing lockdown, I’d have choked on my coffee. Nevertheless it is and so if you’re somebody who doesn’t run but has thought about starting, even just in your maddest midnight moments, read on because it has become a love affair for me – a slightly troubled one but still something special.
You may remember that it all started back in April when the youngest had a back injury that he’d carried over from the end of the rugby season. He decided to do Couch25K not as a fitness challenge but as a controlled way of building himself up again. As lockdown started, I was just coming to the end of a 10-week Academy Challenge at the gym. I was feeling frustrated that the progress I’d made on my fitness had suddenly come to a halt and so I decided to join him.
Running has never been my thing. I was the girl at the back of the cross country run at school, grumbling about being out in the rain when I could have been curled up with a book. The only time I’ve done any serious running was in 2006 when my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer and I found an outlet for my shock and pain in signing up for a charity run to raise funds for Cancer Research. Everyone who knew me was so shocked that I ended up way exceeding my target. As I trained, I found it to be a release from everything I was feeling and in a strange way the struggle (and it really did feel like a struggle) helped me to feel part of Dad’s own difficult journey. I did the race and kept on running but then he died much sooner than we expected. In the end it was a fall and a broken hip that got him, not the cancer, but it took the fight out of me and running lost its meaning overnight.
This time around, lockdown and the loss of freedom that’s come with it has given me that feeling of fighting for something again. It’s about overcoming something that doesn’t come naturally to me and that I probably otherwise would never have done again that’s made every small bit of progress feel like a victory. Yet again it’s been a struggle. When I ran with the boy, I tried to go too fast – I wanted not only to get back to 5K but I was determined that the first time that I ran the full distance, I’d do it at the same time as I did 14 years ago. It was stupid, I ended up with Achilles Tendinitis and had to stop for two months… by which time it seemed that lockdown was history and so I didn’t get going again.
Then one day in October, as the clouds of Tier 3 began to gather, I was grumbling to the youngest about how defeated I felt after making all of that effort in the spring for nothing. “It would be soul destroying,” I said, “to go right back to the beginning and start all over again.” His swift response was that I was thinking like a loser, his view was that it should feel exciting – after all I knew now that I could do it – and so it would feel extra special when I got to the end again. And just like that he spun my thoughts around.
At the time the eldest was working at the Covid Testing Centre so I didn’t think I was going to have a running buddy until Mr MC piped up and said he’d give it a go. With his classic prop forward’s build he isn’t a natural distance runner so I didn’t feel too overshadowed. And so we’ve egged each other on through the autumn and then the winter until we reached this day – as the new year turned we completed our final C25K run.
We’ve found that at the end of (almost) every run, we have the same feeling of euphoria that we usually get when we’re dancing at a festival to our favourite bands. After all, we’ve been out in the fresh air, listening to good music and getting out of breath while we’re doing it so it isn’t very different really… apart from the lack of wine or beer but then the high’s even better when you know you’re going to feel great the next day.
So I just thought I’d put a few personal tips together for anyone who’s thinking of starting to run because honestly if I can do it, just about anybody can. I’ve learned that running is as much in the mind as in the body; there’s often a battle with your inner demon who keeps on telling you that you can’t… but when you override that voice and keep on going you feel unbeatable. So here are my learnings and if you’re a runner, please do add yours in the comments:
- Just Do It. There are never going to be any better words than Nike’s – I’ve been toying with starting again for years and years and then telling myself I’d just wait for this… or that. You have to just put on your trainers and get out there.
- You’ll find that you have your own personal flunk point in each run when you feel you can’t go on It’s a wall that you just have to get over because once you run through it you’re ok. Mine always comes between the 4 – 6 minute point, the eldest’s is at 15 and Mr MC is at 20. Knowing this has helped me to understand why I’ve given up on running before – if I’d just got past that 6 minute threshold I’d have been ok but at 5.30 I feel like I can’t go any further.
- It will feel tough for the first 6 weeks and there will be lots of times when you just want to give up. But then at around the 6 week point something magical happens… you finish a run and realise that you’re no longer ‘blowing’ for 5 minutes afterwards because you’re now fitter, your body knows what it’s doing and your heart rate has come straight back down. Soon after that you have your first ‘bouncy’ – the run where you feel like Mo Farrah. I’ve found this only comes once, at about the middle of week 8 but after that it gets easier and easier and the highs last longer.
- If you’re doing C25K and you’re over 45, I strongly recommend resting for 2 days in between runs, not just 1. My Physio tells me that C25K is his biggest referrer but that if people would only take it a little more slowly and give themselves time to repair as their strength grows, they’d manage to avoid injury better.
- If you make it to the 6 – 8 week point, it’s worth trying to get your gait assessed because you’re going to be upping your distances and the right trainers make a difference to older knees and ankles. I realise that it’s tricky with lockdown but if you start now, you might just be coming out of it in time for the shops to reopen. Our local Runners’ Centre is the very first place I went to in June when the first lockdown ended.
- Warm up before you go out – squats, lunges, jumping jacks and heel kicks will help to activate your muscle groups. And stretch when you get back – it’s so important to stretch your glutes, hamstrings, calves and heel tendons.
- Give yourself regular sportswear fixes. The majority of my clothing budget went to Sweaty Betty last year because I allowed myself a treat at 2 week intervals while I was doing C25K (but I’ve stopped now!). It’s fine to start in whatever you have but if you keep going, you’ll feel better about it if you look forward to putting your gear on and it’s comfortable and flattering to run in. I wish there was a brand that could beat Sweaty Betty but so far I haven’t found one.
- Don’t let the weather stop you – you’ll have some of your biggest highs when you’ve been running in the wind or the rain because you feel like you’ve won – what the win is I don’t know but it isn’t a feeling you often get in midlife. The only thing that I do avoid is ice – I’m part of a village running group now and one of the members is in a full leg cast after going out on an icy day a couple of weeks ago.
- A running buddy makes a big difference, either virtually or in person. I’m always way behind Mr MC or the boy but it doesn’t matter, you just need that other person who’ll help to get you out of the door at the beginning of the run and then share the endorphins with you at the end. The flow of running on your own in between those two points is actually a good time – you can’t think because the running’s too hard so your brain is just put on hold as you enjoy the fresh air and the feeling of your body changing.
- A good playlist will keep you smiling and running at a good pace, you’re welcome to share mine on Spotify which is mostly 160bpm. It’s full of upbeat 70s/80s and more recent classics – just right for getting started (and for a kitchen disco).
If you’d like more inspiration and support, there’s a really good group called Start Running, Stay Running that was established during lockdown by Linda, a midlife woman and her husband Simon who got back into running. They’re very down to earth and it’s a lovely community backed by specialists including a Physio, Pilates trainer, nutritionist, qualified running coaches and other experts who provide lots of useful tips every day. Basic membership is free or you can join their ‘Inside Track‘ which I’ve just started exploring. The Inside Track strikes me as being particularly good if you have a goal that you want to hit such as extending to a 10K or a marathon. I’ll update you with how I’m getting on with it when I’ve been using it for a bit longer but for now, the main group is a good one to join and there’s a friendly Facebook group too.
What to wear for running now
You’ll find you get much hotter than you think, even if it’s chilly when you start out so don’t wear too many layers. These are my two current combos depending on just how cold it is.
Below Zero Days
- Thermal running jacket – this has a padded body and fleece sleeves so it keeps you really warm and you only need a t-shirt underneath. It’s a very flattering fit, it doesn’t ride up as you move and would be good for cycling or walking too. There are deep zip pockets for your phone, keys and other stuff and thumb slots in the sleeves so that you don’t need to wear gloves. Also available in black.
- Simple running tee – a new fit for this season, sweat-wicking with mesh perforations and a dipped hem at the back for a good looking fit. Great for gym workouts too.
- Compression leggings – somehow these leggings make you look great however chunky your thighs and calves are. Seams in all the right places and good pockets for anything you need to carry, they’re just unbeatable.
Above zero days
On positively balmy days when the temperature heads towards 5 degrees C, I find the fleece sleeves on the thermal jacket too hot so I switch to the thermal gilet with a warmer merino base layer. The advantage here is that you can roll the sleeves up because they’re a looser fit than the jacket. If you’re trying to decide between the two jacket options, go for the gilet because you’ll be wearing it well into spring – alternatively there’s an offer on the light Fast Track running jackets in all colours this weekend.
Winter cornucopia – more loungewear drops
My retailers are telling me that the only thing that’s selling at the moment is loungewear and coffee machines – there’s now a nationwide shortage of the really good coffee machines. So loungewear is where they’re investing their apparel budgets and there have been two new loungewear specific drops this week:
New loungewear at Hush – supersoft fabrics in muted pastels that are all slightly ‘off’ so not sickly sweet.
New loungewear at Me + Em – the sleeker outline that you’d expect in premium, well-cut fabrics.
Winter cornucopia and what I’ve been wearing
And here are a few photos from this week that show how I’ve adopted a comfy lower half for winter as discussed last week. A slightly more dressed up day on Tuesday because I had to get myself into the right mindset for looking through my tax return and signing it off. Rosie was telling me that she was having a bad day because…
… Ted hasn’t been very well this week – all his own fault for tucking into something he found in a hedgerow that made him repeatedly sick… all over Rosie’s bed. Alfie’s having his own grumble in the background here.
This is today when the rain finally stopped and the sun came out. It’s been a bone chillingly cold but beautiful winter’s day and word went round the village that the first snowdrops have appeared so we went out to look for that sign of spring…
… and enjoyed a few quick chats with people who had come to see them too.
And that’s everything for today. Just think, we’ve made it through the worst week of January and last night I noticed that there was still light in the sky when I left the office at 5pm. There are small signs of hope out there. Take care everyone and I’ll be back next Friday.
Disclosure: “Winter cornucopia and what I’ve been wearing’ is not a sponsored post
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