Mid Month Beauty Favourites!

I haven’t posted a beauty favourites in a few months, mainly because I haven’t had anything new to write about, but I thought I’d just let you know about a few items I’ve been loving. These items are all perfect for bringing you from the Spring through to the Summer.

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I’ve mentioned this product before, but I’m so glad the weather has picked up so I can use it again:

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This is the Makeup Revolution Radiance Palette. It contains what I would consider to be two bronzers and one highlighter, though you can use them how you like. What I love about this palette is that when I use it I get such a natural tanned look. It’s not heavy or dirty looking, and doesn’t glitter. I use the far right pan mostly as I have never gotten the hang of highlight! I can only use this bronzer when it’s really warm and sunny because it really makes me glow, but I am still in love with this a year on from buying it. And for £8 you can’t go wrong!

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These two body creams were amongst a few I picked up from Bath and Body Works when I was in the US last October. I saved these for the warmer months, and I’m really enjoying using them. Tahiti Island Dream is a fresh summery and fairly heady scent that reminds me of tropical islands (not that I’ve ever been to one!) It’s summer in a tube. Beautiful Day is fresh and also summery with a little fruityness to it. So lovely.

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This fragrance mist from The Body Shop, I understand has just been discontinued amongst the rest of the range featuring this scent. I picked it up because it really compliments their Pinita Colada range (which I have seen back in stores for Summer – whoop!) It’s a fresh, light and slightly tropical scent with floral notes, but not too floral. I’m glad I still have just under half the bottle left. I’ve been enjoying wearing this on warmer days.

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I picked up this ColourPop Ultra Glossy in my last order, and hadn’t dared wear it until the weather picked up. In the tube it’s an intimidating neon orange, but on the lips it’s a subtle orange gloss. I’ve been really loving wearing this, as I prefer juicy lips in the summer, over matte or satin. I love how this wears down to a nice peachy tone and leaves my lips hydrated (almost waxy, but in a nice way and not sticky). I have this in my handbag at all times for those times when my lips need a hit of subtle colour.

And lastly, off the subject of beauty:

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I’ve been really enjoying having the chance to show off the lovely bralettes I to cover up during the Winter. This black jersey tunic has a huge hole in the back, so every time I wear it I get to pick my prettiest bralettes and show them off!

So those are some things I’ve been enjoying using now the weather has picked up. Do you have any products you love to reach for as the summer creeps in?

Blogging Tools I Can’t Live Without

Since I’ve been blogging for quite some time now, I thought I’d share some of the tools that have come to be invaluable to me.

Technically, you just need your brain and a platform and you’re all set, but there are a few things I’ve come to appreciate as tools I just can’t live without when blogging.

First of all, my laptops. I have a Microsoft HP and a MacBook Pro. I don’t have a word processing package on my Mac so tend to do most of my writing on the HP laptop, unless I’m writing straight into my blogging platform.

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WordPress is my platform of choice, having used a few different ones over the years. I like that even on a free package you can produce a customisable and professional looking blog. It’s flexible and you rarely see two blogs looking the same. It has its glitches, but what website don’t? I feel like at some point in the future I’ll need to move to self-hosted or a paid account, but until then it works just fine, thank you very much. As well as the web-based platform, I have the WordPress app. It’s not without its limitations, but is handy for replying to comments, checking stats and uploading images on the go. You can write posts on there too but I prefer to do that on a computer, mainly because I’m rubbish and slow at word processing on my phone!

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For cameras, I switch between my Canon EOS 400D, Sony a5000 and my iPhone 7 Plus. I’ve been using my SLR less of late for the reasons you’ll read in a moment, but even though it’s kind of old now I love the quality of photos I get from it. My Sony a5000 has earned its cost times over. I love how small it is, the quality of photo and video and it’s light. But other than that, the Wifi function comes in so so handy. I can take a photo, send it to my phone and then edit it, upload and publish it, all within 5 minutes of capturing the shot. The iPhone 7 Plus is pretty awesome for taking photos too, and though I haven’t had it long, I can already see the difference in lens quality with the shots I’ve taken.

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As well as using my iPhone for images, I have a tonne of apps I use for blogging. Here are a few of them.

I’ve mentioned the WordPress app so I won’t go into that again. I use Buffer to scheduling tweets, which I don’t do all that much, but it’s good to have an easy app to do it when I want to. Twitter (of course), Facebook and Instagram – I don’t really have to tell you what those do, right?

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Lightroom app for iOS is awesome for photo editing. The auto presets are a great place to start, and then you can tweak until your heart’s content.

As an amateur photographer, I’ve been uploading to Flickr for over 10 years now, so it’s almost as though I have my own iStock of photos on there. It’s awesome because I pretty much have a photo already taken for a lot of posts I might want to write. So, if I ever don’t have the time to take photos, I can usually pull from there. The Flickr app allows me to save my own photos and then I can upload them to WordPress. Job done!

As I begin to venture into the world of YouTube, the YouTube app has come in very handy, as has the YouTube Creator Studio app. It shows me views, stats, trends and comments all from one place. It also allows me to push videos live, share and copy links right from the app.

For planning I like to use the notes section on my phone, when out at about, and for proper planning I’ll use my Ultimate Blog Planner from Dot Creates. This planner allows me to make in depth notes, or even start writing the blog there and then. There are sections where I can write prompts for photo ideas I’ve had too. It’s really invaluable.

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Photo lighting comes in the form of either the Earth’s sun or, because this is England, I have a pair of softbox lights which I use for both photography and video. They’re pretty new to me so I’m still getting the hang of them, but I love the natural light they throw out. You can find the set I bought from Amazon here!

Other than on my phone, for photo editing on my laptop I use a really old version of Paint Shop Pro. I could upgrade but I know this software like the back of my hand, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! I also use this software to make any graphics I need for my blog or elsewhere.

So, those are my ‘can’t do without’ blogging tools. I hope this helps you with your blog planning and editing, and please let me know if you use something you love that I haven’t mentioned!

Planning Your Trip to Walt Disney World: part 3

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Whoo hoo! You’re at Walt Disney World. All your planning has paid off and you’re finally doing it!

If you’ve missed parts one and two of this planning series, then feel free to head back. But if you’re ready to enjoy your holiday, why not see what I consider to be awesome tips for when you’re there.

What’s Important to you?:

If seeing characters and getting autographs is important to you, then make sure you don’t just walk past photo ops when you see them. You don’t know when you’ll see that character again so spend the time waiting for your chance to meet them.

Don’t Miss Out:

If you see a piece of merchandise that you must have, don’t let it go. If you’re staying on Disney property it can be delivered to your room so you don’t have to worry about lugging it about, and some merchandise can only be bought in one or two stores. You might forget where you saw it, or even just never make it back to that part of the park.

This can be said for food too – if you don’t pick up that Dole Whip when you see it, you might never get to have it!

Rest:

It’s really important that you plan in rest when you can. The afternoons get HOT and if you’ve been up early and plan to be awake late then you’ll need a mid-afternoon rest. Take a nap in the hotel or even just chill out with a drink somewhere air conditioned. This is a great way to avoid arguments, feeling unwell or just plain exhaustion.

Really Work Your Fastpass:

There were a couple of occasions when we arrived for our fastpass and the wait for the ride was only short anyway. You have an hour period to use your fast pass in, so on these occasions we stood in line for the short wait (10-20 minutes), rode the ride in the standard line and then once we were done we walked right back and used our fast pass. By this time the wait was often longer the second time around, and so we managed to skip the line. This meant we got to ride twice within half an hour!

Be Flexible:

Even if you have a plan like we did, be prepared to change things dependent on weather or just how you’re feeling. We had a hurricane on the way when we were there which meant we had to skip our trip to the beach, reschedule a visit to Epcot and hide out in a mall when the rain set in!

Take Advantage of Freebies:

On our arrival, we were asked if we were celebrating. We told them it was our wedding anniversary so we got given badges each. It was my first visit too, so I got a 1st visit badge. If it’s your birthday they have badges for that also! Whilst out and around the parks and resorts, the cast members take note of your badges and acknowledge that you’re celebrating. We also got given a free cake on one of our quick service visits!

Take Advantage of Your Package:

On our last full day, we knew we had lots of Dining Plan quick service meal credits left – I mean A LOT so we headed to Goofy’s sweet shop in Disney Springs. Here they allow you to split your quick service meal credit for three snack credits and this meant we could get anything in the store that was snack credit eligible for FREE (most of the store was eligible). We had around 80 credits left at this point which meant we filled our basket full of sweets for back home and gifts and got them all for free. We felt quite guilty about taking advantage in this way, but the cast member who served us actually encouraged us to buy more and more and told us to come back the next day if we still had credits left. We had planned to, but the hurricane meant we couldn’t.

We also took advantage of the photo pass we had received in our package and whenever we saw a photographer with no or a short line we got our photos taken. This was a great way to keep a memento of our time in the parks and meant we were never waiting around for a photo op. The only photo line we stood in for a while was during our Halloween party night, but we knew we wanted a keepsake of that!

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We also each received a refillable mug as part of our package. If you have this, do take advantage of it. The mugs are plastic refillable cups that retail for $18. They are activated at the counter and then for the duration of your stay you can have free Coke Freestyle drinks as often as you like (one every 5 minutes, if you wish) at all the Disney resorts. This also includes coffee, tea and water. We used these every day and found them to be a real treat.

Go Off Site:

We rented a car which meant that we were able to go off-site to the stores and pick up cases of bottled water, iced coffee and snacks for our room. Our room had a mini fridge and so we were able to take cold bottled water with us whenever we left the room, and save money on buying water in the parks.

Check Your Receipt:

A lot of the receipts in the parks have money off codes or coupons at the bottom. These can save you money on future purchases in and around the parks and resort stores. So make sure you inspect your receipt and don’t just throw it away!

Stay Hydrated:

It’s essential that no matter how much fun you’re having you keep drinking water. It’s so easy to get distracted and forget to drink so keep an eye on how you’re feeling. There are water fountains everywhere and places selling water. But we took our own bottles and the backpack we carried had water bottle holders in it meaning we didn’t have to worry about carrying freezing wet bottles in our hands.

And on that note: Make sure you wear sunscreen – hats, sunglasses and sunscreen – and don’t forget the top of your ears. You don’t want to ruin your trip with sunburn and heat exhaustion. Look after yourself!

So, those are my hints and tips for an epic trip to Disney World. There’s so much more, but I could go on and on – and you should probably learn them for yourself! So, go ahead, have an amazing time, and enjoy yourselves. And don’t forget to come back and tell me all about your trip to the happiest place on earth J

Planning Your Trip to Walt Disney World: part 2

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Welcome to part two of how to plan your perfect Disney World trip. If you missed part one, then head back because that’s all about booking.

Now you’ve booked the fun stuff happens. You need to begin thinking about what you’re actually going to do whilst you’re there.

You need to think about the time of year you’re going and what’s important to you. We visited at the end of September and start of October. This meant it was Halloween-time and also the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.

This was so exciting for us, because we knew there would be special events and lots going on.

Once you’re booked you’re told you can book certain things ahead of time. Do these things – you don’t want to find something you want to do is fully booked and you miss out.

Let’s talk specifics:

Where to start

We built an Excel spreadsheet of the two weeks we were away. This had a column for each day, and rows stating the different parks’ opening hours. We reviewed the crowd calendars on the DIBB and Touring Plans and were able to see which days to go and which days to avoid certain parks.

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On here we also noted the fireworks and events and the opening times of each park. From here we were able to start building up a picture of where we would be at what times. We also made sure we blanked out enough afternoons or days where we wanted down time. It’s so important to remember the days will be long and it’s HOT so we wanted to make sure if we needed to cool down or rest, we’d planned it in.

Build your Magic Band:

If you’re staying on site, you get the pleasure of your own Magic Band. These things are truly wonderful. A magic band is a waterproof bracelet that you wear throughout your time at Disney World resorts and parks. It’s your room key, park tickets, parking permit, locker key, cash, holds your fast passes and ADRs, links your memory maker and photo pass, and holds all your dining plan credits. You can choose the colour of band and they print your name (or nickname) on the inside so that you know which is which if there are more than one of you.

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Whilst you’re on property you can also buy little clip on accessories to jazz them up. If you’re UK based you pick your band up when you check in, and if you’re in the US they deliver your band a few weeks ahead of your stay.

Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR):

You can book your ADRs from 180 days ahead of your trip. If there’s somewhere you really want to eat you should try and book as soon as you can. Using the sheet we’d built we could see which parks we would be on which days and what time of day. This meant we had a good idea of when we could book in our ADRs and it worked really well. Ahead of booking, I’d been avidly reading the Disney Food Blog and checking out menus on the Disney World website. Full menus can be viewed, so you have an idea of what sort of food to expect. Restaurants like Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Table are too popular to allow walk-ins so you really need to be prepared. ADRs are linked to your magic band and you are sent reminders via email so don’t worry about forgetting your booking. Be aware that if you don’t show for your ADR your account is charged for a no show, so make sure you’re certain when you book, and if you need to skip your booking make sure you cancel ahead of time.

Fast Passes:

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We spent a while looking up the different rides for the parks, and finding out how popular these were. Rides like Seven Dwarves Mine Train and Frozen Ever After are fairly new so we knew we had to book fast passes for these. Using the spreadsheet we knew where we were likely to be and when so at 60 days ahead of our trip we were able to book our rides in. (If you’re staying off site it’s 30 days ahead.) It’s essential that if you have your heart on riding something, you book ahead. Trying to get a walk-on for Frozen or Test Track is pretty much impossible. Once we’d booked our essential fast passes, we went back and saw what was left in the places we knew we’d be – this meant that if we found ourselves in a park and didn’t have anything better do, we had rides planned in.

Special Events:

Knowing we would be in Orlando for Halloween-time we knew we had to book a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party, and we also booked for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal. Knowing that I’m the kind of person who likes to do things a couple of times to really enjoy them, we planned in two nights at Epcot Food and Wine Festival. We also knew this would aid us should the weather be bad, and this was fortuitous since the first night we planned there was a total wash out.

Be Flexible:

We knew our plan looked very strict but we also knew we were fairly flexible with it. If we needed to change a plan, didn’t want to do something again, or the weather changed, we were able to alter things on a whim – but we had also planned a lot of things more than once so the important things were covered should we need to miss one at some point.

Book Your Car:

Disney World has a Car Care Centre on property. We hired a car from Alamo, and knew that we could get picked up from the park (they also pick up from your resort), taken to get our car and then drive off into the sunset. Door to door pick up and drop off service, effectively. Having a car was so important to us because it meant we didn’t have to rely on waiting for buses, we had free parking at the parks, and we could nip off-site whenever we wanted.

Plan Your Must Dos:

I knew there were certain sights, resorts and foods I wanted to experience over my time away. I made sure I had a list of them all and it meant that when we had down time I was able to suggest a visit to a certain resort, or trip off-site for breakfast at a spot I’d heard about. It was so important to me that I tick certain things off my list, and didn’t come home and realise I’d missed something. It’s not like you’re in Orlando every day!

Buy Essentials Ahead of Time:

We picked up things like granola bars and ponchos (though these never arrived from the amazon seller!) ahead of time. You can save money by doing this and means you’re never caught ratty and hungry or soaked from a sudden downpour. Saying that, I did enjoy my Disney poncho and it was thick and good quality – worth the price in my opinion!

And now you’re all planned, all that’s left to do is wait for the big day when you can leave for your trip. Head straight to part 3 which is tips for when you’re in the parks!

Planning Your Trip to Walt Disney World: part 1

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So you’ve decided to go to Disney World! Good choice 😀

But before you can go and have all the fun, you need to make some decisions. You want this to be the trip of a lifetime, and for that to happen you need to have made all the right choices at booking stage.

Here’s what me and my husband did to plan and book our trip, based on a two-week stay for two adults.

There’s so much information to take in and so many factors to consider, so the first thing you need to do is:

Research!

Gary became a member of thedibb.co.uk – a forum and user based website for Brits planning Disney vacations. It’s got so much information including a vacation planner, tips, calendars on peak times, which parks to go on which days, special events…. And that’s not mentioning the wealth of information provided on the forums by the members.

Budget

You’ll already know this isn’t going to be a cheap holiday, but you’ll still be able to make some choices based on what you’re able to afford or save up for. Keep an eye out for the UK Disney Dining Plan offers which usually come out in April. We managed to get a great deal by doing this (but more of that later)

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Based on your budget you’ll need to decide whether you want to stay on property or off. There are schools of thought for both options and benefits to both, but we decided we wanted to stay on property and the option of the dining plan helped cement this for us.

Let me tell you a little about the dining plan offer. It’s basically offers you meals for free based on the type of hotel you choose, and means you won’t likely need to pay for much (or any) food when on Disney property. For two weeks in the parks this can make a massive impact on the amount of cash you need to budget for once you’re actually there.

There are 3 types of resort at Disney World – basic, moderate and deluxe. If you choose a basic hotel, you don’t get the option of the dining plan. However, if you choose a moderate hotel you get the option of a Quick Service dining plan, and if you choose Deluxe you get the option of the Table Service dining plan. These mean that for each day, and each person, in your party you receive 2 meals (either quick service or table depending on your plan) and 1 snack each. You can upgrade to the Table Service plan if you’re staying at the moderate resorts, however ideally we would have wanted to stay at a Deluxe resort and get the Quick Service plan – this wasn’t an option though.

Quick service dining locations are places where you go to the counter and order, then take a tray to the table yourself and sit. Table Service are exactly what you think; you’re waited on. But these kinds of restaurants require bookings more often than not, and serve heavier food. Gary and I knew we didn’t want to be restricted to eating times, or heavy food when we were hot and bothered, so knew that we wanted the quick service option.

For one Quick Service credit, you receive an Entrée (main course), desert and a drink – all for free!

We ended up choosing Port Orleans French Quarter (a New Orleans mardis gras themed hotel resort) for our stay, and were over the moon with our choice.

By staying on-site, we also received a free refillable mug each. This was a plastic cup with a chip in the bottom which allows free drinks refills at all Disney World resorts, from Coke Freestyle machines (also included Coffee, Tea, Hot Chocolate and Milk)

The offer we booked under also gave us a free $200 gift card which could be spent in most of the shops and resorts on site, and a free Memory Maker (worth $160) which meant all ride photos, videos and official photos taken in the parks and resorts were free and linked to our account for download. Awesome!

Another major pro of staying on-site is the free transportation to and from Orlando International Airport via the Disney Magical Express. Car parking at the parks is also free of charge for guests staying at Disney resorts but are otherwise charged at $20 a day for those staying off-site.

If we had decided to stay off-site we wouldn’t have gotten any of these offers.

Once you’ve chosen your hotel, you need to decide:

When to go

Again, The Dibb is brilliant for choosing what time of year to go. Obviously, I don’t have children so don’t have to consider holidays. We decided to go at the end of September because the temperatures usually cool down a little, it was Halloween season and also Epcot Food and Wine Festival time – all things we wanted to experience. It was also coming off-peak season so we knew it would be less crowded for the most part.

With all these things considered, you can now either go to a travel agent or book it yourself. We decided to book it ourselves without flights, and hold on a little while to see if we could get a better price on flights nearer the time. It really depends on what you’re comfy with – it worked out well for us doing it ourselves.

So now all you need to do is book (when the time and offers are right of course!)

But you might think that’s all the planning done…. You’re wrong! It’s just beginning! Head straight part two on how to plan the perfect Disney World holiday!

2 Years In – My Running Tips

I will shortly be celebrating my 2 years runniversary! Amazing that I’ve stuck at it this long, and it wasn’t a fad. Who knew?

When I started out running I really wanted to get advice from people like me – not just running magazines and sports therapists. I did get some great tips from bloggers and friends which really helped. So I thought I might do the same, and share some of the do’s and dont’s I’ve learned along the way, in the hope that it might help some of you. Since the weather is improving and spring is here, running season is kicking off – so here goes!

  • Running is free – this is true, but you really must invest in good shoes if you’re serious about running regularly. My first pair of shoes, Nike Pegasus, were wonderful for a while, but too wide for my feet it turns out. Get a gait analysis and go to a shop that has more than one brand, so you don’t just get lumbered with the best shoe that ONE brand can offer. You need the best shoe for you!

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  • Everyone learns at different speeds. Everyone starts from a different fitness level. Everyone is different. Some people will run a mile on their first outing, and others will take a month before they can manage a mile. The important thing is you laced up and went out.
  • If you run, you’re a runner. (p.s You’ll hate it if anyone calls you a jogger!)
  • Speed isn’t everything. When I started running I was impressed with the speed I could run a mile. But I was shattered after it and wanted to throw up. I soon realised speed isn’t the be all end all – it’s finishing that matters.
  • Leading on from this, don’t compare yourself with others. This is much harder than it sounds. Two years in I still berate myself for not running as fast, as far or as often as another person. But they might be lighter than me, or younger than me, or just simply more athletic. They also might be pushing too hard and end up with injury.
  • Listen to your body. I’ve had two bouts of injury, ITB and runner’s knee. I ran too far too quickly and didn’t listen to the niggles when they happened. At the time I was working in a two storey shop on my feet all day, and would spent days between runs in pain, taking painkillers to make it through the day. It’s not worth it. But if you train smart you can avoid it.
  • Running is bad for your joints – When I started telling people I was taking up running, I heard it all. Mostly that running wrecks your joints. It’s true to an extent, but it’s also true for all high impact sports if you don’t take care of your form and your body between run days…..
  • …which leads to…. Complement your running with core work and weight training. You’re putting your body under lots of stress every time you pound the street. I do a yoga session which is designed to help strengthen and stretch my body twice a week. I do arm and leg weight sessions once a week, focussing on my weaker areas when I need to (leg press to strengthen quads and glutes really help prevent further ITB injury). I work on arms, because when you get near to the end of a long run that can be all you have to help propel you on!) and core work which really helps with my form (especially posture).
  • You’ll have really good runs, and you’ll also have crap ones. Lots of crap ones. But at least you’re running!
  • Run with friends. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable running alongside someone else is. You don’t need to chat, just run!

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  • Enter races! If you don’t decide to join a club or have a running buddy then you might not know the joys of running in a group. And if you are familiar with how fun that is, then you must experience the anticipation and camaraderie of running an organised race. Plus goodie bags and medals…. it’s a win win!

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  • You will become obsessed. I know I told you running is free, which is technically true, but you’ll want ALL the clothes and ALL the accessories and to enter ALL the races. You have been warned. You will also, all of a sudden, be absolutely fine wearing garish neon colours and loud prints you would never have dreamed of wearing before!

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  • Never use nutrition on race day that you haven’t trained with. You don’t want to be caught short in the middle of a race because you’ve tried a new gel that day and it’s given you the two bob bits.
  • Hydrate in the days leading up to a race. If you’re chugging on water the morning of your event all you’ll do is need to pee every ten minutes. Portaloos are not your friend. 
  • One of the best bits of advice I read when I started out: “Never trust a fart after a mile” Crude but true.
  • You will all of a sudden be fine with discussing your bowel movements (and girls, your monthlies) with other runners, and you know, everyone else.
  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – I’ve been there. I still go there. If I have a race coming up, I want to be the best I can be. But because of this I put so much pressure on myself that it stops being fun to train. Don’t fall into that trap.
  • Just because you ran for ten minutes doesn’t mean you can go and eat a McDonalds. But I actually found that I went right off most fast food and fatty snacks when I started running and I really just wanted a banana….. I still do get the occasional burger though…. beef’s good protein, right?
  • Most of all enjoy it! You’ve chosen a great, social sport, that will get you healthy and outside into the fresh air…. and lots and lots of shiny medals!

Why So Serious?

So, yesterday I tweeted this:

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The first retweet in the picture was from the actual chef who was cooking the loin on the tv show. I’m glad he shares my childish humour 😀 For the record I also giggle whenever a football commentator uses the word ‘penetration’.

Last night on twitter I also learned that if you rub your hand with stainless steel after using garlic (and after washing your hands) it will remove the smell, and if you drink coffee after eating garlic it will clean your garlicky breath. I also learned that if you wear two pairs of socks inside your Dr Martens when breaking them in, your boots will rub on the socks and the socks will rub on each other and NOT your ankles – maybe I can avoid the monster blisters this time around.

Just thought I’d share these little nuggets of information. It’s always important to learn at least one new thing a day 😀
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