Holiday Friday Faves

Hey everyone. It turns out that there’s a lull between when the sun goes down at 5.30 and when we eat dinner at 8.30. This is where I get my best holiday running, blogging and pre-dinner drinking done (just in case you were wondering why I’m doing blogging on holiday. There’s a LULL, guys. We either watch badly dubbed movies, or do this. And I quite like doing this!). By the way – there are more shabby places to be blogging:

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It’s the perfect place to get my people-watching done too.

Anyway, it’s Friday! And the perfect time to share how a short, ginger girl spends her days without the stresses of work and the grey skies of England. So here is what I have been:

 

  • Reading: In descending order of enjoyment, we have The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair (funny, gripping, creative and really entertaining), All My Puny Sorrows (unique, sad, honest and an interesting study on love), The Aftermath (ok, a light read, but really not amazing), How to be a Girl (starting tomorrow and SO EXCITED about it too).

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  • Running in: My new Asics Gel Elevations! A few months ago I entered the Neon Run, which is in October, with a few friends. And along with that was an entry to win some shoes – which I did! I’ll do a review once I’ve broken them in properly, but they have been a dream during this trip.

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  • Watching: Emma Watson launching thew new #HeforShe campaign at the UN last weekend, and basically articulating everything that I want to but can’t because, basically, I’m not as fabulous as her. Please watch this video… I love how it’s inclusive and encourages everyone to talk rather than blame. So good.
  • Running: 12.5 miles/20kms so far. I hope to round that out to an even 18 miles by the time we leave.

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  • Eating: Chocolate. If Paris was the land where you can eat ice cream with every meal, then Tunisia (specifically this hotel) is the land where you can eat chocolate with every meal. And I’ve done myself proud, hence the target of 18 miles…

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  • Listening to: The Hamish and Andy podcast. Gotta love a bit of H&A!! They help me keep up to date with the important news of Australia, like what’s going on in The Bachelor and the first fleet of the People’s Island.
  • Learning: That factor 3o sunscreen will give you a sun tan still, and protect you from sun burn. It’s not a lie. My step-mother has been telling me this for 12 years, and I finally believe her. That’s quite a life lesson learned, believe me.

Slip Slop Slap

 

And that’s how you holiday like Ellie B! SB’s holiday has consisted of less chocolate, more weights, more movies, fewer books, more swimming and more sun.

 

Also – MOST EXCITING OF ALL – the Sydney Swans are in the Grand Final on Saturday! So, for any English readers, the Swans are the best team in the Aussie Rules Football league. I want to write that they’ll do us all proud tomorrow, but I’m weirdly superstitious about stuff like this. AFL is a fast-paced game, with high scores,high skill and high appeal. And if you’re still not convinced, perhaps this will help:

 

Uh, yeah. Biceps much??

Uh, yeah. Biceps much??

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and thanks for reading this holiday-drivel!

 

Ellie B

Training in Tunisia

 

Well, Tunisia is a friendly place. It started immediately, when the security guard at the airport wouldn’t give me my passport unless I said I’d be Facebook friends with him. He must have known I’ve been feeling a little lonely, so it was very kind of him. Not! Hahaha – I am not lonely, and my passport is in my maiden name, airport guard!! Good luck!

We are on holiday here for a week, and then our month of jet-setting comes to an end. Out of all the places I’ve ever visited, this is where I feel most uneasy when on my own. We’ve gone out a a few times, and whenever SB isn’t with me, all kinds of people start conversations with me. Generally they’re men, and generally their conversation skills are limited to ‘English? Deutsch? Russki?’ I mean, I’m flattered, but on the whole I like a little more variation in a conversation.

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Having said that, I have gone out running. It may sound stupid based on what I’ve just written – but I’m sure their familiarity is just a consequence of what happens when our culture meets theirs, and that they don’t mean any harm. Any unease is my issue as this isn’t usual behaviour where I live, but that’s not to say their intentions aren’t anything more than curiosity. So I wasn’t going to let that stop me train, readers, no siree Bob!

 

But let’s not be stupid about it. There are a few precautions I took, which are worth doing whenever you’re running in a new place:

  • I checked with the hotel that it was ok to run, and that it was ok to run in my usual running gear (vest top rather than covered arms for example)
  • I took some ID with me
  • I checked the route and made sure it was all main roads
  • I told SB where I was going, and what time I’d be back
  • I did take my music, but had it on a low volume
  • I didn’t really make eye contact with many people, but did pay attention to who I saw
  • I chose an out-and-back route for simplicity so it was harder to get lost, and so people are more likely to remember me if they saw me twice and anything did happen (morbid thought!)

 

I went on a four mile run towards the town centre and back, and I was the only runner I saw. As soon as you leave the hotel, you realise how poor Tunisia actually is: you can’t escape the rubbish on the streets, the cracked pavements, unfinished buildings and the complete-but-tired buildings.

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The number of men I saw outweighed the number of women by about 2:1. However I did see groups of women cleaning up the streets. They had those claws on sticks which my Nana has to grab things – as well as pinching our arms when she’s feeling mischievous – and the streets were lined with little piles of rubbish they had collected. I imagine it’s their job, but it warmed my heart a little to see the streets being tended for like that even if they are being paid to do it.

 

Ok, these are piles of leaves rather than rubbish. But you see what I mean.

Ok, these are piles of leaves rather than rubbish. But you see what I mean.

Running in Tunisia reminded me of Sydney, climate-wise: it was very humid and the sun was very strong. Call me crazy, but I actually really enjoyed it. My muscles warmed up very quickly, and I was able to keep an average 8:30 mile pace.

 

Of course, it could have felt good simply because, for the last four days, all I have done is read books, drink cocktails and eat.

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Don’t you try to tell me that’s an unacceptable amount of Nutella to have with your pancakes. I don’t want to hear it.

If anyone is looking for a good read, I definitely recommend ‘The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair’ by Joel Dicker. It’s a really well-written mystery, and I devoured the 600 pages in two days. It’s soooooo good!

 

Anyway, hope you’re all having a good week.

 

Ellie B

A weekend in Paris… There’s some running too….

You may have noticed that Friday posts tend to be a little light. Friday-lite if you will. And why not? We work hard during the week, it’s nice to relax on a Friday evening with a mojito/Corona/tea and enjoy the blog-equivalent of muzak.

 

This week I thought I’d tell you about our trip to Paris – or as I like to call it, the City Where You Can Have Ice Cream with Every Meal. And let me tell you…. I did myself proud.

 

We met up with some Aussie friends who did their PhDs with SB, and are currently working in Lyon. Here is a brief run down on the weekend: we used Air B&B to find somewhere fab, which was TWO MINUTES from a Haagen Dazs cafe (and also 10 mins from the Eiffel Tower). We ate cake & ice cream for SB’s birthday and then went to the Moulin Rouge where, sadly, Ewan McGregor doesn’t live or write or even frequent.

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We walked throughout the whole city over two days. A disproportionately high number of people were either wearing red trousers, a striped top or had a small dog. If I was Queen of the World, I’d make sure that everyone had at least one (but preferably all three) from that list.

 

I bought a French copy of Harry Potter in the misguided hope that it’d jog all that French I learned from the ages of 11-21. We drank lots of wine, ate LOTS of pastry, drank good coffee, and went to a lovely restaurant called Chateaubriand.

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On Sunday, SB and I did a run. Coincidentally it was the Paris equivalent to the Race For Life that Sunday, which started at the Eiffel Tower and was just over 6k long. Unfortunately only women could enter – and I wanted to run with SB. I think it’s called La Parisienne, but I’m on a train and the wifi is too slow to check.

Pretty nice spot for a race village!

Pretty nice spot for a race village!

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So we went on our own run: we ran along the Seine next to La Parisienne  for a bit so we could still benefit from their music and their energy. The Seine was a gorgeous shade of dark emerald green that morning, and the trees were just showing their Autumn colours. Now, my memories might be ridiculously romantic because it was Paris, but everything had a golden glow to it.

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Our route took us from the Seine to the Place de la Concorde, past the Grand Palais and up the Champs Elysees. We rounded it off by going past the Arc du Triomphe and finishing at the little square near our apartment.

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Literally the happiest runners in all of Paris.

And then there was a difficult choice to make. What should I EAT after finishing a run? Fresh, juicy fruit from a little Parisian market stand?

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You are joking. Of course not.

 

10.30am, people. This is the face of someone who just wants to get stuck in.

10.30am, people. This is the face of someone who just wants to get stuck in.

Running in Paris was fun – the river in itself is more picturesque than the Thames, and to look back and see the Eiffel Tower is great. Overall, there are fewer sights to see along the Seine than the Thames though. And whilst there were loads of runners – normal runners, not La Parisienne runners – they didn’t smile or acknowledge each other. I like a nice wave or smile with another runner: it’s like we’re part of a club.

 

Anyway, once we had finished our run, we continued our huge walk throughout the city, and then we finished the trip with a visit to the Haagen Dazs cafe, which brought my total to three that day. Before you judge me – we don’t have a single one anywhere near where I live. I mean, what else was I supposed to do????

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Bon Weekend Tout Le Monde!

 

Ellie B

Hill Running. What’s the big dealio?

 

I have told my intermediate running group time and time again how good it is to run in D-Town because it’s hilly – and clearly hill running is the bees knees. They tend to roll their eyes and grunt in frustration as we’re usually pounding up/down a hill at the time, but I’m sure in their minds they’re thinking ‘man, she is so wise, we are so lucky to have such a wise leader’.

 

The basic idea behind hill running in my mind is simple: it’s much harder to run up and down hills, which strengthens your  muscles, and means that not only will you be faster running on the flat surfaces, but you’ll also find it easier. Hill running is basically weight training whilst running – except that you’re also supporting your body weight at the same time, where as weights at the gym focus on muscle groups in isolation of your running. This is very good if you want to look like this:

Here we have Jay Cutler, a Mr Olympia champion, keeping it real at the gym

Here we have Jay Cutler, a Mr Olympia champion, keeping it real at the gym

 

But not so helpful if you want to do this:

 

And here is Kipsang just casually winning the London Marathon

And here is Kipsang just casually winning the London Marathon

 

The question is, how do you do it? Hill running isn’t easy, and puts your body under more strain than usual. So what secret techniques are there to help? Over the years I’ve picked up a few things, so here is my list:

 

Running Down Hill

 

When you run down hill, your muscles lengthen as you take your step. This puts your legs under more strain than regular running, and also causes tiny tears in your muscle fibres. Remember – the repairing of these tiny tears is what helps our overall fitness, which is how hill running is helpful. In addition to this, you’re also running with gravity, which will make you run faster than you naturally would, again stressing your body as you hit the ground harder.

 

When running down hill:

  • Run on a soft surface if available: the grass alongside the footpath is perfect for this. The softer surface will absorb some of the impact for you
  • Keep your feet under your body when you step rather than stride down – again, this will reduce the impact you feel in your legs, and it’s not necessary to use the knees to drive you forwards so much when running downhill
  • Tread lightly – keep your contact time with the ground to a minimum, landing on your mid foot rather than your heel
  • Lean forwards. This may seem counterintuitive – but it actually lessens the impact because your weight isn’t being pushed through your legs as you lean back to brake. Leaning forward slightly will help you stay smooth, and will help you use gravity as an advantage rather than as a hinderance. Different sources suggest leaning forwards from the hips or the ankles – but they all seem to agree it shouldn’t be from your shoulders. Personally, I think I do hips…
  • Watch your gaze – you should be looking at the hill surface, not at your feet. Keep your gaze about 1-2 metres ahead of where you’re running
  • If you find you’re going fast, then hold your arms out by your side for balance  rather than keeping them close. For me this really works: it slows me down, and engages my core more which helps stabilise me too. I do feel like a muppet when I’m doing this – arms flailing all over the place – but it really helps. And it’s the same principle as pole: if you’re spinning too fast, stick a limb out…
  • Also, if you’re going too fast, focus on those shorter strides until you feel that you’ve re-gained control
Why look at that downhill form there.

Why look at that downhill form there.

 

Running Up Hill

 

There may be some of the same characters in this list, but they will feel completely different to downhill when you put them into practice. Uphill running means that you’re running against gravity, which requires more effort, and your muscles contract. You also put more strain on your calf muscles. The result is a more powerful stride overall.

 

 

  • Aim for the same amount of effort running up the hill as on the flats – not the same pace
  • Shorten those strides again, and keep contact with the ground small so that you feel light on your feet
  • The short strides will help you maintain your breathing rhythm, which is very helpful. During the uphill, you’re probably relying on anaerobic respiration, so deep breathing will help mitigate the effects
  • Again, your gaze should be 1-2 metres in front of you so that your lungs are open and ready for oxygen!
  • Use your arm swing to help your momentum. Focus on pulling back rather than pushing forwards, and make sure your arms swing straight rather than across your body
  • Sometimes I find it helps to put my hands on my hips for a bit, which seems to focus all the efforts through your legs. I’m not sure how it helps, but it works for me. But only for short bursts: then go back to driving your arms
  • Try to maintain your overall running rhythm rather than slowing it down (smaller steps will help)
  • Lean into the hill, but not so much that it constricts your leg movement or shifts your centre of gravity forwards

 

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So that’s hill running for you. I found that hill running has really helped my overall strength and stamina – and when you run anywhere that’s flat, it will seem like a breeze. Hopefully. A few hill reps is a great way of getting in a serious workout in less time too, so good  if you’re pushed for time. And honestly – there’s nothing like a hard hill session to make you feel like a hero at the end. A bloody hero. As long as you can push through the bit in the middle where you just. want. to. stop.

 

Enjoy those hills!! Let me know how you get on…

 

Ellie B

 

 

Sources

  1. Anon. (no date specified). Everything You Need to Know About Hill Running [WWW]. Available from: http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/general/everything-you-need-to-know-about-hill-training/159.html [Accessed: 16th September]
  2. Anon. (no date specified). The Proper Technique for Running Uphill and Downhill [WWW]. Available from: http://runnersconnect.net/running-training-articles/hill-running-form/ [Accessed: 16th September 2014]
  3. Jhung, L. (2010). Tips for Running Uphill [WWW]. Available from: http://www.runnersworld.com/trail-running-training/going?page=2 [Accessed: 17th September 2014] 
  4. Karp, J. (no date specified). 6 Tips to Improve Your Downhill Runs [WWW]. Available from: http://www.active.com/fitness/articles/6-tips-to-improve-your-downhill-runs [Accessed: 16th September 2014]
  5. Kuzma, C. (2014). Three Tips for Running Downhill [WWW]. Available from:http://www.runnersworld.com/running-tips/three-tips-for-running-downhill [Accessed 18th September 2014]
  6. Shaw, J. (2014). Perfect your downhill running form [WWW]. Available from: http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/perfect-your-downhill-running-form_52804 [Accessed 18th September 2014]

Thanks for the Reminder: Women, Families and Work

Hi everyone. So I am up early this morning catching up on some work emails (because who doesn’t voluntarily start work at 6.45am?), and I saw this article in my inbox: “‘Remember to have babies’ says ‘City Superwoman'”.  And then all I wanted to do was jot down my thoughts on this.

 

First up, the headline does a great job of making a judgement: the quotation marks around ‘City Superwoman’, sets her up to be discredited, like they don’t even believe she’s a City Superwoman. Even using that term following that particular quote is immediately condescending, and sets to divide her from the reader. Who is this City Superwoman who deigns to advise us Normal Non-Superwomen?

 

It’s clear that British Investment Banker Nicola Horlick feels a little under fire for managing to balance a high-powered job and six children. She’s keen to point out that having job and money doesn’t equal happiness, which I think is fair, and that everyone should make their own choices.

 

But here’s the thing about this whole article, rather than what Horlick specifically says. I don’t think many young women need to remember to get married and have babies. I think it’s something that they are reminded of every single day: through advertising, through their own natural inclination to want children, and through articles with headlines such as this. Thanks everyone – we have received your message loud and clear! You can consider us women informed.

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Out of the women I know personally, many want to have children, and some want to get married. However, there are a few other things to consider:

  1. Marriage isn’t something the woman does by herself: there’s usually another person involved, and tradition unnecessarily dictates that this other person is actually the one responsible for asking The Marriage Question. So the choice is made together by two people.
  2. Many women work hard to get ahead in their careers, to pay their rent, to buy the outfits for work (because God forbid they wear the same thing two days in a row), and to save for a house deposit. Sometimes it’s a choice to wait until you are more financially secure before you make a lifelong commitment to a child.
  3. This whole idea that it’s a choice is kind of insulting to those who haven’t met the person they want to marry or have babies with, or who can’t have children at all. They would make those choices if they could, but the universe has other ideas for them. Way to make a girl feel insignificant; that their merit or contribution as an individual isn’t worthwhile.
  4. Women who return to work post-child often struggle to balance their responsibilities. This is mostly anecdotal, but I know women who aren’t able to work flexibly, who returned to work and found their whole role had changed in their absence, or who find themselves at a disadvantage because they can’t put in after-hours efforts they once did. Again – way to make a woman feel valued.
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Don’t lose sight of what you can do – yes, even without a man and children!

It must be said that Horlick does point out that she knows she can afford good childcare, and that people need to be open minded as to the choices of others. She’s also speaking from the horrific position of a mother who lost her child, which would colour how she views her work vs her family.

 

To a certain extent, everyone out there – women and men – have a choice to:

  • get married and have babies
  • get married, have babies and pursue a career
  • have babies and a career
  • have babies
  • stay single
  • be with someone, married or not
  • have children, married or not
  • pursue a career, whether married, in a couple, single or a parent

And there are many more combinations I’m sure. Go nuts, make your own combo.

 

Unsurprisingly, there are no articles advising men to get married and have babies: when you reverse it, you realise how sexist it actually is. In the reverse, it reads like something from the Fifties: find yourself a wife and start a family! 

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I’m sure there are men out there who wish they hadn’t focussed on their careers at the expense of having a family, but maybe there were no helpful articles to remind them, so they forgot.

 

Women don’t need another ‘reminder’ that we may have some challenging and different choices to make in our lives. We are already getting feedback on how to lower our voices in the boardroom so as to appear more executive, and that our heels should be high but not too high. Those who want children are already aware of this fact about themselves.

 

What we really need is the ability to make these choices as easily as possible. With support and infrastructure to help us out. These days the cost of childcare is a serious prohibiting factor, as are inflexible working conditions, and these make the choices much harder.

 

I much prefer the message from Sheryl Sandberg, which is that we should focus on our careers and not the day that we might have children, because we could miss out on professional opportunities which would put us in a stronger position if we ever do have children.

 

Peace out,

 

Ellie B

 

PS – this was written in a rush before my official work hours started. I’m sure I’ll read it in about 8 hours time and cringe at the raw emotion, the bad arguments and the spelling mistakes. Thanks for your patience :)