Focus on small changes for a healthy 2020

As we begin the New Year, change is in the air. Whether it is Brexit, the new Spring term or the third season of The Crown, change can feel uncomfortable and slightly overwhelming. This is never more true than when it comes to our diet because we often make changes while being oblivious to any potential downside. It is hardly surprising that after an indulgent holiday of eating and drinking far too much, many people have started the year full of good intentions and ambitious resolutions that were made over a glassful of bubbly. Whether it was the mince pie ‘bites’, mini stollens or the bottomless tubs of chocolates, most had their downfall and were ripe for change. But now we are in the first few weeks of January, once the festive treats and sweets have safely disappeared, the reality of what you signed up for will be starting to sink in…

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Ignorance is not bliss

As I sit with my feet up, nursing a very blackened toe I have taken a moment to reflect on the past weekend. Last Sunday, I joined over 2000 other runners and took part in the annual Milton Keynes Winter Half Marathon. I have run this event several times before and have had very mixed experiences of it mostly due to the dodgy weather at this time of the year. But like many others, I haven’t been put off by it either. The Winter Half is increasingly sold out every year and for the first time, the start was organised into waves of evenly paced runners. Not that this stopped a bit of ambitious manoeuvring to the front of the start by runners from later waves. But the slight kettling at least meant that the beginning of the race felt less like being chased by a herd of gazelles who thundered by while you tried not to get trampled on or slam into the occasional bollard.

The other difference in this year’s Winter Half was that the course had slightly changed. Now this is not unusual because the changing winter weather can mean that some years, the route must be altered at the last minute due to flooding. However, as I have run the course so many times before I never pay much attention to any tiny little tweaks to the route. Especially because the course always overlaps and repeats many of the running routes I normally train on. So as far as I was concerned, as long as the Winter Half course was pretty much the ‘same old, same old’ and not any farther than the 21 long kms, I was fine with it. Or so I thought…

Pumpkin spice coconut bars
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Soup-er refuelling for the autumn

With Halloween and Bonfire Night already behind us, it feels like we are getting through the autumn at breakneck speed. Now that the days are shorter and the evenings far darker, it is becoming trickier to plan a late workout outside. Then there is the unpredictable weather to contend with. I have been lucky enough to get some runs in on beautiful sunny days in parkland absolutely teeming with autumn colours. But autumn also brings with it some unforgiving rain, wind and cold which is part and parcel of the new rugby and cross-country season. Of course, most rugby players and runners do not expect anything other than bad weather and some would even say that it is part of the attraction of playing sport at this time of year. But whether you are facing off the opposition, lining up at the start line or cheering from the sidelines, it is easy to underestimate just how cold and muddy you can get.

There are people who like to tell you that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. But even if you strategically layer yourself like a well-filled sandwich in an attempt to trap some warm air underneath a heavy-duty winter coat, it will escape the moment you remove a glove, adjust a zip or wrong-foot the mucky ground. Spending several hours in the cold working out or watching others doing it is tiring at the best of times but it also tends to build up an appetite. Which means that once you return home again and finally warm up in some clean, dry clothes everybody’s top priority becomes eating. The question is, what??

Speedy pea and pesto soup
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In search of a record-breaking breakfast

What a weekend it has been for sporting triumphs as two incredible Kenyan runners smashed some historic records for the marathon. First up, Eliud Kipchoge, who holds the official marathon world record of 2:01:39, set in 2018 has broken new ground by becoming the first athlete to run a marathon in under 2 hours. It may seem slightly harsh that his time of 1:59:40 in Vienna cannot be recognised officially as a new world record when the world was there to witness every single step. But the race of 1 runner clearly wasn’t an open competition and Kipchoge was helped by an extensive support team. It was mesmerising watching Kipchoge’s 42 pacers rotate into position throughout the race as seamlessly as the backup dancers at the beginning of Strictly Come Dancing. It hardly matters that Kipchoge’s time is not official because he made marathon history and in his own words, he showed the world that there are no limits when you believe in yourself and trust in what you are doing.

Classic cornbread
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A new term of takeaway temptations

It seems to have come around quickly but as soon as the cold breeze hit me, I knew it was true. Summer has ended. But with a final panicked shopping trip to buy the last pieces of missing school kit, we were ready for the new term. That is, at least, in theory. Because it is not easy adjusting to the long-forgotten routine of simply trying to get your child to school in the morning. Especially after enjoying a summer of being able to do several hours of work first thing in the morning without interruption. During the sunny mornings, I could get through mountains of work in utter silence, bar the load purrs of an attention-seeking cat. My noisy teenage children used to only emerge from their lairs when hunger finally forced them out of bed. But now with the clattering of dishes and blast of BBC Breakfast everybody is up early and our kitchen has become a feeding hub of activity in the early hours. And where I once prepared the coffee peacefully and slowly started the day, the daily breakfast battles for space are in full swing.


Of course, the return to school also means a return to school lunches and the controversial topic of whether your child packs a sarnie or buys their lunch from their school canteen. Many families have strong views on whichever option is better for their children and cost can also play a factor. Others may not have a choice as their child’s school provides meals and does not allow packed lunches. But no matter how your child is catered for at lunchtime there is one thing that all families have in common. Everything changes when your child enters the beginning of the last two years of secondary school, aka Sixth Form in the UK. Once your child hits Sixth Form, parents will have to contend with a much bigger problem: the temptation of the lunchtime takeaway.

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