Thursday, 19 February 2015

My favourite North London running spots

I'm a North London girl. Always have been and probably always will be for the duration I call this city home. I must admit, I'm not a fan of living in the Capital and I would in a heartbeat pack up my apartment to move out into the suburbs.

That said though, when it comes to going for a run, I am fortunate to have some lovely hot spots surrounding me, meaning I am never without choice when it comes to a great run!

Alexandra Palace
Looks quite small when you first enter but Alexandra Palace has some well hidden mini trails and is a go-to destination for hill training. I like to head here as there is a great straight of around 400m which is ideal for speed work. This also sits alongside a really steep hill up to the palace, so you can combine hill reps with flat sprints.
In the summer, Alexandra Palace (or as some might call it 'Ally Pally') is thriving with sunbathers (including myself) so it's best to get your run in the bag early. The parkrun here is actually a really lovely, intimate sized race to try out too and whilst involving a couple of short steep hills, it can be a speedy one for some. Come winter, it however gets quite muddy but there are still plenty of paths to stick too!

Hampstead Heath
I've been running here ever sinced I moved to London. I love the Heath. It is my escape from the never-ending crowds, pollution and noise. A safe haven I guess you could say. Hampstead boasts acres of undulating land with beautiful woodland patches and the most serene secret gardens (I recommend you visit the Pergola & Hill Top Gardens in the summer months). There is also the famous Parliament Hill which offers the most stunning landscape views of London.
I used to live pretty close to the Heath and would find myself here every other day. Now I live a little further out, it is somewhere I go to for my longer, more challenging runs. You are guaranteed a hilly one when you head here that's for sure! The route I take is around seven miles and, like many other runners that descend here, I find my runs here the most relaxing. The tranquil setting and interesting little detours that you can make allow run routes to be mixed up and I always come back feeling like I have been out in the countryside. 

Another great aspect about Hampstead Heath is the variety of sports you can do. With tennis courts, an athletic track, lido and swimming ponds, there is plenty to do! Very soon I will be making this place my destination for open water swimming as I take to the waters donning my wet suit for triathlon training!

Finsbury Park 
My local for running. Finsbury Park is popular for runners as its just one large, simple loop. A great place to go for speed work and due to lots of tarmac roads, its a suitable destination to train all year round. Its parkrun is also very popular here. A two lap route that includes a cheeky, killer hill I have taken part many times, even though I fear that dreaded incline. 

There is also a lovely scenic path that connects Finsbury Park and Highgate. It was once a rail line many years ago but has since become deserted and over time has grown into a really pretty trail route. Lots of runners, cyclists and dog walkers wander down here so its nice and safe during daylight hours and is a really quick way to get to the park.
In the centre of Finsbury Park, hidden amongst the bushes and trees I have located a little flat loop (it's situated right by the athletic track) which measures around 350m. At the peak of summer, when daylight hours are longer, I like to go here in the evenings to bosh out some sprint reps, treating it almost like an athletic track and then I will work my way back via the trail path running to a specific pace for whatever I am training for at that time. 

So there you have it, my three go-to running destinations. Where are your running hotspots? Are there any I am missing out on in North London?

Lipstick Runner.

(I probably should have done this sort of post in the summer when the pictures would have been less mud and more sun. Still though, It's good to see what these places become over winter - who doesn't love a bit of mud after all?)

Sunday, 8 February 2015


I can't believe I'm already at week 20 of this body project. When I started out four months ago, I definitely didn't imagine seeing these results. Choosing to capture my progression through the lens was, for me, a bold move. However, I am so glad I did it. There is nothing more motivating than looking at this trio of pictures (L - R week 1, week 12, week 20).
I was slightly worried post Christmas that it would all go to pot and I would be back looking like I did at week 1 but surprisingly I have managed to keep it up! The last eight weeks have been the most challenging too. I have suffered an awful chesty cough twice, which has totally wiped me out and in total I have missed two whole weeks of training. Along with this, work commitments have meant my training schedule has been greatly effected. 

In terms of my fitness and performance, I'm feeling a bit low as my running has suffered the most. The cough has lingered long enough now and I am just ready to budge it for good so I can pick up some pace again. I'm also looking at my 5K PB target and thinking this may have to be reworked. But hey! I can't concentrate on the negatives. Looking at the brighter side of things, I have kept on schedule with my physique. With the wedding now only five months away and my final dress fitting in three, keeping this up has never been so important. Any slip up now could have a huge impact on slipping into that dress!

Looking at how my body has changed during triathlon training, the biggest difference has been on my waist and face. This is where I seem to drop weight and tone up. My legs and arms however, are still my main struggle. I have decided that legs I'm not too fussed about so what happens there, I'll accept but my arms are now the centre of my attention.

I was fortunate enough to be gifted dumbbell weights at Christmas. A pair of 5KGs and a pair of 2KGs. The latter I have been using almost daily, carrying out triceps focussed repetitions, short and fast to help blitz fat and sculpt upper arms. When I'm showing off (like I am above), my arms look huge, but when relaxed and by my side, they're ever so slightly looking trimmer (thank the Lord!). 

Through this journey, I am learning to love my muscles and be proud of them. This is, after all, not something I should try to hide. They are a part of me and after 20 weeks, it looks like they aren't going to go away so I may as well start to embrace them! Nothing wrong with the Hulk look right? Maybe I'll make myself green in the next snapshots...

Until next time.

Lipstick Runner.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

KIT PICKS: My new gear

I haven't done a Kit Picks post in a while and over Christmas, I got some amazing new essentials to help with my current training, most of which are all triathlon related.

I must say I am one to budget buy when it comes to kit. Sports Direct is my BFF for Karrimor tops and leggings, as well as low price Puma sports bras. So getting nice, slightly more luxurious pieces for Christmas was a treat. Not to say that Karrimor and Puma are low range - they too offer reasonable comfort and a decent shelf life too!

First up has to be more shiny new triathlon suit. I mentioned this back on my wish list (see here) in December and I was ecstatic to get it. I opted for a Zone3 Women's Aquaflo Trisuit (RRP £85). I'm a curvy athlete and I wanted a suit built for my shape and this seemed to fit the bill. Its designed to reduce drag during the swim and the fabric is fast drying and Teflon coated. There is also a sturdy inner sports bra built in and when you are not so flat chested like me, this is very much appreciated.
I found it weird getting this on for the first time and did have a fear at first that it wouldn't stretch past my knees. However, after pulling and tugging I got it zipped up and I definitely felt streamlined in it! Me being me, the look of the suit for a big deal and I thought having a black suit would be more complimenting whilst the deep purple side panels make it just that little bit girly. I'll definitely be practising in this come the warmer months on the bike and in the pool! It's vital for me to get familiar to wearing a suit and feeling comfortable for the big day!

Next up, I got confirmation that Santa had indeed read my list as I was also luckily enough to unwrap the Zoggs Predator Flex Reactor Swimming Goggles. My goggles at the time were on their last legs. The rubber was splitting and the seals were so knackered and worn they seeped in water. I must also mention that these goggles gave me the worst marks.
As I will be venturing into outdoor swimming this year, I wanted to give the Zoggs a go. They have a built in anti-fog system and provide 180 degree vision through the extra wide lens. They are also photo chromatic so no need to worry about low sunshine obscuring my vision. When I first wore these, I was in love. Super comfy and clear, I sailed through the swimming session but did end up with some rather unattractive marks still.So the next time, I kept this in mind and didn't press the suction of the rubber onto my eyes so much. This helped to avoid goggle marks however the anti fog system failed as I must have not had them sealed in place fully.

That said though, I am definitely happy with these and will continue using them during my training.

Along with my triathlon picks, I was also fortunate to receive some new running gear. My sister knows my style and gifted these super comfy ELLE Sport Capri Leggings. I've worn these for a couple of runs now and I really like the waistband on these as it isn't too tight and doesn't 'protrude' my um, *cough* chunky lower back.
As well as leggings, I also got this super bright Asics top. I don't own a pink running top so it's definitely a nice addition to the kit draw and it is something I like wearing at the moment with my Nike winter skin. You can see me a mile off!
I am loving having new kit to train in. There is nothing more satisfying (and motivating) than heading out in shiny new gear and I definitely feel fully prepped for all my disciplines I am training for.

Lipstick Runner.