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Be inspired, inspire

This was the message of a lovely card that I received from my sister when I got home on Saturday evening. It made me think of a yoga top that I often wear, purchased many years ago (right before moving to London, in fact) while spending some time in Santa Cruz.

The card (along with the thoughtful note inside) was well-timed, because inspiration pretty much sums up the fantastic weekend that I just had. It’s also something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently – what are my sources of inspiration and happiness, and how I might be able to inspire others?

When I got home on Saturday night, I was buzzing with positive energy (and perhaps some wine) after enjoying a long but incredible day, mostly in the sunshine. I kind of wish I had written this post right then, because I had so many amazing thoughts and feelings swirling inside of me, but sometimes it’s better to simply experience and appreciate those moments rather than document them.

London really comes alive when the sun is out, reminding me of why I put up with so many dreary days throughout the rest of the year! It’s always when I start to get really fed up and threaten to leave that London pulls out all the stops, giving me nearly perfect weather for days, displaying its beautiful flowers everywhere, inviting me to explore many different parts of town and join the throngs of happy (drunk) people in the city’s myriad green spaces, outdoor pubs/cafes etc…Yes, I realize this is also called Spring, but London seems to have a unique vibe in warmer weather compared to other cities, in my opinion at least. Perhaps we just appreciate these days more, since they are so precious!

When these days do occur, I typically sunbathe and picnic in the park or drink Pimm’s with friends on the river, and the bone-chilling, wet weather of yesterday quickly fades in my memory (until it inevitably returns, of course). All I can think about is how beautiful and vibrant London is – and how easy it is to escape when you feel like doing so! I miss California like crazy, but you can’t jet off to Morocco, Italy, Norway etc. from SFO for a couple of nights (well you can, but it’s not exactly recommended).

This is, of course, how many Americans like myself come over here with the intention of staying for a short period of time and then discover that they don’t want to leave. London grabs hold of you with its travel opportunities and extra weeks of vacation time – not to mention its national healthcare system and things like year-long maternity leave – it can be hard to break free! Then, after you’ve lived here for a certain amount of time, you start toying with the thought of becoming a citizen – not because you actually want to be British, but because you’ve already made a significant time investment and that passport opens doors! That said, although being able to work anywhere in the EU and UK is quite appealing to me in theory, staying in London for three more years isn’t appealing at all (okay, maybe just a little bit).

So don’t worry – I’m not feeling inspired after this weekend to stay here forever. All I’m saying is that London can be incredibly seductive, particularly around this time of year, and when the time does come for me to head back to the US, it will be hard to let go of many things that are important to me and that I currently take for granted.

This weekend did inspire me, however, in a number of other ways, including keeping up my relatively new yoga practice after a challenging session on Saturday morning. I had a leisurely 4M run to a gym across town, where my Thursday yoga instructor was leading a 90-minute class in a larger, brighter studio. Everything flowed better than normal (perhaps the later time and warmer weather helped) and I made notable progress in several poses! The second half of the class was tough, but I’m proud of myself for getting through it and felt a particularly potent combination of runner’s high/yoga glow for the rest of the day.

I met up with E after class and we headed to Marylebone High street, which was really fun given our tendency to hang out a bit too much in our own neighborhoods. We lucked out and snagged a prime sunny table at a cute cafe for lunch. Here I am enjoying my long-awaited first Pimm’s of the season – pure bliss!

This was  followed by home-made organic ice cream from La Fromagerie, an exciting discovery that I made while wandering along a side street. I will certainly visit again very soon – everything looked amazing. And their mint-chocolate chip ice cream literally tasted like stracciatella infused with fresh mint leaves, probably because that’s exactly what they did. Mind blowing.

We enjoyed our ice cream while walking to Regents Park, which was of course packed. After admiring all of the gorgeous tulips and other flowers, we managed to find a secluded spot under a tree to chill out for a couple hours. How could I NOT feel inspired – buzzing from a great workout, a delicious meal, my favorite drink and loads of sunshine while cuddling with my boyfriend on the grass, staring up at this view?

In the early evening, E and I parted ways and I decided to walk all the way home (about 4-5 miles) to make the most of the weather. It was awesome, but exhausting after the other activities of the day. As I approached Zucca – a relatively new, small Italian restaurant which is always booked weeks in advance – I sent E a text, jokingly, that I might rest my legs and get a bite to eat there, to help get me all the way home (five minutes away). Next thing I knew, I was sitting at the tiny bar, chatting with the chefs and waiters and eyeing all the incredible dishes they were creating.

I ordered some appetizers, including the carpaccio of sea bass with olive oil and fresh chili that I enjoyed the last time I was there, a mixed salad and a basket of their delicious breads.

Would I like any wine, asked my waiter?

No thank you, I’m fine with water…A few minutes later, I started to peruse the wine list. May as well take a look…

Would I like any wine, asked a different waiter?

Hm…

A massive glass of white wine suddenly appeared in front of me – so refreshing, perfect with my sea bass – as well as a second basket of their addictive foccacia. I was getting full, but was still salivating as I watched the chef prepare a plate of taglierini with spring herbs and fresh ricotta. I started to tell her how much I LOVE fresh ricotta.

Would you like some pasta, the chef asked me?

Um, yes please!

I glanced to my right at the only other person sitting at the bar, another woman on her own enjoying some wine and various plates of food too. We shared a smile. I can’t remember the last time I rocked up to a nice restaurant and had an impromptu meal by myself – it was so lovely!

I completed my journey home slightly drunk, very full and extremely happy, simply thinking – this is what life’s about! Enjoying the colors of a particularly beautiful flower or tree; feeling pride in a certain achievement – big or small; savoring a delicious meal or glass of wine; enjoying the company of a loved one or some quality time alone…

Days like today.

And days like the following day, when I woke up and immediately set off on one of the best long runs I have had in a VERY long time. Maybe it was all that pasta and bread! I had no real target in mind, and nothing in particular that I was training for, so this run was purely for ME. Everything clicked and felt great – the weather was ideal, the tourists on my route mostly stayed out of my way, and the songs I listened to (which was a treat in itself) perfectly suited the exact moments during which they played. I felt strong, relaxed and completely pain-free.

Awesome 11M run in the sunshine: Garmin Connect details

When I got back to my flat, I was literally dancing and singing – it was the highest runner’s high that I have had in months! Fitting too, since exactly one year ago at that time, I was just about to finish my first marathon, in Paris! I couldn’t help but think back to that incredible sense of achievement I felt after crossing the finish line – and how badly I want to run another marathon (my third) in the near future. But first, I’m going to really cherish this period of “anti-training” – running for no purpose other than to make myself feel good!

I felt even better after a delicious brunch of eggs on top of sauteed purple kale, baby eggplant, shitake mushrooms and wholegrain bread…

…after which I headed to my local park to nap under another tree – this one with huge, pink powder puff blossoms. It was slightly less peaceful with all the screaming children, but enjoyable nonetheless. My favorite moment was when I thought to myself, “I would love an ice cream – if only I didn’t have to get up and walk to the store around the corner to get one.” Surely I’m allowed these thoughts after a long run?! Moments later, an ice cream truck drove up right next to me. Boom!

Lounging around was followed by pear ciders (Kopperberg, the best kind) in a local pub with E, and another delicious meal back home. I made a rendition of my quinoa herb pomegranate salad, with slightly different vegetables and grilled marinated ostrich steak on top. Yummy!

It was a bit hard to get back to reality this morning as I walked to the office rather than the park, but at least I got a last taste of my wonderful weekend for lunch as I sat outside in the sun and had my leftover quinoa salad. Much nicer than last week’s oatcakes and hummus (clearly the Bodychef diet has been thrown out the window). And sure enough, the rain came back in full force later in the day, just in time for my walk home – good thing too, because if every weekend were like this last one, then I don’t think I would ever leave…

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Happy Friday, everyone! I mean, how can you NOT be happy when it looks like this outside?!

It was a sad moment when I reached the office after my lovely walk to work this morning and had to part with the sunshine. Thankfully, I was able to escape for lunch and a nice stroll along the river Thames.

But I’ll stop getting distracted and get on to the main topic of this post, which is my final review of the Bodychef home delivery diet that I have been trying out this week.

It’s been hard to stay focused this afternoon (this weather makes me crave a giant ice cream and a Pimm’s), but thankfully I am nearly finished with my 5-day experiment. Yippee! Aside from my one dinner out, I have only supplemented what they have provided with some extra fruit and veg, as well as a small portion of high quality dark chocolate each day (more antioxidants!).

I’m not sure how much weight I’ve actually lost, but I’m guessing somewhere around a pound, which is right on target. More importantly, I feel great compared to Monday! I’m sure the sunshine and spring blossoms have contributed too, though…

So what’s my final verdict?

I understand that running this type of business must be extremely challenging. Think about the hundreds of distinct tastes and allergies you must try to satisfy, while providing a balanced, healthy diet using ingredients that are fresh and tasty yet cost efficient and able to last up to 5 days in the fridge. Also, everything needs to be able to fit into the box they provide, which means no large containers or bulky food items.

Nevertheless, based on my experience, my criticisms of Bodychef are as follows:

  • More balance and protein: Lunches were too small compared to the dinners, and I could’ve used more protein in general (which would have helped control my appetite). I was told when I called that lunches can be made larger and dinners smaller to correct this imbalance, so I would make this request in the future.
  • More flavor: Dinners were a bit bland, so I added cumin, fresh ginger, salt, pepper, dijon mustard etc. to spice things up a bit. Although, I guess it’s better that the food was bland rather than over-spiced!
  • More green vegetables and fresher produce: Bodychef has probably chosen certain types of food because they work best in the delivery context, and have avoided other foods because of higher costs. Regardless, I wish that they would have provided more fresh produce, particularly greens, as well as a broader selection of fruits and vegetables. Why was my one green salad for the week so tiny? Surely greens aren’t the calorie culprits! If space is a concern, place the greens in a bag rather than plastic container. I also received two tiny chopped salads for Thursday – the one for dinner tasted slightly off.  Maintaining freshness is, I assume, where many food delivery programs fall short.
  • More variety/more superfoods: This is an extension of the above. Instead of so many crackers for the dips at lunchtime, why not include some celery, bell pepper and carrot sticks? Or replace one of the two broccoli portions with kale or spinach (if we’re talking superfoods)? Or substitute a portion of red grapes with berries or pomegranate seeds? Or serve nonfat Greek yoghurt with honey rather than cheese cubes for dessert after a day that also had soft cheese and grated cheese?

Overall, however, this program has been a positive experience for me. The best way I can describe it is that I feel like I’ve hit a “reset” button on my body. The program/menu was all very well organized, and most of their food tasted pretty good – I started to really like the whole cracker/spread thing for lunch, even!

Personally though, I would not want to do this for an extended period of time. I love to food shop and cook too much, and I prefer fresher, healthier and a greater variety of foods than the ones they provided. But I would certainly recommend doing a food delivery service for a week or two if you’re trying to develop healthier eating habits and want to get a better sense of portion control, and struggle to do this on your own.

Although I will not be continuing as a Bodychef customer, I do feel inspired to be my own “bodychef” over the next two weeks, before I fly to Vietnam for my next travel and culinary adventure. This weekend, aside from finally getting back into my weekly long run, I plan to do LOADS of cooking! I’m looking forward to making some of my favorites, including my Ostrich chili, quinoa herb pomegranate salad, and other good stuff, which I will then divvy up into the containers that I saved from this past week’s meals and snacks. It will be a cost and time efficient way to stay on track with my healthy eating and, in my opinion at least, far more enjoyable than doing another 5-day home delivery program.

So can I out-chef the Bodychef?

I’m pretty sure that I can do a much better job creating a menu for myself, but obviously not all of my improvements would suit the company as a whole. Either way, challenge accepted! 🙂

Isn’t it just incredible what a few days of sunshine can do to your mood?! Granted, it’s still cold out, and I still live in London (so I’m expecting the rain to start any second now), but I feel the season finally changing and it’s very exciting!

With my half-marathon training nearly over (only a week and a half to go) and no other big races planned (yet), I’m now in vacation planning mode – because as much as I dislike the cold and darkness of winter, nothing is more SAD to me than an empty travel calendar!

What’s in the pipeline, you ask?

*Marrakesh in late March as my celebratory post-race long weekend;

*Northern Vietnam for two weeks in late April/early May (this one’s a real treat, given that I’ve never been to Asia aside from a trip to Korea 12 years ago);

*A 3-day weekend somewhere in Europe TBD at the end of May;

*A weekend in the Lake District with a group of friends for a trail race that we’re doing together in early June;

*A long weekend in southern Italy at the end of June;

*A 3-day weekend in Krakow in early July;

*A weekend somewhere in Switzerland (need some mountain time) in mid/late July;

*And last but certainly not least, a longer trip to California (and maybe elsewhere) in August/September to meet my newborn niece/nephew, spend time with my family and celebrate my birthday!

Wow – who needs sunshine?! Going through that list really lifted my spirits (while simultaneously seriously depressing my bank account)! Then again, what’s the purpose of working hard and earning money if you’re not going to spend it on something that makes you happy?

It’s a glorious day – and  I’m not just saying that because I have the day off of work to spend time with my parents (although that helps). Or because I’m sipping the most delicious frozen banana/cinnamon/walnut/almond smoothie along with my steaming cup of Monmouth coffee (which also helps).

Rather, I’m in a brilliant mood because Spring has finally decided to arrive this morning – birds chirping, sun shining, literally not a cloud in the sky. It’s the type of weather that gets me jumping out of bed and makes it impossible not to at least do a short run. You never know when it comes to London weather – you have to enjoy it while you can!

And what’s more satisfying than a leisurely run along the river in the warm sunshine, at 10:45am on a MONDAY, followed by a yummy breakfast and then a full day of shopping and exploring? Sure beats being stuck in the office, that’s for sure!

The first blossoms of 2011 - spotted on my Monday afternoon stroll around London

Welcome to FFR

Hi, I'm Claire! I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (MS, RD, CDN) and a Road Runners Club of America certified coach. This is where I share my latest adventures in running, racing, food & travel! If you'd like to work with me, please visit my professional website, Eat for Endurance.

My PRs

Marathon (Chicago): 3:33:18
Boston Marathon: 3:36:14
Half-Marathon: 1:37:21
10M: 1:14:52
10k: 44:52

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Grateful for quality time this week with my little pumpkin! 🎃😍 Happy Monday from California! I haven’t posted any running pics for a long time as I’ve been dealing with a hip injury for the last few months (and zero running for the last 5 weeks). 😓 I haven’t run a race, even a short one, in over a year - so different than how I imagined my postpartum running life to be. It makes me sad that I can’t run especially while in Santa Cruz, but I’m trying to stay active in different ways, be diligent about my PT, and remain positive even though the road to recovery feels endless at times. Yesterday, E and I went on a beautiful beach walk in the morning and then I did a hike with a friend and our babes in the afternoon, where I normally run in Nisene. I miss running but hopefully will get back to it soon, stronger than before! Baking “for the baby” tonight (so I say as I gobble up these delicious treats). Made mini pumpkin muffins (and a few mama sized ones), recipe adapted from @babyfoode. So easy to make - I added full fat Greek yogurt and almond butter to include some healthy fats. I think Arielle will love these - if for some crazy reason she doesn’t, more for me!! 😂 Nice work on tonight’s dinner, @trailz.io!! So good I’m going back for seconds. Veg bake with layers of eggplant, red onions, tomatoes, zucchini, ricotta, breadcrumbs, & spices with arugula on top. 👌🏻 Surprise package in the mail today! Thx @rxbar - stoked to try out the new gingerbread flavor. Speaking of, how on earth is it already the holiday season?!?! #rxbar Love @siggisdairy triple cream yogurts - perfect to satisfy a craving for something sweet and indulgent while providing 9g protein, relatively few calories (170), and calcium. The chocolate flavor was so delicious! #dailysiggis

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