A Wee Treat: Easy Savoury Muffin recipe

This is such a simple recipe, and you can alter the flavourings to your taste… Makes around 20 snack-size muffins.

savoury muffins

225g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

75 sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated and chopped

1 Tab pine nuts (optional)

Small handful of chopped herbs, I like a mix of fresh thyme, rosemary and thyme, but you can use anything

75g hard cheese, half fat cheddar or even half that amount of parmesan, cubed or grated

1 Tsp olive oil

2 organic free range eggs, lightly beaten

2 tsp wholegrain mustard, or some English for a kick

150 ml semi-skimmed milk

2 Tbsp wheatgerm (optional)

2 black olives, finely chopped (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.
  • Mix flour and baking powder in a bowl.
  • Stir in chopped sun-dried tomatoes, herbs and cheese.
  • Mix add oil, eggs, mustard and milk in a jug, and then pour into a well in the middle of the flour mix.
  • Using a wet spoon, spoon the mix into cupcake cases.
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly browned.
  • Allow to cool on a wire rack and wrap individually in cling film to keep them fresher for longer.
  • Lovely for packed lunches, and you can even freeze them for future use. You can also freshen them up for 10 seconds in a microwave.

Essential Running Kit

Running is one of the most simple forms of exercise there is. Not everyone runs, or wants to, but for those who do, it can be very rewarding in lots of ways. As a Personal Trainer, you’d think that I’d recommend buying lots of kit, but the reverse is true. All you really need are the basics, which are (starting from the bottom up):

Running shoes: these need not be highly technical or technicolour trainers, but anything you feel comfortable running in. If you start running and encounter niggles or strains, the first thing to do is to look at your footwear. It may be worn out, or simply just old (if you leave a new pair of trainers in the back of a cupboard for a few years, the cushioning will perish and be less comfy). I like Run and Become on Queensferry Street as all the sales assistants are dedicated runners themselves.

Tracy running in Pilrig park

Socks: often overlooked but the choice in sock can make a difference between a comfortable run and blisters. Cotton socks are good, and in the colder months, try fine wool socks to keep feet dry and toasty.

Bottom half: Admission – I do not own any running tights. These things never existed a few years ago. However if you like em, wear em. As long as your trousers stay up (no drawstring trousers) and are comfy, that’s the important bit. I run in an old pair of comfy long trackies. I find in the colder months I need to keep my legs warm so long trousers are my preference.

Top Half: Something fast-wicking. Many ‘technical tees’ that you receive at the end of a race are rubbish quality. It’s worth your comfort to invest in a top that wicks moisture away from your body, otherwise you end up soggy and clammy. If you use a running jacket, find one with good pockets, and high viz strips. Ladies, make sure you have a secure sports bra – it does make a difference.

Optional:

Hat and gloves: you can buy running hat & glove sets that can easily be stashed in a pocket as you warm up.

Snood: Fab for autumnal weather, I use mine as a scarf when I set out, then as a hairband as I warm up.

Water bottle: I use a small donut shape bottle (around 250mL) and put very weak Ribena in it. A weak carb solution is better absorbed by the body than plain water, which can make you want to rush to the loo. I only use a bottle for runs over half an hour.

Music: I never used to run with music as I like to hear the environment around me. However I have found that training with music helps me run faster, so sometimes it can be a good thing (just be aware of traffic etc, especially if running in the dark).

House key: get a spare cut and hang it on a ribbon around your neck when you run, under your clothes. You’ll not even notice it and you will never lose it! Some people attach it to their shoe, under shoelaces, however I find this quite uncomfortable.

Personal Trainer Tracy Griffen teaches many folk how to get running, or improve on what they’re doing. This article first published in October 2015 Trinity Spotlight.

Summer round up

It’s been a busy couple of months at Griffen Fitness HQ, with lots of outdoor exercise and cycling about Edinburgh (the quickest way to get around the festival traffic).

We’ve joined the lovely Love from Indie Street, who produce gift vouchers for high quality Edinburgh independent businesses. I was also interviewed for their blog.

Fitness pug Coco in the studio

Fitness pug Coco in the studio

‘My philosophy of movement’, a wee story I penned on why I run, is featured in #6 of the very fine running magazine Like The Wind which has just been published this week. An excellent magazine, well worth a read if you need some motivation to run. Clients can borrow a copy from the studio, just ask.

Griffen Fitness was also featured on the Sporting Chance Initiative blog last week. SCI is Scotland’s hub for business innovation in sport, whose main focus is to enable start-ups and established companies to bring new products and services to the sports market… A much-needed initiative methinks.

So it’s been a busy summer period, with much more to come as the nights draw in. Keep your eyes peeled for an autumn healthy eating event in the studio, more info to come…

Lovely lettuce

One of my favourite things to grow on my allotment is lots of lovely lettuce leaves: mixed lettuce, rocket and mizuna all feature heavily on our plot. I love growing lettuce and using it fresh from the allotment in big salads. So much better tasting and nutritionally than supermarket bagged lettuce (that is packaged in nitrogen to keep it fresh to the store, which is why supermarket leaves go soggy as soon as the bag is opened).

mizuna at the allotment

mizuna at the allotment

I can easily eat my way through a glut of lettuce and I have also discovered some pretty nifty ways of using it up:

Lettuce soup: saute some onions / garlic, then throw in some cubed new potatoes (also from the plot), 1 L good quality vegetable stock and handfuls of lettuce. Cook 20 minutes and then zizz. Serve with a dollop of natural yoghurt sprinkled with chopped fresh herbs.

Lettuce wraps: use lettuce leaves instead of highly processed bread wraps, and let your imagination go wild. It’s a bit like a dolmade sandwich!

– Use in stir fries as an alternative to Chinese greens (i.e. bok choy). Toss in at the very end to lightly steam.

Eating lots of fresh, good quality vegetables and fruit is essential if you’re exercising regularly, as the body needs the antioxidants (vitamins) to mop up free radicals caused by oxidative stress. Growing your own ensures that pesticides and chemical nasties are minimised, and that freshness is guaranteed. You can even grow some in a window box or plant pot inside (rocket is easiest, in my opinion). Enjoy!

Elderflower Concentrate recipe, so summery

Diluted elderflower cordial is wonderfully summery drink to have in a drink bottle when running or cycling. Water with a small amount of carbohydrate (i.e. sugar) is more readily absorbed by the stomach wall compared to plain water (that can ‘flush’ through the system). This means a carb solution hydrates you better with less rushing to the loo; very handy on long bike rides. This is how Powerade can advertise that it hydrates better than water. Anything with a wee bit of sugar will!

There’s the last of the elderflowers out over the next week, so go for a wander and pick some if you’re keen to try this. Pick freshly opened flowers early in the morning, away from road pollution. You’ll need 10 – 20 heads, and make sure they don’t get squashed on the way home. Leave some flowers on the trees for the bees and other folk.

elderflower cordial

In the kitchen, cut off any big stalks and toss flower heads in a big bowl or pot. Cover with 1kg sugar, and 1 Litre of hot water (not boiling as this may scald the flavour, around 80 degrees C). Gently stir in sliced ribbons of rind from an unwaxed lemon and the flesh chopped into slices. Cover and leave for 24 hours, stir occasionally, ensuring the sugar gets fully dissolved. After a few hours your kitchen will smell very floral.

The next day strain the mixture into a large jug. I used a strainer, then discovered some black bits so put it through a muslin as well. Adjust concentrate to taste. Store in sterilised bottles in the fridge. You can also freeze some in plastic water bottles.

To sterilize bottles place in a 180 degrees C oven for ten minutes, allow to cool slightly before bottling.

Griffen Fitness events June 2015

leithfestivallogo2015

‘Get Fit and Enjoy it in Leith’ fitness class for Leith Festival
Saturday 13 June, 11am – 12pm (just before the parade), Griffen Fitness studio
A fun group fitness session suitable for all levels and aimed to introduce locals to the studio. We’ll start indoors and play with hoops, wobble boards, oversize balls and maybe even a spacehopper or two! If the weather is fine we may even wander up to Pilrig Park for some outdoor exercise.  Simply turn up on the day. FREE!
web_header_bannerV2‘Fit to Ride’ workshop for Edinburgh Festival of Cycling
Tuesday 16 June, 6.30 – 8pm, Griffen Fitness studio
You look after your bike, but do you look after the engine? Sold out in 2013 and 2014, this informative and interactive workshop will show you how to keep in tip top condition through effective nutrition and exercise. Healthy nibbles provided. Get fit to ride!
A VERY limited number of tickets available, only £10 which includes free nibbles and a Q & A session at the end, email tracy@griffenfitness.com to book your place.

fitfestival_logo small ‘How to Run Better’ masterclass at Fit Festival
Saturday 27 June, 1pm – 2pm at the Assembly Rooms,  George Street

As it says on the tin, this talk will basically be a brain-dump of all the knowledge I’ve developed through running for a living five days a week for ten years. Running better does not necessarily involve running more, come along and find out what you can personally do to improve your running.

Fit Festival Ticket giveaway: we have 10 pairs of tickets to win for the Fit Festival, simply email tracy@griffenfitness.com your favourite cycling / running / walking route in or around Edinburgh. Competition closes 10 June.

Dog blog: What is dog-friendly fitness anyway?

Exercising with you dog can be fun and rewarding. Dogs love to be outdoors, and can be a central point of your fitness programme, but how? There are three ways that Griffen Fitness does dog-friendly fitness. The first is that all Personal Training clients are welcome to bring their pooches into fitness sessions. We usually set up a comfy bed in the corner of the studio with toys and chews to keep your canine entertained whilst you get in shape.  Just let us know in advance.

Secondly, if you don’t have your own dog, and would like the company of Coco the fitness pug (see photo below) in your session, she is happy to sit in the corner whilst you exercise and give you a pug hug at the end of a good workout.

leithfestival2015griffen

Finally, if you’re a dog owner who prefers PT sessions without your dog, I can show you workouts that you can do with your furry friend to maximise your regular walks.

If you’re not an animal lover, the studio can be kept clear and fur-free for you. We aim to please!

For more info on dug-friendly places around the UK, check out www.dugswelcome.com
and also recent Buzzfeed article for Edinburgh.

Kilomathon race report

Andy and I warming ourselves in the shopping centre

Andy and I warming ourselves in the shopping centre

Yesterday husband Andy and I did the Kilomathon. Well, strictly it was a half ‘kilomathon’ (i.e. 13.1km, rather than 13.1 miles for a half marathon). It’s a newish race, and despite it only being the fourth year I had a good half dozen PT clients running in it,  so we thought we should take part and check out the route and logistics.

The Kilomathon start was very well organised, despite it being the day after the clocks changed. We got the equivalent of a 5.30am start, quite early and something I’m sure race organisers will consider for future events. Despite the early start, it was lovely to be able to use the loo, and then wait in the nice warm Ocean Terminal shopping centre.

kilomathon 2015

The chilly startline

The route wound around the front of Ocean Terminal, up the cycle path with a wee detour and loop of Victoria park, then to the Goldenacre cycle path to the long slight incline up Ferry road cycle path, over Crewe Toll and along the remaining cycle path past Blackhall and Ravelston Dykes. The downhill off the cyclepath to Murrayfield was most appreciated. That is, until we had to do a big loop of the car park (to make up the distance, I would assume),  with a stadium finish in Murrayfield stadium itself. The route was very enjoyable as it was nearly all off-road, with a few onlookers dotted here and there.  The crowd was friendly and it was the first race of the season for many, so there was a relaxed vibe…

After the finish line, the flow of human traffic was smooth, with medal collection and a half decent goody bag. I was overjoyed that Dot Mathie, one of my old running clients, won the women’s section outright and a number of other clients broke their PB’s. An excellent race all round, and I even enjoyed my first tram journey home.

Two thumbs up!

More info at www.kilomathon.com. If you need a hand (or a leg-up!) with your running, check out my website at www.griffenfitness.com

Bling finisher's medal

Bling finisher’s medal

Get Outdoors and Boost Your Workout

Here’s an article I wrote for Ultra-Fit magazine a wee while ago. It’s seems like the right time of year to pop it on my blog, so enjoy:

“THE  DAYS are lengthening, the sun is shining, and you’re stuck in the gym.  So why not take your workout outdoors?

Getting outdoors can add variety to your workout. Instead of sticking to a prescribed gym-based cardio and weights programme, surprise your body with a completely different workout, outdoors. Many people make the mistake of adhering to only 10 to 20 resistance / weights exercises. If you think about the multitude of muscles there are in the body, over time doing the same exercises in the same order no longer poses a challenge for the body, so you will probably see a plateau affect. Kick this plateau up the rear by adding a variety of bodyweight exercises to your routine. By undertaking a wide variety of bodyweight strength variations (that is, exercises using the weight of your body as resistance, rather than a metal weight), you can take your workout anywhere and get an overall effective workout.  Remember to do a high number of good quality reps.

Tracy running in Pilrig park

Add this to the various factors that make outdoor exercises more challenging; for instance, if there is a wind blowing or uneven surfaces (including on grass or sand) it means supportive muscles are also engaged. I’m not for one minute suggesting abandoning your gym weights programme, but by varying workouts, you will challenge the body and also the brain (coordination). Cardio machines are fine for winter, but when the sun is shining, catch some Vitamin D and run or bike somewhere green. Exercising in green space (i.e. parks) has also been proven to boost mood. During the warmer months there are also a variety of races and events to enter.  The trick is to enter enough, but not too many races, to give you goals to continually work towards.

I own a small fitness studio in Scotland and over the winter months many of my clients focus on strength using free weights in the nice warm and bright studio. As soon as the weather and light levels improve, half of our PT sessions are outdoors. We head to the local park at the end of the street for interval training, balance and coordination strength exercises, skipping rope, TRX and outdoor circuits using resistance tubes and cardio stations. Not only does it add variety, and therefore maintain interest, but the strength gained over winter is transformed to something truly explosive in a sunny park. Plyometric (jumping and spring-loading muscles) exercises are good to do on grass as the dirt absorbs impact better than a concrete floor. Due to the general dampness and chilliness of the ground in Scotland, I prefer to do abdominal exercises indoors.  For example, half an hour outdoors doing measured cardio and strength exercises, then head back to the studio to focus on core strength and cool down and stretch on the mats.

In the last decade we have seen some wonderful technology evolve that helps make any workout measureable. An essential piece of kit is a Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) to assist with pacing and progression. Combine a HRM with using the free Endomondo GPS app on a smartphone, and you can measure time / speed / distance / calories burnt / heart rate in an outdoor environment. You can use the Endomondo app for pretty much any exercise where you are moving (it works best using the GPS tracking,  if you’re jogging on the spot it gets confused). So get off the exercise bike and onto a road bike where you will use balance and explosive muscular strength to get up hills that not even the ‘hill function’ on the static bike can duplicate. There’s no way of replicating the exhilaration of bolting down a massive hill on a bike, with a breeze in your face and the sun on your back.

Too often we stick to our favourite type of exercise and abandon our least favourite.  Instead of asking yourself whether you like the exercise, consider the end result. If it’s an exercise you despise because you’re rubbish at it, chances are that it’s exactly the exercise you should be practising.

Here’s an example of an outdoor workout, designed to keep the heart rate elevated and nail some strength at the same time:

– Put on your HRM and pack a small backpack with water and your favourite portable equipment (rubber resistance tubes, TRX, skipping rope etc).
– 7- 10 minute jog warm up, to the park and find your favourite scenic spot.
–  3 – 5 minutes skipping rope (with skipping variations, on one leg etc), tarmac is best for skipping.
– Jog around park to next scenic stop, and do 3 sets of 20 squats and lunges. Try different squat variations.
– Jog to a park bench, for 3 sets of 20 tricep dips and press ups onto the bench.
– 3 X 50 metre sprint intervals on the grass (to get HR back up). If it’s a clean park, kick off your shoes for some barefoot running.
– Using a tree stump or low wall for 3 X 10 single legged squats on each leg – to help practise balance.
– Find a fence or suitable pole for a few resistance tube exercises, rowing with a resistance tube threaded through a fence or around a pole targets often-ignored back muscles.
– Jog back to indoor space to finish session on the mats with deep abdominal engagement and a good stretch.

A wonderful thing about an outdoor workout is that you can do it when you’re on summer holidays. Instead of using a hotel gym, get outdoors and see the scenery as you workout. Early morning sessions are energising and perfect in hot climates. If you’re near a beach,  jog with bare feet one way on the soft sand, then back the other way knee-deep in the sea – it’s an enjoyable way to strengthen the knees and ankles. So what are you waiting for, get out there any enjoy it!”

Tracy Griffen is an Edinburgh-based Personal Trainer and Author, more info at www.getfitandenjoyit.com follow her on Twitter @tracygriffen or Facebook / griffenfitness

Reach Your Goals with a Food Diary

If you aim to change your eating habits, a food diary is a very powerful tool. Writing down exactly what you eat, how much and when will give you a good idea of your eating habits. A food diary is useful on many levels:

–    It makes you accountable, so you think twice before popping that chocolate in your mouth.
–    It highlights existing habits i.e. snacking in the evening.
–    Including writing down everything you drink can also help you drink more water (one of the most basic aspects of good health is hydration).
–    It can help track peaks and troughs in energy levels, especially if you are a caffeine / chocolate fiend.

A food diary is a time commitment and you need to ensure it is updated regularly and thoroughly for it to be meaningful. Remember to write down absolutely everything (this includes if you have a bite of someone’s sandwich, or finish off your children’s food). Weighing some of your basic foods is also a useful exercise (also to ensure your portions are actually standard size). Knowing the quantity that you eat is crucial if you use an online tool like the very fine (and free) www.myfitnesspal.com  An online food diary will also show you the nutritional content of your food. The quality of information you receive online is only as accurate what you input, so it’s useful to keep labels of food for the nutritional content. Even better, eat food with no labels!

Fruit and Veg

There are a number of limiting factors with a food diary. It is common for people to forget about snacks (indeed, I once met a person who snacked at midnight, but did not recall until I picked up on it through conversation). Or, the situation where a packet of biscuits is opened and the amount consumed underestimated. I have found that many people feel guilty about situations like this and find writing it down almost an impossible task. If you make yourself accountable, is it likely that you will be more mindful of how much of the packet is consumed. We all like treats, and a food diary will show you if you’re indulging in treats as a regular habit, or indeed as a treat.

Eating can be wrapped up in emotional issues, so if you feel unsure about a food diary, just try it for a day. Carry it around with you so you remember to write in it. Remember it is natural to slip up, and that you can still enjoy going out for dinner and occasional indulgences. A food diary should highlight that your average day-to-day habits are healthy. Check you’re getting your five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, that you are prioritising wholegrain over white carbs and that you are drinking enough water and you will be well on the way to good health.