‘Scrumptious and Simple Everyday Winners’ cookbook

AT_cookbookThe charity ‘Action for A-T (Ataxia-Telangiectasia)’ recently released this bumper cookbook of easy, healthy recipes. I was asked to submit a recipe some time back (Fabulous flapjacks on page 120), and I’d totally forgotten that the book was coming out. I got my oven mitts on a copy and was impressed with the layout – it’s spiral bound, which is perfect for a cook book. The recipes are quick and easy to follow, with some interesting ideas sprinkled throughout. Personally I’m waiting for this season’s rhubarb in my allotment, so I can try the Rhubarb sponge pudding recipe.

Acrtion for A-T is an important charity as it’s mission is to speed up the process of identifying a cure for Ataxia-Telangiectasia, which is  rare, neurodegenerative and progressive condition that starts in early childhood.

Support Action for A-T by buying their very fine ‘Scrumptious & Simple Everyday Winners’
cookbook for £10
from their website http://actionforat.org/shop.html

Lapping Dog Park: or How To Keep Fit At Sixty Five

When I embark on a run or bike ride, I often have a wee narrative or story going through my head of the surrounding I pass through. I never really thought about whether other people had ‘running stories’, until a recent visit to my father in Sydney, where he took me on a run of his local park (affectionately known as Dog Park) with accompanying illustration and narrative:

Dog Park - painting by Peter Griffen

Dog Park – painting by Peter Griffen

“It all starts with a spirited canter down Oleander Straight, wondering at the beauty of the flowers and delighting at the colourful toilet block mural.

Before you know it you are up the up and then down the down, through the three posts and heading towards the faulty fountain. You pass by the Grassy Knoll on your left and immediately enter the deep dark forest. This is where you must be careful not to disturb Andy’s rollicking red rocking horse; keep quite wide….then push on out into the light, happily greeted by the Beautiful Tree.

Next you negotiate Poo Bag Crossing before scampering up Tuff Hill, or should I say “scampering up the lower slopes of Tuff Hill”. Searching for the shady spots, the short grass and with much increased effort you finally complete the ascent and arrive at Moore Street Walk. Here you relax, catch your breath, say hello to a father taking his child to the child minding centre, stroll with reduced panting to Press-Ups Corner where you do twenty five press-ups before heading off down Oleander Straight once again.”
– Peter Griffen, Australian abstract artist www.petergriffen.com

What’s your running story?

Eating and Running: A Griffen Fitness / Run & Become workshop

Last night I had the pleasure of presenting a ‘Nutrition for Runners’ workshop at my favourite running shop, Run and Become. It was a booked-out audience of 60 interested runners of all levels. The one thing we all had in common is that we love to eat and run!

Nutrition for Runners workshop

It was fantastic to deliver one of my favourite workshops surrounded by running gear and I had to resist the urge to do lots of shopping.

We covered a wide variety of subjects over the 45 minutes, including:

Pre-run fueling: what to eat and when. the importance of maintaining steady blood sugar levels.

– Nutrition and hydration during a run: depending on the length of run, conditions and the individual’s digestive preferences. Alternatives to carb gels.

Post run: how much to replenish and balancing carbs / protein. Also the importance of fruit and veg (antioxidants).

It didn’t take long to get into the swing of things, and I covered a typical healthy eating day, hydration, how to effectively utilise caffeine, the importance of healthy snack, Glycaemic Index plus much much more. There was also a lively Q & A session at the end.

Nairn’s generously supplied some rough oatcakes to sample (my not-so-secret snacking weapon) and the lovely people at Run and Become supplied grapes and fruit to snack on. It was good to see the chocolates and shortbread also provided were still left at the end!

Run and Become with Griffen Fitness

Many of the ideas that I presented are in my Healthy Living Yearbook, and there was quite a queue of audience members at the bookstall, keen to get their hands on the 75+ healthy recipes contained within.

I’d like to thank Adrian and all the staff at Run and Become for hosting the workshop. We plan on running a similar workshop in spring, so please get in contact if you’re interested in learning more about Nutrition for Runners or attending the FREE spring workshop.

New Year, New Beginnings

The New Year is traditionally a time of renewal and resolutions. For the first few weeks of every New Year gyms are full to bursting with individuals resolutely exercising their way through January. However by February, numbers have often dropped as many fail to maintain their new healthy lifestyle. Whether your New Year’s resolution is to run a race or lose weight, the important bit is that you have an actual plan on how to achieve it. It’s my belief that many grow dispirited with exercising as they fail to see meaningful results in a short timeframe.

As any experienced fitness professional knows, it takes regularity and consistency to succeed on any exercise and nutrition programme. Many people start the New Year by literally throwing themselves into exercise after an indulgent and sedentary festive season. This sharp increase in exercise can result in injury, over training or simply exhausting the newly resolved. Far more sensible and affective is a measured planned programme with both short term and long term goals. If your resolution is to trim down, the first thing to consider is how much. What size do you want to be? Do you have an old pair of jeans that you’d like to fit into? If your goal is to improve your running, search the internet and enter yourself into a race so you that have a set date to work towards. Be ambitious, but at the same time be reasonable with what you’d like to achieve.

positively leapingWhen you’ve set your goal, look at your diary and work out how much time you have each week to dedicate to your goal. I would suggest a minimum of three one hour sessions, but you can also be canny and break your workouts into smaller bits. Book regular times in your diary for fitness, in the same way you’d block time off for an important meeting. Time is a resource that many of us are short on, so some careful time planning can reap dividends in the long run. As January in the UK is usually a fairly gloomy month, you may like to start your fitness programme indoors from the comfort of the gym, and then incorporate outdoor sessions when the days start getting longer. Alternatively you can do a couple of gym sessions on work days and a long outdoor session on the weekend.

For example, if you’d like to compete in a triathlon in summer, you may wish to start with running on a treadmill, a Spinning™ class and a swim session each week. Start small and build up as your fitness improves and it will help you avoid injury. This is one of the simplest concepts that new exercisers neglect. A good PT will never ‘beast’ a client in the first session (that is, pushing someone so hard they can barely walk the next day), but instead understands that it takes time and effort to build up fitness. Doing punishingly hard sessions to start with is like trying to build a house by starting with the roof. Start with the foundations of fitness and you will have a strong and supportive structure on which to build your programme. The foundations are steady state cardio and strength exercises that challenge your current body shape. I find many individuals returning to fitness after an extended break start by running as fast as they remember running in the past. Quite often, this is too fast to start with. By exercising regularly, and building up slowly, they will return to form, but it does require consistency and practise.

So here’s how to create your own personalised fitness programme:

  1. Get out your 2013 diary and write in any goal dates (races, weddings or events you want to look good for).
  2. Work backwards to count how many weeks you have. I usually work with a timeframe of 6 – 24 weeks. If it’s longer than 24 weeks away, you might like to set an additional target halfway there.
  3. Remember to mark down holidays, busy work periods or any other planned disruptions to your routine.
  4. Write in which days you plan to do your workouts (around 3 – 5 per week). Use the weekend for longer workouts and remember you can also workout before work, or even at lunch time.
  5. Remember to schedule rest days. You will probably need more when you’re starting out, so give yourself a day off between gym visits to recover. This is when your body rebuilds new body tissue, so rest days (and good sleep) are crucial.
  6. Nutrition is as important as exercise, so eat well. Lots of vegetables, fruits, pulses, nuts and seeds, good quality lean meat and organic dairy will get you off to a good start. Good hydration is also essential. Small changes to your diet can make big changes to the quality of training.
  7. Remember to cross train, using different forms of cardio to work the entire body; swimming is ideal cross-training for running (as is cycling). Yoga can help keep you supple and Pilates assist your core strength, so are good ‘add ons’.
  8. Theoretically your mileage / intensity shouldn’t increase more than 15% per week (i.e. a gradual increase). Start with your goal mileage and work backwards datewise to where you are now.
  9. Have a contingency plan for chaotic weeks (we all have them occasionally). A good training programme will have a ‘buffer’ margin so if you fall behind on one week it doesn’t derail the programme’s progression.
  10. Remember that each workout will get your closer to your goal, so is an intrinsically important workout. Every workout is essential. Imagine your goal clearly in your head every time you work out and have a fit and fabulous 2013.

Edinburgh based Personal Trainer Tracy Griffen runs a fitness studio and is the author of the Healthy Living Yearbook – help make 2014 your healthiest year yet. You can follow Tracy on Twitter @tracygriffen, Find her on  Facebook or visit her website www.getfitandenjoyit.com

Griffen Fitness visits 11 Downing Street

Blog post from the day before:

I’m off to 11 Downing Street as part of Small Business Saturday. Griffen Fitness and a selection of other businesses from around the UK have been invited to a 1pm reception “To celebrate the UK’s first Small Business Saturday and the success of our GREAT British small businesses”. Catchy title.

The main thing on my mind today, is to ponder exactly what I’m representing when I’m there. The recognition of small and micro businesses needs to happen in the UK. In Scotland small businesses (0-49 employees) make up 98.1% of all Scottish businesses and 40.7% of all private sector employment. It’s mind boggling just how big small business is. I think it’s great the at UK has followed the US lead, who introduced Small Business Saturday in 2010 to take place the Saturday after Thanksgiving and in contrast to big biz’s ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’. The first Small Business Saturday in the UK takes place this Saturday 7 December. Twitterers can use #SmallBizSatUK or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/SmallBusinessSaturdayUK
I’m not normally into marketing fads, but small business is a subject close to my heart. As an owner of a micro business (just me!), I sometimes feel that the business worth of Griffen Fitness Ltd is under-estimated. I do not employ anyone, but I pay my own wage, have no business borrowings and sub-contract out work (i.e. cleaning, web design, accountancy) to other small businesses as required. My studio hosts pop-up shops for those starting out in retail, I have self-published a book (and now have a publisher) and volunteer for a number of organisations. My favourite organisation to volunteer for is Federation of Small Businesses, as I really feel that I have a chance to have my business voice heard. And we run some kick ass events too!
We are living in a time where more people are questioning the ethics, reliability and quality of many large-scale businesses. Tesco shares have dropped and ‘authenticity’ is a buzzword. It is time that the mainstream looked at alternatives to the Starbucks and Amazons of the world. Small is beautiful. Small is sustainable. Small is special.
I’m also meeting with Deputy Lord Provost Deidre Brock at Embo, Haddington Place, 2pm Saturday 7 December to raise our cups to small business. Join us for a quality cuppa.

Blog post from the train, the morning of the reception:
As promised,  an update from the train to London.  Thankfully the weather today has allowed travel from Scotland.

Not only am I interested in representing small business at Downing Street today,  but I’m also curious about attitudes of other UK small businesses towards Scottish business given next year’s referendum. I will send another update later with results of my informal vox pop.

A number of small businesses involved in the Small Business Saturday campaign are meeting before the reception at the Red Lion, a pub on Parliament Street famous for it’s political history.  We were going to meet at Costa coffee until I pointed out that it wasn’t in keeping with the ideal of the day. Personally I refuse to go to meetings at Starbucks or any other major cafe chain,  as there are so many good independent coffee houses around… Usually with free wi-fi too. It always perplexes me as to why small businesses would ever want to hold meetings in large chain cafes.

In fact, Deidre Brock and I are meeting at Leith Walk favourite,  Embo at 2pm tomorrow to raise our coffee cups to Small Business Saturday,  please feel to join us.

So, having brushed up on the Autumn Statement and considered my list of demands (including a continuation of small business rates relief) for Number 11 Downing Street,  I will sign off and enjoy my smooth-running on time train journey.
Tracy Griffen at 10 Downing Street

… And after the event:

What an amazing day.

I met with many of the 100 small businesses featured in the Small Business Saturday campaign at the Red Lion before heading to Downing Street. We had a good blether and then went through security.

The reception at 11 Downing Street was a very friendly affair with Matthew Hancock MP Minister for Skills and Enterprise and Sajid Jarvid, Financial Secretary to the Treasury both speaking of their personal experiences of family small businesses. Cucumber sandwiches were served with cups of tea and coffee.

After an hour of enthusiastic networking,  George Osborne popped by to say hello and we managed a snap of us with my Healthy Living Yearbook. Photo to come.

Scottish devolution was discussed by a few businesses and frankly they were perplexed by the fact that Scotland would feel the need to disassociate itself from the union. I tried to to offer both sides of the argument,  but it seems that many English businesses feel that Scotland would be scuppered without Westminster. They genuinely did not recognise that Scotland has it’s own resources,  both physically and intellectually.

I met with the national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses there, good to see John Allen, but I look forward to the day that the chair is a woman. There was about one third women at Downing Street,  getting closer to how it should be…

Overall it appears that micro business is being recognised as an economic force and certainly there were enough of us shouting the praises of tiny business.

Tracy Griffen and George Osborne

Top Ten Reasons to Book in with Griffen Fitness

Doing personal training with Griffen Fitness is very different to going to a gym. Here’s why:

1. Get guaranteed results… or your money back.

Griffen Fitness studio2. You will receive a personalised programme you can do anywhere, anytime.

3. Support in between sessions, and your questions answered.

4. Your full workout and nutritional notes emailed to you…

5. A private studio means that there’s no one else around to distract you.

6. Nutritional support and advice will be tailored to your lifestyle and likes / dislikes. Food intolerances also catered for.

7. Your lifestyle as a whole will be considered when designing the fitness programme, whether you work long hours, travel for work or are self-employed.

8. Get the best of both worlds, sessions include both in studio and outdoors exercising. Making the best of the weather.

9. Flexible times and dates are available. You can choose to have sessions as often, or as infrequently as suits you.

10. Griffen Fitness operates a BYO music policy, where you can plug in your favourite tunes to workout to.

Supercharge Your Snacking

It’s getting to the colder, darker time of year when it’s tempting to snack on junk food. Supermarkets are already packed to the gunnels with ‘festive food’, calorific treats – irresistible and moreish.

To keep your waistline from ballooning, it’s important to have a snacking strategy for the winter months. Many of us automatically reach for carbohydrate-rich fodder for instant gratification; it’s easy to view ‘treats’ as a reward to get through the darker days. However, with a bit of planning you can use snacking to increase your energy levels, feel great and not be tempted by seasonal naughtiness.

Spend some time in the evening packing your snacks for the day. Even if you’re working from home, or retired, it makes sense to make sure you have healthy food in the house to snack on during the day Excellent snacks include a banana, some oatcakes (the Nairn’s dinky packages are helpful and fit in a handbag or desk drawer well), homemade popcorn, a very small container of almonds or other raw nuts, a small pot of yoghurt.

appleI try to avoid wheat-based snacks as I feel we all eat too much wheat nowadays. Highly processed wheat products are not only calorific, but also can contribute to fat around the middle, where the body stores ‘quick release’ body fat. Toast tastes lovely with butter and jam, but is not the healthiest snack around. In fact, it can be interesting to try and live without bread for a week to see if you’re a bread addict.

Raw simple food can give you a slow energy release so get creative – at this time of year, roasted  chestnuts are wonderful snacks. Nutritionally dense, chestnuts are available widely and are easy to roast at home. Other hero snacks include edamame beans in their pods (soya bean, a good source of protein) and hard boiled eggs. Apples are low GI (slow burning due to the pectin content) are also in season. A recent delicious snack I have discovered is sliced apple with a dollop of low-fat cottage cheese with mixed spice sprinkled on top. Be inventive and enjoy your snacks so you’re not ravenous at the end of the day and reaching for junk. Pre-empt that post-work empty feeling by making sure you eat well during the day; you’ll find you have more energy and your waistline will also thank you.

Personal Trainer Tracy Griffen looks at client’s nutrition as part of an all-inclusive fitness programme. Follow her on Twitter @tracygriffen or Facebook /griffenfitness for daily hints and tips, or visit www.griffenfitness.com for more info

‘What’s in a Label’ interactive workshop

Have you ever found yourself bamboozled in a shop, trying to work out what to buy?


What’s in a Label?

Griffen Fitness studio, 3 Balfour Street

Tuesday 15th October 6.30pm to 8pm

This workshop will help you learn to easily decipher nutritional labels to make your shopping and snacking better for you.

Whatever you toss into your shopping basket or trolley can have an impact on your health. So come and learn how to quickly assess which food is best for you and what to look for in a nutritional label.

« Tastings of good choices
« Quick and easy snack demonstrations – going off label.
« All information emailed to you after the workshop
There will be a Q and A session at the end, as well as the chance to bring your own favourite food labels and use them to learn what to look for. This is a completely NEW workshop in response to individuals demanding to understand what they’re eating. Knowledge is power!

Tickets are only £10 from Griffen Fitness, email tracy@griffenfitness.com There’s a VERY limited number, so get yours now.

25 Reasons to Run

1. Running burns calories and can boost your metabolism.

2. You will be able to run for a bus.

3. And fit into more clothes.

4. Running can get you out into a green space.

5. Running is also exceptionally good for your ‘headspace’.

6. Strong ankles and knees can be developed by running off road.

7. You can run with your dog (if it’s big enough), or with children (on bikes).

8. It’s good for your family to see you run, and will encourage them to be more active.

9. Running helps increase the amount of oxygen circulating through your system.

10. With a bit of persistence, you can go further than you thought possible.

11. You don’t need to run fast to be a runner; a true runner runs at their own pace.

12. You can make it social with friends, or a good catch up with spouse.

13. You can save money on expensive gym fees.

14. You may visit the Doctor less, as fit folk tend to be healthier overall.

15. Discover your neighbourhood, or take your trainers on holiday and explore the area.

16. You can also run in water, which is very good for the joints.

17. The only equipment you need is a comfy pair of shoes (and a heart rate monitor is also useful).

18. You may even feel cheerier, especially exercising outdoors over the darker months.

19. Exercising regularly can help your energy levels, active people have more energy.

20. Running helps work up an appetite, and you can really enjoy ‘refuelling’.

21. Bones develop more strength with regular exercise.

22. Balance is also challenged by changing the terrain of your running.

23. Skin can appear clearer with regular cardio exercise – get a healthy glow.



24. Regular exercisers often sleep better.

25. Lastly but not least, running is fun!

So do you need any more reasons to get out and get moving?
Personal Trainer Tracy Griffen is the author of the Healthy Living Yearbook, full of ideas to get you active. Get yours for only £9.99 with free UK delivery from www.healthylivingyearbook.com. This article originally published in the Trinity Spotlight magazine, august 2013.


How fit is fit enough?

As a Personal Trainer I get a lot of new clients stating “I don’t want to be super fit, just a bit fitter.” It’s a completely reasonable statement, and something that I think gets often lost in the fitness industry.  A good fitness and nutrition programme will be not only effective, but also sustainable in the long term. So, just how much fitness is enough?

goodgymMy general rule of thumb is exercising three times a week (or more if you fancy it). Exercising every other day is a good way to allow exertion to be followed by a rest day. A rest day doesn’t mean slothing on the sofa, but ‘active rest’. Making a commute to work active (i.e. cycling, walking or jogging) is a very easy way to fit in more exercise. Leave the car behind for short journeys and enjoy Edinburgh on foot. It doesn’t take much to get fitter, and not all exercise programmes are designed to push the individual to their extreme limits. I am a big fan of the ‘steady plod’. It’s a running  speed which is sustainable over long periods. When starting out, a mile or two can seem like a long way. The important thing about building up your exercise level is that it’s a purely personal thing. Many people compare themselves to others, or feel that the idea of getting fit is just too much effort. But the wonderful thing about fitness, is that the more you do, the more you enjoy it. Pushing yourself becomes a bit easier. And the fitter you get, the faster you can go, and the more energy you have.

Fitness is an incremental state, you work up to peak fitness and it’s not realistic to think that you’re going to sustain peak fitness all the time. As a PT who has been running every weekday for eight years, I personally understand that ideal fitness may not necessarily be peak fitness. An easy way to maintain good fitness is to have good fitness habits, which are an imperative part of every day life. Get fit and enjoy it!

Personal Trainer and author Tracy Griffen has a fitness studio on Leith Walk and trains clients both indoors and out. See www.griffenfitnesss.com for more information.