FitBits - fitness for fun and wellbeing: September 2014


Sunday, 28 September 2014

Making healthy chocolate at The Chocolate Workshop

I'm a firm believer in the 80/20 rule - eat well 80% of the time, and treat yourself 20%. Whether you work out regularly or not, everyone deserves a day off the wagon, right?

Yesterday was that day. A long awaited rest day after five hard boxing sessions over four days, I started the day with a lie in. Or at least I tried to - Mr Body Clock was having none of it so I was up and about by 8.30. A bacon and cheese toastie was inserted into my face immediately before hubs got back from parkrun.

I promised myself that the only exercise I would do yesterday was to cycle the nearly two miles to ChocoHolly's Chocolate Workshop on Western Road, Hove. I kept that promise, and returned with a bag of delicious hand crafted, organic 80% dark chocolate and a brain full of chocolate facts. 

ChocoHolly - Chocolate Workshop Hove

For those of you not in the know, ChocoHolly is run by the lovely Holly Caulfield, a very talented artisan chocolatier who invited us along to The Chocolate Workshop to learn how good chocolate is really made straight from the cocoa bean.

ChocoHolly - Holly Caulfield - Chocolate Workshop Hove
ChocoHolly - Holly Caulfield 

The first thing that hit me as I stepped inside the shop was the smell. Pure, unadulterated JOY, that's what it smelt like. Rich, creamy, delicious chocolate fumes made their way pretty swiftly up my nostrils and something told me this was gonna be a good day. 

Stacks of beautiful, handmade truffles sat temptingly on tiered plates and delicious, organic chocolate bars lined the shelves around the shop. 

ChocoHolly - Chocolate Workshop Hove

ChocoHolly - Chocolate Workshop Hove

From Bean to Bar - the workshop

We were greeted with prosecco and truffles (I went for a cup of tea as not drinking until after my fight) and shown the (actually very complicated) process of making chocolate as part of Holly's Bean to Bar workshop.

ChocoHolly - Chocolate Workshop Hove

First we were shown the cocoa pods in which the cocoa beans live. The cocoa pods are picked from the cacao trees, dried and broken open to reveal the beans inside.

Cocoa pod, cocoa beans and cocoa nibs - ChocoHolly Hove

The beans are roasted for 23-28minutes before being peeled (winnowed) - Holly does this by hand and the painstaking process takes four days just to do 2kg worth. Larger chocolate manufacturers will use machines for this process.  The crushed and peeled cocoa beans (nibs) are put into a machine for conching. This process can take anything from 24-48 hours and it takes about a week for Holly to finish a batch of chocolate bars from 2kg of beans.

Chocolate making at ChocoHolly Hove

Once the conching is process is complete, 20% cane sugar is added and the chocolate is tempered, which is raising and lowering the temperature of it to allow crystals to form. These crystals form a structure that result in a shelf stable chocolate with a shiny sheen, nice snap and smooth texture.

Holly basically poured melted chocolate all over the (very clean) work surface and played with it for a few minutes to bring it down from 45 to 28degrees. I had to fight the urge to get in there with a spatula myself and shovel it in my gob I can tell you. 

Chocolate making at ChocoHolly Hove

After the chocolate was reduced to the correct temperature it gets put back in the bain marie and poured into the chocolate moulds. We all had a go at this bit - adding rose petals, almonds, orange and raw cocoa nibs to add texture and flavour to our bars. Mine were far from perfect but I guess that's why I'm not a professional chocolatier!

Chocolate making at ChocoHolly Hove


The dark side

It surprised me how healthy cocoa solids actually are. They're full of nutrients and antioxidants such as theobromine, phenethylamine and caffeine, which are linked to serotonin levels in the brain. They're also rich in a number of essential minerals such as magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron and potassium, and also bursting with vitamins A, B, C and E.

It's only when you add sugar and other ingredients to the raw cocoa that it loses its nutrients. Holly told us that lots of global chocolate manufacturers use poor quality cocoa beans and some chocolate only has 20% cocoa, with the rest comprised of sugar, other chemicals, flavourings and products such as vegetable oil! 

Cadbury's Dairy Milk ingredients

I knew that dark chocolate was meant to be healthier but never understood why, until now. The percentage you see on the packets of good quality dark chocolate refers to the level of cocoa solids within the ingredients. So a 100% bar would contain zero sugar at all, and 80%, which was what we made yesterday, contained 20% sugar. The taste was very rich but slightly too bitter for my liking, I prefer 70% as it's just that little bit sweeter without losing all the goodness.

White chocolate (my favourite) actually contains NO cocoa bean at all and is comprised of cocoa butter, milk and a shed load of sugar. Damn you Milky Bar! 

Chocolate making in Hove

The Bean to Bar workshop is just one of the many classes run from The Chocolate Workshop - there are chocolate tasting sessions, sugar skull decoration classes, truffle making and a whole host more to get stuck into. 

Holly caters for children and adult parties including hen parties with a capacity of up to 15 in the workshop. The price for the Bean to Bar workshop we did is £65 each but you get the second half price if you book two. I'm thinking it's a perfect present for the muv or bestie on a birthday

The October class schedule is already filling up so if you fancy a go get in there quick! 

ChocoHolly chocolate tasting at The Chocolate Workshop Hove

ChocoHolly chocolate making at The Chocolate Workshop Hove

Visit for more information on classes and tasting sessions. 

Are you a white, milk or dark chocolate fiend? What's your favourite chocolate? Mine's a pretty even split between Kinder Bueno, Milky Bar and Ferrero Rocher - I need to find a dark chocolate favourite! 

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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

12 days until fight night!

<-- Ultra White Collar Boxing - Introducing the Pocket Rocket

OK so my white collar boxing fight is 12 days away. That gives me 11 days left to train, panic, practice, panic, swat up on YouTube tutorials, panic and promptly forget it all as soon as I get in the ring.

Alright, maybe I won't forget it all, but what if I do?

I've been totally obsessed with boxing since coming back from honeymoon, and it's been great. I proper LOVE it.* It's such hard work, there's so much to think about, so much to learn, and if you get it wrong you get punched in the head - which kind of makes a pretty good incentive to try and get it right!

Stables Boxing Gym Brighton
Wise words adorn the walls of the gym...

I turn up to each session determined to do well and work hard and every time I leave drenched in sweat, knackered, basking in equal amounts of excitement/terror at what lies ahead - it's the marathon all over again. Venturing into the unknown. Pushing my limits. Testing myself. Learning. And sometimes getting it wrong.

Can I actually do this? Will I remember to move my head? What if I can't throw the combinations quick enough? Why can't I remember the combinations when it counts? 
How long does it take to reset a broken nose? Will I cry if I lose? 

One plus side is that this is not gonna take me five hours to complete like the marathon did - just six minutes. Well, six minutes plus the minute breaks in between each two-minute round and the build up before, so it'll probably all be done in 10-15minutes, which is actually quite comforting. Sort of.

Stables Boxing Gym Brighton
Mastering technique at Stables Boxing Gym

As well as the pre-prescribed two sessions per week I've joined Stables Boxing Gym for the month (don't tell my other gym I'm cheating on it) so I can go to the other boxing and circuits classes. In addition to those I'm also having PT sessions with amateur boxing don Mark West, who's been putting me through my paces and getting me moving my bloody head!!

As well as practicing slipping punches and moving my head out the way instead of presenting it to my opponent on a plate, Mark's got me working on my combinations. Fast, hard, controlled combinations. Get in - go to work - get out. 

Simple. In theory. I'm fine on the pads but it's a different story in the ring. I *am* getting better though, I just need to believe in myself.

Either way time is running out and there's nothing I can do to stop that, I just have to make sure I'm as ready as I can be for the fight. I love a tight deadline, it really gets the heart pumping :)

I'm terrified but so, so excited to get in there and see what I can do. I'm *pretty* sure I'll come away with my fair share of bumps and bruises, but also the biggest dose of endorphins EVER. 

I've still got some tickets left if anyone wants to come and watch, hit me up on Twitter or email me at if you want some (£20pp). 

If you want to support me please donate to Cancer Research via my JustGiving page or text TAGN88 with the amount (£1, £2, £5, £10 etc.) to 70070. Thanks! 

Any boxing pros/regulars/amateurs out there got any tips for me please do share - I need all the help I can get right now!! 

*I'm fully aware that using the word 'proper' in this way is grammatically incorrect but I'm doing it anyway.

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Thursday, 18 September 2014

Train hard, rest harder - Say NO to shit runs

A couple of days ago me and hubs went out for a right shitfest of a run. Like actual, proper shitfest. Everything went wrong. Our legs were heavy and painful, my knees were playing up and I couldn't get my breathing into a rhythm.

I dunno about Chris but I was doing everything my physio told me not to do - crossing over my gait, stamping my feet down heavily, over striding, leaning forward. It was awful.

We've only been back from honeymoon two weeks - two glorious weeks of mostly sitting on our arses eating seven-course Michelin Star meals, relaxing, drinking and basically doing anything but running (apart from this token 5k which we did just to get hungry for dinner as we weren't hungry anymore).

Since coming back we threw ourselves back into training, hardcore style. I was so excited to claw my fitness back and get moving again - there's only so much relaxing I can do before I go a bit mad.

The last couple of weeks have looked like this:

Fri 5/9:     Boxing (T)
Sat 6/9:    Parkrun + 8.5 hilly cycle (T & C)
Sun 7/9:   1hr Circuits / 1hr Boxing class (T)
                  Hilly 10k run (C)
Tue 9/9:    Boxing PT (T)
Wed 10/9: Intervals run (C)
                  Boxing (T)
Fri 12/9:   Boxing (T)
Sat 13/9:   Epic 25mile HILLY Tour of Britain cycle (T & C)

Sun 14/9:  Boxing (T)
                  Hilly 10k run (C)
Tue 16/9:  Intervals shitfest (T & C)
We were tired and it showed. Our legs did NOT play ball, and looking at the above, it's no wonder. Hello accumulative fatigue. Since going back to work I've been knackered - the mix of heavy training, midnight bedtimes and busy days at work have done nothing for my energy levels. I felt great for the first week or so. But on Tuesday the shit hit the fan. It was our bodies telling us to give it a goddamn rest.

I read an article yesterday on Runner's World about the Top 5 possible reasons for heavy legs. Even though not all my training's been running, these are transferrable and I reckon we can both tick at least 3/5 of these off.

So... a lesson learned. I'm glad we stuck at it and didn't bail on the run but to be honest we should've rested and come back fresh the next day. When I was training for Brighton Marathon I really looked after my legs and focussed on recovery. I did everything my physio told me to do and more - I couldn't bear to not make the start line. Since then everything's slipped.

So here's a little reminder for me (and you) on how to look after your legs and recover well.

How to recover and prevent injury


Rest is just as important as training. And sometimes the hardest thing to do. When you run, lift, cycle, swim, or do any hard exercise you tear muscle fibres. They only get stronger if you allow them to rebuild and they only do this when you rest them. 

You should have at least one day of complete rest each week - I cycle to work every day so can't have a complete rest but more active rest. A 4mile round trip on the bike isn't gonna break me but trying to go hard on intervals after a week of hardcore training when the fatigue has finally caught up with me might just do that.

Strength & Conditioning

I was given a bunch of strength and conditioning exercises by my physio when I started marathon training. My knees were painful and my calves, glutes and hamstrings were weak - so my body couldn't cope with the load I was putting it through with the running and weekly bootcamp classes. I had to strengthen the muscles to deal with the increased load and get me to the marathon start line.

Of all the kit you can buy to 'fix' your legs, there really is no substitution for strength and conditioning. If you strengthen your body you'll be better equipped to cope with training and recover quicker, with reduced stress on joints and tendons.

I've been slack with my exercises recently and it shows. My hamstrings are still very weak and I need to pick this back up to get strong again.

Foam rolling / stretching

This is subjective and you do have to be a bit of a masochist with Mr Foam Roller - there are different studies for / against but I find it hugely beneficial for recovery (and bloody painful!). I also had a Tiger Tail rolling massager which was great for rolling out the legs in the office but I left it on the bloody bus so need to get a new one!

Simple but effective yoga poses such as Legs Up The Wall and Downward Dog also do wonders for my hamstrings and achey legs in general after long runs and hard exercise sessions.

I did used to really love Pigeon Pose but my physio has advised against this while I've got an angry hip as it'll only stress it out further. Listening to experts is the way to go if you want to fix an injury.

Compression wear

Again, there are loads of studies for and against compression wear but personally I really think it works for me. My first set of Zensah calf sleeves from DMPonline carried me through the winter of marathon training and eased the post-run aches in my lower legs. 

The lovely guys at High Octane have also recently sent me some full length 2XU compression tights which I absolutely love. I've been wearing them for hard parkruns and after long cycle rides and they've kept the DOMS at bay. Get some for yourself on their website.

I'm really looking forward to wearing them throughout the next season of marathon training as they're really comfortable and snug fitting (obviously) so are a bit warm for the summer. Should keep me nice and toasty when battling the hail and wind up on the downs!


I'm by no means an expert but fuelling and hydrating yourself correctly for a run or exercise session and refuelling with the right balance of 4:1 protein:carbs ratio afterwards is pretty vital to good performance. Rice cakes with peanut butter do the trick very nicely, as does a glass of chocolate milk.

I had a couple of rice cakes with hummous before our shitfest of a run to give me some energy but looking back at what I ate that day and the day before, there was not enough carbs for the session.

Replacing electrolytes lost through sweat is important too - I used SiS hydration tablets in my water in the latter stages of marathon training which stopped the crippling leg cramps I was getting after about 14-16miles.

So there you have it. Train hard, but rest harder boys and girls. Say NO to shit runs!! 

Have you had a shit run recently? How do you deal with training sessions where your body just says no? 

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Friday, 12 September 2014

Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing - Introducing the Pocket Rocket!

"Are you alright Tess?"
"I'm not crying. 
I've just been punched in the nose."

This is getting hard. Like, really hard. When I signed up I thought eight weeks of training would be enough to get ready. Eight weeks of twice weekly sessions to learn technique, get strong and build fitness. I already had a pretty good base fitness already so I wasn't too worried about that, even though I missed a couple of weeks of sessions due to getting married, I could catch up.

Now we're coming to the end of week five and it's dawning on me how bloody difficult this is.

Ultra White Collar Boxing at the Stables Gym, Brighton
My new nickname, given to me by the guys at the gym :)

Ultra what-now?

I've signed up to Ladies Ultra White Collar Boxing. I know what you're thinking... ultra what-now? Basically it's a form of boxing that originates from New York in the 1980's when a solicitor and a doctor joined a gym to be trained up to fight in a boxing match after just eight weeks. Since then it's grown and hundreds of events are put on all over the world, with 'white collar' professionals and complete beginners training hard before battling it out in the ring.

Ultra White Collar Boxing

You get eight weeks free intensive training from professional boxing coaches (that's right kids, FREE) and get matched with someone of the same ability, size and weight at the end of it to go head to head for three two-minute rounds with a minute break between each one. Each participant has to train with full protective head gear and gumshield, as well as chunky 16oz gloves (which are bloody heavy after an hour of practice!)

Money is raised for Cancer Research (please sponsor me here!) and you're given tickets to sell for fight night - complete with a black tie afterparty post-fight. Free fitness & a party afterwards? Hell yes.

Ultra White Collar Boxing Brighton tickets
Who wants one? I need a support crew big time!! 
I've done lots of boxercise in the past so know the basics of different punches and how to do combinations, but replacing nice friendly pads with another human being who's throwing punches at the same time is a bit of an education let me tell you! 

Right on the noggin  

After a few weeks of learning the basics, my first sparring session went really well. I was paired with my mate, and we'd spent the previous 45minutes practicing various drills with blocks to see what it felt like to be hit continuously. Stepping into the ring for the first time was scary but I was so excited.

We'd agreed to not go heavy on each other but adrenalin took over and we went for it - me with the body shots and Holly with the jabs and crosses right on the noggin. About 10seconds after this video stopped recording she landed a corker bang on my left eye which proper stunned me!

It didn't hurt though, which was surprising. She got me a few times in the head and it didn't hurt at all, just shocked me a bit. After lots of praise from the trainers and other girls watching we both left that session full of confidence and excitement about the whole thing.

I like to move it move it

For me though, it hasn't lasted. We've signed up to PT sessions and joined the boxing classes at the gym to get extra training on top of our twice-weekly efforts with the UWCB group. Last night was the first class outside of our beginners crew and it was educating to say the least!

I feel like I got battered (I totally did) but I know what I need to do. I've got a strong punch but I don't move very well - I spend a lot of time hopping around wasting energy opposite my opponent, giving them a clear shot at my head, something which was taken advantage of quite a lot in the class, and I got bonked on the nose numerous times.

I need to move my head, not just my feet. 

I dunno if you've ever been punched in the nose but it's a one-way ticket to pouring, streaming eyes, and OK I *might* have mixed a little cry in there as well about how fecking hard it was and how I couldn't stop them coming.

So we're sparring, I'm crying, everyone's asking if I'm OK and my trainer is in the corner telling me what to do and it's all a bit overwhelming.

Stables Boxing Gym Brighton
My new playground for the next 3 weeks

I grew a pair and got over it in the end and when we swapped partners the class instructor told my new partner to 'go gentle with this one as it's her first time'. I felt humiliated but thankful for his understanding. And to be honest, everyone was great, really supportive and ready to help me get the technique down.

The rest of the class was pad work and fitness so I felt more at home by then, but I left the class feeling battered, bruised and more than a little apprehensive about the next few weeks of training.

The final countdown

Despite the tears, real or not, I'm more determined than ever to get good at this to be confident and strong when I step inside that ring on October 5th. I love a challenge and jumped at the chance to sign up for this because I knew it'd be great for fitness but also because I knew it'd be bloody hard and I'd have to push myself to my limits on every session.

Stretching off after one of the first sessions 

Boxing's not like running. If you get it wrong, you get punched in the face, and I'm just about getting used to that. I've got 23 days to get better. Bring it on.

I'd *really* love some support along the way so if you feel like you can spare a couple of quid for a great cause to help me not give up along the way, please sponsor me here or 
Text TAGN88 to 70070 followed by £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10. 

If you're in Brighton (or nearby and fancy donning a frock or a black tie to come and support me on the night (and enjoy the afterparty) please tweet me or reply below for a ticket. They cost £20pp but it all goes to charity, it'll be a great night and I'd really, really appreciate the support! 

Find out more about Ultra White Collar Boxing and sign up yourself on the website.

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Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The best excuse for not blogging


A whole six weeks without writing. 

That's a record. I actually had two half finished posts about what was keeping me so busy but never published them so I'll enlighten you now.

Basically I've been far too busy organising this:

...jumping on this...

...inhaling lots of this...

...doing lots of not-posing-just-walking-away-with-giant-heart-shaped-balloon-thankyou-very-much...

...before spending a glorious two whole weeks with my favourite...

...looking at this...

...and this...

...and this...

...eating this...

...drinking this...

...and this...

...and doing very little of this...

And it's been just bloody perfect! 

Back on it now and lots to share so watch this space! 

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