Month: June 2016

Recipe – Courgetti Pad-Thai Salad

Recipe – Courgetti Pad-Thai Salad

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been a massive fan of the sandwich. This is a longstanding arrangement, going back to when I was an inordinately fussy-eater as a child – I didn’t like the idea that what I was eating was hidden between two slices of bread.

Thankfully, I am far from fussy with food anymore (although I’m still just as stubborn in general). Nevertheless, for some reason, my dislike of sandwiches has stuck- nowadays I just find them a bit boring, and I tend to prefer fork-food to finger-food.

I like to create inventive salads and snacks to take into work for lunch every day because, let’s face it, nothing is worse than sitting at a desk all day without having something to look forward to at lunchtime.

This is one of my all time favourite recipes, a result of several attempts of trial and error before getting the final thing just right. I’m not going to claim that it’s really authentically Thai (because it’s probably not) but it’s so flavourful and aromatic and I often get my colleagues asking what it is and how to make it.

There is a fair amount of prep involved but honestly it’s so worth it – it’s also great for lunches because you can make a big batch in advance and divvy it up into tupperware, so really you’re saving yourself time from having to worry about tomorrow’s lunch during the week.

Courgetti Pad-Thai Salad

Courgetti Pad Thai Recipe

Ingredients

For the Salad

  • 3 large or 4 small courgettes, spiralized or peeled into long thin slices
  • 4 medium carrots, grated (or a small bag of the pre-grated stuff if you’re like me and would rather hoover the entire house than grate even the tiniest square of cheese)
  • Half a small red cabbage, thinly chopped
  • 1 bell pepper in a colour of your choice
  • 3-4 spring onions or salad onions
  • 2 fresh red chillis, thinly cut
  • A couple of handfuls of kale
  • A handful of bean sprouts (optional)

 

For the Dressing

  • Juice and grated zest of one lime or you can literally just shove the whole thing into a strong blender (ditto above, I hate grating)
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of finely chopped ginger
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 2-3 teaspoons of peanut butter (optional)
  • 100ml water
  • 75ml sesame oil
  • 100-150ml rice wine vinegar (I like mine really vinegary, but realise that this isn’t to everyone’s taste)
  • 75-100ml soy sauce or tamari
  • Salt, pepper and a few more dried chillis (optional)

 

Optional Garnishes

  • Unsalted peanuts (for added crunch)
  • Handful of chopped fresh coriander
  • Sprinkling of sesame seeds

Should be enough for 5 lunchtime portions.

Courgetti

I realise there’s quite a lot of ingredients, but you can do loads with things like soy sauce and fancy oils and vinegars, they last a long time too, so hopefully they’ll be worthwhile additions to your store cupboard.

 

Also, the great thing about this salad is that apart from a few really essential ingredients (courgette, soy, tahini, sesame oil etc) you can change up the veg, the garnish and the flavourings in the dressing depending on what you like, how you feel, and (as I realise this might not seem like the thriftiest of salads) whether payday has just been or not…

 

Method

Spiralize, julienne or peel your courgettes into long thin noodles and finely slice the rest of the veg into long, thin slices too. Chuck all the salad ingredients into a big bowl and make sure they’re well mixed.

Courgetti Pad Thai Recipe

For the dressing, either chuck everything into a powerful blender, or you can whisk the ingredients by hand in a jug – just make sure that the garlic and the ginger is nice and finely chopped. Blend or whisk until you get a nice, slightly thick but smooth dressing.

Courgetti Pad Thai Recipe

I much prefer to dress the big batch immediately, using my hands to really mix everything together before separating into the tupperwares. This way the veg can soak up all the flavours throughout the week. However, if you’re worried about soggy veg, you can always keep the dressing in a jar in the fridge and pour a bit on each morning.

 

Simple as that really! After the chopping is over and done with it’s just a case of mixing together and bob’s your uncle. Again, it’s a really versatile salad, so have a play around with your ingredients to get the balance just right for your tastes. If you give it a go, I’d love to hear what you think in the comments!

Courgetti Pad Thai Recipe

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New thing of the month: Living Colo(u)rfully

New thing of the month: Living Colo(u)rfully

If someone had asked me and my best friend on our tube journey home last weekend what on earth we’d just been doing (which wouldn’t have been altogether surprising given that we were both covered in paint and carrying balloons) the answer would have sounded absurd.

“Well we’ve just run, danced and skipped around a 5k race-course whilst getting different coloured paint powder thrown at us”

However if you too have ever found yourself spending your Sunday afternoon casually being covered in paint, you’ll understand the bizarre but hilarious fun that this can actually be.

The Color Run, aptly sponsored by Skittles (and spelt the American way deliberately because, you guessed it, it could only be an American initiative) has been going since 2011 and has since been exploding all over the world in a big burst of popularity, celebration and colour.

Marketed as “The Happiest 5k on the Planet” and aiming to promote health and wellbeing for athletes and amateurs alike, The Color Run can much more appropriately be described as a festival than as a race of any sort.

Which is great for me. I say all the time that I’m not a cardio girl – because it’s true, I’m not, and I’m certainly not a runner. But The Color Run can hardly be described as an intense fitness workout (despite my using it as an excuse for an extra large breakfast portion of overnight oats, yoghurt and berries…)  more than anything it’s a wonderful reason just to celebrate…well, your inner-weirdness.

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One thing it did teach me is that both Chloe and I have a complete inability to just “jog”. We full on sprinted the first kilometre, which was mostly uphill, thus exhausting ourselves for the next leg of the journey. Whenever we’d try to gradually speed up, our equally competitive urges would kick in and we’d soon be storming through the crowds again, desperate to overtake as many people as possible.

I’ve decided that every month I want to try out something new – anything really, an exercise, a food, a fad, who knows. If you have any suggestions please comment! My experience at Color Run made up my mind that this month my new ‘thing’ is going to be, basically, more regular cardio. It’s one of my little demons that I intend to face head on.

Because of this, I thought it might be helpful to come up with a few tips that I’ve been using for any people who might be interested in trying out running or jogging (because let’s face it, it’s pretty good for you) but who (like me) are just really really bad at it.

 

I call them the four essential M’s for Terrible Joggers:

1) Music.

What with my background in dance, I have a firm belief in the importance of music in exercise – not only for energy and motivation but also simple things like timekeeping. I have trouble pacing myself on a run, but I also cannot help but go along to the beat of whatever I’m listening to. So, if a slightly slower song comes on then I HAVE to go more slowly and not exhaust myself within the first 30 seconds. So the first rule of thumb is to put time into your playlist- what songs get you going, and what order they should go in depending on how fast/slow you want to go at what point during your session-  have it all ready for whenever you are.

2) Mates.

Go with a friend. Either someone more experienced that you can learn from, or someone who’s struggling just as much but you can share the painful experience together. Unless you want your run or jog to be exclusively “you” time, then having a buddy can really help make the experience more enjoyable.

3) Map it out.

Plan your route beforehand. That way you can identify particular points where you want to speed up/slow down/stop and stretch etc. Breaking up the route makes the journey more manageable, and easier to tackle mentally and physically.

4) Mind over Matter.

Do whatever you need to do to psyche yourself up, and gradually your mentality will start changing – you might even start looking forward to the weekly jog, who knows? The power of the brain is incredible – the body will only start giving up once the mind has.

 

If those fail I suppose you could always hire some friends to bang drums and chuck paint at you every kilometre. Or you could just sign up for next year’s Color Run.

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7 Exercises for a Strong Back & Great Posture

7 Exercises for a Strong Back & Great Posture

So in last week’s post about Scoliosis, I promised that my next post would show some of my favourite exercises on back day, training for a strong back and great posture too. I’ve got a mixture of body weight and weighted exercises here, that are great for anyone, as well as those who like me, suffer from a bit of a curvy spine.

*If you can’t see the videos I’d advise re-opening the post in Google Chrome, or Mozilla

1) Scapular/Serratus Push Ups

3 Sets, 20 Reps

Begin either in standard push-up position or with the forearms resting on the floor. The body should be kept in a straight line so it’s important not to let the hips drop

Focusing on the movement of the shoulder blades, lower and raise the body as close, and as far away from the floor as possible.

If you’re doing this in standard push-up position, make sure to keep the arms dead straight by locking out the elbows. This helps to make sure that it’s the muscles around the shoulder girdle that are doing the work, rather than the arms or chest.

Working Muscles: Rhomboids and Serratus

Serratus Push Ups from Roslyn Rachel on Vimeo.

Note: This will seem really easy at first, because your arms and legs are taking your body weight whilst the working (agonist) muscles (in this case the rhomboids and serratus) contract – unlike in regular push ups where it is the agonist muscles (e.g. chest/triceps) that are also taking the body weight during the contraction. Although there’s a really tiny range of motion, and you don’t ‘feel it’ in the same way that you might with a standard push up, doing lots of repetitions can significantly help to strengthen these muscles in isolation.

2) Scapular Retraction Pull Ups

3 Sets, 10 Reps

As if you were about to do a regular, wide grip, overhand pull up, hang from an overhead bar and use the muscles in your back to pull back (retract) the shoulder girdle and raise yourself off the ground, towards the bar.

Again, it’s important to keep the arms straight to make sure the correct muscles are working. Really focus on pulling the shoulder blades back to raise yourself that bit closer to the bar. It’s the muscles that you’re working here that are responsible for the “shoulders back/chest up” mantra for good everyday posture.

Working Muscles: Rhomboids, Serratus, Lower Trapezius Muscles

Note: Just like in the Scapular/Serratus Push Ups, this won’t seem as difficult as a regular pull up because the range of motion is very small.  

 

Serratus Pull Ups from Roslyn Rachel on Vimeo.

3) Reverse Scapula Rows

3 Sets, 20 Reps

Using an overhand grip, hold onto a bar that is approximately waist height, as if you are lying underneath it (facing upwards) with the rest of your weight on your feet.

Keeping the elbows straight, pull back the shoulder blades in order to raise yourself towards the bar

Gently lower and repeat.

Working Muscles: Rhomboids, Serratus, Lower Trapezius Muscles

Reverse Scapula Rows from Roslyn Rachel on Vimeo.

4) Serratus Weight Plate Presses

3 Sets, 10 Reps

Lie horizontally across a bench with the shoulder blades off one side, and the legs off the other – the feet should be firmly on the floor and the glutes should be engaged to support the lower body.

Hold a plate- I used 5kg for my first set, then 10kg for my subsequent sets- directly above your head with straight arms.

Push the plate towards the ceiling as high as you can by pushing the shoulders forwards (protracting).

Gently lower, allowing the muscles supporting the shoulder blades to take the weight of the plate whilst pulling your shoulders back again.

Working Muscles: Rhomboids, Serratus, Lower Trapezius Muscles

Scapula Plate Presses from Roslyn Rachel on Vimeo.

Note: *The above exercises all aim to target smaller groups of muscles, such as the Rhomboids, Trapezius and Serratus muscle groups – which are often engaged to help with larger, compound movements, such as lat pull downs and bent over rows, but are rarely used in isolation. These muscles are really important and, if strong and exercised regularly, can significantly aid someone’s posture by preventing the shoulders from rounding forwards. They can also aid in the correction of winged scapula, a postural defect (for want of a better word) that gives the appearance of the inner rim of the scapular flaring outward like angel wings – this is particularly common in those with scoliosis, and can cause a lot of pain and discomfort.*

5) Side Lateral Raise

3 Sets, 10 Reps

Find a pillar or some other form of support to hold onto. Stand side on with one arm holding your support and the other (the arm furthest from the pillar) holding a dumbbell.

With your feet close to the base of your supporting pillar, lean the top of your body away from it, to about a 45 degree angle.

Make sure you are in a straight line and engage the core to ensure that the hips don’t drop. Standing at an angle like this will encourage you to use the isolated muscles for a lateral raise without compensating by leaning over to the other side.

From where the dumbbell should be resting by the side of your thigh, raise it outwards as high as possible (aiming for shoulder height) without bending in the arm.

Lower, repeat, and make sure you switch to the other side after your 10 reps.

Working Muscles: This hits the anterior, lateral and posterior deltoids (basically every angle of the shoulder)…so all in all a pretty failsafe way to allow the shoulders to develop and strengthen that posture.

Lateral Dumbbell Raises from Roslyn Rachel on Vimeo.

 

Note: While you can do lateral raises with two arms at a time, I much prefer single arm. One of the traits of scoliosis is that one side of the body is significantly stronger than the other (more so than usual)- therefore I find that training one side at a time just helps me to identify which side is weaker so that I can really focus on strengthening it. With this in mind, remember that it’s so important to train both sides equally – don’t think that you should overcompensate for a significantly weaker side – this will probably end up doing more harm than good. Both sides need to be equal, and equally trained, for optimum strength and posture.

6) Back Extensions

3 Sets, 10 Reps

Using either a swiss ball or a back extension chair, position yourself face down creating a straight line with the body.

Slowly lower the upper body towards the floor, bending at the hip to try and create a perpendicular angle.

Making sure that the back stays straight (no arching or rounding) raise yourself back up to the starting position.

Working Muscles: Hyperextensions specifically target the Erector Spinae – the two muscles running down either side of your spine.

The Erector Spinae is probably one of the most important set of muscles to build back up following scoliosis surgery because they provide crucial support all the way down the spine.

It’s also the muscle that primarily keeps you upright – so pretty crucial when talking about posture.

7) Side Plank

3 Sets, 1-2 mins each side

Lie on your side with your legs straight and your upper body propped up, resting on the forearm. The aim is to get everything stacked neatly – so hips, legs and feet straight and aligned with one on top of the other. I find that it helps to rest the hand of the non supporting arm on the upper hip – this helps me to make sure i’m keeping to the side and not angling myself too far towards either the ground or the ceiling.

Engage the abs and the glutes (make sure you’re not sticking out your bum or arching your back!)

Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute before switching to the other side (make sure you do the same amount of time for each side!

Side plank is one of my favourite exercises. It is a low impact way of strengthening both sides of the Erector Spinae muscle pair, which is crucial for supporting the spine. Be careful of articles that make grand sweeping statements about side plank “fixing” Scoliosis – unfortunately there is no quick fix for this disorder and certainly not one that will work for every single case.

Nonetheless, side plank allows you to strengthen one side at a time, with the ultimate goal of equal strength on both sides. This is important for Scoliotics, for whom one side of the spinal muscles will most likely be significantly stronger than the other. Side plank allows you to focus on using the weaker muscles (those on the convex side of the curved vertebrae) to pull the spine back to centre…if that makes sense?

If not, then hey – it’s pretty great for core stability, abs and glutes as well, which are all important for a good, strong, upright posture. So give it a go.

Exercises for a Strong Back and Great Posture

 

Please bear in mind that these are exercises that I do, that I believe help me. Lot’s of I’s and Me’s in there. While you are at perfect liberty to try it out, its completely your own decision. I’m not a medical professional so I’m not going to make any big claims. Please be safe and take responsibility for your own welfare. For more, please see me disclaimer page.