Category Archives: Travel and Sports Advice

Tips to Remember for Beginner Snowboarders

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Prior to my week snowboarding in Belle Plagne, I had never been snowboarding before, and wasn’t sure what to expect. After asking various snowboarding friends, checking websites and speaking with store staff and imparting me with loads of information, I found myself discovering even more tips and tricks along the way. Listed below are some of the top pieces of advice I collated about learning to snowboard – feel free to post your own tips in the comments below!

  1. Make sure you are given the correct type of board. It should come up to your chin, and the bindings should be shoulder-width apart. After spending hours in the squat position, you will begin to appreciate how much difference a couple of inches makes when it comes to binding spacing!
  2. Bring painkillers. It’s true what they say: snowboarding is more difficult to learn at first, but easier to improve! When you first learn snowboarding, you will fall a lot, as it seems every technical skill goes against your mind’s instincts. Expect lots of bruises on your knees and tailbone! Which brings me to my next point….
  3. Don’t be afraid to fall. Falling repeatedly means you are continuously pushing yourself and improving, which means you are one step closer to nailing those impressive jumps and flips!
  4. Save yourself the time, money and bruises and take lessons at a snowboard school. Resorts almost always offer lessons, and are cheaper if you book in advance. Learning the basics early will stop you forming bead habits that will be more difficult to break as your progress.
  5. Keep your body relaxed. Easier said than done when you’re hurtling yourself down a mountain at high speed, but the more tense your body gets, the more difficult you will find it to make turns and more likely you are to fall over.
  6. Make sure you maintain good posture; keep your knees partially bent, your back straight, and your weight in the middle of the board. Bend too much and your weight will be unevenly distributed; stand too straight, and stiff, and you’ll find turns impossible.
  7. Invest in good gloves! For boarders hitting the slopes in the middle of the season, a good pair of gloves is essential. Not only will it stop you getting chilblains, but it will make adjusting your bindings off and on the ski lift much quicker and more manageable.
  8. Guide the board with your eyes: Wait, what?! I hear you say, but here me out. One of the (many) quirks in snowboarding is that if you turn your head to look at the direction you want to go, your board will follow. That is because your board can pick up on the smallest changes to your posture and weight, and so when you move your head, you move your chest, legs, and finally your board.

Most important to remember though, is to not take yourself too seriously, and to have fun! For more information on gear and a rundown of snowboarding essentials, check out Travelettes’ Guide for Beginner Snowboarders.

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Champing is a thing now and you should definitely try it

For the past few weeks you might have heard whisperings of a strange new phenomenon on the internet. Mentions of #champing hashtags on Twitter, random pictures on Facebook, and arguments on various newspaper websites as to whether ‘champing’ is just another term for ‘glamping’ have gradually popped up. If you aren’t curious or excited about it you probably should, because it is a great and inexpensive idea that helps promote the outdoors and heritage at once. Continue reading

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BUPA 10000 London Review

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This past weekend my friend Anya and I decided to spend our bank holiday Monday running the BUPA 10k for Save the Children instead of sleeping in, having a BBQ and knocking back a few drinks. While you might doubt our decision-making, the BUPA 10000 turned out to be a great event filled with a fun atmosphere, a beautiful route past London’s great architecture and lots of entertainment for runners and spectators alike.

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How to Really Help Nepal

Annapurna Nepal River

With the endless images of collapsed buildings, reports of lost heritage sites and the varying statistics and numbers of lives lost, injured or missing, it can be difficult to compute, and easy to feel unable to help those in Nepal from thousands of miles away. And with the various aftershocks hitting the country, it looks like things are only going to get worse before they get better. Continue reading

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Handy Nutrients and Food for Muscle Recovery

Photo credit: takebackyourhealthconference / Best Bobs / CC BY

Photo credit: takebackyourhealthconference / Best Bobs / CC BY

Lately I’ve been working on several 6c+/7a projects I’m dying to crush, which means I’ve been spending a lot more time at the climbing gym and pushing myself at strength-training classes. The routes require just that little bit of extra strength, and no matter how much my arms and core muscles hurt after hours of pull-ups and clumsy bouts on the TRX, I know the exhilaration of reaching the top will easily beat any momentary pain. Or at least that’s what I tell myself at the time. To be honest, I’d love it if I could completely boss it up the routes and then be like “Oh, this old route? Yeah it’s a nice little warm-up for my 8a.”

Combine this with my running race this month and weekend hikes, and as you can guess, my muscles are feeling the brunt of my lifestyle at the moment. Considering my past mistakes of pushing myself too hard (bouts of bed-ridden tonsillitis and exhaustion, anaemia, and  preventable injuries aplenty) I’m keen to learn from them and not end up like that again. Which means I’ve been spending a predominantly large amount of my lunch breaks researching the best foods for muscle recovery to help me keep on top of things health-wise. Continue reading

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Cuba-Costa Rica Scuba Diving for a Magical Underwater Experience

 

After spending my early years snorkelling around rockpools and the beaches of Florida, I was fascinated by the hidden worlds beneath the waters – those little communities of fish, crustaceans and alligators (although I rightly didn’t go near those) that seemed to have their own schedules and methods of coexisting with one another. These daydreamy explorations were not helped by my hopes of growing up and becoming a mermaid (that’s what growing up next to Weeki Wachee does to you) and wondering whether this fish or that manatee would befriend me.

Eventually I grew up and began to brave the undulating waves of the Caribbean sea and other waters in my aquatic explorations. And while my mermaid dreams were dashed like a wayward ship on the rocks long ago, my love for exploring the ocean has held strong.

So when White and Blue contacted me wanting to publish a piece on the best destinations for scuba diving vacations, it brought back all my childhood memories of diving beneath waves and exploring those little worlds. How could I refuse, especially with their suggestions of Cuba and Costa Rica?

 

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Enjoy the underwater adventure with amazing scuba diving vacations. There is no better way to explore the amazing tropical wonders than with a cruise that will take to the deep waters and in some of the best diving destinations in the Caribbean Sea. Scuba diving vacations are ideal for novices and pros and offer a combination of leisure and sport in an all-inclusive, relaxed atmosphere. You can explore some of the most spectacular coral reefs, shipwrecks and colourful marine life in the Caribbean Sea, especially in Costa Rica and Cuba.

Costa Rica underwater offers beautiful marine life ready for exploration. You can enjoy interacting safely with marine life including mantra rays, cow nose rays, eagle rays, white-tipped reef sharks, turtles, parrot fish and various moray eels, reef fish and invertebrates. Enjoy amazing escorts from sea horses, trumpet fish, puffers, crawfish and snappers as you dive.

Scuba diving excursions in the Caribbean Sea is done on volcanic rock formations which host an assortment of attractive, small sponges, corals and gorgonians. Yellow cupcake corals and white soft coral covers most of the pinnacles. In some of the dive sites, you will also see black corals that are still in existence. The water temperature is generally comfortable at 26º- 29ºC (78º – 84ºF). if you want to see some of the large pelagic-zoned creatures such as pilot whales, humpback whales, whale sharks and giant manta, take your scuba diving trip between December and March.

Costa Rica has some amazing dive sites including Tortuga, Punta Argentina and Monkey Head (Cabeza de Mono) with a maximum depths of between 10m (30ft) and 30m (100ft). Cuba also provides amazing diving sites including Cayo Levisa, Bay of Pigs, Maria la Gorda and Santiago de Cuba, among others. Enjoy a memorable underwater adventure in some of the most spectacular diving spots in Central America. Let your adrenaline rise as you explore new pathways underwater. Enjoy the thrill of life in some of the best diving destinations in Cuba and Costa Rica thriving with a wide range of aquatic flora and fauna.

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Do you have any favourite diving locations?

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Three Simple Post Workout Recipes for Dinner

Like many people, I tend to squeeze my exercise in after work – there’s no way you’re getting me out of bed before six on a weekday, and even less of a chance of that happening on a weekend. Which is great and all, except when it gets to 9-10 at night, and I’m tired, hangry, and losing the will to care about anything except stopping that growling noise in my stomach.

While it’s really tempting to simply say screw it and order a takeaway or grab a supermarket pizza, after the initial food cravings have subsided, the rest of my body will complain about the junk I gave it to eat after it put out all that effort for me.

With spring races quickly approaching and a particularly difficult 6C climbing route mocking me after my every failed attempt,  I knew I had to do better for my body if I was to beat these challenges. And so a compromise was reached – I would cook dinners that were nutritious, delicious, and most of all, easy and quick to make, and in return my body would put out its best effort.

Listed below are my now go-to post workout recipes for weekday dinners. They’re quick, healthy and can easily be tailored to your own tastes – I prefer to throw in extra vegetables and cheese where possible!

#1 Mediterranean Baked Sweet Potatoes

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Brought to you by the talented folk at the Minimalist Baker, there is nothing to not love about this recipe. With the delicious combination of sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and a lemon, garlic and lemon sauce with a liberal helping of spices and herbs, this is one of those unique recipes that is equally healthy and appetizing (although if you want to crumble some feta cheese over the top, I’m right with you there). Plus, it only takes 30 minutes to prepare and cook, which is perfect for those late evenings at the gym.

If you’re like me and hate spending money on small-portioned, over-priced lunches at work, then this recipe is simple to have as a lunch the next day. Just double the ingredients and microwave when you want to eat.

 

#2 Mediterranean Roasted Vegetables and Haloumi with a Basil Dressing 

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This particular post workout recipe is good when you’re feeling a little under the weather. With lots of tomatoes, peppers, lemon and garlic, all those Vitamins A and C make this meal an ideal boost for your immune system.

Simply chop everything up, whizz the lemon, garlic and olive oil in the food processor, and combine together to roast in the oven for 40 minutes. Ten minutes before the end, add the haloumi slices on top. For those wanting an additional protein hit, simply roast a chicken breast with the vegetables, or add a salmon fillet – the dressing goes great with fish!

#3 Chorizo Pilaf

Okay, so maybe the hearty amount of chorizo partially cancels out the health benefits of this recipe, but chorizo is too good not to include! Also, if you are looking to make this healthier simply add some chopped okra and broad beans.

Add sliced chorizo and onion to a pan on medium heat, and cook until brown. Add the spices, then the rice and vegetables with the stock, and let everything cook for approximately 15 minutes on a low heat.

Throw in some parsley and an extra squeeze of lemon at the end, et voila!

Credit to the Minimalist Baker, Waitrose and BBCGoodFood for the images – there’s no way my food sticks around long enough for me to take a photo of it!

What are your go-to recipes after a workout?

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What Outdoor Clothing and Gear Should I Splurge and Save On?

Spring is (finally) rearing its pretty, sunshiny head, and as a result people are tentatively stepping outdoors again. It’s the season of mild weekend walks, morning runs and the anticipatory exercises for summer trips.

It is also the season of renewed fitness promises, as we leave the back end of the winter season holidays, and all its gluttonous festivity, and herald in our new, fitter selves.

For many of you though, this year might mark the beginning of your first foray into hiking (and may I say good choice!) and as you head to the various outdoor retailers to prepare yourself for the elements, it is understandable that your bank balance might shudder at some of the prices of the outdoor clothing and gear. While spending within a budget is important, it is just as important to choose the right outdoor clothing for your activities – otherwise it might cause you to end up disliking the sport, not to mention injuries or illness. Listed below are what I believe are the most important items to spend a bit extra on (knowledge gained from multiple unfortunate experiences by yours truly), followed by items you can get away with tightening the budget over.

Waterproof Jacket

If you plan on doing any walking over five miles, or spending a considerable amount of time outdoors in changeable weather, then this is the most important bit of outdoor clothing to splurge on. Comfort benefits aside, getting soaked in torrential rain in cold weather can cause all kinds of health problems, not to mention chaffing between a wet shirt and heavy bag. When looking for a waterproof jacket, look for one with a breathable membrane, such as Rab’s E-vent technology or the renowned Gore-Tex brand. Basically, these jackets have a thin film of plastic-like substance between the inner and outer layers that bears lots of small holes. These holes are small enough that water cannot penetrate it, but big enough that air molecules can pass through, allowing any hot air caused by exercise to ‘breathe’ through the jacket and prevent excessive sweating.

Cheaper jackets will be covered in a laminate coating on their surface. This will cause water to bead and glide off, but is not permanent and will need relaminating after awhile. This also means no breatheability, essentially trapping heat exerted through exercise close to your body and producing sopping wet base layers as a result. Unless you are looking for something compact to throw on while walking the dog, don’t be tempted with the cheap prices of laminate coats – you will thank yourself later!

Hiking Boots

Your feet are what get you up and down those mountains and trails, and they won’t thank you if you force them to do it in shoddy footwear. Hiking boots come in a very wide range of sizes and widths, and walking in the wrong shoes can cause serious damage to your feet. I have written previously on how to choose the right boots, so make sure you give it a read before visiting a store!

Rucksack

Rucksacks can come in a wide range of sizes, features and quality, which also means pricing can vary wildly. Before buying a rucksack, decide how you plan to use it and pick one that contains features that match your needs. Most importantly, choose one that fits well. A poorly-fitted rucksack can cause extreme back, shoulder and hip injuries, and the last thing you want to happen is your bargain-bucket rucksack to break and lose all your belongings in the middle of nowhere.

I can say I have learnt not to scrimp on these items from my own first foray into hiking. Being a relatively poor student and taking on the Ten Tors challenge, I decided to find myself some bargains, and went on a sojourn to Bath. After a quick dash to a discounted camping goods store I emerged an hour later, my purse £100 lighter and burdened with all the gear I could possibly need. Gleefully self-congratulating myself, I began to anticipate all the future camping trips I would take with the money I saved.

All seemed to go well, until the day before my team were supposed to take on the Ten Tors challenge. In the middle of a field in Dartmoor, the bottom of my bag decided to give, unceremoniously spewing my possessions over a particularly muddy patch of ground. We managed to patch it up, but uncertainty over how long this quick-fix would last loomed like an overcast cloud in my mind as we began hiking.

As for my boots – hot damn, I think I can truthfully say I have never cursed so much in my life at something as I did those few days in Dartmoor. At the time I assumed hiking boots were all the same size and style, and as a result picked the cheapest, widest, stumpiest pair possible. Turns out I have long, scrawny feet, and as we trundled our way round Dartmoor my feet at times literally swam in the shoes, repeatedly knocked against the end of the boot like a door-to-door salesman, and wiggled about in such a wanton manner I began to have visions of my ankles snapping like twigs.

In the end my feet had so many blisters and sores, they had to be bandaged until I resembled a mummy.

So where can you afford to save some money on outdoor clothing?

Fleeces

We are talking about basic fleeces here, not the non-pulling, temperature regulating fleeces you will find in the mountaineering and climbing sections of stores. Fleeces are made essentially from the same fabric, but some might be more soft than others depending on the quality of the fabric and whether it’s been treated. Technically speaking however, there’s no difference between the £80 basic designer fleece that you catch non-skiers posing in by the chalet bar, and the bog-standard £20 range you can find in most outdoor stores.

Base layers

Now don’t get me wrong, base layers are important outdoor clothing. They help transfer sweat off the body and through the layers. But these too can cost upward of £40 or more, and if you are doing any multi-day treks then multiple purchases can easily add up.If you need to save a bit of money, then look at wearing any tops you already own that are manufactured from man-made materials. These are more breatheable than cotton, and will help transfer it through your layers, but you will be quite smelly by the end of your trek!

Do you have any tips on saving money on outdoor clothing and gear? 

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Simple Exercises to Improve Your Climbing

Photo credit: Sky Noir / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Last week the lovely folk at the Swiss Cottage Climbing Centre invited me to try out their newest class – a military-style fitness session aimed at improving strength for climbers. After an hour of non-stop pushing, pulling and jumping up and down holds I ached all over, had ‘Bring Sally Up’ on repeat in my head, and was (dare I say it?) feeling pumped and having a great time.

Despite the initial aches and pains a few days later I was back on the climbing wall and noticed a definite improvement in my endurance and strength!

The instructor, Jack, designed the class to focus on core strength and muscles in the forearms and legs, which help you climb over ledges and build strength for small holds and awkward angles, without losing any flexibility or technical ability vital for climbing.

While few of us have our our climbing wall at home (I’m still dreaming of the day I have climbing Twister in my imaginary backyard), many of the exercises practiced in the class can easily be done at home. Below I’ve given a selection of the ones I found the most beneficial to improving my climbing ability.

#1 Pull-ups

Quite possibly the most difficult of exercises for anyone, find a sturdy bar (or perhaps door frame?) that can withstand your weight, and practice pulling your chin above the bar. When doing this exercise, the main muscles you should be using are your forearms, to help build muscle that can easily pull you up to holds. If you find you are unable to pull yourself up, just try dead hanging for as long as possible.

 

pull up

Photo credit: sirgious / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

 

#2 Leg Lifts

Laying straight on your side, lift your leg straight as high as it can go, hold it for 20 seconds. Then bring it down, careful to ensure that you continue holding it just above your resting leg. Do this for approximately five minutes. At first I thought this exercise was easy, but by the end my legs wouldn’t stop shaking! This exercise helps build strength in your legs, which means more power to push for holds and less reliance on your arms.

 

oblique leg lift

photo credit: Kathryn Wirsing/Hearst

 

#3 Planks

Keeping your forearms rested shoulder-length on the ground as well as your toes, hold your weight for 30-second increments, with 30-second rests in between. This exercise works your core muscles, which are essential for helping you push yourself over ledges or give you strength on steep-rock overhangs.

 

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Photo credit: suanie / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

 

Most importantly however, is to remember to push yourself. It is easy to stop when your muscles feel a little tired and you have no-one to motivate you, but your muscles will only benefit from the exercise if you give them something to work with.

Interested in the classes? Then head to the Swiss Cottage Climbing Centre on Thursdays for an 8pm start (classes cost £8 a session).

 

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A Peek Inside my Suitcase Essentials….

Eurobreakdown.com recently asked travel bloggers what they packed inside their suitcase, which made me ponder what essential items I bring on each trip. Below is a mixture of the practical and the fanciful, the technical and the traditional, but all well-used and well-loved.

Copies of travel and medical information: Admittedly the least exciting but most important, I always keep copies of my passport, travel insurance, address of residence and medical information with me in a watertight folder. In the event your passport is stolen, having a copy makes it much easier when notifying the embassy, and

Many countries will ask you for the address of your hotel or residence when entering the country – having this on hand makes going through airport security much easier than trying to find it on your phone at the desk!

Bringing a copy of medical information is particularly important for those with medical-related allergies, such as penicillin or plasters. Should you become unconscious at any point on your trip, having a copy of this and travel insurance on your person will prove helpful for medics and any travel companions trying to seek medical assistance for you.

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Merino wool buff and/or pashmina: Whether the climate is unseasonably cold or you plan on exploring religious heritage sites, a plain extra layer is always handy, particularly for women. Buffs are extremely versatile and can be transformed into hats, scarves, even balaclavas. They take up little space, and with the merino wool fabric models, do not retain odours.

A pashmina scarf is travel’s biggest multitasker. Whether it is covering your head and shoulders when visiting temples, acting as a cover-up on the beach, a blanket or towel in desperate situations, or even as a shawl for fancy events, the pashmina is a lady traveller’s best friend on the road.

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Canon 400D SLR camera with 18-200mm lens: It might be heavy, take up a lot of space and create a nagging neck pain by the end of the day, but a camera phone or digital camera simply won’t do when it comes to capturing memories of a trip. The lens in particular is a travel photographer’s dream, with the 18-200mm scope doing the work of up to three lens in one.

Kindle: Almost nothing can beat the reading experience of a hard copy of a novel….except the weight of carrying a dozen books on your back as you attempt to traverse hot, stuffy airports. Kindles are lightweight, have a long battery life and you are not limited to purchasing whatever selection is available in the small English-speaking section of the local bookstore.

Notebook and pen with inner folder: The essential tools of any travel writer, the humble notebook and pen can record all your memories, notes of your favourite places, even drawings of your favourite architecture. Try to look for a notebook that includes a mini folder inside it, to store all those pamphlets and business cards you want to keep from your trip. Moleskine do a good, rugged, and compact version, but for those wanting something that won’t break the bank, Paperchase do their own version. I always end up arriving home with a bag bulging with business cards, pamphlets and souvenirs from my favourite places to remember for future posts – my notebook definitely helps me organise all this!

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Hand sanitizer: Sure, it might not smell great and you will potentially be tarred with the ‘tourist’ stereotype, but if you want to save yourself stomach illness or any other sickness hand sanitizer is an essential. Try to choose one that doesn’t require water, in case you plan on travelling to an area where it is scarce.

Packet of tissues: No matter where you are, chances are you will either catch a bug, be trapped in an unfurnished toilet cubicle, or even require kindling for a fire. Tissues solve all these issues, and more – just remember to pack them in a waterproof pouch! Which brings me to the last item….

Waterproof bags: Not only will these protect your items from getting soaked, but waterproof bags are also a handy way of organising your bag. Store toiletries in one colour, electronics in another, etc., and it will save you time when searching for items in your rucksack.

What is in your suitcase? Any handy tips? Leave them below! 

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