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DSC_0022Every now and then I am sent a product that causes a bit of a stir in the family. As a journalist and blogger I am sent quite a few parcels to review, and most are greeted only with mild interest. The Monkey Nutrition Primal26 Pro was not one such. Even before I’d unpacked the box, my teenage son was circling with a gleam in his eye. He knows his whey, and had heard about this particular product.

So what’s the big deal? Well, here’s the blurb:

“Primal26 PRO is the upgraded version of the award winning Primal26 and one of the most advanced powders on the world market today. Fortified with a clinically tested, superior digestive enzyme complex, Primal26 PRO increases amino acid concentrations in the blood by up to 55 times, when compared with other fortified powders, allowing for more effective growth and recovery. The ProHydrolase enzyme complex helps to ensure smaller, non-immunogenic protein peptides are formed, reducing inflammation and the potential for gastric discomfort, which are often associated with protein consumption.”

So, in a nutshell, it’s a classy product, it’s easier to digest than a lot of whey powders and is – so it claims – more effective in helping your recovery.

It’s hard to test such a claim (especially as I don’t find other powders a digestive challenge) but I was very interested to find out what it tasted like, especially when I learned it was flavoured with real, organic cocoa rather than a nasty flavouring, and is sweetened with stevia.

I’m pleased to report that on the taste front it earned a huge thumbs up. It tastes of chocolate milkshake, in a thoroughly good way (mmmmmm) and is properly chocolatey (very important to a chocolate-lover like me). The aftertaste is better than with most protein powders, which earns it extra points.

I tried it just as it comes (milkshakey) and also made it into a seriously good shake with banana, peanut butter and even more cocoa powder. Sublime.

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There’s just one problem, though. I have had to find ever more inventive hiding places for it, as every time I get it out of the cupboard I find my son got there first and it’s gone down a bit more. I’m down to the last sprinkling now and may just have to carry it around with me everywhere I go.

Would I buy again? Most definitely, but I shall have to buy a whey-sized safe first.

Monkey Nutrition Primal26 Pro whey protein isolate £29.99 for 434g, currently reduced to £21. It ain’t cheap, but it is good.

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Bend that blade…

Fresh from the British Masters Champs, fondly known as Nat Vets, there’s a little bit of wound-licking going on this morning. Although delighted by the sculling golds picked up by our ladies on the Saturday, there’s no denying that Sunday was bit of a disappointment and I came away empty-handed after a long day’s coxing (a bad back having put paid to my rowing plans).

And yet… the long drive and the rain and the losses were all worth it for this one photo, which captures my final race as we crossed the line. Nobody, I think you’ll agree, could deny that I don’t push my crew to blade-bending lengths. Captions on a postcard, please.

Bendy blade

callusquench

With just two (*gulp*) weeks left until the British Masters Champs, aka Nat Vets, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the river lately. Normally by this stage in proceedings, with outings consisting of sweaty, splashy sprints, my hands are a horrible mess. Blisters, callouses, blisters under callouses, rips, tears and broken nails. It’s not pretty. My only consolation is that since I’m a bowsider, I don’t have to shake hands with my bad hand.

This year, however, everything is different. My left hand sports just a neat little row of small-but-perfectly-formed callouses. No blisters underneath them. No bits hanging off. Beautiful. To a rower, anyway. Perhaps not so great for a hand model.

Left hand

The reason for the change may be partly down to an improvement in my technique – perhaps I’m not gripping quite so hard on the blade handles. But it’s not just that. No. The main reason my hands are in such good nick is because of a brilliant little product – only just launched – that I discovered recently: Callus Quench by Dermalicious.

I had seen pictures on Instagram of the transformation in the hands of weight lifters and wanted to know more, so I contacted the company and they kindly sent me a sample. It was well timed as I received my tube just as I returned from my rowing trip to Bellagio when I’d spent two days sculling. After a winter season only doing sweep oar, and not very much of that, my right hand had the texture of finely-spun silk and the trip took its toll. I had a nasty raw patch in the middle of my palm, just bursting to be treated.

Well, let’s just let the picture do the talking. The top picture is my right hand when I got home, before applying Callus Quench. Below is the same hand 24 hours later.

Hands

Since then I’ve used the stuff religiously. The theory is that rather than encouraging your callouses to dry out, you should tend them like a newborn infant. Dried-out callouses are at risk of cracking, ripping and then bleeding, so instead you hydrate them and keep sanding them down to a tolerable size. And guess what? It actually works. It’s pretty miraculous on dry lips as well and, I’m told, on hard feet, too (but of course I’m too ladylike to have hard feet, so just have to take their word for that).

The key to the product’s success is not magic pixie dust, as I had assumed, but rather the gorgeous ingredients. Just look at the list – it almost sounds edible (don’t eat it, by the way).

  • Beeswax:  Acts as a hardening agent, allowing the lotion stick to be portable in a tube.  It acts as an emollient and a humectant, drawing moisture to the skin and sealing it in.
  • Avocado butter:  Helps to moisturize rough, dry, cracked skin with out skin feeling sticky.
  • Safflower oil: Highly moisturizing and deeply soothing.
  • Castor oil: This heavy viscosity oil has soothing and healing properties, which acts as a medium barrier against harsh conditions and or environments.
  • Emu oil:  Contains fatty acids (omegas) that have incredible healing properties on skin application from cuts, burns, psoriasis, sore muscles, nail fungus, joint pain etc.  But the omega’s big job is to reduce inflammation, therefore reducing pain and discomfort. .
  • Lanolin:  Works great on extremely dry/chapped skin.  Lanolin is a derivative sheeps wool, and it locks existing moisture into the skin and absorbs additional moisture from the air around it. It’s rejuvenating to the dry skin tissue, and skin cracking.  Due to its skin cracking relief, it’s popular among breast feeding mothers.  Unfortunately, some people are allergic to Lanolin.
  • Tamanu oil: Remarkable topical healing agent.  Notable for scarring, stretch marks, cuts, rashes, sores etc.
  • Calendula infused oil:  Gentle, cooling and soothing oil.  A must for an herbal first aid remedy which is infused in organic olive oil.
  • Comfrey infused oil: Used for wound healing and cell proliferation, infused in organic olive oil
  • Plantain infused oil: This oil is a skin lubricant that offers a speedy recovery.  Infused in organic olive oil.
  • Oregano infused oil:  Treats Candida, fungus and skin conditions and significantly improves psoriasis and eczema.
  • St. Johns Wort infused oil: Offers speedy recovery of wounds, stings and mild skin irritations.  Infused in organic olive oil.
  • Yarrow infused oil: Used for wounds, infections and bleeding.  Yarrow has antiseptic action, and works wonders on eczema.
  • Olive oil: This organic, and extra virgin olive oil is used as a carrier oil for all our infusions.
  • Sea Buckthorn oil: This oil is loaded with fatty acids and carotenes and is a concentrated, highly prized oil for damaged skin.
  • Rosemary extract: A natural preservative
  • Essential oils: Peppermint & lavender for their cooling and soothing properties.

Sounds good? You can buy it from Etsy here alongside the COOLEST wristbands (Wonder Woman!!!) and head bands (please, please, please do some Wonder Woman headbands, too!)

Better still, you have the chance to win your own tube of Callus Quench as they have kindly given me 10 tubes to give away!!

All you have to do is follow the Rafflecopter instructions below. I promise I won’t be using this as an email-harvesting exercise – just a way of spreading the love. I’m afraid I can only allow UK entries (sorry!)

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck. And if Dermalicious could just sort out my rotten nails, my life would be complete ♥

I told you last time that I’d been shifting some tin in an attempt to get some muscle on my feeble limbs before regatta season starts in earnest, so it was timely that MyProtein recently sent me a selection of products from their range to try out.

The arrival of the MyProtein box created some excitement as my gym-lovin’ teenage son is a big fan of the brand, which he describes as a reliable, no-frills, good value range. All I knew was that I wanted them to taste decent (I really, really don’t like that protein after-taste that you get with some makes). I was also interested in something portable for the post-rowing and post-gym munchies – I’m prone to get a bit lightheaded after I work out.

I tried a few of the products, and they all did what it said on the tin, but there were two stand-out ones that I would buy again.

1. Protein cookie

Good enough for the cookie monster

Good enough for the cookie monster

I wanted something that you could just chuck in your bag and grab quickly, and – equally importantly – something that felt like “normal” food. This did the job beautifully. The ones I tried were chocolate mint flavour and didn’t taste of protein powder. They were pretty filling (not surprising as they contain 37.5g of protein) and half would probably have done, but they tasted so good I never managed just half. Admittedly my son got to quite a few of them before I did, but I think we’ll take that as a good sign. He is dropping heavy hints to me to buy some more now the box is empty.

£16.99 for a box of 12 from MyProtein.com.

2. L-glutamine

Surprisingly tasty

Surprisingly tasty

Glutamine is an amino acid, in this instance in powder form. I’m aware that opinion is divided on the need to take it as a supplement, but its proponents say it’s worth taking as glutamine levels fall sharply during intense training and take several days to return. Glutamine is necessary for synthesising protein and is thought to help the immune system.

I’m not a professional dietitian so I wouldn’t feel qualified to comment on this, but to a lay ear it sounds like sense to me. With my medical history I get easily run down so anything that can help me along during hard training appeals quite a lot. I’ve been taking the L-glutamine for a little while now and so far so good in terms of energy levels and recovery (OK, everything aches right now, but nobody said it would stop that from happening).

The main thing is that it tastes OK. I was sent the tropical flavour, which I confess I expected to be revolting, but actually it’s quite nice – a bit like a fruit squash. And yes, I’d buy.

£5.99 for 250g (you take 15g/day) from MyProtein.com

Note: the products featured here were sent as a gift by MyProtein but, as always, this is my honest and independent opinion.

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Yup, that's pretty much me...

Yup, that’s pretty much me…

As we head towards the highlight of our rowing year, the British Masters Champs (better known as Nat Vets), I have found myself in a regular crew. Which is great – really, really great – except for one thing. I am, without doubt, the weakling of the crew. I’m not even allowing myself to think about the difference in our erg scores. Suffice to say that there’s probably a good 20 seconds’ difference in our splits. Sigh.

Now I’m sure I can’t be alone in this predicament, so here are my tips for what to do if you find yourself the weedy one in a crew of Amazons.

1. Stick to the plan

Use them. They work.

Use them. They work.

If you have a training plan, keep to it. You won’t turn yourself into the Incredible Hulk overnight, but the least you can do is to let your crew see you’re  working on your strength and fitness. I’ve been hitting the gym and yeah, everything hurts, but I figure it gives me the best chance of pulling my (frustratingly light) weight.

2. Work on your technique

It’s not rocket science. If you can row smoothly and keep a good length and rhythm, you have something worthwhile to add to a crew. So you might not have great power in the water, but you can make up for it on the slide. Ask for criticism (I know it hurts to be told – I’m as needy for praise as the next person) but you will only get better if you know where your weaknesses lie. When you’re in the boat, focus, listen and keep it neat.

3. Be nice to people

 

That pretty much sums it up

That pretty much sums it up

If you’re nice to people, they’ll like rowing with you even if you’re not the strongest. So a bad outing can be demoralising and we all have our good and bad days, but try to stay positive. Don’t whine, moan, bitch or criticise and even if you don’t have a naturally sunny disposition, make an effort to be cheerful.

4. Bring cake

Everybody loves cake...

Everybody loves cake…

This is last resort territory and I confess I haven’t had to rely on it … yet… but most rowers can be won over by cake.

5. Relax

What?

What?

Chill. Seriously, it’s just rowing. Somebody had enough faith in you to put you in a crew, so just go with it. What’s the worst that could happen? Actually, don’t answer that. Just relax.

So… all I have to do now is follow my own advice. Wish me luck.

 

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Chocolate beetroot brownies, hand-made by Girl on the River

Chocolate beetroot brownies, hand-made by Girl on the River

I can’t deny I make sacrifices for my readers. I like to go the extra mile. Which is why, in a supremely self-sacrificial gesture, I have forced myself to make and eat a batch of chocolate brownies, just so you didn’t have to. I know, I know, it’s crazy, but that’s the kind of girl I am.

Now, our Monmouth women’s squad takes race day seriously. We have email threads running to many hundreds of emails on the subject of what to wear both on and off the water and when travelling (I’m actually not exaggerating here). But far more detailed are our food plans. These are planned in meticulous detail. Race day food matters, after all. Get it right and you feel like you’ve got wind in your sails. Get it wrong and you’ll feel like you’ve got wind somewhere else altogether.

So… back to the brownies. These ones are extra-special because they’ve got beetroot in them, and if that makes you feel queasy, hear me out. You can’t actually taste the beetroot in them and there is method in my madness.

There is this much beetroot in one batch of 16 brownies.

There is this much beetroot in one batch of 16 brownies.

Beetroots are just the business. They contain potassium, magnesium, iron and folic acid as well as vitamins A, B6 and C (besides carbs, protein and antioxidants). If that’s not enough, they might even improve your performance – research from the University of Exeter suggests that beetroot juice improves endurance, helping you exercise for up to 16% longer. The reason is thought to be the nitrates in beetroot; the researchers think it affects oxygen uptake in the body.

There’s another good reason to include beetroot in your brownie. The beetroot replaces a lot of the fat – the usual amount in a recipe like this would be 250g rather than 100g – so they are much lower in fat than your average brownie. As the body diverts energy and blood to processing fats, you don’t want to load up on fats before you race (seriously, step away from the burger van).

In the interests of testing them out (I told you I was a martyr to my readers) I even tried one of them out a few hours before a particularly nasty sprint session and can confirm that it was pure rocket fuel. My husband, who is equally altruistic, had one-and-a-half of the beauties at lunchtime and put in a PB on a run later in the afternoon.

Rocket fuel

Still good close up

Aside from the beetroot, it’s a pretty traditional recipe and the result is a brownie with just enough goo without being sickly. And yes, that is cayenne pepper. It’s optional, but it gives it a nice little kick.

The rest of the ingredients

The rest of the ingredients

So, enough already. Here’s the recipe. Oh, and if you read to the end, there’s even a picture of what my kitchen really looks like. Hey, you didn’t think I was that tidy and stylish all the time? I spend my spare time rowing, not cleaning.

Chocolate beetroot brownies

Note: this is an amalgamation of various recipes. You can play around with it, to taste.

Ingredients

  • 150g plain flour
  • 250g cooked beetroot, drained (you can roast your own, raw beetroot if you’re feeling keen. I bought mine ready-cooked from Lidl)
  • 250g dark chocolate (preferably min. 70% cocoa solids)
  • 250g light brown sugar (if you want to use ordinary caster sugar, knock yourself out. It’s really fine)
  • 100g butter, plus extra for greasing the tin (I told you it wasn’t much)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Up to 1 tsp cayenne pepper (I used slightly less)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees (180 if it’s a fan oven). Grease and line a baking tin. Mine was about 23cm x 26cm – a bit smaller would be fine. I wouldn’t go any bigger.
  2. Puree the beetroot in a food processor until it’s smooth. This takes a a little while – be patient or you’ll end up with tiny chunks of beetroot in your brownie. Even I wouldn’t like that.
  3. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. You can do this in the microwave too, apparently, but I haven’t tried it.
  4. Add chocolate mixture to the beetroot and pulse a few times. Crack in the eggs, pulse again, and add the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and cayenne pepper. Whizz until thoroughly mixed.
  5. Pour into the baking tin and put in the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, but check from 20-25. You want it to be set on top, but if you like it nice and squidgy you don’t want to overdo it. If you stick in a skewer you want it to come out clean-ish.
  6. Allow to cool completely in the tin.
  7. When it’s cold, cut into 16 pieces. Do not eat all at once.

And finally, as promised… so you don’t imagine I’ve really gone all food-blogger on you…

OK, I'm quite ashamed #fitspofail

OK, I’m quite ashamed.

Tweet me with other ideas for race day baking. As I say, I’ll even eat cake for you.

 

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Just another day in the office.

Just another day in the office.

For the last week I’ve been making everyone hate me with photos of my rowing trip to Bellagio, and I couldn’t blame you for being green with envy. I won’t be blogging about this trip as I’m writing it up for everyone’s favourite magazine, Rowing & Regatta, so don’t forget to look out for my article later in the summer. There will also – eventually – be GoPro footage to drool over once I’ve got around to editing it (OK, when my son has finished his GCSEs and can edit it for me…) and I promise to let you know about that when it’s done. Continue Reading »

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Unfortunately I don't look much like this model. I am more smiley, though.

Unfortunately I don’t look much like this model. I am more smiley, though.

Hurrah – the clocks have changed, the sun is shining, evening rowing is GO and summer is just around the corner! It’s early days, I know, but I’m excited about the season so I want to tell you already about a cool (in every sense) top that I lived in during last year’s fabulously warm summer season.

Sports clothing range Odlo kindly gave me one of their new Evolution X-Light range to try out – Continue Reading »

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There comes a point in every rower’s life when the Rowing World starts to overlap with the Real World. Specifically, your rowing friends meet your normal friends and your secret life as a weirdo-river-lover is exposed. Is there anything scarier than someone announcing, “Ooh, I met someone you row with”?

This has happened to me more and frequently of late, so I think it’s time I came clean with an aspect of my rowing life I’ve tried to keep quiet until now. Continue Reading »

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It wasn’t supposed to be like this. My first time coxing a race was meant to take place on a nice, straight course with no major obstacles or risks, just to ease me in gently.

Huh. I should, of course, have known better. If there’s one thing that has characterised my rowing career, it’s things not quite going according to plan. So when Evesham Head was cancelled and I had to drop out of Cardiff because of a family emergency, that left the one race that I had sworn I would never, ever cox: the Head of the Dart.

Deceptively pretty

Deceptively pretty

Looks pretty, doesn’t it? Well, don’t be fooled. Continue Reading »

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