FigureGenieFiles half marathon preparation, knee painHaving a goal is a brilliant way to keep your training and mental focus on track. Which is why after many years of goal setting with my own fitness and achieving some very satisfying personal bests, I have decided to tackle a half marathon. I was never a ‘runner’. Memories of horrible forced cross country running activities at school in the middle of winter haunted me for years. Coupled with the fact that I was always more of a sprint/power style athlete; 100m races I was unbeatable, long distance I always came last or close to it. I then deviated as far away from running as I could with a successful bodybuilding career, even ballet is an anaerobic physical pursuit. So needless to say, ‘endurance’ has never been a ‘comfortable’ place for me. So why set a goal that is clearly waaaaaay out of my comfort zone? Well, because a half marathon it is waaaay out of my comfort zone and clearly this endurance aspect of my health,  fitness and mental focus needs developing… a lot!

I began really focusing on a weekly consistent run of 1x 3km and 1x 5km (in whatever time I could muster) the key was to do it and do it regularly. I discovered that running outside was not a favourite thing to do, running alone was not fun. But since April 9th I have built up a good consistency and seen big improvements in both my fitness and enjoyment of this activity.  I still have not broken the elements barrier yet, you know ‘if it ain’t raining, it ain’t training’ as Bear Grylls says. But I will get there.  Consistency in action is always going to be far more productive for your long term health.

I am now 23 weeks into this adventure, I have an event planned (Hampton Court Half Marathon on Sunday 17th March 2019), which is 25 weeks away. I have as of this week completed my first 10km distance, and aiming to build up to a 30km per week distance broken into a variety of distances and heart rate training zones.

However, I have recently discovered a troublesome issue! My left knee starts to hurt, a lot at about the 4km mark. After a little enquiry, seems that my patella tracking on the left side is a problem.  Stemming from a tight ITB (thats been a long term issue that requires management) and potentially weak glute medius and glute maximus, (what weakness after all this strength training? Good grief).

The body does not lie, so fix it I must! A new program that includes: Functional strength training focusing on the hip and glute area, balance work to stabilise the femur into the hip girdle and a lot of quad stretching and adductor stretching to lengthening. A focus on maintaining greater balance on the clearly imbalanced working muscles.

Dr. Mike Clark, DPT on behalf of Sharecare Fitness Fitness states,  “Kneecap pain while running is often caused by tightness in the rectus femoris, which is the main thigh muscle, and your biceps femoris, which is the outside back of your thigh muscle (the outer hamstring). Tightness of these two muscles, increases the pressure on the kneecap (patella). There is usually also weakness in the inside thigh muscle (called your vastus medialis obliquus), and the upper outer hip muscle (gluteus medius). Weakness in these two muscles allow the thigh to move inward when the foot hits the ground. The combination of the thigh moving in (caused by muscle weakness), and the kneecap being compressed (muscle tightness), causes kneecap pain.

To deal with this, here are the 4 main things that you can do:
1. Foam roll the outside of your thigh.
2. Stretch the thigh muscle (rectus femoris).  Try the kneeling hip flexor stretch and hold the stretch 30 seconds.
3. Stretch the outside thigh muscle (biceps femoris). Perform the 90-90 outer hamstring stretch and hold the stretched position for 30 seconds.
4. Activate the inside thigh muscle and the outside hip muscle (gluteus medius). Perform side lunges to balance, side to side tube walking and stability ball squats.
In addition, make sure you ice the knee when you are done running. “

Being injury free is a massive focus for me, I do not believe in ‘running through it’ or ‘running it off’, the body is very good at telling us when we need to pay attention, and this is certainly what i intend to do. I am, despite the knee niggle, actually enjoying running and running outside now. In my book that is a big win, so long as i eat properly in preparation for my sessions, I believe this half marathon, will be completed in a very reasonable time, one I will be competitively proud of. Now I don’t just want to ‘finish’ I want to do well.

Valetudo Retreats Luxury Healing HolidaysWhatever your stance on Veganism, one thing we can all agree on is that Veganism is here to stay.  As more and more people turn to a more sustainable and ethical means of nourishing themselves.

Over the last 20 years as a Health Coach and Nutrition Counsellor, I have seen the popularity of this ‘lifestyle’ choice growing in a tsunami -esque wave of advocates.  In some cases it seems to have become the new religion; a simple question of ‘would you like any mayonnaise’? Turns into a fact-bashing debate on more than one food industry, personal and societal ethics and  a caustic sprinkle of judgement all around.

From a professional stance, my personal opinions and dietary choices aside, I do believe that it is important that foundational nutrition basics be understood and factored for long term health and well-being.

With more education and availability of information on the many ways to follow a vegan lifestyle and still be thriving in good health,  more people have the knowledge and capability to follow this type of diet.  If you have the money, (to do it correctly is not cheap) and time in planning and preparation, then all power to you. Veganism certainly seems to be the trending  lifestyle choice of the financially independant  and globally conscious.

According to the Vegan Society , U.K; “In 2018 [they] surveyed 2,000 people aged 15 or over across England, Scotland and Wales. We found the number of vegans in Britain has doubled twice in the past four years: from 0.25% (150,000) in 2014 to 0.46% (276,000) in 2016 to 1.16% in 2018 (600,000).” Vegans demographics show 64% of vegans  in the UK are female, with 40% being aged 25-34. Business it appears is certainly booming in the ‘meat-free’ food industry, The Mintel Meat-Free Foods UK Report for 2012 shows that meat-free and free-from sales are expected to reach a total of £949m in 2012 with meat-free sales set to reach £607m and free-from market sales expected to reach £342m.

Statistics about the vegan industry, and make no mistake it is a booming industry, aside, I find a lot of confusion and doctrine surrounds this lifestyle choice when speaking to clients about their diet and how we can improve their hormonal balance, moods, energy, sleep and weight management.

According to the Mayo Clinic, these are the defining sectors of Vegetarianism and Veganism:

The Types:

When people think about a vegetarian diet, they typically think about a diet that doesn’t include meat, poultry or fish. But vegetarian diets vary in what foods they include and exclude:

  • Lacto-vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish, poultry and eggs, as well as foods that contain them. Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt and butter, are included.
  • Ovo-vegetarian diets exclude meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products, but allow eggs.
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish and poultry, but allow dairy products and eggs.
  • Pescatarian diets exclude meat and poultry, dairy, and eggs, but allow fish.
  • Vegan diets exclude meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products — and foods that contain these products.

Some of the more important considerations about balanced nutritional intake is that  vitamins and minerals are at optimal intake and absorbtion levels, which can be difficult if you are not aware of your personal requirements and are not planning your meals well.

Keep in mind that the more restrictive your diet is, the more challenging it can be to get all the nutrients you need. A vegan diet,  eliminates natural food sources of vitamin B-12, calcium can be limited, omega’s and essential fatty acids, Vitamin D and getting a full compliment of protein. Pay special attention to the following nutrients:

Calcium and vitamin D

Calcium helps build and maintain strong teeth and bones. Dark green vegetables, such as turnip and collard greens, kale, and broccoli, are good plant sources when eaten in sufficient quantities. 

Vitamin D also plays an important role in bone health. Vitamin D is added to some products. Be sure to check food labels. Having just 10min a day in the sunshine can help with natural production of Vitamin D, but in the UK  you may need a vitamin D supplement (one derived from plants). 

Here are a few general observations about calcium content and absorption rates of different plant foods.

  • Leafy green veggies are often rich in calcium, but some of them are also high in oxalates, compounds that bind calcium and reduce its absorption. High-oxalate vegetables include spinach, beet greens, and chard. Even though these foods contain calcium, you won’t absorb much of it so they should not be considered good sources of calcium.
  • Kale, mustard greens, turnip greens and broccoli are low in oxalates so we absorb calcium from these foods very well. Absorption rates vary from 50 to 65% for these cruciferous vegetables. Collard greens are a little bit higher in oxalates but are also very rich in calcium and can be considered a good source of this nutrient.
  • Beans, nuts and seeds provide moderate amounts of calcium that is absorbed at relatively low rates. Soaking nuts and seeds can improve absorption. 
  • Calcium-set tofu—usually made with calcium sulfate—varies widely in its calcium content depending on how it is made. Its calcium is well-absorbed, though, at about 30%.
  • Calcium absorption from fortified plant milks is similar to absorption from cow’s milk when the type of calcium added is calcium carbonate. It’s a little lower when tricalcium phosphate is used, but still good at about 25%. Just be careful of the added sugar and preservatives to these type of products.
  • Calcium absorption from fortified fruit juices seems to be at least as good as from cow’s milk, or probably better. Again,  be careful of the added sugar and preservatives to these type of products
  • Cooked Chinese cabbage, turnip greens, mustard greens, collards (if you prefer raw greens, just double the quantity to get the same amount of calcium)
  • Calcium-set tofu
  • Fortified plant milks
  • Fortified juices.

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is necessary to produce red blood cells and prevent anemia. This vitamin is found almost exclusively in animal products, so it can be difficult to get enough B-12 on a vegan diet. Vitamin B-12 deficiency may go undetected in people who eat a vegan diet. This is because the vegan diet is rich in a vitamin called folate, which may mask deficiency in vitamin B-12 until severe problems occur. For this reason, it’s important for vegans to consider vitamin supplements. Vitamin B12 is needed for production of DNA (and therefore for cell division) and for maintaining nerve cells.

Two symptoms of B12 deficiency are:

  • Megaloblastic anemia, in which red blood cells become abnormally large because they can’t divide.
  • Nerve damage, which can result in a host of problems—everything from depression and mental confusion to tingling and numbness in extremities to a loss of balance and even paralysis.

The anemia is reversible with vitamin B12 therapy. The nerve damage is usually reversible, but not always.


Protein helps maintain healthy skin, bones, muscles and organs. Eggs and dairy products are good sources, and you don’t need to eat large amounts to meet your protein needs. You can also get sufficient protein from plant-based foods and supplements (, if you eat a variety of them throughout the day. Plant sources include meat substitutes, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for heart health. Diets that do not include fish and eggs are generally low in active forms of omega-3 fatty acids.  Walnuts, ground flaxseed and chia seeds are good sources of essential fatty acids. However, because conversion of plant-based omega-3 to the types used by humans is inefficient, you may want to consider fortified products or supplements or both.

Iron and zinc

Iron is a crucial component of red blood cells. Dried beans and peas, lentils, enriched cereals, whole-grain products, dark leafy green vegetables, and dried fruit are good sources of iron. Because iron isn’t as easily absorbed from plant sources, the recommended intake of iron for vegetarians is almost double that recommended for nonvegetarians. To help your body absorb iron, eat foods rich in vitamin C, such as strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, cabbage and broccoli, at the same time as you’re eating iron-containing foods.

Like iron, zinc is not as easily absorbed from plant sources as it is from animal products. Cheese is a good option if you eat dairy products. Plant sources of zinc include whole grains, soy products, legumes, nuts and wheat germ. Zinc is an essential component of many enzymes and plays a role in cell division and in formation of proteins.

Some vegetarians & vegans rely too heavily on processed foods, which can be high in calories, sugar, fat and sodium. And they may not eat enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains and calcium-rich foods, thus missing out on the nutrients they provide. Coupled with food sensitivities and gut health issues, restrictive diets like veganism can make things very difficult when it comes to getting your nutrient intake correct. Enough food and variety to cover nutrient bases without blowing your calorie intake away.

Planning is the key and knowing exactly what you are eating and that you are getting your needs met from the food you eat. 

Planning a healthy Veggie-Lifestyle 

To get the most out of a vegetarian diet, choose a variety of healthy plant-based foods, such as whole fruits and vegetables, legumes and nuts, and whole grains. At the same time, cut back on less healthy choices, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices and refined grains.

**It is advisable that you speak to a Nutrition expert to ensure you have a clear understanding of your needs.

Get yourself the best Vegan protein or Immune Support.

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Daisybank Cottage Figure Genie Review

By International Wellness & Fitness Expert Sara Picken-Brown

Easy going luxury and plenty of honest home-grown heart is the best way to describe this unique and truly fabulous B&B. From the moment we arrived we felt welcomed and valued. 

These really were the key qualities that permeated our time in the new Forest at Daisybank. From the handmade bespoke soaps to the sweet treat on arrival, the soft-as-a-cloud bed to the variety of breakfast options caring to ANY dietary need.

Just one night really was not enough, but with promises to return for more, here are just a few of my noteworthy reasons that you should put Daisybank e on the very top of your Must-see-&-Do list this summer. 

One of the first things that struck me about Daisybank was just how relaxed, down to earth and thoroughly welcoming Daisybank owners were. This is no franchise chain B&B, it is family owned and run. With a keen eye for detail and hospitable comfort, they have taken special care to ensure your every need is met to feel quite at home. As it turns out you feel so at home that for many of their guests that return Daisybank has become a home away from home when taking some R&R.

We arrived late on Friday night and were met at the train station by our hosts.  Our room was, like all the rooms at Daisybank, cosy, spacious, with a luxurious bed that honestly felt like a cloud to sleep on. The bathrooms were spotless (being a stickler for clean bathrooms, this pleased me considerably). Large modern wet rooms, that were expertly configured to retain historical details in keeping with the Victorian style of the 1901 built cottage. 

Heart warming details were everywhere, from the Daisy cupcake on arrival to the vintage style radio playing very funky chill track tunes.

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Originally the family home, for over 25years. The ground level of the house was converted into a luxury bespoke bed & breakfast 7 years ago.  The understanding and care given to the dietary needs of every guest is one of the big aspects of Daisybank that sets them apart form other high end options. As a former professional athlete and a fitness professional keenly aware of clean, whole food nutrition, I was surprised and delighted that so much attention was given to this aspect of guest catering and service. Questions that only someone with a great understanding of difficult dietary needs would ask. As anyone with restrictive diets can attest, this can often get embarrassing at worst and cringe worthy at best. Not at Daisybank, they catered easily and respectfully to all.

FigureGenieFiles Daisybank B&B Review

FigureGenieFiles Daisybank B&B Review

Which got me wondering; Where has this careful attention to health come from? Turns out that the answer to this question was not a straight forward one, but integral to the reason for Daisybanks holistic focus and success. The New Forest region and Brockenhurst in particular is so much part of the Daisybank experience one cannot mention one without the other. 

Daisybank has worked hard to source and use locally grown products, produce and art. The region has a diverse creative arts scene with many festivals and events running throughout summer [curious arts festival]. Our gluten free and paleo breakfast options were all grown and sourced from the local area and even our handmade lavender soaps and body wash was made in the New Forest. Spending time with Cheryl our hostess, as she drove her little Fiat around the area explaining all about Daisybank, I was struck with how passionate she is about where she lives and how important Daisybank is, not only to the family, but also to their clientele. 

At age 14 their daughter contracted lime disease, something that took nearly 7 years to properly diagnose. It was through this experience much of the awareness around food and holistic health care was born and thankfully Daisybank has become a nurturing destination just 1.5hr from London where one can escape to regenerate with great food, serene spaces, yoga, meditation, tree bathing with great coffee and conversation over the kitchen table.

Close to Brockenhurst village (a 10 min casual walk away), the fantastic quality of the famous Daisybank breakfast, the stunning surrounds of the New Forest, perfect for cyclists, runners, walkers and tree-huggers (yes apparently plenty of those pass through) and the odd triathlete taking a weekend off, if running a casual 10km on a sat morning is considered taking time off.

The diversity of the area really struck me as something incredible. There is something for everyone, every taste and every desire. Do you like nature and need to escape the city bustle with some ‘tree-time’? Then head to Brockenhurst. The forest has such an ethereal quality I kept expecting a fairy to pop out from behind a tree stump. Forest bathing not your thing? Maybe you’re an old salty deep down, so try sailing or paddle boarding near Lymington, just 4miles down the road.  There is a super pub to stop off for a great pub lunch too. 

Maybe hanging with the glam-squad is more your idea of a good weekender. Making sure you get your instagram worthy pics at top notch locations, head to ‘The Pig Hotel’ for dinner or cocktails on the lawn at sunset. The Pig Hotel New Forest Review Figure Genie Files


This wont be a hidden gem much longer so book while they still have some spaces and don’t mind the ponies and donkeys that roam the streets, they get right of way and have done so by law for over 100 years. Just another reason why this has to be one of the quirkiest and coolest places to explore near London.

International Fitness  Expert Sara Picken-Brown and GB Triathlon aspirant,  James Tebbs, were hosted by Daisybank, a boutique B&B in the New Forest village of Brockenhurst. The characterful 1901 Arts and Crafts house has seven stylish en-suite bedrooms. Luxury touches include marble bathrooms, super-sized beds, Roberts radios and specially-commissioned paintings and artwork adorning the walls. An overnight stay costs from £110 per room (two sharing), including full New Forest breakfast.

Contact Daisybank (01590 622 086;

For information on Wellness Programs and Nutrition Planners  & Counselling with @figure_genie For information on Advanced and Beginner Triathlon Programs & Endurance Event Preparation @jamestebbs 

I have to admit I am not really one for tech-related-trinkets. I often find I spend so much time getting the ‘technology to behave that the small window of time  allocated to your workout disappears in a haze of ‘can’t connect’ and ‘error’ related messages. That just creates frustration and annoyance. Yes, my patience is very limited when it comes to the tech. However, I do appreciate and know intimately the value of GOOD tech, that works on demand without all the ‘fiddling about’. Keep it simple, keep it accurate and all goes well in my book. After all like a good supplementation program to ‘support’ fundamental nutrition, the gadgets are tools to ‘support’ solid and sound training principles.

In-line with the fact that my new goal is to run a half marathon in 2019, I have finally decided to invest in a tracking device that will help me to keep awareness around pacing, heart rate and routes during my training sessions and ensure I keep injuries to a minimum. Recently I have found carrying a phone with my heart monitor readings and my GPS tracking activated; trying to jump between apps while on the trot is proving tricky- same old issue of ‘this tech is messing with my workout scenario’!

I discovered, through Tech blog review site, ‘I am Living it’ the Garmin Vivosmart 3. My big issue with a lot of the sports watches is that they are super bulky and scream “Im a sporty girl, see I have the watch to prove it”. I am VERY petite and most of the watches look like I have BIG BEN on my wrist. Im hopeful, when my new Garmin arrives, it will delight, not disappoint in this area. As for the tech stuff, its had mixed reviews, but mostly for what I need, its perfect for the price.

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Features: Maximum Speed, Record Sleep, Average Heart Rate, Average Speed, Bluetooth, Calorie Monitor, Clock, Data Review, Date, Distance, Exercise Log, Heart Rate Monitor, Rechargeable Battery, Set Goals, Sleep Tracker, Smart phone compatibility, Stopwatch

So Stay tuned…

“I really enjoy the sessions with Sara. What I find most valuable is that she is  able to balance the challenging aspect of a workout with what is best for my overall physical health. She is able to adapt the session to any injuries I may have but still make sure the session is challenging and provides benefit. I am very appreciative of her broad knowledge of exercise and nutrition. I also like how she can switch the sessions up but still provide a full body workout. I’d definitely recommend her. ”

– Joe Wilkinson

“PT with Sara has been great. Really clear, stretches me right to my limit and is also enjoyable. I have never had a PT before. Best part is trying new exercises. Sara has an encouraging but firm approach, I  would definitely recommend her as a Coach.”

– Hannah Bonham-Duchan


“[I have had amazing results in Fitcamp].. designed by head Coach Sara. She has got an impressive background as a body transformation coach and winning 3x IFBB Australia Figure Champion and World Ranked 5th and she is a nutrition expert, you name it. [I highly recommend her programs & support]”

– Sabine Nobel


“I have been training with Sara nearly 6 months. I can honestly say she has changed me; Im physically stronger, fitter and emotionally happier for feeling ‘well’. Her knowledge and support is fantastic and I could not have got the results I have without her. Her sessions are inspiring and her nutrition advice just simply ‘makes sense’. You must work with her. Sara Thankyou!”

– Nicola Dempsey


” Sara has been my Coach for 2 months now and Ive already seen amazing results. After years of struggling alone, I have her to thank for my ongoing transformation. We are working toward my wedding; I have abs, my fitness and strength has improved and I have energy that I never had before. She supports not only in our sessions but with sound nutrition advice and programs as well as my training ‘homework’. What I really like is that I know I can keep doing this ‘lifestyle’ its not just for my big day.”

– Jenny Woodward