Sunday, 25 October 2015

I Never Said I Could Lift Heavy: The Leg Edit

Hey Sparkle Finders!

So the challenge has now been set, I am fuelling my body with the right things, and now its time for the real training to begin.

As I have already mentioned here, I am no stranger to the gym and running is something that had already part of my life 3-4 times a week. So when it came to figuring out a training programme, motivation to run was not the issue... it was getting me to train smarter that was the challenge.

Current PB for the 8 Mile Long Run I do on a Saturday
Working with Louis, my lovely PT, we decided that weight and strength training was definitely something I needed to ramp up. Once a fortnight I now have an hour session with him where he shows me the moves and challenges me 'lift heavy', while also protecting me in the scary men's weights section of my local gym.

I never said I could lift heavy!

I had always been petrified about entering that part of the gym before now, shying away to ladies only part where I could huff and puff to my hearts content. The thought of squatting 30kg in front of L.A.D-type males who could benchpress three of me had always been a rather intimidating scenario in my mind.

I will admit, not all the men in that section are like that, some of them are just getting on with their own thing and don't give a hoot if a female is bending over making odd noises in front of them. But I still find it rather nerve-wracking to go in on my own.

However, I have got over my fear (kind of) and I am starting to enjoy the weights side. I love using the squat rack and I am slowly getting used to the odd position needed for deadlifts. In my last session we did clean and press' which were really fun so I will definitely be trying those again next week!

Together, Louis and I have created a light leg session (for after short runs) and a heavy leg session (for Monday nights) to make sure I am getting my leggys big and strong:

The Light Leg Session 

Air Squats x 20

Leg Press 35kg 12reps x 3

Inward Clams 42.5kg 12reps x 3

6kg Lunges x12 each leg

Barbell Squats 12.5kg 12 reps x3


The Heavy Leg Session

Squat Rack 22.5kg 12reps x 3

Deadlifts 30kg 12reps x3

7kg Lunges x 15 each leg

Clean and Press 20kg 12reps x3

Leg Press 40kg 12reps x3

Leg Extension (Bottom Rack) 12 reps x3

Outward Clams 45kg 12 reps x3


What does your leg session look like?

Follow me on Instagram for daily sparkle - emilyaclark93

Till next time...
Emily xx

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Abs are made in the Kitchen

Hey Sparkle Finders!

We're a week into training and so far so good...

This week I started my personalised nutrition plan and, as most seasoned active-folk are aware, what you eat is just as important as how hard you train when aiming for something like a marathon; you get out what you put in as they say!

I was really looking forward to starting my meal plan but there was a key issue. I am one of those people who has to work their life around 'people' and the most important people in my life are my family. It is important for me to state that I am dedicated to doing this marathon but not to the point where it makes life hard for the people around me, that is not fair.

This meal plan is great, and in an ideal world I would follow it to the letter, however, one of the most important things in my family is that we all sit down to dinner together.

It is an hour every evening (or as often we can) where we can talk about our day and enjoy each others company. If I complicated that by refusing to eat the lovingly prepared (Slimmer's World - I might add) meal because I had to have chicken and asparagus instead, that would just be a right pain in the glute!

So I had to adapt the meal plan bit to fit in with my lifestyle. As I mentioned above they are Slimmers World meals, and while they are a tad heavier on the carbs than the meal-plan options, its not exactly going to through me hugely off track.

So, for the rest of the time I have been following the plan and I actually feel amazing! There is A LOT of protein and brown rice but I have so much more energy and the food actually fills me up!

This is my absolute favourite snack right now, I had it topped with pomegranate seeds too... mmmm!!

The initial investment was a tad pricey but I didn't mind that so much.

I got my recommended supplements from Holland and Barrett; Cod Liver Oil, Well-Woman Multi-Vitamins and then some REAL peanut butter...nom nom nom!!

I opted for the jar first time round but they sell it in buckets, by the Kilogram! I still think thats 'nuts'... (sorry!)

Then I went to the gym-bunny's equivalent of ASOS... the fitness addicts nirvana ...


Like, it was not okay. I had never heard of 'Apple Fibre' but I suddenly wanted it in my life! I wanted try every protein cookie/bar they stocked and it took me a full 20mins to decide which protein flavour to go for (a lot of review reading).

I finally opted for 'Natural Chocolate' and restrained myself from filing my trolley with any more (it was the last week before payday). To top it all off I got a free vest-top which is actually really nice and I couldn't resit wearing it for the legs session that night.

So once I stocked up on all my goodies I had no excuse not to be a pinnacle of health.

I have to say, breakfasts are my absolute favourite (if I could have breakfast for every meal I would) and I did have a few lovely ones this week...

Happy Oats

Pr-oats with Blueberries

Almond Flower Porridge (with a Protein Shake)

Scrambled Eggies on Toast

A word of warning, when making Pr-Oats (protein powder with porridge oats) please whisk the protein powder in water first to get rid of lumps, mine was a bit of a funny texture and I am not convinced I liked it. The second time protein and oats was prescribed for breakfast I opted to have the protein powder in shake form, separately, but I might try again next week.

All in all I have been really proud of myself this week. I have stuck to my 'No more than 2 cups of caffeine a day' rule (hard) and I haven't touched a drop of alcohol (yet) all week and I can honestly say I haven't missed it.

I am feeling more energetic and I now have the energy to put in the training (which will be the subject of the next post), I am loving it!

One piece of advice though...don't shake your protein shaker too vigorously while wearing a white dress... it is not a good idea to accessorise with chocolate-flavoured liquid.

If you want to follow my journey on Instagram you can find me at 'emilyaclark93'

Em x

Monday, 21 September 2015

The Pursuit of ... A Marathon

Hey Sparkle Finders,

Once again its been a while and I have to admit it is because I lost my sparkle a little bit.

So to get it back, I have set myself a goal, a real goal and one that I am investing time, effort (and money) in. In 6 months time I WILL run a Marathon.

I haven't really had a hobby since I was a child when I did all the normal (if rather middle-class) extra-curricular activities; Ballet, Horse Riding, Gymnastics, Piano etc... But as a fully grown adult I haven't got one.

If I had been asked over the last year 'what are your hobbies' I am very ashamed to say that the answer would probably have been working and drinking wine with friends. I didn't have anything that I could really say 'Yes this a constructive activity I partake in outside of work'.

So why a marathon?

Over the last 6 months I have been going to the gym, in between work and drinking wine with friends, it is something I enjoy. Going about 3-4 times a week I did the odd class, but mostly I stuck to the treadmill. I know running, I am good at running and I could feel myself getting stronger as I ran.

When I run, it is one of the very few times that I actually feel proud of my body, which is very unfair given the cr**p i have put it through in the last 5 years. But there you go (!)

So when choosing a hobby, why should it not be something I do already? But here is the rub, I had plateaued. I could run 10 km in a good time but I wasn't getting any fitter and my body wasn't getting much stronger so what now?

It was becoming a bit of a 'running' joke at the gym (pun intended), I was known as the girl who runs, on the same treadmill, and that's all I do. Quite a few times I was told by the gym instructors that I needed to warm-up and cool down and also add in weights to my training.

But no, I just kept running...

I mean, I did start doing an Abs class every week and I do love a good Zumba session, but the whole weights thing.... I didn't get it. That was up until I gave into Louis, a PT, who offered me a weights induction session and, in spite of myself, I loved it.

I could feel my muscles again and that sense of strength came back. I was sold. I wanted to learn more about weights and structure it into a real training plan rather than plodding along as I was doing just running and doing the odd class.

So I signed up with Louis and I became one of those people who can now smugly say 'oh well my PT says...'- you know those people you want to punch in the face (yeah that's me sorry guys).

Now when it came to setting goals I was very clear that I didn't want to lose weight (not after last time - see posts circa 2012/3) but I needed something to aim for, something I could set my sights on.

I had already signed up for the London Marathon for 2016 (but I don't find out if I get on it until October) nevertheless there is also a Marathon in Leeds in May so the goal is there and I have no excuse not to reach it.

So this is the beginning of the 6-month marathon journey; a goal to aim for & a reason to write again.

Time to buy a protein shaker..

E x

Sunday, 26 April 2015

The Big Wardrobe Spring Clean

Its that time of year again, when the wardrobe is bursting at the seams and yet I still have NOTHING TO WEAR!

And so it is times like these when a wardrobe clear-out is needed - but where do you start!?

The best idea I have found has come from Boxes2Move who advise that you to sort your clothes into three categories - Throw, Fave or Favour.

It is pretty self explanatory, but for those of you who are fond of checklists and questionnaires (like me) they have produced this handy little infographic to make the chore of de-cluttering as pain-free as possible.

So the sleeves got rolled up and I faced my wardrobe head on...

First category - Throw. 

I have a real metal block when it comes to throwing away clothes. Whether it is because I am still a slave to my money-saving student ways...Why throw something away which I spent money on so that I then have to spend MORE money on something else(!?) ...

Or whether it is because I am a self-confessed hoarder... But a jumper with a hole in it might be fashionable one day (!)

What I do know is, I have to be brutal! Like ripping off a plaster - that All Saints dress with an irreparable hole... gone.

 That DIY tie-dye the-shirt... bye bye.

Those self-cut denim shorts I wore for four straight days at Glastonbury in 2009... bin for you - wait, actually I can't throw them away...

This brings me to the second category - Fave.

There are some items which are just to special to throw away- they hold memories which can't be replaced and their threads hold secret stories which will probably never be told to anyone until 2050 when the grandkids doubt that you were once 'cool'.

Like those self-cut shorts ... they saw me drink my first underaged tin of lager and helped attract a rather gorgeous boy with half a blue face whom I snogged while watching Lady Gaga.

Incidentally, the boy with half a blue face is now one of my best friends, and even though life's pace has sped up, he will always be a very special person in my life.

Glastonbury 2009 - Without half a blue face.

Fave also includes that rather expensive winter coat that was bought on a whim in the Lake District which comes out at Christmas and makes you feel like a golden age Hollywood film star.

These are the items that need to be cherished and looked after - placed into storage waiting for that time they can be re-born whether it be to combat the first chill of winter or to relive that debauched summer memory. They will always hold a special place in the wardrobe of your heart.

Speaking of the heart the final category is all about spreading the love - Favour.

I have to admit that whenever the big wardrobe clean-out does happen (usually on a 6 monthly recurring basis) the favour aspect is initially aimed at my younger sister.

Moving her back to University recently I was helping her unpack and I am not kidding when I say that a good 50% of the items we unpacked did use to be mine. I am not saying this as a criticism- I think it is great that the clothes I invested my pocket money/student loan in are getting a new lease of life. My only bug bear is that they do tend to look better on by sister...grrrr

However once the more beautiful sibling has snaffled up her share of my wardrobe rejects I do tend to stuff the rest of the wearable items into the first charity plastic bag that 'fulumps' through my letterbox.

I still love visiting a good charity shop, you never know what you might stubble across! My Graduation dress was a charity shop find- who'd a thunk it!

The charity shop Graduation dress

And if you can't bare to give away an item for free there is always Ebay, Gumtree or Wallapop for you to re-coup some of your losses and fund a new item - refreshing the wardrobe for summer.

Coming to a charity shop near you soon...
All in all it has been a very useful exercise and I can say, with my hand on my heart, that my wardrobe is looking a lot more organised and I even found pieces I had forgotten about.

So when wondering what to wear for my mothers 50th birthday meal recently I revived an FCUK dress which had been gathering wrinkles in the back of the wardrobe for months!

Happy 50th Birthday Mum 

So now I do have something to wear - Problem Solved!

Love x

Thursday, 23 April 2015


The Pursuit of Sparkle has always been about looking forward- living in the moment and not dwelling on the past.

However, I have been inspired to go against this blogs principles do my first ever #ThrowbackThursday!

The inspiration comes from Mural's Wallpaper who are running this great campaign - 'Blogging Around the World'.

They are asking bloggers like me (and maybe you) to share a photo of a place that means a lot to them - with the end goal being that Mural's can then create a World Map of memories for their World Map Collection.

So for my #ThrowbackThursday I am taking you back to my proudest moment - scoring the last goal of the last match for the UK Ladies Football Team at the Tri-Campus Games.

Starting the History Ladies Football team in my final year of University was one of my proudest achievements. Making it to China was a huge milestone for me. It not only opened my eyes to the world beyond Europe but also taught a lot about myself. It inspired me to take 'strong not skinny' seriously, it required me to push my own boundaries and most of all, it taught me that wherever you are in the world, if you just say yes, wonderful things can happen.

So here is my #ThrowbackThursday:
Flying the flag for the UK- Ningbo Campus, China
To read the original blog I wrote about my Tri-Campus experience (and to have an ogle at the rest of the pictures) all you have to do is click here

I want to find out where my fellow bloggers have explored so I nominate Champagne&Lemonade and HoneyPlate to share their travels with the blogosphere.

Love x

Friday, 17 April 2015

Life is a Picnic at The Garden Kitchen

For me, family has always been the most important part of my life and so when Easter came around it wasn’t the chocolate that excited me, it was the prospect of spending Easter Sunday with the fam – drinking prosecco, eating yummy food and enjoying the feeling of bliss that comes with being around people who love you unconditionally.

The sun was shining (pathetic fallacy at its best) and it was so warm, we couldn’t believe it.  Piling into two cars my mum, dad, sister, grandparents and I made our way to Holden Clough Nursery in Bolton-by-Bowland to indulge in Afternoon Tea at their Garden Kitchen.

For those of you unfamiliar with this part of the world, Bolton-by-Bowland is what every other country in the world thinks England looks like. It’s all green fields, little stone bridges and winding narrow country roads- it’s beautiful.

Arriving at The Garden Kitchen it is really unassuming. There are little pots of sprouting shrubs everywhere (this is the nursery bit) and you really don’t expect much. Then you get to the Tea Room.

Choosing a table outside to bask in the Sunshine we already knew what to order. The Garden Kitchen is famous for their picnic bench afternoon teas and, as it was Easter, they had designed a truly indulgent one to mark the holiday.

Starting out with our complimentary glass of prosecco we were all in the mood for celebrating and as the picnic benches were presented it really did feel special.

Mini bruschetta like savouries, a glass wellington boot filed with banana milkshake, a carrot cupcake in a flower pot and a crème egg cheesecake in a little bucket were just some of the delights that weighed down the bench of goodies all watched over by the cutest Easter Bunny shortbread biscuit.

The mini delights did not last long with the mini chocolate Easter Nest tart being a firm favourite.

The Easter Nest Favourite and the Welly Banana Milkshake

Polishing off a gallon of tea we were all suitably stuffed and very reluctant to move from our little sunspot.

Looking around at my family I felt truly happy- I can never express how grateful I feel when I stop and think about how lucky I am to have such a loving family.

To remember the occasion I bought my sister and I a pair of the glass wellington boot glasses which the banana milkshake was served in- My sister pointed out they would be as shot glasses- to help you get absolutely welly’d (whheyyyy) but for me it was a symbol of how my sister and I come as a pair (cheesy).
My beautiful sister and our pair of glass wellington boots.

Needless to say, it was the perfect way to spend an Easter Sun-day

Love x

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Showing My True Colours

Hello Sparkly People!

It's time for one of those posts which starts with bit of a grumble...

Since the 1950’s its been expected that women could ‘Do It All’ and as the decades have passed this has evolved in ‘Being Perfect’. 

Do you have a great family, do you also have amazing friends, are you keeping fit, looking preened and do you have a brain the size of planet with a sparkling wit to match? This is what the modern woman judges herself by.

It is the pursuit of perfection which sometimes gets us all into a bit of a mess and yet we still try. So in 'Showing My True Colours' I have been attempting to see if it is possible to fulfill all the above… without making a mess (kind of).

It is no secret that I have an amazing family and the Easter weekend is the perfect time to show my gratitude. The next post after this will be sharing our lovely Easter celebrations with you all/ ogling at the yummy food from The Garden Kitchen.

Likewise, I have always been amazing lucky to have the best girls and guys around me and hopefully tonight’s Easter exploits will also be in a future post… unless I forget to take pictures which, given the amount of bubbles I usually consume with Steph Baron, will probably happen!

Anyway, down to the point of this post...

Showing My True Colours! Keeping fit has always been a ‘trend’ from Jazzercise to Spinning to Zumba to that 'Hot Yoga' where you pass out from heat exhaustion. All the above come and go with the decades but I have never really found any exercise that I love more than running. That overwhelming sense of strength and determination, the exhilaration you feel as you sprint out those last few meters… ultimate buzz!

During the winter, and all the upheaval finding a new job, moving multiple times and stuff, it was hard to get into a routine and my running suffered. NO LONGER! Now I have found a job a love, I am settling back into a routine and…I have joined a gym. (honestly signing that contract is like a pre-nuptial agreement (!)…  THE COMMITMENT!!)

Anyway safe to say it has been the best decision I have ever made (like I hope marriage will be). It’s after those stressful or annoying days when you are so tired and fed-up and you just want to hit someone (a specific individual or not) and I just run. 

I get on that treadmill and run my little legs off (managed a solid 11.8km yesterday!) but however I feel, whatever my body is telling me it can handle, just that repetitive movement to a killer running soundtrack is enough to raise my spirits and give me that new lease of life to take on anything.

I have been lucky enough to be invited to take part in Run or Dye the most colorful 5K there ever was, where I will be 'Showing My True Colours'.. .all the colours! 

I mean I love running anyway but the chance to run whilst getting covered in (safe and eco-friendly) paint sounds EPIC! And then, to top it off, you get to the finish line and get covered in MORE paint while having MC’s bust some tunes so you can boogie off all those endorphins until your legs give way. 

Honestly it sounds euphoric and I am so excited! From the pictures it just looks amazing and as I said, nothing better than running your heart out to killer tunes… oh wait getting covered in paint makes it better!!!

Entry is only  £27.50 and kids under 6 can run free you don’t need to be a fitness freak you just need to want a good time. I’d love it if some of you guys came along and did it with me. It’s always more fun with friends. And my friends get a discount (Y) £3 off entry if you use the code KISDISCOUNT!

Be quick though! Ill be running it on the 18th April so sign up ASAP you here!

Now the second part of showing my true colours, and the final thing on the checklist of modern day power woman perfection, it’s the intelligence and wit thing.

Now I don’t know if I did master this, but BBC Radio 4’s Today program gave me a chance to try.
I was lucky enough to be chosen to go and take part in an interview for the Today program which required me to go and watch the ITV Leaders debate alongside my boss David Ingram MD of Bring Digital, Matt Tomkin MD of VO2 Sportswear,  Blessing Maregere the founder of Bright Futures Enterprises Ltd and Barbara Spencer, an NHS Medical Secretary.

 Watching the debate together at the MercureHotel (Red wine and bar snacks included) we were required to comment on the debate as and when we felt we had something to say (bit like political Goggle Box). Those two hours were very cleverly condensed into 4 minutes of airtime by the lovely Matthew Price (ex-BBC War correspondent) for the BBC Radio 4 Today Program.

The results of which can be found here.

Now I am not one who usually voices her opinions (*ahem*) but it was really so much fun, and while it is always nerve-wracking to voice ones views and affiliations, especially when it comes to politics, I am actually really proud of the finished result.

So there you have it. Showing My True Colours on all fronts and trying desperately to ‘Be It All’ but ultimately, you know the truth. 

It is pointless trying to pursue perfection; it will only end up messy. All you should really pursue is sparkle because the mess that comes with that is a lot more fun… i.e. getting covered in paint!

Run or Dye

 Lots of Love!