Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Back from skiing, I feel incredibly guilty that I have only two weeks until London and I have not been able to run for a whole week. Yet my legs feel tired from the skiing and sitting in a car for 10 hours. I bet Paula Radcliffe wouldn't go skiing two weeks before a marathon. My body also feels different from 10 days of a very 'German' diet....I took some porridge, but that ran out pretty quickly and I had to face white rolls, cold meats and cheese for breakfast, and then something very heavy and meaty for lunch and supper. Not an ideal runner's diet....

But now I am home and back to the running. I did the 16 miles that I should have done on Sunday yesterday and it was really, really hard. I just hope that this was because I had spent such a long time in the car the day before and that my legs start to feel a bit fresher as the week progresses.

I have just been introduced to a really funny thread on the Runner's World website about completely crazy runners who are addicted to muesli - Muesliholics - see http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/forum/forummessages.asp?URN=4&UTN=121663 .

I really love to eat muesli for breakfast too, especially in the summer before big runs. I do find porridge difficult to eat in hot weather, so muesli is a good, healthy, low G.I. option for a runner's breakfast. I often make it myself with jumbo oats, dried fruit, seeds and nuts, but I find the sugar-free natural muesli selection in the supermarkets is pretty good toothese days. My current favourite is Dorset Cereal's, 'simply delicious muesli', which is a delicious blend of raisins, sunflower seeds, dates, hazelnuts and brazil nuts with multi-grain flakes - see www.dorsetcereals.co.uk . I tend to eat my muesli with natural yoghurt, which I thin down with a little milk or water and I often add some fresh fruit (strawberries and blueberries are my favorites) and an extra sprinkle of seeds. Muesli really is packed full of good nutrients: the oats are good for your heart and lower cholesterol, the other multi-grain flakes are full of fibre, as is the dried fruit; the nuts are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and then you have the added protein from the milk or yoghurt you eat it with. Muesli has a good low glycaemic index and should keep you going until lunchtime. The other good thing is that you do not have to add any sugar or honey as the fruit sweetens it naturally.

The only problem with muesli is that it is so full of yummy things that it is quite chewy and can take a while to eat. The answer to this is to make Bircher Muesli, which is basically muesli which has been soaked for a few hours. I often make this the night before a long run, so I can just get up and eat it without having to prepare anything too compicated. Bircher muesli was introduced around the turn of the last century by the Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner for patients in his hospital, where a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables was an essential part of therapy. It is traditionally soaked overnight but a couple of hours is enough with modern ingredients. The original Bircher-Benner muesli recipe contains condensed milk but you can really use any liquid you fancy. Apple juice is popular but I find this too sweet. It really is a question of taste. I like to use skimmed milk or natural yoghurt and skimmed milk, but you could use cream, flavoured yoghurt, greek yoghurt or even water.

Bircher Muesli
This is my ideal recipe to serve one:
1 1/2 cups of natural unsweetened muesli with fruit and nuts or make your own with a cup of jumbo oats, a handful of dried fruit (raisins, green raisins, dates, figs, apricots, cranberries etc), a handful of nuts and seeds (walnuts, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)
  1. Pour over enough liquid (in my case. skimmed milk and a splash of apple juice) to cover generously. Sometimes I add a sprinkle of nutmeg or you could try cinnamon or even cardamom. Leave for a couple of hours or overnight in the fridge.
  2. Grate or chop an apple into the bowl before eating. Add more fresh fruit. some toasted seeds for a bit of crunch and a dollop of yoghurt.

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