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  • Running Like a VIP In New York: Part 2

    Do you like to stay in shape on holiday? I feel that if you work out, even just once or twice, it will mean you don’t feel so bad about yourself when you get back home. If you eat and drink too much on holiday with no exercise then you’re going to have to starve yourself and exercise more when you get back and that’s not good for the post-holiday blues.

    I went to New York to run the marathon in 2013 and I found it was really easy to find running routes to warm up my legs in preparation for the main day. Running outside is so much better than a hotel gym and as more and more of us stay in an Air BnB property when we’re away, it’s important to plan ways to stay in shape. If you leave it til you’re out there then you won’t fit it in and then you’ll miss out. Here are my  top 3 running routes:

    (1) Central Park Loop

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    This is a 10K run (approx 6 miles) but if you’re not feeling that energetic then just do half of it? It’s all outside through gorgeous green scenery and if you’ve ever watched movies or TV shows  with locations  in central park (eg When Harry Met Sally / Sex and The City) then this is your chance to relive those moments. Staying in shape has never been so much fun. There are subway stops all round so you can ride to the park, run and ride back to where you’re staying.

    (2) West Hudson River Run

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    The path runs from the Bronx all the way down to Battery Park and is accessible from nearly anywhere. It’s 8.89 miles up and down but just do half or whatever you can manage. If you do it from top to bottom you’ll see the Statue of Liberty, Chelsea Piers, USS Intrepid, art installations, the George Washington Bridge.

    (3) Guided Sports Shop RunParagon Sports (Tues) or Super Runners Shop Group (Weds / Thurs or Sat)

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    If you would rather let someone else plan your route then visit the websites of these sports shops (click through the names above) and you’ll find out how to sign up. The benefit of this is you have a group to run with so you meet new people and it may even help you improve your pace. As most of them are real New Yorkers, you can get their local tips about where to eat and drink after.

    OR if its cycling you prefer the you can sign-up for individual classes at the celebs’ fave spin studio, Soulcycle. You know, the one David and Victoria Beckham are always papped at along with Katie Holmes, Orlando Bloom and Coldplay’s Chris Martin.

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    I visited the one in the West Village, as it was 10 mins walk from my hotel but there’s 11 throughout the city. Visit the SoulCycle website to book and choose a location. They’ll give you cycling shoes so all you need to bring is some suitable exercise kit.

    With all this exercise you deserve afew treats and a good night’s rest! Check out my blog post about where to sleep and eat in NYC.

    PS My tips worked. I completed the marathon in 3 : 36 and here is photo evidence, from  the framed medal and pics I proudly display in my home.

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    Running Like A VIP In New York: Part 1

    I’m a regular visitor to New York. I love the shopping, I love the eating out options (no one cooks in New York), I love the cocktail bars and I love the 24-hour vibe. This is the city that never sleeps and every time I visit I feel like I’m constantly running around. Thinking I should probably put my energy to good use, I signed up to run the New York marathon in 2013.

    There’s so much to say about the experience that I’m writing up the experience in two parts with the first one about how to rest and fuel up in style. The second part will be about where to practise running so even if you don’t do the marathon you can stay fit on holiday.

    PART 1: EATING AND SLEEPING

    To leave New York without seeing The Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty in Manhattan would be like going to London and missing out on Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. However, you won’t see any celebrities in the queue for the tourist sights – they have better things to do. So once you have that selfie of yourself in Times Square to plaster over Facebook, please remember that there is more to New York than Manhattan.

    zoe-timesSq2

    There’s more to NYC than this!

    If you want to do New York the VIP way, you won’t find it in any of the guidebooks as once a place makes it into a guidebook it gets packed with tourists. Did you go all the way to New York to hang out with other tourists? I may be the Queen of Showbiz in London, but I don’t have as many connections in New York so I put my words into practise and did my own research. I asked my friends for hotel / bar recommendations and I got over Google to find out restaurants / clubs that celebs were seen leaving. Some of it worked (and I’ve listed these places below) and some didn’t (and I’m not going to dwell on the negatives so I’ve forgotten about it and moved on).

    1)     WHERE TO STAY

    AVOID TIMES SQUARE.  When I was 21 I went to New York with my friends to celebrate graduating from University. We stayed in Times Square and we ate at chain restaurants like Ruby Tuesday. At the time I didn’t know any better but looking back on it it’s the equivalent of staying in London’s Kings Cross and ‘dining’ at Aberdeen Angus Steak House. I would never do this! In London, I like places with character.

    TRY THE JANE.

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    I found out about The Jane Hotel through Google, typing in ‘New York Travel Budget Hotel’ and seeing that there was a recent article by Time Out (NOTE – always check the date that an article is published). In the Time Out article  The Jane got 4 stars and I liked the history involved in the building, which was where the survivors of The Titanic stayed in 1912 when awaiting an inquest into the ship’s sinking. The wood-paneled, 50-square-foot rooms are actually called cabins and were inspired by vintage train sleeper compartments—there’s a single bed with built-in storage and brass hooks for hanging up your clothes, but also iPod docks and wall-mounted 23-inch flat-screen TVs (see above). However, what really sold it for me was the location – in the chic West Village, just round the corner from where Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie character had a flat in Sex and The City.

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    As rooms are approximately $99 a night, depending on the season you visit, I was initially sceptical about what I would be getting, but I was greeted by a doorman in a chic uniform and walked into a lobby that looked like it was full of character. Instead of impersonal plastic room key cards, you get a full blown brass keys.

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    Should you be feeling peckish the restaurant is an authentic French brasserie, Café Gitane. However, my favourite room by far was the bar, which is so large it is actually a ballroom.  Full of mismatched chairs, taxidermy and oriental rugs and lit by candles, it’s a midweek hipster hangout and I wouldn’t have to stumble home after one of their insanely strong cocktails. How lucky was I?

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    Yes, rooms are small but how much time do you sit on a sofa on a hotel room anyway? Exactly! I found all I needed was a bed and a TV (and that’s all you get at The Jane). There’s no bathroorm – you share a communal one with three showers per floor –but  they were immaculately clean and there was never any queuing for the shower. Towels for the shower are provided and there are toiletries inside so it is like staying in a hotel with hostel prices. You even get a fresh bottle of filtered water every day, which is more than what you get in a hotel! I photographed the view of The Hudson River from my window and my parents said it was better than their $250-a-night hotel further uptown.  I had the best view, a good TV, friendly staff and a hip bar for next to nothing prices – win, win!

    For more details about price and availability, visit The Jane Hotel website.

    2)     WHERE TO EAT

    This is a very important subject for me because I was in New York to run the Marathon. Therefore it was important to get some good hearty and healthy food into my system pre-race and to indulge in a few carbs. However, when I say carbs I don’t mean pancakes with syrup for breakfast and super-size donuts and giant squidgy cookies type of carbs. That was my reward to myself  post-race. ..so I’ve divided the food part into a few sections:

    (i) Healthy Eats

    Crosby Street Hotel

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    I found out about this through it’s sister hotels in London  – The Charlotte Street Hotel, The Covent Garden Hotel, The Haymarket Hotel and The Soho Hotel – which  are all great places to spot celebs in. If the Firmdale group which owns them can run four consistently good hotels in the UK, I was pretty convinced they could operate one in New York…and I was right.

    The hotel is decorated in a similar style to the ones in the UK – modern, classic and contemporary and full of character. Think bright fabrics, texturised wallpaper and unique sculptures.

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    However, it manages to be chic yet cosy. And it was the best meal I ate in my entire trip to New York. Three of us runners indulged in a main course and dessert and check out the photos as a partial illustration of how good it was.

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    Lamb chops with cumin mint scented Satsuma. Tender and moist with a fruity kick from the satsuma

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    Grilled rib-eye, herbed tomatoes and onions – a perfect image of what medium rare should be. The meat was packed with flavour.

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    Scallops, polenta, caper raisin sauce – large, succulent scallops, served in an extraordinarily rich sauce. Beats the traditional black pudding / pea serving suggestion by miles!

    For sides, we shared sweet potato mash (which we fought over because it was so tasty), hand cut French fries (seasoned with garlic) and fresh spinach. When it came to the table it was so pretty it was like an artwork. We trashed it all quite quickly, which is often the case with delicious food – you can’t get it in your mouth quick enough. But check out how we ended it – three spoons and one of these:

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    Funnel cake with hard cider caramel sauce and black pepper ice cream.

    I ended up running the marathon in the fast time of 3 Hours 36 Minutes and for one of the miles I visualised this cake as a motivation for me to keep going. My thinking was that if I died on the spot, I’d never get another funnel cake, which would have been tragedy!

    For details about price and to make a booking, visit The Crosby Street Hotel website.

    Bianca Italian

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    This was my ‘night-before’ meal and if I was on death row, I woudn’t be sad if I was served something like this as my last meal ever. For the price I paid, it was incredible value. Ok, it’s not as fancy as The Crosby Street hotel but it’s hearty and delicious, homely and most dishes are less than $10 (although the catch is that you do have to pay in cash not by card).

    One of my friends and I went for meat ragu with penne while our friend opted for tagliatelle. The portions were huge, making it ideal for pre-marathon carb-loading and the pasta was fresh and perfectly soft, but not too soft.

    bianca-nyc-best-pasta

    Its location in Soho, where some of the New York celebs like Maggie Gyllenhaal and Kirsten Dunst own apartments means that you may spot a celeb popping in for a quick bite. But everyone is made to feel like a celeb at Bianca’s as they immediately treat you as part of the family whether it’s your first visit of your 50th. This is why the grin on my face is this big after eating there!

    PIC OF ME

    The dining room is homely, a white dolls house and the tables are squished close together so the atmosphere is electric and buzzy. I was told about this by a friend who lived in New York for a few years and she told me it was her favourite Italian in the whole of New York. I can definitely understand why.

    For more details and to see the menu, visit the Bianca website

    (ii) Brunch Treats

    Westville

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    Westville is open all day so you can have sweet potato fries with a lunchtime ceasar salad or an evening-time piece of grilled chicken for healthy yet deliciously tasty restaurant food. We visited the one in the West Village, near The Jane Hotel, but there are branches across the city.

    The one in the West Village is absolutely tiny, you can see the kitchen from all the tables and if you want the toilet you have to walk through the kitchen! But it’s worth it.

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    Sweet potato fries with eggs benedict? Apple pancakes with apple sauce?  Poached eggs with smoked salmon, avocado and asparagus (for just $13)?

    Westville_poached_eggs_special

    After a visit to Westville your stomach will be thanking you. The portions are huge and I sometimes get bored munching through a full plate of food but every mouthful of my eggs and fries triggered involuntary moans of pleasure.

    Visit the Westville website for a full list of locations and a look at the delicious menu

    Pastis

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    This is one of THE most popular weekend brunch places. Set your alarm for a decent hour as by bagging a table at Pastis, you’re very likely to see someone very famous walk through the door. It’s run by Keith McNally, who also owns the Balthazaar restaurant in New York (which has also just opened in London) and counts USVogue editor Anna Wintour among one of his closest pals.

    It’s the food and the general Parisian chic ambience which draw the celebs to these places rather than any freebie meal – the celebs go in and pay because the place is cool in its own right. We all had a vegetable omelette with homecooked potatoes washed down with some fresh orange juice.

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    If it had been post Marathon I would have tried the pancakes with berries after seeing a plate get taken to the table opposite me. The next time I go to New York I will be returning to Pastis and I will order the pancakes, unless I go in the evening – when I’m told they do a mean steak frites followed by crème brulee.

    Check out the full menu and some pics of the gorgeous decor on the Pastis website

    (iii) Real Indulgences

    Momofuku Milk Bar

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    The cornflake with marshmallow cookie was mighty tasty but the speciality is a Compost cookie.

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    This is a mix of graham crackers, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, pretzels and potato chips. Yes, potato chips! This gives it a unique salty and sweet taste, plus it’s crispy and soft in the same mouthful. My only regret is that I only bought one. This is what it looks like, you need to get one to fully appreciate the taste.

    Find out more at the Momofuku milk bar website.

    Umami burger

    Friends in LA keep telling me that Umami is the best burger place ever. So when I heard there was one in New York, I knew it was the place for our post Marathon celebration. After running 26.2 miles, my body craved red meat and quick carbs (in the form of chips).

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    I went for a medium done classic burger served with a parmesan crisp and in a brioche bun with a martini on the side. Slightly sweeter than what I was expecting but it was reasonably priced and just what the doctor ordered. Plus if you’re going out for fancy food every night, sometimes you just need a burger. You can’t get Umami in England yet, so you’ll be one step ahead of your friends.

    Salivate over the menu on the Umami burger website.

    Make sure you add all these places to your New York must-visit list. You’ll have a better experience at these places then anywhere you would find in a guidebook. Enjoy!

    Don’t forget to see my blog post about the best running routes!

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  • Zoe Finishes The NYC Marathon Quickly

    I am proud to say that I am a finisher of the ING New York Marathon- maybe one of the hilliest cities in the world.

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    I am even happier to report that I did it in 3 hours 36 mins!

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    I did it with a crew from Barry’s Bootcamp – the celebrity gym that I go to in London and not only did we all finish, we made the most of our time in NYC. I’m going to do a full travel blog post on this as I can recommend several VIP places that are a must for any visitors to NYC. Central Park (where I’m posing with my gang below) is definitely worth a visit:

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    We checked out brunch places, bars, hotels and some lovely Italian restaurants incuding Bianca, the place where I had AMAZING pasta the day before the marathon.

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    However, right now I am dying so I will put some ice on my legs, take some painkillers and put hand to keypad to write the travel blog post when I’ve recovered. Owwwwww!

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    Run Like A VIP: Zoe’s NYC Marathon Training

    Did you know it was the New York Marathon on 3 November (less than three weeks away)? I do because I am running it this year with a few inspiring celebrities. Pamela Anderson is swapping her red Baywatch swimsuit and flip-flops for a tracksuit and trainers and Christy Turlington – the original supermodel – is making the streets of New York a catwalk in aid of her Every Mother Counts maternity charity. All this and she still looks glam while she is running, make-up free.

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    Anyway….the preparation is taking up a lot of my time right now and the more I research it the more I’ve found tips and tactics to help me run better. So I thought I’d start a new section for the next few weeks – Run Like a VIP.

    There’s so much confusing information on the web that it’s hard to know what works and what has been written for SEO purposes to advertise a new brand of trainers. Everything I write about here is what I am trying…so let’s hope it works!

    In 2009 and 2010 I ran the London marathon – my best time was 3 hr 52 minutes – so this section will have worked if I run at a quicker pace than 3 hr52 when I get to New York.

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    Today, I want to start with diet as all the experts I’ve spoken to (including celebrity trainer Shane Collins who is part of my NY marathon team) tell me that it’s 70% diet and 30% exercise.

    My first question was should I give up alcohol?

    All the forums I’ve read differ hugely on this but there is a common theme. The ones that are pro drinking (to relax or wind down) are the ones for whom alcohol is a big part of their life. Ie they are used to it. The downsides are that alcohol does affect your performance the following day, it makes you more dehydrated and it adds calories, which take you away from your optimal racing weight. Personally, I also tend to crave a calorific hangover cure after alcohol (as I am not used to it) and this is also harmful to my racing weight.

    Therefore, it depends on the time you want to get. If like me, you have a goal in mind, then you might as well give it up as you want to do everything possible to get a better time? I gave it up 4 weeks before the race BUT I am going to make an exception on 23 October, when I am nominated for London Personality Of The Year in the London Lifestyle Awards.

    My second question was how can I control my increased appetite without injuring myself?

    This is a serious question as I suffered an injury while training for 2010 and I truly believe it was because I wasn’t eating enough. I was on a mission to reduce my weight as I thought it would help me run quicker and I ignored the hunger pangs that were telling me to refuel my muscles after a run. Therefore my body was depleted while I was running distances of 10 miles or more and it took its toll on my Achilles tendon. My body had inadequate padding to cushion my running and my Achilles strained.

    This time, I am making sure to eat 2000 calories a day (a woman’s guideline) and I am doing it the healthy way. A 200 calorie breakfast before a run. 250 calories of carbs after. 500 calories for lunch. Then snacks and a balanced dinner (protein and carbs).

    There are three things in particular I’m loving right now:

    Fave Breakfast  – Banana on a bagel

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    Fave Snack – Creative Nature’s  brownie bar, closely followed by the tropical treat bar. In fact, all three varieties are delicious (as well as being packed with protein and good stuff)

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    Fave Dinner – Sweet Potato with salmon fillet and sweet chilli sauce

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    So, there you have it – two of my training secrets. I’ll be back tomorrow with some more. Let’s build up slowly but surely…

    You can find ALL the tips in the training diary area of the blog here

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