Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Review : parkrun Barcode T-Shirts

Last year, I think it was at the Running Show (which I’ll be attending again this year in its revised incarnation as the Running & Endurance Show), I discovered that you could get your parkrun barcode printedon a t-shirt. I was really smitten with this idea, more so even than the natty key tags and wristbands that you can buy these days.
At the time I was less smitten with the designs, and the price. My self-laminated-with-sticky-tape barcodes were still going strong and I’d yet to forget it on Saturday morning by virtue of having one everywhere I could think of (key dish, car, sports bag…) So I didn’t buy one. But I didn’t forget about it and when Miles Stronger, the company behind these little beauties, came up with a new colour-way and a discount code I finally ignored the little voice telling me I had enough kit and bought one.
I arrived home from parkrun one Saturday to find it waiting on the doormat. Damn! I had to wait a whole week before I could test it out. Testing day happened to coincide with meeting Strava Ambassador, John Clarke, pre-Gatliff. The distinct design would have made it easy to pick me out of a crowd, had I not arrived at 8:30 before the masses.

I am really impressed with the top. I’m long in the body but it didn’t feel short, the cut was lovely and the fabric wasn’t at all flimsy. The real test... scanning time! There aren’t many of these shorts around and the scanning volunteer at Orpington was rather impressed when I just held out the hem of my shirt. Even more so when it scanned! I’d had my usual barcode as a back up but my text and email results came through as usual so it worked! Now I just have to decide whether to wear my “50” or barcode t-shirt each week.

The shirts cost £35 but are worth the money considering the quality and personalisation. They’re made from proper technical fabric, available in three designs and come in men’s, women’s and children’s cuts.

Miles Stronger also stock the fantastic Chia Charge flapjackbars. I first tried these at the Trailblazer last summer. I really like the consistency and the fact they’re not too sweet, having a bit of sea salt in them. I might be stocking up on some of these for Gatiff… 

Monday, 17 November 2014

Review : Juiven8 Protein Fruit Juice

I've recently been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to try a brand new protein drink that's coming to market. As you know I've tried many other protein products in the past including Natural Whey Company, MyProtein and Everything But The Cow to name a few. In a market crammed with products of this nature, Juiven8 has managed to differentiate itself.
What they sayJuivenis a delicious ready-to-drink protein fruit juice, which helps promote toned bodiesboost workout performance, support weight management and aid post-workout recoveryBlended with real fruit and coconut water, Juiven8 is packed full of antioxidantselectrolytesvitamins and amino acidsAvailable in two fantastic flavours, Juiven8 is available in packs of 250ml bottles - perfect for consuming in the gym, at work, or on the go.

What makes it different:  Out of existing products that I'm familiar with I would have to say that Juiven8 is most similar to Everything But The Cow. Both are ready mixed, fruit based protein drinks but Juiven8 contains coconut water, which EBTC doesn't, and has a higher protein content at 12g vs EBTC's 7g. 

What's in it: Lots of good things but predominately fruit juice, puree and coconut water with a little bit of stevia for natural sweetness. Coconut water is known for being naturally isotonic, rehydrating and rich with natural electrolytes, cholesterol free, 99% fat free, low in carbs and naturally occurring sugars. Depending on which variety you opt for you can also benefit from high fibre and antioxidant acai berry and vitamin C rich blackcurrants or digestion assisting pineapple and immune system-enhancing mangoes providing a hit of vitamins A, B6, C and E.

My verdict: I didn't expect to like these as much as I do. I found them to be delicious and refreshing without the slight heaviness you sometimes get from a protein drink. I thought it more like a smoothie than a whey drink and a great alternative to milk or milkshake based protein drinks. Because it's pre-mixed you don't risk lumps of powder spoiling an otherwise delicious drink.

These have been especially good for me post-workout in the evening. If I've eaten dinner before working out it's nice to have a protein drink afterwards to stave off midnight hunger pangs. My favourite is the Mango and Pineapple variety, not only because I'm a fan of mango but also because it was slightly smoother than the Blackcurrant ans Acai flavour, which have more noticeable bits in it, presumably from blackcurrant skins.

I can't comment on whether or not these live up to any claims about boosting performance and so on, but there are studies that support these claims for protein in general terms so I see no reason why these, in conjunction with a balanced diet and regular exercise wouldn't contribute to recovery, performance and weight management.

At £3.95 RRP these aren't cheap but if you use protein drinks, value natural ingredients and convenience then they might be for you. They are available to order online and will soon be coming to selected gyms and retailers.

If you fancy trying Juiven8 I'm delighted to be able to offer you a 10% discount on all orders until 1st December using code V9CRD4DM7LW1. This can also be used in conjunction with the free shipping that's being offered on packs of 12 or more so there are some good savings to be made. Enjoy!

Find out more about Juiven8 on Facebook and twitter.

Disclaimer: I was sent six bottle of Juiven8 for free in return for writing a review. Opinions are my own.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Loudly Proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!"

This week's training:
Saturday: parkrun
Sunday: Rest day
Monday: 4 mile run
Tuesday:  8 mile run & Body Balance
Wednesday: 6 miles on cross trainer, 5 mile cycle
Thursday: Rest day
Friday: Rest day

Woo! Finally! A good week's worth of training. Much needed after a couple of "off" weeks. It's been cold wet and miserable but I found a way around it - the gym. Now I'm not a fan of running in the gym; give me a cross trainer or a bike though and I'm pretty happy, but if it's between that and not doing anything, then I'll do that. It's warm, dry, safe and makes use of a membership that was neglected over the summer. On the downside I do end up staring at the TV screens and inadvertently getting involved with The Apprentice, Eastenders and all sorts of rubbish. There's a joy in being almost the last one there of an evening and going home to PJs and chai tea in bed.
In my PJs... in the garden, at the weekend with my mum. Girls having fun!
I could have done with an extra day to recover from a weekend of frivolity but it's been an insanely busy week. Making time for exercise was one of the best things I could have done for myself. It may have felt like just one more chore on the list but having nothing to concentrate on but moving is surprisingly rejuvenating. I've even managed to keep up with my meditation and flexibility exercises every day. Juggling work, study, training, hen do arrangements and session planning for RunFitUK not to mention PT sessions, baking a cake and packing for the weekend has been a challenge, not least because it all had to be done before Thursday morning. The urgency was because last night I traveled to my parent's for a weekend of birthday celebrations for my dad. There's a full house so I'm relegated to sleeping in "the music room" in between stacks of CDs, recording equipment and guitars. I'm actually rather looking forward to it.
Tomorrow I'm going to be a parkrun tourist at Orpington. When I'm at my parent's I usually got to Bexley but I'm meeting up with fellow Gatliff-participant, John, for chit chat before the day. It just seemed natural to use parkrun as our meet-up, and it's a great excuse to try a different course.

It's been a mad and productive week but a terrific one and I'm looking forward to next week which will be equally mad. On top of all the usual I've got a couple of reviews to write, a talk on Nutrition at the local bike shop, the Running and Endurance Show, a girl's night in and an afternoon entertaining a 13 year old boy. He's asked if we can bake/make things. Fine by me! Here's to squeezing the most out of life...

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Tagnix Watch Tags : ID for Sportspeople

What do you take with you when you go running? If I'm going on a long run, something 12 miles or over, my list looks a little like this:
  • Waist pack
  • Tissue
  • Plasters
  • iPod and/or phone
  • Gels/nakd bars
  • Keys
  • Garmin
That's it, aside from what I wear on my person. A jacket may get tied around my waist and I'll take some hi-viz if it's dark. I occasionally take money and I'll stop in pubs for water (I dislike carrying a bottle and I'm not yet on good terms with my camelbak). If I'm going out for a shorter run the list is more likely to be:
  • Garmin
  • Keys
I'll take my iPod about 50% of the time and rarely take my phone. When you run the same roads, locally, repeatedly, it's easy to become complacent about these things. At this time of year, especially, I should always take my phone, some cash and some ID, just in case something were to happen. I now at least have no excuse not to have some ID on me thanks to tagnix.

Tagnix make a range of ID tags and bracelets that can be engraved with your details so that someone can be contacted and vital medical information is readily available. They already offer shoe tags which would be great for runners, but I know I run in different shoes and it would be easy to forget to switch it over. Even better, in my opinion, are the new watch tags. I am never without my Garmin on a run so having some ID that attaches to it makes perfect sense.
They come in two sizes and a variety of colours and just like all their other products, can be engraved with your choice of details of up to 6 lines of text and 25 characters per line. I've been rocking the wider tag in green for a couple of weeks now. As more of my running takes place after dark this definitely gives me (and my mum) peace of mind.
Barely visible
I got mine engraved with my name, ICE details, NHS number and allergy info but you might want to put your blood type, club details or postcode on there; anything you feel is pertinent. The coloured part of the tag is made of a flexible, silicon-type material, which makes it really easy to slip over buckles and so on, to attach to your watch strap. I have to tuck the end of the strap underneath it every time I fasten the watch but other than that I forget it's there. It just quietly sits there, doing it's job of recording information, and I don't give it any thought. that's exactly what it needs to do.
The metal part hasn't threatened to come away from it's strap, scratched, dented or faded. Of course it's early days but  so far so good.

If you're like me and prefer to travel light or are prone to forgetting to take ID with you, then this would be a great product for you. These aren't expensive and are a good investment.

Tagnix very kindly provided me with a tag to test for free in return for a review. All opinions are, as ever, my own. I genuinely think these rock.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Can I Be Weak?

I won't lie. There's no point, and regular readers have probably noticed anyway. I've been struggling with my training. Dark nights, wet weather, illness... all conspire to sap my motivation and turn determination into despair. It's not long until my first ultra and I know I'm not as prepared as I need or want to be.

My self motivation has been petering out and getting past that has been really tough. I found myself being a little hesitant to ask for help and support in the usual places. As a Personal Trainer and coach it's part of my job to encourage and motivate others. Surely I should be able to do that for myself as well? Can I still be credible if I need to ask for help and support from my friends and social media? A piece of me doesn't feel as though I can admit to this sort of weakness on such a public platform any more. I should be demonstrating enthusiasm, eagerness and strength at all times.

But in reality I am only human and subject to the same barriers as any client I may have. By recognising that I'm struggling, identifying my barriers and the sorts of help I need, I am demonstrating a strength. So what's going on and how am I going to deal with it?

Running Alone: It's easier to make excuses to yourself than someone else and sometimes running alone is just plain boring. Maybe it's time to bite the bullet and go to whatever running club sessions I can that fit with my training plan, just for variety. I know a couple of people at work who could be persuaded to go out for shorter runs at lunchtime. I can badger local people on twitter a bit more and make more use of the RMR group on Facebook to find running buddies.

Time Management: I have a goal and a focus. But there are lots of other things happening in my life right now that threaten to take over. I already try and put my runs into my diary as appointments but it's not fail safe. There's not enough time to put more structured training in place for Gatliff but I can take the lessons learned from this into the next plan. I will have less runs but better quality sessions, targeted strength training and recovery. I will set expectations with friends and family more strongly.

Illness: Not much to be done about this one. Allow time to recover. Pick up where I left off and don't try to cram in missed sessions.

Nerves: I'll get round it, through sheer determination, by repeating the Team Bear motto (suffer but NEVER surrender) and by thinking about my Aunt who was so brave, supportive and strong.

Even writing this down has immediately made me feel more positive about the few weeks of training I have left, and also about my next training phase. If you or someone you know is also struggling, try making a list of issues and solutions. It could be extremely helpful.

Do you have any other tips for overcoming bad patches in training?

Friday, 7 November 2014

How Hard Is It To Take A Sick Day?

This week's training
Saturday: Rest day
Sunday: 12 mile run
Monday: Sick day
Tuesday: Sick day
Wednesday: Flexibility exercises
Thursday:  Hill session, Body Balance & flexibility exercises
Friday: 6 mile run & flexibility exercises

I hate being ill. It doesn't happen often thank goodness but I'm not a good patient. I don't much enjoy the broken sleep, congestion, snotty nose and unpredictable appetite part. I quite like the being-off-work part, although the ability to work from home these days means it's harder to justify taking a proper sick day. And if I can justify a sick day then you can be sure I can't be going out gallivanting around in my running gear. So I fester on the sofa in my sweatpants under a blanket, drifting in and out of consciousness as some Scandinavians try and solve a murder on TV, feeling sorry for myself and thinking of how I could make better use of the time if only I felt well, imagining that my fitness is deteriorating with every minute that passes.

I'll stare out of the window at the glorious sunny day and think how I should be out there making the most of a day off work by doing a long run... completely missing the point of being off sick. I stress about my next race. How will I ever cover the distance now I've missed two, no three, training runs in a row?!
My Monday looked a lot like this.
This is irrational. I need to rest. My body needs to recover, to sleep, to repair. These things happen and the race will be what it will be. I will complete the distance. It may not be comfortable but I know I can do it. Provided I'm sensible. So I've spent some days this week practicing the art of not worrying about my missed training runs and trying to enjoy afternoon naps. I cancelled my long awaited bike maintenance class and caught up on my Nordic Noir instead. I took a few early nights and ate lots of fruit and veg.

I'm grateful that I was able to enjoy my weekend before this, whatever it is, set in. A visit to London to see a friend started on Halloween with pizza and films. Can you believe I've never seen The Addams Family all the way through before? We paid a visit to Tate Britain to see the Turner exhibition (my favourite artist ever since school) and I got all inspired at the European Outdoor Film Tour, which was at the Royal Geographical Society. All the times I've visited the Royal Albert Hall and I never realised the RGS was just around the corner.

I think the illness started to kick in on Sunday. My planned long run turned into 12 miles paced by some Audiofuel. It was good to practice running slowly. While I've been thrilled to be hitting 8:xx miles more regularly that sort of pace won't do me any good on my ultra so it was not a waste of a run at all. I doubt I'll get in the sort of miles I want to before race day now but there's no point fretting. If I don't let myself get better I won't be running it at all.

How do you cope when you're ill?

I'm running Gatliff 50k on November 30th in aid of Hospiscare and in memory of my Aunt. I'd really appreciate your help in trying to raise £1000. If you can spare a few pounds please hop over to my JustGving page to donate. Thank you.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Vegetarian Cooking with Quorn

I've been a vegetarian, by choice, since the age of ten. Becoming vegetarian so young meant that I didn't learn how to cook with meat but started out by using meat replacement products like Sos-mix, TVP and Quorn. Choices were rather limited but I especially liked Quorn because it doesn't have a strong after taste and is great at absorbing flavours. Their mince and chicken pieces were a staple in my freezer. 

Over the years my style of cooking developed and the way I think about putting a meal together now differs from most of my meat-eating friends. I tend to make pulses and vegetables the stars rather than using meat substitute products. But there are a lot more choices these days and every now and then I will pay a visit to the vegetarian sections of the chiller and freezer aisles to see what's new. 

Supermarket own brand products are improving but Quorn are ahead of the game in my opinion. Not only are their products a good, lo-in-saturated-fat source of protein but their range is vast. I've tried many of their sandwich slices, burgers, sausages and fillets but I've also tried some of the more adventurous products such as "pork" pies, "pepperoni" (worked well on pizzas) and "scampi". All good. In fact the only product that I would never return to was their bacon. Most recently I've tried their chorizo sausages.

I can't recall ever eating real chorizo but often come across recipes that use it so was keen to try the vegetarian version. I rather struggled for ideas but hitting the cook books soon turned up a couple of recipes I fancied trying. First up a frittata inspired by a recipe from Jamie at Home. 
I fried half an onion, two sliced Quorn chorizo sausages, a handful of boiled and sliced potatoes and some fresh rosemary over a medium heat until the onion was soft and everything else a little crispy. To this I added four beaten eggs, seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked it for a couple of minutes to set the bottom then popped it under a preheated grill until the top was puffed up and golden.
I used blue heritage potatoes for colour and served it with some roasted vegetables, peas, beans and a Leffe Ruby. The chorizo had a lovely smoky flavour and made for a very hearty meal. The frittata was equally tasty served cold with some salad for lunch the next day.
I still had a couple of sausages left so decided to make butter beans with tomato & chorizoThis was proper comfort food and so quick and easy to make! Despite being a small portion the chorizo made it really filling and I thought that the flavour and texture shone through a lot more here. Of course I don't know how the taste and texture compares to the real deal but it was much as I expected it to be, having watched many many cookery programmes. 
This is one of the most interesting Quorn products I've tried lately and I'm considering getting another pack of these sausages so that I can try these spanish rice and all day breakfast recipes. Quorn also do chorizo in slices which might be an interesting addition to a tapas board.

Although I don't expect to suddenly start using a lot more meat replacement products in my cooking it's nice to be able to ring the changes and have some more options available to me, especially when entertaining meat-eaters. I fancy trying the pork steaks, garlic sausage, turkey burgers and Chef's selection meals.

You certainly don't have to be a vegetarian to enjoy Quorn. My dad, a dedicated meat-eater in a family of vegetarians, enjoys their pork pies and cooks something he calls gumbo (nothing like the authentic version) with the mince. If you are stuck for inspiration when faced with cooking for a vegetarian why not check out their recipes. Get inspiration for Meat Free Mondays from twitter and get involved on Facebook.

Are you a fan of Quorn? Could you be persuaded? If you're a vegetarian are there any other meat replacement products you'd recommend or do you prefer not to use them at all?
Disclaimer: I was sent vouchers to try a selection of quorn products of my choosing for free in return for writing a review. All opinions are my own.