Friday, 31 October 2014

Being Kind and Giving Myself Space

This week's training:
Saturday: Rest day / walking around Copenhagen
Sunday: Rest day / walking around Copenhagen
Monday: 9.5 mile run
Tuesday: Body Balance
Wednesday: 5 mile run
Thursday: Rest day
Friday: 5 mile run

Although I've marked the weekend as rest days, we did a lot of walking around Copenhagen (separate post on it next week) and I was very glad of every opportunity to duck into a coffee shop for refreshment. I had a wonderful time out there and felt rather blue on Monday as I got back to the grind. Blue and tired. My training plan had me down for a 10 mile run and it was so tempting just to sack it off and curl up on the sofa. Fortunately the arrival of a new running top and being home from work at a decent time just tipped the balance. New RockMyRun tracks also helped. It was no small surprise to find my legs feeling unusually strong; it was one of those rare occasions where I feel I could have run on and on. I didn't, obviously, but I enjoyed my dinner all the more afterwards.

Although there are only three runs listed above they've all been quality (especially tonight's sub 9-minute mile average 5 miler), and the Body Balance was bliss - having a session dedicated to stretching my muscles does me the world of good. I'm fully aware what I'm managing isn't perfect but I'm doing the best I can. I've been trying to eat more healthily this week and largely succeeded I think aside from Wednesday night when I decided to be kind to myself with an evening of Harry Potter and a whole chocolate frog after my run. That frog is solid. Bashing it with a saucepan in the hope of shattering it only dented the frog (thankfully not the pan) but, challenge as it was, I did manage to eat the entire thing!
Quality sessions, eating well, stretching and being kind to myself occasionally. Those are my goals for the rest of the year. Under my current training plan I'm meant to be running five times a week which I've realised is a real struggle for me. When I trained for my first marathon I did it on three runs a week (plus cross training), which worked really well and I'm going to go back to that for my next bout of training. The races and plans for next year are coming in thick and fast now which means one thing... new diary!
I love a new diary. I've already marked in all the important things: birthdays, holidays, study workshops and races. I'd been keeping track of all the races I would like to do and worked out which ones might be feasible so they're nicely spread out for a change. I love planning and can get a bit carried away with it, cramming too much in. It's a constant battle. The next step is to fill in the training sessions. My current diary tells me it's exactly one month until Gatliff! That's come around rather quickly.

This weekend I'm off to the European Outdoor Film Tour in London and I'm looking forward to a lovely long run on Sunday. Next week I have a bike maintenance class and I need to test out my camelback on a short run. I've not fared well with them before but this is a new one and I'm hoping I can adjust it so as to avoid chafing. It will be mighty useful for Gatliff if I can.

What are you up to this weekend? Will you be doing anything for Halloween or making the most of the warm weather?

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Ten Things To Do to Become a Successful Runner-Entrepreneur

Today's post is written by Justine Dolorfino, the marketing manager for The Undress, a fashionable and functional mobile changing room. She ran sprints in high school, transitioned to 5Ks in college, and graduated to longer distances in 2013 before completing her first half marathon in 2014. She also enjoys weightlifting and hiking. 
Have you ever looked at a product and thought, ‘I could have thought of that!’? Why not give it a shot?

We’ve learned a lot while developing The Undress, a dress that helps female runners change into or out of their running gear (or any outfit!), anywhere, without ever getting naked! Entrepreneurship is a lot of hard work, but here are ten things that you can do to set yourself up to become a successful runner-entrepreneur!
  1. Look for solutions: Take the first step towards entrepreneurship by always keeping an open mind. Recognize the problems and annoyances you experience during your day-to-day life and try to visualize how you could make it easier.
  2. Get inspired by your passion: The idea for The Undress came suddenly after a group run, when Dennis noticed just how many women were changing out of their race gear under towels, in dirty restrooms or portapotties, or in their cars. Take the solution-hunting exercise one step further and apply it to running, specifically. What are the problems and annoyances you’ve experienced while running? What solutions can you think up?
  3. Do your research: Once you have your idea, learn more about how you can make it a reality. What are the risks and challenges? What will it take to build your product? How can you protect your invention with a patent? What products are already out there that solve your problem and how does yours differ?
  4. Work with a team: You can go it alone - but you don’t need to! Surround yourself with like-minded, talented people you can work with and put your minds together. Each person can play to their strengths and do what they do best!
  5. Take the time to do it right: We spent nine months developing The Undress before we launched our Kickstarter campaign. It was worth it, too; we learned more about making a better product and what we needed to do!
  6. Understand who will buy your product: One of the best things about being a runner-entrepreneur who creates solutions for fellow runners is that you already have a head start! But besides you and your friends, who would be interested in your invention -- and why?
  7. Connect with fellow runners: Are you in a running club? What about a Meetup or Facebook Group? Local runners are future friends and training buddies. They’re also potential product testers and promoters for you and your start-up!
  8. Don’t be afraid of criticism: We went through several different versions of The Undress before settling on our design. Testers’ feedback was invaluable, too. It’ll help you take a step back and look at your product with a fresh pair of eyes.
  9. Decide how you’ll fund your project: Will you invest your own money in manufacturing? Or perhaps you’ll take out a loan or shop for investors? Crowd-funding on Kickstarter may be right for you!
  10. Never stop running: It’s easy to devote all of your time to your start-up. Don’t forget to take care of yourself! Running is YOUR TIME! Besides… you never know what you’ll dream up on your next run!
The Undress looks like a fantastic product and I can think of many occasions when it would have been useful for me. Justine has worked really hard to produce a product that has so many applications. I hope to get my hands on one soon. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise Justine!

Are there any products you wish existed?

Monday, 27 October 2014

What Are : Amino Acids?

Welcome to another post in which I try to clarify and explain another health and fitness term that you may have come across.

For a long time I glossed over the words "amino acids" in much the same way as I glossed over "creatine", not being entirely sure what they were and therefore disregarding them when I saw them listed on supplements and so on. But it turns out that amino acids are pretty important to us.

What are they?
You're probably more familiar with how important protein is to us generally and also specifically as athletes (yes in my eyes if you take part in regular exercise you are an athlete). Well amino acids are the basic building blocks that make up these all-important proteins which are responsible for specific and unique functions within the body. As well as building muscle, proteins are involved in growing skin and hair, muscle contractions, transporting oxygen and fatty acids around the body, clotting blood and more.

There are 20 different amino acids and we need all of them to create the proteins that are so important to us. Out of the twenty amino acids, our bodies can synthesise twelve but the remaining eight, known as "essential" or "indispensable" amino acids, have to be obtained what we eat.

How can I get them?

We can ensure we get the essential amino acids that we're incapable of making ourselves, by including protein in our diet. Supplementation is available, and I'll touch on that later, but I believe it's far better, and completely possible, to get your requirements from your normal diet. It's worth noting that there are two classes of proteins that reflect their amino acid content: "complete" proteins, which contain all of the essential amino acids that the body requires for making proteins and "incomplete" proteins which are low in some essential amino acids. As a general rule, protein from animal sources are complete and plant sources are incomplete.

Sources of Animal Proteins 

  • Red meat
  • Chicken and other white meats
  • Fish
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
These can be high in saturated fats (the ones we con't want too much of) so in the interests of a healthy and balanced diet, if you eat these foods, try to choose ones that are low in saturated fat, such as fish, game, poultry, lean meat and low fat milk and cheese, and eat them in moderation.

Sources of Plant Proteins 

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans and pulses 
Because plant proteins are "incomplete" you need to combine them in order to get the whole range of amino acids. Because if this it's often thought that people who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet struggle to get enough protein in their diet. I can assure you that this is not the case, if you eat a balanced diet, and combining proteins isn't hard. 

Let's take beans on toast as an example. Toast (made of grains) is low or limiting in the two essential amino acids lysine and threonine. Adding beans from the legumes and pulses food group, which are rich in those essential amino acids, will mean you have a full complement of amino acids in one meal. Job done.

You can read more about combining protein sources here.

Amino acids are among the most common nutritional supplements taken by top athletes and average exercisers alike. However, the benefits of supplementing with individual amino acids are not proven and their use is not without side effects. Amino acids are absorbed far more quickly and efficiently from natural sources (food) than from artificial ones (supplements) so while I personally wouldn't recommend supplementation as a course for everyone, it's an option for those with a very limited diet.

A note on supplements. Taking supplements of single amino acids can inhibit the absorption of other amino acids. This is because the amino acid present in the greatest concentration will be absorbed preferentially over other amino acids. This could lead to an imbalance and possibly affect your health, so just be aware.

I hope that's been helpful!

Friday, 24 October 2014

Too. Much. Excitement!

This week's training:
Saturday: parkrun & 7 miles
Sunday: Rest day
Monday: RunFitUK
Tuesday: Body Balance
Wednesday: 10 mile run
Thursday: 5 mile run
Friday: Rest day

As if in response to last week's apparent lack of "happenings" this week has been a whirlwind of amazingness. I only ran once over the weekend but it was a ten mile run that managed to incorporate parkrun with my mum so I'm very happy. I spent a lot of time on my feet though, dancing at a Caro Emerald concert, wandering around the Quentin Blake and Paddington Bear exhibitions at the House of Illustration at Kings Cross, meandering through the Covent Garden area and several laps of Olympia at The Chocolate Show. Of course my chocolate consumption may have subsequently undone all that. I will confess to feeling a little queasy on the train home.
Oh hi-viz vest, how I have NOT missed you
But all good intentions started again on Monday and have been stuck to. I'm happy with the training I've put in this week, especially as it's been somewhat truncated by flying out to Copenhagen on Thursday night. That's right folks this is a scheduled post. I'm currently somewhere between Copenhagen and Malmo, perhaps even on The Bridge itself, in a thick jumper and without my running shoes. I'm only here for a long weekend and it's my last break of the year so I'm making the most of it.
Essential pre-Copenhagen preparation?
The big news this week is that after some weeks of qualification gathering and scouting I've finally ticked all the boxes and been able to accept an offer to become one of the latest additions to the RunFitUK family. I'll be starting a club in Bracknell in the very near future and am all a-fizz with excitement at the prospect. That is of course when I'm not having a crisis of confidence. There's been a fantastic response to the news (thank you for all your kind messages) so I want to live up to expectations.

What are you excited about this week? Come on, there must be something!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

RunFitUK : A New Type of Running Club

The last time I attended my local running club I got left behind on an 8 mile run. It was winter, dark, bit miserable and unfortunately not the first time I'd felt that sort of exclusion. I never went back and haven't joined a traditional running club since. It's a pity because I enjoyed the social side of the club and the difference it made to my fitness. Far easier to motivate yourself to do track and hill sessions as part of a group.

But there are other I ways to achieve these things without being part of a traditional club. For the social side I have twitter and Facebook. Now hang on, I hear you say, those aren't the same as real-life social connections. No, not on the face of it, but I have developed a bigger set of real-life running friends via these platforms than I ever did at the club. RMR has been a big part of that.
(c) RunFitUK
I can go out with my real-life-friends-from-twitter and run miles whenever I choose and for running fitness there is RunFitUK. For those not in the know, RunFitUK is a club that focuses specifically on elements of running fitness such as technique, speed, strength, balance and agility. It compliments any existing club training you do but crucially involves no distance running. Sessions are held outside, in all weathers, and use the creativity of the coach (along with a few small bit of kit like resistance bands and running parachutes) to put you through an excellent work out.
(c) RunFitUK

(c) RunFitUK
Earlier this week I attended the evening session at "The Cage" in Weybridge where coach and co-founder Cassie put just three of us through our paces with drills, strength exercises and most importantly games! Being such a small group we got loads of personal attention and encouragement, got to chat a little (when we could catch our breath) and left with that slightly wobbly feeling that comes from having worked hard. My favourite part was the reverse-tag game we played at the end. Joined to someone else with a velcro strap your aim is either to break the link or prevent your partner doing so by sticking as close as possible. Hard work but masses of fun, The DOMS I'm feeling today though are almost certainly due to the box stepping and bear crawls we did with resistance bands around our ankles and wrists respectively.
The Cage (c) RunFitUK
RunFitUK currently have active clubs at Welwyn Garden City and Weybridge with another soon to start in Colchester. In addition to those I'm delighted to announce that I will be starting a club in Bracknell in the very near future! I'm really excited to be a part of RunFitUK and would love to see you there if you're at all local to Bracknell. Booking will be via the RunFitUK website and announced on twitter and Facebook in due course. Many more clubs are in the pipeline for locations across the UK so keep an eye out for one more local to you, or alternatively consider joining the team to start one near you. 

Monday, 20 October 2014

Review : Ozeri Rev Digital Bathroom Scale

Weight is a delicate subject. Just what *is* a healthy weight? What's healthy for you might not be healthy for someone else, not least because the proportion of fat and muscle in the body make a significant difference. I just stepped back on the scales for the first time since the beginning of the summer and didn't really like what I saw, but I'm very happy with the shape I'm in right now so I'm not going to get hung up on it.

In days gone by I've weighted myself regularly, either to monitor weight loss or weight stability, and while I wouldn't advocate weighing yourself more regularly than once a week it's not a bad idea to keep an eye on things. Part of the reason I'd not been weighing myself was because I'd lent my scales to a friend. You can pick up a set of bathroom scales cheaply enough in almost any larger supermarket but I was fortunate enough to be sent a very smart set of digital scales that have a some nice features.
Firstly, the Ozeri Rev digital bathroom scales look rather stylish. I tend to keep my scales tucked away but these are smart enough to have on display. They feature "step on" technology, no nothing to do with the Happy Mondays, but they turn on automatically when you stand on them and turn off again a few seconds after you've stepped off, to conserve battery life. Not only is there a dial but a clear electronic display too. We may not all want to see our weight in such sharp contrast but should you be brave enough it's there in both lbs and kg. These look fancy but there are only two buttons, one to change the LCD readout between kg and lbs and the other to set an alarm to remind you to weight yourself at the same time each day; not something I'd advocate but a nifty feature nonetheless.
I'm very impressed with these scales. I'd probably not have picked them up in a store but having tried them I'm rather smitten with the sleek design and clear read out. If I was asked to pay for them now, I would. 

If you're looking to monitor your weight my advice would be this:
  • weigh yourself now more than once a week
  • take the measurement at the same time on the same day each week (or as near as you can)
  • ideally this should be in the morning before eating or drinking
  • using scales on a hard surface will give you more accurate readings
  • do not get too hung up on the number. Your weight will naturally fluctuate during days, weeks and months.
The Ozeri Rev digital bathroom scales are available from Amazon for £19.99 at the time of writing, batteries included.

Disclaimer: I was sent the Ozeri Rev Digital Bathroom Scale for free in return for an honest review. 

Friday, 17 October 2014

Strava-ing to Avoid the Rain

This week's training:
Saturday: parkrun
Sunday: Dinton Duathlon
Monday: Strength workout
Tuesday: 8 mile run & Body Balance
Wednesday: Rest day
Thursday: 5 mile run
Friday: Rest day

It was Woodley parkrun's 2nd anniversary last weekend so how could I not go? Woodley are always keen on a theme and this week the theme was "be different". I keeping with this we were to run the course in reverse. I cobbled together a rather unimaginative outfit of different colours and odd socks but there were some far better efforts made... couples in each other's kit, men in drag, someone in a wet suit... main woman Kerry was present in a bath towel and shower cap! It was a bit odd running the course the opposite way to normal and of course I didn't PB but it was loads of fun, and there was a good deal of cake afterwards. I had a slab of marble cake with thick fudgy icing - mmmm mmm! The rest of the day was taken up with a show (Matthew Bourne's Lord of the Flies) and dinner with mum and of course Sunday was Dinton Duathlon day. A fine weekend indeed.

It's felt like a bit of an uneventful week generally but I'm keeping busy with hen-do planning for Alex and sorting out aspects of my PT business. I got a couple of runs in but have been thwarted by rain, wussiness and things not going to plan. Body Balance is still featuring once a week and I'm starting to do a bit more strength work again. I've realised that I can use the timer on my electric toothbrush to time tree poses and wall sits so I can squeeze in extra exercise - multitasking at it's finest!
I'm not the only one who's been avoiding the rain. I usually incorporate a 1.5 mile walk into the PT session I give to a friend but had fun coming up with alternative ways to achieve similar results in his lounge. I think I managed to wear him out more than if we'd done the walk! I might share that little routine another time.
Awesome, comforting bean chilli
Other highlights this week included some fantastic bed-hair, some delicious bean chilli made from contents of a Hello Fresh box and getting an email out of the blue from a chap called John. John found my blog and got in touch as he's also tackling Gatliff at the end of next month. As Alex might not be joining me now due to family commitments it'll be great to know someone on the day, although I've been told that ultras are extremely social anyway. John has also gotten me into using Strava. This is another of these apps/sites a bit like RunKeeper. I've dipped in and out of them in the past but never stuck with them. This time though I might, not least because it's so easy to upload my data from my Garmin. Although I have the phone app I'm not tied to using it and therefore having to take my phone out with me on every run. John's been very encouraging and I've made more effort to make my planned runs because I've felt more accountable. If you're a Strava user let's connect and encourage each other through these wet dark months ahead!
Bed hair!
This weekend I'm going to attempt to squeeze in at least one 10-mile run around gigs, art exhibitions and the Chocolate Show. And the rain looks as though it'll be holding off - bonus! What are you up to this weekend?