Unpopular opinions #2 and more things I’m loving

I really enjoyed writing the unpopular opinions the other day so I thought I’d do another round, as well as some cool things I’m loving lately. First the unpopular opinions…

I love salad and all vegetables. If half my plate isn’t full of vegetables I feel a bit miffed. In the blogging and fitness world this is not such an unpopular opinion, but perhaps not in the general population. I think it could also be that I’m volume eater and adding vegetables and salad to a dish is a great way to trick my greediness into believing I’m eating more. And that vegetables are super tasty.

I don’t share food. I think this harps back to me being like a squirrel and worrying food will run out. I don’t know where this fear came from because I’ve always been well-fed through my life!

I just don’t share food unless I can guarantee there’s a proper divide and equal proportions of food. And that I still get a significant portion. So if I’ve ever shared food with you, count yourself lucky. To have escaped alive.

I haven’t watched the vast majority of the Marvel movies. I love Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men (not Marvel but superhero-y) and Thor but all the others have passed me by. It might be because I’m not a big Robert Downey Jr. fan but I feel like too much has happened now to catch up.

I like a selfie. Yes it might be narcissistic and vain, but I quite like them. I do a lot on Instagram and it’s more because I like to track progress and keep connected with other people than “omg look at me”. It’s nice when you do it in an interesting place as well. Like, here’s my face plus something more interesting too 😉

Films about animal cruelty get me far more upset than small children cruelty. Don’t get me wrong, the latter does upset me. I’m not entirely heartless! But if a dog dies I will be in pieces. I was really chuffed to find the Hachi statue in Tokyo (actually, the dog was called Hachikō in real life). He was the dog that waited for his owner outside the train station.No film has ever destroyed me as much as that film. I was sobbing. Not delicate little sobs, but full on “I can’t breathe” gasps and shudders. On a coach full of people I didn’t know.

And things I’m loving…

Leisure trainers. Hmm, what? Trainers you don’t run in? What are those?These Nike trainers though are SO comfortable. They’re quite thing and light, so definitely not for running (for me). I wear them to the gym, but I also wear them to the shops and seeing friends. If I’m entirely honest, I’d live in gymwear most of my life. It’s a struggle to wear jeans.

And, I promise they’re not the same shoes, I recently got these Vans:Yes they are very similar colour… but they’re Vans so completely different. Ahem. Anyway they too are super comfortable and handy for leisurewear (leeeeeeeeeeeeesurewear is how I say this in my head).

My new Starbucks mug. I bought this in Tokyo. I’ve never seen a black Starbucks mug. It’s got a very matte feel and says “Starbucks Reserve” on it.It’s a decent size as well. I can’t be dealing with mini-mugs.

Biotrue Eye Products Review

I was recently sent some eye health products from Bausch + Lomb. It’s a bit of a random one I guess but I was keen to do the review because, as some of you might know, last year I had laser eye surgery done. I no longer have to wear contact lenses or glasses – yay! This is still amazing every single day. Though in the morning I will still go to grab my glasses when my alarm goes off, it’s that ingrained.

So these eye products seemed ideal for me to test because, though my eyes have been pretty much 100% perfect since the surgery, they do get a little dry towards the end of the day. I’m sure this isn’t just due to my surgery but also to the fact that I’m staring at a computer screen all day long. 

Biotrue® Rewetting Drops

These drops are used to refresh tired or irritable eyes. And they’re not specific for contact lenses. They contain hyaluronic acid, which helps to maintain the natural structures of a healthy eye.The drops are administered using a the “Control Grip system”. It was easy to use – no squirting or great gush of liquid. It literally just drops one tiny drop at a time in a very controlled way. I’ve used quite a few different types of eye drops and these are by far the best at accuracy and not soaking my face or making me look like I’ve watched Hachi again.My eyes felt very refreshed after using these when I finished work. Driving home can be such a pain when you have dry and tired eyes so these helped give a bit of life back into them. My eyes felt more refreshed and, well, moist (apologies, I know that word is awful for people).

TheraPearl Eye-ssential Mask

The eye mask is to help with eye hygiene and can be used for the management of blepharitis, conjunctivitis or styes when used warm. I can see this fully helping as when I had a stye I used a hot compress (well, a flannel) on my eye for two evenings in a row and it really helped. Using the mask for cold helps relieve headaches.It’s re-usable and moulds to your face thanks (apparently due to the “pearl technology”).

You can put it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds and then put it over your eyes for some instant relief. It’s very soothing I’ll tell you! And it’s very easy to clean if you’re worried about hygiene.You can also pop it into the freezer for around two hours and use it as a cold relief. It’s super handy and easy to use.

Biotrue Daily Eyelid Wipes

The next product are the cleansing wipes. These are a safe and hygienic way to gently clean your eyelids and eyelashes without damaging the delicate tear film. Again this can be used as part of the treatment for blepharitis and cleaning any “crustiness” caused by infections or allergies.To keep everything sterile and from avoiding contamination between the eyes, the wipes are individually wrapped. The wipes don’t contain detergents or preservatives.The wipes are quite refreshing, don’t sting or feel chemically in any way. They do make your eyes feel very slightly sticky, but only briefly. Otherwise they’re great! Find the products from Superdrug or online.

Have you ever had any eye issues?

Do you have a favourite mug? And optimal mug size?

Are you on board with leisurewear?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the eye products for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Tokyo Marathon 2017

The Tokyo marathon is my third Marathon Major (I’ve done Berlin & Boston previously) and my eighth marathon. My training wasn’t great having suffered from an annoying shin/calf niggle which stopped me doing any non-stop long runs longer than 16 miles. Towards the end though I’d gotten in enough miles to feel relatively confident at surviving it and the goal was to have fun, take some photos and come in around 3:45-4 hours uninjured.

I’ll do a recap of Tokyo itself but this post is just focusing on the race itself as I know that’s probably what people are most interested about!

I’d used Sports Tours International in order to get my place for the marathon as FYI it’s ridiculously hard to get in through the ballot (similar to London). This way I was guaranteed a bib and the organisation of everything was out of my hands, which, let’s be honest, is always required for me as I’m a certified idiot. Yes it’s an expensive way of doing it but it covered the flights, transfer to/from the airport, got me to the Expo, had us in central Tokyo is a perfectly located hotel (Keio-Plaza, which I fully recommend. The elites stayed there too – if it’s good enough for Kipsang, eh!) and provided us with lots of info and tips. I’ll most likely be using them when I do the New York marathon.

Just to put things into context, I’d met a guy called Chris from the tour group on my first day and we pretty much hung round together the entire time. He’s a lovely guy and it was nice to have someone to share the trip with! Our pre-marathon meal was a bit of an odd one. The problem we had was the centre of Tokyo where the restaurants were would be stupidly busy being Saturday night and also having thousands of people there for the marathon. So to avoid the stress of trying to find somewhere, we decided to book a table in one of the hotel’s restaurants. At lunch we’d found a very cheap but very nice pizza and pasta place (right off of the Shibuya crossing).We wanted to make sure we got a significant carby meal while we could without stressing at dinner not finding anything appropriate. So dinner was a bit more relaxed, but ironically a lot more expensive and a lot more posh. It was a seven course a la carte affair. But it was DELICIOUS. And it was nice to see two other tables full of the wheelchair elites and some less famous but still elite marathoners around us.The night before I really struggled to get to sleep. We’d done A LOT during the day – walked over 36,000 steps seeing lots of Tokyo. But I still couldn’t sleep. At midnight I eventually took a melatonin tablet to help and read my book. Just before 1am I fell asleep.My alarm went off at 6am and I got myself together. I was sharing a room with a lovely lady called Nathalie and we were both nervous. It was nice to have her there though to chat to in the morning as we got ready. (Initially I’d been nervous about sharing a room with someone I didn’t know but Nathalie was a dream to share with. We had zero issues and it never felt awkward or weird. She was lovely).I met Chris for breakfast at 6.25am in the hotel and it was teeming with other runners grabbing breakfast. It was fascinating seeing what other people were eating and being amongst other runners – it was such a buzz! I’d brought my own porridge with me and used some hot milk and hot water from the coffee area to make it up (so handy) and also had a slice of toast with butter and jam, alongside a black coffee.Chris and I had decided to run together as we both had similar goals (neither had a specific time goal) and similar paces. We’d run the previous day together as a tester and we were well-suited. We wanted to enjoy the race not push any sort of time goal. Though we were in the same wave we were given different gate numbers to use to get there. I assume this is to reduce traffic. From the breakfast room I could actually see my gate we were that well located!

Just after 7am we decided to head out to our gates. The race would start at 9.10am and we had bags to drop (we had an exact bag drop location too per bib – it was super organised). You can only take the see-through plastic bag with you that was given at the Expo and there’s a security area you walk through in order to get into the race area.Chris and I agreed to meet up in our pens after the bag drop and handily I was able to still use the hotel WIFI as we were so close so I could WhatsApp him if needed. The portable toilets were all over the place and were either Japanese style (a kind of hole in the ground affair…) or said “Western Style” on the door. There weren’t a huge number of Western Style ones (my preference) but they had the shorter queues which was handy! This might be because the majority of the runners were Japanese – by a long way.There were a few aid stations about the place offering snacks and this Pocari Sweat (yep, its actual name) electrolyte stuff. I thought it would be like water but it was gloopy gel stuff. Nice but not what I expected! Then it was a case of waiting in our pen for things to start. It was a cold morning and I was so thankful that my mum had given me an old jumper she no longer needed.It kept me VERY warm. We also had a nice spot on the curb to sit so it was all very relaxed.

Then we heard them announcing the elites. Eventually it was our turn. As the race began a huge explosion of paper petals erupted into the sky and showered down on the starting runners. It was one of the best starts I’ve ever seen! It was fantastic! We were pen C and they were still falling around us as we headed over the start.We settled into a nice comfortable pace and felt the delights of a downhill start. We had to keep our pace in check though as it was so easy to be running a lot faster due to feeling fresh and the course profile – the first mile was 7.33min/mile which was dangerous. We then tried to keep around 8 minute miles and avoided anything below that.Annoyingly as we got into the first mile I realised I needed the loo. I mentioned it to Chris and he said he’d happily stop for a loo break too. By mile two we were actively looking for toilets. At mile three we found a sign point round the corner and we made the decision to stop there. Annoyingly as we turned the corner we saw a crowd of people waiting. There was even barriers to create a queuing system! Oh well, the decision had been made. I realised that I’d have no choice on the type of toilet either and got to use my first ever Japanese style toilet… needs must!

It took about three minutes in total (not that I was clock watching or anything…!!) and it was a surreal experience to stand waiting in a queue while a marathon is steaming ahead down the road. I was grateful to have the stop though as I truly did need to pee. It wasn’t a mental thing, it was an actual need-to-pee situation.

I was a bit worried as I knew my dad was going to track some of the race using the app and I knew he’d see this 10.40ish mile and wonder what was going on. (When I spoke to him afterwards he said it did concern him until I then carried on running consistent miles afterwards).

And then we got back to the marathon and got back into the rhythm. The miles ticked off really quickly. We chatted as we were going along. Chris has run more marathons and more Majors than me so I was able to ask him lots about different marathons and get some tips for Chicago and New York. We also chatted about races that we’d coincidentally run the same year as each other (like Berlin 2014 and Bristol Half 2013). My mind was so off the actual running that I missed the mile I normally take my first gel (mile 8). I decided to just skip it and wait until my next milestone which was half-way.

At around mile 7 we hit our first out and back. I think (though I’m not entirely certain) at some point during the coming miles is when we saw the elites running back the other way. Well, I just had to get my phone out of my Flipbelt to grab a photo! I managed to this while not looking at my camera and just blinding snapping as I wanted to see them rather than see them through my phone. They were absolutely steaming it, as you can imagine.The out and backs were fairly interesting at first as we could watch the ridiculous fast runners coming along and it was a nice way to take your mind off of the running. But eventually the out and backs got tedious as you’d be running down the same road for so long and still know you’d have to come back down the other way. It was mentally tough and I flagged a bit mentally during the 10-14 miles.

What made things worse was how far our watches were out. There were no mile markers to be certain so we’d have to do maths in our head to work out from the kilometres but as we saw half-way on the other side of a road and looked at our watches to find we were well over half-way at that point it was frustrating. We still had to go down a section of road and then come back. By that point we were .3 miles out.

The Tokyo Tower

I took my first gel – an SIS with caffeine – at this point. Again the miles continued to tick by. The course wasn’t entirely flat. There were a few short inclines and then declines. Not as flat as Berlin but relatively flat. No nasty hills to climb.At this point the sun was beating down quite strongly. I was hot and it was very sunny. At every water station we got water. It was nice to have Chris with me as he reminded me to get water each time. There was the Japanese sports drink, Sweat, but I avoided that and went for plain water. They came in paper cups which I didn’t mind. The only annoying thing was that the water stations were only on one side of the road which made getting in and out very tricky.

There were also food stations which contained bananas, orange slices, dried prunes, tomatoes, and even stranger, bread rolls! Apparently the rolls contained chocolate sauce inside. I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to eat a bread roll during a marathon! But the Japanese were mad for them.I did try the tomatoes though. They were cold and crisp and a positive delight! The only downside is that the skin does get stuck in your teeth a bit.Another interesting observation was just how many men there were in comparison to women. There were barely any women! Also, wearing just a vest was a real rarity for the Japanese men unless they were super speedy at the front.There was lots of support all round the course which was nice. The Japanese people came out in force with signs, banners and cuddly toys. They cheered and seemed to be having a whale of a time.The out and backs started to get more and more tedious after a while. Seeing the same long city road for mile after mile was getting tough mentally. But our pace was still looking good and at one point we realised we were running 7.30 again and slowed down a bit. I’d never felt so comfortable in a marathon before. Everything felt good physically. It was just keeping ourselves entertained that was tough. The sites were few and far between for what we recognised and we were fed up of tall buildings and uninteresting streets.At around mile 18 I wanted to take another gel but it was a thicker GU one that needed water. Chris is 6ft 2 so could see over the tops of the shorter Japanese runners so I got him on water station watch for me so I could plan my gel eating moment perfectly. Very handy to have him with me! The gel was a Maple Bacon flavoured one which was AMAZING. So tasty.

As we got to mile 20 I couldn’t believe how the miles had just flown by. It was clear that running with company had made things a lot more interesting and bearable. I still felt comfortable and ready to put the hammer down a bit. 10k to go!

We ran down another out and back, this time I really long one, as we saw the “5k to go sign” on the other side.It was dispiriting to see that I have to say…but we knew as soon as we got to the turnaround point we’d be on the home straight. But that bloody road went on forever I tell you. There had been different entertainment bits around the course. There were children doing dance routines, cheerleaders, Japanese traditional dancers, drummers, formal bands, rock bands. There was a lot going on! But during the later stages of a marathon on a hot day it can be tough to keep the demons away no matter what’s going on.

As we hit 22 miles, Chris started to struggle a bit. He was losing his mental battle and I could see him fading. I started nattering away to him about fluff and nonsense to hopefully take his mind off of things. I’m sure I was annoying him but he reassured me that it was OK. I also found that if I waved to the crowds they’d erupt into cheering. So I kept doing that and it helped lift us both.

As we FINALLY got to the “5k to go sign” I said to Chris “just a parkrun to go”. Then he pulled up short grabbing his hamstring. Ahh no!!! He moved to the side and started stretching. I jogged on the spot and didn’t know what to do. We’d already told each other we’d run to the bitter end with the other – I wasn’t bothered about my time as I’d already said and it was nice to run with someone – so I wasn’t going to leave him. But I wasn’t sure what to do to help his hamstring. If he’d pulled it it could mean game over. I started to worry a bit. Luckily the stretching helped and we carried on.

He continued to struggle a bit and, what he later told me, had just gone into himself to sort his demons out. He stopped during the water stations and I didn’t realise and so had to run back to him – which was a bizarre experience, running the wrong way in a marathon against the tide!

The last two miles were tough. I was feeling really quite good but I could see Chris wasn’t quite on board with how I was feeling so I had to be careful I didn’t leave him behind. I carried on waving and cheering to the crowd and this helped I think. If I’m honest, I was having a whale of time. I felt very guilty for enjoying myself as much as I was but I felt really comfortable and was loving the crowds cheering us on.

I mean, I was tired and my legs were aching but I was feeling on top of the world. Though the final push to the finish went on and on. Our watches beeped past 26 miles and the finish line was nowhere near us. We had a long road to run down which was full of supporters so great to wave to, but it just seemed to go on forever. Then FINALLY we turned a corner to see the finish ahead. Well, it was a bit of a disappointing finish as it really wasn’t that obvious!

As we crossed the line we hugged. We’d made it! My official time was 3:41:02. My Garmin told me I’d run 26.9 miles!!Actually, everyone I spoke to later had reported similarly. I almost wish I’d gotten to 27 miles 😉Then it was time for the longest post-race walk I’ve ever done. We were given a towel, the Sweat water, a banana, a bag, a foil wrapper, free samples…and then FINALLY our medals.Honestly all I wanted was my flipping medal! We didn’t need the foil blankets either as it was bloody hot. I could feel my face was already beetroot. Oh dear.I looked at my steps on my watch and we’d done about 45,000 steps. By the time we got to our shuttle bus to take us back to the hotel we’d walked over 50,000 steps. I kid you not. We wanted to sit down but we knew that would be game over. So we kept walking, filling our bag up with freebies, getting our photos taken, snapping selfies and then eventually sitting down in the bus. Whew.I can honestly say this marathon was the “easiest” marathon I’ve ever run. The course wasn’t great I have to say – it was boring. There were sights to see, like the Skytree and the Tokyo Tower, but it was mainly just out and backs along the same long wide city roads with tall buildings either side. The crowds however full made up for that with their cheering and support. They were super. There was also a lot of fancy dress to keep us amuse (lots of people wearing funny hats and costumes). I think that the company definitely helped though. It was nice to have someone to chat to around the course and help lift me in dark moments, and then keep me focused on helping lift him in his dark moments. I also felt well within myself running and felt comfortable the majority of the time.One of the best parts was all the volunteers. They were fantastic. At the end I must have had “congratulations” said to me about 1,000 times. They high-fived us and smiled and just basically told us we were amazing as we walked down collecting our different bits and bobs. And then at the bag drop there was just lines of them clapping and cheering us. I honestly felt like a celebrity! It was lovely. (Though volunteer did say “commiserations” to me which I found amusing. Yes “commiserations” indeed to my legs!).

Basically, I’m over the moon with this marathon. It was fantastic. I loved it. It went far better than I could have imagined. Chris was happy with his time too which was good. It was definitely a team effort!I felt pretty damn good after the marathon. It has made me think about what I want to do next…

Have you ever been to Japan?

Have you ever run a marathon with another person?

A parkrun fail and trying new things

This weekend gone I headed up to Cheltenham. I’ve only been there once before for like a day to see my friend Shell so it was nice to see it again for a bit longer. It’s a lovely place – though strangely has lots of white buildings and lots of buildings with columns on, which to me is the height of poshness 😉

And clearly Cheltenham is very posh as they even have their own Wholefoods! Wholefoods is obviously a lot more popular in the States, but we have a few mostly in London and this random one in Cheltenham. Obviously I had to pop in there for lunch on Friday between working.

The salad bar was obviously a lot smaller than the amazing America ones and I was told the burritos were amazing so that’s what I went for. There was a little Mexican food stand where you could have burritos or quesadillas made up for you there and then with your choice of fillings. I went with a chicken, rice and extra guacamole burrito and it was HUGE. It was jam packed full of filling. So tasty. I also had a cheeky rocky road slice afterwards as well. I pretty much needed a nap afterwards though I was so full…but back to work I went!

On the Friday night I did a (beginner’s) salsa class. This is a bit crazy for me as, being ridiculously clumsy and generally an awkward person, I’m not a natural dancer. That said, I did ballroom dancing at school (in preparation for our prom) and I loved it so I was quite excited to give it a go.

Awful photo sorry but I tried to take it discreetly at the beginning!

Well, I wasn’t terrible. I was surprised at how quickly the instructors went through the steps but after a few attempts it was easy to pick up. I mean, I was rigid and awkward but I didn’t step on any toes. I think that’s a success! The guys stood in a circle and the girls would dance with one and the move on to the next after performing a certain move (very basic moves!). One guy, who later told me he was actually another teacher, laughed at my “furrowed brow of concentration”. Well I was concentrating! I might need to aim to not try and look at my feet the entire time I suppose… I’m keen to try a few more lessons, but we’ll see!

Then Saturday morning was going to be the Cheltenham parkrun. Annoyingly though I woke up to -5 temperatures and a Tweet from my Cheltenham-based friend saying it was cancelled. I’m very grateful for his Tweet (thanks Mat!) as otherwise I would have just gone there without checking and then been disappointed and very cold. So instead, a bit of shopping happened instead. I re-planned the run to be after lunch so I had a nice light Greek salad lunch in Patisserie Valerie, which I’ve never been to before but was really lovely (though can I just say, the salads are not filling for lunch. Not for me anyway. I was still hungry and would easily have had one of their very tasty looking cakes afterwards had I not needed to be careful of my run later).

I hate leaving my run until later but realistically it made sense with fitting it in the weekend and the fact that in the morning the paths everywhere were so icy and dangerous. I’m pretty sure I spent quite a significant portion of Saturday cold. At first I thought I was going to wear my compression socks and shorts but after feeling so cold all day I decided to go with leggings and compression socks. Luckily my leggings were long enough to cover my knees so I didn’t have that awkward knee exposure look 😉The run went well. I didn’t really intend to go very fast but as I was so cold I just wanted to get warm so I pushed the pace. I got to two miles and found I was really struggling though and thought maybe best to slow down a bit! I slowed a little and told myself I could take it easier.It did feel good to get a bit of a tempo run on as I had intended to blast parkrun that morning. I’d heard that Cheltenham parkrun was really flat and I was sad I missed out on seeing what time I could currently do. It wouldn’t have been crazy fast but it’s always nice to have a “check in” run to see what paces I’m hitting. I need it have a long think about how I’m going to approach Tokyo and this would have been handy. But I got in a longer run and was able to pick up the pace so that was good. I guess that just means another trip to Cheltenham to eventually do their parkrun! 😉

I ran around Pittville Park which is where the parkrun is located anyway and it was a really lovely run. I did a couple of laps and aside from dodging dog walkers and small children it was a perfect runner’s route next to a lovely lake (pond?) and trees.

That evening I saw the new M Night Shyamalan film, Split, with James McAvoy in it. It was brilliant. Well, I know that his films have never reached the lofty success of the Sixth Sense but I actually really like his films (though there are a select few I haven’t seen like Lady in the Water and the Light Bender thing…). I loved The Village, Signs, Unbreakable and The Happening. And I love James McAvoy. There also might have been a tub of Ben and Jerry’s (Cookie Dough) that was snuck into the cinema…thankfully outside was cold enough for it not to melt prematurely in my handbag!

The next day I left to drive home and, because I needed to get a long run in, decided that I would do it as soon as I got in to stop any temptation to avoid it. I also cleverly bought a whole chicken from Waitrose from a services and popped that in the oven so when I got back it was pretty much done and my flat smelt amazing.The run went really well. My shin only very slightly niggled (progress, progress). I was worried that having run the day before might cause my shin an issue but it felt alright. I also felt really good in terms of my fitness. I effortlessly remained around the 8min pace without feeling it was a push so that was comforting.I won’t be running at that speed for the marathon but it was nice to feel comfortable for 10 miles at that pace. I planned my route so that it was my usual 6 mile route and then another usual 4 mile route so I could break it up in my head. It worked perfectly. Then I got home and enjoyed carving up the freshly cooked chicken. A food coma promptly commenced 😉

When do you prefer to get your runs/workouts done? I always prefer the morning.

Have you ever been to Cheltenham before?

Have you ever done a salsa/dance class?

Isobar Compression review

In this brave new world of today, there’s a lot of amazing technology that has recently cropped up or being invented as we speak. Smart fridges telling you you’re low on milk, a voice activation system that can turn your lights off or tell you the weather tomorrow (my dad’s new friend, Alexa, is a new addition to their home) and basically having the whole world in your palm through your phone.

And when technology collides with running, well, I get quite excited. Isobar Compression is a company that manufactures compression clothing that is made according to your exact measurements. And I’m not talking about small, medium or large but YOUR actual compression needs, which is found out using a scanner and then the garments are produced later using a 3D printer.

I was fortunate enough to try this compression gear out. The company gave me a hugely reduced cost for a pair of compression socks and compression calf sleeves in exchange for an honest review of the whole process.

Normally you would go into a centre where the Isobar Compression team have a base and they would scan your legs (or arms) there. There’s actually one (or will be one very soon) about five minutes from my house at the Ageas Bowl Perform centre. However, the day they were available I was going to be at work… Handily though, they (two very nice, knowledgeable chaps) were able to drop in to my office on their way to London as it would only take 10 minutes. It was quite surreal having them arrive at my office building and setting up their gear in our small gym…

After a very quick set-up of their equipment and hooking it up to their laptop, I was instructed to place my bare foot onto the Isobar step. I also had to have bare legs (I wore tights and just removed them).

Then Charlie, the guy in the picture above, circled the attached camera around my raised leg.

You can sort of see the image and data that is then projected back to the laptop. And that data is what’s used to create my custom made compression garments.
It was all very exciting I have to say. And I peppered them with lots of questions as I was being scanned. As an avid compression sock wearer (for post-run recovery and for during marathons and long runs) I was keen to understand the difference between these socks and the ones you can just buy off the shelf.

The scanner captures around 45,000 different data points of each leg which will give my “compression profile”. Everyone’s legs are different shapes, with different bone lengths and muscle sizes and pressure requirements. From this data they then make a seamless garment which graduates the compression to an accuracy of within 1mmHg (I will throw my hands up here and say I don’t know what that measurement is). Effectively each stitch is controlled to the pressure needed.

So the difference between these and ones off the shelf is that the ones off the shelf may not be providing your legs with the specific compression needs they require.

For a compression garment to be effective in reducing the risk of DVT and speeding up recovery it needs to produce at least 20mmHg and we can accurately produce this pressure, unlike off the shelf compression garments.Source

So after all that waffle (though I do find it quite interesting), what did I think?

The material feels a lot thinner than your regular compression socks. They’re very stretchy as well, and a lot longer. They also feel quite delicate. I guess this down to the material and how they’re made. The instructions are quite extension for putting on socks – but this is to ensure you don’t put your fingers or toes through the material or misshapen them. But it made me nervous getting them on – which is never an easy task for compression socks in general. But after getting the hang of it it’s become easier.

They’re also quite tricky to tell which sock goes on which leg (there’s some stitching at the top that you can read but it’s not obvious).I put them on post run and they did feel different to my regular compression socks. My regular compression socks squeeze my entire calf and I’d often find it uncomfortable towards the ankle (do I have cankles??). But these felt less restrictive and more comfortable. Perhaps it was my imagination but I definitely felt a different level of compression through the leg, rather than one single “squeeze” all over.

As I’m currently suffering from a shin and calf issue, these have been a dream to wear in the evening and I’m finding they’re helping. Whether this is based on science or placebo, who knows. But who cares when I believe it helps?

I have two major gripes about the product however. One is the cost. They are very expensive. I was fortunate to get a discount so was happy to pay, but for the entire scanning process, a pair of sleeves and socks would have set me back over £200. You pay for the scanning and then the cost of the garment. If you’re keen it makes sense to buy more than one product to maximise the cost of the scanning but I would struggle to justify this cost. It is new technology however and they are the best in their field… Perhaps in the future the cost will go down but for right not while it’s so new, it’s perhaps not surprising.

My second gripe is when I wore them outside on a walk with Alfie, they kept slipping down. I like to wear compression socks on long runs and this would just not work. For lounging around the house they’re perfect, but not for running. Perhaps this is just my calf shape?

But overall, I’m very impressed. There’s a lot of information on the website and they sent me a list of studies to peruse that suggests the benefits of compression (especially for deep vein thrombosis sufferers). I’ve listed it out below if you are interested (I will say though that I haven’t gone through it all, I’m not a scientist and they’ve obviously only provided data that supports their product – but one of the studies is a meta-analysis, so take what you will from it).

I would recommend these if you’re serious about your compression gear. In my opinion this is top of the range gear. It’s a fantastic way to recover.

What do you think about compression gear?

What’s the most expensive bit of workout kit/gear you’ve bought?

Are you a technology addict?

**Full Disclaimer: I given a reduced cost for the Isobar Compression gear (scanning, socks and compression sleeves) in return for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

  • Evaluation of a lower-body compression garment (Doan, et al., 2003 – J. Sport Sci.)
  • Compression garments and recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage:  a meta-analysis (Hill, et al., 2013 – BJSM Online First)
  • The effects of wearing lower body compression garments during a cycling performance test (Driller& Halson, 2013 – International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance)
  • Aerobic energy cost and sensation responses during submaximal running exercise positive effects of wearing compression tights (Bringard A, et al., 2006 – N. Int. J. Sports Med.)
  • Influence of a compression garment on repetitive power output production before and after different types of muscle fatigue (Kraemer WJ, et al., 1998 – Sports Med. Training Rehabil.)
  • Compression garments: Do they influence athletic performance and recovery? (Wallace, et al., School of Leisure, Sport and Tourism, University of Technology – Sydney)
  • The effects of compression garments on recovery (Davies V, et al., 2009 – J Strength Cond. Res.)
  • Influence of compression therapy on  symptoms following soft tissue injury  from maximal eccentric exercise (Kraemer et a., 2001 – J Orthop. Sport Phys.

I.C.E. (And not the cold variety!)

Today I have a really interesting post from my friend, Michelle (she recently did the Newcastle parkrun review – to be fair, she really should start her own blog as she’s such a good runner and always eats nice things (read: cake) too). Today she’s reviewing the I.C.E running ID.

Now it’s dark like all the time (well it feels like it anyway) “be safe, be seen” is a thought that crosses most runner’s minds as they pick out their best high-vis outfit before their run, don the head torch and other flashies.

But have you ever thought about if, god forbid, something happened to you whilst out on a run???

If you’re out with friends or a club then the people around you are going to know who you are and who to contact to tell them what has happened but are they going to know your medical history? If you take any medication? If your allergic to medication? But what about if you are out running alone? The chances of someone who knows who you, let alone anything else about you, finding you is minuscule!!

After the tragic deaths of the two young Aldershot, Farnham & District runners I feel it is important to raise the topic of ensuring every one of us runners have some form of ID on them when out running I.C.E. (In Case of Emergency). This doesn’t just apply to people with medical conditions but EVERYONE! There are a number of options available, from simple and cheap to those with a slight cost but worth the investment!

Your Mobile Phone

For those of you who run with your phone this is a quick and free option!
These days most mobile phones allow you to enter I.C.E. and medical information which can then be accessed from the lock screen. I am not sure exactly how to do this with any phone apart from iPhone but just Google it and there will be plenty of step by step guides available. If you own an iPhone then if you go into the built in Health app it will ask you to set up your medical ID.img_3986This can then be accessed from the lock screen in an emergency without having to unlock your phone.img_3984After you press the home button press “Emergency” and then “Medical ID”.img_3985

Key Tags

This is another quick and cheap option for ensuring you have I.C.E. details with you whilst out on a run and was the first way I ever took I.C.E information out on runs with me! I bought a pack of about 30 key tags from a pound shop, wrote I.C.E. on the front and my emergency contact name and number on the back.img_3983 It lives attached to my front door key so it is guaranteed to go with me every time I run! The rest of the pack of key tags are probably sat in a drawer at home but I’ve got one on my uni front door key and another on my home front door key. Why not put the rest of the box to use and pop one on your kid’s door keys too?!

parkrun Wristbands

The majority of runners these days have a parkrun barcode. For many of us it starts life as a constantly crumpled and soggy bit of paper, it then progresses (maybe) to being laminated to make each one last a bit longer but why not invest in a parkrun wristband and kill two birds with one stone!img_3982At £13.98 the wristbands are made from silicone making them durable and waterproof. They come in sizes from small to extra-large, are available in black or pink and are laser engraved with your name and personal barcode. In addition to these you can personalise them with your I.C.E. telephone number and medical information.

Even though I’m not the most frequent parkrun attender I purchased one of these wristbands about a year ago. The first time I used it I was worried the barcode wouldn’t work but I’ve had no problems! They are really light and easy to just slip on before a run, even if you’re not off to parkrun!

OneLife ID

Being away at uni I felt I probably needed something a bit more than just a key tag on me when I was out running as the chance of anyone knowing more than my name was well zero! I came across OneLife ID who make emergency wristbands designed for sports. These are slightly more expensive but worth every penny!!screenshot-2016-11-17-16-58-24They have a wide range of wristbands, alert cards, dog tags and now even tags to add to your watch or activity tracker! Each of their ID tags are personalisable and allow you to create an online personal profile which can only be accessed using a code on the back of your ID tag. The online profile can be updated and allows more information about you to be sought. You can also download a mobile ID to save to your phone.
img_3807I chose the Stealth Squadra ID wristband (£22.99) which comes in a choice of 11 different colours, has a soft silicone strap and a stainless steel “fold over safety clasp” so it fit securely once you’ve put it on. It is water and sweat resistant too. It comes in one size which you cut to size and then attach the clasp meaning you can make sure it’s a snug fit!img_3981

When ordering you personalise the tag itself to include text only (up to 5 lines) or have less text and a QR code. You choose your own online ID and the tag comes with a security PIN written on the back of it so people can only view detailed information about you if they enter the pin. If things were to change in the future you can order replacement tags for your band.

I love my OneLife ID and wear it out on every run! It doesn’t move about too much due to the fact you cut it to size, fits easily under long sleeves for the winter and is so lightweight I have often forgotten I still have it on and have been known to walk around with it on all day before!

Carrying I.C.E. ID whilst out on a run will put your loved ones at ease, so with Christmas coming up why not add an I.C.E. ID wristband to your list for Santa!

Thanks, Michelle. This is a really important post I think. I for one actually have done none of these things and feel suitable guilty! I’ll definitely be updating my Health app on my iPhone and looking to buy the parkrun wristband soon. And not just for running but I go to the gym stupidly early in the morning so having this information on me would be very handy as I don’t take my purse with me to the gym.

Do you have any of the above I.C.E products?

How do you stay safe when running?