Caffeine and me

I recently bought a coffee machine. I never thought I would. I mean, I’m not really one of those OMG I NEED COFFEE TO FUNCTION type of people.

If I don’t have caffeine in a day then I’m generally OK. It’s just habit and the enjoyment factor as to why I regularly drink it. I don’t start shaking or fading through the day or get headaches.

At work it’s a way to get away from the desk and keep me from endlessly snacking on #allthefood in the office. I’ll have a black instant coffee, and thoroughly enjoy it. At the weekend I’d treat myself to something a bit more elaborate at Starbucks, but more because it’s a fun drink to enjoy. I’m that person who has an obnoxious order… half decaf half caf medium Americano with sugar free hazelnut syrup and hot skimmed milk. Why half and half? Because I do like to limit caffeine where I can (and sugar…). I don’t want to become dependent on it and I like to use caffeine in big races to inject some speed into my legs. I don’t want my tolerance level to become skewed.

So why did I get a coffee machine then? Well, I was finding that my Starbucks weekend habit was fairly costly over the year (my drink is around £2.40, so around a fiver a week). In the back of my cupboard I found a milk frother that I’d never used and found I could heat up almond milk and froth it nicely to add to my coffee. I also bought my own sugar-free hazelnut syrup from Amazon, because I’m fancy like that 😉 And literally it’s like Starbucks in my kitchen!I’ve also been drinking a pre-workout before the gym which contains quite a high dose of caffeine (~240mg) and I didn’t want to keep buying it – though I enjoy using it from time to time because it has other added benefits. I do enjoy feeling a bit more awake before the gym so didn’t want to give up entirely on caffeine.So with a coffee machine I could dictate how much coffee I had (and whether it was caffeinated or not) and reduce my coffee/pre-workout expenditure. Killing two birds with one stone.

After a lengthy time wondering what type to buy (most people advising on the very cool looking Nespresso machines) I eventually just settled for a simple coffee maker.

The problem with the Nespresso machines (and the pod coffee makers in general) is that the size of the drink you get is quite small. And I didn’t really want anything too fancy first thing in the morning. Also the pods themselves were expensive, so defeating the point of trying to save money. I wanted a proper MUG of coffee that was cheap and easy to use.So I bought this very cheap Russell Hobs Brew and Go machine from Amazon (around £27.99 – this isn’t a sponsored post by the way!). It comes with a travel cup and basically you can dictate how much coffee you put in and how much water you use. Perfect!

Some people give caffeine a bad rep or just avoid it for their own reasons and that’s fine. Everyone to themselves. But I know that a little bit of caffeine before the gym or before a race can really help my performance. It’s a legal supplement to take and it’s cheap. But if I didn’t have my cup of coffee before a race it wouldn’t panic me. I do parkrun and long runs every week without coffee and perform just fine. Perhaps it’s psychological then that I see these performance gains… who knows. What I do know is, I enjoy coffee and enjoy feeling more awake at 5.30am before I hit the gym.

What are your thoughts on coffee and caffeine in general?

If you drink coffee, how do you take it?

Do you have a coffee machine?

Not the weekend I wanted

This weekend didn’t fully go as I’d planned but it was still a good one. As is standard for running and me, after doing those ridiculous runs straight after the marathon (the seven miles, then the nine miles off-road in Swindon) my ankle had become slightly swollen and very stiff.

If I’m entirely honest, I felt it start to faintly niggle on the first run… then I continued to run the 3ish miles in Bristol, then the off-road run in Swindon. I mean I really only have myself to blame. Especially straight after the marathon. My body, so delicate and sensitive, was clearly still getting over the marathon and though I felt fine didn’t appreciate jumping back into the mileage so quickly. WHY DON’T I LEARN? WHY DON’T I EVER LEARN??

I tried running on Thursday evening but it just wasn’t happy. It wasn’t painful but just very uncomfortable and stiff. So I stopped – I had nothing to gain to keep going. Finally being sensible! But too little too late. This meant my weekend of running, of which I had parkrun planned and a long run with a friend, was cancelled. Humph.

I still went down to Netley though to volunteer and see everyone as I hadn’t been for ages. It was nice to chat about the marathon and to see the usual crew.It was annoying not to be able to run but I enjoyed cheering everyone on and then being the funnel manager. I’ve never done the funnel manager job before (basically you stand there ensuring that people don’t overtake each other within the funnel so everyone gets their right barcode. You check with the timekeepers and the people handing out the barcode every now and again to make sure the numbers are corresponding). To be honest it’s quite a boring job.

And as more and more people started finishing, cakes started appearing as quite a few people had their milestones that day. I watched with envy as the tins were passed around but I couldn’t leave my post… The run director who saw me looking longingly over took pity on me and said I could go and grab some quickly (he himself had a stack of three so he could hardly stop me if I’m honest ;-))

In the end I had FIVE different bits of cake: half a chocolate cookie, a chocolate brownie bite, a delicious chocolate traybake thing, a chocolate crispy thing and, for a change, a lemon shortbread. I felt quite sick as it started to settle! The run director declare me volunteer of the week for this feat, teehee.

Then I had a tiny bit of bread pudding in the cafe that was going spare. Look, I can’t be trusted around so many different cake options!! I have no self-control.

I’d planned on having breakfast after parkrun and heading to the gym but in the end I obvious didn’t need breakfast and just headed straight there (I was in my gym gear already).Trying to get as much wear out of the t-shirt as possible 😉 Not that anyone at the gym cares at all! I did about 30 minutes on the elliptical machine and then some upper body strength work, such as lateral pull-downs, cable face pulls, lateral raises and rows. I felt very well fuelled!

Later I went to my friends’ house for dinner and a movie night, which was great. They made slow-cooked pulled pork with potato wedges and I brought salad. They’re trying to lose weight (they’ve both done so well so far!) using SlimmingWorld so everything was really healthy and tasty.We attempted to watch a film but in the end we were chatting through it so just gave up and chilled. It was a nice easy evening catching up with good friends. They’re also going to help me host my Divorce Party. Yes, that’s actually going to happen 😀 I’m officially divorced and I think that deserves a bit of cake and a knees-up.

Sunday I was meant to go for a long run with a friend… but this obviously wasn’t the wisest idea. I saw my sports massage friend, Kyle, the day before and he’d loosened things up for me and had done a bit of acupuncture to it so it did feel better but I was advised to give it a day or two.

So after a lazy lie-in I headed to the gym again. I did an hour on the elliptical machine this time, and it felt good to get a sweat on. You might be wondering why I bothered now that I’ve done the marathon…but I have a potential goal coming up and as long as my niggle disappears and I remain uninjured I think I can manage it. But we’ll see. More on that another time.

After that I did some leg strength work, such as goblet squats with a pulse (these BURN), some high rep/low weight Romanian deadlifts (for muscle endurance), some cable glute kickbacks and randomly worked on my bench press. I’m feeling really good about my strength increases in this area. I remember a time when I could barely manage any weight.

Though I didn’t get to run it was a nice chilled weekend where I could catch up with life admin and housework, having spent the last few weekends all about the place. So not a complete loss!

What’s your favourite position to volunteer at parkrun?

What do you do to cross-train when you can’t run?

What did you get up to this weekend?

Full of positivity and MuscleFood pre-workout review

I’m in a super positive and happy place right now. I’ve started 2017 just feeling good and ready to take on the year. I came into work on Tuesday feeling in a good mood, much to the delight of my colleagues 😉

Though I don’t tend to make big grand New Year’s resolutions (last year’s resolution was to be more punctual. That lasted a week) I have made a couple of notes to myself on things I’d like to improve on. One being more conscious of my spending – so only one takeaway a month rather than three or four… Another is being more confident and ready to take on new challenges at work.

I’ve recently bee promoted, to start the new role in March, and it gave me all the anxieties before Christmas wondering if I could actually do it, whether I’d fail, whether they’d demote me once they found out I couldn’t do it…But instead I’ve switched it round and thought, “OK let’s do this”. If people have confidence in me, then who am I to argue with that? I just need to stay focused, work hard and not be afraid to ask for help.

In terms of running and goals in the fitness area? I actually haven’t a clue. I’ve become a lot more relaxed about running in general and I no longer feel the desperate urgency to fulfil my Marathon Major goals as soon as possible. After Tokyo I want to reset and chill for a bit. Just run for fun. Enter races that make me happy and just pootle along. I’m enjoying the gym so I’ll carry on there, maybe look for some new challenges in that area. Basically I’m content and it feels like a weird place to be in, but also very nice. I think I’ve relaxed a bit more….weird.

Onto my review then!

MuscleFood Rampage™ Pre-Workout Formula

A few weeks ago MuscleFood sent me some pre-workout to try out.Pre-workout is actually something I’ve only just become familiar with. I drink BCCAs (branched-chain amino acida) during my workout which help maintain muscle mass when doing strength workouts, especially as I do my morning workouts fasted. My goals are not to lose fat and I don’t want to lose muscle either.

So what’s a pre-workout then? You basically drink it before you workout as the name suggests! It usually contains a stimulant like caffeine and some other supplements to help get the most out of your workout and reduce fatigue.MuscleFood kindly sent me two different flavours of the their pre-workout Rampage (what a name, eh): Lem & Pink Grapefruit and Orange & Pineapple. It contains BCAAs to reduce muscle breakdown and help with recovery, as I mentioned above, Arginine AKG which is another essential amino aciden which helps the body to create energy from protein, fats and carbs, Beta Alaine which helps with performance (though be warned, it does cause some rather odd tingling!), Taurine for muscle growth promotion and recovery, Citrulline Malate to help fatigue and manage lactic acid, Creatine Monohydrate which is a well documented and studies supplement to help with building muscle and Beet4Perf™ which is a natural beetroot ingredient to help boost performance as well (I love my beetroot supplements!). It also contains 200mg of caffeine (the equivalent two cups of instant coffee).To be honest, I was highly sceptical of pre-workouts in general when I first heard about them as it all sounds a bit weird. Stimulants for working out? Hmmm. But then caffeine has been proven to help push harder and I often use caffeinated gels during marathons and drink a coffee before a race – and in general most mornings. I obviously don’t want to become dependent on caffeine but getting up at 5am to start my workout at 5.30am is tough going and having caffeine just before really helps. I just make sure I don’t have any further caffeine later in the day.

Though to be honest I don’t find I need anymore, whereas if I don’t drink the pre-workout by 10am I definitely need my morning cup of coffee. Normally I’d have two cups of coffee a day so now I’ve switched to decaf on days I drink this. I’m not hugely sensitive to caffeine and don’t get any headaches of withdrawal symptoms if I don’t drink it for a few days so I think I’m OK.

So what did I think? Well, the taste isn’t amazing. It’s not disgusting or unpleasant, it’s just something to get used to. Both flavours are nice enough but some mornings it does take an effort to get it down. I make up one scoop with 200ml of water and that seems like the perfect amount. Any more water and the taste gets worse as it waters down. The grapefruit flavour is better than the pineapple in my opinion.

Taste aside, did it aid with my performance and recovery? It’s a tough one to know for certain, but I do believe it’s helped me. Within 15 minutes of drinking it I start to get the tingles (they’re no hugely unpleasant, just a weird itchy palms kind of feeling) and then I feel a lot more awake. It’s not made me feel invicible and nor can I suddenly deadlift 10kg more. However I felt more “get up and go” and more alert. Obviously the caffeine is a big factor here but the other bits and bobs could be contributing too. After particularly heavy squats, my legs weren’t quite as sore as they might be. But again this is all very cause-effect stipulation and subjectivity.

I do enjoy taking it though and am happy to keep it in my routine. I won’t take it before every gym visit, just when I think I need it. I’ll also have a week or so without it every now and again to help keep my caffeine tolerance at a nice level. I don’t want to become too dependent or used to it.

I don’t think it’s necessary for the gym or to make any significant gains. It’s more of a pick-me-up to help supplement you as and when you need it – if you need it at all! But I do recommend it if you fancy adding a little it of oomph to your workout occasionally. I’m tempted to try it before a race as well to see how that goes.

Have you ever tried using per-workout?

Do you use any supplements?

Have you made any big goals for this year?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the Rampage Pre-Workout from MuscleFood for free in return for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

 

But I’m still a runner

I’m in a quite frustrating position. I’m still not running. And I’m not hugely bothered.

Who even am I? I feel like I’m in a really odd place. Normally when I’m injured I feel really down, really frustrated and angry.

Not running, just volunteering at parkrun

Normally going to parkrun and volunteering every week would be hard; watching runners get their parkrun mojo on. I would feel a huge leap of jealously at any runners I drive past. I’d wonder if today is “the day” I’ll try running again before I’ve even gotten out of bed.

But…I’m actually not thinking those things. I mean, it obviously helps that the weather is pretty gnarly. It’s dark, cold, wet and unappealing to be outside. During the warmer months I find it hard because I just want to be outside in the fresh air. But right now all I want to do is hibernate away in fluffy socks and Christmas jumpers.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve not suddenly become a couch potato and happy to lapse into inactivity for days at an end. Quite the opposite. I’m loving the time I spend at the gym right now. I can lift heavy weights without wondering how it will affect my running the next day. I can push my limits of my strength and reach new PBs. I can work on non-running-focused strength training without feeling guilty.

And my gym is lovely and bright, cool not cold and it’s full of other like-minded people. Rather than the dark, lonely streets at ridiculously o’clock in the morning or straight after work, I can skip into the gym at 5.30am and it’s full of people. I don’t converse with these people, good God no! I’m there to workout and my social switch is firmly in the OFF position until I get to work, but I’m around other people and don’t feel like I’m the only person in the world working out.

This is obviously a problem though. I mean it would be a fantastic situation ordinarily…had I not got an impending marathon in February. Every time I think about the marathon I feel a bit stressed and a bit sick. Oh sure I could bin it, but I’d rather not waste the money I already spent on it (a fair chunk) and I do actually want to do it. I just don’t want to train for it.

I only have myself to blame for this situation. Too many marathons, too much running, stupid biomechanical faults, questionable training… Yes I know I’m an idiot when it comes to running in a variety of different ways. But marathons are not 5ks or 10ks, or even half marathons. You can’t decided one week to just enter one and run it in the near future. You don’t know what the situation is going to be like in the months ahead. And this marathon more than most is one you need to apply months and months away from the start date.

I’m just in a sticky situation of not being able to train for a marathon I’m not sure I want to train for. Problematic. I suppose it’s better that I’m feeling indifferent than to be feeling full of despair for not running. Mentally I’m in a good place (increasing nausea and panic attacks for impending marathon aside of course). I just need to hope that I can run soon so I can find the love again… Though I love the gym, I’ll always still be a runner first and foremost.

Have you ever felt demotivated for a race coming up?

What do you consider yourself – a runner, crossfitter, climber, cyclist, etc.?

Where do you draw the line?

So lately I’ve been using the elliptical machine to keep my cardiovascular fitness up while I wasn’t running much. I could have done a spin class but I didn’t really fancy it. I wanted something similar to running and something that I could control depending on how I felt.

With spin it’s very much go-go-go, whereas I can do whatever I fancy on my own. But invariably I’d find it so incredibly dull and would require some sort of entertainment to get me through. I found watching YouTube videos on my phone an effective way of keeping me on the machine. I would want something a bit mindless but also motivating and inspiring. So I ended up watching lots of fitness vloggers go about their lives. This entailed the types of training they did in the gym, the foods they’d eat and just generally what they’d get up to. Pretty much like the blogs I read really but visual, obviously.

I found myself watching videos of vloggers who I’d never in my wildest dream ever want to be like (which is actually quite different to the blogs I read). Not because they’re terrible people but because their goals are so far beyond what I’d ever aim for or want. But it wasn’t half fascinating to watch.

Some of the fitness vloggers were bikini competitors. At first I really had no idea what that was. I knew it was vaguely bodybuilding but I had no idea that you could (or would even choose to) train for months to just stand on a stage, in a bikini, and basically show your body off. These women would train, bodybuilder-style, in the gym and then drop their calories down to “cut” in order to show off their newly honed muscles. Like really cut down their weight – we’re talking 16% body fat.

To me it doesn’t look attractive at all. Why on earth would you do that? Why would you want to? For a short period of time on the stage?! Many of them would apply a shed loads of fake tan, wear unbelievably thick make-up, have fake nails, fake hair and boobs… and these muscles popping out everywhere from their hard bodies with barely an ounce of fat on them.

And before they’d go to that point, I’d watch them weighing out their food. ALL their food. Counting macros and calories with scrupulous detail. As the competition gets closer and closer, their food would basically be oats, tilapia fish, chicken, sweet potato and rice. I even watched one girl take her scales TO THE BEACH to weigh out her snacks while she sunbathed.

But this is a genuine thing. Apparently this is not crazy disordered behaviour, but an effective route to achieve their goal. They are not seen as disordered, but focused and determined. They work hard, striving every day to get one step closer to their dream. They have coaches, actual qualified professionals (most of the time), who guide them through this process.

I watch, fascinating and bewildered. I enjoy watching it because it’s just so mad and bizarre and I’m carried along their journey, hoping they do well. Whatever “well” turns out to be… winning a trophy, placing so they can go to another, better competition, or just achieving a certain body to prove they could.

It got me thinking. Their goals are a million miles away from my goals. I love running and hope to run many marathons in my time. I want my body to be strong and injury-free. Of course I try and watch what I eat most of the time (weekend adventures aside…) and I care about what my body looks like. But I have to stop myself before I say, “I’m not as obsessed as they are”.

Am I sure about that?

I’ve had many people (non-runners and people who aren’t interested in fitness) say to me “I don’t know how you do it”, “you’re so motivated”, but mostly “you’re crazy”. I get up at 5am most weekdays to go to the gym to remain strong and healthy for running. I’ll spend hours over the weekend running long runs while most people will be in bed. I walk round a park on freezing Saturday mornings setting up a course to then run round in teeny tiny shorts, my thighs turning pink with the cold. And I’ll finish smiling.

I’ll turn down social events when I’m in the thick of marathon training, or make sure I’m leaving so I can get home in bed for 9pm. I rarely drink alcohol. I’ll cry to my dad on the way to work about my latest injury. I’ll sob because I so desperately want to be outside, in that blizzard/hurricane/storm so I can get in my precious miles. I’ll pour over my spreadsheet to make sure I’m getting in the miles I need, I’ll analyse past performances on Strava comparing where I am now to where I was then. Can I run that pace? Am I faster? What’s my segment best?

I’ll endure hours of painful sports massages. I’ll roll about on the floor in awkward positions to get that knot out of my calf/glute/hamstring. I’ll spend hundreds of pounds on trainers, gymwear, running clothes, gels, foam rollers, running books and magazines, running holidays… it goes on and on.

There’s not one day that passes that I don’t not think about running or what I’m going to do at the gym. My weekends revolve around my running and fitness. My year is broken into when my next marathon is, when I’m training and what races I can squeeze in between.

Am I obsessed?

Where do you draw the line between determination and obsession? When does drive and ambition turn into something darker? Do you need to be an outsider looking in to gain a certain perspective? Am I wrong to have judged those bikini competitors just because it’s not my goal and it’s not what I’d do?

I guess we all have our own obsessions and goals… and it’s managing them and keeping them under control that’s key. I know from experience of injuries not to put my whole heart and soul into running because when it all comes crumbling down, you need something to be left with, whether that’s anything to do with fitness or not. But after thinking about it, I do judge those vloggers less harsh now. We all have goals, and those goals require different routes and methods, however bizarre they seem to me. People in glass houses…

What do you think?

Would you say you’re obsessed about anything?

Has anyone ever commented on your hobbies?