My marathon plans for Sunday and charcoal beauty

My 11th marathon is on Sunday. The Bournemouth Marathon. The only marathon I’ve previously done before.

I don’t tend to like to do the same marathons again as I think that, because they’re so epic, it’s nice to do different ones. Experience a new place, carve out new memories from the blood, sweat and tears… but Bournemouth is a little different for me. I have a few “heebie jeebie” feelings about it because it’s the only marathon I’ve done where I’m not proud of my performance and I really didn’t enjoy.Bournemouth marathon 5I felt something not quite right in my knee around mile eight and by mile 12 I was really uncomfortable, and mile 16 in pain. By mile 22 I was run-walking and mile 24 just walking. Barely. I was crying as I crossed the finish-line. Not out of happiness or relief, but out of pain. I was then injured for a significant amount of time after that race. To continue running the race was a stupid decision. One I hope not to recreate in any race going forward.IMG_5016So I have some bad vibes with this race. I wanted to re-do it to erase those bad memories and, well, unfinished business and all that. Like I’ve said in previous posts, I’m not sure how I’m going to run it (one foot in front of the other’s a good start…). In terms of paces…ack, I don’t know. I want to have an enjoyable experience…but I also want to see where I’m at. I’ve had a *fairly* good lead-up to this marathon (albeit with the snaggle of an injury) and I do feel like I have some good endurance strength in me. Speed? Not so much.

One day I promise I’ll actually train with the intention to go into a marathon and bravely say, “I’m going to go for a time near my PB” but, being 100% realistic here, that is not this marathon. I would blow up by 14-16 miles. So I have a conservative approach of aiming for around 8.20-30s to start and see how I feel as I get past half-way and towards the 18-20 mile area. If I feel like it’s too hard, I’ll drop the pace back (by mile 10 for definite) but if I feel good I’ll give it some welly in the last 10k and hang on for dear life.

But, as I always say, you never know with a marathon. I may not even finish. I may crumble. A marathon can chew you up and spit you out, however well or badly you’ve trained. Such is its beauty. So I’ll go into it giving it the respect it deserves. I’ll take nothing for granted and listen to my body, my heart rate, my breathing and mentally what I’m feeling. The rest is in the hands of the running gods.

Activated Charcoal Products Review

So it seems that charcoal products seem to be very “in vogue” right now. Activated charcoal sounds all rather posh and interesting. Basically charcoal becomes activated when acid or steam are combined with carbon rich materials such as wood, coal, rye starch or coconut shells and then these “unlock” the billions of tiny pores within the carbon materials. This makes it really absorbent and helps pull impurities from the skin and remove bacteria effectively. I was recently sent some “home-made” charcoal supplements, charcoal toothpaste and a charcoal face mask.

Ecodenta Extra Black Whitening Toothpaste with Black Charcoal & Teavigo 

I’ve tried charcoal toothpaste before and though it wasn’t unpleasant and I did get on with it, the taste was something I needed to get used to. Happily this brand tasted far better! Very much more similar to regular minty toothpaste.My teeth felt and looked lovely and clean after brushing. It’s hard obviously to compare to regular toothpaste but my mouth felt clean. What I will say, however, is that the blackness of the toothpaste has slightly coloured my toothbrush’s white bristles a grey colour and it can make a bit of a mess in a white sink. But it doesn’t stain, it just requires a bit of care.Sukin Oil Balancing + Charcoal Anti-Pollution Facial Masque 

I was also sent a face mask. I’m really not that great with beauty or skincare regimes. Literally all I do is wash my face in the morning and evening with water. I don’t cleanse, tone, moisturise or wear make-up. Actually that’s a lie, I’ve recently been using an eyebrow pencil to keep my eyebrows tidy (they’re quite dark so if I’ve been a bit too keen in the eyebrow plucking department then filling in the gaps makes things a bit neater). So a face mask isn’t really something I use. However, it is something I always think looks quite fun and my skin would probably benefit from doing once in a while. A “once in a while” style regime is my kinda bag for beauty.It’s also ridiculous therapeutic and fun to apply. It goes on lovely and smooth and dries quite quickly. Then you just leave it on and go about life for 10 minutes (in the confines of the safe environment where no one will witness). It’s got a great natural looking list of ingredients as well, which I always appreciate.It easily washes off as well which is a relief. I used a flannel and only took about five minutes to get off. My skin did feel cleaner afterwards and “fresh”.

Holland & Barrett Charcoal Supplements

I was also sent some charcoal supplements.I literally had no idea what these were for. I Googled it to find that apparently they can help treat flatulence… well, what do you know eh! They absorb the excess gas apparently and can reduce bloating. OK then!I don’t have bloating problems (or excessive gas, just to be clear here) but I was intrigued. I will hold my hands up and say that though I don’t bloat or fart excessively, when I’ve had maybe a few too many sprouts or vegetables in general (onion really does a number on me weirdly) I do bloat. I think this is normal for most people, right? Anyway, I’ve been taken these tablets regularly and those sorts of moments of vegetable over-consumption have produced less bloating than ordinarily would. I mean, I’m no scientist but I do  think it helped a little. I can’t promise it would work though for people with chronic bloating issues or after a mammoth curry. WHO KNOWS.

All these items can be found from Holland and Barrett.

Have you ever tried charcoal products?

Do you always a strategy going into a race like a marathon?

Have you ever done a race again to erase the bad memories you’ve had before?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent these products for free in return for a review post. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Improving physical endurance with nutrition

I have another guest post from the Natural Alternative Health & Wellbeing website regarding endurance and nutrition (always a tricky thing to nail!). Enjoy!

 

If your New Year resolution was to get fitter in 2017, or if you were already interested in exercise and would like some healthy tips then this article is for you. In this article we explore using nutrition to help boost your endurance to get you that faster time and finish in a better condition whatever your endurance sport.

Timing

Months in advance of a sporting event practice eating and drinking whilst exercising to find out which items work for you. Some people have robust digestion and can eat shortly before exercise, and some people can only exercise on an empty stomach. If you are taking part in an event find out which foods/drinks are available en route so you can start using these during your training to get your body used to them.

As nutritional therapists we often advise people to generally follow low Glycaemic Index/Glycaemic Load (GI/GL) foods to maintain a healthy weight, but during intense exercise these are not the best rules to follow. Exercise requires meal s to have a higher carbohydrate content so there should be some fat or protein to lower the GI/GL but don’t overdo it – the diet of someone exerciseing should be mostly carbohydrates. Add unsaturated fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts), lean protein, low fat dairy to supplement the carbohydrates ensuring you combine 1 low GI/GL food with each meal (e.g. dried fruit). Popular snacks/light meals include: peanut butter and banana sandwiches, apple with chocolate milk or fruit and yogurt smoothie.

To make sure you are getting enough variety of carbohydrates into your diet here are some examples of what you could use:

  • Breakfast – orange juice, 1.5 cup rolled oats, banana, and wholemeal toast with peanut butter
  • Morning snack – mini box of raisins and ½ bagel
  • Lunch – 2 slices wholemeal bread, ½ tin tuna, 1 tbsp mayo, lettuce and tomato, 6oz yogurt, 1oz pretzels, 1.5 cups grape juice
  • Mid afternoon snack – apple plus 12 almonds
  • Dinner – 2 cups cooked wholewheat pasts, 1 cup tomato sauce, 2oz cooked beef/chicken/seafood, lettuce, 1 cup sorbet for desert
  • After dinner snack – cup of milk plus 6 figs

In the week leading up to the event start to consume even more carbohydrate – approximately 8-10g per kg body weight per day, this can be in the form of pasta, rice, potatoes. Beware not to load up with too much fat e.g. cheesy pasta which leads to poorly fuelled muscles and bigger fat cells. Instead pick pasta with tomato, or honey on toast.

On the morning of the event eat familiar foods which you know you can tolerate. Maybe liquid meal replacements if solid food is not good (this should be tried in advance during your training). Include ingredients which are low fat and fibre to prevent slower emptying of stomach. Ultra Marathon Cycling Association suggest eating 50g of carbohydrates each hour before the event e.g. banana plus a large bagel with jam is 100g, and drinking 500ml two hours before the start of the event. If you can eat close to the event it is suggested 0.5g of carbohydrates per lb body weight the hour before exercise, so for someone who is 10.5 stone the equivalent could be a bowl of cereal plus a banana. If you have found in training you are better without food just before exercise try eating 3 hours before something like a bagel with peanut butter, piece of fruit and a yogurt.

During the event the golden rule when it comes to refuelling is eat before you’re hungry and drink before you’re thirsty.

Hydration

This is crucial to get the most out of exercise and also recovery. It’s also a personal amount which changes each time you exercise. Here is one way to measure how much you should be drinking: Weigh yourself in your exercise clothes just before you exercise, and again when completed the exercise. Every 1lb lost is equivalent to 2 cups (16oz) of fluid. Add the amount of fluid drank during exercise, then divide the total amount by hours exercised. An example:

if you lose 3lb (6 cups fluid) and drink 2 cups during the 2 hours exercise the sweat rate is 8 cups (6+2) for 2 hours, so need to refuel with 1 cup every 15 minutes during exercise as an approximate for your individual sweat rate.

Excessive sweating without replacing electrolytes is dangerous. As an approximation when weight loss is 0-2% of body weight following an event thirst is common and estimated performance loss is 1.8% but this increases to a performance loss of 7% when weight loss is 2-3%. By the time weight loss reaches 3-6% cramps are common and at greater than 6% body weight loss severe cramps, heat exhaustion are a very real threat. It is crucial to make sure during training you measure your sweat rate to ensure you compensate for the amount of fluid you are losing and thereby how much you should be refuelling during exercise.

Consider also the minerals you are losing in sweat. Sweat has 1,000mg sodium/quart, and sports drinks have 440mg sodium/quart so there are occasions when you will need more salt than in sports drinks.The low sodium can also impede you combined with too much water making you feel bloated so don’t consume large amounts too quickly until sodium levels are corrected.

Sodium and potassium are the main electrolytes within cells, but potassium is not lost as  much as sodium in sweat. To compensate for sodium loss add a pinch of table salt per hour of exercise, or include some drinks with a higher salt content e.g. V-8 tomato juice.

Avoiding the mistakes

According to Ultra Marathon Cycling Association there are 10 mistakes to avoid:

  • Over hydrating leading to stomach cramps and sodium being too diluted
  • Too much simple sugar which will be converted by the body if not used into triglycerides
  • Insufficient post event refuelling. Try to consume 50-75g of carbohydrates plus 15-20g protein within 30-60mins after event
  • Make sure you’re eating the right balance, as an approximate the general diet should be 12-20% protein, 50-60% carbohydrates, 20% fat
  • Forgetting to eat enough
  • Insufficient electrolytes causing weakness, nausea and cramping
  • Too much protein during exercise which puts extra burden on the kidneys
  • Too much solid food
  • Time recovering is as important as time spent training

We all know the importance of hydration and carbohydrates when exercising, and hopefully this article has provided some practical tips to make your training more productive and help you exceed your exercise goals.

What do you eat the week leading up to a big event?

Is your stomach sensitive of robust when it comes to digestion?

How much salt do you usually eat?

Everything is good

January is the worst month of the year, I’m sure most of us we’ll agree. Conversely, however, I’m starting the year feeling pretty good.

To be honest, I shouldn’t really be in such a great mood. My leg is still feeling a tad niggly and my runs aren’t going as smoothly as they should this close to the marathon (sorry this is such a boring repetition right now). There’s no pain or horrendous discomfort, but I know in myself it’s not perfect and running twice in a row or pushing out the mileage or number of times I run in the week would definitely be risky. Not only this but my longest run for a fair few weeks (months!) is six miles. Seven weeks out to a marathon this is not ideal.

That said, I’m a glass half-full kind of girl (which is one of the reasons I have so many adult fails as I just presume things are going to work out and neglect to double check or consider contingency plans). I’ve got a general fitness, I’ve run seven marathons before, I have seven hours to complete it… I mean, it could go terribly let’s be honest. My leg could really start to bother me and walking could even eventually be an issue. I might DNF my first marathon. I might be in the middle of a foreign country I’ve never been to, knowing no one, half-way through a marathon I can’t complete, in tears. I mean, that’s the worst case scenario and if it happens it happens. The silver lining is that it’ll make for a great blog post 😉 In a very schadenfreuden way, failures and mishaps are sometimes a more interesting read than someone who succeeds. Obviously I don’t want to fail. More than anything, it’s a bloody expensive failure. And also, having a marathon meltdown isn’t that fun when it’s actually happening to you.

Foam rolling like a trooper

Marathons aside, mentally and physically I’m in a fantastic place.  I feel strong and healthy. Though I’m not running regularly, at the gym I’m lifting heavier weights and feeling strong. I’m still maintaining a level of fitness through running two-three times a week as well as some of my own spinning sessions and steady-state elliptical machine.Long-term readers may remember some frustrations I had a year or so ago about my body basically failing me in certain ways. Things have changed, for the better! I’ve put on about three pounds over the year – which I know isn’t massive and is probably a mix of muscle and fat. I mean, my weight probably varies a few pounds either way but long-term I’ve remained at the same consistent weight. It seems be a nice happy point for me and it’s clearly helped bump me in the right direction to feel and be in optimal health. I feel happier where I am at the moment and really like how I look and what my body can do. My main intention is obviously not lose any weight when my running increases but I’ve got a pretty good handle on this.

Key things that I’ve found that helped get me here:

  • Eating good food and lots of it. I tend to be fairly healthy during the week and then relax at the weekend. If I want cake, I’ll eat it. If I want a takeaway, I’ll have it. I don’t restrict anything but I am conscious of what I’m eating in general. I eat lots of good fats, complex carbs and protein. I’d say my diet is probably more protein and fat heavy though than carb-based. And I’ll tend to time my carbs around when I’m running to get the max benefit. But I do eat a lot, as I’m sure you’ve seen by now! I’m a three course kinda girl 😉 Essentially, I don’t worry about what I eat as throughout the week it all balances nicely.
  • Sleeping enough. I get up ridiculously early in the morning to go to the gym (3-4 times a week, lifting weights). I try not to stay up past 10pm and I find that works for me.
  • Minimising stress. In general my life is not that stressful. I enjoy my job, though my commute sucks at times. I’ve just come to accept some days are good and some days are bad – learn to control the controllables and don’t worry about things are out of your control. I have a great network of friends and family so when life does get hard I’m fully supported. I know I’m very lucky and blessed in this respect.
  • Being sensible with running. Running is a stressor and clearly my body is sensitive. So not training for a marathon all year round will help. After the spring I will be spending the summer and winter just enjoying running and entering races I fancy, but not a marathon. The training for a marathon is a fairly long and arduous process, one that my body might appreciate not doing all the time. I will be running marathons in the future, obviously, but it’s no longer as big a priority as it used to be.

So yeah. I’m feeling pretty happy right now. Mentally over the past year I’ve become a lot more happy in myself and confident. It’s nice that that’s also being reflected to how I feel and how my body functions.

What are important things for you in terms of reaching optimal health?

How much sleep do you get?

How is January for you?

Proud of my muscles

When I look at photos of me from just a few years ago, when I was first getting into running and racing, I can’t believe how much I’ve changed.

Mentally I’ve changed in a big way. I view running and exercise completely differently. I no longer just run. Several injuries have taught me my body is not the hardy type and I need to work on my weaknesses regularly to keep me running healthy and strong. But not just that, I found a great love of lifting weights. I no longer feel that running is my one and only (though if I had to choose, it would always be running. I am a runner first and foremost).img_6036For the past few weeks I’ve just been going to the gym and lifting and it’s been a great break from running. Though I’m itching to get back to it now, I haven’t been going out of my mind because “omg I haven’t been running”. I’m happy to take a break and refresh my system to get the mojo juices flowing again (nice). This is is different to the old me!

I thought I’d share this comparison pic I created because it kind of blew me away. The photo on the left is from around three years ago. I look like an entirely different person. I feel like an entirely different person.Transformation photoThe lack of self-confidence is obvious but also lack of muscle. This is why I love lifting. It’s given me a body I’m proud of. I’ve never hated my body or thought I looked bad, but seeing my body now in comparison to how it was has just validated my love for the gym. I feel better in myself and think I look better after gaining some muscle to my frame. And with that I’ve also gained confidence.Girls with muscleI stride into the gym knowing exactly what I’m going to do that morning. I feel confident going into the weights area, setting up the squat rack and doing my thing. And this has trickled into my life in general. At work I’m more confident, I stand taller, and with running I run stronger and feel like I can kick out that 7min/min at mile 26 of a marathon.img_6051There is also something so satisfying and fun about lifting weights. You can focus on so many different areas. Becoming a stronger runner with form drills and increasing my strength endurance, or focusing on aesthetic goals such as sculpting my shoulders and getting a perkier bum. Or just generally increasing my overall strength – can I smash my personal best when squatting or deadlifting? There’s so much you can do. I’m never bored at the gym.

I’m not saying everyone must lift, and everyone must have muscles. Absolutely not. What I think is important is finding that thing that you love and enjoy. Exercise shouldn’t always be a grind and it certainly shouldn’t be a punishment.

lucysewellIt has to be something that, first and foremost, is enjoyable. If it’s not you won’t stick to it.

It also has to make you feel GOOD. Both running and weight lifting make me feel fantastic. Realistically not every gym session or run is a “punch in the air” scenario, but overwhelming most of the time I enjoy it and look forward to doing it again. So choose something that makes you happy, whether it’s weight lifting, cross-fitting, running, swimming or walking, it’s all good stuff. And most importantly, don’t compare yourself to anyone else out there! No exercise is superior to another and everyone is in a chapter of their own story after all.

What is your favourite exercise?

Do you compare yourself to others?

How has exercise changed you?

Quick fixes don’t exist

Like everyone else in the world, I want quick results and less hard work. I want to go to one interval session with my running club then smash a personal best at my next race. I want to eat a bowl full of salad and kale that immediately cancels out the cake I ate the night before. I want to do a few crunches at the gym one time and have killer abs. Forever.

Yeah. Doesn’t quite work like that, does it? Sadly not. And there is no time like the start of the year than hearing BS claims about “lose 7lbs in 7 days” or “get your bikini body in two weeks!”. It’s almost comical how these things suddenly spark up almost as the new year is chimed in. BOOM. Every news paper, every magazine, every advert, every gym… It’s all about that January fix and New Year’s Resolutions.

And the latest diet craze that sprung up out of seemingly nowhere is this “sirt food diet”. Er, what? Sirt, or sirtuins, are a type of proteins in the body that help regulate biological pathways that basically stop our fat cells from multiplying (more fat cells = the more fat we can become). So more foods containing sirtuins apparently means less risks of getting fat. This is a very loose explanation. I won’t get into the science of it because, let’s be honest here, it’s a load of rubbish anyway and the science premise of the diet itself is shaky. Oh and hey, there’s a book so you can go and waste your money on buy and read and be thoroughly unimpressed. The science is based on mice and fruit flies. Enough said.

Ranting aside, Women’s Health actually have a great article outlining this so-called diet revolution. And for once, it actually puts some sense into it.IMG_7772

February addition of Women’s Health

For example, they highlight that one of the ‘sirtfoods’ is red wine and you’d have to drink around 40 litres to get any sort of benefit. And surely then you’d kind of be dead… Unlike say the Daily Mail, Women’s Health doesn’t just present an entirely one-sided article promoting a ridiculous food plan. They give a good insight into how little we actually know about these flimsy claims. And they note how ridiculous such a reductionist approach to eating would be. The final advice was, just stick to eating healthy and exercising. No nonsense there.

What I also like is that WH also talk about good food to include in your diet which have actual science behind them, such as turmeric (a runner’s best friend for anti-inflammatory properties). I like this: science-based no-nonsense advice and for once not another diet to try and lose those “stubborn pounds”. Plus, not everyone reading Women’s Health wants to lose weight so having foods described in terms of beneficial properties other than just fat-burners is always welcomed.Women's HealthIn a nutshell the takeaway message is: you can’t just eat a ton of kale and drink a load of red wine and think that you’re going to wake up the next day two sizes smaller and feel amazing. Unfortunately life is far more complicated and your body is far more complex (it’s smarter than some dumb new crazy diet as well).

Don’t get me wrong, it is tempting to believe the claims that you can lose weight quickly and shape up in an instant but it’s just marketing rubbish. A big load of money is in this industry and it’s sole purpose is to convince people of their quick, easy routes to body perfection. But health is a lifestyle change and takes weeks and months, even years to achieve. And health isn’t solely measured by weight anyway. Any crazy diet to quickly lose weight is just going to cause more harm than good and be unsustainable. So, my advice would be eat your kale and have your cake too (but in moderation) Winking smile 

**Full Disclaimer: My subscription to Women’s Health was provided for free by magazine.co.uk as part of being in their blogger network**