How I try to be injury-free

2017 has been my best year running. No I haven’t PB’ed in every distance (in fact, I’ve only achieved one PB this year, at the Great South Run). But I’ve had a great year of CONSISTENTLY running and side-stepping injuries.

This year I’ve only had two injuries, both lasting a short period of time (for me this is VERY good). One of those was ankle related and probably down to throwing myself back into running too soon after a marathon and going on a ridiculous seven mile off-road trail run. The second was upping my mileage from 25 miles a week to over 50 miles a week on an Austria run camp – lots of downhill running causing my knee to say ENOUGH. So in terms of those pesky over-use injuries I used to get ALL the time, I’ve done very well.

I thought I’d do a post on some of the things I’m doing that I believe might have helped me. I will obviously preface with this with: 1) I’m not a physiotherapist, coach or anyone of any notable qualifications or intelligence, 2) this might all be fluke. That said, let’s get to it.

Gaining weight

I used to be about five-six pounds lighter. Yes, yes lighter usually means faster when it comes to running but as I don’t particularly care about speed in the great scheme of things I don’t mind (that said, I’ve managed to almost reach my 5k PB from my lighter days).

I’ve put in some solid effort at the gym and gained muscle and, yes, fat. Ladies, FAT IS NEEDED. We need fat to be healthy. Boobs, bums, hips, thighs… fat is a good thing to have. Obviously there is a limit, but being ridiculously skinny is not that healthy. Embrace those love handles, jiggle those thighs and be proud of your lumps, bumps and curves. I realise I’m still a relatively slim jim, but I am definitely not as slim as I used to be and I’m very happy. I love my body and I love food. I have an insane appetite and the thought of giving up anything to be slimmer genuinely brings sadness to my heart. Happily, I truly believe that carrying a bit more jiggle has given my body more strength and the ability to endure higher mileage.

Strength training

I bang on about this all the time I know. It took me a while to get this. I’d get injured, I’d end up at the physio, he’d assess and treat me and send me away with a list of exercises I needed to do. I’d do them for a period of time and eventually be back running, forget the exercises… and then get injured again. This was quite the cycle for me. Until I finally realised I needed to keep doing the exercises. Sadly I’m not as hardy as other people and I require that added extra work in order to keep me running healthy and strong.IMG_0965So I go to the gym four times a week. Two of those sessions are focused on my legs and glutes. For legs I do squats (lots of variations from heavy low reps, to high reps with resistance bands, etc.), lunges, single leg work, leg presses, deadlifts… And for glutes I do hip thrusts, kickbacks, bridges, step ups, etc. And every day at the gym I always do at least five minutes of focused glute resistance band work, such as monster walks.

I’ve also found when I start to feel something “not right” (like my hip the other week) I focus on that area and the areas around it. I make sure I don’t cause pain or discomfort, but I aim to strengthen that area. I’ve found it also helps to get the blood flowing in that area to help keep it healthy.

Bit of stretching

I don’t really stretch after running and I don’t tend to do much warming up (unless it’s super cold or I’m waiting for someone – then I’ll do some token squats and leg swings). What I do do is stretching first thing in the morning. This is usually at the gym. I go through a sort of mini-yoga routine opening up my back and my hips. I try and make sure the movements are dynamic and not just static holds. I don’t know if this has helped me much with running but in general I feel better for it.

And nutritional things…

Now take these with a punch of salt. I thought I’d mention them because they’re something I personally like to do and in my head I think they make a difference but really I have no idea and no direct proof.

  • Turmeric: I eat a lot of turmeric. It’s gotten to the point now that most of my dinners have a slight orange tinge to them because of the turmeric. I really like the spice (I wouldn’t eat it if I didn’t, believe me!) and I’ve heard some good things about it helping reduce inflammation. So I chuck it on my meals. In my most paranoid moments (the day before a long run or a marathon for example) I might even go as far as having a turmeric latte. Yep.
  • Omega 3 supplements: I take these every single day without fail. I do try and eat fish regularly through the week but I like to fully ensure I’m getting my omega 3 anyway.
  • More protein: And in general I eat a solid amount of protein. I much prefer protein to carbs (#allthemeat) so I don’t find this too difficult. With every meal I’ll have a solid source of protein. Easy protein sources: tinned tuna (I eat this every day for lunch in a salad), protein powder (I add this to my porridge), Greek yogurt (or Skyr yogurts are really good), chicken, turkey and meat/fish in general, eggs, cottage cheese, beans, chia seeds…

Like I said, I have no idea if the above has significantly contributed to me staying uninjured but it’s a lifestyle I’m going to continue. Hopefully this has been somewhat useful to you! Now excuse me while I sip my orange-tinged coffee… 😉

How do you stay injury-free?

Do you take any supplements?

Do you go to the gym?

Trying to keep up

On Friday my work, Wiggle, had another ‘sports day’. They happen on the last Friday of every month at 2.30pm, with several options you can get involved in.

There were two different bike rides, tennis, swimming and two different runs. There was a “slower” 5k and a 15k. The 15k didn’t mention speed but I didn’t think it would be that fast. I saw who was signed up for it and there was a girl doing it who was a little bit slower than me so I felt comfortable.IMG_0151I decided to wear a suitably sporty outfit to work to embrace the day (plus, leggings are just SO comfortable and honestly I’d wear them every day if I could… well, I probably could at Wiggle but I need to maintain some level of smartness in life I think! Plus I really don’t need to give myself an excuse to buy any more leggings).

Before 2.30pm I swapped my leggings for shorts and got myself ready for the run. I met the others downstairs in the lobby and realised the group was actually made up of entirely speedy people. The girl who I’d spotted on the list had decided not to run at the last minute. I mean, I didn’t know for a fact that these guys were speedy but you know when you can just tell? There was also the 2.39 marathoner girl as well. I MEAN SERIOUSLY.I nervously said, “I think I might be in the wrong group here…” but they all politely assured my I’d be fine and they wouldn’t go too fast. Hmmm.

Well, as soon as we started running it was clear their concept of fast were quite different to my concept of fast. As we about to do around nine miles I decided to just keep at the pace I was comfortable with and not feel pressured to run faster. I was running 8min/miles and they were already stretching ahead of me. I resolutely stuck to my guns. If they wanted to leave me behind then fine, but I wasn’t going to risk injury or exhaustion trying to keep up with them.

It did make me a little sad though. I had so much enjoyed the last Wiggle run… it was fun and social and there were no egos or speed dictatorship involved. It was the first time since joining Wiggle where I felt left out and not good enough (entirely in my head I know but still a feeling I felt).

After a mile they waited for me to catch up. I said to them did they think it was better if I just went back and did the 5k instead? But again they assured me it was fine. They slowed down a little and I managed to keep in the group. Though they were chatting away and I was just focusing on keeping up. Again, not an overwhelmingly fun experience.

The route was nice. We went along Farlington Marshes (which is where I got the idea to go walking there on Sunday). It was flat, not too windy and soft underfoot so at least there was that.

There were only five of us and as we settled into the second mile one of the guys started slowing down and drifting behind us. In the end for most of the run he was far behind and we’d wait until he caught up at sporadic moments. I felt mean leaving him and a little angry that as a group we weren’t adjusting our speed to keep as a group.

Right at the end the two faster runners dashed off for a final sprinty mile and I ran to the end with one of the other guys who, despite being naturally fast, was starting to feel the miles. We’d completely left behind two other guys and they ended up going the long way round, unsure of the route. To be honest, it didn’t scream of comradeship or team building but there we go. I’ll know for next time when I see who’s signed up to what!9 milesIn the end it was a solid run in terms of the speed and distance – a good tempo run. But enjoyment factor? Minimal. Constantly feeling like I’m not fast enough or worried about people behind me being left behind isn’t my idea of fun.

Wiggle had also arranged for a pop-up bar with a tent serving sausages as well (with a guy dressed in lederhosen…). The 5k’ers were back so I chatted to them for a bit while enjoying many glasses of Diet Coke. It was so warm and sunny. Ahh here was the fun part – no more egos or feeling left out. Instantly I felt miles better.I know this sounds so corny, but I’ve made friends with a nice group of people at work and I don’t feel like the newbie or outsider anymore (like you do at the beginning). Everyone is around my age or a bit younger so it feels very natural and easy (unlike the run perhaps…).Anyway, onto a review! A few weeks ago I was sent a Sonic Chic Deluxe toothbrush. Now, I used to own an electric toothbrush but…eh… I kind of gave up on it. To be honest, it annoyed me having to charge it with a great stonking cable and unit in my bathroom and it seemed a faff. Yes, yes I know electric toothbrushes are better for you tooth and blah blah…

Anyway, this toothbrush is charged using a USB – which is quite dinky and cute. No long cables or annoyingness. It’s actually a very slimline and attractive toothbrush (is that weird? It’s very travel-easy is what I mean). It’s slimline and has a nice case to it to fit easily into a wash bag.

Despite it’s size, it’s really quite powerful. The vibrations of the bristles are quite intense (32,000 strokes a minute)! And I really like how after 30 seconds it pulses so you know to change the quadrant of your mouth. And the brush head is quite small so it can get to the nooks and crannies of your mouth – like behind your bottom teeth (always a problem area for me my dentist tells me). It also contains a replacement brush. Remember to change those brush heads fairly regularly!You do have to physically move the brush though yourself – if that makes sense? A regular electric toothbrush you might just need to guide it along your teeth as it’s head spins and circles, but for this one you gently do the circular actions as the head only does the sonic vibrations rather than any actual movements. It also doesn’t come with a plug, just the USB connector. I really like it. It’s marketed as a travel toothbrush but it’s now my regular one. The battery is also really good. You get a substantial number of uses before needing to charge it (maybe once per week?). My mouth definitely felt SO much cleaner after using this, fully recommend! You can buy from Boots for £19.99.

Do you use an electric toothbrush?

Do you have friends at work?

**Dull Disclaimer: I was sent the toothbrush for free in exchange for a review on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

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?