Unpopular opinions and things I’m loving lately

Well this is really a random post! It’s a mix of things I’m loving at the moment and some unpopular opinions.

The unpopular opinions idea came from a post from Hungry Runner Girl and I thought it would be a fun post to do as well. I’ll throw my hands up and say it’s mainly food related but that should hardly surprise you 😉

  • I really don’t get Nutella. Yep starting with a big one. I mean, I like chocolate and I like hazelnuts. But together? As a weird thick paste you put on bread and crepes? Nope. Doesn’t do anything for me.
  • I also don’t get the craze for peanut butter (or any nut butters really). It could be because I don’t often have bread or toast. But I don’t see the appeal even on it’s own. It’s alright but I wouldn’t go out of my way to find any or eat it. I quite like a peanut butter chocolate flavour combo with cookies and ice cream but as a fun change rather than something I’d crave.
  • Toppings on porridge. In fact, I could say a whole lot about porridge and what people do to it. Cold overnight oats? Nope, no, nooo. The most exciting I do is putting protein powder in it.

  • Not one for the veggies… I really like eating my chicken with the skin on, and in general I’m a big fan of meat on the bone. I think it’s because I’m a mini T-Rex.

  • And one non-food related one. I’d rather get up at 5am to workout in the gym than do it in the evening. I can be motivated to run whenever, but going to the gym? Nope.

And onto things I’m loving lately…

This is fairly random but it made me laugh. Have you ever wondered what animal you’d be if you were to be one? On my two holidays I was called two different animals. The first was a hyena. This goes back to the eating meat from the bone (see above).I’m pretty good at getting as much meat as I can off it. It’s a well-honed skill. I like to think that back in the day (you know, a few million years ago) I’d have survived for a good amount of time as a neanderthal with that kind of ability.

In Tokyo I then got called a squirrel. This is because I have a fear of food running out and so to combat this I constantly carry snacks round with me. On the flight I had three different packets of crisps, two apples, a mini bag of pretzels and some turkey jerky. I didn’t eat them all but I felt happier knowing they were there.

This doughnut. Now I’m not a huge doughnut fan. I’m more of a cake-lover. However when I was in Southampton West Quay shopping centre I saw a “make your own doughnut” stand. Basically you could choose your own toppings…as many as you liked! For £1.50! I walked over to have a look – just a LOOK – and found myself with my purse in my hands perusing the menu before I knew what I was doing.I got a white chocolate covered doughnut with caramel sauce and caramel shrapnel.Caramel shrapnel? What a wonderful way to describe little droplets of sugary heaven. I won’t lie. I got it all over me in the middle of the busy shopping centre and I did not care.

Odd but tasty gels. My lovely friend, Mat (AKA triathlon legend) sent me some gels a while ago and I was FINALLY able to try them out during the marathon. Well, one of them anyway! Maple Bacon flavoured GU. Yes really.I have quite a strong stomach and have never had an issue with gels before so I was confident to just try it for the first time during the race (I live life on the edge…). It was really good. I love the flavour of maple bacon anyway (Kettlebites I’m looking at you) so this wasn’t too weird for me. Sweet and salty yumminess! (FYI: I believe he bought them from Amazon).

Tokyo goodies: When I finished the Tokyo Marathon (I’ll stop talking about this one day), we were first given a towel as we walked from the finish line. I was like “oh cool…but we still get a medal, right??” Thankfully we did, but getting a towel as well was pretty cool.I’ve only ever received a mini gym towel (and that was in place of a medal) but this is pretty damn good. Get me to a swimming pool/beach/plumbing disaster immediately!

I also got a technical t-shirt which (hallelujah!) actually fits.As I’m a fairly micro person I always opt for extra-small if it’s available as an option and this fits like a glove. I suppose it helps that Japanese women in general are quite small.

ASICS running gear from Millet Sports: Millet Sports kindly sent me a pair of ASICS leggings and ASICS running jacket to review.Firstly, apologies for the most ridiculously cheesy pose in this picture. Catalogue pose eat your heart out.

The jacket is brilliant. It’s quite thick, so perfect for when it’s really cold outside (like those ridiculously cold mornings or evenings we’ve been having). It has the fabulous thumb holes as well as a couple of nice pockets. It’s waterproof, breathable and has reflective dots over it so great for visibility when running in the dark. I just love the colour as well.It matches my new trainers!

The leggings are full length made from a breatheable stretch material, with a short zip at the ankles to give a bit of ventilation (I personally wouldn’t when running as it would flap, but I imagine after a run it’s lovely to have a bit of air). There’s a drawstring around the waist so there’s no worries about them slipping down mid-run as well. Though they’re not baggy they are less tight than other leggings I have, like ones from Fabletics or Lululemon which literally suck you all in. This makes running in them a lot more comfortable.

There’s also a back pocket slightly to the side which I like as sometimes a back pocket can annoy me with the zip, whereas slightly to one side is a bit more comfortable.

A great winter running outfit. Check out Millet Sports for more running gear!

What would be your ideal doughnut topping?

What animal would you be and why?

What’s your unpopular opinion?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the leggings and jacket for free in return for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

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.

More leggings, a cheeky Nando’s and the cinema

Last weekend went from, on the Friday, having no plans to then being busy both days. My mum asked if I wanted to join her to go to Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth for a little mooch. It’s always nice to go to Gunwharf around Christmas as their decorations are pretty and it always feels very festive.

Plus, they have an Adidas and a Nike factory shop which always deserves a little wander around. I hadn’t planned on buying anything. I’m quite up to date on my Christmas shopping, which is super organised for me, and I’m trying really hard to not spend unnecessary money as I have two rather large holidays coming up.

I popped to the gym in the morning, of which I was quite happy to do as it was chucking it down and parkrun didn’t sound appealing at all. I’m currently not running due to a shin niggle (same one as I always seem to get) and my physio advised taking a couple of weeks off to let it calm down. I’m actually feeling alright about this as I’m loving the gym at the moment and can really focus on my strength gains.

Though I am wary that marathon training should begin soon so I’ve been incorporating 3-4 elliptical sessions into my week to make sure it’s not a complete shock to the system when I do get running again in terms of my cardiovascular fitness. It’s quite easy to get these sessions in as I can do them in an evening after work in my work’s gym rather than take away any time from my strength training. But on Saturday I had the morning free to do both the elliptical and strength training which I really enjoyed (weird I know).

Anyway after than long meandering diversion… my mum and me went shopping. I ended up in the Nike changing room trying on a pair of leggings (the Epic Lux) I didn’t need and then boom! I’d bought them. It was like I blacked out for a second. I don’t know how it happened but it did…

Basically they are some of the nicest leggings I’ve ever worn. The material, the fit, the colour. So nice.img_6463I have zero regrets as they’re perfect. They survived the squat test, the lunge test and the “how does my bum look in these?” test – all that were confirmed my mum 😉 It was a lovely shopping trip with my mum, though the weather was rather grim.

For Sunday, again I didn’t have plans initially until I heard a review of Arrival on the radio and having seen the trailer I was really keen to go and see it.

I don’t often go to the cinema as I find it quite expensive and a bit of a faff. I’d rather watch a film at home in PJ’s with my own snacks, not the overpriced and ridiculously unhealthy snacks at the cinema (though let’s be honest, there is always a place for those occasionally!). But the film looked really good and it looked like it warranted to be seen on the big screen.

I thought it might be a film my dad would enjoy and wafted the idea past him, mentioning maybe a cheeky Nando’s beforehand? Though he’s still losing weight and is doing very well, a Nando’s can easily be accommodated as it’s basically just chicken. Don’t have the chips and have a different side, like the rice, sweet potatoes or the roasted vegetables, and it’s a perfectly reasonable meal. The invitation was of course open to my mum as well but she’s not a big sci-fi or Nando’s fan so…

Sadly though my dad was ill (you know he’s ill when he turns down a trip to the cinema with food). I was quite happy to go on my own because #independentwoman 😉 but I think my mum was distraught at the idea of me going alone. I swear my mother has visions of me dying alone and sad. If I ever bring up the mere mention of a male she leaps on the potential prospect, even if I don’t actually fancy them (“you could grow to like them”), they have a partner (“but not married, Anna”) or they’re a lot older than me (“age is but a number”) *sighs*. So the mere thought of me going to the cinema alone caused enough distress for her to join me – even if meant enduring Nando’s and a film she was less than lukewarm about. Mothers, eh!

That said, it was far nicer to go with my mum than on my own. Once again I went to the gym in the morning. I tend to do the gym fasted because I like to get up and go rather than get up, eat breakfast and wait a while then go (exactly like my running). By the time I met my mum though it was almost 1pm and I was HANGRY. Luckily we were seated straight away at Nando’s and I very much enjoyed my usual Nando’s meal (whole chicken with side salad).img_6478My mum had the Mediterranean salad with chicken and added avocado and halloumi.img_6479She said it was very tasty – I was actually quite surprised at how nice it looked. Nando’s isn’t exactly Michelin Star. It’s more close to fast food!

I felt very satisfied after the meal and in a very happy place. It was, as always, delicious. We then went to see the film with two large Diet Cokes (though Nando’s is very tasty, it is quite salty and I’m always very thirsty afterwards!) and I brought two very special snacks to enjoy as well.img_6481I did make sure to eat them during the trailers though as I realise they are not very cinema-friendly snacks (a lot of crunching!).

The film was brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was actually quite sad but very thought-provoking and definitely warrants another watch. Amy Adams is fantastic in it. A great way to end a really fun weekend – quality mum and daughter time 🙂

Do you spend a lot of time with your mum?

What have you seen in the cinema lately?

Do you workout fasted? I will in the morning just because it’s easier I like a big refuel afterwards.

What to Wear When Running in Winter

Winter running can seem like the most unappealing type of exercise. You look outside and it’s dark, cold and probably wet. Nothing is less desirable.

But it is true what they say: there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. The one thing that winter running has above summer running is that it gets better the longer you run. If you’ve ever run on a beautifully sunny day you’ll know how hard it can suddenly become after that first mile. You start to get hot, the sun is beating in your face, you sweat, you’re thirsty… it sucks basically. But at least with winter, though it may look pretty rubbish and miserable, once you get going it’s actually not too bad. As long as you’re prepared.

When it comes to what to wear for winter running, you really do have a lot of choice. The temptation is of course to wear lots of layers so the minute you step outside you’re not cold at all… but within a mile you’re ridiculously warm and sweating. Ideally you want to be cold before you get going, because you will warm up. That first mile might feel horrendous but it does get better.

To give you some tips and guidance for what you could wear for running in the winter, I’ve teamed up with Decathlon, the sports products company.decathlon-winter-run-gearI tend to graduate my running outfits as it gets colder and colder. So for the beginning of winter I’ll probably choose a long sleeved but fairly thin layer, like the Alenji Kalenji Elio long sleeved jersey.kalenji-kalenji-elio-womens-long-sleeved-running-jersey-broken-pinkHaving a half-way zip is ideal because you can have it done right to the top as you start but then undo it as you get more warm to provide a bit more ventilation. Also, having thumb holes in the sleeves is a great compromise when it’s not quite cold enough for gloves. Ideally you also want a top that has reflective bits on it, especially as the nights and mornings get darker.kalenji-kalenji-evolutiv-womens-running-jerseyThe Kalenji Evolutiv jersey is a step above providing more protection from rain but also has a handy ventilation section where you can uncover the arms and/or chest. You can see in the first picture of the three tops with the arms and chest done up (middle picture) and then how it looks when unzipped (photo above). This is great for those who can’t make their minds up what to wear!

Obviously keeping warm and dry is a high priority for runners, but so is being seen and keeping safe. Having high-vis gear on is essential when it’s pitch black outside. Yes you’re probably running on the pavement and there is street light but by making yourself visible you’re doing yourself and everyone around you a favour. When you run across a road, or run towards a pedestrian, it’s essential to be seen to avoid any nasty collisions or accidents.kalenji-ekiden-light-jacket-yellowThe Kalenji Ekiden jacket is a great lightweight high-vis jacket that can definitely help with this. It’s not too thick to be overbearing, heavy or too warm, but it will protect you from the wind and rain while making yourself visible to those around you.decathlon-winter-running-gearFor most of the year I’ll stick with wearing shorts as my legs never get that cold. But when it does get really bitter then I’ll switch to either a pair of capris or long length leggings. There’s nothing worse than numb legs!!kalenji-ekiden-warm-womens-running-tightsThe Kalenji Ekiden running tights are inexpensive (£9.99!) and perfect for those really cold days when you just can’t face bearing your legs.

But the one thing I cannot be without are gloves during the winter. The rest of me might be sweating and seriously hot, but my hands never warm up. I wear gloves pretty much November onwards.kalenji-retro-reflective-gloveThe Kalenji Retro-Reflective gloves are great because not only will they keep your hands warm but they’ll also give a bit more high-vis to your hopefully already high-vis’ed up outfit ;-)And in terms of running accessories, I’m a huge fan of wearing lights. Either a head torch (though I do find this annoying as they always tend to bob about on my head) or by attaching some sort of LED to my clothing.

kalenji-kalenji-run-lightThe Kalenji Run Light is a handy way to make yourself super visible. You just put it over your top layer and you’re good to go. It provides visibility up to 20m ahead of you and it comes iwth a rechargeable battery (though it does last 5 hours). What I really like is that it has rear flashing lights as well, so you’re fully covered.

So basically my key points are:

  • Be seen, either using high-vis clothing or lights (ideally both)
  • Avoid wearing thick layers; you want to be cold when you begin because you will warm up
  • Look for material that is wicking and will protect you from the rain and wind, like a light-weight jacket
  • Wear gloves

How do you stay warm during winter running?

What are your top running accessories?

How do you stay visible running/exercising the dark?

**Full Disclaimer: I was given a Decathlon voucher to spend in their shop in return for this article. All opinions are my own.**

Milestone Pod Review

I love stats. I’m all about facts and figures, graphs and tables and #allthedata. It’s one of the fun parts about running: wearing my Garmin and then downloading the run when I’m finished and seeing all the figures.

Yes it’s nice to be disconnected once in a while and have a “naked” run without any gadgets or tracking system…buuuuut that’s a rarity for me. I don’t feel chained to my Garmin or anything as ridiculous as that and if I forgot my watch I wouldn’t not run, but personally I much prefer to track how it went, even if I don’t look at my watch while I’m running.img_4383So when I got the opportunity to review the Milestone Pod I was very excited. It’s a new little gadget and not actually available just yet in the UK (it is in the States, *sighs* they always get the good stuff over there…) but it will be soon.

What is it? Basically it’s a very small, well, pod that you attach to one of your trainers and it records certain data from your run, which you can then upload to an app on your phone.img_4433It tracks the mileage that your trainers do, doesn’t require a GPS so can work indoors as well as outdoors and (and this is what excited me the most) records gait and performance metrics.

The app gives a clear picture of how the run went:

img_5956And you can hone into this data further:img_5957

So you view your pace, cadence, foot strike, ground contact, stride length, etc.

img_5958

I mean, seriously how cool is that?? It definitely provides an interesting insight into your run. My running form is something I’m always looking to improve so this gives me some good feedback and some pointers for things I need to work. I take the heel strike thing with a pinch of salt though as I’m not bothered about heel striking but more about where my foot is actually landing (basically, whether I’m over-striding or whether my foot is landing beneath my body). But it’s still very cool!

The rate of impact is an interesting metric and the website provides some good information as to what this really means:

“...think of Silly Putty. If you slowly stretch out the Silly Putty, it will not break right away because it has time to deal with your pulling force (low rate of impact). If you quickly yank it apart, the Silly Putty will snap because it has no time to deal with your pulling force (high rate of impact).” Source

As an injury prone runner (I’m sure I say this in every post as if you’re not aware of the thousands of injuries I seem to acquire every year), this is really informative. It’s made me keen to work on some running drills (which my club do before speed training) and put the strength training I do in the gym into better action while I’m actually out running.

The pod is very easy to get working and set-up (even a numpty like me can do it!). It uses a battery similar to a watch so it doesn’t need charging and is easy to replace when it eventually does go flat. What I will say though is be very careful you’ve attached it carefully and properly to your shoe so it doesn’t fall off. This has happened to me during a run!img_4387I’m all about the gadgets and stats as I said so if that’s something you’re interested in too then this is definitely for you. I love stuff like this and I love that there’s a whole app full of metrics and graphs that I can just peruse and geek out over. And, importantly, aim to consciously work on while I’m actually running. So keep your eyes peeled for it’s launch on Amazon in a few weeks!

Do you like getting lots of data from your runs/workouts?

How do you track your workouts?

Have you ever had your running gait analysed?

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