Things I’m Loving Lately – May

It’s almost June. How did that happen?

Aftershokz: So. The saga of my Aftershokz. I’ve mentioned it a few times, but after the Brighton Marathon I lost my beloved Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones (they did so many races and long runs with me…devastating). I either threw them away accidentally with my foil blanket (standard Anna move) or I left them on the beach. I was really upset about losing them because honestly they’re so good for running outdoors. As someone who is generally an idiot, hearing the outside world while I run is a help. But I do love listening to music and podcasts so with Aftershokz it really is the best of both worlds. Good sound quality while also allowing you to hear the surroundings. It basically uses “bone technology” to transfer the sound to you, rather than through your ears. Your ears are therefore left unobstructed.

Aftershokz amazingly reached out to me through Twitter to ask me what had happened and I explained. They were very sympathetic and offered me a 30% discount code. As they’re £100 to replace my old ones that would be quite a chunk off. However when I tried to use the discount code it wouldn’t work so I messaged them to ask if I was doing something wrong (usually the case, let’s be honest). It turns out they were the US Aftershokz and the discount code would only work for the US site… ah.

Instead they offered me an unboxed test pair of the Aftershokz Trekz Air, the new version, FOR FREE. They wouldn’t be brand new box fresh of course but they would be a working pair with all the bits and bobs working fine, simply just not in the box. Of course I said yes!They arrived a week or so later. And they are amazing. I mean they work just as well as my Titanium’s did (the model before) but they’re a bit lighter and more streamline. I love them. I can’t stress how much I love Aftershokz headphones for running. During races I like to hear the crowds and of course the marshals, and these headphones just give me the option of both hearing my music and still absorbing the race. Not only this but they’re England Athletics approved, meaning they can legally be used in races. I also like that I can keep wearing them when they’re turned off without them blocking sound out. During a marathon I won’t want to listen to music or podcasts all the time, so just having them sat above my ears nice and comfortably means I can still hear properly out of my actual ears. Happy happy.

Obscene amounts of chocolate: I was in Gunwharf Quays on Saturday to see the new Avengers Film (a rave in itself really) and while waiting for the film time, we had a mosey in the Cadbury’s shop. I haven’t been in that shop in ages and thought it would be really over-priced, but actually everything was really reasonable! It wasn’t like dirt cheap of course but it was probably cheaper than the supermarket. And I was SO pleased to have finally found the holy grail of chocolate… the white chocolate Toblerone. I’ve been obsessed about this since my friend Kate got one for her birthday a few months ago. She’d said she got it from the airport and as I hadn’t spotted it anywhere else I was resigned to only seeing it after a holiday (the time when we all want to eat lots of chocolate…hmm).

But lo! And behold! There it was. And under £4 for a decent sized one.I also picked up a big bag of Mis-Shapes. They’re apparently factory rejects of odd shaped chocolates. Well, I was fairly disappointed with my selection. It’s basically a bag of fudges and a few coffee chocolates. I hate coffee flavoured chocolate so really it’s a bag of fudges. Hmmmm! I thought there would be a bit more variety so I feel a bit short-changed. I guess it’s the luck of the draw as well with things like that. Nonetheless, chocolate is chocolate and it was quite cheap for the amount you got.

Supplements I’m taking: I don’t really take that many supplements because I’ve read a lot of articles about how it’s essentially giving you expensive wee as the vitamins etc. just go straight through you. That said, I’ve heard some good stuff about Omega 3 supplements and Magnesium. Through work I was given some supplements to test out for free (how many times do I need to say this… I love my job).They’re from the brand Puori I tried the Organic Whey Protein, the Liquid Fish Oil, the Magnesium and the Vitamin D. I personally don’t think I need to take Vitamin D right now because I get enough sun now with the day being longer. I walk Alfie twice a day, go for a lunchtime walk at work and run outside… so I’m guessing I’m OK on that front. So I’ll save them for the winter months.With the liquid fish oil I was a bit dubious because, well, fish oil. But it’s absolutely fine. It has a faint taste of lemon but it’s not sweet. It doesn’t taste fishy and it’s only a small amount you take. It is a bit greasy if you spill some on yourself though (standard Anna move again).

The magnesium tablets are good but I’m getting through them quickly as you take three at a time. I also had to put them on my bedside table because you take them before bed and I kept forgetting. Though I can’t tell for sure, I do think this is helping with my recoveries. I’ve heard good things about magnesium, especially when combined with Zinc as this supplement is. I’m all about injury prevention!

Do you take any supplements?

Do you use headphones when you run?

What is your favourite chocolate?

**Full Disclaimer: I was given the supplements for free at work in exchange of a review on the Wiggle site. I was also sent the Aftershokz for free but they did not ask me for anything in return.**

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?

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.**

Rants and Raves #36

Things have been fairly busy round here but I thought I’d drop in a little Rants and Raves posts because I do like getting these things off my chest 😉

Rant: So I bought new trainers straight after the Tokyo Marathon because I thought I’d like a fresh start and all that jazz. I’m a Mizuno, Brooks and ASICS fan, but I do tend to favour Mizuno. Or at least I did. I’ve actually been loving running in my Brooks Adrenaline GTS’s but Mizuno’s are a bit cheaper and in general I seem to wear them more. So for around £50 on Amazon I found my usual trainers and went for them.They’re the Mizuno Wave Paradox 2 – in such a lovely colour. I wore them on a few of my post-marathon runs and then hurt my ankle/lower calf. Since then I’ve not worn these trainers again. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the trainers that caused my injury and most likely was the fact that I jumped straight back into some tough running less than a week after a marathon…but my irrational brain doesn’t want to wear the trainers now! I know this is ridiculous. My Brooks will be seeing the end of their time soon and it seems ridiculous to buy another pair of new trainers just because I’ve convinced myself the above trainers aren’t good. Does anyone else get these irrational fears (almost superstitions) about things like this?

Rant: Easter eggs sitting in my living room but aren’t for me.Ahh the daily temptation. I’ve bought a selection of eggs for family and friends and I did this early so there wouldn’t be an issue closer to Easter. On that note, isn’t it ridiculous just how many eggs are sold over Easter? Supermarkets have stacks and stacks of them and yet still they’ll be a dearth of supplies the closer it gets to Easter. It does make me worry about the amount of food packaging waste generated…I hope people recycle where they can.

Also, let’s ignore that that’s a Lindt reindeer and not a bunny. I was going to buy a bunny when my mum told me she had one I could have instead as my parents don’t want any eggs or chocolate as they’re trying to be more healthy. However, it turns out she had a spare reindeer instead – from Christmas. *Sighs*

Rave: Being an adult now (well, in terms of my age anyway I suppose), I don’t get many Easter eggs. My parents still treat me to one. I’m very cheeky and ask for a ludicrously expensive one. However because I’m all “sad and alone with no one to love me” (I believe this is how my mother thinks of me now) they buy this to make up for things (“things” being that very generic and all-encompassing term for the fact that I’m still single). Behold the Extra Thick Patisserie Egg from Hotel Chocolat.

It contains *clears throat* two egg halves, one 50% milk chocolate and pecan praline to be like a pecan pie and the other caramel chocolate, mascarpone, yoghurt and pinch of salt to be like a salted caramel cheesecake. And the full of chocolates themed as puddings, such as carrot cake, treacle tart, Eton mess and fudge sundae, amongst others. The hardship will be trying to not eat this all at once – I think I might die of sugar overload otherwise.

Rant: And speaking of being all single and alone (by the way, this is entirely tongue and cheeky – I actually am very happy right now. If you intend on pitying me, please leave immediately), I have one dress that I can’t wear unless I’m getting changed at someone else’s house.It’s impossible. I can’t do up the back. I can’t do it up before I get into it because it’s too tight then to get over my shoulders or hips, and I can’t reach around because the buttons are tiny. When people make dresses they need to consider single people!

Whew, actually quite a few rants today!

Natruflex Supplement – The Naked Pharamacy

And lastly I have a review from a company called The Naked Pharmacy. This company is a “natural pharmacy dedicated to evidence-based natural medicines, nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals” [Source]. I was sent the Natruflex product.

This contains a high strength of turmeric and black pepper which provides a daily dose of 760mg total Curcuminoids and 19mg Piperine (95% strength of both active ingredients). Apparently these give joint and muscular benefits, reducing discomfort. The supplement also contains magnesium.

The supplement is gluten-free, suitable for vegetarians and not tested on animals.I had a little look on examine.com (which is a great website for checking scientific claims of supplements) and it seems there’s some evidence behind curcuminoid as being helpful to the body. But I’m neither a pharmacist nor a doctor (or anything science-related) so this is a very laymen point of view. I can’t say I’ve felt a huge difference but it is something I’d continue to take as I know how good turmeric is supposed to be for inflammation and, let’s be honest, I need all the help I can get to avoid injuries!

And finally, a lovely little Rave to finish off with. SUNSHINE! At the beach no less! Good days are coming, wheeee!

How are you enjoying these sunnier days?

Do you use turmeric to boost your body?

What Easter egg, if any, are you planning on eating?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the supplement from The Naked Pharmacy for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

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.**