Legging loving – SKINS DNAmic Ultimate Compression review

Leggings… oh leggings, how I do love you.

I’d say 80% of the time at the gym I’m wearing leggings. I feel less “exposed”. The harsh bright lights of the gym and the fact that you’re not really flying past people, but rather hanging out with them in the same space. And doing squats in shorts isn’t my favourite thing it must be said. So leggings at the gym = BIG tick.

But for running I do prefer to be a bit more “free”. In general my legs don’t get that cold. It’s more my upper body that feels the chills. However, I was recently sent some SKINS leggings to test out from their new DNAmic Ultimate Compression range. Though I was keen to just keep them for the gym, the Biblical rain and wind the other night pushed me to be a bit of a wuss and pop the leggings on.It was dark, miserable, cold and wet and I frankly didn’t want to go outside. But the idea of being a bit more covered up made the experience feel a bit more appealing. So on they went. Yes I realise actual skin is waterproof but these aren’t just regular leggings, they’re compression leggings. As a big fan of compression socks I was quite keen to give them a try.Compression gear enhances your natural blood flow, which can increase the oxygen supply to your muscles and remove lactic acid quicker. The compression is design in a way that it’s strategically placed on the areas where you’d need it the most, helping to keep you going and reduce injuries. For every single marathon I’ve run (and all my long runs) I always wear compression socks. I find they give my calves a bit of extra support and keep cramp at bay.The material of the leggings, as you can imagine, is quite tight but not overly so. I mean, let’s be honest, over the Christmas period I don’t think anyone is feeling their leanest but once you’ve got them on you don’t feel overly restricted (a big concern I had, even after all the Christmas chocolate I’ve been scoffing ;-)).

The design is high-waisted (apparently helping with core-support) – which I love. Anything high-waisted I’m totally on board with. And there’s a back pocket (always handy) and reflective details to keep you seen during those dark runs.

I personally really like these leggings. Though I’ll probably use them more for the gym and super cold runs, they do stick to you like a second skin but they’re not restrictive. I felt very much “at one” with the leggings, not fighting them – even though they had a compression feel to them. And happily they’re squat proof! No nasty see-through issues.They’re launching officially in February 2019, but have pre-launched just last week (18th December), replacing their existing A400 range.

Do you wear leggings or shorts for running?

Is that the same for going to the gym?

Do you wear compression gear?

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

Portsmouth Coastal Marathon 2018

I’d signed up to this race almost immediately after finishing it last year because I enjoyed it so much.

It was just such a good event. The course was interesting, the atmosphere was very festive and relaxed and it was a great way to end the year. Kyle had signed up earlier in the year as he was just getting into running and wanted a challenge. And I guess running with me quite a lot meant that the marathon seemed like the logical step considering I would always sing their praises!After a rather stressful day before (more on that another time), my alarm went off at 7am. The plan was to leave my house at 7.40am to get there for 8ish. I had my bib already and really had nothing else to do there. I’d already planned to have a wee a mile or so where I knew they’d be toilets on the course so I wasn’t worried. Kyle was going from his house so I’d meet him there.I ate my porridge and drank a black coffee and was ready to go. Marathon morning is always a little bit tense and as my dad, mum and I all piled into the car later than we’d intended a bit of an argument erupted. It was about nothing major really but enough to create a very stressful morning. My dad and I very similar personalities and are ridiculously stubborn so neither of us were backing down and in the end we sat in silence on the way to the start.Realising this was not going to go away and not wanting to spend the next 4 or so hours in a grump with my dad as I ran, I decided to make the move to reconciling and happily all was well again. We agreed we’d been very silly.
I jumped out of the car and met Kyle and his family: his two sisters, his two brothers, his mum (his dad, his dad’s partner and son would be at the end) -so quite the crowd! My dad was parking the car and as we were pushing for time, Kyle and I hurried off to the start. I noticed the start was further up the prom which was good news considering last year’s race was 27 miles so clearly they’d rectified this, whew!Kyle barely had time to say much to each other but I wished him lots of luck and then we suddenly realised the race had started! I hoped that it wasn’t too stressful a start for Kyle (but equally far better than waiting around for hours getting cold). Luckily it was chip timed so starting late didn’t really matter. We ran a few paces together before I headed off.

I was very tempted to run with Kyle. It would have been nice to have chatted and been with him, but I knew that the later stages of the race wouldn’t be as fun for him and he might appreciate not having me there wittering away trying to encourage him. It can be quite stressful to have someone run with you and I didn’t want to put any pressures on him with paces. Plus, as selfish as this sounds, I felt like my legs might be feeling good – could I beat last year’s time? (3:47ish).

As we’d started a little late, we were right at the back and the first mile was spent weaving around people and saying hello to people I knew. It was a great way to ease into the race and relax, as I was unable to shoot off too fast. My friend Mark sidled up next to me and we had a nice chat. I then dashed into the toilets when I spotted them and found all six cubicles engaged. Ah well! I didn’t have to wait too long and then I was out back in the race.

I eventually caught back up to Mark. He was running a controlled race (easy at the start, then from halfway picking it up). His pace was probably faster than I’d intended to go but I felt comfortable and it was nice to have a catch-up as I hadn’t properly seem him in a while.

Mark is a very fast and methodological runner. Like me he likes to have his paces fed back to him and the miles planned. We both knew neither of us would do anything too silly and equally if one of us needed space we could tell the other to, politely, go away and no feelings would be hurt.Despite the forecast giving me some anxieties the days before, the rain held off and there was just a moderate breeze. I had my arm-warmers on and short-sleeves. I knew I’d need to remove the sleeves at some point as I was starting to feel just slightly too warm. We were VERY lucky with the weather, but the previous rain that night had caused the terrain to be muddy, slippery and riddled with puddles.The first six miles seemed to fly by. We’d gone over the shingle (no major bottleneck like the year before) and then had the long stretch along the coast to the first point where I’d see Kyle’s and my family. Their cheering was so loud and enthusiastic, it was lovely. I felt very much boosted along.Now it was just four miles until I’d see them again. The great thing about this race is how segmented it is. You don’t get bored because the course is always different… down a pavement, through a forest, on a trail path, back onto pavement. It really helped mix things up and keep you interested.Mark and I chatted away about different training styles, races, life lately, the price of petrol, doughnuts…my mind could focus on other stuff rather than running. I imagine had I been on my own I wouldn’t have been running as fast as we were going, but equally I didn’t feel uncomfortable and could talk so I wasn’t too concerned.I took my sleeves off (annoyingly having to take my watch off to do this) and got them ready to hand over to my dad at the 10(ish) mile point. Again, the whole crew was there and I was so busy smiling, waving and enjoying the cheers that I failed to see a bollard and almost collided with it. To be fair there were two runners ahead of me blocking it and by the time I saw it it was almost too late. Thankfully I managed to quickly avoid a major collision, though it did arouse some laughter from the crowds. But whew, could have been nasty.

And on we went for the three-ish miles to the turnaround point. Now we were facing directly against the wind and amusingly one of the mile signs said “Bloody wind” underneath which made us smile wryly. All the mile markers had different things written on them like Muhammad Ali, Ronnie Corbett and Bowie – I’m guessing legends!

The three miles is a bit of a slog and for me is the most boring part of the route as it doesn’t change much. There were also lots of puddles and it was at that point where you just couldn’t be bothered to avoid them anymore. The nice part of this route is that you get to see other runners (the faster ones and the second leg of the relays) coming the other way.We eventually made it to the turnaround and I suddenly felt a new lease of life – we were heading back! Mark commented that our pace had increased in line with what he’d planned and this concerned me a bit. I shouldn’t be going for it just yet with 13 miles still to go! I slowed down a bit, but the wind was now behind us so helped make it feel less of an effort. I got to spot lots more people coming the other way now, including Kyle! He looked a bit tired but still strong. We waved and smiled and then he was gone. I hoped he’d continue to be as strong as the race continued.We got back round to the infamous bollard spot, now 16 miles, and I saw only my dad. I assumed it was because I was running a bit faster than expected and everyone else was in the pub across the road keeping warm (good choice!). Mark then said he was going to push his pace, so I waved him off and we wished each other good luck and he disappeared into the distance (FYI he finished very strong with 3:22:11).

I popped my music on as I felt I needed to zone out and enjoy some time on my own. The trail was now even more muddy and slippery as more people had gone over it. There’s a precarious bit right next to the water and I genuinely had fears of sliding over into it. Imagine!It started to feel quite tough now. I felt my energy disappearing, mentally and physically. It was now a concerted effort to keep going. I had a bit of my Salted Caramel Cliff Shot and hoped it would boost me up a bit. As I came up to the 20ish mile point I hoped to see my parents again. From a distance I saw a BMW pull up into the car park and I saw my mum get out of the car. My dad remained in the car. I was coming towards them quickly now and I started to wave. My mum saw me and clearly said something to my dad and he quickly jumped out of the car. 

They cheered and waved as I passed and I was so pleased to have caught them in time. It must have been a logistical nightmare to get from the different supporting points (as well as having two of us at different times running).Now I was on my own completely until the end. Just under 6 miles to go and then I’d be finishing. This spurred me on and I started saying mantras in my head that seem so ridiculous in any other setting but during a marathon can really make a difference to me. Basically I’ll think things like “I’m a strong runner” or “I can do this” and “I’ve got this”. I’ve even found myself saying it out-loud during the race if no one is around me. It helps drown out any negative thoughts about how tired I am.

We did the detour bit round the residential areas (due to the tide coming in) and I found myself overtaking a few people here and there. But I just wanted to get onto the front because then I knew how far I had left to go in real terms. This windy route through roads and back alleys was killing me.

Finally we turned the corner to the sea and I saw a girl just ahead. As we turned the wind went fully against us (exactly like what usually happens at the Great South Run). Ooof this was horrible! And in my mind I’d decided to try and overtake the girl. This now meant I needed to run faster than I was before to get past her but with even more effort due to the wind. It was a slow overtake that then caused me a lot of grief because she seemed to speed up a bit. I could hear her feet just behind me and all I wanted to do was get away from her. Eventually though I managed to pull ahead, but the effort level was so hard.

I then wondered where we’d be finishing – would it be where we started or further along near the Pyramids like last time? It was agonising because I just wanted to finish sooner but as we got to the start area I miserably realised no one was there… ehhh, further to go now! I passed a guy who told me I was running strong and doing well, but all I could reply was “gahh can’t talk sorry!”.

People who were casually walking up the prom clapping and shouted encouragement and I tried to keep a smile on my face. Ahead I saw our two families cheering me in and this pushed me to go as fast as I could to the finish. WHEW.My time was 3:25:35, first in my age category and fourth female overall. Damn it was good to stop running! I was so pleased though – I couldn’t believe how fast I’d gone!I collected my medal and goodies and quickly found the guys and asked them how Kyle was doing. Apparently he was three-ish miles away (his brother, Zack, was tracking him using the “Find My Friends” app on the iPhone – so he wasn’t far away at all. We all started wondering what time he’d be able to do – could he get under four hours?Zack and his other brother, Adam, walked up the prom to cheer him in further up and tell him to, well, get a move on basically if he wanted the sub-4! He was literally now only minutes away. We kept looking at the time on the race clock… but I knew we had a few minutes grace  because we started a bit late. It was going to be tight though!

Eventually we saw him coming in, Zack running besides him pushing him on. He squeaked in at 3:59:35. Sub-4!We spent a good amount of time taking photos, chatting and comparing notes of everyone’s day (I love to hear what the supporters get up to while we’re running – invariably my dad always seems to find a good breakfast spot) and I could have burst with pride for Kyle. He was a little battered and tired but he was happy.Ahh what a good day. And of course a huge thank you to our amazing support crew (who even made signs!). It massively helped keep us going and just made the day for us 🙂A fantastic way to the end the year and a fantastic result for Kyle’s first marathon!

Do you enjoy running a race with other people?

What do your supporters do during a race?

Merry Christmas!

Running Lately

So running lately has been going surprisingly well. I have no niggles or injuries and I’m running consistently around 35-40 miles a week, five times a week.

I’m really proud of how things are going. I seem to be in a very happy place with it and my body doesn’t seem to be breaking. Granted I’m not doing much (if any) speed work and I do wonder how much this helps me avoid injury. I also get a lot more enjoyment out of running by not putting myself through track workouts and intervals each week. However I realise I do probably need to incorporate some of that into my week (or every two weeks) to keep my running from going stale and plateauing on progress.

That said, I’m sure you know my views on these things. I’d rather run consistently slow than super fast with numerous breaks for injury recovery. I’m just a happy plodder. If I never get another marathon PB again I’ll be OK with that. It’s just the experience I enjoy, the thrill of the race (even when not racing), the challenge of all those miles and seeing different places. Boring as that well may be, it’s what I enjoy.

I’ve had a few people say to me I could dip under the 3:15 to get a championship place at London and as amazing as that would be I’m not sure it’s something I want to target. If it happens naturally then of course I’d be up for it, but I very much doubt it would. When I got my 3:16 PB at Brighton I was doing more speed workouts than I am now and was in better shape. The thought of putting more effort in right now for a lofty target isn’t quite where my head’s at.

Maybe next year I’ll have another go, put more effort into structured training… who knows. I do have some good marathons planned where this might be possible. The Barcelona Marathon in March, Manchester Marathon in April and Chicago in October. All are relatively flat and fast courses. So there is that temptation (of course I won’t be targeting all of them… I’m no machine, as we very much know!).

In the near horizon, as in this Sunday, I have the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon. It’s not a PB course despite being quite flat. It’s right next to the coast and if you get bad weather it will really affect the day and the course is semi-off road. But it might be as still and cold as last year and in that case I might go slightly faster than the “plod and be merry” pace I had intended. So I’ll decide the night before or on the day how I feel.

If I did “go for it” I would be super happy with 3:25-3:30, with the course and the fact that it’s not exactly 26.2 miles (last year it was 27 miles) due to the tide causing issues. I do feel like that would be quite a bit of effort though and already I’m mentally backing out. I don’t want to put pressure on myself or be disappointed.

My main focus on the day will be hoping that Kyle does well for his first marathon. After a bit of a bumpy training lead-up due to not being able to start training until a bit later than ideal due to injury and then missing a week due to illness, it’s not been as good as planned.He managed a successful 18 miles which, though he didn’t think it at the time, went pretty well! He struggled through – but then realistically, for your first 18 miler, do you do anything other than struggle through?I just hope he doesn’t have a a bad time of the marathon. He’s a very strong runner though with a solid game plan, so fingers crossed for him. Just really hope the weather is kind to us! We’ll have the full cheer squad out in force as well, so that’ll certainly help.

So hopefully 2018 will finish nice and happy and in a strong place for running. It’s funny to think I started the year with the Dubai Marathon, in the hot sun, and now I’m ending it in, very likely, traditional wet and cold British weather in Portsmouth…

Do you have any big goals for next year?

Do you have any races coming up?

What I’m loving lately – December

I’m not stressed that I still have so many presents to buy for Christmas. I’m not stressed. I’m not stressed. Panic is not ensuing…

Anyway while that inner monologue continues, here are some things I’m loving lately and wanted to share.

Date nights: Kyle and I always make it a priority to have at least one date night a week and this usually involves the cinema (though I’m sure everyone has worked this out already, though I’ve not explicitly said it on the blog, Kyle is my boyfriend!).

We both love going to the cinema; the whole experience is just a fun one, whether the film is really good or… not (*cough* I’m looking at you, Robin Hood). We generally see one film a week. Last week we saw Ralph Breaks the Internet which was a good laugh (I loved the Disney princess bit), and a few more standouts were First Man and Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s just nice to do something mid-week and as we both work at the same place it’s an easy thing to go straight there. We buy a Subway from work (which after 3pm goes down in price), and a fizzy drink from the cinema (we take our reusable straws because we are super cool eco warriors) and enjoy a fairly inexpensive but fun evening.Not only did we go to the cinema last week but we also went out for dinner and then saw Jurassic Park in Concert. Basically this is a showing of Jurassic Park on the big screen with a live orchestra on the stage below the screen playing the soundtrack as the film played. It was INCREDIBLE.The orchestra were amazing. Like you could forget that they were’t actually part of the film. It was fascinating to watch them play as the film went on (though I imagine they’re so sick of Jurassic Park now having toured around the country doing this!). They were perfectly in sync and it was just so all-encompassing. Dinner was pretty good as well. Before the showing, we went to 7Bone Burger. I had the Triple-D burger (which comes with blue cheese sauce and bacon) and halloumi fries…And a cheeky side of chicken wings. Kyle had a fried chicken burger with halloumi fries and a chocolate milkshake. It was goooood. The milkshake (as I did help Kyle out a bit with it…*cough*) was SUPER thick. Personally I’m not a huge milkshake fan but if I were to have one myself it would be a thick one. It was delicious.Podcasts: I listen to a number of podcasts every week: BBC Five Live Film Review, Marathon Talk, Empire Film Review, TED Radio Hour, My Dad Wrote a Porno – and dip in and out of other ones that take my interest. But I’ve recently been finding myself running out of them (I listen to them in the car, walking Alfie or when I’m doing boring chores around the house). My lovely friend, Emma, recommended Fearne Cotton’s podcast Happy Place and it’s great!I listened to the Gary Barlow one first and found it really interesting. It’s amazing how celebrities who are so famous, earning so much money and seemingly living their “best life” can be taken down by depression or body image issues. I’ve since listened to the interview with Mel C and Stephen Fry and both were just as good. Heartily recommend.

Recovery: I’ve come a long way since I first started running. When I was facing all my injury and niggle woes I’d be foam rolling, stretching and icing until the cows came home. But recently I’ve been finding I only really need to do a bit of light stretching after my circuit workouts, foam rolling on my calves maybe once a week and, when I get the chance, lovely soaks in the bath with some of this amazing stuff.Vie Epsom foot and Bath Salts are fantastic addition to a hot bath. It apparently helps increase your magnesium levels and sulfates, which are quite tricky to get through food but can actually be absorbed through the skin. Both are really good for your joints and muscles in terms of recovery.I add a couple of cups (as you can see above – the cup doesn’t come with the salts FYI) in the bath and just relax and enjoy. I’ve found it can really decrease how much I’ll ache the next day. I don’t know about injury prevention but it definitely makes me feel better anyway.

Blondies: Amazingly I won more baked goods on Instagram again. I just seem to be very lucky (or enter ALL the competitions…). Anyway, the lovely company Fully Loaded Treats sent me six blondies, three different flavours.Oh my god they were good. There were M&M ones, Hershey’s Cookies and Cream ones and another type that I think were Kinder Bueno that were awesome.There’s something about blondies that I so love. I mean I do prefer brownies I think but blondies are a nice change now and again.

Dylan: My parents have three dogs (Lexi, Dylan and Sam) where I have just Alfie. Dylan is probably the most stupid out of them all (in a really cute and lovable way though). I can’t help but share how cute he looked the other morning.He’s very much a “I’d rather sleep than do anything else” kind of dog. Well, actually he’d rather eat than do anything else but sleep is a close second. I mean, let’s be honest, I think we all have a little Dylan inside of us all.

Do you prefer blondies or brownies?

Do you have any recovery tips or routines?

What podcasts do you listen to?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the Epsom salts for free in return for a review on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Not quite to plan and the BBC Good Food Show

This weekend wasn’t quite the weekend that was planned. Kyle and I had taken Friday off of work and were looking forward to doing a long run that morning and then heading to London in the afternoon for a fancy blogger awards thing in the evening.

Unfortunately what actually happened was Kyle became unwell Thursday, I long run’ed on my own and we missed going to London. But these things happen. It’s a shame we missed going to London but at the end of the day, we can always go there another time. I can save the dress I was planning on wearing for our Wiggle Christmas party and we had a very chilled and relaxed Thursday night in (I had a take-away kebab so I was very much winning in my book).

So Friday morning, Kyle sensibly decided he wasn’t going to run and I headed off solo to run from his house to Fareham. The plan had originally been to run 18 miles, but now I was running on my own that sounded really daunting and I was less motivated to do it alone. I knew that to run to Fareham was pretty much 13-14 miles so if I fancied adding any more miles on I could, which made the run mentally a bit easier.

Luckily the route from Kyle’s was a very simple one – literally down one road. It was fairly undulating though but generally going downhill overall. I listened to a podcast and as I started running noticed my legs felt quite good. Though my brain felt a bit “meh” about running. I’d have liked to have had the company but I knew I just needed to get this done.

It was also broken up nicely because the first eight miles were completely unknown. At eight miles though I arrived at work (funnily enough the half-way between Kyle and my house is actually work) and from there I knew the way to Fareham. From 10 miles on though I was struggling mentally so switched to some music so I could switch my brain off. It was nice and flat now, but there was a nasty headwind.

Eventually at about 13 miles I arrived at Fareham. I decided to get to the train station – basically running through the centre – and that got me to 14. At this point I was feeling better and decided to do a loop off and that would get me 17 miles.Kyle and his mum were meeting me to pick me up. We had originally planned on having some brunch together but I thought it best just to head back and have some porridge back at Kyle’s as he was still unwell. After grabbing a drink from Subway (then leaving my phone there and having to race back to fetch it – whew!) we headed back.

We decided to miss going to London and just have a day chilling with Friends and another takeaway for me (well if I must… ;-)) I’m sad we didn’t get to go but equally I was happy to have a nice relaxing day. Kyle, bless him, would have gone had I really wanted to but he really wasn’t well and I really wasn’t that fussed with missing it.

Saturday I did a gentle (albeit) hilly 5k around Kyle’s – there are no flat areas in Clanfield it seems! And then headed home for back to reality chores and life. I also had a very exciting trip planned for the Sunday… going to the Birmingham Good Food Show!

Kyle was meant to join my dad and I but sadly he was still ill and eating basically nothing so realistically a two hour plus drive and then wandering around food stalls probably wasn’t what the doctor ordered. So my dad and I went alone.It was held in the NEC in Birmingham and the number of stalls was CRAZY. My dad and I are very similar in that we both love food, love cooking and also get overly excited about things like this. So in our haste to get into the actual show we forgot to make a mental note of where the car was… that’s Future Anna and Dad problems, pfffft!And when we got into the hall we were surrounded by so many different things being sold from kitchen-wear (knives, pots and pans etc.) to cheese, chutneys, cakes, meat, crisps, fruit… I mean seriously, so much!
And the best bit? All the tasters! I tried so many different things. It was so much fun. It was really busy which was the only downside – meaning it was tough to navigate round the stalls at times. And it seemed every other person had a little crate with wheels (reminding us a bit of the apprentice when people are going off to buy the different bits and bobs they needed) so your toes were never safe from being rolled over.

I bought a white chocolate praline filled cake pop from one stand and amazingly managed to wait until I got home before I ate it. Omg SO good. SO so good.I also bought myself one of those German marshmallow teacake things (I say German only because the last time I saw one was in Germany – they seem to be quite popular in the Christmas markets there).I went for a white chocolate covered one and it was very tasty! That I ate that immediately.Eventually just before midday (we’d arrive just after 10am) we decided to actually have a proper lunch. We chose a Greek chicken salad from the Street Kitchen company and managed to sit down and enjoy a very tasty meal. The flat bread was divine! As was the feta sauce.We were wise to eat early as later on this same area was rammed with big queues. Whew! Then I became far more selective on the tasters I went for as I was now ice and full and my initial excitement had died down to a more manageable level.What was very bizarre was the large number of people choosing to eat at the cafe that was ALWAYS at the venue. Why would you have a canteen-style lunch somewhere that was available year round when you have hundreds of stalls available to you to try interesting and local cuisines?? Very odd.

I was amazed to see a stand purely for apples (Kanzi apples) and they were handing out slices. My kinda stand!They were selling two packs of four apples for £1 – what a bargain. After telling the man how much I loved apples he gave me a third for free! Woohoo! And they are VERY tasty apples.

Then we headed to watch James Martin do a live cooking show (we had tickets for this alongside our regular entry ticket – we also had fantastic seats!). I didn’t know too much about him but my dad was a fan and I was ready to sit down. Let me tell you, he was fantastic. The cooking alone was brilliant but his personality and humour was hilarious. He cooked a creamy tomato soup with bacon waffles to start, tomahawk steak with lobster mac and cheese and followed it with banana pecan French toast.Of course we could only smell how good it was but it looked AMAZING. He made several jokes about how he wasn’t into the healthy cooking and that while Joe Wicks’ style might be “Lean in 15” his style of cooking was more “Fat in 5”. He had no airs and graces, he was very down to earth and cheeky. I’m now a big fan.

My dad and I then merrily headed to the car park where we then spent a solid 20 minutes looking for the car. Geniuses.

Have you ever been to a food show?

Do you have any favourite chefs?

Do you get ill often?