Hamstring Update

Not to dwell too much on the old hamstring situation because I’m trying to stay POSITIVE. But a little update in how it’s going.

So I’ve been strengthening it as much as I can at the gym. I would guess I’m in the phase of the injury where it’s more safe to stress it out a bit in order to strengthen it. I’m doing more functional and, well, “weighty” exercises. These include nordic curls, sled pushing, reverse box jumping, glute kickbacks with more weight and lying hamstring curls.

I attempted a mini run last night. I went out aiming for about 1km… it didn’t feel great I won’t lie. It didn’t feel terrible but it certainly didn’t feel like a particularly comfortable run. It niggled the entire way but stayed consistent in its discomfort rather than getting worse. Walking around afterwards and the next day didn’t feel any different either.

I do wonder whether that length of a run isn’t really much of a good test but I’m being super cautious because of Chicago (14.5 weeks away). I want to try another run soon, but longer. If I’m honest I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing at the moment but at the same time, I’m taking a very measured and gentle approach. Any set-back on my hamstring and I’d immediately stop. My thoughts are that I do need to stress the hamstring out a little in this very functional way in order to get stronger.

When I had this issue after Boston a few years ago (where I believe this is where it all started but has been low level hiding since) I ran quite a lot through the issue. I’m very fastidious with tracking my “training”. I have an Excel sheet that I track all my workouts, gym and running, and will write details about them. It helps me track what I’m doing at the gym (weights, sets, reps) and when I’m injured I can refer back and read about how that run workout, what I was doing to manage things etc. This is obviously super helpful now. Each run I did I would say things like “urgh hamstring niggled throughout” or “deadlifts definitely made my hamstring worse” and I can see how many miles I ran and when it started to get better.

From the looks of it, it took about 11 weeks to heal. 11 weeks. I actually feel sick typing that. What I quickly have to remind myself though is that I’m a lot more “educated” now. Like when the issue first cropped up then I continued doing heavy deadlifts and pushing my hamstring when I should have let it calm down before gentle incorporating very specific hamstring exercises back in (like I am at the moment). I was also super reluctant to stop running (I continued to run for 5 weeks).

So my hope is that THIS time around I’ll be back to comfortable running in less time. I’m currently on week 5 of not running and strength training diligently and sensibly. By dealing with my injury in a very controlled way and having this plan and focus I’m helping myself not fall too much into the Well of Darkness that often plagues injured runners. I have my down moments and I’m trying not to panic about Chicago but I’m only human after all.

Anyway, onto happier and more pleasant things…. sausages. I was sent some sausages and burgers again from the lovely people from Wild and Game.

They sent me some Premium Grouse & Wild Boar sausages.
I adore these sausages (to be honest I really really like all Wild & Game sausages).

They are SO fricking tasty. I made a really random meal for Kyle and I one evening – basically emptying the fridge of stuff that needed eating and I threw in the sausages chopped up with a load of vegetables and it was DIVINE.

Kyle was even super impressed – he loved them.

And they also sent some Pheasant & Venison burgers.

Again, these were so tasty. The sausages and burgers do have a rich and gamy taste but not overwhelmingly so. They just taste very flavoursome and meaty.

This is because there is 47% Wild Boar and 25% Grouse in the sausages (for comparison Richmond Thick sausages contain 42% pork). The burgers contain 40% Pheasant and 35% Venison. Good quality ingredients and less “filler”. And the products are low fat because of the meat they’re using (game is less fatty compared to traditional sausage and burger meat like pork and beef).

What’s your favourite kind of sausage?

Do you eat game a lot?

Do you think I’m doing the right thing with my hamstring?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the Wild & Game products for free inexchange for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

My hamstring injury

Not running right now definitely sucks.

A few weeks of it was alright – I probably needed the break. But then another week and another week and I’m getting grumpy about it. It’s not do with losing fitness (though that is quite annoying of course), but more to do with missing being outside in the fresh air and my having my usual routine.

I also like to keep the gym to mostly strength based training. So now incorporating cross training (with the likes of the elipitical machine, the step machine and walking backwards on the treadmill – more on that later) it seems I’m spending a lot of the time in the gym just doing the cardio stuff I find ever so dull.

So my injury is do with my “high” hamstring, where it connects to my bum basically. I’ve had a bit of a long-standing issue with this since the Boston Marathon but it’s been manageable. Basically I can only just start to feel it if I’ve run a long way or I’ve been sat down for hours.

It became a lot worse after sitting for four hours on the train straight after the Manchester 10k . I got off the train my hamstring and completely seized up. But I just thought it was something that would be fine once I got moving and I continued to run and then I blasted out the Romsey Beer Race (knowing it would make it worse). And here I am.

It’s a tricky injury because of its position; not much blood gets to it and I have to do a lot of sitting for my job, which isn’t great for its recovery. It’s not painful but it is a constant discomfort. When I run it sort of feels like it’s tugging at it and becomes more uncomfortable. So I haven’t run at all.

Just casually staring at the floor

What I have done is a lot of rehabbing at the gym. It’s hard to know exactly what is good and what is bad. I’ve seen my physio a few times and he’s been great with helping it and giving me advice. I’ve looked online (I KNOW I KNOW, terrible idea).

What I’ve gauged from online is that there’s very little research on this area into what’s best. What I have gleamed are the best exercises to do and what to avoid.

I’ll obviously preface this with: I am clearly not a physio, doctor or have any real scooby about any other body but my body (and I’m on a thin line with that at best). Please take care.

Best exercises for high hamstring tendinopathy:

  • Glute bridge: I begun by doing two legged bridges, then focused on single leg (lifting one leg).
  • Hip thrusts: I also do weighted hip thrusts (either low rep with a high weight, or high rep with a lower weight).
  • Glute kickbacks: I use the cable machine in the gym and the foot attachment and then gently kick my leg back without bending my body. I focus on using my glutes and hamstring and prevent my back helping. I do the movement gently but used weight that I found tough to go over 15-20 reps.
  • Eccentric box jumps: the idea behind eccentric box jumps (jumping off a box) is that it’s less of an aggravation than jumping onto the box. It’s a controlled impact to strengthen your hamstring, but to be used wisely.
  • Lying single hamstring curls
  • Retro walking: this is a fancy term for walking backwards on the treadmill. I put the incline up to the highest it can go and have the speed setting on to a fairly fast walk (but I did build up to this because it’s quite scary at first!). This is a great way to get some cardio in without stressing the hamstring out. You look like a weirdo but it works.
Glute kickback

Things to avoid:

  • Basically anything that causes compressive load on the hamstring at the beginning. So exercises like deadlifts (which I rarely ever do now since the injury after Boston because I know it flares it up), squats, seated hamstring curls or lunges. I’m avoiding them completely until the discomfort has gone as I don’t want it to flare up again.
  • Sitting for long periods isn’t great (but understandably unavoidable for those who like me.
  • Cycling (I did spin and this did not help matters!)

The exercises that I do I let my discomfort guide me. I never let my hamstring feel pain above a three but I do push it to work hard. The idea is strengthening it by stressing it to build it back up stronger, but not weakening it by damaging it further. It’s a fine balance… one I’m trying to get to grips with.

I do think I should probably try running soon. I’m just nervous. Nervous about how it’ll feel and nervous it’ll make it worse and lengthen my recovery and nervous. Obviously I won’t go for a 10k run, it’ll be a gradual thing. I just need to work out when.

Chicago Marathon isn’t that far away (15 weeks) and if I think too much about it and what’s at stake I start to panic and fall into a dark well of fear and sadness. Having a plan is what’s holding me together. I just need to make sure this plan is moving forwards not backwards.

Have you ever had hamstring issues?

Do you have any advice?

30+1 and other great things

What’s been happening around here lately… asides from my vegan adventures.

Let’s get over the negatives quickly… I haven’t been running. I only have myself to blame really as I pushed it at the Romsey Beer Race when realistically I should have sat it out.

My hamstring was just on the mend and then ehhh I pushed and it became worse. I’ve been seeing my physio (if you’re in need around the Portsmouth area he’s great) and it’s been helping.

It’s a tough one really as it’s the upper part of my hamstring (“high hamstring”) and this area notoriously doesn’t get much blood flow. Then coupled with sitting making things worse (hey day job..), means that healing is slow.

It’s hard to know how to help the situation. Obviously I’m not running. But I’m a big believer in strength training to help and doing strength work does improve blood flow to the area. It’s just finding that balance of pushing and protecting the hamstring. Gentle single leg glute bridges and being conscious of the muscle (i.e. making sure it’s the hamstring working and not my back or glute taking over). So that’s that right now.

But on to more positive things.

Podcasts

Oh my god, if you have not tried Sh**ged Married and Annoyed podcast from Chris and Rosie Ramsey you NEED to. It is so funny. Laugh out loud while walking Alfie kind of funny. I love their Geordie accents, how relatable they are and their humour. It’s my new favourite and I’m trying not to binge listen to them because I like having lots ready to go.

Birthday

Ahh another year has passed. It has FLOWN by. And a lot has happened in that time. I’ve been and done a number of cool things, eaten A LOT of cake and chicken wings (40 is my new PB), ran a lot (5 marathons!), got myself a cheeky 10k PB (who’d have thought eh!), and spent a lot of time with a guy who’s become somewhat important in my life…

So yeah while I might be older, I’m definitely not wiser but happier, and that’s something eh!

Birthday Cake

Kyle’s lovely sister, Lucy, is AMAZING at baking and for my birthday she made the most amazing cake.

It’s INCREDIBLE. She kept the design a secret from me and when I saw it I just could not believe the detail! So chuffed.

It’s a fruit cake which is cool and means it’ll last for a bit (ha..well we’ll see).

As it was Lucy’s birthday the day before mine we shared celebrating it at Kyle’s house with his family and had the most awesome spread of food. Chicken wings, ribs, spring rolls, crisps, chocolate, token salad.

It was fantastic and such a fab way for me to re-enter into the world of eating meat again.

I will say though that ordinarily I’ll be reducing my consumption of animal products but it was a celebration so I did eat quite a lot it must be said!

Presents

I got so many lovely gifts for my birthday, I was very (god I hate this word so much) blessed.

My lovely friend Louise even made me an amazing sign. She’s just started a new business of handmade crafted items (carvings in glass and wood) and her gift to me was just perfect.

Check out her Facebook page here if you’re interested.

Merchant House

On Thursday night my work team and I went out for a meal and drinks at The Merchant House in Southsea.

I’ve seen so many good things on their Instagram and it didn’t disappoint!

I went for the pork belly burger (with maple bacon and cheese) with burnt end loaded fries and deep fried vegan cauliflower bites.

Their vegan menu actually looked really good! I was tempted to try their seitan burger but in the end was too tempted by pork belly. It just means I need to go back!

It was a really fun evening. I really like the people I work with, the food was fantastic and I love Southsea. It feels like a mini Brighton 🙂

So despite not running, there’s still a lot of good stuff happening round here!

What kind of burger is your favourite?

What’s your favourite food at a buffet?

Do you go out with your work colleagues?

Two week vegan challenge – done!

So I completed my two week vegan challenge.

I didn’t eat meat, fish, cheese, milk, chocolate, basically anything that contained animal products. This also included milk powder, honey, gelatine… oh yes, I went all in (or all out…). I wanted to do a recap post of how I found things, things I liked, didn’t like and what happens now.

Let’s start with the bad stuff.

Bloating

I did not get on with chickpea or lentils. This is possibly because I went from full meat-eater to full legume consumer in a short amount of time. On my first few days I ate a lot of chickpeas. I saw them as a fantastic source of protein and something I could use to basically replace meat, cheese and eggs.

What I didn’t see coming (foolishly) is how that would hit my digestion. Within hours of eating I was VERY bloated. To the point that I went to bed looking pregnant. I’m lucky that I have a boyfriend that is apparently blind because although he couldn’t tell (pffft mere mortal man that he is) I could 100% tell and it made me feel quite low in self-esteem (I’m only human).

Vanity aside, I felt incredibly uncomfortable. My diet was never bad beforehand. I ate a lot of fruit and veg so adding more fibre-rich foods just overloaded my system. Getting real here, before the vegan diet I had a very nice regular toilet routine and rarely had any issues. Call me perfect poo Anna 😉 But add in a whole bunch more fibre and gaseous legumes and everything went out of whack. My system just was not happy and suddenly I felt very, well, backed up. I felt uncomfortably full all the time.

Potentially Expensive

So quickly chickpeas and lentils were removed. This massively improved things, but it did cause me a somewhat annoying issue of having to buy more expensive food items to fill in the chickpea holes.

I bought Linda McCartney sausages (GAME CHANGINGLY GOOD), kebab-style fake meat and relied more heavily on tofu.

Now I know that protein isn’t the be all and end all and we don’t need as much as protein powder companies and gym buffs would have us believe, but personally for me I work better on a higher protein lower carb diet. This new vegan diet however was a lot higher in carbs and a lot lower in protein. It was hard to find protein to slot in. But don’t get me wrong, meat is expensive too. I guess my issue is more than I couldn’t just throw cheese on things or have eggs – both are very cheap forms of protein/fat.

A Bit Boring

I found tofu very dull. I mean this is highly likely to be an experience thing and over time I’d get better, but honest to god it was dull. Not matter how many spices I threw on it, it just tasted very boring and the texture was a bit ehhhh.

I’m not a huge bread, pasta or rice eater so this left a lot of salads to eat at lunch…and salads that didn’t contain a huge amount in my eyes. Or soup. I got to eat a lot of soup as an easy filling lunch. Again this is down to experience but to make something I was going to enjoy required a lot of effort and thinking.

As a non-vegan I can whip up very boring and fairly bland meals but still really enjoy them – scrambled egg… chicken… tuna salads… I can eat this stuff for days. But without those options I was left a bit lost. I used butternut squash and sweet potato A LOT.

Hard Work

Now I know this would get better with experience and learning but for my two week stint, eating was hard work. Checking ingredients for anything non-vegan. Trying to find items that would be filling and not too fibre rich and not too expensive to add to meals. It just made eating difficult. It was a pain each night to think of exciting meals that would fill me up and not bloat me.

One of my favourite go-to meals was a sausage sandwich. But I missed eating lots of vegetables and not worrying about their compounding affect on my digestion.

Vegan Protein Powder

I tried two types. One upset my tummy (I tried Form Protein three times, and it just sat in my stomach like a rock) and one just tasted meh (MyProtein Vegan blend). It made eating porridge a bit sad for me.

Now onto the good…

Oat Milk

This is INCREDIBLE in tea. It really has changed my ways for good. I love it! It just upgrades a cup of tea. I probably won’t go out of my way in cafes to ask for it but if I notice they have it I’ll be getting it.

Linda McCartney Sausages

These are in my life for good. I used to eat a lot of the Heck chicken sausages but I’ll be replacing them with these one now. So tasty, so much flavour and FULL of protein.

Nutritional Yeast

Man this stuff is good. I was sprinkling it on everything. A small amount contains so much protein and B12 and FLAVOUR. Cheesy savoury goodness.

Vegan Meals Out

I enjoyed trying pulled BBQ jackfruit and I loved the seitan “chicken wings” I had at the Rockstone pub in Southampton.

Omg so good! Choosing something off a vegan menus is something I would NEVER have done before as I was worried it wouldn’t fill me up or be that exciting but after three different vegan meals out I can say that wasn’t the case.

And vegan cake is damn good too!

The only thing is, vegan cheese is not good. I’m sorry but it isn’t. I’m a blue cheese kind of girl. Strong mature cheddar. Goat’s cheese. Vegan cheese was literally fake cheese. Horrible. It didn’t taste of anything and it made me feel slightly queasy when I thought too hard about what it contained (you could argue that cheese made from animals should make me feel the same but as I don’t see eating animals as an issue this argument doesn’t work on me).

I Didn’t Miss Meat that Much

This was an eye opener. I didn’t crave meat. I didn’t miss it. The only times I missed it was really when I couldn’t think of something to throw together. Ordinarily I’d be throwing chicken into something and boom there’s a meal. But it was more the convenience of it than the taste (don’t get me wrong though, I bloody love chicken). What this has shown me is I can think outside the box and not just be lazy and reach for meat. I can eat a non-meat meal and still be full.

It has shown me though how much I love cheese. That I won’t be reducing! But meat, definitely. I can see several days in the week being meat-free. Chicken wings aren’t going anywhere though – if they’re on the menu, it’s likely I’ll be ordering them.

Overall, the two weeks taught me a lot. It helped me become more conscious of my animal product consumption. Showed me vegan food isn’t terrible (chickpeas aside) and helped me assess my diet going forward to a be a bit more environmentally conscious.

I raised a little bit of money for a local animal shelter too, so that’s bonus! (HERE’S the link if you’d like to sponsor!)

Have you ever changed your diet in a big way before?

Do you eat a lot of meat?

Do you eat a lot of cheese?

Romsey Beer Race 2019

The Romsey Beer race is a race I’ve done four times before and I truly love it.It’s such a lovely local race with great atmosphere, a beautiful route through Braishfield and of course a cake and beer at the end.

I’ve actually done really well at it each year I’ve done it – placing either 1st, 2nd or 3rd.But going into the race this year things weren’t going to be the same. I was nursing a bit of a hamstring niggle and in all honestly probably should sit the race out to look after it. But the thought of not running it brought a lot more sadness than the thought of running it and not being able to run after. It was a risk and one I decided to take. It was Kyle’s first time doing this race, my parents and his family were going to support… I won’t lie, I’d have felt like shit just watching and not running.

So on the Sunday we arrived in Braishfield. It was fairly overcast but still a little warm. Not as bad as some years though (especially last year which was so hot). It’s such a small and local event that it has a handful of porter toilets and a very easy-going approach to the start, which I love. It’s chip timed though so that’s a win. There’s a water station that you pass twice which is always appreciated (though plastic cups… better than bottles but still).

Now realistically I should have just enjoyed a gentle plod round but as every time I’ve ever run this race I’ve always gone for it I decided to not break the routine. It’s the one short distance race that I actually enjoy pushing myself on. I don’t know why. Maybe because I know the pain points and I know I won’t explode running fast because I’ve survived many times before.

Kyle and I did a little warm-up, said hello to running friends (fellow blogger Big Mug of Tea was doing the race for the second time – spoiler: she smashed her PB!) and then got to the start. The start is on a flat field where you have to do one lap before heading out onto the road. This is the only race I feel somewhat comfortable with going near the front. I feel somewhat justified as I’ve placed a few times before… I was eyeing up other girls wondering how fast they’d be. I mean, I wasn’t expecting anything crazy considering my hamstring issue but I wanted to at least give myself a good chance. It’s like this race turns me into a weirdly competitive person that isn’t normally present at running events.

I knew I’d need to put my foot down straight away from the start because the first mile or so is relatively flat and then there are some nasty hills, so it’s best to get some speed in while you can. So off we went around the field before meeting the road. We turned the corner and I got to wave to Kyle’s family and my parents as they cheered us on. I heard them shout for Kyle very soon after so knew he wasn’t too far behind.

My first mile was 6:40 and I felt like this was within the realms of my capability. I could feel my hamstring a little –  not painful or hindering but just THERE saying “remember me”. I knew there was at least one girl ahead of me and as we got into a consistent pace two other girls passed me. So it goes! I wondered if I would catch them up later. We hit the hill and it was a long slog to the top. Oof why do I love this race so much?? Thankfully we got a nice downhill to enjoy afterwards and I managed to overtake one of the girls. Another girl sped past me but she shouted to us that she wasn’t racing and to ignore her – she was running under a man’s bib. I was nice of her to tell us but a bit confusing.

The route goes in a sort of two loop style thing and is all on road. The road isn’t closed off but the marshals do a good job in managing any cars (of which there were very few). It’s a lovely countryside quaint little British town so it’s very quiet. The locals come out and cheer and one house always sprays their hose pipe which is a welcome relief when it’s super hot.

Because of how the course goes you get to see your supports a number of times. It was really encouraging and nice to hear Kyle being cheered on very quickly after me. Though it did help me keep my pace up for fear of him catching up! 😉 A lot of my club do this race so there are always friendly faces about the place – another reason I love this race.

Thanks Mr Big Mug of Tea for the photos!

Another girl overtook me and I knew any placing was becoming out of reach. That’s OK, I was going a lot faster than I’d expected. My hamstring was still there as a persistent annoyance but still nothing to make me super concerned. The final mile felt like a long drag. I knew there were three girls ahead of me (as well as the non-racing girl) and the third girl was just ahead. She was about 5-10 seconds away. Could I make it? It felt like such an ask. Everyone was cheering me on and I tried and tried to not let my pace drift backwards.

We turned around the corner onto the cricket pitch where you do a final lap before finishing (such a tease). My friend Mark who’d already finished was shouting at me to push on and try and catch her. I tried one final push but just couldn’t get close enough and on the final 200 metres I just lost it and my speed drifted away as I lost my energy. She was the stronger runner, kudos to her. She finished 5 seconds ahead.

The difference between me getting a trophy (or a tankard in this case) and not, ahh well I tried! My time was 33:46 – which means I beat last year’s time by one second.

I was initially (and in a very silly way) disappointed not to have maintained my streak of placing in the top three but when I took a step back I realised I achieved a lot more than I’d initially thought by a) even running it and b) being faster than last year.

My hamstring wasn’t too bad afterwards. I mean it felt like it had been worked hard but I wasn’t limping or anything like that. It wasn’t painful to walk, for that I was glad.

Kyle finished soon after me and was happy with his 34:27 time.

We headed over to the cake and beers and I got a slice of lemon cake and a beer (which, as usual tradition of this race dictates, I gave to my dad after I had a few sips).

Fantastic supporters!

It was nice to chill for a bit on the cricket pitch and cheer in other runners and chat in the sunshine. Another part of why I love this race.

Then we headed home so Kyle and I could quickly shower and head to our local pub, The Osborne View, for some lunch with my parents.

As it was the last day of my non-vegan status I went the full hog (ha) and had a double portion of the chicken wings. It was glorious.

Is there a race you do every year because you love it?

What’s your favourite pre-race food?

Would you rather a medal or a cake/beer?