My motivations for the gym

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you probably know two key things about me. One, I see myself as quite the injury-prone runner. And two, I love leggings. Happily I’ve been able to complement these two things into a very productive outcome. Just hear me out…

I’m a big fan of going to the gym. Yes I love running, of course, but I do really enjoy going to the gym as well. It hasn’t always been this way. I saw the gym as the enemy. A place of bewilderment and boredom. I would drag myself there when I was no longer able to run because I was suffering from a sore knee, hip, painful IT band or something along those lines. So I’d go to a Spinning class or use the elliptical machine, grudgingly. But never sort the actual issue out – the root cause.

After numerous of physio appointments it finally got through to me that I needed to actually make strength training part of my weekly routine. Sadly I’m not one of those seemingly superhuman people who can just run and do nothing else.

It was tough though. It took a lot of research, YouTube videos, physio help and guidance to become stronger, confident and actually happy to go to the gym.Where do leggings come into it though? Well, one of the reasons I love the gym is that I can be a bit more exciting with my fitness clothing. I don’t wear leggings when I run because I just prefer to wear shorts… but at the gym, leggings are my staple. What you look like at the gym really doesn’t matter of course, but for me it really helps to be wearing something I feel comfortable and, yes, look good. It helps make me feel good.

I’m quite a boring person with what I wear normally so it’s nice to be a bit more “jazzy” at the gym where anything goes in terms of colours and patterns. One of the sites I love is The Sports Edit. They have a fantastic range of very stylish gym wear – and items that will last, not fast fashion that you will chuck away after a few months.I was sent a pair of leggings and a top from the site to review and I can happily say I’m in love. Now you know I know my leggings. I know what makes a decent pair, what’s flattering and, most importantly what actually works at the gym in terms of comfort and actually exercising. These leggings are GORGEOUS. I’m not really a huge pattern fan but these are subtly different. I love how sparkly they are (they don’t actually feel sparkly and don’t drop glitter everywhere – something I was a bit worried about).
They’re the Alloy Ombre High Waisted Leggings from the brand Beyond Yoga and when I wore them at the gym I got quite a few compliments. One person asked if they were they my “disco leggings” for Christmas. I mean, I guess he’s right, they’re perfect for the Christmas season! But I will be wearing them all year round 🙂 They have a lovely high-waisted fit, are thick enough to be squat proof but not too thick to not be breathable.
The top is the Under Armour Accelerate Tank White 2.0. I love how simple it is but also that the back is open to give a bit of air and also so you can show off your sports bra at the back (I have some quite nice sports bra with some funky strapping which is always a shame to cover up under a t-shirt). I’ll be wearing this top for both the gym and running.In terms of my gym routine, currently I’m at the gym three-four times a week. I tend to do circuit classes which work the entire body, but in a more weights-focused way. Think less cardio, more strength. I also ensure I do at least one legs and glutes focused day. We’re talking squats, lunges, hip thrusts, single leg work and resistance band routines. I’ll do heavy barbel squats and hip thrusts to really target increasing my strength and then higher rep, lighter weight exercises to focus more on the endurance of my muscles. I can happily say I’ve remained uninjured for a good while now and I’m almost certain it’s because of my stronger body.

What keeps you motivated at the gym?

Do you have different clothes for running compared to what you were at the gym?

Do you look for gymwear that will last a long time or whatever is cheapest? For me it’s generally long lasting and quality – but this does tend to be more expensive, but in the long run it works out better!

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the leggings and top for free in exchange for a review on my blog. As always these are my own honest opinions!**

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?

ENERTOR™ Insoles Review

A few weeks ago I was sent some full insoles from the lovely people at Enertor Insoles.

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As regular readers are probably aware, I’m terrifically injury prone and, due to my fallen arches (flat feet), I tend to suffer from lots of injuries. Obviously I can’t simply blame my feet because there have been many times I’ve made stupid training decisions too, like not taking enough rest between races. But I live and learn. Eventually…

Anyway, as I said I was sent some insoles for my trainers for when I run. I’m not new to insoles and have used them on and off for a number of years. So when I was sent these I was quite intrigued to give them a go.

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Though the insoles do help ward against injuries, they apparently also aim on improving performance. They give long-term cushioning and aim to support normal muscle function and reduce leg pain. They’re made with patented D3O® technology, which is basically a “smart” material that cushions and supports the foot when the foot is moving slowly but when there’s an impact (i.e. your foot hitting the ground) the material absorbs and disperses the energy. This allows the insoles to reduce shock by 44% and provide energy returns of up to 36% [Source].

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You cut the insoles down to size using regular scissors to fit your trainers and then slide them in (in place of your original insoles).

Thoughts? They were easy to cut to size and put in my trainers. I found them really comfortable. I didn’t notice them as much as previous insoles but I could tell they were there. In terms of improving my performance, I couldn’t really say but they are comfortable and I felt like my feet were adequately supported. Running was nice and smooth. It helps that I’m becoming a lot more aware of my feet since working with my physio to improve my arch strength and I could feel that the insoles were helping support this.

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I’ve had previous insoles which have been really inflexible and have given me very bad blisters  but these are far more forgiving – no blisters! That’s not to say they don’t support my feet, but they seem to work better with my feet rather than forcing them into a very unnatural gait. What I loved about them is that they’re designed to reduce the pressure on the forefoot and improve the functionality of the big toe area – which is key for flat footed people like myself and something my physio has specifically mentioned. They are quite ‘springy’ as well – you can feel the cushioning power of them.

So I’m very happy to continue to wear these in my trainers. And they apparently last 18 months which is very good! So I can just remove them and put them in new trainers as I go.

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I was also sent a technical Enertor t-shirt as well which is always very welcome! Especially as it isn’t ginormous on me.

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Have you ever tried insoles?

What kind of trainers do you wear?

Are you injury prone?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the insoles and the t-shirt in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

What I do when I can’t run

My hamstring is, fingers crossed, definitely getting better. It’s tough because I’ve had to strengthen the tendon in order for it to get back to normal but strengthening it can aggravate it further and delays it feeling normal.

However, I had a really good deep massage again on Tuesday night and I woke up the next day with huge improvements. The sports therapist also tested my hamstring strength and found it had improved a lot since previously. So for now I’m just letting it calm down a bit. Tendons are tricky business!

Anyway, I’m still actually OK with not running at the moment. As I’ve said before, I have no races coming up and I have no urgency to start training again. All is well! Clearly shows I needed a break. Don’t get me wrong, I would like to do the odd run for the mental freshness it brings but I’m not feeling the panic and sadness I might previously have felt in the past.

So what does a runner do I do when I can’t run? I’m not a big fan of cardio machines at the gym it has to be said. I know I can get my fitness back when I get back to running so I’m not stressed about being slow (for me) when I do start again. Spinning has always been a good fall back for me but I’m not really feeling the urge to go and I’ve convinced myself it wouldn’t be a good idea with a hamstring issue anyway Winking smile

My only annoyance with my hamstring is that because I’m trying to be super careful not to aggravate it, I’ve been avoiding heavy squats and deadlifts. I find these really don’t help the matter and probably contributed to it going from a slight niggle post-marathon to a very annoying persistent nag. So going to the gym has required a bit more thought.

Though I am still lifting heavy weights when it comes to upper body (arms, back and shoulders), I now incorporate more running-specific dynamic strength workouts so when I go into marathon training I will hopefully have a strength conducive to running injury-free.

Here are a few of the things I’ve been doing at the gym.

For legs:

  • Side sliding lunges

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This uses the rowing machine’s seat. You can use those floor disc things that slide around but I prefer the rowing machine. At first I was a bit nervous doing this as it’s a bit odd I guess to use the rowing machine in this way but no one batted an eyelid (and to be fair, the gym is quite empty at 5.30am).

You can also stand in front of the seat and push your foot backwards for a backwards lunge as well and this will work the glutes a bit more.

  • Squat with medicine ball drop

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Though I’m avoiding heavy squats, I find normal body weight squats don’t impact my hamstring (especially I don’t try and go too deep). These squats are really good for the entire body as you lift the medicine ball in the air as you come out of the squat and then throw it down. It’s quite an explosive exercise. You then squat to pick it up and begin again. I tend to do about 20-30 reps depending on the weight of the ball.

  • Squat on a Bosu ball

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This is a good isometric exercise – where you hold the squat position, or you can squat up and down while attempting to maintain good form. It’s tricky because you’re wobbling the entire time. It’s a great exercise though as it recruits lots of stabilising muscles that might ordinarily not come into play.

For core:

  • Battle ropes

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Obviously these work the arms and shoulders quite a lot, but the core is also engaged to keep you grounded and to help with the movement. I try and do these for one minute – it’s tough!

  • TRX suspension

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I do a few different exercises using the TRX ropes. You can do mountain climbers (alternating bringing one leg forward to your chest) or (as in the photo) both legs at the same time for a crunch. A good one for the abductor muscles is getting into the plank position with your legs held in the suspension and then opening and closing your legs while maintaining a stable plank position.

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For glutes:

  • Donkey kickbacks

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A fairly standard glute workout that you’ve probably seen countless of times. I try and keep the movement controlled and slow rather than launching my leg back quickly. I also wear ankle weights to make it a bit more tricky. Then after doing a certain number of reps I pulse my leg when it’s in the raised position to really work the glute.

  • Resistance band walking

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This is a favourite of mine. I use a resistance band around my ankles and then step (while maintaining tightness in the band) to the side, like a crab, then change directions to work the other side. I then walk forwards and do it that direction (monster walk – again trying to maintain the resistance). Another good one is the “wet pant walk” which is basically standing on your tip toes and walking forwards, like you’ve just wet your pants Winking smile

  • Plank with leg lifts

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While planking, slowly lift one leg up (maintaining a strong core) and bring it back down, without touching the ground, and then lifting it again. I do this for about 10 reps per leg and repeat this a few times.

For how I structure things at the gym, what I tend to do is do heavier weights at the start (after a warm-up) and then follow with a circuit-style routine. For example, this is what I did on Tuesday:

Heavy: Pull-ups (using the assisted pull-up machine)
Heavy: Standing press

– Press-ups
– Battle ropes
– Kettle bell swing
– Eccentric box jumps
– Leg curtsy squats
– Russian twists
– Burpees

After I’ve finished the more heavy stuff, I set up all the bits I need for my circuit and then go through each exercise once for a number of reps, and then repeat the entire circuit three times. I enjoy doing this as it stops me getting bored and it allows my muscles to recover while I do something else before I get back to it.

I tend to find my exercises on the Internet, Instagram or in magazines. I’m always looking out for ways to make things interesting and not get samey. I hope these help anyone who needs a bit of inspiration!

What do you do in the gym?

What do you enjoy most at the gym?

What’s your favourite area to work on?

Deep Heat Muscle Massage Roll-On Review

As I mentioned in a previous post, recovery is so important when it comes to training. For people who are, dare I say, a little obsessed with running and exercise (yes I fully include myself in that camp), we’re always after ways to get back to training as quickly as possible. There are no quick fixes obviously, not without becoming a full-time elite who has the beck and call of physios, dieticians, trainers, coaches, sponsors etc. etc., but there are small things that can make a difference and help us mere mortals out.

I’ve been sent the new Deep Heat Massage Roll-On to test out and I was quite intrigued by it. I’ve used the heat patches before and found them quite effective but as a one-time use thing, not exactly cost-effective. The gels and creams are all a bit messy… So a roll-on sounds perfect and travel-friendly!

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Deep Heat is used to ease and loosen muscles. This is a new format as it’s applied through a rollerball applicator. It’s a drug-free way of reducing muscle tension and DOMs (delayed onset muscle soreness), increasing blood flow and without any stickiness. A key ingredient of the roll-on works by activating the TPRV1 receptors in our skin which alert the brain to a sudden change in temperature at the site of application. This can help realign muscle fibres and break down adhesions and scar tissue. Ideally it is to be used post-exercise or on injury-spots to help with rehab. You can even use it pre-exercise to help loosen muscles up ready to get going.IMG_8457

Thoughts? I really like this. The roller ball is great as it’s provides some good massage into niggly, difficult-to-get to areas (hello hips). Massaging with your hands is all well and good but having an actual ball thing is perfect. I often use a tennis ball to foam roll so this was a perfect for me. It was also perfect when my foot was niggling me.

It gives a gentle heat to the area and feels very similar to the cream. It has a light fragrance but definitely still smells like Deep Heat, though it’s not unpleasant. The lotion comes out very easily as you roll it onto yourself but my only qualm with it is if you want to really use it for massaging the area then they’ll be lots of lotion coming out. It makes the area of skin not sticky or greasy but just, well, covered in the lotion. I would then have to use my hands to massage it in a bit more. This isn’t that much of an issue as more massage isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s also very handy to take with you to races or pop in your gym bag.

The rollerball is available from Boots, Tesco and other pharmacies and supermarkets for £4.99.

Do you use Deep Heat?

Do you get regular sports massages?

Do you warm-up before exercise?

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