Saturday, 22 November 2014

"Help - my ankles and knees ache"

"My knees and ankles ache" said a new runner to me the other day followed by a "should I give up running?".

New runners should take care of their knees & ankles

There is a chance this might have been an excuse for a newbie runner to step back from the aspirations of becoming a regular runner.  Of course it could be a sensible thing to do for some people, for others it is a natural part of becoming a runner and persevering is the route to take.

Here's a few thoughts on this:

Making sure a new runner has the right shoes is very important.  When I was getting into running I almost quit because of this very issue; but thankfully I found having a gait analysis and some proper shoes solved the problem for me.  I haven't looked back since.  One more thing, make sure you have some proper running socks too (don't be a cheap skate and buy some cheap, naff "sport" socks).

Take it easy
Don't over do it.  It can take several months to condition your body to become a regular runner.  Just think about your body, especially waist downwards.  All of the joints take a pounding when you start to run, your body is doing something new and it needs time to adjust.  Your joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles all need to become used to running and it takes time, build up slowly, gradually and consistently.

If you run on a hard surface, you will be subjecting your body to maximum pounding.  The absolute hardest surface is concrete; those rock hard paving slaps.  These paving slabs are bad news for the runner as apart from being rock-hard, they are often cracked and uneven which can easily lead to trips.

If you can run on a softer surface such as grass or dirt tracks this might help.  For some it might even be worth getting in the car, or on your bicycle and going somewhere better for running.

Avoid running down any hills, this will simply makes things much worse.  Hills will come later as you become a more experienced runner and you'll come to like them but for now they are best avoided if you can.  If you must include hills because of where you live, you could try walking down them or taking it very, very slowly.

Running form
Do you run awkwardly?  Have you had previous injuries?  Perhaps your legs or feet are particularly uneven in some way?  You might need to see a Podiatrist as this is a specialist area and you may need some expert advice.

Make sure your diet is good.  The nutritional needs of a regular runner are, arguably, little different to that of a normal, healthy diet.  What defines a "normal, healthy diet" is, of course, open to debate!

Nevertheless regular runners need to ensure they get adequate carbohydrates for the energy needed in running (but don't over do this is you are trying to lose weight!).  More importantly I believe runners need protein in it's various forms (although I am a vegetarian) and antioxidants for repairing the wear and tear.  It would be easy to talk endlessly here about nutrition but let me leave it there for now.

This naturally follows the previous mention of food.  Regular runners are unlikely to have any problems sleeping but it is important to make sure you get all the deep sleep your mind and body requires.  Amongst other things, this is where your body will be repairing itself and making itself a little bit stronger each time.  Please, please please, do not underestimate the value of this.

Losing weight
Many people start running to lose some weight (that was me a few years ago) and it's a fantastic thing to do.  However when you run, it is said that 2 or 3 times your body weight lands on each foot, with each footstep.  So if you're 3 stone over weight, just think of that weight landing on your feet each step.  That's quite something to handle, step after step.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Those LBCC paddlers are good runners!

You will have to take my word for it: the photo in this post is Hannah and myself.  Some might say it's badly exposed, technically poor etc.  I would say it's atmospheric and hopefully sums up last night's run with Leighton Buzzard Canoe Club.

Firstly, just to avoid any confusion, the club isn't actually at Leighton Buzzard.  It is at Linslade which is a smaller adjacent town.  Secondly they don't paddle canoes as they paddle kayaks.  Glad to have cleared that up.

Once again Hannah was keen to join in with the winter training programme which involves me, as her Dad, taking her over to Linslade.   It makes sense for me to run alongside and I need little excuse.  We are gradually getting to know the club members, one by one and they're a friendly bunch.  This time there was about 10 of us and again Reggie was the coach and led as we ran from the Boat/Club House over to a park area in Leighton Buzzard, probably a mile or so to get there.   That was enough to get us warmed up.  When we were all there together, instructions were given as to the nature of the training session.

The plan this time was to run around a set path in the park, forming a triangle.  The first side was up an incline and then a flat section - these were to be the "effort" parts i.e. to work hard and run fairly hard.  The third side of the triangle is to be taken easier, either as a jog or an opportunity to take longer strides to stretch out a little.  Running around this triangle didn't take too long, perhaps 0.25 mile at most.  Now we were there, this was the plan:

Interval training

1 lap
  Rest 2 mins
2 laps
  Rest 2 mins
3 laps
  Rest 2 mins
4 laps
  Rest 2 mins
3 laps
  Rest 2 mins
2 laps
  Rest 2 mins
1 lap
  Return to club house

Man, did I need that run

All day I had been sitting at my desk at work, periodically looking out of the window and yearning for a good run.  I was tempted to have a run at lunchtime but the thought of sitting there all afternoon in a somewhat smelly state was enough to talk me out of it.

I didn't feel I was being very productive throughout the day.  The only thing I had in my diary was a slot at SMT (Strategic Management Team) where I had the hot seat to talk over something I was working on.  After I had said my piece I sat there listening to some of the conversation and again I found myself looking out of the window with thoughts of running but only for a split second as immediately there was the "Doug could I just ask you about page 5....."  This brought me back to Earth with an abrupt bump.

To bring some tedium to the day, which was probably self inflicted, there were a few more keyboard problems.  Again this was dealt with simply enough by tipping it upside down and giving it a good shake.  You wouldn't believe the amount of crumbs that fell out.  My colleagues felt sorry for me and one went off to get a can of compressed air and instead came back with a can of Spray Mount.  Luckily he realised it was GLUE, just before he sprayed it into my keyboard; now that would have been interesting.  Phew.

I promised myself I'd leave early, which I sort of did and drove home as quickly as I could, looking forward to a run so much.  I knew that any kind of a run was what I needed; it did not matter if it was a lone, in a group, short, long etc.  I simply needed a good run to clear my mind.

A positive effect

So even though the evening's run was quite chatty, it was just what I needed.  It took my mind off work in a fantastic way and gave me a good physical workout.

Throughout the run it was dark.  There was also a certain eery beauty to the run, which is crudely hinted at in the photograph above.   As we ran around the park the mist was gathering and as our own temperature increased, the air temperature dropped.  This meant our breath was adding to the mist.  Looking at ourselves and the other members of the group, some were positively steaming and had the ingredients of us making our own little micro climate of a pea soup fog.

This has also whetted my appetite for running at night time and this is handy in November with the daylight continuing to become shorter and shorter.  I have been a little apprehensive about this before in case I trip over again (I've had a few falls and injuries) but there's actually something quite nice about it.  For practical reasons, it makes sense to do it with someone else and right now there are some options - further running with my friends Nettie and John (who are new runners and I'm their ruthless, utterly harsh and unreasonable coach) and my friend Jon, who is a very accomplished and experienced runner.

Wrapping up

I really like going along to support Hannah as it means I can have a run as well.  Being the dutiful Dad I do try to keep to her pace or maybe just a little faster to egg her along a little and it's great to see her enjoying it so much - this is such a joy.

With the Kayaking Club in mind, I can see myself joining sooner or later (as a non-paddling member) as it's good to support a local club like this and to recognise how local communities really do benefit from such clubs.  Also I think the club is well respected in Linslade and Leighton Buzzard; people like seeing them using the canal in this way.

By the way, Wiggle have some great offers right now. Anything you buy will help support my blog - simply click the picture on the left.

Thanks in advance.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Visiting a nutritionist

A while ago I went to a nutritionist where said I want to live for another 50 years – this would be taking me to well over 100.   In these next 50 years I would like to be healthy and active.  The advice I had was fairly straight forward, nothing too radical and building on my existing good intake of healthy food.  Can I stress that the advice was for myself?  I am posting it as a reminder for myself and because it might be of interest with others.  However, I need to state the obvious and say it was tailored for myself – only you can decide if it is applicable to yourself.

Amongst the considerations of living another 50 years is doing what I can to avoid cancer. We all know that this disease will eventually finish many of us off and indeed it runs in my family so I want to take some preventative steps.
Below I’m outlining the advice which the nutritionist gave me:
  • Continue with my vegetarian diet but make sure I get enough proteins, B12 and Omega 3.  As I do begrudgingly eat some fish (which I don’t really enjoy) the advice is to have oily fish, for example salmon and if tinned to eat the bones as well.  It was suggested once or twice a week.
  • Although I don’t eat any processed meat, this was mentioned as a significant cancer risk for anyone who does.  This is apparently due to the nitrites in sausages, ham, burgers and other heavily processed foods like that.
  • Animal fats in general are to be avoided wherever possible.  It was emphasised also to avoid non-organic red meat for anyone who does eat meat (aside from the ethics of growing food for animals instead of people).  Processed foods often have hydrogenated or trans fats.  These are bad news and are when liquid oils are turned into solid fats through a manufacturing process (includes the manufacture of margarines).  These foods also raise low density lipoproteins (LPL) which are the bad kinds of cholesterol.  The greatest danger of trans fats is the ability to distort cell membranes, as well as cell structures.
  • Best to limit dairy products but not eliminate completely.  As an alternative to milk, it’s worth trying rice, hemp or coconut milk.  Breast and prostate cancers have been linked to dairy products.
  • The biggest cancer threat is actually sugar.  I understand now how cancer cells feed on sugar (probably putting it crudely) and depress the immune system.  I guess most of us have a bit of a “sweet tooth” and so I asked about honey.  Honey is a good natural food and best taken in moderation.  Manuka honey is known to be good as are local honeys which can be helpful in dealing with hay fever.   Consuming too much sugar causes the body to use supplies of calcium, chromium and thiamin.  This is something I will need to watch as I do like some sweet things.  Besides, excess sugar leads to a whole load of other health problems.
  • White flour and white pasta products are also bad news, not that I generally go anywhere near these.
  • Don’t re-heat foods in plastic containers
  • Fried, burnt or smoked foods contain cancer causing chemicals.  This is all to do with Heterocyclic amies (HCA) apparently.

  • Good foods to enjoy
    • Nori flakes – a seaweed which helps eliminate metals which have accumulated in the body i.e. mercury or aluminium
    • Papaya, mango and pineapple – helpful in fighting against cancer cells
    • Garlic and onion – strengthens the immune system, amongst other benefits
    • Soya may help protect us from cancer and it’s suggested this is taken in the fermented form of tempeh, natto (not heard of this) or miso.
    • Generally eating more sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, spring greens, kale and shitake mushrooms (and these are best described as being an “acquired” taste)
    • Curcumin helps reduce the risk of gastric and pancreatic cancers
    • Water – to flush out the kidneys
    • Organic foods wherever practical to avoid unnecessary chemicals
    • Some foods are better eaten raw, others are nicer to enjoy if they are cooked.  Ideally steaming is best, then baking or boiling
    • Lycopenes, carotenoid are useful and found in tomatoes, carrots, apricots, cantaloupe melons and many other fruit or vegetables.  With tomatoes the goodness is more easily used by the body once cooked
    • Green or white tea as it contains a powerful antioxidant
    • Aim for 7 to 10 portions a day.  I easily achieve this and it was suggested I ought to increase my vegetable intake as I tend to eat a lot of fruit (about 6 or 7 portions a day, generally all different)
    • Co-enzyme Q10 is something I must find out more about
    • Selenium – a powerful antioxidant and I reckon my regular scoffing of Brazil nuts is helpful for this element
    I asked about post-exercise nutrition.  What, how long after and so on.  The advice is that we do need to take on some proteins and antioxidants after exercise.  This is where my liking of smoothies is useful and ideally we need to consume something within two hours of completing the cycle ride, run, work-out etc.

Running with the Leighton Buzzard Canoe Club

As I'm enjoying a week's annual leave from work, I have been able to have a run or a bike ride every day.  Unexpectedly I had TWO runs yesterday.  Furthermore my whole family went running!

You might have already clocked my youngest daughter, Hannah, has taken up kayaking and is really getting into it.  Now the clocks have changed to GMT a winter training programme has kicked in, supplementing the kayaking that takes place every Saturday morning.  So I said I'd take Hannah over to Linslade for the training and maybe join in.  Turned out Rachel wanted to come along, Becky too (eldest daughter).  Besides our friends Nettie and Charlie were going to be there too.

I had said to Hannah I would stick with her in whichever group she found herself in - there are two groups.  These were a faster/longer group and a slower/shorter group.  Hannah found herself pointed towards the faster/longer group and the others were with the slower/shorter group.

At 6:30om we were off!  The destination was a road name I didn't know and about 15 of us sped off into the night around Linslade; I didn't have a clue where we were going and I wasn't sure exactly what was going to be involved.  As a group we seemed to spread out quite quickly and everyone knew where they were going.  It was quite a fast pace but we kept up okay.  I should say this was a faster pace than I'm normally used to, especially in terms of getting warmed up but, I thought, "what the heck, let's just go for it".  The pace seemed to settle down as I was getting warmed up.

The interval training starts

We got to a residential area.  Reggie the coach explained we were all to run around the block as fast as we could; I think it was about half a mile, give or take a bit.  On getting back to the start we were to line up in the order we got back.  Next was to pair runners up, so the fastest was then paired with the slowest.  Then the second fastest with the second slowest.... and so on.

Hannah was paired with Nigel: grey haired, lean and fit looking.  I was paired with James, seriously fit looking.

The instructions then were this: run in opposite directions around the residential block with one jogging and the other going like the clappers.  When we met each other face-to-face we then "high 5'd" each other and turned to run back, switching from jogging to fast, or vice versa.  We were to do this five times.

This was great interval training i.e. fast and raising the heart and breathing rate for a few minutes, then settling down for a few minutes while jogging.  It was great!  I noticed that I was jogging slower than many - it was so tempting to go faster and I kept reminding myself of the instructions and the whole point of it all.  Naturally jogging for a few minutes brings my breathing and heart rate right down and then I could delight in run much faster for the next section.

It is just as well James was on-the-ball as I completely lost count of how many intervals we had done.  Once we had completed we reassembled ready to return to the Club House.  It was an opportunity to chat to both Reggie and James.  I asked James about his running, as it was obvious he was an accomplished runner and it was impressive to learn he had spent time running at 80 miles per week previously.  Eighty miles a week is seriously impressive but I guess there's a limit to how long that can be maintained for.

Fitting in with kayaking

I think LBCC are spot-on with their approach.  Being a good 'kayaker' or 'paddler' needs good all-round fitness and this is naturally of benefit anyway.  While the sport draws on upper body fitness, running and core based work all fits in and maintains good levels of fitness which is highly relevant for the kayakers.

It's also great to see such a wide cross section of club members - from youngsters right up to senior members with impressive levels of fitness.  They're a friendly bunch and it's nice getting to know them gradually.

I find myself wondering if I'm on the edge of getting drawn in to this new sport?  I wouldn't rule it out and there are real benefits from being a non-paddling member i.e. taking part in these training sessions.  You might have picked up already, I do like the opportunity to enjoy a nice 10 mile run on Saturday mornings and I do enjoy the "me" time as well.

Oh I should say Rachel, Becky, Nettie and Charlie enjoyed their session which was run on similar lines but on grass at a more gentle pace and shorter distances.

To sum up.... 

A nice club, nice company, nice atmosphere and nice to take part in this kind of group training.  I always find myself running faster with other people - and I know it's good for me!  An unexpected opportunity and one I thoroughly enjoyed. I guess we did around 5 miles.

Thanks to Reggie, James and everyone else at LBCC.  Here's their website: click here

Enforced fartlek training

Thursday, 13 November 2014

DW Sports - get your act together!

I had been thinking of re-joining my local DW Sports for the winter months; there are many advantages of doing this for us thrifty, keep-fit sporty types.  I have fairly positive memories of being a previous member at their well equipped place in downtown Dunstable.  It wasn't perfect but not bad at all.

So recently I got in touch to find out what the deal is.  They are more remote nowadays if you enquire on-line and end up giving your email address which then leads to spam.  Grrrrr.  I am unsubscribing from that.

I emailed the local club and said what I wanted - cost effective gym membership for a few months - what could they offer me?  No reply.  Poor show DW.

Instead Pay As U Gym looks pretty good.  I took the offer of a free trial session and then I have bought five prepaid sessions for November.  Simple - no 12 month contract and competitively priced too.  I will be bringing you a review on my experiences of this and the fitness club involved fairly soon.

Below I am listing some previous posts on DW.  The review is positive, the other posts paint a less rosy picture, especially of the store.  Please bear in mind these are a few years ago and apply to one individual store and fitness club - it might not be an accurate impression of what you'll find yourself and you will need to check it out and form your own opinion.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Latest training run with John

Today my friend John had his latest training run with me.  John is a new runner, normal weight and in his mid thirties.  Along with our mutual friend Nettie and her daughter, he's booked himself in on one of those army style obstacle course races lined up next year and is gradually getting ready for it.  So far we've had about 5 or 6 runs with a bit of of walking interspersed with normal sped running.

We do about 30 - 40 minutes, normally on a Wednesday evening, in the dark and head along the busway cycle track.  Today we both had a day off work (actually, I have a week off!) and we ran in glorious sunshine.  The air was cool, clean and clear, we could see for miles.  It was good, very good.  

Last time John's ruthless, relentless and mean trainer introduced a bit of interval training i.e. a few short bursts of faster running.  Today we did that by running up a hill and then up / down a couple of undulations.  I had already explained to John this is good training to do - raising the heart rate for a brief period and then walking afterwards to allow the heart rate to settle back down to normal.

Afterwards we got back to my house and I took John through a few stretches, which went okay.

Just to summarise where I think John, as a new runner, is and maybe this might be helpful for others:
  • So far John has been running once a week with me and has the opportunity to walk most days on his way to work.  This involves getting off the bus at an earlier stop and then has a brisk walk.  I think he could do with running more often,perhaps two or three times a week.
  • Concentrate on developing a regular routine in possibly becoming a life-long runner.
  • Don't worry about speed, this will come later.  This is a mistake many new runners make (I remember I did).
  • So far John hasn't reported any problems or injuries, although his upper leg / quad muscles have ached a little on the day after a run.  John needs to monitor this; chances are it'll go of its own accord
  • When John is gets tired and he walks instead of running.  This is okay but could try jogging instead of walking
  • Try stretching after a run, not before.  I took you through some stretches: hold them for 10-20 seconds and its important to back off if anything hurts
  • Don't run on consecutive days, resting is important
Top tips for intermediate runners
How often should I run?

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

300,000 page views

I have just noticed my latest stats and my blog just passing the 300,000 page views in the last few days.

To me it seems extraordinary how any of us can start blogging to a world wide audience quite easily.  Although there's nothing new in this with a huge number of blogs around, I still think it's amazing.

I have learnt quite a few things about blogging the hard way and I'm still learning!  One of the things that has surprised me has been how one or two posts have really taken off.  The most popular post has been Who would drive a black Range Rover which ironically was a bit of a "filler" post.  Having had almost 23,000 page views on its own, it is a reminder for me that bloggers need to take a little responsibility for their posts and be aware of unintended audiences.  I say this as the Range Rover post takes a bit of a swipe at the drivers of these cars and I suspect many of the readers might be owners of these cars, not runners or cyclists like me who might be a little intimated by Range Rovers.  Actually since that post I have encountered a few more of these and my opinions haven't changed.  I am, however, making an exception in favour of our friend Dave who has a black Range Rover and he's a very nice man.

The next most popular post is arguably less of a surprise as it is How to give up smoking in one easy step with over 21,000 hits, clearly fitting with my healthy living theme.  This is an account of how I started smoking several decades ago and more importantly, how I gave up.

From starting my blog the page view rate grew quite steadily and peaked in April 2012 with 19,996 page views in that month.  Since then it has declined and bobbing along at less than half the peak.

I like blogging!

Through blogging I have had a number of people leave comments and contact me directly.  This all adds depth and interest.  Sometimes people contact me for advice, asking direct questions which I happily answer.  Some people leave comments, which is nice and encouraging.  Here's sending a big 'thank you' to all my blog readers.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Grand Union Canal - towpath running

I'm quite enjoying my regular towpath runs along the Grand Union Canal, not too far from where we live.  Hannah, my youngest daughter has taken up kayaking I am now in the habit of driving her over to her club at Linslade and this gives me the opportunity to have a 10+ mile run.

For the time being I am enjoying it but I can see that sooner or later it's going to be a tad boring, leading to some circular routes being opened up.

As the seasons change from late summer into autumn there is definitely a change in canal life, easily seen from my perspective as a landlubber. The rented leisure boats have disappeared and are moored up.  The floating gin palaces have (almost) disappeared leaving the die-hards to get ready for the winter.

The die-hards can probably be divided into a number of sub-categories but I haven't worked these out as yet.  They could include the younger variety who are slightly New Age judging by their uniform.  Then there is the single man in his 50s or 60s and undoubtedly with a tale to tell.  Perhaps more on these another time.

Nevertheless I am still enjoying this new environment for running and I'm starting to recognise there are some pros and cons:

  • Not much chance of getting lost, even me
  • Normally canal life is interesting to see
  • Fast run potential
  • Running surface is good - often gravel tracks or grass.  Slightly uneven which is good for stability and strengthening ankle muscles etc
  • Well used by other runners in places (especially Linslade to Three Locks) and signs of camaraderie 
  • Nice to see Hannah and her fellow kayak paddlers enjoying themselves

  • Flat, no hills to bring out the best in my running
  • Could soon become monotonous
  • Grumpy anglers who don't respond to a "good morning" and seem to resent runners also using the towpath
  • Encounters with dogs and their owners: most are okay but some are irresponsible idiots who can't control their unruly animals
Click here for the Leighton Buzzard Canoe Club

Monday, 3 November 2014

Staying active helps in old age

I have blogged before about elderly people running and the immense benefits of a healthy life style.  This is supported further by an article I spotted recently in the The Telegraph.  The article explains how in 1979 a group of 2,500 men were asked to follow a healthy lifestyle and were then monitored to see how healthy they were in the years that followed.
Photo: Wales News Service
They were given five easy steps to follow:
  • Eat well (plenty of fruit and vegetables)
  • Work out (i.e. get some exercise)
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Maintain a healthy weight 
  • Never smoke
Astonishingly only 25 of these men had actually stuck to those principles over the 40 year period.  That is a tiny 1% who actually managed to completely do the right thing.  These are now the fortunate ones who have, according to the study, drastically reduced their chance of suffering the main killers in the western world - cancer, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes.  Even the prevalence of dementia has been reduced.

The volunteers were all from Caerphilly, in Wales, and were expected to maintain a recommended level of physical activity which could be walking a couple of miles each day or cycling or 10 minutes each day.  This combined with all of the other healthy steps meant that the volunteers who stuck to the programme were statistically far less likely to suffer from any of the diseases.  Now of course, there is never going to be a guarantee that keeping to the rules will make you immune from any particular illness but the chances are they are less likely to occur.  Or if they do occur, they may come later.

My own view

My own view is exactly the same; I'm more able to avoid any of these diseases by maintaining a healthy lifestyle but I cannot be 100% certain.  After all, I could go running or cycling, have a road crash and end up in hospital, or worse!  However, I know I'd be ever so optimistic that I would be able to recover quickly from any mishap.  I cannot go through life wrapped up in a plastic bag, just in case something untoward might happen.

So why is it....?

We all know the benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle and it amazes me how people disregard a healthy future in order to "enjoy" an alternative lifestyle in the short term.  There seems to be a few different groups of people in the UK who either:
  1. Don't know about healthy living at all, or
  2. Do know about healthy living but not ready, able or empowered to make the changes, or
  3. Do know about healthy living but have consciously taken a different route, or
  4. Do know about healthy living and are doing okay, or
  5. Do know about healthy living and are obsessed 
Now I know these groups are a bit crude and it might be difficult to put everyone into a group.  Different communities will have different needs as will different age groups.  Some might argue poverty has an effect, perhaps limiting people to group 1 or 2 - this is plausible, to an extent.

Sometimes when I'm at work in Stevenage, I will take a lunchtime stroll through the town centre shopping area.  Perhaps you might think I am being bigoted or snobbish, but I have been astonished at the huge numbers of unhealthy people waddling around.  One of my friends would be talking about Mrs Lard and her little lumps of fat following her around, though I won't be quite so indelicate.  The people I am talking about here are often significantly overweight, smoking, hanging around McDonalds while they wait for a bus.  Could be of any age but often young parents with tattoos and pushchairs and bags of shopping.  Older people buzz around on mobility scooters, sometimes steering one handed and puffing away on a cigarette with the other.

Stevenage is in Hertfordshire.  Hertfordshire as a whole is prosperous, well educated and has a generally good life quality for its residents.  There are pockets, however, of real deprivation and Stevenage is one of those places where there are a few wards of higher social needs.  This shows itself as increased levels of unemployment, physical and mental health problems, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, crime, debt and so on.

Why is it like that?  Undoubtedly a complex picture and no easy single solution.  In years gone by the  "on your bike" mentality might have been applied by those who should know better.  Nowadays I think Public Health people will be doing their best to address these problems and improve the picture.

Caerphilly might have a few things in common with Stevenage and yet the 25 men who have chosen a healthy lifestyle show what can be done.  It is saddening to note only a small minority have stuck at maintaining such a healthy lifestyle and it's things like this that spur me on in staying in good shape.