Sunday, 26 February 2012

How to give up smoking in one easy step

As I enjoyed writing the blog post about being tee total (i.e. no alcohol) I thought I might blog about smoking. Before I go any further, let me assure you I haven't smoked for many many years - it was a young adult kind-of phase.  I am not proud of myself for this and thankful it has become a distant memory.   The nearest picture I have of me taking part in that shameful habit is this one, above, which as you can see is from a cycling trip in Kenya, all those years ago.

I bucked the trend as far as smoking is concerned.  As I had made it into my twenties with never having had a cigarette, you might ask why start then having avoided the ubiquitousness and crafty fag behind the bike sheds at school .  Well, this is my answer:  in 1984 as I toured around Kenya and Tanzania on my bike (aka a real heap of junk I had while I was at school) I was sometimes given some cigarettes which I saved up in my pannier bags.  They were given to me as part of the change when I bought a meal somewhere.  This was common practice then and as most people used to smoke in those days, I guess it was appreciated by cafe customers to have a cigarette after their meal.  Mine was often omelet, rice and gravel.  Once I had collected up all those cigarettes I decided to try one while camping in the middle of nowhere one night.  Naturally I coughed my guts out, spluttering and spitting.

So, with such an awful start, why did I continue?  For that matter, why would anyone want to smoke?  Let's look at what is involved.  

You take a load of dried tobacco leaves, spray them with a cocktail of nasty chemicals, wrap it up into some paper or press into a wooden pipe and then set fire to it.  Once your miniature bonfire has started to smoulder, you breath in the smoke and allow it to circulate to every last corner and crevice in your lungs.  As I have mentioned above you cough your guts out, everyone does it the first time.  You have a horrible taste in your mouth and if, like me, you threw up and swear you'll never do it again.  Except you do.  You struggle to get a taste for it and by the time you do like the taste and the nice feeling it gives you, you're hooked.  You are hooked on that nicotine and you then find yourself needing a cigarette at key times which then become more and more.

You also pay through the nose for it.  Back in the 1980s a packet of 20 cigarettes was around £2.00 (give or take a bit).  Now I notice they are three times that.  Wow.  Amazing how people continue to smoke even when they can't afford it.  

Not having enough money adds to the stress of life which makes some people smoke all-the-more.  I once remember going into a tiny little shop opposite the Probation Office I used to work in, back in the 1980s.  It was the old-fashioned kind of shop where you stood in front of a counter and had to ask the shop keeper for what you wanted.  Standing in front of me one day, I remember one of my offenders asked for a bottle of milk, a loaf of bread and a packet of cigarettes .  When he realised he didn't have enough money, I thought to myself  "I bet he'll just buy the cigarettes" and sure enough he did.  He didn't know I was behind him at the time, so when he came to see me for his next appointment, I asked him about it.  He was trapped there in his addiction, along with the alcohol and drug use which I already knew about from his offences - it was another addictive behaviour for me to unpick with him.  Every smoker is just the same - addicted to a behaviour and a behaviour that can be changed.

How to give up smoking
Let's make no mistake, cigarettes are addictive, both physically and psychologically.  You learn to believe they're cool and they build a carefree, sociable, sophisticated image about yourself.  You believe you need a cigarette before you can deal with some things like getting up in the morning, going into a meeting, going for a drink or a coffee, driving a car and the list goes on.  You're hooked, addicted and conditioned to believe these things.  You're trapped.

And yet it is these beliefs that continue to fuel the addiction.  Having patches, nicotine replacement therapy and a whole load of other tricks all reinforce the belief that cigarettes are something you need.  You forget that you did all those things perfectly well before you started smoking.

We reward ourselves for when we cut down our cigarette consumption - alternative "well done" treats and the like. You treat yourself to a new shirt, or a new TV or a new something else with the money you have saved (or hope you might save).  This is all complete nonsense.  By doing this, or replacing cigarettes with other sources of nicotine, you are reinforcing the need for cigarettes.

What works, in my view, is embracing the belief that YOU DO NOT NEED CIGARETTES.  Just the belief that you are giving up nothing that you actually need is the way to succeeding.  Cutting down, switching to low tar brands and so on is wrong as that again reminds you of how you still want and need cigarettes.  You don't.  Rise above it and remember how you never needed a cigarette in order to get up in the morning before you started smoking.  All you are giving up is the long list of negative things associated with cigarettes - the bad breath, the coughing, the nasty taste, the slavery, the cost, the health implications and so on.

Looking back to that time, it seems extraordinary.  While I can believe it was fun or slightly mischievous to try a few cigarettes in the African bush, that seems a life time ago.  What helped me at the time was being young and reasonably fit and my body quickly repaired the damage.  I'm so thankful I quit and it has become a distant memory.  Although the memory is distant, I can still remember the whole experience - the way cigarettes can grip your life and rule you.  If you're reading this and you're a smoker, you have to believe there is everything to gain from quitting and simply nothing to gain from carrying on.  Just remember - YOU DO NOT NEED THAT CIGARETTE.  RISE ABOVE IT. 


Monday, 20 February 2012

Withdrawal symptoms

My apologies for not blogging very much lately.  I've missed you too.  It seems there is always so much to do these days at home, at work, wider family and church demands all squeezing my time.  Please don't take that as a grumble; it's not.  As much as I love running and cycling and blogging about it, I wouldn't want it any other way.

I think I'm suffering some withdrawal symptoms, particularly from cycling.  This picture was taken this morning as I popped into the garage for something or other.  Like so many in the UK, we don't actually use our garages for parking our cars in as instead, we use them for all kinds of other things as you can see.

The MK Marathon training schedule is proving very hard to keep up with 4 or 5 runs a week.  I just don't seem to be getting the opportunity to run that often.  I do manage about 3 or maybe 4 runs each week: 2 are generally on a treadmill in the gym and the long run at the weekend is spent running through the countryside.  Weekend before last I went running for 2 hours 20 minutes in which I must have covered about 14 or 15 miles.  It was hard towards the end with plenty of snow around; I ran across some fields through previously unbroken snow.  It was wonderful.  It was uplifting, inspirational and humbling.  Humbling for all kinds of reasons.

As for cycling, I'm getting out of the habit which I'm feeling increasingly unhappy about.  I have done less than 70 miles so far this year and must snap out of this.  There are some occasions when I could genuinely have cycled the 13 odd miles to my office but have chosen to go by car instead having justified it in some way.  At least the days are getting longer and the icy weather won't last for much longer.

I need to keep reminding myself of all of the real benefits of running.  The Runner's High and those feelings of elation and profound satisfaction; rising above all of the challenges, the niggles and feelings of self doubt.  The peacefulness and beauty of being the first to run a particular trail one day; the first to leave my footprints and be inspired by just being there.  The physical health benefits of burning 700 calories an hour, the benefit of putting my body under a little bit of pressure to make it stronger for the next run.  Tomorrow I have to go to London and won't get back home until 9.00pm, so not much chance for a run for a run until the day after.  I just have to keep believing I can work through this dis-jointed training and know that the right opportunities will arise.

So once again, please accept my apologies for not blogging so much lately.  I really value the bits of encouragement that come my way from friends, family and colleagues.  Here's to clocking up plenty more miles in the near future on two wheels as well as two feet.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Music for running

What do you think about while you are running?  What do you listen to while running?  What kind of music is good for running to?  All good questions but from this evening's run, I see it differently now.

My evening run, by the way, was a 90 minute treadmill run in which I covered 10 miles and burnt 1100 calories.  I did a fair amount of people watching and although Slobusfaticus wasn't there, his lazy habits of leaving weights all over the floor had spread to others, mostly young male posers who got surprisingly busy whenever a girl wandered over.  I digress.  Throughout the run I listened to my brilliant little iPod Shuffle and had a revelation about good running music.

Normally I like music that makes me feel energised, unbeatable and for that it must be uplifting in some way and have the right tempo.  So my normal good running tracks include:

UB40 - Kingston Town
The Bluebells - Young at Heart

Very unusually I found myself listening to Mahler's 5th symphony.  On the face of it, it is not good music for running.  It is dark, stirring and brooding but incredibly beautiful and yet it's also sad and tragic.  It reminded me of all those dark days back in 2007-8 when I was having so many problems at work.  Those problems and the stress arising from it are still in my memory and still there as a reminder to rise above those issues.  It was the presence of those difficulties that originally drove me to take up running.

Listening to Mahler, in my mind I was running a long a mountain track, pouring with rain, I was tired, hurting and yet there was courage and inspiration to keep on going no matter how tough it got.  Those miles drifted by unnoticed and I was so grateful for this piece of music that unexpectedly fuelled this evening's run.  Thank God for Mahler.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Review - Craft Pro Zero base layer

Craft Prozero base layer
This has turned out to be a great find, compensating for the mediocre Montane featherlite marathon jacket that I'm also wearing in this picture.

Craft clothing have a couple of different terms for their baselayers with the Pro Cool being designed for keeping you cool in warm weather and Pro Zero for cold conditions, which is the subject of this brief review.  Over all I am very pleased with it, better than I thought actually.  Here's why:
  • It fits really well.  I went for the medium size and it is a good fit for me; nice and snug.  There's a certain amount of stretch in the material which is helpful.  It is also cut quite well for cyclists i.e. slightly longer arms and a slightly longer than tail.
  • It is made from a light, soft fabric which rolls up tightly (handy for touring).  Clearly to get the best from this base layer it needs to be worn as part of a layering system.
  • The performance is superb.  I have had a few sub-zero runs lately and it has performed very well.  Moisture wicking has been faultless.  It has helped keep me at just the right temperature during a cold run involving huffing and puffing my way up a few hills and blasted by bitterly cold winds when I reached the top.
  • Flat lock seams for comfort - very comfortable.
My only criticism is that it is a really drab boring colour.  Not cheap at about £30 in a retail shop but there's every sign it will last and last for a long time (certainly many winters).

I would therefore recommend the the Craft Pro Zero base layer for both running and cycling during cool or cold conditions.   The only thing holding me back from a total thumbs-up approval is through not knowing anything about their trading practices and how 'ethical' they are i.e. supply chain ethics, customer service, environmental, do they supply dodgy military regimes at all?  I'm afraid to say I don't know the answers to these questions but will look into it sometime, unless you already which case you are especially welcomed and encouraged to leave a comment below.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Why I'm tee total

Few things are nicer than a good coffee or tea
Please bear with me in a brief departure from the usual running and cycling posts.  Back to normal after this post.

Just imagine alcohol didn't exist and you are the Government.  I am the food and drink industry and I have "discovered" alcohol and want to start marketing it by selling wine, beers, spirits and so on.  I come and ask you, the Government if I can go ahead.  To make things a little easier for you, I suggest you could introduce a purchase tax so the Treasury makes a little as a bonus.

Oh,  you want to know a little more?  Okay well in my trials and market research people have said they quite like the taste and different people are liking different kinds of my new product so it's diversity friendly.  Young adults and students like beers and lagers, some people who like to consider themselves more refined and sophisticated tell you they like whisky, brandy and so on, plus expensive wines with their meals.  All sounds great and it gives you a nice feeling once they've had a few drinks and their bodies have absorbed it properly.  People laugh more and giggle and some people have said in their feedback it helps give them some courage in difficult situations.  

All sounds great, doesn't it? You the Government can make some money from making people happy, could be a win-win proposal.

Oh, some further details.  Hmmmm I was afraid you might ask about that but I'm sure as we're all clever people we can work around any of these snags.

Snag 1.  
Alcohol impairs people's judgement.  Drivers crash their cars, people do daft things, take risks or maybe become aggressive.  Not just relatively harmless daft, silly or embarrassing things but criminal things or serious errors of judgement.  

In the Bible it says in Proverbs 20, verse 1 "Wine is a mocker and beer is a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise".  The way I read this the Bible (aka Best Instruction Before Leaving Earth) is not saying "Thou shalt not drink alcohol" but is giving a warning about having too much or being led astray.  Are you okay with this - we live in a world where it's nice to give some people the choice to live their lives with as much freedom as possible, even though it might destroy them - you, the Government, okay with this?

Snag 2.
It can be addictive.  Through my work in the criminal justice system I have seen the consequences of this.  Sure not everyone who drinks in a sensible manner will become addicted and find it difficult to function without a drink.  However, the memory of seeing lives ruined because of chronic addictions is tragic.  Seeing people ruled and in slavery to alcohol is very heart wrenching and then crying in front of me wishing they could give up or at least cut down or even perhaps just to be sober for a few hours.  Many I met had given up all hope and didn't believe they could lead an alcohol-free life ever again. You do your best to encourage people and use all the techniques you picked up in your training but it's often an uphill struggle.   Being in such a hopeless position is hard for many people to imagine.  Nobody chooses to be dependant on alcohol, at least I have yet to meet anyone who says that.  

The physical and psychological addictions cannot be underestimated in our society.  I am convinced those who reach the criminal justice system are just the tip of the ice berg.  Alcoholism does not restrict itself to class, gender or any other personal identifying factor.  You simply cannot say cider drinkers are more likely to have a drink problem than, say, drinkers of wine, lager or vodka.  Each one is an unnecessary tragedy of a wasted life with much pain and anguish.

I used to drink myself especially as a student, wanting to fit in and enjoy being friends with others around me.  I gradually became aware of these friends around me gradually drinking more and more and I knew then I didn't want to follow them, so I restricted myself to how much I would comfortably have.  Even so and because of that, it was very easy for me to have too much, just as others were just starting to enjoy themselves I would be having problems remaining upright.  Then those memories of being sick and feeling so awful the next day, yuck.

You, the Government, still comfortable with this?

Snag 3.
Another case which I remember well.  I admit, I might have a bit of a slanted view having not brushed shoulders with many victims very often. However, I do remember meeting a married couple on a number of occasions as they had lost their only son at the hands of a drunk driver.  Their son had recently graduated from University and had taken a local factory job while he started his real career.  He joined a local cycling club and went out for his first ride with them, got back to their meeting point and said farewell to his new cycling pals.  On the short distance to his home, late at night, he was hit by a drunk driver and killed at the scene.   The driver tried to evade capture by, shall we say, covering his tracks and that was actually his undoing in trying to hide.   His parents told me how they had been taken by the Police to the mortuary and had to identify their son's body.  I will never forget that, nor will I forget wanting to cry each time I drove home after being with them.   Even now I can recall their emotion, their loss and on-going sense of bereavement and their questions of "Why did it happen?  Why was it our son?".  All because of alcohol.   Of course, we can never really understand or know the answers to these questions and I'm painfully aware of how I can fumble in trying to be professional and yet be human at the same time.

You, the Government, are you still all right in knowing this kind of thing will happen?

Snag 4.
Health.  I might tell you, you the Government, that some of my drinks containing alcohol might be good for you.  I might tell you about grape juice being good but then you already know that because you drink different smoothies and fruit juices.  They contain all kinds of vitamins and other nutrients which are positively good for us.  People who might go on to drink too much of my new drinks in your country will develop mental and physical health problems that will cost your Health Service huge amounts of money through treating all kind of diseases.  Furthermore it might cause some people to die younger.  Are you still okay?  Really okay?  Some of those diseases and other complications are truly awful and you will wonder why so many hospital beds have been filled with problem drinkers.  Doctors and nurses will ask you how they can cope with this. Still okay with this?  Are you sure?

So, you the Government, are you happy to allow me to raise large amounts of revenue for you through selling my new wines, beers and other drinks that we might refer to as mixed blessings?  Whose interests are you protecting here?  Are you comfortable with this?

Monday, 13 February 2012

Guest blog by Becky

Now if you enjoy reading all about seeds and how they grow or how daddy's trainers look after he has been for a long run, then so be it and enjoy.

But if you want to read about more interesting things like dogs  for instance then you should read rusty and misty's blog or our very own dogs blog about Poppy (click here).

By the way I don't usually hack into my Daddy's blog but as he is asleep and it is half term I thought that I may as well. He would never find all the changes that I have made any how.

From Becky

Friday, 10 February 2012

Guest blog by Tony Gavin

Tony Gavin, centre
I came across Tony Gavin via Progait on the web.  In my book, you cannot underestimate how important things like a gait analysis are in terms of taking care of yourself and enjoying going for a run. After all, I came close to giving up running before I went into a proper running shop myself (see below for related links) which led me to admire people who understand the biomechanics of running.   Tony Gavin explains some of his own journey and shares an insight into his profession as a Podiatrist:

I was delighted when Doug asked me to write a guest blog, as a Sports Podiatrist I often contribute to publications about gait analysis, running biomechanics, barefoot running, foot injuries, so for I change I thought I would be indulgent and talk a little about my running journey so far.

Always I wanted to be a runner, I always envied runners, in the same way I envied people who rode motorbikes. I envied there ability to do what they wanted, their discipline, their control, and most of all I envied their happiness.

I flirted with running in my early 20's, had a stab at the Great North Run, got injured, gave up, and returned to the familiar pattern of work, couch, kebab. I have worked with runners, helping them on their journey, often when they are at their lowest, when they are injured.

Having a highly developed skill of convincing athletes of how to modify their training so that they can be the best they can while reducing the risk of injury, but I could never do the same thing for myself. I often thought that these 2 situations were polar opposite, and in some senses they were; slender fit disciplined elite athlete vs overweight unfit binging swivel chair jockey. However, our goals were fundamentally the same, to navigate a path of training without falling into injury. The same approach is appropriate for both, maximum training stimulus with minimum excessive forces on areas at risk of injury. For an athlete this may have meant dropping a quality session each week, for me it meant jogging at a pace that walkers could overtake me for 2 months. I walked this path, which in honesty was dull, as I'm sure it is dull for the injured athlete to drop their intervals, but having one eye on the bigger picture was what I needed. 

In the past I often focused on my own injuries without looking at the bigger picture of where I wanted to go, even though I do it on a daily basis with my patients. The results have been great, 12 months running injury free, 1 Marathon and 3 Halfs completed, and tumbling PB's, I suspect now is when things are going to get tough.

The long term plan will last another 4 years, and I want to be all that I can as a runner, perhaps that will be a 1hr 20 half marathon, who knows?

As a podiatrist, we are specialists of the feet, and as most sports people use their feet for their performance we tend to see many injuries caused by activities. In my Practice I see a large number of runners, you may ask if this is because running is bad for you, or causes injuries, or is it because running is having another surge in popularity? Well, for an injury to occur, you have to place a stress on a tissue which is greater than its ability to withstand, and the easiest way to do this is to run too far, too fast, or too often. It is easy to see how this applies to a relative newcomer to the sport, where 5 runs a week may be too often, or 4 miles is too  far, so all of the variables (distance, speed and frequency) have to be specific for that athlete. Seasoned athletes know what their body can take, they know the weekly mileage they can sustain, they also know how many interval sessions they can do and how much recovery they need. Often this knowledge comes from periods of injury and learning.

Hopefully a podiatrist can assist with this period of learning, manage painful conditions, and reduce future risks of injury. This can take many forms, from exercise prescription, advice, footwear advice, orthotics, referrals for physical therapy, referrals for surgery, and many other options. Before a podiatrist can help in this way they may want to analyse your gait.

Gait analysis is studying the way that someone walks or runs, and can be done visually, with high speed cameras, on treadmills, and measurements taken over pressure plates. This allows both the podiatrist and the athlete to objectively see what is happening mechanically during the gait cycle. Excessive forces, and abnormal movements can then be seen, and it can be considered if they are leading to a current injury. From this information the treatment plan can be formed, which will be specific to your running gait.

So, should we all have our running gait assessed? It really does depend, and it depends on what are the risks of injury. For a new runner these risk of overloading tissues is high, so a trip to a running shop for analysis for appropriate trainers is the minimum I would recommend. The value of this is only ever known by those who start running in unsuitable footwear for them unfortunately. For conditions which are persistent, or before embarking upon a lengthy training programme with a specific focus, a trip to a podiatrist may be well placed. 


Thursday, 9 February 2012

Ask me a question!

Many people who know me personally already realise I sometimes ask a lot of questions.  What makes it even more tiring for them is that I tend to ask 'open' questions.  Besides, I have really gained from picking people's brains about running, cycling and so on.  Now it could be your turn!

Ask me and I'll do my best about running, cycling, giving up meat, being tee total, being a Christian, being a Dad, a husband, the time I left a door open in a high security prison I once visited.....

Please just use the comment section below.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Sub zero running

Our back garden following last nights' snowfall

Regular readers might remember that I ran every day over the 12 day Christmas holiday but the weather then was mild.  Now we have snow and a couple of days ago I was out for a really good long run - and it was freezing, quite literally.  It is very easy to be put off by the bad weather, so here's a few thoughts which might be of some encouragement:

Keeping a nice steady temperature is easier for runners than cyclists - what to wear.
When I set off for my sub-zero run, I was wearing my tracksters, gloves and a woolly had.  I also had my brilliant Craft base layer and my Montane Featherlite Marathon jacket.  At first it was very cold, I was running into a bitterly cold breeze.  Yet by the time I had completed 1 or 2 miles, I was warm and stayed at a steady temperature through the 2 hours I was running for.  With cycling you just seem to go from one extreme to another: one minute you're huffing and puffing up a steep hill and then freezing cold blasting down the other side at 30-40mph and getting seriously chilled.  Using a layering approach is ideal when it comes to clothing, this is ideal for the synthetic technical clothing which is so light and good at wicking away any sweat. 

Be careful
Extra care is taken to avoid falling, tripping or slipping over: that is an injury just waiting to happen.  Just over a year ago I fell over on some frozen ground and hurt my left hand (crushed it sideways on under my chest as I fell) and it's still not completely better; nerve damage takes so long to heal.

Running through snow is fun and I love it but you can't see what is underneath the snow.

More on clothing
I wore my brilliant Craft base layer and will do a review on this another time.  You need gloves, a hat because it is suprising to many how sweaty you can get around the back of your head which can lead to a chill and stiff muscles.

When it is sub zero I stop wearing shorts and go for tracksters instead.  I feel my muscles otherwise just would never get sufficiently warm enough.

Be aware of the weather and any forecast changes
Last Saturday I knew snow was forecast for early evening and I was cutting it fine by returning at dusk after having been out for my long run for two hours.  I was okay and there were no real signs of snow.  The weather could have changed for the worse and I would have needed a short cut back home. 

Extra grip
I bought a pair of Yaktrax for my wife at Christmas.  They are like snow chains for shoes or boots.  She has now tried them (after the kids had the first go) and declared them a success.  Worth considering for running on frozen, slippery surfaces or snowy conditions.

One last thing
Take a mobile phone, switched on with a well charged battery.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

What is a tempo run?

To the untrained eye this may appear to be a blurry photograph.  For those who run or follow my blog will realise this was taken during a recent tempo run.

So, what is a tempo run?
It is part of a training schedule and sits alongside long runs and interval runs.  It is a brisk, fast run that puts you out of breath and is too fast to keep up for one or two  hours' continuous running.

The purpose?
It helps our muscles deal with Lactic acid.  This starts to build up as the muscles are worked moderately hard and is a natural bi-product of our natural metabolism.  It is the presence of Lactic acid that makes our muscles hurt and feel tired.  The more we do, the more efficient our muscles become in dealing with this.

What does a tempo run consist of?
Last night my tempo run was 5 miles on a treadmill and this is probably the minimum distance for this kind of run.  It starts off with a gentle warm-up of about 5 to 10 minutes at jogging pace or a slow paced run - maybe around 5mph.  Last night this translated into just over 1 mile on a treadmill with no gradient.  You should be able to talk normally at this pace.

Next came the tempo bit.  That was 3 miles at a brisk pace ranging around 7.5 to 8.5mph and enough to raise my heart rate to my maximum and where conversation would be more limited.

At 4 mile stage, I brought the speed right back down to 6.5mph and lower still for the last 2 minutes for cooling down.  This is where the benefit can be felt.

How often should I do a tempo run?
I run about 3 or 4 times a week and always include such a run.  As the marathon gets closer, I'll tempo train for a little longer but still just once a week.

How do I feel afterwards?
Sweaty and tired: I always sleep deeply after a tempo run.  After the run and before bedtime I always feel a bit tired alongside the feeling of satisfaction and the elation of the Runner's High.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Linseed / Flaxseed

As I'm not a big fan of eating oily fish, I need to be mindful of how I get sufficient Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.  For sure we all need to include these in our diets for the benefit of our cardiovascular system and avoid heart disease and so on.  The humble Flaxseed (aka Linseed) is a good source to consider.

For the last couple of years I have been including ground Flaxseed in my diet almost on a daily basis.  This can be done in a variety of ways (Rachel often sprinkles some into the bread mixture) but the most appetising way is through including it in my Cyclist's Breakfast which is extraordinarily popular in terms of blog hits.

How much Flaxseed do I have?
About 10g each day - a desert spoonful

How do I grind it?
Using a coffee bean grinder.  I normally grind about 2 or 3 weeks worth in one go.  Anymore it seems to dry out or appear to "go off" in a way.

What nutrients are in Faxseed / Linseed?
Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and some protein.

What are the health benefits?
The main benefit is for the circulatory system by lowering cholesteral but it can help ease coughs and constipation

What does it taste like?
Nothing special but okay.

What is the difference between gold and brown Linseed?
Apparently none at all - check out this useful link to Flax Farm - click here.  When I asked this question in Holland & Barrett they told me the golden variety had been hulled and the nutrients were then more concentrated.  Hummmm I think they got this wrong.


Saturday, 4 February 2012

Brazil nut - a real superfood

Apologies for the naff picture but this is an important blog post 

Are Brazil nuts good for you?  Are Brazil nuts healthy?  The answer to these two questions is YES!  Will Brazil nuts make me fat?  NO they won't (providing they are part of a well balanced diet)!

Brazil nuts are special amongst in world of nuts.  While all nuts are healthy, providing you don't eat tons of salted peanuts, as they are packed with proteins and other useful nutrients, Brazil nuts are really excellent.

It is the combination of Vitamin E with selenium that provides our bodies with two potent antioxidants which increase our immunity against various conditions such as cancer and heart disease .  Having a diet which includes these is important for everyone, young and old alike but I think it is especially important if you're active or sporty.   When we exercise our bodies release free radicals into the system and the damage that can be caused at individual cell level can lead to various illnesses.  Selenium inhibits the release or formation of free radicals and with the combination of Vitamin E the effect is more pronounced.

It is not just Vitamin E and selenium that's packed in there.  They also contain Vitamin B and other minerals plus a good supply of non saturated fats which are also good for us.  In fact you only have to read the nutritional information on the pack to clock this: for every 100g, there is 68g of fat and most of this is really benefiticial to us.

With all this in mind, most days I include just 3 or 4 Brazil nuts in my lunch box to ensure I have a good steady supply of these wonderful nuts.  They're not cheap but I think they are worth it as they do last a long time but beware of keeping them for too long - the fat can become rancid - so their age and storage conditions is something to consider.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Maximum heart rate

When I'm training on the treadmill I occasionally grab the sensors to see what my heart rate is.  Having done this quite a few times over the months and years I can pretty much predict what it's going to be and it's useful to apply this to running outside.

This is really great but it is also slightly troubling.  While there are a number of popular calculations or formulae around, arguably all giving a similar answer, it is worth looking into.  It is, at this point, worthwhile for me to remind you I'm not a Doctor or qualified in anyway to give health or sports training advice to anyone out there.  All I'm doing is commenting on these things from my own perspective.  Okay, that's got that out of the way.

The popular formula is this:

220 - Age = Maximum Heart Beat / minute

For me this works out to be 170 and I know that the recommended rate for improved aerobic exercise is about 80% of the maximum heart rate - so my ideal maximum should be around 136bpm .  When I run at a steady 7 to 7.5mph it feels quite comfortable and I can have a coherent conversation and yet my heart rate is around 170bpm and will rise up to 185bpm  if I run as fast as I can.  In theory puts me into a danger zone but it feels fine to me.  I think I'm in good shape; I don't smoke, drink alcohol or eat much cheese and my resting heart beat is about 50bpm.

A quick trawl around Google shows an excellent article by Dr Alison McConnell, sports and exercise physiologist, which is worth checking - click here - where she argues you can push yourself if you're in good shape already.  It seems good reading.

So although I enjoy having a blast over short periods where my heart rate is 180-190 after a considerable warm up, I think I need to restrain myself to more reasonable limits as I don't want to keel over for the next 50 years.  Alternatively, just a short blast is okay to gradually improve the heart's capacity to grow further.  

It's also strangely satisfying seeing my heart fall back to normal once my high speed blast is over.  Sometimes I finish the run with a high speed sprint in the last 2 minutes where my heart rate will run over 180bpm and then, during the cool down, it falls back to 120bpm within a minute.  It's important to do that, you know.  It is kinder on the heart and lungs and also helps pump out any lactic acid from the muscles.