Saturday, 31 March 2012

Need help with sleeping problems?

Don't depend on counting sheep for  good sleep

It is estimated that between 33 - 50% of adults in the UK suffer from insomnia (i.e. problems with not sleeping properly) which strikes me as being an incredible percentage - it's so high.  The nearest I got to that was a few years back when I was frequently really stressed at work.

At that time, I would still fall asleep as usual but I would wake up half way through the night, perhaps around 3 or 4am.  Instantly I would have something about work on my mind and it wasn't always rational.  Sometimes I would be rehearsing a conversation I was planning to have with someone in the office - I would mentally plan for every possible direction the conversation would take.  By the time I had done that and probably worried about a few other things, it was then getting light and approaching our normal waking-up time and the routine that follows.

You guessed the solution?  Of course - RUNNING!

But why?  Whenever I run, I always sleep especially well but I used to think this was because I was so physically tired and the need for rest and repair would keep me asleep through the whole night.  I used to think that was true but it's only part of the explanation.  The other side is the mental aspect.  I think (from my lay point of view) sleep disorders can occur when our physical and mental sleep needs are different.  Sometimes when I sleep, I'm sleeping so deeply it's as if I know I'm sleeping deeply - I can almost feel my body fixing itself - this is a wonderful feeling!

Running gives me the opportunity to work through those things in a more realistic way in being awake.  You may have read previous blog posts about running helping to solve problems, generate ideas and generally thinking things through.  I still maintain that, for me, is still very true.  So this means that when I go to bed, having had a run during the day, I am both mentally relaxed (having worked through the thing I need to resolve) and physically very tired and in need of some repairs to my muscles, joints, tendons etc.  It seems to work well.

Of course, certain events can take place in life when perhaps extra "help" is needed.  That is when seeing your Doctor may be a helpful thing to do and where sleeping pills might be appropriate in seeing someone through a difficult period in life - in our lifetime there will always be scope for this (i.e. unexpected bereavements) and there is no way I would want to diminish the impact this can have for anyone.  I'm sure if you're in that position, your Doctor would be very understanding and yet would seek to avoid any kind of dependence on tranquillisers .

You might be wondering how far or how long I need to run in order to achieve the best kind of deep sleep?  That's easy to answer: about 1 hour.

If you're reading this an you are not a runner but do have things on your mind, why not consider taking up running?  There are many other benefits.   Especially so if you take prescription sleeping tablets, why not talk this over with your Doctor?  If you have faith - and I'm a Christian who believes very much in the power of prayer - the middle of the night can also be a time for prayer.  Just offer all of your problems and worries up, seek guidance and that real peace.

Does that help?

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Injured :o(

Following last Saturday's 20 mile run, I know I over did it.  I went too far.  Too far even though it seemed great at the time and now I am paying the price for it.  Mrs Ramblings is okay and not giving me a hard time about slacking off etc.

I have hurt a little part of my left leg, just below the knee.

A few days rest and yesterday I had a sedate 2 mile run, not too bad but still tender.  Today I also ran the same distance and managed a bit better but now my leg is hurting - so entirely self inflicted.

I don't mind taking a rest but I'm worried all that my fitness will evaporate. Head and heart stuff.

My head tells me to rest, even though the race it is four weeks away.  My heart tells me to run no matter what.  I am just going to rest and trust.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

The consequence of a long run

Misty mornings can be so beautiful

Last week I Rambled about the joy of the long run and now this is about the consequences of running too far.  Now that sounds a bit negative, let me give you some of the highlights and other snippets.

If you're a regular reader you'll know I am a little behind with my MK marathon training - just the business of life being the reason.  I realised I needed to be back on track, so too did Mrs Rambling who, as my coach, made sure I was out running as per schedule.  That included yesterday morning which was perfect weather that could not be better.  It was an incredible run; running beyond my normal "turning back" and continuing along lanes that I only knew from cycling or driving.  There were shafts of sunlight through some wooded areas and cool damp air in some little dips where the road dropped down into a hollow for a few hundred yards.  Surprisingly there were lots of cyclists out that early - nearly all said "hi" in a cheery way and all were riding newish decent bikes.  A bunch of 10-15 men whooshed past at a fast speed such that I could feel the rush of air as they did so.  I knew I was pushing myself and I was revelling in it so much having been looking forward to it.  Here's a few "milestones"

I ran for 3 hours 10 minutes - about 20 miles.  I felt the usual sensations:
  • The first mile was the hardest (mentally and physically)
  • The last mile was almost as hard
  • 25 - 30 minute mark normally tough (a mini "wall" and I never know why)
  • 45 minutes onwards f- eeling loosened up and running well.
  • 90 minutes - stop for an energy gel and turnaround
  • 120 minutes - painful left shin for a minute or so, happened a few times afterwards
  • 130 minutes - realised I was going to reach home too soon and so I took a longer route home - an excuse to run up to my favourite hill and run the edge of an escarpment for a truly uplifting view
  • 180 minutes - feeling pleased I was nearly home, left leg (below my knee), ankles and feet starting to ache and feeling thirsty
  • 190 minute - back home after about 20 miles.  Drank a glass of water and a smoothie while I made a mug of tea and had a red hot shower.
Thoughts now, 36 hours on:
  • Pleased I did the run, renewed my confidence for the marathon
  • Flippin' heck - does this mean I'm actually injured (painful trying to play football with B&H this afternoon)?  Shin splints is the most likely.
  • Maybe a gentle jog tomorrow for a couple of minutes to see how it feels? 
  • Perhaps a bike ride instead?
  • But - I have to work late tomorrows evening so that limits me - probably not a bad thing
  • Reflecting on the indescribable beauty of the early morning mist melting into soft sunshine
I have been very fortunate in these last few years of running - while I haven't exactly broken any records, it has been injury-free.  I am hoping this will only be a minor injury.  My fear is that I lose fitness quicker than I do in reality, so having a few days off won't affect my fitness but it will save me from risking running again too soon.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Relaxed run, UB40 and a good view of work

Now that Mrs Ramblings has agreed to be my coach, she has got be back on track as far as training is concerned.   This is of considerable help as I have found myself behind my marathon training schedule and this Saturday will be a test for me to see how I fare in a 3+ hour run.

So this evening's run was a "relaxed one hour" run and I made sure it was exactly that.  You'll see from the image that the inspirational lysoft reggae track from UB40 was the music of choice this evening.  It was an easy run covering 6.5 miles in the hour.

I found myself thinking of all kinds of things work-wise.  Right now I'm not too pressured and a few interesting things going on.  Perhaps I can tell you about the Rambling Guide to Contract Management?

Here goes.  The number one priority for me, in respect of a publicly funded "service" type of contract is to get the relationship right with the contractor.  Work it as a partnership agreement.  Sometimes colleagues have demanded I show them a contract upon feeling aggrieved because something isn't right but I always refuse as I don't want someone interfering and yet I might just take up their cause without them even knowing, providing I think they may have a valid point.  Getting the relationship right is a great way of dealing with problems at the lowest level and drawing the best out of the contractor.  Also it's good to learn together and even better when two or more contractors start working with each other - that's then when the sum of the parts is greater.... and I was amused when I noticed NOMS have a project with that name now.  If I need ever to refer to a contract to point out something, that's almost the point of my failure but I will always know what the contract says.

Another reflection is about all the fantastic work volunteers do within the Criminal Justice System.   Most volunteers work tirelessly away from the public eye, although Magistrates are an exception.  How things change and sometimes for the better!  We now see examples of ex-offenders working as peer mentors very successfully and other volunteers working with high risk sex-offenders through the Circles of Support and Accountability projects dotted around the country.  This is all excellent stuff and a real joy to see.  What sticks in my mind was meeting an offender in a focus group and when I asked what he thought of his volunteer mentor he said "...he makes me feel I have a right to be alive in spite of what I've done".  That is so powerful and such a reminder of how ordinary people can make such a difference in the lives of some very needy, damaged people as they make amends for their crimes.

So there you go, a nice quiet, easy and reflective run, consolidating my unofficial approach within the system.  No dramatic Runner's High, just that feeling of being at peace with a job that sometimes drives me up the wall.

My coach will, no doubt, be instructing me on tomorrow's evening run but I bet it won't be quite as easy!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The joy of a long run

While I need those short intense runs where I have a brisk 10k blast, it is the longer run which is the best in my book.  Counting as a long run involves running for two hours plus, so half marathon distance plus a bit.  Currently I'm behind with my MK Marathon training schedule and I need to step up a bit more.

Yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity for a nice long run, just before dusk.  I set off with a rough idea of where I would be heading once I was out of the urban area; luckily for me it's only about a mile before I reach the edge of town and then up a short (but steep) hill and then I am in the countryside.  A little further on there is a choice of different directions which is great.  Although I have some well-trodden routes which I do like, I also like to explore new routes from time to time and yesterday I did that and I ended up going in a totally different direction - which was perfectly fine.

Yesterday's long run, reminded me of why they are of so much benefit:

 Endurance: the long slow run is the staple run for the long distance runner.  There are no stop watches, no sprints, no high heart rates, just a steady run.  It needs to be faster than a jog but not so fast that you couldn't have a coherent conversation for most of the time.  For me that means 9 or 10 minutes per mile.  It gets the body used to that gentle pounding and using fuel over a long period of time.

Bones and joints get a real pounding when we run.  With each step, the force of twice our body weight is landing on a foot with each stride.  It puts stress on bones and joints.  That's the beauty of running - it stresses the body, particularly knees, ankles and feet.  Afterwards they ache a little and feel tired.  In doing so the body is repairing itself and getting even stronger for the next time.

Heart rate is raised but not too high.  When I run at this pace on the treadmill, my heart rate is comfortably within the right range.  That's good - a raised heart rate during exercise to around 60 - 80% of the maximum heart rate is ideal for good health.  That's a very good way of dealing with all those life-style diseases that trouble our modern world - high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, being over weight etc.

Nice scenery is often on hand and a goal in itself for many people.  A chance to see the countryside through the different seasons and experience different weather, clouds and light.  It makes me appreciate this wonderful world even more as I silently marvel at things around me.  At a running pace I find I notice things I would not notice so easily on my bike and I'd never see while driving.  Sometimes that's quite a privilege.

Mental benefits is perhaps one of the real drivers for me and I have Rambled about this many times before.  Put simply, running longer distances is great for:

  • problem solving - you can see things differently while you're running and work out different approaches
  • being imaginative - I get all kinds of great ideas once I've settled into a long run.  My only problem is remembering them when I get back (someone suggested I take a Dictaphone, which isn't a bad idea!)
  • emptying my mind - I am sure we fill our minds with all kinds of rubbish during a week from TV etc.  Running is a brilliant way of pressing the "delete" button on all that useless stuff
  • Stress - this is the main one.  As yet another of my colleagues has recently resigned (and I think stress is part of the reason) I am reminded of what drove me to take up running in the first place.  I can go out with all kinds of worries, troubles and concerns and return having risen above virtually all of them, if not all.  Naturally it is the Runner's High at work, with those endorphins doing their work, that is part of the reason here.  It certainly works for me.
  • Daylight, sunlight must have a beneficial effect on anyone like me who spends so much time indoors during the working week.  I spend hours at my desk in front of a computer screen or in meetings under artificial lights.  I'm sure that apart from topping up on Vitamin D, there is something good for all of us in getting some natural daylight into our eyeballs.
So there you are.  A long run, once a week is a brilliant prescription which helps in so many ways.  If I were your Doctor having just given you that prescription, I would also be telling you to ensure you get the right rest and sleep afterwards.  After a long run, you need at least 24 hours before running again, preferably 48 hours. 

Additionally make sure you eat well afterwards and rehydrate yourself.   A large smoothie containing at least three different kinds of fruit is ideal.  

All guaranteed to make you sleep well and feel good!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Hold on Baby - and go for a run

Must tell you about a run I had a few days ago.  Not a very promising start as it was on the zzzzzz treadmill at the gym.  I took my iPod shuffle and somehow it all came together - good running form, nice pace and some nice music.  Unexpectedly this was in the best form - namely Tom Waits singing "Hold on".  Just seemed a brilliant self-assured piece of music to have a good solid run to.  It's quite a long track and it came at just the right point in the run.  I only had an hour, so this is how I roughly used it:

  • 0-5 mins 6mph
  • 5 - 20 mins 7mph
  • 20 - 40 mins 7.5 mph
  • 40 - 60 mins alternating every 2 mins between slow (6mph) and fast (9mph)

The last minute was at 10mph, just enough to give every bit of my 50 year old body a thoroughly good work-out and then a couple of minutes jogging and walking to cool down.  Bike ride home after a red hot shower.

There are times when it just all comes together - music, running form and of course that Runner's High.  All those worries, stresses and niggles just melt away.  That's special.

Just as a reminder, here's what a Runner's High makes me feel:

  • Euphoric
  • Confident
  • On top of the World
  • I can handle anything
  • Reassured
  • Calm
  • I don't care if anyone laughs about me
  • I can do this
  • Unbeatable

Thank God for a brilliant run which I needed so much.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Cycle computers

You might have already seen my recent post on GPS gadgets  in which I explained why I prefer to avoid electronic gizmos for running.  Anon left me a comment, asking how I could say that and yet I have a cycle computer.  Was I contradicting myself or being a self righteous git? Well, Anon, I'd like to say that was a fair question and so here's my answer.

The photo above is of my Cateye computer, having reached 2,000 miles late last year.  I got it shortly after I got the bike it is on; my Thorn Audax.  Rachel (Mrs Ramblings) had given it to me for a birthday present having already said "for your birthday, why not buy something for your new bike, anything you fancy and I'll pay".  That presented me with a challenge.  It would have seemed strange to say I'll replace all the components with something really fancy - Ultegra groupset - having only just bought it.  I thought about some clothing but was boringly content with what I already had.  I thought about an ultra light LED light costing several hundred pounds but my existing one is reasonable.  Then I hit on the idea of handlebar bling in the form of a computer.

Having looked at a few I thought about going upmarket and having a heart rate monitor built in, or maybe GPS or a cadence function (pedal revolutions per hour).  In the end I went for the Strada wireless, costing about £45 and a whole lot less than some other models on the market.  It's a pretty basic wireless model with speed always shown an a range of secondary information - real time, trip time, trip distance, reset-able odometer, a permanent odometer, maximum speed and average speed.  That's it, no more.

It adds a bit of interest to cycling, telling me what I have done and it's nice to click though the information after the end of a ride.  I can monitor my progress and see how I am doing and it's quite satisfying after a nice ride to see I've done 60 miles or hit 39mph downhill.

So maybe it is just a little nerdy but I still like it.  I'm content with it, knowing it is a fairly basic model that works perfectly and sits unobtrusively on the handle bar stem.  So, Anon, I hope that's okay?

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Check your running shoes!

I have known for some time my Sauconys have been living on borrowed time.  They've been the best running shoes I've ever had and really comfortable.  They have had that "lived in" feeling and have "grown" on me - just like an old pair of jeans you just can't bear to throw away.

Then one day last week I noticed my right foot was landing differently and didn't think too much about it, after all, it was just a short run around the neighbourhood.

When I got back and took a closer look, it was obvious as you can see in the photo above.   Additionally, the left shoe was about to give way in exactly the same place.

"I suppose you're going to send them back and ask for another pair?" asked Rachel, with memories of taking my shirts back to M&S because they showed signs of wear after several months.

"Nah, I don't think I can get away with that, they really are past their use-by date."

I waxed-lyrical about the hundreds of miles I had ran in those shoes.

Rachel politely listened, did her very best not to yawn and simply said "yes dear".

So there they go, into the wheely bin.  I'll get another pair soon as my Brooks Vapor 9's are okay but not quite as good as the Sauconys.  The moral to the story - do check running shoes from time to time.  I was lucky with them failing close to home; far better than out on a 2 or 3 hour run.

Related: Saucony ProGrid Omni 10 - long term review

Saturday, 10 March 2012

GPS gizmo? No Way!

There's no doubt in my mind, GPS technology is really useful and has a number of impressive applications.  Everything from the tagging of scallywag offenders through to smart phones and GPS enabled watches as training aids.  Earlier this year I toyed with the idea of treating myself to one of those snazzy Garmin watches that tell you everything about a run - distance, speed, elevation, heart rate and what kind of toothpaste I last used.  In this photo I used Rachel's smart phone for a bit of fun, to track my run and I was quite chuffed (even though my run wasn't that fast!).

I have also enjoyed the features on the treadmill I use at the local gym, particularly knowing what my heart beat (beats per minute) is at different speeds and now I have a pretty good idea what 180bpm feels like.  Useful to know but I don't need this all the time.

So, do I embrace this technology in my running?  Afterall, this isn't a nine day wonder, having been running for a few years now.  I could treat myself to a iPhone or a snazzy Garmin watch gizmo.  Having mulled this over, the answer is NO WAY! This is why:
  1. Running is a simple, beautiful and a low tech sport.  Let's not spoil that.
  2. Having to charge up your watch every day or month is daft
  3. I couldn't read a thing without my glasses on
  4. Too nerdy
  5. Too expensive for a watch
  6. It won't make my running any more enjoyable
  7. Finally, to repeat point 1 above.... running is a beautiful sport, fantastically simple - it's you and the path in front and that's it; a chance to let your mind wander, to sort things out, to think things through.  Getting distracted by a computer type device would, I think, just spoil the simplicity of running.  Sorry Mr Garmin.
Do you agree or disagree?  Tell me I'm wrong?

Friday, 9 March 2012

Commuting by bike - problems to overcome

Cyclists in pole position at Trafalgar Square traffic lights
Following the previous Ramble about all the good reasons why commuting by bike is so good, here are a few problems I have needed to solve.

  1. Clothes, shoes etc.  Sometimes I get myself organised and make sure I have clothes at my office, ready for me to change into.  Other times I take a change of clothes each day.  The main thing is having a shirt which won't become too crumpled looking.  I always keep a spare pair of shoes under my desk but I do bring them home to give them a good polish from time to time - otherwise the leather will totally dry out! I always smile when I'm so obviously in my cycling gear (yellow jacket, helmet, clicky shoes) and someone in reception asks "Have you cycled today Doug?".
  2. Body odour!  As we don't have showers, and if I'm really in need I have a quick wash in the "bathroom".  I do not like to use de-odourant but sometimes do make an exception.
  3. Bad weather happens less than we think here in the East of England; a relatively dry part of the UK.  Squally winds and freezing temperatures are the things that I loathe the most.  This is where the correct cycle clothing comes into play.  Having cycle specific clothing is an investment worth making if you plan to cycle often.
  4. Squashed lunch might seem a daft problem but I can tell you, squashed cheese and pickle sandwiches just doesn't look good by lunch time!  Even worse than being squashed it where they fall to bits!  A lunch box is useful, depending on how much space you have.  Otherwise pack more robust things like flapjacks and apples
  5. Fear is real.  Fear of cars, accidents, pedestrians, lorries and so on.  The solution is found in being visible with lights and a yellow jacket where appropriate.  Otherwise confidence, experience and a good road sense will help,
  6. Papers take up lots of room and can be heavy.  Planning ahead and having pannier bags are my solutions as I often have to attend meetings elsewhere on different days. Sometimes I have to take papers for several meetings and these can seriously slow me down.   Just as well I have not been "especially chosen" to have a laptop, I'd only lose it or leave it somewhere.
  7. Cramp is a bit of a problem for me but only in my feet.  I have rambled about this before and it does bug me sometimes.  I get it in some of the muscles in my feet, normally one at a time but when it strikes in both feet together, that can be a bit scary.  I think the most probable cause, in which I could do something about, is the shoes I use and keeping my feet warm and dry enough.  Click here for a review of my shoes. Click here for a ramble from last year about getting cramp.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Seven reasons to commute by bicycle

Commuting by bike around Trafalgar Square
Yesterday I went into London for a meeting (by train!) and as I walked from Charing Cross to Haymarket I was struck by the large number of cyclists during the rush hour.  I was impressed.

As you might know, I go through phases of cycling to work myself.end to be wider and straighter - makes it easier for cyclists to be seen well in advance.  For me it's a ride of about 13 miles from one town to another along busy roads.  There are some more rural alternatives which I also like to take but these too can be busy in the rush hour.  So here's a few of my own reasons:
  1. Arriving energised, feeling so alive and awake.  There's no doubt in this, I do feel so "alive", especially after a fast ride.  It makes me more productive.
  2. Quicker.  For my 13 mile ride, it normally takes 45-50 minutes, depending on traffic, wind direction etc.  Normally by car it takes me 30-45 minutes, so not much in it.  An urban ride is almost certainly quicker.
  3. Cheaper. Once you have a decent bike with lights, clothes etc. there is not much to pay out for.  Compare that to a car!  Purchase price, fuel, tax, insurance, car parking, servicing, breakdown cover and so on.  If your employer operates a Cycle to Work scheme, the set up cost is considerably reduced and worth looking in to.  I work for a particularly slow part of the public sector which, by nature is reluctant to indulge in this kind of thing
  4. Makes a statement about who you are and what you stand for - not following the crowd.
  5. Improves fitness as any kind of cycling will do
  6. Environmentally it's cleaner and we all know cars pollute very badly in stop-start traffic; typical commuting conditions.  One of the cyclists in the above photograph is wearing a face mask to improve the air he's breathing
  7. Avoid the stress of traffic jams with being able to weave in and out (safely of course) to speed your journey but not to annoy motorists.
  8. Any others?  Have I missed something?  Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

What makes a good run?

There are many ingredients to a brilliant run; here are some of mine that occurred to me yesterday while on the treadmill:
  1. 10k (that's 6.2 miles) in 47 minutes or less
  2. Sweat makes my eyes sting
  3. A really high heart rate (180bpm) declining to less than 130bpm under one minute
  4. A good stretch afterwards....
  5. ....followed by a red hot shower
  6. During the run I just refuse to slow down at all
  7. Saving some energy for the last 0.2 mile when I run absolutely as fast as I can without falling over
  8. Believing my running form is reasonably smooth and fluid
  9. Seeing I have burnt off 700 calories and....
  10. A good dose of the Runner's High with all the incredible feelings of confidence; mental balance and inner peace; euphoria
How about you, what makes a great run for you?  Please leave as a comment, below...

Also worth checking out: What is the Runner's high?

Monday, 5 March 2012

Anne Atkins - courage in beating alcohol

I was very sorry to read Anne Atkins has a drink problem but it's good she's come clean about it, not an easy thing for anyone to do.  She is a well respected broadcaster and commentator here in the UK in bringing the Christian perspective on topical issues.  Although she has her critics, I have always found myself nodding and agreeing with her well founded common sense approach.

So, Anne Atkins and her alcohol problem have hit the newspapers this last weekend.  As she points out, it's the kind of thing which can creep on up people, perhaps even the most unlikely of people.  I find myself thinking "but for the grace of God....".

I trust that she will have every strength and ounce of courage to overcome this difficulty and believe some good will come out of it.  It is poignant for me, having recently blogged and rambled about why I'm tee total.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

How to run faster

You might have seen a reader (Debbie) had asked me a question in an earlier post about running faster.  I answered that but have since thought of a couple more things:

By stretching we make ourselves more supple and flexible and there is some controversy around as to whether it is better to stretch either before, or after, a run.  Personally I find it easier to have a stretch after running as my muscles seem more pliable and easier to stretch.  Stretching cold, stiff muscles can cause injuries, by my reckoning.  How can stretching help you run faster?  Try some lunges.  That is, take one big step forward and gradually move your body weight forward as you do this.  Allow the trailing leg below the knee to become almost horizontal.  Hold it there for up to 30 seconds but release sooner if it hurts.  Do that a few times each day and after two weeks you will be taking longer strides very naturally.  Longer strides = increased speed.

Be patient, build up slowly
Don't expect too much too soon.  Knowing how much will depend on many factors but as you become more in tune with your body, you'll know when you reach your limit.

Run on a treadmill
You can "force" yourself to run faster by setting a specific speed and refuse to back off until you have reached your goal in terms of time or distance.  Again, build up gradually.

Treadmill programmes
Some treadmills have programmes designed to simulate running different course (up hills, fast and slow speeds).  These are worth checking our if you have the opportunity.

Interval training
This is where you can vary the intensity of a run.  Once you're warmed up, fix your eyes on a landmark 100 metres away; it could be a parked car, a tree, a speed bump etc.  Then sprint for it as fast as you can and arrive panting and out of breath.  Jog for a few minutes and do it again, then repeat a couple more times before you finish your run.  This builds up the capacity of your heart to pump a good volume of blood but please be mindful of your maximum heart rate (I don't want to hear you've suffered a heart attack!).  Increasing the intensity raises the probability of enjoying the Runner's high!

Run with someone else
I find I tend to coast when I run on my own if I'm not careful as I spend 99% of my time running alone.  Running with someone, especially if they are a little fitter, will naturally push you as an effective pace setter.

Enter a race!
For someone like me who is not exactly competitive by nature, I love entering races and pitching myself against others and I can't wait to see the results on the race website!  The atmosphere of a race together with the pace and whole purpose will push anyone to do their best.

Running on a road
The surface you use to run on makes a real difference.  Rough soft ground is slow, especially if you're picking up mud or dealing with other things like roots, branches and so on.  Running on a flat smooth suface is naturally faster.  Maybe try a track if you can?

Time yourself
Use a stopwatch, or maybe an ordinary analgue watch or, if you're flash, a Garmin GPS enabled watch.  I prefer the simplicity of an ordinary watch and this will be the subject of a rambling debate sometime.  This morning I borrowed my wife's smart phone on which she had loaded a useful app:
This shows one of my hilly routes which I absolutely love and covers roads and grass mainly.  BTW I have no idea what -16Kcal means!

Hope that helps Debbie and other readers.

All the best,


Friday, 2 March 2012

Cycling again

Getting nice photographs of me cycling on my own can be a bit of a challenge as you may already have noticed, hence the best I can do is the above image - me and my shadow.

Nevertheless I have started cycling again and my 2012 mileage has now risen to the heady figure of 113 miles.

It felt great on Sunday afternoon having a gentle spin out into the countryside and visit my mother-in-law for a cuppa and natter. Then, feeling inspired I cycled to work on Monday; thoroughly enjoyed it but very slow coming home.  Cycling muscles are a tad out of shape!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

DW Sports store - useless!

DW Sports  refused  my daughter a gait analysis
Our eldest daughter, Becky, is a pretty good runner and the point has come for a new pair of running shoes.  Knowing the importance of a gait analysis we decided to try it out at DW Sports who have recently introduced this.  We were disappointed in the whole experience.....

We managed to find a shop assistant in the huge DW Sports store and asked if we could buy a pair of running shoes by having the benefit of a gait analysis.  Upon sight of the assistant sporting a hideously pierced eyebrow, we could tell instantly by his grossly over weight build that he was not a runner.

"Sure, what kind of shoes do you need?"

"From memory I think she's fairly neutral but we need to check"

"Oh for your daughter, how old is she?"

"She's 13"

"Thirteen, sorry we can't do a gait analysis for health and safety reasons"

"Why not?"

"Health and safety, cos if we sell her one kind and then her feet grow, she might be different and then be in the wrong shoes"

"That's a shame, are you sure?  The last running shoes we bought were comfortable and she had a gait analysis"

The over weight shop assistant said he'd check and wondered off.  It seemed ages before somebody else appeared and said the same thing but were perfectly happy to sell her some shoes and asked what size she was.

Becky replied "six and a half" and the shop assistant then informed us they only stock shoes in full sizes, not half sizes.  "Flippin' useless" I thought as we left empty handed.  We were really disappointed but it does serve as a reminder of why those little specialist running shops are so valuable.