Thursday, 29 November 2012

Doughnuts for breakfast?

Recently I heard an interview with, or about, Dr Phillip Lee MP on the radio as I was driving to work and it made my ears prick.  It was a fascinating debate with strong arguments on both sides.  In essence was about Dr Phillip Lee MP suggesting that fat people, who decide to "......have doughnuts for breakfast" should be paying for their own healthcare further down the line.

Dr Phillip Lee MP

This whole story arose from the news of Dr Phillip Lee MP being involved in a debate about the sustainability of public spending.  He made reference to the fact that we currently spend approx £320bn pa on health and welfare in Britain, which has more than doubled in the last 10 years.  The direction of spending in these two areas is clearly not sustainable, particularly in view of the fact there is a large cohort of baby-boomers about to enter their 70's. 

So it is all very well agreeing we need to make cuts so the Government is able to pay it's credit card bill but it's not so easy to suggest where those cuts should fall - this is a potential minefield for any politician as they're simply bound to upset someone.  You can easily imagine letters from "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells" arriving by the sack load.

What is interesting is Dr Lee is still a practising General Practitioner (part time) and that, I believe, gives him a certain right to make real contributions for these debates.  He's not [then] basing his comments on anecdotal information or spin but instead on real life observations.  Having had further reliable information from his office, the great majority of prescriptions he signs are for conditions directly linked to the lifestyles of his patients.  These conditions include, for example, type 2 diabetes and everything that goes along with it.  Naturally we should bear in mind, a relatively small number of patients can develop type 2 diabetes through no fault of their own and that is where an important distinction could be made.

My own take on this....

In other words, people who develop healthcare problems such as obesity, type 2 diabetes are actually a ticking time bomb for themselves and the country.  Why should the NHS pay huge sums of money to treat and care for people who have needlessly brought about illnesses for themselves?  This argument could, one supposes, be extended to include those who smoke or drink too much alcohol (and how much alcohol is "too much alcohol" is another debate).  Then there are certain spin-offs where the NHS withholds treatments until the patient has made certain lifestyle changes themselves.  Examples of this would include losing some weight before knee or hip operations or maybe gastric band operations.

Party politics and the whole question of Government spending aside, you could say Dr Phillip Lee MP is doing a good job by stirring some debate and controversy in an appropriate manner for an MP.  He's certainly got the best interests of his constituents at heart.  Good for him you might say, especially as he's speaking with some authority on these matters.  And yet there are counter arguments of this proposal is now suddenly going against the whole ethos of the NHS which is an institution we should feel proud of and which is admired throughout the world.  One of the main values is about there being free health care at the point of need.

On that last point I would say that this principle has been sliding for some time with differences in NHS dentistry and what is commonly available in private High Street dental practices, not to mention opticians and their services which easily go beyond those basic NHS packages.  For decades we have had to pay for our prescriptions; currently the £7 or £8 is only a token payment towards the whole-system cost of issuing the prescriptions.

It is fair to question why the NHS should continue to look after people who won't look after themselves; in these days of austerity all public expenditure must be questioned right from the cost of the Prime Minister's salary through to the cost of emptying our rubbish bin every week.

For NHS patients, surely there is a difference between won't and can't look after themselves?

I remember a while back visiting a hospital and seeing a couple of patients sitting in wheel chairs outside the main entrance.  Both were in their nightwear and were wearing dressing gowns to keep warm as it was a bitterly cold day.  One was connected to some kind of drip and were chatting sociably with each other.  The striking thing, however, was that they were both smoking cigarettes.  That, I thought was quite a provocative thing to see by anyone in such a public place.

And yet, should those patients then be invoiced for the cost of their treatment (if it was connected to their smoking)?.  Very tricky.

For Dr Lee, I would suggest a couple of things here.   It is not easy trying to change people's behaviour without firstly changing the way people think and about their own attitudes towards life.  Investing money in public health is an investment for the future.  It is commendable that we have programmes to assist people to make positive changes in their lifestyle such as Stoptober but they need to be more effective and far reaching.  The same applies to diets and alcohol and drug use - investing in prevention will pay dividends for generations to come.  I reflect on my own history as an ex-smoker and someone who, on reaching my 40s started to gain that extra weight and living with too much stress, saw the light and made a choice to do something about it (see my About  page).

All very well but how could this be paid for?  A fair question indeed.  My immediate thought is this is so complex but how about through even steeper taxation on cigarettes and alcohol? So what if a packet of 20 cigarettes already costs £7 or £8 - make it £27 or £28 through increased taxation!  It might not be a vote winner but it is in the best interests of the country as a whole, as well as individuals.

Well done Dr Lee for re-igniting this topic!  Thank you also for reading my own views on this matter.  Have I gone too far, perhaps too radical?

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Technology and gadgets for runners

Endomondo: the friendly stalker?
Just the other day a would-be runner asked me about gadgets and high tech things for runners.  With running being such a popular sport, it's no wonder there's such a good choice of things to buy.

I confess I'm not that good with gadgets myself but I do recognise they do add interest and as you'll see below they can really help as a training aid.

So with Christmas lists being drawn up and New Year's Resolutions being pondered, here's a few suggestions of things to entice the new runner!

To help keep things in perspective, as many of these are quite expensive, please read my "wrapping up" at the end of this post.

1.  Endomondo - GPS based app

This is a GPS app that can be downloaded onto GPS enabled phones or other devices such as Garmin GPS watches.  Endomondo will track your run, cycle ride or any other distance-based activity and then show you the results just like the photograph here.  Furthermore it'll show you a map with your route marked, just som you can see where you've been.  

There are some advantages to this.... firstly it makes sure you take a mobile phone with you, so you have an element of contact and safety with you.  Another thing is that it's completely free!  You can, however, upgrade to a more detailed and enhanced version.  Click here for their website.

2.  Nike+ for ipod nano

From the Nike+ website
iPod nano is the perfect workout partner. It gives you some much-needed musical motivation and provides real-time feedback. Since Nike+ support and a pedometer are built into iPod nano, there’s no need to connect a receiver or use a shoe sensor to track your steps, distance, pace, time, and calories burned. Just grab your iPod nano and go.
Additionally when you get back home you can review your results: distance, speed, calories and so on.  There's plenty there to keep any geeky runner out of mischief!

Click here for the relevant Nike page.

3.  Garmin forerunner 410

Garmin Forerunner 410 - Running GPS receiver - Monochrome - 124 x 95
I almost talked myself into buying one of these earlier in the year and might yet be persuaded.  This advanced sport watch is GPS-enabled and accurately records your time, pace, distance, heart rate, altitude gained/lost and more. It has an enhanced touch bezel that lets you quickly scroll and select features on the run, in all types of weather. When your are back home, had your shower, why not upload your data to Garmin Connect site when in range of your computer so you can go back and review your run on your own time. It works via ANT+ wireless technology and the USB stick that comes with your watch. No wires, no manual uploads, no sweat. 

The forerunner 410 also features HotFix satellite prediction, which means it locks onto satellites quickly so you can be out the door and on with your run in no time. It also has a high-sensitivity GPS receiver to stay locked onto satellites, even near tall buildings or under tree cover. While the 410 can be worn as a watch even when you're not working out, you can also power it down completely in order to conserve battery life.

These cost £290 but can often be found for less on the net.  I think having the heart rate monitor is very desirable.

4.  Northface eTip goves

Well I guess someone had to invent this!  With smart phones with their touch sensitive screens being everywhere, someone has solved the problem of operating them without having to take your gloves off - with some runs or other activities that is easier said than done.

They cost £30 (not bad) and it is claimed to combine warmth with dexterity.  

5.  Weighing scales with BMI calculator or fat analysis

There's quite a wide choice for these, ranging from under £40 to several hundred pounds.  This is a good investment for the whole family to benefit from.  Our own is many years old but frequently used and worth every penny.  Definitely worth the extra step up from a basic weighing scale.

6.  Klipsch headphones

Many people rate these headphones highly but they are not cheap.  It is difficult trying to get something that will sound good, be sufficiently rugged and most importantly, not keep falling out of your ears as you run.  These could be the right solution and obviously compatible with ipods and all of those gizmos so you're spolit for choice.  An interesting upgrade.

Wrapping up.... 

Please, do you mind if I reach out with a suggestion here?  Whatever you find under the Christmas tree, keep it in perspective and remember what Christmas is actually about.  On their own these will not make you run faster or further, lose weight, grow taller, become more handsome or beautiful.  Enjoy them, benefit from them but don't get totally pre-occupied with them either - if your Garmin has a flat battery, don't let that stop you going for a run!

Running at night

I recently blogged about the challenge of running and cycling in the winter (click here).  Very helpfully Ramblings Reader Mark left a comment suggesting I could wear a head torch for running in the dark.  Before I go any further, let me say I really did appreciate it, hence this post today.

So with Mark's suggestion I found a head torch we already had and gave it a try.  I used the brightest setting and, to be honest, only the brightest setting stood any chance of being adequate.  Nevertheless if opened up a new possibility for running at night.  Previously I had been wary of this, at least in the countryside, for fear of tripping up.

Running at night opens up a new world and it's a totally different experience.  You get to see the countryside in a different light, quite literally.  I was lucky and had a bit of moon light which was lovely, it brought a lovely quality to the landscape and I was even able to turn the head torch off occasionally.  You hear and smell things differently, although I did try not to feel too spooked by the different unexplainable sounds.

At one point I stopped, in a wooded area.  It was actually the "call of nature" and the need for a pee that made me stop but it was nice just to stand there and listen to rain drops falling from trees and to feel the breeze a little and smell my surroundings.  I started to get cold pretty quickly so I didn't stop for too long.

The Petzl head torch

This isn't bad and as Mark correctly suggested these cost £35.  There are many different variations and it's possible this one is out-of-date already.  It runs from 3xAAA batteries and has four white LEDs.  The yellow button on the top toggles between on > full power > half power > flash mode > off. Getting the battery cover open is a little fiddly but thankfully that doesn't need to be done very often. The battery cover is hinged, helpfully so it is not lost but I think care is needed.  If someone was clumsy you could snap the hinge easily.

Ours has a self retracting cord which keeps it very compact when not in use.  You can see there is a soft pad stuck onto the torch to help it grip your forehead and not slide up, down etc.

In use it's not bad for running but worth making sure the batteries are fairly fresh.  It had proved a very useful house hold gadget to have although we originally bought it for a camping trip (from memory I had a good book to read at night - pre Kindle days).  The most valuable time for it was when I had a puncture on an all-night bike ride - it was a real gem.

Other things to consider with running at night

  • tell someone where you're going and stick to the route, just in case you need to be rescued; let them know when you expect to return home
  • take a mobile phone
  • wear something bright.  I have my Montane Featherlite jacket Montane Featherlite marathon jacket which is bright yellow.  I also have a bib made from a kind of mesh (won't cause over heating!) with some reflective strips on.  I have tied a tiny flashing LED to it at the back so other road users can see me
  • be a little cautious of other people in unusual places at unusual times but don't get paranoid either
  • enjoy the experience.  Doing slightly unusual things adds to the things we can all remember when we're 100 years old, reflecting on all those experiences and how good it was to grasp them as they can lead to meaningful, almost profound memories


Friday, 23 November 2012

More on Type A Personality

I blogged about the term Type A personality in October 2010 (click here) in which I gave a few clues to the traits of a Type A personality person and who runs.  there was nothing particularly informed about that, just mere suggestions.  More recently I noticed Blogger Stats were indicating this post became popular for a while but I think it needs expanding on a little more.  

What is a Type A personality?

To be honest, I don't think their description reads well, especially as it was suggested that applied to me!  In general Type A people are workaholics, never satisfied, control freaks, irritable, hard to work with and tend to be poor at expressing their emotions (and 'bottle' them up instead).  It has also been said Type A's are more likely to have heart disease, high blood pressure and suffer stress badly.  

I was thinking that a health professional's suggestion that I was Type A  and my new-found competitive streak it all fitted together.  But it doesn't.

I still think Type A personalities can be great runners, probably amongst the best, if not the best.  They have to be single minded and relentless in their pursuit of being the best, possibly the world's best.  However, what is the point of that if the price they pay is high, or too high?  Does it matter?  Yes, of course it does.

I look at some of my former colleagues and mentally do some Type A spotting.  Not many around in the work place but those that are have done well but don't last long.  Those that I have known have never or seldom even made it to retirement  

And Type B?

These are the opposite.  More laid-back and easy going.  More sensitive and un-hurried, perhaps lacking drive and ambition.  More likely to enjoy things in life but the important thing is type B's can still, in my view, succeed.  Perhaps achieving success does also come at a price as it does for Type As.  And yet the price, the cost, is different.

And for Runners?  Type A or Type B personalities?

It goes without saying, most people will be a mixture of Type A and B together and this may shape their personality.  Some will be a little more Type A, or perhaps a little more Type B.  Type A's could be those ruthless athletes who are so driven they will succeed.  They'll be pushing and pushing themselves to win the race and hating themselves if they're beaten.  Type B's might be more of the fun run plodders, those that run as a socialble activity with friends where the purpose is different.

Where are you?

Having a rigid Type A or B choice may not be helpful.  Indeed psychologists have questioned the original thinking behind the traits that lead to the definition.  Perhaps nowadays it is better to have a softer, more gradual approach.  Why not have a sliding scale instead from, say, 0 for Type A to 10 for Type B and where would you put yourself?

Why not leave a comment?

Please leave a comment - why not say how you rate yourself on my 0 - 10 scale.  Please outline what kind of a runner you are (fun run jogger to hard core iron man).  Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Running alone?

Approaching rain, late in the afternoon
Strange things are happening to challenge my normal approach to running and cycling on my own.  This afternoon at work, some of us paused and watched the raindrops rolling down the window.  I announced that I was going for a run at 5.00pm.

And so at 5.00pm  I turned off my computer and as I stood up a colleague said he wouldn't mind going for a run after work with me sometime next week.  He's new in the office and has previously been clocked as a cyclist and now he's a runner - definitely a good colleague to have around.  Then another spoke up, saying she's more of a middle distance runner but wants to go running at lunch time.  I asked what a middle distance runner is.

"About 800 to 1500" she said

"!500 what?" I asked

"Metres, you idiot"

"That sounds pretty short to me"

"It won't seem short when you run it in under 5 minutes Doug"

"Too right" I thought, somewhat put in my place.

I changed, into my running kit, put my office clothes into the car and went for a run.  It was raining and somehow seemed a lovely thing to do.  I'm lucky as there's a network of cycle paths allowing me to make up a run as I go.  It also means I can run as far or as little as I choose.

I mentioned it was raining.  That somehow added to a good run; it was a gentle soft rain; refreshing and just right after yet another tricky day.  As I ran almost everyone else around seemed so drab, wet, cold and miserable looking; all plodding their way home after their own tricky day.  Not everyone looked like that - there were a good number of runners around and everyone had a positive look about them.  None of the runners were plodding along, dragging their feet or looking miserable.  Instead every runner was running well; some in pairs some on their own like me.  In an unspoken way we acknowledged each other with a nod that carried the message of comradeship and appreciation of the rain, the experience, the release of all that tension and stress.

I want my colleagues to also enjoy that and yet I am feeling challenged because I love to enjoy this on my own.  Should I wriggle out of running with them?  Of course not.

Besides, last Sunday I accepted the invitation of going for a bike ride with a friend from near home, we go to the same church.  It was just for about an hour, starting out at 7.00am (which in England in November is daybreak).  That was breaking a bit of a mould for me but we had a great time and I'm looking forward to doing that again and again!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Running in old age

Last night I was waiting to meet some German guests of ours who were arriving at Luton Airport.  Not a brilliant place to be at the best of times, especially when I was dark, cold, foggy and wet.  Then I started chatting to James who I vaguely know as we both have daughters at the same school.  He's a Doctor and even better he is a Doctor AND A RUNNER!  Wow that is a great combination.

But first, my own Doctor

Just as an aside I pause to think of my own Doctor.  From his appearance he is definitely NOT a runner: flabby, grumpy and moves around in a stiff kind of way.  Furthermore he cannot understand why I want to run so much - he approves of gentle jogging totalling 120 minutes a week, or whatever the NHS diktat is for this year but cannot appreciate why anyone wants to push themselves for any reason once saying "you're fit and in good health, why would you want to take anymore exercise?".  That "says it all" about my own Doctor and it's why I found last night's conversation with James so refreshing.

Running into older age

Although he's about 10 years younger than me, James is ahead of me with three marathons under his belt and a PB of 3.32 which I think is pretty cool.  As we got talking about running I asked him about how long people can run for in older age.

"Providing people don't over do it and by that I mean pretend to be Usain Bolt it has to be a good thing.  There's no reason why most people carry on running into their 70s."

I asked whether people can burn themselves out or can only run for two or three decades

"No not at all.  Running is a good thing to do.  It does put strain on the body, particularly the joints in older age but that strain, or wear and tear, helps the body maintain even better joints"

He went onto explain how, in his view, getting the balance right between training, rest and dealing with injuries.  James recounted the times when he's pushed himself too far and too intensively, suffering injuries and needing physiotherapy.  He said something about the such-and-such muscle being a frequent injury site for runners and how painful the physiotherapy can be in a way like he almost enjoyed it.

Wrapping up he left me with a couple of thoughts.  Firstly how we runners can continue to benefit from running well into our old age and secondly why we go running together sometime?  Now there's a thought - he lives not far from my office, we could do that sometime....

Related posts:

Monday, 12 November 2012

Running in Spain (2)

You might already have read my previous post on running in Spain.  That was about a few of the runs that I had but for now I just wanted to comment on some of the other runners in and around Javea.

  • If you happen to Google "runners in Spain" the chances are you'll be confronted with men running with bulls through the streets of Pamplona.  Not quite sure what to make of this but it certainly isn't anything like the running most people do to stay in good shape.
  • One evening I got over taken by a couple of younger men out running.  They were going a fair bit faster than me and greeted me in Spanish in a friendly tone as they went passed.  I don't speak Spanish and so I'm not sure what they said but it was undoubtedly positive
  • Most other runners ignored me, looking straight through me as if I wasn't there.  I think that's extremely rude but I do understand how some like to get in the right "zone" where they are totally focussed
  • Apart from the woman in the above photo, every runner was male
  • Most Spanish runners were very clearly fit; ex-pats often looked totally out of shape (but everyone has to start somewhere!)
  • I only saw one person running with an iPod
  • I felt pleased when I got mistaken as a local Spanish runner!
  • The climate is ideal in October
  • If you run at dusk, remember it gets dark quite quickly compared to the UK and northern Europe
  • You can have specific running holidays for training purposes and access trainers, support etc
  • I think that the overall running scene is limited but I might be wrong(?)

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Wearing shorts in cold weather

I secretly plotted this morning's run in my mind but in all truthfulness everyone knew I was looking forward to a run.  And so I did, before anyone else was up this morning.

I had my Saucony Omni Progrids in the hallway ready to go.  My shorts, Helly Hansen base layer, so-so Montane Marathon jacket, woolly hat and gloves all at the ready to just get out of bed, slide in to them - just like Batman and Robin, or maybe Wallace and Gromit.  Did I tell you I have now made the concession of taking a mobile phone with me these days?  Mine is small enough to fit into the back pocket on my shorts and to be honest, I'm unaware it's there when I'm running, so no big deal.

Yet again this was another early morning run at dawn (6.30am onwards) when it was misty outside and (by the time I'd up the first hill) extremely photogenic.  The mist was low down in the valley and looked a bit like dry ice as trees were growing out of it.  Wonderful but without a camera you'll just have to take my word for it.

Strangely my legs felt a bit stiff throughout and I was trying to figure out why this was the case.  Okay I haven't been running since last weekend apart from a short jog yesterday.  Then I realised.  The temperature was just above freezing and cold enough for some frost to be around here and there.  Some parked cars looked as if they had ice on them.  I am thinking my wearing shorts might have contributed to the stiffness - i.e. my leg muscles were still cold and weren't getting the chance to warm up properly.

Ordinarily I only wear my Ron Hill tracksters if it is really cold i.e. sub zero.  I do remember wearing them last winter a few times but I generally ran okay in shorts through much of the winter.  Makes me feel like a proper runner and, most of all, I feel more "free" in wearing shorts.  Although there are no ill effects from this morning's 6.5 mile run, I am now wondering if it is worth digging the Tracksters out.

Come to think of it, virtually every other runner I see around here is not wearing shorts (but there are only a few people in my town who run in the winter).  They all seem to wear black tight thingies, or perhaps three-quarter length tights.  I have seen some of those Skins Compression garments in use also.

So there you go.  Might need to put my shorts away for some of the winter but certainly not my running shoes!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

What a week!

Wow have I missed running this last week.  It's been one of those weeks when it just wasn't going to happen easily, what with it being my first week back after our holiday.

Evenings have been tricky this week.  Monday, we were settling back into normal family life, children back at school and I needed to be "in" during the evening.  On Tuesday I had a after dinner speaking engagement at a local Rotary Club, didn't get home until 10.30pm.  The audience were very receptive, interested, asked lots of questions in the Q&A slot at the end - but a very grey haired, white skinned and male audience nevertheless.

Wednesday evening did involve a little exercise with a 30 minute blast on my new turbo trainer in the garage - this is a gizmo for holding up the back wheel of my bicycle in the garage and allowing me to cycle on the spot.  As the back wheel runs on a roller, there is some resistance which is helpful to avoid mere spinning and no strength building effort.  I'll be blogging about this on sometime next week.  Although just 30 minutes, it was enough to get me out of breath, sweaty and stinky (much to Hannah's distain, as usual) and I'm fairly pleased with my new toy.

Thursday was going to be impossible in terms of exercise as I had a long day because of work.  As part of my work I am involved with the RSA Transitions project (a kind of prison reform) which entailed an early start, getting fined £93.50 by East Coast for mistakenly catching an earlier train.  Grrrrr.  An interesting day, getting to know the team and a chance to wander around some of the 45 acres surrounding HMP Wold and HMP Everthorpe, somewhere "up north".  Got back home at 8.30pm, hungry and for some brief family time.

Friday - my parents arrive for the weekend.  No chance of sneaking out for a quick run.  This morning, Saturday, my chance came but as I had not run for almost a week I thought it best to have a short 15 minute pre-breakfast run.  Not politic to disappear for too long.

So there I am, really missing running and cycling.  Dark, shorter days don't help.  Looking forward to things getting back to normal but it won't be next weekend either.  We're having a couple of German (exchange) girls come to stay which will be great fun but probably not ideal for me disappearing in my Sauconys.

At least I wasn't the driver who reportedly knocked Bradley Wiggins off his bike.  That "mishap" must count amongst one of the most uncool mishaps to have as a motorist.  Mind you, I don't know the whole story.  For all I know it may not have been the van driver's fault.  Perhaps Wiggo was travelling a time trial speeds and not obeying the sedate 20 or 30mph speed limit?

I was interested to read in the Telegraph's Weekend supplement about the former spin doctor Alistair Campbell talk about his addiction to alcohol, along with his support for Alcohol Concern's forthcoming campaign of having a Dry January - i.e. no alcohol for one month.  This is more wishy-washy spin.  If you're a heavy drinker, why not be really radical and give up alcohol together?  This is something I strongly advocate - being tee total has never harmed anyone.  See my previous post on this - Why I am tee total.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Back to work....

Going back to work today was hard.  Hard going because we've just had a week in Spain (lovely warm climate, running country and good food) followed by a few days at home.

I always dread turning on my computer; not because I struggle to remember the passwords if I've had a good holiday, but because I dread reading what's gone wrong while I've been away and not there to fix things or possibly defend myself.  I did have a couple of welcome distractions.

We have a new Director working with us and his desk is behind mine.  We exchanged pleasantries, as one does to welcome any new colleague.  Then I spotted a water bottle on his desk - a cycling one!  I remarked on it, asking him if he was a cyclist.  He was!  Excellent!  I told him he was clearly the man for the job, never mind anything else.  He laughed politely but I'm not sure he was that impressed.

And then another "new" person came in.  Someone who has worked for us before but has returned in covering another colleague who is on long term sick leave.  Nice to see him anyway.

Oh, I should mention the biscuits.  You know how it is often traditional that for anyone who's been on holiday, they should bring in something to eat from their holiday. So I bought in a box of biscuits and, shall we say, they are "interesting" and not quite what I expected.  They certainly look nice - some chocolate, some decorated beautifully, every one is tempting.  The trouble is that as soon as you pick one up it either explodes or disintegrate in your fingers.  There are so many crumbs and bits of biscuits all over the floor - the cleaners will loathe me!

A few days ago I treated myself to a Turbo Trainer - I'll be blogging about this on my other blog soon.  All day today I was looking forward to having a good spin on it.  Alas no, not to be, for today.  I have, however, been running a fair amount over the last couple of weeks and while running is good, cycling is not good.  It is surprising how quickly we can go out of shape.  I'll be posting about my progress on this soon.  .

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Running and the Glad Game

This morning's run: left the house at 6.30am.  Very dark but about to get light.  Temperature was 4 or 5 degrees C, raining and a light wind.  I was wearing my Brooks shoes (slippery I know but my Saucony's are still drying out from their last outing), Montane featherlite jacket (not very waterproof), a base layer, woolly gloves, woolly hat and shorts (thus allowing my legs to sting when pelted with rain).

First impressions - bloomin' miserable.  Why am I doing this?  Why not just stay tucked up under the duvet?  Am I mad?

A week ago we were in Spain.  Running conditions could not have been better.  Quite a contrast to this drab, wet, cold and miserable morning.

The Glad game

You might know that children's book / film - Polyanna?  A period film about a little girl who always finds something to be glad about even in the most unlikely circumstances.  The other characters in the film were often irritated by her, I can see why.    So I thought I might be equally irritating and do that now.

So, in spite of such horrible conditions, why was this morning's run something to be "glad" about?

  • Nobody else was crazy enough, apart from me in being out this morning.  Therefore I had the hills and tracks to myself
  • On top of the hill my legs were stinging with the rain.  Back home they were tingling!
  • I feel great and I have the rest of the day to enjoy that feeling of "well being", an inward smile through the much blogged about Runner's High
  • One hour = 6.5 miles = 650 calories (very roughly)
  • Hannah greeted me as usual when I come in from running with "Daddy, you stink".  Made me smile
  • I had a really nice hot shower when I got back - lovely!  Appreciate it all the more!
  • Running in horrible conditions makes me feel ALIVE
  • Running in horrible conditions makes me appreciate Spain, the sunshine and warmth even more

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Why go for a Fun Run?

Fancy dress and fun runs go together!
Back in October we took part in a fun run.  It was actually the first time we'd done this together as a family and we were spurred on for a number of good reasons to do this.  We really enjoyed it, in spite of it being on a drab, cold, damp Sunday afternoon near Luton Airport.

Fun runs seem to crop up in lots of places these days, either on their own (like this one) or to go along side another race.

Here's a few thoughts on why no runner shouldn't take part....

Fund raising

This particular fun run was a fund raising event.  Nobody had a problem with that as everyone knew the deal.  It was all about celebrating the life of Michelle Hulford 1990-2012 who sadly died in the summer (more information click here and here).  The theme of the event was "Live Life in Full Colour" and as a way of raising funds for the two charities she supported.  My two daughters knew her through the same school and went to the celebration service which was, everyone says, incredibly powerful and moving.  Back to the fun run... it's just a great way of getting people together for a bit of fun and a purpose.

If you can walk, you can do it

In fact running is the intention but equally walking, jogging, crawling, hopping are all fine.  It's not a race.  Naturally there were some wizz kids storming their way around the 5k course.  Amongst these was the cool and accomplished runner Jeremy Weightman who seemed to lap Hannah and myself in no time at all.  In fact I think the run was over for him and one or two others in almost no time at all!!!!

There were quite a few in the "have-a-go" category and these were especially cheered on by the supporters.

It is never too far

Fun runs are normally short distances - this one was divided into 2k and 5k.

A chance to try running for the first time

If you are new to running and maybe fancy having a go at entering a race, a fun run could be a good stepping stone.  It is an opportunity to be at the start line with others, feeling the "tension" and dash off with the others when the starting gun goes.  Because it's not a race, you can't be last.  Besides, nobody will mind if you walk or even stop for a rest!

Supporting others

I ran alongside my youngest daughter Hannah.  She's 12 and was determined to get 'round without stopping and sure enough she did - and very well too!   If you're already a "proper runner" remember you started at some point yourself, so there's the opportunity to encourage someone else by going alongside.  Even if you're not taking part yourself, there will be the need for a small army of supporters to do things: marshals  first aid, motivators, a band or two perhaps, drink stations, registration desks and so on.

You can be in fancy dress

Yes you too can run around in a red skin tight head-to-toe outfit if you want, or any other crazy costumes.

Above all, remember what it's really about

Fun runs are often charitable events, best remember that.  Raise money for a good cause; don't take the running too seriously!

My daughters - running well and having fun!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Is Tahini good for you?

Meridian Light Tahini - a tasty alternative to peanut butter
I must tell you about this jar of light Tahini which we have in our fridge.  While it is there right now, it won't last long.

This is the first time we've had it and, while it is an "acquired" taste, we think it is delicious but it does take a bit of getting used to!  It is necessary to keep it in the fridge in order to prevent it from becoming rancid.  It can be used as a dip or, for myself, I use it as an alternative to peanut butter.  It is necessary to give it a stir as the oils do naturally separate out over a few days.

What is Tahini?

Tahini is a simple food, popular in Middle Eastern cookery.  It is simply sesame seeds which have been ground into a paste.  Simple as that.  

The health benefits of sesame seeds are well known but have you tried to eat them?  Believe me, it takes some time to eat the seeds - slowly grinding them in your mouth (risking your teeth in the process) and then swishing it down with a glass of water.  Why go through all of that when you can have Tahini?

This Meridian Tahini is made only with sesame seeds.  It is hulled and roasted as part of the process although a darker version is available.  They roast the seeds for 25-30 minutes at 210°C.  The Natural and Organic products are manufactured using the sample process and equipment so texture is similar.  They do have different flavours.  The Natural Light Tahini made with hulled sesame seeds which produces quite a bitter taste.  I understand the dark Tahini is made with unhulled sesame seeds and is less bitter.  However, it is all down to personal taste but I'm enjoying the bitterness.  Makes me want to try out the darker, less bitter version afterwards - it could be even nicer.

Nutritional information

Tahini is a very rich food and a good source of many nutrients.  In reality it is best used sparingly; little and often.  It is a good source of healthy fatty acids - thats omega 3 and 6 - which we cannot manufacture ourselves so a regular intake is of benefit to our bodies.

It also contains thiamin (helpful for the nervous system), phosphorus and calcium (benefiting bones, teeth and kidney function).  Vitamin E is as well as small amounts of zinc.  Fibre at 11.8g per 100g is good but of limited effect as the intake quantities are relatively small.

So, is Tahini good for you?  Yes, without doubt.


We are slowly catching on to Meridian as we have quite a few of their products in our kitchen nowadays.  In fact a while ago we commented on their peanut butter.  Take a look at their website and see how they have developed quite a wide range of healthy foodstuffs.  Even Sainsbury's are selling some lines these days.


We love it!  Aside from using it as an alternative to peanut butter, we are going to try it in a few recipies before too long.

Surviving the winter months

Here in England I love the different seasons, right from the cosiness of the winter through to the balmy days of summer.  And yet I find my mood can drop during the winter months, especially if it drags on for too long.  I could sulk my way through in a grumpy kind of way or do something about it.  If you read my blog you'll know I achieve this by running and cycling.

This year I am not looking forward to the winter at all.  Not sure why.  Could be memories of the last two winters that brought more snow and freezing temperatures than ever.  Could be thoughts of settling back into life here at home - just a few days ago we were enjoying the lovely climate of Spain and some brilliant runs.

This morning at 6.30am, just as daylight was starting to appear, I went out for my favourite 7.5 mile hilly run.  I loved it, my running form was reasonably fluid and I stormed up a short hill on my way back.  Cold but brilliant and in my thoughts I devised my strategy for surviving this winter.  Here it is:

  • Keep remembering how important exercise is; mentally and physically
  • "Deal with the winter weather Doug".  This is probably my biggest obstacle.  I hate running and cycling in the dark.  It is a problem and there to be solved.  Believe there is a solution, or solutions. 
  • Do NOT re-join DW Fitness Club (other than possibly taking advantage of a Christmas offer for a two week trial at a bargain price).  
  • Eat well - I think I have a pretty good vegetarian diet but it does mean a bit of effort to make sure I get everything I need.  Have some enjoyment in trying out some new things (and good blog material!). It also means not eating too much or allowing some weight to creep up.  My BMI is around 22 and that's where it's staying
  • Not to be afraid of spending some money if it means getting through the winter.  This is probably going to involve buying a turbo trainer to maintain cycling in those dark horrible evenings.  Could cost £100 to £200 but this outlay would last for years
  • Buy some proper winter cycling clothing.  Keeping warm on the bike is my biggest challenge.  I am sure getting the clothing right is important, even though I might look a bit odd in black cycling tights and Captain Kirk-style overshoes.  But these keep you warm and dry on the bike, so just what I need.  Start with gloves and a skull cap to fit under my helmet.
  • Be disciplined.  Make sure I exercise 5 out of every 7 days.  Even if it is just a 15 minute jog around our neighbourhood but ideally I need each work-out to be about an hour
  • Stay healthy.  I have already had a flu jab.  Man these make you feel awful a few days later, but that's done.  Only cost £8.00 at Sainsbury's and even better my employer will reimburse me for this - this is a cost effective of maintaining a healthy workforce.  Plus we have a KPI target for this and right now it's not looking too good.  So - I'm staying warm, avoiding flu, bugs and so on.  This also means not over training - pushing too far actually can lower resistance and our natural immunity
  • The countryside can be fantastic in the winter
  • Look forward to Spring.  I have already signed up for the 2013 MK Marathon in May and looking forward to that.  Running through the winter will make all the difference to coming in at under 4 hours. Earlier in 2012 I did that race and love looking back on it.  All more the reason to have another go.  Naturally I'll be another year older but faster for it.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Javea Triathlon 2012

From : Euro weekly news 31.10.12
The town of Javea has just hosted its first triathlon with 340 competitors taking part in the event.    No, I'm not warming up to be a triathelite but I was sorry I missed seeing this event during our recent holiday in the town.  It would have been great, in more ways than one.

What could have been a boring newspaper account it says "....nearly went horribly wrong when many of the spectators decided to run alongside the professionals, followed by teams of Police trying to tackle them en-route".

It must have been quite a sight!  All those Police Officers running in the 5k part - perhaps good training for catching local criminals.

The official article gives a dry account and tells you who the winners are.  Roll on next year - Javea Triathlon 2013!