Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Being a bit "run down"

I'm a bit "run down".  How do I know this?  Four reasons:

  1. I have a cold sore.  I can't remember having one like this before and I'll spare you of the details.  In general cold sores tend to emerge when people's health or resistance has been depleted a little.  Also referred to as "burning the candle at both ends".
  2. I have a painful hand; though this might seem a bit weird.  In January 2011 I managed to injure my left hand - I fell over while I was running.  Click here for a blog post at the time.  No broken bones but more likely nerve damage according to the Doctor.  He said at the time it would take about a year to heal completely which ran true to form.  The crazy thing is that it's flared up now - there's no further injury or anything to aggravate it - it's just flared up and it's never done that before.  So that is another reason for knowing I'm "run down".
  3. Few last minute things just done at work as I finish for the Christmas break.  This time I have annual leave booked until 6th January so a decent break.  Yesterday was my last day and I finished at 2.00pm (please no cheeky comments about public sector workers knocking off early - we work blooming' hard in ways most people will never know about).  I can tell you it felt good as I had my last 1:1 meeting with my manager, gave the Chief my Christmas greetings, watered my desk plant and set my 'out of office' and got out of the building as fast as anything.  This is all a sign that I need to get away from work and forget about it for a couple of weeks.
  4. I am missing seeing daylight.  I drive to work when it's dark or just getting light and drive home in the dark.  I hate this; I need some daylight.  No, before you say it I don't need one of those SAD lights - I just need to be outside and feel the wind on my face and feel ALIVE!
Last year I ran over the Christmas break each day - and absolutely loved it.  This year I shall try and cycle instead, with the odd run thrown in.  I need to do this. Why? Glad you asked:

  1. Dealing with the stress of work.  Having a decent run for an hour is such a wonderful way of dealing with those things.  If you are a runner you'll know this.  Probably the effect of the Runner's High and a chance to get out into some daylight and fresh air.  Plus the challenge of some hills.  Wonderful, simply wonderful.
  2. Yep, cycling.  As much as I love running, I am going to spend more time on the bike for the next six months as I train for the Coast to Coast in a Day event in June 2014.  Heck that's not far away now and there's lots of training to do.  Because of that you might see more of me blogging on The Cycle Hub.   
  3. I can tell you, drifting around at home, moping a bit is not good for me.  I get frustrated and need to get on and do something whether its us as a family or going for a blast on my own.
  4. There are times when doing absolutely nothing is okay - that was the case yesterday evening.  A nice meal and watched two folios on TV.  That was then and now I need to get moving, as physically I don't want to get sucked into all those coughs and colds.  Having a cold sore is bad enough.  I just need to get moving!

Friday, 20 December 2013

Staying active over Christmas

Last Christmas I set myself the challenge of running everyday over the Christmas holiday and I absolutely loved it!

Most of my friends and family thought I was completely bonkers,  even more than normal.  They asked whether I was even planning to go out on Christmas Day or even New Year's Day.  My answer confirmed that was the plan.

Last year I did 11 runs, starting on 21 December with Christmas Run no. 1 and found it to be very beneficial.  In that post I explained a little more about why I was doing it. If nothing else it was a way of burning those extra calories which are so easy to consume!  I was reminded of this when I spotted Sustrans recently highlighting a YouGov survey which found 54% of people were planning to take some exercise on Christmas Day or Boxing Day (click here for the article).  

That figure of 54% people taking some exercise is reassuring as apparently we can easily consume 8,000 calories on Christmas Day alone.  That is an incredibly amount, roughly four times what an adult should be eating or drinking in a day!  Talk about being glutinous.  For myself I found running each day to bring other benefits which included dealing with stress which had been building up at work.  It is also a lovely way of finishing off the year, a way of reflecting on the previous 12 months and remembering some of the many ways in which I felt truly blessed (running itself is a wonderful blessing on its own!). It is also a nice way of starting the new year ahead.

This year it will probably be slightly different for me.  Yes I plan to stay active for all the obvious reasons but this year I am going to cycle more (I have an endurance event in six months time).  I'll probably mix running and cycling for practical reasons.

I can only stress how good it is to do something everyday over the holiday period.  I think the only reason to stop me would be illness for something totally beyond my control.  It's important for physical and mental health reasons, plus it's almost symbolic - who I am, what I do, how I'm starting and finishing a year.

How about you?

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Top Tips for a Triathlon

Pick your clothing and first event - wisely!

If you're reading this, the chances are you might be interested in giving yourself a challenge next year.  How about a triathlon?  Interested?  Here's some Top Tips of things to consider:

"Where can I get some help?"
Join a Tri Club as this will give you easy access to other like-minded people.  Some people have said this sounds a bit scary, joining a club where everyone else is going to be so much fitter than the newbie.  Almost certainly you'll find many people there who are friendly and always remember everyone has started at the most basic level.  Chances are you'll find some expert coaches who can really help improve your technique in the pool or on the bike, as well as your running form.

Tri Clubs are often based in existing sports clubs, swimming pools etc.  By joining, you will probably get easy or cost effective access to a swimming pool, or perhaps a gym.  Don't simply join the first club you check out unless you're completely sure it's for you.

"Spend money wisely"
It is easy to spend a fortune on kit, especially a for triathlete needing to run, swim and ride a bicycle.  Make sure you buy the things you actually need, not things that might look fashionable or trendy - some find it very easy to get carried away.

For many people, the most cost-effective approach is to strike the right balance with price and quality.  For example, you can run in a cheap pair of trainers but you could easily become injured through having the wrong shoe that isn't made for your footfall.  At the opposite end of the scale, do you really need that top-of-the-range shoe if you're just starting out?  Be realistic, take advice, buy what you actually need.

"Do I have to spend thousands on a new Tri bike?"
In a word "NO" you don't.  Tri bikes are obviously designed and built for triathlons but they are not absolutely essential.  A decent road bike  (which you might already own) should be fast and comfortable enough for being in the saddle for a few hours.  Road bikes are fine for starting out, nobody should frown on this at all.

Perhaps once you have a few good events under you're belt and you're still improving, that could be the time to consider a Tri bike.

"What are the distances?"
There are different kinds of distances according to the type of marathon event.  They include:

Sprint: swim 750 metre,  cycle 40k, run 5k
Standard (Olympic): swim 1.5k, cycle 40K,  run 10k
Long (half Ironman): swim 1.9k, cycle 90k, run 21k (a half marathon)
Ultra (Ironman): swim 3.8k, cycle 180k, run 42k (a full marathon)

Sometimes people are under the impression that all triathlons are actually Ironman i.e. the full works and where only the fittest of the elite can possibly take part.  Sure, to do an Ironman you have to be extremely fit and well trained, plus have a natural talent and have the outstanding commitment.  And yet, looking at a Sprint or an Olympic length marathon, could these be looking a little more possible?  Maybe?  Why not?

"What clothing do I need for swimming?"
In open sea races, you'll probably need a wetsuit.  The material thickness will depend on how much insulation is required according to the temperature.  Alternatives include the "shorty" or "triathlon suit" or "tri suit" which don't cover the legs - these then are easier when it comes to jumping out of the water and straight onto a bike.

The really important thing is to get one that fits properly and it's where going to a decent shop is going to take all the uncertainty away.  If your Tri suit is too big, it will be like having an under water parachute around you and this will sap your energy, as well as slowing you down considerably.  If it's too small you will have restricted movement and anyone seeing you try to take it off will laugh their socks off.

"You mentioned shops…."
Finding a store where everything trialthon is under one roof is very helpful and well worth tracking one down.   As you become more known the staff will understand what you need in terms of advice and kit, plus they'll be willing to share their own experiences - they're often rightly proud of their own achievements and it's natural to share these with others!

If you live in the northwest, shops like Eureka are specialist suppliers and natural meeting places for other triathletes as well (there's a 77 year old cafe there, a natural meeting place)

"Do I train at all three disciplines together?"
In general, yes.  Yes but do these on different days of the week.  For example, you could swim on a Monday, Run on a Tuesday, take a rest on Wednesday, bike on Thursday.  Many keep the weekends for long endurance bike rides or runs.  The different disciplines use different muscles in different ways, so it's a good idea to allow them to rest while you do something different.  Doing something different could also include using a cross-trainer in a gym - this still provides good cardio exercise without pounding your joints.  Plan actual rest days as well - if you don't you'll probably get an injury at one stage.

"When I be ready to enter a race?"
It is probably a good idea to sign up for a race straight away, to get something in your diary.  Aim for an event which is in about 6 months time.   t makes sense to go for a Sprint distance (unless you're superbly good).  Myself, I always seem to train better if I have an event in my calendar - its something to aim for, something to motivate me.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Running in Stevenage

Here I am looking slightly knackered after a post work run around Stevenage in Hertfordshire.  I did this through the last winter and I'm in the habit of doing it through this winter.  I can tell you, it's a life saver for me.

My employer transferred me to a different office in 2012 and found myself based in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.  Stevenage is a 'new town' and most of it is around 50 years old now.  While it is full of controversy in terms of whether its a nice place or not, it was designed with considerable foresight in my opinion.

All of the main roads are dual carriage ways which generally have roundabouts making sure crossroads work smoothly.  Running alongside these main roads is a network of cycle paths which I use for running.

My Stevenage running
A normal run in Stevenage for me is about 45 minutes and enough to easily do at least 5 miles.  From my office it's easy to get onto the cycle paths and there are a number of different routes I can take.  If there is enough daylight I normally head through Fairlands Valley; an extensive green space, complete with a yachting lake but these days I simply stick to the familiar cycle paths.

Running at rush hour time means there's plenty of cars on the roads and a handful of cyclists and other runners on the cycle paths, which is nice.  Why? I like seeing other runners and cyclists as I feel encouraged and there's a feeling of safety too - not that I feel particularly unsafe at all.

While Stevenage has some very socially deprived areas with the usual issues, I don't feel unsafe at all.  In fact the biggest worry is tripping up over the odd paving slab (this is something I do from time to time).

What the runs mean to me
After a day in the office I often feel a certain level of stress, for a variety of reasons.  I don't like that at all but the plus side is that I know a good run deal with it.  As I have said so many times before running melts away all of those stresses.

My last run was an interesting one.  It was dark when I set out and cold, at around 2 or 3C.  There was a little bit of drizzle in the air, so not the nicest of conditions.  As I ran I recalled it was the same route as  one from last December when I was seriously stressed out with a number of work-related worries.  The conditions then were awful and yet that made it so amazing.  Sometimes I need to run in challenging conditions with freezing conditions or heavy rain, snow or even blizzards to really make me feel ALIVE!  So on my last run I was almost disappointed the weather wasn't extreme or even more unpleasant - does that make sense?  The harder the run, the more I have to over come and the higher I feel afterwards.  I got back to the office and jumped into my car to drive home.  Felt good with those Runner's High helping me to feel on top of the issues.

Only runners will understand?
I hope that makes sense.  I suspect it will to fellow runners.  I remember someone once told me "….if they don't run, they won't understand what running is about".

So while some people might knock Stevenage for its awful architecture, drug dealers and roundabouts, I think its a great place to work and run to blow away all those stresses and strains.

Friday, 6 December 2013

I'm back!

I'm back!  Very sorry to have neglected talking and rambling here about keeping fit, handling life and staying in good shape.  Lots happening and I did miss sitting down with my laptop each morning and writing a little here.

Nothing dramatic has happened, honest, just the hectic demands of life in being a husband, a father and earning the daily crust.  Here's a few specific things:

I've made sure I've cycled as much as I can lately: the odd hour or two, here and there.  This is because I've signed up to the Coast to Coast In A Day event in June 2014.  Rachel thinks I'm worse than bonkers for doing this but nevertheless is right behind me.  She knows its the kind of thing I have to do.  Why not pop over to the cycle hub to read a little more.

I had thought of cutting back on running almost completely in favour of cycling but I can't!  I'd miss it so much!  There is something about running which I have found to be so compelling and almost addictive.  I'll tell you more soon about running in Stevenage after work (yep, that's where I work these days) and the latest gear.

Handling stress
Amazingly people are talking to me about stress and ways of getting through it and over it.  This is extraordinary.  Having experienced periods of stress in the work place (in 2003 I had a month of sick leave) I know exactly how it feels and have developed ways of dealing with it.

I still work in the same field and I see those stresses and strains bubbling up in my colleagues around me, so it remains real.  I'm human too, I have to deal with tricky things at work so it never completely goes away but I know more about handling it these days.  

Please get in touch if via ramblingsofdoug@gmail.com you'd like to talk about helping you out - me coming to your workplace, group etc.  If it simply helps to chat via email, that's fine: I'm happy to talk on email if that would help you individually.

One of the nice things in blogging is being asked to review products from time to time.  Right now we are trying out Trek and Nakd cereal bars for The Cycle Hub.  I will do a summary here sometime.  I have been trying Aldi's cycling gear and have agreed to test their 2014 range a little later on.  

I've also written a few articles appearing elsewhere which I also immensely enjoy.  That's the thing isn't it - when you write about something you're passionate about - it's so enjoyable!

Page views
I can't believe how this has dropped through the floor over the last two months.  A few months ago I was getting over 15,000 page views a month.  Now it's about 1,000 - wow that's quite a drop and all because I've had a blogging holiday.  So I hope this will spring back quickly now.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Update: bookings and a break

I am taking a little break from this blog for a while.  There's no way I have run out of things to "ramble" about, far from it, moreover a lack of time is the biggest problem.

Rest assured I am taking care of myself and I hope you are too, especially if you're a regular visitor.  In fact only last night, after a day in the office, I went for a 5 mile run before I drove home.  I loved it and still run a few times each week to stay in good shape physically and mentally.

In the meantime, why not head over to my other blog - http://thecyclehub.net - where I will be blogging more about cycling over the coming months.  There's a couple of things you might spot there and which might be of interest to you....

Firstly, I am now giving talks to groups and companies on heathy living!

Speaking at a recent  Wellness event at Apple, Watford.

Essentially I am covering what I have already covered in this blog.  I'll tell you more about my journey from a closer personal perspective and tailor my time with you to meet the needs of your group.  I promise you it'll be interactive: there's no way I will be standing up and just talking!

Broadly, these are the subject areas, all built around my journey of going from a stressed out, flabby and overweight forty-something year old, to a marathon runner in his 50s.

  • keeping fit, healthy living
  • managing stress
  • cycling
  • running
  • motivation
  • giving up smoking
I have had some really encouraging feedback (thanks everyone!).  I will travel through Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and London.  Please give this some thought for your group, your team, your business etc.  

Making Contact

Please use this link.

Secondly, a challenge!

The second subject developing in The Cycle Hub is the Coast to Coast In A Day challenge.  This is an endurance event, a 150 mile bike ride through beautiful Cumbria and Yorkshire.  The event is in June 2014 so there's much time for training and bike rides to tell you about.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Urban Smoothie Bikes

My daughter Becky making a pedal powered smoothie
Everyone knows how healthy smoothies are for us.  Everyone knows cycling is an equally healthy way of going from A to B.  Put them together and you get a fresh and really good pedal powered smoothie.  Here we see the Urban Smoothie Bikes at the local Family Cycling Festival last Sunday.

What is it?
You need an adapted bicycle with a Fender Blender.  This is a special gizmo with a little roller that is driven by the bicycle tyre and in turn causes the blender to whiz around and make your smoothie.

These gizmos are called Fender Blenders (and must be North American!?) and available more locally from http://www.urbansmoothiebikes.co.uk .

It seems a well made piece of equipment that was certainly being put through its paces.

It reminded me of our Kenwood bomb-proof mixer which has an attachment which looks very similar.

There's a glass jug with a built in blade - you simply put your chosen pieces of fruit in, plus a little fruit juice and then pedal like crazy for a few minutes.

What kinds of smoothies can you make?
I guess the answer is the same for this as any other smoothie maker.  On the stand at the Cycle Festival, there was a choice of smoothie you could have.  In practice it was boring grown-ups like me saying "yeah may I have a mango smoothie please" quickly followed by the ingredients being put in, all free of charge.  You will typically get some mango pieces, banana pieces and apple or mango juice as the base.  Then you need your teenage daughter for some high speed pedalling.

Urban Smoothie Bikes
I chatted to the proprietor, Murat Basaron, who's a really nice guy.  He clearly loves what he's doing and the whole thing brings a smile to everyone who stops to watch.

Are smoothies good for you?
Yes of course they are!  You knew that all along, didn't you?

You might be wondering why they are good for you.  I'll tell you.  Fruits such as bananas, mango, oranges and so on are all good for you with vitamins, phytochemicals and fibre.  Worth bearing in mind that some smoothies you can buy in the shops have rather a lot of fruit juice in them.  This isn't bad but the 'bits' in the fruit are also quite good for us, not just the fleshy juice.

A glass of smoothie will normally count as two portions of fruit.  That is really important and a crucial part of maintain excellent health.  I like having a glass of smoothie with my breakfast; always better if it's at room temperature.

Smoothie are also quite easy to digest, top up hydration levels and, most importantly, add to the variety of fruits we consume.

So I hope you like smoothies.  They're good for you.  I hope also you can have a smoothie if you are at some event and Urban Smoothie Bikes are there!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Running the Bus Way and ticking over

Early morning cyclist on the Bus Way
We have a new Bus Way (connecting Dunstable and Luton) about to open near where we live and I've been exploring it!  The actual Bus Way is one of those new fangled tracks for special buses that can use ordinary roads and then adapt themselves at the touch of a button to drive along these new routes.  There are meant to be all kinds of reasons why these are so wonderful but that's not really what this blog is about.

Instead, let me concentrate on the cycle track which runs alongside.  It has been a little controversial with the surface being too rough for cyclists but this seems to be settling down now.  Yep it is certainly a delight to see cyclists using it, as I noticed early one morning when I took the above photograph: it was cool, misty with the promise of a great day.

Running the cycle track
Aside from the issues faced initially by cyclists, I have found this to be brilliant for running!  The track is, for the most part, about 2 metres wide with a gritty texture and pretty flat.  It really is ideal, especially for people who want to have an easy run, not complicated by running on the streets with roads to cross, other pedestrians, cars, loose paving slabs etc.

If you're new to running, perhaps just starting out, this could be a good place to go as you can join it in many different places along the route.  Here's a few things to keep in mind:

  • If you run and listen to music through your Smart phone or MP3 it could be a great place.  There are no cars to listen out for but be aware of cyclists coming up from behind you.  Now the track is smoother, bicycles can easily cruise along at 15-20mph
  • Keep to a straight line, don't go weaving all over the track: you might be making yourself into a hazard for a cyclist
  • Cycle tracks can be isolated places running on the fringe of urban environments, so consider your own health and safety.  Hopefully the new Luton Dunstable Bus Way will always be a safe environment.  Do report any issues to the Police which might be useful in simple intelligence gathering, or, to the Council as appropriate.
  • It is an ideal width for runners to go alongside each other.  So it's ideal for you and a running buddy and you can encourage each other

A spot of interval training
I found myself spotting a tree, or some other landmark, and simply sprinting towards it for all I was worth and then easing back to a gentle jog to recover.  This, by the way, is interval training: pushing your heart rate right up high for a short burst and then allowing it to come back down.

The purpose of the run, just today
I haven't run much lately so this was just a 30 minute run to stop my "running muscles" thinking they were no longer needed.  I did the same yesterday, just a gentle run then.  For runners I think it's important to have a little jog or run in periods of rest and recovery if it is possible to do so.  Okay some injuries may result in a Doctor or physiotherapist advising someone not to run at all for X months and this is naturally sound advice.  But here I'm not talking about injury myself, just going through a little phase where I'm spending more time cycling than running.

So there you go, a little "reminder of a run" and a thoroughly enjoyable run nevertheless.

A word about the success of the Bus Way
The "powers-that-be" might be looking to see lots of people using the Bus Way as the measure of success.  I'm sure the providers of the bus service will be looking at their income and trading surplus and the bottom line.

Myself I think success will be:

  • Fewer short journeys taken by car
  • More people opting for non-car transport
  • More people cycling
  • More people running, jogging or walking
  • Children becoming more independent
  • The health within local communities improving

Another blog I noticed generally on focussing on Bus Way issues

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Which is best, running or cycling?

I have been going through a funny phase lately and it has caused me to give some thought to the age old question of which is best, running or cycling?

Does this make any sense to you at all?  If like me, you enjoy both, do you ever find yourself asking that very question?  Almost as if to ask is it better to ditch one and try and concentrate on the other.  That then leads on to another question about how "good" I could be at running, if I just concentrated on running.  Same goes for cycling: how "good" could I become if I concentrated on simply cycling?

You might have clocked before that I go through phases where I run every day for a fortnight.  This I normally do for a specific reason such as burning off all those extra calories at Christmas time plus yearning for some daylight no matter how meagre it is.  There are some real benefits from this but I also find myself getting a bit obsessive about it as well.  I find myself plotting longer routes, perhaps tracks or roads I've never run along before.  These newly planned runs generally get longer and longer.

Then by contrast, I go through phases when I concentrate on cycling almost at the expense of running.  Again I find myself mapping out longer rides, sometimes tours.  I chew over the possibilities of cycling with some of my friends who also cycle as I'm sure we can get together to do something together.

The pros and cons of each
Recently I have found myself chewing over the advantages and disadvantages of both running and cycling.  Trouble is, I like them both but for different reasons but this is a blog post in its own right but for now the advantages of running seem to be:

  • seems to be much cheaper than cycling
  • burns more calories
  • more "bang for your bucks" i.e. an hours' run does me more good than an hour on the bike
  • less faffing around i.e. getting out for a run seems so simple compared to finding all my bits of clothing and putting them on, helmet, spare inner tube, unlocking the garage, getting the bike out and so on
And then the advantages of cycling seem to be:
  • fantastic way of seeing more of the countryside
  • I can cycle to work (20 - 28 miles each way) and this is too far to run
  • I love stomping up a hill and the thrill of whizzing down the other side
  • bicycles can be nice objects to enjoy owning and taking care of
The next challenge?
I got a real buzz from running a marathon earlier this year, coming in at a whisker under 4 hours.  I feel I have achieved some reasonable times (for an ordinary bloke in his 50s) in running races and I can savour these when I'm an older bloke in my 90s.  Physically and mentally running has had a profoundly positive effect.

So following on from that I am toying with the idea of cycling much more, I have only done 1200 miles in the last 8 months.  My friend Jeremy and I have toyed with the idea of doing a Coast to Coast event in June 2014: this is a 150 mile bike ride in one day (which also involves 4,500 ft climbing).  The way things we are right now probably going for this!  That'll mean plenty of training, which should be good.

Not sure about doing both
Yep, right now I am unsure whether I am getting the most out of running and cycling by doing both.  I feel faithful to both and yet disloyal to one if I favour the other.  I want to do well and accomplish things, to do my best and go to the limit - and yet I struggle to do this by doing both.

Does any of this make sense?
The best way I can rationalise this would be to think of it in different seasons.  Either calendar seasons (winter, spring, summer and autumn) where I run mostly from October through to April, then spend the summer cycling.  Seasons can also mean seasons in life.  I could spend a couple of years running and getting a lot out of it, then take up cycling and concentrate on that for a couple of years.  

I do like the notion of seasons being broader than the calendar seasons.  Being me, I just wish I could always do both and get total satisfaction from doing both - having my cake and eating it!

My guess is a few people are going to say to me (either in person, or in comments below) not to worry and just enjoy doing both......

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Health Benefits of Red Clover Tea - guest blog

I am delighted to welcome Karin Feldinger as a guest blogger.  My first contact was in May 2012 when I reviewed Langarten Organic Snacks (click here) and more recently I invited Karin to contribute an article to my blog.   In her article below, she discusses the benefits of Red Clover Tea, something quite fascinating and completely new to me....

You may have been hearing a lot about all these different teas recently, all of which are supposed to help you lose weight, become more healthy, give you more energy and all the rest of it. No doubt you have been a bit dubious about some of them, especially the ones that make you sign up for a free trial and then charge you a fortune at the end of it. However, there is one that may catch your eye online, that is backed up by plenty of medical research. 
Red Clover Tea is made from 100% red clover, which is a wonderfully British herb. Many descriptions of this organic herbal tea will tell you that it is the perfect way to cleanse and refresh the body, as well as being caffeine free. We all know that caffeine isn't the best thing to plough into our bodies, but many of us can't help enjoy a nice warm drink in the afternoon. This is the perfect healthy alternative to a cup of tea or coffee, on occasion.
There are doctors singing the praises of this herb and for plenty good reason too. If you search for Red Clover Tea online then you'll soon find plenty of medical research, health magazines talking about the herb, and plenty of people who use the tea for medical reasons. Here are just some of the health benefits that have been discussed, about the herb and tea:
  • Red clover tea is a blood cleanser – This means that it gets rid of all those nasties lurking in your blood stream. In fact, there has been research into this herb for cancer healing properties, although nothing is completely black and white just yet.
  • It alleviates menopause symptoms – There are several helpful phytoestrogens in red clover that have a really positive impact on menopause symptoms. Research has been carried out into this clever stuff getting rid of hot flushes and hormonal problems.
  • Antioxidant properties – Perfect if you want to completely refresh your body, after a heavy weekend or a week of eating junk food. A detox can be the perfect way to better your overall health and well being, either once every few weeks or more often if you prefer.
  • Reduction of cholesterol – Another study that is not 100% conclusive yet, but the results are looking positive. Drinking red clover tea on occasion can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of related diseases. 
You will find a lot more health benefits that were being spoken about online, but these will certainly be the main topics of conversation. It seems that the blood cleansing properties of red clover tea are the most talked about, especially as they could reduce the risk of certain cancers. The general health and well being benefits of red clover tea are perfect for those who want to detox and truly refresh their body. 
What is even better is that the tea tastes incredible, as well as being healthy! You can drink it hot, cold, and with a teaspoon of honey (great for those with a sweet tooth). Even people who don't enjoy detoxing drinks agree that this has a lovely flavour to it. The fact that there are plenty of health benefits to it will make it taste even sweeter! 
A cup of red clover is a great and healthy start in the day.
If you would like to find out more about red clover have a look here: www.neuners.co.uk.

About the writer: Karin Feldinger is an amateur herbalist, passionate cook and skier. Originally from Austria she lives in the UK with her daughter since 2009. Her company imports premium organic herbal tea and supplies Health Food Shops across the UK. 

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Hymalayan Salt - my cure for cramp?

Rose pink crystal salt
Earlier today we popped into Nature's Harvest, an interesting looking health food shop in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire.  A quaint little local shop, alas no website to point you to.  We picked up a packet of Himalayan Rose Pink Crystal Rock Salt; Rachel had previously clocked our friend Natasha mentioning it on her blog sometime ago click here to pop over to her site.

Seems that it is salt with a difference - i.e. it is unrefined - not mucked about with, processed, jazzed up, over packaged.  It has some 84 elements within it, apparently the same as is found in the human body.  These elements are in colloidal form, meaning they are small enough to be absorbed into the body, so that's a handy thing to know.  It comes from the natural waters in the Himalayas and is harvested naturally and by hand.  There are no additives (such as anti caking agents, bleaches and so on) and this explains why it is presented in such an unusual form - small pinkish coloured crystals.

The idea of us trying this out is three-fold:

  • seasoning for our food; perhaps bringing a nice, new taste
  • could this be a possible cure for the cramp I seem to suffer from more these days
  • it's something new for us to try
We were amused to read on the packet that the "Best Before" date is April 2018.  While that is some way off right now, it does strike us as being unnecessarily precise when you take into account the packs claim of the salt "having formed over 250 million years".  So why something that old will go off in the next 4 years and 8 months is beyond me.  Mind you, whether it is actually 250 million years old depends on where you stand on the New Earth or Old Earth theories, but although that is an interesting debate, it's not for this blog.

I mentioned about cramp.  Yep I get cramp in my toes, feet and legs quite a bit these days.  The most inconvenient time is when I'm on my bicycle with my feet locked into the pedals courtesy of SPD pedals and shoes.  I tell you, that can be pretty scary at over 30mph.  Take a look at this article for the full account.

Mind you, while I'm looking forward to trying this salt out, I'm going to be careful I don't end up taking too much salt in.  No matter how good this is, too much salt can raise blood pressure which is best avoided these days for us all.

So there you go.  Some new salt which is possibly millions of years old and costs £3.99 for 500g.  It is supplied wholesale by http://www.profusionorganic.co.uk.  Whether it cures my cramp or not - we'll wait and see!

Friday, 30 August 2013

200,000 page views!

Yesterday I was amazed to see I'd passed the 200,000 page view mark.

"Flippin' heck" I thought "it's only 6 months ago that I went passed the 100,000 mark".  Sure enough that was in February; I checked.

Seems that right now my most popular post is me having a poke at Range Rovers which ironically is only loosely connected to running.  Reviews on food, clothing etc seem to be in demand as well as my more general text about running and staying in good shape.

Although I know my blog is modest in it's profile, I do enjoy it and I hope that it is useful for the handful of regular followers - some I know personally and others I don't know at all.

There are a couple of guest blog posts in the pipeline and, as ever, I would welcome some more.  Sometimes when people approach me, I don't always agree because they're either poorly written, the content is too commercial or it's just not relevant.  But please, if you have a healthy living story to tell, please get in touch.

Thanks again everyone.  Onwards and upwards!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The habit and benefits of running everyday

Just as we runners should have periods of rest, I believe getting into the habit of daily running can have some real benefits.  Here's a few thoughts:

Relevant for new and established runners alike 
If you're a new runner take care not to over-do-it and have some very short runs or power walks mixed in.  For those who are well established and seasoned runners, this can be an opportunity for some serious training.

Sense of achievement, no matter what
If you set yourself a target of running everyday for, say, two weeks, you can achieve that.  It is do-able.  Reminds me of those corporate-speak SMART objectives (specific, time limited, achievable and so on).  Once you have made your target there is a real sense of achievement: "I did this, even thought it was....." and you will have that memory to look back on.

Everyone can find time
Not having the time is an easy excuse to make and I sometimes do this myself.  But just stop and think, how long does it actually take?  In a week there are 7 days made up of 168 hours: surely you can find 15 minutes each day somehow?  If you are determined enough, you will.  Again this is where getting into the habit is useful, it becomes a part of your daily routine and you will miss it if you skip a day in an unplanned way.

Mix it up
This is important, really important.  Don't run exactly the same route, for the same length of time, at the same pace each day.  While that probably won't do you much harm if it is a modest distance, you can really benefit from mixing it up.  Having shorter, more intense runs will help your cardiovascular system while longer slow runs will help you build up endurance.

As an example, this is what I might typically do for a period of two weeks before easing back to just a couple of runs each week:
  • Monday - 2 miles, easy pace
  • Tuesday - 6 miles, hilly run
  • Wednesday - 3 miles, easy pace
  • Thursday - 7 miles, hilly run with some fast bursts
  • Friday - 3 miles, moderate pace
  • Saturday - 10 miles, hilly run, easy pace
  • Sunday - 1 mile, easy pace

Having a schedule like this will also give your body a chance to recover after the longer or more demanding runs.  Please remember, this is just an example (of what I am going) but some will need to be considering much shorter distances and, likewise, some runners will be doubling those distances.

You will really strengthen your body
During this two week cycle, you will feel your legs ache a little from time to time.  Take care not to push yourself too hard or too far - if you do, you risk picking up an injury.  So listen to your body: pushing yourself a little makes your body stronger.  Each time you run and push yourself, you will put strain on your joints, muscles and tendons.  As the body repairs itself, these will become stronger.  Remember that if you push yourself too hard, 24 hours between runs won't be enough for those repairs to take place, so do bear this in mind - this is important.

The accumulative effect, however, of pushing yourself a little bit every day will be significant once the two weeks are completed.

You will sleep well
Well, this is a personal thing and based on my experience but I guess you might identify with it.  There is something special about being tired from having had a good run and just sliding into bed and dropping off to sleep instantly.  Also sometimes it's as if I know I'm sleeping well and finding it a true blessing.

Remember (and I know this is stating the obvious) to ensure you get adequate sleep.  You might need to have a little more sleep than normal, so please allow for this.

It can become addictive
You can take this either as an encouragement, or perhaps a warning.  I do believe running can be addictive and I have experienced some episodes like that, especially if I am prevented from having a run for some reason and then I really do miss it.  Maybe it's to do with the Runner's High which I love so much?

It can be nice to do for a specific reason
You might want to have a go at running everyday for two weeks for a variety of reasons, which could include:
  • dealing with a stressful situation
  • being on holiday and having new surroundings to enjoy
  • weight loss goal
  • coping through a difficult time
  • simply because it's a good thing to do
  • meeting the need to be outside

On that last point, I do value being able to run outside in the middle of the winter in a period of short daylight.  Last Christmas, for example, I ran everyday - click here for a day-by-day account of running for 12 days over the last Christmas holiday.

And afterwards
Give your body a chance to recover and rejuvenate.  Running for two weeks is brilliant and so too is having a rest afterwards.  You won't go losing that new level of fitness by missing a few runs - give your body an opportunity to consolidate and thoroughly heal itself.

Also, you can then reflect back on all those runs, reflect on the miles you have clocked up and revel in the progress and benefits you have gained.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Reasons to stop running?

Sometimes when I go for a run, it's tough starting off and tough for the first 20 minutes.  Occasionally I get tempted to cut my run short because I am too hot, cold, wet, miserable.....  That first 20 minutes is normally the toughest part of the run and I guess it goes to show we need to take time to get warmed up and for muscles to become loose and working well.

Today was no exception.  This was the fourth consecutive day that I have run and quite a leap from my two-runs-a-week routine during the summer.  My legs felt tired from the outset and I could feel a muscle in my left leg calf complaining a little.  By the time I had reached the second hill I was really aware of the nagging muscle and I suspected I knew which it was (having previously had it complain through over-use in the past).

And then, as if by magic, any feelings of discomfort simply melted away and I was running much better.  That remained the same for the rest of the run which lasted 1 hour, 10 minutes; I even sprinted the last 100 metres to our house and then jogged for a minute or two, just to 'cool down'.  It felt good.

I remembered I often have those thoughts and those temptations to cut a run short.  After all, why shouldn't I if it's tough going?  Nobody will think any the less of me if my run in the cold rain is only for 30 minutes instead of one hour.  And yet I would feel bad myself, probably giving myself a hard time and feeling I'd let myself down.  Even worse will have failed.

In actual fact, I cannot remember any time when I have turned back really early.  Sure there are times when I have taken a short-cut for some rational reason, but I have never turned back prematurely.  It's always a barrier that can be overcome and perhaps this is where self belief comes in, ushering away those strong traits of a Type A personality (although I would say I am "Type a" and not "Type A").  Just to go a step further, often the best runs are often the ones where there was a strong temptation to make it shorter than planned.

Must there be a link between the overall toughness of the run and the level of satisfaction at the end.  When I say "satisfaction" I really mean the euphroic sensation that comes from all those endorphins buzzing around inside my head - in other words the "Runner's High".  

  • Do you ever struggle in the first mile or two?
  • Turn back early?
  • Do you have a Type A personality?

Monday, 26 August 2013

Does running help constipation?

Amongst the many benefits of running, it is helpful for constipation when combined with getting the right balance of fibre and fluids.  You can take my word for it - running does help - and believe me, you don't want me to go into the details.

Muesli with fresh raspberries 
Many people go through periods when the balance of food, fibre and fluids in the digestive system are out of balance.  When you "slow up" or even worse become "bunged up" this can give an uncomfortable feeling of being bloated.  Our modern lifestyles in the developed world do not exactly help with extended periods of inactivity (sitting in cars, at desks, in front of TVs, computers etc) and of course processed foods which lack fibre.

Fibre is also referred to as "roughage" by some people and it means the same.  Roughage is quite often the term used by elderly folk having had it drummed into them during their school days when it was essential that every child would be required to do the necessary "poo" or "bowel movement" early in the morning.  Failing to do so was a big deal.

What causes constipation?

  • Eating the wrong foods.  This includes foods stripped of their natural fibre which normally helps keep your digestion moving i.e. white bread (especially the "cotton wool" type bread many supermarkets sell as their budget range), white rice, white pasta.  Over processed foods and too many dairy foods often do not help.
  • Not eating enough good foods.  We need plenty of whole grains, fruit and vegetables in our diet to provide the natural bulk to keep things moving.  The Government and Public Health peeps recommend 24g of fibre each day.  Linked to that is aiming for 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day.  Believe me, eating 5 different fruit or vegetables each day should be the minimum, not the "aim" as suggested by the namby pamby Government.  I think 24g is what they think they can get away with, without scaring people off.
  • Not drinking enough fluids.  Tea and coffee don't necessarily help.  Plain clean tap water should not be under valued at all - if this is your main intake then this is a good thing.  Maintaining an intake of about 6-8 tall glasses of fluids each day is not an excise to drink more beer.  Sorry about that and besides that's not good for you, so forget it.
  • Some medications can also be a reason.  The Patient Information leaflet that comes with your tablets is worth reading and looking out for constipation as a possible side effect.  Medications which may caused constipation include iron tablets, some antacids and some medications which treat depression.  There are other medical causes of constipation, such as thyroid problems but these are beyond the scope of this every-day article.
  • Being inactive, loafing around being a lazy couch potato is also a contributing factor.  Now of course, out jobs and indeed getting to our jobs often involve long periods of sitting around, not moving very much.  With this in mind I think it's important we build some activity into our routine (besides running) such as deliberately walking up and down some stairs during the day.  I can't help notice some of my colleagues taking the lift from one floor to the next at work.  Almost all are perfectly capable of taking the stairs but are gradually putting on weight and becoming more sluggish.
The solution
Well, the solution is easy - just address each of the above points.  Make sure you're eating the right foods, drinking enough and moving around.  

Some good anti-constipation foods;
  • prunes, figs, lentils and cabbage are all excellent at keeping your digestive tract moving.  Plus they are nutritious in their own right
  • brown rice, jacket potato 
  • flaxseed (aka linseed) is a natural laxative
  • Smoothies (all are good, especially if they include bananas)

Naturally there are plenty of others and a good diet is one which contains a very wide variety of foods.  There are so many different fruit and vegetables for us to choose from.  Fruit and vegetables which can be eaten raw also make the most of the fibre within but it is important to take in sufficient fluids.

And running is very helpful as it does naturally get the intestines moving.  Some runners complain of the "runner's trots" which as you can imagine are the opposite of constipation.  Running is such a beneficial activity; so simple and so wonderful.  So economical as sports go and one that brings many physical and mental health benefits.


My ideal breakfast
The difference between oat bran and wheat bran
Landgarten organic high fibre snacks

Ingredients for a high fibre breakfast

Healthy raw food lunch

Landgarten high fibre snacks

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Running in the rain

For many running in the rain is either a delight or a misery.  Yesterday and this morning it turned out to be a delight.  Believe it or not, I took the above photograph in the pouring rain and it was just before my camera froze on me (it got rather wet).

Thoughts on running in the rain:

  • It can be refreshing, invigorating
  • It touches your senses in different ways - listen to the rain as you run through it, your feet splashing and wet grass brushing against your legs.  Feel the refreshing rain on your face
  • Sounds are different in the rain, somehow
  • The soft gentle rain we sometimes have in the summer months is simply the best!  A close second is also in the summer when we occasionally get a real deluge, just like a monsoon in the tropics.  Believe me running in these conditions is an unforgettable experience!
  • Afterwards the air can smell fresh, humid and fragrant

Take care!
It also means you have to take care.  Surfaces can become slippery.  This morning I came across some chalky mud that was a thin layer on solid compacted mud underneath - it was like ice!  While I like running through puddles and across streams I often get reminded how I need to take good care - I can't see what my feet are landing in

Who cares if you get wet, especially in the summer?  Your skin is waterproof, getting wet is unlikely to harm you in the summer.  In winter it is a different matter entirely: wind chill can be a real issue but that if for another time, not just now.

I wore my Montane Featherlite jacket which, at best is shower proof i.e. I was wet inside within 10 minutes.  Runners need to take care with wet clothing because it can cause chaffing and rubbing.  This in turn can lead soreness where the clothing rubs against the skin.  This is a reminder of why cotton tee shirts are best avoided by using wicking type materials - the artificial fibres of man-made fabrics are great here.

Runner's nipples
I have had sore nipples ("runner's nipples") before in the wet and believe me, it's not nice!  That constant rubbing with each step is bad news.  Women, on the other hand, are likely to benefit from a sport-specific bra which is both helpful and essential in all conditions (so I understand).

Again this is where it is helpful to wear clothing made from the right material - i.e. synthetic clothing which wicks away the moisture, not retain it.  Soggy cotton tee shirts will make things worse.  If you're planning a long run, it might be worth protecting those delicate little areas with a plaster or two.

And afterwards
Afterwards getting back home, drenched and yet feeling utterly alive, was a wonderful, wonderful feeling.  Stepping into a really hot shower is equally wonderful but before I get totally carried away with all that, don't forget to allow your running shoes to dry out naturally.  A soaking wet pair of running shoes can take 2 or 3 days to dry out completely.  This is another reminder of the reasons to have two pairs of running shoes is such a good idea.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Review - Saucony Omni 11

Saucony Omni 11
Well it's time to get blogging again after a "summer slow down" and I thought I'd tell you a little bit about my Saucony Omni progrid 11's that I bought a few months ago.

Regular readers will know I like Saucony's and they've been pretty good and as far as I'm concerned, they suit me better than the Brooks or Asics that I've also tried out.  Those others have been pretty good but, as I say, Saucony have been my favourite so far.

These Omni 11s were a new step for me, thinking they'd be just like my Omni 10s.  Not so but before I go into all the details, here's the low down, lifted directly from the official Saucony website:

The Omni 11 continues to be the ultimate option for the runner with moderate-to-high stability needs, and now weighs only 10.9 oz./309 gm (1.5 oz/40 gm lighter than Omni 10!). We’ve introduced Support Frame for overall support and stability in the heel, and the heel-to-toe offset has been adjusted from 12mm to 8mm to promote a more balanced, efficient stride throughout the gait cycle. A beveled (rounded) heel edge allows for a better transition from heel to midfoot, while the ProGrid™ technology (previously in heel only) is extended to the entire foot bed for a more seamless feel. Weight: 10.9 oz. / 309 gm.

My view

  • They are noticeably lighter than the Omni 10s - which never felt heavy at all.  It's just the Omni 11s are lighter
  • I adapted to them very easily
  • Flat laces are less likely to come undone
  • My feet are fairly average width and these fit very well
  • They appear to be durable.  I would estimate I have done 300 miles and apart from the sole there is no sign of any wear.  No seams are being stressed and no problems with the mesh panels breaking apart at all
  • I feel secure running in these shoes as they fit so well


  • Seem quite bulky and I have tripped a few times.  I cannot prove this was anything to do with the shoes but they do, nevertheless, seem a little bulky.  There is a very generous cushioning around the heel
  • Not sure of the colour scheme but this is down to personal choice
Probably worth mentioning that there are plenty of other reviews around on these and these speak well of these shoes on the whole.  For me, running in these is a comfortable experience and they're well supported.  Although these are for moderate pronators I do find myself running differently and I'm landing on the mid section (or slightly forward) rather than the heel-to-toe action.

While it's easy to hurl a snowball at the likes of Saucony et al and accuse them of over pricing, you just need to examine the construction and see how many different components go in to making these shoes.  Each one has to be designed, tested, manufactured and fitted together to make a shoe.  Then possibly shipped half way around the World in a box.  Pay for all that, then add R&D, marketing, local taxes (20% VAT here in the UK) the profits of your middle man, the retailer's cut and then you, yourself, might make a little.

My conclusion
Yep, pretty good.  Would I buy another pair?  Yes but I 'd get another gait analysis done as I think my running form has changed a bit over the last year.  Weird I know, but I think it's true.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Healthy living and old age

Today at work I had an interesting conversation with a colleague, we were at the tea station on our floor in the office.  She was telling me about her grandmother, who is African and lives a leafy suburb in the tropics.  The grandmother is 105 years old and still in pretty good shape.

I couldn't resist asking a little more and by the time we'd finished talking my tea was cold and I had to remake it!  This was one of those conversations which just flowed so nicely.  These are the main points (which I just loved hearing all about):
  • Teetotal for life.  This means she hasn't drunk any alcohol
  • She has never smoked
  • She stays as active as she can, given her age
  • While she has never been a "runner" as I am, she has cycled a fair bit and carried on until she was quite elderly
  • She travelled to England for a visit when she was 103 and has a "young at heart" outlook.  Much to be said about keeping a positive approach to life.  While she was here in England she had a suspected stroke which led to an ambulance being called.  She refused to be put into a wheel chair in order to get into the ambulance but instead climbed on herself.  She was discharged shortly afterwards and everything was okay.
  • She has always had a simple diet, always vegetarian and almost vegan
  • Her diet includes some raw food, nicely prepared and washed to make sure it is clean
  • She lives in a comfortable, not extravagant, manner
I thought that account was wonderful, inspiring and gives food for thought.  Obviously not everything is in our control, especially as we get older as some illnesses may come along through no fault of our own.  But it just goes to show that through having an optimistic approach to life, keeping things simple, taking regular exercise, being sensible and interacting with others can all contribute to living a long time.

Me, I could be tempted with a Harley Davidson when I'm 90.  Would I get one?  Don't know, but if I can still run and cycle I will be pleased, content and appreciate my blessings.  I do intend to stay as active for as long as I can and hearing this kind of inspirational account is really encouraging.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Yogurts; the good and the bad

I feel as if I'm about to have a Victor Meldrew-style rant here about yoghurts and the supermarkets who sell them.

On one hand, you can buy a really nice natural yoghurt from Sainsbury's in the form of their So Organic low fat variety.  It comes in smaller pots or in the 500g version that we tend to buy (at the time of writing the 500g pot costs £1.30).  It has a pleasant taste and contains the live bacteria of:

  • Bifidobcaterium
  • Lactobacillius acidophilius and
  • Streptoccus thermophilus

Or alternatively, you could buy a slightly cheaper yoghurt with all kind of dubious ingredients in.   Frequently these contain water, plenty of it.  It contains a thickener to presumably make up for the water that has been added.  As for the rest of the ingredients, well.... ahemmm.

Yogurts are a natural product and one which is good and wholesome.  While compatible with a vegetarian diet, it's not vegan and so I know it won't be suitable for all my readers.  Broadly yogurts are made through a fermentation process where bacteria or yeast are added to to the mix and provide the fuel for the process.  These bacteria are healthy.  Healthy in the sense of maintaining a good healthy gut with the right bacteria for breaking down food as part of the digestion process.   The benefits continue with enhancing the immune system and it has been said there are other benefits of preventing various illnesses or diseases such as the effects from poor digestion, constipation and it is suggested multiple sclerosis.

Arguably the worst part are the additives to the yogurts which can include aspartame, some food colouring which can be carcinogenic and various syrup sweeteners.

Natural yogurt; perfect with fruit and home made muesli (aka gravel)
We had a debate at home, with Rachel pointing out that although the cheaper yoghurts did have the combination of water and thickeners in, these did allow the manufacturers to achieve a more consistent product.  This means excessive 'lumpiness' or 'runniness' was taken out.

With food, the old adage "you get what you pay for" is often very true.  We have choices to either buy cheap food to fill ourselves up with and these are often laden with unnecessary additives to make them taste better, last longer on the supermarket shelf or simply to allow the manufacturers to cut their own costs.

And you? Which do you prefer?

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Review - Jordans breakfast multigrain bars

Jordans Breakfast Multigrain bars
If you were expecting another positive review of a snack bar where I raved on about how delicious, how scrummy and how healthy, think again.  You see, some people might expect me to like everything I am either asked to review or maybe buy myself.  These just don't hit the mark and here's the story.....

The product
Jordans breakfast bars are available in a number of High Street shops as well as Amazon.  Amongst the multitude of garbage the supermarkets sell as snack food, these are pretty good in terms of their natural ingredients and heritage.

This breakfast bar is one of a range of 11 bars, covering a variety of tastes.  The other flavours do, however, sound tempting on the face of it: maple & pecan, luxury absolute berry bar are a couple that caught my eye.   Jordans also do a range of cereals too.  This is the only one I have tried so you could, maybe, argue I haven't given them a fair view.  Have I?   We cannot deny first impressions and it is human nature to allow these initial views to influence us.

The bars are sold in boxes of six bars.  The bars are 40g each but appear bigger because of all the packaging - the plastic covering, the cardboard box.... annoying, irritating.  Why manufacturers think they can still get away with putting their products in packaging which makes them appear bigger than they real are still puzzles me.  Jordans are not alone with this - many follow this dreadfully dishonest practice.

Nutrionally they are okay.  Each bar brings you 164 calories, 3.2g protein, 12.4g sugars and 3.4g of fibre.  Of the fat 5.1g of fat just 1.1g is saturated fats.  So on paper, they're not bad.  You won't get too fat on these and they do give you a boost of energy.

The cost
£2.23 buys you a pack of 6 bars, that's 37p each.  That's okay, I guess.

What are they like?
Remember this is my own view, you might disagree and absolutely love them.  I reckon they are sticky, a bit sickly with a bit of an "after taste" - almost as if there is some nasty sweetener mixed in.  But there isn't, at all.  They do contain plenty of sugar, glucose syrup, honey and raw cane sugar: no wonder they taste so sickly!

Also, worth noting that the bars I had contained hardly any fruit.  The ingredients list "fruit and nuts" at 27%.  So with that it's hard to know exactly how much fruit to expect, could be 26% nuts and 1% fruit. Could be that my box had a mixture that wasn't typical.  Nevertheless there was hardly any fruit at all which was disappointing.

So there you go.  If you aren't too interested in the details of the ingredients and the way they are blended together and don't mind something very sweet, these will be to your liking.  They are better than many other snack foods offered by mainstream supermarkets.  For me, I won't be buying these again, sorry.  Each to their own, as they say.

The Jordan website: https://www.jordanscereals.co.uk/products

Friday, 26 July 2013


Very sorry I haven't been blogging much lately, so much is happening I have not had much of an opportunity to sit down and write.  Please don't read that as being surrounded by problems, far from it.

For readers in the UK you will already know that we now have some summer weather, at long last. This combined with long summer hours of daylight mean there's more things to do outside, like ride bikes and run.  It also means other things need attention, such as the garden etc which all takes time!  Here's a little round up of a few thoughts.....


For the summer the plan is to keep running as a means of "ticking over".  I am running two or three times a week and around an hour each time.  I love running at dusk or, even better, early in the morning and before anyone else is up.  That is the best time ever!  Also a brilliant way of setting myself up for the day ahead.

Although running has only become a feature in my life over the last few years, I love it and in some ways I prefer it to cycling.  I never thought I would EVER say a thing like that, having loved cycling since I was a kid.  Running seems such a natural thing to do and has lots of advantages.  At 51 I'm never going to break any records but I enjoy the odd race and fancy seeking an event in the autumn - maybe a nice muddy half marathon or even a 20.  

Already the mail shots are starting to come through and tempt me to sign up for the 2014 MK Marathon.  Having enjoyed it twice I might run this again and try and stay under 4 hours.  If I can manage to stay free of flu, or any other irritating bugs, colds, injuries etc I ought to run a good time.  However, my cyclist friend Jeremy is trying to tempt me to do a 150 mile Coast to Coast ride in June 2014 - all in a day, click here.  


Well I really have enjoyed cycling to work one or two days a week during the summer.  I am fortunate in that I have a variety of different routes to take and I sometimes decide to "make it up" as I go along.  Typically the distance is 22 or 23 each way and most is on fairly quiet country lanes - this is blissful!  Quite hilly though, but I don't mind this as I know it's good interval training.  I know my cycling muscles have improved over the last few weeks.


In the public sector, we seem to take it in turns in facing huge organisational change.  We've had our share of cuts over the last few years and I have managed to survive these.  In spite of that further savings have to be made and we're facing a further period of unprecedented change over the next two years.  I have no idea where these changes will take me or what I'll be doing, or indeed whether I will have a job at all.

What would be our first choice isn't always the best choice, and I am reminded of my trust in God for the right things to happen - for the right doors to open and close at the right time.

Running and cycling and eating well are all important components of staying in good shape.  They help me in being able to think things through, to step back and see things a little more clearly.  

Monday, 15 July 2013

Review - Frank bars

I was really pleased when I got an email from Frank.  No, not you Frank but instead those nice people at The Frank Food Company asking if I'd like to review some of their cereal bars.  You know, people are taking a bit of a risk when they ask me to review something and publish an article because they never really know what I'm going to say about them on my blog.  Nevertheless, an agreement was made and in hardly any time at all, a small package from The Frank Food Company arrived and so we can pick up on their review…..

The Frank Food Company
The background was simple and one that I can identify with.  How often do you buy something that's marketed as being "healthy" only to find it is junk, garbage, sticky goo, full of dodgy ingredients and tastes horrible?  If you're like me you've probably fallen into that trap and so too did Neil Robinson (the former Everton football player) who actually decided to do something about it.  After spending time experimenting and developing his recipes, he succeeded in producing a cereal bar which looked like a good product to market. The business started in 2012 - so still relatively new on the scene - and they supply their products via mail order (see their website) and through a growing number of other health food outlets.

The products
They have produced some cereal bars badged as "honest snacking" which is 100% natural.  This means free from dairy products (they're vegan friendly), also free from gluten and nuts.  Their website refers to the bars as being low in calories compared to other comparable bars.  Fine quality ingredients are used, they say, which includes some which are exclusive to them in the UK.  With each bar containing almost 4g of protein, that's a useful source. The FRANK bars also contain ENERGYSMART®, which is a patented, all-natural combination of carbohydrates from apple, grape and pears.   They have also developed some natural dextrins from grain which together provide valuable longer-lasting energy. 

The bars are 35g each and come in five flavours: strawberry & chocolate, orange & chocolate, double chocolate, blueberry & chocolate and oat & chocolate.  If you buy from their website, they cost £17 for a box of 20.  Before you ask, that works out at £0.85p each.  You can either buy a box which is a mixture of the different flavours, or a box where they're all the same.

Our review
Rather than simply review these myself, I thought I'd get some views from my family last weekend.  It was one of those rare English Sunday mornings when it was warm enough to sit outside and have breakfast which included the FRANK bars.  

My eldest daughter took the role of being the most picky taste tester, consistent with being a teenager programmed to be sceptical about these things.  She scrutinised the label of her first choice and queried "how can a double chocolate bar be healthy Dad?".  So even before she unwrapped the bar she was a bit dubious!  This was quickly followed by "can I unwrap it now Dad, I wanna start scoffing this!".  And so she did.  She didn't think it looked particularly nice, probably because it didn't look like a chocolate bar but there was a real "thumbs up" for the texture - this was nice and smooth.  She found a little piece of a fruit pip inside which took her by surprise (code for exclamations) but we wondered whether we should simply accept this will happen with products made using natural ingredients?

Rachel and myself shared the other bars and to be honest we had some mixed views about the taste.  We were impressed that there was a good dose of cocoa included as this is a really enjoyable and healthy ingredient.  The intensity of the taste was quite strong, perhaps too strong for some.   Rachel, also being a little mischievous picked up on the pea protein…. "you never want to be without your pea protein, do you?".  I didn't have a answer to that.  

Overall we liked the orange and chocolate flavour best of all.  It had a fairly pleasant taste and again we liked the texture.  While the taste of the bars weren't setting our taste buds on fire, we need to keep a few things in mind.

Firstly, these are not meant to be alternative Mars Bars and the like.  Instead these will release their energy over a period of time, which is exactly what we need: having a rush of sugar isn't good for anyone, let alone sporty, active people who need to consider their diet with some care..

At 35g they are ideal as a small, easily carried snack bar which will fit into almost any pocket.  They are quite firm and seem to stay together pretty well; this is helpful as the last thing you want is a handful of crumbs when you open the wrapper half way up a long climb.

These are healthy, made using natural ingredients.  This means they won't taste like Mars Bars or other high sugar, high fat, high garbage foods.  I reckon that as taste buds up and down the country gradually start to become accustomed to more wholesome food, this kind of snack will taste fine. 

Picky teenagers may take some convincing, especially if our view is typical.  But then, once more, this is not pretending to be something to be found amongst the regular chocolate and sweet sections in our shops.

These are definitely worth a try and you might find they're really nice and unlike other ordinary snack bars.  At 85p that's not a lot to lose but £17 on a box of bars is clearly more of an store cupboard investment. You can also rest easy in knowing the ingredients are okay with nothing dodgy padding it out.

Why not go over to The Frank Food Company and take a look around - http://www.thefrankfoodcompany.com