Sunday, 24 February 2013

Keep calm and go for a run!

As much as I was being tempted by this neat tee shirt, I didn't need it and I don't normally need prompting to go for a run.  If, on the other hand it is being worn by others in the Rambling household, I may even spot the hint!

Yesterday's run - in the zone

Nothing unusual with me having a decent run on Saturday but what seemed odd was it being during the afternoon, instead of the early morning.  It meant I was having to be half alert to cars whereas I don't normally concern myself with that at all.

Once again I found it hard to get going - getting changed and getting out there for the first mile or two.  Even after a 10 mile run, the first always seem to be the hardest.  I don't like being spotted by my neighbours: they look and stare at me, sometimes a hesitant smile which is okay but not the curtain twitchers.  

Anyway, I made it into the countryside and had a lovely long run.  I found it quite easy to be "in the zone" but you might wonder what that means.  If you're a runner, you probably know.  It can probably mean different things all kind of things but I think of it as being in harmony as you run - your body working well and and mind working well probably with good running form.   It is also the point where you don't have to think too much about the running, it just happens naturally mile, after mile.  It just happens.  It's sometimes nice when you go onto a kind of autopilot and a few miles tick by without even noticing.

At one point I stopped and then I listened to the countryside for a minute or two.  It was virtually silent.  Even more so than normal and I think the reason was because it was lightly snowing - the air was still and I was a fair distance away from any roads with nobody around at all.  There was a certain beauty to it and as I carried on running, I ran as softly as I could so as not to disturb the silence.   This run took on a very beautiful quality because of the stillness.

Then once I'd got back onto the roads, reality seemed to return with the sound of cars not far away.  I realised I was getting a blister on my foot - something which rarely happens - only once or twice a year.  It tends to happen when I'm tired and taking slightly smaller steps.  That didn't explain it but I realised the problem soon enough - I had some ordinary socks on, not running socks!  

My "ordinary" socks are just plain cotton socks that I'd wear to work.  I think I was in too much of a rush to get out that I hadn't put on any running socks as I was in too much of a hurry to get changed.  Serves me right!  

The superficial moral of the story is always wear running socks when running.   The overriding memory and point of the run was the sheer beauty of the quiet countryside and being a part of it for an all-too-short while.  Running "in the zone" was good; rising above the challenges lying ahead at work and yet still being troubled by the awful happenings in the world.  I do like the way running has a good effect on my mood and helps me think things through.  I love cycling but somehow running has the edge for me because of all this.

Please leave a comment below if being "in the zone" means anything to you or is it like the Runner's High for you - something you've heard of but yet to experience?

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Are pears good for you?

In our house, I'm the only one who regularly eats pears and I've always thought everyone else is missing out on something really nice.  Occasionally Rachel will have one but they're not her favourite fruit.  B&H as picky teenagers, prefer to play safe with fruit by having bananas, apples and orange juice, often looking with complete distain as I thoroughly enjoy a good pear.

"Daddy you're so mankey and NO I don't want any of those" is the general tone whenever I might offer some.  One day they will probably astonish me by saying "yeah, okay I don't mind if I do" but I'm not exactly holding my breath.  I know that when they do come to enjoy it, they'll be saying "why didn't you tell us they were this nice?".  For anyone reading this who is also a father to teenage girls will already know that you can't possibly win this.  It's just impossible.

So many types of pears

In the UK, we do have some home grown varieties and others are imported from Europe and sometimes beyond.  Our neighbours are successfully growing Conference pears which, by coincidence, are my favourite.  I like these for their overall flavour and real juiciness when ripe, plus they're not too expensive when compared to some of the more exotic varieties.  Some of their shapes are a little weird but normally they are long and thin, darkish green and still pear shaped.  THey can also be quite large and therefore filling.

Also commonly available in the UK are Comice, as in the above photograph.  These are a little firmer to eat with a slightly buttery texture to the flesh under a fairly strong skin.  These are normally around the same price as Conference pears or perhaps a shade higher.

Imported from Europe are Williams, Rocha or Abate Fetal.  I have tried all of these and enjoy the subtle differences between them,

Elsewhere in the world are an even wider variety.  Perhaps one day I'll get the opportunity to try a few more varieties.

Best eaten when ripe!

Normally the supermarkets sell pears (and other fruits) in a semi-ripe condition.  So it's best to have some in the fruit bowl for a few days before giving them a gentle squeeze to see if they're ready to eat.  Some are okay with a little crunch but I prefer to eat them when they are so ripe and juicy you almost need to drink them!  It's quite a narrow window and I do remember the bowlful in the photograph above had to be scoffed in about two days.

While I enjoy them raw, they can be made into nice cooked puddings.  Before I become teetotal, each year I would enjoy a glass of Perry if I was lucky.  Perry is a refreshing drink and made from apples and pears.  It's a lovely drink to enjoy in the warm autumnal days but a shame it's alcoholic although I'm sure there must be alternatives.

Health benefits of pears

As with all fruit, they're bound to contain goodness for us.  One of the benefits is they are easily digested, especially if cooked or stewed in some way.  Naturally they contain fibre, most of which is present in the skin.  Pears are also helpful in helping the body to regulate cholesterol levels and lowering the risk of some cancers.

There is a complex range of phytonutrients generally present in pears along with Vitamins A and K.  We don't tend to hear much about Vitamin K these days which I think is a shame; it is helpful in helping our bodies repair cell damage.

It is worth checking out the World's Healthiest Foods website which gives a great deal of useful information about the positive health properties in more detail.

I enjoy pears

I thoroughly enjoy pears part of a wide and varied diet.  I guess I average at least one or two a week (the above bowlful which was consumed in a couple of days was the exception!).  I quite often have one in my bright red lunch box or as part of ideal breakfast which in our house is also referred to as Gravel.  Honestly, Gravel it gets called, often with the distain present when refusing delicious pears in the first place.

Pears are, for a cyclist, not recommended in terms of pushing into a little saddle bag as they can easily become damaged, squashed or bruised.  Instead save them for after a ride or a run, maybe as a nice easily digested supper and to top up those Vitamin K levels which will help the rejuvenating to take place in a good night's sleep.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

100,000 page views

Today is a landmark with my blog and I happened to log on as it approached 100,000 page views!  I know this is small compared to some blogs but it's growing with over 10,000 page views last month.

Some Ramblings of Doug statistics:

Exactly 400 posts
First post 2nd January 2010

2010 - 26 posts
2011 - 175 posts
2012 - 176 posts
2013 - 21 posts (to 17th February)

Most popular posts:

  1. Thinking about my blog (3779 views)
  2. Review Saucont Progrid Omni 10 (3489 views)
  3. DW Sports fitness club review (2249 views)
  4. How to give up smoking in one easy step (2119 views)
Most popular countries:

  1. UK
  2. USA
  3. Germany
  4. Russia
I much appreciate all my readers - whoever and wherever you are.  Heartfelt thanks.


Saturday, 16 February 2013

Catching up on a few things

Lots going on in the Rambling household right now and here's a quick round-up of some of these things:

The month of February

Many people here in England loathe February and I must admit it's not my favourite month.  We have had our fair share of snow and ice: none of which assist my running and cycling exploits.  I have, yet again, fallen behind with my training schedule but I hope I can catch up without causing an injury.

Work is tough, as normal in the world of criminal justice with various reforms underway; full of unforeseen consequences in the pipeline.  And yet the tougher it gets the more I think there is a purpose for me.  To be honest, I do sometimes fancy another role when I read of some of the dreadful things going on in our world: it's the injustices, the globalisation problems, the spectre of people trafficking and human slavery to name but a few.  But I'm just an ordinary person, what part can I play, who am I?

And then yesterday

I was sitting at my desk and looking out of the window.  It was a nice day - seemed pleasantly warm after the 3 inches of snow we had at the start of the week.  I needed to have a meeting with my manager and I spontaneously presented him with my annual leave card and took the afternoon off.  Why?  I needed a run and this was going to be the first opportunity all week.

Got home, Sauconys and running gear on and I was off.  I had no idea how long I'd be, it was one of those make-it-up-as-you-go-along runs.  Just after I got into the countryside I came a across a couple who'd managed to get their car stuck in the muddy entrance to a field and so I offered to help them push the car out.  I did just that and realised I'd built some weight lifting into my run.  Cool. As the run progressed I encountered some serious mud which from previous experience there's no point in trying to tip toe around it - just go straight through!  I thoroughly enjoyed the mud splattering around and slip-sliding around everywhere to bring some added fun.  A couple of hills and I knew my heart was pumping up to capacity and it felt just so brilliant!  I love those bits of interval training where, just for a couple of minutes, I'm going at full capacity.  It feels great and I know it does me good but the critical bit is not to over do it (I don't want to have a heart attack in the middle of nowhere).

I delighted in running through the last few bits of snow - as nice as this sometimes is, I hope we don't get any more snow this year!  The run in total lasted 100 minutes and I covered 8 or 9 miles at a steady long-run pace.  These are my favourite runs and I covet these times.  Long runs are brilliant in training for marathons and have other benefits in terms of physical and mental health.  

And the day before that

I went with my new Apple MacBook Air to the Apple store in Watford for my first 1:1 lesson in how to use it.  I am quite impressed with the Apple approach and their products in general together with the way they help dinosaurs like me (after all, I certainly need the help).  Even more impressive was one of their staff remembering I was writing a book for newbie runners and another book about how to give up smoking.

"Ah" she said "hurry up and get these books done - I need both of them".  She coughed.  She remembered and I was chuffed to say the least.  At least I have one customer lined up!

the effect of not running so much

A couple of things that I've noticed:

  • My weight has crept up in two weeks by about 5lbs.  Can you believe that?  That's two bags of sugar!  Hannah's birthday cake may have contributed to this (yum).
  • My sleep pattern has deteriorated.  If I don't run I don't sleep so well and then I'm even more tired in the morning.  Running makes me tired, I sleep really well and wake up totally refreshed.  Not running doesn't help at all.

Remember I mentioned a couple of friends a while ago?

Back in October (click here) I blogged about a couple of friends and I thought it might be useful for you to get an update.   Not much to share on Brian.

Adam on the other hand is remarkable and I admire him; he's going from strength to strength.  The latest is that through all the running he's doing he has lost so much weight and this has given him a couple of challenges.  First of all, what is the next challenge?  Answer - enter the MK Marathon (yay! that's fantastic as I'm running it as well) and secondly - what to do with all that surplus skin.

Dealing with surplus skin, it turns out, is a tricky thing for people who lose lots of weight.  He described how he has folds of skin dropping down here and there on his body.  He swears he's never putting on weight again so he's never going to grow into it.  The NHS regard it as a cosmetic issue and therefore will do nothing.  So Adam is paying privately for an operation in the summer and he's making a number of other changes in his life.  I admire Adam and people like Adam.  It seems for some people they need to be hit by some calamity or reach rock bottom.

He's gone through a difficult time in 2012.  He started the year off as a married man and ended up divorced, all within a year and completely unexpected.  He's turned other difficulties around to his credit.  Although there's no way he would have wanted those marriage difficulties, he has at least taken big steps to over-come some underlying issues and running has been such a simple - and yet effective - way of moving forward in life.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Review - Cherry Active Concentrated Montmorency juice

Cherry Active juice: a glass full of goodness

One of the nice things from occasionally being approached and asked to review a product is that I personally get the chance of sampling something that is new to me - and which I would genuinely be interested in buying myself later on!

As you can imagine, I enjoy drinking a wide variety of fruit juices and smoothies.  Each fruit has its own special properties which is of value to our health.   Having a wide variety is, I believe, important in order to support those countless processes going on inside our bodies at any one time.  But having said that, I don't normally eat many cherries: there seems to be a relatively short window when they're easily available at a reasonable price and when they are, they're often almost out of view in the supermarket here in the UK.  I have never seen a cherry based drink in Sainsbury's or any of our usual shops.

Health benefits of cherries

Having reminded myself about the health benefits of cherries, I am asking if I have missed a trick with these little gems.  They really are healthy; take a look:

  • They are exceptionally rich in their ORAC values - this refers to Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity.  Put into plain language this refers to the ability to soak up free radicals in our bodies.  Free radicals are naturally produced in our bodies and can be helpful in combating viruses or bacteria but they can also be damaging to our health if their growth is unchecked - that's why getting the balance right is so important.
  • The ORAC values are, according to the label, very impressive.  As a comparison, the ORAC value of Broccoli is 1089 for a typical serving; a banana is 703.  A single dose of Cherry Active is a whopping 8250 meaning it's antioxidant action is that much bigger (antioxidants include Vitamin A which is very present in this juice) and therefore it offers "more bang for your bucks".
  • A research study published in the Telegraph (click here) in November 2011 makes impressive claims about cherry juice helping people sleep better through increasing the levels of melatonin.  If you go onto read the comments following the article there is some controversy surrounding this.  Nevertheless there is, at the very least, quite a lot of anecdotal evidence about cheery juice helping people who suffer from insomnia.  Personally I believe every fruit will bring benefits to our health - and everything in moderation and as part of a varied diet: I never get too swayed or bothered by amazing health claims and their counter-claims - there's a lot to be said for a "common sense" approach.
  • Speaking of antioxidants, cherries are said to contain at least 17 different kinds.  There are plenty of other Vitamins in cherries.
  • Amongst their functions is an ability to help our bodies recover from the stresses of sports, particularly intensive and vigorous sports where we place a real strain on our bodies.  I think this is important for any runner or cyclist and especially for those who are building up their long distance endurance abilities over extended periods.  I have guzzled a glass of this after a few of my recent 6 - 8 mile runs and I feel sure it has been of benefit but I know that doesn't sound very scientific!  For each of these runs I have pushed myself in terms of speeds in the interval part of the training runs.  
  • Cherries are also said to have specific healing properties and has been found to benefit those suffering from gout.  Gout is a nasty condition, sometimes caused by the effects of type 2 diabetes and higher levels of uric acid being present in the blood stream.  Cherries (or better still their juice) can relieve the pain associated with this.

Cherry Active concentrate

It is the Montmorency cherry that is used for this drink.  It is grown in North America and bottled in concentrated form for this drink.  As the packaging suggests, it is pure cherry juice with no added sugars, sweeteners, colours or flavours.  The suggested dose is 30mls mixed with 240mls of water and I think that's about right.  Just a small point, I recommend pouring the juice into a glass first, then adding the water: firstly you are more likely to get the dose you want, secondly it will mix much better (believe me!).

You might notice the bottle itself in the above photograph and I'm quite amused, intrigued by it.  A very stable shape, it is not going to topple over easily in the fridge door and it's a curious size: 946mls.  Not 750mls or 1 Litre.  No, 946mls giving 31 suggested servings.  Sounds rather quaint.

This juice is, on the face of it, not cheap at about £0.80p a serving.  Let's put this in context.  Most concentrated fruit juices you buy are Organe juice which have then been re-diluted.  These are produced on a massive scale and, while still good, aren't the same as cherries.  Plus, take a typical smoothie.  A 1 Litre smoothie costs about £3.00 and will contain 4 x 250mls servings: this will then work out at £0.75p a serving so roughly the same price.  Keep this in mind - the initial outlay appears expensive but the cost-per-drink is comparable with other healthy drinks.

My taste test

For anyone not used to drinking cherry juice - and that included me - the taste is a little "tart" and by that I mean there is a sharpness to the fairly strong fruity flavour (one has to be careful about language in a healthy living blog....).  I find it quite refreshing and it's very easy to get to like it.  Certainly if you like any other fruit juice, you'll almost certainly like this.

Where can I buy Cherry Active?

Cherry Active is available by mail order from the Proteins Depot based in Ireland.  They're a friendly bunch and I think keen to get to know their customers and sometimes their customers will call for a chat, rather than use this new fangled internet thingy for placing orders.  ProteinsDepot started as an on-line retailer in January 2012 but the real history goes further back.  It has its roots in a Pharmacy called Allens in Co Tyrone, Republic of Ireland which originates in 1954.  More recently Performance Nutrition Plus was started in 2010 and dedicated to the supply of sports supplements and followed by the launch of Proteins Depot.

Proteins Depot have a wide range of supplements on their website and taking a look around is very worthwhile.  The website links are as follows:

For the Republic of Ireland click here or
For the UK website click here

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Another quick high speed healthy living update

Trying to juggle family life with two children and a wife, a busy job, organising an electrician plus plumber, some running, some cycling, some blogging, writing a book, time to go "flop" in February all takes some doing.  But I love it; although sometimes I question the busy job with the pressure it brings.

Here's a few highlights:

  • The snow has gone and running is easier.  Last weekend I had two nice runs, although I am a little behind in my MK Marathon training schedule but time to catch up.
  • I have run twice during the working week.  Both times I turn off my computer, go and change into my running gear.  In my yellow jacket I have been compared to a highlighter pen.
  • One of these runs I was accompanied by my colleague who has run with me quite a few times.  I quite like it because we're similar age and at a similar standard.  We run at a pace where we can still have some kind of conversation with each other without being totally out of breath.  We do about 5 miles.
  • We got over taken by another runner (who said "hi") and he looked a fantastic runner.  He was gliding along so effortlessly, almost as if he was a gazelle, and quite fast too.  Impressive.
  • I ran the same route the following day on my own and timed myself - this time much faster but it seemed to take much longer!  Effect of running with someone else is interesting....
  • Had a session on the cycle turbo trainer one evening.  Amazing how in 20 minutes I am sweating away nicely.  After 40 minutes the session concludes in feeling fantastic but being nudged towards the bathroom for a shower by my loving family
  • I am trying out some Montmorency cherry juice from the Proteins Depot for another forthcoming product review
  • Now we are in February I am easily noticing the increased daylight hours which is fantastic!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

A 20p tax on fizzy drinks?

What do you make of the proposal that hit the news this week?  What we're talking about here is the Sustain group, a health campaigning group, suggesting that a tax is levied by the Government on sweet fizzy drinks.  It is based on 20p a litre which works through to about 7p on a 330ml can of Coke.

Accusations of the nanny state are awash together with protests of the Government hitting the poor again.  I think that's a load of rubbish!  Don't believe a word of it.

What's the problem?

Right now in the UK 25% of adults are obese.  This is, quite frankly, a time bomb for the future as this will lead to many more health problems in the future which are avoidable.  Arguably what is even worse is the statistic which has come out of so many primary school children being overweight - this time the rate is one in three.  Extraordinary.

I have blogged before about this issue as it does worry me a great deal.  I can see my own children enjoying ice creams, chocolate and biscuits but we do try to steer them away from these - they're okay as little treats which can be enjoyed from time to time but they must not look upon these treats as being part of their normal eating.  We get plenty of sugar from the foods we eat normally - none of us need to top-up our sugar intake from fizzy drinks.  You know, I sometimes wonder if a glass of super-healthy smoothie is too much sugar in one go.

What should the Government do?

Is it right for the Government to influence our choice of foods through taxation?  After all in the UK we already have high taxation on cigarettes and alcohol, plus VAT on many convenience or take-away foods so is this proposal going too far?

My view is that the Government has to act in the best interests of the population it serves.   Sometimes that means having to make unpopular decisions which are those which are right for the general well-being of the country.  Here there are matters which effect individuals and those which affect the country as a whole: this ranges from individuals who are caught in a world of being so over weight it is difficult to exercise to burn off some fat through to the huge costs borne by the NHS in fixing the problems which come later on.

Yes in my view the Government certainly should look at imposing some kind of tax to curb people's appetite of fizzy drinks containing huge quantities of sugar and/or artificial sweeteners.

It would be even nicer to see MPs taking a stand on these matters such as Dr Phillip Lee MP has done (doughnuts for breakfast) in November 2012.

Perhaps even the more senior members of the Cabinet could set a better example.  Ken Clarke MP is a man I have considerable respect for (I'm afraid I never had the opportunity to photograph him smoking a cigar while he was Justice Secretary) but I cannot help but think the conservative heavyweight Eric Pickles is not the best example although I know he would ably re-buff any comments without any difficulty!

I just wish....

The Government would have the courage to go much further on these issues.  Why stop at 20p a litre?  Far too much faffing around with these things.  While they're at it, why not raise further the tax on cigarettes and alcohol - it must be in the best interests of the population, not to mention a source of cash so Mr Osbourne can pay off the country's credit card bill a little faster.

Running update

Yesterday's run!

You know when everything comes together and you have a great run?  You do?  Great!

If, on the other hand you're reading this and you are not too sure, please let me explain.

A great run for me is when all the different ingredients are there and they fall into place.  Yesterday morning this is what it was like:

  • It was daybreak.  My favourite time of day for running and it was the first time this year I had really clocked the sunrise as being much earlier.  That's a good feeling.
  • It was cold, about 1C and I appreciated feeling the cold air on my face while the rest of me was just right.  It was crisp and fresh.
  • My pace was faster than normal, right from the outset.  I didn't "try" to do this, it just happened.  Somehow my muscles and joints seemed to be loosened up from the outset.  I don't know why this was the case, my routine beforehand was little different to any other time
  • I was running with an air of optimism, being positive about the future in spite of a few dark clouds swirling around my world of work right now
  • As this was the first time I had run my favourite 7.5 mile hilly route for a few weeks, I was keen to see what it was like; how the countryside may have changed following the snow and heavy rains we've had.  There were a few changes here and there which I noticed - the one that made me smile were little clumps of aconites and snowdrops flowering (always a lovely sight when winter is dragging on a bit)
  • I ran a good time, I'm sure I did but slightly ironic that I didn't time myself as it started off as such a routine run

Now the snow has gone....

Running can now take place without this pesky obstacle.  Just as well really as I am behind with my running schedule for the MK Marathon in May but I'm sure I can get myself back on track without too much difficulty.  I think the schedule has me running for up to two hours and I can do this without too many issues (during or afterwards) although I do have a niggly calf muscle right now.

I am in the habit of running afterwork with a colleague on Wednesday.  This seems to work well and we go for about 45 - 60 minutes at an easy pace so we can still have a bit of a conversation.  We have been dubbed as a pair of highlighter pens (as we wear bright yellow jackets).

But two of my friends are giving up running

I have two friends who are long term runners and turning 50, making me a little older than them.  I was so sad to hear that both of them are quitting running because of various injuries and whether the joy of it seems to have gone for them both.  Neither of my friends know each other.  I feel so sad for them as I know it means a lot to them.

It had me wondering whether they have burnt themselves out as they have been running for most of their adult lives?  Perhaps I still have a few more miles left as I have come to it somewhat later in life.  Does that make a difference?  Perhaps it does?

I like the idea of writing a book!

With my new Whizzo computer working like a dream, I'm enjoying computer things more now and have signed up for the Apple one-to-one tuition to know more of how to get the best from it.  I have so much to say about running and I'm thinking of writing an e-book.  

What do you think?  Could this work - a combination of practical "how to" and some inspirational bits from others?  Surely there are lots of would-be newbee runners out there who could spend 50p on a book?