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  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?