Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Concluding 2014...

To sum up this run, it was a truly magical, inspirational and a fantastic way of rounding 2014 off.

Bloggers, sporty types and the like will often review their year by looking back at the achievements, race wins, PBs, Strava Course Records, Strava King of the Mountains and all kinds of other indicators.  I would have to search hard to find more than one or two of those.  Instead I just wanted to reflect on a few things that occurred to me during my #ChristmasRun earlier this afternoon.

The run itself was over very familiar terrain and was a little over 10 miles and took a shade under 1.5 hours.  Soft winter sunshine lit the rolling Bedfordshire countryside around the Downs in a beautiful way.  I crunched through a few icy bits here and there, although happily the temperature has risen a few degrees today - but I'm still needing to remember how to ice skate though.  

I was greatly encouraged by:
  • seeing a couple of other runners and having two cyclists greet me in a friendly way
  • finishing another year in good shape
  • running up a few hills and having a rush of endorphins to fuel me along as I panted my way up.    I wasn't quite at full capacity but not far off.  It's these hills I love these days, although I do just about remember avoiding them like the plague when I started running a few years back!  In fact I reckon these hills, on their own, have made a huge difference with my running ability and my cardiovascular health.  Not so sure about running down them though, that's something I don't do too well
  • God's undeserved grace towards me. 
  • Thoughts of doing this kind of run in my 60s and 70s

I started 2014 by cycling every day, instead of running.  That was also a brilliant thing to do and all part of trying to be in good shape for the 150 mile Coast to Coast in a Day in June.  You know, as much as I love cycling, I don't think I'm very good at it.  Sure I completed the event in 11 hours and ?20 minutes with bucket loads of satisfaction and memories and huge respect for my friends Andrew, Robin, Josh and Jeremy who did it with me.

My family.  Yes my family who continue to be so tolerant of me as I disappear for runs, bike rides and the like at all those totally inconvenient times.  Plus all those stinky HH tops and socks, not to mention the trail of muddy footprints through the house and the sight of me "resting my eyes" watching an evening TV programme (really, as if......?).

Looking to 2015....

These are some of the many thoughts whirring around in my mind and I finally feel that I'm actually on holiday and away from work.  This has taken me almost two weeks to get to this stage and I'm only just getting there (I unfortunately managed to remember my computer password for work, which means I still have a little way to go).  Amongst those thoughts were plenty of family thoughts and where our journeys may take us; this includes Hannah who has taken to kayaking really well this year.  I'm actually very impressed with her determination and grit plus the encouragement at all the coaches and members in the Leighton Buzzard Canoe Club.

With health, running and staying in good shape I am kicking around a few of these:
  • Running 1000 miles in 2015
  • Doing the Chiltern 100 cycle sportive in May
  • I have entered the draw for the Prudential Ride London 100 cycle sportive
  • Focussing more on writing health related articles for other people and increasing my income from this and rely less on my criminal justice work
  • Getting my act together and getting my e-book published
  • Being more proactive in giving a few more talks
  • Really getting to grips with stretching, being more supple and flexible
  • Let's look at doing some podcasts and YouTube pieces on healthy living
  • Did I ought to do something really radical that pushes me to the absolute limit?????

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Sometimes, the harder the better?

I am not sure if any of this will make any sense.  My gut feeling is that this might strike a chord with some runners.  Here goes.

We all like to run on nice sunny days in perfect conditions and through wonderful scenery.  In some ways you could justifiably say "nothing could be better".  All this is true but sometimes I think there is a place for a really hard run when the weather is horrible - perhaps it's cold, wet with driving rain and high winds.

I remember some runs in the past when my face has been blasted by icy rain and sleet.  I have been wet through to the skin and the only thing keeping me warm is my on-going movement; if I had to stop for anything I'd instantly freeze.  Once I remember having a little bit of a tumble and looking down at blood dribbling down my legs, mixed in with muddy water and into my socks.  I can remember times when I have gone too far and I have been hurting all over.

A handful of times have seen me running around Stevenage in the dark, after work, in freezing conditions.  The heavy traffic with its noise and spray seems to make running harder.  Perhaps even worse is when you run against a traffic jam in those horrible conditions and people are watching you.

These are all important runs to me.

Stress, mental well-being

From time to time these hard runs are important mentally and for my well being.  The importance often seems to be related to work and the stresses and strains which seem to crop up occasionally.  Having a hard run seems to be a great way of overcoming those issues and simply rising above them.  It's almost a case of "I don't care how unreasonable, stressful and awful it is at work, you won't break me.  You can try as hard as you want but you won't beat me".

After a hard run, I invariably feel fantastic.  Those problems are still there, running doesn't change that.  The difference is being able to face those challenges, head-on and work through them one by one.  Sometimes this means letting somethings go, dropping them, letting someone win the argument even though I believe they are still wrong.  There are times when it's simply best to step back and allow someone else to feel a sense of victory and for me to know a sense of humility (even though I'm still right!).  It goes without saying there are times when I might look back on my part in things and if I am honest with myself, I might need to say "sorry" or to put something right myself.  This is about reconciliation and it's amazing how running can help make things clearer.

What's going on?

Naturally a hard run, of a decent length, will open the Runner's High tap.  Mentally I feel good, sometimes absolutely on top of the world and unbeatable. The Runner's High is the release of those feel-good endorphins which bring that lovely feeling and can last for several hours.

Having a hard run is also an excellent way of keeping things in perspective, not allowing problems to become bigger than they really are.  Isn't it easy for us to see our own problems as big problems?

For all of these reasons and many others, I need a hard run every now and again.  It does me good.  As I said right at the start, I'm not sure if this is going to make sense to anyone.  Does it?  Let me know.


What is the Runner's High?
Running to save my career

Saturday, 27 December 2014

My #ChristmasRun everyday

For the last week I have been on holiday from work and I have been enjoying some great runs.  One of the utterly fantastic things about my holiday so far is that I have run EVERY DAY!  To date I have had eight runs.  This is something I had been looking forward to for a while because:

  • I can handle daily running for a couple of weeks
  • A great way of burning up all of those extra Christmas calories
  • Running in the winter landscape can be a magical experience
  • A way of grabbing some much needed daylight, some "me" time, so peaceful
  • Burns off the frustrations and anxieties which have built up at work in the last few weeks (things are pretty demanding and challenging right now)
  • I see it as a mini challenge which I have enjoyed before

In fact I did something pretty similar around Christmas 2012 and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Last year in 2013 I continued with the theme and cycled everyday, instead of running.  So this year it's back to running and I'm thoroughly enjoying it because:
  • Every run has been completely different: my mood, the weather, the route and the distance (shortest is just under 2 miles, longest over 10 miles).  Yesterday it was frosty and frozen early in the morning.  Today I ran in the afternoon over and this included some muddy tracks
  • I have had a mixture of long runs (my favourite!) and shorter runs
  • Running on Christmas Day, at daybreak was special.  Only a couple of cars seen; no cyclists or other runners 
  • Today's run was the best.  In fact it was my second 10+ mile run during this last week and although the weather was pretty cold (including a little snow flurry), I came back absolutely glowing and it's as if I could almost feel the blood buzzing right around my whole body: it was a wonderful run
  • It has been an excellent way of spending some time thinking about all kinds of things.  Amongst those thoughts have been about my next challenge and I still haven't quite made up my mind.  Could be a running challenge, or perhaps cycling, or both or even something new.  Either way it's a nice thing to chew over as I still haven't decided
  • I have been tweeting using the hashtag #ChristmasRun and it's been nice seeing what other people from around the world have been doing with their own Christmas running.
  • I still have quite a few more runs to do.  I'm due back at work on 5th January and I'm planning to run each day until then.
Please leave me a comment if you've been running over Christmas.  What have you done, what's been special about it?

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Avoid the temptation John!

I'm pleased to be getting to know my friend John better these days.  It's surprising how much you can get to know someone through running, as opposed to quick chats at church.  It is also a pleasure in being able to encourage John along the path to become really fit and able to undertake his "challenge" in 2015 with real confidence.

The problem for now is that John has a bad cold.  Added to that he works in retail and it is naturally a very busy time in the "run" up to Christmas.  Dr Doug thinks he could be "burning the candle at both ends" which as we all know is a well proven diagnosis.  The treatment, as I have recommended before, is backing off from running and allowing his body to heal.  This will avoid a straight forward cold developing into anything worse and lower the likelihood of spreading it around.

John is showing signs of being frustrated and looks at his running gear and feels tempted to get out there.  This advice follows my recent post for John. Here's my latest advice:

Resist the temptation Brother!
Allow your body a chance to heal and cope with the demands of your work and family life.  You have Christmas to look forward to!

Buy a copy of Runner's World
This will allow to to instantly become an Armchair Runner.  Without doubt you will read all kinds of useful tips and learn more about running.  It will whet your appetite for 2015.

Speaking of 2015
Late December is a good time to reflect back on the year and consider your journey to date.  You have successfully taken those early steps in becoming a runner and you're aspiring to do more.  Well done. Now think of what you would like to achieve in 2015.... how will you get there?  What steps do you need to take?

If you cannot resist your running gear
Then put it on and wear it around the house.  Do some VERY GENTLE STRETCHES and remember my advice about normally making sure your muscles are sufficiently warmed before stretching.  As you won't be running before you stretch, please take it easy and think of it as limbering rather than ambitious stretches.

Consider buying some more running gear, perhaps
There could be some bargains around.  Wiggle is a good place to look, especially if you use my affiliate link (hint) and I dare say their prices are dropping in the last few days before Christmas

Get inspired
Read my blog and some of the runs I have had in the past.  Find some other blogs about running and you'll find some fascinating accounts of the life changing nature of running.  Get some inspiration from other people.  You could even start your own blog!

Monday, 22 December 2014

Lack of running shops?

Right now there seems to be a complete lack of running shops around here.  I'm not aware of there ever has been a proper running shop in the Luton and Dunstable area.  It bothers me.

What bothers me even more is that a couple of really good running shops have folded in recent years - in Harpenden and St Albans (both prosperous places).  I prefer to shop locally whenever I can, so it's all a bit depressing.  I appreciate seeing what I am buying and knowing it's spot on and right.  I like having a chat about running, cycling, food etc.

The excitement with a new pair of running shoes!

I know in London there are quite a few to choose from: Runners Need, Run and Become, Sweatshop and undoubtedly plenty of others as well.  Other large conurbation's will probably have some running shops but all this has got me thinking about the local scene.  Here's a few thoughts....

Why communities need a good running shop
  • Gait Analysis.  A decent running shop will be able to assess your footfall to make sure you get the right kind of shoes for your feet.  This could be because you under or over pronate.  Having the right pair of shoes makes all the difference in your running comfort.  A Gait Analysis is sometimes done by filming someone on a treadmill and playing the film back in slow motion to expertly examine how the foot falls and rolls forward.  You can't do this by mail order!
  • Advice from people who run and know their stuff.  This can cover shoes, clothing, injuries, nutrition, local routes, nearby races and giving encouragement
  • Trying on the clothing to get a good fit
  • Could be the focal point for runners in the area; the base of a club for instance
  • To promote running as a healthy sport and lifestyle.  Success breeds success: the sight of more runners is likely to be an encouragement for more and more new runners
Reasons why running shops might go out of business
  • Running can be a cheap sport.  Once someone has invested in a pair of shoes (typically £60+) they might not need to buy anything else.  A "fully equipped" runner might invest up to £1000 if they are taking the sport seriously - two or more pairs of running shoes make sense, clothing for different seasons, a Garmin and a selection of water bottles, energy gels etc
  • People can buy via mail order from a whole wide variety of outlets.  Myself I like Wiggle and you can even take a look via my affiliate link for their latest gear
  • Town centres in decline: the traditional High Street has had quite a pounding over recent years. More locally in Dunstable there are many boarded up shops.  Naturally many people expect to buy their "trainers" for £20 and cannot understand why other people splash out four or five times that for running shoes.
  • Making the books balance: the overheads for a shop could be crippling for a small business by the time Business Tax has been paid.  Plus there's employer costs, utilities, bank charges, stock, fixtures and fittings, cash-flow and probably a whole host of other things even before a profit is drawn from the business
  • Suppliers charging high prices (due to low volumes, limited credit?)
  • Lack of commercial experience and skill.  Being a good runner does not translate into being business-savvy.  
What could make a new running shop successful?
  • Being sure there are existing runners around.  Any running clubs or other keep fit clubs?  Is it better to have a big slice of a small cake, or a small slice of a big cake?  Hope that makes sense.
  • Are there many fitness clubs, gyms etc where people already go?  Where do they buy their gear from?  Could a shop offer a discount to local runners in a club?
  • Being and looking a convincing advocate of the sport
  • Contemporary design - bright, eye catching, prominent
  • Becomes known for great service - gait analysis, helpful staff, inspirational staff
  • Has the right brands at the right prices
  • Nearby other related businesses where potential customers might visit - bicycle shop, health food shop, fitness club and "sharing" customers
  • Having a great on-line presence.  Any shop without a good website and e-trading has to be seriously out of date.  At the very least an ebay store can help keep the cash flowing, even if the profit margins are not high
  • Having a customer base over a wide area i.e. not only the local town.  Something to make people call you from a far-off distance or to make it worth their while in travelling to you
  • Independent -v- franchise -v- chain.... perhaps they all have their pros and cons
Is all this a fair assessment?  If only there was a running shop nearby!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Possibly the best reason to run?

Yesterday morning I went for another 10+ mile run along the Grand Union canal towpath.  As usual I think of many different things such as work, my surroundings, blogging, sorting through problems and so on.  I was thinking about running itself and I was working through why I like running so much (perhaps even more than cycling).

I have blogged before about the best Reasons to Run.  As I see it today it occurred to me:

running is pure simplicity

Some of the nice simple features of running are:

  • No need fancy equipment.  Just you, your feet, your legs and a sense of challenge
  • Once you have your running shoes, it can cost nothing to run
  • You don't need to go to a special place to run; you can run almost anywhere.  If you can find a variety of routes, taking you over different terrain, so much the better
  • You can run whenever you want
  • You don't actually need GPS tracking, music or other gizmos
  • You listen to your breathing, your heart beating and your footfall. You're more in tune with your own body and how it all fits together
  • No need to worry about any technical problems - i.e. you won't get a puncture, run out of petrol
  • It's simply you, your feet and legs moving you forward.  What could be simpler?
To become a "runner" you need a start and this can be at different points.  For some fortunate people, they might already be fit, active, healthy, young, ideal weight and can just start to run with the minimum of fuss.  Others might be none of those things and will have to endure many times of staggering around their neighbourhood, gasping, heaving, panting, hurting and throwing up.  You might end up getting home in a real mess, snot all over your face and you're bright red.  Your legs might feel like jelly and you remember all those horrible school PE lessons when you were sent out to run around a field in the pouring rain.  You resented the PE teacher who'd be nice and warm in a waterproof jacket and you would be wearing a short sleeved tee shirt and feel all self conscious in your shorts.  And now, years later, you're doing this voluntarily.  Does it make sense?  You ask WHY?  AM I INSANE FOR WANTING TO BECOME A RUNNER?

Once you're past initial that stage and can run further and then you get to the point where you're actually starting to enjoy it, you are then a RUNNER!  At this stage you realise how simple it can be.

Sure, you need proper running shoes and I have always advocated this.  Having the right clothing can help you stay a little more comfortable.  Other than that you don't need anything at all.

Simple.  Pure simplicity.  Enjoy it.

Friday, 19 December 2014

"Should I run with a cold?" asks John

"Should I run with a cold?" asks my friend John.   John, by the way, is my latest subject in coaching and encouraging him to run (he's training for a specific event next year). He's been doing fine until now and he's gone down with a bug which he anticipates will knock him out until after Christmas.  That seems a long time to me.

I guess we're all different.  Some people need to take complete rest to get through a cold or flu and prevent it developing into something more problematic.  Other people aren't fazed at all.

Just as I was about to write my answer for John, I realised I had blogged about this before - simply follow this link and there's the answer!  Here's wishing you well John.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Don't ever forget why you became a runner

This evening I had a short run, just a couple of miles.  Not fast, nothing spectacular at all.  The route was around our neighbourhood and included four times around a block.

The amazing thing was remembering the time when I started showing signs of becoming a runner and plodding around the same streets and weighing three stones more than I do now.  Apart from the weight slowing me down, I was just so incredibly unfit to the point where I look back on myself then and feel ashamed.

That was in 2008.  I was stressed out because of work and found it difficult to cope at times but something turned those worries into a desire to shake myself upside-down and inside-out to become a runner.  Since then I have run thousands of miles, cycled even more, blogged endlessly about both and absolutely loved it.

So this evening in the frosty, damp, dark streets in my neighbourhood I felt so thankful for being able to become a runner.  Yes I'm even thankful for all the hassle that caused me to take up running and to keep me going ever since.

Two questions:
  1. If you are an existing runner, do you remember why you became a runner?
  2. If you are NOT a runner, does this help in any way?

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Today's run and did I tell you.....?

Ivinghoe Lock: frosty December morning
Not the best selfie, granted.  You will have to take my word for it - this is me having reached the first Ivinghoe Lock on the Grand Union canal as it runs through Bedfordshire.

As usual on Saturday mornings, I take the opportunity to run while Hannah is having her dose of kayaking with the local club (LBCC).  Today's run was frustratingly just under the 10 mile mark and alas I didn't have enough time to go any further.  Drat.  Drat but never mind.

It was a truly inspirational run.  Right throughout the day I have felt really great - such a wonderful feeling of all round "well being" and happiness.  This was partly because of the amazing conditions (clear skies, frost, -2 etc) but mostly because of my "mood".  I wanted a good run and although that's what I got, it wasn't quite how I expected it to be....

Yes I know, it was cold and this wasn't really any big deal.  Except that it took me "ages" to warm up - probably 25-30 minutes before my fingers were feeling nice and warm (normally this is where I hit a "wall" for a few minutes).

And next was that I was having to put some effort in!  I expected an easier run that it turned out to be!  I averaged an 8:30 minute/mile over what was a flat course.  I realised while I was running, feeling a little tired, I didn't have a run with my friend John.  Although John and I don't run hard/far it does nevertheless make a difference in not having had our run.

LBCC training!
I might have mentioned before, the Leighton Buzzard Canoe Club is actually the kayak club at nearby Linslade.  Note to self: ask about that sometime.

Well I thought I'd say that it's been really good training so far.  So much so, I have decided to join as a non-paddling member.  Also, while I'm at it I figured it would make sense for Rachel and Becky to join as well.  Before you ask, I did "mention" this to them and thankfully they were okay about it; just as well really.

So far I have been on two Thursday evening runs.  This lasts about an hour and has involved a bit of interval running.  Good for the ol' ticker etc.  No problems in holding my own, although I know I'd be easily outclassed by some of the other members on sprints.

The third training was altogether different.  This time it was led by Jim, who it has to be said, has already shown he has excellent all-round fitness, which is exactly what I DON'T have.  There were about 10 different exercises to do, all just outside the warmth of the Club House.  Push ups, pull ups, press ups, V sits and all kinds of other exercises, each working a different muscle group.  The idea was that everyone did 100 of each of the 10 exercises.

This showed up my many weaknesses.  While the "leg" based exercises were easy on the surface, some were quite testing and these included jumping up onto a step about 4 inches high and doing this 100 times.  Not easy and I got nowhere near the target.  "Not helped by doing it in the dark" was my pre-prepaed excuse for my pathetic performance with this.

Some of the other exercises were designed to build up your core muscles i.e. six packs in the making.  Flip this was hard going, as I knew it would be!  My daughter Hannah, breezed through!

Common with runners?
This lack of core strength is hardly surprising for myself and it is quite common with runners.  Runners are renowned for being stiff and not very flexible or supple.  Gradually I am addressing that but I do recognise that I don't have the all-round fitness I have had when I've been to the gym 2 or 3 times a week.

I suppose the beauty of these exercises is their simplicity i.e. you don't need expensive gym equipment to do them.  Often the weight of your own body and knowing what to do with it is all that is needed.  Food for thought.

Food for thought also is what my next challenge could be.  As you might know, my main goal during 2014 was the Coast to Coast in a Day cycle ride (150 miles across a hilly northern route).

Possibilities for my next challenge in 2015 could be:

  • Improve my swimming! Should include learning front crawl which could then open up some possibilities
  • Tackling some TdF climbs in France (yay!)
  • Two marathons, target time for each is well under 4 hours
  • Running 1000 miles in 2015
  • Chiltern 100 in a decent time
  • Still thinking of other options and open to suggestions.....

Friday, 12 December 2014

Harvest Morn milled linseed (Aldi)

In our healthy diet for sometime we have had linseed, also known as flaxseed.  We normally buy the seeds whole and then grind them in a coffee grinder into a fairly fine powder in batches to keep us going for a couple of weeks.

So it seemed a worthwhile buy when Rachel spotted this packet in Aldi.  As you see, it's pre-ground, or milled as they say, linseed with added gojiberries, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.  All this adds up to be a nice healthy cocktail of goodness with it being a good source of Omega 3 and plenty of fibre.

Getting it into our kids!
Easier said than done!  However, we use this in quite a few different ways, after all we need to get this into our kids somehow or other.  Ordinarily they'd turn their noses up at all this healthy stuff and inform us it is "not my favourite Daddy" thinking that if they say it politely enough they'll be let off.  This kind of good food gets into us by including it in our homemade bread: this works really well.

It's probably made it's way into all kinds of other dishes without any of us knowing - vegetarian lasagne, soups and other scrum my dishes too.  For just myself, it also features in my ultra healthy and well balanced Cyclist's Breakfast which is also affectionately  known in our house as 'gravel'.

Oh and the benefits of all this?
On the packet it says 2 tablespoons of milled linseed will help achieve the daily intake of fibre and Omega 3.  Fibre is something we all need to maintain our healthy digestive tract; in fact it's a whopping 15.7grams per 100grams.  Omega 3 helps the cardiovascular system in staying healthy.

As 41% of this is a mixture of dried gojiberries, pumpkin and sunflower seeds there's a range of other nutrients in there as well.  Gojiberries are said to be another of these super foods but this is probably faddy hype.

The cost?
Sorry, can't remember but we reckon it's under £2 for the 225gram pack, so not too bad and available from Aldi.

And we think....?
Use it for it's goodness as the flavour is a bit bland.  Added to soups, casseroles, bread, cereals, muesli and even your own special blend, just like my own Cyclist's Breakfast, or gravel as it is also affectionately known as.

It's probably worth keeping it in the fridge as the oils can become rancid if it's left unused for too long.  This is why we buy the linseeds and grind relatively small quantities.

Linseed / flaxseed

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Every little run helps

Last Saturday I was due, as normal, to have my long run but things didn't quite work out that way.  As usual I took Hannah over to Linslade for her kayaking on the Grand Union canal but this time there was some ice on the canal.

The club's decision was to hold back for a while, to allow the ice to thaw a little more as there is a danger the boats will get damaged.  This meant I only got a short run in, about 3 or 4 miles instead of the usual 10.  Initially I was feeling a tad disappointed and yet it was the right thing to happen because:

  • I had run 5 or 6 miles the day before with my friend John.  As you know I am his cruel, ruthless and totally mean trainer.  Besides, it's sometimes good to have a day in between runs to avoid injury.

  • It was an opportunity to have a few faster bursts, rather than the long, plodding kind of pace I have on my longer runs.  These faster bursts are great in raising my heart rate to the point I would have difficulty in talking more than a couple of grunts.  At this level it's best to limit these to less than 5 minutes.

  • The scenery was lovely!  A cold, crisp morning and I regret I have no photographs to truly capture the beauty of it.  In fact the only ones I have are:

Sorry, both of these photographs are scraping the barrel somewhat.

Nevertheless this was enough to have that "feel good" sensation and a dose of the Runner's High afterwards.  So another few miles done and an opportunity to think a few things through but nowhere near enough.  Right now I'm having a demanding time at work and I find I'm looking forward to the Christmas holidays more and more.  Although, mentally, I could have done with a longer run, it was not without it's benefit and I'm thankful for that.

Please check out this related post  Running - the benefits of little and often  which outlines more of the above in greater detail.  This post proves there is truth in this: for the regular or aspiring runner, every run does bring benefit and it's important to believe that.

Also related:
Note to self: I'm a runner, I need to run
Running in the winter

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The things people say

When cycling, people quite often hurl a few insults my way.  This last year has included "get the f***out of my way" and "you cyclists are all plebs" and followed by "you think you own the road, get off and on to the pavement where you belong".

Running on the other hand has brought some slightly more endearing comments and interactions.   As one occurred yesterday while on my latest stress busting run in Stevenage, I thought it was worth recording a few:

"Get those knees up, son" said a younger, heavier man in a cheery way

"We wish we could run like you" said an elderly couple with their walking sticks

"Wow you're brave - shorts in the winter - are you a postman?" asked someone in my neighbourhood

"You're doin' well, keep it up" said an encouraging man as I gasped up a steep hill

And my favourite -

"Nice arse" said a couple of middle aged women, walking their dogs on Dunstable Downs last year as I sped passed them.  

No, this is not me!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Latest stress busting run

A few things are happening which I mustn't forget to tell you about.  First things first, we are of course in December and this time of year is not exactly my favourite time of year for getting out there to clock up a few miles and yet there is still a certain appeal.  My next couple of posts will update you on some unexpected training with Leighton Buzzard Canoe Club and coaching my friend John.

Stress busting after work

The above photo was taken in Stevenage last week while on one of my post work runs.  People might knock Stevenage for having a few areas of deprivation, questionable architecture and not in-keeping with the rest of Hertfordshire.  And yet for me, I earn my daily crust there and it's great for running around.

Stevenage was designed as a post-war new town and largely laid out in the 1950s with significant growth taking place for some time afterwards.  In the 1950s the planners had the foresight to construct decent cycle paths and foot paths alongside the main roads which are generally dual carriage ways.  Certainly they could never have foreseen modern traffic volumes and yet it seems to work okay.  This means there are plenty of traffic free routes for runners and cyclists - great!

My latest run was after a particularly tough day at work and it did include a certain amount of stress for me.  Being able to log off, sign out and change into my running gear is a bit of a life-saver at the end of the day.

The conditions for this run aren't very apparent in the above grainy photo.  Actually it was cold, drizzly and pretty miserable.  I know this might sound a bit daft, I was almost hoping the conditions would have been far worse as this would give me something to fight against.  Does that make sense?  Let me explain.... sometimes it's almost as if I need a run to be really hard... to hurt.... to make me suffer.... to test me.  I can fight my way through horrible conditions, have snot running down my chin,  my face pounded by sleet or icy rain, my hands to be bitterly cold.  And yet deep inside I feel so good; I have just run five miles at a fast pace and sprinted the last 50 yards as fast as I could and arrived at my car panting and breathless.

The result?  Hot inside + Body Brimming with Life + Endorphins = Feel Great!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Stretching - before or after?

"Do you stretch BEFORE or AFTER a run?" is something I have asked other runners and have often pondered which is best.  It turns out there are different schools of thoughts on this and, arguably, it also applies to other sports or physical activities.

Stretching is all about pushing our bodies a little further than they normally go in day to day use.  Just like the (comical) runner above, we can stretch our limbs and core muscles.  A common view is to stretch BEFORE an activity like running.  It is believed this will help prevent injuries and run faster and easier.

A counter view is that muscles should be warmed up before they are stretched, otherwise injuries might occur through the actual stretching itself.

Another view is "why bother at all?" and this is also an entirely understandable question to ask.

All this can be quite confusing, especially for the newbie runner.  Newbies can often be seen doing the briefest of stretches - and I do mean brief as they last no more than 1 or 3 seconds - before they run or get onto a treadmill or cross trainer.  Also it's quite common to see such newbies doing simply one type of stretch and nothing else.

Why stretch?

Whether you are in the BEFORE or AFTER group, proper stretching does make you more supple and this can benefit runners who seem to be on the stiff side.  It is believed that being supple is less likely to lead to injuries and more able to handle technically demanding runs (i.e. cross country, fell running etc).  I know that is stiff label true for myself - I can be very rigid and stiff, not pliable at all.  Runners just seem to be like that, especially long distance runners getting on a bit.

Is limbering up the same?

Not quite but it does have the effect of warming the muscles and losing some of that stiffness.   This includes jogging a little, swaying around while standing still, perhaps the odd lunge.  Nothing too demanding.

What is going on with stretching?

Stretching is all about stretching: as simple as that.  Imagine you're making some bread and you have been needing the dough.  You can pull it and it stretches nicely (providing the mixture and method are right!) but look what happens when you pull it.  You will see the dough does stretch and then it has a number of tiny tears as it pulls apart.

This is similar to our bodies and our own muscles as we do create tiny microscopic tears.  When it heals, the body repairs those little tears and adapts to the new demands being placed upon it, thus muscles and their connecting tendons and ligaments develop that elasticity.

Achieving this elasticity takes time and required regular stretching; it doesn't happen over night.

How to stretch

Stretching is about pulling that leg, arm etc into the "stretched" position to the point it might hurt a little or be uncomfortable.  When I feel that I then just back off a little, relaxing the muscle a bit and then hold it there.  Normally I count to 15 - I would like to think I can count 15 seconds exactly but I doubt if I do so my stretch could be anywhere between 10 and 20 seconds.

I think it's really important to stop a stretch if it hurts.  There's a fine line between mildly
"Do you stretch BEFORE or AFTER a run?" is something I have asked other runners and have often pondered which is best.  It turns out there are different schools of thought on this and, arguably, it also applies to other sports or physical activities.

Stretching is all about pushing our bodies a little further than they normally go in day to day use.  Just like the (comical) runner above, we can stretch our limbs and core muscles.  A common view is to stretch BEFORE an activity like running.  It is believed this will help prevent injuries and run faster and easier.

A counter view is that muscles should be warmed up before they are stretched, otherwise injuries might occur through the actual stretching itself.

Another view is "why bother at all?" and this is also an entirely understandable question to ask.

All this can be quite confusing, especially for the newbie runner.  Newbies can often be seen doing the briefest of stretches - and I do mean brief as they last no more than 1 or 3 seconds - before they run or get onto a treadmill or cross trainer.  Also it's quite common to see such newbies doing simply one type of stretch and nothing else.  Some might find this comical to watch and say "ah aren't they sweet, so naive, so uncool, to think that stretching will do anything for them....".  That might be so but remember we all started somewhere and with good intentions we've all made mistakes like that.

What is going on with stretching?

Stretching is all about stretching: as simple as that.  Imagine you're making some bread and you have been needing the dough.  You can pull it and it stretches nicely (providing the mixture and method are right!) but look what happens when you pull it.  You will see the dough does stretch and then it has a number of tiny tears as it pulls apart.

This could be similar to our bodies and our own muscles as we do create tiny microscopic tears.  When it heals, the body repairs those little tears and adapts to the new demands being placed upon it, thus muscles and their connecting tendons and ligaments develop that elasticity.

Achieving this elasticity takes time and required regular stretching; it doesn't happen over night.

How to stretch

Stretching is about pulling that leg, arm etc into the "stretched" position to the point it might hurt a little or be uncomfortable.  When I feel that I then just back off a little, relaxing the muscle a bit and then hold it there.  Normally I count to 15 - I would like to think I can count 15 seconds exactly but I doubt if I do so my stretch could be anywhere between 10 and 20 seconds.

I think it's really important to stop a stretch if it hurts.  There's a fine line between allowing a small number of microscopic tears and stretches that yank things far too far.  Another thing to avoid is any jerky quick movements - this is a sure way to get injured.

So what do I prefer to do?

I definitely prefer to stretch after a run or cross training session.  I have tried it before and it simply doesn't work but if at a race, I do limber up.

Limbering up included a little jogging, wiggling around i.e. using muscles, getting the blood flowing and getting warmed up but definitely not stretching.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Running up Bison Hill

Last Saturday I had my latest Long Run and once again I loved it.  Before I get into the highlights and the detail of running up Bison Hill, let me give you some key numbers:

Distance: 12.3 miles
Calories: 1676
Elevation: 1,072 feet
Pee / Poo stops: 0
Other runners: one couple
Snotty cyclists: 0
Cheery cyclists: 1
Food / drink: 0

As Hannah wasn't kayaking, it meant I could have a hilly run, instead of the Grand Union Canal towpath and I was eager to head up around Dunstable Downs.  Besides, it was the first proper outing for my new Saucony Omni 13 running shoes.

Bison Hill
Around the Dunstable area, lots of cyclists like to take on Bison Hill which is one of the best hills around here.  As a cyclist I also include myself in taking part in the challenge which is well tracked on Strava.  Now it's important to remember there are a few different versions of the Bison Hill challenge but they all seem to start at the T-junction with Dagnall Road.

Also I took the road route, having slipped my way down the footpath to the road and the start, I got to the T junction start.  The conditions were pretty good - no wind, drizzle, cold (but I was as warm as toast) and little traffic.  I thought I would aim for the 0.6 mile mark which is generally accepted as the finish for cyclists but of course the road continues afterwards.

The first 200 - 300 metres climb gently to the first corner and then the gradient becomes noticeably steeper and this continues for about 0.25 mile with one or two small bends.  I guess the steepest gradient is about 1:5 or before it starts to level out by the car park on the left hand side.  It was at that point my breathing was pretty heavy and hard but I felt I'd paced myself alright.  And it was once I'd reached the car park a cyclist passed me.  He said, in a "gasping for breath" way, he had been trying to catch me up and it had taken him some time and something about me running well.  I said "thanks" as he inched ahead of me and then his speed increased as the road started to level off; it would have been nice to have kept up with him for a while but I couldn't.

At that point another cyclist passed me, also breathing heavily.  So heavy was his breathing, he didn't attempt to speak to me and this was absolutely fine and he was making a really good effort.  Therefore he doesn't count as a snotty cyclist.

I was looking forward to checking my time on Strava once I'd got home, because I'm now a bit of a convert.

I know that when I'm cycling my time getting up the 0.6 mile climb is a little under 5 minutes (on a good day!) and this puts me in a reasonable position with the Strava segment ratings.  However, there is NO RUNNING SEGMENT!  I am amazed none of the other local runners have set up a segment, or perhaps it's considered too hazardous?  Nevertheless I estimate my time as being 7 or 8 minutes.

I will just have to set it up and see a) what my times are b) how I improve c) compare to other local runners.

Calf muscles
You don't often hear me blog about self inflicted injuries.  I could feel my calf muscles working and pulling hard on the steepest part of the climb.  The following day I could really feel them and happily I'm fine now.  This is the consequence of not running many hills lately!

So there y' go
Bison Hill.  Quite a climb and I'm so pleased I did it.  Those few minutes running up Bison Hill can be agony but it is just for a few minutes and worth doing from time to time, even on a longish run.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

"Help - my ankles and knees ache"

"My knees and ankles ache" said a new runner to me the other day followed by a "should I give up running?".

New runners should take care of their knees & ankles

There is a chance this might have been an excuse for a newbie runner to step back from the aspirations of becoming a regular runner.  Of course it could be a sensible thing to do for some people, for others it is a natural part of becoming a runner and persevering is the route to take.

Here's a few thoughts on this:

Making sure a new runner has the right shoes is very important.  When I was getting into running I almost quit because of this very issue; but thankfully I found having a gait analysis and some proper shoes solved the problem for me.  I haven't looked back since.  One more thing, make sure you have some proper running socks too (don't be a cheap skate and buy some cheap, naff "sport" socks).

Take it easy
Don't over do it.  It can take several months to condition your body to become a regular runner.  Just think about your body, especially waist downwards.  All of the joints take a pounding when you start to run, your body is doing something new and it needs time to adjust.  Your joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles all need to become used to running and it takes time, build up slowly, gradually and consistently.

If you run on a hard surface, you will be subjecting your body to maximum pounding.  The absolute hardest surface is concrete; those rock hard paving slaps.  These paving slabs are bad news for the runner as apart from being rock-hard, they are often cracked and uneven which can easily lead to trips.

If you can run on a softer surface such as grass or dirt tracks this might help.  For some it might even be worth getting in the car, or on your bicycle and going somewhere better for running.

Avoid running down any hills, this will simply makes things much worse.  Hills will come later as you become a more experienced runner and you'll come to like them but for now they are best avoided if you can.  If you must include hills because of where you live, you could try walking down them or taking it very, very slowly.

Running form
Do you run awkwardly?  Have you had previous injuries?  Perhaps your legs or feet are particularly uneven in some way?  You might need to see a Podiatrist as this is a specialist area and you may need some expert advice.

Make sure your diet is good.  The nutritional needs of a regular runner are, arguably, little different to that of a normal, healthy diet.  What defines a "normal, healthy diet" is, of course, open to debate!

Nevertheless regular runners need to ensure they get adequate carbohydrates for the energy needed in running (but don't over do this is you are trying to lose weight!).  More importantly I believe runners need protein in it's various forms (although I am a vegetarian) and antioxidants for repairing the wear and tear.  It would be easy to talk endlessly here about nutrition but let me leave it there for now.

This naturally follows the previous mention of food.  Regular runners are unlikely to have any problems sleeping but it is important to make sure you get all the deep sleep your mind and body requires.  Amongst other things, this is where your body will be repairing itself and making itself a little bit stronger each time.  Please, please please, do not underestimate the value of this.

Losing weight
Many people start running to lose some weight (that was me a few years ago) and it's a fantastic thing to do.  However when you run, it is said that 2 or 3 times your body weight lands on each foot, with each footstep.  So if you're 3 stone over weight, just think of that weight landing on your feet each step.  That's quite something to handle, step after step.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Those LBCC paddlers are good runners!

You will have to take my word for it: the photo in this post is Hannah and myself.  Some might say it's badly exposed, technically poor etc.  I would say it's atmospheric and hopefully sums up last night's run with Leighton Buzzard Canoe Club.

Firstly, just to avoid any confusion, the club isn't actually at Leighton Buzzard.  It is at Linslade which is a smaller adjacent town.  Secondly they don't paddle canoes as they paddle kayaks.  Glad to have cleared that up.

Once again Hannah was keen to join in with the winter training programme which involves me, as her Dad, taking her over to Linslade.   It makes sense for me to run alongside and I need little excuse.  We are gradually getting to know the club members, one by one and they're a friendly bunch.  This time there was about 10 of us and again Reggie was the coach and led as we ran from the Boat/Club House over to a park area in Leighton Buzzard, probably a mile or so to get there.   That was enough to get us warmed up.  When we were all there together, instructions were given as to the nature of the training session.

The plan this time was to run around a set path in the park, forming a triangle.  The first side was up an incline and then a flat section - these were to be the "effort" parts i.e. to work hard and run fairly hard.  The third side of the triangle is to be taken easier, either as a jog or an opportunity to take longer strides to stretch out a little.  Running around this triangle didn't take too long, perhaps 0.25 mile at most.  Now we were there, this was the plan:

Interval training

1 lap
  Rest 2 mins
2 laps
  Rest 2 mins
3 laps
  Rest 2 mins
4 laps
  Rest 2 mins
3 laps
  Rest 2 mins
2 laps
  Rest 2 mins
1 lap
  Return to club house

Man, did I need that run

All day I had been sitting at my desk at work, periodically looking out of the window and yearning for a good run.  I was tempted to have a run at lunchtime but the thought of sitting there all afternoon in a somewhat smelly state was enough to talk me out of it.

I didn't feel I was being very productive throughout the day.  The only thing I had in my diary was a slot at SMT (Strategic Management Team) where I had the hot seat to talk over something I was working on.  After I had said my piece I sat there listening to some of the conversation and again I found myself looking out of the window with thoughts of running but only for a split second as immediately there was the "Doug could I just ask you about page 5....."  This brought me back to Earth with an abrupt bump.

To bring some tedium to the day, which was probably self inflicted, there were a few more keyboard problems.  Again this was dealt with simply enough by tipping it upside down and giving it a good shake.  You wouldn't believe the amount of crumbs that fell out.  My colleagues felt sorry for me and one went off to get a can of compressed air and instead came back with a can of Spray Mount.  Luckily he realised it was GLUE, just before he sprayed it into my keyboard; now that would have been interesting.  Phew.

I promised myself I'd leave early, which I sort of did and drove home as quickly as I could, looking forward to a run so much.  I knew that any kind of a run was what I needed; it did not matter if it was a lone, in a group, short, long etc.  I simply needed a good run to clear my mind.

A positive effect

So even though the evening's run was quite chatty, it was just what I needed.  It took my mind off work in a fantastic way and gave me a good physical workout.

Throughout the run it was dark.  There was also a certain eery beauty to the run, which is crudely hinted at in the photograph above.   As we ran around the park the mist was gathering and as our own temperature increased, the air temperature dropped.  This meant our breath was adding to the mist.  Looking at ourselves and the other members of the group, some were positively steaming and had the ingredients of us making our own little micro climate of a pea soup fog.

This has also whetted my appetite for running at night time and this is handy in November with the daylight continuing to become shorter and shorter.  I have been a little apprehensive about this before in case I trip over again (I've had a few falls and injuries) but there's actually something quite nice about it.  For practical reasons, it makes sense to do it with someone else and right now there are some options - further running with my friends Nettie and John (who are new runners and I'm their ruthless, utterly harsh and unreasonable coach) and my friend Jon, who is a very accomplished and experienced runner.

Wrapping up

I really like going along to support Hannah as it means I can have a run as well.  Being the dutiful Dad I do try to keep to her pace or maybe just a little faster to egg her along a little and it's great to see her enjoying it so much - this is such a joy.

With the Kayaking Club in mind, I can see myself joining sooner or later (as a non-paddling member) as it's good to support a local club like this and to recognise how local communities really do benefit from such clubs.  Also I think the club is well respected in Linslade and Leighton Buzzard; people like seeing them using the canal in this way.

By the way, Wiggle have some great offers right now. Anything you buy will help support my blog - simply click the picture on the left.

Thanks in advance.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Visiting a nutritionist

A while ago I went to a nutritionist where said I want to live for another 50 years – this would be taking me to well over 100.   In these next 50 years I would like to be healthy and active.  The advice I had was fairly straight forward, nothing too radical and building on my existing good intake of healthy food.  Can I stress that the advice was for myself?  I am posting it as a reminder for myself and because it might be of interest with others.  However, I need to state the obvious and say it was tailored for myself – only you can decide if it is applicable to yourself.

Amongst the considerations of living another 50 years is doing what I can to avoid cancer. We all know that this disease will eventually finish many of us off and indeed it runs in my family so I want to take some preventative steps.
Below I’m outlining the advice which the nutritionist gave me:
  • Continue with my vegetarian diet but make sure I get enough proteins, B12 and Omega 3.  As I do begrudgingly eat some fish (which I don’t really enjoy) the advice is to have oily fish, for example salmon and if tinned to eat the bones as well.  It was suggested once or twice a week.
  • Although I don’t eat any processed meat, this was mentioned as a significant cancer risk for anyone who does.  This is apparently due to the nitrites in sausages, ham, burgers and other heavily processed foods like that.
  • Animal fats in general are to be avoided wherever possible.  It was emphasised also to avoid non-organic red meat for anyone who does eat meat (aside from the ethics of growing food for animals instead of people).  Processed foods often have hydrogenated or trans fats.  These are bad news and are when liquid oils are turned into solid fats through a manufacturing process (includes the manufacture of margarines).  These foods also raise low density lipoproteins (LPL) which are the bad kinds of cholesterol.  The greatest danger of trans fats is the ability to distort cell membranes, as well as cell structures.
  • Best to limit dairy products but not eliminate completely.  As an alternative to milk, it’s worth trying rice, hemp or coconut milk.  Breast and prostate cancers have been linked to dairy products.
  • The biggest cancer threat is actually sugar.  I understand now how cancer cells feed on sugar (probably putting it crudely) and depress the immune system.  I guess most of us have a bit of a “sweet tooth” and so I asked about honey.  Honey is a good natural food and best taken in moderation.  Manuka honey is known to be good as are local honeys which can be helpful in dealing with hay fever.   Consuming too much sugar causes the body to use supplies of calcium, chromium and thiamin.  This is something I will need to watch as I do like some sweet things.  Besides, excess sugar leads to a whole load of other health problems.
  • White flour and white pasta products are also bad news, not that I generally go anywhere near these.
  • Don’t re-heat foods in plastic containers
  • Fried, burnt or smoked foods contain cancer causing chemicals.  This is all to do with Heterocyclic amies (HCA) apparently.

  • Good foods to enjoy
    • Nori flakes – a seaweed which helps eliminate metals which have accumulated in the body i.e. mercury or aluminium
    • Papaya, mango and pineapple – helpful in fighting against cancer cells
    • Garlic and onion – strengthens the immune system, amongst other benefits
    • Soya may help protect us from cancer and it’s suggested this is taken in the fermented form of tempeh, natto (not heard of this) or miso.
    • Generally eating more sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, spring greens, kale and shitake mushrooms (and these are best described as being an “acquired” taste)
    • Curcumin helps reduce the risk of gastric and pancreatic cancers
    • Water – to flush out the kidneys
    • Organic foods wherever practical to avoid unnecessary chemicals
    • Some foods are better eaten raw, others are nicer to enjoy if they are cooked.  Ideally steaming is best, then baking or boiling
    • Lycopenes, carotenoid are useful and found in tomatoes, carrots, apricots, cantaloupe melons and many other fruit or vegetables.  With tomatoes the goodness is more easily used by the body once cooked
    • Green or white tea as it contains a powerful antioxidant
    • Aim for 7 to 10 portions a day.  I easily achieve this and it was suggested I ought to increase my vegetable intake as I tend to eat a lot of fruit (about 6 or 7 portions a day, generally all different)
    • Co-enzyme Q10 is something I must find out more about
    • Selenium – a powerful antioxidant and I reckon my regular scoffing of Brazil nuts is helpful for this element
    I asked about post-exercise nutrition.  What, how long after and so on.  The advice is that we do need to take on some proteins and antioxidants after exercise.  This is where my liking of smoothies is useful and ideally we need to consume something within two hours of completing the cycle ride, run, work-out etc.

Running with the Leighton Buzzard Canoe Club

As I'm enjoying a week's annual leave from work, I have been able to have a run or a bike ride every day.  Unexpectedly I had TWO runs yesterday.  Furthermore my whole family went running!

You might have already clocked my youngest daughter, Hannah, has taken up kayaking and is really getting into it.  Now the clocks have changed to GMT a winter training programme has kicked in, supplementing the kayaking that takes place every Saturday morning.  So I said I'd take Hannah over to Linslade for the training and maybe join in.  Turned out Rachel wanted to come along, Becky too (eldest daughter).  Besides our friends Nettie and Charlie were going to be there too.

I had said to Hannah I would stick with her in whichever group she found herself in - there are two groups.  These were a faster/longer group and a slower/shorter group.  Hannah found herself pointed towards the faster/longer group and the others were with the slower/shorter group.

At 6:30om we were off!  The destination was a road name I didn't know and about 15 of us sped off into the night around Linslade; I didn't have a clue where we were going and I wasn't sure exactly what was going to be involved.  As a group we seemed to spread out quite quickly and everyone knew where they were going.  It was quite a fast pace but we kept up okay.  I should say this was a faster pace than I'm normally used to, especially in terms of getting warmed up but, I thought, "what the heck, let's just go for it".  The pace seemed to settle down as I was getting warmed up.

The interval training starts

We got to a residential area.  Reggie the coach explained we were all to run around the block as fast as we could; I think it was about half a mile, give or take a bit.  On getting back to the start we were to line up in the order we got back.  Next was to pair runners up, so the fastest was then paired with the slowest.  Then the second fastest with the second slowest.... and so on.

Hannah was paired with Nigel: grey haired, lean and fit looking.  I was paired with James, seriously fit looking.

The instructions then were this: run in opposite directions around the residential block with one jogging and the other going like the clappers.  When we met each other face-to-face we then "high 5'd" each other and turned to run back, switching from jogging to fast, or vice versa.  We were to do this five times.

This was great interval training i.e. fast and raising the heart and breathing rate for a few minutes, then settling down for a few minutes while jogging.  It was great!  I noticed that I was jogging slower than many - it was so tempting to go faster and I kept reminding myself of the instructions and the whole point of it all.  Naturally jogging for a few minutes brings my breathing and heart rate right down and then I could delight in run much faster for the next section.

It is just as well James was on-the-ball as I completely lost count of how many intervals we had done.  Once we had completed we reassembled ready to return to the Club House.  It was an opportunity to chat to both Reggie and James.  I asked James about his running, as it was obvious he was an accomplished runner and it was impressive to learn he had spent time running at 80 miles per week previously.  Eighty miles a week is seriously impressive but I guess there's a limit to how long that can be maintained for.

Fitting in with kayaking

I think LBCC are spot-on with their approach.  Being a good 'kayaker' or 'paddler' needs good all-round fitness and this is naturally of benefit anyway.  While the sport draws on upper body fitness, running and core based work all fits in and maintains good levels of fitness which is highly relevant for the kayakers.

It's also great to see such a wide cross section of club members - from youngsters right up to senior members with impressive levels of fitness.  They're a friendly bunch and it's nice getting to know them gradually.

I find myself wondering if I'm on the edge of getting drawn in to this new sport?  I wouldn't rule it out and there are real benefits from being a non-paddling member i.e. taking part in these training sessions.  You might have picked up already, I do like the opportunity to enjoy a nice 10 mile run on Saturday mornings and I do enjoy the "me" time as well.

Oh I should say Rachel, Becky, Nettie and Charlie enjoyed their session which was run on similar lines but on grass at a more gentle pace and shorter distances.

To sum up.... 

A nice club, nice company, nice atmosphere and nice to take part in this kind of group training.  I always find myself running faster with other people - and I know it's good for me!  An unexpected opportunity and one I thoroughly enjoyed. I guess we did around 5 miles.

Thanks to Reggie, James and everyone else at LBCC.  Here's their website: click here

Enforced fartlek training

Thursday, 13 November 2014

DW Sports - get your act together!

I had been thinking of re-joining my local DW Sports for the winter months; there are many advantages of doing this for us thrifty, keep-fit sporty types.  I have fairly positive memories of being a previous member at their well equipped place in downtown Dunstable.  It wasn't perfect but not bad at all.

So recently I got in touch to find out what the deal is.  They are more remote nowadays if you enquire on-line and end up giving your email address which then leads to spam.  Grrrrr.  I am unsubscribing from that.

I emailed the local club and said what I wanted - cost effective gym membership for a few months - what could they offer me?  No reply.  Poor show DW.

Instead Pay As U Gym looks pretty good.  I took the offer of a free trial session and then I have bought five prepaid sessions for November.  Simple - no 12 month contract and competitively priced too.  I will be bringing you a review on my experiences of this and the fitness club involved fairly soon.

Below I am listing some previous posts on DW.  The review is positive, the other posts paint a less rosy picture, especially of the store.  Please bear in mind these are a few years ago and apply to one individual store and fitness club - it might not be an accurate impression of what you'll find yourself and you will need to check it out and form your own opinion.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Latest training run with John

Today my friend John had his latest training run with me.  John is a new runner, normal weight and in his mid thirties.  Along with our mutual friend Nettie and her daughter, he's booked himself in on one of those army style obstacle course races lined up next year and is gradually getting ready for it.  So far we've had about 5 or 6 runs with a bit of of walking interspersed with normal sped running.

We do about 30 - 40 minutes, normally on a Wednesday evening, in the dark and head along the busway cycle track.  Today we both had a day off work (actually, I have a week off!) and we ran in glorious sunshine.  The air was cool, clean and clear, we could see for miles.  It was good, very good.  

Last time John's ruthless, relentless and mean trainer introduced a bit of interval training i.e. a few short bursts of faster running.  Today we did that by running up a hill and then up / down a couple of undulations.  I had already explained to John this is good training to do - raising the heart rate for a brief period and then walking afterwards to allow the heart rate to settle back down to normal.

Afterwards we got back to my house and I took John through a few stretches, which went okay.

Just to summarise where I think John, as a new runner, is and maybe this might be helpful for others:
  • So far John has been running once a week with me and has the opportunity to walk most days on his way to work.  This involves getting off the bus at an earlier stop and then has a brisk walk.  I think he could do with running more often,perhaps two or three times a week.
  • Concentrate on developing a regular routine in possibly becoming a life-long runner.
  • Don't worry about speed, this will come later.  This is a mistake many new runners make (I remember I did).
  • So far John hasn't reported any problems or injuries, although his upper leg / quad muscles have ached a little on the day after a run.  John needs to monitor this; chances are it'll go of its own accord
  • When John is gets tired and he walks instead of running.  This is okay but could try jogging instead of walking
  • Try stretching after a run, not before.  I took you through some stretches: hold them for 10-20 seconds and its important to back off if anything hurts
  • Don't run on consecutive days, resting is important
Top tips for intermediate runners
How often should I run?

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

300,000 page views

I have just noticed my latest stats and my blog just passing the 300,000 page views in the last few days.

To me it seems extraordinary how any of us can start blogging to a world wide audience quite easily.  Although there's nothing new in this with a huge number of blogs around, I still think it's amazing.

I have learnt quite a few things about blogging the hard way and I'm still learning!  One of the things that has surprised me has been how one or two posts have really taken off.  The most popular post has been Who would drive a black Range Rover which ironically was a bit of a "filler" post.  Having had almost 23,000 page views on its own, it is a reminder for me that bloggers need to take a little responsibility for their posts and be aware of unintended audiences.  I say this as the Range Rover post takes a bit of a swipe at the drivers of these cars and I suspect many of the readers might be owners of these cars, not runners or cyclists like me who might be a little intimated by Range Rovers.  Actually since that post I have encountered a few more of these and my opinions haven't changed.  I am, however, making an exception in favour of our friend Dave who has a black Range Rover and he's a very nice man.

The next most popular post is arguably less of a surprise as it is How to give up smoking in one easy step with over 21,000 hits, clearly fitting with my healthy living theme.  This is an account of how I started smoking several decades ago and more importantly, how I gave up.

From starting my blog the page view rate grew quite steadily and peaked in April 2012 with 19,996 page views in that month.  Since then it has declined and bobbing along at less than half the peak.

I like blogging!

Through blogging I have had a number of people leave comments and contact me directly.  This all adds depth and interest.  Sometimes people contact me for advice, asking direct questions which I happily answer.  Some people leave comments, which is nice and encouraging.  Here's sending a big 'thank you' to all my blog readers.