Wednesday 16 February 2011

I've found my miracle cure

So, another day, another run, another bout of calf/lower leg pain.  This is getting boring now and I really need to start proactively trying to fix it.  I must drink lots of water, eat the right food, stretch on the days I don't run....However, while I do all of these things (or not, as the case may be because I'm quite self-destructive sometimes) I have found a miracle cure to deal with the immediate pain.

Now, every runner must know the smell of Deep Heat.  When you're at a meet, it can be overpowering as apparently every runner uses it, and for me at least, it really is the smell that I associate with a race.  Unfortunately though, I can't use the stuff - the smell of it really irritates my lungs, and I can't breathe properly whenever it's sprayed near me, and I find the burning sensation it creates on the skin quite painful. As a result, I've never really thought about using any products to help with injuries, other than taking a paracetamol or ibuprofen.

My miracle cure!
Today though I remembered that stuffed in the back of my cupboard somewhere out of sight, was a can of Deep Freeze spray, which my mum bought me while I was preparing for my first marathon in 2008 but which I'd never used - I was going through a bit of a downer with an ankle injury and didn't think anything would ever help me recover and didn't want to try anything.  However, being in a bit more of a positive frame of mind these days, I decided it would be the perfect thing to try.  It essentially works by cooling your muscles, I suppose just like icing them - but is very quick, easy, and much more intense than any ice-pack I've ever used.  It was an amazing success.

The menthol smell is innocuous enough (a world away from Deep Heat) and it didn't set me off coughing or spluttering, so it cleared the first hurdle.  I used the spray very liberally for about 30 seconds, and it did feel like my legs were being frozen off for the next 5 minutes or so, but the beneficial effects were remarkable and rapid - I couldn't feel any pain any more (due to the numbness I guess!) my muscles felt much more relaxed, and even now, hours after application, I have much less tightness, hardly any pain and increased mobility in my ankles. Although I know I still need to treat the root cause of why my legs are cramping up so badly, using the Deep Freeze is definitely going to be a more regular thing for me....I might even buy some of the cream to give that a go, and maybe some of the little travel canisters that will fit in my waist bag so I can use it when I'm out on a run too!

Sunday 13 February 2011

Not another injury?!?

I went out for an easy 4 miles yesterday...and half way through started really suffering from terrible cramps in the back of both my lower legs and across the tops of my feet.  I tried to stretch out, to no avail, so ran through the pain, and as soon as I got home could do nothing other than lie in a hot bath.  Possibly not the best way of dealing with it, but it helped ease the pain, and stretching was making no difference.

This morning I was still experiencing the same pain, so, very worried that this was some issue related to my achilles injury that I thought I'd recovered from, I spent some time consulting Dr. Google to find out what might be wrong...and the conclusion I came to was that was probably a nutritional & hydration issue.

It seems that calf/lower leg cramps are very common amongst runners and other athletes, and are often caused by a mixture of dehydration, and a lack of potassium and magnesium.  As this has happened at the end of a week when we happened to run out of bananas in the fruit bowl, I've barely eaten any salad, and I know I've not been drinking enough, this sounds pretty likely!

So, I had a decent breakfast, including the all important, potassium rich banana, and more to drink that I usually have in a day, popped a multivitamin, as well as some ibuprofen & paracetamol, and an hour or so later headed out for my long run of the week.

A mile in, I still had a fair bit of pain, but stretched out again, and went on.  Amazingly, during the run, the pain definitely eased, and at the end of my 10 miles, the cramping has completely gone, and now I'm not in any pain at all.  I really need to be so careful with my diet and hydration, particularly as my mileage increases as the marathon draws nearer - something so simple can make such a big (painful!) difference.

Saturday 12 February 2011

It's feels like Groundhog day....

Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day
It's a getting a bit predictable...

The alarm rings at 5.30am. I get up, have some cereal for breakfast, go for a run/do some exercise, update blog, twitter & facebook, have a yoghurt & banana, leave for the station, spend the day at work, come home again, log-on to the internet, have dinner, fall asleep in front of the tv by 10.30pm.  

Or alternatively,  

The alarm rings at 5.30am. I turn the alarm off and oversleep, eventually wake up & rush around getting ready for work, run for the train. Spend the day at work, come home, have dinner, check-in on blog, twitter and facebook, go out for a run at 10pm, go to bed at gone midnight.

Obviously this isn't all I do, and my boyfriend and I do go out, have fun, friends come over, etc etc...However, I am feeling a bit bored by the routine, maybe I need to throw something different in there, like taking up ice-hockey, or judo, some totally random new hobby...or maybe I just need a holiday! ;)

Wednesday 9 February 2011

...and that guy's name was Pheidippides

This is a sticker you can buy from Cafe Press The slogan made me laugh....I must have said these things a thousand times to people!

Cafe Press have loads of cool stuff, and I could spend a fortune there on clothes, mugs, posters and all sorts of other things that I don't really need, all emblazoned with running slogans (although I always hope that I'll get given them for gifts instead!)... Think I must be really quite sad ;)

Monday 7 February 2011

Get fit like a Royal Marine...or something...

I saw an advert last night for the Royal Marine Commandos- apparently the Army is recruiting.  For some reason (great marketing technique?) the advert led to me check out their website...and I came across their Get Fit to Apply page  You've got to be really fit before it's even worth sending off an application form to join the Green Berets...these guys are absolutely something else and to be in with a chance of being selected for training, you have you prove that you've got what it take...but to help people get to that stage, the Army offer loads of really useful exercise advice on their website.

I may have had an inclination to join the TA once upon a time in my teens, but I'm certainly not planning on applying for the Marines!  However, their exercise information is really well put together, and they've got a suggested, generic, circuit training plan based just on resistance exercises, and also one that they will personalise for you depending on you current fitness level including cardio training. I thought I might just be able to use some of the information to help me build the core fitness/strength that running alone doesn't seem to have given me.

So, I delved a bit deeper and there are easy to follow, simple videos (using a very fit, vest-clad marine doing the exercise) and detailed instructions for how to do warm up stretches and the exercises included in the circuit training, and it's all very straight forward. In fact I was a bit inspired by the whole thing, so this morning, I did one of the generic circuits.  It nearly killed me, and I couldn't do all of it, but think I may well start doing this on the days that I'm not running, particularly as I seem to have got bored with the gym recently.

So, if you're looking for some information about exactly how you should be doing those exercises that just don't seem to be working, or need an idea for a challenging circuit training plan that doesn't need any equipment other than yourself, or just some well put together health and fitness advice, this would be a really good place to start!

Sunday 6 February 2011

Speed pace or easy pace, it's just not my pace

I've had a pretty easy week - it was intentional to ensure I'd recovered from my Achilles problem - and I've only done 20 miles, finishing with just under 7 miles for my "long run".  It was a great run though - one of those really enjoyable ones, that make you remember why you enjoy being a runner, and that you're not just in it for the medals ;)

However...the long run of the week is meant to be slow, and easy!  I keep making the mistake that apparently many runners make, and run all of my runs at pretty much the same pace.  I do try and make sure that when I'm doing intervals I run a big faster on the fast sections, but it's all a bit hit and miss...and I think it's probably holding me back, and stopping me from improving.

On the Runner's World website there's a really cool training pace calculator.  I've used it loads of times before but have never paid a huge amount of attention, and while I've read lots of articles about training pace, I still keep ignoring the advice which always seems to be the same - run long and slow for the majority of your training, always include very fast interval/speed training, and run your tempo run at your expected race pace.  Everyone says that without varying the pace of your runs, quite simply you will never push your body, and improve your times.  I know that running the long runs at easy pace helps build skeletal and muscle strength, but more importantly (especially bearing in mind I'm trying to lose weight) it also encourages your body to efficiently burn fat as fuel, rather than carbs...which is also really important in the marathon as when you've run out of carbs at about mile 20 your body needs to be used to burning fat and be able to quickly switch! You'd think this would be enough to slow me down on those Sunday outings!

Anyway, after completing the training pace calculator, apparently my easy runs should be at least 10.40 mins/mile, I should be hitting 9.02 mins/mile for my tempo run, and an incredible 7.33 mins/mile for my fast runs, which is much much faster than I ever train, and bearing in mind I ran my easy run today at 9.20 pace, I'm clearly not doing it right...I really must start training a bit more scientifically!

Thursday 3 February 2011

Package from Amazon

I'm a bit of a book fiend and read all the time, but I've been particularly excited about my most recent purchase, "Once a Runner" by John L Parker.  By all accounts it's a bit of a legendary running book, and after enjoying "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall so much I wanted to read another one.

So, Once a Runner arrived last night and I started reading it this morning...have only got a short way into it but loving it so far.  I don't think it'll be as important to me as Born to Run, which I've still got on my bedside table, but I find reading books about running incredibly motivational, and really recommend it :)

Wednesday 2 February 2011

Today will be the day...again

Well this healthy eating, food for fuel idea that I had really isn't going well.  I've put on another four lbs in the last two and a half weeks.  It is amazing just how good I am at putting on weight :( 

I can use all the excuses in the world about being injured and not being able to run, but nothing changes the fact that I binge, and eat too much food that has too high a fat content.  I just don't seem to be able to get started....and stick to...this weight loss/healthy eating element of my running lifestyle, although I know it will make a really positive difference to my pace and how I feel about myself.  I keep promising myself that today will be the day, this week will be the week...even though it doesn't seem to happen...but I wont give up, and today, I will try again to eat normally.  

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Daily Mile = awesome

I've discovered Daily Mile which really does seem like a fantastic tool for recording my marathon training and keeping my running logs up to date - it even automatically links to my Garmin watch, and below is an example of one of their blogger widgets.

If you've not seen it yet, well worth checking it out.  It's everything I need in one place, and gives me a tool to track my races, daily, weekly, monthly and annual training, the map of my routes and even more, all with a really cool and intuitive interface.  Perfect :)

I can call myself a runner again

I have not been a good patient.  Being injured and unable to run for a couple of weeks has been awful - I didn't realise how much it would affect me, upset me, and make me question the persona that I have now created for myself as "a runner".  I know that everyone gets injured, and just because I've not been running it doesn't change who I am, but in an illogical way, I felt like it was just me alone sitting on a sofa RICEing my leg, while my training plan slipped though my fingers - I stopped blogging, ignored twitter, couldn't bear to read my Runners World and no doubt have put on half a stone (although I wouldn't actually know as I'm still a bit scared to jump on the scales again) with all the junk food I was eating.

But now my leg is better! :D

It's taken a few days of being without pain to feel like I'm mended but this morning I went for my first run since injuring my Achilles, and it was fantastic.

The runner's high I think they call it...although I'm sure I wasn't going fast enough to really achieve that as I took it very easily...but whatever it was, I felt like me again.  I'm back on track, and can't wait to pull my trainers again and get back out there for the next training run.