Saturday, 30 June 2012

Map My Run+ App

I love my Garmin GPS watch, as you can tell by my glowing review earlier on. However recently I have started to become annoyed by him. The battery has been playing up (only lasting an hour at a time) and it takes a long time to find the satelites, which results in me standing around like a prat for 10 mins before I start a run.

So, given what happened on marathon relay day when I had to quickly download the Runkeeper app for my phone and realised I really liked it, I have since flirted with the idea of selling my watch and using my iphone as my main running tool...controversial eh?

Runkeeper is ace, but nowhere near as ace as Mapmyrun+, a fantastic app filled with features. I donwloaded it last night and had a wee play about, so thought I would share my thoughts incase you too were looking for an inexpensive way to log your runs.

Firstly, there are two versions, one is free but doesn't have ipod controls built in and is filled with ads, so I opted for a blind testing of the mapmyrun+ app for only 69p.

Before having a fancy GPS watch i used map my run all the time to figure out how far I had ran, and I realy like the functionality of the site. So when I saw the app I already had a good idea it would be of a decent standard.

The app is laid out incredibly clearly and has some amazing functions. The main function is "recording" your runs which tracks your progress in real time. You can set this up to give you prompts as to your pace,distance, time etc. at any given interval, I like this about the Runkeeper app and found it allowed me to enjoy the run more rather than constantly looking at my watch.

They have a cool, and possibly slightly creepy feature, which is "Live Tracking". This brings up a map and shows where you are on the map in real time. This is cool because you can also sync it to twitter so it tweets a link to a live map so people can watch your progress...Live! That's exciting, so the lovely Chars will know where I am on my run home without having to call me so she can get the dinner on (I am joking of course, but you get the idea).

There is also a brilliant Routes section of the app where you can store your routes, but even cooler than that, you can check for nearby tried and tested routes based on your location. So if you are somewhere unfamiliar, check this section and you will have a wealth of information on where to go for a run.

The nutrition section of the app is great too. I know a lot of people are using My Fitness Pal app where you can log your foods and count calories, but Mapmyrun+ has this built in and syncs with your runs giving you a more accurate description of your calorie expenditure for a day.

I know it is early days but I think this app is great and I would strongly recommend it to anyone looking to get started with running. It will give you tonnes of information and if you are a stat/tech geek like me, you will love following your progress.

Let me know if you have tried it or indeed if you have found a better running app, would love to know your thoughts.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Why do I run?

Sometimes, when I tell people I have just been out for a long run or that I got up at 6am for a nice early morning 5k , people say "Jude, you are crazy" (or other variations of the same thing). So I thought I would write a little bit about the benefits of running and why I enjoy it so much.

Health benefits

Its painfully obvious that running is good for your health. It is a great way to get fit and loose weight, this much is common knowledge, but running also has all of these benefits too:

  • lowers blood pressure
  • reduces resting pulse
  • reduces cholestorol levels
  • Improves cardiovasular fitness
  • increases strength in bones anreduces risk of osteporosis
  • Strengthens connective tissues and joints, reducing injury risk.
  • higher energy consumption (i.e. you will burn more calories and reduce body fat percentage)
  • Reduced risk of insulin resistance - Type 2 diabetes.
Healthy body = Healthy mind

Have you ever felt after excercise that you are in a great mood, you feel great and energised. Well all of the above combine to make you generally feel more positive. Its no surprise that by treating your body right and improving your general fitness that you will feel good mentally too. Long distance running releases endorphines which contribute to the phenomenon known as "runner's high" which is when you feel euphoric after or during a run. Trust me, this is a real thing, I have felt it. Everything feels great, you feel you could run forever, and you can't stop smiling (note - I know that sound ridiculously cheesy). However it is possible to become addicted to this endorphine release and this is probably why so many runners continue to put themselves through the pain and strain.

It's Free

I am a cheapskate, so the fact that running is essentially free is a big plus point for me. All you really need is something to wear on your feet (although what you should wear is hotly contested at the moment). I would also reccommend wearing some sort of clothing (to avoid being arrested), but nothing special is needed, just shorts and t-shirt.

It's Fun
I really enjoy the thrill of trying to become faster, working out a training schedule that will result in my times falling. Competing in races is great too. When you are running in a big event with thousands of other people it really gets the adrenaline pumping.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Barefoot Running Evening - Run and Become

Last week my lovely mother gave me a leaflet for a Barefoot Running Clinic taking place at Run and Become in Edinburgh. After reading Born to Run I was dead keen on finding out more about barefoot running, so this was perfect! Thanks Mum!

I booked my place and excitedly went along to the shop. The session was led by Matt Wallden, who is the UK distributor of Vibram Five fingers, those funny looking thin running shoes that have space for your toes.

The first part of the evening was Matt giving a lecture/presentation on the benefits of running barefoot and the perils of running with heavily cushioned running shoes. Now, throughout the evening I couldn't help but think "This guy sells Vibram Fivefingers, and coincidentally they are also the best possible thing for you to run in"! But with the cynicism to one side, the presentation and the points he made were extremely persuasive. The key points I took from this are as follows:
  • Humans are the only Animal on earth that wear shoes (and yes I know horses do but that's because we put them there).
  • Padded, supportive shoes have only been around since the 70's when Nike invented them. What were we doing beforehand? Running in a minimalist style.
  • Your body has anti-pronation muscles, which cannot be engaged as effectively with big supportive running shoes on.
  • Running barefoot will encourage forefoot running as opposed to heel striking. Hell striking ever step is an inefficient way of running and will increase the risk of injury. Try jumping up and down landing on your toes and forefoot, then try jumping up and down landing on your heels, you will see what I mean.
  • Oxygen consumption is at least 4% less in five fingers than when wearing running shoes! So in terms of running economy there is a clear winner! 
There really was so much, and so many statistic s and figures that I would not do it justice, but the main point was, running with shoes is bad, running barefoot or minimalist is good.

One of the points he made that stuck in my mind was the construction of an arch, and how engineers have tried to replicate the arch found on the foot. Of course by design, arches can support huge amounts of weight (think of a bridge). There are several ways of supporting an arch, but one thing that would never happen would be to support an arch from below, as this jeopardises the strength of the construction. However this is exactly what we are doing with arch-supportive shoes.

Another interesting point he made was that barefoot/minimal running has now taken 25% of the market share. It clearly is not a flash in the pan fad!

The second part of the evening was practical sessions out on the Street. Matt watched our running style and tried to give us tips on how to make the transition to barefoot. I was part of the group of inefficient runners, because I run with a lot of power in each stride. He said this is what makes us fast at short distance running but for longer distances we are not running to our potential. He encouraged a quicker turnover of feet, and suggested at running at 180 BPM. This felt very odd, but the theory is, that using less power per stride, and relying on the elasticity of my feet and legs to propel me forward will mean I can go further and faster.

The evening actually blew my mind! I am a complete convert and will buy a pair of barefoot shoes as soon as I can. The one thing is the shoes are quite expensive, however the provide excellent value as they can keep you going for about 3000 miles, compared to 500-800 miles which is recommended for a normal pair of trainers.

Yes I will look weird, and yes it will take a long time to fully convert, but I am up for the challenge and hopefully it will help my running style. Keep checking back for progress.

Monday, 18 June 2012

First run after accident

Map of my run
 If you follow me on twitter or are just my pal, you will probably know that I had a horrible mountain bike crash 2 weeks ago, that resulted in a) a funny/embarrassing story and b) an injury that prevented me running for a while.

This is not the story of that injury (too soon for that). But I wanted to write a bit about my first run since being injured.

As I say, I was unable to run for about 2 weeks, which is a long time considering I was running 4 times a week before "the accident". In the 2 weeks off, despite working hard on maintaining core strength, I did very little cardio as it was just too sore.

Not sure if anyone else has experienced this, but not being able to run or do any sport had such an effect on my every day life. I was turning in to such a grumpy bugger. I was irritable, I couldn't sleep, I kept waking up feeling rubbish with a sore head - and I think this is directly related to not being able to run.

So the day came on Sunday where I felt I was well enough to try and run. It was a horrible rainy day, which I love for running, and I set off out towards with the mind of doing a short loop out to Edinburgh airport.

Throughout the run I felt sluggish and unfit, my pace was much slower than usual, but it was such a boost mentally and when I came back home after a nice and easy 7k I felt rejuvenated. I slept really well and woke up this morning feeling fantastic. It is incredible how much of a possitive influence running can have on the way you feel.

Immediately after stopping however, I felt a strain in my left foot. I have had this before and I think it's a result of doing too much too soon. This has been a bit of a disappointment as I don't think I will be able to run for a few days! Doh!

So, please learn from my mistakes. If you have been injured don't try and run a long distance right away. 7k is nothing, I know, but after injury it has proved to be too much. So just be careful, because there's nothing worse than setting yourself back even further.

The positive I can take from this however, is that even with my sore foot I can get out on the bike, so all is not lost! I will be fighting fit again soon.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Born To Run - by Christopher Mcdougall

Whenever you do a search for "Running Books" or "Books about Running", the fantastic “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen" always comes top of the list. Eventually, I had enough of people telling me how great the book was, and I decided to see for myself.

I also really wanted to test out the kindle app on my Ipad, so thought it was perfect timing (reading on the Kindle app is great by the way).

The book essentially tells the story of  how humans are a species, were "Born to Run". It has a fascinating chapter on how Running was a vital part of our eveloution, and makes us who we are today. It really is fascinating and has some wonderful stories about the reclusive tribe the Tarahumara, some of the worlds best ultrarunners and amazing races.

The book adresses the question of running and how modern running technology has played a part in making us more injury prone, inefficient runners. Born to Run has inspired me to pursue minimalist running, and I will be posting about this in the weeks to come. I am actually going to attend a barefoot clinic at my local running shop in Edinburgh, if you are from these part you should check it out too.

I thoroughly recommend this to any body who is interested in running. I would even recommend it to those of you who are not, as after reading it, you will be!

I would love to hear what you thought about the book. Have you been converted to running barefoot? Do you now eat, sleep and run like the tarahumara?

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Chia seeds - Food of the (Running) Gods

Chritopher Mcdougall's excellent book 'Born to Run' talks about a miracle food, that has left me confused, excited, sceptical and hungry, all at once. This super food is the Chia seed, an ancient Aztec food that packs such a high nutritional punch that it provides enough energy for endurance runners to keep going on little else.

I wanted to put forward some of the key benefits for you to have a read over, there are tonnes of benefits out there, this really does seem like a miracle food.

The nutritional make up of the seed speaks for itself really. Tonnes of protein, fibre, calcium, omega-3 make it a runners best friend for obvious reasons, but I will explore this in a bit more detail.

The Protein in the Chia seed is fantastic for athletes, because every time you go out for a run, you are putting tiny wears and tears in your muscles. In order for this tissue to reform and grow, you need a source of protein. High Protein content in your diet will also mean you feel fuller for longer, great if you are trying to maintain a healthy diet.

Chia seeds are high in dietary fibre, which again make you feel fuller for longer. Fibre is also great for lowering cholesterol. Fibre is a vital element of a healthy diet, so the fact that Chia seeds are stocked full of the stuff is great.

Chia seeds have a lot of calcium, great for runners as it helps build up strong bones. This is essential for people who do a lot of running, as you put a lot of strain on your legs. We dont want broken/sore bones, so calcium is essential! The other cool thing about Chia is that it contains the mineral boron. Boron acts as a catalyst which speeds up and increases the way calcium is absorbed in to the body. Antoher great plu point of Chia!

The seeds are also full of Omega 3 - these fatty acids are great for runners because they give you a healthy Heart. They reduce inflammation and swelling (meaning your muscles will not be as sore after long runs). Omega 3 has also been linked to a healthier brain, and has been said to increase focus, meaning you can stay motivated and focused on your running goals!

oooo Chia - is there anything you can't do? It would appear not!

Once digested, Chia acts as a barrier between carbs and the enzymes that break them down. This is really cool because it effectively slows the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar, meaning you will feel fuller for longer, and your carbs will be released as energy slower. Great for runners. Also great for Diabetics!

These tlitte miracle workers also absorb up to 12 times there weight in water. This means that they make for a perfect source of slow release energy, keep you hydrated and energised throughout your long run. If you mix Chia seeds in water, give it a stir and leave for 10 minutes, it will form a jelly like substance. If you add some lime juice to this and knock it back, you will be drinking something very similar to the Iskiate drink that the Tharahumara tribe drink, the Tharahumara are the subject of the book 'Born to Run'. These are the guys who are dubbed as being some of the best distance runners in the world, and this is what fuels them.

I don't know about you, but I am ready to try some Chia seeds and see if I turn in to a super athlete too - can't do any harm...can it?

If you are already eating these seeds in your diet, let me know. Has it affected your performance at all? Is this all just a big joke? Why do we all not eat these every day at every meal?
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