A light-hearted look at running, cycling and general fitness. JogBlog provides novice runners with a starting point to get them to make achievable running goals, while providing the tips, inspiration and advice that they need to push themselves.
Smoking has many dangers attached to it, including the habit heightening your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Tobacco smoke’s ingredients can also cause significant damage inside a person’s body.
Many of these issues can take some time to develop to the point where they become noticeable though — in fact, some problems may never be seen. What is noticeable though is that smoking can have huge effects on a person’s appearance, which will be evident to both the individual themselves and others around them.
Nicotinell, which has various products and advice available to help people to stop smoking, looks into the effects in more detail
Effects on a person’s eyes
Sometimes referred to as crow’s feet, wrinkles around the outside of your eyes will be noticeable to everyone at some point in their lives. However, they develop earlier and go deeper when you smoke due to the heat from lit cigarettes and also as a result of a smoker squinting in an attempt to keep smoke out of their eyes.
Bags under your eyes could also appear more frequently. In fact, a study by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine previously suggested that those who smoke cigarettes are four times more likely to report feeling unrested after a night’s sleep than non-smokers. The study, which involved the analysis of the sleep architecture of 40 smokers and a matched group of 40 nonsmokers who all undertook home polysomnography, also suggested that smokers spend less time in a deep sleep than non-smokers.
“It is possible that smoking has time-dependent effects across the sleep period,” points out Naresh M. Punjabi, MD, PhD, FCCP, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD and the study’s author. “Smokers commonly experience difficulty falling asleep due to the stimulating effects of nicotine. As night evolves, withdrawal from nicotine may further contribute to sleep disturbance.”
Effects on a person’s skin
One particularly important point that should be noted about smoking is that the habit will reduce the amount of oxygen and nutrients that can get to a person’s skin. The result of this is that skin will begin to age more quickly, and exhibit a dull and grey appearance. Premature aging of your skin by between 10 and 20 years will also occur from smoking.
Nicotine causes vasoconstriction too — a condition that narrows blood vessels and thus limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the tiny vessels located around a person’s face and other parts of their body. The problem of this condition will be seen if you suffer a wound, as vasoconstriction will take it longer to heal and result in scars appearing bigger and redder than those who aren’t affected by the condition.
On top of this, a lot of the 4,000 chemicals which make up tobacco smoke damage the body’s collagen and elastin. These are fibres required to give skin its strength and elasticity — lose them and sagging skin and deeper wrinkles will be the consequence, which will be seen especially around the inner arms, breasts and face.
Be aware of smoker’s pucker as well. This is an occurrence that comes about as smokers use certain muscles around their lips which cause dynamic wrinkles to appear. Combined with a loss of elasticity to the skin, the result will be deep lines around the lips.
Effects on a person’s hair
It might actually be best to refer to the last heading as ‘effects on a person’s lack of hair’. This is because hair grows from sac-like structures found underneath the scalp called follicles. However, these need oxygen, essential nutrients and vitamins/minerals in order to function correctly and trigger natural hair growth but, as previously discussed, smoking reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that get to your skin.
When follicles cannot function properly, the result is the normal hair growth and loss cycle becomes disrupted and hair will thin and eventually be lost.
In a study conducted by a researcher at Brigham University in the United States, it was reported that people who live an unhealthy lifestyle, including unhealthy diets, were 66% more likely to report productivity loss than those who lived by a healthy lifestyle. Exercise is also said to release endorphins which can have positive psychological effects, such as a ‘euphoric high’. But what is it that leads to a productivity boost? MaxiMuscle investigate:
Of course, the physical benefits of a healthy lifestyle are clear – and easy to highlight because you can see them! Following a clean eating diet and a strict workout regime will keep you in shape, and help your body work towards a healthy, toned and defined body.
Diet is important! When losing weight and toning up, many professionals tell you that the results you see come from 80% diet and 20% exercise. Count your calories, and stick to the main macronutrients of carbohydrates, protein and essential fats. Carbohydrates are our main source of energy, and without energy, our productivity is limited. Protein also provides the body with energy, but is also the building blocks of muscle, bone, skin and blood. Protein is what helps your muscles repair following a workout. Dietary fats are required to provide the body energy and support cell growth – it is important to eat the right fats – too much fatty foods will result in weight gain.
Exercising is different to dieting. The physical benefits of exercising are apparent during exercise and after. The more you exercise, the better your fitness levels become — meaning you can exercise for longer. Following exercise, you might begin to see the results of hitting your fitness goals with defined muscles, six packs and toned booties. However, exercising, whilst it can release endorphins, also burns calories and takes up a lot of energy so it is vital that you fuel for a workout so that your performance and productivity is not limited. Many gym goers have protein power or shakes before a workout for an added energy boost.
The majority of people who exercise and eat well only consider the physical benefits behind it – as discussed, the toned physique and controlled bodyweight, but there are many emotional benefits that come with a healthy lifestyle too. Many people have reported that exercise helps to reduce stress improve sleep, boost self-esteem and ward off depression and anxiety. This could be down to a release of endorphins during exercise. Endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain, whilst triggering a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.
Endorphins can help bring about feelings of euphoria and general well-being. But how does this effect productivity? Your frame of mind significantly effects how productive you are. Researchers from the Penn State University found in their study that the more physically active people reported greater general feelings of excitement and enthusiasm, compared with the less physically active people. Further research by the Harvard Business Review revealed that feeling calm, happy and energised were the main three influential feelings that drove the greatest levels of performance – showing a clear link between frame of mind and productivity.
So, if exercise and a healthy eating promote a release of endorphins and provide your body with more energy, which is turn prompts a euphoric and positive feeling in the body, then surely the positive effects of a healthy lifestyle can be linked to productivity.
Did you wake up in the new year and think dammit, I have no friends except the ones who live inside my computer/phone/tablet/other screen-based thing so I should really stop being such a billy-no-mates-anti-social-hermit who spends the entire day checking how many likes I got on my latest selfie and get out of the house and talk to people in real life instead?
No? Okay, this post isn’t for you then and you are welcome to leave.
The rest of you though, here’s a new app you might be interested in. It’s called Pal and – guess what – it’s where you can find some new pals.
Pal asked me to review their app and, as I moved to Folkestone a few months ago and am a billy-no-mates-anti-social-hermit, I thought I’d give it a go and see if there was anyone to go cycling or walking with.
Creating a profile is simple enough – you register with your email address and give details such as your date of birth, location, occupation and interests. There are plenty of categories of interests to choose from and in each category are sub-categories. I picked the sport category and sub-categories of cycling, gym, mountain bike, running and walking (although I can’t think of anything worse than having a gym buddy. I don’t want to talk to anyone when I’m at the gym and I want to shoot people who talk in the gym unless they’re crying out for help because they’re trapped in the abs machine or something) but you can choose other categories such as food/shopping/music/cinema/travel, etc.
The app also asks you your gender but only gives the option of male and female which will undoubtedly annoy people who identify as neither, then the app will further annoy them by asking if they’re straight or gay.
Then you’re asked to write a bit about yourself and I put in I’m new to Folkestone and would like some cycling/walking buddies (I left out the billy-no-mates-anti-social-hermit bit).
The last bit to tell the app before you can start having a nose is to tell it what language you speak and who you’ll allow it to find you – women/men/couples/groups.
That’s your profile done, so then you press ‘Go’ and off you go and find some friends to hang out with.
You can search for any activity you fancy doing or leave it at the default of ‘all’ and just see who’s up to what. I left my search on ‘all’ but asked it to find me things within 10km of Folkestone. You can also tell it what time of day you want to do something, set a budget and a skill level of beginner, advanced or professional (professional drinking? I’m up for that!) and also narrow down the type of person with regard to gender/identity/age/location/common interests and languages.
I clicked ‘Go’ and looked to see who my new local friends were but there was no one. Ah, still poor old billy-no-mates-anti-social-hermit. Still, Folkestone is a small town and this is a new app so I cast my net wider and got the profile* of Mo, 36, in Canterbury who liked shopping and extreme sports.
As I’m not into extreme shopping, I changed my interests to cycling and got Gilbert in Sevenoaks but Sevenoaks is a bit far away so I changed the age range to 35-60, added walking and got Richard, 42, in Eastbourne whose profile said he wanted to hang out for coffee, hiking, watersports and watching live bands.
Hmm, so, although there were people in the same county as me, no one had planned any activities, which is what I was looking for. They must all be hiding in London, I reckoned, so I changed my location to London, changed the activities to ‘all’, specified an age range of 25-50 and Melvin, 36, popped up with a cinema trip planned for 12 January. He didn’t say what film he wanted to see though so, if you fancy going to the cinema on 12 January and need someone to go with, Melvin’s your man.
I played around with it a bit more but couldn’t find any more activities, not even in London. You can of course add your own activity to the app and hope people find you and come along.
Pal is in its infancy but when more people join the app and start using it to its full potential, I can see it will be a great way to make new local friends with similar interests or find people to hang out with if you’re away from home for a few days and at a loose end.
Everyone knows how good exercise is for you – whether it’s for energy, weight loss/control, mental health or just a general feeling of well-being spiritually and emotionally, but did you know exercise is good for your eye health too? No, me neither (especially as I only started wearing glasses after starting running but that’s probably just an age thing and not an exercise thing) but Vision Direct do and they told me:
your eyes receive the same benefit as the rest of your body when you exercise;
there are connections between those who regularly exercise and a reduced chance of developing cataracts, wet aged-related macular degeneration and glaucoma;
eye disease is linked to health problems such as high cholesterol levels, diabetes and high blood pressure. Exercise limits these problems from happening;
moderate physical exercise such as going for a walk three times a week has been known to lower your intraocular pressure (IOP) and improve blood flow to the retina and optic nerve;
those who exercise regularly are 70% less likely to develop wet age-related macular degeneration compared to those who lead sedentary lifestyles;
you don’t have to run a marathon to see the benefits. You can do low-impact exercise such as cycling, walking or climbing the stairs to improve your eye health.
Don’t rely on exercise to keep your eyes in good health though – remember to keep up to date with your eye tests with your optician as they’re not just there to check your vision and to see if you need new/any glasses: while they’re peering into your eyes and making you jump with that blowing-out-a-puff-of-air machine, they can see if there’s anything worth checking out further with your doctor. I know this from experience as, a few years ago, after I’d had my two-yearly eye test, my optician wouldn’t let me have my prescription until I’d had a blood test at my doctor’s. The optician gave me a letter which I duly trotted down with to my doctor and had my first ever blood test (I wasn’t scared at all. Okay, I was totally scared and I didn’t even get a lolly for being brave, bah). Everything thankfully was fine but the moral of this story is that to keep your eyes in good health, exercise regularly and keep your eye tests up to date.
To keep your health even more in tip-top condition, if you do wear glasses, it’s probably a good idea to wear them (or contact lenses) when you’re out running, cycling or walking so you can see cars coming when you cross the road and make the likelihood of getting run over much smaller.
Even if you’re running every day, some gear rotation is a good idea. You’ll likely use different kinds of gear depending on the time of year, and may also simply fancy a change now and then. Putting gear you’re not using into storage helps preserve it for future use, and gives you the option to ring the changes without keeping unused items in closets.
Have a Clear Out
If you haven’t worn an item of running gear for a year, chances are you don’t need it. There’s no point storing things you know you won’t wear again, so be a bit ruthless.
Inspect kit for damage or wear, and resist the temptation to hold on to things that are past their best. You won’t feel comfortable in them anyway, and if you’re conscious of your clothing or you’re worried something might fall apart mid-run, you can’t focus on what you’re doing.
Having narrowed your gear down to the items you know you want, the next step is preparing gear for storage. Give everything a thorough clean.
Paying attention to washing labels and instructions, run everything through the washing machine and make sure it’s completely dry before storing. Damp clothes in boxes will slowly ruin. Avoid ironing anything. Not much running gear needs ironing, but if you wear cotton items you’d normally iron, save that chore for when you retrieve items from storage. Ironing can actually weaken fibres and may make clothes tear along the creases over the long term.
Cleaning running shoes – clean off mud and debris as any left on can weaken fabric fibres. It may be tempting to throw them in the washing machine but don’t as the detergent and heat can cause damage. If they’re really filthy, scrubbing with a small brush (try a toothbrush) and warm water should lift the worst of the dirt. Let them dry at room temperature. Stuffing with newspaper can help wick away excess moisture.
Waterproof jackets – you don’t want to over wash them as this can affect how waterproof the fabric stays, but they need some gentle cleaning. Do up the zips and close any flaps before washing. Choose a detergent formulated for waterproof fabrics and wash on a gentle, warm wash. Always check the label before tumble drying, but it will probably be okay. The heat from tumbling reactivates many water repellent materials.
Don’t forget water bladders – without thorough cleaning, bacteria can quickly build up inside water containers. A couple of tablespoons of baking powder in warm water works well. Give it a good shake and let it sit for around half an hour, then rinse thoroughly. Let it dry out completely before storing. A sneaky alternative is to store it in the freezer, if you have room. No bacteria will grow inside a frozen container.
Choosing Containers and Correct Packing
Plastic storage tubs are brilliant. You can see what’s inside, they stack securely and are light and sturdy. They offer excellent protection, but for extra security you could add layers of acid-free tissue paper between items.
When space is tight, rolled clothes take up less space than folded ones. No matter how tight your space is, avoid over packing boxes, and place heavier items at the bottom. Use separate shoe boxes for trainers and running shoes.
Locations for Storage
If you’re storing running gear at home, make sure your space is clean and damp free. Pests and moisture are the enemies of anything put into storage.
When space for storage is tight, self storage is a viable option. There are smaller lockers as well as entire rooms, so you can tailor your space exactly to your needs. Plus, short contracts mean you’re not tied in for longer than you want.
Good quality running gear isn’t cheap. Look after it, have a variety of items to give some a rest now and then, and your kit will give many running miles of good service.
Feet are ugly. No one has nice feet, it’s just a fact of life and especially for runners with all we put them through, but it’s possible to get them slightly less minging, especially if you’re going to be wearing sandals or (shudder) flip flops during the warmer months.
My feet are especially minging and I didn’t get to wear sandals at all last year and not just because of the hard skin (which I keep hidden in sandals that cover most of my feet anyway) but because, like a lot of people who run or walk a lot, I wasn’t in possession of a full set of toenails and if no one wants to see feet anyway, they definitely don’t want to see ones with toenails missing.
The main irritation about my feet though is the incessant hard skin on the side of my big toes and on the bumpy bit (possibly not the scientific term) on the side of the foot. This is possibly hereditary as I have a clear memory of my mum sitting in the front room on a Sunday night cutting hard skin off her feet with nail scissors (yeah, yuk, tell me about it).
Although I’ve never gone that far, I’ve used a pumice stone (a budgie would have got more use out of it as it was akin to rubbing a smooth pebble on my foot and made absolutely fuck all difference and I’d have been better off letting a budgie nibble my feet, ‘coz at least that might have been quite a nice sensation), foot files I thought would be coarse enough (they weren’t), a sandpaper block (probably should have used a less fine grade), a metal foot grater type thing (that didn’t do a bad job, to be fair) and I even went to a chiropodist to pay him to scalpel away all the hard skin but I was left disappointed (he said he couldn’t chisel away any more skin as it’d get sore. I didn’t care, dammit – I wanted that hard skin gone, but he said if I wanted to pay someone to torture me I could probably find someone advertising that kind of thing in the window of the local newsagent).
The only things I hadn’t tried were that fish pedicure thing, as I thought that was mean to the fish, and an electronic foot file. I’ve been eyeing up electronic foot files for years because my reckoning was they’re electronic and must be made for industrial-strength hard skin, yeah? Well, Superdrug gave me the chance to find out when they recently sent me details of their new foot care range which included YEE HA an electronic foot file. Yeah man, bring it on!
The Rapid-Pedi Electronic Foot File is, um, an electronic foot file. It kind of looks like what I remember old-fashioned Lady Shaves looking like (they could still well make electric shavers for women for all I know. I have no idea. I’ve been using the same cheapy razor for about five years) but instead of metal turny things (possibly not the scientific term) that rips hairs out of your legs, it has a coarse roller that files away the hard skin on your feet.
It comes with a fine grain roller in pink (because pink is for girls and girls are soft) and a coarse grain one in blue (because blue is for boys and boys are hard) and all you need to do is click the roller in place, press the safety button and slide the switch up and roll the foot file over your hard bits (yes, I’m still talking about feet, thank you). It also comes with two AA batteries, a cleaning brush and an instruction leaflet.
I, of course, chose the blue roller – not because I’m a boy but because, as mentioned above, my feet are minging. I probably had about an inch of hard skin to get rid of and, after using the foot file, that was mostly on the floor. Thank da lord for the Dyson cordless vacuum cleaner. If I had thought of it, I probably should have weighed myself before and after, as the foot file got rid of so much ming I was probably half a pound lighter than before I’d started filing my feet.
You’ll be pleased to know I’m going to spare you from before and after photos, so just trust me when I say THIS THING WORKS. Okay, I haven’t got baby soft feet (yeah, like I know what a baby’s foot feels like) but it certainly got rid of most of the hard skin and I reckon, used regularly, the rest will disappear.
Superdrug’s new Summer Feet range includes a wide variety of products, such as the Soothing Foot Lotion which is suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and displays the cruelty-free ‘leaping bunny’ logo (as far as I know, all Superdrug’s own brand toiletries are suitable for vegetarians and vegans and display the ‘leaping bunny’ logo but please check each individual product [if you care about that kind of thing, that is]).
Thank you to Superdrug for sending me the foot file and lotion. You can get them in Superdrug (duh) where – at the time of writing – you can buy the foot file for £16.61 instead of its original price of £24.49 and the foot lotion for £2.99 instead of £3.49. Other products in the range include an exfoliating foot scrub, cracked heel repair cream and a hard skin remover.
Since my spin instructor left, I’ve stopped going to spin on a Saturday morning but I still have the ‘Saturday mornings are for exercise’ mentality so, when I woke up at 7am, I thought to myself, ‘I could go to parkrun’. But then I thought, ‘Na, bollocks to that, I don’t like parkrun and I’d end up walking it all like a loser, anyway’, so I decided to go and do week 1, day 2 of the C25k app instead which consisted of running for 1 minute, interspersed with 1.5 minute’s walking x 8 (with 5 minutes each side to warm up/cool down).
After the second minute of running, I was knackered and I realised I’d been treating it like intervals and sprinting in the running bits instead of pacing myself and slowly jogging, like a beginner should do, so, in the next minute of running bit, I slowed down my pace and it was a lot more comfortable.
As I said in my previous post, I’d planned to give my new Asics an on-road test, so today’s route took me round Park Farm, a local housing development which has neither a park nor a farm and is the parent category of all the roads which are also named after things the developers concreted over, e.g. Great Oak Row, Conker Close and Bluebell Road.
Although my new Asics aren’t as cushioned and bouncy as the ones I usually go for, they were comfortable enough and I got through my run/walk without any trouble.
So, that’s two runs in six months. Get me, Miss Finely Tuned Athlete. Let’s see how far I get with it this time – if I keep it up, I might do Folkestone Half in September (even if it is a bit dull and ends on an evil mile-long steep hill).
I’m a lion, hear me roar (‘coz I ran a minute, woo)
Last summer, I decided I wanted to run again. I got myself a C25K app and I had planned to blog my progress, like I did back in 2006 (back when people used to comment on blogs because they wanted to and not because they were in some stupid comment swap thread, and back before 12 year olds in Facebook blogging groups bleated about their DA every five minutes). But, that didn’t happen. The doing the C25K app happened but the blogging didn’t. And, although the C25K app happened, in true JogBlog self-destructive style I fucked it up at the end and only completed 22 out of 24 runs and then didn’t run again until today, six months later.
I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?
As you all know, what will definitely get me out the door are new gadgets or gear and Millet Sports, bless their little hearts, asked me if I wanted to review a pair of Asics. The sensible side of me thought, ‘NO NO NO, DO NOT SAY YES, YOU HAVE A PORCH FULL OF RUNNING SHOES YOU NEVER WEAR AND YOU’RE MOVING HOUSE SOON AND NEED TO GET RID OF STUFF, NOT GET NEW STUFF, DO WHAT THE CAST OF GRANGE HILL WOULD DO AND JUST SAY NO’.
So, I emailed Millet Sports back and said, ‘Yes please’.
In my defence, Asics are my favourite brand of running shoe and I did want to start running again and my old Asics are, well, old (older than new, anyway), so I needed these shoes, yeah?
Pretty in Blue (that doesn’t really work, does it?)
I had a choice of three pairs of Asics and I chose these pretty Asics Gel-Noosa FF Women’s Running Shoes and, hey, get me, I didn’t even choose the pink version but the blue version and I don’t even like blue but they’ve got this funky green/orange gradient thing going on on the heel which appealed to me. If you’re not as shallow as me and you buy shoes because of their features and not because of any funky green/orange gradient thing, then here’s the techy blurb:
The GEL-Noosa from ASICS is designed for pure speed. Built with the new FlyteFoam midsole, made twice as light with super fibres that spring back in to shape after impact, the shoe launches runners forwards for unbeatable speed and comfort. GEL cushioning in the rear foot absorbs impact with each step, while an Impact Guidance System adjusts the gait to the most efficient pattern. A wet grip rubber outsole ensures traction on slippery surface.
– GEL cushioning
– Impact Guidance System
– 3M reflectivity
– Neutral pronation
– Flytefoam midsole
– Wet grip outsole
– EVA sockliner
– No-sew upper
These aren’t the usual type of Asics I wear for running – these are lightweight ones made for speed, not distance, and, therefore, they don’t have the cushioning I’m used to. But, I was only going out to run for a few minutes; a few minutes that were going to be interspersed with walking, anyway, and not a twenty-mile marathon training run so I thought they’d be fine.
And they were fine.
When I first put them on, I didn’t find them as comfortable as the (approximately) twenty-three billion pairs of Asics I’ve had over the last eleven years but, then again, I didn’t spend three hours in a running shop trying on every pair of shoes they had until I found the perfect pair – I chose these purely on looks. On my run though, they were perfectly comfortable, although a tad too lightweight for today’s chosen route which was cross-country and at times I started to channel the princess in the Princess and the Pea fairytale and felt every lump and bump beneath my feet.
Still, to test them out further, I’m going to do Week 1 Day 2 of C25K tomorrow (famous last words) to give them an on-road test and will report back then.
Spring is definitely in the air and that means it’s running season again. Of course, the hardcore runners have been out all winter – and good for them – but many of us can’t bring ourselves to head out for a jog in wintertime, whether it’s because of the cold winds, the icy ground, or the dark early nights. Spring is the perfect time to start working on your fitness again and there are some great tips for anyone hoping to avoid injury and make their runs as enjoyable and safe as possible.
Invest in quality running gear
For many of us, running gear consists of that old t-shirt we got at a team building exercise at work and whichever baggy shorts we can find in the bottom drawer. This is fine, and for some people the gear they use makes little difference to them and they don’t want to spend the money on more expensive clothes or footwear. But buying the right gear can make you lighter, warmer (or cooler, if overheating is your problem) and a good pair of running shoes can make all the difference to your gait and whether or not you develop an injury, such as the infamous Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS). It’s a good idea to do a little research into your own running gait and what kind of shoes might help you.
Another advantage of investing in some high-quality running gear is that it can make you feel prepared and more enthusiastic about your fitness regime. Having better gear will make you excited to get outside and start running.
It is also a good idea to invest in a foam roller if you haven’t already. A foam roller is used to massage your legs, working out any problem areas that are tightening and causing you pain. If you are having problems with your knee, for example, it might actually by an IT band issue, like ITBS, and the way to address it is to use a foam roller along your IT band, tenderising it, allowing it to elongate. This article from Active.com provides great advice for anyone with IT band issues. Keeping on top of any aches or pains before they get worse is absolutely key to a successful running regime.
This is something that is often overlooked, but protecting yourself from the sun is a necessary precaution all year round. Whether it’s the low, eye-level sun in the winter and early spring, or the more powerful sunlight during the summer. Wear the appropriate sun cream and look for a brand that doesn’t wash off too easily when you start sweating.
It’s just as important to protect your eyes from the sunlight, but this is seldom emphasised as much as skin protection is. The UVA and UVB radiation in sunlight can cause all kinds of problems in your eyes and has even been linked to blindness later in life. If you require prescription lenses, then it’s also a good idea to get a good pair of prescription sports sunglasses, as it is useful to be able to spot cars and other hazards when you’re out running. For the best value, look for online retailers like Red Hot Sunglasses, as they buy stock from the top brands in bulk and can offer the cheapest prices. Ill-fitting sunglasses can bounce around and cause runners to change how they run in order to keep their head still or to go up and down less; this can cause back and neck problems down the line, so look for sunglasses that wrap around your head a little and have a well-fitting bridge so that they do not shake around when you run.
Set yourself realistic targets
For many runners who were stuck inside over winter, the biggest problem is that they are in such a rush to regain their fitness from the previous year that they overexert themselves in the first few weeks and give themselves an injury. So perhaps the best piece of advice for any runner is for them to pace themselves carefully at the start and to build up their run times and distances gradually. If you rush into things then you’re in danger of developing IT band syndrome, as we mentioned earlier – so be very careful! Start off with a small, safe distance for your first few runs in order to gauge your fitness levels. Make a note of how many miles in total you run each week. As you progress and begin adding on more distance, add a maximum of 10% of your overall weekly mileage. This is generally agreed to be the right rate to avoid injury and give your tendons and ligaments enough time to catch up with your cardiovascular fitness.
Eat the right food well in advance of your run
As running uses a lot of energy and shakes everything about in your stomach, it’s important to eat right. In the several hours running up to your run, avoid fibrous vegetables (onions, beans, broccoli, etc) and foods that are high in fat (chips, ice cream, etc), as they are harder to digest and might spend too long in your belly. About an hour before your run, it’s a good idea to eat a small energy-rich snack that is easy to digest, such as wholegrain toast with nut butter, or a banana and a few cashews. These foods will give you a little charge of energy without clogging up your stomach. If you want to eat a few hours before your run, then a meal with carbs, protein and healthy fats is ideal; tofu, avocado, and eggs are all your friends!
I hope this guide proves useful to a few readers who are getting ready to start their running regime this spring. Good luck and remember to have fun.
SMART goals are usually used in business rather than fitness – think sales, targets, customers, that kind of thing. But with spring here (or nearly here, at least), you might be feeling inspired by all the runners currently out training for their spring marathons, or by the parkrunners you dodge every Saturday morning when you’re out walking the dogs.
If you are feeling inspired to start running, or you’re already a runner but you want to challenge yourself, you could do worse than follow the SMART principles to reach your goals. There are variations on the acronym but they all follow this theme:
Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Time-based
I’m going to go through each one in turn, to show you how these can relate to running.
Rather than say, ‘I’m a fat porker and need to start running/running more’, set yourself a goal. Whether it’s a 5k, 10k, half-marathon, full marathon, ultra, or just your very first mile without stopping, set a specific goal. I didn’t do this when I started running. I just decided I was going to go and run a few laps round my local park. What actually happened was, I ran about three feet, then collapsed in a coughing fit, went home and didn’t run again until I got myself a beginner’s schedule and had a specific target to reach (which in my case was either 5k or 30 minutes, I can’t remember which but for me they were about the same thing at the time anyway).
A schedule – whether that’s an old-school printed-off-the-internet program (such as the ones you can get on the Hal Higdon website), or one of those new-fangled app things (such as the NHS C25K app, which is also available as a podcast) – will show you daily and weekly what you need to do and allow you to track/measure your progress. It’s really motivating to see how you progress each week.
It’s all very well saying, ‘Yay, I’m going to run a marathon’, but if you’ve never run before and the marathon’s in a few weeks’ time then I don’t want to sound like a killjoy but nope, that ain’t going to happen. So set yourself an achievable goal. If you’re a current runner and have a few half-marathons under your Fitbelt (other running belts are available), then a full marathon a few months later is totally realistic but, if you’re a beginner, then it might be best to have a goal of a 5k to start with and go on from there.
Are your goals relevant? Do you actually want to do that 5k or are you doing it just because your friends are? Do you even like running? If your goals aren’t relevant to what you want to do, then you’re not going to enjoy it and you might be better off doing something else instead. Although, saying that; doing a race because your friends are isn’t a bad thing. Especially if you all go to the pub after. In fact, it’s a good thing because you all go to the pub after.
Do you have enough time to reach your goal? If you’ve never run before and you’ve signed up for a 10k in six weeks’ time then, although if you have a decent level of fitness you’ll get round it okaaaaay, you won’t have done yourself justice, so make sure you have enough time to train for the goal you want to achieve.
So, there you have the SMART principles used in relation to running and, if you use these to start you off running or to progress your running further, you should see clear progress as you go through them.