Category Archives: rant

When Running Is The Problem.

I love running. I honestly really do. In my job I do my utmost to keep people running. I hate having to tell people they shouldn’t run but sometimes I have to for their own good and to enable any exercise therapy or treatment we do to be effective. Not everyone takes my advice and hey, sometimes people do get better with or without my advice. I can only go on what I find during an assessment and advise accordingly.

What I have found increasingly over the last few years is that with an increase in the running population has come an increased tendency for people to downright refuse to stop. They will continue to run even when there are a set of circumstances in front of them which are screaming at them to stop running, not permanently, just for a while.

I have had two cases in clinic recently where the best advice was certainly to stop running. But neither runner really accepted this. the compulsion to run was so strong that these runners were prepared to continue until any running at all was impossible. The most extreme of the two was a patient with a stress fracture so chronic that you could actually palpate the bony callus on his shin and hear the bone clicking when they hopped up and down. When I gave my diagnosis (which was confirmed by x-ray) the patient told me they had known in their gut for a few months that it was likely to be a fracture but hadn’t wanted to stop running, for fear of losing out on races and everything he gained from running. And yet the first question this person asked was ‘do I really have to stop running?’

I do sympathise because being injured is awful but I do feel that I’m increasingly in a ‘shoot the messenger’ situation when I have given advice to rest from running (that’s rest, not give up). I have had a patient swear at me because I advised them to rest for two weeks from running and to cross train instead. Actual aggressive language used because I gave a professional opinion. I may be good but I can’t speed up the natural healing times of muscle, tendon or bone. They all need their time to be appropriately treated and severity of an injury will always have a much bigger impact. Continuing to over load healing tissues will always mean things take much longer to heal, I don’t make this shit up.

Recently I have become aware of a personal trainer who is encouraging their beginners running group to run pretty much daily. Firstly, you’re going to put people off running because before long it will start to seem like a chore but secondly that is far too much for beginners who are just getting used to putting 4 TIMES THEIR BODY WEIGHT through their lower limbs. It’s making beginners over train and a study has found that training error and over training are the most common cause of over use injuries in recreational runners. In fact the most common type of injury among recreational runners is overuse injury, not sprains and strains. They are injuries that are unavoidable and yet more and more injuries like this are walking through my clinic door. (If you fancy a read that’s Taunton et al who published a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2002, just to show again I’M NOT MAKING THIS SHIT UP!).

Why this obsession with running hard and fast all the time? Why are people being made to feel like they have to? Running every day doesn’t suit the majority of runners and to do that I think you have to be a runner of great experience who has built up to it sensibly over a longer period of time. That’s why I felt quite glad that I saw an orthopaedic surgeon comment that people planning on training for a marathon should have been running 2-3 times a week in the 6 months before training commenced. The body needs to be trained to train, conditioned to be able to handle the task that is given to it.

So if you’re a runner who feels like they need to keep up with everyone on social media and feel guilty about not joining in with run streaks, please don’t. Think about what your own running goals are. Be smart with your training. Give your body a rest from the pounding it gets 3- 4 times a week with some cross training, pilates or yoga. And if you get a niggle or are concerned about any pain that isn’t your usual post run pain go and ask your GP or an appropriate clinician for advice. Some things can’t be diagnosed via Twitter.

 

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It’s Just Stuff

It’s a scenario I’ve seen time and time again in blogging. I would see it during my brief incarnation as a parent blogger and I see it regularly as a running blogger. The ‘people getting free stuff and opportunities’ complaint usually followed up by the question ‘why didn’t I get asked?’

It is something that I used to get hung up on but over time I realised that maybe I’m just not that genre of blogger.  I have been contacted by PR’s and I have been sent great stuff to review (not often I might add) but getting stuff is not my blogging motivation. I’m sure if I put my mind to it I could network and make more of an effort but I don’t.  I would be lying if I said reading tweets and blog posts about such things didn’t make me occasionally covet these sorts of opportunities however on reflection I think there are many reasons why I’m not the go to blogger for reviews/promotional events.

1. I am not very good at taking photos of myself wearing stuff. For some reason it makes me feel stupid. Other bloggers are really good at it and take great, action shots or just look awesome posing. I don’t. I am lazy and use photos from the company web site.

2. Most PR opportunities are in London. I am not and with two kids I’d rather spend my weekends with them than hauling my arse 3 hours down the road to look at some trainers. It’s mainly a priority thing. And to be honest I do really fun stuff with my kids which for me trumps PR stuff.

3. I don’t think I’m in the age range PR’s are after. I am a mid thirties mother of two. I’m not the cool, young, vibrant image PR’s are probably after. Despite ‘This Girl Can’ and the recent diversion from the norm for the recent Women’s Running covers, I don’t think Nike and co. want to be associated with middle age that much. It’s a shame and obviously needs to be addressed but I’m not sure how that message can be taken to brands.

4. I don’t have that much time. I am getting busier in the Physiotherapy clinic I work at. I have a family. I now have a dog! I am studying for a masters and attempting to get presentations done, assignments written and pull literature together for a research project. And I have a dog! It would be unfair for me to contact PR’s and tell them I can write them lots of free review posts. Because I can’t. They would end up rushed and boring and no help to anyone. Did I mention I have a dog. My dog seems to have taken up a few more hours in my day! (she is an awesome dog).

5. I am better at writing other things. I write better when the whim takes me and when I feel inspired or equally when I feel enraged. My writing is better when I feel passionately about something. I never feel that my review or kit posts are like that and I think I would be cheating anyone who read them.

6. I feel responsible. As a physio I see people in clinic who have worn unsuitable foot wear for a range of activities which have resulted in injury. What if someone saw a glowing review for a pair of running shoes that I wrote, shoes that were unsuitable for them and subsequently got injured? This is why in a review I did this year I warned runners of a particular foot type to avoid the shoes I had reviewed. The PR said she appreciated the honesty but who knows what they really thought. I however felt better that I had pointed out their unsuitability in the review. Transparency is important to me!

7. Right now I am getting over a nasty virus and I’m not running enough to really test anything. also feel guilty about the things that I already have and sometimes feel that gear should be shared out among people who can’t really afford the current prices of running gear. But that’s for another post I think.

I must make it clear that I am not denouncing anyone who writes review or brand event posts. I just think other people can do it better than me. It’s better to focus on the things that you are passionate about and other bloggers can write in really inspired ways about fitness gear and running shoes. I also quite like that the running blogging mates that I’ve met on Twitter are those that I have genuininely felt a connection with rather than a forced scenario where I am expected to network and pretend to smile. I’m really really cynical aren’t I?

I came across this line in a journal article I was reading about knee pain. As an opening line in a scientific journal it grabbed my attention.

‘Running is one of the most popular and efficient forms of exercise, requiring only a pair of shoes and a place to run’.

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I don’t need to feel endorsed by a PR or a brand to be a runner or a blogger or anything for that matter. I have other priorities in my life and I won’t feel bad that I’m not asked to events like other bloggers are. Right now I have had a real opportunity in my life linked to running. I am developing ideas for research studies that will involve the running community and my job as a physio. Two things that I’m passioante about rolled into one. I can’t ask for better than that.

I suppose my take home message is focus on what drives you and inspires you. Don’t dwell on what you don’t have because it’s a waste of time. I know what I’m good at and I don’t need free trainers, that may be unsuitable for me, to tell me that. I have my running shoes and I have two legs that work and a door to the outside. The rest is just stuff.

 

In Praise of The Awkward

I am not a fan of seeing pictures of myself running. Well that’s not quite true, I don’t mind pictures of me sprinting because most pictures of anyone in full flight look impressive. But the pictures of me in any distance race always look pretty naff. In my head I run with not too bad form but in a picture my knees are really low, my arms are all over the place and I just look rubbish. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a picture of me in any race but I think that’s because I don’t need a picture of me gurning on my living room wall. And anyway, should it really matter how you look getting to the finish line?

I noticed a conversation on social media about how an individual looked in a photo shoot about running. It got a bit heated and I’m sure there was mention of a site taking the piss out of how people look when they run. That’s pretty shitty and anyway only top athletes have perfect running form good enough to be photographed right?

Wrong.

There are so many athletes with little quirks in the way they run. Priscah Jeptoo is the first example that came to mind. When she won the 2013 New York Marathon people were aghast at her knock knee style. How on earth could she be a top marathon runner with a style that we are all told is totally wrong? Well she just is. Sometimes the body will take the path of least resistance and even though it looks awkward it is obviously a winning combination with her endurance talent.

And Priscah Jeptoo is not the only example. There are many other top athletes with unconventional styles. Paula Radcliffe’s head nod. Anita Hinriksdottir and her arms which never seem to be by her side. Michael Johnson’s choppy action. And in my opinion David Rudisha’s robotic style can at times look incredibly awkward. The only runner I’ve seen with even close to ‘perfect’ style for me is Genzebe Dibaba but I’m sure some of the self appointed purists could even pick her to bits on her form. And if you look at the end of any hard fought top level marathon race form pretty much goes to hell. But when we watch these individuals we’re not mocking the way they run. In fact it is their running styles which can make these runners so memorable.

I think we’ve all got a little running trait that makes us look a little bit awkward and feel a bit ‘Phoebe from Friends’. But to pull others down on how they look while running is appalling and knocks the inclusive, friendly reputation that the running community is so well known for. So before pulling someone down for their awkward running style praise them for their efforts in getting to the start line or for getting out on that run. We should be encouraging and supporting each other while acknowledging that we’ve all got those quirks that make us a little bit ‘awkward’. But looking awkward ain’t always a bad thing. Just look at Priscah.

Social Media, Memes and Kitchens (where apparently I should be).

I don’t think it’s any secret that I despise fitness memes. I think they scream everything that is wrong about the health and fitness industry on the internet. There are a few people I know however that love a fitness meme, plastering them all over social media. This one popped up in my Facebook feed:

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I think this meme was the final straw for me. I hate that people post them without any thought or any real idea what they’ve just posted. So I posted it in my feed and added my own rant:

‘Oh do eff off. I despise these pathetic, judgemental memes. Because what a woman does depends on how a man feels about it? Get in the sea. I may be a massive cardio fairy but I do it for me and to be honest marathon running and epic cycles are fairly tough. Maybe the woman on the treadmill is doing a 12 X 400m reps to get her faster for her next race. Just a thought. And anyone who walks into a gym or place of fitness should be applauded for trying to better themselves. And we wonder why women have massive issues about fitness.’

I expected my post to be ignored but a few people commented, the majority agreeing with me but then came a couple of really odd comments that unfortunately took my attention….

‘But the one doing squats is gonna have a better arse’

‘Lmfao. Good rant fair play. Now get back to the kitchen’

In those two comments everything that I despise about these memes was summed up. So lets strip back all the layers of this particular meme.

The sexism.

The judgement.

The assumption that women are only in the gym to impress men and make them like us more.

The assumption that if a woman doesn’t want to lift weights she is less worthy.

The ignorance about people who choose to do some of their training on the treadmill.

The implication that women ‘belong’ to men and are either to be kept or discarded at whim.

It doesn’t even offer anything helpful in terms of being fit and healthy.

As one of my friends commented, it is just tedious, sexist and pathetic. Another friend pointed out that it doesn’t matter what a woman chooses to do in the gym as long as she is doing it because she chooses to.

I don’t think any man in my life has ever told me to ‘get back in the kitchen’. Not even as a joke. Maybe I’ve just been lucky to have enlightened men around me and a husband who even refers to himself as a feminist. But it just shows the mentality that finds these memes appealing. And in continuing to post them the same old sexist ignorance about women and sport, health and fitness continues to be perpetuated.

So if you have a tendency to share these memes on social media, please can I suggest you step back, look at it, strip away the bullshit and actually reconsider. These pictures are not inspirational, they are boring, patriarchal, ignorant nonsense. Don’t do it.

Pride, Places and PB’s.

I’ve seen a lot of debate about whether we should train for personal bests or whether we should forget about them and embark on some kind of spiritual journey and the inner reflection that endurance exercise inevitably brings. Personally I think you can do the two and that in fact there is a great deal of cross over between both.

On Sunday I completed the Velothon and as I was well out of my comfort zone I decided that I would focus more on the challenge aspect of it then the length of time it would take me to complete. On Sunday I aimed to finish and that is what I did. I did not complete it in an amazing time and I was right at the back of the field but I was okay with that. But if I do it again of course I would like to be a bit faster and be further away from the back. I think that is for me, and for many others, a natural consequence of sport and exercise. You strive to make yourself better, not just physically but mentally too.

I understand that people get frustrated when other runners/cyclists/triathletes talk about PB’s and rankings but having come from track and field I think it washes over my head a bit. I see it as people wanting to make conversation rather than some kind of ego waving or competitive threat. I am immensely proud of my running PB’s but I think what makes me more proud of them is that I enjoyed the training and the races where I accomplished them. The PB’s were a bonus.

I don’t think you need to be a ‘legit Olympic athlete’ to care about PB’s. And actually if you look at Olympic races it’s rarely about records and PB’s, it’s about medals and winning. Not all Olympic races are won in record times so that argument is already thrown out the window for me. Plus I think it is a bit of a smack in the face for many people who enjoy training for PB’s at club/youth/amateur level. You don’t have to be ‘Olympic’ to care about your times. If that is something that motivates you to get out and exercise, then brilliant. If you enjoy the challenge that comes with aiming for a PB then more power to you. If the PB hunt is part of your journey and in finding more about yourself and what you are capable of as an individual, physically and emotionally then I think that is your right and I have no business to judge you.

I think it mainly all boils down to the saying ‘run your own race’. There is no point getting your knickers in a twist about what someone else is doing or about someone else’s times or even their pride over their times. When did it become offensive for people to be proud of what they’ve done? Instead we should congratulate those people, have a chat with them and then focus on our own goals, whether that is time, a ranking, a podium place or simply finishing. All of these things take time, effort and passion from a person and to pour scorn on people who talk about their PB’s just undermines the work they put in to get there. And that’s really not fair.

I am taking on my first novice triathlon in July and I am enjoying the fact that the pressure is off. I have no idea of how long it will take me and I have no intention of stressing about where I will come. But I am enjoying the current journey I am on and I am finding out lots about myself. I’m sure after the triathlon my journey will change direction and my focus my become a PB or improving aspects of my triathlon race. I reserve the right to alter my journey plan in sport wherever I see fit and I will plot the course to a PB or a finish if I think that is right for me. It is after all my race and I’m running it. You should all focus on your own race, your own journey and be proud.

Always Ready

This week there has been a lot of talk on social media regarding the Protein World advert featuring the model Renee Somerfield. The executives seems to be patting themselves on the back a bit, having seen their sales rocket in the last few days. After all there’s no such thing as bad publicity eh? I have seen the Beach Body Ready advert and I actually found it predictable and boring. It’s not like women aren’t seeing similar images in health and fitness magazines so why the umbrage with this particular advert? I was very interested however in something that Protein World came up with in their defense of the advert: apparently that’s what us women want in a fitness campaign.

No doubt that Protein World had some marketing research performed for them to get an idea about what women responded to. I remember getting annoyed with the number of ‘fat blast’ and ‘tummy flattening’ headlines on the cover of Women’s Running magazine, but the lovely Rhalou, a journalist, told me that in surveys this is what women participating were actively requesting. Somewhere along the line as women we have asked in a weird, roundabout way to be routinely shamed for our appearance and presented with an often unrealistic image of who we should be. When this thought struck me I actually felt a little bit sad that as women we might feel this way. I wondered if the vandalism of the adverts and the petition set up to get the adverts pulled were a larger message from women sick of always being fed the same shame-inducing crap.

I have no issue with beautiful models. Renee Somerfield is a stunning woman and she obviously works for her physique. It is after all her job as a fitness model to look, err, fit. But to tell me that her body is attainable to me is like telling me I can have a figure like the exquisite Christina Hendricks, who plays Joan in Mad Men. She also has a beautiful figure, very different to Renee Somerfield’s, but again I could in no way attain her ratio of curves. It is just not true to tell me that I can look like either of these women.

I am 5 foot tall. I have no boobs, the ones I did have fed two babies. My stomach is a wreck from two caesareans. I have a very short torso and even shorter legs. I do think I have a pretty nice butt. I am under no illusion that I could remotely look like Renee on the beach or Christina after pouring her curves into vintage couture. But what I do know is what I am capable of and what my own body is ‘ready’ to do after training and exercising. I can run marathons. I can ride mileage on my bike that I never thought possible. I can swim fifty lengths in a swimming pool. I have lifted weights and tried to do handstands. I may not be confident in a bikini on the beach (I prefer fifties style swim suits) but I’m confident in what my body can achieve. The aesthetics are of no interest to me but I am always ready to try and be a better version of myself and reach new goals.

Protein World claim that they are only interested in improving the health and fitness of the nation. I would believe them a little more if they weren’t selling their products, some of which take the form of meal replacement shakes, at £32 a kilo (Hang on, is that not just Slim Fast but in different packaging?) They have a vested interest in selling lots of their food substitute drinks (pass me the steak) but I don’t think their message is going to be meaningful to the vast majority of men and women.  Health and fitness for a lot of people means encouragement, taking things at their pace, surprising people with the things they thought they could never do and setting individual goals. Others should not impose their ‘ideal’ of health on to them. We may not all like running, CrossFit, rugby or football and we are not all built with the same phenotype. It would be so boring if we were.

Fair play to Protein World for making lots of money and being able to pay their team huge bonuses. I can’t say I’ll be trying their shakes any time soon and I’m sure they don’t need my money. Instead I would urge them to watch the This Girl Can campaign ad so they can see that women of all shapes and sizes are capable of being fit and participating in sport. I would also urge them to look up the great Valerie Adams, the world’s greatest female shot putter, who works hard in training but would probably never be seen by Protein World as a ‘model’ for their campaigns. But I’m sure the all-conquering Olympic champion would be okay with that.

My overall message I think would be this. Let’s start voting with our feet. Don’t buy that magazine with the unrealistic, photo shopped model on the front.  When we’re asked for our opinions lets request more realistic pictures of women of all shapes and sizes accomplishing great things. Lets support men and women starting out in sport and fitness but encourage them to do it in a healthy, sustainable way. And remember that whatever anyone tells you, YOU are always ready.

Nike and The News

If you read this blog at all you will know that I am a massive athletics fan. For me it is the purest of sports. The events in athletics are the fundamentals required in many other sports; running, jumping and throwing. I was involved from the sport from the age of eleven and even though I no longer compete I get excited at the prospect of sitting and watching a meeting on the TV. As a youngster I had my own athletics heroes and I revered them and looked up to them. For my they were the epitome of hard work, dedication and commitment. Apart from dopers. Nobody respected dopers.

Whenever I hear that an athlete has been found guilty of a doping offence I get a knot in the pit of my stomach and my heart sinks. ‘Not again’, I will think to myself. If it’s an athlete I like it will be a mixture of disappointment, frustration and sadness. And then when I start to go back over their career or results I start to feel like the signs were there all along, a bit like a scorned woman who has just discovered her lover has been cheating on her. They were doing it right in front of you all along. In the case of dopers in front of millions of people.

Athletics has been tarnished so much lately with the doping scandal in Russia and reports of other high profile athletes testing positive for banned substances. It becomes hard to take the sport seriously. And with the news that they’re planning to re-test results from Beijing how can anyone take the results sheet of a major championships seriously? It’s embarrassing and makes it increasingly hard to defend the sport to people who don’t rate athletics at all.

So when I heard the news that recurrent doper Gatlin had been signed by Nike I felt that familiar knot in my stomach again. He has been caught twice, been banned twice and like a bad penny has now turned up again to compete, as is his right according to the rules. But I can’t honestly stomach it. He’s like the cheating lover again. The one who got caught out and forgiven but continues to cheat because he knows he will continue to be forgiven by a partner.

When I think of Gatlin I don’t really think of him directly. I think of the competitors who have lost out to him while he was doping. I think of kids like mine who may now be inspired by him because he is sponsored by a high profile company such as Nike. I think of the arrogance and the unrepentance of many dopers because of the inconsistent rulings of the IAAF and other bodies that are meant to discourage doping. I think of the young sports people tied in to Nike for kit and funding now knowing that they are tied to the same company that endorses a doper. You’ve got to feel for them because it’s not like they have a huge choice in funding and they obviously won’t want to jeopardise their income. I also think of hard working athletes who are a credit to the sport being dropped. It is a crying, crying shame.

I know that Justin Gatlin isn’t the whole of sport at but apparently Nike have a history of endorsing doping athletes. I also know that Nike is an American organisation and in the States he is apparently thought of highly. Which is weird because athletics isn’t even up there in the most popular of sports in the US. I just find the decision incredibly cynical and for no good reason other than to generate money and some headlines for Nike.

But what I also know is that athletics fans will hate this and as we tend to be the punters who buy the merchandise a lot of fans will vote with their feet. I also have faith in the huge number of hard working CLEAN athletes who continue to make athletics the great sport that it is. I am under no illusion that it will make a dent in the armour of the power house that is Nike but it will make us feel a whole lot better in the knowledge that we refuse to tacitly support a man who has cheated on the sport and on his fellow clean athletes, not once, but twice.