Category Archives: run with an idea

Is Being Fit And Healthy A Personal Responsibility?

The latest topic in the Run With An Idea debates takes on the notion that being fit and healthy is a personal responsibility?

This subject is a potential mine field. I totally accept that it should be in the responsibility of most people to control what goes into their bodies and how much exercise we take. However after nearly ten years working in the NHS there are far too many psycho-social factors that can affect an individual’s ability to do just that, despite their desire to be fitter and healthier.

During my time in the NHS I learnt that socio-economic status and eduction had a huge baring on how able someone was to help themselves. In the city I worked in I covered a particular catchment area and that area was notably poorer than other areas of the city. People attending our department often had a variety of other complex issues alongside the problem that found them visiting the Physiotherapist. These things could include long term unemployment, housing issues, domestic abuse, addiction to drugs and alcohol, mental health problems. They could have a mixture of these all at the same time. They were often less educated in looking after themselves and in health than their better off peers. And these things would end up providing barriers to changing their long term health behaviours.

With the economic downturn of the last few years I also believe that problems such as addiction and obesity will worsen. Lack of employment is a trigger in many people with depression. Poverty is a huge factor in poor eating habits and obesity. We have seen the cost of healthy produce rise and rise so when a family sees an offer in a fast food outlet to feed four of them for 99p each they probably believe that they are getting a bargain and full stomachs. I know and you know that this is not the case and it is not good in the long term but families struggling to feed themselves don’t think about how they might need a cardiologist in a few years, they need food there and then.

Education from home and in schools is a factor too. Many of us have lost the art of cooking for ourselves. Skills are being lost through the generations so people will do what is quick, easy and cheap for them.

Ultimately yes it is the responsibility of an adult to choose what they do with their body but I argue that this is not always so simple. There are many factors that impact on our ability sometimes to make the right choice and some of us are not always in a position to make the right one, right now. I do believe that problems like obesity can be helped but I think we need to look at communities and society as well as targeting individuals.

However with anything like this there are always really valid views that should be shared. Please comment if you have a moment.

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Run With An Idea #9: Who Cares What You Write About Running?

This is the ninth topic in the Run With An Idea debates. I’ve sort of avoided writing this for a bit because I have been in a running and blogging lull. I love running but injury has thwarted me for many months. And when you’re a running blogger who is injured it can leave you with not very much to write about.

Blogging and I definitely have a love/hate relationship and I often lack motivation to sit down and blog properly. Feeling bad about running and writing about it can often lead to very whiny ‘woe is me’ type posts and I don’t like being that kind of ‘feel bad for me’ blogger. I don’t really want Facebook type comments e.g.  ‘you ok love? you’ll get there hun’. No I am motivated by debate and information sharing. I like a laugh and to be inspired. Lately though I am less and less inspired by running blogging.

I’m not entirely sure who I write for and I certainly don’t write to get free stuff. Reading a review biased blog is a total turn off for me so it’s something I do on rare occasions here, mainly because when I try to write a review post it can often feel forced. I’m also not a huge fan of training diary type blogs. It’s not that I think they shouldn’t document what they’re doing, just that I find it irrelevant to me and rather dull to read.

The blogs I love and enjoy reading have great stories behind them, make me laugh and are often very personal. I like rude, close to the knuckle posts and I love ‘angry, feisty, get the juices flowing and comments flying’ debate posts. I also love reading about how running and exercise have changed people’s lives for the better because that is probably one of the most important messages that needs ‘getting out there’ right now.

As I’ve been writing this I came to a conclusion: I don’t actually care who cares what I write about running. When I blog it usually comes from my heart and it’s never about what anyone else wants to hear (which isn’t good blogging apparently, but like I said, I don’t care). My most popular posts have been the ones where I have had moments of catharsis, have shared my love for a particular aspect of running or have shared my enthusiasm for my favourite athletes and big events, like my New York Marathon run down.

Although I’ve been a bit down about blogging I have to say that it has helped me reflect on the past year of injury and it has been like a mirror for me at times when I’ve gone back to read it: answers have been jumping off the screen, staring me back in the face. I remain an intermittent blogger but that shouldn’t matter to the readers ( if indeed I have any). If I have nothing to blog then why blog?

So really I’m not at all bothered whether you like my blog or not. If you find something here that you like then please tell me, as I will if I find a blog post I connect with. But you know, if I was bothered by what everyone on the internet and people on other blogs thought about my running blog, it really wouldn’t be mine would it?

*presses publish to send post into the internet abyss*

Why I won’t be running on Christmas Day.

It’s been a while since I’ve been here but here’s a little Run With An Idea post from me. The two pronged debate sees running bloggers discuss why they will or will not be running on Christmas Day.

Well over here it’s a big fat no from me.

In the world of elite sport it could mean the difference between gold and silver either training or not training on Christmas Day. It is said that Daley Thompson trained twice on one Christmas Day because he knew his nearest rival would train once. I’m sure I’ve heard the same about Jonny Wilkinson. The difference for these sportsmen is that training is their job and they need that edge. I will be needing a different kind of edge for my Christmas Day to oversee the chaos that I predict will be occurring.

I see myself being woken at 4am by two extremely excited little boys. I foresee an epic present opening fest with me eating lots of fun things to get me through it. There will then be hours of putting things together and finding batteries to make things work. This will be happening at the same time as food preparation, phone calls to relatives and more playing. I would actually feel a bit bah humbug if I told my children, aged 5 and 3, that their mum was buggering off for a run. I can actually see their faces drop and I just don’t see the point in putting running before the day that they’ve been dreaming about for weeks.

Lately running hasn’t been going well for me (again) and I am fed up of the pressure I’ve been putting on myself because running isn’t going well. I intend to forget about running for a few days and just enjoy being with my family and with all the people who make me smile and laugh. Putting pressure on myself to run badly on Christmas Day would just ruin the day for me and my bad mood would probably spoil it for my family.

So if you feel a bit under pressure to run of Christmas Day then think about the reasons you have to run and the reasons that you have to give it a rest. If it makes you feel better then swap your training sessions around so a rest day falls on Christmas Day. And then join me for one, or two (or more) festive cocktails and a few games of monopoly. Why not? You run and work hard, you deserve it!

Run With An Idea: What’s so special about running a marathon?

This week’s Run With An Idea topic is about the big 26.2: What’s so special about running a marathon?

I have only done one marathon and that was Edinburgh in 2012. For me it was a fantastic experience with highs and lows but something I am so proud I did. So I thought I’d draw on my one and only marathon experience to convince you why it is something so special.

You learn about yourself.

By this I mean that you discover elements of your character that you never knew you had. You experience overwhelming lows where you feel like giving up. I felt very much like this after an awful 18 mile training run which left me delirious and feeling like all hope was lost thinking about trying to run another 8.2 miles. You are forced to face the very worst, negative emotions you feel about yourself, running or about the task you have taken on. But in confronting these demons you also learn how to draw on the best of yourself and your inner strength. When you realise you do have that inner strength it can be an empowering light bulb moment.

The overwhelming support of family and friends.

When you tell people you are running a marathon (and after you inform them that it is in fact 26.2 miles, not 18) there is a look of awe that appears on their faces. Followed by ‘you’re amazing’ and ‘I could never do that’ and many other compliments. Yes there will be the odd person who will try and pull you down a bit or tell you you’re mad but it’s the people who matter that really help to get you through.

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There are offers of help to raise money for your charity. There are also occasional offers from neighbours or friends to accompany you for a short distance during a long run. Embrace all offers of help. Training for a marathon can feel like such a selfish act at times. Accepting the support your loved ones offer you can make it feel like more of a team effort. They cheer you on and pick you up during training and will be there with banners and hugs at the end of the race. The one’s who love you want you to succeed!

A marathon event brings out the best in people.

I am aware that this line comes across as gushing and I probably wouldn’t have believed it myself until I ran the Edinburgh Marathon. Supporters came out of their houses along the route to watch complete strangers run 26.2 miles. One brought out their stereo to play Chariots of Fire as we ran by. People cheered for you if they saw the name on your vest. Families at many houses were handing out cups of water and jelly babies. Kids brought out their super soakers and water pistols to cool us down and other households brought out their hoses on what was an incredibly hot day in Scotland. They didn’t have to do any of this. They could have grumbled about the marathon being on but they didn’t. They joined in, became part of it and helped the runners. Marathon brings out the community spirit. I think you only have to look at the reaction of people after the Boston Marathon bombing to realise that.

It’s liberating

‘It’s amazing what you can do when you accept the high chance of failure and do it anyway.’

Laura from Lazy Girl Running tweeted this in reply to me after her Half Ironman (gulp) but I think it’s something that can easily be applied to running a marathon.

Once you’ve decided to enter one you have to face it head on, there is no turning back. And once the elation of crossing that finish line has passed it may occur to you (it did for me) that the body and mind are amazing things and that if you are capable of running 26.2 miles what else could you do? I found this liberating. I was liberated from the fear of it, other people’s attitudes towards it and that high chance of failure. That for me was a true epiphany that I got from running a marathon and it made me realise that other things were possible.

So that is why I found running a marathon special, a very individual approach to this debate but I don’t think you can deny that running a marathon is a pretty amazing thing.

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Run with an Idea: Real Runners Don’t Walk

Welcome to another debate from Run With An Idea. This week’s debate is:

‘Real Runner’s Don’t Walk’

When I first saw this topic I was sure I’d be of the opinion that yes, of course, real runner’s don’t walk. And while it is true that many runners would eventually hope that they could complete a course or training run without walking, I don’t agree with the fact that walking makes you less of a runner.

Lately I’ve been injured and even though I’d rather I was able to run an entire run like I did months ago it’s not always possible so I use a walk break to allow me to stretch, gather my thoughts and complete my run. People who are new to running usually start with a walk/run programme, and there is nothing wrong with this. It is another form of interval training to build fitness in a safe way, a bit like a fartlek. Trail runners are occasionally forced to walk because terrain or incline mean it’s not safe or possible to run. So there are plenty of occasions when walking is valid, it does not mean that they are any less a runner. If ‘runner’ runners were really honest they would admit to occasions when they’ve been forced to walk.

The thing I have always loved about running is it’s accessibility to all. I love that anyone regardless of ability can put on a pair of trainers and get out the door to get fit. Running snobbery like this can really irritate me as running is not an elite club. Elite running is an elite club but not running itself. I can see now the type of runner who gets annoyed by walkers and thinks that they don’t belong: male, club runner, checks their watch a lot, tuts at other runners, you know who I’m talking about. There would be no reason for them to tut if race organisers would place people in pens according to their predicted time. Or maybe they could have separate pens for runner’s who know they’re going to need walk breaks.

If you run you are a runner, whether you need a walking break or not. People should not be discouraged from a hobby that keeps them happy and healthy to satisfy running snobs. What would we rather? That runner/walker’s stayed at home and became sedentary again? No, they are runners and they should be supported for doing everything possible to keep them active and moving.

And just so we’re not down on all walkers: Rob Heffernan from Cork, the winner of the 50km Race Walk World Championships, completed the course in 3 hours and 37 minutes. Two minutes faster than I ran my marathon (42km) last year. Walking isn’t necessarily something to be sniffed at.

Run With An Idea: Juice Cleanses: Health or Hype.

This is the third post in the Run With An Idea Series. Today’s debate is Juice Cleanses: Health or Hype?

I’m not going to beat around the bush. I don’t go in for fads. I’ve never followed a particular diet, I’ve always aimed for balance. I don’t follow a particular exercise regime, although I suppose some might say by doing crossfit I’m following a fad (I don’t agree by the way that it is a fad, it’s a form of exercise). So if I was asked to do a juice cleanse I’d probably politely decline.

The first thing that I don’t understand is why the foods have to be juiced to be cleansing for your body. Surely eating those foods whole would be just as beneficial. I suppose it’s a short cut for the body. By mushing it all up, it’s all going to the same place to be digested by the enzymes in your stomach and it will end up looking like one big churned up mess, a bit like the juice.

The second thing is that I like the process of eating a meal. I like my food to look appealing to my eye and to smell good. I don’t see that happening with a juice cleanse. The very thought of juicing up all that nice food into a brownie-greeny mulch makes me feel like retching. Also it just comes over as a tad lazy. Many people don’t sit with their families at dinner time and this just seems like one more way to save time rather than sit at a table.

Thirdly I think any of the effects of a juice  cleanse would be short lived. For example: Person who eats badly and feels grotty decides to do a juice cleanse. After the cleanse they feel great (probably due to eating cleaner food rather than garbage). After cleanse person goes back to bad habits, doesn’t change their ways and unsurprisingly feels blah and grotty again. So what is the point? If that person had been taught to have a better diet all round rather than trying out a faddy juice cleanse they would be feeling better ALL THE TIME, not just after a ‘cleanse’ (sorry I just typed cleanse and it made me cringe, what a bull shit term). It’s false economy.

I did a bit of reading and a registered dietician said that he wouldn’t recommend trying to get all your nutrition from a beverage because it’s not going to happen. You’re going to put yourself at nutritional risk by doing a juice cleanse for a number of weeks. I feel like I knew that without being a trained dietician, it just seems so obvious. Juicing to me seems like another starvation diet.

And lastly, my biggest point *drum roll* there is no scientific evidence. There is evidence for the benefits of exercise, both long and short term. There is evidence for resistance training in weight loss. There is evidence that exercise can help reverse Type II Diabetes. There is no evidence (talking randomised controlled trials here) that suggest that juice cleanses are beneficial. I checked, I did a literature search but all I found was recipes and a patent pending for some really gross sounding ‘detoxifying tea’.

So without too much surprise I’m going with fad for juice cleanses. I believe that by eating well, a balanced diet which includes fruit and vegetables and limits rubbish, will in fact be better in the long term. Juice cleanses seem like too much of a short cut and as runner’s know from training, trying to take short cuts in achieving our goals come sometimes cause problems. Yes after a juice cleanse or smoothie cleanse you will feel better but only because you’ve been putting decent food into your body, not because it’s in juice form. Instead maybe look at your diet as a whole and improve things for the long term, not just for a few weeks of juicing.

chocolate running

*obviously this is my own opinion, if you have any evidence to share or your favourite juice recipe that you absolutely swear by, then please share in the comments!*

For more great posts with in this debate head over to the Run With An Idea page.

Run With An Idea: Would you pay £50 for a 10k race

This is the second debate in Carrie and Dash’s Run With An Idea series: How much is too much when you’re paying to enter a race?

I have thought about this and I’m torn and trying not to sit on the fence. My instinct when I first read about the British 10k was why on earth would anyone pay £50 for a 10k in London of all places. Anyone can run in London at any time and there are always plenty of excellent local races that are a fraction of the price. I’ve just paid for my London Marathon place and that was £35 so fifty just seems like a piss take. And for the last two years I’ve read awful things about British 10k and it’s organisation so you’re obviously not getting what you pay for. So at first glance, no it doesn’t look like I would pay £50 for a 10k. But I do have a confession to make:

A few weeks ago I had my credit card in hand while furiously texting my husband asking his advice as to what I should do. I had completed the online forms for the Nike Women’s San Francisco Marathon and was poised to potentially pay in excess of $250 for the privilege (if I’d been successful in the ballot). In the end I closed it all down and decided that it was London that I truly wanted to do in my heart of hearts but this just shows that despite my cynicism and my urge to people to support local races, I too am prepared to fork out a *hell of a* lot of money for a race. So why was I prepared to do it?

I guess it was about experiences. I was looking for a great running experience abroad and I was prepared to pay for it. And maybe the people who are stumping up the money for the British 10k are looking for the same thing. I don’t agree that they should be charging so much when it is allegedly run so badly and more expensive than the London Marathon but it’s possible that it’s not just the 10k the people are paying for. The chance to run on major London streets if it’s unlikely they’ll ever run the marathon? The London atmosphere with all the crowds? The chance to run in London with friends? An alternative hen party? (ok pushing it with the last one).

So when I review my morals and my own running code of conduct I think it is possible that I would pay £50 but I’d have to get something for my money. High on that list would be slick, professional organisation and potentially a decent goody bag and medal (although those last two things are never high on my list of priorities). I think I would try and speak to people about the races too to find out if they’re experience was worth what they paid in entry fees, do a bit of online research and also see where it fitted in with my own goals. I would also look to see if there were similar races in similar locations run by local clubs rather than large corporations if it is just about the experience. I might also look to see if the entry fee includes a donation to charity which would definitely help me justify the fee a bit more.

I guess what I’m saying is if you want to pay that much for a race then do it, it’s your money and your running goals, but just be careful you don’t end up paying money for rubbish running rope.

Current entry fees on my bucket list of races:

Berlin Marathon £100.

New York Marathon for non US residents $347 (£225).

Disneyland Half Marathon £190.

Chicago Marathon £150.

Athens Marathon £70 (the 5k entry is £60 and the 10k is £65).

Hollywood Half Marathon $85 early bird fee (£55).

Great Wall Marathon in China $1420-$1795 depending on the package you want.

(video by Salomon Trail Running)

Head over to the Run With An Idea page to see debates from other running bloggers on this topic!