Balancing your blood sugar

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Are you like me? My blood sugar can drop at any time… even though I try to manage what I eat as I’ve always suffered from this. I don’t have a serious blood sugar disease like diabetes, but I do have that kind of ‘Porsche’ metabolism where I struggle to put on weight. I’m slim, petite and maybe a little wiry (that’s quite hard to write as all women want to be curvaceous, don’t they!).
Whatever I eat, my body seems to burn it off quite quickly making me want more. I can feel hungry within half an hour of having a roast dinner! Leaving the house without some form of snack, just in case my blood sugar plummets leaving me shaky and spaced out, just never happens. I always have to be prepared when I travel, or if I’m out and about – in fact anytime I’m not at home where I have instant access to food.

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In a jam? Donut eat this!

Obviously I try to avoid sugary foods and drinks, though I am a woman and I do like cake! My body, as if in silent cooperation, doesn’t tend to crave sugar (except in cake!). I also get into trouble when I’m running long; I have to carry nutrition as I am also hungry, but if I take too many gels I feel spaced out and nauseous. What to do!
Nutritionist Henrietta Norton (www.wildnutrition.com) believes understanding how  certain foods or methods of eating effect our blood sugar, will help us optimize our energy, essential to running.

Why does the food we eat make a difference?

When we eat foods containing sugars, the pancreas responds by releasing insulin to push the blood sugar into the cells. If we eat foods higher in fast releasing sugars, insulin will be used to remove that sugar quickly because it’s not safe for us to continue experiencing high blood sugar. However, sometimes this process can cause a sudden ‘high’ in blood sugar levels followed by a more dramatic drop or ‘low’.  Symptoms of low blood sugar may include not being able to go for more than 1-2 hours without food, not experiencing fullness from meals (being more prone to snacking after meals) and experiencing dizziness, nausea, fatigue and mood swings when feeling hungry.  Another sign of blood sugar fluctuations may be sugar cravings or a ‘sweet tooth’.  We can moderate this process by eating foods that support this process better.

What can we do then to help limit and manage any fluctuations?
“Be your own sugar-detective,” says Henrietta, “high sugar foods are not always obvious.” Here are just some of the hidden sugars Henrietta says you may be eating daily.

White flour products: These are often both nutrient poor and release glucose quickly into the blood stream. Avoid all white flour carbohydrates such as white bread or pasta. Switch to brown rice, quinoa, oat or buckwheat. Ideally stick to a fist-sized amount of carbohydrates and have generous servings (ie half your plate) of vegetables and salad and proteins like meat, fish, eggs, beans and legumes. Avoid white potatoes and switch to sweet potatoes instead. You can also use vegetables as a starchy carbohydrate replacement. For example, a raw carrot and beetroot salad instead of brown rice.

Fruit:Getting the right ratio of fruit and vegetables in your diet is also important. Try to stick to 2 pieces of fruit per day to minimize fructose (fruit sugar) and choose fruit lower in fructose such as pears, apples, plums and any berries. If you do suffer from blood sugar fluctuations you may wish to avoid bananas, mango and pineapple. Dates have become enormously popular with health food blog recipes but they are very sweet, so you only need a few (not 10 or 20)! A good trick to slow down the release of sugar is to combine fruit with nuts and seeds so you might eat 1 apple alongside 4 almonds and a small handful of pumpkins seeds. All vegetables are great but be careful to either moderate your intake of starchy vegetables such as parsnips and pumpkin and preferably eat them with plenty of protein and healthy fats (see point no 2). Generally try to avoid fruit juice, as the fruit sugar will be released more quickly than when eating whole fruit because fruit juice lacks the fibre.

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Sugars: If you want to sweeten a hot drink, try a little maple syrup, natural stevia root powder or coconut sugar. Honey is OK if local or manuka (some bees are fed sugar to make commercial honey so avoid these where you can). Be vigilant about checking snack food labels for glucose syrup, dextrose syrup and high fructose corn syrups, as these types of sugars will cause blood sugar levels to soar. We recommend avoiding sweeteners, as even these have been show to affect blood sugar levels as the sweet taste still signals insulin production in the body. Watch out also for sugary drinks and alcohol which often contain quite a lot of sugar too.

These are Henrietta Norton’s top tips to be on top of your blood sugar levels:
Eat protein and healthy fats with every meal: All meals should include protein (e.g chicken) and healthy fats (e.g avocado), as these food groups take much longer to break down in the stomach and provides a slow and steady source of energy – imagine a dripping tap of sugar rather than a tap turned on full blast.

Managing your stress levels: When our adrenal glands produce stress hormones such as cortisol, our liver also releases stored glucose called glycogen. In more primitive times, this was so we would have the energy to fight or run away from danger. However our daily ‘stresses’ are more desk bound than mammoth based which means that the released glucose is now circulating in the blood stream and more likely to be converted into unwanted fat in the body. Simple tips to improve this include getting enough rest, eating well and cutting down on caffeine containing drinks.

Supplementing your diet with magnesium and adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha as well as practicing calming exercise such as yoga or Pilates can be very supportive too. Supplement with chromium. This mineral is required for normal blood glucose concentrations and the maintenance and achievement of normal body weight. Research has shown that chromium works by supporting insulin sensitivity by optimizing the receptor sites on the cell wall. Back to our analogy, this is basically all about helping to get our ship with sugar cargo get into the harbor by the aid of the lighthouse and lighthouse keeper. Chromium may also be really helpful taken alongside a healthy diet for weight management.

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Eat breakfast: Research has shown that those who eat a good solid breakfast each day are less likely to experience blood sugar fluctuations throughout the day. Aim for a balance of food groups rather than just a plain piece of toast or cereal. Try a bowl of wholegrain muesli with full fat milk or full fat yoghurt with nuts, seeds and berries or sliced pear on top OR wholegrain (or rye) brown toast with scrambled eggs, half an avocado and a green smoothie.

Get your ‘Z’Ss: Research has shown that getting enough sleep can improve blood glucose levels and how effectively our body uses insulin. Practice winding down earlier in the evening and aim form 8 hours sleep, preferably between 10.30pm-6.30am. If you find it a challenge to fall asleep try chamomile herbal tea or a valerian based natural sleep aid.

Wild Nutrition stockists include Space NK, WholeFoods UK and online. Henrietta Norton’s new book ‘Your Pregnancy Nutrition Guide’ will be published 8th August 2015 (Vermilion).

 

Run with CEP

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Do you, like me, love your CEP socks/calf guards? I’ll be giving them a good wash so they’re sparkling clean ready for next week’s launch of RunwithCEP, a series of fun, informative running events throughout London. Starts next Tuesday, 7th July in Broadgate shopping district. These are my faves, my orange ones…

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What colour do you like? ‪#‎RunwithCEP‬

 

Beat the heat (….and keep running!)

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Are you melting as you read this? Is worry about spending another night kicking off the covers making you itchy about your sleep prospects during this heat wave? And did you know this summer is set to be the warmest in 135 years? As we celebrate the great yellow orb’s return you can throw out your fears of sleepless nights, say goodbye to grumpy mornings and get ready for work with a zing in your step with these great tips, shared by Silentnight sleep expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan (and don’t be stingy and keep these to yourself – save your loved ones from broiling in the bed and share them! They will be easier to live with, too!).

1. Stop your bedroom over-heating during the day by keeping curtains and
blinds closed

2. Wash your feet with cold water before getting into bed, and run your
wrists under cold water

3. Use light bed sheets and a summer duvet – 4.5 Tog recommended

4. Try a Geltex mattress from Silentnight, with an innovative combination of an extremely elastic gel and air-permeable foam offering unparalleled breathability to prevent the body from overheating

5. Finally, it is essential to stay well hydrated during the day and most importantly, don’t fret too much if you can’t sleep. Use the time to rest and think positive thoughts, then you will be extra productive the day after (I particularly like this one, as often you just can’t get to sleep, for many different reasons: now you can use this time productively!)

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Not enough? You’re already doing all of the above? Well, firstly, well done on being so on the ball, and secondly, here’s a few more quirky tips for you to try….

Use a fan and place it so that it is blowing the air over a tray of ice – this will cool the room down as the ice melts

Keep a plant mister containing water by your bed to spray on your face during the night

Place a wet flannel in the fridge for an hour or so before getting into bed and lay it on your forehead to help you drift off

Sleep in cool wet socks or even a damp T-shirt

Chill your pillow case in the freezer before getting into bed

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Good luck! You can get even more sleep tips from Dr Nerina by visiting the Silentnight Sleep Toolkit at: http://www.silentnight.co.uk/sleep-matters/dr-nerinas-sleep-toolkit/#22662

Have you got any tips you can share?

Womens summer running kit essentials

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Here’s my nine summer must-have kit essentials!

Sunglasses
DHB PRO TRIPLE LENS SUNGLASSES
Why I rate them: You can’t beat these for value, as you get clear, smoke and orange lenses with each frame option. I’m really light sensitive and found the large lenses blocked out all peripheral light. You get 100 per cent UVA and UVB protection, plus I think the quality/fit of the frame is excellent.
£29.99, www.wiggle.co.uk

Style rating: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5

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Vest
HELLY HANSEN W VTR MESH SINGLET
Why I rate it: I loved the vivid colours of this singlet; I went for the pink option even though I’m not really a pink gal! It’s quite long in the body which I really liked as it felt comfortable but also looks good with leggings. It’s also super soft material, and the style on the back is very flattering.
£20, www.hellyhansen.com

Style rating: 4/5
Value for money: 5/5

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If you have a bit more money to spend…
GORE SUNLIGHT LADY PRINT SINGLET
Why I like it: Yes it’s quite a lot of money to spend on one vest but you get such excellent quality with Gore I think it’s worth having the odd essential item in your running wardrobe. None of my Gore kit has ever worn out (yet!). I really like it that Gore has stepped up to the line and delivered more feminine/stylish kit this year. You get draped fabric at the sides and a very distinctive, flattering print. It’s lightweight with stretch material, giving you function that really does looks fantastic! Remember, you’re worth it!
£54.99, www.goreapparel.co.uk

Style rating: 5/5
Value for money: 3/5

GORE RUNNING WEAR Sunlight Lady Print Singlet

Tee
ADIDAS CLIMACHILL TEE
How could I not put this inventive tee on my list? When you first feel the aluminium-silver dots on the inside of the back it feels like tiny fingers are tickling your skin. The mesh-like fabric is also unbelievably lightweight. With a heat-wave forecast I know I am going to be grateful I have this tee to throw on.
£30, www.adidas.co.uk

Style rating: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5

Adidas Climachill

Shorts
SAUCONY PE SHORT
I really love the flattering, athletic cut of these shorts. They were comfy on the run and very breathable. Their greatest feature is the comfortable elastic waistband, and you also get a zipped storage pocket. I don’t know about you but I want my pockets to have zips so I don’t have to worry about losing my front door key.
£30, www.saucony.co.uk

Style rating: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5

Saucony copy

Or if you’ve got a bit more to spend…
FALKE HOT PANTS
These are much more expensive but I really love the super soft and light elastic fabric of these shorts. The material is incredibly thin so you don’t feel anything rubbing against your skin. There’s a handy, secure zip pocket on the rear as well. These are the shorts I grab when I don’t have time to think about what I’m going to wear, as I know they fit perfectly and are the most comfortable summer shorts I have at the moment.
£55, www.net-a-porter.com

Style rating: 4/5
Value for money: 3/5

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Sports Bra
MOVING COMFORT FINEFORM BRA
I’m a petite lady so I find it quite hard to find sports bras that fit me properly. This bra did exactly that, and the Drilayer Adapt straps, which will stretch to fit the wearer, impressed me. I really loved the back j-hook, which can be used to change to a racer back, which I think looks much prettier.
£34, www.movingcomfort.co.uk

Style rating: 4/5
Value for money: 5/5

Moving Comfort FineForm_AB

Accessory
FLIPBELT
If you haven’t yet invested in a FlipBelt, get one now! It’s amazing! There’s space to stash everything you need (I like to take lots with me on the trails and managed to fit four gels, my car keys, a packet of tissues, a flapjack, my inhaler and even a lightweight jacket in mine!). Stuff it all in then flip the whole belt over to keep your essentials secure (I didn’t do this the first time I ran and lost a couple of gels!). If you couldn’t get so much in it I would say it’s a bit expensive for what it is, but you can – and there’s plenty of colours to chose from too.
£25, theflipbelt.co.uk

Style rating: 5/5
Value for money: 5/5

Flip belt

Nutrition
HONEYSTINGER CHEWS
I find too many gels make me quite nauseous, but I tried out these chews as I was training for the my South Downs Trail Half marathon and now wont run without a pack stashed in my kit. The best thing about them is you don’t actually have to chew them – just pop one in your mouth and it slowly dissolves. Saving precious energy for your running.
£2.25, www.honeystingeruk.co.uk

Style rating: None!
Value for money: 5/5

honey stinger

What about your summer essentials? I would love to hear what you couldn’t run without this summer…

 

 

Half marathons abroad

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Just how far are you willing to go for a half marathon?
Are you sick of doing the same old races? Would this year see you celebrating your 17th running of the Bumbleton Half? Then it’s time to think about breaking out of the old routine – and considering an overseas half marathon.

There’s definitely something to be learnt from the phrase “a change is as good as a rest”. Looking further afield than the next postcode for your next half marathon race could see you stepping on a plane to an exotic clime, combining a well-earned holiday with some foreign racing or even going to that romantic city you always dreamt about.

‘I did the Jamaica Half Marathon (baby sister to the Reggae Marathon) in 2013 and it was absolutely worth it,’ says Rachel Leach. ‘I had a week of relaxing before the big day, enjoyed the pasta party the night before, then ran the half on the middle Saturday of my holiday. The race was incredible. It started at 5.15am with a torchlight parade; there were steel drums along the route and fabulous support from the locals. At the finish you got a beer, fresh coconut milk and a dip in the ocean.’

‘To say it was pretty warm while running would be an understatement, but this was part of the experience,’ adds Rachel. ‘After the run we had a week of properly letting our hair down (in a lovely all-inclusive resort!), and did lots of touristy things too. It’s one of the best holidays I’ve ever been on. We decided to run this because of the marathon initially, but as it turned out a couple of us did the half and a couple did the marathon, but I think that even if we had all done the half we would still be recommending the experience.’

Hopping across the Channel
I myself had a look at the Paris Half Marathon on the Internet and thought, OK, I want to try this. Marathons require a lot of training and so much can go wrong (and often does for me!) before race day. Fitting in a cheeky half abroad, however, as part of a fluid marathon training schedule seemed very appealing. With a record 35,314 other participants, including a host of UK club vests spotted en route, other Brits obviously had the same idea. Unlike a marathon you feel like you are part of some crazy charge to take in a city’s history and culture without inflicting those microscopic muscle tears that a full marathon entails, and you can walk away at the end pain-free!

Run for fun
If you are goal driven, and are wondering what should come next on your running calendar, a half may pull you through training without those daunting feelings of “how am I ever going to do this”. This year Sarah Booker has decided to run in the Riga Half Marathon purely for fun. ‘Every year my company promotes a half marathon for the staff that want to run. It’s always somewhere interesting but this is the first year I’ll be taking part,’ she says. ‘It’s not been too expensive – about £160 per person including flights, accommodation and entry.

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For Sarah, knowing she is taking part in an organised trip means fewer worries regarding navigating a new country or negotiating the language barrier. ‘I’ve not been to Latvia before and we’re going to use the opportunity to explore Riga and try some of the local food – not before the race though!

‘I’m looking forward to doing the half marathon as there’s not so much pressure for me as doing a full marathon. There will be less training involved and I’ll be able to relax more as this will be a run for fun, not for a PB as I’ll have tackled the Thames Path 100 miler two weeks previously!’ she states.

Is there a pattern emerging? Perhaps planning or organising or targeting a big city half becomes more attainable when you place your race within a holiday. This will instantly make it seem less expensive, and you never know, just like Rachel’s Jamaica Half, it may add extra to that holiday experience creating lifelong memories.

‘I’m always open to running outside the UK,’ says Sarah, ‘and will certainly be keeping an eye out for more races in the future. My running friends love the idea of destination races; one has just come back from completing Malta Half Marathon, another is doing Ironman Japan and another good friend is flying out to Mallorca in May to do a Half Ironman.

‘I’ve also got into the habit of planning races into UK holidays too. It’s brilliant, I ask my husband if he wants a holiday then mention offhand that there’s a race in the middle of it. He’s wising up now though and has started asking why I’ve suggested a particular destination!’

Hop over the Channel to do the Paris Half
Hotel: Best Western Allegro Nation Paris, £120 per night for a double (www.hotelallegroparis.com)

Eurostar: Prices start from £69 return (www.eurostart.com)

Race entry: 49 Euros (you may have to pay extra for mandatory medical certificates)

www.semideparis.com

 

Man, I slew you!

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Ultra running novice Francesca Eyre took on the Manaslu Trail Race in Nepal, a multi-day 220K race, and ended up finishing fourth female

After watching her sister, then brother, die of cystic fibrosis (CF), Francesca Eyres, 44, was determined to find a natural remedy when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2010.

2008 and 2009 had been tough years for Francesca. ‘My brother Nick had been very ill due to suffering from CF since birth. Whilst he was waiting for a heart and lung transplant he passed away in March 2009. Our business partner was also very ill and died with me by her side in December 2009. Then the banking crisis hit and we were in a tough financial position with our business.’ Francesca runs a ski chalet hotel in the French Alps with her husband Paul.

Francesca’s body broke down. ‘I started suffering chronic back pain – I couldn’t even put on my trousers in the morning. Then a growth was found on my thyroid, which had to be treated with radioactive treatment, and finally I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2010.

‘I left the clinic that day and have never been back. I looked into a more natural approach to coping with my diagnosis, as I didn’t want to go on medication, and so I changed my diet. I stopped drinking alcohol, came off gluten and dairy and stopped eating inflammatory foods such as potatoes, tomatoes and aubergines. I cut down my meat intake and eliminated caffeine.

Rediscovering my running

‘I had started running when my youngest child, Jamie was a baby, ten years ago. With three children and a hotel to run, I needed some headspace. To make sure I trained I entered a 10K race; I had never done any competitive sports prior to this and I was amazed at the buzz at the race.’

The other massive change Francesca’s diagnosis bought about was deciding to live life to the full and do as much sport as she could, while she could. ‘I needed to add more challenges into my life,’ she says. ‘Running helped my stress levels but hurt my joints too much, so I started trail running. There is nothing more beautiful or more humbling than reaching a summit; running up the mountains meant I could get further, faster!’

During the winter it’s impossible to run in the Alps, so Francesca took up ski touring, where you use skis to run up a mountain. ‘The first ski randonée race I ever did was the Montée du Crot – an 800m run up the mountain over a 4K distance from just outside our house to the centre of Avoriaz. It took the world champion 24 minutes and me nearly an hour.

‘I decided my next big challenge would be the 70K Classic Quarter Cornish Coastal Trail (www.endurancelife.com), in June last year. Even though I had never run a marathon, I smiled the whole way round; the scenery, the people, the terrain was all incredible and when I reached the finish line as the ninth woman, I knew that I had to challenge myself to something even tougher and harder!’

Subhead: I do because I can

Francesca’s motto is “I do because I can”. Feeling fit after her first ultra she wanted to find a race that would give her two points towards the three you need to enter the CCC race (part of UTMB trail race that takes place in Chamonix in August). ‘To gain your three points you have to run in at least two ultra marathons. I scoured the Internet and found the Manaslu Trail Race in Nepal (http://manaslutrailrace.org). This, I decided, would be my next race.’

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‘It was really hard to find the time to train but a race organiser suggested little and often,’ says Francesca. ‘I tried to run at least 40-80K per week, which doesn’t sound like a lot but 10K over the mountains takes me an hour and a half, depending on the vertical ascent. I entered into a couple of 22K trail races and also did a small amount of road cycling to cross-train and avoid injury.

‘As a woman, mother and someone who has her own business, I put so much pressure on myself re training and I have to remind myself that I’m doing this out of choice. You have to not pressure yourself into thinking that you are a highly tuned athlete whose living depends on it.’

Francesca insists she is just a mum of three that has a competitive spirit and runs the best she can. ‘I have very good endurance, above speed, so if the views are beautiful around me, I am very happy to keep on plodding. I always look around and appreciate how beautiful everything is. I also realised that it is impossible to run the whole distance and that most ultra runners walk up the hills, over a certain distance and incline.’

Feeling petrified!

During the briefing for the race Francesca got to meet the other runners, including many elite athletes. ‘We all stood up to give a short talk about ourselves and the races we had competed in; I told everyone that I was absolutely petrified and wondered what on earth I was doing entering a race like this! I’m 44 and have a business and three kids – what was I thinking?!’

Yet Francesca went on to finish fourth female, and 17th overall (behind Holly Rush in second, in 20.52.48, who represents Great Britain and ran in the Commonwealth Games) in a time of 26.26.08. ‘And through this adventure I raised £6204.56 for cystic fibrosis,’ she says very proudly.

‘Next I’m going to do the UTB (http://www.ultratour-beaufortain.fr) in June, a 104K race with 6400m of ascent. Am I completely and utterly nuts?’

A very inspiring mum of three with a competitive spirit who just runs the best she can.

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How tough can it get?

‘The toughest parts for me were running 46K in the heat with a lot of ascending (day 2) and our “rest day” (day 7), a 21K trek up to 4998m to have a picnic on the Tibetan boarder. I had a chest infection and was really shattered that day but knew it was a “one off” that will probably never be repeated, so a must do.  I had also promised a very spiritual friend of mine that I would collect a stone for her from the boarder and promises are promises!  It was worth every step as the views into Tibet were breathtaking.’

 What is the Manaslu Trail Race?

This is a 220K race around the eighth highest mountain in the world at 8163m. You ascend over 15000m, the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest twice. The highest ascent is 5200m. ‘The first stage was 28K; a long slow gentle climb of around 1026m,’ says Francesca. ‘Stage 2 takes in 46.4km with 2156m ascent. Expect 29.6K and 1954m in elevation on Stage 3. Stage 4 involves 24.8K with 1396m ascents, Stage 5 is 30K and Stage 6 is another 12K with 727m ascent. A rest day is followed by two further stages of 22K and 31K.’

_MG_8754manaslu trail race

 

Do nut eat this!

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Health warning! A burger containing 1966 calories, 98 per cent of a woman’s Guideline Daily Amount, has been launched by pub-restaurant chain Hungry Horse.

You’d need to run 20 miles to burn off the 1966 calories in this one burger! I love donuts but….

I’ve missed you…

noo noo girl running for David

“The strongest actions of a woman is to love herself, be herself, and shine amongst those who never believed she could.”

Breathe. Gulp. Another gulp. Many gulps. It’s coming back now; the air is flowing deep through every alveolus in my lungs. I’m sorry I’ve been away so long. It’s time to start again. Can you forgive me for the last few months? I needed a little time to be myself… I’m trying to do some work on shining a bit brighter than I did before. I’m feeling quite sparkly and new now. How are you?

I’m just going to stretch out these muscles and see if they still work. I’ll let you know what happens later.

Did I already say? I’ve really missed you…

A lifelong addiction

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noo noo girl running for David

I am like a wild animal that roams this world, seeking extreme terrain and weather systems and other creatures who inhabit our beautiful oblate spheroid.

Being in possession of a treadmill in this life is a blessing – I have three young children – but it only takes a nervous glance out of my window at black clouds, trees almost bent to the ground with the wind, and the odd splat of water and there I am, running for miles along what seems, at times, the stormiest coastline in the world.

It’s never planned; it never should be. Any of us can take the easier option – to wait, to run inside. But this week the distant rumble of thunder drew me outdoors, and what an explosive experience I had. I switched off the headlines about the coastline of our island flooding and headed down to my local beach to check out the lie of the land for myself. Breathing? I couldn’t. The first three miles out the wind was against me and I was slow. Coming back it sliced through me, a westerly wind from an imaginary world more grim than the Ash Mountains of Mordor in Middle Earth.

My iPod flicked on to Madonna’s Immaculate Collection, music I hadn’t listened to for years. It transported me back to my school days when I would run the same route, fighting the same battle with the relentless wind. Which ever direction you run, it’s always there. In the run up to my O levels, my form tutor Linda (also my P.E. teacher) would suggest that my grades would get better if I spent less time out running, and more revising. But then, like now, I couldn’t stop myself from venturing out. It’s been a life-long addiction.

On my stormy run I thought about how, despite living and running all round the world, there were deep constants in my life. After spending half of my life trying to get away from where I grew up. I then spent half trying to get back. That tutor and P.E. teacher is now training my youngest as she takes small steps towards becoming a gymnast. When someone from your past reappears you can’t help but ask both why they have come back into your life, and what message life is sending you by the reunification. Thoughts began to flood back and I remembered I still had all of my school reports. I went up into my loft and found my battered old suitcase that holds the memories of my 40 or so years, and dug them out. Having told my girls that their athleticism is down to me (which of course they sniggered at) I found myself in tears within minutes as I read my form tutor’s words. “Could try harder” then “gymnastics is her weakest area” and finally, from my last year of school “…giving up athletics is such a waste of talent”. Those words winded me.

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Like the majority of teenagers I left my sport behind for what I thought were much more exciting options: going out, boyfriends, the pub… Regret is a heavy feeling that no-one wants to carry around, but sitting in our dusty, cold and still loft it’s what I felt. I’m not saying I could have reached any heady heights within athletics, but if I had at least persevered I could have discovered how far I could have gone. And would know now. Instead I stopped running for nearly 20 years.

Yet running came back in my life, and it still brings the ups and downs that athletics did when I was younger. Now I seem to seek many different things from running, one of the most important being connecting with other people. There was a time, when my children were tiny, when I desperately needed to go for a run, and ventured out to a club session, for ‘me’ time, but if anyone asked how I was I would hold back the tears. Now I want to talk to everyone; any runner I see I say hello to, but some are zoned out and I have to admit, this bugs me! Is a quick smile or wave of the hand wave so much to ask? Yet I know that once this was me, so caught up in myself that perhaps I didn’t have the time to reply, respond, or react.

Still, I look for eye contact now, and even though it’s sometimes hard to get this, I will keep trying.

What’s up?

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noo noo girl running for David

Are you one of those runners who suffers from mood swings post run, becoming grumpy and irritable with those around you? Do you often fail to take on enough fluid during your exercise? The two could be linked, with dehydration being the root cause of your mood fluctuations…

Graham Bell experienced one of the worst possible outcomes to any runner in any race; he collapsed at mile 26 in the 2007 London Marathon. “Conditions were exceptional in 2007, and I basically didn’t take this into account,” he recalls. “I did hydrate, both before and from the start of the race. It was cool to start with, but the temperature seemed to rise very quickly.

“I probably hadn’t properly realised the effect of running in a city environment when the heat is rising, compared to the sea breeze I experience when running at home. And I certainly didn’t take this into account in my pursuit of the elusive sub three hours. This led to collapse, and for several hours my wife Tracy had no idea where I was, causing her considerable worry. We concluded dehydration was the route cause, as the only treatment I received was an IV saline drip, both in the St John’s ambulance and at hospital. Just as soon as my core temp had reduced I was free to go, and managed to walk to the tube station and get the train home. There were no after affects, apart from the pride issue.”

Graham’s problems didn’t end there; dehydration when running and after is a problem he constantly battles with. “I am not the best at hydrating and really have to force myself to drink fluids. I now have a pre-race day ritual of drinking plenty but it is a struggle. During a race I just can’t seem to find the right technique for taking fluids on board,” he continues. “The effect of all this is that I seem to use up all my reserves, and if I don’t rehydrate properly post-race, or reward myself with a beer or two instead, then I suffer the side effects.

“There are two other elements to this,” he adds. “Firstly, as I get older it takes longer to recover from a race, and this sometimes leaves me tired and irritable. Secondly if the race hasn’t gone to plan that leaves frustration and causes irritability! But the thread that joins them is the dehydration factor. Tired and irritable, with a tight feeling in the head means that it best to keep out of my way! I think this is partly born out of frustration from wanting to go for a run. After a recent 20 mile race I tried a new tactic. Instead of feeling sorry for my poor aching limbs and letting them rest I decided a recovery run would be good. Just by myself so no pressure and no chatting. It kick started the recovery and I drank plenty afterwards. I would say that it worked for me. I got back into running quicker, which was pleasing, and this generally made me happier than I had expected to feel.”

As for impacting those around him, Graham can’t deny that sometimes everyone in the family is affected by his post-race mood. “Living in a house where both parents work full-time, with two sons full of testosterone can be frustrating! When my energy levels are low, and I am aching and tired, the dehydration is just the icing on the cake in the recipe of a frustrated runner.”

“I can certainly say that immediately after a long training run or race Graham can be fairly grumpy,” says his wife Tracy. “I initially put this down to blood sugar levels as there is a family trait of grumpy when hungry. (“We can all relate to this!” Ed) If it is a big race we often have a fews days where he is low, however the impact on the family is less now our two sons are aware of the situation, but we do tease him and pull his leg to lift him out of it.”

Emotional connections
In Graham’s case, the link with dehydration, unpleasant mood, and unsatisfactory performance stems from the 2007 marathon. “If he suspects he is de-hydrated, even a hint, unpleasant emotions come flooding in mainly due to the link between not completing the 2007 race,” states Andrew Lane, a Professor of Sport Psychology at the University of Wolverhampton, and an expert in emotion regulation in sport. “Graham probably pushed himself greatly to complete the event below three hours. He would have required fluid after running for that time in the heat, and so it’s not surprising that he received a saline drip. It’s a strong connection that is reinforced by the fact that he struggles to drink during races.”

Prof Lane believes that developing a plan has helped Graham. “I suggest he sets a goal of being able to drink more during races. Most people learn to drink in races and not in training. I would advise learning to drink during training; treadmill running is the easiest way of doing this as your drink is already there. You can gauge how much you need to reduce speed to drink. Like with all goals, you start at one level and then look to improve. In long duration events its worth taking a drink at each feeding station, even just a slurp. Graham admits he finds this a struggle. Most people who miss three hours do so over the last few miles; they can run 6.40 miles easy enough early on, but during the last few miles the pace drops to 7.30, 8.30, or even slower. You only have to look at marathon splits from any race to see the second half is run a great deal slower.

“If hydration is factor, and if you have strong beliefs that hydration is a factor, then if you don’t drink, it will be. Your beliefs have a powerful influence on how you operate. If that describes how you perform, then try strategies to get better at drinking during running. If one week you have to slow to just above walking pace for 60 seconds but the next week you drink the same volume in 40 secs, you have made a 20 second saving.”

How sweaty are you?!
There is also a huge range in sweat losses between individuals. “However, many runners don’t appreciate this and simply drink fluids whilst running without structuring the amount they drink around the weight loss they experience through running and sweating (this can be worked out by weighing yourself before and after a race),” advocates Dr Charles Pedlar, Director of the Centre for Health, Applied Sport and Exercise Science (CHASES) & The St Mary’s Clinic at St Mary’s University College, London.

“For example an elite runner could loose four kilograms an hour due to sweat loss whilst running, while other runners don’t even loose 600 grams in the same time period. On top of this, some people are more salty sweaters with elevated electrolyte loss . If you don’t ensure that you replace sodium, as well as water, you can suffer from hyponatraemia (an electrolyte disturbance that is defined by lowered sodium levels in the blood).”

A sweat check to find out how much electrolytes you are losing may be invaluable to future performances, believes Andy Blow, an ex-GB international tri and duathlete and director of sports science at the Porsche Human Performance Centre at Silverstone. “If you do suffer from high volume losses of sweat your net sodium loss could be massive and learning to supplement this correctly would definitely help any runner to perform better.”

What’s the link?
How much dehydration can affect your mood is not well understood physiologically. “Research provides many different explanations as to how dehydration influences mood,” states Hannah MacLeod, a Lucozade sport scientist. “This may be due to hydration levels in the brain, increased levels of stress hormones such as cortisol or changes in the way chemicals are transported to the brain. The human body is made up of around 65-70 per cent water. Any significant loss of body water, such as when you sweat during a race, causes multiple physiological and psychological problems. If you manage to make it to the finish line, but fail to replace any sweat losses incurred, you may experience headaches, confusion, reduced reaction time and changes in mood in the hours post race.”

“Anecdotally the evidence suggests that dehydration can affect mood,” continues Dr Pedlar. “Mood is a very good measurement of fatigue and overtraining, and often pre-empts physiological responses. As a holistic measurement of how you are feeling after running, your mood can often summarise for you how your body feels. If your exercise has gone well there are many positive effects on mood; you experience the release of endorphins.” Don’t forget that endorphins are endogenous opioid peptides, a morphine-like substance that function as neurotransmitters in the body which act on the same receptors in the brain as morphine, producing analgesia and a feeling of well-being. “You also release endocannabinoids,” says Dr Pedlar,” substances produced from within the body that activate cannabinoid receptors, promoting a feeling of euphoria.” We all crave the runner’s high, don’t we?

“It is likely this feeling is linked to hydration,” suggests Dr Pedlar, “so the better hydrated you feel, the better you run, and the better your mood.” Surely it makes sense that greater levels of dehydration will negatively impact on mood?

“If you are performing well and think you will achieve your goals, then its likely you will be in a pleasant mood,” continues Prof Lane. “If things are not going so well, then the reverse might occur and you will be in an unpleasant mood. That sounds obvious I know. Sweating gives an indication of work load; if you are sweating more than usual, this will send a message to your brain saying ‘I need a drink’ – if you do not have a drink then concern over being able to sustain your running speed will build. If you become concerned there will be a physiological response, which could contribute to further sweating. We know we sweat when we are nervous. Hence, your emotional state in response to feeling that you need to drink becomes an additional issue.”

Research also indicates a link with sodium replacement in drinks and improvements in cognitive function (suggesting the opposite could also be true). “We’ve also seen similar results in our own testing which suggest that insufficient sodium replacement in hydration drinks used during exercise can lead to compromised cognitive function,” adds Andy Blow. “Whether this is directly related to mood swings it would be hard to say (usually low blood sugar and over training are more likely to be linked to mood swings) but it would not be fair to rule it out; anything that affects the brain negatively could affect mood.”

What to do?
So, considering the above, what is the solution? “Firstly, you need to develop a mindset that you can cope without drinking and that excessive sweating is a normal part of running hard. You accept that you will take fluid on when it is available, and will plan to take on enough fluid to match your needs,” says Prof Lane. But how do you develop such a mindset?

“A feature of training in the heat is that you get used to altering sensations of hydration needs. When you first start running, you feel you need a drink all of the time. After a few runs in the heat, you start adapting. Part of this adaption is psychological; you re-interpret bodily symptoms. Warm weather training is possible for some athletes but not all. Running in gyms usually involves running in hotter environments than outside. Alternatively, wear additional clothes to create the sensation of feeling hot.”

Another great tool in the fight against dehydration, and possible mood swings, is using an isotonic drink regularly. It is important that you replace the sodium and potassium you lose through sweat, so your drink needs to include electrolyte levels similar to the levels you loose. How should each individual runner know how much fluid is enough? When training, you can weigh yourself before and after a long run. The difference will be mainly fluid. There will be a range of weight loss where you feel fine. If you run at your race pace until you feel you need to drink, you can then weigh yourself to see how much water you have lost. Once you know this, you can calculate how much you need to drink. “One pound of weight loss should equal one pint of fluid intake approximately,” advised Prof Lane. “If you were already hydrated at the start of your run, your bodyweight would need to reduce by more than five per cent to have a meaningful effect.”

Are you a sweaty Betty?
So how do you know if you are one of those really salty, sweaty runners? Most of us have a good idea of whether we are sweaty runners or not (our damp clothes are a basic sign), but if you see salty deposits on your black lycra it could be a sign of excessive salty sweating. Tasting your sweat it is also a good gauge, though not an accurate guide. A sweat patch is much more accurate and can be analysed to give you a more scientific reading. However, it is also important to be aware that your sweat range can change over time, especially as you become more fit.

What is a sweat check?
At Precision Hydration they measure your sweat and tell you how much electrolyte is in and then match you with the right sports drink giving you optimal hydration. It is a simple test. No exercise is required; you sit down, have electrodes placed on your arm, a sweat sample is taken with a sweat check analyser and within 20 minutes you get your results.
For more information about sweat tests visit www.myh2pro.com
Learn more about Andy Lane’s work at www.virginlondonmarathon.com/training-centre/training-centre/music-and-motivation or www.winninglane.com

Andy Blow: www.votwo.co.uk