Christmas gifts for runners

Last year, my rather unsubtle Christmas gifts for runners (named Emma) post was reasonably successful. While my family quite sensibly ignored the more expensive items in my guide, on Christmas Day I found myself unwrapping parcels containing a Lululemon running skirt, Shock Absorber sports bra and some running socks.

It’s now December and Christmas is rapidly approaching. Although I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told my family I can’t afford Christmas this year, I keep getting asked “what would you like for Christmas Emma?”. As a result, I’ve decided to produce an updated Christmas gifts for runners guide.

Once again, I’ve included photos and links to each item to hopefully save my family time when they are shopping online.

Christmas 2017

Donation to my fundraising page My close friend Geoff was recently diagnosed with a rare form of thyroid cancer. After a discussion with my him, I decided to use my place in the Cambridge Half to raise money for the Butterfly Thyroid Cancer Trust, the first registered charity in the UK dedicated solely to the support of people affected by thyroid cancer. At the moment my fundraising isn’t going very well. I’m hoping that my family and friends will start to feel more generous as Christmas approaches.

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17 trainers I’m aware that these were included in my gift guide last year. However, I genuinely believe that a runner can never have too many pairs of trainers. Although these trainers are expensive, they are cheaper than the physio sessions I needed last time I attempted to run in a different brand and model of trainers.

HydrateM8 water bottle I need to drink less Diet Coke and more still water. I’m hoping that a motivational HydrateM8 water bottle will help me to ditch the fizzy drinks and to embrace the clear stuff.

Entry into the Vitality London 10,000 I’ve included this rather random gift suggestion again because an entry into one of my favourite races would make an amazing Christmas present. I’m pretty certain that most runners would love to receive a race entry as a Christmas gift.

Garmin Forerunner 235 Unfortunately, my second-hand Garmin Forerunner 220 has been a little temperamental for quite some time and will probably need replacing within the next six months. A runner can always dream!

Aftershokz Trekz Titanium wireless headphones I’ve done my research, i.e. I’ve read a couple of blogs and online reviews, and the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium wireless headphones sound pretty awesome. When I (hopefully) move to Wallingford next month, I’ll be doing most of my training on a ‘dreadmill’ and will, therefore, need to upgrade my rubbish freebie phone headphones. If you do decide to treat me to a pair, blue is my favourite colour.

Shock Absorber Ultimate Run sports bra If anyone in my family knows what happened to the Ultimate Run sports bra I unwrapped on Christmas Day last year please let me know! My boobs have now had enough of the worn-out sports bras I bought from H&M over four years ago.

Bespoke eatnaturally nutrition plan While I’ve really enjoyed attempting to follow and recreate several of the recipes on the Fitnaturally website, I know that I’d benefit from a bespoke nutrition plan. You keep telling me that I’m getting a little “podgy” so here’s your chance to help me sort my diet out.

Jasyoga Hit Reset book I’ve been subscribing to Jasyoga for quite some time now and would love a copy of Erin Taylor’s Hit Reset book. If you don’t manage to track down a copy of the Hit Reset book don’t worry, Erin has written a second book called Work IN which is available for pre-order now.

The Running School biomechanical running analysis And finally, if you are searching for the perfect gift for an injury-prone runner, I’ve got a great suggestion; a biomechanical running analysis. I’ve included a link to The Running School; however, loads of places seem to offer a similar running analysis.

Have you asked for any running related gifts for Christmas this year?

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I’m feeling like a runner again and Vieve protein water review

I hope that everyone has had a great week. I can’t believe that it’s nearly the weekend again.

After recently completing 65 and 75 minute training runs, I’m finally feeling like a runner again. It’s been a while. I’ve almost reached week 12 of my half marathon training plan and I’m starting to believe I’ll make it to the start line of the Great Birmingham Run next month.

I’m feeling so confident, I’ve started to look at potential races in November and December. Although I suspect that some of my revised running goals may well be unachievable due to my lack of pace, I’m still determined to run a sub-30 minute 5k and a sub-60 minute 10k this year.

Learner runner[Source]

Once I’ve successfully completed the Great Birmingham Run – you see, I can be positive – I’m going to focus on running slightly shorter distances. I’m also going to incorporate some speed work into my weekly training. Hopefully my dodgy feet will cope with the fartlek sessions I’ve got planned.

Vieve protein water review

I recently received a press release about a brand new protein water drink; Vieve. As I was intrigued and love testing and reviewing new products, I asked if I could have some samples to review.

Vieve 1My samples of Vieve arrived a couple of weeks ago and I immediately put them in the fridge. The recent warm weather meant that they didn’t last very long.

What is Vieve?

Founded by entrepreneur Rafael Rozenson, Vieve is a new protein water brand which launched in the UK this year. As I’m a hydrologist and not a nutritionist, I’m not going to pretend that I’m aware of the benefits of protein to active women and men.

A recent report by Mintel suggested that I’m not alone and although in the UK we are becoming increasingly health conscious, we still lack awareness of the health benefits of protein, with 25 per cent of us unsure of how much protein we really need in our diet.

With no sugar, no fat, no artificial colours or flavours and 20g of protein in every bottle, Vieve is marketed as a refreshing way for active women and men to get the protein required for recovery, muscle growth and maintenance of healthy bones.

Vieve is the first sports nutrition product to achieve Sugarwise certification and is available in three flavours:

  • Coconut and Honey
  • Strawberry and Rhubarb
  • Citrus, Apple and Mint

I was sent one 500ml bottle of each flavour to try. Here are my thoughts on each of the three flavours.

Coconut and Honey flavour

Although, after a slightly rocky start, I’ve grown to like the taste of coconut water, I’ll be completely honest and admit that as I don’t like the taste of honey, I wasn’t looking forward to drinking the bottle of Coconut and Honey flavour Vieve.

I decided to drink my bottle of Coconut and Honey flavour Vieve after I’d completed a 20 minute recovery run in humid conditions. Unfortunately, I only managed to drink a quarter of the bottle as I didn’t like the combination of coconut and honey and started to feel slightly nauseous. I suspect that this may have been a result of the humid conditions rather than the drink.

Strawberry and Rhubarb flavour

I was intrigued and a little apprehensive when I saw the bottle of Strawberry and Rhubarb flavour Vieve. While I love strawberries and quite like the taste of rhubarb, I wasn’t completely convinced that the two would work well together.

Vieve 2I saved my bottle of Strawberry and Rhubarb flavour Vieve as a reward for completing a longer run. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to drink 500ml of Strawberry and Rhubarb flavour protein water at 6am on a Sunday morning, but it was very easy to drink and tasted so amazing I was disappointed when I reached the end of the bottle.

Citrus, Apple and Mint flavour

Once again, I was intrigued and a little sceptical when I saw the bottle of Citrus, Apple and Mint flavour Vieve. What would the combination of citrus, apple and mint taste like? Would the taste of mint overwhelm the citrus and apple? Would I manage to drink it?

I drank my third and final bottle of Vieve after a hot and challenging 20 minute run. I found the Citrus, Apple and Mint flavour Vieve natural tasting and very easy to drink. The drink left me feeling hydrated and refreshed. As an added bonus, I managed to avoid my usual post running in humid conditions headache.

Would I recommend Vieve protein water?

Yes! I would definitely recommend the Strawberry and Rhubarb and the Citrus, Apple and Mint flavour Vieve. Although I personally didn’t like the Coconut and Honey flavour Vieve, my friend Kate did. I found Vieve slightly easier to drink at 6am than my usual post-run drink; strawberry or chocolate flavour milkshake. I found Vieve quite filling, very refreshing and incredibly convenient. If I spotted Strawberry and Rhubarb Vieve in my local supermarket I’d definitely stock up.

Vieve protein water drinks are available from Vieve and costs £14.99 for a pack of six bottles.

**Full disclosure: I was sent some samples of Vieve for free in return for a review. I did not receive any payment for this review. As always all opinions and dodgy photographs are my own**

Great Birmingham Run training week 9

I hope that everyone is enjoying the Bank Holiday weekend. For once, the weather has been pretty much perfect. Although I found the eighth week of my half marathon training relatively easy, I was incredibly apprehensive about three of the training runs in week nine.  Collage 21Week nine of my beginners half marathon training plan – the slightly scaring sounding “second building phase” – saw me complete a 10 minute recovery run on Monday, 35 minute runs on both Wednesday and Friday and a longer 65 minute run on Sunday. Week nine also saw me rediscover my love of a glass of cold Diet Coke after a run. So much for my self-imposed Diet Coke ban. I guess I can always try to give up again after the half marathon.

Monday – 10 mins easy jog

When I first spotted that Monday wasn’t a rest day, I was a little concerned my fragile feet would cope with running on three consecutive days. Fortunately, my heel felt reasonably niggle-free when I dragged myself out of bed, so I decided to run. It was cold, it was wet and it was windy. My pace probably wasn’t ‘easy’ as I set out far too quickly.  The 10 minute run up and down my road was over before I’d warmed and woken up. Week 9 had got off to a reasonably positive start.

Tuesday – Rest

When I got up on Tuesday, I felt that I really needed a rest day. Luckily my training plan had allocated me a day away from the pavements of Four Oaks. I spent the morning and early afternoon working through a 36 page long application form, it was seriously tedious. As a ‘reward’ I gave myself the night off from cooking for one and treated myself to a curry from the local takeaway. You may wonder why I’m telling you what I ate, all will be revealed.

Wednesday – 35 mins steady

When my alarm woke me at 05:30 I noticed three things. It was very dark outside, I was extremely thirsty and my guts felt somewhat unsettled. I wasn’t overly concerned about the dark or my thirst; I was concerned about my guts. I got changed into some running gear, went to the loo, drank a glass of water, went to the loo again, completed my PF exercises and stretches, went to the loo for a third time and then headed outside.

My run was very nearly quite literally, shit. I set out far too quickly (for me), felt nauseous virtually the whole time and spent the final ten minutes trying not to have an unfortunate accident. Running is actually quite hard when you *really* need the loo. Looking back, I’ve got no idea how I made it home but I won’t be eating chicken korma – yes my guts are pathetic – the evening before I run. The rest of the day was uneventful!

Thursday – Rest

Another rest day. Although I love being able to run again, I also love my rest days. I know I’ve said if before, but my fragile body needs what my old coach used to call ‘rest and recuperation’ days. I was reasonably productive and spent seven hours analysing flow data for an academic paper I doubt I’ll ever finish. By about 17:00 I needed a break from my computer and some fresh air so I popped out for a quick walk. Most sensible people who live in Four Oaks would head straight to Sutton Park. I decided walk the route I use for my longer early morning mid-week runs.Collage 22As you can see from the photos, it’s not the most exciting place to run. I’m actually getting quite bored of running up and down the same three roads, and have lost count of the number of times I’ve run past Streetly Tennis Club. I’ve searched for alternative routes but have yet to find anywhere as flat, heckler free *touches wood* and quiet. I guess I’ll be running a few more loops in the lead up to the half marathon.

When I got home I cooked myself a bland and hopefully ‘safe’ pasta and watched the Diamond League athletics.

Friday – 35 mins steady

After my rubbish run on Wednesday, I made sure that I set out at a far more sensible and sustainable pace. Conditions were perfect and I only had to step into the road to avoid a pedestrian once. I didn’t even see the elderly gentleman walking his noisy dog. I hope last week’s incident hasn’t made him alter his early morning routine. The rest of Friday was productive. I submitted a couple of job applications, washed three loads of washing and made a start on decluttering my ‘normal’ clothes.

Saturday – Rest

I’m not sure what went wrong, but I didn’t wake up until after 09:00. I guess I’m getting old and all the early mornings and lack of sleep finally caught up with me. I spent the morning writing eBay descriptions and then met my friend Anna for lunch. I forgot to take photos of my food, but I’m sure you can visualise my Chicken Caesar salad and chocolate pudding. And I wonder why I’m not losing much weight. The remainder of the day was uneventful and mundane – for example planning potential running routes – I won’t bore you with the details. I made sure I ate a sensible meal, pasta again, laid out my running kit, set my alarm and went to bed at 22:00.

Sunday – 65 mins steady

The extra sleep resulted in me waking well before my alarm, not ideal. I lay in bed thinking about my run for a few minutes and then got up. I got dressed, had a successful loo visit, drank a couple of glasses of water, worked my way through my PF exercises and stretches, headed out the door and started to run.

The first 35 minutes of my run felt so easy, I had to keep forcing myself to slow down. It was surprisingly busy out for a Sunday morning and I spotted a few people doing the ‘walk of shame’. Although the second half of the run was slightly more challenging, I managed to run up the hill that had beaten me a year ago. The final three minutes tested my mental strength. Have you ever had to run past the front door of your house when you are tired and just want to walk? It’s difficult! I completed the 65 minutes, walked for a few minutes, got home, forced myself to a pint of orange nuun, took some dodgy selfies, had a shower and then headed back to bed for a nap.Collage 23So that’s week nine and the second building phase of my half marathon training more or less completed. Will I ever learn to slow down and to pace myself? I very much doubt it. This time last year, I discussed carrying water with me on training runs lasting over an hour. I mentioned the Ultimate Direction hydration pack I’d won in a competition. Fast forward 12 months and I’m still too lazy to carry water with me on my longer runs. I think the hydration pack I won last year is gathering dust in the loft somewhere.

My week 10 – double figures at last – training schedule contains four training runs and looks even more challenging. I’ve somehow got to complete a 35 minute run on Tuesday, a slightly faster (yeah right) 45 minute run on Thursday, a 20 minute recovery run on Friday and what is described as a 75 minute ‘jog/walk’ on Sunday. As I like to plan ahead and to avoid hills, I’ve already planned out a reasonably flat, seven mile route.

Training totals

  • Runs: 29
  • Time: 11 hours 0 mins
  • Distance: 61.20 miles

Races/time trials

  • 5 km: 32:49
  • 10 km: TBC during week 12

Niggleometer

  • Right heel: 4/10
  • Right knee: 4/10
  • Left foot: 5/10

Nutri Advanced Magnesium Glycinate tablets review

Back in June, I discovered that Nutri Advanced were on the lookout for people to review their Magnesium Glycinate tablets. I applied, was accepted and a couple of days later I received a large tub of Magnesium Glycinate tablets and some really informative supporting documents. Once I’d read through these documents, I was ready to start the three week trial.

nutri 1

Now that I’ve completed the three week trial, I feel that I’m in a position to produce a hopefully useful review.

What is Magnesium Glycinate?

Nutri Advanced has been providing healthy effective vitamins, health and nutritional supplements to a wide range of consumers since 1981. Nutri Advanced uses rigorous scientific research to make sure that their supplements use bio-available, active and preferred forms of vitamins and minerals to ensure maximum absorption.

Magnesium is an important mineral – it is essential for hundreds of reactions within the body. Magnesium is also known as “nature’s tranquiliser”, it has a calming effect on nerves and muscles and is also necessary for energy production.

  • Magnesium is essential for the production of energy within every cell in the body – it may increase energy levels and help reduce tiredness and fatigue.
  • Magnesium contributes to the electrolyte balance within the body.
  • Magnesium is essential for the normal functioning of the nervous system and psychological function – low magnesium levels may be associated with confusion or irritability.
  • Magnesium contributes to normal muscle function.
  • Magnesium contributes to the synthesis of protein.
  • The maintenance of normal bones and teeth need magnesium – it helps keep calcium within bones and teeth.

Nutri Advanced magnesium tablets use Magnesium Glycinate. This is a superior form of magnesium that is well absorbed meaning that it gets to work quickly and doesn’t have a laxative effect. Magnesium Glycinate is generally well tolerated, so the tablets are suitable for people with a sensitive digestive system.

Nutri Advanced[Source]

As a runner, I was curious to see if the Magnesium Glycinate tablets would help to increase my energy levels and reduce my tiredness. Although I must admit I was slightly sceptical when I started taking the tablets, I was also interested to see if the Magnesium Glycinate tablets would help to reduce the post-run aches and pains, random calf cramps and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) I’d been experiencing.

The review process

In theory, the review process was extremely straightforward. All I had to do was take two tablets two times a day with my meals and then report back on my experiences.

Nutri 2

It took me a couple of days to get into the habit of taking the Magnesium Glycinate tablets. While I’d describe myself as a world expert at eating food, it turns out that I’m not very good at swallowing tablets. I overcame this minor hurdle by closing my eyes so that I couldn’t see the tablet, and making sure that I swallowed the tablet with a lot of water. Other people have recommended snapping the tablets in half to make them easier to swallow.

The Verdict

After completing the three week trial of Magnesium Glycinate tablets, I can confirm that these tablets are gentle on the digestive system. Fortunately, my somewhat temperamental digestive system tolerated the tablets and I avoided any ‘toilet sprints’. I was experiencing quite painful calf cramps and DOMS at the start of my half marathon training, the DOMS and cramps almost completely disappeared when I was taking the tablets. I accept that this may be purely down to the fact my legs have now adapted to my regular training runs. It will be really interesting to see if the cramps and DOMS make an unwelcome reappearance now that I’ve stopped taking the tablets.

Although the Magnesium Glycinate tablets didn’t always completely eliminate my tiredness and fatigue, I did start to notice an increase in my energy levels towards the end of the trial. Although it’s only been two weeks since I stopped taking the tablets, I’ve already noticed my energy levels decreasing and levels of irritability increasing. This may be a result of me running more frequently and not getting enough sleep; it will be interesting to see if I continue to feel tired and quite irritable virtually all of the time.

What I do know is that after seeing the benefits of increasing my daily magnesium intake, I’m now actively trying to consume more magnesium rich foods.

Magnesium Glycinate tablets are available from Nutri Advanced and other online retailers and have a RRP of £17.95.

**Full disclosure: I was sent a tub of Nutri Advanced Magnesium Glycinate tablets for free in return for a review. I did not receive any payment for this review. As always all opinions are my own**

Great Birmingham Run training week 5

I hope that everyone had a great weekend. I can’t believe that it’s almost August, time really does seem to fly as you get older.Collage 9Week 5 saw me complete the third and final week of the ‘building’ phase of my half marathon training plan. It also saw me adopt a new, hopefully more positive approach to my running. If I’m honest, during the last four weeks, I haven’t always enjoyed my training runs. My rather injury-prone body means that a ‘proper’ injury could strike at any moment, so I’ve decided to try to enjoy every run. My training during week 5 comprised of 20 minute runs on Tuesday and Thursday and a slightly longer 35 minute run on Sunday. So how did I find the fifth week of half marathon training?

Monday – Rest

I spent the majority of the morning catching up on some overdue boring admin tasks. Although I’m 38, I’m not very organised and I’m useless at prioritising and responding to emails. I spent the afternoon job hunting and updating my LinkedIn and ResearchGate profiles and the evening working on a book review. Another dull but productive start to the week.

Tuesday – 20 mins easy

I had originally planned to get up early to get my 20 minute run done and dusted before 06:00. Unfortunately, insomnia struck again, I was still awake at 01:30 and somehow managed to sleep through my 05:30 alarm. I eventually headed out on my run after 08:00. Although the schools have finished for the summer, the 2 mile route I had selected was quite busy and I found myself dodging several dog walkers, smokers and oblivious drivers. Week five had got off to a positive start.

After spending the rest of the morning preparing for a meeting, I boarded the 12:50 train to London Euston. This time the signals behaved themselves and I actually arrived in London on time. I headed across to the Gunmakers pub to meet up with my mentor. As we had both missed lunch and it was far too early for a main evening meal, we decided to have a look at the bar snack menu. Although the menu was quite limited  I decided to try the Buttermilk fried chicken sandwich. It was ‘interesting’.Collage 10A couple of hours later I found myself back in Hardy’s, ordering fish and chips followed by Gooseberry Fool. My friend tried and failed to convince me to order something different. When it comes to food my motto has and always will be “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Wednesday – Rest

The train journey from London to Birmingham was uneventful; the journey from Birmingham to Four Oaks was a nightmare. Once I’d recovered from the train journey from hell, I decided to start mapping out the academic paper I’d rather foolishly promised my PhD supervisor I’d complete by the middle of August. Given that it took me six months to write my last paper, I suspect my supervisor will be disappointed.

Thursday – 20 mins easy

As Tuesday’s 20 minute easy run had felt relatively easy, I decided to attempt my slightly more challenging two-mile loop. After spending the morning making very little progress on my academic paper, by lunchtime I felt more than ready for my 20 minute run. I got changed into some running gear, spent 30 minutes working through my PF exercises and stretches, looked out the window and saw it was raining. I love running in the rain, so I pulled on my waterproof running jacket and headed out the door.

Unfortunately, I’d only been running for a minute or so when the rain stopped and the sun came out. Next time, I won’t trust the BBC forecast! I realised that I’d set out at a pace I couldn’t maintain and that I was rapidly overheating. I could feel my face getting warmer and warmer. I think I managed to run for about 15 minutes before I slowed to a walk so that I could remove my jacket. Although I immediately felt cooler, the damage had been done and the rest of the ‘run’ was a struggle. So much for not complaining and enjoying each and every run!

Friday – Rest

When I woke up I discovered that I’d got a pretty bad headache. Although I don’t think it was a migraine, I felt so nauseous and dizzy, running probably wouldn’t have been sensible. Fortunately, Friday was a rest day so I didn’t have to spend hours mentally debating the pros and cons of running with a bad head. My headache unfortunately meant that I had a seriously unproductive day. At least it was an incredibly restful rest day.

Saturday – Rest

After somehow sleeping for more than 10 hours, I woke up feeling refreshed and headache free. A great start to the weekend. I spent the morning catching up on the household chores I’d been unable to complete the previous day. As an added bonus I finally finished a couple of slightly overdue product reviews.Collage 11In the evening, I swapped my trainers and scruffy clothes for something slightly more respectable, and met up with some friends for a meal and drinks at the local pub. As I knew I would be attempting to run for 35 minutes the following morning, I was reasonably sensible and limited myself to three pints. My friends were suitably unimpressed. Apparently I’m quite boring when I’m sober(ish). As I didn’t want to wake up feeling dehydrated, I made myself drink a pink of water before I went to bed.

Sunday – 35 mins easy

When my alarm woke me at 06:00 my mouth felt like the Sahara and I felt like death warmed up. After debating postponing my run, I made myself get out of bed, got dressed, had a drink, worked my way through some PF stretches, went to the loo and headed out the door. Fortunately, although it was reasonably sunny it was lovely and cool.  After struggling to run for 20 minutes on Thursday, I was sensible and made sure that I set out at a sensible pace. My approach worked and I found the 35 minute run reasonably easy.

So that’s the fifth week of my half marathon training more or less successfully completed, only another 11 weeks to go. Once again, I was reminded that I’m still pretty useless at pacing myself, and that I need to start my training runs at a pace I can sustain. Next week’s training schedule contains a 20 minute run, a 30 minute run and a longer 40-45 minute run on Sunday. Last year I aimed to run for 45 minutes, this year it will be a miracle if I manage to run for 40 minutes.

Training totals

  • Runs: 15
  • Time: 4 hours 25 mins
  • Distance: 24.94 miles

Niggleometer

  • Right heel: 4/10
  • Right knee: 2/10
  • Left foot: 6/10

Do you tend to always order the same food when you eat out? I’d like to think that other people are slightly more ambitious than I am.

How much sleep do you aim to get each night? At the moment my sleep patterns are all over the place.

Thriva Lifestyle test review

Regular readers of my blog – thank-you! – will have noticed me commenting on my terrible diet a lot recent. My diet has been far from ideal since the start of the year. I’ve been drinking too much alcohol and eating too much junk food.  One day last month, after yet another evening of excessive alcohol consumption, I woke up feeling and looking particularly peaky. I suspect my body was telling me it could no longer cope with my unhealthy lifestyle.

thriva

Rather fortuitously, my friend Anna shared her most recent set of Thriva test results on social media on the same day. I had never heard of Thriva so went away and did some research.

What is Thriva?

To put it simply, Thriva is a smart, finger-prick blood test that you can use at home. Once you’ve taken the home test, you post your blood sample back to one of Thriva’s accredited partner laboratories. Your blood sample is analysed to provide data on how your lifestyle is impacting your health. The results of these analyses are then uploaded onto Thriva, where you receive a bespoke report and recommendations from a GP with guidance on how to improve your lifestyle if required.

Thriva currently produce six different individual tests:

  • Lifestyle
  • Energy
  • Thyroid check
  • Advanced thyroid check
  • Testosterone
  • Vitamin B12

In addition, Thriva have produced a baseline subscription kit which enables people to track their health over time by receiving a test kit every three months.

The Lifestyle test is designed to help you find out how your lifestyle might be impacting your health. Just what I needed. I wanted to know if my slightly dubious lifestyle had negatively impacted my health.

What’s tested?

Cholesterol – High cholesterol is increasingly common in the UK and impacts your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and related illnesses.

  • LDL Cholesterol
  • Cholesterol
  • Triglycerides
  • HDL Cholesterol
  • Cholesterol Ratio

Liver function – This includes a full check of the key liver enzymes which, if raised, indicate poor liver health. Excessive alcohol, over eating and drug use can cause problems with your liver. Liver damage is often linked to chronic fatigue and other serious symptoms.

  • Alkaline Phosphatase
  • Gamma GT
  • Albumin
  • Globulin
  • Alanine Transferase
  • Bilirubin
  • Total Protein

I set up an account on Thriva, answered a few basic lifestyle questions and parted with my money. Two days later my Thriva kit arrived. I opened the box, read through the instructions, took one look at one of the lancets provided and bottled out of collecting my blood sample.

A week later I received a friendly reminder from Thriva and decided that it was time to be brave!

What was included in the Lifestyle test kit?

The Thriva Lifestyle test kit included everything I required to take my finger-prick blood test, including detailed, easy-to-follow instructions.

My kit also included:

  • 1x sample collection tube
  • 1x alcohol swab
  • 1x moist wipe
  • 2x plasters
  • Spring loaded lancets (2 spares)
  • 1x plastic protective casing
  • Return form and envelope 

DSCF2231DSCF2228Performing the test

After reading through the instructions for the fifth time and checking that I’d got everything set up, I finally felt brave enough to perform my test. Looking back, I’ve no idea how or why I managed to get myself so worked up. Although using the lancet was a little painful, the whole process took under five minutes. I placed my labelled sample in the pre-paid envelope and put it in the post.

My personalised health report

Less than 24 hours after I’d sent off my sample, Thriva sent me an email to inform me my sample had arrived at the lab. Later on the same day my personalised health report arrived.

I actually felt quite nervous when I accessed my report and results…

“Hi Emma, I am pleased to say your test results are all with normal limits. You have a healthy BMI and you seem to be following a regular exercise regime as much as you can taking into account your ankle injury, well done and please keep it up, however please see my advice on diet. Thanks”

Lipid ProfileLiver Function

Although all of my results appear to be in the green (healthy) range, I think that my Cholesterol is probably a lot closer to the orange (not so healthy!) zone than it should be. In addition, the GP who reviewed my results recommended that in order to improve my diet, I should aim to reduce saturated fats in my diet.

As a result of this recommendation I’ve made several changes to my diet.

The Verdict

Thriva really impressed me and I would be happy to recommend the Lifestyle test to anyone who wants to find out if their lifestyle might be impacting their health. The whole process was quick and simple. The instructions provided were detailed and very easy to follow. As soon as I can afford to I’ll definitely be subscribing to the 3-monthly baseline subscription kit.

More information on Thriva is available on their website. The Thriva Lifestyle test kit has a RRP of £39.00 (I tracked down a discount code and managed to purchase the kit for £29.00).

**Full disclosure: I bought the Thriva Lifestyle test kit myself. I was not asked to review the Lifestyle kit, but decided to share my honest thoughts on something I personally found useful. As always, all opinions and dodgy photographs are my own**

Book Review: Fast Fuel: Food for Running Success by Renee McGregor

I hope that everyone had a great weekend. The weather was amazing. Although I don’t want my blog to become a series of product reviews, I decided that as my Running Science book review was quite well received, I would review some of the books I’ve found particularly useful.

I decided to start with a quick(ish) review of Fast Fuel: Food for Running Success written by Renee McGregor. Renee is a registered dietician and is one of the UK’s top sports nutritionists, advising athletes from amateur to Olympic levels. As a result, Renee ensures that all the advice she shares is evidence based i.e. there has been reliable research around the subject, to make claims both accurate and credible.

Front cover

Back cover

Fast Fuel: Food for Running is for runners of all levels who want to:

  • Achieve their performance goals whether that’s improving their weekly parkrun time, bettering their personal best in the marathon, or venturing into ultra-marathons.
  • Stick to a training plan while also trying to earn a living and juggle other commitments.
  • Improve their knowledge of nutrition because it debunks some of the most common myths.
  • Increase their confidence by knowing that they are eating the correct foods to fuel their body and to maximise their training, without over-reaching and potentially risking illness or injury.

The book is divided into two main sections. The first is broken down into three chapters; (1) Fuelling basics, (2) Training – the road to victory and (3) Fine-tuning your body, and provides a practical, easy-to-follow, step-by-step, scientific introduction to sports nutrition. The second contains an extensive selection of simple but mouth-watering recipes and is broken down into recipes for; healthy breakfasts, light meals, main meals, snacks and portables, and finally, desserts.

Once again, rather than attempting to review the entire book, I decided to highlight the sections I found particularly interesting in the first three chapters. I’ve included photographs with this review to illustrate how easy to follow and well laid out the book is.

Chapter 1: Fuelling Basics

“Chapter 1 is a practical guide to what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. We also look at how your body metabolizes food into fuel, and how it can adapt to provide fuel for different levels of training intensity”

I found that in order to take in all the information, I had to read through Chapter 1 a couple of times. Although I found the sections on carbohydrates, protein and fat really informative, the section of supplements was particularly enlightening.

Supplements

The book provides a selection of ‘real food’ alternatives to sports drinks, energy gels, protein shakes and sports bars. After my next run I’ll definitely attempt to create my own, much cheaper sports drink. Chapter 1 also looks at special dietary considerations, recovery nutrition, metabolism and racing weight.

Chapter 2: Training – The Road to Victory

“Chapter 2 shows the different fuelling requirements for different distances and training intensities and how making the right nutritional choices will benefit you. This section also includes sample menus plans, using the recipes from this book to demonstrate practically how to choose appropriate food”

As a runner in urgent need of a refresher in what actually comprises a sensible training plan, I found the ‘Planning your training week’ section really useful.

Planning training

Looking back, I suspect that last year I was inadvertently completing all of my training sessions at a moderate to high level of intensity. I got my pre- and post-run fuelling totally wrong and was eating far too much carbohydrate. After ‘digesting’ the contents of Chapter 2, I’m now impressed that I (a) didn’t put on more weight and (b) didn’t get injured while I was training for the Great Birmingham Run.

Chapter 3: Fine-Tuning your Body

“Chapter 3 highlights the importance of maintaining the well-oiled machine we call our body; it looks at issues relating the injury, illness and over-reaching and demonstrates how the right nutrition can combat these potential problems”

When I bought Fast Fuel, I headed straight to the sections on injury prevention and nutrition for sore, tired or injured bodies.

Injury prevention

The author points out that although being injured is very frustrating – this is an understatement – it is also a good time to reflect and to work out how you can reduce your risk of the same injury occurring again. Reading the book has made me realise just how much I need to improve my diet. I now suspect that my poor diet contributed to my foot injury. The third chapter also includes a thought-provoking section; ‘Have you lost your running mojo?’

As I believe that at some stage, nearly every runner experiences a loss of running mojo, I’ll dedicate a blog post to the subject.

Food, glorious food – Examples of light and main meals

Although my nut allergy unfortunately meant that I had to discount several recipes in Fast Fuel, I was still left with a decent number of light and main meals to choose from. While I obviously can’t share the exact recipes, I decided to list the meals I’ll be attempting to create over the next few weeks. If you’re really unlucky, I might share my thoughts in a future post.

  • Half and Half Chilli con Carne I’m a fan of ‘normal’ Chilli con Carne so thought this recipe looked intriguing. The recipe halves the amount of beef and replaces it with lentils.
  • Punjabi-Style Aloo Sabsi I picked this recipe simply because I want to try some completely new (to me!) food.
  • Roasted Vegetable and Mozzarella Bruschetta I tend to opt for bruschetta as a starter when I eat out, so I thought I’d see if I could make my own. With a preparation time of only five minutes, nothing can possibly go wrong…
  • Sausage Casserole I love sausages. I also enjoy making casseroles so, when the weather cools down, a sausage casserole sounds like a win-win.
  • Tangy Chicken Stir-Fry I’ve got a culinary confession; I’ve never made a stir-fry from scratch. Fingers crossed I manage to cook the chicken to perfection and don’t burn the vegetables.

If I disappear from twitter for a prolonged period of time, then it is highly likely one of these recipes didn’t quite go to plan.

The Verdict

I found Fast Fuel easy-to-read and I thought that the book was laid out in a logical way, with each chapter building on the previous chapter. If you are a runner who is interested in finding out more about how nutrition can aid your running performance, then this is quite possibly the perfect book for you. If you are a runner with a more advanced understanding of sports nutrition, then I suspect that Fast Fuel may be slightly too basic for you.

Fast Fuel: Food for Running Success is published by Nourish Books and has a RRP of £9.99 and is available from all major bookstores.

**Full disclosure: I bought Fast Fuel: Food for Running Success myself. I was not asked to review the book, but decided to share my honest thoughts on a book I found useful as a runner**