Regaining my running confidence and CocoPro review

I hope everyone had a great weekend. I don’t want to tempt fate, but after more than two months of complete rest, I think that I might finally be able to call myself a runner again.
October runTaken after I’d completed my last long run back in October. It’s good to be running up this hill again.

For once I’ve been sensible with my return to running. Gone are the days I’d happily ignore niggles and run when I was in pain. It has taken a long time and a lot of frustrating running injuries, but I think I’ve finally accepted that I need to listen to my body.Injury ebib

[Source]

Like most injury-prone runners I probably delayed heading out for a run for longer than I needed to. I was afraid that the second I started to run, my foot would implode and I’d be back on the injury bench.

Fortunately, my close friend gave me a bit of a talking to and told me to get out the f**king door. I also rediscovered the cheesy but motivational song my coach used to make us listen to before competitions.

“Never surrender to the doubts that cloud your mind
Never retreat from who you are…“

Perhaps I should listen to it before my next job interview…

Since the start of the month I’ve been running without my Garmin. This may sound slightly stupid but I didn’t want the added pressure. Although the majority of my runs have lasted less than 30 minutes, yesterday I decided it was time to find out if my right foot could cope with a slightly longer run.

I’m writing this several hours after I ran for the not so impressive total of 20 minutes before lunch. Although I clearly didn’t drink enough after my run as I’ve got a headache, my heel is 99.9 per cent pain free.

Fingers crossed I’ll be able to walk in the morning!

CocoPro review

Earlier this year CocoPro were recruiting for brand ambassadors.  Although I knew I wasn’t social media savvy enough to be an ambassador, I rather cheekily asked if I could review their products. CocoPro kindly agreed and added me to their mailing list.
CocoPro

[Source]

Fast forward a couple of weeks and a random bloke called Paul appeared at my front door holding a small parcel; the postman had delivered my bottles of CocoPro to the wrong address. So thanks Paul for being so honest and for delivering my parcel.

What is CocoPro?

CocoPro is the world’s first pure coconut water with added protein drink and is currently available in two flavours; plain coconut and coconut with pineapple. I was sent one 330ml bottle of each flavour to try.

Coconut flavour

I think coconut water is a bit like Marmite; you either love it or hate it. After a slightly rocky start, I’ve grown to quite like the taste of coconut water.

Although the drink is meant to be consumed after exercise or prolonged activity, I decided to drink my bottle of coconut flavoured CocoPro after I’d been for a short run in humid conditions. I was concerned the added protein would give the drink an artificial taste. Although I was pleased to discover the drink tasted quite natural, it was quite bland and didn’t seem to taste very much of anything.

On the plus side the coconut flavoured CocoPro was easy to drink, and left me feeling hydrated and refreshed. It definitely quenched my post-run thirst and as an added bonus, I didn’t develop my usual post running in humid conditions headache.

May runNot the best photo but I’m in love with these Lululemon shorts.

Coconut with pineapple flavour

I saved my bottle of coconut with pineapple CocoPro as a reward for running up one of my nemesis hills without walking, twice. Quite frankly, I’ll take any running positives I can at the moment.

After personally finding the coconut flavoured CocoPro a little disappointing, I was a tad concerned the coconut with pineapple flavoured CocoPro would also be quite bland. Happily I discovered that this wasn’t the case and I could really taste the pineapple. I wonder if I could use the CocoPro to make a refreshing post workout mocktail.

Would I recommend CocoPro?

Yes, I would definitely recommend the coconut with pineapple flavoured CocoPro, thanks to my local Waitrose I’ve already filled my fridge ready for the warmer weather. Although some might think £2.50 for a bottle of coconut and pineapple water is expensive, I don’t mind paying a little bit extra for a refreshing drink that contains protein electrolytes and coconut.

Do you have a favourite post-workout drink?

Have you ever been too scared to run after being injured?

**Full disclosure: I was sent a couple of bottles of CocoPro for free, I wasn’t asked to write a review. As always all opinions and dodgy photographs are my own**

CEP Ortho Plantar Fasciitis Sleeve review

One advantage of being injured is getting the opportunity to test out a number of innovative running products. Regular readers of my blog will be aware that I have been experiencing pain in my right heel since the beginning of the year. I was devastated when a physiotherapist told me I had the injury all runners dread – Plantar Fasciitis.

I have tried all sorts to alleviate the pain in my right heel: rolling my foot on a frozen bottle, physio sessions, stretching, taping, rolling my foot over a tennis ball and wearing supportive shoes the whole time. Although I started to find walking more bearable, the pain in my right heel stubbornly refused to go away and running felt like a distant dream.

So as you can imagine, I was thrilled when CEP very kindly agreed to send me a pair of their Ortho Plantar Fasciitis (PF) Sleeves to thoroughly test out and review.

Now that I have been wearing the PF sleeve on my right foot on an almost daily basis since the end of March, I feel that I am in a position to write a review.

What is the CEP Ortho Plantar Fasciitis Sleeve?

CEP recognises that for runners, remaining fit and healthy is a priority. Unfortunately, injuries can and do occur, and recovering and getting back to running quickly is important. With this in mind, CEP developed the Ortho PF sleeve. The CEP website describes the sleeve as suitable for sports or everyday use – perfect for a runner trying to make a return to the sport they love. The sleeves are designed to provide comfort with every step, yes please! Finally, the fit and compression are designed to stabilise your arch and provide much needed support.CEP PF Sleeves

The innovative design of the PF sleeve means that your sole and heel are optimally protected when you run. As an added bonus the deep tissue massage effect helps you maintain your level of fitness – or quickly regain it again if you suffer from minor pain and discomfort. Where can I sign up?

What can the CEP Ortho Plantar Fasciitis Sleeve be used for? 

  • To support the arch of the foot and reduce stressful and painful tension at the insertion of the plantar fascia.
  • To relieve the ankle joint and reduce joint irritation.
  • To provide an increased sense of security during exercise.
  • To minimise wear and tear and alleviate inflammation.

So after reading all about the potential benefits of the product, I was intrigued and eagerly awaited the arrival of my pair of Plantar Fasciitis sleeves.

The review process

Like all CEP products, the PF sleeves are provided with detailed illustrated instructions which outline how to put them on. I would strongly recommend following these instructions because they make life a lot easier. The PF sleeve felt quite snug but not restrictive and fitted underneath my right sock. Although I could immediately feel the support and compression, the PF sleeve never felt obtrusive or too inhibiting.

I started off wearing the PF sleeve around the house and on a couple of short 2-3 mile walks. Although both my right heel and arch instantly felt more supported, it did take a few days for my foot to get used to the extra support. The first time I wore the sleeve on a walk my heel felt sore for the first 10 minutes or so. However, once my foot adapted to the extra arch support, the soreness went away and hasn’t returned.CEP montage 1

After particularly active days, I decided to wear the sleeve in bed – being single has some advantages – and noticed a huge improvement in my right heel the following morning. Before I wore the sleeve I would lie in bed each morning dreading having to make those first few painful steps. Fortunately, the PF sleeve virtually eliminated the early morning hobble, I’m no longer reluctant to walk in the morning.

I’ve been wearing the PF sleeve on an almost daily basis since the end of March. Fortunately, CEP provided me with two identical sleeves so I had a spare sleeve I could wear when the other one was in the wash. Both sleeves have now been washed on numerous occasions and have maintained their fit and support.

A week ago, I finally felt confident enough to run for the first time since February. I pulled on a PF sleeve, worked my way through my stretching routine and headed out the door into the rain. Although I was thrilled to discover that my heel felt relatively pain free during the run, like most runners with PF I was more interested in how my heel would react to a couple of miles of pavement pounding. CEP montage 2

After spending two hours sitting down watching the Great Birmingham 10k, I stood up and discovered that my right heel felt great! After a slightly frustrating couple of months of inactivity, the PF sleeve had enabled me to make a return to running.

The Verdict

While the PF sleeve hasn’t completely eliminated the pain in my right heel – at the moment I’m pretty certain that only complete rest would – it has enabled me to walk and run without too much discomfort. The sleeve has also given me the confidence to make a gradual return to running and with a bit of luck, I might still make the start line of the Great Birmingham Run in the autumn.

So huge thanks again to CEP for sending me the PF sleeves and for allowing me enough time to produce a hopefully meaningful review.

**Full disclosure: I was sent a pair of CEP Plantar Fasciitis sleeves for free in return for a review. Please note that the use of a CEP Ortho product does not replace the advice of a doctor/physiotherapist. I did not receive any payment for this review. As always all opinions and dodgy photographs are my own**

FLEXISEQ Active review

For some reason – I can’t imagine why – I’ve developed a bit of a reputation as being an injury-prone runner. I’m guessing that complaining about my painful left foot and right knee in virtually every blog post doesn’t help. One advantage – yes really – of being prone to picking up the occasional *ahem* injury, is being sent products that are specifically designed to combat aches and pains.

So as you can imagine, when the company behind FLEXISEQ Active approached me to review their new joint relief pain product, I said yes almost immediately! My sample of FLEXISEQ Active arrived, and I applied some to my troublesome left foot and right knee.

Now I have been using FLEXISEQ Active on a more or less daily basis for several months, I feel that I’m in a position to review the product.

What is FLEXISEQ Active?

The FLEXISEQ website describes FLEXISEQ Active as an adapted, light formulation specifically developed for the daily needs of joint pain and early-stage arthritis sufferers. While I can cope with joint pain, I really hope that the pain in my right knee isn’t early-stage arthritis.

flexiseq-active-pack2

FLEXISEQ Active lubricates the joints and is proven clinically to relieve pain and to reduce joint stiffness. A lighter formulation than the award-winning original, FLEXISEQ Active is described as the perfect introduction to the benefits of drug-free joint lubrication therapy.

The key benefits of FLEXISEQ Active:

  • Relieves pain
  • Improves mobility
  • Helps lubricate and protect your joints
  • Drug-free
  • Convenient twice daily application

So after several months’ regular usage – thanks running niggles – what did I make of FLEXISEQ Active?

The Verdict

I’ll get the basics out of the way first. I found FLEXISEQ Active really, really easy to use. The gel dried quite quickly, and unlike some of the other gels I’ve used over the years, didn’t leave any stickiness or residue behind. The FLEXISEQ Active gel had a pleasant aroma, and unlike some similar products, didn’t smell too what I call chemically. So far so good.

knee-pain

Although FLEXISEQ Active didn’t instantly eliminate the pain in my right knee, I did start to notice an improvement after only a couple of days of regular, twice-a-day use. Perhaps this was some sort of placebo effect – I genuinely don’t know! What I do know is that the regular application of FLEXISEQ Active corresponded with a reduction in the pain and stiffness I felt in my right knee. Unfortunately, the gel didn’t seem to reduce the pain on the top of my left foot.

FLEXISEQ Active has become a useful addition to my ever-expanding running first aid kit. I’m currently working my way through my third tube. While I do think £12.99 for a 50g tube of FLEXISEQ Active is quite expensive, I would rather manage my right knee niggle with a drug-free gel than with painkillers.

FLEXISEQ Active is available at Lloyds Pharmacy, Boots, Superdrug and independent pharmacies nationwide at a price of £12.99 for 50g and £22.99 for 100g.

Have you heard of or used FLEXISEQ Active gel? I had no idea the FLEXISEQ brand even existed until I was asked to review FLEXISEQ Active!

Do you have a running first aid kit? I’m so injury-prone I’ve now built up quite an (un)impressive collection of gels and potions.

**Full disclosure: I was sent a 50g tube of FLEXISEQ Active for free in return for a review. I did not receive any payment for this review. As always all opinions are my own**

NATHAN The Hipster waist belt review

I’ve invested in several running accessories from NATHAN in the past, and I always try to remember to wear the foot lights I bought last year when I run in the dark. As a result, when NATHAN contacted me towards the end of last year to see if I’d like to review their brand new running accessory – The Hipster – I jumped at the opportunity. Unfortunately, I then got injured and had to delay my product testing and review. Sorry NATHAN!

What is The Hipster?

The Hipster is described by NATHAN as a super-soft step-through belt which incorporates multiple individually separated expandable – so expandable the belt can hold an iPhone 7+ – pockets to keep your items snug and secure. The Hipster belt can be worn at the gym, on a run, and around town. The Hipster is both comfortable and stylish and is designed to stretch to your individual contours.

the-hipster-running-belt[Source]

The Hipster is currently available in four colours; black, cockatoo (light blue), glacier (light grey) and very berry (bright pink) and five sizes ranging from XS (66 cm to 72 cm) to XL (96 cm to 102 cm). My medium glacier-coloured Hipster belt fitted me perfectly before Christmas, now it’s a little snug.

How did I find The Hipster?

I’ve tested out The Hipster belt on several short training runs and have found it really, really comfortable. Although I don’t own an iPhone 7+, my soon to be replaced iPhone 5C fitted easily inside one of the individual pockets, and felt secure while I was running. As an asthmatic I always run with my inhaler when it’s cold. Although my inhaler is quite bulky, I haven’t noticed it sitting inside The Hipster on any of my training runs.

hipster-1Having to breathe in slightly…

The photos I’ve included in this review show me wearing The Hipster belt over my running top. I’ve actually tended to wear the belt underneath my running tops, and haven’t noticed I’m wearing it as the material is really soft and comfortable.

hipster-2Running while not breathing is probably not recommended!

Finally, the most important feature of any running belt has to be its ability to stay put and to not ride-up. I stopped wearing another running belt because it used to bounce around while I was running, really – quite literally – irritating! Although my festive weight gain may have slightly influenced the outcome of this aspect of the review process, I found that The Hipster belt really is bounce-free.

The Verdict

Although I was unable to test out The Hipster belt on a long training run, injury permitting I will be wearing this belt during the Cambridge half marathon. It might contain some energy gels; it will definitely contain my mobile phone and keys. The NATHAN Hipster retails at approximately £25 and is available from all good running stores including Runner’s Need and Sweatshop and The Hipster website.

Do you wear running belts on training runs during races?

What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever carried in a running belt?

**Full disclosure: I was sent The Hipster running belt for free in return for an honest review. As always, all opinions of the product and dodgy photographs are my own**

XMiles monthly nutrition box review

Last month, while I was researching a number of energy gel brands and flavours, I stumbled across the XMiles endurance and sports nutrition website.

xmiles-logo

What is XMiles?

XMiles is a “…vibrant young company formed by runners focused on nutrition products”. The company was launched in October 2014 and in December 2015 XMiles UK Ltd was founded.

As an independent endurance sports nutrition store, XMiles aims to “…support and be active in the running community.”

Now although I’m definitely not an endurance athlete, after the Great Birmingham Run I’m acutely aware that I need to find out if my temperamental digestive system can cope with energy gels.

dscf1543

As I result I treated (?) myself to the XMiles November nutrition box (£13.99 and £2.95 P&P). Unfortunately, a couple of days later got struck down with norovirus. When the nutrition box arrived I felt so unwell, I decided to delay opening the box until I felt fully recovered.

So what’s in the November nutrition box?

As I don’t get out much at the moment, when I finally got around to opening my XMiles November nutrition box, I was really, really excited.

Upon opening the box – I think that it’s definitely worth noting that the box should fit through a standard letterbox – I spotted a handwritten postcard and some rather exciting looking goodies…

dscf1546

So what was actually included in the XMiles November nutrition box? As I don’t want to write an essay, I’ve listed what was included:

  • Truestart – 5 single sachets of performance coffee
  • Clif Shot Gels – one Razz flavour 37G energy gel
  • Torq Energy Gel – one limited special edition Adnams ‘Ghost Ship Ale’ energy gel
  • Torq Energy Bar – one Raspberry and Apple flavour 45G energy bar
  • Tailwind Nutrition – one Green Tea Buzz flavour two serving stickpack
  • Saltstick Fastchews – one tube of Tart Orange flavour chewable electrolyte tablets
  • Sports Beans – one 28G pack of assorted sports beans with electrolytes
  • Mule Bare Energy Bars – one Peanut Punch flavour 40G energy bar

As I have a nut allergy and can’t stand the taste of coffee, I won’t be able to test a couple of these products. I will, however, be testing out the rest of the products during my Cambridge Half Marathon training. I’m particularly looking forward to finding out what the ‘Ghost Ship Ale’ energy gel actually tastes like!

What are the subscription options and prices?

Now that I’ve very briefly reviewed the contents of the XMiles monthly nutrition box, I need to answer a really important question:

How much do the XMiles monthly nutrition boxes cost?

Subscription boxes can be quite expensive to purchase every month. I personally couldn’t afford to sign up to a regular subscription at the moment even if I wanted to. The option to purchase a nutrition box as a one-off treat is, therefore, a great idea.

A monthly subscription costs £12.59 (this price includes a 10 per cent ‘subscribe and save’ discount) plus P&P.

A one-time purchase costs £13.99 plus P&P.

The Verdict

A major concern that I have with subscription boxes is that the items included in the box aren’t actually worth the cost of the subscription.

dscf1552

I quickly calculated the value of the items included in the November XMiles nutrition box using prices I found online, and found that the contents of the box are worth more or less the same as the subscription which is reassuring.

In my opinion, charging £2.95 for P&P when the actual postage cost was only £1.54 was a perhaps a little excessive. I was also slightly disappointed to receive five identical sachets of performance coffee, with subscription boxes variety is the key to success.

All in all, I would be happy to recommend XMiles to other runners, and can’t wait to test out the contents of the box.

If you would like to find out more about XMiles and the wide range of products they stock – they sell nuun hydration tabs – take a look at their website.

**Full disclosure: I purchased the November XMiles nutrition box myself. I was not asked to review the nutrition box, and have not received any payment for this review. As always, all opinions, typos and dodgy photographs are my own**

My go-to shoe: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16

I’ve been running for over 25 years. As a result I own far too many pairs of running shoes. I have a pair of spikes for cross country, a pair for middle distance track running and a pair for the long jump. I doubt that I’ll ever get to wear these running spikes again but I’m reluctant to part with them. I also have several pairs of trail shoes, some fell shoes and a couple of pairs of racing flats. I’ve worn several different styles and brands of what I call everyday trainers during my running career. Some have suited my rather strange running gait, others haven’t and have left me unable to run.

So where’s all of this leading? At the start of the year Brooks very kindly sent me a pair of the latest Adrenaline GTS 16 trainers. I’ve worn the Adrenalines for more than 200 miles, so feel that I’m in a good position to share some of my thoughts.

I first wore the Adrenalines at Walsall Arboretum parkrun. I took the Adrenalines out of their box, replaced the insoles with my customised insoles, and ran my fastest 5 km in years.parkrun pbI think it’s always a pretty good sign when you don’t notice your trainers when you are running. We were off to a very positive start.

As a result of the parkrun success, I wore the Adrenalines on most of my longer London Marathon training runs. When I packed my bags for the marathon weekend, the Adrenalines and my running number were the first items I packed.  I figured that I could easily replace everything else.

Kit choices

The marathon itself was relatively uneventful. Although I ended the day with a couple of blisters – perhaps not surprising with my lack of training – I was able to walk around London the next day. The Adrenalines had clearly looked after my feet.

Following the London Marathon my focus turned to my autumn target event – the Great Birmingham Run half marathon. I started training for the half marathon at the end of June and am about to reach the halfway point of my training. I’ve worn the Adrenalines on every training run and can honestly say that my feet have never felt in better condition.

Brooks collage 1

There have been cold and wet training runs – the Adrenalines aren’t so great on wet surfaces, hot training runs, scenic training runs and challenging training runs. When I returned home from a recent early morning training run I discovered that I’d run just over 200 miles in my Adrenalines.

Brooks training

That’s 200 miles of virtually pain free running. The Adrenalines have enabled this injury-prone runner to train consistently for the first time in what feels like years. Thanks Brooks! The realisation that I would probably need to replace the Adrenalines at some point before the Great Birmingham Run in October suddenly hit me. Although the Adrenalines look fine I wanted to know when they would need replacing.

Brooks collage 2

Unfortunately, as the Adrenalines are quite expensive, I hoped that they would see me through most of the rest of my half marathon training. I found the following answer to my question:

“A standard performance running shoe, such as the Trance or Adrenaline GTS, will typically last for between 300-500 miles…” [Source].

Great news!

So thank you again Brooks for sending me a pair of the latest Adrenaline GTS 16. After 25 years of running I think that I’ve finally found my very own go-to shoe.

**Full disclosure: I was sent the Adrenaline GTS 16 trainers by Brooks.  As always all opinions and dodgy photographs are my own**

Red Kooga Natural Energy Release review

As you know I’ve been training for the Great Birmingham Run since the end of June. The combination of warm evenings and light mornings has meant that I’ve also been struggling to sleep. As a result of my limited sleep and increased training I’ve been feeling really tired after lunch – not ideal for my afternoon productivity.

When I received an email in June asking me if I would like to review a new herbal product – Red Kooga Natural Energy Release, I was intrigued and wanted to find out more. I received the sample of Red Kooga in the post and then decided to delay my product testing until after I’d given blood at the start of July.

What is Red Kooga?

Red Kooga Natural Energy release apparently enhances both energy and sports performance using tried and tested herbs. The tablets contain a unique combination of vitalising natural ingredients:

  • Panax ginseng – a herb used in the Orient for thousands of years to promote vitality and maintain mental alertness.
  • Guarana – a herb that helps to provide a natural source of caffeine.
  • The recommended daily allowance of B Complex Vitamins – to help maintain a healthy nervous system and help release energy from food.

Red Kooga 2

Did Red Kooga make me feel more energised?

Normally, I’m not a huge fan of taking tablets and will always try to source the vitamins and nutrients I need from food. In addition, I was slightly dubious about some of the claims the product manufacturers were making.

As Red Kooga aims to provide a natural energy boost, I tried taking the tablets before I would usually experience mid-morning and afternoon energy slumps. I initially tried taking a couple of tablets at the start of the day – I hoped that this would eliminate my mid-morning energy slump. Unfortunately, the tablets didn’t appear to make me feel more energised and I still felt quite tired in the lead up to lunch.

On the days I get up really early to fit in a training run before it gets too warm, I’ve really struggled to stay awake during the afternoon. On some occasions I actually had to have an afternoon nap. Not ideal! I decided to take a couple of tablets with my lunch to see if they would help eliminate my post-training run afternoon fatigue and naps. This time the tablets did seem to make a difference, and I felt far more energised and mentally alert during the afternoon. I definitely didn’t need a post-training run afternoon nap.

The Verdict

Although the Red Kooga tablets didn’t always manage to completely eliminate my energy slumps and tiredness, on the days I didn’t take the tablets I definitely noticed a difference in my energy levels. Perhaps this was some sort of placebo effect – I genuinely don’t know. I do know that my afternoons were far more productive on the days I did take a couple of Red Kooga tablets with my lunch.

Red Kooga is available in Boots for £7.99. I’ve already purchased some more to help me remain more mentally alert on my longer training run days.

**Full disclosure: I was sent a box of Red Kooga Natural Energy Release tablets for free in return for a review. I did not receive any payment for this review. As always all opinions are my own**