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Huel complete Food for Humans

I’ve always been a bit sniffy about meal replacement shakes but when I first heard about Huel in a recent Times article I felt more intrigued than judgemental. It seemed to be selling itself as an ethical, low allergenic alternative to real food and not as a quick fix diet shake. So when I was offered a week’s supply of Huel to try out, I obviously jumped at the chance.

Huel is vegan, dairy free, soy free, gluten-free food replacement product and claims to be nutritionally complete providing at least 100% of the UK Governments Reference Nutrient Intakes. Personally I’d rather not trust the Government with decisions about my health but at least they’ve opted to follow the UK model rather than the US Government’s view of a healthy diet.

If I were to claim affinity to any particular nutritional bandwagon it would have to be Weston A Price with its focus on traditional foodstuffs, well reared meat and fermented products so Huel doesn’t fit in so well with that – it’s hardly traditional to live off mail order powder and there isn’t even a sniff of an animal product, well reared or not. The ingredient list is pretty tame, there isn’t a single product that I could complain about with the bulk comprised oats, pea protein coconut, flaxseed and sunflower seed.

IMG 7117 0 Huel complete Food for HumansWhen I took delivery of my weeks supply of Huel, I planned to trial a 100% Huel day based on 1500 cals. Here’s my day’s supply weighed out and combined ready for use. By the time I had made it through the first 8 hours or so of my day and consumed my breakfast and lunch Huel, I was getting pretty desperate and I decided to change the experiment and adopt a more sustainable approach of 2 on and 1 off.

IMG 7118 0 Huel complete Food for HumansQuite a lot of people choose to substitute Huel for breakfast and lunch and then opt for their typical evening meal with the family. This seems eminently sensible to me. Breakfast is usually the most nutritionally lacking meal in most people’s diets. Unless I can bothered to cook up an egg meal I rarely get a satisfactory level of protein in the first meal of the day. Huel at least ensures that I get a good kick-start with a so-called balance of carbs, protein and fat. Lunch is a bit easier to control but if I haven’t bothered to make myself a pack up chicken salad I find myself spending a fortune on organic produce near work and I’m happy to swap a £7 salad for a 96p bottle of Huel (300 cals worth), safe in the knowledge that my nutritional needs are accounted for.

I admit, it is poor to design an experiment and then change the goalposts half way through implementation but if you want to read about someone who has jumped on the 100% bandwagon and has so far stuck at it for 3 unhappy days, check out Ed Wiseman who is in the midst of 7 day Huel experiment.

I’ve now been using Huel for 12 days and I’m really happy with it. I weigh out the powder in the morning and mix to about a 1:5 ratio of powder to water (you can amend to your desired consistency). I do find that Huel is quite resistant to mixing and it takes a fairly hefty blast with handheld blender. I haven’t tried the shaker approach but can only imagine that it would result in major lumps.

Huel is not particularly tasty but neither is it vile. I’d describe it as a strangely sweet, runny porridge. Its bland really, but I’ve always found that bland works pretty well for me, it seems to turn off all my high alert, food-neediness sensors.

IMG 7132 0 Huel complete Food for HumansOn a normal, non Huel day, I typically have breakfast, arrive at work and start wondering if its ok to have my morning snack of cashew nuts, then an hour or so later I start clock watching til 12 noon when I think I can reasonably start on my lunch. With Huel, I start the day with a pint of the whizzed up concoction and although I do feel hungry in the morning, I know that the Huel is sitting there waiting for me and I can eat it (or drink it) whenever I like. I just don’t seem to “like” that much. On Huel days I regularly make it through til 2-ish before I finally crack the lunchtime supply open.

As someone who constantly struggles with my weight and any form of dietary restriction, I find this behaviour to be a revelation and one that I want to hang on to.

So 12 days in I feel good, healthy, lighter, slimmer and I’ve saved money on my grocery bill. That’s a bit of an obvious thing to say given that my first bag of Huel was a freebie but I did buy the second bag. A weeks supply of Huel (based on 2000 Huel calories per day) costs £45 and at the moment comes with a free t-shirt (I like mine), a shaker and a metal drinks bottle.

Hacking the Huel

They have a fairly active customer forum at Huel and there seems to be an acceptance of altering the mix or spicing it a bit. Here are my suggestions for hacking the Huel.

Changing the Flavour

I’ve already said that the bland flavour works for me so I don’t want to dabble with the flavouring and make this a moreish product, having said that I did try adding the dregs of my black Americano one morning and it was surprisingly good. Other users have tried an assortment of flavour enhancers including syrups, coffee powders and cinnamon.

Altering the MacroNutrient mix

I don’t buy into the Governments view of what constitutes a healthy diet and would prefer to have some more control based around my personal requirements. So while Huel is currently constructed around a 30 30 40 split (fat, protein, carbs), I would prefer to increase the protein and fat at the expense of the carbohydrate. When I’ve been weight training I add some additional grass fed whey powder and/or collagen to the mix. Obviously it adds to the calories but it also shifts the macronutrient mix in favour of protein.

Making it Live

I’m also a big fan of fermented products and kombucha, yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut are a regular addition to my diet. Since opting for two Huel meals a day I’ve reduced my opportunity to sneak in my home-made Bulgarian heritage yoghurt, and that’s a bit of a tragedy as I have to maintain the lactobacillus line. I’ve started to sneak a bit into my morning Huel to ‘live’en it up a bit which also has the benefit of taking the edge off the sweetness. As with all additions though, it affects the nutrient mix and the calorie content.

Final View

I don’t see why anybody without complex health needs or a psychological aversion to food, would choose to use Huel as a complete food replacement. It’s quite possible to do and might well be more nutritious than most people’s dietary alternatives, but food means so much more than just nutrition and I don’t ever want to lose the joy of sitting down to a good meal with friends and family.

I do think that there could be a longterm role for Huel in my life though. I’ve already ordered my next weeks supply and will continue to adopt a breakfast and lunch replacement for the forseeable future. I’m impressed with the level of food control I seem to have developed while using Huel and the result is that I’ve been losing weight but I also feel good, my energy levels are up and my mood is steady. If I were to try to restrict my consumption in a similar way using “normal” foods, I’d be going up the wall within a day.

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Run Slow to Run Faster – The Maffetone Method

It’s not good for the ego to be outrun by a dog walker but that is the short-term risk of adopting The Maffetone Method.

turtle 300x296 Run Slow to Run Faster   The Maffetone MethodThis weekend I was “running” behind a dog walker for at least 20 minutes, running within yards of him before my heart rate monitor beeped at me and I had to drop to a dawdle. The dog walker edged away until finally, my heart rate edged to the lower end of my training target and I could prepare for the overtake manoeuvre again.

This went on for a good 15 attempts before I decided it was probably easier to turn around and head back home.

What is the Maffetone Method

The Maffetone method eschews the no pain no gain ethos, in favour of super low intensity training to optimise aerobic performance.

I came across the Maffetone Method when I was researching different ways to assess and record fitness gains as part of my Achieve the Impossible Challenge and plumped for the MAF Test as an accessible and useful gauge of improving aerobic fitness.

The MAF Test, which stands for Maximum Aerobic Function test, has you run over a set distance between 1-5 miles (in my case 5k) all the time keeping your heart rate within in a set range – the Maffetone Range. The Maffetone Range equates to either heart rate zone 1 or 2 and when you start out it’s really quite difficult to exercise and keep below the maximum allowable rate.

Determining your Maffetone Training Range

Phil Maffetone describes a simple 180 formula to determining your maximum training heart rate.

Step 1) 180 – Age

Step 2) Take this number and adjust by one of the following:

a) Recovering from major illness/surgery then subtract 10
b) Injured, new/returning to training or sickly then subtract 5
c) Consistent trainer (4 days a week for 2 years) then make no change, your max MAF training heart rate is 180 – age
d) Experienced athlete (2+ years) with consistent or improving performance then add 5

As I’m between b) and c) and can’t bear to stick to rules I’ve gone for subtracting 3, so my max training heart rate is 180 – 44 – 3 = 133

To find the range you simply set the lower range at 10 beats per minute lower than your max. So my training range (and MAF test range) is 123 to 133 bpm.

The task then is to conduct a baseline line MAF test and then start Maffetone Training which just means that you have to keep all your training runs, in fact any form of exercise, within the Maffetone Range. You are supposed to avoid all forms of anaerobic exercise until you have reached your aerobic peak which you can identify by a plateauing of your MAF Test performance.

How to do the MAF Test

Pick a course that is convenient and relatively flat, ideally you will want to use the same course for each future test.

You will need to be equipped with a heart rate monitor so you can ensure that you stick to your range. I have set mine to beep every time I fall outside of the range but that’s not necessary, you just need to keep an eye on it. After a while you will get used to how you feel and how your breathing changes when you are in or out of the training range.

You need to do a good warm up before you start the test so that you’ve got your system used to movement but this also needs to be below your maximum training heart rate determined above.

Then you start the run, recording your lap times and finish time.

Having completed the first test you will have an average pace for the entire distance and each individual lap.  This is your benchmark from which to compare all future tests.

IMG 7043 Run Slow to Run Faster   The Maffetone Method

It is recommended that you repeat the MAF Test every month and as you progress you should note that your average pace decreases even though you are sticking to the same HR range. That means you will run faster and faster for the same aerobic load which has got to be a good thing.

The best example I’ve seen of this is from trifundracing:

MAF TEST 081613 Run Slow to Run Faster   The Maffetone Method

The MAF test is remarkably hard. Not in a gruelling way but just because it is too easy. I can’t walk fast enough to stay consistently in my range but neither can I run slow enough. That means I’m trapped in a perpetual run walk cycle and that is challenging when all you really want to do is run.

If you are fitter and lighter than me, you will probably be able to run for the entire duration of the test but it is going to feel painfully slow for you.

So is it worth it?

Only time will tell of course but having spent a bit of time focussing on my heart rate behaviour I am more inclined to give Maffetone Training a good go. The fact that my heart so readily climbs to anaerobic levels under the slightest levels of exertion suggests that I must always be training the anaerobic system. It makes sense to me that I would benefit from a good few months of low level aerobic base training.

In The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing (*) Run Slow to Run Faster   The Maffetone MethodPhil Maffetone illustrates his method with case studies and even suggests that some of his athletes eventually struggle to hit their maximum MAF heart rate as they’ve become so aerobically efficient. I find this pretty hard to fathom, from my perspective I barely raise my knee into the running form before my heart rate has jumped by 30 beats. When I actually start running, regardless of pace, my heart rate zone is breached within seconds and I have to drop to a walk. The thought that I might someday be able to sprint at that same heart rate feels a bit mythical. I would settle for being able to jog for an hour at that rate though.

The fact that the MAF test enables me to accurately measure performance improvements is a great bonus and I can’t wait until I manage to run the entire distance, even if it is at a snails pace.

MAF Pace and Race Results

There is apparently a link between the average pace achieved during a MAF Test and your pace at various race distances.

IMG 7084 Run Slow to Run Faster   The Maffetone Method Phil Maffetone includes a table on his site which gives an indicator of how much slower your test pace will be.

It doesn’t cover the slow poke range but to give you an idea of where I am. My MAF Test pace over 5km was 10:00 mins/km while my Bushy parkrun time this week was 41 mins which is a race pace of 08:11 and required an average heart rate of 167 bpm and a max of 185 bpm – definitely not within the Maffetone range.

I’ll be repeating a parkrun monthly to see if I see an improvement after training slow and low.

(*) indicates the use of an affiliate link to amazon

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Achieve the Impossible

I’m a quitter and a failure.

At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself for the last year or so.

IMG 68561 Achieve the ImpossibleIt came to me over a lovely paleo meal.

We were onto the second course, a delicious ox heart carpaccio and a good way into a bottle of Chardonnay when Lynn asked me what had happened to my fitness plans as she’d noticed that the training calendar was blank and I had been emotionally flat for a while.

I tried to talk but in the end it just seemed easier to sob into my Chardonnay.

I was choking up trying to explain how my last three 100km attempts had ended in failure and I now felt that I had nowhere to go. I couldn’t risk adding yet another failure to my list by aiming for an ultra but at the same time, I couldn’t think of anything, more realistic, that had the power to excite me.

Following our emotional dinner, I came home and promptly ordered Achieve the Impossible (ATI) by Greg Whyte.

It proved to be a fantastically inspiring book. Within a few pages it was clear that my challenge needed to be “audacious” and needed to have an emotional hold over me. Despite hating long distance walking it’s hard to find another challenge that could tick both of those boxes and I’m afraid my big challenge has to be to train and complete a 100 km event.

I wasn’t going to mention it on my blog, hoping to save face if it turned into failure number 4, but another thing I learnt from ATI was that I have to put the challenge out there and be accountable.

So here goes, in 2016 I will train for and complete a 2 stage ultradistance event. Ideally it will be Race to the Stones in July 2016.

IMG 7083 Achieve the Impossible Back to the book.

Achieve the Impossible is written by Greg Whyte who is the driving force behind a number of high profile mega challenges such as Eddie Izzard and his 43 marathons and David Walliams with his 140 mile swim down the Thames. These and many other challenges are used to illustrate the concepts and are fascinating and inspiring in their own right.

The book is ultimately about conception and planning: “Success isn’t an accident; you plan for it”

It has opened my eyes to the level of detail required to ensure success rather than just hope for it. It’s clear in the past that I have designed a training plan focused on only one element required for success – usually running distance. I’ve then gone out there and loosely followed the plan but not checked my progress or considered strategies for the tough times ahead. That means that I arrive at the start of an event someway short of optimally prepared and then have to wing it with no clear idea how to deal with curve balls that appear throughout the course. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but it’s always hit and miss.

In management speak I refer to myself as a Starter Leaver and consider it the perfect complement to the Belbin team role of Completer Finisher. It means that I’m creative and have oodles of energy at the start of a project but I’m very quick to move on to the next big idea. It can work well in a diverse team but when you’re into the grotty half of an ultradistance event it exposes extremely unhelpful personality traits and makes it easy to be a quitter. My emotional response to hard times needs to planned for as much as my body’s reluctance to churn out the distance.

Preparing properly is quite a technical job in itself. The book provides a framework with loads of planning concepts, images and examples to help you along the way but I still found it a little tricky to see how I could put it into action, there were lots of different examples but ideally I wanted the illustration to show: overweight, middle-aged woman plans to run 2-stage ultra event in precisely 1 years time, so I could nick the Measures of Success and the meso and macro planning cycles, but I suppose that is expecting a bit too much.

I am planning an accompanying blog post that will layout my very personal example and I’ll share the Achieve the Impossible spreadsheet that I’ve developed to track and display my progression towards my training goals.

In the meantime I would recommend this as a key read for anyone in the early stages of the next big challenge.

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A smashrun for the last day of Juneathon

I’ve dabbled with the “gamification” of sports but the joy of a new badge and an animated high five rapidly slips into the arena of vaguely irritating notifications.

I was therefore quite surprised at just how quickly I become absorbed in smashrun, the latest app for accumulating, rewarding and hacking running statistics. I’ve even been encouraged to go on an afternoon run, in a heatwave, just so I can get my first badge.

Smashrun was billed as a geeky dashboard for the runner and self-quantifier. Just my cup tea, so I headed over to the homepage and lost myself in the fascinating array of charts. Within minutes I had signed up, connected my account to Garmin and then watched as it sucked 8 years of running history and 3295 km of running goodness into my dashboard.

This is my favourite chart so far, it shows that I was totally rocking in 2007, possibly asleep from 2008/2009 and could do to pick up my running shoes a little more often for the rest of 2015.

Screen Shot 2015 06 30 at 13.31.50 536x192 A smashrun for the last day of Juneathon

I also found out that Sunday’s 5km pootle around Mitcham Common was the longest run in 3 months and that’s just a little bit embarrassing.

On the smashrun website they explain their reason for being with this snippet:

It’s cold. It’s raining. You drag your butt out of bed, pull on your sweats and a windbreaker. You feel like phoning it in after the first three miles, but instead you lock it down and dig deep for that last mile. You get home, shower quickly and rush to work only to show up 5 minutes late. Your boss peers over his coffee. Nice to see, you managed to make it in.

Now, it wasn’t easy to make that run happen. And at the end of the day, it can be hard to say what it accomplished. Maybe you’re in a little better shape? Maybe it’s helped you maintain your internal discipline? Maybe you feel more balanced?

What Smashrun is designed to do is to give you a context for your run. Finishing that run today meant that you’ve run 280 miles this year. That puts you in the top 20% of the runners on Smashrun. It’s more than 50 miles farther than you’d run last year at this time. And it was the 3rd fastest 4 mile run you’ve ever run. You’re running twice as many miles a week as your friend Joe, and when it comes to sheer discipline — showing up day in and day out — you have few peers.

That resonates with me, data and statistics can be mighty powerful if they are displayed in the right way and incredibly motivational. I’ve recorded just about every single run of my adult life and smashrun looks like the tool to bring those runs to life again.

Come and join me, I could do with some friends.

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Guilt Trip for Juneathon

So yesterday Lynn hit me with an ultimatum. Apparently I haven’t used my bike in about year and she is fed up of moving it around the dining room. I either have to get on my bike or put it back in the shed.

Ouch!

IMG 6825 Guilt Trip for Juneathon

lady not to scale

The shed is practically a mile down the bottom of the garden and if I had to factor in the time required to retrieve it on the admittedly infrequent cycle commute occasions, I’d have to set the alarm half an hour earlier.

And that ain’t happening!

So today arrives and I dutifully drag out the lycra, and my bike, and head to the big smoke via pedal power.

That’s 34km in the bag for Juneathon and my bike gets a reprieve. Result!

It was also a glorious day and I found myself caught in a rather spectacular dust cloud in Hyde Park. I am grateful to @lucyslade who was quicker off the mark than me and managed to capture the scene beautifully.

IMG 6824 Guilt Trip for Juneathon

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A Bone to Pick with Juneathon

I’ve been skirting around the idea of running since my new Juneathon alarm went off at 6:30 am. It’s now 11 pm. 

I postponed the morning run in favour of an evening run, before dinner, but that was pushed into touch by the far more favourable idea of doing it on a full stomach, after dinner. Of course after dinner it became a whole different ball game and I dropped the idea of running altogether. 

So hunting around for a suitable alternative I thought I’d give the Freeletics app a go. Freeletics is a new app that has been nagging me to exercise with it for the last two weeks but I’ve ignored it.

I fired it up and tried the recommended Workout of the Day (WoD) – Metis. No equipment required and just 3 exercises. How difficult can it be?

IMG 6822 A Bone to Pick with JuneathonWell I’m sitting here on the floor quivering and that’s despite bailing after round 1.

I finished round 1 in quite a state after 10 burpees, 10 climbers and 10 high knee jumps. Lynn was watching on the sofa, supportively guffawing, while videoing my efforts. I moved between cursing her and cursing the phone but when the app flicked straight to round 2 with the same 3 exercises but now at 25 reps each, I’m afraid I blew a gasket and started cursing Juneathon too.

Having calmed down a bit I thought I’d give Freeletics the benefit of the doubt, perhaps it was throwing a killer WoD at me because it had no idea quite how unfit I’ve allowed myself to become. So I’ve just signed up for the coaching option and taken my max rep test. I knocked out 85 full squats in 5 mins and may never walk again.

Having taken the test and filled in my body stats the app can no longer be in any doubt about the basket case standing before it. It ran through its algorithms and spat out my new program.

What do you know. The first workout it has in store for me is METIS.

I may weep.

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Stuck on Sprint

Eager to get Juneathon off to a promising start, I set the alarm for 6:30 am and almost skipped my way downstairs to the treadmill. 

I selected level 9 in my Sprint 8 high intensity program and sauntered through the warm up before shocking myself with the first incline sprint of the series. 

I haven’t been very religious with my run training of late and so I was biding my time impatiently and counting down each remaining second of the interval. The treadmill finally beeped for the end of the 30 second sprint and the start of the recovery phase. I relaxed a bit and then panicked as I noticed that I was moving towards the end of the track and the treadmill was not slowing down. 

I picked up to sprint mode again and bashed frantically at the reduce speed button. I got it down 1 kph but was still very definitely sprinting. 

Either the treadmill decided that the first day of Juneathon was a good day to malfunction or I lost a lot more fitness than I’d thought. 

I had to resort to the big red panic key. Yanked it out and thankfully came to an abrupt yet ungainly stop. 

So the first run of Janathon proved to be short but quite exhausting. I may need to venture outside for the rest of the month. 

 IMG 6817 0 Stuck on Sprint 

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Doing it Disney-Style for the Dogs

Here’s a guest post from rebeccaruns.

Up until this year, I was always setting myself fitness targets and never sticking to them for very long. Life just seemed to get in the way every time; the universe cruelly conspiring against my fitness and weight goals. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, either!

But this year I’ve set myself a fitness challenge of a weird and wonderful nature…and I’ve actually stuck to it for 5 months!

A 10K Race a Month…as a Disney Character

Yep! That’s it in a nutshell!

I’ve entered a 10k race every month so far this year, dressed as a different Disney character each time. For all you doubting Thomases out there, check out the photographic evidence below! (Or even visit my blog, Rebecca Runs, or my Facebook page for more info!)

I decided on 10k because it’s a challenging distance, but doesn’t require too much time to train for; it takes me just less than an hour to run the distance. Anything longer and I wouldn’t be able to fit in regular training runs.

How Have I Managed to Stick at it?

That’s any easy question to answer!

Because I’m doing it to raise money for a dog shelter in Thailand that I had the pleasure of working at a few months ago (Care for Dogs – www.carefordogs.org).

And there’s nothing like a bit of pressure from knowing that homeless, sick animals are depending on you to raise some funds for their food, shelter and medical care. Damn them!

The Highlights of My Runs so Far

It is a bit of a weird experience, turning up at an organised event in a Disney costume – particularly in a foreign country. Boy, have I had my share of bewildered looks!

But every run has been an entirely unique experience, so I thought I’d share my highlights…

  1. IMG 4554 300x225 Doing it Disney Style for the DogsJessie (Toy Story), Chennai, India (March)

Time: 60:00

This has probably been my favourite run so far – mainly because I was treated like a minor celebrity by the Indian runners!

I’d never even heard of Chennai beforehand, and I only entered this race because it fit into my timescale and the organisers agreed to let me.

The run itself was incredibly tough because, as I later found out, I’d contracted a virus the week before in Delhi (didn’t find that out until I took a trip to Singapore hospital a few days after the race!) and was feeling pretty rotten (I had thought it was Delhi-belly at its worse!).

But after the race, I’m not kidding, HUNDREDS of people wanted a photo with me (some wanted pics of me presenting them their race medal!), and it was bags of fun chatting to everyone.

  1. DSCN0041 300x225 Doing it Disney Style for the DogsMike Wazowski (Monsters, Inc), London, UK (January)

Time: 59:36

Sunday, 11th January this year was the day I lost my dignity and first experienced the realms of Utter Humiliation.

Mike has been my favourite costume so far because it’s the quirkiest – and because I could completely hide in shame within it! Although I must have sat in the car with my boyfriend giving me his best, “do it for the dogs” speech in an attempt to get me out of the car for at least 20 minutes before I worked up the courage to face the world!

  1. IMG 5500 225x300 Doing it Disney Style for the DogsMrs Incredible (The Incredibles), Auckland, New Zealand (April)

Time: 57:56

I’ve got to wonder about the Kiwis’ Disney knowledge because I think I was called every name BUT Mrs Incredible throughout the race! Robin, Wonder Woman, Mrs Superwoman – but at least I stood out!

I enjoyed this race because I achieved my costume Personal Best of 57:56 – Incredible by name, incredible by nature ha ha!

  1. DSCN0767 225x300 Doing it Disney Style for the DogsOlaf (Frozen), Alibaug, India (February)

Time: 62:04

A snowman on the beach! What a fab concept.

In theory, anyway.

In practice, I was sweltering and so bloody uncomfortable! Also, while running on a beach sounds romantic and picturesque, it’s actually hell, because the track seems endless and it feels like you’re making no progress at all!

I took my Olaf fleece off at the end and I could have wrung it out. It was that gross!

  1. finished 300x225 Doing it Disney Style for the DogsMinnie Mouse, Beijing, China (May)

Time: 58:59

It’s been SO hard to find a 10k in China! Many of their organised runs have entry cut off times months in advance, and some organisations don’t like the idea of someone running in costume.

So, admittedly, this run wasn’t an organised event; instead, it was just me against the clock in Beijing’s Olympic Park (which is a gorgeous place to visit if you’re ever in Beijing).

I got LOADS of weird looks, and tonnes of people telling me how ‘cute’ I looked; I think they thought I was just some random white girl who’d chosen a really ostentatious dress to run in.

And the Future?

I’m committed to this challenge for 2015 at least so I have 7 runs left to do, but there’s no telling WHERE I’ll be running next, or WHICH Disney character I’ll be running as…

Thanks for reading!

This article was written by Becky, and to follow her 2015 10k challenge check out her blog, www.rebeccaruns.co.uk. Even better, if you can offer your support and like her Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/rebeccaruns, she’ll be eternally grateful!

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StrongWoman Training

Screen Shot 2015 05 23 at 08.39.32 StrongWoman TrainingSaturday had been set aside for Strongwoman training. An afternoon of channeling my inner Geoff Capes, alongside a group of similarly minded women.

I eased myself into the day with a relaxing bath but as I heaved myself out of said bath, I tweaked my shoulder and ended back beneath the bubbles. Not a particularly auspicious start to my strong day.

I was surprised just how strong ordinary looking women could be. My definition of ordinary in this sense just means that none of the women looked as though they’d recently ingested steroids.

Yet even in the absence of bulging musculature they were each able to heft more than 100 kg on to their shoulders and run with a wobbly yoke. In some cases it was considerably heavier than 100 kg.

I can’t remember how heavy the tyres were, but I’ve never seen such monstrous rings of rubber and everyone flipped them, not necessarily with ease but with a good sense of grit. I can confirm that there isn’t much, more satisfying, than a resounding tyre flip. The bigger the better of course.

My definition of strong is now “anyone who could hitch me onto their shoulders and run”. I reckon all the women at that session could manage it, although I’m embarrassed to admit I would struggle. Still it’s nice to have something to aim for, I’ll start with the kids first and move on.

StrongWoman Training Days run by Sally Moss of StrengthAmbassadors gives you the opportunity to play with yokes, logs, kegs, tyres, axles and try your hand at farmers walks. You don’t need to know what any of those things are to have a go at shifting them.

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I’m a attracted to the technicalities of training more than the actual training, and I’m always on the look out for a gadget that might reduce the need for the latter.

IMG 6647 0 BSX Insight Review   Lactate Threshold Testing at HomeI was immediately attracted to the BSX Insight campaign on Kickstarter, not only because it’s a cool new sporty gadget but also because it offers insights that should enable me to train smarter (where training smarter means training less). Perhaps not less than I currently train but less than a very eager, yet clueless runner. 

BSX Insight Review

BSX Insight is a small sensor, worn in a tight calf sleeve, that monitors muscle oxygenation in order to estimate your lactate threshold. It apparently has a high level of accuracy when compared to the industry standard lactate testing methodology, which involves multiple blood draws to measure the increasing concentration of lactic acid in the system. For the first time, lactate threshold testing has been opened up to the masses, for home testing without invasive blood tests.

What is Lactate Threshold

In everyday practice, the most common use of the term is the intensity at which your body can no longer sustainably keep up with the energy demand. In other words, it is the highest intensity, or the fastest pace, that you could maintain without a steady increase in blood lactate.

In practice, it represents the highest workload that can be maintained for an extended period of time, usually around 45-60 minutes.

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It’s still early days with the development of the BSX Insight and at the moment you can only perform LT assessments with it. In time you should be able to use this in daily runs to monitor muscle oxygenation in real time.

Lactate Threshold Assessment

You start with the BSX Insight app which requires you to answer a few questions relating to your current conversational and 10k pace.

Note that this is a gadget for elites and slow pokes alike. If your conversation pace is 10 min/km or 5 min it will still take you through your paces and deliver results for you. 

The app then indicates the pace zones it will take you through, aiming to have taken you to exhaustion after about 30 mins of progressive running.

The app then connects (via Bluetooth I think) to the BSX sensor which in turn connects to your ANT+ Heart Rate monitor. I used the HR strap that came with my Garmin 920XT and had to hold the BSX sensor next to the strap to cement the initial connection. Having made the connection it held it for the duration of the assessment.

Once the setup is completed it is time to get on the treadmill and hit start. You really need to use a treadmill for the assessment stage as you are required to maintain a consistent pace for 3 minutes before it bumps you up by perhaps only 0.1 kph for another 3 minutes. It would be extremely hard to hit that level of consistency if you were running free.

During the run the app indicates your current instructions, either a pace or speed target to maintain, along with your heart rate and current muscle oxygenation levels.

Screen Shot 2015 04 26 at 15.04.23 536x352 BSX Insight Review   Lactate Threshold Testing at Home

I imagine that when you reach true exhaustion the muscle oxygenation level will begin to drop off. Unfortunately I have to imagine this as I’ve done the test twice now and think I have bailed on both occasions, just before my lactate threshold was reached. It didn’t seem to harm the experiment though, and so long as you run for at least 20 minutes I think the app will be able to estimate the LT.

Results of the Lactate Threshold Home Test

The results are calculated almost immediately and your results are compared to any previous assessments you’ve completed.

IMG 6646 BSX Insight Review   Lactate Threshold Testing at HomeProbably the most useful feature is the display of your personal training zones. And that’s personal as in truly personal and not just calculations based on 220 – your age. You can view your training zones as either pace based or HR zones.

The trick now is to take these zones and design a training program which utilises your new found insight, to push the boundaries and increase your fitness so you reach your Lactate Threshold at a faster pace.

BSX Insight do offer a free training program to help with this but in a nutshell, I will be keeping the bulk of my runs in the Zone 2 Aerobic Threshold with twice weekly interval sessions where I push to Zones 4 and 5. It’s these higher zones that will work on improving my LT.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops and perhaps integrates with other services. At the moment I can see the results of my assessment but I don’t seem to be able to access the data. I’d like to be able to view the muscle oxygenation and HR charts as shown above but at the moment they appear to be locked down.

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