A Renaissance Diet and IIFYM Calculator

I’ve started working with a new coach who as well as writing me a powerlifting program, has started to delve into the obvious problems with my nutritional approach. He came up with a ferociously tricky program for me to follow which was based heavily on the recommendations from the Renaissance Diet Book.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks reading around these ideas and then drawing up an IIFYM and Renaissance Diet calculator (link to spreadsheet) that will determine both my macros for any given goal and also churn out the macros per meal as recommended by the Renaissance Diet. I thought I would save you the bother of having to recreate, or worse still, buy your own calculator by sharing the workbook and instructions here and on the warriorwoman Resources page.

I will provide enough of an overview of the Renaissance Diet for you to be able to use the calculator but I won’t delve into the scientific background or some of the minutiae of the method. For that you will have to stump up and pay the exorbitant fee for the original book.

What is the Renaissance Diet

It’s a diet program designed by a group of smart exercise scientists (they have PhDs) who are clearly very experienced in strength sports and physical transformation. They use a program called Renaissance Periodisation where your macronutrients and calorie target are based on your weight, goals and training volume. These targets are then split into individual meal targets with the composition varying around your training program.

So for example, on a training day with 6 meals in total, your protein would be split equally across all meals as the aim is to maintain a steady supply of protein, fat would be omitted from your mid-training meal as its slower to digest and your carbs would be heavily weighted to the meals pre, during and post-workout.

In terms of food composition they provide a pick list of lean protein sources, veg, healthy fats and carbs.

What do I think of the Renaissance Diet?

Well, I like elements of it and hate others.

The macro composition targets seem robust and are based on per lb of bodyweight goals – we all know as strength athletes that we could probably afford to squeeze some more protein into our diets. Splitting these goals down per day is just about manageable but splitting down to individual meal targets is a right royal pain in the ass! I don’t know how people do it. In my Renaissance Diet workbook I do provide a meal calculator so you can follow along to the rigid guidelines if desired. I would be very interested to see how you manage each meal though. I’ve tried to draw up a few meal ideas that work but I have to call upon foodstuffs with single macronutrient contents in order to make it work.

The food composition causes me some difficulties too. The protein sources are all lean cuts of meat and include the abomination that is egg whites. I absolutely cannot countenance throwing away a nutritious egg yolk in order to reconstitute a meal with an egg white and some other form of healthy fat, eg. avocado or nut butter.

Renaissance DietAll is not lost though. The guys who designed the Renaissance Diet have already prioritized each of their principles and as I am long way from the performance end of the scale where marginal gains are the name of the game, I am more than happy to abide by the first two principles which should get me about 80% of the rewards.

Principles in order of priority:

  1. Calorie consumption
  2. Macro composition
  3. Meal Timing
  4. Food composition
  5. Supplements

If It Fits Your Macros – IIFYM

IIFYM is a popular movement with crossfitters and other strength athletes. It follows the belief that macro composition and calorie balance is the key to achieving your body goals. In that respect they have a lot in common with the Renaissance Diet guys. 

Doughnuts and DeadliftsWhere they differ is in food composition. IIFYM don’t give two hoots about food composition, a carb is a carb as far as they are concerned. If you want a doughnut and you need a shed load of carbs to meet your macronutrient targets then go ahead – have the doughnut.

It’s the inspiration for my favourite brand of t-shirts: Deadlifts and Doughnuts.

The IIFYM and Renaissance Diet Workbook

This IIFYM and Renaissance Diet calculator (link to spreadsheet) workbook should work for you whether you want to determine daily macronutrient goals for IIFYM or the meal specific macros for the Renaissance Diet. It should also work for those who want to lose weight like me or those who are seeking bodyweight gains.

Macro Calculator

Start in the macro calculator tab and enter your personal details in the orange boxes, some of these are drop down selections to restrict your answers. Please note that I have not protected this spreadsheet in anyway, which means you are free to amend to suit your own needs but also means you can mess the whole thing up if you overwrite a formula. 

The calculator used the Harris-Benedict formula to calculate your BMR (basal metabolic rate) it then adjusts this based on your weight loss / gain goals and then applies a multiplier based on your activity level.

The macros are then split in the following priority order:

  1. Protein based on 0.8 – 1.2 times bodyweight in pounds regardless of activity levels
  2. Carbs are split based on activity levels from 0.5 – 2 times bodyweight in pounds
  3. Fat consumes the remaining calories. It isn’t allowed to drop below 10% (grams) of your bodyweight in lbs e.g. Min fat consumption for a 200lb person is 20g. The balance is then extracted from the carb target.

The area in the blue box reveals your target macronutrient targets based on your training volume. For rest days and light workouts use the LIGHT section. You can use MODERATE or HIGH where your strength routines become more intense – see the guide next to the blue box.

IIFYM and Renaissance diet Macronutrient Calculator
If you try this for a couple of weeks and your weight isn’t going in the right direction then alter the calorie adjustment number in the appropriate direction and re-test. Although this looks like a precision exercise the formula for calculating BMR is based on averages of average people and we are anything but average!

That’s all you need for IIFYM go forth armed with these macro proportions, download MyFitnessPal and start recording. For a while I imagine you will get to the end of the day either needing a pure protein meal (try Quark) or pure carbs (an easier predicament), but as you get more experienced you’ll probably be able to balance out your days.

RP Meal Calculator

If you want to rule your gut with an iron rod then you can delve into the RP Meal Calculator tab

you must first complete the macro calculator described above and then your only action on the new tab is to choose the number of meals you want to go for – either 5 or 6 in my workbook although I think you can go as high as 8 in the full program.

The table in the blue box then reveals your per meal macronutrient targets in grams. You can move each meal number around according to when you exercise. It is initial set up to reflect a morning workout routine.

Renaissance Diet Meal Plan
Let me know how you get on.

DIY Portable Olympic Weightlifting Platform

Olympic weightlifting platforms are typically 8′ x 8′ so pretty huge and phenomenally expensive for what amounts to a few bits of plywood and some rubber. In my mind that’s a clear invitation for a DIY project.

portable olympic weightlifting platformI am not blessed with a great deal of DIY proficiency but that doesn’t stop me from bodging and hammering with intent.

I don’t actually do a lot of Olympic Lifting at the moment as I focus more on the powerlifting moves of deadlift, squat and bench but ideally the deadlift requires a dropping platform as well.  As we’ve recently re-laid our patio for the sole purpose of providing me with a level area for my power rack, I am quite conscious of the need to protect the sandstone slabs and I have not been dropping any of my deadlifts! Maybe I would have hit my 100 kg target if I wasn’t so scared of dropping it…..? Or perhaps I just need some more protein shakes….? Or maybe just some more effort.

If we ever intend having a BBQ on the patio again, I can’t realistically build an 8′ x 8′ altar to the deadlift without also booking in some Relate sessions, but surely 8×8 is mightily excessive anyway. If you can throw a barbell that far away, you can’t have loaded enough plates on it?

I was inspired by this instructables video of a modular olympic weightlifting platform, that cuts the standard 8×8 into a mini 4×8 platform in 3 portable sections.

I scrimped on the middle section (for now) and constructed two landing platforms, each 2′ x 4′, for the express purpose of saving the patio.

 

So I bought 4 sheets of exterior grade plywood from eBay, two really thick sheets would do just as well but I was hoping to save money with a 12mm sheet, it didn’t look up to the job so I ordered two more 15mm sheets to finish the job. I glued and screwed these together and then topped with a layer of horse-box matting.

I was constructing this during Storm Frank for added challenge, which I would recommend if you can arrange it! It was a bit of a bodge job, rough around the edges, but looks as though it could be up to the job.

I am admittedly still a bit nervous about dropping weights on it but can confirm that I’m not lifting enough to crack my platform and patio yet. Maybe that should be my New Years Resolution.

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.

When 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.

Quite 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.

On 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.

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.

run slow to run fasterThis 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.

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

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 (*)Phil 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.

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

Convert a Route to a Garmin Course File

I’ve been preparing cycle routes for my new bike commute and while that part of the process has been pain free and successful, the art of transferring the route to my Garmin Forerunner 920XT so I can follow it as a course, has been a royal pain in the proverbial. I have managed it though so I thought I would condense the steps into a mini tutorial.

Creating a Route

There are plenty of free iPhone apps available for plotting cycle and running routes. For cycling I have been using BikeHub and for running I’ve opted for GPS Outdoors both of which allow you to save the created route as a GPX file to email or to open in a different app. Note that I am interested in apps that create routes using their own internal routing engine (like your sat nav) rather than a manual drag and drop method for creating routes. If you are happy with the manual approach then I suggest you use the create course option on Garmin Connect which would save you the bother of converting and struggling to transfer the output to your device which I describe below.

BikeHub

Bike Hub GPX route plottingThis app allows you to optimise your route according to your desires for speed, distance or quietness. The default balanced route option gives a very similar route to the google maps cycle route and suits my needs well. I don’t think you can edit the proposed route as you can with google maps though.

You can email the GPX file to yourself using the curly arrow button at the top of the screen or you can navigate directly from the app itself.

As my goal is to get the route onto my Forerunner 920XT, I choose the email option.

Google Maps

I’ve been impressed with the routing engine in google maps, it has access to all the cycle routes and has produced me a remarkably quiet route into central London. It appears to be the safest route I’ve had so far which is a blessing as my city biking skills are a bit rusty.

Editing the route is a cinch with Google Maps as you can simply drag and drop the route to reveal other options. I wanted to do this for my return route when it will be dark as I’d much rather avoid the centre of Tooting Bec Common even if it does have a dedicated bike lane running through it.

Where google maps lets you down is its limited sharing options. It doesn’t offer the option to download as a GPX file but you can nab the URL and use another website to convert to a GPX file for you – GPSVisualizer

Google Maps Route

GPSVisualizer has quite a busy interface as it offers multiple conversion options.

GPSVisualizer
GPSVisualizer OutputStick the URL copied from Google Maps into the dialog box towards the middle of the screen and hit the convert button.

It then displays your GPX output as a bewildering text file but towards the top of the screen is the option to save the GPX file. Hit this and save to your computer.

Converting GPX to Garmin TCX Course File

GPSies.comThe next step requires the conversion of the GPX to Garmin Course file (TCX file) using another free web based resource called GPSies.com

Set the options up as I show in the image, select your GPX file location and hit convert.

Send TCX Course to Garmin Device

You’ve now created a route, acquired the GPX file behind it and now converted that to the Garmin Course TCX format. The final task and the trickiest, is to get this TCX file onto your Garmin device.

I can’t understand why this process is not a simple matter of opening Garmin connect and importing the said course file, but it is not. There are many, many forum posts asking how to transfer GPX files to Garmin devices and very few solutions.

I’ve seen one Garmin Support solution for importing TCX files directly into the Garmin Edge device but I haven’t tested to see if this methodology would work for other Garmin’s such as the Forerunner 920XT.

Using the deprecated Garmin Training Centre to upload Garmin Course and Send to Garmin Device

Following a GPX course on a Garmin Forerunner 920XTThe Garmin Training Centre is not supported anymore but if you’ve had a Garmin device for a while you will no doubt still have this clunky program on your computer. For now you will be glad of it. If you haven’t and you want to install it, here’s the link to the old Training Centre versions.

Open Garmin Training Centre, if you haven’t used it in a while you will need to plug in your new device so that it appears in the available device list. It picked up my Garmin Forerunner 920XT without any fuss.

I then when to File, Import and navigated to my TCX file. It imported it without bother and now appeared in my Courses list.

Garmin Training Centre

The final step is to select the course and then from the Devices menu bar at the top, choose Send to Device.

It transferred and is now available to select from the devices Navigate screen. When you are riding or running the screen zooms in so you can follow the breadcrumb trail easily.

Which Garmin Devices Support Courses?

  • Forerunner 920XT
  • Forerunner 910XT
  • Forerunner 310XT
  • Edge Cycling Series

 

 

How to Tape Your Feet for Blister Prevention

Foot Taping for Long Distance WalksI’ve had some great results from pre-taping my feet prior to long hikes and can now walk around 40 miles, confident that I won’t get blisters. Even on this year’s London2Brighton challenge where the weather conditions were appalling and I ended up wearing two pairs of unfamiliar shoes, I managed 57km feeling physically broken but with my feet still intact – not a single blister.

My Blister Prevention Routine

  • Keep your feet in good nick – in the run up to your long walk you should keep your feet free of callouses and moisturise to prevent cracked skin.
  • Practice taping before your big event – there is a knack to applying tape so start practising early.
  • I apply tape to my own feet so I can flex while I’m applying it to make sure it is not too tight.
  • After taping, dust down with talcum powder to absorb any excess adhesive
  • Wear Bridgedale lining socks on top of the tape.
  • Put the hiking or running sock on next, being careful not to introduce creases.
  • During the event, change the lining socks regularly and check the the tape is still secure.

Zinc Oxide Tape for Blister Prevention

I’ve worked my way through a number of different brands of zinc oxide tape and have now settled on Leukotape P. I’ve found this to have excellent adhesive properties and a good degree of stretch. It somehow manages to avoid leaving adhesive on the non-sticky side of the tape, which is a big bonus and a problem I’ve noted with every other roll of tape I’ve tried.

Tape Adherent

A lot of guides suggest that you purchase an additional spray adhesive to apply to the foot before adding the tape. I’ve tried this technique but I’ve stopped using it because there is a fine balance between too little and too much stickiness. If you get a decent tape you shouldn’t need extra glue and you don’t want to have any extra adhesive on the outside of the tape as it will stick to your socks, increasing the chances of fabric folds under your feet. I apply a liberal sprinkling of talcum powder before I put on my socks as well.

Where to Apply the Anti Blister Tape

Ideally you will have slowly built up your long walks or runs and should now have a clear idea of where you tend to develop hot spots. When I first started training for 100km walks I would get blisters forming after only 10k when wearing hiking boots, and they would always be in the same place. Mine started under the heel and across the ball of my foot and for good measure, the back of my heel would regularly rub raw.

I chose the taping technique illustrated in the video below, as it covered all my weak points. If you develop hot spots in other places you may need to extend the covered regions.

Pre-Taping for Blister Prevention

  •  Start by applying anchor strips along the inner and outer sides of your foot.
  • Join the two anchor strips with a piece that goes across the heel.

Foot Taping for Blister Prevention

  • Start applying strips across the underside of your heel, with a slight overlap on each strip.
  • Be careful not to introduce creases and keep your foot flexed upward (dorsi-flexed) so that you don’t apply the tape too tightly.
  • Continue with more overlapped strips on the ball of your foot.
    Foot Taping for Blister Prevention
  • Finish by re-applying the anchor strips on either side of the foot.

Let me know how you get on……

The Paleo Diet and Mindful Eating for Weightloss

As a large runner I spend quite a lot of time focusing on food and diet. My aim is to establish a diet that makes it easy for me to maintain an acceptable weight, feel satisfied and still provides sufficient levels of energy for me to live my life with abandon.

My dietary program has been heavily influenced by three excellent books that have a similar theme of simplifying food and eating.

My first recommendation is Savor, a Buddhist guide to mindful eating. This book attempts to fuse nutritional advice with the Buddhist concept of mindfulness through the discussion of the four noble truths and a series of exercises or meditations that encourage a focus on the present.

The eating messages I’ve taken home are:

  • Eat at the table
  • Avoid multitasking – so no TV, work or magazines
  • Appreciate your food by use of all the senses
  • Chew and take it slowly
  • Quality not quantity

I’ve turned to Michael Pollen for the sort of down to earth advice succinctly wrapped up with the maxim: Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants. Homespun advice that would make your mum and grandmother nod their heads in appreciation.

In Defense of Food, contains Michael Pollen’s manifesto for eating and attempts to find the common sense lost in the nutritional world that has become hijacked by commerce and the food industry.

In addition to the Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants advice you’ll find tips such as:

  • Only eat food your great grandmother would recognise as food
  • Avoid products with unpronounceable ingredients or more than 5 ingredients
  • Avoid food with health claims

Both of these books suggest a common sense approach to eating and food, but slightly more prescriptive advice can be found in the next book which advocates the diet of our ancestors.

The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain

In a nut shell The Paleo Diet asks us to consider our food choices from the perspective of our early ancestors.

From an evolutionary time frame our digestive systems remain as they were in paleolithic times. The agricultural revolution has brought about many changes in our eating habits but our bodies have not yet had time to catch up.

By reverting to our ancestral food types we can achieve many health benefits and reduce a number of inflammatory or allergic reactions that are associated with modern foods such as wheat and highly processed foods. I mentioned in passing recently that I’ve had a lot of success treating plantar fasciitis with the paleo diet.

Acceptable Paleo foods

:

  • All low starch vegetables (so potatoes are excluded but you can substitute with sweet potato)
  • Meat (preferably lean) and fish
  • Eggs
  • Olive Oil
  • Nuts (not peanuts which are legumes)
  • Berries and fruit
  • Red Wine (some would argue)

The Paleo Avoidance List – No Grains, No Sugar, No Processed Food

:

  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Processed foods
  • Potato
  • Rice and grains (and flour products)
  • Bread
  • Pasta

The Paleo Diet really is a very easy diet to follow. I’ve already listed out the rules in the space of two paragraphs. That’s all there is to it. I find it a very acceptable way to live, I may have to plan ahead sometimes but Paleo food is quite accessible – just stick to the edges of the supermarket where you’ll find the fresh produce aisles, then snack on fruit, nuts and cooked meats.

Because it’s an easy way to live, that’s the way I see it – a way of life. That enables me to let myself off the hook from time to time. Some may call it cheating but it does mean that if I visit friends for dinner, I can join them without feeling the need to educate them on my current eating habits. I just return to Paleo tomorrow.

Many Paleo advocates call this the 80:20 rule – get it right 80% of the time and you’ll be alright. Julia Buckley would say “Mostly good, most of the time”.

I’ve had great successes on the Paleo Diet, I lost 6lbs in the first week, 3-stone in the first year and I have been on a steady decline since then. It could be considered a boring diet but it has the great effect of reducing my cravings. So while I may feel hunger I’m actually not that bothered by the feeling, it can rumble away for a while before I need to satisfy the pangs. That is incredibly unusual for me, before the Paleo diet I would say I practically lived in fear of hunger, I would anticipate the feeling and ward off the onset with fairly regular snacking.

The Paleo diet has a lot of similarities with the GI diet, they don’t necessarily recommend the same food types, as the GI diet includes whole grains which would be avoided on the Paleo diet, but they both impact on and stabilize insulin levels in the body. I think it is this that stops the cravings and the emotional highs and lows with traditional dieting.

If you’d like to kick start your Paleo lifestyle I can highly recommend the Whole 30 challenge which is a 30-day uber strict paleo diet challenge. It’s a great way to detox and determine if you have any food intolerances but its also a useful way to familiarise yourself with real foods again.

The Whole 30 food list is even simpler than the Paleo one from Loren Cordain’s book:

  • NO milk
  • NO alcohol
  • NO bread
  • NO sugar
  • NO pasta
  • NO grains
  • NO pulses
  • NO flour

It may feel strange to avoid grains which have for a long time been touted as a health food pillars but they are relatively recent intruders into our diet. If you look at the Paleo Diet with its lean meats and fish, its abundance of veg, salad and the delights of fruits, nuts and berries, you can rest assured that you are eating healthy and nutrient laden food.


The Ten Step Plan to escape the pain of Plantar Fasciitis

There have been times over the last few years when I thought my running days were over. I’ve been so crippled by the pain of plantar fasciitis that I’ve had to use hiking poles to get into work and at it’s worst I’ve resorted to moving around the house on my hands and knees.

Plantar fasciitis is the curse of runners.

Most runners will be struck down by a running injury at some time in their life but few are as debilitating as plantar fasciitis. As a breed we have a tendency to push ourselves hard and increase volumes and intensity too far and too soon and usually combine the two for good measure. Overloading your body, running with inappropriate footwear and ignoring other aspects of your fitness such as core strength training and flexibility will unfortunately increase your chances of being struck by plantar fasciitis. Overweight runners are also more prone to overuse injuries such as plantar fasciitis.

So how do you know if your foot problem is caused by plantar fasciitis?

Plantar FasciitisTypically the pain is felt on the sole of your feet, around the fleshy part of your heel pad. I had it in both of my feet but more often it is restricted to one side. I described the pain as though I had a large pebble in both shoes, causing a pressure pain and a bruised sensation.

It was also associated with stiffness which was much worse after resting, so after waking in the morning I would find myself hobbling for the first few steps as my feet accustomed themselves to movement. It felt like I was walking on stumps rather than fully mobile and flexible feet. For a while I was able to run through the pain and suffer the consequences after I stopped but when I started increasing the intensity again, the walking sticks had to make a re-appearance and the enforced rest periods started again.

How to recover from plantar fasciitis.

I’ve been dealing with the injury for well over a two years and have worked my way through most of the advice available, some of which provided only limited success but I am pleased to announce that I am now pain free and back running and training for my marathon.

Here’s my ten step plan for achieving pain free running:

  1. Stop running. This sounds drastic but should only be necessary for a few days to a week to enable you to get through the acute stage of your injury.
  2. Start a 2-week course of ibuprofen or other suitable anti-inflammatory, 1 tablet three times a day should be sufficient. I wouldn’t normally advise medication, I very rarely take tablets but I have to admit that this was one of the most successful elements of my recovery plan. The injury is caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia that runs underneath the foot and a short course of anti-inflammatory medication along with a period of rest can be extremely effective in helping the foot recover.
  3. Ice your feet 2- 3 times daily. I did this by filling a small bottle with water and freezing it, you can then roll your feet over this to combine icing with a strong plantar fascia stretch. You may find it more convenient to soak your feet in a bucket of icy water.
  4. calf stretchBuild a stretching routine into your day. It is very likely that tight calves are part of the problem and if you have lower back pain as well you’ll probably find that your hamstrings are knotted up too. I stretch my calves while going up the escalators at the tube station, keeping the balls of my feet on the edge of the rise and dropping my heels. You can also do the standard runners stretch which involves you pushing against a tree or wall while applying gentle tension to the outstretched rear leg.
  5. Foot and calf strengthening – grasping golf balls with your toes is a great exercise for working out your feet and step raises are brilliant for strengthening the calves.
  6. The Stick and other methods of tortureMassage – foot and calf – I use The Stick which is a marvellous gadget for rolling out knots and tension but a foam roller would probably have a similar effect. I aim to do this before and after a run and find that the pre-run roll is most effective at ensuring that my calves don’t tighten up.
  7. Build core training and flexibility into your program – stretch daily and add in a core workout 3 times a week. A simple yoga routine such as the sun salutation repeated a few times will take less than 10 minutes a day and core routine needn’t necessarily take longer than 20 mins. I use an iPhone app for both routines but there are plenty of ideas on the web.
  8. Cross train. There is no need to cut out the aerobic exercise while you are on your enforced running rest, and in fact it is always good injury-proofing advice to maintain an element of cross training in your program. Try pool running if you really miss the running or cycling and swimming as great fitness alternatives.
  9. Experiment with insoles and consider replacing your shoes if they are worn. Running shoes have a shelf life depending on the distance run and the weight of the runner. If you have foot pain and your shoes have taken a battering it might be time to invest in a new pair. Insoles are worth considering if only as a temporary measure but you might need to seek professionally podiatry advice for this.
  10. Try the Paleo diet to relieve the pain of plantar fasciitis – I saved this one for last as it sounds a bit nuts. I started the Paleo diet a while ago for health and weightloss reasons and had absolutely no expectation that it would help my plantar fasciitis but by the end of the first week of sticking to the diet my foot pain had gone. I was surprised and didn’t actually draw the connection until I started researching the paleo diet and read in Loren Cordain’s Paleo Diet book, a case study which indicated that another dieter had found relief from plantar fasciitis after starting the paleo diet. The mode of action is likely to be anti-inflammatory and maybe more appealing to many than the ibuprofen option.

Other methods of treatment for plantar fasciitis:

  • Born to RunBarefoot running. Barefoot running has gained huge levels of support and is often cited as a potential cure for plantar fasciitis following the success of the amazing book “Born to Run”. I’ve done quite a bit of barefoot running or minimalist running using shoes such as Vibram fivefingers and the Softstar run amocs but I cannot wholeheartedly recommend that you throw away the cushioned support shoes you are used to. I’d love to be able to do that but my fear is that, if you are anything like me, you will go too fast and too far down the barefoot running route and increase your risk of running injuries. Barefoot running is not for the fainthearted. You need to strengthen your feet and calves and take the transition extremely slowly – so proceed with caution.
  • A Strasbourg sock can be an effective plantar fasciitis night splint, worn while you sleep. It forces your foot into a 90-degree angle in order to stretch out the plantar fascia and can provide some relief.

I hope this program helps you in the way it helped me. When you start running again start back slowly and maintain the stretching and strength elements built into your recovery plan, the aim is to remain strong and flexible and to build the running levels slowly.

It’s always tempting, following a little bit of success, to throw yourself back into the running with a rather heroic attitude, but you should resist. If you’ve had plantar fasciitis already then you are going to be prone to relapses and that is just not worth it. Progress slowly, keep stretching and roll out the muscles of your legs before and after each run – if you don’t have a handy masseuse on hand, try the DIY option and invest in The Stick.

Alternative Wisdom for the Great North Run – 9 Insider Tips

As I prepare to head up north for my fourth running of the Bupa Great North Run, I feel it is time to assemble a top tips post, illustrated with snippets from earlier race reports.

Treat the Great North Run as 4 individual stages – XLMan from the runnersworld forum let me re-post his race strategy back in 2007. I’m still using it to visualise the race 5 years later.

Run 1 – 5 miles (8 km). (DON’T think about anything further) Huge crowds, great atmosphere, bands. Take it steady, not too fast, you’ve run five miles or further loads of times. Enjoy the spectacle, and remember you are part of it. Those inspirational pictures of thousands running across the Tyne Bridge? You’re in them this year. Yes, you’re in the Great North Run, the world’s biggest half marathon. Enjoy!

Run 2 – 3 miles (5 km). Forget the 5 behind you, they’re done. Think only of the next three. Three miles? Piece of cake, you’ve done 9, 10, 11 .. much more in training. These three are all downhill, wheeeeeee !! Great news for those of you after PBs for the event, or even if it’s your first time and you have a target. Go for it here, within reason. Unfortunately, the road narrows, so you may notice it feeling a little more congested. Be careful.

Run 3 – 3 miles (5 km). SLOW DOWN. This is where you need your mental toughness and/or your MP3 player. It’s a bit of a slog up the John Reid Road etc and there’s not much to enjoy, but hey, if it was easy, the medal wouldn’t be as important to you would it? If you’re a run/walk person this is where you may want to be taking extra walks, and psych yourself up, but don’t start thinking about the finish yet. Just get to 11 miles

Run 4 – 2.1 miles (3 km) That’s nowt! Of course you’re tired but you’re nearly there. Now, start to tell yourself that you’ve done it (almost) the goody bag is waiting for you, go and get it. The last mile and a bit up the sea front is fantastic. Huge crowds yelling at you, the end is nigh. Let your spirits fly, even if you’re knackered. You can stop soon. If you’re after a time, push, you know you are fit, you have prepared well, and as knackered as you will feel when you cross the line, the elation will speed your recovery. Well done, you’ve finished the GREAT NORTH RUN 2012

Go Low for Ritual Chanting – just past the start line the road divides and you get to choose whether to go under or over the bridge. The low road offers the full echoing experience of thousands of runners shouting oggy oggy oggy. It also carries the risk of a non too refreshing shower.

Take the high road for a shower free experience – at least a hundred men with bladder issues choose to take the high road and then proceed to shower the oggy oggy oggy runners beneath them.

I also came close to having an unwelcome shower from the guys caught short and relieving themselves on the overpass above me. GNR N0 1

Never underestimate the old and frail – This is one for Gladys who looked delightfully doddery at the start of the 2010 GNR but who had a second wind and was caught on camera at the finish line – a good 4 minutes ahead of me.

It’s all in the pacing – every seasoned racer seeks the holy grail of the negative split where you complete the second half of the race faster than the first. That only happens if you take the first half slower than the last and therefore requires you to proceed with caution and not get caught up in the excitement of the day. Breaking your 5k pb during a half marathon does not usually bode well for the finish line.

Remember to smile at mile 10 – For 2012 Bupa have installed a mile of smiles section at the toughest part of the run and you don’t want to be immortalised with a sweaty grimace.#happiestrun

Ride the emotional rollercoaster – it’s hard to run while gasping for air and choking on painful emotions

At 10 miles I was broken emotionally, I was on a rollercoaster of weeping triggers. The first was a picture of young man on the back of t-shirt, a dad, dead of prostate cancer already. So many people run with powerful messages it’s too hard not to choke up. The second was the red arrows swooping over the Jarrow Rd and third, that actually did see me sobbing was the sight of the sea on the slope down to South Shields. There is still more than a mile to go but it’s the best indication, short of the finish line, that marks the end of the pain. GNR No 3

Embrace the motivation from the crowd

She was barely more than four years old and I’d only gone about a kilometre before she yelled out from the sidelines, “Keep running fat girl!” GNR No 3

Run with faster friends – That way they can deal with the carnage at the baggage vans and deliver your assembled kit to the finish line.

We found him eventually in an emotional heap after spending about 45 mins battling in the baggage bus for our clobber. Shoes and bags and shirts had been strewn all over and it sounded a bit like a blood fest. Luckily I got to avoid all that – that’s the benefit of running with fast friends, thay get to collect the bags while all you have to do is struggle over the finish and stumble into the nearest fish and chip restaurant. GNR No 2

If you find any of my tips useful, perhaps you would consider showing appreciation by donating to my Virginmoney charity site – raising money for the Samaritans