Friday Finds – 11th August

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

Have you been watching the World Championships Athletics from London this week? I’ve been loving watching world class competition every evening and there have been some thrilling performances to watch – the men’s 10,000m, the women’s marathon and the legend that is Usain Bolt to name a few. There have also been some more “controversial” moments – continuing discussion of Caster Semenya, Makwala not being allowed to race due to illness and the reception of Justin Gatlin spring to mind. All of these have been covered extensively in my news feeds this week, but rather than go over old ground I thought I would bring you a few articles I had already saved…

I’m going to start with this piece by Running Like a Girl author Alexandra Heminsley. Considering the brilliant This Girl Can campaign from Sport England, Heminsley reflects on some of the barriers we create for ourselves which hold us back from participation. I have often heard people make comments like, “I’m not a real runner,” or say that they can’t take up a particular sport or go to a particular gym class until they lose weight/get fitter/become more flexible – some of the very things that activity would help with. Heminsley herself recognises that these moments mirror her own thinking before finding sport and once upon a time I felt the same. A great reminder that whether it’s running, swimming or something else entirely, nobody is born a fully-formed expert, but participation is all it takes to be able to call yourself part of the tribe.

This next article has raised some very interesting debate. Is it more impressive to run a super fast mile or to complete a marathon (or ultra)? It seems to me that every distance presents its own unique challenges, but that doesn’t necessarily make one better than another. In the mile, you’ve got a few minutes of lung-busting, heart-thumping effort (possibly ending with a bit of “pavement pizza” if you’ve really pushed it) whereas in the marathon and beyond there are the challenges of time on your feet, aching limbs, blisters and keeping your body fuelled. Different distance, different challenge. Is running a 4 minute mile impressive? Of course it is. What about completing a marathon? Apparently only 1% of the population will ever do so, so I’d say that’s another yes. What makes a challenge impressive is the possibility of failure rather than what that challenge actually is. For me, a sub-4 hour marathon is waaaaaay more likely (and appealing!) than a sub-4 minute mile. Both would present their own challenges. What are your thoughts?

If maintaining motivation is your issue, then perhaps this next article will help. A number of running bloggers were asked for their top tips to stay motivated. Most of the suggestions are probably fairly familiar, but it can still be useful to see it written down and read about another’s experiences. Perhaps you’ll find something in this extensive list useful. Do you have any to add?

Now to some cycling. Although I’ve been completing a bike workout every week in the gym for months now, it’s been some time since I’ve been on my trusty steed Trixie. I’m lucky enough to live somewhere with plenty of cycling options, but I know that for many this is not possible which can be off-putting, and am conscious that many cities on the continent are much better equipped for cyclists than we are here. But what would an ideal cycling city look like? That’s exactly what Steven Fleming considers in his new publication Velotopia. Would you want to live there?

And finally, I’ll leave you with this poem by Nat Runs Far published on Women’s Running. There is a certain poetry to getting into the groove of a long run on a sunny day, and this really captures that moment.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 4th August

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

Anyone else really excited for the start of the World Athletics Championships today? I LOVE getting settled in front of the TV for any athletics competition but this one is going to be pretty special with Usain Bolt’s final race and one of Mo Farah’s last track appearances. I’m also hopeful of great performances from Scottish athletes like Laura Muir and Callum Hawkins and it will be great to see medal ceremonies for athletes who previously missed out on medals due to competitors who were doping. So you don’t miss any of the action, here are the details of the UK coverage from the BBC:

If the athletics inspires you to get out and run a bit more, you might enjoy the wisdom of the great Kathrine Switzer in this article for Outside. It’s easy to get swept along with working hard and striving for a goal, but running should also be fun and Switzer reminds us of how we can make sure we enjoy what we do. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that!

For those who are newer to running, this article for new website Motiv Running is helpful. Like the writer, I’ve now been running for more than a decade, but can still remember those earliest runs, how everyone else seemed to find it so much easier and how a single mile seemed like such a long way. I’ve definitely learned a lot over the years, but from this article the ones that stand out most to me are number 5 and number 10. I definitely agree that you are a runner as soon as you decide to be, and running is certainly a journey. It’s a journey full of ups and downs, but its’s fulfilling and I’m glad it’s a journey I can still be on.

Something I’m particularly interested in is the impact of stress on the body. Whether that’s stress from a hard run, work stress of life stress, the body doesn’t really know the difference, hence why we can be more prone to injuries when we’re under a lot of pressure in other areas of our lives. I’m learning to identify the times in the year when work is stressful and adjust my training to account for this, so found this article from Trail Runner magazine quite interesting.

And finally, if your favourite way to wind down after a hard run is a nice cold beer, then perhaps this next product is for you. It seems you can now buy a beer specifically intended to be drunk in the shower! I’m not really sure what the difference is – surely any beer could go in the shower with you? Still, it’s an amusing concept so I thought I would include it.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 28th July

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

Happy Friday! It’s been a week of getting back into my usual training routine, as well as time to organise my life a bit. I seem to have spent so long over everything else that my post this week is a bit of a random selection again. Enjoy!

First, some exciting news for marathon geeks like me. Eliud Kipchoge is going to run this year’s Berlin marathon and has his sight set on the world record. This will be an exciting race to watch as Kipchoge has proven his marathon credentials in previous races (as well as his Breaking2 run earlier this year) and Berlin is often the course on which new records are set. I’ll also be running a marathon that day (Loch Ness) but Kipchoge will likely be home, showered and have his feet up with a cup of tea before I’m even half way round! Perhaps during the time I’m out on the course a new world record will be set…

If you’re anything like me then you probably already follow some of the big names in running or other sports, but Outside decided to flip that around and find out who those big names like to follow. The chain makes for an interesting who’s who of the running world and highlighted some names to keep an eye out for when it comes to the latest news and advice. Any you would add?

Another example of how important community is to runners comes in the form of The Guardian‘s Running Blog, edited by Kate Carter. Every Monday I read the weekend debrief and always enjoy the other articles shared throughout the week (some of which I include in my Friday Finds posts) but I have never joined in, never commented on a post or shared my ideas in this particular forum. But a recent post from Carter demonstrated just how big and supportive a community has grown from that blog. While she writes with this particular community in mind, in my experience the same is true of many other groups around the internet and finding a group of like-minded individuals can be a game-changer. Well done Kate and everyone else who has established a successful and supportive running group, whether online or IRL.

We all run for different reasons, and sometimes it’s easy to forget that a new PB, a distance goal or racing regularly might not be everyone’s motivation to lace up their trainers. In this article from Refinery 29, a number of women share their (very honest) reasons for running. I bristle a bit at the phrase “herd of joggers” in the introduction, but I really like all the different reasons the women give for making running part of their lives (and if I’m honest, some of them definitely ring true with me as well!).

And finally, if you’re currently training for a marathon (or have done in the past) then you’ll enjoy this fun post from Women’s Running. Sometimes a GIF (or emoji) is all we need to communicate our feelings about something!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 21st July

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

Happy Friday! I’m back home and a little jet lagged, so this week’s Friday Finds is going to be a random selection of stuff I found while I was away. Here we go…

It’s fairly well established that I’m partial to a running-related stat, so I’m going to begin this week with a post from Women’s Running crunching the numbers in marathons and racing in general. My favourite stat in here is the rise in number of female participants, particularly in the US, which is something I’d love to see happening everywhere.

Next, a story which came to my attention a couple of weeks ago when the Diamond League athletics took place in London. Olympian Tom Bosworth set a new world record for the 1 mile race walk. His time? 5:31:08. Yes, you read that right. Bosworth race walked a mile faster than I could ever conceive running one. Absolutely amazing!

At the other end of the spectrum from top end athletics is the novelty race. You know the sort of thing I mean, they usually take the form of crazy fancy dress, being chased by “zombies” or consuming food/drink mid-run and trying desperately hard to keep it in your stomach. Bridging the gap to some extent is Brian Oliu, whose article for Runner’s World describes how the mental challenge of translating his grandfather’s book about running led him to the physical challenge of taking up running himself. In this particular piece he describes his experience of the Krispy Kreme Challenge and how he found himself particularly talented in this kind of event.

Of course baked goods are probably not the best fuel for your next endurance race, but that itself is an area of competition which has changed over the years so I found this next piece from Outside really interesting. I had previously come across the fact that once upon a time runners fuelled with alcohol (something which I’m sure made for some interesting stories!) but I had no idea how comparatively recently products like energy gels came to the fore. Something to think about next time you rip one open!

And finally, if you enjoy seeing runners poke a little fun at themselves then check out this parody rap video by Arizona-based runners Ruairi Moynihan and Miguel Moreno. Very clever and it made me smile.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 14th July

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

Since I’m on holiday (or vacation for my American friends) I thought this week’s Friday Finds could be devoted to one of my favourite holiday pastimes…running!

If running whilst on a trip is new to you, Women’s Running weighs up the pros and cons of some of the common tips given to travelling runners. I’m lucky that I’m not the only runner in the family so it’s easy to set time aside, but being in a hot, humid climate means I do switch from my usual evening runs or leisurely starts to pretty much rolling out of bed into my trainers to avoid the harsh conditions later on.

If you’d like to take things further and turn your trip into a runcation, then Runner’s World is here with some great tips to help you get the most out of your trip. After several trips involving running or racing, I can definitely recommend the idea.

Inevitably, sometimes we have to travel right after an event, leading to muscles seizing up (I’ve definitely thought longingly of the emergency slide when faced with a set of airline steps!). To help, Triathlete magazine has assembled some tips to help with recovery whilst stuck in a car or plane.

One of the difficulties I face in heading to Florida is the huge difference in temperature and humidity. Running in hot weather can slow you by up to a minute a mile as your body has to work harder to keep you cool. Studies have shown that becoming better acclimatised makes more of a difference than pre-cooling the skin, leading to the suggestion of a hot bath before a hot weather workout. Now that sounds just about crazy enough to work!

And finally, travelling to run or race can lead to some great stories to tell afterwards. A rather disconcerting incident involving a Paris marathon portable toilet and some raisins springs to mind, as does the additional security check I was once treated to thanks to my suspicious looking HRM! If you want more like that, Women’s Running has gathered together a few. Do you have any to add?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 7th July

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

I’m in a different time zone this week so if you were expecting this post a bit earlier – sorry! Despite travelling (and generally being unsure of what day it is) I do have a few articles to share with you this week.

First, the results published on Women’s Running of an interesting study into finish times in American runners. I’ve noted before that studies have shown a “slowing down” of runners in general, and have heard this on a number of different podcasts. Presumably this has to do with the rise of mass participation and more people taking part who would not be considered “elite”. What’s notable from this study is that the slowing is NOT a result of more female participation, but it does seem to correlate with the increasing weight of the population at large. This study is solely about US runners and it would be intriguing to see if it held true in other parts of the world as well.

These days we often come across information about companies offering to analyse our DNA and provide information about our athletic potential. But does this actually work? I read with interest this piece from The Guardian in which the writer delves a bit further into this topic.

I don’t have a Fitbit, but I do use a tracker and am becoming more and more interested in sleep patterns. I’m convinced that most of the time I don’t get enough sleep, and the results of a recent study into Fitbit users seems to confirm that I’m not alone, with the average user getting less than 7 hours per week. We seem to exist in a world where not getting enough sleep is revered, but this is not healthy and I for one am aware that I need to do something about this.

I also enjoyed this piece from Outside looking at how we know when we should stop running competitively and the impact that decision might have on us. Is it all about times? Is it about injury? How can we give up something that has been a huge part of our lives? I’m sure it’s something many runners of different ages and abilities ponder from time to time.

And finally, we all know the running commmunity is incredible, and this was once more demonstrated when a runner in the process of moving house had a huge number of medals stolen from her. The running community swung into action and she has been reunited with a number of her medals already. If you need a feel-good story then this is the one for you.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 30th June

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

Despite some distinctly unseasonal weather this week, summer is finally here…or at least my summer break from school! I always feel a little lethargic for the first day or so as my body realises that it can FINALLY stop and get some rest, but I’m still here to share some interesting articles I’ve come across recently in a bit of a mish-mash of topics…

I’ll start with this piece from Runner’s World on recent research into fitness and exercise. The main idea was to look into the key variable in longevity – exercise or fitness (based on VO2 max).The evidence seems to suggest that fitness is key, however those acquiring that fitness through exercise rather than genetics seemed to fare better. I got a little bogged down in some of the explanations, but it makes for an interesting read.

Some more lighthearted research came from Women’s Running who surveyed their readers to find out more about their running habits and preferences. Despite occasional evidence to the contrary, comparing my answers to those given here I seem to be perfectly normal! 😉 How do your habits compare?

One of my favourite sources right now is Outside, who regularly provide me with all sorts of interesting reading material. One that caught my eye recently was an examination of what we know as “the pain cave”. It’s that hard 5k effort that never feels comfortable; it’s racing a half marathon and trying to balance speed with endurance (something I’ve traditionally struggled with); and it’s the final 10k of a marathon when every fibre of your being is screaming to stop, but you doggedly shuffle on. Of course in an ultra the experience of the pain cave will be even longer, and this is what prompted the writer to pen this particular piece.

A slightly different pain can come from losing a segment on social app Strava – heck, seeing an ominous graph telling you that you’re “trending slower” over a route or been beaten by a rival can do it too. Personally I love Strava as it gives me a place to share my runs and progress free from the eye-rolling of non-running friends, but I’m equally aware that an obsession with the app can go too far. Total Women’s Cycling has therefore created this handy guide to help you work out how healthy your relationship with the Strava world is (although I think it’s perfectly legitimate to consider a complete stranger who holds a segment – or beats yours – a sworn enemy lol!).

And finally, I know I’ve mentioned cat yoga before, but what about yoga/pilates with KITTENS?! Watching the video in this article (and, frankly, knowing what I’m like for chatting with every cat I meet on a walk or run) I think I would have to be forcibly removed from this studio at the end of the class (and have my pockets checked for “stowaways”!). Someone near me needs to start a cat/kitten yoga class soon…

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 23rd June

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

This week (19th – 25th June) is the third Women’s Sport Week, “a national awareness week providing an opportunity for everybody involved with playing, delivering, working in, volunteering or watching sport to celebrate, raise awareness and increase the profile of women’s sport across the UK” and this year has the theme of “More women, more active”. In both 2015 and 2016 I marked the occasion with a selection of women’s sports articles in Friday Finds, and this time around is no different. Since a number of sources have featured articles related to WSW2017, I’m including some of the ones I found most useful.

BBC
The BBC has published a number of articles throughout this week highlighting women in sport. They kicked this off by publishing the results of their study into prize money, and encouragingly it does show a definite narrowing of the gender gap since their last study in 2014, however until there is 100% equality there is still work to be done.

Of greater concern is the report highlighted today which looked a little further into recent studies suggesting girls are turning away from sport as young as 9 years old. Clearly, if we want more women to be active then this worrying issue needs to be addressed so that young girls get involved in sport for life.

The Telegraph
This newspaper asked a panel of influential women in sport who they thought had the greatest impact on sport in the Britain. They could interpret this in any way they saw fit, but each woman nominated 10 others (excluding themselves!) and these nominations were used to compile a list of the 20 most influential women in British sport. The results are very interesting and I would find it even more interesting to carry out the same exercise with everyday women to see who they consider the most influential. Would they create the same list? I’m sure there would be some crossover, but I suspect there would be some other names in the mix.

The Independent
Another newspaper, this time highlighting the issue of a lack of female coaches in professional football. They use the story of Rachel Yankey, who at age 8 shaved off all her hair in order to pretend to be a boy so she could join her local football team. The article contains some quite staggering figures comparing the number of male coaches to female, and is another example of how something has to change at grass roots level for more women to see that sport is an option for them, especially in traditionally male-dominated sports.

Huffington Post
The online newspaper focused on the everyday, ordinary women and some of the reasons why so many are put off being active. They highlight the findings of the This Girl Can campaign and everything they are doing to inspire more women to get involved. Clearly Women’s Sport Week and This Girl Can complement each other beautifully.

This was followed up later in the week with a powerful piece outlining some of the key statistics when it comes to women’s participation, before making the important point that in a time of great uncertainty sport is a unifying force – and that’s exactly what we need right now. In order for all of us to reap the empowering benefits of physical activity, we need to remove the barriers that are preventing so many from taking part.

Tough Girl Challenges
Over on Sarah Williams’ website, the Tough Girl Team (including me!) has been working hard this week to promote WSW2017 with a number of articles designed to encourage more women to try something new. You can check it out here (and read more about my involvement with Tough Girl Challenges here and here)

Finally, if you are inspired by WSW2017 and would like to read more, the resources section of the Women in Sport website contains links to a number of useful articles and studies into women’s sport and some of the issues that need to be addressed to help get women and girls more active.

Get out there and try something new!
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 16th June

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

To mark a successful start to my Tough Girl 100 challenge to complete at least 10 minutes of yoga or mobility work every day (2 weeks in and going well through a very busy time at work) I thought I would bring you a yoga special this week in Friday Finds. I had a few stored up and now seemed like the ideal opportunity!

My yoga journey began just over a year ago when I attended my first Ashtanga class. I was lucky enough to get to a beginners’ session that turned out to be just me so I got a one-to-one introduction to the basics before joining the main class the following week. Since then I’ve only missed a class if I’ve been away from home or had a work commitment. I love how the class makes me feel and I DEFINITELY notice the difference in my strength and flexibility as a result – all good for my running! So my first article this week comes from The Guardian‘s “My Workout” series in which people share their stories about their favourite way to keep fit. It’s clear that for this writer, yoga has a very significant place in her life.

Ashtanga is also the subject of my next find. The status of yoga is often debated, particularly when  it comes to whether or not it “counts” as exercise. The way I see it, it may not raise my heart rate as much as a tough set of intervals, but there are still some postures and sequences that are far from easy. It also helps build a lot of strength. With that in mind, I was pleased to come across this piece that delves into some of the science that has been applied to the practice of yoga to determine that Ashtanga in particular IS good for us:

Sticking with the science, I also enjoyed reading this next article which delves into how yoga affects our mental wellbeing. Interestingly, the studies cited sought to compare yoga poses (asanas) with “power poses” and found that those holding yoga poses felt more energy, power and self-esteem.The theory is that this has something to do with the feedback the body receives while in these poses and I find it all intriguing.

Even more interestingly, The New York Post reports that the mood boost from regular yoga practice could last up to six months! A comparative study between a 10 week Hatha yoga class and 10 weeks of health education for two groups suffering depression found that symptoms were alleviated for much longer following the end of the courses for those who practiced yoga. The conclusion drawn is that sustained practice would continue to lessen symptoms the long term. Wouldn’t it be great if doctors could prescribe yoga rather than medication!

And finally, for a bit of fun why not try this quiz from The Telegraph and see if you can spot the real yoga poses from the fake ones. It’s a bit trickier than you might expect!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 9th June

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

Unbelievably, for the third week in a row I’m going to lead with the story of Kilian Jornet and his Everest summits. No, he hasn’t gone and done it again, but he has now returned to “civilisation” and many media outlets have been interested in speaking to him. Here are some the articles I’ve come across, one featuring a short video charting his journey with a voiceover from the man himself:

Next up, one for those of you who are stat geeks like me. It never fails to amuse me how I can totally understand STEM subjects when put in a running context, but have little hope in other situations! In this article we are given some of the key numbers that demonstrate what is driving the running market right now, from participation to brands to record times. Enjoy!

Speaking of science, here’s an informative article from Outside which explains a little more about how exercise benefits our brains. As runners we’re well aware of how much more alert and productive we feel after a run – even the long ones! – and it’s long been recognised that the mind and body grow together. Here’s a bit more of the detail:

A little more science comes to us from Athletes Weekly who this week reported on the findings of a study into why some people can physiologically cope better with the demands of the marathon than others. As an injury-prone runner I found it fascinating to find out that there’s an excellent chance I can blame my parents as it turns out there really are different genetic markers that contribute to how our bodies respond to hard workouts. Having that understanding would really help athletes to better target their strength training to target those specific issues and become more resilient runners.

And finally, you might remember in my Boston special I mentioned that two guide dog puppies were to be named after the race winners. Now, the adorable Edna and Geoffrey are ready to meet their public. Caution: they are way too cute!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess