Friday Finds – 15th 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.

Yes, I am late with this. It’s been a bit of a tricky week and time just totally got away from me. But never fear, I do have some interesting bits and bobs to share with you in this week’s Friday Finds Saturday Stories

Since I’m actually writing this on Saturday morning, I’ll start with an article about parkrun. Last weekend parkrun in the UK teamed up with the NHS to celebrate 70 years of the NHS. In this article from The Guardian, Jack Dickenson considers how the two might continue to work together to improve public health.

Next, a report on a recent study into arthritis which suggests that despite what the “you’ll ruin your knees” brigade has to say, marathon runners actually have less arthritis than non-runners. Even more reason to get down to your local parkrun and keep your body healthy!

In a more lighthearted story, Canadian Running magazine rounded up some of the more unusual running-related world records. It must be really cool to know you have, however briefly, held a world record. Problem is, all of these records are faster than my PB even whilst doing something like knitting or carrying an egg and spoon!

I also loved this story from a 50km event in Australia. A couple of race volunteers met a koala along the course and gave it a drink from their hydration pack. What an amazing thing to have happened. I generally just return from a run with a story about stopping to talk to a cat haha!

And finally, I never expected to be including an article from Vogue in a Friday Finds post, but there’s a first time for everything! With International Yoga Day coming up this week, I think I’ve found my ultimate yoga experience – Disneyland Paris! This special event taking place in front of the castle sounds amazing and I only wish I could be there. Work can be such an inconvenience sometimes 😉

Happy reading,
The Running Princess 

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Friday Finds – 8th 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.

My oh my! What a week! I hope you’ve had a good one and were able to mark Global Running Day on Wednesday. I’m really looking forward to a bit of downtime this weekend, and am kicking it off with your weekly fix of things to read.

Let’s kick off with some thoughts on recovery from good old Alex Hutchinson. For me, getting the recovery strategy right is key to running without any niggling problems and at this busy time of year I know I need to be even more aware of this since the body doesn’t know the difference between mental stress and physical stress – stress is stress and eventually something has to give. Of course recovery is something that’s very hard to quantify scientifically as often the impact of a strategy is entirely psychological. Still, this makes for an interesting read as Hutchinson delves into some of the research.

What can be harder is the mental side of recovery, particularly if you experienced a DNF in your last race. It’s something I’ve not (so far) had to deal with (although I have had some particularly emotional DNS experiences). If it’s something you have had to deal with in the past, or are struggling with now, then you might find this article from Women’s Running helpful when it comes to putting things into perspective.

Another mental struggle comes from dealing with injury. I know from bitter experience how hard it is to deal with the unknown of when I might be able to run again. I suspect it would be quite different if someone could put a definitive time scale on recovery, but sadly it just doesn’t work like that. In this next piece, Brad Stulberg considers the mental tools the elites have developed to help them in such situations.

Working on the mental aspects of running has been priority for me this year, however it seems Asics have gone a step further with the new track they have opened in South London. Named the “Blackout Track” it is in complete darkness to allow runners to completely focus on body and mind. It’s an intriguing concept and I wouldn’t mind trying it out, but I’m not sure I fancy the 10k ‘mental marathon’ undertaken by various running luminaries recently! Would you?

And finally, a great way to calm the mind is to practice yoga and there has been a trend of late for various “novelty” forms of yoga. However participants in a goat yoga class in the US recently got more than they bargained for when one of the goats gave birth to kids during the class! I definitely recommend watching the video of the cute little baby goats in this one – so adorable!

Happy reading!
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 1st 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.

I can’t believe it’s June! It hardly seems like any time at all since we were battling the worst of the winter weather and now the summer holidays are in sight! It’s been a busy week for me, so I’m a bit later with this post tonight but I’ve still got some interesting articles to share.

First up, a piece from coach Mario Fraioli in which he details habits common to the most effective runners (note the distinction between ‘effective’ and ‘fast’). Much of this is in line with the principles behind my own training and I was especially pleased to see reference to the process since that has been a big focus for me this year. Do you recognise any of your own habits in here (or habits you know you should have)?

Following on from the point about different types of run, good old Alex Hutchinson, writing in The Globe and Mail, explains the reasoning behind easy and hard runs (and why they make a difference). His point at the end is most important, that most of us lack the discipline to stick to the different effort levels required and therefore don’t reap the benefits. I know it can seem counter-intuitive to run at a really easy pace, but having greater variety allows us to build endurance and have enough energy to work hard when we need to. That’s what improves our running. I’d love to know your thoughts.

As someone with a milestone birthday this year, I was intrigued to read about Anthony Famiglietti’s quest to become the 4th man in history to run a sub-4 minute mile after age 40. While many of us expect to slow with age, there are plenty of athletes who continue to run strongly and if successful, Famiglietti will offer hope that we can all continue to challenge ourselves as we get older and not accept that we must slow down.

Another intriguing post features a writer for Outside spending a month on a very different kind of training programme – one where he did the training he felt like rather than the training his plan dictated. For stats geeks, the data at the end paints an interesting picture, but what is more important is the story behind that data, the decisions writer Michael Easter makes about his training in future. Personally I’m not sure this approach would work for me – given the opportunity to be lazy I would probably grasp it more often than I should – but perhaps others would feel differently…

And finally, as a devotee of the Church of the Sunday Long Run, this last piece really amused me. Perhaps a ring of truth?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 25th May

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.

Hello! I hope you have that Friday feeling! My week is ending a little differently to normal due to a work commitment, but I’m still here to share a few bits and pieces I’ve read this week to get your weekend off to a start.

I’m writing this on an early morning train journey and am most definitely fuelled by coffee to get me on the move! Over the years a pre-run/race coffee has become part of my routine and I know a lot of other runners are the same. It seemed fitting, therefore, to begin this week with an explanation from Canadian Running Magazine of the history of caffeine use in sport and just why it can provide such a benefit to athletes.

Also fitting today as my train passes through Stirling (whilst remembering my recent foray around the University campus as part of the Stirling marathon) is this piece from The Guardian looking more closely at the phenomenon of The Daily Mile. I love the idea of children taking 15 minutes outside each day to boost their fitness and wellbeing. While it only goes part of the way to helping them reach their optimum activity levels, it’s still far better than not going out and the statistics bear this out. As for those who express doubts about the time away from the classroom, I would wholeheartedly agree with the argument that the endorphins and fresh air is more likely to IMPROVE outcomes in the classroom and wish that more schools, including secondary schools, could find a way to incorporate these ideas into the curriculum.

Something I’ve been fascinated by of late is sleep. It’s already one of my goals this year to try and get a bit more sleep and since reading Matthew Walker’s book “Why We Sleep” I’ve been even more fixated on making sure I get enough shut-eye. I was pleased, therefore, to see one of my favourite columnists (Alex Hutchinson of Sweat Science) publishing some information on how athletes can use the latest sleep research to help them.

I also came across something a bit different this week. I’ve touched on the idea of training plans before and always maintain that it should fit into your life rather than you being an absolute slave to it. I’m lucky that Steve writes my plans and fits them around the weekly pattern I want to maintain and the other commitments in my life. To an extent, I’m handing over that responsibility then simply following the plan (with the option to make adjustments as I go). But what if training involved TOTALLY delegating responsibility for your training to others? Well that’s exactly what one runner did when he allowed his twitter followers to dictate his half marathon training. Foolish? Inspired? I’ll let you decide…

And finally, it’s the stuff of pre-race anxiety dreams to get lost or get the timings all wrong, and runner Mike Koehler found out the hard way what happens when you don’t read all your race instructions carefully enough. I have to say, training for a half marathon and “accidentally” running the full is impressive, but I wouldn’t recommend it!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

 

Friday Finds – 18th May

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.

Hello! I hope you’ve had a great week and are looking forward to the weekend. This week has been Mental Health Awareness Week so I thought I would share some articles addressing the ideas of fitness and mental health. If you find this in any way difficult, then I understand if you choose not to read on.

Many of us already know the physical and mental health benefits of running such as relieving stress and providing a natural “high” from endorphins. For anyone who has suffered depression, Women’s Running has summed up some of the ways running can help.

Cycling can be equally beneficial – it certainly helped me to feel better when I was unable to run for an extended period a few years ago – and for similar reasons. This next article also contains some valuable (UK-based) links for anyone who might want to seek some further help.

Taking it to a more personal level, Fast Running published this very honest piece from Irish athlete Kevin Dooney who opens up about his own mental health struggles and the importance of talking to someone.

A positive story comes from runner Dawn Nisbet who became well-known following a picture of her taking part in her local parkrun. Here, she discusses how running has helped her mental wellbeing.

And to finish with some new research, it seems that lifting weights is particularly beneficial to our mental health. Sounds like a good reason to remember that strength training!

Whether your mental health is good or you are struggling with something right now, I hope something in here is useful to you.

The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 11th May

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.

Welcome to the weekend! If you had Monday off work for the UK bank holiday then hopefully this has been a nice short week for you, so let’s kick off this shiny new weekend with a bit of reading:

This week I had the privilege of going to a screening of the inspiring documentary film Skid Row Marathon. If you are a listener of the Marathon Talk podcast (I was mentioned – twice! – in episode 434…) then you have no doubt heard host Martin Yelling talking about this film at length, and now I fully understand why. Having been captivated by the film and the individual stories within it, I was drawn to this article from The Guardian, which references the film as a lead-in to discussing how running really can change people’s lives for the better. It’s worth a read.

Moving to another marathon, it was announced this week that the London marathon has once again beaten its own world record for the number of people entering the ballot for the next race. An increase of over 7% in a ballot where the odds were certainly not in your favour is not encouraging as an individual looking for a place, however the statistics relating to the types of people who have entered the ballot are certainly interesting. Of particular note, the number of female applicants:

This year’s edition of the London marathon remains in my news feeds due to the record temperatures and sad death of a participant. It was clearly a tough day out there and according to Derek Murphy of Marathon investigation, it looks like a number of runners may have cheated by cutting the course. I find it fascinating how Murphy works all of this out and the evidence he produces has helped catch out a number of marathon cheats in the past. Here’s his report on London:

Upon entering a marathon (or any other race distance) for the first time, a common fear is to come last. But how bad would that actually be? You would still have covered the distance, put in your best effort and (hopefully) enjoyed the experience. With that in mind, I found this next piece interesting as the writer completely re-thought his attitude towards finishing at the back of the pack.

And finally, it’s common knowledge that I’ve become quite the fan of yoga and am fascinated (often bemused!) by the assorted variations of yoga that can be found now, such as kitten yoga, goat yoga and Harry Potter yoga. But pizza yoga? Turns out it’s just a fun video, but I must admit if someone advertised a pizza yoga class, I would probably go. Yum-aste!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 4th May

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.

May the fourth be with you! (I’m not much of a Star Wars fan but I always love that joke!). It’s a bank holiday weekend here in the UK so if you have an extra day off then I hope you have something great planned. Personally, I’ll be enjoying the downtime after last weekend’s marathon. But to get the weekend started, here are some bits and pieces for your reading pleasure…

Being less than a week on from a marathon (race report coming this weekend!) I found this first article particularly interesting. On Monday and Tuesday, walking was definitely “interesting”, especially stairs, and I could feel every one of those 26.2 miles in my legs. Today, my legs feel just about back to normal and already the memory of those sore, tight muscles is fading, so I read with interest this explanation of why we soon forget the pain and discomfort of the race. What really stands out to me is the reference to the “episodic” nature of our race memories and that is certainly true for me – for all of my marathons I can remember particular moments clearly whilst there are other parts of the course lost to the mists of time. Even from Sunday there are no doubt details missing, yet I have incredibly strong memories of particular parts of the course where I got a shout from someone I knew or a landmark stood out. The human brain truly is a wonderful thing!

Also of interest is this next piece about marathon running and colds. The received wisdom has always been that hard workouts can lower the immune system and marathon runners often report getting colds soon after their race. But according to some latest research, this is not necessarily true. If you feel like you often get ill after a marathon or tough race/workout then this might be worth a look.

One of the things that I believe helped me to run well this time was working on my mental strength. I knew my legs could carry me 26.2 miles but wanted to make sure my mind wouldn’t give up before the finish. In this article we learn a bit more about this from US elite Deena Kastor, whose book I am currently reading. I’ll write a review for the blog once I’m done, but I would DEFINITELY recommend it from what I’ve read so far. Here are some insights:

I was also pleased this week to read the confirmation of what we runners pretty much knew already – running makes us happier. Research amongst users of parkrun and Strava (two of my favourite things!) reveals that those who run regularly score themselves higher on the happiness scale than the general population. What’s particularly interesting is that the social aspect of parkrun and sharing runs on Strava contributes to this greater happiness. As a massive parkrun fan, I can definitely see how that would happen as I always look forward to my Saturday morning parkrun fix.

And finally, if you’re always looking for the perfect food to fuel your adventures, perhaps a peanut butter and jelly (jam here in the UK) sandwich is worth a try. Based on this article, it’s the perfect fuel and there’s perhaps something in that as Scottish cyclist Graeme Obree famously set records after fuelling with his favourite jam sandwiches! One to consider…?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 27th April

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.

Did you watch the London marathon on Sunday? What an exciting morning of racing it was! And what incredible fortitude was shown by the masses running in such hot temperatures. Thanks to high-profile incidents and extremes of weather, recent marathons continue to dominate my news feeds, and with my marathon now just 2 days away (eek!) I think I’ll stick with the marathon theme this week.

Let’s start back on the Gold Coast and that awful moment when Callum Hawkins succumbed to heat exhaustion. There have been so many opinions on what happened/should have happened and I’m not going to get into that now, but I did want to share some follow-up stories I read the week, starting with some reflections from Hawkins himself who shared his recollections of the event:

Sadly the eventual winner of that race, Mike Shelley, came in for some criticism for not stopping when he saw Hawkins as the side of the road. Personally, I find that criticism unfair given that at this point Hawkins was receiving attention and there would have been little Shelley could do to help – stopping would have lost him his place too. So it was refreshing to read this piece (by an Australian) to defend him:

Given these events and the subsequent conditions during the London marathon last Sunday, I found it interesting to read the latest offering from Alex Hutchinson’s Sweat Science column, in which he investigates the effects of heat exhaustion and how it is influenced by our own desire to push ourselves.

Speaking of London, I enjoyed several columns about the event this week and thought I would share one This was published ahead of the race, but I like how it captures some of the spirit of London that makes it such a special event.

Unfortunately I also have a less positive story to share as one runner was apparently not allowed to cross the finish line after losing his race number (as per the race rules). However it seems someone DID take his number across the line and claim the medal. If this is true, then it’s an awful thing to do and I hope that the investigation into this is able to resolve things and allow the correct runner to have his hard-earned medal.

But on a more uplifting note more in keeping with the marathon spirit and inherent good nature of runners, people around the country are pledging to “finish” the marathon for chef Matt Campbell who collapsed 3.7 miles from the finish line and later died in hospital. It’s always so sad when things like this happen, yet seeing people turning out in support of a stranger and donating to their chosen charity really does restore your faith in humanity. I hope it gives his family and friends some comfort.

And finally, if all this talk of marathons is too much for you and you’re looking for something a little more sedate, then I may have found the event for you. This race in Texas gently pokes fun at the more traditional races, yet I have to say there’s something quite appealing about the idea!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

 

Friday Finds – 20th April

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 don’t know about you but I am gripped by marathon fever. Since last Friday we have had the Commonwealth Games marathon, the Boston marathon and, this weekend, the London marathon. I’m so excited and pretty much have marathons on the brain right now. Unsurprisingly, that means this week’s Friday Finds is a marathon special.

I have to start with last Sunday’s Commonwealth Games and Callum Hawkins. As a Scot, I was backing Callum to perform well, so was shocked to see the footage of how his race ended when I awoke on Sunday. Quite the controversy ensued, however I found this piece by Tom English for the BBC worth a read:

Soon, news feeds were taken over by the Boston marathon on Monday. It was the coldest on record (I think), with wet conditions to boot and the results were, in some respects, unexpected. While the eyes of the world were on the US women challenging for the win, there were several surprises thrown in along the way, which is exactly why I love marathons. Here are some articles I enjoyed to round up the key stories:

Of course now the London marathon is right around the corner and there have been plenty of articles looking forward to the big event on the UK sporting calendar. The BBC really summed it up with these compilations:

I for one will be comfortably ensconced on my sofa with a cup of tea taking it all in – the stellar elite fields, the possibility of records being broken, the icons  – whilst willing those I know towards the finish line. But if you need just a little more cheer this evening, then here’s a video of a therapy dog supporting runners in Boston. You’re welcome!

Happy reading. And if you’re racing this weekend, happy running!
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 13th April

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.

Marathon season continues to march on and I am in my element getting a constant round of reminders that people from all walks of life are taking on the mythical distance. But have you ever stopped to wonder what it is that makes someone decide to run a marathon? According to new research from Run Repeat, age has a lot to do with it. As someone approaching a milestone birthday, I can definitely understand why that would be a galvanising factor in making someone decide to do something different and take on a challenge. The research findings make for pretty intriguing reading and I’d love to know what you think:

Interestingly, choosing to run a marathon can also make us take better care of ourselves not just physically, but mentally. Rhi Willmot, PHD Researcher in Behavioural and Positive Psychology, posits that the way training for a marathon changes our mindset leads us to have greater self-compassion. This makes sense to me. Training for a marathon has always had an impact on the way I take care of my physical health, but given the importance of a positive mental attitude in performing well, other elements of self-care have become just as important. I would also say that running in general has given me greater mental strength and positivity. Is the same true for you?

Of course for the elites, the drive to run a marathon may be a little different e.g. the pride at winning, the glory of setting a record or the satisfaction of earning money to support family. Any of these may push a runner to their very limits. One runner reaching his limits was Kenyan Michael Kunyuga who raced the Hanover marathon this past weekend. Despite falling, he still narrowly managed to hang on to second place and a personal best! What would you have done?

Next up, some photos. I’ve previously included a similar photographic project at the NYC marathon, but I just love the concept. At last weekend’s Paris marathon (a race I know very well!) photographer Flavien Prioreau took before and after photos of some of the runners. I just love to see the difference between them. Yes, they look tired but there’s also that unmistakeable undercurrent of joy at completing the gruelling task. Brilliant!

And finally, a little light-hearted humour to poke fun at myself. It’s no secret that I love my leggings and would spend my entire life in them if I could. Recognising this trend, Saturday Night Live put together this brilliant spoof video that really captures the way many of us use our leggings these days. It made my day when this was sent to me!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess