Friday Finds – 2nd February

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 and welcome to February! I hope you’re ready to attack the new month with enthusiasm. I’m here to bring you your first instalment of Friday Finds for this month…

I think we have to kick off with the story everyone has been talking about this week – Strava. Back in November the popular app/website (if it’s not on Strava then it didn’t happen, right?) launched their latest heat maps, an interactive map showing the most popular running/cycling routes worldwide. To be honest, it looks really cool! But this week it became apparent that military personnel were inadvertently revealing the location of their bases by uploading their workout data, leading Strava to release a statement. It seems to me that some users’ privacy settings might need a bit of attention!

There’s more news from the London marathon this week. UK readers will likely remember the big story from last year’s race came not from the elite race but from the club runners right behind them as Matthew Rees stopped to help David Wyeth, a complete stranger who was struggling in the finishing straight. The moment was televised and drew a lot of attention, including Wyeth’s running club offering to pay for Rees to run in the 2018 race. And run it he will, but alongside Wyeth. The two have become good friends since their paths crossed in London, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them featured on the TV coverage this year. I love when running brings people together and makes good things happen.

Another runner with a challenge ahead is Colin McCourt. If the name seems familiar then it’s because his 2017 challenge to break 16 minutes in the 5k featured in a post back in November. Now, he has set himself the new challenge of a sub-2:30 marathon by the end of 2018. He may be a former GB international competitor in the 1500m, but the marathon will be a very different experience for a man who has never run longer than 90 minutes before! His first marathon will be London, so I suspect he’ll also make it into the TV coverage – I’m already so excited to watch this year’s event!

Speaking of challenges, many people have set themselves the challenge of walking 10,000 steps per day. In fact, with so many people using fitness trackers/apps, it’s something the majority of us are keeping an eye on. But journalist (and doctor) Michael Mosley, in a programme for the BBC, claims that perhaps this isn’t the measure of health so many believe it to be. That may shatter the illusions of many, but I must say I feel much better when I move more and that must be important too. I’d love to know your thoughts on this.

And finally, runners often find strange things when they’re out putting in the miles, prompting Runner’s World to ask readers to share some of theirs. Some of them are truly bizarre and you have to wonder how these items came to be left/lost. What’s the strangest thins you’ve ever seen on a run?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

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Friday Finds – 12th January

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 imagine you’re back into the regular routine now and the recent festivities seem like a dim and distant memory. Never fear, I still have some Friday Finds to get your weekend started.

Let’s start with something inspiring. You may have seen the headlines that US marathoner Molly Friel recently qualified for the 2020 Olympic marathon trials. On first reading that doesn’t sound like anything special…until you find out that Friel is 50! I LOVE seeing “older” athletes still performing as well as younger competitors as it reminds us all that age is just a number.

One of my goals for this year involves getting a bit more sleep as I know that I will perform better in all areas of my life if I’m better rested. With that in mind, I read with interest the findings from studying all the sleep data gathered by Fitbit. While  some of it is US-based, some of the basics are bound to be true for everyone else and are very revealing about how poor our sleep in general can be. It certainly inspired me to think more about this basic, but important part of life.

Of course one of the benefits of running is that it helps us in other areas of life, including improving our sleep. If you’re new to running, or your running has taken a back seat lately, here are some reminders of how it can help you (beyond fitness):

It wouldn’t be Friday Finds without some stats, so here are the results from the Running Shoes Guru reader survey where participants were asked a variety of questions about their running habits. I don’t know about you, but I always like to see where my answers fall compared to the others…

And finally, it’s the return of Strava art! London cyclist (and Strava artist) Anthony Hoyte created a fantastic festive design which involved 88 miles of cycling through busy city streets. Making this story even more appealing is the fact that he actually intended to do this a year ago but had to postpone due to illness. Definitely worth waiting for!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 29th December

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 had a wonderful Christmas. Another week has gone by and now we’re somehow teetering on the brink of a brand new year! Since this time of year is all about reflecting and setting goals, this week’s Friday Finds brings you a selection of articles looking back over 2017 in running and looking forward to 2018…

Runner’s World shared their roundup of the best running stories from the year. I certainly recognised a few in there:

Similarly, Outside shared their best running moments from the year. Some degree of crossover, but still a great reminder of some of the awesome things that happened this year:

Canadian Running magazine shared both the moments they found most jaw-dropping and a roundup of some of the best running-related books and movies to come out this year. Perfect if you’re still looking for something to do in this weird post-Christmas limbo!

And of course Strava published their year in stats – enjoy geeking-out over the numbers!

When it comes to looking ahead, Motiv Running is helping us with our goal-setting (including some useful questions to ask ourselves to aid reflection on 2017 before planning for 2018).

Canadian Running magazine suggests some running resolutions to give you inspiration:

And Runner’s World is making some predictions for the trends we’ll see in the year ahead. It will be interesting to see if they are right!

However your 2017 went and whatever you have planned for 2018, I wish you the happiest of new years and look forward to sharing more with you in the coming months.

The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 15th December

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.

Phew! Another Friday in the bag and another Friday closer to the festivities of the 25th. Let’s take a look at a few bits and pieces that have caught my eye in the last week…

I’ll start with one of the hot topics of the year, Nike’s Vaporfly 4% shoes (aka the Breaking2 shoes). Since I love a stat, I was fascinated to find out that 19 out of the 36 possible top-three podium places in World Marathon Majors this year were occupied by athletes wearing Nike’s ground-breaking (some would say controversial) new shoes developed for the Breaking2 project. I have come across a number of articles suggesting the shoes really do make a difference to finishing times, so Tim Huebsch at Canadian Running magazine did his sums and added 4% to the finishing times of the athletes wearing the shoes to see what they could have been otherwise. Interestingly, they are probably a bit slower than one might expect for this level of athlete so I think it’s fair to say that there’s more to a speedy time than a pair of shoes, but I wonder if there was a psychological impact too?

Taking a slightly different approach to research is Alex Hutchinson in his Sweat Science column. Rather than provide details of the latest study related to running/fitness, the column this time looks at smaller studies that didn’t produce the “right”result and therefore didn’t hit the headlines.

Meanwhile over at The Guardian, Kate Carter is taking a look at the Strava Year in Sport report that I highlighted last week. Rather than looking at some of the more “serious” statistics, this time things are brought to a level of far more importance to many (all?) runners – food! Once those miles start racking up then I can say with absolute certainty that food becomes one of the most important things in my life, but what would your guess be for the most popular food mentioned in Strava activity titles? You can click through to see if you were right:

Another fascinating idea from Canadian Running magazine pits a number of world leaders against each other in a hypothetical 5k. Funnily enough, their own leader takes the top spot but he does have the advantage of actually being a runner. Some of the others can certainly hold their own so imagine if this race actually took place…

And finally, whether you’re a seasoned yogi able to twist yourself into a pretzel or someone who struggles to touch their toes, these illustrations of yoga expectations versus reality are sure to raise a smile. This was probably me when I started doing yoga, but it’s amazing how quickly you improve.

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 8th December

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! How has your week been? Mine has been interesting to say the least, but at long last it’s Friday and time to get the weekend started with some Friday Finds

As the year edges towards its close many of us are evaluating our goals for the year and contemplating the things we want to achieve in 2018. With that in mind, you might find this first article interesting. Writing for the BBC, Amanda Ruggeri investigates goals and what can lead to both success and failure. I’ll bear this in mind when setting my goals for 2018.

Also thinking about the end of the year is Strava. This week the social network for athletes released their annual report filled with statistics gleaned from the activities logged throughout 2017 (although I was surprised at the “average” people logging 120-130 miles for the year. That seems low to me, but maybe my perception is skewed by marathon training?). In the article below, Women’s Running pulls together some of the headline numbers. If you’re a data geek, enjoy!

Next, an examination of the ubiquitous pre-race kit photo. We’ve all been known to take those “flat runner” photos, especially when we travel for our race (guilty as charged!), but in this piece for Outside, Martin Fritz Huber argues that when it comes to the pros there’s more to those photos than simple sponsor promotion, that they have become part of a pre-race ritual that encourages focus and creates a degree of control. And that’s where they can be useful for all of us, whether we’re aiming to be on the podium or just happy to finish.

On a lighter note, two-time US Olympian Desi Linden posted an amusing tweet in which she described several American pro runners as emojis. I love this idea and it got me wondering about the emoji I would like to represent me. It has to be the princess since I’m The Running Princess! 👸🏻 What would you choose and why?

And finally, every week I like to finish with a lighter/humorous article or video. This week, Canadian Running Magazine has done the hard work for me and rounded up some of the strangest running moments of the year. I know I’ve covered some of these and remember reading/hearing about others. Maybe you remember some too…

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 17th November

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.

Helllo! Thank goodness it’s Friday! I’m rather looking forward to a relaxing weekend, but first some reading material…

After her historic win in New York the woman of the moment is most definitely Shalane Flanagan. Here, Lindsay Crouse, writing in The New York Times, examines what she refers to as the ‘Shalane Flanagan Effect’:

Next up, an article with a headline featuring a word which usually prompts a sharp intake of breath from me: the word “literally”. Thankfully, this particular writer has used it correctly and it turned out to be fairly important in introducing the idea in the article – that exercise helps an area of your brain to grow. Studies therefore suggest that exercise could play a similar part in brain health as we age as things like puzzles or taking supplements. Another big plus for regular exercisers!

Now, one for the data fans. If you’re a committed Strava user then you might already have come across the heat map the company recently released. Compiled from countless hours of running and riding (over a billion activities!) it shows the most popular routes around the world and is absolutely fascinating.

On a lighter note, if you race regularly then you probably have some awareness of the sort of sights you often see when it comes to other runners. Women’s Running staff have obviously been thinking along similar lines and have compiled a list of spectator types you always see at races. I’ve definitely seen them all…have you?

And finally, we runners can be fairly easy to poke fun at, but at least sometimes that humour is spot on. Check out this cartoon from The New Yorker that really captures the modern connection between running and social media. Guilty as charged!!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 8th September

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! Hope you’re looking forward to an awesome weekend. Let’s get things sorted with a few bits and pieces to read…

First, something from a source I never expected to be including in a running blog… the Times Educational Supplement (TES), yet the core of the article sums up beautifully what my life is like. I often think there are many parallels between teaching and being a runner, but that’s usually the sort of talk that has my colleagues rolling their eyes at me and thinking, “there she goes again, banging on about running!” Yes, the article is ostensibly tips for navigating the school year, but the comparison of teaching to an ultra marathon is perfect. Check it out to see what I mean…

Fancy being part of a world record attempt? All it takes is a Strava account and a bit of time on Sunday as Strava partners with the Great North Run to attempt the world record for the most half marathons run in a day. Personally I have a little further to run that morning, but I’ll be adding my run to the attempt and keeping my fingers crossed that I become a world record holder!

At the other end of the distance spectrum we have London’s newest running track. What’s so special about a track, you ask? Well this 150m track is on the roof of an office block, 16 floors up. Sounds great in theory, but with 10 laps to complete to reach a mile and a whopping 281 to complete marathon distance, I think the novelty would soon wear off!

A novelty that NEVER wears off is cake, the weakness of many a runner. Nothing quite like a long run then a slice of cake to “refuel”. Aware of this habit, Runner’s World has selflessly put lots of different cakes to the test to see which ones might actually provide the tiniest of benefits to runners. What’s your favourite?

And finally, you know that episode of Friends where Joey wears all Chandler’s clothes? Well think of that, but a bit more sporty and you’re part way to getting this next video. Basically this guy in Canada decided to take on a decathlon whilst wearing 100 T-shirts (yes, you did read that right). It has to be seen to be believed!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Friday Finds – 1st September

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 September! Where on earth did you suddenly appear from? I hope everyone has had a great week. Here are some articles I’ve come across this week for your reading pleasure…

First, a bit of research into the prevalence of knee arthritis in our modern world. We runners are constantly subjected to non-runners declaring running to be bad for our knees, but as this article points out, there really isn’t much in the way of research to support that. There is, however, plenty of research showing that osteoarthritis is becoming increasingly common. In a bid to shed some more light on why, researchers studied skeletons from a number of different periods and developed some theories as to why arthritis is more common now. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but based on their theories I would suggest that those of us who run are actually doing the best thing to take care of our knees.

Some further interesting research sought to settle the question of whether marathon training or iron distance triathlon training was harder. Sound like a pub debate? Well to an extent the researchers were trying to find answers to the very questions they explore with friends. I’ve never trained for an iron distance tri, but I have trained for marathons so know what that feels like. With that in mind, the results of that study turned out to be rather intriguing…

I also enjoyed this article from Trail Runner magazine about Strava. I know I’ve included plenty of articles about Strava before, but they have tended to be related to road running or Strava art. This considers the implications and etiquette for Strava on the trails in a bit more depth. That said, some of the etiquette definitely transfers to other activities e.g. coming up with a better name than the stock option for workouts (I don’t always do that terribly quickly, but do take some time at the weekends to change “Afternoon Run” to something a bit more catchy!).

Also discussing trails (albeit in a rather different context) is my next article taken from Motiv Running. By now you’re probably familiar with the concept of the beer mile, but what if that mile was taken to a whole new level by being run at altitude? Well apparently that is a real event that people take part in. Not only do you have the challenge of keeping 4 carbonated beers inside your stomach as you run laps, but the altitude works against you by making the beer even fizzier and your body less able to take in oxygen. Sounds like a pretty difficult challenge to me! Anyone tempted?

And finally, you have to check out this amazing shoe art. Yujia Hu, a Milan-based restaurant owner, is instagramming his amazing sushi in the form of various running shoes. Dubbed “shoeshi”, his creations are certainly attracting interest. Definitely too good to eat!

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 – 5th 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.

The biggest stories this week seem to be all about records. While one of the biggest news stories is the Breaking2 project, world records hit the news again with the announcement that world and European records set prior to 2005 are likely to be struck from the record books as athlete samples to combat doping have only been stored since that date. This of course means that athletes like Paula Radcliffe, who has always fought for clean competition (and successfully argued to retain her world record after previous attempts to change the criteria) stand to lose their record. I can certainly understand that something needs to be done as there will be many records set by athletes who were doping, however it angers me that clean athletes are set to lose out. Whatever happens, Paula Radcliffe’s 2:15:25 will remain the standard I compare other athletes to as it is a phenomenal feat of endurance that has stood unchallenged for over a decade.

Another controversial announcement surrounded the “exercise pill” which scientists have been studying for a number of years. It is claimed that the pill could provide some of the benefits of exercising, without actually having to work out. This could be of benefit to some groups of people unable to exercise, however it seems to me that it would also be open to abuse as the compound involved was banned by WADA in 2008 and concerns persist around the long-term prognosis of taking it regularly. Fitness benefits aside, exercising is about so much more than just gaining fitness: it’s about fresh air, endorphins and the simple feel-good factor of knowing you worked hard to improve your strength or stamina. No pill can really offer that, can it?

Something that’s really caught my attention is a new feature being rolled out by popular fitness app Strava. Their new Athlete Posts feature will initially be available to a small number of select athletes, but there are plans to roll it out to all users over the summer. Keen to delve even deeper into the social networking aspects of the platform, the new feature will allow users to write longer, blog-like posts to share in the Strava community e.g. tips, kit, training updates, etc. I can already see how this would really easily suck me in to spending more time in the app than I do at present, which may or may not be a good thing, however I will be very interested to see how this new feature develops and how it is used by different groups of people such as elite athletes, everyday runners and bloggers.

Phew! I don’t know about you but after all those serious stories at the start of this post, I’m in need of something a bit lighter, and fortunately I’ve found the very thing. Those of us of a certain “vintage” will well remember the opening credits of TV show Baywatch, with all the slow motion running. Well to celebrate the release of the new Baywatch movie a unique event was organised: the slow-mo marathon. Yup, it’s exactly as it sounds. If you’re in need of a laugh then I definitely recommend watching the video in the article below:

And finally, if even the thought of slow-mo is too much for you, then how about a gym class that’s all about sleeping? That’s right, sleeping. Designed to combat that scourge of modern life, a chronic lack of sleep, classes consist of a 45 minute afternoon nap. Now there’s a fitness trend I could get in to!

Happy reading,
The Running Princess