fairweatherrunner

running blog


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Thermals

We haven’t had too many freezing days yet this winter when thermals are required but when the cold snap comes it makes sense to have the right kit ready.

I was offered the chance to review a thermal base layer so with my marathon training about to start and remembering last years cold weather I jumped at the chance. The product is from Damart who are celebrating their 60th anniversary. I obviously know the brand for their thermal underwear and my mother swears by their camisoles in winter. I was also vaguely aware that they did thermal sports base layers but I haven’t tried them out myself before now.

I had the choice of couple of different items and styles and decided on a long sleeve, round neck thermal T-Shirt.

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I ummed and ahhed about the size because it was XS (8-12) or M (14/20). I’m a size 10 so went with the XS but was a little worried because in my experience running stuff in size XS is a tiny size 6! This wasn’t helped when I received my top it looked very small. (All nicely wrapped in paper with a couple of Christmas chocolates and candy stick. Yum! and Oops, one way to stay a curvy size 10!)

Fortunately it’s very stretchy material so will fit a wide range of sizes but I did worry about it not being very forgiving and would highlight every bump bulge and wobbly bit! I put it on and was nicely surprised to find it felt very light and comfortable and the nice matt purple material made it reasonably forgiving to be worn alone (occasionally).

It’s very comfortable to exercise in. It feels weightless, is seam & lablel-less, has a good fitted shape and the articulated elbows are a good detail. The length is good and it has an elasticated band round the hem to hold it in place. I can pull it down over my hips but it might be a bit on the short side if you’re very tall. It does ride up a bit when worn over shiny lycra running tights but if worn as an under layer it can always be tucked in.

It does what it should do warmth wise. Keeps you warm, keeps the wind out and it has good moisture wicking properties to keep you dry, even if you get quite hot and sweaty! It has washed well, keeping its colour and shape and dries quickly. I prefer to wear it with a layer on top so found it a bit too warm with milder temperatures but it will be good if temperatures drop to freezing. It was good for cold BMF classes (post class pic below!) where I just wear a numbered vest on top and protected my arms well in the plank position from the wet ground. I also found it useful as a second light layer when cycling to keep me wind proof without too much bulk.

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Puma Faas 600S

A while ago Puma Running offered me a pair of their new Puma Faas 600 S running shoes to try. Great timing because from what I read they sounded like they might be just my thing and very useful for my marathon training long runs this winter. Plus if (2.30.46) marathon runner Susan Partridge trains in them they should be good for my more modest training attempts for sub 4.30!

They appealed to me because they are light weight and flexible yet offer a certain amount of stability and cushioning. I have got used to running in fairly minimal running shoes or racing flats, preferring less shoe (basically I hate heavy shoes) as most of my runs are short but last time I ramped up my mileage for marathon training I became aware that I needed a bit more support and cushioning for those far too long, long runs.

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My first impressions walking around in them were good, comfortable, light weight and flexible with sufficient height in the toe box for my toes to flex. A good fit around the heel but I did have to re-lace them to make sure they were plenty wide enough for my feet which are now used to splaying out..

As often the case with new shoes the first few runs I was not sure, mainly because anything different or new feels strange. So I wore them a lot more and got them soaked and muddy at BMF and they began to feel better and part of my feet.

They are not as responsive for a flat-out sprint as some but the more I mould them to my feet and get used to them the less I’m aware of that. I found them smooth and stable for pavement and road runs and surprisingly, for a road shoe that didn’t look very grippy, good on wet grass and mud.

The shoe Is an 8mm drop, to encourage midfoot striking and described as an every day running shoe. As a midfoot striker who runs in shoes from 4mm to 9mm drop they felt pretty good and close enough to the ground. They are lightweight for their stability and cushioning (only 50g or so more than my usual (Adios, Kinvara, Green silence)). My only minor problem as been the tongue slipping off centre because I don’t quite get a perfect fit around the upper but they have been the first pair of shoes for a long time which have stayed laced up when I forget to double knot!

A very good everyday running shoe. The big test will be whether these are still on my feet in 6 months. I certainly intend to use them for my long road runs when I start marathon training next week rotating them with my old shoes on short fast runs. I am also interested enough to look into the other faas models when I come to replacing other running shoes.

Product information…

“The Faas 600 S has a distinct Midsole and Outsole that offers greater stability and forefoot flexibility, a distinct women’s last for a women’s fit, and an upper pattern with a sexy and more anatomic shape. Built for the slightly more traditional stability runner who heel strikes, the NEW Faas 600 S is at an 8mm Heel to Toe Drop which encourages runners to midfoot strike. The shoe features PUMA’s innovative one piece midsole Faas Engineered Stability technology that is one of its kind in the industry.

RRP: £85 Stockist: Sportshoes.co.uk or ProDirectRunning.com”

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Salomon Sense Mantra

After a bit of a disappointing first impression, these running shoes get better and better.

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When Fitness Footwear offered me a pair of Salomon running shoes to try I thought twice as I’d not found other Salomon models right for me in the past but a read of the Fitness Footwear and Salomon web sites I found that one of their newer shoes, the Sense Mantra might be right up my street and address some of the reasons why their other models weren’t for me in the past.

So I was excited and couldn’t wait to try them out as Salomon have a great reputation and many people swear by them for BMF classes. The Salomon Sense Mantra is part of their door to trail range, has a reduced heel toe drop and is described as a ‘Light weight training shoe for midfoot strikers who want natural motion, protection and neutral cushioning for high mileage training.’

They arrived, I put them straight on to potter about indoors and was a bit deflated. My first impression was that they felt very straight, stiff and inflexible and the quick pull lace system was hard to get a good heel fit so the overall impression was that I was wearing a lot of shoe. I didn’t run in them straight away and put them to one side for another day. Meanwhile my cheeky son borrowed them over the weekend and suggested they were great for him! When I tried them on again after this they felt much more flexible and foot hugging so I lent them to him to wear-in for me before I ran in them.

I found them more and more flexible and comfortable with wear, the 6mm drop is ideal for me and felt natural. Once worn in I also found I could get a better fit with the lacing. They are lightweight with a roomy toe box and very stable, I tested them doing single leg squats and had no ankle wobble at all! I ran on road and a bit of ‘trail’ within the park, they felt light and comfortable and had good grip on road, path and grass. I need to take them for a run somewhere a little more off-road than the park, their toe protection and stability would make them a great choice for running more challenging stony conditions.

Some running shoes feel great at the first try-on and later disappoint after weeks of running. The Sense Mantra feels better with each wear. I think by the time my son outgrows these shoes, they will be worn-in and about perfect.

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Running Analysis

Back in Action UK kindly offered me a complimentary Running Analysis at one of their London clinics last week. A quick read of their website beforehand and I realised that this was just what I needed after the poor start to the year that I’ve had with endless niggles.

‘Frustrated by that nagging injury that’s stopping you exercising? Well, it could all be down to your running style, the way your feet hit the ground, or as simple as a tight hip flexor.’

We started by talking about my running, previous injuries, current niggles and discussed hip flexors,  glutes and ITBs, stretching and foam rolling.  Julia observed me standing and doing single leg calf raises and squats checking my balance and hip stability. I generally have tight calves and achilles, because I midfoot strike, and we discussed the need to strengthen my calves and achilles by doing these exercises regularly.  She examined my legs, particularly the side of my left calf and knee which I had pain and cramp in on my recent race and answered my questions about the proper use of heat or ice in recovery.  Julia advised me to engage my leg and glute muscles before exercise by doing squats, lunges or a bridge with good posture.  This will fire the right muscles for running and promote good form when running.

I was then observed running on the treadmill.  Some of the feedback for improving my form is,

  • Work on a ‘parallel foot strike’ (as if running on tram lines) as I tend to run as if on a tightrope and this movement of my legs across my body can put strain on the ITB.
  • Slightly increase my stride length so my foot hits the ground at a good angle.
  • Keep my shoulders down and arm movements back and forwards and not across the body twisting my torso.
  • Be more aware of my left side as my right leg leads. When I concentrated on my left leg my running did become smoother and more efficient.
  • Making sure I ‘kick up’ my legs a bit more behind me to gain momentum for the forward stride so I don’t rely on my hip flexors to propel my legs forward.

I’ve also come away with a mental list of  key exercises and stretches to support my running, some like squats, lunges, calf raises that I know I should to be doing.  In addition the bridge for glutes and hip flexors, with a ball between my knees to keep hips knees and feet in line and to roll down from the bridge vertebrae by vertebrae to release tension in my back.

A very useful, informative, fact packed session from a friendly, professional physio practice with lots of running and sports expertise.  Some new information gained as well as useful reinforcement and reminders of things I should do for strong injury free running.

Hopefully I won’t be in need of physiotherapy for running injuries too soon but if I do I know who to call.

backinaction


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City Jogging Tours

The weekend before last, thanks to Carla and New Balance, I went with a group of running blogger friends on a guided sightseeing run in London with City Jogging Tours.

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We joined their Royal London Parks and Palaces Tour starting at St James’s Park tube station and took in 4 Royal Parks, Horse Guards for the changing of the guard, The Mall, Buckingham Palace, Serpentine, Princess Diana Memorial fountain and the Albert Memorial to name a few and finished in front of Kensington Palace. The run was about 4 miles (7K) and run at an easy chatting pace with plenty of stops to discuss the landmarks along the way and allow runners at the back of the group to catch up. We were led by Amy an experienced runner and as we found out at the end pretty quick (as in elite start) marathon runner.

This tour is a great one for visitors to London but possibly not the most exciting of their tours for me because Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are where I spend many an hour running or at BMF classes. However our guide was very knowledgeable and told us about landmarks, statues, monuments and the Royal Parks so I actually found out a few new things about my running neighbourhood.

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City Jogging Tours also have tours of Riverside London, Iconic London landmarks, Primrose Hill and Regents Canal, Maritime London and Hampstead Heath. They vary from 7 to 10K, for recreational runners or gentle jogs as scheduled group tours or bespoke tours.

Definitely a great way of combining sightseeing with a running workout for visitors to London and great fun for Londoners too.

New balance also kindly sent us all a pair of one of their new models of running shoes. I received a pair of their new cushioned model, 1080v3.

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I have to admit that these are the first pair of New Balance running shoes I’ve ever tried. They are soft and cushioned, without being too spongy with a very plush heel counter.  I am impressed how lightweight they are and that New Balance has lowered the heel a bit. They were great straight out of the box for the tour plus a few miles home. I haven’t run in them much more since seeing as they are pretty and white and I would like to have one pair of running shoes which are not caked in mud, but they will join my shoe rotation this summer. I think they will be a great warm weather long distance road shoe.


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Shock Absorber Ultimate Gym Bra

House of Fraser and Shock Absorber recently sent me the new Shock Absorber Ultimate Gym bra to try. Cathy (jogblog) was also sent one and we swapped notes in the pub recently. warriorwomen also reviewed it and we pretty much seem to agree, nice bra, but how do you get the damn thing on.

http://www.houseoffraser.co.uk/Shock+Absorber+Ultimate+gym+bra/D381834,default,pd.html

The good.

  • Its attractive, I’d wear it as an outer garment (if I was into exercising with so few clothes)
  • It gives a good shape when worn under a vest top
  • It holds everything firm with minimal bounce
  • It has adjustable straps (which are horizontal so hopefully won’t need superglue to keep them done up like I have to do with my Shock Absorber Run Bra)
  • Has a handy hook to keep headphone wires from sliding down your arm when you run.

The problem

  • Doing it up, (or getting into it already done up). The second clasp is in no-mans land half way up my back. I can’t do it up from above nor from below. If you do up the top clasp before you try to put in on a certain amount of contortion is necessary, either that or dislocating your shoulders. I have found it just about possible with the straps on their longest setting, but then I get less support. So it helps if you have extra long extendable arms, very mobile joints or someone around to help you get dressed into this one. I’ve discovered that doing up mothers bra is maybe a step too far for teenage boys!

Once on and done up it is a good, comfortable, very supportive sports bra. I prefer it to the Shock Absorber Run Bra but I don’t think it will replace the Shock Absorber Multisports bra as my all round favourite ( I can get that on in seconds!) It comes up small, mine is snug compared to the multisports bra. Jogblog agrees, so it’s not just me comparing it with a stretched worn out old bra or that I’ve put on a ton in weight!


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TevaSphere shoe review

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A couple of weeks ago I went to Hampstead Heath for the launch of a new running shoe from Teva, the TevaSphere.

An outdoor cross trainer/running shoe which has been ‘designed to meet the performance needs of the outdoor athlete. With a first-of-its-kind spherical heel and pod-arch system, the TevaSphere technology delivers a more natural point of impact, efficient transition and superior stability on varied terrain‘.

Teva want to offer a minimalist style shoe for runners which will not require them to change their stride and adopt a forefoot strike.

with TevaSphere we are delivering a technology-based solution that addresses the shortcomings of both minimalist and over-supportive athletic shoes.” Participation in non-traditional outdoor sports such as adventure racing, obstacle courses and mud runs is steadily on the rise. In an effort to meet the demands of this growing group of consumers’,

001I like that they aim to give a minimalist style shoe but with protection and support for both heel strikers and mid foot strikers. As a mid foot striker who heel strikes when tired, I have picked up a few injuries running long distances in minimalist shoes. The shoes’ distinctive ‘pods’ at the mid foot act as guard rails giving support where needed making the shoe suitable for all types of runner guiding the foot into the neutral position.

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Over the past few weeks I’ve run in them many times, on pavement and road, hard paths, grass, mud and snow during easy everyday runs, British Military Fitness classes and even a speed session. They fit well and are comfortable both with my orthotics and without. The women’s model has a narrow heel and a wide roomy toe box (I have wide feet) although maybe not as wide as some barefoot shoes which let your toes completely splay out.

They have a minimalist feel with a fairly low heel toe drop so felt natural running on the forefoot and quite fast. I’ve enjoyed a few sprints at BMF in them and a reasonably fast mile during speed work. I don’t like over squishy cushioned shoes and like that these are quite firm. They are maybe even a little too firm for my taste on tarmac and wouldn’t be my first choice of shoe for many miles of pavement pounding. I did however find them really good shoes for running in mud and great in the snow.

A lightweight, low profile, stable shoe for off-road which feels secure on uneven ground and gives reasonably good grip. Great for BMF classes with lots of stopping and starting, backwards and forwards and sideways moving on grass.

You can find more about Teva’s products here.

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