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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Cycling in London

I’ve lived here for over 20 years but it wasn’t until yesterday that I finally cycled on the streets of London. And what a time to start. Cycling in London is very much in the news at the moment after a bad week with 5 cyclist deaths in 9 days. As I planned to go out for the first time I read and listened to the news, hearing about vigils, campaigns and views from all parties about dangerous drivers, busses and lorries, bad road designs, reckless cyclists and so on. Whatever the reasons, with the huge growth in cycling in London lets hope some solutions and actions are found and acted upon soon.

So maybe not the best week for me as a novice (or returning) cyclist to be pushing my shiny new bike out the door. Or maybe it’s a good week because the more ordinary Londoners who take to two wheels the better for increasing understanding and communication between pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers (many of whom are users of all). More cyclists to create the demand for an increase in safe cycling routes and help to break down barriers between different road users as we learn to adapt to our congested changing city and make it better and safer for us all.

I have to add that I will be cycling in London in the mildest sense. I will be mostly cycling off-peak on quiet roads and cycle paths through the park. I’m lucky I have that option and won’t have to cycle anywhere in a hurry at busy times because I don’t have to commute nor take my exercise at peak times or after dark. I am happy to be the one you will see dismounting and using the pavement across a busy road junction before I go on my way. For now anyway while I build confidence and experience. Who knows where my cycling journey will take me.

Why has it taken me all these years to get on my bike? Fear (lack of confidence) and not having a reason to cycle until now when suddenly I find I have many reasons to get on two wheels.

Fear? Yes, London’s roads are daunting for many new comers, even in a car. I remember being petrified when driving for the first time in London as a student and it took me several years to get confident enough to drive where and when I wanted. Since then I have assumed that as an inexperienced cyclist (beast of a mountain bike in rural parts only) London cycling was not for me,

However these days, as a runner I notice that sooner or later many runners take to a bike. It follows that outdoor types will find that cycling makes sense as a form of cheap efficient transport. Cycling is one of the best forms of cross training for runners and the solace for many injured runners seeking a cardio fix. And road cycling has to be better than spinning class, hasn’t it? (Yes I hate treadmills too)

So when my OH told me he was buying another bike for training for a 3 day cycle ride next spring I decided that maybe it was time we had a joint activity (I’ll never make a runner of him) in preparation for our teenage sons flying the nest (wishful thinking) and he should buy me a bike too. I am one of the few people still driving to BMF classes and paying a fortune in parking charges when it’s only a few miles, much of which possible on cycle paths. Somewhere to start.

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So how has it been? Fantastic! I love it. As a friend said today there’s nothing like getting the wind in your hair to take you back to your youth. Straight out I felt good (yay for a bike that’s light and nippy). I have found the quiet roads far less frightening than I imagined and I have calmly coped with being passed by traffic of all sizes. I have used busier roads than I thought I would and have dismounted and walked less. I think my experience driving a very small car in London for the past year has helped me learn to be cautious of large vehicles and to adopt an assertive road position to indicate my intentions as well as learning all the back street routes.

I have new-found respect for cyclists. I’m reasonably fit and have even zoomed past Boris Bikes but have found many new muscles that other exercises haven’t touched. Today I discovered what triathletes refer to as a Brick Session. Trying to run at the start of my BMF class straight after cycling there, definitely a new wobbly legged experience! Next time I’ll leave earlier so I have a bigger rest between the two activities.

I start my marathon training proper next month. I don’t plan to use cycling as formal cross training but hope that commuting to BMF classes and running my local errands by bike will all add to my general fitness. All this extra fresh air is helping me sleep well too, which is essential for marathon training.


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Shuttle runs and jumps

We have two groups at the BMF classes I go to, which means we are split into a harder class and a less hard class, and the reds (intermediates) are divided between the two groups. At the beginning of the week I force myself not to be lazy and make sure I join the faster (green/red) group and do some work. On Friday’s, after run club the night before, when my legs are aching, I make very sure I am in the slower group (red/blue).

Some days I just stand in the middle as they count out numbers and let fate decide. Today was one of those days and I stood in the middle of the line, in a daze, yawning and just made the cut… into the red-greens. Aghhhh. I woke up very quickly as we ran off and I realised I was at the back and needed to wake up and get a wiggle on, sharpish !

(For those interested, the main difference between the two classes is the pace run at and the distance covered during the hour, the exercises being the same. All groups still have a mix of abilities, some people are stronger and others good runners. Very fast Greens or very new Blues need not worry because within the classes the instructors are very able to pitch the class to the group’s ability. They give different reps for exercises and normally know who’s not stretched and needs an extra little run before catching up! So it shouldn’t matter which class you’re in.)

This morning we ran, stopping for the odd press up or burpee. We ran round circles of trees doing more burpees while our partner ‘rested’ doing squat thrusts. And when I was fully awake and sure I was not going to be sick we got to a new stretch of grass and I prayed for a rest and some situps. They came later, but first we did shuttle runs and a few more shuttle runs before some nice tuck jumps, squat jumps and burpees all rounded off with a 200m sprint to earn our swig of water. I wasn’t last, just. Actually I was being nice to the greens who had to be in before all the reds! Honest.

Juneathon day 10. 1 hour BMF class, about 3 miles run.

10 days done, 20 to go!


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The wine won

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My gym this morning. I can’t complain about that, nor the fact that is was a lovely warm day, even if I was wilting in the sun at 9 in the morning. It’s amazing the power of very simple exercises, burpees (again), squats and shuttle runs put together and performed in sets of intense blasts of 45 seconds with only 10 seconds rest between to reduce me to a quivering wreck. Some very simple Pilates core exercises were equally innocent looking but had me melted into the grass.

I was thinking of adding an easy run around the block tonight, after a boring day working at my PC, but distractions by my sons, both taking exams, and both in need of encouragement to do a little preparation led me to a glass of white at 6pm instead. I will make up for it tomorrow. Famous last words.

Juneathon day 4. 1 hour PT session. (Some running involved.)


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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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