Friday, 25 January 2013

Cool Runnings

At this time of year the weather is notoriously cold, bleak, damp, and wet (and any other negative weather adjectives you care to think of), and the glorious days of spring seem like a lifetime away.  In the winter months, those of us that have been bitten by the running bug are faced with two options; we can risk the further onset of middle-aged spread by staying indoors; or we can carry on regardless and brave the elements.

I am firmly of the opinion that running in the rain is actually rather enjoyable; for one, there is no greater feeling than coming back from a shiversome run and feeling the familiar warmth of the central heating soothe your chilly extremities.

Secondly, your body has to work much harder when you are exercising in the cold, as it is also expending additional energy (calories) trying to keep you warm.  Cold weather is known to activate your brown fat stores, which helps you to burn more calories from your regular fat stores.  Stimulating as little as 85g of brown fat by exercising in the cold can burn an additional 500 calories a day, which basically equates to an additional ‘hearty’ winter meal per day.

Thirdly, exercising in the cold and rain affords you a certain level of smugness, which comes from the looks of astonishment and respect that you will get from motorists, commuters, and pedestrians when they see you pounding the pavements in freezing temperatures.  I can safely say that you wouldn’t receive the same respect if you were sat at home in your pyjamas watching The Simpsons.

Fourth, as we all know, the feel-good chemicals in our brain dip dramatically due to the short days and long nights; exercising outdoors can counteract this, as it increases the levels of serotonin in your brain.  Running has also been clinically proven to be four times more effective at reducing the symptoms of depression when compared to anti-depressants.

Fifth, running in wintry conditions means that your body is actually being trained to use oxygen more efficiently.

Finally, believe it or not, exercising outdoors is also one of the most effective defences against the dreaded colds & flus that are so prevalent at this time of year; this is due to fact that frequent cold-weather exercise will boost your immune-system.  But be warned, this isn’t true if you hit the pavements in a skimpy vest and pair of shorts; you need to ensure that you are adequately protected from the elements by layering up, which will help to keep your muscles warm.

The secret to layering is to invest in running clothes that have zips and vents, which will keep your muscles warm but will also stop you from overheating.  When the weather is particularly arctic, I prefer to wear my Jack Wolfskin Serpentine Waterproof Jacket while I am running; it has both a fleece inner, and a weatherproof outer, which can be removed easily once I am in my running stride.  In my opinion, it is probably worth investing in some base layers for your winter running exploits, which are made from innovative fabrics that draw moisture away from your skin and help to keep you warm. I find that Cotswold Outdoor has a good selection of base layers for both men and women.

In the meantime, I am going to crank up my central heating to full power, in anticipation of my return from my 7 mile run in the snow, sleet, slush, wind, cold and rain this evening!

GUEST POST: Craig Bradshaw. Marathon Runner, Blackpool.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The best yet!

I took The Boy for our pretty regular Sunday morning swim this morning and as I was driving back, I was seeing quite a few runners wrapped up against the elements, pounding the pavement. I was quite proud that I was one of these strange creatures that likes to put a pair of shorts on in 2 degrees and go out for a plod.

At that same moment, I realised that I was trying to give myself an excuse NOT to go out for a run because it was about 2 degrees and I'm a delicate little flower really. This had the instant effect of turning my pride to shame.

With that in mind, I left myself with no choice and once I got home, I got changed and headed out into the cold. I'm still learning my way with my barefoot running and since the beginning of Jan, I've been out a few times with the main intention of staying under 5 min/km and also increasing the distance I'm covering. Today I managed just over 4km which is the longest so far in 4:53's which is my quickest pace of 2013. Chuffed with that and only 1km away from being able to do a park run.

All this on a very limited amount of sleep in the last few days too due to my lovely baby girl who is not quite as lovely at 3am!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Walking the line...

Myself and Mrs HMC have always been up for going on some long walks into the countryside and spending some time out and about. In fact prior to The Boy and The Girl arriving, we had an awesome walking holiday up in Skye. We took the night train to Fort William which quite frankly, is the only way to travel.

It was great. We just walked all day seeing some of the most awesome sights around. Also, for this year’s summer holiday, we’re planning on heading down to the Dordogne which apparently has some fantastic walking routes. Things will be slightly different with a 3yo and and a 9month old though. One in the Baby Bjorn and with The Boy, we’ll just let him run. He’s like the energizer bunny sometimes!!

Walking’s a great way for us to all keep fit and if you can swing it to go past a few child friendly pubs on the way, even better. I find it’s all in the route planning. Hills. CHECK. Pub. CHECK. Awesome scenery. CHECK. That’s this weekend sorted then...

I would happily sacrifice one run a week for a nice walk with my family at the weekend. The lil' HMC’s get fresh air which firstly helps them sleep and secondly assists in them not driving me mad by being stuck in a house for a long time. So it’s good for everyone and with the hills involved, it actually helps build all the right muscles for the running too.

The only thing really needed for these outings are a decent pair of walking boots. Everything else is all about comfort.  Upon a recent visit to Millet Sports, I noticed that they have a decent range of walking boots for men, women and youngsters which is going to come in hugely useful when we need to source some for The Boy and his ever expanding feet! For now, he’ll be in his wellies, jumping in the puddles!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Back in the game

My mojo was hidden down the back of the sofa crumpled up in birthday paper, mince pie wrappers and new born nappies from the little bundle of joy that is my new baby daughter, Elsie Grace. The Girl will now join The Boy in taking up as much of my time as humanly possible for approx the next 18 years.

To be honest, this maybe part of the reason I even started looking for my running mojo again. As with many people out there with families, it's some of the only time I get to myself. I rarely ran in the evening before but now once The Boy has gone to bed and The Girl is having some dinner it's the only time I can really. Not that I'm complaining mind. I could do a lot, lot worse than a beautiful and happy family!

The other thing that helped get me back out there is I have entered the Maas Half Marathon in May. I think it's something of a small race as I was competitor number 17 to enter. But they'll be plenty more I'm sure. Eatingtrees has already entered so that ups it again. The cool thing is our fundamentally ridiculous plan to cycle to the race. From Britain. On single speeds. I love that I have a friend as ridiculous as me! 

There may be people out there who think that therefore, we are relatively fit and in good shape. I assure you for me, this is not the case and I suspect it's going to hurt a hell of a lot but the idea of 4 days of cycling, staying in little Belgium B&B's, drinking Belgium beer, talking crap with one of my favourite people in the world and then ruining all the goodness by running a half marathon in 'barefoot' running shoes is something that I just cannot say no to to be honest!!