Feet are ugly. No one has nice feet, it’s just a fact of life and especially for runners with all we put them through, but it’s possible to get them slightly less minging, especially if you’re going to be wearing sandals or (shudder) flip flops during the warmer months.
Last summer, I decided I wanted to run again. I got myself a C25K app and I had planned to blog my progress, like I did back in 2006 (back when people used to comment on blogs because they wanted to and not because they were in some stupid comment swap thread, and back before 12 year olds in Facebook blogging groups bleated about their DA every five minutes). But, that didn’t happen. The doing the C25K app happened but the blogging didn’t. And, although the C25K app happened, in true JogBlog self-destructive style I fucked it up at the end and only completed 22 out of 24 runs and then didn’t run again until today, six months later.
I lost my iPod Nano. I am bereft. I’m pretty sure I left it in the cab after my birthday night out, as I remember not being able to find my wallet in my bag as my bag was stuffed full of presents and cards (I should probably point out this was more down to how small my bag was, not my popularity being so huge I should have taken a bin liner or two out with me with which to carry all my gifts) and I asked the driver to drive into the driveway while I rummaged around for the fare (that isn’t supposed to sound as dodgy as it does. I paid with cash, honest). So, I reckon it fell out then and, when I next got a cab two days later on Christmas Eve, I asked that cab driver how many different companies use the rank at the station and told him I thought I’d lost my iPod in a cab a couple of days previously and I thought it was a female driver, and he gave me a number to ring and said there are only three female drivers in Ashford, so it should be easy to locate. I said I won’t ring now, it’s Christmas Eve, they’ll be busy but he assured me it’d be fine. I went inside and rang the cab office and got the most unfriendly and unhelpful woman on the phone ever and she just said blah blah blah and so I remained un-iPodless and too scared to ring back another day in the hope someone nicer picked up.
It’s not very often I’ll eat bread at lunchtime – I’m more often to be seen drinking soup or munching a salad and, more recently, enjoying tapas-style lunches with tofu, sundried tomatoes, stuffed vine leaves, olives and hummus (you can see such a lunch over on my vegetarian blog). However, there are the odd occasions when I fancy something more substantial, although I know I’m risking the mid-afternoon slump that usually follows me eating bread at lunchtime.
So, because I’d – shock, horror – run out of tofu and stuffed vine leaves, after peeking in the fridge and freezer foraging for food, I remembered the Dr Zak’s High Protein Bagels that had been sent to me a few weeks ago.
As you’d imagine, these bagels are high in protein, with each bagel containing 24g of the stuff. The packet also states each bagel also has 40% less carbohydrate but 40% less than what, I don’t know.
But, yeah yeah yeah, that’s all well and good, but there’s no point being high in protein if they ming in a big way, resulting in me taking one bite, and throwing the rest in the bin.
I toasted one of the bagels and filled it with Violife vegan cheese, homemade hummus, spinach, tomato and cucumber and while it was perfectly edible and didn’t ming, it was a bit dry and dense but didn’t taste weird at all, which had been my main concern.
Dr Zak’s High Protein Bagels don’t appear to be widely available in the shops (on looking at the store locator on the website, it said my nearest stockist was 40 miles away) but they do have a list of where you can buy them online. I had a look at the first website in the list and the bagels are being sold on there for £3.25 for a pack of 4. That sounds like a lot of money for a pack of bagels to me but if high protein is your thing, you might want to give them a go.
For more information about the bagels, to see the other products Dr Zak’s make and a list of stockists, visit the Dr Zak’s website.
Quest Protein Bars come in about a billion different flavours. This might be a slight exaggeration but they do come in a lot of flavours and Predator Nutrition sent me 8 of them to try: mint chocolate chunk, cinnamon roll, white chocolate raspberry, cookies & cream, mixed berry bliss, chocolate brownie, chocolate chip cookie dough and peanut butter supreme.
I say ‘yum’ after trying them because, to be honest, the packaging made them look like those chemically-tasting bars you find next to the muscle-gaining stuff in Holland & Barrett and, last time I tried one of those, I only had one bite before binning the rest and since then I’ve stuck to natural bars such as Trek Bars. So, I was a little apprehensive about trying these but hey, free food, yeah?
The first one I tried was the mixed berry bliss flavour, which I had after a 40 mile bike ride on Sunday. Sorry for the lack of photo but I was more interested in eating than taking photos but from what I remember it was a kind of beige colour. I do remember it didn’t taste of much but it wasn’t unpleasant and the bar was dense and filling, which was exactly what I needed at the time as I was in danger of eating everything I could find, possibly even the cat. Okay, not the cat.
Today, after a run, hunger/greed kicked in and I thought, ‘Aha, I can have a protein bar because runners need protein, innit?’ and gave the cookies & cream flavour a go.
Mmm, this was nice! It was sweet, contained crunchy bits of biscuit and, like the mixed berries flavour, it was dense and filling.
As with all these types of protein bars, they come with technical blurb about protein and carb content and stuff so, in case you’re interested in that kind of thing, here it is:
Quest Protein Bars are high in protein (20g), low carb, gluten-free, have no added sugar (they’re sweetened with Sucralose – I have no idea if this is a good thing or not) and contain around 200 calories per bar.
I had no idea of the price of these until this morning and nearly had a heart attack when I looked on the Predator Nutrition website and saw that they’re £2.79 each. Yes, I said each. Gulp. However, it is possible to buy a box of 12 which works out cheaper and, even cheaper still, you can buy a box with a short expiry date which works out at just £1 per bar. They’re also available at a discounted price on Amazon.
To sum up then, Quest Protein Bars are tasty, filling protein bars perfect for those post-workout munchies but a bit on the pricey side. I wouldn’t pay £2.79 for one bar but I’d happily buy a box of 12 for around £12.
If I’d owned my iPhone when I first started running, I wouldn’t have run without it. Like most phones these days, it can play music, run GPS fitness apps, has maps in case I get lost and a camera for any cow-based photographic emergencies. However, I didn’t have my iPhone when I started running so I used to take out with me my massive Garmin 301 (I think it was a 301 – the one that took up half your arm), a massive video iPod (which promptly broke as I don’t think it liked being run with) which took up half my other arm, a little camera tucked into my back pocket and a printed paper map if I was trying out new routes. I can’t remember what phone I owned at the time but I didn’t take that out running with me as it was a weird phone that could only be used for making phone calls *shudder* and sending text messages.
I still don’t usually run with my iPhone because a) I don’t use any running apps; b) I’m happy with my iPod Shuffle for music; and c) they’re impossible to use through those armbands no matter how much the blurb for them says you can, so if, for example, an unwanted U2 album that was FORCED on to your iPhone against your will comes on, I’d have to stop and take the phone out of the armband to stop Bono from squawking down my ear.
But then Three Mobile sent me the KS Active+ Bluetooth Remote to try.
As you’ve probably guessed, the KS Active+ Bluetooth Remote is, um, a Bluetooth remote. It’s compatible with all stereo Bluetooth devices though, not just iPhones, despite me banging on about my iPhone in the previous 250 words.
In the box you’ll get the KS Active+ Bluetooth Remote, earphones, 3 sets of earbuds (although mine only came with one), USB charge cable and a user manual.
Setting it up is easy – the remote and my iPhone paired quckly, then all I had to do was plug the earphones into the remote, clip the remote onto my waistband and shove my phone into my Roosport Fitness Pouch (these pouches are great – so much better than an armband for carrying your phone), then I was ready for my run. Well, I would have been if the earphones had a better sound quality but I’m afraid to say I hadn’t even made it as far as the front door before turning back and swapping them for my usual Sennheisers.
Once you are out on your run and you’ve got used to knowing where the buttons on the remote are, play/pause/fast forward/rewind/volume control are all within easy reach without you stopping what you’re doing. You can also take phone calls with it but no one ever rings me so I didn’t get to test that bit.
I’m not sure it’ll take over from my iPod completely but if I did want to take my phone out running or walking with me to use music or apps or just so I’ve got my phone with me in case of emergency, I’d be happy to use the KS Active+ Bluetooth Remote. Just not with their pretty yellow but pretty rubbish earphones.
The KS Active+ Bluetooth Remote is available in black, pink or blue at various prices from Amazon.
I didn’t start running to lose weight, I started running because after I stopped smoking I had an immense amount of energy to burn and as I had a little park at the end of the road, I thought a little jog round there now and again would do the trick. Soon after stopping smoking though, food – and in particular Twixes – started to taste really nice and I started eating my dinner instead of smoking it. This in turn led to me think I was putting on weight, so I bought some scales. Please don’t hate me but when I got on the scales I was 8 st 8 (I’m 5′ 6) and decided I was a fat bloater and needed to lose some weight. I got down to 8 st 6 but then the weight kept creeping up – despite me running regularly – until I averaged around the 9 st 2 mark for a couple of years until I moved to Kent, turned into a country bumpkin and put on well over a stone (don’t ask me how I felt when I reached the dreaded double figures).
I have managed to lose about half a stone recently after a) going on a Bodychef diet for a week (which I blogged about here); and b) having the lurgy (there’s nothing like the lurgy for putting you off your grub) but, like most women, I wouldn’t mind losing a few more inches, so when Slimming Solutions asked me if I wanted to try their Boot Camp Body Wrap which claims to get rid of a few inches in just an hour (and not even an hour in the gym, but an hour of dossing about in your dressing gown, whoop), I thought I’d give it a go.
I’d put off trying the Body Wrap for a while because it seemed to involve covering myself with gunk, and covering myself with gunk sounded like a messy, inconvenient faff, plus I didn’t believe it was going to work anyway. But I’d bought a new dress I was planning to wear at the weekend and thought the thinner I look, the better and so I gave it a go. While you can use it on any parts of your body you’d like to shrink, I only wanted to shrink my belly so I decided to use it just on that area.
After measuring myself with the supplied tape measure, I went to work on gunking myself up. I thought the clay would be thick and gloopy but it’s surprisingly thin and smoothed on my skin easily without me covering the bathroom with it like I thought I would.
The instructions recommend warming the bandages before use but… you know… extra faff… so I used it cold (I only needed one as I was only doing the stomach area) but it went on easily and clipped up with the two supplied clippy things (I think that’s the technical term) which kept it in place. You can then cover the bandages with the supplied cling film, but this is optional. Yep, you guessed it – I went for the ‘won’t bother with that bit’ bit.
After you’ve applied the clay, you sit around for an hour and let the clay do its work. After an hour, you can unwrap your bandages and unearth the new you. You don’t even have to wash the clay off – in fact, the instructions say it’s best not to as leaving it will enhance the effect of the wrap.
Here’s where you expect me to say, ‘Whoop, I lost 16 inches off my belly!’ isn’t it? Um, unfortunately, I don’t think I lost a millimetre, let alone an inch. I don’t know whether this is because I didn’t use enough clay, didn’t massage it in enough, didn’t wrap the bandages tightly enough or should have used the clingfilm but, I’ve got to admit, I was a little disappointed even if I didn’t really think it was going to work anyway. But, there’s loads of clay left (and I mean ‘loads’), the bandages can be washed and it was so easy to apply, I’ll give it another go and see if I can do it right this time. I will report back!
The Boot Camp Body Wrap costs (at the time of writing) £39.95 and is available from Slimming Solutions.
Back in 2007, I ran on a treadmill for 90 minutes. Because of the impact on my joints, this caused an injury which left me barely able to walk for about two months and, as any runner can tell you, getting over a running injury can take time. Lots of time. So, my advice to you is to not run for 90 minutes on a treadmill (unless you’re a nutter called Phil Anthony who ran 100km on a treadmill in 6 hours and beat the world record. Sorry – did I say ‘nutter’? I meant ‘superhero’). Obviously it’s not just treadmills that can cause an injury – road running puts a lot of pressure on your joints, too, and so the folks at Octane Fitness invented the Zero Runner.
As the name suggests, it’s a running machine with zero impact on your joints. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a cross between a treadmill and a cross-trainer though – it’s not. The Zero Runner has mechanical hip and knee joints that replicate human biomechanics in running and the user controls the motion, with the Zero Runner following the runner’s movement.
It’s been around for a while in the US and has now been brought to the UK, where it’s sold exclusively by Fitness Superstore, who invited me to come along to one of their stores for a demo.
On my arrival at the Tunbridge Wells store, the manager, Malcolm, greeted me, along with Ricky who set me up on the Zero Runner and talked me through it. The first thing I noticed about the Zero Runner is its size. Considering it’s for home use (you won’t find them in gyms), it’s a big machine, but, as Malcolm pointed out, compared to a treadmill – which are a few feet long – the Zero Runner’s footprint is actually quite small. On the plus side though, because it’s self-powered there’s no motor which means there’s no need to plug it in which in turns makes it quiet while also not increasing your energy bills.
You can link up the Zero Runner to Octane Fitness’ free SmartLink app on your iPad and set up programs and workouts and watch videos that will walk you through everything. If you don’t have an iPad, as you’d expect, the Zero Runner has a console that shows basic stats such as pace, speed, calories burnt, distance, etc. It also has wireless heart rate technology for Polar, ANT+ and Bluetooth.
So, what is it like to use? After a quick demo from Ricky, I hopped on to the Zero Runner and tried to make the paddles move and failed. I ended up kind of scissoring my legs without bending my knees. I asked Ricky how long it takes to get used to it and he said it’s usually around a minute or so, so I persevered for a while longer before jumping off and asking Malcolm (Ricky had gone to help a customer) to show me how it’s done. This time I paid more attention to his leg movements and when I went back on for another go, I quickly got into the swing of it. As I mentioned above, the Zero Runner isn’t like a cross-trainer. It doesn’t move for you – you make it move and it follows your movements and, once you realise you can make a natural running movement, it’s really effective.
When I’d finished my demo, I was so impressed I wanted one. Space is at an issue at the moment with the conservatory (where the rest of the home gym equipment is) currently being used as storage for kitchen stuff (the kitchen’s currently being demolished/decorated) but also The Zero Runner isn’t cheap at £2,699 at the time of writing. No decent piece of gym equipment is cheap though and this is a multi-purpose machine which, as well as a running machine, can be used as a cross-trainer (you can change the resistance on the arms) and skiing machine. You can also strength train on it with the included resistance band which can be attached at 7 points.
Zero impact to protect your joints
Replicates road running
Fully customisable flexible stride options
Ideal for runners who want to avoid injury or are coming back from injury
Great supplement to outdoor training
No energy bills
More fun than a treadmill
It’s a big machine
I can’t afford one
To see the Zero Runner in use by someone who knows what they’re doing, watch this video.
The Zero Runner is exclusive to Fitness Superstore. To arrange a demo at one of their stores in Leeds, Manchester, Tunbridge Wells, Frimley, Gloucester or Northampton, contact them on 01604 673000 or visit their website at www.fitness-superstore.co.uk/zero-runner for more information.
Considering my original review was going to consist of simply, ‘Fuck it, can’t be arsed’, the Polar Loop is my new favourite glorified pedometer (also known as wearable tech).
So, what caused my initial angst and frustration?
This, that’s what.
Before you can play with your new toy, unless you have wrists as big as your thighs, you’re going to have to cut the wristband down to size and reassemble the buckle with pins and stuff. I spent about a quarter of an hour trying to get the damn buckle on before feeling like I was auditioning for a job at Timpsons and giving up and throwing it at Shaun when he got home to put together. Shaun, of course, put it together in about thirty seconds (after re-cutting down the buckle three more times – the measuring guide that comes with it isn’t accurate).
After it was ready to use, I started to really like it. While it was charging, I had a play on the Polar Loop website and found out I could stalk people all over the world.
You can zoom in on any of those little dots in squares and see where people have been running and cycling and walking and stuff. When I say ‘zoom in’, I mean ‘zoom in’. You can click on any of the people who appear in the column on the right hand side and click on ‘relive’ and it’ll replay their activity. RIGHT FROM THEIR HOUSE AS VIEWED IN STREETVIEW. Blimey. I clicked on a local man and had a nose (if you’re reading this, hello, you have a nice house) at his house and said ‘ooh’ when I was taken past the park in which the local parkrun is held. Obviously, it would be a rather sad person who – when given a zoomable map of the world to play with – only stalked their local area, so I also had a nose at a man called Igor in Russia. Russia seems rather bleak, I must say. I thought I’d get some marathon tips from a Kenyan, but the only person I could find near Kenya was called Keith. Cue disappointed face.
I should point out that all my stalkees had Polar-something-elses, not Loops, so you can’t relive your Loop steps on here, as it’s not a GPS device, but if you want to spend some time looking at the beautiful lake a girl in Tanzania ran round, then you can fill yer boots on the Polar website. I should probably also point out that it’s not the whole route that’s replayed in Streetview, just the beginning and a couple of points in between.
Anyway, enough about Igors and Keiths, what’s the Loop like? I love it. What I especially love about it is that it also functions as a watch and if it wasn’t for my Bounts points* that my FitBit and Jawbone UP collect for me (Bounts isn’t linked to the Polar Loop), I’d ditch those and just use the Loop instead.
The Polar Loop has a clear LED display which can be tapped to show different screens: Time, calories, steps, activity, and to do (which shows you what you can do to reach your daily target).
As with all these wearable tech thingies, you’ll have access to the bit we all love the most – yes, I’m talking about stats. We all love stats, don’t we? All those pretty charts and graphs and, um, inactivity stamps to humiliate you.
Ignore the bit about sleep – I haven’t set it to monitor my sleep, unless it knows when I’m asleep.
To sum up then; if you want a multi-purpose bit of wearable tech with the added bonus of stalking people all over the world, then the Polar Loop’s for you. As with all these things, there’s an accompanying app but only for iPhone 4s upwards (and some Android devices), which meant as I only have a lowly iPhone 4, I couldn’t play with this. Whatever happened to backward compatibility, huh? Still, there’s plenty on the website to keep you occupied if you haven’t got a compatible smartphone.
Thanks to LV for sending me the Polar Loop to review.
*Points add up really quickly on Bounts – I’ve just ordered my fifth £5 supermarket voucher. If you sign up with my referral code (white1136), we’ll both get 100 points. Hurry though, Bounts are going to start charging for membership soon – at the moment it’s free and will stay free for anyone who signs up before they start charging. Although you can’t link to the Polar Loop (they keep adding stuff though, so they might in the future), you can link your account to FitBit, Jawbone UP, Strava, MapMyRun and plenty of other apps and gadgets.
When I used to do a running commute, I needed a running rucksack. I’d tried running to the gym with the free rucksack I’d got from the gym but soon realised a waistband is a must, unless you like a bag full of kit bouncing up and down on your back.
My first running commute rucksack purchase was a cheapy Puma one – I think it cost about a tenner – which doubled up as a hydration backpack; it just came without the bladder. I didn’t have any need of a bladder until taking part in the Three Peaks Challenge in 2008, so I bought one on eBay to save me having to keep stopping to take my drinks bottle out of my rucksack.
The Puma rucksack has been used dozens, if not hundreds of times and although it’s the perfect size to put a few small things in, I want to do some long cycle rides over the summer and it’s not going to be big enough for a full bladder and anything else I want to take with me such as a lock and also leaving room for anything I might want to buy on my travels (for example, I can’t go past the Pilgrims Hospice Bookshop in Dymchurch without popping in and buying books).
Okay, I’m cheating and using the photo from the website. Here’s my not-so-glamorous pic.
Pretty though, isn’t it? I love the colour and I love that it’s not too big and I especially love that it has about a zillion pockets in it. It’s even got pockets in pockets and ‘integrated helmet hooks that utilize chinstraps to carry a variety of styles’ (I think that means you can carry your hat on it).
It comes with a bladder and I’m not going to pretend I know much about bladders other than they hold a drink and you suck it through a hose thing because that’d be lying and we all know lying’s bad, don’t we? But according to the blurb, the bladder has a 100oz/3L capacity, 1/4 turn cap, a low profile design, dryer arms and a quick link system.
I used the rucksack on the recent 55 mile Pilgrims Hospice Cycle Challenge and it was light and comfy and it held what I wanted it to and I didn’t notice I was wearing it, which is all I want from a rucksack really.
If you want a pretty orange Camelbak like mine, or perhaps one in a different colour or style, you can get one at the Blackleaf website.