Monthly Archives: January 2013

Dispelling Myths: Running and Arthritis

A few weeks ago there was an article from the Telegraph newspaper doing the rounds on Twitter. The premise of the article was actually pretty good. It extolled the benefits of weight training for women. Not the typical equipment you might find at the gym but free weights and weight lifting. It was entitled ‘If you want to get in shape, ditch the lady weights and hit the iron’. You can find it here.

I agreed with what most of the author, Dr Brooke Magnanti, said. I agreed with her that you need to lift signficant weights to tone up and become stronger. I started lifting heavier weights during my marathon training and I think it helped me to remain injury free. I agree with her that women are being lied to about diet and exercise and that women have pretty much been brain washed to believe that you can get a Jessica Ennis type body in 4 weeks. More like 5 years and the rest. And she’s right that power lifting makes you feel great because it does. It’s intimidating at first but once you learn the skills and lift progressively higher weights you start to feel amazing. I’d recommend any woman try to learn some weight lifting techniques because it’s not just for men or Olympians.

I was really enjoying the article but then she went and ruined it for me by saying this:

‘Something you can still be doing well into old age, when every marathon runner has had a double knee replacement already? The iron.’

In layman’s terms she is implying that marathon running causes osteoarthritis of the knee. I was incandescent. I am a runner and I am a physiotherapist and I have done my fair share of reading around the subjects and I’m here to tell you right now she is talking UTTER BOLLOCKS.

I went away and did a little research and it was very easy to discover, if you look in the right places, that running has no direct link to causing osteoarthritis of the knee. Many review papers have found that runners are no more likely to develop osteoarthritic changes in the knee and hip than non runners. More research is obviously always needed but anecdotally I have never treated someone who had knee arthritis because of running. Following knee injury playing rugby and football, yes. Being overweight, yes. Hereditary factors, environmental factors, yes. But oddly, or not so oddly enough, from running.

I’m not suggesting runners are immune but there is no evidence that the action of running itself directly causes arthritis. As mentioned above there tends to be other factors contributing such as foot wear, poor muscle power, poor form, poor posture and training errors but not just running. To suggest that in a national paper is a powerful myth to perpetuate and one that has no truth in it. In fact running and other weight bearing exercise has been shown to increase bone density and production of joint fluid so it may in fact hep to prevent osteoarthritis.

So put the thought that running will damage your knees to the back of your mind because it simply isn’t true. I’m not singing the virtues of one exercise over another because to do that is unhelpful. If we stopped doing a sport activity because of potential risks or urban myths then the nation would be even more unfit and overweight than it already is. Just know that marathon running in itself does not lead directly to the orthopaedic surgeon and a couple of joint replacements.

Here’s a link to an abstract from one of the articles I looked at in PM&R, the journal of injury, function and rehabilitation: I also searched the archive on the British Journal of Sports Medicine which is a great resource.

Cross Training: Not All Exercise is Equal!

Ten days ago I was on a hen weekend in Berlin and although nervous about my back I made sure I had pain killers and set out to try and forget about running woes. I had a bit of a long overdue blow out with good friends and came back feeling positive. So positive in fact that despite the worries about aggravating my back I came home feeling bouncy.

Early last week I met with my lovely NHS physiotherapy colleague Zoe and she treated my back again. She performed some manual techniques with some active movements and at the time I was worried that things would flare up again. I’m still finding it difficult being the patient and not the therapist. My inner control freak and my own professional experience plus the pain I’m in do not make for me being very sensible about things. I’m still concerned about the pins and needles and intermittent numbness in my leg but Zoe was very reassuring and reminded me it was to be expected. I then proceeded to bug her about exercise. Running is still completely off the table (boo) but she did concede to some cycling or even some swimming.

So with the go ahead from my physio after I’d given her puppy dog eyes about my need to exercise I planned to go swimming. After I’d dropped the children off at school I headed for the motorway and towards a swimming pool (our local one is closed for refurbishment). It was on the way to the pool I hit my first snag. Traffic. Lots of slow moving motorway traffic. I cursed, turned the music up, muttered to myself and considered turning back. This doesn’t happen with running (unless I’m heading to the track). No, with running I can just step outside the door and go. With running I don’t get held up by people.

Nearly 40 minutes later I arrived at the swimming pool, most of my enthusiasm having waned during the journey. I scolded myself and told myself it was for my own good. It was rehab. This would make me better.

Going into the pool it felt alien to me. The only time I end up at a swimming pool is because I’m taking the kids to have a splash around. But here I was and I was going to enter the proper training pool, not the splash around pool. I even bought a swimming hat, which I tried to put on and couldn’t get it on. Embarrassing. I wandered on to pool side and made small talk with a life guard. This young student type probably thought I was launching a cougar bid to chat him up (I’m 32, does this make me a cougar?). Poor thing, I was just delaying entry to the pool, sussing out my surroundings before I started my session.

I edged myself into the pool and swam for about 30 minutes. Front crawl and breast stroke at a continuous steady pace for the entire half hour. I swam for a club when I was a kid so swimming isn’t completely new to me but the last time I went for a swim I was heavily pregnant, tried to do back stroke and flipped onto my front like a beer barrel. After the half hour I decided that was enough as I had no idea how my back would react and that was that. Swim done.

Afterwards I thought I would feel amazing. But I didn’t. I felt a bit robbed. Yes it was exercise and yes it was cardiovascular but there was no post run buzz. There was no happy sweat or the pinky glow that I get from running. I looked in the mirror on the way out and I didn’t have the twinkle in my eye that I have after I’ve done a hard track session. I didn’t have the euphoria that I get from a run and I felt disappointed. I don’t want to offend swimmers but I’m sure if they were asked to do something that wasn’t their own sport they would feel the same. My back didn’t feel half bad though so for this I was/am grateful.

I really shouldn’t complain as during the swim I wasn’t aware of my back or leg symptoms which was a relief. My body was getting an all over workout and I was challenging different muscle groups. My heart rate was raised considerably higher than it has been in months and I was able to swim without too many breaks during the time I was in the pool. I was pleasntly surprised that my fitness hasn’t dropped off like I thought it would. I need to grasp these positives and build on them as I try to get back to running. I may have to give swimming another go. Or maybe get hold of an aqua jogger so then I might feel like I’m actually running, albeit in deep water going no where fast! As far as exercise goes though swimming has nothing on running for me. Running has nothing to fear from swimming just yet.


Running: My Friend

When I saw the question what does running mean to me I struggled. Right now I’m injured and I haven’t run for *does mental calculation and counting on hands* gazillion  eight or nine weeks. It seems like forever so thinking about running, the running I’m not able to do and the potential races I’m missing makes me incredibly sad. What I should do is flip this and look at it from an injured runner’s perspective.

Running is like a good friend. Running has been there for me through good times and bad, the highs and the lows. Running was there to help me through the rough time I had trying to support my husband through his depression. Running was there after my children were born to help me through my occasional baby blues, discover the ‘old’ me and put the ‘mum’ me to one side for about an hour. Running was there when I required a much needed confidence boost. At times running has helped my own mental health and that is why I think it means so much.

Running has given me moments of joy and elation. Running has made me leave my comfort zone and has lead me to travel the UK to find myself outside comfort and in that special zone that only runners know about. I am grateful for what running has brought me. So not running right now is like gradually losing contact with someone I have been close to for many years and it’s hard. I feel like a bad friend of running and that soon I won’t be able to refer to myself as a runner any more.

To try and stay close to running I have attempted to maintain contact through material things: buying running gifts that I cannot use right now. But that just makes me feel a bit empty. It’s just running stuff and it is not a substitute. I watch people running on the TV on the odd occasion it may be on but this pulls at my heart strings too. Buying running magazines seems to be difficult, as if I’m watching my friend enjoy something that I cannot be part of.

But then there are the blogs of other runners which seem different. Keeping in touch with running by reading about what other people are up to, their running journeys and their highs and lows. Their races, their training and sadly their injuries too. I have discovered that blogs can help me keep in touch with running through other runners. Even though it occasionally makes me want to tear my hair out and cry with frustration, it also makes me want to cheer people on to their well deserved goals too.

Blogging about running myself has also helped me document achievements and the unfortunate depths of injury. As I continue I hope to document more of my training runs as I return so I can go back and reflect and adapt and change as running needs me to. Because sometimes all relationships need work.

I have been running for a long time and running means so much to me: my solace, my sanity, my health, my fitness but blogging is a new addition to it that I think might be a nice fit. I don’t think I have many readers but the comments I have had have always been supportive and at times given a much needed boost. A bit like my Nike Air Pegasus that are gathering dust in the cupboard *sob*. I don’t want this injury to be my last memory of running and I don’t want my blog to be injury focussed so I hope, really hope, that I can be back with my friend running soon.

Hot Lips for Running.

Look at this. My new discovery. I’ve been using it as my new daily lip gloss instead of my usual vaseline tin but it dawned on me. This could be the perfect lip protector for those long winter runs. Not tested on animals, 100% lanolin and with added SPF to protect against the winter sun. Plus an added red tint because you never know who you might run into out there.

20130117_153015I bought this tube of Lanolips in Boots for £8.16. It is a little bit on the expensive side but you literally need just a pin head amount to cover your lips so it should last a while. If you don’t fancy the red of this Apples shade then there are other shades of pink and nude plus the Lemonaid Lip Aid with Lemon Oil which just sounds yummy. And in Boots stores and online this week there was an offer to get 300 extra Boots card points on every Lanolips purchase. Bonus!

So there you are ladies and gentleman. Protect your lips from the wind and frost while maintaining your running foxiness. I may be injured but I’m still thinking of all things running.

Good luck out there if you are marathon/half marathon training folks. I hope to be joining you all out there again soon.

NB: this was not a sponsored post, just something I found that I thought was cool and wanted to share with all you running lovelies. I also want to credit Sali Hughes’ amazing Facebook group Get The Look which is where I first heard about Lanolips. Fantastic group with brilliant beauty tips. If beauty is your thing or you want to learn more, like I did, then look it up!

Kids, Fair Play and Lance.

This is a running blog but I like to think that I can broaden it out to sport in general and how it effects my family, my children especially. I want my children to be involved in sport because I want them to be fit and healthy. I also want them to learn about teamwork and respect. I also want them to learn about fair play, how to play fairly against and alongside others and to know that cheating is only cheating yourself. Unless you’re Lance Armstrong.

When the allegations exploded recently I really hoped that they weren’t true. I really hoped that this legend of a sportsman wasn’t just that: a totally made up myth, constructed by the drugs and cycling businesses. But it turns out that is exactly what he is. This cheat has made millions and millions from doping and accepting accolades that he does not deserve. In fact in 2005 he flew his children in to France to help him lift his trophy at the end of the tour.

Wow. Just wow. This man went low enough as to allow his children to be part of his charade. He allowed his children to believe that he was this all conquering worthy champion while all the time he was doped up to the eye balls. Well as a fellow parent I have some questions for Lance Armstrong:

When one of your children comes home upset that another child cheated at a game what will your honest advice be? That cheaters never prosper? Ha, well you proved that one wrong didn’t you. Here was I thinking I could teach my kids that you only cheat yourself if you cheat but now I can teach them that you can profit from people’s misplaced faith and admiration.

One of your children comes home and complains that the coach of the team is also the father of one of the other kids. This father is showing favouritism and selecting their own kid even though their kid isn’t as good enough. What will you do? Complain to the Coach/Dad? Say it’s not fair? How can you? You endorse cheating and that there is cheating. Your kid will have to suck it up and deal with the unfairness of it all, the unfairness being that they will never be picked no matter how good they are.

When your child hasn’t worked hard enough at school and is worried that they might fail a test what will you do? Help them study last minute so they pass and hopefully instil the ethic that hard work and graft provide just rewards? Or will you buy the exam questions? Buy the exam board? Sit the exam for them?

When your child is offered drugs that could enhance their performance in a sport but could also cause them serious long term harm and prevent clean athletes from their rightful podium place, what will you say? This drug will help them to win but could also cause side effects such as heart disease, sexual dysfunction, osteoporosis and other potential unknown maladies. Will you encourage them to dope as you did so willingly?

Lance Armstrong maybe a father but I’m not sure he’s taught his children anything worthwhile. I honestly feel sorry for his children because they will learn that their father is a cheat and that nobody likes a cheat. They will learn the extent of what he has done and I really hope that one day he will look into their eyes and see disappointment sitting there because that is what he has become for so many people. A great big cheating disappointment. But then again he has probably taught them that there’s no point in working hard at anything because there’s always a way to cheat the system. You’ve cheated your own kids Lance, well done.

The British cyclist Nicole Cook retired today. A clean athlete who rejected drugs when offered and went on to become Olympic champion. It can be done. She is a true inspiration, the real deal. She left a statement on her website and I think she sums things up perfectly here:

‘When Lance “cries” on Oprah later this week and she passes him a tissue, spare a thought for all of those genuine people who walked away with no reward – just shattered dreams. Each one of them is worth a thousand Lances.’

I will continue to teach my children the importance of playing fair whether that’s on the field, track or at the kitchen table with a game. Because I still believe the glory of winning is in knowing that you did it fair and square.

Chwarae Teg!




Running Gear Lust: Back Away From Black

I know I get fed up with women’s running leggings almost being exclusively black and from seeing running ladies chat on Twitter I know I’m not alone. There does seem to be a trend towards black and pink where women’s running gear is concerned, as in the t-shirts are pink and the leggings are *snore* black. I’m not sure if sports companies ever listen to their customers but WE WANT OTHER OPTIONS!

Fortunately I’m here to let you know that some retailers are starting to branch out into the colour spectrum where t-shirts and leggings are concerned. I’ve found a few of my favourites to share but I’ve come to the conclusion that if you want something a little bit different the internets is more likely to come up with the goods than the High Street. That goes for some of the specialist running shops too.

First up is my go to brand for the majority of my running gear: Nike. Nike, oh Nike, how I love thee so. Having a scroll through their new releases there are a variety of colour choices in both tops and bottoms.

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I love the Nike Legend Print Tight Poly Capris which come in black and grey or pink. Another colourful option would be the Nike Relay capris. These aren’t even available in black, instead Nike have produced these in purple, pink and my personal favourite, yellow.


The Nike Relay print capris which I have in the grey print are available in red. The pattern is pretty funky and dazzles your eyes if you look at it for too long! I’m loving Nike’s colour palette for their work out gear. With Nike you needn’t where any black at all or you could dress entirely in black. Your call.

I popped the latest copy of Zest in my trolley and was rather taken by the yellow leggings on the front cover. Info on the front cover led me to a brand I was totally unaware of called Hey Jo. They produce two styles of workout leggings in Italian jersey. They aren’t just for working out though. They are so luxe that Hey Jo says pair them with a pair of heels for that catwalk Sports Luxe look (yeah, I won’t ever be doing that). The colours though are amazing and only one black pair in sight. They do an amazing yellow pair which you can see below (I must have a thing for yellow right now). They are a bit on the pricey side for work out gear but good news, there is a sale on at the moment giving 30% off their tights.


I don’t often look at Sweaty Betty’s site but I thought I’d check it out in my search for running gear porn. The trend over there was still towards black for leggings (I mean how many types of plain black leggings can you sell?) but I spotted these funky patterned numbers. I have heard that Sweaty Betty leggings are on the long side, a bit like Thoosa leggings, so these might be more for the amazonian runners amongst you. Not sure about the matchy matchy top, looks a bit onesie for my taste, However the pattern reminds me of Fairisle which makes me think of winter jumpers which means these could be perfect for winter running. I’m an enabler, you’re welcome.

sweaty betty SN0168_BrightMulti_2

Shopping around other stores online I came across a pair of pink running tights on Sweatshop’s site for half price in their sale but sadly that was about it for non black leggings on their site. The  No Balls site has leggings with leopard print touches but they are still predominantly black.

So it appears you don’t have to stick with black leggings if you shop around. It does seem though that Nike are yet again at the forefront or if you want a choice of colour you may have to go to the high end price wise. All I know from writing this post is that I now want some yellow leggings or capris. A post injury gift to myself perhaps. At this rate there’s going to be a lot of those ‘gifts’.

Get the Slap On (or not).

Make up and running. (This could be one for just the ladies but I know some of the chaps out there like to dabble). So yes, make up and running. Do or don’t? To be a painted up glamour puss or a natural beauty? I’ve been guilty in the past of being a bit snooty about the ladies who choose to pop a bit of mascara and blusher on before a run or race but I think I’ve had an attitude change. I think make up, including nails and hair, are all about your game face and ritual.

Everyone likes to prepare before a big occasion so why should running a race, a fairly big huge occasion, be any different? Before my marathon I found the exact shade of nail polish to match my Macmillan Charity vest (Seven Dials by Nails Inc if you really want to know). I defuzzed (definitely more for the girls) and applied my moisturiser and sun screen. It may sound strange but applying my nail polish the night before, with under coat and top coat no less, somehow made me feel ready. If it is possible to feel like that the night before your first marathon! It was my ritual and it relaxed me and my nails were a pretty awesome shade of green.

I may have imagined it but many years ago I saw an interview with Sally Gunnell, the former Olympic 400m hurdles champion, and she talked about making sure her hair, make up and nails were all right before going into a big race. And at London 2012 athletes were not shy about their manicures, braids or their little make up touches. They obviously felt more ready with those things. If sitting down and applying nail wraps, hair dye, braiding hair or getting out the eye pencil for a flicky eye made them game ready and perform to the best of their ability at the biggest event of their lives then who are we to judge? Compete at the Olympics? Yes she did and she looked damn fine doing it too!

Ok so we’re not all aiming for the Olympics. The majority of us are way way way way below elite level but for us amateurs we will find our own ‘big event’ and for that you want to be ready and for everything to be just right or as near perfect as it can be. I’ve had an attitude change and decided that make up and running are not mutually exclusive. Neither should exercise and femininity if you want. There’s no evidence yet that it makes you faster but I like to pretend, however you probably have to be a little bit sensible about it:

Nails painted? Yes. Fake eye lashes? Possibly not as the glue might melt due to the heat and you’ll look like you have two spiders crawling on your face.

Tinted moisturiser with protective SPF and a bit of blusher to make you feel a bit brighter through the nervous nausea? Ok. Fake tan? Probably best not to unless you want to look streaky after the first mile of sweat. You might have another 25 miles to look like a tie dye jump suit.

A bit of tinted lipgloss? Ok then but I’ll leave my Chanel red at home because I tend to wipe my face a lot when I run. Big red Joker face is going to make other people run faster, away from you!

So wear make up or don’t wear make up for your run. It really doesn’t matter as long as you feel prepared and ready. If that’s your bag then don’t worry what other people think. If they’re worried about the make up that you’re wearing to run then they’re not thinking enough about themselves, which in running is a major error. You’ve got to run your own race, lippy or not.

(As a side note I don’t tend to wear a lot of make up for running but I do love make up. My favourite blusher is Nars Orgasm. But I definitely think someone should invent a blusher called Just Run Glow because everyone looks amazing after they’ve been out doing some exercise).

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