Monthly Archives: January 2014

Run with an Idea : Are sports nutrition products a waste of money?

Run with an Idea is back for 2014 and I’ve jumped back on the wagon for this one – “Are sports nutrition products a waste of money?”

This is a really tough one. Let’s be honest, there is a lot of hype around sports nutrition products and many of them are promoted through mainstream advertising, often with little science to back up the claims. This can of course lead to unrealistic expectations of performance benefits, leaving people feeling like they’ve wasted their money when they don’t achieve the results they thought they would. There is also the argument against sports nutrition products by people who say you can (and should) get the nutrition in the special products from, well, food. However, there are also loads of people who use sports nutrition products and swear by them, and there is a basic scientific truth behind the benefits that the different products claim to provide – protein is used by the body to repair, renew or grow muscle, carbohydrates are used to provide energy for muscles to fire, and electrolytes provide the medium through which nerve and muscle impulses are controlled. Optimising your intake of these ‘should’ have benefits, right? As I said, a tough one…

Where do I stand on the issue? Well, I personally use ‘sports nutrition’ products in both my training and races as I perceive a benefit from using them, however the question is about their ‘value’, and this can mean different things to different people.

Read the rest of this entry

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How time flies!

Well the last few weeks have been hectic!

January is normally the time of year when you get to retreat into your shell and recover from whatever excesses you might have got up to in December, but I’ve been busier than normal.

Multiple work trips, an after-work class, an increase in training, social engagements with friends, quality date nights with Lovely Girlfriend, the start of the football pre-season and continuing running group on Saturdays has left me with little spare time and virtually no time for blogging. However, these are all good problems to have as it’s usually a positive sign if you have a busy life!

Read the rest of this entry

Gear Review : Nike Aeroloft 800 running jacket

Well, in the UK it looks like winter has finally hit, with icy temperatures, arctic winds and those frigid days that follow clear nights.

Perfect timing then, as I was the lucky recipient of a Nike Aeroloft 800 running jacket for Christmas.

Light as a feather…

Light as a feather…

First off, it’s not actually a jacket. It doesn’t have sleeves or a hood. It’s designed as a ‘cool-weather’ layer for your core, and can be worn as an outer-layer in it’s own right, or under a shell jacket for when the conditions are really nasty. Also, the name sounds all ‘space-age’ but really its pretty simple – the jacket gets its name from the 800-fill ‘high lift’ goose down that is also responsible for giving the jacket it’s distinctive baffle look.

It’s also why it is so expensive. According to this article from Wikipedia, goose-down which has a ‘loft-rating’ higher than 750 is harvested BY HAND  from the natural moulting of geese kept for breeding, rather than as a by-product from geese raised for commercial purposes. I guess you get what you pay for…

I’ve done a full review under my ‘Gear’ page, (follow this link), so below I’ve just summarised the key points: Read the rest of this entry

Wait. What?

Running rehab again today. Overall, good progress. My strength and glute/core activation is improving as is my form. However, seems my mental capacity isn’t, because I asked my trainer a stupid question…
“Can I do Parkrun AND my 10kRunning Group tomorrow morning?”
This was the look my trainer gave me:

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Can’t blame him really. I knew it was a stupid question before I asked it, but it did serve to open the dialogue about Marathon de Paris, and it turns out that Paris is go!

After my rehab session I had a chat with Mike, the performance director (ie the Big Boss Man) at The Running School. From his training of both professional athletes and Average Joe runners like me, Mike understands that some people want to compete so long as they are able to, not just when they are 100%. Sure, I could spend six months doing a really good build-up, focussed training, workout schedules and all that sort of stuff and shoot for a PB in an Autumn marathon. However, for me, running is fun, and the time I achieve is less important to me than the doing. I may never beat my marathon PB ever again, but so long as I’m always running to the best of my ability that is what it’s about for me.

So, Mike understands that, and he’s building me a schedule which will get me to Paris in 11 weeks, able to compete. The focus will be on smart running to build strength and endurance without a repeat of my self-inflicted overuse injury. I’m looking forward to it!

Oh, and just in case you were wondering. Running Group was the answer. Parkrun is going to have to wait for at least another few weeks…

Happy running everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running!

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Shhhh. What’s that sound?

My mind grappled with the tune. Where had I heard it before? Why was it playing? What was the significance to me?
Why is there an elbow nudging me in the side?!?

My eyes snapped open. Alarm! Time to get out for a pre-dawn run, my first for this year. Ok, you got me. The first in two months. What? Sheesh! OK, OK! *Over* two months…

This sums up perfectly what was going on early this morning...

This sums up perfectly what was going on early this morning…

While my mind is obviously not ready for the early wake-ups, I feel like my body is getting there. I still have this glute/core activation issue, but the calf seems to have settled and in the last two weeks I’ve been able to get back into something approaching my normal exercise routine of a mix of running, strength training, cycling and yoga.

I’m still not meant to do long slow distance runs, so my workouts are generally intervals or hills, or a combination of both like this morning’s 7.5km around the park. It’s strange to me to go for a ‘long slow run’ of less than 10km on the weekend, but then do speed work and hills for almost the same distance during the week. It’s counter to my normal training to date of short runs midweek and long run on the weekend, but I’m trusting my rehab trainer who has assured me that I need to avoid long runs until my strength has improved enough to keep good form throughout the entire session.

The other good thing about getting back to my normal exercise routine is that I’m getting to test out all my new kit I got for Christmas!

This morning I was sporting my new Nike Aeroloft 800 running vest. Super warm thanks to the 800 loft down but not overly sweaty thanks to the laser-cut vent holes and lightweight wicking fabric between the down baffles. With a ‘real-feel’ of 7C/44F it was just right when worn over my 2XU base-layer (also new) and my running shirt (old and in need of replacement – there are rust marks in it from race-bib pins!). During the fast-running intervals the vest warmed up a lot, but cooled well in the walk breaks thanks to the extra ventilation.

Not me running. This guy goes way faster and looks a lot better doing it...

Not me running. This guy goes way faster and looks a lot better doing it…

I also got to use a cool function on my Garmin 620 – the intervals setting. For my workout of 1/1 ratio I simply set the run interval at one minute, the walk interval to the same and it beeps every time to let you know to run or walk. Next time I’ll also turn on vibrate as I missed a couple of the beeps when there was loud traffic about. Used in conjunction with the warm-up and cool-down setting, you simply start the timer, start moving and when you’re warmed up click the lap button and the intervals begin. Once you’re done with your intervals click the lap button again and the cool-down starts and is ended when you hit stop. Simple!

garmin-620

I’ll put up some more in-depth reviews of all of them, particularly the Garmin, when I’ve used them some more and can provide some meaningful feedback.

Also, I’ve decided that I am going to run Paris. I’m reworking a plan at the moment and it’s going to be a bit of an experiment. It will be purely quality over quantity. I don’t have the time to ramp up slowly to a 20mile run, plus I know (through bitter experience) that an overly-rapid increase in volume is the sure-fire way to get injured. Of course, any notion of a PB has been dropped. I’m going to be pushing it just to prepare for the distance, thinking of going fast would be foolish in the extreme!

In the meantime, it feels great to be back training regularly (even if I can’t go on epic runs) and getting myself fit again.

I hope everyone is enjoying their January running, and all the best to the Janathon’ers out there! Half way through, keep on going!

 

Happy running everyone!

Bernie

 

Get Going, Get Running!

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ASICS Gel-Excel33 2 review

As many of you know I’ve been running in ASICS Gel-Excel33 2 trainers for almost a year now, and with over 1000km across three pairs, including a marathon, I thought I’d better get off my bum (or should that be my feet?) and write up my full review of them.

ASICS-Gel-Excel-33-sole

Boring in white…, but a very capable shoe. Most of the cool stuff is happening underfoot where you can’t see it in any case…

My thoughts on the ASICS Gel-Excel33 2:

The Gel-Excel33 2 is a great trainer for frequent runners and high mileage. It is a capable, comfortable long distance trainer and race shoe and I would recommend it to any midfoot/forefoot runner looking to move away from big support/stability ‘battleship’ shoes towards a more natural ride.

Positives:

  • Neutral shoe with natural feel promoting midfoot/forefoot landing
  • Really nicely fitting upper, good midfoot support
  • ‘Natural’ feeling midsole with 10mm drop, lots of bounce but with a firm base
  • Super high-wearing outsole, well suited to road, pavement and dry gravel

Negatives:

  • Upper of the shoes wear around the foot flexion point after about 300km (but no further degradation and no effect on shoe performance)
  • Store price is high compared to other comparable shoes, but Internet prices similar
  • White colourway is boring but other colours often slightly more expensive
ASICS Gel-Excel 33 2 special edition counter

The ‘special edition’ colour. £10 more expensive but they look WAY cool…
The heel clutch system is visible as the plastic wrap around the heel extending to just below the ankle.

ASICS Gel-Excel33 2 – General Info:

A few years ago ASICS started the ‘33’ line of shoes based on providing a more neutral ride and support of the natural motion of the foot. Named for the 33 bones in the foot the shoes are designed to protect and promote natural movement in, this was a departure from ASICS normal line of technically superior ‘full support’ and ‘stability’ shoes.

The first releases were already competent shoes thanks to ASICS focus on science and technology, but with the second iteration of the Gel-Excel33 2 it would appear ASICS have been learning some lessons about ‘natural’ shoes and have been applying these to an already competent shoe. According to ASICS, upgrades to the shoe include the introduction of FluidAxis (deep flex grooves in the outsole to allow for a more natural motion of the subtalar joint), changes to the trusstic system, improved responsiveness in the mid-sole and slightly more room in the forefoot.

ASICS have for some time been at the forefront of marrying science and engineering to make highly capable shoes, and it appears that using this philosophy on more ‘natural’ shoes is paying dividends.

ASICS Gel-Excel 33 2 – Out of the box:

First impressions are positive. The shoes are light for the amount of cushioning they have, with good flexibility and, above all else, simplicity. The white colourway is a pretty boring looking shoe, but other colourways are available for both men and women.

On putting the shoe on I found the fit to be excellent, very comfortable and quite cushioned. It just felt ‘good’ as soon as I put it on. The heel counter is stiffened on the outside for a very solid grip on your heel (ASICS call this the ‘heel clutch’ system) and overly padded, however the blurb about the shoes notes there is memory foam in the heel to ‘personalise’ your fit so it is will mould to your heel and provide a superior fit.  There is an EVA sockliner moulded to the shape of the foot, which can be removed to accommodate a medical orthotic or, as in the case of the photo below, your fitted insoles.

ASICS-Gel-Excel-33-side

Lightweight shoe, lots of cushioning. Note the massive padding to the heel counter before breaking the shoes in.

ASICS Gel-Excel 33 2 – The shoe itself:

The upper of the shoe is made from a lightweight mesh with ASICS trademark intertwined ‘hashtag’ logo in stiffer material to add structure to the shoe. The tongue is very padded, and like most trainers the shoe has two eyelets at the top to allow for butterfly lacing and people with small ankles. The mesh looks the same as the previous shoe, but with a bit more of it to add room in the forefoot over the metatarsal area.

As mentioned before the ASICS ‘heel clutch’ is utilised over a traditional heel counter and I have always found it a good system at locking my heel in position.

The midsole of the Gel-Excel 33 2 is similar to the v1 edition, being composed of two different foam materials sitting on top of each other. Directly under the foot is the spEVA layer for improved cushioning and comfort. The bottom layer is made of SoLyte which is denser and more resilient, also offering better energy return and stability. By using both foams together it provides a solid platform on the ground with consistent energy return, while reducing impact and stress into the foot. There is also a gel pod in the heel to assist with cushioning in the event of heel strike; however it is not as prevalent as with other shoes in the ASICS line. It’s basically there to absorb heel impact and to allow a smooth transition to mid-stance, but not for serious protection for heel-strikers.

ASICS guidance line, FluiAxis and Trusstic all on display. What all this means is a flexible shoe with a smooth transition, good support and energy return

ASICS guidance line, FluidAxis and Trusstic all on display. What all this means is a flexible shoe with a smooth transition, good support and energy return

In the v2 edition of these shoes the Trusstic system has been retained under the arch of the foot to mimic the plantar fascia area however ASICS say the Trusstic system has been extended to aid in propulsion. It’s not really noticeable at low speed, but at high speed when you really flex the shoe you notice a ‘spring’ effect at toe off.

Thanks to the splitting of the outsole by the Guidance Line (a long split to help separate the shoe along its axis) and the split segments running across the shoe there is good flexibility from the midfoot to the toe. When running forefoot these shoes feel light and responsive and natural. However, as the midfoot is stiffened by the Trusstic system it has very little flexion through this part of the shoe. Not an issue if you are a midfoot striker, but when I deliberately tried running heel striking you notice the shoe feels a bit ‘dead’ until you get past mid-stance and the flexibility increases. Again, this isn’t really a bad thing as the shoes are designed to promote a more natural midfoot and forefoot stance.

Very flexible forefoot, but the Trusstic keeps the midfoot very stiff which can make the shoe feel slow if you're a heel striker

Very flexible forefoot, but the Trusstic keeps the midfoot very stiff which can make the shoe feel slow if you’re a heel striker

The outsole is quite thin but is made of ASICS High Abrasion Rubber (AHAR) which is extremely durable. I did over 500km in one pair and the wear was minimal. The outsole is also split into little triangles, allowing a quite stiff rubber to flex easily along with the rest of the sole. Aside from the durability, I found the sole to be quiet, smooth with good traction even on wet surfaces and gravel. Off-road the shoe is capable, but only for compacted gravel trails or reasonably solid leaf litter. Larger stones can be easily felt through the sole and traction in mud is limited. However, I found it more than capable for dry off-road running and even did a quite technical segment of the ‘path of the Gods’ in them without any issues.

They're not designed for it, but you can still go through the mud in them. Expect wet socks though...

They’re not designed for it, but you can still go through the mud in them. Expect wet socks though…

Asics Gel-Excel 33 2 – On the road:

As I mentioned, I’ve now done over 1000km in these shoes across three pairs. Out of the box the shoe is very padded. The tongue and heel counter are especially soft. This would normally put me off a trainer as it can make the shoe ‘wallow’ because of the lack of compression between the foot, the upper and the heel. However, in this shoe the tongue sets down quickly and thanks to the memory foam of the heel counter the breaking in period is swift. On all three pairs it took three runs and roughly 25km before the shoes were fully broken in, after that they went on like a slipper and stayed nicely attached to my feet.

The shoes fit really well, have good room in the toebox, feel light on the feet, and when running swiftly feel flexible and really responsive. On the long slow runs the deep cushioning keeps muscles and joints protected and ready to back it up the next day. Also, I have custom insoles which I use in my ASICS Kinsei. In the Gel-Excel I tried them for the first run and took them out as soon as I got home, as they killed the ride in the shoe and were providing too much arch support. The supplied EVA insole is lighter, flexed better and worked with the mechanics of the shoe and I’ve not looked back!

Durability wise, the outsole is fantastic with 500km+ without any significant wear. One thing I noticed is that the shoes bounced back run-after-run until the runs starting going past 25km in length or 60km per week. After that point they appeared to deteriorate quickly. One pair I had was approaching 400km as I went into the big end of my marathon preparation and four successive runs over 25km with a last 32km left them feeling ‘dead’ and I retired them after about 500km total. This isn’t great for an expensive pair of runners, but I feel like up to about 40km per week these shoes could last for 700km or so. However, as testament to the fit of these shoes, my new pair arrived only five days before the marathon and I got little over 10km to bed them in before the race. They performed well in the race and left me with no blisters, no hot spots, and crucially, no black toenails. Also, they didn’t get that ‘dead’ feeling after the race and some 200km on they still feel good.

One negative point is the durability of the upper. After about 300km the flexion point around the forefoot shows wear through the mesh. It is only the very upper layer, the structure appears intact, and I didn’t notice any further wear after that, nor any impact on the performance of the shoes.

Cool shoes, but the mesh shows signs of deterioration around the foot flexion point after about 300km

Cool shoes, but the mesh shows signs of deterioration around the foot flexion point after about 300km

Asics Gel-Excel 33 2 – Bernie’s verdict: 9/10

I find this a great trainer for me, and I think it would suit other neutral or mild over-pronating runners seeking a good road shoe for serious mileage. I was impressed by the flexibility, the natural feeling while running and the easy transition through the toe-off phase. Price wise they are a bit expensive for the apparent ‘simplicity’ of the shoe but are still a fair bit cheaper than top of the line support or stability models in the ASICS stable or competitors shoes.

Do you run on ASICS Gel-Excel33 2 trainers? Let me know your thoughts on them below!

Happy running everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running!

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It’s been a long time comin’, but now it’s here…

I’m very late in wishing you all good tidings, however I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I’ve been off blogging for some time but as you can guess from the title (and my shameless use of Springsteen), I’m back! In more ways than one…

 

Back from Beyond

I’m back from holiday. Two weeks in the beautiful North Yorkshire Moors and the sublime Cotswolds with Lovely Girlfriend and her wonderful family. Super relaxing and partly the reason for the blog-holiday – I wanted to take time off from the blog and really enjoy the time with my girlfriend in the beautiful places we stayed in. Oh, and I was super lucky and got a bunch of running swag for Christmas which I’ll be doing reviews of soon, so watch out for those.

cotswolds-blockley-trail-running-1

A photo from my early morning trail run in the forest near Blockley, UK

 

The Empire Strikes Back

I’m back at work. This isn’t as good as being on holiday…

A photo from a hike along the coast above Robin Hood's Bay, UK

A photo from a hike along the coast above Robin Hood’s Bay, UK

 

Back from the Dead

I’m back online. Two days before the Christmas break my laptop had a total meltdown, however with some assistance from the Interweb and the backup that I (thankfully) did two days before said meltdown, I was able to restore my laptop on the weekend. It will certainly make blogging easier than relying on the WordPress app on my iPhone!

 

Back in Action

I’m back running. As many of you know I’ve had a calf overuse injury (link to post here)caused by poor running form, the main problem being weak glutes and poor core activation. With some physio, and strength and running training from The Running School, last night I was signed off to return to running three times per week. I am still not allowed to do Long Slow Distance runs, but I can do short fast runs, interval training and hill work, with intervals and hill work being preferred.

A photo from a hilly trail run near Blockley, UK. I did run-walk intervals up this hill

A photo from a hilly trail run near Blockley, UK. I did run-walk intervals up this hill

Overall I’m a happy camper and looking forward to increasing my running volume again. Theoretically I still have the Paris Marathon in April, which I am hopeful about being able to run, but I’ll need to see how the next two weeks go before I make a go/no-go decision in conjunction with my Running Rehab trainer.

 

Back to the Future

Being offline for over two weeks has meant my blog reading is *way* behind! Apologies in advance for any comments I make on ‘old news‘ posts. I’m working in chronological order because I want to keep up with all your stories in the right sequence.

Me personally? I’m looking forward to 2014 and some Happy Running. I’m yet to set my goals out I need to determine if I’m doing Paris or not before planning out the rest of the year.

However, regardless of what I do or do not decide to do this year, I wish YOU all the best for your 2014 goals and look forward to another year of running, blogging and sharing with you!

Happy running everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running!

On Facebook? ‘Like’ my Facebook page and keep up with my day-to-day happenings, hints, tips and shares
Want to see what/where/how I’m training? View or ‘connect’ with me on my Garmin profile to see what’s been going on
Like a bit of Youtube? Check out my channel with my collection of videos I use and refer to
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