Category Archives: Run with an Idea

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.

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Run With an Idea #4: Do Real Runners Walk?

The fourth in the Run With an Idea blog debate series, this weeks topic is “Do real runners walk?”

Now, this is a topic that will probably generate a fair bit of commentary, but my guess is that most people are of the “of course they do, and what of it?” camp. I certainly am.

Being a ‘runner’ is not about the pace you go at, nor how far you can do it without walking. It’s about being someone who laces up and runs for exercise, for fitness, for friends, for loved ones, for lost ones, for challenge, to escape their problems, to solve their problems, for joy, or simply just because they can. Nowhere does it say that any of the above must be completed while running and only running.

Run-walk-run is advocated by many people who are serious runners, and have completed many a race just running. It is about getting people involved in a sport that can change people’s lives, not about how fast they do it. Every couch-to-5k programme I’ve ever seen has run-walk-run in it. Even if you aren’t following a schedule like that, most runners start out naturally doing run-walk-run simply because that’s the most they can do, and instead of stopping after one letterbox, one block, one mile, they walk for a bit and then push on for the next. Who can say that person isn’t a runner? Sure, they might not be fast, but they are running.

If you think people aren’t runners if they need to walk, then you are consigning a huge number of people to the wayside. And you probably either need to check your own ego, or have a bit more self respect and confidence.
First off – “ego”. If you think other people are only real runners if they don’t walk, get over yourself. Anyone who has completed any PR distance while running is a runner. Because someone completed a marathon and walked half of it are they not a runner? If you still say “no” then I’m sorry, I think you’re a w&%#€r.
Secondly – “self confidence and respect”. If you think you’re not a runner because you need to take walk breaks, pucker up and stop being so hard on yourself. A lot of people who need to walk when running do so because they can’t run the whole distance, and for some reason means ‘failure’ for them. It’s not a failure, it’s just what you need to do to make the distance. You still laced up and went running, so be confident to call yourself a runner.

I don’t know who first said this, but its an apt way to sign off:
“I’ve met fast runners and slow runners. But I’ve never met a fake runner”.

Now, I’m off for my long run. It’s a rainy day in York and I’m lacing up for a 26km run. And guess what, it’s a TLT session so I’ve got planned 3 minute walk breaks between tempo sessions. Anyone care to tell me I’m not a runner?

Happy running (and walking) everyone!
Get Going, Get Running!

Run with an Idea #3 : Juice cleanse – healthy or hype?

Fresh vegetable juices on wooden table, on green background

Me: I’m on the “seafood” diet.
Friend: really, what’s that?
Me: I see food and I eat it.

Ha ha. Hardy-ha-ha…

It’s a perennial joke but it pretty much sums me up. So when Carrie and Christine from Run with an Idea decided to tackle the recent diet phenomenon of juice cleanses I didn’t really feel qualified to discuss it from the point of view of someone who had tried a juice cleanse, or even the point of view of someone who was even likely to try it. The reason? I’m a sceptic.

So why am I a sceptic?

I was brought up by parents who never went on a diet, they just managed their weight (and that of my siblings and I) through sensible eating and exercise, and this has obviously rubbed off on me. I also think that despite all our recent advances; the human body is not very different from those of our ancestors. And I’m not talking grandma or grandpa, I’m talking about thousands of years ago where food was restricted to what you caught, picked or could grow.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I’m a ‘paleo eater’ or ‘raw food’ eater or anything, I just tend to stay away from foods, and especially diets, which could not have existed way back when. Don’t worry; I’m no saint either. I eat McDonald’s. I generally have pizza once a week. I snack on potato chips once in a while. I’ll gobble a Mars bar during a round of golf or after a long run. And shock horror, I drink alcohol, and worse, Coke.  But in between I eat sensibly, and make sure I eat sensible portions, balanced with a good level of exercise.

The way I look at it is that if you choose a diet where you need to radically alter your eating habits from what you normally do, and from what humans have been doing for thousands of years, then it is unlikely to have much benefit, certainly over the long term. My litmus test is this : Could you live only on that diet for a year? If not, then you’re doing something wrong. A juice diet is going to consist of mainly fruit and veg, so would be lacking in protein and essential fats. We aren’t hummingbirds with a need for a high-carb low-protein diet, and I reckon if we were meant to eat everything in liquid form we would have evolved with a proboscis.

Enough scepticism. Are there benefits to a juice cleanse?

One common thread that seems to appear when reading about juice cleanses is weight loss, and sometimes lots of weight loss. I don’t doubt this would happen. Generally speaking a diet of juice is going to have a lower daily energy intake than one which includes grains or starchy foods, or junk food, and it would be virtually free from saturated fat. However, if you are running a daily calorie deficit through lower energy intake, then you are ‘fasting’, and the natural outcome will be to lose weight. This would be the same for any diet where daily calorie intake is lower than expenditure, although I concede that juicing will give you all your vitamins and minerals you need which many other ‘calorie deficit’ diets do not. For me, as someone who (luckily) doesn’t need to lose weight, this means I am already in carbohydrate-balance. Therefore, a juice cleanse/fast could leave me significantly under my required calorie intake, impacting on my ability to work and exercise as I like to.

People also talk of ‘detox’ a lot when talking about juice diets. I’m sure a juice diet would help cleanse you, and so long as you have a varied intake of different fruits and veg, most of your vitamin and fibre requirements would be met. However, my inner sceptic tells me that so would drinking enough water and not putting the toxins into your body in the first place. Everything in moderation, and all that…

So, I’m still a sceptic. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, it just means I don’t think it would work for me, or for most people. However, for the other side of the coin check out Neil’s post on the subject. Juicing changed his life and he continues to juice daily including regular juice fasts. It certainly works for him.

Would I try a juice cleanse? Not for me, thanks. I’ll stick to a balanced diet with more good stuff than bad, all balanced to my level of exercise.

Are any of you ‘juicers’? Who has tried a juice cleanse and what did you think of it? How did it affect you?

Happy running everyone!


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Run with an Idea #2 : Race Fees – Would you pay £50 for a 10km?


This is the second topic for Run with an Idea, a bi-weekly blogging debate about health and fitness issues. The first topic about the “The Olympics one year on” certainly generated some good discussion and opinions.

This week’s debate topic is about race fees, and “Would you pay £50 for a 10km?”

My answer: “Yes, I would.”

Would I pay £50 for every 10k race? No, I wouldn’t.

£50 is a lot of money for a 10k race, but there are many races out there that cost that much and many thousands of people have run them. Including me.

How much is too much? I think it is a personal decision. It all comes down to what the individual perceives they are getting for their fees and if they think it is worth it.

Outside of the tangible items like medals, shirts, drinks, magazines, energy bars etc –what I call the ‘swag’ (cut me some slack, I’m an Aussie) – there are the intangible items like where the race is run, the scenery, the people taking part, and most importantly, that person’s relationship to the race – the reason they are running.

For me, it is these intangible benefits that inform most of my decision making about a race and the fees. If I feel I’m getting increased ‘benefits’ from a race, I’ll gladly pay more for the opportunity to run in it. If it comes with a good swag, then all the better. But I wouldn’t run a race just for the ‘swag’.

Conversely, if I think the race is too expensive for the ‘benefits’, then I have the choice not to run in it. With the growing popularity in running, and especially in racing 5k and 10k races, it is a bit of a ‘buyers market’. Race organisers need to balance what it costs them to organise, hold and administer a race, with what people are actually willing to pay for their event. Too little fees and they can’t put on a good event, or they go out of business, too much fees and they run the risk of people feeling they aren’t getting good value and subscriptions will drop.

If I see a race I am interested in, but the fees seem high, I speak to people I know who have run the same race, or read reviews of the races online to see what people are saying about their race experience to help inform my decision.

So far I’ve never run a race where I felt that the fees were too much for the whole experience and *crosses fingers* I hope my good luck continues, and I hope yours does too!

If you think £50 is too high for a 10km, or if you have an experience of a race where you thought the cost outweighed the ‘benefits’, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Happy racing!


Get Going, Get Running

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