Running essentials – supplements

Supplements are a bit of a contested issue, thanks to the flogging of many, many supplements that have no evidence of improving anything. Because supplements aren’t registered as drugs, they are often allowed to be sold even when they do not have any strong evidence of their effects, and are only removed if deemed unsafe. However, there are a few supplements (especially if you include sports supplements) that have some proven benefits, and others that are strongly recommended for certain groups of people. I try to stick with supplements that have proven benefits, although with sports supplements the evidence is usually a bit mixed, if if you’re looking to take something new make sure you’ve done your research!

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Some supplements are necessary if you live a certain lifestyle. Pic by Caylee Hankins.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is produced in our bodies when our skin is exposed to sunlight, but sometimes in northern latitudes (hello UK) the amount we can get during the day is not sufficient to keep reserves topped up. It is recommended that everyone in the UK (or further north) takes vitamin D to contribute to bone and muscle health. The darker your skin and the less sunlight your country gets, the more likely you are to be deficient in vitamin D. Supplements are not strictly necessary if you have a varied diet, but for me I find vitamin D supplement helpful, especially in winter! I also have a sun lamp that I use to work under in the morning. Don’t fancy supplements? Beanies have produced a coffee with vitamin D in it! Liquid sunshine 🙂

Iron 

Iron supplements have been recommended for people who choose a vegetarian or vegan diet, especially women. It is possible to get all the iron you need from these diets, but a supplement can help, especially if you are prone to anaemia. Foods such as pulses, nuts, left green vegetables, wholegrains and fortified cereals are high in iron. Even though I have a varied diet I find it helpful to take iron supplements to support my very active lifestyle.

B12

Vitamin B12 is a little contentious in the vegan community with some saying it can be found in adequate amounts in foods such as seaweed, and others saying vegans should definitely supplement their diets. Even according to the Vegan Society, “The only reliable vegan sources of B12 are foods fortified with B12 (including some plant milks, some soy products and some breakfast cereals) and B12 supplements”. Since the effects of chronic B12 deficiency are so severe (e.g. irreparable nervous system damage), I find it helpful to supplement with B12. Some plant based milks and cereals are fortified, but I’d rather be safe than sorry!

Beta-alanine

Not a vitamin supplement but a sport performance booster. Purported benefits include improving exercise capacity, building lean muscle mass and improving physical functions in the elderly. I swear by beta alanine in my shorter distance races and strength-based exercises, but only take it very infrequently. Read my post on sports supplements and the evidence behind them if you’re looking to try any!

Sleep supplement

After a busy day and late events, I often (always) find it very difficult to switch off and go to sleep. Even knowing I have to get up early doesn’t always deter me from staying up late. I started taking Motion Nutrition’s ‘Unplug’ supplement a couple of months ago and found a marked difference when taking it around 30 – 45 minutes before I wanted to sleep. I go into the ingredients and how they could be helpful in this post if you want to read up on the science behind it.

 

Knowledge is power.

Running essentials – gear

Hi everyone! I get asked (pretty much on a daily basis now) what gear I’m using to train for the Tokyo marathon, from shoes, to leggings that don’t fall down, to fitness watch. So here I’ll share my absolute faves.

Tops

This mid layer from Underarmour is a godsend in the cold. I have many versions of this, but for this weather I’ve not found anything more comfy!

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Under all your gear you’ll want a base layer for warmth and moisture wicking. This one from Asics does the job nicely.

Bra

A good, well fitted sports bra is of vital importance when it comes to running. I love this one by Underarmour and this one by Asics as featured in my latest vlog.

Leggings

The most important thing for me when choosing leggings is that they don’t fall down when I run. Second most important thing is that they don’t get sweaty and make me cold when I’m outside. I have a couple of favourites that smash both of these elements!

These coldgear leggings from Underarmour are perfect for colder runs. They’re super soft and a little thicker than my usual legging, so great for this time of year.

Alternatively, my all time favourite running leggings come from technical brand 2XU. They’re not cheap, but if you’ve ever raced, you’ll see a large proportion of the runners wearing this brand and for good reason – they’re fab! The compression technology also promises to deliver you faster times and less muscle soreness (I did indeed get both my 5k and 10k pbs in the leggings). I couldn’t find the exact ones I have (they’re old) but here are the same type in another pattern!

Socks

Socks are easy to forget when it comes to running, but when you start to run further the importance of a good sock becomes very evident. My favourite brand is Stance, so have specific socks for all kinds of activities. Again, not cheap, but fully worth it.

Shoes

Potentially the most important thing when it comes to running – shoes! Because we all run slightly differently, a shoe that works for me might not be a shoe that works for you. However since I have a neutral stride and wear a neutral shoe, chances are it’ll be great for a large proportion of you!

My all time favourite running shoe is the Gel Nimbus 20 from Asics in Platinum. Most colours are also reduced, but get in there fast – they’re selling out!

Alternatively, if you’re planning on running off-road/in muddy places, a good trail running shoe makes all the difference. They’re also great if you don’t want to invest in cross-country spikes but need some extra grip. These shoes from Columbia can be raced right out of the box (they gave me no blisters on a wet and muddy 23km trail race) and will keep your feet dry for the most part. I can’t find them in my colour but you can find other colours here.

Rucksack

I don’t think people realise how useful a running rucksack is until they have one, at which point it becomes invaluable. Whether for holding gels, water or extra layers (usually all of the above for me), it’s just so useful to have with you on every run. This is my all time favourite from Columbia – however, if you’re much smaller than me and not wearing lots of layers, it may sit a little big.

Watch

I used to use the Fitbit Versa (for about 8 months) before it broke. I was impressed with the heart rate sensor and ease of use, but when it came to running it really let me down, cutting off as much as 10% off any route due to poor GPS. I hope new Fitbits have better sensors! I’m now looking at the Garmin Forerunner collection which is unfortunately obscenely expensive. But when it comes to running, Garmin and Polar definitely lead the way!

 

Three things I’ve learned from marathon training

There’s something about marathon training that teaches you a lot, both about yourself and also about the human psyche. Perhaps it’s the necessity of having hours with only your own thoughts as you pound the pavement (almost by definition of training for a marathon), but I’ve been thinking a lot about what marathon training is teaching me about myself and others who do the same. Here are a few of the things. No doubt I’ll learn more as my training picks up for the next four weeks.

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Early morning runs are truly special, but it doesn’t mean I enjoy them

I can run
It’s an on-going joke with my boyfriend that as soon as I get into running, I injure myself, and that anything above a 5k might as well be a marathon. It’s been pretty awesome to realise that a lot of that fear of running far is in my head. Sure, injuries are physical, but the fear that we so often get after an injury/accident can be significantly more debilitating than the injury itself. Three years on from my chronic IT band pain I was still apprehensive about running further than 10km for fear of being set back years. But with the right amount of rest, the right shoes and right training plan, I have (touch wood) really impressed myself with not only the fact that I CAN run far (I recently did my first 10k race and half marathon), but that I’m finally allowing myself to enjoy it, and I think that’s something to be celebrated.

 

I’m lazier than I thought
I say this partly in jest. It is perfectly normal to put off tasks that, let’s face it, are not necessarily as appealing as sitting in bed watching prison break. Procrastination can sometimes get to the point where it’s actually too late to do something anymore, and you end up not doing it because you’ve put it off for so long and the moment has passed. People ask me how I stay so motivated and the reality is, I am not always motivated. I have discipline and enjoyment, and both these things have always been enough to get me to the gym or to boxing on time. However, with running it’s different. Running is not something I naturally love every second of, so it takes that little bit more energy to get myself outside in the cold (and often dark) outdoors to do my training for the day. BUT what I have discovered is that my discipline is very much in check. I haven’t missed a training day (although I have postponed a couple to fit with my schedule) and I am proud of that. As Adrienne says ‘you can do hard things’, and it’s blooming cool to realise that I can.

 

People who constantly run marathons are somewhere between sadists and gods
Marathon training is really, really hard. It’s not just that each run is difficult (although lots of them are), it’s also that you have to consistently push yourself harder, and there’s not really any possibility of settling into a routine during training. People who frequently put themselves through this baffle me, and I have continuing respect (and a little fear) for them all. And yet the sense of community when you find someone else who is also running a marathon is also incredible, so I can see how people become addicted. Pushing physical boundaries alongside thousands of other people has to be one of the most incredible experiences ever, and I’m excited to be a part of that, no matter how painful it is getting there.

I would love to hear what you learned as part of your training! Whether it’s for a marathon, cross-fit competition or your first 5k – it’s all valid!

8 vegan influencers to follow this Veganuary

With veganuary firmly underway, it’s good to have a little inspiration on your Instagram feed. There are plenty of huge food-based accounts dedicated to sharing vegan recipes, but my favourite accounts are always those with a face behind them. So without further ado here are some of my favourite plant-based instagrammers to follow.

 

Clare – @Thelittlelondonvegan

I started following Clare a long time ago for her beautifully colourful feed and excellent restaurant recommendations. If you’re not London based the photos are still beautiful, but if you are London based, her account will provide you with lots of information on the best vegan options around London. Expect plenty of colour, lots of smiles and terrible puns in the captions. Love.

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Hannah – @vegan.han

If you’re looking for easy home cooking inspiration, Hannah is your girl. She also reviews a number of plant based meat replacements etc., so that you don’t have to go through the pain of trying the worst ones. I’ve also done a little YouTube on this complete with recipes! Follow Hannah for easy meals, reviews and really sweet Instagram stories.

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Immy – @sustainably_vegan

I featured Immy in my ‘eco influencers to follow’ post, for her work with sustainable brands and because she founded the Low Impact Movement (which has plenty of delicious recipes!). However, she fits firmly into the category of excellent plant-based blogger too, and for that she is making a second appearance. Unlike the previous two bloggers, her personal page is not food-based (although does include plenty) but includes lots of advice on how to live a low-impact lifestyle, including being plant-based! Follow both her accounts.

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Laura – @thefirstmess

Laura is pretty well known, with over 235k followers taking inspiration from her beautiful looking creations. She has already released a cook book, which is testament to her prowess in the kitchen, but if you don’t want to fork out (no pun intended), she also provides a myriad of recipes, for free, on her blog. So no excuses for hummus and toast everyday (I’m talking as much to myself as anyone else)!

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Helen – @theplantbasedbella

It took me a year to come to terms with the fact that Bella is, in fact, called Helen, and presumably the word Bella refers to her beauty. Beauty and name aside, on her Instagram Helen shares her life as a psychotherapist, baby mama (with her adorable daughter) and recipe goddess. Definitely one to follow for very real #lifegoals, especially if you’re a mother! Head to her blog for more recipes.

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Sophia – @sophiaesperanza

Sophia isn’t exactly a well kept secret in the vegan community, but if you’ve never heard of her, get on it now! Whilst most of her images are modelling photos (not that we’re complaining), she also shares some educational posts and stories re the meat/dairy industry. Follow for beautiful photos, animal videos and saving farm animals.

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James – @jamesaspey

Youtuber and Instagrammer James is no stranger to the limelight, having done speeches to over 30m people on veganism. He has also gone undercover at many farms and slaughterhouses to show exactly what goes on in these places. A lot of it is hard-hitting stuff, between which he often shares recipes (mainly on his YouTube, I believe). Not for the faint hearted, but I do think that anyone who is interested in continuing to eat meat/wear fur etc should at least know where their food is coming from, and James certainly makes that very obvious.

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Flora – @foodfitnessflora

Is it cheating if I put my own name in here? I asked a friend who their favourite plant-based instagrammer was, and my name was the only one that I’ve not already got on this list, so here I am! My goal is to show that eating a vegan diet doesn’t need to be restrictive, boring or tasteless, and I try to use my blog to share delicious (and easy, and cheap) recipes with you all. Follow for plenty of fitness (yes it is possible to be super fit and eat a vegan diet), recipes and sustainable living inspo.

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I hope you found this list helpful! There are so many amazing vegan bloggers/youtubers/instagrammers out there, this is just a little list of a few of them! I would love to hear some of your favourites, as well as how your Veganuary is going, and whether you plan to keep it up! Lots of love 🙂

3 ways to reduce your climate impact

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to facts about climate change. We’re told left right and centre about the inevitable demise of the natural world, and let’s face it, sometimes it makes you just want to throw your hands up in despair and just assume that nothing you do could make the slightest bit of difference. However, the facts say otherwise. Small changes done everyday (especially by the ‘worst offenders’ when it comes to carbon footprint i.e. the people who probably won’t be reading this post) are enough to make small changes. Back in 2003, the Environment Agency reported that small efforts made by a sufficiently large number of people can make a big difference. For example, if every driver took one fewer car journey a week, average nine miles, it would cut carbon dioxide emissions from traffic by 13%.

Barbara Young, the agency’s chief executive, said: “Some aspects of the UK’s environment are improving. Air and water quality is better now than it has been for decades.

“The 20th century’s peasouper smogs and toxic rivers are gone for good. But in some areas progress is slower. And some things are getting worse. If we all resolve to do something where we live for a healthier environment, then together we can make a difference.”

Of course, it is important for governments and policy makers to take action, rather than allowing environmental issues to be marginalised in favour of unsustainable economic policies. However, we don’t need to wait for the law to catch up with what we already know – here are five simple ways youcan reduce your environmental impact every single day!

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Eat less meat

It’s now widely acceptedthat the agricultural industry has some of the biggest negative impacts on our climate today. Feeding over 7 billion people who have an increasing hunger for meat is hard, and it’s taking its toll on our planet and our health.

Reducing your meat and dairy consumption could be the best way to reduce your impact on the environment. New research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world.

The impact of meat on the environment goes far beyond the greenhouse gas emissions too: loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife, and animal husbandry worldwide leads to environmental degradation through over-grazing, eutrophication, excess water usage and deforestation.

Luckily, in the west we are incredibly lucky to have alternative options to meat and dairy. Substitutes such as tofu and quorn are far less damaging than meat, and are being created to satisfy even the most avid meat lover. Giving up all meat and dairy is the ideal, but even without giving it up entirely it is possible to make a difference. Red meat is the worst culprit, so should be the first to go, followed by lamb and crustaceans (things like crab, prawn, shrimp etc.). It’s easy to make a difference when you make small changes everyday, like choosing vegetarian meals and only having white meat twice a week. The world will thank you and so will your body.

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An interesting graphic to show the impact (in terms of greenhouse gases) our food has

 

Use less plastic

An obvious but important one. In 2018 the European Parliament voted for a complete banon a range of single-use plastics, such as straws, plastic bags and cotton buds. The move was aimed at reducing our impact on our oceans, and targeted plastic products that have either reusable of non-plastic alternatives.

An estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the world’s oceans annually. Since they don’t break down, this is becoming a huge issue in our oceans globally. 8 million tonnes is hard to imagine, so picture this: there is expected to be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050. Wow.

So what can you do? Read this post on how to reduce your plastic consumption, including alternatives for some of the worst offenders.

Examples include always keeping a coffee cup in your bag instead of using takeaway cups, and paying attention to the makeup products you use, since many made overseas (outside the UK) contain microplastics. Giving up fish could also have a knock-on effect on your plastic consumption, since 27% of all plastics found on beaches are washed up fishing gear. Less fish consumption = less fish caught = happier oceans with less plastic in. It’s all about awareness, so being away of the impact of your actions is the first step. The next step is doing something about it!

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The depressing reality of the impact of plastic

 

Pay attention to your clothes

The fashion industry contributes to 8% of global gas emissions yearly. It’s a huge industry that we allbuy into. However, rather than viewing this as a negative, it also means that we can all make a difference every single day with our purchases and decisions. Today we are buying 4x the amount of clothes we were 10 years ago, and wearing them for half the time. This means that fashion is becoming increasingly unsustainable and with the rise of fast fashion it’s incredibly popular to have a constantly new wardrobe, rather that respecting and re-wearing our clothes as we did when they cost a lot more.

In addition, washing our clothes as much as we do releases microplastics into the ocean – the fashion industry is the second largest contributor of plastic to our oceans. This is subsequently consumed by fish, which ironically, a lot of us still eat. So technically, we are eating the remnants of our clothes, which is fun.

The good news is that there are other ways of living and stil wearing fashionable clothes. Buying from sustainable fashion labels can reduce the impact you have on the environment when you buy new clothes. However, purchasing new clothes still will always have an impact, so alternatives are still useful. Buying second-hand or borrowing clothes (e.g. via Wear the Walk, where you can rent your dream wardrobe for a fraction of the price of buying even one piece) for special occasions are two great options to reduce your impact. When you are finished with clothes, donate them to charity shops or swap with friends. Fresh new wardrobe, no waste. Win win! To clean your clothes (and make them last longer), try freezing them. The cold disinfects the clothes without washing out microplastics. Washing should be reserved for stains that you can’t remove by hand and done at the coldest temperature possible. These steps will also allow your beautiful, sustainable clothes to last longer too!

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Companies such as Wear The Walk allow you to have an almost endlessly rotating wardrobe without the climate impact of buying everything. Other companies are popping up left right and centre too!

 

If you’d like to hear more about the simple everyday changes you can make to reduce your carbon footprint and impact on the environment, listen to the BBC’s new radio series on everyday solutions to the climate crisis. Well worth a listen with many inspirational speakers!

Five workout misconceptions

If you don’t hurt, it’s not working

It’s common for muscles to feel sore after a workout (called DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness), but there’s a common misconception that if you don’t feel DOMS after a workout, then you didn’t workout hard enough. Firstly, everyone is different, so a good workout that causes DOMS in one person may not cause it in another. Chasing muscle soreness (essentially inflammation from the repair of microscopic tears in the muscle) can lead to injury. So whilst DOMS is a common side-effect of a hard workout (especially one that is new to your body), it’s not necessary to feel sore afterwards to know that it’s working!

 

Heavier weight = better workout

Strength training in any workout that provides resistance to your muscles. This is great for bone density and muscle growth, but the workouts don’t need to be in the form of heavy weights or resistance machines – smaller weights, kettlebells and medicine balls can be used with similar effect. Not got any weights? Gravity, resistance bands and your own body weight are great alternatives! Read why everyone should lift weights.

 

You can get abs by working your core

This is a bit of a loaded one, because what exactly do we mean by ‘get abs’? We all have core muscles, even when you can’t see them. Most people who want to ‘get abs’ mean ‘see ab definition’, which is a different ball-game. The common misconception is that if someone works out their abs a lot, they will develop a defined stomach area. Since ‘spot fat reduction’ is not a thing (i.e. you can’t lose fat specifically on one part of your body but not the rest), just training your abs won’t ‘give you abs’. The better option is to pair full-body functional training (which uses your core a lot) with a healthy diet. The result? A stronger core and lower overall body fat percentage, which could lead to a defined core (please also bear in mind that due to variation in genetics, some people will find it really difficult to achieve definition).

 

Every workout should leave you a sweaty mess

I absolutely love sweaty workouts. The more out of breath, the better, which is why I sometimes struggle with slower, more functional workouts. However, different workouts have different sweat-factors, i.e. lifting weights might not leave you as sweaty as a boxing session, but that doesn’t mean it was any less valuable to you. In fact, it is important to mix up your training – doing workouts that leave you 100% exhausted and a sweaty mess every time is a great way to lead to burnout and injury. Mix it up and don’t think of sweatiness as a marker of a good workout!

 

More workouts = better results

Obviously consistency is great when it comes to working out, and getting moving regularly is an important part of keeping healthy. However there is such thing as working out too much, and so more is not necessarily better. Recovery is at least as important as your training, and well-placed recovery days can help your muscles repair better, leading to greater improvements in your fitness/muscle strength.

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Image by @alittlepickmeup