Running and Digestive Health

I don’t know about you, but I imagine I’m not the only runner who has suffered from GI distress in the past. I rarely suffer with gut problems on the run, but lately I’ve been suffering from a lot of bloating, and I’m almost sure it’s related to marathon training and the stress that comes with it.

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So how does running affect our digestive health?

When running we are diverting blood flow away from the GI tract to the muscles, and the longer the run, the longer the GI tract is deprived of it’s usual blood flow. Dehydration and just the simple effect of gravity and bounding around can also impact our digestion. During this marathon training period, I have really been suffering from poor digestion, and a lot of bloating, with things just not feeling right, thankfully Viridian came to my rescue and sent me one of their new digestive health products the Synbiotic Procare.

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Synbiotic ProCare is a blend of four well known strains of probiotic Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, each strain was chosen through a unique process designed to identify the strongest and most clinically effective probiotic strains. It provides 12.5 billion viable good bacteria count per capsule and is dairy-free.

What are the benefits of probiotics?

Our gut is home to an immense population of bacteria. Some 100 trillion bacteria populate the human gut, a number that is 10 times greater than the number of cells in the human body. Are we more bacteria than human?! There are around 400 species of bacteria in the gut. It is critical to the maintenance of human health that a balance is preserved between these species, and this is where a probiotic can help, to reset the balance between good and bad bacteria. By addressing this balance, they can help with digestive health, and also boost the immune system, of which about 70% is housed within the gut.

I’ve taken probiotics before, and they have helped with my hayfever, and I like to take them for an immune boost during marathon training. The Synbiotic Procare and it’s specific strains are most suitable for those with IBS-type symptoms. It sorted out most of my digestive issues within a week or so of taking it, and I’ve already noticed a difference when I’ve stopped taking it. I took 2 capsules a day at night, so the supply lasted just over 2 weeks, although if you take 1 capsule a day it would last a month. I like this product because it doesn’t contain the prebiotic fructooligosaccharide (FOS) which can in some people exacerbate the digestive problems.

I think my digestive issues have been caused by marathon training stress, and as well as trying to get more restful sleep, and incorporating relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation to help with healthy digestion, this product has certainly given me a boost. I will definitely look into using it in future training cycles, to ensure my digestion is in tip-top shape.

Thames Meander Marathon

Indifferent. That is how I felt about this race. I couldn’t say I was particularly looking forward to it, excited or even scared, perhaps marathon fatigued after three last year. I don’t know if this was because I was busy working the days before rather than resting up-perks of a race being on a Saturday…not. For a while, I had just wanted to get this race out of the way, so I could take some time off running, burnt out, run down, string of injuries and high stress with studying and working meant I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this race as much as I did. I had a deep tissue massage mid week to try and alleviate the stiffness and soreness in my legs, but if anything it made me more sore, and made my leg look like this:

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The race was a combined marathon and a half, with us marathoners setting off 30 minutes before the half, but going on a slightly different initial loop and then going back past the start. I thought I had never run in this part of the world before, but once we got going I realised I had run this route on my London 2 Brighton ultra last year!

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It’s a lovely route along the Thames path, a mix of trail and road, and thankfully as the weather had been good it was pretty hard packed. When I did the ultra last year it was completely flooded and very muddy. It was a small field of under 300 runners for both races, which was a nice change from big city races, I always enjoy the atmosphere and the chat with other runners in smaller races.

After a few miles the fastest half marathoners started to overtake us, the path was fairly busy with other runners, cyclists, walkers and later on near the rowing clubs absolutely heaving with people and rowing boats- it was actually like an obstacle course in places. It was well sign posted though so easy to stay on track, although I saw quite a few half runners go way past the half turning point and have to turn around. After about 8 miles the half runners turned back and we were off on our own, I always had at least one person in sight in-front and behind me, we were like a steady stream of individual runners, exhanging a nod or quick hello.

I felt absolutely shit for the first 9 miles, my legs were heavy and sluggish, I was trying to figure out and understand what was going on with them, I’m hoping some blood work later in the month will help me discover that, as they just don’t feel right. I was really concerned that it was going to be a long, tough slog, although they started to improve from mile 9 onwards. I didn’t listen to music or anything at all for the entire race, preferring the peaceful sound of the river beside me.

After massively overdressing for the Brighton half and the mild temperatures lately I went for minimialism, but I was absolutely freezing, I didn’t wear gloves, and I was absolutely numb. There was a horribly bitter headwind, and I had to audibly say I was freezing to myself so many times.
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I had my Garmin, but I ran the whole race on feel, not trying to hit any splits or anything like that, just pushing harder when I felt decent, and easing back when I didn’t, looking at my pace post race, it was incredibly consistent. I felt solid the entire way through the race, I never felt like I was pushing the pace at all, in fact I felt like I ran the whole race in a very controlled way, I hesitate to say I ran it well within myself, but on reflection (as usual) I felt like I could have given it a lot more, but I wanted to enjoy it, and that is what I did.

At one point around 18-19 miles, a lady came past me who I remembered from the Rail to Trail Essex, it was nice to catch up with her and have a good chat for a bit, and it gave me a bit of a boost. She was actually the only person who passed me from about the 8-9 mile point until the finish, I passed a lot of people in the second half though, which gave me a boost.

My legs were gone from about mile 21, they were getting even heavier, but I was determined to not stop at all through this race, not even for a second, and I didn’t want to blow up in the final quarter like all my other marathons. I did slow in the last 6 miles, but not considerably, in fact my only miles that weren’t under 10 mins were the last 2. The last 6 miles were tough, I had to break it down into how many parkruns or part of a parkruns left.

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I finished in 4.15.26, I didn’t realise I was so close to sub 4.15 or I might have found a little extra in the legs for the last 2 miles! I was more than glad to be done though, crossing the line to a beautifully chunky medal. My brother turned up on his bike to watch about 3 mins after I finished- I should have run a bit slower haha.

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I loved the race, although I hesitate to call it that, it was more like a glorified training run, with a bit more chat and banter. I enjoy running alone and running in beautiful places, so I enjoyed the route, but it was a big change from the big city races if that is your thing. I like that it was less crowded, flat as a pancake, had amazingly well stocked aid stations along the route-including loads of fruit/cakes etc at the finish-and very well organised. I would definitely recommend it, and they run it three times throughout the year I think, although maybe not as your first marathon.

I’m not sure I will run another marathon this year, I had all these grand plans to do an ultra, but honestly I enjoyed my running so much more when I was just doing the run streak and not training for anything. I’ve had more injuries during this training, a load of health issues which I’m trying to get to the bottom of, and I just think my body is telling me to take a break for a while- I can almost guarantee I will be doing the opposite of this in two weeks time, but I need to be sensible and just go with how the body feels, time to rest up for a little bit!

Favourite Reads of the week

I haven’t done a round up post in over a month- oops where did Feb go?! Just dropping in very quickly as I’m laid up in bed nursing a hideous cold/flu, and shall shortly be commencing house of card day- which I don’t feel guilty about doing at all in my current state!

Here are some awesome (and not so awesome) things I have read/seen/heard over the last few weeks:

live below the line porridge
London’s first Porridge cafe is opening in March. As a huge porridge fan I have to say I am majorly excited for this!

This short video on Marathon Man Rob Young. I met Rob at the Trailscape event in Essex, and he’s an absolutely top bloke. What he is doing is just incredible, and if you haven’t yet read or his story or donated to support his chosen charity’s, I urge you to do so.

What I don’t like: The Guardian yet again ‘debunking’ health claims. I don’t like the standpoint that sees every single thing needs to be backed up by science, ignoring our own or others experience within the world. Company’s who produce so called ‘superfoods’ are not in the pockets of big pharma and so can’t afford to undertake incredibly expensive clinical trials on their products, this doesn’t mean that consuming them is some how less beneficial just because there is no research to back them up. I believe we need to question everything out there, and the best way to see what works is to try it and to find out stuff for ourselves. What I most objected to it in the article is the statement that people should listen to the standard dietary advice coming out from health boards, doctors and the listed charity’s as that is to a point responsible for everything that is wrong with the UK’s appalling state of health today.

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This article on Organic Burst on what to watch out for in your supplements. This is why I always advise people to go for food first and not to skimp when buying vitamins, and avoid the crap that’s in the supermarkets and a certain chain of health food stores. They are just full of fillers, binders and other rubbish. My favourite good quality natural ethical brands are Viridian and Terranova.

Great story about ultra running legend Ann Trason An incredibly inspirational and courageous woman.

I’m absolutely loving catching up with all the back episodes of the Rich Roll podcast, they are incredibly inspiring and make a great listen on your commute or during a workout.

Lastly, Liz’s post on why it’s ok to be different.

Happy Weekend folks!

Thoughts during 13.1

On Sunday I ran the Brighton half, it was my first time running the race and I was excited having heard rave things from those running it last year and also a little nervous at how my shin/calf would hold up after 18 miles less than 48 hours previously and the return of a little bit of niggly calf/shin pain that morning. I had a great race, here is my race report, in the form of mental chatter:

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Bloody hell it’s icy, hope I don’t slip over.

Oh great my camelbak has leaked all over my shorts and headband, making it looked like I’ve either fallen over in aforementioned ice or had an accident of other sorts.

Am I overdressed, it’s quite warm, I think I’m overdressed. Should of gone without the jacket.

Bloody hell I’m so far back in the pens I can’t even see the 2.00 pacer.

I don’t want to see the two hour pacer anyway, I want to run my own race.

Here we go then, it’s race time, come on legs.

Shall I try and run a sub 2, I’ve done no speed work in ages, and have lost a bit of endurance after my recent injury hiatus, sod it let’s see what we can do.

Shit this is a bit congested, going to have to make this time up later.

Actually that’s not a bad pace for the first mile considering the congestion.

Oh there is Tess, bit early for a high five but I’m going in for one.

I need to run 9.09 min miles for a sub 2, let’s try and put the hammer down early and bank some time for later.

Man I love the seaside.

I thought this course was flat?

Hmm that’s not a bad mile time considering the uphill section, what goes up must come down.

Oh wow those people are super speedy, I wonder how Steph is getting on, on her PB quest and if I will see her going past.

I’ve overdressed, I’m so hot, I can’t take my jacket off as my number is pinned on. Why didn’t I just wear shorts, I’ve worn shorts all winter.

Down to single figures in mileage.

Hm this is going rather well.

Ok I’m going to count the miles up to 7 and then count them down.

Bet the fast people are finished by now.

Jesus this is a really bloody long mile, oh there’s the mile marker.

Hm legs starting to feel a bit shit on any slight incline, just try and hold the pace and try and run as close to 9.00 min miles as possible, and pick it up when they feel better.

Oh there’s the 12 mile marker, cannot wait to see that later.

Oh it’s George’s 80th, I wonder who George is and if he is running. That is awesome if he is.

Ok that was my slowest mile but it was still under the 9.09 min cut off and I’ve banked some time, I might do this, I just need to hold on.

No negative thoughts, go away.

Why is the arch of my foot hurting?

Not sure the stomach is feeling massively ok, please hold out.

I’ll have a bit of nakd bar, that might settle my stomach.

Hm, this is getting harder now, just need to see through these middle miles.

God I wish I hadn’t run 18 miles on Friday.

Oh there is Lucy, it’s nice to see so many familiar faces.

Just get to the turn around point and we are on the home straight.

Wow this is actually just one really long road.

God I’m so hot, this is ridiculous. I’m roasting.

I quite fancy a pint.

I’m pretty sure that guy just cheated, you’re only cheating yourself.

Just a parkrun to go.

I haven’t drunk much water, but I don’t want my stomach to feel all sloshy.

Bit more nakd bar, I’m going to have a little bite of it every 0.5 mile.

18 minutes max to go, I would have to have an epic fail to mess this up now.

Hmm I wonder how far under sub 2 I can go.

If I run a 10 min last mile I will beat my pb. Do-able.

Is this the longest last mile ever?

Great crowd turn out in the centre, where the bloody hell is the finish?

Let’s finish this, I’m going to get a bloody PB.

Sprint, every second counts.
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1.57.27, how the hell did that happen?

Shit I just ran a PB after missing a few weeks training, a really heavy mileage week and not being in the best shape ever, does that mean I can go faster?
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I don’t really want to go faster, I like a plod, do I want to run any faster?

Nice medal, shame about the goody bag.

God I wish I didn’t have a replacement bib, I’m at the furthest bag drop away.

Oh dear god, stairs of death.

Bloody hell, I’m absolutely freezing.

Give me all your Vegan food. Oh brilliant runner portion. Yes I am going to eat all of that, I’ve just run 13 miles and I am hangry.

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Favourite reads of the week #10

I’ve been slacking on my link round up posts lately. I just seem to have absolutely no time (must stop procrastinating!), with an impending exam and extra hours at work, thank god I didn’t have any marathon training to worry about for the last two weeks- injury blessing in disguise! Here are my favourite reads from the last few weeks:

Five reasons why we should all learn to do nothing. I’ve talked a lot lately about really struggling with this concept of just being, and feeling comfortable doing nothing. I’ve not really done enough of this over the last few years but since studying nutrition and doing my own reading/listening to health and nutrition articles and podcasts I’m starting to realise how important down time is in terms of adrenal stress, hormones, nervous system etc. I will be trying to get myself into having more relaxation time.

“Resisting the urge to do something takes willpower”

This article in Trail Runner about the link between running and eating disorders. I am not surprised of the link between the two, I think a certain type of personality gravitates towards each, and certainly there are a lot of crossover traits like motivation, discipline and striving for perfection. Although I think it can be an issue for many runners, on the flip side it can also be a valuable tool for recovery.

This post on the benefits of not racing. I massively enjoyed my running when I wasn’t training for anything and was just streaking. For some reason whenever I train for a race I get injured, maybe I should take a racing break!

This interesting take on why 20 mile marathon training runs might not suit all of us. Having not run over 13 miles for 2 of my 3 marathons last year (thanks injury!), it seems like it’s been a long time since I actually did a seriously long training run! I have done three 16 milers so far in this training cycle before the injury, and perhaps that is enough for me. I think like anything in health, nutrition or fitness you can’t put a figure out there and say that will suit everybody , we are all different, and all need to approach training in ways that are best for us.

A gradual approach to healthy eating from Leo at Zen habits. I’m really getting into taking small steps towards making changes lately, like taking part in Laura’s 5 min yoga a day challenge. I think ultimately small steps can lead to big change and I think these are really good tips if you want to improve your diet.

This great post from Twins in Trainers debunking that ridiculous lots of jogging is bad for you article doing the rounds in the national press. It’s so frustrating when the media take research out of context, as the majority of the people will not go and look at the original study and just take what the media say as gospel.

Lastly with pancake day fast approaching check out this delicious protein pancake recipe from my fellow plant powered friends at Veggie Runners.