In which knitting teaches me a lesson about running

This week I thought I’d gone off knitting. It was an unpleasant experience, not least because of the sense of panic about the two large crates of wool that live in the spare room and periodically spill out into the rest of the house (it’s like the War of the Worlds in the front sometimes).

It all started when I started to knit a scarf with some wool I picked up in Edinburgh. It’s a lovely pattern but I just couldn’t get into it (despite changing colours and restarting it what seemed like a hundred times). Meanwhile I had resumed my masterplan project (it’s lived with us so long that if we moved I would have to declare it as a sitting tennant). This is a thing of great beauty but is an unwieldy pain in the bum.

The problem was that after all this Serious Knitting, I was fed up and ready to hang up my needles. Obviously I didn’t. What I did was knit something small and silly as a Christmas present (I like to throw that out there to create a feeling of dread amongst my family…) and you know what? Within 24 hours I remembered that I bloody love knitting.

And how can I shoehorn this into a metaphor about running? Well, some days it’s very easy to get hung up on Serious Running and forget the joy of running for running’s sake. Go out and remember that feeling – it’s just like knitting a banana.

A not very scientific review

I am not injured. Generally speaking this is a good thing, but less so when I have been sent some Deep Heat products to try out. Had I been offered them a few weeks ago when my back was dodgy I would have been able to give all three products a good run for their money, but as it is I am relatively unscathed at the moment. Apart from my niggly hip (which serves as a reminder that a foam roller is for life, not just for recovery) and a patch of exczema under my right eye (which is not something that Deep Heat would be good for) I am fit and well.

The Deep Heat range

Luckily Unfortunately, Ginge’s back has been out of sorts this week and he very kindly offered to be a guinea pig in my own personal clinical trial.

The process of gaining informed consent was me ambushing Ginge over breakfast and there was little in the way of ethical approval (I have actually sat through an NHS ethics committee to get approval for my undergraduate dissertation, it was highly traumatic and made me cry. I don’t like to talk about it) (That’s a lie, I do like to talk about it because even 5 years on, I’m quite proud of myself for having done it).

In terms of selecting the sample, the inclusion criteria was that participants should be agreeable to being a little unclothed whilst I maul them a bit. After considering the risk of someone calling the police, I excluded everyone who was outside of our house. Therefore the inclusion criteria was “being married to me” (n=1). If a randomised controlled trial is the gold standard of research, this one was going to be nickel with a splash of decorative rhinestone.
The intervention was selected by me fanning out the three boxes (Deep Heat Max, Deep Relief and Deep Freeze) like a cardigan-wearing Debbie McGee and letting Ginge pick the one that he fancied trying (Deep Relief, which contains both ibuprofen and levomenthol to give a two-pronged attack on the pain). I did consider using a splodge of Colgate as a minty placebo, but realised that this was both unethical and a waste of toothpaste. Sadly we missed the opportunity to test the full efficacy of the product because even though the instructions clearly stated that it should be reapplied three times a day, someone was reluctant to ask his co-workers to assist with this (confidentiality prevents me revealing which participant this was).

The feedback from the study was good. In fact, to quote “it was really, really good”. From two local areas of pain (one more lumbar spine and the other just below his shoulder) the lower one was pain-free for the rest of the day and the other was better for 5 hours or so. His only criticism was that it didn’t seem to sink in properly and felt wet all day (this might have been to do with me putting it on five minutes before he left for work).

Due to the flaws in this study, further testing is required. Not wanting to be left out, I had a go with the Deep Heat Max before going out for yesterday’s run – I wasn’t troubled by my hip and I enjoyed a good run. As for the Deep Freeze, I actually used this when my back went because it was good for those mornings when I didn’t have the time to loll around with an ice pack. All three are going to get a place in the bathroom cupboard because inevitably my back will go again (I should really look at some preventative strengthening exercises) or something else will go twang in the future.

Deep Heat Rub provides fast relief from muscular aches and pains; you can use Deep Heat before exercising as part of your warm up regime, or 72 hours after an injury occurs to ease muscular aches. The rub uses heat therapy in a portable and easy to use format, and also contains eucalyptus oil and turpentine oil which help dilate local blood vessels, taking more heat, oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. Deep Heat rub comes in 35g, 67g and 100g sizes with RRPs of £2.34, £3.54 and £4.69 respectively.

Deep Freeze Gel is a fast-acting pain relieving gel that has a cooling action and analgesic properties. Use Deep Freeze Gel straight after injury as an ideal alternative to ice in the RICE technique; research shows that Deep Freeze Gel is better tolerated than ice for maintaining prolonged low skin temperature. Deep Freeze gel can also be used at various stages during the recovery of an injured muscle or joint. Deep Freeze Gel is available in 35g or 100g sizes and has an RRP of £2.25 and £4.36 respectively.

Deep Relief is a topical pain relief product containing 2 active ingredients: ibuprofen and levomenthol. Deep Relief acts on both inflammation and interrupting pain signals; levomenthol stimulates the nerves that perceive cold whilst suppressing the nerves that perceive pain, so less or no pain is felt.

You’ve got to pick a pocket or two

I am still a bit in love with my new purple tights. This is despite the fact that I have since  had a conversation that went something like “I saw you out running the other day.” “Oh yes?” ” You were wearing purple tracksuit bottoms that made your arse look big” (to be fair, this was from a man who has little room to give sartorial advice) (also, they are not ‘purple tracksuit bottoms’ they are in fact Blackberry Cord with Violet Tulip tights’) (also, my arse makes my arse look big – an inevitably large bottom was written in the stars of my paternal genes). This is the capri version (mine were from the New Balance factory shop so I suspect that they’re an end of line) modelled somewhat more stylishly than I could ever pull off.

DISCLAIMER: This might not be my actual bottom.

When I wore them the other day, I was a bit unnerved by the pocket on the back. Rather than being a secure, confidence giving, not going to lose my keys miles from home zip style, it’s just a folded over flap. Throughout my run, my hand kept straying to my lumbar spine, just checking that I would be able to get in the house when I had finished. I’m sure that it’s very secure and is definitely more secure than a few days later when I managed three miles with my keys bouncing around in an unzipped pocket. Ooops.

Maybe it’s  a woman thing, but pockets on tights are Very Important Things. I mourn my old Karrimor tights that could easily fit my camera in the back (eventually the seams went and rubbed two holes in the side of my knee, leaving me with a scar that looks like I’ve been attacked by a vampire with a poor grasp of anatomy). I am not alone in this; a few weeks ago Twitter was giving Mark (Reliable Plodder)  advice on ladies’ running tights (for his missus…) and according to Abradypus*, a pocket should be large enough to contain “an iPhone, an oyster card wallet, car keys and the kitchen sink”.

Having been a Brownie in the 1980s, I was raised with the understanding that a pocket should contain a clean hanky, a safety pin, a pencil, a piece of paper and 10p to make an emergency phone call. These days I would like one that fits my house keys, my car key (if necessary), a camera, some emergency loo roll, a couple of quid and a ham barmcake. I might end up looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but at least I would be prepared.

Although I suspect that I am wishing for the impossible pocket-wise, my wish might be granted by this nifty bit of kit from workplay bags. It’s a bumbag Jim, but not as we know it. The Fleetfoot II is rather splendid and full of handy little features – you can tell that it’s been designed by people with an understanding of what runners need. For starters, it’s been designed to fit the female shape and sit comfortably on the hips.

Ergonomically designed to fit lady hips (it’s more scientific than that, I’m sure)

I will admit that this took a little bit of getting used to and initially I was a little too enthusiastic with tightening the straps and had to readjust it while I was out (it was very good for my posture if not my breathing). The very first time I used it, was the morning mid-afternoon after a pre-hydration session (the route of the run took me to wear I’d left my car the night before…) and I could easily fit in the various keys, bank cards, cash and assorted bits and bobs that I needed to take with me. I was also very grateful to be able to carry a bottle of water with me.

Water water everywhere and not a drop to… Oh, hang on, there it is round the back.

This also took a bit of getting used to and at first I had to stop to fettle the bottle out of its net, but after a few goes I got the hang of releasing it on the move. There is no bouncing or rattling from anything in the bag (because of the fleece inner pocket) and there’s even an In Case of Emergency label in case you should encounter any misfortune.

From the bottom: Outer pocket, ICE label, fleecy inner pocket

The only feature that I haven’t used is the loops for carrying my jacket, but this is mainly because I rarely take a jacket out with me. Or I rarely go out in the rain, one or the other. I suspect that it would be useful because when I tie my jacket round my waist, it works its way south or twirls itself round and I end up looking like I’m wearing an apron.

Jacket loops. Possibly could fit a baguette or a tame ferret as a fun alternative.

Since I received the Fleetfoot II, it has won Silver in the running accessory category of the Women’s Running Awards – a well deserved prize even if I can’t quite fit an emergency sandwich in it. If bumbags aren’t quite your thing, workplay also do a lovely range of gym bags, backpacks and hydration packs, all designed for the female form and with cunning bits of usefulness (a built in ‘packing prompt list’ anyone?) coming out of their seams.

*Who, incidentally, is now a bit of a media star after making her appearance on the parkrun show podcast (5th November) to talk about her life as a parkrun tourist

Up and at ’em

I had a ready-made excuse for not running this morning. Last night I made my regular trip to donate my armful and claim my reward of biscuits. Unfortunately, the donation didn’t go according to plan (I won’t go into details, judging by Ginge’s face when I told him about it, it’s not a tale for the squeamish or those with issues about needles. I will say that in eight years of giving blood, this is the first problem I’ve had) and I was left with a half completed donation and a leaflet on bruising which advised avoiding lifting, not over exerting myself and waiting 36 hours before resuming normal activities. In my eyes, going out for a 6am run is not a normal activity, but I figured that it wasn’t scuba diving or operating a crane so I might as well get on with it.

This morning there was plenty of cloud cover making it a lot milder than I expected and meaning that Miles had one of his moments confusing ‘clouds’ with ‘ceiling’. I couldn’t be bothered getting into an argument with him and set off without a GPS signal – I feel that this marks a turning point in our relationship, but it was fully justified when he started the “Are you indoors?” conversation half a mile into the run.

Dear Miles, indoors has carpets. Love, me.

Despite what Miles would have you believe, I did actually run about 3 miles and it was marginally faster than the pace than he says, although you will have to trust me on this one. I promise that I didn’t lounge in bed and then dawdle round the car park for ten minutes (because I have only just thought of this plan).

The owl who was afraid of the dark…

I’m afraid that I’ve not adjusted very well to the clocks going back. For some reason or another, I’ve preferred to run in the evenings and haven’t done a 6am run for months and months (I suspect it was during Juneathon) and I’m struggling to get back into the habit. On several occasions, I have managed to set an alarm and get up at 5.30, but on the same number of occasions I have also managed to peer through the blinds, shrug and go back to bed. While the evenings were still light, I convinced myself that it was because I could always run after work ‘because it will be light then’. In the week before the clocks changing I clung onto the dimming tea-time light, trying desperately to delay the inevitable.

If I still had a job where I spent most the day photoshopping safety equipment onto animals, I could run at dinner time. Luckily I am more gainfully employed now.

My issue with the clocks changing is that I’m faced with the majority of my runs being completed in darkness. I either get up early and run in the dark, or I run when I get home and I run in the dark. I don’t mind running in the dark as such, but it means that I have to wear my ‘I’m on day release’ hi-vis bib, don’t take my shuffle and am restricted to running on well-lit main roads which can get a bit dull at times.

On a cold and frosty morning.

I also find that weekend runs take on a new sense of importance. This is often the only daylight run I will do during the week and thus it must be A Good Run. It must be scenic, it must be well run and I must enjoy myself. I become so focused on all of this that the planning, the angst and the self-imposed pressure overshadow the basic need to put one foot in front of the other.

What? No Batman?

Luckily, this weekend the weather was particularly autumnal and I had a spring in my step as I did a 6 mile route that takes in my favourite recharging spot (the local nature reserve). I ran resplendent in my brand new New Balance purple tights (I fear they make me look half-woman, half-aubergine but was pleased to read in that day’s Observer that I was fabulously on trend darling) after revising my bottom-half wardrobe and replacing most of my baggy and wonkily lengthed tights with 50% off factory shop bargains. I can only apologise to anyone driving along the main road who was treated to the sight of me ferreting the scratchy end of its price tag out of my belly button.

I declare Sunday to have been A Good Run

I am faced with an early run in the morning. I remain unconvinced.