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.

ETHICS
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).

METHODOLOGY
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).

RESULTS
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).

CONCLUSION
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.

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Shiny new gadgetry in the sunshine

Having spent my last week of Juneathon blogging from a tent using an iPhone that hovered on the edge of battery life from about 4 o’clock on the day we arrived, I could have done with having some kind of mobile charging device. Unfortunately, I didn’t have one then. However, it appears that mobile charging devices are a bit like buses and, all of a sudden, two have come along at once.

The nice people at Mobile Solar Chargers sent me two styles to try. Both of them can be charged by mains, solar and USB or can trickle charge (I’m learning the technical terms as I go along) your electrical gubbins purely from the sun.

My plan for testing these was to give them a full charge and discharge three times for the sake of the battery and then take one to work to test it on one of my staying late days. Unfortunately my natural level of disorganisation let me down. The first time I tried, I remembered my phone and the charger, but not the right adapter. The second time I tried, I remembered my charger and the right adapter, but forgot my actual phone (it was awful, I felt lost). Anyway, what followed was a much more haphazard approach to my trials.

The Lite mobile charger has a nifty light on a stalk and an LED indicator on the back to show how much charge it has. I tried to charge this on the window sill but after a full day, I couldn’t get it past 80% so I gave up and charged it with the plug. Since then, I haven’t really tried out the charging technology, but the light on a stalk has proved to be bloody brilliant for reading my Kindle in bed.

Lite charger – with nifty light on a stalk

The second charger is the Pocket mobile charger. This doesn’t have a light on a stalk but instinctively I prefer the look and feel of it. This is purely a shallow judgement because it looks sleeker and swishier than its Lite counterpart (which seems a bit boxy and clunky in comparison).

The swishy Pocket mobile charger

Again, I haven’t had the organisational skills to try it out using its stored charge, but did carry out the following selfless scientific research. If you want to replicate the experiment you will need:

  • A sunny Thursday (preferably a birthday)
  • A beer garden
  • Some lovely beer (to be truly accurate reconstruction, this should be a pint of Lancaster Straw)
  • Splendid company
  • An iPhone and a solar charger

First of all, fritter away a good amount of battery power by messing around on twitter and the internet.

Do not judge the prioritising of my apps. Just look at the lovely sheep.

Next, locate a suitable beer garden, purchase a pint of lovely beer and take up residence in the sunshine. Bask for a moment in the joy of being in a beer garden on a Thursday afternoon.
Whilst basking (there’s no point stopping just for the sake of science) plug charger into phone and wait.

After an hour or so, marvel that your phone is fully charged.

Oooh look! Charged! I had a very nice slow cooked pulled beef sandwich while this was doing its thing.

This bodes very well for future camping trips.

Oh, and another thing that I have been very impressed with is the sturdiness of the various adapters – I’ve had another charger in the past and that ended up with me having to use a pair of tweezers to remove half a mini-USB lead from some gadget or another.

Both the Lite (£24.95) and Pocket (£19.95) chargers are available from Mobile Solar Chargers (and I do intend to carry on with my haphazard experiments).

In which I have a go with two new bits of kit and also don’t fall over

I started this post last week, but then Christmas intervened and it went into the folder of forgotten drafts. If I’m honest, in our house Christmas has actually got in the way of Christmas at times – my Christmas cake remains naked and the marzipan and icing remain unopened… ah well.

Anyway, the events of this post took place on December 18th.

On Sunday, I was giddy with the excitement of being able to run in daylight (it’s the small things that matter most) and settled on a precise distance of ‘somewhere between six and nine miles’. It was both bloomin’ freezing and slippy out there after a flurry of snow, so I decided to be turn the threats of personal injury and general mardiness into the opportunity of trying out new gizmos.

Firstly, my eGloves – after I was sent these, the weather became unseasonably warm and I hadn’t had a good opportunity to try them out. Since then, the temperature has dropped (anyone would think that it’s winter) and I’ve worn them purely for the simple function of keeping my hands warm. For the majority of the time, I have incredibly cold hands (good for making pastry, less good for making friends) and so far, the gloves have kept them toasty. My worry was that they might keep my hands too warm while running as this is the only time that my hands defrost somewhat. In fact, they kept me at a perfect temperature until I had about a mile to go and then I tucked them in the waistband of my tights until I got home.

Clearly keeping hands warm is the primary objective for most gloves, but the e-glove has some nifty science bits (apologies if this is too technical) on the fingertips, which allow you to paw at your smartphone and stay warm in all weathers. I don’t usually run with my iPhone,being somewhat accident-prone I can’t help thinking that it would all end in tears. However, I was running alone, Ginge was at work, it was icy underfoot and if I was going to fall on my arse, I wanted to be able to summon help.

Luckily, I had recently acquired an armband for my phone and this seemed the ideal opportunity to give it a whirl. My first challenge was to get the phone into its little neoprene papoose. I failed this challenge on the first attempt. Being somewhat accident-prone, I have a robust rubbery bumper on my phone which takes the sleek, iconic piece of design that Apple intended and turns it into something from the Fisher Price range. Only after I had tried to stuff the phone and its bumper into the case, only after I had sworn a bit, only after I had declared it to be a flawed design, did I realise that the problem was user error. I removed the bumper and it fitted in neatly…

It took a bit of fettling to get the armband securely velcroed onto my arm (turns out that they’re not as big as I think) and I suspect that I’ll need a bit of practice to be able to use my phone effectively while it’s on my arm. Having said that, the eGloves worked really well through the plastic screen and I was able to run to the Infinite Monkey Cage podcast, making me fitterer, strongerer and cleverer by the end of my run.

Oh and I ended up erring on the side of caution and only ran 6 miles. As home came into sight, the pavements became treacherous and I did a marvellous Bambi on ice impression but managed to stay on my feet. Result.

In which I end up caked in mud to review my new trail shoes

Today’s run wouldn’t win any prizes for speed, but it was bloody good fun! We’re lucky enough to have a lot of fields, woodland and nature reserves round our way, and today seemed like a good opportunity to make my shiny new New Balance trail shoes a little less shiny and new.

I’ve only ever run through the fields when it’s been dry (I don’t think that I went through them at all this summer) and with the company of Ginge (due to fears about a. getting lost and b. men with dishonourable intentions). With the new shoes, the previous night’s rain wasn’t going to be a problem. I took Ginge because he knew where we should go (having spent his formative years climbing trees and causing mischief in these parts) and is excellent company (so you can rest assured that I don’t just take him as a bodyguard/satnav).

Fields.

We have to do about half a mile on the road, to reach the fields and while we both missed the cushioning of our usual trainers, it was surprisingly comfortable. Especially as I had expected to be clattering along like a goat across a tea tray.

Low cloud over Rivington, there's a telly mast under all of that.

As we hit the mud (almost immediately after leaving the pavement), the next adjustment was learning to trust the grip of my shoes. I have never had a problem getting wet or muddy when I run, I just worry about the potential embarassment/A&E attendance involved with falling on my arse. Apart from one incredibly squelchy and slidey bit of field, where it all went a bit Bambi on ice, I felt pretty confident that I was going to stay upright throughout the run.

That way to London

Ginge’s local knowledge took us into one of the nature reserves (where our planned loop was blocked by the presence of great crested newts), across the railway, through some fields, back through a bit of woodland, through some more fields, along a lane, back into the original fields and then home. It was a mix of paths, nearly paths and mud. There were quite a few stops to look at things, a few to marvel at how much more knackered we both felt (Ginge’s official verdict was that 4 miles off road felt like 10 on pavement) and a couple for me to question whether Ginge’s 25 year old mental maps were correct (they were). The running bits in between felt fantastic.

Ginge takes me to the nicest places.......

When we were nearly home, we passed two girls walking their dogs. They were wearing wellies and carefully picking their way through the field, occasionally squealing at the drama of being surrounded by mud. As we splashed past, I overheard one of them say “uuurgh, look at them”, but I think that she was just jealous.

This bridge is deemed a danger to the public. Health and Safety gone mad.

Shoe-wise, my 749s felt comfy and supportive. When I’d tried other shoes on, my ankles had immediately felt precarious but after this first trial I would heartily recommend these to any fellow over-pronator looking for a trail shoe.

Ginge's feet post-run. Note the whiteness of the Gortex clad socks.

Ginge (who’s more of a neutral to under-pronator) also loved his 573s. When we bought them, he was offered versions with or without Gortex and only went for the Gortex because he had no choice (they didn’t have his size in the others). With hindsight, he is extremely happy about this and says they’re really good because you can “run through what you want; the deepest puddle, the muddiest puddle – your feet will be dry, even if they seem as if they shouldn’t be”. Apparently the Gortex sock inside the shoe makes it a bit more snug and takes some getting used to, but it’s definitely worth the extra money. I wouldn’t know…

Compare and contrast the above with my non-Gortexed feet.

I’m struggling to convey the utter joy that I felt in just pelting along, not caring about anything (especially not pace or distance). I felt free and happy and childishly giddy. Even hills didn’t seem so bad. I honestly don’t think that I have ever grinned so much whilst out running.

Marvel at the amazing over pronating lady! Gasp at the fact that she ended up even muddier than this by the end of the run!

 

All you need is glove

On Monday, I received a pair of these from the lovely people at eGlove:

eGloves waiting for action

Basically, they enable you to stay warm and use your touchscreen gadgetry at the same time.

On Thursday afternoon, my iPhone had a brief but dramatic interaction with some tarmac and now looks like this:

Arse.

Between Monday and Thursday I spent brief spells:

a) Pretending to be a supervillain
b) Doing jazz hands
c) Being a mime artist trapped in a box

A more comprehensive review will follow once I’ve battled the labyrinthine technicalities of O2 customer services and have a phone that doesn’t shed shards of glass.