Tapping into your mind-body connection

Mindfulness calls you to notice thoughts and emotions and let them float through your mind like passing clouds in the sky, rather than getting hung up on wrestling them into submission or attempting to deny them altogether. We can’t change the weather, so why waste energy compounding the storm?

Understand that turning your attention to your mind to take stock of the content of your cognitions is no easy feat. Even master meditators are susceptible to having their minds wander from the task at hand. And that is precisely the point. Each time you notice that you are distracted, gently bring your attention back to the present, again and again. This practice is akin to running intervals on the track or pumping iron at the gym. Repeatedly redirecting your attention fortifies neural pathways and strengthens the muscle of the mind.

  • Start by noticing and acknowledging the top three thoughts running through your mind.
  • Take stock of the speed of your thoughts. Is your mind racing, are you feeling more lethargic, or are you somewhere in between?
  • Identify whether you’re attaching emotions to the thoughts. Are you worrying about work or stressing about what you have to do after the run?
  • What is the storyline you’re following? Are the thoughts you’re having being fed by a certain identity you’ve created for yourself?
  • Notice whether stress in your everyday life is shaping your attitude toward your run. Are the anxieties stemming from other venues causing you to feel bored, hurried, tired, or uncomfortable?
  • Remember, being mindful is all about noticing the thoughts without judgment. Identify each thought as it pops into your head and let it move along without obsessing over it, trying to push it away, or clinging to it.

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Hopefully, by observing your surroundings, physical sensations, thoughts and emotions on the run, you’ve tapped into a wellspring of information.

In Mindful Running, lifelong runner, coach, and fitness journalist Mackenzie L. Havey recounts her personal practice of meditative running and the influence it has had on her life. She taps a wide range of sources – from weekend warriors to Olympic runners, from coaches and sports psychologists to neuroscientists and meditation experts – to examine how training mental fitness through mindfulness can enhance your running practice and lead to a more contented existence.

To find out more about Mindful Running head to the Bloomsbury website.

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Yoga for Easing Anxiety

The New Year is a great time go after goals and launch into new and exciting projects but all these new challenges can leave us feeling anxious and a little overwhelmed. Yoga is a beautiful way to ease anxiety by teaching us to stay in the present moment. By focusing on our breath and how our body feels in each pose, we keep ourselves anchored in the here and now so we can reduce any mental chatter and instead of reacting fearfully to worries and anxious thoughts, we can let them go. This yoga sequence focuses on releasing stress from the muscles that commonly tense up when we are anxious to create a calmness in your body and mind. 

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If you’re still beginning your journey into yoga practice, a guided meditation from Nicola may boost your confidence:

 

For more meditation exercises go to Nicola’s website where you can find a range of meditations from self-love to full body.

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Whether you long to live with less stress, reduce anxiety, find the confidence to follow your dreams or simply find more happiness and meaning in your everyday life, Thrive Through Yoga will take you on a 21-day journey towards health, strength and freedom, and is available here.

Nicola Jane Hobbs is a yoga teacher, performance and lifestyle coach and Olympic weighlifting champion. She is also the author of Yoga Gym (available here) and Fear-Free Food (pre-order here).

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How to Fuel Your Fitness in 2018

If you’ve resolved to get fitter in 2018 and embarked on a running programme, now is the time to take an honest look at your diet. Are you fuelling your body with the right foods? Do you eat plenty of nutrient-packed fresh foods, or are you relying on too many sugary snacks and fast foods?

There’s overwhelming evidence from scientific studies that a good fuelling strategy can improve your stamina, recovery and performance. Better still, it can also make your running feel easier.

In The Runner’s Cookbook, I explain how to eat to optimise your performance. Grounded in scientific evidence, this part nutrition guide and part cookbook, shows you how to fuel your body. You don’t have to be an Olympic runner to benefit; whether you’re training for your first marathon or just looking to improve your Parkrun time, my tips will help you gain the confidence to create delicious, nourishing meals that will support your training goals.

One of the biggest mistakes new runners make is buying lots of supplements, in the belief they’ll help them run faster! The truth is the vast majority won’t – and could even be dangerous! In The Runner’s Cookbook, I debunk the myths about supplements and give you evidence-based nutrition advice on fuelling before, during and after running, guidance on hydration and weight loss, and how to prepare for 5k, 10k, half marathons, marathons and ultra races.

You’ll also find more than 100 delicious easy-to-make recipes, including breakfasts, salads, main meals, vegetarian main meals, desserts and snacks – that match the nutritional needs of runners. They combine tasty nutrient-packed ingredients to fuel your running and promote recovery.

Turkey Pilaf

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This simple one-pot dish made from turkey, rice and vegetables and served with yogurt really ticks off all the food groups. It provides an ideal mix of protein and carbs along with antioxidant-rich vegetables – just what you need for rapid post-run recovery. You can substitute chicken breast or thigh fillets for the turkey and frozen broad beans or green beans for the broccoli.

 

 

 

Serves 4

  • 2 tbsp light olive oil or rapeseed oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, washed and sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 400g (14oz) turkey breast steaks, cut into 1cm strips
  • 2 tbsp medium curry paste
  • 200g (7oz) brown basmatic rice
  • 500ml (18fl oz) chicken stock (or 1 chicken stock cube dissolved in 500ml boiling water)
  • 1 head (300g) broccoli, broken into florets
  • 100g (3.5oz) frozen peas
  • A handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to season
  • To serve: Plain Greek yogurt

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based pan over a medium heat, add the onion and leek and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and turkey and continue cooking for a further 2–3 minutes.

Stir in the curry paste, rice and stock. Bring to the boil, cover and cook on a low heat for 25 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid.

Stir in the broccoli, continue to cook for five minutes, then add the peas and continue cooking for a further five minutes, adding a little more stock or water if necessary.

Stir in the parsley, season to taste and serve topped with a spoonful of plain Greek yogurt.

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For more delicious recipes pick up your copy of Anita Bean’s The Runner’s Cookbook (available at a discount from Bloomsbury.com). 

Anita is also the author of The Vegetarian Athlete’s Cookbook (available here).

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Arthritis: Where Do I Start?

Arthritis can be either be due to age or previous injury and called osteoarthritis (OA) or inflammatory in nature and called rheumatoid arthritis (RA).  They are very different conditions, but practical and simple tips can help manage both.

OA: is a condition experienced by many with both good days and bad. There is no cure and helps if you understand that it is part of the natural ageing process, like grey hair and wrinkles on the inside! Some people have more symptoms than others.

RA: is a condition that is caused by your body’s immune system being unable to control inflammation and can affect joints as well as other parts of the body.

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Whether you have osteoarthritis or RA, regular gentle exercise can improve the range of movement in a joint and ease stiffness. Movement puts changing pressures through the cartilage and the joint, which helps the circulation and the synovial fluid to ‘oil’ the joint. In RA this may not be true if the cartilage is severely damaged or eroded. Everyone has heard the ‘no pain no gain theory’, but this will do little to encourage you to exercise and step onto the path to personal fitness. Some people do nothing, or fear that exercise will make them feel worse; others do too much and feel terrible. Your personality and experience of exercise will influence how you react. Exercise doesn’t have to hurt, and physical pain can be avoided if you exercise within your ability. However, it can be hard at first to change your habits and become disciplined with a commitment to exercise! You should expect muscular aches after exercise, but pain can and should be avoided.

Tips:

  • Know your limitations and pace yourself. This will prevent a ‘boom or bust’ cycle and keep you active on good days and bad. Little and often is best in all activities.
  • Exercise is key to keep your muscles strong and flexible to support and protect your joints.
  • Find an exercise you enjoy and make it part of your lifestyle. Exercise should be like cleaning your teeth, performed daily and regarded as a form of maintenance for muscle health.
  • Use ice packs on hot swollen joints. 10 minutes at regular intervals when in pain or an inflammatory flare up. Before and after exercise can also ease symptoms.
  • Use heat packs for aching joints that are not swollen or in a ‘flare up’.

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Paula Coates is a Chartered Physiotherapist who works as Clinical lead and Audit and triage lead within the NHS. She treats both NHS and private patients with complex long term conditions and sports and spinal injuries. She has also published books on the long term management of back pain, diabetes and running injuries. Her book Exercise your way to health: Arthritis has been chosen for the Reading Well for long term conditions scheme.

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Beat the Heat

Britain is recovering from a heatwave and that’s great if you’ve been paddling in the sea but not so hot if you’re heading out for a four-hour cycle over rolling terrain. We all know this will be a brief break from cooler climes but the riders who’ll do battle with the Tour de France, which this year starts in Germany on 1 July, will face extreme temperatures for a significant chunk of the 3,540km tromp to Paris. Cycling performance plummets once dehydration levels reach over 2%. This is multiplied in a race comprising 21 stages. It’s why every team will have their own hydration strategies, designed to keep Froome, Contador and Quintana pedalling at their optimum…

Focus on Electrolytes

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Riders have been known to sweat over 11 litres during a long, mountainous stage. Fail to hydrate properly and the riders’ blood thickens, heart rate rises and speed drops. That’s not only a huge amount of fluid but also of vital electrolytes like sodium. Sodium’s essential for the body to retain water, and is why teams will plop an electrolyte tablet into their bottles come a hot day and tweak their protocol. For instance, instead of adding 40g energy-giving carbohydrate into the normal two bottles, they’ll dilute carbs to 20g over an hourly four bottles and add electrolytes. Not only will the rider enjoy the same carbohydrate levels, they’ll replenish sodium stores. This sounds simple but strategies like this will be practised beforehand and in the labs to ensure the rider’s stomachs can cope.

Willing Water Carrier

These practices are meticulous. Bottles are kept in fridges that nestle in the boots of the directeur sportifs’ (DS) cars. One of the domestiques will call back to the DS on his radio that the team of nine riders need more fluid. The team car will accelerate past the other team cars – sidenote: you can’t mistake Team Sunweb’s cars as they drive Mini Clubmans! – while the domestique will drop back. The mechanic in the back of the team car will collect nine bottles from the fridge, comprising either carbohydrate, water or electrolytes. He’ll pass to the DS, who’s driving, who’ll deliver them out the window to the sacrificial domestique, who’ll stuff them in his rear pocket and down his back; in fact, the hod carrier (domestique) often resembles a camel when returning the bottles to his teammates.

Cool Tights

You’ll note that some of these bottles contain water only. Obviously these are drunk but they’re also used as a rudimentary cooling technique – aka poured over heads. And that’s not the only rudimentary cooling idea. Within those team-car fridges are more tights than a Parisian catwalk, each packed with ice and scrunched up into a bun. Those willing domestiques will pick up these fashionable items of ice, which the riders then place on their necks. It’s a proven method of cooling, both perceptively and empirically, with studies showing that the ice cools the blood flowing to the brain. Wristbands sprayed with cooling fluid are also used, while the occasional rider will even wear a pair of gloves for the same idea.

All About the Wee

In the morning and after each stage, team doctors will measure their riders’ hydration levels. Urine charts are common, though these can be misleading. Anyone acquainted with a joyous hangover is aware that dehydration manifests itself in particularly dark wee. But in the world of professional, this can also be a sign of vitamin-B ingestion and even beetroot, which is popular in many a team’s morning smoothies because of the nitrate content’s purported ability to make exercise feel easier. That’s why teams like Sky would use a urine-gravity device that not only accurately measures hydration levels, but also flags up pH levels of the blood, which can be a gauge of impeding illness.

Ice, Ice…

Come the Tour’s time-trials on stage one (1st July in Dusseldorf) and stage 20 (22nd July in Marseille), there’s a good chance you’ll find teams warming up against the backdrop of Slush Puppie machines. Studies have shown that consuming a Slush Puppie lowers the rider’s core temperature, meaning they can work harder for longer. It’s a tactic oft-used by Sunweb, whose leader, Tom Dumoulin, won the Giro d’Italia in May.

The Tour de France is the greatest race in cycling and the place where teams roll out their latest, most cutting-edge hydration protocols. It’s something to keep an eye on when you’re watching Boulting and Boardman narrate events while you sit down with a nice dehydrating, albeit cooling, beer…

Want to know more about the history of cycling? The Science of the Tour de France is available to buy at discount from www.bloomsbury.com

Stay up-to-date with all our cycling news and special offers, sign up to our e-newsletter today.

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Nell McAndrew’s Marathon Race Day Tips

With the London Marathon fast approaching, there’s only a few days left for those running to prepare for the big event. But before you cross the start line, Nell McAndrew shares her Race Day Tips to ensure you start off on the right foot.

Nell running 1Fuel up: You should have been carb-loading in the preceding days and had a carb-heavy meal the night before the race (make sure it’s a dish you’ve had the night before a long run before so you’re sure it agrees with you). Then have a good breakfast 2-3 hours before the run, such as porridge or toast with jam.

Avoid chafing: Bleeding nipples are a common and painful sight on many runners. Avoid them by applying anti-chafing gels to your body in the morning before you put your kit on and topping up just before the race in any delicate areas. Men could also try putting plasters over their nipples as theirs are more prone to bleeding than women’s. Also, cover your feet in anti-chafing gel to prevent blisters and apply gel to anywhere else your clothes might rub.

Hydrate: Drink a couple of glasses of water before the race but don’t go overboard. It’s dangerous to drink too much and will mean you have a stomach full of water and need frequent toilet stops. Adjust how much you drink to how hot it is on the day. Once the race is underway, don’t wait till you’re thirsty to have a drink, but sip water little and often.

Know the course: Familiarise yourself with the route in advance. This could help you mentally tick off the miles. You can also plan where your friends and family will stand so you can look out for them when you run past.

Plan ahead: You don’t want to waste nervous energy on the morning of the race worrying about the practicalities so make sure you have planned your journey to the start line in advance, allowing plenty of time to get there. Familiarise yourself with the organisation at the event so you know how and where your kit will be stored and agree a specific place near the finish where you can meet your loved ones afterwards.

Keep warm: Take some spare clothing or a bin bag to wear that you can then discard on the start line, as you often have to hand in your clothes for baggage storage at least 30 minutes before the off. I also highly recommend wearing spare trainers to arrive in, as at the London Marathon the grass at Greenwich Park is usually damp early in the morning. Then if it rains during the race you’ll also have a dry pair to change into at the finish.

Don’t go off too fast!: Find out what pace per mile you need to run to achieve your target time and stick to it. It can be tempting to get carried away with the race atmosphere and run too quickly at the beginning, but it’s better to run an even-paced race if you want to avoid ‘hitting the wall’.

Write your name on your vest: This is a great way to gain some extra support from the crowds. Hearing them cheer your name will help keep you going if you start to tire.

And more importantly, make sure you enjoy yourself!

jacketFor more tips on how to prepare for the London Marathon, as well as getting into running more generally, take a look at Nell McAndrew’s Guide to Running (available at a discount from Bloomsbury.com). 

 

Posted in Author, Books, Fitness, Marathon, Running

“Mile-a-Minute Murphy”

Guest blog by Michael Hutchinson

Track racing in the 1890s was hugely popular, much more so than today. There were 17 tracks in the London area alone, some with 10,000 capacities. Brass bands, announcers, officials in striped blazers… the picture isn’t hard to conjure.

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The racing would have looked odd to modern spectators, because professional racers were more often than not paced. The usual format allowed a competitor to take shelter from his team of helpers, who were usually on four or five-man “tandems”. A one-mile record attempt might involve six changes of pacing machine, ridden by perhaps 30 pacing riders.

The reason was that for Victorians the true athletic test was of speed – how fast could a man go, with all the assistance he could get? Other than a steam locomotive, a paced cyclist on a good track was the fastest work of humanity on the planet, and that is what the punters wanted to see: pure, exhilarating, dangerous speed.

In New York there was a man who reckoned that it was still not nearly exhilarating and dangerous enough. Charles Murphy had been a member of one of the most celebrated pacing teams in North America, so he knew a bit about fast riding. He’d also ridden at a virtual 100 mph on a set of stationary rollers. And he had put these experiences together, added the only thing even faster than a cyclist, and formed the notion that if he rode behind a train he would have no particular difficulty riding at 60 mph – a mile in a minute.

This idea might have stayed safely unexplored had he not met, by accident, an executive from the Long Island railroad in a Manhattan restaurant. The man with the train loved the idea – he felt it would provide excellent publicity for his railway. It was agreed: a wooden roadway would be laid between the tracks, and Murphy would get to ride behind a train. If the probability of this escapade ending with Murphy making a spectacular arrival in the next world occurred to any of them, it certainly didn’t put them off.

On 21 June 1899, Murphy and the team assembled, complete with steam train, at a section of track that had had the sleepers boarded over. He mounted his bike, and the driver opened the taps.

The first attempt was a disappointing 68 seconds. Murphy could keep up with the train, the problem was that the train couldn’t do 60 mph. After a few more attempts, they sent for a more powerful locomotive.

The heavier engine could go fast enough, but its weight caused the wooden track to distort. Murphy was now riding on a roadway that was bending and springing back below him, forming waves and ridges and furrows. With death or serious injury the inevitable result of hitting the unprotected sleepers and rails if he wavered off line, the four-foot width must have seemed perilously narrow.

Finally, though, he did it. He held on to the observation platform on the rear of the last carriage as the train accelerated and then, with a crowd of suited and hatted men on the platform cheering, and encouragement being shouted through a megaphone just inches from his head, he rode the mile in a stunning 57.8 seconds. There is a photograph of him tucked in right behind the train, with passengers hanging out of the windows on the carriage sides straining to see him – something that would only happen in the event of a lethal accident. That’s presumably what they were hoping for.

Afterwards, he said, “I was riding in a maelstrom of swirling dust, hot cinders, paper and other particles. The whipsaw feeling through a veritable storm of fire became harder every second.” He was pedaling at around 200 rpm – twice the speed of a modern road racer – as his bike kicked and bucked over the slim strip of warping wood.

The train, with Murphy on its heels, flashed past the finishing line. At this point, perhaps not thinking things through, the driver applied the brakes. The triumphant Murphy crashed ignominiously into the back of it, and was lucky that some of the spectators on the platform grabbed him and hauled him on board. Semi conscious he was carried into the carriage. When his jersey was removed so a doctor could examine him, his skin was torn from his flesh where the cinders had burnt through his jersey.

It was the last act of an era. Paced racing died out in the early 1900s, after motorcycles replaced the pacing teams. For promoters they were simpler and cheaper, but the crowds missed the grunt and thunder of the old ways. Paced top-speed record attempts like Murphy’s switched to using cars – the record is currently over 166 mph, set behind a dragster by Fred Rompleberg of the Netherlands. But, when it comes down to it, a dragster still lacks the sheer spectacle of a steam train at full pelt. And “Two-and-three-quarter-miles-a-minute Rompleberg” just doesn’t sound right.

Murphy recovered from his burns. He became universally known as “Mile-a-Minute Murphy”, and eventually joined the New York Police Department, where he used his bike to chase down speeding motorists. He later became the first policeman in the world to fly an aircraft. He died in New York in 1950, at the age of 79.

Want to know more about the history of cycling? Re:Cyclists is available to buy at discount from www.bloomsbury.com

Stay up-to-date with all our cycling news and special offers, sign up to our e-newsletter today.

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