Going Further

Going further

In running, there are certain distances you become accustomed to. 5km, 10km, 10 mile, half marathon, marathon etc. These are milestones every runner grows to know intimately – you learn to recognise how you feel at certain distances and what to expect physically and mentally at different points, the result being that you develop a kind of mental store and psychological toughness that helps you be better the next time. But when you’ve ran enough races, you also learn to know how you can expect to feel at the end of certain distances. For example, even though I haven’t run for over a year, I can remember exactly how I would feel after a 5km parkrun Vs. how my body feels after a half-marathon race Vs. after a marathon.

With Cycling, I find it a lot less clear cut. I could cycle an 80km today and be in bits tomorrow. Or I might cycle 100km today and be up for cycling another 70km tomorrow, no bother. There have been some days recently when cycling 37km to work on back to back days has just knackered my legs. But where is the sense, I ask you?

Apart from being able to draw the obvious conclusion that the harder the ride and more effort you put in, the more it will take out of your body and the slower it will be to repair and refresh. And the hillier the cycle, the tougher it is – also going to tire you out more.

But generally for cycling Vs. running, there are no milestone distances to focus on – or maybe there are and I’m just out of the loop! Oh well…

Some cyclists seem to work with time, rather than distance. You cycle for an hour a few days during the week and then go for a three hour ride at the weekend, for example. I don’t work that way. I like to map out a ride beforehand and then see how long it takes me. Next time, I try do it faster. That’s what motivates me. I’m less good with a “three hour ride” because for me that’s just a licence to sit on my ass and flooter away three hours coasting along at my ease.

So I stick with distance. Up to this year, I’d never ridden over 100km, with the longest cycle I’d have competed being around 91km. So I cracked out mapmyride and mapped a few 100km -ish cycles and worked my way up to them. Then I did a race a few weeks ago which involved a 105km spin around Carlow and over Mount Leinster. I loved it.

Today I took a spin from Naas to Kilkenny, travelling through Athy, Carlow, lovely Leighlinbridge and Bagenalstown along the way. The weather was a bit crap to be honest with dark clouds, some rain and a headwind most of the way… but I was happy out just to find I could actually make it all the way to Kilkenny. Needless to say when I arrived in Kilkenny 3 hours 41 minutes later, I was delighted with life and Kilkenny was buzzing with people, despite the rain.

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I had booked to get the train back from Kilkenny to Sallins and had a bit of time before my train was due. I knew exactly how to spend that time.

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What is cycling, if not really good coffee and cake?

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After all, it’s the worst kept secret in cycling that the only real reason cyclists actually cycle is for the coffee and cake. And it’s worth it every time 😀

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After wandering around trying to find a coffee shop that I could safely leave my bike outside without fear of it being pinched, I came across the Pantry on Kieran St., which was exactly what I was looking for. Really good coffee and a good selection of homemade baked goods, as well as soup, sandwiches and hot lunch options too. I really just wanted somewhere to sit down and rest my weary bones for an hour, while indulging in a much looked-forward to pick me up.

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Nice design and good, friendly atmosphere, you can’t go wrong.

The staff were lovely, the coffee was excellent and my cupcake was just grand. The bun could have been fresher and the icing was a bit over-sweet, but I was starvers so it tasted great anyway. Good spot and I’ll be back again.

Next Up. Now that I’ve gotten past the 100km mark, I’d like to build on that and be able for greater distances. There’s a clatter of 200km events in Ireland that look fab but I’m a long way from being able to remain upright for 200k. But it gives me something to aim for – oh, you know how it goes… citius, altius, fortius… better.

Runners and Injuries: Not Letting Panic Triumph Over Hope

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This is a subject extremely close to my heart. In fact, it’s so close to the surface that I’d swear if you stood close enough to me, you might just be able to hear my heart beating out “Help me, I’m a runner”…

I’m going through this right now. I may not be an elite athlete, but I am 100% a runner at heart. It’s what makes me smile, lifts me up, allows me to escape everything for a few hours everyday and honestly makes me feel like some kind of superhero. On the outside, I might look like a hot, sweaty, flailing mess… but on the inside I feel like Mo Farah. I feel like me.

One missed session in my weekly training plan makes me uncomfortable and I’m very bad at just “letting it go” but sometimes weather or unforeseen events just happen and you have to suck it up.

One week without running – usually only happens when I’ve just ran a big race like a marathon or half-ironman – I struggle with not being able to get out for a run for this long because regardless of how physically tired my body might be, I miss the fresh air and time outside, the peace and quiet. But I persevere for the sake of rest and meaningful recovery.

Suck it up.

More than one week… Huh???!! It has been years since I’ve gone more than 10-14 days with no running. Sometimes you do need a good rest as a runner and head-wrecking and all as it may be, you tolerate it because you KNOW that in a few weeks time, you’ll be back out there slowly building yourself back up again.

You KNOW. So… suck it up.

Now, try telling a runner that they can’t run today, or tomorrow or even this week. In fact, it could be as long as a year… Actually, I can’t tell you when you’ll next be able to go for a run or even if you’ll ever be able to run again.

To a runner, this is devastating news. For me, I just couldn’t accept it right away – it was too much to deal with all at once and it took months for me to even come around to the idea and I still haven’t fully accepted it. When you’re used to being able to lace up and get out in the fresh air – just you and your radio – and plod along to your own rhythm, it becomes a massive part of who you are and when it suddenly gets ripped away, you feel lost – like a big part of you has suddenly been whipped away and crazy as it sounds – it takes a while for you to come around to this new version of yourself that doesn’t run every day.

You suddenly feel  – as if you’re not you anymore.

Trauma. Grief. Loss.

Heartbreak.

I don’t say these things to be flippant. I have massively missed running and the goodness it brings to my life. Life without running has left a great hole that I simply cannot fill with cycling or swimming. I have been cranky, intolerant, impatient, angry, sad, an utter basket-case at times (on multiple occasions) and I’ve cried big fat tears of frustration and loss for my life as a runner on several occasions. I’m pretty sure my Dad (poor man has witnesses a number of my ridiculous meltdowns) thinks I’m a complete nut-job but then of course that’s how it must appear to sane people on the outside.

The Phases of Running Grief – not kidding, there are actual phases …

1. Blanket denial – the physio doesn’t know what she’s talking about… she’s talking out her arse – sure I know more about running than she does and I definitely know my own body better than anyone else. I’ll be grand in a few weeks. Your biggest worry at this stage is loss of fitness – worrying about losing the good place you’re at that you’ve worked so hard to get to. Your nervous that your sub 3.45 marathon goal may have to wait till next season.

2. Bargaining – Loss of control and helplessness make the control freak runner in you start to try and rationalise it all in a vain attempt to regain some control – what if I do this next time? What if I did that better?

3. Anger – After a few weeks, nothing is better, the injury is still there and you start to panic when the realisation that it might be quite a while before you’re able to run again starts to feel real.

I followed my plan… why am I injured and X, Y and Z are not? It’s not fair… I did everything I was supposed to do? Why is it different to any other training cycle? I should have taken a longer rest after the last marathon… I should have done more strength work…  I should have eaten better… I should have said 3 hail mary’s before every run… I’m so stupid, stupid, stupid……….and why does nobody understand me?! Get away from me…. No, I don’t want chicken soup to make me feel better!!! Aagggghhhhhhh…

4. The Sad Bit – crying in a pathetic curled ball on the floor as your running gear starts to gather dust, as the races you signed up to months ago all come and go.

Mourning the loss of running as a friend and of that huge part of you that is tied up in running. It’s not just a hobby- it’s who you are first thing in the morning, the feeling you carry with you all day having completed a great run that morning, Parkrun with you friends on a Saturday morning and coffee afterwards, the long run on a Sunday morning listening to the Marian Finuacan radio show and the heavenly after-feeling of that effort as you chill on the sofa drinking coffee, watching Downton Abbey.

Acceptance? Nah. See number 1. I’m an optimist and I love running far too much to ever give up on the idea that I could be out there running some day soon.

I choose hope, rehabilitation and optimism. So maybe I’ll have to keep spinning the wheels of this cycle for a little while longer- going through the phases of denial, anger, sadness – but I won’t stop hoping and I won’t give up.

I saw a new physiotherapist this week and for the first time since I got injured I heard the words “I see no reason why you shouldn’t recover and get back to running”. Like the saddo I am, I nearly cried when she said this. It’s the first positive thing I’ve heard from the rounds of Doctors, physios, orthopaedic surgeons and other specialists in a year. She gave me hope – she didn’t promise anything and she did stress that the first goal would be to get back to a place where I have no pain in my feet just as is. Then, we can look to bringing walking back. Only after that can we even consider bringing running back in.

This could take quite a while to get to that stage but right now, I feel hope – I can see a finish line. Not sure of the distance yet but I can see one drifting about in the wind somewhere out there – I just have to be patient, follow the right path and not be stupid.

Then maybe, just maybe… I’ll be a runner again.

Good Pains in Strange Places

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I’ve started going to the gym and for the first time in a long time, I’m bringing back strength and conditioning sessions in a big way. But boy, it does hurt so good.

Strength and conditioning is an area I confess to having neglected in all my years running. Lifting dumbbells, doing squats and squeezing out a few press-ups are all the types of exercise I would typically hate. I always felt they were boring exercises- like sport without any of the joy. Coming up to marathon training time, I’d resolve to make sure I did at least one proper session per week and then also including a few exercises in my everyday post-run routine, such as heel lifts, wall-sits and planks.

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But in all honesty, I probably have not been doing as much as I should have been doing and now that I’m out of (temporarily!) the running game and sitting on the sidelines, injured for the foreseeable, I can’t help but wonder if I had been more diligent about my strength and conditioning training, I might not be injured right now. I might still be running about blissfully ignorant and injury-free.

I’m not a shoulda, coulda, woulda person though, so I bring this up as topic not to dwell on the past but to learn, plan and build for the future. I want to be stronger, I want to be faster and I always want to be better. (I don’t need to be higher 😉 )

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…and I always want to eat scones.

What’s the Plan?

Joined a gym, had a personal consultation and have a training plan. 2-3 days a week, I’ll be doing an hour of strength work, mixed with a short interval of cardio. In addition to that, I’ll be out on the bike at weekends and as the days start to get longer, I hope to get out a few mornings or evenings before or after work. I hope to get in one or two swims during the week too.

My program consists of:

  • Chest presses
  • Leg presses
  • Step-ups
  • Planks
  • Russian Twists
  • Face Pulls
  • Bicep curls
  • Tricep Dips
  • 15-20 minutes cardio (I’m having a go at rowing to try something different…)

Nothing revolutionary here – and if you’re a runner, you’ll probably be very familiar with most of these exercises. What I like particularly about this program is that it aims to build a basic level of strength and it also incorporate specific exercises that will be good for running, when I start back.

Leg presses will help develop the quad muscles as well as the glutes – also excellent for cycling (and my butt!)

Step-ups are a simple but excellent strengthening exercise that every runner should be including in their daily routine –  as well as the exercise helping to work the glutes, quads and your core, this move also helps to develop good balance and running form. I quite like doing these too.

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Planks and Russian Twists – work your core/ abs mostly but planks are an overall excellent strength exercise.

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I did the full program for the first time during the week and while I enjoyed doing that night… oh my sweet Lord, did it hurt the next day. I know since not being able to run for 10 months, my arms, abs (and general upper body) have just gone to flop. You just don’t use your arms that much on the bike and your entire upper body is more or less stationary for the entire ride – you don’t use it at all the way you do when running. So right now, I have NO upper body strength. It’s pathetic.

I could not lift my arms above waist height on Thursday after my weights session on Wednesday night. And there were aches and tendernesses in back muscles and shoulder places I have never felt before. Have you ever seen a person trying to massage their own back muscles? Not an attractive look. I cared not!

So onward and strong-ward! If you are also someone who has been avoiding strength work because you too find it boring and tedious, please PLEASE heed my advice and just do it anyway. Find a way to get it into your week – if you’re not someone who enjoys lifting dumbbells or churning out squats, then go to a class like bodypump or bootcamp. Ignore this element of your training and it could end up costing you dearly – both literally or figuratively.

Let me put to you this way – would you rather spend your hard earned wages on physiotherapy, MRI scans, doctor’s appointments, blood tests and consultant visits (still with no diagnosis or end in sight…) OR on the entry fee to the Boston Marathon?

Easy, right?

 

Let’s Talk About Feet (again)

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Full disclosure-these are not my feet but I love this picture. Happy feet or what?!

I’ve talked about my feet so many times on this blog that I’m starting to feel they have more of a presence than I have on here. In fairness, their drama, trips, days out, dates and life in general has been far more exciting than my own of late…

For those who don’t know (and have been saved that pedi-saga) I injured both feet in the run-up to the Paris marathon 2016, in or about March last year, which has resulted in me being benched from running for nearly 10 months now. Since then, I’ve seen numerous physiotherapists, a GP, a chiropodist and two orthopaedic surgeons who specialise in feet – all of whom have given me a different diagnosis in terms of the source of the pain in my feet. The first physio told me it was soft tissue damage, “just a battering” from all the marathon training. The second physio (from the same clinic) told me it was NOT a soft tissue injury at all, rather it was more likely a rheumatological condition, possibly rheumatoid arthritis.

On foot of what physio no.2 said, I visited my GP who ran blood tests which confirmed no inflammatory markers in my bloods. So, she ruled out the possibility that the cause of my foot pain was rheumatoidal. She referred me on to an orthopaedic specialist who specialises in foot problems on the basis that the pain could be a result of a stress fracture. On inspection of my feet, this orthopaedic surgeon was of the opinion that indeed the source of my foot pain was most likely a result of a stress fracture – 90% sure it was a stress fracture in the 5th metatarsal – to be precise.

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Went for an MRI… went back to Mr. Ortho… no stress fracture, anywhere in my feet. He then promptly informed me that he could do nothing further for me given that the problem did not appear to be a bone problem nor could he offer any opinion on what was wrong with my feet.

At this point, I cried.

It had been 9 months of different experts, with wildly different views on what is wrong with my damn feet. And here I was, after spending a chunk of money on all these guys and having not been able to go for a run in so long standing in a car park outside a hospital thinking I’m never going to be able to run again…. and not one person can tell me what is wrong with me. So I cried. With my Dad (who had kindly come with me to the appointment) looking at me like I was crazytown.

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This week I went to see another orthopaedic (foot) surgeon for a second opinion, which if nothing else, was hilarious. What my mother calls a good old-fashioned surgeon- glasses, dicky bow, abrupt, utterly unsympathetic, impatient and entirely forthright and opinionated – I loved it. After examining my feet, he took the view that I have basically bad feet. I have splayed, wide feet, with bunions, swelling in the forefoot and collapsed arches – basically, all these factors combined mean that the mechanics of my feet is all off. He told me that the custom orthotics I had made many years ago were useless on their own and that they would not be effective without accompanying exercises to make them work.

So what did he decide should be the next step? A physio! No, but not just anyone, he specifically recommended a Dublin physio who has worked with Athletics Ireland specialising in sports injuries with good experience. Given that this glowing referral came from a man who strikes me as exceptionally hard to impress, I’m expecting great things. I’m honestly very excited and feeling more positive about this than I have in months.

I have an appointment in 2 weeks time and I can’t wait. In the meantime, I also have an appointment to see a rheumatologist to investigate my Reynaud’s and just to rule out any rheumatoidal cause of my foot pain.

For the moment, I am still cycling away at weekend and early mornings before work, when I can. The mornings are slowly getting brighter earlier and the days are starting to stretch out and I can’t wait for those long Summer days… I also just joined a gym to action my new year’s resolution to get stronger this year. Strength and conditioning is an area I’ve neglected for a long time and I’m hoping if I can work on it, it might help with my feet/ knee/other injuries going forward.

Injuries suck, no doubt. I miss running massively. Word. But for the first time in a long time, I’m starting to feel like there’s hope that maybe some day in the near (ish) future, one of these experts will tell me it’s time to run again.

And what a wonderful day that will be. Happy running folks, enjoy!

Running Advent Calendar

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Ho ho ho…my fellow runners. December is but a day away and with it will come a slew of shopping lists, party invites, household tidying and cleaning tasks and a gazillion other demands on your time for the next 25 days…

Fun, right?

The run up to Christmas can be hectic and free time to do the things you want to do can rapidly be hoovered up. Time you may have had before to go for a walk with you friends or a hike up the mountains can so easily be swallowed up by to-do-lists, present-buying and a whole host of other things that seem more important.

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With all the extra demands on you in the few weeks before Christmas, things can get pretty stressful. It’s for exactly this reason I think it’s just as important, if not MORE important to make sure to take a chunk of time for yourself everyday and go for your run – or your walk – or your cycle – or whatever it is that you do that centres you.

If I don’t get out for a run, I start to feel trapped, very quickly. I get ratty, short-tempered and intolerant. I like to think of it as some kind of inherent human, self-preservation characteristic that needs regular exposure to fresh air as a reassurance that if necessary, I can and will escape 😉

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Smiley, happy people.

Or maybe it’s more simply that I like to get outdoors into the fresh air and blow off some steam, whether that’s running the roads for an hour or two, or cycling away the miles for the morning.

Either way, I know how important making the time to get out and exercise is for my mental state. I used to feel like this was a very selfish thing to do, making sure that I carved out some time in the day for my run. I don’t anymore. If I don’t get out for my run, I don’t feel like me AND If I don’t feel right in myself, I’ll be off-balance and my mood will be all wrong WHICH won’t make me a great person to be around. I want to be in a good mood and enjoy people and everything that goes with Christmas – this makes it very simple for me.

For your own good and for the sake of those around you in the next few weeks, it’s important to make sure you do you. Don’t stop running in the next few weeks because all of sudden “you don’t have time”.

Make the time.

Get up an hour earlier. Run at lunchtime. Hit the gym in the evening. Whatever and whenever you can manage.

Don’t lose you in the Christmas chaos.

Because if you’re anything like me, if you start giving up your daily run to Christmas shopping, errands and cleaning the kitchen presses (and other riveting household cleaning tasks…), you will very quickly find yourself sitting in the corner, rocking back and forth, wondering how you ever got there… Okay that hasn’t actually happened yet but it has come close many times!

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Obligatory pic of Macauley Culkin freaking out

For the Next 25 Days… I’m going to help keep you all in the mood for running and remind you how great it can be to have running at this time of year.

Watch out for my posts and excited to get cracking into December!

Fitbit Charge HR Review

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I’ve had a Fitbit Charge HR activity monitor for a few months now so I reckoned it was about time I did a review for those of you who like your gadgets, bit of tech, lots of data analytics or those who perhaps just want be more mindful of their daily activity and overall health.

Personally, I love a good bit of data. Oodles of information and detailed analytics – whether it’s the breakdown of a run or a cycle, food nutrition or the energy cycle of the human body over the course of 24 hours, I’m all ears. No idea why, but pouring over detail whatever the subject matter might be, is something that quietly gives me a nutty amount of pleasure. (See, I have lawyer bursting out of me at any given opportunity 😉 – or nerd?!)

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The Fitbit Charge HR has been on the market since January 2015 but has really only taken off here in Ireland this year. More and more people are wearing activity monitors now as competitors seem to be constantly coming out with new models at more competitive prices. Before buying, I had done quite a bit of shopping around homework on the various options out there, narrowing it down to a choice between the Fitbit Charge HR and and the Garmin Vivofit. In the end I went with the Fitbit – liked the app, had good reviews and the heart rate monitor was something I definitely wanted.

The Look

The Fitbit Charge HR (FCHR from now on because I’m getting lazy now 😉 ) is a neat little accessory. I opted for the black colour, making it a slim, very neat and quite discreet wrist accessory. So if looking smart and tidy is important for your job, then FCHR makes for a good choice.

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The display blacks out when not in use so if you’re not jigging about too much, onlookers might not even realise it was a watch, which is actually quite nifty. Bit M16/ James Bond-ish… and who doesn’t enjoy the odd moment of feeling like a secret agent in the middle of their working day 😉

There is only one button on the side of the rectangular screen – you press it once to get the time, then continue to press it again to move on to the next screen.

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Functions

There are 6 screens to scroll between and 6 bits of information it gives you. Time of day, daily step count, current heart rate, distance walked that day, number of calories you’ve burned so far that day and the number of floors you’ve climbed that day. Basic, block figures – nothing fancy, just the numbers.

Running

Before I got injured, I had about 3 months of running with the FCHR. I popped it on the same wrist as my Garmin 910xt, which I nearly always wear out on a run. Overall, I found it was a fun addition to the Garmin but I wouldn’t be replacing the Garmin with the FCHR by any means.

Running with both devices allowed me to compare the two closely and highlight any flaws or advantages in the FCHR. I’ve always found that once you step outside and the Garmin locates its GPS, it is generally very accurate on distance, pace and time so I knew it would make for a good comparator.

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Good points – The step counter on the FCHR is great and when running, it seems to pick up every step. I loved this because I never knew beforehand how many steps were involved in say, a 12 mile run. Made me feel great about myself when I’d get to the end of a run and have thousands and thousand of steps clocked up – and it only 9am 😉

Not So Good – Distance. The distance covered during a run was always short. Not massively short, but short. If google maps, mapmyrun and the Garmin all have the distance at signigicantly longer, then I’m gonna have to conclude that the fault is with the FCHR GPS. Not the end of the world, but somewhat annoying nonetheless.

Cycling

The HR monitor on the FCHR is quite handy for cycling when you want to train according to your heart rate. However, I don’t think the FCHR was really designed with cycling in mind as the step counter really does get very confused when you start spinning your legs in circles. It counts steps, though not all of them – perhaps mistaking leg rotations for steps – so on days I cycle, I generally just ignore the stepcount.

WAIT, THERE IS A GOOD POINT! After you go for a cycle and synced your data, the app/ website will recognise that activity as a cycle and you can look at the breakdown of your heart rate during the course of that activity, as well as the number of calories burned. I assume it’s the GPS tracker that presumes based on the speed you’re travelling at that what you’re doing is cycling. I rather love this feature, which alhough quite simple, it gives me a little giggle of excitement every time I open up the site and see that Fitbit have intelligently worked out for itself what I was up to earlier 😀

Swimming

The FCHR is NOT WATERPROOF so unfortunately you cannot take it swimming with you.

Battery Life

Fitbit claim that the battery will last up to 5 days. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a full five days out of it. It lasts about 3 days on average, which isn’t the end of the world and not a big deal, but it’s not great either and it is a bit annoying. To recharge, you plug it into your laptop via USB.

The Fitbit App (Tablet and Smartphone) v Website

Fitbit have a free app available to download onto your tablet or smartphone, where you can log, track and compare all of your food and activity intake and output. Alternatively, you can do this via their website. Here, you can also view an analysis of your sleep patterns, in addition to being able to see how many times you were mobile during the day, as opposed to periods of time where you may have been sitting for prolonged periods of time. Whether you’ve any inclination to change any of these things is another thing, but it is interesting to see the reality of your day all laid out.

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Now, there are some differences between the site and the apps, which need attention.

What I like – Firstly, let me just say that I find the phone app is very handy – Bluetooth compatibility allows you to sync with the phone app any time you open up the app and all your data just beams itself up into the cloud. Magic! No need for cables or spinning wheels on the PC, or any prolonged sitting in front of a screen waiting for it all to upload. Takes 2 seconds and NO EFFORT. Love this. The tablet app does likewise.

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What I Do NOT like – The website allows you to create “meals” – regular things that you might eat, like Spaghetti Bolognaise (I don’t actually really eat this but work with me here) where you can input all the ingredients and tot up the total calories for a meal. You do it once, save it and from then on, you just need to select it from your list of meals and click to add it to your daily food diary. One click and done.

Neither the phone app nor the tablet work properly here. In theory, they do allow you to do this but I’ve tried many times on this point and the app just crashes every time. Don’t know what the disjoint going on here might be but it would be great if they could address this flaw.

The website does offer a lot more in terms of data and analysis so I generally prefer using it but the app is very convenient when you’re on the go all day and I find it works very well overall.

Overall Conclusion

I like the FCHR, it does what I had hoped it would do. It counts my steps, provides feedback on heart rate and gives me a general idea on my daily energy output v input. The food diary is also quite handy, although the food database is not as comprehensive as it could be. There are a few flaws and inconsistencies with the distance tracker and with the app but overall, I’d recommend it as a solid activity monitor and a useful addition to anyone looking to improve their overall health… or just become aware of it!

For a clear, comprehensive comparison of all fitness tracker currently on the market, it’s worth visiting Reviews.com where they have very helpfully provided a review of all trackers and highlighted the differences between them – and for once, it’s not just tables and endless numbers – it’s simple to read and follow – and most importantly, it makes it very easy to choose which one you want to buy.

Late Birthday Celebrations & Days Off

LATE BIRTHDAYCELEBRATIONS &DAYS OFF

I would be the first to confess to being overly strict when in training for a big event like a marathon or triathlon. Watching what I eat, being careful about the quality of the food going into my body and trying to keep my weight at a place where I feel comfortable running and cycling. You should know though, I’m not obsessive and I have no desires to be “skinny” – rather, I train and perform better when I feel comfortable in my own skin and for me that means feeling trim and strong.

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I’ve no elite toned body shape going on but for me this is as trim as it gets! Dont think it’s too bad for someone who used to carry an extra 2.5 stone.

I’ve come to believe though that it’s not good to be at that point all year round – to be at what some call your “racing weight”. Apart from the possibility that it might not actually be good for your body in the long run to keep your weight lower than is healthy, it also creates too much pressure and stress for your mind. It’s like trying to be perfect ALL of the time. Not sustainable and will make you go crazy.

So how do you balance these two competing issues? I’m no expert but in the last couple of years I’ve found that works for me is allowing myself to train hard and focus coming up to a big race and then celebrate and enjoy a more relaxed time for a while afterwards. That way, I feel ready to go again for the next training period.

What does that garble actually equate to in reality? It means I take a few days of doing no training except for maybe a gentle cycle or swim, lots of bubble baths and sitting around with my legs up. Then there’s all the food. Chinese takeaways, ice-cream, M&M’s, confectionery coming out my ears and a few nice lunches or dinners out with friends and family. Lots of crap, in other words. I’d generally stay away from this kind of food when I’m in training simply because while it tastes good going down, it makes my body feel gross. It’s not the type of food that makes me feel good from the inside and if I don’t feel good, I don’t perform good. Very simple.

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I eat fish at least 4 times a week, cuz yeah it’s good for me but I also just love it. Clean, environmentally friendly eating… are you loving all the goodness going on here yet?

A few days indulging in rubbish is kiddy-like fun but then I quickly have enough and find I want to get back to eating well and training again.

Ironman 70.3 Dublin last weekend was one such big event for me. The legs were useless for Monday and Tuesday and stairs were a non-runner (pardon the pun). It was also my birthday last weekend so this week was always going to be a chill-out week. A few easy cycles in the last few days helped to ease residual tightness and fatigue in my legs, readily aided by a few long bubble baths 😉

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Ironmanned and done, done, done.

Today I met my cousin and 4 year old godchild for lunch in Avoca along with my Mum and her friend. The food in Avoca is legendary and today’s offerings of confit duck salad with blood oranges, lentils, feta cheese and green beans finished with a lemon posset dessert was no exception. Scrumdiddly. I never pick confit of duck ordinarily but thought I’d live dangerously today and was so glad I did, it was very, very good.

I also picked up a few bits and bobs in the shop, as one cannot avoid doing when in Avoca…

Avocado Mix

Best Ever Granola from Avoca is something I’ve gotten really into lately. Apricots, big ass brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds all knockin around in there with an undertone of a funky orange oil… goes very well with some greek yogurt and berry compote, which has been my breakfast, supper and anytime snack really…

Cranberries, apricot, brazils, almonds, orangey goodness.

This Cake – look I honestly don’t know what it’s called but it was bloody wonderful. Maybe it’s because I eat cake all of probably twice a year that it tasted that good, but it was really very, very good. Think carrot cake meets bakewell tart. Cream cheese icing on top of a carrot cake middle, on top of a layer of jam on a pastry base. Fresh as a daisy and light as anything. C’est super.

No.1 cake spot goes to this lady here. #BeatThat
No.1 cake spot goes to this lady here. #BeatThat

White chocolate biscuit cake – Understand this is not all for me, I’m not that bad. I got this to give to other people but obviously had to taste it in the interests of reviewing it for you fine people 😉 This was disappointing to be honest. Very non-descript taste. I imagined it was going to have a strong white chocolate hit to it, given that it’s pretty much a solid lump of white chocolate with bits of biscuit, marshmallow and raspberries. Alas, it did not. Thumbs down from me.

So pretty...eh looks better than it tastes. 3/10
So pretty…eh looks better than it tastes. 3/10

Before you come to the conclusion (though I would understand if you had already gotten there!) that I am indeed a savage, I am saving the rest of my Avoca loot for another time. So you shall have to wait for my review of Avoca’s raw health food brownie and similarly raw and health foody caramel slice.

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Pancakes and Birthday Cake are on the menu for tonight’s supper, along with family time, the original Blair Witch Project, and the main event… cheering on Mo Farah in the Olympic final of the Men’s 5000m race.

On Monday, I’ll be drawing up a training plan for the next few months and cracking into good eating again. I love my down time and I love my up time. But as with any seesaw, the trick in it is not letting yourself go too far up or too far down.

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After all, you don’t wanna fall off.