Category Archives: Sports nutrition and children

Keep cool and carry on? 4 rules for heat-exhausted runners

With the appointment of the new Marmite-like Prime Minister in the middle of the UK’s sweltering summer, it may feel impossible to be keeping a cool head. Whatever your political affiliation or views on Brexit, one thing is for certain: it is a struggle to carry on as normal in temperatures more akin to the tropics. Somehow, even if many of us look forward to being in the same temperatures when we’re on holiday, when we are at home trying to get on with our daily lives, a heatwave makes it seem utterly unbearable. Of course, there will always be those amongst you who are perfectly comfortable blissfully soaking up the hot sun. They are the same people who appear effortlessly cool on the Underground without a single bead of sweat in sight. And I shouldn’t complain when if given the choice, I will always opt for taking on the heat rather than facing cold weather because it is my personal Kryptonite. However, this summer I am failing miserably to cope with the heat when it comes to running.

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How not to run a half-marathon 2

As some people may know, I like to participate in the odd running event for fun and over the years, have managed to complete several half-marathons. I never thought I would say it, but I quite like running this distance. Mainly because of the broad range of people and abilities taking part, including many of those wearing fancy dress. There will always be some seriously speedy competitors at the front of the pack kitted out in the latest high-tech trainers but they definitely do not make up the majority of runners. Which means that the whole event feels less like being part of a ‘race’ against each other and more like running in the middle of a giant wave of like-minded participants that surges forward past the crowds.

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But despite the all-embracing, tree-hugging inclusion with motivational cheering of half-marathons, you cannot hide the fact that there are also 21km of hard slog to contend with. Not everything always goes to according to plan on the day, despite your best efforts, and I am no different. In fact, it is fair to say that my experience of running half-marathons has been very mixed…

When I think of the halfs that didn’t go well, the 2015 Milton Keynes Winter Half-Marathon immediately comes to my mind. The weather was hellish with torrential rain of biblical proportions that had completely flooded the course before the race started. As the route had not been altered, there were several unavoidable ‘puddles’ that were actually knee-deep icy pools. The freezing rain never stopped once and the wind lashed it down so hard it felt as if we were being fired at with needles. It was so relentless, it put me off running halfs for quite some time afterwards.

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Freaking sugar

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It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the onslaught of Brexit news and political shenanigans at the moment that reaches you with every notification ping of the latest breaking news story. Therefore, I almost missed the fact that it had been Sugar Awareness Week. This year, Action on Sugar focused their campaign on banning all milkshakes over 300 kcals. Their main target is a sugar monstrosity known as the Freakshake. A Freakshake is unlike anything ever seen or even dreamt up before and is more than some ordinary milkshake having its moment in social media. It is an indulgent, calorie dense, sugar loaded mash-up of 3 different puddings in one. It is also an absolute feat in pudding engineering and pushes the boundaries of sickliness to extreme limits.

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Give junk food the Red Card

It’s hard to believe that it is already May and we are well into the Spring. Although there is one thing that reminds me that despite the unpredictable weather, change is in the air. Or rather, there has been a ‘change of air’ as there is something that is now, thankfully, absent. No longer am I greeted with the unmistakeable thick stench of abandoned muddy rugby boots every time I cross my front door. Strangely, there always seems to be more pairs of boots and empty gumshield cases than children in my household. But I don’t dare open any unfamiliar looking boot bags among the heap, lest I disturb their murky contents.

For now, though, it is safe to breathe in deeply and enjoy the Spring air. Rugby season has finally finished, which means some temporary relief from the particular ‘rugby smell’ that can assault your nostrils when you least expect it. It will be almost 5 months before the season begins again and one of my children will be forced to delve through the dirty kit in search of their missing gumshield. But this doesn’t mean that I will now be able to put up my feet and try to remember what we used to do on the weekend before spending it on the sidelines. For my family, the end of one sport always kickstarts the next and since it’s Spring, it can only be athletics and the beginning of track season.

Instead of packing bags of muddy boots and scrum caps, we now take spikes and foam rollers, but they are still stuffed into some enormous kit bags we have to lug around. The sport may have changed but as parents, we still face the same challenges. How do we manage to get everyone to training and competitions and keep them well-fed and watered? Not to mention, taking care of ourselves? It is difficult enough to coordinate family meals around any weekday sports training, especially if you have more than one child or sport. But sports competitions and fixtures that take place over several hours on the weekend are a whole different challenge. Especially because sports events are always catered more for the spectators rather than participants and this is never more true than when it comes to children’s sports.

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How not to run a half marathon

Have you ever done anything before that was so ridiculous that you had to question how you got there? It was Monday again, and I was a bit more on the tired side than usual and had a couple of sore toes. Then the reason for this started to hit me…The previous day, I unexpectedly ran a half marathon race. And how I let this happen should be a word of warning to all parents.

As readers will know, I am a runner and I like to enter the odd event for fun now and then, albeit with mixed results. I am also married to runner and so it’s probably no surprise that taking part in sport is the norm in our family and our 3 children are very active. In fact, for some time, our middle child had repeatedly declared to anyone who would listen, that he wanted to run a half marathon. In fact, he wanted to run one as soon as he reached the required entry age of 17. Now as all parents know, there can be a big difference between what your child says they want to do and what they really think once the reality of the actual ‘doing’, sinks in. Which is why sometimes simply sleeping on it for a couple of days, months or even years is a parent’s saving grace. I cannot count the number of times this technique has worked to avoid unwise purchases, club memberships, hairstyles and piercings. At the very least, buying parents more time can help them make sure their offspring really understand what they are asking for or can give them the chance to come up with the least worst Plan B.

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With this in mind, we regularly reminded our son that a half marathon is just over 21km and is not exactly a skip in the park. However, he could not be deterred and after a bit of research, he announced that he was going to run his first half-marathon 2 days after his 17th birthday took place. On hearing this, his previously concerned father leapt at the opportunity to run alongside him and immediately began weighing up training plans. They had almost 6 months to train before the race took place, what could possibly go wrong?

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