Tag: training

The 7 Podcasts That’ll Make You Love Long Runs

Running-and-headphones

Your choice of listening material when running is a very personal thing. Some people prefer to leave the headphones at home and embrace the sounds of nature during their runs. Others need a good fast beat to help them keep their pace up. And some people look to podcasts to provide a distraction from the pain and hard work of running.

I fall somewhere between the first and third camps. On some days, particularly when it’s sunny outside and the birds are singing, I just feel like running in silence. But when the weather is a bit grim and I’ve got a long run ahead, I generally turn to podcasts to help keep my spirits up and make the miles go past faster.

I’ve got a half marathon coming up this weekend (the Northumberland Endurancelife if anyone’s interested) and my husband is already prepping his podcast list for his ultra run. If you’re looking for some new inspiration, here are some of my favourite podcasts to help make long runs fun. But a word of warning: you may find some of them so addictive that you won’t want to stop…

If You’ve Got an Ultra Coming Up: Limetown

I was struggling to find a podcast that was as gripping, well-produced and addictive as Serial. Then I found Limetown. Although it’s a fictional story, the investigative journalism style makes it feel more like a true-crime podcast.

The story itself – the disappearance of 300 people from a model town in Tennessee – is intriguing and each plot twist pulls you deeper into the story. Once you’ve started, you won’t want to stop listening so download all the episodes and plan a three-hour run.

For Binge Listening: Serial

If you haven’t listened to the award-winning podcast, Serial, then you’ve probably been hiding under a rock for the past few years. But if that’s the case then great! You’ve got all the fun to look forward to.

Serial is a non-fiction podcast that investigates the murder of Hae Min Lee in 1999 and the subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed. It’s easy to forget when you listen to the serialised narrative that this is a real story, with real people involved, and that there may not be a happy ending.

It’s a gripping show and the best news is, once you finished season one you can move onto season two which is a whole different story. Hours of entertainment to keep your legs moving.

To Get You Through Long Runs: The Tim Ferris Show

Tim Ferris interviews the great and good from all walks of life in a show that was seemingly devised for long runs. Episodes frequently exceed two hours in length making it a great choice for long workouts. Although it’s branded as a business podcast, the interviews are wide-ranging and cover many aspects of lifestyle, productivity and work.

For Inspiration: The Tough Girl Podcast

If your legs need some inspiration to keep running, then the Tough Girl Podcast will provide. Host Sarah Williams interviews women who are pushing the boundaries in their outdoor adventure challenges. From epic adventurers to Olympic athletes, this show will make you realise how many endurance challenges there are in the world and what it takes to complete them.

Be warned: if you listen to too many episodes then you may find yourself dreaming up your own challenge to escape the regularity of day-to-day life.

To Learn Something New: Crypto News Podcast

Okay, this is a bit of a cheeky entry as I co-host the podcast! (But hey, it’s my blog, so I can give it a shout-out, right?) If you’re bamboozled by bitcoin and confused about cryptocurrency, but feel like it’s something you should know more about, then join two crypto newbies as we navigate our way through the world of cryptocurrency.

Each week we talk through some of the top crypto news stories to find out what’s hot (or not) in the crypto world. Download the 12 boot camp episodes to get a simple overview of what Bitcoin, cryptocurrency and the blockchain are all about and finish your run better informed than when you started.

For a Quick Fix: The Other Stories

If you’re looking for a short fiction podcast with a nod to the dark side, then check out this podcast from the team at Hawk and Cleaver. The stories cover the genres of horror, sci-fi and thrillers, and will leave you with a definite chill down your spine. The episodes are generally between 10 and 20 minutes long so enjoy them on a quick lunchtime run or stack up a few for a longer session.

If You Enjoyed Limetown: Rabbits

Like Limetown, Rabbits is a fictional podcast presented in a true-crime style. And if you thought the events narrated in Limetown were weird, then Rabbits takes things to a whole new level.

Rabbits is the story of the search by the podcast host, Carly, for her missing friend, Yumiko, who she believes disappeared because of her participation in a mysterious alternate reality game known only as “Rabbits”.

The first couple of episodes are a little slow going, with a lot of backstory and information on video game culture and alternate reality. But after that, the story quickly picks up pace and the plot twists come thick and fast as the suspense builds. The ending is as weird as weird can be, and personally, I found it not quite satisfying, but don’t let me put you off. Rabbits will make you forget your tired legs and burning lungs while you listen to find out what happens next.

What are your favourite podcasts? Let me know in the comments below or get in touch on Twitter – I’m looking for some new shows to listen to!

Five Reasons to Love Walking in the Rain (+ 5 Top Tips)

Hiking in the rain

I love the lush, green British landscape and welcome the change of seasons and the variety this brings to my life. But sometimes, I wish it didn’t rain quite so much! Since the start of the new year, rain has been the dominant theme of our weather here in Yorkshire. But has that stopped me getting outside? Has it hell! Given the choice between a dry, bright day and a rainy one, most of us would choose to walk in the former. But there are reasons to enjoy walking in the rain, and at least one of them should make you force yourself outdoors whatever the weather.

Here are a few of the reasons why I love walking in the rain, plus my top five tips to make hiking in bad weather less of a chore.

1. Bad Weather Walks Can Be the Most Memorable

Now, I have plenty of memories of beautiful walks throughout my life. But some of the experiences that really stick in my mind have been the wet weather walks. A hike up the Merrick, when I was probably about seven years old, has gone down in family history as the day the rain never stopped. During the walk, we could rarely see more than 20m ahead and let’s just say that the view from the top was shades of grey…

Another one that sticks in my memory is a hike we did on a holiday to America. We’d been walking for hours, zig-zagging up through beautiful forests and lush meadows, but just as we reached the crest of the summit ridge, a thunderstorm drew in. Rather than turning around and hiking back down, we retreated a hundred metres down the path and huddled miserably in the rain while the path below our feet turned into a stream and lightning flashed overhead. But the thunderstorm passed and, in its wake, we submitted the peak and were rewarded with beautiful views.

There can be a fine balance between going out in weather that is safe but a bit miserable and weather that’s downright dangerous. Where you draw that line will depend on your level of outdoor experience, the type of activity you’re doing and the weather forecast, and is up to you to decide. Err on the side of caution, but don’t be put off by a bit of rain.

2. It’s Good Training

When I used to train with a search and rescue team, one of our training officers had the motto, “If it ain’t raining, it ain’t training”. There is truth to this, in that training in bad weather is good preparation for races or other adventures when you’re not sure what the weather conditions will be like. (And let’s face it, if that event is in the UK, even in summer you can’t guarantee sunshine.)

If you train in bad conditions, then if the weather isn’t ideal on the day of the event, you won’t be thrown by this because you’ve prepared and trained for that eventuality. And if you do get a good weather day, then you’ll appreciate it all the more!

3. You Get to Properly Test Your Kit

There was a reason you bought that £300 waterproof, right? And if you never go out in the rain, how will you know if it was worth the money?

In all seriousness, and going back to the point above, if you’re training for an event that could be affected by wet weather, you MUST test out how your kit will work under those weather conditions. Midnight on the overnight camp of your first mountain marathon isn’t the time you want to find out that your tent leaks!

You also need to work out how your body responds to different weather conditions, particularly wind and cold, so you can make sure you wear the right kit and have spare layers packed.

4. You’ll Feel Better for Having Done It

When the rain’s lashing on the windows, it can be really tempting to scrap your outdoor plans in favour of curling up inside with a nice cup of tea. And if you can do this without feeling the teeniest bit guilty, then good on you. But for most people, you’ll feel better for getting out, if only for a quick breath of fresh air. There’s nothing more rewarding than a long hot shower and a mug of hot chocolate after a long hike in the rain. And you’ll sleep better for it too.

5. Rainy Days Can Be the Most Beautiful

There’s a reason photographers love mixed weather days. Unexpected rainbows, shafts of sunlight through dark clouds and dramatic, moody lighting can transform even the plainest landscape into something quite beautiful. Many of these moments come and go within minutes or even seconds, and if you hadn’t have been outside, you’d never have seen them. So, if the forecast is for rain or showers and you’re not sure whether to go out or stay at home, then go. Nature herself may reward you.

Five tips for walking in the rain

Here are my top tips for hiking, running or biking in bad weather:

  1. Invest in good waterproofs. If it’s torrential rain, nothing will keep you totally dry, but a decent pair of waterproofs will mean the difference between an enjoyable day out and a miserable, soggy experience.
  2. Choose the right route. Today may not be the best day to tackle that exposed ridge scramble or do a long circuit of high peaks. Going out in bad weather doesn’t mean ignoring the forecast and you may need to adjust your original plans to take into account the weather conditions. A low-level, straightforward route will probably be a more enjoyable experience and avoid potential epics. Also, pick a route that’s easy to navigate, so you don’t have to faff around with maps or GPS units in the rain.
  3. Plan a cafe stop (or keep moving). Standing eating soggy butties in the rain isn’t much fun. So if you’re going for a long walk, see if you can plan in a stop for food at a cafe or pub. If there’s nothing on route, then consider taking lots of snacks that you can eat quickly, and keep moving so you don’t get cold.
  4. Take a friend for motivation. If you’ve got someone to chat to, this will take your mind off the weather and make the miles fly by. You can keep each other’s spirits up if things start getting a bit damp and motivate each other to keep going.
  5. Stock up on podcasts. This may be a controversial one, and for many people (myself included a lot of the time), getting outside is about getting away from everything else and just enjoying being in nature. But as I found this weekend, if you’ve got your hood up against the driving rain and you’re plodding along a familiar route, listening to something fun and entertaining is a great way to both take your mind off the weather and make you walk a little faster. I selected a variety of podcasts, including my current addiction, Limetown, and tucked my phone into my trouser pocket under my waterproof overtrousers to keep it dry. My 16 km canal walk flew by.

I hope that’s encouraged you to get out and enjoy the outdoors whatever the weather! If you’re going backpacking, then check out my tips on camping in the rain. And if you’ve got more tips for getting outside in wet weather, please post them in the comments below.

Review of the Down Dog App

Woman in yoga posture

I’ve practised yoga on and off (admittedly more off than on) for the past twelve years. Every time I start getting back into it, I remember why I love it, but lack of time and easily-accessible classes has prevented me from doing a regular yoga practice for several years. Until I discovered the Down Dog app.

I work from home, sometimes spending up to 14 hours a day on my computer. By anyone’s standards (including my own), that isn’t healthy, but hey, I love my job! But years of computer work are starting to take their toll, and recently I’ve been suffering with RSI. I’m sure that part of the problem is down to not doing enough stretching and strength work to support my core, back and neck. I’m carrying out some short-term interventions to help with the RSI, but long term, I believe regular yoga practice will help me be a healthier writer.

I’m sure there are many of you out there who, like me, would love to be able to do a regular yoga class, but feel like you don’t have the time or money. That’s what makes the Down Dog app so great. It’s free and, from my limited experience to date, a brilliant alternative or addition to an instructor-led yoga class.

The Benefits of Yoga

Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that originated in India. It focuses on strength, flexibility, balance and breathing and has both physical and mental benefits. On the physical side, it can help increase muscle strength and tone, improve flexibility and help reduce the likelihood of injury from participation in other sports. Mentally, the concentration and breathing techniques are a type of meditation that can improve mental wellbeing and reduce stress.

There are lots of different types of yoga. Some focus more on specific aspects of the practice, such as breathing, or physical movement and strength. The Down Dog app features Vinyasa flow yoga, which emphasises the transitions between postures and a continued flow of movement.

What is the Down Dog App?

It’s a highly-rated yoga app that you can download to your smartphone to guide you through yoga practices at home. You get step-by-step verbal instructions and can also follow the instructor on the screen. Each practice has an accompanying music playlist.

There’s a pro membership which gives access to additional features and content, such as the ability to tailor your practice to a specific body part or practice area, to slow down or speed up the practice, and to access additional playlists. If you’ve used the app for a while then these features may be of interest, but in my opinion the features you get for free are more than enough for most people.

Down Dog App Review

I’ve downloaded a fair number of apps to my phone and deleted almost as many. The Down Dog App is hands down the best app I’ve come across to date. The features and flexibility you get are nothing short of amazing, given that this is a free tool.

To start with, you have a choice of four sequence types:

  • Full practice – this is a full routine including warmup, a range of standing and seated poses and a cool down. You can choose a practice length from 20 minutes to 100 minutes (the default is 30).
  • Short practice – a condensed version of the full practice with options as short as ten minutes. Perfect for a quick work break in the middle of the morning or afternoon.
  • Quick flow – this skips part of the warmup and is designed to keep you working throughout the duration of the routine.
  • Restorative – this option focuses on stretching and relaxation and is great for winding down before bedtime.

There are five different levels: Beginner 1, Beginner 2, Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2 and Advanced. So far I’ve only tried the beginner levels, but I’ve really enjoyed all the practices. None have been too difficult, but they’ve been perfect for remembering the different poses and getting back into yoga after a break. The best thing about the app is the variety – every practice you do is different.

If you’ve never done yoga before, then I’d recommend taking some instructor-led classes before using the app. The benefits of having a physical instructor present are that they can check you’re carrying out the poses correctly and adjust your posture if necessary. They will also help you push yourself, so you know how far you can stretch into the pose.

Once you’ve got used to the different positions and sequences, then the down dog app can be a great way of complementing your classes, carrying out a daily practice or as an alternative to instructor-led sessions. As you become familiar with the Sanskrit and English names for the poses and get used to typical sequences, you’ll get to a stage where you can just follow the verbal instructions and don’t need to look at your phone during the practice.

Unlike many free apps, there aren’t any annoying adverts or pop-ups that interrupt your exercise. You’re asked to rate different practices and there is the occasional reminder of the benefits of the pro membership, but it’s pretty hands off in terms of pushing the paid version. If you’ve been meaning to get back into yoga or want to carry out some extra sessions between classes, then I definitely recommend downloading the Down Dog app.

10 Tips for Trail Running in the Dark

Running at night

Trail running in the dark can be an intimidating experience if you’re not used to it. The countryside landscape looks different at night, distances seem longer and it can sometimes feel as if there’s someone hiding behind every bush just waiting to jump out at you. But, with a bit of practice, trail running at night can be just as enjoyable as during the day. And it definitely beats an hour on the treadmill or pounding pavements.

What’s more, learning to run in the dark can improve your trail running technique. You learn to become a more instinctive runner and allow your feet to adapt to obstacles in your path, both of which can help improve your speed on different terrains when running in the daylight. If you’re new to running off-road at night, here are some tips to help you enjoy running in the dark.

1. Start on Easy Trails

It’s best to ease yourself into night-time running by starting off on easy trails, such as forest tracks or wide path without too many obstacles. Allow your body and mind to get used to the different experience of running in the dark without having to worry too much about where you’re placing your feet.

2. Get a Bright Head Torch

A head torch is the one essential piece of kit you need for running at night and the brighter it is, the better. Your old head torch you use for camping may look bright enough when you’re standing in the house, but out in the woods, it’s a different story. A bright head torch helps you pick out obstacles and the route ahead and makes you less likely to put a foot wrong. If you’ve been put off running in the dark by previous experiences with a dim torch, then invest in the brightest one you can find. It’ll transform your running experience.

3. Choose a Route You Know

Navigating in the dark is hard. I consider myself a relatively competent orienteer during the day, but I never fail to get lost at night. Small footpaths through woodlands are particularly easy to get lost on, especially when covered in leaf litter. Choose a route you’re very familiar with for your first runs in the dark so you don’t have to worry about losing your way.

4. Shine the Torch Ahead of You, Not at Your Feet

When running in the dark, you want to shine the torch a few metres ahead of you. This may seem slightly counterintuitive, but you need to be looking out for obstacles ahead and trust your feet to deal with what’s underfoot. If you look down at your feet, you’re bound to trip over.

5. Embrace All Your Senses

When you lose part of your sight, your other senses become amplified. You may notice things you don’t normally take in when running. The rustling of animals in the forest, the footfall of your running companion or your own breathing. Don’t be afraid of the strange noises, but embrace the sounds and smells of your environment and the touch of the ground underfoot.

6. Go Running with a Pal

Going running with a friend is more likely to get you out of the house and helps if you feel at all nervous about running on your own at night. If you can’t persuade anyone to go with you, then join a local running club.

7. Be Prepared for Emergencies

Running in the dark isn’t any more dangerous than running in the light, but when the weather is cold, you want to be prepared for any eventuality. It’s worth carrying a phone in case of emergency and consider packing an extra layer and a small first aid kit to be fully prepared.

8. Make Sure You Can be Seen

Your heavy breathing and bright torch may give your presence away to the odd dog walker you encounter, but it’s worth wearing reflective clothing, particularly if any part of your route is on roads.

9. Focus on the Run

Running at night requires greater concentration than running during the day. You’ll find you return home with your brain tired as well as your legs. This need to focus can make the run more exhilarating, but you may need to rethink some of your summer running habits. Leave your headphones and music at home and try not to let your mind wander too much or else you may find yourself tripping up.

10. If You Feel Unsafe, Carry a Personal Safety Device

just to reiterate, even though running in the dark may not feel as safe as running in daylight, often that’s more about perception than fact. But if you want an extra bit of security, then a device such as the Run Angel may boost your confidence. You wear it on your wrist and can set up ‘guardians’ who will receive a text message with your location if you activate the alarm. The alarm itself is ear-piercing – useful if you want to ward off any unwanted attention.

These tips should help you feel more confident about running in the dark. But if you’re still struggling with motivation to get out running this winter, then check out this article on 35 health benefits of running.

7 Tips To Stay Cool When Exercising in the Heat

Woman Exercising in the Heat

It’s been scorchio in the UK this week! Have you been making the most of the good weather? Or is exercising in the heat too much for you to deal with? (And sunbathing with an ice cream too tempting.)

I have to admit to having a bit of a love-hate relationship with the heat. Sun is great. Warmth is lovely. But as the thermometer starts to rise, I begin to wilt. Much above twenty degrees (centigrade, for you non-Brits) and I’m scurrying for a patch of shade. Ironically, my better half is something of a sun lover. Which makes for a heated debate about optimum climbing conditions when we climb in hotter parts of the world.

Although exercising in the heat can have benefits, particularly if you’ve got a race in a hot country coming up, it also has dangers. Exercising raises your body temperature and, if you’re already hot from being in the sun, this could push it to dangerously high levels. Dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are all things to watch out for.

Here are some tips for staying safe when exercising in the heat.

Exercise Early In the Morning

You can beat the heat by exercising first thing in the morning. Try and juggle your schedule so you can get out early, or get up an hour earlier in the morning to take advantage of the coolest part of the day.

If you’re really not a morning person then exercising late at night is another option. It’ll still be warm and muggy, but you won’t have the sun blazing down on you.

Keep Hydrated

Dehydrating is one of the main risks when exercising in the heat. Although you may want to carry water or an electrolyte solution when training, it’s just as important to make sure you’re hydrated before you start. This can be tricky if you’re exercising first thing in the morning, as you’ll dehydrate overnight. (Unless you’re one of those crazy people who doesn’t sleep.)

If you’re exercising in the evening, check the colour of your pee throughout the day. Pale yellow is good, dark yellow or brown means you need to drink more. Checking your pee is a good way of making sure you’re not drinking more than you need to.

Make Sure You’re Replacing Sodium

When you sweat, you’re not just sweating out water but also sodium. Our bodies need sodium to help keep a proper balance of water and for nerve and muscle function. You’re likely to get most of the sodium you require from your food, but your body may crave a little extra salt during hot weather.

An electrolyte solution can help rebalance your sodium levels after a hard workout (as opposed to energy drinks which tend to be full of sugar). Don’t overdo the electrolytes though as you could end up with too much sodium in your body.

Slap On the Sunscreen

As you’ll be sweating off sunscreen, you may want to opt for a higher factor sunscreen when exercising. You want something that’s water resistant, at least SPF 30 and protects from both UVA and UVB rays. If you’re doing a long run, hike or bike ride, you’ll probably need to reapply sunscreen part way through.

Take It Easy When Exercising In the Heat

If you’re used to training in cooler temperatures the heat can feel debilitating at first. You may feel slow and sluggish and be tempted to push harder as a result. But listen to your body. If it’s telling you to slow down, then slow down. You can start increasing the length and duration of your workout when your body begins to acclimatise to the heat.

Wear Loose, Light-Coloured Clothing

Light-coloured clothing will help reflect the heat and loose clothing allows air to reach your skin and cool you down. Save the dark, tight clothing for winter.

Go indoors

Now, we all know I’m a fan of the outdoors. The whole point of this blog is to promote and encourage you all to get outdoors! But, even I have to admit that sometimes gyms have their place. Not that being in a sweaty gym is the most pleasant experience. But at least most of them have air conditioning. So if the mercury in the thermometer continues to rise, going to the gym may be a safer option than exercising in the heat.