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Welcome to my blog

 

This blog is my professional view and opinions on anything related to massage and fitness. This may range from new therapies, training modes, interesting aspects of massage or fitness, to food, recovery and other aspects to remain in good overall health.

 

By Lee Weston, Jul 15 2018 07:09PM

Ultra-running has kind of become my thing over the last year, more through organic growth rather than an intension, and with the hills getting bigger and distances getting longer I wondered what all these people around me were doing with poles!? So running with poles is a thing and although you may write them off as cheating or gaining an unfair advantage, don’t knock it until you have tried it. I am now a massive fan and convert after recently trying them in the Mozart 100, a 103km ultra in the Austrian mountains, with 4500m of elevation. Without them it would have been an ugly affair. Also, if it’s allowed in the rules and regs of the race, which it is in most mountainous ultras, why not use the kit allowed to gain the most benefit within the race.


After a bit of research into the potential benefits, reading blogs and articles about how they are like Marmite, you love them or hate them, I thought it was worth a try. I have always known of the benefits of hiking with poles. They keep you more upright, therefore reducing the load on the quads and calves giving you more power from the glutes as well as off-loading the lower body and utilising the upper body. Some articles claimed a 40% increase in upper body use whilst using poles which is a huge aid to the lower body.


When my friend who I ran the Mozart 100 with was suffering from a knee issue leading into the race it seemed to make sense to use poles a bit earlier than intended. I had planned to practice running with them leading up to the Arc50, a 50 mile ultra in Feb when ground conditions would be treacherous and very hilly on the Cornish coast path. I decided to invest in a pair, not lightly though as they come at a cost! Made from carbon fiber or aluminum they are designed to fold up smaller for ease of packing away and also to save weight when running/carrying them. This makes them expensive £80+.


I bought a pair of Mountain King Trail Blaze Skyrunner Trail Poles off eBay but not long before realising I couldn’t take them on the plane in my hand luggage. So, I ended using normal light weight trekking poles borrowed from a client’s client who lived in Salzburg. Amazingly they do give you a lot of extra go, even on the level. They definitely take some getting used to but my friend wouldn’t have made it around the 103km without them and I would have been in a lot of pain! I found on the flats you could use them in an alternating swing pattern, and the same on ascents however you could double pole to give a big power uphill walking or running. I found the double pole most beneficial downhill to help reduce the load and impact also stabilising yourself on uneven/slippery descents. They definitely take some getting used to and wouldn’t be for everyone, but I was sold on them in 5-10minutes of using them, and that was just a normal light weight walking pole, not even a specific running pole. However, they do throw up a few logistical things to consider like where to carry them, feeding on the go etc.



Potential gains:

1. Offloads the legs and aids in the mechanics of ascents, descents and flats.

2. Increase upper body work out and opening up of the chest by being upright making it easier to get your breath when working hard.

3. Reduces the risk of injury / falls as helps stabilise yourself on your feet.

4. Reduces the likelihood of early fatigue.


Potential problems:


1. Your hands aren’t free to eat, drink or perform other tasks which can be annoying but just takes some time to get used to.

2. They aren’t permitted on airplanes in hand luggage so can be a pain if traveling light.

3. Consideration has to be given to where you store them on yourself when not using them as running holding them can be arduous.

4. They can be an expensive bit of kit if you don’t like running with them / utilise them enough within races.



Top tips if your considering using running poles:

1. Try before you buy, even if it’s with a trekking pole. You will soon find out a rhythm or whether it is for you or not.

2. Practice makes perfect. This is something I didn’t have the luxury of and had to play with it on race day (not ideal) but it will make you far more proficient and economic with your energy.

3. Think about how you will store them whist running that is easy to access and perform whilst fatigued.

4. Read reviews before you buy as there are pros and cons relating to the brands, material they are constructed from, wrist straps and the construction of them (Z folding or telescopic).

5. Make sure you get the right size too as most aren’t adjustable to save weight. A rough guide is multiplying your height by 0.7 or a pole length allowing your elbow to be at 90 degrees whilst you are holding the grip and the tip on the floor.


Hopefully this gives you a brief overview of a few things I experienced in researching, buying and using poles in the last month or so within my silly Ultras. For me it will be an essential bit of kit, first to be packed in my bag alongside my toilet roll, whistle and phone.



By Lee Weston, Jul 2 2018 02:06PM

If you haven’t noticed protein is added to everything on the shelves at the moment. It’s becoming a big buzz word in the food industry and is seen to be a healthy go to choice to munch on something high in protein. This is just a simple round up of some of the facts, so you know what to eat, how much to eat and whether it’s worth your money in all these new supplements and foods with it added.


Why is it important?

Protein is a macronutrient made up of 20 amino acids (AA), 8 of which are essential (unable to be synthesised by the body) and 12 that can be made by the body. You require a balance of all of these and more importantly the 8 essential AAs. Proteins are important for growth & repair tissue, used in key functional elements of the body like enzymes, hormones, and used within the immune system. Proteins can also be used as an energy source if required. Protein has been jumped on by the food industry in its marketing campaigns as it helps to reduce the glycemic load of the other foods its added to/eaten with as well as releasing hormones which may suppress the appetite, like Peptide YY. So do we need all of this added protein to normal foods or can we get it from our normal diet?


Sources of protein

The best sources of protein are the ones which are natural and mixed in variety. They are graded on an arbitrary scale of 0-100 with 100 being the best closely matched AA balance of that the body requires.


Meat offers a good source of protein however often comes with higher saturated fats & cholesterol. E.g. red meats. Chicken and turkey are often seen as great sources. Also, fish is a great source with the added benefits of omega 3 & 6 essential oils.


However, eating meat isn’t the only option. Veg, fruit, pulses, lentils, cereals all have plenty of protein in them to offer. The top 10 veg are below:


1. Peas

2. Spinach

3. kale

4. Broccoli

5. Sprouts

6. Mushrooms

7. Brussel sprouts

8. Artichokes

9. Asparagus

10. Corn


The main thing to remember is to have a variety of sources and not rely on one. If you are vegan or vegetarian that’s not a problem, it just means a bit more time in investigating new recipes with new ingredients. Making sure you have sources of plant-based protein in each meal/ snack.


How much Protein do we need?


This all depends on what your goals are. For the general population the recommended daily intake is 0.75 g per kg body weight per day. For a 75kg male = 56g of protein. However, the below table gives you an idea of what you require in g/kg body weight/day if you are training for specific events or goals:


Type of athlete & Daily protein requirements per kg body weight (g)

Endurance athlete -moderate to heavy training 1.2-1.4

Strength and power athlete 1.4-1.8

Athlete on fat- loss program 1.6-2

Athlete on weight-gain program 1.8-2


Its advised to increase protein intake by 0.2 g/kg body weight/day if you are reducing your kcal to retain muscle mass and not to lose it in fueling the body. So, for a non-athlete reducing kcals it would be 0.95g/kg body weight/day.


There has also been research showing the body can’t utilize any more than 2g/kg of body weight /day and therefore if you are consuming more than that you are wasting your money and urinating it down the toilet. Long term studies haven’t been done yet to see if it has an impact on the kidneys by filtering and excreting this excess protein but short term studies suggest it isn’t harmful.


Are you wasting your money on these supplements & new products with added protein? – No not necessarily. Just depends on how much you are requiring


1. Convivence – as much as I have the philosophy of eating a balance diet and making an effort to eat as much whole food as possible, sometimes in a busy day it can be quicker and easier to grab a protein shake. Normally much easier to stomach rather than a full-blown meal pre or post work out, and much quicker. However not advised all the time.

2. Muscle mass- if an induvial has a large mass and is trying to put on weight they may need to consume more protein that comfortably possible. For example, a 120kg male may need 240g protein if looking to gain mass. That would be 1200g of chicken breast a day (20g of protein for every 100g of meat). This is where adding a shake could be beneficial.

3. Can aid recovery and update of carbohydrate post exercise, when it is hard to get on solid foods after intense exercise it could be a faster, easier option to aid in recovery.



If you chose to have supplements or high protein additive alternatives…..


Things to remember about supplementation:


1. You don’t hear people being diagnosed as protein deficient! That must say something in itself, ask yourself, is it really necessary and/or am I just being lazy and ignoring a good healthy balanced diet.

2. Track your marcos - see what you are intaking at the moment, don’t just assume you require more protein. Know what and how much you are putting in and energy your expending from the body.

3. Do your research! - read up what is in the supplements and understand what you are putting in your body, research has shown a large variation in the quality of supplements some with harmful ingredients.

4. Remember a whole and balanced diet is better- it will have far more vitamins and minerals, fiber, carbohydrates, fats and potentially keeping you fuller for longer than shakes or supplements/ high protein additives to normal foods.

5. Think of supplements as a supplement and not as a substitute.



By Lee Weston, Mar 1 2018 02:44PM

With the running calendar for the year getting closer and closer as spring is around the corner this is a brief blog regarding the most common running injuries and how to combat them. Up to 79% of runners will get injured in any given year (1), so making sure you know what the main ones are and how to prevent them it key to sustaining your fitness and reaching your running goals.


The most prevalent injuries unsurprisingly occur within the lower body injuries, however upper body injuries do occur as a result of falls or load carrying (backpacks etc).


The Most Common Injuries Resulting from Running:


1. Patellofemoral Pain (knee pain)

2. Iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome

3. Tibial stress Fractures/ syndromes

4. Plantar fasciitis

5. Achilles tendonitis (2)


Of these I have experienced them all apart from No. 3, thank fully, at some point in time and prevention is much easier, cheaper and less frustrating than trying to get over some of these injuries whilst continuing to train.


The aetiology (causes) of running injuries are multifactorial but the main ones being overtraining, previous injury history, inappropriate /poorly fitting footwear as well as poor running mechanics. These are confounded if there are a combination of these risk factors and then perpetuated by an increase in weekly running mileage and history of previous injury as found in male runners specifically(3).


Among many anatomical differences in your running style / mechanics (gait and leg length differences and foot arch height) the biggest factor which impacts on lower body injuries, that we do have control over, is muscle strength imbalances in the lower limbs. This is the easiest preventative measure to make when planning your run training along with making sure you have the correct foot wear. Imbalances place greater strains on particular areas of the body finally leading to injury. E.g. if your gluteals are weak and inhibited then you can end up having ITB or knee injury as a result. With weak muscles fatigue sets in quicker and this is when injuries can occur as joint integrity is compromised.


Top Tips to Reduce Injury Risk:


1. Listen to your body- if you're feeling fatigued and supposed to be doing a tempo run then don't, reduce the intensity and take it slow. Or even cross train taking a low impact option instead like swimming or cycling.

2. Develop a specific training plan that from what you know about your own body and weaknesses as well as how you like to train. Everyone is different and an off the peg 10km training plan may not work best for you.

3. Get fitted with the correct shoes to suit your feet and running gait as well as the intended terrain you plan running on. Replace every 400-500 miles too.

4. Mobility and flexibility- make sure you cool down and stretch post runs, use the foam roller, attend yoga classes and also book in some regular sports massages. This will keep you supple and stop your muscles getting tight and fatiguing potentially leading to injury.

5. Strength training is key- make sure you address your weaknesses and stay balanced. Work on a good foundation of muscular endurance and then focus on strength training on your areas of weakness to stop early fatigue and compromised running mechanics.

6. Nutrition and hydration- stay hydrated and make sure you fuel yourself when training and running, both pre, during and after to gain the most from your training into race day.


From my own experience, which is backed up by research (4), the majority of running injuries are due to a sudden increase in mileage or excessive mileage. Again, it takes experience to know when to back off and take it easy so if you have the guidance of a trainer, or experienced runner then listen to them as they will save you a lengthy and painful injury & recovery process.


If you want any advice on how to structure your training for a race, how best to increase your distance/mileage or in a strength training program to improve your running, then please get in touch and we can discuss how I can help you.


Currently I am training myself for my 1st 100km Trail Ultra Marathon in June and chasing a PB in my road ½ and full marathon in April.


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(1) Altman A, Davis IS. (2012) Barefoot running: biomechanics and implications for running injureis. Current Sports Medicine Reports 11(5):244-50.

(2) Taunton JE, Ryan MB, Clement DB, McKenzie DC, Lloyd-Smith DR, Zumbo BD. (2002) A retrospective case-control analysis of 2002 running injuries. British Journal of Sports Medicine 36(2): 95-101.

(3) van Gent RN, Siem D, van Middelkoop M, van Os AG, Bierma-Zeinstra SMA, Koes BW. (2007) Incident and determinants of lower extremity running injuries in long distance runners: a systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine 41(8): 469-80.

(4) Jacob SJ, Benson BL. (1986) Injuries to runners: a study of entrants to a 10,000 metre race. The American Journal of Sports Medicine 14 (2): 151-5.




By Lee Weston, Feb 13 2018 02:09PM

By no means I am not a natural born runner, I simply don't have the physique and body shape to excel in fast paced road running. I veered into trail running to stimulate the senses and ease pressure on an existing back injury. The constant changing length and frequency of your stride changes off road stopping a repetitive high impact of road running which can have a negative impact on your back.


This is where I came across the Fan Dance (http://www.thefandancerace.com/ ). Whilst out walking in Pen-Y-Fan I came across people running in a trail event and searched on line for trail events in the Brecons. I stumbled across the Fan Dance run by Avalanche Endurance Events (AEE). An organization run by former SBS/SAS in delivering a replica of the exercise high walk test march the SAS carry out in their final week of selection which is a 15 mile 1000m elevation out and back run or TAB (Tactical Advance to Battle) over Pen-Y-Fan. This race has two categories where you carry either the essential survival equipment, food and water (approx. 6-8kg) as a Clean Fatigue category. Or a heavier 16kg Bergen (plus water + food - approx. 20kg total) as a Load Bearing category carrying more equipment for being self-sufficient, as it would be in the SAS.


This is a truly authentic event with the Directing Staff (DS) providing its own mountain safety team on the mountain over the whole event to deal with any incidences and doesn't compromise on integrity. After gingerly entering for the 2017 summer Fan Dance as a Clean Fatigue entry I started my training.


Training & Running in the Clean Fatigue Fan Dance -Summer 2017


So how do you train for an off-road trail race with a pack? Assuming you can run at least 80% of your race distance on the flat that would be a good starting point. If not then building up from your longest run distance by 10% on the long run each week would be a good start whilst doing 1-2 shorter 3-8mile runs mid-week. Start adding hills into the shorter tempo runs. Once you are happy with the distance and hills in the shorter run you could start adding hills into the longer runs and keep the shorter runs flat. This will start getting your legs ready for the loads. Once you are hitting a couple hundred meters in elevation you could start adding weight into a pack on one short run a week. Start with 2kg and you may already be doing this with carrying a water bladder. You can then increase this by 10% each week in a shorter run until you reach 60-70% of the required weight. Only increase weight or weight by 10% at a time.


It is really important that you have a good fitting running pack. My preference is a Salomon 5litre race vest for lighter weights (https://www.salomon.com/uk/product/adv-skin-5-set.html?article=396874) but for the clean fatigue kit of the summer 2017 race I used a 20l Inov8 back (similar to this https://www.inov-8.com/catalog/product/view/id/315/s/all-terrain-25l-running-pack/category/126/ ) to be able to fit the extensive survival kit necessary to run.


So after not the best training leading up to the race, in hind sight not enough hill reps, and really struggling with the heat, considering lack of fitness I came in 1st in category at 2h 48m and ranking approx. 50th in the overall category rankings since 2013 when it was first started.


I learnt a huge amount from my training, the event and gained a massive sense of achievement however more of a respect for those that were doing the Load Bearing (20kg) category. My next goal the Woodhouse edition in winter 2018.



Training & Running in the Load Bear Woodhouse Edition Fan Dance- January 2018

The rest of the summer was focused on cycling, building up to walking the national 3 peaks and cycling 470 miles in-between them in 4 days. That broke me for a month and was November before running pain free again. The race was on. Having not run with a heavy weight on my back before I took and read all the info AEE sent on types of Bergens, what to pack, how to pack and more importantly how to train for such a feat. One thing is that they do not skimp on, advice or information, if you follow it and prepare, plan then you will achieve it. However impossible it seems.


Starting off with very similar training as before, building the long runs and doing my shorter runs as hill repeat sessions. I added in weighted intervals (walk/run) at first into my running commute into work with 6kg weight. Building from there reducing the intervals until running and then adding weight once happy with short runs with 6-10kg. Their advice is to only load up to 60% of weight for the majority of training and add gradually. You only need to run maybe 1 loaded run a week or a heavier or longer loaded run every two weeks. The main reason is allowing the body time to recover. The same was with running in walking boots, a requirement of the load bearing category. This training is totally different to me and surprising that with the correctly packed Bergen and adjusted right with the weight high up on the shoulder and none on the lower back/hips you can comfortably run with 20kg.


It took a process of trial and error in working out how to run with a bergen but most importantly the focus is on the fitness and hill reps without weight. The faster and fitter you are without the better you will adapt to carrying load.


Gym work was really important, having an old and long-term back problem it was key to keep strength and importantly endurance in the para-spinals, gluts, abdominal and upper back (trapezius, rhomboids and lats). For this I was working on a 2-3x 30-45 min sessions in the gym with the main focus on endurance 20x 2 in opposite & balanced movements in every session. Within one of the sessions during the week I added an element for strength (12x3) at a higher weight that rotated week on week. This served really well. Another major focus was on pec & trap flexibility with an emphasis on movement patterns on unstable surfaces to help proprioception and balance.


Nearer the event (6th Jan) I attended a Special Forces (SF) Fit hill fitness session in the Brecons on the 16th Dec, primary to test out kit and also gauge expectation and fitness for the event to come 3 weeks later. A great event that was held by AEE to help with navigation of the FD route and boost fitness. A hard 15 miles with stops for intervals, bodyweight exercises and races which all catered to the varying fitness levels (3 small groups in total) which made for a balanced competition between all. I would highly recommend this if you are thinking of loaded running or the FD as you can ask the DS directly any questions and get a taste for what it's like.


The Woodhouse edition of the Fan Dance, a 18.5 mile alternative route taking 3 different ascents of Pen-Y-Fan incorporating off the beaten track routes through gauze and marsh land. Even with all the training this was a totally different beast. 5 hours and 28 minutes later I came in after snow, rain, icy paths, boggy ground and wind. They say you never climb the same mountain twice and completely agree with that. I was just thankful to have finished a true challenge and to finally take off the bergen, surprised to have come in 1st in category (1st male, load bearing winter woodhouse edition 2018). The hand shake, finishers woven patch and nod of acceptance you get from the DS makes it all worthwhile.


The gradual intro into weighted running from the summer clean fatigue to the heavy load bearing of the winter Fan Dance was definitely the way to get the most out of the events and building up the intensity. Surprisingly loaded running has improved my unloaded running speed. A few weeks later I was able to hold 7.38 min/miles for 15 miles which I have never been able to do. So I am going to keep elements of load bearing in my running training leading up to a 100km race in June but with light weights (5-8kg) of essential kit.


In conclusion if you are looking for a challenge of true mental and physical toughness that is different from your run of the mill trail off road races, whether load bearing or clean fatigue, I cannot recommend this race series enough. Truly humbling to take part in a race that is so steeped in military history and conducted with precision and integrity. Surprisingly it really does improve your running speed without load too, so maybe a strategy to employ to improve your road running.



By Lee Weston, Jan 9 2018 04:14PM

Even when I say it the saying makes me cringe, New Year, New You. As you many have read in my pervious blog I don’t really buy into the possibly misinformed and biased goals of new year’s resolutions. I am very keen on balanced, well thought out goals.


So whether you have set a new year’s resolution/goal to smash a couch to 10km or to regain control after the indulgences of the festive season it would seem it is the time to get up and get out doing some exercise after the festive season. In either case I fully support such a movement to more exercise and healthier eating, whatever time of the year.


What I would like you to think about is to THINK about your training and the exercise you are or planning on doing. To get the most out of what you are doing and more importantly to avoid injury.

It is impossible to give you a complete outline of how to train for every potential goal out there however I can help you think about a few things to consider and to seek more advice if needed.


More often than not two things will inform you in the best way in gauging your training:

1. Listen to your body

2. Common sense


More and more I hear stories/ accounts of people ignoring both and it being a cause or contributor to injuries.


Listening to your body doesn’t mean meditating or any obscure practices, it is simply stopping and thinking is this good for me or my body? Is this too much for it or me? Physical stress like exercise is the same as mental stress so treat them as equal. This requires dialling into how you are feeling and it takes trial and error in knowing when to push and when to rest.


Common sense is sometimes forgotten when goals are set and the mind is focused. It is vital to use common sense as a guide as normally its pretty spot on. Doing 5 days back to back running after not running for two weeks goes against common sense and training principles for most individuals.


So things to possibly ask yourself to make sure you avoid injury and don’t overdo it this January:


What are you doing? Do you like it? Is it suitable for your goal? Is it attainable?


Have you done it before? How long ago? Is your plan a gradual progression?


Are you giving yourself enough recovery time between exercise sessions?


Have you considered any existing injuries or medical conditions you have or may have developed since last exercising this intense?


If you have considered these items above into your plan of action then great but if not then you might want to consider a few tweaks here and there or to gain further advice. Little and often is best approach in starting out and getting back into it without the pain or discomfort of mega sessions and becoming injured, sore or disheartened.


I support any activity, whatever shape or form it comes in from bowls to tai chi or cross fit. As long as safe practice, common sense is used and you listen to your body. Don’t blindly follow others whether it be friends, class peers or even an instructor/PT. Don’t be afraid to not do an exercise, question technique if you’re not sure or doesn’t feel good. Ultimately asking why or sitting out an exercise is better than an injury of any severity.


Further common things to consider regarding specific exercise types that I have seen as an exercise professional myself are the following:


Insanity work out – due to its Intensity and high impact nature care must be taken and also suggest a foundation level of body weight resistance training before starting. Quickly highlights imbalances and can lead to injuries if not technically done correctly.


Cross fit – A great form of training however does comprise of a lot of Olympic lifting which requires attention to detail in the technique and in my opinion, should be considered carefully in the volume that is performed within the training week.


Tabata – a form of high intensity interval training – a great form of training however exposes underlying conditions very quickly, whether it be musculoskeletal or cardio respiratory.


A large increase in the distance running per week can expose imbalances very quickly and increases chances of injury. A common on is not having the appropriate footwear to support your feet. I would recommend an essential bit of kit is a new pair of trainers from a running shop that assess your gait (running style).


If you are in any doubt with regards to how to train for a goal, technique or a program to get the end point then I would always suggest seeking professional advice. Seeing a personal trainer, like myself, can guide you in the right direction, give you feedback and encouragement. The cost of this isn’t comparable to the discomfort of being injured and the cost/wait to see the physiotherapist.


Final top tips for the new year’s exercise frenzy to a better you (not a new you):

1. Consistency

2. Little and often

3. Recovery (stretch, massage, cross train/low impact exercise & sleep)

4. Don’t do it alone, get a partner in crime, a social support network of a friend you can rope in, an exercise class or a PT.


Good luck in making a better you in 2018.



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