Supplementing, Inside/Outside, and a Magical Weekend.

Since I began working in a health food shop I have had easy (read: discounted) access to a bunch of supplements, and some of them are sold as being beneficial for weight loss, muscle soreness, recovery, and energy. I never really bothered with them too much, not keen on the idea of becoming reliant on any sort of supplement to get through my workouts, but when I picked up my most recent, and thankfully now recovered, injury I gave a few things the old college try.

I thought I’d give the low down on some of my favourites.

I’ve taken magnesium supplements before, back in university I had terrible sleeping habits, and I think it the mineral tablets worked, to an extent. Although getting plenty of quality sleep is important to runners it is not the reason I started using it again. The mineral is also useful as a muscle relaxant, making it ideal as a recovery aid. I tend to use it in spray form, massaging it into my legs after strenuous workouts. It tingles, almost to the point of stinging, especially the first few times you use it, but it seems to do the job and I’m always thankful for it 24-48 hours after a big run.

My favourite supplement is a simple, beautiful thing: caffeine. I always used to rely on coffee, but more recently I’ve noticed that coffee was giving me some mild…digestive trouble on my runs, and I thought perhaps there might be a more convenient solution to give me that caffeine boost before I head out of the door for my morning run. So far my preferred solution has been the Grenade Thermo Detonator tablets, which are actually sold as dietary supplements which are supposed to aid fat burning and yeah, maybe they do, but the kick in the teeth that caffeine, cayenne, yerba mate, and all kinds of stuff I should probably know more about, provides shakes the cobwebs out of my brain and gives me the motivation I need to get a move on. Coffee is still my preferred way to take caffeine into my life, but now there is no need to spend any time making it in the morning or waiting for it to ah…digest.

I take a couple of tablets, hydrate, stretch, and I’m away. Coffee can come later.

In general I think runners don’t like strength training, and in general I think those who primarily focus on strength training don’t like running – the two things seem at odds with each other, but of course this is far from the truth. Runners need strength training to avoid injury and get quicker, and lifters need cardio to improve their cardiovascular health. What I’m saying is we can learn from each other.

One thing runners can definitely take from those gym bunnies is their protein intake. Sure we can take on carbs and hydrate ‘till the cows come home, but without protein our muscles will deteriorate, and progress will be slow to come by as our running will grind our bodies down into the pavement. So, protein shakes. Not everyone likes them, and there are admittedly more natural ways to up your protein intake – milk, yoghurt, cottage cheese, and for the vegans among us you have nuts, almond milk, and the growing plethora of “alternative” meat products to choose from. Personally, I’m quite happy with a scoop of powder in my shaker, 300ml of almond milk, taken within 30 minutes of completing my work out as it gives me peace of mind that I’m not putting my body in a deficit – I’m not running to lose weight, I’m running to get faster!

The Great Debate

Alongside these supplements I believe the simplest way for me to progress as a runner is variety. Long slow runs are good, but not if I did them all the time. Short interval training is good too, but if was doing sprints six days a week my mileage would be too low (plus I’d probably get injured considering my track record). So, every week I try and mix it up. Most of my miles are done on the road, but since I’m fortunate enough to have access to a treadmill at home I do a lot of supplementary mileage inside too, usually incorporating a regimented speed session on the so-called-“dreadmill” when I can.

Which made me happy to see this Runners World article which advocates for both sides of the coin. I’ve heard plenty of runners complain about the treadmill, calling it boring and spouting off about the benefits of running in the fresh air, in nature, blah blah blah.

They’re right, of course, but still sometimes the outside world isn’t so fresh and clean. Sometimes it’s the depths of winter and it’s dark when you leave for work and dark when you come home. Sometimes the treadmill is the best option. And even when it’s not I like to mix it up anyway! I enjoy the specific nature of the treadmill, of being able to choose a speed and stick with it.

Plus I don’t like to wear headphones when I’m running outside, because you never know when a car is going to come sneaking up behind you on the country roads around my way, so the treadmill is my chance to pump it with some tunes…or a pleasant podcast.

Whatever you think it’s definitely worth giving the article a read and considering mixing up your running environments a little more to try and get the best of both worlds.

Disneyland Paris Race Weekend

Photo: Heather Cowper

Speaking of changing up your running environments, how about switching it up to Disneyland?

It might not be the OG but Disneyland Paris is surely enchanting nonetheless, and it likely makes a spectacular race course.

Unsurprisingly the event promises to be family friendly, offering a variety of distances across the weekend, starting with a 5k on Friday and culminating with a half-marathon on Sunday.

Although it’s probably a little short notice to hop the channel now it might be worth doing your research and getting ready for next year because who wouldn’t want to take part in this?

For more details check out the website here.

Check me out on Twitter, and feel free to battle it out in the comments about which supplements you like to use, and let me know if you are an avid treadmill defender, or a dreadmill denier.

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