Red Wine Runner

A Scottish Running Blog

Category: Reviews (page 1 of 5)

Running Science by John Brewer | Book Review

Running Science – John Brewerrunning science by John Brewer

In the last week I have been enjoying a new book which was sent to me; Running Science: Optimising Training and Performance. Published by Ivy Press, this large, hardback book is a compendium of contributions by 11 sports scientists and researchers, and edited by sports scientist and Running Magazine columnist, Professor John Brewer. The book looks at the scientific facts behind some of the world’s best performances and includes insights and analysis which apply to all runners from amateur to elite.

running science by john brewer

Running is deceptively simple as we all know. At an access level it is one of the easiest sports to break into, but to improve and reach ones’ peak potential requires a careful balance of nutrition, conditioning, and environment; all of which are firmly rooted in science. John Brewer and his team of experts examined hundreds of scientific studies on running and broke down the details and analysis to produce eight chapters of technical information, presented in a colourful and easy to understand format.

running science by john brewer

The findings are collated as a series of questions, many of which the reader will have asked themselves or their friends at some point:

Do you really need to stretch? Why can’t I catch my breath after I stop running? Do I have to load up on carbs to be a good endurance runner? What is DOMS and is it beneficial? Do i really need to warm up?

Anyone who has ever been in a running Facebook group will be familiar with the standard sofa-scientist answers to these questions, delivered with un-sourced references to ‘I once heard…’ or ‘In my experience…’. Of course there is some benefit to hearing about others’ experiences, but it is really refreshing to look up a question in this book and then get a fully referenced, scientific answer with a short, digestible explanation and diagrams where appropriate.

running science by john brewer

Other questions enhance appreciation for the incredible feats of the worlds’ greatest athletes – what would it actually take to run a 2 hour marathon? The Nike project certainly came close recently, but we still haven’t quite got there. Brewers’ answer to this question gives us a technical breakdown of what he thinks is actually required to achieve this, which isn’t too distant from what Nike recently attempted.

running science by john brewer

There are sections for specific events such as marathons and ultras, as well as questions regarding equipment and kit, including an answer to the oft-asked question: “Can running shoes help my running form – are my running shoes right for me?” There’s even an investigation into the science behind the influence of technology on runners’ psychological states, which for those of us who have ever panicked when the Garmin ran out of battery mid-race, makes for an interesting read.

running science by john brewer

I was so impressed with this book and the way it answers the questions that I’ve read it from cover to cover, soaking up all of the information provided in the infographics, and enjoying the full-page action photographs. Equally, it could sit on your shelf as a reference publication for the next time you have a burning question (or, if someone happens to be wrong on the internet…).

I would highly recommend this book as essential reading for any runner, from the curious beginner wanting to learn more, to the seasoned athlete wishing to fine-tune their performance to perfection. It would make a perfect gift for the runner in your life, or perhaps as a post-race treat for yourself; it is available from all usual book outlets at an RRP of £20.

Follow John Brewer on Twitter here: @sportprofbrewer

I received an advance copy of Running Science to review, but all opinions are as ever, my own.

Reebok Floatride Shoe Review

Back at the start of February, I was offered the incredible opportunity to join a small team of bloggers and influencers to participate in the launch of the new Reebok Floatride shoe. As an ambassador with Team Floatride, I was generously provided with a place in the 2017 London Marathon, two pairs of Reebok Floatride to train in, a bundle of lovely Reebok kit to run in, and a coach to make sure I run my best race. I’ve been training in the Floatrides for over two months now, so it’s time to write up a review and share my thoughts on these brand new kicks.

reebok floatride

When you think of Reebok the brand these days, many active people would immediate associate it with modern fitness trends such as Crossfit  or the Spartan race series. In recent years, huge title partnerships and sponsorship of these events have kept Reebok relevant to many in the fitness community, but they have not been a go-to brand for distance runners.  With the distance running market dominated by big players such as Nike, Adidas and Asics, Reebok are back fighting with a renewed focus on running and are launching their return to this market with the Reebok Floatride Run shoe.  Floatride has been designed to compete at the top of the performance running shoe market alongside recent popular releases like the Nike Flyknit and the Adidas Boost, and is found at an equivalent price point in the market.

Reebok Floatride – Key Features

reebok floatride

There are several factors which make the Reebok Floatride a unique-to-market shoe. Firstly, there is the unusual knitted fabric upper which feels almost like a sock, the 3d moulded seamless cup heel, and the light foam sole cushioning which all add up to make the shoe a whisper-light 233g. A lot of science, technology and testing was invested in the development, with over 300 runners testing the shoe in its many earlier beta forms.

  1. Floatride Foam: The Floatride Foam has a consistent cell structure that delivers the seamless integration of cushioning and responsiveness. This is over 50% lighter than standard EVA foam (ethylene vinyl acetate) which is used in most cushioned shoes.
  2. Ultraknit Upper: A seam-free Ultraknit upper construction is engineered in zones to provide adaptive comfort that offers support and breathable flexibility.
  3. EVA Support Rim: Supportive foam rim centers and balances your foot throughout the gait cycle.

What I think

reebok floatride

We’re now at a point where I’ve used up all the technical information available to me about the shoe, and I’m at risk of losing everyone’s interest. If you’ve read this far, then you’ll be wanting to know my honest thoughts.

These are definitely the most ‘fancy’ shoes I’ve ever trained in, and quite the departure from my OnRunning Cloudsurfers which I have ran almost exclusively in (on roads) for around five years. Generally I know what I like, and I stick to what I know; I’m not one to drink the KoolAid of new shoe releases and only seek out new solutions to problems as and when they occur. I don’t really care what kind of foam is in my sole, as long as it feels good to run in.

The fit: I wear an EU42 in road shoes, which is either an UK8.5 or a UK9 depending on the brand, and sometimes even a UK8. If at some point we could achieve some consistency on that, that would be GREAT… but I digress. It’s an awkward size of foot to have as often I find that the women’s sizing will stop at an 8, and men’s 8 will be too big (a wider fit). Perhaps you’re beginning to understand why I don’t change my shoe brands often – if I find that rare magic slipper that fits just right, then I tend to stick with it. So, having relayed this sob story to Reebok, they sent me a men’s UK8.5/EU42.5. This fits me perfectly, with plenty of room in the toebox for toe movement and feet swelling; important when it comes to marathoning.

Cage Lacing Support: You will see from the pictures that the sides of the shoes have a plastic cage grid encasing them. This provides additional stability and support, gripping this foot in an adjustable manner via the lacing. Given that the upper of the shoe is basically a toughened sock, this means that all of your support comes from the cage. This is new to me, but I liked it. I have to be careful not to tie too tightly though, as it makes your little toes go numb.

‘Ultraknit’ Upper: Another new-to-me feature of a shoe, but I like how breathable it makes your entire foot, which allows for easy sweat wicking and  drying. In theory you could probably wear these without socks, but I am definitely a fan of socks and I don’t like running without them. It took me a while to find the right pair though; Injinji Trail Weight toe socks do the best job for me as I needed the extra padding on the Achilles area.

Run Feel: The most important part. The Reebok Floatride feels light like a minimal shoe, but the fancy, light foam cushions like a long distance road shoe.  I’m really intrigued to see how this shoe performs in the London Marathon because every training run, both long and slow and short and fast, has been extremely comfortable so far. The sole is appropriately ‘grippy’ so that you feel confident flying downhill on wet pavement and even on light trail, and the shoe really comes into its own when you’re cruising at race pace.

Colours: As I have the men’s shoe, I have the blue and black colourway which is shown in most of the pictures. Ladies sizing comes in a zingy neon yellow and silver which I have to admit I am quite envious of. They also feature reflective heels which adds to the futuristic vibe. From a purely stylish point of view, these are the kind of trainers which you could easily wear all day if athleisure is your thing.

reebok floatride

In summary; if you’re looking for a modern, neutral shoe which is a break from the norm then the Reebok Floatride Run would be worth a try. I’ve ran about 100 miles in these shoes, and my only issue thus far has been finding the right socks in order to get maximum comfort on long runs. These seem to really suit me and I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity to try them out before they hit the shelves on April 1st, and of course to pound the pavements of London in them on the 23rd of April, in pursuit of my first London Marathon finish.

The Reebok Floatride Run retails at £119.99 and can be bought from Sweatshop.

Disclosure: I was provided with these products to test and review as part of the Reebok #FloatrideLondon ambassador team. Images and some tech details are courtesy of Reebok (I don’t know THAT much about trainer foam), but this article and the opinions expressed throughout are my own.

Active Root | The Natural Ginger Sports Drink

Recently I’ve been testing some samples of a new sports drink called Active Root, which is made right here in my adopted home of Edinburgh. I’d heard about Active Root through various outlets but had never come across a sample, so I was pleased to give it a go. I absolutely LOVE anything ginger, including when I’m out running, so it seemed like the product would be perfect for me. I wasn’t wrong and I’ve really enjoyed drinking it on long and short runs, and even for tackling a hangover. It’s zingy and refreshing without being too sweet, and tastes great even after six hours on the trail.

I was really keen to support this new Scottish business, so I asked the founder of Active Root, George Ashley, if he would answer some questions about his products so that I could say a bit more than “This Tastes Awesome!”. Read on to learn about what makes Active Root special, where you can buy it, and what the next steps are for the team…

active root sports drink

Can you tell us a bit about Active Root – what is it and what does it do? What makes it different from other sports drinks?

Active Root is the first natural, ginger based sports drink. It is designed to help avoid and alleviate stomach discomfort and nausea before, during and after exercise. It also tastes pretty  good! There is a whole host of data from peer reviewed scientific journals to our own  investigations to suggest ginger calms the stomach and decreases nausea. This forms the basis  of what makes Active Root different from other sports drinks.

Where did the idea to make a ginger sports drink come from? Why choose ginger?

My business partner Will and I were sat in a pub in Edinburgh in early 2013. His mother used to give him ginger beer as a child when he had an upset stomach. Both of us had experienced stomach issues before and after long runs and bike rides. After a few more beers and discussion, we realised that this could form the basis of a business.

How did you get from an initial idea to prototype? How much testing did you do?

For the first 9 months we attempted to fuse a sports drink recipe with a ginger beer recipe with little success. Our ‘lab’ was my kitchen using a blender and some simple equipment. I have a background in bench science so that came in handy. We experimented with different ingredients, concentrations and production methods most Saturdays throughout the summer of 2013, and eventually, we came up with something both of us would drink!

In 2014, Huw joined the team via a mutual friend and Active Root formed the basis of his Master’s project at University in Edinburgh. We compared the stomach settling qualities of Active Root against another sports drink (with no ginger) and water. We had 40 volunteers for the study, involving a series of 5k races and a semi-quantitative questionnaire. The results suggested that Active Root decreases gastric issues by 40% compared to the other two drinks. In 2017, we have a further study planned, in collaboration with Edinburgh Napier University.

Active Root is now made by a third party manufacturer so all necessary quality and lab checks are conducted in-house. It’s a long way from my old kitchen in Marchmont!

What was the biggest challenge in production?

In 2015, and still pre-trading, we decided to move from a liquid product to a dissoluble powder. This was not only to make Active Root a viable business from a financial perspective, but also to give the consumer more flexibility with Active Root in terms of where they want to use the product. That could be on their bike, in their rucksack or in the cup holder whilst down the gym.

The biggest challenge was converting our recipe into a viable powder form. However, we have a great manufacturing partner in the north of the UK who have been very helpful in the whole process.

What has been your favourite moment of the Active Root journey so far?

There has been a few but probably seeing Active Root on the shelves for the first time in shops such as the Apple Pharmacy and Run and Become in Edinburgh. Seeing that really brought it all home for me.

Is Active Root a full time job now, or do you balance it with other commitments?

Will and myself have other roles, which provide funding for the company, but we have two full time people. It’s an unconventional setup but it currently works for us.

Who else is on the team and what do they do? Are you all runners?

As well as Will and myself, we have Huw who is our main full time person, and backbone of the company, as well as one other who is a little shy! Everyone is critical to the team. We are all runners; I am mainly a XC and road runner, Huw is an orienteer by trade, and Will is our expert triathlete and Ironman.

If you could see any athlete drinking Active Root, who could it be?

Primarily runners, cyclists and anyone into endurance sports. However, Active Root can be used by anyone who likes ginger and wants to balance their system throughout exercise. Gym goers, hill walkers, footballer and even golfers!
If you are asking about one particular individual, it would probably have to be Joe Root (the English cricketer) for obvious reasons! If the customer feels so inclined, it also makes a great mixer and an even better hangover
cure! [Editor’s Note: Can confirm – alleviated most red wine hangover symptoms in our extensive in house trials]

Any plans to sponsor any athletes or events?

Yes, we are the official hydration partner of Spartan Races in the UK for 2017. This is major platform for us to bring Active Root to as many people as possible across the UK. Spartan are a great partner and have been extremely helpful in promoting us and helping us develop.

In March 2017 we have a trade stand at the Scottish Cycling, Running and Outdoor Pursuits Show at the SECC in Glasgow. This is the largest show of its kind in Scotland and provides Active Root with the opportunity to engage with around 10,000 active folk to see what they think of our product. It also gives them an opportunity to buy some!
We are involved with other, more small scale events this year as well and I would recommend anyone to check out www.activeroot.co.uk to find out more regarding where we will be this year.

Any plans for any other ginger products? Please say yes – I would love a ginger gel!

A second flavour is in development and all will be revealed in due course. As for a ginger gel, that is an idea that has been on the white board in the office for a while but we’ve made no putative steps towards it yet.

Where can we buy Active Root?

Active Root is currently available to buy on our site here at http://www.activeroot.co.uk/store and we are also available in store and online at Run and Become Edinburgh (http://www.runandbecome.com/shop-online) and in store at the Apple Pharmacy in Edinburgh (http://www.applepharmacy.co.uk/).

 

 

Ultramarathon Training | Week One: Complete!

Happy New Year everyone!

I hope your 2017 has been going well so far and that you are easing out of the festive season without too much resistance. I saw in the New Year bundled up marshaling at the Stonehaven Fireballs ceremony, which saw us have a relatively quiet celebratory night. In fact; it was well after 1.30am when I even had my first beer, which was well-earned after the hard work which the Fireballs team put in to clean up the event straight after it ends. We headed to a party afterwards and had a chilled couple of hours with friends, meaning I woke up feeling fresh and ready to start my 2017 with a bang!

dunnottar castle

I actually can’t remember the last time I woke up without a crippling hangover, never mind even waking up before midday on New Year’s Day. However; with the winter sun shining down on me, I had a wonderful head-clearing trot around Dunnottar Castle and Dunnottar Woods before lunch which really got my head in the right kind of positive place to get excited about my ultramarathon training in 2017.

Here’s what I did this week:

Monday: 4 mile road run around Stonehaven, followed by a 3 mile walk with friends
Tuesday: No training – packing and returning to Edinburgh
Wednesday: 10k canal run at lunchtime – breaking up my first day back at work nicely, then Hot Yoga at 7:45pm
Thursday: 10k run around Stockbridge and Dean Gardens at lunchtime
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 11.5 miles total, including a run with Mikeller Run Club Edinburgh (more on that later this week)
Sunday: 11.2 mile Long Slow Run on road.

This follows my usual ultramarathon training plan pattern of running Tue/Wed/Thur and then a Sat/Sun back to back. I will have another couple of weeks of running a 4/6/6 or 6/6/6 pattern in the middle before shifting up to higher midweek mileage; 6/6/8, 6/8/8, and eventually some midweek 10s as well – although that will be hard to fit in at lunchtime at my current pace!

Cross-training

I really enjoyed my first Hot Yoga class in a few months at Meadowlark, and next week I will also be heading back to the gym to re-incorporate more cross-training into my routine. In the last two months before Christmas, I re-joined Pure Gym and spent a lot of evenings doing classes in an attempt to shake up my fitness and re-gain some strength, as well as attempting to shift a bit of lard in the most efficient way possible. I equally hate and love HIIT training, but it pulls me out of my comfort zone and kicks my arse in to shape like nothing else does. I’ll be going back tomorrow…

It was around the same time I joined the gym that I received an email from Millet Sports asking if they could send me a pair of trainers from their running shoe range in exchange for my thoughts on them. I thought about it quite a bit before saying yes; I wasn’t sure I really needed more shoes and I didn’t want to be reviewing free stuff just for the sake of it, however after a few sessions at the gym, I realised I really needed some more gym-appropriate trainers and I had no idea where to start looking for the right kind of shoe.

On roads, I’m still running in my favourite On Running CloudSurfer shoe (I’m now on pair #5!), and on trails I switch between various Salomon trail shoes, or my Hoka ATR Challengers if it’s more than 20 miles. None of these shoes are suitable for doing gym work, especially if they’re clarted with mud from the weekend’s off road adventures. I was pleased to have a look through the huge selection of shoes which Millet Sports have, and to pick a shoe which I thought would do the right job for crosstraining. I wanted something light yet durable, with a pretty low heel-toe drop, and something which would be suitable for running on a treadmill as well.

nike free run distance

I selected a pair of Nike Free Run Distance shoes, in a rather sharp looking black and white colourway. Despite being one of the biggest sports brands in the world, I have never been particularly drawn to trying Nike trainers for running, so I was keen to see how they would perform. I own several items of Nike running clothing and continue to be impressed by their durability after literally thousands of miles of usage, but I’ve always elected for more niche running shoes which target very specific runner requirements.

According to Nike, the Free Run Distance shoes were created after they learned that Stanford University track and field athletes had been training barefoot on the university’s golf course. Nike decided to develop a shoe that felt natural and weightless, with an overall goal of feeling similar to bare feet. The team then spent eight years studying the biomechanics of runners’ feet in motion, with the results yielding a profound understanding of the foot’s natural landing angle, pressure and toe position, allowing Nike designers to build an unconventional and flexible running shoe from the inside out. I’m not sure about unconventional – they seem pretty straight forward to me – but I always find it interesting to hear about why shoes are made to the specifications that they are.

  • Weight: 207 grams
  • Heel drop: 4mm
  • Cushioning: Soft foam
  • Sole: Hexagonal ‘flex grooves’

I was instantly pretty impressed with these shoes from the first moment I put them on. They are SO LIGHT! When they are on you can feel that they are a low drop shoe, but the soft foam sole adapts to your weight distribution so it never feels like the low drop is harsh on your calves. I chose a Ladies size EU42 which was mostly true to size, but if I was going to be doing a lot of long distance running in them I would either size up or choose the male version, just for a little extra swelling accommodation.

nike free run distance

I have ran about 50 miles in the shoes and done several types of gym class in them. One of my favourite things is how sticky the sole is on a gym floor if you’re doing a plymetric or circuits class. For moves like box jumps or mountain climbers, the sole grips the floor solidly which gave me a lot more confidence in landing and executing my movements.

In terms of running, they feel good both on a treadmill and outside, but the grippy sole loses all control on wet leaves or icy pavements! I have ran in them when it was frosty or wet outside and had to really slow down; the hexagonal soles provide flexibility of movement but very little grip, so these are definitely a summer running or dry road choice. I wouldn’t contemplate going anywhere near a trail in them either, especially as to not ruin the lovely black/white leopard print detail on the sides…

nike free run distance

I’m going to continue to wear them for my shorter mid-week running sessions, especially for any speed work which I do. The lightness of the shoes on my feet is really noticeable compared to my other road shoes, and it feels like I run lighter in them as well. At some point in the near future I will be doing a little parkrun time trial, so I will wear them for that kind of lung-bursting, 5k sprint effort, and see how they (and I) perform.

Thank you to Millet Sports (not Millets – confusingly, this is a completely separate company from Millets the High Street outdoor specialists) for providing me with my choice of shoes, and for their in-kind support of the costs of maintaining this blog.

***disclosure: I received the shoes of my choice in exchange for an honest review of the product. I received no additional compensation for this post, and as always, all opinions are my own***

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