FitBits - fitness for fun and wellbeing: September 2013


Thursday, 26 September 2013

Hitting the reset button with a Hillmotts bootcamp

Ladies and gentlemen, a confession: I've lost my morning mojo. 

I'm not sure where I've put it, I've looked everywhere. It used to propel me out of bed at 6am on the first sound of my alarm, with not even a faintest whiff of a snooze button. It used to get me organised for early bootcamp the night before, lunch packed and in the fridge, kit laid out and work clothes/shower stuff all packed in my rucksack ready to just get up and go.

Lost mojo

Me and my morning mojo were best friends. I'd turn up to work all smug and satisfied that I'd done my workout (and got to have second breakfast) before most people were in the office. Some days I'd go to an evening bootcamp session or Zumba class too, and do a double whammy. 

But the past few weeks I just can't seem to take my own advice and drag myself out for an early session. I've been concentrating more on my running, and have seen great improvements which I'm mega chuffed with, but have bailed on the bootcamp sessions and my fitness has slipped. 

When I was training for the Brighton Half Marathon I naively favoured bootcamp sessions and cross training over actual running and so although I made it round, it was painful and not pretty, and I vowed never to run a painfully unprepared race like that again. I did more running to prepare for the London Duathlon, and it paid off. So it works both ways - now that I've been concentrating on the running and not done much bootcamp, my overall fitness has slipped in favour of making progress in my pace and strength as a runner. 

It seems there needs to be a fine balance between the two - a balance which I'm hoping to reach again pretty sharpish after this weekend...

Hillmotts bootcamp: Dorset --> the perfect reset button

Hillmotts bootcamp Dorset

Me and my two favourite fitties are going for a Hillmotts weekend bootcamp in Dorset on Friday. We've been looking forward to it for months and I'm really excited at the prospect of having three whole days of exercise, healthy eating and a weekend away with the girls. We chose Dorset as it's got a sauna, pool and hot tub, so we can relax and unwind after a hard day's work! 

I've wanted to go on a residential bootcamp for ages so hope it lives up to my expectations. I'm treating it as a reset button to get me back on the mornings and kick start my first Autumn/Winter of marathon training.

A typical day at Hillmotts bootcamp
A typical day at Hillmotts

Our weekend will start on Friday at 12:30pm as we register and check in, and after a fitness assessment at 2pm it's straight into an afternoon of classes. Saturday and Sunday are both early starts with a HIIT class before breakfast, and a full day of bodyweight, circuits, Zumba, aerobics, hiking, running, boxing, core and pool classes to get through - followed by yoga at the end on Sunday afternoon!

Hillmotts will be fuelling us with 'calorie-controlled energy providing meals', and there'll be group discussions about nutrition and healthy eating throughout the weekend. We also get all the recipes for the food we'll eat, so lots of motivation and inspiration to keep it up at home.

Hillmotts bootcamp example menu

Watch this space for a review of our Hillmotts weekend bootcamp in Dorset!

What are your thoughts on morning workouts - are you a morning or evening kinda exerciser?Have you been on a Hillmotts bootcamp before, or are you thinking about it? 

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Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Double race recap: Brighton Colour Run and London Duathlon

I'm feeling pretty epic right now. I hope you've got a cuppa in hand and have your feet up cuz this is a long one...

London Duathlon 2013 Brighton Colour Run

Part 1: Brighton Colour Run

I'm still buzzing from the weekend - and what an absolutely amazing one it was. Saturday was a day of colour, and tutus, and dancing, and running, and music, and friends, and more colour, and silliness, and laughter, and basically too. much. fun.

Colour me up

Brighton Color Run 2013
And we're off!

They call it the Happiest 5k and it really, really is. The atmosphere at Brighton Colour Run was electric, the whole place was buzzing, from start to finish. It didn't stop when we got to the finish line either; there was some serious post-run colour raving to be done. There was a stage with music, and it was like one big after party. I don't think you'll find a race that's more fun than the Colour Run (or is it Color Run?!), we're definitely doing it again next year, I can't wait.

Brighton Color Run before and after 2013
Before and after :) 

Behold the post-run colour rave:

Part 2: London Duathlon

Becoming a duathlete

With the fun and frolics of Saturday out of the way, it was time to get serious. 3,000 runners took part in the world's largest duathlon on Sunday, and I was one of them.

London Duathlon 2013 duathlete
True story, folks...

It was a day of nerves, and excitement, and about 200 pre-race wees (emphasis on *pre* race there boys, not *during*, geddit?) and running, and cycling, and running again, and rain, and malt loaf fuelling, and more rain, and cheering, and speedy transitioning, and a few expletives at some monumental inclines, with excited whooping on the epic descents that followed.

It was a day of firsts - my first multi-sport event, my first race in the rain, my first taste of strawberry lemonade nuun hydration tablets, (YUM), and my first real experience of cages/straps on my bike pedals (doable, but need practice!)

At the end of it all, there was a medal, and smiles, and pride, and disbelief, and *ridiculous* amounts of endorphins, that I'm still basking in a little bit now. Oh, and a curry, and beer. There's always room for a curry and beer. There were a few cramps too, but we'll forget about those.

London Duathlon 2013
Waiting for the off and the big screen in the race village

I've never done a duathlon before, and after getting offered the place only three weeks ago (thanks Limelight Sports!) I didn't have much time to train. I signed up to the Super Sprint as it was the most doable and less scary distance (5k run, 11k cycle, 5k run). I got my bike serviced, read, re-read and re-re-read the race booklet and info on the website, harassed the @LondonDuathlon Twitter account relentlessly with stupid questions and continuous worries about the weather and transition. (They were AMAZING at replying and reassuring me!)

I don't think I've ever been to the toilet so many times before a race as I did on Sunday.

Comfortably hard

London Duathlon 2013
Starting off...

Once I got going though, it was fine, and just a case of getting on with it. I was in the second wave of the Super Sprint start, so got off pretty quickly. I felt really strong in the first 5k; my strategy after some good advice from my uncle was to not hit it too hard at the start, and make sure I had some energy left for the bike and second run leg. So, I ran at a comfortably hard(ish) pace, and stayed strong throughout most of the first leg. There was a bit of a hill to master, but it was a long and steady incline rather than a steep one so wasn't too bad. With no music all I could hear was my own panting and others around me, which got louder as runners got closer to overtake. I did a fair bit of overtaking myself too, as I settled into my pace.

I had a brief encounter with Beki (aka Miss Wheezy), which was short but sweet. (Well done by the way!) She was the only other blogger I managed to meet during the day, despite lots of excited tweets and 'see you there's' beforehand with others. Sounds like we all made it out alive though, so well done everyone!

My transition from run to bike was a swift one - I had no shoes or clothes changes to worry about, so only had to put my helmet on, grab my bike and go. I did some sort of run/slip/trip onto my bike and got into my pedal cages in an alright time and headed out for the 11k lap of the park.

London Duathlon 2013

The bike lap was pretty hard, and seemed to go on forever, but not as hard as I thought it was gonna be. I cycle a lot around Brighton and do hills daily, so when I got to the killer steep hill that everyone had warned me about I sat back and got on with it. I'm not very good at standing up on hills, and it takes a lot of energy so I stuck with what I knew and got it done. It took me a good few minutes to get my breath back afterwards; on the way up it felt like I couldn't get enough air in so I probably looked like I was having some sort of heart attack. One lap was quite enough for me, I can't imagine how anyone doing the other laps would feel having to tackle it multiple times!

On the way round I saw so many deer it was unreal, such beautiful creatures with antlers the size of small trees - it really was a magnificent sight to ride past in the rain, I wish I had a camera on me.

On the way into the second transition I saw my cheerleaders again (third time already!) which gave me a real boost, and I prepared myself for jelly legs as I ran off the bike into the transition area to rack up and run out. Again, as I had no shoe changes to faff around with I was out really quickly, but it was suddenly really hard and uncomfortable to run.

London Duathlon 2013
I'm a #duathlete!

That last 5k was pretty horrific to be fair, I didn't get comfortable until at least half way. The not-so-hilly-hill that I found so doable on the first run lap was suddenly a monumental task and I felt like I'd be quicker walking as I was going so slow. I was puffing and panting behind this girl and she kept looking round, probably wondering whether I was going to die or not, so I just apologised and tried to keep the noise down. Once we got over the brow of the hill it got better and I picked up the pace a bit.

The 3km marker was a cue for me to pick it up even more as it was only about 10 minutes left until the finish line, and with the rain driving down on me I pounded on to try and finish strong.

London Duathlon results 2013

Reaching that finish line was pretty epic to say the least. Although the distances were definitely doable for me, it was whether I could put them together that was under question, and I don't think I'll be underestimating the Super Sprint distance again in a hurry I can tell you!

It was my first race where I felt comfortable but knackered, if that makes sense, not like the Brighton Half where I was in pain for the last five miles, and dragged myself over the line. I really, really enjoyed it, it wasn't a pain-ridden battle of survival. My overall time was 01:24:51 which I'm mega chuffed with, and I'm really happy with my splits too, especially as there were times where I thought I was going really slow.

As far as events go, it was brilliantly organised, and the support was great (from my cheerleaders, other spectators, other participants and the Duathlon crew dotted around the more remote parts of the course). Massive thanks to my family and wonderful fiance for standing in the rain for an hour and a half to watch me become a duathlete. I'm deffo doing it again next year, along with a few others, so might go for the Sprint distance to see if I can master that too!

Did you do the London Duathlon this year? Did you enjoy it as much as me? Or will you be entering next year for the first time? 

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Friday, 13 September 2013

Last-minute pre-duathlon bike checks

Duathlon race recap --> 

So my bike went in for its pre-duathlon service last night. I can't wait to get it back afterwards - it'll be like brand new again, all tightened up and riding like a dream. I've had my hybrid Giant Escape 2W for just over a year and have used it pretty much every single day for the five mile commute to work or getting round town, have taken it on a few long rides too, so regular servicing keeps it in good nick. 
I got it on the Cycle to Work Scheme through my employer, to replace my cheap and chunky old mountain bike that was on its last legs. There's no way I could've afforded it otherwise, so if you've got big bike-shaped dreams but can't front the cash, ask your employer if they're part of the scheme (and if they're not, get them to sign up, it's easy and free). 
You effectively get a loan to buy the bike and all the safety equipment outright (helmet, lights, safety clothes etc.) and then pay your employer back through your gross wages each month, making up to 43% saving on the total cost of the bike and accessories. Bonus!
As much as I love my hybrid I've got my sights set on a sleek and feather light racer now, although I've yet to look into whether I can get a second bike on the scheme so this might just have to wait until we've got some more important big spends taken care of (read: WEDFEST 2014!) 
Anyway, with only two days until the London Duathlon and my trusty steed in for its health check, it's time to do all the last minute checks to make sure it's race ready. The London Duathlon and Bike Lab have sent over their Top 5 pre-race bike checks, so if you're racing this Sunday (or have another duathlon/triathlon/cycling race to compete in), make sure you do these essential checks before the big day!


    1)    The "drop test"
  •           Hold bike 6" from the ground and drop it to see if anything rattles.

    2)    Wheels and Tyres:

  • ·         Spin the wheels in the frame and look for any kinks or side-to-side movement. If you're in any doubt, get your wheels trued by a pro.
  • ·         Look for broken spokes - replacing any that are broken.
  • ·         Inspect the condition of your tyres; look for cuts, nicks or surface flaws.
  • ·        Tyres should "look healthy", the rubber smooth, without uneven wear, distortion or cracking & deterioration of the compound.
  • ·         If your tyre is a tubular, try to push it off all around the rim.
  • ·         Check tyre pressures, especially on race day. Inflate your tyres, based on manufacturers recommendations, which are stamped or printed onto the sidewall.
  • ·         Keep an eye on the pressure over a few days of use - any drop in pressure could indicate a slow puncture.

    3)    Brakes

  • ·         Spin the wheels again, testing each brake independently.
  • ·         At full pressure, it shouldn't be possible to pull the levers all the way to the bars.
  • ·       Check pads for wear, especially irregular wear, some brake blocks have wear indication lines to help with this. Check that pads touch the wheel rim at the same time, they are central, do not touch the tyre sidewall and are free from bits of grit/aluminium.
4)    Gears

  •        Take the bike for a quick spin and run up and down the full range of gears - if you have access to a workstand, run the gears whilst making minor adjustments.
  •         Check for smooth, reliable gear changes on the rear cassette.
  •        On the front chainrings, shifts between small and large chain rings should be smooth. The chain should never fall off the chain-rings, when shifting the front derailleur. You should be able to change up and down quickly - almost 'aggressively' and still not drop the chain.
  •         Wipe down the chain and clean, then lubricate the transmission, using cycle specific cleaners and lubricants.

5)     Check other parts of the bike -  (frame, bars & stem, saddle, pedals, cables etc. - you are looking for dents, cracks, split or fraying parts)

  • ·          Look for any 'play' (looseness) or roughness in bearings such as the headset, pedals or bottom bracket.
  • ·       Grab each item and tug it from side-to-side, feeling for signs of movement.
  • ·     Check the headset for play by putting front brake on and rocking the bike backwards and forwards - a loose headset will result in play you can feel. to make sure it's not overly tight or worn, lift the front of the bike off the ground and allow the handlebars to swing freely from side to side. They should move under their own weight, without any 'notchy' movement.  

    * Just before race day, you'll only need to lubricate the chain and gear pivots, pack your race day kit 
(spare tube / tyre levers / multi-took) and away you go!

Anyone else doing the London Duathlon this Sunday? See you there? 
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Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Brighton Colour Run and London Duathlon: My first double-race weekend!

Brighton Colour Run & London Duathlon race recap -->

So this weekend will be a weekend of firsts for me:
  • My first Colour Run :) 
  • The first (and hopefully not the last) time I can call myself a duathlete(!)
  • And the first time I'll have two races in one weekend.
I've been looking forward to the Colour Run for ages - joining me will be two of my favourite fitties and one of my future sister-in-laws. The multi-coloured tutus have arrived, as have the race packs and smiles, so we're all set. I reckon Brighton will do the event proud and put on a great show with a killer atmosphere - can't wait!

the color run brighton london duathlon

Duathlon virgin

The London Duathlon is also a mega-exciting prospect for me, but in a never-done-it-before-just-wanna-finish kind of way. After having to pull out of Run to the Beat from my dodgy post-Ben-Nevis knees, shorter distances were back on the agenda for my training, so when I was offered a place in the Duathlon I chose the Super Sprint - 5k run, 11k cycle, 5k run. 

I know I can do all of the elements individually no problem, it's the putting them together that I'm worried about. I've been hounding the London Duathlon Twitter account (@londonduathlon) and other bloggers asking questions about transitions and what to expect, and the more I hear the more excited/scared I get! Becs over at The Style Dynamo has written a brilliant pre-duathlon post on what she learnt from BRICK training in Richmond Park, which has instilled equal measures of confidence and fear in me, (mount/dismount/take helmet off/put helmet etc. on at exactly the right time in exactly right marker).

I keep thinking of extra things to worry about too, like, what am I gonna do about my hair? OK so I'll run with a high ponytail, then have to put a helmet on for the bike lap, and then have to run again, so somewhere in between faffing about trying to lift my heavy hybrid (yes, I'm taking my hybrid as don't have a racer) on and off of the rack in transition,  I'm gonna have to ensure my hair is prepared for optimum helmet-wearing. Anyone who knows me will know that I have really thick and unruly hair that needs 1,000 hairbands to keep it in place, especially when running, so I'm not thinking of this to be a complete girl but purely from a practicality angle for quick transitions. 

I'm getting my bike serviced ready for the race and am having cages fitted onto the pedals to help with the hills (another 'first' for me, having never used cages before). 

Basically, what I'm trying to say is if you need me I'll be the one flailing about like a lunatic trying to plait my hair whilst simultaneously running/tripping out of the cages on my bike. Wish me luck! 

Have you ever/are you doing the London Duathlon? Any tips for a novice like moi? 

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Monday, 9 September 2013

Learning to run faster - running my own race

I'm really loving running at the moment. My resolve to step up my pace in training and improve my strength and stamina has done me well these past few weeks - last week I bagged myself a shiny new 5k PB (26:16) when running along the seafront, and ran a respectable 07:33 Magic Mile at Hove Park on Saturday after a consistently speedy Parkrun (26:29, only a few seconds off my new PB).

That means since my first Parkrun in May I've shaved over two and a half minutes off my 5k time, so I'm definitely getting better, although I'm still a fair way off my sub 25 minute goal. This is how my Saturday morning looked this week:

Preston Park Parkrun and Hove Park Magic Mile
It's getting better, man... 

Sweatshop Running Community 

I'm loving seeing improvements in my running and I reckon it's all down to getting out on group runs. I always push myself harder when running in a group - if I'm on my own I have a tendency to plod along comfortably for most of the time (apart from my seafront PB, I ran so hard I had sweaty eyes).

Sweatshop Running Community
I've joined my local Sweatshop Run Community, which I'm really enjoying. FYI Brighton peeps, we run every Monday (5k) and Wednesday (7-10k hills or intervals) evening from about 6ish leaving from the Queens Road store.

I was really nervous the first time I went along, I worried that everyone would laugh at me for being so slow compared to everyone else, but everyone was really friendly and welcoming, and at no point was anyone judgemental or smug about being better or faster than anyone else.

Running with a group is lots of fun and it's great to share experiences and training tips with like-minded people. There's only so many people I can bore in the office or on Facebook with my tales of speedy 5ks and questions about foam rollers and new trainers.

Hove Park Magic Mile
Hove Park Magic Mile 

Run your own race

In the past I've always looked at running as a solitary thing, Me Time, something to work at and do on my own. Although I do still love the freedom and space that comes with pounding the streets with nothing but my iPod for company, I've got a new found love for group runs, and I'm revelling in the improvements in my pace and strength.

Even though I'm always at the back of the pack, I've come to a bit of a realisation these past few weeks that everyone's running their own race anyway, training for their own goals, following their own plans. My 5k PB is a slow jog for some of the people I run with, but that doesn't matter, it's still a PB for me. I was one of the last ones in on my Magic Mile, but it was the fastest I'd ever ran, so I'm pretty chuffed with that.

So, boys and girls, today's moral of the story is: Look after yourself and worry about your own training rather than keep comparing yourself to others. There will always be people lapping you. Unless your name's Usain Bolt, of course, in which case, fair play to you.

What's that really cheesy saying? You're only competition is yourself? Never a truer word spoken, I reckon.

What are your training goals at the moment? Are you trying to run faster like me, or going for distance? Have you done a Magic Mile yet? 

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Saturday, 7 September 2013

FitBits Loves: Matrix whey protein powder (review)

Sometimes I find it hard to fit in the recommended daily portions of protein into my diet - after seeing a nutritionist at the beginning of the year, it became clear that what I thought was a healthy diet was actually laden with sugar, refined carbs and very little protein.

Having been obsessed with Weight Watchers points for nearly two years, it was difficult to let go of the meticulous tracking and counting to concentrate on food groups and getting the right portions - even though I was keeping within my daily allowance I was no longer losing weight and was getting regular sugar crashes throughout the afternoon.

My food diary showed some days I was only eating one portion of protein instead of my recommended four. I was living on toast and marmalade for breakfast (two slices of those mini bread loaves, no marg and just marmalade, a very WW friendly way to do it), salad and snackajacks for lunch and a big dinner in the evening, with several portions of fruit and a couple of cereal bars as snacks, so no wonder my sugar highs and lows were so prevalent.

Why do we need protein?

  • Builds lean muscle
  • Aids repair of exercise-induced damage to muscle fibres
  • Facilitates replenishment of depleted energy stores

Even though nowadays my diet is much healthier, (and yummier), I still sometimes struggle to get my recommended portions of protein, and have been looking at protein supplements for a while.

As if they read my mind, the Supplement Centre got in touch to see if I'd like to try some Matrix Whey Protein powder and kindly sent me my very own 2.5kg tub full. I chose vanilla flavour as I could add it to various recipes and use it as a base for other smoothies and shakes.

The Matrix Whey is made from a combination of protein, carbohydrates and glutamine, so is ideal as a post-workout recovery drink, but can also be used as a pre-workout energy booster and meal replacement. I personally wouldn't choose it (or any other shake for that matter) as a meal replacement as I don't see it as a substitute to food but a supplement to my diet and exercise plan.

I love having a shake after my runs and evening bootcamp sessions to help with recovery and refuelling - when made with milk the powder makes such a tasty and creamy shake, it's a real post-workout treat that I always look forward to. I've been thinking of trying it with almond milk too, and am already hunting out the chocolate flavour for when I run out.

I did try it with water but it wasn't as nice, so now I always have it with milk. I've seen chat on the Twittersphere of mixing protein powder with hot milk to make a hot shake too - although this was with the chocolate powder so I'll save that idea for my next tub of protein goodness!

Do you use a protein supplement? Do you have any nifty recipes or ideas to use it with?

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Sunday, 1 September 2013

Patella maltracking (anterior knee pain) - what is 'runner's knee?'

OK so you know I said my knees were back in action and I was gonna try a long run this weekend to make a decision about Run to the Beat? Well, yeah. They're OK, but not half marathon OK.

I *can* run again, up slopes, stairs and stones, and through the woods, which is a massive improvement on this time last week, but not for more than a few miles without them niggling again and I've got too much coming up to plough through it and risk giving myself a proper injury. There just wasn't enough time to recover properly and pick training back up again.

So, as much as it pains me to say, I'm pulling out and donating my RTTB place to a friend, who has much better knees than me (and will run a much faster time regardless of whether his knees were bad or not). Not sure he'll be up for wearing the size small women's fit tee though, but we'll see.

What the hell's wrong with my knees anyway?

Patella mal-tracking (anterior knee pain)

Apparently I'm suffering from anterior knee pain, caused by patella mal-tracking, which is very common in runners, and more prominent in women due to us having wider hips and therefore greater risk of the patella misaligning (yeah, nice one, God). The patella is the knee cap, and patella mal-tracking is where it misaligns and moves excessively, grinding crunchily on the cartilage and bone underneath instead of sliding smoothly over a groove on the femur when the knee bends and straightens. 

patella maltracking anterior knee pain

There are various causes of this but a common one is muscle imbalance, which is what I've got. My inner quads are not as strong as my outer quads, so the muscle imbalance pulls the kneecap too far one way and misaligns, causing grinding, pressure, inflamation and a world of pain. Sometimes it clicks and crunches too, which is just delightful.

My knee pain first started to appear after exercise, and sometimes during, but was not much more than a niggle. Eventually it got worse and progressed to sometimes hurting even when I was resting. Like reeeaally hurting when I was just sat doing nothing. After a stern talking to from the boy and also my Dad who's had an op to remove part of his knee cap (yum), I went to my GP who promptly told me to stop running and sent me on my way.

patella maltracking exercises
Exercises for patella maltracking
I wasn't having any of that so went to a physio who knew what was wrong with me and how to fix it. See sexy sketch above ^^. *Edit - I've since been to another physio recently and have more exercises to work on to improve strength in my glutes, calves and increase balance and control.

Gait analysis

I also got my gait analysed, and found out I was wearing the wrong trainers for my feet (I had shoes for over pronators, and my gait is neutral). Wearing the right running shoes for your feet is so crucial - it might be tempting to buy a pair of £20 trainers in the sale at Sports Direct, but if you're going to be doing any serious mileage you need to make sure you have the correct cushioning and support.

Steer clear of the bargain high street stores for that first purchase and get down to your local pro running shop to get tested. Sweatshop offer a good (and no obligation to buy) gait analysis service along with great advice on choosing the right shoes. They let you try a variety on and have a go running on the treadmill to see how they feel, so you're not just taking their word for it. I've currently got my eye on these beauties - and keep having arguments with myself over whether I can justify them when I can probably get another pair of the Asics that I always buy for cheaper elsewhere online.

Keep buying the same trainers... 

Once I had the correct trainers for my feet the severity of the knee pain was alleviated immediately. In addition to this, the exercises I was given to strengthen the quadricep muscles (and some exercises for my weak ankles too), really helped, and it's only because I've picked the running back up recently and stopped them that it's flared up again. Well, that and climbing bloody mountains.

Being completely out of action after the painful descent from the summit of Ben Nevis really put the shitters on me so I'm definitely gonna take more care of myself and focus on recovery from now on. Which means, no half marathons with improper training and niggling knees, as much as it annoys me to say so. Colour Run though, is a big fat YES. (And mayyyybe the London Duathlon, but more on that later)...

Have you got dodgy knees or joints? Do you run through 'niggles' or listen to your body and rest? What do you think of knee supports?
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