The Speed Project; Risks and Research

It’s been a little while since I shared an update on my training for The Speed Project, life has been so full on lately between uni assignments, training and getting all the logistics for the race sorted and blogging fell right down my list of priorities.

It is crazy how close we are to stepping out on this massive adventure through the desert. It feels like just yesterday I was chatting to Rosh about perhaps maybe joining her team for The Speed Project and now we’re counting down the days until we fly to LA. I can’t quite believe it’s happening.

I don’t feel any fear about what’s coming. I thought so hard about taking on this challenge and have always been utterly realistic about the risks and realities involved. Not least because I had to write a risk assessment for my university setting everything out in detail!

One of the first things I did once I’d made up my mind to run across Death Valley was to tell my phd supervisor Rich. For someone who’s research is all about ultra running the opportunity to go out and experience a race is just too good to turn down, it’s an opportunity to get closer to understanding the experiences of women in the sport and bring that insight in my research. For a professional geek that is about as exciting as it gets, and thankfully Rich was onboard (and in fact suggested it’s make good field work before I even had a chance to say anything!) and fully supported turning this exploit into research.

The Speed Project; Risks - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

The thing is though carrying out field work isn’t quite as simple as just going out and doing it. You need to get ethical approval, a process that’s all about making sure you don’t do any harm, mostly to other people but also to yourself. It’s a big deal and something universities take really seriously, and if you do research that involves people in situations where they might be vulnerable (like when they’re running across the desert and haven’t slept in awhile) then they really up the ante. I completed pages and pages of forms where I carefully set out what I wanted to achieve from my research and how I would safeguard everyone involved, including me, because although I reckon this is a fun weekend away my university has other ideas. You see they have a responsibility to me as one of their students, and if things go wrong while I’m in the field then they have a responsibility to show that everything was done to protect me as far as practically possible. Which means I had to do a pretty involved risk assessment.

It was an intense experience, and the first time I met with my departmental ethics officer the intake of breath was audible. What I was proposing was like nothing anyone in my department had done before (it’s not exactly common for management academics to want to go for really long runs in the name of research!) and there were understandably a few concerns. Injury, dehydration, snakes, road traffic collisions were starters for 10 in the list of things that could happen and my job was to set out how I planned to mitigate each risk so that the university could feel a little more confident I wouldn’t kill myself. It was a painstaking process, but it also means I am brutally aware of what I’m taking on and that I am confident I’ve done as much as I can to look after myself and my team in the field.

The Speed Project; Risks - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

We have an awesome crew who are supporting us through this thing and will be playing a major role when it comes to our safety. Driving the RV alongside us when we need to run on busy sections of road, running with us through shady neighbourhoods, making sure we’ve eaten and are staying hydrated, generally having our backs.

Tech will also play a big role. Strava Summit will help us keep tabs on each other when we’re running stretches alone. Files uploaded to our watches will keep us on track along a route none of us know and walkie talkies will keep us connected when we’re all in different places.

Although there are so many unknowns in a race like this, and that’s part of the appeal, knowledge is power. We’re working with Precision Hydration to work out our exact hydration needs and reduce the risk of dehydration. Likewise we know what nutrition works for each of us, we have an amazing massage therapist called Michael to keep our muscles in check and we’re learning more about how each of us reacts in stressful situations so we can manage them better. This doesn’t eliminate risk, but it does mean that we can keep more of a grip on the things that are within our control.

One of the most important elements of risk management is our training. I am crazy proud of how hard the whole team has worked to get ready for this event. Everyone has trained in their own way, but we’ve all been through the hard yards. We’ve had good runs and bad runs, injuries, sickness, days when things have been amazing and others where we’ve doubted everything. We are all stronger than we’ve ever been, individually and as a team, and that shows in our shared philosophy that our priority right now is to get to the race in one piece.

There’s an amazing camaraderie that’s developed between us over the last few months and the bonds we’ve built as a team have helped us all develop the mental strength we need to go into this challenge. We all know this isn’t going to be easy. We know that there’s going to be times when we each find things really hard, and we’re learning how to support each other through those tricky moments. I know this team have my back, and i’ve got theirs.

*images: Anna Rachel Photography

Go Commando; Modibodi Activewear Reveiw

This post is in collaboration with Modibodi.

Go Commando; Modibodi Activewear Review - A Pretty Place to Play, London running and fitness blog

I sweat a lot. Even the easiest workout leaves me dripping and while I’m not ashamed of my sweat, I worked for those wet patches, spending hours on end in damp kit isn’t the most fun. The word squelchy springs to mind. Which is probably a more triggering word than moist. Sorry for that.

Sweaty workout gear isn’t only uncomfortable, a sweaty crotch can lead to all sorts of nastiness. Rashes, ingrown hairs and infected sweat glands (I have a lovely scar from an ingrown hair on my bikini line), as well as issues like staph infection, bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections, amongst other delights. When you train as much as I do (5-6 days a week, twice on some days) this just isn’t a nice thing to contemplate, and with some big events just around the corner I really don’t have time for issues around my nether region.

Go Commando; Modibodi Activewear Review - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

Just writing this is a bit triggering. There is nothing worse that feeling uncomfortable and clammy ‘down there’, so I was pretty excited when Modibodi asked me to try out their new leggings during a sweaty workout at The Refinery.

I’ve worn Modibodi’s undies while for awhile, using them on those days when I reckon my period is lurking around the corner, on days when my flow is a bit lighter and when I’ve been doing extra sweaty workouts. I really like that they remove the need for pads or liners and wick moisture away so I can workout without that squelchy feeling. You know that feeling.

I wear leggings every day, and I’ve got so many thoughts on what makes the perfect pair. They’ve got to have a bit of compression for support, be high waisted and ideally hit the ankle (nothing like a bit of ankle) as well as pass the squat test (because some dignity is important).

Modibodi’s leggings are a slightly different fabric to the undies I have. While my undies are a merino blend (which I LOVE, so airy) the leggings are a much lighter lycra with 4-way stretch designed to move with the body during a workout. Slipping on the leggings they felt lovely and silky against my skin and fitted well across the leg, but while the fabric was nice and stretchy it didn’t offer much in the way of compression and my chronically achy legs didn’t have quite as much support as they’d have liked.

Although I’m normally not a fan of a 3/4 legging - they make me feel a little dumpy - I found these leggings really flattering on the leg. They fell at a nice point on the calf and the fabric clung just the right amount, but I was a bit disappointed they didn’t come up higher on the waist, and I found myself hiking them up a few times during my workout. Maybe next time I’ll size down so they’re that little bit tighter and less yanking is required.

The big selling point of these leggings is Modibodi’s leak-proof technology. According to a poll of 1,900 women conducted by Netmums for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) suggests that one in three women (34%) develop urinary incontinence during pregnancy and the same number said the problem continued one year on from having their baby. It’s fair to say leaking is a pressing issue for many, many women, and I do wonder how many of those women aren’t working out because they’re concerned about leaks. While wearing leggings that protect from leaks isn’t the long term answer (women ought to be speaking to their doctors and working with properly qualified professionals to treat the underlying issue) it can offer a little bit of reassurance when you’re not feeling all that confident. No one wants pee rolling down their leg mid-squat.

Go Commando; Modibodi Activewear Review - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

I don’t have pelvic floor issues, so I can’t test out whether the leggings really are leakproof, but I do know that the technology has worked really well for me during my period and the special moisture-wicking fabric in the gusset did exactly what it was supposed to during my sweaty workout. I definitely felt less clammy and sweaty after 40 minutes of circuits than I would normally and it was reassuring knowing that bacteria was being kept at bay. However, there is a cost to all of this. The absorbent liner as relatively bulky and when you first put the leggings on it can feel a little bit like you’re wearing one of those old school pads your school nurse used to hand out in emergencies. Similarly, to accommodate the liner the seams run up the pelvis, which kind of reminds me of a pair of Y-Fronts and isn’t all that flattering.

Overall I think Modibodi are on to a good thing with these leggings, but I think they still need a little work if they’re really going to live up to their potential. A higher waist, thicker compression fabric across the legs and some attention to the seaming to make them a little more flattering would take these leggings from a good idea to an amazing product. However, even in the right now Modibodi offers women a solution to a really common problem that could be holding them back from doing everything they enjoy, and that can only be a good thing!

Modibodi Activewear 3/4 leggings are available in sizes 6-16 and retail at £67.50 and you can find out more here.

*Modibodi invited me to workout with them at The Refinery and gave me a pair of leggings to try out, but all opinions are my own.

Why Does Topical Magnesium Sting!

Why Does Topical Magnesium Sting? - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

Magnesium is one of the most important minerals when it comes to sport performance. It plays a fundamental role in optimal muscle contraction, skeletal strength and energy production, as well as helping to sustain the high oxygen consumption that we need to perform. A growing number of studies suggest that magnesium is most effectively absorbed when applied to the skin (something called transdermal absorption) in comparison to taking it in pill or capsule form orally. That sounds really nerdy doesn’t it! Well let’s put it this way, applying a magnesium oil or gel to your legs will help you recover more quickly that popping a magnesium supplement each day. But there is one major drawback…IT STINGS LIKE HELL.

Why Does Topical Magnesium Sting? - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

For ages I thought that it was just me who felt like their legs were on fire after applying magnesium, but chatting with other runners (which is pretty much all I do these days) I discovered that a lot of people have had the same experience, and it’s really putting them off doing something that’ll really benefit their bodies. Being someone whose job is essentially to ask ‘why’ a lot I really wanted to understand why topical magnesium stings so much, and whether there was anything I could do to stop the stinging, so I reached out to the team at BetterYou to ask some questions.

Why Does Topical Magnesium Sting? - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

According to NPD Executive and Nutritional Expert, Keeley Berry, high dose magnesium can sting because it’s highly concentrated salt and it’s absorbed super quickly. While this has huge benefits when it comes to helping you recover, it can also mean that you’re left with a bit of residue on your skin which can cause some itching, especially if you’ve got sensitive skin (hands up!). Stinging or burning could also be a sign of magnesium deficiency, and when the skin is exposed to topical magnesium it can cause the blood vessels underneath the skin to dilate very quickly. This is because magnesium is a natural vasodilator and can cause the capillaries to increase in blood flow, also causing a tingling warming effect.

So that’s the science explaining why topical magnesium can sting, but what can you do about it? Here’s a few suggestions:

  • it’s always better to apply little and often to a larger surface area, especially if you’re just starting out with a magnesium oil.

  • the best way to avoid itchy residue to to apply gel or oil onto wet skin straight out of the shower. Warm water (not too hot!) helps open up the pores and allows the product to be absorbed more efficiently, especially when massaged into the skin. After a few minutes towel off any residual oil, which should help minimise any itching.

  • Noushii (the bad ass manager at City Athletic) suggests starting with the sensitive oil from BetterYou, it’s just a bit kinder if you have sensitive skin.

  • Try adding magnesium flakes to your bath, I’ve never experienced stinging, and who doesn’t like a good soak?! I like to add a couple of drops of essential oils too, just to make things a bit more lux.

Do you use topical magnesium? Do you find it stings? Any tips I’ve missed to stop the sting?!

* I reached out to BetterYou for comment, I have not received payment and the products features I purchased myself. My shoes were a gift from 361 Europe.

** images: Anna Rachel Photography