Go Vegan for January with Veganuary

Veganuary
Sometimes in life we have to face truths. For me in 2014 this was accepting that I could no longer eat any products from animals. I had long known the environmental arguments and I was already vegetarian when I decided to go vegan. But accepting the truth about dairy industry was long overdue. Once I did it, I felt as if a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders and 7 months down the line I have more energy than ever. I look better, perform better mentally and physical and I feel my diet matches my ethics.

2013 has been another year whereby I have been fortunate enough to work on projects in areas close to my heart. Whether it was working on ‘Fighting Animal Testing‘ with Lush or Moves app (activity tracker) or my latest client Veganuary getting people to go Vegan for the month of January.

I urge everyone to check out Veganuary there is a great 31 day vegan menu and a whole host of useful resources for anyone embarking on a vegan journey. On Instagram would be chefs will be sharing their vegan dishes with the world for the chance to win some vegan goodies. I found my athletic performance came on leaps and bounds when I turned vegan, perhaps yours will as well.

Happy New Year and thanks for all of your support. Your comments, tweets, shares inspire me to keep going, train hard and spread a healthy message.

Let 2014 be a year of exploration and perhaps start today with Veganuary.

YouTube rehabilitation

I am incredibly frustrated at the moment. My calf is still tight and improving daily but still no running. I suspect it will be at least a week before I am able to lace up again. What I find most frustrating is the thought of losing fitness and seeing my weight gradually creep up.

To try keep my fitness up this week I am making sure I am spending time on my bike and this morning I went for a 40 minute swim. I am incredibly slow at swimming these days, everything feels slightly out of sync like a computer when it is going wrong. I am going to try and get in the pool again later in the week and I am pushing on with my stretching programme given to me by my physio.

I have also been working hard on my improving the Vegan Runner YouTube channel. Please subscribe to the channel. Here I am talking about running, cycling, making vegan recipes, discussing veganism and fitness more broadly.

These are some of my recent videos. Please share and subscribe, I really want to keep making these videos the more subscribers I more inclined I will be to keep going.

Stop! you are injured: Ashford Half Marathon report

Race bling

It has taken me a few days to write this report,  the reason being that honestly because I am just a little upset with what happened to me during the Ashford Half Marathon.

Just to give you some context, about a week and a half before the race I went for a 8.6 mile run with my friend Clare. When I returned home my calf started to tighten, I tried some stretches but it knotted up and I proceeded feel it for the next couple of days. Then on Tuesday I decided to do a 4 mile run through a lovely country park by my Mum’s, during this run I managed to fall over as I exited the woodland path. My foot clipped a jagged rock, the result me feeling embarrassed and picking up a  heavily bruised knee and cut ankle; nothing major but still painful.

After breezily finishing my run, I got home and instantly felt my calf pulling, I proceeded to stretch and ice the calf throughout the day but I knew my participation in the half marathon was now in doubt. Luckily for me my housemate works as a sport injury masseur and was able to treat my calf on Wednesday. She worked miracles and the tightness started to loosen. By Saturday it felt nearly there, I could feel it wasn’t 100% but it wasn’t causing me any strong pain. So this is where I went wrong, my body was telling me it wasn’t right I ignored this.

I took part in the race with my friend Nicola and her husband Tom was our mascot for the day driving us and being an epic supporter. After the usual Sunday morning TFL transport fiasco, no oveground and buses, I got to our meeting point in Brixton for 8:00 and we set off. I could feel my nerves building not really because of the race but because I knew my leg was in a pretty shoddy state.

Anyway we got the track where the race was due to start and went through a little warm up around the track and onto the start of the cross country element of the course. The race was advertised as multi terrain and it really was, I totally wasn’t prepared for so much of the race being ran over farmers land. To stay it was sticky was an understatement, my feet were being pulled off my feet fiercely. I also under estimated the hills involved in this race. My training currently rarely goes near hills, I live in an incredibly flat area but this needs to change in the future.

Anyway, I decided to take part in the race we set off and I felt fairly good, I had made a decision to not push the pace and just settle into my training pace. This would get me near where I wanted to be and my logic was that by just running my normal pace I should be able to protect my leg. Wrong! As soon as I started to hit the hills my calf started knotting and there was nothing I could do to stop it, apart from curse under my breath. Unsurprisingly this had little affect on my injury. At around mile 6 my calf pulled and tightened up, I felt so frustrated I really wanted to scream.

So at this point I had a two choices:

1) DNF- I was near the stadium for the start of the second loop I could have easily stopped there, getting the injury treated and running again another day

2) Keep going- Scott Jurek didn’t quit the Great Western States with a broken ankle, you shouldn’t quit now. Dig deep, slow stuff down but keep going.

I chose option 2, this was stupid decision driven by ego and pride, I had trained hard for the race and was in decent physical condition.

So I slowed down but the wheels seriously fell off. I couldn’t put any real power through my right leg so I was doing overtime with my left on the hills this really started have a serious impact. My body was working overtime on 50% capacity trying to haul me around, it was complaining all over. I had planned to be done at around 1:45- 1:50 so my hydration strategy was set for this. Basically go into the race light and not carry extra fluid drink around 1:30 and be done. This was a major mistake it was around 1:45 by the time I reached the last drinks point and I was seriously dehydrated. I had some sugary drink and a minute rest and slowly trotted off to the finish, the last bit over the mud was literally hell.

I finished in 2:03.13 placed 200, given the course and the injury it wasn’t the worst performance ever but still disappointing. Nicola got around in 1:43 which was amazing especially on that course.

Race splits

Race splits

Damien

On crossing the line I felt exhausted, Tom was a superstar grabbing my jackets and getting me ice. My calf was already seizing up within a few minutes. On the way home quite disgustingly I had to get Tom to pull over the car to enable me to throw up.  After this unpleasant incident  I ate one of Nicola’s bananas and I felt fine. I was basically in the red and needed sugar desperately.

Today I went to see my favourite physio, Helen at Fix she gave me acupuncture on the injured calf. The good news is that it isn’t torn, just very tight and strained nothing a bit of stretching and a few weeks rest from running won’t mend. I am not exactly sure when I will be running again but it shouldn’t be too long. In the meantime, I will be swimming and spinning and generally trying to stay in good shape. So all in all a bit of a disappointing end to my big race of the year but I have learnt some valuable lessons these are:

1) I am tough
2) I am stupid
3) Running means a lot to me
4) Drink more water on long race days
5) I need to stretch a lot more
6) Running an 3:30 marathon feels far away at the moment

Questions:

Have you ever gone into a race injured? If so, how did it go? Do you pull out if you have a niggle or grin and bear it. Tips for avoiding calf tightness also welcome.

Why the paleo diet lacks compassion and screws the planet

Bananas for low carbon high energy food

Bananas for low carbon high energy food

This blog isn’t going to make everyone love me but that isn’t the point. This blog is about what I strongly believe and I am not in the business of telling people what they want to hear just to make them feel good about themselves.

I have been feeling really bugged by the Paleo diet. I know, no surprise a vegan hates the worlds cruellest diet.

The Paleo diet is commonly known as the caveman diet and encourages a high fat diet, high protein diet primarily comprised of meat and vegetables, no sugar and low in carbohydrates.

So, why are people obsessed with a diet which saturates your body in fat? Fucks the planet, actively encourages slaughter and consumption of a vast quantity of animals? This diet is currently pushed by a few overweight non athletic people making a fortune telling people what they want to hear. It has been adopted by the Crossfit community and pushed as the way to get optimum athletic results. Crossfit is hugely popular but it has been linked to causing dangerous muscle damage conditions such as rhabdomyolysis.

The large guy on the right looks like the right person to be given nutrition advice.

The large guy on the right looks like the right person to be given nutrition advice.

The paleo diet will tell you that you know those millions of animals slaughtered every day well that is because god wanted that. This is a quote off a Crossfit gym near my flat in London which pushes the diet. Honestly WTF: ” This is not a lifestyle for a vegetarian. Paleo works on the idea that “if God didn’t want us to eat animals, he wouldn’t have made them out of meat.”

Shit! Obviously that evolution theory thing skipped the people at this crossfit gym. I suppose if god didn’t want us to eat fruit he wouldn’t have made them out of fruit. Yeah, right that makes sense. Really, really? Is that best justification for a diet which encourages increased slaughter of animals and damages the planet.

We live in a world which is being ravaged by climate change, in the past 2 weeks, The Phillipines, Italy and Somalia have been hit by cyclones. We have record levels of carbon in the atmosphere 400 parts per million. Just last month the worlds leading climate scientists (IPCC) have published a report saying we are heading for 4 degrees increase in pre industrial world temperatures by the end of the century. I was at a conference last week about the Chagos archipelago (the worlds biggest no take marine conservation area) and every scientist who stood up to talk about the reef talked about the threats posed by climate change to our oceans and marine ecosystem.

We live in a world where we need to drastically reassess the way we treat animals and are in urgent need of cutting our global carbon emissions. Livestock farming and the meat industry currently accounts for roughly 1/5 of global carbon emissions.

Let me be clear. Eating meat doesn’t make you a bad person, we all have to make our own choices and some of the most wonderful people I have ever met eat meat. I still love them. But it does significantly increase your carbon footprint as an individual, carbon emissions from livestock farming a major contributor to climate change.

Dr John McDougall talks about how a high starch vegan diet heals his patients health:

Personally I want to eat a diet that enables me to have a low carbon footprint, not harm animals and be a good steward of the planet.

I also want to thrive athletically, I just need to look at people like Scott Jurek, Tim Van Orden, Rich Roll, Durian Rider, Brendan Brazier, Peter Siddle, Mac Danzig, for vegan athletic inspiration.

UFC fighter and Raw Vegan Mac Danzig

UFC fighter and Raw Vegan Mac Danzig

I feel a large part of running is about how we feel inside. Scott Jurek didn’t win the The Great Western States 100 mile race 7-times feeling guilty. A vegan diet enabled him to perform and recover better than ever before, I am sure knowing his diet meant he was treading lightly on the earth enabled him to run fast and become one of the greatest ultra marathon runners ever.

As a planet we’re facing a global heart disease and obesity crisis, 23% of people in the UK are now obese. Just turn on your TV what do you see? Meat everywhere, dripping with fat and cheap junk food. We have thrived off fruit since humans evolved that is what we’re meant to eat not our companions on earth animals. We didn’t all start getting fat in the west when we started eating fruit this only happened when we became rich nations and had access to junk food and cheap meat.

We all have to make our own choices but in my eyes a high carb, low fat vegan diet rich in fruit and veggies is the one which will help you stay healthy and happy and protect the planet for future generations. We have the power to make positive choices like going vegan. Just because something has always been a certain way it doesn’t mean it needs to stay like that the world changes. I just hope the fitness world wakes up and dismisses this dangerous, cruel paleo diet soon.

Check out Durian Rider exposing some paleo myths below:

What has running taught me?

Eat and Run

When I first went for a run in February it had been 2 and half years since my only half marathon a lumbering 2:17 at the Royal Parks Half. I was fed up of feeling unfit it was a bright winters day and my trainers were calling me. I huffed and I puffed and I certainly wasn’t blowing any houses down. But I kept at it, I went for a few runs with my friend Lauren and then after about a month of slow running I started going to GoodGym and slowly but surely the running got easier. I was enjoying it.

Despite a injury hiccup which was a great learning experience thanks to some first class physio my progress as a runner has been swift. I have started racing and although my overall placings are amazing as of yet I am in the top 25% of runners in all my races so far. 

My running journey has taught me a lot about myself a person, my body and how I can get the most from it. I truly believe switching from a vegetarian to a vegan diet has I believe been a key element in enabling me to ramp up my training, improve my pace and stay injury free. 

So what has running taught me?

1) I like a little moan early into my runs: I am either too tired, I feel stiff, its the wind, I feel to cold, I got my layering wrong. There is always something bugging me, generally I start enjoying my runs at around mile 3. Which if it is a 5k means I enjoy roughly the last 200 metres.

2) I am still a competitive person: I used to play lots of football and cricket but in general life, work, business, status,  I don’t consider myself competitive. But put me in a race and from the moment I get the starting line, I want to do the best I can possibly do and get as close to winning as possible.

3) Every run teaches you something: Whether you learn about your body or what is going on inside your head or your surroundings. It is the sport of natures voyeurs you always can spy something interesting happening in the nature around you.

4) I am a geek: I knew this but running has definitely reaffirmed this. I am growingly obsessed with split times and I have become very concerned with how training and my diet can squeeze extra %’s out of my running potential.

5) Running is social: I always thought of running as a solitary activity but being part of GoodGym, taking part in races and writing this blog has connected me with so many interesting people. I am making new running friends every week, their stories and training always inspires me.

6) Vegan for the win: Well the 17th place in my case currently. Anyway following a high carbohydrate low fat vegan diet has helped me lose a few extra pounds I was carrying and enabled me to recover remarkably well. I am continuing to stay injury free and improve my speed.

7) The staff in Sweatshop know nothing: If you want some decent running advice seek out ‘Runners Needs’, both the staff in the shops in Moorgate or Aldgate know their stuff.

8) A huge part of running is in the head: During a race I skip through so many scenarios from what happens if I can’t run up that hill, I panic about tripping people up, I doubt I can even get around the course. Then finally comes acceptance at around mile 3 that I am doing pretty well and this is great fun. I am still a nervy sports person, I always was when I was younger and I still take awhile to calm down.

9) I am rubbish at following training plans: I have looked at so many plans, different interval sessions, fartleks etc, I still haven’t managed to many focused sessions. My options generally are run fast or take it easy and keep things consistent. I know to progress I need to change this but for now I am happy listening to my body and just going with the flow.

10) Do what works for you: I am guilty of giving my point of view but what works for different people will be different. There is so much contradictory advice. So listen to people try things out but you can’t follow everyones advice. Just rock your own path is my advice.

As Scott Jurek wrote when I met him in October ‘You know the path follow it!”.

PB’s

5k 21:04 Hackney Marsh ParkRun

10K 47:31 Greenwich Park 10k

Follow me on Twitter @damienclarkson

Hackney GoodGym go to Parkrun

Hackney Marsh ParkRun

Hackney Marsh ParkRun

It was a crisp but beautiful Winter morning which was for the setting of my latest Hackney Marsh ParkRun. I had only previously ran one ParkRun 7 weeks earlier and recorded a time of 22:12. This week I cycled along to the race with a bunch of friends from Hackney GoodGym (Aimee, Lauren, Phil and Shaun).

Running has been great for expanding my social circle and I have found the organisers/volunteers of all of the races I attend brilliant and friendly. It really is a great way to get to know people living active healthy lives in your area.

I was definitely attending this weeks race expecting to run a PB. I decided that my tactics would be to start fast and hang in there. I haven’t really been running 5K’s in the past 6 weeks with training being more geared towards the 10K races of the previous couple of weeks and my upcoming half marathon. Therefore I wasn’t confident of being able to consistently put down 7 minute miles.

ParkRun Splits

ParkRun Splits

The pace at the start of the race was blistering I wasn’t surprised when I peaked at my Garmin to see my 1 mile split was 6:30. The cold air was tearing through my lungs and my legs felt heavy; the fear had set in at this point. All sorts of crazy notions flashed into my head, including getting overtaken by everyone and dropping out. Race confidence is definitely something I need to work on.

Anyway that didn’t happen and despite a slight dropping in my pace I was still able to put in some fairly decent miles and end up with a PB of 21:04 with a placing on 17th and knocking 1:08 off my previous 5K PB. I finished with a strong sprint going past two other runners and was slightly aggrieved to not have gone under 21:00 minutes but I am confident of doing this in the not too distant future.

ParkRun results

My GoodGym friends and I had a fun time and I think ParkRuns are going to become a more regular fixture in our running diaries.

Lauren (on the right) goes head to head with another runner

Lauren (on the right) goes head to head with another runner

Afterwards Aimee and I went for breakfast, I had some tasty avocado on sourdough bread and decaff coffee. All in all it was the perfect way to start the day.

Aimee gliding along

Aimee gliding along

Did you run a ParkRun this weekend? If so, how did you get on? Leave your comments below.

Until the next time…

Damien x

Run to the hills: Greenwich Park 10K

After the race picture

After the race picture

It is amazing how quickly the mind can conveniently forget about something. Having attended University in Greenwich I was well aware of the steepness of the hills which ran throughout the Royal Park of Greenwich; the venue for my second ever 10k race.

I awoke after hardly any sleep to a crisp morning across London. I ate a banana at 6:30 as soon as I was awake and dashed out the door making my train with 3 seconds to spare. Whilst on route rummaging through my bag I also realised I am starting to become a serious runner. I had packed extra plasters, spare blister plasters, toilet roll and bananas for my post run snack.

I was also excited to be running with two of my best friend Pete and John, I have known both of them since the age of 3. We have literally grown up together, John and I pretty much played all of our football in the same team. We even had supporters in the shape of John’s parents (who I know well) and his girlfriend.

Anyway we arrived far too early and spent sometime hanging around on the bench running through all the anxieties runners have before a race. These mainly concerned our choice of clothing, whether the chip will fall off, even whether we would be capable of finishing. I felt like the wise old hand advising John and Pete (Both doing their first race) to be wary of getting caught up in the inevitable lightening pace start. Which was hilarious as I always fly through the first mile.

Beautiful Greenwich

Beautiful Greenwich

It was truly a beautiful setting for the race and the competition looked fierce. Basically everyone looked pretty serious, anyhow I took Durian Rider’s advice and really chilled out whilst we observed the Remberance Day silence before the race trying not to waste my nervous energy. Then Boom!  We were off. As predicted I flew out the traps, the temperature felt perfect for racing and before I knew it I was flying down the hills. At one of the first marshall points I spotted my friend Hannah who was volunteering marshalling the race. This was totally amazing and gave me a real boost- Hannah also writes a brilliant running blog (Red Head On the Run) which is packed full of great training tips.

Hannah took this picture of me on the second lap of the course

Hannah took this picture of me on the second lap of the course

Descending the steep hills I kept thinking of Paula Radcliffe analysis of how Mo Farah didn’t go hard enough on the hill decent at the Great North Run. I was going to repeat the mistake of Mo as I flew down the hill, I could really feel my glutes working but I felt good. I have been practising balancing with my arms out when running down hill and this really helped me.

The course was a 2 lap affair with the finish at the top of the park. Before today I rated myself as a hill runner which was ridiculous because I leave in Hackney, London which is basically the Belgium of London. However believed a childhood growing up on a hill made me a mountain man. Predictably on the first big hill I got dropped by about 5 people. Thankfully I seemed to improve or other people faded as I didn’t really get overtaken again. In fact I picked off a few people on the hill climbs throughout the race. I was especially delighted with how quickly I recovered from what were short but brutal climbs.

Despite the tough hilly course I was able to record a PB with a time of 47:31 knocking 1:17 off my time at the Bushy Park 10k recorded 3 weeks ago. This placed me 73rd in a field of 293 runners I suppose I squeezed in the top 25% 🙂

Race Splits Greenwich Park 10K

John came through in 1:03:27 and Pete in 1:14:46 a great achievement on their first 10k runs of what hopefully will be many.

Only 3 weeks until the Ashford Half Marathon, I am growing in confidence but need a to throw in 4 or 5 of long runs over the next 2 weeks to make sure I get a time somewhere near my 1:45 target.

How was your weekend running? Please let me know in the comments or via Twitter. And any of your tips for tackling hills would be much appreciated.

Damien x