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Alarm Call Grit

9 Nov

Q: I am training for a 10k and can get myself out of the door no problem on the weekends, but during the week the only time I have to run is before work. I have been setting my alarm for 5.30am each day only to turn it off and go back to sleep. Any tips on how to summon up the extra grit to get myself out of bed? It is dark and raining most days now and it all feels too much like hard work.
A: Keeping fit and healthy through a committed exercise routine is always hard work. It is hard in the Summer when we would rather be doing anything else – like drinking rose in the sun – and hard in the Winter when the hours of daylight fade away and all we want to do is curl up on the sofa or under our duvets and hibernate until Spring. Accepting that it is hard is the first obstacle to get over. How? By simply sucking it up. Life is hard. Hard is the new black remember? You have made a commitment to entering this 10k race and you need to train yourself up to be race-ready. Thank your lucky stars that your job doesn’t require you to set your alarm for 4am. Others have to to squeeze in their runs – think Michelle Obama – and start channelling some of her inner grit.
I do have some sympathy, as I remember having to wake at 5.30am during the Winter months when training for a marathon many years ago and it is tough. But once I got into the habit of it, using the duvet decoys listed below, it just became part of my routine. I started to get so much out of running before work, that the benefits far outweighed the grit required to haul myself out of bed at such an ungodly hour. So the first thing to do is to accept that you are never going to hear your alarm and “feel” like jumping out of bed and going for a run! But run you must so try implementing these:

GD duvet decoys:

1. Set your mobile phone alarm ring tone to the most gritty in-your-face sort of wake up call rather than a gentle progressive one. SHOCK YOURSELF INTO ACTION.
2. Leave said alarm out of reach of the bed so you have to get out of bed to turn it off quickly or risk waking everybody else in your street. Getting out of your bed is nine-tenths of the battle.
3. Have your running kit, bra, knickers, socks – the whole shebang – laid out ready the night before so you can slip into all your clothes without so much as a seconds’ thought.
4. Head straight out of the door via the sink for a glass or two of water.

I found that I was still half asleep during this process which worked well for me as before I could question the insanity of getting up so early, the run had begun. Nothing compares to running through the break of dawn, you will feel so proud of yourself all day and you will feel unbelievably good when you arrive at work. Running during these colder months will also help to keep colds flu and general winter malaise at bay, and those endorphins will help cheer you up when you are most in need of a laugh. Plus, regular Winter running will have you looking incredible for your Christmas office party in your LBD. Think of all those Christmas treats: the mince pies and mulled wine that you can enjoy without fear of the damage they can do to your waistline! And, you will start 2016 incredibly focussed and in great shape. This is why people do it. Not for the love of the sport. And certainly not for the love of waking up at the crack of dawn. We do it for everything else it buys for our lives.
The Grit Doctor says:
Breakfast has never tasted so good.

Shin Splints

1 Sep

Q: Would dearly love to know what @gritdoctor has to say about crippling shin splints! #motivate

A: Well, Em, I reckon shin splints are the most common running injury, so you are in good company. They can particularly affect those starting out or newish to longer distance running, when your calf muscles are not yet used to the pounding, and that dull ache you are experiencing in your lower legs is most likely the result of medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) caused by frequent and intense periods of exercise that your body is unused to. MTSS is thought to occur when the layer of connective tissue that covers the surface of the shin bone (periosteum) becomes inflamed. Shin Splints are most likely to affect new runners and those who increase speed and/or distances too quickly, I’m not sure Em which category you fall into.
Runners at risk of developing shin splints other than newcomers to the sport, are those who run on concrete or other equally unforgiving hard surfaces, up steep hills (especially if you are lugging around extra weight), and runners with weak ankles, tight calf muscles or tight Achilles tendons (the band of tissue connecting the heel bone to the calf muscle). If you suffer from overpronation (excessive rolling of the foot) or flat feet, this may also aggravate the problem and put you at a greater risk of developing shin splints. All of the above can and do happen to runners of all ages.
What can you do about it?
1. Stop running for two weeks and do lower impact sports instead: yoga, swimming, cross-training or walking . If you have been ‘gritting it out’ and running in spite of the shin splints, apply an ice pack (just wrap frozen peas in a tea-towel) immediately after your run to help relieve the pain and/or use over the counter paracetomol or ibuprofen-based painkillers. Make that your last run for a fortnight.
2. Make sure you are wearing the right shoes. If prone to shin splints, you really do need to invest in a pair of proper running shoes. By ‘proper’ I mean a pair bought from a specialist running shop. It is vital that your running shoes provide sufficient cushioning and support for your weight and foot type. So, if you haven’t already done so, get yourself to a specialist running shop and have your gait analysed and a trained member of staff help you to choose the right shoes.
[If you continue having problems and think your shoes may be the cause, see a podiatrist (aka a foot specialist) who will be able to look at your overall lower limb biomechanics. They may well recommend orthotics (special shoe inserts) which will help guard against shin splints]
If the pain does not improve dramatically after two weeks rest, please see your GP so they can rule out other possible causes of the pain, including but not exclusive to: reduced blood supply to the lower leg (smokers are at greater risk of this); stress fractures and muscle hernias; ‘compartment syndrome’ (swelling of the leg muscle such that the surrounding nerves and blood vessels become overly compressed); or a nerve problem in your lower back (radiculopathy). In your case Em, I am hopeful that any of the above are extremely unlikely and so, assuming that your shins do recover in a fortnight and you are keen to get back out running, make sure you do the following – in your properly fitting specialist running shoes of course:
●Run on a flat, soft surface, such as a playing field;
●Go easy on your first outing, slower than before and over a shorter distance;
●Increase the distance you run very slowly after a few weeks back running and don’t attempt to speed up until 6 weeks and then only very gradually;
●Work on improving your overall strength and flexibility (cross training and core strength training will help with this). Specifically, strengthen your lower leg with this simple exercise: Sit on a chair and loop a weight around your foot (a jar full of coins would do fine), then move your foot up and down from the ankle (so you are using your ankle and not your leg to generate the lifting action).

Bouge tes fesses, poulette! aka RFBR

24 Mar
Hello,I’m reading your book :”run, fat bitch, run!”
In French translation “bouge tes fesses, poulette!” And I love it!(You may apologize for my approximate English)I really like your book because when I’m reading it, I feel more motivated to do things!
I think it a lots of personal thinking to get new motivations..Anyway I didn’t read it because I wanted to start running. I read it because the first pages sounds like a novel, like a story, maybe the story of my life that I could create with this book.

Now I’ve nearly read everything and I would like start running

-But- wink emoticon

When you told about : the best place to run, you said it should be an hour and half walk and it’s better if it’s on a “flat road” (I mean, not on a hill)
where I live in the middle of France, a countryside place, is full of hills! And I don’t have lots of choice for the way to take!

I like walking on a way but it’s 12km walk and nearly two and half hour!
One mounted is very hard and I have to walk there very slower!

What should I do? Do you thing, I can try to run there?

I think maybe, running is easier for people who live in city places or suburb because they can do a loop.. On a “flat road”.

I don’t know if you understand everything kiki emoticon
And I hope you will answer my message.

In the meantime I’ll keep walking smile emoticon

It better than nothing! smile emoticon

A: Walking is absolutely brilliant and the countryside plus hills, infinitely preferable to running in our urban cityscapes.  I escape to the woods for my runs, but I long for the wild countryside, specifically the French countryside where Run Fat Bitch Run was written: the valleys and hills of Castlenau Montratier were my husband’s training ground (pictured).

Growing twins and writing RFBR in Castlenau Montratier

Growing twins and writing RFBR in Castlenau Montratier

So a hilly circuit is fantastic, walking it first as you are to get really fit and strong, much more so than a flat surface would have you, so by the time you start to run as the programme sets out, you will be in great physical shape.  Just do everything as the 6 steps and the 8 week programme sets out, but even more slowly, particularly slowing right down at the start of those hills, and leaning into them.  Once you are able to jog 40 minutes of that circuit *comfortably* (wink emoticon) you can start picking and choosing which hills to sprint up.  Believe me, that time will come.

Can you shorten your hilly countryside 12k walk?  If not, there is no reason why you can’t train yourself to run the first 5 km of it in accordance with the book and walk the rest.  If you so wish, you can keep on increasing your running distance by small increments until you are running the full 12k; just give yourself plenty of time, lots of rest days and listen to your body.  Make sure you are well hydrated – every time – before you set off.

The Grit Doctor says:
How I wish my French were half as good as your English.  Take extra motivation from the fact that you are running the story of my life and my book right where you are.

‘Cut The Crap’ Grit Clinic

2 Feb

Q: Hello Grit Doctor.  I will be refraining from… sandwiches at lunchtime. Hello powdered packet soup.  Is this a good idea?

A: *Suspecting* powdered packet soup to be firmly under the crappy foods umbrella, I did a quick google search, which revealed the ingredients list of a bog standard packet of mixed vegetable soup to be:-

1.potato starch



4.vegetable oil


6.dried glucose syrup

7.yeast extract

8.vegetables (16%) onion potatoe red pepper leek carrot green pepper

9.thickener (guar gum)

10.anti caking agent (silicon dioxide)


12.milk protein

13.flavour enhancer

14.disodium 5′ ribonucleotides

15.garlic powder

16.celery concentrate



19.carrot concentrate

20.leek concentrate

21.onion juice

A foodstuff which calls itself soup yet comes powdered in a packet, requiring boiling water to bring it to life, should of itself ring alarm bells.

That it has the audacity to call itself a vegetable soup, while containing no more than 16% vegetables is misleading at best, downright dishonest at worst, because that soup is predominantly made up of CRAP (84% to be precise) to pad it out, to thicken it up and to give it flavour.

The Grit Doctor recommends

Making a homemade vegetable soup or any packed lunch you’ve made at home from scratch and bringing it in every day.  100% real food with no added fake crappy sugars or man made chemicals. 


Remember that there are no short cuts to good health and a balanced diet.  It necessarily involves work, and be thankful that it does.  Because when you order a bumper packet of powdered soup online, you are not only eating crap, but behaving in a crap-generating manner. Those calories you burn getting outdoors and up the road to buy the vegetables, carrying them home, chopping them up in the kitchen, sweating an onion (while crying profusely mourning the crappy eating habits you’ve now spurned), stirring the soup, blitzing it, and freezing portions, are all contributing to that increase in activity, that fundamental shift away from sedentary living that a crap free lifestyle demands.

The Grit Doctor says

If the list of ingredients reads more NASA experiment than foodstuff, its a rubber stamp guarantee that said foodstuff is crap.  A homemade sandwich would be a far better, healthier and tastier choice for lunch.

Crap Cutting Grit Clinic

14 Jan

Q: I need to lose half a stone as I bought a pair of new trousers in the sales in my normal size and once I tried them on at home, to my horror, they’re ever so slightly tight but I REFUSE to take them back and go up a size! Resolution – I’m giving up potatoes in all forms, and I love potatoes so this is a big, big thing for me (+ sandwiches from downstairs, + all cakes and biccies around the office!) You will see me diligently munching on crudités and hummus at my desk, oat cakes and soup for lunch. V. boring and v. necessary! I will pick up a copy of the book ‘Cut The Crap’ to see if it gives me willpower as I’m not sure whether I can make a month without a potato in some shape or form. Anon

A: Ok its great that you are feeling fired up and motivated – as so many of us do in January – only too often though, we can find that motivation is waning come February, and obliterated by Spring. Every year. The same old cycle.

Where we all go wrong, particularly in January – food wise – is in taking on too much too soon, shocking our bodies and our minds into a way of eating that is so foreign and unfamiliar, not to mention unappetising, that it ultimately leaves us feeling completely uninspired, weak-willed and worse still, weak with hunger.

The Grit Doctor reminds
The Crap Cutting Way is to cut out one bad eating habit at a time

Potatoes per se are not the issue here. Its either the crap you are laddling into them (butter and cheese into a baked potato for example) or the method of cooking (the deep fryer is a purveyor of the crappiest form of potato), roasties bathing in goose fat – whilst undeniably delicious – are also not a friend of the waistline. Gratin dauphinoise and variations – whilst superlatively tasty – should never be a daily staple either.

So, rather than forcing yourself into giving up a cheap convenient and healthy staple, which I can tell by the tone of your letter the very prospect of is making you sad, I suggest instead taking a closer look at what you are eating them with/how you are cooking them/portion-size and work towards de-crappifying that side of things first. The butter/cheese/cream bath has got to go. Try Greek yoghurt to help cream up the inside of a baked potato instead. And make sure you are having it with huge veg-heavy salad, rather than a mincemeat heavy chile con carne for example…

If you are looking for a tasty healthy alternative to those beloved spuds, how about bulgar wheat or quinoa? I often make a cheat tabbouleh, and did last night (pictured) using one of those grains or a combination (this was with bulgar wheat) and mixing with chopped tomatoes, cucumber, rocket or spinach (or any salad or green veg I fancy that’s knocking about), oodles of parsley, finely chopped spring onions, some mint, lemon, a splash of white wine vinegar, a clove of crushed garlic, a tablespoon of olive oil, seasoning and, voila, you have a filling healthy alternative to potatoes that also has you nailing your veggies. I had a grilled salmon fillet with mine last night..

The Grit Doctor advises
Its the cakes and biscuits and muffins that are the problem. Don’t reject your beloved spuds entirely, cut the crap out of your biscuit habit instead.