Faces of the Run Series: Roy Kiruri

The University of Bristol Run Series is a community and wellbeing focused virtual event. Through this event we are encouraging staff, students, alumni and people of Bristol to re-connect with one another over a common goal – be that 5k, 10k a Half Marathon (or all three!) – with the aim of bettering our physical and mental health during a time of anxiety, uncertainty and isolation.

Our ‘Faces of the Run Series’ blog posts will shine a light on individuals who have signed up to one, or more, of our virtual events and ask them to share what brought them to our virtual community this year! Through this blog series, we hope to introduce you to your fellow runners by putting a face to the Facebook profile, email address or Strava user we’ve only had the opportunity to ‘meet’ in 2D so far!

Bio

Name: Roy Kiruri
Staff or Student: Bristol SU Sabbatical Officer, International Students
Run Series Event: Whole Series!

 

 

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Faces of the Run Series: Teigan Ball

“I have been really struggling with motivation during these last few weeks. The Run Series provides me with an excellent opportunity to do this for me, to collect the medals, join a community and feel a part of the university again.”

A lady running in a maroon coloured jacket
Action shot of Tiegan running

 

Name: Tiegan Ball

Role: Wellbeing Sports Liaison Officer

Division: Student Wellbeing Network, Bristol SU

Other roles: NHS Bank Worker and Novice Captain, University of Bristol Boat Club

Studying: Bachelor of Science, BS Childhood studies

 

What is your experience with running up until now?

I never used to run; I was adamant that I couldn’t do it. I used to think it would deteriorate my muscle growth. However, in the first lockdown, I purchased my first pair of running shoes. I started with a short 5k around the downs, once or twice a week as a maximum. I was very much a gym girl; cardio wasn’t my forte at all. Since the first lockdown, I have steadily increased my distance and decreased my time. So, to cut it short, I am probably an intermediate runner.

A fitness tracker screenshot showing a run route around Bristol Harbour
Tiegan’s favourite run route around Bristol Harbour

What motivated you to sign up for the run series in 2021?

I have been really struggling with motivation during these last few weeks. The run series provides me with an excellent opportunity to do something for myself, to collect the medals, join a community and feel a part of the university again.

What is your top tip for getting out the door for your training runs?

For me, I must schedule the run a few days before. I am not a spontaneous person as such, I like to mentally prepare for a run. I like to eat properly beforehand (a carby meal a few hours before). It is about doing what suits you. I also like to run in the evenings, as a break in-between studying. The sunsets are also so beautiful so it is great for the mind as well.

A lady running with the sun setting behind her
Tiegan running at sunset

What are you most looking forward to about taking part in the Run Series this year?

I am most looking forward to being a part of a community again. I love to socialise and, obviously, it has been hard this year to feel connected. The run series will allow me to feel a part of a team and strive to be the best version of myself that I can be!

What is your favourite pre-run snack/food?

I love sliced banana with peanut butter on top (crunchy peanut butter, of course). Personally, it is so important that I also eat well the day before. If I eat poorly, I can’t expect a good time but again just getting out and running is so much better than not doing anything. Do this for you.

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There is still time to sign up for the first Run Series event, the virtual 5k, this weekend (20-21 March). For more information, and to sign up, visit the Run Series website.

 

 

Faces of the Run Series: Rushab Shah

Our second Face of the Run Series is this year’s elected Sports and Student Development Officer, Rushab Shah. Rushab has been at home in Nairobi, Kenya since Christmas, which is where he will be running the Run Series virtual 5k on the weekend of 20-21 March.

A selfie of Rushab Shah and his Sister, Sachee, smiling
Rushab and his sister, Sachee, out on a run

Bio

Name: Rushab Shah
Staff or StudentStudent Sabbatical Officer
Role: Bristol SU
Run Series Event: Whole Series!

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Nutrition advice for runners: What is Nutrition?

If I say the words “sports nutrition”, what do you think? For many of us, the predominant image is probably a guy a bit like Arnie, downing a protein shake, wearing tight nylon short-shorts and a slinky vest. Fear not, I’m here to tell you that we can have a far more expansive view of what constitutes sports nutrition. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, anything that you put in your mouth which contributes to your training programme is, in essence, sports nutrition.

If a cup of herbal tea before bed helps you get a good night’s sleep then it is, to you, as important a sports nutrition drink as a protein shake is to Arnie! Nutrition doesn’t have to be prescriptive – a good nutrition programme is about listening to your body and responding to what it needs: if you are hungry then eat and if you are full then stop. There are a few basic points to consider which can help you hit the basics but, generally speaking, being incredibly precise about your food intake is not necessary unless you are an elite athlete training multiple times per day.

Arnold Schwarzenegger inside a coloured circle in 4 segments reading Nutritious, delicious, cheap, easy
You can eat nutritiously even if you don’t want to drink your food.

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Cool Down Exercises for Runners

Cool down exercises form part of your wider recovery strategy, designed to return your body to its pre-exercise, rested, state as fast as possible. In this post, we will explain and provide examples of cool down strategies you can use after you have been for a run. 

Exercise results in a temporary reduction in performance. This is essential for our bodies to rest and repair, and ultimately promotes the adaptations to our body that will help us in our continued training.  Cool-down exercises support and encourage this process so that we can perform exercise more frequently 

Whilst cooldowns don’t directly reduce the risk of injury, they do help to improve our recovery time. Our chance of injury in future sessions is therefore reduced as exercising when fatigued is a major risk factor for injury. 

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Nutrition advice for runners: The Wheel of Food Happiness

A picture of a pie chart split equally with the headings: Delicious, nutritious, cheap and easy. The centre of the wheel states " The wheel of food happiness"

Running is going to make you hungry. This is great because a) food is delicious and b) if you take a little care over the ingredients you use, you can get some powerful nutrients in your body which will add to the benefits you’re already getting from training.

Just like with any other aspect of your regime, the most important factor determining the effectiveness of your nutrition plan is whether you actually stick to it. If you don’t get that part right then none of the rest really matters. There is no point concocting the perfect blend of spirulina, raw biltong and ground flax seeds for your post-run snack, if realistically you’re going to find that way too difficult to stomach after you’ve got out of bed earlier than usual to do interval training first thing on your Wednesday morning.

The best running food will ideally be nutritious enough that it actively helps your body adapt to your training. It will be easy to prepare and store so that it doesn’t become an inconvenience. It will be cheap enough that you can eat plenty of it without it any negative financial impact. And finally, it will be so delicious that it actually increases your motivation for training.

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5 Tips for Managing Stress from our University ‘Healthy Minds’ Supervisor

There is no denying that 2020 has been a difficult year and we have – individually and collectively – faced more challenges this year than we might ever have expected. Feelings of stress and burnout are rife this year in particular and we want to support you in managing and overcoming them!

What is stress?

Stress is a response which occurs when a physical, mental, or emotion pressure placed on an individual. This results in what many people know as the ‘Fight or Flight’ response – a release of chemicals within the body that heightens our senses and prepares it for battle or escape. The Fight of Flight response evolved as a way to keep us safe from very real and imposing dangers in the past – such as wild animals.

Nowadays, the Fight or Flight responses can be triggered by perceived threats such as a full email inbox, an impending deadline or a change to our routine. These perceived threats are everywhere in the modern world and it is our ability to manage our individual responses to these situations that can keep us in a more calm and relaxed state, increasing our ability to cope, and protecting our health long-term. 

How to manage stress

We spoke to Andrew Ford, our University of Bristol Healthy Minds Supervisor. Healthy Minds is a programme led by University of Bristol Sport which supports students in taking positive steps towards improving their mental wellbeing, through a varied, social and structured timetable of physical activity opportunities. Mental wellbeing, achieved via physical wellbeing.

Using his professional expertise and his own personal experience, Andrew outline his top tips for managing stress, and staying well:

Keep active

Find what works for you in terms of exercise and participate as many times as you can during a week. I’d recommend 3-5 times if possible. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to exercise and movement, but there are plenty of options you can choose from. It could be going for a run, strength training, yoga, a long walk, going climbing, dancing, or so many others. The best one is the one that you enjoy – really!

Any and every form of physical activity helps to release endorphins (mood boosting hormones) in the brain which encourage a more positive mindset and help to combat stress hormone levels.

Get enough sleep

This is often quite a tough one to do during University life, but studies show that a better nights rest helps to reduce stress hormone levels and give you more energy the next day to tackle any tasks you may have

The recommend amount of sleep for an adult is 7 to 9 hours per night. This tip links nicely linked with exercise, as those who exercise tend to get to sleep earlier, have better quality sleep, and don’t wake up as frequently during the night. It is best to exercise whenever you feel most comfortable, so this could be early in the day, or in the evening where you may have more free time.

Reach out for support

Speaking out and asking for is hard, but can be safe in the knowledge that you won’t be the only person feeling this way, and there are people who can help and support you. It may seem like a difficult step, but talking to someone – whether about what is going on and how you’re feeling, or just in for a social chat – is great way to help regulate your feelings and emotions, develop relationships, and gain new perspectives to any problems. This could be with anyone who you feel comfortable with, such as friends or family, or even within our services at the University.

The University Student Well-being Advisors are a friendly and approachable team who are able to provide non-clinical advice and support to help you find the best way to tackle whatever it is that you’re feeling.

Take a break

We know it sounds cliché, but it does really work. If a particular problem is causing stress, take a step back from it for a small amount of time. Taking a physical and mental break is the best way to get a little respite from that pressure, to take some time to relax and refresh, and be able to return to it with a fresh mindset and a more pragmatic approach.

It is helpful to plan in advance for this time which can reduce stress proactively, especially if you are someone who knows that they suffer from stress and anxiety when under pressure. Allow time to take these breaks, and you will be able to perform the tasks better, with more focus.

Do what you enjoy

Everyone has a hobby. It could be exercise, but it could also be cooking, gaming, craft, singing, or DIY. Whatever it is, if it is what you enjoy then make sure to find time to do that activity during the week – every week if you can. It is one of the more effective ways of switching off and giving yourself time to relax and reduce feelings of stress.

Planning ahead slightly at the beginning of the day or week, to create this free time for yourself will allow you to break up your day and avoid allowing a problematic situation to dominate your emotions. 


There are many ways to help alleviate stress. The Sport, Exercise and Health department are here to help you identify the best ways to do that in a physical activity capacity. Please feel free to speak to one of the team for more information as to how we can help you, and support you in feeling your best.

Join us online for live and on-demand fitness and well-being sessions via the University of Bristol Sport app (available on iOS and Android). You can also find well-being information for University of Bristol Staff and Students online, including self-help resources, guided support services and advice for supporting others.

Common Diet Myths Explained (part 2)

Which diet should you choose?

Ever suffered from information overload when deciding what diet to try?
What can we believe when the advice seems to change from one day to the next?
Are you confused.com?

In a previous post we looked at the ‘Low Carb’ and the ‘Low Fat’ diets – digging into the merits and flaws of each. In this post we will be looking a little more closely at the ‘Alkaline Diet’, the ‘Paleo Diet’, the ‘Keto Diet’…

The Alkaline Diet

What is it?

This diet makes the odd claim that a diet rich in alkaline foods can reduce the risk of getting Cancer by raising the pH of our bodies.  This diet recommends a high intake of fruit and vegetables, but also severely limits portions of grains, dairy, meat and fish – usually understood to be very healthy.

The Alkaline Diet Myth-Buster

There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that alkaline-rich foods can combat the risk of Cancer. Aside from this, our bodies naturally regulate the pH levels within our body to within a specific range (7.35 – 7.45) regardless of our diet.

The limits put on grains, dairy, meat and fish, could potentially have the effect of increasing your risk of some vitamin deficiencies and may also lead to protein deficiency – particularly if you are someone who exercises at a high intensity regularly. 

This diet would not be suitable for anyone aiming for muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth) – the advice to achieve this training outcome is to eat four to five meals a day, each containing 20 – 30 grams of protein. 


The Ketogenic (‘Keto’) Diet

What is it?

The Keto diet is the ‘ultimate’ low carb diet. In this diet, the amount of carbs allowed is limited to 5 – 10% of total daily intake. For comparison, the average diet in the UK (based on 2,000 calories per day) will comprise an average of 50-60% carbs! Unlike many other diets that we have looked at, The Keto diet also suggests that fats will make up a huge 60 – 70% and the remaining 20 – 30% will be protein.  

Why Keto?

The idea behind this diet is that a very low glucose (carbohydrate) intake will result in a depletion of glycogen (sugar) stores within the body and as a result the body will instead use fat to produce ketones, which can be used for energy. More fat burn = more fat loss!

The Keto Myth-Buster

Whole foods (foods like whole-wheat bread, pasta, potato and grains) are avoided in this diet. These foods provide the majority of our fibre intake, and therefore the lack of fibre in this diet can have negative impacts on the body – it is particularly responsible for the frequent unfortunate side effect of diarrhoea as fibre is what makes sure our poo stays healthy! 

Regardless of the proportion of fats, to carbs, to proteins, this diet will still only be effective in producing weight loss (also known as ‘fat loss’) if the calories expended exceed the calories consumed over the course of the day or week (e.g. calories in vs calories out). Fat loss may be rapid at the start, but this rate is unlikely to be maintained long term and weight regain is common. 

In addition, for those training regularly this diet may not provide enough carbohydrate energy in order to train at your best. A recent study found that the athletic performance of cyclists and runners was reduced after just four days on a ketogenic diet, compared with those on a high carb diet. 


The Paleolithic (‘Paleo’) Diet

What is it?

The Paleo diet priorities lean protein sources, and other foods that would have commonly been available to our ancestors during hunter-gatherer times. This primarily focuses on lots of fruits and vegetables, fish, meat, nuts and seeds. This diet claims that our digestive systems are not well adapted to eating ‘modern day processed foods’ and that the ‘basic diet’ of our ancestors would be better for our health – specifically our gut health. It heavily restricts entire food groups (mostly grains and dairy) which are usually considered to be a healthy part of a balanced diet as they a good sources of fibre, resistant starch, proteins, calcium and vitamin D. 

The Paleo Diet Myth-Buster

Research shows that resistant starch is actually associated with improved markers for bowel health, which disagrees with the ‘science’ behind the Paleo Diet. In addition, research has found raised levels of a particular blood biomarker for heart disease in people following a Paleo diet – likely a result of the fact that the paleo diet is high in saturated fat. 

The Paleo Diet, like all diets, will only work for weight loss (fat loss) if the overall foods consumed in a day, or a week, result in a calorie deficit – so taking this as an oppotrunity to eat steak every day may not get you the results that you desire! Finally, this is an example of another diet that is very carb-lacking, so it is not ideal for individuals who are training regularly, at a high intensity.


Do you have questions about something you read in this article? Why not Ask The Instructor!

We are giving you the opportunity to have you health, fitness and nutrition questions answered by an expert member of our Gym Team. To get in touch, email your question to: grp-gymteam@groups.bristol.ac.uk and one of our team will get back to you!


Disclaimer: if you have any pre-existing medical condition, or are pregnant, please seek the advice of your GP before starting any self-administered diet. 

Being Active During Ramadan

With up to 18 hours a day fasted, Ramadan is not the time to be smashing PBs; but aiming to sustain active behaviour is encouraged.  

Maintaining exercise activity is the key. It is certainly not the time to start on a new exercise regime so don’t be looking to up your reps, weights, distances, etc. Intense cardio sessions, plyometrics and heavy weights are not recommended to avoid strain on your body.  Limiting cardio sessions to two per week may also be advisable.  Your fitness levels will likely change and given the lifestyle changes this is understandable so should not be a cause for concern.

With interrupted sleep and dehydration, it can be hard to maintain a normal workout routine but finding the time to work out will help to clear your mind and keep energy levels up. 

When to exercise? 

  • Before suhoor.  If you are an early riser, before suhoor could be a good time for weight training with appropriate refuelling afterwards.
  • Before sunset.  This can be suitable for low-key exercise with resistance training, low reps and weights – plus lots of stretching. Or maybe a light jog. You can refuel at itfar and recover afterwards.
  • After itfar. Soon after eating is not advised though weight training may be more manageable on a fuller stomach.  Later in the evening, especially if you go to bed later, 2-3 hours after itfar, can be the better option, allowing your meal to have gone down a little.

Tips 

  • Ensure a varied diet.
  • Foods high in slow-release energy are advised (oats, wholegrain, high-fibre).
  • On exercise days add a little extra food to fuel your body, and ensure you drink plenty of water to rehydrate.
  • Limit cardio duration due to limited glycogen stores. 
  • Hydrate well during non-fasting hours and especially before and after exercise. 
  • Prioritise load bearing activity to maintain healthy muscle and bone mass.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Ensure you get rest time during the day, including a nap where possible.
  • If you feel nauseous or dizzy when exercising – stop.

Useful Links: 

Fitness trainer Faisal Abdalla, known as Mr P.M.A. gives some useful advice

GB Rower Moe Sbhi shares experiences of training during a lockdown Ramadan

Recipe of the Week: Overnight Oats

Our #RecipeOfTheWeek this week is Overnight Oats – a perfect breakfast recipe for people short on time in the morning, or who want to be able to snooze that alarm once more! It can be prepped the night before and finished off in a couple of minutes the next morning.

It’s a really simple recipe, but has huge potential for anyone who wants to get creative with flavour combinations – we’ve given you a few ideas for you to try at the end of the recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 50g porridge oats
  • Milk of choice
  • 1-2 tbsp of yoghurt (natural or greek-style)
  • 1/4 tsp of cinnamon
  • Drizzle of honey
  • Fresh or frozen berries
  • Optional: nuts and seeds such as chia seeds, almonds or pumpkin seeds

Method:

1. The night before, put your oats, cinnamon and any nuts and seeds that you are using into a jar, bowl or mug.

2. Pour over your milk of choice until it just covers the oats.

3. Leave in the fridge to soak overnight.

4. The next morning, stir your oats and mix in the yoghurt (you can choose how much you add based on the consistency of the oats that you would like)

5. Top with the fresh or frozen fruit, plus any additional nuts, seeds, a drizzle of honey and extra cinnamon.

6. Serve and enjoy!

Some flavour combinations to try:

  • Chocolate brownie oats: use cocoa powder
  • Apple pie oats: top with stewed apple and granola.
  • Carrot cake oats: mix in grated carrot, nutmeg and raisins and top with yoghurt.
  • Tropical oats: Mix in frozen pineapple and mango and top with desiccated coconut.
  • Mocha oats: Mix a shot of coffee and tbsp of cocoa powder into the oats mixture.

Don’t forget to tag us in any kitchen creations @bristolunisport on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!