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.

(more…)

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. 

(more…)

The Spennylympics

Charlotte Nichols is a 3rd-year Medical student at the University of Bristol. This summer, she and her partner Stuart will be attempting to complete all 80 Olympic events during the 17 days that coincide with the Tokyo games (23rd July-8th August) to raise awareness and vital funds for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, in memory of Stuart’s much-loved brother, Spencer (Spenny).

Spencer aka Spenny
Spencer aka Spenny

In 2011 Spencer tragically lost his life to Motor Neurone Disease aged just 49, leaving behind his wife and 2 young sons. Spencer held a special place in the hearts of all who knew him. He was many things to many people, a well-known and talented musician, a keen footballer, a loyal and trusted friend and always the party starter! Spencer lived with this disease for just under 2 years and throughout this period he dedicated himself to raising as much awareness and money as he could for the MND association.

Charlotte told us “Stuart has always wanted to mark this 10-year anniversary and celebrate Spenny’s life in a fitting way and that was the seed that grew into Spennylympics, and in me, he has found someone determined and crazy enough to bring this idea to life! We are under no illusions as to just how difficult this challenge will be, in fact, it has been described by some as “impossible” which has only fuelled our determination to succeed even more!”

(more…)

8 Tips for Running Safely

You’ve signed up to your eventyou’ve chosen your training plan, and you’ve got your eyes set on the finish line. Now you’ve just got to lace up your trainers and start running! But before you rush out of the door and bound down the path towards your next 5k, 10k, or Half Marathon, it’s worth taking a little time to consider how to safeguard yourself from the hazards and challenges that runners face if not prepared. 

via GIPHY

Wherever you are running in the world, whatever your level of running experience, and regardless of the distance you’ll be covering, there will be ways in which you need to be smart and savvy with your running; from route planning to the tech you use, and from weather conditions to kit choices. 

(more…)

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.

(more…)

Warm-Up Exercises for Runners

Warm-ups are designed to get your body ready for upcoming activity, whether that’s running, lifting weights, swimming, or anything else that is over-and-above your ‘normal’ activity level. Preparing your body reduces your risk of injury, improves your performance and prepares you both physically, and mentally.

But what does ‘preparation’ mean in practice? A warm-up must gradually increase your heart rate, which in turn increases your blood flow, muscle temperature and oxygen delivery.

Paul Reay and Toby Hodder, our resident Health and Fitness Advisers, have created this step-by-step break-down of a recommended warm-up for runners. You can follow it through at your own pace, using the tips and photos for guidance. This warm-up uses a RAMP structure, and is perfect to accompany your shorter runs – if you’re currently working on your couch-to-5km training plan, this is for you!

(more…)

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.

10 things you can do with Bristol Uni Sport, that aren’t Sport

Did you know that the Sport, Exercise and Health Division at the University of Bristol has more to offer than just competitive sport? We know that Sport isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so here are 10 ways that you can get involved in active life at Bristol, without a referee or score-board in sight!

1. The Gym

The University of Bristol gym is located in the Indoor Sports Centre on Tyndall Avenue – right in the heart of campus. There is a range of cardio machines and an extensive free-weights zone, as well as a functional fitness and stretching areas located over two floors. Whatever your health and fitness goal, you’ll find everything you need.

2. Fitness classes

In the same building as the Gym, we have a number of fitness studios which are home to our gym-based fitness classes. We have over 100 in-person and virtual classes to choose from every week from ZUMBA and Aerobics, to Hatha Yoga and HIIT Pilates. As a Les Mills partner, you can join instructor-led and virtual classes from their popular catalogue including GRIT, RPM, Body Balance and Body Balance. Get unlimited access to classes with a membership, or PAYG for your favourite.

3. B:Active

B:Active is our non-competitive, low-cost and beginner-friendly fitness and activity programme exclusive for students. Split across two timetables, B:Active Campus and B:Active Residences, you can take part in as many classes as you like each week, no commitment needed.

4. Swimming

The University of Bristol Swimming Pool is located in the basement of the Richmond Building (Bristol SU building) and has over 100 hours available per week for casual and/or lane swimming. The Pool has six lanes, at full length is 32 meters long, and is 3.8m at it’s deepest point. If you’re looking for a low-impact, full-body conditioning activity, swimming might be the one for you!

5. Treat an injury

If you’re finding yourself sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day, or you’re suffering an existing injury that’s keeping you from your favourite activity, get in touch with our Sports Medicine Clinic and speak to one of our expert physiotherapists. Book yourself and 10-15 minute (virtual) initial appointment for FREE for some advice on next steps and put yourself back on the path to peak physical condition.

6. Sign up to an event

In-person or virtual, events are a great way to join our #WeAreBristol active community and feel a part of something bigger – last year we had over 700 Bristol Uni students, staff and alumni sign up to the Great Bristol 10k. Events may be looking a little different for 2020/21 but keep an eye out for virtual event opportunities coming this year!

7. Learn or develop a skill

Book yourself a coached session to boost your skills and confidence! Our Tennis Coaches, Swim Teachers and Personal Trainers all offer 1:1 or small group coaching sessions to help support you in reaching your activity goals, whether that’s learning something completely new, or building on previous experience. It’s never too late, and you’re never too old!

8. Work with us

Student Activators form a valuable part of the S.E.H Team and help us to connect with students, run events and communicate all things active online! Student Activators are paid student staff, and can be a great CV-boosting role – as well as connecting you with other like-minded students. Keep an eye out for opportunities to get involved as a Student Activator during your time at Bristol by following @bristolunibactive and @bristolunisport on social media.

9. Volunteer

As well as paid opportunities, you can learn new skills and enhance your CV by taking part in our Sport Leadership and Volunteer programme, Game Changers. The programme runs continuously throughout the year to fit flexibly around student studies, and provides students with online and in-person training and qualifications to enable them to volunteer in a range of areas, including; coaching, officiating and community outreach.

10. Have your say

Join a committee, attend Bristol SU meetings or join student networks and groups that can have an impact on shaping the student experience around Sport and Physical Activity! Could you nominate yourself for a position on the University of Bristol Sports Network? If you’d like to see something done differently, you need to get involved and have your say – check our the Bristol SU website for opportunities and who to contact!

For more information on everything that Bristol Uni Sport has to offer, download the University of Bristol Sport app (available on iOS and Android) or head to our website.

Find us on Facebook.

Follow us on Instagram.

Join our virtual community on Strava.

Promotion to a Performance Specialist Club: Blog takeover with University of Bristol Archery

As a University of Bristol Sports Club, our Clubs can still choose to also work with external partners and governing bodies, to improve skills, enter competitions and gain notoriety in their sport for particular achievements or standards. For the University of Bristol Archery Club, this is Archery GB; the national governing body for archery in Great Britain. Archery GB’s Ontarget programme launched in 2010 and aims to equip grassroots level archery with the structure, vision and support to help the sport and its participants flourish and grow.

Following the announcement that UoB Archery had been recognised by Archery GB as an Ontarget Performance Specialist Club, we asked the Club to tell us a little bit about their journey to getting here.


The Archery GB ontarget scheme is designed to create a support network for archery clubs across the UK to develop and grow. Within this, clubs can achieve three specialisms: Community, Young People, and Performance. We [University of Bristol Archery Club] joined the scheme earlier this year, and have now been recognised as a Performance specialist Club!

To achieve this specialism, a club must work with its athletes, coaches, judges, and volunteers to promote an atmosphere in which sporting excellence is encouraged and promoted.

The club is in a great place to …continue bringing the sport of archery to the students of Bristol University.

Our new 2020/21 Club Captain, Will Black says that the recognition from Archery GB is “a testament to the great work of the past committees that we have been able to achieve. The club is in a great place to stay strong through the current crisis and continue bringing the sport of archery to the students of Bristol University. I am incredibly proud to be part of this club and hope to continue the success story this year.”

In university archery, archers that have shot (been in the sport) for less than one year have their own category. When archers move from being a ‘novice’ to ‘experienced’, they suddenly find themselves up against archers that have much more training under their belts – some upwards of 10 years! This can be incredibly demotivating for relatively new archers, especially those who excelled in their novice season.

To tackle this our club decided to create a new badge system during the 2018/19 academic year, for archers to track their progress through the standard indoor rounds. The badges take athletes from the beginner’s courses (white badge) to the very top of competitive archery (purple badge). The top-tier purple badge has only been achieved by one member so far! This new system has proved popular over the last year especially, with many archers in the club using it in their goal setting.

In 2019/20, we reformed the beginner’s course so that it was much more structured and used the time more effectively. A record number of 90 archers completed a course with the club in this year, and we are expecting many of these archers to continue with us in the 2020/21 season. Alongside the courses, our club ran a short ‘Introduction to Coaching’ course, during pre-season. Our volunteer coaches gained much more confidence through this course and it gave our Club’s coaching a much more cohesive approach.

The club has also increased emphasis on the importance of strength and conditioning over the last few years, with record numbers of archers attending Monday morning Motiv8 sessions during the 2019/20 academic year. Strength and conditioning has also been prevalent in keeping the club active over lockdown, with committee members running our own Motiv8 via zoom!

The 2019/20 season also saw the first off-range training sessions run by the club. We hosted a goal setting workshop in November and had another planned for April, which sadly had to be cancelled. These sessions are key to individual development as they boost motivation and encourage archers to maintain drive.

Photo credit: Malcolm Rees

For 2020/21 we are introducing a new tiered membership structure so that our athletes can maximise their experience with the club. We also plan to continue to run workshops both on and off the range, in addition to weekly bow drills sessions to promote good technique and strength for archery.

About the announcement, University of Bristol Sport Performance Manager, Matt Paine says “The Archery club at the University of Bristol has grown from strength to strength in the last 5 years. This has been made possible by the dedication and strong leadership provided by the club captains and committees. The creation of an inclusive and open club for all is not easy within a University, and providing opportunities for both new and Performance archers is a tricky balance alongside the degree pressures. The Archery GB Ontarget recognition for the club is a reward for all of this and we look forward to supporting the club as it continues to strive for even more success in the coming years” 


What to write a Club Takeover blog for us? Email us your ideas!seh-comms@bristol.ac.uk

Follow University of Bristol Archery on Instagram @uobarchery and Facebook.

Follow Bristol Uni Sport on FacebookInstagram and Twitter

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.