Faster NHS for sporting general population

Right now I’m sat outside a hospital with a feeling of slight elation. I have always had a problem with hospitals and doctors. Although the staff are always first class, highly qualified and usually will bend over backwards to help. The one thing that restricts them immensely is the system that they have to abide to.

I’m here, sat outside the hospital due to a number of frustrating events that are due to a frustrating NHS system. Maybe we aren’t paying enough national insurance, or maybe the guys at the very top are working just for their pay cheque, I’m not sure. But I bet the decision makers of the NHS on £100k+ wouldn’t be as caring and considerate as the ground troops on £20k.

I have had nerve pain in my lower back after doing some cross training by playing a bit if football. I don’t recall hurting my back during the session, but the next morning I was in agony. Having pleaded to be squeezed in to see my doctor, I was referred to see a specialist. Instead someone thought I should see a physio first. A bit of a time wasting and money saving tactic I’m sure. So I call the doctor, who says to call the hospital, who says to call a guy in appointments, who says to call the physiotherapy department. Only to find out there’s nothing on my file about it. So, I call the doctors, who then realise the problem and referred me a second time to see a specialist. The doctors explained how the system is a pain because what one doctor asks for is usually not what the next doctor thinks is the problem. Anyway, I get a call from the specialist who says the next appointment is in September. WHAT! I’ve had 3 weeks if this pain already, so yeah, I’m happy to hold out for another 2 months. NOT A CHANCE! NIT GIOD ENOUGH! Then I get a call from a different hospital saying ‘we want you next Friday and we will scan you on the day if the doctor thinks its needed’. That’s what I want to hear. The biggest frustration of all is that my own personal physio told me what the problem was 3 weeks ago.

Thankfully the sun is out while I write this outside the hospital reception. Being a sports person who competes and trains and works hard, the last thing I want is to spend time out of training and competing. I can swim and ride, but running is tough to do until j get my back fixed. Q

My questions are simple:

1. If we are sports people, why are we put into the same system as older people who have back ache for the last 15 years because of old age. That’s no disrespect to the older generation, but I would like to compete in my sports for another 20 years yet. Can we not devise a system to help athletes and the sporting population get faster care. If pay a bit extra for that.
2. Secondly, if I go to A&E with back pain that is really hurting, why does the drunk guy with a cut on his arm get seen before me. I hurt my back trying to improve my health and fitness. Whereas he cut his arm because he is wasted and started fighting which tends to lower the perception of our community. Please, see the difference is who is being a better human being.
3. Also, why are private health care packages so expensive. A company wanted £80 a month from me because of my sport and the level I competed at at the time. And, if I paid my private health care, would I be able to pay less national insurance because I’m not using the NHS as much.
4. And lastly, what if national insurance went up to meet the level of private health care insurance, do we think the NHS would be faster at seeing people.

I haven’t scan in 10 minutes, I’m just happy I can finally get this sorted.



Beetroot will help you Beet your opponents

Not something we buy often.

When walking through the supermarket, most people will go for the usual fruit and vegetables; bananas and potatoes etc. This may be because of the ease of consumption and cooking recipes available. Plus the kids like chips and anything that is sweet. People may have heard about these ‘superfoods’ but not really read too much about them. In most cases superfoods such as blueberries and salmon are usually expensive. However, there is one vegetable that deserves its place as a superfood and is not expensive to buy. I’m talking about beetroots.

Despite the fact that, from fresh, they look like round podgy purple carrots, you can treat them just like you would a potato. Yes, I know that once you have started to peel a beetroot it looks like you have blood all over your hands. Yet, with a little bit of peeling, chopping and imagination you can make some really nice meals with beetroot. I would personally go for the fresh stuff and not the pre-peeled packet that you can often find in the supermarket. Most supermarkets will pump any vegetables that are in a packet with extra additives or preservatives to give it a better colour, taste and to make it last longer on the shelf. These unnecessary additives etc do not work that well inside your stomach. An old nutritionist of mine once said to me ‘stay fresh and eat fresh’. The fresher the products, the more vitamins and minerals you will get from that particular food source. Even professional football clubs realise the importance of fresh nutrition. For example, Chelsea Football Club invested in local farms in order to grow their own fruit and veg, in order to put it on the players plates within 24 hours.

But why buy it?

Beetroot holds something called nitrate. This nitrate helps your body in a number of ways. In the nutrition journal, Coles and Clifton (2012) found that taking in beetroot juice lowers blood pressure as part of a normal diet. In another journal, the consumption of whole beetroot vegetable was investigated against running performance (Murphy et al, 2012). They found that eating a nitrate rich vegetable like beetroot can improve running performance. If you are like me, then you will want to know why this happens. When you eat your beetroot, the nitrate within it is converted into nitric oxide. This new form of nitrate is what the body uses to open your veins up in order to help your blood flow through your body. If the veins and capillaries are wider, the blood has more space to travel through, and so lowers the blood pressure, and hence, helps a person perform harder for longer. If you are unsure whether to buy the juice or the veg, either because you are on a low carbohydrate diet or you are counting your calories, a cup of whole beetroot is under 40 calories and under 10g of carbs, whereas a serving size of 250ml of beetroot juice is 98 calories and closer to 22g carbs (due to natural sugars etc). I must admit though, drinking beetroot juice takes some time to adjust to. So, they include a bit of apple juice to make it palatable. Plus, having a bottle off beetroot juice in the fridge gives you fast access to those all important nitrates, but don’t be alarmed when your urine turns pink, its normal. So my advice is to buy both. Beetroot juice is in pretty much all of the supermarkets for £2.99.

What can I do with a whole beetroot?

So yesterday I tweeted that I would provide a cheeky beetroot recipe. This recipe makes about 6/7 little burger shaped patties, and you can mix it up and add extra bits and pieces to get it to taste however you like.

You need:

  • 3 beetroots (peeled and grated)
  • 1/4 onion (peeled and grade)
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 2 table spoons of flour or pure fine oats

The process:

  1. After grating everything, we want to get all the extra juice out of it, so place the beetroot in the the middle of a clean cotton kitchen towel and bring the corners together and start twisting. You can drain the fluid into a cup and use this later to drink yourself.
  2. Once most of the fluid is drained, place into a large bowl and add the grated onion and the beaten egg. Give this a good mix and add seasoning and anything extra you wish. I had a little bit of chorizo or bacon to go with this.
  3. At the 2 tablespoons of flour and mix through the grated beetroot.
  4. Next, go and wet your hands (so the mixture doesn’t stick to your hands) and then shape a small amount of the beetroot mixture into a ball and then flatten it like a burger.
  5. After you have completed this with all of the mixture, put a pan on medium to high heat and at some olive oil or rapeseed oil. Then you place the beetroots patties into the pan and cook on each side for 4-5 minutes.
  6. Once cooked, put a nice poached egg on top and you have a stunning meal for lunch.
Enjoy with a poached egg on top

Enjoy with a poached egg on top

British Sport – Our Time

When wasn’t it our time?

My first recollection of sport was at the age of four, and I could hear my father screaming at the television at the England team who were taken to the Mexico 1986 World Cup. And bellowing his advice to the likes of Gary Lineker, Glenn Hoddle, and Peter Shilton. We actually only finished eighth that year, after some of the worst performances my father had ever seen by the England squad. In the summer of 1986 an American won the Tour de France a German won Wimbledon and the British Lions didn’t even go on tour. Nevertheless, we did win the ashes, all be it not very convincingly. The British culture of sport was mainly dosed in alcohol, fighting and bullish behaviour. It is safe to say that we were decades away from winning anything. As a nation we were behind in so many of the sports that we allegedly invented all those years ago.

Slowly getting better…

It is hard to define when the turning point of British sport was. Although there were moments of greatness over the last 20 years. For example Jonny Wilkinson’s last second drop goal in the Rugby World Cup. Chris Boardman’s ride to glory in the Olympics. At home we had some of the toughest leagues and best sports to watch in the world. Yet, when we take all that talent into international duty we have a tendency to flop. The build up to the Olympics has had a huge effect on our sport. I am not saying that the Olympics was the major turning point, but the money and the funding that went into it surely helped our individual athletes. Sport and the sciences that are around it are becoming ever more popular. As a lecturer in sports science I’m seeing more and more students wanting to come onto the courses I deliver. And they are also looking to go on to studying sport sciences and related specialities at higher levels. Therefore, along with athletic talent, we are now getting the people to make this talent better. However a sport scientist also needs an athlete to work with. To which, this is also being improved with the variety of sports and the huge encouragement that schools and colleges are giving students to continue in their sports throughout their teenage years. And now, in 2013, it is fair to say that we have carved the way to sporting excellence. But we are not there yet. Although we are winning, we are doing it in the hardest possible way. For example, Lee Halfpenny missing that kick to secure the victory on the Lions tour. When Justin Rose just missed his approach shot on the 14th hole in the U.S. Open. When when Andy Murray dropped two sets in the final at Wimbledon.

Lets be good in at least one sport…

I remember being in a meeting about two years ago and one member of staff was discussing how ‘we need to be good in at least one sport’. The Spanish football team have dominated world football for the last five or six years. And now it looks like there will be a shift, moving across Europe into Germany. We were never able to perform well at one particular sport on the international stage. From watching England in World Cups and European Championships, to watching the Ashes, to watching the British Lions and the England rugby teams, to watching Murray get to so many finals and not hold the trophy. It was always so painful getting to the last hurdle and then falling.


‘Every time you win, you’re reborn; when you lose, you die a little.’ George Allen.


As a nation we have felt what it’s like to die again and again. However our nation has been reborn in sport. To summarise our success this year:

  • Scott Waites won at the BDO World darts Championships.
  • England dominated in the T20 against New Zealand in March.
  • Andy Murray won the Sony open tennis in the US.
  • We’ve had a number of British winners at 3 and 6 of Silverstone and also in formula 3.
  • Chris Froome won the tour of Romandie.
  • We have British winners in rallycross, speedway and superbikes on the international stage.
  • Our junior England rugby team won at the IRB junior world Championships.
  • Justin rose won the US open.
  • The British Lions won 2-1 in their tour against the Wallabies
  • We had a British driver win as part of a team in the 24 hours of Le Mans.
  • Andy Murray finally won at Wimbledon.
  • Chris Froome won the 100th and best Tour de France to date.

And it’s only July. At last we are a nation to be feared and not laughed at. Other nations take us seriously, because we now have an abundance of talented athletes, and we also have the best sport science and the best equipment and we leave no stone unturned when we want to win.

We have more talent in the bag too!

Electrolyte Replacement

Some people use them, others assume its something an electrician uses to fix a fuse box in dark a place. So before you go asking your electrician how many batteries his electrolyte needs, here is a quick lesson on what they actually are.

The majority of endurance athletes will take part in sporting events that will last anything from 30 minutes to 6 hours and above. Many of the Ironman races are around the 10 hour mark depending on fitness and terrain. But exercising for that length of time is not something that can be done without providing the body with the right fuel. To be able to go harder for longer an athlete requires to take in something known as electrolytes. Electrolytes mainly consist of words that you will probably forgotten since you were in chemistry class at high school. Nevertheless they are vital aspects to an athletes performance.

The five most important electrolytes are sodium, chloride, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. And if anyone can remember the chemistry lesson where you set fire to magnesium, you will recall that it went bright white with indescribable heat. And, guess what, this stuff is needed in your body. Possibly one of the most important electrolytes is sodium, as explained by Rehrer (2001) as it helps to maintain plasma volume and hydration in the body. The majority of these electrolytes escape the body through our sweat, and sodium as we know is what gives sweat that salty taste. If an athlete was unable to take in sodium as part of their nutrition fluid intake strategy, it will lead problematic consequences. Sodium has an important role to play in terms of the brain. Low-sodium in the bloodstream can lead to an athlete experiencing confusion and lethargy during an event. Something of which is definitely not needed in the closing kilometers of a triathlon.


In an endurance event it is suggested by Shirreffs et al (2007) that 176 to 552 mg of sodium should be consumed per fluid liter. This can then be increased to 920 mg for ultraendurance events such as the Ironman (Rehrer, 2001). In a field study Noakes (1993) discovered that athletes consumed 0.5 liters/hour. However, these athletes held a sweat rate of 1.0-1.5 liters/per hour, which therefore highlights the importance that sodium can in help the fight fatigue when included in a sports drink. The America College of Sports Medicine recommended that an athlete should consume 0.5 to 0.7 grams of sodium per litre of fluid per hour (cited in Campbell & Spano, 2011), although some studies have suggested taking anything up to 2.9 g (Maughan, 1991). It is important to note however, that in an event that has a duration of under an hour, the importance of fluid and electrolyte replacement is possibly not as great.

So, if at this moment in time you are waiting on the delivery of an energy powder or electrolyte powder then I can offer a substitute for the time being. It is as simple as filling up your water bottle with water and a fruit cordial of your choice and adding a pinch or two of salt. And this becomes increasingly more important with the weather been so warm at this time of year.

I am a Champion!

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At the beginning of this week I was named a SportPursuit Champion. In a nutshell, they sponsor me, and I endorse them in my racing and training etc.

The company is a new members only sportswear and equipment company. But there is a twist – they don’t follow the same lines as other more commercial sports companies. They handpick the brands that they deal with, even new and unknown innovative brands (heres a list). When I say members only, anyone can join, and when you do, you are then open to a world of heavily discounted equipment from tents and outdoor clothing, to running socks and cycling kit. Im talking about 50%-70% off all products. And, if you sign someone else up, you qualify for a £10 off voucher. The company is very dynamic as the sales, discounts, products and brands are consistently changing week by week, BUT…..the sales are only on offer for limited times and each product/sale has a countdown timer. You can also follow them on twitter  and facebook  to keep in the loop with new brands etc.

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To be chosen all I had to do was to send them some information about who I am and what my goals are. Thankfully, they thought my running, cycling and swimming was interesting enough to pick me. They have offered me to take a trip to London and meet the people behind the brand as well as the other  Champions (Jonny Muir, Joe Rass, Traviss Willcox,Sophie Radcliffe, Simon Shanks). We are simply required to train, race, blog and wear the cool shark fin brand logo with pride. Because the company is still rising to the top, as Champions, we’re here to make it happen faster, to get the word out to the ground troops so to say. By all accounts, with the huge discounts, it appears to me that SportPursuit are here to help us all. SportPursuit will be following and supporting the Champions in our local and international races. To follow this up, this is only the first year of the Champions program, which tells me that there could be even more opportunities for people to get involved as a Champion for 2014. So keep your eyes peeled.

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My plan….train, train, train. Follow me on twitter @_granto 




Hmmmmm Smoothies

I can remember the day went smoothies were all the rage and everybody wanted one on tap. New smoothie stores started opening, local shops sold them in little cartons. I am confident to say that everybody has probably tried one.

Why should I make one?
To be fair, the best time to make a smoothie is only when you have time to make a smoothie. Most people in the morning are rushing and running around, desperate to get into the car and head off to work. If people want to have a better start to the day then they need to make time in the morning to have a proper breakfast. The majority of good nutrition books will explain that eating breakfast in the morning helps to regulate blood sugar levels and energy. Moreover, an individual having breakfast will begin their metabolism earlier in the day and therefore you can burn more fat and calories. If you are the person that skipped breakfast and doesn’t eat until lunch, it is fair to say that your metabolism is not as effective and therefore you increase the risk of storing the carbs and fats that you eat at lunchtime.

Whats in a smoothie?
The morning is one of the best times to get in your daily needs of vitamins and minerals. Most cereals do include a lot of these however these are normally processed into each grain/flake. Take Iron for example, a packet of cornflakes does show a good level of iron to be present. In reality this Iron is a powdered version of actual Iron as used in industrial equipment for example. The Iron in these mass produced cereals is not natural. In fact you could technically pick it up with a magnet, a very powerful magnet. A smoothie is a very good source of carbohydrate and protein. Protein is now becoming more common requirement to take in in the morning. You’ll be in taking a good source of healthy carbohydrates such as fructose. This comes from fruit and is later converted into glycogen to help the body create energy.

Always keep the fruit bowl full

Always keep the fruit bowl full

Ok, give me a recipe
For all those of us that follow TeamSky pro cycling, I follow the team sky chef on twitter (@teamskychef). In all of the Team sky replica jerseys Soren Kristiansen has managed to get one of his smoothie recipes stitched on the inside of the jerseys. Therefore, if it’s good enough for Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome then it’s good enough for me. The world is a recipe that I use as and when I have time to make a smoothie:

1 banana
1 apple peeled and cored
a handful of frozen forrest fruits
150ml of semi skimmed milk
150ml of low fat yogurt (greek or natural)
juice from 1/2 lemon
dash of honey

There is no messing about with this, you just place all of this into the blender and give it a good blast for about two minutes. A good tip is also at an ice cube or 2 to get it really cold. You can if required, include a scoop of your favourite protein or other sports supplements you may take. This way you can even have breakfast on the go and you won’t be late for that all important meeting in the morning. So my advice, get up five minutes earlier and make yourself a smoothie and enjoy the rest of your day full of energy.

Recommended reading

NSCA’s Guide to Sport and Exercise Nutrition (Campbell and Spano)

Running pacing strategy

Everyone in triathlons knows where their weaknesses lie. They may just about confess this weakness to a coach, but apart from that they usually won’t tell a sole. However, without giving too much away about my ‘area for improvement’, I like to read around the parts that hurt me the most. And for me, the most most painful section of my triathlon is the first kilometer of the run. That much effort, both physically and mentally, goes in to the swim and the ride that the ability go through the transition is usually a disorientating 30 seconds. The blood just doesn’t seem to shift fast enough. You may be the person has the background of running, and so you find this part rather easy, but as an ex race cyclist the first few minutes of the run feel like I’m running with bread knives in my hamstrings. So, have a found a cure? No, but I may have found a strategy.

In a study by Hausswirth et al (2010), going a bit faster or a bit slower during the first kilometer after the cycle/run transition can make all the difference in your performance. The researchers tested a number of athletes over a few trials. Each trial had a different running strategy for the first kilometer. After finding out each subjects 10km pace, they asked each runner, for the first kilometer, to run at 5% less, 5% more, and also 10% less than their 10km pace. For a 40min 10km runner, this would be doing 4:12s/km, 3:48s/km and 4:24s/km for the first kilometer. The subjects then ran the remaining 9km as fast as possible.
The findings highlighted that running at 5% slower has a greater effect of overall performance.

The implications of why this occurs is not discussed in the abstract, but from my own perspective, knowing that I can afford to 5% slower for the first kilometer will certainly have a positive effect on my psychology, and may even push me to apply more power on the bike.

So there you go, you can go faster if you run slower….but only in the first kilometer 😉
Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Apr;108(6):1115-23.
Pacing strategy during the initial phase of the run in triathlon: influence on overall performance.
Hausswirth C, Le Meur Y, Bieuzen F, Brisswalter J, Bernard T.