Guest Blog Post – Dr Richard Howey, Virtual Treadmill Runs

I got to speak to the man himself one Saturday morning during lockdown.

Thank you for giving up part of your Saturday morning to speak to me!  What would you normally be doing on a Saturday morning?   Not much during lockdown!

So I’m not going to ask you about running and performance, as that’s not my speciality.

My own Blog (this Blog) started as an idea to enthuse myself whilst trying to lose weight and get fitter.  Over the 8 years of my journey, my mobility has gone from nothing to what it is now.  I don’t have proper hips, so it’s pretty amazing that I’m able to walk at all.  I have two sisters, both of whom are very active.  I started my journey when I was 49 and have achieved something I wasn’t initially aiming for.  I’m seen a huge increase in my confidence in my ability to walk and improved independence – which is especially important because of my disability. 

Following a bad head on car crash in France, I sustained leg injuries which meant that my already limited mobility was reduced further.  So in 2013 I went gradually from virtually no activity – to swimming once a week – to moving a bit more – to finding a personal trainer to work with me and between us we came up with some ideas for suitable exercise. 

 As my fitness and mobility have improved, I began incorporating sessions on an anti-gravity treadmill – the Alter-G, which is used to rehabilitate people who have  had hip and knee replacements, stroke and other injuries.  The treadmill enables them to maintain and regain their fitness.  It works by supporting a percentage of ones body weight.  So for the first time in my life I was able to experience running.  And more recently I’ve been “running” alongside some of your virtual treadmill runs.  By that I mean vigorously bouncing and swinging my arms whilst seated on a fit ball for about an hour each day. 

How should I refer to you? Richard is fine.  Ah, not “The Doctor” then?

Where in the country are you?  You might have guessed from the films that I live in Morpeth.

My husband’s childhood home was in Northumberland and he recognises many of the places that you run – they’ve provided him with some happy childhood memories.

When did you take up running?  2012.  Oh – that’s around the same time as I started my journey!

Do you run on a regular basis?  Yes, I’ve run pretty regularly since 2012, but had to take a break of a year or more when I injured my foot.

What gave you the idea of filming your runs?  I’ve been asked this before and I’m not sure to be honest.  I guess it was to provide some sort of record so that I can look back at them and see what I was capable of.

The way you film is very much filmed for an audience and to make them an enjoyable experience.  I do try and film for an audience and try to keep my head still – that’s sometimes difficult when I’m a bit tired.

So making your films into virtual treadmill runs – a great idea – how did you come up with it?  So I had the idea for turning my runs into virtual treadmill runs and I figured that someone would already have tried to do this (and they had).

I’m very impressed with the quality as they are nice and steady and not too wobbly.  The first one I became aware of was your Dublin run – which I enjoyed as I’ve been to Dublin a couple of times.

What camera do you use?  It’s a GoPro 7 which I wear attached to my forehead with a strap. I initially had a really cheap one at the start but up-grading to the GoPro has given me built in camera stability which makes it far steadier.

So now that all important question – how tall are you?  I’m 6ft 2.  Wow, that’s a height I can only ever dream of!  I think I give the impression of being taller as the camera is located above my eye line.

Your height provides an excellent view, as looking over peoples head rather than at the back of heads.  Better view than I get from my height (4ft 8”) – people’s backsides and armpits.

You do appear to have the constant ability to take in the nice viewpoints for the sake of your viewers.  I appreciate that as I am enjoying the visual side of it.  Yes, I try to take In some views along the way.  Some people have complained about that, saying it unbalances them on the treadmill.

The Sunset Cliff in the US was a bit scary – you were getting quite close to the cliff edge at times!  It probably wasn’t as close as it appeared on the film.

Over how many days did you film Hadrian’s Wall Trail? – 12 days, as I tried to pick days that were sunny.  I noticed one very wet day with lots of puddles?  Yes, that was getting late in the year and I was running out of days.

I love seeing other people that you come across during your runs – for example, the school party straggling up the stairs on part of the Hadrian’s Wall who had to  move aside to let you race past.

How do you describe you running – fell running, distance running, steeple chasing  (or is that horses??) Yes, I think steeple chasing is for horses!

You don’t stick to tarmac or level runs.  I like the way it’s a bit of a mix, so some fun runs, some races, runs on beaches and along rivers, through woods and in sunshine and snow even.  I don’t really describe it as any particular style but I do enjoy a variety of terrains.

You seem quite nimble and have amazing stamina.  I loved the part where you were running through the forest at Kielder – the second part, where you burst out of the toilet door!  Yes, I was half way through the race – needs must!

Screenshot 2020-06-07 at 18.17.11
Welcome sight – refreshment stop and break, Kielder Half Marathon

How importantly does running feature in your life?  It’s pretty important, it’s my main hobby alongside putting the videos together afterwards.

How had lockdown affected your running?  I’ve only been able to run locally and all places I’ve run before.  I’ve missed out on a couple of opportunities to run abroad.  I’ve missed opportunities to run in Switzerland alongside Lake Geneva and I had a trip coming up to South Korea.  That isn’t going to happen.

Do you run when you go abroad for work or do you travel to run?  I’m lucky – I travel for work.  So I incorporate some of my runs whilst I am away.

Your runs in Germany – I’m fascinated that you seem to find these grassy trails that go a bit off the beaten track.  Do you get lost often?  Yes, I have got lost a few times.  Thank goodness for mobile phones!   I don’t take a mobile phone with me.  I tend to research my route beforehand, try and plan it on a map and memorise it.

That must have been difficult on the Hadrian’s Wall path – there are signs, but they’re not always that obvious?  I did take a couple of wrong turnings along the way.  On one part of the Hadrian’s Wall path – there is a public footpath which runs parallel to the pathway which I accidentally took.  I re-joined the Hadrian’s Wall path and realised I’d taken the wrong route.  I went back and re-filmed that section

How competitive are you?  I’m not really competitive.  But you always seem to be somewhere near the front in races?  I deliberately start at the back and start off slowly and speed up later on – it helps to make me appear faster than I am!

On the Cragside Trail film, a few competitors steam pass you at the end really going for it.  Yes!  There is a steep decline before the finish and I was saving my knees for that.  I didn’t realise the finish line was so imminent, as it is a 10 mile race and my watch was telling me I’d reached nine and a half miles.  So I reached the end half a mile before I expected to!

How did you start off running?  I just built up my fitness and stamina gradually.

What’s the furthest you’ve run?  A half marathon.  I’ve not done a full marathon.

Is that on your list of things to do?  No, not really because of the injuries I’ve sustained.  I’d rather play safe to will stick with the half marathons.

Have you ever injured yourself running?  I injured my foot, but not sure I did it running.  I could barely walk, let alone run and that put me out of action for almost a year.  Something went I my foot when I was walking and it took a long time to recover from that.  I’m just happy that I’m able to run at all – so I’m not really competitive.  I don’t want to push myself and injure myself again.  I’m happy to take things a bit more slowly now.

I loved your Prague film and the fact you visited parts of the old town – it enabled me to see parts of Prague that I didn’t get to see when we were there.  It was lovely to see parts that aren’t the usual touristy places and that would have been inaccessible to me as a wheelchair user.

You’ve not got an aim to stop when you reach 500 videos or something?  No, I’ll still enjoy making the films as long as I’m able to.

Once again, thank you for allowing me to enjoy your films.  I probably don’t use them in the way that most viewers do.  I mentioned what I am doing to others – both disabled and non disabled folk, who have really appreciated them.  It’s enabled me to enjoy a little trip out of the house each day.  You’ve also inspired me to come and visit the north east of England at some point in the future to see for myself those lovely beaches and countryside. 

To enjoy Richard Howey’s virtual treadmill runs, visit his YouTube channel

Virtual treadmill running with Dr Howey

Soon into lockdown, I was looking to find ways to vary my exercise regime.  A regular session for me is about 30 minutes of various stretches for my spine, neck and shoulders, followed by vigorous bouncing on a gym ball whilst swinging my arms about wildly to increase my heart rate.  Usually during this latter part of the exercise session, I am listening to music and keeping an eye on my heart rate and my target (specific number of steps).  But this becomes rather tedious day in, day out.

I happened upon a “virtual treadmill run” around Dublin, a city I’ve visited a number of times.  The video was produced by Dr Howey (Richard) who has a whole series of running films lasting about an hour.  Pretty soon I was hooked!

Dr Howey’s runs have transported me to some stunningly beautiful places.  Many of these are around the North East where he lives – somewhere I’m not familiar with.  Along lengthy sandy beaches (Druridge Bay), the length of Hadrian’s Wall trail, Simonside Hills Trail.  Exploring the towns of Morpeth and Alnwick – along rivers and through woodland.

Screenshot 2020-06-06 at 19.54.11
Stunning Druridge Bay

I finish my exercise feeling as though I have been momentarily transported to these lovely places – running through fields of oil seed rape and amongst sheep and cows.

Richard has also run in Europe – Germany, Sorrento, Prague.  Prague was one of my favourite “runs”.  This is also a city I’ve visited, but as a wheelchair user, the cobbled streets were quite a challenge.  Dr Howey’s run took me through the old town; this was an area we didn’t get to explore much because it is pretty inaccessible with lots of steps.  I loved the feeling of running up a lengthy flight of stairs and actually found myself speeding up and getting more out of breath!

Somewhere I enjoyed but definitely not a place to visit as a wheelchair user was Pompeii!  Not very accessible at all, but I enjoyed the trip there.

Screenshot 2020-06-06 at 19.52.59
Pompeii, interesting but inaccessible in a wheelchair

I have also competed in a number of races and fun runs – this is a completely new experience for me and not something I’m likely to participate in in the “real world”.  I love seeing the other runners and I get that feeling of elation as I reach the finish line.  I’ve done it!

Screenshot 2020-06-06 at 19.59.25
5K Parkrun Whitley Bay

These wonderful films have really brightened up my lockdown exercise experience.  I felt I had to contact Dr Howey and let him know just how valuable his films had become to me.  Plus I needed to find out how tall he was – this man seemed to be a giant!

In my next Blog post, I asked Richard to be a guest on my Blog – check back soon to find out more about his journey and our conversation around virtual treadmill running.

Fennel & Lemon Risotto (with added prawns) – 518 calories

IMG_5450Oh my this was good! My husband is the risotto maker in the house – he has patience!

This can be a vegetarian meal, or you can add prawns.

Preparation Time:  10 mins

Cooking Time:  40 mins

Serves:  2

Calories per serving:  518.6


Fennel bulb – 160g

Butter, Salted – 5g

Oil, Olive, Average – 8ml

Onions – 125g

Garlic – 1 Clove/3g

Rice, Arborio, Dry – 140g

White Wine, Dry – 175ml

Stock Pot, Vegetable, As Sold – 1 Pot/28g

Water – 750ml

Lemon, Zest – 1 Av Lemon/5g

Cheese, Grana Padano or Parmesan – 25g

Prawns, King, Cooked & Peeled – 170g


Chop any green leafy fennel fronds and set aside.

Cut off the stalk-like fennel top, remove the outer layers and finely chop. Slice remaining fennel. Heat the butter and olive oil in a frying pan and cook the onion, garlic and chopped fennel until soft but not coloured.

Add the rice and stir for 1 min. Pour over most of the wine and simmer until evaporated. Make the stock with the stock pot and boiling water. Add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring between each addition until it is absorbed.

When the rice is cooked, stir in the lemon zest, Parmesan and some seasoning. Take off the heat and set aside, covered, for 2 mins.

Serve in bowls, topped with the fennel fronds (stirring the prawns through if using).

Nutrition Data Per Serving

Calories (kcal)518.6

Protein (g) 24.9

Carbohydrate (g) 63.6

Fat (g) 11.7

Fruit & Veg 1.9

Fibre (g) 3.9

Alcohol 8.0

Oh, and desert was caramelised banana with custard (slice banana, roll in sugar, fry in butter turning slices over once and being careful not to burn!)


The nutritional benefits of celeriac

IMG_5389Celeriac makes such a lovely change from pasta, rice and potatoes and has many nutritional qualities (now here’s the technical part…)

  • Celeriac is very low in calories. 100g root holds just 42 calories.
  • Contains many health benefiting plant-nutrients, minerals, vitamins, and dietary fibre.
  • Similar to carrot and other members of Apiaceae family vegetables, celeriac too contains many poly-acetylene anti-oxidants.
  • Several research studies from scientists at the University of Newcastle at Tyne found that these compounds possess anti-cancer properties and, thereby, may offer protection from colon cancer and acute lymphoblastic leukemia amongst other diseases.
  • Celeriac is a splendid source of vitamin-K. 100g root provides about 41 µg or 34% of recommended daily intake. Vitamin-K improves bone mineralization by promoting osteoblastic activity in the bones. Research studies suggest that it also has an established role for patients affected by Alzheimer’s by limiting neuronal damage in the brain.
  • The root is an excellent source of some of the essential minerals such as phosphorus, iron, calcium, copper, and manganese. Phosphorus is required for cell metabolism, maintaining blood buffer system, bone, and teeth formation. Copper helps restore immunity, prevents anaemia, and is essential for bone metabolism.
  • It contains some of the valuable B-complex vitamins such as pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin. Fresh root also provides moderate amounts of vitamin C (8mg/100g).

What’s more, it has a really awesome flavour!  Of course, not to everyones taste, but I love it.  This lovely, healthy and low calorie meal contains just 315 calories!

250g of celeriac dusted with paprika and roasted with 5g of avocado oil (92 calories).  Pan fried sea bass fillet with another 5g of avocado oil (150 calories) and home-made ratatouille (75 calories).

Oh, and 5 calories for the paprika! = 322 calories for the meal.

More virtual running

I have been totally loving my “virtual runs” as well as enjoying bouncing on my gym ball whilst taking part in Zoom calls!  Today I’m over 15,000 steps (over 5 miles).

As we move into warmer weather, strawberries are starting to feature on my daily menu, as well as new potatoes with fresh mint and butter.

Food doesn’t have to be boring and it’s great to be able to enjoy meals “alfresco”….

Lunchtime salad with smoked salmon, fresh dill, tzatziki, jalapeno pepper houmous, Kalamata olive and home grown lettuce.
Lemon sole fillet lightly dusted in a lemon and parsley crumb with new potatoes (butter and fresh mint an absolute must!)

Making exercise fun – virtual running

Every day as part of my daily exercise routine, I do around 40 minutes of vigorous bouncing on my gym ball.  I find it difficult and painful to weight bear for any great length of time because of my disability and my damaged ankle so once I’ve done my stretches and warm up exercises, I bounce away to raise my heart rate.

Usually I’ll take that time to look out of the window, watch people walking by on their way to work or school.  I’ll watch the cars driving past and note with some amusement whether someone is running rate, or whether that yellow Aygo that passes at 8.30am has been washed yet.

The scene outside my window has changed and there’s less to see.  I love watching the birds nesting in the hedge opposite, the red kites wheeling in the sky above.

But now I’ve discovered “virtual running”!  I used You Tube to look up virtual treadmill runs and have found a whole new world (literally!)  I can run in Rome, Paris, London, Prague and even Singapore.

I’ve run a 10k in Durham – which was incredible – I really did feel as though I have been a participant as I overtook the runners ahead of me in the field and as I saw runners slowing down to a walk.  The feeling as I passed the finish line may not have been quite the same as the person who was doing the filming, but I held him in awe as I realise that he’d run in one session what had taken me over two days (2 hours) of bouncing on my ball.

As well as achieving my cardiac workout, I’m enjoying my tour of the world, seeing cities filled with tourists taking in the famous landmarks and sights.

Best of all, the “runner” climbs steep flights of steps to I get to see parts of the city that I may have struggled to access from my powered wheelchair.  That was certainly the case for my run around Prague where I enjoyed seeing parts of the old town that I didn’t see when we visited many years ago.

It wasn’t as cold either…..  Prague in February is very, VERY cold!

Manchester Tart – good old fashioned “school puddings” 212 calories

IMG_5006Manchester tart – a dessert that was served for school dinners when I was younger.  Or “pudding” as it was always know.  Not actually too calorific or too difficult.

This is the second time during the Covid-19 lockdown that I’ve made pastry and it’s actually really simple (using a food processor) and much nicer.

It was bloomin’ lovely and only 212 calories for a portion. Thought I would share the recipe. The custard came out rather too runny, so I’d adjust it by either using less milk or adding more custard powder:

Manchester Tart – 212 calories per portion

Cooking Time: 30 mins

Serves: 6

Calories per serving: 212


Plain Flour – 55g

Unsalted Butter – 33g

Salt – 1 Pinch/0.1g

Water – 3 Tbsps/45ml

Milk, Semi Skimmed – 575ml

Custard Powder, Original – 20g

Sugar, Caster – 3 Tbsps/45g

Jam, Raspberry – 3 Tbsps/45g

Desiccated Coconut – 30g


Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Butter a 22cm round loose-bottomed tart tin.

Make the pastry – Place the plain flour into a large bowl, add the (chilled) diced butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Stir in a pinch of salt, then add 2 – 3 tbsp water and mix to a firm dough.

Knead the dough briefly and gently on a floured surface.

Use the sheet of pastry to line the tin. Prick the base with a fork, then lay a sheet of baking parchment on top and fill with baking beans. Bake for 20 mins. Remove the beans and baking parchment and cook for a further 5 mins. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

To make the custard, mix the custard powder and sugar with a small amount from the measured milk in a measuring jug. Place the remaining milk in a pan and heat over a medium heat. Once the milk is fairly warm, add the custard powder mixture and continue to cook, stirring constantly until smooth and thick, around 5-10 mins. Leave to cool and cover with cling film to stop a skin forming.

Once the base and custard have cooled, spread the jam over the pastry and sprinkle with half the coconut. Pour in the custard, then sprinkle with the remaining coconut and chill.

Nutrition Data Per Serving

Calories (kcal) 211.9

Protein (g) 4.6

Carbohydrate (g) 26.6

Fat (g) 9.5

Fruit & Veg 0.0

Fibre (g) 1.1

Vegetarian hoisin duck stir fry with wholewheat noodles – 522 calories

IMG_4847 (1)Quite impressed with the flavour, texture and taste of this “pretend” hoisin duck and will definitely have it again! Far less calories per 75g portion (159 calories) than shredded duck would usually be.

Vegetarian hoisin duck stir fry with wholewheat noodles – 522 calories

Preparation Time: 15 mins

Cooking Time: 20 mins

Serves: 2

Calories per serving: 522.3


Linda McCartney Vegetarian Duck, Shredded, Hoisin, Frozen – 2 Servings/150g

Brown Onions -50g

Mange Tout – 50g

Carrots, Peeled -1 Carrot/75g

Hoisin Stir Fry Sauce -1 Packs/139.545g

Wholewheat Noodles, Blue Dragon – 2 Servings/100g

Chestnut Mushrooms -½ Pack/125g

Olive Oil – 2 Tsps/10ml

Red Peppers – 0.33 Med/52.8g

Peas, Frozen – 100g


Put the noodles on to cook as per packet instructions.

Peel and slice the onion. Se-seed and cut the pepper into strips. Peel the carrot and chop into matchstick sized pieces. Wipe and cut the mushrooms into chunks. Defrost the frozen peas.

Place the oil in a wok over a medium heat. Add the onions carrot, pepper and stir over the heat until softened. Add the mange touts, mushrooms and the vegetarian duck. Stir for a further 5 minutes. Add the stir-fry sauce and 100ml of water and continue to cook for 10 minutes, lowering the heat.

Drain the noodles, mix in with the stir fry mixture and serve.

Nutrition Data Per Serving

Calories (kcal) 522.3

Protein (g) 30.2

Carbohydrate (g) 66.0

Fat (g) 13.7

Fruit & Veg 3.0

Fibre (g) 13.3

Staying positive during lockdown

This is a worrying time.  A frightening and anxiety inducing time for even those who have a positive attitude to life and all that it throws at them.

From various interactions on social media and with the voluntary work I am involved with I am aware that for many, the situation is really frightening, and they’ve been struggling with sleep, eating sensibly and managing their days whilst isolated from family, friends and regular social interactions.

I’m certain that you may have observed an increase in people running, walking, jogging and cycling.  Weekly routines for many individuals include regular gym visits or exercise classes and this group appear to be really struggling with the physical isolation aspect of life “in lockdown”.

We are unable to influence anything in the larger scheme of things.  All we can do is work within the constraints of what is in our direct control.

Some of these things such as not leaving the house unless absolutely necessary and, when we do, practising physical distancing are being imposed on us.  It’s imperative that we listen to the advice that we are being given and adhere to it.

But how can we ensure that we maintain or even improve our own physical and mental wellbeing at this time?  We have to take responsibility for keeping ourselves as mentally and physically fit as we are able to.

For me, there aren’t too many changes.  I am still exercising first thing in the morning, on a daily basis for around an hour and on my own – the same place and generally around the same time of day (7am/8am).

I have a daily exercise regime which involves back, neck and shoulder stretches to maintain my flexibility and ability to remain independent.  That’s particularly important to me as a disabled person.  I need to be able to maintain (and perhaps even improve) my ability to carry out everyday activities of personal care – showering, dressing managing to use the toilet, mobility.

Exercises to increase my heart rate, maintain muscle mass and strengthen my core are an essential part of my daily routine, just as much as dental care is.

The view from my window as I exercise
Screenshot 2020-03-30 at 15.09.17
Concentration as I stretch

My exercise routine is seated on a gym ball, in an upstairs room looking out to the street – we have views across a large open lawned area – a University hall of residence.  I put music on, music that I love listening to.  I fully immerse myself in what I am doing for an hour.  Counting my reps, making sure that my stretches are done fully.  30-40 minutes of vigorous bouncing and “marching’ swinging my arms to get my heart rate up to peak.

That exercise is now particularly important and the urge to just “get it over and done with” in order to get on with my day has gone.  I have more time in my day to get on with those other things.

The gym ball went to Tenerife with me!

I also have the time to concentrate on ensuring that my meals are as healthy and as nutritious as possible – including beans, pulses, nuts, seeds, fresh salads and vegetables.  This is also something I am very used to doing.  We don’t eat takeaways and we eat out only rarely – so we aren’t seeing the changes to our everyday life as being too restrictive.

We are also able to spend more time in our garden.  I appreciate that not everyone is lucky enough to have outdoor space and there isn’t a day that goes past at the moment when I am not grateful for the space that we have and the fact that we both love gardening so much.  Watching the progress on the growth of various seeds we have planted (courgette, cucumbers, tomatoes, herbs, flowers, salad leaves, beetroot).


Stay safe everyone, stay well and take care of yourself.  It’s really crucial that you do that at the moment.

Our garden sanctuary (taken in the Summer last year)

Sweet Chilli Chicken Stir-fry – 552 calories

Super healthy, lots of added vegetables and a BIG portion. This could have easily have made 3 portions, but we are greedy and have been working in the garden all day….

Sweet Chilli Chicken Stir-fry – 552 calories

Preparation Time: 10 mins

Cooking Time: 15 mins

Serves: 2

Calories per serving:  551.7


Red Peppers – 85g

Chestnut Mushrooms – 117g

Mange Tout – 66g

Wholewheat Noodles, Sharwood’s – 110g

Chicken Breast Fillets, Skinless & Boneless – 193g

Olive Oil – 11ml

Carrots, Peeled – 80g

Brown Onions – 72g

Frozen Garden Peas – 100g

Sweet Chilli, & Garlic, Stir Fry Sauce, Blue Dragon -1 Sachet/120g


Cut the chicken into thin strips. Peel the carrot and cut into matchsticks. De-seed and de-stalk peppers and cut into strips. Top and tail mange touts and cut in half. Peel onion and cut into slices, De-frost the peas. Wipe mushrooms and cut into chunks.


Place noodles into a pan of boiling water and cook for 10 minutes, drain and set aside.

Put oil in a large wok and heat over a medium heat. Add the chicken, stir fry until browned, remove and set aside reserving the oil. Add the peppers, carrots and onions. Cook for around 10 minutes stirring all the time. Add the mushrooms, mange touts and peas and continue to cook for a further 5 – 7 minutes.

Add the sachet of sauce to the vegetables and continue to cook for 5 minutes.

Add the browned chicken and continue to cook through for about 3 – 4 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the drained noodles and combine.


Nutrition Data Per Serving

Calories (kcal) 551.7

Protein (g) 40.5

Carbohydrate (g) 73.1

Fat (g) 9.9

Fruit & Veg 3.5

Fibre (g) 10.8