Anyone For A Run?

It’s Spring in Adelaide and with the hint of warmer weather, those who have been hibernating during the winter months are emerging from under the winter woollies and thinking about being active again.
One of the first activities that springs to mind is running, whether you love it or hate it. Now, if I had $1 for every time someone said to me “I Hate Running”, I’d be very wealthy indeed, and yet running is one of the most portable, easy-to-prepare-for activities I know. Put your workout gear on, runners on, head out the door and run.
Running (and I’m not talking about on a treadmill) is a great overall workout providing both cardiovascular and resistance benefits (in the form of running surface and terrain) along with an opportunity to get out into nature, breathe in fresh air and explore your neighbourhood. And it’s a great activity to take on the road with you if you are away from home and want to maintain your fitness levels or exercise regime.
So could it be then that a large majority of people dislike running because they set themselves up for failure from the outset?
The Run
Many “Beginner” programs being published these days are still quite aggressive for week 1 of the “Beginner” program. Admittedly, these programs generally run for only 6-8 weeks in preparation for a “Fun Run” or similar, but they do seem rather aggressive for the new runner who, one would assume, has not run before or not run for a very long time. For an absolute beginner, running 2 minutes continuously, let alone 5 minutes for your first session is not as easy as it sounds…. especially if your reason for starting is that you’re overweight or haven’t exercised for quite some time.
When starting a running program your goal is to ensure you succeed with your first session so you’ll want to do it again. If your first session goal is to run 5km or 10km and you’ve never run before, chances are you won’t make it, you’ll be so exhausted at the end of it that you spend the rest of the day on the couch or you’ll be so sore for the rest of the week that you won’t want to repeat the activity anytime soon.
If you’ve never run before, make your first session reasonably easy like “Run 30 seconds, walk/jog 2 minutes and repeat 10 times”. Do this twice or three times in the first week and then having successfully achieved this, you can gradually increase the time that you run to 1 minute, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes etc. each week and then start to reduce the recovery (walk/jog) time. If you already have some level of running fitness you can increase your starting run time in relation to your fitness level.
The key is to make each session achievable and gradually increase the time that you run until you’re running consistently for 5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes etc. Sure it may take longer to reach your goal but you are more likely to stick to it if you take a slower approach.
Recovery
Some soreness and tight muscles are to be expected following your initial runs even with a gentler approach. The best way to alleviate this is to do some gentle stretching and go for a walk (walking in the water at the beach is a great way to soothe sore muscles). Sure you’ll probably be a bit stiff as you start but as soon as your muscles warm up you’ll find it easier to move and your body will thank you for it next day.
There are many different approaches to stretching and you need to find what works best for you. One option is to stretch before your walk/run and hold each stretch for 5 seconds then release for 5 seconds and do this 5 times for each stretch.
In this way you gradually stretch the muscles without creating unnecessary laxity in them prior to your activity.
As always, you need to listen to your body. If you’re experiencing more than general soreness in your muscles, take an extra day or two of rest before your next run. If acute or persistent soreness is present you may need to refer to your health professional.
Frequency
Being a weight bearing activity, running places additional stress on your joints so whilst it is a great activity for health and fitness, for best results, ensure you have at least one rest day or try a different activity between each running day to allow your body time to recover from the impact on your joints and bones.
Where to Run?
Treadmills
Whilst treadmills have their place and are useful when the weather turns inclement or as the daylight hours wane, I am not a fan of running on treadmills. If a treadmill is your only option they are a better option than not running at all but if your goal is to run a “Fun Run” or similar, I would recommend doing at least 2 sessions each week outdoors. When running outdoors, your body needs to pull its own weight across the ground, against gravity as opposed to on a treadmill where the moving belt means you are effectively running on the spot. Yes it’s a harder workout outdoors but experience has shown that running 5 to 10km on a treadmill is not the same as running 5 to 10km outdoors.
Bitumen and Footpaths
As long as the path is well lit and free of debris, running on bitumen (cycle paths) or footpaths provide a smooth, even and consistent surface with minimal slippage and maximum traction during foot placement. The challenge with these surfaces is adjusting to the hardness of the bitumen and concrete which can contribute to muscle and joint soreness over the longer term.
Grass and Dirt Paths
My personal favourites are running on grass and dirt paths. Softer than bitumen and concrete footpaths, grass and dirt paths are kinder on the joints and also provide an additional level of “work” for the muscles due to the uneven terrain – firm or spongy grass, uneven paths or tracks, compacted or soft dirt all provide reduced traction which means your body works harder throughout your run.
Variety is the Key
Like any new activity, over time, running can become predictable so the key is to mix things up a bit. Choose different surfaces, hard and soft, to keep your body guessing. Choose different locations – explore your neighbourhood, local parks, the beach, run some hills or find an oval and run some reps around the oval. Mix up your distances – run some sprints with a short recovery between each run, try a longer run or halve your usual distance for a bit of extra recovery.
So if you haven’t been a big fan in the past, consider taking a slower approach and set yourself up for a successful start to making running part of your physical activity program.

No Time To Be Active?

How To Get An Effective Workout In 30 Mins…

Tomorrow is the first day of Spring here in Australia. Spring is a time of change and renewal so if being healthier and losing weight is on top of your list of things to change or renew your enthusiasm for, here are a few tips on how to squeeze in a workout when you’re time poor.

Let’s face it, with the warmer weather comes more party invitations, longer evenings, lazy Sunday afternoon BBQs and the inevitable Holiday Season Merry-Go-Round, so how will you manage to prioritize and fit regular fitness sessions into your already busy schedule?

First step is to make it a priority. Consider how taking just 30 minutes out of each day to work on your own health and wellness will benefit not only your health, it will also your improve your mood, and energy levels so that you can be more effective in your daily activities.

When contemplating embarking on a new fitness or health program, many people believe they have to exercise for many hours a day in order to achieve the type of results they want but you can achieve a great workout in just 30 minutes.  Just ask my clients who turn up late to their PT sessions!

So if you’re short on time and still want to improve your health and fitness, try these tips for a quick 30 minute workout combining cardio and resistance work. They’re a great way to mix up your workouts, provide some variety and offer loads of flexibility in your choice of exercises.

Program 1 – Cardio/Resistance
If you’re in a gym, start with a short 5 minute treadmill run, cross-trainer or rower warm-up followed by stretching. If you’re outdoors, a short jog or skipping rope works wonders followed by stretching.
Stretch – at a minimum stretch Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings and Calves

1. Cardio

a. In the gym – start with a fast 2 or 3 minute burst of cardio – rower, cross-trainer or treadmill
b. Outdoors – start with a 2 or 3 minute jog or take a skipping rope with you and skip

2. Resistance – depending on your fitness level, 12 to 15 reps of

a. In the gym – leg exercises
b. Outdoors – leg exercises – squats or lunges or find a bench or step for step-ups

3. Repeat Cardio and Leg Resistance Exercises for 3 sets
4. Do Cardio again for 2 or 3 minutes
5. Resistance – depending on your fitness level, 12 to 15 reps

a. In the gym – upper body exercises
b. Outdoors – upper body exercises – find a bench, step or even ground for push-ups or find a railing or playground for pull-ups

6. Repeat Cardio and Upper Body Resistance Exercises for 3 sets
7. Finish with some Core or Abdominal Exercises*

Program 2 – Circuit
If you’re in a gym, start with a short 5 minute run, cross-trainer or rower warm-up followed by stretching. If you’re outdoors, a short jog or skipping rope works wonders followed by stretching.
Stretch – at a minimum stretch Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings and Calves

Choose 1 exercise from each of the following areas and complete 1 set of 10 to 12 reps of each.
Move quickly between exercises with no or little rest. Exercises are samples only:

a. Legs

i. Squats
ii. Squat-Press (squat holding dumbbells then as you come up, bicep curl and shoulder press)
iii. Dead lifts (single or double leg)

b. Upper Body

i. Push Exercise (Push-ups, Chest Press)

c. Legs

i. Step-ups (with or without dumbbells)
ii. Lunges (with or without dumbbells)

d. Upper Body

i. Pull Exercises (Rows, Pull-ups)

e. Core*

i. Supermans (on Swiss ball)
ii. Prone Roll (Swiss ball roll-outs)

f. Rest 90 seconds to 2 mins between sets
g. Repeat 3 to 4 times or as many sets as can be completed in the time you have available

*Note: Isolated Core and Abdominal exercises should always be completed as the last exercises in your workout. Your Core is used in all exercises so you don’t want to fatigue these stabilizing muscles before you complete the more complex exercises in your program

If you’re new to exercising or unfamiliar with these exercises, always consult with a Trained Fitness Professional who can demonstrate these exercises or provide assistance in selecting a set of exercises suitable to your current level of fitness.
If you are over 35, have been inactive for some time or have existing medical conditions, always consult with your health professional before embarking on a new exercise regime.

And remember, start easy, make it fun, and ensure you have 1 or 2 rest days each week to allow your body to recover and benefit from your workouts.

Are You A Soldier-On Person?

Even though it’s Winter and there are lots of bugs going around, I was so annoyed this week that I succumbed to one of them and had a cold.
Frustrating at any time, but as an avid believer in the power of the mind and the words we choose to create our reality, I’ve taken the ‘S’ word (sick) out of my vocabulary.  So how could this happen?I’m not sure about you, but for me, it usually follows the same pattern – scratchy throat 1 day, feeling better the next day before a runny nose and then the eventual cough! Yuk!

So, I guess I’m not invincible but the great thing about having a healthy lifestyle is that even though I may succumb to the odd bug and cold out there, I usually get over them rather quickly – and most importantly, without dosing myself up with cough and cold medications.

So in the spirit of sharing (not my germs) I wanted to share with you my top Natural Home Remedies for Colds and Flu so that if you too happen to succumb this Winter, you can attack the culprits without filling your body with a whole lot of unnatural chemicals.

Number 1 absolutely has to be Rest. No ifs or buts, when your body is working overtime to fight off the enemy (cold or flu) then you have to sleep and rest to allow your body’s natural healing tendencies to kick in.  Now I hear some of you saying that I’ve got to …… and I can’t  ……. And I have to ……… you fill in the blanks. But I’m going to be brutal here. You are not doing yourself or anyone else any favors by soldiering-on, heading off to work to make that deadline and spreading your germs with everyone else in the office!  In my opinion, that’s absolute garbage and a gross manipulation of the public through advertising by using the Aussie ‘Soldier-On’ spirit to sell a bunch of chemicals that probably do your body more harm than good in the long term and make the pharmaceutical companies rich. In my mind, it’s rather selfish too! I don’t know about you but I absolutely hate sitting in an office or workspace hearing the person next to me coughing and spluttering, sharing their germs around when they should be at home resting. And in the end, when most of the office is sick, because someone chose to ‘Soldier-On’, guess who’s going to have to pick up the slack and do everyone else’s work? And in my experience, many of these ‘Soldier-On’ people end up taking weeks to get over their ailment, or experience recurring bouts of the same illness because they simply don’t allow their body time to rest and catch-up.

Magnesium Salt or Epsom Salts Bath – just 2 cups and a 30 minute soak draws out toxins from your body. Personally I prefer the Magnesium Salts because I don’t feel so drained and dried out afterwards but they are a little bit more expensive than regular Epsom salts.  I usually have one bath a month as it’s very relaxing and a natural way to draw out excess toxins.

Hot Lemon, Honey and Ginger – I got this one from my massage therapist. Personally, I find it quite overpowering so I don’t drink too much of it. If you’re going to use Honey, I use Manuka Honey because of the added medicinal benefits.

Kiwi Fruit – With 5 times the Vitamin C of an Orange ,  I usually tuck into a couple of Kiwi Fruits each day when I’m feeling under the weather. Organic whenever possible. A word of warning, fruit contains fructose which, in excess,  may be harmful to your health so not too many over a long period.

Blueberries – Packed with antioxidants and great at any time of the year, I’ll have an extra serve of Blueberries  during my day when I’m unwell. Whether it’s added  to my smoothies or as a treat with some goat’s yoghurt. In the Winter months, I usually choose Organic Frozen berries – no need to add ice to your smoothie!

Avoid Dairy – OMG I wish I knew this when I was younger. You see, before I discovered this one, if I had a sore throat, I headed straight for the yoghurt and milk to soothe my throat when in actual fact, all this extra dairy was just adding to the mucous build up resulting in an even more of a snotty nose and eventual phlegmy cough! More Yuk! So cut out or at least cut back on your dairy when you have a cold or the flu (even if it’s only in your coffee).

Drink Lots of Water – As I’ve mentioned before, you need to drink 30% of your body weight in water every day – just to keep healthy. So, when you’re sick, you really want to increase your water intake to help your body flush out those toxins.  Add some lemon  for a bit of flavor and Vitamin C.

Bone Broth – I just love Bone Broth – especially Chicken Bone Broth – it’s so easy to make and so healthy for you. When I’m sick I have a teacup of Chicken Bone Broth in the morning and at night until I feel better.
Here’s what I do: Especially when you’re sick, choose Organic Chicken or Chicken Portions – I always go for the Chicken Legs as I hate eating the wings so a whole chook seems a waste. Pop your chosen chicken in a big pot, add some carrots and celery (preferably organic – you want this to be as healthy as possible), cover with water and bring to the boil then simmer until the meat falls off the bones. Remove the chicken (great for dinner or lunch next day) and serve immediately or cool and store in the freezer until you need it – also great for some extra flavor in recipes!

Sugar – Avoid at all costs! Sugar revs up your engine (your body) just like having the accelerator pedal of your car flat to the floor. Over time, it wears out your engine. Given that when you have a cold or the flu you’re not moving about too much, it’s a bit like having one foot to the floor and the other on the brake! There’s lots of smoke and burning rubber going on – imagine what’s going on in your body. When your body is working overtime to rid itself of your cold/flu, why give it extra work to do by having to deal with the inflammatory effects of sugar?

Whole Foods – I am a big advocate of eating healthy, organic, whole foods and especially when you are unwell. Processing of foods (and microwaves) de-natures  food, removing or degrading vital nutrients and especially when you’re sick, you want to provide your body with the best building blocks and line of defense available to you. So cut out the processed, packaged foods and eat lots of vegies, a couple of serves of fruit and good, free-range or organic protein.

 Gentle Exercise, Not a Workout – When you’re sick, a big workout is a no-no. End of story! Your body is already working so hard to get rid of this bug/illness and you want to ask even more of it by throwing in a strenuous workout? To quote from a recent facebook post by Dr Sara Gottfried MD, ‘Exercise is a Celebration of what you can do. Not a punishment for what you ate’.  Same goes for an ailing body. Exercise for movement, to feel good and help your lymphatic system remove waste (and illness) from your body, not to punish it for getting sick or being tired.
So what types of exercise are good when you’re recovering from a cold or flu? Well, first of all, you need to know that you’re on the mend and if you’re not sure you should seek guidance and advice from your chosen health professional.  Complete rest may be necessary initially and only when you’re energy starts to come back should you do some gentle exercise like walking, tai chi, pilates etc.

For some additional home remedy tips, checkout Dr Josh Axe. I haven’t tried all of these but I find Dr Axe to be a good resource for an holistic approach to health.

As always, if you’re not sure whether it’s a cold, the flu or something more sinister, I suggest you visit your GP or chosen health professional for a formal diagnosis. Then, once properly informed about the nature of your issue, you can choose how you wish to heal your body.

And for the record, Yes I did stay home when I was sick.

Struggling for Motivation?

Over the years I’ve chatted to hundreds of people in gyms – whether they’ve joined the gym and I’m taking them through an induction process or they’re training with me.

And it’s so encouraging to see that most of them are 9/10 or 10/10 committed to getting their result when they start.

But a month or two down the track, why is it that 9/10 or 10/10 becomes  4/10 or 5/10 or worse?

What is it that results in these highly motivated, capable people suddenly losing all interest in what initially was a 9/10 or 10/10 goal?

Could it be that their initial motivation was flawed?

Of the many books that have been written about motivation and inspiration, a common thread seems to appear.  “People will do more to run away from pain than they will to run towards pleasure”  and yet, at the same time, they also postulate that “Moving away from (running away from pain) motivation is not very effective long term”.  For the record, “Moving towards” motivation has proven to be more effective in the long term.

So what does that really mean?

If your motivation for working out or creating a healthier lifestyle is a result of you wanting to lose weight then effectively you’re running away from the pain of the extra weight. And let’s face it, if you have experience as a yo-yo dieter or you’ve lost a lot of weight and then put it back on again, you may already be familiar with the fact that this sort of moving away from motivation doesn’t last.

Or perhaps you’ve experienced pain in the past. Back pain is one of the most common ailments of our mostly sedentary society today. So you join the gym to get out of pain (moving away motivation), you work hard on strengthening your body and once the pain has gone, the urgency subsides and work, family or something else gets in the way and you find yourself skipping a session or 2, then a week or 2 and before you know it, you’re no longer being active at all. Over time, without maintaining that new found strength, muscle development and posture, the back pain rears its head once again.

So what if you could find a motivation that works long term? What if you could find a moving towards motivation to get you moving, keep you moving and motivated to reach your goals?

You know it’s often said that the greatest motivator of all is “Love”.  Assuming that’s true, how can you get “Love” to motivate you to move every day, to get to be earlier, to drink more water?  In fact, how do you get “Love” to motivate you to do anything?

Let me share the light bulb moment I had when reading my current book of choice, and why I’m sharing this with you.

In the book  “Money:  A Love Story” by Kate Northrup, Kate implies that living within your means is a form of Self-Love.  Rather than stressing yourself out and having to deal with constant levels of anxiety by over-extending yourself financially, choosing instead to only spend the money that you have is a form of Self-Love.

Now I get it that sometimes it’s not as simple as only spending what’s in your purse or wallet but this is not a financial blog so I’m not going to get into that discussion here.

My light bulb moment came when I realized that when faced with doing something good for myself or my body that I don’t want to do, or that I struggle to do, if I think of it as an act of Self-Love, for me, that feels good and I’m more motivated to do it.

Let me give you an example. As I’ve mentioned before, one of my biggest personal challenges has been getting to bed at an appropriate hour on a regular basis. So I took the concept of Self-Love and rather than try to understand why I just couldn’t get myself to bed earlier, I decided that getting to bed between  10 and 1030 pm was an act of Self-Love,  doing something good for my mind and my body by getting more sleep before midnight, and so far I’m doing so much better.

Self-Love is a moving towards motivation.  So what does this mean for your Health?

Motivation is all a matter of how you look at things. If you can find your way to a bit more Self-Love, wrap your head around the fact that moving your body every day, making healthy food choices, getting more sleep before midnight and drinking more water are all forms of Self-Love, then maybe you’ve found the Motivation that will sustain you long term.

And who couldn’t do with a bit more Self-Love anyway?

Are You Strong To The Core?

As a tree is only as strong as its trunk and root system, so a person is only as strong as their core.
So would you get blown over in a gale?
Whether you’re an elite athlete, weekend warrior, casual exerciser or relatively inactive, the strength of your core has a major impact on how you perform on a daily basis whether on the sporting field, in the office, performing a physical job or at home.

Whether you’re standing, bending, twisting, turning, lunging, pushing or pulling, you are using your core muscles to stabilize your body. Putting it more simply, whether you’re working on your feet all day, carrying the baby around, lugging shopping bags to and from the car or home, doing housework, working in the garden, working out or working in a physical job you are using your core muscles.

So what is my core?
Your core is not the much-sought-after washboard stomach. The washboard abs are just the muscles you can see and are just one component of a very complex system.
The core comprises the deep muscles running along the spine and the deepest layer of muscles running around your belly. Their role is very similar to that of an internal weight belt which stabilizes the spine and provides a stable foundation for your head, arms and legs to create the movements we discussed earlier.

So why do I need a strong core?
Your core is a very complex system which, for simplicity, can be considered as 2 functional units working in tandem to support your body – the Inner Unit and the Outer Unit.

The internal aspect
The Inner Unit comprises four major muscle groups – the multifidus (deep muscles running along your spine), the pelvic floor, transversus abdominus (TVA) and the diaphragm. Along with stabilization, these muscles provide many other functions within your body. They protect your central nervous system, spine and internal organs from external impact. They also assist in optimal function of the internal organs by mobilizing them as you move. If your core muscles aren’t functioning properly, this protection and mobilization can be compromised. When functioning correctly, your core also experiences pressure changes which assist the heart and muscles to move blood and fluids throughout your body. When core function is not optimal and these pressure changes are impaired, fluids do not move through the organs effectively and it is not uncommon to experience decreasing levels of energy, constipation, back, neck, arm or leg pain.

The external aspect
The Outer Unit comprises muscles that generally move the body. Usually larger than the inner unit muscles, the Outer Unit muscles cross multiple joints and are commonly seen or felt moving under the surface of the body.

Apart from alleviating pain in the lower back and extremities, a strong core can mean that we can go about our daily lives with a higher level of energy and a lower risk of injury. When exercising, whether running, lifting weights or another activity, a strong core means an increased ability (duration) to carry out your activity whilst maintaining correct form or technique.
If you have a physical job, a strong core (and knowing how to engage your core to assist when bending and picking things up) can reduce the incidence of lower back pain and injury.

Strength or Integration?
Whilst a strong core will give you strength and stability in movement, a core which is strong but not functioning as an integrated unit will ultimately leave you at risk of injury.

There are numerous tests available to help you determine if your core is functioning correctly, here are just three Core Function Tests from Paul Chek*:

TVA Activation Test
The aim of this test is to determine the level to which the client can control their TVA by decreasing the indicator level on a blood pressure cuff placed under the navel. The goal is for the client to reduce the level by a minimum of 10mmHg.

Forward Bend Test
This test provides the client with immediate feedback on whether they are correctly activating their TVA using a biofeedback mechanism in the form of a piece of string tied around the waist. The client bends down and picks up a weight noticing at the same time whether the string tightens around the waist, stays the same or loosens. If the string tightens or does not move then the TVA is probably not activating properly. If the TVA is activating correctly, the string loosens as the client bends forward, stabilizing the spine as the weight is lifted.

Lower Abdominal Activation Test
The goal of this test is to maintain a constant pressure on a blood pressure cuff placed under the spine whilst at the same time maintaining pelvic stabilization during leg movement.
To find the correct starting point for your core conditioning exercises ensure that your trainer, Pilates instructor, physiotherapist or other allied health professional conducts an assessment of your core strength and integration before you commence a program with them. Once you have your starting point, it’s important to ensure that you then learn the correct movement pattern to activate the muscles in the correct sequence and with the appropriate amount of effort so be patient with yourself if at first you can’t feel the muscles working.
The key to strengthening your core function is to learn how to correctly engage and integrate your core muscles when exercising and carrying out your daily activities. It is about teaching muscles to work together to produce movements, rather than isolating them to work independently……and to practise, practise, practise!

For the best and fastest results, we recommend practising for a few minutes a day – every day!

*For more information on these tests and suitable conditioning exercises, refer to “How To Eat, Move and Be Healthy!”, Copyright 2004, Paul Chek

Is Stress Affecting Your Waistline?

Stress: A Hidden Factor in Weight Loss?

Beep! Beep! Beep! You have to pry your eyes open to see the clock. It’s 6:10am and you don’t dare hit the snooze button again. You head for the kitchen in search of coffee, knocking on the kids’ doors as you pass. Before the water can even begin to drip through the coffee filter, your brain is trying to figure out how to get the kids up, fed and off to school, take your shower, get dressed, finish off that last report and get on the road before the traffic jam starts.

Finally, the kids are off to school. You’re dressed and ready to go when you realize you haven’t eaten. No worry, you grab another coffee and a muffin from the café on your way to the office. Work is crazy, as usual….Between meetings, while eating an apple and sipping your fourth cup of coffee, you realize you forgot to pay the bills last weekend. Then your daughter calls to remind you that she has soccer practice tonight.It’s 5:06pm and you can’t wait to get home. But you first must drop off clothes at the cleaners, shop for groceries, work your way through traffic to pick up your daughter at soccer and your son from day-care.

Now it’s almost 7:00pm and you cook dinner while trying to prepare for tomorrow’s meeting and help the kids with homework, and of course, get those bills paid. After dinner, exhausted looking at a pile of dishes and a cluttered kitchen, you wonder how long you’ll have to work like this. You have a final cup of coffee clean up and get back to preparing your reports for tomorrow. It’s only Monday, but you could swear it was at least Thursday.”
* From “How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy!” Copyright 2004, Paul Chek

Sound familiar? Or maybe this sounds like a walk in the park compared to your day?

These days it seems stress and the busyness of life is unavoidable. Stressors of one kind or another seem to be an inevitable part of our daily lives with mobile and internet technology meaning that we are always “on” or available 24/7. And you might also agree that despite your best efforts, you sometimes have little or no control over when and where these stressors will occur. So if you could find a better way to address and manage the stressors when they occur, wouldn’t you agree that you could expect to feel a whole lot better? But first….

How does your body react to Stress?
Our bodies have an in-built survival mechanism. You may know this as the flight or fight response, a response mechanism that served us well in pre-historic times when faced with a bear or lion – stay and fight or run away to safety. Faced with a bear or lion, our body released cortisol, a stress hormone that prepared the body to stay and fight or run away. The stress response caused elevated heart rate and blood pressure, increased sweating, blood moved from internal organs to skin and muscles in preparation for fight or flight and digestive and eliminating functions were slowed or stopped. Made sense if you’re running from a bear or lion and you’ve probably experienced some of these symptoms when suddenly faced with a frightening or challenging situation but the difference between pre-historic times and today is that once the danger had passed, our bodies reverted to a balanced state. With today’s commonly accepted busy lifestyle, the stress doesn’t seem to ever go away and we stay in a constant fight or flight state.

So what are the long term effects of Stress?
Every time our body experiences stress, it can have an accumulative effect if you don’t know how to trigger your body to revert to a balanced state. Your body does not discriminate between, physical, chemical, electromagnetic, psychic (thought patterns), nutrition or thermal stressors. Whether it’s a real threat or just our day to day activities, the body does not differentiate between stresses, it only knows it’s under stress – constantly. And over the long term, when the body contains excessive cortisol and growth and repair hormones are suppressed, this can lead to tissue breakdown, fatigue of the adrenal glands, suppression of the immune system, chronic illness and disease. In addition, poor digestion, constipation and poor sleep can result in increased belly fat and an inability to lose weight!

In a nutshell, when you have financial stress, too much or not enough food, poor food quality, bad relationships, dirty air, chlorinated water, medical drugs, industrial toxins, disrupted sleep/wake cycles, stinkin’ thinking’, too much or not enough exercise, your body will produce more cortisol and less repair and growth hormones to counteract this stress leaving you burnt out, tired all the time and could be contributing to your inability to lose those last few kilos.
But there is hope!!

Stress Reduction Techniques
Food and Water
One of the first steps in reducing stress is to increase the quality of the food you eat. If Organic food is not an option for you, ensure you eat the best quality, freshest food you can find and afford. The quality and types of food you eat can affect the way you think. So skip the last minute muffin and coffee, and above all, don’t forget to eat. Skipping meals triggers that survival mechanism and can slow down your metabolism even more. Next step is to ensure you have an adequate water intake. Among other things, insufficient water is just another stress on the body which can result in tiredness and headaches and can affect your ability to handle the stressors which come up in your day.

Stretching
Many people spend the majority of their day sitting at a desk, driving in the car, sitting at meal times and ending their day sitting on the couch in front of the TV. Not a whole lot of movement happening there which can lead to decreased flexibility and muscle imbalances. Without some form of regular movement and stretching, over time, putting your socks or shoes on in the morning will become a monumental challenge. Stretching is a great way to relieve tension too as we often hold our stress in our backs, necks, chest, shoulders and stomachs.

Exercise
When we think of Stress we usually think of it as all bad but that isn’t necessarily so – just as bones and muscles need physical load (or stress) to keep strong and healthy, our bodies need some level of good stress to stay healthy. Overloading muscles and bones under the influence of gravity lays down more bone and muscle fibre and more muscle means an improved metabolic rate.

Yoga and Meditation
Yoga can be a great way to release stress by stretching your muscles, focusing on your breathing and in some cases meditating for a period of time. Meditation is a great way to still your mind, even if just for a few minutes. It can lower your heart and breathing rate, increase your blood flow, initiate a deep level of relaxation, lower your blood pressure and decrease muscle tension all contributing to a return to a balanced state for your body.

Whether you choose one of the stress management techniques above or prefer to have a regular massage, walk along the beach, sit and listen to relaxing music or something different all together, the most important thing is to ensure you include stress reduction and stress management techniques as a regular part of your health and wellness regime.

What’s Your Energy Personality?

Are you an early riser, late riser or somewhere in between? Do you go to bed early or do you prefer to burn the midnight oil? Are you most alert and productive mid-morning but experience a mid-afternoon crash? Do you jump out of bed as soon as the alarm sounds and hit the ground running – literally. Or do you hit the snooze alarm once, twice or more preferring to exercise later in the day?

According to Andrew May’s “Flip the Switch”* research shows that your productivity and performance can be affected by up to 15% depending on the time of day. Knowing your energy personality and tailoring your day, and your training, to match your energy highs and lows can help you setup your day for optimal performance and a more enjoyable workout.

So What’s Your Energy Personality?
Complete Andrew’s Quick Quiz below to find out:
Choose the most appropriate answer
1. Do you sleep in if you forget to set the alarm clock on weekdays?
A                 B                              C
Yes     Sometimes              No

2. Are you bubbly and chatty when you arrive at work in the morning?
A                 B                              C
Yes     Sometimes              No

3. Do you do your best work in the afternoon through to early evening?
A                 B                              C
Yes      Sometimes              No

4. If you could choose your ideal working hours, what would they be?
A   12pm – 8am
B   9am – 5pm
C   6am – 2pm

5. When you go to a party are you:
A   Usually the last to leave?
B   OK as long as you get to bed within 3 hours of normal sleep time
C   Agitated and tired if you don’t leave before your usual bedtime?

Tally your answers for A, B and C and refer to the table below for your energy personality
Mostly A’s      Mostly B’s        Mostly C’s
BEAR               TIGER                GAZELLE

Bears
Bears are “Night Owls” and function at their best during the afternoon or evening.Bear
If you have a 9 to 5 job, it’s a good idea to arrange your day so that your thinking tasks are actioned later in the day and simpler tasks requiring less brain power, eg filing and email are scheduled during the morning. Bears often find that they exercise best during lunchtime or later in the day when their energy levels are higher.
Tips for Bears
• Sleep with your curtains open and let the sun wake you up
• Get up at the same time every day and eat breakfast – bears have a tendency to skip breakfast which is vital to optimal brain performance and weight management
• Don’t stay up late on weekends or start a new project or ‘thinking’ tasks right before going to bed

Gazelles
Gazelles are “Morning people” and tend to spring out of bed and hit the ground running. Gazelle
They don’t need an alarm clock and are usually quite bubbly when they get to the office. Having already completed their workout for the day, they’re switched on and ready to go! If you’re a Gazelle, you’ll tend to peak around midday and notice a lack of concentration by late afternoon. Unlike the bear, Gazelles should plan their day so that tasks requiring creativity and high-level thinking are scheduled for the morning and simpler, more routine tasks for the afternoon. Generally, Gazelles have no problem training first thing in the morning.
Tips for Gazelles
• Exercise in the morning or before 6pm so that you are rested and ready for bed early
• Spend some time outdoors in the afternoon to boost your energy for the later part of the day
• Avoid shift work
• Don’t exercise within 4 hours of your usual bedtime

Tigers
Tigers make up 55 to 60% of the population and usually get going around 7am with peak concentration between mid-morning and lunchtime.Tiger
Tigers usually experience a mid-afternoon slump and get their second wind later in the afternoon. Tigers are able to switch more easily between Bear and Gazelle energy levels and are usually comfortable exercising anytime of the day. Tigers usually have no problem mixing up their exercise regime with both morning and afternoon/evening sessions.
Tips for Tigers
• For Tigers needing to be at their best first thing in the morning, follow the tips for the Gazelle
• For Tigers needing to be at their best in the evening, follow the tips for the Bear.

Whether you’re a Bear, Gazelle or Tiger, the key to optimal performance both at work and play is to find what works best for you and make it a regular part of your day. Test out Andrew’s tips above and see just how much more enjoyable your workouts can become when tailored to suit your Energy Personality.

* For more information on improving your performance and productivity both at work and at play, I highly recommend “Flip the Switch” by Andrew May, Messenger Publishing, Copyright 2007

Too Sore to Train?

Too Sore to Train? Injured and just itching to get back into exercise?
Or are you suffering in the middle of another heat wave and have no energy to train?

Why not hit the Water for a Low Impact Workout
Deep Water Running and Water Based Exercise are great alternatives when sore knees, sore muscles or joints or an injury prevent you from enjoying your usual weight-bearing physical activities.
Many sports require some form of running and whether it’s walking or running, don’t let your knees, an injury or the weather dictate whether you keep physically active or not. If you haven’t been active for some time or you are concerned about excessive weight bearing activities, Deep Water Running and Water Based Exercise are great ways to get active, maintain your fitness or rebuild your strength and flexibility following injury.

Exercising in Water?

 Water decreases stress on the joints, allows greater range of movement and can ease muscle soreness and improve joint flexibility by allowing you to exercise without the impact shock from exercising on hard surfaces.
If you exercise in a heated pool, the warm water provides additional benefits by increasing body temperature and circulation and the soothing and relaxing nature of water can also help to dispel the stresses of a busy lifestyle.

Swimming isn’t the only option
Swimming and Aqua Aerobics (Water-based Exercise) Classes are the most well-known water-based activities allowing you to work much harder than you might otherwise have worked on land. Whilst swimming is a great way to build and maintain fitness, it doesn’t appeal to those who like to keep their head above water or struggle to establish correct breathing techniques.
Aqua Aerobics is another great non-impact workout. Encouraged by music, it’s easy to get caught up in the latest songs or steady beat and forget that you’re actually getting a great workout at the same time. Using a buoyancy belt of flotation device, your core is also working overtime to keep you upright.

Running in Water?
Whilst swimming and aqua aerobics are great ways to build and maintain fitness, Deep Water Running is, according to some, rated second only to Cross Country Skiing when it comes to total calories burned during a workout. Deep Water Running provides excellent cardiovascular and strength training benefits. Most commonly done with a buoyancy belt around your waist, the water forces opposing muscles to work equally against the resistance provided by the water.
A buoyancy belt is most often made from foam and looks like a belt that you strap around your waist. Some brands, like the AquaJogger® are made to fit different weight specifications and body types but almost any flotation vest or wetsuit will work as long as it allows your body to float in an upright position and you can perform a running motion in the water. An added benefit of running in water and using the buoyancy belt is that it also works your core as your body fights to remain upright and balanced against the flotation device’s natural tendency to rise to the surface.
When running in water, try to keep to your natural running technique and avoid the tendency to want to “cycle” the legs or tread water. Ensure your shoulders are sitting just above the water and your feet don’t touch the bottom. Although some do attempt deep water running in sea water, this provides the added challenge of keeping upright whilst navigating the unpredictability of the waves. Dive pools are excellent due to the extreme depth of the water but any pool where your feet don’t touch the bottom will work.
Whilst initially it does take some practise to establish your balance and technique, Deep Water Running can benefit athletes and non-athletes alike for weight loss, cross training, injury rehabilitation and prevention and relief of muscle and joint soreness.

So if it’s too hot or too wet outside, your muscles or joints ache, you’re recovering from an injury or prefer a non-weight bearing approach to improving your fitness then head to your nearest pool and run, swim or walk a few laps.