Time to Switch Off

Mr A and I spent this past weekend away in Cumbria. As the weather was terrible on the Saturday we decided to stay indoors and just sit still for a day. We spent most of it reading and eating-Bliss! We could have stayed home and done that but sometimes you need to be away from your regular environment to totally switch off.

I see more and more clients who struggle to sleep, feel exhausted despite sleeping or they are regularly coming down with colds etc., but I also see them checking work emails at 9pm, or filling their free time with constant activity and never really switching their brain off. Even when they are sat still they are stimulating their brains, maybe scrolling through social media or watching a tense drama.

We live in a world that is constantly switched on and I think every day the news reports that more than ever people are struggling with depression, anxiety, extreme fatigue and insomnia. Many people also struggle with un-diagnosable conditions that maybe manifest as stomach issues, chronic headaches or constant muscle soreness etc. in short we are the result of a huge stress epidemic!

It has become part of our culture to always be busy, be connected online and always on the go. When do you take time to properly switch off? Unfortunately it is causing us some major health problems.

In order to give our brains and body a proper rest we need to switch it off and recharge.

We should try and give ourselves space to do this every day.

  • How you start your day can have a big impact on how you function for the rest of it. For some people this is a morning mediation or yoga practice, maybe just sitting down for 10 minutes peace with your morning coffee or for me walking the dogs (or the morning zoom as it is referred to on my Instagram story).
  • Throughout the day it is actually proven to make you more productive if you take regular breaks every 90 mins or so. So, solid 90mins at your PC focused on the important tasks with no distractions then take break to make a cup of tea –which you actually make time to drink! At lunch get outside for some fresh air-even 20 minutes will help. I always try to walk the dogs before I begin evening classes as it helps to shake off my afternoon spent at my laptop and refresh my brain and body.
  • At least an hour before bed stop opening your emails and social media (turn notifications off if you have to) and instead of doing something stimulating make time to wind down your body and brain. Apps such as Headspace can take you through a guided meditation or Calm (I use this one) has bedtime stories read by the likes of Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley to help you clear your mind and get ready to sleep.

You can do whatever works for you, basically whatever you find relaxing that switches your head of from the constant noise of the day. The simple act of switching off should form as big a part of your recipe for good health as your nutrition and exercise.

Make it Easy

After talking about eating habits and taking responsibility lately I thought I would give you a couple of tips to make it a little bit easier. I know so many people really do have good intentions to eat well and exercise regularly but life just kinda takes over doesn’t it.

I know planning ahead can sound like just making extra work and really boring but I promise just 5-10 mins of extra planning will actually save you time in the long run-it’s actually way less stressful as you don’t have to make tired, hungry decisions about what to eat for dinner etc.

I will start with food and diet.


  • Batch cooking healthy meals really is a time saver. It can take less than an hour to make a huge pot of soup, chilli, casserole or homemade curries and you can store individual portions in the freezer for evenings when you are short on time.
  • On the same note, pre chopped frozen fruit and veg can be used either for evening meals or your morning smoothie and is usually cheaper than fresh. Just whizz and go!
  • We prepare our lunches for the week ahead in batches. It takes around the same time to prepare 4 chickens, four lots of vegetables etc. as it does to prepare one lot. I also do parts of my breakfast like pre boiling eggs and leaving them in the shell to just take with me, or preparing a big batch of yoghurt, fruit and granola in a jar to keep in the fridge and just decant a portion as required.
  • Plan your evening meals ahead. I know it sounds really boring but I promise once you get into the swing of it it’s really easy. We sit down on a Thursday night plan our meals from Saturday to the following Friday, write a shopping list and then do our shop in line. If we are on form (read not tired, hungry, grumpy and therefore likely to bicker about the colour of peppers to order) it only takes around 20mins. The plan then goes on the fridge and then whoever is home first (usually Mr A) can just look at the plan and start preparing.
  • Using pre prepared ingredients although sometimes slightly more expensive is a great help to keep you from dialling a pizza. Frozen veg, tinned beans and pulses, microwave rice, cous cous and Porridge Pots you just add water to are regulars in our house- I await my death from such slackness…………………..


  • A workout doesn’t have to be an hour long. Just 15 minutes a day will help to keep you fit. There are millions of workouts on YouTube from HIIT training to Yoga so there is no excuse not to find something you can fit in.
  • If you are going to the gym, always having your bag ready to take with you the night before will stop you “forgetting your kit” the next day.
  • Similarly taking your gym bag to work every day even if you think you won’t have time could be a game changer. Then when that appointment cancels last minute you can go to the gym, maybe you can squeeze a short workout in after work, on your lunch break etc.
  • Have a plan of what you want to do, but be flexible and have shorter options. Just because you can’t fit in your full 1 hr ½ session doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother. Just popping in to do half an hour will still make you feel better and keep you on track long term than going straight home.
  • Exercise doesn’t have to be in the gym, you can sneak it into your life. This is actually pretty key to losing weight and keeping it off, it’s called NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) which is basically your day to day regular activity levels like pottering around the house etc. A Fit Bit or other step tracking device is great to see how much (or how little) you move throughout a regular day and those steps all add up to burnt calories and improved fitness.

Is The Clown in Charge?

This week the news reported that the Government was going to step in of companies didn’t reduce the calories in their food. Companies making the likes of ready meals, fast food etc. is being targeted as a way to reduce the obesity crisis.

I watched some of the news in which parents were interviewed and asked whether they thought about the calories in fast food and convenience food when they were serving them to their kids……………..no apparently they had no idea and it had never occurred to them to find out.


Sorry, just had to get that out. Honestly though –the calories are on the menu albeit in tiny writing but its there. I also think there is so much information out there on this kind of thing that I really can’t see how we can’t be aware that overeating is bad for you and eating less calories and usually less junk food is the answer-feel free to correct me if you think I’m wrong and that it is really difficult to find out about healthy eating and weight loss. Yes there is lots of nonsense advice out there but none of it promotes Pizza Hut as the key to healthy living.

To be honest I don’t think it’s a bad idea as such, but I do think the Government actually needs to start telling people very clearly that shock horror they are responsible for their own health, not McDonalds or Greggs.

Public Health England has given guidelines for calories at each meal.


Breakfast 400 cals

Lunch 600 cals

Dinner 600 cals

This totals 1600 calories so I guess leaves room for a snack. I think that seems fairly sensible-it’s not dissimilar to my own eating but unfortunately as we have already mentioned apparently the concept of finding out the calories of food is a strange and alien concept to people so I’m not sure how much of that advice will be taken on board, which is a shame because obviously it would massively help people to lose weight if they followed the guidelines.

McDonalds has already been getting on board with this with their Meals under 400 and 600 Calories campaign, which as soon as I heard the breakfast ad on the radio I thought was a genius bit of marketing-they’ve taken the hard work out for you, now you already know what to order when you decide to go on that diet eating at McDonalds could be easier for you to figure out than going to the supermarket and buying raw ingredients!

Hey, for those of us that already know that calories in and calories out is a sound and simple principle it can only be a good thing that it will be even easier for us if we do fancy that take away, but for those people that still have no clue how this whole nutrition thing works I’m not sure it’s going to be the huge progressive impact it needs to be-which I do honestly think is a shame but proper education in schools, Dr’s etc. needs to be in place rather than blaming the food companies.

You are responsible for your own health, not Ronald McDonald!

Disorderly Diet

Ok so time for me to have a rant again-I know it’s been a while!

I was watching TV last week and a guest on Lorraine (lads in the gym watch it don’t judge me!) was a former British Bake off Contestant talking about her new book. Apparently she wrote it because we have all forgotten how to enjoy food? Have we? She states that we are obsessed with extreme diets and it is causing eating disorders. Now whilst Orthorexia is a very real eating disorder (it is an obsession with only eating “clean”/healthy food” we also still have an obesity crisis in the UK and it certainly hasn’t been caused by our obsession with restrictive dieting has it???? That’s an eating disorder we need to tackle! Anyway I digress…

She goes on to talk about her own eating disorder, to be honest I don’t know her or even normally follow her, but she describes it as sometimes eating very little and only clean food and sometimes over eating lots of junk food. Erm, I actually consider that pretty normal! To say that people who eat like this don’t enjoy their food or that they don’t eat intuitively seems to me to be entirely missing the point. If we want to eat really healthy, lots of vegetables, lean protein and no refined sugar etc. then that is eating how we want to at that time; and if we then follow that with a day or so of eating all the sugary carbs then that is also eating how we want at that time is it not? She also said that we have forgotten how to seek pleasure in a microwave meal or a takeaway. Honestly I know lots of people that don’t eat microwave meals because they don’t enjoy them not because they think it will kill them!

It appears to be vilifying a person’s choice to choose to avoid processed food etc. How dare you want to provide your body with nutritious food and not want to eat food that maybe makes you feel bloated and sluggish. I don’t think we should start making people feel guilty for eating this way as much as we shouldn’t with people who have the odd takeaway, bar of chocolate, glass of wine etc.

There is no right way to eat for everyone. There is of course the fairly solid science that whole, unprocessed foods are best for us nutritionally and a diet lacking in nutrients from vegetables, fruit and protein will not enable your body to repair and function well so basing your diet around this whether we like it or not is the way to go if we want to be healthy.

This has nothing to do with weight as you can overeat with “healthy” foods just as easily if you want to – watch me near a jar of pure peanut butter and you will see!

We should always eat to fuel our bodies and feel energetic and well, if you can do that whilst having the odd takeaway, glass of wine then that’s great but if post Pizza you look 6 months pregnant and take 3 days to recover (yes that’s me!) then don’t eat it-unless you really want to feel like that.

I don’t call either of these things disordered eating, I call them eating the food that makes you feel the best.

So, if you are what would be termed “a health freak” don’t feel like suddenly you need to start adding in a microwave meal and a couple of pints of lager to your week to avoid having an eating disorder.

At the end of the day yes we should enjoy our food, it is often the centre of social events and has the ability to change our moods but it is whether we like it or not food is a fuel for our body and the quality of output from that body depends on the input it gets from food.

A healthy relationship with food is eating food that you like and that makes you healthy and feel good; whatever that food may be is down to you and you don’t have an eating disorder because you eat differently to the person sat next to you.

Let’s Think Laterally

This week I want to look at lateral and rotational movement. We had a little look at this last week by adding a little twist into the flow but I want to address it more directly now.

I want to look at lateral bending – that’s bending to the side; and your spinal rotation.

Why do we need it? Well we actually bend, twist and turn a lot throughout our daily life As you pick things up such as shopping bags you will perform a lateral bend, when you are driving and pull out at junctions or reverse into a parking space; that’s a lot of rotation there.

In order to maintain a healthy spine it needs to twist and turn, as part of its stabilisation on uneven surfaces it performs micro rotations so it needs to maintain its ability to do this as much as possible.

For lateral bend I am going to make this really simple. In a mirror, start standing up straight with your hands by your sides and then slide your right arm down your right leg.

  • How far does it go?
  • Does your elbow reach your hip?
  • Do you tip forward or back as you go?

Ideally your elbow should reach your hip and you should stay neutral as if you are between two panes of glass on your back and front.

Now lets’ look at your rotation. You will need a broom handle or similar for this-your schooling or lunging whip will do!

Sitting down with room around you to turn, put the pole over the back of your shoulders and hook your arms over the top. Now turn your torso to the right and then to the left.

First notice how it feels. Was it an effort one way more so than the other? Ideally you should be able to get about 35-45⁰ rotation. Do you think you managed that?

Also notice whether your hips tried to come with you as you turned, you should aim for them to stay neutral.

If you feel like you struggled with either/both of these the simple fix is to actually perform the test movements for repetition however make them nice and slow focusing on correct alignment even if this means the movement has to be smaller. Over time the movement will get easier and the range of movement will increase.



Are You A Full Function?

So we have been focusing the past few weeks on common selected Flexibility and Stability issues. Whilst this is really useful in ascertaining on how well your body moves and performs it only gives us an insight into the individual areas. In order to fully assess our function we must also look at how our body performs as a unit. I.e. how the shoulders, hip and ankles function when asked to move together perhaps in a single line or in fact in opposite directions. Good full body movement is the key to moving well all day every day as very rarely do we try and move just a single joint at a time.

There are loads of different tests we could do to assess how well your body works as a unit, many therapist will use what is known as a Functional Movement Screen. This involves performing various movements using the whole body, however it requires some set up and the keen eye of a Therapist to assess how you perform.

We are going to have a little fun with ours. I consider good movement to involve 3 things-Mobility, Stability and Proprioception (body awareness) usually if someone can move with these things they move fairly well.

We are going to start with what is actually a very basic human movement that we learn as babies then as soon as we stand up we don’t bother with it again……Crawling. I’m not just going to ask you to crawl on your hands and knees we need to up the loading a little to make it more challenging. So you are going to get into a 4 point kneeling position and then lift your knees off the floor. From here move opposite pairs of limbs forward to crawl forward a few steps and then do the same in reverse to Crawl backwards. You want to keep your bottom in line with your hips-no cheating sticking it up in the air. This will assess your ability to move your hips and shoulders simultaneously and also your ability to co-ordinate your movement patterns i.e. the opposite arm and leg bit.

. Now let’s have a look at how you get on standing up. This addresses the same things but with the added load of full body weight and more stability required from your hips. Start standing on one leg; lift the knee to hip height and the arms above your head. As you do this notice what happens to your back and rib cage? We want to aim to keep the rib cage stacked over the pelvis and the spine in neutral. Any deviation from this suggests a restriction somewhere along the chain. Take your hands to “Charlies Angels Gun” position arms straight out in front and then keeping hips level and forward rotate your rib cage to the opposite side of the lifted leg. I.e. if your right leg is lifted turn left. Now let’s see how that proprioception is. Take the leg from lifted in front to lifted behind you, take your arms out in front and then drop your back foot behind you to land in a split squat, your foot should be facing forward as you drop down then take the arm of the back leg and side bend towards the front leg i.e. right leg behind, take right arm over to side bend left. Now push back to one leg to complete!


Have a go at these and let me know how you get on, next week we are going to look at rotational movement patterns.

If you would like a thorough assessment of your Biomechanics, Flexibility and Stability with a follow up personalised plan to address any issues hit reply to get yourself booked in.

Stable as a Table

If you did the stability tests from last week you will know which areas need work.

Ok, there are few ways to work on shoulder stability, many of which involve the arms overhead and obviously this is how we tested them. Many of them start with the shoulders over head, however I find most people struggle to over ride the upper shoulders lifting in this position and therefore cannot perform the exercise correctly. I want to make it easier for you to feel what you are trying to achieve (this is still not easy if you have particularly tense shoulders). In order to recruit your shoulder muscles more effectively we are going to focus solely on retracting the scapulars i.e using the muscles between the shoulder blades. When we spend hours hunched over desks these muscles become stretched and weak which over time causes us to over use the upper shoulders which many of you will find now sit somewhere just under your ears!

You can do this as a basic version or if you have access to a resistance band you can use that to make it a little more difficult.

Start with arms out in front at shoulder height. Relax your upper shoulders and begin to squeeze between your shoulder blades and draw your elbows back. Your upper shoulders should remain relaxed throughout. If you feel them popping up, go slower, and really squeeze your mid back and stick your chest out a little. I know this one is tough if you struggle with tense shoulders but I promise the persistence and results are worth it! Build up to 2 x 10.


We are actually going to perform the test we did for hip stability as the fix.

Start lying on your back, feet flat on the floor. Lift your elbows and put your hands on your hip bones to feel what they are doing. Go up into a bridge position and keeping your hips lifted and level lift alternate feet off the floor. If you can’t do this without falling over make the movement smaller and just lift your heel up keeping your toe down. Build up to 2 x 10 each leg.


Again there are many different ways of doing it, however I have kept this simple and no/minimal equipment.

Calf raises can be done on the floor, or off a step on two legs or one-if you like a challenge! If you are on the floor you just lift your heel to balance on the ball of your foot and slowly go back down again. This can be done on two legs or one. If you are using a step, balance on the ball of your feet/foot and drop the heel down and then raise it up. Do this slowly and without bouncing. Build up to 2 x 10 each side if single leg.

Are You Stable?

So far in this little mini series we have looked at flexibility, measured it and then looked at ways to improve it. Now we are going to look at mobility. I have mentioned previously Movement Expert Gray Cook describes mobility as the ability to demonstrate flexibility under load. Basically do you still have a range of movement at a particular joint when it is asked to work.

As we looked at Shoulders, Hips  and Ankles for flexibility we are going to stick with them for stability.

Starting with the Shoulders.

It is actually quite difficult to self test stability of the shoulder so what we are actually going to do is look at its function pattern during movement. The point being if it is dysfunctional in a basic movement pattern it needs work.

Standing up, put one hand on the opposite shoulder. The free arm put out in front of you at shoulder height. Draw that arm back keeping it straight. If your upper shoulder muscle pops up under your hand you failed the test. Repeat on the other side.



Lying on your back, feet flat on the floor, knees bent. Lift your hips into a bridge position. Put your hands on your hip bones and lift your elbows off the floor (no cheating). Engage your glutes and abdominals and lift one foot off the floor. Does either hip drop, or move around as you do this? You failed the test. Repeat on the other side.


There are lots of different ways to look at ankle stability as there are ligaments going in all directions, and again it can be difficult to completely isolate without the use of a therapist. However I am going to keep this simple and fairly functional, however I should mention if you failed the hip stability test you are more than likely going to fail this one too and it may be due to your hips not ankles. However if your hips were ok and you fail this, it probably is your ankles. If you fail both you should work on improving both as they rely on each other very much for good movement patterns.

Starting feet together stand on your tip toes . Now put on foot directly in front of the other and walk a few steps. Can you do it?

I will leave you with those and next week we will look at fixing your weak spots.


If you would like a full screening of your flexibility and stability, and a personalised programme to address any issues book in with me in the studio for a Biomechanics Assessment.

Fix Your Flexibility

Last week we tested your flexibility, so this week I want to give you some help on improving those areas you struggled with.


First, your shoulders and upper back. Wall Angels works to encourage you to open your chest and really use your scapulars which in turn improves their mobility.

Stand about 2-4 inches away from a wall and put your bottom and whole back and head flat against the wall. Start with your arms bent just below shoulder height. You should be able to feel your shoulder blades touching the wall-your aim is to be able to keep them touching the wall throughout this exercise. Start to raise your arms up the wall as if going to join your hands over your head, as soon as your scapula moves away from the wall go back down and start again. Build up to 2 x 10 reps.

Next up your hips. Now as we went though 3 different areas on the hips I have 3 different fixes depending on where you felt you needed work.

So if you remember we looked at the front of the thigh first. Here is a stretch that has a basic and more advanced version depending on what level you are at.

Start kneeling up and then put one foot out a good stride length in front of you with the knee bent. You can just bring your hips forward here if that feels like a deep stretch to you, or if you need to go deeper you can put your back lower leg up against a wall (or gym ball as I have done) Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds

If your leg rolled in on the hip test you need to work on your inner thighs. Stat kneeling and take one leg out to the side as far as it with comfortably go. Put your hands out in front of you for support, and start to gently rock forward and back and then hold the stretch for 30-60 secs.

If your leg rolled out you need to work on your outer thigh. Start lying on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Cross one ankle over the opposite knee. And then take hold of the leg underneath and lift it up. Hold for 30-60 seconds.

And finally the ankles. Start kneeling and put one foot out in front of you and keep your chest low on top of the thigh. Keeping the heel of the front foot down use your body weight to press the thigh gently forward and back and then hold for 30-60 secs where you feel a stretch. You may need to experiment with the position of your foot.

Get to work on these before we start looking at your stability next week!


I still have space for 121 clients in the studio, so hit reply if you want help hitting your goals this year.

How’s Your Flexibility?

After last week’s discussion about feeling fitter let’s start with addressing your flexibility.

We will look at some key areas and I will take you through some self-tests that you can do to find out where you maybe need to do some work.

Remember these are just starting points, don’t be disheartened if you don’t get great results, I’m here to help you improve them. We just need an idea of where you are starting so that will be able to measure how much you have improved.

Here goes then. Obviously this would be ideal if you could get a friend to help with the readings and take pictures but doing them alone is fine and just writing notes on how things felt etc. will be equally beneficial.

Upper Back/Shoulders.

Lying on your back, knees bent feet flat on the floor. Find your neutral spine and have your hands down by your side. Now raise one arm above your head whilst maintaining neutral spine.

  • If you can touch the floor behind you-Great work you have excellent upper back and shoulder mobility.
  • If your back begins to arch before you touch the floor then your upper back and shoulders need some work.



You will need a sturdy table for this, or you could stack up some bales of hay or shavings. Anything that you can safely lie on without your feet touching the floor. A friend to help and validate the results is useful is possible but if not you will get a good idea of how you score on your own.

Sit yourself with your seat bones on the edge of the table. Bring one knee into your chest and lie back with the other leg still hanging off the edge.

There are three things to look for in this test.

  1. Is the hanging leg lifting off the table, staying level with the table or does the knee drop lower than the table? If it does not drop below the table your Psoas needs work.
  2. Is shin hanging less 90⁰? Hanging at 90⁰ or is it feely swinging past 90⁰? If it does not swing past 90⁰ your Quads require work.
  3. Is the thigh rolling in or out or has it stayed straight? If the thigh rolls in your adductors need work, if it rolls out your abductors need work.

Ankles-Stand about 10cm away from a wall. Feet flat on the floor. Bend one knee towards the wall keeping the heel down and ensuring that the ankle does not roll in or out.

  • If you can touch the wall-Great you have excellent ankle mobility!
  • If you were nowhere near the wall-You need some work on your ankle mobility!