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But Everyone Will Stare

This week I was a speaker at an event that featured a Sports Psychologist. She discussed some things that stop people doing the things they want to do.

I see this a lot with my clients. In particular with having had home based clients for several years I have seen people that struggle to exercise because they are scared what other people will think if they see them. That’s everything from not wanting to go to the gym, running outside or even joining a group class. I get it, if you are feeling out of shape or if exercise is new to you then it can be pretty scary to step outside your comfort zone.

If you have never been to the gym, you imagine a place of ripped gym freaks all staring at out of shape no idea what you’re doing you.  Well for most gyms I’ve visited that is simply not the case. In fact people will not even notice you are there! Those ripped gym freaks are too busy looking at themselves in the mirror, and the other regular folk probably feel as self-conscious as you so they certainly aren’t judging you.

If you think you can’t exercise outside because people will stare just ask yourself how many times you have driven passed someone out for a run and mocked or belittled them for it??? Probably never ……………..or you are just not a nice person and you should probably address that. So if that’s what you want to do as part of your healthy lifestyle get out there and do it, and then be hugely disappointed by the lack of hecklers!

That group exercise class, in your head is full of super models with Olympic gymnast strength and flexibility. Have you ever been to a class like that? I’ve been to plenty of classes in my time and I can honestly say not one of them has been like that. They have just been filled with various different kinds of regular people, some like you, and yes some will be super fit but not the entire class-and the super fit ones……they don’t care what you are doing they are too focused on what they are doing. Everyone else is just trying to survive the event like you!

So, I hope you can see that the only person being negative about you exercising is you. Having a rational talk with yourself and looking at what is actually happening in the situation rather than what your emotional, self-conscious head tells you is happening is a good way to break down your own barriers. If not……..well my studio is pretty private so only you and I need know what goes on in there!

You’ve got to fix you

Over the past few weeks I’ve had several people in the studio wanting me to help them with their pain issues. Now it’s all very well coming to see me for an hour and either having a massage or going through some stretching and mobility work; of course you may well leave feeling better (or at least I hope you do!) but that was just one hour out of your week, what about the other 167 hours?

Ok, some of that will be spent sleeping.

  • Is your mattress supportive?
  • Do you have a good pillow set up?

Then you may spend 40 + hours at work.

  • What are your work habits like?
  • Do you sit or stand for long periods in the same position?
  • Do you wear shoes that are unsupportive or most commonly the same shoes every day?

What about when you are at home? How are you spending your time there?

You see the point I am making is that those people that I see that want my help, I can give them exercises or suggestions of how to help themselves with their problems but often they don’t follow through.

It will come as no surprise that the common reason for not following through is being too busy.

  • Too busy to spend 20 minutes per day doing a little physio
  • Too busy to adjust their seating position throughout their day
  • Too busy to think about how they could change their daily habits to minimise their pain.

Too busy to get themselves out of pain?

I have often rather abruptly told these people that I am sure they will find time to think about fitting these things in when the pain has taken over and they are no longer able to go to work and go about their daily activities-hey I mean it sincerely that I need them to see what they have actually just said.

“I am too busy to help myself stay out of pain and prevent it getting worse” Or “I am too busy to prioritise the health and function of my own body”

You ask someone with a disability whether they think they could find 20-30 mins of time per day to work on their body and it would make them fully mobile guess what they would say? (And yes I asked a real person with a disability)

If you are having any issues with pain then of course get some professional help (if you want straight talking no nonsense then you can call me!) but of course be prepared that any therapist or Dr can only do so much the rest is down to you.

Priority Sleep

I’ve been reading a book about understanding your own and other people’s personality types in order to give them the right tools to help them stick with good habits.

It begins by talking about prioritising basic needs and top of the list of and often the most neglected is sleep.

Sleep is an absolute must for not just making you feel better the next day but for actual survival-sleep deprivation is not used as a form of torture for nothing you know!

“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” Thomas Dekker

Basically sleep is when our bodies repairs and restores muscles, organs and cells and brain power. Lack of sleep can cause aches and pains, headaches, inability to concentrate and over time begin to affect the function of your organs etc. as they have not time to adequately regenerate.

Yet, it can often be an incredibly undervalued aspect of our health and wellbeing; in fact the ability to survive on very little sleep has become a badge of honour. Often in the pursuit of weight loss and fitness we forego sleep without realising how this can be a form of self-sabotage. Think crazy early starts to get your workout in, only to be knackered for the rest of the day and not being bothered to cook when you get home so you order a pizza………………..

The key to a successful balance is to understand how your own personality and preference works in order to find a routine that works for you.

If you are naturally an early riser then exercising in the morning may well be for you, but that does mean you need to be extra vigilant about getting to bed early in order to get in 7-8 hours of sleep.

If you are more of a night owl then exercising in the evening will probably work better for you and you can enjoy that extra hour in bed in the morning.

The same applies to eating habits. If you are up early and can eat a hearty breakfast it makes sense to eat a big meal that may well need preparing at this time of day, and then later in the day something prepared ahead or easy to prepare so that you have more time to get that early night in.

Then of course it is the reverse for the late nighter. Breakfast may be quick, light and on the go and then the evening meal may require more cooking and longer to digest before going to bed.

So if you are continuing your pursuit of weight loss, fitness and overall health and well ness put sleep at the top of the list, and then slot your other good habits around it as the will power to stick to them and make them a permanent lifestyle change will be a whole lot easier if your brain is awake enough to make the decisions.

Staying Level

I often get asked by people why certain muscles get tight, restricted or underused and the answer is simply “life”. That is our everyday actions and habits that we do over and over again usually in the same way each time.

Think about what some of those actions might be. You brush your teeth with your right hand, drink your coffee with your right hand, you carry your bag on your right shoulder and then perhaps you have one of those curved desks that makes you sit to the right?

Then you perhaps drive your car hunched over the steering wheel, you sit at a desk hunched over the keyboard and then you clean the bathroom hunched over……………….

Do you see what’s happening here? You repeat the same action with the same muscles time and time again, even though the activities themselves maybe different the way in which you use your body is not.

Obviously for different people these repetitive actions will be different but they are essentially the same-repetitive actions.

This can then present itself in numerous ways in your body.

· Restriction can occur in the overused side due to tension
· Restriction can be present in the underused side –which prevents it from performing correctly at all
· Soreness in the over used side –because well tired and over used.
· Soreness in the underused side, often due it being weak and therefore struggling with any load/work at all

There lots of other weird and wonderful ways that overuse can present itself in the body (the human continues to delight, surprise and baffle me!) but these are the most common issues I see.

Depending on the severity of the imbalance depends on how much treatment in terms of physical therapy, rehabilitation exercise etc. is required but a really simple way to help yourself with this is to change up the way you do things.

So, let’s try over the next week or so to do things with your opposite hand! Try brushing your teeth with your non dominant hand.

1% at a time

When we set goals or start new things they can often seem insurmountable.

Say you want to lose weight and improve your diet, you could completely overhaul everything overnight but in reality that is going to be incredible difficult and science has proven many times not sustainable.

 

If you live off cakes, biscuits and takeaway to suddenly switch to salad and fruit is going to be very very hard!.

 

However this doesn’t mean you will never be able to do these things, it just means you are going to have to make some changes and put in some hard work to help to get you there.

 

If you could change just one thing on week one say, drinking more water then that’s a great start. Yes the rest of your diet may be terrible but you have taken a positive step. Then on week two you change another habit, perhaps make your breakfast a healthier option and so on the cycle continues until over the course of the next few months your diet is unrecognisable from when you started out-but you didn’t make life difficult for yourself by trying to do everything at once-you kind of sneaked a healthy diet onto yourself.

 

Just aim to improve 1% at a time and those 1%’s will soon add up to make 100%, or I guess in a real diet and nutrition sense I should say 80% as chocolate, alcohol, take aways (or all of the above….) whatever your “vice” is still fine in moderation it just doesn’t make up the highest percentage of your diet.

Fancy Fats

Ok, so last Macro Nutrient this week it is Fats.

Fats have definitely had plenty of bad press over the years, and it is not warranted. We shouldn’t avoid eating fats at all, they are vital for a healthy body it’s just about eating the right kind of fats.

Fats are broken down into 3 categories.

Saturated Fat

Monosaturated Fat

Polyunsaturated Fat. (Further broken down into Omega 3 and Omega 6).

Fat of all 3 types are important to our overall health.

  • It provides the most energy-this does mean it has the most calories but………moderation.
  • It aids manufacture and balance of hormones
  • Builds and repairs organ cells, the brain and nervous system
  • Transport Vitamins namely Fat the soluble Vitamins ADE & K
  • It provides the aforementioned Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids that the body cannot make itself.

Most of the bad rap for fats has been aimed at Saturated Fats. However this is slightly unfair and where common sense should apply. In reality people will quite often consume Saturated Fat alongside high sugar intake and refined carbohydrates –think takeaway and doughnuts….

Suddenly Eggs and Steak are getting the blame for health issues such as high cholesterol associated with a high level if saturated fat. In fact foods such as red meat and eggs contain as much and often more monosaturated fats than saturated fats-so get back to your Eggs people.

As with any part of the diet the devil is in the dose and all 3 kinds of Fats should be consumed but none should be over consumed. If you are eating fresh, whole unprocessed foods as 80% of your diet you probably don’t have anything to worry about with regards to your fat intake.

However if you have been brain washed into following a low fat diet and find yourself constantly starving or lacking energy and struggling to concentrate perhaps you need to readdress the balance.

Healthy Fat Sources include.

  • Oily Fish such as Salmon, Mackerel. Try and eat at least one portion a week.
  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Eggs-particularly the yolks
  • Avocado
  • Olives
  • Meat
  • Dairy
  • Coconut-Coconut Oil has become popular to cook with and add to smoothies and porridge as an easy way to add healthy fat to your diet.

Your homework this week then is to have a look at your Fat intake. If you don’t already try adding one healthy fat portion to your diet every day next week maybe just an egg, some fish or a handful of nuts and see that brain power rocket!

 

 

Protein Pick & Mix

Thanks to everyone that responded to last week about the new carb sources they had been experimenting with-Lentils and Cous Cous has now entered the menu!

This week I want to look at Protein. Most people think of Protein as just those shakes that gym freaks drink and as meat. However there are loads more foods that contain Protein that we should try and include in our diets to keep it varied.

Protein is vital for repair of the body, not just repair from injury or after heavy exercise but also the day to day constant regeneration of organ tissue, muscles, tendons and ligaments; and every other part of your body down to hair, skin and nails.

To be honest I find most people don’t eat enough protein, particularly vegetarians and vegans. A general guide is around 1.5-2g per kg of bodyweight.

So,

Protein is found in

  • Meat
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Fish/Seafood
  • Meat alternatives and Soya products
  • Legumes – beans, peanuts (this includes peanut butter-yay!)
  • Lentils
  • Seeds

To make sure you are eating enough aim to have a serving at every meal. Maybe if you switched to porridge at breakfast you would be adding milk (plant based milks have a little less but Soy is your best option of you are Vegan/Vegetarian).

Or perhaps you could have eggs for breakfast? I pre boil mine in advance and just peel them and eat them in the morning.

If you do  rush out the door without eating why not make a protein shake (you can buy any brand it doesn’t have to be over priced with “magic” properties) and add some milk, a banana or other fruit, a spoonful of peanut butter and maybe even some cacao powder. That’s plenty of Protein in one hit.

Lunch and Dinner time the options are many and varied; add Meat or Fish/Seafood to salads and veg, make a bean or lentil chilli, casserole etc. You could also sprinkle salads or meat/fish with seeds to boost the protein content further.

For snacks try

  • Cottage Cheese
  • Yoghurt
  • Nuts and seeds
  • hummus and crudites
  • peanut butter-try spreading it on an apple
  • edamame beans
  • Beef jerky
  • Boiled eggs
  • Protein bars and shakes

Carb Creativity

Ok hands up, who’s potentially shaped like an Easter egg right now? Yes my hand is up and I’m hoping you can’t see the Crème Egg sat next to me as I write this…..

I thought we would have a look at trying to shake up our eating habits. Not just in an eat more broccoli and no pizza kind of way but more in a try new things way.

So I’m going to start with trying new Carbohydrates. You see Crabs get a bad reputation, and not really deserved. The problem is we are just really good at over eating Carbs, it’s not their fault they are so tasty and comforting.

To prove this I want you to read a pasta packet and weight out the recommended serving (usually around 75g) and just see how different that is compared to how much you usually eat. Clue-it’s usually a big difference!

We also get stuck on the same things. When we think of Carbs we think Bread, Pasta, Potatoes and Pastry.

In fact there are lots of other options!

  • Vegetables, not just potatoes but also any other veg such as Carrots, Beetroot, Cabbage..
  • Fruit
  • Grains-Wheat, Oats, Rice, Quinoa etc.
  • Beans/Legumes-Chickpeas, Black Beans, Cannellini Beans, Lentils

Why not try challenging yourself to mix up your carbs a bit.

  • Have Oats instead of toast at breakfast
  • Eat coloured fruit and/or vegetables at every meal. So berries in those oats, broccoli, carrots, peppers etc. in your lunch and dinner.
  • Try a grain and/or bean you have never eaten before. Maybe try Teff or Freekah (you can get them in the supermarket I promise) with a lunch salad or make a Chilli with some different kinds of beans added.

I’d love to hear how you get on with your experiments!

 

Believe In Your Will Power

Willpower is often talked about as the make or break of dieting.

Previous research suggested that we had a limited number of decisions that we could make in the day. This is the reason Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg have wardrobes of the same coloured suits and t shirts; they can save the decision making for the important business stuff.

However, more recent research –which is still ongoing; suggests that how much willpower we have is down to how much willpower we think we have.

Interesting………..

It appears that this continuing rise in mind-set is incredibly relevant when it comes to willpower.

Carol Dweck is a Professor of Psychology and has previously written about this in her book Mindset. Her theory is that people with a fixed mindset limit their potential by being unable to believe that they can increase their capability in things like intelligence or confidence. People with a growth mindset believe that they can achieve whatever they want with a strategy, clear goals and hard work.

This then leads us back to our will power and our beliefs about it as well as our beliefs about our ability to lose weight or run 5k for example.

We need to be able to believe that we are capable of resisting that slice of cake, we are capable of losing weight and keeping it off and we are capable of running 5k or whatever else it may be.

Do you believe that you are capable of achieving your goals?

Maybe if you have failed before you think that it is because you aren’t able to do it? Hey, I failed my driving test twice but I passed eventually! There are plenty of people that faced this situation but we didn’t give up and we succeeded eventually.

The same can apply to anything. If you have spent years dieting and then falling off the wagon you may believe that this will happen every time you try to lose weight.

STOP! YOU ARE CAPABLE OF ANYTHING YOU JUST HAVE TO BELIEVE YOU ARE! And then of course you have to put in the necessary hard work to achieve it.

But your first barrier is you and your mindset.

Start believing that you do have plenty of willpower to say no that extra glass of wine; once you have done that once you have your previous experience to remind you that you have done it before so you can do it again.

Believe that you are the sort of person who loses weight and keeps it off.

You can run 5k-you just need to build it up over time and you will get there.

Just believe that you can!

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.