Blog Default

Make it Easy

I’ve been talking a lot lately about making good habits, making them lifestyle changes and therefore making them as easy as possible for them to stick to.

 

You see this can often be the biggest barrier for people-how difficult some thing is to implement.

This is why any new habit should be made as convenient as possible.

If it is going to take you an hour out of your way to get to the gym are you really going to commit to it 5 mornings a week?

If your new healthy breakfast requires 14 ingredients and 30 mins every morning to prepare are you going to do it?

So, don’t make life hard for yourself.

  • Unless you are absolutely dedicated to going, join a gym or class near to you that is convenient for you to get to.
  • Always have a gym bag ready to go. Either lay out for the early morning session or in your car for that lunch time or after work session.
  • Buy an absolute ton of Tupperware, big pans and bowls and bulk prepare meals for the week. They don’t need to be gourmet recipes just simple tasty food like chillies, curries, lasagne, and their many variants. Once you’ve done it a couple of times you will get into a routine and it will take no time at all.
  • If you have to travel with food, buy a cool bag! Trust me nothing can put you off what was a healthy lunch more than it wilting in the heat.
  • Be a little bit lazy. There is nothing wrong with making life easier for youself by buying pre chopped or frozen vegetables, microwave rice etc. If it makes you more likely to make that healthy meal etc. it’s really worth the corner cutting.
  • Plan your meals for the week BEFORE you do your food shopping. I can’t stress this enough, plan your meals, write your shopping to cater for it and then keep the meal plan on the fridge. That way when you get home you won’t need to think about what to have it will actually be more inconvenient to eat something else.

What little hacks do you do to make healthy living more convenient?

Summer Hacks

Well it turns out this sunshine is sticking around. Which is weird for us brits and loads of us are finding it’s kind of throwing us off kilter.

Suddenly all those habits we had that worked really well when it was cold, wet and windy i.e. in the usual weather have gone out of the window.

I know plenty of people have definitely spent more time in the beer garden, or indeed their own gardens drinking more alcohol than usual. Then that sweaty workout class or after work run doesn’t seem so appealing when you’re worried you will pass out in the heat.

The thing is this is also probably the time you are feeling most body conscious-all those summer bodies are made in the winter posts are coming home to roost huh?

All the more reason to not let the hot weather derail you into full holiday mode and instead use it as a chance to just do things a little differently.

 

First step is staying Hydrated! This is even more important than usual and can make or break your entire day. Headaches, heatstroke and swollen ankles and fingers can be kept at bay with good hydration. You may find if you are outside a lot in the heat or particularly active you need to add an electrolyte or just a little bit of salt to your water to help you replace lost salts from sweating.

 

If it’s really too hot for you to do your usual workout, change it up a bit. Most gyms have air conditioning, or you could go for a swim (my gym has an outdoor pool!); maybe do a slower paced class like yoga or Pilates instead of your usual high impact. Or maybe just change the time of day you work out. I’m finding it cooler in the mornings so that’s when I’m doing any riding etc. so that maybe the best time to do your run, and it doesn’t seem quite as hard to get up when it’s sunny!

Your diet may well have infiltrated a few extra ice creams and gin & tonics this past week or so and I’m not going to say you should knock them on the head, however maybe to offset the extra indulgence you could eat a little lighter elsewhere? Sunny mornings don’t need a bowl of porridge to heat you up for the day so maybe you could just have some fruit and a little yoghurt. Scorching lunch and dinners are the perfect opportunity to have plenty of salad instead of bread and potatoes, and surely chocolate in only melting in this heat? So, that should save you a few calories for that ice cream & G&T!

Fresh Start Tuesdays

The concept of a fresh start is usually most notable at new year, maybe September when the kids go back to school or for the constant yo yo dieters every Monday!

When it comes to building new habits in order to make them become part of our lives we have to make a fresh start as they become part of our new daily routine. In the book I am currently reading “better than before “ by Gretchen Rubin she talks about new habits being best kept to when people have had new starts such as house moves,  ew jobs etc. She uses an example of someone who starts a new job and wants to go the gym before work every morning. Initially this person thought that they might not go on the first day at their new job, but Gretchen said that they should as this immediately establishes this new routine and immediately makes the gym visit a part of the whole new experience of the working week- get up go to gym, go to new job. They did go on the first day and the gym became an immediate part of their routine.

She talks about people who found it easier to stick to new diet rules whilst they were away from home I.e. change of normal routine.

The thing is, you might not actually have a fresh start event coming up.

 

However that doesn’t mean you can’t have a fresh start any time you like. Y’know like Monday! Although honestly I think a saturday or sunday when you have time to plan, deal with any issues that might arise and potentially derail you are actually a better option. In reality though a fresh start can be made mid afternoon on a tuesday it’s really up to you.

 

The key is doing something to make it a completely new routine, and make it as convenient as possible.

 

For example, if you plan to make the gym a new morning activity the night before pack all the things you will need to get ready for work at the gym-so it’s all packed away. Then leave out only your gym clothes, that way when you wake up you just get up and put on the gym clothes-you’d have to unpack to get to your work things. The packing of all your things the night before is the creation of the new routine.

 

If you have decided to overhaul your diet, but you get derailed in the supermarket-do your shopping online. This creates a new routine and therefore the fresh start.has been created.

 

Yes of course some will power and a dedication to consistently carrying out these things will still be needed-but just commit yourself for a week, then for another another week, and then challenge yourself for another week……………………….

 

Gym Fitness Without The Gym

After last weeks talk about challenges I was reading an article by a guy called Ash Dykes who is an adventurer. He basically does crazy endurance type challenges in ridiculous places in ridiculous conditions like trekking solo carrying his own kit across 2400km of Mongolia. Anyway, fairly extreme but his challenges are not the point of this email.

 

What I found interesting is that this guy does all of his training without a gym membership. Now as someone who trains clients without the use of a fully purposed gym this is no great shock to me that it’s possible to get insanely fit this way. However I meet lots of people who say the reason they don’t exercise is because they either don’t want to or don’t have time to go to the gym.

 

Well, no excuses you don’t need a gym. There are loads of different ways to get fit without ever lifting a barbell.

 

You can of course take this guys route and just do standard exercise using whatever you have around you. Park bench for push ups, dips etc, hills for sprints, stairs for steps ups.

You can add equipment such as Kettlebells, Tyres, Ropes etc.

 

You can follow one of the many bodyweight workouts on youtube. You can do anything from 5 minutes to an hour this way and you can do it in your PJ’s if you want too!

 

Or you can just make your day to day stuff more active.

 

Gardening, Carrying the shopping, Cleaning can all be done more briskly to raise your heart rate and burn some calories. Think about it, these jobs still have to be done, but if you do them a little faster not only will you have more free time at the end but you will have made yourself a little fitter to boot.

 

Walk the dog a little faster -I hate seeing dog walkers let their dogs off the lead and bimble behind them barely walking. That is prime time to be getting some exercise in yourself! Even if you like to let your dog off the lead keep your walking pace up, maybe run around with them, encourage them to chase you, throw their toys and just move around interacting with them. That way it’s good for you and your dog!

 

Combine it with your social life. Why not meet a friend for a walk, swim or exercise class rather than for a drink-ok you can still go for cake afterwards if you must!

 

Basically I just want to urge you to think outside the box. Fitness is not confined to pumping iron at the gym, just look at ways you can add a little more activity into your daily life and your long term health (and possibly your waist line) will thank you for it.

 

Challenge Yourself

Whenever we think of Fitness goals we always think of huge lifts or marathons or other crazy hardcore stuff. The thing is not everyone is really into that or perhaps if you are struggling with injuries, pain etc. Then the very idea of a fitness goal can seem ludicrous.

 

But what if you set just a little goal? Maybe just perfecting a single exercise that would either be very useful to you in terms of your other fitness, hobbies etc. Or just because you will feel super cool when you do it.

 

For example Crow pose in yoga is great for upper body strength and balance and you don’t need to super human to do it, just prepared to keep practicing

 

For me it is gym ball mastery, for others it’s headstands, handstands, full press ups, chin ups or pistol squats.

 

They don’t have to be even that extreme, maybe like when I was coming back from injuries just working towards a good form body weight squat is an achievable and incredibly useful goal.

 

Basically it’s up to you how big or how small you go and it doesn’t matter as long as achieving will make you feel good.

 

I’d love to know what goals you want to achieve or if you need a little inspiration let me know.

It hurts because you said it did

So I’ve been talking about injuries and pain a bit recently. The thing with pain is it’s actually an incredibly complex subject. There are many factors that influence it, not just the mechanics of any injury but also beliefs and mind-set.

I was once told that if a patient is told that something hurts it will hurt.  So, if I tell you your elbow has a problem and is potentially painful it might not hurt now but if I perhaps say “hmm that’s Interesting, I would expect that issue to give you pain in your elbow” I can almost guarantee soon after you will start to notice pain in your elbow……………..have you got a pain in your elbow yet?

The thing is there may not be anything wrong with your elbow but as soon as you focus on a perceived problem, the brain tells you there is a problem and that a problem means pain-simple version is you just told yourself you were in pain so you are now in pain.

What is pain?

Pain is your brains response to a perceived threat. If you break your leg, you experience pain to encourage you to rest it until it heals. Unfortunately these signals can sometimes get scrambled and this is what causes chronic pain.

We kind of need to press the reboot button (or switch it off and back on again like a pc) but it’s not really that simple with the brain.

Just because the brain is experiencing a threat that is not really there does not mean that the pain is actually imagined, it is to the person experiencing it very real. However we can help to “reboot” by dealing with the psychological and emotional factors surrounding pain.

Firstly I think knowledge is power, as is the language we ourselves and rather importantly the professionals treating us use. (I’m not going down that rant….) This refers back to the catastrophizing blog last week; in that if you believe that your joints and/or muscles are weak, damaged and vulnerable then you will protect them, and worry about them. Again back to the idea that if we believe we are in pain then we are indeed in pain. If we can just have a rational, logical chat with ourselves about what is happening it can help to switch off the alarm bells.

If you get a sharp twinge in your back, perhaps getting up off a chair I imagine the commentary goes like this.

“Oh s!*t that hurts, I’ve damaged something, I’ve slipped a disc, if I move any more I could be paralysed…..”

Now of course there are incredibly, rare and extreme circumstances that this may be the case, however you really aren’t that special. What should actually be the commentary is.

“Ouch, that was a twinge in the nervous system, well I’m still standing and functioning so I should just carry on moving gently and progressively and the pain disappear in a minute”

This can of course be a problem when there has previously been a problem area. I see this lot with back pain. If someone has been told they have “a slipped disc” or a “degenerating spine” they are envisaging their spine as weak, fragile and degrading like a rock face. Every creak or twinge tells their brain that a little more damage has been done. No wonder they struggle to get out of pain and on with their lives!

However if they were educated properly about the strength of the spine (it’s way more stable than we give it credit for), what a “slipped disc” actually is and the fact that all of our spines are degenerating along with the rest of our bodies and it is the equivalent of telling people with wrinkly faces they have “degenerative face disease”-completely normal part of the ageing process that yes is quicker in some than others but you cannot fix “degenerative face disease” by keeping it still and the same goes for your spine.

So, let me know if there are any pain issues you are dealing with that you would like a little reflection on and I will see what I can do.

 

Stop Catastrophising It

As I work with people who generally want help with their body movement in some way I here lots of different ailments, issues and injuries day in day out.

I’ve had scoliosis, osteoporosis, arthritis, new hips, spondylothesis, recovering dislocated shoulders, post knee surgery, ankle surgery and so much back surgery that I am almost blasé’ to it. I train people with lifelong disabilities and am obsessed with following Instagram accounts of people pushing though barriers that would stop lesser mortals and they go on to achieve what may have been considered the impossible. I also find the Paralympics way more inspirational than the Olympics. The lady riding Dressage with no legs……………..I’ve literally got no excuse wonky hips or not at least I’ve got some!

Now as I said I see these things every day so it’s kind of my normal, but what concerns me is that many of these people have been given such negative advice and phrases for their Dr’s and Surgeons etc. So much to the point they can often be scared to move!

The smallest twinge can have some people convinced they are seconds away from full body paralysis! The “my Dr said my disc was right on my spinal cord” you know it’s always pretty close right as its job is to protect it? It takes a serious whack to damage your spinal cord not just a bit of gardening. The “Surgeon said I would always have back pain, he can’t fix me” The surgeon forgot to finish the sentence which should have been “You have got to fix you because surgery won’t do it on its own and whether you have pain or not is again down to you and not a surgeons words”.

“I was told to be careful with my new hip, knee……” It’s actually an upgrade you know! So long as you do correct rehab to mobilise scar tissue and strengthen muscles following surgery it will work just as well if not better than your old one! Trust me I’ve seen it many times.

There are also those that have an onset of back pain and drag themselves to A&E only to feel very dismissed when they just get sent home with some painkillers-“no X-Ray or MRI!”  They have not don’t you a disservice they just know that unless you have had an actual accident there is no reason to suspect a potentially fatal issue with your back and you would be better off with a referral to a movement specialist.

There is also this huge phobia people have of clicking and grinding noises. I often have people say “there is definitely something wrong with my knees they click when I bend them”. I don’t remember ever reading that bodies shouldn’t click-apart from the old wives tale about it causing arthritis which is completely untrue. Clicking, grinding etc. is just air and tendons and ligaments moving about. Anyone that knows me knows I click all the time and you know when I do it the most…………………..after yoga i.e. when I’m at my most bendy!

The thing is I don’t ever remember anyone ever telling me life would be easy and completely pain free?

Unfortunately a lot of the language around pain and posture and injury issues can sound quite scary and therefore be taken completely out of context. There are also just not the resources in the NHS to do thorough and proper rehab and we get left to our own devices.

For some people they have a “bring it on, this won’t stop me” mentality and I find these people (myself included) no matter what will always continue to exercise and either accept that sometimes stuff will hurt or in fact pain will diminish it just takes hard work and a commitment to your body.

You see I read a lot of research about rehab, and pain science and no matter what the injury, ailment, issue or operation the most successful treatment is always the same………………………….exercise!

To me this makes perfect sense for many reasons.

If the issue is due to a joint problem then strengthening the muscles around it will help to support it and therefore minimise any damage and therefore reduce pain.

If the issue is post-surgery then muscle wastage due to immobility needs to be dealt with and again strengthening the muscles surrounding any problem areas can only be a positive step towards supporting it.

Scar tissue following surgery needs to regain its elasticity as the continual shortening has the potential to actually cause more restrictions around the area.

If muscles are generally weak due to postural problems etc. then strengthening obviously helps them to deal with whatever life throws at them much better.

Alongside all that, exercise has been proven to boost your mood as well as improving your general health and helping to minimise risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

Now I’m not going to lie and say you will do some exercise and immediately after you will feel amazing, anything new to your body may well still be uncomfortable at first-but you were already uncomfortable doing nothing and getting progressively worse with no option but to up your pain killers………………….what if I told you after the initial uncomfortable stage of starting exercise you may actually start to feel better and those pain killers will start to be less necessary??? That sounds like a better long term solution doesn’t it?

So, whatever body injury, ailment, and pain you are dealing with do not accept it as a reason to sit around, sulk and moan about it whilst doing nothing. If you are doing that stay away from me I’m not tolerant! If you want to do something about it then start now, start small accept there may be set backs but pick yourself up and try again, and if you want some help give me a call-whingers and catastrophisers need not apply!

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.