Plan for a Healthy Christmas

December is here which means it’s officially Christmas. 

I know plenty of people that will have decided they may as well scrap any sense of healthy eating and exercise now and start again in January. You’re not those people though are you? 

I know you’ve got loads of socialising to do, there’s mince pies and quality street in every office up and down the land so it feels impossible to have any semblance of a healthy lifestyle.

I’m not suggesting you avoid the whole thing in a bid to stay healthy but I am suggesting you at least try and add an element of balance into negotiating the festive period.

Firstly, stick to an exercise habit. It doesn’t have to be your full regular training schedule if some of it clashes with social events; but trying to maintain at least a couple of gym sessions or a short morning run or lunch time walk will actually help to keep your energy levels up for the extra partying you’ve got to do-as well as helping to keep you in shape for those sparkly outfits lads….

Get your diary out now and put in your exercise sessions, taking into account social events, hangovers the next day etc and you might be surprised at how easy it is to fit in 2-3 sessions across the week with a bit of planning, even if it’s just a walk.

Ok, whilst I can’t banish all those treats from your office I can help you plan how to manage them. Back in my office days I got around this by insisting my secretary did all of the coffee making so I didn’t have to go near the treats,  Obviously this showed no regard for my secretary’s health but it s every woman for herself! This of course is not a viable solution…….

Firstly make sure you have your own healthy meals and snacks with you so you aren’t reaching for the chocolate because you’re hungry. Secondly be realistic, you aren’t going to abstain completely but you can limit yourself to one treat per day. So maybe one mince pie or a couple of celebrations instead of your usual afternoon snack is a good way of a having a treat without it being a month long blow out.

Then there’s the alcohol conundrum. Now this stuff appears to be the only advice anyone ever takes on board from me so here goes!

Unfortunately there is no getting around the fact that alcohol has a high calorie content. You can switch to light beer, low alcohol wine but let’s be honest it doesn’t usually taste as good! So, just try not to have a month long drinking session, have some days off and save your drinking for your socialising not just for your regular Tuesday.

Here’s a couple of top picks though if you do want to watch your calories.


Champagne-90 cals a glass = winner! Basically fizzy wine tends to be lower calories than other wine so that’s essentially permission to pop corks.


Spirts such as Gin, Vodka and Whisky have a calorie content of around 100 calories, it’s the mixers that add calories so stick to diet mixers or soda water and you’re saving hundreds of calories. The supermodels current drink of choice is Vodka, lime and Soda so of its good enough for them…..


I’m imagining you’ve all stopped reading now as you’re already on route to the bar…..


Save your Shoulders

I often get people coming to see me with shoulder pain.

Sometimes just the upper back tension kind-usually as a result of being in a hunched position all day. This can cause muscles to become weak and unable to do their job properly. It can also cause overuse injuries of some of the shoulder muscles in particular the upper trapezius. 

I also deal with more mechanical problems with shoulder pain such as only pain when lifting over head or to the side. 

Firstly there are a couple of nerves in this region that if being pinched can cause pain. Median nerve and Ulna Nerve originate in the neck and run down the arm -so they can also be responsible for elbow and wrist pain. Nerves can get pinched by muscle tension, being in a static position for lengths of time or overuse and underuse injuries.

There is also the problem of the small space under the Acromial Clavicular joint. This joint is the bony bit on the tip of your shoulder just above your arm. The Shoulder muscles and a tendon bursa pass under here and if they get inflamed they can struggle for space trying to pass under here.

The risk of these common issues can be minimised by doing some “pre hab” to keep your shoulders moving well.

Here a couple of simple exercises, one no equipment at all; the others just a resistance band.

Firstly release the shoulders with scapula retraction.

Then open the chest and shoulders with up and overs.

Activate the chest and shoulders with band pull aparts.

Finally switch on the scapula stabiliser muscles with dumb waiters.

Plantar Problems

Heel pain or pain in the arch of the foot is very common amongst both active and sedentary individuals.


It is generally an irritation of the plantar fascia/tendon which connects from the Achilles under the heel right up to the toes. There are also potentially bone spurs or nerve entrapments but I’m not going to look at those here. 


So what causes the pain? 

It can be caused by various things such as Overuse, age,obesity, hard surfaces, flat feet, high arches, calf tightness. But also it can be multi factorial and there may be more than one issue. 


Identifying potential triggers is a good start, it does not necessarily mean you would need to eliminate these triggers just find ways to manage them. As obviously if you spend a lot of time at work standing and that is a trigger, not going to work is not an option! However changing shoes, perhaps doing some stretching throughout day and adding in some strength work could help you manage it.


So let’s look at those management options.


Firstly footwear. Experiment with different footwear to see which makes it better or worse. Usually footwear with good arch support helps but different types work for different people. 


If a change of footwear doesn’t help, Orthotic insoles fitted by a podiatrist can help.


Stretching. This can be done a couple of ways. 


Putting the foot across the knee, and flexing the ankle whilst pulling the toes toward you stretches the entire bottom of your foot.


You can also try rolling the foot on a ball to stretch it out.


Stretching the back of the calf both with the knee straight and then bent can help to release the Achilles and therefore the Plantar Fascia.


Strengthening exercises include.


Heel raises. 


Single Leg Deadlift 


Squats on toe tips. 

React Fast

If you play a team sport you may be familiar with reaction training. Basically it’s training to react to situations quickly and continue play. 

For example in hockey or football you need to be alert as to where the ball is going, other players etc which could mean you have to stop and change direction quickly and frequently at speed. Being able to do this firstly makes you a better player but also having trained your body to do this means it is less prone to injury in this situation.

I also had a think about whether reaction training would apply to more solitary sports such as running or cycling and I believe the answer is yes. If you run off road then you constantly need to adapt to the ground underneath you, and if you’re a cyclist the terrain, other cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles could be moving around you that you may need to react to.

There are various ways in which sports teams add this into their training.

Here are a couple of simple ways you can help train your fast reactions.

  • Reaction ball-These little bouncy balls are odd shaped and when you bounce them on the floor they fire off in any direction meaning you have to react fast to catch it! 
  • Using a timer set it for say 20/30 secs then put it somewhere you can hear it but not see it. Sprint as fast as you can, then when the buzzer goes stop dead and change direction.


Pain got you Sidelined

If there is one thing I am totally obsessed with in training its Stability (I’m talking physical not mental we ain’t got time for that discussion!) 

Stability means strong and balanced. Strength is such an important part of injury prevention and of course in rehabilitation.

I see a lot of niggly injuries in my studio often hip pain, calf problems and lower back pain that can seem like they might put an end to that person’s sport. 

Often that person will have tried stretching to no avail, maybe it feels better for a bit but as soon as they run, cycle etc. the pain returns.

With some assessment of movement patterns it becomes clear that there is either a lack of strength, an asymmetry or a dysfunction in the movement pattern that although may not be repeated exactly in the sport will affect the biomechanics of that pattern too. 

You may think with a strong set of thighs on show surely that isn’t possible? 

The thing is, there is more to strength and stability than just the big muscles. We also have lots of stabiliser muscles that play a huge part in how those big muscles function.

I  often start with the hips as they are the centre of the body, and therefore responsible for a huge part of the stability of the whole skeleton. They stabilise the spine and therefore the limbs that attach to it. 

Hip Stability can be improved with some really basic (not necessarily easy!) exercises. 


Some of my favourites include.


Hip Hitch Single Leg Squat

Single Leg Squat -With a ball or TRX for support

Single Leg Romanian Deadlift – If you do have Calf issues try them on your tip toes to really work on your strength here. 

Curtsy Lunge to 1 leg balance. 

Recovery Rolling

If you take part in regular exercise or sport it is really important to do some mobility work to keep your muscles moving freely.


When we train, our muscles micro tear and then build back stronger. In order to maintain their length and therefore your flexibility we need to ease out the scar tissue that has repaired the micro tears. 


There are several ways you can do this but this week I’m going to focus on foam rolling and trigger point ball work.


Foam Rolling is essentially self massage. It stimulates the tissues, increases blood flow to the area which encourages the bodies natural healing process and releases the fascia-the long bands of connective tissue that connects you from head to foot.


So, how do you get started? Obviously you need a foam roller and you can get soft ones, hard ones, knobbly ones (stop it!) and it’s personal preference as to which one you like.


It’s really simple there is no great technique to foam rolling just do what feels good.


Today let’s focus on an area that most people find gets sore after a heavy training session -Legs!


The front of your thighs -Quads


and the back of your thighs-Hamstrings can be done by simply lying with your legs on the roller, your arms holding you up and rolling your legs up and down. 

The Glutes and Hip I like to do with a ball although you can do it on a roller. However, using a tennis ball, hockey ball or physio ball put the ball in your bum cheek and either sit or lie down and roll around a little on it. Rotate the leg in and out see how that feels, then move the ball further out towards your hip and start again. This can help to release the Piriformis which is often linked to lower back, hip and Sciatica pain.