Workit 100 Challenge: Review and Whats next??

Well. Thats it. 100 days of consecutive exercise finished this morning with a 30 min yoga workout.  I missed a couple due to illness and a couple to a broken heart along the way, but added them on to the end.

The workit100 challenge commenced with a ride on Balu back in early April this year and I started out full of enthusiasm about the challenge. And, surprisingly I maintained that enthusiasm the whole way through. I found it so much easier than I had thought to stick to. Autumn/Winter did seem like a rather stupid time of year to begin an exercise based challenge, but plenty of yoga and pilates inside on the really wet days meant I didn't have to brave the elements tooooo often.

Even a holiday to Fiji mid way through didn't knock me off my stride- I still ran, swam and did yoga around sunbathing and drinking cocktails!!

It was easy to include the kids and John too for family walks, tennis sessions, bike rides etc.

So. what have a learnt? Well firstly, daily exercise is incredibly easy to fit in, no matter how busy your day has been, there is always something you can do. Walk the dog after work, Yoga while the kids are eating dinner, running while kids are biking in the park, lunchtime walk to grab a sarnie..... its all about "making" the time and 30 mins is really not much to ask.

Secondly, I came to look forwards to my exercise time, after only about 10/11 days into the challenge. It was "me" time, my brain and body really appreciated it, I felt a sense of satisfaction and pride after each session that I had done something I knew was good for me each day. No "missed gym session" guilt feelings. Even if my planned exercise hadn't happened (there were a few very wet day runs cancelled which became yoga) there was always something else I could do.

Third, and possibly best of all, my kids started asking what I was going to do today- and could they join in. Henry did several runs and walks with me and also started joining in with some Pilates in the last few weeks. Sam was always up for a scoot while I walked Pipi or a bike ride if I was running. I hope I showed that exercise doesn't need to be a chore, and can be something we can all enjoy together, and also something that can be enjoyed daily. It became very normal for them to hear "just going to do my yoga" while they were chilling out after dinner. Sam came in to watch a few moves- i think he was REALLY impressed with how amazing I looked??!!!!!

So. What do I do now thats finished?

Ive enjoyed this challenge so much, and because I saw it through I feel encouraged to do something else now. So now Im doing a Runstreak challenge... That is running 1 mile a day EVERY day for a calendar month (you can do it as long as you want but this will fit in perfectly before we go on holiday!!) SO from 1st August I will be running 1 mile a day and logging it. Rain or shine- probably more rain than shine to be honest- I will fit it in. 1 mile is only 1.6km so its really not far. Im going to time my run, and I want to see big improvements over the month. I will run the same loop on the first and last day and see how its changed.

John is joining me on this challenge which is great.... He will ALSO be logging his times himself and we will have a nice family competition (I love a competition!!!) to see who can knock the most seconds off!

And thats the great thing about a challenge. It can be anything you want. In any aspect of your day, involving yourself or others. Why not find one to suit you? Give it a go and see what you can achieve??

Frosty the snowman...!!!!

Its definitely feeling like winter today!!! First proper cold day here in Auckland, and sounds like there has been a HEAP of powder falling on our beautiful ski fields around the country. Its been a while since I've hit the slopes but I'd love to get there next year and bring the boys (big and small!!) along too.

So, what can you do to help get those underused skiing muscles ready for some fun in the powder?? Theres some really good exercises you can do to help strengthen your quads, hamstrings and glutes in preparation. Working on your core will be really beneficial in helping your balance, and improving ankle mobility will definitely make shock absorption and riding the bumps a bit easier.

Heres a few ideas to get you slope ready!!

1) GlutealsI did a post a while back about Gluteus Maximus and its importance in pelvic stabilization.... (go have a read....!!) So CLAM SHELLS are your friend here...

Im not going to run through the whole set up (google it if you aren't sure) but the important things to remember are- your spine stays long and your hips stay stacked over each other with your heels, bum and shoulder remaining in a line. The temptation as you open your legs is for the top hip to roll backwards- causing a rotation through your lumbar spine. We need your spine to stay neutral. So when you open your legs imagine pushing your top hip forwards as you do (which means you won't be able to open the legs as far- thats fine- the movement does not need to be huge). Start with 10-15 slower reps, then pulse till you really feel a burn. I like to then hug my knees to my chest for a rest, then repeat twice more. Then turn over and do the other side. 

2) Quads: These are the big muscles running down the front of the leg. And BOY will they get a work out on the slopes! As you will be holding a bent knee position, its these muscles that are bearing a large part of the burden. A really easy exercise is "Step-ups". you will need a box/chair or large step, and as the name suggests you will step up with one leg, and then down! Sounds easy, but believe me a few reps and you will feel it!!!! Important things to think about is keeping your feet straight and keeping your knee flowing over your big toe- don't want any twisting movements or you are opening yourself up for some knee injuries! If you haven't done this type of exercise before then start with a small step and build up. You may well find you have one leg weaker than the other- perfectly normal as we are usually pretty unsymmetrical! My left leg is pathetic so i have to really push it when i do these on the left. Again- 3 sets of 12-15 on each leg will get those quads working! If you want to work extra hard then hold a set of hand weights as you do the steps..... (start low and build up if you aren't used to these exercises).

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3) Hamstrings: These are the antagonists muscles to your quadriceps and run down the back of your thigh. Building good hamstring strength is really important in helping to stabilize the knee and can really help prevent ACL damage. Deadlifts are one of the best ways of building good hamstring strength (as well as working the low back too so if you have a low back injury lay off this- although you probably shouldn't be skiing if your low back is that bad!!) This is one that needs some gym equipment ideally- either a barbell, or decent weight of dumb bells. Stand with feet shoulder width apart holding your bar infant of your thighs. Bend your knees slightly and KEEPING YOUR BACK STRAIGHT bend at the waist and flex forwards. The bar should "roll" down your shins pretty much. Then (still keeping your back straight!!!) Raise yourself back up again pushing your hips forwards as you do. I really like to keep my core engaged when doing these to help my lower back out as much as possible. These will really get your hamstrings working, so start with a lighter weight and start with 5-8 reps.

4) Ankle Flexibility: Although your ankles will be well supported by a ski boot, they will still be working hard as again, they will be working in a flexed position and will be absorbing all the undulations through the skis. A lot of people over flex at the knees  (due to poor technique, ankle injury compensation, balance issues etc etc) But improving your ankle flexibility will allow you take your weight forwards better and ease the strain on your hips and knees. Good old Calf stretches are fantastic not only for elongating your calf (funnily enough!!) but also flexing for ankle joint. Why not test your ankle flexibility before and after stretching....?

Keep your right leg forward, foot flat on the floor, and extend your left leg straight back, placing your heel flat on the floor. Don't bend your back knee. Lean into the wall until you feel the stretch in the calf of the straight leg. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.

To find out if you have a lack of range of movement in your ankles, stand against a wall with your heels, backside and shoulders against it.  By focusing on flexing your ankles, see how far you can drop down.  You need to keep your heels on the ground and back against the wall.  Your limit will be when your heel or heels lift off the ground.  When measuring people, drop tests generally range between 6cm drop (poor range of flex) to 30cm drop (good flex).  Anything less than 20cm drop you should develop your calf muscle stretches.

Over tight ski boots can restrict your ankle flexibility so check they aren't done up TOOOO tight!

Hopefully thats given you some ideas to be going on with. if you are unsure how to perform any of these please see a trainer in your gym, or come and see us at the clinic as we would be happy to talk you through the correct technique.

 

If you are heading off to the slopes have an amazing time and maybe see you there next year!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Baking.... does it exist?!

I love baking. Love it. And eating it. And the smell of it cooking. And eating it !!!

We are trying to be really careful with sugar at home.... no added sugars, no refined sugars, not too much 'other' sugar. But you also only live one and there's nothing wrong at all with treating yourself once in a while. So how can you cook and still try and reduce the sugar dose in each delicious mouthful?

Heres some easy tips to try..... some of you may be able to cut sugars out totally, others might need a little something in there. I made a great coconut and banana bread (see my arty picture!) and the only sugars in it were 1.5 bananas and the natural sweetness of the coconut. It was delicious toasted with a cuppa tea! Have a play with some of these ideas and see what works for you. Just remember dried fruit (dates, raisins etc) are still full of sugars- fruit sugars, but sugar none the less, so bear that in mind if you are trying to really be strict!

  • Use raw cacao nibs and raw cacao powder instead of chocolate. Even dark 70% cocoa chocolate may contain sugar, as can cocoa powder. Raw cacao has a rich flavour and is a great source of minerals like iron and magnesium. Use in cakes, cupcakes, tortes and cookies.
  • Use date and other fruit purées instead of treacle, golden syrup, maple syrup, agave, rice syrup or honey, which are all classed as 'free' sugars. Syrups add a gooey texture to traybakes, cookies and tarts which is hard to mimic. However, fruit purées supply sweetness and moisture and can make a useful alternative.
  • Use wholemeal flour instead of refined white flour. Although it may not be a sugar itself, refined white flour is digested really quickly, which may aggravate blood sugar levels. Use wholemeal flour to slow the rate at which your body absorbs all forms of sugar.
  • Use vanilla pods instead of vanilla extract. In the grand scheme of things, vanilla extract isn't too bad, but if you're keen to avoid processed products, opt for the pods. Although they are a little more pricey than extract, it's easy to make each pod go a little further. Once you've removed and used the seeds, keep the pods and use them to infuse milk, yogurt and cream, as well as stewed fruits and purées.
  • Use homemade fruit compote instead of jam or conserves. Even jams and conserves with no added sugar are still a concentrated source due to their high fruit content. Naturally flavour your homemade compote with spices such as cinnamon, vanilla or ginger, or make a fruit purée using mango, pineapple or apricots.
  • Use lighter toppings in place of icingbuttercream and frosting - these little extras can more than double the calories per portion. Instead, sprinkle your cake lightly with cacao powder, cinnamon or ground ginger. Use a cream cheese topping flavoured with citrus zest, or a fresh cream filling with some seasonal fruit.

Why I think challenging yourself is good...

I think we all need to challenge ourselves to something from time to time. I think its great to push yourself and see what you can achieve. When I discussed this with some friends they all assumed I meant entering a marathon (that actually didn't cross my mind once!!) but I think there are many other ways to challenge yourself if an exercise goal isn't your thing.

I am now on day 9 of the Workit100 challenge- basically I am trying to do exercise of some sort for 100 consecutive days. Thus far I have ridden my horse, run, swam, done yoga, pilates, boxed and walked. I intend to try and fit in as many different sports as I can over the next 92 days- variety is the spice of life and all that! I am not doing full on gym sessions every day and the only real rule I have set myself is that on a "slow" day (eg walk/yoga etc) I must do at least 30 mins of my chosen activity. So far I am really enjoying things. Why am I doing it? I just fancied challenging myself to see if I could stick it out, and also to see what I notice along the way....! 

Not all challenges need to be exercised based. Losing weight is often a goal people talk about. I think weight loss is a really tough one though to use as a challenge- unless you are fairly open ended with it. To set yourself the goal of losing a certain number of kg in a certain number of weeks could be setting yourself up for disappointment....? If you only lose 4kg of your 5kg target does that equal a fail??? I certainly don't think so- any weight loss at all is great if thats what you are after. And weight loss is so hard to measure too-  if you are increasing exercise as part of the method of losing weight, are you allowing for muscle gain?? Are you measuring pure fat loss? Its a tricky one. 70kg of lean muscle will look very different to 65kg of poor muscle tone- yet one weighs less- but which is healthier?.... Maybe use a different marker?? If you decide to try losing weight, maybe think of it more in terms of fitting into a certain item of clothing? Or just seeing how well you an do in a certain time frame?? Certainly don't be dispondent if you don't reach your "goal" weight.... think about the journey you took to get there and what you learned about diet, exercise, yourself.

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So what else could you do to challenge yourself? What about trying to reduce the time you spend in front of your computer screen?? Maybe challenge yourself to read a new book every week (for speed readers!!!) or month. Are there some books you have always wanted to read? Why not read a new one every month for a year? Turn off your ipad/lap top/tv and pour  wine/make a cuppa and enjoy the peace and quiet of good reading time. You could do this with a group and form a book club? A new book to read and review every month? A quick internet search will bring up common Top 10 best reads- see if any of those grab your fancy. Or if you are a big reader- how many of the Top 100 have you read? (this is another challenge to set myself- i've done 52 of the Top 100, so need to do the other 48!!)

How about expanding your palette? Try a new recipe once a week? Or if you aren't into cooking- maybe use that as a challenge to discover your inner Nadia Lim! I love to cook, as does John, and we always love to try out new recipes- esp on our friends! Cooking for friends is a great social occasion, and doesn't really matter if things don't turned out quite as planned, you can all have a giggle over your efforts! We set the kids a challenge of eating a new dinner every day for a week. They really enjoyed it- I let them scour the recipe books for things they fancied trying. Its amazing what vegetables they will eat when they have chosen the recipe themselves!!!! 

So why bother with the challenges? I think its a really great way to encourage or change our behaviour a bit. We all get stuck in a rut from time to time. Maybe theres something you have been meaning to change or try for years but just never got round to it? Birthday milestones are always a big time of reflection (i MAY have one of those coming up early next year- eeeek). Ive never done a half marathon, a harbour swim etc etc and partly its because Im worried I wouldn't finish. So this is my first step at trying out what I can do and how far I can push myself. The harbour swim is something Ive always fancied, so maybe that will be my next challenge- I'm learning a wee bit about myself more and more along the way.....

Do we need to rethink the classroom furniture?

As you may have noticed by now- or you WILL notice soon, i'm pretty passionate about the importance of good posture in our kids. Devise use at school, "modern learning environments" (in our schools case too many kids in one huge space with not enough room for furniture so not enough chairs for kids!!), an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, heavy school bags etc- this all has a pretty profound impact on our kids growing and developing bodies.

I'll stick with classrooms today- relevant as I say we are having issues at the boys school currently, and I can only imagine its a country wide problem, especially with ever increasing numbers on the school roll and limited space available for developing current school buildings.

When did you last have a good look at the tables and chairs in your kids classroom? If you are lucky enough to have enough tables and chairs per head then thats great- but what kind of tables/chairs??! Its a real problem for schools I'm sure- but theres a HUGE range of shapes and sizes in the classroom. Are there a suitable range of heights of desks and chairs for the kids??? I certainly wouldn't expect a 5ft woman to work at a desk set up the same as for a 6ft man in a office, and I also wouldn't expect a year 6 child to comfortably work on a desk and chair a year 1 child is also using. 

How long are kids being expected to sit for? And is fidgeting allowed?? Should fidgeting be encouraged??? Heres an excerpt from an article written by an American Paediatric Occupational Therapist...

"I recently observed a fifth grade classroom as a favor to a teacher. I quietly went in and took a seat towards the back of the classroom. The teacher was reading a book to the children and it was towards the end of the day. I’ve never seen anything like it. Kids were tilting back their chairs back at extreme angles, others were rocking their bodies back and forth, a few were chewing on the ends of their pencils, and one child was hitting a water bottle against her forehead in a rhythmic pattern.

This was not a special needs classroom, but a typical classroom at a popular art-integrated charter school. My first thought was that the children might have been fidgeting because it was the end of the day and they were simply tired. Even though this may have been part of the problem, there was certainly another underlying reason.

We quickly learned after further testing, that most of the children in the classroom had poor core strength and balance. In fact, we tested a few other classrooms and found that when compared to children from the early 1980s, only one out of twelve children had normal strength and balance. Only one!"

I find this extremely worrying. And I see it reflected in clinic. 15 year ago John and I would occasionally see a 9/10 year old- usually as a result of a sports injury. Fast forwards to today and just last week I had 3 new child patients- all 10 years old and all coming in complaining of aching shoulders, necks, headaches and 2 with mums who were worried as their kids were fidgeting and "restless" all day- especially after being on the ipad/playstation. All had what I would call "postural over compensation" issues and all were round shouldered, had overly tight anterior chest muscles, altered spinal curves and very restricted upper rib mechanics as a result. Not great.

I know my own kids have been told several times to not fidget at school and while it can be really distracting in the classroom, maybe we need to examine why the kids are fidgeting? Are they uncomfy? Are they bored? Are they simply being naughty?

I understand that the way the world is going is heavily reliant on technology and computing but we still need to step back and think about the fact our kids bodies are growing- and posture patterns that are set in as kids will only continue into teenage and adulthood. In the same way- healthy attitudes towards posture and exercise that are encouraged as children will also be carried through to adulthood. School is where we send our kids to be educated, but not at the detriment of their physical (and consequently mental) well being. I know when I have overly tight shoulders, or a sore low back then sitting and concentrating on a task is not easy....

So- do we need to change the seating available at schools? Or do we need to look at incorporating an exercise plan into the kids day to improve their core strength, get them moving and thinking about their bodies, or do we need to do both? Are bean bags good for the classroom? What about standing tables? (I personally think prolonged standing is just as bad as prolonged sitting!!) Footrests? What do we add in, where do we draw the line?

There are several easy and fun ways of incorporating core strength exercises into the classroom and Im going to work on putting together a wee programme that I hope will be fun and can make a difference. I think regular movement is more important and a healthier habit to encourage than trying to find the worlds best chair. Sitting for prolonged amounts of time, regardless on what, is still not the best for our bodies....

In the mean time at home please try to limit time on playstations/ipads etc. Encourage your kids to be active- join a local sports club, go to the local pool for a swim. Kids pilates and yoga classes are popping up all over the place- great for them to learn about their bodies and to develop a good understanding of posture and movement. Dancing classes and martial arts are both excellent for improving balance and co-ordination. There are HUNDREDS of ideas available on line too. Im happy to give out ideas on simple things you can do at home- just email me or call the clinic....

 

 

Gluteus Medius- pelvic stabilizer!

in a) we see nicely maintained level pelvis. b) shows a drop on the opposite side when Glut Medius is weak/damaged.

in a) we see nicely maintained level pelvis. b) shows a drop on the opposite side when Glut Medius is weak/damaged.

Guteus medius is one heck of an important muscle, and one that is weak in many many people. I treat a lot of runners who have developed low back or hip/knee pains and its very often due to a weakness in their Gluteus Medius on one side which leads to pelvic instablility...
We should use our Glut Medius to maintain a neutral pelvic position during single leg stance. It also externally rotates the leg when the hip is flexed. If it is weak, the pelvis drops to one side when we lift a leg, and so we in turn over flex the knee so the foot clears the floor... This is called a Trendelenberg Gait.

Problems/weakness with the glut medius can often present as Ilio-tibial band problems, knee injuries (including predisposing to ACL damage) and ankle problems. Lumbar spine pain is common because of this due to the uneven movement throughout the pelvis when walking and running.

Strengthening this muscle involves static strengthening exercises- eg Clam Shell exercises, moving on to more dynamic exercises such as squats whilst using a band to isometrically contract the glut medius at the same time, one legged squats etc. Using Kinesio-tape can also be really helpful in the short term.

Watching your gait, power testing individual muscles, maybe even going to the gym to watch you run- all really helpful in discovering if you have a problem with your Gluteus Medius!
 

Favourite new recipe!!

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Ok, I had a bit of a baking day last week... and this was top of my agenda! A coconut- courgette (zucchini) loaf. I thought that would be super yum for snacks, be great for kids lunchbox- other than for Sam who is extremely suspicious of anything nut.....

I did somehow manage to loose my loaf tin, so this recipe became muffins! And makes great muffins. I also used half the rice malt syrup, and added desiccated coconut directly to the mix.... I also burnt the hell out of the first batch- so didn't go popping them in the oven and then start doing Pilates in your bedroom and come out 45 min later to slightly charred muffins!!

Great as snacks on their own, but my personal fave is having one warmed up, good blob of unsweetened yoghurt on top and fresh blueberries... a great nutritious breakfast!

https://iquitsugar.com/recipe/zucchini-coconut-lunchbox-bread/?nonce=d18fdb954f

Ditching the Drugs??

pills This is possibly going to be a bit controversial for some- but I like a good healthy debate!!!

Are we too drug dependant? Personally I would say a big fat whopping YES! But I also do think there is a real time and place for medication but I do think it is handed out a bit too willy-nilly and people assume that their little pill will cure all. I know many people who will head off to the doctors at the first sign of a sniff or cough or sore throat and I would say that most of those bugs are viral and therefore your antibiotics will do nothing. Your body is pretty well equipped at fighting off bugs so rest, plenty of fluids, sleep and maybe a good vitamin and you will most probably recover yourself without taxing your already tired body further by making it process drugs!

When we take a case history we always go through what medications people are on. And especially once you reach about 60 it seems that list is a long as your arm. Push into your 70/80s and it about the length of a cricket pitch! I have many patients who cant tell me how long they have been taking a particular drug, and in some cases what they are even taking that drug for! Which worries me incredibly. Then there are those who have to take drugs to counter the side effect of other drugs, and then drugs to combat the dry mouth all their drugs cause, or stomach meds to counter the damage to their poor stomachs etc... The pharmaceutical business is certainly a BIG one! Some of the common long term offenders are: antidepressants, muscle relaxants (eg amitryptalin), statins, coedine/tramadol (handed out like candy!), sleeping pills and all the drugs given for high blood pressure. (etc etc etc etc.....)

I watched a great BBC documentary about just this 2 nights ago. I HIGHLY recommend people watch it as the outcomes were really very impressive. And it didn't gloss over that choosing to stop long term pain medication is NOT easy, and needs thought and a lot of support but it IS possible. Dr Chris Van Tulleken is one of an identical twin (both twins are doctors!!) and he has been making documentries exploring ideas on diet, health and medicine. Here's the link to the first part- watch the 2nd part too- some AMAZING changes! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbUXuQoWbmQ

Changing our habits is hard, but the benefits can be utterly life changing. Making time to exercise- even a 30 minute brisk walk can have so many positive effects I think we should all HAVE to make time for it!

Why not arrange a regular walk with some friends? Walk your dogs together after work, meet at lunch time for a 20 min brisk walk and a catch up, arrange a time to take your kids out in their strollers for a regular walk. Explore local council websites for ideas of places to meet and routes. Choose a favourite cafe for a coffee at the end, or for a lunch. See if these very simple changes can help you not need to reach for the panadol every morning, or the sleeping tablets every night. See how much stronger and fitter you feel and ask yourself if you REALLY feel better taking the tablets, and if you REALLY understand all the side effects and what your body has to do to process those drugs and whether that's what you want to put your body through day in day out.

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Post Holiday Blues.

img_3460 Its been a while since I wrote, and that is because Ive just had an amazing holiday in California!! We had a crazy fun week doing Universal Studios and Disneyland with the kids (I met Kylo Ren and Chewbacca!!!!) and then we had a more leisurely week driving up the coast to San Francisco stopping in at Pismo and Monterey along the way. I got to go whale watching and saw humpbacks leaping out the water and hundreds of dolphins swimming along side the boat- it was amazing! My oldest son now wants to be a Marine Biologist when he grows up and is boring us all to death about how to tell a Common Dolphin from a Pacific something or other dolphin (I switch off pretty early in that conversation!) My youngest never wants to go on a boat ever again. Poor chap was sick for 4 hours!

It was sooooo good to get away. I ADORE New Zealand, but I have always had a wanderlust and theres times I just need to go somewhere. Its been a really really busy year at work for John and Myself so a break was well deserved!! And now we are home. And I'm not very excited about that!!!! What is it about holidays that is so enjoyable? Is it the time off work? Is it the exploring of a new place? Is it the different weather you might encounter? I love seeing new places. I love the smells, the sounds, the different languages (where applicable!) and the different food. But I also love the food at home, the scenery in New Zealand is second to none and the weather isn't all that bad, so why so glum now I am home?

 

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Super cool palm trees in Pismo

 

I think its the time away that I personally crave. Time to switch off from the general business and stresses and time to really let your brain slow down. Our holiday was very busy, but it was fun busy- it wasn't doing accounts, processing payments, booking patients, doing homework with the kids etc, it was going to aquariums, walking along new beaches, going on crazy rides at Disney etc. it was FUN! And I think thats why it takes a while to re adjust at the other end- day to day life isn't quite as fun! So I'm trying to focus on the little things that are fun- a friends birthday drinks tonight, taking the kids to the movies next week in the school holidays, riding my horse.... Keeping focused on the good stuff and don't let yourself slide into a negative rut. Yes work isn't always fun, yes life is busy and can be monotonous, but we can all find some fun and enjoyable things in our weeks.

 

So go and find the fun people... Walk in a new place you haven't been to before, call up an old friend, make a new recipe you haven't tried, buy a new book to read. Its so important to have things to look forward to, even little things. Its what makes the mundane stuff bearable!

Stressed out....?

sand of beach caribbean sea (Sorry- this a long one!!)

I think everybody understands what stress feels like. It feels different for different people- personally I feel like running screaming for the hills when I'm stressed- which does happen a lot!!

 

The frantic pace of modern life, kids, family, work/life balance. Thats a LOT of balls to juggle, and getting some down time for yourself in amongst that is pretty hard. But what is stress in terms of what happens to our body? A bit of stress is normal and natural and can be really useful when we are pushing ourselves to do something new- work challenge, sports, exams, but too much or not being able to turn it off is a very different matter. The more Ive looked into stress- the hormones involved, the body effects etc the more I have come to realise that learning to unwind is probably one of the most important things I can do for my own health....

 

"Stress" is your bodys normal response to what it sees as a demand or threat. Our nervous system responds by flooding out stress hormones. The 2 main ones and the ones I will focus on are ADRENALIN and CORTISOL. (there are more involved- this is a pretty simplified overview!!)

Releasing these hormones is what is called our 'fight or flight' response: priming our body to take the necessary action by increasing heart rate, raising blood pressure, increasing breathing rate, tensing our muscles, enhancing our focus etc... This is all very useful in the short term (outrunning a threat, before the start of a race etc) but is very detrimental if these hormones are being continually released- this becomes CHRONIC STRESS.

 

Chronic stress is NOT healthy or helpful. It effects nearly every system in our body and can lead to serious health problems. Many common health problems can have their roots in stress.

  • Depression/Anxiety
  • Weight problems (Ill come back to this one)
  • Immunity problems
  • Reproductive issues
  • Insomnia/disturbed sleep
  • Impaired memory
  • Digestive problems

 

Not all stressors have to be negative ones either. Divorce, death/illness in the family, loss of a job are all obviously highly stressful scenarios. But so is getting married, having a baby and buying a house. Yet I don't think we would see these a negative situations? Also, we are all affected by different stressors. I personally feel sick at the thought of public speaking or performing on a stage- yet many others thrive on this. I find being around my horse one of the most relaxing things I can imagine, yet my husband finds it pretty stressful as he is convinced he will be kicked or trampled to death at any given moment!!!

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Who could find that face threatening???!!!

 

Understanding your own personal triggers and your own tolerance levels to stress is the first step in managing and controlling things. I have leant- probably in the last 12-18 months that I actually have a very low tolerance to stress. This doesn't mean I cant deal with life, but I get get run down very quickly indeed- sore throats, insomnia and sluggish bowels are my usual main symptoms. I over respond to small intense levels of stress. I partly think this is because I have been chronically stressed for a long time- and now my body is primed to respond at the drop of a hat, or maybe i have just chosen to ignore the signs for too long and have only just started to sit up and take notice?

So back to my friend CORTISOL.... (or my arch enemy- more appropriately). Cortisol is a hormone produced by our adrenal glands. It is an essential hormone (well all of them are- or we wouldn't have them!!!) but too much isn't good! Effects of too much cortisol- especially over a long period of time include

  • Increased weight gain (and stubborn to shift- my problem) around the face and abdomen
  • mood swing and anxiety/depression
  • high blood pressure
  • reduced sex drive
  • irregular periods
  • muscle weakness

 

I started out investigating stress and cortisol due to my blooming wobbly belly that I seemingly cannot shift. As mentioned on previous posts I have tried every diet under the sun. More recently I am finding the weight just wont shift. So I started reading around the subject to try and understand why. Cortisol and stress is why I think.... and so I am trying to control the stress levels to see what results that has with the belly fat!! I used to find I felt AMAZING after a hard gym session/run/boxing whatever it is, but in the past couple of years I was just wiped out after the same classes and was constantly feeling like I had a cold/sinus infection etc. Now I know (and now seems so obvious) intense exercise is something my body (and a lot of bodies) see as a stress... Thats the whole point of intense training- to stress our body to improve muscle or cardio fitness. But the same hormone reactions apply... the body responds by releasing Adrenalin and Cortisol which leads to all the responses I talked about earlier.... Which started to make me change my exercise approach.

Its a tricky one to balance as I really enjoy being active. But I have stopped all gym work (partly as I have a shoulder/neck injury) and instead I ride my horse and I am trying to run a few times a week. I have also learnt that sometimes my body does NOT want me to run so I listen- I walk a bit but then go home and do some stretches or pilates instead. Other days it feels great, so I run. I have started doing some pilates and yoga at least 4 times a week and also some breathing exercises to try and help me wind down in the evening. And I haven't ballooned into a giant blimp- admittedly Im not Cindy Crawford either. I am as dis-satisfied with my body as ever I was doing HIIT sessions 3 times a week, plus boxing plus riding, but I don't ache all over like I used to, I have only had one cold this winter and I don't stress about missing a gym session!! I am definitely only at the beginning of the journey, but I feel I'm on the right path.

 

Listen to your body... don't fight what its trying to tell you. Have a think about the things that tend to trigger your stresses and try and learn to counter them in some way or other- gentle exercise, better sleep, a holiday.... do whatever you need to do. Stress is part of our everyday life for sure and so I think we all need to understand it and deal with it before things become chronic. I wish I had know more when I was younger, I would have done a few things different thats for sure!!!!

Headaches. A pain in the neck......?

Well it's been a super duper busy week- hence no posts for a few days!!!! Keeps me out of trouble I guess....I've had a run of patients with headaches this week. Different ages (10 was the youngest, 76 the oldest) and I thought I'd just have a wee chat about headaches.... There are many 'classifications' of headaches, but the most common ones I see as an osteopath are 'tension' headaches. Webmed states that a tension headaches are:

"Tension headaches are dull pain, tightness, or pressure around your forehead or the back of your head and neck. Some people say it feels like a clamp squeezing the skull. Often called stress headaches, they’re the most common type for adults." (Now before I unleash my osteopathic prowess on you all i'd like to just say I'm not a goody two shoes myself- I'm actually writing this in this school car park, in my car, slumped sideways with 1 leg up on the arm rest......!!)

  POSTURE is very often so influential in many problems I see in clinic, and headaches are no exception..... Sitting at a desk all day, squinting at computer screens, kids sitting badly on chairs/floors/beanbags at school, too much time cranked over an iPad screen or phone screen, lugging heavy school bags around... All of these build up unwanted tension in our upper backs and necks and voila- headaches. Osteopathic treatment, Pilates, yoga, work station overhauls- all of these are fantastic to not only get rid of the causes of your tension headache, but also help prevent it reoccurring. Our heads are pretty heavy things and out poor necks have to work very hard indeed if we tip our heads out of balance with our necks and backs...! I find a lot of patients with headaches also have extremely tight upper trapezius and levator scapulae muscles. Working to reduce the tension here, and also getting the patient to build in the strength in their rhomboids to help balance the shoulder girdle is very effective at improving upper back and neck tone.

  There are other less obvious but still pretty common causes of headaches..... How much water do you drink a day?? Dehydration is a VERY common cause of headaches- as is consuming too much caffeine.... I had a patient who thought she drank 15+ cups a day!!!! And yes- she had headaches! If you love your coffee try limiting the number of cups, or swap for decaf during the day, and try not to drink any after 4pm as it will also be compromising your sleep quality if you drink caffeine too late in the evening. I try to drink a big glass of water before every meal, (plus others during the day -I'm a lover of water!). I get patients to get a 1l water bottle and fill it up and sit it on their desk. Keep sipping all day- you will be surprised how easy it is to finish it in the day. If you do sports or are in the heat you obviously need to hydrate yourself more than normal..... Green tea is an excellent coffee alternative. Packed full of antioxidants it therefore great at helping fight aging (mops up all those free radicals!) helps reduce inflammation, improves brain function etc.... Pop a couple of fresh mint leaves in, or a squeeze of lemon to mix things up a bit.

  Lack of sleep and poor quality of sleep can also lead to headaches.... Gentle stretching/yoga before you go to bed can help relax your mind and help you nod off. Limit the tv/screen time 30 minutes before bed- the brightness and flickering in the screen keeps your brain whiring. There are tonnes of websites with easy yoga stretches designed to do before bed.... Have a Google! (And quit the coffee and tea before bed!)

  Sinus blockage can also give you a smacking good headache.... I'm very familiar with these! Osteopathy can be very beneficial when dealing with sinus congestion too. Tension in the neck and face will prevent the sinuses from draining easily, therefore making them more prone to bacterial/fungal infection. Invasive dental surgery and TMJ (jaw) problems can also effect sinus drainage. Gentle cranial releases and working through the fascia and muscles of the face and scalp can greatly reduce the sinus pressure, thus easing the pain.

  Hopefully that will give you some ideas on how to help your headaches. Think hard about your posture (sitting and standing), take regular breaks from sitting, increase your water consumption, add some stretches into your day and I'm sure you will reap the rewards! In my head I look EXACTLY like this. Sam (him of the Conan tendencies) walked into the room yesterday while I was doing some yoga, shuddered, and walked out again, so I suspect I might not be quite there yet......

Happiness is......?

"Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert"  

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So back to my original question- does being healthy make you happy and does being happy make you healthy?

I actually think I change my mind on this depending on which direction the wind is blowing!.... today I'm feeling the Friday love- and it's all about accepting myself, being with friends, being social and living life to the full. A few days ago I was all about physical excellence! Running, Pilates and yoga were the order of the day.

I think actually it's a combination of all? I do believe that letting yourself roll with what feels right is really important- but really hard to accept, especially in today's media driven society. There are pictures, articles and ideas everywhere I look about the ideal bikini body, 10 things to do with an avocado and how coconut oil will prolong my life for 97 extra years etc..... And some days I fall for it and others (like today) I just can't be bothered. And learning to not feel guilty about not being 100% all the time is blinking hard!

My amazing Nana is 94 this year. She was a big smoker in her time, enjoyed a whiskey or 2, ate a vast amount of sugar and was a total stress head. And yet she is 94, was only diagnosed as diabetic 2 years ago because they lowered the boundary levels and has just this week permanently moved into to a residential home from an 18th century cottage with nearly vertical stairs!

Theoretically her lifestyle would suggest she should not have lived that long..... But she is also the most amazing get up and go, physical, 'life's to short' person, and I think it is this mental strength that has steered her through her 94 years. Even now she loves a good game of scrabble, still loves wandering round gardens (even though she's nearly blind) and won't say no to a good G&T. I hope I'm like her and don't say no to challenges that crop up and relish family and good times as much as she has.

So this weekend I say we should all spent some quality time with friends and family and remember all that is important and wonderful and worry about the bad stuff another day.... Have a great weekend! (And yes I'm gonna watch the Olympics cos I still dream of taking part. One day......!)

Diet Schmiet

I had a lovely patient in yesterday. She's hoping to start a family later this year and wanted to make sure everything was working as best as possible from a musculoskeletal perspective before she got pregnant. Sensible lady....  She also wanted to lose some weight and work on her fitness and so asked me what diet I would recommend.... WELL...

I have probably done every diet under the sun at some point in the never ending quest to be happy with my body. I've done Weight Watchers (twice), slimming world, Jenny Craig, Paleo, counted calories on My Fitness Pal (about 612 times), done an extreme diet and exercise boot camp, cabbage diet and just recently finished the Sarah Wilson I Quit Sugar programme.

Did any of these work? Why yes. ALL OF THEM. If by working do you mean did I lose weight. Yup. Each time. But does that mean they worked? I thought so at the time, but then realised the weight goes back on again, so then you try a new diet, and bingo, you lose weight. Then it goes back on again. And so on. So then I thought, did I feel BETTER for doing any of them?  During most of them I was tired and grumpy and evil to live with. Out of all, the I Quit Sugar was the easiest to stick to (which surprised the hell out of me) and I felt the best for doing it. Skin better, sleep better, lost weight etc. Paleo would be the next best for me...

But the thing I have taken away from all of those diets and what I told my patient- is DONT DIET. Make it a lifestyle choice instead. Or you will set yourself up for a rollercoaster ride of succeeding then failing and being cross. If you make changes to your lifestyle as a whole I believe you will reap many benefits. Weight loss might be one, better sleep (always a goal of mine- I seem to be useless at that), lower blood pressure, shinier hair, brighter skin..... Many many body wise changes. Not just weight.

I think our modern fast paced lifestyle makes looking after ourselves harder and harder. Throw children and all the stress/fun/exhaustion that involves and again, it's easy to let your own personal health suffer. Most of us can't do 2 hours of yoga a day, eat berries freshly picked from a wild hedgerow (untouched by chemical sprays) and sleep 27 hours a day as the media tells us we should. But we can all make some individual adjustments I think that can help our overall health. 

And these will be different for everyone. That's one thing I love about Osteopathy- the understanding that we are all different, remarkable individual beings, and so everyone responds and reacts to life in different ways. No one set of rules will help everyone, but I'm gonna throw a few ideas and suggestions out there ......

So until then I'm gonna chuck my pjs on, grab my kindle (I really need to know who is killing everyone... I haven't a clue at the moment) and pour a fortifying Central Otago Pinot Noir.....! 

Welcome to Osteopath&Co!

This is the beginning of my new exploration into being healthy. What is health? How do we become healthy? Does it make us happy? Does being happy make us healthy? I'm 38. I've been an Osteopath for 15 years, a wife for 12 and a mother for 10. I have an amazing husband (unless he is snoring!) and 2 fantastic sons who challenge my physical and mental prowess daily! I'm a trainee Pilates instructor, food lover, wine lover and sports enthusiast of all kinds (except golf- stupidly frustrating game!)

I'm hoping to share some insights into what I think being healthy might mean and some ways we can become healthier. Some osteopathic bits, some foodie bits, some exercise bits. And my amazing team from work always give me great ideas, so I'll throw in a bit from them too! (Acupuncture, midwifery, massage therapy to name a few)

I hope it will be interesting and lighthearted.... I have been known to prattle so I shall endeavour to keep the prattling to a minimum!!

I will leave you all with the conundrum Sam (aged 6, mini Conan the Barbarian) hit me with this week.... Who would fart louder- Yoda or Darth Vadar?! Please discuss amongst yourselves......!

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