August 13, 2018
It’s really hard to know how you’re going with your health goals if we think beyond the typical weight loss measures of kilos on the scale or centimetres on the tape measure. Tracking your progress is one of the best ways to keep you accountable, plus provides a good motivator for smaller goals that are achieved along the way.
We often find with our clients that the scales and weight loss may not be shifting, despite consistent exercise and clean balanced eating. Unfortunately, health is not as simple as calories in and calories out, with elements like sleep, stress, a sense of purpose, confidence, and of course happiness all playing a part in contributing to our health.
The figures from the Wellbeing and Resilience Centre at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) tell a clear story, with the Centre establishing that human wellbeing is the single most important issue for our population, economy and way of life. In other words, we can’t afford to leave wellbeing to the individual only anymore if we are to create a thriving society and country. Mental illness alone costs the Australian economy $190 billion each year, or 12% of GDP! This is the equivalent of nine million days of work every year.
High performing workplaces have been found to have significant competitive advantages compared to their peers such as:
Up to three times more profitable
25% more innovative
23% better at retraining new employees
12% more productive
The research shows that if an organisation is not looking at wellbeing, then you won’t have great productivity, will lack innovation, and you won’t be an employer of choice.
Corporations are starting to acknowledge the role that they play on employees’ health, and overall there is a move towards dealing with our health proactively rather than reactively. Employee wellbeing has previously been seen by many as too subjective and obscure to have any tangible ROI or measurable way to demonstrate the effectiveness of programs targeting this.
Introducing an index which measures key elements of overall employee experience, which can be benchmarked to other industries and tracked over time, not only allows workforces to be better equipped to have effective wellness initiatives, but also empowers employees to take personal responsibility with their health, supported by their employer.
At EBM, we created a new index for measuring overall wellbeing in the corporate space. The creation of this index went through a rigorous research process (we won’t bore you with the details!) but allows you to compare your individual scores, industry scores, and compared to the broader corporate Australia rating. All in a quick 5 minute survey! You can see our model that includes four sub-indexes for the key categories.
If you’re interested in getting your own score or getting your organisation involved, email us to find out more!
For the month of June we’re talking all things testing and taking stock of where we are halfway through 2017. For this weeks body blog, we’re looking at the best ways to test our fitness and our lifestyle!
This isn’t a physical test where we’re going to see how fast you can run 100m or how many burpees you can do in 3 minutes (although they are fun tests!). This test is looking at current behaviours. There are two main elements to this test and each one gives certain points.
Part A: Number of days exercised per week.
This first element has you count the number of days you exercise a week that is OVER 20 minutes in a session. That can include walking and any other form of exercise that has you moving. While we encourage movement throughout the day as every minute counts, for this assessment we are looking for exercise that is over 20 minutes in duration. For each day that you meet this requirement, give yourself 1 point.
Part B: Intensity of each exercise session.
Research has shown us that intensity is important for not only boosting cardiovascular fitness, but you also get the benefits of EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) which means that even after you stopped training the body is burning calories. HIIT (high intensity interval training) also means that you don’t have to train as long; doing a 20-minute HIIT session burns just as much, if not more calories, than a 1-hour consistent run.
Intensity is classified into low, moderate and vigorous. Vigorous training is where your heart rate is 80% of your MHR (max heart rate is 220 – your age). Any workouts that meet this vigorous training requirement gain double points, so give yourself 2 points for each exercise session that is over 20 minutes and hits your 80% MHR.
Current Lifestyle Test
We have become as humans one of the most sedentary creatures, as our jobs often require us to be sitting for countless hours during the day. Many studies have now claimed that “sitting is the new smoking”, with the effects of being stationary likened to those that come from smoking – a rather scary thought!
This lifestyle tests looks to classify your lifestyle as:
Sedentary: you spend most of your day sitting (i.e. at a desk), with 1 hour or less of exercise.
Somewhat active: you spend most of your day sitting, but complete low intensity or moderate intensity exercise at least 1-2 hours a day.
Moderately active: you integrate movement throughout your whole day. You meet the 10,000 step requirement on top of 1-2 hours of moderate exercise
Very active: you are rarely sitting throughout the day and meet the 10,000 step requirement plus at least 1 hour of vigorous exercise.
Doing an hour of exercise before or after work has been found to no longer offset the downsides of sitting. We need to integrate movement throughout the day in order to really combat the effects of our sedentary lifestyle.
This one isn’t really a “test”, but rather a time for you to establish what your biggest motivator is to exercise. It’s different for everyone, and finding an underlying value, rather than just an aesthetic reason, can be the difference between sticking to a regular exercise regime and giving up after the first week. Write down some words that you associate with exercise and try to determine what your driver is. For some, it’s to maintain good health indicators (i.e. blood pressure, waist measurement, weight), whereas for others it’s to boost endorphins and mood. Everyone is unique!
Equally, we all have barriers to exercise. Time, lack of energy, money, resources. They all come up as reasons why we can’t exercise. Listing out your barriers can help to not only identify them, but also to help overcome them. If time is a barrier, schedule in small bouts of exercise throughout your day e.g. a 20 minute walk at lunchtime, a 20 minute walk home from work by getting off a few stops early, or maybe a 20 minute HIIT workout before heading into the office.
Solution: Create New Habits
Willpower is like a bank balance; if you withdraw from it, to get ahead you have to put back in twofold. Habits take the need for willpower out of the equation, as they are things that we perform mindlessly.
Habits make up at least 40% of our day, so it is the creation of healthy habits that can help us to achieve our goals. In order to do this, we need to identify the most motivated time of our week i.e. Sunday morning’s before the week starts, or a Friday night after a crazy week. It is in this time that you can schedule in your diary – like an important appointment – the new habit that you wish to create (or ones that you would like to continue). For example, on Sundays you may sit down with your calendar, your local gym’s timetable, and your friend’s schedule, and carve out your exercise sessions for the week.
The benefit here is that you are mindfully creating a habit that when willpower is waning, it can be performed mindlessly. When it comes time to do the exercise, it’s not a question of “do I want to train today”; it’s a statement of fact of “it’s time to exercise now”. This simple switch in psychology can make a huge difference to upholding your new habits.
Founder of E|B|M Angela has a birthday coming up this week, so in celebration of this we’re talking all things related to milestones.
You’ll commonly see lists like “30 by 30” or “50 by 50” that people set themselves as goals to achieve by a certain timeline. Not only do these lists help to set plans and timelines in place, but they are a fun way to put together a bucket list to do by yourself, with your friends, or with your significant other.
Today we’re putting together a top 10 list that you may find some inspiration for your own list no matter what age you are! The important thing with lists like this is that you only put elements on there that personally relate to you and that you consider important! Find yourself a comfortable space in the sunshine or rugged up on your lounge and get creative.
NOTE this is not a typical “achievement list”; this is looking through the lens of ENERGY|BODY|MIND of creating a healthier and happier YOU.
#1 Set a five and ten year plan: if the word ‘plan’ makes you run in the opposite direction then this one is DEFINITELY for you. As we get older the years seem to absolutely fly by. Before you know it, Christmas is here again and another year is over, but you can’t seem to think about what you’ve achieved in that last 12 months. Having a longer term plan can help time to slow down, with smaller milestones set along the way to achieve the bigger plan. It also means that your decisions become geared towards this goal on a daily basis, and instead of floating through each day, week, month or year, you can depend on your life goals to guide you. You may even put some of these things from the list in it.
#2 Find your significant other: You don’t need to have an engagement or marriage on your list (although if that is important to you then you definitely can!) but finding your significant other is an honourable quest. Finding that one person that you want to spend a majority of your life with and who has similar goals and values to you can make life just that little bit sweeter. However, a huge realisation is that this significant other cannot fulfil ALL your desires from another human. They cannot act as your best friend, confident, lover, philosophical dreamer, lifelong partner, or whatever is on that never ending list. Your significant other is the person you want to share a life with and follow your dreams simultaneously with. They will inherently understand you, respect you, and want the same life goals as you. You’re going to need a whole tribe for everything which takes us to #3.
#3 Create your tribe: They say it takes a community to raise a child so we believe it takes a tribe to raise an adult. You are the result of the top 5 people you spend the most time with, and with time being so precious, choosing those people is crucial to your overall mental and physical health. We talked about finding your tribe but for your list it’s great to seek out people who are in a similar position to you, or ones that are where you are striving to be as an inspiration. Having people in your life that push you and support you will help make this life much more fun.
#4 Fire up those neurons: The neurons are like trees that have beautiful leafy branches stemming off them when we are young. Unfortunately as we get older, these branches start to wilt and some even die and fall off UNLESS we use them. The best way to fire them up and stimulate new growth is to learn a musical instrument or learn a language. It’s a difficult concept for our brain and the effort required is what fires up those trees to be sustainable and grow. Plus it gives you a great excuse to travel!
#5 Travel somewhere you find a little uncomfortable: We’d all like to spend time on a European holiday relaxing in the sunshine with not a care in the world. While those holidays are great, it’s also good to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try a holiday that makes you a little bit uncomfortable. It can be somewhere with a different culture, a different language, or maybe just a different timezone but in any case, it’s somewhere that will help you to develop a cultural awareness and give you personal growth. Ideas include spending time meditating in India, or volunteering at an orphanage in Cambodia, or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro! We’re not saying find somewhere unsafe, just something that pushes you a little outside your comfort zone; that’s where the magic happens.
#6 Start saving and pay off your debt: In the day and age of credit cards it seems all too easy to just buy things that you can’t afford “right now” in the hope/anticipation that you will get the money in the future. Some of the most successful people have cut up their credit cards and live ONLY off what they have in the bank. Having debt on a credit card not only puts you behind the eight ball for future savings but it acts like a constant dark cloud of any spending. Work out a 1 month, 6 month, 12 month plan of paying off the debt and then start to put away savings each week for something in your longer term plans. It’s amazing what just a little bit now adds up to.
#7 Find an interesting hobby: Do you have a hobby at the moment? You’d be one of the few. It’s amazing to talk to people who HAVE a hobby compared to those who don’t. The passion and flow of conversation that a hobby can create is contagious and extremely attractive. It could be something extravagant like sailing, or something simple like cooking. In either case, it’s something that inspires you and drives you to learn.
#8 Learn how to cook: You don’t have to be on Masterchef but learning how to cook can change your life. Not only will your finances be much better off if you’re not having weeknight dinners out and brunches every Saturday but you’ll know what’s going into the foods you’re eating and be in a greater position to meet your health goals. Plus, doing a cooking class or course is a fun outing to do with friends!
#9 Complete a sporting event: This doesn’t have to just be for the fitness fanatics out there! There are LOTS of sporting events available for any level from a 5km fun run to an ironman triathlon. Participating in a sporting event gives you a goal to work towards and also provides a great personal sense of achievement when you complete it. Once you start, it often creates the momentum for bigger and better ones in the future and you can introduce some fun competition with others to get involved.
#10 Give your time: Purpose and passion are two of the greatest traits that we are all in search of. While it’s not possible for us all to have our dream job that means we wake up looking forward to Monday’s, we can however determine what happens during our own time. Volunteering your time for a cause near and dear to you will heighten your own sense of worth but also provide an invaluable asset to those in need. Even better, make it a regular occurrence; do it once a week, a month, or even a year.
This list goes fundamentally to your self development to help you to be a better person not only for others, but also for yourself. If we stop growing, we die, both in the physical and the mental sense. So keep striving for better.
Last week we focused on prevention for this upcoming cold and flu season. This week, we’re looking at what to do if the cold does break through all those barriers that you’ve set up.
It takes double the effort – sometimes literally – and should be approached like any other physical challenge; with vigour! While it may seem like a lot of effort and potentially the last thing you feel like doing when sick, its worth it to reduce the severity and the length of a virus.
Here are the top 10 things you can do when a cold starts to break through:
1. Double the Vitamins. We spoke about the best vitamins and herbal remedies last week and now is the time to double them. Double the dose of Vitamin C, Zinc and Echinacea to really give your immunity the best shot at fighting off the virus. Even if you feel knocked down by the cold, pumping the body with vitamins is one of the best ways to give it a chance to get rid of it more quickly.
2. Double the Probiotic. Gut health equates for 80% of your immunity, so it makes sense that to get the gut in tip top shape will help your immunity. Double the dose of your probiotic to twice a day – once before breakfast and the other just before bed – to give your body an extra hit of good bacteria to fight off the bad. Colds turn nasty when they turn bacterial (which is when you often need antibiotics!) so fighting off the bad bacteria with the strains of good bacteria found in a probiotic is a great combat mechanism.
3. Get the Best Shut Eye. We’ve raved on about the benefits of sleep but when you’re sick, your body needs even more to recover and recuperate. Up the nightly sleeps to 9-11 hours (yes you read that right!) and allow the body to take naps throughout the day (until about 5pm otherwise you will find it difficult to fall asleep!) as the body feels necessary. Remember, we’re all about learning to listening to our bodies this month, so if it needs the rest, give it.
4. Build up Your Magnesium. This primarily relates to #3 in getting a better sleep, because when we’re sick it’s often harder to get good quality rest. Magnesium is a great natural mineral to take to help aid your sleep. Take one dose 10-20 minutes before bed. You can also buy it in oil form, and rub it into the body to help relieve those aches and pains often associated with a virus.
5. Remember to Breathe. When you’re all blocked up in the nose it often means that we’re not getting enough oxygen to the rest of the body. If it’s a chesty cold, it can also force us to take shorter and more shallow breaths. One of the best ways to open up the airways is to inhale eucalyptus oil. You can put it in a diffuser to keep it in your room at night, or just put a few drops on a tissue or handkerchief while you sleep. Being able to sleep freely throughout the night makes a huge difference to the speed of recovery.
6. Drink Up. You know the benefits of hydrating generally but you need extra water to flush out the toxins when you are unwell. Herbal (decaffeinated) teas are also great and very soothing for a sore throat. Without sufficient moisture in the body, immune system cells can’t work optimally. You should need to go to the bathroom every couple of hours and it should be clear.
7. Up the Antioxidants. There are some particular foods that are great at fighting off colds so adding them to every meal is great to not only boost immunity long-term, but to also to reduce the severity of the cold. The key staples are garlic, onions, turmeric, and salt. The anti-microbial properties of garlic and its relative the onion can fight off bacteria and viruses. Turmeric’s power comes from the fact that it’s a natural anti-inflammatory, while salt is great for reducing swelling and mucus. The best way to have them?
8. Make a Batch of Chicken Soup. It’s true what they say; a batch of chicken soup now has scientific backing in helping the common cold. The most widely cited research, published in the medical journal Chest in 2000, is by Dr. Stephen Rennard of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. They found that chicken soup inhibits the migration of these infecteda cells in the body, meaning it essentially helps reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms. It seems to be the combination of vegetables and the chicken that has this effect. You can throw in any vegetables that you can think of – the more the better!
9. De-stress. Having to take time off work because we’re sick can seem impossible and overwhelming for the subsequent catch-up. However, reducing that stress is essential to allow the body time to heal. Meditation is one of the best ways to de-stress (learn more about HOW to here) and will have an impact on your recovery. University of Wisconsin researchers found mindfulness meditation training reduced the incidence, duration and severity of a cold by 35 – 60%!
10. Keep Up the Prevention. Your immune system has taken a blow with this virus and is going to be much weaker now making you more susceptible than usual to other colds and flus going around. Don’t just give up at the first sign of feeling better, keep up the maintenance and re-strengthen your immunity.
A virus is NEVER fun, but it is an excuse to do nothing. It’s a clear sign from your body that it needs rest and recovery time so don’t be afraid to listen.
This week we’re interviewing Kat Jacob. Kat’s a passionate personal trainer who is doing some amazing things with her own training. She works with many corporate clients, so this week we’re talking to her about how exercise can help relieve stress and what types of exercise are best for that whether you’re a beginner or more advanced.
So let’s jump right into this interview with Kat:
So Kat, tell us a little about your background and how you became a personal trainer?
I’ve been passionate about health and fitness for as long as I can remember; I always loved being active and been interested in nutrition. Over the last few years I found that my ‘actual’ job – Event Producer – was impacting more and more on that lifestyle; the years of working long hours and late nights started to take its toll and I became stressed and sick.
I started questioning whether I was in the right job – I was producing amazing events, but it started to feel meaningless and the risk of giving up a safe income and changing careers very quickly became less scary than the thought of staying in the events industry for the rest of my life.
I happened to be introduced to the right person at around that time, which led me to take the leap and start on my journey to becoming a PT. I have now quit the events industry altogether and can honestly say it was the best decision I’ve made – there are challenging times and the money is nowhere near the same yet, but I am a much happier & healthier person and finally feel like I’m helping people change their lives in a positive way.
That certainly is a leap of faith! You now do a range of different training regimes yourself? Can you tell us a little more about them and why you do so many?
I love having variety in my workouts – it keeps me motivated and to me is much more fun than doing the same thing every day. I’m also a big believer in that we need to keep challenging our bodies to get stronger & fitter – by exposing it to a variety of activities & exercises we allow our bodies to grow in a much broader way. It also helps aid recovery between big sessions to give those movement patterns you just worked very hard a break and get the body moving in a different way.
The majority of my training is based on Gymnastic Strength Training – lots of handstands, bodyweight strength training, rings etc. with a big focus on mobility. There is a lot of variety within this style of training, and I love the strategic approach of working towards set goals (i.e. a muscle up) – it pushes me to get better and work hard. I like mixing things up on my rest days with touch football, surfing / swimming, hiking or the odd run.
Wow that certainly is a lot! How do you keep up with all your different training schedules with so much going on? What’s your secret tip for fitting it all in?
I’m actually German and used to be an event producer so being organised comes with the territory! But in all seriousness, for me it’s all about planning ahead and having a set schedule of what to do when & where. I plan my sessions in 6 week cycles, and each session is written down so when I go to the gym I just need to open up that notebook and know exactly what I’ve got to do that day to stay on track.
It means I don’t have to think about it when I get there but can focus my energy on the session, and it holds me accountable on those days where I’m feeling tired. I also meet up with a mate a couple of times a week and we train together – we teach each other new stuff, play with different exercises, spot each other and just generally make sure the other one pushes (or rests!) when we need to.
That’s a great tip about planning your workouts in advance. It takes the effort out of trying to think what you’re going to do when you actually get to the gym which sometimes feels like half the workout!
So this month we’re talking a lot about stress and mental health. Can you tell us how exercise helps with that?
Exercise is proven to reduce our bodies stress hormones – adrenaline and cortisol – and stimulates the production of endorphins, the chemicals in our brain that act as natural pain killers and help lift our mood.
Exercise can also help take your mind off things and shift your focus, and some exercises can in fact be a form of moving meditation – running or long power walks tend to do that for me! It can be a great way to get in some ‘me-time’ to create the space to think things through or just find the time to breather and switch off.
Exercising regularly makes you want to eat healthier too, which in turn helps reducing the stress, as your body will be fuelled with the right nutrients to help cope with stress.
For some statistics on the connection between physical exercise and mental health, check out the Waves of Wellness Foundation. Interestingly, research has shown that physical activities can sometimes be more beneficial for patients with mental health than a strictly clinical approach; after working with the ‘One Wave’ charity Joel Pilgrim founded ‘Waves of Wellness’ based on this approach, a non for profit that helps people struggling with mental health to find an outlet through surf therapy.
Exercise helps people to feel better about themselves, and the community & their support that comes with sports and exercise groups can provide a sense of belonging too.
So there are a lot of benefits and some great statistics to back it up!
One of the biggest concerns our clients tell us is that they don’t have enough TIME to fit in exercise. How would you overcome that?
I think the most important thing is to find a type of exercise you love – if you really enjoy something and it makes you happy, you will find it much easier to make the time.
The gym isn’t for everyone – try team sports, swimming, cycling, yoga, tennis etc. and figure out which activity makes exercise fun and not just a chore you feel obliged to do for health reasons.
Also, think about why you want to exercise – to feel healthier, to be able to keep up with your kids, or because you want to learn a new skill? It’ll help your motivation and keep you going on the days where it gets hard.
That’s so true, you have to find something you love. Exercise can’t be seen as another chore in our lives – we just won’t do it. Plus we work with clients consistently to re-identify their ‘why’ for all their goals. It’s just one of the best ways to keep them motivated and pushing forward!
So what are the best exercises to be doing to get in a quick, efficient and sweat inducing workout?
My go to for a quick and efficient workout is a bodyweight circuit (think lots of animal movements like bear crawls, ape walks, frog squats, caterpillar walks and bodyweight pushing & pulling exercises. followed by some max sprint efforts –it’ll get your heart pumping & the sweat going while working your entire body.
And what if I’m a beginner and never really exercised before, is there anything different that I should be doing?
The most important thing is to ease yourself into it – you don’t want to go so hard that you’re hurting for days as that’s the best way to stop yourself from wanting to go back.
If you’re unsure about technique or completely new to something, I’d recommend taking a few classes to learn the ropes and make sure you’re getting it right from the outset. It’s harder to fix bad habits than learning from scratch, and the right technique can make the difference between reaping the benefits or getting injured.
Stuart McGill, a professor of spine mechanics said “First move well, then move often.” and I 100% agree with that statement. Other than that – get out there, try lots of different things and find the kind of exercise that makes you keep coming back.
That’s it isn’t it. Just try something! But don’t go too hard. So many people go out really hard in that first week and when they can’t walk think “I’m never doing that again!”. It’s just best to build it up.
Ok so the other end of the spectrum, what if I’m quite advanced, how can I keep pushing the intensity and make sure I’m making progress?
Add some variety to your workouts by taking it into a different environment (i.e. outdoors or vice versa), add new movements into your sessions, look at ways to achieve your goals by trying a new approach.
Let’s say you want to learn how to handstand – don’t just keep kicking up again and again, look at what other skills and strength you might need to achieve that handstand and work on those – for example your shoulder mobility, core strength etc. It adds diversity while still working towards your main goal, helping to get there faster.
Another option is to find a training partner or group, a bit of healthy competition can go a long way in stepping up your game and it may expose you to some new ideas.
Yes healthy competition is definitely a great way to up the anti! We’ve talked about that previously for finding your training soulmate!
Ok final question, what would be your top three tips for a corporate worker trying to integrate three exercise sessions during the week?
One thing that can make a big difference is getting the exercise in first thing in the morning – that way it’s done and no matter what the day throws at you or how tired you are after work, you will have had your exercise. Plus it’s a nice way to start the day rather than rolling from bed onto a chair and sit down right away, it’ll get your body and your mind going.
I know it can be challenging when you work long hours or have kids to get back to, so you could try to incorporate exercise in your day in a way that makes it easy and doesn’t leave much room for excuses. When I was still in events, I used to run home from work at least a couple times a week – depending on the route I’d get a good 45 – 60min run in and with traffic taking the bus would’ve taken the same time. Or you could walk the first 5km before getting on the train home, cycle to and from work or give a lunchtime class a go. Travel a lot? Pack your trainers, most hotels have a gym & pool, or you can go for a walk and explore the area.
If your week gets the better of you, get moving on the weekends! If you have kids, get them involved – go for a bike ride, play soccer in the park…there are so many options. Find the most convenient option for your lifestyle and make it a part of your routine – trust me, you will be more productive as a result and feel better for it!
There’s always a way if you make it a priority right! Thanks so much Kat that was really helpful.
Well readers we hope you all got something useful out of that and you’re all going to kickstart your workouts to feel the benefits!
Research has recently come to light that if you live in a neighbourhood surrounded by trees, shrubs, and chirping birds, then there is less chance for you to suffer from anxiety or stress.
According to researchers, lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress were associated with the number of birds people could see in the afternoon. But can it really be that simple?
People are increasingly spending time indoors, and with the majority of the day for most spent inside at a computer, it’s no wonder that we’re starting to see the health detriments to society.
The link between the role of nature for our mental well-being has long been established, yet many still fail to get their daily dose of the outside world.
There are several ways that you can try to up the dose of nature in your daily life:
1. Exercise outdoors. Gym memberships can be an astronomical cost, with some gyms demanding up to $100 a week from some of their members. Exercise doesn’t have to be such a costly exercise, AND doing it outdoors gives you a considerable chunk of your day connecting with nature. Go for a walk / jog / run, complete a circuit in your local park, join an outdoor bootcamp at lunchtime; the options are out there!
2. Take a break. I actually think smokers have this one down pat the best. While I don’t advocate for smoking in any way, the one thing that they do best is take breaks regularly outside! Back in my corporate life, I used to get the smokers of the office to come and take me on their ‘smoko breaks’ as a reminder to get outside. As long as I stood upwind, it was a great chance for me to get a few extra minutes outside with nature and re-centre before heading back into the office. A great way to boost your productivity as well!
3. Implement outdoor meetings. I’ve spoken about this before, but on top of having walking meetings (or if that’s not possible), get your meetings outside. Technology has meant that we can be very mobile and portable with our ideas, so take the meeting to a café with an outdoor area, or meet in a bigger space that has access to sunshine and all the elements. It’s amazing how refreshed you’ll feel afterwards compared to being stuck in an air-conditioned building.
4. Convert your commute. We often become so stuck in our ways that we forget the various options we have for commuting. You can walk/jog/run all or part of the way, ride a bike, ride a skateboard/scooter, get creative! Getting up that little bit earlier or getting home just that little bit later will be worth it for your mental and physical health.
5. Bring nature to you. While working outside or out of an office is not a reality for all of us, we can try and bring some of the elements from the outside in. Invest in a plant or succulent that you can have in the office and encourage others to ‘green up’ the space. Research has shown that just looking at nature can help you to feel more relaxed, so when that deadline is becoming overwhelming, or you’ve received a passive aggressive email from a colleague, or your boss is breathing down your neck, you just need a few minutes staring at something green and natural to calm the mind.
So while the headline grab of ‘birds improve mental health’ may be a little simplified, this study does uncover the role primary components of nature contribute toward our mental health. Integrating nature into our daily lives highlights the benefits of preventative healthcare and encourages us as a society to make our cities a healthier place to live.
It’s the end of the first month of 2017. How did you go with sticking to your intentions and goals? I never let my clients set NYE Resolutions because the stats on the conversion of these is so terrible! Instead, we set intentions and bite-sized goals that we start on right away.
One of the biggest mistakes that I see with goal setting is people missing the “M” from the S.M.A.R.T memo. They’re not measurable. It’s great to have big dreams and intentions with your health goals, but if they aren’t measurable, then you can never know whether you’ve actually achieved it!
I love this time of year to do some fitness testing with my clients in order to set new goals. We usually retest after a 10-12 week cycle in order to see how they have progressed!
Below are my favourite fitness tests that you can try out yourselves:
1.The beep test
An oldie but a goodie. The beep test helps us to measure your cardiovascular fitness level or VO² max.
-Set up a 20m course marked with lines or witches hats
-Download an app with the pre-recorded audio for the beep at each interval
-Each successive beep decreases the interval, meaning the speed to run between the two points must increase
-You are allowed one warning if you miss the beep, but a subsequent miss means the test is over
-The level achieved PRIOR to the beep missed is then recorded as your score
-Make sure you are well hydrated
-Ensure that you have not had a snack or a meal within 1 to 2 hours before the test, but that you have eaten that day
-Pace yourself so you do not fatigue
-Only one foot needs to touch the line which can reduce the distance you need to cover
Fun fact: applicants to the police force must achieve level 7.1 or higher!
2.The Push-up Test
We’re looking here at your dynamic muscular endurance of the upper body. Technique is most important here, and push-
ups which do not meet the criteria will not be counted.
-Decide whether push-ups will be performed on your toes or your knees
-Perform the maximum number of push-ups without rest
-The test is stopped when you are unable to maintain technique for two repetitions
-Each repetition must have your chest – not your abdomen – touching the floor
-When you have chosen which level – knees or toes – stick to that for the whole test
-Keep your core switched on the whole time for stability
-Place hands shoulder width apart and no wider
Fun fact: Guinness Book of Records lists the most push ups in one hour as 2,220 by Carlton Williams from Wales UK.
The feat was achieved on 25 July 2015 in Margaret River, Western Australia.
3.Abdominal Curl-Up Test
The curl-up test measures abdominal muscular strength and endurance of the abdominals and hip flexors. These are
important for your back support and stability, so a really important indicator.
-Lie on your back with knees at 90 degrees.
-Set a timer for 1 minute
-Perform as many as possible without pausing yet with good technique
-Exhale as you come up and inhale as you lie back down
-Don’t use your arms to pull you up – that’s cheating!
-Try and go at a slow and consistent pace rather than starting out too hard
Fun fact: the research coming out shows that your abdominal muscles are responsible for good posture. These muscles
are used during our daily life activities and during a workout. Researchers have confirmed that those with a strong core
and lower back do not get injured as much as those without.
These are just three goals that you may set yourself to achieve in terms of your fitness! Have fun testing and measuring.
I’ve blogged before on the Elimination Cycle and the steps for preparing, but we’re starting a new cycle of the Elimination Detox TODAY so I wanted there to be another resource for people to learn about this.
There are several symptoms that you may see within yourself that are signs that your body is craving detoxification. These range from:
· Digestive problems e.g. IBS, diarrhea, constipation
· Weight gain
· Low energy
· Short temper
· Fluid retention
· Skin breakout and congestion
· Sore, red or stingy eyes
· Waking up consistently between 2am-4am
· Not feeling hungry for breakfast
These are only SOME of the symptoms. So if you experience any of these, it is your body’s way of saying “I need some time out!”. My body needs to detox about once every six months, and I can tell when it needs it.
I grew up in a household where we had fresh food bought everyday, because the supermarket was conveniently located about 5 minutes from my house. When I moved out of home and into a university dorm, food shifted from being a healthy source of fuel for my body to a pleasure seeking mechanism that had almost no nutritional content. I should’ve caught on when we learnt the suppliers for the college food also serviced several major prison systems in Sydney!
So I got sick. Like really sick. Like waking up in the middle of the night with stomach pains, headaches, and fevers (usually at 3am!). I had every test under the sun to try and find out what was wrong with me. NOTHING. All the doctors said there was nothing medically wrong with me to be causing this. So I turned to a nutritionist and a naturopath who worked together on figuring out what was the underlying cause: food allergies. I was allergic to almost EVERYTHING I was eating.
So I spent the next couple of months going through an Elimination cleanse and figuring out what foods my body would tolerate and serve me as a source of fuel. Now those allergies are all but gone, but occasionally they can rear their ugly heads when I’ve drifted off slightly and started to eat more processed foods. So that’s why I detox every six months. To give the digestive system, the liver, the kidney’s, all a break and a reset!
So what should you expect if you do an Elimination Cleanse? Well let’s start with the withdrawal. Particularly if you have had a diet high in sugar, I’m not going to lie to you – the first 5 to 7 days of this is going to be tough. Sugar is treated like a drug in our brains, and there has been research showing that we become chemically addicted to the white stuff! So that first week you may experience:
Headaches: like any addiction, when you remove it, the body goes into withdrawals. The body has become dependent on this and when it doesn’t get the ‘hit’, will start to cause headaches as it craves for it.
Fatigue: on top of the headaches, your body is now missing the energy boost that sugar used to give it. Think of the highs and lows that you often experience after a sweet – a donut, a muffin, a cup of milky coffee. It gives you a short boost, you have a crash, you crave more sugar, so you give it another hit. It becomes a vicious cycle. When we break that cycle, it is very likely that you may feel sluggish and fatigued.
Irritability: When you make changes in your nutrition the body often responds in very interesting ways. If it’s missing it’s normal pick-me-ups then its common to become more cranky and irritable than usual – think 2 year old child who has missed their afternoon nap.
So what do you do about the cravings? And believe me there are going to be cravings. Depending on how much processed foods, caffeine, sugar and alcohol you were consuming before will ultimately determine how hard the detox will be. However, the ones with the higher levels initially are often the ones who also experience the best benefits!
Here are some of my top tips for helping you get through an Elimination Cleanse:
1. Drink. Drink till you feel like a fish. But only the good stuff: water and herbal teas. Dehydration is often one of the main reasons why we have cravings, and you can often drown them out with water. Try for at least 2 Litres of water everyday during the cleanse. There’s some more tips here on staying hydrated.
2. Move. You know that high that you feel after sugar or caffeine? Your body is going to miss that, so replace it with some exercise. When we move, our body releases the same feel good endorphins PLUS acts as a stress reliever to help with the irritability. This doesn’t mean you have to join a gym and train 7 days a week, just get sweating. Be creative. Get outdoors. It’s summer here in Australia so the opportunities to exercise are endless!
3. Integrate natural sweets. You ARE able to trick your body. When you’re craving something sweet, give it a healthy alternative. Amazingly, sweet root vegetables will give your body a similar satisfaction to lollies, so up the anti on vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes. Fruits are also a great alternative and there is an abundance of wonderful fruits available at the moment! Pineapple is so sweet, your body will think it’s just had a block of chocolate!
4. Create a network. Firstly, it’s best to warn your family and friends that you may be more irritable than usual during the cleanse. As the toxins leave your body and you go through the withdrawal symptoms, your fuse tends to be a lot shorter than usual. It also helps if those closest to you are aware of what you’re doing to provide extra support in those tough times and to not eat that cupcake in front of you. If you’re lucky, they may even choose to join you!
5. Go easy on yourself. Realise that deciding to take a cleanse is more than what a lot of others do. Beyond that, eliminating ANYTHING unhealthy from your diet is going to be beneficial to your overall health no matter if you do it for a day, a week or a month. Realise that you WILL have slip ups – we are human – so you just go back to the cleanse as soon as its over. Don’t throw away all your hard work just from one slip up.
If you’re not sure where to start, you can join our Elimination Detox Challenge! We start January 16th and all our Eliminators start together and finish together. You will have access to your own manual, support videos and tutorials, plus a step-by-step guide to both the pre – during – post elimination.
You can sign up HERE!
This will be the last blog post for 2016! So I thought in the spirit of Christmas I’d give you access to a guided meditation that you can listen to over the holidays (see link below).
Whether you’re a guru meditator or a first timer, meditation brings a unique and different experience to everyone each time. The Western world is finally starting to catch up with the scientific benefits of meditation that the East has been preaching about for centuries. As a consequence, meditation is no longer reserved for just ‘hippies’ (see my other blog on famous meditators!) and is becoming a more common practice among many.
While there are countless benefits of meditation, I’ve covered the top 9 below. If you’re not meditating, these are the 9 things you’ll be missing out on!
1. We all face stress at one time or another. Stress can SOMETIMES be a good thing. But not all the time. Research has found that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs may help manage stress. A systematic review of 17 MBSR studies found the program to be effective in reducing stress in participants ! So when you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed this Christmas, turn to meditation.
2. Anxiety is often a by-product of built up stress and can get a real grip of you if you don’t have ways to manage it. A systematic review of meditation training found that 69% of the studies analysed highlighted that meditation alleviated the symptoms of anxiety .
3. Sleep is one of the biggest issues that my clients come to me with. We all have so much on our minds all the time, and little time throughout the day to switch off. The plethora of technology available at our finger tips makes going to sleep at night a challenge for many. A meta-analysis of randomised control trials among those with insomnia showed that eight weeks of meditation training significantly improved sleep quality . So if you’re mind is racing as soon as your head hits the pillow, try some relaxation meditation to help you drift of more easily.
4. Still on the topic of sleep, the holiday season often means that sleep is the first to be sacrificed for parties, shopping, and other appointments. Among practiced meditators, time spent meditating is now correlated with a significant decrease in total sleep time needed . Some have even said 20 minutes of meditation is the equivalent to a one-hour nap. So if you don’t have time to be napping during the day, find a quiet space for 20 minutes and zone out to feel refreshed and energized!
5. Meditation has now been shown to have significant impacts on our cognition. Scientists investigated the effects of a meditation training program and found that meditating for just four days is enough to improve novice meditators’ working memory . So if you’re struggling to remember all those new names at the latest social gathering, try a meditation and you could be remembering the most important of names…
6. While December usually isn’t the month for colds and flus, having one in the blazing heat and humidity is less than pleasant. On top of that, all the late nights, less healthy food and extra alcohol all wreck havoc on the immune system. A study from Harvard Medical School showed that individuals who practiced yoga and meditation developed a higher immunity . The last thing you want Christmas Day is to be blowing your nose and all puffy from a cold, so practice some mindfulness techniques throughout the month to keep the immune system strong.
7. Christmas time is often when feelings of loneliness start to rear their ugly heads. A study on mindfulness meditation training showed that meditation helps decrease those feelings of loneliness . You don’t have to live alone to experience loneliness. Practicing meditation is one of the best ways to get comfortable with your own company, plus it gives you a hit of those feel good hormones, which Loneliness doesn’t like to hang around with.
8. Show of hands if you think you’re NOT creative (my hand is up). I like to think of myself as the more logical and problem solving type. Though since starting my own business I’ve HAD to become more creative. Research shows that meditation has positive effects in creativity and divergent thinking . There is no better place for me to come up with new ideas and services for my clients than during a meditation. If you’re looking for some creative inspiration for what 2017 will hold for you, try just shutting down the eyes and tuning into your intuition – it may surprise you.
9. This one is especially useful over Christmas. How many times have you finished a Christmas meal and felt totally and utterly STUFFED?! Scientists now believe that Transcendental Meditation (with a mantra) helps to manage emotional eating . When we’re more mindful about what we’re putting in our bodies consciously it transfers subconsciously into our everyday behaviour.
There’s so many benefits to meditation but even if you just experienced ONE of these, imagine how much better off the end of 2016 will be and the potential for 2017.
Click HERE for the guided mediation to start
 Sharma, M., & Rush, S. E. (2014). Mindfulness-based stress reduction as a stress management intervention for healthy individuals a systematic review. Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine, 19(4), 271-286.
 Chen, K. W., Berger, C. C., Manheimer, E., Forde, D., Magidson, J., Dachman, L., & Lejuez, C. W. (2012). Meditative therapies for reducing anxiety: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Depression and anxiety, 29(7), 545-562
 Gong, H., Ni, C. X., Liu, Y. Z., Zhang, Y., Su, W. J., Lian, Y. J., … & Jiang, C. L. (2016). Mindfulness meditation for insomnia: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 89, 1-6.
 Zeidan, F., Johnson, S. K., Diamond, B. J., David, Z., & Goolkasian, P. (2010). Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and cognition, 19(2), 597-605.
Okay so I think most of you may have heard of the 80/20 rule as this distant principle that you could apply to your life to get some benefit out of. Originally called the Pareto Principle, this philosophy was first applied in business. It was commonly found that 20% of customers lead to most, or 80%, of the sales.
The principle has been taken now into many contexts but the most important one here is for your health. While I’d love to say that 20% of your efforts net an 80% improvement of your results, we need to flip the rule in this context and focus on the 80%. If you make the majority of your choices healthy, you can achieve a healthy lifestyle.
This 80/20 rule is universal; it applies to all aspects of your life. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t come from one ‘good’ or ‘bad’ decision. It is an accumulation of all your health choices each day, each week, each month and each year. You don’t have to be perfect all the time, but you also can’t have cheat meals all the time. You don’t have to go to the gym everyday, but you do need to do some form of movement at least a majority of the week. You don’t have to meditate for hours on end, you can just find 5 minutes every second day to focus on your breathing. If you can eat, exercise, and be mindful 80% of the time, you will see amazing results.
You know why I love this rule so much?
It’s for Life
Every wondered why those “lemon detox diets” or the “soup diet” or the “500 calories every second day” don’t work? They’re not sustainable. The best rule I’ve ever been taught is “if you want to put on weight, then go on a diet”. Diets make our body go into survival mode, and not only hold onto the weight we’re already carrying, but as soon as we return to ‘normal’ eating, we pile on the extra pounds so that we can make it through another famine!
The 80/20 philosophy is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a way to make healthy decisions throughout your day/week/month/year. There’s no guilt if you overeat, under exercise or miss a meditation. You just have to balance it out somewhere else. Each day is an attempt to get the most out of your choices. Then tomorrow is a fresh day and you start again.
We can be Human
My clients are sometimes horrified to hear that I don’t live by some amazing health trend that I abide by 100% of the time. When I tell them that I eat a piece of dark chocolate almost every night, (it is 95% dark chocolate though) they almost fall of their chairs. Or the fact that I don’t train at my gym every day. Or that there are days when I don’t meditate.
I am not a robot – I am also human. And humans need a little wiggle room. While my ratios will often be closer to 90/10, I still need that 10%. Allowing yourself to have some space to breathe is necessary to stay on track with your health goals. It’s OK to have cheat meals, days where you don’t move off the couch, and mindless days. Actually it’s more than OK. You NEED them. Fundamentally as a human being. So that’s a big reason why I love this philosophy.
When something seems achievable, you are more likely to do it. I like to apply this rule to EACH DAY with my clients at first rather than the bigger picture (though you work to this!). Every decision throughout the day becomes the question “Are the majority of my choices today healthy?”. If you’ve reached 11am and the answer is no, you still have the rest of the day to be making healthy decisions.
For example, in a typical day, if you’ve had a healthy breakfast and then a colleague has brought in Christmas cupcakes for morning tea, don’t beat yourself up for having one. Enjoy it, remove the guilt, and then realise the rest of your day needs to consist of healthy decisions. That means when you get to lunchtime you need to have that salad rather than a burger, and for dinner have the grilled rather than the fried fish option. It’s all about balance.
The Secret for December
Now I have a little secret about this rule for my clients in December, because December is one of the hardest months of the year to keep your health goals going. BUT I’m going to reveal this secret in my free upcoming webinar so you’ll need to tune in on the 15th of December to find out more.
Click HERE to register.
Details: Surviving the Holiday Season
Date: 15th December
Aim: Create tangible ways to keep your health goals going in 2016.
Claim your FREE spot HERE