June 12, 2017
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.
For the month of May we’re looking at milestones and personal growth. One of the ways that research shows us we can achieve this is through the completion of something – i.e. being able to tick it off the list – so for this week’s Body blog we’re talking about completing a running race.
There are many races in the calendar year that may take your fancy whether you’re a beginner or more advanced. There are 5km fun walk/runs, the 9km Bridge run, the 14km City to Surf, the Great Ocean Road half marathon, a full marathon, and the 100km Oxfam Trail walk. You can’t say there aren’t options!
Completing any one of these races carries with it a sense of self-achievement, pride and honesty to yourself. Your head can really get the better of you, especially in the longer races, so it’s a great way to get in touch with what you’re trying to achieve and conquer that inner critic.
So here are the top reasons that other people have told us they LIKE competing in races.
1. Motivation for your training. We all tend to fall in the trap of a motivational slump, particularly at this time of year as the mornings are darker and the weather is colder! Registering for a race and committing to it is a great way to pull you out of it and inject new energy into your potentially stale workout. Training for a race doesn’t have to be just all running either. In fact, it SHOULDN’T be. You should be including agility training, strength training along with endurance training to mix up your workout and prepare your body.
PRACTICAL: Write down a realistic race that you want to compete in for 2017.
2. Personal growth. Nothing beats the thrill of crossing the line on your first, fifth or one-hundredth race. Not only will you overcome the physical obstacles, but the mental ones as well. A race, big or small, is more often than not a mental battle to overcome your doubt, questioning, and self-perceived flaws. When you finish the race, for even that split second, those thoughts are quashed and you will notice a change in your own ability to overcome things in your everyday life.
PRACTICAL: Write down your biggest fear in relation to competing in a race. Having it on paper, or sharing it with someone halves the problem and helps you to get back in control over it.
3. A bonding experience. Competing in a race is a great way to bond with family, friends, or even work colleagues. You will get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses leading up to the race through your training, which will not only help you to get through the race but will bring you closer together. Most races allow you to register as a team and build momentum together. It’s a great way to make time to spend with people that you want to get to know better or build a stronger connection with – all while getting fit!
PRACTICAL: Encourage your work colleagues to participate in the next race with you and offer an incentive for when you all finish together.
4. You can support a great cause. Most organised runs have some charity that they are affiliated with, but even if they don’t, you can always start your own fundraising activities for the run. Utilise social media and encourage a bit of friendly competition to see who can raise the most money. You could even put up an prize for the biggest fundraiser in your team!
PRACTICAL: Set a dollar target for yourself or your team on a Facebook page and get fundraising!
5. It boosts your overall health goals. We now know that health is much more than just the physical, but getting the body moving is often the best way to kick start your other health goals. Training for a race requires great nutrition to fuel your training and get the body in peak condition. It also is a great way to master the mind to calm the body, and working on mindset mantras and meditation exercises can really help for preparation and during a race.
PRACTICAL: Write down three health goals that relate to the race and implement them during your training.
We talked last week about having something to be able to say you’ve accomplished for 2017 and a race is a great way to do it. So get researching the race that’s right for you and start training!
Wrapping up the month on synchronicity and listening to your intuition, we’ve secured yogi Nicole Belliveau from the Byron Yoga Centre to take us through her little tips and tricks. Nicole started yoga at a young age now is a host and teacher at the Byron Yoga Centre. She also trained as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and is passionate about all things health and wellness.
So let’s get into the interview!
Nicole can you tell us a little about your background and how you wound up at the Byron Yoga Centre?
I am a Canadian who grew up with an active lifestyle but poor quality food. Somewhere in the transition from mcnuggets to quinoa, I took a leap and studied Holistic Nutrition. While learning about food science and the healing benefits of whole foods, real transformation happened. Now as a Holistic Nutritionist, I have a much healthier relationship with food and nourish myself with an organic plant-based diet.
I started practicing yoga at a young age almost 10 years ago. It started off as another form of physical exercise but slowly I started to feel the benefits on deeper levels. On my mat was the first time I truly connected with myself. It is where a lot of my healing and self-love happens.
In January 2016, I arrived at the Byron Yoga Centre to study and become a yoga teacher. After the course finished, I asked to volunteer for a few weeks to soak in all the knowledge I gained and the beauty of the centre. Over a year later, I still haven’t left! I now have the privilege to be one of the Retreat Hosts; I teach some yoga classes and wellness workshops, ensure the retreats run smoothly and most importantly that the guests are happy and relaxed. I feel blessed every day to be in a position that allows me to grow in a healthy environment surrounded by like-minded people.
Wow what a journey to end up there permanently. It’s funny how life takes us to the places we need. How do you keep balanced and centred with so much going on? What’s your secret tip?
I don’t have one specific tip but rather a combination of habits that make up a healthy lifestyle that invites vitality and clarity to take the best step forward. I make an effort to eat nutrient-dense living foods, practice meditation and yoga, ensure adequate sleep, spend time in nature and fill my mind with content that inspires me to be and live better. Some days I slip off the health wagon but i’ve learned to accept this and not be too hard on myself. Reminding myself what I am grateful for, to breathe deeply and be present helps me stay positive and get back on track.
It’s nice to know that even yogi’s can fall off the bandwagon – makes us mere mortals feel a little better! We’re talking a lot about synchronicity and intuition this month. That can include things like finding your own tribe with similar interests, listening to what your body needs for nutrition, choosing the movement exercises that work for you, and finding time for yourself. Can you tell us a little bit about how you have tapped into your intuition?
For me, tapping into our intuition is connecting to our true self, in the present and using it to guide our thoughts and actions. When we are aligned with this inner wisdom, it is easier to recognize what will serve our highest good and purpose. Our intuition always speaks to us but sometimes there are distractions that get in the way.
When I feel disconnected, I make an effort to get out of my head to reduce the noise it creates and get more into my heart. Often this takes place with eyes closed, breathing deeply, focusing on my heart space on my mat, immersed in nature or reading with a lit candle and herbal tea. Books such as Rebecca Campbell’s Light is the New Black and Caroline Myss’s Anatomy of the Spirit, have helped me see the world in a whole new light and tap into parts of myself I didn’t know existed.
Getting out of the “should” mentality and more into exploring how I truly want to feel, helps to gain clarity and be in the flow of life. I also find that when I let myself write organically in my journal, I connect to what I need to be reminded of. To stay true to my authenticity, I will add that I am still working on all of this. The more I practice these rituals, the more I spend time in connection with my intuition and synchronicity happens.
It seems like continuing to learn and grow is so important for all of us. So from a yogi’s point of view, what are the best ways to being open to and listening to your own intuition?
Patanjali’s Yoga sutras teach us to apply the principles of Ashtanga (8 limbs). Included in these steps are how to live a meaningful and purposeful life, compassion for self and others, self-discipline, mindfulness, pranayama (breath exercises), meditation, asana and eventually for some, enlightenment. His teachings are very in depth but some key points are mindfulness, deep breathing, reflecting before reacting, and moving the body to eliminate stagnant energy. When the limbs are practiced, openness and intuition can flow with ease.
That point you made about the “should” mentality is a trap many of us fall into! We need to really disassociate ourselves with that and focus on what we really want. So finally Nicole what would be your top three tips for a corporate worker trying to align themselves with their future goals and vision?
1. CLARITY: For true alignment to happen, the goals need to be in sync with our true desires. Once we get clear on how we want to feel, we can use this as our compass rather than what we “should” be going for. Having clarity on HOW to reach the vision is also essential to achieving the goals. There is something powerful about writing on paper our goals and the actions step necessary to make them happen. Being realistic, taking it one step at a time and writing a date to have them accomplished by will help the transition towards the end goals.
2. PERSONAL GROWTH: “To have more than you’ve got, become more than you are” –Jim Rohn. By investing in ourselves with books, podcasts, documentaries and people that stimulate us to grow and change our mindsets, our lives change radically. Happiness is an inside gig – Our perceptions, thoughts and beliefs are what shape our lives. By changing our internal world, the outside world becomes aligned with our energy and the grass gets greener.
3. SELF-LOVE: To remind ourselves that we are GOOD ENOUGH. To have compassion and kindness towards ourselves along the journey. Even if the process doesn’t go as planned or we make mistakes, all is well. Underlying the actions, there needs to be love and trust. Self-love also includes taking time for ourselves and resting (which is very different to laziness). In our busy go-go-go lives, we need to create balance by slowing down and recharging ourselves. Learning to receive, saying no to the things that do not serve us and putting ourselves first are also part of this loving process.
All points that I need to remind myself of!
Thanks so much for your time Nicole it’s been a pleasure.
Photo credit: Simon Hunter simonhunterphotography.com
If you’re in Australia (and particularly Sydney), you would’ve felt the sudden change in temperate that signals Summer is over and Winter is fast approaching (bar maybe this beautiful Easter weekend we had!). There is a briskness in the morning air, the afternoon light fades much too quickly, and the nights require some form of blanket as opposed to a thin sheet.
While Autumn brings with it a beautiful time of year, it is also a reminder of the colds and flus that are on their way. However, there are both preventable and reactionary measures that can be taken in response to this seasonal change.
But firstly, what’s the difference between a cold and the flu? A cold can be either viral or bacterial, and (brace yourself) the difference is understood by the colour of the mucus that is produced. If it’s clear, then it’s a viral cold and will pass on its own. If the mucus is coloured and has lasted for more than 7 days, the cold has turned bacterial and it’s probably best you speak to your doctor about a course of antibiotics.
The actual ‘flu’ is caused by the influenza virus and can cause serious to severe complications. The flu can lead to other conditions, like pneumonia, and takes a lot longer to recover from than a typical cold. Unfortunately, because the flu is caused by a virus (and not bacteria) antibiotics will not do you any good and it comes down to the old fashioned methods of recovery.
So what are the best ways to PREVENT getting sick this winter?
1. Take a daily probiotic. Gut health is extremely important to your overall health, with 80% of your immune system in your digestive system. Throw your gut health out of whack and you open up the body’s virtual door to any virus or bacteria that want to come in.
Probiotics provide good bacteria that is needed for a healthy digestive system. Taking a probiotic every morning BEFORE breakfast will help improve your general wellbeing, your digestive health, and most importantly for this time of year, your immunity.
2. Hit your sleep targets. With the first quarter of the year already done and dusted, work often ramps up at this time of year with KPI’s and targets a constant stress.
Surviving the Winter period will mean putting sleep down as one of your own personal KPI’s as it is the primary source of restoration and recovery for the body. Aim to get between 7-9 hours every night, and of high quality (i.e. no disruptions) in order to get the most benefit.
3. Take your vitamins. Vitamin C is one of the most UNDERATED vitamins on the market. Vitamin C not only promotes the production of healthy white blood cells to fight off infections, but also helps the body to develop healthy lungs and respiratory tissue. Vitamin C is so high in antioxidants that it repels infective organisms in the airways to stop them taking over. Adding to this, Zinc and Echinacea are also wonder vitamins and herbal remedies that work both preventatively and during an infection.
Take Vitamin C preventatively in powder form (Melrose does a great range of the powders) with a quarter to half a teaspoon a day. You can also take Armaforce, which is a tablet combining all of the above.
4. Get the flu shot. For the actual flu, the only way to avoid it is the injection. While it doesn’t cover EVERY strain, it covers the main ones. It won’t stop you from getting colds but it will stop you from being knocked out and bedridden for two weeks.
Your local chemist now does flu injections where they usually have set visiting hours for walk-ins, or you can make an appointment with your local doctor.
5. Listen to your body. This month we’re talking about listening to your intuition and your body. This applies to how you’re feeling physically as well. One of the worst things we see are clients who feel the initial stages of a cold coming on and push themselves to keep going – working, exercising, going out. This will DOUBLE the time that it takes to recover.
If however you stop yourself early on at the first sign of symptoms and rest, recover, and take some time out, the cold will be gone significantly faster than if you had tried to push through. It’s also best to stay at home and not pass it around the office so that everyone experiences what you are!
Ok so that’s the prevention. What about if the virus does get through all these barriers? Because some just manage to slip through the cracks no matter how hard you try. Well, it takes double the effort (sometimes literally) and we’ll cover that in next week’s blog!
This month we’re talking about how to tune into your intuition. For this week’s blog, we’re going to use this for the benefit of listening to your body – or more specifically your gut.
As children, we are great at listening to our gut instinct and it is the primary driver of the decisions that we make. It is time and adulthood that allows our ego and rational side start to pipe up and get in the way. Unfortunately, not being in tune with your gut instinct can lead to poor decisions and bad judgment, which often leaves the mind saying “I knew I shouldn’t have done that!”.
Now this isn’t about “hippy insight” or the “warm and fuzzy’s”. According to research at Leeds University, intuition is the brain’s way of drawing on past experiences at a sub conscious level and unconsciously organising this data into patterns. This happens so fast that we don’t realise that the intuitive feeling is actually stemming from previous logical thinking!
Steven Spielberg put it perfectly in this clip where he articulates how the world needs EVERYONE to follow their intuition. Learning to listen to your intuition is like unlocking one of the world’s biggest libraries, and having access to ALL of the books at once.
So how do we get back to listening to that intuition and responding when it needs us to?
1. Meditate. This is the number one BEST way to tune back into your intuition. Meditation is like listening to your intuition in a concentrated manner. If you can spend 5, 10, or 20 minutes meditating, that will significantly help with being in tune with your gut.
It doesn’t have to be a guided meditation (although that helps for beginners especially). It can be something as simple as thinking about a word or a thought that you want to ponder, and having a relaxed concentration on that for a certain period of time.
With practice, you will definitely see a huge shift in how you respond to certain situations.
2. Practice yoga. If meditation still seems overwhelming or daunting, try yoga. Yoga is basically a moving meditation, and helps you to focus on the body rather than the mind’s thoughts.
Flow yoga is one of the best methods, as the breath is used to move the body, and the mind simply follows. It is this process of quietening the mind that is essential for learning to listen to your gut instinct.
3. Become one with nature. You don’t have to sell up all your assets and live in the forest to feel the benefits that nature can bring. We talk about nature a LOT for your holistic wellbeing, but for your intuition, it seems to be one of the easiest ways to tune into it.
You know how we said that intuition is past experiences put into patterns? Well not only is spending time in nature a way of creating new patterns, but it’s a time in which the mind has the capacity and space to make the links and connections between other previous experiences.
4. Immerse yourself in something creative. It doesn’t have to be ‘creative’ in the generic sense of the word like painting (although art classes are a great idea!). It can be journaling, where you spend time just allowing your thoughts to flow onto the page. Or cooking, where you let the recipe come to life on the plate. Or singing your favourite song – even if it is in the shower where no one will hear.
Creativity is something that as children we thrive with. But as we get older, it tends to fall to the wayside in favour of more ‘practical’ and ‘logical’ tasks.
Tapping back into creativity enlivens the soul and allows the body to act without thinking. Finding your ‘flow’ is one of the most energising experiences you will have!
5. Do a digital detox. This is the one that often has people squirming at the thought. We won’t dwell on the disruption that technology can have on your own intuitive frequency, but it creates a clear disconnect between the transmission of your gut instinct.
The digital detox doesn’t have to mean throwing away EVERY piece of technology. It just means having some designated time away from EVERYTHING. Carve out some time in the day where you don’t touch any form of technology. It may be the first hour in the morning. An hour over your lunch break. An hour before bed. Or all of the above.
The longer you’re away from it, the stronger the signals from your intuition can shine through.
You’re not going to have an overnight success with tuning into your intuition. It’s definitely a process, so take small steps and allow your body to guide you on the rate of integration.
When you start to use your gut instinct, every decision you make will feel ‘right’, ‘easy’ and ‘strong’. We can’t always be perfect, but when you tune into your intuition, you’ll realise that you’re a lot smarter than you realised!
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!
For the month of March, we’re talking about stress, and the ways that we can manage it. Stress is something that we can’t avoid, but if we learn the tools and techniques to control it, then we can go a long way to creating a healthier and happier life.
It may seem a little counter-intuitive, but exercise can be one of the best measures to immediately and sustainably reduce stress. After all, exercise is known to increase cortisol – the stress hormone – so how can it also manage it?
On the one hand, stress weakens the brain, particularly the part responsible for your memory. Conversely, exercise promotes the production of neuro-hormones that are responsible for learning, and improved cognitive function. So we now know that just by increasing your heart rate through exercise, you can start to immediately reduce the impacts of stress. There are a few other positives that you can get from exercise that relate to reducing stress:
1. It creates a sense of calm. Stress can really take control of your life. When you think about your never-ending ‘to-do list’ in both your work and personal life, everything can feel somewhat overwhelming and cause the body to try and shut down. Regular exercise can provide structure to your otherwise chaotic life. It is a great way to train the body to get into a rhythm, and as human beings we crave this.
2. It gives you a hit of the ‘feel good’ hormone. When we’re stressed, our self-confidence often takes a hit. Exercise helps to boost the production of endorphins, so that ‘high’ that you get after you exercise (and often for hours after) is not imagined. It improves your confidence and your decision making abilities to keep you switched on for the whole day.
3. It helps with your breathing. Ancient wisdom used to count a persons life by the number of breaths they took, so learning techniques to slow down the breathing were highly regarded. When we exercise, it forces the body to learn how to take deeper and more controlled breaths and be more efficient with oxygen. The more efficient your body becomes with regular exercise, the better your breathing. When we have calm and controlled breathing, we feel physically and mentally calmer and in control.
4. It helps your heart. Heart issues are one of the biggest killers in Australia. While exercise is a great way to get over a broken heart, it also helps with your physical heart health. Linked to #3, when you start to breathe diaphragmatic (nice deep breaths into the belly), the diaphragm gives the heart a gentle massage. This massage keeps the heart beating in a controlled and consistent manner and is also a sign to the body to switch on the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) where our body focuses on digesting and resting.
5. It will improve your sleep. This one is all but guaranteed. Not only does the research tell us that exercise helps us to sleep, but I’ve SEEN it in all of my clients. I had clients who were previously on multiple sleeping pills and potions be able to wean themselves off them all just from taking up exercise. The benefits of getting a good nights sleep are second to none!
So if you’re feeling stressed, try to get moving. It doesn’t have to be a vigorous gym class or bootcamp (though they are great). Something as simple as walking regularly is shown to have access to all of the above benefits. A walk around the block before an important meeting can be a great way to calm the nerves, or a run after work can be one of the best ways to de-stress after a busy day. Exercise is one of the BEST remedies you can implement to manage your stress – and it’s FREE!
How was your sleep last night? Did you get a solid, uninterrupted 8 hours of bliss? If you’re like most people, last night probably looked more like dragging yourself to bed once you’d reached complete exhaustion, tossing and turning, waking up randomly at 3am and feeling wide awake, then being rudely awoken by your alarm. Sound familiar?
There’s a spectrum of the quality of sleep between the complete bliss and the complete nightmare, and if you’re sitting closer to the latter then it’s time for a reset.
If you feel like you’ve tried everything from pills and potions to plants and night-lights, a new study from the University of Colorado has shown that there may be a much simpler way and it comes from the great outdoors.
Think about the way that our ancestors used to live, they’d rise with the sun and go to sleep with the sun. Their circadian rhythm was very much dependent on natural light which kept the body clock in check.
Fast forward to the way we live and we are not only deprived of natural light, spending hours under artificial lighting in office blocks, but we’re also forcing this artificial light into our lives late into the night. This is causing chaos with our circadian rhythm, and is a significant contributor to the lack of quality sleep.
Melatonin is the hormone that is released that helps us go off to sleep. It is well known that light destroys melatonin in our bodies. Going to bed late not only contributes to tiredness and productivity throughout the day, but is also now linked with obesity, diabetes and mood disorders.
So how do you hit the ‘reset’ button? A recent study has shown that just a couple of nights in the great outdoors are enough to retune the body’s internal clock. This not only allows you to fall asleep more easily, but it allows the body to move through the five stages of sleep more rhythmically.
So say you’ve done your weekend reset, how do you keep it up? Here are the top five ways to bring the traditional outdoors elements back in with you:
1. Embrace the darkness. The natural environment has one key element that we seem to be missing in our modern world – complete darkness. I love when staying at hotel rooms they have those blackout blinds. I could be sleeping in the middle of the day and think it’s the dead of night because it’s so DARK! At home, do your best to make your bedroom as dark as possible. Remove all sources of artificial light – even a TV light is enough to keep you wired. Invest in some good blackout blinds (or get creative with your own DIY version). Even using an eye mask can really help to take your body into full darkness.
2. Turn off the tech. This is often the hardest one for a lot of people. When you go camping (and you do it right) there is no technology. Phones, ipads, ipods, all i-things are off. While it is not realistic in the modern world to throw away your phone, try weaning yourself off before bedtime. Start with switching it off (or to flight mode) 5 minutes before bed. Then extend that to 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, up to 2 hours before bed. Not having contact with a screen before bed REALLY helps to unwind the mind and help you switch off before going to sleep. All those thoughts that come racing in as soon as your head hits the pillow will have time to digest BEFORE bed if you allow them.
3. Lessen the lights. Unlike in camping where you have to follow the sun for the hours you can be awake and active, I’m not going to tell you to go to bed with the sun (particularly hard in winter when the sun goes to bed so early!). Instead, try and dim lighting in your house, or keep it to a minimum for 30 minutes before bed. Use low lighting lamps, candles, lights that aren’t so aggressive and prone to destroying that much needed melatonin release!
4. Set your bedtime meeting. My clients who have the best nights sleep treat their bedtime like an important meeting. Some of them even have an alarm when it’s time to go to bed! Getting into a routine of a set bed time that’s at a reasonable hour not only helps keep that circadian rhythm happy but also makes waking up on the other end much easier!
5. Target is 7-9. That’s hours of sleep. It’s sometimes easier to work backwards, figuring out what time you need to get up with what time you need to go to bed. Research shows that it’s the hours BEFORE midnight that are the best quality, so try and make at least two of those hours before midnight.
Sleeping has such a huge impact on how we feel; our energy levels, food cravings, our ability to exercise and move. It is one of the biggest problems that clients come to me with, and one of the best solutions to so many other (seemingly unrelated) problems! Start working on your sleep routine today and see how it transforms your life.
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.
The annual survey of worldwide fitness trends is now in its 11th year! I always can’t wait to read up on it because not only do they predict what’s coming for the next year, but they also reflect back on previous years to see how people’s predictions played out. It’s very interesting to note that there are two new trends in the top 10 for 2017!
While I would LOVE to go through each of them individually, I thought I’d post the list and instead discuss some of the ones that you’d find most interesting and would potentially have an impact on you!
Number one on the list is perhaps not surprisingly Wearable Technology. Think Fitbits, smart watches, GPS trackers, and smart eyeglasses! While the jury is out as to whether these devices actually increase the amount of exercise we do, as a former researcher, there is definitely power in the idea of tracking your activity to at least know what has been done. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy expensive technology, as your smartphone also provides many free options for tracking a lot of your activity (and as a trend is in at # 17) but use the options available! The Apple watch alone is predicted to reach over 485 million device sales by the year 2018 so this is a trend that doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon!
Number two on the list is also quite interesting with Body Weight Training. While this type of training has been around for centuries as a form of resistance training, it didn’t appear on the trends survey until 2013! It’s one of the cheapest and easiest ways to exercise and great for outdoor bootcamps or your own workout at home! Now with a newly packaged name by the commercial gyms, it’s a trend that should stick around for a while yet.
Number seven on the list is Exercise is Medicine ®, which is a global health initiative focused on encouraging health care providers to include physical activity when designing treatment plans for their patients. Fundamentally it is an attempt to bridge the gap between traditional medicine and fitness professionals, which is something I can’t believe is only just beginning to happen! We all know the benefits of exercise in treatment of many chronic yet preventable diseases, but it’s an implementation gap for a patient that’s the issue. This is one that I’m really supporting and excited to be a part of in the coming years.
Number twelve is my favourite type of training – functional fitness. Its premise is to use strength training to improve power, endurance, coordination, and balance, to improve the ability to perform normal daily living activities. There’s still a lot of misunderstanding around functional fitness, but I like to think of it as focusing on the movements I may need in my daily routine (think squatting down to pick up something heavy) versus training just for aesthetics (think bicep curls). Functional fitness has been fluctuating on the list since 2007 but I think with people becoming more sedentary, fitness needs to be as functional as possible to keep our bodies moving and mobile!
Number fifteen on the list is my daily work – wellness coaching. Wellness coaching has been in the top 20 since 2010 and has been progressively making its way up the list since then. For those new to my website, wellness coaching is the integration of behavioural-change science with healthy initiatives. Like a personal trainer, a wellness coach works with people to achieve their broader goals, through focusing on their values, needs, visions, and aspirations. Many people are trying to move into this wellness-coaching arena with little to no qualifications or practical training in ‘coaching’, so be mindful of who you work with. It’s definitely one of the most exciting trends though and who doesn’t want someone motivating and challenging you along your life path?!
The final number that I believe relates to you is sixteen with Worksite Health Promotion. The foundation of a corporate wellness program is to improve the health and well-being of employees. Again, this is very much in my domain, but the trend here is for a range of programs and services that evaluate employee health, health care costs, and worker productivity. With rising health care premiums, increased absenteeism in workplaces, and decreasing productivity due to stress, its no wonder that this is an up and coming trend to watch out for!
There’s a very important distinction that is made between a trend and a fad for the purposes of this world wide trends survey. The former is defined as ‘a general development or change in a situation or in the way that people are behaving’ whereas the latter is ‘a fashion that is taken up with great enthusiasm for a brief period’. So this survey is really looking at the change in people’s behaviours as a whole that can last a considerable period of time.
Full list below:
|Body weight training
|High-intensity interval training
|Educated, certified and experienced fitness professionals
|Exercise is Medicine ®
|Exercise and weight loss
|Fitness programs for older adults
|Group personal training
|Worksite health promotion
|Smartphone exercise apps
|Flexibility and mobility rollers