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.
To wrap up the month of May we have Dr Peter Romero giving us the insights on all things health, turning vegan, and alternative medicine. It’s very interesting to hear from a doctor who is very progressive and and open to preventative and holistic health. We wish all doctors could think this way! In any case, let’s jump straight into this interview and hear about how the Western Medicine side are thinking.
Can you tell us a little about your background and how you decided to get into medicine?
I was born in Coffs Harbour in 1958 and lived on a small farm in Bonville growing up. I attended a local 3 teacher primary school and then public high school. I had appendicitis aged11 and that and a wish to do something to help others and have an interesting job made me decide to be a doctor at age 12. I started medicine before my 18th birthday and graduated from Sydney University before my 23 birthday. I spent 4 years residency at Westmead Hospital where I decided that rural general practice was what I wanted to do. I am now in my 32nd year of private practice in Nelson Bay.
Western Medicine has obviously come a long way in accepting the more alternative and Eastern forms of medicine, but where do you think the future of Western Medicine will go?
That may be an assumption from talking to me. I am not sure that it has become all that more accepting overall. Western medicine on the face of it tries to adopt the “Scientific Approach” for treatment. Unfortunately it is all about the treatment of disease and not about health promotion. In general we treat a society that believes that we can cure a lot more than we can, and believes there must be a pill for everything. For example, many smokers with emphysema can’t believe there is no cure.
Yes it seems the difference between Western and Eastern medicine is treating symptoms versus finding the cause respectively! There’s definitely room to grow in Western medicine for looking to be more preventative rather than reactive.
Do you think there’s a place for doctors to be suggesting these more alternative methods of healing to patients such as certain dietary changes or mindfulness and meditation exercises to help with anxiety and depression?
YES. 70% of the disease we treat is caused by lifestyle. Poor diet ( despite everyone believing the contrary), lack of exercise, being overweight (2/3 of the population), plus stress, poor rest and sleep, are all lifestyle factors contributing to 70% of diseases. Most people do not realize that diet, lack of exercise and stress are responsible for much of the depression and anxiety that we experience. Type 2 Diabetes and Ischaemic Heart Disease are increasing exponentially and are totally preventable with lifestyle changes. We can be doing this work as doctors to work to heal this rather than just give another pill.
70% is such a big number! It almost seems like we’re trying to make ourselves sick with all those areas you mentioned! What relationship do you see doctors having with holistic health coaches in the future? I.e. is it congruous and work in unison or is it more at odds with each other?
Many fail to appreciate there is a continuum from optimal health through to only fair health before the onset of disease. I am frustrated that so many settle for mediocre instead of aiming for abundant health. Many wait for a crisis before valuing their health. Society needs re-education. Doctors can help but so few listen from my experience. I am hoping for more prevention. I value holistic health coaches but too few in society do. Doctors will go on treating disease much of which could have been prevented. Health coaches can provide information and motivation in that preventive health sphere.
It’s definitely something that I think many health coaches can relate to in that frustration of settling for mediocre health. That’s a great way to put the relationship between doctors and health coaches – one of complimenting each other but there is a long way to go before Western medicine as a whole accepts the role that health coaches play! They’re not all as forward thinking and prevention focused as you.
We understand that you’re a vegan going on almost four years now? What made you decide to make that change and what differences have you seen in your health from it?
Prior to switching to an almost completely “Plants as grown” diet almost 4 years ago I was semi- vegetarian (remember that beer and chips is vegan but not healthy!). I then read “The China Study” and watched the DVD “Forks over Knives” and then became involved in the CHIP- Complete Health Improvement Program. I lost 5 kg without limiting food volume and got a whole lot more energy and felt younger with less aches and pains.
There is so much information out there now on what the benefits are of cutting out animal protein and you just listed some great sources there. It’s all well and good to read something or watch a documentary on WHY we should do it, but it’s HOW to make the switch that often trips people up. What would be your top tips for someone trying to start a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle? How do you make the change sustainably?
There are 2 ways; see which works for you. The easiest seems to be “Double the Good and Halve the Bad” and just keep taking steps in the right direction. The other is just “Jump in the Deep End”. Although this seems more radical it takes 21 days for our taste buds to change. Get a coach or attend a program. Involve a friend, keep a diary. Involve exercise and meditation at the same time so you are making changes on the whole rather than just your diet.
Ok so finally, what is your most important advice to your patients who are looking to improve their overall health?
Lots of fruit and vegetables; 5 serves may not be enough.
Move; the more the better. Find something you can enjoy.
Sorry that’s 2 but they are both so important!
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!
Who here wants more ENERGY?
It’s one of the underpinning philosophies here at Energy|Body|Mind (hence the name) and there’s a reason for it; the amount of energy you have impacts on your quality of life EVERYDAY.
If you wake up tired, how much do you feel like fuelling yourself with a healthy breakfast, or going to the gym, or even being mindful throughout the day?
So if Energy is the answer to a lot of your problems, why do so many of us struggle to have enough? Unfortunately, there are many things in our life (particularly STRESS), which rob or drain energy from us, and to replace it; we need to take proactive steps.
So below are the top five ways that you can boost your energy through nutrition to have you bouncing off the walls and having others ask “what are you on?”:
1. Start the day with a supercharged coffee.
“What? Coffee? But I already do that?”. For those who love their coffee, mornings wouldn’t be the same without that warm liquid gold that gives you the ability to function throughout at least half the morning.
Australia’s obsession with coffee is fairly new, comparatively speaking to most European countries. We’re ranked 42nd in the world for coffee consumption, while Finland is number one. Nevertheless, it’s not uncommon for many people to feel emotionally dependent on their barista to get their morning hit!
There are (fortunately) many health benefits associated with MODERATE consumption of caffeine, including increased athletic endurance, healthy brain function, cellular health and longevity, healthy blood sugar levels, and liver support.
But what happens when we have too MUCH caffeine. Well, it’s like when we consume those sugary energy drinks. They are loaded with that white powder that we already know is bad for us (sugar) plus an unnatural amount of caffeine. When we have too much caffeine we start to experience:
So try to limit yourself to 1 to 2 cups a day. Switch to herbal teas after that and after about 3pm. While some clients swear they can have a cup of coffee and go straight to sleep, it still interrupts your circadian rhythm, which is one thing we don’t want to mess with!
Now what is a ‘supercharged’ coffee? Check out number 2…
2. Get friendly with bone broth.
Bone broth has started to receive a lot of attention recently as one of the new ‘superfoods’. Never heard of bone broth? It’s an incredible source of easy to digest protein and a good source of hydration.
Some people like to supercharge their coffee with bone broth. It’s loaded with amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, which takes your coffee from a nice morning drink to an essential go-to energy beverage.
However, bone broth can be added to anything, not just your coffee. Put it in a smoothie, a juice, you can even have it on its own. They even make a bone broth protein powder now (just in case you can’t handle the taste of the pure stuff) and it still gives you a hit of all those amazing benefits.
3. Pump the pump bottle.
I know what you’re thinking – water really? How is that going to give me energy? Well, being dehydrated is one of the biggest causes of fatigue and exhaustion. It seems that many Australian’s are very dehydrated, and just have no idea that going and filling up their glass could make a huge different to their overall energy.
The average person needs to be drinking about 2 litres of water a day, but if you’re exercising and sweating more, you need to up the anti. Having a glass of water first thing in the morning (or supercharged with lemon or apple cider vinegar) will make a huge difference to your day. Finishing off the day with another glass at least 30 minutes before bed will also keep you hydrated throughout the night.
Remember the mantra: “If I’m thirsty, it’s already too late!”.
4. Go nuts.
The feeling of pure exhaustion and fatigue can make you feel like you’re going a little nutty at times. It’s a real drain on your physical and emotional needs when you’re not bouncing with energy. Cashews, almonds, and hazelnuts are rich in protein and magnesium, a mineral that plays a key role in converting sugar into energy.
This doesn’t mean you can start to mix nuts with high sugary foods, it just means that they are helping to covert those natural sugars more easily into the fuel you need.
Nuts are a great snack and also a great pick me up, so instead of reaching for those sugary biscuits or chips, try a few nuts with some fruit if you need that 3pm snack.
5. Calling all chocoholics!
Chocoholics we have good news: a little bit of dark chocolate has been shown to boost your energy and mood. So no you’re not imagining that little rush after you eat that delicious goodness.
Just try and make sure it is DARK chocolate. And by dark, we’re talking at least 70% dark. Some brands claim to have ‘dark’ chocolate, but when you look at the ingredients, they can be as low as 30-40%.
We want to try and just have little bits of the ‘good stuff’, and dark chocolate helps us do that because it is so rich.
So there you have it – the top five ways to boost your energy through different fuel sources. Remember, every time we eat we’re trying to fuel our bodies. If you’re feeling lethargic or tired after you eat certain foods, that may be a sign that your body is NOT using them as a source of fuel (check out what you can do here).
The world has become a pretty unstable and unsettling place at the moment – Donald Trump is in charge of the most powerful country in the world, the UK is in negotiation to leave the rest of the EU, and war continues to rage in the Middle East. One sitting of the news and you’re likely to walk away feeling more down than when you started.
In a time where we’re experiencing the highest standard of living in history, paradoxically we’re also more depressed, anxious and unhappy.
First things first, we need to take care of ourselves. I’m not saying this out of selfishness, or from a ‘every man from himself’ perspective. I’m talking about learning to create happiness and peace from within that can radiate onto others and create a ripple effect. There’s a reason they get you to fit your own oxygen mask on a plane before others – you won’t be able to get someone else’s mask on if you’re not breathing!
So here are the top 6 things that you need to be doing for yourself regularly in 2017. I’m not saying that these things will change the world, but they will definitely help YOU to feel happier, healthier and a more altruistic human.
1. Breathe. It’s amazing how many people aren’t breathing to its full potential. I used to be one of them. I used to just keep all the oxygen in my chest, and not expand the breath into my diaphragm and lower abdomen. When you start to breathe diaphragmatically, the PNS system (learn more on this here) is switched on, and your body starts to relax. It’s great to mindfully breathe like this first thing in the morning and last thing at night before you go to sleep for about five minutes. This will help you to subconsciously breathe like this throughout the day as well. It’s amazing what 5 minutes of deep breathing can do for your mental and physical health!
2. Fuel your body. It’s easy to forget that the reason we eat is to provide fuel to the body. The balance between eating for pleasure and eating for survival has swung considerably to the former and this is having ramifications. Try to make at least one meal a day focused on fuelling for nutrition. Eat nutrient dense foods – like fruits and vegetables – and try and eat as close to the natural source as possible. Processing of foods has changed considerably, and it’s hard to know what’s been added when you can’t understand the ingredients!
3. Move more. Unless you’re an ultra athlete, we could ALL do with more movement. Our sedentary lifestyle has us sitting down more than ever. Unfortunately, one hour of intentional exercise has been shown as not enough to combat the effects of sitting at a desk all day. So we need to start integrating movement throughout the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to/from work or a portion of the journey, or go for walking meetings instead of sit down coffees. Do whatever it takes to make that magic 10,000 step number. It’s not in any way easy, but it’s very rewarding for your body.
4. Learn to meditate. If there is only ONE thing that you do this year, learn to meditate. There are yoga studios and meditation centres popping up everywhere, and plenty of resources online that can teach you the fundamentals – I have even made a recording for you here. If you’re already meditating, make it a goal to foster your practice. I could go on and on about the benefits of meditation (and I do so here) but for the sake of this blog, just realise that meditation is one of THE BEST forms of self-care out there. It takes as little as 5 minutes a day, and it can be life changing. Trust me on this one.
5. Embrace minimalism. I have blogged on this already (and will probably continue to!) and it seems to be quite an emerging theme for me (and plenty of others) in 2017. It seems that an excess of ‘stuff’ is manifesting our discontent, and there is no end in sight in the hunt for something new. Cleanout your wardrobe (learn how to here) or de-clutter your office space. Just spend time over the next year clearing the physical to allow the mental space for growth.
6. Sleep. At the end of the day it can feel like there’s just not enough time to do any of those self-care activities. I wouldn’t blame you for telling me so! The proverbial ‘to do list’ continues to grow, and despite the number of items we tick off, it never seems to end. One thing you CAN do that doesn’t require an extra item on the to do list is to sleep. I mean, force yourself at least 7-9 hours of sleep EVERY NIGHT. I can hear you groaning through your computer “who has that much time to sleep?”. The change makers do and so do you. The plane and oxygen analogy is most pertinent here. You will be so much more productive, have so much more energy, be capable of achieving so much more in less time, IF you get more sleep. Try it for a week and see what happens…
Now this may seem like a lot but even if you just pick ONE of these things to do this year, the transformation may just surprise you.
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
How does your day usually run at the moment? Do you have time for breakfast? Do you catch yourself at work wearing a top and skirt that don’t match? Or odd coloured socks? Do you get stuck in the rain without an umbrella? Left your keys/wallet/phone at home?
Or are you the complete opposite? Have everything together and the day just runs smoothly and seamlessly? There seems to be a spectrum where people fall between the Planners and the Free Spirit, but no matter where you fall now, there is always another tip or trick you can steal from these organisational hacks to up your own planning mojo.
Below are the top three hacks that other Planners are using everyday to make sure they’re on top of things, have more energy, and reduce their stress levels:
1. Prepare Prepare Prepare
There’s three of them because it relates to three levels of preparation depending on the situation. The old saying rings true that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” so below are some of the best ways people plan ahead. Creating healthy habits will get you a long way, but if you can create rituals (basically a series of habits strung together) then you really set yourself up for success.
Level One: Daily Preparation.
Planners believe that getting organised the night before is key to having a smooth running morning and reducing stress throughout the day. They check the weather forecast before going to bed to help decide what to wear and whether they need any wet weather accessories. They choose what they’re going to wear (plus all the things you need underneath!) from top to bottom and lay them out the night before. Your morning self may not pick up that two different shades of blue don’t actually match! They have their lunch and snacks in a bag ready in the fridge to just grab and go in the morning. It’s a seamless process!
Level Two: Weekly Preparation.
Planners spend time early on to save precious hours later by carving out their weekly schedule on Sunday’s with everything they want and need to achieve in the upcoming week. They schedule in meal preparation, workouts, “me time”, stretching time, meditation, appointments, presentations; all of it goes in. They treat everything as EQUAL so the practices they deemed important at the start of the week can’t be compromised on. They also allocate some ‘spare time’ for catch up in case unexpected things pop up.
Level Three: Monthly and Yearly Preparation.
This is the next level for Planners. Not only are they kicking goals on a week by week basis, but they also see the bigger picture. They set out their goals and intentions for the year broken down into the months so they know what’s next on their list. Because it’s so easy to run through life day by day, week by week, month by month, without achieving anything significant, overcoming this requires forward thinking and an understanding of the big picture to project yourself to where you want to go.
2. Embracing Minimalism
When I say “Minimalist” I don’t mean throwing out all your most prized possessions and going to live in a tree house in the middle of a rainforest. Planners are Minimalists in their daily lives. An example is their wardrobe. One of my clients Sara* is a Minimalist with her wardrobe. Most people only wear about 20% of the items in their wardrobe, so knowing this, Sara does a 6 monthly clear out of her wardrobe. If it hasn’t been worn in the past six months, it goes, to a worthwhile charity. The tip for knowing if it’s been worn or not – turn the coat hanger to face towards the front of the wardrobe and if it’s still that way at the six month check up, it goes. Having a clean and minimal wardrobe takes the stress out of making decisions on what to wear as well!
Planners also tidy as they go. Spending 10 minutes every night before bed tidying up around the house is PLENTY because there isn’t a whole heap of ‘stuff’ in the first place. A great tip is to apply the philosophy that if it takes less than 60 SECONDS to do something, do it at the time IMMEDIATELY. This frees up your weekends too so you’re not spending the whole time cleaning and tidying before the new week begins!
3. They take notes on EVERYTHING
The stores like Officeworks, Kiki K, and Typo are not just making money because their stationary looks good. There are so many things that we need to remember throughout the day that it’s easy to forget or become overwhelmed.
The process of writing notes down as reminders on either post-it notes or digitally in your phone, having an open calendar in the kitchen for everyone to see, or your meal ideas for the week, helps Planners to stay on top of everything and have others in the household also informed!
There are so many templates online and sites for advanced to do lists like Trello or Google Sites, or if you want the hard copy there are lots of amazing options within stationary retailers. Writing things down frees your mind for the more important areas you need to focus on!
Planners always seem less stressed, they have more energy, and despite their massive ‘to do lists’ they manage to get it all done. We can’t all be Perfect Planners, but we can all learn a little something from what they do…
*names changed for confidentiality
But recently, two big players have called for unprecedented action in the corporate setting to improve employee wellbeing. Jeff Kennett, former Premier and chairman of BeyondBlue, has come out saying that performance bonuses of top executives should be partially linked to the mental wellbeing of their staff. HALLELUJAH!
This wave comes to light as a new NAB/IPSOS survey showed Australians regard happiness as the topmost measure of success, followed by good family relationships, feeling fit and healthy, and being a ‘good person.’
Kennett has put mental wellbeing on the same page in significance as family violence and bullying. “At a part of Australia’s history where we’re trying to address family violence, where we’re trying to address bullying, where we’re trying to address good mental health practices, it is time for industry leaders big and small to give the mental health of their workforce the same priority they would give any other measurable figure,” Kennett said.
As a result of this passion, Kennett put a proposal in front of the Business Council of Australia (BCA) saying that companies should introduce key performance indicators (KPIs) for chief executives and other staff to ensure the mental health within organisations is maintained. BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott agreed the issue needs to be taken seriously.
In response to critics that mental wellbeing is too subjective and unmeasurable, Kennett has rejected this claim. He counters with the facts, stating that lost productivity costs the economy $10.9 billion a year. Westacott agrees saying that “These things at the bottom line result in unplanned absenteeism, they cost businesses money,” and “They’re not just feel-good things. These are real economic things. That’s why the Business Council is interested and passionate about this.”
Kennett says the way he envisages improving wellbeing includes statements like “What I would like to see in every head of department of a bureaucracy, in every CEO’s performance, and every direct report’s KPIs, is a KPI about the mental health, the wellbeing, of their workforce, of those that report to them,” and “When you talk about pay performance, when you talk about bonuses, particularly, I want to see a KPI in place that addresses this, because that will focus their mind more than anything else.”
This importance on mental health and wellbeing is not just for employees, but for senior management as well. Throughout his career, Kennett recounts countless incidents of C-Level Executives struggling with burnout. Kennett told the Australian, “I have had a number of organisations in the last two years, three years, where a CEO, a CFO, a COO has hit the wall, and the ramifications on the small leadership group is obviously quite profound, not to mention the impact on the business”.
This is a huge step for addressing the mental wellbeing of Australia, and putting at the forefront the happiness of our nation. Happy and satisfied people will result not only in a more productive workplace, but also with better relationships, more financial security, and a healthier society.
So what does this mean for your business or workplace? It means that it’s time to get serious about mental health and have programs and policies in place to be in front of the pack. Enlist the help of a health coach, exercise specialist, mental wellbeing expert (someone like me!) to help customise a program that meets the KPIs that your organisation is going to enlist to promote the wellbeing of it’s employees.
I am really excited about watching this one progress, so stay tuned for updates and we can see where this movement gets us!
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How many of you hit the ‘snooze’ button this morning? “Just one more time” you tell yourself. These photos that I see of people’s alarm clocks – while hilarious – are also the BEST way to feel WORSE waking up. That little bit of extra sleep that you think you need is so fragmented and of poor quality that it makes you feel much worse than what you would’ve waking up on your first alarm. Daylight savings recently hit Sydney, and it took my body a few days to adjust!
We all know that we need to get a decent nights sleep in order to have a productive and engaged day. But what if you’re doing everything that the ‘change makers’ are in my Sleeping Your Way to the Top blog and still not feeling energised in the morning? Below are the top six tips for helping kickstart your morning routine.
Even for those not experiencing sleep apnea at night, we often can have uneven breathing cycles through the night, which can decrease the amount of oxygen to the brain. Ever find yourself yawning incessantly when you wake up? Yawning is one of the body’s mechanisms to try and get more oxygen. So while you’re still lying in bed, try the 4-7-8 breathing technique to get the oxygen pumping around your body and wake every part of you up!
#2 Seek Out Natural Light
At night, we want to make the room as dark as possible because light destroys the melatonin (our sleep hormone) that helps us to go off to sleep. So clearly one of the best ways to wake up is to seek out natural light. Even five minutes standing in the sunshine, or if you’re lucky enough to have light streaming onto your bed, can do wonders for helping the body to realise its time to wake up! This is one of the best techniques for the transition in daylight savings, as the light is a natural indicator to the body that it’s time to get going.
#3 Drink a Glass of Warm Lemon Water
While you’re standing out in the sunshine, make a glass of warm lemon water for yourself. Not only will the lemon start the detoxification from all the built up toxins in your body from the night before, but even mild dehydration can make you feel tired and lethargic. Starting the day with a full glass of water kickstarts the movement of fluids and toxins through the body, and helps you to feel more energised.
#4 Have a Cold Shower
This is often reserved for the die hards with ice baths or morning ocean swims but it doesn’t have to be. Start with a warm shower and build your way up to turning the hot water off (completely if you can!). The shock of the cold water for the body is like a strong hit of caffeine. If you think this is too much, just start with splashing cold water on your face. When you start to see the benefits of that, it might convince you to pop into the shower!
#5 Experiment With Your Hours
Ever find that you feel much more awake around 30 minutes before your alarm went off than after it? While there are standards for the amount of sleep that we need and the quality hours (10pm-2am) there isn’t much more that needs to be adhered to. If you find that sleeping later and waking up later works well for you – stick to that. If you are an early to bed, early to rise, then you are supposedly much more wise. But experiment. I used to sleep from 11pm-7am. And waking up was a really big struggle. After a weekend away of waking up at 5am, I decided to play around with my sleep hours. Now, I’m in bed by 10pm and up at 5.30am feeling refreshed and energised! It all depends on your body so play with it.
#6 The Alarm
How much do you dread the alarm in the morning? Have you tried different ring tones or different songs, but still whenever it goes off you just want to hurl it across the room? I discovered a new app called Sleep Cycle, which is an alarm that wakes you up in the right stage of your sleep cycle (hence the name!). There are five stages of sleep that we go through, and being woken up or disrupted in the middle of the REM stage will have you feeling like you’ve been hit by a bus! The app gives you a 30 minute window (this is optimal) to wake you up as it recognises when you’re naturally starting to wake. Playing with this will also help you to experiment with your hours.
So what makes a ‘successful’ wakeup and morning? Having a ritual. Tie all of the above recommendations together and you have the beginning of a customisable blueprint for your own morning ritual. The most successful people in the world are borderline OCD about their morning rituals – nothing can mess with them. If you want to start the day right – create a ritual.