Wednesday, 17 October 2018

What's your wellness score?

How well do you feel? 

Where would you put yourself on a score of 1 to 10 – with one being ‘I feel really ill all the time’ to ten – ‘I feel tip top – never felt better’? 

If you’re not scoring as high as you would like to – do you know why and importantly, what can you do about it?

Now I know that many of us have diagnosed illness, maybe something temporary or perhaps something that is going to be lifelong.  Perhaps you can’t even conceive of a high wellness score but it is still a great challenge to consider how well you might be able to feel. 

Often we feel ill because we lack energy and our bodies ache.  Getting up in the morning is an effort and we often feel unenthusiastic and lacking in motivation.  We often have headaches and our stomach plays up and is sore.

Does this sound familiar?  If some of this sounds like you – read on.

It is really worth doing a bit of a wellness check;

·         Look first at your sleep – are you getting enough?  Adults need around 7 hours a night  (Walker ‘Why we sleep’).  That’s seven hours asleep – no blue light, no TV in a well- ventilated, dark room. 

·         What about your stress levels?  Yes, I know we all need a bit of stress – but what about yours?  If you are very stressed what are you doing about it?  Down time is important however busy you are.  A bit of ‘Mindfulness’ is a great help – try the  Headspace app – its easy to use and not too ‘airy fairy’. 

·         What’s your food intake like?  Not sure?  Try keeping a food diary for a week – write down everything you eat every day – then I am sure you will spot some areas for change.  Make sure you have enough protein, healthy fats and complex carbs.  Steer well away from processed foods and refined sugar.  Aim not to eat anything with more than 5gms sugar per 100gms.  Bear in mind too, that many foods are great in tackling inflammation – so for those aches and pains try avocados, blueberries, green leafy veg and oily fish. 

·         Do you drink enough water?  Aim for around 3 litres a day – try it – and notice the difference in how you feel

·         Alcohol – need I say more?  The less you drink the better – that’s all.

·         Of and of course (you knew this was coming) – get some exercise.  Do your daily steps (get outside – fresh air – good for all of us) and get to the gym.  Resistance work (shift those weights) is good for all of us – whatever our age – there are always benefits to keeping your muscles strong

Give it a try – nudge up that wellness score !

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Are 'protein packed' foods really what they seem?

We all need protein in our diets and often we want to find a quick and easy way to grab some.  Our ‘go to’ idea might be a supermarket style ‘protein bar’.  A quick look at these might make you change your mind.

For example – Special K protein blackcurrant and pumpkin seed bars – at 3.9 g protein per 28 g bar are just about entitled to be called a ‘source of protein’ (govt regs is that at least 12% of the energy value of a food needs to come from protein). However, that’s not enough protein to make a real difference and of course there is more sugar than is good for you!  (5.6 g per bar) 

And Nature Valley protein peanut and cholate bars have 10 g of protein per 40 gm bar – so just about in the ‘high protein’ category but again loads of sugar – 6.2 g per bar this time. 

So, I got to wondering just how much protein we actually need a day. tells us that the average sedentary man needs 56 g protein a day and a sedentary woman about 46 g a day.  (Based on needing 0.8 g protein per kilogram of body weight).  You can see that protein bars should only be an occasional boost or your blood sugar will go through the roof. 

How about adding in a bit of natural protein?  Go for a mixed diet rich in eggs, milk, yoghurt, chicken and fish and you won’t go far wrong.  Add in nuts and seeds as a snack and you will hit your daily protein requirements. 

However, Steve says; if you are aiming to build big muscles you will need extra protein – in fact you will need 1.5 to 2.2 g of protein per kilogram of body weight for intense training, (the sort of training when you put up your weights once a week and sweat the CV) and the Oats and Whey protein bars he uses have 23 g protein per bar and only 3.9 g sugar.  If you fancy some of these just let us know or order from Myprotein and use the code STEPHEN-RACV to get a 30% discount when spending £35 or more.
Take home message?  We all need protein but if you are working out really intensely you will need more.  Most of us can get all we need from a well-balanced diet and avoid the high sugar ‘little bit extra’ (expensive) bars.  If you need a boost go for the ‘big boy stuff’.  

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Heart Health

Heart Health

I’ve just taken the NHS heart health check.  Now I count myself as pretty healthy, and my Fitbit says I’m ‘excellent’.  But the NHS website puts my heart age as higher than my biological age.  But, as I don’t know my cholesterol, its made a guess and has suggested that I go to my GP and get my cholesterol checked.  Oh dear.  The test doesn’t even have a section to fill in to say how much exercise I do and what my daily step counter is like.  It doesn’t ask me about alcohol intake, sleep or stress.  Cholesterol levels are complicated and need to be understood in the context of naturally occurring levels and those brought about by food.  There are criticisms of the studies of cholesterol and heart health (‘Nourishing Traditions ‘ by Fallon & Enig New Trends publishing 2001 p 133) so what are we to do?

An article in The Guardian on 8th Sept suggests that lifestyle changes can make a big difference to your heart age.  Here goes:

Diet - keep your refined sugar intake as low as you possibly can, avoid added salt and eat a good selection vegetables everyday.  Eat fat in moderation, those that are unrefined and unprocessed.  In fact, avoid processed food as far as you can.

Exercise (well, we would have to include this!) – go for 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week and strength training at least twice a week.  So, walk fast, run, bike, swim, get your heart rate up.  Then lift some weights – ask one of us if you don’t know how to do this safely. 

Smoking and drinking -  Smoking triples the risk of a heart attack – so don’t.  Alcohol is less clear but new evidence is suggesting that you are better off without

Pollution - has been shown to have a bad effect on heart health.  I am guessing that living in the Fens means we have less car fumes and manufacturing fall out to deal with.  Unless muck spreading counts?!!

Stress - not good for your heart – and not easy to eliminate – but get some down time – enjoy the moment.  Learn how to meditate, breathe deeply, look up and enjoy the view.  Oh – and get some sleep!

So, I haven’t immediately improved my heart health – but I’m working on it and I know that if I keep at it I will feel healthy and keep going well for as long as I can

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Running Tips

Want to run faster and further?  Here’s a few tips to help

Get the right shoes.  Get your gait analysed and take advice.  That pair of trainers you have had knocking around for years won’t provide you with the support you need and will lead to injury.  Any reputable sports shoe shop will offer a treadmill and a linked computer to show what will work best for you.

Increase slowly.  Don’t go rapidly from a short distance to a long one, build up slowly.  Similarly with speed, work at intervals first (a short distance at a higher speed followed by a slower pace), then increase generally.  Try to only increase speed or distance, not both at the same time.

Eat well.  You can have the best car in the world but put in the wrong fuel and it won’t perform well.  Same with your body.  Eat complex carbohydrates, protein and fat.  Leave out the sugars, the useless calorie laden snacks and the alcohol.  If you want to get the best from your body – give it a chance!

Get some sleep. Your body needs a chance to recover and rest.  Aim for at least 7 hours every night.

Enjoy it! If you set out on a run telling yourself it will be too difficult and you can’t do it – guess what will happen?!  Yep, it will be awful – get a positive mindset and it will make all the difference

Monday, 27 August 2018

Think you can’t run? Think again

I have run half marathons, in fact I have run most of my adult life.  But a couple of years ago I decided that I couldn’t run any more.  My back hurt and I was getting old.  And I left it at that. 

Then more and more of my clients started running.  They told me about their progress and we worked hard on their stamina, combined with some resistance training.  I felt jealous and decided that the only thing stopping me running was the voice in my head that kept telling me that I couldn’t do it.  I downloaded the NHS ‘Coach to 5k’ app and got a grip. 

The first few days were a heady mix of excitement and fear.  Would I be able to do it?  Would my back hurt?  Would I have to give up?  Then I decided to change the voice (in fact the app tells you to do that).  I changed to ‘this is good. I am enjoying this.  I can run’.  From that shaky 3 minute run I have surprised myself.  I followed the app, running on the treadmill, day after day.  Thank you to those of you that noticed and offered encouragement.  Slowly I built up the distance and then I was off.  I ran outside.  OK, so I’m not fast, but I can raise a sweat and its quicker than walking.  I have gradually built up the distance and its now well over 5 k and I feel terrific.  I feel good physically and also mentally.  The sense of achievement is fantastic.  Its what I always say, you never know what you can do until you try.  Give it a go – surprise yourself ! 

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Holidays over?

We will soon see all the familiar faces back as you return from your holidays.  We went away last weekend and took our kit in our bags – and there it stayed!  The gin might have had something to do with that!

We know that some of you will feel quite unfit when you get back.  Different (more) food, less activity and the odd drink or two all go together to make it imperative that we get back to the gym.

And its not all in the mind.  Research carried out by the University of Liverpool, published in June showed the results of what happened when volunteers were told to stop moving.  Previously fit students were told to cut their daily steps to below 2000 a day and to sit for at least 3 ½ hours a day.  They did this for two weeks. 

After 2 weeks blood tests showed raised blood sugar levels, decreased insulin sensitivity and  less healthy cholesterol profiles.  They has also lost muscle mass in legs and gained fat round their abdomens.  It really does happen ! Happily, most quickly returned to their normal base line when they started to go back to their 10,000 steps a day and normal activity levels.  The same experiment on older people (over 65) showed similar results but a slower return to normal levels.

So, two weeks does make a difference, for the most part reversible, but the next time your activity tracker tells you to move – remember – its doing you a favour !