Why Meditation should be your new wellness hobby!

To continue our Wellness Wednesday focus, I’ve listed my top reasons meditation should be your
next wellness hobby!

Goodbye Stress

The main reason most people turn to meditation is a way to relieve stress. It allows us to be more
controlled with our emotions and the way we choose to react to certain situations. Controlling our
emotions is a key factor to being successful in our career and our personal lives as it allows us to act
in a more skilful and thought out way even when under pressure. The more we practice mediation,
the more we gain control and allow our mind to take time to observe and reflect on our actions

It makes us more successful people

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “A clean room equals a clear mind”, well a clear mind = a successful
person. Meditation helps us clear our thoughts and focus on our goals. Due to the fact that
meditation reduces stress and alleviates anxiety, this keeps us from a brain overload. When we have
too much stress or feel heightened in some way we don’t think clearly which in turn affects our
productivity.
However, when our brains are allowed to analyse and act calmly then we effectively rewire our
brains with stronger connections which allow us to solve problems quickly. Meditation gives us
dedicated time to just breathe, allowing improvement in brain functionality and smarter decision
making!

Get some shut eye

Meditation also helps us to sleep better! If you’ve read our previous post on sleep being beneficial to
performance, then you’ll know how much sleep matters to our overall health and fitness. Studies
have shown meditation can even help those with insomnia as it allows dedicated time away from
our habitual routine of trying to get to sleep to calm the body without the pressure of having to
sleep.

Meditation improves your waistline

Researches have found that those of us that use meditation techniques or take time each day to
meditate, reduce the risk of stress eating. Stress eating or unconscious eating can become a very
unhealthy way of dealing with stress. Those tested in a controlled study were found to eat in a more
mindful way and studies showed those who meditated vs. those who didn’t not only had better
stress levels over all, they reduced the amount of abdominal fat.

For those of us that need time for peace of mind, my advice would be Find a Mantra that works for
you! Maybe its a quote that inspires you to be creative or think creatively, maybe it’s a single
thought you’d like to focus on – using a mantra in meditation is an affective way to achieve focus
and achieve goals.

Some fantastic apps for meditation would be:
Headspace – Committed to advancing the field of mindfulness through clinically validated research
Calm - which teaches meditation and mindful movement
Insight Timer - which has over 12, 000 videos and music to help you gain your meditation goals

Appendix
Research into stress eating and meditation: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jobe/2011/651936/


De- Clutter your life and make space for you!

De-cluttering your life or your environment such as your home or office space is the new biggest trend. De-cluttering or simplifying your environment is said to help you feel more calm controlled, and if we’re talking about work space more energised and focused.

There are many ways you could go about de-cluttering, my advice would be to complete short and simple tasks over a few weeks so you don’t become overwhelmed.

The whole purpose of our 30 day programme is to get you great results and this only happens if  you have set yourself up to succeed. If your life is in a bit of a mess, then adding more to your plate is just setting you up to fail. A great rule going forwards now is don’t start a task unless you have time to complete it.

So how do you start the process of de-cluttering and set yourself up for success?

Below are five suggestions to get things started…

  1. Chuck out those Just in case items!

We’ve all got those “just in case items” whether its and outfit in your wardrobe that you’ve been trying to convince yourself will be fashionable again one day! Or the draw full of old mobile phone chargers. Get rid of them!

There’s a great saying that clutter is just indecision, make a clear decision to either keep it or get rid of it – On a positive note, that old outfit may make someone else very happy and there are plenty of online companies willing to pay for old mobile phones.

 

2. The 30 day Box Test

This is a popular and simple de-cluttering task, you place all your kitchen or office items into a cardboard box. When you’ve used an item, you place it back in the draw where it lives. Anything left in the box at the end of 30 days will be the things that you don’t really need and should be included in your trip to the local charity shop.

3. A box A Week – A Room A week

Think of the key living areas of your home. This task is designed for by the end of the 4 weeks for not only help you feel clutter free but for others to notice your home is more clutter free. Do you have too many books piled up on your bookcase that you can’t actually see what books you have. Leave a box in a room of choice for a week, when you have 10 free minutes add items you no longer use. At the end of each week move on to a different room and continue the task until you have de-cluttered all of your living spaces.

4. The six month Hanger test

This de-cluttering task lasts longer than the 30 day challenge, but I guarantee it will reduce the stress of getting dressed. Now nicknamed the Oprah Winfrey hanger experiment as she gave fame to the de-cluttering wardrobe task. You start by hanging all pieces on your hanger in the reverse direction. Once you’ve warn an item you place it onto the hanger in the correct direction. After 6 months you’ll have a good understanding of what you wear and what you don’t. – Donate the unworn close to charity.

5. De-clutter your digital world

There are endless books and blogs claiming we all need less screen time more me time, and if we were to be honest with ourselves, we would probably all agree. It’s so easy to become distracted by phone notifications or an email pop up on our computer. Whether its work or in everyday life, the digital world is all consuming and we should all try and be conscious users.

The simplest task of all, which you could easily complete whilst reading this article is to turn off all social media notifications. This allows you to be a conscious user and participator of social media instead of being distracted during your run or workout.

Whilst we are on the subject of social media, who do you follow? Who do you like? I’m sure you have a few people that comes up in your feed that immediately affect your mood or simply don’t inspire you? Get rid of them! I de-clutter my social media every few months and it’s a good feeling. If you don’t want to delete them, just stop seeing their posts, I guarantee you’ll feel better for it. Don’t be a sheep – follow people who inspire you and make you feel more focused and creative.

I’m not telling you to go cold turkey on social media or screens, just be a conscious user and spend less time scrolling through news feeds and more time focusing on your true goals.

Clutter creeps up on us all be it real life items or digital overloads. Don’t spend time inventing ways to keep something for the sake of not making a decision. When we lead a less confused and simpler lifestyle we can focus on experiences and goals we want to achieve.

 

Try just one or maybe even all of the suggestions above for just 30 days and I guarantee you will feel better for it!


Mobility Monday - 30 Day Challenge

Mobility Monday

Let’s build some strong foundations!

This post forms part of our 30 Day Challenge. Our goal is to get you in the best possible physical and mental shape over the next 30 days. We want to encourage the good habits you are probably already aware of and introduce you to a few new ideas that we believe will change everything for you…

The big problem we see over and over again with transformation programmes is that people go from sitting on the sofa eating a bacon sandwich to starting a vegan diet and trying to run a marathon. Some people may succeed with this goal, but for the majority it’s just too big a lifestyle shift to be able to stick to!

We want you to succeed with this programme and so for the first few days we are going to take you through what may appear to be very basic steps – but bear with us, this is deliberate, we want you to succeed and so our goal is to give you a progressive programme rather than throwing you straight in at the deep end.

We want you to win day one and look forward to day two, three and four… This starts with improving your mobility.

If you are going to build a strong building then you need to develop solid foundations.

Most of us spend far too much time sat down rather than standing and as a result, our hips and ankles in particular don’t allow us to walk, run, squat, or even stand properly! So when we start to exercise our bodies simply aren’t able to do what we ask. We experience pain, injury and decide to head back to the sofa with the bacon sandwich – we’re not going to allow this to happen to you!

Step One on our 30 day challenge – Give some love to your hips and ankles by performing these two simple movements:

The Hip flexor stretch

Start by kneeling down on your back leg and bending your front leg at a 90-degree angle.

Squeeze your glutes on the back leg and draw your abs in tight. Once in this position, slightly shift body your body forward and hold this position.

 

 

 

 

A progression for this movement is to use a band to provide resistance.

Fix a resistance band to a sturdy object that is knee high or lower.

Step into the band with one leg and pull it upward as high as possible.

Walk back away from the anchor point of the ba

nd to create tension in the band and kneel down into a lunge position on the leg that has the band around it.

Keeping a good upright posture, squeeze the glutes on the back leg, draw your abs in tight and allow the band to gently pull the hips forward.

 

Ankle Mobility

Maintaining a good range of movement in your ankle is vital for optimal health and performance. This area can become a big problem for so many people and it is very common to see hamstring problems and even lower back issues as a result of a lack of movement in the ankles.

Try this simple movement to increase your current ankle mobility.

Step one leg up onto an elevated platform. Keep the pressure evenly distributed across your foot with both the heal and toes maintaining contact

Drive the shin towards the toes with the knee staying in line with the toes. Hold this position for a few seconds, draw the leg back and then drive the knee forwards once more trying to increase the range of movement. Repeat this four or five times on each leg.

If you have a history of ankle problems then you may really struggle with this movement. It may feel very restricted, there could be discomfort around the ankle ligaments or you may feel a deep stretch in the Achilles tendon. Everyone is different – but everyone will benefit from this movement!

 

As I said at the start, this may appear to be almost too easy for the first day of a body transformation programme, but trust me, these simple movements will make a huge difference to your posture and your movement. I would recommend that you aim to perform these movements most days, two minutes first thing in the morning will set you up for a great day ahead and your body will really thank you for it.

Now get moving today, walk whenever possible, spend as little time sat down as possible, eat well, keep hydrated and stay positive, the real fun starts tomorrow!


Sleep Your Way To High Performance

If you’ve been training hard and doing everything possible with your diet in order to achieve maximum results but feel as though you’re not quite there, this may be because of one critical element you’re missing out on:

Sleep.

We’ve all heard the expressions “sleep is for wimps” and “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”, but the reality is sleep is such a huge element in boosting your performance that if you’re not getting enough there’s a good chance your body just won’t be able to improve.

In the modern world, most people are chronically sleep deprived and many try to get by with only 5-7 hours of sleep each night. Whilst you may be able to SURVIVE on this number, you will never truly THRIVE. Optimally, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults between the ages of 26-64 years of age get 7-9 hours of sleep. If you’re involved in intense workout sessions or have a psychologically demanding career, you’ll probably need at least 9 hours per night, but how do you ever find the time for that?!

Let’s dive into this topic a little further so you can begin to understand why you really need to take sleep more seriously.

Your Circadian Rhythm

We all have our own internal biological clock and without the demands of work, family and life events, naturally our sleep would follow this cycle. When you try to work against this clock, major problems can start to occur. This is why working long hours and travelling to different time zones will give you such a hard time adapting and sleeping in your normal cycle.

Adults have the largest dip in energy between 02:00am and 04:00am, when you should be sleeping deeply, as well as after lunch at around 1-3pm.

If your body clock is all over the place due to travel and it doesn’t really know where it is, then problems will inevitably occur.

If you are very sleep deprived you’ll notice these dips far more, to the point where you might be struggling to keep your head off your desk after lunch! This is a pretty clear sign that you could use more sleep.

The Stages Of Sleep 

It’s important to note that as you move through various stages of sleep each stage has it’s own purpose:

Stage one takes place right after you drift off to sleep and during this time, the brain produces alpha and theta waves. Your eye movements slow down and you are considered to be in light sleep and can be woken easily. On average, this stage lasts for approximately seven minutes.

Stage two is still considered light sleep, however the brain has higher frequencies known as sleep spindles, which also causes the brain waves to slow down. For those who are big nappers, this is the optimal stage that you reach that enables you to recharge, but, be warned if you go beyond this stage you’ll wake with that groggy feeling!

During this stage, your temperature drops and your heart rate slows down. This is a dreamless state and will carry on for about 20-30 minutes longer.

Stage three and four is where the very slow delta waves are seen, usually mixed in with smaller, fast waves. This is considered to be deep sleep and is where dreaming takes place. This is also the stage where people experience sleep walking, nightmares, or talk in their sleep. This is the most restorative sleep so the most important to get. Your body will be repairing muscles and tissues, promoting growth and development, and strengthening the immune system.

REM Sleep Finally, the last stage of sleep is the REM sleep and this happens about 90 minutes after you fall asleep. The REM stage is where dreaming occurs and this stage gets longer the deeper into the night you go, which is why you may find yourself awakening in the middle of a dream. Each REM stage can last for up to an hour and you may have five or six cycles each night. This is the primary stage of sleep where the brain consolidates memories, so is really important for cognitive health. If your memory is getting worse, you’re definitely missing this vital stage of sleep.

The Ugly Truth About Sleep Deprivation

If you are someone who doesn’t get enough of stage three and four sleep, your performance will definitely decrease. Some of the side effects you can expect to notice include:

  • Decreased time to exhaustion during aerobic or anaerobic activities
  • Reduced insulin sensitivity which may mean increased risk factor for weight gain and diabetes
  • Increased appetite and food cravings, also associated with a higher BMI
  • Reduced immune health meaning you won’t recover as quickly between exercise sessions
  • Reduced reaction time and motor performance, which is noted to be the equivalent of being intoxicated with alcohol
  • Increased risk factor for heart disease, coronary artery disease and high blood pressure.

All in all, some pretty scary consequences due to a lack of sleep!

From a performance perspective, it is reported that Roger Federer and LeBron James sleep an average of 12 hours per 24 hour period – two high level  individuals who are arguably performing at the peak of their powers in the twilight of their careers! Usain Bolt, Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova are known to sleep 10 hours per day. These athletes recognise the importance of sleep and since high performance is key to their career, they literally treat sleep like a job.

 

How To Make Do On Less Sleep

I’m sure you’re thinking this all sounds like great advice but have you seen my schedule? There’s no way I can sleep 10-12 hours per day and as a business owner who has recently become a father I know I’m really going to struggle to follow my own advice over the next few months!

Fortunately, if you can’t find that much time every night, there are plenty of things you can do to lessen the damaging effects of a bad night’s sleep…

Try Meditation

If you’ve never considered practising meditation, now might be the time to start. Many people believe that practising meditation can reduce your need for sleep, by an average of 30 minutes less per night. Plus, you’ll reap all the other beneficial effects meditation has to offer.

In some Buddhist texts, it’s noted that among proficient meditators, only 4 hours of sleep each night is required to optimise bodily function. Whilst you’ll probably never get to that level, this could definitely recharge the batteries and help make up for your lack of shut-eye.

 

Have A Power Nap

Don’t underestimate the benefit of power naps. Whilst you probably won’t have the opportunity to nod off for 3 hours like a number of professional athletes are prescribed, being able to have at least 20-30 minutes at some point in the afternoon could help you refresh your body and begin to feel better. Just be sure to set the timer so you do wake up before you move into stage three and four sleep, otherwise you will likely wake up feeling worse than before!

Focus On Relaxation

If power naps and meditation aren’t your thing then try some relaxation tools like deep breathing, writing in a stress journal or going for a quiet walk. Whilst it won’t be the same as sleeping, these exercises can help reduce cortisol levels, lower heart rates and help you feel healthier overall.

Catch Up At The Weekend

This is a bit controversial and has mixed opinions, but I’m a big believer that whilst you may not be able to hit your nightly sleep target, being able to get closer to your weekly sleep goal will improve your overall health and performance.

Surviving night after night on insufficient sleep affects your energy levels, your metabolism, your performance and your mood as well as your health. In the same way that a power nap can give you that well needed boost, a few nights restorative weekend sleep can make a huge difference to your performance and well-being.

So, before you go dragging yourself out of bed for that early Saturday morning run just know that you’ll probably find your times will likely improve if you went a bit later in the day!

Keep these sleep tips in mind and before you start making changes to your training or nutrition programs, work out if a few adjustments to your sleep program is what you really need for optimal performance.


How do you look after a £100million athlete?

Over the next four weeks we will witness the best players on the planet showcase their skills in pursuit of the ultimate prize any footballer can achieve – to win the World Cup.

As fans of our national teams we like to think that players are giving their all for Queen and country and while the majority of players will see this as the pinnacle of their career to represent their national side in a World Cup, others will see it as an opportunity to put themselves in the biggest possible shop window in order to gain a big money move to the promised land of the Premier League where the pitches are literally paved with gold.

Inevitably we will see a number of the big boys exit at the early stages and whilst excuses will range from arguments in the ranks, refereeing of even Virtual Assistant Refereeing decisions, to bad management or even noisy hotels! I’m pretty confident that the consistent excuse that we hear at every major tournament will appear at some stage – “the players were simply too tired.”

Whatever your thoughts on Premier League footballers, (or players from any other league in the world for that matter), the morality of their wage packets, their level of intelligence or the annoyance of their “WAGS”, you can’t get away from the fact that the world simply loves the beautiful game. Fans want to see more and more league, cup, international and even friendly games played each season, surely this takes its toll on the players required to perform at the highest level in each fixture?

But what is the reality of the situation? Is tiredness a justified excuse? Are we asking too much of players these days and how do we look after them in the best possible way? Here’s my take on things from a human performance perspective…

Dealing with injuries

The fact is that of the 23 members of each nations playing squad, every single player will have had some form of injury of varying degrees, during this past season. Whilst those players would have received incredible care from the best team doctors and sports science support team at their clubs, ultimately the decision to return would be on the player and although all top players can still perform at 80 or 90% of their capacity, consistently asking their bodies to deliver when they are not 100% fit will inevitably lead to long-term issues.

You hear stories of the old school centre halves that would take pain killing injections at half time to get them through the next 45 minutes or just man up and get on with it! But we take a more sensible approach to sports medicine these days and look after the welfare of the players first and foremost, meaning that these type of things simply can’t go on nowadays.

Life moves on and football has moved on at a rapid rate. The evolution of sports science and the evolution of the game itself has drastically changed even in the last few years. The role of the full-back has drastically changed from the guy that just needed to hoof it up the touch line, into a much more skilful attacking player that arguably runs the game from an attacking and defensive perspective. These guys require the upper body strength to hold off other opposing players, the cardiovascular fitness to run over 10km each game, the speed to sprint up and down the touchline and the skill to take on defenders and deliver pinpoint crosses.

But even these highly conditioned athletes will have their weaknesses, typically most players are very one sided which will immediately causes potential imbalances and weaknesses. Coaches and sports scientists are very aware of what they term “functional dysfunction” they just need to address to these imbalances in a structured manner before they potentially lead to injury.

Technology

The fact is we now have the technology to monitor top athletes in so many ways around the clock, we can see how much they’ve moved, how hard they’ve trained, the quality and quantity of the  recovery and sleep they’ve had, we are aware of their personality type and how they need to be managed. We know their stress levels and how they manage it (or don’t). We can monitor how they walk, talk, eat, sleep and breathe, and we have the ability to control so many aspects of their human performance.

Dave Brailsford the former performance director of British Cycling termed this approach “marginal gains” and the advancement in sports science over the last ten years or so has meant that these marginal gains within any sport have enabled a huge impact on the overall analysis and performance of each individual and team.

But, and it’s a very big BUT, we need to realise that these are young men and not machines and sometimes things don’t quite go to plan!

 

How well do you think you would perform with a relatively simple task in your day to day work life if you had over a billion people watching you doing it?!

 

Fail To Succeed

How you deal with pressure and how you respond when things go wrong is, in my opinion what defines you as a potential £100 million pound athlete.

Every single player that has been selected to represent their country in Russia this summer is the best player in their position at their club, they were the best player in the youth team they graduated from and they were head and shoulders above every other kid in the playground at school. When it comes to football, all these player have ever known is how to deal with success!

The real test is when things go wrong.

The average player falls away, but the star performer just gets better.

When David Beckham was sent off for England in France ’98 some thought his England career was over. Instead it ended up being the making of him, the following year he won everything with Manchester United and single handily dragged England through to the 2002 World Cup and in the process became a phenomenal captain and leader.

So what separates the superstars from the nearly men?

In my opinion elite human performance comes down to four areas:

Fitness, Nutrition, Recovery and Mind Set.

 

Fitness - Everyone knows that fitness is a vital component to any athlete’s makeup. Physical fitness and freedom from injury allow a player to compete at the highest level for the longest period of time, but this in my opinion is bottom of the pile when it comes to determining performance, it just gets you entry to play with the big boys.

Nutrition isn’t just about having six pack abs. Good Nutrition will give you a positive outlook, it will turbo charge your energy levels, it will improve your alertness and productivity and can even speed up your recovery from injury. Gone are the days when a typical player’s diet would consist of a pre-match fry up followed by some post-match beers! I’m sure a number of players out there still do this from time to time, but I guarantee they’ll never become a £100 million pound athlete with a Sunday League players diet. If you’re after marginal gains then first stop is the fuel you are putting in your engine.

Recovery is the toughest one to manage. Every player just wants to play and the biggest mistake many of them make is rushing back before they are fully recovered. Top players have amazing coaches, therapists and doctors at their beck and call to safely manage their return from injury. Everything from physiotherapy to cryotherapy, soft tissue work to fitness testing is covered. The problem isn’t when they are at their clubs, the issue is what do they do when they are at home?

A £100 million pound athlete will do everything required to get them back to their best. They will have their own recovery routine, wrap themselves in cotton wool and prioritise a good night’s sleep over a big night out every time.

For high performance I cannot emphasise the importance of sleep enough. It’s no coincidence that Roger Federer and LeBron James who are arguably performing better than ever in twilight of their respective careers swear by 12 hours sleep each night. It doesn’t sell newspapers hearing a footballer is tucked up in bed at 9pm, but it definitely ensures that the player makes headlines on the back pages and not the front pages!

Mind set – This is without doubt the key ingredient to building a £100 million pound athlete.

Forget about success, If you want to look after a £100 million athlete them teach them how to fail big time at a young age!

Throughout their career players will be faced with any number of challenges, from injury, humiliating defeat, falling out of favour with the manager, to transferring to a new country and managing personal issues. Problems will always arise and the bigger the problem, the bigger the potential reward. The truth is in football and in life it's never about the problem, it just comes down to how you deal with it. An average player will just see the problem and it will always hinder their progress, the top player will simply see each problem as another small hurdle along their journey to becoming a superstar!

Get all four of these ingredients in place in a manner that works for that individual player and success is guaranteed.

 

**Food for thought, at the last World Cup in Brazil, then 22 year old Mario Goetze famously scored the winning goal that saw Germany lift the trophy. Four years later and arguably at what should be the peak of his career Goetze didn’t make the squad for this years tournament. We all want to see the star players perform and I'm sure the winning goalscorer will again be the lasting memory of this tournament in four weeks time. But just keep an eye on the spectacular failures, it may just be the making of a new £100million athlete!

Enjoy the World Cup

David Osgathorp


Running fast but not getting anywhere- Is your training programme actually making you slower?

If you consider yourself to be a runner then you’re likely out most days come rain or shine. You put the miles in each week, you push yourself on the days that you really don’t feel like doing anything and you pride yourself on training hard each and every week.

But are you actually getting any faster? If not, I’d like to shed some light on why this may be the case and what you can do in order to change this.

Before we start, I would like to make it clear to anyone reading this who isn’t solely looking to develop their performance, to not be offended by what I write below. There are a huge number of people that run each week purely for the sheer enjoyment of running. Maybe it’s a new hobby that you’ve taken up or a way to meet new people, maybe you’re providing moral support to a friend or you might just need an excuse to get out of work or away from home for an hour! Whatever your reason, please keep doing what you’re doing. Joining a running club or a park run is such an enjoyable thing to do, it’s a great way of meeting people and the therapy that running provides is essential for so many people to help them get through their week. Who am I to challenge that?!

This article is for those of you that have genuine intentions of gaining personal bests, but for some reason feel like you’re going backwards instead of progressing. If this is the case then let’s dig into the reasons why this may be happening…

Ask most runners what their weekly schedule looks like and you tend to get a similar response; they will usually train five or six times per week and their training will be split into either the long runs, the steady runs or the interval runs. On the surface this seems like the perfect combination, but the truth may be far from perfect.

You see, although virtually all of these runners will have a fancy heart rate monitor and watch on their wrist, the majority will not really know what to do with them. When you don’t know how hard you should be training or always run in a group and go at someone else’s pace, you’ll often find that you go too hard on the easier runs and too easy on the harder runs. As a result, you end up in no man’s land completing hours and hours of miles that actually impact very little on your overall level of fitness. Do you know about heart rate variability? Are you aware of your true maximum heart rate?

Doing the same thing each week isn’t training. Training is about pushing beyond your previous best, getting outside of your comfort zone and challenging your body – not running 6 miles simply because it’s a Wednesday and that’s what everyone else does.

I also typically see a mentality from most runners that anything other than running is considered a waste of their time. Why waste 45 minutes in the gym when they could get in a steady 10k instead? This is a battle that I constantly face.

If you want to make improvements, you need to be prepared to do the hard work. Your speed would develop if you got stronger, your knee pain would likely disappear if you developed glutes, the back pain that you experience after 90 minutes would likely go away with some core strength..the list goes on. If your goal is to get faster this year then continue reading.

If you’re still with me, let’s look at some simple fixes that I guarantee will see your PB times improve significantly.

Lack of Sleep

To be clear, the actual training doesn’t make you faster. It is the recovery or super-compensation that you give to your body that allows it to make the adaptations in order for you to improve. Running will place stress on your body and unless you recover properly from that stress, you’ll end up making things worse rather than better.

Many runners use the term ‘over-training’. I don’t personally believe in this concept since the whole point of training is for it to be tough and to push you beyond your previous capabilities. It isn’t that you over-train, you simply under-recover! So if you’re looking to get faster, consider going to bed earlier.

 

Poor diet

The fuel that you put into your engine will ultimately determine the performance. You wouldn’t dream of going on a long car journey without filling up with fuel and checking your oil and water, but would you train for a marathon on cereal bars and coffee?!

In my experience, most runners will either under-eat because they don’t believe they should eat anything before a ten mile run, or overeat because they feel they should reward their efforts with cake! The important thing is to learn to have a good relationship with food. High performance starts with good nutrition – you simply can’t expect your body to deliver if you aren’t consuming good quality protein, fats and carbohydrates. Eat real food first and then seek supplements later. Remember to keep hydrated, since dehydration can have a significant impact on your physical and mental performance.

Is your training appropriate?

First and foremost, decide what you’re actually training for. I meet so many runners who run without any real purpose. They enter the odd 10k or half marathon events but generally they just run for the sake of running. Pick your event and make that your focus.

If you are training for a 10k then is a weekend long run really appropriate? The infamous long weekend run is the staple of most runners training regime, but is it more appropriate to perform a high intensity interval session?

Listen to your body

Injuries go hand in hand with most runners. It’s inevitable that you’ll suffer at some point, however so many injuries can easily be avoided. Achilles tendon issues, plantar fasciitis or shin splints are massive red flags that your running style is off or that you’re wearing trainers that either aren’t appropriate for your feet or are simply in need of replacing.

Back and neck pain are usually indications of poor posture, hip discomfort is often related to being sat down for long periods, general aches and pains are due to a lack of mobility and all of these things can be improved in the gym. Learn how to lift, how to foam roll, how to improve core strength and how to improve mobility and see all of these issues disappear. Whilst you have likely caused most of these issues yourself, you also have the power to correct them. Your body is constantly talking to you and starting to listen to it a bit more is key.

The mantra of Eat, Sleep, Train, Repeat is one that we all know but very few of us follow properly…

 

Eat – Eat like a king, Eat often, Eat real food and Eat like you’re fuelling a high performance engine – because you are!

Sleep – Sleep to recover, Sleep to improve your mood, Sleep to improve concentration, Sleep your way faster!

Train – Train your weak links, Train for you, not someone else, Train with intensity, Train with a purpose.

Repeat – Repeat this practice day after day, week after week and I guarantee your results will improve.

 

Cheers

David Osgathorp

 


A Cure For Neck Pain? Here's My Neck Hammock Review:

I’m sure you’ve had neck pain at some point in your life. Around 50% of the general population will experience neck pain in the next twelve months and as our lifestyles evolve this figure will undoubtedly grow.

Computer screens, uncomfortable pillows, and constantly being on your smartphone are usually the biggest reasons for this. But how do you fix this growing problem without weekly visits to see your physio?

Read on to find out.

What Is Good Posture?

We all know that we should sit up straight. But what does proper posture even mean? Here is a simple test you can do at home to evaluate yourself.

Take off your shoes and stand with your back against a wall. Your heels should be shoulder width apart with your buttocks pressing against the wall. Open your chest and have your shoulder blades lightly touch the wall (it is important that they touch it though).

Is your head touching the wall?

It should be.

If it isn't, that means you have a forward head position. And this could be very harmful to your neck.

Forward Head Posture And Why You Should Be Mindful Of It

Normal head to neck alignment would see both your shoulder blades and head touching the wall. For every inch of protrusion from that, your neck gets an additional 10 pounds of pressure. Over time, that can seriously weaken your neck muscles, as well as harm the disks in the spine. This, in turn, can lead to chronic neck pain and nerve impingement.

Not to mention that the hunched appearance that isn't exactly flattering!

What Causes Forward Head (And How To Prevent It)

According to Wikipedia, this position is also called  "Scholar's Neck", "iHunch", "Reading Neck." and even "Justin Bieber Head"! While I'm not really sure about the Justin Bieber Head (apparently, he did it in a photo), the others make perfect sense.

Indeed, long hours of staring at a computer screens  are the main culprit for forward head issues and our relationships with our smartphones is becoming a very serious issue. Walking around with your gaze glued to the phone isn't just sad, this unnatural neck position is taking a toll on your bodies biomechanics too!

Your neck muscles will also get weaker as you age and if you're not working out regularly. A decent balanced strength training programme that includes posture improving exercises for the upper back and neck muscles could help pull your head back where it should be.

What Is Cervical Traction?

If you've visited a physiotherapist or a chiropractor for neck pain, you might be familiar with cervical traction. It's actually a quite simple but very effective technique.

Essentially, it's about applying a pulling force to your neck in order to release built-up tension. The compression of the discs between the vertebrae is decreased and muscles and joints get a bit of a stretch as well. Cervical traction can also help to release a compressed nerves and improve the associated pain with that.

How Do We Know Cervical Traction Works?

Although cervical traction is a fairly popular technique, you still get polar opposite opinions sometimes. There have been a number of respectable clinical studies on cervical traction and although they are inconclusive on the long-term effects, fast pain relief was definitely proven to be a result of neck traction.

Since neck pain can be such a debilitating condition and painkillers are definitely not a sustainable long-term option, cervical traction is considered to be one of the best treatment and management options, it has always been very difficult to perform it on yourself... until now!

Would I Recommend It For Neck Pain?

When I first saw this product I have to admit I thought it was a bit of a joke, but after looking into this further I wanted to try it out for myself...

It initially sparked my interest because of my work at Red Bull Racing Formula One team, Racing drivers have to deal with huge G-forces on their necks. Developing strong neck and core muscles is one of the key elements of their training. You will often see the drivers working with resistance bands prior to races to activate and strengthen their necks but I wanted to explore some release techniques to compliment this.

As for my London-based clients, they are some of the most inspiring and hard-working people I've met. But success comes with hard work, and many of them spend obscene amounts of time in front of a computer screen. Over time, neck problems are among the first to arise.

In my experience, people with neck pain tend to make things worse with exercise. Especially if I recommend something for them to also do at home, they tend to have bad form (because of the pain). As a result, you can harm yourself more than you help yourself.

 

The reason I recommend the neck hammock is the simplicity of use and efficiency. It's one of the most affordable and accessible forms of "therapy" you can get. Of course, lifestyle changes such as spending less time in front of screens, and a few corrective exercises to improve posture are also necessary, but this product really does work.

I'm also a big believer in encouraging clients to take the time to stop, relax, breathe and actively slow the body down, using this device forces you to do all of those things and I'm convinced that this process alone will promote healing and relaxation in the affected areas.

If you are looking for some efficient and immediate relief, I would the neck hammock is definitely a great option for you! I'm going to use this myself more regularly over the next few weeks and I'll update this blog at a later date with my story...

As usual, if you have any questions or suggestions, I'd love to chat with you in the comments below.

Cheers,

David Osgathorp


The Power of Mushrooms: It's Not What You Think

Mushrooms really are magic! While some just see them as a fungus, they're actually a versatile vegetable packed with nutrients. Throw them into a pasta dish, enjoy them in your morning omelette, roast them for an earthy, flavoursome side dish, the opportunities are endless. But did you know a number of mushrooms also have medicinal properties? We are getting more and more evidence that some sorts of mushrooms could be bonafide superfoods. Read on to learn more!

 

Vitamin D Deficiency: The Silent Killer

 

In the UK, the risk of vitamin D deficiency is very high. We obviously don't get that much sunlight, especially during the autumn and winter period and health chiefs are now advising to take a vitamin D supplement.

Sadly, the problem with synthetic vitamins is that we can't know if they are identical to the biological molecule. That being said, vitamin D deficiency is still a real issue and the benefits of supplementing could outweigh the risks. If you don't get enough vitamin D you risk poor bone health, low immunity, cardiovascular issues, even cancer.

But food can be medicine. Try including more vitamin D rich foods in your diet, especially during the colder, gloomier months. Mushrooms are a great place to start!

Magic mushrooms, and why the title of this article sounded bad in my head

When I first came up with the idea for this article, I struggled a lot with the title. No matter how you look at it, "the power of mushrooms" definitely  sounds like I'm referring to psychedelic mushrooms.

There are over 200 mushroom species that contain psychoactive compounds like psilocybin, psilocin, and baeocystin. Their mind-altering properties have been known for a long time. Many cultures around the globe used them in religious ceremonies and other spiritual practices.

Other than hallucinations (which can be auditory, visual, and even tactile), "shrooms" also give a feeling of euphoria and well-being.

In most countries psychedelic mushrooms are considered drugs with high abuse potential. As such, they are illegal to grow, sell and consume. That being said, there is an increasing number of people who claim the ban is unnecessary. There is no evidence that people become dependent on magic mushrooms and some say the psychedelic properties can help with kicking addiction and even some mental issues.

As of right now, though, you'd do best to stay away from shrooms if you enjoy the benefits of being a law-abiding citizen! ;-)

The Healing Power of Mushrooms

On the other hand, medicinal mushrooms are fantastic for you, they can improve your immunity, make your heart and blood vessels stronger, reduce inflammation, and even prevent certain types of cancer. There are over 38,000 species with medicinal properties. To experience the health benefits, though, you'd have to take them for at least a month. Alternatively, you could look into powders, capsules, and tinctures, which contain more bio-available molecules.

Immunity Boosting Mushrooms

We can all benefit from improved immunity. Even outside of flu season, there are hundreds, if not thousands of threats that your body fights every day. Did you know that you get mutagenic cells (potential tumours) every day and your immune system is constantly fighting them?

Better immunity = better health

Most of the popular medicinal mushrooms have immune system enhancing effects. Shiitake and Reishi mushrooms, two of the most well-known mushrooms in the west, are both potent immunomodulators. Research on their benefit to overall immune health has been piling up in recent years. We now have every reason to believe that their longevity-enhancing properties are due to the boost of immunity they provide.

Reishi Mushrooms for Your Morning

The reason for this article is because I have recently incorporated reishi mushrooms in my day-to-day. A friend of mine told me about this a while ago and so I did a bit of my own research. Their healing power have been documented over and over again. They have been used in traditional medicine for centuries. In China, Reishi mushrooms are known as "the great protector" for their:

  • Anti-inflammatory,
  • immune boosting,
  • cancer-preventing,
  • helps you sleep
  • improves gut health

Reishi mushrooms can balance out hormones, lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular function, even fight autoimmune issues like allergies and asthma. Like anything, Reishi mushrooms are not a magic wand. As a superfood, they are a wonderful addition to an already healthy lifestyle. Proper nutrition, sleep, hydration, and an appropriate exercise regimen are the simple pillars of health. If you're interested in reading more about that, check out my recent article on the hierarchy of fitness.

My typical morning juice

Reishi mushrooms are easy to add to your routine. I, personally, am a fan of this reishi mushroom powder. Its' subtle, slightly bitter taste was a struggle at first but now, if anything, it's a bit of a kick to wake up in the morning.

I haven't braved it on it's own, love to add reishi mushroom powder to my morning smoothie. For an anti-oxidant boost, I focus on including lots of green vegetables, as well as berries, either fresh or frozen. As for the liquid, I use almond milk or coconut water with a bit of ice.

The Power of Mushrooms: What Is Your Take?

Mushrooms are tasty, nutrient-dense, and they can heal, too. What surprised you the most about the power of mushrooms? Have you tried Reishi mushroom powder?

I'm exploring all sorts of weird and wonderful supplements and training hacks at the moment while I continue my theme of all things performance enhancing. I hope you're enjoying the content, I'd love to hear from you...

 

 

Thanks,

David Osgathorp


What is Heart Rate Variability and how can you benefit from it?

Heart Rate Variability has quickly been reaching buzzword status. It's been a standard measurement amongst athletes in high performance facilities for years but not something that has been particularly easy to monitor for the average exercise enthusiast - until now.

So what is heart rate variability (HRV)? Why should you be aware of it? How can you to measure and track it? And why can measuring it completely change your approach to training and recovery?

What Exactly Is Heart Rate Variability

I'm sure you've measured your own HEART RATE at some point, whether that's by placing three fingers on a superficial artery and counting the beats or by strapping on a heart rate monitor, you'll get a figure measured in beats per minute. However, this number doesn't tell you everything...

A resting heart rate of 60 beats per minute doesn’t mean that your heart beats exactly every second, it will vary from beat to beat - hence the term Heart Rate Variability.

So what does this mean?

As a (very vague) rule of thumb, the higher the HRV the better, the lower your HRV, the worse your current wellbeing. Human physiology is such a fascinating and complicated topic and there are a number of other factors to consider but let's keep it simple to start.

Your heart works automatically. There are bundles of cells that get excited and send the electric impulse through the heart via the electrical conduction system and this causes the heart muscle to contract.

These pacemaker cells generate impulses at a higher rate than is actually required of a normal heartbeat and it's the role of your autonomic nervous system to slow them down.

Your autonomic nervous system has two divisions. The sympathetic system and the parasympathetic system. Stick with me here!...

The parasympathetic system is responsible for slowing things down and promoting "rest and digest" mechanisms, while the sympathetic nervous system fires you up and is your "fight or flight division". In a normal healthy individual you want the parasympathetic influences over the pacemaker to be stronger, meaning that your heart rate is slower than it would be if the heart only functioned automatically, unfortunately stress, poor sleep and even being over-stimulated from your mobile phone can stop this from happening and keep us in a constant switched on fight or flight mode.

Why Change Is Good

Your body is constantly under changing conditions. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and their opposing actions, are there to ensure that your internal organs respond to these changes. That's why if your heart rate variability is higher, it's a sign that you're more adaptable.

On the other hand, if your HRV drops, there's a good chance that you're undergoing a lot of stress. Low HRV is a good indicator of low resilience and adaptability. It can also signal mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and PTSD, or chronic illness, From my perspective as a human performance coach, I use it as a marker for athletes under stress, still recovering from training sessions, poor sleep or even a bad diet.

How Do You Measure Heart Rate Variability

HRV was first noticed on ECG strips. ECG is reliable, and widely used in clinical practice. However, outside of hospital settings, the machine is simply not practical. Not only is it time-consuming to hook up the electrodes by yourself every morning, the device takes up space, and it's very pricey if you're not on a private hospital budget!

Thankfully, new ways of measuring HRV are emerging and wearable technology and mobile apps are leading the way in providing cheap, simple and incredibly easy and effective ways to monitor yourself.

Tracking HRV on your mobile phone

For the last few weeks my morning routine has consisted of strapping on my bluetooth heart rate monitor and opening the Elite HRV app on my phone. Yes, I know there's an app for everything! But this one has been really useful for me and simple to use. I sit perfectly still and relaxed and allow the app to measure my resting heart rate and HRV and after just two minutes it gives me a score and tells me if I'm all set to push hard with my training or need to look after myself a bit more in the day ahead.

It may not be a perfect measurement but it gives me a good idea of where I’m at. You need to control the conditions as much as possible, for example taking it at the same time of day and in the same position. Even small changes in your routine can affect your score. There will undoubtedly be mornings where you have slept less, where you had to get up to go to the bathroom, or when you had a big meal late the night before that you still haven't quite digested. All of these will change HRV and ultimately make the measurement unreliable, BUT I still believe it's well worth tracking.

From my own perspective it has been really beneficial for me to start the day in a very calm manner. I get up very early each morning and I'm on the go straight away either into my studios in London, off to Red Bull Racing or out for an early morning training session. The process of stopping before I've even started has been incredibly beneficial from a psychological perspective as well as seeing the physiological benefits. I've also enjoyed the process of listening to my own body. I recognise if I haven't slept well, if I'm feeling a bit under the weather or I'm stressed in any way about the day ahead or just sore and stiff from a tough training session earlier that week. After measuring myself for the past few weeks I'm getting pretty good at predicting what my score will be and most importantly adapting my day to reflect this.

I must stress that this is only a rough guide and in no way

How To Use HRV Information

While heart rate variability is a novel and highly effective way of tracking health, I have to stress that it will not be 100% accurate.

However, I enjoy using it myself and I recommend it to a number of clients that I work with. From a performance perspective I think it's incredibly useful in determining how I pitch the training sessions for myself and my clients. I find that most people get very lazy with their approach to training. Yes you may be training several times per week but what are you actually doing during those sessions? Are you pushing beyond your previous capabilities? Are you following a proper training programme? and are you factoring in enough time for sufficient rest, recovery and proper nutrition?

My experience tells me that most people probably aren't. Instead they do the same old workouts day after day that may actually be doing more harm than good. I'll explain more about this in a later article...

My advice? Check your HRV, enjoy the process of slowing things down and listening to your body, push hard on the good days and learn to ease off on the low score days. I guarantee your results will improve - and that's what it's ultimately all about isn't it?

Cheers,

David Osgathorp


The Hierarchy of Fitness: Performance is more than just exercise!

I get asked a lot about the best exercises for fat loss or how often someone should train each week...

In my role as a Human Performance Coach I believe that performance is more than just exercise. There is never a one size fits all programme for each client to follow and I often find that the exercise programme I create is usually the last thing that is going to have an impact on the performance of an individual, let me explain...

I believe it is my job as a coach to enhance high performance by obtaining a clear picture of each clients overall health and well being. (I will go into details of how I achieve this in later posts)

Each programme I create is founded on the premise that energy is the currency of high performance and I aim to focus on strategies to increase energy and manage it more effectively.

So how do you create more energy?

The Holistic Approach To Training

I have found that unless you treat the body as a whole, you won't experience any real/ lasting change. One thing always affects another. We are often told that exhaustion from too much training has a negative effect on your energy and progress in the gym, but I don't believe in the concept of "over-training", the whole purpose of a training session is to push beyond your previous capabilities and overload the body. Where I find problems with energy levels is when clients under recover.

I’m very aware that putting a client through a tough session when they aren’t eating properly, sleeping properly or are under excessive pressure at work, will do a lot more harm than good.

The stress hormones will reek havoc with their body. High stress hormones equals low energy, less progress, and ultimately - less health.

If this is getting you thinking then take a look at my hierarchy of fitness below. Understand that human performance is much more than just exercise and remember that you can't move up unless you improve the basics.

Sleep, Sleep, Sleep

Yes, my first and most important item is the foundation for your hierarchy of fitness is rest. Even if you got every single other thing right, if your sleep schedule is off, it wrecks havoc in your entire system.

Within just four days of poor sleep, your body can no longer use and regulate insulin properly. Insulin is the hormone that tells your cells to use the glucose in your blood. When you are short on sleep, insulin sensitivity drops. This means that you need more insulin to properly use up the glucose and so your system starts producing more.

The catch?

You can't burn fat when insulin is high. It's biochemically impossible.

But the trouble doesn't stop here. Research has consistently shown that sleep deprivation can also:

  • Mess with leptin, the satiety hormone, this will therefore make you hungrier.
  • Significantly decrease cognitive function, including memory and decision making.
  • A risk factor for deadly chronic disease, including cancer.

Bottom line? Strive to get at least 6- 8 hours every night. If this isn't achievable can you incorporate an afternoon nap? Or catch up at the weekends? Research has shown that keeping a weekly sleep target can still be effective and not cause you to stress too much about the odd late night. Understand that sleep is vital, but you don't have to miss out on life by going to bed at 9pm each night in order to hit your target!

Hydration

Water is literally the essence of life, staying hydrated will protect your joints, help your body rid itself of toxins and it is also key for maintaining optimal health.

Every cell in you needs water to function properly. And yet studies show that most of us live in a state of constant dehydration. One common reason for that is we confuse hunger and thirst. Try this: next time you crave a snack, drink a glass of water first. Your body will thank you.

But how much water do you really need in a day? 8 glasses? A gallon? However much you want?

In theory, your thirst should be enough to guide you. When you are dehydrated, though, you tend to lose sensitivity for thirst. Thankfully, there are tools that could help you figure it out. I personally love this calculator but there are lots of others you can find online.

Food As Fuel

The importance of good nutrition can not be overstated. You are, quite literally, what you eat. It's not just abs that are made in the kitchen, it's the entire state of your body. Without the proper nutrients, your system can't function right. Normal biochemical processes are altered and in the long run, you risk serious damage to your health, not just your figure.

You don't need complicated diets and eating schemes. Focus on eating plenty of vegetables and lean protein at every meal. Limit the processed food you consume. Consider cutting out added sugar and reduce the amount of wheat and dairy you consume.

I know, I know, my advice is hardly revolutionary. The diet and nutrition industry is an industry for a reason. But no matter how hard they try to sell you the next fad diet, the simple tips will never go out of style. Food is fuel for your body and improving your diet will immediately enhance your wellness.

Stress Control

Yes, controlling the levels of stress you experience can be tough. You can't control external factors and learning to manage your responses isn't always easy.

But consider this:

Stressors have real, measurable physiological responses on your system. What begins purely in your consciousness affects everything from hormones to your brain and internal organs.

The over-secretion of stress hormones like cortisol makes you more likely to gain weight while burning fat becomes harder. Even your brain is affected, especially the areas associated with long-term memory.

Since chronic stress can have such a detrimental effect on your performance, implementing stress management techniques will dramatically improve your well-being. My personal de-stressor of choice? Meditation.

We are learning more and more about the benefits of meditation every day. Neuroscientists are only just beginning to discover the power of such a simple exercise.  I love the Master Your Mind Course by Live and Dare and also the Headspace app.

Finally, Exercise

Yes, exercise is the last item on this list. Is it really the least important on this list? In my opinion, YES.

You see a great training programme won't get you great results if your body is completely run down, stressed out, dehydrated and malnourished! Build the strong foundations of sleep, nutrition, hydration and stress management and I guarantee you will turbo-charge your results in the gym.

On the flip side, good habits tend to follow one another, working out will often improve your sleep quality, reduce stress and perhaps even encourage you to eat a little better.

However, it can't and should not be an end in itself. Wondering where to start with fitness? Check out my five favourite exercises to get some ideas!

Change your focus from just simply trying to improve your fitness and aim for ways to increase your energy  and your overall performance.

This is the opening article in a new series in which I will detail numerous techniques, hacks and lifestyle adjustments you can make in order to see huge improvements in your mental and physical performance.

Stay tuned!

David Osgathorp