By Megan Smiley, Oct 24 2019 05:39PM
Find out why I love my job in the artcle below that was featured in the autumn edition of The Sport & Physical Activity Industry Magazine - S&PA Professional.
Find out why I love my job in the artcle below that was featured in the autumn edition of The Sport & Physical Activity Industry Magazine - S&PA Professional.
If you've read some of my blog posts before you'll have heard me going on about how amazing I think the body is. From the way we can physically train and develop it, to the power of our minds and the way it can heal and rebuild itself. Well, I'm in a new state of awe with the human, or should I say, the female body as I am now 20 weeks pregnant.
I find it both amazingly mind boggling and also the most naturally instinctive thing my body has ever done. Now I'm not saying I'm naturally amazing at being pregnant. There have been very few perfect pregnancy moments or moments worthy of Instagram posts over the past few months. And anyone who knew and asked me how I was in the first trimester would know that was the case. I very much did not enjoy that stage and the only way I could deal with the constant nausea was to constantly eat. In a normal situation, constantly eating but with a valid reason sounds right up my street. However in this situation it was a necessity and not a pleasure, and possibly for the first time in my life I stopped enjoying food.
What I'm talking about by being instinctive is the anatomical and physiological changes your body makes, and these are absolutely fascinating and remarkable. From the heightened sense of smell to help you avoid gone off/bad food, to the production of a hormone called relaxin that loosens your ligaments and joints in preparation for labour, to the expansion of the ribcage to accommodate the growing baby taking up space in the abdomen. There are so many more too: changes affecting the cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, endocrine systems, so basically everything! A lot of these changes are subtle and gradual, and some people might experience or notice some more than others. But the bottom line is the body is such a clever bit of kit!
There are also psychological changes. I'm in full nesting mood with most weeks a bag of bits going down to the charity shop and a new bag of baby bits coming in, thanks to the donations from friends who are “definitely not having another one”! The joys of being a geriatric mother – not my words but the words of the medical world what with the fact that I'm over 35 - are that lots of my friends have done the baby thing already and got lots of stuff to pass on. Also, I'm trying to finish any on-going house projects, doing any house maintenance required and sorting the (still over-grown) garden.
Someone recently told me that once the baby arrives life will never be the same. They didn't say it in either a positive or negative way, just matter of factly. But for me the changes have already been happening for the past five months, and they might in many ways be less impactful changes than we have ahead of us. All the same I am very aware how my body and mind have been processing and adapting for the impending arrival.
It was something I had been thinking about doing for a while, as the older I get, the more I realise how important it is to look after our bodies. Looking after yourself comes in many ways and will be different for different people but I think the main areas include:
This doesn't have to be traditional exercise and sport but some sort of movement which includes a mixture of activities, some that increase your heart rate, some that increase endorphin production, and some that increase/maintain your strength.
Eating the right amounts of nutritious foods, ensuring a variety of both macronutrients and micronutrients to help your body function optimally.
Drinking plenty of water, and not too much of the less good stuff, yes I'm looking at you coffee, tea, fizzy drinks and alcohol!
This is an important one. People don't realise what an impact not getting enough does to your body. Therefore, it's not only important to allocate enough time for sleep, but also try and address any problems that are affecting your sleep.
The term self-care has become a bit of a buzz word over the past couple of years and rightly so I think. In modern life stress levels are high, everything is rushed and less time is spent relaxing and doing things that we enjoy for no other reason than enjoyment, e.g. not for the benefit of a social media post, or because you feel you should, or because you're expected too, but just because it feels good. The benefits of doing something that you enjoy with no strings attached will have a beneficial impact on your mental and physical health. Self care/preservation activities could also be things you don't necessarily enjoy but are good for maintaining your body in good working order, this could be things like going to the dentist or regular health checks.
Massage is definitely something that I class as self care/preservation and can also help in other areas such as with movement and sleep. Massage has many benefits including to help:
- reduce muscle tension and spasms
- improve muscle tone
- reduce risk of injury
- increase circulation and nutrition to areas of the body
- increase range of motion (ROM)
- improve postural awareness
- reduce build up of scar tissue
- reduce anxiety
- reduce stress level
- improve sleep
- relieve pain
- boost energy levels
- prepare muscles for use e.g. prior to a race/sporting event
I have loved learning more about the body and the way it works on this massage course, and am glad to be able to add a new offering to my existing business of personal training and nutritional advice.
I believe health is more than just sit ups and press ups as I outlined above, hence wanting to broaden the way I can help people feel fit, strong and healthy. Our bodies are amazing bits of kit that we should all be looking after. Now I'm going to practice what I preach and book myself in for a massage. If you want a massage get in touch!
The body works so hard to keep us functioning at an optimum level and it gets thrown so much at it that it has to deal with and fix. Be it what we put into it: inadequate nutrition in terms of too much or too little, or a lack of good food sources or too much of the bad stuff. Then there's alcohol, painkillers and numerous chemicals and toxins.
The body also has to deal with what we put it through: not enough sleep, too much stress, not enough movement/exercise and so much more, plus any injuries and health issues it needs to combat and try to heal. It may not always be able to overcome these things so we should all try and give it a helping hand rather than fighting against it!
It’s just over a month ago I had surgery on my foot. It wasn’t major surgery like the two operations I’d had previously on it. It was to remove all the metal that had been put in before. However, it did involve making a couple of sizeable incisions on my foot to get the metal out, a general anaesthetic and an overnight stay in hospital.
So over the last month I’ve been trying to give my body a helping hand by looking after it as much as possible: eating a wide variety of food that is full of nutrition needed for healing (lots of fruit, veg, dairy, nuts, fish and meat) and the right amount, the body needs enough fuel to heal, taking vitamin D supplements what with it being winter and living in the west of Scotland(!), keeping active but not over doing it, and finding time to relax and getting enough sleep. My Mum has been telling me to be more slobby!
My foot is feeling pretty good considering that it's been bashed about for the umpteenth time, and no one's actually sure what's going on with it, hence having the metal out so I can have an MRI and see what's actually going on in there. So l apologise to anyone how doesn't like photos of a slightly gruesome nature or of feet, but I wanted to include the above photo (this is one month post op) to demonstrate how amazing the body is at healing and helping you. So please show it some love in return!
British Summer Time officially ends this weekend and although that means you gain an extra hour in bed it also means shorter days, as well as cold and wet weather (especially in Glasgow), are well and truly here. So the heating is now on timed rather than a quick blast when it feels a little chilly, you’ve dug out that oversized cosy jumper/cardi that has seen better days but still does the job of keeping you feel warm and safe on the sofa, you’ve switched your meals from salads to soups and grilled fish and meats to warming one pot wonders. In other words you’ve gone into hibernation mode!
There are some other changes that often occur in this autumn hibernation transition, one being people become less active. Now I understand it is harder to get out of bed when it’s still dark, and it’s less appealing to go and run around, cycle, walk or whatever when it’s dark and cold. And there isn’t that summer motivation of wanting to look good in skimpier clothes/swimwear.
But that mindset just reflects the short-term view people take on health and fitness. As I always say, there aren’t any quick fixes or magic answers. Being fit and healthy is a long term commitment, a way of life that should be intertwined in your existence. It shouldn’t be because of a holiday, birthday or wedding, those things can be a great catalyst to start you off but you should want to find a routine that you can continue forever. Obviously there will be times when you need to adapt your routine and then times things will get dropped a little, but generally it’s about finding healthy habits that become second nature AND you enjoy (on some level)!
If you let those healthy habits and exercise routines you’ve built, drop off over autumn and winter it means, if you do start them up again, say in next spring, it’s going to be hard and take a while to get back into your routine and reach the levels you were at when you stopped.
So it’s about slightly adapting, working out how you can continue your healthy habits without having to go running in the rain if that’s something you don’t like. It’s amazing how much you can do inside, so even if you only have a small space in your home, you could still do a morning workout there. Also, think outside the box for spaces you could use (I used to train a client in the underground car park in the depth of winter), and things you could do. There are the obvious options of gyms and classes but maybe there’s some indoor activity you’ve always fancied but haven’t had the time to try, it could be indoor climbing, swimming or dance lessons.
Finally, as I touched on above, there is a tendency to move to a more wintry diet but it isn’t a bad thing. There are plenty of hearty and wholesome winter foods that are healthy. If you don’t fancy a cold salad, you could cook it instead – I love oven roasted little gem lettuce and cherry tomatoes. Warming food doesn’t have to be all about pies and puddings!
So what I’m saying is don’t just throw the towel in on your healthy habits as the days draw in. Keep being active and eating healthily but adapt it as necessary. Or if you’re wanting to get fit and healthy don’t think, there’s no point starting now, I’ll wait till spring. So carry on, or start now, and get your body fit, healthy and strong not just for summer but for life!
Are you a flexitarian or thinking about being one? Flexitarianism is when you mainly follow a plant-based diet but eat a bit of everything at times.
It’s definitely something I think I could, or rather would, be willing to do. I have many friends who are pescatarians, vegetarians or vegans but the fact that I’m a big believer in variety in your diet for both health reasons and because I love eating lots of different types of food, I’ve struggled to entertain the idea of any of them. That is apart from one week as a young teenager I declared to my carnivorous family that I was going to be a veggie after watching an animal welfare video at school. As I said, it lasted a week. It’s not that I eat lots of meat, I have at least one meat-free day a week, my lunches are pretty much always vegetarian but giving up dairy, meat and in particular fish and seafood would be a struggle for me, especially when eating out and when my husband is involved (he’s your typical omnivore who thinks meat is that the focal point of a meal). So flexitarianism could be the solution.
I’m not the only one, as flexitarianism is becoming pretty popular for a combination of reasons including: environmental, ethical and health. Reducing the amount of meat and dairy consumption and therefore production is unquestionably beneficial for the environment and reduces an individual’s carbon footprint. Depending on where you source your non plant-based food from, the ethics and morals of production and distribution of these products are often pretty questionable, particularly in mainstream, low-cost products. Then the health benefits, and this is the bit I get a little stuck at as I’m completely on-board with the environmental and ethical reasons, but does cutting back on massive food groups -meat, fish, dairy – really make you healthier?
I guess the health issue is a little bit of a grey area as it depends on the individual’s starting point. Are you eating lots of meat especially processed meat and too much dairy? Do you hardly eat any fruit, veg and legumes? If so cutting back on the processed meat and increasing plant-based food is going to be good for you. But cutting back on all meat, fish and dairy means you’re going to be reducing important macronutrients (mainly protein and fats) and micronutrients (minerals and vitamins). So ensuring you get all the nutrition your body needs to operate at it’s best becomes more difficult and you need a greater level of understanding of food and functions that different nutrients support. I am not saying you can’t be a healthy flexie, pescie, veggie or vegan but you have to put in a little more effort to get a balanced diet. And this is at a time when the UK population is struggling with balancing the amount of food they eat vs the amount of food their bodies actually need, hence approximately a third of the population being overweight and a third being obese. So I’m sure you can see why I’m not all that confident that everyone is going to manage to achieve a balanced diet ensuring all important nutrients are included!
As with all diets, a little knowledge can be dangerous, and I feel flexitarianism could lead to people becoming nutrient deficient in many areas, therefore I think once again (all my blog posts seem to finish like this!) it’s about getting that balance right. So before you dive into a new diet have a think about how you will ensure you get enough of those important nutrients you’re cutting back on – where will your protein, omega 3 fatty acids, iron, calcium, zinc, iodine, vitamin B12 amongst many others come from? How much is sensible to cut back? Using a food tracker like My Fitness Pal will give you a break down of the nutrients in your food and is a good way of ensuring you’re getting the right amounts.
As I see it, flexitarianism is on a spectrum and you can choose where you put yourself on it, be it just one meat-free day a week or being a vegan apart from the very odd occasion, and that’s what I like about it – it’s flexible for you and your life. For me, I think I will try and ‘flex it up’ a little more for the environmental and ethical reasons, but for health (and selfish reasons- I like a variety of food too much) I’ll still make sure I get enough meat, fish and dairy for what is right for me. So choose what’s right for you and give it a go, but remember to think before you flex!
Last week, in my opinion, was a significant one in the world of health and fitness. From a variety of different directions it was acknowledged that, a) we do have a health and fitness crisis on our hands in the UK (levels of activity too low and levels of obesity too high), b) we know things need to change to address this, and c) there are lots of people who want to make this change.
Firstly, the controversial sugar levy on soft drinks. I appreciate there are holes in the policy e.g. that it doesn't apply to fruit and milk based drinks, unless they dilute the drink which would actually make them healthier- less sugar- and then they would be applicable for the tax. Or the fact that it could increase consumption of diet drinks that have artificial sweeteners in like aspartame that are thought to be very bad for your health. But the overall message that soft drinks with high levels of added sugar are bad, is a point that needs to be amplified, as sugary soft drinks are the biggest contributing factor to child obesity. And, if you increase the cost of a product/ service people buy less, so it's definitely a positive step in my mind.
Plus it's twofold; the money generated from the tax levy will go towards funding more sports in schools. So to all those people who are slating the sugar tax, just think, even if the tax doesn't have that much of an impact on level of consumption at least money it generates will get more kids active and playing sport. Now surely everyone has to agree that's a good thing?!
The second thing that happened last week was Public Health England released an updated Eatwell Guide. This is a user friendly, visual set of guidelines outlining what a healthy diet should include. The previous version was out of date and therefore probably not used that widely due to lack of current relevancy. The new guide (although I don't think bagels should be included in the list of good carbs) is pretty good and I really think it could help many people understand what a balanced diet looks like and where they need to make changes.
Finally, it was Sport Relief over the weekend, which saw the country get sporty to raise lots of money. There were over 1,000 events across the country, with the public walking, running, cycling and swimming thousands of Sport Relief miles. As well as the more extreme challenges by the likes of Eddie Izzard's Marathon Man – an epic 27 marathons in 27 days and Jo Brand's Hell of a Walk – 135 miles in 7 days!
I love the concept of Sport Relief as it gets people active and participating in sport to raise money so more people can live a happy, healthy and active life. The money is split 50/50 to help people in the UK and people in the world’s poorest communities. This year they've so far raised an amazing 56 million!
So all in all, with the doom and gloom that seems to fill our news feeds, last week was a breath of fresh air, and made the future look a little less rotund and a bit more active. Let's hope it wasn't just a one-off week!
Yesterday, Public Health England (PHE) released their long awaited report into sugar. There's no surprise in the fact that it clearly states that sugar consumption in this country is out of hand and if action isn't taken, weight gain and health related issues will increase even further from the current worrying levels we're already at.
With almost 25% of adults in England classed as obese and significant numbers also being overweight, and treatment of obesity and its consequences (type-2 diabetes being one of the most significant) already costing the NHS £5.1bn every single year, if we let this problem escalate further there will be not only catastrophic health, but also economic issues.
The Scientific Advisory Committee of Nutrition (SACN) have recommended the public to halve their sugar intake, so that just 5% of their calories come from sugar. This currently looks pretty unachievable without some drastic change. One can of fizzy drink contains way over the amount of sugar to stick to the 5% recommendation.
I strongly believe that Government, organisations such as PHE, SACN and food manufacturers have a vital and urgent role to play in this battle, and if the recommendations in PHE's report, listed below are fulfilled then this would definitely be a start to addressing this problem.
* A sugar tax between 10% and 20%
* Significantly reducing advertising high sugar food and drink to children
* Targeting supermarkets, takeaways and other food outlets special offers and promotions
* Setting clear definitions for high sugar foods to help create better regulations
* Sugar reduction in everyday food and drink
* Ensure the sale of healthier foods in hospitals and other public places
* Ensure training in diet and health is delivered to influencers of food choices in catering, fitness and leisure sectors
* Continue to raise awareness of this issue to the public, health professionals, employers, the food industry and provide and encourage practical steps on how to reduce sugar intake
The last point above touches on this: it is also down to individuals. Yes, the public needs more information and needs educating, and to not be tricked or persuaded into marketing traps e.g. low fat foods being healthy options when they're actually loaded with extra sugar. But, ultimately, people need to take responsibility for their own health and look after their bodies.
The sugar crisis is pretty much due to added sugar – yes, all sugar is sugar. However when you have a piece of fruit yes, it contains fructose but also vitamins, minerals and fibre. Plus not many people eat excessive amounts of fruit like they do cakes/ biscuits/ fizzy drinks etc. Processed sugary foods like that have very little, if any nutritional value; this is why they're known as “empty calories”.
So, guess what? Yes that's right, if people avoid/reduce processed foods and eat natural unprocessed foods then this problem would slowly but steadily disappear!
Now December is here, your calendar is no doubt starting to get very full with Christmas parties, lunches, dinners and drinks. Which means, unless you have the willpower of a saint (which I assume is equally as endless as their patience!), you will eat less healthily and more, and of course drink substantially more over the festive period. And, to make matters that bit worse, due to all the lovely socialising, you will probably have less time to exercise and train. So you, like the majority of people, will lose a little bit of fitness and put on a little bit of weight.
So what can you do about it? Well, reading the numerous articles addressing this issue that are out at the moment, there are loads of tricks and tips of how to avoid the dreaded Christmas weight gain; from wearing your tightest fitting clothes to social gatherings (rather than your elasticated joggers like so many of us do) to encourage you from eating too much from the buffet table, to the '3 rule' that includes taking 3 steps away from any food so if you want more you have to walk back to it, or take 3 deep breaths between each mouth full, or my favourite, take 3 sips between each mouth full. Although the '3 rule' may work in making you eat less, the first one might make holding a conversation with someone rather difficult. The second might make you look like you're trying out some breathing techniques you picked up at pre-natal classes, and the latter, well would you rather be the person who ate too much at a party, or the drunk?
I believe the way to deal with the festive season is to embrace it! Accept you might put on a little bit of weight but one bad month out of 12 isn't going to have a catastrophic impact on your health. I'm not saying go for it hell for leather. Yeah try and not have a mince pie for breakfast (although I think an advent calender chocolate alongside a healthy breakfast is completely acceptable!) and don't 'write off' December. Ok you might not fit in your usual 10k run on a Wednesday evening but you can still get up 30 minutes earlier that day and do a 5k run in the morning. December is busy so fit in small amounts of exercise where and when you can; nip out at lunch for a power walk, it's better than nothing. It's about time management.
I love December. It's by far my favourite month of the year. You get to spend lots of time with all your favourite people, you get to eat lovely food, drink mulled wine, but what I love most about it is that people are happier. Strangers smile at each other, even wish each other a Merry Christmas. So please don't dread December, enjoy it!
It's getting to that time of the year when people are planning, packing and heading off on holiday, so the health and fitness world decides there's little else to talk about than getting that beach body we all dream of. But in reality if you're flying to a sunny paradise any time soon what can a few weeks of this beach body regime really do?
Of course if you hit it really hard, both training and nutrition wise, you will no doubt improve matters. However, if you go with one of the faddy 30 day challenges that require little time and effort will the 'challenge' pay off and make a noticeable difference?
Maybe a little bit, but with health and fitness as with many things in life if you try to cut corners and achieve something in less time than it normally takes the results aren't really of any worth.
So what's the answer? Basically there isn't a magic answer, yes if you started training and looking at your diet a lot earlier in the year giving yourself plenty of time you could get 'real' results but with the longest day around the corner, summer is already here and probably your holiday too.
So I suggest you get excited about going away and yeah try and ramp up your training, eat healthier but how about also spending a small amount of time learning some basic phrases in the local language for where you're holidaying? Because I'm pretty sure the effort to appreciation ratio will be better for that than the results of a quick fix beach body regime!