Below is a guest blog from Health Hub partner Kim, she has had her own battles with health and diet and this is her personal account of her journey and the start of another challenge.
“This weekend, not for the first time, I have realised that I am almost definitely my own worst enemy when it comes to health.
Just over 2 years ago, after lots of health issues and research, I diagnosed myself with Systemic Candida – for those of you who don’t know, this is basically and over growth of Thrush Bacteria in your system, more specifically your gut. It wasn’t an overnight whim, it was several months, if not years, of searching for the answer to my symptoms of lethargy, nausea, depression, anxiety and IBS. Initially I had assumed it would be another fruitless experiment, just like the gluten free, dairy free, or so called drug controlled options I have previously tried – but I had nothing to lose, and I QUIT SUGAR!!
I emptied the cupboards of anything and everything containing added sugar. I wasn’t brave enough to give up all sugar, so I just avoided anything with it added, and while I was at it I knocked any processed food on the head. I set my own definition of ‘added’ and ‘processed’. The ‘added’ sugars were put in to create the product, for example, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, sweets, bread, sweet pastry, sweet popcorn, and most cereal. The ‘processed’ part was harder, but basically meant I needed to know the steps taken from the original ingredients being picked / dug / harvested, to when they arrived on my plate. People talk about ‘processed’ being the chicken that is reconstituted and made in to the shapes of dinosaurs, or microwave meals, but I did my best to stay away from things like crisps as the potato was dug, sliced, flavoured and cooked, then packaged before I even got to buy it. Oats I accepted as they had only been through basic processes to get from the field to my plate and nothing had been added – plus I wasn’t about to buy a combine and do the whole thing myself!
So off I went, and QUIT!
After a few days I was climbing the walls, or more aptly, prowling the cupboards! I was craving sugar and needed a fix. I allowed myself small amounts of local honey, maple syrup or dark chocolate in my diet, but not enough to really quench my thirst for pure, unadulterated, processed sugar – I needed Haribo!
After a month the cravings became less and the effect on my body started to show. I have always been very lucky that despite my insatiable habit of eating doughnuts and biscuits, my figure has remained relatively athletic, but inside is a different story. My body had struggled to process the chemical warfare I was waging on it each day, but with the sugar detox my body was finally starting to shift the toxins! Don’t be misled, it wasn’t glamorous and didn’t always seem like such a good idea, but eventually after just a few months, I felt better than I had in years. I had energy and wanted to get out of bed in the morning, I was seeing positives in things for the first time in months, the nausea and IBS started to subside, and in turn so did the anxiety – I honestly felt 5 years younger.
I continued with my new Anti-Sugar Smugness for several months and even my husband noticed the improvements – eventually!! But, as with all good things, it came to an abrupt end. I shouldn’t be surprised, after declaring at 11 years of age that I was now a fully fledged vegetarian and that my meat eating family were murderers, I succumbed to a Bacon Sarnie within 24 hours, so 6 months of sugar free was actually pretty impressive! I am ashamed to say that in the lead up to Christmas, one toffee penny led to another and within days I was hooked.
So, for 18 months, despite knowing the effects it has, I have slid back down the sugar slide and I need to climb back out! The symptoms are returning, slowly but surely, and I know what I need to do – this week I will be preparing myself for another attempt at Sugar Free, anybody care to join me?”
I use the word fun very loosely here. I understand it takes a certain individual to enjoy this sort of thing and most people need a bit of a nudge to get going. Here are a few alternatives to cardio work that can help your metabolism and help you burn more calories throughout your day.
1. Beat the deck – This is one of my favourites and works really well either as a standalone workout when time is short or for those looking to really take things up a notch at the end of their session. All you need is a deck of cards or find a random card app on your phone. Assign a different exercise per suit, set a timer and try and beat the deck.
Here’s a recent example I used with a client.
Clubs = Press Ups,
Spades = Inverted Rows,
Hearts = Squats,
Diamonds = Kettle bell swings.
All picture cards count as 10.
This took about 17 minutes to complete, and was a tough workout. You can play around with the exercise but keep a balance – think a push, a pull, a squat variation and a hip movement exercise and you will be ok.
Oh and if you have jokers in the pack they can be 10 burpees.
2. Sled pushing – Sled pushes are great as they burn a lot of calories and are pretty easy on the joints. We have a couple of options in the gym that get the same result. Our tyre is a 60kg brute and takes some pushing or we have a sled option where weight can be varied but the pushing point is much lower. I like to either work on the minute every minute or set a timer and see how many lengths can be completed in a given time. As a finisher, I try and work for a total of about 10 – 15 minutes with periods of high intensity (working) and periods of low intensity (lying on the floor crying).
3. Get the gloves on -We have a couple of trainers in the gym with some boxing experience and I’ve had a few workouts on the bag/pads with them. This has often been the hardest period of my session but definitely the most enjoyable. Try and get some pointers from someone who knows what they are doing or a couple of sessions with a coach to really get the most out of your time. The last thing you want to do is get injured. I’ve found mixing some pad work with some bodyweight fitness exercises is a really great way to spend a session.
4. Medicine ball circuits – I use these with some of my new clients when I’m trying to coach good form as well as get some intensity into their workouts. I use whole body movements with the added weight of a light medicine ball (maybe 2-3kg for most newby clients) and just tag them together. For example, a medicine ball squat and press combined with a side lunge and reach and a reverse lunge and rotation. That’s 3 exercises in all 3 planes of movement. 10 reps per exercise/leg takes about 60 – 90 seconds to complete. Rest for 45-60 seconds and do 5 rounds.
5. Sprints – Track or treadmill it doesn’t matter. An underrated way of training and a great way to get real intensity. If you’re a beginner then try and build gradually and get good form. Don’t try and run before you can walk as they say. A few quicker bouts of 30 seconds in the middle of your run is a good starting point. Use your rest period well, sometimes it’s tempting to keep the pace up here but doing so reduces the intensity of subsequent sprints. As you progress you should be aiming for a 1:2 work to rest ratio. One minute on and 2 minutes off or 20 seconds to forty seconds work well. A set of 10 rounds can make a brilliant HIIT session.
This weekend was a real milestone for one of our Health Hub team as she completed her first OCR event. We’re all incredibly proud of Immy for overcoming her demons and completing the course, and of course of Meg too as she coached and encouraged Immy all the way round as well as completing the course herself.
After 3 months of training and pushing herself out of her comfort zone a nervous but determined Immy arrived on the start line ready for battle.
Below is Immy’s experience of the day in her own words….
“Sunday was by far one of the proudest, most incredible experiences I’ve ever had. I completed ‘The Battle of the Knights’ held at the Playground in Barrow; consisting of a 4km run followed by 1km of twenty-five obstacles.
I am certain that I would not have been able to complete this challenge without one of my best friends, Meg, by my side. She gave me all the motivational speeches under the sun, allowing me to summon up the energy to complete the task at hand. Not only did she give me the encouragement to achieve my goal and exceed my own expectations, but she also gave me a boost whenever self-doubt crept in and I felt like giving up. As well as having my knight in shining armour by my side (Meg), I also felt I was blessed with the best supporters – special shout out to Kim, Stuart, Ollie and Fred Turner, Ged and Jenny Foster, Ollie Runswick and Bex Randall. Ollie, age 6 and Fred age 4, even went the extra mile for their babysitter and ran for a short while with me, climbed the haystacks by my side and on the other obstacles were chanting my name at the bottom of them, ensuring I completed each obstacle to the best of my ability – my little cheerleaders!!
I wasn’t the fittest, fastest or strongest participant of ‘The Battle of the Knights’ by a large margin, but I certainly was determined and resilient and felt like a winner at the finish line. Thank you to everyone involved.”
This is a great story and just goes to show what you can do when you step out of your comfort zone a little and really go for it. Well done girls.
- Plan your cheats for social occasions – Its hard eating clean when you’re out in a restaurant so sometimes it’s better not to bother. I cheat in restaurants all the time, burgers, chips, ice cream, baked alaska (amazing in The View just saying), whatever you want. Then get back on it the next day. As long as you’re eating clean the rest of the time, then don’t worry about it. Life’s too short.
- Don’t shop hungry – So you’re trying to eat healthy foods, you have a meal plan, a shopping list and you’re off to the shops. But you’re hungry, what happens? You bin off the shopping list and go straight to the convenience food, maybe even eat it on the way round. You buy more of the crappy foods you don’t need and less of the healthy foods that you do need. Don’t do this, no good can come of shopping on an empty stomach.
- Use the periphery of the supermarket – This sounds weird but think about how a supermarket is laid out. All the fresh food is around the edges – think meat counter, vegetable sections, fish counter, deli. All the things that go off, that are real foods, made fresh on site or nearby are along these peripheries. Venture in to the middle and you’ll find processed crappy foods in boxes and packets. Not what you want to be eating if you want to lose weight.
- Add veg in sneaky ways – Kale or spinach in your morning smoothie, extra veg in your curries, cauliflower rice is actually quite nice too. Perhaps don’t stir mushed broccoli into your porridge (tried it – not good) but be creative and remember frozen veg is still veg so adding a bowl of this to your meals is a great way to add fibre and micronutrients.
- Train for time/intensity – I think we all clear now that ‘the fat burning zone’ is a load of old rubbish and if you want to burn serious fat then HIIT training is where it’s at. The two key words in the HIIT acronym though are ‘High Intensity’. Often the training I see is anything but. Grab a stopwatch and set it for 10 minute Pick two tough exercise and see how many rounds of 10 reps you can do in those 10 minutes. For example… Do 10 Heavy Kettlebell Swings and 10 Down and Ups. Have a short rest and repeat, record how many you do and beat it next time.
- Eat real foods that go off – Ok so this one’s not really a ‘hack’ or a ‘quick fix’ but guess what none of them really are. If you want results then you have to dedicate a bit of time and put the work in. Eating real foods is going to give you a long term sustainable way of getting lean and staying lean. If you can do this most of the time then you will be in a good place.
- Use Protein shakes – Ok so this is a bit of a contradiction of the above point but a really simple way of improving your macros is to up your protein intake. And a simple way of doing this is by adding protein shakes to your diet. Don’t be afraid, it’s not weird it means you care about your body. Find a good one that you like, without the added sugars if possible, and have a shake in the morning and one before bed.
- Rome wasn’t built in a day – but they were laying bricks every hour. Fat loss isn’t a quick fix, it takes a bit of time and a bit of dedication. So take things slowly and focus on one thing at a time. Take breakfast for example – if you’re struggling with that, then spend your time getting breakfast right every day. Once you have that sorted, move on to the next thing, and so on and so on.
In simple terms, motivation is the desire to do something. This can be anything and is pretty important in our world of health and fitness. Everyone needs motivation but we are all different so what motivates one person may completely demotivate another.
A client came to see me last week with what turned out to be an interesting story. As a now regular exerciser who has conquered some pretty big milestones already with her health and fitness, she decided to take on a new challenge and enter a 10km race. Perfect, a goal, a specific target, a challenge. This is the motivation I need, she thought.
However 3 months later, her training had almost stopped. From doing 3 runs a week alongside specific strength training and a Zumba class she was now struggling to make 1 exercise session a week and had pretty much stopped running. As well as this, her usually healthy eating regime had been completely sacked off. What was intended to motivate and push her forwards had had the complete opposite effect, and made her feel miserable, pressured and guilty.
Thankfully her response was fantastic, in her words. “Fuck it, I’m a grown up, I’m going to do what makes me happy”, so the race was abandoned, she booked in to some of our synergise classes (small group training sessions) and an appointment with us to get her mojo back. We then set out a new goal of enjoying exercise again, took a few base measurements and assigned her one of our staff members to support her in her journey.
This is a great example of how we are all different and what motivates some may well have the opposite effect on others. So discover what motivates you and then find a way of using that to reach your health and fitness goals.
Here are a few ideas of what can be used as motivation.
- Enjoyment – Finding a way to get enjoyment from the process is definitely a great motivator. Intrinsically enjoying exercise isn’t for everyone but if you find a form of exercise that you enjoy then don’t underestimate the motivational power this has. Flipping your mind set from “I have to do this to achieve my goals” to “I want to do this because I enjoy it” can work wonders. Sometimes I go to the gym with the sole intention of feeling better, I use the training session as the motivator, by the end I feel motivated to train but I’ve already done it.
- Keeping exercise at the forefront of your mind – ok so you’ve set yourself some goals, great, made them specific, nice, written them down, perfect (we’ve all been told to do that right?). Off to the gym you go, pop the goals in the drawer and…….. forget all about them. 4 weeks later you’ve been to the gym twice and feel completely unmotivated. Try and find ways to keep exercise at in your periphery. This can be in all sorts of ways, a picture on your phone, a note on the calendar, a regular appointment with a personal trainer, walking past the gym on your way to work, keeping your kit bag in the car. All of these things just keep health and fitness in your mind.
- Train with someone fitter/stronger than you are – Being the fittest of your group of peers is a great feeling but if you really want to push yourself you should consider training with someone or a group where you’re not the big fish. This adds competition and potentially a drive to match up to those around you.
- Find some accountability – the thought of failure isn’t nice and this can sometimes be used as motivation. This is where entering a race comes in or writing a blog, posting on social media, having a bet or even just telling your closest friends. Having something to hold you accountable to the goal can give you the push when you need it most. Finding the right accountability for you is important though. As in the story above, having a race booked, built pressure and was demotivating but for others this has really been the key to pushing forwards.
In simple terms, find your motivation and then use it to reach your goals. No one else can give you motivation.
I’m not going to lie. I was sat on the sofa recovering from surgery and feeling sorry for myself so I entered the general ballot thinking I wouldn’t get picked (who does on their first go?!) ……..that kinda back fired when I got the email saying I’d got in!
I am not an athlete and I am not fit. I took part in some 5km races last year so running half a marathon (13.1 miles) is a whole new ball game – especially as at the moment I cannot get to the top of the stairs without being out of breath! As you can see I’m a chunky chublet, so I’ve joined The Health Hub to not only increase my fitness, but to build on my core strength. With the help of the PT’s and the 6 week reviews, I’m hoping to go from walking to jogging on a treadmill soon.
What’s my story?
I have the BRCA 2 gene which I inherited from my Dad (no, it’s not a female only gene) which in a nutshell means I have an 65-80% chance of getting breast cancer and a 40-50% chance of getting ovarian cancer. Therefore rather than waiting to see if I woke up one day with a lump I decided to take preventative measures and had risk reducing surgery to prevent breast cancer.
On 17 November 2016 I had a bilateral mastectomy and DIEP reconstruction (basically had both my boobs off and a section of my stomach cut out so the fat from my stomach could be used to rebuild my boobs). This was not plain sailing by any means – what should have been one operation turned into three operations (about 19 hours of surgery in 32 hours).
Despite becoming quite ill and losing part of one of my reconstructed boobs (it will be fixed at a later date) I live to tell the tale and am grateful for all the surgeons and nurses that looked after me; and thank all my amazing family and friends for their support.
As I got a general entry place in the Ballot for the Great North Run I don’t need to raise money for charity. However I have decided to raise some money for Cancer Research Research UK to highlight the important work they undertake for ALL types of cancers. after all their research assisted in discovering the BRCA 1 & 2 genes.
I will post updates of my progress on my just giving page so feel free to click on it to see how my training is going (please do not feel obliged to donate) I’m more interested in raising the profile of BRCA and sharing my journey with people. Thanks for reading! 🙂
JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Carina-Drake
Before I had my boobs off I had a cast made of them. I’m so glad I did as I’ve forgotten what they were like and I didn’t realise they were as big as my head! Haha!