Pillars of Wellness Blog

Updated: Jun 29

As two fitness professionals who have walked long distance paths, run endurance races and played a variety of sports for many decades - we have both had our fair share of injuries. Sometimes things happen; you turn an ankle or inadvertently over exert and you have to resolve niggles and injuries, perhaps with soft tissue therapy or strength training, chiropractic help or flexibility work - or even a mix of several disciplines. But looking back to our teenage years (and before we worked in the fitness world!), we can categorically say that many of the injuries that occurred to ourselves and fellow players were due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of the human body.

So if you would like 5 brief principles, based on our experiences and knowledge, to help prevent injury and stay fit and healthy - read on...

Tip #1 - Machines need the right fuel and regular servicing!

Now whilst this might sound blindingly obvious it is so often neglected. At a very basic level your body is a machine. You would never consider going on a very long car journey without checking the tyres, making sure you had enough fuel and confirming the water and oil levels were topped up. Then twice a year you also get the whole kit checked over. Exactly the same principle applies to you, if you want good energy, good flexibility and fewer aches and pains. Eat well, stay hydrated and sleep well (particularly before events). Clock in with yourself, look at your diet, your training equipment. Are you doing the best for yourself?

Tip #2 - Preparation, preparation, preparation.

More technically known as Specific Adaption to Imposed Demands! Bit of a mouthful but in essence it means you need to build and prepare for whatever activity you enjoy or want to be involved with. Launching yourself into a team agility sport twenty years after you last played or suddenly upping running from nothing to long or difficult runs is really asking for trouble. A gradual build up, with sport specific strength workouts will really help your whole body build the capacity it needs. This translates right from the energy you need at a cellular level, to lung adaptations at organ level and changes in your muscular and tendon structures. Pay attention to this and you will feel good without causing yourself harm.

"Champions Keep Playing Until they Get it Right" – Billie Jean King

Tip #3 - Warm up, warm down, stretch, foam roll.

Warm ups need to be specific, a few leg stretches really wont cut it before you sprint off to do a 5km - unless you want a pulled calf muscle! Think R.A.M.P - Raise heart rate. Activate muscles. Mobilise muscles. Potentiate (get ready) sport specific muscles. Believe us, you will enjoy your run much more. A stretch or foam roll at the end of any activity, targeting known tight areas, can work wonders in keeping away niggles and soreness after exercise. It doesn't have to take long, you will feel good - you just need to remember to do it as soon as you walk through the door/off the pitch - free up that muscle fascia!

Tip #4 - Strength training isn't just for bodybuilders.

For any sports person, triathlete, runner, yogi, swimmer, climber (add any activity you can think of) you need to prepare, strengthen and lengthen your muscle fibres under tension. Deadlifts, shoulder presses, hip raises, back squats, front squats, calf raises could all be part of that repertoire. They really do keep injuries away. Add in some sport specific elements and bodyweight moves and you are onto a winning combination. This isn't about looks, but about strength specific to you and what you enjoy doing. It allows you to exert yourself without moving beyond the capacity of your body to take the loads, torque and tension you put it under.

Tip #5 - Never Ignore a Niggle!

They rarely go away miraculously. Understand what is happening; have you stepped up training too much, changed equipment without a build up, not given yourself enough recovery between events?

Have you actively recovered, stretched, rolled. Have you had a massage to release tight muscle groups or improve range of movement? A key characteristic of most successful sports people is that they are very self aware of their limitations, training and have a meticulous build up for competitions. Don't worry about things going wrong, despite everyone's best intention injuries can happen - but do learn and adjust accordingly - make better decisions and persevere.

What next?

The key takeaway from all this is that conditioning is a part of not being injured in health and fitness. And this falls under a wider umbrella of general health, looking after yourself, understanding the type of warm up you need and building a great understanding of your own body where it is right now.

If you need more help then please click on the link. Thanks.

Off the back of a recent six week plant based course we undertook with the University of Winchester, we wanted to share with you one of the key takeaways about health and diet. I think it is common sense to most people that your general health, to an extent, is governed by the way you look after yourself. And in turn the quality of your diet directly impacts your health.

This mini article directs itself towards helping you understand how a poor diet can directly influence your health and how in turn your choices have wider positive (or negative) implications for the planet as a whole. It definitely isn’t telling you what to do, but if you are thinking of making changes we hope this gives you more evidence as to why and how you should go about it. We would also thoroughly recommend the Plant Based Nutrition Course – with the University of Winchester. It costs a bit and takes 6 weeks to complete, but it is very enlightening and dispels all the fads about diet, whilst providing fully researched information about the best way to live a long and healthy life.

Tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diets and excessive alcohol are - according to the WHO - still causing in the region of 12 million premature deaths per ... in low and middle income countries. The basic cause of some of these chronic diseases (such as coronary heart disease, cancer or diabetes) is inflammation, oxidative stress (often reported as free radicals - think reactive chemicals) and poor gut biology - to point out that this is just a glimpse of the subject is a significant understatement.

To understand that your health isn't just a direct correlation with your BMI is a big step forward. The quality of the food you eat has a direct impact on your body, so the way it reacts, interacts and cascades through your system needs to be recognised. It really does make you stop and think twice and give a different perspective on dietary choice. To know that the food you eat isn’t just energy but a support system for your mental health, immune system, cell health and integrity - thereby influencing your overall long term health - makes dietary patterns and choice so much easier. It takes perspectives away from short term fads and fixes to long term lifestyle decisions.

Ten reasons why you need more fruit and veg in your life.

1. Plants and fruits are nutrient dense whilst low in calories. You will feel more satiated more quickly and take on less calories. Quite often people who make dietary modification towards a plant based diet lose weight even though this wasn’t a goal.

2. Plant based dietary fibre assists the body in digestion and feeds a diverse array of gut healthy bacteria – it helps to produce short chain fatty acids which support good stomach health.

3. Less frying, more steaming means less harmfully reactive compounds going into your body.

4. Eating nuts (walnuts for example) and seeds can help maintain healthy cognition.

5. It is a lot better for the planet, utilising significantly less water and energy than animal based products. Your food choices can therefore have a direct positive influence on your own carbon footprint. Particularly if you stay local and seasonal.

6. Plants are loaded with antioxidants, in a much greater amount and diversity than animal products. These phyto-chemicals are really important in protecting our bodies from the naturally occurring by-products that are created as our bodies respire and help with anti-inflammatory responses. They are quite often found in colourful vegetables.

7. No fats, less worries about cholesterol or coronary heart disease.

8. Growing your own fruit and veg is really simple and easy, even in a tiny space www.instagram.com/welltroddenpath - ranging from carrot tubs, to herb troughs, we have semi wilded our veg patch into the flower beds, you can enjoy your flowers and strawberries all at the same time.

9. People on plant based diets live longer – check out this Food Guidelines - Blue Zones if you don’t believe me. You will never find a packaging label on a cauliflower! It’s not processed it doesn’t need one!

10. You can get a perfectly balanced diet from plants. This isn’t about veganism though, this is about a rethink of our current eating habits and dispelling some of the myths that prevail around what constitutes healthy eating choices.

Rather than reading the labels on all the packs, walk up and down the fruit and veg aisle, look at all the loose ingredients and diversity available. Less packaging, less energy in production, local, high in nutrients; protects you, helps you live longer and is better for the planet. I give you the humble, carrot, broccoli, cauli, spring onions, egremont russet, strawberry, dill……oh and it's cheaper as well!

Updated: Jun 14

According to a report by the Mental Health Foundation (in 2021) Nature can mean a very wide range of things. It can conjure pictures of an interconnected space, sweeping landscapes, forests, heathlands, the ocean and a network of relationships between plants and animals. Equally, there is a whole other perspective, on a smaller and much more accessible scale (for most people) which reflects bird song, the cycle of the natural world, green spaces, green verges and changes in the temperature and weather patterns (Bratman et 2012).

The interesting point is that whilst time outdoors is always time well spent, connectedness to our local natural environment is a key to how happy and contented we feel. Regardless of intensity, time or type of exercise; “When we have high levels of nature-connectedness we are often happier in life, feel our lives are more worthwhile and have lower levels of depression and anxiety (Capaldi A. et al, 2014; Richardson et al, 2021)”. So there you go!

We all I think sense that time spent outdoors is good for our wellbeing, but it is also now being linked to changes in behaviour, causing people to “seek out more opportunities to spend time with nature, and therefore experience its psychological benefits, and have a positive disposition towards the environment (Martin et al., 2020)”. Bit of a mouthful perhaps, but more simply put...like anything you enjoy, there is an element of safeguarding, preservation and protection. No surprise therefore, that the more you connect with nature the more pro-environment and pro-conservation measures you take! Fantastic feedback in our opinion.

So how do I get more ‘connected’ I hear you ask and how is this relevant to me?! Well, back in 2011 a report was composed by the New Economics Foundation which was aimed at improving wellbeing on a national scale. The key elements being; connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and keep giving. It really got us thinking here about what we do and how it is about much more than just physicality, we did always feel connected to the outside – but how do you go about explaining this?

The MHF report suggests that connectedness involves your senses, emotions, beauty, meaning and compassion. Now whilst I don't walk outside and roll out my bullet point list each time I go for a run, cycle or walk...I do notice these elements frequently. When we say we feel connected to the outdoors, this is what we really mean.

So how do you change a walk or a run into something more? Our first suggestion is that you become aware - if you have had a stressful day don't be surprised if it takes half an hour for your mind to calm itself down. We can't tell you how many times we have been exercising, only to realise after thirty minutes that you are exercising! Not at work, re-living the past, predicting the future or going through the same scenario over and over like an out of control train. You’ll hear some bird song or a moment will jog you out of your own thought train. You’ll smell the flower blossom or sense the impending rain – you will start to realise there is a bigger picture which you are a part of. You can reflect on not just your exercise but how being outside makes you feel calmer and small things bring great happiness - a totally new perspective. Look at the intricacies of things in a new light, the whirl of a flower, the flight of a bee, the colours inside a flower. What does it all mean to you?

Even if only one of these principles enters your mind or you reflect upon them in the moment, you are probably a long way along the road of connectedness - already getting way more than a simple cardio workout on your run, walk or gardening stint. So when someone says they feel connected with nature, you'll begin to get much greater insight into what they are talking about.

There’s a bigger picture out there if you take time to look for it.

If you have got this far - thank you! More to follow from the world of wellbeing and welltroddenpath. Next time – Why you should eat more fruit and veg.

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