As we start the New Year and with winter gritting services underway across SW London, the thought of slipping while running is a consideration and something to avoid, unless for me, it involves all sorts of glorious mud. Then it’s a necessity.
Over the year’s, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve fallen or almost fallen while running. Oftentimes, it happens when I’m either switched-off, half asleep, distracted or ignoring an injury. Sometimes it’s at that moment when I think, “I feel good.” Then BAM! I lose my footing, almost roll an ankle or catch a foot on a root, rock or paving slab.
Most recently, albeit seldom, near falls are just what I’ve needed to jolt my conscious and improve focus and form.
Structured coaching has taught me a lot about falls and how to avoid falling. More correctly, I’ve been coached to ‘see’ and ‘feel’ how I move, improve durability, recover stability and land in good positions. I’ve also had clarity of thinking at times when I should have fallen head over heels, but instead experienced perfect coordination.
Essentially, running is a series of steps and ‘mini-squats,’ one foot at a time. Single leg stability and control are essential for all track (and off-track) and field events.
Running relies on stable foot contact as well as a stable trunk and pelvis allowing the hip to flex and extend powerfully. Achieving this level of stability can be found in jumping, including counter movement jumps (CMJ), depth jumps and box jumps, among others. Examples follow:
Jumping is a reliable measure of lower-body power – jumping is critical for runners as it is the only opportunity to produce force in the quickest amount of time, as well as program the body to properly absorb force and land in good positions.
Understanding the kinetic chain or how we move ourselves – mobility, stability, force production and direction, and how coordinated links in a chain move the body – underpin health, sporting movements and performance. Synchronization of the whole kinetic chain is key to efficient and effective movement; and effective force production should be efficient without leakage. Leakage being things like too much bouncing up and down; swinging the body from side to side; hip dropping; dragging the feet; or landing on heels or toes.
In the United Kingdom, a third of adults over 65 and half of adults over 80 will have a fall; and adults who fall once are more likely to have another fall. Falls in later life can be devastating, leading to significant injury, loss of independence and confidence and they might even be fatal.
Falls are costly to treat
UK government data shows that the NHS spends £2.3 billion per year treating the consequences of falls. Data shows that in England alone over 200,000 people aged 65+ are admitted into hospital each year because of a fall and nearly 60,000 people are admitted because of a hip fracture.
Falls are preventable
The most common and modifiable risk factor for falls is the age-related deterioration of strength and balance. Small improvements in an individual’s strength and balance as well as posture can make significant improvements.
However, evidence shows that while balance can be learned quickly, it can be lost quickly; and while general exercise is a good base for balance, postural control is the foundation of our ability to stand and walk independently, and there are wide-ranging factors at play in postural control.
Sleep – lack of sleep or poor sleep worsens postural control. Over-the-counter sleep aids such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) cause drowsiness and combined with other pain medications will affect balance.
Medications – many prescribed drugs can increase the risk of falls, and the more drugs you take, the greater the chance that one or a combination of them will make a fall likely, due to reduced alertness, slower reactions and dizziness. Atrophy and surgery can also have noxious effects on balance.
Quality of life / mental health / stress – a decrease in activities of daily living (ADL) and cognitive decline can affect blood pressure, body mass and balance, among other things. A diet poor in calcium, vitamin D, protein, water intake along with unstable blood sugar levels can damage physical abilities – affecting bone density, muscle, strength, hydration and insulin resistance. Further, fall risk is increased with anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants, narcotics and alcohol.
Heart – heart problems that affect blood vessels and brain function can cause dizziness, loss of balance and coordination. Drugs that are prescribed to keep blood pressure under control and decrease the risk of stroke and heart failure, can cause blood pressure to get too low so that when you stand up from a lying or sitting position (orthostatic hypotension), you might feel lightheaded or faint.
Exercise – general exercise is not enough; postural control – enhancing the vestibular system and spatial orientation are key to balance training.
Functional fitness – exercise should focus on improving strength, flexibility and motor control.
Structured exercise programmes
For adults in later life, structured exercise programmes, such as FaME, are proven to be effective at reducing falls. For a minimum of 24 weeks, comprising two hours per week – one hour led by a qualified instructor and an hour of prescribed exercises to carry out at home – using minimal equipment, resistance bands and a mat. Clinical trials show that FaME has efficacy in adults who live independently; prevents and reduces falls; reduces the fear of falling; and increases habitual physical activity and fitness.
Evidenced based elements of the FaME programme include:
Functional leg muscle strengthening and balance retraining that progress in difficulty
Functional progressive trunk and arm muscle strengthening
Bone loading targeted at prime fracture sites
Endurance/cardiovascular training (including walking) and flexibility training
Functional floor skills and skills to rise from the floor
Adapted Tai Chi
There’s also a social element to the programme, with post exercise tea and coffee, that has numerous positive benefits including helping participants adhere to the programme.
For runners who are prone to falling, or who have a fear of falling, the curative properties of jumping are legion. For those who already incorporate strength sessions into training, other health and lifestyle factors such as sleep, diet, hydration and medications may play a part in fall prevention and reduction, so it is important to look beyond running in order to improve stability and control.
Health and wellness trackers have evolved enormously over the past twenty years. They are not just used by folks monitoring basic energy expenditure in calories and counting steps or Total active minutes during each day. Now, they are used by nearly every type of consumer from those wanting a discreet fashionable wearable to enthusiasts and athletes monitoring every aspect of their health from heart rate, to hydration, sleep, weight, calories in/out, VO2 Max and lactate threshold among other features.
My first fitness tracker
I first purchased a fitness tracker in the early 2000’s. It was a Garmin Forerunner 205 – one of Garmin’s first GPS models. I wore it once, decided it was bulkier than carrying a server room on my wrist, and I didn’t think about it again until 2015, when I was training for my first marathon.
Taking part in several half marathons in the lead up to the Copenhagen Marathon 2015, wearing a Garmin 920XT, took some getting used to, and it’s probably only in the past few years, having replaced the watch strap twice and after numerous (automatic) software upgrades, that I’ve come to depend on this watch as an everyday tool.
Apart from simply telling the time, counting steps and tracking activities – time, distance and pace for running, cycling and swimming etc. I have used the Garmin 920XT to track health stats including sleep and menstrual cycle. I also separately use the Strava app to capture activities including Peloton indoor cycling, and MyFitnessPal app to track fitness goals – food and exercise.
As we approach 2021, and having had a Garmin 920XT for almost six years (it’s still in perfectly good working order), it’s time for me to upgrade, as I realize that a good fitness tracker isn’t just for training, it’s for living.
My new smartwatch is a multisport GPS watch – Garmin fēnix 6S Sapphire. This watch has more features than the 920XT, including wearable maps, wrist-based heart rate, PacePro Strategy, and syncs with music streaming services, among others. I am excited to use the additional features, particularly as I’m looking to improve overall health and fitness and train for diverse and challenging events in 2021.
Share your views, reviews, thoughts and stories on fitness trackers or smartwatches & if you found this article useful, like and share.
The question of whether to start dieting or exercising, or diet and exercise, and what diet and types of exercises are best for health often evoke strong reactions and divide opinion. Not least because diet and exercise are highly individual and personal, and linked very closely to self evaluation and esteem.
My personal view is to first focus on fitness, then health, and then a healthy approach to diet and nutrition (unless you have received medical advice to do otherwise, e.g. you’re having an operation in the next seven days), and then to periodically shake-up, refine and fine-tune your approach in each of these areas.
When exercise is used as a tool to assist rapid weight loss, it’s usually unsustainable, and the bigger goal to lose weight is unlikely to be achieved and less likely to be maintained – it’s a recipe for reducing the metabolic rate and increase hunger.
Rather than something you do to burn calories, the purpose of exercise is to develop fitness and improve the metabolism. Fitness enhances the physiological functioning and efficiency of the body, and when the body is more fit, or has relatively high muscle mass, it burns more calories, and it’s also happier thanks to endorphins.
What can you do if you are fit but want to improve health and nutrition?
Proponents of healthy keto diets provide excellent advice on how to clean-up on health and diet, maintain a healthy metabolism, and use fat as fuel; and a lot of these recommendations can be used and adapted for athletes looking to improve energy levels, digestion, and boost the immune system.
In his book, The Healthy Keto Plan: Get Healthy, Lose Weight & Feel Great, Dr Eric Berg says that a healthy body “has tons of energy, high stress tolerance, and can sleep peacefully through the night and get out of bed refreshed. Healthy bodies can digest their food and feel satisfied without any cravings. A healthy body has flexible joints, relaxed muscles and no inflammation.”
Dr. Sten Ekberg recommends avoiding certain food types that affect insulin resistance, fructose, high in glycemic index (GI), inflammation and allergies. These foods are all refined and processed, and cause blood sugar swings and inconsistent energy levels, and include:
High in insulin, GI and fructose, bread, wheat and gluten grains are high in inflammation and intolerance. While bread includes dietary fiber, it’s not enough.
Insulin and GI is about the same as bread. While cereal includes more fiber than bread, it’s still not very much.
While porridge oats are seen as a healthy breakfast staple, they have variable GI results. Efforts on the part of the food industry to make food preparation more convenient and faster cooking, results in differences in refining and processing that affect the degree of starch gelatinization.
An alternative to processed cereals is grain-free or gluten free muesli or granola, sometimes called Paleo Muesli, and includes coconut, real berries, nuts and seeds.
Medium to high insulin and GI, high in sugar and typically GMO (genetically modified organism). Our ancestors ate fruit that was a lot different to the sweet, juicy, year-round available fruit we see on supermarket shelves today. Ideally, fruit should be consumed seasonally and in moderation.
Tip: Blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are the best sweet fruits and should be eaten in moderation.
Eat fruit in its natural state. There’s little need to macerate berries unless the fruit is specifically for jam or sauce, or some other recipe, like a fruit pie.
Tip: Consume in moderation, and go organic and GMO free.
Low fat dairy
Removing fat from milk removes the best part. Once milk is processed, pasteurised, homogenised and the fat is removed, it’s not milk.
Skimmed milk is medium in insulin response, but when mixed with cereal it’s high in GI.
For allergies and intolerance, people are usually intolerant to the egg white rather than the whole egg. Throwing away the yolk removes protein and essential amino-acids.
Tip: Eat whole eggs. For chicken eggs, choose pasture raised, not pasteurized eggs.
Bio industrial oils
Vegetable and seed oils (soybean, corn, rapeseed (canola), sunflower, peanut) are the worst you can eat. These industrial oils promote inflammation. They are harshly processed empty calories and best used for soap and candle wax.
Tip: If you are eating some sort of processed or convenience food, chances are you are eating some kind of bio industrial oil.
Trans-fats, hydrogenated fat (soybean, corn, canola), oil turned to solid – high in inflammation, allergies, empty calories.
Tip: Consume more naturally produced fats like butter, olive oil and coconut oil. Let fat be a natural part of the diet.
While red wine includes resveratrol, known for its antioxidant properties, you can’t drink enough wine to reap this benefit. Alcohol in excess is the worst thing for the liver – causes alcoholic fatty liver disease.
“Don’t lose weight to get healthy; get healthy to lose weight.”
Dr Eric Berg
Ironically, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the above listed food types are among the items people in the UK have been stockpiling during COVID-19. The knock-on effect of this consumer demand will inevitably propel food manufacturers and processors to swap picks and shovels for ever more industrialized GMO manufactured food.
As science, technology and (fast) food manufacturing develops and evolves, as well as demand for app deliveries and dark kitchens, avoiding hidden sugars and highly refined and processed foods is a constant challenge.
Secret ingredients that can make you smart, outsmart others and help to flash your big intellect around.
(Or, at least,food choices that play a role in keeping your brain healthy and can improve specific mental tasks including memory and concentration).
While there isn’t a magic pill to boost brain power or prevent cognitive decline. Nutritionists agree that the most important strategy to keep your brain healthy is to follow a dietary pattern that includes getting protein from plant sources and fish, choose healthy fats, and eat lots of different types of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
In general, higher intake of flavonoids, particularly from berries, appears to reduce rates of cognitive decline in older adults.
Tea and coffee
The magic (caffeine) in your morning cup of coffee or tea offers more than getting your day started and providing a quick and easy concentration boost.
In a 2014 study published in The Journal of Nutrition, participants with higher caffeine consumption scored better on tests of mental function. Other research has shown that caffeine consumption in moderation might also help solidify new memories.
Although they are relatively high in calories, nuts are an excellent source of protein and healthy fats, and walnuts in particular are known to improve memory.
Walnuts are high in a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Diets rich in ALA and other omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to lower blood pressure and cleaner arteries.
Additionally, turmeric, pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate may also be key brain boosting ingredients:
Turmeric – the active compound curcumin has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, which helps the brain. Research studies have shown that turmeric helps to reduce symptoms of depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
While it’s reliable knowledge that energy balance is an important factor for fat loss/gain. That is, calorie intake versus calorie expenditure (calories in vs. out). The abundance of information, choice and confusion around effective dietary approaches can be overwhelming.
There are numerous ways to create an energy deficit from reducing calories or consuming a low calorie diet, reducing carbohydrates, reducing fat, to fasting, juicing diets, meal replacements, subscription-based diet programs and pre-packaged meals, to increasing the number of calories you burn through movement and exercise.
Further, an effective dietary approach for one person may not be suitable for another; food preferences, taste and digestion as well as lifestyle (or cultural) and time management are highly personal – what makes one person feel good may be awful for someone else.
A ketogenic diet (or keto diet) is based on consuming 60%-70% of daily caloric intake from fat; 5%-10% carbohydrates; and 20%-30% protein.
With this diet, the idea is that the body converts fat to ketones (or ketosis), which are used as a fuel source when glucose/glycogen availability is low. Ketosis and a high-fat (healthy fats) diet can also reduce your appetite, causing you to eat less.
Carbohydrate reduction puts your body into ketosis – a metabolic state. When this happens the body burns excess fat into energy, thereby reducing body fat and can help to increase or retain muscle mass.
Typical foods found in a keto diet include: avocados, nuts, full fat dairy, seeds, oils etc. and non-starchy vegetables.
This diet limits your intake of starchy vegetables, fruit, dairy, wholegrains and legumes; to the equivalent of a small tub of yogurt, an apple and about half a medium potato per day.
The keto diet often results in very rapid weight loss, initially, which can be attributed to losing stored water. Carbs are stored in the body with water, so when it is broken down your body loses a lot of water. The reduction in your total energy intake with this diet will also make you lose weight (less than 10% of your energy will come from carbs); cutting out carbs naturally means cutting calories.
Some downsides with this diet:
Often called the ‘keto flu,’ some side effects of ketosis are headaches, nausea, fatigue and bad breath.
Lack of fiber can cause digestive issues and effect gut microbiomes.
Equivalent to over-training, decreased carbohydrate intake may decrease performance, induce fatigue and alter the hypothalamic pituitary axis (HPA), which is necessary to get adaptation from a training response.
Carbohydrate has a critical role in optimizing the immune function for those who are physically very active.
There is considerable evidence to support that diets with a high fat content can be a factor favoring passive over-consumption and weight gain.
Adherence to strict food rules can cause some people to become anxious when making food choices and lead to an overall poor relationship with food.
Paleo diet / paleolithic diet
The paleo diet is based on eating foods similar to our ancestors. The focus is on whole foods – protein, vegetables, fruit and nuts; along with the removal of dairy, refined sugar, grain, flour and processed foods.
This diet is based on the premise that we should eat the types of foods that were around as we evolved into humans, the choices that we are designed to thrive on.
The idea is that the body is unable to process certain foods, and by their removal it is easier to promote weight loss, better health and reduce the problems associated with processed foods and allergies.
Paleo diets are not written in stone, and adhering to this diet doesn’t involve going all the way back to the paleolithic period (Old Stone Age). Hunter-gatherers, paleolithic humans thrived on a variety of diets, depending on what was available at the time and where in the world they lived. It is therefore acceptable to adapt the diet around individual taste, seasons, choice and budget.
With this diet, weight loss occurs as a result of reduction in total calories. It’s an open secret that significant weight loss will occur with a diet that rules out pizza and beer.
Things to consider with this diet:
Cost: High cost is a consideration with this diet. While it’s not practical to spend your time hunting woolly mammoths, deer and bison, fishing for wild salmon and collecting berries, fruit and nuts. You will need to consume grass fed meats and caught fish, and avoid most farmed, manufactured and processed foods.
Variety: Excluding dairy protein, grains and legumes from the diet can mean you’re missing out on recovery boosting amino-acids, and foods rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and beneficial gut bacteria.
Planning: You will need to plan carefully to ensure you obtain all the necessary macros and vitamins to maintain health.
An alkaline diet is based on eliminating foods that cause acidity in the body; the premise is that the body functions optimally between a PH of 7.35-7.45 (alkaline).
The diet encourages an intake of healthier foods (fruit and veg), but restricts some healthy foods such as dairy and grains.
While weight loss occurs due to a reduction in daily total calories and not due to reduction in PH. General health benefits do occur, as a result of eliminating processed, convenience, snack and junk food from your diet.
There is also evidence to support this type of diet can help to inhibit the replicative cycle of common viruses such as cold sores/herpes simplex.
The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is designed to help reduce or prevent high blood pressure or hypertension.
The 2,000-calorie-a-day DASH diet encourages the reduction of the sodium, added sugar, saturated fat and processed foods in the diet, and emphasizes a variety of nutrient rich foods, particularly those high in potassium, calcium and magnesium. The diet also emphasizes vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy foods, whole grains, fish and poultry. You can eat nuts in moderation, and red meat, sweets and fats in small amounts.
Two versions of this diet:
Standard DASH diet: You can consume up to 2,300 mg of sodium a day.
Lower sodium DASH diet: You can consume up to 1,500 mg of sodium a day.
The DASH diet focuses on healthy food choices rather than weight loss, with the diet generally including around 2,000 calories per day. Weight loss might occur for those who typically consume more than 2,000 calories, but if you’re trying to lose weight quickly, you may need to eat fewer calories.
Low carbohydrate diet
A low carbohydrate diet involves limiting carbohydrates consumed each day to less than 100 grams, combined with high protein and moderate fat intake.
While weight loss occurs as a result of a reduction in total daily calories, as carbs excluded from the diet are not replaced with anything, a reduction in micronutrient intake may occur.
An important consideration for athletes when adopting a low carbohydrate diet is to avoid running on empty by consuming daily carbs around training in order to optimize sessions and induce training adaptations.
Things to consider with this diet:
Do your homework to understand what foods contain carbs and how much, and what you can realistically consume each day to adhere to this diet.
Get protein from varied foods to ensure your diet is balanced, and you’re getting all essential amino acids.
Consider supplementing this diet with vitamins and minerals to support the immune system and sustain activities.
If the aim of this diet is to increase the intake of vegetables, also known as AMVAP, (As Many Vegetables As Possible), try to vary your veggies including eating fermented vegetables to offset gut symptoms.
Developed by Stan Efferding, the Vertical Diet is a performance-based diet intended for athletes and anyone looking to improve body composition for optimal health and performance. The diet starts with a solid foundation of highly bioavailable micronutrients to enhance metabolism and overall digestive health.
The diet prioritizes high quality red meat for protein; and white rice and white potatoes for carbs. The diet also prioritizes nutrient-packed foods including:
Fresh fruit (particularly oranges and cranberries)
Vegetables (particularly potatoes, spinach, carrots and peppers)
Chicken stock / bone broth
Efferding’s signature meal is the “monster mash,” that consists of white rice and ground bison cooked in chicken broth and seasoned with Himalayan salt. Potatoes, spinach, carrots and peppers can be added to the meal as a side dish or blended as a smoothie.
Following a Mediterranean style diet means eating the way people across the Mediterranean region traditionally ate. This includes consuming generous portions of organic/fresh produce, whole grains, legumes, healthy fats and caught fish.
While the Mediterranean diet is relatively high in fat, it is not a pasta and pizza diet.
General guidelines of the diet include:
A wide variety and high volume of vegetables and fruits
Healthy fats including nuts, seeds and olive oil
Dairy, fish and meat in moderation
Moderate quantities of red wine
Benefits of a Mediterranean diet include:
Lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease
Reduces blood sugar and the chances of getting diabetes and dementia
Improves sleep quality
Promotes weight loss
Intermittent fasting is a low calorie/restriction option that doesn’t necessarily involve starving or abstaining from food.
Intermittent fasting is great if you want to occasionally pull back on calories consumed, experiment with different diet approaches, and reset your body.
Fasting strategies succeed in reducing blood sugar and creating a calorie deficit. This type of diet is a proven approach for rapid weight loss, as well as reducing the chances of getting dementia and diabetes.
The benefit of this type of diet is that a short-term fasting option may be easier to adhere to than long term dieting.
Popular types/variations of intermittent dieting include:
Fast diet or 5:2 diet (eat as normal for 5 days; eat a quarter of a normal day’s recommended calories for 2 days)
16:8 (fast for 16 hours; 8 hour window for eating meals)
Popular with young bodybuilders, the flexible diet or ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ (IIFYM), goal is to consume certain amounts of the three macronutrients – protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
The emphasis is not solely on calories or food types, and nothing is off limits; so you can meet your macros by eating anything including mostly unhealthy foods.
While IIFYM can be a successful and legitimate approach to sustainable nutrition and weight loss (you can still be healthy eating a diet that isn’t dominated by plates of vegetables and salad bowls). The focus on numbers rather than food quality and overall health will impact the insulin response (blood sugar levels), energy, satiety, mood and hormones depending on food choices.
Things to consider with this diet:
Not all macros are created equal: While you might be hitting your numbers, you could be missing out on fiber, nutrients, and essential amino acids that might otherwise assist some growth potential and training adaptations.
Side effects and minimizing effects of prolonged dieting
While the above listed diets mostly focus on healthy eating rather than simply restricting calories. It is important to be aware of potential side effects of prolonged dieting; and consuming calories lower than the daily recommended amount for an extensive period of time:
Metabolic adaptation – the body gets used to low calories and becomes efficient at dealing with reduced energy intake. In other words, the metabolism slows down.
Hunger – during dieting hunger may increase. Ghrelin, or the hunger hormone increases appetite, food intake and fat storage.
NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) reduces with prolonged dieting.
Diet fatigue – food boredom and reduced adherence to the diet may result in mindless snacking, secret treats or an increase in portion sizes.
Adhering to the diet and beating hunger
Lifestyle and social support: lifestyle factors such as more physical activity and extended social support systems can help to adhere to diets. Joining fitness groups or classes will help to keep you on track. Having a network of like-minded and supportive people will help to detract from potential negative influences.
Intervention: Short term interventions such as controlled refeeds and overfeeding (sometimes referred to as reverse dieting) can help to rebalance effects of dieting. Refeeds involving 2-3 consecutive days of increased carb or fat intake may offset metabolic adaptation and replete muscles with glycogen. Studies have shown that 3 days consecutive carb overfeeding can help to stimulate insulin secretion.
Volume eating: To beat hunger hormones and cravings, high volume, low-calorie meals will help you to stay on track. Whole foods, high protein, veggies and plain popcorn are great options to satisfy your hunger.
Making sustainable lifestyle choices
Avoid being drawn to fad diets. At the end of the day, when choosing a way of eating, whether you want to maintain a constant body weight, gain or lose weight, ask yourself: ‘does this work for me?’ ‘is this enjoyable and enhancing my life?’ and ‘can I eat this way forever?’
Be kind to yourself and treat yourself with patience around food and other lifestyle practices – find what works best for you to enable new healthy habits to get off the ground.
If a diet makes you feel restricted, anxious or if there are unpleasant side effects, it’s probably not for you (stress and emotional eating are key reasons for diets to hit the skids). Sustainability, affordability and pleasure are the most important things to consider when making lifestyle changes.
Look for ways of eating that provide you with everything you need, not only nutritionally and cost effectively, but in terms of the foods you love and can’t go without. Look for a diet that can be used as a solid core and allows you to continue doing the things you enjoy.
The key to maintaining a healthy weight in the long term is an eating pattern that is flexible and sustainable over time.
For many of us across Europe, pandemic lockdown #2 has been underway for a few weeks. In the UK, events and races have been cancelled, and commercial gyms and leisure centers are closed until at least early December.
Fortunately, in London, curfews and strict restrictions limiting outdoor activities (for cycling, running and walking at least) are not in place, and for many people life and business continues as usual, with a few nips and tucks on socialising and social distancing. For others, absent from the hubbub of normal daily activities, losing fitness and gaining weight is an issue, and there’s a word for it: “Coronaspeck.”
Coronaspeck, roughly translates from German to English as “corona fat”, or “corona bacon,” and the problem is so widespread that in July 2020, the UK government launched an initiative to reduce obesity, with junior health minister Helen Whatley telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that obesity is a “huge health challenge”, with two-thirds of adults overweight or obese; and prime minister Boris Johnson recommending starting the day by going for a run as “nothing could be worse for the rest of the day.”
Aligning the coronavirus pandemic with an obesity epidemic while not addressing issues related to livestock and agricultural sectors sustained by subsidies, the necessity of food banks and child food poverty, may not be a recipe for healthier choices or motivate the nation to start the day by going for a run.
At this time of year, my weekends typically involve mud running and cross country races.
Only a few weeks ago it looked promising that some sort of mud activity was likely and indeed, several mud events and obstacle course races have gone ahead within COVID-19 guidelines.
However, after a steady decline of coronavirus cases since the first peak in April 2020, confirmed cases started rising again in July, with the rate of growth increasing sharply from the end of August.
At midnight on 16 October 2020, London moved into Tier 2 (high alert) coronavirus restrictions, with Londoner’s banned from mixing between households indoors, in restaurants and pubs.
Other parts of the UK, particularly the North West, North East and Yorkshire regions moved into Tier 3 (very high) restrictions.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said it is “almost certain that the epidemic continues to grow exponentially across the country”.
While England Athletics continues to promote the benefits of safe exercise, club activity and competition, it is highly unlikely that a 2020/21 cross county season will happen or that mass participation trail races or mud events will take place before Easter 2021.
Nevertheless, with a lack of exciting mud events on the immediate horizon, there are numerous ways to make the most of the gifts of nature.
Mud for healing and rejuvenation
The healing power of mud and other minerals have been known for millennia.
As Natural Health Practitioner, Galina St George explains in her book Earth’s Humble Healers, minerals are the source of life on Earth; we need them in order to live; every fluid and solid matter in our body contains minerals; and every cell in our body needs minerals to function and reproduce.
Galina St George describes how the idea of using muds as well as clays and salts as the main source of minerals to improve health and enhance beauty is not new.
For centuries muds have been used for medical applications, therapeutic and cosmetic properties; clays were used by Roman soldiers to heal wounds and disinfect water; and clays are widely known to neutralise poisons, deal with wounds, food poisoning and hunger.
The complex combination of salts and minerals in mud (kaolinite, bentonite, magnesium, potassium, and others) are known to draw toxins out of the body, boost the immune system, tone skin, relieve joint pain and treat rheumatic diseases.
The popularity of thermal springs and mud baths such as Lago di Venere in Pantelleria, Italy; Dead Sea in Israel; Baden-Baden in Germany; Calistoga in California; spa baths in Budapest, Hungary; and the Monihei Carnival at Cangyuan, in China’s Yunnan Province, are in no small part due to the potent minerals and enzymes in mud and spring waters that can help restore a youthful appearance, increase vitality, stimulate blood flow and lymphatic system cleansing, relaxation, and improve physical health and wellbeing.
Given COVID-19 restrictions, travelling is not an option for many of us. However, you do not need to go far to dig in the dirt, dilute some clay and pretend you are somewhere in Baden-Baden; or simply buy mud and slather yourself with sulfuric-smelling ooze.
While we wait for the resumption of mud running and cross country races, weekends for me over the next few months will involve some combination of training/running in as much mud as possible, and taking mud indoors – nourishing myself with mud and clay treatments (AHAVA’s dead sea body mud and Clarins SOS Pure clay mask are favorites) and bath salts.
Wishing everyone safe exercise, health and wellbeing during this unusual time.
A few week’s ago (12 September 2020), I finished off a summer of outdoor swimming with a 5km swim in the Thames at Dock2Dock.
Dock2Dock was my target event when I resumed swimming about three months ago – frequently training at Liquid Leisure in Datchet, due to its lovely 750 meter loop, superb water quality, super friendly staff, and nice vibe. The lake is about a 40-minute drive from my SW London home, and COVID-19 restrictions meant swimmers had to arrive swim ready. For me, this typically involved top down driving along the M4 in a two piece swimsuit and wetsuit pulled-up waist high.
I also found that I really loved Heron Lake, which is near Liquid Leisure and a few minutes closer to home. Heron Lake also has superb water quality, a friendly atmosphere and 500m and 1,000m courses.
2020 is the second year that I’ve participated in Dock2Dock.
This year, I completed the course in an official time of 1:40:50.
My 2020 Garmin time being 1:40:08.
In 2019 (13 July), my official time was 1:40:36.
My 2019 Garmin time was 1:40:16.
Swimming in the Thames is a truly magical experience; it’s famous, big, imposing and choppy with incredible views of the city.
I am pleased with both my 2019 and 2020 Dock2Dock times, and I can see a lot of areas for improvement with my outdoor, mass participation swimming, pacing and technique.
Now that I’m dusting off my winter wardrobe and many outdoor swimming venues are closing for the season, my training is likely to focus on strength, movement, running and Peloton cycling (given this year’s COVID-19 restrictions I have a home-based spin studio – kitchen conversion), with some swimming here and there.
With cool autumn/winter temperatures, if you are considering purchasing a Peloton, use referral code K6WMME (valid only in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom) for £100 off your Peloton purchase.
In early 2020, many events were cancelled or postponed, gyms and pools closed in the UK, and lockdown changed everyone’s priorities, pace of life, fitness routines, work and entertainment.
Luckily, I haven’t worried too much about fitness and training as I’ve only committed to participate in one event so far this year, Dock2Dock 5km swim, which has not been cancelled, and scheduled for Saturday 12 September.
Cast off and adrift without swimming, I’m now anchored down and back in the water as lockdown restrictions are easing and outdoor swimming venues are opening and operating within COVID-19 guidelines.
The human body is about 50 to 70 percent water – we constantly lose fluids from perspiration, urine and through our breath; and replace what we lose by eating and drinking.
During the summer months we’re frequently reminded how important it is to drink plenty of water (and all kinds of other drinks from tea to modulate brain efficiency to red wine for better gut health). Hydration orthodoxy recommends drinking a minimum 2 litres of water per day, or a minimum of 35ml of water per kilo of bodyweight, and more if exercising and sweating.
For athletes, the topic of thirst, hydration and dehydration is complex, with even more complex physiology, ever evolving science, technology, recommendations and advice.
It is proposed that thirst increases our sense of perceived effort, while dehydration increases the strain on our cardiovascular system; and it is important to maintain the body’s state of homeostasis as much as possible before, during and after exercise, to ensure you perform at your very best and recover adequately.
In terms of fluid balance, the goal prior to exercise is to have the body in its euhydrated state so you are sufficiently hydrated and able to perform at your absolute optimum, and not worry about hydration mid activity or finding a medical tent and IV drip post event.
The story of cyclist Taylor Phinney’s dropped water bottle at the World’s TT in 2013, that impacted his perceived sense of dehydration and performance in the final stages of the race, is an example of why we should stay ahead of thirst and not overthink when plans go wrong.
Instead of worrying about when and how much water to consume, it is important to understand why we should drink so much water, as opposed to tea or red wine or other liquids and fuels.
Water is the common name for dihydrogen monoxide or H2O. It is more than a substance, it’s a complex arrangement of molecules with a specific growth pattern.
Composed of two gases, hydrogen and oxygen. Water is the basic element of life.
A particular regularity, cooling, causes a more dense structure producing ice, a solid. If the molecular structure is heated it opens up and becomes a stream. Water is capable of being gaseous, liquid and solid. It is capable of being stored as energy, a gas, or liquid.
Water is able to assume a huge variety of forms
In his book, ‘Emotional Anatomy,’ Stanley Keleman says that the state of liquidity reveals the state of human life. An embryo or an infant is somewhat liquid-like, fragile yet flexible. Growth makes the organism more dense, stringy and solid. Death brings liquefaction and a gaseous state called decomposition.
In other words, water keeps us young.
Water, a structure of molecular geometry, is capable of electrification – generating a current, just as the rotational movements of the earth, the processes of heat, or the cold of space generate a current. These forces create various fluids, from bound water to gaseous water, from ice to gas, forming under proper temperatures an electrified fluid that has different properties.
Similarly, protoplasm flows and pulses; and the human body does the same, becoming muscle bound or flaccid. Fear and anger stiffen the organism; love and caring soften it.
Water transforms itself, making cells with boundaries that evolve further into blood, tissue fluids, lymph, sweat, urine, semen, vaginal fluids, spinal and joint fluids, exhaled water, digestive juices and hormones. These fluid mixtures are not free-flowing but are stored in cells, pouches, and bladders until expelled by powerful cell and muscle pulsations of hormones and enzymes manufacture and help stimulate these specialised fluids.
These fluids stimulate growth, produce energy, stimulation and connections – impacting performance and exhaustion, and they are responsible for our quality of life.
They facilitate biological, emotional, and psychological integration, and produce deep feelings and states of knowledge.
Emotions and feelings follow the rules of water
When we brace ourselves for shock or a blow or when we harden we confine pain, our liquid state is like ice.
When we melt with love or dissolve into tears, our feeling state is liquid.
Our visceral state gives rise to feelings of hunger, emptiness, yearning, longing, followed by satisfaction and fullness.
We emote and are a geyser or a river. We act like a tide or an ice flow. We cascade and stream. We cry and sob, sigh and moan emitting formed fluids.
These are the dynamic powers of water finding a way to transform itself into structures and thereby change itself.
We are a sea of liquids
Keleman identifies liquid life in the language of function: The flow of thought, the tides of feelings, the waves of intuition, the ocean depths of feelings, the waxing and waning of psyche. They are messengers that signal behaviour.
There’s so much more to water than we can imagine.
Keep hydrating and perform at your absolute optimum!