Saturday, 27 September 2014

New Bodyfit

Get into Running

Find out how to start running - and fall in love with it – with our beginners' guide to running.

Running has so many benefits it’s difficult to know where to start: It’s a great calorie burner so will help you to loose weight. It’ll also massively improve your cardio fitness levels; making you fitter and stronger in every way. Beginners may be surprised to know that running can also be – wait for it – enjoyable. Yes, that’s right, that sport which you last did at school whilst your thighs went a deep red and you thought you might die – done properly, this exercise can be mightily fun.

Whilst running is essentially putting one foot in front of the other, there are some fundamental running-know-how tips to get to grips with before taking those first steps…

Choosing a Route

One of the biggest appeals about running is that it can be done anywhere. Obviously you’re super-lucky if you live close to a park or a coastal path, but pavements and riverbanks work pretty well too! Fitness and Lifestyle coach, Jamie Tulloch ( says, “Pick a route that you know well to get started, you don’t want to have to worry about navigational skills on top of running. Focus on building stamina until you find the confidence to venture off track.”

Avoiding Injury

If you know some keen runners, chances are you’ll know they tend to spend half their lives ambitiously training for events and the other half grumbling about injury and disruption to training. Learning how to keep injury at bay is vital. Jamie says; “Strengthening your posterior chain (this includes biceps and glutes) and your core and legs, is crucial to ensure you prevent injury and will help you build stamina and muscle. Try adding in squats, lunges and lots of core work around your new running regime.”

Join the Club

Whilst the appeal of running for some can be getting out alone, joining a club also has its benefits: Gina Granger from Holme Pierrepont Running Club in Nottingham ( ) explains; “Joining a running club can have a great impact on motivation – the social side of it helps you to stick to a schedule.” What’s more, they’re a comparatively cheap form of group fitness as yearly memberships tend to range from nothing - £25; “It’s got to be the most reasonably priced fitness membership you can get”, says Gina.

To eat or not to eat?

This is the question…luckily experts tend to agree that the answer is yes! “People often forget to fuel up before and after a run”, says Jamie, adding: “Load up with carbs before your run, or a quick banana and glass of water would suffice if you are really pushed for time. It is important to refuel after your run, ideally within the first 30 minutes, especially with a good dose of protein to repair broken down muscle tissue. Don’t forget to take plenty of water with you on your run to ensure you don’t get dehydrated.”

Get your Kit on!

Unless you’re an utter gear-geek you really don’t need to spend that much on running specific stuff before heading off.

A brief beginners guide to running kit rules:

Bras: Forget what you know about lingerie shopping – shopping for a running bra is a different sport entirely. Choose something specifically designed for high impact exercise. have lots of info about sizing and which bras are best for certain activities.

Shoes: You may have heard of ‘gait analysis’ – this is an increasingly popular method of getting the right shoes for runners. Basically, you’ll need to find a specialist running shop that offers this service; their expert will assess the mechanics of your running and then fit you with an appropriate shoe. Whilst fit is most important, running shoes don’t have to be dull. Look out for the new Adizero Adios Boost from Adidas (£110) ( for comfort in style.

 Socks: Decent socks are really important in running as they can reduce the risk of blisters – don’t make the mistake of spending a fortune on running shoes only to match them with your socks you wear day-to-day. Try the Performance Socks from Sole (£9.50) (

Jacket: If it’s a day when the mere thought of just wearing a vest top gives you the shivers you’ll need an extra layer. Keep it lightweight though so as not to overheat. See OLDO’s Windstopper. (£150)

Going off Road
David Denton ( ) is a cross country and fell running expert: "The sport of cross country running has always suffered from a negative image as, in school, it was something one was 'forced' to do when sports pitches were unfit for play. However, in recent years, the sport has flourished as courses have become less demanding, usually using parks and other similar places where the terrain is flatter and less uneven.”

Barefoot Running
Expert Lee Saxby ( ) tells us; “Barefoot running forces you to run in a more healthy and effective way, making you less prone to injury, quicker and lighter on your feet. Running barefoot improves the running technique by optimising the biomechanics and posture commonly associated with walking and running barefoot.  This allows the runner to develop a more natural running style due to the brain's sensory feedback.” 

Getting started:
   Live barefoot, first. And be barefoot as much as possible (80% of the time is about right!). If that’s an issue our casual range of shoes might help.
   Learn to focus on walking: heel, ball, toe…
   Now try running a – very shot distances.
   Build up slowly, very slowy, little and often.

Chi Running [Katy, I think we might need a registered trademark sign after and it’s written like ChiRunning®]
Chi Running Instructor Michelle Muldoon ( ) says; “Chi Running is a mind body approach to running.  Alignment and relaxation are key principles. It allows you to become a more efficient runner while reducing impact and your risk of injury.  Core strength is developed as you work on your form, and as your form improves you can run for longer distances improving your aerobic capacity. It’s a practise much like t’ai chi, yoga or pilates and if you treat it as such, you will be able to improve at Chi Running for years to come as you deepen your mind body connection. If you can run pain free in a more relaxed way, the joy of running naturally increases and running can become something you enjoy for the rest of your life.”

‘appy running!
Apps such as Mapmyrun ( and Runkeeper ( are fantastic for tracking previous runs and therefore progress.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Feature on Stress, The Ecologist

Feeling the Strain?
In this age of austerity people are resorting to anti-depressant drugs in their hoards – all having in common the desire to rid themselves of understandable stress and anxiety. Phoebe Doyle writes of less obtrusive methods for easing our inner-turmoil.
Over-worked? Feeling skint? Jobless? Hopeless?
If none of these apply to you then congratulations, but you must be feeling lonely, up there in the ever-diminishing minority. For the rest of us the gravitational pull of our demanding modern lives is seeing more and more of us hyped-up and collapsing flat-out as casualties of stress. Research conducted by The Stroke Association earlier this year found that 1 in 7 of us feel our stress levels are “out of control”. It’s also estimated that 75% of us feel stress to a greater or lesser degree at least once every fortnight.
Stress can be a particularly cruel and burdensome emotion as there’s a ‘vicious circle’ element frequently at play; we feel stressed over a particular circumstance, we subsequently experience physical reactions to this (e.g. stomach upsets, palpitations, headaches, tightenings in the chest) all of which intensify and lead to amplified stress levels.
Whilst anti-depressants may be, unfortunately quite literally, a life saver for those who sufferer severely from stress and depression, their potential for addiction and side effects mean they should be far from the first port of call. Exercise and talking; two things we all do to varying degrees, have proven track records in getting the stressed-out more fit, focussed and ultimately better equipped to face the challenges everyday life unremittingly hurls their way.
It’s Good to Talk

“The key thing to understand about stress is that it’s a primitive reaction to threat, activated as part of the ‘fight or flight’ response that helped us deal with genuine threats to our life like marauding lions or aggressive enemy tribes”, explains Wellbeing Coach Dan Roberts ( like Dan believe firmly that understanding what happens when our body’s enter the stressed state can help us in the fight against it. Dan illuminates us on the biological experience; “when our brain perceives threat it readies us for action by flooding our bloodstream with stress hormones including cortisol and adrenaline - raising our heartbeat, making our breathing fast and shallow and a host of other physiological changes.”

Of course, in 2011 the majority of the threats we chance upon are not to our life, but ‘psychosocial’. These might be major stressors such as redundancy, debt, familial conflict or divorce, or a constant drip-drip effect of minor stressors like an unsupportive work environment, a cantankerous boss, raising small children, living in a noisy neighbourhood – Dan’s seen with his clients that, “after a while, these accumulate until we can’t cope and we experience chronic stress as a result.”

How Talking Therapy Works
“The most effective talking therapy for stress is cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)”, says Dan, who explains further; “that’s because you need to understand that it’s not the situation itself (work environment, boss or demanding kids) that is stressing you, but your thoughts and beliefs about that situation. When people are stressed, they commonly think things like, ‘I can’t stand it’, or ‘I just cannot cope with this.’ So they exaggerate the challenges they are facing and underestimate their resilience – their ability to deal with those challenges in a practical, problem-solving manner.” CBT helps to change the way the client thinks about and perceives specific aspects of their lives, and aids them in re-assessing their own coping capabilities.

Through two-way discussions Dan works with stressed clients by helping them understand that, however unpleasant or demanding the situation they are in, by modifying their negative, unhelpful thoughts and replacing them with more positive, realistic ones, they can significantly reduce their stress levels.

 Give yourself a good talking to. Some tips…

-Dan says that perfectionism is a common trait in stressed-out people. So if you are very stressed about work, say, take a step back and ask yourself: “Am I a perfectionist? Does everything have to be done to a very high standard? And if so, is that really helpful?”
-Dan advises clients to acknowledge that in reality perfectionists are often not as productive or effective as they could be, because they exhaust themselves in pursuit of impossibly high standards. Tell yourself; “aim for good enough”. This will make life a whole lot easier!

-Watch out for ‘should statements’. These are a common way we stress ourselves out, thinking things like “I should have handled that meeting better,” or “I shouldn’t be so bothered by my husband’s messiness.”
-Also watch out for statements containing “must”, “have to” and “ought to”, because they all place strong demands on us to be better, happier, cleverer, richer, skinnier… Try replacing them with “I wish”, “I would like”, “I would prefer” or “I hope”, which will make your thoughts less demanding and help stop you beating yourself up or driving yourself so hard.

Get Fighting Fit
Chartered Psychologist Paul Russell from The University of Bolton says; “Being active and exercising is one of the most natural and effectives ways of managing stress. Exercising is not about running the Marathon des Sabes, a 150 mile run across the desert, it is about working at your own level and doing something you enjoy.”
Ronnie Burgess is a Personal Trainer ( ) who insists that exercise can be viewed as “meditation in motion”. It’s time to ourselves; for reflection, for self-nurturing, it’s telling ourselves “you’re worth it”. Ronnie says; “Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries. Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to weightlifting, can act as a stress reliever”
Exercise has long been proven as a fast way to release our body’s own feel-good chemicals. “It also allows you to feel a great sense of achievement and pride when you achieve your goals. It will boost your self -confidence and this will make you feel positive in many different aspects of your life. When you exercise you will naturally feel more alert, positive, energetic, and proactive, and you can take this approach into other areas of your life”, Paul tells us.
Mental health charity Mind ( now run a research-driven programme encouraging exercise. They’ve concluded that a supervised and substantial fitness schedule can be equally as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression. The scheme, named Ecominds,  currently has 130 projects across the country offering great activities (for free) from gardening and horticulture to rambling and even surfing. All especially designed to boost positive mental health and reduce stress.
Camilla Swain from Ecominds gives us some hard facts; “In 2005, 27.7 million antidepressant prescriptions were written in England, at a cost of £338 million to the public health service. Outdoor exercise, however is a proven treatment that is free of unpleasant side-effects, and offers a cost-effective and natural addition to existing treatments.” Clear to see why she deems the Ecominds scheme as crucial.
Getting fit; getting out. Some tips…
-Paul says firstly you’ve got to pick an activity that you’re going to enjoy. Once you’ve decided on the activity select a start date, and stick to it.
-Get outside. Mind have researched into what they call ‘Green Exercise’; that’s activities that include gardening, walking groups, conservation work, running or cycling. They’ve found that  90% of people who took part in this ‘green exercise’ said that it was the combination of nature and exercise that boosted their mood. 90% said that the ‘green exercise’ had benefited their physical health and 94% commented that it had improved their mental health.
-Make friends. Embark on activities that can be sociable too. Camilla says; “Contacts formed with other people during outdoor activities can reduce isolation, help develop support networks and improve social skills. Overall this will benefit mental health, enrich quality of life and reduce vulnerability to depression”.
-Set yourself realistic and motivating goals about what you are going to achieve. Make sure that these goals start off small and gradually get more challenging as you achieve them.
-If there might be reasons why you think you might miss an exercise session think of ways of overcoming those obstacles.
And finally…
We’ve learnt that calming and curing stress doesn’t always need to resort in prescriptions and addictive medications that could leave you feeling rougher than ever. These experts believe quite simply in talking and walking some more, on getting out there and, well… living. Who’d have thought it? Sounds too simple. But then perhaps it’s the complex, the complicated and the downright difficult that got us into this predicament of stress levels reaching record heights. So give it a go, get your walking boots on, seek a therapist if needed, and put on your ‘can do’ hat.
Some facts about stress
·         Stress can have a negative effect on blood pressure, causing it to rise
·         More children and teenagers than ever before are reporting feelings of stress
·         Stress can affect the immune system
·         Anxiety attacks are typically the result of a build-up of stress
·         Stress can contribute to or cause other health problems such as alcohol or drug abuse
Still stressed? Let’s try and console you!
Not all stress is bad…
Experts tend to agree that a certain amount of stress is normal and healthy. In certain situations (interviews, preparing a work presentation, in a rush to meet a deadline) our body needs to go into a heightened sense of adrenalin (which is a result of stress) in order to be motivated fully. Without any stress we can become lethargic or even lazy.
This stress that’s good for us though should only be extremely short-lived. The danger is when stressed is experienced severely, regularly or even constantly. This is un-healthy and requires action.
You can visit to find an Ecominds project near you.

Has your child been self-ied?

If there name ends in teen, chances are the answer's yes. And the likelihood is that you don't want to believe it. 38% of teenagers and young adults have sent an inappropriate selfie while 87% of parents don’t believe that their child has or would.

My Voucher Codes  website surveyed more than 500 parents and 18 to 24 year olds to find out their views on inappropriate selfies, sending nude pictures of themselves to others via email, text message or Snapchat. 38% of 18-24 year olds surveyed had sent such an image and 87% of parents surveyed believed that their child wouldn’t send such an image to someone else. 

As part of ongoing research into the impact of social media and technology on our lives,  My Voucher Codes  has been looking into this aspect of young people's lives and are now seeking to make public just how widespread using such images is.

Mark Pearson, founder of My Voucher Codes commented on the findings:

“Although the majority of young adults don’t send inappropriate selfies, parents may be being a bit naïve in thinking their child hasn’t or won’t. With celebrities’ nude photos being released after the Apple iCloud was hacked, everyone needs to be careful not only about taking these photos but also sending and storing them. The safest option is not to take inappropriate photos in the first place! With peer pressure and increased access to social media and tools like Snapchat available, parents need to have this conversation with their children.”

If you want to know more check out this published recently in the Daily Mail

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Feature for current issue of Irish mag IMAGE

With 300,000 children in Ireland being obese, experts say it’s time for parents to start tackling the problem head on. Phoebe Doyle gets the facts about the fat and seeks solutions.

More worrying even than the number of children obese in Ireland right now, is perhaps the fact that this number is rising… and fast. In fact, it’s estimated that around 10,000 more children become obese, in Ireland alone, each year. What the World Health Organisation (WHO) refer to as an ‘international epidemic’ has certainly hit our shores big time. Around 22% of Irish girls and 19% of Irish boys are either overweight or obese.

Time for Change

At least it’s not gone un-noticed. Schools are now more readily encouraging healthy lunches to be brought in, with some having rules about how many snack/treat-based foods are allowed. The Irish Government announced last year that they’re in discussions about restricting the number of fast food outlets near to schools.

What’s more, those of you who’ve dined in hotels recently may have noticed a disclaimer on the kid’s menu saying that they’ve signed up to a healthy eating initiative, launched by the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF). This is a pledge of commitment to providing food with less salt, more vegetables and less fried food.

Why are our kids getting fatter?

Personal Trainer Scott Marsh says there’s really no simple answer to this one: “One of the many factors is that children (and adults too) are getting more and more sedentary each year; some blame technology, some even blame the recession.”

Speak to most adults and they’ll recall childhoods packed with climbing trees, playing sport and running around in the streets. Scott notes: “Yet today’s children and adolescents spend most of their days cooped up in front of the latest console re-enacting a life of activity they could be having. The reasons behind why kids are spending more time indoors are varied, but with the press reporting on how dangerous the streets are getting day by day and with technology providing a stimulation at the touch of a button, it’s no surprise that many are veering clear of traditional activity and play.”

As well as social reasons there is, of course, the hot topic; nutrition. “Our food quality is getting worse by the decade, which certainly doesn’t help matters. But a more pressing issue is the lack of time that everybody has”, says Scott, adding: “Parents are too busy and too stressed to cook appropriately for their kids anymore. We must remember that children are greatly influenced by their parents. If their parents don’t have time to look after themselves by eating a healthy balanced diet as well as taking part in regular activity, where are the children supposed to learn such essential habits?”

Another pressing, and depressing, issue is the stress that many children are increasingly placed under. Scott’s seen the effect of this time and time again: “It’s not uncommon for children to develop binge-type eating from the stress put on them to achieve throughout their school life, and now with the added concern of financial strains many families are in right now. The stress is on for kids in Ireland today and one way of seemingly dealing with such pressure is by turning to food.”

It’s clearly time we took action…                   

Get Moving

The level of physical activity our children do can have an enormous impact on their weight, as well as their overall well-being. Our angst about them going out these days, coupled with the amount of technology we have on offer, sees our kids adopting ‘staring at a screen’ as the default position.

Scott says to try and exercise with your children: “Show them the benefits of working hard and praise them for doing well. Find an activity the whole family will enjoy. Remember you’re their most prominent role model.”

“Set them physical challenges and goals. Things that will stimulate their mind and that they will need to work towards to achieve.” For younger children this might be to run, or skip a bit further, for older ones you might start improving on sprint times – make it fun!

“Let your children try new sports”, says Scott, who firmly believes there’s a sport for everyone. So if they aren’t into the usual football or rugby, seek out what’s going on at the local leisure centre or gym for young people.

Food, Glorious Food

The solution doesn’t stop with exercise; it needs to be in partnership with diet. National statistics show that a whopping 40% of children have excessive levels of fat intake through their food consumption. What’s more over 60% don’t get enough fibre.

But those of us with children know that getting them to eat healthily, it ain’t always easy! Food labelling and advertising is mightily persuasive and, while the government are set to review the rules on this, that which is aimed at kids can be hugely powerful.

Scott says it’s time to get back to basics, using fresh ingredients, cooking from scratch and cooking with the kids: “Getting them involved in making their own food serves to get them interested in produce and also, you’ll find, they’re much more likely to eat something if they’ve made it themselves.”

The key is making healthy eating fun: Think fruit kebabs (pieces of fresh fruit on kebab sticks), think fresh veg sticks with dips, like hummus or guacamole. Think homemade pizzas stacked with veggies.

“It’s all about becoming a healthier, more food-savvy, family together. It’s about helping them realise just how good healthy food can make us feel. Without concentrating on their weight, without laying on stress and pressure (which can lead to binge eating), this well-thought-out approach can really impact the whole family”, says Scott.

Final thoughts…

With almost 1 in 4 children now overweight in Ireland, there’s really only one conclusion: We need to make changes now. Obesity can lead to so many problems in later life, diabetes and heart disease to name just two.

Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom. Healthy eating and getting fit can be enormously enjoyable and, done together, can be a fabulous family bonding endeavour.

Ditch the Junk: Have healthy snacks as your weapon!

DITCH the crisps. SWAP for dried apple rings.

DITCH the biscuits. SWAP for flavoured rice cakes.

DITCH the fries. SWAP for sweet potato home-made wedges.

DITCH the sweets. SWAP for raisins and dried apricots.

DITCH the ice-cream. SWAP for frozen yoghurt.

Upping exercise is easy…

ü  Always opt for stairs not lifts when in hotels or stores.

ü  Play with them; what child can resist an offer of a game of football?!

ü  Give them options; have lots of equipment, from hula hoops to hockey sticks.

ü  Instead of driving everywhere, could they walk, scoot or cycle?

ü  Limit TV and computer games.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Health benefits of green tea for your family

Green tea has been linked to all sorts of health benefits. Claims range from lowering cholesterol to preventing cancer. Not all the claims stand up to scrutiny (the evidence for cancer prevention in particular is shaky at best) but the good PR has sent green tea sales rocketing at the expense of traditional 'builders tea' – so much so that there is even a campaign to save it.

What's so great about green tea and why should your family drink it?

Helping the heart

Green tea is rich in antioxidants, particularly catechins. Because of these, tea (green or black) has been found to be effective at
. It has been shown to lower cholesterol and improve blood flow, helping fight against a range of heart-related issues from blood pressure to heart attacks.

The catechins are also thought to prevent the formation of blood clots. One large-scale study in Japan (where green tea is widely and regularly consumed) found that drinking green tea lowered the risk of dying from stroke by 62% in women and 42% in men.

The same study found drinking green tea to be associated with a lower risk of dying from any cause – 23% in women, 12% in men.

Boosting the brain

A recent study found that drinking green tea can help improve cognitive function, particularly in the working-memory area of the brain; suggesting a possible future as an Alzheimer's treatment. Even more significant for green tea and dementia is that other studies have shown green tea to prevent the build up of beta-amyloid plaques thought to cause the disease.

On a more day-to-day basis, tea also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that promotes alpha-wave activity in our brains – causing relaxation without drowsiness. In so doing it is thought to improve focus, attention and alertness, as well as helping with sleep and mood.

The greener they come

Catechins and theanine are present in all forms of tea – black, green, red – so why all the fuss over green tea in particular?

It's all to do with production. As anyone who's watched a banana ripen over days will know, green plants are younger. It's the same with green tea. Combine that with minimal processing – green tea leaves are steamed to make tea, whereas black tea is allowed to ferment – and green tea just has more of everything good for us.

But before you ditch your builders tea completely, bear in mind that all tea is good for you. So much so that Dr. Ruxton of Kings College London claims Drinking tea is actually better for you than drinking water.