Gym Junkies of a Different Kind

The gym I test my strength in a couple of times each week is a little different to most others. It’s a local council run facility full of gym junkies (of the nicest possible variety)  and I feel extremely confident I’m never going to see anyone prancing around posing and flexing their muscles. Unless that flexing is to get rid of a muscle spasm.

Some days I’m the youngest by a good 20-30 years but the time I spend there each week provides a priceless package of inspiration and entertainment on top of the fitness benefit.

Five years ago, these gym junkies were featured in a segment on Today Tonight as a result of their fitness and health ethic and you can meet some of them by watching here.

Who Are The Main Players At The Gym?

Take Anton for example: in the vicinity of 70+ years young, who collects his friend Judy on the way to the gym and walks in each morning primed for a chat to solve the issues of the world. Judy can lift so much more weight than me and annoyingly can hold a plank whilst smiling for a couple of years.  I can’t.

Then there is Tom Senior; an almost 86-year-old diabetic who comes even when he doesn’t feel like it. He keeps turning up because he knows from experience that the moment exercise feels great is when you are finished. Plus the company is scintillating.

Tom Junior, also a ex professional cricketer and a mere chick in comparison, is currently doing the rounds of the gym on the bike while he deals with knees that are not happy with years of bowling. And lets not forget Ali, Trudy, Jo and myself who just try and keep up with these guys. 

These gym buddies of mine love a good chat and the odd critique of gym performance, and there is often a great deal of collective tsking when someone demonstrates a new exercise or skill. 

In reality, you can get some good ideas from what others are doing around you. It is too easy to just keep doing what you are doing, which can get you in a rut pretty quickly.

It got me thinking about what the current fitness trends are, so naturally I went straight to Google to find out.

What Are The Fitness Trends Of 2019?

  1. Wearable Technology – this includes everything from fitness trackers, heart rate monitors and GPS trackers.  These days we can track pretty much everything. Sigh.
  2. Group Training – this is classified as a class with more than five participants and could include cardio based classes, dancing, spin classes, boot camps and the like.  I do like group training, especially when you can hide behind someone else for those moments when you are quite simply dying.
  3. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) – this is where you engage in a series of high intensity bouts of exercise followed by a short period of rest and recovery.  Let’s just say this is not my favourite and I would prefer to call it RUUUUUUNNNN AWAAAYYYY.
  4. Fitness Programs for Older Adults – my gym buddies are a case in point but lets face it, keeping and staying fit as we get older is probably the Number 1 health tip.
  5. Body Weight Training– Maintaining our muscle mass is crucial, vital, integral and central to the very core of our health. Our physical strength, balance and sending fuel to our brains (muscle mass controls this one) is what keeps us upright and being able to hold conversations when we are 100. Do it, do it, do it.
  6. Employing Certified Fitness Professionals – I am fairly confident that you wouldn’t get your hair cut by a lawn mower. Quite frankly, you could lose ears and perhaps even your scalp.  Choosing a qualified, certified fitness professional is good sense unless you are ok with injuring yourself.
  7. Functional Fitness Training – this involves strength training and other activities to improve balance, coordination, strength and endurance to improve daily living activities.
  8. Personal Training – for some people working with a personal trainer is what keeps them focused and on track. A qualified personal trainer can design workouts specific to you rather than say, your neighbour down the street.
  9. Yoga – oh yoga. Some of you will know that I am a converted lover of yoga and for many reasons it is quite simply a necessary part of my life. So necessary that I will travel a long way to run my Italian Yoga and Wellness Retreat every year. If you haven’t tried it yet – mix up a few different varieties of yoga and or add some extreme heat or attempt the downward dog suspended from the ceiling. I’m not sure whether that last one actually happens but I am sure someone has tried it. Perhaps stick to just the one kind of yoga in one sitting and you don’t have to do it in the blistering heat amid communal sweat to get a benefit.
  10. Exercise is Medicine – imagine doctors including exercise as the prescription rather than drugs. Some already do but healthy professionals do this all the time.  Prevention is always preferable to finding a cure.

The best type of exercise is the one that you actually do. Choose something that you enjoy doing, grab a friend and let the endorphins (and no, this is not a species of dolphins) do their work.

What To Eat For the Best Exam Results

What to eat for the best exam results is vital information if you have a Year 11, Year 12 or even a uni student in your household or family about to start prepping for exams.

All exams are important but the Year 12 journey is certainly at another level with all the expectations (real and perceived) that travel alongside the actual assessment.

This time of year auspiciously marks the beginning of mock exams for Year 12 students. The mocks are then followed by the real deal and they can be a true test of grit and determination in so many ways.

The thing is, studying and preparing for exams is SO similar to athletes preparing and training for an event or game.  If you are an adult with ever ‘useful’ hindsight, you know from experience that it takes discipline, tests of endurance, endless concentration and skill. 

That’s why the fuel going in needs to be full of the good stuff at the right time.

You may have done the prep and the studying to get you to the exam but have you considered what to eat for the best exam results?

Consider your day as a football game or any game you love. 

This means breaking your day into four quarters and the first quarter bounce down starts when you wake up.

First Quarter

Breakfast is key to exam success and your brain working at its best.

In fact there is good evidence to suggest that eating breakfast improves memory.   It is true that some people do not feel like eating in the morning but once again, it is can be a matter of training your stomach to take food.  When considering what to eat for the best exam results, good choices for breakfast include:

  • High fibre cereal (Weet-bix, porridge, natural muesli, Sultana Bran, Mini-Wheats) with milk and fresh fruit
  • Wholegrain toast with baked beans, spaghetti, tomato, egg or avocado
  • Pancakes with fresh fruit
  • Fresh, frozen or tinned fruit and yoghurt

Anxiety and stress may mean your stomach is doing gymnastics on exam mornings so if you can’t deal with any other breakfast options try a banana with an Up and Go or Sustagen drink. Avoid arriving at an exam with an empty petrol tank.

Second Quarter

The second quarter of your game starts at around the mid-morning break and this is an ideal time to take a physical and mental break. Your lifestyle will determine whether you are a three meal per day person or a ‘grazer.’ The term ‘grazing’ is so called because cows like to do the same thing.  You may not like to think of yourself out in the field chomping down on grass but ‘grazing’ here means snacking or having 5-6 ‘meals’ spread out over the day. There could be some perfect recipes for you right here.

Five tasty snacks to keep you alert and awake

Snacks can be a nutrition trap to students as it is so tempting to grab something quick and easy like chocolate, lollies, muesli bars, biscuits and cake, none of which will give you the long-lasting energy that you need to study for the rest of the day. 

Instead you could try:

  1. 200g tub of yoghurt (ideally no added sugar)
  2. Fruit bread with jam, honey or a little butter
  3. Toast or crumpet with a light spread of peanut butter or vegemite
  4. Fruit Smoothie with milk, fruit and yoghurt and a handful of oats
  5. Crackers with cheese.

Third Quarter

As every decent coach will tell you, what happens in the third quarter of a game will determine whether the final quarter is grand final material. Wondering what to eat for the best exam results in the afternoon?

Does caffeine give you a buzz?

Late afternoons can be tough in the energy department but try and avoid relying on caffeine to keep you alert and awake. 

Caffeine stimulates every organ in your body and in small doses can be a useful study tool but too much can mean over-stimulation of your nervous system, increased heart rate and erratic sleep patterns. 

Sources of caffeine include coffee, tea (to a lesser extent), cola drinks and energy drinks eg.  Red Bull, V, Lift Plus etc.  Energy drinks contain a mix of caffeine and sugar, which gives you an extra hit but they are equivalent to drinking a cappuccino, flat white or latte. 

Boost brainpower

Omega-3 fats are known to boost brainpower and should be an essential part of every students diet. Fish, shellfish and fish oils are good dietary sources of these fats and are found in particularly ‘oily’ fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines and salmon.  Canned, fresh or frozen fish are all good sources of omega-3 fats.  Try and include them 2-3 times per week.

Bugs

Probiotic’s are foods or supplements that contain live beneficial bacteria (bugs) that keep your gut healthy. Exam stress is one thing that can upset intestinal balance and probiotic’s may be especially useful during this time.  There are a number of sources of probiotic’s including liquids, yoghurts, capsules and powders.

Pump the Iron

Iron is essential for getting enough oxygen around your body and this is obviously important during study and exam time! 

The best sources are liver (there are very few lovers of this one but you could try reduced fat pate if you are not keen on the actual liver), lean red meat, breakfast cereals and legumes (baked beans, chickpeas, kidney beans etc) and to a much lesser extent chicken, fish and leafy green vegetables.  Include some fruit or vegetables, which contain Vitamin C with your iron-rich food and this will assist with absorption.

Liquid refreshment

Don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids while studying to avoid brain drain.  There are no rules that say you have to drink eight glasses of water every day but regular intake is the key.  Water will always be the best choice but you could mix this up with some coffee, tea or Milo (but not mostly Milo with milk) for a change in pace.  Avoid getting stuck into sugary drinks like soft drinks, cordials and energy drinks. Yes, they increase blood sugar levels but oh so briefly and are a sure fire way of getting tired quickly. 

The Final Quarter

If you know what to eat for the best exam results,  you will arrive at the 3pm time spot in the day feeling energised and ready to tackle the final quarter or evening segment of your study game. 

If not, your brain and body might want to have a rest or start looking for the lolly jar.

A successful nutrition game plan will mean your body and brain will perform at their best not just for studying but also for the grand final, your exams.

Good luck and go get ’em!

 

Grain Fed vs. Grass Fed Animals – Does It Make a Difference?

You are currently looking at a fluffy coo (as the Scottish say so well) or cow as the rest of us know them.  You can see that he or she is standing in pasture and it is highly likely that the moment after this image was taken, fluffy coo bent down to have a nibble on the grass.

So What?

Over recent years, you may have noted that some of the meat and dairy products we buy are labelled as grass fed. There has certainly been media coverage about grass fed and grain fed animals and the positive benefits of one and the negative impact of the other.

Despite this, for the wider population the differences between grass fed and grain fed animals are most likely not at the top of the list of priorities when it comes to purchasing and choosing food.

To be honest, delving into the world of grass fed and grain fed animals has been relatively recent for me too. Let’s not forget that what we don’t know, we don’t know.

The Green, Green Grass of Home

In the world today, the vast majority of animals bred for food are not feeding on the land at all but are kept segregated and fed on subsidised grain, manure and industrial food waste. Of course, this has a significant impact on the nutritional quality of the animal.

Both herbivores such as cattle and sheep and omnivores including pigs, turkeys, ducks and chicken are natural grazers too and thrive when grass fed.

Grass Fed Nutrition

Just like humans, how animals are raised and whether they are grass fed or grain fed directly impacts the nutritional quality of that food.

In comparison to foods from grain fed animals, those from grass fed animals are known to provide the following benefits:

  • Lower levels of total fat (including saturated fat) and as a result fewer calories
  • Healthier levels of omega 3 fatty acids (the ones your heart loves)
  • Healthier ratios of omega 6 (the balance of these with omega 3 is important to your heart health)
  • Rich in caretenoid’s including lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene (those antioxidants that mop up those damaging free radicals in your body)
  • Higher levels of Vitamin E (handy helper for our immunity and heart health)
  • Higher levels of the fatty acid Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

Regenerative Farming

Aside from the nutritional superiority of grass fed foods, grazing animals and grasses have an important place in regenerative farming too. The environmental impact of growing crops to feed grain to animals is huge and directly affects our land, our resources and our ability to feed the human population too. 

Regenerative farming systems, which utilise animals to graze on grasses can actually remove carbon from the atmosphere. This means a return to the soil where it belongs, potentially reversing the impacts of climate change. This is just the beginning.

Once you start looking – there is just SO much to learn about grass fed vs. grain fed animals.  If like me, you are keen to learn more just click here for an enlightening read.

Buying Grass Fed

I am always on the look out for producers that are growing food that is sustainable, nutritious and environmentally friendly.  

In Western Australia, Wide Open Agriculture is one of them. They are doing marvellous things including selling regeneratively raised grass fed beef and lamb through their food brand Dirty Clean Food

These guys are all about nurturing soil and regenerating our land and I like that.  A lot.

Animal welfare and minimising stress is at the forefront of how they rear their beef and lamb too. Tick.

Dirty Clean Food is currently producing grass fed beef and lamb for the West Australian market and are available online (a big sorry to those who are not residing in the Sandgroper state). Watch this space.

It Is Your Choice

I know that some of you reading this are either vegetarian or vegan and I respect your choice.  I love eating plant based food too.

There are many things we can all do to improve our world, including what we choose to eat and how it is produced.  

Choosing a way of eating that includes both animal and plant based food or solely plant based food is your choice. Let’s respect each others choices and acknowledge that there is more than one way of nourishing our bodies.

Being mindful and curious about where our food comes from and choosing wisely as a result is one thing we can all do regardless of what that food is.

 

9 Reasons Why You NEED to Take Holidays

What! Holidays? 

Holidays beckon me and it is time for me to say ‘ciao for now’ and head off to Italy to run my annual Yoga and Wellness Retreat.  Although I am going there to work (yes, yes I know that it doesn’t sound like it), I will squeeze in a hike across 120km of the Via Francigena and a week off to eat all that lovely Italian food.

I usually take holidays around this time of the year and although it can seem super tricky to get these locked in and organised, I am well aware that I am not indispensable. It suits our ego’s to think that we are. We are not.

All of us need to take well-deserved breaks from our day-to-day lives.  Sometimes the hardest thing about taking a holiday and unplugging is not in the planning or execution but in the decision that it is ok to leave behind commitments and people that need you. Holidays don’t need to be expensive, lavish affairs and some of the best feature a tent, a swag and the stars. The benefits flow through your business and personal lives, improving relationships and revving up your productivity, something that may have been lying dormant for a while.

1. Stimulate your mind with a new culture

If you are taking your holidays out of your own country, there is no doubt you will get to experience the world in a different way. New customs and cultures are fascinating and all add to good old life experience. It is so easy to have a narrow focus in our day-to-day lives and travelling to a different country is a great way to widen our lens. My cultural experiences do in fact include a Naked Cowgirl standing on a median strip in the middle of New York. I sure learn’t a ton of things about marketing services I was completely unaware of all at the same time.

2. Improve your physical fitness

Sightseeing is a fabulous way of walking miles without really noticing and holidays often provide an opportunity to try new or different ways of exercising. This might be cycling around a medieval walled city in Italy under the canopy of ancient leafy trees, yoga by a azure pool in a tropical climate, hiking in majestic mountains, skiing in fluffy white powder snow or a bracing bush walk whilst admiring stunning wildflower displays and dodging the wildlife. The beauty is, none of these feel like exercise, yet your body reaps the benefits.

3. Physical and emotional well-being

It goes without saying that taking that step away from daily reality can only be good for your physical and emotional well-being. Everyone needs a pattern interrupt in their lives.

4. Get some sun 

Isn’t it lovely it is to feel the warmth of the sun when you are escaping cold weather back home? Of course, protecting your skin is important even when on holidays but relaxing in a warm climate is an ideal opportunity to get some Vitamin D. Even in countries that see plenty of harsh sunlight, Vitamin D deficiency is thought to affect one third of the population, resulting in some major health consequences. For many European countries, there is Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression to consider, which affects more and more people during the winter months due to a lack of sunshiny goodness.

5. Sleep my pretty one 

One of the best things about holidays is the complete lack of need for an alarm clock, no agenda, no schedule and no commitments (unless you count eating, having a good time and catching planes on schedule). This means that you can totally relax, get enough sleep and discover the deep kind of rest that your body truly needs to recharge the batteries. Sleep strengthens your immune system and relieves stress allowing your body to rejuvenate.

6. Unplug the technology

The joy of not having to answer a phone, deal with messages or read email should not be underestimated. Our lives revolve around technology and the expectation that we are ‘on the grid’ 24/7 can be truly exhausting. Unplugging on holiday means that you can truly relax and be fully present and connected with those around you. Don’t forget, although you are special and unique, you are not indispensable.

7. Get some happiness

Removing yourself from everyday worries gives you the space to appreciate the good things in life. You don’t need to go looking for happiness when it often finds you in the moment.

8. Reconnect with family, friends or your self

In our fast paced go get ‘em world it is too easy to go weeks and months without truly connecting with your family, your friends and most especially yourself. Breaks and holidays are perfect opportunities to reconnect and have those meaningful conversations that go beyond the standard ‘how are you?’

9. Inspiration

I get some of my best and exciting ideas when on holidays, simply because I have the time and the space in my head to let them in. When we are locked into our daily routines, creativity and inspiration can be flowing at a mere trickle but when in holiday mode, space and opportunity abounds.

Whilst on these said holidays, I will be taking a break from writing and chatting to you all BUT I will return with fresh ideas and a zing in my step in early August.

Arrivederci and ci vediamo a tutti!

 

Antioxidants – will we live longer if we eat them?

Antioxidants are compounds in food that research shows can play a role in preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, eye disease and slowing down ageing. Little powerhouses indeed.

Supplement and skincare companies know that youthfulness and staying young is right at the top of our wish lists don’t they? There is every powder and potion known to man, designed to smooth our skin, get rid of wrinkles and stop the ageing process on retail shelves all over the world.

A 2012 meta-analyis of over 70 clinical trials found antioxidant supplements are ineffective or even detrimental to health. The high doses of antioxidants found in supplements can lead to severe health problems.

Just Imagine Being Able to Get Youthful Benefits From the Food You Eat, Instead of Spending Money and Time on False Promises

Firstly, lets look at the science behind these little beauties.  Antioxidants exert their protective effects by preventing damage to body cells and tissues caused by free radicals and singlet oxygen. They sound very impressive but the easier way of remembering what antioxidants do is to picture the 1980’s Pac-Man game where the aim was to get the Pac-Man to gobble as many ‘ghosts’ as possible.

Pac-Man is the antioxidant and the ‘ghosts’ are the free radicals. Thanks to the ‘Pixels’ movie starring Adam Sandler released a couple of years ago, everyone remembers the Pac-Man.

There you have the essential role of antioxidants.

Now About Those Free Radicals

They are produced in the presence of:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Ultra-violet light
  • Radiation
  • Carcinogens
  • High PUFA diet
  • Exercise
  • Inflammation

We need those antioxidants to help mop up those free radicals and thankfully they are conveniently colour coded for easy identification.

Red

Good source of lycopene, which helps reduce the risk of prostate cancer in males.  Found in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, and ruby grapefruit.

Lycopene is among the most powerful antioxidants around. It is a carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red colour and occurs naturally in many red foods, including watermelon and pink grapefruit. Tomatoes do provide a rich source but tomato paste is even better as cooking and processing tomatoes further stimulates and concentrates the lycopene content.  There is no current recommended dosage but suggestions range from 5-35mg per day, which equates to at least one to two servings of tomatoes or tomato products per day.

Orange and Yellow

Good source of beta-carotene, which can protect against a range of cancers.  Found in pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, mango, paw-paw, apricots and rockmelon.

Green

Good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds related to beta-carotene that can protect our eyes as we age.  Found in broccoli, spinach, silver beet, capsicum, chilli, parsley and dark lettuces.

Blue and Purples

Good source of anthocyanin’s for antioxidant and antibacterial properties.  Found in grapes, blueberries, cranberries, beetroot and radicchio lettuce.

Brown

Good source of catechin’s for blood vessel health and of course, our happiness!  Found in some of our favourites such as tea, coffee, chocolate and red wine.

How Many of These Antioxidants Do We Need?

There are no recommended intakes just yet. We do know that it is preferable to consume antioxidants through food rather than supplements, because there are other nutrients in food that enhance their absorption. The average worldwide intake of fruit and vegetables at present is too low and we need to work toward the recommended intake of fruit and vegetables, which are 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables daily.

To keep our bodies zinging on the inside and out during winter, go grab some. Like now.

Peak Performance – What is your Go To Tip?

The area of peak performance has fascinated me ever since I attempted to cycle the long and hilly 96 km in the Sydney to Wollongong race, with disastrous results back in the 90’s.  My performance on the day was spectacularly dismal due to my poor preparation on the day and complete lack of knowledge but the hard lessons I learned that day have never left me.

Prior Preparation does Prevent Poor Performance (apparently)

Performance is a funny thing though – it means different things to each of us and there is no doubt that it is one thing to perform but quite another to achieve success. It is this link between performance and success that inspired me to discover what some of the worlds top performers are doing in their lives to enable them to be at the top of their field. Innate talent and motivation are common threads but quite often they have physical or mental tactics and strategies that they have developed and honed over the years to gain an advantage, enabling them to get to and stay at the top of their field.

Ready, Set…Go

This path of discovery led to me penning my second book, Ready, Set…Go and I was fortunate enough to interview around 30 people from all walks of life.  They are people that I admire for various reasons and I knew that they were making a difference in the world.

The people I interviewed included international artist Ken Done, award winning chef Rick Stein, Former Prime Minister John Howard, Boost Juice founder Janine Allis and award winning author Andy Griffiths amongst many other amazing people.

The thing is, you don’t need to be in the public eye to have the ability to inspire others by what you do. It is often regular folk going about their day to day life that are doing super amazing things in this world.

Over to you

I am absolutely positive that no matter who you are, you are expected to ‘perform’ from the minute your feet touch the floor each morning. Think of the myriad roles that you play each day at work, at home, as a friend and as a family member.

Each one of you taking the time to sit and read this blog on performance, have particular ways to manage your energy, time, well-being and well, performance.  

And I would love to know what they are.  

We can all learn so much from each other. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the ways in which this community right here manages their own personal performance?

Your tip could be specific to a particular area of your health like Former Prime Minister John Howard who advises us to “Establish an exercise routine and stick to it.” In his 11 year tenure leading Australia, Mr Howard missed only a handful of his daily 4km brisk walks and that was due to security risk.

Your tip might be one that can be applied to any area of life just like Olympic gymnast Lauren Mitchell’s

“Success is the sum of small parts, added up every day”

or perhaps like V8 Supercar Champion Craig Lowndes, who firmly believes that

“Focus and concentration are your friends”

How Do You Manage Your Personal Performance?

Whatever or however it is, I would love to hear about it.  And then, imagine if I gathered all of your tips and I collated them to share with everyone? A go to list that you can use in your own life perhaps?

All you need to do is share in the comments or send me an email at julie@juliemeek.com.au.  You can make yourself known or go under the radar and be anonymous – it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the sharing of the wisdom that you possess because it is truly valuable to us all.

Ready, Set…Go!

 

 

 

The Secrets to Making Meetings Matter

At the very mention of meetings, any meeting at all, I can feel myself getting twitchy and anxious.  The thought of sitting and using up precious time that I will never, ever get back fills me with dread.

I know I am not alone as there are many cynics out there who describe meetings as ‘the most frustrating exercises in pointlessness ever invented.’

Amen to them.

What Meetings?

Meetings frequent both our work calendars and our home lives all the time through all kinds of places like the P or C or the P and F, sporting associations, community groups and even your strata get together.  The time wasting nature of these gatherings do not discriminate. The good news is, there are ways in which we can make any type of meeting productive and worthwhile.  

What Makes Meetings Productive?

Master of Meetings, David Price suggests there are critical factors that can make meetings matter:

  1. Do you actually need to attend the meeting? Yes, it’s a warm and fuzzy feeling to be included but not every day all day.  
  2. Could the meeting be achieved in another way, either online or over the phone?
  3. All meetings must have a stated purpose or agenda – if not, the meeting is just an aimless gathering or opportunity for a social chit-chat
  4. Attendees should walk away with concrete next steps or action items
  5. The meeting should have an end time so that attendees don’t go rambling off topic and get diverted into totally useless conversation. Again.

Energy Management

How often have you spent your day rushing from one meeting to the next with barely a moment to dash into the restrooms?  

Managing energy and engagement should go hand in hand with the logistical structure of meetings and some useful strategies include:

Give me a break!

Any meeting that extends longer than 90 minutes should have a scheduled physical break.  Research on the way we manage our physical and mental energy shows that we work best when we cycle between using and renewing energy. Asking attendees to sit for longer than 90 minutes means that it is much more likely they are thinking about other things or switched off and thinking about nothing at all. Taking a 5-minute stretch or refreshment break increases blood circulation to the brain and body and acts as a pattern interrupt allowing you to refocus and re-engage.

Can everyone please stand-up?

With prolonged sitting being a major risk factor for all kinds of lifestyle diseases, why not make your next meeting a stand-up.  It’s a bit like a pop-up shop, you don’t need to have all your meetings like this but it is good to mix it up and spend some time away from the chair, plus it does shift the energy in the group.

Don’t do distraction

How often do you attend a meeting where everyone is busy looking at a device?  Now sure, sometimes the presentation is being streamed through laptops and tablets but would bringing the presentation back to a main screen enhance the engagement of your group? This could eliminate device distraction.  Your minute taker should be recording all action items for each attendee anyway.

Mint mentality

There are few meetings that do not feature the ubiquitous bowl of mints in the centre of the table.  These little sugary distractions disappear in the blink of an eye simply because they are there and quite frankly, often more exciting than the actual meeting.  The thing is, every time you mindlessly eat one, visualise 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of sugar entering your blood stream. They can really add up can’t they? If you are the meeting facilitator ask for the bowl to be removed and don’t forget to have water, tea, coffee and fresh fruit on hand instead.

 

Do you have a secret to share on how you manage meetings?

Legs Up the Wall – The Daily Yoga Pose for Instant Calm

Legs up the wall may seem like an odd phrase, but for me these words conjure up a feeling of calmness. Legs up the wall is one of the handful of yoga poses that I actually felt comfortable attempting when my LONG journey into this age old activity began several years ago.

Although the popularity of yoga continues to grow worldwide,  many people perceive that yoga is something potentially difficult and boring and would rather get stuck into a boxing session or other high cardio activity. Once upon a time this was me (although I do still love running, walking and stair climbing) but after finding my groove with yoga, I now understand that it is one of the best workouts available to us all.

I won’t lie and say that it has been all unicorns and rainbows.  It hasn’t and yoga and I have had a long history of shared emotions running both hot and cold. For many years I loved the idea of yoga but the actual reality of being able to do it, did not align with my physical (in)capability.  The turning point for me came with the right teacher, which then led to calm and acceptance of what my body could do, not what it couldn’t and the balance of these two is ever-changing believe me!).

In fact, I could never have imagined that today I would be running Yoga and Wellness Retreats in Italy!

We will get to legs up the wall in just a moment but there are three things I have learn’t through my yoga adventures, applicable to anybody trying to change any aspect of health and life that might just be handy to you right now:

What we want or need is not always available to us

I will never forget a yoga class that I attended some time ago when the teacher asked us to align ourselves into a position that looked even trickier than usual to me.

While we were all silently attempting the impossible (to me), the teacher announced that this particular pose was ‘not available to him today.’ I had to smother hysterical laughter at this point because for me, it was never going to be available, that day or any other. But you know what? We all have days when a particular behaviour, skill or practise is simply not available to us and sometimes we just need to accept it.  This doesn’t mean you have failed, it just means that investing your energy in something else that IS available to you and achievable today is a wiser choice. Plus, what is not available to you today might just be there for you tomorrow.

There is always turbulence in our lives

A howling easterly wind roaring around outside scattering dust and leaves every which way is one kind of turbulence but there are many ways disruption and distraction turn up in our lives.

The turbulence that we experience in our day-to-day lives can obviously be a lot more serious than a strong wind. It could be problems with your family, friends, health issues, financial concerns, job insecurity, moving house, relationship breakdowns or any one of life’s stressful events. All of these and more, represent turbulence. Quite often, turbulence or a shake-up in our lives is just what we need to take the first step toward real change for our physical and mental well-being. It is possible and often vital to acknowledge the turbulence and do it anyway.

Use your edge

A few years ago I was standing in line waiting to order in a cafe and noticed an interesting quote scribbled along the front of the coffee machine.  The author was anonymous but it simply stated,

“If you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much room.”

To me, living on the edge has a negative connotation.   However, renowned Yoga Master and author Erich Schiffman, talks about ‘the edge’ in another way in relation to stretching in yoga. Schiffman explains that, “If you don’t go far enough, there is no challenge to the muscles, no intensity, no stretch, and little possibility for opening. Going too far, however, is an obvious violation of the body, increasing the possibility of both physical pain and injury. Somewhere between these two points is a degree of stretch that is in balance: intensity without pain, use without abuse, strenuousness without strain. You can experience this balance in every posture you do. This place in the stretch is called your edge.”

But what about applying that edge to other aspects of our daily life, where we tend to remain within a familiar but limited comfort zone by staying away from both our physical and mental edges? Schiffman suggests that staying within that zone would be fine, “Except that as aging occurs these limits close in considerably. Our bodies tighten, our range of movement decreases, and our strength and stamina diminish. By consciously bringing the body and mind to its various limits or edges and holding it there, gently nudging it toward more openness with awareness, the long, slow process of closing in begins to reverse itself. The range expands as the edges change.”

Legs Up the Wall

What is this legs up the wall you say?  

This yoga pose would have to be one of the most accessible to us all and can be achieved anywhere and anytime as long as there is a wall.

I could explain to you in writing how to do legs up the wall but it would much easier and less confusing for you all if you watch Adriene in action here as she demonstrates this pose perfectly.

Legs up the wall is an excellent restorative pose that improves circulation and is instantly restful for your legs, feet and lower back.  It is also such a wonderful pose to do just before you go to bed for a restful sleep or even during the night if you wake up and can’t back to sleep.

It is also perfect during the day if you are at work and need to take a breather – close the door and take just 10 minutes to regroup and reset before tackling the next part of your day.

Resting in this position will greatly improve the flexibility in your hamstrings and is a stealthy way of getting some meditation in your day too – you can’t go anywhere else at the same time and it puts you in the perfect mindset to do so.

What about you – are you willing to try or are you already a master of the legs up the wall?

 

 

Make a Choice Not a Sacrifice

To make a choice not a sacrifice is an interesting decision.

Take extreme helicopter pilot, David Adamson as an example. David was born with an innate competitive streak and this streak was put to good use during his childhood in Dumfries, Scotland by kicking around a soccer ball. This Scottish pilot can also juggle 5 balls and ride a unicycle.

So how did that attract him to flying? David suggests he is no different to the majority of males who like loud, noisy machines, with helicopters fitting right into this category. Add a high degree of difficulty to fly properly, their capacity to do spectacular things in the air plus a hefty price tag and he was sold.

Up Close and Personal

David is not your average helicopter pilot. More of the extreme type, although by extreme I don’t mean dangerous. He specialises in low level filming (up close and personal to the water, ground, car, athlete or any moving object) for television productions, documentaries, commercials and sporting events. This requires an exceptional level of skill, endurance, stamina and mental focus. David is engaged by production companies like Disney, BBC, CBS, Foxtel, Discovery Channel, Lonely Planet, National Geographic plus all of the Australian media channels and has worked on a number of films including ‘Drift’ starring Australian actor Sam Worthington.

David’s skills are in demand internationally and it is not uncommon for him to get his passport stamped in a couple of different countries each week.

David’s expertise is highly sought after in the sporting arena including motor sports, adventure races such as Anaconda, the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Surf Ironman Series, Red Bull adventure events and Ironman Triathlon.  TV productions like internationally acclaimed Top Gear, Getaway, Postcards and Surfing the Menu love his work too. As a helicopter pilot, safety is the top priority and David is an Aviation Safety Consultant, Flight and Ground Instructor both in Australia and internationally for pilots, aircrew, general public and the film industry.

When I first saw a photo of David in his helicopter hovering a breath away from a surfer carving up a monster wave at the world-class surfing venue of Margaret River, I knew he would have some unique strategies for his own performance. 

The Committment

While training to be a pilot, David learnt a couple of lessons that he was able to apply to managing his own health when he needed them. Perseverance and commitment was key because the ballpark financial cost of training over a 6-month period was $70,000 AU and required a substantial loan. Getting his first job and runs on the board was very difficult and made all the more stressful with a weighty financial burden in the background. It was during this time that David had to frequently remind himself that although his desire to be a pilot often felt like sacrifice, it was in fact completely his choice.

Frequent and lengthy travel has directly impacted on David’s weight and well being in the past. To rectify these problems, he now consciously makes choices that will benefit his health such as choosing hotels based on the availability of a gym or pool or proximity to healthy food to maintain his fitness and focus.

Mental focus is clearly essential for David’s job as he has to integrate his expert flying skills, weather conditions, logistics of the event or ‘target’ and his own mental and physical well being. His calm persona is obvious in person and in the world of flying this is a highly desirable trait. To avoid stress, David plans ahead and ALWAYS has a contingency plan in place.  This has to be a bonus when in charge of a helicopter!

Which Road Will You Take?

Picture an Olympic year; everybody at home is on the edge of his or her seat glued to the big screen.  At the end of the race the athlete pants, “I’ve given everything to be here.”   It’s true; the overwhelming majority of Olympians have given everything to be one. For each of them, just qualifying for the Olympics has meant years of relentless training, often missing out on socialising with friends and family, continual juggling of work, school and other commitments and for many ongoing financial hardship. It’s not just the athlete but usually their parents and siblings too who have been there all the way supporting them, ferrying them to training and providing the financial back-up to enable to them to pursue their dream.

The big question here is whether these athletes have made a choice or a sacrifice.  A choice is an action you prefer over another action. You get to control it and we all make a myriad of choices each and every day without giving any thought to them.  Will I have cereal or toast for breakfast, what will I wear, shall I get up early and exercise or will I sleep in, should I drive the car or catch the train to work? 

You get to control each and every one of these choices and make a decision. Most of our regular choices fall into patterns and become part of our daily routine. Some of them, however, are important enough to define the quality of our lives.

And What About Those Sacrifices?

A sacrifice is something you “give up” because you’re forced to or because intellectually you know you should; but deep down, you still want it badly. You give it up because continuing would be worse…like smoking, spending time in the sun in the heat of the day without sunscreen or protective clothing, eating a family block of chocolate every day or drinking too much alcohol.

As an added bonus, sacrifices often come as a package deal with resentment and failure. Picture Australian Sally Pearson who won the gold medal in the 100m Hurdle event at the 2012 London Olympics by two-hundredths of a second. We know that there so many choices that this Olympic athlete made along the way to achieve her dream of being the best 100m hurdler in the world. This lightening fast athlete made a choice not a sacrifice to be the best in the world; nobody forced her to do it.

Elite athletes aside, for the everyday person, a health and well-being goal will be something you are contemplating or working toward, something you’d like to achieve that includes a degree of uncertainty and probably difficulty. It’s something you’re trying to accomplish…like losing those stubborn last five-kilo’s, finding calm, balance and happiness in life or starting that exercise class you have been wanting to join for ages. Goals are not a snap and are meant to challenge us and give us direction. 

Imagine This 

Imagine really wanting to do a 12km run that is conducted annually in your state.  You have never run in your life, unless you count the playground way back when. You are willing to train but you can’t fit it in because you are too busy. If you get up earlier, you don’t get enough sleep.  

If you attempt to train after work, you’re too tired. All of these things are choices and decisions that you have made, not sacrifices.  There are some things in your day that are non-negotiable like school and work but be honest with yourself, is there any fluff that you can clear out to make way for your running training?  Block that time out and then add in what you must do to achieve your dream of running 12 km.  If you are too tired to get up in the morning, stop watching TV and go to bed earlier.

Master Chef and MKR are not going to help you get up at 6am are they? If you know that distractions like kids, last minute deadlines, or just general fatigue often occur at the tail end of the day, don’t set yourself up for failure by scheduling training sessions at this time. Aim for the morning sessions and find a buddy to join you. While rest and recovery is essential in any training regime, it can be tempting to hit the alarm and roll over can’t it? Will just this once make a difference? Yes, because lots of ‘just this once’ add up to you not achieving your dream.

What will you do today, will you make a choice not a sacrifice?

 

 

Get Ready, Get Set and Go

Hello to my lovely community,

You may have been reading my blog for a few days, a few weeks or even a few years.  No matter how long you have been part of my gang – I thank you for being part of it.

If you have been here for a while you might have noticed that recently, my blog posts have been a little sporadic and infrequent at the best of times.

I really do love to write but over the last couple of years, I have written less and less as other parts of my business have taken up more and more time.  The thing is, one of the best parts of writing for me is interacting with my readers (that’s you) and providing you with solutions, ideas and inspiration in your quest for your best self and wellbeing.

Why?

I created this blog because I understand on a personal level how hard it can be to look after your mental and physical well-being.  Nobody is perfect all the time and only a robot would be able to eat well at every meal and snack, get eight hours of sleep every single day, not get stressed about anything at all and be blissfully mindful about every little bit of your life.

And that is why I am writing to you on a Friday afternoon as I am considering pouring a glass of wine (small I promise) to go with some lovely cheese as the week comes to an end.

This blog is about to be rebooted, reset and rejigged so that we can talk on the regular about all the aspects of living a healthy life that are important to you in a practical,  realistic way. Lets not forget that life can be busy, hectic, stressful and sometimes full of barriers that sometimes stop you from living your best life.

What?

Every week from here on, you will hear from me about my favourite recipes (obviously only quick and easy ones), new food products that you might like to try, fitness tips and tricks, mindset strategies, facts vs. fairytales and practical solutions on managing your sleep, stress and nutrition.

I’d like to hear about what tickles your fancy in the world of health and well-being and I’d like to give you inspiration and motivation, new information and hope that you can actually do this thing – all with a bit of humour, because really we all need that don’t we?

Lets do this!