Up, up and away

Tips and stretched for traveling – be prepared for your next holiday or work trip.

I love to travel and up, up and away here I go again with new places, new people and so many amazing adventures to experience. I have been very fortunate with some of the amazing places I have travelled to and believe me the list of where to go next is even longer!

As I prepare for my forthcoming adventure to New Zealand and Fiji, it got me thinking about all the little things I do before and during my travel to help my body survive. So, I thought I would share some of my insights.

You have all seen the reminders to move your ankles up and down when sitting on an aeroplane and you may be wondering what this little ankle movement is actually doing?

The first thing you need to understand is that, thanks to gravity, when we sit or stand, blood will pool in our feet and ankles. It is the job of your veins to help return this blood from our feet to our heart to be recirculated.

Unfortunately, our veins are not very good at this and need some help from the surrounding muscles.  By moving your ankle up and down, you are stimulating what is known as the muscle pump. The muscles within your calf and shin are contracting and relaxing over the top of the veins pumping the blood back towards your heart. When we are sitting still this can’t happen and the blood then pools in our ankles and feet, causing them to swell and potentially allowing clots to form.

When flying for more than a couple of hours, you are bound to find me walking around the cabin, doing laps of the aisles and stretching regularly wherever I can find some space –  usually towards the back of the plane.

Below are some of my favourite stretches to be used on a plane, and all are able to be completed standing with minimal space.

Plane suitable stretches

They are great to use for the rest of the trip too, keeping you feeling supple despite all the sitting you are bound to do, in cars, airports, planes, restaurants, etc.

We really do sit a lot when traveling!

Back on land, I like to use my wonderfully versatile spikey balls on my back, glutes and feet in the hotel room.

Great for rolling your feet, to release your plants fascia especially after a long day sight seeing.
Rolling your knee side to side once you've found a good knot is a great way to release the tension from a day on your feet.
If you need a little more pressure try sitting on the ball and moving yourself around until you find a good spot. Then relax and lower your weight on to the ball.
Alternatively use the ball on the wall. Lean your body weight on the ball and move your arm to massage over the top of the ball.

Want to know more about physically preparing yourself for your next holiday?

Then have a listen to this podcast, I recorded for Luxury Travel with Allen Suss of Travel Managers.

You can also get in touch with us at Simply Stronger. We can give you tips and exercises that will help you prepare to survive that next long-haul flight.

Sitting – is it really that bad?

We all do it … some for eight hours a day at work and then get into the car or on public transport to continue the trend for the commute back home.

So, what is it about this practice that is so problematic?

Despite the trend towards remaining stationary, we are actually built to move maybe not continuously but certainly regularly throughout the day. When we sit, we stay there for extended periods of time, generally looking at the same thing for most of that time. Whether this is working at a desk, driving (or another form of commuting), reading, watching TV, going to the cinema, the theatre or even watching sport – we sit still.

Our bodies are built to move, they want to move, and we train them to become good at remaining stationary.

I like to use the analogy of water 💧 .

 Picture a body of water, big or small – it doesn’t matter. The beautiful natural images that come to mind are those that flow and move constantly, rivers, oceans and lakes. However, when you picture puddles and still bodies of water – they are stagnant and unhealthy places where mosquitoes come to breed. Nearly 60% of our body is made up of water which presumably wants to move given that this is its natural state. Continuing with the analogy, by remaining still, the water in our bodies is stagnating. Obviously, this isonly an analogy with no basis in fact, but it does conjure up a strong image, don’t you think?

 

What can we do to improve our situation? No one is asking you to change jobs, move closer to your workplace and walk or ride a bike.

These are often very impractical solutions but there are ways of getting more movement into your day. Let us start by thinking about some of the ways in which we have developed technology to increase productivity and let’s be honest here – increases in productivity have been great advancements, yes, but they have also led to a much more sedentary lifestyle.

 

From construction equipment to computers, from sewing machines to (my personal pet peeve) leaf blowers, they have all made our lives much easier and have allowed us to advance in often incredible ways, yet they now also allow us to move so much less.

Now I’m not saying we need to build our homes by hand or sew our own clothes instead of shopping for them but what I am saying is look at the technological advancements in your life and see if you can take a step back.

Here are some simple ways to move a little more:

  • Walk and have a conversation instead of always calling or sending an email.
  • Take the stairs, not the lift.
  • Walk up the escalator rather than standing still, waiting to be carried.
  • If you must drive to work or the train station, try to park 500m away or more to ensure you do a little extra walking at the start and end of your day.
  • Sweep the floor, rather than always reaching for the vacuum.
  • Rake your leaves rather than blowing them into the street. Seriously I hate this invention but if you must use one then blow them into a pile and pick them up.

There are so many ways in which we can add a little bit more activity into our day!

We just need to stop and think a little.

Let us know some of your ideas in the comments below and help others to move their bodies a little more often.

To find out more about a personalised plan to increase your daily exercise contact Simply Stronger.

 

Coming soon….

In part two of Sitting – is it really that bad?,  we will look at the changes to our musculature due to this posture and the impact that can have on your body.

This little piece of plastic is worth so much more than you know!

Our collection of bread tags continues to build!

A few month ago I noticed a campaign to somehow turn bread ties into wheel chairs and I have to say it had me intrigued. So I decided to look into it further.

An amazing woman Mary Hunybun, in South Africa started an organisation in 2006 with the vision of helping people with disabilities to become more mobile, whilst also helping the environment. Since then she has developed a network of over 300 collections sights across, South Africa, Australia and America collecting enough bread ties to distribute 75 wheelchairs annually.   This in itself is no small feat, as it takes 200kg of bread ties to afford a wheelchair. 

Working towards our first 1kg
Bread Tags Collected - Woohoo 100%
Kilogram 2!
Here we go again. 100%
Kilogram 3
Now we are getting somewhere! 78%

How does it work?

The bread ties are collected and sent to South Africa, where they are then sold to recyclers that turn the high grade polystyrene into items like coat hangers, seedling trays and photo frames. The money raised through this process is then used to purchase wheelchairs for those in need. 

What a wonderful concept, taking an item that would ordinarily end up in landfill and turning it into someone useful. We felt we had to get involved and after only three months have managed, through the help of our clients friends and family to have already collected 731grams. 

While 200kg may very well be an unobtainable target for a single organisation like Simply Stronger, this program is yet another reminder that from small things, even something as small is a little bread tie, big things really do grow.

As exercise professionals we are all about setting achievable realistic goals, therefore we will be setting ourselves the goal of collecting 10kg of bread ties. Watch this space for updates on our progress.

10kg Goal
Making something from nothing! 23%

Hair today – Gone tomorrow

Easy come, easy go or so I like to think with regards to my hair.

This particular hair cut has been two years in the making……slowly, slowly growing my hair to the required 20cm of length.

Many thanks to the wonderful people at Sustainable Salons who collect the donated ponytails on behalf of Variety, who then turn them into wigs for children living through cancer treatment. It takes approximately six ponytails for each wig, so after my third donation I have contributed to half a wig!

A huge thanks has to go to Katherine of Liana Jane Hairdressing who first suggested I donate my hair via Sustainable Salons. As Kat was snipping away at the many small plaits she had created with my hair, I asked if they get many donations and amazingly Kat herself has collected four in the last month. She then regaled us with some of the statistics including the information that Sustainable Salons have now collected and donated over 43,000 ponytails and collecting ponytails is only a small part of what Sustainable Salons do.

 

You can check out their website to see more of what they do, but in short, they have helped Liana Jane and many other salons to become recycling havens. Liana Jane now recycle up to 98% of their waste which is just amazing!

Is your salon a sustainable salon?

http://www.ljhair.com.au/about.html

The first time I donated my hair the requirements were much stricter 30cm, no dye and less than 15% grey. Variety, however, simply want 20cm and have no stipulations as to the colour of your hair. The chances are the recipient will want a more interesting colour than the dark blonde my hair is and who could blame them. If you’re going to wear a wig why not make it fun with a bright pink, green, orange or blue perhaps.

Donating my hair is such an easy was to help someone else that I will never know. It grows at a steady rate and luckily is healthy and reasonably thick. Fortunately, I also enjoy wearing my hair both short and long and coming into summer, I am sure I’ll be happy for the shorter crop.

If you’d like to know more about Simply Stronger’s recycling campaigns including shoes  and bread tags  check out our other blog posts.

hair donation

If the shoe no longer fits

There has to be a better option to dispose of our worn-out shoes than just throwing them in the bin!

A sentiment I started to consider as I went through my third pair of runners in under a year. As some of you will be aware I completed the Oxfam Trailwalker in March this year which was a 100km walk to be completed in under 36 hours. My team and I  trained for over 8 months for this event, hence the increase in shoe obliteration. So, what could I do with all these shoes? They were not good enough to be donated to charity, the soles were worn down and the inner was moulded to my foot like an old pair of slippers. Then I started to wonder if there was a way to recycle the shoes, in part or as a whole?

Shoes can be recycled!

A little bit of research taught me that we can in fact recycle up to 90% of the shoe and not just our runners, but all shoes. The materials harvested from the worn-out shoes will then be used to make products such as gym mats or the flooring you find in kids play grounds – how amazing is that!​

After a conversation with the recyclers, Advanced Resource Recycling  I learned that within Australia we import over 100 million pairs of shoes each year –  that is 1 with 8 zeros after it!! And of the shoes destined for land fill they managed to recycle between 70-80,000 shoes in 2018.

 

At Simply Stronger we have vowed to help increase that number by becoming a collection point for dead shoes. To help in this effort, a gold coin donation with each pair of shoes helps both in the transport and recycling costs but is not essential and in the last month we have collected over 20 pairs of shoes. While this feels so very small and pales in comparison with the thousands of shoes recycled already, we have been buoyed by the idea that these shoes would ordinarily have been destined for land fill. We are committed to this campaign in an ongoing capacity and plan to track our progress, keeping you all informed as the numbers continue to rise.

Shoes collected
Changing the world one pair of shoes at a time 83%

If the shoe no longer fits – then turn it into something else!

References:

On unsplash.com

How strong are your bones?

Osteoporosis and its precursor osteopenia are sneaky little diseases, showing very few signs until someone has a fracture. How then can we know if we are at risk?

As we age the mineral density of our bones naturally decreases, due to hormonal changes reducing the strength of our bones. For women who have experienced menopause this is at an increased rate as the reductions in oestrogen speed up the process. However, men you are definitely not immune as the World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that one in three women and one in five men over 50 will experience and osteoporotic fracture.

  • 1:3 women & 1:5 men of 50 years of age are at risk of fracture.
  • Any of your 206 bones can be affected.
  • Osteoporosis and osteopenia are characterised by a loss of bone mineral density (BMD).
  • Exercise can help to improve the strength of your bones, reducing the risk of developing the disease and for those already living with reduced BMD, can slow the progress significantly.

Testing:

Through a DXA scan BMD is commonly measured at the hip and lumbar spine and upon request by your doctor they may also measure your wrist. The results from this test are then compared to that of healthy young adult.  

Bone Status

T-Score

Normal

≥ -1.0

Osteopenia

-1.0  -2.5

Osteoporosis

≤ -2.5

Severe Osteoporosis

≤ -2.5 & at least one fragility fracture

How can exercise help?

Loading your bones through resistance and body weight training are great ways of stimulating growth, making your bones stronger. As our muscles all connect to bones via tendons when we complete resistance training this pulls directly on the bones forcing them to adapt and get stronger.

Additionally, we can use our own body weight to stimulate this process also. Through walking, running, jumping, skipping and some other lower impact exercises,  we can create a vibration in our skeletal system that in turn stimulates an increase in BMD. 

It is important to remember that some of these exercises may be of too high an impact for some people living with Osteoporosis in its progressive stages. It is therefore very important to seek the advice of an exercise professional to guide you through this process safely.

At Simply Stronger we can tailor an exercise program which will not only improve your BMD, reducing your risk of Osteoporosis and Osteopenia and also reducing your risk of a fracture, simply by reviewing your balance. There are several systems within our bodies that impact our balance and through some simple testing, we can establish in which areas we can create the greatest improvements in your body. We even have a balance specific class, Simply Balance available to improve all these systems in a fun and engaging atmosphere.

References and useful website:

Skeletan photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

The Garvan Institute “Know your bones consumer report 2018” ; knowyourbones.org.au

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) – Osteoporosis snapshot

Osteoporosis Australia 

WHO scientific group on the assessment of osteoporosis at a primary health care level. 

Diabetes Expo Melbourne 2019

What a day we had hanging out with the masses at Melbourne’s Diabetes Expo for 2019, put together by Diabetes Victoria

Representing Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA) we had a table conveniently opposite the delightful cooking sessions, which was definitely a treat. 

The aim was to educate people about the benefits of exercise for those living with diabetes, and how to find an Exercise Physiologist if they wanted to have a more in depth conversation on how best to implement exercise into their day. 

We heard many wonderful stories of success from people who had used daily exercise in order to reduce their need for medications, to feel fitter and taking back control of their blood glucose levels. Of course along were the inevitable opinions of ‘I don’t have time for exercise’ or ‘I do enough already’.

You might be asking what does exercise actually do to help me with my diabetes?

  • Can reduce blood glucose levels and keep them low for up to 48hrs.
  • Increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which may reduce the need for some mediations.
  • Reduces HbA1c levels (your average blood glucose level).
  • Improves mood and wellbeing.
  • Can protect you against common co-morbidities that medication can not. 

Exercise considerations:

How much exercise do I need?

It is recommended that everyone completes at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. This can be a combination of resistance training like lifting weights or aerobic exercise such as, walking, running, cycling or swimming. Whatever form of exercise you choose needs to be at a moderate intensity, which means you want to be a little out of breath. As an example you could answer a question but not hold an ongoing conversation. To get the most benefit out of your exercise consider splitting it up over most, if not all, days of the week.

What type of exercise is best for me?

The truth of the matter is the best type of exercise is simply one that will get you moving. For some people that might be a daily walk, while others will chose to exercise in different ways throughout the week. Just remember you want to get your heart rate up and move well. For more guidance around how to exercise well and even have an exercise program designed specifically for you – contact Simply Stronger and we’ll get you on track.

When should I exercise?

It is important to understand the way your body responds to exercise. In particular how your blood glucose levels will change with different types of exercise and at different times of day in the same way you will have learnt how different foods affect this. As a general rule exercise will decrease your blood glucose levels, but the amount will vary from person to person. For this reason it is recommended to test your blood glucose levels before, during and after exercise to gauge your bodies response. 

 

Oxfam Trailwalker: 100km one step at a time.

I would like to start by saying a big thank you to everyone for their support in seeing Simply Stronger’s Oxfam Trail Walker team through the 100km walk. We finished the walk in an amazing 27:33hr which was a personal best for myself and very exciting. 

 

It was a tough challenge from the outset with one member struggling with a calf strain from about the 5km mark. We fought through and climbed over Mount Dandenong to meet our support crew in Olinda for a wonderful lunch and boy were we in need of some good food by then. Seven hours since breakfast and a mountain under us, the salad rolls really hit the spot and gave us the energy to go on. Continuing down the mountain we met up with our support crew in Lilydale, where Evan needed to retire after carrying his injury for the first half of the trail.  


Down to three we continued through the night, as it got darker, colder and disappointingly wetter. We were joined once again by our support crew with hot soup and fresh bread in Donvale. Thankfully the rain had stopped, so it was just cold now. Buoyed by the ever chatty Jack and Anthony we headed off into the night again, trying to get as many kilometres behind us before the sun came up. 

 

As we were heading in to the last rest point before the final stretch to the finish line the sun began to rise and with it our desire to finish. Body parts were aching, blisters continuing to grow and it seemed to only get colder. Thankfully Helen was there to meet us with fresh cooked porridge and fruit, along with blankets and she had even secured a table near some heaters. I can tell you we were very grateful.

 

With our bellies full we headed off for the final 12km, just as the rain started again in earnest. I have to say that by this point we didn’t really care, the finish line was in sight and a hot shower couldn’t be too far away after that. Coming into Fairfield we were greeted by what at the time seemed to be the steepest set of steps you could imagine. Our weary legs took them slowly to avoid sliding down to the finish line. We received an almighty cheer as we crossed the line. 100km done and over $5000 raised for Oxfam to aid in reducing poverty around the world, we are all very proud of our efforts. Will we do it again? Only time will tell, but the appeal is certainly there for me.