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5 Tips For A Comfortable Workout

5 Tips For A Comfortable Workout

5 Tips For A Comfortable Workout

For many people, finding the motivation to exercise on a continual basis can be difficult. However, this isn’t always for the reasons we assume. Typically, people attribute a reluctance to work out to laziness, a lack of dedication, or even inexperience. However, for many people the difficulty in sticking to a fitness routine is based in something much simpler: comfort. Exercise involves perseverance and hard work, and it is easier to manage when we feel comfortable and at ease. So with that in mind, here are five tips that can help you to stay physically comfortable as you go about your fitness routine.

1. Proper Shoes
Finding the right shoes for your workout is not simply about matching your activity (for example, purchasing running shoes for your cardio workouts). It also means finding the appropriate size, getting comfortable soles, and if necessary talking to a professional about the shape of your foot and your running style. Different shoes are designed for different feet, and if you often experience discomfort in your feet while working out, it may be because you have the wrong shoes.

2. Proper Eyewear
Some fitness discomfort is a result of improper eyewear. For example, some people who ordinarily depend on glasses opt to wear their glasses – or prescription eye goggles – while working out. However, these options can be cumbersome, and can also cause obstructed vision when they come into contact with sweat, outdoor elements, etc. If possible, consider trying Acuvue contact lenses for your next fitness routine. This option provides clear vision without physical hassle or distraction.

3. Music Compatibility
For some, workout discomfort simply comes about due to boredom. If you fall into this category, consider getting an armband and pair of athletic headphones, so that you can listen to music on your mp3 player while you exercise. This can keep you from getting bored and focusing on the pains or discomforts of some exercise.

4. Regular Hydration
This is a very basic tip, but it’s one that a shocking number of exercisers ignore. If you don’t stay hydrated before and during your workout, you will become dehydrated, and often sluggish and uncomfortable. Drinking proper amounts of water is not only healthier, but more comfortable.

5. Proper Clothing
Finally, perhaps the greatest proportion of workout discomfort is due to improper clothing. While it can be tempting to opt for the cheaper and simpler options, there is a reason that exercise clothing exists. Options like dry-fit tshirts that help to manage sweat and let the body breathe, or compression undergarments are designed to keep the body comfortable through sweat and strenuous exercise. A few outfits geared specifically toward your exercise can make a great difference.

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Our Top Ten Health & Fitness Tips

Exercising regularly and being fit can have a very positive effect on your health and well being from giving you more energy to developing a stronger immune system. Getting fit and staying fit isn’t always easy though as there is so much information available regarding exercise that sometimes you can get bogged down in all the details so follow these simple tips to get the most from your exercise routine.

1) Do your cardio
20 minutes of cardio three times a week will improve your fitness, can make you healthier and help you control your weight. Exercise at a moderate intensity of 60 to90% of your maximum heart rate for best results.

2) Lift weights
Weight training will strengthen not only your muscles your bones and ligaments. Regular strength training can improve your posture, improve your muscle tone and help with weight loss by elevating your metabolism.

3) Stretch
Regular stretching will stop your muscles from shortening as you age and may reduce the likelihood of suffering from back pain caused by spending too much time sitting down.

4) Develop your core
A strong core (the muscles that make up your abdominals and lower back) will make everyday activities like lifting and doing chores much easier and can keep your back healthy and pain-free.

5) Do activities you enjoy
Choose activities that you really enjoy and look forward to doing. If you don’t like running then try walking, dancing or cycling. Not so keen on going to the gym to do weight training? Try working out at home using body weight exercises. You are more likely to stick with an exercise routine you enjoy.

6) Wear the right shoes for the right activity
Wearing the wrong shoes (e.g. hard soled shoes for running) may increase your chances of suffering an injury. The right shoes can make all the difference to your enjoyment of your chosen exercise by making sure you are comfortable.

7) Drink plenty of water
When we get exercise we produce sweat to keep us cool. It’s very important to replace this lost moisture by drinking plenty of water. Aim for 6 to 8 tall glasses a day plus extra if you are exercising hard to avoid becoming dehydrated.

8) Eat plenty of unprocessed fruit and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and fibre, all of which are vital to your health. Cutting down on sugary processed foods and eating more fruit and vegetables will mean you are likely to get even more benefits from your exercise.

9) Exercise with friends and family
Make fitness a family affair and make exercise sociable! Working out with other people can be a real joy and increase your motivation and exercise adherence.

10) Set fitness goals
Training without a defined purpose may cause you to lose motivation so try setting some goals to keep you focused.  Make your goals personal and time bound to help keep your efforts on track.

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F1 car

Lewis Hamilton’s Fast Fitness

With the Grand Prix series in full swing and the British Grand Prix high on the agenda, John Shepherd finds out how Lewis Hamilton gets fit

Interview by: John Shepherd

JS: How long does your preparation work off-season last?

LH: My training comprises of about four months of strength endurance cardiovascular endurance tests, musculoskeletal tests, body scans and nutritional consultations. The programme is designed to build up physical fitness that will last throughout the year.

(Lewis explained that in a typical week he would do four strength and conditioning sessions and three CV workouts. For strength his main areas of focus are: neck, core/back/glutes, shoulders, legs. Running is the mainstay of his CV work. He’ll also do speed and agility work)

JS: Do you work within designated heart rate zone for your CV training? 

My aerobic training lasts up to three hours, targeting a heart rate between 130-150 beats per minute. I’ll also do some interval training lasting 10-30 minutes with my heart rate going above 165bpm.

JS: You work a lot on your core, why is this? 

 LH: You have to have very, very good core stability.  It’s not about having the biggest muscles, core stability is the most important to control the forces that you have going around your body…… it’s all about endurance strength so we do lots of repetitions.

For back strength my weapon of choice is the medicine ball. I do an exercise that involves lying on your back lifting your back off the ground and throwing the 10kg medicine ball with both hands as far as possible.

JS: F1 drivers have to have strong necks, how to do you develop this strength?

This is the muscle that needs to be strongest. My neck grows throughout the year and then shrinks towards the end of the year (due to the demands of training and the F1 season. Ed). The training for the neck is quite simple.  We have a helmet and we put a weight on the top – five or ten kilos.  You can then do the exercise anywhere, which is great so you don’t have to go to the gym.  You just sit on the edge of the bed, for example, just holding your head up.  I do repetitions, forwards and backwards without moving any other part of my body. I do lots and lots of repetitions so many until you can’t do them anymore (these can total 1500 in a day. Ed).

JS: Are there any other specific to driving exercises that you do?

 I use a 15kg disc weight as a steering wheel and sit in a ‘V’ position. This requires the core to work and strengthens the shoulders. 

JS: Tell us a bit more about the specifics of your programme….. 

LH: Keeping my legs in good condition is easy, with all the running, (but) we also do lots of squats.  I hate squats… they kill! But with all the running, where you’re working your quads predominately, it’s important to also have good hip-flexor and glute strength.

JS: Why do you do speed work – aren’t you more concerned with endurance to last through the two hour races?

 LH: Quick reactions … need practice. I develop these through a series of speed and agility exercises. They include speed ladders, sprints and plyometric exercises such as jumping and hopping.

 JS: Do you enjoy all your training?

 LH:  I enjoy training.  I enjoy feeling fit.  If I get up in the morning and I go for a run past the lake when I come back, I feel so refreshed …. it’s like the most positive feeling for the beginning of the day.  



F1 Fitness – Lewis Hamilton

165 hours of training

More then 60 training sessions

The equivalent of training non-stop for 24-hours a day for a week

450k of running – the equivalent of running just under six laps of each of

the 17 race tracks in the 2009/10 Grand Prix season

Up to 750Kg of shoulder shrugs per sessions – 10 times his own body weight

Stats relate to Lewis’ preparatory training



Thanks to Reebok for the interview with Lewis: For more information go to:

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The Success Quotient – reach your fitness goals

GraphAre you getting the results you deserve from your exercise time? Are your workouts effective, productive and enjoyable? Are you moving towards not just reaching your fitness goals but exceeding them? No? Well you aren’t alone. Many people put in their time in the gym and eat well but find themselves treading water rather than steaming ahead. Why? Exercise and eating well are only two parts of the equation – when it comes to getting into great shape, what you do during the rest of the 168 hours that make up the week is as important as what you do in the gym.



To improve your chances of success and reaching your fitness goals, answer the following 30 questions honestly, making note of any shortcomings or areas that need attention….

For each question use the following scoring system…

Always = 10
Mostly = 8
Frequently = 5
Rarely = 3
Never = 0

Look at each 10 question section individually to see how you are faring exercise, nutrition and recovery wise and then add up the score for all 3 sections, divide by 3, to give you your combined score…

Section 1 – Training

If you are taking the time to exercise, it makes sense to do it right. If you score badly in this section, make some changes so that unproductive workouts become a thing of the past!

  1. Free weight/bodyweight exercises make up most of my training volume
  2. Compound exercises make up 80%+ of my training volume
  3. I use proper exercise techniques in all my training (minimal cheating)
  4. My training programme reflects my goals and weakness
  5. I change my programme at least every 6 weeks but stick with it long enough to give it chance to work
  6. My programme is balanced to ensure all major muscles are trained equally and I perform not just the exercises I’m good at but also the ones I’m not good at
  7. I refrain from performing low quality workouts e.g. junk miles, too much easy cardio etc.
  8. My training is consistent and I seldom miss workout except when absolutely necessary
  9. I perform adequate appropriate CV and flexibility work for my goals and my health

Section 2 – Nutrition

Without good nutrition not only your fitness but your health may suffer. Even if your training is perfect, without adequate nutrition your body is unlikely to benefit from exercise.  Like putting the right fuel in a high-performance car, eating a well balanced diet will ensure the machine runs smoothly and optimally.

  1. I only eat junk food one or fewer times per week
  2. I consume adequate quality protein according to my requirements
  3. I consume adequate carbohydrates according to my requirements
  4. I avoid low quality/highly refined foods as much as possible
  5. I try to minimise my consumption of processed foods, sugar and trans fats 
  6. I consume fruit and/or vegetables with every meal
  7. I eat 4-6 quality meals a day (not just snacks)
  8. I consume a post workout meal within 15 minutes of my training session
  9. I keep my alcohol intake within healthy levels

10.  I drink 2 or more litres of plain water a day plus 250ml per 15 minutes of exercise

Section 3 – Recovery

To benefit from exercise, the body must be allowed to recover. For recovery to occur we need to be in a neutral state called homeostasis which means all the systems of the body are in balance. If our body is out of balance e.g. because of too much stress or too little sleep, its recovery ability will be impaired and, as a result, progress is likely to be slow or possibly non-existent. Work with your body – not against it!

  1. I try to keep my stress levels to a minimum
  2. I sleep 8-10 hours a night
  3. I go to bed no later than 11pm
  4. I get a sports massage at least once a month
  5. I am on time with work tasks and/or studies
  6. I take time to relax during the week – not just at weekends
  7. If I drink alcohol, I do so in moderation
  8. If I am feeling over tired, injured or unwell, I will refrain from training until I feel better
  9. When my stress levels are high, I reduce my training intensity/volume

10.  I perform a light CV cool down post training

Add the scores for each section together and divide by 3 to give you your Success Quotient percentage…

90-100% – Excellent!
You are virtually bound to make good progress and, with continued determination and patience, should have little trouble reaching your health and fitness goals.

70-89% – Adequate
Some of your practices are maybe holding you back and whilst you may well reach your fitness goals, it’s likely that it’ll take you a lot less time if you address the highlighted shortfalls

40-69% – Poor
Your progress and ultimate success is being hampered by poor nutrition, training and recovery habits. It’s very unlikely you’ll make significant progress towards your fitness goals unless you make some radical changes to your lifestyle

0-39% – Danger!
Not only will you fail to make any significant progress, your performance is very likely to decline with possible negative effects on your health and well being. It’s time to make some radical changes for the better before it’s too late!

So, now you know what you need to do to increase your chances of success. If you need to make changes, avoid trying to make too many at the same time. Introduce a couple of changes at a time to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Lifestyle changes can take a while to “stick” so make it as easy as possible by making simple changes initially and working up to bigger changes once you have built up some momentum. Finally, make sure the changes you make fit as easlily as possible into your current lifestyle as if they don’t, it’s highly likely that you’ll soon revert back to your original behaviours.

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The Seven Stages of Goal Setting

Goal setting is an important part of health and fitness and can help keep you motivated. Exercising without a goal is like going on a journey without a map–you don’t know where you are going or why. If you are trying to lose weight, get fitter, improve your health or build muscle, setting a goal will make your actions more focused and improve your exercise adherence. When setting goals, use the acronym SMARTER, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Recorded, Time bound, Enjoyable and Revisited, to make your goals more structured.

What exactly do you want to achieve? Rather than generic goals such as feeling fitter, having more energy, or losing weight, set goals which are specific. For example, if you want to lose weight what you would ideally like to weigh. A specific fitness goal could be a distance you want to be able to run or a weight you’d like to be able to lift. Specific goals will help you to focus you efforts.

Make your goals measureable. Fitness goals could be a distance you want to be able to run whereas a weight goal could be the number of pounds you’d like to lose. Health goals could include measures of blood pressure, cholesterol levels or blood glucose. Whatever your goal, try to apply a numerical value to it so you can measure your progress.  

A non-runner setting the goal of running a marathon in 6 weeks time, whilst being specific and measureable, is not very realistic. Make sure that your goals are challenging but not impossible. Set yourself up for success by making sure your goals achievable. Enhance the achievability of your goals by trying to predict potential obstacles and devise methods to overcome them. For example, if you can’t make it to the gym what exercise can you do instead? If you forget to take your lunch to work, what healthy food can you purchase as a replacement?

Write you goals down. You don’t have to share them but doing so can aid in motivation. Keep referring to your goals whenever your motivation starts to diminish to remind yourself what you are working towards. You may find it beneficial to stick your nutritional goals to your refrigerator or your exercise goals to your exercise bike. Taking before and after pictures can also be a motivational way to record your progress.

Time Bound
Set a date by which you would like to achieve your goal. By applying a deadline, you will be more focused. Working towards a goal without a definite deadline can reduce your commitment and motivation as there will be no urgency. However, make sure your timeframe is realistic and achievable. 

Some sacrifice will be necessary in pursuit of your goals but if you find the process wholly unpleasant, your chances of success will be significantly reduced. For example if your new diet consists of foods you don’t enjoy, it’s unlikely you’ll stick with it for long.  Make sure you can enjoy the process and well as the end result.

Periodically revisit your goals, especially if they are long term. You may find you need to revise them to account for external factors you failed to consider initially. Think of this as fine-tuning which will increase your chances of success. 

Next Step
Now you know what a SMARTER goal is, grab some paper and jot yours down. Then, look at your current training and eating and decide is your current routine taking you towards your goals or are you shooting arrows off target? Change your training and diet so they drive you towards your goals and not off in another direction. Start your new goal directed nutrition and exercise plan on Monday and enjoy the fact you are taking positive steps towards achieving the levels of fitness and health you have set for yourself!

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7 strategies for developing the exercise habit

I am a life long exerciser – I can honestly say that I have been exercising all of my adult life (some 20 years) and for a fair amount of my childhood too. During that time, my efforts have been consistent, regular and productive. As a result I have achieved a reasonable level of success in many sports ranging from rugby to trampolining, to athletics to rock climbing.

The one thing that has been a constant companion throughout this long training career is I have always needed to find ways to motivate my self. It has never been easy to drag my self into the gym at 6am, or out to run at 10pm but somehow, almost every time, I have done it.

Without realizing it, I made exercising a lifelong habit and now enjoy the fruits of those endeavors – above average muscle mass, lower than average body fat, sufficient strength for all everyday activities, muscular endurance which allows me to perform physical tasks for prolonged periods of time, adequate CV fitness that allows me to run about as far as I will ever want to, not to mention lowered incidence of illness and disease compared to my peers, high energy levels and the luxury of knowing I will probably enjoy these benefits long into my twilight years.

People often say to me “oh but it’s so easy for you!” but I can assure you it isn’t. Training never gets any easier – that’s a fallacy! You merely get fitter and work harder. I feel the same discomfort as a beginner exerciser, get out of breath in the same way a unfit person would and weights feel heavy to me as they would to a person with less strength. I just have a greater work capacity that allows me to work at higher levels of output – however, it’s still as hard as the first time I ran around the block as an eight year old training for my first sports day. And yes – that feeling of sore muscles beginners get after starting a new exercise routine (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS) – I get that too … at least a couple of times a week!

Everyday, there are things I would rather be doing than sweating in the gym or panting out on the road, like watching TV, reading, sleeping, meeting my friends or just chilling out eating junk food…but the difference between me and a non-exerciser is that I “just do it” to quote Nike. Exercise has become a habit and a vital part of my day just like eating, sleeping and breathing.

The hardest part about exercise is getting off the couch, or getting out the front door, or away from what ever place you are drawn to by an invisible gravitational pull designed to stop you being fit and healthy. Once you’ve broken away from that place – the rest is easy…or relatively anyway!

So – how do we establish a routine that will eventually become a habit? Well, I have a number of suggestions which may help.

Remember, it takes 3-6 months of concerted, regular effort for something to become habitual, so don’t go expecting any quick fixes but with some application of effort and, dare I say it, discipline, exercise adherence is a real possibility and developing the skills to be self motivated are yours for the taking…we just need to get through that first few months…

1) Set goals. Why do you want to get fit? Is it to lose weight, look good on the beach, drop a clothing size, be healthier? get stronger? What ever it is, write it down. Show it to people, tell people about you goal, explain what you are trying to achieve. The point of this exercise is to give you focus. Every workout missed or every day off your healthy eating plan puts you a day further away from achieving what you want from your time spent exercising. Make sure your goals are realistic and achievable in a reasonable time frame. If necessary break your main goal into “micro” goals that you can tick off on a regular basis, e.g.


Main goals Micro goals
Lose 2 stone Lose ½ pound a week
Run a marathon Eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day
  Exercise 5 times a week
  Get 7-8 hours sleep a night


2) Write a pro and con decision list. What have you got to gain versus what have you got to lose. If you ever feel your resolve waning, revisit this document and remind yourself what you have given up in return for all the benefits you are working towards, e.g.


Pros Cons
  • Look better
  • Half an hour less sleep
  • Lose weight
  • Have to be organized
  • Feel fitter
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Have more energy
  • Eat plainer foods


After reviewing the above lists it should be apparent that the minor cons are outweighed by the greater pros and should serve as a reminder that the decision made is a worthwhile one.


3) Make a plan and stick to it. Getting fit is a journey, and to successfully complete a journey you often need a map. By planning how to get from A to B, we can prepare for change and give ourselves a route to follow which will allow us to progress along our chosen path without having to worry about losing our way or getting distracted. Remember the old adage – “prior preparation prevents poor performance!” To help keep on the straight and narrow, consider the following points…



  • Plan your workout times – treat them as appointments and stick to them.
  • Have a back up plan in case you are unable to exercise at the time you wanted to – if you cant go to the gym, what can you do instead? If it’s raining, where else can you workout? Cover your bases! Have alternatives ready to cover as many eventualities as you can envisage.
  • Plan your weekly food intake and shop accordingly. One of the truths of diet and nutrition is that if you have junk food in your cupboard, you will eat it. As a result, make sure that you have plenty of healthy food in your cupboards and that includes snacks.
  • Make sure you carry adequate food and water with you so you don’t have to rely on grabbing a snack at work – prepare much of your days food the night before
  • Tell other people about your plans so they don’t accidentally interfere with your efforts to adopt a new healthy lifestyle.


4) Recruit a network of supporters. Why suffer alone!?!? Ask friends, neighbors, family and friends to assist you in your goals. Seek out like minded people to act as training partners, get support from those closest to you, join one of the many web based groups that can offer both support and information to help you on your way is a great place to start!). The main point is that you don’t have to “go it alone”. For some people this might mean hiring a personal trainer, or joining a group exercise class or it could just mean you work out with a neighbor. Whatever support method you choose, your efforts will be easier with someone else in your corner.


5) Keep accurate training and diet logs. Write it down! Nothing motivates like success…but to judge success we need to see where we started. By keeping track of workout performance, dietary trends and physical measurements we can see when we improve. Sometimes we fail to see our improvements because they are, on a day to day basis, so small but overtime, these small improvements will add up to noticeable changes in body composition, bodyweight, fitness levels etc. Often, someone who hasn’t seen you for a while will comment on your dramatic weight loss or improved muscle tone – they haven’t seen you in a while so the changes seem great whereas to you, seeing yourself in the mirror on a daily basis may not have spotted much in the way of changes at all.


6) Don’t be afraid to fall off the wagon. Even with the very best planning, goal setting and support network sometimes things just go wrong – life gets in the way. The key when this happens is to not let it phase you for too long and to pick up where you left off as soon as possible. These disruptions in routine are not failures, nor are they enough to undo all of your previous good works but unless you jump back on the wagon as soon as possible, they can be the start of the slippery slope back to our previous physical state and a lot of hard work wasted. Learn from whatever caused this disruption to your planned routine and take measures to try to minimize the chances of a similar disruptions happening again. Its kind of cheesy but some say that to FAIL is the First Action in Learning and so long as we take something positive away from a failure, then it was not a wasted opportunity.

7) Choose things you like. By using the above 6 points, we can make exercise adherence much more likely, but if we choose activities we don’t enjoy or foods we don’t like, it becomes increasingly doubtful we will succeed in reaching our fitness or diet goals. There are many options for us to choose from and it is vital we chose things we are going to enjoy as much as possible. Why make things harder than they need to be? The old saying “it doesn’t have to be hell to be healthy” is a good one to adopt as a diet and exercise mantra. So…don’t like running? Try cycling. Not so keen on the gym? Join an exercise class. Don’t like fruit? Make fresh fruit smoothies or juices. There are many ways to skin the proverbial cat, so spread you net wide and select activities and foods that slot as seamlessly into your lifestyle as possible.


So, in conclusion: set goals, note down decision change pros and cons, make a plan and stick to it, recruit a support network, keep food and training diaries, don’t worry if you make mistakes (try, try and try again!), and choose foods and activities you enjoy. Following these simple guidelines won’t turn you into an exercise addict overnight but will help you to become a habitual, self motivated exerciser and lead you towards a long and productive health & fitness lifestyle.




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Grow old – nope

The Effects of Aging

As a younger man, my body was all but indestructible, or so I thought. I could train hard every day, party hard every night and still get up ready to pound the roads or hit the iron early the next day. Every injury was all-but ignored or worked around and rest days were rare. Training sessions were long, intense and frequent. Overtraining wasn’t part of my vocabulary and, despite doing everything “wrong”, my body thrived. I even set my lifetime personal best for 10 miles after no sleep and suffering a hangover!

Sadly, those halcyon days of physical indestructibility were relatively fleeting and by my late twenties and early thirties I discovered that for every hard workout I endured I needed to make sure I put back into my body what my training was taking out. It was necessary to switch my focus from training quantity to training quality. Now, in my mid-forties, I know I have a finite amount of energy and recovery resources available and that I must respect these limits. If I push too hard too often the wheels soon fall of my training wagon. So what happened? Sadly, the effects of aging have finally begun to catch up with me.

Like death, taxes, wet English summers and political scandals, aging is one of life’s inevitabilities. While some of us age more gracefully and slowly than our contemporaries; the result of good genetics combined with a healthy lifestyle, we will all one day experience old Father Time tapping on our shoulders and reminding us that, physically at least, our best days are behind us. Chances are that, like me, your first age-related rude-awakening will come when you have to bend down to pull on your socks and hear an involuntary groan coming from your knees, hips and/or lower back. It’s then you realize that from now on, your training is more about halting decline than scaling new fitness heights.

The Causes of Aging
Aging is an immensely complicated cascade of physiological changes that occur within your body. While life extensionists are quick to point a finger at a small group of specific lifestyle factors such as over eating, exposure to microwaves or excessive use of plastics, all of which allegedly influence the rate at which we age, the truth is that a great many factors are responsible for aging; both physiological and environmental. Some of the changes associated with aging can be minimized by specific exercise or nutritional regimes but they only really slow the inevitable decline we will all experience.

The Physiology of Aging
Your endocrine or hormonal system is essentially the governor of all but a few of the metabolic functions of your body. Hormones tell your cells and therefore tissues, organs and systems how to behave. Hormones are produced by groups of cells called glands and glands tend to shrink as we get older. This means that levels essential hormones such as oestrogen, testosterone and growth hormone decline as we get older. Hormones can be classified as anabolic or catabolic. Anabolic hormones build and repair while catabolic hormones break down and destroy. A reduction in anabolic hormone production means that the stresses of daily life go unchecked and tissue breakdown outweighs tissue building. This is one of the primary reasons that, as we age, it takes longer to recover from injury, illness and heavy exercise.

Many of the physical changes associated with aging can be attributed to hormones – specifically the reduction of anabolic hormone production. Our inevitable physical breakdown is simply a matter of catabolism outpacing anabolism or breakdown outpacing growth, recovery and repair. In essence, our bodies just wear out.  

Changes associated with increased catabolism and decreased anabolism include muscle atrophy, reduced functional strength, increased body fat (middle age spread!), decreased bone mass, reduced maximum heart rate, slower digestion, arthritic joints, loss of muscle flexibility and joint mobility. Peak muscle strength and bone mass gradually decline after the age of around 50 although that decline can be minimized with regular resistance training.

In addition, mitochondria, the cells responsible for producing the essential energy-yielding compound ATP, reduce both in size and number. This means that older bodies often tire sooner than younger bodies. This is especially true regarding high intensity exercise. Interestingly, as you age, powerful type two fast-twitch muscle fibres start to morph into slow-twitch type one fibres which means that although strength tends to decline with age, muscular endurance may actually increase. This is one of the reasons that many feats of endurance such as ultra-distance running are dominated by older athletes.

External Factors That Affect the Aging Process
Although aging is the result of the inevitable, natural, slowing down of numerous metabolic processes, there are number of things that can increase the speed at which you age. Needless to say, limiting or eliminating these age accelerators will not keep you young forever. Your individual genes play an important role in the rate at which you age but doing your best to minimize your exposure to these age accelerating factors might just help make your golden years more productive and enjoyable.

Age Accelerators – Free Radicals
Free radicals are unbalanced molecules that contain unpaired electrons in their outer shells. Also known as ROS or Reactive Oxygen Species, free radicals are produced naturally as a result of aerobic metabolic processes and are another reason we age. Ironically, the very fact we need oxygen to survive is also the reason we age. Five percent of all consumed oxygen “goes bad” and results in ROS formation. The very stuff we need for life also results in our demise! Holding your breath will not reduce ROS formation but keeping stress levels as low as possible, not smoking, limiting your exposure to toxins, moderating sun exposure and avoiding pollutants will.

ROS are responsible for many of the changes associated with aging. ROS production is linked to stress, smoking, pollution, sun bathing and a poor diet. I bet you know at least a few people who look “older than their years” and now you know why!

The following are attributable to the effects of ROS

  • Decreased skin elasticity leading to increased and deeper wrinkles
  • Macular degeneration  leading to age-related reduced vision
  • Degeneration of synovial fluid producing membranes leading to drier, less mobile joints
  • Reduced blood vessel elasticity leading to increased blood pressure and lowered maximal aerobic fitness
  • Reduced muscle, tendon and ligament elasticity leading to reduced range of movement

Exercise and Free Radicals
Ironically, exercise increases ROS production. Increased mitochondrial activity and muscle ischemic reperfusion injury both increase free radical production. Mitochondrial activity describes the taking in of fuel and the production of ATP. When you exercise, mitochondria must work much harder than usual to provide your muscles with the necessary energy to power you through your workouts. Like a furnace burning coal, the more fuel you process, the more waste products are produced. In the case of increased mitochondrial activity, the more energy you need for movement, the greater the production of ROS. Mitochondrial activity is highest in cardiovascular and endurance training.

Before you heavy weight trainers start to congratulate yourselves on hitting the weights instead of pounding the pavements thinking that you have escaped the threat posed by ROS – think again! When you contract your muscles to lift heavy weights, blood flow is essentially shut off for a split second and this creates a significant build up in blood pressure. The blocking off of blood flow is called ischemia. As your muscles relax, blood flows rapidly back into your muscles. This is termed reperfusion. Ischemic reperfusion injury is the cellular trauma caused the on again/off again flow of blood through your muscles. The result? ROS.

Before you decide to live a life of sloth in an attempt to put of your inevitable demise, it’s important to note that exercise also results in an increased production of anti oxidative enzymes which neutralize ROS. These enzymes counteract many of the harmful effects of ROS and include Super Oxide Dismutase (SOD), Catalase, Methione Reductase and Glutathione Peroxidase (GPX). Anti oxidative enzyme production increases with exercise performance so you can forget using not exercising as an excuse for life extension! In fact, exercise provides the most effective antidote to aging and can help stave off many of the degenerations associated with the advancing years. The old joke of “you only have so many heart beats to spend in a life so don’t waste them exercising” is exactly that – a joke.

Longevity versus Quality of Life
It wasn’t that long ago, at least in evolutionary terms that, if you become weak, ill, injured or otherwise unable to fend for yourself, you would be left in your cosy cave to expire at your leisure. If you were unable to physically contribute to the hunting and scavenging essential for primitive survival then, unfortunately, it was time to cash in your metaphorical chips. Chances are that, right up to a short time before your ultimate demise, you were fit and strong and healthy. As soon as you were unable to catch food to eat or fight off predators, your days were numbered. Chronic diseases didn’t really exist in those days and many of the conditions that now plague modern man such as obesity, diabetes and arthritis were not the global epidemics that they are today. In fact, many of the diseases that plague modern man are a direct result of our longer lives. For example, Stone Age man didn’t suffer from degenerative diseases like CHD and osteoarthritis simply because his body never got the chance to accumulate the necessary stress required to bring on these sorts of chronic conditions.  Pre-industrialised life may have been brutally hard, dangerous and comparatively short but, one can argue, quality of life was much higher. Our ancestor’s lives burned bright and short whereas the life of modern man tends to burn longer but much less brightly. Modern medicine and surgical procedures are now able to prolong life significantly but is a long life necessarily that desirable especially if life quality is low?

In part two of this series on aging, we will examine strategies, both nutritional and physical, that may result in not a longer life but certainly one that is more productive.

Posted in Fitness, Mind, Nutrition4 Comments


Massage 101

Massage – an introduction and overview of the oldest form of medical care
Massage is the oldest and simplest form of medical care, outdating even Chinese acupuncture. In Eastern cultures, massage has been practiced continually since ancient times. A Chinese book from 2,700 B.C. recommends ‘breathing exercises, massage of the skin and flesh, and exercises of hands and feet” as treatment for numerous physical and emotional complaints. It was one of the principal methods of relieving pain for ancient Greek and Roman physicians and its well documented that Julius Caesar received a daily massage to treat his joint pain. “The physician must be experienced in many things,” wrote Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, in the 5th century B. C., “but especially in massage for massage can bind a joint that is too loose, and loosen a joint that is too rigid.”

Doctors such as Ambrose Pare, a 16th-century physician to the French court, praised massage as a treatment for various ailments including “ailments of the head and the heart and those of the legs”. Swedish massage, the method most familiar to Westerners, was developed in the 19th century by Swedish doctor, poet, and educator Per Henrik Ling. His system was based on a study of gymnastics and physiology as well as techniques borrowed from China, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Physiotherapy, originally based on Ling’s methods, was established with the foundation in 1894 of the Society of Trained Masseurs. During World War I patients suffering from physical injury and shell shock were treated with massage. Saint Thomas’s Hospital, London, had a department of massage until 1934. However, later breakthroughs in medical technology and pharmacology eclipsed massage as physiotherapists began increasingly to favor electrical instruments over manual methods of stimulating the tissues. Whilst these technological advancements increased the number of patients that could be treated in a given time, massage was still the preferred method and achieved the best results.

Massage is now used in intensive care units, for children, elderly people, babies in incubators, and patients with cancer, AIDS, heart attacks, or strokes. Most Eastern and Western hospitals have some kind of bodywork therapy available, and it is frequently offered in health centers, drug treatment clinics, and pain clinics – such are its wide reaching benefits. In many cases, it is even covered by your medical insurance! Massage is a truly mainstream holistic therapy.

The benefits of regular massage:
Massage is the perfect compliment to today’s busy lifestyles – it is a holistic and natural therapy which affects the body and mind without the use of harmful pharmaceuticals and which has very few contraindications or exclusions. Many common and not so common conditions and ailments can be helped by regular massages including:-

Reduced Muscular Tension   
Massage affects the muscles and other soft tissues throughout the body. It can loosen contracted tense and shortened and stimulate weak, flaccid muscles. Chronic muscle tension reduces the circulation of the blood and movement of lymph in an area and this is often alleviated with regular massage treatments. Tight, tense muscles are often the cause of other symptoms throughout the body e.g. tight neck muscles can show them selves as regular frequent aches.  

Improved Blood Circulation 
The oxygen capacity of the blood can increase 10-15% after massage. By indirectly or directly stimulating nerves that supply internal organs, blood vessels of these organs dilate and allow greater blood supply to them. Poor circulation (often felt as cold hands and feet) is improved after massage. A full body massage will increase the blood flow to both the core and extremities giving a healthful benefit to all of the body’s systems.

Better Lymph Movement & Lymphatic System Function
Lymph is the fluid that drains impurities and waste away from the tissue cells. Within this waste are the toxins which are the by-products of metabolism. Massage makes sure lymph is circulated through the lymph nodes for filtering which in turn can result in enhanced immune system function.

Increased Mobility, Flexibility and Range of Motion of Joints
Massage provides a gentle stretching action to both the muscles and connective tissues that surround and support the muscles. The gentle stretching of muscles keeps them in good condition, maintains the integrity of connective tissue and joint mobility is often enhanced. Joint and muscle pain is often reduced after a massage and specific joint/muscle pain can be targeted by a Sports Massage Therapist. 

Massage Stimulates or Soothes the Nervous System  
Massage balances the nervous system by soothing or stimulating it, depending on the techniques used and the effect that is needed by the individual at the time of the massage. A pre-sport massage can help prepare the body to perform at the highest level where as a Swedish massage will help calm and relax the body and mind. For many, a relaxing massage is the perfect antidote to a stressful day at work or the pressure of a hectic modern lifestyle. 

Improved Skin Condition  
Massage enhances the skin condition by improving the function of the sebaceous and sweat glands, which keep the skin lubricated, clean, and cool. The use of special oils will enhance the condition of the skin further and the skin is exfoliated and moisturized during a massage treatment. Circulation to the skin is improved by massage which is seen as a slight reddening during the treatment. Increased blood flow to the skin encourages skin cell renewal and makes tired skin look brighter and healthier.

Better Digestion and Intestinal Function
By increasing blood flow, the digestive organs receive more of the life-giving oxygen they need to function effectively. Digestive discomfort is often relieved by massage, as is abdominal bloating and gastric upset. Swedish massage even includes an optional abdominal massage where the intestines are gently massaged through the abdominal wall which is designed to improve digestive system function and health. 

Pain relief
Massage can promote recovery from minor aches and pains by improving circulation which is an essential part of the healing process. Massage also triggers the release of endorphins which are the body’s natural pain killers (related to morphine) which may result in lowered pain levels and a reduced dependence on pain medication. A treatment with a Sports Massage Therapist can save literally weeks by promoting fast and effective healing of serious and-not-so-serious injuries. 

Types of massage
There are a great many different styles of massage and at Faros Spa we offer three different forms to suit the requirements of our growing client base… 

Relaxation (Swedish) Massage
Swedish massage is a whole body treatment which uses a smooth, flowing style that promotes general relaxation, improves circulation relieves muscular tension. This type of massage is ideal for “beginners” to massage and will leave the client feeling wonderfully relaxed and refreshed. Oils are used which help to condition the skin and act as a medium between your skin and the therapists hands. This form of massage is so relaxing it is not uncommon for clients to fall soundly asleep after just a few minutes on the couch! 

Sports Massage
Sports massage uses similar techniques to those found in Swedish massage but normally they are used with more pressure and a view to preventing future or treating current specific physical conditions. Many people find that by having regular sports massages they suffer fewer indecencies of muscle pain, back ache and muscular tension. Sports massage can be seen as a physical “tune up” of the body’s muscles or as a preventative service. Sports massage is a “deeper” massage and not normally as relaxing as the Swedish variation but is particularly useful for people who exercise, play sport, have physically active jobs or feel like their bodies need some specific attention. Treatments are customized to suit an individual clients needs however, if after a sports massage you feel “beaten up” as some people may describe the feeling after this type of treatment, it’s very likely the therapist was over zealous and unnecessarily heavy handed. It’s very important to give your masseuse feedback during and after your treatment so that they can fine tune their treatment to your individual requirements. 

Using thumb and finger pressure on the reflex points of the feet (which correspond to all areas of the body) to assist in achieving balance within the body. Reflexology is based on Chinese acupuncture but uses pressure as opposed to needles to help rebalance the body’s energy pathways. Although only the feet are touched during Reflexology, the whole body receives great benefit from this powerful treatment. 

Check your masseuse’s credentials!
Although massage is a natural and relatively simple therapy, it is essential to make sure your masseuse is properly qualified, licensed and insured. It’s important to remember that massage can have a profound medical effect on the body and should not be performed by unqualified persons. Make sure you check the credentials of any masseuse you are considering using. Just because they are cheap or have been “doing it for years” doesn’t mean they are safe! Professional massage standards has come a long way since the guy who used to rub a few legs at half time for the local Sunday league football team started plying his trade!

So, pretty much everybody’s body will benefit from massage by a qualified massage therapist – and with a patron like Julius Caesar who are we to argue?

Posted in Fitness, Mind, Sports Injury0 Comments

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