How to be mindful

How to be mindful

Are you permanently stressed–out, constantly mulling over the past and worrying endlessly about the future? Do you lie in bed fretting – just wishing your mind would go quiet so you can sleep? Many of us in the 21st century live in a heightened state of anxiety, chasing our own tails, unable to relax and enjoy what is happening in the moment, living inside our own heads and failing to notice what is all around us.

Mindfulness is a mental health toolkit designed to teach people to live in and enjoy the moment, putting aside your troubles from the past and not fretting about what lies ahead.

Some describe mindfulness as treating yourself more kindly or teaching you to rediscover your joie de vivre. Of course it’s now a new idea – we’ve all heard the expression “smell the roses” and the concept of enjoying and learning to live in the moment is the basis of ancient Buddhism.

If you apply it to physical exercise – for example, running – it’s about becoming more aware of your body in the moment, of each step you take, concentrating on your feet and how they feel and focusing on your breath, so you are in the moment, enhancing your enjoyment.

Does it work?

If mindfulness sounds a bit hippy–dippy–summer–of–love–ish – be reassured it is an approach that’s underpinned by a solid basis in scientific research. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence recommends mindfulness as a way of preventing depression in people who have had three or more bouts of depression. Research has shown it as effective as antidepressants.

The benefits of mindfulness in preventing serious depression and emotional distress have been proven by 10 clinical trials, according to the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, based at Oxford University.

Having said that it’s not a one-size-fits-all cure for depression and anxiety in everyone and research is still ongoing into who benefits most from mindfulness.

Also it’s not just a treatment for people with clinical depression – it can be a useful approach for anyone who is stressed out, rushing around and at risk of burnout as a way of “checking-in” with yourself and what’s going on around you. You don’t have to be stressed or ill to benefit from the strategies it can teach you to live with more appreciation and less anxiety.

What are you taught?

You’re encouraged to:

  • Reconnect with your body and the sensations you experience.
  • To make a conscious effort to be aware of the sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment – come off auto pilot in other words.
  • Remind yourself to notice your everyday surroundings – sometimes it’s suggested you do this at a set time of day – but it doesn’t have to be sitting cross-legged on the floor – it could be sitting on a train to work or a few minutes sitting in your garden or other quiet place.
  • Name your thoughts and feelings – for instance be able to recognise a negative thought – like a cloud in the sky or a bus passing by – without necessarily being affected by it.

How can I learn to be mindful?

Sessions are typically offered in a group situation and last eight weeks and include meditation and breathing exercises and are available through the NHS in some areas. But there are also free online courses that have been scientifically validated.

There also books and CDs to guide, such as Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman (available from Amazon £10.49 ) which comes with an accompanying CD with meditation exercises.

  • Find out more by watching this YouTube lecture by Professor Mark Williams of Oxford University’s Oxford Mindfulness Centre.

Sleep and why it matters

Sleep and why it matters

It’s amazing how even the fittest, healthiest people who eat well and make the effort to work out can neglect their sleep needs.

Busy people often cut back on sleep when under pressure – failing to realise sleep issues can lead to long term health problems such as an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even dementia, as well as short term drowsiness and tiredness.

But there are more subtle effects too – including the effects on higher executive function –  the higher level cognitive skills you need for planning, problem-solving and working memory. This can lead you to being under par at work. Sleep deprivation can also affect your self-control, emotions and decision-making.

Why sleep quality matters too

It’s not just sleep quantity that matters – but sleep quality too. If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) – where your airways momentarily collapse for a few seconds several times a minute, depriving you of oxygen while you sleep – you might not even be aware of it, but it’s interfering with your body’s metabolic processes. This can raise your blood sugar and blood pressure and lead to weight gain, heart disease and diabetes.

If you snore and suffer daytime sleepiness you could have undiagnosed OSA, so it’s important to get tested and treated. Other risk factors for sleep apnoea include being overweight, having a thick neck, smoking and having a large tongue or large tonsils or adenoids.

Why your body needs sleep

We spend a third of our life asleep, but don’t think of it as time wasted.  When you’re sleeping your blood pressure drops, breathing slows down and the body goes to work on  repairing and rebuilding tissue. Sleep is also the time when hormones are released which are essential for growth and muscle development and the regulation of ghrelin and leptin,  the “hunger” hormones which control appetite (sleep deprived people tend to eat more and gain weight). Cerebral spinal fluid is pumped more quickly throughout the brain during sleep, washing  out  waste so you wake up mentally refreshed.

How much sleep  do you actually need?

Mrs Thatcher famously got by on three hours sleep a night but most of us need a lot more  than that. After a two year study, the US National Sleep Foundation revised its recommendations in 2015 as to how many hours we need per night, as follows:

  • school age kids (six to 13): 10 to 13 hours;
  • teens (14 to 17): eight to 10 hours;
  • adults (18 to 64): seven to nine hours;
  • older adults (over 65): seven to eight hours.

What about power naps?

A short day time nap of under 40 minutes can refresh you – but nap for any longer and you may be raising your risk of metabolic syndrome, the medical name for a number of symptoms that can lead to heart disease including high blood pressure, excess fat around your middle and high blood sugar and cholesterol, according to new research from the University of Tokyo.

How to sleep better

Unfortunately, insomnia, difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep long enough to feel refreshed, affects one in three people.

But there are some simple ways to sleep better including:

  • Sticking to a set time for bedtime and getting up – even at weekends and on holiday.
  • Keeping your bedroom cool and dark with no light pollution, a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Practising a winding-down routine with a warm bath, relaxing music and a milky drink before bedtime.
  • Saving worrying for daylight hours. Write down what’s worrying you and block it out when you’re in bed.
  • Avoiding heavy meals, too much alcohol and smoking for two to three hours before bedtime.
  • Getting treatment for medical conditions that wake you at night including joint pain, restless legs syndrome, cramps and nocturnal trips to the loo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get in shape for 5K in 6 weeks

Get in shape for 5K in 6 weeks

Runner and writer Fiona Bugler picks out the key training runs to get you in shape for 5K this summer in just six weeks.

Summer is the time when many of us decide to run faster, or maybe even start running in the first place – and what a better distance to take on than the 5K? Events such as parkrun.org.uk (a free weekly 5K event held every Saturday morning at 9am at locations nationwide), have made taking on 5K accessible for all and extremely popular.

Training and racing at 3.1 miles are core to most training plans, from racing on the track to a marathon, as well as being a great way to boost your all-round aerobic fitness. Spending six weeks focussed on 5K training is perfect for boosting your running economy and your V02 Max (the amount of oxygen that reaches your working muscles and one of the key measures of aerobic fitness).

A 5K time is a benchmark and it provides you with a measure your speed endurance and a solid baseline from which you can assess the speed at which to do your shorter intervals (most are done at 5K pace), as well as predicting race times over other distances.

Over a six-week period, training for a 5K should include three to five runs a week: one to three speed sessions (one of which is a tempo run) and a long run as your core training sessions, plus if you would like to easy running or cross training. If you’re tired drop a speed session or your long run, or swap for an easy run. This can be the same if you’re a beginner or advanced, as speed and pace will be relative for you.

Speed sessions to try

For endurance and race pace training:

5 x 1K at goal race pace with 1 minute recovery.

For speed endurance:

8 x 400M with 90 second to 2 minute recoveries.

To sharpen up for that sprint finish:

10 to 20 x 200M with 100M walk recovery.

Tempo running

Once a week you can practice running comfortably hard, at ‘tempo’ or ‘threshold’ pace which builds up to race pace.

Run 3 miles, and every week up the pace:

Week one: 45 seconds a mile slower than your goal 5K pace.

Week two: 35 seconds slower than your goal 5K pace.

Week three: 25 seconds slower than your goal 5K pace.

Week four: 2 miles at 30 seconds slower and 1 to 2 miles at your goal 5K pace.

Week five: 2 x 1.5 miles at your goal 5K pace.

Week six: easy running or 3 x 1 mile at your goal 5K pace early in the week.

Long Run

It’s easy to forget that 5K races ask your body to tap into your aerobic engine. A weekly long run of 90 minutes plus will boost your V02 Max which means you can provide your working muscles with the oxygen it needs to perform well.

And the long run also helps get your body strong for running, developing muscles, tendons, ligaments and even your bones. The more total running fitness you can gain, the better you will be at coping with the demands of faster intervals and threshold running which are essential components of a 5K schedule.

PACE A 5K

6 MINUTES PER MILE 18.38

7 MINUTES PER MILE 21.45

8 MINUTES PER MILE 24.51

9 MINUTES PER MILE 27.58

10 MINUTES PER MILE 31.04

11 MINUTES PER MILE 34.10

12 MINUTES PER MILE 37.16

COMING SOON: AMPLIFY’S DASHBOARD AND FREE TRAINING SCHEDULES FOR 5K, 10K, HALF MARATHON AND MARATHON.

Why you need to stay hydrated

Why you need to stay hydrated

If you’re a runner or gym bunny it’s probably already on your radar that you need to keep your fluid levels topped up before, during and after exercise, but even the most sedentary of office workers need to take care to keep hydrated, too.

Dehydration is a growing problem

Surprisingly, despite our cool and wet climate, dehydration is a growing problem in the UK; a survey by the National Hydration Council revealed dehydration was the cause of tiredness and fatigue in one in 10 GP consultations for the complaint. And hospital admissions for dehydration rose by 57 per cent between 2003 and 2013/14.

Dehydration and exercise

Research has found it’s not uncommon for athletes to lose six to 10 per cent of their body weight due to water loss during strenuous events. But even being as little as two per cent dehydrated can affect performance. Visit the Amplify Shop for a great range of hydration products you can take on board whilst training.

Athletes are especially vulnerable to dehydration at the beginning of a new season when they are not acclimatised to changing weather conditions or sudden increases in activity levels.

How much do you need to drink?

Drinking enough fluids is something most of us don’t think about enough especially when we’re busy. We rely on our thirst sensation to prompt us to top-up but experts warn this is unreliable because by the time we feel thirsty we’re already dehydrated.

Official guidelines from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends an intake of 2.5 litres of water (fluid) for men and 2.0 litres of fluid for women per day, via food and drink. EFSA says of this 2.5 or 2 litres a day, 70 to 80 per cent should come from drinks, and the rest from food.

Obviously, there are lots of variables – if you exercise, you’re advised to drink extra fluids, for example, a large glass of water (200ml) for every 45 minutes of exercise as a rough guide. You may need to drink more if you’re working out in hot weather though and the extra intake you may need will depend on your body size and how intensely you exercise.

If you’re pregnant you need to drink an extra 0.3 litres of water a day and 0.7 litres more a day is you are breastfeeding – on top of the normal 2 litres a day recommended.

Does it matter what you drink? 

The short answer is not really… Water is the healthiest option as it is calorie and fat-free, but tea and coffee are okay as well but bear in mind they can have a mild diuretic effect and make you pass more urine if you drink a lot of them. Alcohol has a dehydrating effect too, so it you are on a boozy night out, try to drink water between refills.

How do you know you are dehydrated?

Water makes up for 75 per cent of our body weight and performs several vital functions in the body including carrying nutrients and waste products, controlling body temperature, lubricating moving parts and acting as a shock absorber for joints. It also makes up 73 per cent of the brain.

This is why the symptoms of being dehydrated are quite literally felt throughout the body and include headaches, concentration problems, tiredness , dry eyes, constipation, greater susceptibility to urinary tract infections such as cystitis and kidney stones, as well as migraines.

Severe symptoms

More severe symptoms include a rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, not passing urine for eight hours, feeling tired or confused, a weak pulse , sunken eyes, semi-consciousness, dry skin which sags slowly back into position when pinched, cold hands and feet and seizures. These symptoms need urgent medical attention, usually rehydration on an IV drip in hospital.

 

10 Reasons to walk 10,000 steps a day

10 Reasons to walk 10,000 steps a day

Walking 10,000 steps (approximately five miles) a day has proven health benefits, is free and can be done at any time by most people whatever their shape, size, or age. It’s a sure way to get you from from couch to active! Here are 10 reasons to get those boots on… and get walking! By Jo Waters.

1. You’ll live longer. Research published in 2015 found walking just 15 minutes a day could help people over 60 live longer – cutting their risk of dying by 22 per cent compared with those in the same age group  who did no exercise – so even short bursts of walking are better than none.

2. Weight loss/maintenance: A 45 year-old weighing 70kg (11 stone) will burn 440 calories by walking 10,000  steps a day. Walking two miles (3.2km) a day four times a week can help reduce weight by 1lb a month.

3. Builds joint strength: Even if you have osteoarthritis (the wear-and-tear kind) you shouldn’t stop walking as research studies have confirmed regular walking strengthens the muscles supporting joints, reducing pain and prolonging the time until a hip or knee replacement may be needed.

4. Cuts your risk factors for heart disease: Brisk walking will cut your blood pressure, help boost levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, as well as helping to reduce your weight.

5. Helps prevent cancer recurrence: Research has shown regular walking and can reduce the risk of recurrence of cancer by 50 per cent in colorectal cancer survivors and up to 40 per cent in breast cancer survivors.

6. Relieves stress and prevents depression: Regular exercise releases the body’s natural painkillers – endorphins – and reduces the risk of becoming depressed by 30 per cent.

7. Reduces your risk of developing type 2 diabetes: Walking helps lower your blood sugar and your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

8. Cuts your dementia risk: A study by the University of Pittsburgh reported walking six miles a week protects brain size and preserves memory.

9. Helps you get your dose of Vitamin D. Walking to and from work or taking the kids to school, nipping out in the middle of the day for a 20 minute trot? You’ll also benefit from the sunshine and absorb some vitamin D the natural way.

10. It helps you sleep. Moderate intensity exercise, including walking, boosts the effect of natural sleep hormones such as melatonin. A 2003 US study looking at post-menopausal women and sleeping patterns, compared two groups for a year and found the walkers suffered less sleep issues than those who were in active.

May is National Walking Month. Find out more here: https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/what-you-can-do/campaigns/national-walking-month-2016

7 ways to eat yourself young

7 ways to eat yourself young

Expert sports nutritionist Lucy Ann Prideaux has the low down on anti-ageing eating.

  1. Keep it simple Caring for the body comes down to three things – breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you think I’m being rather simplistic here, you’re right, I am. Eating a good diet is simple. In fact, it is the easiest and simplest thing in the world. You can either eat and drink your way to disease, or eat your way to health and wellness. It is your choice. Prepare simple meals using plenty of fresh, colourful, natural foods, and you can’t go far wrong.
  2.  Drink green tea Green tea is full of health-producing, disease-reducing and anti-ageing antioxidants. A cup of green tea provides plenty of natural plant chemicals called polyphenols. Their high anti-oxidant activity protects the body from damaging free radicals (rogue molecules), which can accelerate the ageing process, both inside the body and outside. A daily cup or two of green tea is a great way to get a good dose of helpful antioxidants.
  3.  Eat berries Berries are also full of anti-ageing antioxidants, and disease-fighting vitamin C. They will help provide your body with a powerful arsenal against ageing by flooding your system with vital nutrients. 
  4. Eat like a bird Nuts and seeds are some of the richest sources of many essential fats from the omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 family of fatty acids. Essential fats are pivotal to the health of the brain, body, hair and skin. The oils from almonds, walnuts and flaxseeds for example can help to alleviate dry skin, reduce inflammation in the body, help control cholesterol levels, and regenerate cells. Nuts and seeds also contain important protein for cellular regeneration, and fibre for colon health.
  5. Opt for healthy fats Healthy superfood fat comes from food such as avocado and olives. Rich in healthy oil for glowing skin, fibre and plant sterols to help control cholesterol, avocado also boasts alkalising minerals such as potassium, and the anti-ageing and protective nutrient vitamin A. Olives and olive oil are particular signatures of the Mediterranean diet, renowned for it’s ability to prevent heart disease and cancer, and promote life longevity.
  6. Eat an apple a day (it keeps the doctor away) One of the most accessible and healthy fruits happens to be the apple. Apples have excellent free-radical scavenging properties, helping to keep you from going ‘rusty’ on the inside. Apple pectin is the main fibre present in this wonder food, perfect for sound intestinal health.
  7. Choose the right colours Green, red, pink and orange are all good natural food choices. Spinach, kale, watercress, broccoli, tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon contain lutein and lycopene, powerful antioxidants that will help keep your eyes looking clear and youthful and help protect against a common eye disease called age-related macular degeneration. Pumpkin and other squash such as butternut, onion or acorn and sweet potato are loaded with minerals and phytonutrients such as beta-carotene, as well as vitamin C that nourish the skin, and keep the insides glowing, too.

 

#MyMarathonMeal by Martin Yelling

#MyMarathonMeal by Martin Yelling

Top endurance sports coach and former international runner, Martin Yelling shares his choice of pre marathon meal:

“Rice (white or brown), a light sauce, stir fried green beans, broccoli and chicken. A little vanilla ice cream (simple!) and perhaps half glass of red wine.

“Relaxing, easy no fuss food that I’m used to. Carbohydrates, proteins and a waft of something sweet.”

You can meet Martin at the Virgin London Marathon Expo: https://www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/en-gb/training/training-seminars/