You have started running? 3 Tips to avoid stopping.

You have started running? 3 Tips to avoid stopping.

Did you know that if you start running, there is a 30% chance that within 6 months you will stop.

That sucks.

But evidence from studies such as this one from Fokkema et al (where I pulled that number from) can help people like me understand why, so I can share it with people like you!

So firstly, why do people stop. For the participants of the study linked above, the main reasons were:

  • Development of an injury.
  • A low perception of physical capability prior to commencement.
  • A lack of direction following an initial intro-to-running program.

The good news is that these pitfalls can be avoided if you acknowledge the fact that they exist before you start, and you implement strategies to get over them.

 

 

So here is what I recommend before you start running.

  1. Listen to your body. Running is hard on the body, but this is not a bad thing. Our body responds favorably to loading but if this load crosses a threshold injury can occur. So build gradually. If you start getting sore, walk it off. If you pull up sore the next day, roll your legs over on a bike. Prioritise sleep as that is when our body heals itself. Drink lots of water and eat nutritious food. Basically treat yourself well.
  2. Get Strong! If you doubt your physical capabilities, improve your physical capabilities. Getting stronger is simplest way to do this. Consult with a trusted Exercise Physiologist or Strength Coach and they can help you get stronger in a safe and appropriate manner.
  3. Think long-term. Most running programs for beginners aim to get you from 0 to 5km in about six weeks. Plan a six month goal. A 10-12km event is appropriate for that time frame. Search for an event that you would like to do in six months of around that distance and commit to it. Seek out a reputable Coach who can help you plan from week-6 to month-6 and beyond. Running gets easier with increasing experience. And the easier it is, the more enjoyable it is and more beneficial it will be to your long term health.

For more information on this topic check out these blogs:

Running is NOT bad for your knees

My 5 favourite types of running

Don’t run anymore? Who do you think you are?

 

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Australians aged 70+ living their best lives

Australians aged 70+ living their best lives

Whilst reading Stephen Lunn’s article in the Weekend Australia this past weekend, ‘How to live well in your final decade’ I couldn’t help but think of many of iNform’s wonderful clients aged 70+.

If you didn’t get a chance to read this article here is a synopsis:

  • Australian’s are living longer than we ever have, but the length of our ‘quality years’ is not increasing proportionally.
  • This means on average we are spending more years in a state of ill-health, dealing with disease and/or disability.
  • To narrow the gap between years lived and quality years the following is recommended: Get fitter and stronger; eat well; keep you mind occupied; be part of a community; remain useful.

Many of the people aged over 70 that I have worked with over the past fifteen years tick all, if not most of those boxes.

I guess that is to be expected. As an Exercise Physiologist I do see a biased sample of Australia’s population.

The only people that access my services are people who are wanting to take control and action over their health and to be brutally honest, have the means to do so.

I never see people who are passive in their health- that are allowing the deterioration of their health to just happen to them. Why would they seek out someone like me?

Unfortunately I also don’t get to see many of those who have the will to take control, but just lack the means (location/transport; finances; awareness etc etc). That is a massive topic for another day- for now I would like to focus only on those I do see.

 

 

When I think of the men and women of 70+ years that I have trained, the following things come to mind:

  • An unwillingness to write things off as ‘it’s probably just old-age. No, if your knee is sore, there is a reason for it that may well be changeable.
  • A desire to travel. And I don’t mean on a Greyhound Bus with an occasional stop at a local ‘famous bakery’. I mean hiking holidays in Peru, Nepal or Switzerland; expeditions to Antarctica by ice-breaker boat; solo driving around Australia in a Camper-van; Ski holidays in Japan; water-skiing on the Murray River. I have helped people of 70+ years achieve all of these things and many more.
  • A drive to get stronger. Not just to help bone density or cardiovascular health. But to feel empowered, independent, capable. One of my clients, a woman aged 71 takes great pleasure helping younger women put their bags into overhead lockers on her many flights to far-flung destinations around the world.
  • Improving strength and fitness to help them complete their first marathon, or long-distance cycling event.
  • A conviction to live independently. Not just exist, or survive. I am talking about hosting parties and other social events; or fixing things or even renovate by themselves.

It is a great privilege to help people achieve these types of things after their 70th birthday. You are never too old to get started, unless you believe you are.

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High-Intensity Circuit Training: The FAST-FOOD of Fitness

High-Intensity Circuit Training: The FAST-FOOD of Fitness

High-Intensity Interval Training is all rage right now. I have come across stacks of tabloid articles and television programs recently espousing the virtues of HIIT training, and for good reason.

There is good evidence to show that training in short bursts of high intensity can yield all sorts of wonderful benefits towards our metabolic health, body composition and fitness markers. My colleague, Hunter Bennett, wrote a great article on this topic that you can read here. This has lead to the creation of Fitness Franchises and individual businesses that focus solely on the HIIT principle.

In my opinion, such businesses offer fitness training to the masses much in the same way that Fast Food Chains delivers nutrition. Cheaply, poorly, and with an unacceptable level of health risk to their patrons.

So what’s the problem, hater?

There are a few, but I will focus on the two major ones that I commonly see:

1) The lack of pre-exercise screening and assessment.

Before you start training at a fitness centre, the staff (who should be adequately qualified) are required to take you through the ‘Adult Pre-Exercise Screening Tool‘ so that the appropriate level of exercise can be prescribed for you based on any metabolic or physical risk factors you may have.

This is in your best interest as if you have a health concern, either diagnosed or undiagnosed you should ease your way gently into an exercise program. This process is a basic requirement for all accredited Fitness Businesses. If you have started training and you have not been adequately screened using this questionnaire I would be highly concerned about the people you have trusted with your health. They have let you down.

Following the metabolic screening questionnaire, we at iNform believe a thorough evaluation of Movement Competency should be completed, so that you can be prescribed exercises that you are able to complete safely and effectively.

Again, if you are thrust into a High Intensity Circuit class without anyone assessing you movement capabilities (and adjusting your exercise recommendations accordingly) then you have been put into a situation that carries an unacceptable level of injury risk.

2) Overly complex, diverse and advanced exercises.

The evidence to support the use of HIIT style training is derived from studies that generally use quite straight-forward forms of exercises- such as sprints on a stationary bike or rower. Or they use pretty simple resistance exercises such as squats, push-ups, bicep curls etc. Also the groups used in these studies tend to be quite homogeneous- males or females aged 18-23; type-2 diabetics; post-menopausal women etc etc.

So we have simple, yet vigorous exercises being prescribed to a group of ‘similar’ people (with unsuitable people being screened out in the participant selection process) to determine the effect of HIIT training over a period of time.

This does not sound like your average HIIT class- where you might find a 18y.o Netballer; a 48y.o. Accountant; a 32y.o. mother of a 9-month old baby, and god knows who else. Surely if you are putting together a session for a group as diverse is this, in the best interests of the participants you would be more conservative with your exercise selection than those conducting the studies are!

 

 

So what should you do?

This article probably comes across as discouraging towards group based HIIT classes. That wasn’t my intention. Rather than discouraging, I hope this article can help you make informed choices about who you trust to guide your exercise programming. If you are thinking of undertaking some HIIT training, here are some things to look out for:

  • Do qualified staff screen you for metabolic risk and movement capability prior to entering you into a class. If the answer is no, DO NOT TRAIN THERE!
  • Are the exercises require a lot of jumping, throwing, swinging etc. If the answer is yes, BE CAREFUL!
  • Do your joints hurt during and/or after the exercise session? If so, THIS IS NOT WHAT WE WOULD CALL GOOD SORE!
  • Did the staff conduct a thorough one-on-one evaluation of your metabolic health and movement capacity- then prescribe exercises that were appropriate to you level of fitness and capability with a view to gradually build intensity? If the answer is yes, THIS SOUNDS LIKE SOMEONE WORTHY OF YOUR TRUST! 

 

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Unplug to Connect and Recharge

Unplug to Connect and Recharge

Operation Flinders Mountain Bike Challenge 2019

Throughout the 4 days of the Operation Flinders Mountain Bike Challenge a recurring theme in my thoughts was the relativity of time. From the moment we left the terminal at Adelaide Airport on the Friday morning until we arrived back there on Monday night, we were all completely off the grid. We had no phone or internet connection. Our only form of connection to the rest of the world was a CB Radio, used for location updates to the command centre (and in case of emergency).

It was amazing how slow time passed over those four days. Our days in Yankaninna Station were spent like this: Wake up in our swag; ensure the fire was started and maintained; eat breakfast; tidy up; get dressed to ride; ride from camp A to camp B; arrive at camp B; get changed; eat, drink and chat around the fire; go to sleep under stars; repeat. It was a beautifully simple existence.

Through the days as we rode through stunning terrain we could either quietly enjoy the natural beauty of our surrounds, or chat with our fellow riders. There was plenty of time for each. Most of the participants were strangers to one-another prior to the event. There were a few small groups, but most people only really knew 3 to 4 of the 15+ people that were there for the event. By the end of the fourth day we had united into a real team. We had gotten to know each other well through sharing intimate thoughts and feelings- when you have nothing to do but travel from point to point, then eat, drink and stay warm you have a lot of time to build relationships. And some of the conversations that I had with people who were strangers only a few days ago, I haven’t ever had with long-time friends or even family. When we first met at Adelaide Airport on the Friday there were polite handshakes to introduce ourselves. As we said goodbye on Monday night, there were hugs all round. It was a deeply satisfying trip. I felt relaxed, replenished, rejuvenated.

So what did I learn from this?

I think it is fair to say that most people in our society can relate to this feeling that time is accelerating. That days, weeks, months, even years are careering out of control. Where did the first half of 2019 go? Why is this? Why can 6 months disappear almost in the blink of an eye, yet four days seem like an eternity? Feeling like the to-do list is always longer than manageable and lengthening by two tasks for every one one that we tick-off feels futile and it makes sense that we would feel constantly under pressure. This kind of life is exhausting. At Yankaninna Station we had no choice than to completely disconnect from the rest of the world- but it seems like the pervasive feeling in our society is that we have no choice than to stay permanently connected at all other times. Do we though?

 

 

What can you do?

What would happen if you switched your phone off before dinner and didn’t switch it on again until the next morning after breakfast. What if you switched off wi-fi and data-roaming on Friday when you leave the office and used your phone just to make and receive calls and texts from your family and ‘real’ friends. If you were able to do this, what might this do to your perception of time, and pressure? If you couldn’t burn up time mindlessly scrolling through social media pages what might you notice about the world immediately around you? What conversations would you have with your people if your mind wasn’t frequently distracted by alerts from your phone?

No matter how busy you are, you have the ability to find a bit  of sanctuary even just for 10 minutes a day by switching off the phone and quietly taking in your surrounds. You can choose to disconnect from the web and completely be with the people you are with. The world will keep turning, it might just seem like it turns a little slower.

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Running is NOT bad for your knees

Running is NOT bad for your knees

There is no shortage of people who want to discourage you from running. “It’s bad for your knees!” they knowingly proclaim. Worryingly, some of these people are Medical and Health Professionals. Aren’t we supposed to be encouraging Australians to be more active? So what’s with this?

Is there evidence to link running and knee injury?

Well yes and no. If you take a group of runners and monitor them over the course of a year, some will get injured- and the most likely part of the body that will sustain the injury is the knees. There are a few studies that have looked at this, and the numbers vary from study to study but the consistent themes are; running comes with injury risk; and the knee is the most likely spot you’ll feel it.

But does this justify the blanket rule that running is bad for your knees? If so, we would also have to conclude the golf is bad for your back, swimming is bad for your shoulders and cycling is bad for your neck. Should we also avoid these forms of physical activity?

Why do some runner’s knees get injured?

There is no single answer to this, and the reality is that injuries that develop over time generally do so because of the convergence of a number of factors. Here is a case study that can illustrate this point:

Steve is 45 and works long hours as a Chartered Accountant. He spends extended stretches of time at his computer, occasionally getting up to make another coffee. He often skips lunch, but when he can sneak out he usually grabs whatever is quick and easy from the Bakery across the road. After work he drops in to his local for a quick beer or two with a couple of mates, before getting home in time for dinner with the family. When the kids are off to bed, the feet are up and he spends more time than he should watching Netflix. His sleep is short and poor in quality as a result.

Steve sees his Doctor who informs him his blood pressure, blood glucose and waist circumference are all trending towards the red-zone, and that he needs to start doing some exercise immediately to turn things around. Steve heeds the warning, so early Saturday morning he laces up his ten year old sneakers he usually wears to mow the lawn, chucks on a t-shirt and shorts and gets out to his local Park-Run 5km. Steve starts out confidently but after about 500m starts to puff and pant. By 2km his knees and lower back are getting sore but he is a determined bugger, so he drags himself across the next 3km with a slow, loping stride. ‘This will only get easier’ he tells himself, and to his credit he repeats this torture for the next 3 weeks.

By Sunday after week 4, his knees are swollen, sore and hot to the touch. He sees his Doctor again the following day and fills him in. “Well you shouldn’t have started running, don’t you know running is bad for your knees?! You should walk, or maybe ride a bike instead”.

Was running the problem here? Or what is that Steve, although well-intentioned, just plunged himself into a task he was completely under-prepared for and hurt himself as a consequence?

Steve’s current lifestyle needs a dramatic overhaul- his overall health could benefit greatly from making some improvements to his diet, reducing his sedentary time, reducing his alcohol frequency and making sleep a greater priority.

Steve could get some advice on footwear by someone who knows what they are talking about. He could also invest some time and money speaking to an expert on how to build his body and his running form so that when he does run he has the strength and the technique to do so more efficiently.

This sounds like an awful lot. But the reality is that running is hard on your body but that is why it can impact our health in such profound, positive way. Our body adapts and evolves to physical stress if it is dosed out appropriately. It is worth making the health changes to equip your body to not only meet the demands of running, but to thrive on them.

Running is not inherently bad for your knees. Running does put your overall health under the microscope, and penalises you for what you neglect. Rather than discouraging people from running, we as Health Professionals should be encouraging our clients to audit and refine how they take care of themselves.

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