By Megan Smiley, Oct 24 2019 05:39PM
Find out why I love my job in the artcle below that was featured in the autumn edition of The Sport & Physical Activity Industry Magazine - S&PA Professional.
Find out why I love my job in the artcle below that was featured in the autumn edition of The Sport & Physical Activity Industry Magazine - S&PA Professional.
If you've read some of my blog posts before you'll have heard me going on about how amazing I think the body is. From the way we can physically train and develop it, to the power of our minds and the way it can heal and rebuild itself. Well, I'm in a new state of awe with the human, or should I say, the female body as I am now 20 weeks pregnant.
I find it both amazingly mind boggling and also the most naturally instinctive thing my body has ever done. Now I'm not saying I'm naturally amazing at being pregnant. There have been very few perfect pregnancy moments or moments worthy of Instagram posts over the past few months. And anyone who knew and asked me how I was in the first trimester would know that was the case. I very much did not enjoy that stage and the only way I could deal with the constant nausea was to constantly eat. In a normal situation, constantly eating but with a valid reason sounds right up my street. However in this situation it was a necessity and not a pleasure, and possibly for the first time in my life I stopped enjoying food.
What I'm talking about by being instinctive is the anatomical and physiological changes your body makes, and these are absolutely fascinating and remarkable. From the heightened sense of smell to help you avoid gone off/bad food, to the production of a hormone called relaxin that loosens your ligaments and joints in preparation for labour, to the expansion of the ribcage to accommodate the growing baby taking up space in the abdomen. There are so many more too: changes affecting the cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, endocrine systems, so basically everything! A lot of these changes are subtle and gradual, and some people might experience or notice some more than others. But the bottom line is the body is such a clever bit of kit!
There are also psychological changes. I'm in full nesting mood with most weeks a bag of bits going down to the charity shop and a new bag of baby bits coming in, thanks to the donations from friends who are “definitely not having another one”! The joys of being a geriatric mother – not my words but the words of the medical world what with the fact that I'm over 35 - are that lots of my friends have done the baby thing already and got lots of stuff to pass on. Also, I'm trying to finish any on-going house projects, doing any house maintenance required and sorting the (still over-grown) garden.
Someone recently told me that once the baby arrives life will never be the same. They didn't say it in either a positive or negative way, just matter of factly. But for me the changes have already been happening for the past five months, and they might in many ways be less impactful changes than we have ahead of us. All the same I am very aware how my body and mind have been processing and adapting for the impending arrival.
It was something I had been thinking about doing for a while, as the older I get, the more I realise how important it is to look after our bodies. Looking after yourself comes in many ways and will be different for different people but I think the main areas include:
This doesn't have to be traditional exercise and sport but some sort of movement which includes a mixture of activities, some that increase your heart rate, some that increase endorphin production, and some that increase/maintain your strength.
Eating the right amounts of nutritious foods, ensuring a variety of both macronutrients and micronutrients to help your body function optimally.
Drinking plenty of water, and not too much of the less good stuff, yes I'm looking at you coffee, tea, fizzy drinks and alcohol!
This is an important one. People don't realise what an impact not getting enough does to your body. Therefore, it's not only important to allocate enough time for sleep, but also try and address any problems that are affecting your sleep.
The term self-care has become a bit of a buzz word over the past couple of years and rightly so I think. In modern life stress levels are high, everything is rushed and less time is spent relaxing and doing things that we enjoy for no other reason than enjoyment, e.g. not for the benefit of a social media post, or because you feel you should, or because you're expected too, but just because it feels good. The benefits of doing something that you enjoy with no strings attached will have a beneficial impact on your mental and physical health. Self care/preservation activities could also be things you don't necessarily enjoy but are good for maintaining your body in good working order, this could be things like going to the dentist or regular health checks.
Massage is definitely something that I class as self care/preservation and can also help in other areas such as with movement and sleep. Massage has many benefits including to help:
- reduce muscle tension and spasms
- improve muscle tone
- reduce risk of injury
- increase circulation and nutrition to areas of the body
- increase range of motion (ROM)
- improve postural awareness
- reduce build up of scar tissue
- reduce anxiety
- reduce stress level
- improve sleep
- relieve pain
- boost energy levels
- prepare muscles for use e.g. prior to a race/sporting event
I have loved learning more about the body and the way it works on this massage course, and am glad to be able to add a new offering to my existing business of personal training and nutritional advice.
I believe health is more than just sit ups and press ups as I outlined above, hence wanting to broaden the way I can help people feel fit, strong and healthy. Our bodies are amazing bits of kit that we should all be looking after. Now I'm going to practice what I preach and book myself in for a massage. If you want a massage get in touch!
The body works so hard to keep us functioning at an optimum level and it gets thrown so much at it that it has to deal with and fix. Be it what we put into it: inadequate nutrition in terms of too much or too little, or a lack of good food sources or too much of the bad stuff. Then there's alcohol, painkillers and numerous chemicals and toxins.
The body also has to deal with what we put it through: not enough sleep, too much stress, not enough movement/exercise and so much more, plus any injuries and health issues it needs to combat and try to heal. It may not always be able to overcome these things so we should all try and give it a helping hand rather than fighting against it!
It’s just over a month ago I had surgery on my foot. It wasn’t major surgery like the two operations I’d had previously on it. It was to remove all the metal that had been put in before. However, it did involve making a couple of sizeable incisions on my foot to get the metal out, a general anaesthetic and an overnight stay in hospital.
So over the last month I’ve been trying to give my body a helping hand by looking after it as much as possible: eating a wide variety of food that is full of nutrition needed for healing (lots of fruit, veg, dairy, nuts, fish and meat) and the right amount, the body needs enough fuel to heal, taking vitamin D supplements what with it being winter and living in the west of Scotland(!), keeping active but not over doing it, and finding time to relax and getting enough sleep. My Mum has been telling me to be more slobby!
My foot is feeling pretty good considering that it's been bashed about for the umpteenth time, and no one's actually sure what's going on with it, hence having the metal out so I can have an MRI and see what's actually going on in there. So l apologise to anyone how doesn't like photos of a slightly gruesome nature or of feet, but I wanted to include the above photo (this is one month post op) to demonstrate how amazing the body is at healing and helping you. So please show it some love in return!
British Summer Time officially ends this weekend and although that means you gain an extra hour in bed it also means shorter days, as well as cold and wet weather (especially in Glasgow), are well and truly here. So the heating is now on timed rather than a quick blast when it feels a little chilly, you’ve dug out that oversized cosy jumper/cardi that has seen better days but still does the job of keeping you feel warm and safe on the sofa, you’ve switched your meals from salads to soups and grilled fish and meats to warming one pot wonders. In other words you’ve gone into hibernation mode!
There are some other changes that often occur in this autumn hibernation transition, one being people become less active. Now I understand it is harder to get out of bed when it’s still dark, and it’s less appealing to go and run around, cycle, walk or whatever when it’s dark and cold. And there isn’t that summer motivation of wanting to look good in skimpier clothes/swimwear.
But that mindset just reflects the short-term view people take on health and fitness. As I always say, there aren’t any quick fixes or magic answers. Being fit and healthy is a long term commitment, a way of life that should be intertwined in your existence. It shouldn’t be because of a holiday, birthday or wedding, those things can be a great catalyst to start you off but you should want to find a routine that you can continue forever. Obviously there will be times when you need to adapt your routine and then times things will get dropped a little, but generally it’s about finding healthy habits that become second nature AND you enjoy (on some level)!
If you let those healthy habits and exercise routines you’ve built, drop off over autumn and winter it means, if you do start them up again, say in next spring, it’s going to be hard and take a while to get back into your routine and reach the levels you were at when you stopped.
So it’s about slightly adapting, working out how you can continue your healthy habits without having to go running in the rain if that’s something you don’t like. It’s amazing how much you can do inside, so even if you only have a small space in your home, you could still do a morning workout there. Also, think outside the box for spaces you could use (I used to train a client in the underground car park in the depth of winter), and things you could do. There are the obvious options of gyms and classes but maybe there’s some indoor activity you’ve always fancied but haven’t had the time to try, it could be indoor climbing, swimming or dance lessons.
Finally, as I touched on above, there is a tendency to move to a more wintry diet but it isn’t a bad thing. There are plenty of hearty and wholesome winter foods that are healthy. If you don’t fancy a cold salad, you could cook it instead – I love oven roasted little gem lettuce and cherry tomatoes. Warming food doesn’t have to be all about pies and puddings!
So what I’m saying is don’t just throw the towel in on your healthy habits as the days draw in. Keep being active and eating healthily but adapt it as necessary. Or if you’re wanting to get fit and healthy don’t think, there’s no point starting now, I’ll wait till spring. So carry on, or start now, and get your body fit, healthy and strong not just for summer but for life!
It honestly isn’t an exaggeration to say that being in London for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics was one of the best times of my life. I loved watching all the different sports and was lucky enough to see athletics, hockey, basketball, football, handball, and a dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony. But it was the atmosphere and the buzz, not just at the events or in the Olympic Park, but right across London that I loved the most. When I think back to that time I remember people smiling a lot, people being more positive, understanding, welcoming and happy… I mean there were even strangers talking to each other on the tube! It really was a great time.
Glasgow hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2014 very successfully and apparently there was a similar feel around the city, maybe not to the same degree as London 2012 but an undeniable positivity that sport has the power to install in people and a place. Now Glasgow is the joint host, alongside Berlin, of the 2018 European Championships where over 3000 athletes from 52 European nations are competing in six sports over 11 days.
So I’m very happy I’m living in Glasgow to experience this sporting event. Over the next week and a bit I’ll get to see gymnastics, road cycling and mountain biking, as well as going to a number of the cultural festivities the city is putting on for the Championships.
It’s already been quite a summer of sporting excitement what with the World Cup in Russia. However, I have to say I think I slightly missed out on the excitement and buzz that was experienced south of the Scottish border! So England have had their sporting moment for the summer, and it’s now time for Scotland to enjoy their sporting moment by hosting what I hope will be a great 11 days of competition and celebrations.
Are you a flexitarian or thinking about being one? Flexitarianism is when you mainly follow a plant-based diet but eat a bit of everything at times.
It’s definitely something I think I could, or rather would, be willing to do. I have many friends who are pescatarians, vegetarians or vegans but the fact that I’m a big believer in variety in your diet for both health reasons and because I love eating lots of different types of food, I’ve struggled to entertain the idea of any of them. That is apart from one week as a young teenager I declared to my carnivorous family that I was going to be a veggie after watching an animal welfare video at school. As I said, it lasted a week. It’s not that I eat lots of meat, I have at least one meat-free day a week, my lunches are pretty much always vegetarian but giving up dairy, meat and in particular fish and seafood would be a struggle for me, especially when eating out and when my husband is involved (he’s your typical omnivore who thinks meat is that the focal point of a meal). So flexitarianism could be the solution.
I’m not the only one, as flexitarianism is becoming pretty popular for a combination of reasons including: environmental, ethical and health. Reducing the amount of meat and dairy consumption and therefore production is unquestionably beneficial for the environment and reduces an individual’s carbon footprint. Depending on where you source your non plant-based food from, the ethics and morals of production and distribution of these products are often pretty questionable, particularly in mainstream, low-cost products. Then the health benefits, and this is the bit I get a little stuck at as I’m completely on-board with the environmental and ethical reasons, but does cutting back on massive food groups -meat, fish, dairy – really make you healthier?
I guess the health issue is a little bit of a grey area as it depends on the individual’s starting point. Are you eating lots of meat especially processed meat and too much dairy? Do you hardly eat any fruit, veg and legumes? If so cutting back on the processed meat and increasing plant-based food is going to be good for you. But cutting back on all meat, fish and dairy means you’re going to be reducing important macronutrients (mainly protein and fats) and micronutrients (minerals and vitamins). So ensuring you get all the nutrition your body needs to operate at it’s best becomes more difficult and you need a greater level of understanding of food and functions that different nutrients support. I am not saying you can’t be a healthy flexie, pescie, veggie or vegan but you have to put in a little more effort to get a balanced diet. And this is at a time when the UK population is struggling with balancing the amount of food they eat vs the amount of food their bodies actually need, hence approximately a third of the population being overweight and a third being obese. So I’m sure you can see why I’m not all that confident that everyone is going to manage to achieve a balanced diet ensuring all important nutrients are included!
As with all diets, a little knowledge can be dangerous, and I feel flexitarianism could lead to people becoming nutrient deficient in many areas, therefore I think once again (all my blog posts seem to finish like this!) it’s about getting that balance right. So before you dive into a new diet have a think about how you will ensure you get enough of those important nutrients you’re cutting back on – where will your protein, omega 3 fatty acids, iron, calcium, zinc, iodine, vitamin B12 amongst many others come from? How much is sensible to cut back? Using a food tracker like My Fitness Pal will give you a break down of the nutrients in your food and is a good way of ensuring you’re getting the right amounts.
As I see it, flexitarianism is on a spectrum and you can choose where you put yourself on it, be it just one meat-free day a week or being a vegan apart from the very odd occasion, and that’s what I like about it – it’s flexible for you and your life. For me, I think I will try and ‘flex it up’ a little more for the environmental and ethical reasons, but for health (and selfish reasons- I like a variety of food too much) I’ll still make sure I get enough meat, fish and dairy for what is right for me. So choose what’s right for you and give it a go, but remember to think before you flex!
With Spring here, it being National Gardening Week and the house refurbishment being pretty much finished (apart from a million little niggling jobs that may not get done for a good while yet, if ever!), I turned my attention to our garden. It is a lovely garden and a great space but has been neglected for nearly 10 years so in need of some major TLC.
My previous gardening experience is somewhat limited, comprising of a metre squared yellow box I used to grow a handful of vegetables from in west London. So with a 30 metre long garden as well as a front garden, with very little knowledge and measly amount of experience, I set upon them! Luckily I have a helpful gardening consultant on hand...my lovely Mum!
So far I’ve ripped out lots of ivy, brambles and dead stuff, cut back various shrubs and bushes, and planted my first lot of vegetables. But as with the house, things seem to have got worse before they will, hopefully, get better. Instead of an overgrown garden, we now have a slightly less overgrown garden with lots of piles of garden waste in it.
So I am yet to see the fruits (or veg) of my labour in terms of the appearance of the garden, however what I have achieved is something less tangible but possibly more important, and what I often think of as benefits of exercise, in particular exercising outdoors.
I’m talking about the mental and physical benefits of gardening. It is that perfect level of having to think about what you’re doing so that your mind doesn’t wander too much but not too challenging that it becomes taxing. Therefore it’s very relaxing and has a meditative quality to it. Then there are the physical benefits. I tell you I think I’m pretty strong and fit but gardening is quite a workout. It requires strength, balance, co-ordination, explosive power, you name it and there will be a job in the garden that will cover it!
I also think nurturing living things to grow and develop is very therapeutic and rewarding, giving you a sense of accomplishment and a connection to nature. Then there’s the benefit of being outdoors getting fresh air and if you’re lucky enough some sunshine, soaking up that important vitamin D the sun dishes out. So all in all I am sold on this gardening stuff, which is a good thing as I’ve got plenty to do!
I tweaked a muscle in my shoulder yesterday which meant I had to stop the full body strength training session I was halfway through and transition the session into a lying down leg and ab focused workout! I was annoyed as it messed up my training plan for the week, plus it is pretty sore to turn my head to the left...
I then got some perspective on the situation as I was thinking about the 3,000 athletes currently competing at the Winter Olympics, and all the others that trained but because of an injury/situation weren’t competing. For people where sport is not only their passion and profession but their whole life, what must it feel like to pick up an injury or illness resulting in missing your chance you’ve been building up to and worked so hard for? Also, what about those cruel mishaps like Elise Christie’s hand getting knocked and her missing out on a medal in the short-track speed skating, especially after missing out on a medal in all three of her disciplines in Sochi four years ago.
To many the thought of being a top athlete where training is your job, might sound like a lot of fun but as with many things, the grass is always greener from afar. Whilst training and competing the pressure is immense, the training relentless and the sacrifices many. The money side of things can also be difficult, with funding and sponsorship limited to those at the top of their game, it can often be a struggle to support the training programmes, diet and lifestyle required.
But what seems like the hardest part is retirement, which even if they have a long and injury-free career, is very early compared to most others professions. There can be a difficult transition into “normal” life, and apart from coaching or commentating, for which there isn’t the demand to accommodate the number of retired athletes, then there isn’t always a clear career path for them. Although “past it” in the world of competing these are people who are still in their prime but often feel lost, lacking an identity and purpose now that they’re out of the adrenaline-fuelled limelight.
Then there are the physiological effects from reduced levels of exercise and new lifestyle patterns that can cause all sorts of issues too, and the social side of things - often when competing they are surrounded by people and are part of a team, when retired they can miss these close relationships that for so many years have been a massive part of their life. The fact that the cases of depression and suicides in retired athletes is above average reflects what is a challenging and sometimes devastating time for some.
So I’ll be admiring and cheering on all the athletes currently in Pyeongchang, in particular Elise Christie in her next two races. I really hope she gets a medal not (just) for Team GB but for all the hard work she and so many others have put in.
With social media full of reflective posts, goals for the year ahead and New Year resolutions, I couldn't help but be drawn in and do a little of that myself!
So 2017 was a year of getting stuff sorted and getting all my ducks in line. From rehabilitation on my foot, to tying up life in London, moving to Glasgow, settling into a new home/city/country and setting up my personal training business here. So as you can imagine there's been many a list and a few spreadsheets. But I feel that, not without a bit of stress, uncertainty and ongoing hard work, I'm getting there and life in Glasgow is starting to feel like the norm rather than a prolonged trip away/diy boot camp! I'm even, much to my (Scottish) husband's hilarity/embarrassment, picking up some Scottish mannerisms, albeit used in the wrong context and settings!
So my mantra for 2018 is keep doing the same as 2017! I can't really say it's a New Year’s resolution as it's not new. But as we all know things can have the tendency to slow down or stop completely after an initial burst of enthusiasm and energy. You then get stuck in a rut, forget your initial goals and ideas, and settle for what you currently have. But not this time, I'm not going to settle, I'm going to keep going (those ducks keep moving out of line and you may know how I don't like untidy things!). So I’ll continue pushing and promoting my PT business, I’ll keep increasing my running and building the strength back in my foot and leg, I’ll keep decorating (over half the house is now done). And I’ll keep being over friendly, verging on slightly desperate when meeting new people who could be potential friends/clients/tradesmen!
Then perhaps next year I can have a New Year’s resolution to slow down, hopefully being able to feel smug about my 2018 accomplishments!