Zip Fit Blog

And What About Your Mental Health?

Another grey day

Words like ‘mindfulness’ and paraphrases related to positivity and our state of consciousness have become very trendy. Inspirational quotes are splashed across social media platforms, people are tuning into podcasts, attending ‘power of the mind’ seminars. If we’re going Tony Robbins style, then that means walking across hot coals/fire in order to change our perceptions and overcome fear. Some methods are more radical than others!

The cynics and perceptually strong amongst us might scoff at such behaviour and tell us to ‘pull ourselves together and get on with life!’. Others may prey on peoples vulnerability and use mind games to superficially connect, but never the less, we are seeing more self-help books hitting the shelves, the media are exposing subjects associated with mental health and the government are injecting money to help those who are susceptible and vulnerable. In a very positive way people are waking up from the stigma associated with depression and anxiety. Perhaps society is finally accepting that within our progressive and fast paced, modern day world, people still have everyday problems that need addressing. We are told that 1 in 4 people suffer from mental disorders and we are starting to talk about our feelings with each other more openly…even us men!

I found myself at a dinner party recently, sharing my own experiences of dealing with stress and anxiety. Although it felt a little awkward I could see that a certain aspect of what I said resonated with others in the room. I could see that beyond their eyes was an element of understanding. I wasn’t intending to talk about my insecurities or expecting people to stand up and tell me about their deepest, darkest fears and thoughts either. These aren’t the kind of dinner party antics I’m used to. The conversation had just swayed that way and before anyone could say ‘let’s have some port and cheese and talk about Freud’, I was babbling on about stress management and coping mechanisms. Twelve months ago I would never have admitted that stress was affecting my life at all, let alone speak about. So for the purpose of this article I’m going to backpedal a little and tell you how I ended up metaphorically naked in front of our dinner party guests and what made me visit a psychotherapist.

Approximately eight months ago during a conversation with my doctor I revealed some truths about my life and stresses and how they seem to manifest in physical form. He pondered for a moment and then softened his voice as he looked at me with genuine concern. ‘You’re a physically fit man, Chris, which is great…but what about your mental health? Are you taking care of yourself?’

‘Well I use exercise to relieve stress and get rid of my frustrations’ I hesitantly replied, positive that this wasn’t quite the answer he was looking for. And it wasn’t.

‘Exercise is fantastic and definitely keep that up, but is it really dealing with your problems?’ he said in his usual calm and suggestive tone. ‘I think not!’

‘So what do you suggest?’ I replied, half expecting to see the door to fling open and two men appear with fettered chains and a straight jacket.

‘Well, I know this psychotherapist’ he said. ‘She’s really very good and I’d like you to see her’.

I nodded my head in agreement and promised that I would give her a call, despite my reservations. Behind a relatively calm exterior, I had let the world and its problems sit heavily on my shoulders and my coping mechanisms, such as exercise, were not working the way they should. Deep down I knew I had issues that needed addressing.

It took me two weeks to phone the psychotherapist. I’d had one of those days where I thought the world had gone mad, or I had, or both and it left me feeling vulnerable. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t about to throw myself under the next London bus, but it pushed me into making the call. I tried to remain calm about my requirements, but it somehow unnerved me and the conversation was more comparable to a law abiding citizen trying to arrange a drug deal. I was spluttering about appointments and times, already skirting around the inevitable. It turned out that she had some availability (lucky me!), we put a date in the diary and I put down the phone. Easy. Much easier than expected actually and that first little conversation felt like a dark cloud lifting. I was finally doing something about my problems.

I’m not going to entertain you (or bore you) with details about my personal life, but I can say this. I saw my psychotherapist for eight weeks and got some serious stuff off my chest. Every week I would line up in my mind exactly what I wanted to talk about and ended up talking about something entirely different. The process was slow at unravelling, but revealing and interesting and above all, helpful. I became acutely aware of my emotions, what triggered them, how fear controlled aspects of my life and what I could to change my perceptions and behavioural patterns. I became the self-help cliche, reading books about therapy like ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle and ‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz, on the way to therapy. I listened, spoke and read continuously and began to understand myself and those around me. Problems didn’t magically dissolve with psychotherapy, but with self-awareness I found some clarity and I now know how the past has shaped my life. My thoughts and anxieties are normal and shared by many. It’s how I deal with situations in the present that count.

What I’ve come to realise is that the mind is very similar to the body in the sense that it needs exercise and the right nutrition (books, communication, having the right people in our life etc) in order for it to stay healthy, function properly and grow strong. I’m sure we have all noticed how negativity breeds negativity, the same way eating and drinking rubbish and not exercising breeds illness and obesity. I would encourage anyone to see a psychotherapist, (counsellor, spiritual healer) whether you consider yourself a sane individual or not. I believe we all have a bit of so-called madness in us. The process of speaking to someone isn’t about judgement, blame or questioning who you are. It is simply about helping you understand yourself, so you can cope with life’s challenges and peer out at the world with the acceptance that it isn’t perfect. It provides perspective, a sense of calm and the knowledge that you can find happiness amongst all the chaos. I plan to go and see my psychotherapist again, without hesitation. Not because I’m desperately unhappy or depressed, but because the way I think affects every other aspect of my life. I want to be happy, be the best possible version of me and not be held back by irrational thoughts that can be controlled with the correct training.

Very best wishes,

Chris

4 Good Reasons To Go Beyond ‘Dry January’

Moet Zip Fit

Above: A special new year gift from Zip Fit member, Percy, yesterday. Timed to perfection, Percy! Thank you.

Educate yourself about alcohol and change your perceptions.

At this time of year everyone is talking about the effects of alcohol on the body, not least the media. The new figures that have been produced by medical experts once again present us with a set of scare mongering statistics that leave us ordering alcohol free beer, orange squash or soda water (with a piece of lime of course!) as opposed to our usual tipple.

For those who have missed recent articles, here are a few figures published by the Independent:

  • Men are now advised to consume the same weekly amounts as women – 14 units.
  • Drinking more than one glass of wine or beer each day increases the risk of developing cancer.
  • Take bowel cancer in men: if they drink within the guidelines their risk is the same as non-drinking. But if they drink up to the old guidelines an extra 20 men per 1,000 will get bowel cancer.

No wonder ‘dryathon January!’ is the cry from so many after a rather sloshed Christmas. The shock factor is high on the Richter Scale, along with the aftershock of having to change our Sunday breakfast regime upon news of cancer forming bacon and sausages. I heard an announcement on Radio 4 last week about potatoes now posing a risk to pregnant women. The time is near – no doubt – when we see warning signs such as, ‘Sausages can seriously damage your health, you know!’. The problem being (and this is where I feel the Government go wrong when providing this kind of information), that soon all this hype will be forgotten, and what will remain is a slurred whisper between friends at the bar about cancer forming beer. ‘Was it one glass, five or twenty that form cancer? Let’s order another drink and try and gather our thoughts on this one?…barman!’

So soon it will be February and time to grab the bottle and spend the remaining eleven months of 2016 enjoying the health benefits of a red wine or two each night and a good old British binge at the weekend. I have no doubt that professors of risk at our red brick universities have done their sums correctly and understand the health implications of knocking back too much of Grandpa’s cough medicine, but what is hardly ever mentioned or taken in to account is the lifestyle of an individual. Does an extra pint a night for someone who eats their 5 a day, does 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, 3 lots of resistance each week and drinks more water than a camel, have the same risk as a person that drinks the same quantity of booze, eats processed food all day, does no exercise at all and couldn’t tell you the difference between a cucumber and marrow? The two hardly seem comparable.

Perhaps it would be more helpful to offer people some useful (but not quite so scary) information about the effects of alcohol on the body, then perhaps we can all make it more of a lifestyle choice to drink a little less this year (not just in January) and try and curb some of those excessive drinking habits.

Alcohol is seriously fattening. 

With seven calories per gram, alcohol has the same calorie content as pure fat. However, it isn’t just the calories in the drink that makes you gain weight. Alcohol reduces the amount of fat your body burns for energy. Because we can’t store alcohol in the body because it is toxic, our system wants to get rid of it as quickly as possible and this process takes priority over absorbing nutrients and burning fat.

According to the NHS, 5 pints a week – the equivalent of 250 pints a year – would be consuming the same amount of calories as someone who got though 221 doughnuts in a year!! I’ll leave you to work out how many doughnuts that would equate to if you’re having a 5 pints a night.

Thirteeen minutes running on a treadmill or playing football or swimming for 20 minutes are what a typical man would have to do to burn off the average 200 calories per pint.

Alcohol and sleep deprivation

Even a couple of drinks can interfere with the normal sleep process. When you drink alcohol close to bedtime, you can go straight into deep sleep, missing out on the usual first stage of sleep, called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

‘Deep sleep is when the body restores itself, and alcohol can interfere with this,’ explains Dr John Shneerson, head of the sleep centre at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge. ‘As the alcohol starts to wear off, your body can come out of deep sleep and back into REM sleep, which is much easier to wake from. That’s why you often wake up after just a few hours sleep when you’ve been drinking.’

In the course of a night you usually have six to seven cycles of REM sleep, which leaves you feeling refreshed. However, if you’ve been drinking you’ll typically have only one to two, meaning you can wake feeling exhausted.

When you drink more than usual, you may have to get up in the night to go to the toilet. And it’s not just the liquid you’ve drunk that you’ll be getting rid of. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it encourages the body to lose extra fluid through sweat too, making you dehydrated.

Alcohol and your mood

Alcohol in moderation can raise mood enhancing levels of the chemical serotonin (the hormone produced for sleep and mood regulation), however, in excess the opposite is true. Serotonin levels are massively depleted leading to a negative effect on the brain and body biochemistry. This exacerbates stress, anxiety and depression. Alcohol causes the body to release stress hormones like cortisol and if you already have high levels of this stress hormone, the booze will only make them higher.

Alcohol is also causes the depletion of Vitamin B6 and Folic acid, the nutrients needed for us to be in optimum psychological health, enabling us to cope with stress.

Alcohol and High Blood pressure

Blood pressure is measured by the amount of pressure in your arterial walls during Systolic (pressure when the heart beats) and Diastolic (pressure when the heart relaxes) contractions. This extra and continued pressure can, overtime, cause massive damage to the arterial walls, the heart and the brain.

The exact reasons for High Blood Pressure post-alcohol consumption are unclear, however, there have been numerous experiments that prove alcohol does create short term increases in blood pressure, which further increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks. Alcoholics all show signs of long term hypertension, however regular drinkers and occasional binge drinkers can reduce these negative effects by reducing their alcohol intake.

Confession time

Yes I’m a personal trainer, but also enjoy a drink and love nothing more that a nice pint. However, over the years I have come to the conclusion that my training, sleep, mood and health are too important to me for them to be ruined by the effects of alcohol. That said, I pick my occasions well, limit myself to a drink every now and again (as opposed to every day or week) and reserve the right, without care or explanation, to have an the occasional binge blip when I’m surrounded by good friends and the mood is right.

A bold headline will capture our imagination, but there is no greater deterrent than the negative associations that can be formed by educating ourselves about alcohol. Read this stuff and, overtime, you will make more of a subconscious resolution to drink a little less each year.

I’m sure we’ll all raise a glass to that!!

Very best

Chris

‘Fit For Christmas’ Office Challenge

Zip Fit Burpee challenge logo

How Many Burpees Can You Do In 1 Minute?

Here Is Our ‘Fit For Christmas’ Office Challenge.

We all know what a Burpee is these days. Yes, that’s right, it’s that funny exercise with a funny name, yet it requires some serious fitness to achieve lots of repetitions. It is an all round whole body exercise that requires good upper body and lower body strength, core stability, control and cardiovascular fitness. If we’re doing exercise street talk, the bad boy Burpee is the meanest gangster in town, which is why we are using this exercise to challenge you and your team in your office.

WATCH OUR OUR VIDEO !!

This is bit of pre Christmas fun. Our aim is to keep you #Fitforchristmas  

Click here to download the rules.

Click here to download your office results table.

 Here are some technique tips. We don’t want you injured!

BURPEE

The Burpee is the ultimate full body exercise. There’s a reason why football teams, CrossFit practitioners, and elite military forces use the Burpee in their workouts. Just one simple movement tests both your strength and aerobic capacities.

Strength. The Burpee is a full body, strength training exercise. With each repetition, you’ll work your chest, arms, front deltoids, thighs, hamstrings, and abs.

Here’s how to do them:

– Bend at your knees and place your hands directly below your shoulders

– Pushing down into the floor with your arms, activate your lower abdominals and drive your legs backwards to almost full extension. It’s important to be strong through your upper body.

– The second phase is in reverse order. Bring your legs in towards the chest and stand

– The advanced version is to incorporate a jump at the end of each Burpee, making sure you bend your knees when you land.

– Keep the movement fluid and DO NOT continue if you feel you are not supporting  your upper body properly.

 

And finally I’ve got round to finding out why the Burpee is called the Burpee:

The exercise was named in the 1930s for American physiologist, Royal H. Burpee, who developed the burpee test. He earned a PhD in applied physiology from Columbia University in 1940 and created the “burpee” exercise as part of his PhD thesis as a quick and simple way to assess fitness. The exercise was popularized when the United States Armed Services adopted it as a way to assess the fitness level of recruits when the US entered WWII. Consisting of a series of the exercises performed in rapid succession, the test was meant to be a quick measure of agility, coordination and strength.

The Miracle Of The Heart

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Two weeks ago my father (Pops as we call him) had a double heart bypass and a new aortic valve. It is simply incredible what medical science has allowed surgeons to become skilled at and master. During 8 hours of surgery the patient is connected to a heart-lung bypass machine, so the surgeon can work on a non beating heart without interference. A healthy artery or vein is grafted (attached) to a blocked coronary (heart) artery. This allows the grafted artery to “bypass” the blocked artery and bring fresh blood to the heart. The choice for a new aortic valve is either a pig valve (yes the animal pig) or a mechanical valve. In my dad’s case (because of his age) they chose the shorter shelf life but better quality pig valve. Jokes post surgery about needing oinkment and new fetishes for rolling round in mud, did not go down as well as I had envisaged. I was only trying to put a smile on his face.

The importance of the heart, in both its essence and functionality, is undisputed. From a spiritual point of view we talk about our heart (and that of others) as though it controls our beliefs, which includes who we love and the path in life we take. There is scientific proof these days that the heart does indeed have it’s own energy field, which does, to some degree, control our emotions and thoughts and can effect how others respond to us. Experiments during natural disasters and catastrophes have measured an increase energy force from the heart on a global level, which stem from a collective feeling of sympathy and compassion. Perhaps this muscular power house, so vital to our continued existence, does actually drive our intuition, our ability to love and be loved and have some jurisdiction over the journey on which we boldly travel.

The function of the heart is to pump blood so it can transport oxygen and vital nutrients around the body and to the muscles. It has two circulatory systems, one for blood low in oxygen, which requires a journey to the lungs to receive oxygen in exchange for carbon dioxide, and one for oxygenated blood, where the oxygen is used for energy and the metabolism to carbon dioxide.

Like any other muscle in the body the heart needs exercise (chronic cardio training) because when we train the heart grows bigger, gets stronger and beats harder. A conditioned heart beats much less at rest, only 40 to 50 beats per minute or even less (as opposed to the average 72 beats or more), which means that with each beat there is a bigger burst of blood and fewer heart beats are needed. The cardiac output, stroke volume and functionality of the heart and arteries are drastically improved with aerobic work (running, swimming, cycling, walking) on a daily basis. Internal blockages from bad diets (too many saturated and trans fats, sugars, alcohol and smoke) and little exercise can, over the years, lead to a sluggish motor that is chugging along at best, unable to provide the body with all the oxygen that it requires. This is what happened to my dad and I thank the wonders of medicine and some talented people for their intervention. There is no doubt at all that without it my dad would be on a road to meeting his maker. It was clearly an emotional time for my father leaving the hospital. I think he felt, as we all did, that he may not make it. When my mum picked him to head home he was standing fully dressed, tears rolling down his cheeks. He was vulnerable and scared, but beneath that just grateful to be alive.

We feel love, believe and trust with this muscular power house, its design is such that it drums on, responding to electrical impulses as it continuously beats throughout our lives.Typically a human heart has the capacity to beat over 2.5 billion times. It never gets a day off, it never sleeps and it loves exercise. Next time you hear a pounding in your chest, listen carefully and remember there is a life long friend in there, guiding you emotionally and driving all the other body mechanisms. Maybe you should consider giving it as much love and attention as it gives you.

Very best wishes

Chris