December 10th

Why should you workout at lunch?

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You’ve got a million things on your mind, deadlines to meet and a boss breathing down your neck. How could you possibly consider doing a 30-minute fitness session in your lunch break?

Well, you should and you can. Just about everybody has time to do something active and healthy with their lunch break but it does require good organisation skills, some willpower and a desire to break some rather damaging office habits.

Think what you do with your own lunch break. Do you find yourself tapping out messages on your phone, eating yet another office cake or heading out for a meal deal and your third latte (oops!)? Even if you type at lightning speed or spin around on your chair at great velocity, you’re not going to loosen that top button or undo your devolutionary monkey slump.

If this sounds all too familiar, perhaps it’s time for you to look at this wasted bit of time and rethink your lunchtime antics. Take some time to consider what a short and effective training session three times per week can do for your body, your sanity and your future? Grab yourself a green tea and listen in…

Sitting down has a negative impact on your posture, circulation and mobility. We are designed to move…a lot. When you’re not moving your muscles and bones become weak and you lose balance. You become tight and stiff, your metabolism slows down and all the unused calories that you’re consuming get stored around your hips and waistline. The long-term threat to your health is severe and the worst thing about it is that most people are not conscious of this until the damage has been done. Poor health in the workplace slowly destroys your body, your mind and your happiness.
Worry not! While this is all a touch depressing you can turn your life around quite quickly, make some small adjustments to your working week and begin to shape up, slim down and turbo charge your life (not to mention your 3 o’clock slump). There are interventions at hand and it’s not rocket science. Lunchtimes are the perfect (yes perfect) opportunity to Zip out of your office to burn calories, boost your metabolism, stretch tight muscles and improve the functionality of your heart, lungs, muscles and joints.

There is a plethora of science supporting short, convenient bursts of fast exercise, but even swapping a few sugary treats with a walk and talk in the fresh air is a good start. Grab an office buddy or suggest a meeting in a local park for a change. Fresh air and an increase in blood flow and oxygen to the brain might just give you the perspective you’ve been searching for. It has to be better than another boring sandwich.

Christopher Smith

December 18th

The Miracle of the heart

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Just over 12 months 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.

Christopher Smith
December 20th

A Story of Strong Will

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I’d like to go back to a story I told a couple of years ago, when on one very wet September day in the park, I put one of our Zip Fit members through our wettest workout on record. Do you remember that one, Koert? It was bucketing down! but fun in a sadistic way. When Koert turned up to an empty Hyde Park, apart from the solitary and sodden figure that would be me, the rain was torrential and we were both soaked to the bone before the session had even started. The look we exchanged was one of many complexities. It was obvious that neither of us could decide whether we had lost sight of our senses or we were just plain stupid for contemplating training in such conditions. I’m sure we were both secretly hoping that one of us would back down and decide that the best place to be at that moment was somewhere devoid of any form of water. I was close to suggesting a run to the pub as the workout.

Koert and I joked briefly about being real men and heroes of our time, as though the bravado would, in biblical terms, part the sea and wash away this force of nature. But it wasn’t to be. Bizarrely we moved on to converse about something far more serious, which held a surprising juxtaposition next to the ludicrousness of the situation. We stood in the pouring rain and had a chat about what motivates us to stay fit, strong and healthy, even beneath apocalyptic skies.

It turns out that, Koert and I had a similar opinion on this topic (hence being out in the rain like dumb and dumber) and it can be summed up with one simple statement and one which, Koert and I agreed upon:

‘One day we won’t be able to do this!’

It’s a sobering thought, but it is a reality all the same and something the majority of us are guilty of, in various measures, is neglecting our bodies and living under the illusion that we will stay young and healthy forever.

Events over the years have made this far more a reality for me. It wasn’t that long ago in Bournemouth when my own dad, who was waiting for a heart bypass operation, turned to me defeated by a short but steep hill walk from the beach to the apartment, and said in-between breaths – ‘Do you know what Chris, I would do anything to be able to run again…or march up the hills in the lakes like we used to do together’ and I knew exactly what he meant. I remember the strong man he used to be and how, as a young boy, I saw him as a pillar of strength, dare I say immortal? It saddens me deeply to see how, after years of neglect and too much stress, it has left him weak and vulnerable. Sadder still is that I am now acutely aware of his mortality. Life is indeed very precious.

My father’s bad health has become my biggest motivation to stay healthy (well that and my slightly competitive nature). I want to stay strong, well balanced and physically able to push myself when required. I want to bound around with my children for as long as possible and show them that they too can live their life with energy and youthfulness. I want to enjoy my retirement with travel and adventure, not live at the peril of a body that has packed up before my mind is ready. It’s not easy, but that’s what I aim for.

What is your motivation? Do you have one? Can you think of one if you don’t have one? Once you have decided what that is, hold it close to you and draw upon it when it’s easier to lie on the sofa rather than exercise. When you least feel like doing some physical activity is when you should throw on your training gear, do up your laces and get moving. We are not designed to lounge around and sit all the time and you have an opportunity to keep yourself strong and healthy for your future.

If you like outdoor fitness then go and enjoy it – whatever the weather. There is no gym in the world that can offer you an array of seasons and colours and ignite your senses the way working out in parks, fields, mountains and by the sea can do. That workout in the damp and muddy park, the clouds sweeping across the sky, the sound of the beating rain on your head and the feeling of your heart drumming hard in your chest, might be the place you dream of one day, when you are wondering where time has gone and how you’ve lost that strong and youthful person you once were.

Christopher Smith