30 Mar 2012

Feeling run down?

Hi folks,

As you probably know, I’m really interested in combating elements such as absenteeism in the workplace so that it reduces the drain on both the employee & the employer, however the one thing that is worse is Presentee’ism! This is were an employee is sick / injured but soldiers on without taking the necessary action.

Many of us can relate to this as we may think that we are far to busy to lose time to sickness, that we are the only person to do the job, that its’ only a sniffle / niggle & that its not really affecting our performance, that we cant afford time off, or that it will show us in a negative light. Sound familiar??? In our fast paced & high pressured culture we put pressure on ourselves that weakens our immune system, & then don’t allow ourselves to recover. In many cases this presentee’ism actually ends up having a greater impact (productivity, colleague stress, relationships, & safety) on ourselves & work than if we took a little time off.

Those dreaded words ‘time off’ don’t have to be so drastic, seen the Fit-Note? This was designed to replace the sick-note in order to offer more flexibility in the workplace & combat the spiralling dangers of being off work. Your GP can use it to say what you CAN do & works with the temporary choices listed below:

  1. Altered hours                 (e.g 6hr shifts)
  1. Part time                        (3 full days per week)
  1. Altered duties               (admin instead of physical)
  1. Workplace adaptations (ergonomic assessment / equipment)

Why not use these options next time you find yourself in presentee’ism? They are valuable short term solutions which will probably be the best course of action for you personally & your employer.



22 Mar 2012

Do you need protein supplements?

Hi folks,

As a trainer this is one of the most common questions I get asked, usually by lads who want to gain weight &/ or increase muscle mass. Basically it comes down to the extent of our protein requirement. It differs from source to source but to maintain your current state we need about 75% of our body weight (kg’s) in grams per day. If you want to gain muscle you need to take up to 150% of your bodyweight in grams of protein (as well as the right weights training of course).

So how much protein are you getting from your food? Well a chicken breast may be approximately 20g, tinned tuna 30g, & don’t forget to count in things like bread with up to 4g per slice. Make a quick food diary of a typical day’s intake & see how much you are getting. 

Shakes tend to boast as much as 50g protein per serving! However research suggests we can only digest approx 30g per intake & that’s only if we have the right combination of other compounds present (including BCAA’s & carbohydrates). You can buy these as add-on supplements but why pay more when the right balance is naturally present in real food? It’s cheaper & contains valuable extra vitamins / minerals, & doesn’t need the added sugars to make them taste nice.

Shakes became fashionable when some research emerged saying that you have a 20min ‘window’ to get protein inside after a workout. Since then, other research says that there is no rush for protein & that as long as protein source is eaten between exercise & bedtime then that’s fine.

So I’m sure you can see it’s much better all round to get your protein from varied foods such as:

         Lean meat (turkey, chicken)
         Dairy products
         Soya products

The only situation that I’d advise protein shakes is when someone’s training is really intense (such as an athlete) or that their muscle weight is so huge, that they cannot realistically eat the required amount from food alone.

Hope this sheds some light on the topic.


16 Mar 2012

Sedentary is the Enemy!

Hi Folks,

As you may have seen by my recent Tweet & LinkedIn updates, I attended the latest ‘Health & Wellbeing @ Work’ conference at the Birmingham NEC. It was a great few days to see what other companies are already doing & to listen to (& ask questions to) industry leading speakers.

The main sessions that I was interested in were those on lower back pain & those on repetitive strain injuries. However, most of the information was about treatment methods & rehab, where as I’m passionate about PREVENTION. When looking back over my notes after the two days, everything seemed to come down to one basic element – being sedentary!

Whether we are sedentary in a seated position or standing position, it is precisely this lack of significant joint movement that causes physiological changes which then snowball into bigger problems. Most of us already know this, but highlighting it shows just how little we are doing about it in the workplace. Simply being sedentary at work all day then blasting the gym afterwards is not the answer. We must involve ‘tactics’ during our working days that get us leaving our workstation every 40min – 1hr, it’s about frequency not volume. In the fitness industry they are called NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) which means any movement that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise,  I call these ‘Active Strategies’ & some simple examples are:

         Putting you phone across the other end of the room.

         Put the photocopier / printer in another room.

         Go & talk to people face to face rather than calling / sending emails (especially if they’re in the same building)

         Make sure you take 10min mid morning / afternoon breaks & lunch breaks that involve leaving your workstation.

Yes, some of these Active Strategies may sound inefficient or obstruct your work but by how much? …plus that’s partly the point. It all depends: Do you value your health over your job?

Watch out for more Active Strategies on my website, blogs, & workshops.


8 Mar 2012

Short & sweet

Hi folks,

With last weeks TV programmes still on my mind I’m going to talk about interval training. Whether it’s for your own training or for setting up effective training clubs within your workplace, here’s the low-down. I’ve previously blogged about interval training but think its well worth a recap.

There are a few types of interval training (tabata, fartlek among others) but the basic principle is that you exercise hard taking your heart, lungs & muscles to their highest safe level, for perhaps 30sec – 1min, before lowering the intensity. This is repeated several times. It was initially only thought effective for seasoned exercisers as they would take their heart rate up to 90% of it max capacity, but now interval training is a powerful tool for those of lower fitness levels too. Here we may only take the heart rate up to say 75% (even though it may feel like 90%).

Traditionally this is done through cardiovascular exercise (e.g. treadmill, bike, or rower) but is arguably more effective done using weights for full body exercise.

Weights based interval work…

         Makes your muscles (inc your heart) more powerful
         Can address all fitness goals.
         Raises your metabolic rate (number of calories you burn when not exercising)
         Improves your insulin response (blood sugar control) therefore lowering your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
         slashes your workout time

In my opinion this really is the ultimate way of training that can be tailored to suit all fitness levels. Next week we look at how using this format can boost workplace performance.

That’s all folks! short but effective – just like interval training


1 Mar 2012

Mental block

Hi folks,

Is it just me or does there seem to be loads of health related programmes on this week, especially Tuesday night? As you can imagine I get pretty opinionated about these programmes & either sit there smugly agreeing with what’s being said, or getting ultra frustrated if I think they’re giving out the wrong message.

I want to discuss how your brain can dictate how physically tired you feel. When we exercise, how do we know when to stop? – our muscles ache or we lose our breath right? We’ll research has found that when our bodies experience a high level of physical demand, our brains can make our muscles feel tired out even though they could go on for a little longer. This is an example of one of our natural safety responses kicking in so that we don’t damage ourselves. A similar response occurs in the muscle spindles when stretching called the ‘stretch reflex’. Like the stretch reflex, this mental buffering can be overridden by continuing to work to absolute fatigue (only advisable under guidance). By doing this regularly the body starts to reduce the mental buffer-zone & allows you to work a little harder before feeling the effects.

So could this explain why we find new exercises especially tough the first few times that we do them? My opinion is that this does play a part but muscle recruitment & establishing nervous pathways are also major factors. This research might be worth bearing in mind when novices are considering taking up exercise. If the activity is new then it should be at a relatively easy intensity, whereas if it’s new & at a hard intensity then it will seem impossible to them (especially in circuit training / group exercise / personal training). Then as their body learns the new movements, the mental buffer decreases & the intensity can be raised.

With workplace health in mind, this method may be useful when trying to engage those employees who aren’t so keen to join in workplace health activities – make it easy (or have an easier option) for them.

Next week I’m spending 2 days at the Birmingham NEC for the annual Health & Wellbeing @ Work conference, so ill be bringing you the absolute latest the industry has to offer!