5 signs that you’re already one of life’s winners

I’m fresh from this week’s Race for Life Epping. It was steamy one this year, with lots of heavy legs and even heavier breathing. I was under-trained and had been feeling unwell for a few days but I gave it everything. This meant pushing through and just getting my head down between kilometres 3-4. It meant encouraging strangers through the last stages just for a bit of feel-good distraction. It meant focusing on my husband and kids on the finish line, waiting for me. But most of all it meant ignoring my mind talk and remembering I am stronger than my mind.

Running a race is often used as a metaphor for life, with good reason. It’s about enjoying the journey as well as the quest for your goal. There’s always another loop of that bloomin’ track or another hill you’d forgotten about and you’re not going to feel on top form for every race but you can still do it.

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Me with my sister and mum after Wednesday’s Race for Life.

So how do you know if you are a winner? Here are the top 5 traits and habits I’ve spotted of people in life who are going places, whether that’s in the race for business success, fitness goals or happiness.

1. You’re prepared to just get on with the hard stuff.

Newsflash. Even if you are in a job you love, which you’ve carved out for yourself, there’s still dull stuff to do. Just like those bits of a running race that are just plain hard, you just have to quit complaining. Stay up late. Get babysitters in. Ask for help. Dig deep and GET ON WITH IT.

2. You’re ready to stick your neck out and be noticed.

You can’t always hide beneath a job title or role. Sometimes you need to be present and be yourself, which can feel uncomfortable. Earlier this year I was challenged to step out from my own shadow and be me in my business. This has felt really uncomfortable at times but reaps rewards in terms of being authentic and sincere in business. Just like a race, you can’t always play it safe with the joggers, sometimes have to line up with the runners and give it everything you have.

3. You have a plan but you can adapt.

You might be going for a fast time or a new training PB but thinks crop up. A virus or a hiccup in your training. I’m not suggesting you run when you’re genuinely ill but you can still support or cheer on everyone else. It’s important you have your goals but you also need to be adaptable or you could miss out on new opportunities, partnerships or friendships along the way. Just make sure you re-route rather than divert completely.

4. You know who’s ahead of you, who’s chasing you and who’s supporting you.

Now here’s a biggie. Who inspires you? Who are the competitors champing at your heels? And who’s supporting you? There are those who will always cheer you on. Those that will offload work or stress. Use them and appreciate them. They are all part of the journey.

5. You have found ways to enjoy the ride.

And the most important one of all. Life will never slow down. It will never all be done. So take time to appreciate the moments. That might mean writing down 3 things you have been grateful for every day, it might mean making quality time for the special people in your life. But take off the blinkers and be present in your journey.

Read more about how Karen is working with breast cancer specialists to help prevent cancer: Exercise helps prevent breast cancer recurrence

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist, writer and speaker. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.

Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex. TWITTER: @fitschoolessex FACEBOOK: ccfitschool WEBSITE: www.fit-school.co.uk

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13 great ways exercise can help prevent disease and boost health.

Alzheimers. Type 2 Diabetes. Breast Cancer. Colorectal Cancer. Prostate Cancer. Heart Disease. Depression. What do these major health conditions all have in common? Exercise can prevent, lower the risk of, or in some cases even reverse the effects of the condition.

How?

We all know that this is what researchers say but how does exercise actually change us on a cellular level?

Aside from preventing disease I’ve long been an advocate of using exercise as medicine or at the very least to complement it.

Following on from the talk I gave a few weeks ago aimed at Breast Cancer survivors (evidence now points strongly towards using exercise to reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back), I’ve collated some of the coolest science snippets about how exercise actually changes us, beyond our skin and bones.

Prepare yourself for some serious dinner party human biology titbits!

  1. When we exercise our mitochondrial production increases. Mitochondria are the body’s battery cells, they are what give us energy. So exercise literally gives us more energy. [KELLY et al, 2006].
  2. When we exercise we increase our body’s ability to synthesise protein. This means our body can convert protein much more readily.  [HANDS, 2009].
  3. When we exercise we increase our lean tissue (muscle mass) or sustain what we already have. Lean tissue naturally decreases with age so we can halt the ageing process [HANDS, 2009].
  4. When we exercise we increase our body’s ability to regulate glucose [Adams, 2013]. This is an important factor in managing diabetes, or reversing type 2 diabetes.
  5. Exercise helps activate muscle fibres which would otherwise be reduced due to lack of use and age related atrophy (sarcopenia). The best treatment for sarcopenia is exercise. With the right programme, you could see a difference in as little as two weeks.
  6. Pre-habiliation, so getting strong or being fit before surgery can help operation recovery. This could also be true for some injuries or illnesses.
  7. When we exercise our body’s natural anti-oxidant levels up-regulate. This helps us to fight off disease. It’s like boosting our natural defence mechanisms.
  8. Gentle exercise, like yoga or walking can help manage stress. This is measurable through heart rate variability (HRV). HRV is an excellent way of measuring the early signs of stress.
  9. Any exercise which increases our heart rate for 20 minutes increases blood flow to the heart and the strength of the heart wall.
  10. Learning a skill helps with myelination. Myelin is essential for proper functioning of the nervous system. Our ability to learn a skill stays with us (although it gets harder as we age). Kids are programmed to myelinate more so they can learn how to survive. They have specific windows of opportunity for doing this such as learning to eat, crawl or walk. Myelin never unwraps (although there are rare diseases like Guillard Barre Syndrome or conditions like Multiple Sclerosis which may cause this). We can enhance myelination by learning a challenging new skill and also by eating foods rich in Omega 3 and B vitamins (think brain food).
  11. Exercise which is fun produces dopamine, a happy hormone. Some intense exercise also produces endorphins which make you feel good. This can improve emotional health.
  12. When we exercise we use more oxygen. Oxygen is the natural way to alkalise the body.
  13. Any movement or simply standing is good for us. Non Exercise Activity Thormogenesis (NEAT) refers to the way our metabolism increases through any activity, not necessarily a specific type of exercise. So our metabolic rate increases just by standing rather than sitting. Brushing your teeth standing up is better for you than performing the same task seated.

And here’s one more thought to leave you with … our cells are constantly regenerating. It’s estimated that human cells are completely regenerated every 7-10 years. All of the above, plus what you eat, drink or expose your body too will affect cell regeneration. Does that motivate you to get moving? It does me.

So there you have it. Human biology to amaze your friends with and proof that what you choose to do with or to your body on a daily basis affects your health.

If you’d like to take disease prevention a stage further, Fit School offer DNA testing. DNA testing can give you a better idea of what foods or exercise are optimum for you (the individual) and how to tailor your programme in line with these results. Tests are currently available at the discounted rate of £190 (usually £270) and Chris is one of a handful of trainers in the UK who offer this type of testing.

 

Everyday chemicals that could be putting your health and your unborn baby’s health at risk.

LAST week the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), the ‘gold standard’ of ante natal advice, published a scientific paper advising pregnant women to choose safety first when it comes to the use of toiletries, cleaning products and even pre-packed fresh foods. The report came under fire for being alarmist and misleading but scientists have known for a long time about the health risks of so called ‘everyday chemicals’. Anti-persperant deodorants, plastic bottles, packaged meat, cling-film, even baby bath often contain chemicals which have been shown to be toxic to the human body.

It’s not just unborn babies who are at risk, it’s humans in general but the developing baby is obviously much more vulnerable to toxicity.

So what’s underneath the study, what are the chemicals to look out for.

PARABENS

Parabens are a preservative found in many cosmetic products. Research has found that parabens are absorbed through the skin and their chemical structure is unchanged by the human metabolic system. A 2004 UK study detected traces of five parabens in the breast cancer tumors of 19 out of 20 women studied, there is no direct link but the results were significant because of the fact that the parabens had not been metabolised and remained intact in human tissue. Parabens are also known to disrupt hormone balance. They mimic the female hormone oestrogen. High levels of oestrogen have been linked to some cancers, including breast cancer.

How to avoid: Look for organic or ‘pure’ products. Many high street chains do own brand cosmetics and skin care which are paraben free. For more information check out this article: http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=291

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SODIUM LAURYL SULPHATE

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) or Sodium Laureth Sulphate is a foaming agent commonly found in soaps, shampoos and washing detergents. Research has found that SLS can react with other chemicals in household products to product potentially carcinogenic compounds (cancer causing). Aside from this, SLS has been shown to cause common skin complaints such as itching, redness and inflammation and younger individuals tend to react stronger to these chemicals, so definitely one to watch if you or your little ones suffer with any skin complaints like eczema or itchy skin.

How to avoid: As with parabens, check out the labels on products. Compounds such as ammonium lauryl and laureth sulphates have larger molecules which can’t be absorbed by the skin and so are considered safer options. For more information check out this article: http://www.greenpeople.co.uk/info_features_sls.aspx

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BISPHENOL A (BPA) and PHTHALATES

BPA and phthalates are the chemicals which have headed up the plastic food storage controversy in recent years. It’s well known that the body absorbs small amounts of plastics when we consume food which has been in contact with plastic (worse in salty or fatty foods or foods which have been heated in plastic containers – microwave anyone?). Many studies have shown the main culprit for BPA is plastic lined cans.

BPA gets into our bloodstream. Regular monitoring by the CDC shows that more than 90% of us have detectable levels of BPA in our bodies. BPA disrupts hormones, again it’s oestrogen which comes out on top and one large, well-conducted study in humans showed that people who had high levels of BPA in the urine had a higher rate of diabetes, heart disease, and liver toxicity.

Phthalates are plasticisers used in everything from pipes to perfume. They have been banned in the EU since 2005 however we are still exposed to phthalates, pesticides (crop spraying) and plastic packaging are thought to be the main culprits. Phthalates disrupt hormones but mainly the male hormone testosterone and some studies have shown minor genital birth defects in baby  boys due to exposure to phthalates.

How to avoid: 

  • Eat less canned foods.
  • Use cookware made of cast-iron rather than teflon coated pans.
  • Reduce your consumption of fast foods and microwave meals.
  • Don’t use plastic bottles with a number 3 or 7 on them. Number 1 on plastic is single use only.
  • Avoid heating food in plastic containers or with cling-film.
  • Opt for pyrex or glass food containers.
  • Hand wash plastics to avoid wear and tear.
  • Discard damaged containers.
  • Do not heat plastic bottles.

To find out more read this thorough article at Web MD: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/cookware-plastics-shoppers-guide-to-food-safety?page=2

You can view the original RCOG report here: http://www.rcog.org.uk/news/rcog-release-mothers-be-should-be-aware-unintentional-chemical-exposures-say-experts