Author: Dr Juliet McGrattan

Active Women – meet Gemma Hicks

Consistent, healthy choices, every day over time can make a huge difference to your health. In this Active Women Interview, I talk to Gemma Hicks. She discovered that aside from losing weight, becoming active and fit has so many other benefits and it’s opened up a whole new world for her Tell us a bit about yourself Gemma… I have always been overweight. I was a chubby child. I hated any form of exercise and my parents, who are both quite sedentary, were always happy to offer a note to excuse me from PE. I was treated with sweets and chocolate if I behaved. My grandparents, who looked after me while my parents worked, fed me on large portions of wholesome food. If I ate it all, it was always followed by a good Yorkshire-style pudding like rice pudding or sponge and custard. I became an obese teenager. I was relatively academic but never sporting. We never went for family walks or did any sort of sporting activities at the weekend. I continued the cycle …

Project Allotment – an update

I blogged back in May about how we had taken a space on our village allotment during lockdown. It was a way to get us active, working together as a family and of course, grow some fresh produce to eat! So how did ‘grow your own’ work out? Did we manage to actually grow some vegetables? I’m pretty good at planting things but poor at getting them as far as our dinner plates. I badly wanted this to be a success. Seeing the other flourishing allotments around our little patch was encouraging but also rather intimidating. We’ve wandered round and looked at everyone else’s when it’s been quiet so we can get ideas and tips. So, how has it gone? Well I would say pretty well! We’ve had some successes and some failures. Courgettes – these grew really well at first and we harvested six big ones. We should have had twice as many but they went brown on the ends and just rotted. It had been quite damp and the flowers had gone a …

Quick Question – Can I exercise during my period?

Cramps, heavy bleeding, fatigue. Periods don’t exactly make you want to bound out of the door do they? But, is it actually ok to exercise when you have your period? Is it safe to work out when you’re menstruating? Is one type of exercise better than another when Aunt Flo is in town? There are many myths and misunderstandings when it comes to periods and exercise so let’s start with whether or not you should get fit while you bleed. When I was teaching on the topic of women’s health to new running coaches at a 261 Fearless international training course, I received a very important reminder. Women’s health knowledge is not the same the world over. Some people may have looked at the title to this blog and said, ‘Yeah, of course you can!’ But in many parts of India, women are not even allowed in the kitchen when they have their period, let alone out on the street in their trainers. The African and Albanian women also said that it wasn’t widely known …

Come and Move The World with 261 Fearless

I don’t know about you but my running motivation has been lacking recently. I know events are starting to slowly reappear and I’m sure parkrun will be on the horizon soon but there’s nothing like a date in the diary to give you a kick out the door, especially on the endless rainy days we’ve been having up north recently. Thankfully, 261 Fearless has come up with just the thing to ignite our running spark and get us in our trainers. The Move the World running series is a celebration of the power of running to unite people around the globe. In a time when we’re becoming more divided and ‘distanced’, goodness knows we need something to bring us together. I love working for 261 Fearless as their Women’s Health Lead and Master coach, being a Director at 261 Fearless Club UK CIC and coaching at 261 Club Lancaster. It’s pure joy and a lot of hard work but the rewards are great. Seeing the power that running has to create communities and empower women …

Tips for Peri-menopausal Anxiety

My last blog talked about how common anxiety is around the menopause and how women often don’t realise that hormonal changes can be the underlying cause for their anxious symptoms (you can read it here). Let’s move on to what we can do to relieve anxiety. What can you do when you’re feeling anxious? How can you calm your mind and stop anxiety overwhelming you? Here are my top tips for easing anxiety in the peri-menopause: Understand it. Read about it, listen to podcasts, talk to other women. The more you understand what’s going on in your body, the more informed you feel. This can really help you feel in control. Tackle it positively. Anxiety is a horrible feeling but there are things you can do to ease it. Approaching it with a positive mind set and a problem solving head, will help you through. Reduce anxiety-inducing drinks and food. Caffeine is known to produce the same jitteriness and increased heart rate as anxiety. Reducing or cutting out caffeine can help hugely if you’re someone …

Anxiety in the Peri-menopause

Anxiety is very common. In 2013 there were more than 8 million cases of anxiety in the UK and with the Covid-19 pandemic, there are certainly many more this year. Feeling anxious is really horrible and can lead to a lot of self doubt. Sometimes there is a trigger but more often than not, anxiety seems to come out of the blue. Many women find they feel anxious at certain times of their menstrual cycle and many women experience anxiety symptoms in the lead up to the menopause. So what is the link between hormones and anxiety and why is it that anxiety can be the first sign of the menopause? Let’s first remember that anxiety can be a good thing. A state of hyper alertness was designed to help us when we meet an enemy, to either stay and fight or to flee the scene (the fight or flight response). That can certainly help us to perform well when it matters, perhaps in an exam, interview or a tricky conversation. It’s only when that …

Giving up Caffeine – one year on

I gave up caffeine last summer. Caffeine can have all sorts of effects on the body, both positive and negative. It can increase your alertness, give you an energy boost and even help your sporting performance. On the other hand it can make your heart race, give you heartburn and irritate your bladder. It’s addictive and without it you can find yourself feeling irritable, drowsy and with a banging headache. Personally I decided to give it up because I was getting a few symptoms that I thought might be caffeine related and I felt drinking it had become a habit that I just didn’t need. Since I started working from home, going to the kettle had become my break from my desk and I’d slowly increased up to five or six cups of tea a day. I only drink coffee once or twice a week. How much caffeine there is in tea varies according to the type of tea and how long you have brewed it for but there are about 70mg of caffeine in …

Quick Question – Can I run with sciatica?

I’ve been asked whether it’s ok to run with sciatica several times recently, by different people so I thought I’d answer it in my #quickquestion series. Will running with sciatica make it worse? Could exercise make sciatica better? Should you just rest when you have sciatica? What’s on many runner’s minds is how long they will have to take off running with sciatica and whether sciatica means they might never run again. Understanding what sciatica is helps to answer all of these questions and more so let’s start there. What is sciatica? The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the body. We have one on each side. It leaves the spinal cord in the lower back and travels through the buttock, down the back of the thigh and calf and underneath the foot. Any damage to or squashing of the nerve causes symptoms of pain, tingling, numbness and sometimes weakness in the area of the nerve below the point that it is compressed. So, if it is squashed behind the knee, the …

Why I Started Running

It’s fair to say that running changed my life. It’s not an over exaggeration. I went from someone who thought running wasn’t for her to someone who left her career to spend more time running, writing about running and helping others to find good health through running. I can honestly say when I started out, it was absolutely not my intention that any of that should happen. It wasn’t even on my radar. In trying to understand how to help other people to become active, I’ve been reflecting (as you know, I do a lot of this!) on why I started running twelve years ago. What was it that I was looking for? What did I need that I thought running could give me? And, in turn, how does that influence what I now say to people to encourage them to be active? I wanted to share it with you to see if you identify, if you are a runner or to see if it would encourage you if you were thinking about running. These …

Quick Question – How do I check my breasts?

How do you do a breast self-examination? What should you look for when checking your breasts? What do you do if you find a breast lump? It can feel a little overwhelming so don’t worry if you don’t know where to start. With some simple tips and advice you’ll soon grow in confidence. Thank you for all the comments and shares of my previous blog – How often should I examine my breasts? I explained it was all about being generally breast aware rather than having a set time to do an examination but that routine and reminders can help to avoid the months flying past without you doing a check. A helpful comment from a reader pointed out that the wonderful charity CoppaFeel do a text reminder service so you’ll get sent a monthly message to remind you. No let’s learn how to examine ourselves. First up … Remember that every woman is different and so is every breast. Breasts are made of fatty tissue and fat is lumpy so at first you might …