Author: Dr Juliet McGrattan

Loving the Long Runs

Running is a funny old thing isn’t it?! Sometimes you can’t get enough of it and then there are periods where you just can’t seem to motivate yourself to even get out of the door. I’m particularly prone to this see-sawing when it comes to long runs. I started lockdown only doing short runs but I’m doing lots of long ones now and really enjoying them. I began thinking and analysing (as I’m prone to do!) what it is at the moment that means I’m already planning my next long run even though my legs are still sore from yesterday’s one. For me personally, a long run is anything over 10k (around 6 miles). I think the distance is irrelevant because in the past, my long one would have been anything over 5k. It just depends where you are in your running journey. Any run where the focus is on pushing distance rather than pace or speed counts as your long run in my mind. Here’s what I’ve come up with as the factors that …

Quick Question – How do I know if I’m peri-menopausal?

This time last year BBC Breakfast ran their brilliant menopause coverage which increased awareness, educated and informed the public on this important topic. I made a contribution and visited the sofa to talk to Louise Minchin about exercise and the menopause and I wrote a blog to enlarge on the subject too. It definitely started conversations but one year on are we still talking about it? Do we feel more knowledgeable? It’s important that the conversation continues. Women still have many questions and concerns. How do I know if I’m peri-menopausal? How can you tell if you’re in the menopause? These are questions I hear all the time so let me answer them in my #quickquestion series. Terminology First up, a quick reminder of what the terms mean. You reach the menopause when you haven’t had a period for 12 months, the average age for this to happen, in the UK, is age 51. When you are heading towards the menopause but not there yet it’s called the peri-menopause (peri means around or surrounding) and …

Project Allotment

Keeping your children active is sometimes easier said than done. I’ve always found that it helps massively if you do things together as a family. You’re setting a great example to your kids by being active yourself, there’s an opportunity for family bonding and you’re making memories too. It’s important to remember that being active doesn’t just mean doing sport. There’s endless things you can do which all count as activity that don’t involve kicking a ball or chasing after your children. I thought I’d share our latest project designed to help us be active and healthier. We’ve tried to take as many positives from this period of lockdown as we can and one thing that has sparked our interest is food. Not just baking and trying out new recipes (although we’ve done PLENTY of that) but a desire to look after ourselves better through what we eat. We’ve been using our local butchers for our meat and our milkman has been bringing potatoes, eggs and fruit juice as well as our usual enormous fresh …

Dancing Through Lockdown

My daughter loves to dance (I too lived to dance when I was her age). Lockdown has been a difficult time for dancers. Long practised-for exams postponed and dance festivals and competitions cancelled. The disappointment is huge when you’re 12 and all you want to do is dance and perform. In the same way that I’ve had a chance to consider my lockdown running and reflect on what positives I can take from this time as I run towards the future, it’s been a great opportunity to think about what dancing means to you when you can’t join in your usual classes with your dance friends, perform on a stage or compete in any events. I’ve always known that going to dance lessons is so much more than learning steps and routines. Dance brings so many benefits, particularly for children. I danced throughout my childhood and when I look back I can see how it helped me in so many ways. I know how hard it was for my parents to pay for my dance …

Quick Question – Can I exercise with varicose veins?

Varicose veins, a common condition that you might have diagnosed yourself or seen your doctor about. What are varicose veins, why do they happen and how do they link with exercise? Can exercise prevent varicose veins and if you’ve already got them, will exercise make them better or worse? What do you need to be careful of when exercising with varicose veins? I thought I’d pick this for my latest #quickquestion. What are varicose veins? If you don’t have them yourself then I’m sure you’ve spotted varicose veins on other people, usually on their legs. They’re essentially swollen blood vessels seen at the surface of the skin. They’re dark blue in colour as they contain blood that has given away its oxygen (deoxygenated blood) and is on its way back to the heart to get some more. They can be small or large, straight or very wiggly. They might not cause any discomfort at all but it’s common for varicose veins to ache, throb, itch and even bleed. Why do varicose veins happen? Our blood …

Running Towards the Future

‘How are you?’ seems to be the most common way to open a conversation at the moment. For runners this is often followed by, ‘How’s your running?’ Many people have been running more frequently during our time of lockdown, using it to keep their mental health in check and add routine to the days. Others have been running less, either because it feels like one pressure too many or they’re key workers and are just too tired and busy. Whichever it is, lockdown has certainly been a time for us to reflect on our running. Whether it’s how much we love it, why we aren’t enjoying it or how much we miss it. I wrote recently about my lockdown running but this has lead me on to thinking about what I can take forward as a positive to use in my future running. What have I learnt? What have I enjoyed? How is my running going to look in the future? Here are my own personal running reflections and how I intend to use them …

Quick Question – How can I stop coughing?

Last week’s question covered why and how we cough, now let’s consider how to stop coughing. What can you do to ease a cough when your ribs are aching and your sleep is disturbed? As we discovered, coughing is a reflex designed to protect us and it’s controlled by the coughing centre in the brain which receives messages from receptors in our airways. Because this happens automatically, without conscious thought, it makes it difficult to control. Find out what’s at the route of your cough? The key is to work out why you’re coughing. We usually associate coughing with respiratory infections such as colds, bronchitis or pneumonia but there are many other reasons people cough. Working out the cause helps to find the best way to make it stop. Here are some common causes of coughs which aren’t respiratory infections: Smoking – A major cause of a long term cough. Acid reflux – Stomach acids sometimes sneak past the sphincter that seals off the stomach. This acid can travel upwards and irritate your throat, this …

My Lockdown Running

I’ve never been more grateful to love running than right now. Since I began running 12 years ago, it’s always been there for me, through thick and thin, happy and sad. A lifeline to cling on to, a power source, a release. Running has helped me in so many ways. Now, when our backs are up against the wall with the Covid-19 pandemic, running is still there and thankfully we are still allowed to do it! I’ve been reflecting on if and how my relationship with running has changed during lockdown. Here’s what I’ve discovered lockdown running to be so far: A Leveller – The possibility that the government might ban me from going for a run has certainly made me consider how awful it would be to lose this privilege. I’ve always tried to maintain a gratitude for my ability to run but this has really brought it home. It’s made me thankful, made me consider others who can’t run and truly helped me to enjoy every second of every run. A Reminder – …

Coughing woman

Quick Question – Why do we cough?

A cough is one of the major symptoms of Covid-19 and a common feature of any respiratory infection but why do we cough and what actually happens in the body during a cough? Coughs are annoying and irritating, both for the person suffering and for those around them (I seem to be as intolerant of listening to coughing as I am of hearing people chew!) They are however a protective mechanism designed to remove foreign particles from the windpipe and lungs. Larger objects such as food that’s gone down the wrong way and smaller particles such as dust, germs and mucous are all expelled from the body through coughing. The lining of our airways contains specialised cells called goblet cells which produce mucous to keep our airways moist and to trap dirt and germs. Alongside them are ciliated cells which have hundreds of tiny, microscopic legs at their surface which wave, waft and move the mucous and trapped particles back up the airways. During an infection we may have a dry cough where little or …

Red blood cells

Quick Question – What are oxygen sats?

We seem to have developed a range of new vocabulary since the onset of the Covid-19 global pandemic. Suddenly words such as self-isolate, health modelling and social distancing have become the norm. Some of the medical terminology that’s now filling our social media feeds can be unknown and confusing. A question I’ve seen a few times is, ‘What are oxygen sats?’ so I thought I’d answer it in my #quickquestion series. Red blood cells carry oxygen around our body. They pick up oxygen molecules when they travel through the lungs and then transport it around the body attached to haemoglobin, which is a protein in the red cell. Our body’s organs and tissues need a steady supply of oxygen for them to function. Oxygen sats is the short form of oxygen saturation and is a measure of how close blood is to being completely saturated with oxygen. Sats are measured in per cent and the goal is 100 per cent. You might also see oxygen abbreviated to its chemical symbol O2. Healthy people will have …