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Active Women Interview – meet Della Skeates

Knee pain is a common reason for people to stop exercising, particularly running. I recently hosted a Guest Blog by Alexandra Merisoiu who uses natural movement techniques to help people run with a healthy technique and reduce injuries. It was a very popular post and I had lots of feedback about how interesting it was. Helping people to overcome their barriers and keep active is my passion and this Active Women Interview Series has been a brilliant forum to share stories of some of the amazing women who are doing just that.   Read More

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Tips For Being Active When You Work From Home.

Data from the Office of National Statistics showed that in 2014 there were 4.2 million people regularly working from home. With studies demonstrating reduced stress, increased happiness and increased productivity,  it’s no wonder that this figure is increasing all the time. As you may know, I had a recent change in career direction and I now find myself working from home 90% of the time. I love it. I love my house and enjoy spending time in it, I work well there. I have however found that I have to make an effort to be active during my working day. I don’t have colleagues to walk over to talk to, a coffee room to visit and I don’t need to nip out to get a sandwich at lunch time. I don’t have a commute, there’s no stroll to the bus stop, no crammed train to stand on and no brisk ‘late for work’ walk. So, whilst I’m happier, I’m aware there’s a risk I may not be healthier.  Reducing our sedentary time is an important part of looking after our health and reducing our risk of disease.

Here are my top tips for keeping active when you work from home:

  1. Set a ‘move’ reminder. When you’re engrossed in work, the time can whizz by. Whilst you think you’ll remember to move, it’s amazing how quickly a couple of hours passes and your bottom is still glued to the chair. Use watches, phone apps and screen reminders to prompt you to move. There’s no clear rule as to exactly how long it’s ‘safe’ to sit for but the current advice is to move around for a couple of minutes every 20 to 30 minutes. We know that the body’s metabolism is affected the longer we sit, it effectively switches into storage mode, with our risk of disease, particularly type 2 diabetes, growing with increased sedentary time. You only need to stand and move around for a couple of minutes to help negate this.
  2.  Drink lots. Even a short stand up and move around to get a drink is beneficial. Don’t sit with a jug of water at your desk, use a small glass, that needs frequent refilling. If you prefer hot drinks, then this is the perfect opportunity to visit the kettle but whilst it’s boiling, don’t go and sit back down, use that couple of minutes to do some squats or press-ups against the kitchen counter. This might seem ridiculous but if you have three trips to the kettle in the day and you do 20 squats each time, you’ll have done 60 by the end of the day and 300 by the end of the week! That’s a serious number and will help to strengthen those glutes which weaken as we sit.
  3. Choose your loo. There’s a downstairs toilet right next to my kitchen where I usually work but by simply opting to use the upstairs one, I’m adding a couple of stair climbs into my day. If you run up rather than walk then that’s an added bonus of increased intensity activity too. Of course, the more you follow tip number 2, the more you’ll need tip number 3 – winning!
  4. Seek out moving tasks. How many of your daily jobs actually need to be done whilst stationary?  If you’re on the phone its easy to walk around the room and chat. I managed to do a whole conference call on my exercise bike – an audio not a video call! Admittedly I had to go fairly slowly so I wasn’t too out of breath when I unmuted my microphone to speak, but it was 45 minutes of gentle cycling which is so much better than nothing. If you’re planning and brainstorming then try doing this whilst out for a walk, you can use the voice recorder on your phone to keep a note of your ideas. I’m actually much more creative when I do this.
  5. Stand at every opportunity. Perhaps you could get a standing desk, there are lots of reasonably priced ones available now. I put a large shoe box on my kitchen unit (glamorous!) and placing my laptop on top of that puts it at just the right height for me to have a good working posture. It’s taken a bit of time for me to get used to working standing up but I’m getting better at it. I can read journals and documents and do video conference calls from this position too.
  6. Count your steps and walk briskly. Such a simple thing to do. Whilst the focus is now on taking brisk ten minute walks to optimise health rather than counting steps, I find the step counter on my phone is a good indicator of my behaviour. It’s just a little reminder to me that I need to think about moving more every day. 10 000 steps is a good guide as to what to aim for. Finding time for a long walk isn’t always possible during the working day. Having a dog ensures that I do get out and I tend to start each day with a walk. Simply including three brisk ten minute walks (check out the Active10 app) into your day will set you well on the way to the recommended 150 minute moderate intensity activity target for the week. Short sharp walks like that are also ideal to help you concentrate, boost productivity and free up some headspace. Five minutes out and five minutes back, try it!

The key is to realise that something is better than nothing and that all these little bits of movement add up. Over one day they might not seem like much but over a week, a month, a year, ten years they will most certainly make a difference to your health. Working from home suits me and I feel fortunate to be able to do it but I know I need to work on creating good habits for it to be good for me in the long term.

I’d love to read your tips too so do leave me a comment.

Photo credit: Featured image – Gratisography

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Tips for Healthy Running- Guest post from Alexandra Merisoiu

I’m delighted to welcome Alexandra Merisoiu to the blog today. Alexandra has a background in Martial Arts (she still competes at international level) and a fascination with how the body moves. She is a Running Coach, specialising in running form and technique. She works with runners of all abilities to help them run faster, further, more efficiently and most importantly, with fewer injuries. I still frequently hear, “Running hurts my knees” so I thought it would be helpful to have Alexandra share some of her wisdom about minimising the impact of running. Head to the Merisoiu Technique Institute  to find out more but in the meantime I will hand over to Alexandra to share some of her top tips for healthy running.

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Influencer of the Year – I’d Love Your Vote!

Woop woop! I’ve been shortlisted in the Women’s Running Magazine 2018 reader awards in the Influencer of the Year category.  Thank you so much to everyone who voted for me and got me through the nominations and into the shortlisted round. I’ve never been shortlisted for an award like this before so this has made me super happy.

I’ve had so many amazing messages from people recently telling me how my work has inspired them. Many of these came after I wrote my blog about following my passion and leaving General Practice. Realising you aren’t happy, working VERY hard to change it and then making the leap takes a whole lot of courage. Women who feel stuck have written to me to tell me that seeing what I do has helped them to reassess their own lives. Women who have also made the leap have sent me messages to congratulate me and share how wonderful it’s been for them. For some reason I expected negativity and worried that making that cut would be harmful to my career but I can honestly say that I am busier, and happier than ever before and am amazed at the opportunities that are dropping into my Inbox!

I’m not after world domination, I just want to share the amazing power that exercise can have on all aspects of your life and help you all to enjoy and benefit from it. I know I can get a bit evangelical at times and sometimes you may get a little fed up of yet another exercise selfie but I’m cracking on! We’re in this together, we have one wonderful life, so let’s make the most of it.

Oh and if you could spare a minute to vote for me you can do so here. But if you don’t want to and promise you’ll go out and have a brisk walk for ten minutes instead, then that is absolutely fine by me!

WRShortlist

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Game Changers in Germany

I’m just back from a four-day trip to Germany with 261 Fearless. I feel a little stunned, I’m trying to digest and process all that took place during this trip, both for me personally and for 261 Fearless. I’m the Women’s Health Lead and a Master Coach for this global women’s running network. This means I get to share my passion for helping women learn to run and my expertise in women’s health with candidates who want to become coaches and start their own 261 Fearless running clubs. It’s a perfect fit!

I’ve taught on many of the Train the Trainer courses over the last few years but this one was a little different and it’s left me with a brain literally exploding with ideas, possibilities and questions.

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The global sponsors for 261 Fearless are adidas and the team at adidas running are so supportive of our aim to reach and empower women all around the world, through our non-competitive running communities. It’s incredible to work with such a big organisation and it was a real treat to travel to the European Headquarters in Germany where they hosted us for this course.

The HQ is impressive and we had a tour of the campus including the archive museum and the product testing labs. My favourite part was the creators workshop where we got to design and make our own mini trainers – I could have spent all day in that crafter’s paradise!

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The other thing that made this trip so special was that this was no ordinary Train the Trainer, it was part of an international project with adidas to take the power of running to some of the world’s harder to reach women. We’re making a documentary for social media to follow the journey of these game changer women as they return to start clubs in their communities. As well as supporting the women, I’m hosting the documentary and interviews which is such an honour. I’ll be sharing these documentary posts on my social media channels over the months to come and let me tell you that I was nearly in tears many times over the trip with their stories and intentions so do look out for them, it’s powerful stuff.

For me, one of the most fascinating things was the discussions around my women’s health presentation. Women had come from India, Democratic Republic of Congo, Albania, Italy, Austria, USA and the UK to be part of the weekend. It was so interesting to hear about the attitudes to women and running generally but particularly when it comes to running in pregnancy, after giving birth and as women age. I know there are barriers but when you hear these women speak about their experiences and culture, you realise that the ability to just go out and run whenever you want, is a real privilege. We must never take it for granted. I don’t want to enlarge too much on this here for fear of documentary spoilers!

drjulietmcgrattan.com 261fearless

I’ve spent the last few years really focussing on trying to help women in the UK and USA to feel confident and able to become active. To have the incredible opportunity to expand this to women around the world in cultures where the barriers are huge, where women running at all is frowned upon, where pregnancy means complete inactivity and having your period means not even being allowed in the kitchen, is mind blowingly exciting … and terrifying at the same time.

Something very special happened in Germany this weekend. As the 261 Fearless founder Kathrine Switzer said, “When women run together incredible things happen”. A special bond was created between everyone present. I have the utmost respect for these brave #261gamechangers and I and the 261 team will do everything we can to support them. The women themselves are capable and fearless but their task is not an easy one. There are exciting and challenging times ahead and I am pinching myself that I am part of it. Please follow the journey. Running can change lives and we’ll be watching it happen.

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All photo credits Horst von Bohlen

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You’ve run 5k, now what?

Reaching the 5k target is a huge accomplishment so congratulations on your achievement! Perhaps you’ve done a 5k race or a parkrun to mark the occasion and are still basking in the glory of success. What do you do now though? Has running become a regular part of your life that you can’t do without out or more commonly, are you still wondering what all the fuss is about and dreading putting yourself through another run?  Deciding what step to take next can be tricky. It’s very easy to find yourself not running at all and quickly losing all that fitness you’ve gained. Take a few minutes to consider which way to go now. Here are some ideas and options.

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