How to Manage Your Worries

Worried cat

Do you ever find yourself worrying more than you’d like to?  If so, you’re not alone. Anxiety is very common.  According to the charity, Anxiety UK, almost one in five people feel anxious a lot or all the time, while nearly half feel more anxious than they used to.

Want to learn how to manage your worries better?  This new video from Radio 4’s psychology, neuroscience and mental health programme, All in the Mind, might be helpful. It’s a short animation, just over three minutes long, with evidence-based advice from clinical psychologist, Professor Kirchhoff from the Netherlands.  Based on trials, Professor Kirchhoff has devised a useful technique to help people worry less.  Take a look…

Attending a Pilates class can also help with anxiety.  An hour spent concentrating hard to execute a series of flowing exercises with precision and control, using a distinct method of breathing, provides a valuable space from any nagging worries that may be going round and round in your head.

Meditation on the beach

Diet and Exercise Performance

Scott Jurek, ultra marathon runner

Anyone interested in the link between food and exercise performance might like to listen to Radio 4’s Food Programme.  They’ve just completed a two-part series, Eating To Run (links to both parts below), looking at the importance of diet to running performance.

In Part 1 of Eating to Run, we hear from Kevin Currell, Head of Performance Nutrition at the English Institute of Sport, to find out about the dietary advice given to Britain’s elite athletes. Compare this to the support Brendan Foster was given on performance nutrition in the 1970s – worlds apart!

Adharanand Finn, author of Running with the Kenyans, shares his insights into running, racing and eating in Iten, the town where many of the world’s most successful distance runners live and train. Kenyan runners eat a lot of ugali, a carbohydrate-rich porridge made of maize flour and water.

Elsewhere however, others argue that a low-carb, high-fat diet will help runners achieve peak performance. Author of Born to Run and Natural Born Heroes, Christopher McDougall, profiles diets based on this principle, that fuelled long runs by resistance fighters during the Second World War and early Iron Man events in the 1980’s. It’s a controversial approach and many believe it’s just the latest food fad to be picked up by people in the running world.  But does it work.  The presenter puts it to the test.

Female runner

In Part 2 of Eating to Run, ultra-marathon champion and vegan, Scott Jurek explains how to eat and run 100 miles. The benefits of fermented food and Paleo diets are also considered in depth.

Below is an interesting video of Scott Jurek talking about the importance of plant protein, breathing, posture and relaxation to good running performance.

“Think of running as controlled falling.” – I love that!

How Pilates Is Helping Professional Footballers

Flexible footballer

Professional footballers are particularly prone to hip and groin injuries and then arthritis in later life.  One contributory factor is that they are more likely to develop femoro-acetabular impingement, where irregularities in the shape of the ball part of the joint, i.e. the head of the femur, can damage the hip socket, causing pain, injury and eventually arthritis. All of which can prematurely end a promising career as a professional footballer.

Premiership side Southampton FC have a special interest in hip and groin injuries. They were a massive problem for the club that had gone under the radar.  Senior players were retiring from football and young talented players were not fulfilling their potential because they were spending too much time in the clinic rather than on the field.  Mo Gimpel, Director of Medical and Science Performance Support at the club identified that the players who were experiencing pain in the hip and groin area were unable to move their femurs, i.e. their thighs, independently of their pelvis.  So, for example, when they brought their knee up to the chest, they rocked their pelvis backwards, rotated it, in fact did a whole range of different movement patterns rather than keeping the pelvis stable.

Gareth Bale doing the Pilates dart

To avoid footballers experiencing hip and groin injuries, they need to increase the flexibility and range of movement in the hip.  Uniquely among premiership clubs, Southampton FC developed a pre-activation session where the physio takes the players through a series of Pilates-based flexing, extending and rotating exercises for the hip and groin area.

Since introducing the pre-activation sessions the club has seen the types and severity of injuries coming into the clinic dramatically change.  The club very rarely sees hip problems, there’s no chronic groin pain and general back pains have also disappeared. The team’s players have very little surgery compared to those of other clubs i.e. hip, inguinal groin and abductor surgery.  Similarly, when you look at hamstrings, the club’s last analysis showed that on average a hamstring problem will keep a player out of action at Southampton FC for, on average 7.8 days, whereas the typical champion’s league and premier league player is out for almost three weeks.  Further, the club has no recurrent hamstrings or groin injuries, which is almost unheard of in football.

Pilates saves the day…again!  Well done, Pilates.

Southampton footballers celebrating


Information source: BBC Radio 4, Inside Health programme, 26 January 2016

The Rest Test

Photo by Alison Brady

Rest is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for all ages. It rejuvenates your body and mind, regulates your mood, and is linked to learning and memory function. Not getting enough rest, on the other hand, can negatively affect your mood, immune system, memory, and stress level.

How good at resting are you?  Why not take the Rest Test and find out.  The Rest Test is designed to explore people’s attitudes and opinions towards rest and rest-related experiences. The reseachers want to take a snapshot of people’s resting habits.

The Rest Test was designed by Hubbub, an international team of social scientists, psychologists, neuroscientists, artists, humanities scholars, and public engagement experts who are in residence at the Hub at Wellcome Collection in London.

The questionnaire is split into two parts. The first part takes about 5-10 minutes. You will be asked some questions about your attitudes towards, and opinions of ‘rest’ and to give some demographic information.

After completing Part 1 of the questionnaire you’ll be asked if you’d like to continue to Part 2 – there is no obligation to do both parts, but if you do have the time to do both that would be of great benefit to the researchers.   Part 2 takes about 30-40 minutes and has more in-depth questions about rest and also some questions about yourself.

By completing the test, not only will you help the researchers understand more about rest, you’ll also be given an instant summary of the results from the first part of survey, which will allow you to see how your responses compare to those who have taken the questionnaire so far.  The results of the The Rest Test will be aired on BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind programme in 2016.

Here’s a link to the site where you can take the Rest Test.

Ballerina Project

Want to feel more rested and relaxed?  Here are a few tips which might help:

1. Make time to relax

As you do with a hair, dental or other self-care appointment, make relaxation a priority by blocking out time for it in your diary. Taking this time is especially important when you are feeling stressed and over-burdened, even if all you do in that time is take a leisurely walk round the block.

2. Follow a routine

Rather than waking up and immediately jumping into the day at high-speed or equally jumping straight into bed at night, follow a routine that allows you time to transition from one part of the day to the next. For example, consider waking up 10 minutes earlier and before turning on your TV, radio, computer or smartphone, take the time to do some simple Pilates exercises instead.

3. Give your mind a break

Relaxation isn’t only about resting your body—resting your mind is just as important. If you struggle with constantly worrying or stressing about certain concerns, write them down, put the list aside for a few days and then revisit them. Sometimes when we give our mind a break from certain thoughts, we return with greater clarity. Also, consider participating in an activity that requires your full attention, such as Pilates. This type of activity can give you a mental break by requiring you to be fully ‘in the moment’ both physically and mentally, leaving little time to think about your to-do list.

4. Try a relaxation technique.

Below are some 5-minute relaxation techniques that can be practised any time or place which you should find rejuvenating:

  • Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Put your hands on your abdomen and as you breathe in, let it expand like a balloon filling with air. As you exhale, slowly let the air out. You should feel your abdomen rising and falling as you breathe.
  • Try to raise your shoulders up to your ears for 5 seconds, and then let your shoulders drop. Then, one at a time, rotate each shoulder backward 5 to 10 times, and then together rotate them forwards 5 to 10 times.
  • In a relaxed position, close your eyes and breathe naturally. Think of the number one as you inhale.  Continue this for at least five minutes but try for 10 to 20 minutes. Any time your mind starts to wander, gently pull it back to thinking of the number one.

Rebecca Loyche