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To train or not to train- that is the question?

‘My back aches when I sit or stand for too long’

Start walking. Allowing the lumbar spine and pelvis to naturally tilt and rotate through normal gait allows for improved joint mobility improving blood supply and lymphatic drainage.

Help yourself: Always wear appropriate shoes i.e. a comfortable fit to allow your feet to move and if necessary be supportive to prevent increased impact in the spine and peripheral joints.
In addition to this provided it is safe to do so, entering a swimming pool and walking in the water not only provides support to the body but added resistance to the muscles and joints for further strength and cardiovascular benefits.
Exception: Too acute to swim or even go for a walk, rest up laying flat with hips flexed to allow for a relaxed neutral spine but still getting up little and often to keep the spine relatively mobile.


‘My shins ache when I run’

Cease high impact exercise (running, plyometrics, etc), allow for the swelling in the anterior compartment of the shin to subside but swim, row, bike (if not too acute) to substitute the cardio element.

Help yourself: Always wear appropriate footwear when running. A significant proportion of shin splints injuries are caused by wearing inappropriate shoes.

Exception: In extreme cases tibial compartment syndrome requires complete rest or even surgery due to excessive pressure build up in the muscle compartment. To avoid this, don’t push through the pain. This is your body’s way of saying stop!


‘My knees ache when I exercise’

High impact exercise like running or impaired form deep squats, can irritate the knee joint and its surrounding structures. Females tend to have a lower hamstring to quadriceps ratio. This means they typically have weaker hamstrings compared to males. An additional imbalance through the hip rotators can lead to uneven weight distribution through the knee and therefore more problems occurring.

To reduce the rate of injury, an adequate strength program for the hip and thigh muscles should be undertaken to prevent further injury. Eventually, single leg movement patterns will help further to get you back running and moving efficiently through that squat pattern

Help yourself: Consult a personal trainer running coach or running rehab specialist to help with these specific exercises.

Exception: Chronic knee injuries like osteoarthritis mean that high impact exercise should really be avoided for better pain management, so get in that swimming pool or on a bike for reduced force!


‘My neck aches when I swim’

Often caused by repetitive neck extension out of the water or constant rotation one way, usually due to impaired technique, fear of getting ones face in the water or having just been to the hairdressers and not wanting to ruin the new do!
Counter: Stay in that pool your still safe…..
Help yourself: Swimming lessons to improve technique, in particular how and when to breath in the stroke, get some goggles and get your hair done after!
Exception: If the neck range of motion is so restricted then mix up the stroke or seek alternative exercise however given the support the water provides it’s unlikely it you cant find a way to swim effectively.


‘Wrist sprain, I can’t train!’

Boxing and related training drills are a fantastic way to improve mobility, speed and strength however always remember to support the wrists with boxers strapping, otherwise expect very sore wrists post a punch bag session!

Don’t do any exercise that requires gripping with your hands! If strength work is your fix, hit the leg circuits for a cardio blast instead.
Help yourself: If the sprain is recovering well you may be able to train having had it professionally strapped via regular taping or kinesiotape which aids healing.
Exception: Bad sprains or worse can be aggravated even when running or swinging the arm so rest is the key aid your healing an get back gradually.


‘I don’t want to get bulky’

The only way to get “bulky” is by eating the required amount to complement the training and therefore “bulk up”. Resistance strength training is still applicable even when maintaining regular tone.
Help yourself: Even for the endurance athlete, strength training is a must to improve form in what ever your pursuit may be.
Exception: None. A degree of healthy muscle mass is vital for amongst other benefits, day-to-day metabolic and postural function.


‘I’m overweight and unfit and my muscles ache when I train’

Slow and steady wins the race! You won’t get fit unless you train!
Help yourself: Avoid high impact to begin with, always set mini goals, eat well otherwise the training is counter productive.
Exception: Always address any underlying reasons for why you don’t want to train, are the muscle aches an excuse for deeper psychological concerns, always seek the cause. Not an exception but a grounding for aiding beneficial training.


‘Menstrual cycle- time of the month’

Bloated stomach, aching back, general fatigue and bleeding can limit exercise in many ways so to force exercise at this stage is counter productive. However gentle low impact exercise like yoga or if appropriate swimming to sooth back ache and mobilise the body will help.
Help yourself: Listen to your body and individual symptoms will dictate what you can and can’t do.


‘I don’t have enough time’

An understandable excuse but an excuse nonetheless. MAKE TIME!
Help yourself: Walk up the stairs at work don’t use the lift or escalator.
You don’t need any gear to do a good all-round body workout: push ups, squats, lunges etc hit many muscle groups.
Exception: NONE!


‘I don’t like the gym and it costs too much’

Counter: Get outside and hit the many “park style gyms” for outdoor workouts.
Personal trainers at home are a plenty but always seek personal recommendation. Attend an independent yoga or pilates class, join your local running club or tennis club for some social perks too.
Help yourself: Simply find, which sport or exercise flicks your switch and go with it. If you enjoy it, you will do it!
Exception: Gyms are a great place to workout however more often than not the time spent there isn’t cost effective so use the space well and ask a trainer for help with a workout program. An active gym goer is a happy gym goer!//



26 BONES in each (ONE-QUARTER of the bones in the human body are in the feet.)
(Not to mention a network of blood vessels, nerves, skin, and soft tissue.)

If that’s not impressive, know that all these components must work in perfect dynamic and supportive harmony to ensure they provide stability balance and mobility for the human body.And just to crank it up further, the foot will SUPPORT in total OVER A TON in weight during propulsive impact forces when undertaking only one mile of a run.

The ankle joint or talocrural joint is the only joint coupled with the subtalar joint allow for plantar and dorsiflexion and inversion and eversion. These movements along with complex articulations further down the foot, allow us the most taken for granted movement that we are essentially designed for as BIPEDALS and that is to WALK.

The foot has three ARCHES:
two longitudinal (medial and lateral) arches
one anterior transverse arch.
They are formed by the tarsal and metatarsal bones, and supported by ligaments and tendons in the foot. The collective make up of these structures allow our feet to act as SHOCK ABSORBERS as we hit the ground during walking and running gait.

Moving seamlessly to “TOE OFF” The first metatarsal joint or big toe, ARGUABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT JOINT IN THE BODY DURING GAIT, dorsi-flexes and plantar flexes to allow forward motion.

Through the process of evolution the human foot is quite simply a biomechanical masterpiece.

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Exercise- Weight bear, or not to weight bear?

Exercise- Weight bear, or not to weight bear?



As human beings we are designed for motion. This benefits us in many ways not only to improve the blood flow to our muscles and joints to maintain health but also for our organ systems to function they require motion to encourage oxygenated blood and nutrients to them for optimum function. True, the heart is the primary pump to allow for this but inorder to optimize the pumps very function movement is its key stimulus. So when possible, stand up and get moving is the simple solution to good health, however depending on ones ability and with so many options as to how to exercise, which is the best way to go?



Weight bearing exercise is important to stimulate joint proprioception (or awareness and stability in space), bone growth and repair however those suffering with weight bearing overuse injuries or other conditions must seek other options to still gain the benefits of exercise….



Walking is one of the most fundamental movement patterns we are designed for and the lowest impacting of the gears when considering jogging and sprinting as the higher. Therefore those suffering with arthritic knees and hips are less advised to run but to maintain mobility through regular walking. It is true for those suffering with low back pain that keeping oneself comfortably mobile is far better than compressing and stiffening the joints through a sedentary activity, so at the very least minimal amounts of walking can help to alleviate certain symptoms of low back pain.


Swimming has benefits to suit a range of people, from those suffering with chronic arthritis to the hypermobile gymnast. The water provides both resistance and support for the body so therefore working on muscle strength and joint mobility. Like any sport or activity it is imperative that the technique used is efficient for both injury prevention and getting the most out of your relaxing post work evening swim or your early morning one-mile blast!

It is useful to note that when exercising in a pool, swimming is not the only option. Walking or aqua aerobics are alternatives to getting the most out of your time in the water.


Cycling is an excellent way to improve endurance and strength particularly in the lower half of the body. And when attacking more extreme pursuits like downhill-mountain biking or the rigors of the long distance road event, core strength is of paramount importance. But even when going for a relaxing ride to the park it is still vital to consider ones body position on the bike so to apply the correct injury prevention forces through the hips knees and ankles and to protect the spine so not to over flex if not conditioned to do so. The racing position as seen on a keen road cyclist or for the avid spin class attendee is good for the spine but it is necessary to maintain good flexibility through this range via other activity so to prevent stiffening and possible overstrain.


Yoga and indeed Pilates are exercise systems that amongst other things help to balance the body, improve postural tone and flexibility. They are therefore perfect compliments to all forms of exercise and sport. There are varying forms of both and like any class will be modified by the skill and knowledge of the instructor. They also focus on:


  • Improving our ability to breathe more efficiently (therefore gaining more oxygen into our system).
  • Optimize our digestive system (improved fuelling of our system) through better posture.
  • Focus the mind on the body rather than what’s on TV tonight or when will Tottenham ever win the league!


All of the above are vital to calming our system and regaining both our physical and mental centre.



There are of course many other ways to train and move, to the more vigorous strength and endurance benefits gained from rowing, elliptical trainer or where possible cross country skiing to the grounding calming perks of Thai Chi and Alexander technique.


As humans we do have a tendency to overcomplicate and reach for the most hi-Tec or diverse but often the simplest approach is just as beneficial. Take playing around on the floor mimicking our children in play.

These “primal moves”

are the essence of our developmental patterns and are at our disposal whenever we want them, provided we keep practicing them!


In general when exercising, a few points should remain: Keep the variety-Mixing it up keeps it fun and stimulates both the brain and body. And also prevents overuse injury.


Due to different conditions some more severe than others, it is all relative as to how much one can do but above all wherever possible, KEEP MOVING!




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“It’s time to start running”



“Who’s interested in doing the Hastings half-marathon?”


At 16 years old, I was a rugby and all round team sport fanatic, not to mention a despiser of “plodding along” distance running, so why on Earth would I be interested in running a half marathon?  For starters I was rubbish at cross-country, not to mention psychologically scarred by that tedious bog of a course around my old school grounds in North London.


With a modicum of incentive in trying to beat my best mate, (and a huge one to raise much needed funds for Motor Neurone disease) training began, and some months later with baggy t-shirt flying in the coastal breeze, rugby shorts, ill-fitting trainers and all, I completed my first half-marathon.


Fast forward 17 years and I am standing amongst a group of no more than a 100. Having been read the riot act by the events’ charismatic and somewhat psychotic organizer we all stood primed, and as he bid us good luck in a manner a kin to an army drill sergeant, the verbal gun went off to signal the start of the 2012 Caesars camp 50 mile ultra marathon.


Why run?

-The cardiovascular and other systemic benefits are well documented.  It aids blood flow and therefore oxygen delivery around the body thus improving heart and lung function and in turn managing blood pressure.

-It is an efficient method in burning calories and therefore aids blood sugar regulation and metabolic rate.

-Running is a weight bearing exercise and improves bone density, therefore helping to prevent osteoporosis.

-Good running form will aid all round body strength including lower limb and core.

-The euphoric “runners high” –

-The psychological gain of exercise is very personal. It gives us time to ourselves, time to think or more importantly NOT to think and to just be.



You don’t have to be Scott Jurek (who’s Scott Jurek??)

You could be setting yourself a new challenge, whether its for weight loss and improving your fitness levels, a bet with a friend or another race in your already busy running diary. It is all relative. Whether you are attempting your first ultra marathon or your first run round the block, it’s YOUR challenge. It’s yours to endure and hopefully most importantly, enjoy. The following are my tips to getting yourself going:


  • Assess your start point and set yourself a goal.

Don’t worry if you’re walking a few minutes or indeed all of it to start with. Don’t be concerned about a walk-run strategy YOU’RE STILL MOVING and still ACHIEVING.


  • Prepare yourself and don’t look at that TV remote!

In other words on the day you are going for your run- set your kit out, so if you return home from a busy day at the office and every imaginable distraction is there, make a bee line for the kit, get it on and get outside! Once your out that front door, you’re on your way.


  • Hydrate and eat sensibly.

Obviously depending on personal needs and how long you’re going for will dictate this.


  • Cross-trainers are for cross training!

In short, WEAR RUNNING SHOES. Regardless of whether you are a beginner or seasoned runner, the choice of shoe can be a minefield. Do not be lured into the minimalist shoe thinking that will instantly transform you into the ultimate barefoot runner, but in the same light don’t be sucked into the bells and whistles of the “shock absorbing, counter-over-pronator, so good it will run for you” supportive shoe. SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE. We are all different and don’t fit into one model.


What are you waiting for?

If that gym membership card hasn’t been out of your wallet in the last few months because quite simply, gyms bore you to tears, get your kit on and get OUTSIDE. So what if it’s raining and cold, put more layers on and boost those vitamin D levels! Or in recent weeks get that hat on and apply sun cream! Cancel that membership and try something new. Sitting down is doing nothing for your back, metabolic rate, or your general health and well-being.


A wealth of advice and tips are out there, but most importantly and so fundamental to running and indeed any exercise is to ENJOY IT. Yes, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t an element of hard slog to begin with, or a significant need of self-motivation but once you are in that cycle, and seeing the changes that you have achieved the levels of empowerment are limitless.


Where to now….

So with my first ultra marathon completed last October in a less than pacey 16hrs, and despite the winner lapping me twice, (fair play to that man, as I’ve never seen someone move so effortlessly over such un-yielding terrain) I am about to embark on number two. Hadrian’s wall beckons. The official race has been and gone so the 70 miles of the undulating route will be taken on with my fellow novice ultra running buddy alone. But with our own support team alongside handing out all that is necessary for such an epic adventure we will hopefully ENJOY and ENDURE. Not bad for a bloke who once hated running.