Your vision

This morning I attended an Edinburgh Chamber Networking event with Charles Hammond the CEO of Forth Ports.

The talk was informative, interesting and inspiring. Of the various topics covered, from Brexit to Business to Collaboration, the most impressive aspect of the talk for me was Mr Hammond’s clear and consistent communication of his vision for the future. I feel like I have overdone the alliteration…

However, despite the relative uncertainty in the financial markets, and political arena, he maintained his clear vision for the next 20 to 30 years of trade for this nation with Europe and the World and the role of the Ports within it.

I realise that this is one of the issues when it comes to your health. When facing a health challenge, or when under significant levels of stress (whether it is emotional, financial, physical or even chemical stress), your brain and nerve system can start to think in ever shorter times frames, shifting from thriving to surviving, the focus then becomes the next moment instead of maintaining a vision for a healthy future.

Driving a wedge

You are you and you are perfect.

You may or may not have an idea about who you ‘should be’. This is where the problems can begin. If you can imagine holding an image of who you want to be; how healthy you will be, how much you will earn, what you should look like and you compare it to who you are right now; how healthy you are, how much you earn and what you look like.

Modern western society, in particular the corporations, advertise incessantly to create in your minds eye an image of who you should be, driving a wedge between the real you and the person you ‘should be’.

Your Brain on Technology

As smart phones get smarter, society’s health gets weaker. The effect of technology overuse is affecting communities at an astonishing rate. From poor posture to developmental delays, technology overuse is leading to a new generation of ill health outcomes.

Modern day adolescents are constantly over stimulated, and always connected to their devices, commonly without any connection to culture. Adults are more overstressed and sedentary than ever before.

In fact, 83% of professional workers check their emails after work, 66% take their technology with them on holiday, and more than 50% report sending emails while having a meal with family or friends. With the stress of keeping up with work, 73% of employees worry that they will be at a disadvantage at work if they disconnect or do not instantly respond to emails and messages (Goldsmith, 2016).

Stretching

This highly valuable tool is often overlooked when addressing health needs.

For the Drivers who don’t have time to read the text below. Stretch, your IQ will increase.

For the Expressives whose mind will be onto other things before the end. Stretch, your flexibility will improve personal relationships (not sure if that is true but it sounds good).

For everyone else, enjoy.

Let’s first take a look at the overall picture. There are 5 healthy habits. Yes you know them by now, they are nutrition (including hydration), rest (including meditation), cleanliness, a positive mental attitude (including emotional awareness and emotional maturity) and Exercise!!

The latter, exercise, is further broken down into 3 types, strength, stamina and suppleness. Today we are just looking at suppleness.

What are the benefits?

The basic three are that you feel good, you decrease the chance of injury and you enhance your flexibility. But as well as this you also reduce muscle tension, improve circulation, reduce anxiety, stress and fatigue, improve posture(!), enhance muscle coordination, increase range of motion of the joints (we’ll come back to this), enhance kinaesthetic intelligence (and this), and reduce muscle soreness.

So there is a lot to be said for taking a few minutes each day to stretch out.

Now to the practicalities of stretching. Only use stretching to warm down, not to warm up! (Do warm up before exercise, only do not use stretching to achieve it). This will lessen the chances of injury as well.

So what is stretching, why is it painful? Do you think the pain is because the muscle itself is tight? That the muscle fibres are all bunched up and need to be pulled out? Well actually what is muscle without a nerve supply? To answer that question take a look in your local butchers. The only reason a muscle holds tension is because the nerve system tells it to hold tension. Without nerve supply muscles are slabs of meat…

We call the amount of tension a muscle holds its tone. High muscle tone therefore is a tight muscle with limited movement, not because the muscle fibres are tight, but because the nerves tell the muscles to be tight.

So when we stretch the pain we feel is the nerve system saying, “Er, are you sure about this? If you continue to lengthen this muscle I cannot guarantee the integrity of the joint over which the muscle passes”. This or “ARRGGGHHH stop stretching joint may snap”. Either way, the pain is your nerve system staying within self-imposed limits to protect a joint the best way it knows how, by limiting movement.

When we stretch therefore we are not pulling out muscle fibres, but in fact retraining the nerve system to a new safe distance of movement. What our conscious mind is saying is “now, now I know you think you need to hold tight, but in actual fact you can let go and everything will be ok”, well that or “Loosen up man, it’s all cool, I’ve got this.”

By connecting with the nerves that supply muscles, by consciously breathing into the muscle that is being stretched, you are also strengthening the nerves that provide feedback from the muscles. This builds awareness – you gradually become more and more subtly aware of how much tension a muscle holds so that you can make more and more subtle adaptions in response to stress, stored stress and muscle tension. A stronger nerve system and better feedback from the body’s muscles increases kinaesthetic intelligence, one of the seven core intelligences and the one in which David Beckham is considered a genius…

Therefore, stretch every day, to reduce pain and increase intelligence, oh and improve posture!!

Remember to hold the stretches for 20 seconds and alternate sides between stretches, practicing for three times on each side. i.e. 2 minutes of stretching for each muscle. As a minimum stretch hip flexors and upper trapezius muscles every day.

   

Upper Trapezius (side of neck to along the top of the shoulder blade)

o Patient position – Patient begins seated on an exercise ball with arms hanging by their sides.
o Motion – Reach over and place the right palm on the left side of the head. Slowly bring the head to the right while pulling the.left shoulder to the floor until stretch is felt. Only use the hand for guidance, do not pull with the hand.
o Duration – Hold stretch for 3x 20 seconds and repeat on the other side

Iliopsoas – (Front of hip)

o Patient position – With one knee on the floor the opposite foot is out in front of the body with the ankle slightly in front of the knee. The body remains upright, imagine a straight line from the shoulder through the hip and down to the knee on the floor.
o Motion – Tail bone is tucked under the body with very slight forward movement until the stretch is felt at the top of the leg of the knee on the floor.
o Duration – Hold stretch for 3x 20 seconds, alternating between sides.

 

Investments are subject to market forces

As you may know this clinic engages in a great deal of business networking. Always looking to meet new people, develop relationships and turn people on to the idea of making healthy choices.

In a recent conversation with an investment banker, I realised the amount of overlap there is between the professions, but how the one key difference makes a wealth of difference.

Firstly the overlap is that his job is to help people take the long term view when it comes to investing financially, communicating to his clients not to panic when the market goes up and down and to stay the course. The rewards by making the correct choices, staying abreast of change and thinking long term are many fold.

Health banking account

So the crazy time is approaching.

A time for family, fun and overindulgence… So how can we approach the holidays in the correct manner..?

Well imagine your body is a financial institution. No I don’t mean your body is about to collapse, is untrustworthy or will unconsciously shred evidence of your chocolate eating before you consciously notice it (although the latter may happen).

What I mean is, that in order to make withdrawals the safest way is to make sure you have made enough in deposits so that you do not go into your overdraft and start getting charged.

So the belated point is to make health deposits now. As many as you can in preparation for Christmas so that you can make some withdrawals.

Sitting

As I sat on my chair at 5am Sunday morning, meditating on a single point halfway across my lounge floor. It occurred to me that sitting is an active process.

Many things occur to me whilst meditating, as I am sure things are occurring to you right now at the thought of getting up at 4.55 to meditate. Being up at this time may or may not suit you, but a time will come when it will suit you, at which time I encourage you to pursue it as a habit. And, rather than heading to a supermarket to get the shopping done before anyone else, just sit.

(I do not do this everyday, as I have until 7am most days to meditate before the family wake up, oh and there is lunch time if they’re up early, it is supposed to be enjoyable and rewarding, not a cause of suffering, but for those with the discipline, a 4.55 wake up (once a habit) has myriad benefits).

Feedback

Act your way to a new way of thinking, is better than thinking your way to a new way of acting.

A beautiful quote I think you will agree.

Kundalini yoga puts it more abruptly. Saints Do, Idiots Think.

Yet another way to approach this follows on from the statement that – There is no such thing as failure only feedback.

In order to learn and therefore grow we need to be willing to make mistakes. If we spend our time thinking and trying to come up with an all conquering concept or idea, we may or may not achieve it, but whilst we are thinking about it, life passes us by.

The most crippling extension of this is being a perfectionist. Sitting on the sidelines, refusing to join in until all the answers are figured out internally. There are so many lines of enquiry that this can go on for ever. And then when we finally we step off of the sidelines to join in, it doesn’t go as planned and we take failure personally.

Rio

What a glorious games we witnessed!

Athlete after athlete showing what it takes to become the best in the world, with grit, honed talent and obvious signs of hard work and sacrifice to get them to the top. Even those that failed to medal still put in tremendous effort to get to the olympics as the very best in their own country.

As well as a platform for the better well known sports, it is an opportunity to see the sports that have less coverage. Badminton was excellent, the divers a picture of grace and precision, even the taekwondo was exciting to witness.

So many heroes to choose from, difficult to pick a favourite. Amazing to witness Usain Bolt win the treble treble (albeit the following morning, 2.30 is too late for me). Adam Peaty in the swimming, these guys seem to work harder than the average olympian. The cyclists nailed it after a few disappointing world championships. Boxers, rowers, canoeists, gymnastics(!), did that really happen, a gold in the gymnastics? Amazing.

My Creaky Bike Chain

Oh yes, the story begins a few weeks ago on a Wednesday morning (side note – never trust a weather APP!), on the way  in to work, the thunderstorms predicted for late morning arrived at precisely 8.20 whilst I waited patiently on my bike at the lights by the Haymarket bar. How far is that from the office? Maybe 500 meters? Well it was far enough to become COMPLETELY soaked. Fortunately spare clothes are always at hand, and you’ll notice we only get the best paper towels nowadays… Handy…

The next morning on my cycle in, the chain was creaky. Well of course, any semblance of oil would have been washed away in the terrential thunderstorm ( I mean honestly, I would have been less wet if I’d sat on my bike in the shower at home for 5 minutes…). It never occurred to me to oil the chain on getting home after working late, and so the bike required some maintainence over the weekend before cycling again the following week.