Saturday, 30 December 2017

The things I wish for you in 2018

The ten things I wish for you in 2018

As we move into the new year, as cliché as it sounds, it certainly is a time for deep reflection and gratitude. In my tenth year as a fitness professional, I see the same patterns every new year period. To be honest, I have moments when I am just so tired of hearing the same thing over and over again. The reasons people can't put their health first, can't move their body, can't get to the gym or do some exercise, can't eat well, etc etc. At what point do we say 'enough!' and just do it. 

As I think about all the people in my world, the people I work with, clients, my friends and family, there are ten consistent things I wish for all of you as we move into yet another new year.

1.     Take stock of your health. Don’t just talk about it, don’t think about it, just do it. Connect with people who are serious about health and fitness, not those that are just going to get your body moving. Get people on your team who will hold you accountable and speak to you honestly and openly about where you are now and where you need to be. Yes, exercise should be fun, but you also need to train smart. Find someone who gets this and delivers results. You can’t mess around with your health, and nor should they. Start by getting yourself measured. Get a body composition scan and find out the real hard facts. Then, move forward and never stop again. Please don’t assume that walking your dog or taking  a morning run will be enough. They aren’t. There is more than enough evidence and research available, that indicates proper strength training isn’t only important, it is critical. But learn how to do it properly. 

2.     Be proud of the hard workers in your world. There are people around you who are seriously hustling hard. They work their butts off. It’s time to stop criticising these people. Instead – watch them. Watch the joy they get from their work. They are connected to their greater purpose and don’t give a stuff about how many hours they work to achieve it. So please stop telling these people to take a holiday. Instead – watch their every move. They radiate joy. They are where they’re meant to be, and if you stop criticising them and be inspired by them instead, you may just open up another world of possibilities. Now I'm not talking about those people that work excessive hours, but hate what they do, are constantly stressed and constantly wait for the weekend to arrive. I'm talking about people who willingly and happily immerse themselves in their work because they are fulfilling their life's purpose. 
We work our butts off, but we wouldn't change it for the world
We will rest when we are done!
When you love what you do and you are living your purpose,
you don't count the hours you work each day. The number doesn't matter.

3.     Set a goal that scares the fuck out of you. Don’t just exist in 2018. Live! Set a goal that absolutely makes you shit your pants and then do everything you can to nail it. Stop at nothing, leave no rock unturned. You will look back at 2018 on the 31st December and be amazed at what you achieved. Nothing is impossible, you just have to change the way you think about it. 

4.     Stop making excuses. No seriously, stop. You are not too busy, too stressed, too tired, too broke, too important, too sick, too injured to actually take care of your body. You get one body in this world. Why would you put any of those excuses ahead of living in the healthiest, fittest, most beautiful body you can create? Yes – you do deserve this, so stop making excuses. We have heard them all. Oh, and forget making excuses for each other too. I know someone who constantly makes excuses for her family’s inability to lose weight and take care of themselves. They aren’t the only problem, she is part of it too. Simple.

5.     Don’t let other people decide or design your happiness. Your partner included. You are in control of your own destiny. If you know you are being sabotaged by a family member, partner, friend or child, then guess who has the ability to change this…? One hint: it’s not them.

6.     Just eat well. It’s actually not that hard to make consistently healthy and nutritious choices. What’s actually hard is making the decision to do so. Many people tell us it’s too hard to eat healthy. In fact, that’s the story you’re telling yourself. You just need to choose healthy foods when you are at the shop. Your kids will adjust, and so will your partner. And eventually they will thank you for it. But if they don’t want to change, that’s ok, but it doesn’t mean you can’t. And please don’t tell us you don’t know how to eat well. You do. You’re choosing not to. And if you genuinely need help, then get help. There are a million professionals on this earth who are as obsessed as I am at helping you. Take the first step and let them help you. Then put that help into practice.
Still don't understand food and nutrition. These guys are the bomb.
Tell them Ritual HQ sent you!

7.     Divorce the bottle. Make this year the year you end your reliance on alcohol. Yep, enjoy it socially for a special occasion, but stop telling yourself that alcohol is your only way of handling stressful work days, tragedy, an annoying partner or kids, getting to sleep, or celebrating anything. Get control back over the bottle. It’s quite liberating. But seriously, you need to do this. My clients who have the most injuries or pain are those that refuse to take a break from alcohol. Alcohol = severe inflammation of the body. And it also contributes to high stress levels, hormonal imbalances, weight issues, bloating, poor skin and hair, reduced strength, poor sleep, and mental health issues. So tell me again how you absolutely need that wine to cope with your day?

Check out the Hello Sunday Morning website for wonderful
support and resources.

8.     Move every day. Find a way to move your beautiful body every day. Walk, run, ride a bike, hit the gym, make love, play with your kids outside. But please – move your body. Get the blood pumping and keep your body free from stress and stiffness.

9.     Make love more. Too many clients  that I work with in the fitness industry tell me that they have a non-existent sex life. This is a natural and functional human right. Making love is how we connect with the person that we love. Love freely and openly and bring the fun back into your world. Spend less time on the treadmill and more time with your mate. I often prescribe sex as cardio…commit to a one-month challenge with your partner of daily sex and let me know how you go. Yes, every day!

10. Acknowledge that your time is limited. Knowing that our time is ticking away and so incredibly precious is something I connect with daily. When I spend time with my thoughts and when thinking about my big scary goals, I reflect on time and I remember how fleeting it is. My dad was gone in his 50’s and I have already had a major health scare and I’m not yet 40. So stop doing what society tells you is ‘normal’. Make the scary decisions, live and love freely, go on some adventures, be different (not normal), train hard, eat well, nourish your body, work your arse off doing something you love, hug your kids, let go of shit (yes – all of the shit), don’t hold stupid grudges, stop bitching about people and just love them (even the really annoying ones) and most importantly, be grateful, beyond words, for the gift of life – and don’t fucking waste it!

Monday, 4 December 2017

When did we stop enjoying the magic of Christmas?

When did we become so busy we forgot to enjoy Christmas?

Everybody is busy. Especially the working parents of the world. I think most of us are only just managing to stay afloat. Am I right?

Take a moment to breathe and
practice gratitude

2017 has been one of those years where all we have heard is how busy everyone is. It’s one of the most overused words and it almost becomes a bit of a competition to see who is the busiest.
The year has absolutely flown by and I feel like I really haven’t had a chance to stop and enjoy the precious moments, despite making a conscious effort to do so.
However, over the last few weeks, I have really noticed the stress and overwhelm in people’s faces.
And I can relate.

This is the time of year when we have school finishing, break up parties (please bring a plate of savory/sweet/healthy/enough for two kids), swimming carnivals, choir performances, band performances, talent shows, ballet concerts, music concerts, awards nights, report cards, gym parties (#sorrynotsorry), work parties, family gatherings, visitors arriving, tired kids, the daunting arrival of school holidays and what to do with the kids, heat kicking in, financial pressure due to the expense of Christmas, the list is endless, I could go on all night.

When you pull off a costume
at the last minute!

I really can relate to this. I have had so many moments where I can feel my heart rate increasing and the feeling of panic when you realise they need a costume for a Christmas concert and you have ten minutes to spare and the kid is already at school (this actually happened), or you realise you literally have not left a spare hour for Christmas Shopping, or that you don’t have a single day off (including Sundays), before Christmas.
All based on actual events.

Oh and then you remember you have taken on an extra massive project that has a deadline.

But what if the dialogue you keep telling yourself at this time of year is actually making it worse than it needs to be.
Here are two facts I need you to wrap your head around.

1.     We all have exactly the same amount of time available to us
2.     You are not the only human who is overwhelmed right now

There are a few dialogues I am hearing on repeat at the moment, (and I’m talking EVERY person I speak to) that I don’t believe are serving us currently.

1.     ‘I just need this week to be over’ – PLEASE don’t wish for time to move by any faster than it already is. Every single hour and day that is available to you is so incredibly precious. Be grateful for the time you have, the extra days you get with your family, the beautiful weather, the gorgeous long summer days and the smell of Christmas in the air. When you feel yourself wishing for time to pass or the week to be over, try this: Stop. Breathe and practice gratitude for the time you have been gifted.

2.     ‘I have too many parties/events/functions to train properly, take care of myself or eat well’ – Every single person can manage three x 30-45 minute sessions per week, even when you are at your busiest. Not only can you manage it, but it is ESSENTIAL. Exercise is the best stress relief medication. Take care of yourself, book it in like an appointment and get your butt there. Try it for one week, I can guarantee your heart rate will slow down a little, your breathing will calm down and you will sleep better. Yes, you can.

3.     ‘I hate this time of year’ – seriously? This is the time when we come together with family and celebrate another beautiful year together. It’s that time of year when we are meant to inject some magic into our children’s lives. How do you think they feel when they hear us saying this about their most magical time of year? You may not openly say it in front of them, but I can guarantee they are painfully aware of how you are feeling. Bring back the joy and magic and I can guarantee you will feel more joyful. Try it, joy is contagious!

4.     I’m just going to drink my way through December, it’s the only way I will survive it’ – OR you could exercise your way through this season and reserve the alcohol for special days. Again – what message are we sending our children if they see us ‘drinking our way through the festive season’? We take the magic of Christmas away fro m them and all they will remember are stressed, drunk parents.

5.     And finally….my absolute favourite, ‘You have no idea what it feels like to have this much on’. I’m not going to compete with you, because I’m not going to allow that dialogue to enter my being and affect my experience of Christmas this year, but I can promise you this, I am practicing mindfulness daily, I am thinking about the things I am grateful for at every opportunity and I am considering my children’s experience of Christmas every time I feel the heart rate increase or the feeling of overwhelm start to wash over me.
Treasure the special moments
They pass by so quickly

So this takes me back to my original question, when did we become so busy we forgot to enjoy Christmas?
Take a moment to sit back and enjoy this festive season.
Let’s support each other as working parents, rather than compete with each other and allow the stress to take over.
Let’s be grateful for the fact that we live in a time where we can celebrate Christmas so freely and comfortably and finally, catch yourself out when you feel yourself slipping into the dialogue that is not allowing you to enjoy your final few weeks of 2017. Take a breath and remind yourself how truly lucky you are.
Time is fleeting  - treasure it, hold your children close, teach them healthy habits and traditions around Christmas and have a happy and safe Christmas together.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Pregnancy and exercise

Pregnancy and exercise

Having had two kids and been extremely active through both pregnancies, I believe very firmly in remaining active during pregnancy. However, what I learnt through these pregnancies, and in the years that followed, is that appropriate training is critical.

During both of my pregnancies, I smashed out the group fitness classes, right up until a few days before each birth. This didn’t do any damage, however on reflection, I WISH I had known more about proper strength training, pelvic floor training and pilates.

I had two very healthy pregnancies, gaining around 9-10kg during both. I’m always keen to push the boundaries and pregnancy was no exception. During my second pregnancy I developed pubis symphysis, which was an extremely painful condition in the pubic bone. This continues to cause me problems 7 years on. Had I engaged in more controlled strength training and a proper pilates program, I have no doubt I could have reduced the severity of this condition. Instead, I karate kicked my way through combat classes until the end of my third trimester, ignoring the pain and the warning signs.

So, here are my learnings, not just from reflecting on my own mistakes, but also through my experience as a pre- and post-natal trainer along with some of my own cool research and chats with some of my favourite referral partners.

It’s ok to continue training. In fact, it is strongly recommended!
Aside from the obvious morning sickness that may keep you bedridden, and the fatigue that hits hard during the first trimester, please continue to exercise. Just going for walks won’t cut it.

What I failed to recognise was the postural challenges I would experience when my little critters came out. Nobody told me I would need to be able to nurse them for 30-45 minutes at a time – PER BOOB – and that this required strong back, neck and arm muscles. I didn’t know I would be doing heavily modified deadlifts throughout my entire pregnancy.

I also didn’t realise that when your baby is upset, there may be nights where you need to rock them for hours. Literally – HOURS. Had I known this fun fact I can guarantee I would have been busting my hump doing squats to get me ready for the leg strength required here.
My superstar client, Jen, who has continued to
work with me, even on her crappiest of days,
because she knows it's worth it in the long run!
This is our modified squat to allow for her
beautiful belly and to keep her extra safe

And don’t even get me started on the sheer strength in your arms required to carry bub, all the while doing housework, preparing dinner, or running errands when you absolutely cannot put them down.
I pretty much carried Sam non-stop for the
first 18 months of his life. I used an ergo-baby
most of the time, as did the carers in the creche
he went to so I could teach classes. YOU
Arm strength would have been useful. 

Do all of these activities on less than three hours of broken sleep when your central nervous system is in overdrive and I can guarantee you that a solid strength foundation is certainly an advantage.

Kirsty Bright, my absolute favourite Physio when it comes to anything relating to Women’s Health says:

“The official position on exercise during pregnancy was stated in the ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) in 2002, stating that 30 minutes or more of moderate intensity exercise on most, if not all, days is recommended for all pregnant women in the absence of medical or obstetric complications.

“Following medical review, exercise may still be recommended in women in the presence of medical or obstetric complications. It further states that exercise can be safe and beneficial in previously sedentary individuals.

“As a physiotherapist that works in women’s health, I believe it is also essential that women start undertaking pelvic floor strength exercises through pregnancy both to avoid potential episodes of incontinence through pregnancy, and to be ready for post natal recovery and return to activity.

“Starting pelvic floor exercises early gives you a better chance for successful return to activity, exercise and good pelvic health  after bub. Happy pregnancy and happy exercising!”

These are the practical reasons. However, what about recovery post birth?

I have trained women shortly after birth who maintained exercise throughout their pregnancy, and those who haven’t. I can state with absolute certainty that the recovery, both physically and emotionally, is without doubt quicker and more enjoyable if an active pregnancy was maintained.

Finally, the other really important reason to remain active is weight gain. Why put on an extraordinary amount of weight if it isn’t necessary? I struggled with post-natal depression after both children were born. Had I also needed to lose a bunch of unnecessary pregnancy weight, I firmly believe this depression would have been a far darker experience.

David Oxenham, Director of Tribe Chiropractic states:

“As a Chiropractor, postural strength/endurance is paramount throughout pregnancy. I find that my patients who fall pregnant, and who are already training in the gym and continue to train throughout their pregnancy, find their birthing process easier.

“Being under the guidance of a qualified trainer is an essential ingredient as modification of the program is adapted to the changes seen in the gestational Mum. Strong Mum, strong Bub!”

So, what are the actual dos and don’ts of exercising during pregnancy?

Lifting weights? Yes. Unless you have been advised by your medical professional to not lift any weights, please continue to maintain a healthy weights training program.

This needs to be carefully monitored by an adequately qualified Personal Trainer or Strength Coach. Someone who understands the changes that need to be made at each point during your pregnancy and can explain why. Squats, deadlifts and bench are the foundation of all strength training and can be continued, albeit heavily modified throughout.

Towards the end, your squat may resemble a one-inch maneuver onto a very high box, simply engaging gluts and pelvic floor. But this is better than nothing! Your deads may be just the bar lifting a couple of inches off some very high racks – but again, you are engaging the back muscles, gluts and hamstrings – all of which need to be strong for labour and recovery post-birth.
Keeping the butt cheeks firm and strong :)

If your health professional disagrees, always ask why and make educated decisions. Challenge them if you feel intuitively that their advice seems restrictive. Some days, lifting weights may be the last thing you feel like doing, but those happy endorphins will keep the energy levels up and the sleep deep (or as deep as it can be with a baby kicking you in the ribs while you sleep!).

Cardio? Yes, go for it. Back when I was preggers, it was advised that keeping the heart rate around the 70%-75% of your max is a great place to sit. This is something I completely disregarded during my pregnancy as I was teaching high intensity group fitness classes and my obstetrician was ok with it.

However, the guidelines have since changed, and it is ok to lift your intensity and get that heart rate up. Just be aware of how you are feeling and be mindful of not overheating. Otherwise, there is no need to change the activity or intensity you were doing prior to falling pregnant.

Unless you were running prior to pregnancy. I wouldn’t start a running program during pregnancy. Walking and cycling are great options here as they work comfortably around that growing belly.

Pilates/Yoga? Yes. Please do this. This is one of my greatest regrets. Whilst I have been able to repair the damage post-child birth and post-hysterectomy, those few early weeks after bub came out could have been a lot more pleasant! Do engage in these classes with someone who has experience with pregnancy though!

Will exercise make birth easier? Some say yes, some say no. My birth was pretty rough with my first child, so I felt pretty ripped off as I was convinced it was going to be a breeze due to my fitness level.

It wasn’t.

Twenty-six hours later and my body wasn’t doing what it was meant to do.
What I do believe though, is that my recovery was short and pleasant, and my pre-baby body bounced back quite quickly. I was back teaching classes 11 days after the birth of my first child.

With my second labour, I was fit and strong, and wanting to avoid the lengthy labour experience from the first time around. I spent a lot of my labour being active; running up and down stairs outside the hospital in between contractions. The labour was quick and the recovery was even quicker.

Again, give yourself the best possible chance of a happy, easy and quick recovery so you can enjoy that beautiful baby.

I spoke to Trish Cummings about the benefits of exercise during pregnancy from her experience. Trish helps women through their pregnancy and labour with hypnobirthing techniques, so she is exposed to a LOT of pregnant women during the pregnancy, during the birth and for a period of time after. Trish says:

"During pregnancy there are soooo many things to consider. One of the most important factors is taking care of yourself. Most of us know the importance of eating well and keeping active, however what about your mindset and how you're feeling?

“Babies are capable of feeling too, so ensure you take time out for yourself to relax and breathe. When you relax and breathe, so does your baby. Calm mum equals calm baby! So, practice, practice, practice and when it comes time for labour and birth, you'll be ready both physically and emotionally."


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