people jogging

people joggingI can’t live without running now but I wasn’t always a runner. Exercise would fill me with a sort of dread, a sense of having to battle through an unpleasant experience. One day I was coming home on the tram and thinking “Oh god I have to go for a run today… I don’t want to…” and it suddenly dawned on me that this was insane. Why was I doing this to myself? I realised that I couldn’t keep going on like this. I decided at that moment to change the way I thought about exercise. “I love running,” I said to myself. “I enjoy it. I’m looking forward to it”.

While running was still hard, I didn’t have the additional mental burden of dragging myself along reluctantly. I started to rethink the way I looked at exercise and fitness. Very soon it did become a truly enjoyable experience and one that I found sustained me, invigorated and refreshed me. It became an essential part of my life, like breathing or eating. I went on to run 8-10km three times a week, for fun, and I kept running during pregnancy, and then ran a 15K race when Star was 10 months old. I now run three times a week and do HIIT at least twice a week.

There are so many reasons to be exercising. There isn’t much that exercise won’t fix – it prevents cancer, heart disease, impotence, depression and anxiety, and obesity. It makes you feel and look good. It is rare for me not to prescribe exercise to my patients. Yet I know first-hand how difficult it can be to get going and keep going. Here I suggest ways of developing a Mindset for exercise and fitness. Start with the mind and the rest will follow.

How to develop an Exercise and Fitness Mindset

1. Be clear on the reason why you are exercising.  Is it to lose weight, set a good example to your children, feel fitter, run a race, improve your cholesterol and blood pressure, reduce stress? Write these reasons down, and display them somewhere prominent. Keep these reasons in mind whenever you want to veg on the couch instead.

2. Use the power of affirmations to change the way you think. You could repeat things to yourself like “I enjoy exercise”; “I feel great after exercise”; “I really want to go for a swim”; “I’m really looking forward to my Spin class”.

3. Close your eyes and visualise yourself exercising. See yourself smiling, the tension melting from your face and neck, the confidence you are radiating. See yourself completing the workout you set out to do and then relaxing afterwards with a sense of achievement and pride. Feel how great this would feel.

4. Gravitate towards fit people. Talk to them about exercise, get tips from them, and also reduce your time with those who will drag you down. (You know, the friends who will try to derail you because of their own agendas). Subscribe to some fitness websites and magazines. Read a book on running, on swimming. Do whatever it takes to surround yourself with the images and reality of fit people.

5. Get the gear! Dress like a fit person. Ditch the old tracksuit pants, get some new exercise gear. It doesn’t have to cost a bomb – all the discount department stores will sell decent exercise gear. You’ll feel great about yourself and more motivated to get going!

How could wearing legwarmers NOT make you want to exercise??
How could wearing legwarmers NOT make you want to exercise??

Good luck! Physical exercise is now an essential part of my life. If I don’t do something vigorous every 2 days, I turn into cranky mummy and wife. I also get really tired and sluggish. It’s counter-intuitive, but exercise does actually increase your energy levels.

Everyone should aim for at least 2 1/2 hours a week but start slow and build up if you’re doing nothing at all. It takes a long time, months and months, to develop a strong mindset, but be persistent and enjoy the ride :)

LOL! For my CrossFit lover fans... You know who you are! ;)
LOL! For my CrossFit lover fans… You know who you are! ;)
Mountain climbers: Start in plank position, then alternate jumping your feet in as though you're climbing a mountain. What a great workout for arms, abs and legs (And heart!) Photo:

I have many patients complain to me about an increase in weight during and after the menopause. I still don’t know if this is due to the menopause itself, or due to a gradual lowering of the metabolic rate over the years (mostly due to an increase in sedentary behaviour). I’m looking into it as it’s a common and important issue. I came across this short YouTube video made by an exercise scientist talking about her research on whether High Intensity Interval training can help with menopausal weight gain.

High Intensity Interval Training is hot at the moment, with research flooding in on how effective it is at burning fat and increasing fitness. Both of which are desirable after the menopause, with the spectre of an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (that’s heart attacks and strokes) in the post-menopausal years. Additionally, improving aerobic fitness may decrease the risk of heart attacks and strokes, independent of weight loss.

HIIT is an efficient, fun and safe way to lose weight and improve fitness. Studies have shown that it is better than low-intensity continuous exercise in these regards (low-intensity exercise being walking, jogging at a moderate pace etc). In my opinion, HIIT is also sustainable as it is a low-volume exercise – that means you spend less time doing it for the same, if not more, gain as low intensity exercise. Now I know for a fact that the vast majority of midlife women are extremely busy. Most of you work and have family responsibilities on several levels – kids, partner, ageing parents. You’re time-poor and need an efficient solution. Why not try HIIT?

A great way to start is to use a timer like Seven (30 second intervals and 10 seconds rest) or various Tabata timers (20 second intervals and 10 seconds rest). Download these for your smartphone. You can then perform various high-intensity exercises at home such as pushups, planks, sprinting on the spot, tricep dips and squat jumps etc using the timer. The Seven app takes you through the exercises, or you could go to the FitMum website for sample workouts. You’ll learn a whole heap of new ways to work out including the Burpee, Mountain Climbers, Squat Thrusts and more… Twenty minutes may be all you need – but make sure you’re working at about 80-90% of maximum intensity. (You will be, trust me! It will make you sweat – and smile!)

Mountain climbers: Start in plank position, then alternate jumping your feet in as though you're climbing a mountain. What a great workout for arms, abs and legs (And heart!) Photo:
Mountain climbers: Start in plank position, then alternate jumping your feet in as though you’re climbing a mountain. What a great workout for arms, abs and legs (And heart!) Photo:

Give it a go, keep it up (aim for 20-30 minutes five times a week) and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’d love to hear how you all went, so feel free to comment below or on the Facebook page :)


2014-year-of-the-horseA very Happy Lunar New Year to all punters! What a fantastic opportunity to think and plan for the coming year, with inspiration from the Chinese zodiac animal that is the star over the next twelve months. Here are five ways to draw inspiration from the wonderful Horse:

1) Horses are strong.
Think strong and fit this year – add some strength training into your routine, work on your core muscles for less back pain and better posture, focus on incorporating aerobic fitness into your life. This is the year to get fit and healthy!

2) Horses are a mode of transportation.

Photo: Cruwys Morchard: horse and cart at Pennymoor for SS8611 About to pass by the Cruwys Arms inn   © Copyright Martin Bodman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Photo: Cruwys Morchard: horse and cart at Pennymoor for SS8611
About to pass by the Cruwys Arms inn
© Copyright Martin Bodman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Why not incorporate incidental exercise into your daily commute? Walk or cycle to work, or take public transport and get off early to walk a few extra blocks. All this exercise, done daily and part of your usual routine, adds up to a lighter and fitter you! Have to pop out to the shops for milk? Get the granny trolley out and walk, or put the baby in the stroller and head out – on your feet.

3) Eat like a horse.


No, I don’t mean go and gorge yourself as in “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse!” But focus on lots of vegetables and fibre, and some wholegrains, and no processed foods. For such a strong animal, horses seem to survive on a diet of mainly grass and a bit of oats… So oil your machine with ample serves of nommy vegetables every day, for an energy boost, and lower risk of cancer and heart disease. Neiiiigh!!

4) Horses are swift animals.


Horses are swift, and they take you where you want to go. This could be a fantastic year for you – but only if you know where you are going! Is it time to think about the direction your life is heading in? Do you know what your goals are, your life purpose is, and are you happy with where you are heading? Stephen Covey talks about most people not living their life, but being lived. That is, most people are simply living out a life that they are being told to live – by the media and by advertising. They simply drift along and do what others (the TV, the ads at the bus stop) tell them to do (eat junk food, watch more TV, drink more alcohol, go shopping and get into credit card debt … you get the drift). Get started by thinking honestly about where you want to go, read inspiring books like How to Write your Personal Mission Statement, and sign up for great goal-setting apps and websites like Jutsu.

5) The Horse’s element is Fire – which is related to our hearts.

500px-Love_Heart_SVG.svgThis is a year to nurture relationships – the ones that matter, especially with your partner (and this is especially important if you are a parent, as time and time again the research indicates that a positive relationship between parents has a significant impact on children’s wellbeing). So take the time to invest in those closest to you, and have a truly happy Year of the Horse! :)


Fun runs! Yeah, I used to think they were oxymorons. Until I became a semi-serious runner, and ran my first race when Star was 10 months old. Three years and another baby later, I’m ready for a repeat of the race, and then a stab at a half-marathon later in the year.

BelieveIt’s going to take a bit of training to get there, though I’m managing a 10km run at the moment – but my endurance has suffered. My training will be interrupted by a snowboarding trip to Hokkaido, Japan (woot woot!), leaving me five weeks after our return to literally get back up to speed.

The Run 4 the Kids race is a splendid course, leading runners over the magnificent Bolte Bridge in Melbourne, and through the Domain Tunnel. Proceeds from fundraising go to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, a place very dear to us as Star will go there this year for a heart procedure.

I’ve created a training program for myself based on Hal Higdon’s programs. Hal was one of the first ever writers to contribute to Runner’s World magazine and has written countless books on running. His Novice program was too easy and his Intermediate too difficult – so I’ve created a little hybrid program for myself, incorporating some speedwork into the Novice program. I’ve rejigged the days on which I run to suit my work and family schedule. On Mondays I work from home and will do my long runs. Tuesdays are a rest day, Wednesdays are a day for a 5K run and strength training. I will alternate cross-training (swimming, walking to work or a pram walk/run) and yoga/pilates on Thursdays and Fridays depending on whether or not I have the kids on the Thursday or go to work. (My schedule changes every week). Saturdays is speedwork day – either a tempo run (run faster in the middle of the run) or sprints (ouch!) Sundays is another cross-training day. Rinse and repeat, just with different times, and mileages. I’ll be posting my progress as I go along, so watch this space and enjoy the journey! You can check out my Jutsu (action plan) which details my training program, and feel free to create a Jutsu of your own (A plug for hubby’s fantastic new website and app!)

Today was my 5K run and strength (ok I’m yet to do the strength bit). I’m just back from a ten day trip away during which I didn’t run at all but I went for long walks twice a week and did HIIT workouts every day. It was a good re-introduction to running. I’m energised and looking forward to the next ten weeks!

Born-To-RunPhoto credits:


Happy Monday! Today is the day most of you will be returning to work after the Christmas/New Year break. Chances are you’re clutching your cup of caffeine right now, and feeling somewhat guilty for relying on your short black to get you through the day. Well I bring you good tidings (for a change) by letting you know about ten ways that moderate consumption of coffee may be good for your health. (Heavy coffee consumption, that is more than 4 coffees a day, is linked to a greater risk of death). So sit back, take another sip and read on!

1. Drinking coffee may prevent stroke


A meta-analysis of 11 studies and almost half a billion subjects has concluded that drinking 1-3 cups of coffee a day lowers the risk of stroke. Heavy coffee consumption had no impact on stroke risk. This is reassuring, because it has been suggested that coffee consumption increases cholesterol levels, but this does not seem to impact on risk of stroke.

2. Drinking coffee may help prevent dementia
A small study suggests that drinking 3-5 cups of coffee a day may prevent progression to dementia, if you already have a mild cognitive impairment. Researchers think this may be because of certain properties of coffee that prevent the production of deposits in the brain that can cuase dementia. However, researchers aren’t sure yet if drinking coffee is the protective factor, or if there is something about coffee drinking that is protective eg. lower blood pressure levels, lower risk of depression etc.

3. Drinking coffee may help prevent diabetes


Two systematic reviews suggest that drinking 2-4 cups of coffee a day reduces the risk of developing diabetes. However, this research was sponsored by the coffee industry. And if you’re having the muffin of the day with every coffee, you can kiss your reduced risk of diabetes goodbye.

4. Drinking coffee might make you happier


A large study concluded that drinking coffee is linked to a lower risk of depression while drinking soft drink, especially diet soft drink, increases depression risk. Oh sweet cup of happiness!

5. Drinking coffee may prevent heart failure


A meta-analysis suggests that drinking 2-4 cups of coffee a day prevents heart failure in healthy people.

6. Drinking coffee may help prevent prostate cancer
Two studies suggest that drinking coffee can help prevent prostate cancer, especially lethal prostate cancer, and reduce the recurrence and progression of prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death (after lung cancer) in men, so this finding is significant.

7. Drinking coffee may help prevent endometrial cancer
And one for the ladies, drinking 4 cups of coffee a day has been linked to a lower risk of endometrial (uterine) cancer.

8. Drinking coffee may be good for your liver
Rottenecards_45797247_vhzks6vjp8Research suggests that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of chronic liver disease and liver cancer, however researchers do not know why this is, although there is speculation that the antioxidants in coffee may be the key.

9. Drinking coffee may prevent Parkinson’s disease
Research shows that coffee drinking is linked to a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease in both men and women.

10. And drinking coffee does not result in more fractures for menopausal women.


Good news for menopausal women again – even though drinking coffee may lead to a small decrease in bone density, this does not seem to translate to a higher risk of fractures, according to a large study.

So there you have it – ten reasons you should feel a little less guilty about drinking that heavenly brew. Bear in mind that the majority of research quoted has only established the links between coffee drinking and health benefits, and has not yet explored the reasons for these links. And that coffee drinking can be detrimental to your health – it can cause insomnia, anxiety, tremors and withdrawal symptoms. Pregnant women should minimise caffeine intake as much as possible, as there are links to fetal growth restriction and other serious consequences. For the rest of us unpregnant folks, enjoy your cuppa (or two of three…) and have a great week!


, -

It’s the day for my long run and last night was a shocker with one child sick with gastro and the other one waking countless times for no particular reason. Sound familiar? Being a parent and keeping up with exercise routines is frequently challenging because of the sleep habits of our little angels. Have faith – research suggests that exercise performance after sleep deprivation does not seem to be affected, but this may depend on the time of day that you work out or compete. In three separate studies involving both males and females, several preceding nights of partial sleep deprivation (averaging 2h sleep a night for 3 nights – sound familiar?!), no differences in gross motor performance or strength was noted. That is, the subjects ran and cycled just as fast as they did at baseline testing. However, in one study involving women, the subjects found it harder to exercise in the morning rather than in the evening.

It’s not all good though. Deterioration in other functions like reaction time and hand steadiness were noted, as well as affecting “mood states, increasing depression, tension, confusion, fatigue and anger, while decreasing vigour significantly”. In studies that involved total sleep deprivation (that is, no sleep at all for one or more nights), “bizarre behavioural episodes, illusions or hallucinations were often noted” as well as significant effects on mood. So it seems that even though our purely physical functions remain intact, it may feel harder to get motivated and to keep going through exercise.

What do we take from this? Two things, in my opinion. Firstly, that we don’t have to skip a training session just because we didn’t get our eight hours the night before. Let’s face it, sleep deprivation is a scenario that is more common than not when you are parents of small children, and to frequently skip a session may not be in our best interests. Exercise has been demonstrated to improve mood, cure depression, and improve sleep – so you’ll feel better after your workout and sleep better (when you do get some sleep!).

Secondly, sleep deprivation can have some very serious effects on our thinking and moods. Do whatever it takes to get more sleep – get your partner to help out the next night (one recovery sleep can restore all your functions, apparently), phone the sleep school, see if you can wing a nap during the day at all.

So what did I do this morning? Well I can definitely contest to having a change in mood, and fatigue! But I decided to head out the door, because it was a beautiful day and my babysitter (Mum) was around – an opportunity difficult to pass up. It wasn’t easy, but I told myself I just needed to get through 8km and not the 10K I usually do. I managed 9km and took 10 seconds longer per km than usual. I felt great post-workout of course, and snuck in a nap in the afternoon. Here’s to hoping for a silent night tonight and happy sleeping munchkins! :)


imageSome of you have expressed dismay at my public service announcement about Christmas lunch. Fear not, fellow merrymakers! You don’t need to do much to burn off that extra piece of trifle. How about twenty five minutes today and twenty five tomorrow? In the comfort of your own homes? That means you can have the trifle AND the pav and be back to square one!

I’m a huge fan of the Fit Mum aka Colette McShane, and I know lots of you are too. I love her workouts, which are tough, challenging, and keep me interested. You will have already read what I think about HIIT, how it might be more effective than continuous moderate intensity exercise and how it works to burn calories long after you’ve finished your last pushup. Colette’s workouts do not require any equipment, burn around 200-300 calories and are actually really fun! I love her Fitmum 300, Spartan 500 and the latest, the Xmas day workout. Which I’ve just completed. Pass the pavlova, please! So there you go, train hard and enjoy yourself tomorrow :)


Photo credit:


There is dessert and then there is Nutella cheesecake...
There is dessert and then there is Nutella cheesecake…

Ho ho ho! It’s that time of year again – time for too much good food, lots of beverages and of course, much dessert. And who can go past Nigella (that evil genius!) when it comes to dessert, especially her sinfully easy Nutella cheesecake? Two blocks of cream cheese, whiz together with one jar of Nutella, that’s right, one jar and you have heaven in a springform tin. I tried to make a healthy version but have declared defeat. It’s definitely a once a year dessert, and what better time of the year than Christmas?

I calculated that it took me an hour’s running to burn off one slice (1/12th) of the cheesecake (450 cals). So in the interests of helping you all not turn into versions of the jolly man in the red suit by New Year’s Eve, here is a list of the usual Christmas goodies and how many calories, that is, how much exercise, it will take you to burn it off. (Two or three extra workouts for me this week I think!) Happy eating, but also happy training!

One hour of running (almost 10km) = 450 calories
One hour of running (almost 10km) = 450 calories
25 minute interval run (hill sprints) = 293 calories
25 minute interval run (hill sprints) = 293 calories


Potato chips (crisps) 1 single serve packet = 93 calories

Prawn cocktail 1 bowl = 300 calories

6 Oysters Kilpatrick = 300 calories

9 Jatz biscuits = 120 calories


turkey5 (2)Potato salad 1 cup = 140 calories

Coleslaw 1 cup = 220 calories

One baked potato = 280 calories

Roast turkey, one serve thigh meat with skin = 140 calories

Roast pork with crackling and stuffing, one serve = 300 calories

Lobster tail with butter = 190 calories

Ham, 2 slices = 160 calories


Pavlova, 1 slice = 200 calories

Trifle, 1 cup = 300 calories

Nutella cheesecake, 1 slice = 450 calories

Christmas pudding, 1 slice = 300 calories


By Len Rizzi (photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Len Rizzi (photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
White wine, 1 glass = 128 calories

Beer/cider, 1 stubby = 140 calories

Vodka and lemonade, 1 glass = 180 calories

Stick to these options for a healthier Christmas lunch – enjoy!

By Guido (Flickr: Pacific oysters) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Guido (Flickr: Pacific oysters) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
6 Oysters, natural = 57 calories

10 Cooked prawns, no sauce = 60 calories

Lobster tail, no butter = 90 calories

Smoked salmon, 50 g = 90 calories

Green salad, 1 cup = 60 calories

Sauteed green beans, 1 cup = 114 calories

Bubbles (sparkling wine), 1 flute = 80 calories

Fruit salad, 1 cup = 80 calories

Happy eating and drinking, and merry Christmas everyone! :)

photo 2

photo 2So it’s almost Christmas, apparently, and I always feel the need to give small presents to my work colleagues and supervisors, and somehow I feel the need for these to be home made. Yeah that’s right, I am insane! So at 10:30pm last night I threw together whatever I had in the cupboards and made these gorgeous little “almost paleo” truffles, which I modified from Jo Whitton’s popular Quirky Eating blog. Jo’s recipe for Raw Cacao Treat balls is sugar free, but I felt like adding some (sugar-laden) chocolate to my truffles, so that’s why they’re not strictly Paleo… but they do pack a good punch of protein, so they’re kind of healthy! I added Kahlua just because I could…


90g dark cooking chocolate (Would have loved to have added “real” dark chocolate!)

90g pitted dates

180g almond meal/almonds

3 tbsp tahini

splash of maple syrup

teaspoon of vanilla essence

100g Kahlua (or whatever tipple you fancy – rum, Baileys, Cointreau…)

40g cocoa powder (Jo uses cacao)


Throw everything into your Thermomix, or food processor, whichever you possess in your kitchen. (Yes I do have a Thermie and I love it – that’s a whole blog post in itself!) This is what it looks like half way through the blending – I blended on speed 9 for 40 seconds then had to scrape down and do another 30 seconds… Just blend until it’s nice and smooth :)

photo 4Then roll into balls, put in fridge and enjoy the extra Kahlua/rum because you’ve been a good girl/boy…

photo 3
Did I mention I love my Thermie?

The next morning, package up your little treats… I love these little gift bags from Ikea.

photo 1Too easy! Merry Christmas everyone! :)


Everybody put your hands in the air...

Everybody put your hands in the air...
Everybody put your hands in the air…

I have been on a diet for a couple of years. A media diet. I avoid watching the news, reading about it, and all newspapers in general. My mental health has improved and I have more time to devote to more interesting pursuits than reading about who died in the latest high-speed car accident.

The only news I get is filtered through (ahem) Facebook, family and friends, and my patients. Recently one of my patients showed me a new app, called “Seven”. This groovy little app takes you through 12 exercises using the principles of body weight resistance training and high intensity interval training. It has a timer for the 30 second intervals and reminds you every day to work out (with the sound of a whistle). The creators have even attempted to turn it into a little game, with hearts to be lost, and new workouts to be unlocked.

It seems this workout, which has been doing the rounds, is based on an article published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness journal and written by an exercise performance coach and the director of Exercise Physiology at the Human Performance Institute in Florida. The authors reference research on HIIT and exercise performance, insulin sensitivity and weight loss. However, the Seven Minute Workout itself has not been tested clinically and is not specifically designed for weight loss, although the authors do state that HIIT can be “an efficient means to improve health and decrease fat”. (I’ll post the link to the article as soon as their website is up and running again!)

Could it work? And obviously, for most people the question is could it work for weight loss and could it replace traditional methods of exercise such as moderate intensity continuous exercise (walking, running etc?) There are some researchers, bless their souls, who have been dedicated to researching not only HIIT but low volume high intensity training. That means, train harder and for less time. God love them!

One clinical trial in healthy young women compared HIIT, which equated to a 25 minute total session (5 minute warm up, then up to 60 repetitions of 8 second sprints and 12 seconds slow cycling, then a 5 minute cool down) three times a week, to moderate intensity continuous exercise (40 minutes cycling) for 15 weeks, and found that the HIIT group lost more fat. Overweight women lost more fat than women who weren’t overweight, losing an impressive 14.7% fat over the 15 weeks. Another trial found that a 6 week program of 10×60 second cycle sprints three times a week resulted in small reductions in fat mass.

Total time spent doing sprints was 8 minutes per workout, or 24 minutes a week. Is this workout equivalent to the Seven Minute Workout though? It sounded like subjects sprinted at maximum capacity or “all out” pace, whereas the Seven Minute Workout, while challenging, does not require quite this level of effort.

However, doing the Seven Minute Workout (which requires 6 minutes of high intensity training per circuit) for five circuits a week may approximate what worked in the clinical trial above. The authors state that more than one circuit may be required at a time. I love that it uses body weight training, and hence no equipment is required, and that it targets the whole body. I did three circuits the first time and found it to be a fun and easy way to train (easy as in I did it at home, when the kids were asleep, not easy as in it didn’t require effort!) I think it can get monotonous though, so I would mix it up with other exercises like burpees and tuck jumps and variations on the plank. And since I am eventually planning to run a half marathon, I am still doing my endurance runs and hill sprints. You can read more about how I discovered HIIT here and a little bit more about the exciting science behind it here.

Kudos to anyone who can motivate people to exercise, though, and it’s always good to know that a new weight loss trend isn’t a fad and is based on some science. Train hard!