Category Archives: health

Some Perspective Please!

The internet and social media loves a bit of hysteria and exercise and fitness are no exceptions to this. Recently there were a few articles posted online which related to CrossFit and a condition called Rhabdomylosis (for more information read more here). First there was this article in the Huffington Post referring to Rhabdomylosis as ‘CrossFit’s dirty little secret’. This was then followed by a few other articles screeching the same thing: CrossFit might kill you via Rhabdomylosis!

Then of course there were the pro-CrossFit articles which accused people who didn’t do CrossFit of being jealous and blamed the participants of CrossFit who have suffered from this life threatening condition for their own demise. Not brilliantly helpful but I understand why people want to defend what they enjoy.

So these were the two sides of the coin. Neither particularly constructive and both with the potential to put people off from ever trying CrossFit or maybe any other form of exercise. Yey, well done everyone for giving people yet ANOTHER reason not to get moving.

Now I come at this from a completely different perspective. I am a runner first and foremost. I do CrossFit and I enjoy it but running has and always will be my first love. But I would like to go through some things that might help us get a bit of perspective on a rare condition, exercise and illness in general.

All you have to do to find out a bit about Rhabdomylosis, specifically exertional Rhabdomylosis is to chuck a search into Google Scholar. Participants in many of the studies that come up are military recruits, ultra runners, marathon runners (dammit) and, umm, horses. Plus a case study about a hockey player who played a tournament, became ill, was rushed to hospital and discovered to have Rhabdomylosis.

This very quick search tells me it is not a condition that is limited to those who do CrossFit. Further reading showed that some individuals have an unfortunate genetic predisposition to develop Rhabdomylosis which they would have had no idea about before exercising (this was found to be the case in the hockey player case study). Plus people on prescribed statins are at risk and those with underlying thyroid conditions (which they may not know about). The Huff Post article quotes a US study as giving a 0.06% incidence of Rhabdomylosis for the US population but I couldn’t find figures for the UK population. So all in all I’m not overly worried about Rhabdomylosis and CrossFit. A couple of case reports do not make an epidemic.

Moving on I wanted to address the pro-CrossFit posts which blame individuals for ‘bringing it on themselves and not taking responsibility’. Well I would just like to ask: do people who get a knee injury playing football bring it on themselves? Do marathon runners bring it on themselves when they collapse from a heart condition they didn’t know they had? Do horse riders bring it on themselves when they fall from a horse? Did the hockey player deserve what he got for trying to do his best for his team? I just don’t get this argument and I really think it is counter-productive. As mentioned above, people may have a predisposition to Rhabdomylosis (I hate typing that word). They might be in an ‘at risk’ group that they have no idea they are in. So a little bit more empathy please for people who do happen to develop this condition.

I get that not everyone likes the same kind of exercise. CrossFit is still relatively new and people are probably still trying to get used to it being around. Plus people tend to be ignorant of things they don’t know or don’t understand. I could argue that running has been around since the dawn of time, no doubt one of the oldest forms of exercise going, yet people still hate it and ask me why on earth I want to do it. But as long as I enjoy it and do my best to maintain my health and wellbeing, who cares? A small study of runners who completed a marathon in Taiwan found that everyone who finished had sustained some damage to their hearts. Would this stop me from running? Never. Life is too short to freak out about something that may or may not happen.

So pro and anti CrossFitters. Consider your heads well and truly knocked together. The articles from both sides are completely unhelpful and bordering on hysterical. There is no clear research to say CrossFitters are more at risk than those who take on 100 mile Ultra runs. There is probably more research out there about why running is harmful (la, la, la, la I’m not listening) but the research on obesity, heart conditions and diabetes, all consequences of not exercising or being active, concerns me more. Take a step back and gain some perspective and help people to fall in love with moving and being healthy.


Run With An Idea Debate: Real Runner’s Don’t Walk

Welcome to another debate from Run With An Idea. This week’s debate is:

‘Real Runner’s Don’t Walk’

When I first saw this topic I was sure I’d be of the opinion that yes, of course, real runner’s don’t walk. And while it is true that many runners would eventually hope that they could complete a course or training run without walking, I don’t agree with the fact that walking makes you less of a runner.

Lately I’ve been injured and even though I’d rather I was able to run an entire run like I did months ago it’s not always possible so I use a walk break to allow me to stretch, gather my thoughts and complete my run. People who are new to running usually start with a walk/run programme, and there is nothing wrong with this. It is another form of interval training to build fitness in a safe way, a bit like a fartlek. Trail runners are occasionally forced to walk because terrain or incline mean it’s not safe or possible to run. So there are plenty of occasions when walking is valid, it does not mean that they are any less a runner. If ‘runner’ runners were really honest they would admit to occasions when they’ve been forced to walk.

The thing I have always loved about running is it’s accessibility to all. I love that anyone regardless of ability can put on a pair of trainers and get out the door to get fit. Running snobbery like this can really irritate me as running is not an elite club. Elite running is an elite club but not running itself. I can see now the type of runner who gets annoyed by walkers and thinks that they don’t belong: male, club runner, checks their watch a lot, tuts at other runners, you know who I’m talking about. There would be no reason for them to tut if race organisers would place people in pens according to their predicted time. Or maybe they could have separate pens for runner’s who know they’re going to need walk breaks.

If you run you are a runner, whether you need a walking break or not. People should not be discouraged from a hobby that keeps them happy and healthy to satisfy running snobs. What would we rather? That runner/walker’s stayed at home and became sedentary again? No, they are runners and they should be supported for doing everything possible to keep them active and moving.

And just so we’re not down on all walkers: Rob Heffernan from Cork, the winner of the 50km Race Walk World Championships, completed the course in 3 hours and 37 minutes. Two minutes faster than I ran my marathon (42km) last year. Walking isn’t necessarily something to be sniffed at.

Run With An Idea #3. Juice Cleanses: Health or Hype.

This is the third post in the Run With An Idea Series. Today’s debate is Juice Cleanses: Health or Hype?

I’m not going to beat around the bush. I don’t go in for fads. I’ve never followed a particular diet, I’ve always aimed for balance. I don’t follow a particular exercise regime, although I suppose some might say by doing crossfit I’m following a fad (I don’t agree by the way that it is a fad, it’s a form of exercise). So if I was asked to do a juice cleanse I’d probably politely decline.

The first thing that I don’t understand is why the foods have to be juiced to be cleansing for your body. Surely eating those foods whole would be just as beneficial. I suppose it’s a short cut for the body. By mushing it all up, it’s all going to the same place to be digested by the enzymes in your stomach and it will end up looking like one big churned up mess, a bit like the juice.

The second thing is that I like the process of eating a meal. I like my food to look appealing to my eye and to smell good. I don’t see that happening with a juice cleanse. The very thought of juicing up all that nice food into a brownie-greeny mulch makes me feel like retching. Also it just comes over as a tad lazy. Many people don’t sit with their families at dinner time and this just seems like one more way to save time rather than sit at a table.

Thirdly I think any of the effects of a juice  cleanse would be short lived. For example: Person who eats badly and feels grotty decides to do a juice cleanse. After the cleanse they feel great (probably due to eating cleaner food rather than garbage). After cleanse person goes back to bad habits, doesn’t change their ways and unsurprisingly feels blah and grotty again. So what is the point? If that person had been taught to have a better diet all round rather than trying out a faddy juice cleanse they would be feeling better ALL THE TIME, not just after a ‘cleanse’ (sorry I just typed cleanse and it made me cringe, what a bull shit term). It’s false economy.

I did a bit of reading and a registered dietician said that he wouldn’t recommend trying to get all your nutrition from a beverage because it’s not going to happen. You’re going to put yourself at nutritional risk by doing a juice cleanse for a number of weeks. I feel like I knew that without being a trained dietician, it just seems so obvious. Juicing to me seems like another starvation diet.

And lastly, my biggest point *drum roll* there is no scientific evidence. There is evidence for the benefits of exercise, both long and short term. There is evidence for resistance training in weight loss. There is evidence that exercise can help reverse Type II Diabetes. There is no evidence (talking randomised controlled trials here) that suggest that juice cleanses are beneficial. I checked, I did a literature search but all I found was recipes and a patent pending for some really gross sounding ‘detoxifying tea’.

So without too much surprise I’m going with fad for juice cleanses. I believe that by eating well, a balanced diet which includes fruit and vegetables and limits rubbish, will in fact be better in the long term. Juice cleanses seem like too much of a short cut and as runner’s know from training, trying to take short cuts in achieving our goals come sometimes cause problems. Yes after a juice cleanse or smoothie cleanse you will feel better but only because you’ve been putting decent food into your body, not because it’s in juice form. Instead maybe look at your diet as a whole and improve things for the long term, not just for a few weeks of juicing.

chocolate running

*obviously this is my own opinion, if you have any evidence to share or your favourite juice recipe that you absolutely swear by, then please share in the comments!*

For more great posts with in this debate head over to the Run With An Idea page.

Exercise Induced Insomnia

Ok so the title of my post ‘Exercise Induced Insomnia’ implies that this is an actual condition. Can I just add this disclaimer: I have no idea whether this exists but I’m starting to wonder if it is a ‘thing’.

Last night I had the worst night’s sleep I’ve had in weeks. I do sleep badly from time to time. It’s usually one night every few weeks where I struggle to go to sleep but eventually drop off around 1am. Not last night though. Last night it was as if my mind was determined to see the night through. Now this would have been much more useful in my teens and twenties for going out. Not so when I WANT TO SLEEP!

I have noticed a pattern for when I tend to have these bad nights. It’s usually if I’ve had an amazing run or exercise session in the evening:

I come home buzzing and full of the joys of sweat. I eat lots, try to drink lots, watch a bit of TV and then feeling reasonably tired I go to bed. And then I lie there, waiting for sleep with my mind whirring about the exercise and the excitement brought on by all the exercising and then my mind goes onto other things and then songs start fizzing round my brain and it just doesn’t ever seem to end (very like this sentence). AND BREATH.

Last night was pretty bad. I had just come home from a bouncing session at CrossFit and I was whooping to myself about how much I had enjoyed it. My mind just would not SHUT UP and I was continually thinking about running, exercising, the work that I’m doing over the next few weeks mashed up with Blurred Lines, some weird garage tune I heard a bit of yesterday and a song by The Pretty Reckless (odd one). Sleep just wouldn’t come. My body was aching from the effort I had put into the session and neither body or mind would go into shut down mode. It was excruciating.

So now I’m wondering if exercise which is supposed to improve sleep patterns can sometimes have the opposite effect. Do other people suffer from poor sleep after a particular type of exercise or a certain amount of exercise? Or am I just plain weird?

*faceplants sixteenth cup of tea*

Rest Week

Training has been going ok again the last few weeks. I’ve been increasing my mileage steadily and I feel like I’m getting somewhere after all the injury nastiness. Currently I’m concentrating on building my endurance base and I’m hoping the speed will follow as I get stronger. I’ve also been to a couple of Running Club sessions at Dragon Crossfit which were interval sessions and speed work. I absolutely love these sessions. I love being around other runners and I love interval training. I did it all the time when I was a track athlete so I tend to enjoy it and find it familiar. The old legs were a bit slow to start with but they eventually remembered what to do.

I struggled to fit anything much in over the weekend as I was away but I did manage to get half an hour of running on a treadmill in the after thought that was the ‘fitness suite’ in a spa type resort on the weekend. It was a hen weekend so I joined in with the towelling robe part for a short while, got bored, changed into my runners and shorts and hit the treadmill. The other girls on the hen must have thought I was bonkers. But I say sitting around in a dull room with weird music in a wet swimming costume and fluffy orange dressing gown is bonkers!

I have had a couple of niggles and I haven’t been feeling that great. I’ve got an ongoing health issue hanging over me and I’m due to have more blood tests. My stomach is being naughty and lately lots of things I’m used to eating normally have been making me rather ill. Bit inconvenient for someone who exercises a lot and likes cheese and pasta and bread. Frustrating is definitely one word. Bloody annoying are two more. Hopefully though I’ll get to the bottom of things soon and I can stop worrying.

When I reflected back on the last few weeks, considered the niggle in my calf and other issues I decided to have a rest week. I know it may seem excessive but I’ve continued to train over niggles before and all that happens is that little niggles become bigger niggles which then become nasty persistent injuries. This time I’m listening to my body. I also feel that with this other health issue hanging over me and impending tests, I want to get them out the way and recharge a bit. I need to have time being good to myself. I can’t deny that I won’t have that feeling of guilt hanging over me because I won’t be exercising but it’s because I want to keep running that I’m doing this. I’m sure by the end of the week I’ll be climbing the walls and will have reneged on this agreement with myself but I’m going to do my best to rest.

Contemplation and Behaviour Change

A member of my family has been contemplating diet and exercise for a long time. They’ve been unhappy with their size and general fitness for ages but seemed unwilling or unable to do anything about it. Gentle cajoling hasn’t helped. Putting scary facts in front of them did nothing. They would simply acknowledge the information being presented and would say ‘tomorrow’ or ‘next week’ or ‘what’s the point?’. One could say they were ambivalent towards the idea of change and my overly persuasive efforts just made them dig their heels in.

I had completely given up trying to help, all my efforts were effectively thrown back with cutting comment or totally ignored. But then there was a change. This person became interested in running and in how a beginner would go about running. They started to ask for information and where they would obtain more information. They were contemplating starting the Couch to 5k programme. They were fed up and had had enough of the way things were, they were ready to start implementing change. Before long they were showing signs of readiness to change and a couple of weeks ago they had run 4 times in one week.

The reason I’m sharing this story is that I’ve been reading the twitter conversations of my fellow clinicians and I’ve been a bit disappointed in the lack of empathy for patients. Actually I’ve been disappointed that fellow clinicians haven’t been willing to look to themselves to find out why a patient might not be willing to do something that they suggest. Change in lifestyle, whether it’s for weight, health, smoking or rehabilitation for a musculoskeletal problem can be a huge psychological ask for many people and I believe that it is our job as clinicians to find out what stage in the change process a person is before we completely dismiss them.

As clinicians we have many tools available to us to help patients but we need to be able to identify what stag in change a patient is at to be able to recognise which approach is going to be most beneficial. We need to recognise when a person may be ambivalent, when they are ready to change, when they are precomtemplating or actually comtemplating a change in behaviour.

It worries me that many of my fellow professionals are neglecting to do this. You can read all the treatment effectiveness research papers in the world but that doesn’t matter to the patient in front of you. If the patient isn’t engaging with you from the stage they’re at then your approach may be completely wasted on them. The person I talk about showed all the stages of behaviour change and eventually they got there. But after what I’ve seen on social media from health professionals lately I’m glad I was there for them and that this person who is close to me didn’t seek out one of them for help, only to be dismissed.