Archive for the ‘exercise is medicine’ Category

The sufferer will become withdrawn and uncommunicative, but still at the same time “whiny”. This is the first sign that the plague may be upon them.  She responds to even the simplest enquiries with a curt announcement that she’s “not feeling well”. There may well be sniffles at this point. The patient is usually convinced that nobody has suffered like this…  ever. In this condition, she regards her temperature as a crucial barometer of her health and insists that it receives constant monitoring.   Her enthusiasm in describing her symptoms in detail is astonishing. But why is it when Molly, my 6 year old daughter, has a temperature and is too unwell to go to school she is still never sick enough just to lie in bed and not be irritating. I don’t mind looking after her (most of the time) and I do want her to get better. But is she contagious, because its only two weeks to the Dublin marathon and contracting any kind of sickness at this stage could be potentially disastrous. During the hard miles of marathon training the tapering period, which usually starts two or three weeks before the race is the time that hopeful marathoners look forward to, tapering is the last step in most training programmes. Tapering begins immediately after the most intense period of training- the longest runs, the greatest weekly mileages and for this reason. After an intensive training period like this immunity may be suppressed, meaning it might be easier for viruses and bacteria to take hold, increasing the risk for infection and sickness (Nieman et al., 1990; Nieman, 2000). two-weeks-But sickness is not the only potential problem of tapering. The practice of decreasing the distance and length of workouts gives the body time to rest and recover before the race. But as many find out this is a tough time for the mind because “Taper Madness” kicks in. This is eractic, irrational and paranoid behaviour that intensifies with each day as the marathon gets closer. It doesn’t make sense to do less, it feels wrong and it seems counterintuitive. No one is safe from taper madness! Whether it’s the first or hundredth marathon, the constant worry about mysterious aches and pains and a fear of deterioration in fitness affects all runners. The chief aim of the taper period is to allow the body to recover from the accumulated fatigue of heavy training, rather than to achieve any additional physiological adaptations or improvements. It restores levels of muscle glycogen, enzymes, antioxidants, and hormones–all depleted by high mileage– to optimal levels. The muscle damage that occurs during sustained training is also repaired, resulting in improved muscle strength. An effective taper results in an enhancement in performance of between 3 – 6% which may translate to somewhere between  5 to 15 minutes in a marathon (Mujika & Padilla, 2003). The tough physical aspect of training is now finished, trust the training. It  is time to  realise that the madness is entrenched in the mind rather than body, but that’s easier to state rather than live, especially as I feel like putting my six year old in quarantine.



Mujika I & Padilla S. (2003). Scientific bases for precompetition tapering strategies. Med Sci Sports Exerc 35, 1182-1187.


Nieman DC. (2000). Special feature for the Olympics: effects of exercise on the immune system: exercise effects on systemic immunity. Immunol Cell Biol 78, 496-501.


Nieman DC, Johanssen LM, Lee JW & Arabatzis K. (1990). Infectious episodes in runners before and after the Los Angeles Marathon. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 30, 316-328.



Courtesy of guest blogger Joanne Dowds MISCP

I am sitting with my laptop on my knee while watching the bakeoff. It’s changed, I was fully prepared to hate it but I don’t.  It is changed, little bit racier, different, but I still love it. Change is hard. Some thrive in the uncertainty, but most find it uncomfortable. People get stuck out fear or habit. The same gym routine, the same running route, the same training schedule, the same, safe; a comfort zone. If you do the same thing, you will get the same results. For the best part of this year I have been undertaking a diploma in coaching- personal, business and executive coaching to give it the full title.  Coaching is about facilitating change, unlocking potential, helping the individual identify where their skills and talents lie, using them to move forward. A good coach holds up a mirror increasing self awareness, so that change happens in the most effective manner.coachingCoaching is commonly described in sports, where the role is helping to improve performance; moving the individual or team from where they are, to where they want to be. Having a coach holds you accountable. The coach may care deeply about your goals but the responsibility lies with you. We can all resolve to change, most do it at the opening of a new year, it’s the end of September, how have your 2017 resolutions worked out for you?  Having a coach can help you bed down where and how you want to grow. Below I have shared a few ideas that I have found interesting.

CIA (Control, Influence, Accept) model- this is really straight forward. In essence it comes down to understanding what can you control -the answer is just yourself, your words and your actions. There is a certain amount you can influence, namely, other’s behaviour and systems. Influencing occurs when what you are trying to achieve aligns with others values and beliefs, a team working together for a win, a running club supporting new members. By choosing your words and actions with care you can potentially influence the behaviours of others to achieve a joint aim. However all the rest out there, that, you may just need to accept it. Not easy, but outside your control. Life will feel smoother when you let go of the notion that you can control other people or external events.

Using a running analogy you can control how, when and in what way you train and while you may influence the process of running a race by having a strategy for hydration or nutrition, things like the weather can only be accepted. This isn’t to imply that passive acceptance is what I am recommending, a wise runner would prepare for all weather eventualities. In Ireland that means the full gamut of torrential downpours to being whitewashed with factor 50 but you have proactively influenced how well you can cope with uncontrollable factors. You can’t control who else enters a run, interviews for a job, but you can commit to maximising your own preparation.  Devising work arounds for potential pitfalls gives you a pre thought-out pattern to slip into when things don’t quite work out as planned. It makes it less risky if you have thought and proverbially dealt with the worst that can happen. Being proactive will extend your circle of control so that you are not just reacting aka fail to prepare; prepare to fail.

Coaching allows the change process to be as well thought out as possible, there are many models to help identify strategies for change, to help root down positive new behaviours into your day. If we go back to baking, I love cooking, cleaning up not so much, I have many culinary failures not least the lemon drizzle potato cake. I came gloriously last in a work Come Dine with me- but I do keep trying. Using a coaching approach I have all the skills required, the tick list includes reading a recipe, weighing out ingredients, following instructions (generally where I head off in my own, usually burnt, direction). I get to chose if I stick with this, it becomes a conscious choice to risk improvising with a random carb. Breaking a goal down into smaller tasks makes it easier to not get intimidated, particularly if you already have the skills. Coaching allows you to identify the tasks, build confidence through demonstrating your skills in a stepwise manner, then to add them together to hopefully exceed your expectations. My most recent culinary adventure was neither crunchy nor burnt!

Coaching  really comes down to having a supportive sound board, someone who will listen, help you identify where you are getting lost, give you the positive encouragement to keep going, in whatever direction you choose. So get out of that comfort zone, great things happen some where else, and you deserve greatness!