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Stress Fractures in Female Runners

 New studies have revealed that a lack of knowledge and overlooked physiological factors are two important reasons as to why we see more stress fractures in female runners as opposed to male. 

Over 50% of runners are female, and we are twice as likely to develop stress factors compared to men, which means a lot of us are getting injured when it could be prevented. Often studies of runners have been focused on elite athletes, but finally research has been developed on recreational runners so that we can find out how everyday people can improve their health and possibly reduce their chances of injury. 



What is a stress fracture? 

Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bones that are usually caused by overuse and repetitive force, such as running. That being said, they can also occur in normal bones that have been weakened as a result of osteoporosis. 

More often than not, stress fractures occur in weight bearing bones in the lower body such as the hips, legs and feet. This is because these are the bones that take a lot of weight and impact when we run, walk, jump etc. 

Risk factors 

Unfortunately for us women, we are more likely to sustain stress fractures. One of the reasons being if you have irregular menstrual cycles. Estrogen is an important hormone for bone density and health, therefore if you have an irregular menstrual cycle and low levels of estrogen, this can have an impact on your bone health. 

Your weight can also affect your likelihood of stress fractures. If you have a low BMI and you are taking part in a repetitive sport such as running, all of that impact with very little lean muscle mass to protect the bones can only mean trouble. It's like having no cushioning around the bones and they are being slammed against a hard surface on a regular basis, they are going to crack.


How to prevent/reduces chances of stress fractures

According to the study, the main reasons that women were more likely to gain stress fractures was due to a lack of physiological examining and lack of knowledge on how to prevent them. This means that one things that could be done to tackle the issue is an increased amount of examining females that participate in sports, especially those that hold certain risk factors. That being said, unfortunately this is a wider problem to be solved, but there are things we can do as individuals to try and decrease our risk of stress fractures: 

Cross training 

This one is a biggie. Resistance training, lifting weights and building a bit of muscle around those bones is ESSENTIAL. One thing I notice with a lot of runners that I come across, especially female is that they don't take the time to cross train and only focus on running. As we can see from evidence above, we need to keep our bones and muscles strong in-order to reduce our chance of injury. 

This doesn't mean you need to be lifting super heavy weight, light weights and resistance bands will do the trick, but they are vital. Gaining more lean muscle mass will not make you bulky, but a better runner. 

Eating the right foods 

Like with everything to do with our health, nutrition plays a large part in our bone health and reducing the risk of stress factors. This is because healthy bones require a sufficient amount of calcium and vitamin D and if you aren't getting these key nutrients then you are reducing your chances of developing healthy bones. 

As well as this, in general it is important that you are filling your body with enough calories and nutrients when you are consistently running, especially if you are running a lot. Many females do not eat the required amount of calories they need to sustain their activity levels and this is what can lead to a lower BMI and therefore, increased risk of stress factors. So eat, you've earned it. 

Ease yourself in

If you're a beginner and you catch the running bug, you'll probably be itching to get outside and run as much as you can, but you need to be sensible and listen to your body. 

Stress fractures occur as a result of overuse, therefore if you have gone from very little running to a lot, you can imagine that this will have a lot of impact on your bones. This means that you need to take baby steps, and most importantly listen to your body. 

If you are feeling fatigued, or you can feel niggles occurring, don't run through the pain, rest. This is your body telling you it needs to heal and recover. These are the times when you can focus more on building up your strength through cross-training and ensuring that you are eating sufficient protein for recovery. In-order to be a good runner, it isn't just about the running. 


Cya! 
Eryn

Marvellous Mango Smoothie

This one is going to be pretty brief, I know a lot of people get miffed when they go on a recipe blog post and there are hundreds of words describing the process...when really all you want is the bloody recipe. And to be quite frank, it's just a smoothie, the process is simple, blend.

So, without further adieu, here is my marvellous mango smoothie recipe: 


You will need: 

1/2 cup frozen mango, chopped 

1 banana 

2tbsp greek yoghurt 

1 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder 

1/4 cup of water (approx) 


Method (Serves 2): 

1. Chuck everything in the blender and pulse until smooth. 

2. If the smoothie is too thick, add small amounts of water until at the desired consistency. 

3. Serve and enjoy! 


Cya! 

Eryn

Covid -19 and IBD

I don't usually write blog posts about problems I personally have, or a medical issue in my life, however I thought I'd share how the global pandemic has effected my inflammatory bowel disease. Which, for that matter, has been in a surprisingly good way. 


I have a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) called Ulcerative Colitis. It is estimated that around 1 in every 420 people in the UK have UC, so it's a pretty common disease. For those of you that don't know what it is, it's a chronic condition of inflammation in the colon and rectum. If you are turned off by talk of colons and rectums, don't be, because most of us have them. 

The main symptoms of UC include: 
-Blood in stools 
-Diarrhoea 
-Tummy pain 
-Fatigue 

This list goes on, and the symptoms vary is severity depending on how much of your colon is inflamed and whether or not you're going through a flare up. Fortunately I only have mild symptoms compared to others where the disease can become extremely dangerous and life-altering. 

Anyway, before Covid, my daily routine included working as a PT 6 days a week, leaving the house at 5:30am and spending most of the day out. This would be out PTing clients, going to my yoga studio and taking part in other classes. Basically, i'm a very busy bee, which has always led to a lot of unnecessary stress. I would often eat on the go, eat at random times in the day and pick up protein bars and other very artificial foods to keep me going until the next meal. On top of this, I was constantly in a stress about finance, pushing my business and getting clients through the door. 

Then Covid happened....

Now obviously, this has been an awful and distressing time for many. Too many lives have been lost and the world has been turned upside down. For many of us, it has also been the opportunity to pause from everyday life and reflect on the parts of your life you love, and maybe don't like so much. 

I love my job, but rolling out of bed in the early hours and heading straight to a loud gym just wasn't doing me any good. The same goes for constantly being out. If you have UC, you probably know what I mean when I say your tummy gets nervous being out all day. Long days usually cause my tummy to bloat and flare up, leaving me in a nasty mood. This also isn't helped by irregular meals and running around stressing. 

Before this, people would tell me to cut foods out of my diet, try calmer exercise, and I'd read several articles on the best supplements to take when suffering with IBD. However, it turns out that solving the problem was simple...slow things down. Stress was the thing that was causing more flares and discomfort. Spending every waking hour constantly trying to be at the next destination was putting a lot of mental strain on me, which was also clearly effecting my gut. 

Now i'm really not a medical professional, so please don't take any advice, this is just my experience. That being said, I have made no changes to my diet, I eat dairy, wheat (plenty of it) and I don't really take an supplements regularly, and my flares have reduced and possibly subsided. 

So, this got me thinking about how much of an effect stress has on our mental and physical wellbeing. Maybe we all need to take a look at our lives and open our eyes to the fact that stress may be the cause, or a factor in many of the ailments and anxieties that we suffer from... 

Cya!
Eryn 

Your Menstrual Cycle & Exercise

Online you'll hear everything about workouts, nutrition, stress factors, but you hear very little about hormones and how your menstrual cycle has an effect on your life and fitness. I don't know if this is because people find it 'awkward' to talk about, because they really shouldn't as half of the population are female and most likely have had an experience with periods. Or possibly because the fitness industry is primarily male and this doesn't affect them, either way we're gonna talk about it now. 

Do you ever just feel like shit? You don't want to exercise, you're fatigued and want to use a shovel as a spoon for that tub of ice cream. It happens to the best of us, and especially when you're going through certain cycles of your menstrual cycle. That's because your period has a wealth of effects on your body, not just physical, but hormonal and mental too.  

Exercise is good during your period

First things first, exercise is good for you during your menstrual cycle. As you may already know, exercise makes you feel good by releasing endorphins, improves your mood and can also help reduce fatigue. It might also be possible that exercise could reduce your menstrual pain too. 

The best thing to do is find a type of exercise that suits you and makes you feel good. Just be cautious about over exerting yourself at times when you feel more fatigued. The most important thing to do is listen to your body and take part in whatever exercise feels right for you. 

Exercise during each phase 

The average cycle lasts around 28 days, however this can fluctuate depending on the person. During the first few days of your period, your progesterone and oestrogen levels drop to their lowest point and this can lead to a lack of energy. On top of this, you often bleed during this phase and this can also cause physical problems depending on how heavy your period is. If you energy levels are low then it may be best to participate in more restorative and calming forms of exercise such as Yin Yoga and walking in-order not to place too much stress on the body. 



In the follicular phase, the follicle stimulating hormone alerts the ovaries to release the egg and you may feel a new surge of energy. With less fatigue, it may feel better to return back to more intense exercises, and the same goes during the ovulatory phase. Your oestrogen and testosterone levels peak here and you will be feeling strong. This could be the best time to hit a PB in the gym or get your trainers on and crack your fastest 5k time. 

Finally there's the luteal phase. You may be at risk of higher cardiovascular strain during moderate exercise. Your progesterone levels are at their highest and you may be experiencing a little more fatigue again. This is also the phase where you are most likely to have disrupted sleep which will have a huge impact on the intensity of your training. 

Over training and the menstrual cycle 

Although not common, it is possible that over training can cause you to lose your period, which is pretty serious. Now, only 2-5% of women suffer from Amenorrhea, but it is definitely something to be aware of as it is particularly prominent in women that train for bodybuilding competitions, which have become increasingly popular. 

How does this happen? Well when you train excessively, you need to be fuelling your body to cope with the exercise. More often than not this doesn't happen and if you are training A LOT and not eating enough, this can put you in a severe calorie deficit. With a lack of calories and nutrients this can mess up your hormones and bring your periods to a holt. Going long periods without menstruation can have an effect on bone density and leave you at more risk of fractures. 

What to take from this 

Listen to your body. If you feel great and you're ready to smash out a workout then do it. If you're feeling a little tired, but you know a session will make you feel better, do it. If you are drained, allow your body to rest, or try restorative exercises. No one can tell you exactly what to do because your body is unique, just work with it. 

Cya! 
Eryn

You don't have to Run

How many of us have seen our Strava friend's list increase two-fold since the start of lockdown? Of course this is amazing, more people are choosing to get outside and use the great outdoors for exercise instead of only relying on the gym. 

However, how many of you have felt forced by peer pressure/pressure online to get out and take part in long runs? Whether that be a 5k, 10k or even longer, there is an ongoing hype surrounding endurance running that although has many positive effects, has also lead to some feelings of guilt and shame for people who just don't like running. 


Okay, so i'm a little worried that a LOT of people are not going to like this so I just want to start by saying that all forms of running are excellent. I have absolutely nothing against endurance running of any form, in-fact, I envy people that feel 'euphoria' when they've been running for a certain amount of time. But, I hate long distance running. I class anything from 5k up as long distance running. I get bored, I have never had that feeling of 'euphoria' and quite frankly there are many other forms of cardiovascular exercise I'd rather be doing then monotonously running down a canal. 

I'm happy to say that i'm not the only one either. I know plenty of people that don't like running, and like me, give it a go every once in a while in the hope that things might have changed, but they haven't. Now, obviously this is just my personal opinion. However, sometimes have you noticed the social pressure online that endurance running is something that everyone SHOULD be doing? Whether you want to lose weight, improve your cardiovascular health or just generally improve your fitness. So many of us has thrown ourselves in the deep end, running more than ever until it exhausts us, we become over fatigued and often injured. 

Well, let me tell you for all of the people out there that don't enjoy endurance running, it's not the end of the world. Despite the pressure to take up longer distance running there are plenty of other options to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Of course, running 5/10k is a great way to improve your health in many ways, but it's not the only way...

Other types of running 

I don't hate all types of running, I just don't like running far. In-fact I really enjoy sprinting and track sessions, which leads me onto my first point. You don't just have to run far, there are other options too: 

Interval Training: This consists of a short period of time running at a fast pace/sprinting, followed by a period at a much slower pace. This is a great way to fit in an intense session in a short amount of time and trust me, if you go hard enough, you'll feel just as tired as doing a long run. 

Sprints: Many of us often bypass sprinting as we believe it's something only done by athletic champions, but why? Anyone can do it. You don't have to be an amazing sprinter to give it a go and you will only improve with practise. There are several athletics teams across the UK that allow people from all ages to take part in their training. Sprint sessions can be extremely gruelling, especially in the winter. 

Hill Sprints: I will have to admit, this is one of my least favourite forms of running. It burns. But, it's another great way to build muscle in your lower body and improve your cardiovascular health without having to run very far. 

Other types of cardio 

There will be some of you out there that hate all forms of running, which I completely understand. Or, you have sustained an injury that means that running isn't accessible for you. So, here are some other forms of cardio that you can consider in your training as a means to get fitter, improve your heart health and reduce the chances of many diseases...

Walking/Hiking: Honestly walking is so underrated and the majority of us can do it. Get out there and get your 10,000 steps a day. Not only is walking a simple form of cardiovascular exercise, it is also a nice way to bring calm to the mind. As you're not going through an intense workout, you have the time to pause and be lost in your own thoughts. 

Cycling: A favourite of mine, cycling is an excellent way to get your legs working and your heart rate up. Of course you can go for a lovely casual bike ride, but why not take it a step further, plan a longer route or try pedalling a little faster next time. 

Team sports: As adults, we often think of team sports being something you do as a child, but there are so many adult sports teams out therefor you to try. Whether you love football, or you want to get involved in roller derby, I can guarantee there are other people out there that enjoy it as much as you do. And, if there isn't a team in your local area yet, why not make one? 

Hopefully I haven't offended too many people with this post. I just wanted to broaden your horizon when it comes to thinking about running. Please ignore any social pressure to run far, just run to where feels comfortable for you, or don't run at all if you don't want to. There are plenty of other options available that mean you don't need to add marathon running to your list. 

Cya! 
Eryn

Spread Your Wings - Review of 'Range' David Epstein

Since lockdown, I have been reading A LOT, and i'm already a pretty big reader, so it's like i'm on reading steroids at the moment. It can be difficult to find a good business/productivity book that isn't just splurging out the same old motivational speeches telling you to grind down and never stop. But, I have come across an absolute belter and I thought it was necessary to share with you...


Range by David Epstein gives several different examples of how and why 'generalist triumph in a specialized world'. Since being small little humans, how many of us have been told that we need to start something at an early age in-order to be good at it. Those forced ballet classes, or piano lessons so that with some hope, you might become the next Mozart. It is generally suggested in our modern age that it is better to be really good at something, and to succeed in that area you have to be persistent for a long time. However, Epstein completely turns this theory on its head and for the first time the phrase 'Jack of all trades' doesn't have a negative connotation. 

Now i'm not just going to regurgitate the whole book for you in a blog post, instead i'd love you to give the book a try and see how it changes your perspective on your own life. Instead I want to discuss what i've taken from the book how it has affected my view on fitness and wellbeing. 

First of all, I must point out that I am the ultimate Jack of all trades, my interests change by the hour and it isn't surprising if i've changed my career path from one week to the next. I've often been told that this is a bad thing, that I need to focus on one thing and be really good at it, but that's never really sunk it. I'd take the argument that i've obviously not found the thing that I love doing yet. Finally i'm starting to come to the conclusion that maybe it isn't such a bad thing that I have multiple interests. 

As a self-employed worker in the fitness industry, it has come in handy that I have a degree in English, because I have had the opportunity to work on several fitness articles for different companies. I also have a creative side to a degree, which has helped me not only with writing my blog, but also opened me up to a world of different ways to market my business, from creating infographics to creating video content. These are all things that may not have been possible, had I not worked in other industries and opened up my interests away from sport. 

And this leads me onto my next point...fitness. Like work, I have a habit of dabbling in different sports and areas of fitness. I like running, sprinting, cycling, yoga and weight lifting. Is it possible that I could become really good at one of those sports and possibly compete? It is, but that doesn't mean I have to. Having a good base knowledge all a variety of sports has allowed me to work with different clients as a PT, and has kept my levels of fitness relatively high. It means I can go on a long cycle with friends and not get tired, but I can also take part in a yoga class and not snap in two. 

But how is any of this useful? I just want you to take a moment to think about times when you've been told to focus on one thing, be that fitness, work or anything else. Is that what you really want to do? And in-fact, how to being more general actually benefit you more? Because it sure as hell has helped me out so far! 

Cya! 
Eryn

Pelvic Floor: What is it? What do I need to know?

When it comes to fitness and building muscle, most of us are concerned with the superficial muscles that we can see, such as the glutes, biceps and quads. This isn't an issue as it's important to keep all of the muscles strong and working, however, how often do you think of the internal muscles? And even more so, how many of you knew that there were muscles around your bladder, womb and and bowel? 

It's okay if you didn't know this, it's also okay if you have heard about the pelvic floor muscles but you don't know much about them. It's something that most of us don't consider, however, if you're female or male, knowing a little bit about this region can be incredibly important. It may be a little embarrassing to talk about these muscles, but why? 



What is the pelvic floor? 

First things first, it's important to note that both men and women have pelvic floor muscles. For men, these are muscles that support the bladder and bowel, and in women, they support the bladder, bowel and uterus. 

The pelvic floor muscles look like a trampoline and stretch from the pubic bone to the coccyx, supporting the organs that lay above it. When the pelvic floor muscles contract, the organs around it lift and the muscle tightens. This stops you from peeing and releasing faeces. So as you can imagine, they are pretty useful muscles... 

Having a weak pelvic floor 

There are several factors that can cause weak pelvic floor muscles, one of them being pregnancy and childbirth. Other things that can cause a weak pelvic floor are: 
  • Heavy lifting. 
  • Age 
  • Straining on the toilet 
  • Obesity 
  • Chronic coughing 
As I mentioned earlier, pelvic floor muscles keep your organs supported, therefore, having weak pelvic floor muscles can lead to incontinence and also the inability to control flatulence and faeces (trumping and pooping). Along with this, pelvic floor muscles are important for sexual function in both men and women, and also support the baby during pregnancy. 

But it doesn't stop there, if you didn't already think they do enough, the pelvic floor muscles also work with the back muscles and abdominals to support the spine. Pretty damn amazing right? 

What can I do to strengthen my pelvic floor muscles? 

But how can you strengthen internal muscles? You won't be strapping weights to the area and doing curls (urgh that thought just made me squeeze my own muscles). 

The first thing I would recommend is going to a Pilates class, and speaking to the teacher regarding pelvic floor exercises. This is a big part of Pilates and many teachers will have a good background of knowledge in this sector. Or, if you're having serious problems, consult a doctor. 

One of the main techniques used to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles is a squeezing method: 
  • Begin by relaxing the stomach and thigh muscles and sit either on a seat, or in a tabletop position
  • Then squeeze the back passage and try to imagine you're stopping yourself from passing wind 
  • Squeeze the muscles in the vagina and up to the pelvis 
  • Finally squeeze the muscles in the front massage as if you are trying to stop yourself from peeing
When doing this, try holding for only a few seconds to begin with, gradually increasing the time as you get better. When performing the exercise, you are working the internal muscles, so try to relax the glutes and thighs as you do so, and there should be no squeezing past the belly button. 

Want to know more? 
Get in touch! 
Cya!
Eryn