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Jurg Widmer Probst

How a healthy mind leads to a healthy body

The link between the health of the mind and of the body is a fascinating one, and of course it is a relationship that goes both ways. The mental world we inhabit on a daily basis is essentially one that’s the product of billions of chemical and electrical processes – as neurons fire off in all directions and varying levels of important chemicals in our brain have a profound effect on everything from our mood to our energy levels.

And underpinning all of these myriad mental processes are the physical things that we take in – the food and drink we consume – as well as the way that we look after and maintain our physical bodies in terms of exercise. In this sense, we have a huge choice to make. We can create a vicious circle for ourselves, in which the food we eat and the exercise we do (or not) makes us feel down and low on energy – or we can eat well, exercise often and feel mentally alert enough to want to make these good habits regular ones.

So how do we go about creating a virtuous, rather than a vicious, circle of good mental and physical health, so that one maintains and sustains the other? We think there are many different ways to do it, and of course much of this is about trying to find the activities that work for you. This sense of personal engagement is absolutely essential – if you are forcing yourself to do things that ultimately have no personal meaning for you, then it unlikely that you will be able to do them for long enough to form them into regular good habits.

That said, we do think that there are actually at least a couple of general principles around maintaining both a healthy mind and body that most people will find beneficial.

Finding space and perspective in your life

We all lead busy lives – going to work, exercising, looking after family and friends and meeting daily commitments and demands of every kind. Because of this, it can be incredibly easy to get completely swamped and overwhelmed. We can feel as if life is something that happens to us, rather than something that we have an active role in managing. We might be doing all the right things – maybe even managing to squeeze some exercise in here and there – but what we lack is space and the perspective that room can offer.

There are lots of ways to do this – whether it is meditation or yoga or just sitting a reading a good book for half an hour – but whatever it is, it is essential that we find a way to build more space into our lives. When we step back for a moment, we can then see that there are plenty of ways that we can be more actively and positively engaged in our lives, rather than being thrown about by events like a boat in a storm. Having this sense of control and active engagement is great for our mental health – and also has a direct impact on our levels of physical wellbeing too. When we feel in control, we feel motivated and able to act in a positive way.

Develop an outlet for creativity and innovation in your life.

We firmly believe that one of the keys to staying mentally healthy – and so giving yourself that solid foundation of a positive, energised approach to life – is to try to find some opportunity for being creative in your life. It may be that you think that you get this in your job, but really the key here is that this is something that you do for yourself, and not necessarily for others.

In a very practical sense, creativity is the driving force behind humanity’s evolution – it is what has driven us to develop new tools and to solve problems over the millennia. And so because it is such a fundamental part of who we are, it is absolutely essential that it is a part of our lives that we don’t neglect. Building creativity into our lives in some way energises and excites us, and gives us the motivation to keep actively engaged in life.

Finding a way to build more space into our lives and introducing an outlet for our creativity are absolutely essential to not just our mental wellbeing, but our physical health too. When our minds feel fit and rested, our bodies do too – just as when our bodies feel well, we feel in a better place mentally as well. We, ultimately, have a lot control over what kind of relationship body and mind will have – so, make it a positive one.

Jurg Widmer

How to work out with out weights

Your first response to the idea of working out without weights might be: why on earth would you bother? Gyms have lots of specialist equipment designed specifically to help you to build muscle and exercise different parts of your body – so why would you not use it?

We can see that for many people, exercising with out using gym equipment might seem a little bit of a fad – albeit one that has been around for quite a while now. Well, we really do believe that there are very good reasons for ditching the equipment for a while and giving working out without weights a go. Continue reading “How to work out with out weights”

Jurg Widmer Probst

How to set good fitness goals and achieve them

We have all been there, whatever our levels of fitness or commitment to getting healthier. We set a goal – for example losing a certain amount of weight, or maybe running a 5k or even a marathon.

We commit to it for a few days, or a few weeks even, before something goes wrong and we give up. It might be that we get injured, or just disheartened with the progress we are making and don’t feel motivated any more.

Then, we stop, feel bad about ourselves, and fail to make any progress until we feel motivated to start again. And all too often, the process repeats itself. So, how do we break out of this? Is there a way to set fitness goals that are testing, but achievable, and that we will stick to until we beat them? We believe there are – so here are out tips.

Willpower really is all down to you.

There have been varying theories on what exactly willpower is, with some researchers suggesting that it is something that is directly linked to rest. And while it is clear that rest (in the form of enough sleep and healthy food at regular intervals) is a fundamental part of helping us to feel in better shape, it isn’t the whole story.

Newer research suggests that willpower is actually only as limited as you think it is – so, for example, if you tell yourself that you don’t have enough willpower to get up and go for a run or hit the gym, that will be the case. This has big implications because it really hands back the power to get fitter to you – whether you have the will to do something really comes down to your own attitude, and nothing else.

Just do it for yourself.

This might seem counter intuitive – after all, having a goal such as raising money for charity, or even just telling lots of people what you’re trying to achieve can all have a motivating effect on you. But the opposite can also be true. By setting a goal that is motivated internally, you can often make much more progress.

What do we mean by this? Well, for example, if you commit to go to go out for a run every day because you are trying to raise money for a charity, it is likely that you are going to feel fairly  motivated. You’ll keep going because you’re thinking about the money you’re raising and the good thing you’re doing for others.

But it will be tough, and there is a good chance that you will be much less motivated to go for a run than someone who actually just loves going running. If you get a big personal buzz out of pulling on your trainers and hitting the road, then you are more likely to stick at than someone who is doing it for purely altruistic reasons. So, find a fitness goal that fits with things you love to do, and it will be far easier to keep to it.

Keep it interesting.

No one enjoys running the same route every day, or working the same muscles on the same equipment at the gym. It is boring and demotivating – but is remarkable how many people make this very basic mistake when they are setting their fitness goals and creating a programme to achieve them. To return to our previous point again – the key to setting and achieving fitness goals is to find activities that you enjoy, and nothing kills enjoyment like endless repetition.

So, mix it up. Pick a different route, or head out on a trail to build a bit of variety into your runs. Or, if you’re creating a programme of gym workouts, make sure that you are focusing on a wide range of muscle groups, or mixing up the equipment you use. For example, if you’re used to just using the gym’s machines, then try using free weights too for a bit of variation.

A final thought on this. So much of setting and achieving our fitness goals is really about being good to ourselves. Too often, people see getting fit almost as a form of punishment – and while it does need to be tough, we also need to try and find something we feel passionate about.

So find an activity you love. Set goals that will test you but that you can achieve, and don’t be too hard on yourself. However you get on, know that you can always begin again: focus on the start that you have made, not on the failures you have had along the way.

 

Jurg Widmer - Keto Diet

What is the keto diet – and is right for me?

Whether it is down at the gym or at your local running club, the chances are that you will have heard a little bit of the buzz around keto diets, and their potentially beneficial effects not just for athletes but for everyone. So, we thought we would take a quick look at just a few of the biggest questions around keto diets, and give you our thoughts on whether taking this approach to nutrition can be beneficial to us as athletes.

But first, it is probably worth taking a quick look at exactly what keto diets are, and the effect they are supposed to have on the body. So what are they and how do they work?

Time to cut the carbs

Ketogenic diets are essentially ones in which levels of carbohydrate intake are kept low, in order to encourage your body to enter a state known as ‘ketosis’. Usually, we prefer to get our energy from consuming carbohydrates – think of that big pasta dinner you have the night before a marathon.

But with a keto diet, that high level of carbohydrate intake is cut right back, forcing the body to look for alternative sources of energy. The most likely place it will find this energy is in your body’s fat reserves and in the increased levels of fat that you are consuming as a part of the diet. Your body will then turn this fat into a compound called ketones which, in turn, give us the energy we need.

While our bodies are more used to getting energy from carbs (which produce glucose and insulin, and so provide us with something we can convert into energy) keto diets use high intakes of fat (and our own fat reserves) to generate the energy we need.

It does this simply as a kind of survival mechanism. So, if we are in an environment in which we are unable to access the levels of carbs that we are used to, being able to go into a state of ketosis allows us to replace energy from glucose with energy from ketones that our body has produced by breaking down fats in the liver.

Keto for athletes

The big question for us then, as athletes, is whether a ketogenic diet is right for us. It is easy to see the advantages of a keto diet for someone who is looking, for example, to lose weight. Burning off fat is clearly a positive outcome for someone with this particular goal, but the benefits for athletes looking to improve performance is less clear.

While it is hard to say for sure, Keto diets seem, at the very least, to have a positive effect on body composition – something that can certainly be of benefit to athletes of all kinds.

But research on the matter is still on a relatively small scale, and a lot more work needs to be done to provide a more definitive answer to the question of how beneficial these kinds of diets are to athletes. According to a study of New Zealand athletes cited on RunnersWorld.com, research “showed that a 10-week keto diet improved the athletes’ body composition and well-being but not their performance. In fact, the athletes initially experienced reduced energy levels and an inability to undertake high-intensity bouts of exercise.”

The key to muscle building?

So what about for those of us who are doing our workouts in the gym? Well, this time the picture is a bit clearer when it comes to keto diets. The bottom line for us is that carbohydrates and the insulin they produce in our bodies perform a fundamental role in promoting muscle growth – so cutting the carbs will have a direct impact on your body’s ability to produce the muscles you’re after. Carbohydrates also help our bodies to recover more quickly, by reducing the impact of an intense workout on our immune system. So, once again, carbs have a big role to play in helping us to workout hard, build muscles and recover quickly. In the light of this, reducing the amount of carbs you consume, and forcing your body to burn fat instead, will clearly not help with muscle growth.

Ultimately, our take on keto diets is this. If you are looking to burn off a bit of extra fat and perhaps change your body composition for the better, then it is probably well worth giving these kinds of diet a try. But, if you are a body builder looking to grow muscle or a runner trying to improve your performance, then the jury is still very much out. The research that has been done on keto diets and the impact on performance just isn’t there yet – and what there is suggests that the benefits are mixed.

So, if you’re an ultra runner who wants to get better at being able to use your stores of fat to keep you going through to mile 50, then a keto diet might be a great way to prepare your body for this. But, if you’re a body builder or just some one who wants to feel energised and healthy when they run then you might be best sticking to the carbs for now.

 

Jurg Widmer Probst

A beginner’s guide to running further

Whether it’s completing a 100km ultra marathon or just managing to jog to work every day, as runners most of will have goals that we want to achieve. It is the way we measure ourselves, and how we set targets that will hopefully push us to improve, little by little. These targets can be about beating a specific time – maybe a sub-three hour marathon – or perhaps you might have a certain number of kilos you’d like to shed. Continue reading “A beginner’s guide to running further”

Jurg Widmer

Why less is sometimes more when it comes to workouts

The many excuses we come up with for not going to the gym are often longer than the queues for the most popular equipment. We are great at telling ourselves that we either have too much work, we’re too tired, or we simply just don’t have time to go and work out. So is there a way to get more out of the workouts we are able to squeeze in? Is it possible to do shorter workouts, but get the same benefits? We believe it is, so here are our top tips for getting more out of shorter gym sessions. Continue reading “Why less is sometimes more when it comes to workouts”

Jurg Widmer Probst, Jurg Widmer. Juerg Widmer, Juerg Widmer Probst

Bigger isn’t always better…

It’s a sight that will be familiar to many of you who have spent a lot of time in gyms.

Bodybuilders – looking to quickly increase the amount of muscle they have – will simply increase the amount of weight they’re lifting. They will load the new weights on, and start lifting. By adding weight, goes the logic, they’re adding intensity, and so encouraging hypertrophy (or building bigger muscles) in the areas where they want to work on.

This seems to make sense. It seems intuitive that by increasing the resistance your muscle are working against that they will grow as a result. And to a certain extent, they will. But the chances that you will do yourself lasting and possibly serious damage will grow too – by pushing your body too hard and overstraining yourself there’s a very good chance that you will tear a muscle or sprain a tendon. Continue reading “Bigger isn’t always better…”

Jurg Widmer Probst - Core Workout

Why concentrating on your core is crucial

In the world of health and fitness, there always seems to be a lot of talk about the need to ‘work on your core’. It is almost an obsession for some people – having a strong core seems to be the secret to unlocking success in all sorts of sports and activities, from running to yoga. But what is it, and why is it so important? And if you’re the kind of person who struggles to do two consecutive sit ups, what can you practically do to improve your own core strength? Here is our quick guide. Continue reading “Why concentrating on your core is crucial”