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» star anise organic wholefoods

traditional wholefoods for a modern world

Filtering by Tag: movement

second foam rolling workshop: Thursday 19th March 7:30pm


The first foam rolling workshop is now fully booked so we are holding a second workshop the following Thursday 19th March. All of the details and information on how to book can be found in this post advertising the first foam rolling workshop except the date of the second workshop is 19th March. All other details remain the same. There are 5 spots left as I type this so get in fast if you are interested in attending. Given the popularity we may hold these regularly throughout the year. IMG_1531

The active couch potato meets the standing bench. Why exercise isn't enough.


Most people are aware that physical activity is essential to good health and extended sitting is harmful to health. That's not controversial. It's how we evolved for the vast majority of our evolutionary history - we had to exert ourselves, often strenuously, on a daily basis. But back then it was called survival and not exercise. Today things are very different. The typical adult in the Western world is sedentary for 60% of their waking hours and sits for an average of 6 hours per day (and often much longer in the case of those who work primarily on computers). In fact, being sedentary is now the norm and exercise is primarily seen as an intervention - something we do to guard against the negative impacts of a sedentary lifestyle.


So here I was thinking that because I engage in moderate to rigorous exercise most days then surely that must counteract any damage done by all the extended sitting I do in front of a computer or being a taxi driver to my kids each day in the car. However multiple studies (eg here and here) show that too much sitting time is still harmful even if you're getting enough exercise! That's right, regular vigorous exercise alone isn't enough to reverse the harmful effects of too much sitting. So if you think your rigorous cross-fit training regimen protects you from the harmful effects of too much sitting when you're not training - it doesn't. Damn brother! I realised I am (or was) an "active couch potato". This phenomenon has become the norm rather than the exception in industrialised countries today.

Ok, so what can we do if we have jobs that involve being in front of a PC  for extended periods of time? How can be get off our butts and standing upright?! Here are some suggestion (summarised from a Chris Kresser article published in the Huffington Post with some obligatory modifications to add in my two cents worth):

1. Work at a  Standing desk

Nowadays you can buy standing desks, portable standing desks and Ikea has designed an inexpensive new height-adjustable standing desk. Or if spending hundreds or thousands of dollars doesn't appeal to you, you can, like I did, make your own very inexpensive standing desk by buying a couple of 3-tiered shelving units from KMart at a cost of $17 each, then tip them on their side to sit your keyboard, mouse and monitor on them. For the grand total of $34 I have my own standing bench complete with 6 extra storage cavities. Brilliant. These shelving units happen to be the perfect height for me at 5 feet 7 inches (my arms are at a right angle when i type). I stand with my legs at least hip-width apart and am mindful not to lean to one side and to stand upright. This simple change means that i'm now only sitting when driving or eating thereby reducing the hours on my butt by several hours a day.  What if you don't work from home? I would like to think that most employers nowadays would be open to accommodating a standing bench for their employees. I had a standing desk 17 years ago when I was a lawyer at Freehills so I'd like to think that things have only progressed in the past couple of decades. Back then, of course, I was seen a total aberration in the law firm but the trend caught on and more and more lawyers started to request standing desks.

The transition from sitting to standing at my PC wasn't too hard for me as I don't have a regular office job where i'm forced to be at my PC for hours and hours at time. So one question i have been asked a lot recently is how do you transition  from going from sitting at a desk all day to standing all day.  A button-adjustable stand-up desk is wonderful for this reason as it gives you the option of standing or sitting as you please and you can build up a little each day to standing. However, if you have a non-adjustable standing work desk (like I have) and think that going from sitting all day to standing is going to be too big of an initial adjustment, then sit down at another desk if available wherever you can for non-computer tasks so that you are doing a combo of  standing (for PC work) and sitting (eg when talking on the mobile, reading, etc).

IMG_27672. Take it to the next level with a treadmill desk (this is what health guru Chris Kresser in the USA does).

3. Walk or bike to work (or part of the way) eg get off the train 1 or 2 stops earlier then walk rest of the way.

4. Do whatever mundane household tasks you can standing like opening mail, talking on the phone, reading letters, folding clothes etc. Whenever you are sitting simply ask yourself "must I be sitting right now or could I do this standing?"

5. Take regular standing breaks during extended sitting periods

6. Organise walking or standing meetings. More and more executives are doing this.

7. Sit more actively if you can't stand or walk eg sit on a fit ball or learn to sit up straight this will engage your back muscles more actively than simply being dead weight in a chair. When driving in the car, you should know that bucket seats are hideous for the lower back. They tighten the hip flexors which in turn strains the lower back.  My tip here is the get one or more rolled up towels and place them right in the nook of the seat to effectively level out the seat so that your hips are higher than (or at least the same height as) your knees. It might feel like your driving a bus with your head almost scraping the roof of the car but, hey, it sure beats chronic lower back pain. I miraculously "cured" my incessant gnawing lower back pain within 24 hours by doing this.

As an aside, if you're spending more and more time standing and /or walking please have a think about what you are wearing on your feet. Thongs IMG_2732and high heels are the worst things you can wear on your feet as movement coach and PT Chris Ogle reminds us regularly in his fascia release classes at Centennial Health Club. Thongs make you claw the ground and put tremendous strain on the feet,  tightening the feet muscles and changing your gait. It's a pet hate of mine seeing young kids wear thongs. Birkenstocks are NOT thongs even though they don't have a strap around the ankle because they come up quite high on the top of the foot which makes it unnecessary to claw at the ground. Birkies are great but recently I bought these summer sandals (pictured) from Camper- comfy and fun to wear with extra spring in my step.  High heels shorten calf muscles which have a detrimental cascading effect on the rest of the body. Occasional wear is unavoidable for most women but wearing them every day can be pretty gruelling on the body (I know as I did it for 10 years as a lawyer in my former life).

 Do you use a standing desk? Where did you get it from and how do you find it? I'd be very interested to hear what people are doing for school-aged kids re standing desks. Please share. 

the big 8 favourite ways of keeping warm over winter


I'm not a fan of the cold. My Mediterranean ethnicity coupled with my upbringing on the balmy Gold Coast has conditioned me for warmth and heat. But over the years I've learnt to shoulder the cold with the following coping strategies that make the colder months a little more bearable:

1. Hot water bottles. Yep, that good old-fashioned heating method that grandma used. I fill with boiling water and pop into my and my kids' bed a hour or so before sleep time. There are soft covers you can now buy that makes for a cuddly bedfellow!

IMG_95092. Heat packs. The ONLY time I use a microwave oven and the ONLY reason why I still own one is to heat up my heat pack. I place a glass of water in the microwave when heating my heat pack for safety reasons in case the heat pack overheats and catches fire. I lay the hot heat pack lengthways down my spine from the base of neck and lie over it in bed before falling asleep. It's a great way to instantly feel warm and a lovely chest opener to counter the effects of all of the forward motions we do all day. Especially great for breastfeeding mums! Seed Clothing sells cute little heat packs for little people (pictured).

3. Thermals. I buy woollen thermal tops and bottoms from Target each winter. Can be used as outerwear, underwear, PJs etc.

4. Flannelette sheets: these make a massive difference to keeping warm in bed. The new range of plain-print brushed-cotton sheets areIMG_3093 a far cry from the  hideously-printed wog versions I grew up with.  Chemical-free flannelette sheets that are very affordably priced can be purchased from Ecodownunder.

5. Hot baths and showers before bed. I can't sleep for life or death if I'm even slightly cold not matter how tired I am. If you don't have  a water filter attached to your bath to remove chlorine (or if your bath - like mine  -  can't accommodate a water filter) then consider purchasing a bath ball dechlorinator to remove chlorine which can be purchased from  iherb for $35. Simply stick ball in bath, fill bath, allow to stand for 5 mins, remove ball then stick in kids (or yourself!). Replace ball annually. I also add 1/2-1 cup of Epsom salts to the bath for mineral (esp magnesium) aborption and a few drops of lavender essential oil for a calming effect.IMG_9265 IMG_9264

6. Put on an extra layer of clothing before turning on heating but if you must turn on heating do NOT use an unflued gas heater. i.e. the portable ones with a gas hose that you plug into a gas bayonet to heat your house. A few months back I read a research paper issued by NSW Health (dated 3/3/11) on the dangers of unflued gas heaters. The upshot is that:

(A) Gas heaters produce heat through burning gas fuel. When gas fuel is burnt, air pollutants are produced and released directly into the room.

(B) The air pollutants released are carbon monoxide (which deprives body of O2, impairs thinking and reflexes) and nitrogen dioxide (which can cause irritation of the respiratory tract and shortness of breath). Children, unborn babies and elderly are more effected.

As my integrative GP Dr Min Yeo wrote to me, if you have an unflued gas heater  "get rid of it IMMEDIATELY! They are horrendously toxic and poisonous! You will have chronic carbon monoxide poisoning amongst other toxins. They are banned in Victoria with good reason."

Flued (fireplace) gas heaters, electric heaters or central heating (while they do have a dehydrating/ drying effect on the body) do NOT have this problem of toxicity.

7. Hot drinks. Dust off the old fashioned thermos container, fill with home-made stock, hot water or herbal tea and sip away all day. Click here to read about my favourite hot drinks.

8. Move.  high-intensity interval and strength training gets the heart rate going, the blood pumping and heats the body. Not to mention the feel-good endorphins that are produced that buoy the spirits at this naturally dreary time of year. Releasing (via foam rollers and small balls that trigger pressure points) and stretching (eg yoga) are equally  important in this weather as muscles tighten and everything contracts. If you're looking to train at a gym a few that I have been to and can highly recommend are Centennial Health Club at EQ Moore Park where I currently train ($20 per week for unlimited classes- say I referred you!), Primal Fitness at Double Bay (specialising in one on one PT sessions) and Origin of Energy at Bondi Junction (specialising in group classes). If you are self-motivated you could d0 your own sprints at a park or beach or up some hills (anything that provides resistance is preferable) and even better is to get a group of friends to join. If you've got kids in tow and can't make it to a gym or class you might like to read one of my earlier posts here about suggestions for movement while mothering.intervalsmove1

Do YOU have any tips for keeping warm over winter? I'd love to hear.