A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was going along to the lovely folks at Move Three Sixty for what they dubbed a "chemical MOT", which is the human equivalent of a car service. My current physical and nutritional state was given a going over by the experts, to see whether I was in need of some major repair works, or whether things were ticking over but my roadworthiness could possibly be improved :)
I really enjoyed my few hours with Hannah and Claud - I think I could have happily stayed all evening chatting to them. They were both very friendly and passionate people, and I felt very much that they were my kind of people, if you know what I mean. I really enjoy meeting people who are enthusiastic, who clearly know their stuff and want to share their knowledge to help others.
First up was the physical MOT. I was asked to change into gym clothes, which I'd brought with me, and then Claud spent the next hour and a half giving me a biomechanical assessment. I was examined from every angle!
It really hammered home for me how we are all different especially when it comes to how our bodies are physically structured. There is no one size fits all approach to anything, especially when it comes to exercise. We may actually be doing an exercise incorrectly for the way our body is structured (the way our hips move for example) and this may lead to an injury further down the track.
I gave a thorough history of my physical activities (or lack of them, as was the case in the first half of last decade!) and was pleased to note that the marathon training had indeed made me stronger and not given me any permanent physical scars. The assessment was really very simple - no physical fitness tests like I was expecting. I was just asked to stand in a relaxed position, move arms, legs or head when directed. I also did a few movements from lying flat on my stomach, and Claud noted which muscles I used first to get myself up (ie: which were the stronger and the weaker). Claud concluded that my left hip is higher than my right, as is my left shoulder. This explains why my left side turns inward slightly when I run. There is some very slight scoliosis as a result but nothing alarming. Where I am going wrong is by giving the right and left sides of my body the same workout, whereas they both need different things in order to strengthen up the weaker aspects and thereby make me more balanced. But overall my gluteal area needs to be stronger. Claud noticed that when I was doing a movement similar to upward dog (or cobra), my bottom was the last muscle to lift up. I have a weak bottom!! Claud showed me some exercises to do on each side which will hopefully improve things.
Finally, I did a bit of a walk through the gym so Claud could see how I walk normally. It was hard not to do a catwalk strut because they were playing Lady Gaga in the gym (!) but eventually my inner diva calmed down and I did my normal walk. Claud taped it for me to watch. It was very obvious how out of balance I am! I would never have thought about it otherwise - I mean, why would you, if you're just walking around comfortably as you always have?
"The way you walk normally...it's like you're walking on a tightrope," Claud observed. And indeed I could see that, how the weight obviously shifted from one leg to the other as I walked, slightly teetering as I did so.
Then I got on the treadmill so Claud could observe how I run. I hate treadmills. Despite having cranked out 10k on one at the hotel gym while I was in India (my best ever on a treadmill!) I tend not to run at my best on them as I get a bit dizzy on them. But I did ok and was running along at a comfortable speed. Claud confirmed what I already knew - that I'm a heel striker. That means my heels hit the ground first while I'm running, and my heels are what my body uses to spring from and keep the momentum going when I run. I'd never really thought about it - running never came particularly naturally to me and I just did what was the most comfortable. Comfort now is one thing, but if I keep running as a heel striker it may lead to problems down the track as these muscles wear out. I explained that I'd had a gait analysis done and had been advised which shoes were best to give me the right support. Claud explained that most running shoes are designed more to manage an incorrect running style, rather than correct it. The future is barefoot running!
"Wear these on the tube," Claud laughed, "I guarantee people will talk to you!" (it's a long running joke [but somewhat true] that no one talks on the tube!)
Another illuminating moment was when Claud asked me to jump up and down. I did, with ease.
"Now jump up and down from your heels," he said, with a wry smile.
Ouch!! And that, Claud explained, is essentially what I'm doing when I run. Jumping from my heels!
So obviously this needs to change - and this is apparently why barefoot running helps strengthen the feet and other muscles, because you can't heel strike - it hurts too much! It forces you to run from the balls of your feet. I played around on the treadmill for a bit, running in a new style where I'm essentially on tiptoe (well it feels like it!) and leaning forward a bit more. I also have to lift my feet and legs more, where I'm essentially kicking myself in the arse. No more shuffling for this black duck!
All in all, it was most illuminating. It's funny how you go through life just moving in a way that feels natural, completely unaware that you might be causing some silent damage to your muscles and ligaments which you might not feel the effects of now when you're young and healthy, but that might come and haunt you later in life.
That was the overall message of my time with Move Three Sixty. Hannah and Claud could tell that I already live a healthy lifestyle and am aware of the benefits of healthy living. It was all about how I can expand on that, and what improvements I can make to give myself the best possible chance of still being in good health in fifty or sixty years time.
Hannah's assessment was fun and illuminating - again, I could have quite happily talked to her all night, the nutritional nerd that I am. It involved discussing some aspects of my life quite deeply, which I wasn't expecting. I forget sometimes how often what we're doing with our diet and nutrition reflects the state of our lives and habits that we have. We talked about my stress levels, my sleep patterns, things in my life that I want to change.....as I spoke the words aloud, it became obvious to me what the solutions were. Or so I thought.
Hannah explained that with my night owl tendencies, coupled with a high level of physical activity (running, walking to work every day, etc), are probably setting me up for adrenal fatigue. Me having a smoothie chock full of fruit in the morning is probably not the best start to the day I could have, because the body uses fruit as sugar. Sugar is not the best way for someone like me to start the day - I should be focusing on starting each day with protein. Eggs, avocado on toast, protein shakes. That is what my adrenal glands need to get me going and performing at my best each day. We need energy to get us through our day, especially if we're doing things we don't particularly want to do, as well as the things we want to do. I need to eat smarter for a while and see whether things improve. Hannah said that with every meal I should be thinking "protein, carbohydrate, fat" - as in, those are the essential nutrients I, as an athlete, need at every meal.
We also talked about how important it is that I revamp my sleeping habits. I should be in bed no later than 11pm. The old adage of "an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after it" is very true, because the body physically repairs itself through sleep from about 11pm through to about 2am, and then psychologically repairs until 6am. By missing that window, my body was missing out on that crucial physical repair time. It made a lot of sense. My long runs should be done in the morning, rather than of an evening. I got into the habit of getting up at 6am to run while I was training for the marathon but have since dropped off and I find myself running of an evening most days. This isn't ideal because I then get a second wind and don't get tired until about midnight....and so the cycle continues....
Hannah also gave me some general guidance with other areas where my diet could improve. I am happy to eat dairy, in fact cheese and yoghurt are probably my biggest weaknesses when it comes to food. Hannah asked me "how would you feel if I told you you could never eat cheese again?" and I replied "very sad!" :) She advised to go for goat's or sheep's cheese and yoghurt rather than having cow's all the time. Apparently the enzymes in cow dairy products can wear out the digestive tract; giving it a bit of variety builds up its strength and defences again. She also recommended cutting down on gluten as well to reduce with bloating that I sometimes get.
All in all, it was a most illuminating couple of hours and I felt ready to put a few things into place to put the bounce back in my step. Over the past three weeks this is what I've been doing:
- Running with my new technique where I hit the ground with the ball of my foot rather than heel striking. This has been a lot harder than I thought, because I am using muscles that aren't used to it! Everything gets fatigued a bit faster than usual. But when I switch back to heel striking I am a lot more aware of how uncomfortable it is, and how the muscles are being used differently. When I switch back, I can feel a muscle right up my leg, and muscles in my bottom, being used! Claud warned me that I would probably have to stop and walk every now and then while I get used to this new technique. So far, I have only had to stop in one run - the first one! It's got a bit easier. I'm managing my usual 7km quite well.
- Starting the day with protein! Tom has also bought into this one, and we have been having protein laden breakfasts. He adds protein powder to his cereal - I am usually running late and mix protein powder with oat milk and ice as I run out the door. On days when I've been organised, I managed to make us an omelette with mushrooms and spinach, and avocado on toast. I've been trying to eat a small avocado a day, whether it's in a salad at lunch or dinner, or on toast with breakfast. One thing I've noticed - protein at breakfast keeps me so full! And it's not a "stuffed" full, it's just a feeling of being satisfied. And then when I'm hungry for lunch, I'm really hungry! It's been really helpful to tap into my hunger signals in a more conscious way than I have been doing.
- Something fishy? I eat a vegetarian diet, but am happy to eat fish when I travel or when I know the fish has been caught humanely and locally, and is being served fresh. That happens on average about half a dozen times a year. Flexibility is the name of the game for me, and a bit of fish enjoyed consciously a couple of times a year is not something I fixate on - it's a personal decision and I just try to do my best. Hannah said that if I am happy to eat fish I should think about having it a bit more often, simply for the health benefits. So I took that on board and so far I've had fish twice since I saw the Move Three Sixty team and have noticed I was a bit perkier after eating it. So we'll see :)
- Fat, protein, carbs - this has been my mantra when preparing meals for the last few weeks and I check for those elements a bit more consciously. I have always had a high ratio of vegetables and fresh healthy ingredients in my meals - I think I've famously said that I try to have something green in every meal! So it's just been a matter of balancing the elements. I've also bought some goat's milk yoghurt instead of my usual greek style one, and I rather like it! It's a bit more tangy than what I'm used to, but yummy. I've been having it as a snack or dessert rather than at breakfast like I used to.
- Bed time - well, I've still been falling down in this department. The aim is to be in bed by 11pm, but ideally I should be asleep by 11pm! And some nights Tom and I just get talking, or we're both working away at our books or various creative projects, and before we know it it's midnight! So this definitely still needs a bit of work and probably just a closer look at how our time is spent. When we're up early we both moan and grumble but once we're up and showered, we both marvel at how nice it is to be up early and how we have time to have a proper breakfast, etc. Must remember that next time I'm pressing snooze on the alarm! Maybe with a bit of effort I can become a morning person :)
With the plethora of products and services out there for people who are at the beginning of their health and fitness journeys, it was really interesting to check out a service for people like myself who have revamped their life and attitude to health and fitness, and have been enjoying a healthy lifestyle for many years, to see what I could be doing better to enhance my wellbeing, health and, ultimately, my longevity. The sessions would normally cost £125 each, which I would have been happy to pay because they were incredibly good value, each session was nearly two hours long and I got a lot out of both of them. Both Hannah and Claud were friendly, approachable, and very passionate about living the best and healthiest life we can. It's really inspiring to be around people like that.
I left feeling rather buzzy, right into a summer thunderstorm, skipping up the street to the Finchley Road tube station, hoping that if I keep living consciously and treating my body well, I'll have another sixty odd years of dancing in the rain.
Move Three Sixty
8 Canfield Place, London NW6 3BT
Web site: http://www.movethreesixty.com/
More about Hannah and Claud
I was offered a free chemical MOT consultation with Move Three Sixty in return for writing about my experiences. What is written above is my honest opinion.
Have you seen a nutritionist, or a movement specialist? What were your experiences?