2014, the year where I entered the world of mental health. A year which after I finished my mechanical engineering degree, my brain decided to pick up some emotional baggage and open it up for essentially the world to see.
My brother died back in 2009, and that was the start of my studies; having more important things to worry about I bottled it up hoping for it never to see the light of day. Being ignorant to mental health and believing that there was no such thing, people should just “man up” and how it would never affect me.
That year I attempted suicide.
This was a time of questioning the very fabric of reality where I was plagued with not only arguments from people I have never met, being stalked by my late brother as if he was in the flesh, and seeing blood drip from my hands while my wife was reassuring me every time that “there is nothing there.” I did not believe it at the time but they were just simply manifestations my own brain was throwing at me.
Before receiving any form of diagnosis or even seeing any form of medical professional, I turned to the ever-favoured friend the world over; Google. I’m sure you know where this is all going, search online for a symptom and all of a sudden you have a death sentence! I’m not the only one; the mental health foundation has recently discovered that 48% of the UK population would rather turn to google than speak to their own GP and this still scares me.
Besides the issues that I was experiencing, it took two years until I realised what the real problem was; I would not talk to anyone. It wasn’t until I saw my GP with my wife’s support where it finally hit home that I was suffering with mental ill health.
It wouldn’t be until a few years later where I was at my heaviest of 23 and a half stone when I picked up running. Again with the support of my wife I found running as an outlet.
An outlet where I could lace up, headphones in and then just go wherever the pavement takes me; without doing it yourself you won’t realise that not only does it take you on a physical path but something just unlocks in your mind. One where you can look back and say “yes! I did that!” and it even sets you up for the entire day!
Within 8 months, I lost 8 stone, learnt self help techniques for my mental health diagnosis of PTSD, Severe Anxiety Disorder and Borderline personality disorder; but also how much running and physical exercise helps with all of that!
Running and physical exercise should be shared not only for physical health reasons, but by sharing my story, and breaking down stigma; we should use this for mental health reasons also!
My story isn’t one which is special, it’s one so common that 1 in 4 people experience and most unfortunately are too worried of social stigma attached to mental health. Lets stamp out stigma and run forward to a more supported community!
We take an in-depth look at the MetCon workout, a firm favourite of CrossFitters and something that could be the answer to your fitness prayers.
What does MetCon stand for?
MetCon stands for Metabolic Conditioning. It is a type of workout that will exert your cardiovascular system (getting you out of breath) and will also get your heart rate up, increasing your overall level of fitness.
Conditioning is a term that includes building muscle as well as increasing fitness. It is a very high intensity form of training and differs from low intensity steady state (LISS) cardio such as long runs and bike rides. It continually shocks your system and forces your body to change and adapt, therefore achieving excellent results.
The metabolic part refers to how a MetCon workout will affect your metabolism. Not only will you burn a ton of calories during your session, a MetCon will rev up your metabolism and have you burning fat for hours after your finish.
Types of MetCon workout
There are many types of MetCon workout, both with equipment and without, and you can do a number of different activities. From swimming to sprinting to lifting weights, being able to mix up your MetCon workouts and be creative can really keep you motivated and means you're not stuck doing the same workout day in day out.
Training for time
A popular type of MetCon workout is one that is done for time. In this type of session, you will complete a set number of reps or rounds and see how long it takes you. This is a fantastic way of monitoring your progress as you can go back and do the same MetCon again and again, trying to beat your previous time. Another benefit of this type of workout is that you can compare your time to someone else's, therefore creating a sense of competition and increasing your motivation.
Training for reps
On the flipside, another style of workout is one that is done for reps. You might be given a specific exercise with a set number of reps and have to challenge how heavy you can go. For example, 5 sets of 3 reps on front squats. You could complete the rounds and see how heavy you can go.
This popular CrossFit acronym stands for Every Minute On the Minute. It is a great way of keeping the workout interesting and keeping you focused. You will complete a specific number of reps on either one or a series of exercises every minute on the minute, meaning that the quicker you get the exercises done, the more rest you will have in between.
For example, 10 rounds of 5 burpees. If it takes you 30 seconds to complete the burpees, you'd have 30 seconds of rest before the next set. If it takes you 55 seconds, you'd only have 5 seconds of rest!
AMRAP stands for As Many Reps As Possible. The 'R' can also stand for Rounds. In this instance, you will complete as many reps as you can in a given time. This is another way to challenge yourself as you can try to beat your previous record each time you do the workout.
Example MetCon Workouts
This is an example of an EMOM workout:
8 squat clean thrusters
8 chin ups
8 push ups with renegade row
16 box jumps
16 kettlebell swings
Complete 6 rounds.
(This is a workout by Sundried ambassador Charlotte Lamb)
This is an example of a 'for time' workout:
(This is the official CrossFit 180713 workout)
How to write your own MetCon workout
Creating your own MetCon workouts can be a great way to get creative with your training and keep things fun and interesting. You can make it as hard or as easy-going as you like and there are lots of ways to challenge yourself.
The first thing to do when writing a MetCon workout is to figure out what equipment you have at your disposal and what exercises you're capable of completing. It's no good trying to do a workout that includes muscle ups and swimming if you can't do muscle ups and don't have access to water!
Think about your specific goals and add exercises that will help you work towards them. If you are training for a marathon, you could include 1-mile runs and shuttle runs. If you're training for a weightlifting competition, you'll want more barbell complexes and strength exercises like pull-ups and push ups.
You can make a MetCon workout as long or as short as you like, so think about how much time you have on your hands. A MetCon workout can be a great way to burn lots of calories in a very short space of time.
Especially if your university accommodation is catered, it can be tough to stay healthy at college. Beat the Freshman 15 by following our tips for staying healthy while you study.
I have always loved cooking and adore being able to use fresh fruit and vegetables to make my meals. So, deciding to live in catered over non-catered halls was a tough decision, but eventually I gave into the idea of Sunday brunch always being ready for me. However, this meant I sacrificed a kitchen and also a lot of freedom over what I could eat and when.
The food in my hall was tasty but a lot of the time very unhealthy. Combinations such as pasta with gravy and fish and chips with samosas came up regularly. I found myself having to creatively avoid these options by becoming a part-time vegetarian. This worked most of the time, but I was still being served pasta a lot or puffed pastry with cheese…still not my idea of a healthy balanced diet. To my hall’s credit, there was a salad bar, but this was the same every single day and got very boring. I ended up ordering in food a lot, but even then, those options were also unhealthy with pizza and Chinese usually being the winners amongst my friends.
Eventually, I turned vegan as I realised there were only 4 other vegans in my hall and therefore the food was cooked specially for us and with a lot more care than to feed the other 300 students. Other than veganism (which was broken pretty regularly by the odd chicken breast or egg) I managed to learn a few tricks in order to stay healthy whilst living my best student life. I didn’t want to restrict myself and I still wanted to have fun. Drinking is also a big dilemma as a student as nights-out are unavoidably part of the experience.
Tips for staying healthy at University
The following are tips anyone can follow in order not to gain lots of weight without having to go vegan:
- Make the most of your university gym.
- Do not get a late-night McDonald's after a night of drinking. Instead, save yourself a banana and put it in your room so you can eat it when you get home.
- Try not to eat anything fried. Curly fries were often my weakness.
- If you know you’re going to get hungry after the gym, buy some carrots and celery to snack on.
- If your university's gym has a cafe, the food there is more likely to be healthier.
- Keep yogurt and seeds in your fridge so you always have a healthy start to the day.
- Take a hand-held food processor to university with you. This means you can whip-up smoothies (or even soup) without having a kitchen.
- Take a nice selection of herbal teas and make sure you have your own thermos - I love the Sundried eco coffee cup. Most cafes will give you a discount on coffee when you have your own reusable cup.
- If you’re going to drink alcohol (which I did) drink tequila or vodka with soda and lime as they contain fewer calories than drinks like wine and beer.
- If you’re going to order take away try to go for Thai, Vietnamese or Sushi (always better than pizza!)
By Siena Barry-Taylor
Are you a keen gym-goer? Feel like you know the difference between an RDL and an SLDL but still not seeing results? Make sure you're not making any of these mistakes.
1. Copying what other people are doing
This includes copying what you see on Instagram/YouTube. People at the gym can be known to perform all sorts of crazy and dangerous exercises, or just perform exercises with terrible form. Don't develop bad habits by copying others as they could be making a lot of mistakes and you'll end up making them too.
Do your research properly and speak to a professional if you're not sure. Always get a second opinion and make sure you separate fact from fiction.
2. Going too fast
Seeing results at the gym is all about time under tension. If you perform your reps too fast, you won't achieve maximum return on your efforts and you could exhaust yourself. Not only this, if you go too fast you are more likely to be doing the exercise with bad form.
Take your time and always control the movement as much as possible. Special reps such as pause reps and timed reps can be excellent for getting more out of the exercise. Slow it down and focus on technique.
3. Doing cardio first
There is an ever-lasting debate surrounding the order in which you should do cardio and weight training. Some people argue that doing cardio first will kick-start your body's fat-burning system and that you'll burn more fat during your session. However, the bottom line is that if you spend half an hour sprinting on a treadmill at the start of your session, it will tire you out. As a result, your form and technique on the free weights will suffer hugely and you could end up getting injured.
Never do cardio before lifting weights. Do the big compound lifts such as squat, deadlift, and bench press at the beginning of your session when you are at your freshest and then move on to the accessory exercises. This is the best order in which to train. If you do want to do cardio, save it until the end of the session.
4. Texting between sets
Your rest periods are just as important as the time you spend actually lifting the weights. Time your rest so that you're not resting too long, and don't get distracted in between sets by texting!
The amount of rest you need between sets depends on how many reps you're doing and how heavy you're lifting. If you're lifting heavy and performing low reps (1-3), you need up to 5 minutes of rest between each set. However, if you're doing hypertrophy and therefore doing fairly light weights at 8-12 reps, you only need 30-60 seconds rest between each set. This time will go quickly! Make sure to time your rest and don't rest too long.
5. Spending half your session chatting
For some people, going to the gym is one of the only times they get to socialise outside of work and as such can be a great stress-reliever and social activity. However, if you are serious about seeing results and are getting frustrated about why you're not progressing, it could be because you're spending so long chatting.
Try to avoid getting distracted during your session by planning it out in advance and knowing exactly what exercises you should be doing, how many reps, what weight etc. If people do want to chat to you, keep it brief and remind them that you need to do your next set.
6. Increasing the weight before you're ready
It may seem like the girl in the corner is watching you and judging how heavy you can lift, but she's really not. You will get a lot more respect for doing the exercises with perfect form than you will for lifting too heavy and not being able to do it properly.
If you can't squat below parallel, you need to go back to a lighter weight and work on your form before you increase the weight. No one likes a half rep! Have patience and remember that this is about you, not what anyone else thinks of you.
7. Not making the most of the gym staff's knowledge
Every gym will have fitness instructors and personal trainers that are brimming with knowledge and just waiting for someone who they can inspire. Most PTs will offer a free taster session so make the most of this and ask them lots of questions. The gym can seem like a daunting place at times, but don't be afraid to speak to the staff, they are there to help.
8. Making excuses
If you can't squat deep because you have 'bad knees', don't squat at all. There are lots of other leg exercises out there that you can do safely and will get you better results. If you find yourself making excuses, you are doing something wrong.
The rise of millions of fitness accounts on social media has led to the exponential growth and spread of misinformation when it comes to health, exercise, and weight loss. We tackle some of the most common health myths and explain why they could be sabotaging your weight loss efforts.
1. Myth: Healthy food is expensive
You've probably seen the above image in one format or another, especially if you frequent fitness pages on social media. The truth is, it's a complete myth that eating healthy is more expensive than eating junk food.
Have you ever tallied up exactly how much money you spend on food in a month? It's probably a lot more than you realise. Raw fruit and vegetables from the supermarket can cost as little as 50p and healthy canned goods such as kidney beans, chopped tomatoes, and chickpeas can be even less, only 30p per can at some supermarkets.
The myth that healthy food is more expensive than junk food derives from the fact that many prepared salads and fruit boxes are indeed expensive. However, this is because you are paying for the convenience, not the healthy food. If you cook all of your meals from scratch, you will save heaps of money and you will soon find that eating healthy is actually less expensive than junk food! A homemade salad could easily cost as little as £1 to make.
When have you ever only spent 99p at McDonald's? Yes, there are a couple of items on the menu that cost less than £1, but you'd be left feeling very hungry if that's all you ate. You have to be honest with yourself and really keep an eye on the money you are spending on food. It won't be what you expect.
2. Myth: You need to eat more to lose weight
One of the latest trends on social media is to tell women they are not losing weight because they are not eating enough. There's a heavy pressure on women to lift heavy weights and do zero cardio in order to 'tone up' and lose weight. Sadly, this is a myth. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.
If you eat 2300 calories a day, have a BMR of 1500 calories (the calories your body burns just to stay alive), and burn zero calories through exercise because you're not doing any cardio and live a sedentary lifestyle, you will gain weight because you are in a 800 calorie-a-day surplus.
This myth is propagated by the theory that you need to eat a calorie surplus in order to build muscle. While this is true to an extent, most of the general public live a sedentary lifestyle, sitting at a desk all day, and only exercise maybe 1 hour each evening. The average lifestyle does not allow you to eat 2300 calories a day because you won't be burning them off. You would have to lift a lot of weights and live a much more active lifestyle in order for this calorie surplus to be used to build muscle instead of being stored as fat.
It's important to remember that these Instagram fitness gurus do not live a sedentary lifestyle and therefore what works for them will not work for you.
3. Myth: Your friend is losing more weight than you/is naturally slim because their metabolism is faster
If you've been beating yourself up because you can't lose weight while your friend is sailing through their weight loss journey, don't worry, it's not what it seems. While it is scientifically possible to have a slightly faster or slower metabolism than someone else, it would not be enough of a difference to mean you are 10lbs heavier than your friend even if you eat the same.
People who are 'naturally' slim are this way because they eat less and do more activity. If you were to pay very close attention to what your slim friend eats in a day, it is a guarantee that it will be less than what you eat, even if they claim they eat a lot.
Everyone has a BMR which is a Basal Metabolic Rate and this indicates how many calories your body burns just by being alive. This is affected by your age, your gender, and your current weight. Everyone also has a TDEE which is your Total Daily Energy Expenditure. This figure takes into account your daily activity, as someone who does a very manual job and moves a lot will burn more calories on a daily basis than someone who sits at a desk all day.
Everyone's BMR and TDEE will be different and therefore the amount of calories you need to eat will be completely different to that of your friend. It won't be because they have 'good genes' or are 'naturally slim', it'll be because their TDEE is higher than yours, meaning they burn more calories on a daily basis than you.
4. Myth: A juice cleanse/detox is a quick way to lose weight
You may have heard by now that doing a 'detox' is not really a thing, as your body naturally detoxifies itself daily anyway. If your body was full of toxins, you'd be incredibly ill and you'd certainly need more than a juice cleanse to help you.
The way juice cleanses or detoxes work is that your daily calories plummet and you lose water out of your muscles. You become very dehydrated and the number on the scale goes down. You may well lose some fat too as you are consuming so few calories, but it can't possibly last.
Not only this, fruit juice is full of sugar which could make you moody, spotty, and generally just a bit cranky. You won't be getting enough protein so you'll feel very tired and fatigued, and you'll be missing out on vital nutrients.
5. Myth: Everyone should lift heavy and eat more protein
You will have seen a lot of images on Instagram that propose lifting weights is superior to doing cardio and that everyone should be eating copious amounts of protein in the form of 'protein bread', 'protein oats', and now even 'protein yogurt'.
The truth is, it depends entirely on your personal goals and daily activity. If you are training for a marathon or triathlon, these are both entirely cardio-based activities. Of course you'll need to do cardio! Cycling is also a very cardio-heavy activity, but professional cyclists are far from skinny and unhealthy.
Most people do not need a sky-high amount of protein in their daily diet because they live a sedentary lifestyle and their body won't utilise it. Unless you live a truly active lifestyle and lift heavy weights or do strenuous sports 6 times a week, you don't need a ton of protein in your diet.
This new myth comes from a shift in attitudes towards body types and the new obsession with 'booty gains'. These days, being slim is seen as bad and everyone wants to look like the Instagram fitness gurus. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with cardio, and you probably do it more than you think. In fact, doing regular cardiovascular activity is vital for keeping a healthy immune system, lung function, and heart health.