The Benefits and Importance of a Good Nights Sleep


Today's world is busier than ever and we have numerous demands on our time and we often sacrifice sleep in order to fit everything in!


But it is important not to let these demands on our attention get in the way of our sleep as it is vital to our wellbeing.


Sleep can be affected by a number of things including caffeine, stress, alcohol and technology.  It is recommended not to drink too much caffeine or alchohol prior to bedtime and to have an "electronic free hour" before lights out to enable a better sleep pattern.


There are number of benefits to getting a good nights sleep, but here are my top 5:-


1. Healthy Heart

Sleep keeps your your heart healthy!  Lack of sleep has been linked to issues with blood pressure and cholesterol which can be also be linked to heart disease and strokes.


2. Stress Reduction

Lack of sleep can  make your body go into a state of stress.  This makes the body go on high alert which can cause high blood pressure.  If you do find you tend to get stressed and find it difficult to get to sleep then you may want to seek out some relaxation techniques to help.


3. Reduces Inflammation

When you have too little sleep this can raise inflammation levels in the body.  This can create a greater risk for heart conditions as well as other diseases such as diabetes.


4. Memory Improvement

Sleep plays an important part in a process called "memory consolidation".  Your body may be resting but the brain is still busy processing your day, linking events and memories.

Deep sleep is really important to ensure that your brain can make these links and memories. 


5. Body Repair

Sleep helps the body repair itself.  During sleep the body is hard at work repairing damage caused by stress, ultra violet rays and other harmful exposure.

How Much Sleep Do We Need?


Adults = 7-9 hours per night

Teenagers = 9 hours

Young Children = 10 hours

Babies = 16 hours


Oh and apparently napping makes you smarter!.. Napping during the day is great for overall health and has been found to make people more productive.  People who nap at work (not at their desks!) have been shown to demonstrate lower levels of stress.  Another excuse to sleep!

The Iliotibial Band (ITB) .... Foam Rolling Myth Busted.... And how to treat ITB Syndrome

What is the ITB?

The Iliotibial Band or ITB is a thick band of of fascia which connects the outside of the knee to the outside of the pelvis and plays a key role in the movement of the thigh.   Some of the glute and hip muscles attach to it and the ITB co-ordinates how these muscles work and stabilises the knee.



Should you Foam Roll it?

I often get clients who say they have been regularly rolling their ITB and it is so painful.. so it must be doing some good?  Pain does not equal effectiveness.  In fact if an area is painful it is better to avoid this and use the roller around the area rather than directly on it which could potentially cause more inflammation.


The ITB is fascia and not muscle.  Fascia is dense connective tissue made up of collagen fibres which is one of the strongest protein to be found.  The ITB is supposed to be tight as it helps keep the knee in the correct position.   The idea that you can release or relax the ITB through Foam Rolling is therefore a misconception.  What needs to be done is foam roll the muscles surrounding the ITB such as Glutes, Tensor Fascia Lata, Hamstrings and Quads.


Below is a link to some useful tips on how to foam roll.

Top Foam Rolling Tips


What is ITB Syndrome?

This is a condition that is usually caused by friction of the ITB moving across the outer part of the knee due to an area of tension in the hips.  Usually pain comes on during activity and gets worse until it is rested. 


Treatment of ITB Syndrome


Obviously it is important to seek professional advice to ensure that you have a correct diagnosis before you start any rehabilitation programme.


  • Rest and ice around the knee for a few days.
  • In order to maintain fitness do some cross training e.g. swimming to avoid irritating the knee further.
  • Have a sports massage to release any tension around the hips and leg muscles.
  • Stretch often to help keep hips tension free.  This is an important part of the treatment and prevention of ITB Syndrome.

Example Stretch..

TFL Stretch

This stretch lengthens the tensor fascia lata muscle which is found on the outside of the hip. Sit on the floor with one leg out straight. The leg to be stretched is bent and the foot placed on the outside of the other knee as shown. Use your hands to apply pressure as if trying to pull the bent knee across the other one. Hold for 30 seconds and relax. Repeat 3 to 5 times.



Check List To Prevent ITB In The Future
  1. If you haven't already get your running gait checked.  Your style of running could be contributing to tension around the ITB in the hips and glutes
  2. Ensure that your shoes are fit for purpose.  Are they supportive in the right way?  When you have your gait analysed they will tell you which shoes are best for you.
  3. Schedule a visit with a physio or sports therapist to check to ensure that weak hips aren't a contributing factor.
  4. Stretch regularly to help lengthen muscles around the hip and glutes.
  5. Build in time for regular sports massage to help keep the muscles around the ITB tension free.

The Importance Of Stretching


It is really important to stretch regularly to help develop flexibility and maintain muscles at their optimum length which can help prevent injury and muscle pain.  For example a tight hamstring can sometimes be a contributing factor in back pain.

There are a variety of different types of stretching dependent on whether you are warming up before training or an event or cooling down.  The two key types are Dynamic Stretching which is usually done to warm up before an activity and Static Stretching which is usually done post activity.  Dynamic stretching helps increase blood flow and increases range of motion and Static stretching helps muscles relax and helps to realign muscle fibres.

Chances are you don’t get many opportunities to stretch.  If you have a desk-job, or spend lots of time in fairly static positions your body could do with a good stretch every once in a while.  It will help loosen all the imbalances and muscle tightening that might be occurring from spending 8 hours a day hunched over a computer or driving long distances.

Stretching is best done when your muscles are warm and supple and therefore is best done after your walk, run, exercise class or event.

Below are some key stretches for the key muscle groups.  Ensure that you hold each stretch for at least 30-40 seconds, and ideally up to one minute. 


1. Downward Dog

This stretch improves flexibility in hamstrings, calves and shoulders and relieves pain in the lower back

How to do it: Come onto your hands and knees with hands directly below your shoulders and knees directly below your hips. Spread your fingers wide and tuck your toes under.

Inhale and lift your knees off the floor, pressing your hips up toward the ceiling.

Draw your heels down to the floor or keep a slight bend in your knees.

Press your hands firmly into the mat and draw your shoulder blades down. Keep the head between the arms


2. Hip Flexor Stretch

This stretch improves flexibility in the hips and quads and helps release the hip flexors.

How to do it: Come onto both knees and step your right foot forward.

Make sure to keep your right knee over your heel and your left knee directly under your hip.

Reach your left hand up toward the ceiling.

Make sure to keep both hips facing forward and glutes are engaged.



3. Piriformis Stretch

This stretch helps improve flexibility in the hips and glutes.

How to do it: Lie on your back, bend both knees, and bring your left ankle over your right thigh.

Lift your right foot off the ground, bringing your leg up to a 90-degree angle.

Loop your hands in between your legs and slowly draw your right knee in toward your chest.

Keep your head and neck relaxed on the ground.


4. Lying Spinal Twist


This stretch helps lengthen and realign the spine and also increases flexibility in the lower back and hips.
How to do it: Lie on your back and bring both knees in toward your chest.
Bring your hands out to your sides and draw your knees up and over to your left side.
Keeping your shoulder blades on the ground, rest your knees on top of one another.
Take deep breaths the entire time.
When changing sides make sure to use your core muscles to bring your legs back to center.


Running - How To Stay Injury Free


 Top Tips For Runners To Prevent Injury

1. Pace Yourself

It is important to incorporate a more relaxed running pace in your training schedule.  Often runners make the mistake of running at a pace which isn't compatible with their level of fitness.  It shouldn't be seen as a failure to set a more relaxed pace as a slower metabolic process that converts stored fats into usable energy is better.  How to assess if you are running at the right pace... make sure that you can talk comfortably!

2. Vary Your Training

It is generally easier to stick with what you know and feel comfortable with.  However if you continue with this approach progress will tend to slow down.  Mix it up a bit and do some slow training and some interval training to help the body adapt.

3. Don't Overload Your Muscles

There are three variables in training that can be controlled: frequency, intensity and volume.  If you decide to change all of them at the same time then the body won't be able to cope and has the potential to become injured.  Don't fall into the temptation of always pushing hard and overloading the body.  It doesn't make you fitter!  Ensure you interchange hard periods of training with rest periods and the body will then be able to adapt and grow stronger.

4. Recover Effectively

The body gets stronger when it has the time to heal effectively.  It is important to obtain a balance between training, rest and nutrition to ensure good levels of fitness, motivation and to prevent injury.  Consistency is key.

5. Think Long Term

Ensure that you organise your training into phases and also incorporate strength and conditioning into your plan to ensure optimum fitness.  For example if you have just run a marathon don't suddenly stop running or start intense training immediately after.  It is all about a balanced approach to training.


Top 6 Tips For A Good Recovery Post A Marathon


The "Recovery" Phase should form a key part of a training plan to ensure that your body recovers effectively and enables you to start training again without injury and at full capacity.  The body undergoes a huge amount of physical duress during a long event and experts say that it can take up to two weeks post a marathon for the muscles to return to full strength.


Here are 6 Top Tips to help you recover post your marathon


1.  Keep moving and keep warm Post Race

- Walk around for a least 15 minutes after the race to let your body cool down.

- Ensure that you put on some dry warm clothes to prevent you from getting cold.


2. Eat and Drink

- It is really important to eat something within 30-45 minutes of finishing the race to keep blood sugars up and to help to start repairing muscles.

- Good foods to eat are bananas, bagels, nuts, nut butters, fruit.

- Drink plenty of fluids such as water or additional energy drinks.


3. Treat any minor injuries

- Treat blisters, chafing or cuts to ensure that they don't worsen and become bigger injuries.


4. Have an ice bath (if you're brave enough!)

- Fill the bath with ice and cold water, get in and stay for up to 10 minutes.  You can stay in longer (up to 15 minutes) but if not used to regular ice baths it is better to stay in for less time.

- Ice baths are believed to constrict blood vessels, reduce swelling and reduce the breakdown of tissue.  The advantage of having an ice bath vs. putting an ice pack on is that large areas of muscle can be treated all at once.


5. Sleep

- Key for any recovery. 

- Sometimes adrenaline can hinder sleep post a race but try to get as much as you can. 

- If you have had a light massage post race this can often help with sleep as it helps relax the nervous system.


6. Have A Massage

- You are often able to book in for a quick massage on the day of the race.  Charities often organise a free treatment for their runners as a thank you for raising money for them.  These massages will be quite short and light and are worth having as they help kick start muscle recovery and ease any soreness.

- Wait until at least 24 hours post your race to schedule a longer massage.  Within 2-3 days post your race any treatment should be a light flushing massage to help with recovery and muscle soreness.   A deeper treatment at this stage may aggravate any inflammation and delay the recovery process.

- After 3 days you can schedule a deep tissue massage to help deal with any remaining niggles or injuries to get you back to full fitness.


It is also important to keep active in the few days post your race but any exercise should be light such as swimming or walking.  The experts say that any significant training shouldn't start until 10 days post race as there is the potential for injury if the body hasn't had time to heal and recover efficiently.