Complaining: Why, why not, and how to give your head peace

Moaning, whinging, and bitching. It comes in many different guises, but one thing is for sure, we do it a lot. Giving out about things is a habit so engrained in us that we are not even aware of the extent to which we complain. It may seem harmless enough, but chronic complaining has the potential to be self-destructive, priming your brain towards the negative. And if positive affirmations have the potential to create a successful reality, chronic complaining may conversely set you up for a lifetime of being pissed off about things. On the other hand, complaining in many instances is a necessary strategy and if used effectively can help solve problems and create worthwhile change. It’s worth exploring this phenomenon to better understand the different types of complaining and the motivations behind it. Lisa Juliano, Psy.D. on her Psychology Today blog, puts complaining into three different categories: 1) The Active Effective Complaint An active complaint is directed at whoever is responsible for the dissatisfying situation or service. In this case, the complainer is actively seeking a solution to the problem. This can be constructive and is an important skill to develop. A lot of people, particularly in Ireland it seems, bottle up their dissatisfaction about something in order to avoid causing a scene. For instance, being overcharged at the supermarket or a meal being served cold at a restaurant. This in turn may perpetuate internal turmoil and distress. Active effective complaining means not being afraid to speak up. I need to battle my Irish genetic predisposition on this one and take after my mother who has never been...

Rethinking and building mental health

Why is it that we intuitively appreciate that to be in good physical shape requires some form of physical exercise, yet expect good mental shape to be pre-programmed? We don’t usually wait until we have Type II diabetes before we start moving, but it often takes a catastrophic event such as a breakdown or depression before we consider mental health. Mental health. There is a stigma attached to those two words that immediately make most people switch off. Many agree that mental health is an important topic, but not one that is relevant to them. There is probably an element of protecting one’s self-esteem here, with the perception that if you are working on your mental health, there must be something wrong to begin with. There is something wrong, but it isn’t you. There is a pretty strong argument to be made that the society we live in today is broken. Of course, there are many great things about being alive today, but we certainly are not living in accordance with how humans have evolved. Today we are exposed to chronic psychological stressors which our bodies have not biologically adapted to cope with. The purpose of the hormonal stress response is to prepare the resources of the body in preparation for crisis. But what happens when the body is constantly in the ‘flight-or-fight’ mode associated with imminent threat? Constant exposure to stressors and over-activation of this stress response (allostatic load) is associated with inflammatory disease and negative mental health outcomes. We are not supposed to be working 9 to 5 jobs for numbers on a screen that can turn...

Vegan Experience

Modern veganism  as a diet and lifestyle choice is growing in popularity all over the world and some (even if few) of my dearest friends are now vegans. As I love to explore healthier and more sustainable ways of living for myself, I decided to test the vegan lifestyle for a short period of time. While traveling and living with one of my best friends who is a vegan for more than three years, I explored cooking, buying and eating out vegan. First only planned for 4 weeks, it was so much fun that I decided to extend the experience back home in London and Berlin until the end of lent which added up my vegan journey to 10 weeks. Overall, I really enjoyed exploring vegan-friendly ingredients and materials and discovered some new to me. Trying new recipes and tasting new dishes is something I love anyway and it was great fun to do it with my friend. For inspiration on vegan food jump to the ‘What Vegans Eat‘ article, or check out my friend’s project Cómo Comer. So here’s what I learned in the 10 weeks. What is Vegan? To say it with the words of the Vegan Society, Veganism is “a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” So, this excludes the consumption and use of...

What Vegans Eat

Since I started my vegan experience a little bit more than two months ago, the question most often asked was: What do vegans eat? Well, the answer is pretty simple: everything plant-based! And that’s actually a lot and can be very tasty. I don’t want bore anyone with a list of vegetable, fruits, nuts and other plant-based ingredients. So instead, here are some highlights of my favourite vegan breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks in the past 2 months. It’s a mix of home-made and eat out meals and of course there are many more great meals I have been eating but didn’t take photos of. Have a look at the cards, open the PDFs for links and feel free to ask for more insights on anything that catches your appetite. If you want even more beautiful vegan food inspiration, follow my friend’s vegan food project Cómo Comer on Instagram and Facebook! Be warned, you might get hungry though… Breakfast Download PDF with links to recipes here: Breakfast. Lunch Download PDF with links to recipes here: Lunch Dinner Download PDF with links to recipes here: Dinner Snacks  Download PDF with links to recipes here: Snacks Hungry? Please feel free to comment, share your recipes and ask if you have any questions, want to have any recipes or more inspiration. Want to know why vegan recipes? Read the main article ‘Vegan...

ACLAÍ opening night – not your ordinary gym

Last weekend saw the official opening of the new training facility of ACLAÍ in Cork, and I was lucky enough to attend what turned out to be a very special occasion and a gym opening with a difference. We were treated to some theatre, live music by the great Band Anna, an art exhibition by local artists, magic tricks and balloon making, delicious food from the Alchemy coffeeshop and ACLAÍ’s own Shakira. Most of all, I enjoyed spending time meeting friends of ACLAÍ and seeing at first hand the impact the gym has on this community. The big crowd in attendance was testament to this. As I was hanging out in the gym in the morning it was refreshing to see real coaching again. Coaches that actually care about helping everybody who steps through the door, that help build healthy bodies rather than break them. Living in London over the past two years has been challenging in many ways, but nothing more so than taking out a membership in the local Globogym and watching the absolutely horrendous service provided by the personal trainers to their clients. I try not to look, but I can’t not. I once writhed in anguish as a guy who couldn’t deadlift was forced to do so with a heavy barbell and repeatedly shouted at that he was doing it wrong and to straighten his back. I’ve watched as clients have been put on a treadmill and left to their own devices as the trainer would head off to chat up every female that crossed his path. I’ve witnessed people who can barely move being subjected to...

Goals for 2017

In my last post, I did a review of 2016 on a personal level, what went well, and what didn’t go well. I found it to be a very useful exercise, but the power of reflection is really in looking ahead and applying the lessons of past experiences. The next question is: What would I like my biggest accomplishments of 2017 to be when looking back in a years time? It is universally accepted by everybody, from researchers, to elite athletes and high performers, that goal setting is an essential strategy for success. Some goals are better than others though, and it is pretty well established that good goals are process-driven. James Clear has produced one of the best goal setting guide’s I have come across, which tells you everything you need to know about developing great goals and achieving them. Highly recommended reading: Goal Setting: A Scientific Guide to Setting and Achieving Goals. Another fantastic resource is this Goals Journal from Kikki-k. It uses prompts and exercises to help you establish your core values and to visualise your dream life. Then you work on setting your goals, using the monthly planner to keep you on track. It is a beautifully crafted and inspirational little book, and sometimes you can’t beat putting real pen to paper. Priorities and Goals for 2017. #1 Body. Reclaiming good physical health by improving my mobility, strength, and fitness. Last year my behaviours did not align with my core value of Health. The only way to regain control of this area of life is by investing time in myself and committing to a consistent training practice and healthful lifestyle. #2 Mind. Last year more than...

My 2016 Annual Review

The end of a year is good time for reflection, and as 2016 came to a close I sat down and acknowledged what went well, and what didn’t go so well. I have followed the template set out by James Clear in his own annual review of the year. Initially, I thought that it had been a very blah kind of a year personally, until I went through iCal as a kind of formal assessment and had a good think about it. What I take from the exercise is that reflection is worthwhile and that we should all do it all the time, as Leo Babauta will attest. Rather than ambling through life and repeating the same self-limiting behaviours year after year, we can learn from our mistakes and re-direct our efforts. If we pause for a moment and look back, that is. These days, people are generally too busy, over-stimulated and easily distracted by shiny screens and cute kitten videos to actually do this. We spend most of our days on autopilot and life can very easily pass us by, unless we wrestle back control. Don’t get me wrong, I am no zen master, but carrying out this process has made me more aware of how I spend my time and thus how I can better spend my time. Dan Millman, the Peaceful Warrior, says that lessons repeat themselves until we learn from them. They just tend to get more dramatic to get our attention. This exercise has also helped me to see the value in acknowledging successes, even if they didn’t match up to lofty goals set in January. I realised that giving yourself a little bit of credit can actually inspire you to...

30-Day Yoga Experience

This is a brief overview of my recent 30 day Yoga experience. We would love to hear what experiences you have made! Why a 30 day Yoga experience? I used to work in a typical 9 to 5 office job in London. My typical day would start in a rush to catch my bus and then squeeze myself on the overcrowded and hot underground to commute to the office located in always busy central London. My colleagues and I would then sit on our desks for hours with a maximum of an hour break which we might use for a little walk around the office blocks – or not. I would often feel imbalanced after such a day – mentally tired and stressed while physically stiff and restless. Going to the gym and movement practice in the morning helped against the stiffness but didn’t really benefit me mentally. The busy local gym actually stressed me out even more. In Summer long walks, movement and meditation in the park were a great balance to the busy office day. However, in Winter this was no real option as parks were closed before I would leave the office. I needed to tackle this feeling of imbalance and remembered the positive effect of some Yoga lessons I had attended when I was a teenager. These were great thanks to a wonderful teacher who taught me about Yoga meditation, breathing, as well as basic poses and ways to stabilise my body (sometimes activating the right point can make a huge difference). Yoga is ideal to find your personal balance as the practice aims to go...

Favourite Podcast Episodes of 2016

  Podcasts continue to be one of the best ways to consume knowledge from the great minds in the world of strength and conditioning, self-improvment, and anything really. A decade ago, you would have travelled all over the world for the opportunity to hear from the best in the business and to soak up their wisdom, now you get to stream great ideas right into your ears wherever you are, for free. The only problem now is keeping up with all the excellent content that is being put out there, as the number of good podcasts proliferate. There is a podcast for everyone.. They say that you can tell a lot about a person from their podcast feed (has anyone said that yet?), and you can see mine above. 2016 was a great year for them and here are some of my  favourite episodes. Putting the list together proved tricky enough, and was subject to me actually remembering the episodes that I have listened to (which might explain the slight bias towards episodes from the latter part of the year). There are certainly great podcasts that I don’t get around to listening to, time being finite and all that. However, in no particular order, the below episodes have all been impactful on my thinking, and I highly recommend them.   Health, Movement & Self-Improvement 1)  The Joe Rogan Experience #752 Mark Sisson I say it’s in no particular order, yet this was probably my top episode of 2016, with Joe Rogan himself saying that it was one of the most informative and interesting podcasts he has ever done (which is a pretty sound endorsement...

40-Day No Messing Challenge

If you had to get someone in the best shape possible in 40-days, what would you do? A friend recently put this to me and it got me thinking, and my thoughts have turned into the following article. It is a long read, but it covers all your bases, so take mini-stretching breaks as needed and plough on. Why 40 days? Not a great length of time to achieve much in life really, but it’s short enough to be a do-able and realistic goal, and long enough to see changes and motivate the transformer to go for another 40 days. One thing we know is there are no magic pills, and long-lasting results come from keeping the head down and making training and movement part of your way of life. People do, however, respond well to shorter time-frames, helping them to stay focused. Three essentials for success with a training program:   -a good plan -consistency -optimal recovery and regeneration (food, sleep, stress-management) So for the purpose of this experiment, we have 40 days to get into the best possible physical condition. First thing in this case is we don’t have any time for the biggest problem anybody faces in a successful transformation: Poor compliance. The process of creating and changing habits is probably the most difficult part of the puzzle, and one which deserves the greatest investment of your efforts to begin with. Start small and gradually build healthful habits into your life. But for now, we will assume that the superpower of our friend here is the ability to instantly engrain good habits, because for this to...