acupuncture, exercise, herbal medicine, massage

The natural medicine guide to surviving the Kokoda Challenge (or other 100km hike)

On the weekend, I knocked over The Kokoda Challenge (known as one of Australia’s most gruelling endurance events – 96km of big hills on the Gold Coast Hinterland, that must be completed within 39 hours), for the second time.  Crazy? Yes, definitely.

Was it easier the second time?  Yes and no.

Yes, you know most of the track and what to expect, your training regime should be sorted out, you should know your body well (and its weaknesses) and hopefully you’ve maintained some fitness from last time.

And no, they change the track each year and add some new surprises (which are worse if you knew the easy bits they took out and replaced), conditions change – 50% of the track was coated with either slippery or sticky mud this year – much harder on the legs and lastly, maybe you lose a little bit of drive after completing it successfully before (a voice says, “you’ve done this before, there’s no need to get to the end, you have nothing to prove”).

None-the-less, The Commandettes, crossed the finish line 3 hours ahead of last year’s time.

Here’s my tips, as an acupuncturist, herbalist and massage therapist for getting your body across the line without relying on pharmaceutical pain killers and anti-inflammatories unless you really need them. (And for the record, I didn’t take a single pharmaceutical drug this year due to sticking to this plan).

Please make sure that if you use the ideas listed below that you speak to a qualified acupuncturist or herbalist regarding the specific herbs and supplements and their dosages – everyone is different and herbal medicine is just that – a medicine – so treat the herbs with the same care you would with any other medicine.

  1. Pre-event training
    • Start training well in advance of the event.  Build up the pace and distance gradually.  If you can’t train on the actual track, mimic the conditions as best you can.  Besides building you up for the event, this gives you plenty of time to recognise weaknesses and prevent future injuries.
    • Any niggle, should be assessed by a health professional (eg. physiotherapist, chiropractor or acupuncturist) as early as possible so you can work on fixing it.  It’s common to need specific exercises for the core abdominal muscles and gluteals – great for knee and hip injury prevention.
    • Swelling, pain, inflammation and muscle tension need to be treated as they occur too – see below.
  2. 4 weeks prior to the event
    • Get yourself onto a personalised herbal formula to prepare you to perform at your best.  The particular herbs chosen for your formula will depend on how you have been pulling up on from your training and your overall constitution.  Herbs such as Siberian ginseng and panax ginseng are excellent for endurance, stamina and energy, and even have high quality scientific studies demonstrating their effectiveness for athletic performance.  Herbs such as gotu kola and ginkgo biloba may improve any blood circulation related problems (eg. golfer’s vasculitis, otherwise known as ‘Disney rash’) and may also be useful in healing connective tissue.
    • If you aren’t already, now is the time for some weekly massages and/or acupuncture sessions to iron out any niggles from training – you want your body to be in tip-top shape for the event and not carrying around any left-over tightness which may predispose you to injury.  Acupuncture may also be able to assist with your stamina and treat any injuries you have already sustained.
    • The day before the event – see your acupuncturist again.  They will be able to locate some points on your ears that correspond to different parts of your body.  You will be able to press these points if your injuries begin to play up.  I have seen many cases of excellent results with this technique.
    • Ask your practitioner for dietary, nutritional and herbal tips for the event.
  3. On the day
    • Rehydration formula – take it regularly. What you sweat out will not be replaced by water alone.
    • Magnesium is essential!  A dose may be required at each major check point to prevent cramping, spasms and muscle tightness.
    • Herbal anti-inflammatories – A dose at every major checkpoint and as needed.  There are a lot out there including boswellia, turmeric, chamomile, horsechestnut, ginger and celery seed.  Don’t forget your omega 3’s too – from flaxseeds or fish.  If swelling is a particular problem, there are herbs specific to this.
    • Stimulants.  As needed.  I can not speak more highly of Flordis Ginsana – a highly researched ginseng capsule.  Nothing picks up my energy and my mood, more than the ginsana.  It’s great for getting through the night. Otherwise, the caffeine and carbohydrate sports gels, if you can manage the revolting texture, work quite well too.
    • Protein.  Sometimes you just don’t feel like eating a lot during exercise.  Protein powders are excellent at these times.  I like the pea-based protein powders – they have just as much protein as the whey ones, but are great for those who want a vegetable based protein source or wish to avoid dairy products.
    • Topical herbal anti-inflammatory and pain relieving cream or liniment.  Have it on hand to rub into sore knees, aching hips and other injuries as needed.  Why not sweet talk your support crew into giving you a shoulder rub with it at the check points?
  4. After the event
    • Simple carbohydrates are good (sugar… perhaps even a glass of alcohol to celebrate?)
    • Keep up your protein intake
    • The best part:  Soak in an epsom salts bath.  Relief.  Bliss.

There are many different ways to complete a 100km endurance event.  I have seen this combination work well for many people undertaking athletic activities.  If you are undertaking such an event – good luck!

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

acupuncture, Diet, emotional health, exercise, food, health, herbal medicine, martial arts, mental health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Top tips for an energy boost

As with most health conditions in Traditional Chinese Medicine, tiredness can have many different diagnoses and therefore treatments.  Your body’s energy or life force is known as ‘Qi’.  It powers your organs and entire body to function correctly and give you vitality. If a person does not have enough Qi they will be tired.  If a person has enough Qi but it’s not circulating well or has become ‘stuck’ they may also seem tired.

Qi also interacts with your blood by giving your heart the force to pump your blood around the body.  In turn, the blood nourishes the Qi.  So, poor blood quality or quantity can also contribute to low energy (eg. anaemia).  Another factor to consider in the case of tiredness may be when an excess of fluids in the body accumulates creating the sense of  heaviness and preventing Qi from circulating.

If you are prone to suffering from bouts of tiredness, here are some ideas applicable to some common types of tiredness that I see regularly in my clinic (which have no known cause eg. lack of sleep or other disease cause).

  • Weakness, loss of appetite, loose stools and tiredness that is worse after eating
    • Improving digestion and food intake is important.  Eat well, that means consuming warm, cooked and easy to digest foods such as soups and stews (that are not too rich).  Good foods to include are orange coloured vegetables (eg. pumpkin, carrot and squash), root vegetables (eg. sweet potato), naturally occurring sweet foods (eg. corn, figs) and some lightly pungent foods to aid digestion (eg. cinnamon, ginger, fennel and onion).  Licorice tea is an ideal beverage.
    • Breathing deeply helps to cultivate Qi.
    • Practice exercise that helps to build Qi rather than use it up.  Yoga, tai chi and qi gong would be more beneficial than running or an aerobics class.
  • Pale face, lightheaded and dry skin
    • Eating well is also important for this type of tiredness so follow the recommendations above.  To boost the blood, increase naturally occurring dark coloured foods especially those that are red (eg. cherry, beetroot, dark leafy vegetables), iron rich foods (eg. molasses, dates) and adequate protein (eg. eggs, legumes, tempeh).  Nettle tea makes a good blood nourishing drink.
    • Often herbal medicine may be required to nourish the blood.
  • Muzzy head, limbs feels heavy to move and fluid retention.
    • Getting the body moving will benefit this type of tiredness.  Increase cardiovascular exercise (eg. walking, jogging, cycling or aerobics).  It may be hard to start but afterwards these people work up a sweat they will feel much more energised.
    • Eat less.  Only eat until you feel 80% full.
    • Decreasing rich foods in the diet is the key here – eat light.  That means reduce or eliminate dairy, fatty foods and cooking methods, excessive sweet foods and drinks (including very sweet fruits such as bananas) and fruit juice.
    • Beneficial foods will promote digestion and loss of excess fluid.  These foods include those that are bitter (eg. rocket and other greens), some fruits that aid digestion (eg. pineapple and papaya) and some pungent foods such as mustard, horseradish and those from the onion family.  Drink green tea or dandelion coffee.
  • Neck & shoulder tension, frequent sighing and moodiness
    • Once again, getting the body moving is essential.  Cardiovascular (eg. those listed above and martial arts) and stretching forms of exercise (eg. yoga) are perfect to promote a sense of more energy.
    • Breathing exercises may be useful in moving Qi.
    • Any activity that is useful for managing stress and alleviating emotional ‘stuckness’ is beneficial for this type of fatigue.  Eg. yoga, massage, acupuncture, meditation, creative projects or counselling.  This pattern often has an emotional cause such as frustration or anger that needs to be addressed.

To book in for acupuncture at my Launceston clinics (House of Prana or In-Balance) or for further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is an AHPRA registered acupuncturist, Chinese medicine practitioner and massage therapist.

emotional health, exercise, health, mental health, motivational

Rekindling the flame

This post was written as a motivational speech by someone very close to me who suffers from several health problems.  She was happy to share it.  It’s one of those things that’s good to read now, and then put in a safe place, so it can be read again, when inspiration is needed.

Rekindling the Flame

When things get tough and you feel burnt out – mentally, physically and spiritually, how do you rekindle your flame and find the inspiration keep meeting life’s challenges?

For some, it comes from the beauty and peace of nature.  For others, it’s the company of family and friends or even pets.  Yet others, seek the wise words of our gurus or the magic of music.  All of these can teach us wonderful things, but sometimes, it’s something completely unexpected that makes the biggest  impact.

Let me tell you, how it happened for me.

I’d been ill for a long time with debilitating arthritis and going downhill, no matter what I did.  One night, I was home alone – feeling dejected –  but I was glad to be alone because I didn’t have to pretend to be upbeat.  I could just vegetate in front of the televison ’til 8 0’clock and then go off to bed.

I was willing to watch just about anything – except football, so, guess what came on?  Aussie Rules Football.  That was the last straw!  I hated sport on television, and football in particular.  I never watch it and I’ll confess, the closest I’ve ever come to playing any sport was to chase a piece of chocolate cake around a plate with a fork!

If I’d had enough energy to get up and change the channel I would have but I didn’t.  So, I just sat there thinking, “I might be stuck here but they can’t make me watch.  I’ll just shut my eyes.”  Try it sometime – it’s harder that you think. In fact, it’s impossible, so I opened my eyes again.  Open eyes have a mind of their own.  Mine focused on a footballer running across the screen. He had all the grace and power of a god. I wondered, “How can his body do that, when all mine could do was creak?” I watched on in amazement, as another player leapt effortlessly into the air to catch a ball flying over his head. “How could he do that?” I wanted answers, so now, I was watching with real interest as yet another player prepared to kick a goal through distant goal posts. “Impossible!” I thought, but the ball soared high in the air and then straight through those posts.  A mighty cheer rose up from the crowd and a mighty cheer rose up from every cell in my body. They were  alive and they wanted me to know it. “Wow, Wow, Wow!” they screamed and in that moment, I knew that life energy was still there. It just needed rekindling. That was the beginning of a wonderful recovery.

Melb MCG Lions

Since then, I have come to realise that inspiration is all around us, if we are willing to see it, and even if we are not, the message is repeated over and over, in a hundred different ways, until we do. It’s a bit like the saying “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

Everything begins with the readiness of the student and there are messages everywhere constantly readying us for our next step. For example, it’s easy to see that good nurture will make things grow, but if you want to see tough, watch a weed grow in a crack in the path.  Sometimes, you’ll need the tenacity of that weed and at other times you can be footloose and fancy free like the fluffy, floating seeds of a dandelion.  Sometimes, you’ll be the early bird that catches the worm and sometimes – you’ll be the worm –  so take care.

Knowing when to go with the flow and when to stand your ground is important  but sometimes, it’s more important to do nothing.  Take the time to rest, lick your wounds and wait for clarity – but don’t wait too long or you’ll cut yourself off from the very things that can sustain you, when you need them most, because, from time to time, we all face serious challenges.

Mine was health. Yours may be something else – it doesn’t matter what. What does matter is to remember that help is out there and often in the strangest places. So, whether it’s to keep your inspirational flame burning brightly or to rekindle it when you’re just about burnt out, look around – somewhere there’ll be a message, just for you.

– Erica, Shailer Park QLD

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

acupuncture, emotional health, health, massage, mental health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Sarah treats Brisbane flood evacuees at RNA evacuation centre

On Friday 14th January, a group of acupuncture colleagues decided to put their skills to good use and assist evacuees and volunteers based at the Brisbane RNA Showgrounds.

The group, named Acupuncture Recovery Clinic (ARC), worked from 8am to 8pm daily providing massage and acupuncture treatments, free to all.

Sarah George joined the team on Friday and worked throughout the weekend treating evacuees and volunteers for stress, insomnia, fatigue and body aches.  She was joined by at least 30 other volunteer professional acupuncturists and massage therapists.

Sarah recalls giving perhaps 50% of the people she treated their first ever massage.  “It was a honour to be able to assist the evacuees and volunteers who all looked so tired and worn out.  Many commented that sleeping at the evacuation centre was difficult.  Some had heartwrenching stories of loss.  Mostly, the stories were inspirational of flood evacuees and the homeless, helping others who had lost their homes.  A massage or acupuncture treatment, gave them some time out, and recharged the spirit and the batteries to continue on.”

Acupuncture supplies were donated by the practitioners and local clinics (including HealthWise) and industry suppliers.

Sarah is taking an active role in ARC to continue the efforts of the volunteer group once the RNA evacuation centre is closed.  The group plans to provide discounted treatments to those seriously affected by the floods in the weeks to come.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

Like ARC on Facebook

exercise, health, herbal medicine, mental health, motivational, nature, Uncategorized

A new year – a new Kokoda Challenge

On the eve of registering a team for this year’s Kokoda Challenge, I take a look back at last year’s achievement…

At 3.45am on Saturday 17th July my alarm beeped, forcing me to get up and face The Kokoda Challenge, an event we had been training hard for since February.

The Kokoda Challenge is Australia’s toughest endurance event.  It involves walking (or running for those who are that way inclined) 96 km through some of the steepest sections of the Gold Coast Hinterland within 39 hours without sleep (that’s more than double a marathon, non-stop and over hills).

My team, known as the M&M’s (for Michelle, Melissa, Sue and Sarah), wondered as we headed towards the starting line just before 7am with our little ninja M&M mascots hanging from our packs: “Had we done enough hill, night and distance training?”  “Would our niggling injuries behave themselves?” and “Would we make it to the finish line as a full team as is the spirit of the event?”

Armed with a supply of energy tonics, anti-inflammatory herbs and some nutritional supplements that I had put together from my natural medicine clinic plus some acupressure knowledge for nausea, anxiety, pain and fatigue, the M&M’s (a determined bunch of ladies) survived the high and lows of the track.  The steep up-hills, the steep down-hills, the creek crossings in the dark, the times when your body struggled, the times when your mind struggled – these were all balanced out by some very memorable moments.  Looking behind you in the dark to see headlamps twinkling in the distance like little fairies, or seeing the gold coast lights shining from a peak we had just climbed, and even the many hours we passed through the night thinking of and singing any song with the word ‘night’ in it.

Yes, our feet hurt more than we could imagine.  Yes, injuries were aggravated – but luckily no new ones were sustained.  And yes, there were many quiet, contemplative moments overnight where we all were thinking “I could be fast asleep in a warm bed right now”.  But these thoughts were all overshadowed when at 32 hours and 8 minutes the M&M’s crossed the finish line – there were tears, there were smiles, there were hugs and there were yawns.  And despite taking a fair amount longer than we had planned on, we were in the 50% of teams who made it across the line as a whole team within the time limit of 39 hours.  Not only that, we also adopted two honorary M&M’s who had lost half of their team to injury and needed another team to walk with.  The more the merrier I say!  And not bad for a first effort, either.

If you have an opportunity to be a part of this event in the future – do it!  The event (and training leading up to it) is hard, yet incredibly rewarding.  You will employ each of the Kokoda Challenge’s values just to make it to the finish (even if you don’t think you will beforehand): endurance, courage, sacrifice and mateship.  The event supports young Australians (The Kokoda Kids) to develop these qualities through physical endeavours and charity work in Papua New Guinea.  The Kokoda Kids that I met on the track were a credit to the organisers – I’m proud to have been involved and support this event.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.