acupuncture, exercise, health, martial arts

Karate: unlock the free flow of Ki

Believe it or not, traditional karate (such as Goju Karate Australia) has a lot in common with acupuncture. Each places great importance on the breath, focus/intent and flow of Qi (or Ki or vital force). They are considered both an art form and a science, being constantly questioned, refined and developed by the practitioner and their peers and mentors.

Even the acupuncture points and meridians are used in karate.  The acupoints and channels influence the flow of qi in the body, depending on how they are stimulated determines the result of their use.  In acupuncture, the acupoints are carefully selected and manipulated for their healing influence, in karate they become strike points or reflect body positioning and movement.

I find that practising karate improves my acupuncture through experience with energy flow (e.g. posture and breathing) and that knowledge of acupuncture points and channels benefits my karate. That’s why I love immersing myself in both!

Practitioners of Kung Fu, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Aikido and other traditional martial arts all experiment with utilising this flow of Qi or Ki in their training but also in other aspects of their lives.

How do you unlock your Qi, Ki or Life Force?

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.

emotional health, exercise, health, mental health, nature, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Scuba diving: extreme relaxation

Great Barrier Reef Anemone Fish, otherwise known as Nemo

Last week I took advantage of a 5-day gap in my schedule (between speaking at a midwives seminar and supervising the College Acupuncture Clinic) and headed off for a well-earned break to the warm, tropical waters of North Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef.

Yes, the mini-holiday was relaxing, but it was my activity of choice that had far more to offer in tranquility than your average beach holiday.  I wanted to really slow down.  And this pastime had plenty to offer  for busy, city people who rush around, burn the candle at both ends and see the world in a blur.

I went scuba diving: three days living on a boat, ten dives, plenty of food and a few naps.  Bliss.  Not at all an extreme sport, well not the way I do it anyway.

But why was it so deeply relaxing?

  1. Go slow.  Scuba diving makes you slow down.  You can’t swim fast, and if you try to move about in a flurry, you disturb your buoyancy and end up floating towards the surface and/or stirring up the sand on the bottom.  A definite no-no.  In fast-paced modern life there aren’t many activities that are encouraged to be done slowly, diving is one of the rare few.
  2. Breathe.  Remember how to breathe slowly and deeply? As soon as most of us are stressed our breathing rate increases and becomes shallow.  When scuba diving, it’s advantageous to slow your breathing rate down to conserve air, that way you can enjoy the tranquil underwater world for longer.  Breathing slowly also encourages our blood vessels to dilate and our blood pressure to lower, which is relaxing for both the mind and the body.
  3. Enjoy the moment.  This is perhaps the most important point and one that is easily missed in normal life.  The practice of ‘mindfulness meditation’ is built on this concept.  Rather than clearing your mind of thoughts, we focus on really experiencing exactly what is around us, right at this second.  When scuba diving, as we slowly move through the water, the whole idea is to do just that, explore the surroundings – take in the big picture; the beautiful coral gardens and abundant fish life or focus in on the minute detail of a section of rock and its little ecosystem of shrimp, nudibranchs and tiny fish – the things you would ordinarily be too busy to notice (such as the anemone fish pictured above).  Time may almost stand still. (And the added bonus of that is your holiday will also seem longer!)

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, diving offers us real ‘yin’ time.  It’s not only slow and peaceful, but also involves being immersed in cool water.  You can’t get much more yin that that.

This is just one way I like to unwind.  How do you choose to spend your ‘yin’ time?

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.

Diet, exercise, food, health, motivational, nature, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Spring into good health!

Finally! It’s September and spring is here. You can feel it in the air – the sun feels warmer, the days are longer and even the water dragons have emerged from hibernation to sunbake around Brisbane’s Kangaroo Point cliffs.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) takes the change of season and its effect on your health quite seriously. We see the transition to be a time when your energy is shifting and if it is not managed well, can make you more susceptable to ill-health and picking up allergies, colds and flus, and generally not feeling at your tip-top best.

So in spring, like the water dragons, we emerge from the cold of winter.  Many of us find winter the hardest time to get motivated and active.  This is because it is natural for us to want to stay indoors wearing our ugg boots and eating casseroles to stay warm during the cold weather.  Cold contracts and has an inward nature, reflected in our winter behaviour.

But as the season changes, spring arrives and so the Yang, the aspect of our body that warms and gives us energy, rises letting us know that it’s time to get moving.  Like a seed that is sprouting we too need some sunshine (think of it as a vitamin D hit) and a clean environment with fresh air (hence the term ‘spring’ clean) to be invigorated.  Add to that some exercise and some lighter foods (think stir frys with lots of fresh seasonal vegetables).  You can even take the spring clean further and do a short detoxification diet. Spring is the best time of year for this and it may help you to shed a few extra kilos you added to keep you warm over the winter.

Spring is a great time to shift your exercise program outdoors.  Think about walking, hiking, jogging, cycling (here’s a great website for finding safe cycling routes around Brisbane), canoeing or even personal training in a park.  Research has shown that exercising outdoors and in amongst greenery is good for our mental health too.

A word of caution for spring, whilst the weather is warmer, the summer has not arrived yet, so be prepared with clothing to protect you from drafts or cold winds that may still be lurking around.

And by following this advice you should be radiant and full of vitality for enjoying the delights of summer.

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, 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.

Diet, exercise, food, health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Lessons in longevity from ancient China

Last weekend I took a break from my usual routine of hiking training to attend a seminar discussion with Chinese Medicine historian, Marta Hanson PhD. Marta took us on a Traditional Chinese Medicine journey beginning with ancient spiritual healing practices up until modern-day medicine in which Chinese herbal medicine was used in SARS prevention and treatment.  Some ideas have lasted the ages, some were dropped and some have evolved into new ideas to bring us the medicine we now know.

At times in Chinese history, immortality (and longevity) were greatly sought after.  And due to this, medicine placed great importance on preservation of health.  In fact, a line from a poem from the 3rd century attributed to Lao Tzu in the Taoist classic, the Tao te ching, states:

 “The best physicians always treat disease when it is not [yet] a disease

And so [their patients] are not ill.”

Many classical medical texts from around this time describe the role of the medical practitioner in a similar way.  So what was required to maintain this ideal state of glowing vitality?  A good physician/acupuncturist/herbalist would guide their patient with individualised advice on the following (and we still do this today):

  • Balance.  The concept of Yin & Yang represent a type of balance that we see in nature.  Yin and Yang are two polar forces and yet are part of each other and evolve to become one another. They are relative terms.  The Yin Yang diagram (which appeared in the current form we know now much later in time) demonstrates Yin and Yang.  Yin is dark, quiet, cold, substantial and feminine.  Yang is light, loud, hot, energetic and masculine.  Yin and Yang can be applied to anything in life to understand balance.  For instance, a bright office room full of activity is yang in comparison to a bedroom, that is dark and quiet, yin qualities.  People and diseases can be described as more yin or yang.  Even your lifestyle or career can be described as yin or yang.  Running a marathon (yang)  versus lying on the couch (yin).  What is important here, is that we need to work towards balance of yin and yang to preserve good health.  So, if you are a busy career woman, perhaps it’s ok to incorporate a yoga class or even some couch time.  And if you have a desk bound job maybe getting outside for a walk at lunchtime would benefit you well.
  • Exercise – these were described as gymnastics but resemble something more like what we know as tai chi or yoga.  These exercises, when done regularly, were designed to encourage good circulation, movement of the body, strength, flexibility and breathing well to improve the function of the organs and body.
  • Meditation – the Taoists incorporated meditation techniques specifically involving  thoughts of improving the way their bodies functioned.  This is something that some of my patients employ during their acupuncture treatment but can be used at anytime.
  • Diet – given that the second most important medical position within the imperial court was the Dietician (the first being the Master Physician who oversaw the entire medical official team), we can surmise the great significance of good food to maintain good health.  The Dietician was responsible for providing menus that were well-balanced and reflected the seasons.  Most of us now, manage what we put into our own mouths (sometimes not as well as we’d like).   As a general rule, choose produce grown locally, in season (eating with the seasons is still relevant) and combine good quality proteins, carbohydrates and fats.  Also consider warming up your diet in colder weather in both temperature and spice.  A good acupuncturist can help you put together a diet to suit you if you struggle in this area.

There are many ancient medical ideas from China that we do not currently employ.  One in particular that I liked was ‘The Master of Crickets’.  This official was in charge of removing anything that makes a ‘disagreeable sound’.  Back then, they were thinking of crickets and cicadas, but we could now apply this position to noisy neighbours and leaf blowers.

So, who’s up for giving the quest for immortality (or at the very least preserving good health) a go?

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.

emotional health, exercise, health, mental health, nature

Is camping the new miracle health cure?

Well, I’m not one for miracle health cures but I do strongly believe that camping is one way to revitalise the body and soul.  And it’s certainly not a new way to do so either. Although recently, this relatively cheap way to take a short break from the stresses of modern life has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity.

So, given that the peak camping time, the Easter holidays, is approaching, what do so many people have to gain from packing up their car and heading out to sleep under the stars for a few nights?

  1. Fresh air
    • Getting out-of-town and into nature, whether that’s in the bush or by the beach allows you to breathe fresh air.  It’s something that you don’t realise you have missed until you get out of the city.  There’s also something very peaceful about being surrounded by nature – whether that’s big trees, mountains or the ocean.  And then there’s the refreshing sounds of bird calls, creeks bubbling or waves crashing.
  2. Exercise
    • There’s no doubt that going camping means back to basics and that means leaving the modern conveniences at home.  Fetching water for the washing up, then doing the washing up by hand, pitching a tent and taking a walk to use the facilities, all get your body up and moving more than you would at home and that’s a good thing.  And that’s just the incidental exercise.  Add to this the great activities being in nature gives us access to – hiking, climbing, swimming, canoeing and even playing bocce.
  3. Sleep
    • Without lighting from electricity, our body clock very quickly matches up with that of the sun.  I’m sure every camper can relate to the feeling of sleepiness  as they stare up to a clear, starry sky at 7.30pm, when they swear it must be 10.30pm.  On the flip side, with that early night under your belt, an early morning start seems so much easier.  It is a fabulous way to start the day with a view of the sunrise while enjoying a cup of freshly brewed soy chai.  I usually always sleep very well when I’m camping but that does depend on a few things – make sure your bedding is warm and comfortable.  Bring ear plugs if you are a light sleeper.  And set your campsite up securely to protect you from rain and wind (flapping tarps and water in your tent won’t help your sleep at all).  Hello peaceful sleep.
  4. Slow down
    • If the active part (hiking, swimming, exploring etc) of your camping day is in the morning, then the afternoon can be for relaxing.  And it’s so easy to do when you are in a peaceful environment away from the chores of home.  All you need is a camping chair, a camp fire, fine company and a good book.  Add to this the escape from mobile phone reception,  TV and many other electrical devices and life really does slow down.  If you’re really feeling indulgent you can even pop off for an afternoon nap. Ahhhhhhhhh.
  5. Happiness
    • The phrase ‘happy campers’ was coined with good reason.  Research has shown that time in green spaces is good for our mental health.  Spending time with good friends gives us a sense of connection which contributes to our happiness.  Physical exercise, which is unavoidable while camping, also has a positive association with the mood.

So, when’s your next camping trip?

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.

Diet, exercise, health, motivational

Being healthy when you’re busy

It’s easy to live a healthy life if you have plenty of time.  Taking your time to cook wholesome food, get enough exercise, practice some meditation and have enough sleep all take time.  Precious time.  Something that many of us seem to have a lot less of than we’d like.

If being time-poor is your reality, then we need to work with the time we have more smartly.  My answer is to make a routine.  It’s just as important to prioritise your ‘you time’ as it to schedule work and family commitments.  You need to book in time to nurture yourself when it suits you or you’ll end up being ill when it isn’t convenient, and that may really throw a spanner in the works at a later time.

‘You time’, as part of a healthy lifestyle, might include any combination of the following: home-cooked healthy food, at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days per week, daily short meditations, a daily stretching routine, weekly relaxation activities such as a bath, massage or facial.  These activities are not just for people with lots of spare time, they should be an essential part of anyone’s lifestyle who wants to feel energetic and healthy (and I’m hoping that’s everyone who’s reading this!)

There are several ways to do this.  The way I have personally found helpful is as follows:

  1. Make a list or timetable of all of the activities you do in a week.  Include work, family, housework, sporting commitments and other activities.  Work out when you have any spare time.  We need to know this so that we can use it wisely rather than flitting it away without valuing it.  You may be surprised when you look at your week on paper.  Perhaps there are some activities you are overdoing and are able to cut back on.
  2. Think of the areas of your health that suffer when you are busy.  Often making home cooked meals gets neglected, as does exercise and relaxation.  Make a note of these.
  3. Find gaps in your current schedule where you can add some of these healthful activities and write them in.  It may be that you can cook a meal on one night/day to provide several lunches and dinners (avoiding the need for unhealthy  takeaway meals).  Perhaps you can find a gap that can allow you to get some incidental exercise, a run or even an exercise class that fits around your current activities.  If relaxation always gets left behind, schedule yourself some time for a DIY facial, bath, meditation, massage or other treatment of your choice.  Remember these activities are important!  Make sure not to fill in all of your spare time.
  4. Write down your new schedule.  Put it somewhere that you can always refer to it.  It doesn’t have to be set in stone but rather something to aim for.  Whether it’s on paper, in your diary, a spreadsheet or your iPhone/iPad do what will work for you.  Some people find that daily lists work, for others a weekly timetable is preferred.

What you have created should help you to know what you have to do each day and what the consequence will be if you don’t get to it  (eg. if I miss cooking a meal to last for a few lunches, I won’t have time to do it later and I’ll have to get takeaway).  This is motivating but also allows for informed choice from week to week as the unforseen will always happen from time-to-time.  So, even though you have a ‘perfect health-promoting schedule’, remain flexible.  Things just don’t go to plan all the time and we don’t want to turn down wonderful opportunities that come our way or get more stressed if we don’t tick everything off our list.   It’s also not locked in for life.  It can come and go as you need it, and be changed as often as required.

This solution won’t work for everyone, but if you are feeling overwhelmed by commitments and they are eating into your ‘you time’, then putting your time on paper is a good place to start.  The important message here is, however you put it into action, when you are busy, looking after yourself is just as important as when you are not.

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.

exercise, health, Uncategorized

5 reasons to switch to pedal power

Some of my favourite times of the day are the trip to work and the trip back. “In peak hour traffic? Surely not”, you say.  But my answer is still “Yes!”  That’s because I have found a way to avoid being stuck in a traffic jam, squished onto a crowded train or needing to allow extra time in the morning for the bus to turn up (after the first two buses didn’t show up).  For the last two or so years, I’ve chosen cycling as my preferred mode of transport to work.

Cycling to work (or uni, the shops or wherever you want to go) brings many benefits. Here’s my top five:

  • Avoid peak hour traffic.  Riding a push bike allows you a great sense of freedom.  Often, in peak times, you can move faster than the car traffic.  Not only that, for those who rely on public transport, riding a bike means the end of waiting for buses or trains that are late or don’t show up – no more timetables, you choose when to leave.  There are more cycle paths appearing all the time.  If you don’t have a safe route to ride to work you need to pressure your local council to provide one.
  • Get fit. Let’s face it, you have to make the trip to work anyway.  And lots of people I talk to say they don’t have time to exercise.  Why not kill ‘two birds with one stone’ and get your exercise on the way to and from work?  Cycling to work is an excellent way to get fit and healthy on a daily trip when you would have otherwise been sedentary.  Most cycle commuters will get their 30 minutes of daily exercise easily.  By switching to pedal power you will be burning around 300 calories for each 30 minutes you ride.
  • Save your hard-earned cash.  Fuel costs have escalated, car parking can be incredibly expensive and even the cost of public transport in Brisbane is on the rise.  A bike however, is a one-off investment (allow a minimum of $400 for a decent bike to get you around on a moderate commute).  Many workplaces now even offer facilities including showers so you can freshen up after your ride.  If yours doesn’t, end-of-trip cycling facilities such as King George Square Cycle Centre or Royal Brisbane Hospital Cycle Centre offer an alternative for less than the daily price of public transport.  Cycling to work may even allow you to cancel a costly gym membership.
  • Be happy.  We will never be short of studies that say exercise makes us happy.  Raising the heart rate, working up a sweat, breathing deeply and pumping the muscles aids the release of our body’s happy hormones, endorphins.  Not only that, exercise before work will wake you up and help your mind to be more alert for the day ahead.  Your ride home will give you an opportunity to forget the worries of the day so you are relaxed when you walk in your front door.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint.  For each kilometre you choose to cycle instead of drive a car you are reducing your CO2 emissions by approximately 0.3kg.

Obviously, cycling to work is not the answer for everyone.  However, many people do have a lot to gain by adopting this mode of transport.  It may take a little forward planning to find safe routes and organise clothing and toiletries to freshen up for your work day post-ride.  Once you have a system in place, the benefits of cycling will become crystal clear. And, if you can’t cycle to work, you can still jump on a bike on the weekend for a social ride.

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.

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.