In recent months I’ve see more awareness of how hormones, mental health, nutrition and other such factors affect training.  There’s another thing that I know affects my mental health and therefore my training ad my diet – autumn!

I have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) – often known as Winter Depression.  Well, that’s not strictly true, I take medication for depression and anxiety all year round but I find it’s always worse in the winter months.  In particular autumn is the hardest because there’s the change between longer summer days and light evenings and it getting dark not long after I leave work, at least by winter I guess I’ve got a bit used to it.

I find it more uplifting to wake up and leave to teach and it be light or finish an evening class and feel light.  Once I need to shut the curtains my brain starts to switch off and all I want to do is climb into my pyjamas and go to bed, so once it gets dark earlier getting things done in the evening just feels so much harder.

This of course has an impact on my training – going out in the dark to get to the gym feels so unappealing, in comparison to leaving the gym at 9pm and still feeling like it’s day time in summer.  I always start to want more comfort food come autumn too as the urge to hibernate kicks in.

Knowing that this is generally how I always feel come autumn I’ve learnt a few things to counteract this over the years: 

  • I invested in a light box – a box that gives out UV style rays which can help increase the amount of daylight you get a day which in turn can be beneficial to your mood.
  • Getting outside and walking during the day when it is light is also a key thing for me.  The less fresh air I get, the more likely I am to get run down and feel ill.
  • Taking not only my medication daily (which isn’t always as easy as it sounds) but also vitamins (multi vitamin, iron supplement, Vitamin D and a high dose of  Omega 3) helps
  • Trying to train earlier in the day so if motivation drops I’ve got it out the way already, plus once I do train often I will feel better come darkness time anyway.

Still, even though I know it’ll pass I can’t wait for spring to come again!


For a couple of years I have limited the supplements I take to a Multi Vitamin and Omega 3 but recently after feeling fatigued I introduced a couple of additional supplements into my routine, namely liquid iron and hydration tablets.

  • In particular – liquid iron (specifically Spatone) 

Adequate iron levels are important for the body to function properly whatever you do day to day and Doctors have often suspected my iron levels to be low (although blood tests have always shown otherwise – I think I’m just very very pale!).  More relevant for me though, from my own reading on the subject recently (because before I start using supplements I like to do some research), ensuring the levels of iron in your body are adequate can have a positive effect it can have on your fitness goals in several ways.

Some things taking an iron supplement may improve (note I’m not massively sciencey and this is just my understanding of what I read):

Energy Levels Ensuring iron levels are not low can help reduce fatigue during workout as without sufficient iron less ATP can be produced (part of the reason why those lacking sufficient iron can feel tired and fatigued).

Performance in the gym – One thing iron does is ensure oxygen saturated blood is able to efficiently reach the areas that need it thus assisting your performance.

Recovery – That same nutrient filled blood pumping efficiently into muscles can also aid recovery after training.  In addition low iron levels can reduce the efficiency of our immune system, which could also make it harder to recover from a tough week of training.

  • Hydration Tablets (specifically ORS)

Hydration plays an important role in sports performance (and every day human being functioning).

Most of the time I still just drink water (and I average about 4 litres a day) but when I have been feeling run down I’ve been adding a hydration tablet to my pint of water a couple of times a day to perk myself back up. Adding a hydration tablet into your water can help you get the right balance of water and electrolytes needed to replenish your body after training. The theory therefore is that you can hydrate more efficiently after training by drinking a hydration solution to just water. The advantage to these over sports drinks is the tablets are lower in sugar and calories.

As little as a 2-3 percent reduction in body mass via water loss can have a significant impact on your concentration and muscle power so potential benefits to remaining hydrated:

Reduced chance of cramp, muscle fatigue and joint pain. As the core body temperature and heart rate can be regulated more efficiently.

Reduced fatigue. Helping making training easier.

Improved concentration. Being well hydrated can maximise the speed at which messages are sent from the brain to the muscles, resulting in a better performance for longer.

Avoid Dehydration When exercising, your body loses water and essential salts through sweat.  If not replaced, this can result in dehydration – this obviously is not good.

Obviously you can’t replace good nutrition with supplements but knowing what your body needs and making smart use of supplements to ensure you get it can be a good thing.

My Personal 10 Commandments for a Healthy Life

  1. Aim to hit a 20% calorie deficit across the week. Find a system for doing this and stick to it- don’t be swayed by new fads. My system is to eat to Paleo principles (not strict Paleo) 4 days a week and then allow myself three days where I can enjoy treats (read cake).
  2. Start your calorie week on a Friday. You are more likely to have a calorie surpluss at the weekend – this allows you Monday to Thursday to pull back and still hit that 20% weekly calorie deficit if that does happen and stops you feeeling like you are being overly restricted.
  3. Eat at least 2g protein per kg body weight every day (for me 160g). This will make you feel full, help your body recover from training and means Carbs and Fat will look after themselves.
  4. Drink 3.5 litres water a day (this is based on based on 30ml water per kg of body weight plus 500 ml for every hour of exercise – I just average out based on my normal training week).
  5. Drink a max of 3 coffees per day.
  6. Take a multi vitamin and fish oil supplement every day.
  7. Have a little bit of dark chocolate each day when on your period if you suffer with cramps (magnesium can help relax muscles reducing cramps, and sugar can boost your serotonin levels which can drop – hence feeling like you want to cry). I believe Kale can also help reduce cramping but for some reason doesn’t hold the same appeal as chocolate!
  8. Train in a way that suits your life and your week. I don’t lift as heavy as many and my sessions are shorter than most people I know – but they fit into my working life allowing me to stay consistent enough to see results. If it’s going to be tough one week to fit in your training – adjust your plans to feel successful.
  9. Stretch every day.
  10. Get up 30 minutes early and develop a morning routine that helps set you up for the day. I like to get some day light, drink a large glass of water and read a chapter of a book (as I don’t get much ‘me’ time during the rest of he day).

Credit – Ricky Long, who bullied me into most of these things – but they work!


Instagram @rickylong42

A Fishy Post Today

I was always slightly bemused by people taking supplements –what can these little tablets do to help you?  If you eat well surely you shouldn’t need anything extra?


This may be the case but in the last few years I have started taking, and been converted to the value of two supplements – and ant to focus on one of those in particular.


Let me just start by clarifying – this is not a sales pitch! I don’t work for Herbalife, Forever Living, Juice Plus or any other company.  I don’t believe that taking a tablet every day can get the nutrients of 30 different fruits into your body.  You need to eat proper food, a variety of foods and actual foods with lots of colour in them in order to look and feel good.  This being said taken in conjunction with a good diet some supplements can add benefit.  A multi vitamin is a no brainer just to ensure you get anything you might have missed from your diet that day (like having a protein shake to increase your protein intake).  The other supplement with huge benefits in fish oil.


I started taking fish oil a few years ago whilst I was suffering badly with depression.  I was on anti-depressants and had tried several types without finding one that suited me.  I had never been one to try alternative therapies but I was at a point where I didn’t feel I had anything to lose so I bought a self-help book and tried the things it suggested- including taking a high dose of fish oil.


Obviously it took time and a lot more than just some fish oil to get better but I think it made a difference and I have continued to take the supplement ever since and I notice the drop in my mood if I forget to take it for a few days.


Apart from being proven to a help alleviate depression and anxiety it has shown to potentially have numerous other benefits including: reducing the risk of diabetes / cancer / cardiovascular diseases, improving brain function, increasing your sex drive, improving fertility, improving the condition of skin and hair, helping the immune system and even helping manage your weight.


You don’t need to spend a lot of money- the pots of vitamins which some companies charge £10 plus for will provide nothing that you can’t get from a supermarket own brand.  The one thing I would mention about fish oil is it comes in different doses and you need to establish how much you want to take and then work out how many tablets you need to take from there (ideally you want to take as few tablets as possible to hit your daily dose).  You can buy fish oil in a bottle (in case you don’t like taking tablets) however be warned fish oil in this form TASTES LIKE FISH OIL.


If you are considering taking any supplements I’d recommend this be something you look at.