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On your marks for the Yorkshire Marathon

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Across Yorkshire runners of all ages are following exercise plans, preparing their sports kits, and limbering up for a major running event taking place this weekend.

Hundreds of runners will take to the streets of York and surrounding areas this Sunday, 15 October for the Yorkshire Marathon.

It is an extra special event this year with the marathon celebrating its tenth anniversary. A decade on from the first race the marathon has attracted more than 90,000 participants and more than £7.5 million has been raised for charity.

We spoke to Dr Abbie Brooks, a GP partner at Priory Medical Group in York and finisher of the London Marathon 2023, about how runners can get ready for the big event.

The Yorkshire Marathon has a route starting and finishing at the main University of York campus in Heslington, passing some of the city’s major landmarks and sights including the majestical York Minster and picturesque River Ouse.

The event attracts runners of all abilities, from seasoned distance runners aiming for a personal best, to those who simply enjoy getting active, see it as a way to raise money for charity, or simply as a reason to get fit. Abbie and her colleagues have taken part in the corporate relay in the past, a great way to feel part of the run – without the long distance.

Everyone who takes part in the event has started somewhere, whether it is a solo jog or taking part in regular organised runs. One thing remains the same for everyone – preparation is key.

Abbie’s top tips for Race Day

Make sure that all your kit is tried and tested – remember to wear running shoes that are comfortable. Save those new shoes for another day. Dress for the weather.

Don’t try any new foods on race day – whilst it’s always good to eat carbohydrates in the run-up to race day, whether pasta or porridge, it is wise to avoid new foods that you might be unfamiliar with. The last thing you need is an upset tummy along the route! Keep fuelled as you run, you will have a tried and tested snack/gels/drink regime sorted ahead of race day.

Stay hydrated – different runs require different levels of hydration, but you should always hydrate prior to a run, no matter the length. Having a small drink every 20 minutes whilst you’re running will ensure you remain hydrated and once your run is complete replenishing your fluid levels can aid recovery. There will be regular drink stations around the course.

Enjoy the day – relax into it and enjoy the race. Hitting your targets makes all the time you spent training really worth it. Whether it’s your first marathon or you’ve done 26 of them, there is nothing like that post-marathon glow!

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Let’s get a better nights sleep

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If Friday hasn’t come soon enough and your big weekend plans all involve your duvet, maybe tiredness is becoming an issue.

Tiredness is often due to stress, not enough sleep, poor diet and other habits. Try these self-help tips to restore your energy levels an get a better nights sleep.

If you feel you’re suffering from fatigue, which is an overwhelming tiredness that isn’t helped by rest and sleep, you may have an underlying medical condition. Consult a GP for advice.

Eat often to beat tiredness

A good way to keep up your energy is to eat regular meals and healthy snacks every 3 to 4 hours. This can be in place of a large meal less often.

Get moving

Exercise might be the last thing on your mind but even a 15-minute walk can give you an energy boost, and the benefits increase with more frequent physical activity.

Take time to relax

Learning how to relax takes practice, but over time it can help release tension in your body, calm your mind and improve your mental wellbeing.

There is a really useful bedtime meditation video where you can let the instructor’s soothing words and relaxing moves, help you leave the stresses and strains of the day behind and prepare for restful sleep.

Although this video is ideal at bedtime, you can follow it whenever you need to take time out to relax. All you need is a blanket, some cushions and a mat if useful, the most important thing is to be comfortable.

These fitness videos have been created by InstructorLive and range from 10 to 45 minutes. Please note that these videos are recorded sessions of previously live webcasts.

Drink more water for better energy 

Sometimes you feel tired simply because you’re mildly dehydrated. Drinking more, especially water throughout the day can increase your ability to have a better nights sleep.

For more tips on getting better night’s sleep visit NHS.uk

Let’s get cycling!

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Female cyclist on bike

I started cycling around 5 years ago. I’ve always loved sport and exercise, being an avid runner in my younger days. However, old age, creaking joints and a back problem put a stop to all of that. Feeling bereft that I could no longer run, I tried many other activities to try and capture the euphoric buzz that exercise can give. Gym classes, lifting weights, running around with thirty others doing burpees, star jumps and other excruciating workouts, however, it just wasn’t the same.

Until a friend persuaded me to borrow her husband’s bike and helmet (I honestly thought I wouldn’t find a helmet to fit my afro!!) and go for a bike ride. It was amazing. I instantly fell in love with cycling. And when I say love, I really mean it. Cycling is fantastic. It gives me freedom. It’s all about being outside, the wind in your hair (even with a helmet), and the sights and sounds of life in the countryside. It doesn’t take long before you leave behind the hustle and bustle of city life and find yourself amongst cows, sheep and other gorgeous animals.

It’s sociable too. I’m a member of a group ‘Sunday Morning Spinners’ and enjoy being in the company of like-minded people pootling about on a Sunday morning, stopping off for a coffee and a sneaky slice of cake. The group increased my confidence. When I started cycling, it took me months to understand how gears even worked. I couldn’t ride up hills without panicking, they get much easier with practice, like anything else. I can now cycle 75 miles with around 1000+ elevation, feeling daunted but joyful and elated once completed.

I try to get out at least once a week, for a couple of hours or more. I’m looking to start training and competing in races / sportifs, that’s my next challenge.

For anyone thinking of dipping their toe into the world of cycling, I would wholeheartedly encourage. There are so many benefits for both your physical and mental health.

1. Cardiovascular Fitness:

It’s an excellent cardiovascular exercise that elevates heart rate, strengthens the heart muscles, and improves overall endurance. In addition, regular cycling helps to lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.

2. Weight Management:

It’s an effective way to burn calories and maintain a healthy weight. As a low-impact exercise, it puts less stress on the joints than activities like running. A moderate-paced bike ride can burn anywhere from 300 to 600 calories per hour, depending on factors such as weight and intensity.

3. Increased Muscle Strength and Tone:

Cycling engages various muscle groups, including the legs, thighs, calves, and glutes. Regular cycling helps to build strength and tone these muscles, leading to improved overall muscular endurance.

4. Stress Reduction:

Cycling outdoors in the picturesque landscapes of the Humber and North Yorkshire provides a refreshing break from daily routines and allows you to reconnect with nature. The combination of physical activity and exposure to natural environments has been proven to reduce stress levels and improve mood.

5. Boosted Mental Well-being:

Regular cycling stimulates the production of endorphins, also known as “feel-good” hormones. These natural chemicals promote a sense of happiness, relaxation, and general well-being. As a result, cycling can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression and enhance overall mental resilience.

6. Social Interaction and Community Engagement:

Cycling can be a social activity, as there are various cycling clubs, group rides, and events throughout Humber and North Yorkshire. Joining these groups provides an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals, build friendships, and foster a sense of community, which positively impacts mental well-being.

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Let’s Start Living Well – The meaning of living well and ageing well

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Living and aging well, will mean different things to everyone.  For me, approaching my 50th birthday, having been addicted to tobacco for 15 years: up to being 30, and approaching 14 stone, it was climbing the stairs and being out of breath, that made me look at myself, and decide to do something about my health. 

My decision in July 2011, was to get fit for 50, and I had 6 months to do it in.  The goal in my mind was to start running and eventually, be able to run something called a Park Run, which is a timed event of 5k (3 miles), that you can walk or run every Saturday morning at 9am.  After months of running a mile once a week, then 2 miles, on 03.09.2011, I took the plunge, signed up and ran my first Park Run in 26 minutes and 3 seconds.  For the next 4 weeks I continued to improve my time up to the 19.11.2011, when I peaked at 24:25.  The next week, I volunteered to marshall, and started talking to other runners, explained how difficult it was for me to breath.  One person I was talking to explained, the importance of breathing, which is something I pass on to everyone, don’t laugh when I say it is difficult to master, it is and has taken me years to become efficient.

In 2012, my wife started running, and it became evident quickly, she enjoyed running more than me, and was better than me.  For the record, I still do not enjoy running but, the benefits outweighs anything I think about it.  After encouraging her to join a local running run group, I also joined the East Hull Harriers.  Whilst I continued to be average, Carole became one of the clubs’ top runners.

In 2017, Carole managed to obtain a place in the Paris Marathon, and I thought, since I am going, I might as well run it also.  That was my first marathon, I did not train enough, when the more accomplished runners said I need to run 7 days a week, I did 3 days.  However, broken at the end, walking for the majority of the last 4 miles, I managed a respectable time under 4 hours.  I was not going to do another but, people kept asking, “Have you done London” and so, a few years later, eventually running every day for 17 weeks, before the London marathon, I can now say “Yes” to that question.

Official London Marathon time

The training has been a struggle but, at 61 the time I achieved is something I am proud of.  Running is not for everyone, but we have to do something to assist ourselves in leading the best and healthiest life possible.

Ask yourself – When you are ill, what is your desire? and, If you could talk to yourself in the future, would you be thanking yourself for a healthier body? It is never too late to start 😊

Carole with her London Marathon medal

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Let’s Get Talking About Cancer: Allyson’s Story

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Talking about cancer is really important. Allyson lives in the East Riding of Yorkshire and began her career in the NHS at the age of 17. After retiring, Allyson noted that she had ‘never really been ill’ until she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019.

“My breast cancer was identified during a breast screening appointment. Following my diagnosis, I underwent surgery and 15 sessions of radiotherapy.

“After finishing treatment, I wanted to do something to raise money for Breast Cancer Now, so I applied for the The Moonwalk in London (walk 26.2 miles at night!).”

In December 2019, Allyson was training for the Moonwalk event and walking two miles a day but despite regular exercise, Allyson had started to notice that she was putting on weight around her stomach and in March 2020, she also started experiencing stomach pains.

“I spoke to my GP and one of my prescribed drugs, which prevented osteoporosis (a potential side effect of breast cancer) had recently changed from a branded product to the generic drug, so we thought this may be the cause.

“Since it was the start of the pandemic, seeing a GP for a stomach ache didn’t feel appropriate, but it only got worse over the next few weeks and by May 2020, I looked five months pregnant. I decided to contact my GP again and this time I was booked in for a face-to-face appointment.”

Allyson’s GP submitted a referral for an urgent scan however, two days later her symptoms had become worse so she returned to the GP and was admitted to hospital for a CT scan. Whilst in hospital, Allyson had six litres of fluid drained and five days later she was told that she had ovarian cancer.

“I was very weak and frightened. Following an MRI scan, it was decided I would have four sessions of chemotherapy and in September 2020 I underwent surgery.

“When I was diagnosed, I didn’t know the symptoms of ovarian cancer but I’d encourage women to familiarise themselves with B.E.A.T.

Coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis

“Receiving the ovarian cancer diagnosis was devastating for me and my family. It felt like being woken up in the middle of the night and thrown into the ocean without a life raft. I was so frightened and all I could think about was my death. I felt so alone.

“My husband became my carer and made sure I was eating and drinking properly. After a few months, I started to feel stronger physically and mentally and wanted to take back some control. I began looking at my diet and exercise, as well as investigating ways to manage my mental health.

“Women with ovarian cancer are three times more likely to develop mental health problems and I knew I was struggling. Thankfully, I found Ovacome, an ovarian cancer charity that supported me in my time of need.

“Through Ovacome, I met other women with a diagnosis who have since become dear friends that I couldn’t have managed without. I was a strong, independent woman when I was diagnosed with cancer for the second time, but it made me feel vulnerable, yet determined to do something to help myself and other women with a diagnosis.”

“I knew I needed to get fit for surgery and to help with the recovery after, so when I saw a challenge to run 60 miles for Cancer Research UK, I decided to try and walk it instead. I started to walk again, albeit slowly on some days following the chemotherapy. I was very weak, but feeling the weather on my face made me feel so much better.

“In the month prior to my surgery, I walked 70 miles. It wasn’t easy but I was determined to be as fit as I could be. In the month after surgery, I’m proud to say I walked 26 miles and have continued to walk every day since, whatever the weather.

“Walking has been my salvation. As I came to the end of my chemotherapy treatment, I set a goal of walking 1000 miles in 2021.

“When I realised I was walking a marathon a week, my goal changed to 52 marathons in 52 weeks. Sometimes I’d walk with my husband, other days alone, in silence, listening to the sound of each step like a sort of meditation.

“There were other times where I struggled, too, usually because of the ‘scan anxiety’ common among women like me. Slowly, I learned to face my fears. One day I loudly sang Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive while sobbing, which helped with my ‘I can do this!’ attitude. Luckily, we live in the countryside, so nobody saw me!

Walking together

“During one of my walks, at a time when I was receiving lots of messages of support from others, I came up with the idea of creating a virtual walking group for women with ovarian cancer. I got in touch with Ovacome, who had helped me previously, and we created the Walk With Me group.

Walk With Me is a friendly and supportive group that helps people with Ovarian to achieve their individual walking goals. The group connects virtually on WhatsApp to share friendship, encouragement, stories, and photos of the wonderful things they see on walks. We also have a Strava club where people can share their routes and congratulate each other.

“Walk With Me isn’t about the distance; it’s about supporting each other through ovarian cancer and sharing our experiences. With the support of the women in the group, I achieved my goal and walked 55.3 marathons in 52 weeks. That even included a few weeks with plantar fasciitis, but nothing was going to stop me!

“I now only do things that bring me joy every day and walking has become that for me.

“I face my fears as they arise, but know whilst cancer has changed me, it does not define me. It has been a real opportunity for change in my life for which I am grateful.”

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Let’s workout like a weekend superstar – health benefits of exercise

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Exercise always seems to be that one thing many of us would like to give more time to yet we always seemed to struggle to fit it in.

Busy lives often means that the only spare time we have for exercise is a weekend, whether its going to the gym, out for a run or a home workout.

Guidelines suggest that adults should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week to maintain good health and there has also been debate about whether cramming all that exercise into a weekend is beneficial.

The good news is that ‘weekend warriors’ – who might only have a few spare hours each week to exercise can still achieve the benefits that come from regular exercise.

The key message is that doing some physical activity is better than doing nothing at all, exercise combined with a good diet is essential for good health.

We spoke to local GP Dr Abbie Brooks to get her top tips for getting more movement into your everyday life as well as her training for the 2023 London Marathon and how she rediscovered her enthusiasm for exercise.

The Covid pandemic and subsequent lockdowns really affected my approach to exercise, I went from running regularly, managing to get to the gym, eating well and feeling good to struggling to figure out how to work a routine into my day to day life.

Work continues to be crazy busy and the work/life balance is a struggle but for me I know if I move, I feel energised, it improves my sleep and helps me to feel less exhausted.

I am a doctor and so know the benefits of regular exercise but I also appreciate how hard it can be especially when we can be so exposed to what is perceived as perfect lifestyles on social media. I work long hours and have two kids, the struggle to fit exercise in to my weekly routine is real. 

For me, being able to get back to parkrun is when my enthusiasm perked up finally got some rhythm and mojo back. Exercising is a social thing for me, parkrun is always followed by a chat and a coffee. I slowly started to get on my spin bike more regularly and head out for an occasional run. I really started to enjoy doing some basic strength work – the benefits of this are huge!

Exercise should be fun and we should all move for enjoyment. Sometimes we feel pressured to enjoy a certain type of exercise or only do things we are good at. I used to go to classes at the gym just for the sake of it, not because I enjoyed it, but now I know the time I have to exercise is precious so choose the activities that bring me joy. 

Running is hard, I remember starting couch to 5k in January of 2017. I was felt unfit, a fraud and found running even two minutes so hard. I trusted the process and managed to run my first ever 5km at parkrun in the May of that year. Running because a therapy for me, I needed the headspace to process a bereavement but also give me time to myself away from work/parenting! I never expected I would be able to run a marathon six years later, but here we are.

It’s important to know why I exercise and what the benefit is. I like the feeling after accomplishing something; the glow after a run; I love to feel strong and full of energy; I want to be a role model for my kids and I want to be able to keep up with them! 

Take the small wins. Did you manage a 5-minute YouTube class? Walk the kids to school instead of hopping in the car? Win two games in a set? Whatever it might be, celebrate yourself.

I never ever thought I would have been able to train for a marathon, join local tennis leagues or lift heavy weights. Yet here we are. Goals help me to provide some structure, but they are guidelines not rules. Do not beat yourself up if you miss a workout or sleep through a parkrun alarm. There is always another opportunity to get moving, take the pressure off and enjoy the process.

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Let’s eat healthy – 6 ways to eating better on a budget

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Making sure you eat a healthy balanced diet isn’t always easy – particularly when you’re on a budget or trying to spend less, with the cost of living, you might be feeling the pinch more than ever before.

It’s not all bad, there are some easy ways in which you can save money and still eat well, a few small changes to your shopping and cooking can help make your money go further whilst being healthy.

Dig out your recipe books

We are not all born culinary experts. So its just as well that the BBC Good Food site has a range of brilliant recipes for every occasion – including a budget recipe collection

Plus, if you use social media, you can find loads of inspiration on Instagram and TikTok

Switch up your snacks

Making better decision when it comes to snacking can help you feel better and fuller for longer.

Nuts are a good source of protein, coconut can help regulate blood pressure during times of stress, bananas contain vitamin B6, which releases serotonin and helps regulate blood sugars. Dried fruit is also a good choice for a healthy sugar lift, plus they are full of fibre and iron.

And don’t forget the humble apple. It’s a hunger busting snack rich in fibre and antioxidants.

Cook larger portions

Cooking larger meals can save you time and money. Your leftovers can be used for lunch the next day, be frozen for later, or reused in stews and stir fries.

Having leftover for the next day is a great way to stop you from spending money on your lunch break or eating out in the evening.

Make a list and stick to it

This sounds like an obvious one but take time to plan your meals before you head to the shops. Think about each meal and the ingredients you need and make a list – it’s a good idea to plan meals with similar ingredients so you use up what you buy. By knowing what you need you can shop smarter and reduce waste.

Buy frozen

People often think that frozen food isn’t as nutritious, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Frozen fruits and vegetables can be more affordable than buying from the chilled aisle and it can help reduce waste.

Frozen veg is great for adding to curries, stir fries and stews, while frozen berries can liven your breakfast.

Do the maths

Just because something is on offer doesn’t always mean it is the best value, its always worth checking out the price per gram or litre.

Taking time to do the maths while you shop will let you know where the real savings are. Yes, it can take more time, but if you are on a budget or trying to spend less every penny counts.