Lessons in decluttering


Tiny word, huge meaning. It is for me, anyway. I’ve talked about decluttering before but since then, I have to be honest, things didn’t really improve much. Especially after we bought out house and moved from a fairly large house with many rooms into a much cosier home, and then I also moved out of my teacher’s flat which meant that a whole other round of stuff got added to the mix. Two out of the three bedrooms in our house have been pretty choc-full of stuff ever since. And it’s really gotten me down. It’s a constant, mild annoyance and frustration that isn’t ever urgent enough to do something about but is always a drain and does sometimes cause real problems like not being able to find things and having to fill our bedroom with junk if we actually need to use the office or have guests stay in the spare bedroom.

And it seems to be a bit of a theme in my life. The spaces in which I work (music room, store room, desk filing cabinet) were a huge, clutter-filled mess when I arrived. The person I took over from left in rather a hurry, so much so that she hadn’t packed up any of her personal stuff and my desk was still full of her personal items (photo frames etc) for about 2 weeks after I started work! I have been slowly but surely decluttering the music room and music store room for 4 years now, but aside from the initial push to make the store room usable when I first arrived, there’s always been something else more urgent that needed to be done so it has been slow progress.

Similarly, my two personal email inboxes have been steadily filling up with newsletters and other things I’ve subscribed to for many years now. My main personal inbox (gmail) has over 1600 unread emails in it at the moment. My other almost-abandoned inbox (hotmail) had many more than that. I check the gmail very regularly and deal with anything urgent and important. The hotmail, not so much. But once a year I generally try to do a big declutter and get rid of about 1000 emails in each inbox before taking a break and not getting back to it.

Well, September has definitely been my month to declutter! I have been saying for a long time that I wanted to and in one way or another I’ve been forced to this month. It started at work, when we had to get painting and new carpeting done which meant everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) had to be moved out of the store room, music room and our staff room. This made for a huge week in the lead up to the school holidays and a massive last day of school where I clocked up 21,000 steps but it forced me to go through everything. I was able to throw a lot away and I know there will be more to do when we put everything back at the beginning of Term 4. Massive amount of work but such a great opportunity and I know that the external deadline was what made me really work hard at it.

The home front has been going in dribs and drabs over the last year. We made some small progress at home when we moved into the new house and got rid of some things and again when we had a  garage sale in June. But the office was still a big problem for me as it was barely usable and that had been a huuuuuge pain to me for a while. So these holidays, I made a concerted effort to really, finally and once and for all sort my side of it out. I’ll see if I can find some pictures to emphasise how much of a difference it’s made but I’m so glad I did it. It’s not totally completed but I have cleared both my desks and done a lot of filing and even more shredding! Buying a shredder was the best decision ever because a lot of paper stuff I was holding on to only because I didn’t want to throw it out because it posed an identity fraud risk. So I got a cross-shredder. I um-ed and ah-ed about it for, well, over a year actually because I didn’t want to add yet another item to our office appliance list, plus I didn’t want to spend the money. But in the end it really wasn’t expensive (only $60) and so worth it for the amount of benefit I feel I’ve gained through using it! I have also got yet another pile of books to donate to LifeLine and almost everything has a place now, which makes me feel so calm.

These holidays have actually been really great for decluttering at home as I have also made some progress decluttering the wardrobe in our bedroom and also the kitchen and bathroom cupboards. Unfortunately the spare bedroom is still a junk room but I plan to have that sorted by Christmas. I’m on a declutter roll now, so I’ll just keep chipping away at it piece by piece!

So then today came the final lesson. Don’t they say messages come in threes? Well, I’m hearing this message loud and clear about the importance of reducing clutter in my life. Today, for the first time in ages I logged into my hotmail account. There was some pop-up message saying something about ‘Welcome to Outlook’ that I clicked past without reading it properly. And there in my inbox was one lonely email from Microsoft, welcoming me to my ‘new inbox’.

New inbox indeed.

Everything else was gone. All of my folders along the sidebar that I’d had carefully organised with different categories: gone. Every single email in my inbox that was as yet unread and unsorted: gone. Ten years worth of digital history, completely wiped out.

I tried recovering deleted emails and importing emails from other inboxes and changing my account settings and everything else my searches were telling me. But the one message in all the forums and searches that came up over and over was that once I’d done the basic recovery tactics, if they didn’t work it was all pretty much gone forever.

To say that I was shocked, angry and upset is a bit of an understatement. I really was furious and I still am a bit annoyed at the inconvenience this is going to cause. But at the same time, I feel relief and a sense of freedom. This wasn’t an email address that I used regularly but it was my main address in my early adulthood so a lot of my digital history was there. It’s the address I used to sign up to a myriad of different accounts and services, got receipts sent to and had an awful lot of personal emails in. It’s a big loss. And yet, for several years now I’d been contemplating getting rid of this email address altogether but had known it would require a bit of work to sift through everything and change accounts etc, and it wasn’t urgent so that task just kept getting put off.

Until today, when the choice was taken out of my hands. Once I’d gotten over the shock of it and after I’d ranted and raved at my husband about how unfair it is  and completely stupid of Microsoft because they’ve lost my future email business (they have), I went for a long walk in the fragrant evening air and I felt….better. Free-er. Calmer. Lighter.

I’m actually kind of glad it happened! I can’t believe I’m saying that but…I kind of am! Now I can get down to the practical tasks of changing my email address in the important places and closing the account. I’ve lost a big chunk of digital past, but I feel that it’s making way for a new, better, brighter digital future.

And I feel that this will only spur my decluttering plans on for the rest of the year because reducing stuff also reduces stress and that is SO worth it.

Now it’s your turn: Can you find 25 things in your house to get rid of? You can either throw them away or donate if they are in good condition. And how is your email inbox looking? Can you declutter 25 items from there too? I promise you that you will feel lighter for it!

Choose Your Own Agenda with West End Matcha

Today on the blog I’m starting something new: the Choose Your Own Agenda Interview Series!
There are so many ways to live life, and although it’s easy to get stuck in a ‘this is how things are done so this is how I have to do it’ pattern of thinking, there are already many, many people choosing their own agenda for their lives. My purpose with the blog started as a way to simply document how I was creating my own harmony agenda. But over the nearly 2 years that I have had the blog, my own agenda has evolved, I’ve begun a side-business and I really want to expand The Harmony Agenda to inspire as many people as possible to choose the life they want. I have plans to make a podcast to this end also, but for now, I’m starting here and now with an interview series that seeks to show the many and varied ways other people are making their dreams reality.
Today’s interviewee is the beautiful Rebekah from West End Matcha. Bek is a dear friend of mine, a fellow teacher and Japanese-speaker, who has just spent the better part of the last two years (same time I’ve been blogging actually!) tripping around the world with her partner, Adam. They’ve just launched their Matcha business and are coming to the end of their travels (for now) so it’s a great time to find out how they’re choosing their own agenda.
What is matcha and how is it different/why is it better than normal tea?

Well the main difference is that unlike regular green tea, which is made by steeping the tea leaves in hot water, matcha is the whole leaf that has been ground into a fine powder and is mixed into the water that you drink. So when you drink matcha, you are actually ingesting the whole leaf and all of the healthy goodness that it possesses. The health properties of green tea have been extensively researched and matcha, being a purer and more concentrated version of green tea is packed full of nutrients that have a positive effect on our bodies. Matcha has been linked to cancer prevention due to it’s high concentration of antioxidants which is 137 times that of regular green tea.  It’s high theanine content helps to alleviate stress and anxiety. It has also been found to help boost the body’s metabolism, clear the skin and lower blood sugar levels. The list of potential benefits goes on and on but you get the picture!

Matcha actually comes from the same plant family as green and black tea. However, how it is grown, harvested and processed is quite different. Unlike regular green tea, the growing conditions for matcha are quite specific, making it rare and more expensive. For example, matcha tea leaves are grown under shade for the last 20-30 days before harvest to boost the amount of chlorophyll and nutrients in the leaves. They are then hand picked, steamed briefly and air-dried before being deveined, de-stemmed and stone-ground into a fine powder.  Only a few places in Japan produce matcha and now it is in even more demand than ever.

Can you explain a bit about the Japanese tea making and drinking philosophy?

The Japanese have been producing and drinking matcha since the 12th century. It has always been associated with medication, meditation and ritual. A Japanese Zen Buddhist priest is said to have been the first in Japan to begin cultivating green tea for medicinal purposes. The samurai class began to drink it too and it was through them that the tea ceremony was born and dispersed throughout Japan.  In Japan, the traditional tea ceremony is an art form that people actually study. In Japanese it is called, “the way of tea” and there are many similarities between it and Japanese martial arts. The ceremony consists of a set of pre-defined movements and ultimately comes down to spiritual discipline and preparing tea from the heart.image1

When drinking matcha, whether you are participating in the ceremony or sitting at home, the purpose should be to feel present in the moment. It is about appreciating the simple things such as the feel and beauty of the cup, the taste of the tea and the company of friends. Matcha is pure and simple – so drinking it is exactly that, a moment of pure simplicity.

What drew you to the idea of selling matcha?

That’s a good question. I have loved matcha ever since I participated in my first tea ceremony on a school trip to Japan over ten years ago. I was fascinated by the ritual, the taste of the tea and the calmness I felt during the ceremony. Since then I have taken part in many tea ceremonies and those feelings come back every time.

I had always enjoyed the ceremony but never thought of matcha as something that could be enjoyed at home or used as an ingredient in food. For the last year, my partner, Adam and I have been living in Japan. We have always been into our health, but recently we have stepped it up a notch, really paying attention to our bodies and making healthy choices. One habit we were finding hard to kick, however, was coffee. We love our coffee!

One day, Adam confessed to me that he was buying a matcha latte on the way to work a couple of days a week instead of having a coffee. I became interested and we got ourselves a bag of matcha and a whisk to start drinking it at home. Before long, I had completely replaced my morning coffee for a morning matcha. But what was most surprising were the physical effects I was feeling. Recently, after I stopped taking my birth control pill, I had been experiencing hormonal acne which no matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to control. After swapping my coffee for matcha it completely cleared up. I was also finding that my energy levels after drinking matcha lasted longer than coffee and there was no nasty side effects like a racing heart or that awful ‘mid-morning crash’. Matcha does contain caffeine, but only 34mg per gram compared to coffee which is usually 80mg.  In short, I was sold. Pretty soon I was adding it to smoothies, pancakes and even yoghurt. It was Adam that suggested we try selling it in Australia, what we didn’t realise was how trendy it was already becoming!

You and Adam have just spent the better part of 2 years travelling the world. To me this is the perfect example of ‘choosing your own agenda’. Can you tell me a little bit about how you made this happen?

Over the last few years my attitude towards life has gone through some dramatic changes. I had always been a pleaser, a stressor and to be honest, a bit of a complicator when it came to my health, relationships and work. I needed a change and so, at the end of 2013, Adam and I decided to leave our jobs and go on a two year trip around the world. This meant we had to do some major simplifying (and some major saving!). When we finally got our life down to two relatively small back packs, we were amazed at how little we really needed and how free and content we were with that. We set off on our adventure and after a year travelling through Europe, we finally settled in Japan which would be our home for over 12 months.

image3Instead of accumulating more ‘stuff’ and going back our old ways of thinking about the world, we continued to keep things simple and found real happiness living with less and looking after ourselves better. What we also found was that we had a new found confidence to create our own agendas for life. I used to make excuses and ‘I can’t do that!’, was a common phrase in my vocabulary. Now it has been replaced with ‘why not?’ and that has opened up the door to so many more exciting experiences and adventures, like this idea to sell matcha.

What’s on the agenda for you both in the next year? Where do you see yourselves this time next year?

In the next few months we are making the transition back to Australia. We are looking forward to settling back into the Brisbane area and catching up properly with all of our friends and family.

Our agenda for the next year is to keep things simple, look after ourselves and be the best people we can be. What we think that involves at the moment is growing our matcha business in the community of Brisbane/South East Queensland, whilst maintaining a healthy work life balance with our day jobs. Previously I probably would have said that it can’t be done. Now I just say, why not?


Why not indeed! You can check out West End Matcha here. I’ve already ordered my first bag of matcha, when are you ordering yours?

Fitness Friday: Fitbit update

This week’s Fitness Friday is brought to you by Ellen, not Stuart!


As you may remember, at the start of the month I bought a Fitbit as a way to track my steps and encourage myself to be more active on a daily basis. I had used a pedometer before, as well as a pedometer app on my phone, and loved them, but both options had some built-in impracticalities (like having to have your phone in your pocket all the time!).

In the last post about the Fitbit I was about 1 week into using it and I really loved it. Well, 4 weeks in, I still absolutely love it!

Why, you might ask? For starters it’s just so flipping easy to use. Put it on your wrist and forget about it! Unlike the annoyingness of having a pedometer strapped to your waistband or a phone in your pocket (a problem if your outfit for the day has no waistband or pockets), I just put it on instead of my watch and it has never once caused me a problem. I take it off to shower and usually (but not always) take it off for yoga, but that’s also exactly what I used to do with my watch. Plus, it does actually have an in-built digital time-keeping device so it doubles as a watch as well.

Another reason is that because it is so easy to use and I can easily forget about it, when I do remember to check it I’ve often been really pleasantly surprised by how many steps I’ve done in the day. Today for example, I’ve just been pottering around at home and by 2pm I’ve done 5,000 steps! This becomes incredibly motivating because then I try harder for the rest of the day to make sure I reach the 10,000 step goal.

I have actually not found it too difficult to reach the 10,000 step mark almost every day. Especially on school days, when I’m very active in the course of my work, I usually don’t even need to go for a dedicated walk in order to reach the goal. But even on days at home, unless I’m having a particularly sedentary day (i.e. binge watching Gilmore Girls!) it only takes a couple of laps of my local park to reach the 10,000 steps.

The Fitbit Charge, the version I bought, also tracks other things, like time spent active, calories burnt and sleep. I do check these but at the moment I’m not really focusing on them. I know that 10,000 steps means I’ve done my minimum amount of activity for the day. The sleep one is handy to look at but I try not to pay too much attention to it because I would rather go by how I feel when I wake as to whether I’m sleeping well rather than see that I was ’15 times restless’ through the night and then worry about my sleep quality even if I feel refreshed.


So, would I recommend getting some kind of wrist-watch fitness tracker to others? Absolutely! Hands down this has been an excellent investment in my self-care. It’s cheaper than a gym membership by far and as walking is my favourite kind of exercise anyway, it’s suited me very well. Plus, I have found that it’s made me make more of an effort to be just a little more active than usual and I really do feel a difference in my overall wellbeing because of it. I haven’t measured my waist or checked my weight but I feel like I’ve either lost weight or slimmed down a bit. That wasn’t the goal, but it’s a nice bonus! I highly recommend the Fitbit, or any wrist-band fitness tracking device, especially if you are like me and needing to step into (haha, get it?) your exercise regime slowly.


Major Self-Care Fail

Ah the irony! It’s Self-Care September, I’m busy working away on my Self-Care E-Course and having a great time writing guest blog posts and really throwing myself into the content creation for the future of The Harmony Agenda. And everything seemed to be chugging along just fine….

Until it wasn’t, that is.

So September is the busiest time of year for Queensland high school teachers. We have this thing called Verification. It’s basically all the work from all the year 12s that has to be packaged up along with a bunch of paperwork and, if you are like me and teach a subject that doesn’t only produce written artefacts, also CDs and DVDs of student work. It’s a big job with a very strict deadline. That being said, after the first year I’d done it (when of course I didn’t know what to expect or how long it all would take) I managed quite well the following few years because I was organised and on top of things, I planned my time well and I made sure I started working on it early.

But not this year. Oh no. This is my 5th year of teaching, so surely I’m an old hand at it now? And besides, I had more important and more urgent things to be worrying about this year, like buying a house and getting married and going on a honeymoon. In total, I had 8 weeks off this year, which is a significant amount of time out of the usual teaching and planning and marking and reporting and organising cycle. Add to that the fact that when we came home from our big holiday and I started back at work in August, there was a lot of other stuff to catch up on and some more urgent things to worry about. Verification was still weeks away and the last few years it went so well so I didn’t need to worry.

Ha! Serves me right for being so complacent! And also for completely forgetting that I hadn’t done any of the usual little tasks (like organising and labelling the files on school network) that I normally do along the way to make sure this time of year doesn’t turn out, well, like it turned out this year.

It’s not rocket science stuff, it’s not even that hard (once you know what to do) but is is time-consuming. And boy, did I underestimate the time it was going to take me. Add in some major tech dramas that meant that everything took 10x longer than usual, and I ended up having to put in an awful lot of extra hours over the last fortnight than I’d have liked.

I didn’t get enough sleep, I worked some very long days, I spent more nights in Esk than usual (including weekend nights) and I let my nutrition slide because I was busy and lazy and away from home and my normal routine of meal planning and batching went out the window. I also experienced a great deal of stress during this time, which is never good, and really compounds everything. The things I think I did do well during this time was to make sure I kept getting my 10,000 steps a day, make sure to allow myself time to stop work (even if that was at the end of a looooong day) and also to continue to connect with my loved ones during this time.

But at the end of it all, I woke up on the first morning of the school holidays with a raging head cold. For the last 36 hours I have had continuously streaming eyes and nose, as well as major fatigue and a sore throat. I realise that this is my body’s way of ensuring that I rest and recover, instead of launching into the holidays with too much gusto to tackle all the many tasks I want to do over the break. I also realise that had I looked after myself better over not just the last two weeks but the whole year, I would have set myself up better for a much easier and less stressful Verification period and possibly a cold-free holiday.

Alas, not this year. This year I am taking my self-care fail in my stride, amping up the sleep and good nutrition and forgiving myself and my body.

What about you? Have you ever reached a point where a series of little self-care fails led to a major hiccup and/or an illness?

Fitness Friday: Exercise is for everyone!

By Stuart Keene, Exercise Physiologist

Hello readers! I trust you have all had an active and healthy week. This week we will look fairly shallowly into recommended amounts of exercise various populations should be performing. I say shallowly, because there are different sets of rules for every section of the populations, be it healthy or ill, and it is impossible to cover them all. I will, however, cover recommended levels of exercise for patients with common conditions, the variables involved, and for the rest of the population.

“Healthy population” applies to those individuals who do not have chronic disease. General fitness itself does not have impact on this population. There are of course minimum amounts of exercise people should be doing, but there also is no maximum. The bare minimum amount of exercise a healthy individual should be doing is:

Frequency – 5 to 7 days per week
Intensity – 65% – 85% of maximum heart rate (220 – age) for cardiovascular exercise
Time – 30 minutes minimum
Type – Combination of cardiovascular and resistance work. 12+ multi-muscle group exercises. Flexibility/Stretching is recommended in addition.

Keep in mind these levels are for keeping “healthy”. For athletes or those looking for that little bit extra, you would certainly be wanting to increase things such as the intensity and time. The type of exercise is also variable depending on your goals. For example, a body builder spends much less time doing cardio based exercise and lots more on resistance training, as opposed to a triathlete who needs to do a lot of cardio work.

A common illness, particularly amongst those 60 years and over, is heart disease. Until recent decades, people who had heart attacks or cardiac events were told to do as little as possible to avoid risking further heart issues. Thankfully, times change and exercise is now an integral part of cardiac rehabilitation. Similarly to many other chronic illnesses, the frequency, intensity, time and type (FITT) of the exercise regime is very different to those without chronic disease. The frequency and time remains the same (movement every day is so important), but the intensity and type must be altered to avoid excess stress on a healing heart. A reduced intensity (beginning at approximate 45%/50% of HRMax) and a higher emphasis on cardiovascular exercise is the more appropriate recommendation.

Unfortunately, things are never as simple as they appear in the exercise rehabilitation world. Many medications and some illnesses make using heart rate as a measure for intensity impossible. Many individuals that have suffered cardiac events take Beta-Blocker medications, amongst many other prescriptions. This particular one is designed to control the heart rate by permanently lowering it, and giving them a lower maximum heart rate as well. As an example, a client with a heart rate of 85bpm on a cross-trainer, may in fact be working a lot harder than this number suggests.

Using an RPE chart (Google it) to find the intensity is a much more accurate tool. Other common medications such as thyroxine, asthma meds, and blood pressure meds will alter the heart rate at rest and during exercise, so you need to alter the intensity accordingly.

In recent years, high intensity interval training (HIIT) has become increasingly popular in gyms, and surprisingly, in rehab processes. High intensity can be classed as working higher than 80% of your estimated max heart rate constantly. There is still a LOT of research to be conducted to clear this form of training as “safe” but it is an interesting turnaround from the days of not moving the client at all for recovery.

For the rest of the population, HIIT is a form of training that can get your daily exercise in a shorter period of time. Obviously, for those with injuries, fatigue, poor overall fitness, or even disinterest, this may not be for you. In saying that, the current research shows that HIIT has many wonderful benefits and seems to be superior to lesser intensity exercise for healthy populations where weight loss is increased, lung capacity increased, cardiac efficiency increased and, perhaps most importantly, decreased time spent in the gym!

If you are just beginning an exercise regime, please do so safely and smartly by not jumping into things at full pace at the start. No matter who you are though, please remember to move daily. Movement is life after all.

Next week we will talk about exercise and diabetes, an illness having a massive impact on all age groups in today’s society!


Guest post!

Just a quick and exciting announcement to start the weekend: I have just been featured as a guest blog post talking about Self-Care September on Mind, Body, Food with Viki Thondley!

I’m super excited because it’s my first real guest post. I also had an article published in a holistic magazine last year, but other than that, I’ve not shared my writing with anyone other than here on my blog (and even that has been fairly haphazard). I’ve also shared my writing, of course, with my Self-Care Matters e-course participants, who so far seem to be really enjoying it and getting a lot out of it.

I plan to do a lot more writing in the coming months, both for my blog and as a guest poster on other websites. I have finally figured out my purpose and honed my message enough to feel like I know exactly what I want to share and spread.

So this is the first of many guest posts. I am excited and I celebrate it as a lovely milestone. I’m grateful for having the guts to put myself forward and also, of course, very thankful to Viki for giving me the opportunity and featuring me not only on her website but sharing my blog with her newsletter subscribers too. I highly recommend Viki’s blog and her coaching services too. She does fantastic work around holistic wellness, eating psychology and meditation, as well as delicious whole-food recipes like this one.

Check out the article here and watch this space for more updates on my writing successes!

Fitness Friday: Choose your own exercise agenda!

by Stuart Keene

Hello again readers! I hope you’ve all had an active week, or at least began a new routine or started planning a new one. Cricket training for me has been a major aspect of my exercise regime for many years. For those who are not familiar with the ins and outs of cricket practice, it can be quite strenuous depending on your aims for the session. I’ve always been a bowler which requires short sprint bursts, with an explosive action at the end. Top this with fielding and batting practice, you can be thoroughly exhausted after two hours.

However, in recent times bowling has finally taken a toll on my body and I have suffered from a knee meniscus problem, along with shin and foot issues. This season will most definitely be my last competitive one (maybe, probably) and I need to begin finding other ways to keep up my physical activity. Even from an exercise specialist’s point of view, I’m finding it fairly difficult. Team sports, and sports in general has always been my thing. I work in gyms, but quite honestly do not enjoy the atmosphere of them. So, what else is there?

A major drawcard to get people into a regular exercise routine is by getting into it with a partner/friend/family member. At my workplace, we encourage our clients (primarily male) to bring their wives free of charge. This has been an excellent strategy for several reasons. The main feedback I’ve received is that they feel responsible for bringing the other person along to the gym. If one person is feeling a bit lackadaisical, the other strongly points them in the right direction, until eventually it becomes part of their daily routine, rather than an extra chore.

If you are struggling to get into an exercise routine, why not invite a friend to join you? Do not be afraid if they are fitter/stronger/healthier than you, because being the wonderful friend that they are, they will most likely love to help you through the process and slow down when necessary.

Most people will think of the gym when they hear exercise, but there are so many other choices. Team sports are a wonderful medium to get back into exercise. Being in that team environment can be a bit daunting to begin with, but the fun factor will eventually override those fears in addition to the social interaction. Certainly one advantage sport has over gyms is the variations week to week. For many people, the monotony of gyms can become tiresome, so why not mix it up to keep that enjoyment of your exercise sky high?

For those without hugely sporty backgrounds, more gentle exercise could be your thing. Yoga and pilates have become massively popular forms of exercise, and for good reason. Don’t get me wrong, they are not EASY but they do avoid the high intensity that could be a foreign, and unwanted, feeling for some. There are many beginner classes and the better instructors will guide you through at a pace and level that is appropriate.

Swimming and hydrotherapy (do not get the two confused), are useful tools for both the rehabilitation setting and for general exercise. Most major towns and cities have heated pools now too so there is not excuse to avoid water in the cooler months! Freestyle, backstroke, butterfly and breast stroke are widely known and are fantastic forms of cardiovascular exercise. However, these may not be appropriate for people with certain injuries, or simply because you are a bit unco! This doesn’t mean you should give up on the water though. Simply walking on the bottom of a pool at pace can get the heart rate racing. You can actually perform any type of exercise in the water, but without the excess strain on the joints, making it a wonderful rehabilitation tool.

Love gyms but don’t have the time or the money? Buy yourself some home exercise equipment. You do not need an entire garage these days either to give yourself a decent kit. Elastic resistance bands are more than okay as replacements for dumbbells if you want to do it on the cheap or to save space. There are countless treadmills/bikes/x-trainers/rowers for sale online to choose from before you go to the shops.

Finally, simple ol’ walking or jogging could the choice for you. You can put as much effort in as you like, it is relatively easy on the joints, gets you out in the fresh air (treadmills excluded), helps relieve stress/anxiety and most importantly gets that cardiovascular exercise we all need. If I was to prescribe one exercise for someone for the rest of their lives, it would be walking. As soon as we lose our ability to walk independently, our health dramatically decreases.

So, what form of exercise/s will you choose? Next week we will look at the clinical recommendations of exercise for various populations. Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type (FITT).

If you have any questions regarding today’s segment or anything else related, please don’t hesitate to comment below or shoot me an email (stuart_keene@hotmail.com)

Self-Care Tracking

Announcement: a little over a week ago, I purchased a fit-bit and I flipping love it!

In case that sounds like gibberish to you, a fit-bit is a little wrist-band that is fitted with a pedometer as well as some other tracking gadgets (it also works out how many kilometres you have travelled and how many calories you burn etc). It also doubles as a watch which I like, even if I had to get over my digital watch snobbery!

I have wanted one of these for aaaaages. Then a colleague at work said she wanted one and we decided to do it together so we could ‘spring into action this spring’. We both want to make exercise more of a priority and I know from past experience that a pedometer is hugely helpful to me in being consistent with my physical activity. But, in the past I used a pedometer app on my phone which did help a lot but it was a little cumbersome, I had to have my phone in my pocket all the time (no good for days when I wear skirts) and it also posed a problem at school because we have a ‘no mobile phones in class’ policy, so it made behaviour management difficult if students could see that I had my mobile with me.

So the fitness tracking wristband seemed like it came with all the benefits of the pedometer app but without the main three drawbacks that I experienced. And I’m happy to say that, one week in, it has not disappointed! Except for a the night after I’d had very little sleep (took the neighbours to the hospital at about 1am…long story, they’re all fine now, thankfully, but we were very tired the next day) I have hit my 10,000 step goal every day! It remains to be seen how long I can keep this up but I’m feeling hopeful as it is such a no-brainer to use and wear and being able to check my progress at the touch of a button throughout the day.

Physical activity is such an important part of self-care (which is why we’re including a regular Fitness Friday post on the blog now!) and tracking makes it kind of like a game! So I think this little gadget will become a must in my self-care toolkit, but it is early days yet. I’ll keep you posted!

Fitness Friday: introducing the Exercise Physiologist in residence!

by Stuart Keene

What is an Exercise Physiologist (EP) you may ask? We are the one of the newest members of the allied health sector and therefore, not as widely known as Physiotherapists or Podiatrists. The study of Exercise Physiology is the use of exercise and lifestyle therapies for the prevention and management of chronic disease, injury and disability. This covers a huge variety of illnesses including: cardiorespiratory, mental/psychological, hormonal, musculoskeletal, cancer and neurological. Quite often, particularly in older clientele, you will need to address two or three illnesses from each category, called comorbidities.

Regularly, I get asked how we differ from Personal Trainers or Physiotherapists. In the case of PTs, they are only allowed to treat ‘healthy populations’, or those at low risk. There are certainly crossovers with both PTs and physiotherapy. Providing a program to a low risk client can be done by both EPs and PTs, and qualified Pilates instructors can be found in both the exercise physiology and physiotherapy sectors.

Cardiorespiratory rehabilitation until recently was performed primarily by Physiotherapists, but is now leaning towards EPs due to the chronic illness specialisation. My limitations are outlined by the diagnosis of illness, disease or injury. I often have my suspicions about undiagnosed conditions, but only facts can be passed on to the client’s general practitioner or specialist for further analysis.

My career was never in plain sight until my third year of University. Originally, I was undertaking a double degree of Education and Human Movement Science, with eyes of becoming a Health and Physical Education Teacher. Like a great number students straight out of high school, I had NO clue what I wanted or who I wanted to be. And that still is the case to a lesser degree! I have always enjoyed the outdoors and keeping active, whether it was cricket, rugby league, fishing, or athletics, there was always something going on as a teenager. With that background, I thought Human Movement Science was a decent choice of degree, even when I dropped out of Education studies.

It wasn’t until my placement with a wonderful lady by the name of Narelle Humphries at the Rockhampton Base Hospital that I had a clearer picture of my career. By pure good fortune, a friend one year ahead of me recommended that I should try to do my placement hours there, and I have never looked back. There, I was introduced to cardiac rehabilitation and the role that exercise plays in returning someone to normal life after cardiac arrest, bypass surgery or cardiac stents. After completing my degree in Townsville, I moved to Toowoomba where I work as a contracted EP, working primarily with Returned Servicemen and Women.

As mentioned before, a lot of the older clients, or in my case, veterans will be referred with comorbidities, be that physical or mental. This makes my job challenging as prescribing exercise for one ailment, may be completely incorrect for another issue they present with. After initial consultation, a care plan will be devised to cater for all injury/illness/disease, in order of biggest priority to least. This is always in relation to the largest impact on their wellbeing. It is incredibly rare to have two similar care plans of two different high risk individuals. As an example, Client A and Client B have just both just had Cardiac Bypass Surgery. After clearance from the cardiologist, exercise intervention is started at low to moderate intensity to gradually build up their cardiovascular strength without putting excess strain on their tender bodies. It would be easy to stick them both on exercise bikes, treadmills, x-trainers, etc., but Client B may present with severe arthritis in his lower back, making the bike or various other exercises particularly painful.

There is never a one-size-fits-all program as the gyms and exercise equipment companies like to advertise. The fact is that whether you are high or low risk, your individual needs and wants could be completely different to the next person’s. The same individual care plans/programs are needed for ‘healthy people’, as they needed for the elderly or frail. Illness and injury aside, people have likes and dislikes when it comes to exercise. Many people do not enjoy gyms at all. Some people prefer team sports. Others would much prefer to lift weights all day than go anywhere near cardio machines.

If you are starting a new exercise regime, whether it be home, at the gym or in another form, make sure you are addressing all of your concerns before you begin, and then try to match that with something you find enjoyable. Next week, I will talk about the countless methods to get into your new routine, and the choices available for your individual programs.


Call now to book your session with Stuart on 0418 402 796

Self-Care September 30 Day Challenge and Self-Care Matters E-Course

It’s that time of year again and I can hardly contain my excitement! Welcome to Self-Care September for 2015!

What is your act of self-care for today?Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is one act of self-care per day for 30 days in a row. It’s about making YOU a priority and cultivating a daily habit of being kind to yourself. Easier said than done, but so worth it.
Today, I have practised self-care in many ways. Most importantly for me today was that I began my day with a little bit of yoga at home in my lounge room. What about you? What will your act of self-care be for today? Follow along with the 30 day challenge on Facebook and use the hashtag #selfcareseptember


The Self-Care Matters Course is here!

It’s FINALLY here! The aim of this course is to help you build a daily self-care practice, examine your ideas and beliefs about self-care including the sabotages that are holding you back from caring for yourself as much as you’d like, and exploring and experimenting with what self-care practices feel good for you. There is no one size fits all here. I will be guiding you and teaching some general principles, but the ultimate goal is for you to know yourself better and to truly know what actions support you to live your best life, and then to incorporate more of those so that you can feel your best.
Self-Care Matters-2

Every day you will receive an email from me with some information about self-care and an activity or exercise to complete. Often these will be journalling questions or some type of emotional exploration. Additionally, I encourage each of you to participate in the ’30 days of Self-Care’ challenge which involves taking at least one action every day that is kind to yourself. It could be a small thing, like painting your nails or reading a book, or a larger activity that requires a bit more time and planning, like booking a massage or decluttering a room in your home. Ideally, the 30 day challenge would be in addition to the 10 minutes you will already be spending working through the course. The idea is that these daily actions are a practical affirmation of your love for yourself and the fact that you deserve to be cared for and devote time to yourself.

So a little bit about me and why I’m teaching you all this. Well, in short, self-care has changed my life, and possibly saved it too. Nine years ago I was a very sick and unhappy young lady. During my university years I suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome, had chronic infections and was clinically depressed. Eventually I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and endometriosis. I have had surgery to treat both, and a number of therapies, both medical and alternative, to get well. But underneath it all was a lack of belief in and love for myself that led me to treat myself and allow others to treat me poorly. My journey with self-care has helped me recover from and manage my conditions, as well as be a better daughter, sister, wife, friend, patient, teacher and coach. I am far from perfect and I still have ongoing management of my health conditions. Like the laundry, you don’t do it once and then expect your clothes to stay clean forever! It’s a monthly, weekly and daily process that I have grown to love because I’ve seen what a difference it makes (the self
-care I mean, not the laundry!).
Disciplined and ongoing self-care has truly changed my life. Not all that many years ago I couldn’t walk over a hill without suffering post-exertional malaise for over a week, but in 2013 I climbed Mount Fuji in Japan and on a recent trip to Iceland I Self-Care Matters-2walked on a glacier! In 2008 I had to leave my part-time job and drop back to part-time university study. These days I’m working, studying and building a business. I have been not just practicing and experimenting with various forms of self-care, but I’ve also been studying it for the better part of the last decade. It is all of this information that I’m excited to share with you in this course.
I look forward to the next 30 days of self-discovery and self-care.