Working Out or Working In

Recently I have had a number of  discussions with clients who needed to go off plan for a session or two due to various reasons. This led me to thinking about the difference between “working out” and “working in”.

Hard training sessions seem to ” take” more than they “give” at that time. That’s working out. While a session with just the right level of difficulty for that day seems to “give” back. Meaning you can feel more energised than when you started. That’s what I would call working in.  Don’t get me wrong hard sessions are needed when you have big goals but when it’s not there it’s just not there. 


We hear it all the time. “I feel far better now” or “that’s just what I needed”.

Sometimes we come into the training studio knowing full well that the usual energy and motivation just isn’t at the level it normally is. This could be from almost anything. Injury, poor sleep, bad mood, sickness, seasonal changes and various other stresses that life seems to find. Whatever the reason may be, trying to pile more onto your plate  by having a hard training session may not always be the right move. Just because a hard session was planned does not mean it is set in stone. There is no shame or harm in doing an “easier” session. Oftentimes it’s just what the body wants. 


Personal training should be exactly that. Personal. We understand regular people aren’t robots and have lives outside the gym. It’s highly likely you also aren’t a professional athlete being paid for your physical prowess. This means that there is far more room to be flexible with almost every part of the plan. Things like scaling down the resistance, easier movement progressions, focusing on a different fitness quality or throwing the plan out the window and going off script. 

Little if any progress will be lost by toning it down sometimes while other things are going on in life.

Just my 2 cents. 


It’s getting hot in here

Getting uncomfortably hot in a small wooden room is not something most people are eager to do but a recent scientific review of 70 studies has come to some interesting conclusions about sauna use. Not only does the heat seem to relax but it seems that the heat stress is beneficial;


  1. Longevity (life span)
  2. Cardiovascular health and endurance.
  3. Brain health



Your body needs energy to survive. Mitochondria are tiny organelles inside most of your cells which  provide energy. The health of your mitochondria is essential to both your life and healthspan. The heat stress associated with sauna use has been shown to be beneficial for the health of existing mitochondria  as well as the creation of new ones. The heat stress also results in heat shock proteins being released which are known to improve longevity.

A 21 year long study in Finland has shown significant reductions in all cause mortality (any cause of death) by sauna usage. In fact the more the sauna was used the greater the results tended to be. Compared to only one sauna session per week for all cause mortality, sauna bathing 2-3 times per week was associated with a 24% lower risk of death and 4- 7 times per week with a 40% reduction in risk.  


Cardiovascular Health and  Performance

Heat stress lowers blood pressure, decreases arterial stiffness, lowers risk of cardiovascular disease and sudden cardiac death. Science has shown that while sauna use isn’t as effective on the muscular system as resistance exercise the cardiovascular benefits may be similar. These cardiovascular benefits are a big reason why all cause mortality rate is reduced in regular sauna users.

Cardiovascular health is improved but so is performance. A study showed that participants increased their time until exhaustion while running by 32% in three weeks by using the sauna for 30 minutes after their work out 2 times per week. This increase in endurance was enabled by a higher red blood count.


Brain health

Apart from massively  benefiting from the lower blood pressure and better blood flow, heat stress improves brain health by;

  • Increases the storage and release of norepinephrine, which improves attention and focus.
  • Increases prolactin, which causes your brain to function faster and helps to repair damaged neurons.
  • Increases BDNF, which causes the growth of new brain cells. This improves the ability for you to learn new information and retain it, and ameliorates certain types of depression and anxiety.
  • Causes a robust increase in dynorphin (discomfort chemicals), which results in your body becoming more sensitive to the ensuing endorphins (feel good chemicals).


Heat is a stress just like exercise which causes temporary discomfort followed by health benefits. Like anything don’t jump in too hard too fast. As long as your doctor says you can, aiming for at least two times per week for 20 minutes per session would be good to gain the above-mentioned benefits.  A 20 minute sauna maybe too uncomfortable to begin with and may have to be built up over time.

It seems that the more frequent the use of  the greater the benefits shown.

Hydrating before during and after the sauna is always a good idea. Combining alcohol with the sauna is never a good idea and do not use if you are pregnant.

A week in the life – a sports massage therapist at Ironman NZ

Once a year for 6 or 7 days I get to hang out in beautiful Taupo.

Before you start thinking about all the adventure seeking I must be doing, or the late afternoon lakeside wines I must be drinking, let me tell you now.  It is most definitely NOT a holiday, however it is fun, it is exciting, it is filled with laughter, and yes there are one or two glasses of wine consumed.


The week is known affectionately as Ironman Week.  On the first Saturday in March, Taupo hosts the NZ Ironman and for the last 14 years I have had the pleasure of being part of this amazing week.   If you think that the life of a sports massage therapist is hanging out with incredible athletes all day – well you would be right.  However as all my fellow colleagues can tell you, it is also a life that involves incredible hard work. You hardly ever get to see the games, races, and events that your clients participate in as you are either travelling, setting up, or prepping behind the scenes.


When I worked with one of our NPC rugby teams, I only ever got to watch the second half of every game.  When the team hit the field, I would take my opportunity to head back into the changing room and have my shower (I was the only female and depending on the stadium, I would usually have to duck into the ballboy (girl) changing area or borrow the refs showers.  Or I would ask the friendly security guy to not let anyone back into the main changing rooms while I showered – fingers-crossed no one got injured or concussed in those first few minutes and need to come back off the field. Needless to say I became a pro at showering & re-dressing fast.  Oh and also becoming aware of where the changing room t.v. cameras were situated.


Right back to Ironman week.  Ironman week begins a couple of days before you head to Taupo.  Making sure you have a weeks supply of linen, oil, waxes, etc etc.  Checking and rechecking that you have got everything that you may need.  Then packing it all so precisely, god forbid if you realise the night before that you have forgotten something! 14 years later I now do this with military precision.  


As soon as I arrive in Taupo it is pretty much hit the ground running.  A couple of my colleagues have usually arrived a day or two before-hand and the rest of us usually all arrive within an hour or two of each other.  The moment our car doors open to unpack it is go, go go until we repack our cars and leave.   Over the next few days we will get to experience all types of athletes and situations;  the athlete who is carrying little niggles and injuries and just needs some TLC to get them through the race.  The athlete who is OCD prepared and has already pre-booked the exact time and exact day (and sometimes the exact person) they want.

We will get the first timers who chat away nervously the whole session.  We see the old timers who are already talking about Ironman NZ 2020. We see the athlete who decided to do the race on a whim, usually those athletes seem to have a story that starts with “well one night me and a couple of mates were having a couple of drinks the next day I woke up with a massive hang over and an email saying Congratulations you have entered Ironman NZ…”  


Race Day

So to get things clear Ironman race day is such an awesome experience.  Seeing, hearing, and feeling everything about the day is indescribable.  However as you continue to read this, it is also going to sound like it is extremely exhausting, crazy busy and smelly!

Our day begins early 5.30am – 6am (although not as early as the competitors).  A bunch of us usually get up and head on down to watch the start. There is something magical about seeing Lake Taupo at dawn.  Throw in the quiet expectant calm that is created by the athletes and their families and the early morning vibe on the lakes edge is intoxicating.

After the swim start we wander over to T1 swim-bike transition.  I love watching this, you get to see up close and personal all the athletes coming through and it is a great chance to yell out a few words of encouragement to all those that you have worked on over the week.  It is also a teeny bit nail-biting for us this is because if we have worked on an athlete that is/was carrying a more serious injury we get a good look at how their body is moving. Hopefully it is looking relaxed and fluid – which means we have done our job!  In my 14 years I can happily say that everyone has looked good, and have given me the thumbs up as they jump on the bike to begin their 160km.


As you may know Ironman begins at 7am (6.45am for pro athletes) and ends at 12am yip thats 17 hours of competition.  But that 1 – 1.5 hours of race day is about all that we ever get to see.


From T1 we take our chance to go and grab a decent breakfast as that is going to be our one and only good meal of the day.  By 9am we are back in the main marquee setting up the Massage/Recovery/Meal area and over the course of the morning till early afternoon the rest of our crew have various duties.  We try to get an hour or two too ourselves and head outside and catch a bit of the race. If we are lucky and have timed it right we will get to see the pro athletes come through T2 and now that the Half Ironman is raced as well we get to see a bit more action as those competitors are on the course.  


From about 3pm we are back in the Marquee and this is where we stay until 1am.  The next 8-10 hours is an endless stream of bodies. And it is over these hours that we all discover that this is the most rewarding part of our jobs.  We are in a privileged position where we see the tears of joy,or achievement or accomplishment. We see the bruises, the blisters and the blood. We hear the stories, the whoops and the cheers.  We witness the hugs, the kisses and high fives.  It is always very humbling when those hugs, high fives and kisses are directed at you, along with a big thank you.  A thank you for helping an athlete get to the start line, a thank you for getting them through the race pain free, a thank you for giving them that chance to cross the finish line and receive their medal.


Once the last competitor crosses the finish line our job is not done.  Tidying and cleaning the recovery area needs to be done. If we are back home and in bed by 2am that’s a big win for us.  However we do not get the luxury of a sleep in.  Nope not a chance as we are all back down at the marquee to begin our last day by about 8am.


As our last day draws to an end, the precision packing of our cars turns more into a  ‘throw everything in and squash it down’ scenario. By this stage everything is covered in grass, wax, dirt, sweat and other such items.   Our goodbyes are said, our last glimpses of the gorgeous lake are taken in and off home we go.. . .see ya next year Taupo.

Jump, Slam & Throw

Those of you that are training at Strength and Soul may have noticed an increase in jumping, throwing and slamming lately. We believe power is an important quality for every one of our clients. This is why the vast majority of our training starts with a power component.

 Apart from feeling good and being great at releasing frustration, power training has benefits for the general population that go further than just being able to jump on a box.

Power is a quality that can be trained just like strength or balance. In fact it is the combination of strength and speed. Usually training for power is going to be done with your own body weight or with relatively light implements. This means that the exercises can be performed quickly or with the intent to be quick. Where strength is the ability to overcome a resistance no matter how long it takes, power is overcoming the resistance as quickly as possible. This makes for far more dynamic exercises which usually feel more stimulating than exhausting.

As you can imagine power is a massively important quality for athletes who need to run, jump and change direction quickly. But for the general and aging population it is an important quality to maintain because we rely on it more than we think. From being useful in the garden to preventing falls, being able to produce force quickly is important for day to day living. For example, you are probably strong enough to walk across a busy road but using more power would get you to the other side quicker and avoid becoming roadkill.

Unfortunately as we move between ages 20-80 we lose about 40% of our muscle mass and about 30% of that is lost after the age of 50. With that goes a loss of strength but more quickly than that is the loss of power. This is hugely reduced in people that use resistance training – of course. 😁 So when you are throwing the medicine ball, battling the ropes or pushing that sled you can now know that you are putting off the loss of strength, muscle and power but also maintaining your ability to dodge traffic.


Let It Go

As human beings we have this natural tendency to resist something when it is forced upon us.  In fact we can go a step further and begin to resent it. This is not just an emotional or mental aspect of ourselves but a physiological one too.


Without easily turning this little blurb into a 5000 word essay, the message we want to get across to you is never force tissue instead nicely encourage/ask the nervous system to release to just let it go.  


You may like to read that last sentence again.  It kind of turns a lot of current beliefs about how the body works around.  Basically our tissues (just talking soft tissue here) can get rigid, tight, stuck and sensitive when they have experienced some sort of trauma, be it physical or emotional.  Our nervous system reacts by trying to protect that area, which often means it asks surrounding tissue to compensate or protect. Meanwhile that specific area shuts itself down for a little while to try to figure out what to do next, and how to heal.  This is the tricky bit (or exciting brain stimulating part for us) to figure out.


Therefore when you come in to see any of us at S+S the first conversation we have with your body is to ask your body where it is currently at.  Which could be done in any of the following forms; using our trained eyes to observe, or touch, or movement, or listening to you.

Your nervous system will show us what is being forced and what is being resented.  We can then formulate or adapt our session or treatment plan to suit.

Never force tissue as it will just push back.  Take it slowly, be nice to the tissue. Don’t hang around too long in that area, if it already has a sense of heightened sensitivity then it will switch itself off pretty quickly.  Another indication of it trying to tell you to go away and leave me alone.

Soreness after Exercise – What is that?

We have all experienced this at some point.  The roll over in bed the day after a a hard walk, run  or ride.  “Uh oh” we say as we lift ourselves up and out of the snuggly bed covers.  For the next day or 3 you are reminded of your enthusiasm whenever you get on and off the toilet or go laugh at a joke with sore abs.

This lovely feeling is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS for short. It’s also sometimes called “muscle fever” which is a new one to us but I quite like it. The sciencey reason about what the actual causes are unclear but it involves microscopic trauma to the tissue.


The main reasons why you might wake up with DOMS is that you did significantly more to your muscles than your body was used to. This includes taking up a new novel activity, returning from a layoff or really increasing the amount that you were already doing. 


Certain actions of the muscle are known to be far more likely than others to cause the dreaded muscle fever. Actions like the lowering portion of bodyweight or weighted exercises. Also things like the quads and calves when walking down hill and landing as you run. This part of the movement is called the eccentric portion and when exaggerated is a great way to get really strong – but also make you second guess taking the stairs. Unfortunately or fortunately depending how you see it taking the stairs would be the best thing you can do to loosen up the stiffness and reduce some soreness.


This brings us to the next part of DOMS. It doesn’t get worse. Due to how awesome our body is, the next time you do something similar your muscles will be ready for it and the response will be far less soreness if any at all. Which is a bummer for those of us who enjoy feeling those training sessions long after they are completed. Soreness in the legs and butt can be very memorable but hard to replicate.


In summary don’t let DOMS put you off from continuing that activity.  In general it will disappear within 48 hours and unless you are going hard doing random activities or every session increasing the work done by massive amounts you should not be constantly sore.

So get out there and enjoy what your body can do and if your muscles get a little bit sore enjoy that to.


The Face Pull – Why we do it

One of the most common areas of annoying niggles or pain that we see is the shoulder.

Without diving too deep into the posture and pain subject let’s just say that posture will influence the position of your joints and the position of your joints will determine how well they work. This is the difference between smooth pain free ranges of motion or slowly grating away your poor tendons.

If you are hunched over a computer or your phone reading this right now, these are the positions that we are referring to.  So sit up and keep reading.

The shoulder joint is the combination of the scapula (shoulder blade) and humerus ( upper arm bone) and  is the most mobile joint we have. It relies for the most part on many muscles to make sure that the scapula can be both stable and mobile and the humerus can move well with the scapula. If some muscles over time become “stiffer” they can pull on either the humerus or scapula and change the position and therefore the function of the shoulder, usually for the worse. The muscles that tend to get stiffer are usually on the front. You know  the chest, biceps and neck. The ones that get weaker tend to be the ones we can’t see. Which leads us to the face pull.

Every one of our training clients do the face pull or some variation of it every session. Either with a band or cables and as a warm up or within the main sequences.  This versatile movement targets the neglected area of upper back and helps to keep those little muscles called the rotator cuff employed.

In short it does the opposite of the movements we find ourselves doing for long periods every day, phone,computer, steering wheel and TV and it helps to improve and  keep those shoulders moving smooth like butter.

Are You in Safe Hands?

Would you go to a Doctor who was not qualified?  Would you choose to get your brand new house built by unregistered trades people?  Would you open your mouth to a dentist that has learnt from You Tube clips?


Well I do hope that you answered “no” to all three of those questions.


In NZ there is no regulation when it comes to massage therapy.  Basically that means that anyone can decide to operate and offer massage therapy without any form of qualification, or belonging to any professional body.  In other words, tonight you could decide to Google ‘How to massage’ watch a few video clips and then tomorrow open up a clinic of your own and advertise your new found service to the public, and absolutely no one will bat an eyelid.  Therefore it pays to do your homework before you put your precious body or that of a loved one, into the hands of a stranger.


However there are many professional and appropriately qualified massage therapists in NZ.  To make sure that you are always putting yourself into safe hands here are a few things that you can do;


  • Always choose a Massage New Zealand (MNZ) registered therapist.  MNZ is our professional organisation that is available for all massage therapists to be registered with.  Like other professional health organisations, there is strict criteria in order for your registration to be approved.  Such as a certain level of qualification from an approved NZQA education provider and a current first aid certificate. There is a thorough Recognized Prior Learning (RPL) protocol for internationally trained massage therapists.  And it is necessary for all registered therapists to meet a certain amount of continuing education hours every year to maintain registration. If your therapist is not registered, ask why not. It could be a red flag for not being appropriately qualified, or not meeting registration criteria.  Or perhaps even being banned.


  • Qualifications should be displayed.  It actually takes a bloody huge amount of time, effort & money to become a qualified massage therapist and most of us are damn proud to display the fact we have put our blood, sweat and tears into it.  Therefore all the massage therapists I know (which is a lot!) all proudly have our qualifications framed and displayed in our clinics/treatment rooms. If your therapist has nothing displayed and can not speak confidently about their education provider then chances are this is a big red flag for not being qualified.  Or not completing their qualification.


  • Annual Practising Certificate & Code of Ethics.  As part of MNZ registration all therapists should have their Annual Practising Certificate (APC) displayed.  This Certificate has the name of the therapist, the level of registration, the year of validity and membership number displayed.  Next to this should be the MNZ Code of Ethics. If neither of these are displayed, again ask your therapist why. If you are in doubt jump online to the MNZ website a list of all registered members are displayed.  A quick search will soon tell you whether they are a member or not.


  • Scope of Practice.  One of the neat things about studying massage therapy is the discovery of how many tools you can have in your toolbelt when it comes to offering Massage to your clients.  You find out what you enjoy offering the most and develop a skill set unique to this. All professional massage therapists will always stay within their scope of practice and quite happily refer you on to another colleague or health professional if they can not offer you the best health advice possible.  Therefore if you have disclosed a health issue to your therapist that is not within their scope of practice (such as oncology massage), and they continue to try to treat you without being appropriately skilled then please definitely red flag this.


  • Nelly No Mates.  As a health & wellness provider your massage therapist will have friends.  What I mean by this, is they will have other massage colleagues that they regularly touch base with, at conferences, at workshops etc.  They will have Physio’s, Osteopaths, Naturopaths etc that they refer clients on to or share clients with. In other words they will have a network.  Even those who live in isolated areas, there will always be a network. So if your therapist doesn’t have a network. This could be a big red flag for trying to stay under the radar because they need too.     


  • Body Geeks.  I am pretty sure that all my lovely colleagues will agree with me on this one, when I lovingly call us all body geeks.  The thing with the human body is that it is so damn interesting. Throw in all the unique aspects of a person’s history, background, biomechanics and holey moley you can get a group of massage therapists talking for hours.  I am not kidding about this at all #getbetterworkstories. We actually all love continuing education and seeking more knowledge. If your therapist is not in this category, it doesn’t mean they are unqualified or unregistered.  But you could probably be getting a much better service from someone else.


Hopefully you will never ever need to, but if you feel like you are in an unsafe situation.  Please speak up. Ask your therapist to stop. If you need, tell someone about your experience.  Contact Massage New Zealand, the Health & Disability Commission or the NZ Police.



Just Start at the Start

Whatever your starting point, it’s okay.

On the training floor our goal is to help our clients feel and move better.  This can happen through losing some fat, becoming more body aware, gaining some mobility, increasing strength or using exercise as a stress outlet.

Each person is unique and not just in a “special snowflake” kind of way, but as in each of you comes from different backgrounds and injury history.  From bionic knees, fused backs to missing organs and rare disease.  Each one of you has a vastly different history and that’s just the physical side.  Let’s not forget that everybody has differing goals, lifestyles, exercise preferences and dislikes.  This leaves a lot of room for individuality.

Too often we hear from people that they need to get fitter or be a bit slimmer before coming in to see us.  I usually liken this to making sure your car is in good shape before going to the mechanic.  The point of this short post is to say that know matter what your starting point is it will undoubtedly be different from the next person.  That is okay. 

Don’t compare yourself to how other people are doing.  The most discouraging thing you can do to yourself is think “I can’t do it, so I wont bother doing anything.”  There is always something we can do.


We get a lot of joy helping people make progress with their physical body and the list of benefits that come from physical movement is ever growing so forget the reasons why you can’t and focus on what you can.

Craniosacral Therapy – What is that?

When most people hear craniosacral therapy, they either think – “It’s something to do with the head, right?” –  or, more often – “What is that?”


Craniosacral Therapy is a holistic health modality that looks at the “whole body”, not only the physical but also the mental and spiritual aspects which as research shows, are all connected together.  


What is involved in a craniosacral treatment?

  • The client  lies down on a massage table or can be seated in a chair.
  • You remain warm & fully clothed.  
  • The Craniosacral Therapist creates a supportive, safe and calming environment for their client. 
  • The Therapist is drawn to various areas of the body and with a light touch supports the body, which is allowing itself to heal.

The natural healing process begins after a treatment is completed, and continues for the next 2-3 days.  


What conditions have past clients had relief from?  

  • Before, during and after childbirth.
  • Difficult/traumatic birth (both mum and baby)
  • Breast feeding
  • Colic
  • Baby unsettled
  • TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder
  • Neck pain
  • Back pain
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Sinus
  • Difficult sleeping
  • Irritable bowel
  • Inner ear (vertigo)
  • Sprains
  • Muscular pain
  • anxiety or depression

Every body is unique.

Walking – why most of us need more

“Happy is the man who has acquired the love of walking for its own sake”-W. J. Holland

Walking is like the vanilla of movement. Pretty plain and usually not that exciting. But as far as human evolution goes, walking on two legs was a huge part of our ability to take over the world. It freed up our arms and hands to be able to specialise in other tasks like hunting and gathering.  

Walking can be described as “controlled falling”. Being able to move on two legs requires a tremendous amount of balance that we usually take for granted. Watching my son move from being stable on all fours while crawling to pulling himself up on furniture and being shaky, it reinforces that it does require many things to be strong enough and stable enough before walking is even possible.

Although the world we live in today is vastly different to the world our hunter gatherer ancestors roamed in, the bodies we inhabit are very much the same. I would like to give you some reasons to get out more and enjoy some vanilla.



  • Improve your mood


There are numerous studies that show that something as simple as going for a walk can improve your mood, even if it is a mundane walk towards something you don’t want to do. If you want to really boost your mood and relieve some stress go into the bush and do what the Japanese call “forest bathing”. Make sure to leave your phone at home and enjoy the time in nature with all your senses.


  • Help maintain a healthy weight

As our world changes our lives are becoming more sedentary. This means that while our bodies are made to move we tend to sit down more and more. The simple act of walking 10,000 steps per day has numerous health benefits such as increasing V02 max (ability to use oxygen), decreased body weight and decreased blood pressure.


  • Immune function

Walking and exercise in general is a great way to improve your immune system. Studies show that a 30-45 minute walk increased the level of immune cells in the body and also dramatically reduced the frequency of sick days.  


These are just a few of the many many benefits of walking.  As we move into winter we may not be as motivated to get outside and walk but your body will thank you for it.


Persistent Pain or Pain Persisting?

An article in a recent MNZ Magazine (Massage New Zealand Magazine) quoted a reference from a research article from the NZ Medical Journal, “In NZ, one in six adults have ongoing pain”.  Let’s say you have a staff of 60 people, that means that 10 people at your workplace right now are in pain. Seriously, that figure is crazy!

In our little health & wellness world it is relieving to see that there is finally a shift in the thinking of how to treat/approach a client with pain.  

Let us put it like this – up to now the thinking was that the worse the pain, then the worse the pathology or injury must be.  But if you have ever had a paper cut or stubbed your toe, then that theory gets well and truly thrown out the window!

In reality pain can be quite complex, there is a biological aspect (anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology), Psychological (thoughts, emotions and behaviours) and Social (work, culture and relationships).  All of these aspects play a significant role in a persons pain experiences. What is extremely pleasing from our point of view is that this shift in thinking is demanding healthcare clinicians to broaden their scope of knowledge, skills and perceptions.  

In a nutshell it means, that instead of just being given a pill to mask pain, there is a lot more effort being put into identifying the how, what, where and whys.

Pain is incredibly interesting.  This is one of the aspects of my job that I enjoy. Ahhh let me explain myself on that a bit further.  What I mean to say is that over the course of one day I could have 3 clients all walk in the door telling me that they have pain in their neck.  But the hows, the whys, and the wheres as well their history and their biomechanics will show me and tell me their own unique story of their pain.

At the risk of sounding like a geek – pain is so incredibly interesting!