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.

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.

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!

Diary of my SLAP tear and how I avoided surgery

I’m Ryan, one of the Personal Trainers at Strength & Soul Whangarei.  I like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or BJJ for short. But on this one day last year (2017) it didn’t like me.

I was rolling on the mat with another guy and I got caught in an armbar, I managed to escape, but while doing so hurt my left shoulder pretty bad.

After a few physio visits and an MRI scan it was discovered that I had a SLAP tear or lesion.  A SLAP tear or lesion occurs when there is damage to the top of the labrum or where the bicep tendon connects to the labrum.  The labrum is a piece of cartilage attached to the rim of the shoulder socket that helps keep the ball of the joint in place.

SLAP is the acronym for Superior Labral tear from Anterior to Posterior.

When I knew for certain it was a labral tear, I was gutted!  I had a similar injury a few years ago on my right shoulder and that needed surgery.   Therefore I assumed that the only option for me this time, was also surgery.  Over the next few weeks whilst I waited for my surgeons appointment, I was not a very happy person to be around.

On the day of my appointment i went into the surgeons office thinking the worst.  He performed a few tests on me, which all showed positive for SLAP tear, and my confirmed diagnosis was made.  As I sat there in his room I expected him to tell me my only option was surgery. I was surprised and delighted when he actually gave me his reasons to try to avoid surgery and see if we/I could get it to repair itself over time.  Recent studies have shown that labral tears can be rehabbed to 100% without having to go under the knife. This process could take 3 – 6 months and I would need to have patience and perseverance.

As I walked out of his office i vowed then and there that i was determined to rehab my shoulder back to 100%.  First up i needed to do a little research of my own.


Discoveries & Research

As part of my initial physio rehab plan prior to the surgeons diagnosis, we discovered that my Left Latissimus dorsi muscle was not working as well as it should be and I was also lacking adequate range of motion with external rotation.

This was my weak point which I needed to focus on.  I needed to be able to activate these muscles and once that happened, I then needed to be able to strengthen these areas.

The rehabilitation exercises that I choose to do were;

  • High elbow face pull with external rotation x 10
  • A move I call ‘No Money’ which is a specific external rotation move x 10
  • A landmine press with no weight x 10

Plus I would foam roll the lat and peanut (2 x hockey balls taped together) the entire shoulder area.

I did this for 3 sets, slowly with my focus always being on proper shoulder movement and muscle activation.  I did these EVERY SINGLE DAY.

What to do and what to avoid

For me ALL overhead movements were off limits.  However I was still able to continue with all my other training.  This is what my training plan looked like;

  • I still kept deadlifting about 150 – 160 kgs for 5 reps
  • Farmers walks with 40kg kettlebells
  • Lots of heavy goblet squats and swings.

All the time my focus was on ensuring my left lat was activating and engaging properly.

The main exercises that I did to strengthen the shoulder were;

  • Bottoms up kettlebell cleans x 3-5 reps with 2 sets
  • Tall kneeling landmine press no weight x 5-8 with 2 sets
  • Kettlebell floor press with double 24kgs x 5-8 with 2 sets

I would do these exercises every second day.  For the first 3 months it was hard if I didn’t have my shoulder in the exact position it needed to be in, then it would bite me. Also I was not able to put much weight on the shoulder.

I also started to hang on the rings and slowly lower myself down.  I would try to hold as much of my body weight as possible and maintain that position until it became uncomfortable.  With this exercise I really didn’t feel like I was making much progress initially, but I persevered.


At about the 3-4 month mark I was starting to feel really surprised as it seemed like each week my shoulder was beginning to become more noticeably stronger and stable.  I was able to hang off the rings with my full body weight, then a week later i was able to hang off the rings on my left hand with my full body weight.

The next week I was able to Bottoms Up Clean with a 32kg KB with my left shoulder.  The landmine press now had a 15kg plate and the floor press increased to 32kgs.


I had now reached the 5th month and because I had achieved activation and adequate strength I focused on strengthening and conditioning the shoulder joint.

  • Swiss Ball walkout with a leg lift
  • Push Up Position Plank rolling a med ball from one hand to the other
  • Side-lying Subscap Internal Rotation with a 15lb dumbbell
  • Tennis Ball Wall throws progressing to 3kg medicine ball.

Once I had started this new programme it felt like my progress was happening every day!  Occasionally I would throw in the old rehab exercises as a bit of a check in.

The 6 month Deadline

By the 6 month mark I was feeling 100%.  After a couple of weeks of feeling like this I decided to give an overhead press a go.  With having zero overhead press action for 6 month I was bloody stoked when I managed a single military press at 32kg on my left shoulder.

Then I had my follow-up appointment with the surgeon.  He performed a series of tests on my shoulder, a repeat of the ones I had done on my first visit.

He asked me about my rehab plan and I filled him in on all that I had done over the last 6 months.  With a smile on his face he told me he was pretty certain my shoulder was back to 100% and that I definitely did not need surgery.

That was one of the best things I have ever had someone say to me.  I was so stoked that my patience and perseverance had paid off.

What is ironic is that now my left shoulder feels stronger and a lot better than my right.

My Learnings

The two most important things I can take away from this whole experience is if you do have an injury keep moving!!

Make sure you continue to go through all the range of motion movements that you can without pain.

Secondly once you have selected or been given your exercises to do by your trained healthcare professional DO THEM!! EVERY DAY start light and work your way up from there.  

Consistency was very much the reason for my successful rehabilitation.







Nutritional basics – Part three of three

Well back to that hand of yours (mentioned in Part One). We will be using it as a portion control guide. If you are a bigger individual you will have bigger hands and so will be requiring bigger portions.

Understand that most food comes as a combination of macros. For example meat usually comes with fat and grains come with some protein. For simplicity we will group our food as protein, starches, fruit, veggies and fat.

Let’s start with protein. Look down at your palm. A normal serving for a man would be two palm sized portions and for females it would be 1. This includes the thickness of the palm as well. For a lot of people it might end up being about the size of a deck of cards.

For starchy Carbs, most males will do well with at least a fist sized portion or two.  Females would do well with one. If you are not an active person or your goal is to go down a clothes size it  makes sense to limit these to one if you are a male and half if you are a female. As for your colourful veggies it would be great to aim for the same bulk as you did with starches. You will have to work very hard to go up or down a clothing size feasting on these so go for gold. If you enjoy fruit then eat up. Fruit is full of  fibre and nutrients just like veggies. Change the fruits and veggies with the season.

Finally fats. Using your thumb as a guide for things like oils, nuts and seeds you can keep your calories in check as these are super easy to eat in excess. Remembering that fat contains more than double the calories than both carbs and protein so it makes sense to be aware of the amounts that you are consuming. A male should aim for about two thumbs while females would do well with one.

A few points to consider are that I do not mean to say that men require double the food than women. This is a simple starting point depending on your size, activity levels and goals, the size of the portions will differ. These hand sizes are approximates and assume that you eat four times per day. That is to say that a male would on average require 8 palms of protein for the day and a female would require 4 thumbs of fat..

For example using a female who prefers to eat 3 meals per day and wants to maintain her same weight and improve her meals. We can say on average she would need;
– 4 palms of protein,
– 4 fists of starches and veggies
– and 4 thumbs of fat.
She can either spread her “four servings” evenly across her meals or save those portions for the meal when she feels the hungriest. If this woman is very active and requires extra energy to support that activity she could add an extra ½ – 1 fist full of starches at her meals and this would make up that requirement.

Another example would be the male who wants to lose some weight. The average male’s daily intake would equal
– 8 palms of protein,
– 4 fist sized portions of starches,
– 8 fist sized portions of veggies and
– 8 thumbs of fat.
Let’s say he wants to eat 5 times per day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner could be standard sized protein, veggies and fat  with 1 fist of starches. That leaves you with 2 smaller sized meals which you have 2 protein, veggies and fat servings and 1 starchy serving left.

If you apply these recommendations you would have taken care of most of what really matters regarding nutrition.

Eating this way takes care of your health, body composition and energy without having to stress about following the latest diet fad.  Your job now is to turn this information into consistent action.

Nutrition Basics – Part two of three

“you are what you repeatedly do”

Making a meal of it

Setting up good food habits is the whole point of this article. Habits become effortless and this is definitely your desired result.

Leaner people have lean eating habits.  Having a firm grasp on what foods to eat, the required portions sizes and being able to apply that knowledge WILL set you up for the rest of your life, not just for the next six weeks.

So what and how much should I eat?

The what part is up to you and how much depends on your desired outcome but let’s give you the options. These are called your Macronutrients or Macros for short.


First you have protein. Protein is not your stereotypical gym junkie’s best friend, but also an essential part of a healthy diet. Essential means absolutely necessary for good health in humans and must be taken into your body through your diet. Your body requires protein to create the big things you can see like your skin and muscles, and it is also required to create the things you can’t see like cells, hormones and DNA.

It’s also the most satiating of the 3 macronutrients which means it gives you the feeling of fullness more so than the other macros. Which is very handy when you are trying to take in less calories.  Foods which contain the greatest amount of protein come in the form of meat, dairy, eggs and protein powders.


Next up are carbs. These are your grains, fruits and vegetables. Funnily enough though also the current villain on the diet scene. Cutting carbs out of your diet is the quick answer that’s handed out for weight loss. The truth is there isn’t anything called an essential carb (sorry potatoes)  but most people perform and function better with at least a moderate intake of carbs.

Fruits and vegetables contain high levels of vitamins and minerals, which will keep you from becoming victim to crazy things like scurvy and rickets. So eat lots of them. A lot of these are “almost free” sources of food. Meaning they have a very small amount of calories and are a great option for snacking on if you are limiting those calories. These as well as grains are a great source of carbs and should make up the bulk of your carb options. The healthy carbs like the ones above will provide you with steady energy throughout the day and contain fibre which… I think we all know what fibre does by now.

Meanwhile the not as healthy carbs such as potato chips, pastries and fruit drinks are the foods that are very easy to overindulge on.* These foods have far more calories with far far less of the fibre and other nutrients that the whole food sources contain. Eating these foods seem to make you  more hungry than when you started. For these reasons the majority of your carb intake should be of the whole food variety. If health, body composition and performance are important to you that is.

* if minding energy intake, beware of liquid calories. Sugary drinks and especially alcohol can throw a good day out of whack and lead to further unnecessary eating.


Last  up is Fat. Fat used to be enemy number one but the truth is fat is a necessary part of a healthy diet. The omega 3 and omega 6 fats are also essential to good health and must come from your diet. Fat is used in the body for absorbing certain nutrients, producing hormones, as well as a slow energy source. Also as you know, one of fat’s biggest roles to play is to be stored  for future use when calories are reduced.

Having a rough idea about how much you need and what type of fat to eat or avoid will help you make more informed decisions when it comes to your eating. This is important because as well as making food taste delicious they contain twice as many calories as the other 2 macros.

There are 3 types of fat that you should know about;

  • Saturated fat
  • Polyunsaturated and
  • Monounsaturated.

Saturated fat comes mostly from animals and some plants like coconut and palm. Monounsaturated fats come from plant sources such as avocado, olives and nuts. Polyunsaturated fats are usually the ones associated with salmon, tuna and other cold fish but is also found in nuts and seeds. To keep things simple it’s best to aim for an even spread of these fats throughout your day or week.

*Avoiding Trans fat as a rule is a good option.  Any plant based oil made solid or partially (eg margarine) by hydrogenation will contain trans fats.  This causes the chemical structure of the fats to change in a way that the body can’t use.  Basically poisoning the body


In the final installment of Nutritional Basics I tell you just how to put all this information together on your plate. . .

Nutrition Basics – Part One of Three

I think it’s a safe bet to say that most people would like to improve their health and then remain that way for as long as possible. After all this could mean a longer healthspan and extra years with your loved ones.

The 3 main behaviours that are used to improve health are
– stress management
– exercise
– diet (duh!)

All of these topics come with extremism and dogma. As if there is only one way to do things and all the other ways are wasted time and effort. No wonder there is so much confusion.

As someone who is very interested in the subject it is frustrating to see it, hear it and read it! Not everybody wants to eliminate a whole food group because it is supposedly how our ancestors ate. Or to not eat anything at all a couple of days a week.  There are many ways to ‘diet’, but if it doesn’t fill your body’s nutritional needs while also being sustainable for the long term, then indeed that would be a waste of your time and effort.

The best results are going to be built on repeating the basics consistently over time. This 3 part article is focussed on just that.

Important Note: *As long as you are not recommended otherwise by your doctor this article will apply to most people.

Calories are king and eat your damn vegetables.
Do that everyday for the rest of your life!

There you go – nutrition basics 101. I should have just started with that.

Seriously though I wish it could be that simple.You eat food and ideally your body will use that energy to keep your heart beating and muscles moving.

Calories are the unit of energy measurement  in our food. If your goal is to lose weight you need to consume less energy than you expend. If you want to gain weight the reverse is true. Continue to do these things and adjust as necessary along the way until you have reached your goal weight.

Having the knowledge and ability to manipulate your body with your calorie intake is a powerful tool. You can use it to offset that crazy weekend you just had, to start finally gaining some weight or to lose weight for your sisters upcoming wedding. But most importantly – be able to keep it off (or on) because that is far more healthy anyway.

Important Note: *Behaviours that match the desired outcome is of huge importance but will not be covered in this article.


But there is no need to be getting the calculator out at every meal. Most of you won’t need to be counting up your intake super precisely unless you have far loftier goals and if that’s the case this article isn’t for you. You should be thinking about building habits not following meal plans.The ability to eyeball portion sizes or using your own hand as a guide can be a real eye opening experience. The great thing about using your hand as a guide is that it’s a custom fit for you and you can usually count on having it with you.. . . . .  More on this soon in Part Two.