Active Workplace of the Year

Active Workplace of the Year Active Workplace of the Year

SCIENCE
INTO LIFESTYLE

LIFESTYLE
INTO SCIENCE

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We’re Active Workplace of the Year 2017

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Here’s how we did it:

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Row, run, row your boat – the Red Bull X Row

Row, run, row your boat – the Red Bull X Row Row, run, row your boat – the Red Bull X Row

SCIENCE
INTO LIFESTYLE

LIFESTYLE
INTO SCIENCE

sevenstones-strapline-master

Row, run, row your boat – the Red Bull X Row

“Hi Ridler, we are putting a boat together for the Red Bull X Row – it’s a fun race where you row and run an eightin Switzerland.”

A simple text from a good rowing friend. Three months later and I am at the start line on the shore of Lake Zug in the beautiful but bitterly cold sunshine of a Swiss October morning, wondering quite what I have got myself into.

Looking along the line at our competitors did little to reassure me that I was in for a relaxing outing. Olympic gold medallists; national teams from Switzerland, Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic; a composite crew of eight of the world’s best lightweight rowers. My crewmates and I glanced at each other. Suddenly our one training session together the previous weekend seemed a tad inadequate.

The starting gun fired and we were off. All 24 boats were aiming for the same single point in the distance, 10 km away on the opposite side of the lake. It resulted in a mad scramble to get ahead, with the inevitable clashing of boats and oars on either side – not great for boat speed, but excellent for adrenaline. Half an hour later, the first leg of the race was complete, with the next beginning in nearby Lake Lucerne. The only obstacle – 3.5 km of land between us and there.

If you have ever been tempted to try carrying a 100 kg, 18-metre long boat and 8 oars over a hill on a Swiss peninsula, I would strongly advise against it. Despite having cunningly padded the side of the boat with foam, every step delivered a bone-jarring blow as it bounced up and down on our shoulders. After several painful minutes our boat-carrying technique began to improve. We picked up speed, our confidence and adrenaline levels swelling. Nothing could get in our way.

This ill-advised optimism was short-lived, dispelled with a crash after an all-too close encounter with a lamppost. Perhaps not the most subtle of obstacles – but one that we rowers are not usually on the lookout for during outings. We crossed the summit and headed back down towards the next lake, fighting hard against the urge to sit back in the boat and slide down like a bobsleigh, fearing it may compromise the seaworthiness of our vessel.

Seaworthiness was soon required once more as we headed back into the water, and we were quickly powering our way across Lake Lucerne towards the village of Meggen. The water here was beautifully tranquil, and the 6.5 km row across it was actually (whisper it) very enjoyable. What awaited us on our arrival in Meggen soon made up for the pleasantness of the row – a 2.5 km run up another unfeasibly steep hill, which rapidly descended into a painful walk. Any technique we had developed to smooth out the carrying quickly disappeared, with the regular thump rattling from my shoulders to my feet.

By now truly suffering, we made it to the far side of the peninsula at Ober Rebstock. Unfortunately, the calm waters of the previous leg were replaced by the large rolling swell more commonly found in a North Sea shipping lane than an Alpine lake. Now having just 4 km to go, our weary limbs were fighting manfully against the waves, each crash of water that broke over the crew met with typical humour, cheers and laughter.

A seeming eternity after our start we arrived into the heart of Lucerne, met by the sound of cheering crowds and cowbells. For one final time we hauled the boat out of the water, running it the mercifully short distance across the finish line. From there it was straight to the first aid tent for foil blankets, warmth and the sharing of stories of how we had each survived – just.

What was left to do after a gruelling, cold, wet, painful but thoroughly enjoyable race, apart from enjoy the local hospitality. Switzerland – home of cheese, chocolate, cuckoo clocks, and the most beautiful backdrop for the most bonkers sporting event I have ever taken part in. And more bonkers still, I’m tempted to sign up for next year…

Image credit:
Raphael Schaller

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Not a runner but, deep down, might quite like to be?

Not a runner but, deep down, might quite like to be? Not a runner but, deep down, might quite like to be?

SCIENCE
INTO LIFESTYLE

LIFESTYLE
INTO SCIENCE

sevenstones-strapline-master

Not a runner but, deep down, might quite like to be?

If you are an exercise pro, you probably know all this, but here’s a little encouragement for those that aren’t.

  • Anyone can run (or cycle, or swim, or row – whatever, in fact), even if you’ve spent 50 years thinking you can’t

Just don’t be too hard on yourself.  I don’t mind having a go and not being a natural at something.  It’s just when I decide to take something up, I want to be good at it.  The thing that has only just dawned on me is that the better I get at running, the faster/further I run. Which means it never feels any easier. If you are like me…

  • It’s a good idea to keep a record

I can’t quite believe how much better you can get in a few weeks if you persevere. If I didn’t have the figures to look back on, I don’t think I’d appreciate that I’d already come a long way.  But then I do love data 🙂 Which brings me to…

  • Suunto watches are really cool (thanks for the recommendation Adam!)

Even if, like me, you are stupid and don’t press the start button the first time you use it, you can still get very helpful speed/pace info. If you know how fast you are going, you can…

  • Start slower and finish faster

Negative splits, I think, is the technical term. Which is what experts seem to recommend if you want to get faster overall times. It seems to work for me. Rather than exhausting myself at the beginning (and reinforcing my perception that I am rubbish at running), I leave some reserve and up the pace at the end. Seems that it’s good to…

  • Mix things up a bit

Check out the Running for Fitness website – you enter the time you’re hoping to achieve for a particular distance, and it suggests all sorts of training runs you can do. If go for a run that you enjoy…

  • Share it with your friends

A couple of us ran from the office up to Holland Park this afternoon. If you are into lovely surroundings and fancy some serious hill sprints, do try it. Wormwood Scrubs is a flatter, more open expanse – but beware low flying model aircraft! And finally…

  • Kit is everything

Our creative director believes that it’s best if it’s luminous yellow. And top must match shorts must match trainers. If you need any help, I’m sure he’d be happy to advise…

As our friends at DKPT would say, enjoy sweating!

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Physical activity: the wonder drug we don’t bother taking

Physical activity: the wonder drug we don’t bother taking Physical activity: the wonder drug we don’t bother taking

SCIENCE
INTO LIFESTYLE

LIFESTYLE
INTO SCIENCE

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Physical activity: the wonder drug we don’t bother taking

Public inactivity levels are higher than ever before – it’s harming our health, costing us billions, and shortening lives.
 
The last 50 years have made our lives remarkably easier. We can now achieve more with a few clicks of a finger than we ever could have done in hours spent dashing around town. Add in the general shift away from manual jobs towards office or desk-based work and you’ve got a big increase in total sedentary hours compared with just a few decades ago.Government estimates suggest that we are now over 20% less active than we were in the 60s, and at current pace that figure could rise to 35% by 2030.To get an idea of the scale of the problem, guidelines around the world recommend 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity five times a week, but over a quarter of the population in the UK fail to rack up 30 minutes in total over the course of a week.

This dangerously low level of physical activity is putting a large number of people at substantially greater risk of a whole host of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Which all adds up to a major burden on global health. An international study published in the Lancet estimated that physical inactivity is responsible for 9% of all premature deaths worldwide. Eliminating this inactivity would theoretically add an extra eight months to the life expectancy of the world’s population.

It’s no surprise that the impact is financial too. The annual cost of physical inactivity to the economy of Europe is estimated to be over €80bn – more than the entire world spends on cancer drugs each year.

Too often, exercise is only mentioned in relation to weight loss. However, a long-term Europe-wide study found that roughly twice as many deaths are due to physical inactivity as are caused by obesity alone.

It’s now clear that the benefits of physical activity go way beyond helping maintain a healthy weight. Just a small dose of regular exercise can benefit a huge range of conditions – everything from dementia to cancer. So much so, in fact, that an analysis of over 300 separate studies, published in the BMJ, determined exercise interventions to be just as effective as drug treatments in preventing heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

It doesn’t take a daily marathon to reap the benefits of keeping active. In a study of over 600,000 people in Europe and America, tracked for an average of 14 years, those who achieved the recommended 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, five times a week reduced their risk of premature death by 31% compared with those who did not exercise at all.

A regular dose of activity helps keep your body at its best, and, alongside the appropriate medication, can delay the onset of disease and manage chronic conditions. Put simply, exercise is a miracle cure – and one that not enough of us bother to take.

So pull on your trainers and start giving yourself a daily dose of sweat. The benefits are there for the taking, even if it means making your life harder in the short term.

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The mountain of youth?

The mountain of youth? The mountain of youth?

SCIENCE
INTO LIFESTYLE

LIFESTYLE
INTO SCIENCE

sevenstones-strapline-master

The mountain of youth?

As we age our bodies deteriorate – it’s a fact of life and there’s nothing we can do about it… right? Not so, according to research published in the Journal of Physiology.

Quantifying exactly how our bodies change as we age is a challenge. We all know there’s a general decline towards frailty as we get older, but physiologists lack a set of reliable markers they can track to follow the aging process.

To shed some light on the situation, a team from King’s College London measured a whole host of physiological characteristics in a group of 55 to 79-year-olds to find out which attributes best correlated with age.

Of course, physically inactive people tend to be in worse shape than their active counterparts. So, to avoid confusion between the physiological declines of aging and inactivity, the researchers chose a group of older adults who were known to be keen exercisers. Specifically they were highly active regular cyclists; males who could cycle 100 km in 6.5 h or females who could cover 60 km in 5.5 h.

Potential markers measured included cardiovascular characteristics such as heart rate, blood pressure and aerobic capacity; and muscular attributes like skeletal muscle mass, strength, balance, explosive power and mobility. On top of these, hormone levels, nerve signalling speed and cognitive function were also assessed.

The researchers found that the characteristics that declined in line with age were… well actually none of them. Remarkably enough, none of the many traits recorded showed a significant enough correlation to reliably predict age.

In fact, this cohort of cycling enthusiasts were in such good shape that their statistics were no different to those of young, healthy people.

It goes to show that aging is a complex process dependent on environmental and lifestyle factors rather than a simple linear decline. While we may be no closer to defining typical markers to track aging, the encouraging news is that by staying active we can keep our bodies in youthful good shape as we head towards old age.

Reference:
Pollock RD et al. An investigation into the relationship between age and physiological function in highly active older adults. J Physiol 2015; 593: 657-80.

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