Breakfast cereals are highly-processed, junk-food, crap

Getting up in the morning during my school days was never easy, but I knew that if I could roll out of the bed and into my school uniform, a great prize awaited downstairs. A big bowl of cereal. Weetabix, or Wheat Biscs as the case may be. Cornflakes. If we had both in stock, a Weetabix-Cornflakes combo. On the weekends, we would raid my Granny’s cupboards for the serious stuff. Rice Krispies, Coco-Pops, plenty of milk of course, so that we could guzzle that chocolatey liquid-gold down at the end. During my college days, it was a free for all. Cereal for breakfast, cereal for lunch, and cereal before bed. And the best thing about it? This stuff is good for you! Heart healthy, whole wheat, part of a balanced diet, fortified with vitamins. A win-win situation. Or is it? To get to the truth about cereals we need to dive into the dark and murky world of Big Food. Nestlé is the world’s largest food company, which in 2018, spent €6.7 billion on marketing worldwide, with a net profit of around €13 billion. Kellogg’s marketing spend in 2019 was €625 million, with a profit margin of €1.3 billion. The bottom line for these giants multinational companies is financial profit, and they spend billions to make us believe that their products are good for us. They are not. They are highly-processed, junk-food, crap.The marketing strategies of companies such as Nestlé and Kellogg’s are so effective (and well they should be for the money poured into it) that their brand and products are universally accepted as part of a...

Finding the motivation for training

The world has effectively ground to a halt in a bid to contain the spread of Covid-19, disrupting our usual way of life. We are all getting used to a different way of living, and in light of the closure of all gyms and restrictions on group gatherings, this includes our exercise behaviours. This poses not only a logistical challenge to our training routines and habits, but also a psychological one. For many, exercise is a social activity, and is rarely a solely individual pursuit. We go to gyms and fitness classes, we meet up with walking groups, or are members of athletic or sports teams. And for good reason. Relatedness, or perception of personal connection with others, is a highly motivating factor to sustaining behaviour. For those in sport, the health benefits are often more of a by-product of training rather than a goal in and of itself. And there-in lies the challenge. What happens when we remove that this supportive environment that many rely on? The answer in part, will depend on what motivates people to exercise in the first place. Motivation can be defined as the degree of determination, drive, or desire with which an individual approaches or avoids behaviour (1), and it is an extensively researched topic in the field of sport and exercise psychology. We can explore what motivates people to exercise engagement by looking at the goals on which individuals focus their efforts. Self-determination theory, a framework which helps us understand the elements of human motivation, distinguishes goals based on their intrinsic or extrinsic content. Intrinsic motivation refers to taking part in activity...

Meditation for sport and for life

Meditation is the original self-improvement practice, standing the test of time since its prehistoric origins in the East, with the earliest documented evidence of meditation found on wall art in India from 5,000 to 3,500BC. Written records from around 1500BC from the Hindu traditions of Vendatism in India refers to the practice of Dhyāna, the training of the mind. Meditation seems to be coming around again, and as often is the case, science is catching up, with tons of evidence now supporting the ancient wisdom of meditators.  With everything we know about meditation, and especially in the world we live in today, here is a bold sweeping statement. You should be meditating. You can dress it up or down, you can take it whichever way you like, but the fact remains that daily meditation should be viewed as essential as daily sleep, a daily meal, or daily exercise. The extensive benefits of mindfulness meditation are as well-evidenced as physical activity. It has been shown to lower stress and anxiety, improve chronic pain management, improve sleep, improve the immune system, improve performance, improve relationships. If it was a pill it would cost a fortune. If everyone was meditating, the world would be a better place to live. There would be less reactivity, better decision making, more productivity, more compassion and a calmer collective consciousness. Interest in mindfulness meditation in the mainstream of society is growing rapidly, yet not everyone is meditating. So let’s take it back a few steps and see if we can get there together. What is Mindfulness? Does meditation and mindfulness mean the same thing? The terminology can be...

Slowing Down to Catch Up

The blog is back up and running after a lengthy hiatus and a personal transition. This time last year I was in London, working with the Arsenal Women’s football team. After spending three great years with Arsenal, I decided to come back to Ireland, and took on the role of Strength and Conditioning Coach with the Tipperary Hurling Team. Now, I find myself living in the Tipperary countryside, far from the hustle and bustle of London, and we are looking forward to kicking off the Munster Hurling Championship this weekend against Cork in Pairc Uí Chaoimh. The change in environment presented a perfect opportunity for me to take stock and to recalibrate the system. Taking a step back to reflect, I could see that I have been caught up in a hyper-active and hyper-connected form of living over the past number of years. I felt constantly busy yet never on top of things, often overwhelmed and exhausted. I was speeding up to try and get to the end-point where I could finally relax. The true cost of this scramble being a lack of appreciation for the present moment and in the relationships with the important people in my life. Frank Forencich perfectly summed up this vicious cycle in Beautiful Practice, describing what he calls a sense of temporal poverty: ‘We constantly talk about being ‘behind’ as if life is nothing but a race…We place ourselves at the mercy of the flow of events. We become increasingly reactive and soon we’re scrambling to catch up with everything around us. We get swept up in the contagion of other people’s activity....

30 Lessons for 30 Years

On the day of my 30th birthday, feeling reflective, I sat down to ponder thirty lessons that I have picked up in my thirty years of life. As good a time as any to take stock and see where we’re at, I thought. But I thought too much, and spent a whole year mulling over my thirty lessons, as if I were now writing a definitive guide for living or something. So, I started again and here we are. These are just some things I have learned, among many others, that would have been handy to know ten years ago. Most of them are a work in progress.   1. We shouldn’t over-think things If you’re going to write a post for your blog just write it. It doesn’t need to be perfect, there’s no such thing anyway. The perfect moment to take action never arrives. The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed. Steve Pressfield, The War of Art 2. Other things we shouldn’t do all the time: Worry, Feel guilty, Beat yourself up, Compare yourself to others, Care what people think Although these thought patterns are human nature they can lead to internal strife and hold us back. We should certainly hold ourselves accountable for or actions, and we can use the negative feelings we have as motivation for positive change, but our sense of self-worth should never be on the line. This can trigger shame; the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed...