Category Archives: Health & Fitness

BIMA & The Joy of Work with Bruce Daisley – A Review

In every organisation, the workplace culture has a considerable effect on the productivity of employees. This is because if a working environment makes them feel good and positive about what they do, they will be more productive. However, if the environment is infected with negativity, this has the opposite effect on employees feeling disillusioned and stressed, sometimes to the detriment of their health.

I recently attended an event organised by BIMA (British Interactive Media Association) at The Plaza in Liverpool. Presented by Bruce Daisley who is the European VP of Twitter, the purpose of this event was to look at how workplace culture affects an employee’s productivity. The event began with a delicious lunch, followed by Bruce’s talk, a Q&A session, before finishing with an opportunity to have a free copy of Bruce’s new book The Joy of Work, signed by the man himself.

Following the lunch, Bruce introduced the talk by starting with his background. This was before speaking in detail about how the modern workplace environment is becoming increasingly permeated with stress, affecting not only the physical and mental wellbeing of employees, but also the creativity and productivity of organisations. Reasons include the changing digitalisation of the business world, the feeling of being overworked or underutilised, and the constant daily overload of information. In simple terms, as the modern workplace has changed, the levels of stress has soared through the roof.

I was impressed with how Bruce talked about how stress and negativity in the workplace affects creativity. This is because when under pressure (e.g. sitting at your desk waiting for ideas), the thinking of fresh ideas when under the microscope destroys an individual’s creative capacity. I have always believed that good ideas only come to you when you are relaxed, and this certainly reaffirmed this for me.

Bruce also made other interesting points related to stress, and the negative effects on creativity. These gave me plenty to consider about what the workplace environments of the future need for employees to feel positive, and for creativity to thrive.

These points include the following:

  1. Modern working systems thrive on overwork.
  2. Physical productivity goes down when we are overworked.
  3. We are very close to a burnout generation.
  4. Creativity gets killed when put under the gun.
  5. The human brain is configured to make a certain number of decisions per day.
  6. Mental fatigue is when the quality of decisions made drops.
  7. In order to be productive, it is vitally important to recover well.
  8. Weekend e-mails are a fast way to workplace burnout.
  9. Sleep is a real performance-enhancing activity.
  10. Creative offices have more face-to-face conversation between people.
  11. Time when travelling is creative.
  12. Stress lingers in the mind like a hangover.
  13. Creativity is the last competitive advantage.

To promote a working culture that embraces creativity and encourages new ideas, there is plenty for organisations and individuals to consider. These include providing a workplace environment that supports employees by managing stress, promoting wellbeing and preventing overworking to maintain productivity and quality of decision making. Communication barriers must be removed to prevent individuals, teams, departments and groups from working within silos, by encouraging face-to-face communication between all parties.

On reflection, there were several takeaways that I learned. The first and most important was that stress kills creativity. The second is that being relaxed and loose in thought is when creativity happens. A third takeaway is that creative magic happens when humans work together. My final takeaway is the importance of mental recovery and replenish through sleep, relaxation and even mindfulness. What I have learned from all this and more, has given me a better understanding of what is required to be creative.

I loved every minute of the event. From the talk given by Bruce, to the intelligent and insightful questions asked by the audience, it was an experience that I gleamed so much learning from, of which I am truly grateful.

The event also allowed me the opportunity to network, mingle and share notes, experiences and compare understandings, with many familiar faces. These included Andy Kent from Angel Solutions, Ian Finch from Mando Agency, Gavin Sherratt of Mashbo, Phil Adams from Langtons, Alex Clark from Professional Liverpool, Leon McCowan from Your Business Mobiles, Nicola Forshaw from Mindfit and Sarah Lowe from Bruntwood. An added bonus was that I got a taste of using AR (Augmented Reality) technology provided by Holdens Agency, which involved viewing the venue surroundings in real-time over a superimposed image, which was an amazing experience.

My thanks go to Bruce for a thought-provoking talk, and for signing my copy of his book, which I am looking forward to reading and reviewing. Finally, I would like to thank everyone at Bruntwood, BIMA and LCR Activate for organising a terrific event.

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Professional Liverpool – Networking Breakfast with Nicola Forshaw

By constantly dealing with the pressures of everyday life at breakneck pace, we put ourselves under plenty of stress. In these chaotic times of this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world that we live in today, the feelings of busyness, tiredness, as well as being distracted and overloaded can be overwhelming, to the detriment of our physical and mental health. This means we need to be non-judgementally aware and feel what is happening in the present moment all around and inside ourselves, which is also known as mindfulness.

Last month I attended a networking breakfast organised by Professional Liverpool. Held at the Cotton Exchange, this was delivered by Nicola Forshaw of Mindfit, which looked at mindfulness. I was curious to learn about how I could personally incorporate mindfulness into my everyday life. A second reason for attending, was I also saw this as an opportunity to develop a mindful approach to leading and helping others.pro_liverpool_networkingbreakfast3

Nicola was a superb speaker with a great passion for her business. From start to finish, Nicola delivered a talk that was succinct, easy to understand, clear, knowledgeable and reassuring for the entire audience. Indeed, I was impressed with how Nicola clearly showed her expertise with a smooth tone and flow, leaving myself and everyone mesmerised.

There was plenty that I learned from Nicola. From using mindfulness personally in everyday life, as well as using mindful leadership to cultivate, nurture and support others, I learned and gained an understanding of mindfulness.

Below are some examples of what I learned about mindfulness:

  1. Mindfulness is a practice of living in the present moment without consciously passing judgement.
  2. If you worry or dwell on the past and future, you will miss out on the present.
  3. Drop into the present to get a sense of calm.
  4. The threat is in the mind most of the time through overthinking.
  5. Overthinking makes you ill.
  6. Meditation is clear seeing of the mind.
  7. Mindful listening involves being comfortable, connected and happy. This is required as you need to feel able to express yourself thorough your presence, clarity, focus and compassion to others.
  8. The quality of your presence has a diverse impact on another person’s thinking.
  9. Mindfulness is not a quick fix, as you must be committed to it for the long-term, and it requires patience and practice.
  10. Being a mindful leader not only improves your resilience, but also improves complexity, communication and collaboration with others.

From the above, I now understand that is important to make the most of the present, and not worry and overthink about the future. The latter is especially true with some things in life and business that you have no control over, as it is easy and understandable to feel concerned about what may or may not lie ahead.

To summarise my thoughts, I found the event to be a fascinating introduction to mindfulness. From this I have learned plenty of interesting points on mindfulness and mindful leadership, and how I can apply this to my own life and to assist others. I can pro_liverpool_networkingbreakfast2honestly say this has been extremely useful to me as part of my personal and professional development, and I have since been trying to apply mindfulness in my daily life, by applying a few minutes every day to practice.

Overall the event was excellent. From meeting Nicola who was delightful to speak and listen to, from networking and catching up with several familiar faces including Chris Burgess, David Wafer, Lee Parry and Leon McCowan, there was plenty of conversation and opportunities to strengthen networking relationships. The breakfast provided was also delicious with fresh fruit, bagels, cookies, croissants, meat, cheeses and plenty of tea and coffee, giving a cultured and continental taste.pro_liverpool_networkingbreakfast4

In conclusion, I would like to thank Nicola for being a wonderful speaker, and for opening my eyes and ears to the power of mindfulness. My thanks also go to Alex Clark, Emma Rittenberg and Keri Stanistreet of Professional Liverpool for putting together a fine networking event, and I certainly hope my fellow attendees got as much out of it as I did.

Thank you very much!

My Year of Running

Running has taken over my life this year. From taking part in 10 races in 2018, including the Liverpool Half-Marathon, Southport 10k, Run for Rhys 5k and the Liverpool Santa Dash, I have lost over 2 stone in weight since January. In addition, my year in running has given me some proud memories, which I would like to share with you as 2018 draws to a close.

It was back in January when I set myself the goal of running the BTR Liverpool Half-Marathon. By running that race for the first time ever, I was out of my comfort zone, but at the same time relishing and energised by the challenge of pushing myself. Looking back, it was a proud and rewarding experience for me, even if I had to perform through the pain barrier, and I would gladly repeat the experience again. I say this because crossing that finishing line in under 3 hours was a great feeling, and I am convinced this was when I knew I had caught the running bug.

Another pleasure was the opportunity of experiencing such delightful scenery. This is because running has allowed me to take in some picturesque views of the River Mersey, the lush outdoors of Croxteth Park, and the Three Graces of Liverpool. As I have pounded the pavements and off-road tracks, seeing such fine sights through my own eyes has been a lovely treat.

Through the races and training, I have also learned about running in different weather conditions. This year, I have run in conditions where the weather has been either very hot or cold. When I ran the Southport 10k in July, the weather was very hot, meaning I had to adjust my running style to suit the conditions, by pacing myself and keeping hydrated.

In comparison, the Run for Rhys 5k was on a day of torrential rain and winds. This meant the course in Croxteth Park was full of mud, fallen leaves and big puddles, making it extremely difficult. On reflection, I was glad to have done the run, if only to experience the feeling of running when it is very wet and windy.

In addition to the races, I have done plenty of running in the countryside as part of my training, which has been extremely enjoyable. An example was back in October, when I ran 7 miles from Ormskirk all the way back to my house. This was on a cool Saturday morning, and my route took me past Edge Hill University, through the village of Bickerstaffe, and all the way back home. I also vividly remember being surrounded by blue skies, hanging clouds and being surrounded by peaceful countryside. Running along the pavements and open roads surrounded by silence, I can honestly say it was pure bliss!

There has been plenty that I have learned from my year of running. I have learned that anything is possible when you put your mind to something you want to achieve. Secondly I have also learned that training and preparation is important, and that you need to be courageous and willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Finally I have also learned is that running is not just good for losing weight, but it is useful for relieving stress. This is because after a hectic day, I enjoy going for a quick run, as it helps me to mentally clear my head of stress and doubts, and allows me to calmly think more clearly with perspective, and it makes me feel good about myself. I also find running outdoors to be rather meditative.

And that’s all I have to say about my year of running. I hope you have enjoyed reading about my experiences and also what I have learned from them. Rest assured that I will be keeping up the habit, and will be looking forward to more running exploits in 2019.

In the meantime, I would like to wish all you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Thanks for reading!

Weightmans Wednesday – ABS Solutions

Health and fitness is important to everyone. There are so many gyms and other fitness establishments that offer services to customers looking to exercise for various reasons, which is why the fitness industry is currently booming. Like any other business however, fitness establishments need to have their individual style or brand to attract customers.

At last month’s Weightmans Wednesday bi-monthly event, I was delighted to listen to Connor O’Brien the founder of Absolute Body Solutions (ABS), talk about the story of his business. It was a very good story too, from opening the first gym in Speke, to the latest gyms in Liverpool City Centre, and also recently in Manchester. In addition, Connor also talked about the rigorous attention to detail involved with ensuring the business performs and delivers the highest quality personal fitness training to customers. Listening to Connor speak, I recognised the crucial qualities of relentless hard-work, a strong emphasis of quality and consistency of performance when delivering services to customers, as well as Connor’s own passion for fitness.

For myself, I had a particular interest in this event, and of what I could learn from it. The result from listening to Connor’s story, was that I learned of the difficulties of being a good personal trainer and business person, because there are so many responsibilities involved with running both the front and back-end functions of the business. From the personal training of clients, to looking after the finance, marketing, as well monitoring the performance and continual development of the 19 personal trainers employed by ABS, I can only imagine and admire the tremendous work and dedication of everyone involved, that goes into making the business successful. This is why a key takeaway for any business owner is to surround themselves with the right people.

Connor also talked about how the fitness industry is changing. This involved the growth of online platforms such as YouTube to deliver personal training online to a wider audience. In the long term, I believe it will be interesting to see how gyms and personal trainers make use of online platforms. However technology will need to be tailored to suit the needs of gyms, personal trainers and their clients.

Overall it was a very good event, with plenty for me to take away and ponder for myself. This is because I came away thinking about my own self-improvement in my work and personal life, learning new methods and consistently applying them to develop as a person and as a professional.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Connor for sharing his story, and also to everyone at Weightmans for coming together, to organise and deliver an interesting evening.

BTR Liverpool Run for Rhys 5k – My Recollections

Last month over the Bank Holiday weekend, I took part in the BTR Liverpool Run for Rhys 5k event. Held in the lush surroundings of Croxteth Park, the purpose of this was to support the Rhys Jones Community Centre in Croxteth, setup to celebrate and honour Rhys’s memory after his tragic murder eleven years ago, which shocked Liverpool and the whole nation.

This was the first time I had taken part in the run, and I enjoyed it despite the heavy rainfall. Arriving at the start outside Croxteth Hall, there was a good crowd of runners taking part, along with representatives from Merseyside Police, Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, Radio City, and Everton in the Community, all giving their support. The weather certainly didn’t affect the positivity and feel good atmosphere, although there were a good number huddling inside the hall foyer to keep dry before the start. Who could blame them?

For me personally, the run was memorable for several reasons. From standing in the pouring rain in a sea of blue at the start, passing a loud mooing cow (no seriously!), stepping in a big puddle twice, to crossing the finishing line, my memories of the day were plentiful. In addition, I also remember the course being tougher then I anticipated, due to the rain, wind, mud, puddles and leaf stained track making this 5k run, the toughest I have ever done. This is because I had to concentrate and stay mentally sharp throughout, which as a runner was a useful and valuable experience.

Previously I had never completed a run in such conditions, so this was a new challenge I faced head-on. I was never dazed by this, and I managed to overcome the difficulties posed by the weather and complete the run in 34 minutes, which I was delighted to challenge and conquer. Despite being completely soaked to the skin, I really enjoyed the run, with the warm support and camaraderie among the runners and local crowds certainly gaving a warm buzz, to a wet Sunday morning in Croxteth. I would certainly do it all again whatever the weather brings.

I would like to thank BTR Liverpool, Rhys Jones Community Centre, Croxteth Park and to everyone else involved, including to Rhys’s family for organising and supporting the event. It was a very special day for the city of Liverpool, in not only supporting the centre, but also to honour and celebrate Rhys’s life.

BTR Liverpool Half Marathon 2018 – My Recollections

Have you ever felt the urge to do something you have never done before?

Something that challenges and pushes you out of your comfort zone?

Last month, I did exactly the above, when I ran the BTR Liverpool Half-Marathon for the first time. Whilst I have previously taken part in the Santa Dash and Scouse 5k for charity, my reasons for doing the Liverpool Half-Marathon were different. As well as to lose a few pounds, I had also set myself a personal challenge of running a half-marathon, so this forced me to step out of my comfort zone.

In order to take the half-marathon seriously, I trained hard over a period of 12 weeks. This was to ensure I was physically and mentally prepared, although I must confess there were occasions when I wondered what I had let myself in for. However I was excited and looking forward to tackling the half-marathon, and as race day approached, the hardest part was keeping focused, whilst trying to remain calm on the surface.  Indeed the night before, I barely managed to grab any sleep, as I was pumped up, full of adrenaline and raring to go!

On the morning of the half-marathon, I arrived at the Pier Head feeling relaxed, calm, and yet keeping my mind solely on the challenge that lay ahead. Taking up position at the start, I was surrounded by blue skies, beautiful sunshine, and a carnival-like atmosphere, with plenty of colourful sights, sounds of music and joyous excitement. There were thousands of runners taking part, with lots running for charity, including several dressed in superhero outfits and funny costumes. I even recall noticing a runner dressed up as Captain America, and another as a bumblebee, which certainly added to the fun-filled mood.

Soon the run started, and everything that I had prepared and trained for, came together instantly. It struck me that I was now entering the unknown, like Christopher Columbus sailing and discovering America.

The route itself was demanding, yet also picturesque. From Mann Island, the route passed along Upper Parliament Street, Park Lane, Sefton Park, through Otterspool Park and back along Otterspool Promenade, to the finishing line at the Three Graces. Running along the route, taking in the sights was a delight for me, and along with the cheers and encouragement of fellow runners and passers-by, certainly kept my spirits up.

I realised the half-marathon was always going to be a physically draining effort. However I learned it also required a great amount of mental strength, to persevere to the finish. I discovered this when I felt a sharp pain in my right leg, about halfway through the race, which prevented me from running at my best, meaning I had to power walk the remaining distance. Rather than damaging my confidence, this setback only served to spur me on to keep going, despite the pain. This was rewarded when I eventually completed the half-marathon in a time of 2 hours and 51 minutes, of which I was delighted and ecstatic.

As I crossed the finished line, the reality of what I had achieved sunk in, and I felt extremely proud, even I was feeling numb and in pain, whilst walking like John Wayne!

Looking back, I feel great pride in succeeding and meeting my goal of completing the half-marathon. Of course, there are aspects of the training, preparation and running I would have done differently in hindsight, but what I achieved in completing the half-marathon though my hard-work and determined efforts, shows that anyone can achieve anything.

To conclude, if what I have achieved inspires other disabled people like myself, then I am proud to have helped in blazing the trail.

Thanks for reading!

Radio City Scouse 5k – My Recollections

Last month, I mentioned why I was taking part in the Radio City Scouse 5k on my birthday. I am pleased to say, that I completed the run in less than 40 minutes, and raised £980.10 for Maghull Young Adults Social Club (MYASC).

Two years previously, I had done the Liverpool Santa Dash for charity. However this was even more special to me, because MYASC is a cause very close to my heart. As I reflect on my achievement, I feel a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment.

My experience of the Scouse 5k was great fun, with so many colourful wscouse5k_pic1igs, Scouse moustaches, blue skies and sunshine. This contributed to a carnival atmosphere, which excited me. Whilst the course was more difficult than I imagined (especially running up Brownlow Hill), and my red coloured wig kept sliding, I never wavered in my determination once. This was rewarded when I saw my mum and dad, at the finish.

As I approached the finish, I saw my dad speaking to the announcer, who then shouted “Happy Birthday” to me over the loudspeaker, as I crossed the finish line. My mum told me later on, that she was emotional and extremely proud too.

I would like to thank all of my family, friends, colleagues and everyone who not only sponsored me, but also for their good wishes and encouragement. This was not only special, but it is also one of the proudest achievements in my life, and I hope this gives encouragement to many others. This is because what I have done proves that disability is no barrier, to what an individual can achieve.

To conclude, I would like to say once again…

Thank you for all of your support!scouse5k_pic2