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Not Just for Christmas

Physical and mental wellbeing often only come to the fore in the latter stages of the year. We talk to two major proponents in the quest for all year wellness

Simon Gunning

The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is an award-winning charity dedicated to preventing male suicide through openness and
candid conversation

Can you give us a brief history of CALM and why it exists?
Calm will be 12 years old in 2019. It started as an experiment in Manchester funded by the NHS and Tony Wilson, of Factory records, to try and understand why there were so many young men killing themselves in Manchester at the time. What it has done since then is grown gradually for about 10 years and then extremely rapidly for the last two. Essentially CALM exists as a male suicide prevention organisation, and we do that in a couple of pretty candid ways that aim to affect societal change, so that more people don’t get into the position of absolute crisis. 

Tell us about the #bethemate- youd want campaign with Dave. How and why did it come about?
Again it’s about creating behaviour changes and giving men the opportunity to be there for their mates. We did a YOUGOV poll that said that 86% want to be the bloke that helps their mate. Dave came up with some ideas, they ran them past a few focus groups and this is the one that came out the best, so we’ll be doing a lot of high profile stuff with the idea, as well as the continued adbreak exposure. We’re going to be doing original formats and events and loads of stuff. Dave are very clear that their target audience matches ours almost precisely, in that their audience are at extremely high risk of ill health and they want to do something that will help them. It’s as altruistic as you can get, but also our tone of voice is generally quite piss-takey, so we’ll make people laugh. It’s obviously a taboo subject, so we’re striving to make it as easy as possible for people to find ways to talk about it.

Why don’t men reach out in the first place?
I’m trying to stop using the term ‘toxic masculinity’ but yeah, we’re fighting against some pretty unhelpful gender norms that restrict in our behaviours from a very early age. The ideas of strength and silence going very hand in hand, for example. But it’s a conflation, really, because in my mind talking is a hard thing; that’s the brave and difficult thing to do, so I don’t really know why those two things are linked and why we’re carrying this around with us all the time.

Tell us a little about the idea behind A.L.A.N.?
All we’ve got to do is make it very clear to everybody that the state of our minds is absolutely normal, we all have bad days. I think Alan acts as a beautiful, self-deprecating and funny device that allows blokes to talk about this subject in a way that is comical but candid. It creates an environment where we can be there for our mates, or we can go to our mates and when they ask how we’re doing we don’t have to say ‘I’m fine’, we can say ‘actually I’m a bit shit’.

There was a little bit of neuroscience behind it (ALAN) as well. Statistics show that blokes talk better shoulder-to-shoulder than face-to-face. So running, cycling, watching football, playing darts, watching telly, driving: we communicate a lot better when our minds are occupied with another activity.  So we’re going to try and use those ‘techniques’ but not dress them up as techniques with Dave and other brand partnerships in 2019.

Both of the above campaigns seem perfect timing for Christmas, but surely they aren’t only for the festive season? Are there any messages or stats that urge mates to keep an eye out all year round?
Well, the Dave campaign continues throughout 2019 and we don’t really up our activity much at Christmas. What we do see though – with a horrible predictability – is a dramatic increase in the use of the helpline and web chat services over Christmas, because of the polarising nature of the season to be jolly. It’s a time of contrasts: If it’s not a jolly time, you’re having a really shitty time. We certainly don’t need to reach out to people anymore at Christmas as they do that with our helpline, but we just continue to bang the drum all the time people know we’re there for them.

Michael Molloy

For almost two decades, Michael Molloy has dedicated himself to guiding men and women on a fitness journey that cuts through the fads and gimmicks

Tell us a little about yourself and your PT history
Well, my name is Michael Molloy. I am a husband, soon-to-be Dad and Gaelic footballer. I have been working in the fitness industry for the past 17 years, completing a degree in Sport & Exercise Science here in Liverpool. I get such a buzz from helping the people of Liverpool get into shape. 

Specifically, I specialise in supporting my members in their efforts to lose weight and get strong whilst doing so. I have been able to support my members in achieving some incredible life-changing results, one particular member lost 12 st in 12 months, and what’s more he has kept it off this past 2 years. Alongside my wife and our incredible team of PTs and coaches at LIVFIT, we are on a mission to help as many men and women of Liverpool regain their body confidence and feel strong inside and out. 

What are the effects and benefits from working out on your mental wellbeing?
The direct correlation between training and mental health is amazing. From the amount of self-confidence it can give you, to how it makes you feel in general. Everyday tasks are just so much easier when you move freely and pain free. Training for us and our clients isn’t just an escape: It’s a time to improve yourself and let go of the highly stressful life we all seem to endure nowadays.

Why do you think people hit the gym in Jan and drop off by Feb? What tips do you have to keep going? 
Each year, the Christmas period seems to start earlier. The treats are in the shops, the parties start and we are faced with tempting indulgences all throughout December. By the time Jan 1st comes around we are all feeling tired, bloated, sluggish and the sight of another turkey sandwich or mince pie fills up with dread, as our work trousers are feeling pretty snug. So we take action and sign up for an annual gym membership, determined that this time we will get fit and lose the excess pounds we have gained. No junk food, salads for the foreseeable. Same old song.The problem with this approach, which you seem to repeat each year, (promising yourself this year it will be different) is that by Feb you’re either injured, bored of using the same machines, or simply lost all will power and your five sessions a week have dropped to one. 

So this year we urge you to do something different. Seek the help of a professional, do your homework, make sure you choose someone/a company that you trust, someone with a proven track record and someone who understands your goals and situation. There are often many deals on around the new year so don’t just go with the first/cheapest offer you see. If your budget doesn’t quite stretch to working with a professional. Set yourself some realistic goals and expectations. How often can you attend the gym or a fitness class on a regular basis? Can you eat well and still include some of your favourite foods and encourage a friend to do it with you for the sake of accountability? Here at LIVFIT, for example, we regularly hold free seminars to help get you started. That’s a solid start right there.

Care to bust some fitness myths for us?
To be honest, the whole health and fitness industry is pretty rife with gimmicks that simply play on people’s emotions and insecurities. Millions and millions of pounds a year get wasted in the UK on dubious products that promise you the body of your dreams. My advice to anyone who is thinking of trying these products? Be very critical and discerning about anything you put in your body. We have a simple motto: If your not gonna do it in 6 months don’t do it now. 

Tell us about the importance of the relationship between food and training.
The relationship between food and training plays a dual role to your success, regardless of whether you wish to build muscle or lose body fat or simply want to feel good. It’s true that good food makes you feel good and when you feel good you perform better. At home, at work or in the gym. To lose weight you must expend more energy than you consume.
A great way to create this deficit is by eating more energy dense food,
as well as increasing activity levels. A combination of the two double your chances of creating this deficit. 

By the same token, if you wish to build muscle, you will need to eat in a calorie surplus (more calories on average) than you usually do. Eating foods that are high in protein – lean meats for example – can also support muscle repair and recovery. This is essential between sessions so that you can recover as quickly as possible before your next training session. There are several ways of logging/tracking your food intake, and working with an experienced professional will mean your chances of achieving your goals become accelerated. Food isn’t bad. It’s what you do with that food that counts. Don’t starve yourself: Eat to perform and hold yourself accountable, but don’t guilt yourself and don’t expect overnight results. Strive for progress, not perfection, and you won’t go far wrong.

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