Category Archives: Health & Fitness

Shaolin Kung Fu in London

Shaolin Kung Fu in London: Interview with Master Shi Yanxiu

London Shaolinxiu Culture Centre is an overseas branch centre of the Shaolin Temple in China.

This is one of the most famous and historical Buddhism temples in the world, and also renowned for its martial arts and warrior monks.

The London Shaolinxiu Culture Centre was founded 12 years ago. Miranda Cui recently interviewed with its founder Master Shi Yanxiu. He shared his experience of teaching Shaolin Kung Fu in the UK and his understanding of Shaolin culture.

My truly (half) marathon effort

‘The pride in finishing a marathon is much greater than all the pain endured during the marathon.’ 

The words of veteran American writer and runner Hal Higdon, who has taken part in 111 marathons, sum up the highs and lows of enduring those 26.2 miles of immense physical effort.

Marathon runners usually divide the world into two kinds of people: those who have already run the distance and those who haven’t.

London, Paris, New York, Jerusalem, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Rome – marathons are staged all over the world and the biggest ones are the only competitions which gather Olympic and world champions, intermediate runners and beginners on the same day in the same race.

Young, old, male, female, some racing in wheelchairs; people from all nationalities and religions. It could also be argued that the shared experience of running a marathon overcomes any social and cultural barrier.


The build-up to taking part in a marathon takes over your life.

Early morning runs, watching what you eat, less drinking and going out, worrying about niggling injuries. Weeks and months go by with a single-minded focus (some would say obsession) on training.

“All those months of training are over and the challenge is suddenly in front you”

A marathon contains more than 30,000 steps, and to maintain the motivation to take each one, you need to ask yourself a simple question: why I am doing this?’

Everybody will have a different answer: the culmination of striving to get fit; the sheer challenge of it; a wager; friendship; for charity in memory of a lost loved one; a lifelong ambition fulfilled…

As soon as you announce to your family and friends that you are taking the plunge, you have made a commitment and you can’t step back.

You need them to help you stay positive and focused, but you must also turn to others who can help with your preparations.

Marathon running requires a lot of technique, and seeking advice from seasoned competitors is key.


The first few training runs that you do will determine how far you still have to go to be ready to run the daunting marathon distance.

Every run is unique, depending on the conditions, your route, the time of day and how you feel, but pounding the streets over and over again can get monotonous.

That’s why it’s important to alternate between long-distance runs, shorter, more intense cardio-fitness sessions and recovery. In order to run 30,000 steps, take things step by step…

If you train reasonably hard, you will reach 10 kilometres relatively easily. Those with a decent level of fitness can aim to do 10k in less than an hour.

Once this achieved, you can think about testing your stamina and abilities by entering a half marathon, which is what I opted to do.

Race day

At the start. Photo by Mike McCullough via Flickr Creative Commons

The alarm clock is ringing. The night was short and the sun is slowly rising outside your window. It’s Sunday morning, and once you get into the shower, you don’t want to get out because you know what’s coming.

After having had a few orange slices, a hot coffee and an enormous bowl of porridge, the stress kicks in, but you tackle it by preparing  yourself as thoroughly as possible because every single detail counts.

Socks on feet, trainer laces carefully tied; all those months of training are over and the challenge is suddenly in front you.

Arriving at the event, the nerves return, but everyone taking part is united by a common goal – reaching the finish line in a couple of hours time.

Tightly packed against each other at the start, everyone is ready to share the best and the worse of long-distance running, guided by their own brand of courage and perseverance.

Early miles

When the starter’s pistol is fired, your heart-rate suddenly speeds up. You are very excited and ready to rumble.

The best advice from those who have run a marathon is to manage your pace and not set off too fast.

The first few miles are quite straightforward, and by keeping to a realistic average pace, you may begin to feel a little smug. Hey, this isn’t so bad after all…

However, as the race wears on and the miles get harder, you start to understand that road running is both an individual discipline as well as one of the most collective.

Only you can run it for yourself, but you share the effort of doing so with everyone around you.

Spectators applaud and shout their encouragement, urging you on; their support really does lift your spirits.

Music will be your constant companion during the event, either through headphones or maybe there will be brass bands along the route. Music gives you energy and strength.

The end is in sight

As time passes, things get progressively worse. Your body aches, your breathing becomes laboured, your pace falters and slows.

The mile markers seem to take longer and longer to reach, but you dig deep and try to remember all sacrifices you have made over the past few months in order to take part.

“You will reflect on running 13.1 miles and may well decide: ‘I want to do to it again’.”

You will pass other runners hobbling along, barely able to walk, or people being attended to paramedics, and think ‘I don’t want that to be me.’

You cannot feel your knees anymore, you are exhausted but – strangely – you feel very strong.

As you near the finish, the crowds grow bigger and their applause and encouragement gives your morale a timely boost. You are going to make it.


Once you have crossed the line, you are engulfed by a huge feeling of satisfaction.

As you queue to pick up your finishers’ t-shirt and medal, your achievement sinks in and you feel a real sense of pride.

Suddenly, you start speaking again as runners exchange experiences and compare times. Everyone is very friendly and keen to share their result.

On the way home, fellow travellers salute your performance. Some of them will just smile, while other congratulate you. Running a half marathon is all about connecting with others.

Although your legs hurt, and will do for a few days, you will reflect on running 13.1 miles and may well decide: ‘I want to do to it again.’

Perhaps you will even begin to entertain thoughts of stepping up to the full distance… I have now signed up for next year’s Paris Marathon.

Jean Verdon took part in a half marathon in the French town of St Hillaire de Riez.

Feature image by tfxc via Flickr Creative Commons under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic. 

Lawson’s recipe for sporting success

“Nutrition is the fastest growing area, that is why more players are paying for their own care, because it’s that important,” says sports nutritionist and Uefa-qualified football coach Matt Lawson. 

Michelin-starred chef Jonny Marsh works with a number of Premier League footballers as their personal chef

With the rise of sportspeople having their own personal chefs, meal plans and specifically tailored diets, Lawson is much in demand.

“Dietetics was not something I started out in, I was mainly interested in the human body, what happens to us day to day,” he explains.

“Through biology at school I found nutrition and that led to becoming a Registered Dietitian at the University of Nottingham. It is the gold standard of diet and nutrition service.”

Patriotic pride with Team GB

In what has been an established career in football already, Lawson has worked with Team GB, Notts County’s first team, Notts County Ladies and Doncaster Rovers.

“Working with Team GB is the highlight of my career without a doubt,” he says.

“People represent their country, for me to be involved —  wow! I felt undeserving really. This is a special country and I love it deeply. Being a dietitian and helping people, being involved is what makes it worthwhile.”

‘Working with Team GB is the highlight of my career’

Lawson was also part of his boyhood club Notts County’s 22 match away-game unbeaten streak, an all-time club record, under manager Keith Curle.

“On top of that, winning Coach of the Year in 2016, for the Notts County Ladies team doing the cup and league double whilst taking my UEFA badges, it was something I was very lucky to be involved in. Really the players did it for me,” he says.

Measuring success

Following the release of his new book Recipes for Success Lawson believes sports nutrition is more important than ever.

“My book is all about working to simple recipes that we know help people in day-to-day life,” he explains. “Nutrition and the way we look at training is the main thing that drives performance.”

“The greatest change recently is the move towards technology. Now we measure urine, blood, sweat, diet, as well as weight, body fat and distance. More methods come around and we need to utilise them,” emphasises Lawson.

No more parties

Gone are the days of top-level athletes and sports people eating and drinking what they like, with Lawson claiming nutrition can be the vital factor to sporting success.

‘My book is all about working to simple recipes that we know help people, in day to day life’

“Footballers have changed, only very few get away with the party life. Most of them will get injured, football is paid well and there are sacrifices,” he states.

“Overall, I want the athlete to care about it, that is the main thing. We need to work with players to make them the best, continually improving. Nutrition impacts genetic and metabolic function, it is this that affects the very small margins between winning and losing.”

The future looks exciting for Lawson, who is aiming to expand his horizons both off the pitch in nutrition and on the pitch with coaching.

“I am developing my own football academy, nutrition consultancy and charity that can help people find a pathway into football,” he explains.

“We need more pitches for young people, especially women, and more joining the battle against diet-related ill health in our country.”

You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattLawson7 and find out more on his new book Recipes for Success on his website.


Image is everything? The growing problem of steroid abuse

Steroid abuse in gyms around the United Kingdom is at an all-time high, according to personal trainer George Trott.

The 20-year-old began his journey in the fitness industry at the age of 16, eventually becoming a personal trainer at AbSalute Gym in Brentwood, Essex.

Since the rise of reality TV shows such as Geordie Shore and The Only Way is Essex (from which a number of the cast train at AbSalute),  the obsession with fitness and individuals looking to emulate ‘ripped’ body types has risen dramatically.

Unfortunately, with an increase in people training comes an increase in people doing whatever it takes to look their best.

‘Roids on the rise

The official crime survey of England & Wales by the Office for National Statistics indicates that over 60,000 men in the UK are using steroids.

Possible side effects of steroid abuse include severe mood swings, depression, acne, paranoia and impaired judgement, just to name a few.

‘These young people are playing about with their body chemistry just for an image’ – George Trott

“Steroids are a massive problem in the fitness industry at the moment, and 90 percent of people doing them don’t actually know the effects they have on the human body,” explained Trott, who has been a qualified personal trainer for over at AbSalute for over a year.

“Bodybuilders inject testosterone as this is meant to help promote muscle growth, bone strength and develop muscle tissue. What they don’t realise is that it shuts down your body’s natural way to produce testosterone after you stop taking this supplement.

“For the 10 percent of people that know how to take these, they would know they have to do a PCT (post cycle therapy) which means they have to take another supplement that promotes their body’s natural testosterone, so they start producing this naturally again,” he said.

“I’ve had 16-year-olds asking me about steroids which shows there is a real problem. These young people are playing about with their body chemistry just for an image.”


Even more worryingly, UK Border Force figures in 2016-17 showed a 35 percent spike in seizures of steroids across the country.

But why are more and more people turning to steroids?

In the UK, they are a class C drug, meaning it is not illegal to possess them for personal use, but it is illegal to sell them.

According to Trott, there needs to be a crackdown on steroids and a higher drug reclassification for there to be a decrease in users.

“I’m sure if they were a class A, they would not be so easy to get hold of and not as many people would be on them,” he said.

“I know teenagers that actually sell steroids and I’ve asked them why they sell them. They’ve said because the risk is minimal as they are class C and they can make a lot of money out of it.

“The country has never been so into its fitness, and this means more than ever we are seeing people on steroids. People are thinking that they’ll automatically look good when it doesn’t work like that and they are just damaging their health.”

So, are we seeing a new generation of males that are more concerned about the image they project both in person and via social media? Is there more pressure on men to get their bodies to a certain standard?

Growing pressure on the male image?

“Men naturally tend to have more of an ego than women, and I think this is a problem – men are always trying to compete with each other to see who’s bigger, who looks better,” Trott, 20, claimed.

“Who’s stronger and who can lift more is what men concern themselves about. I fully believe this is why more people are turning to steroids, because of the competition they face.”

The world fitness industry is constantly growing, and for many people, training becomes an addiction.

‘I have been asked by clients about taking steroids and what ones to take, but I have advised against it each time’ – George Trott

“I have seen cases of the gym becoming an obsession for people, and I’ve actually seen this obsession ruin marriages it’s got that far. What people need to understand is that gym is a lifestyle,” he explained.

Walking hand-in-hand with reality TV stars comes social media. Millions of people use apps such as Instagram to engage with various parts of the fitness world, ranging from diet, to gym clothing, to training routines.

Trott believes social media is the biggest factor as to why a pressure on image has been created for men.

“Social media is something we use every day, so men are seeing an unrealistic standard every day. You have a lot of people that edit their photos to make them look better than they really are. Again men are going to look at this and try to achieve that,” he said.

“Unfortunately, I know trainers that advise their clients to get on steroids as they get great results in a short space of time, so it looks really good on the trainer, but there is little thought for the client’s health which is put at risk.

“I have been asked by clients about taking steroids and what ones to take, but I have advised against it each time and thankfully none of my clients have gone down that route. I think every personal trainer should take note of that.”

The future Of UK training

With the number of Brits that are going down the steroid route, what does Trott think the future holds for the UK fitness industry?

“I feel that the future of training is only going to expand, with more and more people getting in good shape, and it’s going to make people follow which is not a bad thing. Unfortunately, steroids are now seen as an inevitability.

“As for myself, I would like to start working with professional athletes and help them achieving their goals. To do this I would have to go and take a strength and conditioning course which would allow me to work with the top athletes.”

You can follow George on Twitter and Instagram @ghttraining to see some of his workouts. To get in touch with the up and coming personal trainer email for any personal training enquiries such as training and diet plans.

Cycle touring around Copenhagen

Few sensations are more soothing than the reassuring feel of a mild breeze on the back and the sound of tyres caressing a bicycle path as it meanders through the outskirts of beautiful Copenhagen. 

Before this summer’s holiday to Denmark, the last time I had climbed aboard a bicycle coincided with the last time I fell off one. Despite this mishap, I was eager to explore Copenhagen on two wheels.

The Danish capital remains the benchmark for cities around the world as they try to figure out how to take the bicycle seriously as a mode of transport.

With the beautiful medieval city centre streets and the unlimited access for cyclists to ride on, Copenhagen continues to inspire, but where did the Danish cycling craze start?


Denmark is the epitome of a bike-friendly country. The opening of the city’s first bike lane in 1892 saw cycling become hugely popular, and in just 15 years the number of bikes on its streets rose from 2,500 to 80,000.

By 1960, however, using cars had become the norm, which brought with it pollution and traffic-related accidents.

The real problem, however, was the international energy crisis in the early 1970s. For a country which at the time depended on imported oil for 92% of its energy, this was a major issue.

This meant that much of the country went green and bikes now seemed more than just a cheap exercise.

Throughout the 1980s, Denmark saw a bicycle renaissance. Individuals lobbied for the introduction of bike lanes in cities and since Copenhagen began to observe its cycling rates to see how many individuals were using bicycles in 1995, the continuous rise has been spectacular.

In 2004, 41% of Copenhagen commuted by bike and by 2010, it had reached 50%. Today, the country sets a gold-standard for renewable energy and efficiency.

Cycling in Copenhagen 

Copenhagen is a cyclist’s dream. Throughout my week there, I biked to restaurants and famous sights such as the Little Mermaid statue, and through the city’s most elegant parks and attractions like Tivoli Gardens, the world’s second oldest amusement park.

Biking around in Copenhagen is so relaxing, it almost felt like meditation. People in Denmark obey cycling’s etiquette, so an obvious factor in feeling assured and pedalling at a safe pace.

After hiring out my bicycle, what really struck me about cycling round Copenhagen was how seamlessly one could weave through the city without feeling vulnerable. Sometimes the ride to a new destination in the city was as enjoyable as reaching the destination itself.


Despite the highs of my cycling experience in Denmark, I did experience moments of frustration, mainly down to my general unfamiliarity with the city. Being someone who doesn’t speak Danish apart from the word ‘Hej’ – hello – remembering street names was a difficult task.

Parts of the city were a bit of a labyrinth, too. This is, of course, mainly a problem for visitors, and there were plenty of times when, seeing my confused looks at road signs, helpful locals asked if I needed help. There is a reason why Denmark is officially the happiest nation in the world.

Danish drivers were very patient with minor cycling indiscretions that would have caused road rage in London. Nothing in the city was hurried, and the main difference I observed from cycling in London is that in Denmark, cycling is an incredibly social way to get around.

I came across many friends and families cycling with one another and this is important for making a mode of transport more appealing.

The country’s wide cycle lanes mean people can ride side by side and despite the overcrowding at times, it is one of the most amazing things to witness.

Cycling and pollution 

It is common knowledge that cycling in polluted air is harmful to people’s health, but does that mean you shouldn’t cycle because of pollution?

If there is a cleaner alternative the answer is yes, but if the alternative is to drive or use bus, cycling is not necessarily the worst alternative.

Cyclists are exposed to pollutants more than car drivers – however studies have shown that the concentration of pollutants at rush hours is substantially larger inside cars than outside.

The reason for this is that cars’ air intake is close to the exhaust of the car in front, so depending on the relative speed and volume of air taken in per minute, cyclists may not be exposed to a higher amount of pollutants over the same distance.

Health benefits

If the thought of experiencing a capital city on two wheels is daunting, Copenhagen will help you conquer your fears, and as the cycling craze intensifies, so do the health benefits.

Cycling may save money and help the environment, but its biggest benefit is for health, and as a low-impact form of exercise, it is easier on the joints than running.

My view of cycling across central Copenhagen

The capital region of Denmark estimates that the city’s high cycling levels save one million fewer sick days per year and regular bike riding contributes to increased cardiovascular health and decreases in stress and obesity.

Visit Denmark 

If cycling is your thing, you would be hard-pressed to find a better-equipped destination than Denmark. With over 12,000km of signposted cycle routes, eye-catching scenery and short distances between amenities, the place is made for pedal-powered travel.

Copenhagen leads the way and the rest of Denmark follows. Cycling networks have allowed cities such as Odense to reinvent themselves as eco-friendly destinations, while Bornholm has made a huge transition from a simple beach escape once, to a place that boasts 150 miles of cycling routes.

Denmark has many cities to visit and cycle from and it is safe and great fun. So get on your bike and pedal away to take a cycling holiday in Denmark because it will be the most enticing thing you will ever try!

Click here to learn more about cycling in Denmark.

‘Food is for fuel, not comfort’

For as long as she can remember, sport and exercise have been key to Rosemarie Uzomba’s life.

Now she is trying to make them similarly important for others too, as having just completed a Sports Science degree, the 23-year-old from Hackney is carving out a career as a personal trainer.

“Trainers need to ensure they stand out from the crowd to gain clients”

“Sport has always played a large part in my life,” she told me. “Some of my fondest memories involve physical activity such as swimming lessons with my father as a toddler, or playing football in the local park with my sisters – one of whom now plays for Leyton FC.”

When it came to her choice of study and subsequent career path, the science aspect was just as important as the sport.

“I believe sport/exercise science is the health degree of the future because across the whole world, obesity is an ongoing and rising issue,” she explained.

“The USA tops the rankings with 30.6% of its population suffering from obesity, but we’re not far behind – the UK has the third highest level, with 23% affected.”

Fiercely competitive

With the personal fitness market in the UK growing rapidly, trainers need to ensure they stand out from the crowd to gain clients. Rosemarie says you need to plan ahead before launching yourself.

“It’s fiercely competitive, especially if you’re a freelancer, so you need to learn how to network to get more clients,” she explained. “You also need knowledge, time, dedication, and to be personable, so people will come to you, rather than someone else.”

“The skills for personal training are also transferable to teaching – motivation, hard work and consistency”

Pricing and knowing your target audience are also key to success – as is building a good personal rapport, to retain clients once you have them.

“An hourly rate that may be reasonable for some customers could be outrageous to others,” she said. “I don’t change ridiculous prices in order for people to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.

“I try help people change their lives around and listen to their stories whilst transforming physically. Being a PT means you’ve got face to face interaction with people all the time, so you have to learn how to deal with different personalities. Being cheerful and outgoing goes a very long way.”


The expertise Rose has acquired in her work as a PT, together with the interpersonal skills she uses every day, help her in another part of her career – working in primary schools.

“Once you turn to food for comfort, that’s when bad eating habits evolve”

“As a PT, I’m teaching and assisting a workout and I’m educating about also nutrition, so it’s a similar task in schools,” she explains. “The skills for personal training are also transferable to teaching – motivation, hard work and consistency.”

A report in the Guardian newspaper found that, according to the Active People Survey, nearly 80% of the UK population fails to hit key national government targets for fitness – performing moderate exercise for 30 minutes at least 12 times a month.

It found that just over 8% of adults capable of walking had not – with the exception of shopping – walked continuously for five minutes within the previous four weeks, while 46% had not walked for leisure for 30 minutes continuously over the same period.

Almost nine out of 10 had not swum and a similar proportion had not used a gym.

Bad habits

The link between exercise and health is obvious – and this is where Rosemarie’s scientific background and knowledge of nutrition come into play. “We need to have a healthier and happier lifestyle,” she explained.

“Exercise regularly and eat food for fuel not for comfort. Once you turn to food for comfort, that’s when bad eating habits evolve.”

Another fact highlighted by the results of the survey is that women are less likely to take part in sport than men. But despite being sports-mad herself, Rosemarie does not think everyone should be made to follow in her active footsteps.

“Sport shouldn’t be forced on people,” she said. “That would devalue the purpose and enjoyment factor sport provides. But with obesity rates for women in the US and UK increasing, the question is – what can be done to make women more interested in working out?”

Photo of Rosemarie Uzomba (right) with Team GB’s Perri Shakes-Drayton courtesy of Rosemarie Uzomba

‘Jiu Jitsu made me a better me’

“It’s definitely something everybody should at least try.”

So says Farhana Khatun, an amateur Jiu Jitsu fighter who took up the Japanese form of martial arts after signing up to a club at a university freshers’ fair.

“After attending the taster session I was completely hooked”

Khatun, 21, believes that Jiu Jitsu is not just a hobby but more a way of life which has helped her overcome personal issues and gain confidence.

“I have lost weight, grown tougher and more resolved as a person. I used to be a very emotionally charged with mild depression,” she explained.

“With Jiu Jitsu I feel like I’ve got a handle on things. It has taught me to be patient with hurdles and transition smoothly between each one.


Khatun enjoys the combative nature of Jiu Jitsu and believes it teaches students discipline, kindness, tolerance as well as patience which are skills useful in all walks of life.

“I have lost weight, grown tougher and more resolved as a person. I used to be a very emotionally charged with mild depression”

“The sensei at the club (Saeed Jbr) always teaches us to take care of our partners whilst training and even though it is a contact sport with a risk of injury, being there for someone and knowing how to deal with people is an invaluable experience.”

She went onto say that knowing and keeping an observant eye out for human behaviour is definitely something that comes in handy when dealing with people away from the mat.


Recently Khatun competed in her first in-house tournament where she won half of the bouts she was involved in. It was the first time she fought in front of anyone besides her class partners.

“I don’t want to say I am a sore loser, but lose I did. Winning two out of four matches wasn’t bad, but I let the nervousness get the better of me. I was filled with so much adrelanine, I feel like I maxed out. Intimidation was one of the key factors as well.”

“It was nerve wracking. Even fighting in front of a small crowd at Kings for a friendly match definitely felt intense”

But she insisted she loved it and getting pumped on the excitement and pressure was a good feeling.

“It was nerve wracking. Even fighting in front of a small crowd at Kings for a friendly match – infront of my sister and brother – definitely felt intense”

A few minutes prior to the tournament Khatun was entered into the heavyweight category, although she’d been prepared as a lightweight.

“I fought against girls that were a lot larger than me and shifting from lightweight to heavyweight at the last minuted derailed me. But in the end, I’ve taken it as a learning experience and hopefully next year I win gold – or at least silver!”


Khatun feels self-defence is an essential life skill and doesn’t necessarily need to be violent or involve fighting but more importantly the ability to engage the mind, gain agility.

“Self defence teaches you how to defend yourself in public, but it also teaches you important values,” she told me.

The student who’s in her final year of university says there’s no greater thrill than rolling with someone who wants to submit to you.

“The best part of training is the ground work. It engages more of my mind and physical attributes.

“You build a bond with your team-mates, you strengthen and condition your body and with regards to emotions, you let the stress out on the mat.”

Khatun says there are no negative aspects regarding the Jiu Jitsu but frustrates herself when she doesn’t execute a move properly “with the right form” which could lead to injury.

She is next planning to take up a different form of jitsu known as 10th Planet Jitsu which is a non-traditional Brazilian style.

Q&A with Patrycja Jakubiak

Healthy eating, healthy living, fat content, sugar levels, gluten-free, cooking meals is healthier than buying ready-made ones – we are constantly bombarded with messages about what we eat, but how to make sense of it all?

Elephants Sports spoke with Patrycja Jakubiak, a student from the Department of Food Science at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Poland, for some insight.

What was the beginning of your adventure with cooking?
To be honest there wasn’t a start. I guess my mother instilled in me the desire to cook. Since I can remember I helped out in the kitchen, sometimes we spent the whole day baking cakes or dumplings. I was always very selective when it comes to food, that’s why I had the motivation to cook what I really liked.

As for the second part of your question. I guess you can say that. Honestly, I had a lot of different scenarios in my head, but as the time went on I came to the conclusion it’s not what I was searching for. I really do enjoy gastronomy. This is what makes me happy and at the end of the day that’s what life is about. To do what you really love and enjoy.

People believe gastronomy is simply about cooking…
Gastronomy is the art of preparing and serving food based on culinary expertise. It’s the knowledge about various products, nutritional value, rational preparation of dishes, composing meals, culinary traditions, habits and customs. Completing gastronomy doesn’t mean I will live in the kitchen for the rest of my life. There are a number of options for me. People are simply unware and a bit ignorant of that.

Would you say a passion for cooking is essential?
I admit, you have to be passionate about cuisine, but that’s the way it should be in any discipline. We’re probably going to be doing it for the rest of our lives.

Most people only see the meal on their plate whereas your head is full of information about calories, ingredients and contents. Are you able to eat a meal without overthinking about what it contains?
Oh my, there’s a lot of theory and every day it gets worse. This is the reason I know how to mix every ingredient so the taste is delicious. Who would’ve thought chocolate and blue cheese is one of the best mixtures. We learn inside out what the dish consists of. Thanks to that I’m a conscious consumer. I rarely purchase products without examining the label. I’m not going to purchase pesto just because there’s ‘Tomato Pesto’ written on it, as it might only include 20% of tomatoes and the rest are extras. I’m a strong supporter of preparing food at home.

Results of research by the Nuffield Trust* have shown 70% adults in Great Britain will be overweight by 2034. Is it because of ingredients or ignorance?
The occasional cheeseburger won’t play havoc with our system. We’re all human and we like to eat, but there has to be a limit. We have to wake up a desire to prepare food at home – it doesn’t mean reheating a pizza or getting spaghetti sauce out of a jar. The internet is a mine of knowledge.

Is the typical English Breakfast a lethal mixture?
I wouldn’t say a lethal, but it’s a calorie bomb for sure. The typical English meal dates back to the old days when an English farmer had to eat a hearty breakfast to get him through the day. I took a chance to calculate the nutritional value of such a meal: 1200kcal with 93g of fat. The numbers speak for themselves.

People poison themselves with food that, health-wise, is barely consumable, from frozen pizzas to crisps and sugary snacks. Is it because it’s just convenient?
No one imagines watching a movie with a carrot in one hand and an apple in the other. Ready meals aren’t poisonous, but surely shouldn’t be served to maintain a healthy body weight. I’m talking about an excess of such products. Consumers are fuelling the machine of unhealthy food because they’re are purchasing these products.

Tasteless food is healthy? Would you agree with this statement?
I believe it comes down whether it’s properly cooked and seasoned. A little imagination along with common sense never hurt anyone.

‘Healthy’ food can involved a number of tricks in the form of sugars or other ingredients…
Back in the day, I also thought I could eat a 0% sugar yogurt without any restriction. It’s a common mistake. Sure, it’s 0%, but the amount of sweeteners and glucose syrup is enormous. Just like chocolate, when we see ‘chocolate 0% fat’ we believe there’s nothing wrong with eating the whole packet. Wrong! There’re a great deal of other ingredients, but their names are often unknown to consumers, so the information just gets ignored. That’s marketing for you.

There’s a high demand for ‘healthy’ products…
I think the reason for this is the fact a massive sign with ‘HEALTHY’ written on it is like a red rag to a bull. People follow such marketing tricks blindly believing it will make them healthy. The truth is these products often cost more but sometimes they doesn’t make you healthier. ‘Healthy’ is a lifestyle that has to be constantly worked on.

Along the same lines..Gluten? True or a scam?
Truth and a scam at the same time.

Gluten, gluten-free. Everywhere I look I see gluten…
I’ve read a number of articles and books about gluten, along with listening to a dozens of speeches. Honestly, I don’t know what to make of this. A few years ago ‘one glass of milk a day’ was a must. Now there’s a trend for not consuming gluten. I bet you in a year or two it will be ‘once a week eat at least one cheeseburger’.

What are the three most important nutrients people actually need to pay attention to when choosing food? Is there an ingredient that can be life-threatening?
Proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Adequate number is the key to success. We’re not able to protects ourselves against harmful ingredients. Many of them are naturally presented in products of plant and animal origin. Even honey can include toxic substances if the bees produce the nectar from poisonous plants. Fish can be contaminated by the toxic substances from algae.

Have you encountered a saying ‘There’s no training without a proper diet’?
We have to take into consideration whether someone wants to be a professional athlete or attend the gym once or twice a week. Sport is not exactly my piece of cake, although I’ve noticed that a well-balanced diet and exercise certainly make me feel a lot better.

You’re on a diet yourself! Does it feel like a mission impossible?
It’s not a problem. The beginning is always tough, but in my case it’s not that bad after all. I prepare the meals when I wake up or the evening before. So there’s no motivation in this aspect. I have to say my cuisine is not so bad, so I can live with it!

*Nuffield Trust – The Obesity Epidemic

Q&A with Damian Wyszomierski

Elephant Sports spoke to Damian Wyszomierski, an aspiring MMA fighter and personal trainer from Poland about his life in Britain and using sport, fitness and diet to help him find his path in life.

At what age did you start to play sports?
I played football since I was 10 years old, that lasted for six years. After that I decided to swap the ball for weights and the gym, as well as getting into mixed martial arts.

You’re a person that has experience in the fight game and strength training. What is the main difference between these two and can you implement them together?
Stand-up practices in sports such as kickboxing, Muay Thai and karate are about polishing your technique, speed and agility. Let’s not forget about the aspect of strength that also plays a major role. The name ‘strength training’ says it all. Fortunately, you can link martial arts and strength training together and that’s how it works out for me.

What is the difference between sports such as football and full contact sports?
In such sports, a team is responsible for everything that occurs on the field. On the other hand, in contact sports you’re the person that has control over everything. It’s only you and the opponent in front of you.

Tell me more about your adventure with the craft of martial arts and gym training? When did you actually become serious about it?
I was 16 years old. There was simply a moment when I came to the conclusion I need something else than football. Honestly, it didn’t give me as much happiness anymore. I decided to try a different sport and that’s how I found myself in the place I am today. The seriousness towards giving it a 100% in martial arts and strength training made me quit football once for all.

What impact did your move to the UK have on you?
To be honest I never had a problem with communication and adaptation. I’m a person that acclimates and gets on with people, so I can’t say I had to worry about this.

Is it hard to overcome the language barrier?
When I first came to England I didn’t understand a single word. Literately nothing. Nevertheless, I still managed to train normally and participate like I did back home. So no, I don’t think it’s a problem. At least for me.

Have you ever had any trouble because of misunderstanding what the people are saying to you?
No, never. I tend to laugh if such a situation occurs.

Tell me about your role as a personal trainer
I’m here to help people that are having all kinds of problems. Whether it’s being overweight or wanting to gaining pure muscle, I’m here for them. Often I encounter people searching for a trainer that will help them with a training routine in order to become simply a fitter person. Others need the training to put them in a better frame of mind.

Diet or training? Which aspect is more important?
Both aspects are really important. Although when it comes to our physique the diet takes the podium, as 75% of what we look like comes from a well-balanced diet and the 25% is hard work done in practice. On the other hand, if you’re concentrating mainly on pure ability, speed or efficiency, then training takes over.

So a well-balanced diet is key?
I believe a well-balanced diet linked with the proper training programme, as well as sufficient cardio routines is the true key to success. Hard work and dedication.

Diets, training routines and personal consultations – are you a one-man band?
Ha ha, that’s my role! I’m using my knowledge to help people reach their desired physique or any other goals they have.

How long does your client have to wait for a plan?
I always tell the interested individual that it usually takes three days until I send the diet. Although, when I have time it takes no longer than 24 hours. It depends whether I have a lot to do at work or any other responsibilities. Trust me, it’s time-consuming.

Many people believe the effects of training should be immediate? What do you have to say to those people?
On the internet we can read a number of false statements such as “I lost 10kg in 30 days. You can do it too!” Ads like this are practically everywhere, however it’s simply a fraud. Let me repeat one more time: a balanced diet, along with disciplined training will give you the desired effect. The level of metabolism varies, that’s the reason for some people it takes longer to reach their goal. It might see a difference within a month, whereas you’re training partner will by the end of the week. Just train hard and be patient.

Hard day of workout along with crisps in the evening? How does it sound?
From time to time everyone should allow themselves to have something different to eat. There’s nothing wrong with that. We’re all humans and we’ll have a moment of weakness. When I’m working with a client I implement so called ‘cheat meals’. Instead of having a healthy meal an individual can eat whatever they want.

You’re a realist and I guess you know how hard it is turn what you do into a real success…
Sure, I know how hard it is. Hopefully all the hard work pays off one day and I’ll be able to say because of this I’m making the money I need in order to have a normal life. Although at the moment just like everyone else at the beginning of their road I have a full-time job and the money I earn from being a personal trainer is just a little bonus.

The popularity of training is huge at the moment, and summer is just around the corner. Would you say the buzz will slowly fade away?
Honestly, there are a lot of seasonal gym goers that train just because they’re going on vacation and want to show off on the beach. These are the people that often end up leaving before they even started. On the other hand, there are many people are passionate about strength training and other sports. In my opinion, there will always be people that treat the sport differently. At the end of the day it’s their decision in what category they fall into.

Coconut oil – a natural performance enhancer?

In the worlds of professional sports and fitness, people are always looking for anything that will place them ahead of the game.

Whether it is a new supplement, or simply an advanced specific workout, if it gives you an edge, there will always be those willing to try it.

With the prohibited list of banned substances constantly growing, athletes welcome with open arms any natural product that might bestow an advantage.

This is why there’s such a buzz about coconut oil. An increasing number of diet and fitness experts are extolling its virtues.

All coconut oils have a few things in common:

  1. Water, fibre and proteins are removed from the flesh of the coconut to obtain the oil.They are all made from the meat (white flesh) of a mature coconut (10-12 months after the flower begins to form a seed).
  1. All coconut oil, once these constituents are removed, is stable at room temperature. This oil is more stable than any other oil because it is predominantly composed of medium-chain fatty acids which are ‘saturated’ by hydrogen atoms and resist oxidation.
  1. The key factors affecting the stability, taste, quality and price of coconut oil are dependent on how well the proteins, fibre and water are removed and the methods used to remove them.

For example:

  1. Was heat, smoke, or the sun used during the process and how long did it take?
  2. Are there still trace amounts of proteins, fibers or water left in the finished oil?
  3. Did any contamination occur to the coconut meat or oil as it was dried or processed?*

Eatwell plate

An enormous amount of people are uneducated about the products they consume on daily basis. The problem with obesity is nothing new, because the population tend to eat what they like instead of what they need to absorb.


The figure above means more than a thousand words and thoroughly links with the topic of coconut oil. We can’t be disappointed about the fact people use normal cooking oil, rather than coconut oil if the household purchases compared to the eatwell plate are at such low standard.



Patrycja Jakubiak from the Department of Food Science at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Poland told Elephant Sport: “The coconut palm is called the ‘tree of a thousand uses’ and extracted oil is considered the healthiest in the world.

“Coconut oil is used for the prevention of diseases such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, cardiovascular and degenerative diseases. Conducive to maintaining a healthy weight and promotes weight loss.

“It is also recommended for pregnant women, breastfeeding and children in order to improve the absorption and maintain the body’s calcium along with magnesium as it has a positive effect on bones.

“Coconut oil applied externally is exceptional for treating cuts, burns, eczema, fungal infection of the skin as well as acne and thrush. In cosmetology it is used for massage, facials and other treatments to support skin regeneration. Ideal for spreads and frying.”

Over the years, the knowledge of coconut oil enhanced in the community of sport and actually became irreplaceable for athletes. There are three main benefits that sportsmen and women take away from the oil:

Calorie Density
Coconut oil has a high energy — or calorie — density, containing 117 calories per tablespoon. This may be beneficial, as during intense training sessionsCO3 and competition periods, athletes burn a large number of calories that must be replaced. Additionally, athletes looking to gain muscle mass or move up a weight class also need more calorie-dense foods. To get 117 calories from low-fat foods like fruit, pasta or rice cakes would require eating a much larger volume of food, which could cause bloating and discomfort.

More energy
The fat in raw coconut oil is mainly saturated, but it’s a different type of saturated fat than the kind you get in animal products like red meat and butter. The saturated fats in coconut oil — known as medium-chain triglycerides — are absorbed by the liver, meaning they act more like a carbohydrate in terms of supplying energy, notes sports nutritionist Matt Lovell.

Fat loss
When you’re aiming to lose fat, lower body weight or improve body composition, raw coconut oil may also give a helping hand. According to Lovell, coconut oil can raise the metabolism, potentially leading to a greater fat-burning effect.**

There’s no doubt about the fact coconut oil made quite an impact over the past few years. The massive availability of different kind of oil products only proves the point about the effectiveness of coconut oil. Healthy diets are designed for everyone who wishes to change their life for the better and become a part of a lifestyle that is literally delicious!