A New Men’s Shed for Remarkable Men

Today I had the opportunity to celebrate the opening of the new Buderim Men’s Shed here on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia. I have been a member of this Men’s Shed for many years where I chair the Health & Well Being committee. This involves organising the monthly health education events, delivering the annual health screening tests and supervising the fitness centre three mornings per week as the guys do their resistance circuit.

This Shed has almost 300 members all over the age of 60 with many well into their eighties.

My role today was to host the official opening ceremony which was conducted by two federal politicians alongside our Shed president, Barry Cheales.

The contribution of Men’s Sheds to the health and quality of life of older men is obvious when observing them in action and across a longer time frame. Research suggests it helps overcome post-retirement loneliness and lack of purpose, two of the social determinants of health.

I will include a photo of the new shed complex which is purpose-built and brand-spanking new. The members have raised funds and accessed government grants and other support from sponsors and supporters to construct their new shed. The next few weeks will see a gradual movement across from our previous shed, our temporary home since 2013.

No photo description available. Opening by Barry Cheales, Ted O’Brien MP and Scott Buchholz MP.

Impressive, yes? And so is the triple men’s shed. I can’t wait to set up our new gym circuit in the new space.



Slides: what happens when they don’t work….

It was an absolute catastrophe. I was on a weekend road trip doing a shoulder workshops for a group of physiotherapists in Wollongong (south of Sydney) on the Saturday, and in Newcastle (north of Sydney) on the Sunday. The venues were about 4 hours drive from each other.

My workshop was structured around (wait for this, it will date me) a slide presentation spanning three carousels. Remember them? The circular slide cartridges that dropped 35mm slides into a projector. These are in the days way before data projectors and PowerPoint.

Anyway, Saturday went very well, finished up and drove to Newcastle that evening. Got to the venue ready to set up for the Sunday event and the venue had done a great job, the projector and screen were ready, the whiteboard, chairs, coffee station all good. So I started to unpack…. only to find my slide carousels were missing. Well not missing as it turned out, just sitting back down in Wollongong. And 15 minutes to showtime for 50 participants.

I had no back-up plan. I couldn’t cancel the event as people had flown in or driven some distance. I went through the Kubler-Ross stages of loss: denial (they must be in here somewhere), anger (who forgot to pack them? what a disaster), bargaining (asking my assistant to retrieve them somehow for the after lunch session at least), acceptance (well, they are really missing) and finally onto resolution – I will do the whole day without them. I got through the five stages in about five minutes because I had to.

I never used those slides again. Never. Not because I didn’t recover them, but because it was the best day of teaching I had ever done. Robbed of my slides, all I had was me. So I told my stories, showed my techniques, discussed with the audience, jumped all over the usual program sequence to meet the demands of the group and received the best feedback ever.

Now, some fifteen years later, I still do a similar (updated) workshop for physiotherapists and I still don’t use any slides. Instead, I teach. I talk, demonstrate, joke,  listen, review, monitor, correct and encourage.

This teaching sure beats giving a great slide show.




It Changed Our Thinking

It must be at least fifteen or twenty years ago when I first heard the term ‘under-recovery’. Until then we had labelled chronic, repetitive microtrauma injuries as ‘over-use’ injuries. Believing that the tissues were damaged due to repeated, frequent overloading.

Under-recovery suggested that the loading may have been quite appropriate, provided the tissue (tendon, fascia, muscle, bone, sheath, etc) had sufficient time since the last loading cycle to recover.

The ability to absorb more loading was reframed from one of being too hard on the body, to instead being too impatient and not allowing the normal cycle of post-training stress recovery reach completion.

So we started managing the recovery cycle with the same diligence and vigilance as we did the work cycle of training. Not only did we reduce the injury stress, but it turns out the level of performance would often go up as well. Whether this was due to the change of cycles directly or due to the longer period of training possible because it was not being interrupted by injury is difficult to say, and possibly irrelevant.

However this was a short won victory for common sense. Once the coaches realised sports science could improve the quality of the recovery cycle they increased the frequency and intensity of the loading cycles to maximise training adaptations. Active recovery strategies led to increased loading cycles and the injury and burn-out complications reasserted themselves.

I find the same thing happens in a busy life of work, family, recreation and chores. When I raise the efficiency of managing my tasks I then see gaps into which I can add more tasks…

So, how are YOU doing? How is your RESILIENCE?

Resilience: the current buzzword in business training and life management is RESILIENCE. It is not new, just a rebadging of the ability to bounce back, to roll with the punches to pull yourself up by the boot-straps, and other meaningless babble.

But actually it is not so much overload as it is under-recovery in terms of not quite regaining your equilibrium between the challenges that life will inevitably throw your way.

Each of us will handle this in their own way. Maybe not a rational or appropriate way, but the way we have always used (habit) probably learned when our minds were most plastic (childhood and adolescence).

Recognising your resilience is compromised is the first stage of avoiding burnout, depression, anxiety or other such failures of your coping mechanisms. Taking action and seeking assistance is the next step. Action and time to allow your recovery cycle to prepare you to step back into life’s fray.

Looking on from outside, you may not fully appreciate the range or depth of others’ overloading and risk judging them harshly for what you perceive as failings. Really, really try not to do that. It is not helpful for either of you. Ask how you might help (not fix, just help) them share the load. And if you are part of the problem, get out of the way without taking it personally (tough ask).

Finally, keep an eye on each other – your loved ones, your family, your team mates and employees. Your professional colleagues, teachers, students and most importantly yourself. Be mindful of how others are coping and dealing with their loads before you dump some of yours.

Bedroom TV & Body Weight Gain

A recent study suggests having a TV in a child’s bedroom significantly increases their likelihood of weight gain in the subsequent four years. Perhaps setting them up for a lifetime of battling excess weight.

The study published in JAMA Pediatrics confirmed previous studies linking a bedroom TV to increased risk of being overweight.

Read the study abstract here: http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1838347

The lead author, Diane Gilbert-Diamond, spoke with Reuters Health and pointed out the TV saturation rate in adolescent bedrooms (71%) and and suggested a responsible parent should remove it to help children get a healthier start in life.

The mechanism of action is not clear with possibilities including disrupted sleep patterns (correlates with weight gain), increased exposure to convenience food advertising and prolonged inactivity periods.

Good luck removing the TV from your teenagers bedroom I say. In fact, the best strategy may be to lead by example and remove any TV from your own bedroom first. Who knows what other benefits might accrue when you have to make your own entertainment…..



Drink, Chew, Breathe

Experiencing gastric reflux or pain is very unpleasant and can be a health risk over time. Changes occur to the lower end of the oesophagus as stomach acid provokes changes in the lining of the lower gullet (Barrett’s Oesophagus). Having experienced this I gave some thought as to how I could manage it without the prescription medication (proton pump inhibitors such as Zoton, Losec or Somac). The answer turned out to be very simple: Drink, Chew, Breathe.

read more

Healthy is the new Safety

While giving a presentation last week as part of National Men’s Health Week, it occurred to me there were parallels between safety culture in the workplace and the strategies of healthful living. I wonder if my men’s health education work would be more ‘sticky’ if I pursued this line of thought by helping men to adopt the safety cultures they are immersed in at work as a tool for managing their physical and mental health more effectively.

For example, the concept of ‘procedural drift’, the phenomenon of  what happens when nothing happens. Detailed industrial safety protocols provide guidance to avoid injury and death, and are usually followed to the letter when commencing a new task or process.  However, with time the workers may start to take some shortcuts in the interest of perceived efficiency (or laziness), safe in the knowledge that no injury or death has befallen them. They start to drift from the procedures as written.  This can be minimised by regular safety audits and training. But humans being human, and the laws of entropy, suggest the drift will start again.

Here is an example from agriculture. A primary producer I know told me when he started working with a particular chemical he followed all the recommended safety procedures when transferring the chemical from drum to dispenser.  He gloved, masked, used a well ventilated space and had a hose handy for any spillage. With time, however, the mask, gloves and hose were gradually dispensed with as he never had any problems… until. But that is another story.

Lifting technique is another example.  Following my workshops on manual handling, it is apparent the workers think and act differently when lifting. For a while. Then they tend to drift back to their previous habits because, well, nothing felt any different with the new procedures.  Interestingly, those workers with a history of back pain or injury tended to continue the new approach longer than those who had never experienced difficulty.

So back to men’s health behaviours. Whether it is dental checkups, nutritional advice, activity guidance, relaxation or mindfulness training, any fresh information or behaviours may well gradually morph back into previous habits because there is no observable short term benefit. Think about gym memberships – the reason for enrolling persists long beyond the regular attendances because no short benefit is seen.

Health outcomes are not short term benefits. Just as health failures (heart disease, cancer, kidney failure, lung disease) are long term outcomes of poor decision making; health improvement is a long term outcome of better decision making. Procedural drift makes it very difficult to experience the long term benefits of behaviour change because of the short cuts and failure to follow the program.

Regular audits and training in the form of check ups with your health professional, information or activities to reinforce the message and the benefits and maybe even utilising a health coach to keep an eye on you and hold you accountable (the personal equivalent of an Occupational Health & Safety Officer) will improve your chances of success.

All the best,

Craig Allingham
Sports Physio and Health Educator

PS: Just as nagging from your boss won’t improve your attitude toward safety procedures, nor will nagging from your life partner improve your attitude toward better health decisions and behaviour. Just saying, that’s all.

Value Adding or Value Giving?

I was talking with a friend recently about his business and plans he has to sell it.  He told me he hasn’t been drawing income from this business for a while (he has other streams) but has continued to work on the business to prepare it for sale.  In fact one of the reasons he has not drawn income is to decrease the wages bill to make it more attractive to a buyer.

There is no doubt that hiding expenses from the profit and loss statement makes a business look stronger.  And you could argue he is hiding nothing, as he really is not an expense to the business. Quite true. However, his input to the business is undeniable. All that has changed is he is working as a volunteer – he is donating time and expertise to keep the business looking profitable. He is not hiding expenses from a prospective buyer; he is hiding unpaid labour.

During my workshops with physiotherapists and other health providers, I walk them through an exercise in determining their actual worth to their business. Both their worth as a clinician and as a manager of the business. And we put a dollar value on both streams and calculate how much income they should be drawing if every hour of their contribution was included on a wages time sheet.  Then we compare that figure with the money they are actually taking from the business in terms of salary, drawings, dividends, superannuation top ups, vehicle use, etc.

Ideally, they should be taking more dollars from the business than they are actually entitled to based on their exertional entitlements. Money taken beyond your work value into the business is called profit. And profit is good, perhaps essential, for a business.

Many times, however, once we factor in the administrative hours worked by the owner and attribute a dollar value to those hours, we find the owner is actually drawing less money from the business than they should earn if they simply paid themselves to do their various jobs at an appropriate remuneration rate. In other words they are donating time (and expertise) to their business and not being paid for it.  They are underpaying themselves.  They own a job that doesn’t pay them what is actually earned – let alone a profit on top if it!

This figure – unpaid work by owners – doesn’t show up in the usual financial reports such as profit and loss statements or balance sheets. So there is an under estimate of the real expenses of the business making it look stronger on paper than it might be in real life. Of course a buyer will discover this later on when they find the only way to match the promised cash flow is to repeat the mistake of donating unpaid time to the business. I guess the hope is to improve the ultimate resale value to compensate them for volunteering.

Knowing if you are paying yourself (as an owner) more, less or exactly what you are entitled to based on the hours and talent you contribute to your enterprise is important. But only if you can face the possibility that not only do you not own a business (ie. it makes no profit), nor do you own a full paying job (as you are under paying yourself), but you actually donate your time and thus are fulfilling a vocation for the sheer joy of helping people.

My friend is helping improve the selling price of his business, but he has to really, given the hours of unpaid labour he is donating to keep it looking strong. I hope he isn’t confronted by a savvy purchaser who discovers the ‘hidden’ expense not reflected in the profit and loss statement.

If you want to participate in my business workshops where we do this exercise (and you get software so you can redo it as your business grows) simply enrol in any BizFizz or Red Hot Business event at the Redsok International website. If I am not coming to your area, keep a watch out for any online events which will be listed in the newsletter (to which you can of course subscribe for no cost).

Craig Allingham

Speaking – Lessons from the School of Hard Audiences

I heard recently of a conference at which speakers were banned from using PowerPoint.  The reason given was to give speakers an opportunity to show their skills at, well, speaking. 

I got thinking about the difference between a speaker and a presenter. They are both legitimate roles and I have filled them both.  I have given keynote addresses to large audiences both with and without PowerPoint, depending on what I was attempting to accomplish in terms of an outcome. Some outcomes were best achieved with a story, others were enhanced by images and text alongside the spoken word.

On occasions I use a flip chart or white board and produce the visual aids in real time as the journey is taken. Is this different from using a prepared slide presentation? Of course – it is more agile and interactive, yet infinitely less entertaining given my limited artistic skills. Unless, of course, participants find my primitive art amusing.

But enough about me; what about you? Does your job or some other interest occasionally or frequently involve making a presentation to colleagues?  If so, let me offer several hints that I have learned from bitter experience.

  • Never drink alcohol before your gig. Especially if you are nervous. No good ever comes of this and if things go well there will be a chance to celebrate later.
  • If you are speaking after a meal, eat lightly, slowly and thoroughly.
  • If you use visual aids, ensure they are relevant and simple to understand.
  • Let the visual aids make you look good, not overpower you or your message.
  • Be cautious using charts or tables if the audience is not accustomed to them.
  • Three strong and related threads braided to arrive at the conclusion you have pre-determined are usually sufficient.
  • Don’t open with an apology, unless it is part of  the bigger story.
  • Never apologise for poor quality visual aids – you prepared them

That is plenty to consider at first.  Some other hints relate to trying to control your autonomic nervous system: breathe, relax, move, pause, think, make eye contact with someone and smile. Simple really.




Prevention is OK – if within budget

I was reading a very interesting article on Medscape this week which makes the point that preventative medicine is quite likely the only healthcare area in which cost is the prime driver.

Holding preventative medicine to a cost standard is something not practiced in disease care where a cure is the prime driver irrespective of price. Hence there are many government subsidised medical procedures, pharmaceuticals, screening programs and so on of questionable evidence base or cost/benefit value but are based in the disease care model so are less questioned.

Any suggestion of a preventative program is immediately costed and if not meeting budget targets, discarded. This may be a bit strong, but you get the idea.

I am reminded of a meeting I attended at the local private hospital some ten years ago where the Director was outlining their increase in medical specialists based at their brand spanking new specialist centre attached to the hospital. ‘Four cardiologists, two orthopaedic surgeons, two ENT, three physicians…’ and on he went proudly.

Later I sidled up and asked how many preventative medicine specialists they had recruited? He look at me incredulous and said ‘None, of course – they keep people out of hospital. We want doctors who admit patients.’ The business model of private hospitals is based on people getting ill or injured, and while they can’t actually promote this, they can certainly pave the way to their admission desk.

It makes you think.

Operational Breakdown

I recently picked up a brochure on relationship breakdown (planning to pass it to a mate who is going through some tough times) and took a moment to read it.

There was a list of  ’10 Sure Ways to Breakdown’ and I realised much of the list applies to managing people in the workplace.  So, borrowing from Shirley Cornish in Maroochydore, I offer the:

7 Sure Ways to Mismanage Your Staff

  1. Think ‘It’s my way, or no way’
  2. Blame or criticise the other
  3. Be intolerant or inflexible
  4. Behave in a hurtful manner
  5. React before you think
  6. Dismiss or oppose the others viewpoint
  7. Give up

These 7 items are pretty obvious when you read them now while your emotions and ego are in check.  Avoiding them in the heat of battle when dealing with situations or pe0ple is indicative of a strong leader. Managing others always begins with managing ourselves, this list might help you identify where to focus your improvements.