Building greater resilience during lockdown

-By Sara Picken-Brown

We are now entering into week three of isolation and lockdown, with the death toll rising still daily, the seriousness of this global situation cannot be ignored. But how are you dealing with these challenges? How are you feeling? Like many people, myself included, you may oscillate between feeling quite comfortable and fine with working from home and getting on with living a ‘new normal’. To having moments (from fleeting to not so fleeting) of panic, anxiety and the overwhelming sense that there appears no end in sight to this situation. How long are we going to have to live like this? Are we going to have our ability to go outside for our dose of sunshine and fresh air taken from us, as well as our ability to move around freely. It all seems like some bad dream that we desperately want to wake from but can’t. Sound like you? You are not alone in these feelings, I would suggest that everyone has had variations of these emotional responses somewhere on the spectrum.

What can we do to navigate this challenge together with grace, equanimity and calm?

Maintain a routine

We are creatures of habit, and routines give us comfort and create a sense of security. Creating a new ‘normal’ can be a challenge at first, but setting a plan that enters around waking times, meal times and exercise sessions is a great way to build routine with variety into your day. Breaking the day into 30 min or 60min blocks also gives your mid something to focus on in the present moment, wth a clear direction to what is going next. 

Routines create a sense of structure and control over your environment, which is important to balance that all consuming feeling of  loss of control over your basic freedoms and key aspects of your life. 

Continue to manage your finances responsibly

Much of the fear and anxiety being felt currently stems from the uncertainly around job security, finances flowing into and out of the household. Take this time to review your budgets, review your income streams and all the support the government is providing. Being applying to the relevant schemes open to you. 

If you own a small business, investigate how you can participate in the relief options available. If you have been affected by job losses or salary cuts, speak to your financial services providers and make arrangements to maintain your credit rating, and ensure that your policies remain active. Look at where you can be refunded monies for trips, events or services that have been cancelled.

Managing your mental health and well-being amid COVID-19 lockdown.

With the lockdown in full swing, you may find yourself alone or with family members that you normally wouldn’t be with. If being in self-isolation is making you feel anxious – you are not alone. Connect with groups via WhatsApp contact, fitness sessions online are a great way to connect with familiar or new faces and MEETup groups online are also a great way to keep the social connection amid isolation alive. No, it is not the same as face to face live contact, but understanding that others are having experiences mirrored by your own can offer comfort.

Eat well, get some sun and exercise

Nourishing food, 30-60min of sunlight a day and keeping hydrated are essential to maintaining your physical and mental well-being. Exercising at home is a great way to boost feel good hormones, have a set appointment to break up your day and see a smiling face o the other end of the computer to boost your spirits. Make sure you also follow a self- maintainance routine; get up, make your bed, shower, get dressed ready for your day. These simple steps will put you in a mentally positive space and help maintain a routine of self-care. The Mental Health Foundation has also issued advice to people stuck in isolation on how to manage the stress caused by Covid-19. “At times of stress, we work better in company and with support. Try and keep in touch with your friends and family, by telephone, email or social media, or contact a helpline for emotional support,” their advice says.

Stay informed

The information and updates of this pandemic globally are a very fluid situation. Staying informed is vital to know what government directives and plans are. The key is to stay informed, but stay calm. Choose how much you take in and the sources you get the information from. Defer to organisations such as WHO, NICD and universities that properly research the information they publish.

As with any situation there is the dissolution of the old and the rebirth of the new. As we navigate this global collective rebalancing along with our individual private rebalancing, there is great opportunity to grow and learn from our reactions, our fears, our responses and all that we have taken fro granted. Taking five to ten minutes a ay to reflect on both your internal state and the emotional peaks and troughs your experience can be the most insightful guide to where profound learning can occur in your life and how you navigate the exit from isolation when this experience comes to an end. Which it will, nothing is permanent. The key is how will you be different physically, emotionally and psychologically when it does end?

Book your Yoga, Pilates or Counselling session with Sara now.

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Beat the Coronavirus Blues!

These are some pretty scary, interesting times. With isolation being advised across London and cities around the world going into lock down, what can seem like an already lonely place to be has now suddenly turned into a nightmare for many. There is hope though. You are getting this email because you either have trained with me in some capacity in the past or have expressed interest in my services. With workplaces, gyms and studios closing down, the usual places to feel ‘connected’ are no longer a healthy or viable option, for the foreseeable future.

I will be offering online group sessions in real time via a conferencing platform starting from this week in Power Yoga and Dynamic Pilates and Fitness sessions.

How will it work?

* Click the payment link and nominate the session you wish to attend.
* You will receive a link to the conference platform with a login code for the day you have chosen to attend.
* On the day, set up your mat in your favourite spot at home and your computer in eye-line and off we go.


If you miss your session in real time there will be a recording you of your session you can follow afterwards too.

This is a time to stay focused on your goals, stay connected t your routine and your community.

Together we will support each other to do just that Adapt and Overcome!

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Doesn’t this all feel surreal?

By Sara Picken-Brown

As each day rolls by and new (almost hourly) updates on the virus come to light the governments response, the gravity of the societal impacts and ramifications of this issue keep slamming home.  The far reaching gnarled grip of doom that is the Covid-19 virus extended farther and farther, I am left feel such a mix of emotions it is difficult to piece it all together. 

I don’t believe I am alone in these mixed emotions.

I am in awe of just how intricately connected, affected and reliant we all are on each other. 

I have been amazed at how kind and supportive and generous people have been. 

I have been disappointed and hurt at how immoral and cruel others have been – sadly the ‘I have to look after myself’ attitude dominates more peoples mindset than i realised. 

I have seen more character and resilience in people in the last 4 days as this has unfolded than I ever would have had business as usual plodded along. 

As latest reports unfold that schools will indeed close by Friday (20th March) the difficulty of this time with the uncertainty of how long all of this will go on for and the concern for the panic responses being shown by people in buying of food and toilet roll (I still don’t understand that one). 

Now more than ever I know that personal and societal balance and equanimity lay fundamental behaviours and attitudes. I learned some interesting and important skills during three training events with the USNavy Seals of SEALFit and these lessons have come screaming back to me on a daily basis. I share them with you now as a means for you to stay centered, present and thinking clearly to this evolving and unfolding situation, so that you may be able to discerningly respond rather than react out of fear. Panic serves no one, only calm rational mindful presence to this situation will ease the severity of this experience. 

I share a condensed version of the ‘Seals Creed’ and am reminded that no matter what comes your way, it is adaptation and innovation that are the markers of the self-mastered individual.

The ability to think clearly and problem solve under pressure are the skills we hone in our workouts, through our Yoga practice and in meditation. Our training has been skilling us for these types of situations, never forget that you have the skills and can continue to train and hone these skills through your daily physical practices.

Together with our (now online) community support, courage and innovation are available still.

  • The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart 
  • Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honour are steadfast. My word is my bond.
  • I lead by example in all situations
  • (My personal favourite) I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.
  • We expect innovation.
  • success depends on me – my technical skill, tactical proficiency, and attention to detail.
  • I will not fail [and I will never give up.]

Get online and keep training, stay focused and stay connected. In all the madness and fear out there, it is YOU who have the skills to maintain the balance of sanity. 

See you online soon, wash your hands and keep smiling. Nothing lasts forever and neither will this!

In Brief: 

Update as of 19:28hr 18th March:

  • Schools in the UK are to shut from Friday until further notice as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Schools will close except for looking after the children of key workers and vulnerable children, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.
  • Confirmed cases in the UK rose to 2,626 on Wednesday, from 1,950 on Tuesday. There have been 56,221 tests carried out in the UK for Covid-19, of which 53,595 were confirmed negative.
  • Major sporting events and festivals have been postponed or cancelled, ParkRuns across the country have been cancelled until further notice.

For more information and up to date news: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-51235105


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Equality = Every Body Wins!

By Sara Picken-Brown

singles retreat bali

It began in 1911, with a march of over 1 million people in cities all over Europe demanding that Women be given the right to vote and to hold public office. They also protested against employment sex discrimination. This was the start of International Womens Day.  Over the next 66 years, March 8th saw women honoured in commemoration for service to their countries as well as oppressed violently when protesting to have their voices heard and equal rights observed. In 1975 the United Nations officially began celebrating International Womens Day and in 2020 their theme is: “I am Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights”.

At Valetudo Group we strive to create an environment that reflects the global efforts of equality. We have a diverse range of multi-cultural, multi-lingual expert Coaches in a variety of disciplines. Our message is clear; through self-awareness, discipline and effort every-BODY has the opportunity to be their best, to flourish and to grow. Our female clientele enjoy the technical fitness based boxing sessions as much as they do the Barre and Yoga sessions . Gender  equality extends to the men too- they sweat and burn just as much as the women. Everyone has the opportunity to experience the challenges that develop mind-body wellbeing, through a strong community of support and fun, discipline and professionalism.

As expressed in unwomen.org “The emerging global consensus is that despite some progress, real change has been agonisingly slow for the majority of women and girls in the world. Today, not a single country can claim to have achieved gender equality. Multiple obstacles remain unchanged in law and in culture. Women and girls continue to be undervalued; they work more and earn less and have fewer choices; and experience multiple forms of violence at home and in public spaces. Furthermore, there is a significant threat of rollback of hard-won feminist gains. The year 2020 represents an unmissable opportunity to mobilise global action to achieve gender equality and human rights of all women and girls.” Moreover, the 2020 gender gap report states, to date, “Globally, only 55% of women (aged 15-64) are engaged in the labour market as opposed to 78% of men. There are 72 countries where women are barred from opening bank accounts or obtaining credit.”

Changing the face of equality is a multi-pronged solution.  Without changing legislation and cultural/social attitudes towards the relative amount of time women spend on unpaid domestic work and care, the burden of household and care duties will not be rebalanced, a situation that will continue to undermine women’s career opportunities. A need for changing the expectations and belief women have for themselves within society is also vital, belief they have much to contribute, not as strong men do, but as strong women do. In harmony, balance and equal to men. Box Mind sees a bright future ahead for all women. Realising equality, through supportive community’s, individual physical and mental wellbeing and organisations that value and strive to achieve the same ethos. 

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What Are The Best Supplements For Enriched Health?

The ‘rules’ of the health and fitness industry can get pretty overwhelming. In one fitness magazine or online article you will read everything possible that is great about one ‘product’ or ‘system to exercise with’, who the best and most ‘expert’ expert trainers out there are and then read another source and everything gets slammed as the ‘worst possible thing to do’. After 20 years, I have seen some fairly outlandish claims come and then go, anyone remember the ‘maple syrup cleanse’?…LOL. It can get fairly confusing and as a Coach I have had to ‘educate’ most of my clients over the years on the best ways of discerning the truth from the plain ol’ dangerous.

When it comes to supplements I have to admit I have not always been popular amongst my PT contemporaries nor the companies they rep for. Why? Because the supplement industry on the whole in the fitness scene is a con. Yes, you read that correctly, its a big fat CON! Protein powders pre-workouts micro-filtration, super charged, super hyped up BS. Interestingly a soon as the trend for vegan came to the collective consumer conscienceness, many of the dairy based supplement companies that had been preaching animal bi-product for decades, suddenly went ‘vegan’ claiming there was no other way, all priced accordingly, of course.

So suffice to say I am not a huge fan of the ‘sporting supplement products out there, because apart from the over priced and misrepresented product content in most items on the market, for those that are legitimate and do what they claim, most of the consumers simply do not work hard enough to warrant taking any of them. Unless you are a pro or semi-pro level athlete, taxing your body to the extreme levels in conditions that sap precious resources that need the replenishment and quickly, really apart from the ego boost of being like your idols, the average gym goer, crossfitter or endurance participant needs to focus on better nutrition generally and skip the ‘supplement focus all together’. Get the basics right and then move to the next stage of progression, trying to build the 8th storey on a building founded on quicksand is just daft.

Having said that, there are some ‘health help supplements’ that can and do set your gut health and therefore your entire system back on track and producing positive health as well as performance results.

What follows are my list of key supplement s to support your system no matter what your goals. Athletes, non-athletes, those between 25-99+, male or female could benefit from most items on this list. *if you have a preexisting medical condition, are taking prescriptive medications or have allergies please consult your Gp prior to taking on any new regimens in diet or physical transformations.

L-Glutamine 10g; 2-3x per day

L-Glutamine is one of the 20 amino acids that are the building blocks for all protein in the body.In human blood, L-Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid. This compound is regarded as a non-essential amino acid, since the body does have the ability to synthesise some L-Glutamine on its own.However, there are certain situations where it becomes conditionally essential. Good examples of this might be during intensive athletic training or competition, or even in certain gastrointestinal disorders. Maintains healthy gut wall integrity for transport of nutrients across gastro-intestinal tract and the cell wall for nutrient absorption. When glycogen is depleted during intensive training, L-glutamine becomes the energy source, preserving precious your muscle.

L-carnitine & Chromium Picolinate

Accelerate fat burning and glycogen uptake/stabilisers

Vit C [10-20mg per day]

Fat burner and cortisol scavenger, reduces inflammatory response in cells


An immunity booster, heal and repair, hormone function


Magnesium- [100mg 3x per day]

Magnesium plays a number of roles in the body, being required for more than 325 enzymatic reactions, including those involved in the synthesis of fat, protein and nucleic acids, neurological activity, muscular contraction and relaxation, cardiac activity and bone metabolism.

Ashwaganda– [300 – 1000 mg per day]

Ashwagandha is a plant or, more specifically, a root that has been called “Indian Ginseng.”This medicinal root has been used traditionally throughout the centuries in Indian medicine. Considered to be an adaptogen, it helps to improve the body’s reaction to stress and facilitate learning and memory. Ashwagandha herb extract acts as a powerful anti-oxidant agent.It is known to scavenge free radicals and remove them from all parts of the body including the brain and major organs. This, in turn, helps to reduce the amount of oxidative stress and damage that can occur within the body.Studies have also shown that the root extract of the Ashwagandha plant also enhances the ability of macrophage immune cells to destroy pathogens.Additional studies show Ashwagandha to have a number of anti-microbial properties. This includes the ability to counteract or even destroy harmful bacteria like Salmonella, an organism associated with food poisoning.

GABA- [250 – 1500 mg per day]

Many strength training athletes use GABA for bodybuilding purposes including developing more lean muscle mass, decreasing fat stores, and naturally stimulating the synthesis of human growth hormone (HGH). GABA stands for gamma-butyric acid; it is a non-proteinogenic amino acid (an amino acid not used to build proteins) that is primarily used to accommodate efficient 

neurotransmission.As a brain and CNS depressant, GABA calms the brain and promotes relaxation. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that regulates over-excitement in the brain and acts as a sedativeA GABA deficiency can cause an array of negative health effects, including not being able to sleep, heal and/or recover. GABA supplements for bodybuilding are used by athletes to achieve their training goals faster and promote muscle recovery and growth. In older individuals, HGH will not cause height growth because the growth plates in the bones have closed. However, this hormone will increase calcium retention in the bones and strengthen them.It also promotes increased protein synthesis, increased muscle mass, stimulates immune function, and promotes the burning of fat. Taking GABA to increase HGH levels can promote many positive changes in the body that are beneficial for bodybuilders and athletes.

Vit D- [supplementation and dietary intake to provide at least 1,500 – 2,000 IU/day.]

It is long recognised that adequate vitamin D status is necessary for both bone and skeletal health. Emerging research, however, also indicates the important role of vitamin D for non-skeletal functions including skeletal muscle growth, immune function, inflammatory modulation and athletic performance (Larson-Meyer & Willis, 2010). In addition, research is finding that vitamin D deficiency increases risk for numerous chronic and inflammatory diseases including hypertension, cardio-metabolic disease, arthritis and certain cancers (Holick, 2007) which can occur even in athletes.

Glucosamine Sulfate-Joint care and cartilage repair

Vit K– Potassium for hydration and heart / muscle filament contractile function

** As always we recommend following a balanced macro-nutrition program, that supports your training and body composition goals. Deprivation is never advised, be it through caloric deficits or macro/micro nutrient elimination. For more information on how to cycle carbohydrates & fats on a weekly basis over a 6 week block for optimal outcomes consult your trainer.  Health specific concerns or if you are on any pharmaceuticals consult your Valetudo Group Specialist Coach and your Gp.

For more information on your best nutrition program or how to make your meals work for you to improve vitality, energy, relieve stress, increase performance and loose fat, CONTACT US initial 20mins consultations are not charged.

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Its not just about Muscle Gains

As we farewell a long weekend and welcome another week (albeit shorter) at the office, here is something to consider for those of you sitting at your desk powering hour after hour away at the computer.

Maintaining a mobile, strong and healthy body is not just about the muscles it’s about the FASCIA. Sitting for long periods in a stooped posture, coupled with navigating stress can cause damage to the neurological system. In turn impacting hormone function, metabolism of sugars and causing chronic pain.

In times of extreme stress paying special attention to how you are managing the body, managing the stress and maintaining a platform from which you can achieve balance with your system is critically important.

If you are interested in the role of fascia in fitness training, the following questions lead to new take-aways: 

Most injuries are connective-tissue (fascial) injuries, not muscular injuries—so how do we best train to prevent and repair damage and build elasticity and resilience into the system? 

There are 10 times more sensory nerve endings in your fascia than in your muscles; therefore, so how do you train the fascia as well as the muscles?

Traditional anatomy texts of the muscles and fascia are inaccurate, based on a fundamental misunderstanding of our movement function—so how can we work with fascia as a whole, as the “organ system of stability”?

Consciously or unconsciously, you have been working with fascia for your whole life—it is unavoidable. Now, however, new research is reinforcing the importance of fascia and other connective tissue in functional training (Fascia Congress 2009). 

Fascia is much more than “plastic wrap around the muscles.” Fascia is the organ system of stability and mechano-regulation (Varela & Frenk 1987). Understanding this may revolutionize our ideas of “fitness.” Research into the fascial net upsets both our traditional beliefs and some of our new favorites as well. The evidence all points to a new consideration within overall fitness for life—hence the term fascial fitness. Lets look at a few key ways you can assist your system through stress and work for optimal physical wellbeing.

Take time to get treatment: Give a little back and help the nervous system heal and repair:

“Myofascial release is a manipulative treatment that attempts to release tension in the fascia due to trauma, posture, or inflammation. Connective tissues called fascia surround the muscles, bones, nerves, and organs of the body. Points of restriction in the fascia can place a great deal of pressure on nerves and muscles causing chronic pain.Practitioners of myofascial release employ long stretching strokes meant to balance tissue and muscle mechanics and improve joint range of motion in order to relieve pain.”

Change your training focus during high stress periods to work the body in a manner that calms the nervous system rather than focusing on strength and muscle work. By training the neurological system, you are able to help balance the high stress by nourishing the body and hormonal system through movement. Focus away from pure ‘strength’ training for the period of time that stress is high.  Lets take working your bicep muscle as an example; Many of the traditional training methodologies focus on ‘muscle’ work, while forgetting the ignition point for this to occur.

When you consider the evidence, that the muscles can only do their job after correct, clear signal from the nervous system and fascia health being integral to effectiveness of this communication, we begin to see how important caring for the body when stress is high. How managing your training practices to ‘support’ rather than ‘smash’ the system and body is so important along with clean eating and supplementation.

Yoga, Swimming, Meditation and Structured Breath practices are a great way to support the system during these high stress periods, be mindful that going harder in training sessions is NOT advised. By backing off and listening to your body, you can mitigate many long term health problems and function at a far better level overall.

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