Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

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Sunday, 24 July 2016

A Weekend of Excess – Recovery

Last weekend I went on a three day stag party. I ate, drank, and partied to excess. The end result was I put on 3kg in weight and my blood pressure raised up from ‘normal’ or ‘optimal’ to ‘high normal’. My diastolic blood pressure went up to 82, which sounds normal, yet is normally in the low to mid 70’s.

So this week I got straight back on my healthy eating plan – eating nearly in accordance with the Eatwell Guide, the UK’s current food guidance as of March this year. This is mainly plant based; fish a couple of times a week, and meat a rarity, and very low dairy and animal produce too. I say I eat a plant based diet. You can follow me on Facebook ( where almost every day I post what I am eating.

My weight actually went UP the second day by another KG – that was a shock! It then has gently sauntered back down towards where it should be today. Yet, my body fat has crept up this week, and strangely my lean mass has gone down. Only by around 1%, yet, that is really interesting!

I have found that in the last four weeks, since I’ve introduced some high intensity interval training (though not much, just a Tabata protocol twice a week) to complement my resistance training (2x TRX workouts each of around 20-25minutes), my muscle mass has increased though my muscle tissue doesn’t seem to have moved. I appear to be holding more water and inflammation in my muscles, and it is likely that my increase in fat reading is intramusclular fat too.

I’ve attached my pics from today so you can see what I mean. Notice the slight looseness around my mid-section too. I’m going to be making some adjustments to remove that, though, at the moment, not sure which way I’ll go to do so. I’m thinking on that. Please also note that this body is built on no ‘formal’ weight training, just running with my huskies and nominal resistance training, all on a plant based diet as above.

I want my weight to drop to 83.6kg, so I’m just lower than a BMI of 25. BMI is pretty useless as a health marker, though is used by insurance companies, and I think I’ll keep it within what they deem ‘acceptable’ to keep premiums low if I decide to take out health insurance! So my weight is still a little high – so a bit more fat to be stripped.

In respect to my blood pressure, I’m still annoyed. I’m annoyed because it is taking its time to return to pre-excess levels. My diastolic has come back down, though my systolic remains a little high. I’ll be attending to that. I’ll probably be looking at exercise to lower that – and investigating what changes I can make to keep it ‘optimal’.

All in all, a very interesting little ‘experiment’! It appears a weekend of excess has adversely affected my body for at least this following week. It just goes to show what such behaviour can do to our bodies, and is a good reminder to maintain such behaviour as “rare and appropriate” as my friend Ray Conise suggests.

Onwards on my health journey…

Monday, 18 July 2016

A Weekend of Excess – Health Implications

I’m just back from an amazing weekend. A friend is getting married so it was his stag party. We used the best man’s boat to travel along the South Coast, enjoying go-karting, jetskiing, and powerboating along the way. There were bars, clubs and restaurants – and as this was a “rare and appropriate” occasion, I was eating everything and anything, and drinking alcohol and sugary drinks. This blog is just to highlight a couple of effects on my health.

Previous to this weekend I have been eating a high quality, nearly completely plant based diet. I hadn’t even had a meal with meat in it for 8 weeks. There had been no sugary drinks, and only a couple of alcoholic drinks, for nearly three months. During the last five weeks I’ve been weighing myself and taking blood pressure readings to see the effect of my new way of eating on my overall health. I am also very active to say the least, and in good physical health. So what would a single long weekend of excess do to me?

You may not consider that I ate too unhealthily overall. Friday night was a curry, consisting of a sea bass starter on vegetables, then a chicken korma and naan to follow. Saturday morning was the bad one, where I had a quick McDonalds meal of cardboard masquerading as food. Saturday night was pretty healthy with a lovely nasi goreng in Banana Wharf at Poole. They had a great take on it, with nice, natural, wholesome foods perfectly prepared. Then I blew a relatively healthy option with stacks of ice cream, chocolate chips and strawberries for desert. Well, the strawberries were healthy anyway! Sunday breakfast was back in Banana Wharf enjoying their full English breakfast. I polished off most people’s left overs in our little group too. I’d turned into an eating machine. Followed it up almost immediately with a stack of ice cream from one of the quayside shops too.

Drinks wise I stuck with Pepsi Max during the day. During the night it was orange juice and lemonade to start, then glasses of Red Bull in between drinks of wine, shots, and brandy Red Bulls (yes, it goes together – well I think it does!). I didn’t get too drunk as I paced myself, yet, the alcohol over 10 hrs of drinking each day needed to be processed.

The three days of excess was over last night, when I got home. I straight away ordered potato wedges and a big pizza before hitting the sack before 9pm. I needed the sleep!

Over the weekend I noticed some adjustments to my body. I don’t think my gut biome was prepared for the toxic shock, nor the meat. I think they got a little drunk from the alcohol, and missed their fibre! After the first 24hrs I basically ‘clammed up’, and was not as regular or as ‘appropriate’ in my ablutions. I was peeing constantly with clear urine. I was definitely having too high a fluid intake. Mostly alcohol and Red Bull to be honest. My digestive tract was definitely thrown out.

I started to crave sugar. This was satisfied with the sugary drinks and the ice creams. I’m still craving sugar today, my first day back.

Despite only about 5 hours sleep over the course of the weekend (very late nights and early mornings to pack everything in) I did feel alert overall, until the weekend was over. This, I think, was down to having so much to see and do, and all the interaction with everyone.

My body has smoothed over. Rather than the sharpness that was starting to appear I’m now rounded and my muscles appear ‘bloated’, and there is definitely some loose stuff that wasn’t there when I left on Friday! There is definitely a rise in my ‘fat’ levels – yet that quick? Most of it has to be water retention. This will account for my ‘full’ muscles too.

This is confirmed in my statistics this morning. My weight is the highest it has been since May. I have gone from 84.9kg up to 87.8kg – near enough 3kg (6.6lbs) in just three days. That is a scary amount!

The increase in weight appears to be from water mainly. I believe my overall hydration has increased increasing my intracellular and extracellular fluid. I’m likely a little inflamed as well. In other words, this weekend has ‘bloated me up’. There’s probably a good amount of food still working its way through my digestive tract too adding to excess weight.

My blood pressure has scared me. Normally in the ‘optimum’ to ‘normal’ range, it has rocketed up to ‘high normal’. When I left my last reading was 117/74. Today it was 132/82. This is the highest my systolic pressure has been since I started recording it. The increase is likely due to the uncontrolled salt intake in the food.

It is worth noting that I did nowhere near as much physical activity as usual over the last three days, so my body had a bit of a rest, despite playing around on the jet skis and walking from bar to restaurant to club.

Today I’m back on my health eating. I’m seeing if I can return my body to its previous healthy status as quickly as I can. Today is a very hot day, so I got up early snuck in a 2.5mile easy run with the huskies before the heat came up. I then did a quick Tabata protocol for some high intensity interval training, before spending 30minutes mobilising my body with my movement drills. Lunch was just a nectarine and an apple, to satisfy my sweet tooth, yet I’m not actually hungry – I think I know I’ve had a lot of food! I’m drinking just my usual coffee and water.

I’m going to be watching with interest how quickly my body returns to normal – I’m hoping it will be quite quick! I’m also hoping that readers of this blog will think about what they are doing to excess, and the effects that it has on their bodies. We only live once, that’s for sure, and I definitely lived this weekend! Yet, I want to continue through my life in good health. So as my good friend (and former NASA Metabolic Scientist) Ray Cronise has said, let’s keep such excess to when it is “rare and appropriate”.

It was indeed a fantastic weekend though!

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Ideomotor Responses - Hypnosis and Sport

This is a post aimed for other hypnotists; yet, it will also be interesting for anyone interested in improving physical performance.
Whilst reviewing my knowledge on ‘imagery and sport’ (I regularly review my knowledge, it keeps it fresh and updated) I have come across what physiology texts term the earliest scientific support of the use of imagery to create ideomotor responses.

Edmund Jacobson
American Journal of Physiology Published 1 January 1931 Vol. 96 no. 115-121

In this study he reports that the imagined movement of bending the arm created small muscular contractions in the flexor muscles of the arm. In other words, if you imagine a movement, the motor cortex responds, and you will start to get an initial movement – you start to get an ideomotor response.

Please note that we also know that the motor cortex will inhibit the final movement. In this way, when you imagine hitting someone, you don’t actually do so – you may twitch, but you won’t actually punch that person!

Hypnotists can ponder on this a little. If you want to create any physical phenomena, get your subject to imagine the movement, and the response will start. Then you can use the feedback loop this creates to manifest the physical phenomena fully. Remember everything happens nonconsciously first – you can use that – just guide their imagination how you see fit.

This makes it easy to create IMRs and any physical phenomena. For those of you who weren’t aware of this, I hope this helps expand your abilities. I work with the artful application of science. Here I have given the heads up on a tiny bit of the science, now you can wonder how to apply it artfully…

Imagination and Sport – Stay in the Positive

Through using your imagination you can improve:

  • ·         Strength
  • ·         Technical ability
  • ·         Focus and attention
  • ·         Faster recovery from injury
  • ·         Improvements in conditioning
  • ·         Emotional regulation

This is just for starters, and all are supported by a firm evidence base.
Understanding the imagination is of prime importance for anyone who wants to maximise performance. Get it right and you’ll get improvements. Get it wrong and your performance will suffer.

Interventions that use the imagination include mental rehearsal, imagery, visualisation, motor imagery – all of which have differences and appropriate uses. Use correctly, success is more likely. Yet used incorrectly, and performance will suffer.

Sportspersons seek me out for this reason – to help them use their imaginations in the right way. I know how to apply these skills, have a good grounding in the science behind them, and also offer my experiences of being a highly successful professional sportsman. I can often offer the nuances that make the big differences.

We use our imagination all the time. It guides us through our environment. Here’s where it can go wrong. If you imagine a poor performance, such as thinking “don’t mess up”, or seeing a move fail, then that is what you are moving towards. Not least because you aren’t paying attention to getting it right!

The classic study into this is by Beilock, Afremow, Rabe and Carr (2001), where they investigated suppressive imagery, “not to do something” in order to avoid a particular error. They found, clearly, that telling yourself not to image something that you don’t want to do will in fact make it more likely you’ll imagine it, and hinder your actual performance.

So keep your imagination in the positive. Imagine what you want to have happen, and more importantly what you need to do in order to achieve that want. Keep your self-talk on the same task. Your imagination is powerful; it guides your body through the environment. Let’s move it right. Keep it positive. Imagine getting it right.

I think I got this one wrong. Me eating a BIG knee from Bjorn Bregy, Stockholm, 2005

Beilock, Afremow, Rabe and Carr (2001)”Don’t miss!” The debilitating effects of suppressive imagery on golf putting performance. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 23, 200-210

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Moving to health and longevity - my journey so far

Gary 2.0 – the first fifteen weeks

Over the last 15 weeks I have made changes to move towards health and longevity. This (brief) post marks my journey so far.

I’ve been a sportsperson all my life, and when I retired from professional competition, I carried on with ultramarathons and still do around 30 hours of physical activity a week. I’m currently 45.

A few things conspired to mobilise me on this journey. I didn’t like the way I looked. I could still perform, yet, I was 94kg, lacked the muscle tone I’d previously enjoyed, and carried far too much fat.

My general mobility was poor and I had a few annoying injuries and pains. A family member and a few friends became ill, making me think of my own health and where I am going in the rest of my life. Nothing like a reminder of mortality to spur change! I also was reminded of a comment from a couple of years ago by a friend of mine, Ray Cronise, who just happens to be a former NASA Metabolic Scientist now with his own metabolic laboratory. The comment was along the lines of “the way you’re training and eating for performance may not be congruent with health and longevity”.

These three things conspired with the knowledge I had obtained over a decade of study – I wasn’t doing myself any favours. I needed a complete overhaul of my behaviours.

Weeks 1-5

I started with intermittent fasting. I ate ONLY after 1700hrs. Often, due to the timing of my clients, it meant that I wasn’t eating until around 2000hrs. I would eat what I wanted to, starting with a big meal, until I went to sleep. Some days it resulted in over 24hrs between feeds.

I rapidly discovered I was in caloric deficit and the fat started to be stripped from my body. I learnt the difference between ‘fake hunger’ and ‘true hunger’. In fact, during the 5 weeks of eating this way,

I was only truly hungry twice. BIG learning for me!

I also cut back as much as I could on my physical activity. I still put the time in, yet was looking for ‘mild stress’ from physical activity only.

I used the first five weeks as a rapid fat loss. I used it to learn what hunger actually was. I used it as a psychological tool to understand I could make changes that would be sustainable.

Weeks 6-10

I reintroduced resistance training to my physical activity, and raised it generally back to my previous levels of intensity. The resistance training was 5 sets of shoulder weights, 5 sets of chest, 5 sets of back, just using the dumbbells in my home gym and using a punch bag as a bench.

My eating timing changed, I was doing certain things (thanks to Ray’s input) for muscle sparing. I was generally eating three meals a day.

The food I was eating took a drastic change. I decided to move towards a plant based diet. The data on this is clear – move towards an animal based diet and your health and longevity markers decrease, move towards a plant based diet and your health and longevity markers increase. So this was the major change. I started to read, to ask questions of vegans, and learn. I discovered it was quite simple to construct complete and tasty meals that were wholly plant based.

During this time I also ate fish a couple of times a week, still had semi-skimmed milk in my coffee, enjoyed an amazing traditional BBQ where I went back for meat again and again, and had the occasional meat in my meals. I was learning however that I didn’t miss meat, and that plant based diets can be very tasty indeed.

I continued to strip fat. My hydration levels reduced. My inflammation reduced. I needed to drink less.

The main learning from this period was that plant based diets are actually very easy, and very tasty too. Physically I learnt that muscle tissue could still be increased in a caloric deficit. I learnt that inflammation and hydration levels reduce and stabilise on a plant based diet.

Weeks 11-15

In this period I moved to a near vegetarian diet. I had no meat in this period. I had fish twice a week. I still had semi-skimmed milk in my coffee. I had cheese three times as part of a meal.

I continued to eat around three meals a day, plus fruit as snacks. Only now I was getting better at constructing meals, and each day I was learning new recipes. Very tasty flavour combinations were appearing in my soups, stews, stir fries, curries, salads, bowls, and various breakfasts.

My resistance training workouts changed, twice a week with dumbbell clean and press, twice a week curl press, only 5 or 10 minute workouts. I continued to increase lean tissue whilst the fat loss continued, albeit slower – my body fat was dropping to nice and low levels.

Weeks 14 and 15 I called in a personal trainer friend of mine, Kate Jones, who is a movement expert, and is an amazing trainer. She is helping me gain control over my entire range of movement, and increase the range of movement at the same time. Just in two sessions I’ve not only been moving better, but also have learnt far more and am a better coach myself as a result of her teaching.

I purchased a blood pressure monitor and bought some new scales which are pretty accurate for home scales. This has enabled me to monitor progress many times a day, and also see exactly what my behaviour was doing to my body in a more scientific way.

Here are the charts from the last couple of weeks of more scientific monitoring. Note that my lowest blood pressure reading was this morning.


I have gone from 94.4kg to around 84.4kg. Of that 10kg weight loss it appears I have lost no muscle tissue and have actually started to increase it. The weight loss is probably around 7-8kg of fat with 2-3kg of water as I lose the excess.

I am now happy to take my top off again in public. Not that I go about doing that at my age haha

My physical activity has become easier. My endurance and strength have increased. My movement is better. My pain is gone. My energy is stable during the day and at a high level. I feel clearer of mind.

I have no idea of the calories I have been eating, nor of the macronutrient breakdown of my food. I’ve just been eating food.

Here are the pictures of me today, so you can see exactly where I am at. I’m not an ‘aesthetic athlete’, that is something I’ve never trained for, this is just where my body is.


I will continue with a plant based diet, eating meat only when it is ‘rare and appropriate’ as Ray Cronise suggests. I believe, based on the overwhelming body of evidence, and fully supported by the current UK Food Guidance, that moving towards a plant based diet is one of the best things you can do for your health, longevity and performance.

Last week I was working with the British Army once more, working with the Elite Judo Players, with the RAF and Navy Judo Players in attendance too. The Olympic Judo Team strength and condition coaches were also working with them, and I joined in on the conditioning tests. Although I can hold my head up high with my results, turning in respectable levels of conditioning, it highlighted that I need to do a little more explosive work in my conditioning – with the appropriate recovery. So I will be carrying out around 4 high intensity interval training sessions each week, just short and sharp.

I will continue with my running and mountain biking, and I’ll be doing my movement drills every day. I’ll likely be putting at least one TRX workout in each week also in order to increase my joint conditioning and overall physical ability for life.

With the scales and blood pressure monitor I'm understanding a lot more as to the effects of my behaviour on my body. I'll continue monitoring, and I'll have to see what bloods I can get done through my doctor. Metrics are good - that way improvements (or not) can be monitored.

Let’s see where the next 15 weeks will lead…I’m enjoying the journey…

Edit: I'm going to put this here, a piece of feedback I've had from Ray Cronise, who has mentored me in this journey. I'm awaiting his forthcoming book, Our Broken Plate, where lots of the approaches I've been following, and the background, are discussed. If you are an athlete, a sportsperson, or someone who carries out physical activity - please read very carefully, and consider his points in detail.

"One thing I want to do more of is to encourage athletes, just like you, to find a soft landing. Games are fun. Competition is good. There is a limit and the go go grow message is one sided. At some point the intensive work to win a game - it's a game, profitable or not - should be balanced with a strategic healthspan exit as an option.

Exercise isn't the opposite of sedentary; it's active. One can be active and not get injured or be obsessed with swallowing and wiggling all day long.

The fact that no one can honestly challenge the ubiquitous notion that exercise or competitive sports are somehow the panacea of health, is reason enough to disrupt.

I'm so impressed that you stepped up to the plate (pun intended) and just gave it a complete and disciplined try with no excuses. The results are self evident. Richard did the same as have many others. This isn't new information, it's drowned by the profitability and popularity of sport. If you hear this as an anti-sport message, read over and over until you get the message I intend. That's not it.

Athletes need a soft landing that focuses on healthspan." Ray Cronise, 27th June 2016