OLYMPIC CHAMPION | ENTREPRENEUR | MUM
WELCOME to my site – a place to share and reflect on the life experiences I’ve had as a professional athlete, mum, wife and business owner. A place to share my journey and the amazing people who have helped me get the best out of myself. It’s also a place for random snippets relating to food, family, travel and gear I can’t seem to do without. Enjoy!
My travels around the world and a career in sport have enabled me to meet and work closely with some truly amazing people. People who are leaders in their fields. People with a strong vision for themselves and their purpose in life. People who empower other people to excel and get the best out of themselves. These ‘people’ are what I like to call ‘Gurus’. The ones I’ve had the pleasure of meeting are often hidden within our society and are somewhat hard to find. They are not outspoken. They do not preach and they are often modest and under-stated about their work and genius skill. Naturally I am drawn to these kinds of people. Mostly, they go about their business, just wanting to improve the lives of others. There is no way I would have achieved the pinnacle in my sport without the help of a few irreplaceable gurus. In this section, Interview with a Guru, I’m going to unlock and reveal some secret weapons and hidden gems. TRUE gurus within numerous fields including psychology, strength and conditioning, nutrition, sports medicine, yoga, clinical pilates and various types of physical therapists.
Guru – Michael Nixon-Livy, Osteopath & Founder of NST
On a recent flight back to Australia from Europe I had the pleasure of sitting next to a lovely Aussie chap by the name of Michael Nixon-Livy. Apart from having a cool name, his gentle and friendly demeanour sparked conversation and we swapped stories of who we were and what we did. His background is in osteopathy however I soon learned that he had founded and developed his own technique called NST – Neurostructural Integration Technique, which he has been teaching all over the world in clinics since it’s inception. After chatting and learning more about his technique, I knew he’d be a good candidate for Interview with a Guru.
What is NST and how are you different?
In simple terms, NST is a skilful manual therapy technique designed to integrate the spinal column, pelvic structures and cranium via stimulation to neuromuscular system. For these reasons NST is often referred to as soft-tissue Osteopathy, however its scope of application goes well beyond classical Osteopathy in as much as NST can be applied to any part of the body quickly linking any affected body part back to the spine. This gives NST a range of application and immediacy of result that is unprecedented.
Typically NST is used in two main professional endeavours:
- In general clinical practice where it is used with sublime effect to resolve conditions such as back and neck pain or any condition to do with the articulations for example shoulders, hips, knees. Good examples would be Rheumatism and Fibromyalgia.
- In professional sport where it is applied with excellent effect to all soft tissue injury conditions including strains, sprains, fascial distortions, muscle distortions, tendons, ligaments, nerves and discs. Furthermore NST’s usage as a preventative strategy is second to none as it quickly and efficiently optimises muscular and fascial tensions throughout the body that are so often the hidden culprits that have unknowingly predisposed an athlete to injury or lack of optimal performance.
But NST comprises one other extremely important strategy that perhaps sets it apart from all other forms of sports medicine, osteopathic, spinal work or body work techniques in that it includes a psychosomatic component that enables the practitioner to deal with the psychological components of either injury or performance related issues. The integrated psychosomatic component NST leverages results for sporting professionals into another realm as it deals with the complete nervous system including its emotional charge.
As an example we often speak of a hamstring injury as being a just hamstring injury, but if we think a bit deeper we could really call it a back-related hamstring injury because literally the two are inseparable but to complete the picture in its entirety we should really call the hamstring injury an emo-back related hamstring injury as the emotional content will be in the tissue either through shock, prolonged pain or stress.I’m convinced that unless you take the emotion out of the tissue, the injury will not be fully resolved…at least not quickly.
The same can be said for when a sporting professional has a case of the ‘yips’. If we attempt to correct the emotional issues involved without at the same time addressing biomechanical components of the ‘yips’ obtaining optimal results in efficient time frames will be tricky at best in most cases. A blocked emotion will affect muscle function just as profoundly as will a blocked nerve because they belong to the same system. Emotions do not take place in the brain they are a body event as much as a cerebral one!
What inspired you to develop NST?
Perhaps it was not so much inspiration but more opportunity and duty that got NST started.
In the early 90’s I was working in a Kinesiological Clinic in Carlton called Kinesiology House with a Dr. Charles Krebs. Charles a brilliant kinesiologist had pioneered a program called LEAP (learning enhancement advanced program) for the correction of Dyslexia, ADHD and profound learning disabilities in children.
As I had studied kinesiology with Charles some years earlier and used LEAP myself he invited me to join him at Kinesiology House quiet literally to assist with burgeoning client load that was only exacerbated by the fact that he had started travelling to Europe frequently to teach LEAP via some exclusive post graduate health institutes.
It was not unusual for a new client to have to wait 2-3 months for a session.
A LEAP program for an individual would typically involve 12 two-hour intensive sessions where kinesiological and emotional release strategies were employed to great effect.
When I started at Kinesiology House, I also brought with me a collection of structural techniques that I had fashioned into a clinical approach that I had been using to correct back and neck pain. These included an eclectic group of techniques from chiropractic, osteopathic, applied kinesiology and bowen.
When I started working at Kinesiology House I added my structural strategies to the LEAP program and this had an immediate and startling result. It reduced the amount of hours required to complete a LEAP program for a child from 12 to just 8 or 6 two hours sessions.
Charles insisted that I come to Europe and show his colleagues there what I had been doing so I reluctantly agreed to attend an international kinesiology conference in Garda, Italy in 1995. The response to my work was so compelling that I was invited to return to Europe in 1996 to teach my methods in both Osteopathic and Kinesiological institutes in France, Germany, Belgium, Spain and Italy.
I spent the remainder of 1995 and early part of 1996 converting my approach into a structured learnable spinal integration system and gave it the name NST as this described what it accomplished most accurately.
NST was launched in a French osteopathic college in southern France near Marseille in May 1996 and has quite literally enjoyed phenomenal and sustained growth for almost 20 years.
What do you believe is the key to long-term spinal health?
The key to long-term spinal health if there is a single key must be quite simply the same key for health of the human organism as a whole. The three most fundamental requirements of any creature that walks the earth are movement, nutrition and oxygenation.
Naturally the organism has other requirements such as shelter, protection and companionship but movement, nutrition and oxygenation take precedence. In modern societies around the world we constantly see the evidence of humans misunderstanding these three vital concepts and performing them poorly often with grave consequences for their health.
A large part of the issue has to be lack of appropriate education at home and in schools where children have the opportunity to have impressed upon them the critical importance of taking care of the human organism properly so that health, wealth and longevity can be created as a consequence.
In the 1700’s the French philosopher Voltaire had the following to say about the consequences of the mismanagement of these vital concepts. He said: “In the first part of our lives we sacrifice our health to accumulate wealth and in the second part of our lives we sacrifice our wealth to buy back our health”
Scientists tell us that we have a genetic potential for about 120-140 years yet most typically humans fall well short of achieving these years often succumbing to illness and diseases in out 70’s and 80’s.
There is no question that the human experience is designed to be temporary yet whether it is more temporary or less temporary is largely up to us and attending to proper movement, nutrition and oxygenation is fundamental to achieving sustainable health and longevity.
Do you have any favourite stretches or stability exercises for self management of a healthy spine/pelvis?
I use a group of exercises to help unlock the spinal column, pelvic girdle and cranium as outlined in my little book NST – A better way to good health. It is available as a free download at:
http://www.nsthealth.com/sites/default/files/uploads/NST_book_en.pdf (scroll to the end for descriptions and diagrams of Michael’s exercises)
Apart from these exercises I also help my clients shift towards better health by making simply dietary changes such as consuming 70-80% of their food by way of healthy carbohydrates such as fruit and vegetables. This not only helps eliminate harmful toxins from the body but also builds a blood stream from which healthy tissue is built. Health tissue build healthy organs and muscles, which in turn create a robust physiology and ultimate ‘health’.
Given modern day nutritional deficiencies in our food chain (for reasons such as poor agriculture, harvesting, storage issues) I also recommend a simple program of broad spectrum minerals and vitamins to literally ‘fill in the gaps’ specifically nutritionally speaking, that exist in our diets. This has proven to be a major positive in the cultivation of health.
I am also extremely fond of fasting practices for cleansing the blood and tissue. A simple example of fasting is ‘intermittent fasting’ which simply means that when the evening meal is finished at around 7pm that no further food is taken until 11am to 12 noon the following day.This provides for a huge break on our digestive system that ultimately results in energy conservation and rejuvenation.
Longer term fasting at the change of the seasons for a bout 3-7 days is also something that I personally practice and recommend for those interested in maximising genetic potential and lifespan.
It’s pretty clear that Michael is unique and effective in his treatment style. For more information, videos and to get in touch with Michael, go to: http://www.nsthealth.com
It’s that time of year down under and winter is settling in. The common cold is making it’s way around households, workplaces, kindergartens, schools and day care centres. Never fear, the cold buster drink is here!
I got this home recipe off an athlete friend about ten years ago and it’s been my go to anytime I’ve felt a tickle in my throat, or if a bug is going around or generally just when I’ve felt run down and vulnerable to catching ‘something’. It may take some getting used to but I’ve actually grown to like this sweet ‘n’ sour tonic with floating pieces of crunchy, spicy raw ginger.
– 1 tablespoon Manuka Honey
– 1-1.5 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
– 1 cup boiling water
– Fresh ginger slices
It’s very simple to prepare. Just place the Manuka honey, vinegar and fresh ginger slices (I use the potato peeler to get my slices) in a mug and top with boiling water. Stir it up and its ready to go.
You only need to search online for a few minutes to discover the numerous health benefits these ingredients contain (see links below). It’s no surprise this little concoction works wonders. I always travel with Manuka Honey as its not easy to find overseas but the other ingredients are commonly found.
Read more about:
* Manuka Honey – the ‘healing honey’ contains anti-bacterial properties and is indigenous to New Zealand. Manuka honey is made by bees that feed on the flowers of the manuka bush, also known as the tea tree, in New Zealand. Opt for organic if you can.
* Apple Cider Vinegar has numerous health benefits. It truly is a superfluid. Opt for organic if you can.
* Ginger is well know for its medicinal properties one being to soothe a nasty cough.
It’s hard to sum up the first couple of months of Alek’s life. I knew the weeks would fly by and indeed they did and baby Alek has changed so much already. Welcoming a new baby is blissful and so much happens in such a short space of time, not just with the baby but also with mummy which has a trickle on effect to the rest of the family unit.
Here’s the rundown of what we’ve been up to over the last couple of months….
After the birth, I was in hospital for 24hrs and by Alek’s 2nd day of life, we were back down the coast at home in Lorne. Those first 24hrs are truly amazing. For us, it was a beautiful and intimate moment in time. The world outside the hospital walls almost doesn’t exist. Time slows – which is rare these days. Finally, after nine months of wonder and guessing, we finally got to meet our newest family edition and we took our time during that first day to choose his name. When Alek ‘came out’ his limbs were erect and stiff, his palms clenched tightly shut, so tight the midwife could not pry them open. I sensed a certain strength in him – maybe because we’d just had an incredible birth experience together and a strong name seemed fitting. Coming up with a name that is understood across two languages and cultures (Finnish/English) is no easy feat, but soon enough Kai, Lauri and myself came to an agreement. Alek – ‘the protector and defender of man’ resonated with us and felt spot on for our newest little man.
Ahhh the newborn phase. Soak this up as it doesn’t last for long! This phase whizzes by in a flash so much so that I felt like he was changing every time he woke up from a nap! Within the first week, what was left of his umbilical cord dried and fell off. I love how floppy newborns are in the ‘0000’ clothing which is still baggy. He took to feeding without issue and boy is he a feeder. In his first 48 hours of life I counted 12 meconium poos. Yep 12. It just kept coming and coming as he kept feeding and feeding assuring me that his pipes were well and truly functioning.
When the nurse visited us on his 3rd day of life, he’d only lost 40grams which left me feeling proud as punch. Newborns can lose put to 500grams in the first week! At the same time my milk arrived which is one of many post natal unpleasantries. My breasts were rock hard, aching and tender. On the up side, it was a perfect moment for me to trial and test my new BodyICE Woman range of ice/heat packs. I lay in my bed with the ice packs on my boobs (and perineum) and was instantly relieved. Relieved because I wasn’t in pain and relieved to know that I had created an awesome product that so many women will love and need! (Watch this space as we’ll be launching this product soon)
Other unpleasantries I experienced before I forget include:
- In the first week or so, I felt a period pain ache every time I fed. It’s because the uterus is contracting back to its normal size. Crazy! It’s surprising how swollen a belly is after childbirth. You would think once the baby is out that you’re back to wearing your wardrobe…but unfortunately it’s not the case and it takes time to shrink back to normal.
- Bleeding. It’s surprising how much you bleed after childbirth and not something you get warned about. My bleeding stopped after about three weeks but stock up on the heavy duty maternity pads.
- Sore perineum after birth and boobs (especially when the milk arrives) – not surprising really! Cold packs are the key here.
- Strained pelvic floor. I remember on day three post birth, I walked Kai to Kindergarten which is down a big hill. Not a good idea because I felt it on the way back up and was tender for the rest of the day. You really need to go easy on the pelvic floor muscles as they’ve been through the ringer!
- Fatigue – I would say the first week of interrupted sleep and constant feeding felt pretty good. I just charged through it. By weeks two and three however, fatigue kicks in and energy wanes. That’s when you really need some back up support and I was lucky to have loads of help from my family.
- Milky – that stuff gets everywhere and I found myself changing my clothes and pj’s almost as often as Alek. Stock up on breast pads and get some good maternity nighties/pj’s to wear to bed.
- Mastitis – at about week 5, I got a blocked milk duct which is absolutely horrible. I used heat packs (again my BodyICE Woman prototypes came in handy!) and expressed as much as I could. I got fever and my whole body ached but miraculously I managed to get rid of it within 24hrs without antibiotics by continuing to feed, express, heat and massage. Ouch!
The cycle of feeding, burping, changing and laundry can seem never ending in the first couple of months and life becomes a bit of a fog. Alek has been a very easy baby (so far) so we’re very lucky. By about 6 weeks he started to fall into a pattern of consistently sleeping through – i.e: from about 10:30 -6:30, then he would feed and go back to sleep until about 9am. It doesn’t happen every night but it’s sooooo good to get a good stretch of sleep. I can’t imagine how exhausting it would be to try and comfort a screaming baby night after night. The constant feeding and changing is demanding enough! He’s already out of his newborn nappies weighing in over 6kgs now. His chubby creases are so cute and I’ve had to start packing away some of his clothes that are too small.
Personally, I’m feeling really good and the fact that Alek is a cruisy baby is the reason for that! Physically, I’m shrinking back to normal and have a couple of kg’s to lose before I get back to pre-pregnancy weight. It’s nice to start fitting back into my normal clothes! Strangely, my linear nigra (dark belly line) is still quite dark, so I’m wondering when that will fade. I’ve been walking loads as well as getting into the gym when I can. I just take Alek with me and he usually sleeps whilst I work out. I’ve also been able to get back into surfing which I am LOVING right now. I just express a bottle of milk which buys me a couple of hours of ‘me time’ which is so important for my sanity otherwise I find I get a little cranky and crazy! I
All in all, life is good. The first couple of months of going from three to four has been full but we’re adjusting well and finding a balance. Kai has taken on the big brother role and started 3-yr old Kindergarten. He’s very sweet to his little brother and thankfully has had loads of attention from his grandparents which has helped us parents give Alek the time he needs. xx
Flaounes are definitely a must for our family during the Easter holidays. And I’m not talking our immediate family, I’m talking EVERYONE. Cousins, Aunts, Uncles and any visiting guests that happen to pass by. The making of these cheesy, minty pastries was traditionally led by my Yiayia, but since she passed away early this year, the ladies of our family have made it our own to continue the tradition.
Supplying our large family (who all love these Easter treats) is a bit of a mission so it would be crazy to try it alone. You should have about 5 people helping out (or even more depending on how big your workspace is). Soon enough you’ll be lost in chatter and laughter and won’t even realise you’ve made a mountain of Flaounes.
This recipe will make around 50 pastries but in our family, we aim for about 100 or more and normally would double this recipe. The key is to have all the prep work done in advance and then the process is fairly straight forward.
I recently learnt that you can buy Flaounes in cafes in Cyprus all year round…so it’s fair to say, you don’t need to wait for Easter to give these a go. There are many recipes and family variations, especially on how you fold them. We’ve even started to make them in muffin tins which look beautiful and stay moist.
So hands washed, aprons on and let’s get started! xx
1.25kg plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon ground finely masticha*
1 teaspoon ground mechlepi*
¼ teaspoon finely ground salt
400g unsalted butter, chopped into little cubes
1 cup water
½ cup milk
60g fresh yeast or 3 sachets of dried yeast
125ml milk warmed
1 teaspoon sugar
750g cheddar cheese finely grated
750g pecorino cheese finely grated
800g haloumi cheese finely grated
1 cup semolina
2 tablespoon dried mint leaves or a large handful of fresh mint
½ teaspoon ground machlepi*
¼ teaspoon masticha*
2 teaspoons baking powder
300g sesame seeds (brought to a boil, then strained and spread on a tea towel)
4 eggs lightly beaten
*Masticha (also known as mastic) is the hardened resin from a small evergreen tree found on the Greek island of Chios. It is used to flavor Greek and Cypriot baked goods, sweets, drinks and ice-cream.
*Mechlepi (also known as mahleb) is a spice made from ground cherry pits. It is available in small pips so you grind to a fine powder or you can purchase the powdered form of Mechlepi. I buy the ready ground. Both of these spices should not be replaced and you’ll usually find them in a greek, italian or middle eastern deli.
Measure all of your ingredients and have them ready prior to starting. The first step is to start your filling before the pastry because it’s got to rest for up to 2hrs.
- Get a very large mixing bowl (or two). Remember once you add the yeast, your mixture will double in size.
- Place the warm milk, sugar and yeast into a bowl. Stir until the yeast is combined.
- Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside to double in size. (about 15 minutes)
- Place all the cheeses, mint, spices, semolina, into the bowl and mix until all the ingredients are combined well. We normally use our hands!
- Add the eggs and yeast mixture. Mix thoroughly.
- The mixture should be soft and smooth. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let stand until double in size. Generally, this may take 1.5-2hours so it’s a good time for a coffee and a snack!
- Add the baking powder just before you’re ready to start the assembly and mix thoroughly.
While the filling is proving you can get started on the pastry.
- Sift the flour, machlepi, masticha, salt, baking powder into a large bowl.
- Rub the unsalted butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles crumbs.
- Add the eggs, water, and milk.
- With your hands, mix the dough until it is soft, smooth and elastic.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 30 minutes (or longer is fine)
- Roll out the pastry to no thicker than 3mm.
- Using a large glass or pastry cutter cut into rounds around 10cm.
- Dip one side of the pastry lightly in the sesame seeds.
- On the opposite side, place 2 tablespoons of the filling in the centre of the round.
- Fold each side to make a square shape or any shape you desire. In any case, you want to leave a small section of the filling exposed. Place each Flaoua on a baking tray lined with paper or non-stick spray.
- Glaze the flaouna with the lightly beaten egg.
- Bake in a preheated oven and 200°C for 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Don’t open the oven door whilst cooking otherwise your flaounes will flatten.
- Let them cool on a cooling rack.
Enjoy fresh out of the oven. Flaounes also freeze really well, so they’re a good snack to have ready to go and you can just zap them in the oven or microwave. Happy Easter!
Christmas has been and gone and it doesn’t take long for the shopping aisles to be full of easter treats. Easter always reminds me of my Yiayia and the procession of traditional Easter pastries we would prepare in the lead up and during Easter for the whole family to enjoy.
In memory of my Yiayia who passed away this year, I’m going share some of her Easter recipes and continue the tradition of baking them with my family so that they may live on for some generations to come.
This is Yiayia’s koulouria recipe which she always had available on her kitchen table for us to munch on – amongst many other treats. We would always make a big batch together before Easter with aunts and cousins ready with sleeves rolled up to help our Yiayia.
This recipe is scaled down and will make approximately 2 baking trays worth of koulouria.
I cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk
5-6 cups self raising flour +extra for kneading
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
Sesame seeds for rolling
1. Prepare the sesame seeds by bringing to a boil in a medium saucepan. Drain them and set them aside.
2. Mix sugar and oil in a bowl until combined
3. Add the eggs, mixing until combined
4. Add the milk, mixing until combined.
5. Mix in the spices
6. Start stirring through the flour one cup at a time until mixture forms a soft dough. Turn the dough on a floured surface and knead adding as much flour as it will take to reach a soft silky dough that no longer sticks to your fingers.
7. Spread the drained sesame seeds on a clean tea towel and line the baking trays with paper. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
8. Break of pieces of the dough and roll into skinny logs. We make our Koulouria about 10cm long and 1-2cm in circumference.
9. Roll individually in sesame seeds and place on the baking tray.
10. Bake for approximately 20mins or until golden in colour. Turn the oven down to low 120°C and double bake the koulouria until dry and crispy – the way we like to enjoy them!
These are quite basic to prepare but it’s handy to have a few hands on deck if you’re making loads of them to feed a large family like mine! Besides, it’s more fun that way and a good opportunity to gasbag and catch up. Enjoy xx