What sailing from NZ to Fiji taught me about health and wellbeing

I love a good adventure, and when my boyfriend decided we should get a sailboat and sail from New Zealand to Fiji, I figured; Why not! I started researching the journey, and discovered it's a very popular route and plenty of people do it each year. So! I did a few sailing lessons, and on June 22nd this year, we left the Bay of Islands and sailed to Savu Savu, Fiji. 

It may seem like an extreme adventure, but there were months of preparation behind it; the details of which aren't very thrilling unless you love hearing about tying knots, drilling and cleaning things. What is interesting though, is what I've learned about health and wellbeing thanks to this exciting adventure.

1. Sometimes you just need to take a leap

Thanks to social media, the ‘comparison trend’ is everywhere, making too many of us feel like we’re not quite whole.

The feeling of needing to do more or be more than we are stops so many of us from achieving exciting things. This need to have ‘more’ of something is everywhere, people may want:

  • More patience before they have children

  • More money before they pursue their dream job

  • More activewear before they go to the gym

As a physiotherapist I've heard every excuse to avoid rehab or activity, (including the one about active wear!) We're all guilty of making those little excuses without realising they hold us back.

The feeling that we don't have quite ENOUGH OF SOMETHING YET all comes down to confidence. It's the little voice in our head saying 'no, you can't do it...not yet.'

Sure, sailing the Pacific Ocean can be dangerous, but there are plenty of tools to help mitigate the risks. After researching and purchasing every safety tool we could need, learning as much as I could and passing our safety inspection, I felt ready. It was a huge leap to take for someone who had only done four sailing lessons, but I learned sometimes you've just got to give it a go. It was a great learning for me who loves every piece of information before I try something!

2. Eating fried, fatty foods is hard on your digestion

This is a no brainer, but I had never felt the truth of this statement until arriving in Fiji. During the passage from NZ, we ate rice, beans, cabbage, vegetables, pasta and freshly caught Skipjack and Yellowfin tuna. Essentially we ate whole, real foods which I thought I did already, but obviously not!

When we arrived into Fiji, the boat was wet through and we were craving a warm burger and chips. We waited a few days, then hit the Waitui marina to satisfy our craving.

The next day, we both felt sluggish and lazy, almost worse than the day we had arrived after very little sleep at sea. I was blown away with the difference in our energy levels.

Our bodies had become so accustomed to eating clean foods, fried fatty food was almost too much to manage.

I'm not saying fried foods are the enemy, but they do have a HUGE impact on energy and wellbeing. The occasional dumpling night or burger and chips is absolutely fine, but notice if you're injecting fried and fatty foods into your diet elsewhere. It could be making you lethargic without you realising. Learn more about how to eat better here.

3. Not sweating the small stuff is key to contentment

I found sailing from NZ to Fiji pretty tough and it wasn't because we were in 4km deep seas, soaked by waves on night watch or five days from the nearest shore. It was because myself and the two others on the boat were exceptionally tired. 

Extreme fatigue is the ultimate test. Science has proven after 19 hours without sleep, your mind functions at the same level as having a blood alcohol reading of 0.05, and after ten days at sea with broken, minimal sleep every night, balance, coordination, strength and decision making were all diminished. 

So! In this somewhat extreme environment, I learned that not sweating the small stuff made everyday easier, for everyone. 

The little things don't matter in the middle of the Pacific, but they also don't matter at home.

Choosing to let small things slide helped us arrive safely and happily in Fiji, and I have learned it will also help me achieve other goals with family and friends at home.

I've learned we all need to ask ourselves more often: "Does that really matter?" before jumping to say our piece.

Sailing from NZ was a tough and wonderful experience, and I’m so thrilled I was able to enjoy some wellness learnings along the way.

What is the biggest thing about wellbeing that you’ve learned through experience?

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A wee problem of huge proportions

Why minor bladder leakage affects young women

If you have minor bladder control issues, haven't had kids and you're the young side of menopause, you're DEFINITELY not alone. So let's end the awkwardness and chat about this super common women's issue that affects women of all ages.

Rushing to make it to the toilet or mini wet patches every so often affect so many women in their 20's, 30's and 40's who haven't had children...but why?

incontinence young women

Embarrassment stops too many women from getting help

Last year while practicing physiotherapy in Melbourne, Australia, I saw at least ten young women in their 20's and 30's who experienced sporadic continence issues, and their embarrassment was palpable. These ten women were only a few of the thousands of young women with bladder issues, and sadly, 70% of people with bladder control issues don't seek help.

how common is urinary incontinence

If you, your sister, your Mum or your bestie has ever experienced bladder control issues, please read this.

There is a solution, you just have to know where to start.

What is minor bladder leakage?

The most common bladder incontinence issues fall into two categories:

  • Stress incontinence 
  • Urge incontinence

What is stress incontinence?

Stress incontinence means your bladder involuntarily leaks due to physical stress such as coughing, sneezing running and jumping during periods of increased intra-abdominal pressure.

why do i pee when i run?
 Image  source

Image source

For example; during a cough, the pressure in your trunk area increases, pushing down on your bladder.

 

If there isn't enough upward support from your pelvic floor, your small amount of urine may leak.

 

Stress incontinence usually occurs after childbirth or after menopause.

 

 

What is urge incontinence?

This bladder control issue is the most common I've seen. If you ever have to run to the bathroom with no prior warning, or you don't quite make it and you get small wet patches on your undies or you ever feel 'desperate to go,' - you have urge incontinence.

The cause of urge incontinence isn't known, but it's an issue relating to the bladder's messages from the brain. 

  • Usually, the bladder can store 350-500mls of urine at a time
  • When the bladder is full, it sends a message to the brain, which then sends a message back to the bladder to contract and empty
  • Usually, you can delay going to the bathroom until it's convenient
Urge incontinence often means the bladder tells the brain it needs to empty even when it's not full. It gives the brain 'mixed messages.'

Why does urge incontinence happen?

No reason is known at this point. Illicit drugs can be a cause as they can change the messages going between the brain and bladder, and coffee, tea and alcohol can make symptoms worse.

Why does bladder leakage affect young women with no children?

why does bladder leakage affect young women with no children

It's all about your pelvic floor. Yep, it's a muscle thing. 

The pelvic floor is a sling of muscles that spans from your pubic bone, right between your legs and up to your sacrum. Think of it like a hammock of muscles, with different muscles slinging around your three openings.

When activated or 'used' correctly, your pelvic floor should lift, rather than scrunch.

Imagine a tissue lying flat on a table and you pinching the centre into a tent and lifting it upwards. 

On ultra sound, it looks like this:

With many young women experiencing bladder control issues, their pelvic floor barely lifts at all, and when it does, they're unable to hold it.

This can also occur if you're unable to fully relax your pelvic floor, which is another common problem; meaning your pelvic floor is inefficient.

Your abdominal contents and your bladder when it empties create a downward force. If the upward life of the pelvic floor is too weak, a little bit of urine can leak out. 

why do i have incontinence

What can you do about your bladder control issues?

  1. Firstly, remember you're not alone lady! This issue is so much more common than anyone realises.
  2. Secondly, seek skilled help from a trained, experienced women's health physiotherapist. They need to have specialised in women's health physiotherapy and should have proven experience in the field. A great example are the genius physios at Fitwise, Melbourne.

Unlike myself who specialises in sports and spinal physiotherapy, these skilled physios will be very specific to your bladder issues.

  • They will ask you to fill out a long questionnaire, then go through your full history.
  • Then, to understand the strength and endurance of your pelvic floor, they will ask if you consent to an internal exam. It's completely painless and a great way to establish where you're at with your pelvic floor strength.
  • They will likely also use a real time ultra sound to watch your pelvic floor activation.

Ultimately, they will give you a program to help reduce the degree of urgency and increase the storage ability of your bladder. These programs work, and can make a huge difference to you.

NOTE: Bladder incontinence can also be caused by infection or neurological disorder. A good women's health physiotherapist will encourage you to get tested for these issues if they think you fall into any of these categories.

If you have any questions about bladder control issues - let me know!

lets talk about women's health

Let's stop the secrecy and awkwardness around bladder control issues and start the conversation!