New Year, New body!

Written by Olivia McCormick, Administration Manager at Willis Street Physiotherapy

“My goal over Christmas and New Year was to keep healthy and get an early start on those new years resolutions by taking a good chunk of time off work, staying in Wellington, keeping away from the boxing day sales, going to the gym lots, eating healthier food and looking after myself.

That did not happen at all, in fact it was the complete opposite.
Christmas day was the usual family catch up that always seems to be the most hectic and tiring day of the year, but it is always nice spending time with the family. The drive from Wellington to Kapiti was fine until we reached Plimmerton and realized what was meant to be a 45 minute trip turned into 2 hours because we left the house too late and hit the wall of traffic.
You say to yourself you will just eat one plate of roast meat with the side of delicious potatoes and salad, or just one plate of BBQ food.
Nope, the chips and dip come out, followed by the cheese and crackers (my biggest weakness), followed by all the chocolates that were in your presents.
Once you are about to pop and have washed it all down with a nice cold beer or glass of wine thinking that there is no way you are going to want to eat or even look at food for the rest of the year…… The pavlova, ambrosia, trifle and ice-cream with fruit comes out.
I ended up staying in bed until noon on boxing day trying to recover from my food hangover, and personally thinking there was no point in getting out of bed. All I would do is head straight to the shops for the boxing day sales. For the first time ever I was just too tired to leave the house.
Fast forward to  the 3rd of January and I had been off work for 2 weeks, and was feeling pretty guilty that I hadn’t done anything that I wanted to do in the time I had away from work. With one week left until my first day back to the “real world” I decided to hit the gym and do a leg workout.
I began by warming up on the bike for 20 minutes then it was off to the line of leg workout machines. I was incredibly wobbly (and looked like a drunk person) while doing walking lunges and started seeing stars after doing some dead-lifts. I pulled a muscle in my groin on the thigh abductor machine due to not stretching well before hand, also by thinking I could lift at the same weight I had 5 years ago – obviously my body has deteriorated slightly over the past few years.
Now, writing this, just two weeks since my first day back at the gym I feel amazing. I am going 3 times a week, alternating leg workouts, arm workouts, and then a day of core and a bit of cardio (and a sauna as a treat).
I have also begun walking again and over the last week I have walked on average of 8-10km a day, which isn’t very far when you think about it, maybe 1.5 hour walk around Oriental Bay after tea with my flatmate.
I have seen Carl Hammington recently (personal trainer at Willis Street Physio) who has gone through all the good things that I am doing (which is very motivating) and together we are working out the best program to keep me going and staying motivated so that I can fit into a bikini this November when I travel to Thailand. He has said the next time that I see him (in 4 weeks) I should have lost 2kg which will be such a body confidence booster this time of year.
This week I have also seen Felicity Leahy (Naturopath/Nutritionist at Willis Street Physio) just because I felt like I needed that extra push with my nutrition.
Over the last week I have cut down on my sugar intake (no more desserts, home baking, chocolate bars or red bulls) and have force fed myself tonnes of fruit and veggies.
Because I don’t eat breakfast at home, I tend to snack on junk food around 10am at work. I now make fruit salad using all of my favourite summer fruits like strawberries, blueberries, melon, cherries and pineapple which I eat at my desk mid morning.
For lunch I walk home (luckily I live 3 mins from work) and I have a simple salad consisting of spinach greens, feta, cucumber, capsicum and cherry tomatoes.
Felicity noticed that there was not enough protein in my diet and have given me some good ways of including it in every day life.
For snacks throughout the day I eat things like hard-boiled eggs, nuts and seeds and am also going to start putting chickpeas into my salads as I don’t really like to eat too much meat protein.
I live with three other flatmates who are luckily very good cooks, and cook really healthy food thankfully, so my dinners always include the perfect amounts of protein and a ton loads of veggies, and if its my partner cooking you can expect lamb chops, a big fat juicy steak or a delicious curry.
Although I am only in the early stages of my new years resolution to lose weight, tone up and get bikini ready for November. I wouldn’t have lasted more than a week if I didn’t have a supportive team around me (extra thanks to Carl and Felicity to making sure I am on the right track).
I find having someone to walk with you, or having a gym buddy makes all the difference, they push you that little bit further and make you go that extra mile so if you are a bit of a lazy person like me who thinks the gym is a daunting place, grab a friend and go for a walk to botanical gardens, around the bays in Wellington, or drive out to reserves like Percy’s Scenic Reserve in Lower Hutt or the Orongorongo track in Wainuiomata if you are into bushwalks.
If you have a gym membership and haven’t been in a while just remember that the hardest part of going to the gym is getting there, once your there you will be fine.
If you are finding the gym boring then pop in and make an appointment with a personal trainer, you can also call Willis Street Physio and see Carl Hammington and he can work out a plan for you.
And if you are struggling with your eating habits I highly recommend coming and seeing Felicity Leahy. She is absolutely amazing.
Check out their profiles on the Willis Street Physio website 
If you want to book to see either Carl or Felicity call the admin team at Willis Street Physiotherapy 04 834 8313
Food I gathered in the garden and orchard at Appin Homestay - as Helen was getting the tour of the kitchen. We fell a bit in love with this place and the couple that ran it!image-5

Meet the team – Peter



Peter works full time as a physiotherapist for Willis Street Physio and splits his time between our Willis Street and Victoria University (Kelburn Campus) clinics.  Peter grew up in Invercargill but was born in Tauranga.  He is the eldest of three children – but as a twin, only by 11 minutes.  He is a bit of a perfectionist (in the best sense of the word) has an addictive personality and a contagious laugh which we all love here at Willis Street Physio.

From a young age Peter was heavily involved in team sport playing football, rugby, touch and netball.  As he got older he turned to individual sport and developed a passion for gymnastics.  He trained and competed for 10 years at National and International level and specialized in power tumbling.  He won several national, oceanic and international titles and still holds national records.  He was lucky to travel all over the world to compete through Europe, America, Canada, Australia and Asia.  He was also a capable academic and enjoyed school (despite being absent a lot of the time on the other side of the world).  Eventually this became his focus and he retired from competitive sport at 21 to study but he has maintained similar training habits throughout life.

More recently Peter has become involved in team training and group fitness and instructs classes for Les Mills Extreme in Wellington.  Peter finds this a great adjunct to his physiotherapy.  He is able to combine sports and biomechanical physiotherapy and rehabilitative exercise prescription (cornerstones of his treatment and management style) to his teaching at Les Mills.  He teaches three programmes: a functional core strength programme, an aerobic programme and a high intensity strength programme. Underlying both professions is a true passion for helping people to achieve personal health and fitness goals and in injury prevention.

Outside of work and fitness Peter enjoys socializing with friends.  He likes to wind down watching a good film (classic, documentary or modern), reading a good book (Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Stephen King, Phillip Roth) or listening to good music (Chvrches, London Grammar, The xx, James Blake).  He is a keen snowboarder and tramper and spends all summer at the beach, in the sun.

Green Smoothie Challenge Final Week

Powered by Green Smoothies

Our journey has come to a conclusion, the last page has been turned, the ribbon has been cut, the credits are rolling and the final slurp has been slurped…Well.. Felicity and I have completed our four week challenge but our green smoothie engagement is far from over. With results presenting as rapidly and significantly as they have we can both safely say these green concoctions will remain an integral part of our diet.


Key changes over 4 week challenge:


Increase in energy levels – particularly before and after physical exercise

Less mid afternoon crashes

Excellent hangover cure

Glowing skin (less blemishes)

Craved sugary foods less

Required less food overall


Bianca – Week 4


From the relatively unappealing bitter green smoothie I sampled on day one to today where I woke up craving that green goodness; my taste buds have certainly matured – The bitterness subsiding, Felicity tells me, can be a reflection of the improved health of the liver, which loves and is stimulated by bitter foods. This is promising news and just shows how quickly change can come about.  It is not too late to start people and I can tell you this is an excellent (and tasty – once your body adjusts to the bitterness) way to incorporate your 5+ a day all at once and set your body up with the nutrients it needs to help you get through the day.


My skin has been glowing lately and I think it’s a combination of spring sun and the goodness of the leafy greens – increased nutritional content means my body is eliminating more effectively.  Beauty from the inside out as they always say!


I am determined to keep this challenge going but will call it a lifestyle change.  I may not be able to maintain the frequency but would really like to keep green smoothies as a key element in my diet and morning routine.


Felicity – Week 4

You know when something is good for you when after a break from it, your body calls you back ………even when it takes a bit more prep time in the morning and adds a few extra dollars to your shopping bill. In my case, my week of opting out of green smoothies has ended and I’m back on the wagon. Of course, I’m doing this challenge so I kinda needed to be if there was going to be any authenticity in my feedback!

But in all honesty, I really did notice that once I had started to recover from my cold, cravings for the green elixir returned. I knew how much better I felt when I was drinking them regularly, and I wanted to feel that way again. I call this “the glimpse” – getting a small taste of how great you can feel when you eat well. I find this is one of the best motivating factors to steer me back on course when things go pear-shaped.

With the challenge coming to an end this week, I’m curious as to what changes might occur if I commit to this for a longer term. In my search to understand a little more about what benefits I could expect, I tracked down “Powered by Green Smoothies” – a doco following 10 endurance runners and cross-fitters who are supplied with 1L of green smoothie daily for 6 weeks, to find out whether smoothies can improve athletic performance.

Powered by Green Smoothies


Baseline levels of VO2max, inflammation (measured by blood test) and oxidative stress (measured by urine test) were all taken.

Mid-way through the challenge at the 3-week mark, few changes were noticeable. Some of them were feeling a little better but wouldn’t attribute it to the smoothies. Remember most of these athletes were fit and healthy to begin with – some of them exercised up to 7 hours daily, and ate well to support it.

But by the end of the experiment at week 6, the changes – both in how the athletes felt but also in their baseline measurements, were clear:

–          9/10 athletes improved their VO2 max

–          9/10 athletes reduced their levels of inflammation by approximately 50%. One had a whopping decrease in CRP (a measure of inflammation) of 17.17mg/L to 1.15mg/L. Since higher levels of inflammation are correlated with an increased risk of all cancers, arthritis, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s, this is a significant finding.

–          All reported reduced recovery time following workouts and events. An ultra-marathon runner reported that recovery time following races decreased from 7 days to 3.

–          Harder workouts were done with greater ease.

–          Runners felt lighter on their feet and experienced less muscle pain, therefore could run for longer.

–          Many felt happier with less mood swings, and slept better.

Obviously a study with much larger sample sizes would need to be conducted, but it looks as though green smoothies may be an effective method to reduce inflammation, speed recovery time, increase energy levels, and boost performance in athletes.

Interesting enough, many of the participants didn’t start to notice clear changes until about week 4, meaning I need to persevere to really start reaping more rewards.

One wonders how I might feel if I did this for a year? Food for thought.


Green Smoothie Challenge Week 3




Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be challenging at the best of times. From those late night chocolate cravings to skipping a gym sesh because your sister’s friend’s mother’s grandpa’s brother’s grandson’s uncle’s fish died, and yes, it was tragic. But when unexpected circumstances arise it can be extremely difficult to stay on the wagon.  Felicity’s smoothie experience this week was far more dramatic than mine.  In this post we identify and explain the link between our emotions and how we eat and digest food.

What a difference a week makes!

Felicity – Last week I was thinking green smoothies were the elixir of life – this week, ahhh…. not so much. Here’s what happened in week 3 for me:

My lovely 94 year old Nana passed away and within 6 hours of hearing the news I had come down with a cold (the mind-body connection in action right there!) and alongside that, my desire for green smoothies completely evaporated. In fact, complete aversion ensued – I was struggling to get them down, found them way too cold, and didn’t enjoy the taste at all.

As much as I love to complete a challenge, naturopaths are taught to respect the wisdom and innate intelligence of the body. Struggling with sinus congestion and battling a virus, my body didn’t want to eat much at all – the only thing I could possibly get excited about was warm, nourishing soup. So the smoothies got shafted and my Cavolo Nero got chopped up and made into vegetable soup instead.

So what was it about getting sick that can explain my aversion to lovely healthy green smoothies?

Here’s my take on it: the process of digesting and assimilating foods into nutrients requires a heap of energy from the body. Blood is diverted away from the brain and limbs toward the stomach to help digestion. That’s why this process is often referred to as “rest and digest”. It’s why we can feel a bit mentally sluggish after eating and also why the Europeans often have siesta after their 3 course lunches!

When the body is sick, the immune system is focused on fighting infection, and diverting large amounts of energy to digestion is not a priority. Both animals and children tend to fast when sick and have little desire for food, instead choosing fluids. Cats will sometimes nibble on a blade of grass. This is also why warm cooked foods have been traditionally used to help recovery from illness. Cooking a food breaks it down and begins the process of digestion, making less work for the body, which can then focus on getting well.

I’m hoping week 4 and recovery from this cold with bring renewed enthusiasm for green smoothies!


Bianca’s week three experience –

We are past halfway, on the homeward stretch now and I feel brilliant!

At the start of the week I felt sick as a result of a big weekend and about 6 hours sleep in total. My body was beginning to resent me and my voice became very husky (manly husky, not sexy husky).  I decided to up my smoothie intake for a couple days (two smoothies a day) to try and build my immune system up and I have since fought off the bug and the femininity in my voice is slowly returning.

I have not been craving chocolate as much. I could easily demolish a good 3-4 rows of Milky Bar a night and if I’m feeling down, let’s make it 6 rows.  Chocolate is certainly my weakness. However I have found after dinner I am ready for bed and am not tempted for sweetness. The smoothies are really hitting the spot.

My favourite ingredient this week is the superfood chia seeds which are high in antioxidants, fiber, calcium, iron, potassium and protein. Also chia seeds absorb up to 10-12 times their weight in water.  Adding chia seeds meant that my smoothies were thicker, had more substance and kept me full for longer.




Recipe of the week

1 Cup Spinach

1 Cup Bok Choy

1 Cup Coconut Milk

1 Cup water

1 Banana

1 Avocado

1T Chia Seeds


We are almost at the finish line now. Hopefully our bodies have recovered after this challenging week so we can keep up the momentum to finish the challenge.

Both our experiences this week remind us of the importance of listening to our bodies and changing our diets to provide them with what they need most in any given moment. Felicity needed the warmth and comfort of vegetable soup in a time of both emotional and physical distress and so the green smoothie challenge went out the window. Bianca (myself) needed to rebuild after a heavy weekend and so upped the ante and did double the amount of green smoothie, amping up my nutrients and assisting my liver to do the vital job of detoxification. Tuning in to what the body really needs in any given moment (instead of what the mind says we need e.g. usually sugar, chocolate or some other short-lived food high) is one of the most important steps in learning to truly nourish and care for our bodies and ourselves.

Green Smoothie Challenge (week 2)


Leafy greens – food of choice for gym junkies?

Last week we talked about the genetic similarity of primates and humans, and how gorillas maintain such a high muscle mass, despite eating very little animal protein, but a large number of leafy greens. How can this be so?

A little known fact about leafy greens is that they are surprisingly high in protein. Most of us have placed leafys in the general category of “vegetables” and thus mistakenly conclude that they are not a good protein source. When in fact leafy greens contain good quantities of amino acids, the building blocks of protein.

There are 9 amino acids that are essential for humans—which means we must get them through our diet, as we cannot synthesize them in our bodies. When looking up the nutritional analysis for kale, I was amazed to find that approximately 400 grams of it supplies almost your entire recommended daily requirement of essential amino acids!

Some leafy greens contain higher amounts of amino acids than others, so it’s important that you vary the types of greens you eat. No matter how much you may love kale smoothies, it’s a wise choice to try some spinach, chard and silverbeet as well!


Week two overview:

Week two produced new findings – changes in our bodies and flavour combinations/ingredients for our smoothies.


I’m really starting to crave my daily green smoothie now – feels like health in a glass!

It was my birthday in the weekend and I was away skiing – suffice to say there was an increased intake of alcohol, chocolate and other treats. I’m reasonably sensitive when I overindulge – the next day I’ll feel a bit tired or not quite myself. But since starting the smoothies I’ve noticed that such foods don’t seem to have such a detrimental effect on my mood and energy levels.

Favourite surprise ingredient: Parsley. It grows like a weed in my garden so I’m throwing it in at every opportunity. Nutritionally it’s a great addition, bringing with it high levels of iron and vitamins K, C and folate. Its also highly alkaline meaning it can combat the acidity of processed foods. Plus I absolutely adore the gorgeous shade of green smoothie it produces.


I have found the initial hype of this experiment is beginning to subside and it has been difficult to find motivation to wake up that little bit earlier in the morning to make my smoothie.  But once I make that glass of green goodness it really does slide down like silk to fuel my flame (or body in this instance).

I haven’t skipped a day yet and I don’t intend to, I am determined to see this challenge through and am not one to give up.

Changing flavour combinations up keeps things exciting.  My latest discovery.. add almond milk and dates to your green smoothie to create a delicious caramel flavour (perhaps not as healthy as some other recipes but if you are going fall off the wagon or are craving something sweet, these ingredients are a good alternative).

My body is really encompassing the extra nutrients the smoothies are providing and I think If I stopped taking them I would really notice the difference. My energy levels have been far better even though I have been sleep deprived this week.

I think I have also discovered a way to counteract morning burps.  Ginger… I have been adding freshly chopped ginger to my smoothies recently and not only do they bring a nice warm flavour to the drink but they seem to have stopped my morning burps.  When I asked Felicity if this was a coincidence or if the ginger was aiding my indigestion she said…

“Ginger has been traditionally used in herbal medicine as a digestive aid – it strengthens digestion by helping to stimulate saliva, bile and gastric juices – essentially meaning it helps you digest your food better. So yes, definitely a connection! It is also a circulatory stimulant – so if you are a cold person or are struggling with the cold of a smoothie, it is a really good addition to warm things up a bit. ”

Ginger definitely sounds like a dietary keeper!!


Recipe of the week

This weeks recipe highlights that you can make your smoothie tasty whilst maintaining a great nutritional value.

  • 1 Handful Spinach
  • 1 Handful Silverbeet
  • 1 Banana
  • 1 Handful of dates
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 Cup Almond Milk

Stay posted for Week 3 – We are only half way through and have already noticed fairly significant changes!  Get on board and finish our challenge with us.

Welcome to the team Susan!!

Susan Photo

Susan has joined our musculoskeletal team at Willis Street Physiotherapy team this year. She is originally from Lesotho, in Southern Africa and she moved to New Zealand with her parents in 1998. She graduated from Otago University in 2002 and has practiced in all areas of physiotherapy and decided to focus on musculoskeletal physiotherapy and women’s health and loves working in these areas.

She grew up playing competitive tennis and is an active member of tennis club in the Hutt valley. She also enjoys bush walks over the summer weekends with her friends and snowboarding in winter. She gets married to her best friend Luke in September and is looking forward to married life.

She usually travels to southern Africa to volunteer in and visit different people groups. Her desire is to see self sufficient communities with sanitary, health  and educational needs met in such remote areas. She is inspired by the work done by charities such as World Vision with initiatives to bring about life changes developments in such areas.

Susan’s continues to increase her education in health and physiotherapy to not only effect one individual but her community as well. She regularly gives talks to community groups such as Arthritis groups via Arthritis New Zealand, breast cancer forum and community groups mainly organised  by The Cancer Society in Wellington. The next talk that she will be presenting at in November is Prostate Cancer forum, discussing physiotherapy and rehabilitation in clients with cancer.

There longer Susan becomes a physiotherapist, there more she realizes there is so much more to learn. She gleans from her colleagues and peers and gives her best to her clients. She is looking forward to hearing from you.

Welcome to the Vic team Emma O’Callaghan!

Emma O'callaghan
Emma has joined both our musculoskeletal team at Vic Clinic and our Rest Home team this year. She is originally from Wellington and has spent most of her life here, apart from her Physio studies down in Dunedin and her travels overseas.
Growing up, and still now, Emma has a ‘Go-get it’ attitude and has always shone on the sports field – whether it is football, tennis, netball, squash, hockey, athletics or swimming. She represented Capital Football in the federation side all throughout high school and has continued playing women’s football. She led her school as Sports Captain and in other roles such as student representative on the Board of Trustees.
Throughout secondary school she developed a great passion and gift for helping others. She has spenta lot of time volunteering and working for Challenge 2000 as a youth leader and in 2008 helped establish and live in their Youth House in Lyall Bay, which offers respite care for youth at risk. This led her to win the NZ Society of Physiotherapy Contribution to the Community Award.
After graduating from Otago University with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy she entered private practice and has been addicted to the profession since. Her passion for helping people has led her into working with top athletes, private practice patients, people with disabilities and in aged care.
Before joining our team Emma and her partner travelled through the Pacific, South East Asia and Australia teaching Scuba diving. They run a dive charter boat and training centre in Wellington and most of her spare time is spent underwater. She also loves a good book, chilling in cafes with friends, fishing and holidaying in the Marlborough Sounds.
We are looking forward to Emma joining the team. Welcome Emma!!!