Recognition Trumps Reward…Every Time

I recently came across a letter I received from a former employer a long long time ago. It was in recognition for my participation in a major incident and finding it again caused me to pause and reflect and ultimately has prompted me to write this short article.

On May 02nd 1981, I was a fledgling co-pilot on the Boeing 737 fleet with the Irish national carrier Aer Lingus. My duty on this day was to check-in and be close at hand in the pilots lounge for the next 8 hours. This we did to ensure all eventualities were covered and to be available to replace any other co-pilot at very short notice.

This day was to be very different for our team. Moments after checking into the lounge and settling down for a long afternoon I got a call from Crew Control to say that I was needed immediately and to hurry.  I was informed that an aircraft had been hijacked as it was approaching landing in Heathrow and I was being called up to be the co-pilot on a second aircraft being organised to follow the hijacked aircraft. This meant I was heading to Iran, the destination the hijacker had announced he wished to go.

Another aircraft was quickly made available with politicians and advisers gathered and onboarded as we flew to Shannon to pick up a person the hijacker had requested to talk to in person. Meanwhile the hijacked aircraft had landed in Le Touquet in Northern France, which was the fuel limited endurance of the aircraft that had only expected to fly to Heathrow.

My duties were focused on supporting the Captain and maintaining constant communication with air traffic control and phone patch to allow the Irish Transport Minister of the day, Albert Reynolds, to talk directly from the aircraft with the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Charles Haughey, back in Dublin, keeping the Irish Government and the Aer Lingus team at base up to speed on developments.

We got to Le Touquet and landed.

After a relatively short period, 8 hours, on the ground the French special forces stormed the aircraft and brought the lone hijacker under control, avoiding casualties. The passengers were checked and fed and eventually we flew back to Dublin that night and along with the passengers, politicians and advisers we all went home. I was 20 years old at the time.

Three days later I received the note pictured below.  It was from the Deputy Chief Pilot Europe (DCPE) Capt Jim Brady. Three lines, thanking me for my help during the incident, typed out, signed and posted to me.

I have valued and held on to this letter ever since and to me this was how employee recognition works.

The positive and lasting effects of being really valued and appreciated by a colleague or in this case by a senior leader, has carried me through a long career and has stuck by me always on my journey in the last 40 years. I ended up having a pretty uneventful 35 year career at Aer Lingus following this initial drama…..as an airline pilot you want to be uneventful!

For me this single gesture by Capt Jim Brady was an exemplary behaviour recognition, taking the time from his position of authority to reach out and individually recognise my efforts on that extraordinary day. He didn’t have to, but he did. He simply took the time to write to me personally.

There was no voucher, no bonus at the end of the month, but a note to personally thank me for doing my job on that day. This has proven many many times since, to be far more powerful and personal to me, and one which I have appreciated more than a reward might have been at that time in my fledgling career.

The note also aligned with a change in management culture at that time at Aer Lingus, aligning to a new and more modern intent that cockpit workload was to be shared across the cockpit crew. This was being done in order to maximise the effectiveness of the team and on this day the Captain, being the most senior crew member, was allowed to share many of their tasks and responsibilities, so that they could devote themselves to the tasks and experience that allowed them to perform most effectively.

So powerful was this note of recognition that I stapled it into my pilots log book almost 40 years ago, as a permanent reminder that good behaviours should be recognised and lauded and as a reminder that I was grateful at the time for this personal touch. Also as a reminder to me to adopt the same attitude to my peers and colleagues throughout my thirty five years as a pilot.

I don’t fly any more but as CEO at Wrkit, employee recognition is central to my effectiveness as a leader and a key component to our employee engagement portal. Every week I encourage our team and leaders to recognise each other through the work we do together. It is an important part of our culture and our Wrkit behaviours. Peer to peer recognition is statistically proven to have a positive effect on employee performance, and is even more engaging then top-down recognition. Hats off to Capt Jim Brady in 1981 for having the vision and the courage as a leader to reach out with this brief but valued letter of recognition and for setting me on the path to emulate these behaviours; to be a leader that encourages employee recognition and to be able to provide organisations with the tools available for them to do the same. If you can, socialise the recognitions in your company whenever you can, because three shorts sentences really can go a long long way.

The Benefits of Running

No gym? No problem! Our new series ‘The Lockdown Runner’ with international runner and chartered physiotherapist Matt Bergin shares all you need to know about taking up running, and also the many reasons why you should!

With COVID-19 forcing all gyms, swimming pools and many other leisure facilities to close their doors more people than ever are taking up running. As a runner myself it is a breath of fresh air to see so many others out enjoying the sport I love. All my life I have struggled to answer the ‘why do you run?’ question. It is something that until you actually experience it for yourself, you won’t understand, but once you do, you’ll be left thinking ‘ah so that’s why they do it’.

Running has so many benefits and here I will discuss just some of the key advantages:

Social

Despite government regulations on social distancing meaning we can’t physically meet up with friends to go running, the social benefit of running is still huge, and is especially important for those getting into running for the first time.

  • Facebook running groups – great for keeping each other motivated, sharing advice, training tips and generally keeping in touch in these challenging times.
  • Strava clubs – track your friends’ progress and complete challenges each week at https://www.strava.com/clubs/. A few of our favourites… UK ParkRun Lovers, Runner’s World UK and The Running Channel.
  • WhatsApp groups – another great way to keep connected and motivated whilst we can’t go out running together. You can arrange set times to all individually go out running, and on your return have a catch up over a cuppa!
  • Zoom app – not only great for quizzes! You could organize group workouts with your friends live via the zoom app.
  • Virtual races – with so many races getting cancelled and the uncertainty of when you may next be able to pin a number to your chest, a number of virtual races and running challenges are being set up to keep you motivated. All of course within the government’s guidelines and social distancing regulations.

Mental/Psychological

Probably the biggest benefit of running, or any outdoor exercise for that matter, is the mental and psychological release you get from doing it. The ‘runners high’ is a real thing. Getting away from your desk, off the phone, and away from the regular news bulletins and just getting out in the fresh air once a day, even if it’s just in the garden (if you have one) or a short walk is a great way to relieve stress.

Physical

Even if you’re a newcomer to running and still only at the brisk walk stage there are still huge physical benefits from getting out!

  • Immune system – research has shown that by completing regular, moderate intensity exercise you help stimulate the production of white blood cells, which are the ones that help fight off foreign cells in your body. Not a bad idea at the moment I’d say….
  • Skeletal – – walking, running and even cycling helps strengthening your skeletal system (your bones). By walking, running and even during exercise classes your bones, especially the more weight bearing ones, will adapt to the increased loads being placed upon them and begin to increase in density and strengthen as a result, which can help reduce your chances of issues such as osteoporosis.
  • Muscular – of course the more active you are the stronger and more efficient not only your big obvious muscles become, but also the most important one, the cardiac muscle – your heart! The stronger your heart, the more efficiently it is able to pump blood around the body to the vital organs and muscles, allowing you to go about your daily life with few problems.

However, be careful!

Overtraining can have the opposite effect on the immune system. Doing too much and not having enough recovery/sleep will reduce your body’s ability to fight infection. Similarly, if you do too much too soon you will leave yourself open to developing muscular, tendon, or even bone injuries.

In the coming articles I will discuss how to get into running, and how to stay safe when doing so. I will then discuss how to prevent your chances of developing injury, as despite what we all may think, we aren’t invincible when it comes to picking up aches and pains.


This article was contributed by Matt Bergin in association with Witty, Pask & Buckingham and Performance Team

Now offering video consultations. Providing assessment, diagnosis, and tailored advice, education and rehabilitation programs.

Instagram: @matt_bergs

Twitter: @MattBergin_

References

Exercise and immune system – https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jir/2018/9675216/  

Moderate exercise and osteoporosis – http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.990.3407&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Running Advice & Guidance

No gym? No problem! Our new series ‘The Lockdown Runner’ with international runner and chartered physiotherapist Matt Bergin shares all you need to know about taking up running, and also the many reasons why you should!

Running is probably one of more simple, cheaper and accessible forms of exercise. However, this does not mean there isn’t a whole heap of questions that need answering……“what should I wear?”, “when should I eat?”, “how often should I go out?”, “how fast should I run?”

Sound familiar?

Before you properly get into things you should set goals, both short and long term. Weekly goals like trying to get out 2-3 times, and then a bigger goal like completing a 5k without stopping or running a mile under 6:00. It doesn’t matter how good you are just set goals, they will help keep you motivated!

What should you wear?

  • Be cool. Dress like it’s about 10 degrees warmer than it actually is. Your body will naturally heat up as you run, so if you’re already warm before you’ve got started good chance you’ll overheat as soon as you start.
  • Avoid cotton. Look for clothing with a ‘technical’ material to it, that will help wick sweat away from the body, rather than become soaked and cause chaffing. Check out this article on good fabrics for running.
  • Get shorty. Shorts wise I’d look for something made from polyester, nylon, or lycra. Underwear or no underwear is personal preference. Some shorts will have liner or lycra built in, but some still prefer to wear underwear……no judgements.
  • Choose the right support. Obviously lacking the personal experience in this department, but women when it comes to running and what bra to wear, find one that fits well and is comfortable, offers adequate support, and ideally wicks sweat. Here’s a useful guide.
  • Top socks. Almost as important as the shoes you wear are the socks on your feet. Normal cotton socks are not great at wicking sweat and tend to soak it up, which will rub on your feet more and cause blisters. You want ‘technical’ materials that move sweat away from the body rather than soaking it up. Quick guide on socks here.
  • Watch out. You don’t have to invest in a fancy GPS watch, I know plenty of elite runners that still use the classic Casio to run in.

What shoes should I wear?

Knowing what shoes to wear can be a bit of a minefield, and everyone has their personal preferences. My initial advice would be to run in something comfortable and that has some support/cushioning. Keep it simple and don’t buy based on their looks. So ideally not in your Vans or Air Force 1s.

When shopping for running shoes you’ll often hear the terms neutral and stability thrown around, as well as motion control and cushioned shoes.

  • Neutral – a shoe for someone with a good arch to their foot when standing and walking/running, that rolls in slightly but is not excessive.
  • Stability – a shoe with some arch support, designed for those that in standing, or when walking/running excessively drop in through the arch. The shoe support helps control this and reduce risk of injury.
  • Motion control – is a more extreme version of stability shoes.
  • Cushioned shoes – a type of neutral shoe. Are lighter weight, and good for those looking to run a little quicker.

What should you eat/drink?

Everyone has slightly different tolerances, but in general you want to leave at least 2 hours from eating before your run. If you run too soon after eating you will leave yourself open to getting stitches, stomach cramps or even throwing up…. not what you signed up for!

Sip on water before your run, avoid glugging. Your stomach will be left sloshing about when you run and feel uncomfortable.

How often should I go out?

As with anything you need to gradually build up, whether it be walking or running. If on a walking program 5-6 times a week should be fine. If running I would start with 2-3 times in a given week. If you want to do more, add in walks or other forms of exercise such as cycling, yoga, or Pilates.

Rest days are just as important as training days! They allow your body to absorb the training you have already done and prepare you for the next workout.

Runner’s World provide some great training programs for beginners whether you want a running program, a walk-run plan, or if you simply want to get moving….

How fast should I run?

When you are just getting started, I would focus on running to feel rather than worrying about pace. Some days you may feel better and can run a little quicker, others it might feel like a bit of a slog so go slower, do not be afraid to walk. I am currently on a walk, run program myself returning from injury – we’ve all been there! If your legs feel heavy and tired, it is your body telling you to take things a bit easier, don’t just plough on through it and cause yourself injury or illness from overtraining.

Another important aspect to any running program is the warm-up. Whether you are running continuously or at the walk-running stage I would advise either a 10-minute walk, or a 10-minute slow jog at the start of your workout to warm the muscles, gently increase your heart rate and generally prepare your whole body for activity.

And finally…

Running can be extremely challenging and often daunting for those new to it, especially when required to do it all by yourself! BUT running, and walking, can be so rewarding. Not only in keeping you fit and healthy, but also mentally. Get out for a short walk or run and tell me you don’t feel refreshed, motivated and ready to start the day…

However, I would say, expect some aches and pains, and heavy legged feelings. But as I will discuss in my final piece it is about knowing what is ‘normal’ to feel, and what is a discomfort that may require some rest or TLC.


This article was contributed by Matt Bergin in association with Witty, Pask & Buckingham and Performance Team

Now offering video consultations. Providing assessment, diagnosis, and tailored advice, education and rehabilitation programs.

Instagram: @matt_bergs

Twitter: @MattBergin_

Reduce your risk of injury

No gym? No problem! Our new series ‘The Lockdown Runner’ with international runner and chartered physiotherapist Matt Bergin shares all you need to know about taking up running, and also the many reasons why you should!

The start of a New Year means one thing… New Year Resolutions.

Whether that be to lose those few extra pounds you put on over Christmas, or to improve your fitness and wellbeing, many are turning to running, which is great to see! This is the time of year I get people messaging me “ohh so this is why you run” and that notification pops up that your mate Sam has just joined Strava. Just like that, they’ve caught the bug.

Now you’ve been for a few runs you’re probably starting to feel a few aches and pains, and waking up with soreness in areas of your body you probably didn’t know even existed and have probably had a least one of these thoughts running (excuse the pun) through your mind…

“should I be this out of breath”

“is this pain normal”

“why are my legs sore”

Do not worry, you are not alone!

Whenever I see someone get into running, whether that be for the first time ever, or after a prolonged period out or following an injury or post pregnancy, there is always a period of adaptation. That is your body getting used to the stresses and strains you are placing upon it, and remember, when running your legs are being exposed to somewhere between 4-6x your body weight, so it’s hardly surprising we are often left a little sore!

These first few weeks and month(s) are the most challenging for any runner, whilst your bones, muscles, and tendons, as well as heart and lungs are getting used to this new level of activity and the new loads being placed upon them. This is the time we are most susceptible to picking up niggles and injuries which, unfortunately, will be biggest factor standing in the way of you, the front door and getting out for that run.

For those of you that are newcomers to running this is the last thing you want to be hearing, however it is not all doom and gloom and there are some simple steps you can take to help reduce your chances of developing injuries.

What predisposes us to injury?

Personal

  • Genetics – hereditary traits such as bunions, as well as bone and joint issues such as osteopenia / osteoporosis or types of arthritis can all alter the mechanics when running, and the areas that experience the most stress/strain, which can eventually increase your risk to certain injuries. If you are someone that has any of these such issues it would be worth consulting a specialist before getting into running.

Training

  • Too much too soon – you should generally increase weekly training volume by around 10%. This is a general rule of thumb. Some runners may tolerate a slightly greater increase, while others may require slightly less. The key is to listen to your body!
  • Overtraining – give yourself rest days . If you are experiencing high and prolonged periods of fatigue where you feel tired, struggle to concentrate properly, struggle to sleep, or find you pick up colds/viruses easily, you may be showing signs of overtraining. This is important more than ever given the current pandemic. Treat your rest days with as much importance as your training days.
  • Inappropriate footwear – rather than going out running in your Converse or Air Force I’d advise doing your research on shoes and more than anything wear something that is comfortable. Shoes generally fall into one of three categories:
    • Cushioned / neutral – appropriate for those that have a good arch and can maintain this arch when walking and running. Also appropriate for those with a high arch who tend to run more on the outside of the foot.
    • Motion control – for those individuals with a real lack of foot and ankle strength and arch control, with a very flat foot. The most rigid.
    • Supportive – for those individuals who have a reasonable arch but may struggle to maintain a good arch whilst running.

Health and lifestyle

  • BMI – being overweight will place more stress and strain on all tissues of the lower limb especially.
  • Previous injury – previous fractures, sprains or strains.
  • Underlying medical conditions

So what can you do?

My biggest piece of advice would be to listen to your body!

If you are tired, don’t run as far or have an extra day off. If you’re legs are generally a bit sore or tight but you are not experiencing any sharp pains or pain at rest you should be OK to continue to run, but incorporate some gentle stretching or foam rolling into your routine to help with recovery.

Listen to your body!

A sharp, sudden pain is one to listen to. This is a sign that there has been tissue damage, stop, rest and speak with a medical expert.

A dull, general tightness or ache that develops after exercise is expected. A sign that you have used the muscles, especially the calf and shin muscles, the quadricep muscles (thighs) hamstring muscles (back of thighs) and gluteal (buttock) muscles. This is due to the microscopic trauma in the tissue, or Delayed Onset of Muscular Soreness (DOMS) which when done correctly allows these tissues to adapt. This is why you must listen to your body and is why most running programs will initially involve 1-2 rest days between runs.

Incorporate some strengthening type training into your program. 2-3 times per week should be enough. Whether than be some glute and pelvic muscle strengthening, some general lower limb strengthening or some trunk and core exercises this will complement the running well by making you generally stronger and more robust. https://www.performanceteam.co.uk/athlete-strength-conditioning.

Speak to the experts

As a running specialist physiotherapist, I am unfortunately used to piecing runners back together. By the time they come to see me it is often too little too late, the injury is already there, and they are inevitably forced to take time off the sport they love before building back up. However, at Performance Team https://www.performanceteam.co.uk and at Witty, Pask & Buckingham https://www.wpbphysio.co.uk we work with runners to make them stronger, more efficient and more robust before this happens.

Prevention is better than cure!

Most running injuries are a result of the way you move, your ‘gait pattern’ https://www.performanceteam.co.uk/video-gait-analysis/. Yes, I see the occasional ankle sprain or fracture from someone falling down a ditch, but the long-term niggles and reoccurring injuries are a result of the weakness, stiffness, tightness or lack of control of your joints, soft tissues or neuromuscular system. So that tight calf you keep experiencing may well be caused by an issue in the pelvis or lower back. Simply massaging and stretching the calf will only manage the issue short term.


This article was contributed by Matt Bergin in association with Witty, Pask & Buckingham and Performance Team

Now offering video consultations. Providing assessment, diagnosis, and tailored advice, education and rehabilitation programs.

Instagram: @matt_bergs

Twitter: @MattBergin_