7 Exercises for Back Pain

Book review by Rachel Grunwell

Book title: McKenzie Method:  Treat Your Own Back – by Robin McKenzie

This post is sponsored by The McKenzie Method company #AD

If you have ever experienced back pain, you’d be interested in this helpful easy-to-read book…

This can empower you on how to avoid or manage self-care for your back.

This book is penned by the late Kiwi physiotherapist Robin McKenzie, who is renowned for developing the McKenzie method to help people self-manage low back pain.

An acronym for the McKenzie method is mechanical diagnosis and therapy (MDT). McKenzie passed away in 2013. But his work lives on. Medical professionals have used his method worldwide for decades and continue to do so.

This 120-page book distils myths about acute back pain, lists common causes, and then details exercises and remedies on how to manage symptoms. 

The book is short and easy to read (ie not too much medical or technical jargon). I like that anyone can pick this book up and read it with ease. The exercises are also easily explained and not too difficult to do. Many of them are yoga poses I teach as a yoga teacher, but they go by different names in the book.

The book shows you strategies on how to put your back “in” too if you have put it “out”. It also advises around how to try and avoid a recurrence.

McKenzie writes in the book that back pain affects nearly everyone at some stage and is a common ailment. 

He writes: “It is often described as fibrositis, slipped disc, lumbago, arthritis in the back or rheumatism and, when it causes pain extending into the leg, sciatica.”

Some common causes of lower back pain include sitting for a long time in a poor, flexed rounded position. You know, that slumped in a chair kind of position. Or prolonged forward bending (take note: gardeners, or anyone using a poor lifting technique when picking something up!)

McKenzie writes that when pains of postural origin are first felt they can be easily eliminated merely by correcting your posture.

If uncorrected, the habitual poor posture can cause changes to the structure and shape of the joints. Excessive wear can occur, loss of elasticity resulting in premature aging of the joints etc.

A key point of the book is teaching readers the importance around how to keep natural posture ie when you stand, there’s a natural inward curve in the small of the lower back just above the pelvis (called lumbar lordosis). The lordosis is lost whenever the low back is rounded ie sitting hunched over and bending forwards. It becomes an issue if the lordosis is lost for long periods.

McKenzie explains in the book that unless you do exercises to restore normal flexibility, your healed tissue can produce back pain or stiffness – possibly for years. The pain can then escalate if scar tissue forms and restricts movement and you feel pain whenever you stretch…

I found it interesting in the book that lots of people blame sports or vigorous activities for back pain. However, McKenzie writes that in fact often it is after the activity when people sit, slouch or collapse for long periods in a chair. So, it’s not the sport, but often the posture we do post activities.

Resting or sleeping in some positions can also fuel back discomfort. Even surface (a bad mattress) can be a problem.

The book helps guides readers through stretches to help remedy their discomfort – and what to do if pain persists.

There are stretches and varied advice in the book to combat different issues and there are many areas you can feel the source of the back pain. He shares tips on what to do to handle niggles, all the way up to acute back pain. There’s advice on when to apply certain exercises also in an emergency scenario if you get a sudden onset of acute pain…

Note. If pain persists, please seek the advice of a qualified McKenzie physio to get expert advice.

7 Exercises For Back Pain:

Exercise 1. Lying face down.
Exercise 2. Lying face down in extension.
Exercise 3. Extension in lying.
Exercise 4. Extension in standing.
Exercise 5. Flexion in lying.
Exercise 6. Flexion in sitting.
Exercise 7. Flexion in standing.
To find out more about the McKenzie method click HERE

Blog penned by Rachel Grunwell: Qualified coach, yoga + meditation teacher, wellness speaker and author of the book Balance: Food, Health + Happiness. Follow Rachel on Instagram or her business Facebook page

Taupo runner loses 7kg

When Taupo runner Vinnie Klein signed up for wellness coaching her aim was to lose weight and reclaim back her awesome run fitness.

Over recent years she felt like her running was getting harder and slower and last year she had the toughest half-marathon she has done – despite being a seasoned runner with a lot of experience in events including marathons. The 46-year-old mum had put on some weight and couldn’t shake the extra kilos. Other health issues including headaches were also affecting her health and happiness too.

“I want to be able to run again without feeling like a sack of potatoes,” she quipped when she first chatted with me.

Vinnie had a good knowledge of nutrition, consumed little sugar and was into fitness before she came to me for wellness coaching. But I could see clearly where I could uplift her health, nutrition and fitness after our first consultation. She committed to12-weeks of wellness coaching where she checked in with me every week (via phone chats) and took on fresh ideas, and mindfully tweaked her fitness, health and lifestyle in a way that worked well for her as an individual and her lifestyle. She is a construction business co-owner and works in the office and so planned fitness around her commitments with this.

Every week, Vinnie tweaked things she was doing. I guided her in a way that was manageable and relatable – and never too overwhelming. I shared wellness tools I sensed she would be interested in. Ultimately, having a smart plan is the key to a successful wellness journey and checking in with me regularly with questions meant Vinnie could follow her plan with confidence.

Vinnie is one of my star clients. She lost 7kg over the 12-weeks, improved her running, resistance training and overall wellbeing. She did it too while still enjoying wine every week with her husband Andrew and often being away with friends socially too. Her headaches have eased considerably.

After 12-weeks away, Vinnie knows how to confidently carry on with her wellbeing journey in a sustainable way. My aim always is to empower my clients over 12-weeks so this is all they need to be with me on this plan.

Vinnie shares some things that helped her journey:

Vinnie with her dogs, Jude (left) and Maggie (right)

What was the hardest part?

“Starting!” The hardest part is getting your mind into the mindset that this is the time to take action and get going,” she says, then adds “another hard part was the strength training.”

What helped you on your journey?

“Rachel did!”

“You definitely kept me accountable. Without the help I would never have been able to improve my health journey from so many angles”.

What do you love about your wellness journey?

“I feel like I’m in control of where I am in life. I love being 7kg lighter. I’ve gone from a size 12 (it was tight) to a size 10. This helps me feel a lot more comfortable with running. My running is heaps easier!”

What is your advice to others wishing to be fitter or healthier?

“Do this when the time is right for you. Once you make that choice you will never regret it. It’s also important to have a goal and something on the calendar to aim for too for motivation.”

Vinnie’s next run goal is 10km at the Rotorua Marathon event and she’s looking forward to running strong and enjoying it! She will be running with a guide runner as her sight is impaired. She’s a proud member of the Achilles charity, which helps Kiwis with disabilities to participate in mainstream events.

ps I’m so proud of Vinnie’s success. She made it happen. In my books, she is the definition of inspiring! Don’t you agree?

Rachel is a wellness coach, passionate multi-marathoner, yogi and author of the book Balance: Food, health + Happiness, which boasts 30 global experts on how to live healthier and happier + 30 nourishing recipes. Contact Rachel via [email protected]

The book Balance is available for order via this website. Click HERE

Follow Rachel on Instagram or the InspiredHealthNZ Facebook page.

  • Declaration: Rachel works with the Rotorua Marathon crew as an ambassador and coach. This is proudly sponsored content.
  • To find out more about the Rotorua Marathon event click HERE

Inspiring Mum kick-starts her fitness journey for the the Rotorua Marathon event’s 10km run

Four hundred Kiwis entered the competition (with Destination Rotorua and The Hits radio station) to try and win the ultimate weekend getaway in Rotorua which included the help to kick-start their fitness journey so they can participate in the Rotorua Marathon event.

Auckland mum Rebecca Bowman won the comp – and she has signed up to participate in the 10km event on September 26.

She won these prizes in the competition:
2 entries at any distance to the Rotorua Marathon

Coaching from yours truly, and a copy of my book – Balance: Food, health & happiness. 

2 nights accommodation for two people

Polynesian Spa  - 2 x Deluxe Lake Spa passes

  Skyline Rotorua Gondola, Luge & Dinner at #stratosphererestaurant  for 2 people 

 Rrotorua Canopy Tours – Original Tour for 2 people 

Rebecca is starting her run journey from scratch and has less than two months to prepare. Mum to 4-month-old Grace, Rebecca aims to complete the 10km event.

“My goal is to be able to jog the whole way,” she says.

Rebecca is looking to reclaim her fitness – post having her baby Grace four months ago. She is aiming to get outdoors with Grace in the pram to get fit throughout the week (rain or shine).

“If I’m training with a pram… then I’m hoping it will be easy on race day if I don’t have to push a pram!” she quips.

I’ll be meeting with Rebecca weekly and giving her a coaching plan to progress her towards this goal with a safe, smart and manageable approach.

I’ve advised Rebecca to start with a walk/jog routine to get her muscles, ligaments stronger and her body used to being in motion.

A slow, easy pace with more walking than running is the smartest way to start a run journey. It’s also way more fun to do it this way – which is so important! And starting sensibly is a key to avoiding feeling fatigued and exhausted and avoiding injuries too. I’ve advised her to embrace re rest days also to give her body time to adapt, strengthen and recover well.

Rebecca has a great fitness background pre having her gorgeous baby Grace, and so also has the right mindset, enthusiasm and can-do attitude too that will take her far. I can’t wait to see her progression!

  • This blog is sponsored by the Rotorua Marathon event. Rachel is the Rotorua Marathon event run ambassador, a qualified coach and a keen marathoner. She has conquered 25 marathons. She loves inspiring Kiwis to kick-start a health and fitness journey so they can feel healthier and happier.

3 Inspiring Women Fundraising for the Rotorua Marathon event

By Rachel Grunwell

Tell me what breaks your heart and I’ll point you toward your purpose.

So writes activist and author Glennon Doyle in her book, Untamed.

When I read this line in Doyle’s book, it put into words the deep pain that has powered me into helping several charities over the years. Some things just break your heart and stir action. And you never regret action; You only regret inaction.

Whenever I talk to people fundraising for the Rotorua Marathon event (on Sept 26), I feel their passion. I also sense the pain that has caused their deep heart-connection to act.

These are just three inspiring (super) women fundraising for different charities via this iconic Bay of Plenty event. They are making their miles count. Please support them with a donation. Because small actions can snowball and help to heal this world…

Melanie Steen is fundraising for the Cambodian Charitable Trust, set up by Tauranga mum and lawyer Denise Arnold. This trust helps kids access education in Cambodia.

Kids at Ang Chhum Primary. This is one of the 23 schools supported by The Cambodia Charitable Trust.

Melanie says it is an honour to run this event and fundraise for this charity. She discovered the trust’s amazing work when reading about motivational people in my book, Balance (yes, I got pretty emotional over this!)

This is her “why”:

“The Trust was set up by a mother who wanted to make a difference, she saw a need to help these children have what we take for granted as a normal life something most of us give our children without really considering it a luxury”.

Denise says funds raised by Melanie will support the school communities at a time when there is no work and many are going hungry. 

“All funds will go to provide 50kg bags of rice to families struggling to feed themselves. There is no welfare system in Cambodia and with garment factories and construction sites closing and no tourism, there are many families facing a total loss of income. It is a huge problem, and so far the trust has provided 767 bags of rice. Each bag of rice costs about $60NZ and lasts the average family about a month”.

Steen has so far raised $329. To support this amazing cause click here:



Kylie Allpress is among a team fundraising for the Rotorua Hospice. She is running in memory of her dad who died of leukaemia. She backs the hospice for giving “unconditional love and support to all our families in Rotorua”.

She says on her fundraising page that her dad longed to one day run this event but he never did. She is a marathoner already and aiming for a PB of 3hr45mins.

On her givealittle page she says: “All I ask is please donate the price of a latte $5 for Rotorua Hospice, my chosen charity which gives unconditional love and support to all our families in the Rotorua community. I am forever grateful! This runs for you dad X”.

Kylie has so far fundraised $488. Please help her with a donation here:


Rotorua-based baker Tracey Dender is fundraising for the No Duff Charitable Trust, which helps current and former Defence personnel (and their families). Tracey is an ex war vet. She’s running the marathon in a weighted vest!

Dender (pictured below) has fundraised $2539 so far. To donate towards this worthy cause click here:


Meanwhile, read Dender’s full story on her marathon mission in another blog I wrote just on her. Click HERE

Join these amazing women and enter the Rotorua Marathon event (either the fun run, 10km, half-marathon of full-marathon distance.). Click HERE

This post is sponsored by the Rotorua Marathon #sponsored #ad

Ex War Vet Fundraises via the Rotorua Marathon a Tough Way – for a Heart-Connected Cause

Blog by Rachel Grunwell

Ex war vet, Tracey Dender, will be running the Rotorua Marathon in May – and doing it tougher than most. She’s running 42km in a weighted vest. So those hills around the back of Lake Rotorua are going to be haaaaard, long and slow. (I know this for a fact, as I’ve done this marathon without a weighted vest and it was haaaaaard, long and slow enough. By the way, that weighted vest weighs 6kg. Can you imagine carrying around a sack of 6kg potatoes around 42km?

Tracey is also making her run miles count with a passionate purpose. She’s raising money for a Veterans support charity, called No Duff Chartitable Trust.

Why? This 37-year-old – now Rotorua-based baker – is a veteran herself. She did 11 years in the NZ Army including a tour to East Timor and one to Afghanistan.

But here’s her big WHY behind why she is making her run miles count with a true mission:

She tells this best in her own words:

“I have struggled with depression and anxiety, during my time in the Army and since leaving the Army. I am living life as best I can nowadays but some of my friends and colleagues weren’t so lucky. Some days are still tough. “Running definitely helps with the mindset and wellbeing. No Duff was set up and is run by veterans out of necessity and gaps in the support network for veterans.

“I’m passionate because there are so many veterans suffering and who need help.

“No Duff has had its funding decreased and so this is my way of helping a bit.”

This will be marathon number 3 for Tracey.

How does she think she’ll get on?

“I think I’ll go ok with the vest. It’s going be painful, but I am stubborn and have a good training group to run with (Jogging the Powerpoles, in Rotorua).”

Meanwhile, here’s a pic of Tracey after receiving a medal on Anzac Day in East Timor. This was to acknowledge working with the UN in 2002.

So far Tracey has raised $720. Please help her to make a difference for a deserving bunch of Kiwi legends by donating on her Givealittle page HERE And share this blog with anyone you know who may like to back this amazing runner. Her mission is the definition of inspiring.

Meanwhile, you can join Tracey and thousands of others chasing their own goals at the Rotorua Marathon too. You can check out the event by clicking HERE

If you’d like to know more about the charity Tracey is supporting click HERE.

Blog by Rachel Grunwell: Rotorua Marathon ambassador and passionate multi-marathoner (25 marathons at the last count including 4X the Rotorua Marathon full course). Qualified coach. Yoga teacher. Wellness expert. Freelance journalist. Author of the book Balance, which includes 30 global experts sharing science-backed hacks on how to be healthier and happier.

Dad & son run Rotorua Marathon event in memory of 3 loved men lost

Joe Kurukaanga and his son Pokaiaua Kurukaanga will run the 10km distance at the Rotorua Marathon event together in memory of 3 loved ones lost.

Joe Kurukaanga shed a tear when he won the Rotorua Marathon $1000 ultimate fitness kick-starter/pamper pack for two people.

It’s a prize that will boost his own health journey. But training for the event will also be a balm to soothe the grief in losing three beautiful young men this year – all in heart-breaking circumstances.

“I shed a tear with my wife when I found out I won. I thought ‘this is meant to be’. It will be a journey that’s good for my physical health, and mental health too. It has been a taxing six months….,” says Joe, who is from Birkenhead, Auckland.

Joe was among 500 entries across InspiredHealthNZ Facebook and the marathon ambassador Rach’s Instagram in a collaboration with the Rotorua Marathon event. The prize includes. 2 x entries in the Rotorua Marathon event, 2X 60 minute massages at the Polynesian Spa, 2 sets of Asics shoes, 2 X Balance: Food, Health + Happiness books by Rachel Grunwell, 2 run caps and 2 event medals.

Joe says he immediately rang his son and told him he wanted to share the prize with him. His son Pokaiaua, a member of the NZ open men’s touch team, is elated.

“He told me ‘enjoy Xmas day dad… cause we start training on the 26th’!” quips Joe.

Joe is looking forward to kick-starting his health journey and losing some kilos with this prize. He and his son will run the 10km distance over the sulphur flats at Rotorua. Pokaiaua’s partner Jess and another friend Kris, have vowed to join them on race day at the event on May 2. So they are already a strong team of four.

They will all use the run to remember three loved men lost. Zae lost his life due to complications from pneumonia. While, Manning and Josh died suddenly where there were no suspicious circumstances. Joe says they almost lost another boy recently he knows too, but thank goodness he will be okay. It has been a time of “struggle” through the grief, he says, but he has tried to stay strong for the other young men in his life that he is close with in his role as a sports coach, mentor and friend.

Joe says he is still overwhelmed at the win. He’s still working out what they will do to raise awareness through their miles. But he already knows it will be around telling young people “it’s okay to feel not okay” – and to talk to someone if they feel not okay…

Meanwhile, thank you to everyone who entered the competition. There were so many deserving entries. So many were heart-felt.

Find out more about the Rotorua Marathon event HERE

Blog by Rachel Grunwell. Rotorua Marathon ambassador. Wellness Expert. Coach + Yoga Teacher. Multi-Marathoner. Health journalist and wellness columnist (Good magazine, Indulge magazine + the Herald online). Author of Balance: Food, Health + Happiness, which boasts 30 global experts on how to be healthier and happier + 30 nourishing recipes.

Follow Rotorua Marathon ambassador Rach on Instagram and Facebook for more Rotorua Marathon competition coming up s + health, yoga and run tips.



Why the Keto Diet Works…

How to Lose Weight & Look Good on the Keto Diet
Rachel Grunwell is a weekly wellness columnist for Indulge. This column appeared in Indulge magazine and on the Herald online too.
Is it me, or is instagram full of people thanking the Keto diet for helping them to lose weight and look good.
OK, I’m a wellness geek who follows lots of people who dig wellness. So it’s going to happen!
But seriously, the Keto diet is trending.

Read More

Renowned Artist gets fitter, stronger & reaches goal weight

Simon side view

By Rachel Grunwell

Artist Simon Richardson proves if you have the right mindset, you can achieve incredible weight-loss and fitness results.

He didn’t even use a gym and still drank beers!

Full disclaimer: Simon, 44, is one of my super-star clients I coach. He’s a multi-award-winning painter.

Read More

Turia Pitt – from Tragedy to Triumph. Read Turia’s 5 tips to thrive


By Rachel Grunwell: Wellness expert. Award-winning writer. Wellness columnist for Good magazine and Indulge magazine. Qualified yoga teacher and fitness consultant. Rachel is often interviewed on radio, giving health tips and also co-leads weekend-long health retreats at Rotorua’s Polynesian Spa. To find out more about the Mindful Moments retreats click HERE.

Drop excuses.
Conquer fears.
Be your best.
So says humanitarian, speaker, motivator & mum Turia Pitt.
I met Turia in Auckland recently at a Courage and Connection event.

Read More

Executives ‘Failing to Plan’ With Self-Health are ‘Planning to Fail’…

Article by Rachel Grunwell: Award-winning writer. Magazine wellness columnist. Wellness expert on radio. Yoga & meditation teacher. Qualified fitness consultant. Co-leader of health retreats at Rotorua’s Polynesian Spa. Director of InspiredHealth. Healthy recipe creator for Good magazine.

Executives ‘Failing to Plan’ With Self-Health are ‘Planning to Fail’…
CEOs and business leaders know company health and wellness initiatives are important. After all, research shows that happy and “well” employees can influence a company’s bottom line.
But many high-level businessmen and women are failing when it comes to their own health goals. It’s something I see often, and I’ve got a top university researcher weighing in on this topic too in this blog.
Failing to plan for your personal wellbeing is planning to fail to stay “well”. It’s crucial to fit in smart fitness, health, and nutrition solutions into your lifestyle – for anyone of any age. Degeneration with age is actually minimal; While, degeneration with inactivity is immense.
How you move and fuel your body influences how you think, feel and perform. Also, sleep and stress levels play major roles. These things affect the chemistry of your body in more ways than you can imagine.
Lots of executives and leaders blame long work-hours, having to eat-on-the-run, stress and being out-of-town often.
I’d recommend they prioritise their health too. Health is your true wealth (so the saying goes). If they don’t prioritise healthy living solutions,  it can lead to alarming consequences.
A lack of exercise, too much food and chronic stress can snowball. These issues can spiral out-of-control fast into issues like hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, cancer, and even death.
Let me put hypertension – a silent killer often with no warning signs – under the microscope for an example. Uncontrolled hypertension adds to the workload of the heart, resulting in it weakening. Leave this unchecked and things can get serious. Some issues include a risk of reduced eyesight, a heart attack, stroke, or even death.
Now, let’s look at obesity, which is an epidemic.
We focus often on the aesthetics and forget about the unseen damage like:
Excessive joint stress (which can lead to painful arthritis).
Ramped up blood pressure (which can harm your heart).
Sleep apnea (which affects clarity for work and everyday life).
Low respiratory function (which affects how you live every moment of every day).
Self-confidence can plunge (which can spiral into serious mental health issues like depression which is another epidemic).
Lastly, obesity can lead to health issues like cardiovascular issues, diabetes, arthritis, cancers and many more health problems…
I teach a yin/de-stress style of yoga, meditation and mindfulness.. I’ve worked with executives, lawyers, partners in firms to entrepreneurs, teachers, chiropractors to mums. I teach them how to use quick techniques to calm their nervous system (these tools are science-proven). I also educate them with wellness wisdom every session!
Through my work as a magazine wellness columnist, I’ve interviewed lots of top experts globally. I’ve interviewed researchers, professors, wellness gurus, nutritionists, neuroscientists, psychologists, to happiness researchers. I’ve also interviewed and met lots of wellness gurus too in NZ. I know too the strategies that they use themselves (because these strategies are science-backed).
So, I know what the best minds in “the wellness world” globally are saying about workplace wellness. And I can see where the trends are happening and what some forward-thinking businesses in New Zealand are doing already.
I’m not just a writer, yogi and wellness speaker. I’ve trained as a fitness consultant too and can work with clients to give them fitness plans designed for individuals to help them move more, eat well, feel less stress and to live more healthy and well. My favourite part is finding out an individual’s barriers( to help them overcome them) and then their goals (so I can tailor plans to help them achieve these).
Meanwhile, one of my favourite professors who works in workplace wellness is Jarrod Haar. He’s a professor of human resource management at the Auckland University of Technology.
He says in general that workplace wellness programs still have “a poor to average pick up here in NZ”.
It’s generally more likely that the bigger companies do it better, he says.
“I would say Perpetual Guardian with their 4-day work week (with 5 days’ pay) is the clearest winner at present!” he raves.
He agrees that CEOs can fall into the trap of getting so focused on “being a good leader” that they forget “to be a role model”.
He encourages leaders to rethink their own wellness. It’s important to make time for their own health as well as looking after staff.
He says if they do take time to uplift their wellness then the outcomes are worthwhile.
“It will enhance their own health, that of their staff and build the culture of their firm for sure,” he says.
 To book Rachel for wellness speaking contact [email protected]
 rach small size grey pic
To help you kick off your health journey, you can also join Rachel on a Mindful Moments Retreat in Rotorua.
There are four weekend-long retreats here in 2018.  You can hear her speak about wellness wisdom & experience yoga, mindfulness, meditation and wellness workshops. You will also get time to indulge in world-renowned Polynesian Spa therapy treatments. This is bliss!
Here you can switch off from your busy life, relax & re-set your health journey. 

To find out dates and more information click HERE.

rachel in pool (small size pic)

Pic of Rachel at Polynesian Spa by Benjamin Parkinson.



Follow Rachel via InspiredHealthNZ’s Facebook & Instagram