Fitness Question of the Month

A trio of professionals have launched Cognitive Sports Therapy, offering fitness programs for people with mental health problems and addictions. Here, they discuss how to feel mentally and physically strong

Cognitive Sports Therapy was founded by Dr Claire Gillvray, Nicola Ostler and Lucy Hibben. Dr Claire, is a medical doctor, a Psychiatrist, a GP, a sports doctor and a keen triathlete herself. Nicola has run her own fitness coaching business for over 10 years, coaching small group classes and one-on-one sessions in Waterbeach, Ely and at Crossfit Milton. After practicing yoga for the last 20 years, Lucy began YogaStrong a year ago, teaching classes that combine yoga, mindfulness and meditation. She teaches from her home in Waterbeach, at the Hotpod Yoga in Milton and at the Wellbeing Warehouse in Newmarket.

Evidence shows that exercise, mindfulness, breath work and talking therapies are beneficial to our mental health. What we do at CST, is to use our expertise, to combine all these elements - mind, body and breath - to help people feel physically and mentally strong.

CST offers a fitness programme suited to your abilities, as well as breathwork and meditation to clear the mind. Further, therapy will help to address issues - past and present – enabling you to make positive future choices. We ask that you tap into these three elements daily for 12 weeks and promise that you will feel fitter and healthier than you have ever done before.

Top tips on feeling mentally strong through physical fitness?

1. Firstly and most importantly, you must make time for you. Twenty minutes daily is all it takes.

Own it. Call it yours. Don’t feel guilty about taking it. A fitter, healthier you will be a stronger you, and the people you love will want that for you.

2. Write your intention down. Making a plan and writing it down means you are more likely to do it. Think of the week and when you have the time. On that busy day, think about whether you can get up earlier, do something in the living room in the evening, fit it in at lunch time - do whatever works for you.

The team at Cognitive Sports Therapy team (25076578)
The team at Cognitive Sports Therapy team (25076578)

3. Think about why you are doing this. Check in with your past, present and future. Think about the positive and negative reasons. Acknowledge this to yourself. If you have the courage, acknowledge it to another trusted human being.

4. Plan to do something for your mind, body and breath daily. An example of something for your mind might be to write down five people who have positively influenced your life and think about why. With regards to your body, an activity could be anything from a simple walk around the park with your dog or a HIIT gym session. With regards to the breath element, it could be stepping outside and taking five big breaths to fill your lungs.

5. Find a friend or family member to do it with you. Evidence shows we are more likely to stick with a program if we have social support. If you are struggling to find support, use Cognitive Sports Therapy who run an online support system and classes you can attend.

6. Find a sport or exercise that you love. We tend to stick with what we choose ourselves, not what we are told to do. If you are struggling to think about exercise for yourself, then think about what you used to love. Is there a team sport you enjoy? Do you like dancing?

7. Self care. There are entire floors of Waterstones dedicated to this. By this we mean eating well; regular healthy meals rich in nutrients and vitamins. We mean hydrating properly by drinking at least eight glasses of water a day. We mean sleeping enough, avoiding too much sugar, alcohol, caffeine and saturated fats.

8. Human contact. Connecting with people is good for our mental health. The more the better. The deeper the better. Some people have lots of contact and some have none. If you are hitting your afternoon with no human contact, send a text to someone you know, walk to the local shop, make eye contact and say hello to anyone you meet on the way.

9. Smile! Enjoy it! Have fun!

10. Commit to it for 12 weeks. It takes 12 weeks to create habits for a lifetime. At the beginning it will feel like a long time but by the end you will not want to stop.

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