Fitness Trends for 2015

2014 was the year that fitness became mainstream. 

No longer is it strange to hear people say ‘oh, I can’t go for dinner, I’ve got Pilates’ or ‘let’s catch up at spinning’. Juicing, whether at home or bought, is more acceptable and quinoa is now a staple of a lot of people’s diets. AND they know how to pronounce it correctly. 

So what does 2015 hold for us then? 

1) CrossFit-style workouts

While not everyone feels brave enough to step into a Box (yep, that’s what CrossFit gyms are actually called), the high intensity circuit-style workouts are finding their way into ‘normal’ gyms. Anything that combines explosive movement, weightlifting and a lot of reps (read: sweat) will have you building muscle and burning fat like a pro. Embrace it but make sure you pay lots of attention to technique especially with the weightlifting. Oh, and don’t become a CrossFit douchebag… 

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2) One-stop shop gyms

A gym or fitness studio is no longer just a sweaty room that smells a bit like that time you left your PE kit at school over the Easter holidays and had to put it on again afterwards… Gyms now have spas, like Equinox so you can get a facial after boxing, and plenty more are offering pre and post-workout nutrition like 1Rebel, a new gym in Liverpool Street, London, that provides a complimentary cold pressed juice or healthy salad with lunchtime classes. As fitness is becoming a part of our busy lives, gyms that can offer something extra have that edge.

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3) Cross-training

No, I don’t mean that weird ski-type machine in the gym. I mean training in ways that aren’t necessarily directly connected to your chosen discipline. More and more runners are getting into yoga and strength training to improve their technique and keep their muscles in optimum shape. For sports players it’s no longer about spending hours kicking or hitting a ball, they now might be as familiar with a cadillac in the Pilates studio as they are with a footwork drill. Unless you’re an Olympic athlete then cross-training WILL be beneficial, step out of your comfort zone and give something else a go this year.

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 4) Fitness trackers

Athletes have been using heart rate monitors to track their intensity levels for years but the mainstream market is catching on. A lot of fitness trackers were introduced to the market in 2014 but 2015 is going to be the year that they go mainstream. There’s plenty out there on the market (eg. the Misfit Flash, the Fitbit Charge and various watches like the Samsung Gear and the Withings Activité) so do your research and find out which would suit your needs best. It could help to motivate you through the rest of the winter for that summer body!

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5) Fitness is for life, not just for beach season

Fitness isn’t just about being skinny or having that 6-pack any more, it’s about long-term health and strength, inner and outer. You’ll hear more and more people talking about wanting to be strong not skinny (myself included) and feeling ‘better’ rather than ‘thinner’. It’s about finding a sustainable diet and level of exercise that isn’t restrictive or obsessive, something you can enjoy with friends and family and that compliments your life but doesn’t take it over. Sounds pretty good right?

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2015 Race Calendar

The atmosphere, buzz and sense of achievement connected with any organised sports event is scarily addictive… And this is why I keep signing up for more and more! 

This year you can find me at:

February 1st – Winter Run 10k – COMPLETED 73:16

May 23rd – Eton Dorney Sprint Triathlon (750m swim, 20km cycle, 5k run)

June 7th – Finsbury Park Women’s Running Series 10k

June 21st – Nike Women’s 10k (Victoria Park)

August 8th – London Triathlon Olympic (1,500m swim, 40km cycle, 10k run)

Who’s with me?  

The power of alone time

While Simon (my fiancé) is in India for 2.5 weeks, I’ve had to fight the urge to book arrangements in for every night due to not wanting to be alone all of the time and not wanting to spend loads of money! 

So today I did something that I haven’t done in a couple of years by myself, I took myself off on my bike and had a cheap little adventure. 

I’ve lived very close to the Olympic Park for nearly 2 years now and can you believe it, I’ve never been! It’s an easy 5km cycle there which only took 15 minutes and then once you’re into the park there’s lots of wide and smooth cycle routes that take you around the whole area. 

My first triathlon is coming up in May so with that in mind I headed to the Aquatics Centre for a swim (cue swimming selfie…). 

It was busy in there but once you’re in the water there’s actually plenty of room for swimming! I swam sets of 250m for 1km, alternating breaststroke and freestyle trying to concentrate on my technique. For triathlons you really want to swim hard with the arms to save your legs for the cycling and running to come, so I focused on them. Jelly arms now… 

Afterwards I basked in a bit of February sun overlooking the canal and took some time just to relax and enjoy not having to rush anywhere. Also, hello Vitamin D top up!

I cycled the long route home through a very busy Victoria Park and I’ve spent the afternoon doing chores, writing up plans for a PT client and pampering myself. 

The point of this rather rambling post is to remind myself (and you) how important it is to do things for yourself every now and then. Our lives are always so busy and rushed, there’s never enough time for ANYTHING. So make time, indulge yourself in whatever it is you enjoy and luxuriate in the alone time. That’s all there is to it.  

Race Report: Winter Run 10k

‘Guys, we need to sign up to this race! It’s through central London and there’s fake snow and polar bears and everything!’

Skip forward a few months and our team had dwindled right down for plenty of very valid reasons. However, despite an awful race prep and freezing cold weather, this race was momentous for me and here’s why….

The Training

There was no cardio training to be seen in the month leading up to the race. In fact, my last run had been a slow 4k on New Year’s Eve in Nice that felt really rather tough. 

I’ve been doing lots of strength training and because I’m bulking I’ve not been using calories up on cardio. So while I’m definitely stronger I had serious doubts as to my cardio fitness which has never been a strong point of mine. 

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The Race

I’d spent all day before the race in bed with a migraine so the immediate prep was going really well. Not. 

I managed to get some sleep the night before, after cramming in some rice and woke up feeling quite fresh which was a nice surprise. The morning was grey and cold, just right for running… We got down to the welcome area nice and early and I warmed up outside Downing Street before I felt remotely comfortable taking off my coat to leave with Simon. 

The start line was a little bit chaotic as although we’d all been given wave times there didn’t seem to be any checking or order to how people were starting. Everyone was crammed into the start area and they were just letting 2,500 people go in each wave. It meant that I ended up doing the warm-up 3 times before I even got to the start line!

Anyway, off I went feeling pretty sceptical about how it was going to go. However, I surprised myself by feeling really quite comfortable all the way up until 5k. 

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At that point though the problems hit. My hip flexors tightened up first, followed by my back and finally my left ankle. By the time i hit 8km it had become a mental battle. 

I didn’t even notice the fake snow zones or cow bells along the route although I do remember being a little underwhelmed by the novelty of the race. Just being able to run on closed roads along the Thames was enough of a novelty for me.

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I could hear my normal pace running away from me through my headphones so I just concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other and ticking off the ½ km markers. This was one race that I was going to finish running, whether my muscles wanted to or not. 

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With 200m to go, I normally step up a gear and go for a big finish but this has to be the slowest sprint finish I’ve ever done. But I did it. I proved to myself that not only can my base fitness carry me through a 10k without walking but I can also run by myself and self-motivate. It was a good feeling to cross that finish line and hold my head high. 

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The Results

1st km: 07:10

2nd km: 06:50

3rd km: 06:54

4th km: 06:47

5th km: 07:16

6th km: 06:21

7th km: 07:19

8th km: 07:21

9th km: 07:04

10th km: 07:30

TOTAL TIME: 01:13:12

Now that I’ve got the bug back, I’m itching to sign up to EVERYTHING. But while I fight the urge, I’ve got a sprint triathlon in May to get training for so watch this space for training updates.

The Problem With Bulking

Lift more weights, eat more food, do less cardio. 

Sounds pretty easy right? 

Well, I guess it is physically but it’s not so easy mentally.

To put it into context, I’m coming to the end of the first month of a 6 month plan in which I’m spending 3 months building muscle and then the last 3 months will be spent trying to strip body fat to increase definition and get that ‘toned’ look that I’m after. 

To build muscle, you need fuel. And that fuel is being supplied by nearly 2,000 calories each day of unprocessed food. That’s an awful lot of food, especially given that to meet this I’m having to eat mountains of vegetables, lean protein and lots of carbs squeezed into 3 main meals and 2 snacks each day.

The workouts are focused around lifting increasingly heavy weights and doing very little cardio training (apart from my daily commute and occasional cycles to see friends) which is very different to the high intensity stuff that I normally do. 

The result is that although I feel stronger (I’m PBing all over the place on squats, presses and basically everything), I also feel ‘bigger’. You’re probably thinking ‘well obviously, you’re building muscle’ but for someone who has spent their entire life trying to be smaller, this feeling is alien and not entirely comfortable. 

Watching my abs disappear day by day, the scales creep up slightly and my legs getting bigger is actually bloody difficult. It goes against the grain and it makes me feel out of shape bizarrely. It’s having an effect on my willpower too as I’ve never had to eat more to hit calorie goals before, so I’m thinking ‘well I might as well have 3 biscuits, it’ll help me hit my calories’. 

As I keep telling myself (and my friends and clients), you have to trust the process and getting control over your willpower and brain is part of this process. So I’m making sure that I eat plenty of ‘clean’ foods and hitting the gym to try and avoid the dips in willpower. 

Most of all, I’m accepting the fact that I’m struggling and that is ok. Not everything is easy and I know that I will appreciate the results a lot more because of the battles that I’ve been through. 

The Clean Eating Revolution

You might have heard people talking about ‘clean eating’ but what does it actually mean? Well, there’s different levels of clean eating. 

For example, you could go hardcore and do a Whole30 which cuts out all sugar, dairy, legumes and grains or you can do a slightly more lifestyle-friendly version, which is what I’m doing.

The rules are very simple. If it came out of a packet and has been processed far beyond its natural state, don’t eat it. So that means trying to steer clear of:

Bread (especially white or over-processed types)

Pasta

Cakes/biscuits and anything sweet or dessert like

Most dairy (minus a bit of feta or greek yogurt here and there)

‘But what is there left?’ I hear you cry. Plenty is the easy answer. You can eat all vegetables (although try to stay away from canned veg and beans as they often have stabilisers and other chemicals in them), meat, fish, brown/basmati rice, sweet potatoes, fruit, dark chocolate (with 3 ingredients or less), nuts etc. 

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A typical day of clean eating:

Breakfast – green smoothie (½ banana, handful of berries, 10 pieces of cucumber, a big handful of spinach or kale, 1 stick of celery, juice of ½ lemon, 2 tsp flaxseed, 1 tsp chia seeds)

Morning snack – a few almonds or macadamia nuts

Lunch – baked chicken breast with spices, baked sweet potato, steamed green vegetables, raw spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, ½ avocado, drizzle of olive oil

Afternoon snack – 100g greek yogurt with a chopped apple or berries

Dinner – 2 egg omelette with mushrooms, pepper, spinach and a side salad (spinach, cucumber, spring onion, cucumber, pumpkin seeds, olive oil, lemon juice)

Evening snack – 1 square of 90% dark chocolate

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When I’m focusing on eating ‘clean’ foods 80-90% of the time, I feel less bloated, my energy levels throughout the day stay much more constant rather than peaks and troughs and I feel stronger and more focused in the gym. It’s also really good for building lean muscle without increasing body fat whilst doing the right sorts of workouts. 

I eat out at least once a week with friends and the key to sticking to your clean way of life is to pick things off the menu that are as unprocessed as possible, preferably without sauces which are often loaded with salt or sugar. If you do want to indulge yourself then go for it but try to limit it to once a week if possible. 

Let me know how you get on! 

Let’s get moving

It’s now halfway through January and I’m kicking ass so far. I’m committing to my diet, eating ‘clean’ (ie. unprocessed) food 90% of the time and working out HARD. I’m focusing more on strength training than cardio at the moment to try and build some muscles before I start upping the cardio again in a few weeks to bring down my body fat and increase the definition. 

Can anyone say… fit bride? 

Anyway, here’s 2 things that are inspiring me this week:

1) This Girl Can campaign 

One of the things that really got into my head when I first started getting fit was not looking fit. I was overweight, overly sweaty and self-conscious of everything that was jiggling. I so desperately wanted to be one of those women who bounds through the park like a lithe deer, rather than the baby elephant that I was resembling. 

However, once I got stuck into the process of getting fit and noticing the tiny steps that I was making it became about me and my progress, no one else’s. 

This campaign from This Girl Can is designed to encourage more British women to get into sport and exercise, I hope it works and gives women that boost of confidence that so many of us need. 

2) Taking small steps

If, like the women in the video above, you’re struggling to get moving then why not come along to a FREE taster day at Love Your Body Health Hub in Clapton, East London. 

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I’ll be there all day with Kate from Form Fitness and Carly from Project Hot Bitch doing free fitness assessments and helping you to set realistic and achievable goals (yes, having a bum like Beyonce is doable as long as you are committed and have rather a lot of time…). 

There will also be free classes throughout the day and a photo competition with the chance to win fitness goodies including fruity protein drinks from the lovely people at Everything But The Cow and personal training sessions.

Get your beautiful selves down there, details below:

Where: Love Your Body Health Hub, 150-152 Cassland Road, London, E9 5DA

When: Saturday 7th February, 11am – 3pm

What: Free fitness assessments, free classes, competitions & goodies

How to book: Email info@loveyourbodyhealthhub.co.uk or call 0207 998 8181  

2015 is going to be a awesome year

2015. How did that happen?! Last year was a year of big ups and downs for me, including a redundancy, 2 part-time jobs, a whole-lot of soul searching, a new career direction and a marriage proposal! I said yes, obviously…. 

So I’m starting 2015 with a big smile on my face and a lot of exciting goals:

1) Set up my PT business – watch this space for updates on names, logos and websites…

2) Gain experience as a PT and build a client base

3) Plan a wedding (any ideas would be gratefully received, I’m not really sure where to start!)

4) Get lean – I’ve started a clean bulk (increasing muscle mass) before embarking on a cut to drop some body fat, this bride is going to be FIT

5) Do an Olympic triathlon – I’ve already signed up for one in August. Gulp. 

There’s some pretty big ones in there already so I’m going to leave it there and crack on. See you in the gym! 

Top 10 Gym Fails

Most people join the gym to lose a bit of weight and they think that because they’ve watched a few episodes of The Biggest Loser they know what they’re doing. WRONG. The gym can be a dangerous place is you don’t know what you’re doing. Oh, and chances are you’re going to look ridiculous while you’re doing it…

However, if you get it right (with the help of Personal Trainer like me!) the gym can be a magical place that will help you to hit your short and long-term goals. It can encourage a healthier lifestyle by changing your attitude towards your body. And if you lose a bit of body fat and gain a bit of muscle in the process that can’t be a bad thing!

1)   Not reading instructions

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Most resistance machines will have instructions on the side, look at them. Not only can it be dangerous to use them incorrectly but they also won’t be effective. If there are no instructions, ask someone. Don’t look like a noob…

2)   Going too heavy too quick

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As funny as it can be when someone fails, it’s also really dangerous and you’re just putting yourself at risk of serious injury. Be patient, work up to the heavy weights.

3)   Getting bro’d out

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Just because your bro is pumping iron, doesn’t mean you can or should. Listen to your body, work up to where they are and take it slowly

4)   Not having a good spotter

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When you’re lifting heavy make sure you have someone that knows how to spot you and that you trust. You’re putting your life (and your face) in their hands…

5)   Getting ‘creative’

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Only start making things up if you really know what you’re doing or if an experienced trainer is there. Oh, and NEVER PUT EXERCISE BALLS NEAR TREADMILLS.

6)   Not checking your technique

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Incorrect technique can be dangerous and totally ineffective. And it can make you look like an ass.

7)   Ignoring health and safety

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Lift with your knees, not your back. Wear safe footwear. Use the machines correctly, don’t try to outsmart them.

8)   Showing off

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It will hurt and you will look ridiculous. Also, the type of people that find that impressive might not be the type of people you want in your life.

9)   Not checking the equipment

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 Although the gym will check their equipment every day, it should still be your responsibility to not use a machine or any equipment that doesn’t look right. Use your brain yeah?

10)   Not sharing space

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Everyone pays their gym membership equally so don’t act like you own the place. Share nicely, don’t sit on machines during sets and be nice to newbies, you were one once! 

Motivation is the name of the game

On my PT course this weekend someone asked me what my motivation is when I’m working out to keep going and not stop when it gets tough, and it got me thinking. 

Why is it that this time, for the first time in probably 15 years, I have committed to a fit and healthy lifestyle? Motivation. It’s an incredibly powerful tool if you can figure out what yours is. 

The interesting thing about motivation is that it can change all the time, whether it’s what gets you out on that very first run, or what gets you up out of a lovely warm bed on leg day, or even what makes you sign up for a fitness challenge. It can change day to day, week to week and it depends on your goals.

If you don’t know where to start on finding your motivation, these are mine, they might get you thinking. 

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I’ve always been a bit of a girl power advocate because I don’t want to ever have to rely on someone else for my own happiness and success. I’m capable of making my own life amazing and the people that I choose to be in it are very special to me. 

Getting in shape and being the best version of me that I can be physically has helped me to become stronger mentally. Being strong physically and mentally puts me in the independent position that I want to be in and knowing that it will only get better from here keeps me going back to the gym, lifting the weights and exploring the optimum way of eating for me.

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I know I’ve talked about ‘fitspiration’ or ‘fitspo’ before  but it really helped me to move on from the ‘skinny = good’ mindset into ‘strong & healthy = good’. By following some beautiful and strong young women on Instagram, it kept me going before I could start seeing changes in my own body. By aiming for an athletic body type that I’ve never had before and working out a programme to get me there, the small steps of progress have kept me going. I’ve become my own personal fitspo!  

What motivates you when it’s cold outside and you’re tired? 

The Top 10 weight-loss mistakes

If I had a penny for every fad diet I’ve tried over the years… I’d have a few pounds…. But anyway, my point is that there’s so many ‘miracle cures’ that keep cropping up promising to make you drop a load of weight simply by doing one thing and they might work for a few weeks but then you put everything back on again! Here’s my top 10 common mistakes that people make with their diets when they’re trying to lose weight and some tips on how to avoid them.

1)   Skip breakfast

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‘oh, I don’t even get hungry until lunchtime’. That’s because your body is still fast asleep! Eat a protein-packed breakfast and you’ll find yourself waking up your fat-burning metabolism much quicker.

 

2)   Eat only low-fat foods

 

‘It’s fine, it’s low-fat ice cream, there’s only 90 calories per serving’. Yes, and about 10g of sugar… Eat the full-fat version, it’s tastier and contains way less chemicals

3)   Don’t eat carbs

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‘Can I have the spaghetti Bolognese but without the spaghetti?’ What?! No, just no. Your body needs carbs for energy so unless you want to move like a slug, eat your carbs

4)   Eat too little

‘I’ll just have half a sandwich, thanks’. No, no you won’t. If you want to burn fat then you need to eat to have enough energy and build muscles to burn that pesky fat

5)   Drink ‘diet’ soda

‘Just a diet coke for me thanks’. Stay. Away. From. The Diet. Soda. Artificial sweeteners stimulate the ‘reward center’ in the brain and you’re more likely to eat sugary snacks after. And don’t get me started on all of the chemicals.

6)   Put too many restrictions in place

‘Oh, I couldn’t possibly eat that, I’m gluten, dairy, carb, egg and meat free at the moment’. The more restrictions that you put in place the less sustainable your way of eating is. Plus, life is too short to never eat mac n cheese again. Just maybe don’t eat it everyday…

7)   Cut out fat completely

‘Oooooo bacon! Let me just smell it though, it’s too fatty’. Really?! Humans need healthy fats to maintain skin, hair and insulate against the cold. Try and eat healthy fats like olive oil, avocados and raw nuts.

8)   Not eating carbs in the evenings

‘Sorry, it’s 18:01, I couldn’t possibly eat that spoonful of rice’. Actually, as long as you’re eating nutritious food regularly throughout the day it doesn’t matter when you eat your carbs. Or your protein. Or anything else for that matter.

9)   Not letting anything ‘naughty’ passed your lips

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‘Fries?! Who put this fry on my plate?!’ One burger isn’t going to make you fat, just like one salad isn’t going to make you skinny. Practice moderation, it’s the best way.

10) A diet can make you lose 10lbs in 2 weeks

‘Right, I’m going away in 2 weeks, time for the bikini diet to lose 10lbs’. Sure, if you want to just cut off a limb. Any diet that promises this is likely to be unhealthy at best and harmful at worst. Plus, you’ll put everything back on afterwards. Aim for 1-2lbs each week to stay healthy and keep it sustainable

42 Juice is the meaning of life

I’ve dabbled in juice but I’ve yet to hit the big time and purchase my own juicer. You could say I’m more of a social juicer than an addict.

So when my friend Anna joined the 42 Juice team and opened up their first shop by the sea in Brighton I had to give it a go.

Their juices are cold-pressed (think fruit and vegetables being squashed between 2 surfaces under huge pressure) rather than extracted in a centrifugal juicer (which allows air in and starts the oxidisation process and therefore degrades the nutrients). All of their ingredients are also organic and sourced as locally as possible.

As well as making fruit and vegetable juices they also make nut milks (some flavoured with cacao or coffee), chlorophyll waters and revitalising shots of goodness.

This little yellow stick of dynamite was one of the most intense and delicious things I’ve ever tasted! It’s citrusy, fiery and you can feel it going all the way down your throat. It’s like a shot of espresso but a million times better, you have to try it.

These 2 green juices were also really good, with I Am Skinny Green being sweeter than the other. It might be a good introduction to juicing for people who need a bit more fruit in the mix. I Am Alkaline was the nicest ‘pure’ green juice I’ve ever had, it wasn’t overpoweringly ‘green’ and it even tasted a bit sweet to me. That might just be because I’ve cut down massively on the amount of sugar that I’m consuming in every day foods though…

They also do smoothies with delicious mixes of fruit, veg and supplements in. In fact, the ratios of ingredients are so perfect that my boyfriend loved his smoothie with spirulina in! It gave it an earthy flavour while not overpowering the other ingredients.

If juice cleanses are your thing, 42 Juice can provide you with a course of juices suitable for your level of juicing with UK-wide delivery. Having never done a juice cleanse before, I’m intrigued to give it a go and see if I can survive without solid food for a few days. Watch this space…

If you live in Brighton or even if you’re just visiting, make sure you drop in for a juice, you’ll love it!

I’m finally at the halfway point

Someone around here passed their Level 2 Gym Instructor course today. I’ll give you 2 guesses as to who it was… Oh yes! IT WAS ME!! 

I’m a bit pleased with myself, can you tell? As someone whose strength really lies in written exams and essays, practical assessments scare me like nothing else. I couldn’t sleep or eat before the assessment day and I panicked the entire way there and while I was waiting. 

And then I stepped onto the gym floor and felt invincible. Suddenly everything felt natural and like I’d been doing it for years. What was I worrying about?! 

I take it for granted now what I can do, from running a 10k race to even just walking 3-4 hours across the countryside without breaking a sweat. So sometimes I like to remind myself of how far I’ve come, mentally and physically. 

The next part of my course starts in 10 days and I’m excited to get stuck in and finally qualify as a Personal Trainer by January. Watch this space…. 

Goals for the rest of 2014

How the hell did it get to November and how is it only 7 weeks until Christmas?! This is scary. This woman has got stuff to achieve before 2015 sneaks its way into reality. 

Before Christmas I am aiming to:

1) Lose 5lbs of fat without losing any muscle or strength – it’s all about the definition… 

2) Run 50km – I’ve let my cardio slip somewhat in the last few weeks so it’s time to get moving again

3) Try to hit my macros perfectly at least 5 times – I’m still trying to get my head around the quantities of each food that I need to be eating to do this and it’s taking a while to figure it out!

4) Tri-swimming training once a week – I’ve signed up to the London Fields Triathlon Club, mostly for the swimming training so I can get used to swimming in my wetsuit and work on my breathing and technique

5) Get my road bike back on the road – it’s been in mum and dad’s garage since my last triathlon 2 years ago. The feelings of guilt are HUGE. I’m sorry my little Trek baby… 

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Now, who’s going to join me for one or all of these goals so we can keep each other accountable? 

Perfect Flour Free Pancakes

Everyone’s going mad for pancakes at the moment and quite rightly. They’re delicious with sweet or savoury toppings and they make the best brunch ever. But they’re not always the healthiest choice on the menu, especially if you’re trying to eat gluten free or dairy free. 

So here’s my never-fail recipe for healthy and nutritious pancakes, I promise that once you try these you won’t miss the ‘normal’ ones!

Ingredients (makes one serving = 3 pancakes)

2 x medium eggs

1 x large ripe banana

½ scoop of your preferred protein powder (optional)

½ cup of raspberries/blueberries/strawberries (optional)

1 tsp organic coconut oil 

Method

Peel and mash the banana with the 2 whole eggs until the mixture is batter-like. At this point you can add in your half scoop of protein powder (I find that vanilla works best) and your berries (I used raspberries). Mix the batter again to make sure all of the protein powder is mixed in thoroughly. 

Just like with normal batter, leave it to thicken for 5-10 minutes in the fridge. In the meantime melt the coconut oil in a small frying pan but watch out, coconut oil gets smoking hot very quickly! 

Pour a 3rd of the mixture into the pan and swirl the pan to make sure you’ve got a nice even spread. 

Once the mixture starts to bubble slightly on top flip the pancake with a spatula and then it should only need 45-60 seconds on the other side.

The pancakes are perfectly delicious as they are or you could add some extras. Some suggestions are:

– dairy-free coconut yogurt or goats milk yogurt

– turkey bacon and agave syrup for that American feel

– fresh fruit (mango goes particularly well)

– chopped nuts and fruit compote

These were mine the other morning simply with some added blueberries.

Amazingly, this photo has gained the most likes out of any of my posts on Instagram… Just goes to show the power of pancakes! 

Nutrition (for recipe listed above including blueberries on top)

Calories: 420

Carbs: 45g

Protein: 23g

Fat:17g

Let me know if you try them and what you think x

Lining Up Challenges for 2015

My first 6 months of 2015 are sorted in terms of challenges because I like to have things to aim for in terms of my fitness (plus I want to add to my growing medal collection…). 

As it stands I’ll be taking on:

Winter Run 10K – February 1st 2015

Eton Dorney Sprint Triathlon – May 9th 2015

London Triathlon Olympic – August 8th 2015

I entered the London Triathlon 2 years ago as a challenge to myself to get fit and while I had a brilliant experience on the day it didn’t really kickstart me into getting fit. However, now that I’m much fitter I’ve decided to work towards the Olympic distance one and challenge myself further. 

That means:

1.5km swim

40km cycle

10km run

Oh god, this is going to hurt…

Watch this space for training updates!

Autumnal Vegan Spiced Pumpkin Soup

I know, I know, I eat a lot of soup! But it’s quick, easy, super healthy and it’s pretty much all I want for dinner when it’s cold outside and I’m hungry. 

This is my new favourite soup, inspired by my boyfriend’s dad who made a delicious version and gave me the basic recipe. I’ve tweaked it here and there but so can you! Add in more chilli if you like it hot and some extra root vegetables if you happen to have them available. 

Ingredients (makes 6 portions)

1 tbsp organic coconut oil

1 red onion

2 stalks celery

3 cloves of garlic

Thumb-sized piece of ginger

750g pumpkin

1 medium sweet potato

1 tbsp organic vegetable bouillon 

½ litre water

1 can low-fat coconut milk

1 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp garam masala

2 tbsp curry powder

Method

Chop the pumpkin and sweet potato into chunks (peel the sweet potato but you can leave the skin on the pumpkin, it’s easier to peel once it’s cooked). Place on trays and put in the oven at around 180 degrees for 30-40 minutes until soft (I know my sweet potato is white but it was very sweet).

While the pumpkin and sweet potato are cooking, finely chop the onion, garlic, celery and ginger and fry gently in the coconut oil for 15-20 minutes until soft

Remove the skin from the pumpkin and add it to the pan with the sweet potato. Add the spices in and cook gently for another 10 minutes to let the spices cook out, you don’t want the bitter taste of raw spices in the finished soup.

At this point add in the vegetable stock and coconut milk and let the soup come to the boil. Turn it down and simmer for 15-20 minutes to let all of the flavours combine. Blend the soup using a hand blender or a jug blender, whatever you have to hand.

It’s ready to serve so portion up into bowls and you can add a garnish of a swirl of coconut cream and a few toasted pumpkin seeds if you want to be fancy. I tend to just serve and shovel it in because it’s so tasty!

I keep a couple of portions in the fridge and freeze the rest so that there’s always a warming and delicious dinner for cold nights. Enjoy fitties! 

The Importance of Relaxation

When life is getting a bit much it’s important to just stop. A bit of ‘me’ time will never go amiss. 

I’m struggling with my energy levels at the moment. Working 4 days a week, doing homework, planning for assessments and spending the entire weekend studying and doing practical workshops for my PT course means that I have very little time to rest and relax. 

I’ve had to cut down on exercise to 2-3 times a week rather than 5 and I’m making sure that I’m in bed by 10pm every night. I’m also struggling to stick to my food plans because my body is craving sugar and processed carbs for instant energy. I’m trying to allow myself a little bit more flexibility with food at the moment, eating some healthier sweet treats and adding in a few more calories each day to maintain some semblance of energy.

When I do get time to relax, here are my favourite ways:

1) Run a bubble bath, light some candles and settle in with a good book. There’s nothing better for soothing the soul than a good soak

2) Make some hot chocolate using raw cocoa, almond or coconut milk and agave nectar

3) Go out for a walk by yourself and just appreciate the beauty of where you are 

4) Pamper yourself. Go for a manicure or massage or even set up a home-spa for a facial, manicure and pedicure to save some money

5) Spend some time with loved ones, remind yourself of all of the great things in your life

6) Cook! I love to cook and the process of experimenting really calms me. It also means that the fridge and freezer are full of healthy quick meals

What do you do to relax? 

Temptation is a bitch

One of the things that I’ve always struggled with is boredom eating. If there’s food around and I’m not busy it magically appears in my hands and before I know it I’ve scoffed more than I should ever be eating. 

When I’m busy it’s really not a problem, I’m much more disciplined which is useful in an office environment because there’s always better offers for lunch than my tupperware of salad, and there’s also constant chocolate and biscuits being passed around. 

I was on a commercial shoot last week from 9am-9pm followed by dinner with clients which sounds glamorous but when you’re sat in a cold, cavernous, semi-dark studio in Acton all day it loses its appeal pretty quickly. Food on shoots is notoriously awful and awfully available so although lunch was relatively healthy (salmon and salads), I followed it by a piece of apple tart and then binged on sandwiches and pastries in the afternoon. Dinner was rich and heavy and eaten much later than I normally would. I ended up house-bound for the next 2 days with the worse IBS flare-up I’ve ever had. That’ll teach me. 

Here’s my top 5 tips for dealing with temptation and kicking it to the kerb:

1) Be prepared

You know when you’re going to be faced with serious temptation so prepare yourself by bringing something healthy (or at least healthier) and delicious with you to eat while everyone else is tucking into their triple fudge chocolate cake

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2) Volunteer to bake/cook

You know what you like to eat and what agrees with you so rather than forcing someone else to try and cook for your requirements, why not do some cooking yourself? A few people might moan about it tasting ‘healthy’ but you can feel secretly smug knowing that they’ve eaten something that’s good for them.

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3) Plan in advance

If planning a week’s worth of food seems too much of a task, try planning a day in advance. Write down everything you’re going to eat the next day, prep it the night before and stick to it. It’s always easier if you have a plan.

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4) Retrain your palate

This one isn’t quite so easy but try and train your body to enjoy the sweetness of fruit rather than chocolate or the nuttiness of wholegrain pasta, rice and bread. It will gradually happen over time so stick with it.

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5) Surround yourself with positive influences

Not all of your friends will see the benefits of how you want to eat, especially if, like me, you used to be a bit of a food dustbin. However, once they see how much happier you are following your chosen lifestyle they’ll come round and accept it. In the meantime, find supportive influences to help you through the transition. Whether these influencers are online, in the gym or a bit closer to home, you’ll need them when times get tough to lean on. 

What do you do when the temptation monster hits? 

SpeedFlex Review (or how to be trained using alien machines…)

When I was offered a chance to try out Speedflex, a new concept in low-impact, high-intensity workouts I was intrigued. Their selling point is that their resistance machines provide an intense cardio workout whilst allowing participants to work at their own level and (this is the bit I’m struggling to get my head round) won’t give you any muscles soreness following the workout. I had to try it out.

The studio, located near Bank station, is inviting, luxurious and clean. It was very quiet on a rainy Thursday evening, in fact there was only me and one other person in the induction.

I was sent into the (beautiful) changing rooms to fit my heart rate monitor which was exciting as I’ve never really tracked my heart rate during a workout before.

I was then taken down into an assessment room where I was weighed and my height was measured. I stood on an InBody machine which sent signals through my hands to my feet and measured the speed that the signals travelled through all the tissue. They travel faster through muscle as it has a higher water content than fat and by measuring the speed the machine can work out your body composition.

I was pretty pleased with the results as my muscle mass came out as above average, especially in my midsection and legs. Bizarrely though, I have significantly more muscle in my right leg than my left! Must stop standing on my right leg all the time…

We then went into the studio which looked like an alien spaceship. The machines are certainly new-age…

Each machine can be used in several different ways and the trainer demonstrated each one (eg. squat + press, bent over row, lat pull up + press, military press). In a normal 45 minute class up to 15 participants would circulate around the room with additional equipment (such as kettle bells, free weights, swiss balls etc.) between each machine with tabata-style timings (15-45 seconds on, 5-20 seconds rest).

Your heart rate appears on screens around the studio meaning that you can’t hide anywhere! The numbers change colours depending on which training zone you’re in and you get a summary at the end of the class of all your data including calories burnt and how long you spent in each zone.

We just tried a 7 minute round with 30 seconds on each machine and 5 seconds rest in between. It certainly works the body and within the 7 minute circuit my heart rate rose to 83% of my max heart rate, well and truly into the training zone.

So what did I think? Well, to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure it’s much more than a fad, albeit a good one that provides a great workout. I personally prefer my circuit workouts a bit more lo-tech where I can get down and dirty with some weights and burpees. Some of the moves on the machines felt a bit alien and they’re very arms, shoulders and chest heavy. The trainer said that the lower body workout comes in more in the additional stations between the machines.

My feeling is that it will be perfect for the city workers who need a new fad to feel ahead of the curve and like a bit of luxury but give me a set of dumbbells and a skipping rope any day.

Details

What? Speedflex – more info on their site

Where?

Ground Floor
Plough Court
33 – 36 Lombard Street
City of London
EC3V 9BQ

When? Classes run between 7am and 8pm

How much? There’s no prices on the website (which suggests it might be expensive…) but they offer an induction and first session for free and plenty of packages which should bring the price down.

Thanks to Entice Communications for the opportunity to review Speedflex