Debunking Fitness Myths

As a Personal Trainer and a fitness blogger I can see a lot of pressure in the industry to look and act a certain way which can be rather stressful and damaging for some people. 

The world of perfect abs, long legs and sweat-free faces on Instagram portrays an image of fitness that is fun, easy and full of happiness. It can be all of these things but it can also be tiring, tough, demoralising and grump-inducing when you’re getting up and it’s still dark outside. Plus, no one actually looks perfect if they’re working out properly! 

Here are some of the top misconceptions of the fitness industry:

1) Selfies show the truth 

Even I have been guilty of only posting the most flattering selfies but don’t trust what you see. There are various things you can do to create the perfect selfie:

All I did in the 3 minutes between the two photos was to turn off the overhead light, put on underwear that fit better, twist my body slightly to the side to show off my best angle, flex and, of course, add a filter. So don’t pay much attention to those ‘before and after’ shots!

2) To be healthy and fit you have to have a six-pack

Having a six-pack just means that your body fat percentage is low enough to be able to see your abs. Also, the shape of your abs is totally dependent on your genetics, some people can get a six-pack, some can’t. For the majority of people the lifestyle you have to live to achieve and maintain them would stop them living a normal life free from counting every single calorie. Also, ladies, having such a low body fat percentage might stop your periods. Surely that can’t be good for you…

I prefer a bit of definition and that’s about it for me!

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3) Personal Trainers & fitness bloggers live like saints

Anyone who knows me will know that this just isn’t true. I love to eat anything and everything. Pizza is probably my favourite food and although I don’t really have a sweet tooth I can eat sweet n’ salt popcorn or ice cream for days. I may not drink that much but that’s because I don’t like the taste of most alcohol! However give me a margarita (or 3) and I’m a happy girl… It’s all about living a balanced lifestyle. Indulge when you want to but get to know your body and understand what it wants and when. 

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4) Exercise is easy

Exercise is not easy. And if it is easy then you’re not pushing yourself. And if you’re not pushing yourself then you won’t make any progress and reach your goals. Even if your goal is just to clear your head you need to put in a bit of effort to achieve that. The real side of fitness is early mornings, freezing hands and ears in winter, ridiculous sports bra tans in summer, stinging sweat in your eyes, not bothering to wash your hair because you’re only going to get sweaty again tomorrow, permanent hand callouses, blistered feet and stiff muscles. But all of this adds up to feeling alive, proud and on top of the world.

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5) You have to able to run really fast

Nope. Have you seen me run? It’s not pretty, it’s not fast but I get the job done. If you run you are a runner, if you lift you are a lifter, if you spin you are a spinner, it doesn’t matter how fast, how heavy or how much you do it. Just get out there and give it a go, you’ll amaze yourself.

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I Live To Eat

I had an interesting discussion while running last night with Run Dem Crew about how someone’s friend had asked her incredulously why she was eating a Kitkat when she was a RUNNER. A runner of all things! Like it would be ok if she was a javelin thrower… 

My response was ‘as a Personal Trainer I reckon you’re fine’. Yes, I don’t advocate eating chocolate every day but as a pre-run snack it’s not the worst. It’s a quick energy fix which will go straight to your muscles to be used while you’re running. As an afternoon pick-me-up whilst sedentary at your desk it’s probably not the best. 

Anyway, it led me to think about how much rubbish there is out there about eating but also how important it is to figure out for yourself the way of eating that suits you best.  

Over the last couple of years I’ve tried all sorts of ways of eating (I’m hesitant to call them diets) and I’ve settled on the way that suits me best. Here is my typical day’s worth of food:

Breakfast

– Heavy workout day: porridge with rye flakes, flaxseed, chia seeds, coconut oil, scoop of protein powder and berries

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– Rest day: green smoothie with banana, frozen berries, almond milk, spinach, cucumber, flaxseed, chia seeds and lemon juice

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Snack

– Apple

Lunch

– Salad (spinach, cucumber, tomatoes, pepper, spring onion), steamed greens, baked sweet potato and mixed bean salad (red kidney beans, lentils, olive oil, lemon juice, onion) or baked chicken breast/tuna/turkey breast

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Snack

– 3 x gluten free oat cakes, sliced apple and a tablespoon of organic peanut butter 

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Dinner

– Thai green chicken curry made with loads of vegetables and herbs, 1 chicken breast, full fat coconut milk and served with 50g basmati rice

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So yes, I eat 4-5 times a day and drink 2 litres of water because that works for me. It means that I never feel hungry, I always have energy for workouts (even if I have to dig deep to find that energy…) and my body feels fuelled with good wholesome food. It can be tricky to fit around workouts because I don’t like to exercise on a full stomach but with a bit of planning and meal prepping it’s possible. 

What works for you? 

The danger of low-calorie diets

Hands up who has been on a low-calorie diet
to lose weight?

Yep me too.

And who has lost weight pretty quickly
while on it and then put it all on again afterwards?

And again, me too.

Having been through every fad diet out
there I’m now preaching the benefits of doing a bit more research and learning
what your body needs before you start depriving it of anything. Continue Reading…

Keeping The Family Balance

This year the Jewish festival of Pesach (Passover) and Easter fell on the same weekend meaning that there was even more emphasis on eating over the long weekend. For the first 2 nights of Pesach (it lasts 8 days) we have a big meal with lots of family and friends and I can safely say that I’ve eaten enough to last me a week… 

Now that I’m sitting on the sofa the day after in a bit of a food coma I’ve been  thinking about some rules to maintain the balance when you have family functions, religious days or celebrations. 

3 generations of women in red

Rule 1) Someone will have spent days preparing all of the food you’re about to eat so unless you’re REALLY allergic, be respectful and polite. One bite of something that’s made with love isn’t going to ruin your progress

Rule 2) Don’t get preachy about your approach to nutrition or exercise unless someone specifically asks you about it. It’s not a ‘look how strong my quads are looking’ party, it’s a time for family

Rule 3) Prepare your body so that you can make the most of all of the food that’s about to come your way. An interval cardio session followed by some heavy work on your legs will mean that your body will use some of what you’re eating to repair muscles and replenish energy stores

Rule 4) Don’t starve yourself the following day to ‘make up’ for eating a lot. Just go back to your normal schedule for eating and exercise, chances are your body won’t even register the big meal and it won’t have an effect on your progress

Rule 5) Don’t feel guilty because food is something to be enjoyed, not to regret, especially if you’re making special memories with friends or family

Now, where’s that last remaining Easter egg… 

It’s Time For A Spring Clean

The 1st of March is technically spring although I don’t believe it because it’s still FREEZING. But the crocuses are coming out in the parks and it’s now light by about 6:30am which makes those early morning training sessions all the more bearable. 

My brain has start to motor forward to summer and those lovely warm mornings when we can run with the sun on our backs and lazy evening swim sessions. Remember that summer bodies are made in winter, it’s not a quick fix that you can do when you realise that you’ve got to be in a bikini in 3 weeks. Put in the work now and you’ll reap the benefits when you look fit as f*ck in summer. 

Start with your mind, it’s time to blow out the cobwebs of winter:

– Go out for a walk or if you’re not fortunate enough to live in the countryside then jump on a train until it looks green out of the window. Take a load of snacks and water, plot a route that sounds manageable and off you go. It’s great exercise for the brain as well as the body

– Try reading a new book that you might not have picked up before, it’ll wake your brain up if you’ve spent the winter hibernating with Game of Thrones or Mad Men. Try Us by David Nicholls, The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins or Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese, all books that I’ve enjoyed recently

– Sign up for a challenge, physical or otherwise. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn Spanish or learn to roller skate? Now’s your time to push yourself with the longer days and promise of sunshine!

Now for the body:

– Try and cut out refined sugar for 30 days. I know, it’s a toughie but you’ll feel the benefits very quickly. Things like biscuits, chocolate and cake are out but if you start looking into it there are healthier alternatives. There’s still some sugar in things like agave nectar, coconut sugar or raw honey but they go through less of a process than white or brown sugar so there’s less chemicals hitting your system. Give it a go!

– If you’re a caffeine fiend now is the time to start cutting down. By removing stimulants you’ll learn to listen to your body more and read your ups and downs. After a few days any headaches and cravings will disappear, especially when you realise how much more balanced and level you feel

– Step up your high intensity cardio (alongside your weight sessions) to torch any hibernation body fat, now is the time to start ‘leaning out’ before bikini season. By starting early and slowly your summer body will be much easier to maintain throughout the season of BBQs and ice cream

Who else is doing some spring-cleaning? 

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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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!

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

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! 

An Experiment Into Fast Food

Fast food has always been a treat in my life, from mum taking us for happy meals on the last day of term to hungover pizzas at university but since the beginning of the year I’ve changed my eating patterns to the point that fast food hardly figures.

So when I was on a road trip last week and the sign for McDonalds popped up, I was slightly curious (and hungry!). 

I stocked up and started chowing down…. but hang on…. it wasn’t as good as I remember! 

The chips were tasteless, soggy and didn’t have the same texture as potatoes. The nuggets were salty, greasy and watery. The milkshake was sugary, synthetic and sickly. 

Nothing tasted or felt real compared to all of the fresh fruit, vegetables and whole foods that I’ve been eating, it was all very disappointing. I ate it at twice the speed that I normally eat and hardly tasted it. 

Fast forward to an hour or two later and I was experiencing a sugar low the likes that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I was exhausted, emotional and fed up. I’ve worked hard to limit the amount of processed food, particularly sugar and caffeine, that I eat and it means that my energy and emotional levels are more level and constant than they’ve ever been. But this ruined it for the rest of the day. 

And no wonder….

This is the nutritional breakdown for what I ate (in about 2 minutes). Not only is it ¾ of my daily calories (I’m on a 1500 calories/day plan) but there were 44g of fat and 1.9g of salt. And although there were 32g of protein in it, none of that was high-quality and natural. No wonder I crashed so hard and felt awful. 

It was certainly an interesting experiment and one I won’t be repeating. I like my calories, fat, carbs and sugars to come from whole foods, preferably organic ones that I prepare myself so that I know exactly is going into it. That helps me to stay level without the scary highs and lows of processed foods.