Archives for the month of: December, 2015

Last week I was asked to present at the Banbury Women in Business Conference. They asked whether I might be able to give them some tips on how to fit exercise and healthy eating into everyday life. Typically, I found myself thinking of far too many ideas and tips, not all of which would fit into my twenty minute speech, so I promised to post the ideas up on my blog for people to read in their own time.

So, here it is – a shortened, slightly edited version of my speech from last week:

Fitness, Wellbeing and Balance: A Holistic Approach

Modern life is hard. There are only so many hours in the day, but the list of things that need doing seems to be constantly growing: bills need paying so we need to go to work, the house needs cleaning and maintaining, children or pets (if you have them) need attention. Then there are friends to keep in touch with, family to visit, Facebook, twitter and email accounts to keep up with …

And that’s all before you’ve even started thinking about keeping up with your hobbies, staying fit or cooking healthy, nutritious meals. It can all get a bit too much and when it does, things like keeping fit and healthy are often the first things to go.

Now obviously, given that I’m a personal trainer, I love exercise. Without my regular, high energy endorphin fixes, I get miserable and my body image begins to suffer. I become more lethargic, less creative and my motivation in all areas of my life begins to wane. Even if you’re not a ‘fitness fanatic’, I’m sure you can remember times when you have felt down and stressed and unhealthy, and the last thing you want to do is eat a healthy meal or do a workout. And then if you’ve been on a ‘health kick’, I’m sure you can relate to those feelings of pride and elation when you stick to a regime for a while. Your head starts to clear, you begin to have more energy, you feel good about yourself …

The problem with a lot of ‘health-kicks’ is that they are not sustainable. It’s great to go into a new exercise and diet regime all guns blazing, but it’s also important to be realistic about what you can fit into your lifestyle in the long term because that’s what’s important: having a healthy, active lifestyle that fits around your work, your family and your other passions in life.

Top tips

  1. Just keep moving
  2. Find something you enjoy
  3. Give it a chance
  4. Make the time and make it count
  5. Workout at home
  6. Be kind to yourself
  7. Eat well

1. Just keep moving

A lot of us just don’t move enough in everyday life. We drive everywhere, sit at desks during the day and then slump on the couch in the evenings. Sitting down is terrible for our bodies.

Try to think about standing up more often. If you work from home, you can create a little standing desk area so that you are not always sitting, and if you work in an office, try to get up and walk around as often as possible.

Move around in lunch breaks and walk places whenever you can. Do gentle stretches in front of the TV at night and sit upright on a cushion on the floor rather than on a couch.

Buy a pedometer if it helps to keep you moving all day.

Try to think about your posture throughout the day too. It’s easy to find yourself slumping in your chair or sinking into one hip when you’re standing. Whenever you catch yourself doing this, try to sit or stand up tall, lengthen your spine, draw your shoulder blades back and draw your belly button in towards your spine. The more you do this, the more natural it will become and you can actually begin to strengthen and tone your core and postural muscles on a daily basis.

2. Find something you enjoy

If you are after a full-on six pack or have always dreamed of doing an iron man triathlon, then you have to be bit more specific about your training regime; but if you just want to be fitter, feel healthier, and boost your energy levels, then the main thing is that you just do some sort of movement on a regular basis that gets your heart rate up, gets you sweaty and gets your muscles moving.

If you love going to the gym or doing boot camp classes, that’s great, but if the thought of that makes your heart sink and you would much rather go to a dance class or join a walking club, then do that instead! The key to keeping up an active lifestyle is enjoyment. If you can find a form of exercise that brings you joy, then you will keep it up. If you dread every single workout, you will eventually stop doing it and go back to sitting on the sofa feeling guilty!

That being said, you should still push and challenge yourself with exercise. Try new things and mix it up. Don’t always stick within your comfort zone: test your limits, set yourself short- and long-term goals … and this brings me on to my next tip …

3. Give it a chance

Most of my clients find that the first ever session I do with them is so much tougher than any of the rest because it’s such a shock to the system. However, once they begin to do regular workouts, they find it becomes easier and more enjoyable. When I say easier, I don’t mean that workouts don’t hurt anymore and that you don’t push yourself harder as you get fitter, but somehow it becomes mentally easier and your body begins to thrive on the feelings of moving and being pushed to new limits.

My normal advice is to try to establish a regular exercise regime (at least two to three times a week) and keep it up for twelve weeks, after which point, you should find that you have become hooked on the endorphin and will actually begin to crave exercise.

4. Make the time and make it count

I understand that half the battle for many people is finding the time to exercise in the first place! Obviously, this is something you need to work out for yourself, but even the busiest person can normally find the time to fit in a quick workout a few times a week if they really think about it

Perhaps you can cycle to work and back, or fit in a quick run at lunch time. Maybe you can get up half an hour earlier three times a week, or fit a short workout in between picking your kids up from school and cooking their dinner.

If you’re pushed for time (or even if you’re not) the best thing you can do is to workout as hard as you can for short periods of time. This is where intervals come in, and I’ve talked about this in previous blog posts: How to get a workout in 4 minutes and Motivational exercise. Working at a high intensities for short periods of time has been proven to improve fitness and boost your metabolism much more effectively than a slow, steady run for an hour.

You can use intervals when you go out for a run, when you cycle to work, on the rowing machine in the gym, or when you workout from home …

5. Workout at home

I enjoy going to the gym and doing exercise and dance classes, but at the moment I find that going to the gym is not a feasible option in terms of time, so I exercise at home and I do short, intense workouts.

You don’t need a lot of space or equipment and even if you have kids running around, it can still work. I must admit, I prefer to exercise on my own without having to rush, but if I don’t have much time, I will fit a short workout in between picking my daughter up from school and cooking her dinner. She is more than happy to join in (which makes it pretty funny and also teaches her good habits about staying active and building exercise into everyday life), and on the days when she is a bit grumpier or tired, I will put a film on for her. I used to feel guilty about this, but it’s only a short period of time and I find that if I’ve made time for myself, it makes me happier; and if I feel happier in myself – both mentally and physically – then I actually have more time and energy for my family the rest of the time. Just having that thirty or forty minutes to do something for me, makes me a better mum, wife, sister, daughter, and friend.

6. Be kind to yourself

If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you’ll know this is a big thing for me!

Make time to exercise because it will make you feel better in all areas of your life. However, whilst it is great to be active and exercise regularly, you need to take rest days to give your body time to recover and you definitely need enough sleep to stay healthy.

Being kind to yourself sometimes means treating your body well by exercising, stretching and cooking healthy, home-cooked meals. But sometimes it means letting yourself off the hook – not beating yourself up about things; allowing yourself to sit and watch a good film or have a bath or turn off your emails and get into bed early and shut out the world! Being kind to yourself is about learning to listen to your body and getting the right balance in your life.

7. Eat well

Of course, a healthy diet is probably the most important part of staying healthy. I could ramble on about diet forever, but I’ve already written most of this on Cloves and Ginger so have a browse if you’re interested in finding out more.

Whether you are trying to lose weight, gain weight, feel healthier, improve energy levels or just improve fitness, here are some things to look into when improving your diet:

  • Eat as close to nature as possible. Pre-packaged foods are stuffed full of chemicals and rubbish that can barely be classed as food. Try to eat simple, fresh food as often as possible.
  • Try to include vegetables and healthy greens in every meal, along with healthy proteins such as eggs, high quality meat and fish, beans, pulses and legumes.
  • Don’t be scared of fats. Healthy fats found in things such as high quality meat, coconut oil, nuts and avocados will not make you fat – they simply nourish your body.
  • Cut out the refined sugar and refined carbs. They are bad for you, pile on the pounds and disrupt your body’s natural appetite, leading to over eating and unnecessary snacking.
  • Try not to think about what you are ‘not allowed’ to eat because this only leads to cravings and self-sabotage. Instead, think of all the delicious foods your body needs every day and look forward to nourishing yourself.
  • Try starting the day with a delicious green smoothie to get you off to a good start.
  • Try eating early in the evenings and giving your digestive system a break each night.
  • Don’t forget to stay hydrated.
  • And finally, never forbid yourself anything; just know that some things won’t make you feel very good and remember there is always a choice.

Once you get into it, health and fitness is such a massive subject and it is important to remember that what works for one person, won’t work for another person. I think it is important to try things out for yourself, keep notes on how you feel, do research … and, most importantly, try to enjoy the journey.

Find a balance between exercise, healthy eating, work, sleep, family and hobbies that works for you. And keep an open mind because something that works at one time in your life, might not work at another time, so you need to be willing to adapt and change.

I hope you find this useful. Please do feel free to email me if you have any questions about anything, and remember to check out my Online Personal Training page.

Stay healthy and happy, and have a lovely Christmas.

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It’s that time of year again when temptation is all around – mince pies in the café windows, chocolates at the checkout, selection box biscuits in the office … Now, whilst I am definitely not against having the odd treat at any time of year, especially at Christmas, pigging out on bad food for an entire month is never going to leave you feeling good!

I find that one of the best ways to avoid giving in to all the Christmassy snacks that are being thrust under your nose is to be prepared and have your own snacks with you. That way, if it all gets too much, you know you have something with you that will fill you up, satisfy your cravings and nourish your body.

As my job involves a lot of odd hours, working through lunch and regular ‘jumping around’ sessions throughout the day, I often take snacks out with me to graze on rather than eating a big lunch in one go. I have become a master of healthy snacking, so I’ve drawn up a list of snack ideas that I hope will help and inspire you.

Simple, stress-free snacks

I’m a big fan of simplicity when it comes to eating. Although I do a lot of cooking and preparing of home-made snacks and meals, I tend to choose the quicker, simpler recipes because I’m always so pushed for time. These snacks don’t involve any preparation, are pretty basic, and are not at all ground-breaking, but they are healthy, nutritious and nice to eat:

  • High quality 90% dark chocolate

I find this is a great mood and energy booster, and because the chocolatey taste is so rich and the sugar content so much lower than in other chocolates, you only need a small amount to satisfy your cravings.

  • Fruit

Simple but effective. It’s easy to pop a banana or a satsuma in your bag and then when you want something sweet, it’s there waiting for you.

  • Dried apricots, prunes, dates and other dried fruits

Again, this is great when you want something sweet, but be wary of dried fruit – it is quite sugary and moreish so you don’t want to eat a lot of it in one go.

  • Nuts and seeds

Try to go for raw or (even better) activated nuts rather than roasted.

  • Nut butter (cashew, almond, hazelnut …)

OK, so you’re going to need to remember to take a spoon with you for this one, but when I’m really hungry and just want something to see me through and give me some energy, I always turn to a teaspoon of almond or cashew butter. Mmm!

Check out www.nuts.com for a great range of raw nuts and seeds and for a wonderfully diverse range of dried fruits.

Make your own snacks

If you fancy something a little bit more interesting or filling, you might need to do a bit more preparation, but that still doesn’t mean taking up loads of your time. Put aside an hour or two once a week to prepare some snacks that you can then grab when you are in a rush:

  • Power balls

We always have raw energy balls in the freezer and then we just grab a couple to take out with us when we need them. There are loads of recipes out there, so it’s worth having a look around. Energy balls always taste really indulgent so they’re perfect for taking with you when you know there are going to be lots of chocolates and tasty bakes around.

This is the one I usually make: Raw Chocolate Energy Balls , but I’ll be trying this recipe soon as it sounds delicious: Healthy Vegan Chocolate Truffles.

  • Healthy muffins

Deliciously Ella always has some nice muffin recipes. Or how about trying these recipes from my blog: Healthy Apple FlapjackNaturally Sweet Apple Muffins?

I love this recipe from I Quit Sugar.

  • Crackers

If you would rather have a savoury snack, then these crackers from I Quit Sugar are fantastic.

  • Left overs

This takes even less preparation. Depending on what you have for dinner the night before, you can always take some left overs as a little snack or light lunch. I like to make healthy, gluten-free chicken nuggets for dinner and then take the left over chicken nuggets to munch on the next day. They’re so good.

Above are just a few of my favourite snacks and recipes, but there are loads of amazing ideas on a website I have just discovered called www.nuts.com. Check out their healthy snack page and let me know if you try any of the recipes out. I’m definitely going to try out their Cranberry Almond Flour Cookies this Christmas, and their Granola Bars sound lovely too.

Ready made snacks

OK, so you’ve taken this all on board but you’re still after something that’s just a little bit more exciting to ward off those Christmas cravings, and you don’t have the time to prepare your own. Luckily, there are more and more truly healthy snacks available these days; when I say ‘truly healthy snacks’, I mean made without refined sugar and gluten, and without long lists of unnatural sounding ingredients. So have a shop around and see what you can find.

I hope these ideas will help you get through the next few weeks feeling happy, healthy and good about yourself. Remember, just because something is good for you, it doesn’t mean it can’t be delicious, so get inventive, get researching and treat yourself to some delicious snacks this December.

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for kindleA short while ago, I wrote a non-health and fitness related blog, telling you that my children’s picture book, Lilly Mae, had just been published. I hope you will all indulge me once again and allow me to tell you about an even bigger project I have been working on – my debut Young Adult Fantasy novel, Faces In The Water.

I started writing this story quite some time ago (over ten years ago, in fact) and it has taken me a long time to get to a point where I am happy to share it with other people, but I’m finally there and I’m really proud of it.

For a sneak peek at the first chapter, head over to my writing website here.

Faces In The Water is available now on Kindle  (US & UK) and in print.

Happy Reading.

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