Archives for posts with tag: motivation

Cloves & Ginger began life as a healthy-living blog around five years ago. It was a platform for me to share a few recipes and workout ideas, and write about healthy food choices. Over time, my idea of what healthy-living means has broadened. Healthy-living is not just about eating well and doing the odd exercise session – it is about finding the right balance in every area of your life. Put very simply, being healthy means having a healthy body, a healthy mind, healthy relationships, and a healthy environment, which means that in order to be healthy we need to do the things that nourish our bodies and minds.

I have always needed to exercise on a regular basis to stay sane; but over the past few years, I have come to realise that finding time to write every day is just as essential to my well-being. If I miss a few writing days, I begin to feel down and grouchy, and then I notice that my other healthy habits (like eating well, exercising, dancing, walking outside, and having fun with my family) all begin to go out the window too!

There is a wonderful saying doing the rounds on the internet at the moment:

 

Make a list of things that make you happy.

Make a list of things you do every day.

Compare the lists.

Adjust accordingly.

 

I love this little nugget of wisdom. For me, this is what health is: finding the things that make you feel alive and energised, and then trying to do those things as often as possible.

Up until now, I have mostly kept my creative writing work separate from my healthy-living writing, but if being creative is part of my healthy lifestyle, it seems only fair to let it become part of the Cloves & Ginger blog too. This is all a rather long-winded way of warning you that you might begin to notice the occasional post about my latest novel or an extract from a story popping up on here.

I hope you continue to visit Cloves & Ginger and enjoy the range of subjects I share.

My YA fantasy novel is available to buy on Kindle (US link; UK link) or in print, here. To find out more about my writing and publications, please visit www.sarahmahfoudh.com and feel free to get in touch at any time by emailing me: sarahmahfoudhz@gmail.com.

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We’re 10 days into February already. Where has that time gone?

How has your ‘Love Yourself’ month been going so far? For me, last week was all about getting back into my writing. This went brilliantly but I was still struggling with my other goal, which was to get back into my normal healthy eating habits. We’d had a flood at my house and ended up living with my parents-in-law for two weeks. It’s incredible how not having my own space to cook, exercise and relax in can have such a massive impact on my mood and eating habits. I love my parents-in-law and they couldn’t have made me feel more welcome, but I’ve never been good in other people’s environments. I’m a home-bird and for some reason, the moment I’m in someone else’s space I start to feel out of control and anxious, which leads to comfort eating. Sigh!

But, good news, we moved back into our house on Friday and I instantly began to feel better. As part of ‘Love Yourself’ February, I’ve decided to promise myself a treat each week. Last week I’d promised I would buy a brand new clean-eating cook book and set aside a couple of hours at the weekend to sit down and read through it. So I did.

I bought the new Deliciously Ella book and made a point of starting right from the beginning and reading through the introduction instead of skipping straight to the recipes. Ella is a beautiful writer and has an inspiring story and the recipes all seem to be very simple and relatively quick to make, which is always a bonus for me. I enjoy cooking, but I don’t have a lot of time in the week so I’m always looking for healthy, but convenient meal ideas. You can find out more about Ella at her website: www.deliciouslyella.com.

I took a few recipes from Ella’s book and also decided on a few of my old favourites that I hadn’t made for a few weeks. Then I got cooking. On Sunday morning, I did the fun baking stuff with my 2-year-old. We made raw chocolate energy balls (known in my household as ‘power balls’) to go in the freezer for when we want something lovely and sweet; we made blueberry muffins from the Deliciously Ella cook book and put those in the freezer too. Then I made a new batch of sweet potato gnocchi. I usually have this in the freezer at all times as a quick meal to give to my daughter. She loves it and once the gnocchi is made it’s even quicker than pasta to cook.

That was a pretty good start, but it got even better. Yesterday morning, I made my favourite homemade baked beans (just chop up and fry onion and garlic, then add tomato puree, passata, a bit of vegetable stock and some beans. I went with cannellini beans and butter beans this time. Yum!). I also made the the quinoa tabbouleh from Deliciously Ella’s cookbook, coconut chicken nuggets from I Quit Sugar and then I made a delicious frittata in the evening. OK, I know that’s a lot of cooking but it only took a couple of hours in the morning and about 30 minutes in the evening and now I have loads of delicious food waiting for me in the fridge. Just knowing I’ve put in all the hard work and have so much good food waiting for me when I need a quick meal makes me feel calmer and more positive about being able to eat healthily throughout the week. It may seem like a chore, but I definitely think it’s worth taking a little time each week to prioritise your health because if you can get that right, then you’ll have so much more energy and motivation in other areas of your life.

x

Ps. I’m sure I’m not alone in finding stories about people who have healed themselves through food intriguing and inspiring. As well as the Deliciouly Ella blog, I have found Against All Grain and I Quit Sugar so helpful and I go back to them time and time again for inspiration. I’d love to get some recommendations from readers if you know of any other good blogs.

This morning I had breakfast. I realise this isn’t the most exciting statement to open with but I don’t usually have breakfast before going out to see my first PT client. This is because a) it feels too early to eat and b) I often like to fit in a quick workout before I go. But this morning I just felt like doing things a bit differently so I decided to use my morning to eat a healthy breakfast and do some writing.

For me, this month is all about changing some of the habits that have become so ingrained I don’t even question them anymore; habits such as always putting exercise at the top of the priority list or getting in a state when my plans get disrupted in some way.

I know I said in my previous post that one of the keys to success is a bit of planning and I definitely think this is true. However, I also think I need to learn to be a bit more flexible and less hard on myself when things don’t go to plan because, let’s face it, they often don’t – that’s life.

So this morning, rather than getting straight into my workout gear as soon as I’d packed my daughter off to nursery, I chose to have breakfast and so some writing. As the guilt began to take hold at the thought of skipping a planned workout and eating breakfast instead, I reminded myself that one of my goals for February is to write more often. As I haven’t suddenly gained more hours in the day, fitting in extra writing time might mean exercise has to take back seat from time to time. Of course, I’m not giving up on exercise all together – that would be stupid and counterproductive – but if I want the odd day off then that’s OK. So long as I continue to eat healthily, nothing terrible is going to happen to my body if I skip a few exercise sessions but I might just find the time to do all the other things I’ve been promising to do for years.

Now that you’ve made your February ‘Love Yourself’ plan, take a look at it and see if there’s anything you can do differently or if there’s a bit of room for flexibility and change in there. After all, I’ve heard that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is madness!

x

Hello. How has 2015 been treating you so far?

It’s been a busy few months for me: I got married in November and then there was Christmas and New Year, and then a couple of weeks ago we moved house. All of these are very happy events, but also immensely draining and I’m afraid to say they’ve left me a bit exhausted and lacking in ‘get up and go’! I know I’m not alone in this: a lot of people I’ve talked to recently have said they feel the same. We all started the year with such enthusiasm and with so many promises to be the fittest and healthiest we’ve ever been but I think the reality is that with dark mornings and evenings, cold weather, having to go back to work, and the after-effects of Christmas, many of us feel the strain in January.

That’s why I’m setting up a February ‘Love Yourself’ club. OK, I know this sounds a bit cheesy but it’s really not. This is a chance for you to spend a little bit more time focussing on yourself and what you really want to achieve. If you keep on promising to do something but never quite get around to it, now is your chance. Or if you think you’ve been too hard on yourself recently and fancy a break from all the negative, self-sabotaging thoughts, February is the month for you.

I don’t know about you, but I can be pretty nasty to myself sometimes. I boss myself about and deprive myself and judge myself in ways I would never judge anyone else, especially someone I love. I’m always telling my personal training clients to be kinder to themselves and forgive themselves when they ‘slip up’ by having a bit of chocolate or a couple of drinks, and yet I’m not always so nice to myself about these things. January can be an especially difficult month because so many of us start the year by setting ourselves harsh and overambitious resolutions; we then get down and disappointed when we don’t stick to these resolutions. Of course, it’s good to have goals and to challenge ourselves but it is also important to allow ourselves a little bit of down time to do what we want to do rather than what we think we should be doing.

This is where the ‘Love Yourself’ club comes in. It’s a chance to spend a whole month focussing on just one or two personal goals and learning how to be a bit kinder to yourself. Perhaps your goal is health and fitness related like trying out a gluten-free diet or working on a specific aspect of your fitness; perhaps you want to spend more time cooking healthy home-made meals or meditating or learning a new skill; perhaps you just want to find time each week to read a book. It can be anything really: for example, this February I want to curb my sweet tooth once and for all and I also want to find more time to write each week.

You can join in by following this blog and you can also join the private ‘Love Yourself’ Facebook group by finding me on Facebook (here) and sending me a message, asking to be added to the group. Anyone is welcome. Whatever it is you think you want to do, even if it’s as vague as being healthier in general, the ‘Love Yourself’ club is a chance for you to spend a whole month focussing on you and getting support and inspiration from others who are doing the same thing. 

Whether you’re joining me on Facebook or just joining me in spirit, here’s to a wonderful February!

x

me dancing

Having recently returned to work after 10 months on maternity leave, I’ve found myself lacking my normal motivation to exercise and eat healthily. I’m not stuffing junk into my mouth, but neither am I eating the variety of fresh protein and vegetables I would like, and whilst I’ve still been playing netball 3 times a week and going out for the odd run, I haven’t felt up to my usual exercise routine.

I don’t think any of this is unusual for a new(ish) mum returning to work. In fact, any sort of major life change – a change in job, a house move, a new relationship, for example –  can make it difficult to stay focussed on staying healthy, even if it’s usually something that comes naturally to you.

To get myself back on track, I’ve been making a list of things that will help me get motivated and stay motivated in all areas of life, and I’ve decided to share them in case any of you ever need a bit of help getting your diet, fitness or mental well-being back on track.

1.       Do what you love

Doing what you love makes you happy and the happier you are, the more motivated you’ll feel. It may be that you love sewing or drawing or reading. Find out what it is that makes you tick and make time for it on a regular basis.

My passions are dancing and writing but in the past year, I’ve barely danced. Last week I decided enough was enough: I went into my lounge and started doing my favourite modern dance warm-ups, followed by a ballet DVD. I instantly felt happier, more inspired and more positive about life in general so the next day I called up a local dance school and went along to a dance lesson. I was supposed to be going on a run that night, but I went dancing instead and guess what, I felt much better for it.

You might like to read this post on doing a 30-day happiness challenge.

2. Sign up for something…anything

This might be a marathon or a triathlon; it might be The Three Peaks Challenge; it might be a weekend away at a health and well-being retreat; it might even be a painting or writing course if that’s what inspires you. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something you want to do and will look forward to rather than something you feel you should do.

Some of my favourites are:

  • The Aspire Channel Swim: The aim is to swim the distance of the channel in 12 weeks to raise money for Aspire, a spinal injury charity. I like swimming and find it quite satisfying to just keep on going once I start so I decided to set my own personal goal of swimming the distance in 3 weeks rather than 3 months.
  • Fitness Fiesta: A weekend of fantastic exercise classes to suit anyone’s taste. Check out the website and book up a weekend away with friends.
  • The Wolf Run: My training for this hasn’t gone exactly to plan (oops!), but I’m doing it in about 2 weeks and I can’t wait.

3. Listen to your body and be kind to yourself

This doesn’t mean sitting back and watching TV every night of the week, but it does mean being kind to yourself every once in a while.

Sometimes I get into a bit of a state because I think I should go and do a hard gym session when all I really want to do is curl up on the sofa and eat rubbish food. Rather than giving in to the latter, I often find that if I let myself off the hook and do a stretch or a gentle Pilates session I feel a lot better. Even if it isn’t the hard core training session I’ve planned, at least I’ve moved, which brings me to my next point….

4. Just move

Having gone back to my desk job, I’ve suddenly become very static. I can sit for hours in front of a computer screen and the more I sit, the worse I feel. My muscles seize up, my head hurts, I get grumpy and the thought of doing an exercise session only makes me grumpier!

I often find the less I move, the less I want to move and the less motivated I feel in other areas of my life too (especially healthy eating). As hard as it is, the only way to get out of this cycle is to just get up and MOVE. You could force yourself out for a run and come back feeling loads better, or you could put on some music and dance around the house, or maybe you could just do a bit of yoga in your pyjamas and see how much more positive you feel.

5. Find out what’s blocking you and do something about it

Everyone is different and it could be any number of things that are stopping you from achieving your goals. The thing that blocks me most of all is guilt: I feel guilty for not eating the right foods or guilty for not exercising enough or guilty for not writing enough or guilty that the house is a mess or….breathe! Calm down!

Recently, I’ve been feeling guilty about not using my gym membership enough, but the truth is I’d rather do a dance class, play netball, run outside or do a fitness session at home. For a while, my guilt about this was actually stopping me from doing any exercise at all until I realised just how stupid that was. So, I’m going to cancel my gym membership and do what I want to do without feeling guilty.

6. Make a commitment

I know I’ve just talked about cancelling my gym membership so that I can focuss on what I enjoy, but you might need to do the opposite. Making a commitment to something is a good way of keeping motivated. Some ideas are:

  • Book a class
  • Join the gym
  • Join a club
  • Join a team
  • Arrange regular workout sessions with friends

I recently found an amazing site called www.instructorlive.com where you can do live or archived fitness, dance, yoga and Pilates classes from the comfort of your living room. It’s well worth checking out. I love it. In fact, I’m about to do a Pilates class any minute.

I hope you’re all feeling inspired and motivated, or at least a little bit more positive. I know I am.

Have a great weekend.

x

Good morning. Happy Valentine’s Day for yesterday!

How did it go? If you were lucky enough to be taken out for dinner last night, did you manage to resist pudding? Don’t worry if not; just count that as your cheat day and treat yourself to a lovely, sugar-free weekend.

We’re nearly at the half way mark and you might be starting to struggle without your normal quick energy fix: you might be feeling tired and grumpy after a long week of work; you might also be suffering from headaches or feel ill and as if you’re going down with something. I know it’s not very pleasant but it’s normal to get withdrawal symptoms like this: sugar is a drug after all. Just remind yourself why you’re doing this and think how good you’ll feel if you manage to resist those sugar-monster urges.

Now that’s enough about sugar! It’s time to stop focussing on what we’re ‘not allowed’ and start looking forward to some really delicious meals for the weekend. If you’re missing pasta, why not try cooking a dish with Spaghetti squash (Cucurbita squash). Bake it in the oven and then scoop the spaghetti-like flesh out and cook with it. I found a fantastic recipe idea here on one of my favourite new blogs, www.ourlifeinfood.com. Check it out for inspiration.

x

 


what we’re not allwingIf you are feeling a bit down in the dumps and need a treat, here’s a delicious snack recipe courtesy of my frined Jemma Parker:

Very moreish cheesy flapjack
I’ve found a delicious meal idea that might just cheer you up, especially if you’re missing your pasta. This recipe uses Spaghetti squash (Cucurbita squash) as a replacement for pasta

If anyone out there is doing The Sugar-Free Challenge with me, how have days 1 and 2 been? Have you craved anything in particular, have you broken any of the rules you set down for yourself?

If you’re anything like me, this isn’t the first time you’ve tried to change your diet for the better. I’m constantly striving to be healthier and fitter. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes my willpower buckles and I let myself down, which is never a nice feeling. However, recently I’ve come to realise that if I monitor myself as I go along, understand where I might be going wrong and then adapt the diet slightly, I won’t end up going crazy and eating everything in sight. This isn’t cheating; it’s just identifying what works for me.

On this latest sugar-free challenge I had promised myself a slice of soda bread with honey every other day. Today, day 2, was ‘soda bread and honey day’, but guess what? I didn’t just stop at one slice: I had a few slices and then I started getting cravings for all sorts of other sugary carbs. You’ll be glad to hear I didn’t give in to these cravings, but it made me realise that if I’m going to succeed on this 14 day plan (and beyond) I’ll have to completely cut out the soda bread and honey. If I don’t start it, I’m fine but once I start there’s no way I can just stop at one slice.

I guess what I’m trying to say is be kind to yourself. Don’t instantly think you’ve failed just because you slipped up once. Learn from it, adapt and keep on going until you get the results you want.

I’d love to hear from anyone who’s taken up the challenge so please get in touch.

Oh, and Happy Pancake Day! I hope you’re all enjoying your sugar-free pancakes. 😉

x

I often tell people who are struggling with getting into a regular exercise regime, give it 3 months of regular exercise and you’ll be hooked. Once you’re hooked on exercise, you actually enjoy it and get miserable if you don’t get your regular endorphin fix.

However, 3 months is a long time to stay motivated if you’re not enjoying it. I’m one of those lucky people who actually enjoys exercise, but even I’ve been known to get bored of working out from time to time so it’s no wonder so many people give up before they’ve even started.

I don’t have a magical solution, but here are a few tips to staying motivated even if you’re already a fitness junky: if you want to stick to an exercise regime you’ve got to keep your goals achievable, you’ve got to choose a form of exercise you enjoy and you’ve got to keep it varied.

Interval training is one of my favourite ways of keeping workouts short, intense and interesting and it’s one of the most effective ways of getting results.

What is interval training?

Interval workouts alternate between high-intensity and lower-intensity levels.

Why is interval training so good?

  • The variety makes the time pass faster.
  • You can easily fit an interval session into a lunch break or when you’re pressed for time and still get better results than you would from a longer, less intense workout.
  • Working harder even for short bursts of time burns more calories and the body continues burning calories long after you’ve finished your workout.
  • The stop-and-start pattern trains your body to recover quickly, which improves your cardiovascular fitness.

This Infographic at www.greatist.com explains it really well.

So, let’s get started:

Here are a couple of great interval sessions for you to try out and adapt to suit you. Remember to include a warm up beforehand and stretch out afterwards.

Treadmill workout 1:

Put the incline up to 1 or 2. You’ll hardly notice the extra effort but you’ll be burning more calories and getting better fitness results.

To start with, you need to find your comfortable pace. This is a pace you could keep up comfortably for quite a long time. Depending on your fitness, this might be a fast walk or a jog.  For this example, let’s just say you’re comfortable pace is jogging at 9 km/h.

  • 1 minute: jog at 9 km/h
  • 1 minute: jog at 9.5 km/h
  • 1 minute: jog at 9 km/h
  • 1 minute: jog at 10 km/h
  • 1 minute: jog at 9 km/h
  • 1 minute: jog at 10.5 km/h
  • 1 minute: jog at 9 km/h
  • 1 minute: jog at 11 km/h

 … and so on for  15–30 minutes.

This is a good way of starting with intervals because you get to know your comfortable pace and find out how fast you can go.

Treadmill workouts 2 & 3:

Once you’re more confident with how fast you can go, you can change the intervals to make them more intense by reducing your rest time and/or going  straight to your fast pace rather than building up to it.

For example:

  • 30 seconds: 10 km/h
  • 1 minute: 13 km/h
  • 30 seconds: 10km/h
  • 1 minute: 13 km/h

… and so on for  15–30 minutes.

Treadmill workout 4:

Another fantastic variation of this (although a horribly hard one that I haven’t motivated myself to do for a while) is to vary incline rather than pace.

Find your comfortable pace again (e.g. 11 km/h) and start with the incline on 2 or 3, then build up:

  • 1 minute:  jog at 11 km/h on incline 2
  • 1 minute:  jog at 11 km/h on incline 3
  • 1 minute:  jog at 11 km/h on incline 2
  • 1 minute:  jog at 11 km/h on incline 4
  • 1 minute:  jog at 11 km/h on incline 2
  • 1 minute:  jog at 11 km/h on incline 5

  you get the picture!

This one starts off feeling OK, but all of a sudden it begins to hurt. Don’t slow the pace when it starts getting harder. Just keep going up and down the inclines and see how long you can keep going for.

Writing about it has reminded me just how good this workout is. I guess I can’t expect you to try it if I don’t do it myself, so I’ll give it a go next time I’m in the gym. That’s a promise!

Intervals outside the gym:

Intervals don’t have to be done on the treadmill, of course. You can apply the interval workouts above to any piece of equipment and you can do other forms of intervals away from the gym too. You could keep it basic with running, swimming or cycling or you can do any form of high impact exercise followed by a short break and then back up to intensity.

Jo Parry did some great 10 minute workouts on Mission Clean & Lean (see my previous post about this, here). Here’s an example of a 10 minute workout, inspired by Jo:

  • 45 seconds: high knee runs
  • 15 seconds: rest
  • 45 seconds: burpees (I hate them but they get results)
  • 15 seconds: rest
  • 45 seconds: power squats
  • 15 seconds: rest
  • 45 seconds: tricep dips
  • 15 seconds: rest
  • 45 seconds: power lunges
  • 15 seconds: rest
  • 45 seconds: plank
  • 15 seconds: rest
  • 45 seconds: squat runs
  • 15 seconds: rest
  • 45 seconds: star jumps
  • 15 seconds: rest
  • 45 seconds: press up
  • 15 seconds: rest
  • 45 seconds: high knee runs again

Repeat this 2 or 3 times. Give it everything you’ve got on each exercise and you’ll have done a brilliant workout.

If you have any questions about how to perform any of the exercises mentioned here, please do not hesitate to contact me or if you’re a member of a gym ask a member of staff to help you out.

Good luck. Let me know how you get on. x