Monthly Archives: October 2015

Stories I loved this week.

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Photo by Greg Rakozy

Ah, that freelance life. It’s full of ups and downs that I’ve just gotten my head around after doing it for the last 18 months. I’m going into my last week of my current contract and I’m now at the point (finally!) where I can be Zen when contracts finish. It doesn’t send me into a massive tailspin of self-doubt and worry any more. I’ve finally decoupled work from being the defining measure of my identity.

Now for some solid study and research time ahead of the Christmas break! Do you freelance? How long did it take you to become relaxed about contracts ending?

Could you live for seven months with just a single suitcase of possessions? I think I could. Whenever we go away, I’m always struck by how little we actually need on a day to day basis, versus how much we actually have. (Self)

More reasons to add some resistance training to your workout. Lifting weights may slow brain degeneration. (New York Times)

Have you heard of nature-deficit disorder? Apparently, children, as they become more sedentary start to suffer from this. (goop)

Now that we’re deep into the autumn, here are some good sources of zinc to help boost your immune system. (The Chalkboard)

I adored this post on the social life of a mother. (LaTonya Yvette)

I Tried It: Foam Rolling

Foam rolling. It’s so hot right now, isn’t it? Goop’s talking about it, Kayla’s released her own branded grid roller and many gyms now have rollers as standard in their cool down sections.

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But what is foam rolling? in a nutshell, foam rolling or myofascial release, to use the technical term, is a way of using a small foam tube, with grids or without to stimulate your fascia, the thin layer of connective tissue that surround your muscles. When we stretch after a workout, we help relieve soreness in large muscle groups, however we do nothing for the fascia. Foam rolling can prevent / reduce stiffness in the fascia, which in turn helps to increase mobility, range of movement and even lymphatic draining. Which is important, even if you’re not an Olympic athlete.

Foam rolling has become really important for me, especially since I’ve increased the amount of exercise I do. Even though I’ve discovered that genetically, I have a fast exercise recovery time, I don’t enjoy the mild stiffness I get the day after a workout. Real talk: the day after I did my first Kayla pre-training workout, I struggled to sit down and stand up properly at work because my legs were so stiff and sore. Not a good look, especially in an office of sports-mad blokes!

I love how easy it is to do. You’re ideally supposed to do some foam rolling after your workout but I never have enough time, so I tend to foam roll in the evening when I’m watching TV or chatting to my husband. Just bear in mind that depending on how often and intensely you exercise and how often you foam roll, it can be painful. Almost that pleasure / pain, where you know the pain is a sign of relief. It’ll make sense when you try it!

Here are some easy foam rolling exercises to try out. The key is not to go too fast – it should be a slow, fluid movement. If you start to experience pain, stop rolling and stay on that part of the muscle for 30 – 90 seconds to try to release the tension.

Here are some good foam rollers:

  1. A lightweight grid roller that gets deep into any knots.

Grid roller

2. I use this one regularly – it’s a good starter foam roller.

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3. This looks like a great two in one option.

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Happy foam rolling!

What I’m Reading: Better Than Before

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Photo by Charles Yeager

I love self-improvement books. There, I admit it. I’m a relentless self-improver and love finding out about new (to me) life hacks, cooking & nutrition tips and general health & wellbeing advice.

I had read two of Gretchen Rubin’s books on trying to find ways to happiness and contentment, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home and loved them, but didn’t pick up her new book, Better than Before, until I heard her interview on Underground Wellness. Side note: who else gets surprised when you hear an author’s ‘real’ voice after hearing what they’ve written in the ‘imagined’ voice in your head while you’re reading?

What a great book. Gretchen tries to answer the question, “how can we make good habits and break bad ones”, with a number of different frameworks and models (i.e the Strategies of Monitoring, Foundation, Scheduling and Accountability) , all underpinned by the Four Tendencies, which cover outer and inner expectations. She posits that everyone falls into one of these four distinct groups, with very little overlap.

Upholders: Respond readily to both outer and inner expectations.

Questioners: Question all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified.

Obligers: Respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations.

Rebels: Resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.

Want to know which one you are? There is a great quiz on her website and it confirmed that I am indeed a Questioner.

According to the book and quiz results, Questioners:

  • Question all expectations
  • Respond to an expectation only if they conclude that it makes sense
  • Are motivated by reason, logic and fairness
  • Decide for themselves whether a course of action is a good idea and resist doing anything that seems to lack sound purpose
  • Want to make well considered decisions and come to their own conclusions
  • Are very intellectually engaged and are often will to do exhaustive research

According to Gretchen, “Questioners come in two flavors: some Questioners have an inclination to Uphold, and others have an inclination to Rebel; the first type accepts expectations fairly readily, the second type is very hard to persuade.” I’m definitely in the first camp in some areas in my life and in the second in others. I’m not a people pleaser, but I am very aware of both inner and outer expectations – and sometimes chafe against both.

There is a specific call out to exercise and how a Questioner can make an exercise habit stick that i found highly relevant:

  1. Design an exercise habit that works for your character and lifestyle (Strategy of Distinctions):  I like variety, I don’t have a lot of time and I like knowing that others are doing the same type of exercise I am. This is why Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide has really been working for me these past 11 (!) weeks. I can do the workouts in 30 minutes during naptime, the exercises change each week and there’s a huge community on Instagram that are super supportive.
  2. Consider exactly why and how a particular habit should be kept (Strategy of Clarity): I like the way exercise makes me look and feel (the why) and I know there are windows of opportunity on Monday, Wednesdays, Fridays and the weekend for me to grab 30 minutes to workout at home.  I have all the equipment I need, so it’s very easy for me to change into my workout clothes and go!
  3. Get more information about your habits by wearing a pedometer or charting your exercise (Strategy of Monitoring): Kayla’s programme is broken into days and weeks, so I know exactly where I am in the programme and she encourages everyone to take progress photos to compare and contrast.

Better Than Before is chock full of wonderful information that will helps to understand good habits and bad ones.

From a nutrition perspective, the section on abstaining is fascinating. We’ve all heard truisms such as “a little of what you fancy” and “everything in moderation”. But one person’s moderation is another’s immoderation. Or to use a Samuel Johnson quote from the book, “I can’t drink a little wine, child; therefore I never touch it. Abstinence is as easy to me, as temperance would be difficult.” Some people just can’t moderate in food, in drink, in consumption of television, etc. They just aren’t built that way.

I’m one of these people. I can’t just eat one square of dark chocolate (what a cliche!)  or a scoop of ice cream to satisfy a craving. I know that I’ll eat the whole bar or tub, so it’s easier for me to totally avoid these types of foods. According to Gretchen, “abstainers do better when they follow all-or-nothing habits. Moderators are people who do better when they indulge moderately.”  That’s why elimination programmes like Whole 30 work well for Abstainers – the all or nothing principle makes sense and takes no mental effort once you’ve decided to be done with a certain category of food.

The abstainer / moderator and Four Tendencies frameworks take us nicely back to the ‘no one sized fits all’ principle for nutrition. Everyone has different backgrounds, lifestyles, hormone levels and genetics. We also approach things in different ways, which is why it’s so important that nutrition and wellbeing programmes are built and customised for the individual.

Have you read Better Than Before? What do you think?

P.S. Don’t forget to check out Happier, the weekly podcast that Gretchen puts out with her sister, the writer Elizabeth Craft.

Stories I loved this week.

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Photo by Chris Liu-Beers

The clocks go back this weekend and I for one don’t welcome the darker nights. There’s something quite depressing about leaving work at 6pm to find that it’s already dark. But it’s not all doom and gloom. After all of the business and personal travel this summer, we’re back into our routine of work, nursery, study and family. And it feels good. It sounds a bit fusty but I like routines and the sense of order and comfort they bring. In that sense, freelancing isn’t a good option for me, but the good news is, I tend to fall into routines quickly – my route to work, my lunch roster, the best coffee spots and the best route to J’s nursery.

How’s your week been? Here are a few of the stories I loved this week.

A fascinating article on the power of lullabies and a good reminder about how important it is to sing to and with children. (New York Times)

Yes, sweetie darling! The Ab Fab movie is finally coming! (AV Club)

Really love Jamie Oliver’s tough talk to the sugar industry in this opinion piece. (Daily Mail)

A fascinating piece on how friendships change in adulthood. (The Atlantic)

The importance of the B vitamins to converting food to energy and where to get them from. (goop)

I’m seriously thinking about getting one of these acupressure mats. (Cult Beauty)

There’s no one sized fits all solution in nutrition.

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Photo by Dan Edwards

As I move through the second year of my nutrition course and learn more about the body’s many systems, inputs and output, I realise more and more that there is no one sized fits all solution with nutrition. We are all so different. We have different background, different genetics, different stresses and different hormonal balances, that of course nutrition needs to be different for each person.

In fact, I was so excited about this revelation, I tweeted about it this morning on the way to my Biochemistry lecture.

Real talk: I used to be quite a dogmatic vegetarian for 15 years. I converted for ethical reasons when I was fifteen and used to talk ears off trying to convince others of the merits of vegetarianism. Then again, when I first discovered primal / paleo, I was quite forthright in proselytising to my husband, family and friends. You can see a pattern here, can’t you?

Nutrition is about working out what suits your body, your lifestyle and what works for you on a day to day basis. There’s no point in trying  to force yourself on to a vegan diet (oh so fashionable right now!) if you know that meat works for you and your body. Equally, if you’re a natural vegetarian, a paleo approach is probably not right for you.

An ideal dietary model is all very well and sound very good when they’re presented in a nicely designed book or website, but if you can’t stick to the model or guidelines, what’s the point?

You need to find something that works for you and your lifestyle.

There’s been much gnashing of teeth about wellness bloggers, but the reality is that they’ve helped make nutrition seem more approachable and given the general public an awareness of the importance of micronutrients. This is a good thing, when the NHS still advocates an eatwell plate that underemphasises the importance of fruit and vegetables (these should make up half your plate and you should aim to eat a rainbow of colours across the day) and overemphasises the importance of bread, pasta, rice and potatoes for fibre (what about the more accessible fibre in fruits and vegetables?).

Food can be fun and can bring much joy in the shopping, preparation and eating. Let’s move away from dogma, eat real food and work towards individual nutrition solutions.

Stories I loved this week.

  

 Photo by Roman Kraft 

And just like that, the summer’s over, autumn is here and I’m back to the books for year 2 of my Nutrition studies. I can’t wait to dive deeper into vitamins, minerals and micronutrients amongst many, many other topics as I build up the knowledge and expertise to start my own practice. 

Feminism is for little boys too. Great points about the early conditioning of boys: “as the parent of young children I see the small ways the conditioning of boys starts. The sludge-coloured clothes in rough fabrics (WTF is the deal with baby denim and those tiny “occasion” suits??) or t-shirts covered in aggressive slogans and imagery.” (The Pool)

Given the increased danger of growing microbial resistance to antibiotics, this is a fascinating article on using fecal transplants to rebuild gut flora. (New York Times)

35 meatless Paleo recipes. (Well + Good)

Loved Jennifer Lawrence’s essay on her experiences with Hollywood wage gap. (Lenny)

Great interview with Rhian, the inspiring CEO of Psycle. (Psycle)

Jumping on the bandwagon and loving it.

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Photo by Matthew Wiebe

I was never really much of an an athlete when I was younger and it was only after I graduated university that I started to embrace fitness. I started with running, then moved on weights, amongst many, many other activities. I’ve never really been one for team sports though – I’m a bit too competitive and tend to embarrass myself with my overenthusiastic cheering and geeing up of my team.

I still workout regularly, but I need variety in my workouts. Doing the same type of workout for too long bores me and I find it difficult to motivate myself to carry on.

I’ve been following Kayla Itsines on Instagram ever since reading a profile of her in the Sunday Times Style magazine. I’ve been fascinated by not only the transformations she posts, but also the devotion of the ladies that use her guides. The hashtags are numerous (#deathbykayla, #thekaylamovement, #bbgsisters, #bbgover30, etc) and when you scroll through them, it’s amazing to read the effect her workouts have had on her followers and how supportive everyone is of each other. It’s really motivating.

After hitting a plateau with my kettlebell practice, I finally took the plunge and downloaded Kayla’s Bikini Body Guide 1.0 when I got back from Jakarta in August. Cheesy name; amazing & gruelling workout. When I started the guide, I fancied myself in fairly good shape, as I had been doing lots of walking, carrying my 29 pound toddler for extended periods (#momarms), running and doing the Blogilates workouts when I had the chance.

Honestly, Kayla’s workouts are in another league. She splits her BBG 1.0 guide into 4 weeks of pre-training and 12 weeks of training. After doing the pre-training Week 1 Legs and Cardio workout, I was walking like a cowboy at work the next day!

I’ve now progressed to week 6 and I love it. The workouts are getting progressively harder, but I’m getting progressively stronger. J’s naptime is my time to workout and I’ve become quite jealous with this time. Call me obsessed, but it’s one of the few times I have to myself and it’s nice to know that I’m doing something positive with this time. And there’s enough variation in the workouts that I’m not getting bored.

My only bug bear with the guides is the number of adaptations and equipment that are required if you need to do them at home. I cancelled my gym membership in January as I was finding that it was easier for me to grab a quick 30 minutes to exercise during little J’s nap, rather than trying to find time to schlep to the gym a few times a week. I already have a medicine ball and kettlebells, but I’ve had to get creative and use my stairs for the knee-ups and weighted steps and a little bench for the decline push-ups. Here’s a nice guide to how you can use furniture, stairs and other items at home to work out with.

Have you done Kayla’s guides? What has your experience been?