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Tag: fitness

Stories I loved this week.

I’ve had a little hiatus from the blog. Things were getting on top of me and I needed to stop, have a breather and take stock. It’s important to do that once in a while, don’t you think?

We’ve also been on holiday to Mallorca (one of my favourite places on earth!) and although I came back with a cold, I feel mentally rested and ready to start my final year of my Nutrition degree (this weekend!).

Could you be a fruitarian? I personally couldn’t, but it’s interesting to get a peek into how they rationalise their choice. (Broadly)

How much do celebrities spend on fitness? (Well + Good)

How the sugar industry shifted the blame to fat. (NY Times)

Ketchup chips – any good Canuck will love these. (AV Club)

Great exercise rule – try not to skip two days in a row. (Summer Tomato)

I’ve just bought this cookbook and I’m really enjoying working my way through it. The chickpea pancakes on page 92 are great.

Feeding babies peanuts and eggs can reduce their risk of allergies later in life. This is an update to the previous advice that said that parents should wait to introduce allergenic food. Makes sense, especially based on what we know about the immune system and the role gut bacteria play in digesting food. (JAMA)

How do you stay healthy when you drive everywhere?

62 miles to London

We’ve just spent a lovely three days in Rye, a small, whimsical city on the South Coast of England. We drove down from London for some sorely needed time to recharge our batteries and enjoy some family time in the dog days of summer.

It was nice to get out of London for a bit, explore a new area and be reminded that there is life outside the Big Smoke.

Having a car for our mini break gave me a different vision of what life might be like. We don’t have a car, so we walk or take public transport everywhere we need to get to in London.

There are positives, like the sheer convenience and ease of getting from one place to another.

And there are a lot of negatives. The environmental cost is a big one. Another big negative is the lack of exercise. When I compare my step count (yes, I do check this quite often in the Health app on my iPhone) for the last three days to the same time last week, the difference is breathtaking.  I try to get at least 10,000 steps / 5km a day – it’s arbitrary, but it works for me.

With a car, I’ve missed the latent exercise I seem to regularly fit in, from running for the bus, standing on the tube and walking up the stairs at work.

If you drive regularly, how do you fit in exercise? Is it something you have to schedule into your diary as a can’t miss appointment? A car might be in our future, as our lives get busier and I’m keen to make sure it doesn’t have a detrimental effect on our health.

Stories I loved this week.

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It’s finally spring and there seems to be a real lightness in the air here in London. Maybe it’s the crisp yet sunny days, maybe it’s the promise of warmth and lighter evenings. I know that I’ve been feeling in better spirits recently, though a combination of more sleep, better management of my food intake and more family time. Lots of kisses and cuddles from a bub can always lighten the spirit.

“Beyoncé doesn’t mention anything about her body, or weight, or pushing herself to her limits – instead she talks how running makes her feel, and what it has done for her mind.” I love this analysis of the video launching Beyonce’s new fitness range, Ivy Park. (The Pool)

How to choose the best produce. (Vox)

A fascinating piece on India’s menstrual product market and the taboos that still exists around menstruation in this country. (Broadly)

I put collagen into my morning smoothie and it’s nice to see more evidence of its benefits to the skin. Beauty really does start from the inside out. (Well + Good)

I’m trying out this chicken cacciatore recipe for a dinner party tomorrow night. (New York Times)

How not to lose yourself in motherhood. Lots of good advice here. It takes time and for me, it’s important to remember that mother is just one part of my identity. (Mother Mag)

We’re more honest with our phones than with our doctors. (New York Times)

What you don’t know about depression. (Kelly Brogan MD)

Photo by Milada Vigerova

Do you workout at home?

I’ve had a few gym memberships in my time. Virgin Active, Fitness First, local council funded gyms and the list goes on. In my pre-baby days, when I had acres of free time after work and on the weekends, I’d find it very difficult to drag myself to the gym and get a reasonable cost per visit from my membership fee.

In my post-baby world, I need to maximise every minute of my life to get what I need to get done, done. This is no joke. Between working, school work, chores and life admin, on the days I’m at home, if I don’t take the opportunity to workout during J’s naptime, then I won’t have the chance until he goes to bed. And then something will inevitably get in the way and working out will have to wait. So for me, it’s just easier to squeeze in workouts, when I can, at home. I cancelled my gym membership last year and I’ve never looked back.

 

Just workout when he’s awake, you say? Hahahahah. I’ve seen YouTube and Instagram videos of mums working out with their kids around them, and that just seems like science fiction to me. When I’ve attempted to do it, I get a 14 kg toddler climbing on my back during push ups and crawling through my legs during burpees. Which is why for me, effective workouts are restricted to nap time, bed time or at spin class.

 

I’ve been doing Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guides (BBG) at home since last August, combined with lots of walking (I live in London, with no car, so walking is like breathing – you need do a lot of it!) and weekly sessions at Psycle, the best spin studio in London.

What’s interesting to me is that the guides are ideally meant for someone who has access to a gym and all its equipment, but because I love the structure of the guides, i.e. they tell me exactly what exercises I need to do, how many and for how long, I’ve figured out a way to make BBG work for me.

 

And as I was setting myself up for today’s workout, I realised that I’ve managed to acquire a veritable mini-gym in my flat, the majority of which I use for the Bikini Body Guide.

So it is possible to do the guide at home, it just requires a bit of planning and some expense.

 

What I use for the Bikini Body Guide workouts:

  1. Kettlebells (7.5kg, 12kg and 16kg): substitutes for dumbbells or handweights
  2. Medicine ball (8kg)
  3. Hand weights (2kg each)
  4. Reebok step: substitute for a box and a bench
  5. Easy Shaper Pro (a bar with resistance bands attached): substitute for a barbell and weights
  6. Yoga Mat
  7. Foam rollers x 2

I’ve had to be creative and substitute where I can. I’ve picked up inexpensive quality equipment via Ebay, Amazons and various birthday / Christmas presents and it’s all added up to a very nice collection that makes working out at home really easy.

Do you workout at home? Have you done BBG at home? What are your tips and tricks?

 

 

I Tried It: Keeping A Food Diary

 

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My second assignment for my second year of nutrition requires me to keep a food diary. Sounds too easy, right? Copy down breakfast, lunch, dinner and Bob’s your uncle.

For this exercise, we need to record every single element of each meal and put this information through a food calculator to analyse the macronutrient (protein, fat and carbohydrate) and micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) content consumed each day. Then map this against the government’s RNI for micronutrients and do a naturopathic analysis of what could be improved.

It’s fascinating stuff. And very eye opening.

I’ve been recording everything I eat and drink since Monday and it’s verified a lot of what I already know about the way I eat and my intentions for my nutrition. I eat a lot of good fats (almonds, avocado, meat), lots of carbohydrates, in the form of fruit and vegetables and a decent amount of protein. I don’t snack, so I like that satiated feeling I get after eating a meal full of good fats, proteins and lots of carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables.

When it comes to micronutrients, it’s a little bit addicting to see how eating certain foods can push up your daily vitamin and mineral intake. Kale and avocados, are a great example of this. I have them most mornings, in my smoothie, so by 8am, I’m well on my way to hitting the majority of the B vitamin (bar B12) requirement for the day.

My omega-3 intake is not high enough – the perfect excuse to eat more smoked salmon!

I can see how easy it is to become obsessed with this information. Equally, it’s really good for people who may be concerned that they’re not getting enough of the right micronutrients to spend a few days inputting their meals into one of these analysis programmes. I can see how good this could be for vegetarians and vegans, especially. It would’ve been very useful for me in my vegetarian days, when I know my diet was really poor. Think lots of cheese, wraps, bread and chocolate and very little veg. Oops.

Here’s what yesterday’s food intake looked like in terms of micronutrient intake, starting with vitamins, then minerals and then amino acids.

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Doing this exercise on myself is really interesting and it will be even more interesting once I’ve finished my training and I’m out in the ‘real world’.

For some clients, having access to all of this information could be very overwhelming and others, they might benefit from seeing a deeper analysis of their food intake.

It’s all very well having this data, but it’s what you do with it that matters. Based on a day’s worth of data, I can see that I need to work on my Vitamin D intake and look at including different plant based sources of calcium. And one day out of seven is just a slice of the whole picture. Once I have a full week’s worth of data, one of the requirements of my assignment is to do a full analysis of the week to identify any trends and potential insufficiencies. Should be fascinating stuff.

Do you keep a food diary or use a food tracking like DailyPlate or MyFitnessPal? Why do you use them?

Photo by Noah Basle

 

I Tried It: Barry’s Bootcamp

Barry’s Bootcamp has been on my fitness to-do list for ages, but it’s taken me a while to ‘gee’ myself up to try it out.  Any workout that combines treadmill sprints (not my favourite, at the best of times) and strength training is always going to be tough. Add in ‘bootcamp’ and well, you can understand why I was nervous when I rocked up to the London Central branch yesterday morning.

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Reader, it was f*cking hard. Two circuits of 15 minutes on the treadmill and 15 minutes of strength training nearly wiped me out for the day. The beginners treadmill speed is 6 mph (9.66 km/h!), which is much faster than I run, EVER. You then go up by 1 or 2 points (miles) throughout the sprints. If the instructor is being nice, you might change it up and let you go up by 0.5 mile intervals. The fastest I ran was 8.5 mph (13.8 km/h!!!!!!) and I thought my legs were going to come up from under me.

Real talk: since giving birth, my pelvic floor isn’t what it used to be, so I had to contend with that, as well as holding back the urge to vomit, during and after the sprints. Note to self: wear black running trousers next time!

The music was absolutely amazing, with lots of uptempo house and hip hop to keep energy levels up. Our instructor for the session was Faisal and he was super motivational, continuously trying to push all of us to our limits and reminding us that it’s supposed be hard. And of course the class is going to be hard – that’s what you pay £20 for. And that’s how you get results.

barry's bootcamp protein shake menu

I ordered a much needed recovery shake to pick up after my workout, custom made with almond butter, banana, cinnamon and almond milk. My only complaint would be that all of their ‘off the rack’ shakes have either chocolate or vanilla whey protein in them and if you don’t do dairy, then you need to go for a custom option to get your protein. I opted for almond butter instead, but I might go for vegan protein next time.

barrys london smoothie

Have you tried Barry’s yet? What do you think?

Stories I loved this week.

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Photo by Austin Schmid

Thursday was my last day at my freelance job and I feel like the person in the picture. Jumping for joy and ready to take on new challenges. I’m looking forward to taking the time to find a new contract, getting a lot of studying done and getting off the hectic London treadmill for a bit and into the slower life of being a mother, wife and student. I won’t just have my head in the books the entire time – I’m looking forward to getting stuck into my mindfulness practice and trying a few new exercise classes, including Barry’s Bootcamp.

A fascinating piece on how we got so hooked on avocados. (Guardian)

The loneliness that happens after bariatric surgery. (Salon)

Have you tried switchel? (Well + Good)

I for one cannot wait for the third installment of Bridget Jones. (The Pool)

Do you have wine, gluten or dairy face? Snarky titles aside, it’s fascinating to know that you can see what a person is eating by where acne appears on their face. (Elle UK)

Don’t wash your hands. Yes, yes, yes. People are way too fearful of bacteria – they are so beneficial to us. (The Times)

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.

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?

Things I Love: Psycle

I took my first Psycle class back in January and I was hooked.

I had been watching Psycle ever since it opened last year, but weirdly kept making excuses about why I couldn’t go. Too tired. Still breastfeeding. Feeling insecure about my body. Frankly, feeling a bit intimidated. I can’t explain it (the mind is a strange thing), especially since I love Soul Cycle  (and have been patiently waiting for it to come to London) and always try to get in a few classes when I’m in New York.

I had a gap in freelance contracts in January to study for my semester one biomedicine exam and finally got up the nerve to head to a class. And one class was all it took for me to get addicted.

I love heading to a class first thing in the morning – usually the 7:30am or 8am class when M does the nursery dropoff – and getting that early morning endorphin fix. I love the friendly atmosphere, the enthusiast instructors, the plush soaps and facilities. But most of all, I love how each workout is different, depending on the instructor.

Some instructors are all about the choreography – making me feel like Beyonce on a bike – others are about those tough hill climbs and pushing you to the absolute limit with the resistance. The music is always amazing and I leave each time drenched in sweat (my sign of a good workout) and feeling like I’ve worked my absolute hardest.

Insert sweaty, redfaced picture! :)
Insert sweaty, redfaced picture! 🙂

At £20 a class, it’s not the cheapest, but you leave feeling like you’ve gotten value for money. The cost per ache metric. Interestingly, they’ve recently partnered with Class Pass so there is the opportunity to get a bit savings there. Check out the Oxford Circus studio and the newest studio in Canary Wharf – you won’t regret it!

P.S. Here’s one of my favourite Psycle tracks.

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