9 July 2016

FIVE THINGS I AM GRATEFUL FOR THIS WEEK #57

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{Image sourced from Pinterest}

I am pleased to announce that the summer holidays are only one week away and, whilst I am working through the vast majority of it, I have plans to catch up with myself. I have been seriously MIA everywhere recently. This week I haven't been home at all and have had a few late nights due to work, so, by the time my head hits the pillow I am gone. Sparko.

I am trying so very hard not to let this inner frustration about having zero time to myself at the moment get to me. Life is about ups and downs and, whilst I wouldn't say life is on a 'down', it is certainly testing at the moment! But everything is good. This emotion is purely coming from the fact that I want to continue with launching my business and I have plans for this very space too that have had to go on the back-burner until the summer holidays have come about.

Anyway, I felt like I wanted to fill you in a little, so there you have it. On to the happier things! There are always so many things to be thankful and grateful for every week, and here are this weeks top five:

1. Finally having music in my ears at the gym again. I mentioned some time ago that my iPod Nano retired itself (without permission may I add!) and so I have been going without Metallica blasting in my ears during workouts. This week a shiny new iPod Shuffle arrived which was bought for me by my ever-so-wonderful hubby and even has my little name on it. This morning I test-drove it and felt so much more at home not having to listen to endless man-grunting in the weights section!

2. Naps. Lots of naps. I am now nine weeks into my twelve weeks training with Olly Foster's Action Reaction Training programme (I will be continuing after one day off at the very end!). The last four weeks is about pushing yourself more in the gym, something I love to do, but it is also about strict macro counting and, boy, have I felt the side effects. I am pretty sure my body is a little slow to get on board with changing itself, but this week has been particularly hard work. On Monday, having got home and got changed to do some cardio, I promptly got into bed for a 'power nap', two hours later I woke up. Oops. I also have a nap scheduled for this afternoon...

3. A goal-reaching treat. Having lost one whole stone on the above mentioned programme, I decided that it was the perfect time to reward myself with a new Mac lipstick. I opted for a summer bright. Tropic Tonic, which is a gorgeous coral/orange shade I have had my eyes on for a year or so. It is in my favourite Mac formula, matte, and I adore it.

4. This happy song by Viola Beach, covered/sung along with by Coldplay during their Glastonbury set. Sadly the band were killed in a car accident and, during Glastonbury, Coldplay played tribute to their talent and played along with the bands video to 'Boys that Sing'. I love the song and downloaded the original this week. I am looking forward to listening to more of their stuff too. It is sad that they are no longer with us :-(

5. Beautiful sunsets. On Thursday, as I walked out of work at 9.30pm, the sky was bright peachy-pink and, as I drove the one hour journey back home I witnessed the most gorgeous sky I have seen this year, so far. It lingered in the air and cast wonderful colours everywhere. If this isn't a super reason to be grateful, then I don't know what is. The world is so very beautiful... I just wish all of us who occupy it could remember that together and quit the nonsense :-(

Have a lovely weekend all xxx

1 July 2016

A-Z OF SURVIVING THE GYM

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{Image taken from Pinterest}

A - Attitude! It is a cliche to say that if you enter the building feeling like you 'can't do much today' then, chances are, you won't. I like to psyche myself up with music that gets me energised on the way to the gym and feed my head with positive talk. I also map out in my mind what I will be doing on that day, so I am prepared before I go in there. 
B - BCAA's. This stands for Branched Chain Amino Acids and is a pre/during workout drink that, to put it simply, is the building blocks of the body. Taken when weight training, this supplement benefits the muscle development and recovery.
C - Cables. Personally, my favourite place to train is over in the free-weights and cables section of the gym. But, if you can't quite make it to the benches for fear of some huge man dripping his sweat on your face, then aim to try the cable machines. You can do a full body workout on there (providing your gym has a variety of attachments and bars etc). Cables are great for super-setting exercises (doing two exercises back to back) and save you walking off and losing your machine whilst you do your second movement.
D - Download something. Planning on doing a 20 minute cycle? Download a podcast or a programme to get you though it!
E - Evening training. For me, the evenings are a nightmare in the gym but, as I have to go to get my four lifting sessions a week done, I have started to learn things that help overcome my anxiety about being there at the busiest times. Having my headphones plugged in really helps, as it makes me focused and calm. Also, thinking about your goals and how they will be effected, if you let people intimidate you away from a certain area, can spur you on to 'just do it'. 
F - Footwear. I have recently invested in the best trainers I have had in a long time. Having good support is making all the difference when I am doing multi-directional movements or plyometric exercises. It is worth looking into something that will fit your needs. If you are not sure what your needs are go to a reputable sports shop and speak to someone.
G - Gymwear. I am certainly no fashionista when I am training, but I know that when I am feeling good in what I wear to the gym I workout harder. That has got to be worth something.
H - Habit. It takes a few weeks of consistency to feel like the gym becomes part of your routine. It will get there in the end and the more results you see, the more you will love your new habit!
I - Individuality. When you find something that works for you don't worry about what everyone else is doing. It is easy to compare what you are doing with someone else, or someone elses body with yours. I often get strange looks in the gym because I am lifting heavy or doing a particularly un-common exercise, but I am motivated to continue because I know what I am doing. It pays to pre-plan so you feel confident where you are going next and can get set up with what you need without concern. Remember that everyone is working towards their own ideal, so just stay focused on you.
J - Jot it down. Keeping a note of the weight you lifted, how many and rest time, will help you to keep track of progress. 
K - Kettlebells. If you have never tried them ask an instructor to show you a basic routine. They hit pretty much every muscle in the body and are something that will make a nice change to the usual machines in the gym. Plus, when it is really busy, you can tuck yourself away with one or two KB's and get a full workout done!
L - Lifting. Don't be a cardio bunny. Be positive about lifting weights and be proud to lift heavy. I promise you it will be worth it and you won't 'look like a man'! It is so darn good for you to lift weights. The more muscle to fat ratio you have the more calories you will be burning at rest, in contrast to the 'after-burn' you get for a few hours after cardio. You certainly need to do both but not hours upon hours of cardio (unless it is event specific of course).
M - Music. Recently my iPod decided to give up on life, something which drastically changed my psychological state when training. I need good music and I need loud music. Get it right and you will have a really good session!
N - Nutrition. I have always known nutrition is the main factor to consider when wanting to lose fat or gain muscle but, until very recently, I had never been consistent enough for long enough. I now count macros, thanks to the help of Olly Foster, and it really changes everything.
O - Open mindedness. This speaks for itself, but try introducing new things. Try adding a class to your weekly exercise plan or swap something high intensity for a yoga or flexibility class for variety. The body will thank you for it in the end!
P - Protein is your friend. Lifting weights means you have to stock up on your protein intake to ensure your muscles recover and develop, in short, they need refuelling post-workout, so eat that chicken or have a shake (this is my favourite - specifically the salted caramel!).
Q - Quick bursts. Otherwise known as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) can be really beneficial to add variety and fun to your workout. Whether it is 30 seconds sprint on the treadmill, followed by 40-60 seconds of walking, repeated 5-10 times, or a distance sprint on the rowing machine, followed by a much slower pace to recover, getting your cardio in this way is a great way to boost heart rate and fitness! 
R - Rest and recovery. It has taken years of over-training and not resting properly to realise how important this step is. If you don't recover and fail to rest you will increase the risk of injury but, more worryingly, you will increase the stress hormone in your body which can have a detrimental effect on your desired goals, such as fat-loss.
S - Smile at people. I find that the gym can be a really isolating environment, especially now we are all plugged into our iPods, phones or whatever it is. Although I definitely get some interesting looks sometimes, I try and smile and say 'hello' to whoever is in the gym because, chances are, they will be in there with you at the same time again and it makes it feel like a more approachable, less intimidating place if you know people a bit better.
T - Towel. Take one!
U - Underwear. This maybe too much information....but (!)... be aware that if you are wearing leggings and you do squats, for heavens sake, wear some big black pants underneath or else everyone will see your undies. Just sayin'!
V - Variety is key. Don't stick to the same routine for months and months. Change it up. It will not only keep you interested, but also keep your body changing too.
W - Water. Drink it! Hydration keeps your energy levels up and helps you function at your best. I usually have water in my BCAA's and then re-fill my water-bottle with more water for the rest of my workout.
X - X-Trainer (phew! thought of an 'X'). I cannot run, due to a long-term back issue, so the x-trainer is my best friend in the gym when it comes to working my heart and lungs. It is a great all over body workout too and works well for HIIT training (discussed above).
Y - YouTube. Not sure about technique or healthy recipes? Search on YouTube! I love watching training vlogs from fitness competitors and athletes as they keep me super motivated, but there are so many people making health and fitness videos out there that it is almost impossible not to find someone you connect with. 
Z - Zone. I try and stay in the zone at all times when I am in the gym. I am very competitive with myself and like to push my body, but I also have a high anxiety level in the gym, so I try and remember that everyone is in 'their zone' and that there is a high chance that they also feel intimidated or self-conscious too, so just try and remain focused in on what I came to achieve and not let anything side-track from that.

17 June 2016

FIVE THINGS I AM GRATEFUL FOR THIS WEEK #56

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^^Top left: Our little bear refusing to let me read how to calculate my macros for the next phase of my eating, thanks Gizmo! / Top right: See point one below for details! / Bottom left: This mornings post-training breakfast omelette / Bottom right: How gorgeous it is when there is greenery everywhere and a heavy sky... call me strange :-)^^

Guys, we are only a couple of weeks from July... what?! The school holidays are just around the corner and there is that excitement in the air that summer brings. 

In all honesty, this week has been a very solemn, sad one. There has been bad news all over the place and, whilst I had a good cry about something that happened on Tuesday to a lovely family, I had to be reminded of how fragile life is. As a colleague said to me this week '... hold those you love very tight to you...' and she is right, take nothing for granted. 

On a happier note, I am mid-way through my training programme (if you missed previous waffling, I am currently training with Olly Foster) and I am definitely seeing results, but more on that later. It has also been a week to catch up with friends and have many a laugh over dinner, thank you H.

Here are the other things I have been grateful for this week:

1. Healthy dessert find! This is not an amazing recipe, or anything I am some kind of genius in creating, it is just something I found to top up my macros post-training! Get yourself some Fage 0% fat yoghurt, some frozen raspberries and some honey, chuck it all in a bowl and give it a mix about and you have yourself a gorgeously yummy pudding. Seriously, if you have never had frozen raspberries straight in yoghurt (no defrost needed!) you have to have it. It feels like a total treat. 

2. Baby squirrel watching. Out the front of mum and dads house they have a whole variety of bird feeders that are regularly visited by a squirrel. Recently it has been bringing its little one along and teaching it to eat from the feeders (and eat the feeders themselves when they are out of food!). I have never seen a baby squirrel before and I have to say it is the cutest little bean. It hops about in the trees, whilst it waits for its mum to feed, and leaps about like a stunt man from the feeders to the trees (missing fairly frequently and free-falling to the ground!).

3. Stormy skies against the bright-green Wiltshire landscape. I know that everyone whinges about the rain (and the sun, and the wind bla bla bla), but I am a huge fan of the weather (bloody hell that sounds ridiculous!). You know what I mean... I hope. Those heavy, heavy clouds that are full of rain and look menacing and dramatic and remind you that you are a little dot in an amazing universe. This time of year, in juxtaposition to the skies, the fields around where we live are displaying fifty shades of green and look stunning. I adore the contrast of angry skies and bright colours you see!

4. My new shower gel. I know it probably seems crazy to talk about a shower gel, but you have to try this one as it smells so heavenly! When we were doing our ever-so-exciting food shop last week I branched out from my usual body wash and tried the Original Source Sweet Apple and Vanilla moisturising shower gel. Usually I spend zero time worrying about what I use in the shower as I am not awake enough to notice, but I am just here to report that this one is amazing :-)

5. Seeing some adjustments in my physique, following six whole weeks on my new programme. I honestly don't care about my body weight, as it is my clothes/psychological state that is my greatest concern when I start any programme but, for what it is worth, I have lost eleven whole pounds of weight, put on an unknown amount of muscle and dropped roughly five percent body fat. So far, so good. I am loving it but this last two weeks have been quite hard for me. I seem to have settled down again now, but I was craving all the food at all times of the day for a while there and I was beginning to think that my willpower could not hold up. But, here I am, starting week seven and ready to see what other results I am going to get!

In other news:
Joe and I have bought an ever-so-romantic DVD set to watch this weekend. The Hannibal Lecter trilogy is ours people... :-) / I am addicted to listening to Coldplay's most recent album / You may have seen it on my Instagram, but I am currently loving Twinings Salted Caramel Green Tea (I promise it is not sickly). For me it makes a lovely change to peppermint green tea, which will always be my favourite, but when my sweet tooth has woken up from a nap I crack out the caramel one! /  I am lusting after a Chanel nail polish (I cannot spend £18 on a nail varnish so am determined to find a dupe!). The shade I am coveting is called 'Espedrilles' and it is a beautifully vibrant orangey-red.

What have you wonderful people been up to this week?

11 June 2016

FIVE THINGS I AM GRATEFUL FOR THIS WEEK #55

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It's the weekend again! Wowzers is time flying by fast in 2016! Here is the UK it has been getting warmer, which is great but, in normal British style, everyone has been moaning about how humid it is! I would suggest the air-conditioned environment of the gym on those days ;-)

What have you guys been up to?

I think I can safely say that the theme of this week has been 'babies'. I'm not trying to tell you something, panic ye not, it is just that everyone around me seems to have their due-date this week and we have already welcomed a few work-babies and still have more to go! People have been busy haven't they?!

On to the things I am grateful for this week:

1. Heavenly early nights. Guys... this week I have been so tired. Those who know me well will testify that I am 'always tired', which is true, but this week even my tired has been tired! When I got home on Wednesday evening I was like a zombie. I fell asleep on the sofa and, finally sick of my constant dozing, Joe suggested we go to bed at 9pm. It was still light out but I just didn't care. We put the TV on and as soon as my head hit the pillow I was gone. All I remember is that it was warm and there was a lovely breeze coming in the window as I fell asleep... it was wonderful. I woke up for work at 5am the next day feeling so much better than I had the day before. Early nights are something to be super-grateful for that is for sure.

2. Dark chocolate and tea. On my training plan I am allowed a couple of squares of 85% dark chocolate to help stem the cravings (providing they fit in my macros of course!). I am also allowing myself one cup of tea (other than green tea) per day and am just loving this little post-training combination. It may sound daft but these little things are what help keep me on track!

3. Seeing the plants that I thought had given up on life growing little buds and opening into beautiful flowers! It is so rewarding when you have been nurturing something and they manage to push on through :-)

4. Bright red lipstick. Top tip: when you are looking and feeling worn out, chuck on some red lippy and it will make you look more awake! My choices this week have been Mac's 'Relentlessly Red' and Revlon's 'Candy Apple'.

5. I am mostly grateful to the kind woman who stopped me having a potentially very embarrassing situation at the gym the other morning. I turn up in a dozy state, somewhere before 7am, and head towards the ladies changing rooms. Just as I was about to walk in a little voice said 'we are in there today' (pointing to the male changing room... and the smallest sign I have ever seen!). I thanked her for saving me the excruciating pain of walking in on men changing into lycra and head into the manly changing area! By the time I had come back down from my workout there were giant signs in place. Obviously I wasn't the only one not to pay any attention to the mini-signage huh?

In other news:
I have been playing 'put the yummy protein bars into the basket (on Amazon) and then take them out again' because I know that I won't be able to resist them once I have them. They are not bad for you if you only eat them sporadically, but I am pretty sure, feeling as tired as I do right now, will mean me not being able to stop until they are all gone! / Several weeks ago I put a new Podcast into my 'favourites', called 'The Becoming', by Laura Jane Williams (the awesome writer behind the blog 'Superlatively Rude'). I had heard great things about it but just had never had a chance to listen to an episode. Last night, on the way home from work I listened to one randomly (I couldn't find the first one so just hit play on the latest!) and, I have to say, I loved it! In a nutshell, Laura is interviewing amazing people about their 'Becoming' or 'how they have lived their lives and learnt to be ballsy and awesome humans!'. I would highly recommend checking it out. Laura also has a book out, which I am so putting on my wish-list (behind those protein bars obviously!) / It is that time of year again where there are the most gorgeous wild poppies popping up all over the place and I adore them. We have one in our driveway which I just don't have the heart to remove because it is so pretty!

That is my week in a not so small nutshell, how was yours? Tell me about what has made you happy this week?

8 June 2016

SELF APPRECIATION

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{Image sourced from Pinterest}

This feeling I am about to talk about has been years in the making. 35 years to be precise.

The feeling I refer to is, for want of a better phrase, 'Self Appreciation'. Not an arrogant, 'aren't I bloody amazing' sort (although, I wouldn't knock that either), but the sort of appreciation that has accepted where you are now and is enjoying the journey of it. Let me dig into this a bit...

I have spent my whole life, from the earliest of ages, looking at myself and hating what I saw, feeling inadequate, stupid and like my opinions and ideas really don't count for much. Running parallel to those destructive thoughts has been the 'dreaming of being someone else' saga, someone; thinner, more intelligent, taller, funnier, cuter, less awkward (insert endless lists of other hopes here). I think it is safe to say that we all do that, but the question is why? Why waste time on that when we don't have a lot of time anyway.

What we should be doing right now, and every day, is enjoying our own damn journey. It has taken me so long to realise that sculpting my own life, just the way I would like it to be, is all part of the fun. Sometimes the 'fun' is effing difficult to see, like when my coach asks me to send him photos of my flabby physique, but I am learning that I am working on changing that part of me that makes me slightly mad and that is why it is special. I am pushing my body, achieving things I haven't done for a long time, and I wouldn't change it for the world. This last year, rather than looking at another girls body and thinking 'why don't I look like you' and feeling a pang of the green eyed monster, I just think 'wow, she's beautiful' and then get back to my own training and my own goals. If offered the chance to swap bodies with someone else I would have to say a big, fat 'no'. 

Working on launching a business is another example. I didn't approach it for years, choosing to spend way too much time worrying about what could go wrong and how other people are doing so well that I would probably fail. How does that make any sense at all? I have learnt so much by just moving forward, reading business blog posts, listening to podcasts and actually doing the work. Do I have a lot more to learn? Hell yes, ridiculous amounts, but that is the point! 

Being more productive, setting goals (short and long term) and making yourself accountable to something or someone, is the way to start accepting yourself for who and what you are. Sitting still and just day-dreaming about the life you want, whatever this may be to you, is going to lead to comparison, overwhelming lists of reasons why not to do it and self doubt.

I can say, hand on heart, that I would not swap places with a successful business owner who is super fit and super happy and has everything she needs. I am loving my own journey, as cheesy as that sounds. I am discovering so many amazing things and people and enjoying feeling the emotions that come with it (the good and the bad).

Hopefully this makes some kind of sense. Let me know if you are in the same head space as me and tell me what you are working towards in the comments, let's spur each other on!

4 June 2016

FIVE THINGS I AM GRATEFUL FOR THIS WEEK #54

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{Image sourced from Pinterest - I love this quote so much. Every step counts, no matter how small}

Question. Why do weeks off work go by so damn fast? Just thought I would throw that out there for us to think about! It has been one of those weeks off where we have tackled a million and one little jobs that we have been putting off for a while. It sort of feels like I need another week off to actually relax now. I even got to the gym at 6.30am during the week (and 7.30am on Friday morning too!).

I had a rather 'Monica' moment on Monday, when I said to Joe 'I think I am going to clean the oven', and five whole hours later I had blitzed the whole house and it was sparkling... needless to say, I was exhausted. I am a freak who likes to start a week off in a clean kind of way!

What else has made me smile this week?

1. We had a successful trip to the Southampton branch of Ikea on Tuesday and I am super happy that we managed to sort out half of our bedroom furniture and move the chest of drawers that was in our room to the spare room. This meant that we could finally destroy the orangey (very cheap Argos) chest of drawers we had in there that was barely even qualified to be a chest of drawers. I didn't realise how long it takes to actually sort a house out. We have been here for about three years and there are still things that need doing to make it more homely, but I guess it doesn't spur you on when you are renting as much as it would if you owned the place! I also managed to rescue a slightly damaged plant from Ikea. The little guy I bought had a damaged leaf and, where most normal humans would have put him back, I took pity on him and brought him home. He is now all settled in my office.

2. Watching Coldplay do a live set. I wasn't actually there obviously but, by the magic of television I was able to wish I was actually there! Coldplay are one of those bands that I love hearing play live (although I am yet to be at a concert... one day) but I don't always enjoy listening to their albums. Visually they are so inspiring and this most recent album is so colourful and brightly designed live... it was pretty darn good!

3. Re-feed day! Yesterday was a much required high carb day (thanks Olly!). I had some sweet potato for dinner (and a steak) and have never enjoyed a meal more! Well... maybe I have... there was that burger I had several months ago and those fish and chips in St Ives... but, healthy meal wise...the best!

4. Bright blue nails. I painted my nails with Barry M's 'Damson' nail polish on Thursday evening. It is the most royal blue colour but I love it! I tend not to wear it when I am at work as I know the kids at school get told off for nail varnish so I don't like to rub their faces in it! But I enjoy being a 35 year old with blue nails when I am off work! Go me!

5. Starting a new photo challenge on Instagram. If you follow me you will know that I did a May challenge, alongside my IG friend Helen, but we have both decided to jump in for June too and follow along with one that was on Gemma's feed and I love how different it is! Stay tuned to my IG for more on that, or see the challenge here.

I hope you have all had a lovely week and have an even better weekend! xoxo

2 June 2016

GYM LUST LIST

I am someone who, as a rule, feels so much more comfortable and 'myself' in fitness wear and, because of that reason, I am slightly obsessed with many brands and love finding new things to add to my wish-list! This is my currently one...

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1:: Under Armour training t-shirt with 3/4 length sleeves
2:: Marks and Spencer sports bra
3:: Adidas hoodie
4:: My Protein 'Live, Love, Lift' vest top
5:: Nike Air Max Thea Em
6:: Apple iPod Shuffle
7:: Adidas backpack
8:: Adidas t-shirt
9:: Gym Shark burnout leggings

If you have any gym/workout favourites you would like to share then please let me know in the comments below!