Friday happy things: 26th February 2016

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Wow, it’s almost the end of February already. That means we are almost one sixth of the way through 2016. How did that happen?! Anyway, the last full week of this month has been a pretty non-exciting one to be honest. Maybe it seems like all my weeks are dull at the moment, sorry if that’s true. But the good news is that sometimes dull week make for the best Friday posts, because it’s all the little things that have made my week. Here’s a few of those things:

Two ‘early’ starts. By this I mean I was showered, breakfasted, dressed (luckily), ready for the day and at my desk for 8am two days this week. This is probably not an achievement for most people but for me, I have good intentions most days of the week and usually end up rolling into work around 8:40 after I’ve faffed around lying in bed for too long, feeding the cats and cleaning their litter tray and whatever other mundane tasks I realise at the last minute I have to do. So to actually be organised for a few days in the mornings this week felt like I was adulting very well.

Light mornings and sunshine. The above point is probably massively helped by the sunshine that has happened this week. The mornings have been lighter earlier, which means that rather than turning over at 7am because it’s still dark, it’s light enough for me to think ‘let’s get up now’. Walking to work in the sunshine is just the best thing. Shame it’s now forecast to rain alllllll weekend. When can I book an early summer beach holiday?

Treat coffees. On Thursday I had my treat breakfast of the week in the form of a cappuccino (still bloody hard to spell that) and sourdough toast from the coffee shop near work. Such a yummy way to start the morning, even if it is a major carb fest.

Kayla’s BBG week 8. Yup, I am two thirds of the way through the Bikini Body Guide, and the news is that I still hate the name of this guide, but am seeing progress. I’m amazed I have been good enough to stick with it as even though I have had a workout routine before, it was always much less rigid and prescriptive and mainly focused on thinking of the week as a whole and making sure I did enough of a mix of strength, resistance and cardio stuff. This is much more structured and kind of takes a day-by-day approach which is different, and it’s always nice to try new things and have a change. I’ve heard that the last four weeks of the guide are super tough as everything ramps up a lot, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. Oh and I definitely saw some abs two mornings this week so I am happy!

Now onto the weekend. How was your week?

India xx

 

 

Friday happy things: 5th February 2016

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Hello and happy Friday! This week has been a tough one for me with two days off work sick basically lying in my bed and doing not much else. So sorry in advance if this Friday happy things is more home-related than usual. Anyway, here are a few things that have made me happy in amongst my illness:

Mum’s birthday meal. My lovely mama had a birthday on Monday so we met up for a meal with my brother, sister and my sister’s fiance. It’s always lovely when we get together, and this was no exception. Plus unlike last year when I was suffering with glandular fever, I was vaguely awake for this birthday occasion and so we managed to sort out a cake and candles and flowers and everything. It was a lovely celebration.

Peanut butter and banana on toast. I know this is the most lame thing ever, but honestly, when I was ill this week and could barely stomach any food, this was my absolute saviour. Plus it is yummy.

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Abs. Sorry, this is a really self-obsessed one. Despite my best efforts at eating carbs on top of carbs for around three days this week, it seems that all the work I have been doing in the gym and in the kitchen is finally starting to pay off. This week my abs decided to come out to play a little on a couple of mornings, aka when I woke up and got changed I could see some kind of definition in my stomach. I’m vain so yeah I took a picture and compared it to one from way back this time in 2015, and guess what? They look THE SAME. How is this even possible? Anyway, this is a sign that I need to keep up the good work!

Kitties. I am never more grateful for our two cats than when I am ill. They are such cuties when I’m unwell, they seem to know that I’m poorly and are extra gentle with me. They have spent the last two days snuggled on the bed or sofa with me and generally being great pals when I have been in the house by myself all day feeling pretty yucky.

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Clara & Macy star. I was a really bad wife and despite my good intentions, didn’t manage to get us a bauble for our first Christmas as husband and wife. I had grand ideas of getting a special decoration to commemorate our first festive season as Mr and Mrs, but I didn’t get it sorted. So when this keepsake star by Clara & Macy came into the sale on not on the high street, I quickly contacted the seller and asked if it would be possible to have it customised. I’ll be honest, the first star arrived (in amazing packaging, I would add) and I was so disappointed to see they put the wrong date on it! 2016 not 2015. But they were really helpful and re-did the engraving and sent out a new one asap. Now I am sad that I have to pack it away until next Christmas! But I would definitely use Clara & Macy again for keepsakes, and as we have two new babies arriving in our family/close friends this year I will keep them in mind as it would be a perfect little keepsake.

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All change. Now that it’s actually official I can share with you that my husband has a new job! It is his last day in his current role today, which is weird and it all seems to have happened very quickly, but he starts a new role with a different company on the 15th February. It’s all very new and exciting and also a little bit stressful as well with the unknown, but I am so proud of him and hopefully there are lots of great things in store for him in his new job.

 

 

Pros and cons of the Kayla Itsines bikini body guide

I am now in week four of my first attempt at getting through the Kayla Itsines Bikinin Body Guide. I thought I would do an honest post about how I have found the process so far, and what the main pros and cons are of the guide for me. I hope you find it helpful, and do keep in mind that this is only my view, and workouts are really personal things so what I like or dislike won’t be the same for you or another person. It’s about finding what’s right for you, and although this isn’t perfect, I am keeping up with the guide well and enjoying it.

Let’s start with the positives:

It’s a challenge. It seems simple, because there are only four exercises and you only have to do them for seven minutes each. So it shouldn’t be that hard, right?! But it is! And that makes me want to be better at it.

You see improvement. The rate you improve is quite surprising. The first time I did one of Kayla’s workouts, despite considering myself a pretty ok fit person, I was struggling. Because she included moves that I don’t normally opt to do – pylometric jumps etc are not something I normally encourage myself to do because they aren’t my fave.

There’s a routine. I find it really good to follow a guide that works different parts of your body on various days of the week. The workouts are split into cardio and legs; arms and abs; and full body. On the in between days you do a mix of low intensity steady state cardio (basically brisk walking up a hill) and high intensity interval training (short bursts of very intense activity with short periods of active rest in between), so you are moving for at least half an hour, six days a week. Everything is mapped out for you and it’s easy to follow.

There’s definite progress. Some of the exercises you hate the first time round don’t seem so bad once you get the hang of them. Step up with reverse lunge is murder the first time you try it, but once you actually get the hang of how to do it it’s not so tough.

It’s sweaty. The first time you get hot and sweaty during the cardio workout, it feels like your body is screaming ‘I’m not fit enough for this’. But then you realise that it’s only half an hour and it works up a real sweat, which surely is a good thing.

Strength building. Even though I’ve only done three full weeks, I already feel stronger. I think I still need to be more consistent with my diet to see even more results, but I am definitely feeling stronger in my arms, legs and core in particular.

Lack of need for loads of equipment. Ok, so you do need some things to be able to do these workouts at home, but I already had most of the equipment needed. The only thing I don’t have is a step, and instead I just use my stairs because I am too scared to use a chair in case I lose my balance! But the key thing is you can do the workouts at home and don’t need an expensive gym membership. I do have a gym membership anyway, and it’s useful for the cardio as well, but you can do it without.

The online community. Even though it can be disheartening to see perfect bodies on instagram, I definitely see the BBG hashtag as a friendly place. I haven’t posted on any of the hashtags yet (sorry!) but I do find that if I need to encourage myself to do a workout, looking on instagram and seeing the progress of others and even the videos people post of them doing the workouts is just the kick I need.

It’s winter friendly. I think the Kayla workouts would be brilliant to do outside in summer, BUT they are also really winter friendly in that you can do everything in a relatively small space without tons of equipment.

The nutrition guide doesn’t focus on calories. Instead, it focuses on food groups and how many portions of each food group you can have per day. It breaks down the portions into measurable amounts e.g. you can have six portions of carbohydrates a day – one portion is a quarter of a cup of brown rice.

Flexibility. I really like that the guide includes info on how you can move the planned workouts around, and offers advice on what not to put back-to-back (clue: doing cardio and legs one day and then full body the next is not the one). This means that I never feel like I’m off track – if I do have to miss a workout for some reason I can make it up another day by shifting the weekly schedule slightly. For instance this week on Monday I was feeling so energyless I decided to have a rest. So I did cardio and legs on Tuesday (meant to be Monday in the plan), and then will just push the rest of the week back a day to finish on Sunday with LISS. OK so it means next Monday I will have to start again without a rest day, but the flexibility means I’m more likely to stick to the plan.

And now for the cons:

The name. I mean, after the whole debate about bikini bodies and the fact that if you have a body, and put a bikini on it, you have a bikini body…yeah, I just don’t think this is the best name for it and encourages women to put themselves down.

Misleading images. I know I said above about instagram being a great support, but it can also be misleading. For instance, you will see ‘progress’ or ‘before and after’ images that are hashtagged BBG etc, but then when you read the caption is says bikini body guide 1.0 (there is pre-training, 1.0 and 2.0) round 3. I.e. they have been doing this for a total of 36 weeks, and have often added in other training, not sticking religiously to the guide. People will also put ‘BBG week 2’ but will have completed four weeks of pre-training, so really it’s week 6. And the confusion goes on. Basically, it can set unreal expectations.

The price. I got a discount, but it is still pretty pricey and you can definitely find similar things elsewhere much cheaper. Gosh, you could design your own version for free if you put the thought into it.

The cost of equipment. As I said above, the guide doesn’t need a mammoth amount of equipment, but the cost can add up if you don’t own any of it already and don’t have a gym membership. For instance, buying dumbbells and a mat and a step can really add up.

The nutrition guide is separate. Kayla also produces a ‘HELP’ guide, which stands for ‘Healthy Eating and Lifestyle Plan’, which has to be purchased separately to the workout guides. I think separating them is just a money spinner as really, you could stick to the workout guides but eat the wrong stuff and see NO difference. Similarly you wouldn’t see the results as depicted on insta if you only stuck to the nutrition guide (though you would probably see more of a result this way than by following the workouts and eating pizza every day).

The difficulty level. Regardless of the pre-workout option, I’m pretty sure that if you came at this guide completely fresh having never done any circuit training or pylometric workouts before, it would be a massive struggle, and probably not do-able. Because of this it’s not very inclusive, and kind of skews the results as you have to have a certain level of fitness to be able to even get through four weeks of the guides, so of course the results are likely to be impressive alot of the time.

Lack of adjustment options. In classes I go to at the gym, the instructors often offer us options to make the exercises easier or harder. For instance with press ups you could do half press ups on your knees, or if you want to make it harder (don’t know why ANYONE would want to do this!) you can go deeper and try to literally touch your nose to the floor each time. Within Kayla’s workouts there aren’t options. Well, at least not that are clearly presented, anyway. That can mean that if you’re struggling alot, you end up just stopping, rather than adapting what you’re doing to make it appropriate for your skill or energy level.

Not knowing if you’re doing it right. Although the guide has explanations of the exercises in, and you can look up videos online, unless you happen to have a wall of mirrors in your home or are doing this in the gym where there are lots of mirrors, you won’t know if you’re doing the exercises correctly. Now this might not seem like too much of a big deal, but I know from previous experience how keen our bodies are on taking the easy route whenever possible, because the harder route hurts. You can adjust your posture slightly during an exercise and it makes it a hell of a lot harder, and because nobody is watching with the Kayla workouts, you could be cheating and getting away with it. But I suppose this is a common problem with all guides/exercise DVDs etc, so not unique to Kayla’s guides.

So, that’s my take on the guides so far. I’ll keep you updated with how I get on, and hopefully will be able to share my thoughts when I reach week 12, even if I have to do so kicking and screaming and rolling around on the floor in a pool of my own sweat. What a beautiful image.

Have any of you followed this guide before? How did you get on with it?

India xx

Weekend happiness: 19th October 2015

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Before we get into this post, can we all just take a moment to stop and gasp at the date?! How on earth it got to be the 19th October is something I just can’t understand.

Anyway, now that’s done, let me tell you about my weekend. This was one of those weekends where we didn’t accomplish very many practical things, or do many wholesome activities, but it was awesome none the less. Here’s a quick summary:

  • Saturday morning lie in and bacon sandwich. Is there anything better than lying around in bed and then getting up late and having a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea? If there is, I want to know about it, because this combo is always just what I need.
  • A little bit of shopping. I haven’t been shopping by myself in a while, so on Saturday I braved the local shopping centre (mistake – it was rammed) and bought a few bits. Nothing ground breaking, but it was nice to buy a couple of small things. Then on Saturday afternoon we headed to the outlet village at Junction 28, primarily to buy a suit for my husband, who struggles to find suits that fit in most shops apart from, apparently, the Moss Bros outlet shop, which is basically our saviour. I had also been hunting and hunting for a dress to wear to a wedding we are going to next weekend, and come up with nothing. Then I headed into the French Connection outlet shop and got the perfect dress, reduced from £130 down to £29. I love it.
  • Saturday night Mexican food. Since we had early morning nachos in Madrid I have been craving more nachos. We got takeaway from Amigos – for those of you who live in Sheffield, you will know that Amigos on London road is tasty tasty Mexican food. I got my nachos and burrito fix, and we even had Corona to go with it. Yey.
  • Sunday morning workout. I love how a workout on a Sunday morning is literally the last thing my body wants to do, but once I’m actually doing it, I am so glad I dragged myself out of bed and got my pulse going. Afterwards, when I’m a bit of a sweaty mess, jumping in the shower and getting clean just sets me up so well for my Sunday. Definitely a great way to start the last day of the weekend.
  • Hot chocolate. We had grand plans to go for a nice walk yesterday, but the weather did not play ball. It was literally one of those times where we faffed around getting ready, then the minute we put our coats on, it started raining. Then it got heavier, and we didn’t reeeeeally fancy walking in the rain, so instead we drove to the Tickled Trout at Barlow, where we went last November and I had the most epic hot chocolate. On that visit we also had a roast dinner, but to be honest it is pretty pricey and although it was nice, the portions weren’t massive. If I’m paying £18 for a roast dinner, I want to come out of that experience pretty damn full. ANYWAY the point is that ever since then we said we would go back just for a hot chocolate on a cold day, and so we did. It was everything I wanted – yummy warm hot chocolate with cream, marshmallows, malteasers and smarties (seriously, it’s amazing), plus comfy seats and a woodburner. Definitely going to go back there again.
  • Visiting the sister-in-law. My husband’s little sister (who is not so little anymore!) recently got her first job in a local Derbyshire pub, so we popped in to see her and say ‘hi’ and generally just show some support – she is doing brilliantly and we are super proud of her earning money and looking super professional as a waitress!
  • John Bramwell. In case none of you know who he is, John Bramwell is the lead singer of I am Kloot, a band that one of my oldest friends introduced me to back in year 8. Then when I was 14, I went with my sister and some friends to see the band at The Ritz in Manchester, and loved it. Last year, we went to see John doing his acoustic solo tour in Hebden Bridge and it was amazing. So this year, my amazing husband kept an eye out for the same tour happening again and got us tickets to the gig at the Greystones in Sheffield. It was such a great night, the music was as ever amazing, and on top of that I laughed so much it felt like an ab workout. It was great.

Wow so that ‘little’ roundup turned into a mammoth 800 word post! Sorry for that.

How was your weekend?

xx

Links I’ve loved: 27th September 2015

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It’s a bit of a short one this week – I’ve been pretty busy and haven’t actually had that much time to read things online, or offline, actually. I have been trying to start a book on my Kindle app all week, and just haven’t managed to! It’s called ‘You, me and other people’ by Fionnuala Kearney – let me know what you thought if you’ve read it.

Anyway enough waffling, onto the actual point of the post, the things I have read and liked this week:

This post from Hand Luggage Only about things to do in Lisbon has reminded me that I want to visit this city. Lots of gorgeous pictures to drive the point home!

I’ve mentioned a few times recently that I am slacking quite a lot on doing cardio, and finding it a bit of a hurdle to get back into running regularly, so this post about cardio workouts that don’t involve running or equipment basically reminded me that HIIT workouts count as cardio and are over more quickly than a 40 minute run!

Finally, in case I haven’t mentioned this before, for some reason I absolutely hate doing lunges. Whether it’s because I’ve got slightly dodgy knees, or because I find them easier with my back leg on a step but don’t really have space to do this at home….I don’t know. BUT thankfully popsugar put together this post on alternatives to lunges, and I’ve already tried out some of the moves I hadn’t done before. The tabletop bridge looks super easy but it actually was getting pretty hard by the 12th rep of the first set, never mind the last rep of the third set!

What have you been reading and loving this week?

India xx

Eleven really simple tips for healthier eating

FullSizeRender(83)Last year I tried to get out of an eating rut we had gotten into where basically we had takeaways at least twice a week, and ate lots of pasta the rest of the time. When I wrote this post about five fairly healthy recipes we use quite often, I realised there were a few more generic tips I could share. They may or may not work for you, if you’re on a health crusade they will probably mean absolutely nothing to you, but for people who generally want to be a bit healthier without eating only quinoa and pulses, this could be helpful…

  1. Switch to wholegrain. By this I mean wholegrain pasta, brown rice etc. Yes you should also switch your bread but let’s be honest, the better thing to do is to eat a bit less bread.
  2. Be careful with portions. I have some measuring cups on the side in the kitchen. I’m not fanatical about it, but when I’m cooking something like pasta, I will serve about three quarters of a cup for me, and a full cup and a bit for my husband. That way I know exactly how much I’m eating. I do the same for most carb-y things that aren’t veggies, like pasta, rice, noodles etc.
  3. Up your protein. It’s really easy to increase your protein intake by just taking away a few of the carbs on your place and replacing them with things that are naturally protein rich. I love chicken, salmon and occasionally pork or beef.
  4. Drink water. I started off drinking dilute (aka squash for most people), then slowly decreased the amount of squash I was diluting with water, then moved to just squeezing lemon in my water, then finally just graduated to drinking plain water. Top tip – run the tap for long enough for it to get properly cold (I know that’s not environmentally friendly, sorry). Also did you know your body can’t tell the difference between thirst and hunger (you probs DID know that but just in case, or as a reminder, it’s true) so always try and drink something, preferably water, before having a snack.
  5. Try to cook things from scratch. This was mainly brought on by my egg allergy as I got so sick of using sauces by accident that had egg in them. Instead, if you only use basic things that you need e.g. curry paste instead of a jar of sauce, make your own pasta sauce etc, it all becomes a lot healthier because you avoid the hidden sugars within shop made stuff.
  6. Eat more vegetables. This seems like a really obvious one but is so true. If you have more vegetables on your plate, plus protein, your less likely to have space for processed carbs. Veggies are carbs, after all, but the healthier kind (in my book). Try and vary it a bit so you’re not always eating carrot and broccoli. If you hate eating veg, try it in a smoothie mixed with some fruit. You might like it.
  7. Don’t feel like you have to buy into all of the fads. You don’t need cacao and flaxseed, agave syrup, tons of quinoa and sunflower seeds to eat healthily. You can just change the things you’re already eating slightly and it will definitely make a difference.
  8. Try snacking on nuts. Only a handful – don’t eat the whole bag. Almonds and cashews are my fave, but be careful of fruit and nut mixes which have lots of sugar in.
  9. Try to avoid boiling vegetables. This takes away most of their goodness. Steaming or even roasting is (as far as I’m aware) preferable.
  10. Get your breakfast and lunch sorted. It’s so easy to focus on eating healthy evening meals and then have toast for breakfast plus a sandwich and crisps for lunch. Instead, try making a salad for lunch plus having carrot sticks to give you the crunch you might miss in the crisps. In terms of breakfast I’m still not 100% sure what works for me – I love Greek yoghurt with some kind of berries but don’t think dairy is super helpful to my skin, so I’m still not 100% sure.
  11. Try adapting baking recipes. This means you can still enjoy treats but safe in the knowledge they are actually healthier than something you would buy at the shop. I love making banana bread, so I adapt the recipe to include slightly less sugar, replace half the amount of white flour with spelt wholegrain flour, and include dark chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate. I also add cinnamon as it helps to curb the appetite.

My final, more general tip is a bit hippyish so I won’t include it in the main list. Focus on how what you eat makes you feel. Ok, so this is one of the more touchy feely ones, but hear me out. When I eat a kit kat mid afternoon, I love how the melted chocolate tastes in my mouth. But what I don’t love is an hour later when I’m majorly sugar crashing and feel dizzy and a bit sick, because I ate the kit kat on a not full stomach and I’m sensitive to sugar. When I eat a takeaway like Pizza Hut, I love how good it tastes when I’m eating it, but immediately regret it afterwards when my stomach is bloated and making popping noises. LISTEN to your body – then only have one finger of kit kat because that won’t make you sugar crash, and have a couple of slices of pizza because that will be enough to enjoy it but not enough to bloat your stomach to the size of the moon. I think we have become so out of tune with our bodies that it’s sometimes really good to focus on how certain foods make you feel after you’ve eaten them, rather than how you feel whilst you’re actually chowing down on them.

Ok yep so that’s all of my tips. I know they’re not ground breaking but they’ve helped me. What are your tips for healthier eating?

India xx

 

Five of my fave semi-healthy meals

FullSizeRender(82)It’s really easy to get into a food rut, isn’t it? Last week I had a few pretty bad homemade salads at work – for some reason the combinations of ingredients just weren’t working and I have gone back to basics this week in an attempt to make my lunchtimes less ‘uuurgh why do I have to eat this’ and more ‘YUM I get to eat THIS’. In the meantime, I thought I would share some of the things we love to make at home. I’m not sure they all count as healthy, but they taste good!

1. Jamie oliver bacon, pea and creme fraiche pasta

The recipe here isn’t that healthy in terms of calories, but we are careful with portion sizes and there’s not too much creme fraiche in the recipe so I reckon it’s not too bad. We use wholemeal pasta, frozen mint leaves, frozen peas and little packs of pancetta that you can buy from the shop that have a use by date of about 2 months in advance. So that makes this a really easy meal to throw together without too much thought, and is perfect for when you’re craving something carb-y but means you’re not going the whole hog with a crazily creamy pasta sauce as well.
2. Slow cooked pork and sweet potato wedges

As a clue, that’s what the picture at the top of this post is of. DROOL. Since we got our slow cooker (which is one of the best presents we’ve ever been given!) we have experimented with a few different recipes. I love doing bolognese for a wintery evening, but cooking a whole joint of pork is also crazily simple. You basically fill the pot half full with water, pop the joint in and cook on low for a good few hours. It literally falls apart on your plate. I usually serve it with honeyed carrots if I’m feeling a bit fancy, plus homemade sweet potato wedges or fries. These are another thing which are so crazily simple to make, just peel your sweet potato and cut into slices, turn your oven up to the max, coat the slices in a little oil with some salt and pepper mixed in – lay them out on a baking tray and bake for half an hour, turning half way through. Such a dream.
3. Salmon with cous cous and salad

We get our salmon (skinless and boneless fillets because we hate fish with bones!) from the fishmonger’s counter at the supermarket and then eat some the next day and freeze another portion. We just grill the fillets, sometimes in foil if we have any, or if not without, and then mix with a cous cous sachet (half each) and some salad, whatever we have in the fridge.
4. Chicken stir fry

This is something we eat really often. We use brown rice or wholemeal noodles which makes it that bit healthier, and tend to use broccoli, at least one colour of pepper, sometimes carrot, sweetcorn and always red onion. The more veg, the better basically. We get our chicken from the butcher and buy the offcuts of chicken breasts (what supermarkets sell as ‘diced chicken’) which works out crazily cheap.
5. Curry cooked from paste

We use curry paste, some more of the cheap as chips chicken (which is free range, FYI), then add in a can of chopped tomatoes, some chopped onion, and hey presto, we have a tasty as anything curry. We usually add wholegrain rice, sometimes brown pilau rice if we are feeling a little bit fancier than usually, and that’s that.

What are your favourite things to cook?

India

Fitness: Coming back to exercise after illness

IMG_7125I know you’re probably sick of hearing me banging on about it, but earlier this year I was pretty ill. Not seriously ill, but I did have a virus that the doctors thought was glandular fever. I didn’t get ill all at once. I started feeling tired and run down, but it was February, I was really stressed at work, so I just thought it was normal. Looking back, I had lost my grip on how to function – I didn’t even buy my amazing husband (then fiance) a birthday card until the day of his birthday. But I didn’t see just how ill I felt. I knew I felt bone tired, and could barely even put one foot in front of the other to walk to work, and just wanted to sleep when I got home, but I genuinely just thought I was being a drama queen. In the end I got dragged to the doctors and after two rounds of blood tests ended up taking a full week (plus two weekends of rest) off work. I could and probably should have taken longer to recover – I wasn’t fully back to myself for about a month after I returned to work, but felt too guilty to take any more time off.

The funny thing is, when I was feeling ill, I still managed to keep up my workouts for the most part. Afterwards I mainly just went home and got into bed, but I kept slogging at the gym because I didn’t want to lose my grip on my routine and for my wedding dress to not fit. This was a bit of a silly approach, but I don’t think I had a very good grasp on healthy decision making at that point.

Anyway, when I was feeling really ill and definitely when I was off sick, I just wasn’t well enough to exercise and so had to take a complete break. The phrase ‘it only takes four weeks to lose your fitness’ kept running around in my head as I lay in bed too tired to even make it down to the sofa. Once I started feeling even vaguely better, I was back in the gym. And then had to take another break. I felt so weak and just like all my work over the past year and a bit to improve my fitness was going to waste.

Anyway, during this time I learned a few things. I learned to listen to my body and rest when necessary, and also that my fitness didn’t dwindle as much as I thought it would. So then I thought it might be helpful to some people somewhere if I shared my experience. Without any more faffing around, here are my tips:

1. Remember not to try and get straight back into your workouts as they were before. One tip I was given was to increase the frequency of workouts first, i.e. get back to working out the same amount of times a week as you used to, and then slowly up the intensity to what you used to do. So whereas before I was ill I might have been squatting 20kg for 25 reps x 3 sets, and doing this at least three times a week, coming back from illness I had to drop the weight, do fewer reps, and start off with two sessions a week, then build up.

2. Listen to your body. Yes, it’s frustrating feeling like you’re going backwards and have lost fitness, but it will be even worse if you injure yourself whilst getting back into the routine. Don’t be afraid to push your body but listen to it carefully as well.

3. Get expert advice. If you’re not sure how to get back into training, ask an expert. That might be a trainer that you have worked with before, or someone new but well qualified and highly recommended.

4. Don’t beat yourself up too much. It’s hard when your body just can’t hack what it used to find pretty easy. But remember, you got there before, and it’s likely you will get back to that place more quickly this time because your body has been down that path before.

5. Eat properly. When you’re feeling ill, it’s easy to just mainline sugary carbs whilst horizontal on the sofa. If that makes you feel better during your illness then I suppose you kind of have to do it, but don’t continue those habits once you’re better. Remember that your body needs fuelling properly if it’s going to hack the training you will be getting back into. So make sure you are eating enough protein in general but particularly after workouts to help repair and build muscle.

6. Remind yourself you can’t do everything at once, and sometimes something has to give. Once I was back at work, I cancelled pretty much all after work social engagements for quite a few weeks, to leave my evenings free to rest and get better. This also worked well in terms of getting a quick workout in after work, and getting back into the routine. But I definitely wouldn’t have got back into working out anywhere near as quickly had I also been holding on to my social life with both hands. Remember that sometimes, something might have to give.

7. Use the break as an opportunity to revamp your workouts. It’s really easy to get stuck in a workout rut (I spoke about that here), and sometimes a little time away from your routine will remind you that things are getting a bit monotonous. I read workout magazines whilst ill and collated my favourite workout ideas, to help me feel excited about going to the gym and to introduce more variety into my routine.

8. Don’t feel like you have to do something everyday, but be sure to do something if you feel like you have the energy. So, even if you’re on a scheduled rest day, if you’re feeling raring to go, do an ab workout, or something you can do relatively quickly and simply that won’t work your whole body, be too intense or tire you out completely. If you start doing full workouts on your rest days you will probably be on a slippery slope pretty quickly, and that’s never a good thing.

9. Build up slowly, but surely. Try and create a routine that is manageable, and still pushes your body, but not to its absolute limit.

10. Understand that recovery takes time, and doing too much too soon could make you ill again, and set you back even further, so if in doubt, take it on the easy side.

11. Don’t use illness as an excuse. It’s easy to get into a cycle of feeling ill, not working out, and then feeling guilty about it. Before you know it, six months will have passed since you started your recovery and you won’t have been to the gym in that time. That will be far more harmful to your fitness than doing gentle exercise for the first two months after your illness, and then slowly increasing the frequency and intensity of your training.

12. Don’t give up. One day, perhaps sooner than you think, you might surprise yourself and be lifting more than you were pre-illness, or running further, or faster. Losing some of my fitness really woke me up to the fact I was fitter than I thought I was, and although I did lose some of that fitness and haven’t done enough consistent cardio to get my 10km running stamina back fully, I’m now lifting more than I was pre-illness, and feeling strong. So it can be done.

Have you come back to exercise after being ill or having an injury? How did you handle it, and what are your top tips to help others in a similar position? Thanks in advance for sharing.

India xx

Weekend happiness: 17th August 2015

IMG_7107First of all, how the heck did it get to be the 17th August?! That’s more than half way through the EIGHTH month of the year! And is that how you spell eighth?! I just don’t know where I am with life anyway. ANYWAY putting that slight life crisis to one side, this weekend was a lovely one. It wasn’t super sunny, I didn’t get lots of productive stuff done, but I did spend time with some great people. On the downside, my hayfever/allergies majorly reared their ugly head – on Sunday evening my face went all puffy and red around my eyes which is just adorable. Or not. I’m still not 100% back to normal but antihystamines and eye drops are doing their best to keep the problems at bay. So, here is my roundup of what happened over the weekend…

Friday afternoon. We decided to have Friday afternoon off work together, so I skipped out of the office at 1pm into…rain and cloud. I had envisaged an afternoon picnic in the sunshine, but instead we retreated to the shopping centre because the weather was just so horrible and miserable. We went to Wagamama’s for a late lunch- I have waited so long to go, everyone kept raving about how accommodating they are towards dietary requirements but it just never made it to the top of our list. It was great (I had ramen with chicken, pic at the top!) and lovely to spend some couple time together. After lunch we picked up a few bits and bobs from the glamorous places of poundland and primark, and I also bought a few bits and bobs from Victoria’s Secret which felt like a nice treat as well. Friday evening was spent snuggled up on the sofa which was just perfect.

Saturday family time. On Saturday we headed up the motorway to Harrogate to visit my grandma, along with my mum and her partner. We had a light lunch, a little walk, and watched the DVD of our wedding photos which was just so amazing to share with my grandma and my mum as neither had seen the DVD version of the photos yet. Then we bombed it back down the motorway (not literally, though I was driving so y’know, it was a tad erratic!) to meet the other side of the family, my in-laws, who popped over for pizza takeaway and a catch up which is always lovely. We even managed to get a little evening walk in too which was nice.

Sunday walking. On Sunday a friend and I had decided to do the Sheffield Round Walk, in training for the sponsored walk in September which I may not even be able to take part in now, but never mind, I wanted to do this walk anyway so off we went. Now the first mistake we made was calculating miles to kilometres wrongly. We thought it was 14 miles, and estimated this as 20km, which it is NOT. Then we walked from my house to the start of the route, which added on a solid 1.5 miles. By the time we had finished we did 16 miles in total, and some of it was HILLY. We called it a day at the official finish of the walk after 16 miles, got ourselves an ice cream and got a lift home from the finish. This was definitely the right choice judging by how tired I was last night! It’s highly recommended if you want to see lots of different areas of Sheffield, though, and the views are amazing, even if it was a little grey yesterday.

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My legs today feel fine as I was very strict and did some stretches at the park whilst waiting in the queue for the public toilets (I got some strange looks but it was worth it to avoid stiff muscles this morning) but I think I will probably leave it a while before doing it again – my feet were a bit sore and boy was I glad to get my trainers off when I got home!

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Sunday evening eats. On Sunday evening we were going to BBQ but I was pretty exhausted so instead had tea cooked for me by my amazing husband – despite my demand for ‘tons of carbs’ because I was hungry, he made a pretty healthy tea of steamed chicken with veg and cous cous, which was so tasty. Then it was an early night for me and my tired legs.

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Not to sound like I’m bragging, but I am really looking forward to this week because I have lots of exciting plans – a couple of dinners out with friends, a few work lunches, and of course final prep for our holiday next week. We are flying from Birmingham airport on Sunday morning and have got a hotel at the airport on Saturday eve. I’d love to go out in Birmingham for a nice but pretty casual meal – I have been to Bodega before and loved their burritos and margheritas, but any recommendations you have would be very gratefully received.

India xx

 

13 easy ways to get out of an exercise rut

FullSizeRender(12)I think it’s surprisingly easy to get into a massive rut with fitness habits. Maybe the rut is that you’ve actually got out of the habit of doing fitness-related stuff, or it might be only ever doing cardio at the gym, or even just always lifting the same weights. In essence, I think I feel like I’m in a rut if I’m not inspired to do exercise, or if I’m exercising but not seeing the results I would like. Anyway, I have recently been trying to dig myself out of a fitness rut, so thought I would share some tips that have worked for me.

1. Try a new class. It might be that you try the same type of class but with a different instructor, or at a different time of day, or a whole new thing that you’ve never done before. You never know, you might like it, or it might make you appreciate how much you like the classes you already go to.

2. Lift heavier weights. Now, I’m not a qualified fitness professional, so please don’t just take my word for it and go straight to the heaviest weight in the gym. My point is, it might be that you’re not challenging yourself anymore – someone once said to me that every time you go to the gym you should be aiming to increase either the weights or the reps you are lifting. I know in reality it’s way more complicated than that, but the point is, if you can bicep curl 8kg for 10 reps, you should probably be upping the weight to something that is more challenging for you. That’s not to say you should abandon the 8kg altogether – it depends whether you are going for strength or endurance, but just lifting the same weights for the same reps week in, week out, is not going to challenge your body.

3. Try a new machine at the gym. As I mentioned last week, I am going to be asking the staff at my new gym to show me the ropes (sorry for the pun!) on the cable machine. Yes I can look it up on the internet, but the staff are the experts so I might as well have their input.

4. Try a new workout environment. That might be moving gyms, or working out outside, or even at home. Different surroundings might make you feel inspired.

5. Take up a team sport. For instance, you could try netball or rounders – it might make you feel like you’re back at school BUT you might find you actually like it. Plus you will have the added encouragement of not wanting to let the team down.

6. Find new workout moves. I often buy Women’s Health magazine (I don’t have a subscription but I definitely should because it would save me lots of pennies) and even though it is full of advertising and basically trying to sell you stuff on every single page, it does include some really good workout suggestions. I rip out the ones I think look interesting, and have got them in a pile in our bedroom. That way, if I’m wanting to be inspired, I can just pick out a page and I have a readymade workout. It also means I am trying new moves which I’m not used to, which in turn challenges me in terms of coordination, and gives me ideas of new things to include in my more regular go-to routines.

7. Go online. I love fitness blender workouts, and they have so many available that it’s kind of hard to not be inspired by them.

8. Find bloggers/instagrammers/youtubers/writers that inspire you, and read/watch their content. For instance, I know I’m always banging on about Rebekah from Goldfish Kiss, but her blog genuinely inspires me. She makes me want to have a massive tasty salad for lunch instead of a burger, and to go and find a beach to run on – her blog is just really refreshing and inspiring to me. Reading her content makes me want to try new things, and when she posts workout suggestions I lap them up and give them a try. Unless they involve sand running, in which case I have to weep  a small landlocked tear and pick something different to do.

9. Ask someone to give you an updated fitness plan. That could mean you ask at your gym for a new programme, or find a PT who will make one for you. Last year I had an amazing PT, and as well as so many other things, what I loved about seeing her for two sessions a week was how fresh she kept everything. It was never the same thing, always something new – even if we did the same move it might be with a different weight, or a slightly different combination of movements. It kept me interested.

10. Try interval training. I find it helps to keep me focused – for instance on the treadmill, instead of doing a steady half hour slog, I do one minute intervals with 30 seconds rest inbetween, and it makes the minutes fly by. I don’t do it for half an hour, mainly because I don’t think I could sustain it, but it does make twenty minutes go crazily quickly.

11. Change the amount of time you work out for. I know this sounds counterproductive, but if you’re in the gym for an hour and a half, four times a week, it might be that you’re just boring yourself into not wanting to do it anymore. So you might want to cut down the amount of time, but try and be more efficient with your workout design – for instance, are there compound moves you can do to work several parts of your body at the same time? Think lunges with hammer curls and so on. Similarly, if you’re in the gym five days a week for 45 minutes, you might want to go down to three or four days a week for an hour and really make it count.

12. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a workout. Yes, it’s better to do something than nothing, but sometimes going to the gym just isn’t going to happen. If I’m tired, instead of forcing myself to go to the gym or do a workout at home, sometimes it’s better to rest, as long as I am then strict the next time I have a workout scheduled.

13. Update your music. I am really bad and just rely on my gym to provide music, and just don’t listen to music if I’m outside. But it is so motivating to have a good soundtrack, so it’s definitely an easy change to make. I would go for an 80s mix, but that’s just me!

I think those are all of my tips. It’s not a perfect science, not at all, but hopefully some of those ideas will help you to get out of your excercise rut if you ever do find yourself in one! How do you keep things fresh with your workout routine?

India