Review: Level 2 Fitness Instructor Training with No.1 Fitness Education

@no1fitnesseducation

Good news, my Level 2 Fitness Instructor exams are out the way and now just a few weeks away from the Level 3 Personal Trainer exams, both with No.1 Fitness Education.

Having Level 2 under my belt means I’m qualified to work in a gym environment, show people around the gym floor, instruct the resistance machines and free-weights and write generic programmes for clients, advising generally on machines and exercises and helping clients feel more comfortable navigating the gym floor alone.

So what’s the difference between Level 2 and Level 3 certification? As a Level 2 Fitness Instructor I wouldn’t be able to create personalised fitness and nutrition plans – that only comes with Level 3, as you’re then qualified to work as a personal trainer. With that, comes the wider scope to programme for individual needs and specific training or weight loss goals.

What is the Level 2 Fitness Instructor training like?

If you’re thinking about doing a Personal Trainer course then Level 2 is your gateway to get there. I chose No.1 Fitness Education because it’s one of the last remaining classroom based personal trainer courses, which I feel is super important when learning to teach something physical and practical.

There were eight of us in the class and the sessions were every Saturday for seven weeks in London. To complete Level 3, it’s a total of 11 weeks.

  • LOTS of anatomy and physiology – it’s was most definitely school years that I last looked at the inner workings of the body so it was time to brush up and get familiar with the heart, lungs, muscles, nervous system, etc again. I thought I’d struggle but actually the e-learning materials were easy to follow and I found it all surprisingly interesting.
  • I had to organise my time – in between each weekly classroom session there was homework and e-learning modules to complete, which probably took around five to six hours a week. I had to prescribe set hours each week to get this work done and then enough time ahead of the exam to revise.
  • Having real teacher time was invaluable – now I’ve seen how valuable teacher-student contact is on a PT course, I think choosing a class-based course is essential. The collective of tutors at No.1 were so dedicated to our learning it was impressive. We had them on WhatsApp whenever we needed and there were regular checkins throughout the week. Plus, it was more than just delivering the curriculum, as they were continuously imparting personal experience and industry knowledge along the way, which is what made them stand out.
  • We learnt useful teaching techniques – it doesn’t matter how well you know the gym floor, what’s important is being able to relay that information clearly, concisely and safely to a client. So we learnt specific teaching cues and formats. Once you learn the techniques of how to teach, you can apply it to all aspects of fitness instructing so spending the time to get this foundation right it’s super useful.
  • We became very familiar with the gym floor – if you already train in a conventional gym this part will be familiar to you. It’s been years since I’ve used traditional resistance machines in a conventional gym (literally can’t remember the last time I used a leg adductor / abductor!) as I train in a functional training CrossFit box so I was a bit rusty on some of the machines but after spending every weekly class practising our teaching cues on each other, by the time the exam rolled around I felt like a pro.
  • I learnt a few new moves – we spend much of the classroom sessions learning how to plan and instruct a full hour’s session with a client and the practical exam was based on this. This included dynamic warm up stretches and mobility moves so I was pleased to learn a few new moves to add to my repertoire such as the squat and lunge matrix where you take a client through a 360-degree range of motion.
  • The Level 2 exam felt quite scary but worth it – I won’t lie, we were all terrified of doing the exams but it’s a hill not a mountain and once over it, it’s a smoother and more enjoyable ride through to Level 3. Working through past and mock papers was the trick that helped me through.
  • Level 2 is a good foundation for what follows – however uncomfortable it felt at the time, learning the anatomy and physiology at Level 2 has set me up for Level 3 as everything else is layered on top. The teaching techniques are also a good grounding for whatever you go onto do in your fitness career.

So far, Level 3 has been diverse and super interesting. We’ve been learning about all the different training systems, how to programme a nutrition plan to meet a client’s goals, eg for weight loss or building muscle, and most importantly how to have an effective consultation with a new client so that we meet their goals and exceed expectations.

The consultation process at No1 Fitness Education is particularly detailed and multi-layered so it’s an area of learning the tutors take a lot of pride in.

As I write this, we’re currently in lockdown for Coronavirus so our Level 3 exams have been postponed until we don’t know when. On the one hand it’s frustrating as we were just a few weeks away from qualifying but in reality, it’s not so bad as it means more time to revise all those nitty anatomy and physiology details. Those 50 muscles, origins and insertions will be printed in my mind by the time lockdown is over!

See you on the other side with my final Level 3 review.

Thoughtful Tips for Challenging Times

who coronavirus tips
who coronavirus tips

There’s definitely a lot of information and advice being fired out from all places right now to help people during this tricky time with COVID.

But the best advice I’ve read so far comes from the World Health Organisation (WHO), which is not coincidentally, the best place we should be turning to for scientifically-backed, expert advice for how to manage and deal with the situation anyway.

I thought I’d summarise and share their latest notes in case anyone had missed them in the media as they are genuinely useful.

The tips cover basic nutrition (eat a health and nutritious diet, don’t smoke and limit your consumption of alcohol) as well as a few more interesting ones on exercise, working environment, mental health and relationships, which I’ve shared here.

  • During this difficult time it’s important to continue looking after your physical and mental health. This will not only help you in the long term; it will also help you fight COVID if you get it.
  • Exercise. If your local or national guidelines allow it go outside for a walk, a run or a ride and keep a safe distance from others. If you can’t leave the house find an exercise video online, dance to music, do some yoga or walk up and down the stairs.
  • If you’re working at home make sure you don’t sit in the same position for long periods; get up and take a three-minute break every 30 minutes. We will be providing more advice on how to stay healthy at home in the coming days and weeks.
  • Look after your mental health. It’s normal to feel stressed, confused and scared during a crisis. Talking to people you know and trust can help. Supporting other people in your community can help you as much as it does them.
  • Check on neighbours, family and friends. Compassion is a medicine.
  • Listen to music, read a book or play a game and try not to read or watch too much news if it makes you anxious.
  • Get your information from reliable sources once or twice a day.
  • Keep in touch with health alerts via the WHO

4 more tips to help you deal with the cocktail of intensity

A somatic therapist friend of mine, who specialises in treating trauma, has also just shared a few of her own tips, based on Trauma First Aid and the yogic practice of restraint.

Yoga Tara is founder of Isha Institute in Nepal, a centre that promotes personal growth and transformation through holistic counselling (follow on @isha_inspired). I hope you find them as valuable as I did. Please feel free to share with others.

Limit your exposure to information

  • Look at the news or collect information one or two times a day, eg, morning and late afternoon.
  • Avoid looking up information before you go to sleep. This is stimulating and triggering. Give yourself one or two hours quiet time before you go to bed.
  • Limit the amount of time you’re getting your info: 15-30min. Not two hours!

Select your sources of information carefully

  • Choose two or three trustworthy news sources for your updates, such as the WHO, CDC.
  • Avoid spending time on social media. It’s a fascinating study on mass panic/fear response, but not the healthiest place to spend time if you want to stay sane!

Choose with whom you are going to talk to about the situation

  • When it comes to discussing your real concerns, beliefs and decisions in relation to the situation, choose one, two or three people with whom you can share and to whom you can listen. 
  • Not everyone is a steady resource at this time. People you may have thought as calm or even keel, might not be. And vice versa.  
  • How do you know who is right for you? You would feel relatively calm and stable (operative word: relatively) with them.

Simplify your to-do list

  • When we feel under threat or under sustained stress, our brain and body go into life-preserving mode and work in different ways than normal.
  • Functions that tend to get compromised are our ability to think clearly, make decisions, analyse and execute (ie get things done). Our ability to manage emotions can also be compromised. We are not under normal conditions, so we cannot expect ourselves to act perfectly ‘normal’.
  • If you’re working from home, if you have children for home / online schooling, let yourself off the hook and reduce your output or to-do list by 25-30% (at least!).
  • Give yourself and others some extra space and time to get things done. Our brains and bodies are working harder than usual so take the expectation off from ‘normal productivity’.
  • If you or others around you feel fuzzy headed, irritable, tired, please know this is normal.
  • Be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with others. 

Super Easy Breathing Exercise to Help Stress, Anxiety and Sleep

I wrote this post a while ago, long before Coronavirus kicked in, but it’s been sitting in my drafts until now, when suddenly it seemed more relevant than ever to post it.

More than a few friends recently have talked about their stress and anxiety, with levels ranging from I can’t get dressed in the morning without crying, to I feel so overwhelmed at work I can’t sleep properly at night.

So I thought I’d write a few words about a very simple breathing exercise that’s not only helped me drift off more peacefully at night, but has been scientifically proven to help increase relaxation and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

How does it work? Deep, slow and controlled breathing has been shown to activate the body’s relaxation response, leading to changes in the autonomic, parasympathetic and central nervous system.  

I’ve been doing versions of this simple breathwork exercise almost every night for many years as it’s so unbelievably simple but incredibly effective. Once you build a habit, you won’t let this one go.

The best thing is, you don’t need to carve out any extra time in the day to do it – you just do it lying in bed when you’re ready to sleep, so there’s no excuses for not having time. There’s literally nothing else to do apart from try to relax into sleep.

It’s typically the time when thoughts start racing and and stress potentially building, so have this breathing exercise ready in times of need.

Ready? It’s super simple…

  • Start by gently placing the hands on the lower abdomen to help connect with your breath.
  • You might feel your hands rising and falling with each inhalation and exhalation.
  • Breathe in and out through the nose (mouth gently closed) for a few counts of breath.
  • Start to follow each breath as it moves in and out of the body, wherever it might be – it could be in your belly, throat, chest or elsewhere.
  • After following your breath for a few rounds, start counting your in-breath.
  • Breath in: one, two, three
  • Breathe out: one, two, three
  • After a few rounds you want to start making your out-breath longer than your in breath. Do this by consciously but gently slowing down each exhalation.

So the breathwork pattern will look like:

  • Breath in: one, two, three (an in-breath comfortable for you)
  • Breath out: one, two, three, four, five

Regardless of how long your inhalation is, your can promote the relaxation response by slowing down and making the exhalation longer.

Repeat this cycle of counting a longer out-breath to in-breath four of five times. Sometimes I keep doing this until I physically feel my body untangle and unwind and quite often I’m asleep before I reach ten rounds.

An extra note…

Once you get used to extending the exhalation, you can start experimenting with a gentle hold in between the inhalation and exhalation. This is more like an internal pause rather than a forced hold of breath. It should be totally effortless.

This type of breathing workout helps to slow down your heart rate which reduces the effects of stress on the body. As a result your thoughts may calm and eventually bring the body into a quiet stillness.

Once the physical body settles, the mind follows.

Do this breath exercise whenever you feel you’re getting tense, stressed or locked in a whirl of thoughts-on-loop. Not just in bed, but any time.

A word on meditation…

If you’ve tried meditation or keen to try it but not sure where to start, start here, with the breath.

Learn how to find the breath, follow it, listen to it and watch it. This is a form of meditation in itself as there is just one point of focus, the breath. So whenever your mind begins to wander, you just bring it back to the breath.

This is one of the simplest ways to start meditating as the breath is a physical, tangible, active point of focus. Listening and watching the breath is also a great tool if you are easily distracted or find sitting in silence (trying to meditate!) too challenging.

So give it a go. Commit to just a few minutes of deep, controlled breathing every night for a few days or a week and see how it feels.

Check out: Eco-friendly wedding stationery

https://poppyandthistle.co.uk/

As sustainability issues continue to grow, more people are thinking about how to make their wedding day more sustainable. Eco-friendly choices from food to decorations are expanding so it’s timely to be introduced to Poppy and Thistle eco wedding stationery.

Poppy and Thistle invites, save the dates, place cards, menu cards and more are all printed on eco-friendly, vegan and plantable wildflower-seed recycled paper. That’s a lot of sustainability in one go!

And it doesn’t stop there. They are also hand-made, customisable or you can have a bespoke design made. The envelopes are also recycled, as is the box you’ll receive them in. Everything has been thought through.

You can even plant them… 🍃

What I love most about these eco wedding invitations is the papers are embedded with wildflower seeds so guests can plant their invitations after.

A bunch of wildflowers will grow from the seeds in the paper, making it a gorgeous way to remember the occasion, and do our bit for bees and butterflies!

How it began… ✏️

Founder Kathryn Williams got in touch to introduce me to the brand.

She says: “I’ve always loved to draw and be creative and the idea for Poppy and Thistle came about when a friend of mine was planning her wedding. While searching for wedding invite designs, I thought two things. First, I’d love to design wedding invites and work with couples to get exactly what they want. The second, was how much paper is used for wedding suites and then thrown away.

Super passionate and excited about her products and service, she has something that’s not only beautifully crafted but also conscientiously put together with true sustainability in mind.

By using recycled paper we’re not relying on new paper and deforestation, which damages our environment. We’re also encouraging environments for bees and other wildlife to live in and feed from by growing wildflowers from the seed paper invites.”

Check out more at poppyandthistle.co.uk and @_poppyandthistle_ on Instagram.

14 Reasons Why I Decided to Do a Personal Trainer Course

no1 fitness education pt course

I started my career as a beauty and wellness writer for print and online magazines but fitness has always been part of my life, ever since early school years. So it feels fitting to be on a personal trainer course now, a Level 3 qualification with No.1 Fitness Education (one of the leading providers in the industry), which I’m so excited about.

I’m currently two weeks into the course, so here’s why I decided to do it and the journey that brought me here… Maybe it’ll inspire you, too.

I started young… I remember going to the library aged 13 and getting books out on diet and fitness – one was on food combining (it was all the rage in the 80s) and another on callisthenics (another 80s throwback). I ran and did athletics for my school and, after a boozy stint at university, I started running again and doing races in my mid 20s and early 30s. I spent the next ten years dedicated to running, marathons and track training, all of which I loved.

The fitness journey took a new turn… Then I started CrossFit in my mid-30s after meeting another editor who looked super strong, lean and fit. I discovered a whole new way of training and learnt how to move my body in new and better ways. I gradually started building total body strength, something I’d not considered enough before, and this helped me become a much stronger runner, too.

I learnt new skills… What I loved most, though, was learning the new skills in Olympic lifting and gymnastics, which is part of CrossFit, as this engaged me mentally not just physically. There was also all the functional training (that other gyms do, too), that help future-proof your body for everyday life.

Things got serious… What started off as a twice weekly workout is now, five years later, a full time hobby; Last year I did two weightlifting competitions and I’m training for my third. I also do the occasional CrossFit comp. I train six days a week (three-four specifically for Olympic lifts and two CrossFit) and I’ve learnt so much about mind and body strength. You can read more about my weightlifting journey here.

My mindset changed too… What’s also changed is that I no longer kill myself with cardio to keep my weight down, but train for strength and performance goals instead. I’ve found the strong, lean body is a happy by-product of that and it’s 100% changed my mindset into something a lot healthier (and happier).

It was all about goals… There’s nothing wrong with aesthetic goals, and I’ve certainly had them in the past, but in my experience I’ve found working towards challenge or physical goals (like an 80kg back squat or doing pull-ups) is more meaningful and I’m more likely to stick to them, almost effortlessly.

The right expertise is inspiring… All of these experiences have helped me gain a deeper understanding of the training world, what real athlete training is like, and it’s introduced me to some amazing coaches and trainers, whose wisdom has inspired me endlessly. I’m hoping all of this will be genuinely valuable in my own PT training. Last year, I was inspired (mainly by others around me) to take my British Weightlifting Level 1 course; you can read my review here.

My 9 – 5 will benefit… I’m lucky for health and fitness to be part of my job and career and while I’m not planning to pack up my job at Women’s Health, Men’s Health, NetDoctor and Runner’s World at Hearst, this qualification will simply feed into my work as a health and fitness editor there.

I create commercial content for clients ranging from Nike and adidas to Deep Heat and Imodium across print, digital, video and social, and fitness features heavily in this. Whether I’m shooting a workout video or interviewing experts, having a formal training in fitness will amplify my work and give me more credibility as an editor.

Being qualified matters outside of work, too… I know I won’t be any kind of expert overnight but having a formal qualification is so important when it comes to sharing content or advice on my own channels and circles. These days people are too easily self-appointed experts without the right backing, so having credentials from somewhere reputable (another important difference) makes a huge difference.

I might have clients one day… Just because I have no plans to leave my job and become a full-time PT doesn’t mean I can’t be open to possibilities of having PT clients in the future. I absolutely love sharing knowledge, experiences and inspiration so it seems fitting that I might have a client or two one day. In the meantime, I’ll be using my knowledge as an editor.

Choosing the right course is important… Finding an education provider for any kind of course is without a doubt, a minefield. There are so many options, and so many shortcuts. PT or yoga teacher training in four weeks online, without ever having to train a real human? Sure, that’s possible. But how good a professional will you be in the real world?

I choose No.1 Fitness as they came highly recommended from several people I know and their 10-year reputation in the industry is strong. Secondly, they’re one of the only remaining educators with classroom teaching; others have moved entirely online, which seems wrong for something so practical and physical.

It’s comprehensive… My Level 3 course involves a group learning session every Saturday for 12 weeks and on-going e-learning (mainly anatomy) that’s done in your own time throughout. The weekly group sessions are mixture of classroom and gym floor where we are shown how to use and instruct the gym resistance machines, cardio machines, free weights, dynamic stretches and five barbell lifts: deadlift, squat, bench press, overhead press and barbell row. Other providers may not have this level of real-life coaching so we’re so so lucky to have this.

There’s real pride… It’s not just the face to face structure I like but the calibre of the teachers and trainers leading each session is impressive, each one a leader in their field and proud to be working with No.1. There’s also a huge focus, communicated from day one, that this course (unlike others) prepares you fully for the realities of working in the fitness industry, whichever path you choose to take. All the trainers are highly connected and come with decades of experiences and backstories so they are keen to guide, advice and help as much as possible.

I’m obviously excited… having spent most of last year thinking about doing this, I’m so pleased I’ve actually made it happen. I’m the kind of person slightly obsessed with learning and growth anyway, so progressing in an area I’m already passionate about makes it even more valuable and worthwhile; I’m even enjoying the anatomy (although I’ll admit it’s not easy trying to remember it!). I’m looking forward to more knowledge over the next 12 weeks and then finally waving a bit of paper and shouting out that I’m a qualified PT.

If you fancy finding out more about the fitness instructor and personal trainer courses at No.1 Fitness check them out at no1fitnesseducation.co.uk and @no1fitnesseducation

7 Foods (and Lots of Tips) to Help You Nail Veganuary

whole foods market veganuary

If you are one of the 250,000 or more people expected to pass on the cheese and meat and take up a vegan diet this January – AKA Veganuary – then this post is for you. It’s also for you if you’ve been leaning towards plant-based eating and cooking for a while, but still need some extra inspo to make it work long term.

I’ve teamed up with Whole Foods Market to share my pick of vegan foodie products to help you have a successful Veganuary (and hopefully, beyond). From meat-free alternatives such as tofu and tempeh, vegan baking essentials, natural sauces and condiments (including vegan mayo!) to sweet treats and snacks, I’ve cherry-picked my faves below.

Stocking up your fridge and kitchen cupboards with essentials is, well, essential to making veganism work. You could, of course, live off vegan fast-food and pre-made convenience foods, especially as there’s so much of it now (Pizza Hut, Chicago Pizza, Pizza Express, Zizzi’s and Domino’s all launched vegan options this year, and Greggs is about to expand its vegan range, can you believe!) but it wouldn’t be healthiest way to do it.

When you’re cutting out three major food groups (meat, fish and dairy) it genuinely helps to get comfy in the kitchen and curious in the supermarket. Stock up on or swap cookery books with friends (I’ve listed my favourite vegan and vegetarian cook books here) and don’t be afraid to try out new ingredients and new ways of cooking the same ingredients, because there’s nothing more miserable than not enjoying food!

My Vegan Story

I decided to go vegan around 12 years ago in my mid-20s, after being vegetarian since I was nine. I remember reading up about the dairy industry and discovering it was just as bad as the meat industry – mass farming that kills off habitats and soils, antibiotics and growth hormones pumped into animals that we potentially end up ingesting, and the often shockingly poor conditions animals are kept in – so it was a no-brainer: I had to cut ties with dairy, too.

Back then, people were just getting used to vegetarianism and barely knew what being vegan was, so for a long time people didn’t really get it (and often thought I was a bit weird): why would I not eat meat, fish and cheese? What about butter on toast? Why on earth was I doing this?

How things have changed! Now every high street restaurant boasts a vegan menu and Veganuary – the charity month where people pledge to go vegan for January – had 250,000 people on board last year, more than the number of pledges in the previous four years combined, and is expected to be even higher for 2020.

Vegan ethics can extend far beyond the kitchen, too, which is why a vegan life can be a more conscientious and ethically minded. For me, it’s about doing as little harm as possible to ourselves, other beings and the planet, so it shapes the way I eat, shop and even dress.

These days, I don’t buy leather furniture or fashion, definitely not interested in fur, and now I pass on feather duckdown, silk and honey. Secondhand, vintage and thrift are always my first choices for fashion, too, as they’re more sustainable choices. Just a few examples but these decisions have evolved slowly, bit by bit over time and certainly didn’t all come at once.

That’s one of the reasons I love mooching around the aisles at Whole Foods as all the products have been selected for their ethics and provenance so I find the back-stories interesting and they fit perfectly with the ethos behind my blog, which is to inspire people to make more contentious choices that tread more carefully on ourselves, others and the planet.

Whole Foods Market also prohibits over a hundred preservatives, flavours and colours, and fresh produce is sourced from local, organic and independent farms. If products don’t meet the criteria, they don’t sell it, something which I wasn’t previously aware of.

Going vegan and staying vegan…

Despite its allure and popularity, being vegan can still be a challenge, especially if you don’t live in a fast-to-adapt city like London (or travelling through mainland Europe, which is always a low point for me).

So it’s good to question, Why are you doing this? What are your motivations? What’s important to you in this journey, and why? What are your boundaries and where and when are they movable? That last one’s important as some situations might need you to flex some rules and other times you can stick to the hard line.

A few more points I’ve learnt over the years…

Don’t be too hard, judgmental or strict on yourself (and others); it can only make you feel bad, you may not enjoy it and might even rebel. Try not to get frustrated with those around you if they’re struggling to understand or fully support, either. Don’t forget it’s your journey so you shouldn’t expect others to follow suit or believe the same if they don’t want to.

Food is a joy in life so avoid unnecessary pressure that takes the fun out of eating. If your aunty or gran has made a homemade cake for a birthday, don’t fret, it’s ok to have a bit and get back to your vegan choices after. Maybe next time she’ll be inspired to make a vegan version.

7 vegan foods you will love

PROTEIN

How do you get your protein? Get used to this question! It will be the first thing people ask you. Many pulses and legumes, as well as green leafy veg and nuts and seeds have a natural source of protein, so it shouldn’t be as hard as you might think to keep on top of your protein intake. Don’t forget peanut butter and tahini (sesame seed oil) and miso. The key is variety.

I try to have a protein-based food in every meal so I’ll stock up at least once a week on tofu, tempeh, and other protein-rich foods to add to lunches and dinners. And it’s not unusual for me to bring a block of tofu to a friend’s house for dinner :)

  1. Clear Spot OG Tofu Sea Cakes, £2.29

Some of my fave little tofu patties, these come in either original or smoked, blended with little shred of seaweed. Sea Cakes are suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and are also GM free, dairy-free, wheat-free, gluten-free and yeast-free. Just slice them up and eat warm or cold.

2. Tofurky Smoky Maple Bacon Style Tempeh, £4.29

Tempeh is tofu’s little cousin with a slightly harder, more solid texture. It’s taken me a while to find a tempeh I like as the natural flavour doesn’t always do it for me, but this product is delish. I also LOVE Tofurky’s other products, so do check them out.

CONDIMENTS & SAUCES

I try to cook most things from scratch but I also love seeking out good quality, natural sauces and condiments that take your cooking to another level. These come highly recommended…

3. Seggiano Raw Basil Pesto, £6.39

Once you try this, you’ll never go back to another pesto EVER AGAIN. I know it’s a bit pricey but honestly it’s worth it. Made with fresh Ligurian basil, this is a fabulous, raw, unpasteurised and vegan (obvs) pesto. Apparently the top leaves are washed, chopped and preserved in olive oil within hours of being handpicked.

4. Hunter & Gather Mayocado – Egg-Free Avocado Oil Mayo, £4.29

Mayonnaise is one of those foods that might be sorely missed so this product would be a saviour for mayo fans. Made with 100% pure avocado oil and pea protein, ‘Mayocado’ is made with eight avocados per jar and is free from all of the top 14 allergens including soya, gluten and mustard.

BAKING

I’ve only recently got into vegan baking – I’m much more of a savoury cook – so if this is an area you’re worried you’ll miss out on, fear not.

5. Naturli Organic Spreadable Vegan Butter Block, £1.95

100% plant-based and 100% palm oil free, you can use this for frying or baking. The Vegan Block is made from shea, coconut, almond and rapeseed.

SNACKS

What’s a day without a good snack! We no longer have to put up with just fruit and nuts as now the snack aisles are bursting with exciting new brands and products. A few goodies from Whole Foods to try:

6. Nush Peach Almond Milk Yog, £1.79

Natural Almond Milk Yog has a smooth and creamy taste and feel, made with European almonds. Free from dairy, refined sugar and gluten. Lovely as a mid-morning, afternoon or post-dinner snack and the natural fat content keeps you fuller for longer.

SWEET TREATS

It’s only in recent years that vegan sweets and cakes have upped their game. If you’re already a fan of dark chocolate, things are a lot easier as most are naturally dairy-free. There are many decadent, dairy-free sweets (Booja-Booja is the all-time favourite and even wins over dairy-lovers) now so you should never feel like you’re missing out.

7. Mummy Meagz Original Rocky Road Cake Bar, £2.09

OMG. This vegan rocky-road biscuit is SOOO good. Chewy vegan marshmallows (yes, vegan marshmallow!) coated in Belgian dark chocolate. If you buy just one thing….

The rise and rise of veganism has honestly been so unexpected but helped by celebrities, athletes and TV shows such as Game Changers, Cowspiracy and What The Health inspiring people that plant-based eating is better for us, animals and the planet.

So, whether you need a helping hand to get started or you need fresh inspo and recipe ideas, hopefully your vegan experiences and choices, whether at Whole Foods or beyond, will be successful, nutritious, tasty, and most of all, fun!

Eco Pioneers of the Year 2019

I was lucky enough to go to the P.E.A (People, Environment, Achievement) Awards this year, an event I’ve always wanted to attend as it celebrates the eco, sustainability and green heroes of our world.

Beauty brand Weleda kindly invited me and my sister, and we joined a few other green beauty fans, including my fave green make-up artist friends Lou Dartford and Conscious Beauty Union, on a decadent table for an entertainment-filled night at Studio 338 in Greenwich, London.

The year’s event, sponsored by Octopus Energy, was co-hosted by P.E.A. founder Jarvis Smith and biophilic design expert Oliver Heath with an immersive theatre performance by Enlightenment Cafe, including a brilliantly fun Climate Change Bingo.

A delicious vegan meal was served by Amrutha Catering with drinks merrily flowing thanks to Juniper Green Organic (great gin), Atlantic Distillery, Luscombe Organic, Equinox Kombucha and Deeside Water.

Now its 9th year, P.E.A is the UK’s leading sustainability awards, honouring individuals and teams behind the products, services and businesses that are making a positive difference to people and planet.

The award trophy created by artist Katie Weiner from using upcycled materials, single-use plastics and vintage gems

Here are the P.E.A Award winners of 2019:

ARTSsponsored by MyGreenPod.com

  • Claire O’Neill, founder of A Greener Festival

BRITAIN’S GREENEST FAMILYsponsored by Yeo Valley

  • Theresa Walton & Mary Strong, Sisters Against Plastic

ENERGYsponsored by Octopus Energy

  • Ehab Sayed, founder of Biohm

FOODsponsored by P.E.A.

  • Lettus Grow

GREEN PIONEERsponsored by Weleda

  • Tabitha James Kraan, founder of TJK High Performance Organic Hair Care

HEALTH & WELLBEINGsponsored by Equinox Kombucha

  • Vivo Life

MONEY

  • David Gardiner, director of Evergreen Insurance Services

NATURE, sponsored by Iceland

  • Clare Dubois, founder of TreeSisters

PRODUCT, sponsored by myenergi

  • my Boo Bamboo Bikes (team)

TRAVEL, sponsored by Delphina Hotels & Resorts

  • Clear Ocean Pact, TOURISM AWARD
  • Victoria of Wight, TRAVELLING A TO B

VEGAN

  • Juliet Gellatley, founder of Viva!

Lifestyle Hero Awards went to Tony Juniper, Katie Hill and the late, Polly Higgins.

Thank you to Weleda UK for the wonderful invite and here’s to more sustainability pioneers and achievements in 2020!

Fitness news: Roar fitness opens new luxury London gym for more amazing body transformations


If you’re familiar with Roar fitness on Instagram you’ll know it’s famous for its jaw-dropping body transformations. The first branch opened three years ago in the City and this week I visited the brand new, sparkling second branch, also City-based, and was super lucky to have a training session with its co-founder Sarah Lindsay @roarfitnessgirl.

Sarah was previously a three-time Olympic speed skater and the British Ladies Champion for nine consecutive years. She talks about fitness and how to achieve certain goals in great detail and with a lot of passion, which I loved. She runs Roar with her now-husband Rich Phillips, also famed for his personal training expertise.

The goal at Roar Fitness? To achieve fat loss and body transformation goals through weight-training three times a week with a personal trainer, and a bespoke nutrition plan. As simple as that.

Clients now include countless celebrities and anyone committed to transforming body and mind. What I also liked about the set up is each bespoke programme begins with the physiotherapist, who assesses your body’s needs, strengths and weaknesses so the fitness program is then built in line with this.

If you’re terrified of lifting or never considered strength training as the secret to losing weight (which it is), then Roar Fitness will speak to you. It’s humbling to hear Sarah admit she’s been surprised how body transformations have changed the minds and emotions of the women she’s trained, not just their bodies. More confidence, greater positivity and a healthier, happier approach to life are all by-products of getting fitter and stronger. Fact.

Here’s a clip of my workout with Sarah at the new luxury gym in Eastcheap, London. I don’t normally train with machines so I really enjoyed being pushed out of my comfort zone with new moves and equipment.

Find out more at roar-fitness.com/

How I lost weight for a weightlifting competition by eating more carbs

When I signed up for Southern Masters WL competition (at Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club) I had six weeks to lose 3kg. Olympic lifting is a weight-class sport and in my first competition in May, I competed in the 55kg category and I intended to do the same this time. 

On the one hand 3kg doesn’t sound like very much but on the other, I didn’t want to crash diet or do any potentially dangerous dehydration methods that would my jeopardise my lifting performance, both on the day and in the run up in training.

In the months after May’s comp (Essex Weightlifting Club Open Series) my weight had crept up, mainly through a habit of unlimited portions of peanut butter and nuts (seemed so healthy and innocent at the time!) so by August I was a clear 58kg, and now that meant a 3kg cut.  

A weightlifting meet (official word for competition) isn’t a bikini or bodybuilding comp where you just stand and flex on stage. I have to be in great mental and physical shape to nail highly technical lifts at heavy weights (in front of a room full of people). Feeling weak from fasting would be catastrophic.

So I sought professional help. I’d met recently Dr. Sinead Roberts, PhD of Feed.Fuel.Perform at a CrossFit competition a few months prior and she was recommended by several people who I train with. One look at her Instagram and I knew she knew her stuff. 

We spoke on the phone and discussed my weekly training schedule so she could work out my fuel and refuel needs for my training load. She then calculated my macros accordingly, which means exactly the amount of carbohydrates, protein and fat I should consume daily to achieve the desired weight loss without affecting training or performance.

sinead roberts nutritionist

My personalised nutrition plan…

This was the fun bit. My daily calories were in a slight deficit (1732 total) but my carb count was higher than I was used to (198g), whereas my fat intake had to be much lower (52g) and protein as high as I expected (122g). So, fewer calories but made up of more carbs and less fat, so that I could fuel and refuel my sport while leaning out 3kg and keeping energy levels up.

So no cutting carbs! What a delight. A weight loss programme where I had to eat more carbs than usual? Awesome. Sinead presented me with comprehensive doc detailing the nutritional breakdown for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and post-workout fuel so I knew exactly how to structure my meals. As a vegan, I’ve always been unsure how to hit high protein counts but read on and you’ll see how I did it.

Higher carbs were scheduled for pre and post-workout and breakfast so I could fuel and refuel sufficiently and then medium/lower carb count for lunch and dinner (36g each). Bedtime snack was low carb but higher in fat to help stabilise sugar levels overnight. 

What a relief to have scientifically backed nutritional breakdown calculated personally for me, to achieve specific goals. No more guesswork, no more trying to figure it out myself, and no fluffing my way through six weeks of attempted weight loss, not knowing if I’d actually get there or not.

Having a professional do the work they’re trained to do is absolutely the best way, for peace of mind if nothing else. 

No more guesswork, no more trying to figure it out myself – having a professional do the work is the way to go

Here’s how I got on and what I learnt… 

  • The first couple of weeks were definitely adjustment phases as I had to get used to a completely different nutritional intakes. Turns out carbs are not the enemy! 
  • I used MyFitnessPal to track my food and with the premium option I was able to see all the nutritional values and meal breakdowns. This was a game-changer as I could instantly see the effect certain foods (and portions!) were having on my daily goals. 
  • I quickly released how my nut habit had contributed to my weight gain – I was probably overeating about 4-600 calories a day over the last few months just through nuts and peanut butter!
  • I put away the kg-tub of peanut butter, stopped free-pouring olive oil over my food (a little bit is fine but my previous habits were out of control!) and found new snacks to buy instead of my go-to brazil and walnuts. 
  • I rediscovered the joys of fruit – previously (for the last 18 months or so) I’d favoured fat for fuel so my fruit intake was quite low. I started stewing plums and apples for my porridge oats and having a banana in my post-workout shake to help aid recovery. Sinead explained that without post-workout carbs the body will dip into muscle mass to take energy from there. For strength building, this would be a disaster. So now my post-workout shake had approx 30g carbs and 20g protein.
  • I surprised myself by hitting the 122g protein target quite easily almost every day. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be as all the little foods, like veggie sides and oats, contain protein too, so it all adds up quite quickly. I made sure to have about 100g tofu or other type of meat substitute daily, a protein shake straight after training then protein poured over my breakfast oats, and maybe a protein shake before bed.
  • Food prep became my daily norm as it was the only way to get all the macro nutrients I needed in the quantities I needed. I became very diligent at prepping my breakfast and lunch every night for the following day, and I still am.
  • I learnt that no/low fat in my post-workout shake was important – as fat is the slowest of the three macros to digest so to get fast energy to muscles, then best to leave the fat until later. 
  • I started eating simple carbs again – because my vegan diet is already high in fibre, Sinead recommended simple carbs like pasta, white rice and bread to add less strain on my digestive system and for fast-release energy rather than high fibre wholewheat options.
  • I had a low-carb, high protein and high fat snack in the evening before bed was often soya or coconut yoghurt with a small dollop of peanut butter and protein powder – this would help regulate blood sugar levels overnight, give muscles something to feed on and help with muscle repair.
  • I thought I’d hate tracking my food (I’ve previously thought it creates a bad, fixated relationship with it) but I actually enjoyed the process and found it quite educational. I think if there are specific goals to reach then tracking can shed a lot of light and insight.
  • Having professional support is really helpful, whether it’s checking what type of snack to have or voicing worries big or small, having someone to call on through the process, especially towards the end, was invaluable. It also helped that Sinead is just so nice to work with – nothing was ever too much trouble for her and all her instructions were simple and effective, which is why I’ll be working with her again for my next weightlifting competition. Can’t wait!

There were loads of other interesting details I learnt – another benefit of working with an expert – and in exactly five weeks I was 56kg on the scales again. Whoop! I’m still so pleasantly surprised that increasing carbs was the secret to losing weight.

Happy to have made weight on competition day

Competition week…

The last kg was lost in the final week / few days before the competition (which is typical for athletes of a weight-class sport to do) and that’s done through a combination of reducing high fibre foods, taking long walks, stopping eating earlier in the evening, fasting the evening before the weigh-in and no food or fluids before the weigh-in. 

I won’t lie, it’s a stressful few days trying to lose that last kg before the competition as some days the scales don’t move at all and you wonder how on earth it will happen. But success finally came the night before!

When walked into the weigh-in room at Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club at 8AM that day, I was 54.6kg, which was just perfect! It’s a fine art getting just below the 55kg threshold but not too low to affect performance, so we nailed it.

Thank you Sinead for helping me get there!

Once the competition was over I had ALL the treats, fat and carbs I could get my hands on. All well deserved and well worth the wait!

If you’re reading this and compete in a weight-class sport I highly recommend getting a nutritional expert to do your macros and help you get there on the day.  Would love to hear your experiences.

Please note: the nutritional macros in this article are individual and specifically calculated for my starting body composition, timeline, training history and lifestyle so readers shouldn’t assume they will be appropriate or healthy for them. Always seek professional advice.

Haircuts for the Homeless

haircuts for homeless charity

“Whatever the causes of an individual’s homelessness, the consequences can be brutal. Homelessness damages people’s capability: they lose skills; they can’t think about employment while worrying about housing; their health becomes impaired due to being homeless. It knocks their resilience, self-esteem and self-confidence.” 

Stewart Roberts, Founder H4H.

I think about homelessness all year round but it’s always this time of year when the weather starts getting colder, right up until the cold temperatures break in early spring, I find myself thinking about people on the streets more.

Since I started working in central London over a year ago, I’ve noticed how bad and extensive the homelessness issues are around Leicester Square, Covent Garden and Tottenham Court Road and other central areas.

In the past I’ve often stopped when I pass someone on the streets to ask if they need a hot drink or something from the supermarket. However, since working in Leicester Square full time and seeing people on pavements daily, it’s become harder and harder to do that as there are too many who need help, every single day, almost on every corner. It’s a very depressing situation.

Becoming immune to the issues is not where I want to be as I’ve always tried to help in some way or other.

A few years ago I spent some time doing weekly volunteer session at St. Mungo’s Recovery College in London, delivering workshops on blogging and social media for those recovering from substance abuse/misuse, homelessness and others from local disadvantaged communities. Many found it useful to have an outlet where they could express themselves freely and creatively. I no longer do the sessions but I’m still a monthly donation supporter of the charity.

Recently a charity donation card machine was put in our office’s entrance, which is a super easy way to tap and give £3, which I believe goes to a local homelessness charity. Knowing many of us at work feel so helpless in face of the problems on our doorstep, it’s the least we can do to contribute some support.

We also have a few Big Issue vendors in and around Leicester Square so that’s another way I encourage people to help. Homelessness isn’t just about rough sleepers, it can also be people and families in temporary accommodation, without a permanent home or fixed address, which can be highly stressful.

So I when I heard about Haircuts4Homeless I immediately wanted to write about it. Set up in 2014 by hairdresser Stewart Roberts, it’s a UK-wide charity and community of hairdressers who volunteer a few hours of their time each month to give haircuts for homeless people. The charity now operates in 49 locations around the country with over 600 volunteers nationwide, delivering 300 free haircuts a year from each location – how amazing is that?

Watch this lovely little video that sums up why this service is so important and what it means to people suffering from homelessness.

It really is more than ‘just a haircut’; it’s about respect, kindness, self-worth and humanity. Showing any kindness makes a homeless person (or any human) know that people really care.

“I wanted to get involved because Haircuts4Homeless is so much more than just giving a homeless person a haircut. It’s about people’s state of mind, helping to give them a sense of purpose again and wellbeing. Sometimes these people don’t talk to anybody properly for days/weeks and because mental health is so close to my heart as a subject, if I can help to start lifting somebody’s mental state by giving them a haircut and a chat,  it’s the least I can do.”

Neil Moodie, Editorial Hairstylist

Find out more at @haircuts4homeless on Instagram or www.haircuts4homeless.com/

haircuts for homeless logo image

Step-by-Step Guide: How To Do a DIY Natural Beauty Home Facial

weleda Skin Food facial review

If you’ve been inspired by the continued rise of natural and organic beauty then you’ll love this DIY natural facial massage from Weleda, one of my favourite natural and organic beauty brands. It’s also a lovely, nourishing treat to give skin at this time of year as the season and temperatures change.

The key product in this facial is Weleda Skin Food – an iconic skincare product that contains natural extracts of calendula, chamomile, rosemary and lavender, with natural waxes and plant oils (now also available in light version, lip balm and body butter) – alongside a few other Weleda products.

I was lucky to have this facial – also known as the 30-minute miracle worker by Weleda therapists as it’s so good at boosting the complexion – at Valley Fest in Bristol this summer.

Weleda Skin Food - Product Still

Valley Fest is a lovely family-friendly weekend of music, local food and fancy dress. Weleda had a corner with a fabulous van stocked full of products and therapy tents for the perfect post-party respite.

There were also talks and workshops on natural skincare, with special guest such as Emine Ali Rushton, sharing her wisdom on holistic and Ayurvedic living, following the launch of her book, Sattva.

weleda tent valley fest.JPG

If you’re not familiar with the community of Weleda therapists, they’re a lovely bunch who work remotely around the country and who are available for products, treatments, and knowledge-sharing on skincare and ingredients.

If you don’t live near a Weleda therapist then you can try this facial on yourself at home. Here’s a complete step-by-step guide to the Skin Food Facial – get ready for some personal pamper time…

weleda tent valley fest.JPG
Me enjoying my Skin Food facial at Valley Fest

Step 1.

COMPRESS

Soak a face flannel in hot water with a little Rosemary Bath Milk, wring the flannel so it’s only damp but still warm and apply to the face to open up the pores and wake up/perk up the circulation. If skin would benefit from calming/soothing rather than stimulating, try the Lavender Bath Milk. If skin is hypersensitive, the gentle Calendula Baby Cream Bath could be used instead which is less aromatic.

Step 2.

CLEANSE

Using the Almond Soothing Cleansing Lotion on two damp cotton wool pads, remove grime and make-up. Use both hands simultaneously, mirror image, for a lovely balanced feeling. Around the eyes, gently cleanse with Almond Soothing Facial Oil to remove eye make-up. Warm or luke-warm cotton wool pads are preferable to very cold water on the eyes.

Optional extra.

PUFFINESS

If more time, an organic unbleached chamomile tea bag can be used to make as an infusion for an eye compress (lightly soak cotton wool pads in the tea which has been allowed to cool slightly in a bowl before applying; cotton pads can be folded into half moons) whilst the facial massage is being done or the mask is on (to complete the Skin Food experience). The calming chamomile fragrance relaxes.

Step 3.

MASSAGE

Using the fragrance-free Almond Soothing Facial Oil, gently massage the face to stimulate the circulation and relax the soft tissues, tailoring the massage to the individual.

weleda skin food facial how to

Step 4.

MASK

Apply a generous layer of Skin Food, warming it between your hands to make it easier to work with, and leave on the face as an intensive treatment for five minutes (or longer if time allows). If you have combination skin with an oily T-zone, just use Skin Food on the cheeks and drier areas, to avoid overloading the skin.

Step 5.

COMPRESS

Soak a face flannel in hot water with a little Lavender Bath Milk and apply to the face to melt and release the mask. Gently lift away any excess Skin Food with the flannel and gently wipe/tidy any remaining thick areas of cream using a damp cotton pad (this may not be necessary if it has been absorbed).

Step 6.

MOISTURISE

Depending on the skin, finish with a light application of Skin Food Light to moisturise (for younger/oilier skin, this may not be necessary if Skin Food has worked its magic), and a little Skin Food Lip Balm on the lips.

Would love to hear if you’ve had this facial with a Weleda therapist or if you give it a go at home!

Review: British Weightlifting Level 1 in Coaching

Getting my British Weightlifting (BWL) Level 1 Award in Coaching was not something I ever expected to do. In fact, when one of my friends Sophia Smith suggested joining her course earlier this year, I immediately thought no, I’m not experienced enough.

But, through a coincidental twist of events a few months later, I was invited by BWL itself (the UK governing body) to attend the course at Third Space in Canary Wharf. Spoiler: I found it really useful, had a great time, and passed!

I’m now so pleased to have done it as it’s been so useful and relevant for my training. So even if, like me, you have no plans or intention to coach, you’re still likely to get something out of it.  

Here’s what the course was like, what I learnt and what you need to know if you’re considering it, or if you’re just intrigued to find out more. Maybe you can surprise yourself by getting qualified too.

British Weightlifting  Level 1 in Coaching review

What is BWL Level 1?

A two-day face to face course in a small group environment with highly experienced Olympic lifting coaches alongside comprehensive e-learning modules.

It’s an opportunity to build your knowledge of the two Olympic lifts: the snatch and the clean & jerk, and learn how to apply that knowledge to a class and coaching setting. You’ll also go through supporting lifts such as back squat and front squat.

The Level 1 qualifies you to assist a more experienced coach who is already qualified at Level 2 or higher. 

Who is it for?

You don’t need to be a coach or PT to do this course, in fact it’s designed for people with no coaching experience.

Experience in the lifts isn’t even a prerequisite although it’s advisable. (I couldn’t imagine attending a course to learn how to coach the snatch if you’ve never snatched before.) 

You’ll be introduced to the principles behind how a weightlifting class is put together, how to deliver it so students are safe and how to evaluate the outcomes and experiences. 

Even if you don’t plan to become a coach, it’s a great opportunity to deepen your knowledge of the lifts, which will help in training and progressing. 

What we learnt

>> The key components and cues for each of the three Olympic lifts – the snatch, clean and jerk – as well as accessory lifts such as back squat and front squat.

>> How to teach with minimal talking time – turns out coaching isn’t a continuous stream of instructions. You have to master the art of observation followed by selective, efficient and concise language to cue only the most important thing so not to overwhelm or confuse the student. Less is more.

>> How to plan, deliver and evaluate a weightlifting class and how to effectively assist more qualified coaches (level 2 and above).

>> We even learnt non-verbal instruction eg for the hard of hearing, which was an interesting twist.

>> We had access to the e-learning hub with lots of great video tutorials. The hub also covered off: roles and responsibilities of a coach, safety in the sport, basic rules of the sport, technicalities of the lifts and supporting exercises.

Few things that pleasantly surprised me

I have no sports coaching experience but I didn’t feel out of my depth. I think the years doing these lifts in a group and one to one setting have meant I’m familiar with the cues and instructions, which definitely helped me absorb and apply all the information received. 

Don’t be scared of the assessment – everyone wants you to do well so there’s lots of practice and the teacher breaks down each element so you’re fully prepared. At the end of day one the thought of being assessed the next day felt terrifying and daunting but once you get there it’s actually totally doable and ok.

You don’t need to worry about being perfect at the moves yourself. The most important thing is understand the key points and safety cues and this will help better your understanding of them.

I started applying the knowledge straight away – in the training sessions immediately after the course. I’m now so aware of my positioning and movement through the lifts and mentally use the cues I learnt every time I lift, which is great, a testament to how useful the course was.

Before you book…

Even though it’s not a prerequisite, knowing the moves will help. As mentioned, you don’t have to be a pro Olympic lifter but at least know what a snatch and clean and jerk  is and have some experience of them.

Allocate some time before the course starts to do the pre course e-learning. You’ll need at least two or three evenings to work through it without rushing. 

Don’t make plans on the night after day one as you’ll have day two’s assessment to prepare for. There’s a lot to take in so it’s not worth rushing, panicking and not feeling prepared for the assessment.


If you think this could be for you, let me know! A limited number of exclusive discount codes are available through me, so message for details if you’re keen.

My Story On Metro.co.uk

yanar alkayat weighlifting

I was so excited to be interviewed my Metro recently for an article on the importance of weight training for women: Weight training should be an essential part of your workout routine.

Journalist Natalie Morris asked me to share my fitness journey, how I got into weightlifting, what I love about it, what it adds to my life and why more people, particularly women, should give it a try.

It’s a fantastic article – full of quotes from me! – and some expert tips from others. Hopefully it will inspire more people to pick up a barbell and feel the benefits for themselves.

If you’re still feeling hesitant, maybe intimidated or scared about weights, and unsure how to start improving your strength, then have a read and let me know what you think.

Here’s an extract – my top tips on why you should start weightlifting

Confidence

There is no better feeling than doing something you previously couldn’t or imagined you could do. It will send your confidence soaring.

Coming from zero strength means I’m super proud of my body and my journey –  it still amazes me today that I can do these things. I never forget where I started.

Progress sometimes feels slow and gradual but there are many small wins and milestones along the way.

A huge mental shift in how I view my body

When my fitness journey became about what my body can do, not what it looked like, it became more than just a workout. My mental attitude towards my body is so much healthier now.

The focus is no longer to stay slim and it’s not about achieving a certain aesthetic. My goals and objectives are all related to performance now.

Future-proofing

I decided I had to lay stronger foundations for the future, especially with a family history of osteoporosis and knowing women’s muscle mass shrinks with age.  I was determined to go into my 40s with a stronger physique.

The quest to build all-over body strength led me to CrossFit where I learnt how to move well with weight bearing and bodyweight exercises.

So while I work on my fitness goals, I’m also building a body for everyday life so I can lift, push and pull things without hurting myself, and building stronger bones for later years.

It’s a lot of fun!

Having a purpose is one of the best ways to enjoy exercise so it never feels like a chore. It’s never an effort getting up early or training after a hard day at work when you have goals in mind. And once you’ve finished a great barbell workout, the endorphins are through the roof.

Mental focus

I always have short term and long term goals – whether it’s hitting a certain weight on a lift or working towards a competition – and these keep me locked in and committed.

The people

Being surrounded by people who are also working towards various fitness goals is hugely motivating and that kind of positive, determined, can-do attitude is contagious.

So the cliche of surrounding yourself with the right people is not just a saying, it’s very true.

You’ll break down barriers

I also want women to breakdown their own perceptions of what they think can do and achieve.

What is heavy or seems impossible one day, will be normal some day in the future if you keep at it so don’t get too frustrated with what you can’t do. Focus on learning how to improve it. 

Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2019/07/21/weight-training-should-be-an-essential-part-of-your-workout-routine-10136518/?ito=cbshare 

Follow more of my fitness and weightlifting journey at @yanarfitness

New Weleda Deodorant and New Eco-Design Packaging

weleda roll on natural deodorant

I’m always looking for the next great-working natural deodorant so I was pleased to hear Weleda has expanded its 24h Roll-On Deodorant collection to include a new scent, Sea Buckthorn. This joins Citrus, Men’s and Pomegranate in the range to try.

What makes these deodorants special?

They are formulated without zirconium or aluminium salts that block underarm sweat ducts in an anti-perspirant product. Instead, these Weleda deodorants will allow skin and sweat ducts to function naturally and healthily, so yes, you will sweat, but keep reading…

Yikes, does that mean I will smell of bad body odour?

Hopefully not! While these natural deodorants won’t block pores and you’ll still sweat naturally, there are ingredients that’ll help stop body odour from developing: organic witch hazel distillate should act as a natural astringent, and organic liquorice root extract has antimicrobial properties to inhibit odour-causing bacteria.

What else is in there (or not in there) I need to know about?

Pure essential oils fragrance help preserve the product, meaning artificial preservatives and parabens can be avoided. Over 70% of the ingredients are NATRUE-certified organic, all ingredients are suitable for vegans and vegetarians, and dermatologically proven for skin tolerability.

Tell me about the new eco-packaging…

The packaging for all the deodorants in the range has been re-designed in recyclable bottles made from 70% recycled plastic. This is part of Weleda’s new eco-design programme.

Weleda says: ‘The new, fully recyclable HDPE bottles made from 70% post-consumer recyclate (PCR) has been carefully sourced from British food packaging such as milk bottles.’

Pretty cool, huh?

Read more about Weleda’s commitment to sustainability here

Read more about HDPE plastic bottles and recycling at wrap.org.uk.

Get more of my natural deodorant recommendations here and another here

The Lowdown On Yoga Nidra – Yogic Sleep

Photo by Alice Moore on Unsplash

Yoga nidra is an old yogic practice that takes you to a deeply relaxed state between waking, sleeping and dreaming, and can be quite transformative. I’ve been doing yoga nidra as part of my yoga practice for over ten years now and as more of today’s teachers and studios are talking about and offering it, it seems fitting to share the benefits of yoga nidra and how it’s helped me.  

Translated from Sanskirt, yoga nidra means yogic sleep. It’s a guided relaxation technique that leads to a light withdrawal of external senses while connecting to internal awareness and still maintaining full consciousness. Through a systematic sequence of verbal instructions, it helps to release physical and mental tension, relieve stress as well as help with issues such as insomnia and anxiety. 

My teacher, Swami Pragyamurti at the Satyananda Yoga Centre in London treats the advanced classes to a monthly session and beginner classes to one a week, so I’ve experienced firsthand how amazing the practice is.  Now that I’m teacher training and learning to deliver yoga nidra myself, I can share its incredible benefits and see how much people really do love it. 

A tonic for tiredness – and more

You know the feeling after a really hard day when you body is heavy with tiredness and your mind is full of fog. That’s when I reach for a yoga nidra recording. However exhausted I might be, I know it will recalibrate and recharge me. 

A full yoga nidra is 30 mins but even a short versions (around 20 mins) will be effective at settling the body, mind and emotions. I always wake up feeling refreshed, reenergised, and with eyes and mind bright and alert. Over the years it’s helped me feel calmer in mind and has helped to ease physical tiredness. It’s honestly quite magical.

The practice can also work on a deeper level to help heal and transform, making it a tool for some yoga therapists in the treatment of trauma, stress and anxiety. The use of the resolve / sankulpa is also thought to help initiate change in a person’s life as that intension is mentally repeated in a subconscious state.

Studies have shown it can calm the nervous system, increase the relaxation response and act as a powerful tool for coping with stress.

What happens during yoga nidra? 

During the practice of yoga nidra you lie on the floor (it can also be done seated) with back and legs flat against the floor in shavasana (relaxation pose). Something to cover the body  may be helpful as body temperature drops when lying still so it’s important to have appropriate cover so the body can remain warm and comfortable. 

If it’s a full yoga nidra, and one that follows the traditional sequence, the teacher would go through eight stages. Shorter versions, or versions for beginners, might be cut down to three or four. The stages are:

  1. Settling the body – one of the most important stages – by connecting to the physical body and becoming aware of the different senses, such as touch and sound, it’s an effective route to relaxation 
  2. Breath awareness – connecting to the sound, touch and flow of breath through the body 
  3. Resolve – a positive intention or change you’d like to see in your self or life (in Sanskrit this is called the Sankulpa) 
  4. Rotation of awareness – a systematic sequence of verbal cues through the body, starting on the right side. The teacher will go call out each body part and you follow, visualising or repeating each one mentally  
  5. Pairs and opposites visualisation – describing sensory opposites, such as cold and hot to facilitate deep imagination and visualisation  
  6. Visualisation story – a creative journey that might have some symbolic meaning 
  7. Resolve – returning to your resolve, mentally repeated three times again – this is like sowing the seeds of transformation
  8. Externalisation – the teacher will externalise your senses and bring awareness back to the physical body so you awake safely and comfortably 

All you have do is listen and follow mentally. Each stage sends you deeper and deeper into a relaxed state and if your teacher has the right tone, pace and intonation, you might fall quickly into sleep or drift in and out of sleep. This is completely normal! Staying awake and aware is the aim but a good yoga nidra often ends up with a few snoring heads. 

How to do yoga nidra 

Yoga nidra is always delivered and guided by a teacher so if you read descriptions online about how to do yoga nidra yourself (I’ve read a few, worryingly high up on google searches) these are incorrect and seem to be describing relaxation in shavasana (corpse pose), which can be done on your own but is a totally different practice.

To do yoga nidra you need a teacher to deliver it or a recording. Online recordings (there are many now on YouTube) can be a bit hit or miss so I have a few good ones from teachers I like bookmarked on my iTunes and on CDs. A classical version for beginners can be purchased and downloaded here and another traditional version on YouTube here.   

There are several schools and traditions offering yoga nidra sessions (as well as teacher training) now but the Satyananda tradition is the most well known for bringing this ancient practice into the modern day over the last 40-50 years. You can read more about this in the well known text Yoga Nidra from the Bihar School of Yoga. 

So, if you’re struggling to find ways to deeply relax, you want to feel well-rested, and release physical and mental fatigue, try yoga nidra. Would love to hear what you think.

 

Introducing Fjaka – the Mediterranean way of mindful living

saint-iris-adriatica-skincare

Saint Iris Adriatica, a luxury green beauty brand, takes its inspiration from the Adriatic sea, mountains, thermal spas and wild spaces.

Founder Sanela Lazic says the brand is all about channelling fjaka [pronounced: fyak.ka], which is a relaxed state that embodies the spirit and wellbeing of Croatian life.

Sanela has taken traditional Adriatic folk remedies and combined them with natural ingredients to create products that help to strengthen skin against the stresses of modern life and encourage a more balanced state of body and mind.

I asked Sanela to talk more about fjaka….

Saint Iris Adriatica instagram
@saintirisadriatica

What is fjaka and how can you create the Fjaka feeling?

‘Fjaka is a way of life from Croatia but also practised in Italy, Spain and Latin America (with different spellings across these regions).

‘Fjaka is about being relaxed yet powerfully alive with a sense of mindfulness. It’s a blissful Adriatic state of mind that comes from simply feeling great in your own body and doing what you love.

‘Fjaka is taking time for yourself, which shouldn’t be seen as lazy or selfish; in Croatia and Italy this is seen as an essential part of self-love. Only by investing in yourself can you give back to others.

‘Often, in Croatia, you’ll hear people saying “pomalo” or “polako”, which means “bit by bit” or “slowly” and we’re now returning to some of these slower lifestyle qualities: slow-cooked food, slow fashion, self-care time – this is all fjaka in action.

How can we create fjaka?

Saint Iris Adriatica

‘Start by asking yourself, what brings you joy? What makes you feel good in body and mind? Think long-term and tune into your needs and energy.

‘The world today is skewed towards a masculine, fast-paced energy that can drain us, bring stress and self-doubt, chase the ideal, compete or fight rather than slow down or flow. Fjaka helps to create a balance of energies.’

Saint Iris Adriatica is a natural and cruelty-free brand and contains no parabens, sulphates, propylene glycol or synthetic fragrances.

My journey into weightlifting and what it’s like to be a beginner weightlifter

vintage split jerk

I never set out to do weightlifting. A few years ago I didn’t even know what Olympic lifting was, but I’d started CrossFit and a whole new world of fitness had opened up. The killer combinations of Olympic lifts (snatch, clean & jerk, power clean, etc), gymnastic / bodyweight moves and functional training challenged me physically and mentally.

I was hooked on the adrenaline and intensity of the workouts – heavy weights, fast paced and fierce. Plus, I was learning all these new barbell and gymnastic skills so the journey didn’t stop there…

 

The prequel

During the first few years of CrossFit training I was still running marathons.

The deadlifts, back squats and cleans and functional training such as box jumps and kettle bell swings, all helped me to develop more strength and more power through my hips, glutes and core, which translated really well to stronger running. I could run faster and for longer, and without any sight of injury.

I ran Snowdon Marathon in July 2018, coming in the top half of women (I’m usually trailing at the bottom of the pack) and felt elated not be defeated by a mountain.

However, I decided to park marathon running for a while and spend the next 12 months focusing on bodyweight and barbell skills, particularly pull-ups, toes-to-bar and the snatch, as I was still lagging behind in these. And you know how the saying goes, work your weaknesses, so now was the time.

I found a great weightlifting coach – John McComish, an ex-national champion (for England and Ireland) in Olympic lifting – at Peacock’s boxing and weightlifting gym, which is a local community place but known for its competition training, and I immediately felt in good company.

 

Being a newbie all over again

When I started having weekly one-to-one session with John, in October 2018, all I wanted was to improve my snatch and gain more confidence getting under the bar. At that point, I hadn’t even heard of a weightlifting competition, but by February 2019 my numbers were all going up and John started seeding the idea of entering one ‘some time this year’, which of course, sounded ridiculous to me.

Entering a comp was a bit like how running a marathon feels like something impossibly out of reach for a new runner. The distance feels enormous and you have no concept of what the training or the event is like.

Because I still remember those days, all those years ago as a beginner runner, and also as a beginner CrossFitter, I can recall that feeling of being new to something and how it can feel a bit intimidating at times.

That’s why I always like to remember my journey and where I’ve come from – from super slim, no-upper body strength, serial runner in my 20s and early 30s, to now being able to deadlift 100kg and clean and jerk 55kg (my body weight). It makes me feel super proud.

So I try to cut myself some slack when I’m frustrated that I’m not performing or improving, as I’d like to. It takes a while to build strength and technical skill and I respect that I’ve only been focusing on this for six months.

 

When it sparks joy (and when it doesn’t)

There’s no better feeling than hitting PBs (or PRs if you’re reading from the US). I felt mighty high and floated around with a new confidence when I hit a 40kg snatch (which I used to think was a far-off distant goal) followed unexpectedly by a 42.5kg snatch the following week, and felt totally euphoric for hours that evening.

I’d never experienced the bar riding up so smoothly before, and then catching the weight within seconds and standing up with it strong above my head, and I just wanted to do it again and again.

But of course those big weight PBs don’t come all the time so with the highs there are also lows. I’m currently missing a lot of lifts and it’s hard not to feel like I’m doing something wrong or that maybe, I’m just not right for this. Imposter syndrome definitely springs to mind!

My inner critic might occasionally try and whisper that I’m not a natural lifter and that I’m forcing myself into this sport but I just have to gently shut that voice down and get on with my training. At the end of the day, even if I don’t make huge gains, I’m doing it because it’s fun and hugely rewarding.

Learning something tough that pushes your limits toughens you up, and the confidence and strength I’ve gained has carried over into other parts of my life, so the joy it all ‘sparks’ as had a domino effect.

 

Sharpening the tools

In my mind, I regularly visualise each lift and each part of it and sometimes fall asleep replaying the sequence over and over. It’s great to have something so positive to focus on but it’s also frustrating when the lifts don’t happen in reality.

Powerlifting, which is made up of the deadlift, back squat and bench, is different as the bar doesn’t have to travel overhead or fast so the skillset needed is quite different.

Olympic lifting, particularly the snatch, is highly technical – you need mobility, strength and speed, as well as the mental focus to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. I think the combination of mental and physical skill really appeals to me.

The snatch is performed fairly fast but to make it happen several tiny adjustments have to come together perfectly, and if or when, one tiny element is out of synch then the lift just doesn’t happen. Failing lifts is part of the practice, which is why training can be really frustrating.

I surround myself with a gang of super positive fitness friends who motivate me to work hard and stick to it. And, for all its faults, Instagram can be a motivating place too – I follow small but mighty women, such as 55kg weightlifter Allie Rose (@livlaflift58) and CrossFit queen Jamie Greene (@jgreenewod) as well as CrossFit athlete turned weightlifter Jocelyn Forest (@jocelynforest).

 

What next

I absolutely love spending time, effort (and money) on this new fitness goal. While it can take over your life (in the same way CrossFit or any other sports training can), I’m trying to see it as just a very healthy hobby. I love seeing myself get stronger, not just physically but mentally too, and love learning and drilling the skills.

I still run – little and often, although no long distance this year – and I still do one or two CrossFit classes a week as I have a lot of friends there, and I enjoy it, so I haven’t given up the fast and furious workouts just yet.

I have no idea where this weightlifting journey will take me – just like how I had no idea that starting CrossFit four years ago would lead me here – so I’m excited by that unknown too. I trust I’m on a road that’s positive and empowering so I have no worries of what may come.

 


 

Are you a beginner, or experienced weightlifter? Have you nuggets of experience or wisdom to share? Have you also transitioned from CrossFit or maybe you just want to give it a go? If so, let me know! Keen to hear more on this topic…

What’s Your Why? Inspiring Video All Runners Need To Watch

It’s that time of year again – marathon season – with biggies such as Paris, Brighton and London all within a few weeks of each other. I know marathons happen up and down the UK and worldwide all year round but April always feels more like marathon-month than others so now’s a great time to share this great video, The Why: Running 100 Miles.

I watched this last year when I was training for Snowdonia Trail Marathon and grappling with training that was mentally, emotionally and physically challenging. It was my sixth marathon but my first mountain event (where we would summit Snowdon at mile 23) and throughout the six month training block I was riddled with self-doubt, worry and lack of confidence.

Living in flatter-than-flat east London was not conducive to mountain training, and my inner critic was having a ball by putting me down through every training run and prep-race. I was losing motivation, finding all the training sessions so hard, not enjoying myself and couldn’t understand why.

Exploring why

Luckily, my running coach Luke Tyburski is a phenomenal ultra athlete who has done some crazy big events (such as Morocco to Monaco 12-day triathlon, an event he created himself) so he was great at helping me get to grips with the mental side of things.

I’d ran several marathons before so I was used to the long distance training but CrossFit had come into my life a few years earlier and this had definitely become flavour of the day. So I was fighting conflicting desires and needs and I had to reevaluate my relationship with running. That’s when I wrote Help, I’ve Fallen Out Of Love With Running post.

Like any relationship, dynamics change and evolve over time and that’s part of the joys. And there’s no better time to explore your relationship with a sport, activity or hobby then when you have to tick off big miles on a Sunday morning.

I also kept in mind one of my favourite quote from Luke: ‘It’s only at reaching your limits where you’ll catch a glimpse of your true potential’.

Digging deeper

With long distance events such marathons, 50km, 100km and 100 milers becoming more popular, it makes sense to dig deep and find the sticky or meaningful reasons why we run.

I started reading more about mental side of athletes and sports performance – I had How Bad Do You Want It? on my bedside table – and stumbled on this mini docu film by Billy Yang on why ultra runners do ultramarathon events. Why do they put themselves through so much physically, mentally, emotionally? What’s the pull, the lure and enjoyment in something so seemingly gruelling?

Billy also goes beyond commonly cited reasons such as self-improvement and challenge to bigger questions about our need to seek out situations where we’re challenged to the point of extreme, in a way our modern day lives don’t require us to.

Not only is The Why beautiful and humbling to watch but it helped me see things in a new, fresh light. Suddenly I realised others also suffered in similar ways (with anxieties, self-doubt, fear) so it no longer felt like there was something wrong with me as a runner or that I was failing.

‘When reaching your limits, it’s only there you’ll catch a glimpse of your true potential’.

I realised the conversation of why is one all long distance runners, endurance athletes and probably all athletes have to answer, not just to others but really deep down to themselves. After all, it’s the why that feeds the endless drive and determination needed to smash through these incredible feats.

Watch the film

I watched it a few times before my race as it was so inspiring. I hope you enjoy it and get something out of it too, whether it’s your first marathon or you’re a regular on the ultra trails. It might fire up your own why to help you power through your next event or inspire you to book one. And if you’re running London next week, good luck and enjoy it!

Would love to hear what you think!

Dr Hauschka Shower Cream now comes in packaging made from recycled plastic milk bottles

dr hauschka shower cream recycled packaging

This new Dr Hauschka Shower Cream comes in innovative sustainable packaging, made from PCR (post-consumer recycled) material, which includes plastic milk bottles. This apparently has saved over 65% of raw oil normally used to make conventional plastic tubes.

The shower cream has a gorgeously soft, creamy texture and an instantly uplifting lemon and lemongrass scent (developed by an in-house perfumer).  I’ve been told the shower cream can also double up as a facial cleanser as it has anti-microbial properties. A pea-sized amount is all you need.

Here’s a mini Q&A with Tara O’Rourke, Dr. Hauschka’s brand trainer and expert who explains more about the recycled packaging and Dr Hauschka’s approach to sustainability:

What was the motivation behind changing the packaging?

‘We’re constantly evolving as a brand and looking at more innovative eco materials and raw materials, where we can maintain also the stability of the botanicals inside. Our choice of packaging has to be suitable not only for the environment but for the 100% natural formulation of our products.

‘Dr Hauschka’s co-founder, Rudolf Hauschka had a mission ‘to heal humanity and the earth’. As a brand, we are aware of the changing needs of consumers and the importance of minimising the environmental impact of our production processes. This is something we are always striving for whilst maintaining the quality of our products.’

What are the less desirable ingredients we should watch out for in the average shower cream?

‘I would say look out for anything with mineral oils, petroleum base and also sodium lauryl sulfate which is a drying foaming agent in a lot of conventional shower creams. Synthetic ingredients don’t help to nurture or strengthen this skin.’

What benefits do plant oils provide skin?

‘Nurturing, strengthening care, imparting a quality to the skin that conventional synthetic ingredients can’t match. There is a ‘cocooning’ effect on the skin.’

How does quince seed benefit skin?

‘It relives tightening of the skin and has a protective waxy layer like the fruit in nature, protecting skin from the elements. We look at how botanicals and fruits behave in nature and the quince fruit is a hardy plant.’

£12 for 150ml, from drhauschka.com


Ingredients: Water, Sunflower Oil, Sugar Surfactants, Vegetable Glycerine, Alcohol, Avocado Oil, Quince Seed Extract, Amino-acid Oil Compounds, Xanthan Gum, Lemon and Lemongrass Essential Oils, Essential Oils, Citric Acid, Hectorite.

7 reasons why I gave up freelance life for a full-time role

hustling for work freelance vs fulltime

After ten years of freelance life as a writer and online editor for national press I decided to go in-house, full time and permanent. A big move. But it was a decision I’d been contemplating for perhaps 18 months or so, and finally the right job came along, as commercial editor at Hearst.

People usually do it the other way around – they’ll spend years grinding away at the 9-5 and finally release themselves to new and more flexibility ways of working through a freelance role. For me it was the opposite.

I’d spent years carving an amazing freelance career that worked with my passions in health, beauty, fitness and wellness. I’d worked my way up from beauty writer/assistant to web editor and digital director and eventually set up my own digital consultancy advising small to medium brands on digital and social media projects.

I had freedom, flexibility, fun, countless perks and great contacts but I knew it was time to switch. Here’s why…..

✨I wanted a new challenge

After years of establishing myself within health, beauty and wellness I didn’t want my next move to be too far away from these subjects that I loved. But I needed an environment that would open up new learning opportunities.

That’s one of my rules of thumb on deciding whether to stay or move on: is there more to learn or have I reached a plateau? I definitely felt like I’d reached a plateau with the type of work and contract roles I was getting.

I’ve always been good at forging new paths or diversifying my skills but this time I knew the next role wouldn’t be wildly different or teach me anything significantly new. There was nothing wrong with those roles but it wasn’t a path that would help me grow personally or professionally.

📈I wanted to future-proof my career

Over the course of a decade I became quite adept at reflecting on where I was professionally and find ways to keep opportunities flowing. Branching out and diversifying into digital and commercial work (I originally started out on print editorial) definitely helped make freelance life more successful as I had my fingers in lots of different pies, but this time I needed a bigger change.

I took a mental snapshot five years into the future and knew I had to future-proof my career. One option was to grow my freelance business into a bigger brand but I knew this wasn’t a direction I was interested in. The other option was to fill in gaps in my CV to ensure I had a whole spectrum of professional experience to take me into the future. I had plenty of experience working with start-ups (mainly in the beauty industry) but I had no work history with larger corporates so I kind of knew what I had to do.

✋🏽I wanted to stop hustling for work

This point was part of my five-year vision into the future. Did I still want to be looking for contract work every 12-18 months? No. And how did I feel about doing more editorial, which I loved, but with rates so low they can barely pay a mortgage? Definitely wasn’t keen on that. So I no longer wanted to hustle.

💵I wanted HR and payroll

I’d had my fair share of chasing invoices big and small. Late payments or at worse, no pay, was definitely something I was happy to leave behind in return for a guaranteed drop of money into my account each month, no pleading needed.

🤓 I wanted processes and systems

Seems like an odd thing to want but after years of free, fluid and organic ways of working I actually just wanted a good process to follow. At the time I loved the ad-hoc working style adopted by small organisations and start-ups and for a long time this work culture really suited me, but eventually I started craving structure and organisation. I simply wanted to learn more organised and more efficient ways of doing things.

👫I wanted to work with more senior people

I was often the most senior person on a team, sharing my digital skills and experiences with others and for several years I loved doing this. I enjoyed training up junior staff and writing strategy documents and toolkits for brands and PRs but I reached a point where I knew I had to learn more myself.

I wanted to be in an environment where there were people more senior than me to learn from. I’m slightly obsessed with learning so this was a big pull.

💥I wanted to work on bigger projects

Small organisations usually means small budgets. I had plenty of ideas and creative solutions but the issue of limited resources would always hold us back. For years this didn’t bother me but eventually I wanted to work on bigger brands and bigger budgets, not just for the kudos and clout but to challenge my thinking and ways of working.


Essentially what all of these points boil down to is a need to keep learning, growing and evolving, as a person and in my career, which is pretty much essential for work survival (and in general life!).

I wouldn’t change a single thing from my years as a freelancer – even the trials and struggles, especially in the beginning years, all lead to an accumulation of valuable experience.

Eight months in, I’m still super happy in my role at Hearst – I’m commercial editor for Women’s Health, Runner’s World and other titles – as I take on all the amazing health and fitness branded campaigns, from Nike and New Balance to Imodium and Deep Freeze. It brings together all my interests and professional skills and gives me the large scale experience I was so keen to find.

I’m not as restricted as I imagined I would be either, as our projects and campaigns change so regularly and each one is entirely different; plus we have the capacity to be as creative as we want. A dream set up.

So it was totally worth holding out for the right role in the end!

 

Alternative Ways of Being #8: Empowering Self-Talk

sarah powell international womens day
‘That inner critic voice you hear that tells you you’re rubbish, that you’re never as good as so and so, or you’ll never be good enough to do blah, is talking bollocks. It’s lying and you should never listen to it.’ 
– Sarah Powell
Fantastic words of wisdom dished out by Sarah Powell @thisissarahpowell at our Hearst offices on International Women’s Day this year. We regularly have guest speakers and Sarah was on point!

sarah powell international womens day
@thisissarahpowell

The concept of the inner critic is very familiar to me thanks to quite a few years of therapy. I started therapy after a difficult breakup but stuck with it because it’s so valuable and you learn so much about yourself, people, relationships and psychology in general. I now see it as an ongoing investment into mental wellness.

My therapist does a psycho-dynamic and classic psychotherapy style that helps to analyse behavioural patterns, and the inner critic and the self critical voice is something we cover a lot. So it was brilliant to hear Sarah reference this, especially as recognising your critical voice is the first step to actually being free of it and living a happier life.

Sarah called it the mean voice, my therapist calls it the ‘old brain’ but what ever you call it, it is often destructive and rarely helpful.
Sarah called it the mean voice, my therapist calls it the ‘old brain’, but what ever you call it, it is often destructive and rarely helpful. It’s usually connected to past experiences – perhaps formative years, childhood or teenage years. Understanding this has helped to soften it so it has less hold and control.


A regular therapy session might involve recognising when the old brain has reared its ugly head – it might be a confrontation at work or with a friend or an argument with a sibling or parent – and digging around to hopefully identify its roots. Then I may know why I reacted so irrationally or over-emotionally and cut myself some slack. So therapy has been a great place to learn to be kinder to myself too.


From what I understand the inner critic isn’t the rational adult brain talking – that’s why Sarah says it’s talking bollocks – but it comes from an old part of you that’s triggered when confidence, ego or self-esteem, for example, has been threatened and then it jumps in to say, ‘Ha! I told you were rubbish and no good and that nobody likes you!’


I’m now pretty good at recognising the awful inner critic – usually comparing me to the other girl in the room – so when it does pipe up, I just give it a nod but then push it firmly away and try to replace it with something more positive and helpful. I really have very little time for it these days and that’s testament to the therapy work.

 

My sessions are fortnightly now and still, after several years, walk away from nearly every appointment (they are 50 mins long) having learnt a little bit more about myself and better ways of dealing with things.

 

Sarah had a whole heap of other stuff to share about self-empowerment, confidence and just managing life in general when it feels overwhelming AF. So check her out on IG where she spills more of her inspiration for positive self-talk.

Recycle your old running shoes at Runners Need stores

Recycle Trainers Recycle My Run _ Runners Need
What do you do with your old running shoes? I’ve definitely done a Google search or two over the years for ways to recycle my old trainers, but usually end up taking them to the charity shop. Although I’ve also found community groups who take good quality sports kit and donate it to disadvantaged groups.

 

Now Runners Need, the specialist running shoe store, has re-launched ‘Recycle my Run’ initiative to give you £20 off your next pair of trainers if you bring in your old running shoes into store before 7th March 2019. In 2018, this same campaign led to 7575 trainers being recycled. How cool is that?

 

The initiative is a partnership between Runners Need and clothing and shoe recycling company, Seox, which turns used textiles into secondary raw materials so that each pair of trainers has a second lease of life.

 

Sustainability in sport and fitness is growing too. Runners Need has been collecting old running shoes in store with the European Recycling Company since 2016 and has collected over 1.5 tonnes of old running gear to be recycled or re-used. Amazing!
‘Recycling your old running shoes diverts resources from landfill and allows them to be reused or recycled, creating employment opportunities and providing footwear to those who could not otherwise afford them’ – Runners Need

 

With consumer consciousness growing about the impact of our material world on the environment, I feel people are starting to really care about plastic waste, food waste and recyclable materials more than ever before.

Recycle your run now!:

Drop your old trainers into a recycle bin at your local Runners Need store and get £20 off a shiny new pair. T&Cs apply. Follow and share the story: #RecycleMyRun

 

Would love to know what you do with your old running and sports gear?

My 8 favourite cookbooks for healthy vegan and vegetarian cooking

fresh india cookbook best vegetarian

I love a good cookbook. I have over 35-40 of them – bought, inherited or gratefully received. A few have proven their worth and have become absolute favourites. They’re the ones I can always rely on to provide me a new or interesting way of cooking with an ingredient. Or offer an inspiring recipe I can pull together with minimum effort and with simple foods I usually already have.

Friends often ask if I can recommend a good book and there are a few I always call out, which I’ve listed here. Each one is best for a different reason, occasion or cooking style. So if you’re looking to renew your repertoire of recipes or need fresh inspiration for healthy, plant-based cooking (that’s still hearty and filling!) then this is the list for you. Feel free to pass it on.

1. World Food Cafe Vegetarian Bible

By Chris and Carolyn caldicott

And it really is a bible. If you’re excited by the variety and flavours of world cuisine you will love this. Organised by region, the authors have cherrypicked recipes that show off the best from that area. I usually turn to this book when I’m looking for a curry, going straight to the index to see the options for my chosen veg (which is how I use most cookbooks) and then I can almost guarantee the dish I find in here wouldn’t be in any other cookbook.

Best for: interesting DISHES from FAR AND WIDE

2. The Happy Pear

by David and Stephen Flynn

This was a gift from a good friend and very quickly became a regular go-to. I’m quite averse to vegan food that’s light or superficial, inadvertently channeling the notion that vegans are not hearty eaters (which is far from the truth, in my case anyway!). The Flynn brothers have taken everyday, popular ingredients such as squash and lentils and not only given them fuss-free makeovers but the recipes are sure to fill you up too. There’s not a drop of pretentious cooking here, just down to earth, wholesome meals that are both inviting and easy to follow.

BEST FOR: keeping the family full and happy

 

3. Fresh India

by Meera Sodha

I received this as a birthday present from another good friend only a few months ago and it’s been the most exciting edition to my collection. I made three recipes within the first few days of receiving it and instantly bookmarked so many more to try. Possibly because I’m obsessed with vegetarian Indian cuisine – you’ll find me at one of London’s local pure vegetarian restaurants feasting on dosa, idly and vada at any possible opportunity – that I was smitten by this book but also because Meera Sodha makes everything so simple. For example, I’ve picked up lots of new (and uncomplicated) ways of cooking Indian-inspired sauces and I found it super easy to take ingredients from one recipe and combine with the method of another, depending on what I have in the kitchen.

Best for: being creative with Indian cooking with hardly any effort

 

 

4. The Nut Butter Cookbook by Pip & Nut

By Pippa Murray

This book isn’t vegetarian or vegan (in fact, apart from the nut butters there’s hardly any vegan recipes) but I have easily adapted ideas and replaced dairy ingredients with non-dairy alternatives. The highlight for me is the Peanut Sweet Potato Gratin – once I’d swapped the cream and milk for coconut milk, it was divine.  I have also discovered super easy ways to turn nut butter into sauces, dips and dressings which has transformed my lunches and dinners. I now make peanut and sriracha sauce almost daily!

Best for: surprisingLy endless ways with nut butter


5. Silk Road Vegetarian

by Dahlia Abraham-Klein

This one was a bit of a wild card which I bought after a recommendation from my uncle, who also loves vegetarian cooking, and despite its slightly old fashioned imagery it’s definitely proven itself. Covering a region I’m naturally drawn thanks to my Iraqi heritage, I often reach for this when I want comfort food inspiration. It’s great for stews and rice dishes.

Best for: traditional cuisine that’s true to its origins

 

6. Cook, Share, Eat Vegan

by Aine Carlin

Who would have thought that one day there would be as many modern vegan cookbooks as there are out today. Bookshops and bookshelves are bursting with them all vying for our attention but it’s hard to see which ones are really worth having. Having eaten a vegan diet for over a decade now (way back when veganism was still very hippie) I feel like my plant-based cooking skills constantly needs challenging and refreshing which is why Aine Carlin’s collections appeal. If you’re looking for the next step up in plant-based cooking I’d definitely recommend this. The ideas go the extra mile to impress but still accessible and easy to make.     

Best for: Impressing guests (but not leaving them hungry)

 

 

7. Riverford Companion: Autumn Winter and Spring Summer

By GuyWatson

I’m a regular customer of Riverford veg delivery boxes (I’ve tried other veg boxes over the years but always come back to Riverford for the variety and generous portion sizes) so it’s no surprise I also love their cookbooks, thoughtfully presented for seasonal cooking. Guy Watson and the Riverford team never fail to reveal a new or enlivening way to prep or cook a vegetable, banishing boredom and educating with their decades of expertise along the way.

Best for: never being stuck with what to do with a vegetable again

 

8. The Dal Cookbook

By Krishna Dutta

An oldie but a goodie. I have no idea how this one entered my life (another gift maybe?) but for lovers of dal (obviously) it’s a must-have. From simple to elaborate and all styles and flavours in between, this is a chance to experiment with over 50 ways to find your favourites. It’s also a bit of a reference book for all things lentil-based, another reason why it’s stood the test of time on my bookshelf.

Best for: Never cooking the same dal twice

 

Would love to hear what your go-to veggie/vegan cookbooks are! Thanks for reading :)

My three fitness goals for 2019

1000 KM challenge medal

Every year I have a few big fitness goals to focus my time on. For a goal-orientated person this is what gets me out of bed (usually at 5:30AM to train!).

Last year I ran Snowdonia Trail Marathon in July which was an amazing ultra event on really challenging terrain and where we summited Snowdon (around mile 23) and then hobbled downhill to the finish line. I’ve done many marathons but this required specific work on muscle endurance and to get comfortable on hills and elevations so I spent the first six months of the year training for that with running and endurance coach, Luke Tyburski.

snowdonia trail marathon finishers
The finish line Snowdon Trail Marathon @yanarbeauty

After a lovely long summer break with almost no running, the rest of 2018 was spent doing Park Runs (although not sure what’s harder, running fast 5Ks or marathons!) and enjoying being back at my CrossFit gym building strength and working on my olympic lifting skills.

The snatch is my nemesis so I’ve been really trying to crack that with coaches at Royal Docks CrossFit as well as oly-lifting coach and ex-British champion, John McComish, who I’ve been training with at Peacock Gym in east London for the last few months and will continue next year.

I’ve always liked working with coaches for the expertise and accountability they bring so that’s something I highly recommend if you’re serious about a goal.

What’s in store for 2019?

The 2019 goals are in place. I usually start thinking about these in the last few months of each year so I have enough time to mentally prepare and plan ahead.

This quote by Seth Godin which is one of the ways I approach goal setting. It has to be something difficult and scary enough to keep you on your toes but not completely out of reach. I also like it to involve a mix of physical and mental.

If it scares you quote seth godin

Yoga

From January to July I’ll be spending most of my time and energy on my yoga teacher training course, which finishes with two weeks of assessments in July. The coming months will involve lots of practice teaching friends and family, assignments and homework and a big end of year project.

To squeeze this in to my already packed schedule (and because I don’t want to cut back on my training) I plan to basically cull my social life for a few months to carve out the extra time I need. It’s only temporary so I’m sure my friends and family will understand and won’t mind. I did the same last year for the marathon training so they’re pretty used to it now!

CrossFit

To keep making improvements I have booked a CrossFit competition in May – a pairs fitness competition called Inferno Series, which I did last year. It will be great to try and beat our 2018 scores and ranking and give us something to work towards. After that I’d love to do a singles CrossFit competition (Rainhill Trials in Manchester is one of the most popular ones) but as this is is a ballot entry I’ll have to wait and see.

Running

I’m trying something different this year so instead of one big event I’ve signed up to do the 1000KM challenge with Pow Virtual Running, which simply involves running 1000KM within 12 months, from January 1st. I chose this for the aim of being more consistent with my running rather than doing a massive push for six months and then nothing for a few months.

I’m definitely motivated by numbers so by splitting the challenge into weekly and monthly goals (it’s around 20K a week or 80KM a month) I will have something very tangible to keep me on track provide me with a more regular running habit. Plus you get a really fun-looking medal at the end of it :)

1000 KM challenge medal

So there we have it. Three key focusses for 2019 which should definitely keep me busy, motivated and excited. What are yours??

Best eco, ethical and sustainable gifts

pukka bamboo keep cup

Last minute shopping for the plant based, eco warrior in your life? Or maybe you just need some inspiration for good eco and ethical gifts. Look no further than a few of my favourite products that I use and highly rate.

These tick eco friendly, sustainable, stylish (and if not stylish, then useful!). Would love to hear your what eco presents you have given, received or recommend. After all, ethical and sustainable should be all year round, not just for Christmas. For that reason, I’ll keep adding to this fabulous list…

1. Rechargeable batteries and charger

I’m starting with the most unglamorous but the most helpful!  I bought myself a rechargeable battery set a few years ago and think it’s one of the best presents you can buy. It’s saves so much toxic waste – my wireless mouse and keyboard guzzle battery power and need changing at least once a month. With this recharger I’ve basically used the same four batteries over and over for two whole years. Just think of all the batteries and money I’ve saved! Incredible. I bought Lloytron LCD Battery Charger (for around a tenner) for myself but bought this EBL charger for AA and AAA batteries for my dad this year.

EBL rechargeable batterycharger

2. Tofu press

Who else would appreciate a tofu squeezer more than a tofu lover?! I’m sure this unique gift from Tofuture.com would be put to good use as mine is, week in and week out. I no longer need to pile cans or heavy objects onto a plate balanced on a block of tofu with this nifty contraption. It simply squeezes the excess water out of the tofu in just a few minutes so it’s ready for cooking. And if you’re ever stuck on what to cook up your tofu just check out the site’s fabulous collections of inspiring tofu recipes.

 

tofuture-tofu-press-1_800x

3. The Natural Deodorant Company

Greening up your beauty products might be easy with creams and lotions but when it comes to deodorant the quest gets tricksy. In my experience it’s where people draw the line as they simply fail to find a natural deodorant that works and go back to the full chemical hit. Enter, The Natural Deodorant Company. A cream deodorant you massage, like a balm into pits, without aluminium, alcohol, artificial fragrance or palm oil. I can’t express enough how much this stuff works! And I workout A LOT so it’s put to the the ultimate of sweat-tests. It also doesn’t cost as much as Aurelia Cream Deodorant which is another favourite of mine. There are several fragrances to try as well as mini tester pots so you can BO-test it yourself and then thank me for it later.

natural deodorant company sustainable beauty

 

4. Prosody Perfume

This natural and organic perfume house is top of my beauty wishlist every time. It’s the UK’s first luxury organic and 100% natural perfume. The range of eau du parfum is decadent and luxurious with the most interesting blend of notes to impress any fragrance lover. I rarely finish a perfume bottle (who does?!) but I very quickly emptied the mini (10ml) Rose Rondeux, a heady scent of rose, raspberry, plum, blackcurrant, cedar and sandalwood. There are mini sizes to try before you indulge as well as candles, which are just as beautiful.

Prosody_50ml_Rose-Rondeaux_natural organic perfume

5. Po-Zu shoes

This amazing brand of ethical shoes says “you should be able to buy your shoes guilt-free, safe in the knowledge that they were created with love for people and planet” and I couldn’t agree more. Isn’t that how all products should be made? After I was kindly sent a press pair try, I haven’t stopped raving about the sustainable materials Po-Zu uses: the vegan leather alternative is pinatex, made from pineapple leaf fibres – yes pineapple! Very sustainable as it doesn’t require any extra land, water, fertilisers or pesticides to produce. There’s also cork, organic cotton, chromium free leather (because most leather is dyed with heavy metals) and coir, which is a mix of coconut husk and natural latex.

Honestly, this is the most innovative ethical shoes brand right now with the most conscientious AND comfortable shoe I’ve worn. What’s more, they last and don’t fall apart (sadly like my Veja trainers did). I now recommend Po-Zu to everyone and they sit alongside my vegan DMs as a staple in my wardrobe. Check out the range of vegan shoes here.

po-zu_AW18_collection-banner_womens-vegan

6. Pukka Bamboo Cup

This gorgeous Pukka bamboo cup is part of my daily grind. For that someone who is addicted to a coffee shop caffeine hit then this makes the perfect gift to help them ditch the single-use plastic packaging a high street coffee comes with. Most places offer a discount for using your own reusable cup so you’ll save a penny while looking pretty.pukka bamboo keep cup

 

7 reasons how yoga can improve mental health

yoga-for-peace-lebanon-project.jpg

Yoga is one of the cheapest and most effective means of releasing trauma, stress and emotions from the body.

Symptoms of trauma and post-traumatic stress-disorder (PTSD) include anxiety, nightmares, sleep disturbance, withdrawal, loss of concentration, stress-related physical ailments, anger and aggression. These issues can easily impact a person’s ability to function in society.

Here’s why simple techniques from classical yoga are powerfully therapeutic.

  1. Bessel van der Kolk, a leading trauma psychiatrist, advocates yoga as one of the foremost means to quiet the brain and regulate emotional and physiological states. ‘Ten weeks of yoga practice markedly reduced the PTSD symptoms of patients who had failed to respond to medication or to any other treatment.’
  2. Experts have in recent years shown how traumatic stress rearranges the brain’s wiring, and sets it on high alert. A key to the treatment of psychological trauma is soothing the nervous system and inducing the relaxation response.
  3. For traumatised people, strengthening the relaxation response allows them to reengage in the present.
  4. Through regular practice of simple yoga techniques, developing awareness of body and breath, the nervous system’s relaxation response gets stronger and the body’s stress responses calm down.
  5. Bessel van der Kolk has spent three decades trying to understand how people recover from traumatic stress. He views awareness as the first step toward healing in his book, The Body Keeps the Score.
  6. He says: ‘Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience’ – because yoga is fundamentally about developing awareness, research has proven it can help improve mental health.
  7. Yoga develops awareness, first of the body and the breath, and then of our thought processes, emotions and behaviours. Through developing self-awareness, we can access our feelings, observe them, and eventually release them.

bessel van der kolk the body keeps the score book

 

Read more about how we’re using yoga to help the refugee community recover from PTSD and other mental health issues on tools4innerpeace.org.

9 Things To Know About Organic Tea Grown In India

clipper teas organic farming india tea plantations picking leaves

It’s Organic September and my inbox has been full of news of brands and products supporting organic. Great news! The benefits of organic farming and production stretch from soil, planet and wildlife, to farmers, products and consumers. Everyone’s a winner. Which is probably why sales of organic products hit £22billion in 2017 up 6% from 2016.

One email stood out and that was Clipper Teasorganic tea production in Southern India with a small peek behind the scenes. If you’ve ever wondered how tea is cultivated organic, here are nine things I discovered about how Clipper Teas does it in the Nilgiri Mountains:

  1. In this region, 40% of the total population works in the tea industry (source: wessanen uk)
  2. 60% of workers have emigrated from Northern India, for the better pay and working conditions
  3. Tea plants (Camellia Sinensis) are fertilised with nitrogen from cow manure
  4. First, cow dung arrives at the plantation and dried. Then it’s mixed with thousands of worms to help aerate it. This means bringing oxygen into the manure.  The compost is then rotated until it’s ready to use
  5. The plantations are also experimenting with an algae farm as another way of cultivating organic – read the science behind how and why algae is used in organic farming here. It’s basically a cost-effective and eco way to boost plant growth
  6. Plantations are also trialling compost from local food waste
  7. Plant, insect and bird life are thought be 50% more abundant on organic farms compared to non. Locals say there are now more bison in the area
  8. Fewer pesticides and genetically modified ingredients not only benefit the soil and environment but the workers too, who no longer have to put their health at risk when spaying plants with chemicals
  9. Not just certified by the Soil Association, the majority of these plantations are also Fairtrade (Clipper Teas was the UK’s first Fairtrade tea company in 1994and more are in the pipeline,helping to provide workers and communities with additional funding for healthcare, education, better pay and employment benefits, such as sick leave.

So next time you kick back with a cup of tea, choose one that’s organic for the benefits of the environment, wildlife, and most importantly, the tea workers and villages who are better off because of it.

Now, here’s a snapshot of the people behind your tea!

clipper teas organic farming india

clipper teas organic farming india tea workers

clipper teas organic farming india tea plantations picking leaves

clipper teas organic farming india tea plantations workers

clipper-teas-organic-tea-farming-india-picking-tea-leaves-plantations

Picture credits: Clipper Teas

 

Alternative Ways of Being #7 – World Peace Day

world peace day Ganga jata dhara
world peace day Ganga jata dhara
“Peace is the happy, natural state of man. It is his birthright.

 

Many are working today for the promotion of world peace without having peace in themselves. You can elevate others only if you have elevated yourself. This world can be saved only by those who have already saved themselves.

 

Remove the hatred, greed, delusion, selfishness and jealousy, deeply ingrained in human society and spread the message of inner peace.

 

Only inner peace can lead to world peace. That alone is true service to humanity.”

 

– Swami Sivananda Saraswati 
Shared from Tools for Inner Peace – yoga for refugees in UK and Lebanon.

3 Yoga Moves to Help with Running

wanderlust festival london yoga
wanderlust festival london yoga

 

Anyone sticking to just one form of exercise may soon experience the impact of over-training the same muscle groups and the potential risk of injury.

 

I only became a stronger runner after taking up CrossFit (almost ten years after I’d first laced up) and I quickly discovered how functional workouts and barbell training improved all-round body strength and cardio fitness. Not only that, the Crossfit workouts also helped build a strong midline and core – essential for running – and propelled my hip power and mobility, particularly useful for the trail and hill-races I’ve been doing recently.

 

In a similar way, integrating yoga into a weekly routine can be just as beneficial. Runners are notoriously stiff and this can cause strain on joints, muscles and tissues. Flexibility and mobility can help prevent injury and help runners perform better.

 

I’ve also valued my weekly yoga class for the last gazillion years for its deeply calming effects. It’s the one time in the week I can stop and let my breath, mind and body settle, which work its own kind of magic too.

 

Here are three tips from yoga teacher, Jaime Tully, on how yoga can help runners with a few tips from my own experience:

jaime tully yoga teacher

1.

‘Just five to ten minutes of yoga before and after your run will improve both your mobility and recovery.’
TRY: sun salutation to warm up your whole body and loosen all the key muscle groups before you run.

 

2.

‘Spinal poses such as twists are a great way to ease the lower back which gets impacted by tight hamstrings and glutes.’
TRY: A simple pose such as Meru Wakrasana (spinal twist) can help relax the spine. With eyes closed and breath awareness in the spinal pathway for five rounds of breath can enhance the practice.

 

3.

‘Swap a run for a Vinyasa class. It’s the best style for those who crave movement and can still have the intensity of a run. You’ll burn calories, get lost in the movement and restore the areas of your body that could be perhaps damaged by repetitive strain.’
TRY: For an alternative to a Vinyasa flow class, you can incorporate a more gentle and relaxing yoga session into your weekly routine as I have done. This can help calm the nervous system and act as an antidote to any high energy workouts you do.

 

Jaime Tully is one of the many leading yoga teachers and fitness experts at Wanderlust Festival in London on Saturday 15th September. A day festival of running, yoga and meditation – three of my favourite things!  Check it out – tickets still available.

Get your hair done at an eco hair salon

karine jackson eco salon
Karine_jackson salon covent garden london
Karine Jackson, Covent Garden IS LONDON’S first certified Sustainable Salon

Ever wondered how eco your hair salon is? Or maybe how eco your hair routine at home is? With the rise in environmental awareness, the University of Southampton discovered haircare and salons to be highly energy intensive (surprise, surprise) so they decided to launch the sustainable salon certification….(insert applause here)…

If you pop along to Karine Jackson salon in Covent Garden you’ll get a truly eco experience as it’s now officially the first hairdressers in London with this sustainability certificate. That means Karine and her team have not only made significant changes to reduce water and energy consumption and waste in the salon but advise customers how to do the same at home.

Karine, former London Hairdresser of the Year, has been a life-long advocate of green living and was one of the first salons in the capital to offer organic hair colouring (Organic Colour Systems), which uses fewer chemicals than conventional hair dye, and vegan hairdressing services, which I’ve reviewed several times and highly recommend (- not only for the dairy-free biscuit an almond latte, but for the team’s amazing cut and natural-colour skills).

…someone who washes their hair every day, rinses, repeats and blow dries uses 500kg of carbon dioxide a year. Washing hair every two days and rinsing only once, the carbon footprint goes down by 2000% to just 25kg of carbon dioxide.

Just check out the stats above – this is a single person’s carbon footprint so you can imagine how much energy a salon gets through each day, week and year. So giving a hairdressers a green makeover is not only an environmental win but the energy saving would save the business a ton of money too – a win for all. Karine is hoping this new eco initiative will encourage other salons to get on board too.

To find your nearest certified sustainable salon visit the salon locator: ecohairandbeauty.com