Period poverty is a subject that I’ve been meaning to write about for some time and it recently came into the limelight again as The Guardian and the charity Bloody Good Period reported how the issue ‘has increased sharply during the pandemic’. So it feels timely that I bring you this guest post, written by 15-year old student, Mariam Al-Azzawi.Continue reading “7 things you need to know about period poverty”
I’m excited to be trialling and learning about the latest in consumer fitness tech, Blood Flow Restriction (BFR). It’s not a new technology, as elite athletes and professional sports teams have been using BFR training for several years (and bodybuilders might have used a general strap) but it’s now emerging into the mainstream through consumer-friendly products. One of these is Hytro Performance Tech-Wear, which was kindly sent to me to try.
I was eager to understand more about the technology behind Hytro’s BFR clothing so I spoke to one of the three co-founders, Dr. Warren Bradley for a deeper dive into how BFR training works and why Hytro is different.
During his PhD in human physiology and nutrition, Warren saw sports clubs and athletes using BFR for rehabilitation and was intrigued at how rapidly muscles recovered and grew. He went on to study the ‘solid science and research’ and co-developed ‘the world’s first patented blood flow restriction tech-wear for rapidly enhancing muscle and accelerating recovery’.
Instead of pneumatic cuffs or bulky pressure gauge equipment, manual straps are integrated into Hytro garments so that athletes could access BFR technology more easily, for increased performance and physiological adaptations.
Could this be the future of fitness-tech?Continue reading “What Is Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Training and What Are the Benefits for Fitness?”
Confession: During this lockdown 3.0, there have been days when I haven’t left the house, even though I’m always encouraging others to get outside every day. I haven’t stopped training and doing my workouts but they’ve all been indoors (at the furthest, in the communal corridor) so sometimes that walk outside just never happens. Naughty I know – especially for a health and fitness editor! – so I was keen to do something about this bad habit creeping in.
I’ve been reading Dallas Hartwig’s The 4 Season Solution and felt drawn to his account of why humans, in line with the rest of nature, have different rhythms throughout the year and why we should honour a slower pace in winter. So let’s say my desire to stay cocooned has been part lockdown-lethargy and part Janaury’s fault (read this Instagram post about this).
So as January was coming to an end and I was keen to get moving again, a friend suggested doing a fitness challenge to cover 100 miles of running, walking or cycling across the month of February for Street Doctors charity – it didn’t take me long to sign up. It felt like just the push and nudge I needed so I jumped right in.Continue reading “Why I Signed Up for 100 Miles in February Fitness Challenge – and How It’s Going”
Friends often ask me what equipment I would recommend for working out at home and my first tip is usually to work on bodyweight exercises. As someone who trains and competes (I also have my Level 3 PT), I know there’s nothing more valuable than developing the skill and strength for functional moves, such as push-ups, squats, lunges and core work, using your own body weight.
Then, depending on the person, I might suggest getting a pull-up bar for building all over strength. From hangs, holds and shrugs to pull-ups, chin-ups and other bodyweight work such as L-sits and leg raises, you can develop phenomenal midline strength (as well as stronger back and shoulders). So if you want killer abs, get on a pull-up bar!
Through the lockdowns this year, I spent a lot of time working on strict and kipping pullups and can’t believe how much core strength I gained.
I now have my sights set on strict ring muscle-ups and for those I need triceps like steel, so I was delighted when Pull Up Mate got in touch to invite me to try their parallette bars. Perfect timing!Continue reading “Home Gym Review: Parallette Bars For All Levels of Fitness”
As I celebrate my 41st birthday this weekend it’s got me thinking about the privilege of age rather than the horror of it and how content and happy I feel, compared to what society and cultural norms suggest I should be feeling (without traditional markers such as marriage or children). I wrote about this in an Instagram post here.
Feeling content at this point in life is partly down to figuring out what brings out the best in me and mapping my life accordingly. I’m fortunate to have had the freedom and capacity to nurture these aspects in my life: an interesting career that’s evolved with me, a fun and rewarding fitness journey that keeps me challenged and striving for more, and a strong community of friends who share similar interests and ways of thinking, as well as family close by and many other things.Continue reading “Turning 41 and My Fitness Story in The Telegraph”
Yes, you read right. CBD-infused olive oil for your kitchen cupboard and dinner table. You’ve probably heard of CBD products ranging from oral tinctures, topical salves and muscles rubs, and now introducing CBD Extra Virgin Olive Oil by Drops of Heal.
Firstly, what is CBD? It’s short for cannabidiol, which is the chemical extracted from the marijuana plant (through distillation) and does not contain the psychoactive ingredient, THC – so you cannot get high off CBD products.Continue reading “New: CBD Olive Oil – What’s It All About?”
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.Continue reading “Review: Level 2 Fitness Instructor Training with No.1 Fitness Education”
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.Continue reading “14 Reasons Why I Decided to Do a Personal Trainer Course”
Continue reading “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.
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.Continue reading “How I lost weight for a weightlifting competition (by eating more carbs)”
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.Continue reading “Review: British Weightlifting Level 1 in Coaching”
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.Continue reading “My Story On Metro.co.uk”
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.
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…
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).
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…
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.
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’.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 :)
So there we have it. Three key focusses for 2019 which should definitely keep me busy, motivated and excited. What are yours??
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 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.
It’s a common misconception that yoga is an exercise. When people hear or talk about yoga it’s almost always referred to and understood as a form of exercise. But is it? Well, not really. So what is the difference between yoga and exercise?
While exercise and yogic postures (asana) share similarities in that they both involve movement, (most) exercise works on the sympathetic system and yoga (when done correctly) works on the parasympathetic system which is why it can be useful for people suffering from stress and anxiety. Both contribute to physical health but yoga relates to so much more than the physical.
It happens. There I was, not so long ago, running like nothing in the world compared to the freedom and joy of hitting the road on a run and bam! It couldn’t be more different now. Legs feel like they’re wading through mud, ankles like they’re strapped with lead and the mind split in two having the most almighty wrestling match. One half wishing it could be anywhere else but out there on a Saturday morning and the other half willing and coercing it to keep going.
It’s been a mental and physical battle like this every time I’ve run for the last few months, so me and running are currently going through a bad patch.
This change of head and heart has been a little untimely to be honest as I’m exactly half way through a six-month training block for Scott Snowdon Marathon on July 15th. So with just three months to go before I am literally on a mountain and having to run up it, I have to sort my head out, fast.
So what do you do when you no longer want to run (but you have shit loads of training to do before a big race)?
What do you do when you’re half way through an 18 miler and there’s an overwhelming feeling to just stop and call it a day.
What if something else is flavour of the day? In my case weightlifting and Crossfit? I find these two activities waaaay more fun right now but I have this mountain race looming over me so now is not the time to spend Sunday afternoons at my Crossfit gym perfecting my snatches.
In the last few weeks and months I’ve been riddled with non-stop negativity, before, during and after the trainers go on. This negative mind-set became so bad and loud that on my last 20-miler I gave up at mile 11, sat down at the top of Greenwich Park (not a bad place to pack it all in) and refused to get up and get going again. My head wasn’t in it and no mind game or visualisation trick was going to work this time. I had officially fallen out of love with the run.
I’d been trying to deal with this alone for several weeks with no progress so I finally consulted my coach Luke Tyburski. (Big plug here for Luke as he’s so much more than just a running coach but super experienced in the mental side of challenges too).
‘It happens. And it happens to more of us than you realise,’ he says over our Skype consultation. From what I understand from Luke and reading about others, running without joy happens to everyone from elite athletes to novices. It happens to people who have been running and racing for over ten years like myself and to people like Luke who run phenomenally long ultra races around the world. But there are ways around it.
So he gave me three bits of good advice:
> Grab a cup of tea and have a long serious chat with yourself. Really ask yourself why you’re doing it. What’s your motivation, why do you want to run this race? And even once you’ve answered it dig deeper and find out more. If you say you love trail running ask why, what does it do for you? What will completing this event mean?
> Look ahead into the future and see how this fits into longer-term goals. Will this race be a stepping-stone to other challenges? Will it make you stronger for other goals in mind?
> Find your happy place again. Take the weekend off long runs and go out for a casual run instead: no watch, no time, no pressure or expectations and run for as long or little as you want (say, up to one hour) to regain your confidence and find your happy place again.
So I’m working on the above.
To combat negative periods when out on the ground, ultra runner Debbie Martin-Consani, who I met on a press trip for Montane and Polygeine (which is a clever anti-odour technology used sports clothing) and she recommend counting while running to help calm the mind.
‘Count to 10 over and over again. It’s like a temporary distraction.’ It sounds a bit nuts but I’ve been doing this and it genuinely works. I just keep counting 1-10 in time with my strides, a bit like an insomniac, and eventually find a quiet place in my mind again. A bit like falling asleep.
Luke also recommends switching the point of focus when we are in a whirl of negative thoughts during a run.
‘When you’re being internally negative (e.g. thoughts about painful muscles or discomfort) focus on the external e.g. the weather, the scenery (enjoy its beauty), or the fact that you can run/train/lift etc, and there are millions of people who cannot.
– this has actually been very useful as I realised running the same route for months on end has been slowly feeding my boredom. As soon as I changed routes last week I started externalising and not internalising. The run was so much better. Sounds obvious but sticking to a route we know usually helps with getting the miles in without too much thought but after some time it seems like this familiar route has a counterproductive effect.
‘When focussing on the external (bad weather, hard hills, heavy weights etc) move your focus internally. Do you feel strong, have you done this before? Did you survive it last time? Positive self talk is a cliché but it goes a long way.
‘Finally when you’re on a tough part of a race or run and it’s physically demanding, accept this is your ‘new norm’. Don’t fight it. Acknowledge the negative thoughts and say I hear you but you are not helping me. I will not let you drag me down.’
This is not the first time running has lost its spark for me – after my second marathon I didn’t run for two years and hung up my trainers again for another year when I started Crossfit in 2015, but then had a comeback with two marathons 2017 – so I know we’ll get through this; like any relationship we will reconnect again. Let’s just hope I find my happy running place before I’m on the side of that mountain.
Would love to hear if you’ve been through the same and any of your negative-fighting tips and tricks please!
I know working out on holiday isn’t top of most people’s agendas but occasionally you might feel like sweating it out to balance out the cocktail calories and clear away the cobwebs. If you don’t have access to a gym – say you’re doing a villa or apartment rental – it’s handy to have an arsenal of drills to dip into. That’s why I’ve collected and compiled this list of workouts that can be done any time, anywhere, quickly (because there’s a holiday to enjoy) and most importantly, with no equipment needed (so there really are no excuses). They are also accessible for any level of fitness which is also great.
The sequences on this list targets the whole body, strength, mobility and cardiovascular power in one swift session and mixing up high intensity and strength makes it super efficient. Most have been taken from CrossFit programming so for time means as fast as possible to get your best time – this definitely lends more intensity, as does the higher volume of reps. You can even then repeat your workout another day to see if you can beat your time.
AMRAP means as many rounds or reps as possible which also creates a sense of urgency. Having a rep scheme to work to – rather than simply working for 30-seconds – contributes to a more effective session as you have a specific volume of work to get through which creates more focus. This combination of time and reps pushes you further. Most of these are short, sharp and sweat-pouringly effective.
I recently did #2 and it took me 13 minutes 22 seconds. Can you beat it? Have a go and let me know!
TIP: When you see 100 reps, break it up which ever way want. So I did 10 rounds of 10 for workout #2. Five rounds of 20 is also doable, although you might find you slow down on the burpees if you have to do too many in a round.
13 best holiday workouts
#1. For time: 100 burpees
#2. For time:
- 100 push ups
- 100 squats (hip crease below knee)
- 100 burpees
#3. 10 rounds for time:
- 10 pushups
- 10 sit-ups
- 10 air squats
#4. As fast as possible for time: – this is a great warm up workout
- 21 air squats (hip crease below knee)
- 21 pushups
- 15 air squats
- 15 pushups
- 9 air squats
- 9 pushups
#5. 8 rounds for time:
- 10 situps
- 10 burpees
#6. For time:
- 75 air squats
- 50 pushups
- 25 burpees
#7. 10 rounds for time:
- 10 air squats
- 10 pushups
- 10 situps
- 10 dips
#8. 20 minute AMRAP (as many rounds/reps as possible):
- 20 walking lunges
- 20 situps
- 20 pushups
- 20 squats
#9. Go as fast as possible for time: (another great warm up workout)
- 21 squats
- 21 burpees
- 15 squats
- 15 burpees
- 9 squats
- 9 burpees
#10. 15 minute AMRAP (as many rounds/reps as possible)
- 5 push-ups
- 15 sit-ups
- 30 squats
#11. 3 rounds for time:
- Run a half mile
- 30 burpees
#12. 4 rounds for time:
- 20 burpees
- 20 push ups
- 20 sit ups
- 20 squats
#13. Stabilisation / core work
- 30 second or 1 minute plank hold
- straight into 25 sit ups
- repeated 3-4 times
Next weekend I’m running London Marathon, which I’m really looking forward to. It will be my third marathon but my first in London (Brighton and Edinburgh previously). I had never planned to run but was offered a last minute place by Lucozade Sport via Health & Fitness magazine who I write for, and seeing as London is so difficult to get into (oversubscribed ballot entry and expensive charity places) of course I said yes quicker than I can send the email reply. But I had just under three months to train so it’s been tight to say the least – a bit like cramming before a huge exam.
Interestingly, a year and a half of weight training and CrossFit has made me stronger than I was for my previous marathons so I’ve been able to tackle the long distances without too much risk of injury. All those deadlifts have luckily come in handy!
But long steady runs have had a surprising effect on my body. At the start of the training when I was building up from eight, nine miles to 15 and more I got leaner and noticed some excess weight fall off pretty quickly. However, during the weeks where I was running 18, 19, 20 and 21 miles I noticed things change – I was no longer feeling light or lean but quite the contrary, I felt like I’d filled out a bit despite doing big mileage every weekend.
I’d cut back on CrossFit (from four sessions a week to three) but I didn’t think that was the cause. Could I be imagining it? A quick step on the weights at my parent’s house confirmed I was right as I’d gone up a kilo but endurance training requires good fuel so I put it down to the extra calories I’d been consuming.
Turns out there’s more to it than that. When I saw my sports massage therapist – the brilliant Uju Eze, who is actually a movement specialist because she’s definitely more than just a sports masseuse – she confirmed there is science behind the gain.
“When you run at around 65% of your maximum heart rate for a long, sustained period the body goes into a catabolic state (muscle-wasting) which means it adapts and starts to store fat and use muscle as as fuel instead because it thinks something is wrong and it needs to get ready to survive.”
This, and a number of other reasons are why low intensity steady cardio (otherwise known as LISS which is the opposite of HIIT – high intensity interval training) can actually be the wrong choice of exercise if fat loss is your goal. Here are a few reasons why the body is not in a fat burning state:
- the body adapts to low intensity steady state cardio and eventually doesn’t need as much oxygen or energy to do the workout so it becomes easier and consequently less effective. To keep reaping benefits you’d have to increase the intensity e.g. by either training faster or increasing distance.
- Increasing volume however, could have a detrimental effect in the long run because of a loss of muscle mass (the catabolic effect) which in turn leads to fewer calories burned by the body at rest (the metabolic rate) because muscle burns more calories than fat, and if there’s no change in diet it will eventually lead to fat gain.
- too much cardio can also lead to increased hunger and additionally, fuelling for long runs can often involve high glycemic foods before, during and after the workout which actually suppress fat loss and fat burn.
- long steady state cardio only burns calories during the activity rather and doesn’t change your metabolism. To make changes to your metabolism and experience calories burn up to 24 hours after exercise, studies show HIIT training works because it produces mitochondria (cells where respiration happens) and increases mitochondria activity so your body increases its oxidative capacity.
So it wasn’t all in my head, I was indeed actually holding onto weight. There are more explanations and studies shared about this in this article, Does Cardio Make You Fat and following that, check out this article which compares HIIT vs LISS and explains why high intensity interval training is a better option for fat loss and toning up than low state cardio.
I’m now looking forward to the end of this marathon when I can go back to short, sharp and strength based interval training. However, research shows that some steady state cardio can be good as a means of recovery from high intensity strength training so I won’t be giving up on the steady state cardio just yet – it just won’t be as long as it is now.
And I almost forgot! For those friends and family wishing to donate here’s my marathon Just Giving page which a friend kindly set up for me. Even though I don’t have to raise any money for my entry we thought it was only fair to put a few pounds in the pot as a show of gratitude for my place – I’ll be donating to Parkinson’s UK. Thanks all!
A few months ago I attended the launch of Ten Health & Fitness’ new class, Yoga for Hormone Balance. Designed to support and strengthen natural hormone function as well as to relax and rejuvenate the body and mind, after trying it out it seemed like the perfect antidote to a fast-paced life that puts a strain on the nervous system and hormones.
“When the sympathetic nervous system is constantly over-active, the adrenals are churning out adrenaline and cortisol to keep us going” says Dr Annaradnams of The Marion Gluck Clinic in London.
A little bit of this is ok when we need to kickstart ourselves into action but when the body is constantly in red alert mode there’s a knock on effect. Without sufficient downtime health and hormones will suffer.
The Ten Yoga for Hormone Balance class is two hours long and created by yoga teacher and movement expert Danielle Willemsen. It focusses on poses that open up the hips, elongate the spine and encourage the four key hormonal glands – pituitary, thyroid, adrenal and ovaries – to behave more harmoniously.
So much of modern yoga is fast-paced and dynamic and on top of an already stressful day and hyped up nervous system the results can be over-stimulating on the body so this new hormone-balancing class is a welcome change of pace.
Yoga was not originally designed to be a workout – in my opinion, if you want to sweat do a cardio class and choose to do yoga to slow down your breath, soften the mind and create more balance, physically and mentally.
Hormone doctors even agree that slow movement can benefit hormone function as it taps into the parasympathetic nervous system to settle the body and in turn, the nervous system.
After trying this Ten Pilates class at the press launch it inspired me to check out what classical yoga says about hormone balancing. For the last seven years I’ve been practicing a classic hatha yoga (Satyananda yoga) which is super slow and meditative and calms everything right down – mind, body and breath. My weekly Wednesday class is like a natural tranquilliser – there’s nothing quite like it – and I leave fully grounded and deeply relaxed.
The Bihar School of Yoga which I’ve been reading recently has an extensive library of books and in Yogic Management of Common Diseases I found a whole chapter on thyroid function. Here are a few extracts if you’re looking for more inspiration on yoga for hormones:
Yoga for the thyroid gland
“Long before medical science knew about the existence of thyroid glands, the yogis had devised practices that maintained healthy glands and metabolism. The good health of the neuroendocrine system was understood to be vital to higher awareness.” (pg. 24-45)
“Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) is the most well recognised asana for the thyroid gland. An enormous pressure is placed on the gland by this powerful posture. As the thyroid has one of the largest blood supplies of any body organ, this pressure has dramatic effects on its function, improving circulation and squeezing out stagnant secretions.”
“The most effective pranayama (breathing work) for thyroid problems is ujjayi breath. It acts on the throat area and its relaxing and stimulating effects are most probably due to stimulation of reflex pathways within the throat area which are controlled by the brain stem and hypothalamus.”
“One of the most prominent precipitating factors in states of thyroid imbalance is long-term suppression and blockage of emotional expression. Balancing the emotions and giving a suitable outlet for their expression is an important part of yoga therapy for thyroid disease. Kirtan (signing of mantras collectively) is one of the most useful means. Another is ajapa japa meditation in conjunction with ajjayi breath.”
Brrr.. it’s baltic! Surviving winter without getting ill is no mean feat. The Organic Pharmacy Immune Tonic (which I previously blogged about here) is brilliant for supporting health and wellness over a period of time but for on the spot defence do not leave home without A. Vogel Echinaforce Sore Throat Spray.
At the very first sign of a tickling throat (you know that feeling when you might be coming down with something) or if you already have a sore throat, or people around you are coughing or contagious just whip out this mean machine herbal tincture and spritz three to four times.
With a few sprays to the back of the throat (I’m warning you now it’s got a crazily intense taste that will shock your taste buds but a few seconds later most people love the sage-hit) it instantly attacks gristly germs trying to bring you down.
It’s probably the one product I recommended the most and everyone who’s bought it at the back of my recommendation now swears by it. I love it even more because it’s a combo of natural, herbal and botanical ingredients: freshly harvested echinacea purpurea herb and root and sage leaves. The back of pack also says it contains sorbitol (407mg), ethanol (370mg), soy lecithin (20mg) and sucrose laurate (5mg).
It rarely leaves my side November through to March and even throughout summer I take it with me on travels, especially if I’m on a plane where the air is rife with germs. Even my editor, Anna Magee at Healthista love it- here’s her raving about it on Instagram:
I’m already on my second bottle this winter because this stuff really works!
If you’re stressed out by sleepless nights you’re not alone. Apparently 56% of adults say lack of sleep is stressing them out*. April was Stress Awareness Month so here are my favourite natural sleep and relaxation products from supplements to sprays that I use, recommend and often write about.Wishing you a calmer and more peaceful night…
I’m on a mission to get stronger and if you read my column on Healthista.com you’ll see I’ve taken up Crossfit. To build more lean muscle only protein will help. As I don’t eat dairy I need an alternative to whey powder so I’ve been trying a variety of non-dairy shakes and powders suitable for vegans. These are my favourite, ie. the tastiest and best I’ve tried so far.
A few weeks ago Lifespan Fitness sent a press release about a treadmill desk – a health-fanatic’s upgrade to the standing desk – I was hooked. A slow-moving treadmill connected to a height-adjustable desk, a novel way to workout while you work I thought. I buzzed my editor at Healthista.com, knowing she would absolutely love it, and before I knew it my ordinary desk, where I also work at BeautyMART HQ, was whipped away and this mean-machine was put in place instead.
Walking and working became my daily grind for a few weeks, with the lulling sound of the treadmill in the background. The girls in the office found it hilarious and loved making videos but I was knackered.
Then Victoria Beckham tried it and tweeted about it. We’re so on the pulse! Although VB and I don’t share the same taste in footwear (see her sky-high stilettos below) we certainly know a good health craze when we see one…
— Victoria Beckham (@victoriabeckham) March 12, 2014
Health benefits of a treadmill desk – it’s meant to be used as an office hot-desk so if you persuade your boss to introduce one, everyone will feel the health benefits. The treadmill is capped at a very slow speed so no chance of flying off and makes multi-tasking more simple than expected. Hop on and off throughout the day and it will wake up all the muscles that have been sitting sedentary for hours and lengthen the spine again. A half-hour burst certainly helps to bust away a mid-afternoon energy slump and minimises a hunched back from sitting at a desk all day. It’s thought just two hours on the treadmill desk, interspersed throughout the day, can counteract the damaging effects of a desk-life.
The downsides – because it was my actual desk for this review, I was literally walking for hours on end which had a knock-on effect on concentration levels. I wasn’t really able to focus on anything more taxing than being on the internet or posting on Facebook. By 4pm I was crawling to our office sofa, feeling grouchy and losing concentration.
But my legs had turned to steel (I hailed it the secret to red carpet legs on the BeautyMART blog), I felt lighter and I’d zapped away countless calories, although my appetite had tripled. For my Healthista.com review I spoke to Max Henderson, co-founder of Hot Pod Yoga about why sitting at a desk is bad for us and what we can do about it.
“Hunched over a desk will lead to bad posture, which is intrinsically linked to back and spine problems. Our central nervous system runs alongside our spine, which the spine protects. A curved spine prevents the muscles from protecting the nerves which can cause huge problems for the main trunk of the nervous system,” explains Max. “Plus a sedentary life can lead to wider health issues related to the pancreas and heart.”
So is it worth it? Check out my review in Healthista.com here for the full verdict!
It’s January so once again everyone’s been talking new year, new you, diets, detox, cleanses and weight loss. Boring? Maybe. But interestingly for me it’s my job to put these (sometimes ridiculous) diets to the test and report back. If all you seem to do is diet-eat-diet-eat-diet-eat then you must have had enough. Why not ditch the diet and read on for some easy tools to transform your eating habits year-round, not just for January. And if you’re struggling through a ‘dry January’ then you need to read Give Up Giving Up by Eva Wiseman. Had me chuckling in agreement!
I personally don’t think it’s a good idea to detox or do a diet-overhaul in January as the winter chill naturally makes us want to cosy-up and hibernate. For that reason most ancient traditions such Ayurveda, yoga, and Traditional Chinese Medicine suggest the end of winter/beginning of spring as the optimum time to detox, renew and rejuvenate.
However….as most of us want to remedy a festive blow-out, there’s no better time to share this post. These are my five easy wins to promote a fresher, healthier and more enlivening way of eating without a single calorie-count or craving in sight (hoorah!) and without having to buy expensive super-foods. Ready to say no to the January diet blues?
1. Buy a bag of lemons – one lemon is simply not enough. Buy a bag so there’s a stock of alkalising goodness in the fridge at all times. I wrote about why lemons are good for you here so now it’s not just the mornings when I reach for a lemon, I squeeze them onto food throughout the day. Particularly good at helping to digest, metabolise and alkalise heavy foods too, so it’s a brilliant weight loss-win without cutting back on a single food. Eat what you like, just add lemons!
2. Eat avocado – another staple in my daily diet that helps keep weight down. Eat one for breakfast and the good fat content and its ability to stabilise blood-sugar levels will mean you stay full until lunch, with loads of energy and no snacks guaranteed. I’ve got all the girls in the office onto avocado on toast, rice cakes or pitta in the mornings and they love it. It’s also a natural way to reduce cholesterol and strengthen skin.
3. Try coconut oil – this is my favourite discovery of recent years. I have a tub in the bathroom to moisturise skin and one in the kitchen for spreading onto toast as ‘butter’. After reading extensively about the benefits of coconut oil and its unique fatty acid make-up that keeps blood sugar levels down, I’m hooked. Amazingly, the body uses it as instant energy rather than storing it as fat and it also helps to increase the metabolism. Basically it’s like a nutritional powerhouse that’s not far off losing weight while you eat!
4. Bitter is better – the ancient practice of having a bitter tonic to aid digestion is back, hoorah! I’ve been using Viridian Digestive Elixir first thing in the morning or before food and it basically helps to support the enzymes necessary for digestion. It’s a great one for holiday health or before eating out.
5. Go more raw – last year I completed a 7-day raw food challenge for Healthista.com and discovered a whole new world, culture, and way of eating – challenging as much as it was enlightening though. It’s not about eating carrot sticks but being creative and adding more raw foods to everyday meals for more nutrients, goodness and most of all, energy – something we all want!
How-To: Raw slaws. These are so easy to make and instantly add fresh, live vitamins to your meal. Add three of your favourite vegetables into a food processor (a good combo is courgette, carrot, tomato but experiment with kale, onion, green beans, and even parsnip) and add your favourite herb or two with seasoning. Blend. Serve. This makes an easy accompaniment to pasta, rice, tofu, grains or anything you want really.
Tip: the more you blend, the finer, mushier and wetter the concoction gets so you can create almost pesto-like consistency from some combinations of foods or keep the mix quite dry and slaw-like with less or no tomato and less blending.
If your interested in more raw diet tips I wrote a part-two blog post for Healthista.com on my experiences with a dehydrator oven – the ultimate raw foodie kitchen gadget.
Well, this week I’m coming to the end of a juice detox, reviewing for Healthista.com and in partnership with with Philips and Jason Vale for the World’s Biggest Juice Detox. Want to hear my verdict? Stay tuned, all will be revealed!
Christmas, health, diet and wellbeing don’t usually go hand in hand, which is why I’ve taken away a dream team to help me through the festive period in a slightly better state – let’s call it damage control. Not only is it Christmas but I’m on holiday too so double trouble.
These health favourites are nothing fancy, and nothing complicated, just products that are natural, simple to use or take, easy to incorporate into a daily diet (however overindulgent it might be) and will hopefully mean the damage-remedy in January will be less of a mammoth task to manage.
From left to right:
Viridian Equinox Elixir – with nasty air con blasting, you’re lucky to get off a flight without sneezing or coughing so I take this herbal tincture with a bit of water when I’m in the air to ward off any bacteria or germs. Antioxidants are my number one in-flight essential and because Viridian Equinox is helpful for boosting the immune during a change of seasons, it’s perfect for travel too.
Viridian Digestive Elixir – I’ve made it a daily habit to take 20 drops of another great Viridian tincture, Digestive Elixir, after learning about the benefits of morning bitters from the experts at Grayshott Hall. This one supports the enzymes necessary for digestion and I’ve taken it every day without fail this holiday. I’m eating extraordinary amounts of food this holiday, some of which I’m not used to, so setting myself up on the right path first thing in the morning helps my tummy get through the day!
VeryWise EnergyWise – this is a new kid on the health block so I’ve taken it away to try. There are six oils in this new range of Omega 3 ‘shots’ by VeryWise, as Omega 3 is thought to be the cornerstone of heart, brain and joint health. Each variety is specially formulated for a different health focus and this one, EnergyWise, is the only one that’s vegan (the others contain fish oils). It’s got a lovely mixture of B vitamins, some caffeine (75mg) and the medium chain fatty acids (MCTs, as found in coconut oil) that support balanced blood sugar levels and metabolism. It tastes like a caramel espresso shot (yum!) and gave me a noticeable boost of energy. My only gripe is that the bottle and cap gets messy, reminding me of the way children’s medicine does, so don’t throw away its cardboard container.
Nosh Detox Raw Boosters – as I can’t take away my green veg and blender on holiday, these little sachets of health containing raw, organic, freeze-dried super powders are a portable substitute. A power-mix of alfalfa, kelp, chlorella and other greens for a quick way to balance any acidity from overindulgence; bread, wine, dairy or meat are the biggest culprits for an over-acid stomach and that means one thing: bad digestion, low absorption of nutrients, bad skin and weight gain. One of these green shots (pictured) can help rebalance the alkaline in the tummy, even with festive over-eating. Lemon water first thing in the morning also helps.
I thought mixing with water rather than juice would taste terrible but it wasn’t bad at all and I’m definitely going to buy some the next time I go away.
Pukka Organic Coconut Oil – I’m a huge fan of coconut oil and use it practically every day so I wouldn’t dream of going away without it. Most tubs are huge but this one from Pukka Herbs is the perfect size for holidays, trips and overnight stays. Delicious on bread or toast, on skin and generally for health, coconut oil is a powerhouse for health and diet: its slow-release energy keeps you fuller for longer, it’s used by the body as instant energy rather than stored as fat and has an amazing power to increase the metabolism – not far off detoxing while you eat!
The Organic Pharmacy Detox – after reading my Raw Food Diet Challenge, founder of The Organic Pharmacy, Margo Marrone, kindly sent me her Detox capsules to try, telling me they’ll keep my tummy flat without having to slave in the kitchen for a raw food diet. I’ve taken them meticulously as instructed (three capsules 30 minutes before food in the morning and three caps in the evening after food) and I have to say my tummy would not be as well behaved and un-bloated for the copious amounts I’ve eaten this holiday, and with all the baklawa I’ve eaten, there’s no way my skin would have remained so clear.
I’ve tried a lot of detox and cleanse supplements over the years and this one is also gentle, as it says it is, i.e. no sudden rushes to the bathroom. The blend in the vegan capsules contains burdock root, alfalfa, chorella, slippery elm, psyllium husks, barley grass and other fabulously detoxifying herbs. Highly recommended as a supplement to any festive food and drink blow out.
Colds, flu, coughs, sneezes, headaches, sore throats, germs, illness – there’s something in the air at this time of year. A new season, a new start. But if your immune system is buckling under the pressure of seasonal change then you need to get your hands on some effective winter health care. I’ve discovered, tried and tested three easy, natural ways to prevent and cure a cold.
Notepads at the ready:
“Start your day with a hot water and lemon” – it’s an age-old health tip that most of us have heard a thousand times but experts rarely explain what it does in our bodies that makes it so good. My younger cousin asked me about this the other day, which got me thinking – we’re always told it will help detox and cleanse etc etc but it wasn’t until I spoke to founder of Honestly Healthy, Natasha Corrett, that it really clicked. She explained exactly why, in very simple terms, and now I drink this almost every day as well as squeeze lemon onto almost everything I eat to aid digestion. Here’s what she said: