Thursday, 28 December 2017

The beginners guide to the gym

Now, I rough drafted this whilst in the car coming back up to Leeds after a very (very) indulgent Christmas break. Cheese? Had it. Baileys? Had it (too much, my stomach hasn't recovered).
Whilst in the car, besides from napping, I drafted up a plan for my return to the gym on January 1st. It's no secret - I've not trained properly in around 6 months, which is shocking since I pay so much for my gym membership, along with going straight past it on the bus home from work. 

So, after a quick browse on social media, I realised that a lot of people were also of the same idea as me. January 1st, a Monday, a new year. 2018 is the year of 'new year new me' for many people, so I've decided to draft a 'beginners guide' to starting the gym. So, if you're a total gym virgin, or wanting to change up your routine, then keep reading. 

1. Nobody is looking at you. No, seriously. 
I get you girl, you walk in to the gym, trot over to the area of the gym that you feel most confident, assemble your equipment and bam - you feel as if the whole capacity of the gym is watching you. You feel self confident, you start to assess your equipment - can I actually use this properly? Is someone going to laugh at me if they see me using this? Is the weight too small? 
These are all thoughts that I've had whilst in the gym. This is all changed after I got a banging PT at my university gym, who showed me not to give a flying monkeys about what anyone else is doing in the gym. 
Are people looking at you? Probably not. And if they are, they're admiring you. Girl, you've got this. 

2. Set some goals.
After a brief interlude of trying to sing Gold Digger, I have returned to my desk. 
It's very easy to decide "I am going to lose weight" or "I am going to tone up" whilst sat on the sofa, reaching for another Quality Street after demolishing half a block of brie with copious crackers. It's easy to tell your work colleagues that as of Monday, you will not be partaking in takeaway Fridays as you (very smugly) let them know that you are going to drop three dress sizes for your boyfriends snooty second cousin once removed's wedding. 
You will stumble if you don't set yourself some short, medium and long term goals. 
For me, my long term goal is to be able to leg press and squat the same amount as I did 8 months ago - along with looking spicy in my bikini in Summer. My medium term goal is to be able to build up an exercise plan with my PT and with my previous experience, to hit my stepping stone goals. My short term goal is to actually go to the frickin' gym. Am I making gains whilst sat on my arse, pressing my face to the window of my bus as I drive pass my gym? No. 

3. Cut yourself some slack. 
Just because you fall off of the wagon for a day, week or month does not mean that you need to climb back on it with gasoline, throw some straw on top and set the whole thing on fire. 
I dismounted the wagon for nearly 6 months, and am finally ready to gracefully climb back on, starting with four times a week with no time limit, just as long as it takes me to finish my sets. 
It's very easy to view something as a failure if it doesn't go exactly to plan, but we are human, and our thoughts and desires are constantly changing. 
Also, it's been scientifically proven that the moment you restrict something, your body will begin to crave it. 
To combat this, I allow myself one day a week where I can eat whatever the hell I want. One bad day is not going to ruin all of your hard work. 

4. If you don't know, ask. 
I recently started following a delightful and entirely inspiring lady called Sophie on social media. She suffered an injury whilst training which was a complete accident, which has changed her life forever. She knew what she was doing, but a freak accident changed her life. 
Don't let poor knowledge of equipment cause you damage, 
On pretty much most of the machinery at my gym, there are instructions stuck on the side. On top of this, staff are usually roaming around in visible shirts. If you aren't sure how to use something - ask. There is no shame in asking someone for help, and it's better in the short and long term to do this instead of hurting yourself because you thought you would look silly asking a question they answer all the time. 

5. Keep a record of your progress. 
It's super easy to stand in front of the mirror and see no progress. Have I made any progress what so ever? Am I actually going backwards? Have I always looked like this?? 
These are all thoughts I have had whilst looking at myself in the mirror, and then trying to cheer myself up with half a tube of Pringles and a milkshake. 
It's not until I looked back at where i was from my 'before' photos that I realised I had come a long way. And not just that, but my record of how much weight I could lift and how quickly I could run spoke for themselves. 
Just because you can't see something doesn't mean it's not staring you in the face.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Who I want to be

When I was six, my answer to the question "what do you want to be?" was a simple one, "a vet". I wanted to save animals, and I would draw photos of myself in vet scrubs, attending to a dog, a cat or a hamster. When my father passed away, he left me a letter that said "I'm not sure if you would be able to be a vet, as you wouldn't want to put an animal to sleep" and it was true, I couldn't. 
When I was 11, my answer to the question "what do you want to be?" changed to "I want to be in the army". The reason for this change? My cousin attending Sandhurst. 
I became fixated on this, and would focus solely on the fact I would join the army as either a dog handler or a 'vet tech'. I would watch documentaries, read books and overall fantasise about joining the army. 
When I was 13, I freak accident meant that I kissed goodbye to my career in the army. 
Deep down, I knew they wouldn't allow me to join. My spine was buggered, my pelvis even more so, and my hips were tattered. Still, I refused to believe the blinding obvious, and continued to tell everyone I would join the army as a soldier. I almost managed to convince myself that this could happen, as I became stronger and the daily pain in my spine and pelvis turned from a fiery pain to a dull ache. 
My sister said that she had never seen anyone look as sad as I did when I received the letter that said I wouldn't be eligible to join the military based on medical grounds. To this day, I remember the mind numbing pain of reading those letter on the paper. At the time, it felt like my entire world had just ended. What the hell was I supposed to do now? 
Now, at the age of 24 (just), when asked the question "what do you want to be?" my answer has changed dramatically. 
It is not a career that I have in mind when I answer the question now. It's not a position in a company which I would work my bottom off for. It is plain and simple. 
"What do you want to be?"
I want to be happy. I want to be content. And I want to be appreciated. 
The end to my dads final letter to me was clear;
"Whatever you do, I want you to be happy", and happy I will be.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

'Detox' teas - what the health

Whilst scrolling through Instagram's explore page earlier, I came across three seperate social media 'stars' promoting 'skinny tea' and 'skinny coffee' on their pages. They claimed it helped them lose weight, stopped them bloating and gave them a tight figure. They also claimed it meant they spent less time in the gym. As I was reading, I was becoming more and more concerned. 
These reality figures have a large following, many of whom are teenage girls looking up to these people as role models. Would I want my daughter looking at these posts whilst thinking 'this is what I need to do to look like them'. 
Of course, detox teas do indeed help you lose water weight quickly. Why? Because you shit out everything. 
The 'detox' part of these drinks are senna which acts as a diuretic and makes you sit on the toilet waiting for it all to end. They don't mention this side effect in their marketing, on their pages or in the descriptions - funny that. 
The makers of these drinks claim that they 'detox' your body and help you lose weight. Fun fact : your kidney and liver detox you on their own, with no need for you to drink some crappy drink to make it do the job. 
People are after a quick fix when it comes to weight loss. They follow social media accounts and see these super toned, long legged, bronze sculpted beauties and think 'I need to look like that in two weeks for a work party'. Getting in to shape is hard work, and it takes hours of exercise and meal prepping to propel you forward in your quest - not a tea that will make you sit on the toilet on a Saturday night wishing you'd read the ingredients.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The key to productivity

So here I am, at 9pm on a Tuesday evening, sat in bed with Our Girl on the TV and my laptop balanced on my knee whilst I finally sit down to write this post.
It's been on my 'to do' list since I wrote it last night, along with several other tasks such as 'train arms at the gym', 'tidy wardrobe' and 'watch several episodes of Once Upon A Time'. 
Usually my 'to do' list actually comprises of important things to do, as well as a few 'quick wins' which make me feel like I've overcome something that day (more about this later). 
Anyway, enough of me rambling, here are a few ways in which I manage my productivity. 

1. Manage and plan your time 
This may seem stupidly easy, but for my first year of university, I used to float from lecture to lecture, work shift to work shift, with no clear plan on what I was doing. Fast forward to December and I was something akin to Chicken Run, panicking like mad as I tried to juggle three deadlines with a part time job which was an hour away by bus. 
It wasn't until I started to manage my time effectively that my grades took a sky rocket and I started having free time. Whilst working, I have an Outlook diary of meetings, deadlines and projects that I need to get done for the day. Whilst at home, I have a daily journal that I use to plan my tasks for the day, big and small. 

2. Cut the crap 
I have a working habit of 50 minutes working, 10 minutes stretching and getting some fresh air. Now, this works at university, but isn't always applicable to a working environment. Where I've worked in a marketing department before, I would have a five minute break to fill up my water bottle, or walk to the bathroom on another floor to stretch my legs out. Whilst in a shop, I would rotate tasks to keep myself fresh and interested in the task at hand. Whereas I can fake it until I make it, I can also see the benefits of giving myself different tasks to keep myself motivated if I'm doing a boring task. 
However, if you're spending 20 minutes working, and 40 minutes doing anything but working, then you're going to feel the heat when it comes close to a deadline. 

3. Social media purge 
Whilst at work and writing reports at university, I would give myself a social media ban for the time which I spent working. Would I sit on my phone in front of my boss or my Dean of School? Of course I wouldn't, so that doesn't mean I should do it when they aren't around. Also, I am that person that somehow ends up 35 weeks deep on a friends, sisters, ex boyfriends, new girlfriends Instagram. Not in a creepy way, but my scrolling definitely gets the better of me, and a 'quick check' will usually end up taking up a good hour of my time - not to mention Minion Rush, which I have managed to reach level 52 on in 5 days. 

4. Quick wins 
Sometimes work and chores can bog you down, and you can't see the wood for the trees. When I had deadlines coming up, the task of 'write an 8,000 word social media marketing plan for X company' was incredibly daunting. However, if I broke it down in to: 1. create rough plan of paragraph headings, 2. source 10 journals, 3. create bibliography  etc. then the task became a lot more manageable and I didn't find myself burying my head in the sand.  
Likewise, when it came to household chores and work, I would give myself 'quick wins' - things that I could do quickly and would make me feel like I was getting stuff done. 'Take out the bins' and 'sort out coathangers at bottom of bed' may seem like stupid tasks to do, but they are often ones I would avoid doing; ergo, if I put them down as a quick win, I would be much more likely to do them, as they were the easiest tasks on my list and gave me a sense of achievement. 

And there we have it, a short guide and quick tips for bossing your productivity.  

Friday, 13 October 2017

Review // Lush 'Ultrabland' facial cleanser

A few months back I jetted off to New York for six days of sightseeing and terrible eating habits. Turns out the eating habits followed me home - shocked and devastated. I started to find that my skin was dry, bumpy and generally not in good condition. I couldn't wait to come home and slather my face in Ultrabland (I had been too scared of the pot exploding on the flight and being greeted with something out of a horror film when I opened my suitcase stateside).
I've always been quite lucky with my skin, and have had very few breakouts in my 23 (nearly 24) years of gracing this planet. 
A while ago, I tried to use a Glamglow face mask, and my skin ended up breaking out hideously, to the point that I had to go to the doctors and had Estee Lauder contact me in regards to the rash - FYI, I've never had a breakout from any product before, and I don't know what was in this badboy to cause me to breakout so hideously. After this, I decided to stop pratting around with my skincare, and to start investing in my face - besides from the occasional lip fillers.
So, fast forward a few months and I picked up the Ultrabland facial cleanser from Lush, along with Cup O' Cofee which is a face scrub (only use it a few times a week folks, it's strong stuff). For £13.50 for 100g it's pretty pricey, but the pot lasts me around 2/3 months and I use it 5 times a week. 
The ingredients used in this tub of victory are; Almond Oil, Rose Water, Beeswax, Honey, Fresh Irish Extract, Glycerine, Rose Absolute and Tincture of Benzoin. Now, the last three products are a bit of a mouthful, but the rest of the products are natural and make for a super creamy and delightful smelling product. 
I massage a tiny bit of this holy grail into damp skin, leave it on for a few minutes before removing it with a wet cloth. The smell is sweet but not overpowering, and it leaves the skin feeling incredibly smooth and flawless. 
I cannot rate this product highly enough, and I now use this and only this as a cleanser on my face to avoid anymore super rashes like what I received from the Glamglow mask. 
I really like that I can pronounce most of the products ingredients, and if you don't believe my review, then quickly pop over to the Lush webpage and check all the reviews for yourself!


Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Under construction

For a while now I've been teetering around how to improve my blog and what I could do to make it a more engaging platform. 
Better content? Possibly. 
Better photos? Most definitely. 
A better layout? Absolutely. 
I'll admit coding isn't my forte, at school I could manage the basics of ICT and that was it. My previous blog layout was courtesy of my sister, which I watched her create with anticipation. 
As I've grown, I like to think that my blog has also grown, which meant a new, clearer layout was in order. 
So, this is your heads up, if bits of the blog are currently AWOL, or links are glitching, please bare with me whilst I work around creating a brand spanking new layout, along with brand new content - and hopefully some photos to boot.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Review // Gymshark High Waisted Seamless Leggings

Okay, so before I start this review, I need to give the disclaimer that yes, I do love Gymshark, and yes, I had heard about the certain issue with these leggings prior to buying them and ploughed ahead blindly regardless, sigh. 
Within the past year or so, I've become a massive fan of Gymshark, after buying my first set of their iconic Flex leggings back in November 2016. I loved them, they were flattering, they were comfortably, and most importantly, they made me feel like I actually had a bottom - amazing. 
Fast forward to the summer 2017 and I attended the Gymshark pop-up in Covent Garden. I was mostly there for the Nikki Blackketter range, as I could get my greedy little hands on them fast enough. The shop itself was busy, crowded and the line for the changing room was hideous, so I took my chances with my normal size in the Nikki leggings and off I went, praying deperately that they fit over my bum. By some miracle, I had got it right. Not only had I got it right, but they were even better than the Flex leggings. They had a super cute waist detail that was very flattering, as well as laser cut-outs in the right places. Perfect. Another happy customer. 

Now drumroll, it's on to the main culprit of the review, the Gymshark high waisted seamless leggings in 'slate grey marl'. 
The hype around a new release within Gymshark means that (usually) if you aren't sat with baited breath on their website for the launch, then you usually miss out on getting your hands on a pair. 
Well not today Satan, I thought to myself as I loaded up the Gymshark page before work. When I finished work I just had time to say goodbye to the team before I was frantically ordering on my phone for the slate grey leggings. Presto. I had done it. Come to me, my beautiful babies. 
I sat by my living room window on the morning of delivery like a dog waiting for its master, and nearly ripped the postmans arm off as I took the parcel from him and bombed upstairs to try them on. I had heard a few comments about similar high waisted leggings being see through, but I chose to ignore this warning remarks and whacked them on proudly. 
 The fit was flattering, the material was stretchy and I loved the lighter colour trim across key areas to give a more defined look. 
Now, here's the catch. Here is also the reason that I cannot show you the back of these whilst I'm wearing them, nor can I wear them to the gym for another other than a weighted arm session or a session which I can whack a very long shirt on that covers my bottom. 
Because that's the catch. These are see through. Not just slightly "I can probably get away with this" kind of see through, but the kind that means, no matter what underwear (or no underwear) you are wearing, every man and his dog will be able to see it, tell you the colour and probably the brand too. 
I was mortified. Mortified and wearing the wrong colour underwear for any photos. 
The problem was, I really like the leggings. I love the fit, they still give a flattering shape to my slightly twisted torso from breaking my pelvis, and they don't let sweat sit on your skin and cause a rash (Nike thermals, I'm looking at you). So, I kept them. I've kept them, I've worn them to the gym (with a long long shirt), and I've worn them to go to the shops in (Insta life, what can I say). 

Overall, I would give the leggings a 6/10. 
I am loathed to give them anymore, mostly due to the cost of them and the fact they are see through. Would I buy another pair? No, and that's the sad part, as I had my mind set on all the colours, but I can't justify the price of them to have to wear a long shirt and be restricted in when I can wear them. 

Top tip girls - squat proof these are not. 

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Keeping positive when everything is going a bit to sh*t

I, for the most part, am an incredibly positive person. I'm that person that will happily trot along, taking the (relative) good with the bad and finding the positive in everything. I also happen to be that person why is the bystander of an argument that will revert back to the foolproof "would anyone like to see a photo of my dog?" to defuse the situation (this actually has a really high success rate, FYI). 
Positivity is a mindset, but sometimes even the toughest mindsets can be met by a mountain of, well, shit. 
Getting dumped unexpectedly? Been there, got the t-shirt, the mug and the novelty key ring. Didn't get the promotion at work, even though you were so certain it would happen that you had a Facebook post ready and waiting to go? Had it happen, and felt sheer disbelief after I had thought I smashed it. 
These are definitely situations where even Olaf from Frozen couldn't muster up a smile or a catchy song to shove the plot along.  The fact of the matter is, these things hurt. And they blindside us. And it's hard to pick yourself back up as quickly as you do if the only issue you have all day is missing your bus to work and having to wait 10 minutes for the next one. 
So, now that I have bored you half to death with analogies, here's my top tips on keeping positive when things are going down the toilet. 

1. Context 
"Will this matter in five years?" 
The answer to this one can be quite ambiguous depending on how bad your life is seemingly collapsing. Having to wait in a very long line in the bank which means you're going to be late to a mate date? Well, whilst it is hideously annoying having a baby in the stroller in front of you screaming to volumes opera singers would be proud of, and you may be sweating profusely because lord knows banks like to keep their temperature on 'sweltering' all year round - will any of this matter in five days, let alone five years?
For minor issues, I always adopt the above approach, as I find the stress of being in a bad mood tends to last a lot longer than the irritation of being stuck in the bank for 10 minutes longer than you had factored in to your micro-managed life. 

2. Take a break from the situation 
"Chuck it in the f*ck it bucket and close the lid."
  This can most fondly be known as "sticking your head in the sand" but it works well from time to time when it's all a bit much. After dealing with a pretty hideous breakup, I decided to take a break from the 'but why' and the 'why did I not see that coming?', and throw myself in to something else entirely. 
Usually this is something pretty simple like switching my phone off, taking a long bath and reading a relaxing book (my current favourite read is This Is Going To Hurt and it's gloriously funny). 
I like to reserve this for pretty serious situations (not minor issues like my hair being rained on or stepping in a puddle with suede boots on) where I know it is all becoming a bit much. I often find with this approach, after I have stepped away for a while I am able to refocus and tackle the problem head on. 

3. Exercise 
I know this is going to be absolutely no surprise to most of you, mostly due to the fact this is in fact a fitness blog (go figure). 
It's been scientifically proven that exercising releases the 'feel good' endorphin in your brain that makes you feel like life is coming up roses. I can't say cycling on a bike does this for me, mostly because I feel like my legs are falling off and that's not enjoyable for anyone. For me, swimming or horse riding is the perfect exercise for when I'm feeling down, and for an hour or two I'm so busy on not 1. drowning or 2. falling off that all my worries quickly run away. This is really only a temp fix, but if you're in a bad mood for something minor, then this usually can counteract your woes. 

4. Talk to someone 
Now i'm not suggesting you need to all start seeing counsellors or doing a Luis Lit and having someone on speed dial for a hideous sum of money an hour, but talking to someone can definitely help. 
My nan is my all time favourite person, and whereas she doesn't always understand what I'm talking about (i.e about economics for my degree, or about running a busy nightclub bar), she's there to listen and provide reassuring 'I see dear' and 'it will all be okay once you've had a nice cup of tea and some dinner'. 
If you really are feeling incredibly down, then for UK residents, the Samaritans have a free to call number which is availble 24/7, 365 days a year : 116 123

And there we have it, my top few tips on how to keep positive when everything is going a bit to shit.  

Thursday, 28 September 2017

"It's not how you start, but how you finish"

It was this gem of a quote that my spin instructor bellowed at me yesterday, midway through an uphill sprint that had me wondering just how possible it was to have a heart attack or drop a lung whilst cycling. Was it possible to only live with one lung? Was that a thing?
It was at that moment that I wanted to throw my watter bottle at her, because let's face it, you can't do a spin class without a spin instructor, right? 
I started the class incredibly lack lustre. I had to force myself on the bus to the gym, and then I had to drag myself in to the room and awkwardly set up my bike whilst thinking of what illness I could spontaneously fake to get me out of the class. With this attitude, I didn't think I would last 5 minutes of the class, let alone the 45 shown on the board. 
Still, I sucked it up, awkwardly lunged in to the saddle and started to slowly pedal whilst waiting for the instructor to turn up. I was still thinking of bombing it out the door when she turned up, full of life and dancing her way to the front of the room like some ballerina in lycra. 
The first 15 minutes of the class were hell, not because of what we were doing but because I was mentally already out of the room. What was for dinner again? How long would it take to get home in traffic at the end? 
And then it clicked. I was here for the 45 minutes. I couldn't commando roll out of the room. I couldn't swing from the ceiling to monkey climb to the window and make my (awkward waddle) break for freedom. I was here now for the 45 minutes, so I may as well commit myself to the 45 minutes and crack on. 
So, when the instructor told me to switch gears, I did. When the instructor told me to get my backside out the saddle and hover, I did. When she told me to give it some more oomph, I did. 
It made the world of difference. The change in mentality meant I was no longer thinking of going to bed, but about the benefit of the next 45 minutes, which I fully committed to and pushed on through. 
I started terribly, with a crap attitude and a 'lets just get this over with' approach, which meant I didn't want to break a sweat, let alone put the hard graft in. I finished strong, however, and hopped off the bike feeling alive and thrilled with myself for not turning around and leaving when I had the first nagging doubts. 
So, although I hated my spin instructor whilst she was screaming at me to "find my fire" and "climb that hill", her quote about finishing better than you started massively won me over. And yes, I have signed up to another spin class - on a Saturday morning.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Social media reality

As I’m typing this, I have one hand on my laptop (with an ever temperamental screen) and my other on my phone, scrolling Instagram and going green with envy at all the people on there who have the perfect lifestyle, the perfect relationship, the perfect body… yada.. yada.. yada.
Only, their lives aren’t perfect. They probably don’t have the perfect relationship, and they probably don’t have the perfect body either. My surgeon once managed to ‘push in’ my pultruding hip by manipulating my spine (the cause of said pultruding hip, scoliosis you bitch) in to such an agonisingly painful position that my hip ‘moved’ back to where it should be. And as I stood there, barely able to breathe from the pain and nearly going beetroot from exertion on every muscle in my body, I realised that I too could have the perfect body – if I became a contortionist and took my spinal surgeon everywhere with me to get me in to that ‘perfect posing position’.
The truth is, I would never have Vogue’s definition of the ‘perfect body’, nor would I probably have the majority of Instagram’s definition of the ‘perfect body’ either – but it’s been through a lot, and it’s still working (just) and is allowing me to continue to do things which make me happy (just).
Today, I ate Weetabix for breakfast, KFC for lunch and yet more chicken and potatoes for dinner. In between then, I ate chocolate biscuits, yoghurts and drank copious amounts of sugary tea. Would I put this on my fitness social media accounts? Hell no. Would I put up my bit of exercise for the day? Why hell yes.
And that, case in point, is the very definition of social media reality. Did I want people to see me being healthy doing exercise? Yes sir. Did I want them to see the exhaustive list of junk food I ate today? No sir. Did I post the latter? Absolutely not. Why? Because it didn’t fit in with the ‘lifestyle’ I wanted to show to the world. If I do it, you can bet your bottom dollar that I am not alone in it; so the next time you sit and scroll through Instagram whilst devouring a buttery croissant and a hot chocolate, sighing at all the pretty men and women on there, do yourself a favour and realise that no one can refuse a buttery croissant and hot chocolate every once in a while too x