Variety is the spice of life: getting my groove back

I’m not the kind of person who does very well with the same thing, over and over. I like routine, but I hate monotony. I love playing computer games, but if I have to do the same level more than three times, it’s literally game over.

Exercise can often be a dull task, let’s face it. I’ve tried plenty of things in the past, but it’s never stuck. Judo, kickboxing, running, yoga, belly-dancing, going to the gym… I love all of these things and I’d do them again tomorrow, but not every day, every week, for years and years and years.


Continue reading

The 22-Day Revolution: Vegan Diet Day Ten

It’s day nine of my vegan diet challenge! If you want to find out more about Marco Borges’ 22-Day Revolution, and begin with day zero, click here!

(Click here to be taken to the Amazon page to purchase your own copy, through my affiliate link: The 22-Day Revolution: The plant-based programme that will transform your body, reset your habits, and change your life.)

Day ten began with a glass of All You Need Is a Cape Juice – with a really involved list of ingredients! Good job it was Sunday morning so I had plenty of time to prepare everything! You need spinach, kale, cucumber, lemon, ginger, fresh turmeric, parsley, carrots and a Granny Smith apple. I was going to sub dried turmeric for the raw in this recipe as suggested in the book, but luckily I stumbled across some in Rice Up Wholefoods while I was stocking up!

Continue reading

Fashionably Fit: Trail Shoes Edition

When I first started exercising “properly”, it was in 2009, in order to lose weight for my wedding in summer of 2010. I exercised at home with games like EA Sports Active and DVDs like Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred. At home, my only concern when it came to kit was a good sports bra – any old T-shirt and jogging bottoms would do. But this year, as I’ve started jogging OUTSIDE, under the watchful gaze of OTHER PEOPLE, I started to consider my exercise clothes in the same way as I did my everyday outfits: a chance to express myself, enjoy what I wear, and feel better about myself too.

When got in touch with me to ask me to select some items from their site in order to post about fashion and fitness, I leapt at the chance – not least because that exact same day I was planning a trip to pick up some trail shoes from the Nike Factory Store at Gunwharf Quays. The event I am training for this spring is really one that requires trail shoes, as it’s basically one long mud bath punctuated with a variety of opportunities for me to fail hilariously at being sporty. But hey, at least no one will be able to accuse me of not having the right kit!

Main resized

The shoes I selected from the site’s extensive range were Nike Zoom Terra Kiger running shoes (pictured above, £69.99) which are designed to cushion the foot and provide extra grip in muddy conditions! Perfect! I also selected a pair of Nike Legend 2.0 Women’s Dri-Fit workout pants – my first pair of ‘proper’ running bottoms. Previously I’ve made do with offerings from Primark, F&F and Next’s own sport range, which are all fine, but not made of technical material like Nike’s Dri-Fit products. These help to wick moisture away from the skin to keep you comfortable while you sweat like a maniac.

As I’ve never knowingly undershopped, I took the opportunity to pick up a beautiful silver reflective jacket from the Nike store on my trip (which I went on anyway, because shops). I already had a great red cycling jacket, but the Nike Flash range jackets are reflective ALL OVER, and plus, are pretty space age. Sports Shoes has a selection of similar jackets here.

Group 2 mosiac

Styling workout outfits is infinitely easier if everything you have can be mixed and matched, and is generally along the same colour scheme. As your trainers are your most important piece of kit (in my opinion!), I think that you should pick these first, according to your needs and budget, and then build your collection from there. These Nike Trail shoes came with a purple and grey colour scheme, so I ran with that and picked up a variety of black, pink and purple items. Pictured above with my Nike shoes and joggers are a pink Nike Jam Jam top (£20 here), my silver running jacket, a pink and grey Adidas gym bag, and NOT pictured is a pink and black sports bra from Shock Absorber (£35 here).

On my spree, I also bought a black Heidi Klum for New Balance cropped tee from Next (£30 here), and a pink Nike boyfriend tank (similar here). Combine the two, and you have an outfit which brings back good memories of netball practice at school…

Group 1 mosiac

I also have to mention my phone, which is one of my most essential pieces of kit. I’ve mentioned before that I’m using the Zombies 5k training app, and it’s really keeping me on track and motivated to get out there several times a week – both to keep up my progress, and to find out what’s going to happen to Abel Township next! Luckily, my Kate Spade iPhone cover matches my new trainers or I would have had to throw it away in disgust…

Finally, as it is nippy outside, I decided to pick up a reversible purple Nike headband (£9.99 here) to keep my ears warm and my hair out of my face. In all honesty, for me, this is a frivilous and unessential purchase as I always get very hot on my runs anyway, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to look as sporty as possible. And let’s face it, what’s more sporty looking than headbands, sweatbands and leg warmers?

Headbands mosiac

I’m sure you’ll agree from the photographic evidence that just with the simple addition of a headband, I suddenly look 85% more sporty, and 50% more likely to be able to complete a marathon at the drop of a hat.

Fitness FashionNike Zoom Terra Kiger running shoes, c/o / Reflective running jacket, Nike (similar here) / Cropped T-shirt, Heidi Klum for New Balance / Reversible Headband, Nike / Nike Legend 2.0 Women’s Dri-Fit workout pants, c/o / Jam Jam Top, Nike / Ultimate Gym Bra, Shock Absorber

What do you wear when you exercise? What’s your favourite work out outfit? And, what do you think about fitness fashion in general? Let me know!

My Nike Zoom Terra Kiger running shoes and Nike Legend 2.0 Women’s Dri-Fit workout pants were sent to me by for the purposes of review on this blog.

Like my posts? Find me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Polyvore for even more content!

Square logo initials

DIY Boot Camp: getting yourself back on track!

Sometimes, even with the best will in the world, you can get derailed on a fitness regimen. Even with all the support possible, with the best fitness equipment, a budget for healthy food, and plenty of time for exercise, goals can fall by the wayside. Motivation is a fleeting thing, and willpower is even more elusive. Can you see where I’m going with this? Yes, it’s true… I have been derailed…

Partially, I blame Hush’s ridiculously comfortable harem trousers. I live in them, and they are the most cosy items of clothing I own. I rarely leave the house with them but as I work from home that certainly doesn’t limit my opportunities to wear them. However, they are incredibly forgiving of the woman-slob, and very accommodating to expanding rear ends. It’s entirely possible to go up a dress size and never even realise it when you have these comfortable trousers to hand. That exactly what happened to me after I took a bit of a break from exercise due to work-related stress and a really bad cold. When it was time to reach for those skinny jeans – let’s just say they didn’t fit so well…

I also blame a lack of a real and concrete goal for my fitness – every year I go to Ascot, but this year one of my friends wasn’t sure if she could attend, and of course, I couldn’t go without her. So, I slacked off. Then, when it was confirmed we were going, and I tried on my usual dress size at the shop… It didn’t fit. No way. No how.

It’s obviously stupid to base your self-worth on an arbitrary number in a dress. We’re always told that dress sizes are bigger now than ever. Vanity sizing is rampant and Marilyn Monroe was a size 16 anyway, so what’s the big deal? (She wasn’t…). Of course, psychology is more complex than that, and no matter how stupid and arbitrary the numbers may be, I’m not afraid to say that it had a real, demoralizing effect on me to have gone up a dress size. I hold my hands up and admit it’s ridiculous, that as an intelligent and educated woman I shouldn’t let other people define my self-worth – if I had fit into my usual size I probably wouldn’t have seen a problem, and so on. But still, the fact remains, I was faced with two and a half weeks to Ascot, and a dress that didn’t fit me. Rather than spiraling into self-hatred (again, I am not saying this is a sensible or worthy reaction, I am simply being incredibly honest about my feelings), I decided to put into action probably the most drastic weight-loss plan I’ve ever embarked on, and went for a full-on DIY Boot Camp.

Now, boot camps are everywhere in the UK and beyond, and I must confess, I’ve never been to one. Their results are legendary, and their toughness even more notorious. Hours of exercise coupled with carefully calorie-controlled food is the secret to their success, though, and I was sure I could replicate that at home. However, I am no personal trainer, nor am I a nutritionist, so I’m not going to share with you the minute details of what I did – you shouldn’t take me as the authority on this as I have no qualifications. However, I will let you know generally how I went about losing weight in my DIY boot camp so you can do your own research.

  1. Take a look at the kinds of exercises offered by boot camps, with emphasis on duration and intensity. Taking a look at the boot camps I investigated, it looked as though 6-8 hours a day was usual. However, this mixed in everything from yoga to circuits and spinning, so there was a variety of exercises on offer, some of them fat burning, some of them more to do with sculpting muscle or relaxation. Gentle cardio and intense circuit training is something I’m familiar with doing,  and have had good results from before – and more importantly, I knew I could keep it up, so I decided to opt for this for my own boot camp. A few hours of exercise biking in front of the TV, and a few work out DVDs back to back is the way I decided to replicate this at home. My go-to work out DVDs were ones I considered to be challenging but not advanced, so I stuck to Davina’s Three 30 Minute Work Outs (only cardio-box), Davina’s Super Fit, Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred (only level one), and Jillian’s Extreme Shed and Shred.
  2. Read up about the kinds of nutrition recommended at boot camps. I already had a head start thanks to my years of dieting and following healthy eating plans. It’s all simple stuff – low carbs, high protein, and lots of fruit and vegetables. I started off with one very low calorie day to kickstart my plan, then kept my intake to 1200-1500 calories a day of good food. In particular, I discovered Nakd bars, which are all-natural, raw food bars packed with fruit and nuts. Frustratingly, no boot camp will tell you how many calories they actually give participants, and given the amount of calories I was burning, I was reluctant to go below 1200.
  3. Hydrate. You will be sweating a lot. Drink as much as your body wants. Cut back on fizzy drinks, tea and coffee – you don’t have to cut these out, though, but I guarantee you if you do a lot of exercise, it’s water you will crave. I didn’t force myself to drink a lot at any point, but there’s no doubt I drank several liters in a day just by listening to what my body wanted. However, your body doesn’t just require water, but also electrolytes. So look into electrolyte replacement powder, sports drinks, and coconut water. Personally, my favourite way to hydrate naturally is coconut water because of its natural electrolyte content, but don’t forget that this and sports drinks contain calories that you need to count.
  4. Supplement. Boot camps aren’t a natural state of being for your body, and put an enormous amount of stress on it. You’ll be making huge demands of yourself, so you need to make sure you pay this back. A daily vitamin is always a good idea, but even more important during this time – and I also found out about the amazing anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil capsules by reading Bob Harper’s Jumpstart to Skinny. Although most people will take 1000mg a day if they supplement with this, he recommends 3000mg a day in order to combat muscle soreness. I have to say it really helps. Fish oil tablets also have loads of other great benefits, and they won’t break the bank, either. (Plus, they do great things for your hair!)
  5. Weigh yourself before, weigh yourself after. Do not weigh yourself during. This is something I can tell you from personal experience could derail you. In the first day on my plan, I lost 3lbs. In the second day, I lost 2lbs. I then regained everything I had lost over the next few days, before coming back to my original total loss of 5lbs. Now, for a week and two day’s worth of dieting and exercise, 5lbs loss is excellent (but not sustainable or necessarily typical). But my original 5lb loss was no doubt due to losing water weight and possibly some muscle, as well as a bit of fat. Regaining that weight over the next few days was demoralizing and painful to see,  but it was just part of the process. If you weigh yourself every day during a boot camp, you might decide to give up when the pounds pile back on. But, if you stick to your guns, the weight does come off. It’s just nicer to see the progress at the end rather than that horrible up-down graph during. I am sure this is why boot camps ban scales and only weigh participants at the end of their stay. However, a slight amendment to this is measuring tape – you can use this throughout the process, because those inches will also drop off, and far more reliably than weight does.
  6. Know when to stop. This is not something that is healthy to do for the long term. Most boot camps last for one week, which seems a reasonable period of time. Think of it as a challenge to complete, not a way of life. Do not do anything without checking with your doctor first. Your body is amazing, so don’t damage it because of vanity. If you find yourself developing an unhealthy obsession with exercising or dieting, you need to seek help immediately. The psychological implications of this could be incredibly bad for your long term health and include disordered eating, or even anorexia. Look after yourself. Don’t follow advice without researching it yourself first – this includes everything I’ve written here. Only you can be responsible for your own health, and you owe it to your body to put the time in to research. If at any point, you feel faint, stop exercising for a while and give your body something good to eat.

So, on my epic weight-loss tour I gave myself two and a half weeks to lose enough weight to fit into my usual dress size. I exercised for hours, passed up roast dinners and doughnuts, and ate a healthy, low calorie diet. I lost 5lbs in total in ten days, and now I fit comfortably into my dress for Ascot, well before my deadline. I will continue to maintain my usual 1200 calorie budget per day and exercise for around 30-60 minutes a day between then and now, but I am amazed at my progress in such a short amount of time, and I feel pretty proud of my achievement. Yes, it may be vain and vacuous, but on the other hand, it has reminded me that weight-loss can be simple and, dare I say it, easy, when you have a clear, concrete goal and no excuses.

Disclaimer: none of this is intended as a regimen for you to follow, it is merely my account of my own personal experiences and should not be used for your own weight loss plan. Consult your doctor before starting any weight-loss plan and please do not consider me to be an authority or expert on weight-loss.

30 Day Shred: A Review

It seems to me that there’s only a very finite amount of ways to exercise. There are hundreds of types, yes, but the way you do exercise is limited to certain scenarios. Obviously, if you’re a builder or do a physical job, that’s your exercise. You can take a class. You can go to the gym. You can go jogging or swimming. You can workout in a home gym. You can do exercise DVDs. You can play games on your computer. I’ve tried most of these things – except the physical job stuff. I think learning a trade so I can fit exercise into my daily routine is taking it a bit far… Of all the methods you can use to get fit, exercise DVDs are by far and away the best method for me. I don’t have to leave the house, adding travel time onto my workout sessions. I don’t have to wait for people to be finished with workout equipment. I don’t have to buy extra equipment. I don’t have to keep to other people’s schedules.

Before I tried Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred, I’d honestly not done a workout DVD before. I had no idea what to expect. I’d done a few months of exercise regimes on the Wii (EA Sports, Wii Fit, etc), and they were fairly hard work, but you usually had to wait in between exercises, and thusly everything took longer. One thing you can say about 30DS is that there is NO waiting around between exercises.

I think I picked the 30DS DVD up at the beginning of January 2010. Not as a ‘New Year Resolution’, but just to keep my routine fresh, as I was losing weight for my wedding that year (August). In the space of a month, I lost 8lbs, by combining the 30DS with a calorie restriction of 1200 calories a day. It was completely amazing, and gave me so much confidence. With results like that, it’s easy to see why I am such a huge fan of Jillian Michaels!

So, that’s the results out of the way (hmm, maybe I should have kept that until the end?), so I’ll talk more about how the workout is structured. There are three 30 minute workouts (she says 20 minutes, but has since admitted this was a little fib to get people motivated – if you include warm ups and cool downs, they’re closer to 30 mins each), and the idea is that you start at level one, do that for 10 days, then level two for 10 days, then level three for 10 days, throughout the month. You can stop and have a break if you want to, obviously! I think the most rewarding aspect of the programme for me was being able to tell that you were getting gradually better with each repetition of the level. When you start level one, you’ll probably feel like you’re going to die. When you’ve finished level three, and go back to level one, you’ll feel like you’re on holiday. The progression you make in just a month is really amazing.

Since trying this DVD, I’ve only bought three other workout DVDs from other trainers or celebrities. One was a joke gift for my husband, which was the workout DVD of a Corrie star, which took about 45 minutes and felt like waiting for the bus – not hard, not tiring, just very, very boring. One was Davina’s workout (love Davina!), which again, I didn’t feel was efficient, but was okay. I liked the kick boxing elements, but other parts just didn’t feel like a real workout. Then I did Tracey Anderson – but the least said about that the better, really… I’ve since given up on other trainers, because I’d rather work my butt off for half an hour and do some real exercise, than fanny about for 45 minutes and not even get a sweat on. I also really like the structure and progression of 30DS. You have a set amount of time to do it in, you can measure your results, you progress through, and you have an end point. With other DVDs, it seems like you continue until you’re bored, or just lose motivation.

Oh, and Jillian also gets bonus points for her hilarious commentary. I know some people don’t like being yelled at from the telly, but I find it actually really motivated me to work harder. I’d rather watch Jillian telling me to kick my own butt than watch a celebrity tell me that the workout was hard and their legs ached.

You can purchase 30 Day Shred from Amazon (currently £4.99): Or, you can download it from iTunes – which is actually really handy. I’ve downloaded it to my phone, so if I go on holiday I can do the workout that way with water bottles or cans as my weights! And, once you’ve completed 30DS, you can move on to Ripped in 30!

GOOD LUCK! – And, let me know if you’ve tried 30 Day Shred, and what you thought of it!