Tipping the scales

Hi there!

I hope you are well. So, I weighed in last night and I’m happy to say I lost two pounds. My efforts on the healthy eating front have paid off so the saying ‘you can’t out exercise a bad diet’ is true.

I read a letter in The Times newspaper on the weekend that discussed a journalist’s idea of equating a finger of Kit Kat to a thirty minute walk. The journalist stated that just one extra finger of this chocolate biscuit a day, or perhaps even a glass of wine, with no increase in activity will result in around five pounds of weight gain a year. On the other hand, an extra thirty minutes of walking a day, which didn’t have to be all at once and could be split up into more convenient chunks of time depending on circumstances, five times a week with no increase in calories will result in ten pounds weight loss in a year.

I was astounded at the idea that eating a four-fingered Kit Kat, which I frequently had done, equated to a two hour walk and yet, really, I shouldn’t have been. It makes sense. Increasing your output while not increasing the amount of calories you consume will eventually lead to weight loss. But here I think is the problem – all of this happens over a long period of time. The figures given are for a year. How many people do you know sustain a diet or exercise regime for a year?

Everyone, and I include myself in this, wants results now. We get everything else we want immediately – films, goods, food, clothes. If something breaks we go straight out and buy another one. Hungry? Supermarkets are open 24/7. We never have to wait for anything and that expectation doesn’t change when it comes to weight loss. You eat healthily for a week and expect to lose all of your excess weight and then some.

But losing weight is hard. It takes patience, dedication, perseverance, and consistency. It’s no good being healthy for a week and then stepping onto the scales only to find you haven’t lost what you wanted to and then gorging on the wrong foods because you didn’t succeed. Something worth achieving takes time and it’s important to give yourself the time your body needs. Setting little goals to achieve along the way can help. So, I’m setting myself the goal of losing one pound a week. One pound a week is what I consider healthy weight loss and it’s something I can achieve while still eating enough and not starving myself. Half a year would equate to twenty six pounds lost – that’s nearly two stone lost in twenty six weeks!

Therefore, my advice to everyone, and I have to keep repeating it to myself over and over as well, is to enjoy the journey you’re on, whether it’s about weight loss, or healthy eating, finding a job or finding out who you are. Whatever it is you’re striving to achieve, enjoy this moment because you’re working towards a better you.

On that note, I have a great recipe for you today – peanut butter energy bites. They take very little time to prepare and they are so yummy. I found this recipe on Pinterest from chefsavvy.com and with only five ingredients and not even having to turn on the oven, you can’t go wrong.

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Healthy protein bites that look as good as they taste. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of honey

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Place in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes to make the mixture easier to roll. Roll into 12 bites and store in an air tight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Mine don’t get past two days so you may find yourself making a few batches of these. Enjoy!

Gym and swim session

Hi everyone!

Well this week has been much better with regards to food. My food has been on point and I’ve not had chocolate all week! I am planning to have dessert tonight and on Sunday after dinner but that’s it. I’m hoping that when I step on the scales on Sunday I’ll have lost a little weight. I’ve been working hard in the gym and in the pool and want to ensure I don’t let myself down by gorging on food. So, I’m having yogurt or fruit as snacks during the day and not eating after 7pm. I’m exhausted though. My muscles were aching in the pool this morning and no matter how hard I pushed I couldn’t swim any faster. So, fingers crossed for Sunday!

This week I’ve done two gym sessions and three swim sessions. Below is the gym session I completed yesterday followed by my swim session from this morning.

Gym session

Warmed up with 5 min bike then moved on to the following set:

  • 40 squats – 40 toe touch sit ups
  • 30 squats – 30 toe touch sit ups
  • 20 squats – 20 toe touch sit ups
  • 10 squats – 10 toe touch sit ups

Then I completed the following set three times straight through for time – it was tough but felt good afterwards:

  • 800metre row
  • 20 crunches
  • 30 KB swings
  • 40 KB deadlift highpulls

After a little rest I completed three sets of the following:

  • 15 deadlifts with 20kg bar
  • 10 push ups
  • 5 assisted pull ups (can’t do them without help yet but give me time)

This one was a killer set as by my fifth push up my arms felt like lead so to them move on to complete five pull ups was a real challenge. I finished my gym session with 3 sets of 20kg bar clean and press with a minute rest between each set, followed by lots of stretching.

 

Swim session

Warm up

  • 300 metres (m) frontcrawl (f/s)
  • 200m f/s pull
  • 100m f/s kick
  • 150m backstroke (b/k)
  • 100m Individual medley (I.M.)
  • 50 breaststroke (br/s) kick

Main set – pyramids

  1. 50m f/s hard pace; 100m f/s easy; 150m f/s pull medium; 100m f/s drills; 50m f/s hard.
  2. 50m b/k kick; 100m I.M. drill; 150m split into 75m b/k, 75m br/s; 100m I.M.; 50m butterfly kick

Sprint set

24 x 25m f/s – 6 f/s pull easy; 6 f/s easy; 6 f/s pull sprint; 6 f/s sprint

Swim down

100m choice kick, 100 choice swim easy

Total = 2600 metres (104 lengths)

 

As you can probably see, I love pyramid sets whether I’m swimming or in the gym. They’re fun to do and you work really hard. I hope you like these sessions and have a great weekend everyone.

Patience and Consistency

Hi there!

Have you ever had that feeling where you’ve trained all week and you know you’ve crushed it in the gym or in the pool only to find the results on the scales don’t translate?

That’s what happened to me this week. I always weigh in on a Sunday evening and, admittedly, I have a great fondness for a roast dinner  – a full roast dinner. I’m talking Yorkshire puddings, stuffing balls and roast potatoes as well as loads of veg and plenty of chicken. I love a roast dinner and, even though it’s a lot of work, the result is worth the effort.

But it’s a very heavy meal, especially when you add in unhealthy options like Yorkshire puddings. This week I’ve been eating healthy meals but have been having little luxuries in the evening on top of that – a chocolate bar a night. My husband’s eating one too and how harmful could it be? I thought. Then I weighed in last night and saw that I’d only lost half a pound. I felt both angry and sad – angry at myself for the treats I’d given myself during the week and sad because it felt as though I’d wasted all that hard work in the gym and in the pool.

After a good night’s sleep, I thought about my small weight loss and realised I shouldn’t really be sad or angry. I’m still losing weight, I’ve trained all week and, okay I’ve had a few  indulgences, but for the main part I’ve been really healthy. Therefore, rather than chastising myself, I need to exercise a little patience with regards to my weight loss and learn from my mistakes. Losing weight isn’t going to happen overnight and if it did I’m sure I wouldn’t be happy with the results – loose skin and no muscle? No thank you.

The truth is, it’s all about being consistent with training and healthy eating while still allowing yourself a luxury food now and then. I had far more indulgences than I’d planned last week and that’s why I didn’t lose much weight. My goal isn’t to never have treats again, it’s to adopt a better lifestyle and I need to remember to have more nutritious options rather than going straight for the chocolate when we’ve run out of healthy food. It’s all part of the learning process. The results are coming and, despite others losing weight a lot faster than I am through dieting, I won’t starve myself or deny myself guilty pleasures as that just leads to binge eating. I’m losing weight the healthy way and in the end it will last longer.

So, on that note here’s one of my healthy recipes. As some of you know, I took part in Beachbody’s Insanity program and part of the pack that came with the workouts was a nutrition booklet. This is one of my favourite recipes from that booklet and one I frequently enjoy after a hard gym or swim session. Here it is:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of milk (you can use whatever milk suits you though they recommend non-fat and unsweetened milk such as almond or soy milk – I use almond)
  • 1 scoop of protein powder (chocolate or vanilla flavour work best for this recipe)
  • 1 cup of strawberries (as strawberries are on the dirty dozen list it’s best to buy organic if you can)
  • 1 cup of ice

Method

  1. Place all of the above ingredients into your blender. Cover and blend on high until smooth.
  2. Enjoy!

This smoothie provides roughly 300kcal and 36g of protein, both of which are dependent on the protein powder you use.

So, in conclusion, train hard, eat well and remember – don’t beat yourself up if you have a little treat, just continue to aim for a strong body and a healthy mind. Have a great Monday everyone.

A healthy mind

Hi there!

When I started this journey for a strong body and a healthy mind, I focussed a lot of my attention on training – swimming faster, lifting weights, losing weight – and somewhere along the way I forgot about striving for a healthy mind.

But what exactly does it mean to have a healthy mind? Did I have to do something different? Crosswords? Puzzles? In short, how could I obtain a healthy mind? So I did some research and it turns out that by exercising for a minimum of thirty minutes a day, five days a week, I am keeping my mind healthy. Let me explain.

David Linden, Professor of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, stated that doing puzzles uses only a small part of the brain, and doesn’t do anything for the rest. Aerobic exercise, by contrast, has several effects.

Exercise causes all the blood vessels in the body, including in your brain, to dilate. This changes the metabolic capacity of the brain. Exercise also makes the brain secrete certain chemicals which help keep neurons healthy and able to change. Plus, after doing exercise you feel great.

There is a Latin phrase that goes ‘mens sana in corpore sano’  which basically means that having a sound body is likely to lead to a sound mind. Therefore, exercising for an hour five times a week as I do should ensure I have and maintain a sound mind. Exercising is something everyone should fit into their life no matter what.

But exercise, though awesome for the brain and body, isn’t the only thing your mind and body need to stay healthy. I saw this picture and have to agree with it. Every single one of us needs to get their daily helpings of these six things:

img_1981(courtesy of sun-gazing.com)

So while exercise is vital when it comes to having and maintaining a healthy mind and body, no one should neglect the other five items. Having a healthy mind is also about getting good food into your body, healthy, organic food and clean water; getting the rest you need as well as getting out in the air and absorbing the sunshine. Humans aren’t designed to sit for hours at a desk eating artificial food under fluorescent lights.

So here’s my wish for you today. Take some time for yourself. It’s important. Go out for a walk, be with nature, get some sunshine, breathe in life. Do whatever makes you feel happy and try to make sure it involves one of the six items in the above picture. Because healthy is happy.

Hope you’ve all had a great week and enjoy the weekend.

Bye for now!

 

 

Healthy energy bars

Hi there!

It’s Monday again. I don’t know about you but I love Mondays. It’s the start of a new week, you’ve rested and recovered and are ready to hit the ground running.

Sometimes though, no matter how much energy I think I have, by mid-afternoon I need a little pick me up to keep me focused on the day’s tasks. That’s why I love these homemade energy bars my daughter and I make. They are so tasty and very easy to make. Full of nutty, fruity goodness, these bars are packed with slow-releasing energy so when I’m struggling with the multitude of tasks that accompanies a Monday and running a little low on energy, having these bars in the fridge is very handy indeed.

This recipe is adapted from the book “You are what you eat” meal planner. They don’t last long in our household and I’m sure once you’ve tried them you’ll know the reason why.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 150g porridge oats
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 75g butter (I use butter but you can use low-fat spread of you prefer)
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp flaxseeds
  • 50g walnuts, roughly chopped (I hand break them)
  • 25g pumpkin seeds
  • 25g sunflower seeds
  • 25g desiccated coconut
  • 75g raisins or sultanas
  • 5 ‘ready to eat’ dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • 3 dates, roughly chopped
  • 10g sesame seeds
  • optional – 50g dark chocolate chips

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking tin (I use a 30x19cm one) with non-stick paper.
  2. Melt the butter, honey and water over a low heat in a large saucepan. Cook for 3-4 minutes stirring continuously until it looks like a thick sauce.
  3. Add all the remaining ingredients and stir to mix thoroughly.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the lined tin and flatten the surface.
  5. Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until light golden brown and the mixture is firm to touch.
  6. Remove from the oven, loosen the edges from the sides and leave to cool for 10 minutes.
  7. Cut the cooled bar into squares and store them in an airtight container.

When I make these bars with dark chocolate chips added, which is almost always, I’ll sprinkle the chocolate chips onto the top of the mixture as it’s cooling (stage 6). After I’ve cut the entire bar into squares, I’ll put them in the fridge so the chocolate hardens. I also prefer the extra crunch it gives when they’re just out of the fridge.

These bars are so delicious with chocolate or without, and you’re getting lots of nutty, seedy goodness. Give them a try and let me know what you think.

Enjoy!

Sore today, strong tomorrow

Hi and ow!

That’s how I feel today. Very sore. In fact, even typing hurts. Yes, my hands ache too! I’ve had a very good week, both with training and my food choices. I haven’t had any chocolate or unhealthy snacks and I’ve stuck to not eating after dinner. I’ve completed three swimming sessions of 2500 metres each (that’s 100 lengths per session), two gym sessions and have a yoga session planned for tomorrow (Saturday). But boy, do I ache.

I love trying new things in the gym and I’ve been wanting to try pull ups ever since I saw them being done at the Crossfit Games. In my local gym, they have an assisted pull up machine and I have stared at it for weeks hoping that one day I’ll have the courage to give it a try. This week I did. I only managed four pull ups each time so I did three sets of four on Tuesday and four sets of four on Thursday. I can’t express how happy I am at having tried and succeeded in doing something new. Achieving little goals makes a big difference. And, even though I’m really sore now, I know it’s making me stronger. Despite the major aches and pains I feel, I can’t wait to try and get to five reps.

Below is one of my sessions from this week. It’s nothing grand or heavy as I can’t lift heavy owing to the instability of my ankle, but this session worked for me. This is Tuesday’s session:

8 minute warm-up on the stationary bike

  • 5 push ups
  • 10 reverse crunches
  • 15 air squats

Complete the above sequence, rest for 30 seconds then repeat for a total of five sets.

Bulgarian bag 8kg –

  • around the world – 10 reps each way – 3 sets
  • snatches – 12 reps – 3 sets
  • bag to shoulder – 12 reps – 3 sets

Glute bridges – 20 reps – 4 sets

Toe-touch sit ups – 12 reps – 4 sets

Russian twists with 4kg med ball – 20 reps – 4 sets

  • 12kg kettlebell swings – 10 reps
  • 12kg kettlebell thrusters – 10 reps
  • 12kg kettlebell deadlift highpull – 10 reps

Complete the above sequence straight through, rest for 1 minute then repeat for a total of three sets.

Assisted pull up machine – 4 reps – 3 sets (so pleased with myself for being able to do these)

Cool down – 10 minutes on the cross trainer followed by stretching.

I thoroughly enjoyed this workout despite the DOMS I felt the next day. I hope you are all enjoying your own workouts.

Stay safe and continue to join me on my quest to achieve a strong body and a healthy mind.

Juicing recipe

Hi!

It’s Monday and you know what they say when you’re training for something –

NEVER miss a Monday!

I think this is true not only of training but of clean eating too and starting the day on a good note is essential. To try and ensure my family gets everything our bodies need, I make a juice first thing in the morning. Doing this in the morning means we get the nutrients we need whilst also putting us on the right track for the rest of the day.

The following recipe is adapted from Jason Vale’s book ‘The juice master – turbo-charge your life in 14 days’. The exact recipe is designed for those who are only drinking juice for 14 days but you can tailor it to meet your needs, which is what I did. This recipe makes 3 large glasses, enough for myself, my husband and our 7 year old daughter. Getting the vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables is crucial for all of us so it’s a bonus that my daughter loves this recipe. We all have a glass of this healthy juice every morning and once we start the day being healthy, we’re more conscious of staying healthy. I tend to have this juice as an accompaniment to either porridge or a banana. I hope you will give it a try.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1/2 pineapple – peeled and quartered
  • large handful of spinach
  • 1 and 1/2 stalks of celery
  • 1/2 lime – skin removed
  • 4 apples – peeled and cored
  • 1/2 flesh of an avocado

Method

  1. Wash all of the ingredients. Place the spinach in the stem of the juicer (I prefer to juice the veg first and it’s easier to put the spinach in at the start before the juicer is turned on).
  2. Turn on your juicer and juice the spinach, celery, cucumber, pineapple, lime and 3 of your four apples.
  3. Turn off you juicer and move over to your blender.
  4. Place into your blender 4 ice cubes, the remaining apple and the avocado flesh.
  5. Pour over your extracted juice and blend for 30-45 seconds on high.
  6. Enjoy!

This recipe is the best juice I’ve tried so please give it a go. Happy Monday!

First Week

bellyfat

As I stated in my first post, I knew when I started this journey that the exercise part wouldn’t be an issue for me. This week I’ve managed to complete one yoga session, three swim sessions of 2500m each and a gym session. Basically, I’ve trained every day this week with the plan to do a yoga session today and have Sunday off (who doesn’t need a day off right?).

No, the issue I have is with food. This week, despite starting really well with healthy eating, I’ve managed to incorporate into this week’s diet half a pizza, microwave chicken tikka, leftover Christmas chocolates (of which there were many) and a slice of Rocky Road. Should I be mad? The answer is a complicated one – yes and no.

Yes. I should be mad at myself because I wanted to start the new year off well. Eat clean and train mean. And then I allowed myself to slide back into old habits, ones that had caused me to gain weight in the first place. Something happened, time got away from me and suddenly I didn’t have enough time to cook real food. Instead I bought a microwave meal on the school run. Ten minutes and poof, food is ready. And once I’ve started on the unhealthy track I can’t stop myself, hence the chocolates.

But life is sometimes a little more complicated than that which is why I shouldn’t be mad at myself. The old me wouldn’t have thought there was anything wrong with what I’d done. I would have rationalised it as a necessary evil to the week I’ve had and made it okay in my mind. Now that I recognise the signs of what caused me to slip back into eating junk means I can prevent the same thing from occurring again next week. That’s the difference.

Habits aren’t changed overnight. They take time to develop. It can take a week or two or even longer to get yourself on the right path. The other meals and snacks I ate were healthy – fruit, cooked veggies, handful of nuts and a slice of toast with nut butter. Now I have a goal to work on for next week. Time management is crucial to us all and ensuring I have enough time to cook a healthy meal is critical to achieving my goals. Hopefully next week I’ll succeed.

Below is one of the swim sessions I did this week. I’m not a fast swimmer but I do having a swimming background. However, this session can be completed by anyone who enjoys swimming and can swim front crawl, back crawl and breaststroke. I should note that some of the workout incorporates butterfly too, however, I have a shoulder injury from my swimming days and can’t swim butterfly much. So for these portions I either swim butterfly drill (alternating single arm butterfly) or front crawl. Enjoy!

Warm-up = 200metres front crawl, 100m back crawl, 200m front crawl pull (having a pull buoy between your legs and only using your arms), 100m breaststroke, 100m kick

Main set = 4 x 100m front crawl (30 seconds rest after each 100m),                                         8 x 50m – 25m back crawl then 25m breaststroke (15 seconds rest after each 50m)                                    8 x 25m Individual medley order (1 length of butterfly; back crawl; breaststroke; front crawl then repeat. Rest 10 seconds after each length)                                                                               100m kick – nice and easy to give you a chance to recover                                                                                                                           12 x 25m – 1 length front crawl as fast as possible, 1 length back crawl slow and easy to get your breath back, then repeat this six times with 10 seconds rest after each 25m

Cool down = 100m easy kick, 100m easy swim

Total = 2500m – well done!

 

First blog post

See that image? That’s what I want to look like. Well, sort of.

I’ve always been a sporty sort of person. I was a tomboy as a child and played hockey, netball, football; I hardly ever kept still. I was also a club swimmer and cyclist. So exercise was fun for me and I got to eat whatever I wanted. That is until I left university and went out into the real world. I got a respectable job, started earning a decent living and moved in with my soon-to-be husband. That’s when my weight and health took a downturn. I thought to myself ‘I’ve always eaten Chinese and pizzas and I’ve never put on any weight. I’ll be fine.’

As the years passed, the weight gained and I progressed from my hour glass swimmer’s physique to a couch potato who ate like I was about to compete in the Olympics! My husband could see I wasn’t happy about my weight and bought me a fitness dvd. Beachbody’s Insanity dvd with Shaun T. I loved it! Every workout was exhausting and I could barely breathe but I knew it was getting me back on track. But I still couldn’t help pigging out on food. My portion sizes were far too big and the type of food I was eating wasn’t healthy at all. So I opted to try something different. I’d seen adverts for Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix – thirty minutes exercise a day and portion control containers to help you stick to the right amount of food. Perfect!

I started doing the workouts and eating as the instructions told me and was having loads of fun with it. I’d already lost four pounds in two weeks since starting when my right ankle began hurting. I’d always had problems with it but it had always sorted itself out. Not this time. After being sent for an x-ray and then an MRI, I was informed that I’d suffered a grade 5 osteochondral fracture of the talus bone in my ankle. Not only that, it’d been getting worse for years and I’d only noticed now. Because of the amount of damage there, the surgeon told me there was a 50-50 chance of surgery being able to fix the problem but without it, the ankle would only get worse. Surgery was booked for six months’ time while I limped around feeling very sorry for myself on my broken ankle. The surgery went well. The damaged part of the bone was sheared off and the remaining talus bone filed down and holes drilled into it so platelets could form cartilage to fill the gap left by the portion of bone removed. I had to be non weight-bearing for six weeks and then wear a compression boot for a further four weeks. Ten weeks of inactivity and stuffing my face whilst feeling gloomy and miserable meant that my weight increased to 13 stone. I was not a happy bunny.

Something had to be done. I was told by the surgeon that under no circumstances could I pound on my ankle again. That meant no running, no plyometrics, no jumping. I didn’t know how on earth I was going to get myself fit and lose all the excess weight. And then I saw a film on Netflix called ‘Fittest on Earth’. If you are anything like me and love exercise and pushing yourself to the max, you have to watch this film. It introduced something I’d never even heard of before – Crossfit.

Crossfit is all about pushing your body through gruelling workouts to be the best you can possibly be. After watching my mind was made up. I needed to do something about my body. Also, my daughter and husband had given me the nickname ‘Truffles’ because of my incessant eating. Okay, so maybe I couldn’t run like the athletes at the Crossfit Games did and couldn’t do double-unders like they could, but there was a lot of stuff that I could do. For starters I could get back to training in the pool. I was a swimmer once so I could be one again. And I could incorporate some of the crossfit sessions I’d seen into my plan. Part of my physiotherapy included lunges, squats, pistols, glute bridges – all exercises I’d seen crossfit athletes doing.

This is my first post of this blog – my personal journey of becoming stronger, fitter, leaner and healthier. I shall put up some of my swim workouts as well as healthy recipes and the crossfit-style gym sessions I complete. I hope you’ll join me in attaining a strong body and a healthy mind.