Monday, 7 January 2019

New Year, New You?

Oh yes, it's that time of year again. Join the gym, overhaul your diet, make all those resolutions - this time, this year, it will be different and I will succeed!

Will you? Or will you end up a few more weeks down the line feeling a failure, yet again. In this blog and the next few blogs, I want to give you some help so that this year is the year you make the changes you want to make.

Blog Number One - How our brains are wired

Give yourself a break. You are not a failure because you cannot stick to all your resolutions. You are simply going about it the wrong way and setting yourself up for failure.

You need to understand what drives us as humans and how to work with our brains to get what we really want.

Our brains haven't evolved much since we were cavemen.  We were able to use lots of energy to hunt and gather when motivated by hunger and rewarded by pleasure receptors in the brain.  All very useful 10 000 years ago. Not so much now. The hunger craving is very easy to satisfy and our pleasure receptors are in overdrive. So we repeat and overeat the highly palatable food we have available. (Because, of course, manufacturers are very much aware of how to manipulate our brain chemistry!)

Which is why (even though you said you wouldn't) you find yourself opening the biscuit packet, buying the chocolate bar and eating that doughnut.  You are not a failure and you are not lacking in motivation. You are simply human and immediate gratification will always (pretty much) override your long term plans. It is the way we are wired.

So, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try (you should) and that all is lost. Understanding how we are wired is the first step to trying to change things.  First of all, remove the temptations. Get the highly palatable stuff out of your cupboards. Remove and avoid those foods that you know you will overeat and have no control around. Now you know why you have no control. This is not forever, this is just for now, while we rewire our pleasure receptors and change our habits. You will not be able to control every environment you are in but control the ones you can. Make it easier on yourself.

In the next blog, I'll go further with this but small steps create big results. Go slowly and the changes will stick.  This is your first step, identify those foods that you will eat mindlessly (because your brain chemistry has over-ridden your willpower) and avoid them as much as possible.

Good luck.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Missing in Action

Hi, more than two years since I last blogged - what a disgrace!!
I'd like to say that life got in the way and so many different and exciting things happened. But basically, I got lazy, I lost my mojo, had a few health issues and felt I had nothing to say (not like me!)

Anyway, I have lots to say now - mojo is coming back. Health problems are still lingering but out of the doldrums and ready to grasp life by the throat again.

So, as we live life, as we age, we do grow in wisdom - or we should! One good thing is the ability to see what's important in life and to start to live in the moment - to be present in our lives and to enjoy them thoroughly - we don't get to do them again! Even if you believe in reincarnation (my 7 year old is coming back as a dog, apparently!) you ain't doing this life again.

Take a look around - what's important to you? Who do you like spending time with and what do you like to do with that time? And plan to do more of it. Simples. (sorry!).

This year I did this:     Running in beautiful places.

 And this: walking on my own with two mutts for two days (18 miles a day on Offa's Dyke path). Out of my comfort zone but a great adventure.

And finally, the whole family did a whole week of cycling in a fabulous adventure around Norfolk.

You can be assured that I, we, and mutts will be doing more of what makes us happy in the next few months and into 2017. And so should you!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Are you waiting till the planets are in alignment?

Hello, there, long-time no blog!

Well, I tend to write my blogs about things that I am interested in and concerned about and, usually, have experience of, with a view to helping people get fitter, healthier and happier.

This blog is no exception. This blog is a call-to-arms! A challenge to all those people who are waiting. Waiting for a Monday, waiting till after that party, after Christmas, after the treats are out of the house... Waiting to start that "diet", start going to the gym, start getting fit and healthy and changing your life. 

Here's a question for you? How long have you been waiting?  I'm 40 this year - umm, there's a time for reflection, if ever there was one! How long have I been waiting to get my diet under control, make exercise a habit, just sort that last thing out and everything will be perfect. Did I tell you I'm going to be 40 this year - that's about 20 years then!

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't mean I haven't ever started that diet or exercise regime  - I am a personal trainer after all! But there is always a temporary feel about it and a, oh, well, here comes Monday, I'll start again. or next Monday, or I'll wait till the planets are aligned, then I'll ditch the junk, eat 7 portions of vegetables every day, hit the gym 3 times per week, give up alcohol, sugar, caffeine, lose 12lbs and feel better. Oops, didn't work, never mind, here comes Monday again!!

Is this just me? Or are you on this perpetual cycle? If only the circumstances were different, it would all happen and things would be fine! Well, let me tell you a secret - I'm not doing this anymore. I am NOT on this cycle, I am not waiting. I am doing.

BUT, big BUT - I am not trying to change everything all at once.  I am doing what I can. This month I am increasing my exercise. I like exercise (I am a personal trainer!) so this seemed the easiest place to start.  I look at my diary and I fill in what I can do that week. Sometimes, it runs to plan, sometimes it doesn't. Like today, for example, today says CYCLE but it's raining. So today, I am doing admin and I will CYCLE tomorrow. Monday said gym 6.30am - Monday morning, I was knackered so I stayed in bed but I ran later on that day and I will gym on Thursday. I do what I can and I don't beat myself up when it doesn't run to plan. Also, and very importantly, I do what I LIKE doing and I don't overdo it - slowly working up the time, distance, reps etc.

Because I am not focused on changing everything at once - exercise, diet, sleep, stress, alcohol, it is working. Stop waiting for all outside factors to be perfect and then go hell-for-leather to change everything so you have the perfect body/lifestyle/fitness by a certain date. If this is you (and it was me for a very long time) I bet you did this last year at about the same time, and in January and what about just before the summer holidays? Did it work? No, so try a different approach.

Was it Einstein who said "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Make small changes. Change one or two things each week. Make those changes stick then move down the list.  Write a list - in fact, write three lists (or more). Title lists - exercise, weight (if you want to lose weight), nutrition, health, etc. and under each heading write changes that you would like to make. For example, exercise - run x2 week, go to a pilates class, nutrition - reduce caffeine, eat more veg, drink more water, health - spend 30 minutes relaxing, get to bed by 10.30pm. Whatever is important to you to make changes for your health put on the lists. Make each change realistic and as specific as you can. Then instigate two or three of these changes per week.

Big things will happen from small changes.  Don't make it difficult for yourself, just work on the two or three realistic changes per week. Do the exercise you like doing. Don't beat yourself up when things don't go to plan - you don't have to start again from the beginning, just keep doing. Keep a journal and look back and how far you've come each week and what you have achieved. Evaluate and evolve your lists and keep doing.

Stop waiting, start doing.

Get healthy, fit and happy, my friends.

Friday, 4 January 2013

No time to cook?

Do you struggle to find the time to cook and end up grabbing something quick or reaching for the takeaway menu when you come home from work?  Ready meals and processed food contain lots of salt, fat and hidden sugars which are not the best for our health.

There are lots of ways to cook healthy, nutritious meals quickly.  It takes a little planning and buying the right ingredients but you need never resort to frozen chips and a chicken kiev or a chinese takeaway again (unless you want to!). 

1.  Batch cook.  Take a little time on an evening or the weekend to cook a few big batches of meals to freeze. You then only need to take a portion out of the freezer in the morning and reheat when you get in.  Good meals for this are: chilli con carne, spaghetti bolognaise (not the spaghetti, obviously!), chicken casseroles and stews.

2.  Buy chops or chicken breast which take about 20 mins to cook in the oven.   Microwave a large potato for about 6 mins then finish it in the oven while the meat is cooking.  Cook some frozen peas and broad beans and you have a complete meal in under 30 minutes.

3. Use a slow cooker.  It takes about 10 minutes to prepare your ingredients for the slow cooker and it cooks all day.  You then have a lovely tasty meal which is ready whenever you come in from work.  You will also have leftovers to freeze for another meal or eat the next day.

This is my dinner - fry off some onions, garlic and mince, add 2 tins of tomatoes and some tomato puree, bring to the boil then place in slow cooker on medium for at least 6 hours.  It took me ten minutes to prepare before the school run and heading off to work.  I will eat this with lots of green veg and the children will have some spaghetti with it.

There you go - just a few ideas to help you eat more healthily.  You will also find it is cheaper to cook from scratch than buy ready meals, processed food and take aways!

Let me know how you get on - or share your favourite slow cooker recipes with me.  I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Top 3 Excuses not to Exercise and how to beat them.

1. I have no time.
You are busy - you have a job, a family, a house, a dog, parents, friends...... There are not enough hours in the day for all you want to do as it is, so where on earth are you going to fit exercise?

Prioritise.  Exercise is good for you. You know that.  It can prolong your life and make your life so much more enjoyable - that is the bottom line.  Is it more important to watch Holby City or to spend 30 minutes doing something for your longterm health?

Try getting up earlier by 30 minutes and go for a walk or a run or do some exercises in your kitchen while everyone else is still asleep.  Even ten minutes can have great health benefits.  Walk more during the day, get the kids out on their bikes or go for a walk at the weekend.

You rule your life, you set the timetable, take back control and find time for exercise.

2. I'm too tired, too old or too fat.
Tiredness is a big problem for most people and here I am telling you to get up earlier - am I mad?  Not really, exercise will improve and maintain energy levels and can improve your sleep patterns.  Knowing this, you can push through the first week or two of being more tired due to increased exercise because you know that soon your energy levels will rise and your sleep will be deeper and more refreshing.

Age is a number.  Exercise helps your body to maintain muscle, balance and bone strength - essential for older people.  Start slowly and modify the exercise to suit your abilities. Moving is always better than not moving.

Being fat is no excuse either.  Yes, you may need to start slowly and modify the exercise to your fitness levels but you can still do it.  You may be anxious and self-conscious about people looking at you but most people are really not.  In a gym situation, people are usually too focused on themselves and their own exercise to bother looking or judging other people.  If you are really self-conscious, get up early or go out late and walk or run in the dark (make sure you are safe - wear reflective clothing and follow common sense safety guidelines).

3.  I don't know what to do.
There is so much information out there that it can be quite confusing.  You can't beat keeping it simple and going for a walk.  I have a blog on walking here for more information (Walking blog).

Or think about what you would like to do and join a class.  Pilates, circuits, bootcamp, zumba classes all offer great fitness benefits.  Classes are also a great way to avoid getting bored with your exercising.

Exercise videos abound at this time of year.  Give them a try.

Personal trainers (either in a gym or freelance) are an excellent way of cutting through the exercise confusion.  They will help you set your goals and work out a programme to get you there.  They will motivate and encourage you when the going gets tough.

In summary,  you have to make the time, you have to prioritise yourself and your health.  Set some goals for  to work towards - whether it is to walk one mile (or run), to exercise 3 times per week, or to perform a full press up.  Give yourself 3 months to work towards your first goal (it takes 3 months to make exercise into a habit!) and get going.  Good luck.

Monday, 31 December 2012

Get Walking.

People tend to dismiss walking as an inferior exercise which won't achieve anything.  People who haven't exercised before seem to view walking as too low-tech, thinking that they need to join a gym in order to get results.  People who exercise regularly and particularly runners, just see walking as too slow and of no benefit to their fitness regime.

I disagree.  Walking is a fantastic exercise.  It is accessible, inexpensive and you can do it within your everyday life - meaning it can and will become a habit (unlike gym membership which tends to lapse come March!).

The health benefits of walking include reduced incidence of:  Coronary Heart Disease and stroke; some types of cancers; and, type 2 diabetes.  Walking will improve muscoskeletal health (oesteoathritis and lower back pain). It can also improve mental health, happiness and well-being.

These are all benefits of any type of regular exercise.  The joy of walking is that it is easy to make it a regular part of your life.  Walk to the shops, walk to work, get of the bus one stop earlier and walk home, walk with a friend and catch up on that chat (instead of a cup of tea and a cake!), loads of ways just to fit walking in.

So, if you are new to exercise consider taking up walking.  Doing it often is key - at least 30mins per day, 5 days per week is optimum but start with ten minutes, 3 times per week and build up to it from there. 

If you are a regular exerciser and still can't see what benefit walking will be to you, try these ideas:

1. Try interval training - walk fast (or run) for 1 min, walk steady for 1 min, repeat 5-10 times
2. Walk up a hill - hill walking works different muscles and gets your heart and lungs working hard.
3.  Try a timed distance - e.g. walk a 3 mile route and try and beat your time next week
4. Walk up a steep hill with a weighted backpack - fantastic training for legs and bottom- great for runners to strengthen up your quadriceps and glutes.
5.  Rest days - regular exercisers need rest days - runners can walk on rest days which helps keep muscles supple and aids recovery.

So, don't dismiss walking.  Regular, consistent walking where you feel slightly warm and slightly out of breath will benefit your physical and your mental health.  Get walking.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Get back on track

I hope you had a great Christmas and New Year.  I certainly did but now it is time to get back on track, get back into the exercise habit and eating properly again.

1. First things first, GET RID of all the chocolate, crisps, nuts and unhealthy stuff in your cupboards.  Be ruthless, either chuck it or give it to the neighbours.  Get it out of the house and its not going to tempt you.

2. Then, plan your meals.  Buy some quality protein (meat, fish, eggs, pulses) and lots of vegetables (particularly green vegetables).

3. Have a good cooking session.  Make a few freezer meals (stews, casseroles, chilli con carne) so you have good choices when you are busy and tired. Make some soup, so you have healthy lunch options.

4. Stick to three meals per day and try not to snack.  If you eat enough food at each meal (particularly protein and vegetables) you should not get hungry.

5. Eat loads of vegetables and drink lots of water.  This should help the liver to detoxify itself and your body recover from the excesses of the Christmas season.

6. Get moving. The most important thing about exercise is to make it a regular thing.  Do whatever you can to make it a habit.  Start with walking (ten minutes, 3 times a week) and increase the time and frequency as you get fitter.  Just do it often.  It can take three months to make something into a habit.

7.  Be kind to yourself.  Do not beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon - pick yourself up, dust yourself down and get back on it. 

Good luck.