Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Gym’ll fix it?

In gym, health on August 23, 2011 at 9:26 am

Oh, my poor aching limbs.

It’s been a week since I started at my new gym of choice. The delight of only being 20 minutes away, compared to my previous 25-mile drive each way is beyond compare. I’ve joined Virgin Active at Solihull, and I am extremely pleased – incredibly well equipped, fancy indoor and outdoor pools, saunas and gubbins (not that I’ve tried them yet), and an extensive class table, I’m just dying to get stuck in.

I’ve been a bit of a maniac on the cardio front for the past year or so, I get a real buzz watching all the calories I’m burning notch up, but I’m all for change, so I booked an appointment with Dan yesterday, tasking him with helping me tone up my thighs, stomach and arms. I was pleasantly surprised – I’d expected him to draw me up a programme of reps on the various resistance machines and mix in a few pec flies, lat raises and so on with free-weights, but instead, he drew me up two different programmes – one centred around the PowerPlate, which I really like, and one focussed on the TRX system, the likes of which I’ve never come across before…


Basically, it looks like some kind of adventure playground, with pulleys and cables and straps hanging down. The idea is that use use these straps and pulleys to create resistance and work against them. I was set a combination of tricep exercises, squats, lunges and leg raises.


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The leg raises were my undoing – with one foot hooked into a dangling stirrup and my weight supported on my palms, I had to then raise the other leg 12 times. I felt like a monkey and after losing my balance and almost breaking my jaw, decided that it might not be my bag.

This morning, though, the screaming muscles in my thinghs suggest that the effort, and the feeling foolish, might well have been worth it, so I shall persevere.



Bikini ready

In diet, food, gym, health, Holiday, Italy, Travel on July 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Well, it’s finally arrived. My summer holiday’s been booked for six months and this time tomorrow I’ll be basking beside the pool in Tuscany. Blissssssss. The past six weeks have been very tough – a strict eating regime (with a few lapses, I confess), trying to service all of my clients, do the holiday packing and do the 200km a week I told myself I’d do to achieve my goal weight.

And what do you know? I’ve done it – jobs all finished, invoices sent, suitcases packed, suncream bought, and a stone in weight lost – admittedly half my holiday clothes are now too big but I’ve been delighted at the  ‘new clothes buying’ part of it all, there’s a definite thrill to having to put back all the 10s and enjoy slipping into the 8s rather than squeezing into them.

Of course, two weeks of bread, pasta, cheese and oceans of wine will no doubt see the pounds pile back on a damn sight faster than they shifted. I’ve made the provisions – I’ve handed in notice at my gym, much as I loved it, because 25 miles is too far to travel there and back – 40 minutes each way, blus the two-hour workout, is taking its toll – and have signed up to a new one, so that when I get back with the post-holiday blues, I’m set to get right back on track.

I have packed my trainers and some gym gear – I’ve pledged to attempt some running with The Boy while I’m on holiday – but given that he’s in training for his third marathon and I despise running with a passion, I fear it may not end well, and will more likely see me lying on a lilo waiting for him to return from his all-terrain adventure.

Nontheless, it’s been all too long in coming, and I’m looking forward to ditching the scales for a fortnight and concentrating on which cheese to try.


The art of eating like a Frenchwoman

In book, diet, food, France, health on February 10, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I came across an interesting book recently and I had to buy it. Written by Mireille Guiliano, the CEO of Champagne Veuve Clicquot, French Women Don’t Get Fat claims to recondition eating habits so that you think and eat like a slender French mademoiselle. She has a point, I mused. On my trips to France, I only recall well-dressed, glamorous, slender ladies, and if this was going to help me join their ranks, well it was worth a shot.

So far, it’s making a lot of sense. Mme Guiliano is quite clear – the reason so many people are overweight is due to bad habits and big portions – shovelling food in while watching TV, while working at the laptop, grabbing breakfast on the go or by missing breakfast altogether and reaching for quick-fix snacks.

Her recommendation is to keep a food diary for three weeks so that you can spot patterns and ‘offenders’ in your diet, before undertaking a two day ‘Leek Soup’ preparation. You then enter the ‘recasting’ period – three months of changing your eating habits gradually.

I’m not yet half way through the book but I can see a great deal of logic in Mme Guiliano’s approach. Some have criticised her for being arrogant and accusatory, but as someone who is not overweight, but striving for improvement, I know I’m guilty of a lot of the ‘offences’ she flags up. My learnings so far, which I plan to start regulating pretty soon, are…

Turn meal times into an experience: Set the table, use glassware, napkins, candles. Make sitting down to a meal an enjoyable experience to look forward to. Take care of presentation, use more than one plate to choose from. Eat a little of each food, on its own, first, before you mix the flavours. Enjoy the flavours. Put your cutlery down between mouthfuls. Chew. Taste. Savour.  It doesn’t take a genius to see how this could work on so many levels – if you’ve gone to the trouble to make up a table for dinner, you’ll want to spend longer there, not wolf your food down without really tasting it. I do love creating ‘restaurant’ style table settings, but it’s something I only do for guests, yet sure enough, we’ll sit at the table and chat and eat for ages, rather than eating a whole meal in less than ten minutes. I can’t even remember what I had for lunch today, but I know I ate it at my computer. It might seem daft to make an effort for one person, but it’s something I’m going to try next week and see if it works. Mme Guiliano says TV, newspapers, books – multi tasking of any kind at mealtimes is not allowed, enabling you to concentrate on what you’re eating and how it satisfies you.

Shop for fresh produce every couple of days rather than doing a bumper monthly shop: This means you’ll pay more attention to the type of food you choose and its quality.

Shop at markets rather than supermarkets, and look for in-season foods: This is all about the quality of the food we eat. Looking, inspecting, choosing plump, rosy tomatoes rather than pre-packed versions. That, teamed with the added time you’ll be spending eating and enjoying the food, will, she claims, make you begin to appreciate quality over quantity and enjoy the preparation of a meal to savour more.

Drink more water – a big glass before bed and a big glass in the morning, in addition to your existing daily intake. We all know we’re meant to drink at least eight glasses of water, but many of us don’t. By adding just those two glasses will help ward off dehydration and aid well being – all part of recognising what our body needs as opposed to what it doesn’t.

So far, I’ve gathered that French women don’t forbid themselves from indulgences, but they do counteract them. Mme Guiliano says that if we want dessert and wine with dinner, of course we must have it, but try to resist the bread basket, or ensure you do 30 minutes’ exercise the following day.

Without keeping a diary for three weeks, I know what my ‘offenders’ are. Bread will always be a massive draw for me, but according to this guide, that doesn’t mean I can’t have it, it just means I should choose really beautiful, fresh bakery bread and limit my portions so that it becomes a luxurious treat that I’ll savour, rather than eat bog-standard slices of everyday off-the-shelf bread. Sounds damn good to me. Mme Guiliano says that if someone eats four slices a day, maybe they cut it back to three, then two. Eventually, she says, I may discover I only really need one to feel satisifed.

The same rule applies to chcolate. Mme G says that instead of compromising on taste and scoffing mediocre bars, choosing a small piece of really excellent quality chocolate and savouring each bite, will go a long way – that much I do agree with; my Dad gave me a box of miniature Green & Black’s bars in my Christmas stocking and one of those tiny 15g bars lasted through an entire movie, while a bar grabbed in the supermarket or petrol station would last a couple of minutes.

I think it’ll take a bit of discipline, but I think if I stick to it, I could make some pretty significant changes once I’ve finished this book. I’ll keep you posted…






Lay off Claire!

In gym, health on January 25, 2011 at 1:57 pm

I was annoyed to see a vicious newspaper report today attacking Claire Sweeney for putting a little weight on. I’ve met and interviewed Claire a couple of times and a more pleasant, friendly and down-to-earth lady you could not wish to meet.

Claire Sweeney - lovely as she is

Claire bravely took part in a TV experiment a couple of years ago where she ate whatever she liked for six weeks and assessed the damage done to her figure, her health and her self confidence. I caught up with her after the experiment as she struggled to shift the last half stone, and she was shocked at how awful she’d felt, and the way the press had gleefully reported on her shape as she conducted the diet investigation.

She admitted how disciplined and strict she has to be with herself regarding her exercise and her portion control, and it bothered me that someone so gorgeous and talented could feel so judged and bullied. We live in a pretty vicious society and much as I, and other women, feel rubbish when we’ve put a couple of pounds on, at least we haven’t got to worry about some snapper hiding nearby, keen to grab a shot of us oiling ourselves up on the beach or tucking into a burger once in a lifetime.

Claire’s just lovely as she is. Lay off.


In fashion, gym, health on January 12, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Losing weight? Losing motivation.

In gym, health on January 11, 2011 at 1:07 pm

So my great intentions of January have been scuppered by some kind of ear infection. Instead of spending days pounding the cross-trainer and cycling, I have in fact spent days lying on the sofa with a hot water bottle strapped to the side of my head.

I’ve successfully binned any remaining Christmas chocolates and the too-tempting cheese plate has almost depleted now, so I’m hoping that the second half of January will see an improvement.

As it is, I’ve managed a tough body conditioning class and a few sessions with my fit-ball at home – ridiculous as I may look, wobbling around on top of it, there’s no arguing that the squats, crunches and push-ups do help. But I’ve not managed the body pump and body combat classes I’d signed up for with my friend Donna, nor have I managed to stick to the 40k distance training sessions I managed throughout December.

As a result, I’ve managed to put on four lbs in a week, after managing not to put any on over Christmas!

Such depressing stats immediately make me want to have a sandwich to cheer myself up, there’s nothing to make you more inclined to eat for comfort than discovering you’ve put weight on while not eating much!

Thankfully, I’m now able to stand up without holding on to something and I’ve managed not to take any painkillers today, so I’m hopeful that I’ll squeeze a couple of classes in before the end of the week and get back on track. I’m going to need to see some major results fast though to reignite my motivation.

I’m still determined not to buy any new clothes until March so I have plenty of time to focus on toning up and looking good so that when I do hit the shops, I’m spoiled for choice.



In cinema, gym, health, shopping on January 6, 2011 at 12:24 pm

I’m not going to bore you with my repetitive list of resolutions – they’re the same as last year’s. But they’re more serious this time – I always say I’m going to try and spend less and be a bit more savvy, but this year, thanks to the hike in VAT, I have another reason to tighten my purse strings.

I read a few days ago that Starbucks have increased the price of a cappuccino by more than double the 2.5% VAT increase, so my occasional vanilla latte/hazelnut hot chcolate treat is bound to have leapt up in price – so I shall try and leave it alone for a while.

I was spoiled rotten this Christmas, with jewellery, shoes and clothes, so I’d like to think I can stay away from the shops for a few weeks and have a little splurge before I go on holiday (yet to be booked, God knows what that’ll cost now).

The one really sensible thing I’ve done is invest in an unlimited access card for my local cinema. We go to the cinema a lot – usually three or four times a month and half the time we still manage to miss some of the movies we want to see. I’m hoping we’ll manage to go at least once a week now – starting tonight with The Next Three Days (or Burlesque, but my money’s on The Next Three Days.) The key is that we’ll have to break the habit of going out for a meal before or after, or the whole plan will go awry.

Add to that my plan to quit drinking and avoid bread during January, along with my good intentions to make my £50 gym membership work harder, and I should see in February a little richer, and a little slimmer.

Famous last words?

18th Century Girl

In health, random thoughts on September 2, 2010 at 10:31 am

I’ve discovered a worrying side-effect of my re-launched fitness campaign: regular bouts of fainting and vomiting.

It’s not just concerning, it’s quite embarrassing to triumphantly clamber off the exercise bike after notching up 20 miles, or complete a series of poses on the power-plate, and then stagger  sideways for a few steps before crumpling, I suspect not terribly gracefully, to the ground.

I’m hoping that it’s related to the temperature or dehydration, rather than anything ominous like high blood pressure or anaemia, a jaunt to the doctor’s should ascertain that. What i CAN rule out, as I’ve barked more times than I care to count in the past seven days, is the patter of teeny, tiny feet, and I sincerely hope that my doctor doesn’t ask me the same question.

Here comes summer (allegedly)

In health, Holiday, shopping on June 2, 2010 at 3:37 pm

We enjoyed a good four days of dazzling sunshine the week before last – glorious baking sun that beat down on us and gave great numbers of us red-raw shoulders and strap-marks because, so unused to it as we are, we underestimate the power of the British Sunshine.

Obviously, it’s since done a runner but we’re promised it’ll come back out to play this weekend. I am, for once, ready for it. I don’t know if I suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), I doubt it, I think like anyone, I just feel happier when the days are longer and lighter and I am taking care of myself.

The past year has been a rough one on every level and it has taken months for me to work out what I want to do with my future. Having only recently plucked up the courage to start following my heart and head and not just take the easy way out, I have exchanged one lot of stresses for another, but feel better for it despite the inevitable uncertainity of it all.

I’ve always known that the best way for me to channel stress is to exercise, but I’ve struggled to fit it in. Until May 1, which I’d set as my own D Day to quit whining and start doing.

Having undertaken a two-month project in the East Midlands earlier this year, my visits to the gym had been fairly scarce and I was determined to reacquaint myself with it, and on May 1st, I did. I combined my daily visits with the much-promoted Special K diet – you’ve never seen so many cereal boxes – eating various kinds for breakfast and lunch, and then enjoying my usual evening meals; be they at Pizza Express, Ask, La Tasca (I’ve become obsessed with vouchers) or made by my own fair hand, and I am happy to say that one month on, I feel better, am more toned and am fitting into clothes I’ve not worn in many a month.

That’s pretty much clinched it for me. Between gyming regularly, managing my own time, eating to suit myself, and meeting up with friends more regularly, either to do various combat, pump and spin classes (followed by a sauna and a gossip of course) or just to indulge in food, wine and banter, I feel better than I have in around 18 months.

With the promise of a summer holiday in a few weeks time, I have the incentive to keep at it. I’ve bought a fab maxi dress as a ‘hey, well done on month one’ gift to myself, and it’s pretty snug…

Here’s hoping I do well enough in month two to buy the wedge sandals I’ve seen to match it!

Confessions of a Coke addict

In health on February 8, 2010 at 12:05 pm

I read a piece in the Daily Mail today. I don’t know why, I think I do it as some kind of self-flagellation style penance. This one wasn’t berating the unemployed, single mothers, ethnic minorities or indeed working mothers, so it goes without saying that it was telling me that my lifestyle is going to kill me and it will be All My Own fault.

I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life,  don’t eat much red meat, I occasionally over-indulge on the drinking front but other than that it’s very much an ‘in moderation’ pastime. I like cakes and the like, but I only have them as a rule if I go out to dinner, and I generally eat a lot of fruit, veg, chicken and fish. I exercise four times a week, at least, and my BMI is 21.

But apparently I am 87% more likely to contract pancreatic cancer than the next person because I drink fizzy drinks.

According to this study, done in Singapore over a 14 year period, those who drink two cans of fizzy drinks a week are more likely to get the disease than those who don’t. The experts have admitted they’re not positive that it’s definitely as a result of the drinks, so that’s okay, they can’t be accused of scaremongering if they’re not sure. I drink more than two a week – my addiction to Coca Cola goes back a long, long way and my dentist actually hates me (God knows why, he’s a bloody rich man thanks to me) because even though I know, have seen indisputable evidence of the damage that the stuff does to my teeth, and have experienced enough palpitations and sleepless nights to demonstrate beyond measure that Coke is very, very bad for me, it is an addiction and one I cannot kick. I have done liquid detoxes, juice diets and all manner of healthy eating junkets but the one thing I absolutely cannot kick is my Coke habit. I’ve cut down on my intake, and I even go so far as to concede the sugar argument and switch to ‘Bloke Coke’ – Coke Zero with its no sugar content, but kick the habit altogether? Unfortunately, not a chance.

The hope I am clinging to is the fact that if I believed everything I read or heard, I wouldn’t use shampoo, deodorant, talcum powder, drink tap water or fruit juice, and wouldn’t eat anything at all just in case I contracted some form of cancer.

As it stands, I think I’ll stick to my exercise and reasonably healthy eating plan, get checked at the doctors regularly for any signs, and enjoy whatever life I do have, fizzy or not.