Staying fit during winter

December arrives with a plethora of christmas parties, festive nights out and good old catch ups. Personally I enjoy having lots of festive fun, but with a jam-packed schedule it can be difficult to stay on top of fitness.

During the winter your body produces more fat storing chemicals (ATLPL to be precise) and you crave more comfort food (serotonin levels drop which leave us more tired and hungry) basically serving us a double whammy. Exercise offsets both of these hormones which makes it even more essential to stay active during the cold and wet winter months. Beyond obvious physical health benefits, exercise boosts your mood, reduces stress levels and decreases your risk of depression. All of which are prone to suffer the most as the nights draw in and the mornings become increasingly darker.

This got me thinking about little ways to change things up a bit and stay fit during winter; since I definitely do not want to turn into the stuffed turkey…

Motivation.   

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 12.33.51

  • Dark mornings and nights play havoc on energy levels so it’s natural to feel a dip in motivation at this time of year. The last thing you want to do is get up extra early to exercise but don’t fall into the trap of excuses
  • Read about my ways to boost your energy levels and my tips to eat healthily during the festive period
  • Action comes first and motivation follows. If you wait to feel motivated, it’ll never happen.  Build those good behaviours day by day and before you know it habit takes over

Be prepared.

IMG_6542

  • Schedule.. your week ahead by making exercise plans in your diary. It helps you stay accountable. Aim to get in some form of activity most days, whether that’s a gym class, walk on your lunch break or taking the stairs
  • Pack up and go.. Early morning gym session? Lay your gym kit out and have your bag packed. The last thing you want to do in the morning is spend time searching for something to wear
  • Fuel up.. Keep water next to your bed and drink first thing to wake you up. If you’re struggling, grab a coffee or quick snack for some energy. A banana, handful of nuts or raisins will give you that quick burst
  • Jump out of bed.. 20 minutes spent deliberating about getting up? Those could be spent going for a quick run, getting to the gym or working out at home. Having done a quick 30 minutes of exercise, be showered and dressed before 9am? Now that will certainly put you in a good mood for the day

Banish the excuses.

Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 14.10.05

  • Sign up to classes.. 
  • Grab a friend or gym buddy.. make plans with others and it’ll make you more accountable. You can catch up, make your workout fun and feel good after
  • Too dark and cold out? Work out at home. 30 minutes and your body weight is all you need
  • Busy day? Use time creatively and make sight adjustments to the day. Go for a walk on your lunch break, take the stairs, get off the bus at an earlier stop, walk/cycle to work
  • Make your social plans active.. go for walks, bike ride, a yoga class, ice skating, indoor trampolining, whatever takes your fancy

Winter proof your workout.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 12.34.07

  • Try a new activity, sport or class… avoid becoming stagnate by changing things up 
  • Embrace the cold.. by trying a winter activity. Get outdoors, countryside walks, ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, sledging…
  • Invest in new workout gear.. nothing says new motivation like a new piece of kit. Get the right gear and layer up. Once you start moving you’ll warm up
  • Workout at home.. if you can not face going outside. With a plethora of YouTube videos and workout apps you can do almost anything from the comfort of your living room
  • Motivation.. update your playlist and grab a friend to up your motivation

For more tips for health and wellness over winter check out my other posts:

Essential nutrients to boost energy levels

Tips to eat healthily during the festive period

‘Healthy food’ mistakes you need to stop

Let me know if you would like any specific workout or nutrition tips

Good luck!

L x

 

Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 10.44.45

 

Three essential nutrients to boost energy levels this winter

Feeling tired, moody or blue? You are definitely not imagining that dip in your energy levels at this time of year.

The reduced sunlight hours over winter seriously impacts energy levels, mood and appetite. Research suggests that 9 out 10 people will experience a dip in their energy levels and in more serious cases people can experience SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). SAD is a type of depression that occurs in winter, where the lack of sunlight significantly reduces the production of the hormones that regulate sleep, appetite and mood. It is thought to affect around 3% of the population and is complex and serious. Luckily the majority are not effected to the same extent, but in all seriousness the lack of sunlight can really leave people in a state of winter blues. 

Simply put, serotonin (the mood boosting hormone) is produced when the sunlight enters the eye and regulates all things related to energy, appetite and mood. When you aren’t producing enough these behaviours get thrown out of whack. Melatonin is produced in darkness (regulating the sleep cycle) and prepares the body for sleep. Hence dark early nights mean your body produces less of the mood boosting hormones and more of the drowsiness inducing hormones, making you want to hibernate and eat more.

Luckily, you can boost energy levels through foods and supplements to avoid dipping into hibernation mode for the next four or so months. Food is medicine as they say and these three nutrients can be found pretty easily, so incorporate into your foods and feel on top form this winter!

1. Vitamin D

This might be the most essential vitamin to take during the winter months. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in converting tryptophan into serotonin so it’s not surprising that Vitamin D deficiency is linked to depression. The best source is through sunlight so over winter it’s even more important to add in to your diet. Luckily it’s easy to incorporate through foods such as fatty fish (e.g. Salmon, Herring, Tuna), egg yolks and fortified foods such as some milks (check the label). Besides sunlight the best form is in supplements, with a dose of 3000iu having high absorption rates. I cannot stress the importance of Vitamin D enough.

2. Magnesium

Magnesium has been shown to boost mood, as well as being a great all round protector for the body. It helps with serotonin and is often used to help combat fatigue and balance emotions. Magnesium is easy to get through foods, as well as sprays and supplements. Good sources of food include: Nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts), spinach and beans.

3. Chromium

Chromium works directly with the hormones that regulate energy and mood (serotonin, norepinephrine and melatonin). It helps to stabilise blood sugar levels which prevent energy dips. It’s found in small quantities in a lot of foods but the best sources are shellfish, brazil nuts, pears, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and oats. If taken in supplement form, research suggests 200mcg is the best amount to reap the benefits.

Upping your intake of these three nutrients will definitely help to boost your energy over  these long dark evenings!

 

 

 

 

Festive Feasting: healthy eating in December

Since I wanted to focus a new series of posts about the festive season, what better way to kick it off with some healthy eating tips!

The festive period is always the worst time to be healthy. With an endless supply of treats, Christmas parties and indulgent dinners, weight gain is almost inevitable. Then January arrives with a renewed sense of motivation for getting fit, losing that extra 5 or 10lbs and adopting an all round healthier lifestyle. Gym memberships peak and new fad diets flourish… which ultimately fail. Did you know that 80% of New Years resolutions fail before Valentine’s day, a mere 6 weeks later? Sorry to be the barer of bad news but the statistics do not lie in this case.

My question is this: instead of letting yourself totally go in December why not attempt to have a healthier season? It doesn’t have to be about restricting fun but rather indulging in moderation.

I always advocate living a healthy lifestyle that is sustainable and actually enjoyable. It’s never about cutting back or deprivation but more about being aware of how food impacts on your body, health and wellbeing. Christmas is all fun and games until your jeans are too tight!

With that being said, I often get asked how to eat healthily during this season, so I wanted to share some simple tips:

 

Tip 1: Stay hydrated

People often forget to drink water during this time, instead opting for more indulgent or alcoholic beverages. However, dehydration causes lots of issues such as playing havoc on the digestive system, lethargy and drying out your skin. On the alcohol note, be aware of

  • For optimal digestion aim for 2 litres a day
  • Drink a glass first thing in the morning 
  • Have a glass before or with each meal 

Tip 2: Alcohol calories

They easily add up. Simple as. Cocktails, creamy mixers and adding booze to your hot chocolate are easy ways to consume a lot of calories.

  • Opt for lighter spirits such as gin and vodka
  • Tonic water and sodas are lower calorie mixers
  • Drink water in between drinks

 

Tip 3: Never go to a buffet hungry

You’ll end up overeating. Buffet food is rarely healthy because it’s cheap and full of salt and sugar, making those little nibbles far too addictive.

  • Have a small snack beforehand to avoid turning up ravenous
  • Don’t skip other meals or ‘save yourself’ throughout the day as it will lead to overindulgence
  • Always eat breakfast (full of protein, healthy fats and slow release carbohydrates) to balance blood sugar levels and preventing a sugar crash. It’ll set the tone for the rest of the day

Tip 4: If you don’t love it, forget about it

Just because you’re surrounded by a plethora of food it does not mean you have to eat everything. Try to only indulge on the foods that are worth it and you really love or want to try. Before filling your plate at a buffet, look at the entire spread to decide what few things you want to indulge on. Fill the rest with healthier options such as protein and vegetables. The fibre will prevent overeating. You don’t want to be in the situation where you have eaten three desserts before spotting your absolute favourite! If it’s a three course meal, try to choose two healthier or lighter options out of three, or better yet share!

  • If you like the decadent dessert option then go for a lighter starter & main (and vice versa) 
  • Share a starter or dessert
  • Ask a waiter to adapt the option to make it healthier (restaurants can be very amenable to intolerances)

Tip 5: Don’t forget to eat the rainbow

Fruit and veggies that is! A plate of vegetables isn’t the most attractive food option at this time of year, but aim to eat around 5 portions a day. Why? If not you’ll end up with sluggish digestion and stomach problems. The fibre will also fill you up, potentially stopping you from overeating and preventing a sugar crash.

  • Fill half your plate with vegetables
  • Opt for fruit based desserts
  • Seasonal fruit and vegetables are delicious!

Tip 6: Out of sight out of mind

Simple. If it’s not in eyesight wont be as tempted.

  • Eat from a plate to be aware and accountable for what you’re eating

Tip 7: Be mindful and guilt free

Be mindful over the choices you make and remember the bigger picture. One indulgent day is not going to make a lot of difference in the grand scheme of things, but several could lead to unwanted weight gain. It’s easily done. Eat only when you are hungry and not out of boredom. Eat in a way to fuel your body and your soul.

  • Are you hungry or bored?
  • It’s ok to say no!
  • Do you really need that second helping? The first and last bite are always the best so enjoy in moderation
  • Going out? choose healthy options for the rest of the day but don’t restrict (e.g. Fill up on lean protein and lots of veggies for lunch)

 

Most of all, relax and enjoy the season! Focus on the bigger picture: taking time out and spending it with loved ones 🙂

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 09.17.38

Turning a bad day around

Those days when you just wake up in a funk and feels as though everything is going wrong and everybody is against you. It is so easy to allow thoughts like this to snowball and before you realise you’re wallowing in a tomb of self-pity. But you can fix a bad day.

Stop and breathe. Take 5 minutes to allow yourself a bit of self-pity (you are human after all) but then stop this unhelpful thought because wallowing in self-pity and catastrophizing really is going to ruin the rest of your day.

I recommend reading Don’t sweat the small stuff by Richard Carlson if you haven’t read it. His book is full of positive thinking approaches to squashing the little worries we all have and at its core the book provides advice for not over thinking or blowing problems out of proportion.

However, it’s ok to not to be ok sometimes. There will be bad days. But just remember the following:

This too shall pass

If you have decided that you want to turn that bad day around, there are so many things you can do to help yourself. My favourites:

IMG_8939_lsExercise

Move your body. Get your heart pumping.

It might feel like the last thing you want to do but trust me, a bit of exercise will give you an instant pick up. It releases endorphins and serotonin (the feel good hormone) and reduces cortisol (the stress hormone) so added benefit if your bad day is stress or anxiety related. It’s written in the science and you can’t argue with that. You don’t have to slave away in the gym for hours, but a simple 30 minutes sweat fest can be the difference between prolonging the crappy feeling or turning the day around.

Personally, I like to do a 20 minute high intensity (HIIT) workout or listen to a podcast whilst running. HIIT workouts are SO easy to structure. Just pick your fave body weight exercises and an interval that works for your fitness level and off you go. If that seems daunting, my fave YouTube workouts to follow are the body coach, fitness blender or blogilates. I’m a gym bunny and use exercise as a preventative measure. I might write a separate post about structuring workouts if you are interested.

IMG_4010Self indulge

Particularly powerful is to just STOP and ask yourself what would make you most happy in that exact moment. Remember the last time you were spontaneous, how great did you feel? What would boost you in that exact moment?

Take time out and treat yourself to a bit of me time. This is personal but it could be having a hot bath, reading a book, watching some TV, ringing a friend, going to the cinema, having a massage or a pamper session. Indulge in the way that feels right for you. Regarding food, it’s tempting to reach for junk food or alcohol and if that is what would make you happiest in that moment then indulge. But don’t feel guilty afterwards! Listen to your body and thoughts. Personally I feel worse after junk food, so 9 times out of 10 I’ll avoid it if I’m in a bad mood and instead I’ll nourish myself with healthier (but equally tasty) food. If I want treats, I’ll eat them. And that’s fine too. Just ask yourself how you’ll feel after because you don’t want to cause unnecessary guilt.

 Mindfulness and living in the now is powerful and proven to boost your mood. Read my post about it here.

IMG_1644Challenge your thinking  

Write down the negativity. What was the situation or event that caused you to feel that way? What was the event/trigger/situation and how did you feel. Describe as thoroughly as possible and then try to identify the following: your thoughts about the situation/event, your response, your emotions, feelings and physical response (e.g. heart racing). Whilst we cannot control external events we can control our response to them.

When you have identified as much of the above as possible, try to think of alternate ways to perceive the event/situation. Could you calm your body down to stop the panic, think more kindly towards yourself or take a moment to calm the feelings? If you have unfavourably compared yourself to somebody else stop right now. Remember people only share their best bits and you actually have no clue what goes on behind the facade.

What are your go to’s for a bad day?

Lianne

Thursday Thinking: Just do it

I was listening to an old Trish Blackwell’s podcast (which I really recommend listening to you’ve never come across them) and these words really hit home:

Just do it

I’m really starting to get into self-improvement literature. It’s pretty motivational stuff – our mind is a powerful and unfortunately overlooked tool. Positive thinking and its benefits all that jazz. Preaching to the choir with me because I for one definitely love learning about the mind as well as self-improvement .

In the episode she talks a lot about how so many of us are ‘almost’ people in so many aspects of our lives, from saying we’ll get fit and healthy ‘one day’ or saying we’ll go on that dream holiday ‘next year’ or find a new job ’soon’. These big life events are somewhat dependant on funds or other circumstances, but what’s worse is being almost people within our day to day living. Constantly putting things off, finding easy excuses and stopping ourselves from pursing things we actually want to do by procrastinating in our minds. Saying we’ll get round to something for it to forever hang on our to-do lists. I think most people are guilty of this. I know I am.

What this does is deny ourselves not just of those big dreams, but also those easily achievable wants and desires on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Procrastination really suppresses ourselves of truly living a full and meaningful life.

Carpe diem 

 

IMG_1832

One thing I’ve always yearned for is more time. More time to achieve work/career things, more time to put into my relationships and more time to try new things (I mean I’ve had aerial yoga on my list for almost 10 months!). I always proclaimed to be a busy person (which I am to be fair) but am I busy doing proactive things? Or am I just turning the wheel? I might perhaps not be filling my time as proactively as I can be. I see this all the time in people around me – running around like headless chickens – but they don’t seem to be happy. Perhaps insanely busy but not proactively time wise or necessarily enjoying what they are filling their time with.

Time is precious 

IMG_9535
What time is it? (Cue a terrible time reference LOL)

Once I started to fill my time proactively and be more congruent in following through on doing things that I wanted and planned to do, rather than felt I had to do, I felt a sense of relief. As though I had taken back the control and gained time. Enter the time wise phase of my life. It sounds selfish, not doing things the that I don’t want to do. Fancy that? Living a life where I only do what I want. Let me tell you one thing I’ve learned, being selfish with your time does not make you selfish at all. It means you can concentrate on you – making you happy – because ultimately we are all responsible for our own happiness. Plus if you’re happy then you’re a pleasure to be around. Win win.

Do you also suffer from having a million and one things that you want to do, but never enough time to get around to them? Those dreams that just seem way too far out?

Nobody is too busy.

I used to feel as though I almost needed permission to allow myself to take time for me. Does anybody else feel that way?

I’m going to stop making excuses and stop procrastinating in my thoughts, ideas and goals. In the last year or so I started doing this on an ad hoc basis but I probably haven’t fully committed. Sometimes when I want to make a change I end up outlining about 100 micro changes in order to achieve that goal. Result? Hello procrastination! I try to take on too much at once, become overwhelmed, disinterested and end up doing nothing at all. Small, day to day, baby steps are needed, not a list of big changes.

So here are some small steps to thinking less, doing more:

  • Bullet journalling and following through on plans – yep. I might be late to jump on this bandwagon but I’ve just bought one and I’m pretty damn excited! I’m going to start scheduling my weeks better. Instead of saying I want to do things, I’m going to take the list and put them in my diary. I got my to-do list out this morning and I’ve booked a massage for next week, had the brakes and lights on my bike fixed (I had been putting this off for the longest time!), booked tickets for a Halloween event and scheduled time for next week when I want to write up some more blog posts!
  • Quit being a perfectionist – and striving to be bloody great instead of perfect Perfectionism is procrastinations best friend. Aiming for perfection really hinders progress, the more you want things to be perfect, the less chance you have in even starting…  So just making the start. Put that first word down on paper, or make the phone call… make a start, however big or small!
  • Stop waiting for the perfect time – i.e. in line with the above, there will never be a right place and right time, there is just now
  • Positive language – I feel that the power of language is often overlooked, but I’m going to ban the use of negative language. Trish calls these ‘death words’ and I couldn’t agree more. Those horrible words that we use to criticise ourselves or talk ourselves down or out of a situation are often a BIG cause for procrastination. I’m totally guilty of this one – I’m SO hard on myself. Speaking words of action and kindness to myself. I like the idea of having a daily or weekly mantra. One for this week is definitely Just do it.
  • Stop caring what others think – again I feel that this stops the majority of people from doing things. Who cares if someone judges you for trying something new? following your dream, or heck, even starting a blog! It’s more than they are doing and you cannot please everyone. I’ve learned one thing – people will find a way to criticise whatever you do, or don’t do.

I thought back to the times when I’ve been happy as Larry (who IS Larry!?) and the majority of those times I just did it. I lived in the moment but was bloody great with my time. No thinking, just doing.

20108338_10100638970477068_8220907516191075404_n

Thanks for reading

Lianne x