Today I went for a run to remember my purpose.

Today I went for a run.

Today I went for a run because I was so overwhelmed with the amount of stuff I have taken on at the moment that I knew I needed to take a time out from it in order to tackle it with renewed spirit and energy.

Today I went for a run because I have been a bit slack and haven’t run for about three weeks. I’ve made excuses.

Today I went for a run because I’ve been in a really negative place in my head for a few days owing to a) overwhelm; b) women’s troubles; c) anxiety. When anxiety strikes I take every little thing personally. It can feel like I’m failing everyone.

Today I went for a run because I knew it would make me feel better.

Today I went for a run because I can!


Today I went for a run because I’m leading a team for this year’s Race for Life in July and I can’t very well encourage if I turn up and am out of shape.

I ran faster up hills even though it made my lungs hurt because I was chasing endorphins not training goals.

I ran faster down hills because I was trying to beat the recycling vans home to get my last bits of rubbish out that I knew hubby had forgotten to do.

Today I switched on my ‘tunes’ when I ran. I didn’t want the mind chatter.

As I ran through a favourite stretch of my regular 20-minute run route Candi Staton’s ‘You got the love’ came on. I ran with renewed vigor!

As a mum in business it can be very easy to slip into the mindset of having to do it all in your own strength. But do you know what? I can’t.

I love mummy entrepreneur sites, sisterhoods, female empowerment, all that jazz. But sometimes for me I need to step away and remember that it’s not all about me.

It’s when I’m trying to do it all on my own that I get overwhelm. I get anxious. I get ratty. I pick fights and get defensive.

So today, as blood coursed through my body, Candi Staton reminded me that I am a strong woman and a bold woman but that I need a bit of help from others and from God to be the awesome woman He wants me to be.

Today I went for a run because I needed to remember this. That I’m not on my own.

So this week I’ll tackle my to do list (which if I’m honest only scratches the surface) with renewed vigor and spirit knowing that I am working hard for a greater purpose. I can only do this because I went for a run.

Running and exercise isn’t all about results and I don’t always feel like it. Sometimes my hubby literally shoves me out of the door. Today I ran to remember my purpose.

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13 great ways exercise can help prevent disease and boost health.

Alzheimers. Type 2 Diabetes. Breast Cancer. Colorectal Cancer. Prostate Cancer. Heart Disease. Depression. What do these major health conditions all have in common? Exercise can prevent, lower the risk of, or in some cases even reverse the effects of the condition.

How?

We all know that this is what researchers say but how does exercise actually change us on a cellular level?

Aside from preventing disease I’ve long been an advocate of using exercise as medicine or at the very least to complement it.

Following on from the talk I gave a few weeks ago aimed at Breast Cancer survivors (evidence now points strongly towards using exercise to reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back), I’ve collated some of the coolest science snippets about how exercise actually changes us, beyond our skin and bones.

Prepare yourself for some serious dinner party human biology titbits!

  1. When we exercise our mitochondrial production increases. Mitochondria are the body’s battery cells, they are what give us energy. So exercise literally gives us more energy. [KELLY et al, 2006].
  2. When we exercise we increase our body’s ability to synthesise protein. This means our body can convert protein much more readily.  [HANDS, 2009].
  3. When we exercise we increase our lean tissue (muscle mass) or sustain what we already have. Lean tissue naturally decreases with age so we can halt the ageing process [HANDS, 2009].
  4. When we exercise we increase our body’s ability to regulate glucose [Adams, 2013]. This is an important factor in managing diabetes, or reversing type 2 diabetes.
  5. Exercise helps activate muscle fibres which would otherwise be reduced due to lack of use and age related atrophy (sarcopenia). The best treatment for sarcopenia is exercise. With the right programme, you could see a difference in as little as two weeks.
  6. Pre-habiliation, so getting strong or being fit before surgery can help operation recovery. This could also be true for some injuries or illnesses.
  7. When we exercise our body’s natural anti-oxidant levels up-regulate. This helps us to fight off disease. It’s like boosting our natural defence mechanisms.
  8. Gentle exercise, like yoga or walking can help manage stress. This is measurable through heart rate variability (HRV). HRV is an excellent way of measuring the early signs of stress.
  9. Any exercise which increases our heart rate for 20 minutes increases blood flow to the heart and the strength of the heart wall.
  10. Learning a skill helps with myelination. Myelin is essential for proper functioning of the nervous system. Our ability to learn a skill stays with us (although it gets harder as we age). Kids are programmed to myelinate more so they can learn how to survive. They have specific windows of opportunity for doing this such as learning to eat, crawl or walk. Myelin never unwraps (although there are rare diseases like Guillard Barre Syndrome or conditions like Multiple Sclerosis which may cause this). We can enhance myelination by learning a challenging new skill and also by eating foods rich in Omega 3 and B vitamins (think brain food).
  11. Exercise which is fun produces dopamine, a happy hormone. Some intense exercise also produces endorphins which make you feel good. This can improve emotional health.
  12. When we exercise we use more oxygen. Oxygen is the natural way to alkalise the body.
  13. Any movement or simply standing is good for us. Non Exercise Activity Thormogenesis (NEAT) refers to the way our metabolism increases through any activity, not necessarily a specific type of exercise. So our metabolic rate increases just by standing rather than sitting. Brushing your teeth standing up is better for you than performing the same task seated.

And here’s one more thought to leave you with … our cells are constantly regenerating. It’s estimated that human cells are completely regenerated every 7-10 years. All of the above, plus what you eat, drink or expose your body too will affect cell regeneration. Does that motivate you to get moving? It does me.

So there you have it. Human biology to amaze your friends with and proof that what you choose to do with or to your body on a daily basis affects your health.

If you’d like to take disease prevention a stage further, Fit School offer DNA testing. DNA testing can give you a better idea of what foods or exercise are optimum for you (the individual) and how to tailor your programme in line with these results. Tests are currently available at the discounted rate of £190 (usually £270) and Chris is one of a handful of trainers in the UK who offer this type of testing.

 

Confessions of a fit family

CHRIS and I are often amused by the assumptions people make about us. ‘Fitties’ are often labelled as the fun police. We get invited to dinner only for our hosts to call a little scared as to what we eat. ‘Would fat be offensive?’ ‘Are they life long vegans?’

On the whole we stick to the 80/20 rule. 80% on track and 20% treat, although to be honest too much of the wrong foods can make both of us feel pretty rotten. We aren’t fitness and health saints but we do have some absolute no go rulings. So in order to put a few myths to bed, here are our confessions.

  1. We eat chocolate. In fact we generally keep a supply of good quality dark chocolate (and occasionally milk sea salt because it’s just too yummy) in the cupboard. We rarely have a dessert so a few squares (more if it’s Chris) are a little evening treat once the kids are in bed. If you keep good stuff in you are less likely to buy cheap stuff.
  2. Although on that note we also love a Snickers bar – after a round of golf usually (oh those were the days).
  3. A family favourite meal is pie. Chicken pie. We make it from scratch, usually from roast chicken leftovers.
  4. We don’t officially exercise every day, rest days are important too. But we will make excuses to be active. A brisk walk up to the shops if it’s rush hour, half an hour out with Isaac on his scooter or Chris’ frequent squash games with clients.
  5. Sometimes we can’t be bothered to exercise but know it will do us good so throw ourselves out of the door or drive to the gym. On these days it’s most important to go and exercise because usually your brain needs it more than your body.
  6. The above was mainly about me (Karen), Chris has some weird motivational chip which means he can exercise really hard, on his own. I am more likely to walk the last few yards before I get to my house after a run. Chris would keep going and then do another lap.
  7. We aren’t ‘runners’ – Chris is more of a power athlete and having had knee surgery in his 20s an endurance run would not do him any favours. The most I’ve run is a half marathon and had the most horrendous digestive issues for half a day after that I’ve decided 10K is my absolute limit.
  8. We do exercise for fun. A family swim, a trip to the gym or obstacles in the forest or front room is great Friday night entertainment.
  9. We do workout in the garden, so look out for us when you’re departing Epping on the tube.
  10. We like a drink but only ever when it’s a celebration or a happy/relaxed occasion, never if we’re stressed or angry. Again this is more about me since Chris could never drink again and not miss it.  I would.  In fact I wish I didn’t get drunk on alcohol because I’d love to sample the entire cocktail menu but 1 mojito or champagne cocktail is generally my limit!
  11. We have fit friends. When we have dinner with them we eat A LOT! Chris and the man friend usually talk shop/science/anatomy endlessly. Me and the girl friend usually drink G&Ts and discuss fashion, life etc …
  12. We eat a lot of food. When we don’t, we get HANGRY.
  13. We rarely discuss fit or food tips with family. Never offer unsolicited advice.

And those rulings:

We just don’t do cheap/processed food. Spaghetti hoops or delivery pizzas are just asking for indigestion and a bad night’s sleep.

All meat is organic or free range and where possible sourced from the butcher. I’d rather cook a cheap cut from a good quality animal than bother with a supermarket steak.

All cake is home-made. It tastes better and we know what goes into it.

We aren’t vain we’re just trying to stay sane. How exercise helps the mind.

I like to lift weights. Heavy weights. It makes me feel great.

For me, going to the gym, lifting weights and finishing off with perhaps a ten minute swim or sauna and a shower (in complete peace) is like switching a re-set button in my brain.

I feel calm.

I like to run too. Running gives my heart and lungs a great workout, airs my legs and allows my thoughts to roam. Sometimes I run without music so I can just think but on sunny mornings like today, I’ll tune into some great running beats and just immerse myself in my little running world.

I like to practice Pilates. I might take ten minutes before a class to have complete, flowing, peaceful practice time. There’s a tranquility and peace I find in silent, solo practice that I don’t get from other types of exercise.

But – when it’s just me and the bar and the lift – that’s when I can totally zone out.

No distractions. No kids. No thoughts.

The biggest reason I exercise is to clear my head. Through exercise I can process thoughts or get creative. Sometimes I might need to run hard to get rid of pent up stress or anger. Sometimes I need to just chill. The way exercise makes me look is always secondary to how it makes me feel. And having spoken with so many women in the fitness industry and women who are exercisers (rather than non-exercisers) it always comes back to mental wellbeing.

I can’t speak for men on this one but I do know that for the majority of women, the exercise hook is feels not looks.

We aren’t vain we’re just trying to stay sane!

Every exercise form gives us an opportunity to zone out or re-set, to process thoughts or to meditate.

Here are a few ideas on how you could use exercise to zone out or work out.

  • Yoga can be both challenging exercising and challenging meditation. The postures in yoga were originally based on the meditation. This is why it’ s often recommended during addiction therapy or rehabilitation.
  • Pilates is more of a conscious workout. Joseph Pilates originally called his method, controlology. The control of muscles through the mind. We are very mindful of technique during Pilates exercises.
  • Swimming can feel like re-birth. Yes you can go hard and workout your circulatory system (swimming is a great challenge for the lungs) or you can enjoy the simple pleasure of weightlessness and water. It’s rhythmic and repetitive and no phones are allowed.
  • Running can feel hard or could let you go for a great chat with a friend. When running alone you can internalise by focusing on how your body feels or you can let your thoughts wander.
  • High energy classes like martial arts or boxing can literally allow you to fight off your stresses.

Of course there are always ways of exercising optimally but the most important thing with exercise is to find something you love and find balance.

Enjoy x

The New Mummy Diet

HELP! I want to get my body back.

You have a new baby.

You are shattered.

You feel less than blooming.

Your pre-pregnancy wardrobe is neither practical (especially if you are breast feeding) nor flattering – that’s if it even goes over your hips. And you are just all a bit jiggly. Plus to top it all off you have neither time nor energy to shop/eat/cook/all of the above.

So how do you get your pre-pregnancy body back?

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NEWSFLASH: You won’t. That’s not to say you can’t have a body that you love but it will always be different. A scar here or (down) there; wrinkles on your tummy; or stretch marks on your boobs (which may also have gone down there). But it’s okay. You’re a mum.

Wear your baby badges with pride.

GETTING THIN AGAIN: Please please please know that this is the least important thing right now. Until your baby is letting you sleep for a good seven hour stretch and you have stopped lactating, it is not the time to consider cutting calories or dieting for the way you look. And I promise you, there’ll be a time in the very near future when you are so busy running around after your toddler that eating at all will become a challenge.

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THE NEW MUMMY DIET

So here’s the good news. My new mummy diet is what you really need to consider eating and drinking to cope with the now. To enable your body to cope with the demands of being a new mummy and perhaps feeding a new baby. And as luck would have it, a diet to cater for the above, is just the sort of diet your body needs to lose fat – so these are some good habits to get into.

What do you really need from your diet?

  • You need energy;
  • You need good quality sleep in the patches that you get it;
  • You need fuel to heal, repair and produce milk that satisfies your baby;
  • You need foods that help to stabilise your energy levels (and with that your emotional state); and
  • You need nutrients to keep your immune system high and pass that on to baby.

So what are my recommendations for THE NEW MUMMY DIET?

1. CUT OUT REFINED SUGAR AND REFINED CARBS

Yes this means chocolate, bread, sweets and cakes.

It sounds impossible, especially when you’re sleep deprived and you feel like you need a quick pick me up. But sugar highs will lead to massive sugar lows, which can affect your energy levels, milk supply, hormone balance and emotions. It’s also pretty bad for your health.

If going cold turkey feels like too much, start by cutting back. Your tummy fat will start to reduce in days if you cut out refined carbs.

2. CUT BACK ON CAFFEINE

If you’re breastfeeding this probably goes without saying but did you know that caffeine has a seven hour half life? So if you need to sleep when baby sleeps keep your coffee to the morning.

Evidence suggests that drinking more than three cups of coffee in a day massively reduces your sensitivity to caffeine, so you won’t feel the benefit anyway.

Stick to one caffeinated drink only.

3. SLEEP/REST

This is a toughie when you have a new baby. You just need to do what you can. If day naps are a challenge, try to at least rest.

When you miss out on quality sleep, your hormones are affected and can make you crave sweet foods.

So rest whenever you can and call in the troupes to help you get sleep if you have some available.

4. EAT PROTEIN WITH EVERY MEAL/SNACK

When we pick at foods, good quality protein sources can be the first thing we lose from our diets.

Protein is essential, especially when you are healing and perhaps feeding a new life.

The easiest way to ensure that we get enough is to include it with every meal or snack. This will also help keep your energy levels stable. So an egg at breakfast, some nuts with a piece of fruit, some humous on toast and a piece of fish or meat with your lunch will all help you to feel fuller and more energise.

5. EAT A PINT OF GREEN VEG

To ensure you get your vegetables in, visualise how many it would take to fill a pint glass. Try and eat this amount throughout the day.

You could invest in a high quality blender to get your greens in that way. Greens are important for your health, will help keep your vitamin levels high and are great for your digestion.]

Oh and drink loads (of water that is).

These are just guidelines for what to put into your mouth. Yes I’d recommend post natal specific exercise too but if all you can do is eat well, that’s a great start and is absolutely something daddy or friends/family can help you with.

Be flexible and realistic though. Don’t be hard on yourself for eating a biscuit (or two) but know if you are hungry, tired and grumpy and hour later, that’s why.

If you’d like more information like this on post natal health, read my most popular blog all about post natal recovery: The Princess, the bump, your body

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist.

Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.

Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.

Read the latest Fit School newsletter here: Fit School News

TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

Pilates isn’t an abs workout

PILATES IS NOT JUST ABOUT TRAINING YOUR ABS. YES THEY ARE PART OF THE PROCESS AND AN INTEGRAL PART OF MANY EXERCISES BUT THERE IS A LOT MORE TO PILATES THAN YOUR TUMMY.

There are some exercises which look or feel similar to abdominal crunches and there is a place for abdominal strength and control when it comes to a healthy body but no amount of Pilates style ab work will send your six pack pinging out of your torso if you have flab on it. Myself included.

Conversely, abs don’t have to be strong to be seen. I’ve seen six packs on lean mean who can perform fewer exercises than the average post natal mum returning to the mat. And let’s not forget the best sprinters in the world who have abs you could dry your clothes on but who I very much doubt do the numbers of crunches I’ve seen performed in the average gym abs blast class.

Aside from whether or not you choose to attend or deliver a class comprised entirely of abdominal work, let’s consider the issues associated with some abdominal work. Yes, those pesky pelvic floor muscles. Any pelvic floor weakness or prolapse, or an abdominal separation (diastasis recti) will not appreciate (understatement) crunches. If want to know more about this have a read of my post on how NOT to get a flat tummy by doing sit ups. That’s not to say you can never do them again – but a post natal specific programme is essential before rolling headlong into a ‘one size fits all’ Pilates session.

Pilates is about balance. Your body is designed to move across many planes. Forwards and backwards, side to side and twisting. Think about a gymnast on a beam or on a pommel horse. Consider how they move their bodies. Come to my classes and you’ll know that we work through a variety of exercises as if your body was being spun around. Why? Because we are ‘multi-planar’ beings and things go wrong/start hurting/get expensive when we STOP MOVING, not necessarily when we get weak (I’ll talk about this more in my next post about core strength).

 

Now of course if training your abs lights your fire and makes you feel good, by all means do it but equally don’t misunderstand Pilates as an abs workout and then leave feeling a bit disappointed. Enjoy the way your back works and your glutes work. Enjoy the way your body moves. Go with the Pilates flow.

See you on the mat!

Next time … Pilates isn’t about core strength.

 

Pilates isn’t about sculpting body beautiful

I’VE been teaching Pilates for at least 10 years now and I confess, I look back at my early days and cringe a little at how I taught or what I focused on. Of course at the time, my theory and practical knowledge was up to date but modern science combined with Joseph Pilates’ original exercises, my own experiences and education (most recently from the brilliant JPilates) have created a very different ‘Karen’s Pilates’ from what I taught 10 years ago. I was also much more likely then to be swayed by the more vocal participants in my classes!

As in all professions, experience and training influences and shapes you. I believe that where I’m at now would hopefully let Joe P rest easy under his daisies. It’s true to me and to the participants I work with.

Of course as my experience evolves I get a bit ‘fussy’ about what other forms of ‘Pilates’ are out there. I don’t believe in one size fits all but I am in this profession to improve lives and health. Wellbeing.

So I’m penning a series of articles about what Pilates isn’t. That doesn’t mean if you enjoy your chosen class it’s wrong – it just might not be Pilates. And there is a brilliant magic and flow in the process of Pilates, which you, your body and your wellbeing might just be missing out on.

PILATES IS NOT ABOUT SCULPTING BODY BEAUTIFUL. PILATES ISN’T AESTHETIC LIKE A FIGURE MODEL’S GYM PROGRAMME. PILATES COMES FROM THE INSIDE OUT. PILATES WON’T MAKE YOU THIN AND IT WON’T WHITTLE YOUR WAISTLINE.

  1. THE FAT THING.

Fat is fat. No amount of roll ups, teasers or gym crunches will drop belly fat. Fat loss starts in the kitchen, continues in the gym (with weights or interval training), is massively complemented by Pilates and graduates with a happy symbiosis of all of the above.

  1. PILATES IS INSIDE OUT

If we focus first on the outside, we are likely to neglect the inside. By inside I mean back and joint health, muscle imbalances, pelvic floor health, hips, shoulders, breathing, stress and TENSION. In fact years of experience have shown me that the Pilates participant who comes from the physiotherapist, where pain has motivated them is generally much better at Pilates (if there is such a thing) and progresses quicker than the gym bunny who wants to get thin.

  1. PILATES ISN’T ABOUT BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE

You know what I mean. All those stock photos of models looking serene and just occasionally doing a bit of Pilates in a well lit studio without a squidge of fat or under-eye baggage in sight. Now I’m not anti-pretty (I should say I consider all my participants beautiful) but I am anti putting anyone off exercise. In my classes we have fat rolls, we have ‘retro’ workout gear and the occasional hairy leg (sometimes a little parp too) but we are all doing it. Striving to look after our bodies, not just to show them off.

Of course, I’m not ignorant to the fact that how we look is a driving factor behind exercise but let’s not lose sight of wellbeing and let’s not lose sight of Pilates.

Focusing on toned tummies to the detriment of our backs will not serve us long term. And when your motivation is looks over health you are far less likely to stick to exercise.

If you DO want to change the way you look, then yes do Pilates but do HIIT training, eat clean, cut out alcohol and processed sugars, sleep more, unwind, train with weights and have fun.

https://alittlefitter.com/2013/06/04/sit-ups-the-fastest-way-to-a-flat-tummy-after-having-a-baby-i-lied/

https://alittlefitter.com/2013/10/22/want-a-flat-tummy-my-top-5-dos-and-donts/

https://alittlefitter.com/2013/06/07/10-golden-rules-for-a-flat-holiday-ready-tummy/

Next up … Pilates is’t an ab workout.

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.

Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.

TWITTER: @fitschoolessex

FACEBOOK: ccfitschool

WEBSITE: http://www.fit-school.co.uk

Are you an encourager?

ABOUT 13 years ago I first learned to run. Before then I would try but would set off all keen and then have to stop and walk for a bit. It was very discouraging. Years of school inter-form running or cross country (AKA running around the school) had hammered into me that I was pretty useless at it (as for most sports) and my memories are of getting really cold, falling in muddy ditches and generally never getting clean or dry before I then had to go straight to band practice! I wanted to enjoy it but couldn’t get a rhythm. I’d get a stitch or couldn’t breathe. I loved dancing, aerobics and training in the gym but running – no. It was my nemesis. So when – with the help of a keen runner, Mike Hall (no relation) who was on my team at the PRS whilst we built them a new IT system (these were the days of Karen, the management consultant) – I completed my first ever 5k Corporate Chase Challenge back in 2001 it was a really big deal.

The team

(clockwise from far left) Amy, Nicola, Simona (Simona’s mum not in shot), Sally, Gemma, Hayley, me (Karen), Angustias

Roll on to 2014 and I somehow sit here with a snoozing six month old next to me and a three and a half year old at preschool. I run my own business and can remember little about coding in java or C (these are probably outdated now) but I do remember I always loved getting the team ‘on board’ and getting results. So when on Wednesday, we had our first little Fit School team running in the North Weald Race for Life it might not have seemed like a big deal to many but to every woman who had never run that distance before, or taken part in a ‘race’, or felt like they were a bit rubbish at sports, I knew how it felt. I also knew, that a now very dear friend, who lost her mum to cancer last summer, would be running 10k. Amy is a sunshiny, giving person and I wanted to be there for her too.

I’ve run in events since my first 5k but I’ve always felt pretty nervous due to the ‘pressure’ of doing a time. This event was different. I was going to get everyone round because that’s what I love doing. I could never have imagined just how incredible it was to see the perimeter of North Weald Airfield covered in little pink running and walking dots as runners, joggers, plodders and walkers just got out there and did something defiant and amazing.

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The team all made it round and all felt amazing afterwards. I got laughed at for running in the wrong direction at times but then I wasn’t going to leave anyone out there on the field!

It’s very easy to sit back and think, ‘It’s okay for her – she’s thin,’ or, ‘it’s okay for her, she has the time,’ or, ‘I can’t run because …’ but events like this are great for just getting everyone out, off their behinds, and sharing time, effort and hugs.

So perhaps you need a little encouragement to do some exercise or you’d like some guidance – or perhaps you’re feeling a bit low, or maybe a lot low. That’s okay. It doesn’t make you stupid or a nuisance. It makes you human. And there are always people like me who get a complete buzz out of being an encourager because I had enough of feeling like I was useless at sports when I was a teenager.

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Oh and for all my cross country efforts, I’ve since discovered that endurance events are in my genes – so it’s time for me to stop making excuses, learn how to run and just do it!

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

Get updates from the alittlefitter post natal newsletter: http://eepurl.com/YVmD9

 

5 Good Health Habits

It’s that time of year when media bombards us with health crazes, detoxes, diets and food fads (and fallacies).

So rather than confuse you further, I’m here to simplify life with some easy to adopt, good health habits which should perk up any sluggish system:

1. Start each day with a Morning Zing. Either fresh lemon or lime juice in hot water or half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in a glass of water. Both will help start your body in an alkaline way, which is great for health, fat burning and just making you feel good.

2. Take a 20-minute brisk walk every day, ideally before midday to catch as much daylight as possible. This will rev up your metabolism and (especially if you’ve been stuck at your desk or at home) give your eyes and brain a break. Walking is low impact but will get your joints moving.

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3. Have protein and two portions of vegetables with every meal. This is a tough one but both your body and your mind will benefit from this good health habit. Your brain needs protein, especially in the winter months, in order to synthesise happy hormones. Vegetables help to alkalise your body and are packed full of vitamins and protein will keep you full between meals.

4. Avoid snacks between meals. There was a time when health sciences taught grazing for health but in the past few years this has been turned on its head. If you are keen to drop some Christmas lard, shape up for an event or just regulate your hormones, going cold turkey between meals is best. This will automatically cut out ‘extra’ calories from your diet and you’ll have to meal plan to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients in your main meals.

5. Drink at least two litres of water every day. Yes, I’m sure you’ve heard it before but hydration is key for optimum health. You might be omming your way through yoga or clocking up the marathon miles but without enough water on board you’ll be under performing.

And finally (the bonus ball) … get your zzzzzz’s. At least seven hours beauty sleep a night. No TV’s or technology at least 30 minutes before bed and in as dark a room as possible.

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

Sugar Detox: Starts this Sunday, 5th January

Happy New Year to you all. I hope you had a great Christmas, with a chance to relax, unwind and spend quality time with friends and family.

Seasonal excesses can leave many of us feeling a little bloated and lethargic. Not just because of too much turkey and Christmas pudding. Did you know that for the majority of us, a month of eating differently and a change in routine can alter the nutrient balance in our bodies. That, coupled with winter’s lack of daylight and less exercise, is a recipe for sluggish systems and often low moods.

So the Fit School team have created a Sugar Detox plan. It’s a 10 day, online plan and it starts this coming Sunday, 5th January (Sunday will be a bit of a preparation day so you can hit the ground running on Monday, 6th). It costs £15 for Fit School members and £20 for non members.

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Over the course of the 10 days, the plan will help wean your body and mind from the sugar hit over the last couple of weeks. For some, the increase in sugar started as early as December! So here’s why we have created a Sugar Detox.

The three main nutrient groups in our diet are carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

We consume these nutrients in varying ratios. Here are some common sources:

Carbohydrates

  • Fruit;
  • Vegetables;
  • Cereals;
  • Grains;
  • Milk;
  • Alcohol (see note below *); and
  • Anything containing sugar.

 Carbohydrates can be further broken down into the following:

  • Starch;
  • Sugar; and
  • Fibre.

*Alcohol is a separate group all to itself. You get all the calorific effects of a carbohydrate (the side effects of simple sugars) and none of the benefits (despite some blood thinning properties – although you can get these from other sources).

Here is a breakdown of how one Fit School member’s diet changed over the festive period.

Pre-Christmas Average December December with drinks/sugar
Carbs 45% 63% 62%
Protein 30% 12% 8%
Fats 20% 25% 30%

So the big change is increased carbs in the form of sugars, less protein (except Christmas day) and more saturated fats (from processed foods).

The calories in the three examples were roughly the same but to explain why counting calories isn’t always beneficial, below you can see the calories just from food.

  • Pre Christmas – 2000
  • Average December – 1750
  • + drinks and sugar – 1400

Even though the calories were roughly the same, up to 600 calories were now being consumed in the form of refined sugars or alcohol which you can’t readily use. In our experience, this kind of nutrient change tends to result in little actual weight gain you might grow a muffin top and feel generally flabby. If the ratios change as they have above and you consume more calories, you will put on weight as well.

We generally exercise less in the winter, since we are less motivated. So unless you adjust what you eat, you will put on weight. Christmas then compounds the issue. You’re feeling lethargic and your clothes are tighter by January.

So this detox is to get your body back to a point where you are looking and feeling great. It will require some will power and also some support. That is why doing it in a group will help you keep going. Our golden rule with trying to create a new habit is you must not take something out of your lifestyle without putting something back in. No doubt you derived some pleasure from eating or drinking the things that you did over the festive period. So it is essential that you replace the pleasurable part of these activities with healthier alternatives. For example, drinking nothing but water for a few days is probably okay, but by day three, you’ll find that every fizzy drink you walk past will be talking to you!

We will provide:

  • Low sugar recipes;
  • Protein rich meals;
  • Healthy carb recipes; and
  • Exercise guidance.

These will all be posted daily in our Facebook group. If you have any questions, we will also do our best to answer them so you understand what we are trying to do.

Want to sign up? All you need to do is email us at fitschoolessex@gmail.com and pay £15 (for members) and £20 for non-members before Sunday via our PayPal account: fitschoolessex@gmail.com.

See you there!

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com