Most of the time, I prefer to look forward, but once in a while, I need to look back to remember that the girl on the left (pictured above) is still part of who I am today. I must not hate her or resent her, but rather feel proud of how far she has come. How did I transform my body and my lifestyle? It started with teaching myself about nutrition and exercise. The nutrition piece has always proved challenging but exercise has become a strong passion and major part of my life. For a long time, I was a runner and cardio-lover. But my body really started to change when I began lifting weights. Hopefully, the above pictures are proof that lifting weights won’t make you fat. It will change the shape of your body and will help you build muscle. Muscle is not something to fear; it makes you fast, fit and strong. It gives you shape and definition and helps avoid injury.
With that being said, I want to share a workout for strength which includes weights and body weight. Interspersing exercises with weights and body-weight movements will help burn fat and build muscle. Sounds easy, right?! It’s not easy but it is well worth the hard work!
- Sprint for 60 Seconds / Rest for 30 Seconds (Repeat for 6 minutes)
- Clean and press 20kg (20 Reps)
- Lunges with 20kg (20 Pulses each leg)
- Straight Leg Deadlifts 20kg (20 Reps)
- Power Jacks (30 Reps)
- REPEAT 3 TIMES
- Side Step-Ups on Bench (20 Reps each leg)
- Squat Jumps (20 Reps)
- Sumo Squat with 20kg Kettlebell (15 Reps)
- REPEAT 3 TIMES
- Front Squats with 2x 6Kg Kettlebells (15 Reps)
- Leg Extension 39kg (15 Reps)
- Hip Abductor 45kg (20 Reps)
- REPEAT 3 TIMES
- Jumping Lunges (100 Reps)
- Running at 10.0Km/h for 10 minutes to Cool Down
Remember to adjust the weight to fit your own personal strength. Don’t forget to stretch at the end of this workout and use a foam roller if necessary. Have a hot bath to relax those muscles and make some Golden Milk to help ease an inflammation. Have a high-protein dinner, get lots of sleep and make sure to recover the next day. Recovery doesn’t have to mean no exercise at all, a gentle run may be OK, but don’t over-exert yourself. Have fun with your fitness and have a great week!
Motivation is a term used by many as if to signify some obscure mysterious, stranded concept or object that we must dig and search wide to find. Where can you find motivation? What does it look like? How do you maintain it?
Recently, I met a wonderfully passionate PT in Covent Garden who shared with me something called the Emotional Threshold. This is the exact point when someone becomes emotionally ready to commit to achieving a goal. Many people want to lose weight or get fit but are not ready to commit and make the sacrifices necessary to achieve their weight loss goal. Many people want to get healthy but deep down, they don’t want it enough.
In January 2015, I reached my emotional threshold and committed a sum of money to Personal Training as well as a huge amount of time to reaching my fitness goals. I committed to the diet, the personal research on nutrition and health, the time spent exercising and I sacrificed my social life and any activities that involved alcohol! I had reached a point where I was willing to do anything to lose weight and lean out. I wanted it more than anything and I remember standing in front of my personal trainer and saying, “I am ready. Let’s do this.”
Fast forward a year and a half later and I found myself slipping back into bad habits. My motivation and willpower to say “No” to treats has been virtually non-existent. And I find myself asking, “Why?” What has gone so terribly wrong? Why am I eating treats every day and why can’t I say “No” when someone dangles a piece of chocolate in front of me? I am a logical, rational person and I know that the chocolate has zero nutritional value and the bad ingredients in them will have all sorts of terrible effects on my body including acne, cellulite and excess body fat.
My frustration with myself got me thinking and reflecting on how I acquired such strong motivation last year. What motivated me? How did I stick to my plan for achieving my goals? What got me to the gym on the mornings when I was tired? What stopped me saying “Yes” to that piece of cake? My motivations were very personal to me and I have shared them in previous posts, but for this post, I want to share my five steps to motivation so you too can achieve your goals.
Before you can even begin, you need to ask yourself why you want to do this. Are you truly doing it for yourself? Is the reason strong enough to get you out of bed in the morning at 5:00am on a rainy day in December? The “Why” is the most important part. It can’t be too superficial and if there are multiple reasons why, even better. The stronger this is, the more likely you are to succeed.
Consolidate your reasons and decide on the three most important ones. You can’t have a list a mile long. This is too much and you will feel overwhelmed. Decide on your three top reasons for committing and write them down. Remind yourself every single day of these three reasons and drill them into your brain. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Start small. If you can stick to your diet for 1 day, that’s a win. Then one more day. And one more. And before you know it, you will have hit a week. That is fantastic. One week will turn into two and when you hit the 21-day mark, it becomes a lifestyle change. Try cutting out alcohol for the first short while to avoid messing with your body’s hormones, hunger signals, sleep, etc. Start small and take it day by day, week by week. Don’t overwhelm yourself with saying things like, “I’m going to cut out candy for 6 weeks.” You’ll fail. Start with, “I’m going to cut out candy for 6 days.” This is more realistic and the small wins will strengthen your motivation rather than leaving you feeling deflated.
Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. Use tools like a journal, a calendar, a spreadsheet or post-it notes to help keep you on track. Write down your goals to hold yourself accountable. Create short-term and long-term goals. Try setting goals daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly to stay focused and to make sure you always have things to work towards.
Decide what your end result should be. Is this a weight? A percentage of body fat? A dress size? A marathon? A Bench Press? You need a specific box to tick when you have reached your ultimate goal. This doesn’t have to be the end of your lifestyle change but you need this point to know that you have succeeded. From here, you can celebrate your achievement and figure out what your next goal and challenge may be.
Lately, I’ve been contemplating the concept of ‘balance,’ which has become a very overused word in the world of health and fitness. Balance seems to represent something different for everyone, depending on their health and fitness goals. For some, balance means having a teaspoon of peanut butter on their rice cake instead of eating it plain. For others, balance is having an entire pepperoni pizza and a glass of pinot grigio. Balance, as a concept, has been used to validate and justify disordered eating, binges, treats, cheat meals and more. But what does it really mean?
- Eating Healthy but not Restricting is very challenging for anyone who feels a strong desire and pressure to be slim and stay slim. We live in a society where restricting is viewed as “motivation” and thin is viewed as “successful.” Salads are the only acceptable option on the menu and everything needs to be gluten-free, dairy-free, nightshade-free, meat-free, carb-free and basically, calorie-free. Pass the celery?
- Being Mindful of Food but not Obsessing over ingredients, calories, macros, etc. too much unless you are on “prep” or a professional athlete. The fitness community can be somewhat irresponsible when it comes to sharing the grueling diet and fitness regimes that are followed by competitors on prep and professional athletes. Unless it’s your full-time job or career, spending hours analyzing food content can result in disordered eating and thinking. If you’re on a diet, calorie-counting and macros-counting can be important and will help you lose weight, but know when your diet will end and stick a time-limit on it.
- Exercising to Stay Fit but not Punishing your body because this will wreak havoc on your mind. Extreme over-exercising puts stress on your body and elevates your cortisol levels, which affect your sleep, your hunger hormones, your mood and much more. Not to mention that exercising for punishment takes the joy out of something that should be fun and should help relieve stress rather than causing it. Have fun with your fitness and enjoy feeling fast, fit and strong!
- Enjoying Food but not Over-Indulging will help you maintain a steady metabolism and balanced blood sugar levels. It will also avoid the urge to restrict to make up for having a few too many chocolates or calories. Food shouldn’t be primarily for pleasure, it should be primarily for nutrition and we should eat with our health in mind. It can become a drug and it’s important not to approach food this way. Try to be aware of your emotional triggers and find another outlet that is not food or alcohol. Easier said than done after a hellish week at work, right?
- Having a Drink but not Bingeing is the healthiest way to consume alcohol. Giving up alcohol altogether is not easy and when I tried this, I found myself avoiding ALL social situations for the fear of succumbing to my cravings and having a drink. This was a very long, lonely year and I missed out on many opportunities to enjoy a drink with friends. Going from party-girl to sober and back to party-girl again, I am now finding a new form of balance when it comes to alcohol. Is there a way to drink and not get hangovers? If so, let me know!
- Working Hard but not Pressuring yourself to be perfect in every aspect of your life. If you prioritize fitness and health, other areas of your life will take a backseat. I don’t know many people who work really long hours and have very successful careers AND very full, exciting, boozy social lives AND the body of a fitness model. If you’re out there and you have all of the above, please call me ASAP and tell me your secret. For me personally, I feel that I can have two out of three but not all three at the same time. Maybe next year, I’ll have mastered the art but this year, my goal is to have two out of three and be balanced and happy. In my experience, putting pressure on yourself in all areas of your life is not good for your mental or physical health.
Through my journey so far, I have not yet achieved balance. I have see-sawed from ultra-healthy to ultra-indulgent. I have bounced from not drinking at all to boozing and cruising. These behaviors result in extreme distress, anxiety and guilt. The impact on mind and body? Torture! Weight gain ensues and your metabolism and digestive system don’t know what to do with themselves. Sleep is disrupted and mood is a rollercoaster. Your mind torments itself up with feelings of failure, disappointment, discouragement and more. Sugar levels and energy levels are all over the place. It’s not a healthy way to live! During 2015-16, I was eating extremely healthy and exercising every single day. I was on a path of weight-loss and I was the fittest I’ve ever been. But my social life suffered and so did my friendships. During 2016-17, I have been eating and drinking whatever I want and have spent a lot of time indulging. My social life is the best it has been in years. But I feel really bad about myself, guilty about the weight I’ve gained, and disappointed that I am not the lean, mean, fitness machine I used to be. So where do I go from here? The next chapter of my journey will be finding a point halfway between the ultra-healthy and ultra-indulgent. This is scary and exciting but my body feels ready for a positive challenge and some positive changes.
After a weekend of sleep, rest, good food and good company, Monday mornings are the best time to get a really powerful workout in. Your body will be well-rested, well-fed and able to push through a harder workout than you’d ever manage at the end of the week. I enjoy completing my HIIT workouts earlier on in the week and leave my LISS until Thursday or Friday when I’m a lot more tired and struggle to push through any form of high-intensity workout. Currently, I’m training for a Tough Mudder so I’ve been gradually increasing the intensity of my workouts. On Monday morning of this week, I challenged myself to squeeze in as much as I could in 45 minutes.
Below is my Monday Sweat Session Workout:
- Rowing 1000m
- 75 Burpees with Press-Ups
- Complete this circuit in five separate sets split into 200m and 15 burpees. You can do regular burpees or try a variation. I did burpees with press-ups but you could incorporate star jumps, squat jumps, jumping lunges or any explosive exercise to make this exercise even more challenging!
- 60 Second Stairmaster Sprints
- 60 Second Planks
- Repeat this circuit four times and if you want to up the level of difficulty, add in Kettlebell swings after the planks.
- Running at 11.5km/h on 1.5 incline
- Run for a constant 20 minutes or split this into four 5-minute sections with rest periods or wall-sits in-between.
Sounds easy, right? Try completing this circuit as fast as you can with no more than 20 seconds of rest at a time to catch your breath. You are guaranteed to leave the gym feeling the burn! Remember, to burn fat and build or maintain lean muscle, HIIT is more effective than long periods of steady LISS/cardio. For optimal results, combine HIIT, LISS/cardio and strength training incorporating 1-2 rest days for recovery. Nutrition and fitness is personal so the same approach won’t work for everyone. Most importantly, results take time so be patient, stay focused, work hard and never stop believing in yourself.
Some of you may be reading the title of this post and thinking, “Hmmm… what the hell is Golden Milk and meal prepping is the last thing I would label as Fun.” Today was not a typical Sunday, it ticked a lot of little happiness boxes for me. And Golden Milk was something I had been wanting to try for a while after putting turmeric in my tea and chugging it with my nose closed. Turmeric in hot tea alone isn’t great… but Golden Milk was actually quite drinkable. What makes me happy/content in life? My family, my friends, good coffee, a nice morning run, a super training session, dark chocolate covered rice cakes, a great vintage find, a successful meal prep… to name a few. Today, I had all of the above.
What is Golden Milk? This is a concoction of Turmeric, Ginger, Cinnamon, Honey, Chilli Flakes and Almond Milk. From browsing online, there are so many variations you can make; some people choose to use coconut milk and some people use black pepper rather than chilli flakes. I used what I had in my cupboard. Then I heated it on a hob for 7-10 minutes on a medium heat so that it simmered. It was then somewhat of ‘Golden Tea’ as I consumed it whilst hot. The key benefit of turmeric is that it’s an anti-inflammatory. This article explains some of the other health benefits really well.
Meal Prep this week was simple, clean and healthy. Turkey breast seasoned with cumin and cayenne pepper, raw kale, boiled broccoli, roasted courgettes and parsnips seasoned with coconut oil, salt and pepper. My carbohydrates will be incorporated into breakfast (Winter is now going to be known as “Porridge Season”), snacks (Rice Cakes: the basic bitch’s snack) and dinner (ALL the veggies). Last week, I met with a nutritional therapist who recommended I try Rye Bread so that may work it’s way into my diet this week too. More to come on the Nutritional Therapist meeting in a future post so stay tuned!
Now I shall leave you with my Sunday routine and my workout for all of you who want to try training GFARS style.
8:00am – Woke up and felt overjoyed that I had gained an extra hour of sleep
8:45am – Ran just over 6K through foggy Gladstone Park for some #fastingcardio with my sister
9:30am – Made some Avocado on rice cakes for breakfast with a side of banana, coconut and yoghurt… and a side of dark chocolate rice cakes with peanut butter. Oops, that’s a feast.
10:30am – Said Goodbye to my sister 😦
12:00pm – Hit the Puregym in Victoria and trained legs
1:45pm – Post-workout Phd Diet Whey Protein Shake for recovery
2:00pm – Walked down to some Vintage shops in Pimlico / Victoria area and had a browse… OK fine, I bought a cashmere Reiss sweater in a Vintage store (£15 = Bargain).
4:15pm – Bought 4 Sainsbury’s chicken drumsticks and demolished them (#PROTEIN)
4:30pm – Took the Underground home
5:00pm – Went to Sainsbury’s, bought food for the week and meal prepped
6:15pm – Made Golden Milk for the first time
6:30pm – Laundry, organisation for the week, email, etc.
7:00pm – Sat down and realised I still had a couple of hours to #NetflixAndChill but instead I’m blogging and reading because I have zero attention span for TV
Sunday “Fun-Day” Workout:
Split Squats – 12kg (10 reps), 10kg (14 reps), 8kg (18 reps), Bodyweight (25 reps)
Step-Ups on a bench – 20 Reps X3
Jumping Squats – 15 Reps X3
Full-Body Clean and Press – 20kg // 15 Reps X3
Curtsey Squats – 20kg // 15 Reps each leg, X3
Leg Extension – 32kg // 10 Reps X4
Dumbbell Swings – 10kg // 20 Reps each arm, X3
Mountain Climbers – 40 Reps X3
Sit-Ups – 100 Reps
Russian Twists – 6kg // 30 Reps, X3
Leg Raises – 15 Reps // X3
Stretch and Foam Roller !
Weekends are not for resting! Unless you’ve smashed gym sessions from Monday to Friday, in which case rest those muscles and reset yourself for the next week. During the week, I find my workouts are at half or two-thirds capacity and I always find myself wishing I just had one more hour or a little more energy. But when you live and work in a city like London, you essentially live your life from one alarm/reminder/calendar event to the next and spend on average an hour each day commuting. As a result, I find that Saturday and Sunday are perfect days to get some ‘Train Insane’ sessions in. After a lie-in and some extra sleep on Friday night, my body is ready to hit the gym hard. This weekend, I decided to stay booze-free and give my body a break. I caught up on sleep, had a few rich Americanos and had two fantastic training sessions at Puregym in Piccadilly and Victoria.
My early morning weekday sessions are typically 45-60 minute HIIT sessions with light to medium weight and a lot of cardio. Think: burpees, sprints, lunges, press-ups, and lots of short bursts with short rests. My pre-workout is black coffee so my body simply doesn’t have enough “fuel” to lift heavy. On Saturday and Sunday, I have an Americano and 20-30g of oats with protein about 45 minutes prior to my workout. This gives me the fuel I need to lift heavier weight. Recently, I’ve been making a formula of Green Tea, Water and BCAAs to fuel me through my workout, which means I can do longer sessions of 90-120 minutes.
If you have been following me a while, you will know that I LOVE sharing recipes. But healthy eating is only half of my weight loss story. The other half of my story is all about the hours I have dedicated to working out, lifting weight, running and staying fit. Over time, I have seen the physical and mental benefits of exercise and it has had a hugely positive impact on my life. For anyone who is not a regular gym-goer or who spends their life on the cross-trainer (that was me a few years ago…), it is hard to know where to start! I hope that through sharing some of my workouts, I will give you a little bit of inspiration to try something new in the gym, challenge yourself and get more creative with your exercise. And if you aren’t sure what an exercise is, YouTube it! If you try the workout below, please let me know how it went. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram. Happy Sunday Health and Fitness Lovers!
Full Body and HIIT:
90 seconds running 12.0Km/h
27, 21, 15, 9 cals on Rower
27, 21, 15, 9 Thrusters 15kg
20 Reps 39Kg Hip Abductor
(20 second rests inbetween)
Rope pull-downs 12Kg X15
TRX Inverted Rows X15
60 second plank
Kettlebell Swings 16Kg
Ball Roll-ins X10
Ball Hip Thrust X10
40 Russian Twists 6Kg
15 Leg Raises
20 Sit Ups 6Kg
20 Bicycle Crunches
15 Minutes Crosstrainer
There is nothing I love more than waking up on a Saturday morning hangover-free, having an Americano with Calorie-free Walden Farms caramel syrup and hitting the gym for a huge training session. Many of my commutes, lunchtimes or evenings are spent scanning personal trainers and fitness models on Instagram for ‘Fitspiration‘ and ideas for new exercises and workouts. Why not take #inspo from the best?
While I am on my way to the gym in the morning, I plan my workout in my head or on the Notes app on my iPhone. One of the joys of living in London is that the Puregyms in Zone 1 are virtually empty at the weekend because everyone who lives in Zone 1 probably has their own gym! For this reason, the weekends are when I typically get some of my best sessions in. No queuing for machines and more space to do explosive exercise and to create my own circuits.
More on the benefits of Weekend Workouts next Sunday, but for now, below is my Saturday Session. Remember to adjust the weight to your own fitness goals and always prioritise form over reps. Rest when you need it but try and keep your heart rate up. If you cool down, smash out 20 burpees to get warmed back up! Let me know if you try it and what you think. You can reach me on Facebook and Instagram. Happy Sunday Fun-day!
Legs and HIIT:
90 seconds Running 13.5 Km/h
15 Kettle bell swings 14Kg
60 second plank
15 Reps Leg extension 45Kg
30 jumping jacks
15 (each leg) Split Squat 10kg (20Kg total)
15 Jumping squats
15 Full Clean and Press 20Kg
30 seconds Mountain Climbers
15 (each leg) Curtsey Squats 20Kg
12 Smith Machine Squats 60Kg
6-8 Reps @ 70Kg
90 seconds running 12Km/h
For the longest time, I was running 5Ks and going to the same circuits classes at the gym. I would work up a sweat but after a few months of training, I plateaued. Training was fun but I reached a point where I no longer felt challenged. It was time to shake things up.
I am a Type A personality. I f***ing thrive on achievement and my favourite person to compete with is myself. In July 2012, my sister introduced me to endurance events when she persuaded me to sign up for the Tough Mudder. For those of you unfamiliar with this event, it is 12 miles of running interspersed with mud pits, lakes, rivers, electric wires, ice water, fire, gravel tunnels and other obstacles designed by the military. It took us over three hours to complete and as we crossed the finish line, I burst into tears out of sheer pride (that I actually finished it) and relief (that I didn’t die). We were fed a protein shot, water, a burger and a beer. That evening, we continued re-feeding ourselves with an indian meal and some cocktails. The next day, I could barely walk. My body felt broken! But I was hooked.
The Tough Mudder was fantastic but I wanted to try something new. In 2013, I signed up for the Belfast Half Marathon. This was new to me. I had never run more than 10-15 Km so I had to educate myself about training and supplementation. Thankfully, I worked with a girl who was an avid, competitive runner and she gave me some great advice. The training was great and I love running so it was really fun trying new routes and incorporating uphill runs to build my strength. I completed it in 1:48 and crossed the finish line with a rush of adrenaline and emotion.
This spring, I completed the Clapham Common Half Marathon in London and it was a very special event. Shortly after signing up for this event I tore a muscle in my lower back and I wasn’t sure that I would be able to participate. I didn’t run for 4-5 weeks and stuck to the cross trainer and some strength training. With the help and advice of a physiotherapist, I managed to recover and rebuild my strength. Things happening in my personal life messed with my emotions and I had gained a bit of weight, which made me even more nervous about running. Nobody wants to feel heavy when they run! You want to feel light and speedy! I focused on strengthening my muscles. This was all I knew how to do. I decided I would strengthen my hamstrings, glutes, hip abductors, core and just run 5-10K a couple of times a week during the weeks prior to the event. It worked. I ran the half marathon in 1:42 and finished 2nd. And I may have collapsed on the grass afterwards and cried (or sobbed) happy tears before phoning my mum to tell her the news.
My preparation for each event was entirely different. Each time, I was armed with more knowledge and experience. I had done my research, spoken to other athletes and tried and tested my own methods. After this most recent event, I felt fantastic. Of course my body was fatigued but I had zero pain, I still went for a long walk afterwards and I didn’t feel ravenously hungry during the hours following. I was tired but not exhausted. This is how I knew I had found a strategy that worked for me. And I want to share it!
One Week Prior:
During the week prior to the Clapham Common Half Marathon, I ran two 10Ks, two 5Ks, did two full-body strength sessions and two days of rest with plenty of walking. My eating was low to medium carb but with lots of protein. I wanted to feed my muscles and make sure they were fighting fit for the run.
One Day Before:
On the day before the Clapham Common Half Marathon, I ran approximately 5-6 kilometres on the treadmill (easy on the knees) and did some core and upper body work. I took BCAAs for recovery and that night, I CARBED UP. I had chicken with tons of colourful veggies and some rice for dinner. I had a lot of pic n’ mix (mostly chocolate) at the movie theatre. Oops! And before I went to bed, I ate 4 rice cakes with some peanut butter and apple sauce. It was A LOT of food! I was stuffed.
The Morning Of:
Prior to the Tough Mudder, I snacked on trail mix slowly and steadily until 30 minutes before the event. Banana, peanut butter, nuts, seeds, m&ms and raisins. It was pure energy food and the mixture of sugars and fats meant it would slow-release. Halfway through the event, they handed out half-bananas to us. This worked really well and I didn’t lack energy during the event at all. During the first half marathon, I took the advice of a nutritionist friend and had a paleo breakfast (avocado, bacon, egg, butter, black coffee). It was the WORST decision ever! Zero carbs meant zero energy. And I had an upset stomach prior to the event, which meant I was extremely dehydrated before even starting the run. As a result, I had a cramp in my side for the first 8km. This time, for the Clapham Common Half Marathon, I knew exactly what to have. Porridge! All you need before a run is carbs. I had already fuelled up the night before so I didn’t need a huge breakfast. Two cups of green tea, lemon water, a swig of BCAAs and 40g of oats with a scoop of Diet Whey protein, and I was ready to go.
30 minutes Post-Event:
Immediately after the event, I swigged some water and grabbed a tall black Americano. I ate some dried mango and headed home to get a hot shower. After my shower, I had another cup of green tea. Caffeine = energy. I also ate a small granola bar. I was feeling peckish at this point.
60-120 minutes Post-Event:
By this time, I was ready for a meal. I had begun to feel tired and knew that I needed a good feed! I went to a lovely restaurant called Brasserie Zedel and had a salmon filet with a small portion of wild rice, two small slices of crusty baguette with real butter and a huge portion of sautéed spinach. Then, a cup of black tea for a perk-me-up. This hit THE spot and filled me with nutrients, starches and omega-3s.
Please know that I am not an expert! I have never done an Iron Man or a Triathlon or a Marathon. But I have done a LOT of running, a lot of strength training and I am a bit of a “fitness freak”. I spend a lot of time doing it, reading about it, researching it and constantly learning so that I can try new things and share my experiences and knowledge with other fitness-lovers. I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and if you have anything you’d like to add, please leave it in the comments! You can see photos from these events on my Facebook and Instagram pages. Happy Exercising!