Ten reasons women should lift weights

angie
Angie by Greg Westfall

In recent years it has been far more commonplace to find women lifting weights in the gym. I love seeing the girls at CrossFit throwing barbells around and my daughter can’t wait to join them.

 

Why should we lift weights though? For a long time weights were left to the boys, as many women didn’t want to “bulk up”. The truth is though that adding weights to your fitness regime has numerous benefits, and it is highly unlikely you will end up looking like Arnie!

Here are some of the benefits of weight training:

  1. Faster metabolism, which in turn will lead you to burn more fat.
  2. Toned muscles – once you’ve burned off the body fat, the muscles on display will be well defined.
  3. Improved bone density, therefore reducing the risk of osteoporosis – this is particularly important for those over 40.
  4. Stronger core which helps improve posture and therefore makes you less liable to injury.
  5. Fun!
  6. Improve aerobic capacity – more efficient muscles make long, steady workouts such as runs, cycles or walks easier.
  7. Happiness – exercise is uplifting, and there’s nothing like throwing some weights around to temporarily take your mind off any troubles you have.
  8. Improved functional fitness – you’ll be stronger and more flexible and therefore less likely to injure yourself in or outside the gym.
  9. Rewarding – seeing the weights steadily increase gives a great buzz.
  10. Prevent or control chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, depression or obesity.

So what are you weight-ing for (sorry, couldn’t resist)? As long as you start with light weights and use good technique, the results you get from resistance training are manyfold.

If want advice about adding weights to your training then please get in touch.

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Read your way to better health

Reading girlReading about health, fitness, nutrition and mental wellbeing is unsurprisingly a passion of mine. I regularly chat to my clients about the books I’ve read. I have reviewed a couple of books in detail on this blog before (‘Lights Out’ and ‘Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us’), but one of my clients has recently asked me to recommend some books to her so I thought I would take the opportunity to write a blog post on some of my favourite wellbeing books here.

All of Gretchen Ruben’s books

Like many other people, Ruben’s books have been the textual version of a lightening bolt to me. To date she has written ‘The Happiness Project’, ‘Happier at Home’, and ‘Better Than Before’. The first two put the concept of happiness and how to come by it under that microscope. The latter book looks at how to form habits that last.

All of her books are insightful, entertaining, fun and extremely enjoyable. I highly recommend them all but think that ‘The Happiness Project’ is the best one to start off with.

‘The Surrender Experiment’ by Michael A Singer

One day the writer of this book, Michael A. Singer decided to stop making decisions but instead to let life’s events and opportunities lead the way. The concept is brave but fascinating and the results are astounding. This a very thought-provoking book and well worth a read.

‘The Paleo Solution’ by Robb Wolf

I’m a huge fan of Wolf’s podcast, but finally read his book long after the concept of paleo living had been sold to me. I think it’s a great book for anyone contemplating “going paleo”. Wolf’s chatty tone addresses the many questions you ask when making the adjustment, in a fun but factual way.

‘Clean and Lean’ by James Duigan

I had to include this book here because reading it was the start of a massive life change for me. Like Ruben’s books, it was a real lightening bolt book. Reading it helped me see where I had been going wrong with nutrition for so long, and implementing the changes it recommended led to results I never thought possible. Ultimately this was what inspired me to become a PT, in order that I could help others who had been making the same mistakes as I had been.

‘The Village Effect’ by Susan Pinker

We live in a time in which we are more connected than ever but, as this book proves through data, we are actually lonelier than ever. I made huge changes to my own social media usage after reading this, and definitely feel better for it. Anyone who looses hours to Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram etc should give this a read.

‘The Five Love Languages’ by Gary Chapman

Ever wondered why it bothers you so much when your partner forgets to run an errand for you, or why they seem to expect presents from you so often? If so check this book out. It states that there are five love languages and that if we “speak” a different “language” to our partner then tension and conflict can arise. This book helps you discover the language of both yourself and your partner and explains how to communicate in the way that each of you need.

‘The New Kitchen Garden’ by Mark Diacono

I love the idea of gardening, but find I rarely have enough time to bring my extravagant ideas to fruition. Often I am far too ambitious and achieve very little by setting out to achieve too much. I really enjoyed this book as it states that growing a little of what you eat is fine, and that you shouldn’t be put off by the fact that you are unable to be self-sufficient due to time or space restraints.

Best of all is the section which tells you when to plant various seeds and plants, and which varieties to choose depending on your preferred outcome (yield, flavour, shape etc).

This book definitely made growing my own fruit and veg seem more achievable, I frequently refer back to it and am definitely more satisfied with my garden as a result.

‘Gut’ by Giulia Enders

When I found myself reading about the digestive system and its produce(!) before going to sleep I realised that I was totally obsessed by health and nutrition. This book is a great insight into what is very much a developing area of understanding. The basic premise is that we are only just starting to understand the importance of the gut microbiome (bacteria), and that as we learn more we will discover how to eat in a way that complements its work in a way that promotes health and longevity. This is a fascinating and accessible account of what scientists have learned so far, what it all means to each of us and how we can best help nature’s processes.

I have previously written about my favourite cookery books so will not include any here, but to find out what they are go to: ‘Recipe books that help me stay healthy’.

Forget chick-lit and whodunits. Stick a few of these books in your suitcase (or on your Kindle) and you can broaden your mind whilst chilling on the beach this summer.

Reading rabbit
Image by Lizardie Toys

 

Listen and learn

Woman with headphones
Photo by Sascha Kohlmann 

Over the past few months I have discovered podcasts. Of course I have known about them for years but it is only since then that I have found numerous podcasts that enhance my knowledge and feed my passions.

My driving, running and walking time is now far more informative than it used to be. There is such a wealth of great podcasts out there, that whatever your interests there are no doubt numerous podcasts that you would enjoy.

My personal favourites are:

Rubin_Gretchen_231f_868509c
Gretchen Rubin aka Mrs Happiness

The Paleo Solution – Robb Wolf aka Mr Paleo produces this informative podcast about all things paleo. Each episode features a different expert and together they explore, explain and question all aspects of ancestral health. Of course nutrition takes up a great deal of air time, but as well as this sleep, movement, relaxation and supplementation are discussed, along with changes we can make to our homes and lifestyles. Occasionally the science goes quite deep but when it does so Robb is careful to explain it in such a way that those without a particularly scientific background can understand.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin – Rubin is the author of numerous fantastic books on the subjects of happiness and habit forming. This weekly podcast focuses on what we can each do to make it easier to form habits and as a result bring more happiness to our lives. 

Another Round – Two funny women covering a wide range of topics from politics to entertainment, nutrition and more. Well worth a listen.

Yogamazing – I have used this video podcast for years, having first found it when the hubby and I went travelling and I wanted a way to workout wherever I was in the world. Presenter Chaz Rough is not your typical yogi but a regular guy with a passion for yoga and a desire to bring it to the masses. Each episode is designed to help answer a listener question meaning that every class is different and that all abilities are catered to.

What about you? What are your favourite podcasts?

Book review: ‘Lights Out’

Lights outAlthough most areas of my life as are healthy as they could possibly be, sleep has seriously let me down over the last few years. This was what lead me to read Lights Out. That and the fact that I have suffered from numerous bouts of pneumonia/chest infections over the last year, and I had a sneaking suspicion that my lack of quality sleep may be partly to blame.

First up I will say that Lights Out is relatively old (published 2001) and that there has no doubt been a great deal of new research done on the topics discussed in the intervening period. Also the style of writing is extremely sensationalist. Chapters conclude in a style not unlike that of The Divinci Code writer Dan Brown, and I could almost hear dramatic music and the end of each chapter.

That said, I thought this was a really interesting read. It blames a huge number of western society’s chronic and increasing diseases (such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease) on the invention of the light bulb. It documents compelling research that shows a steady increase in these conditions as light bulbs became more readily available.

This makes sense. As light bulbs became more widely used our days grew longer. We could work more hours than ever before, businesses such as factories suddenly needed night workers and as a result our sleep patterns became messed up like never before.

Now we have the ability to stay awake longer, we of course need more fuel in order to do so. Yet more compelling research showed that we fuel these extra waking hours with carbs (aka sugar). As a species we evolved on minimal seasonal carbs; a handful of blueberries when we stumbled across a ripe bush, a few apples at the start of autumn. Research shows we can get by without any carbs at all, and many people (myself included) find they feel and function better on low carb or ketogenic diets. The combination of less sleep and more sugar we live on nowadays is quite simply deadly.

The book suggests that we do as much as we possibly can to ensure we get at least nine hours of sleep a night, particularly in winter months, during which our ancestors would have slept whenever the sun wasn’t up. Our rooms should represent caves at nighttime. Blackout blinds should be installed, and no lights should be visible, including “stand-by” lights on electrical items, or digital clocks. We should also not look at screens or consume carbs for a good few hours before bedtime.

I finished this book a good month ago and since have tried to implement as many of these suggestions as possible. Given that prior to this I clocked in an average of about 5.5/6 hours of sleep a night, I felt that nine hours was an extremely tall order.

I gave it my best shot however, and now I do manage to get nine hours of rest several times a week, something I literally never thought I could do. Several nights of the week I teach exercise classes, and on these nights I tend to get to sleep later than I would like, but on the other evenings I try my best to go to sleep by about 9pm.

This of course has its disadvantages. The hubby and I get less time together, which is annoying, and I get less time to myself, which I can only get when the kids are in bed. As I now go to bed only about an hour or so after them, time to read or watch TV is very limited. Also socialising becomes tricky. Either I have to leave really early, or I sacrifice my sleep time and feel rubbish the next day.

Getting to sleep is never a challenge for me, but staying asleep proves difficult every night. I now have various relaxation tracks and apps (including the fabulous Headspace app) that I use to help relax me when I wake early. Even if they don’t enable me to get back to sleep, they at least lower my heart rate so much that my FitBit “thinks” I’m asleep, which I reckon means I’m getting sufficient rest time. I used to use my early wake-up time to work, catch up on emails or to exercise, so there is no doubt that my new technique is far better for me, even if I don’t actually manage to get back to sleep.

The first few times I clocked nine hours sleep I actually felt worse for it. I felt spaced out and not unlike being hung-over. I guess it was so alien to my body that it didn’t quite know how to manage it. Scientifically I suppose my endocrine system was flooded with hormones in levels it was simply not used to. I no longer get this feeling though, and I certainly feel more with-it than I have for a long time. I also no longer fall asleep in front of the TV, as I’m in bed long before I’m tired enough to do that.

I’ve become better at giving in to my body’s cries for sleep, as I realise just how important it is, and how unnatural it is to fight sleep. I now think of quality sleep as important as decent gym sessions, which certainly helps me prioritise my sleep. This is something I never used to do. In fact at busy times sleep was always the first thing to go, as I just didn’t realise quite how important it was.

Time and again when I hear or read about today’s biggest health hurdles, sleep is mentioned. I’ve even heard a PT say that unless his clients were willing to put the sleep hours in, he simply refused to work with them. I whole-heartedly agree with this now. Sleep is more important to your health then anything you could do in the gym.

This book has most definitely changed my life. I would recommend it to anyone, not only those who have a particular sleep issue. In fact it’s probably more beneficial to those who don’t think they have a problem with sleep but who only clock about six or seven hours a night. At least those who struggle with sleep know they have to do something about it.

Lights Out is worth anybody reading, so long as you don’t stay up reading it into the wee small hours of the night.

Quick nutritious breakfasts

For most people, week-day mornings are a flurry of teeth brushing, school uniform, packed lunches, trying to make yourself clean and vaguely presentable (in my case), and harassing the children to quickly eat their breakfast. It’s no surprise then that many mums fail to eat breakfast themselves, and that many who do munch on something that is severely lacking in nutrients, while trying to perform seven other tasks at the same time.

There is another way however. With a savvy shopping list and a little advance preparation advance, you can start the day in a much healthier way.

Here are a few breakfast ideas for those who feel their breakfast has reached a desperate state.

  • Granola
    You could make a batch of granola at the weekend

    Scrummy granola – I bake a batch a week. In the morning just add some milk or yoghurt (natural and organic if possible) to it, and fruit if you have time (I buy frozen berries and put a mixture in a tupperware in the fridge to defrost the evening before).

 

  • Chia seed pudding – I use the recipe in Ella’s book rather than this one, but the fundamentals are the same. Either way you can make it the night before and it’s ready to eat in the morning. This is a great option for eating on the go if you’re really tight on time, or if you can’t stomach eating first thing. Plus chia seeds are super good for you!

 

 

  • porridge
    Soak the oats the night before and you can make this porridge quickly the next morning

    Creamy coconut porridge – When I first discovered this recipe I had it daily for months. It’s wonderfully filling, delicious and nutritious. If you soak the oats overnight the 10-min cooking time reduces to two mins, and also increases their nutrient density too.

 

  • Scrambled eggs (preferably organic) on toast – at first this sounds like too much faff. But if you have a microwave this is easy peasy. Simply whisk an egg, milk, a little butter and pepper together, and microwave for about 90 secs, beating every 30 secs. Your toast will probably take longer than the eggs. We should all eat at least one egg a day, so this way you get yours in early, plus the protein of egg is slow to release so we feel fuller for longer. Add a little mashed avocado to this for a truly heavenly start to the day.

 

  • If like me, you are a frequent visitor to high-street cafes, you will have noticed that bircher is all the rage at the moment. No it’s not a type of tree but an oat, apple and lemon juice-based breakfast option. Jamie’s Overnight Bircher is another nutritious choice you can prep the night before.

 

So hopefully that list has inspired you in some way, and saves you from the bacon butties in the work canteen at least a few days a week. If you have any other breakfast suggestions, then please share them.

Scrummy and nutritious granola

Granola.jpgI’m often asked about quick yet nutritious breakfasts. This granola is a great option. I usually make a batch a week.

To make it I get 240g oats and add about 300g of nuts (brazils and almonds used here), about 300g pumpkin/sunflower seeds and about 200g milled flax seeds, but you can adjust those amounts depending on what you like and what you have in the cupboard.

In a saucepan melt 4 tbsp of coconut oil and 4 tbsp honey and two tsps cinnamon together. Poor the melted mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients, mix together and bake in the oven at about 180C in a fan oven, or 200C in a conventional oven.

Stir it every ten mins to ensure everything toasts evenly. It will take 30-40 mins to cook. Once it’s done add a big handful of raisins to the mixture.

Enjoy with yogurt and fruit, or just on its own as an on-the-go snack.

Recipe books that help me stay healthy

If you’re anything like me you’ll have a vast number of recipe books in your bookcase, but actually use just a handful regularly. As many of you may be in the early stages of a new resolution to eat healthier, I thought now might be a good time to let you know the recipe books that I frequently turn to for inspiration.

Ella

Deliciously Ella by Ella Woodward – I love that most of Woodward’s recipes are based on a list of core ingredients, so that once you have those in the kitchen you can make loads of the recipes without having to buy a list of obscure ingredients you only need a tiny bit of. I use Ella’s almond butter, coconut porridge, chia seed pudding and cinnamon pecan granola recipes all the time, and  many more are frequently used too. It’s probably the most-used recipe book I’ve ever had.

Slow cooker

Hamlyn All Colour 200 Slow Cooker Recipes – Slow cookers are a great way to ensure that you don’t start raiding the cupboards for quick fixes as soon as you get home. Instead of quickly filling up on processed foods you can tuck into a delicious wholesome meal that’s been bubbling away all day. My family’s favourite recipe from this book is the sausage and onion gravy casserole.

 

Super JamieEveryday Super Foods by Jamie Oliver – In this book’s accompanying series Jamie states, “I want you to eat healthy foods not because you have to, but because it’s delicious.” Now that is an ethos that I totally agree with, and with recipes like these I think it’s very easy to achieve. I’m working my way through the book, and the recipes are all very tasty and simple to prepare. I think the family favourite so far is the vegetable lasagne made with spinach and roasted butternut squash. Delicious.

RiverfordRiverford Farm Cook Book – I use this book when I have a few veggies hanging about that need to be used up, as the contents are listed by veg. This allows me to be much more creative with veggies, which is fun for me and also means that my children and far more likely to eat them.

 

 

Neal's YardNeal’s Yard Healing Foods – This book turns your kitchen into a pharmacy, as it advises you which foods to use (and how) to cure a whole range of ailments. You can either look up a particular food, or the symptom you wish to ease. There are also meal plans with a particular focus, for example to improve heart health, maintain healthy joints and to help relieve stress.

 

Clean and leanClean and Lean Diet by James Duigan – This book was a bit of a game-changer for me, because as I read it I experienced quite a lot of “light bulb” moments that enabled me to see where I’d been going wrong with my nutrition for years. Having implicated the changes Duigan suggested I saw my body shape improve in way that it never had before. Ever better was the fact that those changes were unbelievably simple, and also perfectly logical once I stopped to think about it.

Good FoodBBC Good Food website – Ok, I know this isn’t a book, but I use it all the time so I couldn’t not mention it here. There are recipes on here from many celebrity chefs and you can search by difficulty level, preparation time, dietary requirements and more. Like the Riverford book I often use this when I have a particular ingredient I wish to use but am lacking in inspiration.

Do you have any other books that you would add to this list? If so please comment on this post.