I was reading a certain fashion magazine the other day and came across a pretty mundane article entitled ‘what’s in your bag?’ – but reading it, some of the bizarre ‘essentials’ made me giggle including ‘air freshener’, ‘an iron’ a ‘mini screwdriver set’! It got me thinking however, so I decided to blog about ‘what’s in MY bag’. And these are genuinely things that I carry with me on a daily basis to help me live a healthier lifestyle – all fitness related, of course 😉
Click MORE to read about the benefits of each item… Faya x
I’m a big fitness fashion junkie, and am especially a bit of a fiend when it comes to trainers (i’ll post a shot of my collection one day!). But aside from being spoilt for choice in terms of prints and colour, these humble gym-slippers also serve a far more functional purpose – to look after our poor old feet, knees and posture! Far too often, feet get neglected and suffer because of it. They work so hard for us every day, yet we pay very little attention to them – aside from the occasional indulgent pedicure. ‘Fashion over function’ doesn’t serve your long term interests with feet – if you exercise as regularly as I do, appropriate foot care is critical as the skin and bones are put under so much more stress. Above all, I think it’s worth paying extra attention to what kind of shoe you buy and for which occasion. A little gem that I’ve used for some time is ‘Runners Need‘ – they always have good descriptions, specs & reviews alongside the brand products, so I can be pretty sure that I’ll end up with the right shoe for the right purpose.
Another one I’ve recently stumbled across (no pun intended!) is Simply Feet. Due to an old knee-based running injury from a long time ago which flares up every now-and-again, I’ve been wearing ‘Rhythm shoes’ from Weil footwear recently. They’re super comfy – perfect for trekking around London – lightweight, breathable, with technical fabrics – but most importantly they’re podiatrist-designed, and feel like they support & stabilise my foot every step. Crucially for me, they don’t look like a piece of ugly medical technology; they look just as good as, for example, the Nike Lunarlon – my pair of Rhythm’s in the pictures here even have some coral pink girly detailing so I can coordinate them! If you have any back, heel, knee or leg pain when you run, or if you simply over-pronate, these relieve pressure & naturally re-align the foot.
I’m going to write a post on running socks too, as I think that completes the fitness-ready footcare regime! Keep your eyes open!
WEARING?? Nike Limitless Leggings, Bershka hooded waterproof jacket, Weil Rhythm Shoes in Silver / Coral, Mulberry ‘Henry’ gym bag. See all the pics from this shoot HERE.
Many of my clients aren’t from the UK, and often ask me how to read the food labels here; it’s vitally important to understand the label in order to be in command of what you’re nourishing your body with. Even if you do understand it, far too few take the time to read and digest it – no pun intended! This post will set out some tips and tricks for staying on top of the label.
Questions I ask myself every time; is it high in fat? saturates? salt? carbs? sugar? Knowing the answers is essential to maintaining a balanced, healthy diet. The label should, at a minimum, list the information on energy – calories, protein, carbohydrate, fat and salt. Nutrition information is shown per 100 grams and sometimes per portion of the food. A good deal of supermarket products show a ‘traffic light colour coding’ system where red is a warning, and green is fine – but relying on these without further thought is lazy and won’t help awareness for the diet.
1) WHAT ARE THE GDA’s ???
Some product also list Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs). The GDAs are based on UK government-set figures and are recommendations that give approximate amounts of certain nutrients and calories required for a healthy diet. GDA’s don’t account for your size, age, lifestyle, activity levels etc, so take them with a pinch of salt (literally!). – FAT: Adult GDA is c. 70g, of which ‘saturates’ should be 20g (see ‘Ingredients’ below for more on this). Beware if the product has >20% fat, and I tend to think that <5% is truely ‘low fat’.
– SUGARS: Adult GDA is c. 90g. Sugars are carbs, so look for the ‘Carbohydrates (of which sugars)’ part on the label. You might see it as sucrose, fructose, maltose, honey, corn syrup or starch – but ultimately it’s still sugar. Aim for complex sugars, which are slow release, and sustain your blood sugar levels at a more constant rate through the day. Think whole grains, whole wheat, seeds, nuts and pulses. Too much simple sugar risks diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. – SALT: Adult GDA is c. 6g (one teaspoon!). Also labelled as sodium, it regulates nerves and the overall fluid balance in the body, but too much over time increases blood pressure and can lead to heart disease and/or stroke, plus it can make you look and feel bloated as it retains water. To cut down on salt when cooking use herbs, spices, garlic, ginger, lemon zest or chili (will up your metabolism!) instead, to add flavour. Use low-salt stock. When buying tinned foods get them without the added salt or brine (e.g. tuna in spring water). Avoid microwaved ready meals, and if you must (for some inexplicable reason) get it with reduced salt. Keep an eye on sauces they’re are often high in sodium too. – CALORIES: Adult GDA is 2000 Kcal (calories) a day, though that will clearly vary hugely depending on gender, activity, metabolic levels etc. It’s a measure of energy contained within the food, so if you consume too much food-energy, you’ll store the excess as fat. Basic, but sometimes people forget this. Equally, if you have too little, you’ll lack the nutrients required to function properly! It’s about balance and control, which is the whole point of this post!
2) INGREDIENTS ???
– When reading the ingredients manifest, the nearer the beginning an ingredient is listed, the higher the content, e.g. if honey is the second thing listed on your granola bar, then that bar certainly contains a lot of sugar.
– Avoid transfats, they are usually fish or vegetable oils that have been artificially hardened by hydrogenation, they increase bad LDL cholesterol 🙂 and reduce good HDL cholesterol 🙁 which can contribute to stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, and worse. You can usually find them in biscuits, cakes and pastries – so watch out for any oil that says ‘hydrogenated’ before it.
3) THE LAW ???
– All food products must legally be labelled and not be misleading – great in theory, but unfortunately it’s not like that in practise. You might fancy yourself for having an antioxidant boost when you drink a ‘blueberry milkshake’, but often it won’t contain blueberries – much like ‘cheese & onion crisps’ usually don’t contain onion.
– The word ‘light’ also has no legal definition, and simply means the product might be lighter than another product (which product that is we don’t know), whilst it might only refer to fat, alcohol, sugar or salt. Similarly, with ‘Low fat’, there’s no legal guideline around this, which makes it lazy and misleading to just ‘trust the claim’. Check it. Don’t let the food manufacturer insult your intelligence!
4) HOW TO COMPARE & CONTRAST !!!
– Deciding which product is healthier for you is very easy – don’t over-complicate it, and don’t be intimidated by the numbers.
– Whenever you look at two products, each will show a ‘Per 100g’ or ‘Per 100ml’ column – if you see that product A has 20g fat, that’s 20%. If you see that a similar product B has 10g fat, that’s 10%. If product A happens to weigh 200g, then you’re eating 40g fat out of your c. 70g GDA – that’s clearly way too much! Product B (also weighing 200g) would invariably be a better choice here at 20g fat. There are complexities around types of fat, amount of sugars (as discussed above) etc, but broadly, the process should be that simple.
I really hope this helps not only foreigners like myself, but also encourages more curiosity about what we’re putting in us (think ‘horse’ or ‘beef’). Worth checking the sell-by date too – the fresher the better!
I had a wander in Harrods this weekend and came across this shiny fitness contraption, who’s proper name is the Technogym Kinesis…
As an aside; to keep the motivation-factor high (and the boredom-factor low!), I love seeking out new fitness-related concepts, be it the latest equipment, a new ‘group exercise class’ or even some novel ‘superfood’ hitting the supermarket shelf! In short, innovation = motivation! However full-on your workout may be, sometimes we all need a bit of variation and inspiration, and regardless of how many years you’ve been training, there’s always something new to learn and take away from a different experience. I regularly have a look around the gym to see what other people are up to and whether there are any exercises I haven’t encountered – then I steal them if they’re any good!
Back to Harrods’ newest toy, the Kinesis. It’s the highest expression of designer gym furniture. It’s only 1sq metre in size. It’s fitted with three handgrips. It operates in total silence. It facilitates over 200 different exercises that target all muscle groups. There’s an electronic dial to gradually & precisely increase the resistance. Each arm has three pivots that the cable slides through, allowing smooth movement in all directions. I think that if I were to have one of these at home, I’d use it to build strength, increase flexibility and improve my posture – amongst many other applications. And all for just £8,980!!! Oh well, it was fun to play with!
One of life’s greatest pleasures is eating – for me that means trying out new restaurants or cooking for friends and family, but I remember a time when eating felt more like a guilt trip. As a young, impressionable teenager I used to guinea-pig my way through unrealistic diets because I was led to believe (through clever marketing, and a pressurising ‘media onslaught’) that eating 5 bars a day was ‘the best way to be healthy’. I also thought the word ‘skinny’ was synonymous with ‘healthy’ and that the quickest way to achieve ‘skinny’ was by eating less food. The scales may have told me I was right, but I felt physically tired, emotional, starving and frankly miserable…. That is anything but an informed understanding of ‘healthy!
I think that especially amongst women, there is a vast and dangerous misconception. By eating far too little in order to lose weight you starve the body of essential nutrients, & have less energy to do anything, including work out! My ‘trick’ is to eat the right food, little & often, throughout the day, to speed up the metabolism. Weighing scales can be very deceiving. Going on bizarre fad diets which promise ‘rapid weight loss’ generally rely on either water loss (i.e. dehydration – bad, as c.70% of the body is made up of water, and there’s a reason for that!) or the loss of your natural muscle mass. Some long term diets may also slow down your metabolism further. Caring for your body by eating well and by being active, you’ll lose the right kind of weight (thus improving the ‘body fat percentage’ ratio).
I hope some of the recipes on my blog can help inspire healthy eating. With that in mind, here’s my asian-inspired lean Chicken Curry packed with nutritious flavour! It’s perfect for sharing!
FOUR KEY HEALTH BENEFITS OF THE RECIPE ???
1) GREEN FRESH JALEPENO CHILLI Chilli is full of immune-stimulating and health-promoting properties. One is capsaicin (which gives it the spicy kick, and is a strong anti-diabetic). It also has anti-bacterial and anti-carcinogenic properties, whilst reducing (bad) LDL cholesterol levels. These Jalepeno peppers are pretty fiery (2500 on the Scoville scale of ‘can you handle the heat?’), and are more than enough to raise your metabolism a few notches too! It’s rich in vitamin-C (100g chilli = c.240% of RDA) which is immune boosting and fights free radicals from the body. There’s a good amount of minerals such as potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium too, all of which will help regulate the blood pressure. It also provides your body with its required dose of B-complex vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin and thiamin (vitamin B-1).
2) LEMONGRASS Contains beneficial ‘essential oils’ (counter-irritant, anti-fungal & anti-septic properties), as well as vitamins and minerals (such as vitral, lemonal, and aldehyde responsible for that strong lemony scent, but which also has strong anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties). It contains a mini ’99 calories per 100 g’ and not a trace of cholesterol! The stem and leaves are high in folic acid (19% of RDA) which is important in cell division & repair. Plus it’s also rich in vitamin B5, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-1 (essential for the body to replenish). There’s also a cheeky amount of anti-oxidant vitamin-C and vitamin-A (immune and sight-boosting respectively), and finally lemon grass has plenty of bonus minerals like potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. The body needs these – lemongrass has them!
Garlic is a great source of potassium (regulates blood pressure / oxygenation & heartbeat pace, lubricates joints), iron (supports red blood cell formation), calcium (promotes healthy bones), magnesium (aids nervous-system functions, body temperature regulation, detoxification, energy production, and hormone balancing) manganese (an antioxidant enzyme), zinc (cell regeneration, digestion-aiding, with anti-cancerous properties), and selenium (heart-healthy, antioxidant enzyme). It also has a compound called ‘allicin’ which has been shown to reduce cholesterol, alleviate high blood pressure and help decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke.
4) ORGANIC CHICKEN
Free -range, hormone & antibiotic free organic roast chicken breast (100g contains 116 calories, 22g protein, 3g fat) is perfect if you’re trying to lose weight, as it’s lower in fat and calories than other meats such as beef (100g fillet steak contains 196 calories, 26g protein, 9g fat) and pork (100g pork chop contains 260 calories, 28g protein, 16g fat), whilst still being high in lean protein. It contains vitamins B6 and B3 (to help cell recovery) and contains essential selenium (anti-cancerous properties) and zinc (as per description in ‘garlic’, above). A small serving of chicken can meet the niacin requirements for the entire day (essential for brain health, shown to help protect against Alzheimer’s disease & dementia), as well as Vitamin E, betacarotene, and Vitamins B6 and B12.
Click more below to see the full instructions to make this delicious and healthy dish. Enjoy, and I’d love to hear what you think of it! firstname.lastname@example.org for any feedback and questions. Faya 🙂
Hot on the heels of being invited to the ‘Skinny Bitch Collective’ class, I also got the call to check out the newest London workout, straight from the United States – Barry’s Bootcamp. It’s a regime that’s tried and tested by the famous & glamorous, such as Jessica Alba, Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Katie Holmes, not to mention personal trainer Jillian Michaels who’s been bringing all her ‘Biggest Loser’ contestants to Barry’s for years. What could all the fuss be about?
Based in north-west London on the Euston Road, the entrance to this bootcamp-themed space (think dog-tags, camouflage wallpaper, metal military details etc.) is guarded by a friendly receptionist, and flanked by a FUEL BAR that serves up some very tasty protein shakes indeed! The studio itself, which caters for c.40 people is seductively lit in red and blue, and is equipped with 20 Woodway treadmills, who’s treads are more like the caterpillar tracks on a Howitzer tank than the belt on your average gym treadmill! They’re made from rubber T-slats, which give extra cushioning whilst maintaining the natural bio-mechanics of your stride, and are a pleasure to run on (relatively speaking!).
Though there are about 10 ‘drill sergeants’ in Barry’s London ‘platoon’, my class is lead by the beautiful Icelandic personal trainer Heidi (pictured above) – a former IFBB figure-fitness champion! I expected this class to be tough; Heidi did not disappoint. The Barry’s workout combines strength and interval cardiovascular training, leaving minimum recovery time and maximum exertion. I’d say half the time, the class was on a treadmill (c.10 minutes at a time) and the rest of the time was spent on the floor, tackling strength training. It is remarkably demanding, and you take it to your own level, but the atmosphere (lighting, group, equipment, motivating trainer, military theme) spurs you on to the next level up.
1) WHY INTERVAL TRAINING?
As discussed in my previous post HIIT ME AGAIN interval training is the optimal cardiovascular training to achieve fat burn goals. By not sticking to the same pace for the entire cardio session (whereby the body would otherwise go into a steady state and tries to conserve energy) HIIT shocks the body by introducing different intensities, maximising time and transforming it into a fat toasting 10minutes!!
2) WHY STRENGTH TRAINING?
I’m told that Barry’s always include strength training in the class. Today was a full body workout class, taking each exercise to failure with good form. There’s very little rest after each exercise, it is either followed by another exercise or some element of additional cardio, e.g. step ups. This keeps the heart rate elevated, gives the body hardly any time to think/get bored, or indeed to object. The additional bonus of not having much rest is that you burn even more calories – perfect for unwanted fat! And muscles burn c. 15 times as many calories as fat (even at rest) which increases your metabolism yet further!
Ultimately, the class is exceptionally high-energy, utterly exhausting, satisfyingly endorphine-releasing, and doesn’t allow you time to think, moan or get bored. The equipment is incredibly well-invested (really superb treadmills) and the grouped format brings out a competitive nature, encouraging you to push through those sickeningly tough sprints! Try it out!
Click here for some photos & explanations of what my Barry’s Bootcamp session involved.
Sometimes it’s hard to motivate yourself to go to the gym solo, especially in these cold winter months. When I feel like that, I go along to group classes, to up the motivation-factor! This week, I was invited to an all-singing, all-dancing, all-sweating, all-girl fitness class in London’s West End. With a catchy, cheeky name like ‘The Skinny Bitch Collective‘ how could I decline?! The class was held just off Baker Street, and is led weekly by the founder, Russell Bateman. Under his enthusiastic guidance (and stern yelling!) all ten girls had to put in 110% to keep up with this very demanding routine. The class is basically an intense metabolic workout including some unusual ‘primal movements’, and is set to classic Ibiza house mixes, which marks the aim and tone of the session!
What a stunning day it was in sunny London – to celebrate it, I did a high intensity interval training (HIIT) session this morning in lovely Primrose Hill, which almost killed me! This workout is not for the faint-of-heart (literally). It involves alternating between intense bursts of activity and relatively relaxed action – the constant motion keeps your heart rate elevated. You set the level, but the main point is that you push into the anaerobic zone. Listen to your body; if you haven’t trained for a while you may find that your interval training may be alternating between power walking and jogging. Others will sprint and run. Finding your level and then slightly exceeding it is the whole point of HIIT for me.
Why HIIT? If you’re bored of endlessly running on a treadmill HIIT is for you! 15 minutes is all you need – it’s time efficient, burns more calories in a shorter amount of time, maintains muscle whilst toasting fat, and it stimulates the production of human growth hormone (HGH) which increases calorie burn even further! You don’t even need a gym membership because it can literally be done anywhere and doesn’t require any equipment. Finally if you’re looking for a challenge this heart-healthy session will push you into the dreaded anaerobic zone leaving you huffing and puffing (probably not for more!).
I did a sprint up the (steep) hill followed by a super light jog back down the hill. I did 8 rounds which took c 15min. That was c. 30 sec up the hill, and then 60sec down the hill. The last bit of the hill getting up is definitely the worst!! I would love to hear what you guys think about in those seconds when all you want to do is give up. For me, it’s cupcakes!
One thing that really gets me going is listening to awesome music. I’m really loving Disclosure at the moment especially the songs “What’s in your head“, “Running” and “Latch“.
Check out this extremely fluorescent H&M pink top I’m wearing. I think it’s quite fun, great value and plus when else can you get away with wearing Barbie pink ?! Also, H&M running tights looks fitted, feel comfortable and breathable, and won’t break the bank too!
I see it all the time – guys in the gym who have colossally sculpted upper bodies and miniature chicken-legs. Not only does this look absolutely ridiculous (no symmetry whatsoever), but failing to train your legs is a physiological mistake. Yes it’s true that the glutes are the largest muscle in the body, but being the largest muscle group in the body, skipping over your legs just won’t do! I’m not going to talk about the muscles you train in this post, rather my reasons for training them in the first place:
1) Aside from the cosmetic reason of creating body-symmetry, legs are worth keeping conditioned (something your body will thank you for as it matures). Strength training of the legs stimulates bone re-calcification, enhances tendon and ligament durability and improves overall joint strengthening.
2) Larger muscles boost the metabolism and burn more calories, so legs therefore can potentially burn the highest number of calories at rest. Most serious bodybuilders seem to believe that a 30min leg session will burn anywhere from 500-1000 calories depending on intensity (that’s 25-50% of your recommended daily calorie intake!). Also, a lot of cardiovascular exercise involves using your legs so by increasing strength and/or size, you’ll help fuel your workouts while burning more calories too!!
3) Being the largest muscle group in the body, training your legs encourages the release of natural testosterone and other growth hormones, promoting overall strength and mass throughout your whole body, not just the legs.
4) And finally it’s good to keep your body guessing. By training your legs, it’ll add yet another important variation to your regime, stimulating optimal muscle adaptation and growth.
All the magazines I read try to sell me aspirational premium sportswear, which is great, but sometimes I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on a new training look. With that in mind, I’m lovingH&M’s new sporty range at the moment!
In all the pics below, I’m wearing a new pair of Hennes ‘sports tights’ as they call them. Printed-pattern pants continue to be a huge trend this spring/summer. These tights come with an elasticated waist, they are super comfy, functional, breathable, and have a funky jungle print (!!). Best of all, they’re just £15 (!).
And yes, it’s minus 3 degrees and snowy in London this morning but this jogger (me), to her surprise isn’t feeling cold at all – rather refreshed and very awake! A run in the snow is twice as peaceful, especially on this picturesque 4.5 mile route around the Maida vale canal – lovely! http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=5795165