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5 March 2015

Health and fitness resolutions - an update

I haven't written much about my health and fitness routine on here for a few weeks so I thought it would be good to check in and talk about my current gym routine and how the 'bridal boot camp' (as my Personal Trainer calls it) routine is going.  It's currently 43 days until the wedding (six weeks tomorrow - cue palpitations) and 47 days until we go off for our honeymoon.  Weirdly I think the drive to feel confident in a bikini is more than that of the wedding dress - you're much more exposed in a bikini and I don't want to spend the whole month trying to cover up my belly!

The exercise element of my routine is going okay.  My current week has looked like this:

Saturday - Boxing class and then gym session
Sunday - 10k run
Monday - Rest day
Tuesday - Personal training session
Wednesday - Interval run
Thursday - Rest day
Friday - Morning yoga class (maybe evening run also)

>> pre-gym selfie

This is the first week I'm probably going to hit my aim of five sessions of either weights or cardio however as most other weeks recently real life has taken over and work has meant I've not got to the gym in time for a class or I've been away and had to miss my weekend sessions.  I feel more motivated with the exercise element though and am trying to find ways to fit in runs in the morning before work as I know mornings are my best time for exercise (though the 6am alarm is tough!)

The 10k run on Sunday was just lovely - I'd bought some new running leggings from Nike in Gunwharf and was keen to put them through their paces! New exercise gear is such a motivator for me.

We went to the forest and ran a route where we know each lap is just over 3k so it's easy to keep track of your route and distance.  It was a beautiful sunny day and not too cold (but not too warm) - perfect running weather.  I love running in the forest as there's so much to see and soak up, so it doesn't get boring.  Plus, running with Tom is a nice way for us to chat and catch up, as between work, gym, blogging and social bits we haven't spent that much time together lately.

I must admit that the diet is going less well.  My plan from my trainer is to eat lots of lean protein and rice and salad etc, but I had a bit of a naughty weekend including take-away pizza, lunch at Jamie's Italian, and other various indulgences.  Plus I had to take in my nutrition diary to the gym on Tuesday, and my trainer raised an eyebrow at all the Mini Eggs and cake I'd been consuming - the office is a dangerous place at the moment! Yesterday we went for all you can eat Italian, and today my lunch consisted of three cakes.  Someone tell me to step away from the pizza and cake!

I think if I really knuckle down and get my diet on track however, I could definitely meet my goals pre-wedding and pre-honeymoon.  It would be amazing to be able to flounce around on the Bali beaches in a bikini and not be grabbing for the nearest kaftan (I do not own a kaftan, but you know what I mean).

Prioritising my health is really key for me at the moment, and I went to a really exciting talk with my friend Olivia last night about a potential opportunity for the future linked to health and wellbeing.  During the event we learned all about cell health and all of the health complications that come from free radicals like pollution, stress, pesticides in food, smoking, alcohol and so on.  It made me realise how much you have to prioritise your health, and how, for someone like me whose main 'intention' is to live a big, fulfilling, adventurous life - it's so crucial to ensure that you are looking after yourself in terms of your health, wellbeing, fitness and self-care, to allow you to do so.  Personal penguin trainer will keep me on track!

How are you keeping to your 2015 health and fitness resolutions?

>> Legal and General Life Cover challenged me to write about my health and fitness resolutions as part of a collaboration.

>> Sorry for the phone pics - I don't take my camera out with me when I'm out running, obvs!

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2 March 2015

Hello March - a note

Oh winter, you have not been so kind. I mean, you have not been unkind per sé, but you have been long, and dark, and cold, and I am not at my best in those conditions.  I have been tired, and burned out, and stressed, and introspective, and ready for a new beginning.

Dear March, I needed you and now you are here I feel the winds of change are in the air.  Already you have brought with you light mornings, and brighter evenings, with the promise of pink tinged sunsets and the smell of earth, and growth, and newness.  And you will bring Spring, which means more than you know to this grumpy old bear that is so ready to come out of hibernation.

As tiny buds nudge their way out of flowers and branches, I must learn to let go of what is not necessary to carry around, to live with intention and keep true to my 2015 word - b a l a n c e.  I must find balance in all areas of my life, and be present, and 'all there'.  This evening I saw a beautiful, breathtaking formation of starlings dancing and swirling; patterned against cotton candy clouds.  It was enough just to watch, and enjoy that moment - no phone, no instagram, no Twitter (apart from the gentle twittering of the birds, of course...).

March inspiration
>> 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8 // 9 // 10 // 11

March is for streams of sunlight through the trees and morning walks, smelling freshly cut grass and listening to the wind in the leaves.  It is for birdsong, and bike rides into town (oh for a pastel bike with a basket, a girl can dream!) It is for creating relaxing spaces at home, and for stopping at flower stalls for freshly cut blooms.  It is for snowdrops and dandelion clocks, spending a few moments in the morning to appreciate the light nosing through the crack in the curtains, and for sunglasses and freshly washed, braided hair.

More than anything, I just know that March will be full of inspiration and creativity - of finally finding that balance and prioritising all of the things I need to feel nourished and content and me again.  It is for taking time for self-care, and self-love, and scribbling in my notebook, and yoga, and baking, and reading, and going to bed at 9pm because sometimes you just to climb between the sheets and just breathe.

Of course, no note to March would be complete without mentioning impending nuptials - March really is stepping the countdown up a gear, and heralds a month until we get married.  I'm so glad we chose a Spring wedding; what could be more perfect than a wedding when there's so much promise of hope, and joy, and renewal in the air?

Happy March everyone,
Currently listening to //A Winged Victory For The Sullen - Steep Hills Of Vicodin Tears 

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1 March 2015

Sleeping better with Pukka Herbs

Sleeping well is something that's personally very important to me, and something I think that most people understimate in terms of how much it contributes to your health and overall wellbeing.  It shocks me how many people embark on a fitness routine or diet kick whilst still going to bed at 1am and then getting up for work the next day.  Not to sound preach-y, but getting your sleep routine right will pay enormous dividends in terms of improving your mood, weight, ability to think clearly, energy levels, memory, immunity and even mitigate long term risks of health problems such as heart disease, heart attacks and diabetes.

Personally, I am useless on anything less than about eight hours' sleep; so even though I'm slightly jealous of people who can stay up until midnight and then get up at 6am feeling refreshed, I know that if I want to get up for a pre-work run or if I'm getting an earlier train, I have to be in bed with the lights out by 10pm (I love my bed, so there's certainly no complaints from me on that one!)

Pukka Herbs Night

But it's no surprise that lately, with the wedding planning, a busy full-time job, a long drive home, an exercise routine to help me feel confident on the 'big day', and a million other things taking up my time, it's been more difficult than usual to get to sleep, and not have a disturbed sleep pattern.  My mind is usually still racing when I get into bed, and then I wake up intermittently remembering things I meant to do that day, or points on my to-do list.  Losing sleep is such a slippery slope too, as the more tired I get, the less well I function, which leads to increased stress, which leads to... well, you get the picture.

So it was an absolute godsend when Pukka Herbs offered to help me out by sending me a 'sleep hamper' and a sleep journal to record how I got on with all of their top tips and products to help improve my sleep.

Pukka Herbs

Over the last few weeks, I've been perfecting my sleep routine to help me get the best sleep possible. A mug of Pukka's Night Time Tea an hour before bed is the perfect way to start winding down for the evening.  With oat flower, lavender and valerian, the smell of it brewing alone starts to make me feel relaxed and ready to climb in between the sheets.  They have a lovely video about how Night Time Tea came about here - the tweeting birds and swaying valerian alone in the video make me feel all cheery and chilled!  Valerian, aside from being quite a pretty flowering plant, is in the Pukka Herbs Night Time Capsules too, which I've also been taking during the evening.  I can definitely vouch for the fact that they make me feel really peaceful and calm.

Pukka Herbs Pukka Herbs

The great thing about the Night Time supplements are that because they're all natural and made from organic herbs, you know you're putting something into your body that's going to be kind to it, and beneficial.  As someone who has medicated insomnia in the past with sleeping tablets or other over the counter medicine, I can honestly say that it feels so good to not have that drowsy, sluggish feeling in the morning, and to know you're putting something in your body that comes from the earth, rather than a mix of chemicals.

Pukka Herbs

I've been recording my sleep in my sleep journal and jotting down the things that I've found that really help me sleep better and wake up feeling refreshed.  Here are a few tips based on what works for me:

001. Avoiding social media and other 'brain-engagers' and screen-based activity before bed.  This is a learning process and a constant challenge for me, but I know I sleep better when I don't spend the half-an-hour preceding it circling around social media on my phone, watching noisy videos and reading and replying to emails.  My new tactic is to use the Sleep Cycle app and set it as soon as I get into bed.  That locks the screen and means that I don't then pick up my phone and start reading things whilst I'm in 'wind-down' mode.  I'd like to ban phones and iPads from the bedroom completely so I'm planning on buying an alarm clock so that I don't need it near me at night.

002. Having a bedtime breathing practice or meditation before bed.  I use the Omnava app to download different meditation tracks - my favourite is Bodyscan, which is a relaxing mindful meditation.  We have a running joke that whenever I put Bodyscan on, Tom is always asleep within the first two minutes - proof that it works!

003. Exercise.  This is a no-brainer, but on days when I work out, I tend to sleep really well.  Even when I run in the mornings as soon as I wake up, I still sleep better that night.  Plus I really like that feeling of having 'earned' bedtime and going to bed physically tired (is that weird?)  Yoga also makes me feel really ready for bed - there are some great bedtime yoga videos on YouTube.
Pukka Herbs

004. Not multi-tasking my way through the day.  I listened to an amazing podcast recently about 'switch-tasking' and how many times we switch what we're doing, or try and multi-task, and how damaging it is for our brains and our stress levels.  Every time we switch something we're doing to do something else (reading the email that pops up when we're in the middle of writing a report, for example), we create another 'loose end' or something unfinished, and it's these things that tend to wake us up in the middle of the night.  At the moment I'm trying to commit to doing one thing at a time and ticking off and finishing things before starting something else, and it's definitely helping my stress levels and quality of sleep.

005. Avoiding caffeine.  I tend to start the day with a big mug of green tea and sometimes a caffeine tablet if I'm going for a morning run.  If I stop drinking green tea at lunchtime I definitely find it helps me sleep better as I'm not totally wired by the time I go to bed (I drink a lot of green tea).

There's more helpful sleeping tips in this article on the Pukka website.  I love the idea of the massages to help us stay healthy and relaxed - I quite often massage my own feet in the bath or after a little home yoga and it always feels really good! What are your top tips for sleeping well?

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