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Monday, 26 January 2015

Kayla Itsines BBG - Final Review


So I've been slacking on the weekly reviews, oops, but rest assured I have not been slacking on the workouts.

Yesterday I completed the last workout from Kayla Itsines 12 week Bikini Body Guide - sad times! The challenge has been really enjoyable and a real push outside of my comfort zone, so I'm disappointed that the 12 weeks are over but excited to build on the foundations it's given me.

I initially took this on to give myself some focus over the Christmas holidays and to see whether or not the miracle results that I see all over Instagram are a true reflection of what's really possible with the guide.

Instagram @kayla_itsines
Having now been through the process, I've seen that it certainly is possible to get those results and I could have, but alas, I didn't. I got good results that I'm happy with, but they weren't mind blowing. I understand the reason why though and why so many others are in the same boat. It's certainly not the guides fault.

So here's the truth as far as I can see it: to get the epic results you obviously need to stick religiously to the workouts - which I did - but you also need to commit 100% to clean eating. No excuses. The girls that do that are the girls that get the results and I guess those are the girls that deserve them.

Let me clarify here that I don't eat badly. In fact, to my friends and family, I am an obsessive healthy eater. I follow Tone It Up's Nutrition Plan pretty strictly (Kayla also does a nutrition plan) and I avoid processed rubbish, sugar and white carbs wherever possible. I also keep my gluten and dairy intake low, and my protein and green veg high. When I stick to those habits I always drop lbs, see my bloating reduce, my mild acne clear up and feel fresh. But come on, life is too short to never ever have pizza or a glass of wine. I enjoy spending time with my friends and family who don't all chose to follow the same lifestyle as me so sometimes the ideal nutritious options aren't available - am I really going to take a packed lunch with me everywhere I go and kick up a big fuss? Do I even mind?

During last summer and autumn I planned my week so that I had one cheat meal a week or so, but during the winter months that's probably increased to two a week and a dark chocolate habit I can't seem to kick (1 square a day - say what?!). So there we go, I'm afraid that's enough to sabotage killer abs. Bummer.

However I have toned up, and I can honestly say I gave every workout my absolute all. I was always pushing myself through at full capacity, dripping with sweat at the end and have spent many a day hobbling around due to sore muscles.


My previously stubborn arms are now dare I say it, toned. Toned by my arms standards anyway. Plus my legs have slimmed down - in fact I've gone down a size in trousers and skirts. Winner. And I definitely feel stronger than ever before which is fantastic for both body and mind, and something that other girls had told me was their highlight back when I was still considering starting the guide. I didn't realise exactly what they meant until right now, and honestly it's great.

So would I recommend the guide to others? Was it worth the time committed? Absolutely.

If you can't/don't want to commit to eating completely clean then the truth is that you won't see the ultimate results, but you will certainly tone up and it will give you amazing strength in body and mind.

If you can commit to a clean diet, then even better! 

Saturday, 10 January 2015

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai


If you even occasionally pick up a newspaper or flick on the news, I'm sure you know who Malala Yousafzai is. If you don't know, her name or her picture is at least ringing a distant bell in your head.

I want to tell you why you should know exactly who she is, and why you should consider reading her memoir 'I am Malala'.

Malala is the girl from Swat Valley in Pakistan who, at the age of 11, wrote an anonymous blog for the BBC describing life under Taliban rule and her desire for a fair education. Not long after, she was approached by New York Times reporter Adam Ellick about filming a documentary, Class Dismissed: Malala's Story, which followed her and her family as the Pakistani army moved in to their village to try and regain control of the region and they were forced to flee. Once they returned, Malala continued to publicly advocate for fair education in Pakistan through television appearances, newspaper interviews and public speeches.

As a result of her work and campaigning, in 2011 she was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize and two months later won Pakistan's National Youth Peace Prize.

“Let us pick up our books and our pens,” I said. “They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” 

As Malala's voice grew, she begun to receive multiple death threats, and on 9th October 2012 as a 15 year old Malala travelled home on her school bus, a Taliban gunman stopped the bus, pointed a gun at Malala's head, and pulled the trigger.

The bullet went through her head, neck, and in to her shoulder. Miraculously she survived, and after receiving emergency surgery and treatment at two Pakistani hospitals, she was eventually flown to Birmingham, UK to continue her treatment and rehabilitation.

On 13th July 2013, her 16th birthday, Malala spoke at the United Nations to call for worldwide access to education and to demand that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015. It was her first public speech since the attack and she received a standing ovation. Later that year her memoir "I am Malala" (co-written by British journalist Christina Lamb) was published.

The book doesn't simply focus on her achievements. She spends the most time describing her daily life back in Swat - her classmates, her best friend, and why education matters so much to her. She describes how drastically life in her valley changed over such a short period of time, and details her ambitions and her passion for a fair education for all. She talks about how weird it is to now live in a brick house in Birmingham, and how much she misses her beautiful valley that is too unsafe for her and her family to return to.


Malala is an inspiration, and with the foundation she has now set up, the Malala Fund, and her latest accolade awarded in October last year, a Nobel Peace Prize, she is surely unstoppable.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Tone It Up - 5 Day Slim Down



I've been a Tone It Up Nutrition Plan member since the end of summer last year, and it's taught me a lot about how to feed my body properly in order to feel strong and healthy, and to get my body looking the way I want it to.

Within the plan, they have 5 and 7 day slim down programmes designed to help you shed lbs prior to an event or beach holiday. Neither slim downs are designed to be used regularly, and it wouldn't be sensible or healthy to do so.

Over December and the holiday season I managed to put on 4lb... not ideal. So to kick the new year off with a bang and get my body back on track, I decided I'd give the 5 day slim down a go.

The set-up

A meal table is provided in the plan with guidance on the sorts of foods you can eat at certain times. Below is what I generally stuck to:

Pre Breakfast: Tone It Up's 'Meta D' - a drink consisting of apple cider vinegar, apple juice, water, cinnamon and cayenne pepper designed to kick your metabolism in to high gear.
Breakfast: Egg white scramble with spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms, or protein pancakes.
'Tankini': Any healthy drink, fill your tank
Snack: A piece of fruit
Lunch: A 'bikini wrap' from the nutrition plan. These are wraps using a large collard leaf rather than a typical wheat wrap, with veg and lean protein (various recipes in the plan).
'Tankini': Any healthy drink, fill your tank
Snack: Smoothie or juice
Dinner: Lean protein such as chicken or fish with green vegetables
Snack: A piece of fruit

You are also encouraged to drink plenty of water and get in two workouts a day - one 'booty call' (as soon as you wake up) and one evening workout.

Day 1
My workouts on day 1 were 15 minutes of 30:30 sprint intervals in the morning, followed by a Kayla Itsines leg workout in the afternoon.
At the end of the first day I felt good. Eating so clean left me feeling refreshed and ready to take on the next 4 days.

Day 2
Weigh in: -1lb
Woke up feeling light and bright, and shocked to find that I was already down 1lb (water retention I'm sure).
I went on a 10 mile cycle after my morning snack, and felt a real lack of strength which was frustrating. I usually have a high energy breakfast before cycling such as a banana with nut butter and a small amount of granola, so I found the 10 miles really hard work without.
My afternoon workout was a Kayla Itsines arm workout, and I followed it with some yoga.
Went to bed feeling positive.

Day 3
Weigh in: -1lb
My workouts were 15 minutes of 30:30 sprint intervals in the morning, followed by 40 minutes of power walking and then yoga in the afternoon.
I generally felt ok during the day, but towards the evening I started to feel a bit out of sorts, exhausted and teary. I was really lacking energy and had to go to bed early.

Day 4
Weigh in: -2lb
I got leg cramp during the night which is usually my bodies way of telling me that I'm not getting the right nutrients.
My excercise was a Kayla Itsines ab workout and some yoga. I was meant to do some cardio in the evening but didn't have the energy.
I felt quite light headed during the day and was really looking forward to reaching the finish line.

Day 5
Weigh in: -0lb
In the morning I got in a good Kayla Itsines leg workout before work, and I was happy to find that I generally felt ok for energy throughout the day, but my afternoon slump was extreme and I could only manage some yoga as my evening workout before hitting the hay.

Day 6
Weigh in: -1lb
Total weight loss: 5lb!

Verdict
It's a tricky one. Yes I dropped the extra weight, so big success, but I didn't enjoy putting my body through the process to get there.

Until I took this on, I didn't realise quite how much I valued how healthy and strong my lifestyle makes me feel. I have only been on this journey since Spring last year, so to suddenly feel weak and lathargic again (out of choice) SUCKED.

If you're desperate to slim down before a wedding or beach holiday, then maybe it's worth it, but if you're just feeling impatient to see results or get back to normal after a period of excess like me, then I'm afraid I'd suggest putting the plan aside and going about it the healthy, however slow, way.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Kayla Itsines BBG Review - Week 9


Monday: LISS
Tuesday: LISS
Wednesday: -
Thursday: Resistance (legs) & HIIT
Friday: Resistance (arms) & 10 mile cycle & yoga
Saturday: HIIT & LISS & yoga
Sunday: Resistance (abs) & yoga

Phew - I hit it pretty hard this week!

Week 9-12 in the plan ups slightly in intensity, as weeks 5-8 did before it. This means higher reps of exercises during the resistance sessions, and the introduction of HIIT cardio.

I'm used to HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) meaning intervals of cardio and strength exercises such as this Tone It Up HIIT workout or this Fitness Blender workout. However in the Bikini Body Guide it refers to 10-15 minutes of 30:30 sprints. That means setting the treadmill to 12kmph or more, jumping on for a 30 seconds sprint, then jumping off at a standstill for 30 seconds, and so on.

LISS sessions reduce in number to compensate. So weeks 9-12 goals set out in the plan are:

3-4 sessions of resistance training
2-3 units of LISS cardio training
1-2 units of HIIT cardio training
1-2 stretch sessions

I've also taken on Yoga With Adriene's 30 day yoga challenge which started on Friday. I've never been able to get in to yoga before, and am too scared to just hit a local class with no basic knowledge, so I hope this will be a great foundation for me. I'll be doing a quick intro post about it soon and then reviewing at the end of the 30 days!

Another thing I've taken on this week is the '5 day slim down' from the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan. I put on 4lbs over December, so I wanted to kick the new year off well and shed those extra lbs if I could. Today (Sunday) is day 4 of the slim down. I will review that too once I've completed it and done my final weigh in, however as of this morning I had lost those 4lbs! It's certainly not healthy to do the slim down for longer than they advise, or to do it often, but it certainly works.

I'm still loving the Bikini Body Guide, and it's getting me in to the shape I wanted to be. Now that I've reached week 9, I'm starting to see changes in my arms and legs too. They aren't huge changes, but everything is toning up and I'm gaining muscle in the right places. I'm relieved to find that I'm looking leaner rather than bulkier.

Only 3 weeks left!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

A Little Trip to Amsterdam

On New Years Eve I got back from a great few days away in Amsterdam with my boyfriend. I hadn't been before and really didn't know what to expect. What I discovered was a beautiful, friendly and culture filled city.

After a Christmas (well, December) of over indulgence, I wanted to make this trip active and healthy and finish 2014 off well.

Amsterdam has a fantastic cycling culture, so renting out a few bikes was a must. The city and its roads cater so well for cyclists, with wide cycle lanes and bike racks up and down most streets. It was so refreshing to move around the city this way and feel so safe doing so.


There is a great appreciation for wholesome, organic food in many restaurants and cafes in Amsterdam, so it was easy (and fun) to find a few good places to enjoy.

Here's just a few snaps of the deliciousness on offer:

Vegan breakfast plate at Alchemist Garden

Alchemist Garden

Salts at Alchemist Garden

Roasted veggies and goats cheese salad at Cafe De Blaffende Vis

Skinny egg white omelette with feta at Paper Planes

Fresh juices and coffee at Paper Planes

Holiday's are often an excuse to let go and treat yourself, and rightly so, but sometimes it's just as much fun to treat yourself in the right way and make the most of the healthy options and culture on offer at your destination.

Amsterdam is full of history, art, beauty, good people and good food - I'll definitely be going back.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Happy New Year!

Midnight over London
Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had great celebrations and are looking forward to 2015!

A new year is a good opportunity to stop and reflect on the previous 12 months and make fresh plans and commitments for the year ahead. Today is a new beginning and you can set out to achieve anything you put your mind to.

For me, the last 12 months have been so positive. I decided to take the time to focus on my own health and wellbeing, physically and otherwise, and before I knew it doors started to open on to new passions, hobbies, experiences and conversations with many likeminded people around the world. I learnt to love my body and myself, and as a result became a better and more positive friend, girlfriend and family member to the existing people in my life.

In 2015 I hope to continue on this journey and spend more time exploring new hobbies and interests, make new friends, spend more time experimenting in the kitchen and reach new fitness goals.

What do you want to achieve? 

Happy New Year!

Midnight over London
Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had great celebrations and are looking forward to 2015!

A new year is a good opportunity to stop and reflect on the previous 12 months and make fresh plans and commitments for the year ahead. Today is a new beginning and you can set out to achieve anything you put your mind to.

For me, the last 12 months have been so positive. I decided to take the time to focus on my own health and wellbeing, physically and otherwise, and before I knew it doors started to open on to new passions, hobbies, experiences and conversations with many likeminded people around the world. I learnt to love my body and myself, and as a result became a better and more positive friend, girlfriend and family member to the existing people in my life.

In 2015 I hope to continue on this journey and spend more time exploring new hobbies and interests, make new friends, spend more time experimenting in the kitchen and reach new fitness goals.

What do you want to achieve?