3 Things to Do, and Not Do, in the New Year

You can’t escape the new year barrage of emails, marketing, tweets, and spam regarding resolutions and new year plans. Growing up, I’d always make New Year’s Resolutions, varying from keeping my teenage bedroom tidy (failed every year – sorry Mum), or doing 100 sit ups every night (unaware of how properly to train my body), to cooking from fresh every night (and failing in the first week). I’d forget about them by February and probably make the same ones the following year.

These days I don’t make resolutions, but I do think of what I’d like to achieve over the year. Yes, that might seem like a New Year’s Resolution to you, but taking away the pressure of sticking so rigidly to something makes it a whole lot more encouraging, besides, labelling something a ‘fail’ if you don’t achieve it isn’t the best way to start a year in my eyes!

new year, 2018, blogger, fitness, lifestyle

(Photo: Elle Linton)

This year, I’m sharing with you 3 things you might want to do instead of making hard and fast resolutions, and 3 things you perhaps shouldn’t do as the new year begins.

DO review your personal goals

You might have 1 year, 5 year, 10 year goals etc. As each year passes, maybe take a look at your progress. Are they still SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant/realistic, time-framed)? Do they need adjusting? Maybe you want to change your direction entirely…that’s ok too. Write them down, or not if that’s too much pressure for you.

DO think about what you’re feeling, not what you’re doing
So many ‘resolutions’ are centred around doing new things. Joining a gym, going running, drinking less coffee, more water etc. This year I want to focus more on how I’m feeling instead of what I’m doing.

Feel more confident. Feel more settled. Feel happier. Then look at what you can do to feel these things. If getting more confidence means gaining strength then by all means join the gym. To feel more settled, I plan on logging into my Headspace app every day. To feel happier I’ll plan to see my friends more, or go on long walks when I’m feeling low.

DO have a clear out

There’s no time like a new year to have a clear out of your clothes, kitchen cupboards or under stair storage, right? It’s quite refreshing to start the new year with a clean, tidy house, and you can also do your bit for society by sending all your unwanted items to your local charity shop.

DO NOT feel the need to reinvent yourself

That includes crash diets, detoxes and anything that includes the words ‘New Year, New You’.

DO NOT pile on the pressure

A new year can seem daunting, especially when all over social media you see celebratory year-end round ups, all those ‘In 2018 I’m going to….get married, become a Mum, travel every continent, get my dream job’ proclamations. The pressure to say something profound, or have a grand plan can build up and become overwhelming. Take some time away from social media if needs be, remember that people choose what they post, sharing only a snapshot of their lives.

DO NOT disregard the previous year

Good or bad, you can take what happened in the previous year and learn from it. None of that ‘good-riddance 2017’ – even if it was the worst year of your life – find a tiny sliver of silver lining. If it was a tough one, then focus on the strength you had to get through it. If it was fuelled by heartbreak, try to remember positives, did your situation bring to light the support of a particular friend? Force you to make new friends? Never just throw last year into the trash pile, there’s always something that can be salvaged.

new year, 2018, blogger, fitness, lifestyle

(Photo: Elle Linton)

So there you have it. Not ‘resolutions’ in my eyes, but things to think about. What ever 2018 holds for you, I hope it’s an amazing one. I’m sure there’ll be ups and downs, that’s what makes life interesting, right?!

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My Year – 2016

I love reading everyone’s ‘Year In Review’ posts. They usually highlight the best parts of the year, and look on any negative moments with reflection and resolution. I find myself feeling proud of fellow bloggers for their achievements, and can’t wait to share my own.

So here’s what I got up to in 2016.

1. Turning the Big Three-Oh

Yes folks, I made it to 30 years on this planet! While I didn’t have any life affirming revelations the moment I woke up on my 30th birthday, over the year I did find myself looking sensibly into the future. Inspired by my best friend working super hard to get on the property ladder, I looked into moving house myself, still renting for the time being, and from that started planning a whole new side of my career in the fitness industry. I felt calmer in my own mind, happy to be single, and not settling for something that isn’t good for me (OK, I’m still working on the latter).

new year, 2016, blogger

Credit: Will Patrick

2. My First Yoga Retreat

As part of my 30th birthday, my very generous Dad sent me on my first ever yoga retreat with my favourite teacher; Adam Husler. Having practiced for nearly 3 years, I was super excited to immerse myself in a week of yoga in the Spanish sunshine, improving my technique and my practice. I not only achieved those things, but also made a whole new bunch of friends and had the best week laughing, practicing and being kind to myself.

yofa retreat, 2016, new year, blogger

Credit: Adam Husler

yoga retreat, 2016, new year, blogger

Credit: Adam Husler

3. My Nutrition Qualification

This took longer than I had expected, and required a lot of dedication and hard work on my side, but in the summer I achieved my Advanced Diploma in Nutrition and Weight Management. I learnt that online learning is something that I don’t always find the time to do, and I should have made it more of a priority. In doing so, I became more organised with my time when it came to starting my PT course at the end of the year.

4. Becoming An Ambassador

One huge achievement for me was becoming an ambassador for one of my favourite brands; Sweaty Betty. I used to work for the company many years ago, and it is because of Sweaty Betty that I found my current place in the fitness industry, so I owe a lot to them and the inspiration I found in my colleagues. Check out their #31DaysToFit challenge for January, and join me in making January 2017 your healthiest yet.

sweaty betty, fitness, yoga, 2016, new year

Credit: Will Patrick

5. The Big Holiday

A big 30th treat to me, from me, was an epic trip to New York with my best friend of 28 years (who also turned 30 this year). Although I’ve been before many times, this trip seemed special. I’ve never walked so far, seen so many things, laughed so hard…or wanted to move there so much!  NYC will always have a special place in my heart.

nye, new york, 2016, new year NYC. new york, 2016, new year NYC, new york, 2016, new year

6. Trying Something New

With my Dad living just 10 minutes from Nazaré in Portugal, one of the surfing capitols of the world, it seemed right for me to give it a go! Search Nazaré online, and you’ll see articles about 100ft waves and a Big Wave surf competition. Fear not, I’m not going to have a go on them, but I have been learning to surf with an amazing local surf school Surf4You. With expert 1-to-1 tuition from Miguel, both he and his colleague Henrique have made me fall in love with a new sport. It’s tough, and I ache all over, but I love it, and will be no doubt be popping by for a lesson every time I visit Dad.

surfing, travel, 2016, new year

Credit: Henrique Silva @ Surf4You

surfing, travel, 2016, new year

Credit: Henrique Silva @ Surf4You

surfing, travel, 2016, new year

Credit: Henrique Silva @ Surf4You

7. Moving House

I love my job at barrecore, but I make it no secret that my big plan is to have my own studio one day. Right at the end of 2016, I made a big move towards that. After 7 years in my little 1-bed flat, I decided to move, taking a risk by increasing my rent, to a 2-bedroom place. Why, you ask? Well, that spare room is to become my little PT room, so I can start to see clients in my own space. It’s a tiny step on the road to a fully fledged studio, but a brave one for me, and I’m so excited. Stay tuned for how I’m going to kit it out once I’m a fully qualified PT (because having that qualification is important to me).

new year, 2016, blogger

Credit: Will Patrick

So I’ve had a very lucky 2016, no major injures, lots of travel and achievements in my career. It’s not all been rainbows and unicorns of course, I’m still dealing with the constant pain of hypermobility syndrome, having other ailments investigated and let’s not forget, my major self-esteem slump in the last couple of months.

But I’m writing this post on New Year’s Eve, on a plane home from my Dad’s place in Portugal, with the sun setting on the horizon and looking forward to an awesome NYE night out as soon as the plane touches down. Life is good, and I’m super grateful for every opportunity I’ve been given.

Happy New Year Folks!!

Getting Stuck in a Rut

I have been feeling a little burnt out recently. I’ve struggled to find inspiration for blogging, studying, cooking, eating and looking after myself. As a result I’ve been neglecting the blog, getting behind on my studying, either skipping meals or eating rubbish, and feeling guilty about all these things, making me feel even more anxious. Everyone gets stuck in a slump (or a funk, as I like to call it) sometimes, and despite what you see on social media, life isn’t perfect for anyone. The trick is knowing how to get yourself out of a rut, should you find yourself in one.

blogger, life, lifestyle

A week or two ago I decided to work gently to get out of my funk, and not put pressure on myself to get perfect at everything, all the time. I thought I’d share with you some of the things I’m doing in the coming weeks, to get back on track and feel like myself again!

Blogging

Unless you have deadlines from PRs or brands, it is not the end of the world if you don’t post for a week or two, or more. Be honest, if you’ve given yourself a personal task of 3 or 4 posts a week and you’re stressing out because of it…give yourself a break! Set aside time per week for writing and photographing posts, and work for quality, not quantity. Your readers will stick by you, and they’ll appreciate better content from a non-stressed blogger!

Studying

I’ve recently started studying for my Level 3 Personal Training qualification, and I’m finding it hard to get the balance between work, study and actual relaxation. I toyed with the idea of creating a Bullet Journal to organise my thoughts and my time, but realised I already have so many diary-type things I can use! I recently contributed to the Passion Planner kick-starter, and was sent one of their planners, which I’m going to use instead. I love the fact that the days are broken down into individual hours, which suits my varied work schedule. I’m trying to be creative with the spaces given, taking the time to make the pages colourful, adding a bit of mindfulness into my scheduling!

passion planner, blogger, life, lifestyle

Hopefully, if I can see my schedule on paper, it will be easier to stick to, and I can get a better balance!

Food

This has been a big one for me recently, I’ve been so uninspired by food that I’ve either skipped meals (BAD TASH) or been lazy with basic stodge or UberEats. As a result, I’ve been fatigued, achy and have unnecessarily lost a bit of weight. Not good! This is not an easy one to deal with, especially when you’re not a great cook, like me!

First things first, I bought a bunch of my favourite foods that are nutritious and easy to cook to stock up my fridge. Think simple stir fry ingredients, fish, vegetables, meat etc. planning in my head all my favourite easy meals for the days ahead. I’ve never been one for meal planning too far in advance, but I might try that too, writing down each meal I’m planning and on which day.

food, blog, blogger, life, lifestyle

Next, I decided to go through my recipe books, get rid of the ones I never cook from, and highlight the nicest looking recipes from those I’m keeping. I’m moving soon (more on that in a minute) so the clear-out is needed anyway. With all these tasty looking recipes marked, all I have to do it pick a day and buy the ingredients.

Finally, with food, I know I have to be gentle. I’m never going to restrict myself to never eating a pizza or take-away again, because that’s unhealthy mentally in its own right, but I’m trying to lose the guilt associated with those treats. Once every two weeks, when I’ve not only taught but taken class as well? That deserves a treat. Every week when I’m simply too lazy to cook? That’s when I can be a bit more strict and make the effort to make something, even if it’s super simple. But Sundays are always for pancakes or waffles…

life, lifestyle, food, blogger

Life

Finally, and this is another big one, look at the bigger picture. This can be scary. Is there something else happening that might be affecting the smaller elements of your life? I remember when I was younger and something upset me, my mum would notice if my reaction to the initial situation was too big, and she’d always asks what else was the matter. She was rarely wrong, and invariably I’d end up telling her all about something else that was happening which I’d been trying to hide.

blogger, life, lifestyle

So when I couldn’t get myself out of my funk, I looked at what else might be bothering me. After a lot of contemplation, more than I can go into here, I decided that I needed to make a big change…and that big change is to move, after 7 years in my current flat. Now, I didn’t come to this decision lightly, I’ve considered moving before but have always found a reason not to (budget, nothing available, too intimidating) but this time something was different. As soon as I started flat hunting and planning a move, I felt so much anticipation and my mood brightened. That increased further when I found a place I loved and got my rental offer accepted. Now I’m moving in less than a week and I couldn’t be more excited. My funk is lifting and I’m happy to be planning not only the new place, but also planning new business ventures and other things for my future.

Getting stuck in a rut can be scary, depressing, worrying and seemingly never-ending. For me to get out of the downhill spiral of negative feeling, I not only had to put more emphasis on the positive things in my life, but I also had to face those negative things and deal with them. Burying your head in the sand, or just ploughing through, might seem like a good solution, but it is only temporary. Change in itself is scary, but it is also cleansing, cathartic, and energising. I am looking forward to my new challenges, new space, new scenery, and getting my groove back, ready for 2017.

life, lifestyle, blogger

Credit for Photos 1, 5 & 6: Will Patrick

Top Tips for Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are particular buzz words in the wellness industry at the moment. In fact, it’s not just limited to health and yoga folk, but it’s seeping into the corporate world too, with companies finding that employees are more productive when they have a calmer, more mindful approach to work.

Mindfulness is not something that I’ve really delved into a lot, finding it hard to switch off the constant chatter in my mind. I’ve found that yoga has helped greatly, but taking a calm mental state from an hour on the mat, to everyday life is no mean feat! There are various apps available now to aid meditation, giving hints and tips and also guided meditations, though I’ve never tried one, I know people who have found success using them.

meditation, mindfulness

When meditation cushion company Basaho asked if I’d like to try one of their meditation cushions, I thought it a great way to encourage me to try a little more mindfulness. That, coupled with some very peaceful meditative moments on my recent yoga retreat, have given me a bit more guidance into finding a meditation practice that works.

Here are a few of my top tips for starting a meditation practice (bear in mind, I am far from an expert):

1. Get comfy. Whether you intend to spend 5 minutes or 25 minutes in stillness, having to fidget because your knees or hips hurt is only going to break your concentration. Few people have the hip or knee mobility to sit in ‘lotus’ position to meditate, so forget about that before you even begin! Lifting your seat with a meditation cushion, like mine from Basaho, or even a pile of books, allows your knees to relax at an angle lower than your hips, much more comfortable for your joints. The wedge shape I use not only allows my hips and knees to stay in a safe alignment, but also prevents me from slouching and curving my spine.

meditation, mindfulness

Poor posture with no support.

meditation, mindfulness

Good posture with a Basaho cushion.

2. Don’t try to empty your mind. The typical view of a meditation is that of completely emptying your mind of all thoughts. Near impossible I say! Instead find something to focus on, such as sound. My favourite way to meditate is to music, either gentle piano music – Ludvico Einaudi is my favourite – or electronic sound such as Marconi Union, supposedly the most relaxing music ever. Every time my mind wanders I bring it back to the music, the beat or even an individual instrument.

Another way to incorporate sound into your meditation is to sit in silence, but observe each sound that you hear. It could be a dog barking, a car passing your window or the hum of electronics. Again, it’s simply about focusing on something other than the internal chatter of your mind.

3. Remember, your mind WILL wander. Thinking that you’ve failed at meditation every time your mind has a little wander is a sure-fire way to end up more stressed than when you began. Accept the thoughts that enter your mind, acknowledge them but let them pass. My mind constantly creates stories and scenarios that can be really hard to control, so that is always the focus of my mediations, to allow the thoughts in, but instead of dwelling on them, allowing them to pass through as I refocus on my music.

Another favourite way to help my mind to calm down is to watch the ocean, a lake or river. I could stare out to sea forever, and have been known in the past to get in a car during particularly stressful times, and drive out of London until I find a coast.

meditation, mindfulness

4. Meditation or mindfulness doesn’t mean sitting doing nothing. There are so many ways to be mindful now, the newest craze being adult colouring. Here, the focus point is the precision of colouring in the lines resulting in not only taking your mind away from that internal chatter, but also encouraging creativity. You can find adult colouring books everywhere now, from forest scenes to mandalas and even tattoo designs.

meditation, mindfulness

Thank you Basaho for encouraging me to continue to find a meditation practice that works for me. With a wide range of cushions and designs, you can find one that suits the way you sit, your flexibility and your living room colour scheme! The best news is…the cat loves it too!

meditation, mindfulness

Do you have your own approach to mindfulness and meditation?

Basaho kindly gifted me a meditation cushion in return for this post. All words my own, please see Disclaimer for more information.

The London Coffee Festival

OK, not strictly a fitness post, but I make it no secret that I love a good cup of coffee, and a lot of my workouts are fuelled by coconut milk lattes. So when Joe Blogs Network had a VIP ticket to The London Coffee Festival up for grabs, I couldn’t resist popping along to Shoreditch on my afternoon off to see what it’s all about!

London Coffee Festival

Simply head to the Old Truman Brewery this weekend, and see for yourself the delights of the coffee world. You’ll find everything from tiny local coffee roasters, to larger brands, individual filter cups, to huge commercial espresso machines, and even some teas thrown in for good measure. Honestly, it was rather overwhelming to begin with, I didn’t know where to start. But with a show guide in hand, I slowly navigated my way around, admittedly getting a little tanked up on free samples of coffee!

Other than sampling every coffee you come across, there are plenty of other things to see and do. Book a spot at the coffee and food pairing table, have a cheeky espresso martini, watch the masters at work in a coffee workshop, or try your hand at latte art. The latter is a lot harder than it looks, I just about managed a wonky heart.

latte art, london coffee festival

Left: Not my art. Right: My attempt at art!

It’s not all about roasting and brewing however, you can sample the delights of Alpro Plant Power, Rachel’s Organic Milk, Rebel Kitchen and many more. Tasty snacks from Propercorn, Doisy & Dam and Hotel Chocolat, to name but a few, are also on hand to help absorb all that caffeine, as well as brunch or lunch from Gather+Gather.

london coffee festival

london coffee festival

Whether you’re a newly formed cafe, boutique retailer or simply a coffee connoisseur, the range of brands showing their coffee makers is so vast, there’s bound to be something up your street. At DeLonghi, I was treated to a macchiato made using their newest espresso machine, where your coffee is prepared using an app from up to 10 metres away. The thought of ordering my coffee from my bed is too exciting, all I’d need to do is train the cat to bring it from the kitchen.

london coffee festival

Next up I checked out what Sage Appliances had on offer, their state of the art range includes a milk frothing jug with a built in temperature gauge. Perfect for getting your cappuccino to the correct drinking temperature, and I’m looking forward to testing mine out tomorrow morning.

london coffee festival

I also chatted to tea brands T2 and Suki Tea, frozen yogurt company Bee Me, MOJU Juices and cold brew coffee company Minor Figures. So many lovely conversations over a coffee or tea!

SukiTea T2

Love coffee? Get yourself down to Shoreditch this weekend! Book your tickets here, and enjoy an afternoon fuelled by caffeine. Couldn’t make it? Check out Curry’s 5 Ways to Enjoy Your Coffee and get sipping away at that cuppa Joe!

CoffeeFest

Joe’s Blogs gifted me with a VIP ticket in exchange for a blog post. See Disclaimer for more information.

Failure Is Not An Option

This post isn’t as harsh as its title suggests. I don’t mean, you must succeed at everything you lay your hands on, rather you should delete the words fail and failure from your vocabulary. Nothing positive surrounds the word failure, and we need to be kind to our minds and choose words carefully.

failure

My thinking behind this post is the fact that I didn’t complete my A Post A Day In May challenge. Does it matter? No. Was someone holding a gun to my head making me post everyday? No. Am I a bad blogger? No. Are there more important things in life to be thinking about? YES! I enjoy blogging, but I cannot let it take over my life. I think it’s so important to have not just a work / life balance, but an online / real life balance too. I was also inspired by a post I read recently on The Gloss, about giving up dreams. I resonated so much with me, I already had this post in my drafts, but had to publish it straight away.

youngdancer

This notion of not saying ‘I’ve failed’ doesn’t just apply to my blog and online life, but to my life in general. My dream as a child was to be a dancer on the West End stage, but at 25, too many injuries put that plan to bed. The natural step was to adapt my dream and re-train and work towards being a sucessful TV actress. That didn’t work  for various reasons and my career moved towards fitness, almost accidentally. My dream now is to open my own health and fitness centre / adult dance studio. Does changing my dreams mean that I failed in my original options? Absolutely not, although it’s something that played on my mind for a long time.

I spent my whole life training to be a dancer, so naturally I felt a void when I decided to leave the profession. Having then spent an extortionate amount of money (a bank loan) to re-train at drama school, I didn’t love that world as much as I’d hoped. In all honesty, my personality didn’t fit. In my personal (emphasis on personal) experience of the performing arts industry, to remain true to yourself you have to be exceptional, or, you can force a strong, pushy personality and be average to good. I was very good, but not exceptional, and didn’t want to ‘fake it to make it’. It took me so long to realise that actually, I most likely wouldn’t have been happy in what I thought was my ‘dream job’.

goodforyoursoul

The notion of failure plagued me so much that I asked my parents if they were angry that I’d wasted all their money and time throughout my entire life, only to fail at becoming a dancer. Their answer (apart from ‘of course not’) was that without all the dance and drama school training, I’d be in a completely different place and wouldn’t have discovered my current career that I love so much. I’d never be planning on opening a studio of my own, and wouldn’t be so excited about starting my own business.

So the point of this rather long ramble is that if I look upon myself as a failure, I’ll never have the confidence to strike out on my own. Delete the word failure, fail, even give-up from you life now. Life takes different paths, plans change and I’m a fierce believer that everything happens for a reason. I am so excited for my future plans, possibly more excited than I ever was about being a performer, which is a strange feeling at times, but one I’m embracing and rolling with. Will it happen? Who knows, but I’m excited to see what does!