Lucy Loved in April

We’re now technically a third of the way into May, and we’ve just had a scorching hot week in the UK, highly unusual for this time of year, so obviously I’ve been out making the most of it! In the UK we see hot weather so infrequently that the minute the sun comes out we’re all walking around half naked, having BBQs every evening and the entire nation gets stuck on the motorway because everyone’s trying to get to the beach. Basically when the sun’s out we’re completely shameless because we’re always worried it might be the only summer we get! I spent some time enjoying the sunshine with a J2O in a pub beer garden, went house hunting, did some sunbathing and of course had a lovely BBQ! Today the rain is back and it’s back to business as usual.

So now the sunshine’s left (for the moment) I’m spending the time indoors writing a blog post for you guys, and I’m thinking about what I LOVED in the health and fitness world in April. Here’s the low down:

My new Primark crop top

Post-workout selfie

I’ve never bought workout clothes in Primark, but I was walking through and this cute and colourful crop top caught my eye, and at only £7 I had to buy! My boyfriend will tell you that I’m obsessed with butterfly prints so this just had my name written all over it. It’s lightly padded with a zip fastening and great for warmer workout days.

Protein Dynamix Caramel Mocha Protein

Protein Shake

I’ve already reviewed Protein Dynamix so I won’t go into this too much, but let’s just say that my other protein flavours are being heavily neglected in favour of this one!

The return of salad season

Colourful egg cous cous salad

In the winter I just don’t really fancy salads but now the warmer weather is returning I’m loving making some colourful salads that meet my macros.

Colourful nature

Pink tree blossom

The beautiful flowers, the gorgeous pink blossom on the trees, in April I was just really enjoying nature and the scenery around me. I still am actually! It really helps to motivate me to exercise outdoors when there are such lovely views to see.

That’s my list, so tell me, what were you loving in April?

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Review: Why I quit ZBodyFitness’ BABB & others

It’s been a bank holiday weekend in the UK, which means an extra day off work, and that extra day makes ALL the difference. An extra lie-in, more time to do everything that normal weekends just don’t leave enough time for, like baking and plucking my eyebrows… I normally have to workout after work so this morning I made the most of the extra day by getting my leg workout in shortly after a big bowl of pro-oats for breakfast. I felt like that extra time and energy meant I could really warm-up well (foam rolling, mobility drills, the lot…) and really push it during my workout. There are certain exercises I hate (split squats, I’m looking at you) but I love at the same time for the burn.

Which brings me to the fact that I’m completely ‘off piste’ with my workouts because I was doing Zoe Rodriguez’ workouts (Build a Better Booty, Sexy Arms, Chest and Back, HIIT at Home and Sexy Legs), but halfway through at the beginning of week 6 I decided to ‘abandon ship’. This post will explain how I came to that decision, and let me just say that this is not a negative review of the program, more just about why it didn’t work for me.

Before I start, I’ll just say that I’ve now moved onto a 3 day weight lifting program (Mon, Wed, Fri) and am doing cardio on Tuesday/Thursday – usually HIIT. My split is Monday – legs, Wednesday – push, Friday – pull. I’m seeing how this works for me and will then review post-holiday (6 weeks!).

Zoe Rodriguez Build a Better Booty Cover
Photo courtesy of zbodyfitnessinc.com

Who is Zoe Rodriguez?

I first found out about Zoe on Instagram, ironically via the BBG community. There were a fair few people raving about her Build a Better Booty (BABB) program and since mine had shrunk somewhat during my surprise weight loss during BBG, I decided I would find out more. Zoe is a power lifter with a personal training qualification and one hell of a booty. Hence the popularity of her program. She’s also very open about her own training and nutrition programs on Twitter and YouTube.

What are her programs?

Zoe has a variety of programs, the most popular being her Build a Better Booty programs (there are two). She also has other weight lifting programs that focus on other body parts such as arms, legs, back and chest, and all the workouts include a brief ab workout to complete on alternate days. She sells some of the programs as a package and frequently has discount sales, which is when I made my purchase.

How do they work?

You can either choose to do a specific program to target a specific body part, such as the booty program, or you can run all the programs together in a schedule that Zoe suggests. This is the route I took. This involved weight lifting 5 days a week with an extra ab portion during 3 of the workouts, and a HIIT portion in 3 of the workouts (so there are 2 workouts where you do both abs and HIIT). There’s generally 6-8 exercises per workout, and between 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps per exercise. The workouts can be done at home or at the gym, generally all that’s required is dumbbells, a resistance band and a chair/bench.

My body progress while doing BABB

What’s good about it?

  • The comprehensive PDFs – These guide you through all the exercises, with pictures, a glossary (that gives more detail about each exercise) and links to YouTube videos so you can see each exercise being performed by Zoe. They talk briefly about warm-up and cool-down, how to complete the workouts, how many calories you should be eating (no low calorie suggestion here – phew), supplements and everything required to complete the workout.
  • Variety – There’s a variety of different exercises to complete, and the plan changes every 4 weeks to provide more variety.
  • The burn – You can really feel these exercises working, particularly during the booty program!
  • The price – The programs, particularly when bought as a package are not too expensive which means you’re not breaking the bank.
  • The minimal equipment required – This means that pretty much everyone can follow this plan without needing too much equipment, or to spend too much on equipment.
  • The Facebook group – When you buy the plan you can join the official Facebook group, which is extremely active, and women are always posting progress photos, asking questions, motivating each other and sharing knowledge. I felt really comfortable interacting with the women there and was able to provide advice and support to others.
  • Zoe – Zoe encourages eating at least 1800 calories a day, and from her YouTube videos you can see that she is an advocate for IIFYM and being realistic about eating. She eats ice cream and isn’t overly restrictive, but still has a great body and so is therefore a great role model. She also seems really nice and likeable in her videos!

So why did you quit?

  • The time – I decided not to do the leg program, as the booty program also works the legs, but the booty + abs together was taking me over an hour. If I was doing booty + legs + abs as Zoe suggests, I would have been going for an hour and a half. Ultimately, completing this program in it’s entirety was taking me 5+ hours a week. I’ve already spoken in previous program reviews about how I’m all about minimal time for maximum effort, and work/workout/life balance, and that time commitment was just more than I wanted to commit to working out.
  • The fatigue – Linked with the time component, I was SO tired while I was doing this program. It was just about manageable for the first 4 weeks but then after a month the number of sets per workout was bumped up, and that just did me in. Although these workouts included supersets, the amount of time it was taking didn’t seem to reduce as a result of the extra sets. I saw that phase 3 meant more sets per exercise and I was seeing women on the Facebook group saying that later parts of the program were taking them 1.5-2 hours. I just knew that that would be too much for me. I was struggling to increase my weights despite eating over 2000 calories a day and by Thursday I was just dreading the final two workouts of the week = not a good sign.

Post-workout selfie

Really those two factors were enough for me to begin to doubt my completion of the program, and though I didn’t want to quit without finishing, I decided that I had to. I researched alternative weight lifting programs, and decided to go back to basics with less exercises and less weight workouts per week. I already feel so much better for it, and know I made the right decision.

Obviously I realise that by not weight lifting 5x a week I may well not achieve amazing results in as quick a time as I could do, however that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make in order to have more energy, feel happier and make better progress during my workouts.

Obviously stopping the program was a personal choice, and the program itself is great – I can see from the Facebook group that other women are getting great results, and I’ve already pointed out the positive aspects, so I would of course still recommend this as a solid program for anyone who is happier to spend more time working out than I am!

Go here to buy the programs.

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Getting my shake on: Protein Dynamix review

Protein Dynamix protein porridge
Protein porridge – Oats, Protein Dynamix Caramel Mocha whey protein, banana and a cheeky spoonful of Nutella!

For me, every day starts with a rather large bowl of protein porridge, usually accompanied by banana and sometimes a cheeky square of 85% dark chocolate… Ok maybe more than sometimes! That scoop of protein adds some extra flavour, helps to balance the meal out (rather than just being all carbohydrates) and definitely keeps me feeling fuller for longer. I’m the type of girl who is endlessly hungry, I can be like a bottomless pit, so I need a substantial breakfast.

I then will usually have a protein shake later in the day after my workout to help re-fuel my system and ensure I hit my protein macros. Two scoops a day usually gives me around 36 – 40g protein which is about a third of my target daily protein intake.

Until now?my favoured protein has been MyProtein True Diet Whey specifically the vanilla flavour. It smells and tastes amazing, and I’m almost addicted to having it in my porridge. However my bag was running low and it was time to order a new one. I fancied trying something different but I’ve already tried other whey protein offered by My Protein and found the taste seriously lacking, and other big brand whey protein can be hugely expensive. Then I happened across a tweet by Nic of Nic’s Nutrition about Protein Dynamix Caramel Mocha whey protein concentrate and how tasty it was. So I checked it out and discovered that they currently have an offer on for a 1kg bag for 9.99. Considering my normal MyProtein whey was 35 for 1.8kg, I decided to order two 1kg bags from Protein Dynamix for 19.99. Of course I had to try the Caramel Mocha after such a recommendation, but also the New York Cheesecake, because who doesn’t love cheesecake?

Protein Dynamix have a 98% Feefo service rating and they guarantee to offer the lowest price across Europe on their Whey Protein Concentrate. They also sell themselves as ‘the UK’s best tasting protein’ which of course was a challenge I had to put to the test!

Protein Shake

Well now they’re here and I’ve had plenty of opportunity to taste test, so here’s the verdict:

New York Cheesecake: This smelled amazing when I opened the bag, really it smelled exactly like cheesecake rather than some nasty imposter. I have to admit that though the taste isn’t as amazing as the smell, it’s nice and sweet with a lemony tang. In fact (and I never say this) it might be too sickly sweet for me!

Caramel Mocha: Now this was the real deal, and I potentially have a new favourite protein in this one. It smells and tastes exactly like a mocha that you would get in a coffee shop. It’s amazing as a shake with water or milk, AND mixed in with porridge. I will definitely definitely buy this one again. I’m currently thinking of more recipes I can use it in, so basically I’m just going to be living off of this…

Other benefits of Protein Dynamix:

  • Mixability – Mixes really well in a shaker and doesn’t leave any powder in the bottom of the drink as I’ve found with other protein powders.
  • Bag seal – I’ve had difficulty with the seal on the bags of MyProtein powder, in that no matter what, they won’t seal properly which means that the powder tends to leak. The seal on the Protein Dynamix is super strong so there’s less chance of leaks.
  • Cost – Even at it’s full price of 16.99 per kg (or 26.99 for 2.5kg) this is still cheaper than the MyProtein version I’ve been using, and I’m all about saving pennies.
  • Ease of scoop locating – I’m serious here! Some powders you have to really stick your hand into and delve around to find the scoop, this one the scoop was waiting right at the top for me. Less mess, more protein!

So there you have it, I highly recommend Protein Dynamix, and I encourage you to go now and buy the Caramel Mocha protein while they still have the kilo for 9.99 offer on!

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Stuffed Full of Protein: Easy Mexican Chicken Peppers

Mexican stuffed peppers

I’ve blogged previously about my favourite chicken recipes. I’ve also posted about how to get more protein into your daily diet to hit your macros. So today I’m bringing you a recipe that’s literally stuffed full of protein. Chicken and beans in particular get those protein levels up, with a good source of carbs to match. An ideal post-workout meal, and so easy and quick to prepare.

I always feel that I lack in creativity and I see many other bloggers creating their own recipes and wonder how they do it. I suppose it’s a combination of practise and knowledge of how different foods work together. More recently I’ve felt like I’ve been able to create a few of my own recipes, and they’ve actually been a success. I’m always looking for meals to bump up my protein intake that are also tasty, filling and don’t require hours in the kitchen after a long day at work. When I initially suggested to my boyfriend that I make stuffed peppers he wasn’t keen and said he didn’t think they would be filling enough. So I left it, but eventually decided to go ahead and make them, making sure I made a huge portion. When we ate this meal, my boyfriend actually said that his portion was too big!

Easy Mexican Chicken Stuffed Peppers

Easy Mexican Chicken Stuffed Peppers

Serves: 2-4 (dependent on how big a portion you like)
Calories: Around 1300 total (so 650 each if serving 2, 325 each if serving 4)
Total cooking and preparation time: Around 30-40 minutes
Protein (total): 132g
Carbs (total): 162g

Ingredients
1 red onion
400g skinless boneless chicken breast (either pre-diced, or in breasts)
100g rice (I used basmati because it’s what I had available)
A tin of black beans (around 230g drained)
A jar of a salsa/tomato based pasta sauce (400-500g) – I used a tomato and chili sauce. You could just use a tin of tomatoes
6 large bell peppers
40-50g grated cheddar (for sprinkling on the top)

Instructions:

  1. Heat some oil in a large frying pan or wok at a low-medium heat, and pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
  2. While your oil is heating up, peel, wash and thinly slice the red onion.
  3. When your oil is moving around freely in the pan, add your onion and start to fry it.
  4. While your onion is frying, cut the chicken into small pieces. Fill a small saucepan with water and bring it to the boil.
  5. When the onion starts to soften, add the chicken to the pan with the onions and move it around regularly to avoid sticking.
  6. When the water in the saucepan starts to boil, add the rice. When the water returns to the boil, turn the heat down to medium and set the timer for 10 minutes. Stir the rice regularly.
  7. While your onion/chicken/rice are cooking, prepare the peppers by cutting horizontally across the top of each pepper to remove the top, and then remove all of the seeds from inside but leave the bottom intact.
    You should now have 6 hollowed out peppers. Pop your peppers onto a baking tray and put them in the oven so they start to roast. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn!
  8. Empty the black beans from the tin into a sieve and wash them under the tap.
  9. Hopefully by the time your rice has cooked your chicken will be cooked through.
    Drain the rice and add it to the pan with the red onion/chicken, and then stir in your black beans.
    Empty your jar of pasta sauce or tin of tomatoes into the mixture and mix together. Leave for a couple of minutes to warm through.
  10. Remove peppers from the oven and use a tablespoon to spoon some of the chicken mixture into each pepper until they’re full to the brim!
    Sprinkle some of the grated cheddar on the top of each pepper.
  11. Return to the oven for a couple of minutes until the cheese is melted.
  12. Voila! Serve and enjoy. If you have leftovers you can pop them in the fridge for lunch or another dinner. 

Protein stuffed peppers

This is my first ever recipe so please let me know if you try it and if you have any comments or suggestions.

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SOS – Save Our Skin: 9 healthy steps to happier skin

To every teenager or adult out there who is or was battling ‘bad skin’, whether that’s acne, dry or oily skin, rosacea or sensitive skin, I feel your pain. When I hit puberty, and when my periods started, the hormones started raging and the Himalayas, the Andes, the Rockies, started erupting on my face. Nothing would make it stop. Some of my friends suffered too, but not as badly as I did (or so I felt), and plenty of my peers just seemed to sail through puberty with perfect skin. My mum didn’t know what to do with me because no-one in my family had ever suffered with acne, and no amount of make-up could cover the huge pustules on my face. Other teenagers made fun of me and I felt permanently low in self-esteem and self-worth. My mum tried to calm my anxieties by telling me that it would settle down once my hormones calmed down. It never did. I’m now 28 and although my skin is miles better than it was back then, I still get ongoing clusters of spots, mainly whiteheads, in various sizes and no matter what I do I’m always left with scars. The unfortunate thing about acne scarring is that even when you don’t have spots at that present moment, it makes you look like you do have spots, and you’re never left with the clear skin that you’ve dreamed of.

At this point I’ve come to accept that I’ll probably never have clear skin and that I’m constantly teetering on the edge of a facial eruption. I’ve had to accept that some people can go through their life eating McDonalds at every meal, never taking their make-up off and will still have beautiful clear skin. I know that I’m not one of those people. I’ve come to accept that my skin won’t tolerate certain shower gels/creams and will let me know about that. I now consider myself an ‘expert by experience’ when it comes to acne and skin problems and so I wanted to use this post to share my ‘9 steps to happier skin’ and talk about products I love, in the hope that you don’t have to make the same mistakes as I did, and can learn something new.

  1. Start from the inside-out
    I can almost hear you groaning because I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but this is a health and fitness site! When I was a teenager I ate a lot of crap. And probably what my mum was cooking was full of added sugar because we used white bread, frozen foods like battered fish, jar sauces that I now know are loaded with extra sugar, and a lot of packaged foods. We tried to tackle the food issue. I stopped eating chocolate and mum started making huge fruit salads for my lunch. It didn’t work. Why? I now think that my sugar intake probably continued to be very high thanks to all that fruit, the processed food, the sugary breakfast cereal… the list goes on. My family didn’t have the knowledge that we have now about added sugar. My mum was perpetually on a diet so bought a lot of low fat (aka high sugar) foods.As an adult when I’ve reduced my overall sugar intake, with a particular focus on added sugar, I’ve found my skin to be much improved, to the point where I’ve not had any new spots. That’s a big deal for a long-term acne sufferer and is the reason why this point is numero uno!Quinoa salad

     

    My best recommendation regarding this is not to go in all gung-ho because that’s a sure fire way to find yourself quitting after day one. Small steps at a time are the best indicator for long-term change so start small and work your way up. Stop drinking coke, swap your sugary breakfast cereal for a low-sugar option, change from white bread to brown bread… one easy change. Once you make one change you’ll start to feel better about yourself and more engaged with change and you’ll be making other small changes before you know it. And hopefully you’ll see small changes in your skin too! Ultimately no amount of skin products or tablets are going to change your skin in the long term while you’re filling your body with rubbish.

  2. Drink plenty of plain ol’ water
    As a Speech Therapist I spend all day waxing lyrical about the benefits of water. The thing is, water is hydrating, and it hydrates everything, which obviously includes your skin. I’ve had acne ridden skin with hideous dry patches and it’s not a pleasant experience. Water gives your skin the moisture it needs to ensure it’s plump rather than sallow, and not dehydrated or dry.Again, take it slow if you’re not used to drinking water, add in one glass per day and then increase week by week. That’s how I did it as a teen and now I drink at least 2 litres a day.
  3. Use natural oils on your face
    I’ve learned recently that putting oil on your face doesn’t make it oily, and can potentially help to reduce oil production as the oil helps to balance it out. Certain oils such as coconut oil can make your skin worse, but others are meant to be better for your skin and can help to both moisturise your skin, clear your skin and reduce scarring. I personally cleanse with a normal cleanser (currently Clearasil dual action cleansing gel but it varies), and then perform a second cleanse with a natural oil, then finally apply oil as a moisturiser. When I cleanse with the oil I apply the oil to my face with clean hands, then use a cotton pad in hot water to remove the oil from my face. You only need minimal amounts as a little goes a long way!
    My favourite oil is Fushi Rosehip Seed Oil but I also use Jojoba Oil too.Natural skincare acne
  4. Avoid using too many products, and keep the products you use as natural as possible
    Although I do use a Clearasil cleanser now, it’s only because I’m using the oils to rehydrate my skin that I can get away with it. If I just used the Clearasil or used it with a normal moisturiser I’d be suffering from extreme facial dryness. A lot of skincare products, especially those that are aimed at those of us suffering with acne, are full of harsh chemicals that can cause your skin to dry out/breakout/have an allergic reaction. A lot of these products are trying to strip our skin of oil which seems to be logical but in reality it tends to over-dry which results in a face that is dry and spotty. Dry skin is really difficult to put foundation onto without it ‘caking’, and just generally looks and feels horrible. Be kind and gentle to your skin and hopefully it’ll be kind to you!
  5. Don’t over wash your skin
    Lots of people still seem to have the perception that skin problems are related to poor hygiene when this definitely isn’t the case. Those of us that suffer often end up washing our faces too much which causes it’s own problems, such as dryness, sensitivity and allergic reactions. I now just cleanse/wash my face in the evening and in the morning I just moisturise. This really goes with point 4, don’t go crazy with your skin.
  6. Think carefully before using birth control or antibiotics to help
    In desperation I went on a birth control pill, Dianette, which is known to help with acne. Unfortunately I didn’t know at the time that it’s only a temporary solution to the problem. The idea is that you stay on it until your hormones settle down. The issue is that coming off birth control causes your hormones to go haywire. My skin was great while I was on it, but every time I tried to come off it I would have a major acne flare up that wouldn’t go away and so I just went back on it again. However, you can’t live your life on birth control – what if you want children? What if you just don’t want to be pumped full of extra hormones all the time? Also some cancer risks are heightened and there are other health reasons why you shouldn’t stay on it long term. So 8 years later I came off and dealt with the consequences. My skin was never as bad as it was pre-birth control but I think that was more due to age and other factors rather than the pill having had any positive impact on my acne.It’s also not ideal to be on antibiotics if you can avoid it and especially for long periods, because your body can become resistant to each antibiotic therefore lessening their efficacy. So ultimately they’re not the best solution.
    I was also offered Isotretinoin/Accutane but I chose not to take that route because I was concerned about both the short and long term side effects. Some people report depression/suicide, long term gastro issues and severely dry skin in the long term. None of which I fancied, and I thought I’d rather take other steps to improve my skin. It’s your choice and I’m not here saying that I’ve ‘cured’ my skin without it but my skin is better using the aforementioned steps.

    Make-up for acne skin

  7. Don’t fear make-up
    Not using make-up made no difference to my skin, in fact if anything my skin was potentially worse and I felt more self conscious. It may well be that make-up creates a barrier to protect your skin from nasties in the outside environment, and many foundations contain SPF to provide sun protection. Some foundations may be better for your skin than others but it’s generally down to your own trial and error, what works for me may not work for you. A lot of people recommend mineral foundation but unless you’re washing the brush daily I’m not sure that it’s the best suggestion as you’re potentially harbouring bacteria in the application brush. I currently just use Nivea tinted moisturiser and am happy with the coverage it offers as well as the fact that it doesn’t cause me skin to breakout. If you like make-up and it makes you feel better about yourself, I say go for it.
  8. Try to keep your hands away from your face
    I need to follow my own advice because I’m awful at this, I’m ALWAYS touching my face! But think about everything we touch during the day and potentially are moving onto our face. Dust, food particles and other nasties, ewww! And don’t pick or squeeze those spots!
  9. Learn to see yourself as beautiful, regardless of your skin problems
    Your skin problems don’t define you and you are still beautiful despite any spots/dry patches/oil slicks! You still have value as a person and no matter how you feel or what others may say, you need to believe that. No-one else is focusing on your skin as much as you are, and if they are then they clearly don’t have anything better to do with their life. Think about what makes you brilliant, what makes you beautiful and what makes you different from everybody else. You are AMAZING and you better believe it! No spots can bring you down, just think of them as part of who you are and get on with enjoying and valuing your life.

Do you have any amazing tips that I’ve missed? Have you suffered with skin problems but come out the other side smiling?

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Up your protein the easy and tasty way with these 5 foods…

When I was younger and I took an interest in fitness and weight lifting, I read a lot of forums such as the one on bodybuilding.com. By reading the logs of those with bodies that I admired, I came to the conclusion that I needed to hit my macros, eat 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight and that going by what was in their logs, I needed to live off   a bland diet of chicken, eggs, milk and broccoli. I think I tried eating like them for a few days, decided I couldn’t eat the way I needed to to gain the physique I wanted, so promptly gave up and went back to the comfort of the nearest chocolate bar. Who can live off such a limited selection of foods anyway? That’s so boring!

Chicken and broccoli

Now I’m older and (a little bit) wiser, I have a better understanding of nutrition and I’ve learned that you don’t necessarily have to eat 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight, and that there’s ways to meet your protein goals without chugging milk and shovelling down chicken and eggs all day. The thing is, a lot of us eat for enjoyment as well as nutrition, and so we want variety and something to tickle our taste buds. As a Speech Therapist who spends a fair amount of time advising patients about their swallowing and what they should and shouldn’t eat, I’m aware that eating and mealtimes are a very social activity, and a lot of people don’t want to give up certain foods simply because they enjoy them. And actually, it’s ok to eat for enjoyment, as long as it’s not putting your health at risk. In the past I felt like there was this perception that if you wanted to be healthy or fit then you weren’t allowed to enjoy your food. Fortunately the situation has definitely changed and still is changing, and we’re learning that we can meet our macros and enjoy our food.

So today I’m talking about how you can meet your protein intake without only eating chicken, eggs and broccoli, and that if you’re struggling to up your calorie/protein intake without feeling full then you can get some extra calories/protein without even realising. So, my 5 foods to up your protein intake the easy way!

  1. High protein yoghurtsI’ve previously blogged about how Skyr yoghurt is a winner in terms of taste and protein requirements at around 11g protein per 100g. Other favourites are Greek yoghurt and Arla’s protein yoghurts. Most of these offer around 10-12g protein per 100g and are easy to eat on the go, and you can help meet your other macros by adding fruit, nuts, granola or seeds.
    Arla Skyr Yoghurt
  2. Seeds – Sunflower, pumpkin, linseeds, chia, sesame and more… can be added to oats/porridge, yoghurt, salad or hidden in main courses. These little helpers tend to have 15-25g protein per 100g and can be sprinkled into a variety of dishes as a way to bump up your protein intake. These are particularly great if you struggle to meet your calorie intake because they don’t take up too much belly room but pack in some extra calories, healthy fats and protein. They’re also a good source of fibre so I always mix some into my morning porridge! I like to leave chia seeds soaking in with my milk and oats for a few hours before heating up my porridge. Check out Nutriseed for a wide selection.
  3. Wholemeal/granary/seeded/rye bread – I know a lot of people think carbs are the food of the devil and they have a really bad rep, but if you’re undertaking an intensive exercise program such as BBG or Fitness Blender, you’re going to need those carbs! Carbs help to give us energy and fuel our workouts, and specific bread types can not only help us with our carb intake but our protein too. Pick wholemeal, granary or seeded bread for around 4-5g protein per slice. Spread on some peanut butter (as high a percentage of peanuts as possible) or scramble some eggs over the top for an added protein hit. My current favourite is Tesco Finest Super Seeded, but I know others are big fans of Biona rye bread.

    Chicken dish with black beans
    A yummy chicken dish with black beans, made by me!
  4. Beans/Pulses – Chick peas, kidney beans, black beans, broad beans… the list goes on. Beans and pulses are so easy to stir into a dish or add to a salad and with around 4-8g protein per 100g they’re really worth adding in for some extra protein. I’m all about finding protein sources that I can add to a dish without them being the focus of the dish, and beans/pulses are another way of doing this.
  5. Protein powder – Personally I don’t find protein shakes particularly appetising or filling, but I do stir a big ol’ scoop of my favourite MyProtein vanilla True Diet whey into my porridge in the morning. It smells and tastes amazing (everyone in the office drools over the smell of my breakfast) and gets me a huge chunk of added protein without thinking about it. Protein powder can also be used to make little protein snacks such as Nic’s Nutrition protein fudge, Kim’s cravings protein mug cakes or Skinny Sometimes protein lattes. I’d recommend buying a protein powder and making your own bars over buying some of the nasty (and expensive!) protein bars that are out there and full of additives.

    Protein porridge with bananas and raisins

Obviously I do still eat chicken, eggs and other meat and I’ve even blogged about some great chicken recipes, because these foods are ultimately going to offer you the most bang for your buck in terms of protein content, but I want you to know that that’s not all you have to eat. I always try to get a good source of protein in with every meal and now I easily hit my desired protein intake every day!

What do you eat for a good protein hit? Anything that I’ve missed that helps you hit your macros every day?

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Review: Kayla Itsines’ BBG (Bikini Body Guide)

So although this is a 12 week program it’s actually taken me 14. I stuck to the schedule over Christmas and was so proud of myself for that, but I had a week away in Fuerteventura in January and then a week of hell (aka toothache/antibiotics/general drugged up grogginess) in February which meant the plan took longer than planned.

When I was trying to find out about Kayla Itsines’ BBG program I found out that firstly the PDFs of the workouts and her nutrition ‘H.E.L.P’ guide are out there on the internet to download for free, and were not difficult to find, in actuality I just stumbled across them by accident when looking for program reviews. I found this strange considering Kayla and her team have apparently taken action against nay-sayers of her program, why would they not take action to get a free resource removed? Regardless, I paid for the program because I have morals but if you don’t… let’s just say it’s out there and not too difficult to find. However I always feel that you’re more likely to commit to a program if you’ve forked out hard cash for it!

While I was trying to find reviews of the program I struggled to find many, and I don’t think that was from a lack of trying. I found lots of blog posts where people had said they were about to start the program and would update… but then there was never any further update. Whether this was because these people gave up or forgot or didn’t get the results they hoped for, I’m not sure. I’ve said in my ‘About me‘ page that I love to read reviews before I try a product because if I’m going to be parting with my hard earned cash I want to know that it’s going to be worth my while. Previously I’d been using Fitness Blender’s plans (my review is here), and at under $10 each they were hardly breaking the bank, however Kayla’s plan is considerably more expensive. In the end, I relied on a lot of ‘transformation’ photos on Instagram and the very active #bbgcommunity there to convince me to give Kayla’s program a try.

Let me at this point say that this program is aimed at 18-25 year olds and at an archaic 28 years old I’m technically ‘too old’ for this program and out of Kayla’s target demographic. Let me also say that the opinions in this post are all my own unbiased opinions having successfully completed the program, but also from having completed other programs. You see the thing is that as lovely and supportive as the #bbgcommunity are, it seems that a lot of them just stay doing Kayla’s workouts for forever more and therefore may not necessarily have any other fitness experience to compare the program to.

Dumbbells and kettlebell

The program: You can find this information out on Kayla’s website and on a gazillion other webites, but basically the Bikini Body Guide is a 12 week program, which can also be accompanied by Kayla’s nutrition guide, the H.E.L.P guide.
The workouts – these consist of a combination of resistance workouts, low intensity steady state cardio (LISS), high intensity interval training (HIIT) and a rehabilitation session each week.

The resistance workouts are 28 minutes of activity and are predominantly bodyweight circuits but there are some occasional exercises with other equipment such as dumbbells. The resistance workouts are done 3x per week and are broken down into two circuits (a and b) which contain 4 exercises and a specified number of reps, you have 7 minutes to go through the circuit and if you get through it once within the 7 minutes you start from the beginning of that circuit again until your 7 minutes is up. You then rest and move onto circuit B. Essentially the workout is an abab format with 7 minutes for each circuit with anywhere between 30 seconds and 90 seconds rest between.

In the earlier stages these workouts are split into legs, arms & abs and full body, and then later in the program they are split into legs, arms and abs. Generally you require 2 benches, a medicine ball, a bosu ball, dumbbells and a mat to be able to complete the resistance workouts to the letter – more about that later.

The intention for the LISS workouts is that you walk or do some other low intensity cardio activity (e.g. light cycling, some other cardio machine) for 35-40 minutes between 3-4x a week and this isn’t supposed to be tagged onto the resistance workouts, it needs to be done at a separate time. You also get a day for rehabilitation where you do some foam rolling, and 1 day of rest a week. In weeks 8-12 of the program a 10 minute HIIT session is introduced each week, Kayla recommends doing this as sprints.

Nutrition – I’m going to use this opportunity to say that I decided not to follow the nutrition guide. For me the program appeared too restrictive and not enough food – estimates have been made that the daily calorie intake on Kayla’s nutrition plan is around 1600 calories. With the intensity and frequency of the workouts in this plan, I’d say that’s definitely nowhere near enough calories to sustain daily living while on this plan. My heart rate monitor has shown me burning between 300-400 calories in one of her resistance workouts which would leave me with a net of 1200 calories – not enough for my body to function or recover properly.

The cost: Initially Kayla only offered the BBG plan in PDF format, and the combination of the workout plan and the nutrition guide together is $119.97 AUD (around $88 or £62). The workout plan alone is $69.97 AUD ($51 or £36). However Kayla recently introduced the Sweat With Kayla app which is $54.99 AUD ($40 or £28) for a 3 month (12 week) subscription so slightly more affordable, and this includes the workouts and some nutrition info/articles as well as some bonus features like regular ‘challenges’. This is the option that I went for as I saw it as the most cost effective. Unfortunately at the moment the app is only available for Apple devices but you can use a web-based version of the app if you don’t have an Apple device, and this is what I did.

Obviously dependent on where you plan to do the program there are other potential cost outlays such as a gym membership or the cost of purchasing the equipment to be able to do this program at home. I already had a fair amount of equipment and I just modified exercises to accommodate for areas where I didn’t have the equipment required.

Kayla Itsines Sweat With Kayla App

The benefits of this program:

  • The results – I saw a definite increase in my strength, general fitness levels, flexibility and appearance during this program, and this is a sentiment that seems to be echoed by a lot of Kayla’s ‘army’. As the program progresses you progress onto more reps or harder variations of the various exercises and by the end I could do more press-ups, my burpees were quicker and I was managing to complete some exercise moves that I definitely didn’t think I’d be able to do. See my next post for specific information about my personal results following BBG.
  • The challenges – This is only an option when you have the Sweat With Kayla app but each time you complete a challenge it records your time, and then you repeat the challenge 3-4 weeks later which gives you the opportunity to beat your previous time. By the last time I completed the leg challenge I was 8 minutes faster than my first attempt, and that was a great motivational tool.
  • The ease – The workouts were pretty easy to follow and understand and if using the app you can go into each exercise during the circuit if you need more instruction. This stops the timer while you figure out what it is you’re meant to be doing! You tend to do a lot of the same exercises, or by the time you reach a week that features a certain exercise for the first time, you probably will have already come across it in one of the challenges, which makes the exercises more achievable.
  • Each workout targets the whole body – Even though a resistance workout might be called ‘legs’, it doesn’t mean that your arms and abs are completely under-utilised. For example, you might do squats into shoulder presses in a leg workout, or snap jumps in an ab workout, so multiple muscle groups are being worked.
  • The app – There are some nice features in the app, like for example little motivational quotes that other members of the BBG Community have written that pop-up mid-workout (although I only noticed this in week 11 when I happened to look at the screen at the right time – other times I was surprisingly too busy exercising to notice!). Or you can change the week that you’re on if you were on holiday or ill. You can preview the workouts so that you know what’s coming, and at the end of the workout you can share a trophy image to Facebook to show everyone you completed your workout. Plus the app does all of the timing for you (see cons) so you don’t have to be juggling a timer and a PDF or print out of the guide.
  • The Community – #bbgcommunity, #kaylasarmy or whatever you want to call them, there’s a hugely active and supportive community on Instagram to keep you motivated and inspired. I’ve had a lot of positive interactions with other women following the BBG and have enjoyed being part of the community that comes from following a high-profile fitness plan.

The drawbacks of this program:

  • The amount of workouts and time commitment – This is the biggest drawback for me. By weeks 11 and 12 you’re looking at 4 LISS workouts, 3 resistance workouts, 1 HIIT workout, 1 challenge workout, 1 rehabilitation workout and 1 full day of rest a week, and none of those workouts can be done back to back. That’s 10 workouts across 6 days, which essentially means that to complete the program to the letter you need to workout twice a day. Maybe this is the reason the program is aimed at 18-25 year olds because perhaps they are more likely to be in school/college/university and have more time during the day. I work full-time, I get up at 6am already, commute an hour each way and have other commitments so 2 workouts a day isn’t feasible. Therefore a lot of the time I only managed 2 LISS workouts and I didn’t do any of the rehabilitation sessions. I like to exercise but in my opinion there’s more to life than that. The time commitment did frustrate me because Kayla sells the ‘less than 30 minute’ workouts, but in actuality I’d rather workout for an hour in one go than try and fit in 2 separate sweat sessions in one day.
  • The equipment requirements – Kayla says that this plan can be done at home, but most people don’t have 2 exercise benches, a medicine ball, a bosu ball, dumbbells, a smaller step and an exercise mat at home. I have 1 bench, an exercise mat and some adjustable dumbbells, and I found something else to act as my ‘small step’. Just the bosu ball on it’s own costs around £100 and is only used a handful of times so not worth the purchase. I had to modify any exercises requiring 2 benches, a bosu ball or a medicine ball. Also due to space limitations and the height of my workout bench, bench jumps weren’t happening unless I fancied a trip to A&E. I think it’s fair to say that unless you have a heavily equipped home gym or have the space/money to buy the equipment required, then you can’t complete the program exactly as written at home. Even doing it in the gym may be difficult because if you’re going in peak time you won’t win many fans hogging all that equipment for half an hour! I suppose it depends on the equipment levels at your gym.
  • The intensity – I’d imagine that the reason there are a lot of blog posts about starting this program but not so many reviewing it at the end is that these workouts are hard work and the plan requires a lot of determination to stick to. Not to mention time and money! Perhaps people think that if they’re not completing every workout then they’ve ‘failed’? The resistance workouts are high intensity because if you’re trying to get through each rep as quickly as possible to get most ‘bang for your buck’ within 7 minutes then it’s going to be high intensity. Therefore I’m not sure whether the ‘resistance’ workouts then become more of a cardio workout than a resistance workout. But whatever, you’re going to feel shattered by the end of each resistance workout.I guess this is also a benefit because my metabolism was sky high while doing this program which meant I could eat more!
  • The repetitiveness – Not only are the circuits within the workout repetitive due to the abab format (so you’ve done ‘a& b’ and you think you’re done, only to realise you’ve got to do it all over again!), but the workouts within the program are repetitive because the resistance workouts are scheduled in 4 week blocks where you repeat the workout from week 1 and 2 again in week 3 and 4 (again with the abab format). This means that essentially you do each 7 minute circuit at least 4 times in 4 weeks, and more if you can complete the circuit quicker than 7 minutes. Also the exercises within the program become quite repetitive by the end, I became sick of step-ups for example – you can have too much of a good thing. If you don’t get bored easily then you’ll be fine, but if you like variety in your workouts then perhaps BBG isn’t for you.
  • The web app – I can’t comment on the app for Apple devices but the web app was incredibly infuriating. Sometimes it would randomly sign itself out mid-workout and if it then thought I’d completed the workout I couldn’t get back into it. Sometimes the workout timer would start and then think the 7 minutes had passed in 5 seconds and end the circuit. Or during a LISS workout the timer wouldn’t count down properly and 3 hours later it still said I’d only done 10 minutes. Ultimately these workouts rely on timing and the app timer is incredibly unpredictable. There has been a recent update so whether this has improved it or not, I don’t know.
  • The lack of warm-up – Coming from a Fitness Blender workout program, I was surprised to see no mention of a warm-up as part of the BBG workouts. The resistance workouts are so intense that I’m sure you’d cause yourself an injury if you didn’t warm up first, so I put together my own brief warm-up to ensure that my muscles were ready to go. There is a warm-down option after the workout but I feel a warm-up is just as important, if not more important!
  • The fast-moving progression – Apparently you can do these workouts even if you’re a beginner, and there’s a 4 week pre-BBG plan to get you ready for the real deal, however I personally feel that if you’re coming from a background of no exercise, 4 weeks isn’t enough time to be ready for BBG. One of the benefits of this plan is it’s progression, but it’s also one of the drawbacks. Arms are a weak point for me and in week 1 you’re meant to be doing 15 full press-ups, along with a whole host of other press-up type moves. I would imagine that 15 full press-ups would be unachievable for most women in week 1 of a program without significant previous experience. If you struggle to complete the full amount of reps in the early weeks then this is going to be an issue later on in the program. For example, I could just about do 30 jump lunges without a break but then the next week I suddenly had to do 50. I found this quite demoralising at times and often found myself wondering how I was supposed to do 20 spiderman press-ups when I can’t even do 15 normal ones! Ultimately the solution is to complete the ‘alternative’ exercise, but it can be disheartening to have to do the ‘alternative’.Reebok Nano Crossfit Trainers

Would I recommend this program?
Ultimately yes, I would recommend the resistance portion of this program, but perhaps not the program in it’s entirety, mostly due to the large time demands. I feel that 2 workouts a day isn’t in the realm of the ‘beginner’ to exercise and possibly encourages an unhealthy attitude to exercise, making you feel that you have to workout twice a day to see a difference. It can also make those who can’t commit to that amount of workouts a week feel like a ‘failure’ and cause them to be discouraged and quit the program. To me life is about balance, I’m paid to work so that takes the majority of my time, I want to exercise to look after my body but I also need time for ‘life’.
If I were to recommend this program then I’d recommend completing the 3 resistance workouts a week, completing 2-3 cardio sessions a week and having 1-2 rest days. I’d also recommend eating nutritious foods with plenty of carbs and protein to fuel the workouts, but not restricting your calories.  But as I said, I’m not a qualified trainer. I will go into more detail about how much I ate per day and the specific results I saw in my next post which will be a results post.

Please just ask if you have any questions, and please, no nasty comments, I wanted to provide my own honest and un-biased opinion of BBG. I know that loads of girls and women out there love it but I want to give any girls/women considering the program a balanced view. Has anyone out there done BBG? What were your thoughts?

 

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Recipes on review: for the love of chicken

I’m not sure that I’ve ever gone into what my diet used to be like, but let’s just say that there was a point in my life where I was eating chocolate at almost every meal. Coco Pops for breakfast, nutella on toast for lunch followed by a chocolate bar and then maybe another one (or two) chocolate bars later. I would buy two chocolate bars and tell myself that I would eat the second one another day but of course I didn’t. Surprisingly I wasn’t overweight, but it did get to a point where a few hours after breakfast I would start to get the ‘sugar shakes’ and desperately needed something to eat.

That was a real warning sign for me, I didn’t want to end up diabetic, and so I ditched the Coco Pops in favour of overnight oats, and really that was the first step towards big changes in my diet. The sugar habit has been hard to kick but slowly over time I’ve managed to reduce the amount of processed foods and ‘added sugar’ foods that I eat, and my chocolate intake has definitely significantly lessened.

At home we do cook from scratch quite frequently and I’ve increasingly tried to avoid jars of sauces, especially when I realised how much sugar is in a jar of Uncle Ben’s! My boyfriend will tell you that I’m an absolute pain when it comes to meal planning because I like a lot of variety in my diet and am generally unhappy eating the same dinner too often. I think this probably stems from coming from a family where each day I could pretty much predict what my mum would be serving for dinner, and there seemed to be a very limited rotation of meals. My mum also tended to rely heavily on processed foods or jar sauces, though she is much more clued up these days.

Anyway, as a result of my need for variety I’m always looking for recipes to try, particularly ‘healthy’ recipes that are boyfriend friendly – i.e. healthy but aren’t all vegetables/salad and no meat. I’m sure many women (and men) out there deal with trying to balance a healthy diet with making meals for a partner or family who may not have the same outlook or goals as you, or just have different tastes.

So I wanted to share some new recipes I’ve tried this week, because often you can find healthy recipes but you’re not always sure whether they’re quite to your taste, or family friendly!

Fit Foodie FindsHealthy Chicken Quinoa Parmesan Bake:

Healthy chicken quinoa parmesan bake
Picture from fitfoodiefinds.com – because hers is much more photogenic than mine!

This is the second time I’ve made this dish and I love it, and it’s definitely boyfriend approved. So much in fact that he suggested that I make it for when some friends come round for dinner. A definite winner by my standards.

The dish has chicken as a good source of protein and is packed with vegetables, and then the quinoa which has loads of health benefits. The parmesan cheese topping makes it seem a little bit ‘naughty’ although it’s clearly not. I don’t normally like mushrooms (which are included in this recipe) but I put them in because my boyfriend likes them, and the taste of everything else helps me forget the mushrooms are there. This is really filling and if you’re part of a couple then you can freeze two portions for another time.

The only downside for me of this recipe is the cooking and preparation time, the recipe says it takes an hour but that’s an hour’s cooking time. If you’re slow at chopping vegetables like me then the preparation time is extended, and there’s a few stages to layering the dish which is a little time consuming. Therefore I generally have to make this recipe when I have a bit more time, or alternatively pre-prep it all in advance (since all the ingredients are put in raw) and cook later. Otherwise I end up with a hangry boyfriend and no ‘free’ time!

The Gracious Pantry Slow Cooker Apricot Salsa Chicken:

Slow cooker apricot salsa chicken
Picture from thegraciouspantry.com – looks good right?

This was my first attempt at this, when I say ‘attempt’, this recipe really isn’t difficult. In fact it’s part of a series, ‘Kids can cook clean’, which is about easy, small portioned, healthy meals that children can cook. Therefore preparation of this recipe takes all of 5 minutes! Of course it could be more lengthy if you decided to make your own salsa, and use apricots rather than/as well as apricot spread (which I think would be a lovely addition), but this works brilliantly as a super quick healthy option for busy days.

I served it with basmati rice, and it was like a sweet chicken dish, really tasty. The only change I made was that I prepped this when I got home from work at 4pm so I cooked it on high for an hour and a half, and then switched to low for half an hour, and I left the chicken breasts whole rather than shredding them. I was worried about the chicken being dry because the slow cooker can do that to chicken, but it was lovely and moist.

I also doubled the recipe so that I had 2 more portions to freeze for another day. I’m a big fan of batch/bulk cooking and we factor a couple of days into our meal planning where we just have meals that have been cooked previously and frozen. Like a ready meal but healthier! Overall I’d highly recommend this as a quick but healthy meal that’s suitable for all the family.

So, tell me, do you have any partner/family friendly healthy recipes to recommend? I’d love to give them a try!

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Review: Fitness Blender 8 week fat loss program for busy people

Having been aware of Fitness Blender via YouTube, and having completed their ‘2 week fat loss program for busy people‘, I decided to move onto the full 8 week program. This was pre-BBG (which is my current program – review coming soon) and was my first introduction to more of a structured fitness regime rather than just finding random videos to follow on YouTube. While I found some great workouts doing that, I wanted some more structure to my routine to hopefully get better results. I definitely got the structure that I craved, and really enjoyed this plan, so much so that I bought a few more of their plans in their Black Friday sale and those are lined up for when I finish BBG!

About Fitness Blender

If you haven’t heard of Fitness Blender before, it’s a site created by a couple, Kelli and Daniel, who both have previous experience in the fitness industry but have chosen to put their efforts into creating workouts in their home that you can then follow in your home! The site went live in 2010 and since then they’ve created hundreds of workout videos, all of which are available free of charge on their website and YouTube. They state that their focus is on quality and health rather than appearance, but obviously they both look great!

About the 8 Week Fat Loss Program for Busy People
The idea of this plan is maximum ‘bang for your buck’ and as you can guess by the name, is aimed at those of us who are short on time, so the workouts are generally around 30-40 minutes long. There are 5 workouts per week with an optional 6th lower impact workout, and then a full rest day. The workouts range between strength training, high intensity interval training (HIIT), cardio workouts such as kickboxing and lower resistance stretching type workouts. Kelli and Daniel always provide a warm-up and a warm-down along with the main workout.

Kelli and Daniel get you to complete a personal fitness test at the beginning and the end of the program which tests your flexibilty/strength/aerobic capacity, which really highlights that their focus just isn’t on aesthetics but also your fitness level. There is also some handy nutrition information where Kelli and Daniel guide you on how to eat while following their program. I purchased the older PDF/eBook version of this plan but there are also now two further versions of this program on their website which you can add to your Fitness Blender calendar and log-on to the website to follow each day.

I paid £10 for the eBook version of this program, the web versions of these workouts are $14.99 or £10.53. Obviously all the videos are available for free on their website or on YouTube but Kelli and Daniel have put their workouts into a program which is kind of like having your own personal trainer, and at around £10 for an 8 week program their offering is a lot cheaper and more cost effective than a lot of their competitors. Fitness Blender also do put their programs on sale periodically so that’s worth looking out for.

Fitness Blender Workout Complete
Getting my workout complete = a very sweaty me!

Benefits of this program

  • The video format means it’s easy to follow – Every workout including the warm-up and warm-down has a video where you follow Daniel/Kelli or both and they provide instruction about form, pacing and more. This is really useful, particularly for beginners, as it provides demonstration and instruction on how to perform each exercise and also, I found, helps to keep your focus. You also can enjoy that usually Kelli and Daniel are pushing themselves and they actually huff/puff/sweat and perform every rep unlike on other videos where they do hardly any of the workout themselves and just shout at everyone else (ahem – Jillian!). This instantly makes them easier to relate to and makes you feel better about yourself.
    The videos also provide pre-planned water breaks, a countdown clock and a nice clear white background, all of which help to keep you on track and mean you’re not having to pause for any reason. Of course at the end you always get a joyous moment – the famous ‘workout complete’ screen, a sign your workout is over and you can go and share your #workoutcomplete with the Fitness Blender community on instagram or on their app!
  • The alternative exercises – Kelli and Daniel will always tell you how to make an exercise easier or harder, so even if you’re doing a lower intensity cardio workout they’ll tell you that if you’re finding it too slow or easy you can speed up or change the move into a higher intensity one. In workouts that they do together one of them will do the ‘modified’ (easier) version so that you don’t feel despondent if you’re struggling with the non-modified version.
  • The variety – I don’t think you ever do the same workout twice in this program, so if you’re like me and get bored easily then the variety helps to keep you interested and motivated. Fitness Blender have even put together specific workouts that aren’t too repetitive in their format for people like you and me! You really get to try all kinds of workouts which for beginners also helps you to learn what types of workout you enjoy (or maybe not ‘enjoy’ but find more tolerable) and provides new challenges every day.
  • Kelli and Daniel – These two really won me over. They’re incredibly likeable and easy to relate to. They joke to each other on camera when they’re working out together and you could just imagine them being your next door neighbours. They have a huge following but still come across as so genuine and down to earth, like they’re not even aware of how many people are following their workouts, or at least it hasn’t gone to their heads. Most of all, they encourage you to keep going without being overly patronising/demeaning/annoying. Liking your instructors and being able to tolerate them for 30 minutes 5x a week is a huge issue when it comes to video workouts and I’m sure that many of you, like me, have stopped using workout videos because you could only stand the instructor for 2-3 plays and then you felt like you could just throttle them! Not an issue with these two, I just wanted to give them a huge hi-5 at the end of each workout!
  • The lack of music – Not everyone will see this as a positive, but I hate the usually cheesy or annoying music played in the background of workout videos. Not everyone has the same taste in music, some people might want to workout to death metal whereas others might want to workout to dance music. Kelli and Daniel have this figured out and so there’s no music in the background of their workouts. If I’m honest I was always so busy concentrating on them and what I was doing that I hadn’t even thought about the lack of music until one of them mentioned it. They openly say that once you know the moves you’re doing you can turn the volume down and stick your own music on – the countdown timer and ‘next exercise demo’ in the corner of the screen will always ensure you don’t get lost just because you can’t hear them.

Drawbacks of this program

  • The need for quick changes of dumbbell weight in many of the resistance workouts – I only had those spin-lock dumbbells when I was doing this program, and some of the supersets in these workouts required a lighter weight for one exercise and a heavier one for the next, and this is practically impossible without a quick changing adjustable dumbbell like the PowerBlocks they use (and which I now own, thanks to my lovely boyfriend!) or without a huge selection of differently weighted dumbbells. So I always had to make a choice between longer gaps between each superset while I changed the plates on my dumbbells, or using the same weight for both exercises which generally meant not managing all of the reps of the exercise needing lighter weight, and not pushing myself as hard on the exercise with the heavier weight. For this reason I’d highly recommend a set of quick change dumbbells if you can afford them.

To be honest I can only come up with that one negative of this program, I really enjoyed it and would highly recommend it as it’s excellent value for money and so easy to follow. It’s suitable for both beginners and more experienced exercisers. If you think you’re too experienced for their workouts then you can try one of their 1000 calorie workouts or some of their really high intensity workouts such as the HIIT ladder workout, and I’m sure you’ll think again.

Results
I’ve not got specific before and after pictures that I want to show the world but I can share a few stats for you.
Weight – Lost 2.7kg (6lbs) in the 8 weeks (despite the fact that I went on holiday mid-way through, possibly would have lost more otherwise!).
Fitness Test – Increased my flexibility, squats and plank. Unfortunately I actually reduced the amount of full press-ups I could do by the end of this plan! I suspect because I’d been working on them a lot prior to this plan and then during this plan we only really did them briefly so by the end of the plan I was out of practise again. Press-ups have always been difficult for me and regardless of my other strength, if I’m not regularly practising them I seem to lose the ability. As an alternative measure of upper body strength, before I started this plan I couldn’t get anywhere near doing a chin-up even with a resistance band, and by the end of the program I could do one with the assistance of a band!

Overall I’d definitely recommend Fitness Blender, and even if you choose not to complete one of their programs I’d encourage you to look into their workouts and try to add some into your usual routine. I enjoyed this program so much that I went on to complete their 4 week booty and 4 week ab plans!

Do you love Fitness Blender? Have you completed any of their programs and if so, what did you think?

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5 movies and actresses that will make you want to workout – now!

I am currently sat on the sofa with the toothache from hell and one side of my face is swollen up so I look like a hamster/woman hybrid. It’s not a good look. I was meant to be finishing Kayla Itsines BBG (Bikini Body Guide) this week ready to review for you, but it’s now on hold for another week until my face is no longer at risk and I’m not drugged up on antibiotics. Something I can manage to achieve that doesn’t require too much concentration or brain power is watching some of my favourite movies. My boyfriend and I love watching movies, we have hundreds of DVDs, a Love Film and NOW TV subscription and spend far too much time in our local Odeon. My love of movies got me thinking about movies and actresses that give me enough #fitspo to make me want to jump off the sofa and get my workout done. So without further ado, my favourite 5 movies and actresses that will make you want to workout- now!

Kate Bosworth in Blue Crush – When I was a teenager I desperately wanted to be Kate Bosworth in this film. I tried surfing, turns out I’m not that great at it and spent more time swallowing sea water than getting any kind of a workout. My upper body is definitely my weak area and every time you ‘pop up’ on a surfboard it’s essentially a half press-up/burpee and I didn’t even know what a burpee was back then. I’ll admit that the storyline of this film is a bit cringe – girl loves surfing but gets distracted by hot football player who she teaches to surf – but the surfing scenes showcase real surfers and make you want to pack up all of your belongings and move to Hawaii. To be honest you only really need to watch the first 5 minutes of Kate Bosworth (or her double?) running and doing chin-ups on the beach in a bikini, to get your motivation hit.

Blue Crush Bikini Girls

 

Emily Blunt in Live Die Repeat: Edge of TomorrowEmily Blunt is bad ass in this film, and there are enough gifs and YouTube videos of the scene shown below that I think men and women worldwide agree with me on this one. Emily makes yoga look like a sexy tough-girl workout and makes arm muscles look hot!

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Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby – I’ve only just seen this for the first time but it has to make the list, mainly due to Maggie Fitzgerald’s dedication to her sport and ambitions. Be warned though, this film is a real tear jerker, and Hilary Swank definitely deserved the Oscar she received for this role. Maggie’s relentless determination is infectious and will fuel you to fight your way through your next workout.

Briana Evigan in Step Up 2 – The Streets (or pick the female lead from whichever of the Step Up films is your favourite) – My boyfriend will tell you that my dancing is in a league of it’s own, but not because I’m any good at it! The Step Up films are all trashy feel-good films that make you want to get up and dance, and if you’re into fitness you can really appreciate the strength required to perform some of those breakdancing moves. My favourite is Step Up 2 because I think Briana Evigan looks great!

Step Up 2

Cameron Diaz/Demi Moore in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle – For me, Cameron Diaz and Demi Moore had to make the list, and this film features them both along with Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore. If the fight scenes (in heels) don’t get you inspired then maybe the surfing or motocross scenes will. Alternatively, maybe just the sight of the Angels and the Pussycat Dolls in that Strip Club dance scene will be enough to motivate you to achieve a smoking hot body!

And if you’re really not in the mood for a workout – how about some Rebel Wilson/Fat Amy ‘horizontal running’ instead? I’m doing a lot of this right now…

So come on then, which movies inspire you to workout and what’s your favourite way to workout?

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