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18 Oct

Look no further for your weekend special (and healthy) breakfast, thanks to Lee Supercharged!

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Dam you flu, dam you!

31 Jul

I’m sick damn it (feel free to insert sympathetic sound here).

This is not how I planned to start my week of hard training and good ol’ fashion awesomeness to erase my weekend misdemeanors.. (yes even I have cheat days!) I forgot how traumatizing it is having the pesky flu! Or could be a bad cold – but flu sounds so much more dramatic and serious don’t you think?!

Anyway, while working from home quarantined from the outside world (and feeling like death), it made me reassess a few things. Firstly, how I got sick in the first place! Well I caught it off the boyfriend (thanks Shaun!) but also because my immune system is currently weak and thus making me susceptible to more bugs.

Why is it low? I’m a healthy gal, I eat clean, I train and do everything right –right? Well I am going to admit it, I did stray from my paleo eating style on the weekend (which is usually ok) but turns out it actually made me physically sick (bad strike one).

Perhaps overtraining without adequate rest days? Double bad strike. And lastly, sleep. I don’t get enough sleep and with all the training, working and general life matters, getting at least 7-8 hours of good sleep a day is really important. It is a chance for your body to fully shut down, restore, regenerate and do all the amazing things it does that only occurs when you are asleep.

So what is my grand master plan?

Task one: Firstly I am going to the shops to by a new box of tissues (sigh).

Then I am going to stock up on healthy fruit and veges and cook up a storm! Preparation is everything and if you have pre-cooked meals to save you time during the week (especially at night), your stress and energy levels will thank you. It also removes temptation to eat crap in moments of weakness.

Another good idea is to actually write out a whole week meal plan to ensure you are not missing out on essential vitamins and minerals like servings of fish and certain vegetables.

Task two: Clean the house.

I mean REALLY clean it. The older I get the less I can handle clutter, mess and germs – Mum would be proud!!

Spring is approaching and there isn’t a better time to throw away/donate unnecessary junk that builds up oh so quickly. Going is all the chipped plates and cups. Going is the really really old mattress and pillows (I mean REALLY old). And going is the equally gross and dirty couch – cream colour did not survive the early days of my puppy… Expensive task ahead but thank god for interest free plans and credit cards (hey this isn’t a finance blog!).

Task three: Disconnect.

This is a hard one to stick to but after a certain time each night (in an ideal world 9pm), all electronics – phones, TV, iPad, iPod, laptop – everything is to be switched off. We are so over stimulated today that we hardly get a chance to fully switch off. It is no surprise that we are sleeping less soundly and insomnia is on the rise.

I could go on with more very important steps but in the sake of staying true to disconnecting – I am keeping the task list at a manageable number of three (hey I’m sick).

If you are feeling a cold or flu approaching you really can kill it early if you get on top of it early, which I apparently did not!

I always favour Olive Leaf Extract aiding my road to recovery, plenty of water and green tea (antioxidants), mountains of vege juice with lemon, ginger, greens, carrots and beetroot and extra Vitamin C. Oh and of course, as much honey and lemon warm water as I can muster! Just remember not to pour boiling water on top of the lemon as it will destroy lots of the good properties.

Now to find those tissues..

Fitness Out of the City (and discovering the ‘Fountain of Youth’..)

27 Jul

Earlier in the year went to Nepal to try and get a quick fix of zen and culture but thanks to a hectic schedule it feels like a lifetime ago!! All I am left with is brief indulging moments staring at my photos remembering the fresh (i.e. freezing) mountain air, the hours of stair climbing, the awesome people I met along the way and the daily yoga practice.

There was one particular yoga session that has stayed with me and I have been meaning to explore. Our teacher (complete with shaved head and permanent content smile) took us through a routine a little different from the modern yoga we have become accustom to called the “Five Tibetan Rites”.

I have read about this simple 2,5000 year old routine in the past but to be able to actually practice this deep in the mountains was kind of perfect.

While demonstrating the movements our teacher told us the five Exercises are for Healing, Rejuvenation, and Longevity and have been practiced by Tibetan monks for centuries helping to keep them youthful.

According to author Peter Kelder who penned the book called ‘The Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth’ the benefits of the “Five Tibetan Rites” include

  • Slow aging and turning back the clock (goodby Oil Of Olay..)
  • Increase energy
  • Calm the mind
  • Strengthen the body
  • Improve mental clarity and focus
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve strength and flexibility
  • Improve breathing
  • Strengthen lower back core muscles

Performing the five rites with 21 repetitions each will take you from 10 to 20 minutes, and it is best to do it every day to reap the benefits. If the exercises are done less than six days each week, the results will be greatly reduced (meaning no fountain of youth results.)

If you want to see video demonstrations just type it into youtube, but finding one with out bad music may be a challenge.. here is one I have found that takes you through each movement. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cI39FzXHou8

First Rite

Stand with your arms stretched out at shoulder level and your palms facing down. Look directly ahead and spin in a clockwise direction. Allow your vision to blur when you spin. Breathe in and out deeply as you spin. Stop if you begin to feel dizzy; increase your number of daily spins up to 21 gradually.

Second Rite

Lie flat on your back, face and palms up. Extend your arms and legs fully. Your palms should be pressed against the floor, with your fingers close together. Keeping your legs together, begin to inhale and simultaneously raise your head and legs of the floor. Keep your knees straight. Lift your legs as high as possible toward your head, then relax and slowly lower your legs and head while exhaling. Perform up to 21 repetitions.

Third Rite

Kneel on the floor with spine erect. Position your hands on the sides of your thighs. Drop your head and neck down to your chest, tucking your chin in. Inhale while raising your head and extend your neck and head backward, arching your spine. Support your weight by pressing your hands against your thighs. Return to the starting position, exhaling as you do so. Repeat up to 21 times.

Fourth Rite

Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Your feet should be around shoulder-width apart. Position your hands at the sides of your body, with the palms flat on the ground and fingers pointing forward. Drop your chin toward your chest, begin inhaling and raise your body off the ground, bending your knees as you do so. Your arms should remain straight. Continue to lift your buttocks until your torso and thighs are parallel to the floor. Return to your starting position while exhaling. Repeat the rite up to 21 times.

Fifth Rite

Lie on the floor, with your feet and hands in the same position as if your were to perform pushups. Inhale, while raising your head, supporting your weight with your arms. Only your toes and hands should be touching the floor. Arch your back and tilt your head back as far as possible. While continuing to inhale, raise your hips until your body is in an inverted “V” position. Your legs and back should remain straight. Lower your hips back toward the floor while exhaling. Return to the previous position with your back arched and your head tilted back. Repeat up to 21 times.

So I am not promising you will look 10 years younger but if you do manage to practice this every morning you WILL feel great – it is also perfect for the time poor and less ‘limber’ folks who aren’t ready to face a power yoga class!

The Rewards of the Cooler Months

8 Jun

I know it is odd and even a little backwards, but I have always found it easier to keep up an exercise routine during the cooler months leading to winter than in spring or summer.

While everyone else is slowly adding to their layers (and I’m not just talking scarves..) I am using this downtime to move, cook and prepare. Kind of like an out of season spring-clean to reset goals before summer (ie fun times) arrives. And let’s be honest, those New Year’s resolutions that you swore to stick to are now a distant, distant memory.

Yes I know it is getting cold out there, but what better way to keep warm than to do a few interval sprints or to sting a kettkebell a few (hundred) times? What more genus way to ward off extra calories from the winter wonders (hello yummy curries) than to sign up to a new class?

Why prepare? Generally speaking the sun will come out after winter and the big jackets will get pushed back to bottom of the wardrobe. Why become one of the usual suspects who waits until a week before beach weather to do a frantic exercise binge in hope of redemption to undo the damage you have caused?

How about this year you join me and instead of damaging your health through winter, shape up and feel amazing. Wake up a wee bit easier and feel confident and strong instead of groggy and couch comatosed.

Yes it will be getting wet and cold outside so one thing you can do is bring your outdoor training indoors. For a few months, switch your bootcamp sessions to indoors (come see me at Holistic Fitness if you’re in Sydney and try one of our classes!) or splash out on a new exercise DVD to get stuck into.

Change up long sessions to short and intense ones so you can still enjoy the relief of your couch and Foxtel IQ once done. But hot tip – watch your hot chocolate/coffee/red wine ratio to good ol’ H20 once you are on that couch as you must stay well hydrated.

Planning is essential to making this work. Try setting yourself an 8 week challenge either at a gym or with a friend, as having an ‘end’ date always helps with mental blocks. Then over time, 8 week blocks will turn into 12 week blocks until it becomes an easy lifestyle routine that hopefully you will even learn to enjoy!

Tip: Dress accordingly! Invest in some warmer (perhaps new..) outfits and at least one water resistant jacked. The reason why they say to keep your hands and feet warm in cold weather, is because the body shunts blood away from the extremities to warm internal organs!

Tip: Don’t let a sniffily nose get in your way of achieving your goals this winter! Virus busting herbs include Olive Leaf Extract, Andrographis, Garlic and Echinacea.

Tip: Rest days are just as important as exercise days – don’t forget this!

Tip: Make big pots of veggie soup for easy to grab meals (and always delish!).

Me? I am 11 days in a 90 day training challenge (broken into 6 week blocks) – stronger body here I come!!

Winter Vegetable Soup – recipe and image via Supercharged Foods be sure to check out her new recipe book which you can buy from here

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 140 g (5 oz) sugar-free tomato paste (concentrated purée)
  • 400 g (14 oz) tin chopped tomatoes (sugar and additive free)
  • 150 g (51/2 oz) green beans, topped,
  • tailed and cut into 3–4 cm (11/4–11/2 inch) lengths
  • 1/4 cabbage, coarsely shredded
  • 1/2 cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 2 zucchini (courgettes), diced
  • 1 red capsicum (pepper), diced
  • 1 green capsicum (pepper), diced
  • 1 bunch kale or 1/2 bunch silverbeet
  • (Swiss chard), stalks trimmed and leaves coarsely shredded
  • 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) additive-free vegetable stock or filtered water
  • 1 handful herbs, such as parsley, thyme, rosemary and basil, chopped

Method

  • Heat the coconut oil in a large heavy-based saucepan and lightly brown the onion, garlic and celery over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and chopped tomatoes and cook for a minute or two.
  • Add the beans, cabbage, cauliflower, zucchini, capsicums and kale, and cook for 1–2 minutes more. Add the stock or water and, if necessary pour, in enough extra filtered water to cover the vegetables.
  • Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour.
  • If you prefer a smoother soup, transfer to a blender or use a hand-held blender and whiz until the desired texture is reached.
  • Serve hot, sprinkled with the herbs.
  • Serves 6–8

Enjoy!

Sweet sweet holidays (and returning home to even sweeter motivation)

14 Apr

Is it weird that one of the things I most look forward to when going on holidays, is returning from holidays?

As strange as that sounds… in the day’s leading up to the departure date I get a little giddy, not because I am about to jet set off to a previously unexplored country (ok yes that is really exciting) but because I feel an inward smile forming as I know that when I return, that ‘reset’ button will have been pressed. You know, the one that deletes any misdemeanor you have had earlier in the year and  is replaced with a sense of new possibilities, where your newly formed motivation to take on the world kicks your (former) weary self in its lazy questioning ass.

It’s true, returning from holidays for me is just like the first day of a new year (possible hangover aside..). My mind is clear and my goals seem so much more achievable. Surely I am not the only one?!

It is importance to keep this feeling alive post holidays (and also to prevent the well documented ‘post holiday blues’). We have covered this point previously (https://fitnessinthecity.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/the-early-bird-really-does-get-the-worm/) but let’s take it a step further and explore something that not all Fitness In The City readers may admit to being in touch with… your inner self. And lets make this ‘inner’ you god dam friken healthy!!

Take a moment and think what you want to achieve? What changes do you need to make for this to happen? Only you know this. Then, lets reassess your health.

Step 1: Tighten up the diet. Yep, you have been on holidays so chances are so was your diet. Was there pancakes’ for breakfast instead of your usual omelets and green tea? I assume so, hey you were on holidays after all so I hope you enjoyed it!

Get back to basics with your eating. Ignore fad diets. Actually ignore anything that features the word ‘diet’ – I prefer ‘lifestyle changes’ – as fad diets have a 95% failure rate, it makes sense to approach your food choices in a practical yet holistic view that can actually be sustained long-term.

Look at reducing as much man made food as possible and increase anything and everything that is from nature – meat/protein options, salad, veges, fruit, seeds and nuts, good oils like avocado.. or think of it as staying away from anything that comes in silver foil! I would encourage you to look into the paleo style of eating.

Once your body is working in harmony by eating correctly, it is amazing how different you feel and function. What food you put into your body (and what you leave out) affects your hormonal response,  in a nutshell.. your hormones are responsible for how you feel, how you handle stress, your energy – everything!! Once you have this step down packed, everything else will slowly fall into place.

Step 2: Consider a cleanse.

This doesn’t have to be with lots of potions and powders (although the structure of a good cleanse can be very helpful to get back on track). Simply eating as per above can do the trick – we need to alkalize the system, cut out alcohol, grains, sugar and coffee for 15 days + and you will feel amazing – those pesky few kg that crept on over the holidays will be gone – eating paleo style also has this benefit of fat loss (without loosing muscle) whether you like it or not!.

Step 3: Move that body, break into a sweat and get that heart rate up – it may have been awhile in between workouts but stick with it. After a week of eating clean (meaning no man made rubbish) you will have more energy to assist with exercise.

Everyone is time poor today so don’t waste yours with hour-long workouts. The key is short duration but high intensity. HIIT (high intensity interval training) is the fastest way to torch fat, build muscle fast, and get fit even faster! This training style shocks your system and body,  and best of all you only need 15 – 20 minute a day. Be sure to include resistant/weight-bearing exercises.

Check out www.crossfit.com and www.facebook.com/fitnessinthecity for workout ideas.

Step 4: Do something you enjoy and often. Sounds lame and obvious, but once you get caught up in working again and stress takes over, this step often gets pushed to the sideline.

Step 5. Plan your next holiday…you have to have something to look forward to next!

Me? I am going to go pack and get ready for my yoga/trek in Nepal. Yes I am excited to go and you know I am excited to get back to that fresh slate!

Nirvana, Nepal and Probiotics ..?

10 Apr

How long does it take to discover peace, clarity and Nirvana (the spiritual place not the band..)?

A while you say? Well I don’t have the luxury of time on my side to spend several months travelling throughout India, so instead, I have to find my inner zen in the space of 12 days on an amazing yoga/trek in Nepal.

Totally possible right..? We live in a fast paced world where everything is immediate so I have this in the bag. Peace here I come.

And by bag I mean back-pack (yet to be purchased/borrowed/stolen).

I am not going lie, I am defiantly not as prepared as I’d like to be. I leave in 5 days and I can still feel the sting in my arm from my travel needles, the ink is drying on my freshly stamped passport for my entry visa and I have 1 pair of hiking socks to go with my newly purchased shining hiking boots – they ARE out of the box, but well worn as recommended? Defiantly not.

Enter panic mode.

To compensate I have been ‘hiking’ home in my boots from work (yes on a flat surface) looking more like a tradie than seasoned traveler, while hoping to hell that this is enough to wear them in. Fitness is not an issue here, blisters on the other hand may be.

While I might not have the material contents to take yet (hey I can buy them there) I have been preparing my body to ensure I am healthy to decrease every possibility of getting sick while I am there. I am in the middle of a 30 day cleanse (more on that later) so already I have more energy, I have also upped my leg work outs to make sure I will be able to handle all the stair climbing, I am taking my Vital Greens to ensure I am getting extra nutrients along with liquid fish oil and a strong probiotics to increase my good gut bacteria to help ward off baddies.

You may be asking what probiotics are and do I need to take them?

Have you taken antibiotics lately? Are you on the pill? Do you eat badly? Do you have digestive or bowel issues? Then yes, maybe you do. In order for us to maintain a healthy digestive system we need to ensure we have enough bacteria (the good kind) as they play a very important role such as:

  • Improving your digestion;
  • Producing vitamins;
  • Relieving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS);
  • Detoxifying chemicals;
  • Producing nutrients to repair the gut lining;
  • Increasing resistance to infections and regulating the immune function;
  • Preventing the overgrowth of bad bacteria.

While there are plenty of great over the counter (or more correctly – in the fridge) brands of probiotic supplements you can take (you can read further about them here http://innerhealth.com.au/) let’s not forget the age old saying ‘let food be your medicine’.

Although yogurt is the most commonly published probiotic food, there are a whole lot of other anti-inflammatory fermented foods out there which will give you the same benefit and have been used all around the world for thousands of years.

And I am also sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but sugar kills the probiotic in most yogurts, unless you get natural plain organic yogurt and then add your fruit/honey to it after – much better for you and your digestive system.

Other food to include in your diet to help encourage good gut flora includes: Tempeh, Kimchi, Natto (a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans. It contains the bacterial strain bacillus subtilis used to be known as bacillus antto) and Miso.  (http://theconsciouslife.com/top-probiotic-foods.htm for more info).

Miso is now available to buy in most supermarkets and has additional health benefits of supplying good amounts of Vitamin B12, zinc, copper and manganese.

Like most probiotic foods, miso should only be added to soups or other dishes just before they are removed from the heat. This is to preserve the live koji cultures in miso and also to retain as much nutrients as possible.

Try this recipe which includes both miso and tempeh for some good gut bacteria (and delish) goodness!

Vegetable Curry with Miso and organic Tempeh   

350 g broccoli

350 g pumpkin

250 g sweet potato

3 celery stalks

Handful of long beans

1 onion chopped

1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger

2 garlic cloves, smashed

1 carrot

1 heaped tablespoon miso

1 lime

350 g organic tempeh or firm tofu

1/4 tsp ground turmeric

½ teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoon mirin (this is a Japanese sweet rice wine. If you need a substitute you need a combination of acidic and sweet flavors. Add between 1 and 2 tablespoons of sugar to 1/2 cup of white wine, vermouth, or dry sherry to replace 1/2 cup of mirin.)

1 handful coriander or flat-leaf parsley to serve.

Sauté: grated ginger, chopped garlic, onion, celery and carrot in a large pot/pan for 4 minutes.

Add: turmeric and cinnamon and cook for another minute then add 2 cups water (add more water throughout cooking as needed.)

Cook: on a low head slowly cook for 30 minutes.

Add: broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potato and cook for another 20 minutes or until tender.

Make: a paste with the Miso (with water until it dissolves) and add to curry, followed by adding the herbs, lime juice and mirin.

Just before you are ready to serve curry cook the tempeh or tofu separately then add to curry.

 

 

To (Easter) binge or not to (Easter) binge – that is the question…

4 Apr

With Easter just around the corner it is very hard not to fall into the obligatory binge: chocolate (anything) hot cross buns and, let’s be honest – everything in sight to compensate and offset the sugar come down.

Now I am not a heartless wench who excepts you NOT to indulge.. but let’s get a grip before the long weekend begins.

You will eat chocolate, that’s a given.. but let’s talk portion control and quality.

First, step away from the cheap and cute foil wrapped bunny and exchange it for some dark chocolate and for god’s sake, splurge a little!! Ideally I would like you to select your Easter treats with at least 85% dark cocoa (I love Green & Black’s), but if your taste buds are not at that point yet (I understand it is an acquired taste if you are used to 100% sugar, I mean dairy milk chocolate) so 70% cocoa will be just fine and taste just as good. That means there is only 30% sugar in the remaining (better than 90%!), and the antioxidants are much higher in dark chocolate – where regularly has none. The high levels of cocoa have also been shown to lower blood pressure due to the large amounts of flavonoids.

If you are being ‘good’ and want to take your health kick a step further over Easter, head to your local health food store and get yourself some Raw Organic Cacoa NIBS –  these cocoa beans are straight from the source and is what all chocolate and cocoa products are produced from.

According to http://www.powersuperfoods.com.au/cacao-power-raw-nibs.html the nutritional benefits of raw cacoa products include:  being a source of beta-carotene, amino acids (protein), Omega-3 EFA’s, calcium, zinc, iron, copper, sulphur, potassium, and one of the best food sources of muscle relaxing and also stress relieving magnesium.  Other good news is that it is only 92 calories and 0.54grams of sugar per 15grams serving!

Suggested uses – eat as raw nibs or add to your cooking (use instead of chocolate chips), add to your smoothies or grind with your coffee beans. You can even make the Almost Chocolate Bliss Ball (see older posts for recipe) and add the nibs to the mixture – delish!

If you would like to make your own healthy dark chocolate Easter eggs (ambitious yes but it is a long weekend so you have time to try something a little different) then check out the below:

In a blender:

  • Add 5 tablespoons of organic cocoa powder
  • Add 5 tablespoons of organic virgin coconut oil

Blend until thoroughly mixed.

  • Add 5 tablespoons of raw cacoa nibs (Power Super Foods Cacoa Power Nibs is one good brand but you will be able to find several different brands)
  • Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of a sugar substitute (honey or palm sugar)
  •  Add a pinch of Himalayan Salt

Mix well.

Place the mixture into Easter egg moulds and refrigerate.

You can also add a few drops of stevia, vanilla essence or cinnamon to your mix.

Enjoy your chocolate whether it is dark chocolate from the store, few nibs, homemade batch or almost chocolate balls, and use the extra time to move your body on at least one of your days off!!!

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